Monday, April 26, 2010

It's Spelled D O U G H N U T S

I swear, Dunkin' Donuts has made the entire US populous illiterate.

First off, it's spelled d-o-u-g-h-n-u-t-s. They're made from dough.

Secondly, wow. They are delicious. Especially when homemade and eaten in lieu of a balanced dinner.

So, why did I make Doughnuts for Dinner (if you are looking for a good recipe, try Alton Brown's recipe [link], you just may need to add more flour)?

Well, for many reasons, the least of which was to celebrate the close of the 2009 tax year.

Living abroad is exciting and gut wrenching. There are days when you cannot wait to try another type of qutab or you think having to walk a quarter of a mile for your water is quaint.

Then there are the days you miss home. You miss the corner Kaladi Brothers and you want a Dino's Donut (doughnut) so bad you can taste it.

On days like that, the best remedy is to call together a group of friends and try a little kitchen experimentation. Almost any can be made from scratch and even if it fails miserably, it probably will hit that homesickness spot.

Our doughnuts definitely did that.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ridin' the Peak

Wow. This has been a fantastic week.

Why? I have no idea.

Nothing really special has happened. I haven't done anything amazing. I mean, besides being me.

Really, I am just having a wicked sweet week.

This happens. Peace Corps is full of highs and lows. Peaks and valleys. Some days are unbelievably wonderful. Some days are so low you couldn't imagine getting any deeper underground.

For me, its the start of summer. Its the start of projects (Youth Development really gears up when school is out). Its the completion of a Small Projects Assistance (SPA) grant.

Things just are riding high.

Note: The picture is of my father and several Azerbaijani friends of mine walking around in Sheki.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Z'Photo Club Starts!

Thank you to everyone who made this possible.

I know many people (friends, family, unknown subs) donated to make this all possible. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
For those of you who denoted on your donation form your interest in disclosing your contact information, expect a kid-made thank you in the maily-mail.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Rainy Day

It’s raining in Zaq. I think it’s because spring is here and that’s what it does during spring, rain. But hey, what do I know? I am from Alaska. We have winter and construction.

At any rate, rain means staying inside. A hard feat to do when you have been cooped up all winter, but their ain’t no helping it. Azerbaijanis aren’t real rain people either, so that means almost everything comes to a stand still.

So, with it pouring outside, I fall back on my old stand-by: cooking. Yesterday, I showed my sitie how to make chicken pot pie (she had never had the stuff before). We then invited my friend Könül over and made her try the pot pie. Who knew pies came in savory flavors too?

Classic Chicken Pot Pie (omitting celery because celery does not exist in Az)

Prepare a delicious and flaky pie dough (my suggestion: 12 Tbs butter, cubed and refrigerated until ready to use. 2 & 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp salt & 1 tsp sugar. Lightly pulse together. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Remove blades and add 2 Tbs iced water. Combine with a fork. Continue adding 1 Tbs ice water until mixture begins to hold shape. Remove from mixer and press together. Wrap in cellophane and refrigerate for at least 1 hour).

Next, cube up 1 medium potato, 1 medium carrot and 1 small onion. Drain 1 cup peas and 1 cup corn and set aside [in a large bowl]. Liberally season both sides of 1 lbs boneless, skinless chicken with salt & pepper (I used a seasoning salt). Set aside. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat 2 Tbs olive oil. Add veggies and saute until almost tender. Remove and add to peas and carrots. In the same pan, add another 1 Tbs olive oil and brown chicken on both sides. Add 1 & 1/2 cup chicken broth and cover. When chicken is cooked through (about 8 minutes) remove chicken and set aside. In remaining liquid, add 4 Tbs butter and whisk in 1/2 cup flour. When smooth, add in 3/4 cup milk and season with salt & pepper. Remove from heat and add to peas and carrots. Dice chicken and add to veggie mixture. Gently combine.

