Thursday, December 29, 2011

(fried) rice, (ginger) bread, (ravioli) pasta

All carbs. All delightful comfort food one might enjoy while deprived of the presence of one’s loved one.

Stupid Steve had to go be with his stupid family in stupid Chicago so we celebrated Christmas early.

(He’s coming back tonight YAY!)

To mark the Christmas holiday, as he marks all days ending in y, Steve made fried rice.


Were you curious what we had eaten two days previously, when last I'd dined at his apartment?

That would be fried rice.


Components to Steve’s fried rice:

-short grain brown sushi rice (yum!)
-a variety of fresh and/or frozen vegetables cut in the way very particular to him (carrots in sort of extra large matchsticks, mushrooms in extremely thick slices, etc. etc.) Different things are cooked in different pans and I don’t totally get the rhyme or reason of it but I’m certainly not going to mess with a very delicious system
-eggs made into a proper omelet
-if he has it, FRESH tofu from the Asian market (mm)
-buckets of oil
-every Asian seasoning under the sun
-the occasional totally whacky addition: cheese and/or cilantro and/or something totally random but... sure why not


I was director of the salad department. Steve likes salad now, which he attributes to me.

By “salad” he means, “Salad with cheese and apples and nuts on top.”

Fair enough!


The evening’s entertainment:


Gingerbread was homemade by Steve (and he created, and bequeathed unto me, enough leftover dough for me to make an entire city of gingerbread people for my family for Christmas!)

Icing was canned cream cheese frosting. Should be delicious, right?

Cream cheese frosting- DELICIOUS (I have come to the reluctant conclusion that I really don't like buttercream frosting. 7 minute, marshmallow, whipped cream, ganache, sign me up! Buttercream? Eh)

Canned frosting- DELICIOUS. Like you don’t love every trans-fat-laden bite. In high school my best friend and I devoured an entire can of fourth of July red and blue confetti icing.

But cream cheese canned frosting? Kind of gross. Achieved neither the deliciousness of canned nor cream cheese’d. Sad. But also kind of a relief, since I ate less.

Initial progress was, if I do say so myself, extremely impressive. Especially given that the house’s structure was a bit… warped.


Yeah, it collapsed shortly after these pictures were taken. Too bad so sad chomp chomp!

And, continuing with the holiday festivities, if you squint, you can kinda tell that that laptop is airing the EXCELLENT film National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

So we were great.

And Steve had his “delicious” PBR, so he was extra great (rolls eyes)


On the subject of Steve’s cooking, he really is extremely impressive.

We’d tried homemade pasta before but it had sort of dissolved into vindictive words. (Hahaha not really but man you put two oldest children in a room to accomplish a task and it’s gonna get a little competitive!)

Steve was ready to do it all over again, in a positive and nurturing way. Sure.

I stood back and watched, calmly and not alpha and oldest child-y.

It meant watching him crack those eggs into that well of flour…


Get his hands up and ready to start kneading…


… getting raw egg all over my kitchen table!


He persevered. Sure enough, the dough came together enchantingly (and half whole wheat, I might add).


I needed my own project- bread and ricotta dumplings in my beloved How to Cook Everything Vegetarian? YES PLEASE!

You basically mix up torn up stale-ish bread (or if you’re me, Sandwich Thins!), herbs, sun dried tomatoes, ‘n cheese of the ricotta and parmesan types.


Combined it makes a REAL thin dough. You are supposed to add it to boiling water to cook IMMEDIATELY… which I did not.


Er.. anyway. Thickening it with flour fixed everything! You’ll see the finished product later.

In the meantime, my help was required in coordinating the pasta machine. Man cannot roll pasta alone.


(Yes, I wear scarves inside. I am always cold).

It was then fillin’ time. (Just to mention, when Steve plans cooking projects he’s like “Oh, I’ll come over at 6:45 and we’ll eat at 7!” Well okay that is a slight exaggeration but suffice it to say that Steve is OPTIMISTIC about timing! This, like many other adorably enthusiastic Steve meal plans, ended up coming to fruition at more like 9:30.

