Thursday, December 18, 2008

My BlackBerry Just Got Cooler

I tried out Google's Sync for my BlackBerry, and it was horrible.  I never kept up with my Google contacts, only my Outlook/BBerry contacts, and Google overwrote all my data with it's old data, and then when I would fix it, it would just reinstate it's bad data.  Thankfully I was able to preserve my Outlook data by not syncing.

Removing Google Sync turned out to be quite a pain, and I wound up having to wipe my BBerry, and clear all the software, and reinstall from scratch.  In doing so, I also updated my device software, and now it's looking better than before.

One of my few complaints about the AT&T Curve (8310) was that I couldn't download AIM or Yahoo! Messenger.  I could only by third party software that was always slower.  That is fixed, and now I can log in to all my IM accounts.  One of my other complaints - no HTML emails.  Now I have HTML emails.  Also, if I have a picture saved in someone's contact, that picture shows up in the header for emails from them - just like in Outlook.

There's also multi-folder support.  If you have two calendar folders, you can sync both, but new entries you make in your BBerry will only go on the default folder.  But you could always make a note to yourself to transfer that entry over.

I haven't been able to play with it much yet, so there are probably other new things I have yet to discover.  But I'm excited all over again.

Bobby's HTC died a couple weeks ago.  A friend got the BlackBerry Storm, and after playing with it a bit we were both quite envious.  Bobby has been telling me he needs a new phone, and I was telling him that no, he needs to wait - he can't just get a new phone because he wants one.  But then, it proved to be insane.  The phone.  He turned it on, and it just started beeping, as if someone were pressing buttons, but no one was touching it.  He set it on the counter, and it dialed a number on it's own.

If we had Verizon, or our AT&T contracts were up anytime soon, we probably would have switched to Verizon for the Storm, and so the contract could be in the company's name instead of ours, but we already have contracts with AT&T on two of our three phones - one with a year left, one with almost 2 years left.

I was pushing him to get a BlackBerry, just because I love mine so much, but he wound up choosing an iPhone instead.  So far he likes it.  He's got another 2 weeks before he has to commit, so we'll see.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Rain

Boy did it pour here today.

I am fully aware that I live in Southern California, and that "it rained a lot here" doesn't compare to a great many other places, but for SoCal, it rained A LOT!

Emma is learning the clarinet, and she had her first show today.  The school had planed 2 assemblies in the morning, and a show for the parents in the evening, but Bobby had his last final that night so we planned to make it to the 9:20 assembly.  I took the day off, and planned to take advantage of the free time and get a haircut as well.  We were, as usual, running a bit later than preferred, and Bobby was driving a little faster than I would like, but we made it there safely, and just at 9:20.

But as we were walking up - there were parents walking away, saying that the second assembly had been cancelled due to the rain.  You see, the kids were to be sitting on the floor of the cafeteria, and with the rain they would be tracking in water and mud that the faculty didn't want them to wind up sitting in.  They'd already sent all the kids back to class, so we asked if they could get Emma out of class so we could at least say hello and tell her how bummed we were that we couldn't see her play.  She was obviously super excited to see us, but didn't seem upset that we missed the show.

So we hopped on the freeway to travel the one exit from near Emma's school to near Bobby's sister-in-law's mom's salon where I was going to get my haircut.  It took 40 minutes.

A smaller semi had rammed into the back of a FedEx semi, and the FedEx semi had wound up jacknifed across all the lanes of the freeway.  After my haircut, we got onto the freeway to head back home so Bobby could get to a job inspection he had scheduled.  On the way, we saw two more jacknifed semis.  The cabs of both had clearly swung all the way around on the driver's side to ram up against their trailers, because the driver's side doors of each were well dented.  There were also two autos that had spun out, and traffic overall was quite bad.  I was glad I would be staying home the rest of the day.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Interesting Article

My blog reading led me to this article today about perceived healthfulness of a food hiding the actual healthfulness of that food.  I'll admit it, I don't eat at Subway but I do view deli sandwiches as healthier than McDonald's, but I also would never eat a 12" sandwich.  I'm a sucker for the chips though.

In fact, I refuse to eat at McDonald's, and avoid all those burger chains as much as I can.  I make a better burger anyway.  ;)

I find that if I go out for lunch I'm tempted to eat a larger portion, feel overly full, and then experience a sort of food-coma.  But when I make my own lunch, I eat a smaller portion, don't feel weighed down, and remain productive.  I wonder how many calories my homemade, no mayo, toasted roast beef & muenster sandwich with olive oil-sauteed mushrooms and onions with marinated spinach and tomato has.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Old Cookbooks

Bobby invited us to my parents' house for dinner tonight.

Well, actually we made plans to meet up with my brother-in-law there - he was going to do some work for Bobby.  We've actually overbooked work this month, and my brother-in-law could use the extra.  So they were going to meet up and go over plans and what needed to be done, and he asked mom if she minded if we stay for dinner.  She was home alone (dad was on travel), and loved the idea.

We went with a standard of hers - marinated and grilled tri tip.  She's really good at it.  We pulled out some salad leftover from Friday's Thanskgiving, I sauteed some Brussels sprouts, and we dipped baguette slices in olive oil.  Really simple, but really tasty.

After dinner we talked for awhile, and I asked where the recipe for German pancakes was.  She pulled out a cookbook that must have been my great-grandmother's and gave it to me.  Along with another cookbook of a similiar age.  Now I can't wait to try out that recipe.

Stock & Christmas Preparations

I made lots of turkey stock this weekend.  I knew Bobby's mom was going to have tons of leftovers, and I asked if I could have one of the Turkey carcases.  "Of course!"  Ruhlman inspired me.

So last night I chopped it up and spread it around into my three dutch ovens (which made me want a nice stock pot like this one), added bay leaves, thyme, parsley, carrots, celery, parsnips, onions and garlic to each pot, filled with water, and turned on the burners.  I put them on high until the liquid was starting to give off steam, before the boil.  I turned the burners way down until they were barely on, and left them like that for about four hours while Emma, Bobby, and I decorated for Christmas and watched Get Smart.

Get Smart was very funny.  It has been a long while since I've laughed out loud so much at a movie, and it felt good.  Much of it was silly and cheesy, but Steve Carell carries it all off well.  Between this movie and Dan in Real Life, he is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

I'd cleared a spot in the corner next to the television, and we'd picked up a Noble Fir from Home Depot along with a couple of decorations.  Last year was the first year we bought decorations for the house, and I figure we'll pick up a couple each year for few years until we have a nice set.  At my parents we seem to have decorations that go in the same designated spots each year.  The stocking are always hung the same way, with the same false-tree garland lining the top of the board they hang from, and the stuffed Noel bear always wind up in the same spot on the wall.  Before they redid the front of the house, we always had the same garland-lights set that was hung around the front window.  

When I was young, I remember always spending the night before Christmas at my grandparents' house.  There was no door to the back room, where the tree and stockings always were, so the adults would pile the pillows (Gma always had lots of odd pillows around) to fill up the entire doorway.  If any of the kids was trying to peak and knocked it down, there was no way for them to pile the pillows back up that high.

I don't remember when we switched from Christmas at Gma's to Christmas at home and then visiting extended family later in the day or the next day.  The stockings were the key though - where the stockings were is where Christmas morning was going to be.  As we were decorating, but not putting up stockings, I thought about that.  When does that transition occur - when do the stockings move from your parents' house to your house?  

This may sound silly, but the stockings themselves are a question for me.  The organizer part of me loves that the stockings at my family's house are all matching with our names embroidered on them.  But some part of me also loves the idea of always having the same stocking.  Bobby's family has all different mismatched stockings that are all very unique.  What will our stockings be like on the fateful year in which we do switch to Christmas at our home?

My family usually reschedules our holidays, because we are so many and the most important part is that as many of us as possible can be together.  But it means that we don't have Christmas morning together.  One thing about Christmas morning with my family that I loved was German pancakes.  It wasn't every year by any means, but making them was such a production that it only happened on special occasions, and Christmas morning qualified.  Mom and Dad would work together to make the pancakes, that were made only one at a time and required a cast iron pan and the oven, and we would eat them as they came out, warm and crispy, and covered in jam, cinnamon cooked apples, or powdered sugar and fresh squeezed lemon.  Mmmm... so tasty.

