Thursday, May 31, 2012

Blackened beans

Do you find recipes in magazines and tear them out, only to never actually make the dish? I do. I've got recipes ripped out of magazines from the early 90s that I will never make, but I still have them filed away just in case! I've been trying to curb that habit lately (and all the towering piles of paper!), so the recipes I save are usually simple ones where I already have most of the ingredients in the pantry.

A couple of days ago, I began prepping a Bean & Chard soup from Sunset Magazine by boiling and soaking some dried beans. Since our move last week, my energy level has been kind of low, so I didn't get any further than the boil/soak that day.

Yesterday morning, the runny nose and sore throat that the toddler had been fighting off finally got to me.

Today, around lunchtime, I decided that the Bean & Chard soup would be perfect for my worsening cold. Little did I know that white beans, even after a 48-hour soak, still needed a few hours of simmering time before they'd become edible. So much for planning ahead. I added a quart of homemade veggie stock to the beans and set the pot to simmer. I kept checking, but the beans didn't seem to be softening up, even after a couple of hours. By that time, I had to put my son down for a nap, so I headed upstairs.

Which is where I promptly, and blissfully, passed out for another couple of hours.

When I finally woke up, it took me all of two seconds to register the faintest smell of smoke, jump out of bed, and run downstairs to the kitchen. When I lifted the lid of my lovely, beautiful, new-to-me dutch oven, this is what assaulted me, along with a huge plume of smoke.


G*ddamn "blackened" white beans carbonized to the bottom of my pot. Eff me.

I think I mentioned before about my cooking skills. Do I need to tell you that the best investment we've made in this house so far is the fire extinguisher?

Especially since we've lived here for exactly one week today, and already this is the SECOND time I've burnt something on the stove?

Argh.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Happiness level: High.


I know, it's such a terrible picture, but I really wanted to share it with you anyway.

In this messy corner, my very own craft room (!!!) is beginning to take shape.

Yes, the shape is that of a blob, but I am so excited!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Late-night cravings

What dish contains beans, yams, coconut, bananas and milk?


It's halo-halo, that Filipino treat! (Of course, I can't forget the jackfruit and the ice!)

My mom used to make it for me all the time when I was younger. I remember her pulling 4 or 5 glass jars filled with gelatinous, starchy, or stringy ingredients out of the fridge, along with a big block of ice and a can of evaporated milk. I can't remember how she'd shave the ice, but I do recall the slightly crunchy texture, which was coarser than Hawaiian shave ice but much less rocky than an American snow cone.

I made a halo-halo for myself tonight, and dear ole hubs looked at it and headed right off to bed. Good thing too, because it was almost indecent how much I enjoyed it. I think he might have gotten jealous.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Time marches on


We've moved all of our boxes and furniture out, but there's one thing I can't move - the wall where we marked my son's height. I just noticed that it's time to measure him again. I also noticed that I didn't start marking the wall until just after his 2nd birthday. I guess he couldn't stand still prior to 9/1/2011?

Don't worry, I already have plans to recreate this chart in our new home. Sentimental much? ;-)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Giving thanks


Today, I'm grateful that dear ole hubs owns a moving company. Moving gets harder each time we have to do it, but without his wonderful employees and his own expertise, we'd still be sitting in the midst of a shit-ton of boxes. We'd probably be sitting on the floor too, since at one point it was questionable whether our huge sleeper sofa was going to make it through the door or not.

Now we just have to wait for the cable internet to be installed on Saturday. I don't think I can go much longer than that without my FB fix.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Looking further back - Rolling over


Two years ago today, my dear old 1993 Ford Ranger pickup rolled over 200,000 miles. She was my first new vehicle right out of high school and I paid off my loan by myself in 60 installments with money I'd earned waiting tables. Who am I kidding? She was my only vehicle. I drove her day in and day out for 16 years, until I was forced to get something more suitable for driving around with an infant.

She stills runs great, though her seatbelts are worn and the shiny black paint job turned gray a long time ago. As we approach her 20th birthday, I wonder if she'd qualify for classic car status.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Looking Back - California Strawberry Festival


A year ago today, my sisters and I went to Oxnard to check out the Strawberry Festival.

I still dream about these strawberry nachos, made with cinnamon-sugar tortillas, strawberry sauce, and whipped cream.

Unfortunately, we're a week too late this year, but mark your calendar for 2013!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Let me clear the air.

Probably not what you think it is.

We're moving into a new place this week and I decided that I wanted to try a smudging ceremony.

