Saturday/ not marmelade!

Here’s what happens when you leave your reading glasses in the car, and you grab a pair of ‘marmelade’ jam tins (at the British Pantry store on Thursday).
It turns out it was apricot jam.
No matter: it’s good stuff— one of the most popular jams in South Africa.

Thursday/ the red dragon 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

I picked up my notebook computer today in Redmond— and stopped by the British Pantry store to replenish the South African marmalade and chutney in my own pantry.

The Welsh flag outside the British Pantry store, with the Red Dragon (Y Ddraig Goch), passant (standing with one foot raised). The current flag was officially adopted in 1959, and is based on an old royal badge used by British kings and queens since Tudor times. The Red Dragon itself has been associated with Wales for centuries, though, steeped in folklore and myth.

Sunday/ Dick’s Drive-in is back 🍔

Dick’s Drive-in burger joint on Broadway is open after its remodel .. has been open for a few weeks already, actually.

We had a very mild 20 °C (68 °F) here in the city today.
Whoah at the first-ever red-alert temps of 40 °C (104 °F) forecast for London for Monday.


Tuesday/ more of the stalk

My new trick in the kitchen helps me keep a little more of the asparagus stalks that I like to steam in the pressure cooker.

I use a knife to cut off just an inch or so of the dry bottom of the stalk. (It’s a little hit-and-miss to break off the bottom by hand.)
Then I peel off one or two inches at the bottom with a vegetable peeler.

Now I can eat the whole stalk, without chewing on any tough fibrous skin.

Thursday/ Thai food and beers 🍻

Here come the beers!
As for the food, we barely glance at the menu anymore.
Someone just order our usual four dishes for the table with some rice, and we’re good to go.

Inside the Thai restaurant Jamjuree, on 15th Avenue.

Tuesday/ first attempt: acorn squash

The acorn squash that I had pressure-cooked tonight, came out O.K.⁠— but not great.
Even though I cooked it for a minute longer than my recipe called for (6 instead of 5 mins), it still came out a little tough.
Some recipes say to add butter and cinnamon (or nutmeg) onto the squash as it goes into the cooker, but I elected not to do that.


Saturday/ the baby formula crisis

I know absolutely nothing about babies, but I know a little bit more after reading a report in the NYT about the baby formula shortage in the US.
Babies basically need breast milk or formula until they can start to eat solid food (at 6 months).
Do not dilute formula.
Do not try to make your own formula.
If you are out of options, give your baby pasteurized whole cow’s milk for a brief period of time.
Get advice from a pediatrician if your baby needs a special formula that has become unavailable.

I checked out the shelf at Amazon Fresh at 23rd and Jackson on Friday. So at least for this brand they still have stock. I like the gentle colors of the packaging :).
One can will last 6-7 days for a newborn, and maybe as little as 2-3 days for a 6-month old baby.

Friday/ pasta: the stovetop is best

My first attempt at cooking pasta in the Instant Pot® pressure cooker was not a success. (It was off-the-shelf Barilla Protein+ spaghetti).

The Instant Pot instructions that I used, called for a high-pressure cooking time of 2 mins plus 5 mins until releasing the pressure, stir well, and leave in the pot for another 5-10 mins.

Even with doing all of that, the pasta came out cooked unevenly. Aargh. I also felt it  had a different texture compared to what I’m used to, by boiling it on the stovetop.

My 8″ pot holds only 4 quarts. The problem with cooking boxed spaghetti in the Instant Pot— and a smaller pot like this one— is that the dry pasta does not fit in the pot! (Breaking it into smaller lengths is a not an option).
Yeah-yeah, just use a bigger pot, I know. What I do instead is to boil water in my electric kettle, and pour it over the dry pasta in the pot to soften it, so that I can bend it to fit into the bottom of the pot. Then I put the gas on HIGH for 10- 11 mins. As one does with pasta, keep an eye on it, and stir it a little now and then, but it’s still easy-peasy compared to the Instant Pot.

Thursday/ cooking with pressure is a pleasure

I have had my Instant Pot pressure cooker for a week now, and I’m still learning to use it —but I like it a lot.

