April 27, 2012

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
Substitutions, Subtractions and Hostesses Lacking the Mostess Help

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I am not an expert, but I do enjoy talking about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.  Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

Recipe Index can be found here. 

Today is a Three For the Price of One kinda of day.   It's also a Quickie kinda of days -- Manoj has been out of town this week and I am also cleaning the house from top to bottom in a mad dash of Spring Cleaning.

I am a big fan of modifying recipes! I love playing with recipes, fiddling around with them, trying new ingredients. If you ever make a recipe of mine and you make a change of your own, please tell me! I am always up for trying new ingredients and methods.  One of my favorite substitutions is cumin for coriander.  I like coriander, but it can be a pretty boring spice.

What's your favorite substitution?

I should have pointed a long time ago, that nearly every recipe I post (in particular, the IndoPak ones) have a major subtraction -- fresh chilies. I do not use fresh chilies. Ever. And that makes me sad, so very sad because I love, love, LOVE the taste and texture of fresh chilies. One of my favorite bits about eating in restaurants is getting fresh chilies in my food. However, I have had so many incidents of getting chili pepper juice in my eye, that I gave up. And yes, I was careful and yes, I used gloves and yes, I made extra precautions to Not Touch Anything and then, BAM! I would get juice in my eye. So, I had to give up.  And yes, Manoj makes fun of me and thinks I am overly paranoid.  I am now so fearful of fresh chili prep that even buying fresh chilies for Manoj to cook with makes me nervous (I use a double bag method to scoop them.)  Seriously, AFRAID.

Um, am I crazy?  Are you afraid of chilies?  Is there any other ingredient with which you are also diabolically opposed?

Can You Help a Hostess Out? 
I have a question. I have mentioned over the years that I am not much of a dessert person. I am not crazy about eating dessert myself and baking stresses me out after so many baking related failures.   I am simply clueless when it comes to dessert. Well, except for Crème brûlée (or "creme brulee" sans the fancy French accents!) (a dessert that is so darned easy that seriously, if you have never made  crème brûlée , you should quit reading this post and get your butt out buying some ramekins already.)  Often, when we invite folks over for dinner, they offer to bring dessert, which I happily accept.    But am I wondering, is this violating some essential Hostessing Guideline to accept offers of help?

Is that rude of me, as the hostess, to accept an offer of dessert from my guests??

April 20, 2012

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
This Ain't Your Mama's Guacamole
(Well, unless your mama is from Colombia)

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I am not an expert, but I do enjoy talking about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.  Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

Recipe Index can be found here.
Guacamole. It's like a religion and folks can become fanatical.  Sure, I love making guacamole and more importantly, EATING IT.  But I think some of the rules are stupid.

One thing that has always puzzled me about guacamole is how often folks make it complicated.  Or they impose strict rules "A proper guacamole shall be chunky" or "A proper guacamole shall not have tomatoes. "  And I am always amazed at the fancy tools that can be used when preparing the avocados.  I just use a knife!

First, I cut the avocado in half. Then, I use my fingers to remove the pit.

Then, I simple peel the skin.

I use a potato masher to mash everything up and a spoon to stir in some ingredients. And that's it! Yes, it's messy, but what a space saver since you really don't need a stable of fancy tools littering up your kitchen drawer.

I am posting the recipe I use - it is something that I came up with by simply dumping in the ingredients that I like to see in my guacamole.  I think what sets it apart from other guacamole recipes is the use of cumin.   But the best part of this recipe?  Is that you can easily make it YOURS.  Not a fan of cilantro?  Decrease the amount.  Not crazy about tomatoes in your guacamole?  Leave them out.

The last time I made guacamole, Next Door Neighbor Ken suggested adding hard-boiled eggs.  His brother-in-law is from Colombia and that is a common addition there.  Next Door Neighbor Ken also realized that hard-boiled egg is what made the guacamole super special at The Aztec Inn in Lawrence -- a Mexican restaurant that Ken and I both grew up with.  I added the eggs and they did add a little special extra something.  Creaminess?  Texture?  Hard to put a finger on it -- try it!  You will not regret it.

Are you a guacamole fan?  Have an special ingredients you want to share with me?  This is always a work in progress.

