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9:51 a.m. - 2011-08-01
Eat your veggies.

The party was marvy. SIL and Jon showed up too so we had a full house. MIL was tickled. SIL gave her a nice gnome for her collection. I think it's mandatory that when people get older they collect something. Makes gift giving so much easier. MIL collects two things- gnomes and turtles. Or perhaps those things were foisted on her and she acts glad to get them. In any case MIL's amassed a cool collection of both. I've gone the turtle/gnome route a couple times, but try to think outside the usual when gifting her.

Her grandson certainly did. Jon gave her a collage he'd done himself. A rather avant-garde collage. The grandma side of her was delighted, "My grandson made me something!" The non-grandma part was a bit leery of such a wild piece of art. I could see her struggling to 'get' it and definitely understood her distress over where to display something so disparate from the rest of the house's décor. Wide-eyed she gingerly handed it to me and diplomatically said, "Thank you, Jon. I'm sure LA and I will have fun choosing a place to hang it." I smothered a giggle and took the collage off to the little den at the end of the hall.

I'm lucky in that my kids' artwork doesn't clash with my décor. In fact the Picasso-esque self-portrait Alex did in the fourth grade has pride of place in the living room. It's really good and doesn't look dopey at all. "Daw! Lookit what my kid painted!" I've certainly received my share of refrigerator masterpieces over the years. Displayed until grease-spotted then discretely disposed of. But Wolf's made a couple things that have permanent homes on the walls too. Then again most of the stuff on my walls is hand-made by people I know. The other things are personal because they have stories attached. Gifts from friends. Or I came by it in a funny way. Looking around I see that nothing was bought just because it 'goes'. If one was kind they'd call this place 'eclectic'. Heh. Considering how beat up the furniture is my place goes beyond 'shabby chic'. It's more like 'shabby shanty'. Is 'Tobacco Road' a legit decorating scheme?

The eggplant parm got raves. Gratifying. Even Mick swooned over it and he's no fan of eggplant. Neither am I to be honest. When making parm I usually make chicken and only make eggplant if MIL's coming. But yesterday's was good. Two things really helped. One, the eggplants were super fresh and very flavorful. Two, the power burner on Black Beauty made a huge difference in keeping the oil the right temp. Having such a large gas ring and the extra BTUs is terrific. Very chef-y. The eggplant didn't have the chance to get greasy and slimy, it seared shut too quickly. The bread coat browned up fast too, no wallowing around in the oil for too long. If yesterday's wasn't a fluke and I can make it that good every time eggplant will definitely go into rotation on the menu. Be nice to have a hearty meat-less dish to serve vegetarian friends too. We do eat a ton of veggies, especially during market season, but they're always served and/or flavored with dead animal. Omnivores, ya know.

We might become mushroom-i-vores, at least this year. Guess the long mild spring and so far tolerable and wet summer is good for growing mushrooms. The vendor at the market on Friday had mountains of 'shrooms. Astounding variety too. Sadly a little pricey, understandably so, with mushrooms this good you're definitely getting what you paid for. Just a bit budget busting to go a real buying spree right now. But careful selection and using them to good advantage I'll be able to spiff up some of the thrifty but ho-hum recipes. That's the kind of cooking I like best. I have lots of reliable favorites, but jazzing something up or improv with what I have in the fridge is way more fun.

I'm an eyeball cook too. Hardly ever measure. Makes swapping recipes kind of tough. I wanted to give Paula my recipe for goulash so she could compare it to the real deal she'd just had in Hungary. I tried to keep it succinct but it still ended up all full of asterisked side-notes about cooking times and ingredient substitutions. I'm thinking Paula's a bit of a guess and golly cook too. She sent me her recipe for jambalaya in return and it had side-notes too. It was also delicious, btw. I forgot to say so at the time. Thanks, Paula!

Having the eggplant come out so well has me curious about what other cool techniques I can coax out of the power burner. Mostly I've used it as a regular burner, it's the front right and my fave position at the stove. I'd only amped it into super-heat to boil pasta water and such. But now I'm thinking about my wok- a really crisp veggie stir fry would be awesome. Again, I never had the BTUs to do a decent stir fry. Always soggy or tough from being overcooked. There's all sorts of farmers market goodies in the fridge (yay, the mushrooms!). And a pile of green beans from MIL's garden. Yup. Mick called a little while ago to ask if I wanted him to bring anything home after work. (Yes, he's a fab husband that way.) I said no. But I think I'll call him back and request a quart of steamed rice from Wong Fu's. Cheap and way tastier than my own. Good rice on the stove is another skill I've yet to master and I don't want to waste the space on a rice cooker. Not when Messrs Wong and Fu are so handy.


Stir fry- it's what's for dinner. ~LA

7 Wanna talk about it!

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