Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ahhhh... Thanksgiving

What a glorious, peaceful day. It is 9:15 on this gray, frosty morning and nothing is cooking, I'm in my pajamas, and Eli has his dad all to himself. I love to cook for guests and visiting family isn't half bad, but, since we have never had a holiday season with just our little family, I decided it was time.
Although, we do have plans. Gourmet food.

Rosemary Butter Roast Turkey
Potato Gratin
Baked Yams served with Butter, Brown Sugar, and Cinnamon
Stuffing (special emphasis here, since it's my favorite, with sausage, pecans, craisins, etc.)
Green Beans (the way my mom makes them, blanched and sauteed with onion, garlic, and bullion)
Fresh Cranberry Sauce (with some apples and lime zest too)
Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Pie

Lets see... white, orange, green, red...perfect, gotta make sure I have color.

As tempting as black Friday sales are, we're having an emphasis on homemade gifts for now on. I suppose we won't be helping the economy, but I want Eli to grow up thinking that Christmas is a time to be sharing, thoughtful, and resourceful. There are lots of ideas, like these, these, these for kids, and these for men.
Tomorrow night we will go for the lighting of Temple Square and a new downtown tradition of an old world Christmas market with local artisans, and free hot chocolate at Deseret Book. I also hope to make an advent calendar. If you're looking for a new tradition and a nice family activity this long weekend, I highly recommend it. I love this one by Martha's people because it's so simple, inexpensive, and easy to store. I have some favorite wrapping paper that can live on year after year as it's decoration. Plus, I also have all the supplies since I pooped out last year after making one to send to Anna.

Saturday will be diaper marathon day. Anna and I will finish sewing and snapping our 66 pride and joy baby bum covers.

Happy Thanksgiving family and friends, we are thinking of you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Is it wrong to adore something just for its color (not to mention antioxidants and refreshing tartness)? They're so stunning I feel like stringing some into a necklace. As a kindergartner in Switzerland I remember eating braised purple cabbage just because it was my favorite shade of violet also on my little Birkenstocks. I'm just as mature today. Better get back to my beauties bubbling away on the stove.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Brian's Celebration

This week Brian got a letter from his martial arts federation saying that he had met all the requirements to become a 4th dan (black belt) and master at his test in August in San Diego, but official word wouldn't be coming until March. Despite this, his teacher, Oliver Whitcomb, came down from Idaho to meet and teach his students and give Brian the last belt he will ever wear. I pulled out all the stops and made chocolate-covered strawberries and apple tarts for a little party. The parents are the best, congratulating and thanking him and organizing treats too.
I'm so proud of him. It looks great. If you mention his new belt, he tries to hold back a big, proud grin.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Finders, Earners

I suppose most kids have heightened senses when it comes to locating candy. Eli was very young when he learned that the sound of a crinkling foil/plastic bag meant goodies. Lately, thanks to his short stature, I successfully rotate candy stashes on shelves where he can't see. But last week, looking for some ingredient, I carried him into our unlit pantry, assuming he wouldn't see the chocolate's newest hiding place. Despite my quick feet and the darkened room, his little radar picked up the sweets. The kid is always finding candy, whether its a lollipop in the junk drawer, chocolate chips in with the foil and saran wrap, or Halloween candy up high.
This nosiness can't be rewarded. What will I do when he's taller and more agile? Let him eat candy all day?
A couple of weeks ago I came up with a brilliant idea. Just like the Aztecs, we would use chocolate as currency. If the boy finds chocolate chips, I direct him toward one of his toy messes-this morning it was cars- to clean up and then pay him with a few semi-sweet morsels. Perfect. He learns the benefits of work, and I burst with pride at my tidy little two year old.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bad Granddaughter

The fires in Souther California are world news, but I just heard the reporters saying cities like Montecito and Yorba Linda, so I didn't worry about my grandparents in Santa Barbara. I should have looked into things since Montecito borders Santa Barbara, but I didn't. The grapefruit candies must have been inspiration, since I haven't called my grandma in a year and a half. Very bad. Yesterday I talked to my mom who told me that my grandmother was evacuated Thursday, voluntarily, and my cousin wasn't even evacuated. She left when she could hear the roar of the fire and the smoke was intense. Grandma went home the next day to an intact, yet smoke-blackened home where my uncle had stayed to hose off the roof and pack pictures. My poor cousin lost everything but the car she drove away in and a few over-night items.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bye, Bye Barnes and Noble

