Recipe: Lemon Bars

Lemon bars are a wonderful springtime dessert — a tart lemon layer embraces a decadent yet light shortbread crust. These lemon bars were adapted from the ever-reliable smitten kitchen and were a great ending for an impromptu white asparagus dinner we had with friends last week. They’re also good on the second day with a dollop of yogurt. The tops of these bars turned out a bit gummier that I’d have liked (maybe I should have made more filling? maybe I baked them too long? Any suggestions?), but overall I’d definitely make these again.

bars or wedges: you choose, they taste the same

bars or wedges: you choose, they taste the same

Lemon Bars (adapted from smitten kitchen; makes 12-16 wedges)

Ingredients

  • Shortbread Crust:
    • 1/2 pound (225g) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1.5 cups plain flour
    • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Lemon Layer:
    • 4 large eggs, room temperature
    • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
    • zest from 4 lemons
    • 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from ~4 lemons)
    • 2/3 cup plain flour

Procedure

  • Preheat the oven to 175C and grease a square baking pan or springform cake pan (I used the latter, since I don’t have a square pan).
  • Make the crust: Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until they are lightly colored and well-combined. Add the salt and flour to the butter, mixing on low until just combined. Gather the dough into a ball, then flatten it into the greased baking pan (build up a bit of an edge if you can). Chill for 5-10 minutes, then bake for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned.
  • Leave the oven on and let the crust cool while you do the next part.
  • Make the lemon layer: Whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour the filling over the crust and bake it for 25-30 minutes, about 5 minutes past the point where the filling seems set.
  • Let cool and serve alone or with some plain yogurt.

Enjoy!

Race Recap: Victoria Park Open 5

After the Fred Hughes 10 in January, my knee/hip flared up with an injury that I’ve been rehabbing ever since. That means I haven’t run over 10 miles/week in about three months — at least I’ve been able to cycle, swim, and strength train — but I’d registered for the Victoria Park Open 5 on 19 April and by gosh I was going to run it!

The day was partly cloudy, a bit breezy, and a cool-but-perfect-once-running low 50s F. It’s always a pleasure to take part in a  race that is well-organized and efficiently run. Many Heathsiders had just run the London Marathon but despite that we had a decent club turnout:

photo by Brian B.

pre-race photo by Brian B.

The course was two figure-eight laps of east London’s wonderfully flat Victoria Park. My goal was to finish the race with little to no knee pain — I hadn’t run more than about 4.5 miles at a time since January, so my expectations were low in terms of time and I mainly hoped to get around pain-free.

Probably because of my low expectations, I felt relaxed at the start and ran a comfortable first mile in 7:10. My second mile was a little slower, however, and around 16:00 my knee started to hurt. I worried that I’d have to drop out as it was less than halfway through the race, but I eased off and hoped the pain would recede, as it sometimes does. Around mile 3 (which I went through in 22:25) the pain did go away. I ran the fourth mile in ~7:45 but my knee felt okay by then so I picked it up for the last mile, which ended up being just under a 7:00 mile and brought me into the finish at 37:00 (7:24/mi pace), 131st/192 and 17th/56 woman. Our women’s team of Caroline, me, and Barbara came second, and our men’s team came third. Great job, everyone!

I’m pleased with my race, which was only 1:15 off my PR/PB despite my low running volume. Now back to the rehab exercises and track workouts so I can run a good Crouch End 10k next month!

———

Recently in “Issues”: End of Term 2

Now that it’s almost the end of April and three weeks after classes have finished, it’s well past time for an MA update. Here’s a quick review of the second half of the second term of my “Issues in Modern Culture” MA program(me).

