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The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

ah mah glob! happy lumpin new year brah!

January1

I was going to invite a bunch of people over for New Year’s Eve but then I started feeling sick so only invited one person, then spent New Year’s Eve Day huddled under a blanket on the couch shivering and coughing and watching an “Adventure Time” marathon on tv instead of cleaning up. I briefly considered canceling with the one friend I invited, but I’m glad I didn’t.

My fever ultimately broke, due to the power of rum or friendship or because the virus was running its course, WHO CAN SAY. I made glorious pizza and said friend brought over clearance chocolates and cookies, and we sat around and had fun with Niko and then Nesko put him to bed and she read him 2 stories, and then the three of us adults sat around and talked a bit more and then put on the “Highlander” movie, which friend had never seen although she’s a fan of the TV show.

So basically, I rung in the New Year in the perfect way: with my family and a good, fun friend; with great pizza and rum and coke; with the Highlander. 17 year old me would be pleased with how my life turned out.

One of my resolutions for the upcoming year is to invite people over more often. Since this year we managed to put a ceiling in the bathroom, paint the bathroom, and paint most of the kitchen (still need to paint the trim in the kitchen and some other rooms and paint the built-in china cabinet in the kitchen hall), our place looks less like a hellhole. I really like having people over to watch movies or play games (or both). So I resolve to have people over once a month for movies OR for board games, and maybe try to also have people over once a month for RPG purposes. This will involve 1) keeping on top of household chores/cleaning and 2) not getting sick all the time.

Another resolution is to NAIL bread making, other than Challah. For whatever reason I can make a KICK ASS Challah loaf but non-enriched bread (where “enriched” means “eggs and milk” not “vitamins and fiber”) is still extremely meh. Since there’s a lot of people in my life who don’t/can’t eat eggs or milk, and since breads made without them are also cheaper, I’m going to keep working at it. Once I get a white bread down I’ll work on whole wheat, and then rye. One of my biggest challenges here is a cold kitchen affecting rise time, I think. So I need to just go ahead and let the dough proof for literally 2-3 times what the recipe calls for. Oh, and I’m also going to perfect caramel sauce and fudge sauce.

How was YOUR New Year’s festivities? Are you making any resolutions? How likely are you to stick to them? My dad routinely rotates 2 resolutions: 1) to eat more pie 2) to eat less pie. It seems to work well for him. I’m making a bunch of smaller resolutions on a tiny scale, weekly and monthly things that are more about establishing good habits than changing my entire life.

posted under cooking, food, gaming, holidays, life, movies, pizza | Comments Off on ah mah glob! happy lumpin new year brah!

Basic Recipe Suggestions

January2

If you were going to compile a cook book of very, very basic recipes for people who have never cooked before and grew up in houses where people didn’t cook, what would you put in?

After talking with a lot of intelligent, accomplished people I know who don’t cook, and then talking to my mom, we (my mom and I) have tentative plans to start a cooking blog with photos.

Among other things, I was thinking of doing themes. So, for instance, there’d be a post on how to cook rice without using a rice cooker, then there’d be posts about stuff you can make with rice. (For some reason, I know a lot of people who have no idea how to cook rice, and are also intimidated by it, whereas I just throw some rice and water and bouillon cubes in a pot and wander off for an hour or so and it’s No Big Deal.)

My mom cooked and baked professionally for years, and I was lucky enough to grow up in a home where “from scratch” cooking was normal and accessible. I think that gives me an edge over a lot of my peers, because I have basic skills in the kitchen and am not intimidated by most recipes. Not everyone has that.

What recipes would you be interested in seeing? What sort of topics would you expect to see discussed?

Let me know!

posted under baking, cooking, life, stuff | Comments Off on Basic Recipe Suggestions

The Christmas That Was Almost Ruined

December27

We hosted Christmas Dinner this year, the first time we’ve REALLY hosted a holiday meal. We’ve participated in pot luck in the past (including one year I made a turkey and it was the best tasting turkey IN THE ENTIRE WORLD and I’d never made a turkey before), and one year we half-assed it to the point of not bothering to check to see how long a spiral sliced ham needed to cook and wound up pan frying slices of ham for everyone’s dinner.

This year we made lasagna, cauliflower gratin, mashed potatoes, peas, 2 kinds of rolls, and a spiral sliced ham (well, the ham only needed to be heated up; it was already cooked). All of this, except for the ham, was made from scratch.

There was also cheese and crackers, pumpkin-cranberry muffins, and 4 types of cookies, as well as sugared almonds and spiced mixed nuts. The muffins, cookies, and nuts were also made from scratch.

This was a lot of cooking. I have a 9 month old who needs to be within touching distance of me at all times. I did a lot of prep cooking while he napped or was in bed.

Whew!

Nesko has never personally had to work to host a holiday meal. In the past, we either went to my parents’ or else his family hosted, which is to say that he sat around and drank and talked while Teh Wimmens busted their asses cleaning and cooking. Which meant that Nesko kept fluttering around the kitchen on Christmas early afternoon waving his hands and exclaiming that Christmas “was ruined.”

It was hilarious. And of course nothing was ruined.

The ham and lasagna went in then came out and were covered in foil to stay warm, and the cauliflower and potatoes went in. The peas were microwaved. The rolls were cooked the day before (but I should have heated them up in the oven but I was afraid they’d dry out or something).

Oh! There was also devilled eggs and fudge that didn’t set right (and I need to make a cake so I can melt that fudge down and turn it into frosting).