Bobby's family has their own routine.  We all stay the night at his parents' house, but by stay the night, I mean stay up all night wrapping and arranging.  And by all night, I mean 4am or later.  If you were set to sleep on the couch in the living room, good luck.  My sweet spot for sleep is 11pm to 7am, so this is something I'm still adjusting to.  Even 3am is way past my bedtime.  Whether or not we have Emma determines if we wake up at 7am or 8am to start, or if we sleep until Bobby goes to pick her up at 10am.

It's interesting to see how our different customs and traditions meld together, and how we establish our own.  Choosing holiday decorations and deciding where they'll go year after year, and establishing our own holiday routines.  I wonder what traditions we'll develop and keep.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Part Deux

There was something wrong with me today.  I could feel it.  Bobby had to drive out to Crestline for work and wasn't going to make it, so I was home alone most of the day.  But my brain was feeling fuzzy.

My mom's family did Thanksgiving today, and I was set to bring Spinach Artichoke Dip.  We were skipping the turkey dinner and doing lasagna instead - with salad and garlic bread.  Gma always made great lasagna.  I had also decided to give my Gma's Pecan Rolls a try, but I hadn't told anyone because I didn't want to get any hopes up.  The recipe card she gave me leaves quite a lot to interpretation and guesswork so I had no idea how it would turn out.  

I roasted the garlic last night, so I only needed a few things - paremsan cheese, box of frozen chopped spinach, and mayo.  There were a couple other things I needed to pick up for the house, but that was essentially my list.  For some reason, pulling out the driveway, I had this ominous feelign like I was going to back into someone, or had left the stove on, or left the fron door unlocked... something.  I made it to the store, found my items, reviewed my list to make sure I'd gotten everything, and made it home okay.  I unpacked, and realized I'd forgotten the spinach.

I'd reviewed the list, and still forgot the spinach.

Mom had mentioned reheating and bringing the leftover Cauliflower and Brussels Sprout Gratin from yesterday, so I was about to just give up on the dip altogether.  But mom called and asked if I needed her to bring anything, and I asked for spinach.

The pecan rolls seemed to be coming along, but it was becoming clear that with all the rising involved, there was no way I was going to get these done in time.  No worries, I would just eat them myself.

Mom & Dad arrived and I put the gratin in the oven, mixed the spinach into the dip and put that in the oven too.  We prepared a caprese salad while everything warmed up.  When I went to put the leftover spinach in the freezer, what did I find but a bag of frozen spinach.  Yep, my brain is really not functioning.  I rolled out the pecan roll dough, then rolled it with butter, brown sugar, and raisins, and cut it into slices and lined the pan.  It was supposed to rise again, so it would have to do that while we ate.  We headed to the nursing home.  I was still feeling weird, so I just tagged along with them.

Lunch was delicious.  Lisa made some awesome lasagna, and all the extras were great too.  I'd forgotten how good the spinach dip was and ate more than I probably should have.

When we got back, the pecan rolls had definitely risen - almost out of the pan.  I will have to do smaller slices next time around, but I threw it in the oven anyway.  About 20 minutes later, I pulled the rolls out of the oven and turned them out onto a sheet of aluminum foil.  The center collapsed, and clearly wasn't quite done (probably because they were so fat), but the outer edges came out quite nicely.  Mom, Dad, Nigel, Lisa, and I all tried some of the peices that were done and agreed it was a worthy first effort.  Next time I'll get those right.

Bobby didn't get home until nearly 6 pm, and at that point I was curled up on the couch watching Devil in a Blue Dress (great movie, check it out).  I felt blah, and he was exhausted.  So he collapsed and I just stayed there.

I love this streaming Netflix through the XBox.  I can't wait until they have more title available for it.  Rewinding and all that could obviously still use some work, but for what it is, it's great.

Going to head to bed now.  We know it's early, but it's been a long pre-weekend.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


In my last post I was complaining about how slow it was.  Last week was completely different - I was super busy.  So busy that I didn't even have time to read the blogs I follow, let alone post my own.  And yet, I still made it out of work before 1pm on Wednesday so I could get my holiday grocery shopping done on the way home.

And it was truely quite a bit of grocery shopping.  I, of course, have favorite places to shop for particular things - Whole Foods for most produce, Trader Joes for particular items (like mixed pearl onions, mixed baby yams and sweet potatoes, and spring mix), I had a stop to make at Target for a spring form pan.  After stopping at a reprographics place to buy paper for our plotter and picking up and delivering a prescription fo my Gpa, I finally made it home at 4:30.  That's right, over 3 1/2 hours of grocery shopping and errands.

There was still lots to do.  Thanksgiving dinner was to be at Bobby's parents house, and my parents would be joining us.  Bobby's mom was oven roasting a turkey, making regular stuffing and gravy, and warming up the dinner rolls, his sister was making pumpkin soup, sister-in-law making cranberry sauce, and his brother was deep frying a turkey and making mashed potatoes.  I was feeling ambitious, and had signed up to make:
Roast Sweet Potatoes, Pearl Onions, and Butternut Squash
Green Beans, Pearl Onions and Slivered Almonds
Mixed Green Salad

Bobby was convinced I'd purchased way too much food, but I knew that once we started preparing it the bags would condense down.  It would still be too much food, but that had more to do with the fact that we were making so many things.  I knew his parents' house would be busy and crowded, so I went to my parents' to prep food while Bobby went out with his brother.  Dad even helped by trimming Brussels sprouts.  Mom and I spent the evening trimming and peeling and chopping.  Then we sat down to watch The Colbert Report.  

Bobby came home during the show, and I expressed my surprise that he was home so early.  I'd expected him to be out quite late since it is so rare that he can go out with his brother.  But he said he was tired and that the bars out there don't have the kind of beer he likes.  Just not a Bud Light fan.  C'est la vie.  So we drank wine together and watched the end of the Report, and then crawled into bed.

I had decided to only make a half batch of the Wild Mushroom and Spinach Stuffing, so in the morning I took some of my excess mushrooms and shallots and cream and whipped up a little mushroom and shallot egg scramble with cheddar and jack cheese on top while mom made bacon.  Breakfast has always been a meal I love and it was nice to sit down to it with my parents.

After breakfast I went back to my prep work while Bobby worked on a plan.  We knew that if we went to his parents' house we would be less productive.  The kitchen would already be crowded, and everyone else would be bustling around the house cleaning up and preparing for company.  So we stayed at my parents' and worked there.

For the Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Pearl Onions, and Butternut Squash - everything was just cut in bitesized peices, tossed in butter, salt, and pepper, then baked for an hour at the same temp everything else was - 375.  For the Green Beans - just threw some butter and a little water in a saute pan, added in the beans and halved pearl onions, and covered and cooked until just tender.  Everything else was according to the recipes, except that I only blanced the Brussels sprouts and cauliflower for 3 minutes, not 3 and 5.  I like them a little crunchier.

Timing turned out to be just about perfect.  We took everything out of the oven and headed over to his parents' to arrive right on time with hot food.  The turkeys weren't quite ready yet, but my part was done now.  Mom brought some really nice red wine, and Bobby brought a bottle of port to go with dessert.

Everything was delicious.  Both turkeys came out moist and tender, and sides that came out especially well were the pumpkin soup, cranberry sauce (which I normally don't care for), and the wild mushroom stuffing.  Brian's mashed potatoes and my mushroom leek soup were delicious as always.  Both the babies fell asleep right at the table, while chewing their turkey, but woke from their nap in time to watch Wall-E while we ate dessert and had coffee or tea.  In addition to my pumpkin cheesecake (which was good, but in my opinion not as good a a slice each of plain cheesecake and pumpkin pie), there were pumpkin, peach, and pecan pies.  All went nicely with the port.

Of which I had a tad too much.  Along with the wine.  Bobby finally had to gather me up and take me home.  We knew we'd be back Saturday morning so there was no need to worry about taking leftovers home with us just yet.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Waiting for the minutes to tick by

What a waste of a day.

Last night I was giving serious thought to staying home.  There was plenty I could do at home, but work was going to be slow.  With next week being a holiday week, I'm slow this week, and will be super busy next.  So today, I've done near to nothing.  I really should have stayed home and done something productive.