So far I have cooked regular oats, steel-cut oats, rice, Brussels sprouts, asparagus and sweet potato in it. Asparagus is ready in an instant with an official cooking time of 0 minutes. You put them in, and they’re done. Howzat! 😂
Let me explain. The laws of physics still apply. Even if you put the water and asparagus in the cooker and tell it to cook for 0 minutes, it will still take 5-10 mins to get to the operating temperature and pressure inside. During that time it already cooks the food inside. Something as delicate as asparagus is then cooked already. Voila.

I put this sweet potato in for 20 minutes and it came out perfectly cooked. (I let the pressure go down by itself for another 10 mins or so). I used to bake these root vegetables in the oven: a 45-minute endeavor with tin foil, and then the sugar sometimes oozes out of the venting holes I made into the skin with a fork, and bake into black, as well.
Water, the versatile substance of life, comes in three phases, depending on its temperature⁠— and the pressure it is under. Liquid water under a higher pressure cooks (turns into steam) at a higher temperature. A pressure cooker operates at roughly 2 atmospheres of pressure —12 to 15 pounds per square inch (psi) above atmospheric pressure (which is roughly 15 psi). At 12 psi above sea level pressure, pressure water boils at 117 °C (243 °F). Yes, that sounds like a modest temperature elevation compared to an oven, but the steam sealed in the cooker has an enormous capacity for carrying and transmitting heat to the food to cook it. 
Just as an interesting aside: the triple point of water occurs at 0.01 °C in a near-vacuum. That point at the upper right called the critical point is where water vapor (steam) is warm enough so that no amount of pressure brought to bear on it, will liquefy it.

Wednesday/ of buds and brews

The breakfast Buds I had looked for far and wide, suddenly showed up on the shelf in the QFC on Broadway, and I grabbed four boxes.
Push had come to shove, and I was no longer playing nice by taking only one or two boxes!

And ⁠— I returned my ‘black stainless’ coffee maker, and got a slightly different model, after all.

Interesting how the wide-angle lens of the iPhone 13 Pro makes ‘vanishing edges’ of the sides of the boxes of All-Bran Buds.
My new Cuisinart coffeemaker has a bigger digital display, and a slightly bigger carafe as well. Yay! Now I can leave the instant coffee behind, and go back to filtered coffee again: the stuff that is a royal treat, fit for a king.

Thursday/ about the ‘black stainless’

My coffeemaker was kaput, and the new one I had ordered, landed on the porch today.

I wasn’t paying attention and ordered a ‘black stainless’ model instead of the ‘brushed chrome’ one that I had before. It’s all Amazon’s fault! .. with their ‘Order in 23 minutes to get it on Thursday’ message as I was about to order it. (Lesson: don’t order items late at night when you are bleary-eyed and tired). I think it will be OK, though. I’ll even get to like it.

Saturday/ a taste of South Africa

/ˈblatjaŋ/, /ˈblatʃaŋ/

A tangy sauce made of dried fruit (usually apricots) and chillies cooked in vinegar; chutney.

Archaic forms: blaatgham, blatcham
Origin: Afrikaans, Malay
It is probable that in late 19th century Afrikaans this word still had two meanings:
1. A. Pannevis’s Afskrif van Lys van Afrikaanse Woorde en Uitdrukkings (1880) defines ‘Bladjang’ as being made of dried chillies and stewed dried apricots in vinegar;
2. H.C.V. Leibbrandt’s Het Kaapsch Hollandsch (1882) lists ‘Balachan’ and ‘Blatchong’, both with the same meaning as the Malay belachan; and the Woordelijst van het Transvaalsch Taaleigen (1890) includes ‘Blatjang’, defined as ‘een zeker gerecht’ (a certain dish).

When you say ‘blatjang’ or ‘chutney’ in South Africa, you really mean ‘Mrs. Ball’s Original Recipe Chutney. It is nonpareil.

The Woodstock, Cape Town factory that first made Mrs. Balls’s chutney, opened in 1917.

I ordered this jar of Mrs. Ball’s chutney from Amazon. I have loved this stuff for a lifetime.

Thursday/ animals in LEGO

I ran out to Walmart in Factoria to go look for All Bran Buds today, but no luck. (All the stores here in the city seem to be out of it. Amazon has none, unless you want to pay $10 or $15 per box, from sellers in Canada!).

