Monday, March 06, 2017

How can I pray for you?

Photo credit: lalalime.blogspot.com
I asked God to make me a prayer warrior, and I realized I was missing out on the chance to pray for all of you, my online friends! So how can I pray for you? I will try to remember to post this at least once a month so I can pray for you.

Prayer requests can sometimes be private things, so to keep your privacy, I’ve made a form you can fill out that will keep your requests just between you and me. Also please be sure to fill out the form again to update me if you sent me a prayer request in the past. I’d love to hear how you’re doing.

Monday, February 27, 2017

"Mr. Darcy Would Be Appalled" White Soup

I made Regency-era White Soup again, this time an easier way than the original 1811 recipe. It is almost nothing like the elegant cream soup Mr. Darcy would have been used to—it turned out more like a hearty blonde stew. However, I thought it was very tasty.

1 package of beef neck (1 pound) and 1 (cooked) chicken carcass or equivalent (cooked) chicken bones
OR
1 quart beef stock and 1 quart chicken stock

2.5 pounds raw chicken (I used thighs)
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
1/4 - 1/2 pound rice (the original recipe called for 1/4 pound, but I added extra rice to make it more hearty)
2 anchovy fillets, minced
5-6 peppercorns
2 Tb minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 large onion, diced
1 bunch of celery, chopped
(Optional) 2-3 cups of chopped veggies, whatever you have in the fridge. I added 2 cups of chopped kale
1/4 - 1/2 pound raw almonds, pounded fine (I used a Ziplock bag and my meat pounder, and I ended up putting 1/2 pound in, but the original recipe only had 1/4 pound)
(Optional) 1 egg yolk
(Optional) 1 cup half-and-half (The original recipe called for cream, but I thought it was a bit too heavy when I used the cream last time, so I used half-and-half this time. I think I could have even used whole milk and it would have tasted fine, although perhaps without as much richness in mouth-feel as with the half-and-half.)

The last time I made this, I tried to follow the original recipe and simmered it for 4 hours. The recipe had you strain out the solids and only serve the liquid, but I added the solids back in (everything except the bones) to make it more hearty. However, the long simmering had made the chicken and vegetables overcooked. This time, I made stock in the pressure cooker so that I wouldn’t have to simmer the chicken and vegetables so long and they wouldn’t be overcooked.

I made stock in my pressure cooker with the beef neck and the chicken carcass. I’m afraid I didn’t measure the water, I just put the solids in and filled it to the max liquid line. I boiled the water first so I could skim off all the scum from the beef neck, then put the cover on. When the rocker started shaking, I lowered the heat and let it go at a gentle rocking motion for a full 90 minutes. The resulting stock was full of gelatinous goodness. I removed the meat from the beef neck and shredded it into the stock, then stuck the stock in the fridge overnight. Surprisingly, the overnight cooling did not reveal much fat in the stock, barely a scraping layer on top, so while I made the white soup/stew the next day, but I probably could have made it the same day and skipped the overnight in the fridge.

If you use packaged stock, you unfortunately won’t have the meat from the beef neck unless you cook it separately. However, even if you parboil the beef neck in a separate pot to skim off the scum, then rinse it and add it to the soup with the stock, I’m not sure if the cooking time is long enough to make the meat tender enough to eat.

I fried the bacon to release the fat, then sautéed the onion for a couple minutes. I browned the chicken thighs skin side down for a few minutes, then added the other ingredients except for the egg and cream. (If you are adding extra vegetables and want them crisper, omit them at this point and add them later to cook them just until crisp-tender.) I brought the soup to a boil and then let it simmer for one hour, covered. I ended up adding a little more water when it got too thick near the end.

In hindsight, I should have just used a crockpot. While on the stove, I had to stir it every 15 minutes or so (especially near the end) to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom and burning. In a crockpot on low, it would have taken longer but I wouldn’t have had to stir so often, and the chicken would have come out very tender.

I whisked the egg yolk, then tempered it by adding hot soup a little at a time, whisking in between until the yolk was hot enough, then whisked the egg into the soup. Then I stirred in the half and half and added salt and ground pepper to taste.

I tasted it before adding the egg and half-and-half (it was already extremely thick), and thought it actually tasted rather good without them. But I added the last ingredients anyway. I couldn’t tell much of a difference after I added the egg, but the half-and-half added a very decadent, rich finish to the soup. If you’d like, you can omit both and it’ll still be a good stew, and lower in fat.

