Monday, November 27, 2006

I did promise cooking obsession, didn't I?

Because I wouldn't want to disappoint, at least not right away.

Tonight I felt a little creative. Like I have probably mentioned before, it's my experience that Kevin likes the stuff I cook more often when I don't use a recipe, so I'm trying to do more of that. It requires more creativity, regardless, so it's a little more fun sometimes.

I was cooking some chickpeas, anyway, so I went ahead and made a simple (if underseasoned) basmati rice pilaf with vegetable broth, shallots, and garlic, with chickpeas, ground coriander, and ground ginger added towards the end of cooking. I served it with a sprinkling of lightly chopped cilantro and sour heirloom tomato wedges all around, salted. I'd definitely add more of a kick to this if I made it again--cayenne, more coriander, perhaps more ginger, perhaps some cumin. Cumin is my spice crutch, though, so I'm trying to experiment.

As a side dish, I made a dish with red cabbage and shredded carrot. First I fried about a half teaspoon of fennel seeds in a splash of olive oil, then I added the carrot and cabbage and turned the heat up high and tossed it all around until the cabbage seemed just barely cooked, then turned off the heat and added about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, which sizzled in the hot pan. To this I added more cilantro and about two tablespoons of toasted and chopped pistachios. This dish turned out really well; both Kevin and I enjoyed it.

Someday in the future I might have a working digital camera. If I had one now, I would've posted pictures, because these dishes looked very pretty. Especially the cabbage.

I'm thinking tomorrow I'll do a (purple!) cauliflower and potato dry fry with cumin seeds and cilantro, backed up with simple channa masala (hey, I cooked a lot of chickpeas) and plain basmati rice.

The farmers' market is still selling me fresh and beautiful organic tomatoes for $2 a pound. The next time someone gives me shit about living in California, at least I'll have a good answer.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

As requested, some recipes.

Or more accurately, where to get some recipes, because they're copyrighted or whatever and I liked the cookbooks.

Lebanese Cuisine by Anissa Helou was the source of my fish recipe (p. 109-110). The recipe calls for one 3 lb. fish, scaled and gutted, but we used about 3.5 lb. of tilapia filets, halved and rolled up, stuffed, and tied with twine. I haven't made a ton of things out of this book, but it does serve as a pretty good reference for what flavors belong in this type of cooking without reading too obscure.

Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz is the source for my sweet potato pie with maple nut topping (p. 234-235). If you like vegan comfort food, I can't recommend this book enough, although oddly my actually vegan boyfriend hasn't been too impressed with the things I've made with this book. Too bad; I am! He did cop to liking the pie, at least. He is human, after all.

High-Flavor, Low-Fat Vegetarian Cooking by Steven Raichlen has the recipe for the Armenian pomegranate pate (p. 6). I've only made one or two other things from this book, but it has lovely, glossy pictures and somewhat inspiring recipes that, apparently, I never have all the ingredients to make. It's a little odd that way. Also, the dude who wrote this has a barbecue cooking show on PBS.

Invitation to Mediterranean Cooking by Claudia Roden has a couple minor recipes used in my Thanksgiving dinner (eggplant puree, traditional variation, p. 30; bulghur pilaf with raisins and pine nuts, p. 84) as well as a broad overview of recipes from several Mediterranean countries (not just European).

The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein is a vegan cookbook with a commendable goal: to avoid using substitutions to make something vegan, but still having a recipe based in reality/tradition. Want to make pesto without the cheese? Some people couldn't afford cheese, so they did without. I really like this cookbook, the type of cuisine it focuses on, and its attitude, so even when I don't really like a recipe, I still keep it in mind. It's definitely not gathering dust. This was the source for mashed potatoes (though I added about six cloves of raw garlic to the cooked product), butternut squash gratin, and pesto-stuffed mushroom caps.

Today I cooked without the aid of cookbooks, using up some of my Thanksgiving herb leftovers to make a basil-mint hummus (omit garlic and olive oil; add tons of fresh basil and about 6-8 sprigs of mint) and items freshly acquired at the farmers' market to make potato-leek soup with ground coriander for a most excellent kick. I also had tea with homemade mixed nut scones (Vengeance, above) and raspberry preserves for breakfast.

Also? I suggest adding fresh orange zest, dried cranberries, and a dash of cinnamon to your pancakes.

