Archive Page 2

Creating the Party Project Plan

AKA “We’re Having a Party, Part 2″
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When we last left our heroine (me), she was perusing the internet for interesting party appetizers. This one was too hot, this one was too cold, this one is just right – copy & paste into a document for printing! img_9990 This one is too hard, this one is too soft, this one is just right – copy & paste into a document for printing! This one is too much, this one is too little, this one is just right – copy & paste into a document for printing! After a few days there were several choices for food AND drink. I wanted a special holiday punch! I’d had a lot of fun making a special holiday punch for Thanksgiving and I wanted a new special punch for this party.

We had dinner with my sister and brother-in-law and the 4 of us voted on the options. All of those new dishes seemed very reasonable to make. Nothing seemed to require too much crazy preparation. Time proved me wrong on that but as a work plan, it all looked good. img_9991 I am very inaccurate when it comes to gauging how much food is enough. I always have WAY more than I need. I know this in advance and I honestly DO attempt to limit what I serve, but somehow I’m always adding ‘just one more thing’ here and ‘another one’ there. On the other hand, I’ve never had anyone complain there was nothing to eat and no one has ever gone hungry and many people get leftovers to take with them (that’s if you stay til the end when I’m doing clean-up 🙂 )

The party was on a Tuesday. New Year’s Eve was Monday night. I was working the prior Thursday and Friday. I had 3 days to shop, clean and prepare food. I’m very lucky in that my husband helps a lot – both with the cleaning and the food. I tend to do all the grocery shopping. img_9992For a party like this, the shopping would have to be done over several days, because some things could not be bought too far in advance. This party I had 2 extra pairs of hands to help – my sister and her husband were committed to helping. *smile* I’m very very fortunate. I’m not sure WHY they decided they were going to serve as my kitchen staff but I’m sooooo grateful that they did. There are several days missing from this recounting but I’ll tell you that I did move the turkey from the freezer to the refrigerator on the Tuesday before the party, giving it several days to defrost properly and in time for marinating before roasting.

img_9959I sat down Friday night and wrote out my schedule. Saturday had one commitment that was time-specific – getting my hair cut. *grin* I also planned to pick up the liquor and start on moving furniture and “stuff” off the first floor to elsewhere in the house. My brother-in-law (b-i-l)has a membership at Restaurant Depot, because he does LOADS of cooking for our temple congregation. He offered to take me there so I could buy in bulk. I was looking for food, drinks AND some more paper goods and serving utensils. Never mind that I’d already spent a small fortune at the party store, just a feeeeeeew mooooore things, you know???? 🙂

img_9958Have you ever been to the warehouse stores where restaurants and caterers buy? What an experience. I forgot to take pictures of my cart (I didn’t buy anywhere near as much as I thought I would there) but I did try to get some shots of the shelves for anyone who has never seen a food depot. I love that place. 🙂 Saturday, therefore, was Restaurant Depot in the morning, then my hair, then the liquor then the party store (again) and then home to begin moving things and prepping on food. I have no idea what happened to the Saturday page of my battle plan. But once I have my lists in my notebook, I’m ready to rock-n-roll!

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That 10-yr Challenge

Or, Why I Love My Avatar.

I have no intention of participating in the current “10 year challenge” that is happening on social media. ahuva-in-sl First because I’m sure it is another attempt to mine personal data for someone else’s benefit, not mine. Another reason is that often my profile pic is not of my face, but of something special – flowers, the ocean, a cityscape. That type of picture does not lend itself to a 10 year comparison.

When I began this blog all those years ago to document my life and adventures in Second Life, I set up a Flickr account as well, for all the pictures I enjoyed but would not be posting to the blog. Lately I’ve been seeing emails about “Your Flickr Account is Changing!” I confess that I tend to ignore those types of emails. As it happened, however, I wanted to login to Flickr to see and like someone else’s photos. just-2-weeks-ago Once I was in, I got a warning that “Your photos might be at risk”. Apparently the free accounts will be limited to 1000 pictures. I didn’t think that would matter to me but I was somewhat surprised to realize that I had well over 1000 pictures posted to Flickr, including pictures from First Life, not just Second Life. I began opening my photo albums.

