Friday, September 20, 2013

Well, everybody, here is another first for me: I'm living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, right now. My main goal is to learn Spanish to a comfortable conversational level. Then, go back to the States and go back to school, probably for Electrical and Computer Engineering. I've been learning Spanish since I was in middle school, but nothing ever really stuck. I've always wanted to be able to converse in another language. So, after saving a bit of money, I decided, kind of on a whim, that I wanted to move somewhere and learn by living. I chose Buenos Aires for that. With that decision, I'm taking care of two goals with one move: learning Spanish and living in another country.

Who knows if Argentina was the right decision, what with their inflation and their artificially low exchange rate. I believe I made the best decision I could have made, right now. And, that's all that matters. I do and will miss my friends and family while I'm gone, but nothing is forever, and we'll be see each other sooner than we think. That's what skype is for, anyway. It's like I'm not even gone!

Living in another country definitely is very different, right from the get go, than living in most of the parts of the States I've lived in. For instance, water seems to fluctuate, a lot, in many different ways. One example, we don't have much hot water right now, anywhere! I took a shower this morning and I, very selectively, chose where and what I got wet. It was FRIGID! Then, there's the issue of pressure not in the shower, but in other areas of the house. A trickle of water doesn't help much when you need to wash a few dishes. Overall, however, it doesn't bother me too much. I didn't expect Buenos Aires to be exactly like the States, and if I did I wouldn't have come here.

As I get better at Spanish, I hope to write some of this blog in Spanish. But, that's for later.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Yummy Chicken Tacos!

During this 4th of July holiday of Independence, I did many less than typical things... with my food, that is! On Independence day itself, instead of having BBQ, I opted to get some tasty Japanese sushi. Which were made by a very personable man who spoke more Chinese than English, but chatted with us just, nonetheless.  It was great. I ordered two rolls: The Fire Roll, and The Ninja Roll. My girlfriend ordered The Denver Bomb Roll, wrapped with cucumber instead of seaweed; odd but good. Afterwards, we watched a documentary called “Forks Over Knives.” A documentary about taking out all animal byproducts from our diet, especially meat.  It was a very interesting movie, and it got me thinking.  So much so, that promptly after the movie I ate a slice of a Boston Creme Strawberry Shortcake Cake.  I think it was well deserved.


Fast-forward one day to July 5th, and what do I want? Still no BBQ, but some Mexican food. And that is why I’m here today, I want to tell you about this awesome dinner I made of Mexican influence.  I’d like to call it chicken carnitas, but I don’t think I can because the chicken isn’t shredded. So, instead I’ll call it chicken tacos.  Also, I’m adding the tortilla recipe that I (ahem... my girlfriend) used for this meal.  I never like all the lard/oil/fat that is used in the recipes I find online, so I decided to not use any oil in my tortilla recipe and replace it with apple butter. It’s not like your traditional tortilla.  It’s definitely thicker, and you can smell the apple when it’s being cooked.  But, when all is said and done and you’re making your taco with it, the taste is amazing and it’s foldable! It didn’t break on me, not even once!! Which, I think, is a victory. Also, I didn’t smell or taste any apple, if you’re worried about that.


Chicken Tacos Recipe


2 Pieces of chicken breast
3 Cloves garlic chopped up
1 Medium onion, chopped/diced
1 Red (or any color) Bell Pepper
~1 tbsp oil


For the marinade: place in a Med size bowl
1.5 tsp Paprika
2 tsp Cilantro (if you like it)
Pinch of red pepper powder(depending on how spicy you like)
1.5 tbsp Oregano
1.5 tbsp Cumin
~0.5-1 tsp Salt
1-3 tbsp lemon Juice (it gets lemony quickly)


Add some (freshly) ground pepper to taste at the end


Directions:
Cut up the chicken in nice diced pieces and add to the mixture of marinade.
Stir to coat well, and let marinade for at least 10 Min.
Chop up the onion, bell pepper and garlic.  
Put the oil in a large pan and heat up.  
Once the oil is good and hot, add the onions, garlic and bell pepper to the pan.
Saute until you get a nice smell from the mixture, I’d say about 5-10 min.
Add the chicken to the pan (make sure it’s had an ample amount of time to marinate)
Cook for 15-20 min uncovered until the chicken is fully cooked.
Add some pepper and stir in.



Awesome Apple-Butter Tortillas


3 C. unbleached flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp.  salt
3.5 tbsp Apple Butter
about 1 1/4 C. warm water **DON’T ADD ALL AT ONCE. Add a little at a time, you will most likely not need all of this water.


