Let's eat!

Hi. My name's Carol, and I love food. No, you don't understand. I love food. If I were on the Titanic, I'd be in the galley (kitchen) eating up the chocolate pudding and the roasted quail. I go to most events, activities and parties just for the food. The company and the conversation are secondary. Here, I'll try to document everything that goes into my mouth. Aren't we excited? Oh, hey, are you gonna eat that?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Elliott's Happy Hour

"Our happy hour is one of Seattle's best-kept secrets," said our server. It really is. We were over at Elliott's Oyster House in downtown Seattle's Waterfront (me, my husband, our son, my mom) during the ungodly hour of between 4 and 5, where nobody else was inside and I mean nobody. Stupid, stupid, robot-trained lemmings.

If they would just release their iron-clad grip on conformist dinner hours, come a little bit earlier, they'd avoid the crowds and score 50 cent-oysters on the half-shell. We had three dozen Chef's selections. Sure, by the time we were on our third tray, the selection began to deteriorate with way-too-briny oysters, but it's still a screaming deal (considering primetime prices are like $2 per).

You can also score deals on the Happy Hour bar menu: fried calamari, oyster stew, mussels in tequila-lime cream sauce, Blackened Rockfish tacos, salmon sliders. Crazy.

Happy Hour is 3 p.m.-6 p.m.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Korean food

When my mom visits from Hawaii, it's Korean food for me. There's nothing like homemade Korean food to warm my stomach, even though my grandma's was always better. Before my mom headed off to gamble at Tulalip Casino, she left me some favorites, including sesame leaves--a childhood staple I hadn't had since childhood. At $1.40 a package, sesame leaves are an expensive treat. When seasoned with soy and some other Asian ingredients, it's like savory spinach and mint rolled into one.

The fish she fries up stinks up the house for a month afterwards, but the taste of the succulent morsels (usually Corvina yellow fish) is worth the strong smell. Then, there's the tofu jigae flavored with octopus, shrimp and crab. It needs salt, and more tofu cubes, but I'll take what I can get.

I could eat this everyday for the rest of my life.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Turkey Soup (with the big, fat egg noodles)

Something about just throwing vegetables in a pot of simmering stock seems wrong to me. I'm used to sauteing in butter and olive oil first, to bring out the flavors, then adding stock. But tonight, very late tonight, I had to kind of work backwards. I didn't want to dirty another pan after using up one huge metal bowl, a huge metal colander, and a stock pot for the turkey stock. Anyway, here's the turkey soup I made with homemade, after-Christmas-turkey-dinner stock (which reached half the stock pot without the bones, carcass, and veggies).

The making of the stock is easy. Throw everything in a pot, fill with water. Flavor with salt, pepper, thyme, garlic, parsley, walk away to simmer for three hours or more. It's the turning the stock into soup that's a little time-consuming, mostly because I have to figure out an economical way of draining the stock liquid from the leftover chunks, sort through the good turkey meat from the bone, carcass and fat without burning my hands, and put the turkey meat into a bowl to put into the soup, while putting the trash into a used plastic Ziploc bag. This time, I also had another receptacle, the plastic Ziploc filled with turkey slices.

I wound up just using a mini-colander with a handle to scoop out the carcass/bones/used-up veggies, to put in a large metal colander over the sink--before putting a large metal bowl underneath that to catch the stock drippings. Then sorted through each bit, putting smaller pieces of turkey meat in a small metal bowl, bigger slices from the turkey legs and such in with the slices of turkey I stored in a plastic Ziploc the previous night, turkey used for leftovers and sandwiches, and then another plastic bag for the trash. Cut my time in half.

I'm never sure whether to add noodles, rice, what size noodles or just leave it plain. I do know from past experience that potatoes don't really go texturally with old-fashioned turkey soup. If I have to, just one Yukon my husband saved for me. I was torn between medium-sized egg noodles and the little teeny ones. I went with the medium-sized in the end. And I'm glad I did. It looks legit.

My husband came home late from a gig and had a chance to taste-test. He said it only needed salt, because the turkey he roasted did. I added some salt, garlic-salt, and a little loose chicken bouillon.

