Freezer Cooking Saves My Tailbone

When the school year started, I was supposed to be taking classes on Wednesday and Thursday. I also needed to learn a new grade (which usually means more time at school planning), and my commute was going to be longer.

Considering all of that, I decided to start freezing meals to enjoy on my class days, so we wouldn’t resort to eating out all of the time.

I used to do freezer meals in our old place, but we were stuck with a tiny freezer. A few weeks ago, we bought a five cubic foot chest freezer for the basement.

Thank goodness I had been freezing meals! When I fractured my tailbone and was in really, really bad shape, we used the freezer meals to pull us through. Banana pancakes for breakfast, Santa Fe casserole cups for lunch, and potato and parsnip soup for dinner.

I am slowly healing. I’m not going to classes any longer (since I can’t drive), and my students are doing most of the physical work in class (since I can’t easily bend, reach, stretch, etc). Still, teaching the kids wipes me out! I have come home every day from work for the past two weeks and napped for at least an hour. I wake up at six and am ready for bed at eleven. My body really needs the rest.

As such, we’ve been eating freezer meals several times each week. When I prepped the spicy pork for Chuseok, I made two extra packets for the freezer so I can take them out, defrost them, and throw them in the slow cooker. Last Sunday I made lentil stew in the slow cooker and froze the extras. Tonight we’re having slow-cooked chicken and mushrooms (I made the rice in the rice cooker). I’ll save two more servings for our lunch, but the rest is going in single-servings in the freezer.

After this unexpected fracture, I am now committed to freezer cooking. You never know when you—or a friend—might be unable to cook for a while!

The Best Part of Waking Up…

…is Diet Coke in the Can!

Or is it?

Earlier this year (March? April?), I gave up soda for 30 days. At work I was drinking two sodas most days. I was drinking bottomless glasses while eating out. And I was drinking it at home, too often.

I know that cola is bad for you, and that diet probably isn’t much better. And honestly, I wondered if my constant need for dental care was related to my love of soda. I like my dentist, but I like my wallet more. I wanted to know if I would feel better.

The entire month, I was counting down to the end of the month. I couldn’t wait to get back to drinking Coke Zero at home and Diet Coke at work!

***

This summer, I was amazed at how much soda Dad drank daily, and I think it influenced me negatively. I drank even more pop than normal.

At the same time, I wasn’t eating a normal diet (because out kitchen was out of commission), getting regular sleep, exercising regularly (because we were working on the house nonstop), or drinking enough water.

I decided I needed a reboot, so when Dad left, we finished up the last of the soda and didn’t buy more.

***

A week later, work started. I held off buying any pop until Thursday. I was tired. I did what I usually do on a work day: I headed to the vending machine, put a buck in, and waited for my Diet Coke and my quarter.

I heard two coins hit the return slot. That’s weird, I thought. I fished them out.

Fifteen cents?

I glared at the pop can. I glared at the vending machine—85¢. I rolled my eyes at the coins in my palm.

This was too much. It was one thing to spend a buck and get a false “freebie” with the leftover quarters every fourth time. Now I was going to have to have to buy six cans to get that false freebie, keep track of twice as many coins, and have a nickel left over.

Furthermore, I only keep quarters in my purse. Dimes, nickels, and pennies all get thrown in the pink plastic piggy bank on the office bookshelf.

As I walked up to my room, I considered that if I got into the habit of buying a soda during the first weeks of work, I was going to be in that habit the entire year. I also realized I was going to spend enough money over the year on the price increase alone to buy a fruit tree for our backyard. I mentally tallied up the total cost and realized I could make an orchard in our backyard with the total money I would save if I quit drinking soda.

Tooth decay, the possibility that fake sugar screws up your sweetness receptors, possible bone loss, the massive waste of money, the company’s union busting ways—none of that was enough to stop me from drinking Coke. It was that ten cent price increase that set me over the edge!

***

I haven’t had a single drop of soda since then. That’s more than five weeks without soda.

The headaches from caffeine withdrawal are completely gone. I don’t have to talk myself out of getting a soda when someone else drinks them. I haven’t been tempted to get soda when eating out.

There are other side effects I didn’t expect. Since I’m no longer going into the break room for soda, I’m no longer picking at the junk people leave on the tables. I’m no longer tempted by the candy/snack sugar/salt vending machine since I don’t see it. At our twice weekly grade level meetings there is always candy. I used to eat too much of it. Other than a few during an all-day meeting, I haven’t had any candy since the first week of school. It’s almost as if I don’t crave the sugar as much.