Well. I have thought that I am aging fairly well. Taking care of my skin, my hair, my weight. I thought I was not doing too badly. Ouch. I saw a picture of me, Shen & Oura from about 9-10 years ago. Oh my, I looked SO GOOD!!!! I will go so far as to say I was ‘hot’. I looked at that picture, I thought about what the mirror shows me. I am going to have to revise my definition of “aging well”. *laughing*

In the meantime, Ahuva looks great. *grin* As good now as she looked 10 years ago. 🙂

We’re Having a Party!

I love socializing. I love feeding people. I love my friends. I love throwing a good party. There are several parties/food events I do every year, some of them more elaborate than others. I used to throw a New Year’s Eve party. We had what I used to call “The Gang of Eight” – 4 couples that got together frequently during the year. After my son was born I called us the Gang of 8.5. 🙂 One of our standard get-togethers was on New Year’s Eve. menuAlong with a few other folk, we’d get together at my house for dinner and watch the ball drop. Then a few years ago some of us began murmuring about being too tired to stay up til midnight. I remember one year where I think 3 of the females were actually asleep on couches and chairs after dinner – we had to wake them before midnight. *grin* NOT ME. But you knew that. A few years ago I made an “executive decision” – I moved our get-together to New Year’s Day, called it Brunch/Lunch and invited a few more people. It was still a relatively small crowd and we did still have New Year’s Eve with a small handful of folk (who could stay awake, or at least attempted to make it to midnight).

This year, between the college football playoff games and my new kitchen, I decided a more drastic change was required. I decided that we would FINALLY have our “come see our gorgeous new kitchen” open house along with our New Year’s Day luncheon. coffe labelsOnce I drew up the invitation list, I saw I had around 60 people on the list. I’ve posted pictures of the inside of my house and you should know that it would be an extremely tight squeeze to fit 60 people on my first floor without removing furniture – even WITH removing furniture. I think the only time I’ve hosted that many simultaneously was for my son’s bris, when I think we had between 60-70 people there (and yes – we took most of the furniture out of the living room and put in folding chairs). We got lucky that day because it was in March and we had some springtime temperatures and people flowed out onto the deck as well. But I wasn’t worried. I knew that on my list there were some who wouldn’t come (just because they don’t come), some who would be away for the holiday, and some who had prior commitments. New Year’s Day is NOT an original date for a get-together. 🙂

How do you throw a party for 60 people? I start by looking at the folk I expect to show up, and noting all of their dietary preferences. *grin* My mother used to stress-out totally about entertaining. She was an ogre on the days leading up to the entertaining, and the day-of she would practically have palpitations. spiked punchAnd that would be just for having the bridge club over to play bridge (12 people there for a specific purpose eating only munchies, coffee & dessert), long before this day and age when everyone has some food preference and/or allergy. So I make my list: gluten-free, diabetic, kosher, vegetarian, no alcohol, following the keto diet, on a lose-weight diet. Apparently I also have someone who does not eat nightshade but I didn’t know that until she was there and checking ingredients. Once I have the food restrictions, I begin on my menu. There must be enough food that all of those people will have a CHOICE of something to eat. I don’t want to have a pile of carrot sticks to hand out and say “here – you can eat this”. 🙂 (Do carrots have nightshade??? Something new to learn and consider.)

When I have my basic idea of food groups – appetizers, main course, side-dishes, desserts, drinks, snacks – I being selecting recipes. I have certain staples that work for large groups – roasting a turkey, large rectangular pan of quiche, bagels/lox/cream cheese – plus the standard drinks. gluten free Paring the menu down to the selected dishes is the next step. The dish has to fit the mood, fit my loose kashrut standards (no pork, no shellfish, no mixing meat & dairy in one dish) and be tasty. For this party I decided that other than my main courses (turkey, quiche, bagels/lox/cream cheese), all the other dishes had to be new and different – NOT like my other party menus. 🙂 And that meant – turn to the internet and browse!!!