The obsessive cooking phase is back in effect, guys. At least for now.

Your daily dose of mapley goodness.

The pie. The dinner. The legend.

Okay, no legend. But it was tasty and my mom has a little photographic evidence to that end.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Here's how it went.

So yesterday we cooked and ate mass quantities and had even more leftovers. It was pretty awesome.

pomegranate and walnut pate - this was pretty interesting. My mom and sister were pretty fond of it; Kevin thought it was weird.
hummus - I can make awesome hummus in my sleep, so whatever.
caponata or eggplant salad
pita bread

Main Course
baked fish with coriander and nut stuffing, Lebanese-style - this was SUPER CRAZY DELICIOUS. We ended up using tilapia filets and wrapping them around a wad of stuffing, tying it with string, then baking it upright with a little white wine in the bottom of the pan. An unqualified success.
vegan option, at Kevin's discretion - he didn't opt for anything in particular, so he got tomatoes with some of the stuffing for the fish (the stuffing itself was vegan).

fennel, orange, and arugula salad - looked amazing; tasted okay. No one really said anything about it, but if it at least made a nice visual impression, I'm happy.
stuffed swiss chard leaves* - the recipe was deemed too complicated and the item unnecessary.
broiled mushrooms with pesto* - quite lovely, if simple.
Italian-style brown rice salad - no one from my house/family liked this, but Kevin's dad did, so I sent all the leftovers with him, even though they were going up to Yosemite today. I suggested they mix in some chicken or tuna and maybe yogurt or mayo and it would probably be good in a pita or sandwich, but overall, the flavors just didn't do it for me, anyway.
garlic mashed potatoes (just garlic, olive oil, and potatoes) - I probably should have made these the day-of instead of making them on Tuesday and reheating them, but I think they present good reworking opportunities. The reheating really dried them out, though.
provencal butternut squash gratin - completely delicious. Not overseasoned and a very melt-in-your-mouth texture.
spinach sauteed with pine nuts and raisins*
bulghur pilaf with pine nuts and raisins* - bland, but tasty. People like bulghur; it's a nice little grain. Kevin picked out the raisins, but otherwise called this dish his favorite. (The other ingredients were toasted pine nuts and vegetable broth. Thanks.)
challah a la Margot - one vegan and one non-vegan loaf. She shaped the non-vegan loaf into an absolutely adorable fish that rose and almost stopped looking like a fish, so she brushed it with some blue, red, and brown egg wash, which made it look hilariously Easter-y. The vegan loaf was formed into a fabulous turkey (the only turkey at dinner) for irony's sake and it was delicious.

sweet potato pie with lots of nuts - PHENOMENAL. I halved the sugar called for in the filling recipe, but otherwise followed directions and it came out BEAUTIFUL. So much good sweet potato, maple, and nut flavors with a lovely, nutty, graham cracker crust.
pear and cranberry tort (or other basically fruity dessert)* - Kevin requested simple cut fruit, so that's what we had -- pineapple, mango, oranges, apples, and kiwi. I think only the oranges, pineapple, and mango got served, though.
something very, very chocolatey*

Also, Kevin's dad brought a "rainbow yam" dish with a sauce that -- as I recall -- was made with mango, vanilla, and rum, among possibly other things and was quite tasty as well.

Overall, it was a success. Hooray! Today we are thinking of going to a movie or two or three and looking at mattresses while avoiding Black Friday sales of HORROR.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

They're not literally his children.

Dude, tonight's Veronica Mars had an A-plot that straight-up mimicked The Big Lebowski. My favorite TV show paying homage to my favorite movie? Fucking killer! I was dorking the hell out.

Speaking of dorking out, I am really obsessed with my Thanksgiving menu this week. I cannot shut up. Also, my house is still not clean and that is freaking me out. My mom is coming in tomorrow at noon and will be home without me all afternoon. Ack ack ack ack. Hopefully Kevin will forego sleep in pursuit of my sanity, heh. (It's all his stuff, pretty much. There will be some picking up in the living room that I can do, and general neatening up of the place, but the piles... those are his. I can't touch them.) Anyway, a lot of stuff is made or just needs some finishing touches and reheating, so the cooking portion, at least, shouldn't be a huge stressor. Plus it all looks pretty tasty!

