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Friday, January 30, 2009

no no no no, I don't eat it no more, I'm tired of waking up on the floor

This is an article from MSN's Health section, which can always be depended upon to provide levity and mirth. It's a good reminder of why you shouldn't let scientists dictate your diet, because all of these foods they're demonizing--and rightly so--are the brainchild of a scientist. And the foods they're recommending instead are, in my opinion, little better for you, and that's in the cases in which they aren't actually worse. Scientists are the same people who told us to eat margarine, not butter. To not eat eggs. And in this very article they're advocating a replacement food that has artificial sugar in it. FAIL. Who are these ridiculous morons who are always wrong, yet think they can continue to advise us? Shut up, scientists.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

an afghan to make me cry

This post is for Heidi, because my potato of a computer won't attach files to email.

Here is the granny square afghan from Apartment Therapy. Eee! So cute. Maybe I'll go look for yarn remnants at the DI or something.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

breads of the world

It's like the United Nations over here, y'all! So far from "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" we've eaten the Marble Rye, Anadama Bread, Greek Celebration Bread and Poolish Focaccia. Poolish is a pre-ferment like sourdough starter, not something gross like it sounds.

The Greek Celebration Bread was the base for Christopsomos and Lambropsomo, which I didn't make because: fruit and nuts in the bread. I'm not a huge fan of inclusions, especially loud ones. The basic bread, however, is pretty yummy. It's sort of like those orange butterflake rolls you get at bakeries, minus the injection of Type 2 Diabetes.

The focaccia was amazing, I am not yanking your chain. John put it well when he said that he's never really been a fan of focaccia, because it's usually bland and hard and gives him Cap'n Crunch Mouth (a condition I'm pretty sure I isolated and named), but this was pillowy and soft, a little bit chewy, with a slightly crunchy crust, and entirely delicious. We dipped some of it, and ate some of it as steak and avocado sandwiches. Tasty.

All this has made me realize that a good recipe makes a huge difference. And I've never really done mise en place, because I'd rather build something the wrong way eight times than read the directions, but even though it takes a little extra time in the beginning, it is absolutely worth it. And being a shoot-first-ask-questions-later kind of gal, it saves me time and resources when I don't have to redo the recipe after I've ruined it and dumped the wrong ingredients in at the wrong time--remember the three time coffee cake? So I'm a convert.

I've ruined my oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe. I've got so many substitutions going on now that I've lost control of the recipe and I can't find out which one of them is giving me grief. They keep turning out cakey, and is there anything worse than a cakey chocolate chip cookie? That's why I've never liked oatmeal cookies in the past, and now I've torn it. Let me know which of these you think is the problem:

1 C butter
2 eggs
1/3 C honey
1/2 C brown sugar
1 t hot water
2 C whole wheat flour
2 C rolled oats
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 C chocolate chips

I think it might be too much flour--I was having trouble with the dough being super gooey, so I added some flour, and maybe that's where it all went wrong. See, I'm okay at following a recipe, but I can't create worth a darn.

you stay classy, jerks

Don't you guys feel bad for Minnesota? There they are, minding their own business, and they've got these two yahoos gouging eyes over which one of them can rightfully embarrass his home state in the Senate. And that is really cool that Al Franken was able to find more ballots than there are voters in 25 different precincts. Ah, politics.

I also feel bad for the Middle East, in that I have reached my Depressing and Irritating News Saturation Point. Once, a long time ago, I read this bit (warning for my gentle-hearted readers: there is an f-word and profanity) on The Onion, and I've got to say that I identify pretty strongly with Jeff Lockre, Salesman. I realize this makes me a terrible person, that if I cared about my fellow man I would be deeply invested in seeking a resolution, but at some point I think we've got to realize that they are not ever going to stop fighting. That this is the reality. I can't imagine we're too far off from the world community as a whole saying "You know what? You guys suck. Go ahead and blow yourselves to kingdom come, because we're done with you." Except that their behavior puts the rest of the world at risk, which is even crappier of them.

Again with The Onion--I checked out "Our Dumb World" last year, and though I would not recommend it as a mood-lifter, it was sort of nice to have the many terrible things about people behaving hideously toward one another phrased as comedy. Because what else can we do, really, besides laugh?

Why won't people just get their crap together and act right?

