Monday, December 29, 2008

Thank Goodness for Chef Boyardee Pizza

You're going to see this week's postings and think my mom lives for cooking. Don't believe it. Not for a second. I should elaborate before I am banished from her kitchen (that will never happen--I'm the only one who will eat indiscriminately). Would you love cooking if you worked from 6 a.m. until 3 in the afternoon (or so), came home to kids probably running around pretending they weren't watching TV while you were gone and have them hover over the stove asking "What's for dinner?" in the whiniest tone? And then, once you tell them it's beef stroganoff or stew, they mope and say, "Steeewwww?" and you have to threaten taking away that evening's episode of Cheers or I Love Lucy to get them to finish their meal. This has been happening for nearly 25 years people. Give this woman a break!

She's learned a few tricks over the years, 1.) never introduce something new on a Monday and 2.) stick with your standbys. One of these standbys is what is viewed here: Chef Boyardee pizza. Pretty simple, you buy the box, follow the directions, embellish with extra vegetables, mushrooms, pepperoni and extra cheese. (I believe Mom uses provelone, mozarella and grated parmasan.) One very important trick she learned is to make two pizzas: one for adults and one for kids. I am proud to say that I now take from the adult pizza.

We had this pizza for birthday parties or on Fridays (when she was too tired to care about serving us a plate of steamed vegetables) or, as in this case, Christmas Eve (no turkey here). She would dole out the slices (I always picked one with the most parmasan) and set a bowl of baby carrots on the table. On these nights, we even would get to drink soda with dinner (sometimes).

I think Chef Boyardee's slogan fits this situation pretty well. And don't you want to come over to my mom's for dinner someday?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cinnamon Rolls

Now it's back to work after what I declare to be one of the best Christmases ever. I'm not exactly sure what made it so spectacular. The gifts were great (my mom made me an apron out of two dish towels from Anthropologie!), but they're always good. I think it may have more to do with maturity on my part. It seemed like for the first time Christmas was really all about relaxing and being with friends and family. These awesome cinnamon rolls didn't hurt though.

It's a Seyler family tradition to have cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Christmas morning, post present destruction. My mom has a bread machine that she probably uses once or twice a year, but one of those times is to toss flour, yeast, butter, etc. into the machine, turn it on, go back to bed whilst the bread wizard mixes the dough. She lets the rolls rise in the laundry room as we labor over opening gifts. Rough morning eh? This year the cinnamon rolls turned out (by miracle) robust and savory. And look at the above photo: White Christmas.

Dad even got in on the action. Blog readers may not be surprised that he was assigned the task to fry the bacon. I usually shy away from eating bacon, but dad makes it right. The first one I tried was so well-done and crispy it disintigrated in my mouth. I even snapped a photo of my dad ... in an apron, looking annoyed. "Lainey, it's just bacon."

Some family friends came over for breakfast (as their kitchen is under renovation). They supplied a ridiculous amount of farm fresh eggs. And Emily went to town on them. Her trick is to add fresh, chopped or minced garlic to scrambled eggs. Don't be alarmed by her wrist brace--it's just jammed (not broken) and has been for like two months now (I tease). Cinnamon Rolls: Dough: 1 cup water 2 eggs 1/4 cup butter 4 cups flour 2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup sugar 3 tablespoons skim milk powder ( it’s amazing the volume you have to buy) 2 teaspoons quick-rise or bread machine yeast Filling: 3 tablespoons butter 2/3 cup brown sugar 2 teaspoons cinnamon optional: 1/3 cup raisins or chopped pecans (my family hates nuts in things, minus my mom and me Icing: 1/2 stick butter 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 or 3 tablespoons milk 2 cups powdered sugar (or until you reach desired consistency) (I believe my mom adapted this recipe for those of us who may not own a bread machine.) Add dough ingredients in the order listed. Mix together, knead and allow to rise in a warm place for 60 min. Then roll out into a rectangle (see photo 3). For filling, melt 3 tablespoons butter and brush over dough. Mix together brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle over dough. Roll up and pinch edges together (see top photo). Cut into 12 slices and place in greased dish or in muffin cups. Cover and let rise a second time for 30-40 minutes. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. The recipe says you can freeze 1/2 of the dough to use at a later time. I have never tried that. Why not just eat it all? Here comes the part of the recipe I took care, and thus didn't measure anything, crap.) For the icing, in a medium mixing bowl add softened butter, milk and vanilla and mix together. Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and mix until smooth. Continue adding powdered sugar until the icing is at your preferred consistency.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pumpkin Quiche - Success!