Kelli's Simple Guacamole
4 avocados
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
The juice from 1 lime
1 medium tomato
1/2 white onion, chopped finely
1/4 - 1/2 cup of cilantro
1-2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped (Optional)

1. Peel and loosely chop the avocados.  Add to a large mixing bowl, along with the salt, cumin, lime juice  (and eggs, if you've gone that route).  Using a potato masher, mash the mixture up until it is to the consistency you like.

2. Fold in the tomatoes, onions and cilantro.  Serve with tortilla chips or spoon directly into your gaping foodhole while no one is looking (be quick!)

Note: This can be prepared a little bit ahead of time (1-2 hours).  In this case, smooth the top of the guacamole and place the plastic wrap on the surface.  Press gently the plastic wrap down to ensure no air is between the surface of the guacamole and the plastic wrap.

April 19, 2012

Gayrilla Warfare Tactics

Note: I often refer to Facebook and Twitter as social media ephemera.  This post is a great example of that.   Most of what I am writing here was discussed on Facebook.  But that conversation will quickly disappear and get pushed down under a sea of pith. I wanted this here in long-form mainly because this blog is  for me and my children.   This post is an example of why I continue to write here.

Yesterday, I posted this on Instagram with the following text:
Bought this at a garage sale today, then threw it in their trash as I left. The book cost 25 cents but the look on the seller's face was priceless.

The book is titled "The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today" and was written by Alan Sears and Craig Osten.  I think the title of the book speaks for itself.

I was not rude or angry -- actually, I was quite polite during the transaction, even though my stomach was churning with disgust.  When I got to my car, I snapped a quick picture of the book, then put the book into the seller's trashcan that was waiting at the curb for our city's pickup.

I watched it slide it to the very bottom.

As I drove away, my thoughts turned to book banning and censorship (something my friend Kara also brought up during the Facebook conversation).  And as someone who has railed about book banning,  I realized the hypocrisy in my actions. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that while it felt good to make a statement, I still would not want that book out right banned.

Still..... it makes me happy to know that one less copy of that book is in circulation.

April 11, 2012

Quiet Moments

Nothing substantial has happened lately.  And I am perfectly fine with that.  Since I am my own Audience of One and I write this blog for my own little narcissistic self, I thought I would start sharing more of the boring moments of my little, boring life stuck here in the soul-sucking suburban prairie.

No worries, I am grateful for the boredom.

The View From My Chair
This was my great-grandmother's.  I have it sitting on the baby grand piano that was also hers.  The details on this figurine are exquisite, she is simply beautiful.

Yes, that would be a cat AND a dog on my lap.  Simulataneously.

Man, I love this dog.  But do not be fooled, Gentle Reader. DireWestie will rip your ankles out.

Morning Glory

This morning, I loved how peaceful our table looked.  Actually, I am not such a fan of this table because the chairs are uncomfortable.  However, I appreciate the setting in the corner with the morning light streaming in.  I enjoy eating meals and snacks at this table with Team Chaos and some of our best conversations have happened at this table.

Memories Playing Memory
Someone does not like being a loser.  DOES NOT LIKE.

Flower Children

I didn't make a wish.

Didn't really need to.

April 9, 2012

Literally Literary:
Fifty Shades of "Meh"

"Literally Literary" is a feature in which I write about books, reading and more books. My hope is the post title will provide a subtle hint that I am posting about BOOKS. For those of you where the topic of books results in narcoleptic fits thereby causing you to faceplant onto your keyboard, this will allow you to just click away from the horror that is the written word. Also, I simply adore the word "literally", it is literally my favorite adverb. Bonus points if pronounced with a Rob Lowe/Parks n' Recreation affectation.

Special Note: All posts contain non-affiliate links - I do not have an Amazonian Fancy Pants Affiliate Thingie.

Not-So-Special Note: My Reading Resolutions for 2012 can be found in this post.

Note: This review contains NO spoilers. If you would like to discuss specific plot points, we can limit those to the comments - here or on Facebook.

If you troll through my Goodreads list, you might notice there is not much in the way of Romance there since I generally do not enjoy reading Romances. I wish I could claim a higher literary ground whilst I loftily sniff my nose at the Romance genre, but I simply cannot. I enjoy easy reads and freely admit to my US Magazine subscription (in addition to my Grandma passing along her People magazines to me -- I come by my gossip rag addiction honestly!)  And! I am even considering re-upping my Mad Magazine subscription under the thin guise of It's For the Children.