Most people I know don't salt the turkey soup enough. So it's better to under-salt and they can add if they like. The stock is magic, turning water into soup and it feels like I'm cheating someone out of something very valuable and getting it for free. Best of all, I don't waste any bit of the turkey. This was 80 percent of the reason we did turkey for Christmas, for the soup the day after. Now I have lots to freeze for when I don't have time to make turkey soup, it's ice-cold outside, and I need warming up.

I couldn't find leeks anywhere, or I'd have added those. Next time.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiv-- er, Christmas!

I'll tell you a secret about me. I hate saying Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or heck, even good night. I feel so stupid and cliche.

This Christmas, I really felt like pulling the covers over my head and sleeping it out until the new year. All of us have colds that last longer than seven days, two of us were drugged up on Nyquil when we were dragged out of bed way too early just to follow the mindless, materialistic ritual of all American consumers: opening the presents in a frenetic flurry. Then, onto making way too much fancy food that we'll have to throw out a year from now.

I really, really wasn't in the mood.

After cussin' the world out for five minutes, I finally went about the business of helping my husband cook up the Thanksgiving feast we'd missed making on Thanksgiving (we were invited to a friend's). All the cussin' in the world won't change the fact that we had a 14-pound thawed bird waitin'. Nobody cares that we were sick and tired and fed up. Bad timing and what-not, we were stuck.

Once I focused on chopping celery, onion for the bread stuffing my dad used to make when he was alive and my husband/mom clamor for, my outlook improved. How could it not? The smell of onion and celery sauteeing in butter and olive oil would put a smile on anyone's face. They should use this scene to cheer up inmates in solitary confinement and mental institutions.

What did we have? My husband made his creamed spinach--a family recipe, mashed potatoes (rinse potatoes before boiling), cranberry compote with Mandarin oranges, gravy and turkey--using the foil technique this year, whereas I finished up with my dad's bread stuffing, at my husband's and mom's request, and green bean casserole.

My dad's bread stuffing is the easiest in the world to make. The trick is to season the heck out of it. When in doubt, season even more.

It helps if you have a small saucepan of water and giblets/turkey neck simmering in the background all this time. Use the stock to help flavor the stuffing, which is basically chopped celery and onions in butter/olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, sage, a bag of bread cubes (we like Franz in the NW), more stock (from a can is okay), adjust seasoning to taste. That's it. To crisp up the top, leave in oven warming.

Personally, I'd rather have the recipe with apples and cranberries in it. To lighten an already heavy feast.

I ate an overstuffed plate full of good tidings. Now, I'm done until New Year's Day, when we decided to do a Christmas dinner of prime rib, cucumber salad and roast potatoes.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Eve Pupus, Resurrected

It's been awhile since we had our traditional family Christmas Eve pupus. We used to put out a modest spread of finger foods, just me and Eddie. It was a tradition he got from his family, where his mom would make little sandwiches, including ones with liverwurst, green olives, deviled eggs, fried hot dog chunks with mustard, bagels and lox. Okay, we may have added the bagel and lox after we married.

Anyway, because Ed got involved with a church band eight years ago and the worship pastor held a Christmas Eve party at his home right after services (to thank the musicians for sacrificing their Eve), we stopped doing it. Last Christmas we didn't do it, because we were at our son's friend's house for their annual Christmas Eve party. We'd planned on coming back home after and having our pupus as usual. But we didn't know that we'd be fed a full-on Christmas meal at the friend's house. By the time we got back home, we were stuffed.

Anyway, I was determined to have us go back to the family tradition, just the family. Who cares if the family is usually just us three. Plus, my mom visiting from Hawaii. She booked the trip last minute, so my husband had to pick her up at the airport at 6:25 in the morning. This morning. This Christmas Eve morning.

Most of us are sick with a cold, too, so that precluded us from going to any parties. No matter. We enjoyed ourselves in our casual atmosphere, hanging out in our pjs, grazing on my husband's spicy deviled eggs (I won't eat deviled eggs unless it's his), shrimp cocktail, a new addition of tempura shrimp (which I saw on a friend's Facebook wall from her Thanksgiving), another new addition of mini-crescent roll dogs, smoked oysters, crackers, Triscuits, a Hickory Farms cheddar block I picked up at Target just when I needed to pick up more cheddar anyway, stuff like that.

I didn't graze much. This cold has been wiping out what little appetite I have. But of all the appetizers in the spread, my favorite were the deviled eggs. They were the only things I could actually taste, to tell you the truth.

