Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pre-vacation update

For those of you who have been wondering, here is my slightly-tipsy update on what I've been doing and thinking lately, in list form.

- No matter how tasty, I can't eat an entire batch of smoked oyster risotto on my own, and the stuff is just not appealing the next day (or any day thereafter).

- Ice cream and sorbet is always good, even though some people may think otherwise.

- I know I'm not here to talk politics, but I'm somewhat enthused by McCain's choice of running mate. Really, though, I think either candidate would do better than the current president. That guy is just embarrassing.

So, I am intending to set up some post of wedding photos (borrowed from friends) for during the honeymoon. Hopefully that won't fall by the wayside during the packing tomorrow. Wish us luck (that we won't wind up in a hurricane)!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Like a butterfly

It is strange to watch my new come into being. Mrs. [new last name]. Picked up my marriage license today and then ambled my way over to the social security office.

"Hey," I said, "I'm changing my name."

"Alrighty," said they, "have a new card."

In a few days, I'll head down to the DMV to change the name on my driver's license. After that, I get to talk with various other places and get my passport replaced. The whole process really seems so uncoordinated and arbitrary for something so important and routine.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Still unemployed

The culinary adventures continue here at Chez A.

I finally managed to make some pepper jelly that was actually spicy, after a very disappointing first batch made with the recipe from the canning cookbook. Same recipe, but this time I left in some of the seeds, particularly those of the Thai peppers I used. The recipe makes about twice as much jelly as the book claims it should, which means I have all the more to share with slavering friends and family.

Ice cream creation continues unabated. Nutella ice cream met with rave reviews all around, and was even described as "the best thing I've had in a long time" by a friend of mine. Coconut ice cream was found to be delicious by the only coconut lover in the house (me), and recieved a passable review from my husband. Even though I was forced to use sweetened shredded coconut, as none of the supermarkets around me had unsweetened, it still turned out quite nicely.

R, although thrilled by my love of cooking, feels I have a knack for picking recipes that he won't like. Some of my recent trials have given more evidence to said theory. In my quest to use up an open bottle of red wine, I made barlotto with red with and mushrooms, a recipe from that risotto cookbook I am so fond of. R, being un-fond of mushrooms, took a rain check on that one. I also made romesco sauce (conveniently using ingredients I already had in the pantry, particularly a half bag of almonds I didn't know what to do with) and served it with cauliflower steaks. R tried it, but found the bell pepper flavor to be overwhelming, at it is something he isn't fond of. I suppose I will have to take these things into account when cooking for a family, as, without torturing R, I will want him to set a good example for the kids and eat a little of everything. No more portobello paninis then, I guess.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bear necessities

My original plans for last Friday were to meet the famous Alyndabear, touring the world as is her style, but unfortunately she neglected to respond to my text message so that didn't pan out. Perhaps her phone fell in when she was on Splash Mountain. (Actually, she hasn't posted since. You're not dead, are you? I do worry when people visit L.A., as I find the place somewhat unpleasant.)

So, to soothe my bruised ego, I instead set about making some strawberry stracciatella ice cream (very tasty, by the way) and foraged for fruit in my backyard. I had realized the day before that my neighbor's cactus was a prickly pear when I saw that they new lobes it had grown were actually ripening fruit (so I was actually a little excited at this unexpected opportunity to try one that very day).

I ever so carefully plucked the fruit, grasping it with two fingers on the spaces in between the black spots, which are full of tiny spines. Even so, I managed to get a few stuck in my fingers. I took it inside and rubbed it with a paper towel to remove the spines and then washed it.

After cutting off the skin (and making sure there weren't any stickers waiting to stab my tongue) I tried a bite. The fruit had an interesting flavor, like a cross between a papaya and a pumpkin. Unfortunately, it was filled with many small seeds, meaning that each fruit only had a small amount of meat. Definitely a food of desperation.

Additionally, I found myself stabbed by small, near-invisible stickers throughout the rest of the day. As R hilariously kept reminding me, "Don't pick a prickly pear with a paw. When you pick a pear, gotta use the claw!" Yeah, I got it.

The plan for prickly pear jelly has since been scrapped.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Childhood drama

R and I were watching Animaniacs this evening (you know it's awesome) when a segment containing the character Katie Ka-Boom came on. Oddly enough, the harmless short made me cringe. I suppose this was due more to the associated memories and emotions than the cartoon itself. You see, my family used to watch Animaniacs together, and Katie Ka-Boom was my mom's favorite character. She thought Katie's temper was a hilarious parody of teenage behavior, and would often repeat Katie's catchphrase when my sister and I were upset. "I'm not overreacting - I'm a teenager!"

I think what bothers me most about this whole situation is that my mom didn't really know my sister and me when we were teenagers. My sister started to live full-time with my dad early in 6th grade (a little before she turned 12). I did the 1-week-at-one-house-1-week-at-the-other thing from 14 to 15.5, after which I started living full-time with my dad. My mom saw us maybe once a month. Less, after she called the police on me for refusing to go to church.

Now, this is all ancient history. When I started this blog, I specifically told myself I wasn't going to use it as a forum to bitch about my mother. Why am I bringing this up now? The answer is simple: kids, specifically my plans to have them shortly. Even though we're so very different, I'm afraid I'm going to turn into my mother. More specifically, I'm afraid my relationship with my kids will be like mine and my mother's. None of this is helped by R's conviction that we're going to have daughters.

