Using up: baguette

I got a free baguette from somewhere a few months ago. It’s been sitting in my freezer since then, desiccating, apparently. I got it out to make banh mi yesterday and discovered that it was rock hard. I would’ve given up on the whole idea except that I’d already bought all the other ingredients.

To attempt to rehydrate the bread, I… steamed it. It mostly worked. Soggy on the outside and still pretty hard on the inside = delicious, right? Fortunately, panfrying got rid of the sogginess.

Bread down, onto the hacked-together filling! The main components of banh mi are some protein (I used fried tofu and scrambled egg), cilantro, mayo, fish sauce, and marinated veggies. I had trouble with the fish sauce (don’t have it) and the marinated vegetables (don’t have vinegar), so I made some wild substitutions like usual.

Julienned carrots and radish are supposed to be marinated in a combination of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. I didn’t want to buy a whole container of vinegar (and it’s not available in bulk) just as I’m about to move out, so my plan was to use lemon or lime juice in place of vinegar. Lime would be especially fitting โ€“ it’s commonly used as a topping. But… the grocery store didn’t have either ๐Ÿ™ The closest alternative I could find was grapefruit. I still don’t know if that was a good choice.

I added bonito flakes to the marinade to substitute for fish sauce.

The final banh mi-like sandwich. (This nice plate was a bulk-trash-pickup-day find ๐Ÿ™‚

The sandwich was actually pretty good, considering. The vegetables only have the faintest hint of grapefruit-bitterness flavor… ๐Ÿ˜€

Another using-up recipe: cream biscuits

A while ago, I need to use up a pound or so of sour cream (left over from some event) and some over-cooked sweet potato. I steamed it into sweet potato mush ๐Ÿ™ I had the bright idea of making pancakes (really good, super tender and fluffy) and biscuits (not so great, but edible).

At least they have a good color. Any suggestions on how to use up a ton of biscuits?

The original biscuit recipe, which is much better than my modification, is from Joy of Cooking:

Cream biscuits

20 2-inch biscuits

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (might need more salt)
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  1. Mix dry ingredients. Add the cream all at once. Mix until the dry ingredients are moistened.
  2. Gather the dough into a ball and knead it gently 5-10 times, adhering any loose pieces in the process, until the work area is clean.
  3. Roll or pat the dough out to 1/2-inch thick. Cut into desired size (2-inch squares is standard). Reroll and cut any scraps.
  4. Bake in center rack at 450ยฐF for 10-12 minutes until biscuits are golden on top. Set biscuits close together on baking sheet for joined biscuits with soft sides.
  5. (To cook on a griddle, roll dough out to 1/4-3/8-inch thick. Cook in griddle until brown on one side, 3-4 minutes, then turn and cook until brown on the other side.)

Mostly-free cornbread

I don’t really use cornmeal for anything, so I decided to make cornbread to use up the haul-cornmeal. It had the added benefit of using up the rest of my flour. I’m moving out in a month and am trying to not have any food left. I’m down to my freezer stash of carby foods, like biscuits, brownies, low-tier garlic bread, low-tier baguette (which is gonna be upgraded to banh mi :).

Anyway, my mom provided the Cook’s Illustrated “Northern cornbread” recipe that she likes. (The “Southern cornbread” recipe has more cornmeal and, I believe, less sugar.)

Why is the browning so square?

Ingredients

  • 1 cupย stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk (I used yoghurt)
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Instructions

  1. Adjust oven rack to center position and heat to 425ยฐF. Grease a 9-by-9 pan.
  2. Stir together dry ingredients. Stir in wet ingredients until just combined.
  3. Pour batter into greased pan. Bake until top is golden brown and lightly cracked and edges have pulled away from side of pan, about 25 minutes.
  4. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

Free food!

I discovered a neighbor was moving out when I discovered trash bags full of dry goods (gasp!) outside their door. I couldn’t keep myself from asking if it was fine for me to take what I wanted (the answer was “yes” and I was even offered my pick of furniture), so I ended up with this haul:

Let’s see, from left to right, there’s cereal, spaghetti, butter, cornmeal, cashews and almonds, water chestnut flour (used as an alternative to cornstarch, I think?), a “string” of fig “buttons”, various Indian spice mixes, salsa, jaggery (unrefined sugar), olives, chickpeas, cooking oil.

I love getting stuff I wouldn’t normally buy. It’s a treat ๐Ÿ™‚ I especially enjoyed the salsa.

The day the neighbors moved out, I dug through the apartment dumpster, and additionally got a chair (for putting my “in use” clothes on), an apparently never-used yoga mat, laundry detergent (never get Gain original scent… On the plus side, I hear Gain is super strong), and a single handkerchief.

Frankie, one of my favorite musicians, has a new song about ghosting, “breaking off a relationship (often an intimate relationship) by ceasing all communication and contact with the former partner without any apparent warning or justification, as well as ignoring the former partnerโ€™s attempts to reach out or communicate”. The song is really good, plus the music video is a gender-swapped allusion to Grease ๐Ÿ˜€ Enjoy (and listen to Frankie’s other songs)!

