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The first two weeks of summer brought some really nice greens to our dinner table. Introducing a new feature on Graasland as well! But you gotta read on a little for that. ;)

Organic CSA vegetables week 26, 2011

Here’s what we found in our CSA box the previous week.

Amelishof organic CSA vegetables week 26, 2011

  • Leek
  • Spinach
  • Radicchio
  • Gooseberries
  • Celery
  • Chinese cabbage (napa, michihli)

It may seem a bit meagre but there’s something missing from the picture! Half a head of Chinese cabbage and a whole head of red Batavian lettuce. We picked up the veggies on our way to my aunt’s and since our fridge was still rather full we decided to leave some of the loot with her.

Organic CSA vegetables week 27, 2011

Now more importantly: this weeks veggies…

Amelishof organic CSA vegetables week 27, 2011

  • Broad beans!!! Love ‘em!
  • Tomatoes
  • Kapucijner peas
  • Basil
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Pak choi (bok choy)
  • Savory (bonenkruid)

I hope I won’t bore you by sharing another menu plan?

Menu plan July 7-12 2011

Due to our schedule there’s a lot of ‘easy food’ on the menu this week.

  • Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese [Wednesday]
  • White bean & tomato soup (freezer stash), baguette, green salad with scapes, radicchio and pinenuts [Thursday]
  • In between hike and going to the vets: Indian lentil soup (dahl, freezer stash), homemade pizza, cabbage & carrot salad (recipe below) [Friday]
  • Broad bean soup, rosemary focaccia from Broodnodig, leftover mashed carrot salad, radicchio salad [Saturday]
  • After a day of hiking: vegan ‘shoarma’ (Vivera roerbakreepjes) with pita bread, garlic sauce and leftover carrot-cabbage salad [Sunday]
  • Kapucijner peas with veggies Provençale (adapting recipe for fresh peas), baguette, salad
  • Stir-fry of pak choi, leek, mushrooms and tofu with rice

New feature!

Cabbage contours by Jacqueline Tinney

Cabbage contours by Jacqueline Tinney

Many people don’t know what to do with cabbage. That’s a pity because it’s such a healthy vegetable; loaded with vitamins A & C, potassium, calcium, phosphor. It is also thought to be anti-carcinogenic! And if you’re a CSA participant like us you’ll often find it in your box. :)

So. I decided to share some cabbage recipes I like as a special feature on Graasland! Starting of with this week’s side dish of cabbage & carrot salad. Other recipes you can expect in the future are ‘Cabbage with Coconut’ and Indonesian ‘Sambal Goreng Cabbage’.

Easy cabbage-carrot salad

This is a veganised version of Eethuis Iris’ recipe from Zonnig zomers tafelen (p.20).

Cabbage-carrot salad & orange juice

Cabbage-carrot salad & orange juice

Ingredients
Serves 4.

  • 350 g pointed cabbage (I used a mix of pointed and Chinese cabbage; you could also take ordinary white)
  • 100 g carrot, cleaned
  • 3 tbs veganaise
  • 0.5 dl fresh orange juice
  • pinch of curry powder
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 tbs of roasted sunflower seeds
  • chopped parsley (optional: it’s not in the original recipe but I added it for colour)

Preparation

  1. Clean cabbage and cut out the hard core.
  2. Shred the cabbage very finely.
  3. Grate the carrot — or pulse a few times in your kitchen machine.
  4. Make a sauce of veganaise, orange juice, curry, salt and pepper.
  5. Mix vegetables and dressing, top with sunflower seeds and parsley.

On the contrary of what you may expect, the cabbage in this recipe is not overwhelming. I will make this salad again, maybe tweaking it here and there looking for an even better version: like adding a dash of lemon juice and possible some sweetener like agave syrup or golden raisins.

Do you have any favourite cabbage recipes to share? I’d love to hear them!

Join Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking with a food related post!

