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Friday, August 30, 2013

How to Rag-Roll Your Hair: One Beauty Routine I Can be Bothered to Do Since Moving to Portland, Ore.

 Let’s lead with a very official survey: From my post at a Portland Starbucks, I can see three women. If I squint, I can awkwardly check out my fellow female’s eyelash situation, I surmise that none are wearing makeup. Add me, and you have 4/4 women in a public place with no makeup on. No one has a hairstyle more complicated than a ponytail. I’m doing the study in a Starbucks, not the vegan joints down the street, so it’s not like it’s a skewed sample. Is this a trend I’m not privy to or is this just a Portland thing?

I moved here last September from the small town in Eastern Washington where I went to college. There, I was pretty average in terms of beautifying and grooming. I wore liquid eyeliner and mascara almost every day, shaved my legs when it wasn’t winter, and did weird braid/ bun combo hairdos. I wouldn’t say that I felt extremely pressured to do all these things, but it certainly seemed to be the norm. It’s what I did in hopes to complete an outfit and attract bearded young gents.

The game completely changed when I moved down to Portland, partially due to the fact that I managed to hook a bearded one, and for some reason he agreed to move down here with me. But also my environment is incredibly different. Bare faces are all I see, top knots are the fancy hairstyle, and I am kind of jarred when I see a shaved armpit. Chameleon-like, I retired my beauty routine. 

I am still boggled by how much less of a priority these traditionally female grooming rituals became when I realized they weren’t expected of me. I mean, I work a nine hour day and ride the bus. Why would I waste time flat-ironing my hair or whatever?

So after this long introduction, here is a routine that I actually CAN be bothered to do: rag rolling! Rag rolling is perfect for my new Portland life because: 1. I’m asleep for ¾ of the process. 2. It’s eco friendly. Just make your own rags! 3. It’s totally something Laura Ingalls did (important in a town where, in a job interview, I was asked if I know how to milk goats for cheese).

Here’s how:

Prep your rags beforehand. I used an old sheet that was Goodwill bound, but any cotton you have available is great. Cut the fabric into strips about five inches long and one inch wide. I use about 20 rags for my medium-thick, medium length hair, so you may want to adjust the number based on the state of your hair. It’s probably best to have some extra fabric handy to cut off some extra rags if you find out you need them once you are in the rolling process.

Take a nighttime shower. I wash my hair with Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap, but feel free to do you in this step. Towel dry so your hair is not dripping wet but still pretty damp.

Take out a 1-2 inch section of hair. Roll the section of hair around the rag moving upwards until your reach your scalp. Tie the rag firmly into a knot, making a little doughnut-like circle of hair. Then tie a second knot or a bow with the excess rag. Repeat until all your hair has been wrapped.

Sleep! You’ll need a full 8 hours for your hair to dry in these things. They are very comfortable to sleep in, unlike foam rollers.

 In the morning, simply untie your rag rolls and pull the rags out. Style your curls how you please.

Monday, August 26, 2013

From the cantina: Tamarind Margarita

Admittedly this isn't a totally original idea. I've had tamarind margaritas at restaurants. They're great, but often a little over sweet for my tastes. In my adaptation, the only sugar is in the orange liqueur. Tamarind just might be the perfect margarita mixer (it's the only thing I'll add to my own besides more booze). It has a very interesting and pleasant tang to it. We don't want to mute that with sugar (unless you do). And we must always have a little lime juice. It's not a margarita otherwise. That's one tart tequila cocktail!

Tamarind Margarita

2 ounces tequila
1 ounce homemade tamarind syrup*
½ ounce fresh lime juice (about half a lime)
½ ounce Cointreau
lime wedge
rim salt

*Tamarind syrup is kind of a misnomer here, as there is no added sugar. I just wasn't sure what else to call it (liquid tamarind concentrate? tamarind flavored water?). You make this essential ingredient by simmering one part tamarind pulp (found in some Asian and Hispanic markets [I found it once in a Fred Meyer (Kroger)] and sold either in the pods or packaged as a block of pulp wrapped in plastic) in four parts water. After the tamarind has loosened up and the water is all brown with pulpiness, you strain the seeds and fibers out using a strainer and/or some cheese cloth. I would have included photographs of this process, but none of it is particularly photogenic.

Salt the rim of your rocks glass; fill it with ice and set aside. Pour your ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice and shake or stir until it's well chilled. Strain into the rocks glass. Garnish with a lime wedge and enjoy. Simple and delicious.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Just Stay Home: Dairy Free Café-Style Latte

There are times when I really miss my barista days. Yes, it's minimum wage food service work, with sometimes intense hours and under-caffeinated customers. But there was something about my assumed role as a friendly, perky coffee girl that I found really freeing. Not that the forced cheer came easily; my boss let me know more than once that mellow and sardonic was not what her customers were looking for at 6 a.m. But once I got the hang of it, I had a lot of fun trying on extroversion for an afternoon.