Something fantastic happened in my kitchen on a cold winter night last week. Something new was made, something that may have never been done before (at least not the way I did it). But let me start at the beginning. I wanted to make these adorable peach hand pies. But as peaches (or almost any fruit) aren't in season, I decided to substitute pumpkin custard. I looked up a few custard recipes online and in my Better Homes cookbook and came up with something I thought might work. The key word here is thought. No, that's not true. Before I even started I told Megan that it was going to be a fiasco.

You know my history with pie crust. Well this time, it was easy. Seriously. I read Smitten Kitchen's encouraging directions on crusts, and even though there were a few moments when I thought all would be lost, it turned out fine (as you can see below).

The real problems came when I realized my custard was too runny to lie flat in the hand pie (sort of like a jelly- or custard-filled doughnut). Shit. OK, I improvise. What if I add more of the canned pumpkin? That could thicken it. Ummm, nope. I score through the pages of my Better Homes cookbook. Corn starch! I dumped a load on top of the orangey mixture. Then rethought and scooped the powder out of the soupy mixture. I even tried mixing it on high, hoping either the eggs or the cream would thicken--you know like whipped cream or my favorite French silk pie. After five minutes of straight up whipping the "pumpkin custard," I was out of ideas. Until, stroke of genius, I recalled the muffin tray I had just bought. I lined the muffin tray with my tart dough and filled the cups with my "custard." Who says you need tart trays when everything you own is non-stick? After 22 minutes in the oven, these babies slid right out.

And they were good. The crust was flaky and salty. The filling was creamy but not too sweet. To be honest, because of the ridiculous amount of eggs in this recipe my pumpkin-hand-pies were more like pumpkin quiches, a dish I'm sure some Frenchie came up with a millenia ago. And check out the kitchen: (biggest mess ever--there was custard filling on the walls, yikes)

Tart Crust: 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 16 tablespoons (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces 1/2 cup sour cream 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 1/2 cup ice water Apparently the key to good pie crust is keeping everything cold, so cold butter and ice water. Smitten Kitchen even recommends throwing the bowls in the fridge or freezer (just don't forget about them like I did). Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, add butter pieces and mix with pastry blender until it is coarsely blended. Put bowl in the freezer. In a separate bowl, mix sour cream, lemon juice and ice water with whisk. Remove dry mixture from freezer and pour half of liquid into it and mix with your fingers until liquid has been absorbed. Add the remainder of the liquid and continue to blend with your fingers. (Note: my mixture seemed to be very dry and lumpy. This turned out to not be a big deal once I rolled the dough out.) Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or freeze for up to one month. To begin rolling dough, remove half of the cold dough from the fridge. With a lot of flour, roll the dough out onto a smooth surface. Using a four-inch biscuit cutter or a four-inch Starbucks mug with the skyline of New York on it to cut out circles from the dough (you can adjust the size). Place dough into either a tart pan or the wells of muffin trays. If you think your dough may stick to the sides, rub butter on the side of the trays to grease it up. K, now we move on to the filling. Pumpkin Filling: 5 eggs 3/4 cup cream (to lighten it up you could use half and half or milk) 1/2 cup sugar 1 15-ounce can pumpkin 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon ginger 1 teaspoon nutmeg Add the ingredients to a large mixing bowl and blend until the consistency is smooth (and a bit runny). Easy, right. Add about 2 tablespoons of the pumpkin mixture to each well of the muffin tray. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until tart crust is slightly browned and a toothpick pulls out clean.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

