Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The best laid plans......

I still believe in the power of Zicam, but I think I still have the lingering cold that has pretty much everyone in the office hacking right now.

On Sunday night, I wanted to blog about my cooking on Sunday, but I was tired.

On Monday night, I wanted to blog about my cooking on Sunday and Monday, but I was tired. And I had to spend my evening trying to get the AntiVirusXP trojan off my computer (I first thought hubby put infected files on the new external drive we got, but I no longer think that is the case. If you read this on the sly, hubby, my apologies for being a collasal bitch on Monday night, but I just needed my PC to be working for five minutes to do some work around midnight, and I hope that you realize the bitch-level went waaaay down about midnight when I finally got to that point).

On Tuesday night, I spent my evening double-scanning everything on our network to make sure ALL the nasties were gone. That involved much running between floors as I did my laptop, and my & the hubby's desktops upstairs.

So anyway... on to the food!!

Sunday... Emeril's Turkey Roulade. Saw this in Everyday Food this month and 'tis the season for it. I had to hit four stores before I was even able to find a bone-on turkey breast. I totally hacked it up trying to get it off the bone, but Thanks Bacon! the end result was still purty. About to go into the oven......

I'm telling ya, you have NO idea how hacked up the turkey is, I'm still not sure how I managed to get that mangled piece of flesh into a pretty consistient roll, but I did.

And out of the oven, with the extra stuffing I made....

Wooo... let's have a peek, shall we??

Blurry, but I was still impressed that the stuffing stayed in place and that it wasn't pink in the middle. Go me!

I liked it a lot, and as much as the hubby said it smelled great while it was cooking, he wasn't as big of a fan (which might be do to the fact I forgot to season the turkey. Ooops). But it really wasn't too hard to do, and if I was doing my own Thanksgiving, I might make it for that.

Monday night was what I call Polish Soul Food night. Hubby is largely Polish, I am not one percent Polish (that we know... my dad's nationalities have never been clearly outlined but I think that European aspect is more Russian). But I love Polish food. Always have. Did my basic polish sausage/cabbage skillet....

That's hunks of Usinger's polish sausage, with sliced cabbage and onions. I also throw in some water and a couple of tablespoons of dijon mustard (seems to cut down on the "cabbage stink" IMHO) and cook that with the lid on, then throw in your sausage to warm it through. And on the side......


pierogi, to be exact. One great thing about a large Polish population in the area is there is some good Polish food to be had, even in the freezer case. Those are potato and cheese (and I always forget that with polish pierogie, "cheese" means farmer's cheese, not cheddar. Still darned good anyway). I thaw them in the fridge and threw them in a medium hot skillet with a little butter and cook until they're the desired degree of brown. A couple of them always get eaten, steaming hot, while I'm prepping the rest of dinner. Gotta love the "cook's treats".

Last night's meal and tonight's meal were not worth mentioning. Good, yes, but Taco Pasta Skillet and Chicken Breats with Lemon/Caper Sauce are not inspiring me with the energy I'd need to be witty about them.

In other news... Harrah's is KILLING me with the Vegas "free night" offers. Dude... like... anywhere but Caesar's, two free nights any time before the end of the year??? I wish airfares weren't so high. I actually toyed with the idea of a Vegas quickie for the hubby's upcoming birthday, but airfares were just so out there already. Ugh.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

End of Summer

I hate the end of summer. It's the end of the growing season. And we're facing a frost tonight, so I had to deal with it head-on.

All my green tomatoes.....

And the cherry tomatoes...

And my basil. My basil kinda went neglected this year because of the stinkin' Japanese beetles. They were everywhere... and my basil plant, being something green with leaves, had some stubborn beetles on it that would not go away for awhile, like anything green with leaves in the 100-mile area this year. Sigh... this was all that I could get out of non-damaged leaves....

But... it will live on. First up, some basil butter. Basil and softened butter into the mini food processor....

Mmmm... basil butter.

It's in the freezer right now, waiting for me to make some fish or something.

I also wanted to try something I read on the web awhile back about layering cut basil between layers of shredded parm. I liked the idea of that and wanted to try it. I lucked out, parm was on sale at the produce/deli mart and I said to give me about an "inch slice". I love the guys there, they usually do very good work, but I will never ask them again to slice some parm for me. I do not know what they did, but they pretty much ruined the integrity of the entire hunk o' parm. As soon as I tried to grate it, it fell to pieces.....

Guess it looks like I'll be doing "hunks of parm" in a bowl on my cheese tray if we have the folks over on Christmas again, because ALL that parm did as I tried to grate it was crumble. Oh well.