Happy unturkey day!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Birthdays: Are they at all exciting?

I am turning 25 in less than a month. Kevin will turn 26 a few days before me. We're settled on "doing something" to celebrate our respective agings, but most likely that would involve a dinner or two out and me concocting something delicious and vegan. Should we attempt to do anything more interesting? We're not really party people and good luck convincing him to go out of town for anything. Hah.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Public notice: Please stop getting engaged, everyone.

I can't take it anymore. I have reached my quota of engaged/married friends. I am crying uncle. Just hold off a few years. You can wait. Really!

Stop being so goddamn happy with each other and doing all those things people do. Stop wanting to spend your lives together. I mean, it's sweet and all, really, but there is just too much of it.

Just stop with the happy-making, people. Please.

Love, your freaked-out friend,


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Thanksgiving-planning freak.

That's me for the next couple weeks. My main obstacle right now is getting all the crap that should be in the garage out of the kitchen. Then we can figure out where a table with seating for eight will fit in our house.

Of course, that hasn't stopped me from jumping the obsessive planning gun, and I already know how the table will be set (I bought eight plates in a nice slate blue, $2 apiece, as well as simple cloth napkins, also cheap) and what the menu is. Hell, I already made a shopping list, divided by part of the store (as my mother once taught me). Next Sunday I'll get up, get everything I can from the farmers' market (including possibly some flowers for the table--maybe a small white orchid, or a nice bouquet of cut flowers that might last a few days), then hit up Whole Foods and Trader Joe's for the rest. I still need to plan which days I'll do prep work for which food items. My mom is flying in around lunchtime the day before Thanksgiving and I will also have to set aside a project or two for her in the afternoon. My sister will take Caltrain down that night and possibly whip up a batch or two of her wonderful challah.

You must know by now that I relish a challenge for menu-planning (if not necessarily cooking technique itself), so I think my Thanksgiving menus have gotten weirder every year. This year, I'm going Mediterranean/Middle Eastern, and it's almost 100% vegan and should be pretty crazy healthy. Here's what I have planned for this year:

pomegranate and walnut pate
caponata or eggplant salad
pita bread

Main Course
baked fish with coriander and nut stuffing, Lebanese-style
vegan option, at Kevin's discretion

fennel, orange, and arugula salad
stuffed swiss chard leaves*
broiled mushrooms with pesto*
Italian-style brown rice salad
garlic mashed potatoes (just garlic, olive oil, and potatoes)
provencal butternut squash gratin
spinach sauteed with pine nuts and raisins*
bulghur pilaf with pine nuts and raisins*
challah a la Margot

sweet potato pie with lots of nuts
pear and cranberry tort (or other basically fruity dessert)*
something very, very chocolatey*

* = the maybes. I'd prefer to narrow it down to five sides and two desserts, but we'll see.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I am suddenly out a lot more money.

But not nearly as much as I could have been.

In between actual project work today (which was light), I was researching tires. It was down to two options. A would cost me $308 (including installation, taxes, and fees), is a model recommended by Consumer Reports, and could be installed at a shop less than a mile from my house as soon as tomorrow. B would cost me $285 *on sale* (including installation, taxes, and fees), is a model that seems pretty good judging by general comments on the internet (it wasn't reviewed by CR), and had a much better treadwear rating than A. I went with B, which is through, and I have to await their call--within 5 to 10 business days--to see when these suckers can get put on my car.

I also checked out some Honda parts sites and found out that my side view mirror is listed at $179, but at least one site had it for $134. But that's just the part, and I have no idea where I could get it installed and how much labor would cost. I also don't know if I ripped up other things besides the mirror part that I can buy. If I were a little more car-savvy, I'd have half a mind to attempt to install the thing myself, but it involves wires and bodywork and thus is scary.

Anyway, I think $500+ of car work is quite enough for one month.

I should call my mom and make sure she didn't drown now. I'm feeling guilty enough about the car things; I shouldn't have to feel like I have ignored her and the fact that she hasn't been on the internet for a few days and it's OMG raining like fucking biblical floods up there.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Now there are only three things obviously wrong with my car.

The scrapey brakes and desperately-needing-changing oil problems have been eliminated from the competition. Hooray for these dudes. It wasn't quite as painful on my pocketbook as I'd anticipated, either, which was a bonus.

