Monday, December 15, 2008
We got together with some friends last night to watch the Survivor: Gabon finale. We haven't followed it for a couple seasons, but this time we had to watch since Matt Whitmore was a contestant and we know him. He did really well, and if he had actually learned how to make fire with a flint (how do you not practice making fire when you know you're going on Survivor?!), he would have won the game and the million. Its been really fun watching this season. Congrats Matty!
I took our friends a bottle of Armenian pomegranate wine that I found at Whole Foods around Thanksgiving, and a Fair Isle Snowflake Ornament that I knit with some yarn from my stash:
This was a fun, quick knit (a couple of evenings). The red yarn is sparkly and the white is a bouclé, so its fluffy. You are supposed to put a Styrofoam ball in the center, but all I could find last-minute at Michael's was an egg shape, so that's what I went with. I'll definitely make more of these. Perhaps next holiday season I can make a bunch to send out with presents.
Speaking of presents, I have just a few more to get. How's your holiday shopping going?
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Then you remove the bacon and brown the chicken (I used a half breast), seasoned with S&P.
While that was going on, I seasoned some tofu that I had frozen and thawed with S&P, garlic, and chili powder (for the smokiness that the bacon would add to the chicken half of the dish).
Then I browned it in a separate pot in more olive oil.
When its all browned you remove the chicken/tofu and cook the carrots and onions until lightly browned. Lots 'o brownin' going on in this recipe.
Then add garlic (I only had garlic powder - its a travesty!) Then you add the meat/substitute back to the pan, along with Cognac (I used sweet vermouth, since its what I had on hand), wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon), stock, and thyme. Once its simmering you put the lid on and stick it in the oven to braise the meat for 30-40 minutes. Here's the after:
You make a paste of butter and flour to thicken the sauce, and saute some mushrooms in butter and add to the dish. I left out the frozen onions called for in this recipe.
Et voila! I think the chicken dish looks great. I served this over cheesy mashed potatoes, peeking out beneath the sauce below.
The tofu turned into little purple wine sponges.
So, the tofu dish was okay, but didn't inspire me to make it again. It would have been better had a I taken the time to press the tofu after the freeze/thaw process (it gives a much better texture). Chris thought I was crazy, until he tasted both. He rated the tofu half as a 2 out of 10, while the chicken half is much better, an 8 out of 10. Coq au Vin needs the oil from the chicken and bacon to make it really good I suppose. Chris also said the chicken was cooked perfectly and very moist, and the stew was good and hearty. In fact, he went back and ate most of what was left in his pan after dinner, so it must have been good. If you're an omnivore you should check this recipe out!
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Griffin Sectional from La-Z-Boy, a giant chocolate-brown leather beast of a couch. We weren't satisfied with our other seating and wanted something very comfortable and easy to care for with the animals. And this is it! Both ends recline, there's room for everyone, pet hair and drool wipes right off, and there's even a Liz-corner. And yes, I realize I am a hypocritical vegetarian for buying leather - I'll go sponsor a cow to make up for it.
The only draw-back is that its higher than our previous furniture and Ayla can't jump up by herself, so I have to help her. She seems to like it though and has spent many evenings lounging with us watching movies... speaking of, go watch Wall-E! Loved it!
This replays every time Chris eats,
and oddly enough they tend to leave me alone.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Last Saturday I went wine-tasting with Stef, Philip, and Phil's friend Richard. Richard has the connections - his uncle is a wine maker at Pride Mountain Vineyards in St. Helena. We started off in the tasting room with a Chardonnay, Viognier, and a red (I don't remember the varietal). Then we went on a tour of the wine caves.
We headed back down to Napa and had lunch at the Rutherford Grill (menu here). I had the best veggie burger - they make their own with grains, veggies (including beets!), and a soy glaze. Their slaw was really good too. Rich had brought a bottle of wine from Pride with us for lunch as well, and Stef and I drank most of it since the guys were drivers.
I wish I had more pictures from Napa, but I was too... drunk... to be taking many pictures. Phil took quite a few good ones and I begged for a few from him, but I don't think that's happening. We had such a good time, and I can't thank everyone enough for the invitation and generosity!