Now, make a pie. Roll out bottom pie crust and press into pie pan. Add filling and seal with top pie crust. Cut slits and place on a cookie sheet. Brush with egg or butter and bake in a 375 degree oven (I am guessing at the temperature here) until pie crust is brown and delicious looking. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice it up and enjoy.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Key to Great Care Packages

I know a lot of you parental units happen to be reading my blog, so I thought I would drop a bit of knowledge on you all: the key to packing the perfect care package.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “Uh, what they heck does Löki know about care packages?” Well, over my 18+ months in country, I have received a fair number of said packages. I am still speechless as to the generosity, love, care, consideration...really all of the above, that goes into a care package. I have received delicious chocolate from Europe, a Black Bean soup kit, reading glasses for older people, vacuumed sealed bacon, expired canned food, toys for kids, dictionaries, A PASTA MACHINE!, young adult novels, computer cleaning cloths, name it, I have received it.

This stuff is great. It puts a smile on my face and gives me new ideas. I love care packages....and I think with all the ones I have opened, I know a few things.
  • Diversify. Novels are great, but sometimes a little light reading goes a long way. My ma sends crosswords, which keeps me entertained, but doesn't weight down my mind.
  • Maximize space. My friend Troll is a pro at this. She uses tea and chocolate like packing peanuts.
  • A taste of home goes a long way. My bestie’s mom sent me all the ingredients to make a black bean soup. I think I cried between spoonfuls.
  • Holiday candy. I am not sure how that is a bullet point, but my aunt sent me a couple packages of Cadbury eggs and I LOVE[D] them.
  • Don’t give up. At first, it was ridiculously hard for me to ask for things. From a PCV perspective, it's a little weird to pass out a list of “demands” (I think my ma would cringe at how some of my manners have just gone to the wayside). Care packages are amazing, but PCVs are overly aware of the huge costs that go into shipping things overseas. For us, a $50 package is equal to our monthly stipend. Unfortunately, you are gonna have to poke and prod your PCV until they tell you what they really want.
  • Listen to the subtleties. PCVs talk about care packages a lot. Mostly, it is about how to ask for something without actually asking. The general consensus? We expound on the things we liked and barely mention the things that weren’t useful. It sounds weird, but that’s what most PCVs do. [Löki specific note: This does not apply to me.]
I hope this helps. Oh! Don’t forget the pictures, cards, and family newsletters. We all feel disconnected. Keep us in the loop.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hair Update #7

For the first time since moving to Az, I combed my hair.

That's right. I combed it. Of course, it took a tub of conditioner, a special comb my mom sent, and a few tears, but it got combed.

And then I decided to never do that again.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Physics Lesson

Well, now that my dad is gone, it is time to get back to work, and what better way than by having an impromptu physics lesson during our annual Writing Olympics competition.

Of course, the kids should have been hard at work writing their creative answers to the essay questions, but who could pass up an opportunity to see smoke fall instead of rise?

I am still a little unclear as to how this all works, but it was rather cool to see. Even cooler, the kid who showed us is a pretty rad young man. Right now, he is anxiously awaiting the results of his FLEX [link] test.

I hope he makes it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lew Tobin was here.

Whew. I would stay that was a world-wind of a visit, but it was a little over 14, I guess I really cannot say that. Well...I guess you could say that about my bedroom, but hey, what do you expect when 2 people share 50 square feet of space.

So, for those of you know didn't know, my dad came to visit and of course, it went like any normal Tobin visit. Arrival times got confused (my dad chilled at the Az airport for 2 hours because we got his departure and arrival times mixed up), the local news channel wanted to interview us (talk about improving my language skills! I translated the whole darn thing!), my dad's passion for beets ended us up with a 10 gallon bucket of borscht. Of course, this was all in-between the constant tea drinking, the cramped travel, and the billionth asking of, "Are you sure this is your father? You look nothing like him."

Still, it was a fun trip. I got to eat two real hamburgers and am the proud new owner of a huge metal pot. Now...on to guilting my sister into visiting.