Recipe submitted to the July Whip Up Something New! Challenge hosted on Joyfully Retired

Button Whip Up Something New! Challenge

Chinese Literature Challenge buttonToday I’m on a hike in National Park De Hoge Veluwe with my fellow Wandelgrrls. Chinoiseries is among them and she put the screws to me with her Literary Blog Hop Giveaway rules… I’ve thought about joining the Chinese Literature Challenge she’s hosting ever since it started early February and now she finally got me to! So here’s a quick post about my –ahem– ‘list’.

Level of participation: Merchant (read 1-3 books from Chinese authors or about China).

  1. Dromen van China (The China Lover), Ian Buruma

I may add a second and third title in the future but I’m wary of creating ‘reading stress’ ;) Because I also joined the 5th Japanese Literature Challenge that started this month!

Japanese Literature Challenge #5 logoThat’s not really much of a challenge because I’ll be reading several books by Japanese authors anyway. Currently on my night-stand: The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe. I haven’t read anything by him before and I’m impressed so far: a Story with a capital S. It’s the June read for the Japanese Book Group on In Spring it is the Dawn and I also plan on reading along Thousand Cranes, Kokoro and 1q84 (I-III). Then there’s my readalong of The Elephant Vanishes with Elsjelas coming up. Counting my recent review of All She Was Worth (Miyuki Miyabe) that makes… 6 books. And there are plenty more on my shelf that I’m dying to read! Of course the difficult part in my case is never the reading, but reviewing.

1st Literary Giveaway Blog Hop ButtonIn case you haven’t noticed yet: there’s another Literary Giveaway Blog Hop going on at Leeswammes’, from June 25th-29th. There are over 70 participants! Although I joined the first hop around my birthday in February, I decided to let this one pass since it’s a busy weekend. Would have been fun to do another giveaway though, ’cause this time it’s Mr Gnoe’s B-day! ;)

Other bookish news

Cover Zeitoun (Dave Eggers) 9789048806577I started and finished reading Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun this week, nonfiction about a family living in New Orleans during Katrina — the June read for the Boekgrrls book group. I’m probably not going to review it on Graasland. You can always check out my notes on Goodreads! The one thing that I must add is that it was translated to Dutch by one of the Wandel-/Boekgrrls and she did a GREAT job! Kudos MaaikeB!

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 ;)

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.

I always know when CSA season starts: one of the first bags is going to hold rhubarb. Now for some of you that may be a feast, but rhubarb and me? We’ve got a strange relationship. I HATED it as a child while my mom loved it…

Amelishof CSA vegetables week 20, 2011

  • Rhubarb
  • Spinach
  • Oak leaf lettuce
  • Turnip tops (rapini)
  • Radish
  • Plum tomatoes

Now as an adult I’ve eaten rhubarb several times and it really isn’t that bad. Still, my brain refuses to catch up! So each time I’m confronted with these reddish-pink stalks I go “uh-oh” and my mind goes blank.

Creamy Coconut Almond Tarts with Rhubarb

It was a relief to have family coming over for dinner on Sunday so I could use this veggie for dessert. I decided on the lovely Rhubarb-Coconut Tarts from Vegalicious because they look pretty and I had all the ingredients at hand except coconut flavouring. Of course I usually try out recipes before I serve them to guests… But I trust the Vegalicious website: earlier this year I made the vegan Spicy Applesauce Cake with Lemon Frosting for my birthday and it was a success.

Was I right to dare preparing these tartlets without practising first?

You’ve got to remember that I’m not my usual self right now. Actually, I’m a real scatterbrain these days: I can read a recipe ten times and still not pick up everything. That’s exactly what happened… AND — I’ve hit myself several times for this already — I forgot to make a photo of the end result!!! AAAAARGH! So here’s the only picture I took.

Almond-oat crust for rhubarb coconut tarts

The base: oat-almond crusts. Looking good though, aren’t they? :)

What went ‘wrong’?