When eating it for dinner that night, I realized the stew was very similar to Minnesota Wild Rice soup, sans the wild rice. This version was good for wintertime—the wind and rain were howling outside the dining room windows while we ate, and it seemed to taste even better that way.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Chihayafuru is available in English!

My absolute favorite manga series is now officially licensed in English and available on Kindle and iBooks! I first saw Chihayafuru the anime series (watch it free on Crunchyroll) and fell in love with the storyline and characters.

There was a combo English/Japanese print version of volumes 1 and 2 that came out earlier, but it was rather confusing to read (but I still bought them). This, which was just released, is an English language-only version on ebook.

Here’s the blurb:

Chihaya is a girl in the sixth grade, still not old enough to even know the meaning of the word zeal. But one day, she meets Arata, a transfer student from rural Fukui prefecture. Though docile and quiet, he has an unexpected skill: his ability to play competitive karuta, a traditional Japanese card game. Chihaya is struck by his obsession with the game, along with his ability to pick out the right card and swipe it away before any of his opponents. However, Arata is transfixed by her as well, all because of her unbelievable natural talent for the game. Don't miss the first volume in this story of adolescent lives and emotions playing out in the most dramatic of ways.

Camy here: I hadn’t heard of karuta until watching the anime and reading the manga series, but it’s really fascinating. It requires immense mental stamina and memorization skills as well as a physically demanding aspect in terms of quick, accurate reflexes. The series also highlights a key cultural component, the beauty of these extremely old Japanese poems.

If you’re not sure if you’d enjoy this series, watch the anime on Crunchyroll first (it animates the storyline up to about volume 9). I was hooked immediately and have been buying the Japanese-language manga series ever since (it’s still ongoing in Japan), even though I don’t understand Japanese all that well yet. There are illegal translations online, so I’m really glad to finally be able to support the author by buying the official English translation version.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Regency White Soup


There is a line in Pride and Prejudice where Mr. Bingley is talking about the ball he plans to host at Netherfield:

“If you mean Darcy," cried her brother, "he may go to bed, if he chooses, before it begins—but as for the ball, it is quite a settled thing; and as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough, I shall send round my cards.”

I then found these two fascinating articles on white soup from the Jane Austen Centre and the Austenonly blog. I decided to try making it!

I followed the recipe from the book by John Farley, published in 1811, The London Art of Cookery and Domestic Housekeepers' Complete Assistant : uniting the principles of elegance, taste, and economy : and adapted to the use of servants, and families of every description. You can download the scan of the original book from the link.

Here’s the original recipe:

White Soup.

PUT a knuckle of veal into six quarts of water, with a large fowl, a pound of lean bacon, half a pound of rice, two anchovies, a few pepper-corns, a bundle of sweet herbs, two or three onions, and three or four heads of celery cut in slices. Stew all together, till the soup is as strong as you would have it, and then strain it through a hair sieve into a clean earthen pot: let it stand all night, skim off the fat, and pour it into a stewpan. Put in half a pound of Jordan almonds beat fine, simmer a little, and run it through a tamis: add a pint of cream and the yolk of an egg, and send it up hot.

Also, it mentions a few pages earlier:

“In the preparation of white soup, remember never to put in your cream till you take your soup off the fire, and the last thing you do, must be the dishing of your soups. ”

My foray into White Soup:

I didn’t have a pot large enough to hold an entire chicken and 6 quarts of water, so I halved the recipe:

1 package of beef shank, 1 pound (When looking up what a “knuckle of veal” was, I found this online: “Look for veal shank. The main thing for your stock is to get bones with a good deal of marrow. Knuckles, by the way, typically need to be cracked, whereas the shanks are often sold in 2"to 3" pieces, so the marrow is already exposed.”)

2.5 pounds chicken thighs, in lieu of half a chicken

1/2 pound bacon, chopped

1/4 pound rice

2 anchovy fillets (I assumed the recipe meant 2 entire anchovies, so I minced 2 fillets)

5-6 peppercorns

A handful of minced fresh basil. I wanted to also add fresh thyme but didn’t have any, so I added a teaspoon of dried thyme.

1 large onion, diced

2 bunches of celery, chopped (When I was chopping, it seemed like a lot of celery, but then I started the soup and realized it’s a lot of soup, so 2 entire bunches of celery ended up not being all that much.)