Modern Sex ended and I embarked upon a five-week Post-War American Poetry module taught by Mark Ford. He took a similar approach to this class as he did with the Elizabeth Bishop seminar, looking at how one could critically approach each poet if one were to write about him/her. Let me break down the seminars:

  • We started off with Robert Lowell, the best confessional poet you’ve never heard of! We read poems from his Life Studies (1959), the volume that basically kicked off the “Confessional Poetry” movement, which Sylvia Plath took up and made famous. Lowell came from the blue-blooded Boston Lowell aristocracy that traced its roots all the way back to the Mayflower. But dear Robert suffered from manic-depression and was in and out of hospitals for a good chunk of his life — these experiences, of course, he crafted into poems, such as the moving “Waking in the Blue.” Lowell was also good friends with Elizabeth Bishop and was highly influenced by her poetry. He represents the major trajectory of many post-war American poets — a trajectory that we talked about for almost all the poets we looked at in the class: early poems are grounded in formal tradition, then the poet has some sort of breakthrough into a new idiom of expression. The Modernist–>Postmodernist trajectory, if you will.
  • My favorite seminar was on Allen Ginsberg. I love reading Ginsberg, in part because of his Whitmanesque roots (since I also love Whitman). The seminar was somewhat comical because Mark spent much of the time talking about how Ginsberg is actually really hard to write about (“immune to literary criticism”), because his poetry and persona are pretty transparent to begin with. That said, there are definitely ways to approach him: Jewish inheritance, Ginsberg and money/capitalism/marketing, Ginsberg’s body, the Cold War and paranoia… If you haven’t read any Ginsberg, go read “Howl” and “A Supermarket in California” now.
  • Frank O’Hara frankly (pun intended) didn’t do much for me. Maybe because I don’t know New York City very well and many of his poems are set there. That said, the seminar was really good. We talked about O’Hara in the context of the New York School of Poets (who disliked Lowell and loved Bishop) and about his “camp” wit (think Sontag) and the city as central to his work. He wrote a lot of what Mark called “I do this, I do that” poems (“A Step Away from Them” is a good example) and “lunch poems.”
  • For the Adrienne Rich seminar, we covered Rich and the “female” poetry resistant to patriarchal oppression that she, Plath, and Anne Sexton wrote. “Diving into the Wreck” is a fun read that can be interpreted in myriad ways.
  • Our last seminar was on St. Lucian poet Derek Walcott, best known for Omeros, his rough re-interpretation of The Iliad. We read Book I of Omeros for the seminar and the discussion centered largely on Walcott’s hybridity and all-encompassing method that blends together European tradition with “New World” (North & South American, Caribbean) methods. Omeros employs some features of the epic poem and its characters all have some relation to myth and tradition.

Post-War American Poetry was a great course and I learned a huge amount about the poets, poetic tradition, and critical approaches to poetry, all of which has made me a bit more comfortable reading and talking about poetry.

On Wednesdays, Authors kept on plugging to the end of term. Our last four seminars (after Elizabeth Bishop) were on Sylvia PlathThomas Pynchon (full disclosure: I got about 1/8 of the way through Mason & Dixon), Tom Stoppard (Travesties is brilliant and hilarious — read it!), and J.M. Coetzee (I couldn’t stand Disgrace but the seminar was good).

So that’s it for courses.

But that’s not all for the program(me).

We still have a take-home essay exam for “Authors” and an essay each for Contexts and the two Options (Modern Sex and Poetry for me). Oh, and a dissertation proposal. All of those are due between 1 May and 2 June. Then we spend all summer writing the dissertation, to be handed in on 1 September.

What am I writing about for all these essays? I can’t disclose details since the essays haven’t been marked, but I can give you a list of topics/texts: Madame Bovary, Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys, Sherlock, E.M. Forster’s Maurice, and Billy Collins. For the dissertation? No idea.

———

Recipe: Flapjack Fail becomes Fruit & Sunflower Seed Granola

It is really hard to find store-bought granola bars (called flapjacks in the UK) that aren’t too sweet and don’t have lots of added ingredients. I’ve tried quite a few brands but none has been quite right. So I decided to try making my own flapjacks, since that would allow me to control what goes into them. I turned to the ever-reliable frugal feeding and this great-looking recipe for sunflower seed flapjacks.

flapjack fail...at least it tastes good as granola!

flapjack fail…at least it tastes good as granola!