Next Christmas we are going to make appetizers, cookies, and pie. And if people want actual food we can have sandwiches or something. But people were very interested in the appetizers and were kind of full when the main meal came out. Sure, we could just skip appetizers, but they are MUCH easier to throw together than a meal is.

When we finally have a million billion dollars, we’re going to remodel our kitchen and put in two ovens to make life easier.

posted under baking, Christmas, cooking, home, life, midwest | Comments Off on The Christmas That Was Almost Ruined

Birthday Prep for Nesko, and our neighborhood is awesome.

October22

Nesko’s birthday is this Saturday (and next Saturday is Halloween and the Saturday after that is his brother’s birthday. The holidays are flying thick and fast now!) I’m making spanicopita, pastitsio, and chocolate-vanilla marble cheesecake.

I wanted to get good feta for the spanicopita and kefalotyri for the pastitsio, so we went to Andy’s Fruit Ranch. There, we found that kefalotyri is like $11.00 a pound, which we can’t afford right now so I got romano instead. I was able to get almost everything on our list except for Spinach (their fresh spinach looks really good and I don’t want it to sit in the fridge for three days; we’ll pick some up on Saturday morning), and chocolate cookies for the cheesecake’s crust.

They had almost no chocolate cookies.

They had some chocolate flavored maria cookies, but I’ve never had those before and have no idea if they taste like a butt or not. I know they’re a popular cookie, but do they work well in a cheesecake crust? No idea. They had oreos, which are nommy, but they were pretty expensive. They had some ladyfingers that were flavored half chocolate and half vanilla, which is not enough chocolate, and they had cookies drenched in chocolate covering.

Mmm, imported cookies.

Upshot is that Nesko’s going to pick up some kind of hard chocolate wafer cookie on the way home from work tonight so I can crush them into crumbs for the crust. It’s not that big a deal, having to make two trips. In fact, a few decades ago, it was common to make multiple trips when grocery shopping: you hit the butcher, you hit the bakery, you hit the green grocer. Stores specialized in what they sold.

Andy’s Fruit Ranch mostly specializes in import and ethnic things. They had cases of Jupi and Cockta. They had one million Polish cookies. They had Goya and La Preferida products out the windows. This is what Andy’s Fruit Ranch is.

I’m glad to have a resource like them, one that sells 6 different kinds of phyllo dough, 4 different kinds of feta, amazing cuts of meat, frozen Burek. It’s really awesome! We live in a cool neighborhood that has a lot of grocery stores like this, catering to different ethnicities (including at least one halal butcher).

So it’s kind of disappointing to read negative reviews on Yelp or whatever, from people who don’t really understand what an ethnic market is. Sorry, no, a place like this isn’t going to have every different brand of doritos, coke, pepperidge farm bread, whatever. If you want a wide selection of American products, go to a chain grocery store. If you want butter from Ireland and Poland and Germany, honey from all over Europe, 15 different kinds of olive oil, fresh fluffy packages of pita and naan, then come here. It’s this weird kind of entitlement. “Improve your selection, and THEN I might consider coming back!” Do these folks write overly wordy reviews of Jewel or Dominicks lamenting the lack of freekeh, poppy seed filling, Dr Oetker’s products? Do they really think that a specialty grocery store with a thronging clientele is going to come crawling after them? Weird.

posted under baking, Chicago, cooking, damn hipsters, home, Nesko | Comments Off on Birthday Prep for Nesko, and our neighborhood is awesome.

Moving and Packing

August22

We are, obviously, not going to be able to move into the new apartment by the end of this month. Which, yeah, means we’ll have to pay an extra month’s rent on this crap hole we’re currently in (I use crap hole in the literal sense, here, as every time someone upstairs takes a crap and flushes the toilet, water falls onto anyone taking a crap on our toilet. Or a pee. Whatever. There is a hole above our crapper.) but also gives us more time to clean and paint the old place, gives us more time for roach abatement, and allows for a less stressed move. So it’s more good than bad.

I’ve been packing stuff from the living room and dining room, mostly books and vases and candle holders and the like. You know, stuff that can be boxed up and not missed for awhile. Although I do want to get at some of those books. I started in on the kitchen today, even knowing that we won’t be moving for awhile. We have one million glasses, many of them cute little juice glasses, and the extras are now all packed up. Shot glasses: packed up. Extra little bowls: packed up. The remnants of the nesting glass mixing bowls that survived Nesko’s glass mixing bowl rampage: packed up. Cookbooks: packed up. Several pans: packed up.

By “several” I mean “a very large box full, and then some more added in on the top of the box of cook books.” I went through cabinets and drawers and asked myself Very Hard Questions. “Am I likely to make a cake in the next month? No? In the box! How about a pie? Eight pies? No? In the box! A cheese cake? No! In the box!” One might question the wisdom of having enough pie pans to even make eight pies, but those people obviously hate Thanksgiving and Pie and The American Way Of Gluttonous Life. Also, several of those pie pans are glass and I make casseroles or cakes in them.

I should probably go through and pack up pantry items we aren’t going to use, like the five bags of semi sweet chocolate chips and the two bags of milk chocolate chips and the bag of red hots and the six cans of sweetened condensed milk and… well. You never know when those will come in handy. What if I want to make my fudgey chocolate one-pot cookies which calls for flour, butter, chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, walnuts, and vanilla? I could omit the walnuts, sure, but everything else is necessary and the cookies only take about ten minutes to mix up, and then they go in the oven. Fast! Easy! Tasty! Impossible to make without ingredients!

Yeah. I’m not going to make cookies in the next month.

posted under baking, cooking, moving, packing | Comments Off on Moving and Packing