Monthly Archives: August 2007

Cooking Update

‘Cause in my journal, it’s all about the food 🙂

So, I had mentioned making a dulce de leche cake last week. Basically, you make a sturdy sponge cake using whole eggs, and it’s flavored slightly with cinnamon. You poke lots of holes in that and you pour a mixture of milk, evaporated milk, vanilla extract, and caramelized sweetened condensed milk over it and let it sit overnight to allow the liquid to be absorbed into the cake. Then you top it with a whipped cream icing. Sounds great, doesn’t it? So how did it turn out?

Not well. Not that there was anything wrong with the cake or the icing or even, I suppose, the milk mixture. But it was just too rich. Even the smallest piece was overwhelming, and pretty much all flavors got lost in the richness. Imagine drinking a nice tall glass of heavy cream, and you’ll be getting close to the feeling of eating some of this cake. Sadly, I had to declare the recipe a failure. I’m not sure what could fix the recipe, but I’ll keep an eye out for other approaches.

Tonight we’re going to try something else new and different, this time from the pages of Cook’s Illustrated. Since we’ve been huge fans of the chicken tikka masala at the Indian restaurant in Gurnee, we’ll be trying a recipe for that which appeared in the most recent issue. This calls for you to marinate boneless skinless chicken breasts in a whole-milk yogurt paste, then put the lot under a broiler. You top it all off with a tomato and cream sauce with some tasty Indian spices. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this works out.

I also have a bunch of cherry tomatoes sitting in the fridge that I need to use up. I’ve seen a recipe where you cut the cherry tomatoes in half, thinly slice some shallots, and roast the lot on a baking sheet for 40 minutes at 350 degrees F. Since takaza‘s not a fan of chunky tomato sauces, I’ll try pureeing the mixture; it should come out pretty tasty! I’ve got some nice cavatelli to serve that over, and maybe we’ll add some Italian sausage.

Hmm, I seem to be hungry. I wonder why?

Friends, Flooding and Furniture

Ugh. It appears that both takaza and I were afflicted with insomnia last night, during different parts of the night. That make for slow canines this morning!

The weekend was quite entertaining, for all that it started inauspiciously. On Saturday morning I had to make another visit to my podiatrist (cut for those not interested in medical details)

Well, that was fun

So last night was, theoretically, August Game Night at our place. The storms sort of caused some issues with that, though. The biggest problem was that first Metra shut down all service between 3 and 4 PM, then slowly brought things back online. takaza was supposed to catch his regular train at 5:11 PM, but it was delayed by 30 minutes…then it wasn’t moving at all due to a power line across the tracks in Des Plaines, which stopped all service on the North Central Line. His train didn’t actually get moving until sometime after 7 PM and he got home at around 8 PM, two hours later than usual (there’s more to the story, but I’ll let him post about that).

Unfortunately, because of the weather pretty much everyone but steviemaxwell had to cancel, and it’s certainly understandable. We had fun anyway, though. Stevie and I got to chat for a while, then when Dan texted to let me know he was on his train heading northbound we drove down to Jimmy John’s and picked up some subs. The rest of the evening was spent chatting, watching Robot Chicken, and playing poker, where I learned that Omaha is a pretty fun game, and I accidentally won all the chips 🙂

The good news is that all the trains are running as they should today, at least up our way. We were spared the worst of it, with the hardest hit areas being between us and Chicago. 250,000 people are still without power, though we never had any problems there. But hey, there’s more storms on their way today, so who knows what the day will hold. The good news is that we’re on relatively high ground and far away from any large water source, so flooding isn’t an issue near us. It might make getting around interesting for the next few days, though!

You Don’t Have a WHAT?

So I was thinking this morning about a recipe I’m going to be working on tonight and I was reminded that one of the steps calls for microwaving something. Well, that’s a problem. See, we don’t own a microwave. We haven’t owned one since, um, I lived in Joliet, I think. The main reason is that I’ve never really had much need of one. I used it primarily to melt butter (which takes only a hair longer on the stove) and to boil water (which takes about as long as the electric kettle we have). I’m vastly amused because our lack of this appliance seems to boggle many of our friends.