Tonight's dinner was a Barefoot Bloggers entry, Mexican Chicken Soup chosen by Judy of Judy's Gross Eats. My changes were halving the recipe, using baked tofu in place of chicken, and omitting the cumin since Chris doesn't care for it.
Mirepoix, the aromatics onion, celery, and carrot sautéed in butter or oil, is a common base for many soups and stocks and is often referred to as the Holy Trinity of French cooking. Also on the cutting board is minced garlic and minced green and red jalapeños. Those brown blocks are baked tofu from Trader Joe's, in savory flavor. I love this stuff so much and kept snacking on it while cooking.
Once the mirepoix is ready you add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for a while.
Then top with grated Cheddar, sour cream, and avocado (mine aren't ripe yet) and enjoy. This is a really tasty and easy soup. I made a quick batch of cornbread muffins to serve along side the soup. I'll definitely make this again!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Hamming it up
I had my usual Wednesday afternoon performance with the USS Hornet Band today at the senior center. On our break I chatted with a 90-year-old man who told me about his days in the Navy during WWII, his experience being the only Mexican on a cruiser of all white men, and boxing. Fascinating! Tomorrow night is PCCB practice (our holiday concert is Dec. 14). Friday night I've got a gig with the Hornet Band playing at a Lion's Club dinner. The following Friday we're playing at a city tree-lighting ceremony. I was given some flute music to play too, and since I haven't played flute since college I'll need to practice a bit so I don't pass out trying to play the thing. It takes a lot more air than other instruments it seems. Busy busy!
Friday, November 14, 2008
... and fry them in oil. Mine took longer than the given three minutes per side to become golden.
And here they are after frying:
I wasn't terribly impressed by this recipe. The cakes are fine, but to me they just taste fried. I think adding more chives and a stronger cheese might help. I do really like using panko for breading since its makes a very crispy crust. Overall, I don't think I'll be making these again. I still have about half the mixture in the fridge. I think I'll make bite-size patties and freeze them before the frying to have appetizers at the ready for the future. I think they'd benefit from a dipping sauce, but I'm not sure what...
I also made the Herb Roasted Onions, chosen by Kelly from Baking with the Boys. I can forsee using this recipe with other roasted vegetables as well. You whip together a quick dressing of Dijon, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Then you toss the onions in it and roast them in the oven. The onions are served with leftover dressing poured on top. Holy moly, these were good! We had these along with the risotto cakes:
Friday, November 7, 2008
I just finished reading Nobel-laureate Jose Saramago's Blindness (1997). This is the best novel I've read in quite a while. That said, it is most certainly not an easy read. It is graphic and raw, and written in an almost stream-of-consciousness style with page-long "sentences", little punctuation and no quotation marks, just capitalization to indicate a new speaker. The style is mostly dialog interspersed with thoughts and philosophy, both of the characters - who are never given names - and of the author, in the form of clauses joined by commas. And its all translated from the original Portuguese. If you can get through the difficulty of the actual reading, the story is disturbing and incredibly rewarding. For a synopsis Wiki it here.
A film adaptation came out this year starring Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore. Unfortunately, Metacritic gives it rather lukewarm reviews. I can understand though, if its true to the book at all it would have to be quite an ugly film. I'll definitely rent it when it comes out on DVD, if only to be disappointed. Saramago wrote a sequel in 2004 entitled Seeing, and I've written about my love for series-books, so I'll be picking up at my favorite used book store on my next trip. This was an incredible book.
So, what do I read next? I have a stack waiting to be read: a lot of sci-fi, some David Sedaris, Gregory Maguire, the newest Phillipa Gregory is out now... but Liz has me thinking of revisiting Beckett. What are you reading?
I've been busy with music lately, which I'm still ecstatic about. This past Thursday I played with the Hornet Band at another senior center, this time in Fremont. There was a larger crowd and we had a singer with us (I wasn't the only girl!). And I got paid again... I've made $9 as a professional musician so far! Getting closer to that new sax by the week, only 18 years and 11 months to go at this rate. That same evening I had rehearsal with the PCCB again. Our next performance is in two weeks and we're nearly ready for it. The lead alto from the band invited me to sit in with his jazz band next week while one of their altos is on vacation. I know that when I play with musicians a lot better than myself, I get a lot better, so I'm very excited about this chance. That said, I was practicing early one morning at work and didn't hear someone come in. He asked me later that day if that was my "musical stylings." I'm not that bad, am I? I've since redoubled my practice efforts. Funny how much of a hit my self-confidence took from one comment by someone who admitted to knowing nothing about music.