This is very simple.  
Add all the dry ingredients to a large bowl.
Add all of the wet ingredients and stir.
You don’t want it too sticky (but if it is, try rolling the balls you make with it in extra flour)
Let it sit for 10-15 min
Make little balls and form it with a tortilla press (or you could try a rolling pin)
Cook on med high without oil, until there are nice little brown pan marks on it.


Finally, when  you’re making the taco, add some cheese and, if you’re really adventurous, some roasted peppers.  I roasted some Jalapenos the last time I grilled out, and it was very hot! but tasty.



Let me know how you like the recipe in the comment section!
Thanks

Saturday, June 29, 2013

My Little Hydroponics Garden that Could (An Update)


When I began my hydroponics experiment this year, I did not know what to expect.  I’ve tried once before, but to no avail.  I didn’t have the right light setup, so I just put the tub on our patio.  Well, bugs got the best of the plants that time.  I thought I was making some good progress, thinking that I might have succeeded on my first attempt, then, BOOM, plants were dropping over and wilting left and right! At first, I had no idea what the hell was going on.  I propped them up to prevent them from falling over, then... they just died.  Finally, I looked a bit closer, and in the stem, right at the junction between the clay balls and the stem, I saw the little bastards... I mean bugs.  I think they might have been aphids, I don’t know. I just threw the whole lot out.  Between then and now, I finally moved into a place where I can set up my rig again, away from the bugs with an indoor lighting system.

In my new place, I have a nice little basement pantry.  I, and my girlfriend, call it the “hole.”  Whenever I get home, I get asked, “are you going in the hole?” or if I can’t be found, and then show up some time later, “were you in the hole?” The answer is, usually, yes. It’s nice and relaxing to sit amongst my plants.  But, it wasn't always so relaxing.  Once, I finally decided to try my hand at hydroponics gardening again I had a few hiccups along the way.  The most difficult problem being: how to get my seedlings to grow.





The first time I tried, they took forever to sprout.  I think it may have been a temperature problem.  But, I was stuck just waiting, and waiting, with no clue at the time.  I’m a pretty patient person, but this was trying my resolve.  Finally, they sprouted and I was ecstatic! My first few sprouts in years.  But, my light situation was still a problem. I thought I had something that would work, at least for sprouts, a single CFL light bulb.  I kept them under the light with no real light schedule; turning the light on and off on my own schedule, and forgetting sometimes.  It’s no surprise when they started getting really leggy.  So leggy, in fact, that their little stems couldn’t support their weight.  In my mind it was like the fall of Achilles; I thought they were strong and impervious to anything, then one day toppling over and dying. I learned a lot, and the next set of seedlings definitely fared better.  I finally splurged a little bit and bought a fluorescent light fixture for when they come up.  I found some warm spots in the house and put the brand new seeds, in their rockwool cubes, on top of the warm spots to help maintain a warm temperature.  Then, I put a small dome (the lid to the tupperware container I was using) on top to keep the humidity higher.  After all that trial and error, I finally got some viable little plants.  And, as soon as I saw a root or two and some proper leaves, I put them in their holding spot to strengthen and get rootier (that may not be a word, but you know what I mean) before I put them in the big boy system (the actual hydroponics machine I built).

Well, what progresses surpassed what I thought would have happened (the most recent being the first picture). They got big, relatively quickly, too.  But, I’m still at an impasse, I can’t get fruit on these bell pepper plants, at all, and the flowers keep falling off.  It may be because they are from seeds that I got out of a store bought red bell pepper and they may never fruit or that I don’t know how to seed these things properly.  I’ve tried using a q-tip to pollinate the flower, but that didn’t work.  Then, I found an electric toothbrush (last week), to hopefully mimic the vibrations of bees.  But, it’s still too early to tell if that is even working.


If you know some surefire ways to pollinate let me know in the comment section. Thanks!


Now, on to my second hydroponics setup.  It is a drip system that I put outside.  I just put the tomato plant in there last night. I was strengthening the plant for a few days outside before finally putting it in my drip system.  I just have to find a way to seal the nutrient reservoir from bugs and the elements. I was worried about my little tomato plant last night, because we had a pretty treacherous thunderstorm. Luckily, it survived the whole ordeal! Now here's hoping to some pollinating bugs to do the job on this tomato plant that I'm still trying to figure out how to do on my pepper plant.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Things You May Not Have Known

I'm never going to tap!!!
As you may or may not have noticed, I have been gone for a while! It’s hard to keep coming up with topics to write about, especially when you only have time to do a few extracurricular activities outside of work, and work seems to want to take more and more of my time. The few things I like to do that I’ve written about are: making tinctures, cooking and creating new recipes, helping people with their diet, and working on my hydroponics.  Some things I haven’t written about but still interest me are: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), Muay Thai, reading, making (and drinking) cocktails. Now, I guess is a good time to tell you about those things I haven’t written about.