In the end, I got about a cup of shredded parm that I did not exactly layer, just kinda mixed it all together. If it works to give me a nice sprinkle of parm & basil on red sauce come January, I'll be happy.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Angry documentation...

So.... this week at work, a lot of my time was taken up fixing "angry documentation."

What the hell is that?

Ok. Technical writers can, and will, debate at length not just about grammar subjects, but about the particular connotations of language and a zillion other things that would bore most others to tears. In a not-related-to-my-main-subject-but-it-happened-at-work conversation this week was someone asking a "is this proper grammar?" question, where my big point was "Well, yes, that is, but it is also odd and easily misunderstood."

Odd and easily misunderstood.

What do I do as I am typing this? What is it I do to the keys?

First answer is usually "hit". Hit the keys. Well, I'm not attacking them with the full force of a hit. It's usually a bad idea to suggest the word "hit" when dealing with people frustraited with delicate and expensive technical equipment, too. Those are just a coupla reasons why "press" is the preferred term. You press keyboard keys.

When I go to the "Publish Post" button to send this live to the interwebs, what am I doing then? Press? Kinda but not really. Hit? Again, violence toward unarmed computer equipment is kinda mean. I will be using my mouse on that button. What does a mouse do? It clicks. Click click click click click away. So, a mouse action is usually "click the blah blah blah button."

A very nice thing about having two terms, "press" and "click", is that it is easy to tell if you should be doing something on the keyboard or with your mouse. Style guides detailed this all for us YEARS ago.

But, usually when stuff is submitted to us writer-types, it's full of "hit" and lots of misuse.

And unless you are under a super tight deadline, this is something that you tend to clean up first thing before sending stuff live onto the interwebs.

But, when a writer was utterly swamped to get critical info into a doc and it was mostly written in pretty clear instructions, sometimes you just close your eyes, wince, send it out, and hope it doesn't come back to bite you in the ass.

This week, someone submitted a work request to fix a couple issues in a coupla documents. When I went in, I found a zillion and a half other errors looking back at me. Sigh. Thankfully, we're not super-overloaded right now so there was time to go in and clean this stuff up (in the three places it needs to be done). Bye-bye, angry documention that encourages violence.... hello, friendlier and more easily understood documentation.

It's not curing cancer or dealing poker to high rollers, but it pays the bills. And in my happy fantasy land, it's got to make this stuff easier to understand to at least ONE person.

In other news.... went to Home Depot tonight and we bought our new vanity, vanity top, faucet, bath fixtures, towel rod, plumbing stuff and other goodies to get us to the point of a 90% done bathroom this weekend. After work this week I went and got a new "crescent" shower rod and bath caddy. Wooo. I might actually hit a store tomorrow to see if I can find some cute, new towels to hang when we get the towel bar up. Exciting, huh???

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I love it when a plan comes together!

Seriously, readers... I was in the weeds on Sunday in the kitchen with the eggplant and chicken parm. There were several moments where I would walk over to somewhere and stand there for a couple moments, just wondering what the heck I wandered over there for.

That made tonight in the kitchen so much more enjoyable.

After I learned a secret about breaded pork tenderloin - letting the meat rest after you've coated it - it was something I needed to try out. I looooooove fried pork tenderloin. We never ate it in sandwich form growing up (well, not as the initial meal, sometimes we'd luck out and there would be leftovers for lunch the next day if my dad didn't have pork tenderloin sandwiches for breakfast that morning). But it was always one of my favorite meals.

For some reason, maybe because my mom was trying to make space in the fridge, my family recipe involves marinating the pork tenderloin in Italian dressing. It works for us.

I also use pork tenderloin... slice up the tenderloing into about 4-5 equal sized pieces, and pound out those... um... how the heck do you describe it? Well, you put it on your board like you'd be dealing with it as a medallion, and what would be the "top" and "bottom" is what you consider the "top" and "bottom" of what you are pounding out. Pork tenderloin is not something that has much texture to begin with, and it just seems more tender after it's pounded out this way. Again, works for us.

Did my favorite new breading/baking method.... toast some panko in a skillet over medium heat with a couple teaspoons of olive oil, breaded as usual (flour/eggs/crumbs).

But back to the point... tried the "bread and let it set" method. Pork went to wait in the fridge for a half hour. Also wanted to do some stewed apples, so I peeled and sliced four apple, threw them in a skillet with some butter and sugar and let that go to work. Also started some water for some blue-box mac 'n' cheese (always a go-to when I suspect the hubby might turn up his nose at the rest of the meal). Chopped some broccoli, put that in the mircowave steamer.

Threw the breaded tenderloins into a 400 degree oven and continued on.

