Living with Lucille

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Rice Cooker Chocolate Cake

Moving from our 2 bedroom apartment in Richmond into a 27' motorhome means that our life was divided into 2 categories: the Things We Bring, and the Things We Don't Bring. Some items from each list:

Things We Bring:
- 1 guitar, 1 banjo, 1 ukelele
- 1 chef's knife, 1 paring knife, recently sharpened
- 10 pounds of Rancho Gordo beans
- 1 road bike, 1 Mazda 626, 1 umbrella stroller

Things We Don't Bring:
- the other guitar, the other banjo, 2 trombones, 6 penny whistles
- 1 GORGEOUS 7-quart (and 20 pounds) cast iron dutch oven *le sigh*
- At least 20 different kinds of Penzey's spices (I restrained myself to about a dozen.)
- 1 Toyota MR2 two-seater, 1 jogging stroller

So far, I think we made good decisions regarding which items we can live without, and which are indispensable (or in the case of those beans, small luxuries too good to forgo.) And not surprisingly, as the items that we've stored drift into the back of my memory, I find it quite easy to live with what we have. One of the joys of living in the RV is knowing how lightly we can tread with regard to material items. There is great deal of freedom in that mobility, and a levity in those limits.

Then, Jeff's birthday came around.

Those of you who know me well know that I love to eat. And cook. And with no sense of appropriate modesty, I've been cooking LIKE A BOSS in Lucille's little galley kitchen. I've learned that to cook well in such a small space, my prep work (chopping, measuring, etc) has to be done all in advance. I've also mastered the art of minimizing the number of pans and dishes dirtied. Recent meals have included fish tacos with fresh pico de gallo, broccoli-parmesan vegetable fritters, peanut-tofu-soba-noodle salad, Israeli couscous salad, and for Jeff's birthday dinner, a mushroom-barley risotto.

The last two of which were cooked in our new rice cooker. When cooking in an RV, any cooking you do with electricity is free, as your electric is included in your nightly fee, whereas you pay for your own propane to run your stove (and furnace and hot water heater). Also, when cooking in a small space while running the AC, using a rice cooker or crock pot means you aren't simultaneously heating up the space you're attempting to cool. Given that we eat brown rice about twice a week and it takes about 50 minutes on the stovetop, the rice cooker seemed like a solid $30 investment.

I will tell you what: it was a game-changer. If you have never owned a rice cooker and you eat any kind of whole grains regularly, do yourself a favor and go buy one. If you own a rice cooker now, are you aware of what diabolical cookery can happen in that innocent looking appliance? (Also: WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME TO BUY ONE EARLIER?) With any whole grain, flip it on while it's empty, start a cook cycle, add a bit of olive oil or butter, toast your grains in the bottom, then add the appropriate amount of stock or water and set it to cook. You can add extra ingredients, like mushrooms or spices. (Or wine.) You can open the cooker mid-cycle, tweak it, and close it up again. In addition to brown rice, we've made Israeli couscous, steel cut oats, barley risotto, and now, chocolate cake.


Yes, chocolate cake. It was Jefferson's birthday, and I don't care what kind of a monastic, simplified, renounce-all-material-possessions lifestyle you're living, you can't have a birthday without cake.  Turns out, you can make a cake in a rice cooker, and it's really simple: mix up a box of cake mix, grease your rice cooker bowl, add cake mix and press cook. Keep restarting the cycle until the cake is baked. Unfortunately, although I restarted the cook cycle 3 times, and my "cake" ended up looking like this:

Disappointing, yes? Ah, but never fear. With the ingenuity of a seasoned RVer (plus some heavy whipping cream and fresh strawberries), Jefferson celebrated his birthday with this confection:

And if I do say so myself, it was some of the finest, moistest chocolate cake I've ever had. Well, cake might be the wrong term; perhaps cakey-like deliciousness, topped with a pudding-like center where the box mix didn't finish setting up. Whatever, it was freaking tasty. So with that, Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband, and happy rice cooker cookery to all of you! (Just google "rice cooker recipes". The possibilities are endless. And tantalizing.)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

If you don't care

Last week we took a hiatus from posting here because we were not actually living in the RV last week.  We were living in a beach house with a bunch of friends at Nags Head, NC.  As a senior nurse anesthesia student, I don't get a lot of time off.  This was a terrific way to spend a week and our little monster was in a really good mood the whole time, which made vacation even more awesome.

There are a few interesting cultural / linguistic gems I've noticed in Pikeville, and that was actually the inspiration for this post.  The ubiquitous "Coal keeps the lights on!" bumper stickers are hard to miss starting in about Coeburn, Va., and the inclusion of the "black lung" check box in the respiratory section of the paper pre-op form are both telling.  Frequently our older male patients are retired miners.  These were obvious or predictable culturalisms though.

Here's an odd one.  Pink is way in fashion.  I'd venture to guess about half of all women in Pikeville are wearing pink at any given time, and half of the pink-wearers are wearing hot pink.  Hot pink, for real?  Are we stuck in the 80s here, or is pink back?  Don't know.

As a linguistic nerdy nerd who took a whole college class on English dialects, I really like the following dialectic idiom.  The phrase "if you don't care" is routinely substituted for "if you don't mind."  I probably hear this 10 times a day at the hospital.  For example, a CRNA might say to the tech "we'll need the a fiber optic scope in the room if you don't care."  (I also love that "care" is pronounced /kir/, or "keer" if you don't read IPA.)  Today I heard this substitution in a way which I now consider to be ambiguous in  meaning.  The context was my CRNA said "I don't care to do it that way" in reference to a suggestion I made.  Previously I would have interpreted that as a rejection of my idea, but I now know in Pikeville it is the opposite.