Moments to Myself

Maintain heat, keep an eye on the food.

“Dad can you help me?”

A text from someone.

Back to the food, while one dish cooks, prep another.

“Dad…”

Two days of cooking, one long trip to bring someone replacement pants, and I finally have some time to myself. I know that sounds bad, as in, I have not had any time to myself…boo hoo. Nothing like that, more along the lines of feeling like I have been doing so much other stuff that I have not taken time to myself. Thus, no boo hoo, more of a whew, cooking and mowing the lawn have kicked the crap out of the still working off a winter of nothing me.

Bentoing is in full swing. Our refrigerator is packed full of goodies. I am not exaggerating either. Each time I make something else I have to spend five minutes arranging everything to make room. There are four types of chicken, three types of cauliflower, two types of carrots, a ton of rice and cold noodles, tamago, and at least a dozen other dishes in there waiting for hungry people or me to pack a bento for Barb. Once I find some place in the fridge 7.5 pounds of pork shoulder is getting turned into pickled pork for red beans and rice, pork for asian dishes, and pulled pork because pulled pork is yummy.

All of the cooking is tiring. And hot. I hope I have sweated off 10 pounds. I have not, but the summer is young. Between rounds of cooking, what is a round of cooking you ask? When I dirty up all of the cooking utensils the cleaning crew, kids, come in and clean up. While they clean, I figure out what is next, then back to the kitchen. They are tired of cleaning dishes. I told them they get a break…I lied, in a bit I will be making sauces. 🙂

Around the cooking, is cleaning, mostly mowing. With almost 2 acres the lawn must get mowed…when the lawn has been watered via rain and is not mostly brown or completely weed grown. This time, much to my chagrin, weed grown. I have a mowed almost 2 acres, took three days, and most of it is brown. I am not a lawn person, in fact if the weeds didn’t look so weedy I would let the lawn grow for the whole season in the hope that next year there really was green grass. Alas, mostly weeds until rain arrives in force. Scattered rain for three days is not what our lawn needs. Just the humidity.

Here I am after two days, sore, tired, happy belly, awesome smelling house, a fridge full of food, and I have not done much for myself. What is stuff for me? Writing, painting, and reading. Oh I forgot, a few smaller projects, such as the list of games I would like to sell or trade which I keep meaning to do…but…you read the last few days. Once I get that out of the way, back to working on Puddles and Whiskers and painting some miniatures for the new version of Warhammer 40k.

 

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Father’s Day Surprise In Song and Bento

I went to bed worn out from the drama of before Father’s Day. I woke up expecting next to nothing. Not because nobody cares, but because Father’s Day is a low key event around here. Imagine my surprise.

I woke up feeling like I had been drinking, odd given that no drinking happened. Possibly rain, oh well most of the night before was spent discussing opening up the bento kitchen. I am all for that given how much I love to cook. The biggest stop to cooking around here has been Barb’s schedule and the fact that most of the stores she works at don’t have fridge or a microwave. However a solution was found and the bento kitchen is open.

Meaning my morning was spent in the kitchen.

  • Honey curry carrots
  • Curry smashed potatoes
  • Sweet and spicy bell pepper slices
  • Cold noodles
  • Rice
  • Tamago rolls
  • Garlic and butter mushroom quarters
  • Burnt onions, sounds wrong, but really good

If that had been the extent of my day, I would have been happy as the kids were being pretty good.

A quick trip to an over crowded store for additional ingredients and storage solutions for all of the food where my favorite meat counter lady knew exactly what I was looking for when I said smocked ham hock for red beans and rice. Not bad at all.

Then at home I get the real surprise.

Ever since an off-hand lengthy joke about the kids forming a band named Curb Service after an ill placed sign seen during C4*, our girl has been practicing the guitar. Almost everyday.

I don’t think about her practicing other than, “good she is practicing” and “good she is getting better.” So when I was pulled out of the bedroom where I was working on the recipe list for more bento stuff I was unprepared to find our girl sitting on a stool, music stand in front of her, guitar in her lap, ready to sing.