Burned myself taking the tenderloins out of the oven (yeah... grabbed the pan with the hand that did NOT have the oven mit on it) and threw some butter into my finished noodles before the cheese packet was added. No milk. Hubby prefers a "stiff" Kraft Mac 'N' Cheese.

Mac 'N' Cheese was actually a tad salty. Usually I use margarine, but I already had the butter out, so that went in. In another way the hubby and I have a very mixed marriage is the whole "butter vs. margarine" thing. I grew up in a butter house. Margarine was something you found at other people's houses. The first time we went shopping to stock the fridge in our new apartment, I think I had doubts when I learned the hubby was a margarine guy. Just... no. Butter or nothing!

I have given in a bit to the margarine. It is just easier. And I do have a guilty weak spot for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter which tastes NOTHING like butter but is better than other margarines.

I have to wonder if the butter made the blue box stuff salty.... I always buy salted butter, even for baking. It's just easier... no dealing with ununsed unsalted butter, or worrying when you only have salted butter on hand. Ah well.

But it was all timed perfectly, and was all really good. The hubby happily ate his chop and loved the apples. Woo hoo! I love it when the time in the kitchen works so well....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Warm Food

Don't know why this is in my head right now but it is.....

How come some people just don't understand what it means when they bring food somewhere that needs to be warmed up?

At the nephew's party, one of the cousins showed up about an hour late while brother in law was prepping the chili and they were pretty much getting ready for eating time... and she brought something that needed to be warmed in the oven (and not just warmed in the oven, she needed assembly and stuff too). The lovingly named, Shit on a Shingle (aka chipped beef on toast). Browned sausage mixed with jarred cheese or melted Velveeta, put on cocktail rye and thrown in the oven. It sounds gross, it looks gross, but it's one of those perfect storms of processed foods and cocktail party ideas from the 50s that just works.

I knew my potato skins should be warm and I took them out of the oven right before we left (and also knew they were something that would get eaten even after they got cold by adults who were consuming many alcoholic beverages) but I was not counting on oven space to warm them, mostly because I didn't ask for it.

I'm one who brings food over to others and I really, really try to not have to monopolize the oven when I get there. No one needs that.

I think this is just early Thanksgiving stress coupled with the recent discovery of cordless food warming plates, and me trying to figure out how I can convince the hubby that I need one. Over the years of going to Thanksgiving at his folk's house, I've become tasked with bringing the sweet potato dish and green beans (as much as I loved the Not Yo' Mama's Green Bean Casserole by the Hearty Boys, I think it has been taken over in preference by green beans with the lemon/almond/butter mix ala the trout recipe from the Bouchon cookbook). The problem is keeping them warm. I bring them over hot, covered, keep them in an insulated bag... they get cold. I even tried relying on the microwave a bit, but the mother in law needs that too, and it's just hard to coordinate.

Grumble. Stupid additional gadget I think I need.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Party Food - Salmon Tartar Sandwiches and Baked Potato Skins

Or, as the dishes were called for the party.......


Yep. Fish Guts and Monster Warts. When I asked my sister-in-law if I could bring anything to the nephew's birthday party, I was informed by my turning-6-year-old nephew that the food had to have gross, Halloween-sounding names. In between prepping things on Saturday, I threw together the above graphics to make little signs for my food since it's just way easier than having to answer a zillion times when someone asks "what is this?"

The "fish guts" are actually a little homage to French Laundry at Home, which is in its end stages but has been quite a joy every week. But there is just no way in hell I was going to attempt to make cornets and burn my fingers to pieces. Not gonna happen.

And very, very, VERY extremely odd that as I am typing this out... tuna cornets are being shown on "The Chef Jeff" project on Food Network. Woah.


I figured I could do the salmon mixture and a dollop of the creme fraiche on top of some squares of puff pasty and save my fingers.

I woke up on Saturday to head out early to Mitsuwa, the big Asian market in the NW 'burbs, to get my salmon. I went there a couple times a few years ago, and it never impressed me too much.

I have no idea why in the world I thought that.

As soon as I walked in, I could tell they did some construction since I was last there. I walked around a bit before I made it to the "sushi fish" case..... an entire case of the most beautiful, lovely, wonderful looking fish for sushi. Some even already sliced. I could have (and thought about) buying one of everything and enjoying a very fish-filled lunch, but I just got my salmon.

Also stopped at Trader Joes to get some more creme fraiche. Nothing much exciting there.

Came home, threw the salmon pieces in the freezer for about 20 minutes, and the diced it into as small of pieces as I could. Also diced some chives and shallots and that brings us to here.....

Add some lemon oil.....

Mix all that together and you get the lovely.....

Lovely mixture.....

A very blurry shot (I know... I need to get a real camera) of the salmon and the creme fraice...