What I generally do not enjoy is reading romances.  However, every so often, I will find myself in the mood for one.  My book club recently chose E.L. James' "Fifty Shades of Grey" as this month's selection.  To be fair, I voted for this selection - it sounded interesting and I thought it would be fun to read a selection which was receiving so much buzz.

So!  I read "Fifty Shades of Grey" and rolled my eyes during the entire thing.  Puerile writing! Infantile dialogue! Such an obvious rip-off of the Bella and Edward relationship from Twilight!  Repeated use of the same phrases over and over (He's so freaking hot! Oh, Fify!)   Too much ridiculous sex! I hated the ending and thought "What a load of crap!"

The next day, I downloaded the 2nd book "Fifty Shades Darker".

And finished it promptly.

Then, I downloaded the 3rd book "Fifty Shades Freed".

And finished it promptly.

I wish I could explain what it was about this book that made it such a delicious, silly romp because in the 3rd book I was still rolling my eyes while losing hope for some sort of plot to Happen Already, Dammit.

The much awaited Plot never unfolded, but no matter -- I still had fun reading this ridiculous trilogy.

I would like to discuss a few key topics that come up whenever this book is discussed:

1. The term "mommy porn"
I quickly grew tired of the ridiculous, over-the-top sex scenes and by Book Two, was skimming them.  What rankles me about the term "mommy porn" is the tired use of the word "mommy" or "mom" to express a sneering derision toward something.  Google the terms "mommy blogger", "soccer mom" or "mom jean" if you don't know what I am talking about.  Overall, the Shades of Grey trilogy was just another romance series and I am calling bullshit on referring to it as "mommy porn".

Which leads me to.......

I recently Tweeted "When I publish my hot memoir of married life w/Manoj, I'm going to title it "50 Shades of Brown". No whips, but loads of curry. Spicy!" and later "Where BDSM means "Brown Desi Sexy Men ". Of course."  Frankly,  I thought the whole brouhaha about the BDSM aspects of this book were extremely over-stated and I suspect the hype was on purpose to draw attention to the book. Yes, there was a little bit of Bondage and a lot of Domination, but I did not see anything much Sadist or Masochist. I also found the sex scenes to be so boring that by the 2nd book, I was skimming them.  The darkest parts of these books had to do with the control issues of Christian Grey and his childhood story.  But honestly?  Most of the Romance novels I have read had controlling men attracted to devilish minxes who resisted that control.  Seriously, sound familiar?  It should, if you are regular reader of romances.

3. Fan Fiction
This part I don't understand -- I did a bit of research and never found the answer to my question "What are the morals, ethics and legalities behind fan fiction?"  I find it difficult to believe that Stephanie Meyer is not trying to sue the ass off of E.L. James and her publisher.  When I began the Shades of Grey trilogy I began taking notes of the similarities to the Twilight series (Pacific Northwest location, Christian's mother is a doctor, Christian has a whimsical younger sister, Ana's relationship with her mother and father, the story of Jose, some minor plot points) . After awhile, I gave up taking notes because it was ENDLESS.

Overall?  I enjoyed this series and I still cannot explain WHY.

Have you read any of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy?  If not, are you planning to? 

April 6, 2012

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
An Egg Curry Eggstravaganza

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I am not an expert, but I do enjoy talking about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.  Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

Recipe Index can be found here.
Brain Bytes: This article on natural food dyes for Easter eggs was interesting!  I still use the fake stuff, but since we are not eating the egg shells, I try not to sweat it too much.  And yes, holidays are very frustrating for those of  us trying to avoid artificial food colors.  sigh. 

One of the best bits about being a parent is dying Easter eggs.  I LOVE dying Easter eggs.  However, like everyone else,  I find myself in a bit of a bind as to what to do with All Those Freaking Eggs.  If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you will have noticed that we are not a Egg Salad Family.  The solution to our ovoid quandary?