Instead I'm window shopping.  Lately I've been a little obsessed with the things my kitchen needs, or more accurately, things I want for my kitchen.  I don't need a KitchenAid Stand Mixerwith cool pasta roller attachemntsor a new egg beater(mine is functional, but ancient with only one speed, and the blades sometimes slide out), but I want them.  I have this vision of all black and chrome appliances, enough all white table settings in the event that my whole immediate family came over for dinner (I figure 20 place settings), a full compliment of cookware...

I actually have a fairly nice set of copper bottom/copper-clad stainless steel skillets that my Gma left me, and one nice cast iron pan that mom gave me.  But I don't have a roasting pan.  Until now, when I want to cook a chicken I've used a baking dish.  When I make a tri tip or rib roast - I use the pan that came with my toaster oven, which is a little small.

So days like this, I build my imaginary kitchen repertoire.  In my mind I buy stuff I don't have (like a food processor,cutting board with one of those grooves so the meat juice doesn't drip all over the table when I cut it up,or a nice Dutch oven), and replace all my stuff that isn't as good as I want it to be (like that egg beater or my garlic press).

I can't buy anything right now, but hopefully soon I can start buying one piece at a time.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I'm so sore

We spent the weekend trimming trees.  There are pictures here, and a video of a rather large branch coming down below.  Despite the headline on the video, it wasn't an accident.  The branch was tied, just so long that once it was cut the end of the branch hit the roof.  That's why it just sort of hangs there next to the house afterwords.

I was really sore at the end of the day yesterday - just walking around took effort.  Today I'm starting to feel better.  It was two days of work, and a lot more physical activity than I'm used to.  We filled an entire 18 ft. roll off dumpster, and had to compact it down quite a bit to get it all in there.  Even Emma was helping.  There's a picture in there of all of us - not sure if you can tell just how dirty we are, but my face was so dirty I had raccoon eyes when I took my sunglasses off.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I don't want to eat that

I know I was just telling you yesterday that I like Olive Garden, but I do have some standards.  I try not to eat fast food.

If I am going to get something fast, I try to avoid the major chains.  No McDonald's, Carl's Jr., Buger King, etc.  I will go for In-N-Out, Best Burger, a taqueria where they barely speak English, or a sandwich place.  But I normally try to opt for a Mom 'n Pop joint.

If we pick Emma up on a Saturday morning and she hasn't eaten breakfast yet, Bobby will ask her where she wants to go for breakfast.  The first answer is always McDonald's.  Then I basically refuse to eat breakfast there, and give Bobby a hard time about letting his daughter eat McDonald's.  Why?  Because I'm crazy.

Not crazy in my mind, but Bobby is sure there is nothing wrong with the occasional fast food.  I think it has something to do with the fact that he's always concerned Emma doesn't eat enough meat, and I'm always concerned she doesn't eat any vegetables.

I'm convinced that fast food is one of the major culprits in the obesity crisis facing the nation. And not just on a per person basis.  I read an article in Discover magazine that made my crazy a little worse.  DNA Is Not Destiny talked about how different stimuli can tweak epigenomes - basically your bodies instructions for what to do with its DNA.  For example, by changing the diet of the mother mouse (a particular kind of mouse that is prone to certain diseases, like obesity), scientists were able to breed out that predisposition.  The whole article is pretty good, and goes into more stimuli than just diet.  (Yes, I know, I'm a nerd.)

I like to extrapolate stuff like this out.  In my mind I started connecting dots that maybe don't have a connection in real life... but could.  Is it possible that it's just coincidence that obesity is on the rise just as the people that were raised eating fast and processed food frequently have children?  Could it be that people's poor diet affects not just them, but actually triggers epigenomes that affect their children... and grandchildren?

The other day I was looking up foods that are good for your skin (because I really do believe many of our health problems are related to a lack of proper nutrition) and wound up on the Wikipedia page for Omega-3 fatty acids.  You know what I noticed popping up a couple of times?  The diet of the animals in our diet.
  • "Eggs produced by chickens fed a diet of greens and insects produce higher levels of n−3 fatty acids (mostly ALA) than chickens fed corn or soybeans. In addition to feeding chickens insects and greens, fish oils may be added to their diet to increase the amount of fatty acid concentrations in eggs."
  • "The n−6 to n−3 ratio of grass-fed beef is about 2:1, making it a more useful source of n−3 than grain-fed beef, which usually has a ratio of 4:1."
  • "Commercially available lamb is almost always grass-fed, and subsequently higher in n−3 than other common meat sources."
  • "The omega-3 content of chicken meat may be enhanced by increasing the animals' dietary intake of grains such as flax, chia, and canola."
  • "Milk and cheese from grass-fed cows may also be good sources of n−3."
Farm animals fed grass produce food with higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, which is something many people don't get enough of.  (You know why they say salmon is good for you?  Especially wild caught salmon?  High in Omega-3 fatty acids.)  You know what most farm animals in this country are fed?  Corn.  Why?  If you pack a lot of animals into a space, you don't have a lot of space for grazing.  Also, it makes them fat quicker.

Oddly enough, I then came across this Forbes article this morning.  I suppose it just adds fuel to my fire, even though I wasn't in any way under the impression that the mass produced meat used in fast food restaurants was on the healthy side.

Concerns about my health lead to concerns about my diet, then to the foods I eat, and then to the health of my food.  This kind of stuff makes me wish there was a way for me to tell when I go to Stater Bros., how the animal was raised.  Without doing all my meat shopping at Whole Foods (I don't mind paying more, but their meat is crazy expensive).  Damn, I wish I could get to a farmer's market more often.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mmm.. Guess what I just did

Maybe this is silly, and no one else will care, but I'm getting better at this making up dishes as I'm throwing them together.  Today, it was soup.

I know that Olive Garden isn't real Italian food.  Really I do.  But I still like it.  Bobby and I went last night, and before we left we got a Pasta e Fagioli for his sister who was home sick.  Now, I've never had their Pasta e Fagioli (which I'm sure bears no resemblance to the actual dish, but Erica assured me was very tasty), but just reading the description made me start thinking about tomatoes, pasta, beans, broth...

It may have been even better in my head than in real life.

Oh, and I have that leftover Beef Provençal from last week that I need to use up.  And Erica is sitll sick, which to me means she needs soup... with tomatoes (all that Vitamin C!).  So I started thinking about all the flavors I wanted, and what I needed to use.  I decided the beans and beef would be a little too much for now, maybe next time.  This is what I came up with.

I boiled 1/2 cup of small elbow macaroni in about 1 1/2 cups of well salted water with a little olive oil in it.  Before I threw the pasta in, I blanced a handful of pearl onions.  After I threw the pasta in the water, I halved and peeled the onions and peeled and thinly sliced 2 cloves of garlic (because my press was dirty).  In another pot I heated some olive oil and added the onions and garlic, then seasoned with salt and pepper.  I let that sweat a bit, mixing it around occasionally until I started to worry the garlic would brown.  I added 1 can diced tomatoes, with juice, 1 cup leftover beef, torn into bite size bits, and 3/4 to 1 cup leftover Beef Provençal sauce.  By this time the elbow macaroni was mostly cooked (but not all the way), and I dumped the pasta and pasta water into the tomato mixture.  Then I let that simmer while I washed the dishes that had piled up.

My first small bowl was delicious.  The broth was tasty (mmm... I love broth), and all the flavors went really well together.  The second bowl had less broth, because the noodles had soaked more up at that point.  But it was still delicious.  This time instead of soup it was more like noodles with meat and tomatoes and onions and flavor.

So far, when I take my leftovers, add a few veggies and some water, maybe some rice or pasta, and some extra seasoning - it has come out wonderful.  I don't even use stock - just water.  The last time it was leftover baked chicken - cooked some mirepoix, cubed potatoes, and garlic in some olive oil, added water, a whole cooked chicken thigh, wild rice, salt, pepper, and a bay leaf.  Then let it simmer for a while.  It may have been some of the best chicken soup I've ever had.