I had made the puff pastry squares on Friday night. I'd been hoping that by docking them in the center they'd form a cup/bowl kinda shape, which did not happen on the first batch. On the second batch, I tried puttin them in mini muffin tins with an equal level of FAIL being the result, but I just figured then that I could split the little puffs and get the salmon in the middle.

And it worked nicely as I started getting them made and plated....

I was pretty pround.

That's the salmon and a dollop of creme fraice sandwiched in there. I know they were pretty tasty, because I kept unconciously (seriously... I wasn't trying to) putting the tops on upside-down, and about four of them made it to an "ooops" plate that I enjoyed when I was done.

And the Monster Warts... mini potato skins. On Friday night, I halved a bunch of baby potatoes and tossed them, cut side down, on a baking sheet and threw them in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes, then let them cool, then cored them out with a melon baller. Then tossed them back in the oven for about five minutes to try and draw out more moisture. I let those cool and then threw them in the fridge.

I also chopped some green onion and tomato, and mixed that with cheddar cheese. On Saturday, all I had to do was top the skins with the mixture and throw them in the oven until the cheese got all nice and melty.....

Woooo.... cheese goodness.....

I also threw some chives in one little bowl of sour cream, and the bacon I planned on adding to some into another bowl of sour cream. Let the carnivores and vegetarians work it out on their own.

Both were a big hit, which made me happy.

We had a huge giggle as we were driving to the party... it was a costume party, and a few weeks ago while watching Animal House, we decided to go as the Blues Brothers. Easy enough... got the hats, skinny ties and sunglasses and we provided the rest from our wardrobes. While we were at a red light, I looked out the window and saw a little war protest going on, and I turned to the hubby and said "I hate Illinois Nazis" and we laughed until the light turned green and we had to regain our composure.

The party was a little more-drama filled than any of us wanted... right before we rolled up to the house, the younger nephew decided it was time to learn how to get out of his crib after naptime, and he fell and bumped his head pretty bad. A couple months back he had another really bad accident where he ended up on his head and he split it open pretty badly. So, daddy and grandpa rushed him off to the ER, and sis-in-law kept in the bedroom as she got ready and fielded the phone calls and it was about an hour and oddly only a few guests later when we got the call that nephew was fine, they were on their way home, and it started to become an actual party.

Today in Casa de Hausfrau was Painting Day for the bathroom. I woke up at about 10:30 an ALL I could think about was McDonald's breakfast, so I threw a jacket over my jammies and headed to the drive-thru. When the Man awoke, we ate. Then I ran to Menards to take advantage of their sale on lighting fixtures (exciting!) and bought a new one for the upstairs bath so we could make sure the part that attaches to the wall will cover the spot that will be left when we take off the old one. The hubby then started painting, I ran to the grocery store.

Made eggplant parmesan and veal parmesan for dinner... and man, was I ever in the weeds while I was cooking. Timings were all off, the glass prep bowl that had my parmesan cheese in it somehow flung itself 12 inches off the counter while I was across the kitchen (I still don't know how that happened, unless the kitchen is haunted) and I was too distracted to worry about making garlic bread or a salad like I wanted to, but in the end, it all come out and was all tasty and the hubby made himself up and then ate a restaraunt-sized plate of food and was happy. Cleaned the kitchen (extra care with the vaccuum to get all the glass the broom missed), and then treated myself to a long-deserved hair washing in the sink and I feel a zillion times better.

Second coat of paint is on the wall upstairs, and a third coat was required for the horrid blue paint on the trim, but the hubby is cleaning up and it looks a ZILLION times better that it looked on Thursday. Amazing what a couple of coats of paint can do to a room.

Friday, October 17, 2008

She cooks as good as she looks, Ted.

The original "Stepford Wives" is on right now.

I love this movie.

Horror and some feminist stuff, all rolled into one? Oh yeah, baby!

The remake is not bad... well, except for Nicole Kidman. It's no real "remake" but a fair twist on the original.

But I was a bit of a domestic tonight.... got the oldest nephew's 6th birthday party tomorrow (dude.... how did he get to be six? It's been that long????) and I'm bringing some appetizers. Mini potato skins... and if all goes as planned tomorrow, the salmon tartar outta the French Laundry Cookbook, served in a sort of "sandwich" form with some puff pastry that did not do what I wanted it to tonight. S'all good. I'll make it work.

Black eyes!!!

Oh... at the grocery store scene. I love this movie.....

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ode to Zicam......

So, at work on Monday, we were notified that they're doing flu vaccines in one of the office buildings in our office park next Monday.

After the pox that spread thru the office last year, I am ALL about getting a flu shot this year. Even though the strain that hit everyone last year wasn't one that the shot protected, everyone I talked to who had the shot had a MUCH milder case.