She wrote me a song.

“Violets are purple. Roses are red. I love you so Happy Father’s Day dad. Rhinos are grey same with rocks. Have a fun Father’s Day dad. I love you more than purple pie. So Happy Father’s Day dad.”

I have the video. I would share it with you, but I am saving it for when she becomes famous and is out of control. You know how famous people get.

Then to top it off, I was given a pair of plaid shorts. I saw a pair on an elderly man and commented I would like a pair too because he, like me, didn’t seem to give a shit and people gave him what he wanted and were nice to him to boot. My thought, the plaid shorts have magical powers otherwise why wear them when not on a golf course.

And that is why I cannot play the piano and had an awesome Father’s Day.

* This curb service sign was at least 200 feet away from the restaurant on the busiest road imaginable. My story was someone parking alongside the curb and yelling to the people outside about wanting service. This triggered an hour long bout of laughing, a band, their number one song “I want my wiener,” and numerous other good memories.

Perpetual Motion 

Whew. I just sat down for the first time in a serious relaxing way. Previous sit downs were more of the, “I’m waiting for the next thing” way. Not nearly as satisfying as it may appear. Trust me. My day begins at 6:20 in the morning. That is when I get up and a few minutes later, get the children up. Why am I getting the children up that early, because we live in an agrarian society where the kids have to accompany me out to the fields to assist me with the crops and animals.

No, that’s not it?

Then I have no clue why children under the age of 15 are forced to get up each day at 6:20 in the morning. Perhaps a form of torture or more likely the same ennui that infects most human endeavors or “That’s what we have always done, thus that is what we will continue doing despite the fact that we know better.” Honestly, I have no explanation. This school system does not have 2-hours days for inclement weather, but does have people up before 6 am to prepare for a day of learning. Doesn’t anyone read the studies which say that we are doing our children, thus our future, a great disservice by continuing to perpetuate the school day as it currently is?

Oh, I see…my name and someone from ten years ago are the only people to sign out that study.

Today, was different from normal days as I had to split the children up. One child was allowed to “sleep-in” while the others got ready for school. Of course this change was questioned. The child who slept in was headed out for a busy day with me, it was not some weird form of reward despite what the children thought. I am a hard taskmaster. Children out the door for school. The remaining child and I prepared for what I knew could be a long day.

First up, a trip to the doctor where the oldest child needed to see a doctor for his asthma. The on campus doctors office used to be very good. This school year not so much. All of the doctors who used to work there are gone, as are many of the nurses. The new staff is mostly grumpy people. That is what we were expecting and when the lady behind the counter got grumpy with me and the oldest child over his cough, I feared the worst. Then the coolest nurse in the world showed up. From her Jamacan accent, her relaxed manner, and best of all she asked the oldest what he thought was wrong while watching me for silent verification. Then they talked smoking. Why smoking, because in her words it was a silly question to be asking a child, but she had too. Then the oldest launched into a diatribe on why smoking was bad. She was laughing in tears by the she left. The doctor was less funny, but equally attentive to the oldest child and me. I have not felt like a valued parent in a doctor’s office for a very long time.

Scripts in hand we headed out to fill the scripts, take back bottles, and pick up groceries.  I will spare you the boring details other than to say I have no idea why people gave the oldest the hairy eyeball while he was smacking cans, there were spare machines and when there were more people than machines he gave up his machine without protest. We felt bad for the Pharm Tech in Training, that is what her name tag said. Of course we turn out to be the more difficult order of her morning. She powered through and we headed to the bank, where we entertained the teller talking about the value of a dollar verse the value of a penny when I was a child.

