Friday, August 28, 2009

Day 14: A Very Brady Bedroom

After several attempts of pleading and cajoling, and threats of cessation of TV privileges, World War III was still being waged in my girls bedroom. The reason for the conflict? Who should be responsible for picking up all the crap, I mean clutter on the floor. I mean, one can't just be picking up messes made by one's sister can they? In an attempt to maintain/restore harmony in the home, I drew a mediating line down the middle of the girls' room with electrical tape. Now each is responsible for whatever falls on their side of the black line. Fulghi says: "when did you go all Brady Bunch on the girls?" Ahhh, 1970's cultural reference. Then Fulghi said, " and why haven't they figured out that they can just throw their stuff on the other sister's side?" Ahh, yes, sage Fulghi. They have not figured this out because at least for the time being, I am still smarter than they are.
At least for now.

Tonight I am tired. This has been a long week, and I am still suffering the aftermath of my free-style session. So for tonight, all I could bust out was a Peach Crisp. It was supposed to be Peach and Raspberry Crisp (pg. 190,) but since I HATE raspberries - it's a no go. Sorry Mother, there is no amount of cajoling that will lure me to put a raspberry in my mouth. No way, no how. Blueberries, blackberries, olallieberries, strawberries, any berry you can name I will eat, but not the dreaded raspberry. Of course this all changes when I am pregnant. Then I stand over the sink, feverishly shoving raspberries down my gullet at a lightning pace. So, as far as I am concerned any day without a raspberry, is a good day.

Cobbler ready for the oven. Again, so tired I forgot to take a picture of the finished product.

I was even too tired to make a proper dinner. So french toast is on the menu.
In The Trophy Wife's Defense: she did use homemade bread...

The Trophy Wife's Friday-Night French Toast
1 Loaf Bread of your choice
8 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar or cinnamon sugar
1-2 tsp cinnamon (depends on your taste)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

Combine ingredients in a shallow dish. Dredge slices of bread in egg mixture and fry in a skillet/griddle coated with butter until golden on each side, and egg has cooked in the middle of the bread. Top with butter, powdered sugar, and maple syrup. Serve on days when you've just had enough.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day 12-13: Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

Day 12 for The Trophy Wife was a complete wash. I spent so much time yesterday running around town, that I am now wondering when, oh when will I get that nap I have been looking forward to all summer? I mean, what good is being The Trophy Wife if I can't at least enjoy some of the perks of the job? The rest of the week is so jam-packed that I don't think I will be enjoying the perks anytime soon. Yesterday was so bad, I fed Fulghi a bowl of cold cereal for dinner. In truth, I neither fed it to him, nor prepared it for him. Poor Fulghi, works all day, and has to come home to pour his own cold cereal (and milk.)
Only so much can be expected of The Trophy Wife.

I remember hearing other moms complaining that their days just filled up while the kids were at school, and they still never felt like they accomplished anything. To this I said bull....I mean malarkey! Now that I am finding myself in the same position, I see that perhaps I might have judged to quickly, been too harsh, had not put myself in the shoes of these self-sacrificing souls. Those poor, poor women. Unfairly maligned. I too now stand among their ranks. The jig is up. Being The Trophy Wife isn't as easy as they say in the brochures.

So enough of Day 12 (and accompanying whining,) and on to Day 13. I spent this morning at the year's inaugural meeting of my MOMS group at church. I was, natch, on my best behavior. As all who know me can attest, I am a ray of sunshine, bringing cheer to all that encounter me. As My Mother always said to me when I was growing up (and you all know I always listen to My Mother): "Now Melani, be sure that you are a blessing to all who meet you!" And of course, I was. Well, at least I didn't drop any F-Bombs at this meeting. I say this meeting, because at the last meeting, I may or may not have used my good-girl language, per se. But as always, despite my incorrigible behavior, every meeting is full of cackling (usually my own,) and good times.

So for dinner tonight we have Perfect Roast Chicken - which also calls for a pan gravy (pg. 130,) Fingerling Potatoes (pg. 159,) and Roasted Brussels Sprouts (pg. 150.) Hopefully this will make up for last night's Cheerios.
The chicken is filled with fresh thyme, a lemon sliced in half, and a whole head of garlic sliced in half, skin and all. Prep time was minimal. Just a little shoving, tying up and smearing.

