Pork Tofu Fry

Ingredients:
pork – 1/2lb
well pressed and extra firm tofu – 1/2 lb
red onion – 1/4
red pepper – 1/4
cashew halves – handful
shiitake mushrooms – large handful
crushed red peppers – to taste
lack pepper – to taste
soy sauce – 2 tbsp
garlic – 4 cloves crushed
ginger – 1/2 tsp
Olive oil – 2 tbsps
sesame oil – 1 tsp

Process:
Slice red pepper, red onion, shiitake mushrooms, tofu, and pork into long strips. Make a marinade of 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1/4 tsp ginger and a little freshly ground black pepper and crusher red pepper.  Toss tofu in marinade and let marinate for 15 or so minutes. Heat olive oil in a pan to medium heat and add pork, ginger, and garlic.  When pork is browned – about 2 min – add all the other ingredients and and cook for another 8 minutes.

The end product can be seen in the featured image at the top of this post.

Variations: Sometimes I use scallions instead of red onions, or cremini rather than shiitake mushrooms. Cremini mushrooms are cheaper than shiitake so if cost is a factor than that is the way to go. Note that you can substitute pork for the tofu for an all pork dish, or the other way around to make it work for vegetarians, though with the latter you may need to add other stuff to give the dish enough flavor. Plain tofu is often described as bland though it has a subtle flavor of its own, so if you are making the vegetarian dish take this into account.

 

Unofficial Papal Mottoes: Part II – Pope Francis and Limitless Divine Mercy

How does the role of Divine Mercy” as an unofficial motto play out with Pope Francis? When asked about homosexuals Pope Francis replied, “Who am I to judge”. This should remind us of the deliverance of the adulterous woman where Jesus Christ told those who wanted to stone the woman, “Let the one among you who is guiltless be the first to throw a stone at her [John 8:7]” That Pope Francis, said, “who am I to judge” does not mean that the Church accepts homosexuality as ok. Note that at the end of the adulterous woman story when the woman says to Jesus that no one in the crowd has thrown a stone he replies, “Neither do I condemn you. []Go away, and from this moment sin no more [John 8:11].” This was a nuanced and merciful response, like Pope Francis today. Francis has repeatedly said that he accepts the basic tenets of the Catholic faith such as marriage, family, and sacredness of human life…that he simply is not spending as much time on polarizing issues as that is not what his triage of the Church is calling for.

This message of “divine mercy” is revitalizing and energizing the church.  It is making it more attractive and relevant to the people of the world. Pope Francis was the person of the year in 2013 for Time and many other magazines.  There are many other measures of popularity and positive awareness that can be tabulated, as well.  In recent times there has been a call for “The New Evangelism”.  It is the right time to, as Pope Benedict XVI said, re-propose the Gospel “to those regions awaiting the first evangelization and to those regions where the roots of Christianity are deep but who have experienced a serious crisis of faith due to secularization”, clergy scandals like child abuse and more.  Pope Francis in his daily actions serves as a model of how to do so.  It is easy to simply label something black or white.  It makes life easy, but not necessarily right.  Let us follow the more nuanced merciful example of Pope Francis.

The Juiced Carrot Cake

Today some unique ingredients and processes, so do not miss out on the fun. Cooking a la casa de Virgilio is always about adventure and using what you have to make great tasting food. And the cake turned out great, so follow along below and enjoy a taste from my home to yours. If you do not understand “juiced carrot” or any other tid bits you can go to the end of this post for an explanation, but I figured many of you might just want to get along with the baking.

And do not worry – I have provided the more conventional alternatives and equivalents so you can choose to be adventurous like me, do the conventional thing and ignore ideas like “juiced carrots”, or take the road between – the choice is yours.