I'm still chugging away on the Cable-Down Raglan, working on the left sleeve now. I'm more and more convinced that it isn't long enough, so once I finish the sleeves I think I'll go back and lengthen the body by another inch or two. Still happy with it!
I might put this project on the back burner for the weekend though. The Hornet Band has a gig after Thanksgiving for a city tree-lighting ceremony, and I'm told its always cold since its outdoors at night. I want to knit a pair of wristwarmers to keep my hands a bit warmer that night since gloves would be too bulky for playing music. I've seen quite a few really nice patterns, but I think I'll go with Knitty's Voodoo Wristwarmers since they are basic and I should be able to finish them in plenty of time.
Here's Mac and Ayla at one of their favorite hobbies: bone/rawhide chewing!
Monday, November 3, 2008
One of the most interesting parts of the ceremony was the proclamation and award given to a local man who was a paratrooper at Utah Beach. He was not long ago contacted by a French memorial who had tracked him down through the serial number on the belt buckle on the pair of pants that had fallen out of his pack so many years ago. That prompted him to finish his service record, and he found out he had been awarded a bronze star.
Another part I quite enjoyed was when we played a medley of service songs. Each branch would stand up and cheer when we got to their song (Semper Paratus, Air Force, Anchors Away, Marine Corps Hymn, and Caisson Song). The audience was about 100 people, half of them in uniform and the other half families and friends. I couldn't see them since I was looking at my music, but hearing the cheers during the songs was very moving. .
All in all it was a wonderful performance. At the last minute it was moved into the VFW Hall instead of Veteran's Park due to rain the previous day, so we didn't get the fly-over that was scheduled. But I was sitting directly in front of the big bass drum, so I got enough loud sounds in my ears I suppose.
Walking back to my car after the performance I was quite surprised by how many people would stop to thank me for playing. I was honored to do so. Its the same when I'm playing swing and jazz at the senior centers. I feel a little bad to have other people appreciate it so much. Its almost like community service, but I'm enjoying it so much that it doesn't feel like I'm giving anything at all. If anything, I'm getting back far more. I am so very happy to have music back in my life again... it feels like coming home.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
1 c tomato sauce
2 tbs butter
2 tbs brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cloves
2 Tbs ketchup
1 package of dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp)
1/4 c warm water
Whole Wheat Dough
1 1/2 c warm water
2 Tbs butter
2 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 pack dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp)
4 c whole wheat flour
Soften yeast in 1/4 c water with sugar. To other 1 1/4 c water add butter until butter melts (you may need to microwave it and let cool to luke warm). Add salt and yeast mixture, then add flour until you get a soft, kneadable dough and proceed as above.Let balls of dough rise until double-about 1 1/2 hours. punch down and knead lightly…cut each ball of dough into 2 equal pieces. Let rest 10 minutes. Roll each ball out into a rectangle of equal sizes. Place a tomato dough rectangle on top of a whole wheat rectangle and roll up tightly pinching dough together at bottom to seal. Repeat with other loaf. Let rise in greased bread pans for 1 hour or until double.
Bake at 375 for30 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when tapped. Let cool... if you can.
I also made mini pumpkin pies:
Friday, October 31, 2008
I dressed the dogs up and embarrassed them by taking pictures this afternoon on the lawn. They were not cooperating and I ended up with just this one picture of them together in their costumes, so this is what you get. Mac is a king: his robe is purple and the lining is gold. I think his expression is perfect in the picture too... very regal. I'm pretending Ayla is a fireman, if only I had one of those plastic children's fire helmets that I had so many of as a kid. Judging by her look, she's a reluctant fireman, so I hope we don't have any fires around here.