Monday, January 26, 2009

try this easy food thing: homemade biopot

John fondly remembers eating Biopot yogurt when he was on his mission in England, and he seems to think that I ate it as well when we were there. I dispute this claim, and here is my argument in three parts. First of all: I would certainly remember eating something called Biopot. Second: I would also remember eating yogurt that had grains in it. Third: John is a notorious fabricator of memories.

So, Biopot. John says it was yogurt that had not just a hilarious name but barley in it as well--softened, like you do with beans. With the cursory investigation I've done, it seems that Biopot comes in varied flavors, some of which do, in fact, contain whole grains. Those crazy limeys! What will they think of next, pudding made of blood? But that's not why we're here. John told me about Biopot the other day, and it sounded scrump (you may use that smurfy word), so when I made BB mush for breakfast I stirred some of the wheat into my yogurt, and it was, if not a transcendant experience, at least one worth repeating. I feel that the chewy bits improve my life's full of wonder/craptacular ratio.

Instructions:
Biopot
Before you go to sleep, rinse off a cup of wheat. Put it into a pan, cover it with an inch of water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the wheat sit on the burner overnight. In the morning, drain the wheat and plonk some spoonfuls into your yogurt. It's fun. You'll have fun. You'll like it.

BB Mush
Instead of putting the wheat into your yogurt, put it into a bowl, pour over it your morning milk/cream and sweeten it with brown sugar or honey. Boys are especially amenable to this violent-sounding dish.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

come and listen to the whining one more season, one more season*

Today was Anadama Bread. (Shh. Don't tell anybody, but I've been calling it Dammit Bread. Naughty!) Supposedly the name comes from a man cursing the wife who left him with nothing but a pot of cornmeal and molasses (Anna! Damn her!). I've read this in a few places, and it sounds a little sketchy. But swearing about food is funny, so I'll allow it.

I'm having a Bean Quandary. Remember when I made that garbanzo bean soup a little bit ago? Well, I forgot to tell you that it was in the crock pot for TWO DAYS. And then I decided that the beans were never going to be cool to me, so I went ahead with the recipe. The soup was tasty but gritty. Then I took the rest of the package of garbanzo beans and cooked them and made hummus with them--only the best hummus you or I or anyone we know has ever eaten--and they had a great texture, not at all gritty. WHY? We eat a wicked ton of beans, and even when I presoak my beans the night before it takes all freaking day for them to get soft--right up until dinnertime, and sometimes not even then. I've even avoided salting them until very late in the cooking, because I seem to remember the Cook's Illustrated people saying that helps. But it doesn't, and then Bittman tells me that I can add salt earlier, and presoaking isn't even necessary. That even black beans--which we eat most often--will soften after two hours of cooking. Two hours? Is he on crack? Or am I? Why do my beans take so very, very long to soften? They don't say anything about "except in areas with hard water." So does hard water not affect bean cooking times? Because Utah water is hard enough to slice, and I always thought that made beans take longer. But the beans and cookery books are in league with each other to ruin me.

We just tasted the dammit bread, and here are the results:
initial thoughts: The crumb is shiny and stretchy, and it's very soft.
straight up: I think this is an acquired taste. This is not great bread. I blame the blackstrap molasses. (Blackstrap is all I ever buy, because I love the strong, bitter flavor it gives to gingerbread. It helps the sugar shut up a little.)
with unsalted butter: Hmm. This is better. It's almost sweet, and has a long, pleasant finish.
with strawberry freezer jam: This is great bread. The molasses makes the jam taste more complex and less sugary. It is going to make terrific sandwiches.

A few minutes later, John is saying he's got to have more of that bread. It grows on you. In Reinhart's terms, it was cool, creamy and loyal. So that's two successes from his book. I'm going to have to buy it.

*Today's post title is from a Star Wars/John Williams parody medley that we love because we are nerds. If you follow the link and scroll down the page, you can find "Star Wars" on the album see dee and listen to it. Totally worth it. I'll save my treatise on a cappella music and its attendant dorkery for another time.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

gimme the rye, you old bag!