I love soup, and in the past I haven't done well with leftovers.  I just don't like the idea of eating the same thing over again most of the time.  But I think I'll have to start doing this more often... this morphing of leftovers into soup.  Soup is perfect for work, since they keep it like an icebox (earlier this week I had on a cowlneck sweater, a fur lined jacket, and had a lap blanket, folded in half covering my legs and was by no means overly warm).

Also, I'm going to have to try making Pasta e Fagioli.  I don't eat many beans, thouh I hear they are good for me.  Maybe next week.

My oven is wrong

The last time I saw my mom make a rib eye roast, she had invited Bobby and I over kind of last minute because she needed an excuse to make the roast she'd picked up.  It had been on sale, but it was too much food for just her and dad.  So Bobby and I just came over and hung out one weekend afternoon.  I watched her look up how long to cook it in this really old cookbook she's had as long as I can remember, Let's Cook it Right.  It's one of those books that looks like your great-grandmother maybe gave it to your grandmother, who gave it to your mother.  It's old.  I think it's also where our banana bread recipe, and our german pancake recipe came from.

Anyway, the book had this chart that listed the kinds of meats, and the temperature at which to cook them and for how long to achieve rare, medium-rare, etc. (those are the only two I find acceptable, so I usually just stop there).  I suddenly wanted the book very badly.  I don't have a lot of experience cooking roasts, and I hate dry, overcooked beef, so I've been reluctant to jump into making them.  This roast was not dry or overcooked - it was perfectly juicy and somewhere between rare and medium-rare.  Practically melted in your mouth.  I wanted that chart.

So I found the book on Amazon and bought it.  There's actually a little narrative in the beginning, where the author rips present day cookbooks (present day being 1947).  She basically says that current methods seem to have been created to strip the flavor and nutrients out of food.  As if other cookbook authors are plotting to destroy humankind with bad food.  (I wonder what she would say about fast food...)  She states that her goal is to provide simple recipes that maximize nutrition and taste while minimizing work for the cook.

Now to test the chart.  Rib Eye roasts were on sale recently - only $4.19/lb., so I bought a roast.  Okay, now what do I do with it?  I hadn't even thought about what to season it with, so I went with the same thing I smother my steaks with before grilling them - olive oil, a little truffle oil, salt, pepper, and lots of crushed garlic.  Okay, according to my chart, 300 degrees, and 20 min/lb. should put me at the high end of rare, or the low end of medium-rare.

But after my requisite hour, I stuck in my instant read thermometer, and it hadn't even reached the low end of rare yet...

Cookies always take longer to bake in my oven than my instructions say they should.  I used to think this was because I always made the dough balls larger than they say to, but maybe the temperature in my oven is just off...

Well, I stuck my roast back in a good 30 minutes longer, before the temp actually read something appropriate.  Mmm... but then after letting it sit a few minutes and then slicing it open - it was perfect.  Rave reviews all around.  I've already made it again - this time setting the oven at 325 degrees, and even then it took longer than expected.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I was just saying this

When Jessica & Nathan came for a visit, we of course discussed work and the economy.  Nathan, who is now managing a McDonalds, mentioned that McDonalds' revenues are up 11%.  I'm not sure if that was his store or McDonalds as a whole, but I said it was to be expected - because most people can't cook.

There are of course many who can, but as a population there are fewer households with someone that can and has time to cook.  So instead of cutting back on eating out, like Bobby and I have done, many families are switching from eating out at Applebees, to eating out at McDonalds.  Hence the increase.

Great Show

I always loved The West Wing.  It really was a great show.
In the scene below, President Bartlett, who is a devote Catholic, challenges a radio personality about the implications of literal translations of the bible.  Very little of the show focuses on religion in this manner, but this is a really good scene.

Sad News

Michael Crichton died today.

When I was young, I read a lot of Michael Crichton - Jurrasic Park, Congo, Sphere, Disclosure, Rising Sun, Timeline, Prey.  Sphere was particularly memorable for me, because my family read it together around the campfire during a weeklong camping trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon.  We all have an afinity for sci-fi, and Crichton had a knack for blending real scientific theories and principles with fiction.  Some of the movies I enjoyed, others I thought were just okay or somewhat corny, but every one of the books above is a great read.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I'm Back

I know, I have been very neglectful of my blog.  In fact, I think I've been very neglectful of a great many things lately.  Life has been super hectic in general - running around here and there, the two weeks spent without a car, and drama at work.  I can barely get my grocery shopping done.  We've been sort of living off of the food in the house, only running to pick up some meat or veggies when we must.

I haven't been very adventurous with my cooking lately... difficulties getting to the grocery store, the fact that many of the dishes I wanted to make would take hours, and there are only so many weekend days I can be adventurous, unless I want to spend the evening pressuring Emma to eat her dinner.  If we are even home.  Oh, and if my adventurous, long cooking meal happens to be chicken... I have to listen to Bobby complain a bit too, because he thinks he hates chicken.

Jessica and Nathan came out for a visit just before my birthday.  Alora is very young right now and not familiar with us, so she was very clingy to her mom and dad.  We had a birthday dinner for Malachy on that Thursday at my parents' house.  Bobby's sister Erica and sister-in-law Jessica came by with the kids and all the kids played in the back room, running around and tossing a ball back and forth.  It was one of those rare moments when all the kids not only get along, but the normally crazy ones are actually quite calm and considerate of others.

That Friday Jessica, Nathan, my parents, and my aunt Lisa and uncle Nigel came to our house for dinner.  I had been wanting to make this Provençal Rack of Lamb, but mom bought pre-seasoned lamb racks, so we improvised.  Dad grilled the lamb (okay, he torched the lamb, and part of my tree), and I made roasted potatoes and tomatoes.  

I chopped smallish white potatoes and sweet potatoes into bitesized peices, sliced a few cloves of carlic, and tossed it all with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  I spread it out on a pan and put it in the oven at around 350.  I halved and seeded the tomatoes, salted the open side and set them open side down for about 10 minutes.  I put the ends of my loaf of Oroweat 7 Grain Bread into my little Cuisinart Mini Prep Food Processor and ground it into crumbs, then mixed that with some kosher salt, pepper, and olive oil.  I turned my tomatoes cut side up and put a layer of my crumb mixture on the top, then spooned a teaspoon or so of Gorgonzola on top each tomato.  I pulled the potatoes out, and nestled the tomatoes right on top of them and stuck the whole thing back in the oven.  The potatoes cooked for probably 50 min-1 hr, the tomatoes around 30 min.

It all came out quite delicious, and even though the lamb was charred on the outside, the center was a nice medium rare.

We also got around to some pumpkin carving.  On my birthday, Emma and I went to Target to complete her costume and check out their pumpkin selection while Bobby and his brother went to get some supplies for a project they are working on.  Turns out Target has a pretty decent pumpkin selection for pretty good prices.  We ended up picking out two medium sized pumpkins and one small pumpkin.  The small one was so I could try out making pumpkin puree.  Which I did, but not with that pumpkin - that one I still have.  Mom gave me another pumpkin, and I not only made puree, but I made more pumpkin bread with it.

I did go to two Halloween parties (on the same night, two weeks before Halloween), then had a Halloween party at my place the night of.  It was just a small group, but that is what I prefer.  Especially when it is at my house.  Steve came out and DJed for us, and he's a pretty awesome DJ.  We set up the projector on the back patio and played movies on the pull down shade - it looked so cool, Erica, Bobby, and I decided we needed to have movie night on the patio regularly.

Mom had purchased some zucchini for our lamb dinner, but we didn't get around to using it.  That is, until Sunday morning when it hadsat in my fridge a few days and I, fresh off my pumpkin bread kick, decided I should make Zucchini Bread.  Zucchini bread is one of those breads that doesn't sound delicious, but really is.  I used to buy slices of it in college.  Tea with milk and zucchini bread.  Mmm... so good on cold gloomy afternoons.  My bread came out lovely.  Bobby tried it and said he really liked it... but wasn't sure weather or not he liked it more than the pumpkin bread.  He'd have to eat more of each before deciding.