Also made a mental note to load up on Zicam to be prepared. Didn't realize I'd need it so quickly.

Started feeling it yesterday, and started popping the Zicam dissolve-y tablets. Stopped at Target and bought some of their store brand ones on my way home from work (and I think they dissolve better AND taste less worse). Continued with them today.

I knew it was a cold when I was cleaning the kitchen last night. When I get a cold my mind gets a little whacky and I'm just off. For example, last night....

Me: Honey, um, why did you put the salad dressing into the sink?
Hubby: Huh? I didn't even put the top back on it, much less put it in the sink.
Me: Then how did it get there?

Stopped to look around, and apparently in cleaning up, I put the top back on and for some unknown reason, placed it gently in the empty half of the sink.

Didn't do proper cooking tonight (I had canned soup, hubby Spaghett-Os) but we have the oldest nephew's birthday party this weekend, and I'm making some mini baked potato skins. I managed to oven-bake bacon, chop scallions and dice a tomato and keep all 10 fingers in tact. Went to put my prep work away and missed the shelf, and the crumbled bacon fell to the floor, the top came off, and about 3/4 of my bacon was on the floor. Grumble.

Not a lot of congestion or discomfort with this cold, but yeah, it's still a cold. Zicam is good, but it ain't perfect.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Just don't get the uproar.....

I may have to be kicked out of the Foodie sandbox.

If you look down there over to the right, there is a link to Michael Ruhlman's post "The Fallacy of the Quick-and-Easy Cookbook". And at least early on in the comments, there seems to be an uproar about idea of Famous Chef/Recipes: Desmystified!


I'm a home cook who likes to go above and beyond with entertaining. I have to feed a 38 year old hubby who is as picky as a five year old (tonight, dinner was stir-fry.... sniff, sniff, is there ginger in this? Ew.) and I get home after working 8-9 hours and dealing with traffic and I'm pretty cranky and tired and during the week I just want to get a dinner on the table.

I like famous chefs. Famous chefs get famous by making good food. I like it when famous chefs tell me how I can make good food like they do. I usually get a glimpse into a technique or flavor combo that I wouldn't have though on my own. Works for me.

Is it really wrong that "Simple" sells cookbooks? There is a reason I haven't joined the rest of the foodies in buying the Alinea cookbook. I'm sure it's beautiful, but it's not something I can imagine I could do much cooking with. With all the piles of cookbooks around the house, I better have a damn good reason for bringing a new one into the house.

I like "simple" recipe. Simple doesn't alwasy mean bad, it doesn't always mean it will automatically be crap. In the best case scenario, it means I'll have a recipe that I can throw together without a trip to a zillion stores to find ingredients (well, sans creme fraiche, that's worth extra travels). It means it's broken down so my brain-dead brain won't explode while I try to do it on a weeknight. It means I don't need to go buy specialty equipment to do it. It means I have a better chance of having it work out that having to place an emergency call for a pizza at 6:55 pm when I'm made a disaster of things.

I was also excited today to see Jacques Pepin is doing another "Fast Food" book and PBS series. I loved the first one and the cookbook that went along with it (and if the hubby would eat fish, I'd make more recipe for the both of us out of it). Shrimp and Scallop Pillows.... so easy to do (well, ok, you might make some mistakes making the pasta, but it's still not too hard) and really good even when they don't look perfect. Not complicated. Approachable. I love them. I could make them without dirtying every dish in my kitchen on a weeknight. Happy hausfrau.

Heck, as a tribute to the effort the loverly Carol has done with the French Laundry At Home project, I've been toying with the idea of the salmon and creme fraiche of the "Cornets" recipe served on top of some puff pastry for a party this weekend. Am I evil for not wanting to hunt down the specialty equipment and burn my hands making the actual Cornets, or is it OK that the idea of the salmon and creme fraiche sounds lovely and can be morphed to make it a little easier? Heck, I bought puff pastry at the store on the way home from work tonight, and my brain was so frazzeled that I stood there thinking that I wanted two sheets of puff pastry to do them, and I bought two boxes, forgetting they come two sheets to a package. D'oh. See.... I need simple, people!

I like good food. I like to cook. I like to feed people good food. I like that friends and family ask me cooking questions. I'm never going to write a cookbook, I'm never going to be on television showing off my mad kitchen skillz. I can impress people who don't cook, and entertain other people like me who are home cooks. But I still love food, I love good meals, I love trying new things, and I'll talk about food at any time I an given the chance. If I gotta turn in my official Foodie card, so be it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Unseasonable warmth.....

For the second year in a row, Chicago is going through a weekend of unseasonable warmth.

