Monday, 27 January 2014

Going the distance: making homemade pasta

Yeah so long time no blogging.  I am well aware.  This is mostly because I upgraded from having a "pretend-sort-of-job" to "almost-real-job".  Now I have to do work at work and even sometimes do work at home.  THUS, we wind up here, with very little bloggy action.

So to remedy, I'd like to tell you all about the time not that long ago that I made homemade pasta using my new pasta maker that I got for Christmas!

Shiny new toy.
On my list of unnecessary but fun things to own (along with an ice cream maker and spiral slicer), we have the pasta machine.  This one is quite cool, you've got the main roller component for squishing down your dough, and then it has two cutters on the back.  One does spaghetti and the other is fettuccine (I think).   You clamp the heavy sucker to the counter and roll away!

So when it comes to the dough I searched around the web for basic egg-free vegan pasta recipes, which are pretty numerous and all generally about the same.  Along with your flour and water, the universal recommendation seems to be to add a pinch of turmeric for colour.  I used predominately white all-purpose flour with a little bit of whole wheat thrown in for some pretend healthy. 

The "fun" part comes before you get to even use the machine.  Once the dough is made you have to work it out for a good solid 10 minutes.  It's a heck of a forearm exercise I'll tell you!  Then you break it up into smaller sections and the rolling and cutting begins!  I hung the pasta over the cupboard doors to dry so it wouldn't stick together.

Not very glamorous...
A single recipe ended up making enough for two meals, so I bagged and refrigerated half, and cooked the other half for supper!

All-in-all, I found the pasta maker to be pretty easy to use, and the pasta it made was pretty yummy!  However it is one of those things that I'm not sure how often I would go out of my way to make it.  The whole process was about 2 hours from beginning to end, which I would qualify as a very time consuming recipe.  But I feel the same way about samosas and green onion cakes.  There are some things that end up getting relegated to the weekend for this reason.

Kind eating!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

This is the real world! - A holiday with two dystopian YA reads

Ah, the Canadian winter.

For reasons I'd rather not get into, I found myself stuck on semi-operational passenger trains full of awful children in the middle of the prairies for what added up to several DOZEN hours over the course of the holiday season.

At any rate, with such extravagant amounts of time on my hands, you had to know I would get lots of reading done.  And I did.

Here are a pair of reviews for the YA dystopian novels I read, which were highly suitable to the situation if I do say so myself...

#1: The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf - Ambelin Kwaymullina

I wasn't sure what to expect from this particular YA read, which I snagged as an advance copy through LibraryThing (the rest of you will have to wait until April 2014 to get your mitts on this one).  This is Ambelin Kwaymullina's first novel, but the premise sounded very interesting.  In a post-apocalyptic world where there are regular folks, there are also individuals who are known as "illegals", who have special abilities which many fear will upset the Balance which keeps society intact.  One such illegal is Ashala Wolf, whom we meet at the outset of the novel as she is being brought into a detention centre for interrogation.  Now this seemed to me like an odd place to start the novel.  I really wanted to know more about her deeds before being brought to prison, but that is actually part of "the twist" so I can't say anything more about that!  However at the time this aspect of the novel really bothered me, I had a hard time getting into the story for about the first 100-pages.  And I can't tell you what part of the book changed my mind without spoiling the whole thing for you, but trust me when I say that the action in the book picks up dramatically, and that it was a very enjoyable and exciting read from there on out.  There are many twists and turns and leaps through time, and the ending is really quite satisfying.  I am very glad that I didn't give up on this one, it was worth the initial struggle and turned out to be a really interesting story in the end. If you enjoy dystopian fiction like The Hunger Games or Matched, then I would recommend you pick up a copy of The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf once it is released.

#2: More Than This - Patrick Ness

As some of you may already be aware, I am guilty of being a HUGE fan of Patrick Ness.  I absolutely devoured his Chaos Walking triology, despite the fact that it is probably the goriest set of teen books I have ever read, and I'm not usually a big fan of violence in my reads.  But his stories are so riveting and the violence is sometimes just an integral part of the action.  Also, if you haven't read A Monster Calls then you should, it's not his usual vein of writing but it damn near broke my heart and not many books can almost make me cry, but it was damn close.
Anyway, onto the matter at hand.  Ness' latest YA release does not disappoint as the author delivers us into a world that keeps the reader guessing right up until the end. When young Seth drowns he does not meet his end as one would suspect, instead he wakes up in the old home where he used to live, completely alone.  At least for a little while.  Seth strives to understand how his reality has changed, while at the same time trying to figure out his new environment and avoid forces that don't want him to know the answers.  And I'm sorry for that terrible description of the plot but I really just can't tell you what happens in this book because it would totally ruin it for you if I did.  Trust me when I say that it is a great read and keeps you guessing right up until the end.  Ness' consciousness of relying on old tropes is directly addressed within the book, so while some aspects of the story are not entirely original ideas, the way that they are put together is exciting and fresh.  And the ending!  I'm a fan of great endings that don't let you know exactly what happens after the book ends.  This one really reminded me of the lake scene at the end of Haruki Murakami's Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World; the protagonist steps into the unknown with no clear answer for the reader as to where exactly he will wind up.  
While I think I was more engrossed with the Chaos Walking books, I found More Than This to be an exciting and engaging read, and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA books, dystopian fiction, and works with GLBTQ leads.

So that's it for now.  Book club is reading classics this month, so excuse me while I go completely switch gears...