3 quarts of water

1/4 pound raw almonds

1 egg yolk

1 cup cream

I put everything but the almonds, egg, and cream in my stock pot on high heat, raised it to a boil, then put the heat to medium and simmered it. My stock pot was extremely full—in fact, I kept back one of the celery bunches and let the soup simmer for about an hour to reduce the water volume, then added the rest of the celery.


I wasn’t entirely sure how long is “as strong as you would have it,” so I looked it up in my Williams-Sonoma cookbook, which said that a typical meat stock takes about 3.5-4 hours of simmering, partially covered. So I simmered for 4 hours, partially covered.

The soup got thick pretty quick, probably from the rice, so that it was more like a stew than a soup. Also, like when you make rice on the stovetop, the bottom burned. Sigh. I should have expected that.

I strained the solids only through a metal colander, and then I forgot to put the soup in the fridge to let the fats solidify on the top so I could skim it off. Sigh again.

I was a bit surprised at how little soup there was, but then I’d looked at how much solids I had, and it made more sense.


Put 1/4 pound of raw almonds in my blender with 1/3 cup water and pulsed until it was all ground up, then added that to the soup. In hindsight, I should have used blanched almonds so the soup would be more “white.” I then brought it to a boil and simmered it, covered, for 15 minutes.

Strained the almonds using a wire strainer, which was a rather tedious process. Belatedly put in the fridge to solidify the fats so I could skim them off.

I whisked the egg yolk, then tempered it by adding a little at a time into the hot soup, whisking in between until the yolk was hot enough, then whisked all of it into the soup. Then I stirred in the cream.


Result:

It tastes fabulous! It’s extremely creamy and rich even though there’s only 1 cup of cream for the entire pot of soup, I think because of the rice and almonds that thickened it. The meat flavor and the almond flavor both come through. It’s extremely elegant as a cream soup—it deserves fine china and silver cutlery.

I had saved the meat, veggies, and rice because I couldn’t bear to throw them away. I stripped the meat off the bones and shredded it. Then I added it all back to the soup to make it more stew-y and significantly less elegant. Mr. Darcy would be appalled, but Captain Caffeine was pleased by the result.

For next time:

This would have been an expensive soup in Jane Austen’s day, because of the amount of meat in it. And there isn’t even meat in the soup itself! It was a bit pricey even for today. It was also rather tedious to make.

Next time, I think I would instead make stock using my pressure cooker. I’d put in chicken bones instead of the raw chicken pieces. I might still use beef shanks because of the exposed marrow, plus they weren’t very expensive since there’s hardly any meat on them.

I’d probably stick everything in the pressure cooker except for the almonds, cream, and egg, but I’m not sure if my pot would hold everything so I might have to quarter the recipe in terms of the amounts of the other ingredients. Then after cooking, I’d continue the rest of the recipe.

Or if I can’t fit everything into the pressure cooker, I might simply make broth in the pressure cooker with just the beef and chicken bones, then simmer the clear stock with the other ingredients—but for considerably less time—and then continue with the almonds, egg yolk and cream.

Also, I think instead of cream I’d use whole milk, which would make it less rich and decadent and be a little cheaper.

Even easier …

You could probably just get packaged beef broth and packaged chicken broth, mix them in a pot, and simmer the other ingredients (sans the chicken and beef since you already have broth). Then continue the recipe as written, but reduce the amount of time you simmer it.

Oh and hey, I just thought of something. Instead of the ground almonds, you could probably add almond milk instead.

What do you think? Would you make “white soup” like Mr. Bingley?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Dog sweater/villains

It’s cold here in California! We need the rain but my poor dog is getting older and seems to feel the cold more this year. I’m making her a dog sweater using 3-color Tunisian crochet and the general dimensions of this dog sweater pattern on LionBrand.com.

On the writing front, I’m working on the 2nd book in my Lady Wynwood series and trying to figure out my villain. I find I go to movies, TV, and novels for inspiration—I think real-life “bad guys” are too complex, psychologically, for me to use as fictional inspiration. Do you have favorite villains in movies, TV, or fiction? I could use some ideas.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Happy New Year!