Sunday afternoon I did get around to making a new something for dinner.  Rather ambitious I thought: Beef Provençal.  I cheated a little - I used a can of diced tomatoes instead of smooshing canned whole ones, and I didn't know what to put in the "sun dried tomato tapenade" so I just put some jarred sun dried tomatoes and capers into my Cuisinart and pureed it.  It was all mighty tasty, and since the roast was only like $6.50, the meal was pretty inexpensive as a whole.  And considering the whole thing was easily 6+ servings, I may have beat KFC's $10 challenge.  OK, the cognac may throw me over.

This morning I put a little of the leftover meat, veggies, noodles, and saucy juice into a tupperware, added a little water, and I'm eating it as soup right now.  Still very tasty.

I already voted today.  I will be really glad when the day and the election are over.  The presidential campaign has been too long and emotional, and all of the propaganda about Prop. 8 is really upsetting to me... not only do I not support such intolerance, but I also find the lies the Yes on 8 campaign is spreading such as the idea that churches will be sued for not marrying gay couples, or that schools will suddenly teach your kids to be gay.  Ridiculous.  Again, I will be glad to see it all end.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Good Riddance

That's it!  I give up!  I am removing my MSN Instant Messenger account from Trillian because all I get is spam messages.  "My cam still isn't working, message me so I can send you a cam invite."  Um, no.  All day.  And if I leave myself logged in overnight, then I must have 10-15 spam messages when I get in.

I should know better, I guess.  Many, many moons ago, when I signed up for hotmail way back in the day, it was soon so overwhelmed with spam it was practically unusable.  I think I'll stick with AIM and Gtalk.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Where is the Leadership?

I just came across an article in Bloomberg mentioning that President Bush spoke publicly twice today, saying that it will take awhile to restore confidence in the markets.

Just this morning I was telling Bobby that I thought Bush really should address the public, but not just to say that this would take awhile.  

The government can't just take care of this crisis alone, it will require a great many people and companies reinvesting and working hard.  Yes, the government working on a macro scale to work the credit markets back open will be a huge help, but the economy is not just an emotionless machine that will chug right back into motion.  It is made up of millions of people and all of their thoughts and emotions that affect millions of decisions every day.

In times of crisis, people look to their leaders.  Whether you like or dislike Bush doesn't matter, he is still the president, and what he says can affect people.  If instead of saying "Don't worry, we'll take care of it, just give us some time," what if Bush had come out with a call to action?  Tell the American people what we can take to help put us on the path to economic recovery, and end the downward spiral the panic has created.  If it were one of the candidates rather than Bush, wouldn't a show of actual leadership be more impressive than the politicing we've seen lately?

The American people, when faced with a common goal and directed by a strong leader, can work together pretty well.  Stop the divisive name-calling and blame-laying, figure out what steps can be taken by whom to combat this problem, and tell those people what they need to do.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Weather Changes

The weather is strange today.  There is a clear blue sky peaking out around gray clouds.  Driving to work this morning, the sun was still low and gave the sky a little bit a purple hue as well.  It looks as though it could clear into a beautiful warm day like yesterday, ... or it could rain as it is predicted to do tomorrow.  It feels cool and crisp out.

I love the time when the seasons change.  At the end of winter, I'm always ready for the sun to come out so I can eat meals on my back patio, go to beaches and parks, and wear skirts and sandals.  Now after a nice warm summer, I'm ready for cooler days and rainy days.  Days when I can make lots of soups and wear my boots and scarves; days when it will be pouring down rain and I'll be cozied up under a blanket watching movies or reading a book.

Lately I've been craving root vegetables, stews, and warm breads.  The most recent issue of Gourmet Magazine had a recipe for Pumpkin Walnut Bread that I've been dying to make, so Wednesday night I made it.  Pumpkin anything makes me think of fall, so it seemed the perfect way to welcome it.  

Erica and I used all the sugar in the house that night, making corn bread, madelines, and pumpkin bread.  I left out the walnuts (just because I didn't want to have to go to the store), and because I'm trying to eat more whole grains I added some wheat germ.  I've been eating it with cream cheese in the mornings, and Bobby and Erica can't stop eating it, but I do wish it were a little moister.  Perhaps next time I'll substitute butter or shortening for the oil, or throw in some apple sauce.

Makes 1 loaf
From The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet
Gourmet Magazine October 2008

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup (2 3/4 ounces) water
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
1 cup (9 ounces) canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup neutral-flavor vegetable oil (such as canola)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ounces) chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350°F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat the loaf pan with melted butter or high-heat canola-oil spray and line it with a piece of parchment paper that extends 1 inch beyond the edge of both sides of the pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and salt until thoroughly blended. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and water. Add the sugar and blend well. Add the pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract and blend well.

Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until blended and smooth. Add the walnuts and stir until they are evenly distributed. Use a spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and level the top.

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until the bread is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. To serve, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices by sawing gently with a serrated knife. Any leftovers should be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Potato Leek Soup

I tried it.  Bobby and Erica were in Norco today with Emma, so I was cooking for just me.  Sometimes I'm apprehensive about experimenting too much when I know it's dinner for more than just me because if it turns out terrible, we are either hungry or I have to pull something else together.

I'd divided my chicken stock into 2 cup portions and put it into the freezer, and I didn't want to thaw out more than one portion or make too much soup, so I translated the proportions used in Bittman's Minimalist post to suit my needs.

I warmed up the stock so that it was warm but not hot.  In the blender went 2/3 cup of Leek Confit, 2/3 cup of leftover Braised Potato Coins, and the 2 cups of stock.  I blended that to a puree, and put it back in the pan to warm it up.  Season with salt and I was done.  I didn't even put any dairy in it, although I have some leftover and could add it next time.  Had I a large enough sieve, and were I not hungry when I made the soup, I probably would have strained it a bit, but it was pretty tasty as it was.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Yes! I Did It Right

As you may recall, I was a touch concerned that I'd done something wrong when making my first chicken stock because it gelled up when refrigerated.  Turns out that's good.  This is from a Minimalist post I was linked to today (even though it is over three years old):

"...vegetables contain no gelatin, the stuff that makes good chicken stock gel when chilled."

I was also linked to this Minimalist post today (it's even older!).  I wonder if the leftover Braised Potato Coins and Leek Confit in my fridge blended with my chicken stock would make a nice soup...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

3 years

Today was Bobby and my third anniversary - we have been inseperable since the day after I came back from my European Vacation in 2005.

Bobby and I went to high school together our freshman year, and then he switched schools.  At the time, he was dating one of my good friend (Emma's mom), and I was seeing one of his best friends.  Along with one other couple we spent a summer as an insperable group of friends, out nearly every day.  After changing schools, we fell out of touch.  I did have him in a class during my first semester at community college, but I never went to that class so we fell out of touch once again.

Then came MySpace.  Lacee had finally convinced me to create a page.  I spent an evening looking up old friends, and Bobby was among the ones I found.  There was a polite hello, and then no contact again for months.

But that was back when I liked to post bulletins, and occasionally Bobby would respond to share his laughter, or to say how much he liked my posts.  Then one post, something about a conspiracy theory involving 9-11, made him call me and suggest we hang out.  Apparently he likes conspiracy theories.

Wouldn't you know, we only lived less than 15 minutes from one another, equidistant to Disneyland (we are both fans).  I was on my way home when he called, and was able to just meet up with him for dinner at Heroes in Fullerton.  We spent the evening catching up, telling old stories, and filling in the blanks.  Reuniting with old friends can sometimes be awkward, but we spent a good four hours hanging out, eating dinner and then watching Team America: World Police on his giant projector.  But after that, aside from forwarding funny emails, we didn't talk again for a couple months.

Among the things we'd discussed was an affinity for jazz, and he suggested I check out the local cafe, Steamers.  They have live music every night, and there's no door charge during the week.  Jessica and I went a couple times and loved it.  So one night I messaged Bobby to see if he wanted to go with me, and he did.  Again we hung out for hours.

After that we hung out a few times before Jessica and I left for our trip, and I think I emailed him every other day while I was gone.  Okay, sometimes it was every day.  Once I came back from my trip, I was with him every day, and have been since.

It is very rare that we spend longer than 12 hours away from one another, and I know it sounds sappy, but we get a little mopey when we do.  In some ways it feels like we've been together longer, and in other ways it feels like it hasn't been nearly that long.  Coming home to him at the end of the day always makes the day better.