For Your Viewing Pleasure

Just to put you in the holiday spirit, I'll let you gaze longingly at these beautiful chocolate chip and reeses chip cookies. Look how golden brown they are, and yet I can assure you that they were soft and chewy in the middle. Megan made these for our party. Thankfully there were a few leftover. I believe she followed the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag--in this case she actually followed all the dirctions and didn't miss any ingredients--thus they turned out perfectly.
At one point whilst making these Megan asked, "Do you think I put too many chocolate chips in them?" (She is hilarious.) "Megan, I don't think it's possible to put too much chocolate in anything."
So for those of you who aren't sick of holiday cookies yet, just scroll up and down this page and try not to drool.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Jenny, My Food Partner in Crime

Jenny was always my food buddy. We will both eat pretty much anything and would often end up spliting meals, such as at the Grand Luxe in Chicago or at Il Spazio (affectionately referred to as The Spaz) in Kirksville, Mo. It was Jenny who also taught me not to scrape the tongs of my fork on my teeth when eating--now I hate when people do that too. We had a lot of memories in the kitchen of that freezing, old house on Jefferson--staying up late eating peanut butter and chocolate chips and talking about boys. Ahhh, the good ol' days. So it's only fitting that Jenny help bolster the content of this blog from afar. It's almost as good as a late-night laugh-fest. Almost. The top photo is of potato soup, modified from something on Looks perty, don't it.
And here we have one of Jenny's trademarks: pesto pasta. She loves it. And actually, the recipe reminisces the best pasta dish ever that we shared at the aforementioned Grand Luxe Cafe.
Potato Soup: 3/4 cup chopped celery 1/4 cup chopped onion 1 15-ounce can chicken stock 5 peeled and cubed russet potatoes 2 teaspoons flour 1/2 package ranch dressing mix 1 cup half and half 1/2 cup sour cream sprinkle of bacon bits and cheddar cheese Cook down onions and celery until tender in a pot. Add chicken broth, about a 1/4 cup water and potatoes and boil until potatoes are tender. Reduce heat and mash about 1/3 of the potatoes in the pot (or food processor would probably work too). In a bowl, combine flour and ranch mix, then whisk in the half and half and sour cream. Add the mixture into the soup, stirring. Once combined, heat soup for another minute or so and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper and parsley. Serve and sprinkle with bacon bits and cheese. Pesto Pasta: 1 regular-size package shell or bow tie pasta 1 15-ounce can artichoke hearts 1/2 cup fresh mushrooms (chopped) 1/2 cup tomato pesto dressing 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese Cook pasta according to directions on box. Heat artichokes and mushrooms in a small pan until mushrooms are tender (use 1 tablespoon of butter as a saute). Drain pasta and add it to mushroom/artichokes and add dressing with heat on low. Top with feta and serve. I couldn't decide what photo to leave you with: cute or funny, funny or cute? I went with funny (I must have a thing with embarassing my friends). This photo is from last year's New Year's party. Good times. There were way too many cameras documenting that night.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Roasted Tomato and Bean Dip

It's a good thing we made so much food last week because the only thing I've cooked this week is an egg over easy. You could blame a few things, 1.) we overdid it last week and are now sick of cooking, 2.) our kitchen and the sun room in particular has suddenly become ridiculously frigid, or 3.) our pipes froze/burst. It's likely a combination of all three. I came home from work on Monday and no water would come out of the kitchen tap. Whatever. But when I woke up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water and nothing came out of the bathroom tap, it registered as a problem. I had to drive across town to take a shower at my parents' (it took 45 minutes to get there with the weather). Fortunately, our landlords are awesome, and Bob was surveying the damage at 8 a.m. (apparently a pipe burst in the basement and the plumber had to take down part of our downstairs neighbor's wall--whoops). It's funny, these random blips happen so frequently that I sort of just shrug my shoulders and say, "meh." But if you're someone who is fortunate enough to have running water and a food processor, you should give this dip a try. It's another Giada (am I going to get into trouble for posting too many of her recipes?). I make it all the time for parties and gatherings and the like. It's sort of like hummus but tangier. Disclaimer: this is not a scary bean dip. My mom hates beans (some sort of aversion carried over from childhood), yet she likes this dip--a lot.