I hope everyone is having fun trick-or-treating, or what have you. We don't get any kids at our door since we live in a gated complex. And its drizzling. We do buy candy every year, just in case. We just make sure to buy candy that we like. :)
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Thank you Michelle for passing on this blog award. I'm all warm and fuzzy inside that you think my little blog is excellent. :) I met Michelle through Liz and have enjoyed both her blog and her cooking blog. So go on over and check her out! I'm passing this award on to:
Mari - your girls are incredibly cute and I love reading about your adventures
Ricki - another person who shares a love for her dogs and for cooking
Chocolatechic - for your great pictures and delectable food
1. I drink dill pickle juice - yup, straight from the jar. I love it and used to sneak it, but Chris caught me red-handed once so now I don't try to hide it. Since I'm the only one who eats pickles in this household the pickle juice is mine, all mine!
2. The finger tip joints on both of my ring fingers do not work. Look at your fingers and notice that you have little wrinkles at all the joints? The joints closest to the nail on my ring fingers are completely smooth, and the finger is somewhat curved.
3. I have a false front tooth. I knocked it out going over a bike jump on a scooter when I was ten or so. It wasn't until I was in college that I was able to get the final fake implanted, and the surgeon had to build up the bone area with cadaver bone. The implant itself is titanium. Creepy and cool.
4. I have a freckle in my eye. In the lower part of my right iris is a darker pinpoint that looks just like a freckle. Oh, and if the light hits my eyes just right they look orange. If I wear green near my face, they look greenish. Yeah for hazel eyes!
5. I'm a terrible sleeper. The slightest thing wakes me up, and I have a hard time sleeping when there's noise or light (though I find Mac's snoring comforting now that I'm accustomed to it). When Ayla gets up in the night I almost always wake up, settle her in bed again or put her blanket back over her (yes, my dog has a blankie), and then go back to sleep. I can't remember the last time I didn't at least wake up, if not get up, in the night. I occasionally have bouts of insomnia too, which are very frustrating. And I used to sleep walk - I even got in the shower in my sleep when I was a kid. I do have very vivid and entertaining dreams though. I also usually sleep on six or seven hours a night and do just fine.
6. I'm allergic to Pepto Bismol. It turns my tongue black/green. When I was a teen my mom took me to the doctor because my tongue turned strange colors. He had to "consult his books" and my mom teased me about turning into an alien from the inside out. He didn't know what it was, but prescribed something for me anyway. The pharmacist filling the script asked if I had taken Pepto recently and identified that as the cause of my Martian tongue. I haven't taken Pepto since. A black/green tongue is seriously disconcerting!
That was an interesting exercise, and kind of fun. I'm not tagging anyone in particular to do this, but if you do, leave a comment to let me know so I can find out more about the other weirdos out there. :)
Sunday, October 26, 2008
This week's Barefoot Bloggers recipe was Vegetable Pot Pie, chosen by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen. I made a few changes: I halved the recipe, I used vegetable stock, I used white wine instead of Pernod (and doubled the amount), I omitted the frozen onions and used frozen peas, and instead of making the dough I used a Pillsbury pre-made. I also didn't make the pot pies in bowls as the directions state, but made double-crust pies in small pie tins so they were more like the pot pies I used to eat in college.
I really liked these pot pies. The sauce is thick, creamy (despite having only a little cream), and tastes great. It would be very easy to switch up the vegetables to use whatever you have on hand. And since I only made two pot pies, I have a lot of leftover filling. I think I'll put some more pot pies together with the remaining filling and freeze them for more easy meals.
I also made some Portabello Steaks from Diet Dessert & Dogs. I marinated the mushrooms most of the day, so they were very flavorful. I think I'd prefer to cook these on the grill rather than with my cast iron grill pan. Still, they were very good and the juices mixed nicely with the pot pie sauce.
I got a tour of the facilities - its like a really nice hotel and they provide everything for the 200 or so residents; quite impressive. We ate in the cafeteria with the residents and then headed down to the hall to play. The band was about 25 people strong (and there was one other woman this time!), and they decked me out in red suspenders and a green German cap to match everyone else. We played polkas and waltzes for about an hour, for an audience of about 50 people. They were not able to dance, but they cheered for the song announcements that they recognized and seemed to have fun. I had a great time playing the music, and kept remembering dancing the polka with my grandfather - I think my feet hardly ever touched the ground when I danced with him.