Yes!  In our house, Easter means egg curry will be served on the dinner table over the weeks following the holiday.  A lot.  Which is a treat since I don't get to make egg curry very often.  Manoj has sworn off eggs because of some media nonsense declaring that eggs will kill you.  However, the media has done a 180 and decreed that eggs are now good for you.  Since I have noticed Manoj whipping up batches of Indian scrambled eggs far more frequently these days,  I hope these means that I will also get to make egg curry more often.  Manoj really enjoys this dish -- it is a quick and easy to make while still being very flavorful.  I suppose you could take out the yolks to make them a tad healthier, but I would not recommend that.

After all, the unfertilized baby bird bit is the best part.  YUM.

Egg Curry

8 hard-boiled eggs
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 medium-sized yellow onion, chopped
2 tbs oil
2 tsp garlic, chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, coarsely ground
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup of water
1/2 cup coconut milk

Spice Mix:
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves

1. Toast the ground coriander in a small frying pan without oil for a few minutes.  When the coriander becomes aromatic, remove from heat and set aside.

2. Heat oil in a large frying pan and add onions.  Fry until the onions become soft.  Add the garlic and ginger, fry for 1 minute.

3. Add the toasted coriander, tomatoes, fennel seeds, salt and the spice mix.  Add 1/4 cup of water and cook until the consistency is thick and paste-like.

4. Stir in the coconut milk and 1/2 cup of water.  Cook until sauce becomes thick (add more water if you would like a thinner sauce)

5. Place the eggs, yolk-side up in the pan.  Spoon some sauce over the eggs and let simmer for a 10 minutes.  Serve with white rice or parathas.

April 4, 2012

The Legos Are Winning

One night,  WITHOUT MY KNOWLEDGE OR CONSENT, Manoj made a late-night promise to Arun that the next day, they would trot off to the nearby toy store to buy him a Ninjago Legos set.  In the morning, Arun began his begging in earnest.

Finally, after a long, long day of hearing Arun repeatedly asking about the goddamned Legos (When is Daddy coming home?  What time?  Is he here yet?  What time is it now? How many minutes in an hour? Is Daddy home? What is 60 times 5?  300, right?  So that would be 300 minutes until Daddy gets home? Is it time yet?  Where is Daddy? Is Daddy home? What is 60 times 3 again? 180?), Manoj came home and made good on that promise.

And they came home with this:

Age 8 -14
415 pieces.  Let me repeat that for those of you in the back.....
415 pieces.

Gentle Reader, this is where I would like to remind you that Arun is all of 6 years old. And for those of you just joining the program, I would like to point out that my husband holds not one, but TWO engineering degrees from two different Fancy Pants Institutions.  Yet, it is Yours Truly (Hint: ME), the one with two paltry state-conferred diplomas (from Kansas, no less) who wields all the power tools in our house.  The same individual designated with the sole responsibility for Toy Assembly in our house.  Furthermore, I have never quite figured out if my situation is due to the fact That I Married An Indian or the fact That I Married Manoj.  Does the blame really rest with an entire sub-continent? Or simply with myself and my choice in life partner?

But I digress.

It was pretty late in the day when ye olde ToyStore Trip was completed, but they got home and Arun immediately opened and emptied ALL the bags into ONE big pile of Legos worthy of a podiatrist's wet dream.   It was only then, that I noticed the bags were numbered and included some vaguely worded instructions about opening the numbered bags "in order".

Oops. I blame my state-educated addled brains (RED state, to boot).

Arun worked on it for awhile and promptly dissolved into tears with frustration.  Solution?  Bedtime!

The next morning, Arun stumbled out of bed, down the stairs and immediately set back to work. In his angler fish underwear, natch.

And dissolved into puddles of goo at each point of frustration.  And....... I helped a little.  But mostly? I only provided emotional support.  I was adamant that he build it on his own since I firmly believe the point of Legos is not for a child to watch a parent complete the construction.  Otherwise, what is the point of Legos?  It is not as if you can actually play with the goddamned thing once it is assembled, right?  (Cue the Ominous Foreshadowing)

And.... he built it.  I helped with a small bit of the lower jaw of the snake, the crank bit at the top of the crane and the loops for the wheels.  The rest?  All Arun.

He played with it for awhile and carefully stored it on top of the piano with an official mandate that except for him, only folks aged 8 or older could play with it since that was the official age designation on the box.

This lasted all of 2 days before he dropped it on the tile floor.

And this is why I always say that Squinkies are God's apology for Legos.