Ingredients

  • all purpose flour – 2 cups
  • baking powder – 2 tsp
  • baking soda – 2 tsp
  • salt – 1/2 tsp
  • ground cinnamon – 2 tsp (almost all recipes call for 3 tsp – I am not a cinnamon fan)
  • ginger powder – 1/2 tsp (I like ginger, most other recipes don’t have this)
  • nutmeg – 1/2 tsp
  • eggs – 5 (most recipes use large eggs. I use medium -smaller so I use 5 instead of 4)
  • oil – 1 1/8 cups (recipe called for 1 1/4 cups and I missed that – oops)
  • juiced carrots – 1 1/2 lb (1 lb shredded carrots = 2 cups and we need 3 cups of grated carrots)
  • confectionery sugar – 1 cup (didn’t have 1 cup of granulated white sugar)
  • packed brown sugar – 1 cup
  • chopped cashew nuts – 1/2 cup (recipe called for 1 cup of walnuts or pecans)
  • soaked raisins – 1/4 cup (recipe called for 1 cup, and said nothing about soaking – I soaked in a mix of swiss chocolate syrup, Afri Koko liquor  and cashew feni. for 12 hours)
  • chopped blanched almond slivers – large handful to serve as garnish (no recipes I found had this as they typically make/use cream frosting which I do not fancy)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare two 9” pans or one 12” cake pan or one 9”x 13” sheet pan by lining with parchment or wax paper. In my case I used two 1.5 qt pyrex loaf pans and a 1 2/3 cup pyrex bowl. I had two potlucks so one for each, plus something for me to enjoy beforehand and make sure it passed the stomach test as it was all an experiment.
  2. Mix together in a bowl together flour,baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger.
  3. In a bigger bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, sugars, for about minute or so.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and mix for about 2 minutes more.
  5. Add the grated carrots. Then add nuts and raisins, and vanilla.
  6. Pour batter in prepared pans and bake for approx. 45 to 50 minutes. Then raise temp to 350 and do it for another 10 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a skewer, it should be dry when taken out, or just barely touching to have something a touch more moist. (Original recipe suggested just 40-50 minutes at 325 but I discovered it was too wet at the 45 minute mark, and so adjusted accordingly.)

A slice of my moist juiced carrot cake is the featured picture for this post.

Variations (Yes More Variations): I always say that any flavor ingredients like powders of nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamon, clove, ginger, allspice, chili, black pepper are fair game and can be added and subtracted according to mood. Any nuts suggested can be substituted for a different kind. Raisins can be switched with dates, currants… Soak your dried fruit in different marinades of liquor, hard liquor… and you add to the list of choices. Naturally I keep in mind what is the main product that I drew my initial inspiration from and who is going to consume the end result. For the potlucks I was not very adventurous.

Part of my creative process and what exactly is “juiced carrot”:
I had a lot of extra carrots that I was taking a little too long to consume and with a couple potlucks coming up I thought that some dessert was the perfect solution. And what is easier than cake? So, carrot cake it was. Now, that was what I initially thought… I searched the net and all the cake recipes that I found asked for grated carrots! Now this was supposed to be easy and I couldn’t see it being easy to spend all that time grating cups of carrots. So, I looked around and saw the juicer. Why not use the juicer using the coarsest setting and the right extruder nozzle? At the end I could simply recombine liquid and pulp. Further internet research gave the right equivalents so I could also just weight the “juiced” carrots and know I had the right amount. Easy Peasy.

 

 

Unofficial Papal Mottoes – Part I

This started out as one post but as I developed it further it I saw that I was actually covering two topics, so I’m splitting it in II. Today is Part I.

Every Pope tends to use a certain phrase repeatedly during his reign as head of the church which encapsulates the direction they are taking the church. For Pope John Paul II (16 Oct 1978 – 2 April 2005) it was “Do Not Be Afraid”.  With the Cold War and the horrors/misery of World War II part of the global psyche, it was a message that people needed to hear and brought hope to millions.

Next came Pope Benedict (19 April 2005 – 28 February 2013) with “Faith and Reason”. With “just reason” Benedict warned that one falls into the trap of utilitarianism and nihilism. No religion can survive by “faith alone” as without reason the risk is of radicalists like al-Quaeda. In Christianity fundamentalism is most closely associated with those who believe that inspiration and infallibility of Scripture is translates into literal interpretation of the Bible, creationism.  This message really resonated with me, but it was poorly communicated in the media, and thus to the world.

