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Friday, February 27, 2009

okay, if you don't like elves, what about booze?

I'm having a bout with indecision here--I'm making some more vanilla extract with the rest of the wondrous beans I bought, and I can't decide what liquor to put them in. I used vodka on the others, and I'm wondering if I should use vodka in the new batch, or try something else. Since I'm unschooled in the ways of the demon liquor, I wonder how much difference it would make, as long as I'm using 80 proof. I sort of want to try bourbon or rum, and have a taste-off. Any suggestions?

TWO HOURS LATER
Too late! I already bought the rum. There are weirder things for the daughter of a member of the Stake Presidency to be doing, but I don't reckon I'll be working my way any further up the list. I'm pretty sure that what I bought is not the good stuff, but I said the thing to the lady about how you shouldn't cook with it if you wouldn't drink it, and she said, "Oh, I'd drink it." But for some reason the Vegas-y name provides little comfort.
In a couple of months we'll have an extract-off: angel food cake, custard and maybe something else. Ice cream? Give me some ideas.

I hope I don't regret this, aka, please no tolkien fanfic

I'm probably opening Pandora's box here, because when Jenny posted something about Harry Potter on her blog she got some nutbar in the comments who explained in painful detail the ins and outs and comings and goings of the Harry Potter alternate universe. So I'm not buying any of that crazy.

What I want to know is, what is Elrond's problem? More specifically, why is he all harshing Arwen about how Aragorn will die and leave her a widow while she lives on and on? Doesn't she have to choose a mortal life to be with Aragorn? Doesn't "mortal" mean "you're going to die?" I'm watching the Lord of the Rings while I do my "running" in the morning and it's been a few years since I read the books, so my recollection of the events is untrustworthy. Is this something exclusive to the movie? Is it like that weird schizoid argument when Smeagol tells Gollum to "leave now and never come back?" Man, sometimes I wish we did grammar the way the British do. It would be a lot easier to put the punctuation outside the quotes when the punctuation refers to the sentence as a whole, not the quoted insert. Anyway, I know there were liberties taken with the story, and I forget if this is one of them.

Help me out, readers (especially you, Steven). Does Arwen have to choose to become mortal or not, and what does that mean for an elf? And is Elrond confused, or just a jerk?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

product is meh: coconut oil as face cream; product may not stay: these hateful bras; also, thanks for the faith, MOM

I'm all in a froth with some first world concerns today. I'm one of those people who will fixate on a tiny inconvenience and allow it to consume my entire being. Recently I've been having problems with my complexion, and it has tainted my outlook on everything else.

I was doing an experiment on whether or not coconut oil is a suitable face moisturizer. No, I'm not crazy, just ignorant! But really, I had heard from two trusted sources who use it that it's good stuff. So I took my face in my hands and started moisturizing with coconut oil--only at night, because I was worried about it being so greasy that my makeup would slide off. Then I remembered that I pretty much only wear makeup to church, so no big, and I started using it as my morning moisturizer as well. It goes on really greasy, but absorbs quickly. The problem I had using it in the morning was that my face felt really pinched and tight the rest of the day, and I felt like I had to keep putting more lotion on it. So, back to Avon in the morning, coconut oil at night. And maybe because my face was tired of guinea pigging it, I am currently suffering from a breakout on my chin. I'm in my THIRTIES. Freaking skin.

So, I think coconut oil is a great nighttime moisturizer, but it wasn't good enough for daytime wear. It's probably not worth the hassle of changing your routine, unless you're looking to add a little excitement to your day. When your life is as cloistered as mine, a new moisturizer can sometimes be the most fun you can lay your hands on. Product is meh.

But now, thanks to the skin frustration, I'm mad about everything else. I lost quite a bit of weight after having Pinga (thanks to Weight Watchers), and because I'm a good Herd girl, most of it came straight out of my ewers. It's the last place I gain and the first place I lose. I had a couple of bras that were working great until I lost weight, and then they were all slippy-slidey. So I bought a basic something-or-other from somewhere--probably Target--which was serviceable, but not my favorite.

