Everything in my house is falling apart at the same time. The major complaints that I called maintenance with last week included no hot water and that the ice maker stopped working. They fixed the hot water heater right away, and they're coming on Tuesday to fix the rest of the list (because there was more, much more). And now...the oven stopped working. In the middle of the night it started beeping erratically and now it's not heating up. It's warm...ish, but I wouldn't call it hot. The top heating element is heating up, but not the bottom one.
I like getting started on my Thanksgiving cooking early, not just because it makes my life easier on Thursday, but because the house smells festive for several days. Last night I had pumpkin pies in the oven (the recipe makes two so I now have one in the fridge and one in the freezer), and cranberry sauce cooking on the stove, and I also started simmering the marinade that we'll be injecting into the turkey. The pumpkin and cinnamon, the cranberries and orange, the chicken broth and herbs...it all blended together and made it smell like Thanksgiving. On Monday night. Suh-weet.
I think that a lot of people know that you get a better deal on things like grains and legumes and nuts when you buy from bulk bins, but my particular natural foods store has spices and seasonings in bulk as well, and I wonder if people know how much money you can save on that stuff. I refilled my bottle of Italian Seasoning for 27 cents today. You know I would've spent at least 6 times that if I'd bought a bottle at the grocery store. I also spent $3.54 on two vanilla beans, and I know I could get a much better deal per bean from certain internet vendors, but I would have to buy like 16 of them and pay for shipping, so on the whole, $1.77 each actually seems like a pretty good deal to me.
And they had natural maple flavoring. I'd never seen that before. Of course I had to get it. It was the only thing I got today that wasn't on my list. I was very proud of myself.
Today we went to a Navy Big Band concert down in Waikiki, so it was written into this week's dinner plan that we would get fast food for dinner on the way home tonight. It was 6:00 by the time we got near home (we usually eat by 5). I pass Taco Bell, Jack's and McDonald's about 4 blocks from my house, but I decided that I wanted a spicy chicken Tendercrisp, so I went out of my way to go to Burger King. I went to the drive through and placed my order, and the woman told me that they don't have the spicy sauce anymore. I literally said, "Are you kidding me???" You don't fuck with a pregnant woman's cravings. Especially when it's an hour past her usual dinner time.
"We have a new spicy chicken sandwich. Would you like to try that?" I paused to consider. I could get a regular Tendercrisp with no mayo (the reason I started getting it spicy in the first place was because it was easier than ordering it with no mayo), but then it wouldn't be spicy. I could get the new one, but then the chicken itself would be spicy instead of the sauce - and that was the whole reason behind the brilliance of the Spicy Tendercrisp: regular, crispy chicken; tons of creamy, spicy sauce. What I really wanted to do was just leave and go somewhere else, but it was getting late. So I ordered the new one.
What the woman didn't tell me is that the new spicy chicken sandwich is HALF THE SIZE of a Tendercrisp. I'm not exaggerating. Half the size. If even that big. I was still so hungry after I ate it that I ate all of my fries, which NEVER happens. AND I'M STILL HUNGRY. This from the reflux-y pregnant chick who just discussed with one of my doctors yesterday how my appetite is completely gone and I only gained a pound and a half between 11 and 15 weeks. I'm still frickin' starving. That was fast-food money well spent.
Also. The damn thing had mayo on it. GRRRRRRRAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH. I wiped it off, which of course necessitated removing the lettuce as well. So I was left with a tiny piece of barely spicy (although crispy, I'll give them that) chicken on a small bun - because thats all that was on it, lettuce and mayo. No tomato.
So, congratulations, Burger King. You went from having the hands-down best and most unique spicy chicken sandwich out there to having a spicy chicken sandwich that tastes exactly like everyone else's. Bravo!!
It breaks my heart when I see a newborn - like a brand-new, one-day-old newborn, being fed with a bottle. Because that means that the mother didn't even try to breastfeed. I'm honestly not being judgemental here, I just can't understand it. In my head, I can manage to rationalize it with some effort, but in my heart...I just can't understand it. I know that some women are just not comfortable with the idea of it, and that is totally up to them, I'm not going to tell you what you should and shouldn't be doing with your body or your children, I really mean that - but it makes me so sad that our society has gotten to the point that there are women who are uncomfortable with letting their bodies do what they're meant (by God and nature) to do. I feel the same way about elective c-sections and inductions planned for convenience (which includes, IMO, being "overdue"). I'm sure that everyone who does it has all kinds of reasons, and I'm sure that many of them could be argued to be valid reasons, but it still just makes me sad.
