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I’m terrible late in posting the last four batches of organic vegetables from out local supplier. I’ve considered skipping but as my CSA (b)logs are meant to keep track of our weekly veg loot, I decided against that. Better late than never.

At the end of 2011 this log helped me fill in the survey about greens we’d missed and the ones we’d rather do without. ;)

organic CSA vegetable loot weeks 48 to 5, 2011

From upper left to bottom right:

Following is a large selection of the dishes that came out of it. Some special, like pumpkin tempura on New Year’s Eve, others your ‘everyday meal’.

Celery soup with truffle oil and tempeh bacon on Christmas Eve

Creamy celery soup with truffle oil and tempeh bacon on Christmas Eve

Japanese New Year's Eve Dinner (2011)

Pumpkin Tempura on New Year's Eve

Japanese New Year's Eve Dinner (2011)

Japanese Cabbage Salad on New Year's Eve

Japanese New Year's Eve Dinner (2011)

Tofu Patties on New Year's Eve

Japanese New Year's Eve Dinner (2011)

Vegetable & Mushroom Rice on New Year's Eve

Roasted tomato & onion salad, 30-11-2011

Roasted tomato & red onion salad with balsamic vinegar

Pumpkin risotto with awesome roasted tomato & onion salad

Pumpkin Risotto, Grilled Zucchini and Roasted Tomato Salad

Semolina pudding with apricot sauce and almonds

Semolina-coconut pudding with apricot sauce & almonds

Yummy roasted vegetable salad from Karma-free

Roasted vegetable salad

Red cabbage salad with orange and pistachios

Red cabbage salad with orange and pistachios

Leek soup & toast with green olive tapenade

Leek soup & toast with green olive spread

Raddicchio salad with walnuts, oyster mushrooms and garlic croutons

Raddicchio salad with walnuts, oyster musrooms and garlic croutons

Creamy carrot soup, parsnip patties, coleslaw and spicy tofu with garlic sauce

Creamy carrot soup, parsnip patties, coleslaw and spicy tofu with garlic sauce

Bean & paprika stew

Bean & paprika stew

Simple solo dinner

Coleslaw, Spinach, Veggie Pattie & Stuffed Paprika with Morrocan Couscous

Oven-roasted kale with olive oil and spices

Spicy Oven-roasted Kale (recipe posted)

Sunchoke casserole, baked pear salad, rice and tempeh satay

Sunchoke casserole, baked pear salad, rice and tempeh satay

Cabbage salad (coleslaw)

Cabbage Salad with Lime Vegenaise dressing

Rösti rounds, vegan hamburger, onion rings, poached pears and spinach

Rösti rounds, vegan hamburger, onion rings, poached pears and spinach

Spicy falafel & hot tomato sauce, Brussels sprouts and nutty rice mix

Spicy falafel & hot tomato sauce, Brussels sprouts and nutty rice mix

Mediterrenean Carrot Spread

Mediterrenean Carrot Spread (recipe posted)

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

I’ve called my yearly overview of books “The Pile of Books I Kicked Over..” once before, but this time the title fits even better. In 2011 I devoured a total of 38 books, which is nine more than I read in 2010!

Now how is that for a first post and Sunday Salon in 2012?

Of course I pledged to tackle eleven more books this year for the Books on the Nightstand +11 in ’11 Challenge, which would have brought my total up to the nice round number of 40. Well, there you have it: my first #FAIL. ;)

Looking over my list, it is not easy to pick an instant favourite. Although I liked most of the books I read, there aren’t many outstanding works worth mentioning. Although I gave three of them the max of 5 stars in Goodreads, concerning one I have a hard time remembering about what it was exactly…

Interlude: here I corrected myself thanks to the marvellous, but strict Dr Kermode who will not allow the word order of “what it was about.” A grammar lesson learnt in 2011. ;)

So, did I accept quantity over quality? No Ma’m, I did not. I could’ve easily picked two short novellas from my shelf when the end of 2011 was nigh. Like Murakami’s Sleep, for instance, T.S. Elliot’s Cats or Joost Zwagerman’s Duel. But just as I promised when I joined the BOTNS challenge, I did not bend my reading preferences according to book size.

Now quit digressing! Here are the books I read in 2011 in reversed chronological order. Other thoughts and statistics will follow later on.

Nina cat checking out our bookshelves

Nina, the Grande Dame who came to live with us this year, checking out our bookshelves