Arriving home time to cook bento stuff and dinner. Pickled daikon, curry cauliflower, chicken nuggets to go with the remaining sweet and sour sauce, and finally I was able to start the Shrimp in Lobster sauce. Or I thought I was, but doing everything before that put me behind schedule and I had to detour to pack bentos for tomorrow. And then the children came home from school. Homework time. Today was money. Ironic given that I could have taken them shopping with me and given them a real life money experience. Once homework and “how was your days” were taken care of then it was time for dinner…except that not everyone is home to eat…ugh.

Almond Boneless Chicken Day

Its Sunday, which for me, when I am not sick, means a day of cooking in preparation for the week of bentos and dinner for the night. Because I have not been feeling well, I am behind in my bentoing. I was also behind in my cleaning out the previous week’s bentoing efforts. Refrigerator Fear Factor is not my favorite kitchen sport, not by any means. Yet, there I was opening containers from two weeks ago, been sick for a week or so remember, and praying that the stench didn’t knock me out or I wake up in a pool of my own sick.

Fear Factor over, I started my day of bentoing and dinner. Diner was, as the title suggested, Almond Boneless Chicken. Our family loves Almond Boneless Chicken, and they, like me thought that it was a Chinese dish. Then we found out from an article in the Detroit Freepress that Almond Boneless Chicken is from Detroit. The link is to an updated version of the recipe and references the original story.

AlmondFrom my own experience, Almond Boneless Chicken is a very easy, but time consuming dish to make. Some pointers, try your best to slice each breast in half as equal as possible. This will ensure that cooking times are close to each other. The sauce is easy to make; I recommend that you make the sauce after frying the chicken. This keeps splattering grease or other accidents from spoiling a well made sauce. When frying the chicken, be prepared for a mess and don’t bother showering before hand, as you will likely be or feel like you are covered in a fine layer of oil. One last pointer, the gravy goes great on rice so much so that people will eat gravy on rice before and after the chicken is gone.

Bentoing consisted of blanching broccoli. I used to make a variety of flavors of broccoli, but it was requested of me that I leave it alone and let people put the flavors that they want on the broccoli. Why not, I replied, makes cooking that much easier. Other bentoing was honey curry carrots and a new recipe of orange carrots. Orange carrots is cooking carrots in orange juice and orange zest. Smelled great, but a bit rindy, which has me wondering about the flavor. The rest of bento prep consisted of pickling radishes, cucumbers, and beets. I happen to like pickled items for ramen and rice bowls.

Rice bowls are a newish bento for me to send Barb and friends off with. The best part of rice bowls for me is one dish. Bento boxes can have up to five different boxes or containers. Rice bowls go into a bowl. Then I get to show my creative side making rice, vegetables, and a protein looking cool. Toss a sauce either in a separate squeeze bottle or under the rice and all I have to clean at the end of the day is a single bowl. 🙂

How I Spent My Summer: Food

I have been trying to decide Food or Games. Food won out because I am hungry.

Summer is not a time when I do a lot of new cooking. Typically, I stick to quick and easy dishes and meals that do not generate heat. This place has horrible ventilation, in the winter heat from the kitchen is great when the doors and windows ice over; in the summer heat is bad. However, due to non-typical summer weather, a friendly neighbor, Barb entering pharmacy rotations, and some new cookbooks, I spent a lot of my summer cooking.

Bentoing, the act of making a bento. Bento a smallish meal. Fine, those aren’t the real meanings and bentoing is not a word, but it is now that I have taken to putting bentoing in print several times now. 🙂 This was the summer of the bento.

Looking for a way to cut costs, we settled upon Barb taking a lunch to work. However, I did not want her to take a sandwich and stuff. I have zero desire to send Barb or my kids off with that. I can cook and I have time during the summer. Plus, I want to be the grandfather from Eat, Drink, Man, Woman-if you have not seen the movie, SEE THE MOVIE-in a nutshell, he makes food for the grandchildren and family meal. I want to be him. So, I cooked lunches for Barb and the kids.

