Sunday, December 20, 2009

Digging Out

The Pit and I ventured outside late Saturday afternoon, and took some pictures of our buried cars.

When we woke up Sunday to a beautiful sunny day, we decided that digging out would be prudent before ice formed and the cars were trapped forever. This was easier said than done though...for a start, we don't own a shovel. After taking a quick survey of our immediate neighbors and concluding that they were just as useless as us, The Pit braved the knee-deep snow and wandered over to the management office of our complex. It turned out that they had had three shovels to lend out, but that by 11 AM when The Pit came asking, two had already been broken by tenants. Consequently, there was quite a long waiting list for the sole remaining digging instrument.

At this point I had a brainstorm. There's a mall about two miles from our apartment...this is walking distance! We would attempt to buy a shovel, and get some long-overdue Christmas shopping out of the way too! Of course, high-stepping it through the snow on the as yet-uncleared sidewalks was a bit more exertion than I was expecting, and there were no shovels to be had for love or money at the stores when we arrived. However, we did get some Christmas shopping done, a task I actually found more exhausting than the walk itself. I hope our gift recipients appreciate their we literally had to walk four miles (for more old-timey cred, part of this was uphill) in the snow to get them.

However, after we trudged back to our apartment, there was still the matter of our snowed-over cars. The shovel waiting list had still not reached our name, and the afternoon was soon to turn to evening. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and so we further violated the suburban taboo against neighbor interaction... we wandered until we found a house with a cleared driveway, and then knocked on their door and begged to borrow their shovels.

Fortunately, these people gave up the goods with nary a blink, and The Pit proceeded to demonstrate his manly worth by digging out both cars. Me? Well, the neighbors had given me a shovel too...I managed to immediately scratch the hood of my car with it, and then milled about getting in The Pit's way while trying to clear some ice. So basically, we resorted to our usual gender roles with minimum confusion. For further demonstration of this, recall incidents such as this and this.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


So exactly two weeks ago, on December 5th, I took the following picture out of our living room window.

I meant to blog about how my first East coast winter was officially beginning, and make some point about how much more awesome California winters are. Then a giant cold front hit California, and all my OC friends complained on Facebook about how they had to wear sweaters AND coats when going outside. There was frost on the grass and scarves where a necessity!

At that point, my blog post about one day of snow on the East coast seemed a little anticlimactic, and I shelved the pictures.

But! Now DC is experiencing THE STORM OF THE CENTURY!! Or so the local news would like us to believe. A couple of days ago, the weather people were saying we would get maybe 6 inches of snow over the weekend. As the week wore on, these predictions grew hysterically, until yesterday the guy on the country radio station was screaming about 25 inches of snow. Flights in and out of DC were cancelled, and when I stopped to buy shampoo at Target yesterday afternoon, I was nearly run over by panicked shoppers grabbing toilet paper and bottled water. I was distinctly out of place waiting for the cashier with just one paltry item in my hands.

However, despite the evidence of barely controlled panic in my fellow citizens, throughout all this excitement I merely rolled my eyes and figured that a) the local news people were just exaggerating for ratings and b) Virginians were particularly gullible. Then we woke up this morning to the following view:

As the afternoon has worn on, the snowfall has not abated, and in fact seems to have increased. I took the following picture a few minutes ago.

As you can see, despite the snowplow going through this morning, the street is pretty well covered, and the cars mostly buried. It appears we aren't going anywhere for a bit, so I suppose that it's a good thing I feel uncomfortable with less than two weeks worth of delicious dry goods in my pantry at any one time. We have plenty of food and toilet paper, so no last minute panic was necessary here, even if I had been less smug about the weather predictions.

The Pit is currently baking some fresh bread, and I've got a pot of soup going on the stove. If you need us, we'll be celebrating our first snowstorm together by cuddling on the couch and watching the snow fall. And fall. And fall. You should probably send for help when the blog posts stop.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cashew Chicken

When I first told The Pit that I might like to make Cashew Chicken for dinner, he was oddly unenthusiastic. Here I was suggesting something new, with an Asian flavor no less, and he was muttering about how he wasn’t fond of cashews. News flash Pit: me wanting to make something Asianish happens…oh, maybe never again. Grab this opportunity with both hands and do not let go!

Anyway, I overcame his cashew objections by telling him he could eat around the nuts, and made a somewhat modified version of this Simply Recipes dish about a month ago. Despite my marinating the chicken for much too long, The Pit loved it, cashews and all. He’s been asking me to make it again, and earlier this week I think I got the recipe just right.

What you’ll need for about 6 servings:
  • 3-4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1 ½ to 2 pounds total)
  • ½ to ¾ cup vegetable oil (or peanut oil if you have it on hand)
  • ½ cup soy sauce (or tamari if you’re feeling fancy) – about 2 tablespoons per chicken breast
  • ½ cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 cups roasted cashews (either salted or unsalted, doesn’t make much difference)
  • 2 small-to-medium onions, diced
  • 3-4 tablespoons chives or green onions, diced
  • 1 ½ cups uncooked white rice

1) First, marinate the chicken. Cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes, place in a gallon size plastic bag, and mix with the vegetable oil, soy sauce, honey, and chili powder. Squeeze the bag and make sure the marinade ingredients get well mixed and cover all the chicken pieces. Double bag if, like me, you manage to drop raw chicken pieces all over the outside of the initial bag, and then leave in the fridge for ½ to 2 hours.