  • The sharp-eyed reader may notice that something went wrong here right away. I was supposed to make the tarts in ramekins! I only discovered that when the crusts were good & ready to get ‘filled’ with coconut cream…
    But you know what? I liked it this way! It’s like having a huge cookie on a plate with toppings. :)) So this will be a fixed alternation of the recipe from now on. ;)
  • I was sure I had some wholemeal flour… but I didn’t. Just took regular flour and it was fine. But I do think wholemeal will be good!
  • When I was supposed to be making sugar water to ‘cook’ the rhubarb in, I threw in the lemon juice with the sugar from the start… It turned out fine; rhubarb always has a bit of a tart taste, doesn’t it? ;)

My version of this dessert may not have been as pretty as the picture on Vegalicious. I peeled the rhubarb (I hate those stalk threads, don’t you?) and it lost its beautiful pink colour because of it. But you’ll have to trust my word on this — it looked delish! I put on a fresh mint leaf for garnish (as suggested) and threw over a pinch of cinnamon as the personal finishing touch. It tasted g-r-e-a-t: crunchy bottom, creamy and (not too) sweet middle layer and slightly sour rhubarb on top. Yum! We were unanimous in our verdict, including our omnivore guests.

So yes, next time I might plunge in at the deep end again and serve a new dish without trial! And this rhubarb recipe goes on the pile ‘For Keeps’.

- – - – -

New recipe(s) tried for the Whip Up Something New! Challenge!

Button Whip Up Something New! Challenge

- – - – -

Join Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking with a food-related post!

Beth Fish Weekend Cooking logo

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

I thought I’d let you have a look at the pile of books I’ll be picking from this year. Well, part of it anyway — I didn’t feel like emptying the whole bookcase ;)

Part of my Mount To Be Read in 2011

I’m not saying I will read all of these books in 2011; just, you know, showing you what treats are still in store for me. Some of them are tied to a certain event: later this year I’ll be reading along Murakami’s 1q84 with the Japanese Literature Book Group on In Spring It Is The Dawn (if I can wait that long), Ammaniti’s Ik haal je op, ik neem je mee (I’ll Steal You Away) is the Boekgrrls’ February group read and early that month @inspringthedawn, @Chinoiseries and I will be buddy-reading Pinball, 1973 during a low-key mini readathon on Twitter for which the date hasn’t be set yet. Please join us if you want to!

The Murakami’s are also part of the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge that I’ve joined, and I scheduled several other books on Mt. TBR for one or more of my numerous reading challenges. Numerous? Decide for yourself!

Just two more weeks to go of Bellezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge #4!
Progress: 4/6
The Pillow Book, Sei Shonagon
Silence, Shusaku Endo
The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Yukio Mishima
Hear the Wind Sing, Haruki Murakami
Starting Kawabata’s Snow Country today and in my current reading pace I might just make it in time to end with 5 books! Unfortunately Pinball, 1973 has been delayed till my buddy-read early Feb.
Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge
Progress: 1/5
Hear the Wind Sing, Haruki Murakami
Foodie’s Reading Challenge
Progress: 0/2
What’s in a Name Challenge #4
Progress: 1/6
Poelie the Terrible‘, Frans Pointl (category ‘evil’)
Personal ‘Best Foreign Book’ Reading Challenge (ongoing)
Progress: 11/12
I just need to read either The Chosen (Chaim Potok) or The Corrections (Jonathan Franzen). But I’ve taken so long trying to finish this challenge that I started in 2008 (!) I should really read both.
BOTNS +11 in '11 challenge logo BOTNS +11 in ’11 Reading Challenge
I decided to try and up my amount of books read in 2011 by joining the +11 challenge of the Books on the Nightstand podcast/weblog. Which means I need to read 40 books this year! While not giving in to quantity over quality — of course.
Progress: 4/40 (see below)
Goodreads Task Completion Challenge logo I’m also participating in a rather complex challenge called ‘Task Completion‘ on Goodreads, but I’m not taking that one as seriously as the rest.