We finally put Eli's birthday present together, almost a month late. Our goal was to make his wildest train dreams come true. It'll be great for keeping him busy inside during Winter and I won't have to convince him away from the train table in the children's book section. Brian is currently the proud railway designer and builder. I'm sure Eli's track creations will make more sense soon.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Wednesday Eli and I were perusing the aisles of our new favorite grocery/produce store when I saw a crazy good deal on Texas grapefruit, they were surprisingly normal-sized. I remembered that Brian likes the juice from this particular citrus fruit and decided to get 8, should make a pitcher full. I got home and had juiced one when my crazy conscience, which has even come to scold me for throwing away trash, reminded me I could do something better with those peels. Then I remembered.
The summer after my sophomore year of college I lived in one of my favorite places, my grandma's house in Santa Barbara. I was supposed to help take care of my grandpa who has Parkinson's, but I ended up spending most of my time in the kitchen making meals, baked goods, fresh pasta, and, a couple of times, candied grapefruit rind. My grandma recommended it since it was something she at as a child and she had a tree in the front yard. My sweet little grandpa loved them too and they didn't last long, even the quite bitter batch.
Here I was, acting like I too had grown up during the Depression, not being able to throw away rinds. Another example. Ever since Brian's grandma told me how, after having a roast chicken, she would save the bones to make broth, I can't even throw a chicken carcass away without doing the same. So, after $1, 8 grapefruits, many cups of sugar, and many more hours spent, I ended up with juice for Brian and pounds of candy for my grandparents. It was a bit of work, but totally worth it. For a faster version of the candies to follow, just peel the zest off lemon, orange, or grapefruit and bring to a boil in some water and then rinse in cold water. They will be ready to candy.

Candied Citrus Peels

Peel, including the white pith, firm and shiny skinned lemon, orange, or grapefruit (I cut them in fourths for uniformity). In saucepan, cover peels with cold water and slowly bring to boil and let them simmer for 10 minutes. Repeat this process many times, my cookbook says 3-5, but I must have done at least 8 to get as much of the bitterness out as possible. I've read that it isn't all supposed to come out, it's supposed to be a little bitter. To candy, cut them in slices and add back to pan with 1/4 Water and 1/2 cup Sugar for every cup of peel (8 grapefruit gave me 5 cups). Let the sugar water boil away, stirring periodically. At this point you can lay them all out on foil to cool, but I coated each one in sugar and let them dry on cookie racks before storing in an airtight container.
You can eat them plain, garnish desserts, cut and add to fruit cakes, or dip orange ones in chocolate (the ones to the left aren't mine).
Hope my Grandparents like them in their spiffy new Ikea canister. Let me know if you're brave enough to try or have had some before, I would love to hear.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why I Blog

Let me begin by telling you why I haven't for the past week, in case anyone noticed. I am feast or famine when it comes to getting things done. Some days Brian comes home and there is no dinner, a sink full of dirty dishes, and no clean underwear. Other days, most of them, I hope, the house is tidy, a from scratch dinner is hot and waiting, and the blog is updated. Most people would say they've been so busy they haven't been able to post. I've been so not busy I haven't been able to post. Plus I've been a little daunted about all my ideas and how to share them, which is harder for me than writing about our goings on. Can I write about Christmas ideas without any for Thanksgiving? How many recipes are too many for a not food blog?
On to more productive things. Anna suggested I blog for months, but, indecisive and self-conscious as I am, I assumed I wouldn't be able to come up with anything valuable enough for you and I to spend our time on. Several factors changed my mind.
Eli and our far away family and friends. Besides calling my sister, I'm not much of a caller, so it's the perfect way to stay in touch with people and let them see Eli grow up.
Loneliness. Sad, huh? Sandy doesn't seem to be the most personable city and I felt I had tried hard enough with inviting people over and to do play dates that I gave up. (Don't worry, we're going to our first mommy/play group next week).I choose to connect with my loving family and existing friends. If Eli does something cute or I come across a fabulous recipe or money-saving tip, I want to share it. It is always my goal to come up with something good enough to get my sister to comment, so far its only happened twice.
Heart on my sleeve. For some reason, between my big mouth and animated facial expressions, most of my thoughts are no longer personal to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not tactless, just easy to read and unreserved. I try to give the reader a little something extra, not just a recipe or what we did that day, but some background or thoughts.
Journal with immediate gratification. I don't have to slowly and laboriously dictate ideas and events onto a paper journal that will lay shut until I die when nosy children will thumb through it, I can reap the rewards and hear from others as I go. Especially appealing to me is that every year or so we can make a lovely blurb book with our picture-laden online journal. More importantly, Eli, and any other possible children, will have the highlights from their childhood complete with dates, photos, and their mom's sassy storytelling.