Books read in 2011

  • Kandy: een terugtocht (‘Kandy: a retreat‘), F. Springer
  • Vernon God Little, DBC Pierre
  • XY, Sandro Veronesi (Boekgrrls December read)
  • De duif en De erfenis van Maître Mussard, Patrick Süskind
  • Bandoeng-Bandung, F.Springer
  • Van het westelijk front geen nieuws (Im Westen nichts Neues / All Quiet on the Western Front), E.M. Remarque (November Boekgrrls read)
  • Season of the Rainbirds, Nadeem Aslam
  • Tinkers, Paul Harding
  • 1q84 (Boek een, twee & drie), Haruki Murakami (JLit Book Group November/December)
  • Modelvliegen, Marcel Möring
  • Thousand Cranes, Yasunari Kawabata (JLit Book Group August)
  • The Help, Kathryn Stockett (Boekgrrls August read)
  • Underground, Haruki Murakami
  • Dagboek van een Geisha (Memoirs of a Geisha), Arthur Golden
  • Witte oleander (White Oleander), Janet Fitch (bx copy)
  • Before I Go to Sleep, S.J. Watson
  • The Woman in the Dunes, Kobo Abe (JLit Book Group June)
  • Zeitoun, Dave Eggers (Boekgrrls June read; nonfiction)
  • Verraad, verleiding en verzoening: de rol van eten in speelfilms, Louise O. Fresco & Helen Westerik (nonfiction)
  • Travels in the Scriptorium, Paul Auster
  • The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim, Jonathan Coe (Boekgrrls May read)
  • Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America (a Food Memoir), Linda Furiya (nonfiction)
  • Crime School, Carol O’Connell
  • All She Was Worth, Miyuki Miyabe (Bookcrossing book ring)
  • Vegan Family Meals: Real Food for Everyone, Ann Gentry (cookbook; Netgalley e-book)
  • 2666, Roberto Bolaño (readalong)
  • La Dolce Vegan! Vegan Livin’ Made Easy, Sarah Kramer (cookbook)
  • In the Miso Soup, Ryu Murakami (JLit Book Group February)
  • Pinball, 1973, Haruki Murakami
  • Ik haal je op, ik neem je mee (Ti prendo e ti porto via / I’ll Steal You Away), Niccolò Ammaniti (Boekgrrls February read)
  • Geketende democratie: Japan achter de schermen (‘Democracy in chains: behind the scenes of Japan‘), Hans van der Lugt (nonfiction)
  • Sneeuwland (Yukiguni / Snowland), Yasunari Kawabata
  • Blacklands, Belinda Bauer (Boekgrrls Januari read)
  • Poelie de Verschrikkelijke (‘Poelie the Terrible‘), Frans Pointl
  • Hear the Wind Sing, Haruki Murakami
  • Kalme chaos (Caos Calmo), Sandro Veronesi (Boekgrrls December 2010 read)

Quite the list eh? And I also reread the beautiful short story Het geluid van een stoomfluit midden in de nacht (Yonaka no kiteki ni tsuite / ‘A Steam Whistle in the Middle of the Night‘) by Haruki Murakami.

Thoughts

The book(s) I enjoyed the most this year was Haruki Murakami’s 1q84 trilogy. Readers from the Japanese and English speaking hemispheres may wonder why I keep using a lower case ‘q’ (kyu) when referring to the author’s latest work, since it’s originally written as 1Q84. Well, the Dutch translators decided to use a small ‘q’, resembling the number ‘9’ much better!

Volumes 1,2 and 3 together are over 1350 pages thick but I read all three of them in just two weeks. Enough proof of how much I liked it. :) It’s a typical late Murakami of which story you should know nothing beforehand.

Cover 1q84 Book One (Haruki Murakami); Dutch version Cover 1q84 Book Two (Haruki Murakami); Dutch version Cover 1q84 Boek drie (Haruki Murakami)

Reading 1q84 I regularly had to think back to a work of non-fiction I read earlier this year: Underground, about the Tokyo gas attack. It’s amazing how delicate Murakami treats the subject, showing more about himself as a person than I ever saw, heard or read in interviews or previous books.

Cover Underground (Haruki Murakami)

A further special mention goes to another Japanese novel: The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe. A strange story calling up an eerie atmosphere; bordering on a grim fairy tale. The images easily reappear before my mind’s eye so I have no problems recalling what this classic is about. Oops, preposition at the end of my sentence again, apologies to Dr Kermode! ;)

Cover Woman in the Dunes, Kobo Abe

So it’s all Japanese favourites this year. Figures. ;) One of my intentions for 2012 is to read a little more OUT of my comfort zone. Another post will out-lay the rest of my reading plans for this year. *whispers* I haven’t really figured them out yet myself!

Luckily I also very much liked some non-JLit books like Sandro Veronesi’s XY (thought-provoking), Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front (compelling), Belinda Bauer’s Blacklands (thrilling) and Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun (shocking).

The biggest bone to tackle this year was 2666 BY FAR. It’s supposed to be a contemporary classic and comes highly recommended by one of my favourite authors, Kazuo Ishiguro, but it could not charm me. I struggled all the way through to the end and I’m proud to say that I was at least able to finish it! 898 pages of small characters, in English. Gah.

Cover 2666 (Roberto Bolaño)

2011 Book charts

As always I’d love to share some pie charts. About the gender of authors read, the ratio of fiction to non-fiction (to faction, which is null ;), where I got my copies from, peer-pressure (!) and the language area from which authors originate.

Gender of authors read

Hm, I’m not completely satisfied with the ratio of female authors to male among the books I read this year.. Needless to say it should be more of a fifty-fifty situation!