I'm in the black gi on the right.
I’ve been practicing BJJ for about a year and a half now, and I have my blue belt.  The blue belt is the next belt after the white belt.  I was very proud when I received it, as I, actually, began BJJ way back in 2005 during the summer of my freshman year of college.  I finally got a job and I was able to afford some luxuries and I decided to have one of those luxuries be other people beating me up.  Not necessarily masochistic, but I worked as a painter during one the hottest summers in decades and then went to practice, you be the judge.  Well, after a few fun months, I was back in school, with no job and no means to pay for BJJ.  And, I didn’t start BJJ again until I could afford to pay, which was, really, not too long ago.  I still really enjoy it.  I competed in a tournament and lost my first match in my weighted division, and then went on to take second place in the absolute division (all weight classes compete together). The tournament was needed, but I haven’t wanted to do another one since; I feel, to me, BJJ is more of a hobby and the added stress of competing is something I don’t look forward to.  As time goes on, I continue to push myself to go and improve.  Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be a black belt!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

International Style Cuisine with Bok Choy

Last night, I made a wonderful tasting Bok Choy dinner.  I kept on passing the bok choy up in the store but had the urge to make something with that vegetable.  I've used it before, but the last time I used it I was in college.  So, I bought it last week.  These urges are are a bit strange to me; I get a spark of an idea for dinner and I can't let it go, so I eventually break down and buy whatever it may be.  Well, you're in luck, because it tasted great, and I'm going to let you in on the recipe.








Bok Choy with Pork (or a protein of your choice)

1-2 Large Bok Choy (or a few baby Bok Choy)
2 medium sized Tomatoes (diced)
1 medium sized Onion (diced)
4-6 cloves of Garlic (smashed and chopped)
1-1.5 lbs of Pork sliced thin (or Chicken, Beef, or Shrimp)
2+ Tbs. of fish sauce.
Oil/grease for the pan
Salt and Pepper to taste
Chilies of your choice or Garlic chili sauce

Cut up all the vegetables.  Saute only the onions, tomatoes and garlic in a larger pan with some bacon grease (that's what I used, and it worked pretty well).  Once those start to smell good, about 5-10 min, depending on the heat (it should be medium high), add in the pork and the fish sauce (it's going to smell pretty strong, but it will dissipate).  I think this dish works and looks good with thinly sliced pieces of Pork (I accomplished this by slicing the pork chops before they thawed all the way).  Once the pork is about halfway done, add in the larger/thicker pieces of the Bok Choy, and a few minutes later add in the rest of the B.C.  Now, I stir it all together so the juices reach every little thing and put a lid on it for 5 minutes, at a medium boil.  Take off the lid, and let it simmer for ~10 min. Or until the rice is done.

This goes great with some white rice.  To make it, I rinse a cup of rice off with water until the water runs clear.  Then, I add it to my pressure cooker with a 1 1/4 cup water, and set my pressure cooker on high pressure for 6 minutes (5 minutes would probably be good for lower altitudes).  Another way to make this type of rice, if you don't have a pressure cooker is to make it on the stove top.  I keep the same measurements of rice to water and put them in a saucepan, make sure it has a lid.  Stir the rice until it reaches a boil, then put the lid on and reduce the heat to low.  Let it sit without disturbing it for 20 minutes.  It should come out nice and tender and sticky.  If you're at lower altitudes you should probably take off a couple of minutes.  But, if it doesn't work for you, just experiment with the times.

To finish it off, add the rice to the plate then place the Bok Choy and Pork on top with a lot of the juice!


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Garden, Tinctures and Prospects

Here is a little update into my life:


I had a few tinctures finish up: licorice root, peppermint, and oregano.  I’ve said this in a previous
post, but I’m most excited about my licorice root.  I think it has a lot of helpful benefits.  For example, in the book “The Healing Remedies Sourcebook,” it lists licorice root as being a “...demulcent (relieving inflammation), expectorant (used to treat coughs), with laxative and alterative properties.  It has been used with muscle problems because of its anti-inflammatory, antiarthritic properties.  Licorice is antibacterial and antiviral.”  Also, it is used in many formulations to activate and increase the effects of other herbs (http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail102.php).  But, again, this is to be used in moderation as licorice may increase blood pressure, water retention and should not be used by pregnant women.    

My peppermint finished up, too.  I’m finding many interesting things to put that in.  I put it in my tea, which is awesome.  I also put a bit in my kefir drink, as well.  I like the taste, but it also has some beneficial qualities: it aids in digestion; it’s a mild stimulant; carminative (relieves flatulence); and it’s antispasmodic.  Overall, I think I may use it for the taste than anything else.  