Fillin’ #1 was butternut squash and onions (ultimately what Steve deemed to be too many onions, so he didn’t eat many. I didn’t either, because I was snottily and whinily protesting that Steve had DOUBLED the butter in an already decidedly decadent recipe).

Fillin #2 was the bee’s knees and entirely Steve’s invention:


It was awhile ago that we made this but I can fairly confidently say that it contained mushrooms, garlic, grapes, walnuts, and basil. Then he mixed it with ricotta to stuff the ravioli:


(positively regimental in its straightness, no?)

Beautifully formed, ready for their boiling water bath:


To give you the scale, quite LARGE ravioli (and a peek at the butternut filling)


Fact: it takes an EXTREMELY long time to make pasta. Then make filling. Then fill pasta. Then boil pasta.

But at long last, dinner was served!

Two megabowls of mega ravioli, and Ileana’s bratty concessions to health in the form of a salad and sort of forgettable thawed frozen vegetables stir fry.


My successful but not especially healthy contribution: the little ricotta gnudi! Seeing this is actually reminding me of how good they are and makes me want to take them again.

DSC08087 DSC08090

Before putting food on his plate, Steve took care of the all important “cheese pile”


I focused on emphasizing veggies (though you know I ate way more pasta than that :D)


My favorite was the awkward wizard-hat shaped ravioli. So dear!


Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Wakeup! Christmas Morning! Woohoo!

Oh… it’s 7:30. Oh… my entire family is asleep. Oh… we’re going to church before we do anything and that’s at 10.

Do some yoga! (I think I did yoga on Thanksgiving too? My practice is basically confined to major holidays when I wake up before anyone else)

Make some gluten free shortbread for our Celiac-disease afflicted friend who wasn’t actually at church but I was happy to give the recipe a trial run before its debut at our party next week!

Went to church!

Went home!

Presents with nuclear family!

Hop in car!

Arrive at Kathy and Tom’s. Park self next to unbelievably amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing fireplace.


Was delighted to see my wonderful family members, and think of those who weren’t there (that Keep Austin Weird mug, which I immediately nabbed, was a gift from my cousin Rachel, who with her hubby Richard and her parents and sister are still in Austin, with Richard and Rachel’s BABY! Who I want to meet, STAT!)


And it was nice to catch up with everyone in a delightfully low-key and relaxed and fun brunch, the spirit of which I think is nicely evoked in my cousin Steven’s bacon frosting.


Obviously, food was present in mammoth quantities, laid out in a beautiful spread.


I probably would’ve eaten a bagel…


Except instead there were biscuits! Done in the Cook’s Illustrated manner.


Kathy is a GREAT cook! I spent the first part of the morning interrogating her about where she got all her recipes cause they were so good :D

She’s also my most devoted blog fan. She said “So I was reading your blog the other day and went ‘Colcannon? What’s that?!’” And I interrupted and went “Ooh it’s so good you should make it!” and she said “I did! And the other recipe you posted that day!” SO FLATTERING.

Onto what else Kathy made- breakfast casseroles! One with jack cheese and queso fresco sprinkled atop, and one with sausage (and it was bliss to be reunited with meat) and DANG that sausage one was exceptional.

It had eggs and bread in it, and the interior was soooooooo perfect; tender, custardy, ethereally light and not at all dry or overcooked. A testament to eggs! (And sausage!)


How many awesome streusel-topped applesauce muffins did I eat? I am sort of not prepared to talk about it. And really don’t actually know… since I was mostly just slamming back streusel. (Slamming back streusel might be the title of my hair metal band’s first album…)


Our contribution: my mom’s Linzer hearts and my/my boyfriend’s gingerbread (after an adorably disastrous gingerbread house, he still had a tonnnnn of gingerbread dough yet, so I made adorable little men. Thanks, adorable man, for enabling me to do so!)