Pie chart author gender 2011

Fiction to non-fiction

The fiction / non-fiction chart doesn’t show much difference from previous years: I obviously prefer to read fiction — especially now that I’m having ‘concentration issues’. O_o

Pie chart fiction to nonfiction 2011

The Pile

I haven’t looked at the origin of my books before, but as I seem to have read a lot of books being passed on by other Boekgrrls, I thought I’d analyse that data this year. ;)

Pie chart copies 2011

Peer-pressure

Oh how I love my peer-pressure. Buddyreads, group reads, readalongs & readathons, challenges, book rings… You name it — been there, seen it, done that. ;) Of course I should also have put in this graph the books I read without any relation to others… Next time, I promise.

Pie chart peer pressure 2011

Language areas

Now I did not read all of these books in their original language, it’s just a vague chart dividing my books into language areas. Most books that are written in English I read in their original language. The same goes for Dutch books. :) The rest I’ve read in translation to either Dutch or English. Maybe next year I’ll try my hand at some German..?
Note: of course Chilean and Pakistani are nationalities, not languages, but you get the idea.

Pie chart of author language areaSo, did you surpass and/or surprise yourself with the books you’ve read?
Any favourites you’d like to share?
Did you read any of mine?

Get read-y for 2012 banner

Now that December has arrived and I had a good and hard look at my reading challenges, it seems like the right moment to add another on the brink of the new year… Am I crazy? I assure you I’m not. ;)

Loving Books’ Get Read-y for 2012 Challenge is meant to help me get the books read I already wanted to finish!

Here’s my TBR pile for the rest of the year…

XY, by Sandro Veronesi. It’s the December read for my online book group, the Boekgrrls. I’m currently halfway this intriguing novel — giving me lots to think about!

Kandy, by the recently deceased F. Springer. A friend is visiting her place of birth, Sri Lanka, starting December 9th. Would love to read this book while she’s there!

I promised Elsje to buddy read Haruki Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes before the end of the year. Have to make good on my promise! This collection of short stories will also count for the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge and Japanese Literature Challenge #5.

Ian Buruma’s Dromen van China (The China Lover). The book I pledged to read for the Chinese Literature Challenge. Come on… I need to read just one book for this challenge. Host Chinoiseries cheered me on so I can’t let her down!

These three books are absolute MUSTS for me. Then there’s a few more I’d love to finish before the year is over. To begin with, these 3 are not enough for the 6 I need to accomplish my +11 in 2011 challenge, in which I try to read 11 more books than I did last year. Also, I’m currently 2 books short for the What’s in a name challenge #4. So, here’s what I’d further LIKE to read this month… (though I already know I will never manage to ;)

Kokoro, by Natsume Soseki. I had wanted to join in the Japanese Literature Book Group read of October & November, but missed out. As the book is on my shelf (and ‘just’ 254 pages long) I may be able to submit a late contribution?!

Cover The Moonstone (Wilkie Collins)The Moonstone (Wilkie Collins) for the JEWEL/STONE categorie in the What’s in a name challenge.

Cover Vernon God Little (DBC Pierre)DBC Pierre’s Vernon God Little for the SIZE categorie in the What’s in a name challenge, or Little Bee by Chris Cleeve which I borrowed from Elsje and should be returned to its lawful owner. But that would be a good one for next year’s CREEPY CRAWLIES as well.. ;)

Of course I may just cheat to get to my goal of 40 books in in the +11 challenge and pick up some shorties as the month comes to an end… Cover Slaap / Sleep (Murakami)Like the most recent Dutch publication of a Murakami novel: Slaap (Sleep). ;)

You can still sign-up for the Get Read-y for 2012 challenge!

Sunday Salon logo

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

I love reading challenges. Not that I need any, but I like how they tend to shuffle my reading pile. Still, after feeling overwhelmed in 2010 I decided to be very careful with challenges in 2011. So I accepted only five! #goodgrrl :)

What’s the status now that December is around the corner? Am I getting stressed like last year? Do I feel accomplished? Need to get my act together and READ?

Completed 2011 reading challenges

Before I go any further I humbly bow my head and confess that even though I’ve read all the books I commited to for the following three challenges, I reviewed hardly any. 2011 has not been a great year of blogging for me. But as we’re talking reading challenges, I’ll consider my missions accomplished!

HARUKI MURAKAMI READING CHALLENGE

Murakami Challenge 2011 cover button

For the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge I chose level TORU (named after our dear friend from The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, the first Murakami novel I ever laid my hands on). That means reading 5 books by the master (here’s my admission post). So far I’ve read 6 (!) and I plan to read one more before the year has ended — ask Elsje if you don’t believe me. ;) If I live up to my promiss that collection of short stories will lift me to the level of Nakata (from Kafka on the Shore).

