Monday, October 14, 2019

Chinese Takeout at Home, a Rainbow Birthday Cake and Duncan's Recovery

It has been a busy and rather stressful month over here. Some of it was routine (V traveling for work), some was fun (a birthday) and a bunch of it was awful (doggy surgery), and all of it meant that our meals were basic and simple affairs.

On the weather front, northeast Georgia has been mind-boggling. The autumnal equinox came and went on September 23 while we sizzled on and on in the 90s. Records were set. Come October 4, the high was 98F, enough to make you faint right there on the curb. The next day and ever since, the temperatures have dropped like a stone and are now considerably cooler. In the kitchen, it has meant a transition from salads and sandwiches to soups and casseroles.

I checked out the Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook by Nisha Vora from the library and found a half dozen recipes to try. I ended up trying just one and it was a hit- the Chinese take-out style tofu and broccoli. The complete recipe is in the link, but here's what I did, in short. I changed up the sauce and marinade ingredients.

1. Cut extra firm tofu into bite sized cubes and marinate it (in a bowl, no plastic bag required) in olive oil, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, ginger garlic, a touch of maple syrup.
2. Saute the marinated tofu in the IP.
3. Add a sauce made with the same ingredients as the marinade, plus some rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil. Cook under high pressure for 3 minutes. Quick release.
4. Open the IP and stir in broccoli florets. Cook under low pressure for 1 minute. Quick release.
5. Stir in a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce.

I served the broccoli tofu with a bit of steamed rice and a generous dose of spicy chili crisp sauce. This dish was perfect- tender broccoli and a glossy sauce- and will be going into our regular dinner rotation.

If broccoli and tofu is my favorite Chinese takeout entree, then eggplant in garlic sauce comes in a very close second.

I tried this too, in the instant pot, and it was fantastic. Saute batons of Japanese eggplant, then add a sauce (soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and so on), pressure cook for 3 minutes, then add a cornstarch slurry to make a glossy sauce. I served it with some steamed Jasmine rice and roasted green beans and tofu (the latter two made simultaneously on a sheet pan).

* * * 
Our daughter turned eight in September. What a milestone 8 is, the start of middle childhood, the last four years or so before puberty hits and life is never the same for child or parents. To celebrate, I organized an ice cream social and invited 8 of her little gal pals for an afternoon party. We made a brownie cake using my long-time favorite brownie recipe- Alice Medrich's best cocoa brownies- baking it in a round tin instead of a square brownie tin.

I made a quick from-scratch chocolate sauce using a recipe from Smitten Kitchen and put it into a squeeze bottle. The birthday girl decorated the brownie cake herself, making a simple rainbow design with colorful M&Ms and mini marshmallows for clouds. She used dots of chocolate sauce to hold the decorations in place.

I set out an ice cream sundae bar-
Bowls and cones, chocolate wafer sticks
Brownies (cake shown above)
Three flavors of ice cream (not shown, set out at the last minute)- vanilla, chocolate, strawberry
Fruit- strawberries, mandarin oranges, pineapple bits
Sprinkles- we had 4 types
Candy- M&Ms and gummy bears
Chocolate sauce

The kids had a grand time assembling their own concoctions and the party set up could not have been easier. Ice cream socials are truly an easy and crowd-pleasing way to throw a low-key party.

* * * 
Our dogly lad Duncan has arguably had the worst month of his life. It started with a limp a few weeks ago. A trip to the vet led to some anti-inflammatory medication and some rest. There was no improvement- in fact the limp got worse- and the vet suspected that his knee ligament had ruptured, a common problem in both humans and dogs. There was a consultation with the vet surgeon; she confirmed the issue with the knee joint and recommended a surgery called the TTA procedure. 

I was in turmoil for a few days wondering if I should be putting my dog through this major surgery and also knowing that we had little choice; if we failed to fix the knee, his other leg would be overused and likely develop the same problem and he would have two failed back legs. No bueno. We liked and trusted the surgeon and decided to go ahead with the surgery last week. 

Duncan spent one night in the hospital and came home on Wednesday after an uneventful operation. The poor boy is confined to a single room for 3 months (with potty breaks 3-4 times a day of course); his recovery of normal leg function requires him to rest the joint as much as possible to allow the bone to grow and heal. For two weeks until the incision heals he has to wear the infamous cone of shame- Elizabethan collar- to keep him from licking and infecting his stitches. He's on a regimen of pills and it is a production to make him take the darn pills twice a day. Some of the pills are doggy opioids and thank goodness for those because he's napping a lot and not in pain. 

So that's the sad story of our sweet boy Dunkie. He can no longer run free, go to the dog park and on long walks, all of the things that made him so happy. But hopefully three months will pass by quickly and the story will have a happy ending when he gets to do all those things again. Please send him some love and good wishes! 

Tell me what you're cooking and eating this October!