I lit a sage stick and walked it around the perimeter of each room in the house, all the while blowing the smoke into the air and thinking positive thoughts. I asked for blessings, love and prosperity to come into our new home, and I called upon the friendly spirits to help make our home happy, kind, and free from negative energy. I thought a lot about my mom and also about my SIL's mom, who lived in the house before us, and asked them both to watch over me and my family.

All in all, it took me about an hour to smudge the whole house, and after I was done, I felt energized.

I also smelled like a pot campfire. I hope the landlord doesn't notice.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Release your inner Koi.


This is a new mural at our favorite local restaurant. My phone's camera doesn't do the colors justice. I was thinking that it would be a beautiful tattoo, if I was inclined to add another to my body canvas.

According to the Tattoo Encyclopedia by Terisa Green, the Koi Tattoo symbolizes courage, strength, and the ability to overcome life's obstacles. I imagine that this particular image would be a striking reminder of those qualities that I want to work on.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Double Chocolate and Banana Tart - French Fridays with Dorie

Oh my goodness, is it Friday again already? I still haven't finished my FFwD post from last week! I guess that's what happens when you start getting all cocky about having posted every day for a month. I was bound to lose my stride.

I remembered about today's recipe late this morning, so it was a good thing I'd already planned to go to the grocery store. I wavered between making the original banana tart or the alternate Nutella version. The $10 jar of organic chocolate-hazelnut spread made the decision for me. Banana it is!

The chocolate shortbread dough was very simple to make. I love my food processor! I don't know how you'd make this dough without one. I used dutched cocoa, as that's what I had on hand. After adding the butter and egg, the dough starts to get grainy and then clumpy. Almost there...


Now we've reached maximum clumpiness. Perfect. Turn the dough out and lightly knead. At this point, I was ready to eat it. The smell of the chocolate and butter were very tempting.


Don't tell anyone, but I used my 9" springform pan instead of a tart pan. When we move into a house with a bigger kitchen, then I'll be able to justify buying more baking supplies.


I used a flat-bottomed drinking glass to even out the bottom of the tart crust, which unexpectedly mimicked a fluted pan in reverse. I don't have pie weights or dried beans, so I put the crust in the freezer for a while to eliminate the need for either. The bottom did puff up a little in the oven, but I pressed it down with the back of a spoon. One thing I didn't do was butter the foil before pressing it into the crust.


Oh, so THAT's why I was supposed to do that. I guess sometimes it's better to follow directions than try to take a shortcut. Lesson learned, at least for today. What's that they say about hindsight?


The caramelized bananas were somewhat of a pain. Slicing them 1/8" thick left them too thin to withstand the heat of caramelization. The first banana turned to mush in the pan, so I turned off the heat and added another banana that I'd sliced slightly thicker. In any case, it tasted fantastic, even though I had cut the sugar down to 1 tablespoon.


The ganache was not as simple as it looked. I never knew that ganache has only three ingredients: bittersweet chocolate, cream and butter. The chocolate and cream came together beautifully and became smooth and shiny in a matter of minutes. But when I added the butter, something terrible started to happen. The ganache started to separate and become grainy, and no amount of mixing made the lumpiness go away. The harder I stirred, the worse it got. I finally gave up and put the bowl away in the refrigerator.

Later, as I waited for the tart crust to cool, I went online to diagnose my broken ganache. I found a very detailed article that told me, basically, that I did it. Me and my rookie mistakes broke the ganache.

Reasons for failure, according to Global Gourmet's Sherry Yard:
  1. Inadequate temperature control, i.e. chocolate gets too hot or too cold too fast.
  2. Chocolate is not very finely chopped.
  3. Stirring the ganache too vigorously. 
Number of things you're not supposed to do that I did: 3 out of 3.

Reasons for making all 3 rookie mistakes:
  1. Not reading the instructions clearly.
  2. Overall cooking & baking ignorance.
  3. Trying to take too many shortcuts because I'm in too much of a hurry.
There was a solution on the website, but it was complicated and involved double boilers, ice baths, and a food processor. I ended up improvising. I took the bowl out of the fridge, stirred the ganache again (it was still grainy), and put the bowl on top of the oven. The hot air coming from the oven vent slowly heated up the chocolate mixture . After a few minutes, I tried mixing the slightly-melted-but-still-mostly-cold ganache back together and, WHOA, but it worked. All of a sudden, I was back on track!

I assembled the tart and realized that, even with the extra banana I added, there weren't enough caramelized bananas to cover the entire bottom of the tart. I have no idea how Dorie managed it. I also couldn't figure out how she made the perfectly concentric, bias-cut banana circles for the top of the tart. Food stylist? What's that?


