Chinese New Year

At a New Year's party, I met Lillian, who is enthusiastic about everything, and apparently has a wonderful garden, also chickens, whom I am going to meet soon. But yesterday Lillian, who is Chinese, invited me to watch the Chinese New Year lion dance and eat lots of delicious Chinese food, which I did, as a truly excellent alternative to painting doors and shelves.

I really love community events where enthusiastic people share their passions, and lots of people cook great food. There is such great energy about this, such a sense of involvement and shared experience. Afterwards Lillian toured me through the Asian grocer and told me all the best things to buy there. She was buying lemongrass stalks which she keeps in a glass of water and uses the leaves and stem, and when the bottom of the stalk begins to sprout roots, she plants it in a pot. In 2013 I attempted to overwinter lemongrass in the laundry in a pot, and it worked beautifully. In the winter of 2014 I left the lemongrass outside to see what would happen. What happened is it died of hypothermia. So now I know - bring the lemongrass inside in winter. But instead of shelling out $15 for a pot of it at the nursery I paid $1.50 for a stem and will plant it out when it roots. Hopefully.

During a long hot walk home I decided that what I really wanted was chocolate milk. This doesn't happen very often, but if you want chocolate milk, then nothing else will do. I don't keep chocolate milk powder at home because it would last about two days, plus many cocoa products are farmed using very dubious practices such as forced child labour. I sometimes make my own chocolate syrup, which is delicious, but again, mysteriously disappears.. so generally, if you live in our household, you have to make your own from scratch every time. This is not at all arduous, but it tends to keep levels of child-chocolate-milk-making down to about once a week or so. Also, SO much cheaper than bought chocolate milk powder, even when made with fair trade, organic raw cacao powder..

Into a large glass put two rounded teaspoons of cocoa powder and half a teaspoon of icing sugar (I like my chocolate milk bittersweet - jiggle the amount of flavourings until it suits you perfectly). Add a shot of boiling water from the kettle, stir. Add vanilla essence (I have some wonderful home made vanilla syrup gifted by a friend. I am so getting the recipe for that).

Add milk and icecubes. If the weather is cold, make it into hot chocolate by heating it in a small saucepan. Make more every time you get fed up with painting. You know you deserve it! This year I am hoping to buy less from the supermarket and make more from real ingredients at home. Less packaging, more real food. And so often, as with this chocolate milk, could it be any simpler? I think the big food corporations are having a lend of us..

And, ta da - painting finished. Here are the elegant white doors. When the elegant white shelves are dry I will pack all my things back in and show them off as well. Painting is a terrible pain, and I am covered all over in paint, but now the house is a vision in white..


I agree--when it's chocolate milk, nothing else will do! It's been a long time since I've had a glass. That was my favorite thing about school lunches--those little cartons of chocolate milk. Did they have those where you grew up? Delicious!


P.S. I like community folk events very much, too.
Jo said…
We had to bring our own school lunch! Chocolate milk in the carton is good, but I think mine is better:)
GretchenJoanna said…
The thing about commercial chocolate milk or Swiss Miss (or whatever your brand is) hot chocolate mixes is that you can never get *bittersweet* which is how I like mine also. Instead, they are mostly sugar and when combined with milk are too sweet and bland. I always use a method similar to yours, hot or cold, usually with our San Francisco Ghirardelli dark cocoa powder. Sometimes, when I am trying really hard to do low-carb, I will even drink what I call Black Cocoa, which is, I am embarrassed to say, straight cocoa powder and water, with maybe some vanilla or almond or hazelnut extract to round out the flavor.

I say "embarrassed" because it is a bit chalky that way, and I feel that if I were more gourmet I'd at least make it with some good dark chocolate that had its cocoa butter intact. I agree that iced chocolate milk (including the milk!) is a great summertime refreshment - thank you for sharing!
Jo said…
GJ, I say go with what you like. Let's not let the concept of 'gourmet' get between us and anything we want to eat:)
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Haha! The paint splats are like barbarian battle scars and worn with pride. :-)! The doors are looking great too. Oooo! Chocolate. Yum!!! Chinese food! Double Yum!!! Thanks for the tip about the lemon grass sprouts. My tropical stuff outside died too, I had delusional plans to provide Victoria's first locally grown coffee beans - but the snow put an end to that silliness. Hey I make vanilla extract by placing proper vanilla beans (I get them from the spice guy at the Queen Vic market) into vodka and sit the whole lot in a glass jar with a screw top lid (not fully closed) - just make sure that the beans are below the surface of the vodka. It is good stuff and about one tenth the price of the bought stuff from the shop which is basically the same gear (which is why it is expensive in the first place to discourage certain people from buying it). It has lasted well over a year and looks set to go for much longer than that. I use it in Anzac biscuit making. Yum!!! Food... Yum!!!

Jo said…
Chris, just yum!! Thanks for the vanilla essence recipe - it sounds similar to other ones I've read, so good confirmation that it works. I'll have a go. As I said - making supermarket staples out of real ingredients is one of my goals this year.
Anonymous said…
Hi Jo
I love your doors and I'm envious of your painting skills. I also get covered in paint but my finished product never looks as good as yours.
Your chocolate milk recipe sounds a lot like my cocoa drink, I take it hot, but I've never tried vanilla with it.

Chris, I am going to try and make my own vanilla, how long do the beans have to soak.
The price of our vanilla here in Canada just went up 30%, and I'm really annoyed and looking for alternatives.

heather said…
I think everything chocolate should have a bit of vanilla in it. Like a pinch of salt in just about anything, it just works. I have a lovely big brown bottle of clear organic vanilla extract that some friends brought us back from Mexico. I've always hoped it's real, and not some byproduct of the manufacture of paint thinner or something, because it's delicious. But there's only about an eighth of the bottle left. After it's gone, I think I'll rescue the long neglected packet of vanilla beans at the back of the high shelf in the spice cupboard, and give them a vodka bath. I wonder if I need an expensive vodka? Or maybe I should start the soaking now, so by the time my Mexican batch runs out the new stuff will be ready. We've got to plan ahead in our DIY schemes, don't we?
--Heather in CA
heather said…
I'm all on board with your plan to make food at home from real ingredients. It's often quite easy and cheap, the results are usually so much nicer, and it's just satisfying to do. I'm not sure my attempts always save on packaging though. If I've done a great job planning ahead with purchases at the bulk store into my own containers, then yes, definitely. But replacing one supermarket premade item with seven supermarket purchased ingredients probably doesn't pencil out in the packaging column,until and unless you factor in subsequent uses of those ingredients to replace other packaged items... Er,and then there are the economies of scale on packaging of the industrially produced ingredients... Oh, my head, I should have placed a math warning label at the beginning of this comment. I think I need a nice glass of chocolate milk.
--Heather in CA
Jo said…
Marieann, hope your vanilla turns out well. I have a friend who makes it - I think she soaks it for several months. Will find out for you:)

Heather, agree with you 600%, first, that you definitely need chocolate milk, and then on thoughtful production of home made items. Most of my ingredients come from the bulk bins at the wholefoods shop, or from the greengrocer, or the garden. For instance I plan to make many bottles of tomato passata from the garden this year, in saved bottles. I want to replace plastic-wrapped store-bought crackers with home made crackers that can be made entirely from the contents of the bulk bins.. I do agree that sometimes it is possible to DIY and make just as much garbage in the process:)

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