My mom couldn't get enough of the mini-crescent roll dogs. I must say, this is a huge favorite. When I served it for the soccer team last month, they ate it all up. Even cold.

I was planning on smearing my smoked oysters on freshly baked baguette, but all we had left was crusty, crispy fall-apart leftover Albertson's pieces. Ed was about to go to the store one more time to get the baguette, but I stopped him. All that for a tiny tin of smoked oysters, not worth it. Turned out, I didn't eat much of it anyway. Appetite sucked.

I will have a tall, cold glass of Emergen-C though.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Giada's Oatmeal, Cranberry and Chocolate-Chunk Cookies, Martha's Double-Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Any variation on the oatmeal cookies--the fatter the better--is fine by me, even if it's baked by Giada de Laurentiis, who's been on my naughty list for her obsession with sugar (really, how does she not have diabetes?!). I like that these were big -- she uses an ice-cream scoop -- and contained chocolate chunks in addition to dried cranberries, old-fashioned oats, and cinnamon.

They were fairly easy to make until I got to the part where I scooped out the dough. The dough fell apart on me. I had to pack each roundful with my hand to make it stick together before plopping out onto the parchment-lined baking pans. Otherwise...

A normal person would have saved the Martha Stewart double-chocolate chunk cookies for the next morning. It wasn't as easy to make. It's Martha Stewart after all.

The part about melting the stick of butter with four ounces of coarsely chopped chocolate (I almost missed this part and put the entire eight ounces of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips in the bowl to simmer above a small pot of water). I didn't bother trying to find fancy chocolate bars to coarsely chop. Ghirardelli should be fancy enough.

Mixing very warm butter/chocolate sauce with eggs is always tricky. You don't want sweet scrambled eggs (unless you're Giada). But I tempered that by making sure I put the sugars in there first, then the eggs and vanilla. It worked. Flawless chocolate batter that doesn't have a lot of flour, so it's really delicate and dense coming out of the oven.

I made a mistake with the first batch by immediately dragging it by its parchment paper corner onto the rack and nearly had chocolate mousse, as the chocolate cookies started separating. They're almost raw-looking right off. You really need to leave them alone ON THE PAN to cool first. That's when they harden, then transfer each cooled cookie to the rack to finish cooling. Don't bother with the recipe telling you otherwise. It's Martha Stewart. She always has to over-complicate matters.

Now, I have two different kinds of cookies in my cookie jar for my family to enjoy closing in on Christmas. I will probably make more, from other recipes. Since my husband is always on the lookout for something sweet to end his day, this is a good thing.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Around the World Class Christmas Party

I admit I wasn't looking forward to another school function. A lot of that's because I'm fighting a cold (I'm winning, btw), which has brought on this utter fatigue. When you're utterly fatigued and sleep-deprived, you don't even feel like going to Disney World, much less lifting a finger to even turn off the lights.

I buckled down and went, bringing my assigned rice pudding (for the Denmark group my son belonged to--each group did a Power Point presentation on a country and how its people celebrated Christmas) bought from Fred Meyer. Bought, because you're no longer allowed to make your own foods to share with any school, which sucks, because home-made always beats store-bought. Although, I must say, the rice pudding was very very flavorful. I'm glad we still had one unopened container left to take back home for the holidays.

The school isn't Hawaii. So a little of the warmth and acceptance, pride and joy in diversity of cultures were lacking. Except by me. I ignored the cool stares, cliquey attitudes, and quiet stances of the other parents and just dived in, marveling out loud--mostly to myself and the children--about this dish or that, or joking to nobody in particular that my son just tried something that wasn't a dessert. He really loved the bratwurst a father made, cut up in chunks and skewered with toothpicks. He loved them so much he ate them all, leaving none for the parents when it was our turn at the buffet table. Oh well.

I did manage to have one of the last pieces of home-made (take that, you stupid schools! and your stupid rules!) chicken tamale, even though it wasn't the spicy ones (those were already eaten). A lot of the food went in a hurry. I'm surprised. The party was at 2 p.m. and we were eating by 2:30 p.m. You'd think we were all starving to death the way the kids and the adults went at it.