Books read:

Hear the Wind Sing
Pinball, 1973
Underground
1q84 Boek 1
1q84 Boek 2
1q84 Boek 3

And yes, the Dutch translation of 1Q84 was published in three seperate volumes, coming out in June 2010 and April 2011. Also, the title is deliberately written with a lower case ‘Q’ because it much resembles a ‘9’. I like that and have no idea why it should be different in the Japanese original and English version. Us Dutchies are pedantic. ;)

Last week Elsje and I went to a lecture about Haruki Murakami by translator Luc Van Haute in Leiden’s Sieboldhuis. He explained to us how the often stated opinion that Murakami’s novels are not typically Japanese is just plain wrong. It was fun — I have a huge reading list of Japanese authors to follow up ;) — and we also got to see the Hello Kitty exhibition and meet ennazussuzanne and Seraphine, who surprised us with the gift of an origami bookmark! Aw, that’ll come to good use when reading… JLit!

JAPANESE LITERATURE CHALLENGE #5

Japanese Literature Challenge #5 logo

The fifth Japanese Literature Challenge only started in June and runs to February, but on October 1st I had already finished the 6 books I commited to. That day I turned over the last page of 1Q84 Book 3. As I still plan to read Sōseki’s Kokoro for the Japanese Literature Book Group (I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!), and Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes together with Elsje, I’ll probably up my level by the end of January 2012.

Books read:

The Woman in the Dunes ~ Kobo Abe
Underground ~ Haruki Murakami
Thousand Cranes ~ Yasunari Kawabata
1q84 Boek 1 ~ Haruki Murakami
1q84 Boek 2 ~ Haruki Murakami
1q84 Boek 3 ~ Haruki Murakami

FOODIES READING CHALLENGE

Foodie's Reading Challenge 2011 button

In the Foodies reading Challenge I cowardly safely labeled myself a NIBBLER, going for 1 to 3 books (admission post). So far I’ve read 5, and –YAY– even reviewed two!

Books read:

World Food Café
La Dolce Vegan!
Bento Box in the Heartland
Verraad, verleiding en verzoening
Vegan Family Meals

I hope I can find the time and energy to write some more reviews!

Unfinished business

But I’m not there yet. With only five weeks to go I need to finish two more challenges… Will I be able to do it???

CHINESE LITERATURE CHALLENGE

Chinese Literature Challenge button

I was half a year late in joining the Chinese Literature Challenge and I full-heartedly use that as an excuse for why I haven’t reached my goal of 1 book yet. ;) Here’s what I plan to read. Cheer me on and maybe I’ll be able to cross of this challenge before the year has passed!

WHAT’S IN A NAME CHALLENGE #4

What's in a Name Challenge #4 button (2011)

The What’s in a name challenge is always one of my favourites. It’s a thrill to pick your next book just based on a random word in the title. Call me crazy. ;) Alas, this year I’m having trouble finishing: even though I read several more than one fitting titles for four of the six categories, two are still open!

Books read:

Categorie NUMBERS
Pinball, 1973 ~ Haruki Murakami
2666 ~ Roberto Bolaño
1q84 ~ Haruki Murakami

Categorie TRAVEL/MOVEMENT
Travels in the Scriptorium ~ Paul Auster
I’ll Steal You Away ~ Niccolò Ammaniti
Model Flying ~ Marcel Möring

Categorie EVIL
Poelie the Terrible ~ Frans Pointl
Crime School ~ Carol O’Connell

Categorie LIFE STAGE
Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America ~ Linda Furiya

Still hoping to get around to:

Categorie JEWEL/GEM
The Moonstone ~ Wilkie Collins

Categorie SIZE
Vernon God Little ~ DBC Pierre

BTW you can always follow my progress on the special Challenge page on Graasland!

What’s new for 2012?

2012 is more than a month away but I have already lined up some reading plans. Wanna know what they are?

WHAT’S IN A NAME CHALLENGE #5

What's in a name challenge #5 button

Of course I can’t resist participating in the new What’s in a name challenge. I must say that I never buy or borrow books specifically for this challenge — picking titles that are already on Mt TBR, or have been on my wishlist for quite some time, is part of the fun. So what are the categories for 2012 and which books fit the bill?

  • A book with a topographical feature (land formation) in the title
    Choosing from: Last Night in Twisted River, Sunset Park, Lunar Park, The Street of a Thousand Blossoms
  • A book with something you’d see in the sky in the title
    Choosing from: The Moonstone, Sunset Park, Lunar Park, A Ride in the Neon Sun, Noorderzon (sun), Dead Air, Star of the Sea
  • A book with a creepy crawly in the title
    Choosing from: Little Bee, Een tafel vol vlinders (‘A table loaded with butterflies‘)
  • A book with a type of house in the title
    Choosing from: The Graveyard Book, Black Box, Het huis op de plantage (‘House on the plantation‘)
  • A book with something you’d carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title
    Choosing from: Dreaming Water, Water for ElephantsMet bonzend hart : brieven aan Hella S. Haasse (‘With a throbbing heart: letters to Hella S. Haasse‘) [open to suggestions]
  • A book with a something you’d find on a calendar in the title
    Choosing from: The Eigth Day, Silence in October, Nocturnes

Don’t you think I have a whole lot of books available just to pick from? :))

THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES GROUP READ

Let me state first that I haven’t commited to the following task yet. I’m only considering it! Caravana de Recuerdos hosts a Roberto Bolaño The Savage Detectives readalong in January. I have the book on my shelf — it was a recommendation by the great author Kazuo Ishiguro — and I guess now is as good as ever. Especially since I didn’t much appreciate Bolaño’s 2666, which I read together with Leeswammes & Co. earlier this year. I’d better say it’s now.. or never!