The books I’ve read or finished in the first two weeks of 2011:

  1. Kalme chaos (Caos Calmo) by Sandro Veronesi (Boekgrrls’ December 2010 group read)
  2. Hear the Wind Sing by Haruki Murakami
  3. Poelie de Verschrikkelijke (‘Poelie the Terrible‘) by Frans Pointl
  4. Blacklands by Belinda Bauer (Boekgrrls’ January group read)

I plan to make a ‘Read in 2011′ page on Graasland during next weekend’s Bloggiesta, just like I’ll be updating my challenge page(s) and sidebar. My complete to-do list for the Bloggiesta will be posted early this week.

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

Foodie's Reading Challenge 2011 buttonOf course I’ve already told you all that I joined the 2011 Foodie’s Reading Challenge — and nobody was surprised at that. But I didn’t write an actual admission post, deciding on a level of participation plus books to read. Making up for that now!

Can’t do any better than being a nibbler, meaning I’ll read 1-3 books from the world of food writing.

Proposed titles:

  • Verraad, verleiding en verzoening: de rol van eten in speelfilms, by Louise O. Fresco & Helen Westerik
    Cover 'Eten in speelfilms', Louise O. Fresco & Helen WesterikDutch non-fiction about the significance of food in film, demonstrated with the help of several well-known movies like Babette’s Feast, Big Night, Marie Antoinette, Julie & Julia, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover etc.
    Wow: my love for food, books and movies combined. :) I bought it from the authors themselves on a night about Foodies, Foodporn and Food Blogs in September, so I have a signed copy.
  • Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America, by Linda Furiya
    Cover Bento Box in the Heartland, Linda FuriyaWhile growing up in Versailles, an Indiana farm community, Furiya tried to balance the outside world of Midwestern America with the Japanese traditions of her home life. As the only Asian family in a tiny township, her life revolved around Japanese food and the extraordinary lengths her parents went to in order to gather the ingredients needed to prepare the meals. [..] Furiya’s story begins with her first memorable meal as a kindergartener and concludes when she graduated from high school. Her story revolves around food. The preparing of it, the eating, and congregation surrounding sustenance serves not only as a backdrop, but demonstrates how it comforts an immigrant’s homesickness and aids the family through their challenges.
    Sounds like another perfect book for Gnoe, right? ;)

I might add titles to this list or change my mind on what to read, so feel free to give me any suggestions you might have! For now I really feel like doing these two. :))

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the unveiling of my Secret Santa and what she gave me for Christmas 2010!

2010 Book Blogger Holiday Swap present from Zee

Thank you so much Zee (a.k.a. @zommie) from Notes from the North!

Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods was one of the first books on my Bookdepository wishlist so it’s awesome to finally get my hands on it! :)) Zee’s twitter alter ego @zommie wrote she had no trouble deciding at all since it was one of her favourite books of 2009! Knowing that makes this gift even more special.

I haven’t seen a note about Zee’s Secret Santa yet… I hope she got something nice herself too! :) I guess anything Scandinavian will do, since she’s hosting a 2011 Nordic Reading Challenge! ;)
Book Blogger Holiday Swap button
Of course I was allowed to play Secret Santa too (that’s part of the deal ;) and I thoroughly enjoyed finding the right gifts for my Santee: Iris from Iris on Books, whom I’ve known and liked for quite some time now. She did a very nice blogpost about her Persephone & Book Blogger Holiday Swap presents.

Now, this is the Last Sunday Salon of 2010 and I’ve got some other bookish news to share.

Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge 2011

Murakami Challenge 2011 cover buttonAnother week, another update, another challenge. That’s how you can tell it’s December LOL!

I told you before I plan to read all books by Haruki Murakami. I am lucky enough to live in The Netherlands, where the first two volumes of his new novel 1Q84 came out in June this year, earlier than in other parts of the world. We got this treasure right away but the weird thing is… I still haven’t read it! Good thing tanabata from In Spring it is the Dawn decided to host a Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge in 2011. :) She made two awesome buttons which I can’t seem to choose from and will alternate between.