Thoroughly overwhelmed (in a good way) by the riches laid before me, I began with a leisurely mimosa and a cup of tea. And coffee. And tea. And water. And tea (I try to consume a lot of fluids at these things to minimize stuffing my face too much. In the case of the muffins, I happily conceded defeat).

I love mimosas so much. (And now giggle and think about the My Drunk Kitchen version)


My first of several plates. Half a muffin (ha!); taste of both casseroles as well as some cheese grits made by my aunt Nan; grapes (many more were consumed), a delicious layer of smoked salmon, tomato, and capers; biscuit; a smoked oyster. I. Love. Christmas.


(Nice legs, sis!)

Highlights of conversation at Christmas was learning how to say something unprintable in Farsi from one cousin, having another cousin urge me to visit her in Amsterdam and travel throughout Europe because “It’s still fondue season!”, and having yet another cousin urge me to practice forklift driving in a parking lot.

My family is awesome.

Gag gifts of note (nerf guns are basically mandatory at our family events and you generally have projectiles whizzing by at some point in the proceedings!)



Though I’d definitely eaten enough for an entire day (or three…), it was in fact only 4:30 or so when we left the cornucopia of deliciousness and fun that was the Mom’s Family Brunch.

Now (children of divorce, who else is familiar with this syndrome?) the Dad’s Family Dinner!

Let’s start by admiring how frickin’ adorable me and my little sister were back in the day:


The evening began, like many on both sides of my family, with artichoke dip.

I snort every time my dad refers to it as “his” famous artichoke dip… since he definitely got the recipe from his ex mother in law.


Think I’ve written about it before, but it’s just jarred artichoke hearts, cheddar cheese, garlic and mayo. So simple, so delicious!

Bodie (looking like a little sissy in his bow; but he was totally proud) begged incessantly throughout the Christmas activities and seemed particularly interested in this dip.


And Jasmine was all ‘Oh please, I’m not waking up for that.”


We did a formaler (ish) sit down dinner.

My contributions:

1. Totally boss kale salad


Shredded kale (I got mine at the farmer’s market the previous day. It was purpley!)
Pecans (1 cup pecans, 1 tsp. oil, 1 tsp. dried thyme, dash of hot sauce, salt; roast til golden)
Dressing- a haphazard mixture of lemon juice, honey, mustard, olive oil, and cinnamon

SO SO SO DELICIOUS! The honey was key.


Also, pumpkin risotto. Made in my usual barley risotto style (see my recipage!) but with mushrooms added with onion at the beginning, roasted cubed pumpkin stirred in at the end, and a bit of thyme.


My dad, like any holiday he hosts (literally; he has done this for Thanksgiving) made lamb.

I. Love. Lamb.


(Note: the fact that the meat is browned, rather than still “baa”-ing, means that my dad horrifically overcooked the meat by his standards)

In a tribute to my (recently) late grandmother, my aunt Jeanie made scalloped potatoes. And, as my dad and I rather candidly pointed out later, while making us miss her and think of her, they were definitely BETTER than my grandmother’s. Still awesomely rich, but Jeanie did a great job of evenly slicing the potatoes so they were all perfectly cooked (rather than an occasional alarmingly al dente bite).


The plate. Went back for more salad and potatoes!


Also a tribute to my grandmother: English trifle!

Do people without roots in the British Empire eat traditional English trifle anymore? I’m talking sponge cake sprinkled in sherry, raspberry jam, peaches (canned; you know it!), custard made from Bird’s custard powder, whipped cream, slivered almonds.

DSC08774 DSC08777DSC08775    

So good! Multiply this by about five, *rolls eyes*


Then pressies and a minor miracle: the women on my dad’s side of the family, all with open eyes and a reasonably attractive expression!

My aunt Michele, me, my sis Malindi, my aunt Jeanie, and my stepmother Sally.


Merry Christmas friends! Hope you all enjoyed your holiday as much as I did!