I made marble rye today--well, one marble rye and one spiral rye. Do they both count as marble? And I don't have caraway seeds on hand, so I guess I really made bicolor wheatish bread. You know I've been looking for a good bread book, and my sister-in-law Emily, who is craftier and cleverer than I, had checked out Peter Reinhart's "Crust and Crumb" from her embarassingly well-stocked library. I have such library envy of her. The children's section there stretches as far as the eye can see. Anyway, she reminded me that there is a thing called "nonfiction," and that most libraries even stock some of this curious beast, even mine! I ventured back upstairs for the first time since we moved back, and passed by my old friend James Herriot to find an anemic little cooking section. However, they did have Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice," and I love it a little bit. It's fun. I don't know if it will stand up to scrutiny, because I've only made the rye, but so far I love how it's organized and how the recipes are written out and explained. It makes me feel like shmancy bread is totally within my grasp. I'm sorry to disappoint you, Tipsy, but that Hensperger book is a little dear for me--$88 used on Amazon! I would love to try it, and since the challah recipe is on the google I'ma make it next time.

I enlisted The Hulk to help me egg wash the rye, since he is my picky eater (read: he eats so little and so seldom that he looks like a mantis), and I've read that involving the stick-in-the-mud in the food prep can help him be more willing to take chances on unfamiliar food. Whatever. I had him help me cut and saute the mushrooms last week and he was having no part of the result, even though he told me they smelled delicious. (Another lousy and often-parroted parenting tip? To "distract" a young child from misbehavior, rather than discipline. I'd really like to meet one single person that has worked for, because my kids are like little Staffordshire terriers who will seek out and destroy everything, valuable or no, with unwavering determination. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these children from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.)

But back to my maddening son. Sometimes I wish, though I do sin in my wish, that he could have a bout with starvation and want, so he would learn to be grateful. Oh, for a time machine to the Great Depression. Anyway, I anticipated him looking at the two doughs living in sin within the loaf and decrying it as an affront to nature. But he loved the bread, since it tends to be a safe object. Too bad, one less thing to fight about at dinner.

This is your fault, Greatest Generation! If you hadn't sacrificed your all to provide a better future for us, we'd all be happily grubbing around in the dirt for taters, gathering windfall apples, milking surly cows and riding swaybacked nags, living in sod houses and being thankful for the centipedes that fell from the roof. And we'd all be speaking German if it weren't for you!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

freaking kids

Hey, parents out there! How many of you are looking for new and exciting ways to fight with your kids? Are you spending less time nagging than you would like? Gosh, I am. So I thought, heck, let's start them in piano lessons! Because nothing puts the cherry on top of a day of laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning and errand running quite like hearing your 8 year old plunk out the same tune he's avoided practicing for two weeks and complain that he hates the piano. And the best thing is, you get to hear it every day. For only $7.50 a week. I know, bargain deal. Some of you out there may already have your children in piano lessons and are supping of the fruits of your labors as we speak. Or some of you (Jenny) may have children who actually enjoy playing the piano. You unlucky souls will have to be more creative. Try a different instrument--the accordion or the harp is worth looking into. Maybe the cello. Or perhaps your child hates reading--you can make that your cause. But those are the easy ones, the low-hanging fruit. What about parents who were cursed with compliant children who are difficult to provoke? What are they to do to add stress and conflict to their lives? Here are a few ideas off the top of my head--they have worked great for me and other mothers I know.

  • Why does your hair look like that?
  • Are those the same socks you wore yesterday?
  • Have you fed the goats?
  • Did you take the slop bucket out to the chickens?
  • The bus is coming! The bus is coming! THE BUS IS COMING! RUN! RUN! RUUUUNNN!
  • No, you can't wear makeup.
  • I'm not doing your hair anymore.
  • Did you make your bed?
  • Did you brush your teeth?
  • Did you punch him? Go sit on the stairs.
  • Why did you get sent to the principal's office again?
  • Don't tuck your t-shirt into your pants.
  • You can't wear irrigation boots to school.
Bottom line, if you really care about getting some nice frown lines between your eyebrows, you're going to have to work for it. Rome wasn't built in a day, after all.

And the good news is, even if you move to a backwater cow town, eschewing the things of man, and "chucking it," as one might say, you, too can achieve maximum levels of strife and misery within the walls of your very own home. Some things are just too important to miss.

information of which I should be more ashamed

I still get angry when I remember a poll a local radio station did (I was in junior high) in which the DJs asked which was the better group, the Beatles or the Beach Boys. I can't say that all my disgust for my fellow human beings can be traced to the moment the Beach Boys were declared the superior band, but a goodly amount of it can, and it's one of the defining moments in which I realized that my faith in my peers was misplaced, and that I was, in fact, surrounded by troglodytes. As I got older I realized that people who call in to radio stations are not to be trusted, and that their measurably lower IQs had skewed the data, but even so. Not acceptable.