Collaboration Pie

img_0022There are many good things about posting about food and cooking. Even if people disagree about my recipes, my tastes, my process, the comments and reactions tend not to get personal or nasty. 🙂 If I’m thinking about food, I’m NOT thinking about other aspects of reality. On many days that is the REAL reason I write about food. I like creating things and cooking and baking are creative. My friend Honour talks about the difference between cooks and bakers, that one has more leeway and room for error than the other. I’m still not sure I’m convinced about that, but again, it doesn’t (usually) get personal when we discuss it. *grin*

Today I want to write about leftovers and collaborating and when cooks and bakers work together. img_0023My husband does not bake – he cooks. Oh wow, he is SUCH a great creative cook. I love to bake and while I enjoy cooking now in my new kitchen, I’m nowhere near as innovative as he is. I’m getting better, but I’m not at his level by any means. I mentioned he brought home a store-cooked chicken the other night. That meant we had leftovers. We also had rainy cold weather all day Sunday, as well as other annoying reality. 🙂 I started thinking about cooking. I decided that a chicken pot pie would be perfect for dinner. I mentioned that to my husband and he agreed.

Now *I* was thinking more of the kind of pot pie I had growing up – basically a white creamy inside. I found a picture of one online to show you what I mean but we grew up on frozen pot pies, not home-made. It was something my father would make for us for dinner when my mother was at rehearsal. img_0024As we don’t mix meat and dairy, we use coconut milk to get our “creaminess”. I also thought I’d take my leftover steamed vegetables and throw them in too – sort of a vegetable chicken pot pie. I’d already decided to use the coconut oil for that hint of flavor while making the pastry crust. I was browsing recipes online and thinking about concocting when my husband came down with a piece of paper and said “This is what I plan to make for the pie.”. *grin* Of course his recipe looked nothing like mine (his had curry and more asian flavors) and he had no intention of putting in the leftover vegetables, only the leftover chicken. I told him his concoction sounded great to me and I’d make him a crust.

That’s what we did. I made up my pie crust using margerine and coconut oil (remember, no dairy). It was a beautiful flaky crust. It’s interesting – I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem making pie crusts (except for 2 crusts for our New Year’s Day party, but that’s a different story) since I first began. I use the recipe in The Settlement Cookbook. img_0025It says that the key to a good crust is very cold ingredients and as little water and handling as possible. That very morning as I listened to the radio talk show host, she was talking about making pies and bemoaning how difficult it is to make a good crust and how it took her so long to learn. I’ve just never had that particular problem and I know people love the pie crusts I make. Thank you Lizzie Black Kander and your fantastic cookbook (which is, as I’ve mentioned before, my #1 go-to cookbook).

The new kitchen gets another rave review here because while my husband was working on the stove, there was room for me to be rolling out the top crust. That NEVER would have been possible before the renovation. 🙂 I probably should have ‘over-ruled’ him about temperature and time (I’d have picked the higher temperature and the shorter time, which is more typical for pies) but dinner was delicious. Yay us!!
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Easy Red Lentil Soup

I first made this recipe back in September for my annual “Ladies’ dinner in the Sukkah”. The last 2 years, as it happens, the dinner has been in my dining room because it has been RAINING when we were supposed to be dining outside in the sukkah. Typically I make a dairy meal for this event for a variety of reasons. First, if I’m inviting folks who observe kashrut it’s easier for me to have something they will eat if I stick with dairy. Second, Sukkot is a harvest festival and vegetables and dairy seem much more appropriate. Third, some of my guests are vegetarians and so that pretty much says no meat.

My standard default meal starts with quiche, soup and fresh bread, and then I go from there. I’ve been making the same soup for the last few years – Ash’e Reshte (Persian Noodle Soup). I use the recipe from the “Persian Food from the Non-Persian Bride” cookbook. It’s a very simple, quick recipe and tastes delicious. This year one of my guests followed a gluten-free diet so noodle soup did not seem appropriate. img_0016I wasn’t in the mood for a vegetable soup so I began searching for lentil recipes online. I found one that appeared simple, yet tasty – NY Times Red Lentil Soup with Lemon. I read many of the comments (wow, some people really don’t hold back) and took them to heart as well. The ladies seemed to like the soup – it was all gone by the end of the evening, and I knew I’d found a new addition to my cooking repertoire.