Do I think I’ll never drink soda again? No. I remember a Cuban restaurant I used to live near in Atlanta that had a great ginger beer I enjoyed as a treat. I want to drink soda like that—as a treat, not a habit.

Chuseok Change of Plans

Originally we invited ten people to Chuseok. Then I realized there was no way I was going to be able to entertain ten people with my condition, so we scaled it back food-wise and people-wise.

Mark, his Lover, and Mark’s parents came over for spicy pork, mandu (from our freezing escapades), brown rice, pajeon (scallion pancakes) with a dipping sauce, sesame leaves (from my garden), quail eggs in soy sauce, tofu in a spicy sauce, three seasoned veggie banchan dishes (purchased), kimchi (purchased), songpyeon (purchased), Asian pears, and some wine they brought, as well as the champagne our Realtor gave us as a housewarming gift!

A few days prior, I asked Mark to bring some extra chairs.

“To sit on?”

“What else do you use chairs for?”

“When I think of Amanda and [Good Man]’s house, I don’t think of chairs.”

Well, that’s true. In our old place, we always ate at our small Korean table.

The food was enjoyed by all, and it was great to entertain in our dining room—with chairs!

Chuseok

Making Mandu

The night before I fractured my tailbone, Good Man and I made mandu together. I basically used the recipe Jonathan left in the comments.

Good Man and I had a good making the mandu and trash-talking each other’s mandu folding job.

Steaming

Done!

Freezing

Good Man Makes Coffee

By the time we were done snacking making the mandu, I was convinced we needed more than a two-tier steamer.

We wrapped up 110 dumplings and put them in the freezer for Chuseok. But then I fractured my tailbone…

Chuseok for Foreigners? What Would You Serve?

Since we now have a dining room and inherited a dining room table and chairs with this house, I decided to invite some friends over for Chuseok dinner in two weeks.

This was not my best idea since the house is still pretty much a disaster, but I guess I’ll need to at least get the kitchen and dining room in order, hmmm?

Most of the people who are coming are Korean food virgins, or they’ve had bulgogi and not much else. As far as I know, none of my guest have dietary restrictions (except that I don’t do beef most of the time).

Readers: What would you serve to a bunch of Korean food virgins for their first Chuseok? (Keep in mind I’m the only one who will be cooking, although I can make Good Man my sous chef.)

Dished

Mark and his partner have been excited about their housewarming gift for us since before we even looked at any homes. We went out for dinner a few nights back and they brought a bag.

We opened it and found this lovely platter.

Platter

“We were told it was Korean,” Mark said.

Good Man looked at the back and shrugged. He couldn’t read the Chinese characters, so he trotted off to do research. Indeed, they read “Korean Porcelain/Chinaware.”

Korean Porcelain

Then they pulled out a box. We started unwrapping dish after dish. Mark laughed, “We found these at an estate sale and thought they’d be great for Korean food.”

Dish After Dish

When we’d admired the complete set, his partner said, “We have more in the car.”

“…”

We took the boxes to the house, stashed them in the basement, and waited until we had some time to put them away. I held two shelves clear for the dishes and started unpacking.

I was delighted to find that some of the plates were actually painted on the back as well.

Back Detail

I unpacked and unpacked and unpacked. I was balancing plates, bowls, cups, and lids on every available surface. I found another platter in red.

Bowls and Lids

Plates and Saucers

Plates on a Stool

Plates Balancing on a Bucket

Bowls and Cups

Both Platters

It seemed like every times I unwrapped a dish, I found another dish in another size. Finally, I was left with a mountain of trash, and the realization that two shelves were not going to be enough.

Trash

Eighty-three dishes later (!), I had found a good way to use the strangely-shaped corner cabinets in our kitchen.

I can’t wait to invite them over for some Korean food. We’ll finally have enough dishes for all of the banchan!

Dished

Great Falls Hike and Dalk Kalbi

Today Good Man, Sister, and I met Mark and Lover for a quick hike at Great Falls National Park.

The Falls

With Sister

With Good Man

Sister’s Shadow

I’m pretty sure I took a photo from this spot (with a different lens) in November. It made a more interesting photo then.

Mather Gorge

Straight Lines, Curved Shadows

At the Footbridge

Mark wanted a picture, but it was hard to get an angle where a) a tree wasn’t growing straight out of their heads, and b) their faces weren’t entirely in the shade. I settled on the tree growing between them.

