Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Yeah, I fell off the face of the Earth.

I do that periodically.

So I turned 25 a week ago Monday. Kevin was sick with a nasty cold all weekend, so nothing exceptionally fun happened. I had to cancel Friday dinner, but I did bring the curry over to their house on Saturday instead, and we had a nice little dinner. I also baked a ton of cookies AND a gingerbread apple pie.

Sunday, after much ado about Kevin's well-being, we went to Santa Cruz for some low-key family birthday co-celebrating. First up was his mom, where we had the pie, hung out, and exchanged a few gifts. Kevin conspired with his mom and gave me a really sweet Canon PowerShot, dudes! So my poor Panasonic Lumix with the burnt-out LCD backlight has been eclipsed. (I do still want to get that puppy fixed, if the price is right, and possibly pass it along to my mom.) He also gave me a Gorillapod, which is an articulated tripod, and his mom gave me a nice, simple case for the camera. Actually, I think today is her birthday, so happy birthday to Kevin's mom. Next, we went to his dad's for dinner and some more presents. His dad's girlfriend is another December birthday. Dinner was dahl, mixed vegetables, and rice, yum. I can't say no to anything with lentils (provided it's vegetarian). Then the three birthday people blew out candles on a pecan tart and opened more presents. I received a silicon baster (since they knew I didn't have anything to brush, say, butter on bread for cooking) and a 2GB camera memory card. Sweet!

Monday was my actual birthday and of course I had to work. In order to avoid having cake and candles and singing, I brought in a big tray of my delicious, vegan, homemade cookies (and some of the really awesome Thai sweet and spicy nuts) for everyone and told HR not to make a thing of it. My boss took me out to lunch, my choice, so I chose Rico's for being one of two restaurants we both actually like. (Even for my birthday, it wouldn't be nice to drag my boss to a Middle Eastern or Thai restaurant when I know she'd order the blandest thing and have to pick half of the accoutrements off, anyway. That's just sad.) After work, with Kevin still sick, the Editor and his fiancee took me out for dinner -- I'm a cheap date, I just wanted falafel and a lemonade at Yiassoo -- and a movie, so we all finally saw For Your Consideration. It sucked about as much as all the reviewers said, but as Christopher Guest fans, we felt content having seen it at all.

Tuesday I lucked out with another birthday lunch, this time courtesy of one of my coworkers, from Just Laziz, a really cool Lebanese bakery that specializes in phenomenal manakeesh (like pizza, Middle Eastern-style) and where my coworkers are obsessed with the baba ganoush. In the evening, Kevin's dad was in town, so we took him to our favorite Thai restaurant. He was suitably impressed. We also found Kevin a suit at Burlington Coat Factory so he could attend my company's Christmas party in something other than holey slacks. But that's another goddamn story and I'm going in chronological order. Anyway.

Wednesday I wanted to kill my boyfriend because he had buyer's remorse and wanted to beg off the fancy dinner, and I let him do it. So after work I went and finally saw Borat and was generally in a bad mood despite that. Also I had to cook for my company's potluck lunch the next day -- the Ethiopian spiced lentil dish I think I've linked to in a previous post.

Thursday was the company potluck. It was really a fantastic spread this year. A lot of home cooking, excellent home cooking. My lentils were awesome, of course, but another coworker friend (the one who likes coming to the Campbell farmers' market) made butternut squash penne and cheese, which was amazing. The gift exchange had a number of hilarious moments. My secret santa recipient really enjoyed her favorite bottle of wine and selection of four dark chocolate bars, and I was given a pair of Century movie ticket gift certificates and $10 for La Pizzeria, yum! In the evening I watched the 1-hour The Office and pondered the similarities between Michael Scott and our own CEO. You know, your typical "water cooler"-type viewing.

Friday I was totally coming down with Kevin's nasty cold. I had a half day of work and spent most of the afternoon napping, then preparing for the party. The party was good, but afterwards, I went to bed and practically did not get up for the rest of the weekend. The cold was just that bad. I did have to cat-sit, but Kevin had to cover for me on Sunday.

This week has been just plain work and avoiding doing the dishes due to stubborness and laziness. I'm leaving for Portland/Seaside/Seattle on Saturday afternoon. Christmas shopping is pretty much done. Just have to pack now.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Happy birthday to Kevin! And also more food.

Today is Kevin's birthday! He is 111 years old.