My mistake with the dish the first time I made it was leaving the chicken to marinate overnight. This resulted in an extremely appetizing aroma, but a taste so intense that mixing in 2-3 times the normal amount of rice barely diluted it. This time I left the chicken to marinate for about 2 hours, and the flavors were much more balanced. Shorter marinating times might be okay, but I wouldn't actually leave it for much longer than this.

2) Start your rice cooking about 20 minutes before the marinating period is up. Remember to turn off the heat at the appropriate time, but leave the rice covered and warm while the rest of the dish is cooked.

3) Dice the onions. You’ll probably still have time left on the marinating, and can use it to make some sort of quick accompanying salad. I’ve made this cucumber salad and this coleslaw. The salad was excellent and the coleslaw only so so (although it improved significantly after sitting in the fridge overnight), but I’m open to other suggestions for good salads to go with cashew chicken.

4) READ BOTH STEP 4 & STEP 5 NOW. When the chicken is done marinating, heat a large skillet to medium high, and use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken pieces to the skillet. Sauté until the chicken is cooked through. Save the remaining marinade for a little later.

5) At this point the original recipe suggests setting aside the cooked chicken, sautéing the onions in the leftover sauce, and then mixing the chicken back in. I mindless followed these instructions both times I’ve made the dish, but upon further reflection, I see no clear reason why – I have a very large skillet, and to save some time and dishes, I’ll just cook the chicken and onions simultaneously next time.

6) When the chicken and onions are just about done, mix in the cashews, and pour the remaining marinade into the skillet. Simmer for another few minutes to kill any bacteria in the marinade.

7) Serve over the cooked rice, and sprinkled with the diced chives or green onions.

I first left the chicken to marinate overnight because I wanted to save some time the next evening. If you’re on a tight schedule and want to prepare as much as possible ahead of time, I would mix together the marinade ingredients the previous day, and also cube the chicken ahead of time. That way you can just dump the chicken into the marinade bag as soon as you get home, and then let it sit while you cook the rice, dice the onions, and make a salad.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It all started with a little bleach

So, OL has an issue with laundry. She likes to use bleach. A lot of bleach. So much bleach that her neighbors are getting irate. They all share the washers and dryers on her floor, and have sent numerous angry letters to the building manager, complaining that her bleach has ruined the clothes of anyone unlucky enough to use the machines after her.

Explaining to OL that she uses too much bleach is impossible. “I only use a few tiny drops!” She cries. “Dos other peoples are just jealous of how clean my clothes are! Dey are spreading vicious lies!”

But she doesn’t want to get kicked out of the building, so recently she’s been bugging her son about doing her laundry at his place. He’s offered to take her stuff and wash it for her, but categorically won’t let her into his apartment, as the sight of his housekeeping is likely to send her into unrelenting hysterics. However, since she feels his housekeeping is on par with his laundry skills, she's horrified of him actually touching her clothes.

Thus we came to the decision that if she could navigate the stairs up to my apartment, I would let her use all the bleach she wanted at my house. She insisted the stairs wouldn’t be a problem, and so we set out yesterday for the laundry mecca that is my home.

Of course, as soon as we got to the top of the stairs, OL started complaining of chest pain. I asked her how bad it was, and she told me she didn’t know. Given this unimpressive report, I wasn’t really concerned, as previous similar complaints had all been forgotten within a few minutes. However, five minutes later, she was still rubbing at her chest, and I got a bit more worried.

Getting medical details out of OL is like trying to wring water from stone, but after repeated questioning she conceded that the pain was pretty sharp, and that she’d never experienced something like it before. I asked her if she thought she might be having a heart attack

“How should I know” she muttered “I’ve never had one before!”

Point to OL conceded, I decided to call her doctor and ask for advice. The doctor suggested I take her to the ER to get checked out, so off we went, back down the evil stairs and fifteen minutes to the hospital.

I kept asking OL how bad her pain was, and she kept rubbing her chest and explaining *where* it was. But she certainly wasn’t in so much pain that she couldn’t comment about the girth of a woman crossing the street, or about how much closer her apartment was to the hospital than mine.

Then we got to the ER, and it was the doctors’ turn to try and get medical info from OL. “Are you allergic to anything?” they asked her. “YES!” she cried, and as everyone waited expectantly, she got one of her biggest gripes off her chest: “My carpet! It makes me sick!”

Carpeting aside, things got a little crazy after that point, as a tech took an EKG, and suddenly a sort of controlled vortex of chaos centered on OL. It quickly became clear that the doctors thought she was having a heart attack, and nurses converged out of seemingly nowhere to take care of her and ask her questions. They didn't do much better with their question than I had, but a few nerve-racking hours and a trip to the Cath lab later, everything settled down.

It turned out OL hadn’t had a heart attack in the typical sense of the word. Although the EKG had gone crazy and some of her heart tissue was damaged, she didn’t have any blockages in her arteries, and her prognosis for recovery was excellent. The cardiologist said he had never seen a case of her incredibly rare syndrome before.

Once again, OL proved to be a one of a kind, and is now at home and resting after her ordeal. As she's never met a Jewish stereotype she didn't like, she's also been telling everyone who will listen (and a large majority of those who won't) that her son is clearly to blame for this unpleasant incident...if only he had taken her to do the laundry at his place, none of this would have happened. So far I've escaped all blame for living in an apartment without an elevator, but I'm expecting the guilt trip to start at any point now...