Question: Why do I do it?
Answer: I just can't help myself. I am a 7 year old boy trapped inside a rather attractive 38 year old woman's body.
Or, at least that is how I choose to see things...

The chicken all shoved, tied, smeared, and ready for roasting.

The best brussels I've ever had getting ready for a roast.
If you hate brussels, you might give them a try this way. Genius!
The smell of the chicken and the brussels sprouts roasting in the oven is enough to make one weep with joy. I don't know why, but the Cheerios just don't have the same gravitas.

Trying this recipe at home may cause sudden death due to the overwhelmingly fabulous taste of all courses. Proceed at your own risk.

The final product, plated.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day 11: I have become The Trophy Wife

The day I have been working for my entire life has finally arrived. The day I dreamed of as a child. The day when the true mantle of becoming a Trophy Wife was placed upon me. Today I dropped off my two children to spend the entire day at school, as my youngest is now entering first grade. Woo Hoo! The long nights of baby-feedings, the weight gain during (and after - don't ask) pregnancy, the snot and barfing, the crying and whining, the fights between siblings. All for this day. This wonderful, wonderful day.
So I went home and had myself a good old cry, because darn it (see Mother - no swearing) if I didn't miss those two imps!

Finally after 6 long hours, we were reunited, and in usual fashion, went to get post-first-day-of-school ice cream. Thankfully this year there were no broken bones. For those of you new to the life of The Trophy Wife, last year my youngest imp broke her arm on the first day of school. She had consumed her post-first-day-of-school ice cream, and she and her sister were running around like idiots. So, stupid me, I took them to the park to blow off some steam. Not 5 minutes into our park visit, Ryan, while innocently (for once) running across the grass, all of a sudden did a complete face plant. When she stood up her arm was bent at a 90 degree angle, and not at the elbow, if you get my drift. Needless to say, not the way to start things off....
So, this year we already ahead of the game!

I am still cleaning up the aftermath of the weekend free-style session, which later became known to all as the Curbside Couch Debacle. (Free-style definition: redecorating by rearranging and not spending money, although... oops... I did spend a little...) Several trips to Good Will, and a trash-hauling company to take away the couch can make a Trophy Wife tired. So tonight I opted for some not-so-labor-intensive food options. The menu included Roasted-Tomato Basil Soup (pg. 84,) and Parmesan Croutons (pg. 87.) There is a soup I have at a local cafe that is so yummy. I thought that this recipe would re-create it. It did not. I think that the next time I will leave out the 4 cups of basil leaves, and just use the basil as a garnish. But, if one is a fan of cooked basil (I am not,) one might enjoy this soup more than I did.

Here the tomatoes are just going into the oven.
But wait folks! Hold on to your hats and glasses, because we have the...
Trophy Wife Tip Of The Day:
If you leave a pizza stone in your oven, it will cause the heat to be more evenly distributed, and cause the oven to maintain a more constant temperature... and, if you give people this tip, they will not think you are so lazy for not removing the pizza stone!
See people, two tips in one. No need to thank.

If one was not madly dashing around the house trying, again, to abate the aftereffects of the Curbside Couch Debacle, one might also have lent a closer eye to one's croutons which were baking in the oven. Still delicious, though, after you scrape off the burnt parts - natch.

MMMmmmm... burnt bread....

The Trophy Wife has done better.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Day 8-10: Fulghi's Worst Nightmare