Tomato and Bean Dip:
1 clove garlic
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
salt and pepper (to taste)
1/4 cup olive oil (I use the oil from the jar of roasted tomatoes)
1/4 cup roasted, oil packed tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon dry basil
1 tablespoon dry parsley

Blend the clove of garlic in the the food processor. Add beans, lemon juice and water and blend until the mixture is relatively smooth. Add salt and pepper (Giada recommends about a teaspoon of each). Blend in olive oil a bit at a time until the mixture is completely smooth. (I don't actually measure the olive oil, and I suspect I use less than 1/4 of a cup). Add the tomatoes and herbs, mix again. Serve with pita chips or on crusty bread.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Party Favorite - Sour Cream and Onion Dip

Will she kill me for posting this photo? We've been friends since we were (I don't know) 15 or 16, if we can make it through high school, we can make it through anything right? Fortunately, she doesn't have Internet, and she does have a good sense of humor, and seriously, who else could grin like that while eating and still look that good? Here's a better photo of two Katies and an Adam partaking of the goods available at our party. I meant to take photos that didn't make our party look so lame, except that I kept leaving my camera/phone/drink in random places throughout the house (a good sign that the party wasn't lame, right?). Rachel asked what I thought the best thing we served was. I knew she was fishing for the right answer. It was (in my mind and Rachel wholeheartedly agreed) without a doubt the sour cream and onion dip. I followed a recipe on 101 Cookbooks and I admit being completely skeptical that it would come out alright. There was hardly any salt in the recipe, surely something in abundance in those sachets of french onion dip you get at the store. But dios mio, this dip was a-maz-ing. And too easy (another reason why I was nervous about its quality). The only thing easier than this would be, well, buying a packet of french onion dip, but that's no fun. Eric and I were scooping out the remnants of the dip at 2-something in the morning while subtely hinting that a few stragglers might want to wrap up their heated, existential convo. This dip was made to go on the latkes, as pictured above. Sour Cream and Onion Dip: (You can just as easily click through to 101 Cookbooks, a superb food blog, I'm recording the recipe here for my collection) olive or vegetable oil onion, chopped onion powder dash of salt sour cream All of the ingredients are measured to taste. I almost always go light on the onions, just a personal preference. So I used about a quarter of a white onion for about a regular-sized tub of sour cream. I applied the oil liberally and sauteed the onions for 30-40 minutes (you do not have to stand right over the stove for 30 minutes for this, medium heat will take care of it), until they were carmelized (and sort of burnt-looking, as you can see above). I added maybe a teaspoon of salt and, errr, about a tablespoon of onion powder to the sour cream. Mixed it. And then added the onions and served it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lemon Sandwich Cookies (the cutest ever)

These cookies are like that girl you see who is really cute and you think that she couldn't possibly be nice too. And when she does turn out to be deep and interesting and smart, you really can't believe it. I mean look how stinkin' cute these cookies are.
I made them for our party on Friday (which was excellent by the way), and thankfully there were still a few left over.
This cookie was featured in December's Gourmet magazine, and unfortunately I must say, my photos are not quite up to par with theirs (click through to compare). But they were just as good (I think), even though I accidentally added an extra tablespoon of lemon juice to the icing. The other really great thing that happened while making these cookies (aside from the copious amount of Christmas music I was listening to) was that I realized I had used up all the eggs making the latkes earlier in the week. I didn't want to leave the apartment, so I considered running downstairs to borrow from the neighbors, until I realized these cookies require no eggs. Life never seems to work out like that, isn't it great when it does?
Lemon Sandwich Cookies: 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour 2/3 cup cornstarch 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened 1/2 cup powdered sugar 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest 1 teaspoon vanilla White or colored sanding sugars (for icing): 1 cup powdered sugar 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 2 tablespoons light corn syrup 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour and corn starch. In a separate bowl, mix together butter and sugar, beat in lemon peel and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture until blended.
Put sugars in separate bowls. Roll a "scant" teaspoon of dough into a ball, drop into sugar and turn to coat. Bake cookies in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the tops are cracked and the bottom is golden.
For filling, combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until blended. Transfer to a piping bag (or, as in my case, a big Ziploc), snip the corner and apply to flat side of one cookie. Sandwich with a matching cookie. Try not to eat too many before your party. Use a healthy amount of icing to glue the two cookies together--there will be some left over.