Are you making plans for 2012 yet?
Looking back on your accomplishments for 2011?
I’d love to know!

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

Amelis'Hof organic vegetables week 22, 2011

  • Radishes
  • (Bundle) leek
  • Red Batavian lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Endive frisée
  • Bundle garlic (spring garlic)
  • Strawberries

Yum, I’ve been anticipating those strawberries for a whole week! So much that I couldn’t resist buying some in the days in between ;) The very last one ended up in yesterday’s cold noodle bento. These strawberries in our CSA vegetable bag come from about 3 miles from our home! #greenliving ;) We immediately had them for dessert last night, so no need to come over to have a taste! ;)

I did manage to keep Ringo from devouring the endive (he haz a taste for it), so you may want to hop over one of the other nights?

Menu plan June 2-8 2011

  • Asian fusion: tofu in tausi black bean sauce (leftover Chinese takeaway), nasi goreng (fried rice) and toemis spinach (Vegetarisch Indonesisch kookboek p.45) [Wednesday]
  • Mexican night: bean burritos with steamed spinach [Thursday]
  • Bihoen with faux ‘chicken’ (leftover Chinese takeaway) and Toemis endive (Vegetarisch Indonesisch kookboek p.46), pangek brown borlotti beans (Vegetarisch Indonesisch kookboek p.51), nasi koening (freezer stash) and salad with leftover miso dressing
  • Endive-potato mash with mushroom gravy (La Dolce Vegan p.181), onion and vegan sausage, salad
  • Tomato-garlic pie (Amelisbode wk.22), green salad
  • Gnocchi with grilled zucchini and tomato salad

I’ll leave you with two more pictures of dishes from last week’s menu plan. The noodle salad was good, especially with emping for topping (chopped nuts will probably be great too), so I’ll definitely make that again. The leek soup recipe was a bit of a disappointment though — will need to look further!

Mel's cold noodle salad

Cold noodle salad

Sunday night dinner

Leek soup, noodle salad and emping kurupuk

You’ve landed on the JUNE host post for the Whip Up Something New Challenge!

My disastrous pile of recipes

This is a picture of the recipes I plan to try… someday. Does it look familiar? Then you may want to join our Whip Up Something New! challenge!

Just pick a recipe from your pile, bake it or make it, and blog about your experiences. If you’re not a hoarder like me you can try any new recipe from a cookbook or The Interwebs as well! There’s just one small catch (if you wish to call it that): you’ll need to share the recipe with us or provide a link to it. *

The Mister Linky for June’s contributions is at the end of this post. Need to know more or want to grab a button? Check out Joanna’s introductory post on It’s all about me (time).

Button Whip Up Something New! Challenge

Now I’ve been ‘cheating’ a little with this challenge. Since turning vegan in January I’ve had to find lots of new recipes to cook anyway. But none of these came from my pile – I took refuge in books and on the web, even though organizing my clippings was one of the tasks planned for my original ExtraVeganza! project earlier this year. So. Here’s my pledge for this month.

  1. I’ll start sorting my cut out recipes into animal-free versus vegetarian (the latter of which I’ll browse for ‘veganizable’ dishes).
  2. I’ll test at least 1 recipe from the vegan collection.

Now I dare you to get out of your comfort zone and make something vegan this month! People are getting used to Meatless Mondays, so why not take it a step further? It really is not as hard — or scary ;) — as it seems and there are plenty of resources on the web to help you, like Vegalicious, Seitan is My Motor or Vegweb (this last one is cluttery, but a repository full of rated recipes).

Of course you don’t NEED to do this: all kinds of recipes are welcome in the Whip Up Something New! challenge. But as an incentive I’ll (randomly) reward one of the vegan contributions with a SurPrize!

Now let’s start cookin’! :)

* * *

Click on the Mr. Linky button below to submit your recipe and to check out the other participants! Please enter the direct link to your June Whip Up post in the Mister Linky. For example:

Your Name: Gnoe (Marvellous Vegan Mayonnaise)
Your URL: https://gnoegnoe.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/marvellous-mayonnaise/

We don’t want people to have to go searching all over so general links to your webblog instead of specific posts will be deleted. Deadline for this month’s entries is June 30th — that’s a Thursday. I’ll round up the links in a wrap-up post shortly after!

* Please don’t forget about copyright; always give credit where it’s due.

Yesterday we had our yearly celebration of Hanami: cherry blossom viewing, in the Amsterdam Woods’ Japanese sakura garden. The weather was FABULOUS and I have not seen so many people in the blossom parc before! A sign with flowers in remembrance of the earthquake/tsunami victims attracted quite some attention too.