As you can see from the above photo, my flapjacks didn’t “flap”! A thin top layer stuck together, but the rest of the mixture didn’t bind — I was disappointed, but at least it turned into really delicious granola. I would like to try these again and might try grinding 1/3 of the oats to make smaller particles that may stick together better. If you have any tips, please leave them in a comment below — they would be much appreciated.

How do you get your flapjacks/granola bars to stick together in bar form?

Fruit & Sunflower Seed Flapjacks OR Granola (adapted from frugal feeding; makes a lot)

Ingredients

  • 300g oats (next time I’ll try grinding 100g of these to see if that helps the mixture stick together better)
  • 100g butter
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 tbsp set honey
  • 25g dried cranberries
  • 75g raisins
  • 50g sultanas (or any other combination of dried fruit that adds up to 150g)
  • 150g sunflower seeds
  • pinch of salt

Procedure

  • Preheat the oven to 170C and grease a square baking dish.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, golden syrup, and honey together over low heat until smooth.
  • Meanwhile, dump the dried fruit into a food processor and process until it begins to ball. Add the fruit to the saucepan and stir until evenly incorporated.
  • Add the oats, sunflower seeds, and salt to the fruit-butter mixture and stir until the oats are evenly distributed.
  • Press the mixture into the baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool before cutting into bars.

Enjoy!

3 Days in Portugal: Lisbon & Sintra

Last week, I met my mom and grandma in Lisbon for a great three-generation vacation. We spent about two and a half days in and around Lisbon, which none of us had ever visited. In the few weeks before going to Lisbon, I got only positive reviews of the city from people I’d tell about my upcoming trip. The city lived up to the recommendations and the trip was really fun. Lisbon has a fascinating history — earthquake, monks, eggs, castles — that I won’t go into here; instead, I give you a brief summary of what we saw and did.

Note: if you’re planning to visit Lisbon, invest in a Lisboa Card — it’s totally worth it if only for the fact that it covers all public transport in the city (and also many of the museums). 

Sunday

Starting at Praça do Comércio, we walked away from the river and up hills and steps to Bairro Alto for great views of the city. Another hour and a half of wandering up and down Bairro Alto looking for a restaurant (we never found it) landed us at Ribadouro for a delicious late dinner of 1 kilo of shrimp, frites, and salad.

Monday

We took the train to Sintra, an easy 30 minute ride outside of Lisbon. The main event here was the Pena National Palace, which looks like a Disney castle. King Ferdinand II apparently couldn’t decide which style to build his palace in, so he chose to go Romanticist and mix together a bunch of different styles and colors. It was great fun to explore and photograph from all angles.

Walking downhill from the palace, we strolled through the Queen’s Fern Garden in Pena Park — a peaceful, green sanctuary that was a welcome respite from the sun and the bustling city. We kept walking back to Sintra, semi-accidentally down the path (much) less traveled. It was a bit of an adventure, but we all made it down safely and rewarded ourselves with a tasty fish dinner back in Lisbon at Solar dos Presuntos.

Tuesday

We took a tram to one of Lisbon’s highest points, near the castle. We opted not to go into the castle grounds and instead wended our way down narrow cobblestone streets and steps, through the Alfama neighborhood, eventually stumbling upon the old and beautiful Sé Cathedral. Once we made it back to the center of Lisbon, we enjoyed a lunch of coffee and pastries at Pastelaria Suiça. Try the pastel de nata, traditional Portuguese egg custard tarts that the monks invented because they had easy access to eggs and sugar.

Well-fortified, we visited the Coach Museum in Belém — amazingly ornate carriages and coaches from the 15th-19th centuries — and the Tile Museum, which displays the long and intricate history of traditional Portuguese tile making. We rounded off our three days in Lisbon with a big dinner followed by port tasting (when in Rome/Portugal…).