Yeah, it’s been a while since I last posted but I assure you, I am not dead. :)

I decided to jump-start my running again, and since I don’t run consistently if I’m not training for an event, I signed up for the 2017 Honolulu Marathon. It’s going to be harder this time since I’ve gained so much weight since the last time I ran (maybe 10 pounds?) and I have to take care of my ankle, which I sprained at the last marathon in 2010 and it still has a bit of scar tissue. However, I’m going to a chiropractor about that and my ankle seems to be doing well. I’m also armed with KT Tape and Rock Tape, Phiten discs, ankle wrap, and massage cream. Please send a prayer for me that I can be consistent in my training and not get (more) injured.

I’m getting The Spinster’s Christmas translated into Japanese! I was able to hire a woman from my church who is a professional translator, and she is doing about a chapter every 2 weeks. Now I have to figure out how to format an ebook in Japanese, with vertical text and running left to right.

I am also getting anime-type illustrations done for the book so it will be like a Japanese light novel. This is my first time working with an illustrator and so far the drawings have been really good. The Japanese version will be released in three volumes, so I had three covers done, and the illustrator is doing a black and white illustration for each chapter. Here’s a preview of one of the covers. Isn’t it awesome?

As for writing, I’m working on the second book in the Lady Wynwood series and hope to have that done by April or so, and then it’ll go into editing. I will also have that second book translated into Japanese. If I can, I’ll also have illustrations done for that one, too, and the illustrations will be released with the English-language version.

And for those of you wondering, I do hope to return to the Gentlemen Quartet series after I finish this book in the Lady Wynwood series. I have 3 other books (loosely) plotted for my musical Gentlemen.

If you belong to my email newsletter, you'll be sure to hear when the next book (Gentlemen Quartet or Lady Wynwood) is available.

That’s what’s up with me? How can I pray for you?

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Cayenne Pepper Chai Tea for Allergies

I had a really bad allergy attack yesterday (so did Captain Caffeine) and so I did some internet searching and found this article on cayenne pepper tea to clear sinuses from allergies or colds.

However, being a wimp about pepper and also knowing that my stomach is rather sensitive to it, I knew I couldn’t take a tea like that straight even with food, so I came up with this recipe to disguise the pepper in Chai Tea, soften it with milk, and adding extra honey. Also adding the cayenne in twice the amount of hot water (from the original recipe in the article) helped make it less painful.

The article also warns about this, but drink this tea with food. I ate some Snyder’s pretzels in between sips and that helped to keep my stomach from getting upset by the pepper. What also helped was drinking some baking soda in a glass of water. If you have problems with acid reflux, I wouldn’t suggest you try this recipe.

Also my lips were burning pretty badly from the pepper, but my throat and tongue weren’t too painful. Warning: the pepper sinks to the bottom, so either keep stirring/swirling as you drink it and/or don’t drink the last 1/4 cup.

It took at least a cup of the tea, but about 10-15 minutes after drinking it, my nose ran like a marathoner and my sinuses cleared. However, I had to drink the tea again in a few hours when they stuffed up again (darn allergies!). I’ve been looking for a way to naturally clear my sinuses when I have a sinus headache ( as opposed to taking Sudafed), so the next time I have a headache, I’ll be trying this tea.

As for the specific tea I used, I like Adagio’s Masala Chai tea because I like the flavor of the tea blend the best out of the types I tried. However, as Captain Caffeine likes to point out, I am a bit of a tea snob and have higher standards for how my tea should taste, so a cheaper Chai tea would work fine.

About Adagio: I drink a lot of Chai tea normally because I enjoy it, so I buy it from Adagio in bulk and it’s relatively inexpensive. I also like Adagio’s Jasmine tea, Genmaicha, Berry Blues (non-caffeinated), Mango Melange (non-caffeinated), and Matcha. If you’ve never tried Adagio Teas and you’d like a free $5 gift certificate, send me an email through my website (www.camytang.com) and I can have Adagio email it to you. (Make sure your email address is spelled correctly.)

Cayenne Pepper Chai Tea

1 tablespoon loose Chai Tea or teabags for 2 cups (you can also use decaf tea for decaffeinated version or see below)
honey (to preference)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup milk

Steep the tea in about 400 mL (less than 2 cups) boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove the tea/teabags and add honey to taste (I added closer to 2 tablespoons of honey). Add cayenne pepper and stir. Add milk.

Lower caffeine version: Use more than 1 tablespoon of tea (I use 1.5 Tb). Add about 200 mL boiling water to tea, steep for 30 seconds, and throw out the hot tea. Then add 400 mL boiling water again to the wet tea and steep for 5 minutes.

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