I thought maybe Victoria's Secret could help me out, since that's where I had gotten my two likable bras that didn't fit anymore. I know their stuff isn't the best, but it's got to be better than Target, right? WRONG WRONG WRONG. I don't know what is their motivation, but this torture device (I think it's the Body by Victoria Demi Uplift Bra) has been a piece of garbage since I removed its tags. This ridiculous undergarment migrates when I'm wearing it, and gets all skittywompus, and I spend the whole day pulling and twisting and uneven and miserable. Then the cheapo Target bra betrayed me as well, and has started jamming its underwire into my chest, so I think I'm getting pressure sores. So I've got a bra that's too big, a bra that wanders uselessly, and a bra that is actively trying to destroy me. I guess I'll just have to break down and go to Nordstrom or something and get the grandma with the tape measure to give me a proper fitting and find me a real. freaking. bra. Products may not stay. Also, Victoria's Secret is dead to me.

And while I'm mad about stupid things, let's add this story. We went on our little family vacation recently to Morgan (which my parents paid for because they're awesome like that), remember? I made myself some sauteed spinach for breakfast on Sunday morning--olive oil, butter, garlic (ONE CLOVE) and spinach (mounds and mounds). And my family was FREAKING OUT about how weird a thing it was to eat, and so smelly! None of them would try it. My dad said in wonderment, "We just don't know how you guys got to be such garlic eaters!"

Then a couple of weeks ago my parents went to Boise to watch Justine's race, and my mom was telling me afterward about the wonderful breakfast they had at their hotel, where there was delicious sauteed spinach with garlic.
. . .
And I said, "That's what I made for breakfast in Morgan and you guys were all up in my face about how terrible it was!" And she said, "Well, this just didn't have so much garlic as yours."
. . .
!
. . .
Well, a prophet is not without honor save in his own country and all that. I'm glad that when I cook something it's an abomination and when a hotel cooks it it's refined and tasteful.

You must know that I love and respect my mom dearly, and I think she is extraordinary and a force of nature whose talents cannot be enumerated.

But the spinach. Hmmph. I blame my stupid face, upon which all my other lousy minor setbacks are predicated.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

ravioli with homemade ricotta

Last week I made a gentlewoman's agreement with another reader of Tipsy Baker's blog that I would make filled pasta sometime before this Saturday, so pictured above is the ravioli we made yesterday. It was delicious, but very rustic in appearance, if you dig me. I am not cut out for meticulous shaping of filled pastas, so we had some pretty messy looking raviolis. I am proud of myself for finally making filled pasta, though. It's a ton of busy work, for even something as simple as ravioli. I can't imagine doing tortellini. Italians are crazy! I know I'll be making this again, however, because outside of a restaurant it's the only way to get decent ravioli. Everyone but the Hulk was double-fisting it into their gaping maws. And it doesn't take too much longer than regular pasta, unless you're fastidious about your shapes, which: not.

I sort of melded Ricki Carroll's and Bittman's recipe (as interpreted by the Tipsy Baker) for ricotta, and it was better than any of that slop you can buy, unless you do your grocery shopping at Caputo's or something, in which case you are probably either a parasitic CEO or a trust fund baby, so your problems are your own. It is easy, easy, and doesn't require anything you don't already have on hand--you can just use lemon juice to make the buttermilk, or use it straight as citric acid, depending on which recipe you use. Here is the recipe I used:

2 C buttermilk (2 T of lemon juice added to milk)
1 gallon whole milk
lemon juice (somewhere around 1/4 C)
salt

Add the buttermilk to the whole milk, heat it on medium-high, stirring constantly, and bring it up to between 185 and 195 degrees. Don't let it boil. Have a baby whose diaper badly needs changing wander morosely into the kitchen and cling to your pant leg, sobbing. Become irritated that the curds haven't separated yet. Dump about 1/4 C more lemon juice in the milk. Have the baby from earlier grab the cat's food bowl and upend it. Shout incoherently, then run and put the baby in her crib, hoping that the milk won't burn to the bottom of the pan while you're gone. Stir a little more, while the curds FINALLY separate, then decide you're sick of this crap and take it off the heat, milky whey be damned. Drain the curds in a pillowcase inside a colander, because you're still waiting for the butter muslin you ordered last week from cheesemaking.com.