There was much more we could have done in Lisbon, but three days was a good length of time to get a feel for the city. I loved wandering the cobblestoned streets and mosaic-lain sidewalks, discovering beautiful tiled buildings and other gems of this unique city.

Recipe: Spicy Sweet Potato Fries

IMG_5355

These sweet potato “fries” are a variation on my usual roasted root vegetables. It’s the spice mix that makes these deserving of their own recipe. The sweet potato fries went well with F’s homemade hamburgers for a post-Sunday-cycling lunch. They are a little bit spicy, a little bit earthy, and just salty enough. I call them “fries” for their shape — they did not actually become crispy, as I tossed them with olive oil and baked them in the oven. Next time I might roll the raw sweet potato sticks in a little bit of cornmeal to see if that helps them stay firmer.

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients

  • 2 sweet potatoes, cut into wedges or matchsticks
  • couple of glugs olive oil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1.25 tsp cumin, ground
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt

Procedure

  • Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  • Combine the olive oil and spices in a large mixing bowl.
  • Cut the potatoes, toss them in the spice-oil, then spread them on the baking sheet in one layer.
  • Bake for 20-30 minutes or until soft, turning once.

Enjoy!

At the theatre: “Twelve Angry Men”

Last night, F and I had a rare night out when we went to see “Twelve Angry Men” at the Garrick Theatre in London’s West End. This was possible thanks to a TimeOut London 50% off tickets deal, so we had great seats for half the price.

London's Garrick Theatre

London’s Garrick Theatre

“Twelve Angry Men” is essentially an exact replica of the 1957 Henry Fonda film of the same name. I had seen the movie back in school and only remembered bits and pieces of it. The play, written by Reginald Rose, was absorbing and very well done. It’s a closed-room drama — with surprising and pleasing comic moments — focusing on the 12 jurors on a murder case who have to decide whether or not they think a black teenager killed his father; the boy’s life is in their hands. The initial vote is 11-to-1 for “guilty” — Juror 8, played brilliantly by Tom Conti, has “reasonable doubt” about the boy’s guilt. On this glimmer of doubt hangs the entire drama: the jurors must now discuss and re-discuss the details of the case in order to reach a unanimous decision.

“Twelve Angry Men” brings up many fascinating issues and moral dilemmas still relevant in today’s world. There is the notion of innocent until proven guilty — as Juror 8 points out, all you need to have is “reasonable doubt” that someone is not guilty. There are personal prejudices and experiences influencing the feelings and decisions of a few jurors. Slowly by slowly the case is unwound and we, along with the jurors, realize that the supposed murder is a lot more complicated than it first seemed. In fact, there is plenty of room for “reasonable doubt,” as many of the jurors soon begin to understand.

Robert Vaughan is excellent and understated as Juror 9, the oldest man in the room who remains seated for almost the entire show. Jeff Fahey and William Gaminara strongly portray two of the loudest proponents of the boy’s guilt — will they ever admit to having “reasonable doubt”?

The show effectively employs its simple set: the designers could easily have just plopped a big table down in a room and let it stay there. However, this big table was on a slowly rotating platform. So slowly did it rotate that I never actually caught it in motion; every once in a while I would notice that the table had turned again. This effect showed the passage of time — when the foreman’s seat was back where it started, the jury’s decision was made. The restroom on stage right was also used well, for more intimate and often insightful conversations between pairs and trios of jurors.

Overall, I highly recommend that you go see “Twelve Angry Men” if you have the chance. It is sharp, smart, thought-provoking, and very well-acted — everything that you might want in good theatre.

———

Book Review: Andrew Ladd, “What Ends”

Just a short post today, in which I encourage you to head over to Full Stop and read my most recent book review there, of Andrew Ladd’s nice little novel What Ends. Andrew Ladd himself even called my review “very thoughtful”:

from the author himself

from the author

And as always, you can keep track of the other stuff I’ve had published online on this page.