Aside from tinctures, I’m trying to start up my hydroponic gardening.  I haven’t had the best of luck in the past, with aphids eating through my stems on my first attempt.  On the second attempt, I didn’t have enough light, and my seedlings just fell over.  But, now, I think I may have reached a point where the seedlings are working out, and I can finally move them on to the next step, which is putting them in my hydroponics system.  At that point, I will probably be up against a whole new slew of problems and difficulties, but, I’m up for the challenge!  So far, I have 7 bell pepper seedlings that have sprouted.  I moved them from their germination chamber (a tupperware container) to their intermediate step: I put them in their net cup with hydroton and into a red solo cup with their nutrient.  I did this to get them closer to the light, but also, I won’t move them to my hydroponics system until I see roots sprouting from the bottom of the rock wool.  I can’t wait, and I hope to have peppers by early summer (fingers crossed)!

If everything goes well with that, I have a few more plant projects that I plan to start here in the near future.  First, I want to start a batch of some California Poppy, so I can make my own, homemade tincture, which I find very useful.  I’m thinking I’ll probably plant these hydroponically, too, but in a much simpler rock and water system.  I think if I do it this way, I can plant them closer together.  Secondly, I’m going to begin making a pepper plant bonsai, or bonchi.  I’m pretty excited about this, too.  I love the look of bonsai trees, and what could be better than to add a bit of color with the multi-colored peppers!  This is going to take some time to do properly.  I have to grow it in soil, and get it pretty big so I have a nice base stem.  It’ll probably be a year + long project.  Finally, I got some easter egg radish seeds for my girlfriend, and some catnip... for me.

Well, that’s what I have going on right now.  Leave a comment and tell me what your plans or projects are for the spring/summer/new year.

Friday, February 22, 2013

It's Time for Tea Somewhere in the World


I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.
Fyodor Dostoevsky

So, I like tea.  And, I think I can trace this preference back to my Grandma.  When I was younger, she’d always drink lemon tea; I think it may have been Lipton’s or Nestea Lemon tea.  It came in a big container, and it was granularized.  She also drank it out of a taller glass, that to me, recounting the experience, seemed like it was a very special glass, only for her tea.  I liked it, and I’d always steal sips out of it, if I could. Then a long time passed and I really had no interaction with tea.  I don’t think I started drinking it again till I was in college.  

While in college, I would go in spurts: tea for a while, then coffee for a while.  I liked both, equally.  I probably had an equal amount of gadgets to make my own version of the brew.  For the coffee, I had a french press and later I had a Italian moka pot (a great device to make pitch black coffee, then all you need is to add a bit of honey!!).  For the tea I had a, well, a french press, the same one as I used for coffee, and I also had a small portable tea steeper, and then I also had tea bags.  I think primarily, in the beginning, I used store bought, pre-packaged tea.  It was convenient, as I was crunched for time while in school.  But, as time progressed, I feel like, as with a good wine or cheese, I matured (hopefully, not as smelly) into what I am today.

What I am today is not necessarily pretentious but  just accustomed to what I like.  And that is, for me, having an accurately timed and appropriately heated loose leaf tea.  It can be the best thing in the world to me.  I can almost taste that first sip as I write this, and it is divine.  I can’t explain it the way it should be explained, but just imagine tasting the earth while in the middle of a very green forest with the sun shining through the canopy, sitting peacefully with no distractions.  The smell, the taste, the warmth creates an experience and I get to enjoy that with a simple cup of tea.  

It is hard for me to understand, completely, how some may not like such a thing.  And, I’ve been told by numerous people that tea just tastes like warm leaf water.  As the emotions rise, I have to remind myself we are all different and we have different opinions.  But, it’s HARD! tea is great!  

Some of my favorite teas are genmaicha, which is a tea with roasted or puffed pieces of rice.  Which gives the tea a more earthy flavor.  Pu-erh is also a preferred tea of mine.  At first, I was a bit put off by the aging process.  However, as soon as I tried it, it once again brought me to the forest, I could taste the ground, the air, the time it took to age; it was like a rainforest in my mouth.  As I write this, I can see why some may not like tea, all I’m talking about is tasting dirt or trees or leaves... but I love that symbolism.  I grew up in a place where the look and smell of nature was very apparent, so it does strike a chord with me, and it is a very good one.  

I hope I’ve inspired some of you to try tea.  Leave some feedback in the comments about tea you’ve tried, and how it has made you feel.  Or, maybe you enjoy and feel similar things, but it’s coffee, let me know, it won’t bother me :)