I was surprised that a lot of the kids helped themselves to the sushi. I was also surprised that the person bringing the sushi did not bother to put together a wasabi/soy sauce mix. Sushi isn't sushi without dipping into at least the soy sauce. By the time I got around to the table, I remedied that by putting together the mix myself. But by then, there were only a few pieces left. I enjoyed myself some sake (raw salmon) nigiri. Not bad, either. Like they ordered and bought it from a real Japanese sushi restaurant instead of a supermarket. Supermarket sushi on the Mainland is horrendous.

My son left me some Danish cookies, which I really didn't want to eat but ate anyway. I had a banana, which was supposed to be boiled for Jamaica, and a bit of orange (for China), to balance off the cookies, the Stolen, and the Yule log chocolate cake.

We ran out of time so only a few eager students had the hot cocoa. The rest of them will enjoy it tomorrow in class.

I tried hard not to miss Hawaii and the tremendously diverse, bountiful buffets that would've been on those tables. Oh, imagine if they had lumpia, musubi, and pork hash...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Butterscotch Chip Spice Cookies

I wasn't planning to baking any cookies for Christmas. It was going to be Martha Stewart's gingerbread snacking cake all the way--even if you and you got sick of it. Gingerbread cake is my favorite dessert of all time. But then I was reviewing the latest recipes on Food Gawker (a must during the holidays for ideas) and found Sweet Pea's Kitchen and her awesome-looking, doable Butterscotch Chip Spice Cookies.

I had bought a package of butterscotch chips for an oatmeal recipe I never got around to baking, so I figured this was kismet. I would just prepare these -- all the way up to forming the batter in a disk and then refrigerating it overnight -- after the gingerbread snacking cake. Nothing too hard. I wound up not having enough time anyway last night to finish with cookies in the oven, so it was good that you could leave the dough to chill overnight.

This morning, I took the cold dough out for 10 minutes while I puttered around the kitchen, preparing other baked goods as gifts, coffee and Mila. These remind me of chocolate-spiced crinkle cookies. Same procedure. Roll 1 1/2-inch balls of dough in powdered sugar, bake for 14 minutes. But I kind of rushed the packaging. The cookies were cooled completely, but they may need a little more time for the powdered sugar -- like snow -- to firm up.

Alas, I don't think my husband minded the sticky powdered sugar, when he tried one. You won't either. Visit Sweet Pea's Kitchen. She has a wonderful mix of easy, but delicious and classic recipes for all occasions, and not just dessert.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Chocolate Banana Gingerbread

Somehow I had two bananas way past overripe I needed to use or get rid of. Of all the recipes I had or looked up, I found this one for chocolate banana gingerbread at How Sweet It is that required only two. Others required three or more. I wasn't about to go out and buy more overripe bananas just for one banana bread. Plus, it's close to Christmas time, which means everything gingerbread. Throw in chocolate chips, and a friend's Christmas-colored sugar sprinkles (instead of raw turbinado sugar--I didn't have any left and I couldn't find any in the limited time I had) as a gift from last year, and my other friend Christina is going to have a very lovely holiday gift from me, indeed.

Quite festive-looking, huh. Quite easy to make, too.

Only quirk is in the beginning when you mix the scant 1/4th cup of butter and 1/3rd cup of sugar together in the stand mixer, it doesn't seem volume enough to mix into a light batter. Unless you use a hand beater.

And I had to taste the liquified, thawed, almost blackened bananas several times to make sure I wasn't going to poison her. I read on another food blog somewhere that the darker and almost black with overripeness, the better for baking.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gingerbread Snacking Cake

The strangest part of Martha Stewart's classic gingerbread snacking cake is actually the common act of dissolving baking soda in boiling water. Otherwise, it's simply a matter of having all the ingredients sifted, measured and at the ready for mixing.

I had all mine laid out on the kitchen counter yesterday, ready for baking by early afternoon. Yet, I found myself in the family room most of the night with my family absorbed in our common activity: watching game shows on TV. Minute To Win It is insanely addictive. I'm surprised my son hasn't tried out half those everyday at home games by now.

By the time the last game show was over, it was 9:15 p.m., and I wasn't in much of a mood to tackle baking. I was only in the mood to sleep, deeply--for about a week. But I pressed forth and was rewarded by a light-as-air, moist gingery (both powdered and grated gingers) classic cake that almost floated in my mouth.