A secondary reason is that, for me personally, having a microwave encourages lazy cooking. Call it a remnant from my chemist father (“I work with chemicals all day long, I don’t want to eat them, too!”) – I tend to avoid processed food whenever possible, which means steering clear of frozen dinners, meals in can or boxes, and that sort of thing. Sure, it took me an hour and a half to make chicken and dumplings last night when I could have just picked up a package of Swanson Frozen Chicken and Dumplings and microwaved it in five minutes or less. The big difference to me is that first, there is a sense of pride of having Made Something, and second, my dinner was actually (for me) edible.

Please don’t take this as a condemnation of how others eat and cook, though – this is what works for me. I know that I’m lucky to have the time and knowledge to cook like this. One of the big influences on my tastes is the couple of years my parents spent living in France, where their refrigerator was the size of a tall dorm fridge and it was the norm to go grocery shopping every day for the freshest meat and produce. I certainly don’t have the inclination to shop every day, but I do only tend to shop for three or four days at a time.

Anyway, enough of that little digression. Oh, the recipe that I’m working on tonight? Dulce de Leche Cake (from Cook’s Country magazine). Basically, you make a sturdier-than-usual sponge cake (using whole eggs instead of just whites), poke holes into it and pour a Dulce de Leche mixture over it and let it soak for 3-24 hours, then frost with a whipped cream frosting. The recipe calls for the Dulce de Leche mixture (a combination of sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, and vanilla) to be microwaved for several minutes to cook it. Fortunately, they offer an alternative where you pour the mixture into a pie plate, put it in a roasting pan and pour boiling water around it, and cook it in the oven for 40 minutes (and apparently 80 minutes will reduce it to the thick, gooey Dulce de Leche sauce that goes so well over ice cream – we’ll need to try that too!).

Oh, you want to try some of the cake? You’ll need to come to Game Night, then 🙂

Well, That’s Annoying…

It appears that Sprint is going to be raising the price of text messages (which was just raised a few months ago from $0.10 each to $0.15 each) to $0.20 each, starting October 1. Consumerist posits that this is a basis for canceling your contract, but we’re reasonably happy overall with our phones and service except for, you know, the exorbitant charges. We’re going to need to take a close look at the costs and either get a text messaging plan or turn off text messaging completely; we’ve been paying $0.15 each because it was cheaper than the packages they offer (we don’t send that many text messages), but now…

I Don’t Think Marble Slab Makes Rogan Josh Mix-Ins…

Now that was an entertaining weekend! First off, the week was instantly made better on Friday afternoon when takaza returned from the wilds of Indiana. Of course, not an hour after he got home we had to leave again, but it was for a good cause: dinner with friends at Bombay City Indian Restaurant. We had a lot of fun seeing familiar faces and meeting some cool new folks too (who I hope we’ll have a chance to see more of!). The food was, as always, fantabulous, though I have learned my lesson: while tandoori stuff is tasty, the sauced dishes are where it’s at. Fresh naan dipped in the chicken tikka masala sauce…heaven! Unfortunately, we’ve been there three times and each time the service has been sub-par. This time we waited about 30 minutes for our check once we were done. It might be time to investigate other Indian places in the area, sadly. For dessert, we went to Marble Slab Creamery with steviemaxwell, roho, genet, and linnaeus, which was a perfect capper for the evening.