More bloggy things coming soon: a flapjack fail, a review of my MA courses, teaching migrant women, and an updated banana bread recipe. In the meantime, how about some golden oldies to keep you going?

Recipe: Simple Dal

Sorry it has been so long, readers! I’ve been busy juggling the end of my MA courses with a new part-time teaching gig. More updates on both of those to come. In the mean time, here’s a delicious recipe for your weekend enjoyment:

I’ve made dal before and was pleased but not overly smitten with the result. This dal, on the other hand… We’ve made it multiple times in the past month — it’s that easy, that quick, and that delicious. F gets full credit for this, which he found by Googling (ah, Google) “dal recipe” one night when we wanted a quick protein to go with our roasted root veggies. He chose a recipe that came up near the top of the search results and it turned out well-spiced and flavorful. Enjoy it with roasted veggies, rice, naan/pita, yogurt, or just on its own.

Simple Dal (adapted from Dairy Free Cooking; serves 4-6)

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped (we did this in the food processor)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1-inch knob fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp cardamom
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • to taste: salt
  • optional: 2 tbsp tomato paste

Procedure

  • Heat the sesame oil in a medium pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the chopped onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are softening and translucent.
  • Add the spices to the onion mixture and stir well to combine.
  • Add the lentils and water to the pot; stir well. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low, cover the pot, and let the lentils simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes or until they are tender and the dal is at your desired consistency.
  • Stir in the tomato paste at the end, if using.

Enjoy!

Singing at the Barbican

After thinking about it since September, I finally plucked up the courage to visit and audition for the Crouch End Festival Chorus (CEFC) just over a month ago. Meeting people who sing in the chorus and hearing their positive reviews helped convince me to give it a try, and I’m particularly grateful to those who encouraged me to audition despite my reservations about Friday rehearsals and the general time commitment. Luckily, I passed the audition and was placed among the 1st Sopranos. CEFC is an amazing group of ~130 singers, led by the dedicated and passionate David Temple. Many chorus members are in the 23-33-year-old age range, which makes for a nice mix of energy, experience, and socializing. CEFC also appealed to me for the range of repertoire it sings: from Thomas Tallis to Bach to Mahler to premieres of new commissions. Not to mention they rehearse just up the road from where I live…hard to beat that in a city as big as London!

I had missed singing in a big chorus — aside from brief stints with the Sniatyn teachers’ choir in Ukraine and the UCLU Symphony Chorus last term, I hadn’t sung in a “real” chorus since my Oberlin Musical Union days (on which I still look back very fondly). CEFC has more than adequately filled the gap in my musical participation.

———

My first concert with CEFC was singing at London’s Barbican – home to the London Symphony Orchestra, no big deal — along with the Forest Philharmonic. On the program(me):

  • The world premiere of a piece by contemporary composer Will Todd, “Rage Against the Dying of the Light,” with text based on the Dylan Thomas poem, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.”
  • Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in C minor “Resurrection,” which I sang my senior year at Oberlin with Musical Union and the Oberlin Orchestra, in a memorable performance that left me with an adrenaline rush for an hour or two afterwards.

After getting over a burst of nerves and lightheadedness during the afternoon rehearsal, I felt calmer for the performance and remembered how amazing it is to finally perform pieces that have been meticulously rehearsed for weeks. The orchestra sounded great — the Todd piece, which many of the chorus members seemed either to love or hate, was greatly enhanced by the instrumentation that we had little sense of when rehearsing with piano accompaniment. The Mahler was thrilling to sing, as always — sitting through an hour of intense orchestral music to finally stand and sing the finale feels incredible.

Next up for CEFC, a total change of period and pace: sacred music by Tallis, Vaughan Williams, Tavener and others performed in Waltham Abbey and Southwark Cathedral in June. I’m already looking forward to it.