The level of participation I’m choosing is ‘Toru’: read 5 of Murakami’s works. That seems appropriate since Toru is the main character of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which is how I came to know this fabulous author. It also really constitutes a challenge for me because that comprises almost 25% of the amount of books I can currently read in a year! But who knows, I might even upgrade later this year if I feel like finishing the rest of his oeuvre as well. ;)

The books I plan on reading:

  1. Murakami Challenge 2011 cat-tail-buttonHear the Wind Sing
  2. Pinball, 1973
  3. The Elephant Vanishes (buddy-read with Elsje, just like we did with Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman)
  4. 1Q84 – part I
  5. 1Q84 – part II

The list is not in any particular order, except that I wish to read Hear the Wind Sing before ‘Pinball‘, and part 1 of 1Q84 before the second. ;)

Books read and to-be-read

I finished reading Nadeem Aslam’s The Wasted Vigil — which will probably end up real high on this year’s list of Best Reads — and Thomas J. Davies’ The Christmas Quilt (a warm blanket of a cozy x-mas story), just like I planned.
*pats herself on the shoulder*

Today I’ll start in my online book group’s December read: Kalme chaos (Caos calmo), by Sandro Veronesi. It’s quite a chunker and I don’t think I’ll be able to manage all of it this month, but I might at least get the ball rolling, so to say. I’ve heard raving reviews as well as people getting bored and/or annoyed, so I have no idea what to expect! Don’t you like it when that happens? :)

Cover The Wasted Vigil (Nadeem Aslam)Cover The Christmas Quilt, Thomas J. DaviesCover Kalme Chaos, Sandro Veronesi

Are you free to read this week? What books are on your stack?

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

You've got mail: Book Blogger Holiday Swap 2010

The Day After I received my Canadian loot in the Great Grocery Bag Exchange, again a mysterious package fell into my mailbox. Hooray, a present from my Secret Santa! Of course I knew Santa lives somewhere in the Nordic hemisphere, but I never would have guessed (s)he actually lives in Sweden..! I should have know that when I visited the country in 2002! Eh, not that I have any plans about what to do with that knowledge ;)

Anyway, my present is wrapped in some cool helper-trolls paper. And I’m keeping it that way for a short while longer! Our rental Christmas tree won’t arrive until December 18th and I want it to lie under the tree like a proper x-mas gift. Even if it’s just for one day LOL! So you’ll have to be patient too. Nothing you can do about it! :)

Book Blogger Holiday Swap present 2010 (wrapped)

Thanks to helper-troll my Secret Santa ‘Zee’ from  ..?

Other bookish news

I’ve finished reading The (Temple of the) Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima and am about to start in Nadeem Aslam’s The Wasted Vigil. Just like I promised last week ;)

Foodie's Reading Challenge 2011 buttonI’ve also been a baaaad grrl — again – and joined yet another challenge :\

But.. it-was-made-for-me! It’s the Foodie’s Reading Challenge, hosted by Margot of Joyfully Retired. If you’ve participated in Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking meme you’re bound to have met her! She challenges us to explore the world of good food writing; taking the form of cookbooks, biographies or even novels centered around food.

Now look at Graasland and tell me honestly: could I really have resisted this challenge??? :)

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

After all those read-a-thon updates on Graasland it’s about high time I posted my latest bentos. And what better motivation than to find a mail from Hapa Bento telling me I had won the September B.O.M.B. challenge?!

*blush* I am so honoured!

Bento #116 served as dinner on my train journey to an evening about ‘Foodies, Foodporn & Foodblogs’ in The Hague on Wednesday September 22nd. That day it was mid-autumn and the Chinese were celebrating their Moon Festival. On Thursday the 23rd there would be a full moon — the brightest and most beautiful moon of the year according to Japanese people!

Tsukimi

Watching the full September moon is a special celebration in Japan, called Tsukimi (moon-viewing), tsuki being moon. It’s about honouring the moon and being thankful for the harvest. So, what could be more fun than to take an early Tsukimi Bento to the food event?