I confess, my enjoyment of taking on an eternally chipper attitude may have been fueled by a regular dose of quad-shot americanos. I have yet to meet someone who took a position at a coffee shop without a serious caffeine addiction. For good reason, I believe. There is nothing like a combination of an everlasting stream of espresso and newly gained knowledge of how to make all sorts of drinks you previously didn't even know how to pronounce. (Speaking of coffee pronunciation, one of my favorite regulars at my old shop never failed to order a "vanilla lottie." No matter how many times we said "La-Tay" to him, he never changed his ways. I loved his tenacity and cutesie drink name.).

Unfortunately, once my supply was cut off (i.e. I quit to get a full time job), I realized how expensive this habit was. Two lattes cost about as much as a barista makes in an hour (tip your baristas, folks). Fortunately, I was able to apply some of my functional coffee shop knowledge at home.

In this recipe, I tried to capture the richness of a coffee shop latte without using any fancy equipment. If you have things like a french press, stove top espresso maker, or espresso machine, you can definitely use those items as short cuts.

The only tools you will need for this latte are a quart mason jar, pot, and whisk. The café-style look and taste are achieved by including plenty of fat from canned coconut milk (it doesn’t pay to be fat-phobic here) and layering the ingredients the way a barista would: milk, espresso, then foam.

Dairy Free Café-Style Latte
Makes 2 drinks.

½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 cinnamon stick (opt.)
2 ounces strong cold brewed coffee
½ cup full fat coconut milk (from a can)
1 tsp coconut palm sugar (or sweetener of choice)
Nutmeg for garnish (opt.)

Before you get started, you are going to need to procure some cold brewed coffee. You can buy cold brew, but that would kind of defeat the purpose of the exercise. So, the day before you want to be sipping on lattes, throw about 1 ½ cups coarsely ground coffee in a quart jar and fill it with water. Seal it and let that hang out overnight. For a more in-depth explanation of making cold-brew, read here.

Gently heat your almond milk in a pot over low heat. I like to add a cinnamon stick to slightly flavor the milk and add some depth. Try to get your almond milk nice and hot (baristas aim for about 140 degrees) but avoid scalding or boiling it. Once heated, pour your milk into 2 coffee cups.

 In the same pot, heat your cold brew. Don’t dilute the coffee. This is an espresso substitute, so we want it strong. Once heated, add to your waiting cups. You can use shot glasses to measure if you want to be sure each cup gets its fair share.

In the same pot again (can you tell I hate doing dishes?), combine coconut milk and sweetener. Most coffee shops will use a sweetened soymilk for their dairy free lattes, so this is a good way to approximate that flavor while reining in the sugar.  This coconut milk will be the “foam” that you usually get in a properly steamed latte.

Whisk the coconut milk/sugar mixture over low heat until bubbles form. Beaten well enough, the coconut milk should maintain a foamed look and texture.

To add coconut milk to your cups, use a spoon to hold back the foam while you pour the liquid into the cups. Top with a few spoonfuls of foam.

Sprinkle nutmeg on top, if you desire.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sunday Brunch: Dairy Free Frittata

Frittata. I think it's Italian for Frittata. It's fun to make and fun to say. Frittata. You make it and serve it all in one skillet, from stove top to oven to table. It's like a crustless quiche, a perfect recipe for a gluten free brunch. Frittata.

Dairy Free Frittata

10 farm fresh eggs (beaten)
6 slices of uncured applewood smoked bacon (chopped)
1 purple onion (slivered)
1 yellow zucchini (cubed)
1 pattypan (sliced)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
2 tbs chicken stock (more or less)

Preheat your oven to 350.
Start with a cold skillet (make it a big one unless you're planning to pare down this recipe). Lay your strips of bacon in and put the skillet over low heat. Turn your bacon often. While the bacon sizzles away, you can prepare all of your vegetables.

When your bacon is done (I'm not going to try to estimate a time as everyone likes their bacon different [we prefer ours slow cooked: fat rendered and crisp, but meat still chewy and flavorful]. Maybe I'll delve into bacon cooking in another article) remove it to a plate. Now put your slivered onions into the pan and turn the heat up to medium. That's right. Leave all the bacon fat in there (this is what will make up for the lack of formaggio [I think that's Italian for delicious]). When the onions start to clarify toss in your squash. Wait a minute or two and then add the minced garlic. While the veggies cook it's the perfect time to chop your cooled bacon and crack some eggs.

At this point you may find (as I did) that your onions are sticking a little. Deglaze (a fancy word for pour a little liquid into a hot pan) with a couple tablespoons or so of the chicken stock. After they've cooked for about ten minutes, or when the vegetables start to get tender, spread them out into the pan and sprinkle the chopped bacon evenly over the top. Now pour in your beaten eggs.

Continue to cook on the stove for five minutes or until you see the edges of the frittata begin to cook through and set. Move the skillet to the preheated oven and cook for fifteen to thirty minutes (depending on the depth and radius of your pan). After it's finished cooking, take it out, give it five minutes to cool, then cut it into wedges like your slicing a pie. Mix yourself a bloody mary and brunch is served.