Now you have ricotta, and it actually tastes great. Some of the above steps may be omitted to streamline the process.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

onions and cauliflower, stage 2

I don't want to jinx it, but most of the seeds actually germinated. I know! I'm as surprised as you are. I'm so excited for the cauliflower--I saw some purple cauliflower yesterday in Whole Foods and said to Superman, "Look! This is the kind of cauliflower we're going to have!" He was underwhelmed.

Anyhoodle, their roots were starting to poke through the netting a little bit, so I thought maybe it was time to repot them. Remember that I normally just buy them ready to plant from the nursery, so I'm in a little over my head here.
I got my potting soil and all the pots I saved from last year--again, I'm surprised, too. Who would have thought of me as the kind of person to think ahead? I tore the netting on each of the Jiffy pots to let the roots be unhindered in their progress, and Superman helped me transplant. I bet we killed all of them.

Here they are, comfy and cozy in their new digs. Ha! I didn't even mean to pun! I have a card table with a vinyl tablecloth set up in front of our big, south-facing dining room window. It's cluttery and messy, so of course it fits in like peas and carrots with the rest of our house. And it's just getting us ready for when we have to have a big smelly box of baby chicks in here. We were going to try hatching some of our own, but since Fauntleroy has been accidentally sent to meet his Maker, we're going to have to buy some. And I was so excited to stick it to Big Poultry.

Last week I bought some of those roots-on herbs from Target, and thought maybe I'd try planting them, so I will finally have a windowsill herb garden and not have to wait a coon's age before the plants grow big enough to harvest. I'm full of great ways you can spend more money to get the same result--thanks to being a member of Generation Entitled. I planted the herbs in random cans I liberated from the recycling bin and punched holes in the bottom, and stuck them in the window. I had to trim them, because the tops were just overwhelming the wussy little roots, and now they are doing great and actively growing, from what I can see.
The aloe vera is trying to cop a feelsky of the cilantro.

They look super classy, don't they? I like how there are different kinds of cans represented. I'm becoming a hobo, aren't I?

Monday, February 23, 2009

a peeksee into the cheese drawer

The deli ham slices leaked all over the floor of the meat/cheese drawer. What is your problem, ham? Why can't you just be cool?

So I had to extract all the innards of the drawer to clean it out, and here they are:
On the back row we have the bulk mozzarella I got for our New Year's Eve party. It doesn't move very quickly. Next is a tiny Babybel from Christmas. Then the rind from a piece of Rockhill's Snow Canyon Edam, which I'm saving for soup, then some medium cheddar, which is our base model.

Schmancier Cheeses
Middle Row
First up is Manchego, which my mom has adopted as her best-loved child. For anyone unfamiliar with it, it's a somewhat waxy, mild sheep's milk cheese that is perfect with fruit--especially quince preserves or paste. Quince paste, not the kind of paste that has an anthropomorphized cow on the bucket. Aside: when I was a wee bairn of less than five, I had to go to day care while my mom did whatever it was that she did. Harvest organs? Human trafficking? Who knows. Anyway, I knew that I grooved on the taste of glue, and was pleased to find a great big bucket of it back by the art sinks. I opened up the lid and took a stupid huge fistful of what turned out to be paste. Gross! I mean, how sick is that?

Next is a nice aged cheddar we got from Costco--crunchy and crumbly and it improves with age. Not at all footy.

Then Midnight Moon, which you already know about.

Roaring Forties, likewise. Look, I'm not going to beat that dead horse. If you haven't tried Midnight Moon or Roaring Forties, it's your own fault.

Last on this row is Valdeon, another blue. More crumbly than Roaring Forties, and stronger. A nice blue, but not overly unique, to my mind.