I only know this because the Chicago Marathon didn't go off so well last year when temps hit the high 80s. And did they over-prepare to not have things go down that badly again.

Saturday was cleaning day while the hubby and his brother finally laid the tile for the un-tiled space in the bathroom. Woo hoo! Only one emergency trip to Menards needed to be made (when the hubby did not measure the thickness of the cement board, even though I asked him before he went for the initial trip). While hubby was gone, the brother in law actually sat downstairs with me and watched cooking shows. I know he does cook sometimes (quite fond of chili recipes) and he mentioned he liked Alton Brown, so I whipped out his first cookbook and brother-in-law flipped through it and asked to borrow it. Then he asked about making his own chicken stock (man.... I think I picked the wrong brother!) and I told him it was easy and how to do it. Other than that, I stayed close to home... cleaned up. Wooo. I did also get some Halloween decorations up.

Did run to Bed, Bath & Beyond.... needed to get a melon baller to make some mini potato skins for the nephew's birthday party this weekend. Also wanted to check out the options for a new shower caddy and a couple of other things when we get the bathroom ready. I'm really, really hoping we can get the primer on the bathroom walls on Friday night and then throw up the paint on Sunday, and spend next weekend getting the new vanity in. Once we get to painted walls and a working sink in there again, I will be a MUCH happier hausfrau.

Saturday night brother in law called a couple times since he didn't believe me about chicken stock... I had suggested if he was starting from raw chicken to start with wings, but he went to the regular store and could only find legs/thighs as the only chopped up meat with bones. I think he thinks I'm a lair, he said today that his broth just never tasted very good (I thought they were going to wait until today to have soup, I was prepared to raid my freezer for the stock I made last week, I felt so bad!).

Today, the brother in law was supposed to come over so they could do the grout. He called while he & the family were out for breakfast and said they were all going to come by. No problem. Played with my nephews (it's cool with them that I have a Barbie collection because I also have a couple of very fun Nerf guns, and my 3 year old nephew is a surprisingly good shot) and visited with the sis-in-law while the hubby laid down the grout.

When they left, I went to Target to get some things, and then to the grocery store to get at least some of the shopping for the week done. They had steaks on sale, and I figured with the warm weather, some grilled steaks would make a great meal.

Made salads, made myself some chive sour cream and a little thyme/chive/rosemary compound butter, prepped potatoes for the microwave and took out some frozen cauliflower.

We usually eat around 7pm. Not a problem in the summer, when the days are long and the light sticks around. I looked out the sliding doors at about 6:20 and saw dusk already coming. Crap.

Got out there, fired up the grill and threw the steaks on, started the potatoes in the microwave, prepped some salads. I still ended up grilling in the dark (man, we need a better light out on our deck) but dinner came together, eventually.

Kitchen is now cleaned, there is a nice, cool breeze coming through the sliding door, second of three loads of laundry is in the dryer, and I'm chilling with a dark chocolate raspberry frappachino thing right now. Life would be great if I didn't have to go to work tomorrow.....

Friday, October 10, 2008

Best French Onion Soup EVER


So, I had veal stock I had to use up.

I had 9 cups of duck stock and I did not have room in my freezer for 9 cups of duck stock.

I had some onions about to go bad.

French onion soup time!!!

If you don't own a slow cooker and think they are silly and stupid-retro and useless, please, just buy yourself a cheap one to do caramelized onions in it. I know I am usually highly unimpressed with a lot of slow cooker meals. But this is one of those things that I've mentioned before, and it really is good.

So again....

Throw a stick of butter (yes, the entire stick) into the slow cooker. Top with as many sliced onions as you can fit in there. Cook on slow for at LEAST 10 hours and hopefully up to 12, and you get wonderful, no-fuss caramelized onions.

The trick for onion soup is that the liquid from the onions doesn't evaoporate, so you get a lovely onion broth, too.

If you're trying to keep the fat down, drain the liquid from the onions and save the liquid and onions, and stick them in the fridge. You'll be able to pick off the solidified butter when it has cooled.

My 9 cups of duck stock (also done in the slow cooker - throw in duck bones and various veg and water and let it go overnight) was kinda pale and weak, so I figured I'd cook it down by about half. I actually went a little further and had about 3 cups of reduced stock.

Onions, onion liquid, 2 cups of reduced duck stock, about 3 cups of reduced veal stock and a cup of mystery stock (don't know if it wasa chicken or veal) went into my slow cooker before I left for work.

Got home, the house smelled wonderful. Lifted off the lid, did a taste test, and I am not ashamed to admit I filled a coffee cup with broth and sipped on that while I prepped the rest of dinner. Holy crap, was it good. Usually, half the reason of having french onion soup is the swiss and croutons, but I even had a bowl sans cheese and bread and loved it.