Sakura close-up

Mr Gnoe was reading part 3 of Murakami’s 1q84 but Poor Me had to do some homework for my film review class: writing about Barney’s Version — a movie that was more entertaining than I had expected and evoked thoughts about Rossetti, Dante, (William Blake), heaven and hell. I wonder if my fellow classmates had the same associations.

Hanami 2011 Bento (#139)

Hanami 2011 Bento, 10-04-2011

Of course there can be no Hanami Matsuri without a picnic — meaning: bento. I didn’t have much time to prepare so it was a small afternoon snack/late Sunday lunch. But GOOOOD. :) Unfortunately my cute usagi picnic bento *died* on the way back from Amsterdam Woods two years ago and I still haven’t gotten myself another Big Box. So we used some Emsa lock & lock containers instead. They’re leak-proof and that’s always great for transport. ;)

Contents

  • Italian Linghue crackers with rosemary
  • Root vegetable crisps
  • Cherry tomatoes & Cherry Belle or Champion radishes (de ‘ballenbak’)
  • Cucumber
  • Pistachio nuts
  • Sesame bread sticks
  • Edamame hummus — another yummy recipe from the La Dolce Vegan! cookbook I got on my birthday
  • Apricot-coconut treats from Vegalicious (super easy!)
  • Drinks: shincha tea (first flush sencha) and ‘prosecco royale’

Quick Snack Bento (#140)

Quick Snack Bento, 11-04-2011

Since I had to finish and mail my review of Barney’s Version when we got home from our day under the sakura trees, I had only a little time to make a Monday bento. So it was just regular sammies today, accompanied by an apple, banana and this snack box. No complaints here though! ;)

Contents

  • Edamame hummus
  • Sesame breadsticks
  • Nuts & dried fruit: apricots, cranberries, hazelnuts, walnuts
  • Vegetables: spinach leaves, gherkin, radishes, cucumber, cherry tomato, caper berries, parsley

Have you been celebrating the blossoming of trees?

Shunbun No Hi

I don’t think people in Japan are feeling very celebratory after the disasters that struck the country this month (earthquakes, tsunami and serious trouble with the Fukushima nuclear power plants), but yesterday was a national holiday in honor of spring equinox, called Shunbun No Hi. It is a moment to reflect on our relation with nature, which seems only natural in light of the current events.

Stemming from Buddhist tradition, it is also a time to visit the resting places of ancestors, cleaning their graves and offering ohagi, sweet rice balls covered with red bean paste — it’s believed spirits prefer round food. :)

So when my plans got canceled yesterday morning while it was such wonderful weather, I picked up the Spring Equinox Bento I had quickly made the night before, packed my bag and put on my hiking boots. Destination? My father’s family grave. I hadn’t been there in a while so it felt really good to tidy up (yes, even scrub) and leave some spring flowers — in my country we usually don’t offer food to the gods or deceased. ;) And there was even someone there to greet me..! #MurakamiMoment

Murakami Moment: my ancestors' spirits coming to visit?

Afterwards I had planned to take a long hike but there wasn’t much time left, so instead I went in search of a small lake nearby to wait for Mr Gnoe. Together we went to the North Sea shore for a walk on the beach and to see the sun set. The sea is my mother’s resting place (sort of), so I had the most perfect day contemplating both nature & my ancestors. What a great way to start springtime! :)) But of course my thoughts went out to the people of Japan too.

Quick Spring Equinox Bento (#136)

Quick Spring Equinox Bento, 21-03-2011

As you can see there isn’t anything resembling a ball in my Monday bento, although there is some circular movement going on. ;) The only real round food I had were cherry tomatoes, but they had to make room for their tiny plum tomato siblings because these are smaller.

The main aspect of this lunch is my sunny tofu scramble in a night-blue cup symbolizing equinox: the day being exactly as long as night. It was my second time making tofu scramble and I ‘adventurously’ added some cumin and veggie BBQ sauce that was given away for free at the Asian store (nearing its expiration date). Nice.

Other foods:

  • Mixed salad with La Dolce Vegan!’s Sesame Miso Vinaigrette
  • Switchback cut banana
  • The last bit of creamy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (recipe also from La Dolce Vegan!)
  • Italian scrocchi crackers
  • Grilled vegetables: zucchini & green bell pepper
  • Dried cranberries & apricot (sliced)
  • Cauliflower fox, oak-leaf lettuce & garden cress

On the side I also brought an apple, vegan sammy and a bottle of water.

Spring Equinox Sunset at Noordwijk aan Zee

Whip Up Something New! button

This month I’ve tried several new recipes for the Whip Up Something New! challenge that Trish was hosting. All these dishes were vegan — but I bet you wouldn’t have noticed!