Front row
Selun, which you should never, ever buy, even on a dare. I got what I deserved, because I asked the Liberty Heights Fresh cheesemonger for a soft, washed-rind cheese, even though I hated plasticky Taleggio. He said it was a real stinker, and he wasn't just whistling Dixie. He also said it wasn't assaultive, which was a wicked lie. It's totally assaultive, if you call smelling like poo assaultive, which I do. It has a really quiet finish, but right at first you're pretty sure you're eating an outhouse.

Then comes Haystack Mountain Snowdrop, which I want you to go buy right now and let it ripen for a long time. It's goaty and runny (at least at this point in its life), salty and mellow, and so, so good. I want to eat it right out of the rind with a spoon. I got it for free from the Whole Foods people, because it's about to date. Woohoo! Free cheese that's almost but not quite garbage! Eat it with toast or crackers (or a spoon), not fruit.

I forgot the Parmesan--you know what it tastes like. You know it's a little expensive. You know that doesn't matter.

some questions answer themselves

Setting: Exterior, Northern Utah. Shopko parking lot. Midday in late February.

Scene: A woman and her older toddler are in the crosswalk from store to parking lot, walking toward their car. She is holding his hand and helping him to walk. A middle aged, morbidly obese man in a Honda Fit zooms through one of the parking aisles and turns sharply into the crosswalk. The woman and her young child are in his path.

Morbidly Obese Man's Car: HOOOONNNNK!

The question, if you were wondering, is: What sort of person barrels into an occupied crosswalk and honks rudely at the pedestrians using it?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

my free space is "child throwing obscenity-laced tantrum"

You guys know how I'm That Way about Wal-Mart, right? Like, to an annoying degree? Well, imagine my delight when I came across this little gem. You must click on the link, because I'm hoping the guy won't get pissed about me linking to him.

chocolate banana bread

I made some chocolate banana bread from a recent issue of Sunset that caught my eye. It was realrealgood, even if it does look like blood pudding. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Even The Hulk, in all his idiosyncracies, liked it. This is the child who won't eat pie, but will-and does-eat cat food. Maintenance Cat from Costco, if you're curious.
Here is the recipe for those of you who are not able/willing to click on the link (I used plain whole wheat flour, Dutch cocoa, and left out the walnuts, because of my aversion to nutty inclusions):

Chocolate Banana Bread

Yield

Makes 1 loaf (20 slices)

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces pitted prunes
  • 3/4 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 medium)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour or whole-wheat pastry flour (or 1/2 cup of each)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup banana chips, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preparation

1. In a small saucepan, bring prunes and 2 cups water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until prunes are very soft, about 20 minutes. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°. Lightly butter a 5- by 9-in. loaf pan and line bottom with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit.

3. In a food processor, whirl prunes and bananas until very smooth. Add eggs and whirl to combine.

4. In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, cinnamon, and baking soda. Stir in banana mixture until evenly moistened. Stir in nuts, banana chips, and chocolate chips. Scrape the thick batter into pan and spread level.

5. Bake bread until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out a little chocolaty but not gooey, 45 to 50 minutes. Loosen bread from pan with a knife and invert onto a rack. Remove parchment. Turn bread right side up and let cool at least 1 hour before slicing.

Shortcut: Substitute 12 oz. (1 1/2 cups) unsweetened prune baby food for the pitted prunes, and omit water and cooking in step 1.

Note: Nutritional analysis is per slice.

Nutritional Information

Calories:
174 (41% from fat)
Protein:
3.5g
Fat:
7.9g (sat 2.7)
Carbohydrate:
27g
Fiber:
3.2g
Sodium:
153mg
Cholesterol:
21mg

Thursday, February 19, 2009

out of the car, longhair!

Would you just look at this.
*It's hard to see, but that is a deer on my back patio eating a bale of hay. If you use your noble spirit to embiggen the picture it's a little easier to tell.

Stupid freeloading deer. If you want some hay, you filthy layabout, why don't you get a freaking job? Don't think that you can wreck my car, then attempt to wreck it twice more, and then come eat my hay for free! Traci and Catwoman bleated their fool heads off to earn that hay, and poor Traci even had to have conjugal relations with a near-stranger. Don't act like your self-imposed hermitage in the mountains is some kind of free pass to eat off my patio and leave your poop in unapproved areas!

