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Unusual Meals for Christmas

sushibylynnhrolls.jpgI did it. I bought all the necessary “stuff” long ago, but on the 23rd I got an avocado which would go bad if I did not use it right away. We had short-grain white rice, frozen smoked salmon, seaweed sheets, wasabi horseradish powder, soy sauce and a bamboo mat.

I have been talking about trying this for at least 6 months. You see, Altu and I like to eat sushi (and other Japanese goodies) for our weekly Thursday lunch. But I’m told the word “sushi” might translate to “vinegared rice” and I try not to eat much vinegar because of my allergies. I thought maybe I could make rolls at home, minus the vinegar. Or so started this thought process, anyway.

Fortunately, the mighty Diana lived in Japan for several years as a young woman, and she has done this before. I chatted with her by phone this week about the very specific methods of making a roll that would actually hold together with the right “stuff” inside.

I could not imagine that the crunchy seaweed sheets would actually roll up without breaking apart. She assured me that the rice would steam it up enough, and that I should wet the edges (that weren’t covered with rice) with water (like licking an envelope). And that it would work fine. Her biggest hints were: Compress like crazy when rolling or it won’t cut well… and use much less filler for the roll than you can possibly imagine you need.

sushibylynnhcut.jpgI made rolls. They compressed, the seaweed softened appropriately. Once we got out a serrated knife, they cut fine. They tasted just fine.

Mind you, I really do not like fish much. The smoked salmon I bought in the freezer department, I thought was sushi grade smoked (raw/smoked) salmon, which has a similar texture to soft “water added” ham. What I got was cooked/smoked fish and that kind flakes and falls apart when you try to cut the rolls.

I’m surprised to say it, but I’ve come to appreciate the sushi smoked salmon much more than I ever imagined, and I would have liked the rolls better if that was what I’d actually purchased. And they would definitely have been prettier and cut better that way. I’ve come a long way from the days when any unfamiliar food might bring on a near-panic attack. This is a good development.

In any case, Christmas lunch was pseudo-sushi rolls we made ourselves. (Brian cut up the fish and avocado, bless him… I really don’t like handling meat/fish at all… and he cut the rolls into bite-sized pieces when I’d finished the rolling.)

For dinner, Brian is making us a guinea hen. It’s a bird I saw wild in Africa that is known for good eating there. I don’t eat mammals/red meat, but I need to have variety in my diet so when I saw a frozen guinea hen in the freezer at Hiller’s grocery in Ann Arbor, I took it home. It’s a pretty small thing… like a small chicken. At least I like the flavor of most poultry, unlike fish which is something I usually eat for my health rather than enjoyment.

Brian once more is cooking for me, since touching meat makes me queasy. Someday maybe I can be a vegetarian but for now this is the best compromise I can achieve. (I’m allergic to dairy, egg, most nuts and some beans… there is no way for me to get enough protein without adding some meat at this time.)

I am cooking sweet potatoes and/or rutabaga roasted oven-fries tonight. The roasted veggies thing is really making me happy lately. We made a butternut squash that way this week, which was pretty good, but the memories of the rutabaga drive me to repeat that experience. And I’ve had roasted beets and sweet potato before so I may put an extra pan in the oven and do those at the same time. I figure the more you cook on one day, the more you have frozen and ready to eat on days you don’t feel like cooking.

A Lovely Yesterday

christmastreegifts.jpgChristmas Eve Day was a beautiful, sunny, above-freezing weather day and we went for a wonderful walk together before we went to Brian’s family gathering. It was very pleasant. The drive was nice, and with my new laptop battery I can again do computer work in the car. I have determined to not work from dinnertime yesterday to bedtime today. I’m a bit of a workaholic (at least I truly love what I do) but sometimes you need to just knit for yourself and read or flop on the couch, you know?

The gathering was very nice. I always have a surreal experience when we visit Brian’s family. They need a genuine parking lot for just relatives to visit. My family has 3 cars, 6 people in the state, and that is when Mom and Fred are in Michigan. Brian’s family has 8 children, all but one is married and five have multiple children. Then this event included cousins and aunts/uncles. Whew!

I like everyone in the group, it’s a very fine assortment of people, but I overwhelm easily with chaos. I’m OK with 50 people all in a workshop focused on the same thing. A party or bar or gathering such as this, taxes my ability to focus. I have a hard time relaxing and enjoying the event unless I can sit with one person and talk one on one, in the least dense room/area available.

Last night I had time to talk with Aunt Peg for a long while and I very much enjoyed that. It’s also delightful to see the nieces/nephews growing up, they are getting SO big, most are nearly my height or towering over me. Only a few are young enough to still stand in my shadow.

We had the annual dollar gift exchange with the aunts/uncles and the whole gang. This is a great way to deal with the too-many-people-to-buy-gifts thing. They do have a great sense of humor, and for many years one package had a bag of ice in it. They get very creative sometimes with the wrapping, and often the way it is wrapped is some sort of hint at what is inside. For example, a package wrapped like a fish tank might contain goldfish crackers. Last night one of the gifts was a huge bow, maybe a foot (30cm) across, with a tiny tiny package stuck to its underside. In the package was a $1 bill wrapped in a lot of tape.

christmasgiftdie.jpgLast night Brian took a can of Green Giant asparagus out of our cupboard (he had purchased it but I refused to cook it, I only eat fresh asparagus) and put it in a large CD case/cylinder, which he wrapped in printed out asparagus labels he got from the Green Giant website. His sister liked the package (she is very creative, mostly a quilter) and appreciated the connection between the package and contents, although who knows if she’ll cook it? I took an empty pumpkin can and put a small package of pumpkin seeds (with the too-much salt coating that is typical) in it, put plastic tape around the can lid so it wouldn’t hurt anyone, taped the lid on and put a gold-colored bow on the top. Another of Brian’s sisters, also very creative, picked that package and appreciated the thought.

It is interesting that the sister who picked my package, was the sister who wrapped the package I picked. First I almost went for the box with hot green polka-dots and “asterisk” patterns, because I really did like the way the package looked. However, I was drawn to the creative package which looked like one of a pair of dice (I’ve got a pair of purple fuzzy dice hanging from my car rear-view mirror). I had to choose that package when it became my turn to pick. It contained a package with 4 dice in it, two of them trick dice so I can always throw a 7 or 11. Whatever! But very cute.

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