We spent a quiet day alone together.  Aside from going out to breakfast, we didn't leave the house at all.  I made a nice salmon dinner, and we watched a movies together on the couch.  Nothing super special, but it was relaxing, and we both feet good about the day.  As uneventful as that sounds, I am happy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

What's wrong with what we eat

I came across this today.  I subscribe to Bitten, which is essentially a food blog on the New York Times websiite.  Near the bottom right of the page was a link to this speech.  Interesting things to think about.

I know I eat too much meat and not enough vegetables.  It's actually something I've been thinking about recently.  Changing is a challenge.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Steak with Parmesan Butter, Balsamic Glaze, and Arugula

This was another recipe in the latest issue of Bon Appetit that caught my eye.  I made it on a Friday a couple weeks ago when Jess and Brian were coming over.  Jessica and I ate the steak salad, but the boys chose to have their steaks whole, and the greens on the side (because apparently, you aren't supposed to "feed a lion lettuce."  Bobby thinks that phrase is hilarious; uses it all the time.  He fancies himself a carnivore, although I can get him to eat his vegetables).

Bon Appétit |  October 2008
Yield: Makes 2 servings

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese plus Parmesan cheese shavings
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 12-ounce rib-eye steak
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1/2 teaspoon (packed) dark brown sugar
4 cups (lightly packed) arugula
2 large lemon wedges

Mix grated cheese and butter in small bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper; set aside. Sprinkle steak generously with salt and pepper. Heat oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add steak; cook to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to plate. Add vinegar, shallots, and sugar to skillet; boil until reduced to glaze, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Divide arugula and Parmesan shavings between 2 plates. Squeeze lemon over. Slice steak; place atop arugula. Top steak with Parmesan butter. Drizzle lightly with glaze.

It was a tasty treat.  Every time I cook with balsamic vinegar I get a whiff of it in the pan, I think I lose some of my capability to smell and wonder how it could possibly come out good.  But then the finish product is lovely.

I'll make it again, but next time I'll toss the greens in the glaze, since it was a little thick for "drizzling."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My First Stock

I read this post on Michael Ruhlman's blog a couple weeks ago, and it was as if I was in trouble.  I always use Swanson's low sodium broth when I cook.  So, my wrist slapped, I decided to make chicken again so I could make stock with the leftovers.  Last night was the night.

I roasted a young chicken dressed with just salt, olive oil, and crushed garlic, and after dinner I pulled off most of the leftover meat (I left about two cups of meat on it for the broth because I read the article he linked to, specifically this quote: “If you want your soup to taste like scraps and bones, use scraps and bones. If you want it to taste like meat and vegetables, use meat and vegetables.”)

I did not have four hours though, so I looked around in a few places for stock recipes.  Some say to simmer it an hour and a half, some say four hours, some say in the oven, etc...  I went with something that fit my time frame.

I put the whole chicken carcas, with some meat and all the pan drippings (was that bad?), a chopped onion, two carrots, what celery I had left, a bay leaf, and a few peppercorns into the biggest stock pot I have (it's not that big), and filled it with water until it was all covered.  I brought it to just before a boil, then lowered the heat to a simmer, partially covered the pot.  It simmered for just over 2 hours, because that's when I wanted to go to bed.

I pulled the big stuff out of the stock with a slotted spoon, and then I lined a large strainer with cheesecloth and then poured the stock through the strainer into a giant measuring cup.  In the end I had about 8 cups of a rich colored stock.  So if I usually pay around $1.99 for a 16 oz. carton, and I paid $4.50 for the chicken, then I was paid $3.50.  Or I just made $8 in free stock.  Well, I did add all that stuff, but it probably wasn't $8 of stuff.  Whatever, in any case, the stock was basically free.

I'm sure it's low in salt, because I didn't add any so it would only have what I put on the bird itself and we didn't eat, but it may be on the fatty side (I wonder if including the pan drippings would add to the fat content), but I honestly don't eat that much fat as it is.  I stuck it in the fridge overnight, and there was definitley a layer of fat I could skim off the top by morning, but the whole thing had a somewhat gelatinous consistency (I know they make gelatin out of bones, maybe that's why).

Tonight I used it in a soup.

Cassoulet Soup
from, who got it from Bon Appetit
1 small onion, chopped
3 ounces kielbasa sausage or other, fully cooked smoked sausage, thinly sliced into rounds
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2/3 cup dry white wine
2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
1 15-ounce can cannellini (white kidney beans) or Great Northern beans, drained
1 1/2 cups diced leftover cooked goose, turkey or other dark poultry meat
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Sauté onion and kielbasa in heavy large saucepan over medium heat until onion is soft and sausage is light brown, about 8 minutes. Add thyme and stir 1 minute. Add wine and boil until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Mix in broth, 1 cup beans and goose or turkey. Mash remaining beans to coarse puree; add to soup. Partially cover pan and simmer soup until flavors blend, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle parsley over and serve.

I used 4 oz. of keilbasa (because it was easy to divide my 1 lb. package by 4), chicken instead of goose or turkey (that's what I had), two teaspoons of fresh thyme rather than dried (because I have it), and my gelatinous stock rather than low-salt broth (it thinned right out when warmed).   Other than that, I pretty much just followed the recipe, and oh my, was it delicious!  I've never had Cassoulet, so I can't confirm the reviews that said it tasted nothing like the real thing, but I can say it was a very enjoyable soup.  Was it better because of my stock?  I honestly have no idea (cheaper though, yes), I'll have to make it using both one time and do a taste test.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Normally, Friday evenings consist of Brian coming over so he and Bobby can jam until I'm tired and make them stop playing (usually a little after midnight).  This Friday was a tad different.

In honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day, Jon was having a party at his place, that was to eventually morph into bar hopping in downtown Fullerton.  So Bobby, Brian, Jessica and I got dressed up like pirates and joined the festivities.

We had a great time.  Jessica and I were obviously more dressed up than the boys, but Joh, and Steve, and the others made sure we weren't the only ones in pirate attire.  Bobby and I agreed that we should do it again sometime soon.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Braised Short Ribs... and Beef Ragu

Every time I receive the new Bon Appetit, I spend at least an hour perusing through it, making myself hungry, and trying to decide when would be a good time to try out the tastiest recipes in there.  I received the October issue last week, and decided I would start with the Braised Short Ribs recipe.

So Monday morning I threw everything together in the slow cooker.  I made a few changes: I used just under 4 lbs. of short ribs, rather than the 4 1/2 lbs. called for (all the packages were just under 2 lbs., and I didn't want to have to go across the street to Stater Bros. because their lines are always atrocious), and I used 8 oz. of mushrooms instead of 6 oz. (again, that was the size of the package, and you know how I am about mushrooms).  I used a Sangiovese for the red wine.

I had stayed home Monday, because I had a morning chiro appointment and was sore from the accident Saturday, and had so many other errands to run that I wouldn't have gotten much work done anyway.  So by midday when I made some awesome roast beef sandwiches (I love my new toaster oven!), the smell coming out of the slow cooker was just lovely.  As delicious as my sandwich was, I couldn't wait until dinnertime.

I made the Roasted Parsnips with Parsley that Bon Appetit paired with the short ribs.  Really simple, just roasted in olive oil, butter, parsley, salt and pepper.  I only made a half recipe of that, because the grocery store only had one 1 lb. package of parsnips, but it worked out perfectly.

The verdict - Very tasty.  I undersalted the meat before starting it all, but the meat was very tender.  I will definitely make it again.  Especially perfect for weeknights, since the work is ultra minimal.

The recipe fed the three of us, and left just enough to make the Beef Ragu with Pappardelle that Bon Appetit suggested making with the leftovers (again, feeding three).  Couldn't have been simpler - 1 cup of the leftover rib meat, 1 cup of the leftover Parsnips, 1 can of tomato sauce.  (I actually put that together when I was cleaning up after dinner on Monday, so I just had to put it in the pan.)  Mix it together and simmer while making the noodles.  I got a 4-serving package of the pappardelle from Trader Joe's.  When the pasta is done, season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.  Takes as long as it does to cook noodles.  If I had more than 1 cup of meat, I would probably throw that in too.

The ragu was even better than the ribs!  But then, that could be because I undersalted the ribs.  I will have to make them both again so I can decide for sure.  I do love pappardelle...