After picking up a couple of bento boxes and two bento cookbooks: Effortless Bento and The Just Bento Cookbook I got to work. Did I need those cookbooks? No, I could have made plenty of food and packed the bento boxes full. However, I love to learn new cooking techniques. From the two cookbooks the number of meals and combinations of meals jumped. I learned recipes for chicken, pork, steak. I learned several new ways to prepare a variety of vegetables. In fact, bentoing has expanded what I do with vegetables so much that much of our diet is vegetable. I learned deserts, mostly involving fruit. In other words, without the cookbooks I would not have learned anything and Barb would not have been sent to work with meals that got attention and filled her belly.

Now I have a full menu of regular items I make for bento boxes and dinner. I expanded the bento meals into other areas, such as a taco/nacho bento and moo goo gai pan bento. Cooking for bentos has become such a part of my week, that Sundays you will find me in the kitchen making food for the week and in the kitchen at least three other times working on dinners or special items for bentos.

Related to bentos, has been finally figuring out how to make rice in the rice cooker and pickling. The rice cooker should be a duh! But as our rice cooker ages it has developed a mood. That mood being, I’m not going to cook rice unless you (me) put a lot of effort into prepping the rice. What started out as a sushi rice prep has turned into any rice prep: rinse rice until water runs clear and let rice soak in water for at least a half-hour. Good rice, has turned into great fried rice and crispy rice-meaning bento boxes can have any of three versions of rice in them, always a plus.

Pickling is something I learned last year, but really began to apply this year in an attempt to extend the lifespan of fruits and vegetables. I shouldn’t have to pickle, but the refrigerator does not have a lot of space for proper storage and is wonky in regards to temperature control. Thus, I pickle as much as I can using a variety of pickling recipes. From a quick pickle, which is good to go in a half-hour to more traditional pickles-speaking of which the jalapeños will be ready in six more days.

As summer cooking goes, this was a great summer, not only did I learn several new techniques and dozens of recipes, I was able to apply everything. Happy bellies abound. 🙂

How I Spent My Summer: Games

How I Spent My Summer: Reading

How I Spent My Summer: Travel

Interview Request and Bentoing

I don’t think there will be anything new on the Robotech RPG TacticsKickstarterPalladium Books front for a while. I have put in a request to Wayne Smith to interview him. Unfortunately, I had to use Facebook to put in the interview request because using Palladium Books own contact system is a combination of infuriating and archaic. So, Wayne, if you are reading this and if I was you I would be checking on anyone who asked for an interview, I apologize for the Facebook message; not the interview request. That is genuine. I would like to get all sides of this story as facts.

Speaking of interviews and seeking information, if anyone with information about the behind the scenes/making of/decisions involved with Robotech RPG Tactics, works for Palladium Books, works for Ninja Division, or worked on Robotech RPG Tactics would like to be interviewed or share their information please contact me in at muketsuhanagames@gmail.com.

So while I wait for a response to my email request for information and my Facebook message request for an interview, I continue to gather information and move on with my life. Which means back to cooking and making sure that the three of us who have school to attend are prepared. Barb is still in school, but her “classes” are rotations at various pharmacies and health care institutions. I guess I ensure she is ready because I make her bento everyday. I really am handy. 🙂

In an effort to keep bentoing fun and bento lunches fresh I have been playing around with what I put in them. I am sure those who bento often already know this, but bentoing is new to me. Now that I have a stable platform of recipes to use that are good for bentoing, I am seeing what else I cook that can go into a bento, easily. Easily is the keyword.

I could put New Bride Chicken Curry into a bento, but it would be a mess. A huge mess. I could put some wings into a bento, but that too would have issues, such as what to put with the wings and so on. As the season changes I want to be able to send Barb and the kids off with comfort food, because…well because comfort food is comforting.

Seeing a large roast in the freezer, I said to myself, “Why not roast?” If I did roast as I normally do in the crockpot with all of the fixings-potatoes, onions, carrots, etc. all, it would be a sloppy mess. How can I make the roast experience while keeping the bento esthetic? Took me until about five minutes ago to implement my plan-i.e. the food is cooked.