We served it for dessert after an impromptu barbeque. Everything today was destined to be last-minute!

The verdict: grade B. It was good, but it didn't knock my socks off. It needed a bit more sweetness, and I think it was the dutched cocoa in the tart crust that made everything seem so...dry. The caramelized bananas were delicious with the ganache, and all of us were disappointed that there weren't more. Next time, I'd like to try a natural, non-dutched cocoa for the crust and I'd go overboard with the bananas. There's so much chocolate flavor that I don't think it's possible to have too many bananas.

UPDATE: There was no way we could finish the entire tart, so I wrapped up a few slices and stuck them in the freezer. WOW, am I glad I did that. The bananas held up surprisingly well and the thawed tart is wonderful!


You can see how the others fared here. And you must join us! It's no longer an option. Since we don't post the recipes for FFwD, you'll just need your own copy of Around My French Table. The cookbook has some wonderful recipes, so it's worth it, even if you don't want to blog about it!

Thanks for reading, and happy eats!



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I Heart Books


I went to the latest meeting of my book club tonight. Besides the fantastic homemade pizzas, salads, and berry crumble, and four (!!!) bottles of wine, we did a little talking about the book we read together, I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley.

General consensus: the stories were fun, a bit too sarcastic at times, but overall relatable. The book was an easy read.

Thanks to AC for hosting such a lovely evening. Can't wait until next time!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Seriously, UPS?

Hey UPS, we need to talk. 

This is really hard for me. I used to have a huge crush on you. Everyone did. That sexy brown-on-brown-on-brown uniform and that very clever phone number - 1-800-PICK-UPS. I never thought you would look my way, and yet, one day you started coming by.

Life with you was great for a long time. I had no reason to complain. Then, all of a sudden, things started getting weird. Missed delivery here, broken box there....what was I supposed to think?

I've heard what people have been saying about you lately. And I know that you have a bad image now, what with being caught on camera tossing packages over fences and all. I've been giving you the benefit of the doubt. But what you did to me today is the last straw.



I gave you my signature, I gave you my permission to leave the package at the gate, and I even told you to ring up my neighbors. But you still left me a "Final Attempt" notice on my mailbox and sent my package back to the sender. 

You are a rat bastard. I don't think we should see each other anymore.

Sincerely,
T.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Every single time.


Every time I pass a beautiful garden or flower or fruit tree I think of you. 
I miss you so much. We all do. 
I love you, Mom. 
Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Purple.

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.
~Alice Walker


Friday, May 11, 2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Green.


Green is the prime color of the world, 
and that from which its loveliness arises.
~Pedro Calderon de la Barca

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Yellow.



Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, 
others transform a yellow spot into the sun.

~Pablo Picasso


And to my dear ole hubs, happy anniversary. I'm glad you're one of those who can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.



Monday, May 7, 2012

Red.


The majority of those who put together collections 
of verses or epigrams resemble those who eat 
cherries or oysters: they begin by choosing the best 
and end by eating everything.
~ Nicolas Chamfort


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Rainbow.

This is me, amazed that I've kept up posting once a day for a whole month. Ya-hoo! Some days I'm later than others, but thanks to the magic of that "schedule" button, I can back-date my posts to my heart's content. I'm hoping one day to be so organized that I'm able to schedule my posts in advance. Rock on!

Today I'm going to begin working on a project I had half-heartedly started years ago. This week is dedicated to all the colors of the rainbow.


Color is joy. One does not think joy.
One is carried by it. - Ernst Haas



Saturday, May 5, 2012

SuperMoon and the Phantom Bike

I'd heard so much talk about the SuperMoon tonight that I ventured out after dark with my camera. I didn't exactly know what to expect, but in the back of my mind I'd hoped for something phenomenal.



Well, the moon was definitely brighter and larger than usual, but it wasn't really that different. If I hadn't already known about the SuperMoon, I probably wouldn't have noticed. 

From Richard Nolle, who coined the "SuperMoon" term, I learned that there is a higher-than-normal incidence of large storms, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions within 3 days of a SuperMoon event. We live in Southern California and haven't had a major earthquake in a number of years, and every year that passes makes me both more nervous and more careless about emergency planning. 

So, if nothing else, the SuperMoon has compelled me to start putting together an emergency kit for my family. I'll check back in 3 days to let you know what the seismic situation is.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Almond Flounder Meuniere - French Fridays with Dorie


When I went to the fishmonger to buy flounder for today's recipe, he shook his head at me. "No flounder," he told me. "How about sole instead?"