It's been really frustrating lately, hearing of all the turmoil on Wall Street.  I can't help but think that both the economy and these major corporations have been drastically mismanaged.  Unfortunately all of us will suffer for it.

Then today I read an article by Thomas Keller in the LA Times Food section.  Thomas Keller is a chef, owner of two three-star restaurants, and the chef Pixar worked with on Ratatouille.  One statement really stood out for me:

"We always must ask ourselves: "Is this opportunity right for me, for my staff, and for my industry?" If the answer to all three is yes, then you should pursue it to the very best of your ability.  But if the answer to even one of them is no, then no matter how attractive the opportunity might seem, you must make what is often the most difficult choice of all and just walk away"

It seems such a simple statement, and yet so true.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bad Car Day

I was really excited yesterday when I found out there is a farmer's market in Buena Park on Saturday mornings. I've been wanting to go to one, but I hadn't een able to find one that occured nearby when I wasn't working. So I planned to go this morning when Bobby was working on his homework.

Erica had taken the Civic for the weekend, since she doesn't have a car yet, and Bobby and I don't normally need more than one car on the weekends.

But when I made it out to the Accord, the tire was flat. I mean really flat. Like, couldn't be any flatter. The tire has been low consistently lately, and we knew we needed to replace the tires soon. I was hoping to sell it before then but oh well.

We didn't really want to wait while they changed out the tires, but again, Erica had the Civic, and Bobby's employee had the truck. But my dad's truck was at our house. Bootlegger's Brewery was getting a super deal on some new tanks, so my dad and brother had rented a flat bed truck to transport them... leaving his truck at my house. I called to ask if we could use the truck for a couple hours while we had new tires put on the Accord. "Sure, no problem."

So Bobby inflated the tire and hopped in the Accord, while I jumped in the truck. He decided to turn north on Brookhurst, while I decided to take advantage of the green light and continue on towards Euclid. Just after I went through the intersection, I saw the front of a car pull out right in front of me.

The woman had pulled out of a parking lot, crossed all the westbound lanes, and right out in front of me (the police confirmed she was clearly at fault). I couldn't see her until right before I hit her because she was hidden behind all the westbound cars waiting at the light, so I hit her at almost 40 mph.

Neither car was drivable afterwards, and we were stuck straddling the only two eastbound lanes. Firetruck, ambulance, two police cars, and two motorcycle cops - we got the full treatment. Had to shut down all eastbound traffic on Ball for at least a half hour. Two people in the other car went to the hospital, but everyone was able to get out of the car without aid, so no one was hurt too badly.

Even though it wasn't my fault, I felt pretty bad about my dad's truck. It's on the old and beaten side, so it would cost more to fix it than it's worth. My parents, of course, just keep telling me it's no big deal and they are just glad I'm okay, and now they seem to be excited about buying a new truck, as if I did them a favor by putting the final nail in the coffin.

You would think that were the end of my car troubles for the day, but it wasn't.

My farmer's market plans were aborted, and I just went back home to make some Spinach Artichoke Dip (that is an awesome recipe, and easy enough to half). My mom's family had planned a lunch at the nursing home to celebrate what would have been my grandparents' 54th anniversary, were my grandmother still alive. My aunt made some fantastic lasagna, my uncles a beautiful salad and garlic/butter bread, and my mom a pasta salad.

But when Bobby and I got in the car to head to the nursing home - the car wouldn't start.

After a couple minutes of retrying the key, it finally did start. The battery will likely also need replacing. Just add that to the list.

On the way to the party, we called Erica and told her to just be careful driving today. Call us superstitious, but it seems like we are having really bad luck with vehicles today. At the nursing home, chatting with my uncle, he said he's almost been run over by a car this moring, as a pedestrian. After the party, the car again wouldn't start for a few minutes.

My aunt, uncle and mom came by to chat and try a few wines. Dad and Murray joined us when they were done with at the brewery. We grilled up some burgers and ate leftover pasta salad.

When they all left, Brian and Jessica came over with her brother. Jessica told me that my Civic had been egged last night or early today, but they were able to wash it off before it dried. I'm telling you, a very bad day for me and cars...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

One Last Beach Trip

Emma had a little visitor last night. Brian and Jessica needed someone to watch the kids today, and while I'm not brave enough to take both of them on for a full day, I felt pretty comfortable offering to watch Caelyn. She generally behaves pretty well for me and she's potty trained. Very important.

Emma was super excited. Unfortunately for her, we don't know very many people with kids her age, so she's often stuck hanging out with a bunch of adults - or little kids. But she adores her cousins.

Emma had been asking about going to the beach, and Bobby had said "maybe." This, of course, translated to "yes" in her head, and she convinced herself that since her dad had not said "no" that we would be going. I had to admit, it sounded kind of nice, and though I tried stressing that "maybe" did not mean "yes," I secretly hoped he'd be able to get enough of his homework done so we could go... and made sure we brought beach supplies for Caelyn to come with us.

We didn't leave for home until somewhat late, and I was hoping the girls would be both be crashed out when we arrived. Caelyn did (yes!), but she woke up when I pulled her out of the car. We normally let Emma stay up late on weekends, but I was exhausted, and had them off to bed right away. Emma was pretty insistent that Caelyn could sleep next to her. After hearing a few "Shh Caelyn, we're supposed to go to sleep now" I peaked in to find them fast asleep. I'm quite sure it's not supposed to be this easy.

I woke up on the early side for me. I think I was anticipating that Caelyn would be waking early and wandering the house unchaperoned. That girl is capable of getting into way too much trouble, so I couldn't let that happen. But she wasn't up yet when I woke up (this is still going much too well), so I started making some tasty buttermilk pancakes. At around 7:30 I heard her stirring. So I came in and scooped her up so Emma could sleep in.

Caelyn apparently loves pancakes. She asked me what I was doing. "Making pancakes." Her eyes lit up, "yeah, pancakes!" She wolfed down the first two as soon as they were ready, along with a few peices of cantelope.

When Emma woke up she looked outside and her face fell. There was a considerable marine layer, and it couldn't have been warmer than 60 degrees outside. Not your ideal beach day, right? "We're probably not going to the beach, are we?"
"Well babe, we are maybe going to the beach. Maybe it will warm up in a few hours."

She was not convinced. But I was right, in a few hours we were looking outside and you could see the sun suddenly come out. Emma went running into the back room to tell her dad it had warmed up enough to go to the beach.

She won. I made lunches and packed up some beach stuff and headed to Newport. Caelyn was asleep shortly after we left the house. Perfect, I thought, she'll take a nap on the way there, we'll wear her out at the beach, and she'll fall asleep on the way back out to Norco. She is notoriously difficult to put down for a nap, so this was just making everything easier for me.

At first, Caelyn didn't want her toes to even touch the water. When it approached she went running away from it, so I scooped her up and held her so the water couldn't get her. For awhile she was scooping up freshly rinsed sand, throwing it into the water, and then turning and running back to where Bobby was camped out. Eventually we got her to touch the water, and it didn't take long before she wanted to be out there in it with Emma. Bobby normally goes out into the water with Emma while I lie around reading, but he was camped out doing homework, so I went in the water with the girls.

Caelyn had this kid's life vest thing on, and I was bent over with my arms around her chest. Each time a wave would come I would say, "Ready.... jump!" and she would jump into the wave screaming and giggling. The girl must have been up to her armpits in water, and I had to hold her back from rushing out further.

Every time we go to the beach (or any other public place), I'm surprised by how much more adventurous Emma has become over the last year or so. It wasn't long ago that she would panic if she thought her dad or I were too far away. Even going into bathrooms alone was scary. Now we have to remind her that we need her to be within sight when she's in the water like that.

Both the girls had a really good time. The 2 1/2 hours we spent seemed like a perfect amount of time, and I was shocked they didn't both pass out on the way to Norco. Caelyn wasn't too excited about dropping Emma off, and wanted us to turn around and pick her up again (me too). When we did get to her Nana's house, the normally rambuctious Caelyn was content to sit on the couch quietly with her aunt Katie watchng Finding Nemo.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Chores, Workouts, and Babies

My poor house is neglected.  I'm occasionally too tired (or am in too poopy a mood) to do the dishes, water the lawn in the backyard (where I have no sprinklers), do the laundry... you know, the basic stuff.  