On Saturday, after a very quick follow-up visit with the doctor about my toe (it’s healing nicely, thank you), I returned home and Dan woke up not long after. I knew that I needed to go to laffsoftballLAFF Softball to drop off the badge holders for Mephit Furmeet to ramalion, but it was up in the air if Dan would be joining me. Between a couple of calls to Stevie, making some lists, and having some cool ideas for grilling, it suddenly transpired that he had talked himself into going and we were going to be grilling for the picnic after the softball game. We stopped by Sam’s Club and picked up a huge amount of food (as well as a nifty new portable table) and then headed over to the softball game. Aeto was kind enough to make a quick store run for us for a few things we couldn’t get at Sam’s Club and to lend us the use of his cooler – thanks, Aeto! We watched some of the game and chatted with the various folks who were there (too many to name!). At about 4 PM we took all of the supplies over to the cooking area and fired up the (one, very small) grill and set to work prepping the food. Dan and I had agreed that we were going to make “Jucy Lucy” burgers (sic), and we set to work making the patties. Perro and Darkwolph let us store some of the perishables in their refrigerator, which was a huge help! I learned that the grill didn’t put out as much heat as I had hoped as I limped along with the first batch of bratwurst, but once we got a handle on it (and added another chimney full of charcoal!) we got things working properly. We wound up feeding 25 people or so, and even managed to break even in costs! Dan and I are kicking around ideas for the end-of-the-season picnic, possibly including steaks. We’ll see if we can make that work, though.

After grilling, we were both drained, so we drove home and crashed. We were both silly and didn’t put on sunscreen (not too bad – we were mostly in the shade) or bug spray (bad – I’ve got multiple unpleasant welts!), so we’ve got some tokens of the day to remind us to properly prepare next time!

Dan’s sister came over Sunday afternoon and they worked on her computer for several hours while I puttered around the house doing laundry and cleaning. That unfortunately meant that Dan had to stay home to work on work-related stuff while I headed out to have dinner with Roho, Genet, chebuytkin and CAJones at Dave and Busters. The company was excellent, with much smoffage and comparisons of conventions (I like the idea of road-tripping to Minneapolis next July 4 for Convergence!). The food was surprisingly good as well, as was my strawberry margarita. The games afterwards…not so much. If you like shooting or driving games, D&B’s is the place to go. Unfortunately, shooting games have zero interest for me and my passion for driving games is limited at best. I left with credit still on my card, but the night was getting late. I got home just as Dan was wrapping up for the evening, so it all worked out.

It’s a new week now, and it looks like it’ll be a busy one at work. We don’t have much planned during the week, though at the end of the week is the Chicago Air and Water Show. Also, keep an eye out here because plans are in the works for another game night at our place next week!

Episode #14,422 of Duncan’s Exciting Life

Midweek updates are always so boring, but hey, what the heck.

I’ve been updating the Midwest FurFest registration database over the last few days, and I should be sending out the next batch of confirmation postcards in the next day or so. The dribs and drabs of online registrations have become a steady trickle, one that will steadily increase until the end-of-September cheap preregistration deadline, then it’ll stay steady for the next month and a half until only registration ends. Our numbers are looking good still; a healthy amount of growth, but nothing to cause me to freak out. Yet. We’ll see 🙂

Takaza is off in Indiana this week, crunching numbers in the heart of Da Region until at least tomorrow. Last night was pretty quiet. I watched some TV while making a quick dinner, then ran some errands before coming home and heading to bed early. After work today, I figure I’m going to change into some more comfy clothes (and get these damn shoes off) and wander around the Grayslake Farmer’s Market. My goal is to see if I can find enough interesting fresh stuff to put together a meal from. We’ll see how successful I am.

As for my toe, it’s healing up as fast as I’d hoped. After gimping around badly yesterday (enough that the limp was causing muscle pain in that leg), I’m able to walk a bit more normally today, albeit somewhat slower than usual. Walking in my Birkenstock sandals is MUCH easier and less painful, but since I work in a manufacturing environment that’s not really an option during the day.

As for other hot-button topics flying around LiveJournal these days, I’ve been thinking of a valuable piece of advice I received many years ago: “A closed mouth gathers no foot.” I suspect I’ll be heeding that for the foreseeable future.

So. Looking ahead to the next few weekends, we have Indian food on Friday, LAFF softball on Saturday (no idea what’s up afterwards, but I suppose I’ll think of something), then…something on Sunday. I don’t think we have any plans right now, but that can change. And next weekend: for the first time in years, I’m actually going to skipping Irishfest in favor of the Chicago Air and Water Show. Should be fun!