I panicked a little. What do I know about the different kinds of fish? Very little, considering I do like to eat sushi. He could have told me that mackerel would have been a good substitution and I wouldn't have batted an eye. I shrugged my shoulders and said OK. When I got home and looked at the recipe, I was relieved. This recipe is a cross between sole amandine and sole meuniere. See that? Serendipity.


According to Dorie's serving notes, this dish is best served with a simple side, like boiled potatoes. I found a recipe for broth-braised potatoes in the cookbook and somehow had all of the ingredients on hand. See that? Serendipity strikes again. But you'll have to excuse the appearance of the red potatoes. I needed to take care of the super creepy potato eyes that were beginning to sprout (Thanks Cher, for last week's goosebump-inducing description). Don't worry, the potatoes weren't poisonous - no greenish tinge at all and, as you can see, I dug ALL of the baby sprouts out of them. Next time, I'll peel them too, just to be on the paranoid side.



The "flounder" recipe was really simple to put together and the prep wasn't as messy as fried fish can be. None of the usual three-dish, eggy fingers, flour and bread crumbs spilled all over the counter, and darn it, now my nose itches and of course the phone's ringing too. It was more of a brush-brush, sprinkle-sprinkle, pat-pat kind of action, then into the frying pan they went!



The sole fillets were so large that I could only fit one in the skillet at a time. I had bought 4 fillets and made them all in one night. I used SO MUCH BUTTER frying them up, almost an entire stick. And there still wasn't enough butter to spoon over the fish as it was cooking. Do I sound like I'm complaining? Because I'm not! The browned butter mixed with lemon juice and the broth from the potatoes? That's like heaven right there.......mmmmmm!


I don't know if I was just hungry or if I was trying to prove something, but I scarfed down a whole fillet and three potatoes with my hands in 5 minutes flat. I ate caveman-style. It was not pretty. But it was delicious.

The verdict:
  • Almond Flounder Meuniere, grade: A. I'll definitely be making these again, but next time I'm going to try using the grill burner outside. I have to keep the fried fish odor from permeating every room in the house. It was OK that night, but not so good the next morning, and pretty terrible the day after that.
  • Broth-Braised Potatoes, grade: A+. OMG wow, were those delicious. I didn't think I'd be a fan of boiled potatoes, but consider me a convert!
You can see how the others fared here. And think about joining in the fun! Since we don't post the recipes for FFwD, you'll need your own copy of Around My French Table. The cookbook has some wonderful recipes, so it's worth it, even if you don't want to blog about it!


Thanks for reading, and happy eats!



Thursday, May 3, 2012

These hands

These hands belong to a mother,
a nurturer,
a wife, a daughter, a sister,
a writer, 
a reader,
an artist, a crafter,
a photographer,
a cook, a baker.


These hands are mine.


And can I tell you how much I love this nail color? Warwick Way by Nails, Inc. I get ridiculously happy every time I look at my nails.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Natural History Museum and the Butterfly Pavilion

I woke up with a grand plan - take my son to see the Butterfly Pavilion at the Natural History Museum and hopefully get some photos.


I know that butterflies aren't interesting to a little boy who loves construction vehicles, trains, dirt, and sticking things in his nose. So I tempted him with promises of butterflies AND dinosaurs. He agreed, and we were soon on our way.


The Butterfly Pavilion did not disappoint. We arrived early and it was an overcast morning, so many of the butterflies were resting and waiting for it to get warmer before opening their wings.


We even saw caterpillars munching on leaves and tiny little eggs deposited on plants throughout the exhibit.


Of course, all of that happened in the span of 5 minutes. Immediately after walking into the tented area, my son began looking around for dinosaurs. I explained that the dinosaurs were inside the museum and that we would visit them after we saw the butterflies. His response?


He pointed and said, "Dere's butterflies, Mommy. I want to see dinosaurs now."

Hard to argue with that. 

Here you go, son.



Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mack?!

Anyone who knows my son also knows that he's a huge fan of the Disney Cars movies. He doesn't get to watch the movies often, but he's definitely seen them both enough times.

I was driving today and heard him in the backseat quoting the movie. 

I'm no Mack...I'm a Peterbilt!*

That sentence came out of nowhere. We'd been listening to music, so I wasn't sure what he was talking about. I looked in my rear-view mirror at him and he looked back at me. "What did you say?"

I'm a Peterbilt. Look, Mommy. And he pointed out the window.


I swear, that kid makes me laugh sometimes.

*The actual quote is a little different, but it's close enough.