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, while I was strolling the halls of my hallowed home awake with insomnia, I came up with the idea to rearrange all the furniture in our house (including detached guest house.) Fulghi got up and went to work as usual, and when he had gone, the girls and I set to our task. I was very proud of myself for man-handling all the furniture myself (I took apart, and put 3 beds back together! Schellman came over and helped me extract the sleeper couch from the house, although I did move it from the back porch all the way to the street by my own little self. Impressed are you? You should be.) and was able to accomplish most of my goals. Rooms were swapped, things gone through, dust swept from every possible hiding crevice. In my fit of "out with the old," I even decided it was finally time to retire our family room furniture. Then along comes poor, poor, unwitting Fulghi. He was probably whistling to himself as he walked out of work, expecting to come home to Day 8 of the Ina Experiment, thinking he would have a relaxing evening on the couch... but it was not to be. Fulghi's first clue that things may not be going the way he planned, was when he drove up to the house, passing our old couch on the curb which was gaily festooned with a FREE! sign. (Authors note: We had no takers, so I guess it was time for the couch to go.) Inside he found no room untouched (for dramatic purposes I may have over-exaggerated - our kitchen and master bedroom were left unmolested) quite a bit left to do, and the girls and I weepy and crying over the summer being over. We were standing in the hallway clinging to each other, protesting that each one would miss the other more when school started, and declaring our mutual love while Fulghi looked on shaking his head and wondering why he ever came home from work. Thus began Fulghi's weekend. 48 hours later, all was put to rest, and the house was returned to a calm oasis (although a rearranged calm oasis.) We purged extraneous items, and gave the house and detached guest house a good once over.
Ahhhhh, at the end of the weekend Fulghi's work is done, and he can go back to the office.
On tap for tonight: Day 11: Roasted-Tomato Basil Soup with Parmesan Croutons.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day 7: My Long-Suffering Mother

My Mother is quite taken with my blog, and has shown it to anyone and everyone who she can get to stand still long enough to bring up the URL. She had thought her daughter was finally doing something of note, something to be proud of, but most importantly: something she would not be embarrassed to share with others.
So, again today, she decided to share the blog.
With a colleague from work.
The title was "Day 6: A Butt-Load of Brownies."
I think it probably went something like this: My Mother said "wait until you see my daughter's new blog! It's so wonder......." And then in her head: "I will kill that foul-mouthed, coarse-word-writing, daughter of mine dead if it's the last thing I do."
My poor, poor, Mother.
Many is the jewel in her crown in heaven.
Oops, your awful daughter has stuck again...
But in my defense, it could have been much, much worse...
And you would think that, by now, she would know better...
I love you Mommy! Mean it!

So on to the delicious deeds of the day. My little Tamara needed some technical help today. She was trying to create a play-list on her ipod for her daughter Teagan's third birthday. Tamara, to say the least, tends toward the non-techno-savvy. I, being the ever-generous, ever-helpful, ever-magnanimous friend that I am, went over to her house to help her. After we were done compiling a list of 3-year-old-suitable songs, (Whatever - Tamara obviously would not take any of my helpful song choice suggestions. I mean, what's so wrong with a little Def Leppard at a pre-school birthday?) we went on a quest for clear-colored sprinkles for Teagan's cupcakes. Tamara had purchased some garish "rainbow" sprinkles that looked like a child had dumped several bottles of sprinkles in a bowl, mixed them together and called it good. So we trekked south to the next-nearest-neighboring town's Michael's Crafts. While we were in said next-nearest-neighboring town, we decided to treat ourselves and our pack of crazy kids to lunch. Somehow we were able to clear an entire restaurant in 10 minutes flat. A personal best, I'll have to say. But looking at these goofballs, you can kinda see why.

This would make me high-tail-it for the hills:
Our next agenda-item for the day was back-to-school haircuts. The girls both decided to chop a significant amount of hair off, and although the thought of their gorgeous locks falling to the floor of the salon made me a bit teary-eyed, I let them go for it. The result is two very cute little flips for my gals, and a few tears in private for me. When someone finds a drug to stop them from growing up so fast, let me know. I'll invest. Big.

So tonight I decided to make Roasted Carrots (pg. 149.) I thought this would make a nice accompaniment to day 3 of meatloaf. (The Trophy Wife Says: Gotta use those left-overs!) Olive oil, salt, pepper, toss and roast at 400 until caramelized. This is a yummy way to serve a number of vegetables, root and otherwise. Roasted broccoli is amazing, for example. You can do tomatoes, onions, peppers, squash, cauliflower - pretty much any vegetable you can think up, you can roast. If you haven't tried this amazing miracle of modern science...well ya better!



Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Day 6: A Butt-Load of Brownies

Today we went shopping for back-to-school clothes. There is always a challenge when you look for clothes for young girls in the 6-7-8 range. My two Irish twins are starting to be too old to wear the smocked dresses and matching clothes (although, I don't agree,) and yet too young to be dressing like a a couple of hookers. It seems that the stores these days are determined to raise a generation of girls who like to dress like "ladies of the evening." So as a mother it is my job to veto the tramp clothes. Somehow though, the more sparkly, the more outrageous, the more flesh-baring, the more garish, the more they like it! Be comforted though dear reader, I stood strong against the pleading eyes of my two imps, and we were able to find several suitable and beautiful outfits (and shoes to boot!) that will serve them well in the next school year. (If it were up to me, Gymboree would sell clothes for 18 year-olds.) And thanks to my fairy-mother-in-law Mimi, all financial obligations were taken care of. Thanks Mimi!

Last night as I was cleaning up after dinner (or Fulghi was cleaning up - whatever,) Fulghi says to me "too bad that Barefoot Contessa doesn't have any recipes for desserts." So then I gave him the look, because, OF COURSE The Barefoot Contessa has dessert recipes, I just have neglected to include any in my blog, yet. So we have been commissioned with our next task: A Butt-Load of Brownies. I use this term, because when I told Tamara that my brownie recipe called for 4 sticks of butter she said: "Wow, that is going to make a Butt-Load of brownies!" Then she said, "you know that is not a technical term, but feel free to use it in your blog if you need to." Thanks Tamara.
The actual recipe is called Outrageous Brownies (pg. 172.) It makes 20 large brownies - and she ain't kiddin.

So then when I talked with My Mother on the phone, and told her about the 4 sticks of butter, I mentioned that I might halve the recipe in in the interest of avoiding heart attacks. She said "Now Melani, you have to follow the recipes, you can't just make things up as you go along!" (She must not be a fan of last-night's meatloaf.) "You have to FOLLOW DIRECTIONS!" My Mother is convinced that even at the ripe age of 38, if I do not follow every direction in this cookbook, I will somehow turn into a juvenile delinquent, and become a drain on society. The road to hell is paved with improvised recipes. For those of you not in the know, My Mother is a woman of great virtue, and is known to be meticulous with rules. Thusly, I have already sorely disappointed her on many fronts - natch. My penchant towards coarse rhetoric (read: sometimes I may, or may not use foul language,) has already rendered her eternally bereft, with countless sleepless nights tossing and turning, wondering where, oh where did she go so terribly wrong? I guess the least I could do is make the whole recipe, AS DIRECTED.

See Mother! I followed directions!

MMMmmmm. 4 Sticks of butter, 3 cups of chocolate chips and one bar of bittersweet chocolate all melted together in a warm creamy bath of deliciousness!

The girls - scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Tamara gives the brownies four thumbs up: two thumbs, and two big toes. When I asked Tamara if she liked the brownies, she said they were "one of the better brownies she had ever had. Not too sweet, very buttery and salty-sweet. Definitely a big-glass-of-milk brownie. Not to gag it down, mind you, only to enhance it."
Thanks Tamara.
When I asked Fulghi if he liked the brownies, he said "yes."
Thanks Fulghi.

A Butt-Load (Sorry Mother) of Brownies

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 5: Back in the Saddle

Today, the first part of my day was spent helping my mother-in-law get her classroom set up. She is a beloved High School English teacher, and is known far and wide for her superior instructional skills. It is always nice to stand in the glow. So I helped her repair and mount a mural that she has had in her classroom for many years. It is an excellent mural of remarkable artistic value. It did however have a former life as a backdrop in a "Christian-Fantasy-Movie." Well. I just don't even know what to say about that.

The second part of my day was spent with my husband, who came home early from work so he could attend our daughters' guitar lessons. Now, while he is an
admirable and attentive father, he was also impelled by his curiosity. You see, I have been regaling him with tales of the guitar instructor who in no small way resembles the character Garth Algar of Wayne's World fame. He is the older, and perhaps no wiser, image of Garth. He looks like him, he talks like him... So Fulghi (my nickname for my husband, see: cast of characters) had to come see for himself. He also got to see how much fun it is to wait for an hour while the kids take turns with their guitar lessons, because I bailed on him and went to the store to procure the ingredients for this evening's experiment. Sucker.
So, on to tonight's experiment. I was originally going to cook The Barefoot Contessa's Turkey Meatloaf (pg.138) tonight, but upon review, I decided to go another way. Ina's meatloaf is an homage to traditional-flavored meatloaf, and honestly, although I'm sure it is very tasty in every way, I just wasn't feeling the whole ketchup-crust-on-the-top thing. And, since I am such a fan of my own meatloaf, and it is similar in many ways, I decided to go forth and produce my own creation for your gastronomic pleasure. Previously, I had done everything by sight, so I made sure to measure all ingredients so that the reproduction of said meatloaf would be more accurate. So I give to you now, the citizens of this blogosphere....