Black Bean Soup With a Kick

I stinking love how easy soups can be. I came home from work and pretty much just threw a bunch of crap in a pot, let it simmer for 20 minutes and had a meal. I stuck pretty closely to the Gourmet recipe on this one, with one modification: no jalepenos. Ever since my former roommate (Rebecca) made salsa from scratch and burned her hands on the jalapenos I've been a bit uneasy about dealing with the hot pepper. I know the seeds are the killers, but still. I have a thing against stuff that is so spicy you can't taste anything but the heat. I substituted a bit of cayenne pepper, which, as it turns out, is only slightly less hazardous. I sprinkled some of the red pepper into the soup and leaned in to take a whiff of the cumin and chili powder sweltering in the pot and completely inhaled the cayenne pepper. It coated the inside of my nose, my sinuses and all the way back to my throat. Woah! I coughed, sneezed and ran for some water. Fortunately the burn only lasts a minute, unlike Rebecca's jalapeno burn (which lasted all night)--seriously people, be careful with the hot peppers. Black Bean Soup: 1/2 medium onion, chopped 2 cloves garlic, chopped 1/4 cup green pepper, (duh) chopped 1 russet potato, chopped 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil dash salt dash cayenne (aka red) pepper (a little goes a long way here) 1 1/4 teaspoon chili powder 1 1/4 teaspoon cumin 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock 1 bay leaf optional: grated cheese (colby, jack, cheddar) Add oil to 5-quart pot on med/high heat. Saute potatoes for a couple minutes, then add onions, peppers and garlic (mmm, garlic) on med/high heat until onions are lightly browned. Add spices, salt and pepper while the vegetables are sauteing (carefully). Add beans, stock and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Blend 1 cup of soup mixture in food processor or blender (genius trick to thicken bean soups, works every time). Use caution when transferring hot liquids. Reheat, if necessary. Serve (I highly recommend using cheese).

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Potato Latkes or I Try To Be Kosher

Sometimes I wish I was Jewish. For whatever reason, I find the religion and culture fascinating. And maybe it's the fact that I couldn't ever really be Jewish that makes me want it even more. However, I can still cook, eat and enjoy Jewish food. The holidays are in full swing at our apartment. We're having a party on Friday night, so I spent my random day off on Monday decorating and cooking. Latkes are a completely new thing for me to make because 1.) it's not Italian, 2.) I rarely cook with potatoes and 3.) I have never, ever trully fried anything. I bought a frying/candy thermometer at the store because the recipe called for it. Turns out I totally could have done without it, which is a good thing because as I was removing the thermometer from the skillet I burned my fingers and dropped/threw the thermometer on the counter where it bounced of and shattered on the floor. Turns out frying is a lot less scary than I imagined it would be (except for grabbing the thermometer). The draw of this hors d'oeuvre is that it can be reheated just before guests arrive.

Potato Latkes: (adapted from Gourmet) 1/2 medium onion 3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled (about 6) 2 teaspoons lemon juice (to prevent browning) 1/3 cup flour salt and pepper 3 eggs, whisked 1 cup vegetable oil You can shred the potatoes and onions in a food processor or (as I did) with a cheese grater. Grate/shred the onion. Mix potatoes and onion together. Toss with lemon juice. In a separate bowl mix flour, about 2 teapspoons of salt and a teaspoon of pepper. Add to potato/onion mixture and toss to mix. Add whisked eggs and stir to coat.