I am planning Brandon's 2nd birthday party. It is the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend.
I get really into party planning. I mean, I go overboard every single year for Thanksgiving dinner, and we usually don't even have any guests. I just enjoy the planning, maybe even more than I enjoy the execution of those plans.
Anyway, I've realized that I'm becoming one of those moms who goes maybe a little overboard with the birthday parties. Not the kind of overboard where you rent a hall or hire 4 clowns and a petting zoo, or spend hundreds of dollars on food, but the kind of overboard where all or most of the food goes with the theme and you make your own decorations because the store-bought ones just aren't enough. And it occurs to me that perhaps it might come across to some people as a bit competitive. Like, "my kid's birthday party is better than YOUR kid's birthday party!"
But I have to say that, for me at least, I do it because I honestly enjoy it. I'm not trying to prove anything by baking cakes from scratch and making real lemonade (not from a mix) - I just really like doing it. And I make the invitations and the thank you cards myself because it's a great excuse for me to geek out and spend an evening with Photoshop, the way I used to when I was in college and would stay up all night on the computer doing nothing in particular, just for fun.
At any rate, this is the invitation for Brandon's party this year. I made it using this tutorial which I stumbled across while trying to find a high-res picture from the movie to Photoshop Brandon into. (Click to view it enlarged. There's some blank space in the middle because I left out the details like our address, phone number and last name, for what should be obvious reasons!)
The background picture is behind the hotel where we stayed in Kauai last summer. Brian is a 1978 Monte Carlo, and he insisted that I had to be a Delorian, because I was born in 1980, and "nothing says 80's like a Delorian". Brandon is a Mini Cooper.
This week I decided to try out a tweak to my cranberry sauce recipe. (I can't be experimenting on Thanksgiving, that's just crazy.) Anyway, last year I made homemade cranberry sauce for the first time, and it was delicious, but as Brian pointed out, not gelatinous enough. So for Christmas we went back to canned, and all I could taste was the metal. It's amazing how having it homemade JUST ONCE totally ruined my favorite Thanksgiving food for me. It has to be homemade now. But what about the gelatinousness?
I think that some people solve the problem by throwing in some apple, apparently the pectin helps to thicken the sauce. I, however, tried something different: I used agar. Gelatin would probably work, too, but agar is what I have. (Yes, I just happen to have dehydrated gelatinous seaweed in my pantry.) As an added benefit, agar is vegan, for those of you with stronger willpower and different metabolisms than mine and my family's. (For the record, I don't eat anything with four legs [although Brian does], but poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs...it's all fair game. HAHA, game.)
Anyway, what I did this week was to add one tablespoon of agar to the my cranberry sauce about halfway through its simmering time. (I use the "basic" recipe that was in last November's Bon Appetit - it adds a pinch of kosher salt and some orange peel [or orange extract in my case - 1 1/8 tsp] to the standard bag of cranberries, cup of water, cup of sugar.) One tablespoon was definitely enough to thicken it up a bit, but I think I might increase it to 1 2/3 tablespoons, which is equal to...anyone? anyone? 5 teaspoons.
If you prefer jellied cranberry sauce, here is what I came up with a while back: cranberry juice (I prefer the kind that's sweetened by mixing it with other juices, as opposed to high fructose corn syrup, but hey, whatever floats your boat) and agar (the ratio is one tablespoon per cup of liquid), with some other pureed fruit mixed in to thicken it up and keep it from becoming straight up cranberry jello. I only made this recipe once, because I used apple and cherry and Brandon's hands, feet and lips turned blue. (They tell me it wasn't an allergic reaction but still, I'm not about to try that again!) But anyway I seem to remember it turning out pretty good.
So that's my take on cranberry sauce. I hope it helps somebody out this Thanksgiving.
I believe that women's lib means I can live however I choose - even if that means staying at home, baking cookies from scratch and knitting baby booties all the livelong day. I believe that discriminating against anyone based on their color is racism - even if they're white. I believe that the bad auditions on American Idol are the end result of twenty years of focusing on self esteem - "you are perfect no matter what" - piled on top of a century of growing up consuming music rather than making it together as a family. I believe the children are our future. I believe in miracles. I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.