Deer are so selfish.

*Clearer image thanks to Baba Capra President's Circle Member Richard being a hunter-gatherer. For rocking, we salute you.

a good way to ruin homemade pasta, also: egg! and food blogs!

I sort of feel bad for giving our Saturday night pasta the shaft in favor of discussing the pavlova, but I made it again yesterday, so it's aight. Homemade pasta, as you know, is ALWAYS the best choice, and if you have a pasta roller, even a hand-cranker, you can make some amazing stuff. We got our pasta machine for our wedding from the girl John dated before me--you'd think it would be cursed or something, but it hasn't even eaten my hands at all. I use it more than any other wedding present except the microwave (the duvet is on the guest bed, so . . . ). Patti, you are a gentlewoman and a scholar.

I hadn't done spinach pasta before Saturday, but it's waaaay easy, and so pretty. And so I present: Homemade Spinach Pasta: An Essay in Photos.

Get six ounces of fresh spinach, or 12 ounces if you are like me and want leftovers/large portions for the garbage trucks you gave birth to. I am seriously worried about when they get to be teenagers. Martha will tell you to trim the stems, but come on.

Steam it. This is the first time I've used that steamer basket, since I always just plop whatever I'm steaming in a little bit of water--I do think it was easier to dry out with the use of the basket. How much do you want a permanent grease stain on your pot like mine?

Once it's steamed--just a few minutes, it should still be bright green--dry it out. This time I put it in our salad spinner with some paper towels. It worked really well.

Then let it cool for a bit and plop it in the fopro. Martha said to chop it, but . . . it's going into the food processor. I didn't just fall off the turnip truck, people. Add two eggs and two yolks (for the double recipe).

Mixy, mixy until it looks like this--not long.

Add 2 1/2 C of flour and a teaspoon of salt (double recipe still)--you will probably also need to add another 1/4 C of flour to make it not incredibly sticky.

Mixy, mixy, just until it comes together.

Then dump it onto a well-floured counter, but first you're going to have to clean off the cowpie that some rude person put there.

After a little bit of kneading you have this. Let it rest for an hour or two, or put it wrapped into the fridge until you're ready to use it.

Divide the dough into eight pieces, flatten them out, and
start rolling . . .


. . . and rolling . . .

. . . and rolling until it looks like my sister. This will take you a wicked long time. Then cut it with your attachment or a pizza cutter. Let the noodles dry for a few minutes, then cook them like normal.

And there you are, eating loveliness. See the steam?

I don't want to hear about how you don't have time to make pasta. You do too. There are a lot of days when I don't even get to leave the house, because my selfish children need naps and adult supervision. You can spend this time in unprofitable housecleaning, or in delicious foodmaking. But I just want you to remember that if you clean your house, the terrorists win.

Do not do this next part. It's a waste of good preserved lemons and roasted garlic.
Chop up the lemon, rind and all.

Put it in a pan with olive oil, melted butter, and roasted garlic. Heat it and dress the pasta with it.

Not great. But I wanted to use my lemons, and how was I to know that The Kitchn would steer me wrong? So unlike them!

Yesterday when I went out to feed the chickens, I found this:
It's realreal big.

It was from the Sex Link, who normally is a cannibal, but I beat her to it. It was still warm and everything. I love warm eggs. I also love thwarting our evil chicken in acheiving her perverse designs.

And because you like to eat, just like me, here is a link to Times Online's list of 50 food blogs, some of my favorites among them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

transference of internal struggle to inanimate plastic

For Christmas Pinga got a couple of ponies from one of her grandmas (thanks, Margie!), which excited her almost as much as it did me. Not as much as the shopping cart, though, which has melded to her hands from overuse.