Now what is left, in order of priority to fix it:

1. New tires (dude said "before it gets rainy") on a budget of less than $300.

2. Replace right side view mirror that I awesomely smashed off in my old apartment parking spot, which supposedly costs something like $200 to fix at a dealer, and bleh.

3. Fix dents and scraping in left rear doors from another parking incident, circa 2002. This one had an estimated repair cost of around $1,200 at the time; might be worse now, who the hell knows. All I know is this has absolutely zero effect on my driving and thus is an extremely low priority. As in, it may never get fixed.

Other things in the coming months I will be spending money on:

Thanksgiving -- food and possibly some decoration/table setting business. We have plates, but the ones that match with a total of 8 (at least, I hope) are plain white Corelle, which bores me to tears. Blue plates? Something pretty? Who me, spend money on useless crap?

Christmas/birthdays -- you know, presents. I don't actually buy for a large number of people, but I want to get nice things. I don't even know what to give people this year.

Shoes -- assuming my fucking ankle heals properly, I need better walking shoes so I can continue with the walking thing. Good shoes aren't really cheap, and I might end up going through multiple pairs in the search for perfection. Phooey.

Anyway, listmania is now over, because my wallet is crying and I have to go comfort it. Also because I am hungry.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Hooray for America.

I voted on a bunch of crap I honestly didn't care about and a handful of things I did. I voted mostly Dem, one Republican (insurance commissioner), and one Peace and Freedom party or whatever (I hate the Governator, but I'm no fan of Angelides--why the fuck can't the Dems get their shit together and run people I am not so loathe to vote for that I vote third party?). I voted against pretty much all the propositions and for some bond measures. (How the fuck does the parental notification for minor's abortion keep ending up on the ballot? Easiest "no" ever.)

Though I'm registered as a permanent absentee voter and never actually got confirmation that my address was changed (I should be within all the same precints, however), I voted at my local polling place, which happens to be two doors down from me in a neighbor's living room. I never received my absentee ballot or a paper voter's guide, anyway. They started out the day with four machines, but were down to three when we arrived at 7 p.m. and were running out of paper (some kind of stopgap solution to the paperless ballot/Diebold problem, I suppose) in one or two more. The line was crawling. One of the election officials (who might also be one of said neighbors) said we could vote on the sample ballots. All the voter guides with sample ballots they had available were of the bilingual persuasion, and they ran out of "official" envelopes.

So my vote was cast on a Vietnamese ballot and shoved into a blank envelope marked "provisional" in ballpoint pen by another election official.

Anyway, fuck this useless shit, I'm going to flop on the couch and watch the CW all night.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Just visiting!

So your loved one is doing the jailhouse rock. Will be for the next 15 to 25 years. Visiting them is a difficult time for all concerned... but not anymore! Now you can schedule your trip to prison online! No more tearful phone conversations with the prison administration; your hardened criminal or wrongfully convicted spouse, parent, significant other, child, or best friend is just a few mouse clicks away.

Friday, November 03, 2006

More about not walking.

This week has been fucking ridiculous. I'm glad it's over, except it isn't really, because my ankle is still unhappy and I can walk only at a snail's pace, followed by plenty of elevation and icing. And yes, I've been doing all I can tolerate doing to take care of it all week, including religious and proper use of an ace bandage. The swelling is going down and it isn't super hurty or anything, but I can't move it a lot and there is a lot of soreness.

As a result of my awesomely purple injury (no, really, the bruise is spectacular!), I've been begging rides off a barely-awake Kevin in the mornings and a speed demon boss in the evenings. Well, I got rides from the boss until we were halfway to my house last night, which is exactly when her 15-year-old Civic hatchback lost power steering and failed to restart after she maneuvered it into a nearby parking lot. The aroma of burning plastic was everywhere, but there was no evidence of leaking or other obvious trouble. As soon as it was determined that we weren't going anywhere without rescue (in the form of her boyfriend), it started raining. Hard. And I was only wearing a sock on one foot. Well, a sock and a bandage.

In lesser crimes against my well-being, the backlight on my camera's LCD apparently burned out, so that thing is useless. It's no longer under warranty, of course.

And I finally got myself to call the mechanic I've been meaning to take my scrapey brake-addled car to for weeks, only to learn that they're closed until Monday.

So I'm a gimp with no ride. Also, no food.