Concert Review: London Philharmonic Orchestra with David Zinman & Emanuel Ax

Sarah accompanied me to this London Philharmonic Orchestra concert, for which I again scored £4 student tickets. The concert, on 19 March, was conducted by David Zinman and featured Emanuel Ax on the piano. [N.B.: David Zinman conducted the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra early in his career -- I grew up in the Rochester house he lived in!]

The LPO concert, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, opened with one of Mozart’s late symphonies: No. 38 in D major, K. 504 (“Prague”). It’s called the “Prague” symphony because that’s where it was premiered in 1786. The three-movement symphony is a lovely piece — very “Mozartian” and pleasant to listen to, with glimpses of his late-style minor chords and introspection. As the concert opener, the symphony provided a great introduction to David Zinman’s conducting style: he is the subtlest conductor I have ever seen. A small, amiable-looking 77-year-old (!), Zinman conducts with gentle, non-distracting gestures — at one point during the Mozart, he completely stopped conducting, letting the orchestra carry themselves, until he took up the baton again for a cue. I loved watching him smile over to the first violins when cueing them. Such a kind-looking little man — and it was clear from the next two pieces that he and Emanuel Ax have much affection for each other.

Ax made his first appearance for Richard Strauss’ Burleske in D minor for piano and orchestra. I didn’t know this piece before the concert, but the performance made me want to hear it again. It has typical Straussian harmonic layers and hints of lush Romanticism in many of the piano’s lively passages. Most impressive were Ax’s cadenza and his superb call-and-response dialogues with the timpani and first flute at various points throughout the piece. Ax is fun to watch — we were close enough to see his mouth moving along to the music; during rests he would turn to watch the orchestra, clearly reveling in the wonderful music they were all making.

David Zinman and Emanuel Ax with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (photo credit: Sarah)

David Zinman and Emanuel Ax with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (photo credit: Sarah)

After the interval, Ax returned to the piano for a piece written some 150 years before the Strauss: Bach’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, BWV 1052 — one of the major precursors to the modern piano concerto, according to the program notes. Now I love Bach, and this piece was fun as always, but I found the balance to be slightly off — the grand piano, played with what I thought was a bit too much pedal for Bach, often overpowered the small string orchestra. Maybe that’s just because of where we were sitting — in the center of the fifth row — too close, in retrospect. Ax’s technical skill certainly cannot be doubted, and he plays with wonderful feeling.

The final piece brought us back to the late 19th century: Richard Strauss’ tone poem, Tod und Verklärung (“Death and Transfiguration”), Op. 24, which was premiered at the same concert as the Burleske we heard in the concert’s first half. I was looking forward to this piece, because I learned when we studied Tristan und Isolde in one of my MA classes that Strauss had in mind the (in)famous “Tristan Chord” from Wagner’s music drama when he was composing Tod und Verklärung. I did recognize glimmers of Wagnerian harmony throughout the piece, which is a vast, sweeping tone poem worth listening to if only for the haunting opening and breathtaking ending, which imparts a feeling of suspension with a bit of longing — the “transfiguration” or “transcendence” of the title, perhaps. Here’s a recording of Zinman conducting the piece with his “home” orchestra, the Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich:

Throughout the concert Zinman — as subtle as ever — drew a magnificent, full sound from the LPO, particularly from the low strings, timpani, and horns. Zinman and Ax’s clear enjoyment of the music made it seem like a cozy evening with friends — and great music, of course.

———

Ukrainian Perspectives on Ukraine

Rather than posting another set of articles about the ongoing situation in Ukraine (get caught up here and here; read some of my fellow Ukraine RPCV’s thoughts here and here), I thought it would be interesting to get some perspective from Ukrainians whom I worked with during my time in the Peace Corps: former pupils, colleagues, English-clubbers, and friends. Many are in Sniatyn and the southwest, far from the main protests, but some are in Kyiv, closer to the action. Here is what they say, in chronological order (I have made some small edits for clarity):

My pupil O.V., who is at university in Poland, wrote on 1 December [right at the beginning of the protests]: “I think that is awful, the situation in Ukraine is not so good. Many people go to the Independent square and try to protect our country. Our president don’t want to go to the EU. In my opinion it’ll be better for Ukraine to sign the agreement with the EU. Polish people support us, they dissagree with Yanukovych. I suppose that the situation will be better.”