Other than that, unspectacular cooking this week. I have made a dent in my freezer (yay!) but still have a few things to deal with, like the rabbit that I know has probably been in there a year. Yeah, I know, I should probably just toss it. Sigh.

On the bathroom remodel front, we have FINALLY found tile that is a close enough match to what we need, so hopefully that will get done this weekend. I think we're going to paint before we put in a new vanity & sink so the completed project is still awhile away, but we're slowly getting there.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Stupid People of October 8, 2008

Yes, thanks to the internets, it's very easy to find a daily dose of stories about stupid people. But I was hit one right after another today.

Usually, when the hubby and I hear Stupid People Stories, we turn to the other and ask "So, what are you going to change your name to when we move to Canada again?"

The two stories that caught my attention weren't as fun as the weekly story you now seem to get about a bank robber who left his ID or wallet or GPS device that tracked a tracker he had on him or whatever. The stories today really just hit the veins of things that don't make me entirely happy about all my fellow countrymen (and women).

Story 1.....

The summary, bunch of rich high school kids rent a party bus for homecoming weekend, and then despite knowing it was against the rules (since - DUH - it's against the freakin' law) they try to drink alcohol on the bus, THEN try to bribe the limo driver to not call the cops, which he did. And now some of the parents are all upset about it saying that the limo driver went too far. I'm sorry... the guy saw them commiting a crime, and reported them for it.

Underage drinking... been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. Heck, when I went off to college, one of my dad's friends actually owned a White Hen about two blocks from campus, and when my folks dropped me off, my dad brought me over there, introduced me to his friend, and it was pretty well understood I had a free pass to buy liquor, smuggle it back to my dorm room and try to imbibe without causing suspicion. But I knew then, had I been caught, it was MY fault. I would never had expected to be able to just start drinking in front of legal adults, of heck, ANYONE, and have some "safe haven" idea applied that they should look the other way if they did not agree or even had a business policy against it.

And besides.... you then miss out on all the valuable lessons on how to smuggle booze in a Snapple bottle or McDonald's cup. Valuable life lessons.

Story 2....

At least, reading online, the judge dismissed the suit. The failed to mention that detail when the news radio station I was listening to on the way home covered this story.

The summary.... woman claims the box of hair dye that she bought that was supposed to be blonde was really brown and it ruined her social life and she's distraught about not being able to return to... I shit you not.... "her natural blonde hue."

Are you shittin' me? Someone was so sue-happy they thought they could make this fly, and they were able to convince someone else who has supposedly studied the law that this might work???

Problem 1.... when you're mixing the hair dye, you can tell the difference between brown and blonde dye. If you're too stupid to pay attention to colors, should you care what color your hair is?

Problem 2..... it's hair dye. Stylists across the country deal with hair color problems on a day-to-day basis and if you walk into just about any salon, you'll be able to find someone who will be able to help you get back to something close to your natural color. Or just buy a brown eyebrow pencil and have some fun until your roots grow out, then invest in some big earrings and get a pixie cut and go with it. It's just hair. It'll grow back.

Problem 3.... she "missed the attention that blondes receive". Hey lady.... get a red wig. You think guys go ga-ga over blondes? Wait until you try out the red. I love my own blonde hair, but I also love my several red wigs for this reason.

So... what is everyone else going to change their name to in Canada? I'm becoming partial to Gabriella Von Snickersnack....

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Veal Stock-Off

So.... I really wanted to know if there was a difference between the veal stock from the French Laundry Cookbook and Michael Ruhlman's veal stock.

Sorry, FLC. Ruhlman's will likely be my veal stock from here out.

I like the French Laundry stock. It was great flavor, and for my tastes maybe a smidge better, but in the end, I am a lazy person and Ruhlman's was easier.

Sue me.

I roasted a chicken tonight so I have some lovely chicken bones that will get dumped into a crock pot to make chicken stock (again.... LAZY) and I'll also do some caramelized onions in the crockpot, and that will all be combined to make some french onion soup. Mmmmmm.

Busy weekend in Casa de Hausfrau. Party on Satuday (we stopped for food at Steak and Shake after the party) and brunch this morning with the in-laws for father-in-law's birthday. The economy must be in the crapper (or Cubs fans were just not fit to travel outside their homes after a night of over-indulgence to dull the pain) because the place was EMPTY. But the food was great. Crawfish etoufee over scrambled eggs is a yummy thing.

