Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you try to asphyxiate your guests.
This weekend was filled with experimentation for me. Let's start with the pumpkin.
Or not. See, I went to the farmer's market in search of pie pumpkins. I was determined to give another shot to making a pumpkin pie from scratch, it's been years since my first and last attempt (which was a miserable failure). The guy at the market convinced me to purchase a couple of these guys instead.
Grey and knobby, but he swore it'd make an even better pie than the pumpkins. This strange creature is a blue hubbard squash. I seeded, peeled, cubed and steamed them, then pureed them. Looked like baby poop. Of course, that's what pureed pumpkin looks like, so we were right on.
I also made a big batch of chili. I'd never made chili from scratch before, I think I prefer doing it a la chili magic because it comes out consistently good that way. But, the men-folk rather liked my chili. Pop deemed it "so-so" but ate 3 big servings.
Last christmas, my uncle and I were talking about his mom. She was from England and made all sorts of things for him growing up that I'd never had. He spoke of particularly missing her yorkshire puddings. I made a mental note at that time to try to make them sometime soon and to invite him over. When you are a procrastinator like I am, "sometime soon" quite often equates to 10 months away.
Today I cooked Alton Brown's pot roast and Jamie Oliver's yorkies. The pot roast was ok, but I think I'll stick with my usual pressure cooker roast, it turns out tastier and more tender. The olives and raisins made for a damned strange gravy too. The yorkies were my biggest learning experience of the weekend.
Per Jamie's directions, I put a half inch of oil in my muffin cups, preheated it until super hot, and poured in the batter. Only the oil overflowed in the oven (use a quarter inch next time!) and smoked up the house like whoa! Much coughing and wheezing ensued. I opened the back door and put the fan in front of it.
How'd they turn out? Evidently just right. Well, huh. However, I poured an entire box of baking soda into the oven to soak up all of the oil on the bottom of it. I'll finish cleaning that tomorrow. I believe we'll have a few days of leftovers to let me recuperate from my weekend in the kitchen.
The other night, as I was drifting off, I was struck with inspiration. See, I'd just earlier that evening knocked the box of pins off my desk again and spent some time digging around the carpet with a flashlight hoping to find them all then and not later with my foot. I know, a pincushion from the fabric store is darned cheap, but that's not what I wanted. I wanted something that was all me.
At first I thought I'd make a plush skull to put pins in, but then I thought "no wait, a skull base with a brain pincushion! Perfection!"
While at a halloween store, I spied this little plastic skull, and only a buck fifty with tax. Brought him home, cut the top of his head off and sanded the edges down so that they wouldn't be sharp.
Then I plugged some holes in the bottom with hot melt glue and filled him with sand. I topped the sand with a layer of glue so that I could work with the whole thing without worrying about spilling sand in the carpet. (Did I ever mention that I'm a complete klutz?)
Next I took a piece of pink terry cloth (I know brains are actually grey, but I like pink brains) and a scrap of another fabric and made a small pillow stuffed with a little fluff. I sewed crazy lines all over it and then attached the quilted fabric piece to one of those tomato pincushions. I may not be thrilled with the looks of them, but I do like the nice heavy consistency. Then I stuffed this down in the top of the skull.
This was a quick project - maybe 2 hours start to finish and that was because I was figuring it out at I went.
Dad and I have been rather bummed since all of the Winn Dixie stores here have gone belly up. This means no more Palmetto Farms Pimento Cheese for us. It truly is the best brand that we've ever found and we've tried nearly all of them available in this market.
Over the weekend, I picked up a new cookbook, as I am wont to do. It contains three separate recipes for pimento cheese. I started with one, but wound up sort of combining them all, plus a little impromptu miracle whip thrown in for good measure.
Dad was very unsure about putting bacon into pimento cheese. Good lord, I'd like to kiss whoever came up with that idea, sooooooo tasty. Smeared on a super dark wheat bread, it is the best cheese sandwich around.
Tonight Rachel Ray made a beef stroganoff on 30 minute meals. I believe that I may have to try to duplicate that one very soon. It looked terrific. Dad swears that he hates stroganoff, but the thing that he describes is nothing like anything that I've ever eated called stroganoff. I'm thinking he had something more like ghoulash, tomatoes and sour cream?
I think I overdid it in the kitchen pre-bbq. I didn't cook anything for the next week and then took off on the road trip of love with the sweetest boyfriend for two wonderful weeks. The only kitchen activity I really did during the vacation was the mixing up of a black bean salad on the night that we made dinner for our darling hosts.
Today though, I could no longer resist the call of the kitchen. When some friends called, wanting to do something tonight, it was just the opportunity I was looking for. Dinner guests! So, I invited them over and whipped up a rather tasty meal. It's too bad that the boyfriend was busy and had to miss out, but he had his own great dinner of roast chicken and cornbread stuffing cooked by his own sweet mum.
The only completely new to me recipe was a vietnamese coffee granita. Last night while channel flipping, I caught the Take Home Chef making a mango granita. Mango was not quite what I had in mind, but this recipe was the first one that I came across after googling granita. Plus, I thought it would be a nice complement for my oatmeal cake. And so it was. They were quite wonderful together.
A sort of new to me recipe was Martha's Vineyard salad, but I'd eaten it before. The same friends who were coming for dinner had served it to me years ago. It turned out to pair nicely with my shrimp and not grits. I also roasted asparagus and cooked some yellow squash. I used that old southern method on the squash of cooking the shit out of it with a big amount of margarine, until it was all squishy.
It was a wonderful dinner, paired with a South Austrailian Chardonnay. This was an "unwooded" wine, although I do not know exactly what that means just yet. I'll have to do a little research.
I think I like having very small parties even more than large ones. I got to concentrate on just the two guests and spend all of the time with them. However, there's also something to be said for being surrounded by a dozen or so of your best pals.