When John and I started dating he was an avowed Beatles crank. He liked some of their songs a little bit, but not more than a handful, and only the Short-Haired Beatles were acceptable. Those hippie Long-Haired Beatles were entirely devoid of merit. But I am like the Chinese Water Torture made flesh, and since I owned a lot of Beatles music, he was repeatedly exposed to the gamut. As the years wore on, he realized that he hadn't even heard a lot of their best stuff, and he even came to like their long-haired period. Thankfully he'd already been made familiar with "Helter Skelter," courtesy of U2 (and their sucky, sucky cover of it), which would have been a tough sell otherwise. So loud and screamy! It's what keeps him from enjoying "Taxman" and its ilk.

This is ground that has been exhaustively covered by minds brighter and tongues more articulate than mine, but it's true all the same: the Beatles' knobs go to eleven.

Paul McCartney was my celebrity boyfriend for the longest time, and I'm not wholly confident that I wouldn't attempt to kiss him square on the mouth if I were to meet him, even at his advanced, doddering age. But as my friends can verify, my current celebrity boyfriend is Bob Newhart, so there's that. Hey, I love me an old dude. I bet John would be cool with me kissing Sir Paul, anyway, because he's set his cap for Dame Edna.
Rowr! She is some hot stuff.

And by the way, I'm also chapped that in "Live and Let Die" Paul is clearly saying "in this ever-changing world in which we're living," and everybody is up in his business about how he's saying "in which we live in," which he, hopefully, with English as his first language and being possessed of a brain would never, never say.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

blogging the inauguration part 7

That was a terrific speech. I started out this morning feeling cynical and suspicious, and now, darned if I'm not feeling energized and industrious. His vision may not match mine, but I'm willing to take a chance on a guy who calls for hard work and responsibility.

blogging the inauguration part 6

Is it weird that I stood during the Oaths of Office? I'm so used to standing and sustaining my leaders during General Conference that it seemed right.

Sad that the Oath was so messy. I imagine it still took, but it's going to rob the news stations of their graceful sound bytes.

blogging the inauguration part 5

That is a lot of talent to have on one stage. I love "Simple Gifts."

blogging the inauguration part 4

Eeee! I love Aretha Franklin.

blogging the inauguration part 3

Maybe this is disrespectful, but Rick Warren strikes me as a frat-boy/hippie/Ponzi-scheme-orchestrator hybrid. This is a kooky prayer. Is it also disrespectful to be typing right now? Or to say that he's a lot meatier than I remember him being?

blogging the inauguration part 2

Some guy on NBC just commented on how manners have changed, because "when John Kennedy was sworn in, he didn't kiss his wife. If that happened nowadays you'd begin to wonder about the marriage." Hee. Because the Kennedys' marriage was so strong! He was a super faithful husband.

blogging the inauguration part 1

Darn these Herd genes. I find myself with a catch in my throat and a general sense of optimism and hope.

of cheese and presidents

Buying sixty dollars worth of cheese in one go isn't excessive, is it? Nah, I didn't think so.

On our way home from Morgan yesterday, John pointed off to the north side of the freeway and said, "There's Beehive Cheese." And then he just kept driving, like it was no big deal! I gasped and exclaimed, "WHY AREN'T WE GOING?" Sadly, we were already past the exit. Happily, there was another exit just a few miles down the road and we were able to correct our error. They were not making cheese yesterday, but a very nice young man gave us a tour all the same, explained the cheesemaking process to my little goblins, and showed us the hundreds of beautiful wheels of cheese stacked in the two aging rooms. I plan to go back and help make some cheese sometime when I can get John to ride herd on the kids--anybody want to come along? They are wonderfully nice people, and very enthusiastic about their work. I bought a package of every cheese they had except the cajun one, because I'm not really about hot cheese. Babyish of me.

It's a big day, huh? Like him or not, this is a historic moment for our country. I'm not crazy about him, personally. I think he has some scary ideas--he seems to be more in favor of governmental intervention than I would like. But John McCain was just as scary, in ways both similar and disparate. Being the kookoopants I am, I don't place much faith in any of our elected officials. So we may as well have somebody who can inspire people to have faith in their ability to achieve the American Dream. And the end of Cheney's rule cannot come soon enough for me.