I should be watering a little every day, but I wind up watering a bunch on Saturday morning because my grass is browing.  Even my poor little potted plants and vegetable garden get watered sporatically rather than regularly.

So I stayed home today rather than go with Bobby.  Erica needed to stay out in Anaheim too - she had a memorial service to go to down the street.  Apparently her friend's mom died in July, and even though they live in Norco, the service was in Anaheim.  Why, and why after so long, you ask?  Because the husband wanted to have the service in the church they got married in.  So he booked it as soon as he could, and waited.  So sweet.

I was super productive though.  Laundry totally done, kitchen clean, everything watered well, bedroom cleaned, back patio cleaned... everything!  Yeah me!

I also made lunch.

Mmmm... lunch at home.  Why do I love it so much?

I probably should have just heated up some leftovers (we are building quite a collection - pea soup, chicken corn chili, rice), but I had a basket of assorted cherry tomatoes that needed to be eaten soon, and this blog post I read yesterday made me want pasta.

I halved a bunch of cherry tomatoes and tossed them with some sea salt.  Sliced 4 cloves of garlic and a shallot, and chopped some fresh basil from the garden.  As my pasta was cooking, I sauteed the garlic and shallot in a healthy bit of olive oil, and turned it off once they looked soft.  When the pasta was done, I tossed it with the garlic/shallot olive oil, tomatoes, and basil.

It was good, but I was slightly disappointed.  Like it needed something.  Erica said it was really good, but she also said that about the salmon I overcooked last night, so I'm thinking she was being polite.

But then, a few hours later, I tossed in a tad more salt on the leftovers in the fridge, and took a few more bites, and oh my god it was delicious.  I'm not sure if it was just undersalted, or if it's just better cold, after having time to mix the flavors, but now I can't wait to eat the rest of it.

When Erica made it back fromt he service, we drove out to Norco together to meet up with Bobby and the rest of the family.  We watched the kids play in the yard for a bit, and then Jessica, Katie, Emma and I decided to do Jessica's work out video together.  She has these 10 minute workout videos and has been pretty good keeping up with them.  I, on the other hand, am terrible.  And I really could use the exercise.  So we picked the Total Body Workout video.

Emma quit about 2.5 minutes in.  Then wanted to do the 10 minute Yoga video.  She sort of half did it, while the rest of us tried to keep up with the pace, and getting into the poses.  It was much too fast for a yoga workout with no primer.  Maybe if you had gone through all the steps first, and then sped up, but there was none of that.  But it reminded me of how much I miss yoga.

I've been thinking about that a lot lately, actually.  Time and money and whatever it takes to get me down there seem to be working against me, but it really is something I enjoy doing.

Jessica was in the process of finding someone to watch the kids tomorrow, and Emma was asking about the possibility of going to the beach, so I told Jess I could watch Caelyn (I'm not brave enough to take on both, and Caelyn is potty trained and attached to me; Chase would want to play with Bobby all day, and Bobby has homework he needs to focus on).  We packed her some clothes, a swimsuit and sunscreen, and put the car seat in the car.  Emma was super excited.

We brought her home tonight, and although she woke up when I took her out of the car, she and Emma climbed into bed together and it didn't take long for them to fall asleep.  Now we just need to see how tomorrow goes...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Week Three: Check

I've done it!  For the third week in a row I have successfully brought my lunch to work.  We ate at the spa on Monday, so I only had to make it four days.

During this short week, I only went out to lunch once, but it was someone else's treat, so I still didn't buy lunch.  I stopped at Ralph's last weekend and picked up some shaved roast beef, and some grinder rolls.  I only made half sandwiches all week.  Using my oil-vinegar compilation to soak the meat in all morning came out really well with the roast beef.  I need to start mixing it up so I don't get tired of my sammiches.

Somewhat related, one of my co-workers today mentioned that he eats the same thing for lunch every day - a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, string cheese, and a peice of fruit.  The peice of fruit changes up, but that's it.  Even on weekends.  Every day.  He says he loves it, that inside he's 12 years old.

It is still easier to eat in the office most days, but I'm eating quietly at my desk and then stepping out to run an errand, walk around the building, or go read somewhere.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Back to the Spa

To celebrate Labor Day, Jessica, Brian, Bobby, and I didn't participate any labor at all.  Instead, we went to a day spa, lounged in the pools, soaked up the sun, went through the Grotto, etc.  It was a lovely, much needed relaxing day.  A facial or massage would have made it better, but we'll have to do that next time.

I have not had to pay to get in for 11 years now.

When I was like 13 years old or something, my parents loved going to Club Mud, at Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa and occasionally they would take us along.  This was before it was only open to a 16+ crowd.

When they made me go looking for a job the summer before my senior year in high school, I refused to even apply at a fast food place, and found myself looking through the classifieds for anything else at all.  Wouldn't you know, Glen Ivy was hiring.

I worked there for four years - two in the cafe, and two as a receptionist for spa services.  I cannot say how much I enjoyed the atmostphere there.  Sure, there were a couple people I didn't care for or really get along with, but overall it was a pleasant place to work.  I had unlimited access to the spa, and discounts on services.  I knew over 100 massage therapists and estheticians, and because I would willingly massage their tired hands and shoulders, they willingly took care of me too.  I was spoiled with facials and massages and body treatments.

After I left, I still had friends working there, and could get into the spa whenever I wanted.  I had to pay for my services now, but a day in the sun and water, combined with even a brief massage is a great way to relax.  I loved laying on a floatie in the lounge pool, reading a book.  In the cooler season, when the spa is very slow is also a great time, as many of the spas are hot - just be sure to bring a nice fluffy bathrobe.

Soon my younger sister got a job there, and I was able to maintain my free access.  Gma and mom loved it too, so we would periodically plan trips; it was what we did together.  They had since built the Grotto, an "underground cave" where they paint you with an aloe-kelp clay, and then you sit in the warm room while the clay softens your skin.  The showers in the Grotto were the inspiration for the showers mom and dad put in Gma's house.

My younger sister left a few years ago, but it wasn't long until Bobby's sister-in-law started as an esthetician.  I'm glad Bobby enjoys going to the spa with me, and indulging a little.  He may even love massages more than I do.  We discussed going again in October - Brian mentioned buying me a massage, maybe Bobby can buy me a facial that day too.  I do love the pampering.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Grape Crush

Mom told me last week that the grapes were going to be ready soon, and asked when we were going to come over and help them make wine.  Today was the day.

This is the third year we've done this.  Mom and dad planted grapevines so they would create a nice shade cover in the front courtyard, but then with grapevines come grapes, and there is no reason to just let them go to waste, right?

Since wine isn't the reason they have the vines, mom and dad don't prune the vines for that purpose, or do enough cluster thinning, so the wine is never going to be super amazing, but it's an interesting experience, and since I'd like to eventually grow grapes to make wine, it serves as a nice practice run.

The first year we did this, the boys (dad, Keith, Bobby) wound up crushing the grapes with spatulas, and developed some nice blisters on their knuckles.  We call it the "blood wine" because there really is a tiny bit of blood in it.  Last year Bobby and I couldn't make it over to the house before it was too late, so we missed out.

This year, a friend of dad's and her sone came by to help out, and I gave Emma a camera so I would have proof of the event.  The cabernet seemed sickly this year, and mom and dad had prevented it from growing any fruit, so we just had the pinot noir to harvest.

Mom and Bobby were cleaning off the grapes while the rest of us crushed.  Everyone else employed our spatula technique, but I just grabbed bunches and crushed them with my fingers.  Bobby suggested that next year we get a kiddie pool and crush them the old fasioned way - with our feet.

As we were crushing away, dad brought out a glass of the wine from last year and the year before so we could try them out.  I thought they were both on the sour side, but I don't know how much that is attibutable to their youth.  Perhaps they will mellow out, perhaps we are doing something wrong, I'm not sure.

When we finished crushing, we had a nice lunch of homemade tamales, salad, and Bootlegger's Amber Alt Ale.  Perhaps one day we'll make wine as well as Aaron makes beer.