The Trophy Wife's Turkey Meatloaf

9x13 casserole dish
Oven at 350

The first thing I do is build a bed of vegetables on the bottom. For this I small-dice:
1 1/2 c yukon gold potatoes
1 1/2 c carrots
1 1/2 c onion
I toss the vegetables with 1/3-1/2 c olive oil and 1 t salt and 1/2 t pepper and spread them in the bottom of the casserole dish. Like this:

The meatloaf is made by combining:
2 c oats
2 cloves garlic pressed through a garlic press
3-4 eggs
1 1/2 c finely chopped onion
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
2 - 2 1/2 c barbeque sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray's)
2 1/2 lbs. ground turkey
Eggs and barbeque sauce depend on how wet/dry you would like your meatloaf to be. Make a loaf out of this mixture, and place on top of vegetable layer. Spread an additional 1/2 cup of barbeque sauce on top and place in oven until a meat thermometer meets the desired temp. About 1 1/2 hours.



With this lovely concoction, I served Parmesan Smashed Potatoes (pg. 158.) I used Yukon Gold potatoes instead of the called-for Red-Skinned. I have four words: Warm, Cheesy, Creamy! Yummy!

Fulghi says "a dinner like that just makes me love the world."

Day 4: And on the Fourth Day, The Trophy Wife Rested

So, yesterday was a crazy, crazy day. I was running from one end of town to the other, trying to nail things down for the beginning of school. So, my kitchen lay idle from dawn until dusk. There was not one item of food prepared. I would like to say that it was a restful day, but then I would be lying. So there you go - sometimes even a Trophy Wife has to call in for dinner. On tap for today: The Trophy Wife's Turkey Meatloaf and Parmesan Smashed Potatoes. Just wait, this one will be good!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Day 3: That'll Learn Ya

There is only one thing that I have learned in my 8 year tenure as a parent (well probably more than one thing, but for the purposes of this blog entry, and my artistic literary license...) and that is, that when you let your children stay up past their bedtimes they are very, very, very surly the following day. They will make you PAY for any fun you have had the night before. I try to teach the girls "natural consequences," as in if you drop your choners (our word for underwear) in the gutter while you are throwing them in the air as we are walking into swimming lessons, you will not have clean choners to put on after you finish swimming. If you leave your Barbie shoes on the floor, the dogs will use them as dental floss. If you use your dress as a napkin, well... you will look like you used your dress as a napkin. If you leave your scooter outside for a month, it may not go as fast the next time you race your sister. If you roll in the sand, and make "sand angels" at the beach, you may or may not get sand in places you would prefer not to have sand (I could go on...) I guess I may have deserved to have a little "natural consequences" education myself...
That'll learn me.
So I did something today that I haven't done since January. I bought a loaf of bread. This may seem like an innocuous act, however I have been challenging myself to make all of our bread from scratch, and this is my first moment of weakness. In my defense, the bread was purchased so that I could make french you go. And, I'm not sorry at all.
On to the Ina Experiment! My recipes for today are Lemon Capellini with Caviar (pg.129) and Sugar Snap Peas with Sesame (pg. 105.) This pasta is one of my favorites. The recipe calls for 2, count 'em: 2 sticks of butter. In the words of my beloved, esteemed Ina "What could be so bad about that?" Well, I guess a heart attack could be so bad about that, but who cares when you are eating Lemon Capellini with Caviar! For those of you who are new to cooking, try this one out. It is very easy, and yet very company-friendly. (It frightens me when I channel my mother.) The girls were not such fans of the Lemon Capellini, however. My oldest daughter Tyler stated that she "preferred her lemons in a pie," so judge your audience. The Sugar Snap Peas with Sesame were very light, crisp and fresh, and loved by all. I wasn't able to find black sesame seeds, but honestly I really didn't look very hard, so that part is still an unknown. I added some salt and pepper, and that seemed to really round out the dish. Leftovers can be eaten as is, or chopped up into a summer salad. Again in the words of Ina: "Isn't that fabulous?"