Most of the snacking cake will go to friends as part of their Christmas present (don't you wish you were my friend, too?). But I will make this again for other friends' presents and our own, as part of Christmas Day dessert. It's a keeper. Gingerbread cake is one of my all-time favorites.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Serafina Anniversary Dinner

Because I'm married to a working musician who's also good at programming, I lucked out for our 20th wedding anniversary dinner. My husband Eddie received a $125 gift certificate for working one weekend on Serafina's sound system.

Serafina is an Eastlake - Seattle restaurant institution. Even on a random Tuesday night (our son has basketball practice on the actual anniversary, tomorrow), the place was packed. It's always packed and it's always stifling as hell inside. Barring the fleeting glimpses of claustrophobia, our overall experience tonight was pleasant, a little like being lavished. So this must be how the other half lives. Snort.

Given my smaller appetite, we would've walked away not spending our entire $125 gift certificate, which wouldn't do. Honestly, I would've been perfectly satisfied with the Columbia City bread dipped in olive oil/garlic/parsley/red pepper flakes (husband is definitely repeating this recipe at home for our Christmas Eve), and their special Zuppa del Giorno, a hearty, creamy butternut squash soup. But then I would've gotten away with only $4.50. So Eddie encouraged us to order several courses, then we could have a few bites, take the rest home as leftovers.

There was so much to choose from, three whole pages worth including a purple sheet of specials, that I couldn't. Choose, that is. Immediately, though, I zeroed in on the mussels (Taylor Shellfish mussels in smoked tomato sauce, with harissa, sweet vermouth, leeks, fresh herbs, and garlic). They were okay. Needed a ton of salt. I couldn't taste anything, not even the garlic and vermouth. Where was the harissa?

I needed a cleansing salad, so I then went with their Insalata con Limone e Acciughe, the mixed salad with lemon-anchovy vinaigrette, topped with Reggiano cheese. The lettuces were seasonal, and fresh I suppose. But again, I couldn't taste a thing. Eddie's own homemade Caesar has way more punch, btw.

I did get to finally have a glass of Bellini. I'd always been curious about this glamorous, Italian cocktail -- made famous at Harry's bar in Venice, and made from Prosecco and peach purée. Prosecco is way too alcoholic for my virginal Daiquiri sensibility, alas.

I must also say my husband's choice of appetizer surprised me. Plin, agnolotti pasta stuffed with pork, cabbage and Parmagiano Reggiano, with a chive butter sauce. Very simple. Very appealing. It tasted to me like a cross between shumai and a potsticker.

For my main course, I went with a special, buttery, creamy Tagliatelle wrapped up in some sauteed greens (escarole?) and chanterelles. But by then, I was already hitting full, so I just had a few luscious bites, readying myself for the dessert, which I also zeroed in on from the beginning.

Dessert was a luscious, textured (cornmeal?) pear cake topped with browned butter and paired with a pomegranate sorbet, some tart sorbet at least. So good! This was one dish I completely finished. Okay, save for the last two bites.

Would I go back? No, thank you. But for the special occasion, considering the freebie (we only paid $60 over including a generous tip), it was a fair deal. Next anniversary, we'll probably go more low-brow, like Wallingford's Bizarro Italian Cafe with the best marinara sauce in Seattle--if Eddie can finagle a soundcheck barter there somehow.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Healthier Breakfast

To the naked eye, this looks like a plate of bacon, fried egg and toast--complete annihilation. But it's not, really. The toast is a decadent English style toasting bread I scored at Albertson's of all places. But it's not buttered. The crispness goes well with the broken yolk of the fried egg (fried in olive oil). And that's turkey bacon.

The trick is to divide the egg and the bacon strips into enough parts that will spread around to all four slices of toast. I failed today; I still have half of a half of a piece of toast and a sliver of bacon left, and no egg.

It's the best late, late breakfast I can think of to make. I don't know what I'll have for dinner. There's so much to choose from in the fridge: tons of turkey dogs, potato salad, leftover brussel sprouts from early Thanksgiving, tequila-lime-marinated chicken. Or maybe I wanna toss together a bowl of spaghetti. I watched Cake Boss in Rome and Sicily, and got fired up.

Turkey Soup

The best part of Thanksgiving is the day after leftovers in sandwich and soup form. Because I went to a friend's for early Thanksgiving, I didn't get a chance to make my own homemade stock or raid the fridge for a midnight turkey sandwich with butter and mayo. But that's alright. I made Christina make me her homemade turkey soup.