Tempeh ‘Sausage’ Crumbles

Tempeh topping

Something absolutely new to me were tempeh ‘sausage’ crumbles, a kind of topping from the Appetite for Reduction cookbook that I found on the Post Punk Kitchen website. It was recommended for pasta with marinara sauce or as a pizza topping, but is also supposed to be good as a burrito filling or served for breakfast alongside scrambled tofu. Pigheaded me decided to try it for something totally (?) different: as a topping for potato mash with raw escarole, accompanied by caramelized red onions. It was good but sort of weird too because the saltiness combined with anise-fennel taste reminded me a little of liquorice. :\

Also, the substance was a bit wetter than expected. I had thought it would be dry, like tempeh goreng, whereas on the other hand the fennel seeds had kept their bite more than I’d figured. Now that had nothing to do with the fact that I had forgotten to add the lemon juice at the right time and just threw some over the mixture at the dinner table. ;) (TG that we always have a bottle of good organic lemon juice at hand ;)

Maybe this is just how it’s supposed to turn out? Or shouldn’t I have used tempeh that was slightly past its expiration date? :-o Anyway, it seemed to me that the liquid wouldn’t evaporate more if I’d cook the dish any longer — rather the opposite.

This was a very interesting recipe to try — it looks rather meaty, doesn’t it? But I really wouldn’t sell it as ‘sausage’ crumbles.

Since I also had an open packet of tortilla’s I made a wrap with the leftovers for lunch the next day. I was happy to learn that the food-additive E471, which can be animal-derived as well as plantbased (and no way to tell them apart chemically), is vegan in the case of the Dutch Albert Heijn’s brand tortillas!

Vegan tortilla with hummus

Will I make this ‘tempeh helper’ again? I’m not sure to be honest. Let’s just wait for a moment when I see the need for it.

Red Endive, pear & walnut salad with raspberry vinaigrette

Endive, pear & walnut salad with raspberry vinaigrette

I found this Broad-leaved endive, pear & walnut salad with raspberry vinaigrette recipe in the Vegetarian Times. It’s a nice salad, but no real surprise for us: the combination of pear & walnut/endive is a classic and raspberry vinaigrette of course goes well with pear. If you’ve never made raw escarole salad before, you should definitely try it! I used red endive, and replaced honey with agave nectar to make it completely vegan. Since I only had one head of endive I also added a few leaves of Salanova lettuce.

Yes, I’ll probably make this again, but I won’t be following the recipe to the letter. Though this pear & raspberry vinegar combo with endive is certainly more delicate to serve guests than our usual variation with apple & lemon juice.

Roasted Romanesco Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts

I had some Brussels sprouts and Romanesco cauliflower in my fridge, so the Roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts recipe in the Vegetarian Times seemed like the perfect dish to try. And it’s great! It’s very easy to make, although you have to remember to prepare the ingredients one day in advance… That makes it the perfect dish for entertaining guests. Just don’t forget to keep your eye on the oven; I almost let my veggies burn. Oops.

Mr Gnoe especially liked these veggies so it’ll definitely find its way back to our table!

Vegan meal with Curry Couscous Stuffed Mushrooms and Roasted Romanesco Cauliflower & Brussels Sprouts

Curry Couscous Stuffed Mushrooms

I found a Curry couscous stuffed mushrooms recipe from the 500 Vegan Recipes cookbook online and they sounded so yummy that I made them the same day, to accompany my roasted Romanesco & Brussels sprouts. Alas, they were rather a disappointment.

I like the idea of mushrooms with spicy grains (couscous) but there’s something missing in this dish and I just can’t figure out what it is. Mango chutney? Ginger? More salt?

I followed the instructions for preparing couscous on the package, not the 500VR recipe, which means I mixed the dry couscous with herbs & spices, added water and let it rest for 4 minutes (covered). Sautéed onion, garlic and mushroom stems in separate skillet, then added the ‘finished’ couscous to the onion mixture.

According to the instructions of the cookbook I should have sautéed the dry couscous & herbs/spices together with the onion mixture instead, adding water and stirring until all liquid would have been evaporated… It could be that would have made the flavours come out better (especially the curry & garam masala). But as far as I’m concerned, it’s really not worth giving this snack another chance: it’ll never have that Wow-factor I need for my omnivore friends.

The amount of couscous in the recipe was also way too much for 12 medium cremini mushrooms (the required 8 oz), so we’ve been eating it as a side-dish for days after…

Sun-dried Tomato Aïoli

Sun-dried tomato aïoli

I want to buy a good vegan cookbook and for that reason I’m looking for recipes from recommended books on the web to give them a try. The mushrooms with spicy couscous were a #FAIL but I found another recipe of which I’m relatively certain that it’s from the same 500 Vegan Recipes cookbook by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman: Sun-dried tomato aïoli. Please correct me if I’m wrong because I have no way of checking this.

Well. About that Wow-factor: this sun-dried tomato aïoli has become an instant favourite!!! It’s the perfect substitute for a previous fav of mine: sun-dried tomato butter (which I can no longer have now that I’m going ExtraVeganza!). It is a great dish to bring along to pot-lucks and I will definitely serve it on my own birthday party next week.

I made just half the recipe as a try-out and used some veganaise that I made with part sunflower oil, part olive oil. It wasn’t really clear to me what I was supposed to do with the pine nuts — I felt they should be toasted & ground but the recipe didn’t say so. I decided to do both: ground half and keep the rest as a whole. Seemed perfect to me. :)

Quick Spinach Quiche

Quick (vegan) spinach quiche

I stumbled upon an easy recipe for spinach quiche that seemed great to take along on our ‘Day at the Oscars’. It’s in Dutch and we made some adaptations, so I’ll just summarize.