So, thanks for reading and commenting, so I know I'm not the only one here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What's Better Than A Sale At Nordstrom?

Nothing. Well, that's what I thought this morning. Today was to the the start of Nordstrom's half yearly sale ( for women and kids) and I had plans to be there at precisely 9 a.m. to check out some new galoshes for me and shoes for the boy. Hence my dismay at the snow storm which brought with it the need for Brian to use the Toyota since the Jeep's wipers are out of service. The Fates were against me, not really.
Instead of picking out a lovely pair of rain boots after breakfast, we were out in the fresh snow. Eli was apprehensive at first, of course, making me hold him. Then his wildest dreams started coming true. First was a super-cool (to Eli) truck plowing the snow. Then the friendly cat, Ice Man, came to find some warmth in my arms and lead us to his house where he hoped we would let him in. Eli was squeeling and smiling at his luck. Comfortable enough to walk around his strangely cold and fluffy white surroundings he discovered the joy of slush stomping and stream splashing. This stream also led down to a gigantic puddle. It goes without saying that he found it. I smiled watching my little boy have so much messy fun and waited until he was wet to the knees before taking him home. That way he wouldn't mind either.
I decided it was the best kind of snow possible. The first big one is always an exciting change and not yet too frigid.
I also got to see two of my favorite things...combined: fresh snow on tree limbs and fall colored leaves. Extra beautious. Snow on warmly tinged leaves. I love where we live and I love staying home, exploring the world with my little man. His excitement over something so small as a fly in the window is rubbing off on me.
Nordies will always be there, but not a delighted 2 year old.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bulgogi: Eli Tested, Mother Approved

We love all the Korean food that we've encountered thus far, but the following recipe is for our absolute favorite dish. Bulgogi, which means "fire meat" is thinly sliced, marinated beef in a lettuce wrap with rice. (Above is an authentic table setting with myriads of side dishes, they must like washing dishes.) Pretty much every person that has ever eaten at our house has had bulgogi and everyone seems to love it, even the Gochujang, a uniquely spicy red paste dotted on sparingly. The meat cooked on a table top grill (I'm sure you can use your electric griddle), which makes it a fun choice for entertaining. Guests can cook their own meat as they eat. I'm afraid Eli doesn't afford us such leisurely eating, so I brown the meat ahead of time and we just dig in.
I'm not sure if Eli likes it so much because I especially craved it while pregnant with him, but he stuffed himself silly last week when we made this for dinner. He was like a ferocious animal, eating straight off the plate, bypassing utensils or hands and grabbing meat off our plates and from the serving bowl. We've never seen him eat so much (in Oregon, 1 shrimp was a dinner), he even ate the rice and lettuce that go along with the meat. Let's just say I was pleased, since his scrawniness is one of my motherly worries. And now for the recipe that has worked miracles:

Broiled Beef Bulgogi (serves 4)

4 Scallions, coarsely chopped
3 Garlic cloves, minced
1 TBSP Toasted Sesame Seeds
3 TBSP Soy Sauce
2 tsp. rice wine
1 TBSP Sesame Oil
2 TBSP Sugar
Pepper to taste
1 LB thinly (no more than 1/4") sliced against the grain filet mignon (if your boss is coming for dinner), or sirloin, round stake, or london broil. (I'm sure your friendly neighborhood butcher can cut a roast for free on his fancy machine if you want to make your life easier, otherwise, freeze the meat for an hour to make slicing easier).

Combine all the ingredients and let marinate for at least 1 hour. Preheat broiler or barbecue (brush on vegetable oil if its not a non-stick surface, otherwise, don't use at all) and cook meat in batches, one layer at a time- this is crucial for searing and flavor, Brian's too impatient and cooks it all at once and it turns soggy. Should only take 30 seconds/side.

Serve with romaine lettuce leaves, sticky rice (1/2 C. before cooking/person), and gochujang.
Not the most beautiful plate, but de-lish. It's so healthy, we always eat plenty and don't feel too bad about it.
I made it this time with chicken breast since beef is getting too expensive for my personal $1.99/lb limit. It was a good choice because Eli could chew it easier and therefore eat more.
I hope everyone makes this one, let me know how it goes. Or you can come over and we'll gladly make it for you, maybe even with filet mignon... maybe.