She was raised by a good German cook for a mom. Germans and Italians love to use orzo, she said, so she does. Orzo may be exotic to most people, but to her it's as common as meat and potatoes. Since she only used a 12-pounder, she worried that she wouldn't have enough bones and carcass left for a substantial stock pot full of soup, so she wound up stealing some from her mom on the actual Thanksgiving day.

Her homemade soup was uncommonly delicious and deeply flavored with hints of garlic, thyme, and that indefinable thing called, love. Sure beats canned any time. She also cut up her carrots very tiny and uniform and cute. I think I also detected some leek.

If I made my own turkey soup, I'd have enough left over for several weeks. But she only brought enough for one more. Eh, it's the price we pay for not having to cook or clean.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Early Thanksgiving Feast

Cooking and cleaning on Thanksgiving Day is highly overrated, as I soon found out for myself--when my husband and I went to a friend's house for some turkey and stuffing made by her and her cheffy son, two days early. Usually we're the ones humping and pumping in the kitchen, breaking out a feast for an Army but serving only two (our son eats the rolls).

Forget that. Get invited over to someone's house, preferably someone you actually like and don't have to be with. Sometimes not having a huge, extended family nearby has its perks.

Lucky for us, Christina -- one of the only friends we made and kept from our former church period, circa 2002-2008 -- can cook. She once prepared breakfast, lunch, and dinner for our church choir during the annual fall church choir retreat. And it was awesome. Delicious, comfort food with a gourmet twist. She's one of the only friends I know who knows what mascarpone is and how to spell it.

As soon as I walked into her house, up the steps and into the kitchen, I knew we were in capable, special hands. I saw a big batch of something I never see: brussel sprouts with bacon. There's a good reason for this. Ninety-nine percent of the population, for whatever reason, hates the smell and the taste of these vegetables. Not me. I can eat 'em crisp or mushy. My husband and Christina's husband aren't fans, so she threw in some green beans with sliced almonds, also perfectly cooked.

Truth be told, after I saw the brussel sprouts, that's all I wanted. Then, when I tasted the stuffing -- a Williams-Sonoma recipe, using leeks, sausage, cranberries -- and the deeply browned, deeply meaty gravy, which Eddie can't ever seem to master as well, I would've been content just eating these and nothing else.

But everything on the table was good. Everything. I'm not just saying that 'cause I starved myself all day for this.

Christina's son Kris attends cooking school, so he took charge of the finely mashed and whipped potatoes, topped with chives and reminding me of the five-star French affairs in New York City. There were yams dressed with maple syrup, cranberry sauce with orange and cranberries pre-soaked in cherry juice... Yeah, you better believe I ate everything on my plate.

The dessert was different. I asked my friend to avoid serving pumpkin pie, since we're not big fans and it's been overdone. So she thought up something easy to make and something different, using pumpkin. She got the recipe from Better Homes & Gardens. She cubed pound cake, soaked the cubes in Grand Marnier, added layers of pumpkin pudding and mascarpone whipped cream. So very rich and decadent.

As I ate layer by layer toward the bottom, I commented that it was like you're a little kid for the whipped cream and the pumpkin pudding, then you hit the end with the cubes of booze-soaked poundcake and you're grown up.

We sat there and ate in companionable silence (the best judge of good food) for a good 15 minutes, while all outside was hush and snow. Afterwards, we had coffee, watched last night's "Hawaii Five-O," gossiped a little, laughed a lot, and just relaxed, as it should be.

Sure, most of us are preparing to do just this in two days. But it was nice and refreshing to do it ahead of the crowd. It meant more, you know? Everybody should share Thanksgiving with people they enjoy being with, instead of people they secretly hate and have to put up with, like Uncle Axle who always farts in your face and thinks it's funny. Okay, I don't have an uncle like that. I don't have any uncles, period. But it must suck to be you and must be fabulous being me.

Plus, it was my birthday today, according to my late father. He and my mother would argue incessantly about when it really was. My mom thought, in Korea, the next day happened after the sun went up, whereas my dad insisted it was after midnight. So I can celebrate both.