I'm off to watch the party.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

animated cereal shills are the worst

You know what always burned me up about Fruity Pebbles? That Fred was so stingy with them. They're a crappy cereal, and he's so territorial about them that he won't even share them with Barney, who is supposedly his best friend? That is not right. I don't remember if they had such a codependent relationship on the cartoon--was that an invention of Post? If so, that's a shameful way to behave for a company whose Post Toasties were associated with Andy Griffith, who is revered to the point of sainthood in my family. And who made Fred the Pebbles Mayor anyway? Look, Barney doesn't ask for much. Can you not throw him a sop once in a while?

Speaking of the Flintstones, there's an episode of Red Dwarf my husband loves in which Lister is talking about how beautiful Wilma is. I was going to try to remember it, but thankfully the internet weirdos will let my fingers do the walking.

Lister: D'ya think Wilma's sexy?
Cat: Wilma Flintstone?
Lister: Maybe we've been alone in deep space too long, but every time I see that body, it drives me crazy. Is it me?
Cat: Well, I think in all probability, Wilma Flintstone is the most desirable woman that ever lived.
Lister: That's good. I thought I was going strange.
Cat: She's incredible!
Lister: What d'ya think of Betty?
Cat: Betty Rubble? Well, I would go with Betty... but I'd be thinking of Wilma.
Lister: This is crazy. Why are we talking about going to bed with Wilma Flintstone?
Cat: You're right. We're nuts. This is an insane conversation.
Lister: She'll never leave Fred, and we know it.

Ha! That's funny stuff. So, long story short: Fruity Pebbles are crappy (despite what my college roommate Jessica would say), Cocoa Pebbles are yummy, Fred needs to chillax, Barney is a doormat, Andy Griffith is the boss of me, and Betty is the ugly friend. And don't get me started on those rotten kids who won't share with the rabbit.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

old-timey comedy: adventures in english II

Some guy was on Diane Rehm the other day talking about Charlie Chaplin, and a fellow called in to argue that Buster Keaton was a superior comedian, so already you know he's a special kind of dork, and then, in his refutation of the guest's argument, the caller used the non-word "irregardless." FAIL. What a lonely Venn diagram that must be, the people who will argue on the merits of Buster Keaton vs. Charlie Chaplin, and yet employ "irregardless."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

cannibals, beans and bread--a winning combination

I shouldn't read books about the end of the world. I just got done with "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy (not because Oprah the Life Coach told me to read it, however--I love me some Cormac), and it is a beautiful and terrible book that had me in tears within the first fifty pages. So now to the intelligent robots I can add bloodcult cannibals in my litany of Things About the Future that Scare the Crap Out of Me. Our house is too close to the road! The marauding hordes of villains will see us and descend to brutalize us!

I'm making the garbanzo bean and pasta soup from Safely Gathered In for dinner tonight, only a little less non-perishable friendly. Such is my state of malaise that I'm pretty stoked about it. Actually, that's not true. I would always be stoked about it, malaise or no. Dried beans, as many of you know, are the world's most perfect food. Oh, exaggerating, am I? Perhaps. But they are certainly in the top 10. So tasty.

My family is having a little vacation this weekend, and John and I are doing breakfast on Monday morning. So I stocked up on eggs and am making challah to do French toast. Yeah, it would be easier to just buy some Macey's Farm Bread, but challah really is worth the effort for French toast. (Also, there's no way for you to know this unless you've met me, know someone who has met me, or read this blog, but I am a vain braggart and a show-off. Shh. Don't tell anyone. Also don't tell anyone that challah is not difficult.) I wish I knew if there were a better recipe than Joy's, but the ones I saw on the interwebs all looked pretty much the same, so maybe not. Which reminds me--who among you has a really great baking book that you can recommend to me? I'd like a bread-centric baking bible with an informal tone. I am still miffed at Martha for not including breads of any kind in her book. Hmmph.

Monday, January 12, 2009

just five months to baby goats

Traci came home on Saturday (Have I mentioned that I chose neither her name nor the spelling thereof?) and Catwoman is like a different goat. I think the solitude was sapping her will to live. She moped in her hut and wouldn't eat or drink much of anything. John said that Traci was pulling him to the truck, then pulling him to the pen, she was so eager to get home. But it wasn't Catwoman she missed, it was the groceries. She's lost weight--evidently our neighbors aren't quite so liberal in their rations as Captain America. I know! I'm surprised, too. Sometimes he thinks he wants a border collie, and my go-to argument is the "that's the kind of dog you have to feed every day" one, and how he hasn't really proven his trustworthiness in that regard.