Another pupil, I.L., who has finished school, wrote on 4 December: “I think it is good and bad, like 2 in 1. Because we have police Berkut who beates people [a lot]. I heard about it []. I disapointed so much. It is not good for us! One young girl has died. It is so sad :(
But I think Ukraine will be in EU!”

My friend and pupil, K.K., now an 11th-former, wrote on 4 February: “Actually, the situation in Ukraine is quite tragic. I don’t know if you’ve heard but lots of people faced the violence of the police and are injured, tortured and some of them are even dead because of this. Definitely, it’s all the authority’s fault. People in Sniatyn are worried very much, of course.”

An English-clubber, D.R., from Sniatyn but now working in Kherson (on the NW coast of the Black Sea), wrote on 7 February“Concerning the situation in the country – it is very stressful. The views about federalization of the country became very common in all regions… Three weeks ago it was still a peaceful protest. But then it grew into the violent confrontation (which is currently stalled). In most, people on the east and south think that all protest actions are finance[ed] by the U.S. The media say differently, so people have different views. The truth is that [the] government actions [are] causing this conflict… Maybe it does not sound good, but euromaidan is the confrontation between the educated independent part of society and [the] part, for which there would be a better life in the Soviet Union… The only thing that unites people, is the wish about peaceful quick ending..”

An English-clubber, Y.S., now at university in Kyiv, wrote on 5 March:

I am okay after that extremely dangerous events on Maidan,though I know a couple of guys who were brave and a litle bit mad and they have been wounded(for example,a grenade [burst] near the shoulder).Of course,they have fought on the [front] barricades…
I should say that last 3 months were completely special for me as well as for the Ukrainian people.Firstly I came there on…22 [] December and had been staying till January.At that time it was my everyday life. Then on the second day of Euromaidan nobody would have thought about SUCH consequences…As you know,peaceful demonstations have [evolved] a lot during all this time.Frankly speaking,my friend and I could easily [have been] present at Maidan on the night of 30 December(when the students were beaten by Berkut).Fortunately,we took the taxi at 2 a.m. and went home…they were pursuing the students on that night to beat [them] more and more…
Now Kyiv is [safe].People at Maidan are grieved,but they feel great support from all Kyiv. Grief unites people.It is extremely valuable experience for our nation which didn’t want to stand bandit regime anymore. But we have a problem with Eastern and Southern regions. Well,Putin consolidated the Ukrainians as well as Yanukovich did(all the people are against war),but still there are those who want[] to separate. You know,Russian TV has terrible influence on Crimean people…

A friend (and fellow runner) R.T., who lives and works in Kyiv, wrote on 6 March:

It is important to know people understand what is really going on in Ukraine.

These days in Kiev it is pretty calm. It used to be quite difficult during last 3 months and especially during the days when they killed people.

I was on Maydan during protests bringing food. When they were shooting people I helped with medicines in hospital.

Now Ukraine is bleeding but Russia invaded Ukraine with plans to seize Crimea peninsula[]…my nationality is Russian I was born there and spent my childhood, but I love Ukraine, Ukrainian language and people here. When I talk to my relatives from Russia I can’t believe they tell bad things about Ukrainian revolution and Maydan. For some reason Russian TV channels deliver false information about what is going on in Ukraine. Sad to know that, I am ashamed for my motherland.

The revolution has finally happened. We have won. 94 people were killed during protests and clashes with “police”. Too big price…can you imagine people were killed in the very center on Maydan. Minister of internal affairs (chief guy of police) says there was another power who killed people. Investigation is still in progress but they are going to publish results. We will see.