Came home, then I headed out again to try and match the friggin' tile upstairs. I may have found something close, but they won't have the sample for me until tomorrow so I can put it next to our tile to see. I think we decided (after an argument with me insisting that we are NOT going to throw down horribly mismatched tile "becayse the vanity will cover it" - we would at least need to do something like some border tiles and then maybe do some smaller tiles or whatever) before the hubby finally stated that rather than do that, he'd just re-do the whole floor. I can deal with that also. He doesn't believe me that laying tile is NOT that hard. My dad knew some tile guys while we were growing up, and calculate in re-doing bathrooms and then re-redoing them AGAIN after floods... I've seen it done a lot. And I watched. And I asked questions.

Hopefully the work week should be quiet. Thought we were going to have to deal with a software release tomorrow that was going to be a big deal, but it looks like it shouldn't be too bad. Wooo.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Night off?

Usually, Friday night is my "night off" from all hausfrau-ish duties. We get takeout and I'm freed from the kitchen for the night.

Tonight, we got Chinese food.

I always forget, with Chinese food, we usually eat off our regular plates (not the plastic ones) and the counter always looks like a disaster area with the leaky containers and all the drips and globs as we dish out our food. And then putting all the leftovers away, yadda yadda yadda.

So the dishwasher is going right now, and the counters have been wiped down. For the second time tonight.

When I got home, I got started on making some regular guac and some Roquamole for a party we're going to tomorrow. A double batch of Roquamole plus the regular guac used up 14 avocados (only 1 bad one in the bunch I bought). An hour total to make both the dips and get cleaned up.

I've also had some of Michael Ruhlman's version of veal stock going over the past few days. Few days? Yes. I know, I could just easily start this and leave it in the oven overnight or while I'm at work and then deal with it and get the process done in a day... but I have a very unnatural fear that unattended cooking will start my house on fire. Whenever I leave something in the crock pot while I'm at work, I have to check the suburban paper's website a zillion and a half times during the day to make sure there are no reports of townhome-engulfing fires in our complex. Leave a gas stove on overnight? We'd be dead by morning. I'm as sure of this as my hubby is sure if he stepped one foot in Australia, he'd instantly be bit by one of the zillion poisonous creatures there and die. You don't question this kind of belief.

So, I just broke down the cooking of veal stock over the course of the week... get home from work, simmer a couple hours, then throw the pot in the downstairs fridge to pick it up again the next day. Right now, I have my initial veal stock and the remouillage sittin' in the downstairs fridge, waiting until Sunday when I'll actually have the time to reduce them down.

We've got the party tomorrow afternoon, and on Sunday morning we're going out to brunch with the in-lae family for father-in-law's birthday. Actually a decent brunch, so that is good at least. Undecided if I want to try and get some grocery shopping done quickly tomorrow, or just wait until Sunday afternoon. In any case, Sunday dinner is probably going to be something easy and simple like roast chicken. I could also use the chicken bones... my homemade chicken stock, um, stocks, are low. (Although another cooking project this week was to use up some duck bones I had in the freezer, so I now have 9 cups of duck stock I also need to deal with).

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Deceptive bread

The only thing that makes me more peeved than my team loosing their first playoff game is deceptive bread.

Deceptive bread. You've seen it before, and you've probably even bought it before.

You go to a grocery store's bakery department, and they have all this lovely bread out. It looks like it will be lovely, crusty, old-school style bread. You buy it, bring it home, and cut it open.

And it's like Wonder bread inside. Mushy, flavorless and just a waste of flour.

We have one grocery store chain around here that has some very deceptive breads. I swear, they make every "type" out of the same dough and it's just always disappointing buying bread there. Yeah, I'm looking at you, Dominick's.

I was doing some Crockpot Italian Beef for dinner tonight (dump a beef roast, a packet - yes, I said packet - of Italian Dressing mix on top, dump in some beef stock and some pepperoncini - those peppers they put in the salad at Olive Garden - and let it cook, then shred it up and serve it in the juices on a roll, pasta or whatever). But I did need to stop for bread. As much as I love the produce mart that is only about 2 blocks from my house, it's a BLEEEEEEEEP to get in and out of the parking lot to get home during rush hour. So, I went a couple blocks outta my way in the other direction to stop at Fresh Market.

It tries to be an upscale store - the produce section sure wants to be Whole Foods when it grows up. Lots of prepared food, but stuff that looks good. Surprisingly, the prices aren't bad on some items, so I do stop occassionally. I figured that an upscale place like this, if it was trying to be like Whole Foods, had to have some half-decent bread.


I bought a four pack of long rolls. I was not happy when I sliced into them when I got home. Gummy, no good bread structure, no flavor, just all over ICK. Bad crust. Distengrates into nothing as soon as it gets moist. Bleech.

I might be a bit spoiled... I grew up in a largely Italian and Polish area, and good bakeries were easy to find. I have expectations with bread. I don't see it as filler.

Stinkin' deceptive bread.