Squinting in the Sun

On Top of the World

Cut in Half

Mark

We came back to our house and made some dalk kalbi. I usually make spicy pork, so this was a nice change of pace. We had it with kimchi, pa jeon, and hobak jeon. Everyone enjoyed it, and when we had some left in the pan, we tossed some rice on it, mixed it up, and sent it home for tomorrow’s lunch!

Dalk Kalbi

Resolutions: January Update

Here’s how I’m doing on my resolutions so far.

1) To walk/hike 1,000 miles.
I am behind where I need to be on this one due to a flare up of PF. However, while I’m only walking 8-10 miles a week, I’m getting in Callanetics or bowling on my non-walking days. So all is not lost.

2) To sew up more fabric than I buy.
In January I bought 22 5/8 yards of fabric. I sewed down zero yards. Long story short, I had a First World Problem made up of $200 in expiring Living Social deals. Moving on…

3) To menu plan every single week.
I am rocking this one. Before I made this resolution, Good Man and I were eating out too much, depending on too much on convenience foods, and spending too much money.

In January we both ate out twice at work (excluding the time Good Man was out of town—he gets reimbursed by work, so I don’t count those times). Once, my meal from the freezer wasn’t defrosted and I fell back on an Amy’s frozen meal. One night, we ate out together after a very nice date night that started off with massages at our favorite place.

I calculated our average grocery and dining bills for the last three months of 2012. In January our grocery bill went up 14%. Our dining bill fell 71%. Yes, 71%. That’s almost embarrassing to type. Our total food bill decreased by 25%.

During the last week, I actually didn’t plan much, and we ate up most of the food I’d stockpiled in the freezer during the month. (For example, when I made shepherd’s pie with my roasted chicken, I made a second pan and froze it.) That was a good way to make sure the freezer was turning over and to take a mini-break from planning.

새해 복 많이 받으세요!

Yesterday Master posted told me this on Facebook.

아만다 잘 자내죠? 한국은 오늘이 설날이에요. 떡국먹는날. 아만다[가] 떡국 맛있게 만들어줘요~

Amanda are you well? Today it’s Korean New Year. It’s the day we eat rice cake soup. Amanda make some delicious rice cake soup.

Of course, Korea’s a half a day ahead, so today it’s Lunar New Year Eve. But I didn’t need Master to tell me what day it was! I had already bought some (brown!) rice cake disks for soup.

We were originally going to have some for lunch, but long story short, it ended up becoming an early dinner. Diana, Min Gi, and the baby came over. Mark was picking up his lover at the airport, and couldn’t come over for lunch, but when the schedule got messed up, they were able to come over for dinner.

The Spread

We had rice cake soup, mushroom bibimbap, spicy tofu, king oyster mushrooms, cucumbers, Asian pears, and dried seaweed. In this picture the table was set for four, but when we added two place settings and some wine, it was a true Korean spread, with dishes completely covering the table.

Good Man and Mark

Good Man found an interesting article with historical information about the military/dictatorship government, US puppet government, and Japanese colonizers government trying to get rid of Seollal.

The cartoon below (from 1980) shows most people walking toward “modernization” and “solar new year” and only a few people walking toward “lunar new year.”

As a piece of trivia, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon (specifically the water element), although in Kazakhstan it’s the Year of the…Snail.

Happy new year!

Making Fish Pastries at Home

“Oh my God! A 붕어 빵 thingy!”

Yes indeed, yesterday I bought an iron to make red bean paste fish pastries! Yes, I spent $20 on something completely ridiculous, and I don’t care!

Long time readers might remember this flash card. In Korean, when two people look alike (like a mother and daughter), you say they look like these cakes, because the cakes are made with a mold.

While I was fawning over the iron, an older white male, Korean female couple (I presume based on his Korea War Vet baseball cap, her accent, and the fact that we were in a Korean grocery store) stopped. The woman thanked me because she had been looking for an egg mold and my exclamations over the fish grill helped her find the egg mold. Then the man looked at Good Man said, “Do you generally let her buy what she wants?”

Good Man laughed and nodded, “Yes.”

“That’s what I do, too,” he said.

The wife laughed and said, “That is the key to a happy marriage!”

Today I made some fish pastries using banana waffle crusts and chocolate filling and cream cheese filling. Ooooh, so delicious.

Frowning Chocolate Fish

“Ahh! You’re squishing me!” Cream Cheese Fish