Ingredients

  • frozen puff pastry (vegan); 4-6 depending on your pie mold
  • large packet of frozen spinach (slightly thawed) — or fresh spinach leaves (cleaned & cut)
  • (optional) small onion, diced
  • small can of corn kernels
  • sun-dried tomatoes, cut and welded
  • pesto
  • dried basil
  • ground pepper
  • soy sauce or salt
  • a few dashes of soy cuisine (cream)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven (220 °C).
  2. Cover pie or oven dish with parchment paper.
  3. Thaw puff pastry, roll out dough a little and line in pie dish, covering the sides.
  4. Sauté onion, add spinach and let it shrink a little. If you’re going the easy way with frozen spinach you can leave out the onion and skip this step!
  5. Stir in all the other ingredients, mixing well.
  6. Put the filling on the pastry, folding any protruding dough over the filling.
  7. Put in the oven for about 30 minutes.

This spinach pie is best eaten cold. I think we’ll make it again for a pick-nick or such.

The crust looks a bit bleak and I would love to get (vegan) tips on how to get a golden-looking pie?! We’ve covered the dough with a bit of olive oil but that didn’t help. ‘In the old days’ I used either egg or coffee creamer — do you think a bit of soy milk or plain water would do the trick?

Gnoe’s tip for any hearty pie: you can sprinkle some yellow cornmeal (polenta) on the bottom of the pie to soak up any excess liquid.

Also whipped up in February

And here are this month’s new dishes that I’ve already posted about.

Homemade veganaise

Quinoa stir-fry with kale & cashews

Pumpkin-Coconut Soup

Japanese sesame-crusted rice patties

Yaki-Gyōza recipe post

Total amount of time spent on Bloggiesta: 20.30 hrs

Sunday Update no.2

Amount of time put in since last update: 6.30

Sorry you haven’t heard from me in a while! I’ve stopped working on my blog so even though there are still about 3 hours left of this Sunday, for me the Bloggiesta has ended. Boohoo! :(

I’ll write up my finish line post tomorrow, but this morning I promised to show you my lunch of leftover sushi and I always make good on my promises.

Lunch of leftover sushi

There’s kappamaki (cucumber) on the left, daikon maki on the right and some  ‘triple whammy’ sushi rolls in the middle containing kanpyo, daikon and tofu. Rianne also made us inarizushi (tofu puffs) but we ate them all last night… There’s a picture of all yesterday’s sushi on Flickr!

Please pay attention to the beautiful blue bottle of Kizan Sanban Junmai Ginjo sake as well! I hope to find the time to do another Hello Japan! post about our sake tasting session this month…

What have I been doing since my last update?

Bigger jobs

  • work on at least 1 post about another subject (relatively urgent: Hello Japan! January mission) ✔
    Oooh Nooooos! Another Foodie Challenge… > also added to Weekend Cooking and Whip Up Something New!
  • clean up at least some of the last 11 posts in ‘Uncategorized‘ category  ✔ (8 done)

Off the grid

I think 20 (and-a-half) hours is a nice figure to round off with. I had a lot of fun and feel really accomplished — which was my main goal for this edition of the Bloggiesta! See you all next time around?!

Sunday Update no.1

Amount of time put in since last update: 2.30

Oh no, today it’s already the final day of our Bloggiesta! Yesterday I got to put in less time than I had expected because of housework and a movie night for which I had to make a special miso soup; I worked on my blog just about half of Friday’s hours…

Still, I’m not disappointed because I had a great day. I can highly recommend the fun film Chef of South Polar to all foodies, especially if you’re interested in Japanese food — or Antarctica. The white miso soup turned out amazing (if I may say so) and the best thing of all: our host had spent many hours in the kitchen to make us a selection of mouthwatering veggie sushi — ExtraVeganza avant le lettre! ;) We even got to bring a doggie bag home, so I can show off again later on ;)

The hard part is that I am now tempted to go awol again and try those Japanese rice patties I’ve been wanting to make ever since Leeswammes posted about her rice cookies… They would go marvellous with last night’s makizushi!

But for now I intend to be strong and write up blogposts. Hey ho let’s go!

What have I been doing since my last update?

Quick & Easy

  • clean up sidebar (challenge buttons)  ✔

Bigger jobs

Brain teasers & Research

  • claim graasland domain? (research)  > in progress
    I’ve been looking into costs and how to claim a domain (even made a phonecall; very 1.0! ;) but had to stop because I ran out of time. I especially appreciate the support @Petra_Utrecht is giving me! If she can’t help me no-one can ;)

Off the grid

  • commented, replied to comments and tweeted
  • added  ExtraVeganza post to this week’s Weekend Cooking post on Beth Fish Reads
  • sent English translation of Friday’s espresso chili ingredients to Mari on request and added to comment

Mini-challenges

Since last update: 0
All mini-challenges participated in: 2

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