This past week the forecast had been for a major weather event of some kind – snow, rain, sleet, ice or all of that at one point or another. I thought that soup and biscuits would be a great Friday night dinner. Alas, my plans were derailed by work. No way I had time to make dinner. Fortunately my husband came home with a grocery store-roasted chicken. 🙂 We agreed that Saturday would be Red Lentil soup with fresh salad and fresh bread. I was out running errands so rather than baking my own bread or biscuits, I stopped into Panera’s and picked up an Asiago Cheese focaccia. img_0017I made the salad in the early afternoon and started on the soup around 5:30 or so, AFTER feeding the cats. There are priorities in this household after all. 🙂

The soup is amazingly simple, wonderfully tasty and was the perfect meal for a cold rainy night. I’ve given you the link to the recipe – I do suggest you read some of the comments. People have very different expectations for a recipe and you will want to find the comments that echo what you like to eat. I made these changes (and I wrote them down so I’d remember from time to time):

1.5 generous cups of lentils
4 curry leaves
3 generous tablespoons of tomato paste
6 cloves of freshly minced garlic

The first time I made it I grated half the carrot and diced the rest. Last night I grated all of the carrot. Neither time did I bother with the immersion blender. The first time I forgot the lemon at the end and this time I remembered – delicious both ways. Neither time did I add cilantro – I’m not really fond of cilantro. This recipe is fast, one pot and delicious!

It’s Going to Be Cold

So they say. I live south of the snow line for this latest storm – “Harper”. As is so often the case, people over-react to the forecast. I may be overly cautious as well, but at least my decisions impact only me. Way back in November 2018 we had a snow storm – quite a mess on the roads. Our governor did NOT declare a state of emergency and people went crazy in response. “How DARE he not declare a state of emergency??? We spent HOURS on the roads, which weren’t plowed, weren’t salted, blah blah blah.” Sigh. I know – that was heartless and condescending on my part. I’m not sure why people feel they have to wait for the governor to tell them to leave work early when it’s snowing and the forecast says more is coming. Seriously – many of us do work in jobs where we can just say “I’m leaving now” and leave. Percentage wise, fewer of us are emergency personnel than are NOT needed in a snowstorm. And if all of us who COULD leave early DID leave early – there wouldn’t have been such a problem. (Hey, don’t blame me – I worked from home that day.) Anyway, that was the governor’s first storm and the overwhelming verdict was that he blew it.

Now we have/had Harper. The vast majority of NJ (if not all of it by Saturday night) was below the snow line. The forecasts started showing that on Thursday, more so on Friday, and certainly by Saturday morning it was fairly certain that most of the state would get rain, not snow. We do NOT declare states of emergency for rain unless we are talking storms with high winds.forecast map storm harper We weren’t getting that forecast. But, the governor is a politician. If he was criticized for not declaring a state of emergency well by golly, THIS time he’ll get it right. He declared a state of emergency beginning at noon on Saturday, which meant all sorts of roads were off limits to various vehicles and certain businesses could shut down early in glee. I know this because I wanted to go to the library yesterday. I checked the hours to make sure it was open or that I could go after my grocery shopping, and saw a big alert that the library would be closing at noon due to the state of emergency and would not reopen until Tuesday. Sigh. The good news for me is that it was only 10:15 am so I had plenty of time but how foolish. At noon it was 43 degrees and sunny (I was out running errands). At 6pm it was STILL in the 40s. The rain didn’t start in our area until 9pm or so. Rain, not snow. Anyway, here we are in, I believe, a state of emergency. *rolling eyes more*

The forecast IS calling for dropping temperatures, for below-zero temps overnight and in the single digits most of tomorrow, with windchill “real feels” of below zero. My daddy brought me up right. hot tub with tarp I made sure the outdoor spigots were off, drained, and left open to drip. I double-tarped the hot tub. It does have an insulated lid but when it gets this cold, I look at the tub and see hot air escaping and it looks like little dollar bills flying up into the sky. So even though I can’t take a dip tonight now, at least I am giving the hot tub thermostat some assistance. My car is tucked inside the garage (I’m such a princess) and I put my husband’s car in the driveway. The big warning for tomorrow will be ice. If there is any water left on the roads tonight from the 12 hours of rain, the road might be quite tricky tomorrow.

We plan on staying warm, cooking a yummy filling dinner, and not going outside!

Naptime

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2:45 pm Sunday afternoon. I’m sick with a virus (for the last 3 days). I think it’s time for me to emulate the wiser beings in the house, rather than do laundry or paperwork.
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