We're going to fence off part of the field into sections to rotate the goats through and keep them in fresh forage during the growing season, but still leave enough hay to feed them through the winter. Just as soon as our Rich Uncle Skeleton dies and leaves us his money tree in his will. Any day now . . .

I ordered my seeds this weekend, yay! The year of the garden, I'm telling you people. It's going to happen. I will be able to find my plants among the weeds this year, this I vow.

you stay classy, alaska

I heard a piece on NPR this morning that a mining company in Alaska is trying to get permission to dump their tailings into a nearby lake, rather than into the pond built expressly for that purpose. They're being sued by some crazy environmental groups who say it would kill the fish. Silly tree-huggers! When will they ever learn that fish like mine tailings?

I would hope there's more to this story than the mining company cackling while it twirls the ends of its waxed moustache, but . . . that's a lot to ask of me so early in the morning. I've only got so much suspension of disbelief, and there's the whole day to get through yet. Here's a link to the same story on another website, because NPR's website is impossible to find anything on.

Friday, January 9, 2009

she can't take much more, captain

Catwoman is limping--I think the deep snow has been hard on her sad little toothpicks. I'm headed out to take a closer look at her.

Well, I've been outside. She is a hot mess, is what. Her leg looks broken because she's walking on the side of her hoof like my arthritic grandma, who walked on her ankle so long she wore through to the bone and had to have her foot amputated. True story. And her hooves are crazy like Madonna's arms--all twisty and overgrown, even though we trimmed them not very long ago. They look-a like this:
Oh, Patron Saints of Animal Husbandry, why do you mock me? (Patron Saints: "Look at her hooves more often, dummy.") It's our fault she's in such need of a trim, but my word! So fast they grow! I bet she's freebasing gelatin and prenatal vitamins.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

this post is a chick ride, sorry fellas

Fellas, you can read it, but you may regret your choice. It gets a whole lot more dudey (NOT a pun) at the end.

I love playing Home Scientician. It's much more fun than Home Endocrinologist, which I played for a while after I calved Captain America (hee! farm talk). We were going to be going on vacation to Florida, and I didn't want to be, as Cher Horowitz would put it, surfing the crimson wave while we were there. And I was on The Pill, so I knew pretty definitely that I would be surfing said wave. So every month when I took the placebo or whatever pills, I would move them up one day--throw one pill away and take the next day's pill, so I ended up having only 6 days of green pills, in order to bump up my schedule and avoid the hassle. And one day when I was vomiting in the bathroom of Einstein Brothers Bagels (A wretched, wretched eating establishment that still makes me sad to think about. Such terrible bagels!) while holding onto Captain America, trying to keep him from rolling around on the floor, I thought, "Wow. I sure have been throwing up a lot lately. Every month, in fact. Around the same time, too. I wonder if it has something to do with . . . oh. Oh. Stooooooopid me." Thus ended my career in Reproductive Science.

But, like I was saying. Home Scientician. Pretty much any experiment can be umbrellaed under the auspices of home science, and this one is no different. My family eats a lot of fiber, for reasons both business- and pleasure-related, and I'm trying to get packaged breakfast cereals out of our diet. But what can replace bran flakes in the colon-cleansing sector? So I'ma try eating vegetables and fruits that are scrapey in nature to see if they can. Here is this morning's effort:

(pretend there is a picture of my breakfast of spinach salad with mustard and lemon viniagrette, an over-easy egg, plain yogurt, and a glass of ice water here--I will add it later when John gets home)

Nothing too crazy, but there are no flakes. And I don't need the fiber quite so desperately as some in the dojo, but I'll absorb the relevant data and extrapolate what the likely outcome will be for those retentive sorts.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

product may stay: Shout Ultra Gel

I love this stuff, you guys. It is magic. It takes out all manner of stains. Last week Pinga had a minor altercation with the rocking chair in our dining room and got a fat lip (what is WITH kids and fat lips?) and bled all over a white shirt she was wearing because her mom is the kind of stupid that buys a white shirt for a toddler. I hurried and ganked it off and put Shout Ultra Gel on it immediately--you don't want to be whistling Dixie while the blood sets, after all--then let it sit until I did another batch of whites. And it was pure as the driven snow! There are times when the stain doesn't come completely out, but I just do a second coat of gel--don't dry it, or you will have destroyed all hope of removing the stain--and send it through again. But one go-round is almost always enough.