Instead of cooking everything in the slow cooker, I cooked the roast in a bath of beef stock until the roast shredded without any effort. Then I let the roast soak in the beef stock bath for two hours before removing the roast to a container, draining any excess stock.

Three large potatoes sliced thin went into a large pan with three minced cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons of butter. I let them cook over medium-high heat for around 15 minutes, stirring frequently. I dumped everything into the slow cooker on LOW and covered.

Into the potato pan, I put a tablespoon of butter and three large onions sliced very thin with salt and pepper. I piled the onions in the center of the pan and let them sit for five minutes before flipping and repeating. After the second flip, I spread the onions around to let them cook for another five minutes. Then the onions went into the slow cooker with the potatoes.

I let the potatoes and onion mix cook until the potatoes were fork and mouth tender (I had to sample). I believe this took two hours. Now I have a roast bento that looks good; bed of rice, shredded roast on one side, and potato mix on the other, topped with a splash of gravy made from the beef bath.

 

 

While I Wait, I Cook

While waiting for a response from Palladium Books to my initial inquiry, I spent the day gathering information and cooking. As soon as I get a response from Palladium Books, I feel enough time has passed (seven days seems long enough in this day of instant communication), or I gather enough information (mostly reading and analyzing what I have already received and found) I will follow-up on the Robotech RPG Tactics Kickstarter.

The last week has been to hot to cook. I have cooked, but not cooked. I have cooked meals most of the days when standing in the kitchen was a race against sweating away to nothing or passing out from lack of breathable air, due to a distinct lack of air flow here. But, I have not spent a day in the kitchen making food. I like to do that, spending a day cooking ensures that there is food ready to go for the pack of snacking wolves that seems to be my family of late.

First up, rice. Rice is staple. At least two cups of rice for the week’s bentos. Guess I will have to up that amount when the kids go back to school. Those two cups, after cooling, go straight into the refrigerator to chill for at least 24 hours. The chilled rice then gets turned into fried rice, crispy rice, or stays chilled rice. All of which gets put into the bottom of bento boxes with a sprinkling of togarashi or goma rashi or some other rice seasoning.

Crispy rice, is both delicious and can be a pain in the ass to make. Take chilled rice and break down into small chunks or into individual grains of rice. Heat a pan with 2tbsp of peanut oil over medium heat. When the pan is hot add the rice and stand back. Some of the rice will pop. Pop right out of the pan and the oil will splatter; see pain in the ass. Once the popping and splattering is over, leave the rice alone. This may be hard to do.

My inclination with rice in a pan is to stir. Leave the rice alone. Watch for the edges of the rice to brown. When you think your rice is ready, around 5 minutes, take a spatula and attempt to flip as much of the rice as you can. The bottom should be brownish in color. Flip over the rice and repeat. Continue letting the rice sit and flipping. Eventually, most of the rice will be browned and crispy. Remove from heat when you are satisfied with crispness of rice.

It has taken me several attempts to get the rice to this point where I can write a vague recipe. For me the issues are a stove top with inconsistent heat output, varying amounts of rice (unfortunately for you, I have not been measuring the amount of rice using-only using what I felt was right), and the horrible habit of not keeping track of time while cooking.

Oops, that took a bit of space…after rice, food. 🙂

Today, pork and steak. Both were marinated in soy, hoisin, and oyster sauce. Minced garlic and a teaspoon of grated ginger were added to the steak marinade. Two tablespoons of grated ginger was added to the pork marinade. After a few hours of marinating-mostly because I was researching, both meats were cooked on the stove top. Nothing overly special, cooked to medium rare, which means they can be eaten tonight or if put into a bento heated up a bit without turning into shoe leather.

I made a glaze out of soy, sugar, a drop of ponzu, and a drop of gochujang that can be brushed over the meat in the bento or poured over the rice.

Note to self: Write down times and amounts and take pictures. 🙂