This is probably how my dad felt when my mom was trying to convince him to have kids. My dad's blood-father bailed on my grandma when my dad was 3. He had a step-dad from 9 to 19 (his "10 year dad," as he refers to him), but the guy was a traveling salesman who was often gone and was exhausted when he was home. My dad wasn't really sure how one was supposed to act as a father.

In the end, I suppose I will muddle through. My dad certainly did. Instead of repeating my mom's mistakes, I'm sure I will make different ones. There certainly are daughters out there who have good relationships with their mothers. Perhaps I'll do okay.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Recipe Review: Red Wine Risotto

Somehow the extra booze from the wedding (particularly a large open bottle of red wine) and the general lack of fresh groceries combined into a perfect storm of risotto yesterday. After furiously flipping through my well-loved risotto cookbook, I found several recipes which involved red wine, one of which I could in fact make with ingredients I pretty much had on hand. I did have to go out to buy a red onion, but that was okay, as it could sit in the car while I ran my other errands (dropping off the marriage license at the county clerk's office).

Red Wine Risotto
from Risotto: With vegetables, seafood, meat, and more by Maxine Clark (recipe slightly condensed, as I am tired)

- about 6 c. hot chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 small carrot, finely chopped
- 1 small celery stick, finely chopped
- 3 T. pancetta or prosciutto, finely chopped (optional) (I used bacon)
- 2 1/3 c. risotto rice
- 1 1/4 c. full-bodied red wine
- 1 1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- salt & pepper
- chopped fresh parsley, to serve

1. Put the broth in a saucepan & keep at a simmer.

2. Melt half the butter in a large saucepan, then add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook until transluscent.

3. Add the pancetta & cook for another 2 minutes. (I just added bacon I cooked separately.)

4. Add rice and stir until well coated & heated through.

5. Pour in wine & boil hard until reduced by half.

6. Add broth a ladle at a time, keeping the rice as a simmer & adding more broth before it dries out. Repeat until rice is creamy but still al dente (15-20 minutes).

7. Season with salt & pepper, then mix in Parmesan and remaining butter. Cover and let rest, then serve sprinkled with parsley.

Needless to say, this risotto was pleasant enough that I wanted to share the recipe with you. As R put it, it was not the very best risotto we ever had, but it was still good.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Recipe Review: Dark Chocolate Sorbet

Ah, August. The time when a girl's fancy turns to ice cream.

Well, that probably has more to do with my new toy than anything else, as today was rather overcast. This wedding was really my opportunity to pimp out my kitchen. Amongst the other cool swag (new pots and pans, culinary torch, that mixer that everyone else has), I received an ice cream maker.

Having been wanting one of these for a while (and having it residing on my gift registry for the last several months), I had started to collect ice cream recipes to try once I acquired said ice cream maker. The first we tried was the dark chocolate sorbet recipe found on Chocolate & Zucchini (though originally from The Perfect Scoop, which I have since ordered). We could almost stop the explorations into ice cream making at that one recipe. It is so good! Rich chocolate flavor, with little chocolate grains throughout - you'd hardly believe it was an incredibly simple recipe. I bought some nice chocolate for this inaugural run, but I bet it would still be good with standard chocolate chips, meaning it wouldn't even require a special trip to the store. We've pretty much decided that, barring new flavors from Haagen-Dazs or Ben & Jerry's, we're going to be making our own ice cream from now on. Next up: strawberry stracciatella.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Why having friends is awesome

Multitudes of other reasons aside, they do really awesome things when you get married. Such as doing all sorts of errands, getting my wedding dress steamed so that it looks extra lovely, planning an incredibly fun bridal shower at a cool winery, and generally making me feel like a princess (and my life easier) throughout this whole marathon event. So I want to everyone to know how very grateful to have had a wonderful friend like this ever since the second week of first grade, when I transferred into her class. (She got all teary when she told this to everyone at the bridal shower. Isn't that just adorable?)

I do feel a little jealous that she was partying and getting drunk with my family the night before my bridal shower, but I think I can forgive her. They also love her, so I suppose it is okay that they like to spend time with her whether or not I'm there. At least they took pictures.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

After this, sleep

I don't think I actually realized how exhausting and busy this whole "wedding" thing was going to be until my sister and best friend (co-maids of honor) were laying out the schedule for the next few days. Hair trial, bridal shower, flowers, dinners, medical appointments... Madness! That doesn't even include the day of the wedding, which is pretty much nonstop primping prior to the ceremony.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think it's going to be great, but just the thought of what is left to be done leaves me pooped.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Growing Challenge #11: Sharing

A flock of birds has found my tomato-y paradise. Anything remotely red develops holes. I check the plants throughout the course of the day, each time finding new victims. My only recourse is to eat them anyway. I wash them, cut out the holes, and put them to use. Fried tomatoes and brie on rye toast for breakfast, sliced into veggie wraps for lunch, or pasta sauce for dinner and the freezer. My only challenge is using them that day, as I don't want to put them in the fridge, but I know that their violated skins will lead to spoilage if they sit out. With all the wedding hullabaloo, I'm sure to miss a few in the coming days.