Don't be fooled into getting the Shout spray, or Spray 'n Wash, because they are worse than useless. To the dump with them! The Ultra Gel is the way to go. I'll just try not to think about all the three-eyed fish I'm making every time I use it.

Monday, January 5, 2009

I'm listening to Hollaback Girl right now and it ate my brain, so no fancy post title.

A long time ago, when I was first married, I was a crap cook. I would throw frozen hamburger into a cold pan, then turn on the burner. I would eat a package of brussels sprouts for dinner, or 7-layer dip (I figured, if you're full, that was dinner). I knew my mom made pork roast for dinner all the time, so I bought pork loin, figuring that one cut was as good as another. (LOIN, people. Faugh. I haven't yet encountered a pork loin that I felt was worth eating. I distrust any cut of meat that has to be all tarted up to be edible. I'm looking at you, filet mignon.)

And this wasn't my mom's fault. She did her best to teach us--once we got old enough my sisters and I all rotated cooking duties, even though Aleece would invariably make hamburger gravy, which is not food. Also there was the time that I attempted coffee cake three days in a row, failing each time, and learning that baking powder is not spelled S-O-D-A. So somehow I managed to get through college without knowing how to cook much more than manicotti and chocolate chip cookies, accessorized by a vast array of frozen vegetables. Then I got married. And suddenly I became really interested in that aspect of domesticity. House cleaning, not so much. But I'm betting that most families would happily stick with delicious meals and grabbling through a laundry basket for their clean socks than have folded laundry and Tuna Helper.

So I started building my skillz (yes, I mean that z) as a home cook, and I found that I was a fairly quick study, and some things, either through subconscious absorption of my mother's tutelage or innate ability, I just knew how to do. I'm sure it was a relief for John, because the man likes his food. We have a little non-traditional-gender-roles going on here and there, but I am the cooking mayor. I'm no Smitten Kitchen or Tipsy Baker, but I can feed my family pretty decent food.

All this boring preamble brings me to my topic, which is: what dishes/cooking techniques do you feel should be a part of every home cook's canon? Here are some of the things I think belong on the list:

Breakfast:
pancakes
French toast
eggs cooked any way--including omelettes

Breads:
wheat bread
rolls
biscuits

Soups:
chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles

Vegetables:
how to steam/roast/saute/grill

Main Dishes:
how to braise
how to sear meat (not putting it into a cold pan, for example, PAST SELF)
roast chicken
pot roast
pasta of some kind

Desserts:
how to temper
how to cream
pie
cake
custard

There are others that I feel are imperative for me, but I don't know if I'd say they deserve a place in everyone's arsenal (Like curry, for example. I'm still working on this one--I've found one recipe so far that makes me only minimally depressed that I'm not at the Tandoori Oven.). How about y'all--how similar are your lists?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

salutations for the new year

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, you crazy kids! Did you all get your thneeds? I did--I got two fetching new aprons, because I wear the heck out of an apron and my Pike Place Market one is starting to look pretty raggedy. And it's not a Sunday-go-to-meeting apron like my new ones. Plus I get to take a cooking class at Sur la Table, which I am stoked about, and I got that new Cooking School cookbook by Martha Stewart. It seems like it will be a fun one to have on hand. I couldn't decide between Martha and Ina, because I have never made anything of Ina's that I haven't loved, but I took a chance. I'm a little perturbed that Martha doesn't have a section on baking, but evidently she considers baking to be a law unto itself. I guess it's time for me to start amassing some specialty cookbooks, now that I have a good selection of primers.

I had a lovely discovery this holiday season--I made pavlova for a Christmas party, and of course I had all those egg yolks left over. And a batch of creme brulee works perfectly to take care of that, since you can use yolks or whole eggs. Since I did yolks I thought I could maybe get away with using milk instead of cream, and the result was less dense and velvety, but it was still a worthy dessert. Not Matthew great, but still yummy.

And, speaking of the pavlova--I think I decided that Swiss meringue, although it is so pleasant to work with, is not good for pavlova. It needs a French meringue to be as light and airy as it's meant to be, in my opinion. Swiss meringe makes something much more similar to divinity, which, although delicious, is not pavlova.

Santa did not bring me a computer, but he is pardoned, because he's bringing my mom a dual-fuel range that I am going to find all kinds of excuses to use.