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Day 2: Yogurt for Breakfast, Schellmans for Dinner

Good morning Saturday! Today I began anew my quest to master the culinary world of Ina Garten. My menu plan for the morning was Orange Yogurt (pg. 229) and Homemade Granola (pg. 210.) I had put together the granola the day before. This recipe is a must-try. It is great alone, with milk, or as I paired it, with yogurt. Just remember to stir frequently, and if you can smell it cooking, it might be getting ready to burn. We deviated from the called-for dried fruits, as I was trying to involve the girls with my new project. They chose blueberries and apricots. Other than that, I stuck to the recipe, and followed directions. (Someone might need to dial 911 at this point, because I am sure if my mother is reading this she has gone into full cardiac arrest, as she has never known me to follow a direction in my life. Hold on Mommy, help is coming!) As I mentioned, I paired this granola with Orange Yogurt. Ina calls for plain low-fat yogurt - I happened to use plain Greek yogurt because I had it on hand. You are supposed to let the yogurt drain overnight in a sieve to remove the excess liquid. I was really amazed at how much came out! I added all the ingredients, and again followed directions. (Hang in there Mom, it's not much longer now...) I've got to tell you, this yogurt is fabulous. It is super-creamy, and very tasty. It is great alone, or with the granola. Big two thumbs up. My youngest daughter Ryan even liked it! (Dear readers, you will recall her of the Lemonade-Keyboard Murder fame.) She gave it a love-it-so-much-you-smear-all-over-your-face approval.
So after being fabulously sated with an amazing breakfast we went about our usual Saturday which always involves a trip to my in-laws for a half-sandwich. Every week they call and ask if we will be joining them for a half-sandwich. I don't know why they never ask if we will be joining them for a full-sandwich. It is always half. One is always allowed to eat a full sandwich if one chooses, however one is never preemptively invited to do so. So...we ate our half-sandwiches, snacked on left-over birthday cake (of Best-of-Show fame,) and watched the girls swim. Mimi and Granddaddy (a.k.a. my in-laws) had a party to go to, and we had the Schellmans coming for dinner so we had to skedaddle. On my menu for the evening: Indonesian Ginger Chicken (pg. 125) and Szechuan Noodles (pg. 108.) Once the Schellmans had arrived, we got the drinks pouring, the kids playing, and the food cooking. Copious amounts of laughter is always paired with any meal with the Schellmans, and luckily this time bad french accents did not make an appearance. (For some reason when my husband and Mr. Schellman become less inhibited with the consumption of alcohol, they start to "speak French." I say this loosely because I don't think there is a french person on the planet who could recognize one word used in their dialogue. Mrs. Schellman (a.k.a. my bff sister-wife Tamara) and I usually shake our heads, and wonder to ourselves how two girls could get so lucky.) The meal was enjoyed by everyone (And by everyone, I mean all adults, and 3 out of 4 kids, with the exception of Little Schellman) and some even had seconds! With our tummies full, and our wine glasses empty, we decided we needed to permanently record our ratings for the recipes. My husband gave the Szechuan Noodles a sideways thumb, because he is not a fan of peanut butter, which the recipe contains. But...(and this is a BIG BUT)... he ate it... which was no small victory for me (and one ENORMOUS endorsement for Ina,) because in 15 years of marriage (Yes, I was a child-bride) he has NEVER eaten anything that contained peanut butter. Here is a picture of our rating system for the Szechuan Noodles. (L-R Mr. Schell
man, Brent, Mrs. Schellman, and Little Schellman. Mrs. Schellman is obscured to protect the innocent.) Again, Little Schellman - not a fan.