Today we have Pope Francis (13 March 2013-present) and his message is one of “mercy”, that the “Lord never tires of forgiving”. Society has seen the authoritarian Catholic Church, the critical one.  Now it needs to see the merciful Church, and mercy as lived in the lives of Catholics every day. The media has been emphasizing simplified polarizing lighting rod messages like “no abortion and contraception”. The church’s acknowledgement that in the struggle of daily living “life is sacred” issues are not easy – a more nuanced merciful perspective – was lost in the noise. Pope Francis brings the message of divine mercy to the forefront of Catholic and world consciousness. As Pope Francis said, the Church needs to be a “field hospital”, conducting “triage” and emphasizing pressing needs of the people, first.  Everything is underlined with the focus on “divine mercy”.

Do you agree with my interpretation of Papal messages?  What are your thoughts and ideas?  What does the message of “endless divine mercy” mean to all of us?  My take on the message of divine mercy will be in part 2.

 

The KISS Dance Principle

Quote

“You have to believe dance is something other than technique. We forget where movements come from. They are born from life.”
- Pina Bausch

There is a place for learning a framework within which to operate, particularly when you are dancing with someone else, as in partner dance, but often in learning we forget the important things.  This is just a quick reminder not to forget our dance source: life.

 

Quinoa Chickpea Salad – A Cooling Delight for a Hot Day!

Quinoa a super seed? But I thought it was a grain! I use it just like rice, barley…

While technically a seed, quinoa is identified synonymously with whole grains because it is used just like one.  It is a “super grain” as it is a complete protein source, containing even the essential amino acid lysine that other grains do not have.   This also makes makes quinoa perfect for vegetarians and anyone who wishes to reduce their meat consumption. To learn more about this “special grain” check out  the world’s healthiest foods web site.

I often will make a large pot of quinoa and over the next couple days enjoy it with grilled vegetables, braised meat, curry, or even as part of a salad.  Here’s a recipe for quinoa salad that I made recently.  It is perfect for lunch on a warm day.

Quinoa Chickpea Salad

Ingredients:
quinoa (cooked and cooled) – 1.5 cups
red pepper – 1/4
red onion – 1/4
chick peas – 3/4 cup
olive oil – 1 tbsp
lime – 1/2
black pepper – 1/2 tsp

Process:
Chop red onion and red pepper into small cubes, and add with chick peas to quinoa.  Mix together lime,olive oil  and black pepper to make salad dressing and pour on salad ingredients.  Fork mix everything and serve cold.  Note this is a lightly spice salad.  Add more dressing or some sea salt if your taste buds ask for it.

Directions for cooking quinoa: Cooking and cooling quinoa is the most time consuming part in the entire salad creation process so do it in advance like I do.  The dried quinoa seed itself keeps really well if stored properly, easily lasting a couple years – no excuse for running out of quinoa!. And when you cook it you get about 3 cups of cooked quinoa for 1 cup of dried quinoa seed. The cooked quinoa can keep in the fridge about a week.
To cook quinoa start with a pre-soak in cold water for around 5 min (can do it for longer – I’ve done up to an hour with no issues.) and rinse vigorously under cold running water using a fine mesh strainer.  Rub the quinoa grains against the mesh as your rinse to aid in the removal of saponin, quinoa’s outer coating that can taste bitter/soapy.  Transfer the rinsed quinoa to a pot, add a little olive oil, and water in the ratio of 1;2 quinoa:water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let it simmer for about ten minutes. Turn off the heat, close pot completely and let it sit for another 5 minutes. Open pot and fluff quinoa with a fork. (You should see tiny spirals (the germ) separating from and curling around the quinoa seeds.)

Variations:  Add items like chopped kalamata olives and feta cheese.  Sometimes I use scallions instead of red onions. You could also change the ratio of chick peas to quinoa, or add corn, peas, and carrots.  You can check out food and wine, also, for some other quinoa salad recipes.