That meant I had to use seasonal produce (which is traditionally offered to the moon) and use ‘pampas grass’ for decoration. My organic CSA veggie bag came in handy! I really wanted to bring traditional foods, but no way I was having another attempt at making dango! I tried that on my first Holland Hanami (cherry blossom viewing, the spring counterpart of Tsukimi) and it made us gag! #fail

Thankfully I had recently bought some green tea mochi. But what am I doing, starting with dessert?

Tsukimi Bento (#116), 22-09-2010

Front tier

  • Buckwheat soba noodles (traditional) with leftover stir-fry of Swiss chard, silver onions, leek, carrot, corn kernels and chili pepper (all seasonal vegetables), braised in the soaking liquid of dried mushrooms.
  • Large shiitake mushroom (‘dark side of the moon’).
  • Slice of corn cob (‘full moon’).
  • Potato patty (no traditional sweet potato but hey, close enough).
  • Red pepper rabbits (tradition).
  • Fennel green ‘pampas grass’ for decoration, plastic sushi grass and flat leaf parsley for baran (dividers).
  • Slice of braised carrot, mini gherkins and pickled silver onions.
  • All on a bed of lettuce.

Background tier (which can be seen more clearly in another picture)

  • Edamame (traditional).
  • Apple – first local harvest!
  • Dried fruit: apricot & mango.
  • Green tea mochi (traditional).
  • Dollop of ketchup for potato patty.

But there’s more to it…

I didn’t get round to writing this blogpost because I wanted to tell you more of the thoughts behind bento #116.

In the Chinese Moon Fest round forms symbolize unity, completeness, togetherness. It reminds me of the circle of life, autumn being the season in which ‘the fruits’ get harvested. Of course the moon is round too. So I’ve used a lot of round foods in my round tsukimi bento :) Mix & match is what I say! ;) A lot of Chinese heritage became Japanese culture as well. Hey, I’m an European making bento, so what are we talking about anyway?

It’s interesting to know that the box that I used for this train bento is even officially called Tsukimi. The depiction of a moon-watching rabbit can be found in many Japanese decorations. All around the world people see things in the moon; here in Holland it’s a face and we’re calling it the Man of the Moon. Ancient Chinese saw a hare or rabbit pounding herbs for elixir, the Japanese believed it was pounding rice to make mochi. Making mochi is called mochitsuki (餅つき), which sounds similar to the word for full moon: mochitzuki (望月)!

Green tea mochiNow do you see the importance of my green tea mochi dessert? First flush (green) sencha tea is supposed to be best when kept till September, so that makes it even more appropriate.

Both moon and rabbit symbolize a long life. That probably originates from the Chinese life elixir myth — and the way rabbits know how to ensure eternal life through their offspring ;)

But there’s also a Buddhist story associated with this all, the story of Jade Rabbit. On a day of Uposatha — Buddhist Sabbath — an old man asked for food from a monkey, an otter, a jackal and a rabbit. The monkey collected fruits and offered them to the old man, the otter brought him a fish and the jackal a lizard. The rabbit didn’t have anything to bring, because the herbs constituting his food weren’t good for humans.
Then the rabbit decided to offer his own body and jumped into fire. Surprisingly his body did not burn, because the old man was the deity Sakra. And for people to remember the rabbit’s sacrifice, the old man drew the rabbit’s image over the moon.

If you look at Google images of ‘tsukimi rabbit‘ you’ll see the cutest rabbit-shaped sweets… I wish I could have had some! Still, I had so much fun making & eating this thematic bento! It’s wonderful it was awarded with a B.O.M.B. badge :)
Tsukimi Google logo 2009

Home-grown: red hot chilli peppers
Local & organic: Swiss chard, leek, carrots, corn, lettuce, potato, parsley, fennel, apple
Organic: sōmen, shiitake mushroom, egg, paprika, ketchup

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