My friend N.K., who owns a shop but travels regularly to Odessa for business, wrote on 7 March: “…from last week [to] today all of us [talk] about war only.It’s very hard.I am afraid to go to Odessa.[Those] people don’t understand why the western part of Ukraine [want] to Europe.”

My pupil, V.R., now at university in Kyiv, wrote on 9 March: “In our University and campus everything was ok, Some of my groupmate’s went to the maidan a few times during the demonstrations, but they wasn’t there when the main attacks was. Atmosphere was hard in some areas was dangerous to go out. Also shops became empty very fast, because roads to Kyiv were closed. Many of Our students decided to start patroling our Campus to protect those who stayed here. But everything was quiet here. I don’t even worried about my safety because I knew that we will protect each other. Only yesterday I have been on the Maidan and Institutska street. My mother and I tried to find the place where our family friend died. It was terrible to see all this people, all this flowers, I felt myself guilty because I haven’t been there, but from the other hand my parents couldn’t live if something happened with me there. Now we have a new problem it’s the Crimea and I hope that Europe and The US wouldn’t let Russia to get it. As one of my teacher’s said at this moment we can do only one thing studying. It will help us to overcome this threat with over intelligence, so that’s what”

It’s amazing to read these different perspectives, from young people studying at school and university to those in the workforce, in Sniatyn, Kyiv, and elsewhere. I hope, along with them, that things are resolved soon.

Recipe: Sweet Potato, Black Bean & Mozzarella Enchiladas

These enchiladas are a definite “make again.” I had been thinking about how to use a seldom-found can of black beans and thought they’d pair well with sweet potatoes in something Mexican-inspired. But I didn’t feel like making tacos; I was in the mood for a warm, cheesy-chewy something. Enchiladas!

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The sweet potato, black bean, and mozzarella enchiladas are my own creation; the sauce is inspired by edible perspective. The result was just what I had been hoping for: sweet potato contrasts beautifully with the tangy sauce and a bite of cool guacamole. Beans and cheese contribute protein and bind it all together. The enchiladas are also easy and quick to put together — we had dinner on the table in less than an hour.

Sweet Potato, Black Bean & Mozzarella Enchiladas (makes 8 enchiladas, enough for 3-4 people; sauce adapted from edible perspective)

Ingredients

  • Sweet Potato-Black Bean filling:
    • 1 onion, peeled & sliced thinly
    • 1 tsp cumin, ground
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
    • to taste: salt & pepper
    • 1 large sweet potato, diced very small
    • 1 can black beans
  • Enchilada sauce:
    • 600g tomato sauce/passata
    • 1/3 cup tomato paste
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1 onion, chopped roughly
    • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 tbsp ground sweet pepper/paprika
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 8 flour tortillas
  • 300g grated mozzarella cheese
  • Guacamole, for serving

Procedure

  • Make sweet potato-black bean filling: Sauté sliced onion in some neutral oil over medium heat until it begins to soften, 3-4 minutes. Add the spices and diced sweet potato; stir to combine. Cover the pan and let the sweet potato cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 15-20 minutes. Stir in the black beans and turn the heat to low.
  • While the sweet potatoes are cooking, make the sauce: combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and puree with an immersion blender, then bring to a boil and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 180C and grab your largest baking dish.
  • Assemble enchiladas: Scoop ~1/2 cup of sweet potato-black bean filling into a tortilla, sprinkle with mozzarella, then roll tightly and put into the baking dish. Repeat until you’ve used all the tortillas and/or filling — they should be nestled tightly together in the dish. Pour as much sauce as you want over the rolled tortillas (we ended up with extra sauce) and sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella over the top.
  • Bake enchiladas for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is nicely browned. (While the enchiladas are baking, make guacamole.) Serve hot with a big scoop of guac and/or sour cream.

Enjoy!