Add oil to heavy skillet and heat to 360 degrees on the stovetop. Add a heaping spoonful of the potatoes to the oil. Use a fork to flatten to 3- or 4-inch pancakes. Cook until golden brown on each side (take 2-3 minutes each). Transfer to paper towel lined baking tray.

Apparently, latkes can be frozen for up to two weeks. Reheat in an oven at 450 degrees for five minutes. Served with sour cream (recipe to follow later this week).

Monday, December 8, 2008

Au Bon Pain - At the Good Bread

You see this teeny, tiny photo taken with my camera at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport? That is Au Bon Pain, a restaurant that always makes me feel good inside. It could be the warm yellow and blue color scheme, or the presence of baked goods and espresso. But I think it might be because it was my favorite spot to read and write and one of my favorite spots to eat in Bangkok. I went to Au Bon Pain on the end of Silom Road near Lumpini Park just about every Sunday after church. I would order a deli sandwich and a cappucino with skim milk and would sit and read the Thai edition of the New York Times and browse their bookstore. The Bangkok outlet for Au Bon Pain is decidedly better than the airport edition (as you can see below):
I had to wait forever at the airport while two workers poured soup from a bag into a crockpot and the manager tooled around. But look at the foam on the cappucino (beautiful and worth the wait): I look for Au Bon Pain everywhere now. Thus far I've eaten at one in Manhattan and one at the airport in Philly. My goal in Thailand was to visit one in every city that has them. However, after viewing their Web site today, I don't think that will be possible (or worth it) seeing as Nebraska is one in like 5 states that doesn't have one.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I'll Leave You With This.

A photo of my sister making a bubble around herself.

What am I doing up at this time!!! I am waking up at four in the morning to go to Florida (sunny and sixty!) and I haven't even packed yet. Blast.

Enjoy the photo while I enjoy the sun and sand.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Leonatti Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving this year was a group effort. One in which others cooked and I ate. I spent the whole of Thanksgiving eating, playing pitch, eating, playing black jack, eating, riding in the backseat while my 15-year-old sister got her second driving lesson from my dad, eating, napping, eating, pretending to watch football, and finally going to bed. I'd say the picture below about sums it up: Aunt Alice took care of the stuffing and turkey. Uncle Jack moved Tom from the pan to the serving plate. Andy took care of the victuals. My dad carved the turkey. My mom made green beans and brought the cranberry relish and some cookies. Aunt Jean brought the mashed potatoes and the pies and made a salad. And below you can see that the aunts (Alice not pictured) were the only ones cleaning up. I guess you could say my role was to document the day. I did get up for a few seconds to help grandma make the gravy. But then there were five people hovering around the stovetop advising a woman who has been making gravy for probably at least 75 years, so I decided to reassume my position on the couch. Grandma Lois is quite the gravy-maker. It is, actually, one of the culinary skills she has passed on to my dad. For years he has been the family gravy-man. My mom would always concede to his superior gravying skills. I remember the rare times my mom would make real, homemade fried chicken and mashed potatoes, and dad would finish up the meal with thick, brown gravy. Mom never ever ever makes fried chicken anymore (some of us are apparently watching our lipids). Here's why my dad's gravy is better than mom's: Fat. Everybody knows that in order to make gravy you need some fat. Mom has lately realized this and now makes the gravy. But she used to cut corners, and it just doesn't turn out right. Now she knows that butter makes the best cookies and light cream cheese makes runny frosting for cakes. But grandma is the master, as you can see below and as evidenced by the room of satisfied eaters (also thanks to the rest of the delicious food).