I was playing with the ponies (shut up--you're not better than me), and I know they're just different color formulas poured in the same mold, but I came to the decision that the pink one is sort of slutty. Which is weird--the purple one has sparkly hair, which is normally squarely in the territory of exotic dancers, but she has a wholesome vibe that the pink one lacks. Maybe it's the wings? And the pink one has a grass-and-flower motif that you would think would make her seem less naughty, but it doesn't. Upon closer inspection, I think the big tip-off that Pink is ready to party is the super curly hair with the white-pink streak in it. Purple's hair is a little more relaxed, like she just dried it with a round brush and got on with her day, while Pink was still ratting and teasing and spraying and forming perfect little ringlets. You be the judge--should I be concerned about what Pink is doing at night?

See, Purple has a star with music notes, and sparkly hair. Two strikes against her, but she makes it work.

Then there's Pink, with her earth-mother flowers and grass, but that hair! It's so curly and somehow more bleached and fake-looking.

See what I mean? Am I right or what?

I wanted them to look their best, so Sunday night I got a glass of water and a comb and got all their tangles out. I'm not proud of what I've become.

So, with this kind of anthropomorphism, you can understand why those abominable Bratz dolls will never. ever. be allowed in our house.

Edited to add: You guys know that I still love both ponies and am glad we have them, right? I just hope Purple doesn't get all upset when Pink comes back after having wasted her substance with riotous living and would fain have filled her belly with the husks that the swine did eat and be like, "But I've been the good pony!"

Sunday, February 15, 2009

prelude to a pavlova

John was in South Carolina this weekend, and my sister came to stay with me on Friday night. She was brought kicking and screaming into this world when I was a senior in high school, so to her I was that random girl who visited sometimes. Aside: isn't that just like a Mormon family? Having a baby when your oldest is in high school? You know they tell that joke about how you can tell a Mormon wedding because the bride's mother is pregnant? Good times. I promise my mom isn't weird, though. She just had a hiccup in her childbirthing plans, so she had to bear fruit a little longer than she intended, okay? Don't judge!

Anyway, back to our story. As I said, Troy and I were not the closest of siblings for a long time because of the disparity in our ages and life circumstances. But since we've moved back to the old stomping grounds, if you will, she and I have spent a lot of time together, what with her raising my children. And we've gotten much closer, and I am trying my best to brainwash her into believing that butter is better for her than Froot Loops and other such crazy things. She helped me decide which hat to buy from Urban Outfitters the other day--I'm sort of tired of my hair looking stupid, and I decided a fedora is a suitable solution. I sort of make myself sick.

Aack! I keep getting sidetracked! So yesterday, we concluded that homemade spinach pasta would be a good dinner. So we made it. And it was good.

Long story for not much reward, but I wanted you to know that I don't only make desserts, because I'm about to tell you about the pavlova I made today. I had to! My Sucanat testing demanded it.

Mixing in the last of the Sucanat--mmm, brown . . .

Whipping it to stiff peaks--not there yet.

I made the executive decision to pull it because it was turning into taffy.

Glop.

So I says to myself, "Self, why do those Kiwis think they can be the boss of what shape my pavlova is?"

After the ill-fated cooking. Notice the nice finger holes from one of the children--none of them will admit it, but my money's on Superman.

It looks grody, and I'll be honest, it was no great thing. But if you get your fork and bust off the taxidermy part and just eat that, it's sort of what pavlova is supposed to be.

It was either a failed success or a successful failure, depending on your perspective. I had to take it out of the oven to cook the bread, so I think that messed with the texture, and it turned into sort of a taxidermy foam/taffy hybrid. It definitely had a molassessy flavor, but I don't think it was so strong that it would overpower whipped cream. You'd have to be more careful with the fruit, though. I think peaches would work, but John thought it fought with the berries we used tonight.

I think I've concluded that Sucanat is acceptable for any application in which pristine, white color is not imperative--a yellow and brown lemon meringue pie would not look terribly appetizing, methinks. But in cookies, pies, and I would imagine many other uses, I think it is a worthy substitute. I'll still keep white sugar around for the fussy stuff, but Sucanat has made it onto the list of preferred sweeteners.

Coming tomorrow: a post about My Little Ponies, Perceived Moral Character Of. You are so stoked!