So for Christmas, we're going over to Christina's again. No fuss. No muss. Just get seated, be waited on, drink more Riesling (my new favorite love), and wonder what the middle class is doing down in Queen Anne/Magnolia. Probably pushing their Volkswagen Beetles up the icy hill.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Have Snow? Make Shave Ice!

It up and snowed on us here in Western Washington. The sudden snowstorm canceled all travel plans after school, including a Melting Pot birthday dinner out in Bellevue. But before I gave in to depression, because my birthday sucks, I thought about making shave ice out of snow.

In Hawaii, shave ice (not to be confused with its trashy second cousin twice removed from the Mainland--the crustier snow cone) is a wondrous thing of beauty but impossible to make yourself unless you happen to know how to purchase gigantic blocks of ice and keep it cold.

Here on the Mainland, when it snows, Mother Nature does all the work for you. Without having to lug all the heavy blocks of ice. I had my husband and son go outside and scoop up some fresh snow. I poured sweetened condensed milk over it -- one for me, one for my son -- and went to town.

I suppose you could hunt down the multi-colored syrups too, but I don't particularly like traditional shave ice. The last time I was in Hawaii's North Shore, I went to Matsumoto's for its world-famous shave ice, noticed the sweetened condensed milk, and ordered that. So much better.

Come to think of it, I'll have another right now. Happy ♫ birthday ♫ to ♫♫me!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

End of Soccer Season Potluck

As a change of pace, we all decided we'd rather have a potluck at my home than go to a pizza place for our sons' end-of-soccer-season awards party. Usually soccer teams reserve tables several months in advance for this occasion, and usually at sub-par pizza places like Alfy's.

It was a pain in the butt trying to get my house clean, even though I had a week. Everything seemed to work against me, including the fact that my husband was in another state on a four-day gun course, my son has a natural propensity for mess, and the house seemed haunted. Every time I cleaned one room, another would get dirty, a lightbulb would shatter for no reason or my son would kick a small ball too high and knock a framed picture down to smithereens, or forget to inform me that he'd ripped a hole in a pillow, releasing tiny puffballs everywhere, in every nook and cranny.

In any event, despite not having much sleep or food, we got the cleaning done in the nick of time. Everybody came, ate their fill, and had a fun, relaxing time.

Because we have so many Filipinos in our group, the potluck was a real potluck, the kind you'd normally find only in Hawaii, where guests bring TONS of food, more food than necessary, and enough leftover food to feed a small continent several times over. A lot of parents brought more than one food item.

We snacked on the appetizers everybody brought: lumpia, two kinds--pork and ground chicken/shrimp, shrimp ceviche (to die for), vegetables and spinach dip in a bread bowl, pasta salad, potato salad, fruit bouquet, potstickers, meatballs, chips... We were so full I wasn't sure we could even eat the main courses, which we provided.

For the main courses, we had ribeye steaks which my husband seared in butter on the cast iron skillet, two different kinds of hot dogs (turkey dogs and all-beef), veggie burgers (which another parent who is a vegetarian brought), beef burgers, and tequila-lime-marinated grilled chicken. For all the meats other than the steaks, one of the dads grilled on the barbecue outside. Talk about overkill.

But somehow we managed to eat all that too, after waiting a few more hours.

I was so full on lumpia (two helpings), chicken wings, and shrimp ceviche (my favorite--three helpings, using tortilla chips as spoons), I could only have a plate of one tequila chicken with the awesome couscous.

My favorite dish turned out to be the shrimp ceviche. Dolly made it. She had the shrimp pre-cooked. Threw them in with a mixture that resembled a kind of salsa: lemon juice, avocado, tomato, onion, cilantro.

For all the work I put into getting the house in tip-top shape, I got back a thousand times more. Guests helped me clean. Raquel offered to take all the full trash bags to dispose of them. Fran went around picking up garbage, putting it all in a bag for me. Nobody really trashed the place, not even the little kids.

They also brought so much food that--if Glenn Beck is right about an oncoming food shortage due to the dollar devaluation--I won't need to worry about it for at least another six months. I won't have to go out to buy or prepare anything to eat either, what with two Thanksgivings coming up.

Best of all and not pictured here, my husband treated me to a case of Coke in Coke glass bottles with real sugar cane not corn syrup, made in Mexico. I'm happy. But I may not do this (hosting a party) again for a very long time. At least not until December. Ha ha.