I have been cooking-obsessed this week. It's awesome. On Sunday, I made the quinoa and black-eyed pea croquettes from Vegan with a Vengeance again, this time with the accompanying mushroom sauce. These turned out really well (as opposed to last time, when they were dry and not all that flavorful), probably in part because I actually had more of the correct ingredients this time and in part because half the quinoa allotment was actually bulghur. I also make Sicilian-style broccoli from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen, which is pan-steamed with red pepper flakes, garlic, and crushed capers, and a nice side of barley and wild rice pilaf. Monday night featured some lightly creative reworking of the previous night's meal, mostly in the form of the mushroom sauce over whote wheat rotini, which was a nice combination.

Tuesday I felt ambitious and made the Lebanese stuffed swiss chard that was abandoned from my Thanksgiving menu due to its complexity. It was the right decision, but damn, the dish was tasty. Like a more tender dolma with fresher, brighter flavors, surrounded by a nice broth. For protein, I accompanied it with a simple lentil soup (green lentils, browned onion, cumin).

Last night I tested this Ethiopian lentil stew recipe with a few minor adjustments -- I used red lentils and cooked them with the sauce, and instead of 10 plum tomatoes and tomato paste, I used a big can of whole fire-roasted tomatoes, both liquid and fruit, chopping the tomatoes before adding them. It turned out pretty well indeed, so I think it will be my office potluck contribution next week. But I am not so ambitious as to make injera; no, I stuck with a simple polenta (made according to Cook's Illustrated). The potluckers will get basmati rice, though. Polenta is a pain in the ass and doesn't really travel well.

Friday night the Editor and his fiancee are coming over for dinner, hooray! So you know I'm going to be a menu-planning freak about it. Real Vegetarian Thai had a "winter menu" suggestion that sounded ideal, considering I already bought some of the main ingredients at the farmers' market. It's a Burmese-style red curry (no coconut milk) with ginger, yams, and button mushrooms with a side of vegetables (in this case, I think red cabbage and orange cauliflower) sauteed in vegetarian "oyster" (a.k.a. shiitake mushroom) sauce and garlic, brown jasmine rice, and sweet and spicy nuts for dessert. I think I'll also make a very simple tofu and greens soup. The curry has to be made the night before (with curry paste I made last night) to let the flavors fully develop.

It's 8 a.m. and I am writing about food. Good lord.

Speaking of, time to go make breakfast. What says "happy birthday, now seriously, get up and go to work before noon" more than a hot bowl of dubiously prepared amaranth porridge, sliced apple, and spearmint tea?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Farmers' market haul and ideas.

I don't always go shopping with a particular recipe in mind. Especially at the farmers' market, I prefer to see what looks good and what has a good price. Most things I get are organic unless otherwise noted (*); then they're said to be no-spray. Kevin requested avocados, but creepy avocado guy wasn't there this week, so that's too bad.

This week, it was:
-Butter lettuce, $1/head
-Dinosaur kale, $1.25/bunch
-Cilantro and Italian parsley, each $1/bunch
-Sweet potatoes, $2/lb (I'm not actually sure if that's the real price)
-Broccoli and orange cauliflower, $1.50/pound
-Beefsteak tomatoes, $2/pound
-Yellow and red onions, $2/pound
-Button mushrooms, $3/pound
-Granny smith apples, $1/pound*
-Meyer lemons, $2/pound* (and yes, I could just get these from Kevin's mom, but we haven't been down there in awhile)

Now I just have to figure out what I want to do with all of it.

Well, I plan on making a gingerbread apple pie with half of the four pounds of apples I bought. I could even make another batch of those apple crumb cake muffins that turned out so well. Tomatoes and onions are infinitely useful in myriad recipes, so that's easy. There are quite a few potentially new and interesting ways to use sweet potatoes, as well as a few old hat recipes that stood up to scrutiny. I like to make salads to bring to work, so there goes the butter lettuce; mushrooms come in handy often enough. I can pretty much always find some use for good greens (the dinosaur kale) and broccoli, and cauliflower is perfect in Indian-type foods. Plus I still have a little red cabbage left from last week. I was hoping to find organic russet potatoes, but had no such luck, so another trip to Whole Foods may be in my future should I want to do something potatoey.

Addtionally, I've been working on holiday cookies. There are three packets of dough in my freezer now, and one batch of test cookies on my stovetop. The test cookies were a Lebanese recipe involving fine semolina (instead of flour), rose water and orange blossom water, and pistachios. They are basically a butter cookie with a very different texture. I think they're interesting. The doughs are for ginger cookies (I like to put a spicy candied pecan on top), chocolate raspberry thumbprints, and lemon-orange butter cookies.

I'm also the sicko who finished ordering Christmas presents by the end of November this year, though. Don't mind me.