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.