And we've received a response from the peanut gallery:
...Personally I think the half-sandwich is a lovely idea. I mean, to be intimidated by two whole slices of calorie-ridden bread may be just too much to bear, especially if the in-laws are cellulite-bearers, as many in-laws are. I'll bet their sandwiches are wealthy in lovely cheeses, deli meats, tomatoes, lettuces, and tasty mayonnaise, not to mention the accompaniment of delicious lightly salted potato chips and fresh fruit slices. Additionally, it sounds like they are especially lovely people to open their home and water to their blog family with all the dangers that might ensue from such a public display of familial goings ons. - Anonymous

About to Pop

I realize
that I am no
Kate Moss,
and I could stand
to lose a few LBS.,
but "didn't know
you were pregnant?"

(Alright, I have
obsessed enough...)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Day 1: In which no good deed goes unpunished.

Homemade Lemonade by Ina Garten:

So, today I began the experiment! I decided to take baby steps and start with what at first seemed harmless. At the beginning of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Ina has a recipe for lemonade which looked refreshing, summer-appropriate, and fun. So I juiced my lemons, added the rest of ingredients in to the blender, and tried to follow directions as closely as I am humanly capable. I did spill some lemonade out of the top of the blender when things got whirring, however this was easily cleaned up. No harm done. Yet. I then poured two frosty glasses of lemonade for my girls which they were to consume on the porch. My youngest daughter Ryan decided to take hers inside, and somehow managed to spill all that frothy, frosty, lemony goodness all over the computer keyboard. Instant keyboard death. Good times. But other than that, the lemonade was fabulous, and as advertised!

Note: I should have known that things might not be going my way today when the checker at the grocery store exclaimed: "I didn't know you were pregnant again!" To which I responded: "only with a fat-baby." Seriously, didn't her mother ever teach her anything?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Melani & Ina Experiment

News Bulletin Just In...

Mild mannered housewife from the suburbs plans to topple the culinary giants and become the next Oprah Winfrey of Food.

So I decided to come up with a project of sorts. While not as ambitious as Julie Powell of Julie & Julia fame, I thought that maybe, just maybe I could at least expand my horizons and hone my culinary expertise with a project of my own. Immediately, of course, I thought of my BFF Ina Garten (see blog post #3.) She is my hero, my idol, my pedagogue for all things comestible, and my go-to gal when I know I need a recipe that will work the first time, every time. I thought, why not take Ina's collection of cookbooks, and go through them one by one, and catalog my progress and foibles? I will earn my doctorate in all things Ina, with supreme fabulousness as my paramount goal. Ina has 6 cookbooks. The first one is The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. My maiden voyage will be to accomplish Ina's first tome of 87 recipes by November 1, 2009. A fool's errand you say! Not so! This mild mannered housewife (who may, or may not swear like a trucker on occasion) will prevail! And anyway our names are kind-of a palindrome (or at-least an almost palindrome, to be a real palindrome we would have to be Melani & Inalem) so clearly it was meant to be...

Yoda, and Brent's 40th Birthday

This last weekend we celebrated my husband's 40th birthday. In our final ovation to his fading youth we feted my now aged spouse with a Star Wars/Luau party as a nod to the fancies of his youth, and his State of birth (HI.) In keeping with the theme, I attempted a "character cake." (In my defense, this all looks so easy when I watch it on "The Cake Boss"/"Ace of Cakes.") I created Yoda's body out of 4 layers of spice cake with maple frosting (Brent's request.) I fashioned his head and ears out of rice crispy treats, and then proceeded to cover them in green fondant. (Again, they make this look so easy on T.V.!) One important thing I learned: You have ONE, I repeat ONE chance with fondant. If you screw it up, you must start over. Putting fondant on top of fondant in order to hide your complete incompetence with handling fondant, does not work. After four hours of wrestling with a decapitated Yoda head, (or would it be pre-capitated, since he had yet to have his head placed on his body?) I finally had the finished, or as finished as I was going to get, product. Fortunately for all involved, Yoda does look better from behind a pair of beer goggles, or wine goggles, or inebriation agent of your choice goggles. There is a reason why we saved the cake for last.
Here for your viewing pleasure, I give you.... Yoda (or at least a somewhat plausible, if not highly maimed representation.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Catching Up On My Summer Exploits - Vol. II