I suppose I should close with something thoughtful about how thankful I am. Well, I am thankful that I have a big, loud family that somehow seems to get along. For that I think we can thank the grandmas, in particular Grams' saying: "Children, do you love each other? Are you kind and true? Do you do unto others as you would have others do unto you?" Yes, that saying solicited groans. But the mantra seems to work. I hated it when I was little, but I am totally using it on my kids someday.

McDonald's or What Happens When the Seyler's Road Trip

My family never eats fast food. And when we do, we never eat at McDonald's. But on the road to Mexico, Mo., I had a craving, dad grinned with excitement, and Emily and mom's Subway preference was overruled in Rockport, Mo. The McDonald's just off Interstate 29 was insane at dinner time the day before Thanksgiving, made all the more crazy by the Seyler family. We were running about ordering, filling drinks, getting ketchup, finding seats for grandma and deciding what to eat. I (attempted) to satisfy my rare hamburger craving with a quarter pounder with cheese. They look better in the pictures. It was fine, I guess. I wanted the processed cheese and the thin patty, but it tasted much better in my mind than in person. But the fries were just what I expected, greasy and crispy and good. The real trouble started when my dad ordered a double cheeseburger. My mom scowled at him at the counter, "Double cheeseburger!" It took restraint on her part just to say that. ("It's a holiday," she said.) This restraint did not last throughout the rest of dinner. Dad, Al, grandma and I sat down. Mom and Emily stood:

They get really ansy in the car. Emily is the worst. She cannot sit still, so being cooped up in a car is not ideal. My mom used to (I'll use the word) nag Al and I to run around and do jumping jacks before leaving on a family vacation, when we were content to sit in the car and read.

Mom finally sat down towards the end of the meal and asked my dad about his cholesterol level and blood pressure (appropriate conversation for a McDonald's dining room). Apparently, my parents had to get a personal health survey to get a discount on health insurance. My mom scored a 98. My dad did not.

My mom starting laughing and teasing my dad, which was fine. He's used to it by now and can dish it out in turn. But if you know how loud I am, imagine my loud Italian mother. The entire restaurant was looking at our table with my mom bellowing loudly and the rest of the table (minus grandma, plus dad) snickering to ourselves. I whispered, "Mom, everybody is staring at us." We were interupting the aura of peace and tranquility in McDonald's. She didn't care.

I guess justice was served a couple hours later when my mom got pulled over for speeding in Centralia, Mo.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cranberry-Orange Loaf

If you haven't noticed, I go in kicks. First there were tomatoes, then mushrooms, squash and now cranberries. I get excited (obsessed) about an ingredient and I go crazy. (Plus, I need to finish off the leftovers). So here's another variation on orange (tangerine) and cranberries. It's rather unfortunate I chose to make this week cranberry-orange week as I have an e-freaking-normous canker sore in the back of my mouth (a result of biting my cheek not herpes simplex one, you high schoolers!). The sore is so swollen that every time I swallow I bite it, and I am in serious danger of overdosing and injesting enough oral benzocaine to warrant a call to poison control. Megan informed me last night that orange juice, tomatoes and the like (i.e. anything acidic) are bad. I'm just praying that it will heal enough for me to be able to sleep on the left side of my face and to enjoy tomorrow's feast.
On a tip from Sugar Punk (where I got this recipe) and Better Homes and Gardens, it's not necessary or adviseable to mix the batter to a smooth consistency. As you can see in the above photo, not quite all the flour has been mixed. It supposedly makes the bread lighter in the end. True, I did find this bread to be lighter than the tangerine-orange muffins, which I probably over-mixed. Plus, it's less work. We all win here.
Cranberry-Orange Loaf: 2 cups flour 3/4 cup granulated sugar 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 3/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 cup butter, softened peel from one orange (tangerine in this case) 3/4 cup orange juice (props to me for using juice from the tangerine) 1 egg 1 cup chopped cranberries Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Add butter and mix until crumbly. Add the peel, juice, egg and cranberries. Stir until moistened. Pour batter into an 8" by 4" pan. Bake for 75 minutes at 350 degrees.