I almost bought a LEGO set at Walmart, but they lock them up in a display case, and the store assistant was swamped with four other shoppers.

I love the concept of a world map here, and also the idea of using as few bricks as possible to an animal or something recognizable that represents that country.
So which is the cutest: the sleek bald eagle, the orca, the toothy crocodile, the angry lion, the macaw parrot (a psittacine; all parrots belong to the order Psittaciformes), the fat giraffe, the brown bear, the sleepy penguin, or the mama kangaroo (a nice touch, that joey squeezed into its pouch)?
Here’s the other way: to use hundreds of bricks to create a lot of detail. Nice teeth for this tiger, to maul you with🐯. ROWR.

Monday/ red pears

I bought some Red Anjou pears at Amazon Fresh. They are not nearly as red as ones I see in pictures online, but that’s OK. They taste fine.

My favorite pear is still the famous bell-shaped Bartlett pears, though.
(Also called Williams’ bon chrétien pear. The origins of this pear is uncertain).
My mom served up for canned Bartlett pears with custard, as a quick dessert.

Thursday/ mini chocolate cones

Last night we had little chocolate cones after our beers and dinner.
The chocolate comes from Ukraine.
(Thanks to Ken & Steve for finding the intriguing chocolates!).

Roshen Confectionery Corporation (Ukrainian: Кондитерська корпорація) is headquartered in Kyiv, Ukraine. The name is a truncated version of Poroshenko, the last name of its owner.
The cones are bite-sized, and are filled with a creamy inside.
P.S. Happy belated St Patrick’s Day. Three more weeks to go for my green cast, then it all comes off for good.

Thursday/ any way you slice it (works for me)

I recently filled out a crossword clue that said ‘Source of milk for manchego cheese’. Answer: EWE.
As placed my Amazon Fresh order last week, there it was: sliced manchego cheese.
So I added it to my order, just out of curiosity.

Here’s the one-armed bandit opening his sliced cheese The slices are not squares, nor rectangles, though: they are little wedges.
(Manchego is a cheese made in the La Mancha region of Spain from the milk of sheep of the Manchega breed. It is aged between 60 days and 2 years  -Wikipedia).
Voila! .. it still works on my toast with slices of tomato.
It’s a firm cheese with a salty, zesty taste that is not overwhelming.
(As for slicing the tomato: as long as the tomato is still firm, I can pin it down with my right elbow and slice it OK with my clumsy left hand).

Sunday/ got milk? .. sort of

No organic (nor regular) whole milk left on the shelf. The shopper texted me a picture of a fancy lactose-free Omega-3 whole milk, which I was OK with.
Among the other items I requested was a SLICED loaf of bread, though, which was also not available. He substituted it with an UNSLICED loaf without checking with me. Maybe I will just break chunks off and eat it that way :).

A Sunday night grocery run was not possible, so I had groceries delivered to my house for the first time.

I used my QFC account that I had used for pick-up at the (previous) height of the pandemic.

QFC uses Instacart, which means an Instacart person picks your items in the store, and then drives it out to your house.

I added a generous tip online with my order, and said to just leave my items by the door.
A text message notifies the customer that the items had been delivered.

It all went fine, for the most part.
Still, next time I will try delivery by Amazon Fresh, and see how that goes.

Thursday/ keep calm and carry on

‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ was a slogan on a motivational poster produced by the British government in 1939, to prepare the country for World War II.

The ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ theme is nowadays seen on all kinds of products, complete with the Tudor Crown (the symbol of the state of the United Kingdom). I got this tin of shortbread cookies at the British Pantry store in Redmond on the eastside of Lake Washington.

Wednesday/ two beers at Two Beers

I had a picture of my vaccine card ready as we stepped into Two Beers Brewing Co. in Seattle’s industrial district, tonight. As of Monday, proof of a coronavirus vaccination —or a negative test— is required at most indoor businesses in King County.

Checking for one’s proof was done at the counter serving the beers, and even then it was very cursory. The place was busy and they seemed a little short on staff, as is the case in most places these days.

The first of my two Pilchuck pilsners by Two Beers Brewing Company: a Czech-style pilsner, hopped with Saaz and Perle hops (5% ABV). Saaz is a “noble” variety of hops, named after the Czech city of Žatec. Perle hops are a well-rounded German variety.