The Fair
Every year the girls and I enter our baked goods in the local county fair. I find this pastime both kitschy and sweet. In past years my accolades have ranged from placing in my class to winning "Best of Show." This year I entered my favorite chocolate cake. This cake was a culmination of a summer-long search for the perfect cake for my mother-in-law's 60th birthday. This time my family turned out to be more victim than test subject. Some of the cakes I tried tasted like sand. Some had no taste at all (sand obviously being preferable to no taste, some might say.) Some were the color of cardboard - not acceptable when you are striving for the perfect, deep, rich chocolate cake in taste and texture. So I went back to my old friend Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa), to see what she had to say on the subject. (By the way, when I say "old friend," I mean it in a completely stalker, obsessed fan, never-met-her-in-my-life, maybe someday we will be BFFs, kind of way.) I took her recipe for Beatty's Chocolate Cake, made a few tweaks, and used a frosting recipe handed down from my mother (again with a few tweaks.) The result was winning first place, and a nomination for "Best of Show."

At this time I would like to thank my mother, and my BFF Ina Garten. I couldn't have done it without either of you. Sniff, sniff, wipe a tear. Ina, call me!

At the request of several friends, and my fans which are legion...

The Trophy Wife's "Best of Show" Chocolate Cake
1 3/4 c flour
2 c sugar
3/4 unsweetened cocoa powder
2 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 t kosher salt
1 T apple cider vinegar and enough milk to make 1 C
1/2 c vegetable oil
1/2 c egg beaters
1 t vanilla extract
1 c freshly brewed espresso

oven 350
I do this in my kitchenaid stand mixer.
Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Add milk/vinegar mixture, oil, eggbeaters and vanilla. After wet and dry are combined, then add coffee and stir until just combined. Pour (and the batter should pour here) into two 8 inch round cake pans that have been buttered and floured (I use the spray Pam with flour) bake 35-40 min until done.

I double this. 1 batch is too little, however I don't use quite all of the double batch. Save the leftover and spread between graham crackers!

1 lb. powdered sugar
1 stick butter, room temp
2/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 c heavy whipping cream (HWC)
1 t vanilla
dash kosher salt
1 T instant espresso powder to taste

First I beat the butter in the mixer. Then I add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt and mix. Then add vanilla and espresso powder if desired. Then I add the HWC and beat. I often add more HWC until I get the desired consistency. But remember, you can always add, but you can't take away. A little HWC goes a long way.

Catching Up On My Summer Exploits

So... this summer I tried something new. I learned how to can. Once formerly intimidated by tales of botulism and food poisoning, I ventured forth into this new frontier. My first attempt was blueberry jam. The girls and I had picked about 3 quarts of fresh blueberries, and I decided that my maiden voyage would be to turn these blueberries into a permanent testament to our adventure (picking blueberries) and my superior skills at all things domestic. I may have made a few mistakes along the way. I cooked the blueberries too long and added pectin, the combination of which made for quite a firm jam. A jam you could slice. A jam you had to put some muscle into to spread. This failure was accompanied by poached fingertips from not using/having the proper tools, and jam-splatter burns. My second attempt was for strawberry jam. This time I used strawberries procured from the grocery store. Once again, in my never ending quest in life to see what exactly would happen "if I did things slightly different than the directions called for," I added the ingredients in reverse order. What I ended up with was a jam that did not set (read: strawberry sauce), and that tasted somewhat off-putting. Lesson learned. (Again with the lack-of-proper-tool issues) So now we are on to my third attempt. Plum jam without pectin. Followed directions. Success! Used proper canning tools! Canning without pain! Although, if someone has a solution for avoiding jam spatter that does not require wearing a full-body teflon suit and goggles, let me know...

The Start

Well, for a while I have wanted to start a blog to chronicle my adventures in child-rearing and cooking so here goes! Not all may realize how glamorous it can be to keep a house clean, cook for and nourish 4 people (and 4 dogs), make sure all health/dental maintenance is kept up to date, that piles of laundry are sustained at manageable levels (note: not eradicated), all household/consumable inventory is sustained at acceptable levels (for example: run out of coffee/Cherrios/toilet paper - suffer the consequences), homework is completed, ballet class is attended, musical instruments have been practiced... don't be jealous... you too can live the dream! So here goes. Hopefully my readers will extend beyond myself, my husband, and my mother... hopefully. (A girl can dream, can't she?)