Christmas presents :D

I got: local beeswax, local honey from bees that ate yaupon (a plant native to Texas, and the only caffeine-containing one native to North America), a stainless steel soap dish, multi-colored peppercorns, and a gift card to Blue Apron (that meal kid company).

Of course, there was also the casting kit for last-making!

And for my birthday a couple months ago, I got….

US-grown purple popcorn! I sometimes have popcorn as a low-effort dinner.

US-made scrub brush. The fibers are tampico (made from agave), so I figure they’re from Mexico. The brush sheds a little; hopefully that dies down as I use it more.

Heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo! An essential part of my diet ๐Ÿ™‚

What did y’all get for Christmas?

Superhot

Went to Superhot this weekend with Friend A (pictured) and Friend B (not pictured).

It’s a new hotpot+kbbq+dimsum restaurant that just opened in Downtown Mountain View. The restaurant concept was carefully crafted for maximum popularity. The first time I tried to go, there was a really long (2+ hour) wait. This time we arrived at 11:30am to avoid the wait.

$30 all you can eat in 90 minutes. Max 10 items ordered at a time. The waiter only comes once every 30 minutes unless you flail around excessively. Strategize accordingly.

100 items to choose from. Friend A really liked the unlimited dumplings.

Chinese fried donut.

Xiao long bao. Unlimited xiao long bao.

Friend A got tripe and pork blood. I’m not such a fan but he liked it.

Premium steak. Looks pretty premium.

How to use a handkerchief

A lot of y’all probably know that I use handkerchiefsย in place of (disposable) tissues. I find them very convenient and, since they’re such a foreign concept to most people, I want to explain the ins and outs of their use and care!

What do you use hankies for?

I treat hankies as a cross between a tissue and a cloth napkin. I use them to blow my nose, and occasionally wipe my hands and mouth, but appropriate use varies by culture. For example, in Japan, it is rude to use your handkerchief to blow your nose (or to blow your nose in public at all); handkerchiefs are meant only for drying sweat or your hands. And in the US, handkerchiefs are just not used (except in hanky code by the gay and BDSM communities), so there is no particular etiquette I am aware of.

How many handkerchiefs do you need?

I carry one handkerchief in my pocket every day. I use it until it gets too dirty, then I switch it for a new one. Unless I’m sick, I usually use the same one for a week. I carry a couple backups in my backpack in case I suddenly get hit with allergies, or a friend needs a tissue.

I have about 20 hankies in my personal collection, but that’s way more than I need for day-to-day use. If you’re gonna switch to tissues for a really runny nose, 5-7 hankies should be fine for the rest of the time.

What do you do when you’re sick?

I use hankies when I’m sick too! I’ve never needed more than my 20 hankies in a single day. If it looks like I’m going to run out, I wash some handkerchiefs by hand and let them dry overnight to use the next day.

How do you wash handkerchiefs?

You can wash hankies either by hand, or by machine in a mesh lingerie bag. I usually put mine in with the rest of my laundry. In either case, unfold each hankie and soak in water for a few hours before washing. This rehydrates dried mucus so that it can be washed off ๐Ÿ™‚ Handkerchief fabric is very lightweight so they dry very fast. I always airy dry them.

Where do you get hankies? What should they be made of?

My handkerchief collection is all from my maternal grandparents’ estate. My grandparents had a huge number of handkerchiefs and bandanas. Apparently, they had grown up using handkerchiefs (during the Great Depression) and continued to do so until disposable tissues took hold.

Some of my collection. Almost all are embroidered. Some have crocheted or tatted edging. A few have handmade lace!

Because of the switch to tissues, there are lots of old hankies available at thrift stores, antique stores, creative reuse stores (I’d say this is your best bet), and on eBay. You can use thin woven fabric, like a bandana, or t-shirt material.

The fabric should be natural (cotton and linen are common) and not a satin weave โ€“ your snot will slide right off ๐Ÿ™‚ (Pocket squares make poor handkerchiefs because they’re usually made of glossy fabric.) A color or patten will help hide stains. If you’re worried you’ll look weird using a hankie, use white ones; they’ll look just like tissues.

How do you fold handkerchiefs?

I fold mine into sixteenths (in half, in half hamburger-style, in half the same direction, then in half hamburger-style again) to make a sort of “book”.

Each time I use the hankie, I use a “page” of the book so that I have a new surface available. I use the main fold of the hankie booklet for wiping my mouth so that I can keep food and mucus separate. To keep the outside of the hankie clean, don’t use its “cover”.

A lot of people think hankies are gross, but you’ll be fine if you’re used to washing other cloth items that come in contact with bodily fluids, like cloth menstrual pads, cloth napkins, even underwear. If it really bothers you, you can also use each hanky just once before washing (but then you’ll need a lot).

Good luck!