Sunday, December 27, 2009

Finally the Disneyland Post

Thought I'd finally get around to posting some Disney pics, just when I should be posting Christmas pics. Oh well. We really had a great time on our trip, which was a minor miracle because I was working with a spouse that hated the whole idea of Disneyland, and I was having panic attacks and nightmares that someone would steal one of our kids, or highjack our minivan.

This was the entrance to Disney California Adventure. Jeff loved this sun. Probably because the real sun wasn't super warm the whole trip. We were comfortable with our coats on, it wasn't COLD, except for the first day when it rained. But the rain? Great for crowds. We walked onto most rides that first day. We were so good with it, especially since we could go home and dry off whenever we wanted. My Disney expert neighbor found us THE hotel for being close. Seriously as close as the Disney ones, closer in a way because it was right by the park entrances. Also, the lines weren't bad any of the days with my Disney expert neighbor's written park plan. Seriously, she took a whole afternoon and typed up a schedule for us, and as long as we stuck to the plan we did great.

OK this ride though? We got a little too wet. We put all of our coats in lockers so they wouldn't get soaked, and we were fine to start, it was probably our warmest day there, but man, here's what we looked like at the end:

Here we are on Pirates. I love this ride. It's always been one of my favorites, this and Haunted Mansion. They've added Captain Jack into it, and Davey Jones, but they's still got the bald guy in the well, and the fat lady chasing a pirate, and the dirty pig guy. All the old good ones. Haunted mansion I was disappointed with this time. They redid it with Nightmare Before Christmas stuff, which is a big draw for some people, in fact, Nightmare merchandise was all over the park. Huge this year, but they just threw this Nightmare Before Christmas all over the regular haunted mansion ride, and it made kind of a big mess in my mind.

These were fun rides. Buzz Lightyear and Toy story Midway mania. They were both shoot-as-you-go and keep score rides, which was a fun idea, although Jeff kicked my butt every time. Kind of discouraging, but I beat Kai...barely.

We stayed for the fireworks our second to last night, and it was SPECTACULAR! I wasn't expecting much. I think if you've seen one firework you've seen them all. Not this show. It was all done to Christmas music (yes they even did some religious ones), the castle was amazing that they shot them over, and the fireworks were new and amazing--- I never have seen these before. I told Jeff, it was so worth paying for, just that all of us at the park that day paid enough so that they could really go all out on those explosions. I didn't think the parade was that great, they got a slow start, and there were big gaps in it, which might have meant they had some technical issues that day, but I loved the firework show.
Anyway, Santa did good this year. He put a picture of Disneyland in each of our kids' stockings to help them remember what they got this year, and they each got a couple of treats, and that was all. They were OK with it. I was kind of worried Christmas would be a bummer with the trip already over, but it really wasn't. Maybe Santa does such a bad job every other year, the kids didn't miss his (her) fumbling attempts, but whatever. I'm glad we did this instead.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Kickin' it!

I just got the call that I'm picked up to teach Tae Bo at BYU next semester! Yay me! Break is OVER.

Two catering whirls.

First off I have to apologize for the lighting in all of these pictures. I switched my camera back to daylight setting and then forgot to change it back when the light was low in these rooms, so nothing looks as exciting and sparkly.

I had two catering jobs this month, one right before Disneyland and one right after. That was a little tricky, but you know I'm always up for a party, even when I'm "the help" :) These pictures are actually from the most recent job, a dinner party for a friend's company. It was a small group, but still a fun job. I got to try some new stuff, and they still decided on a buffet display, so that was fun. The above picture was of the main dish, a chicken stuffed with a mixture of wild mushrooms, fresh thyme, and Parmesan and drizzled with a tomato-cream sauce. First time too for the sauce, and I liked it. Not health food though :). I didn't get a picture of the wild, brown and forbidden rice pilaf. I love that forbidden rice. I love the name of it. It's pretty too --kind of a purpley color when cooked.

Roasted root vegetables. I used three types of beets from my garden (!), and parsnips and carrots (garden again yay!) along with a few other kinds for color. I love all the caramelizing that goes on in the roasting oven.

Here's the centerpiece. There are candles in the middle of all the cranberries, but we hadn't lit them yet.

The cheesecake to end all cheesecakes. I went to cheesecake factory a few months ago, and wanted to order every kind because I didn't think I could ever replicate them at home. Well that's kind of been bugging me ever since, so for this job, four of the six dessert options I gave them were cheesecakes with names directly copied from the Cheesecake factory's menu. Yeah. They picked one:
  • Lemon Raspberry Cream Cheesecake: white sponge cake base soaked with raspberries, lemon cheesecake filling, loaded with raspberry ladyfingers, topped with a white chocolate lemon mousse and garnished with raspberry coulis.

I had to learn how to make a sponge cake, find a lemon filling recipe, figure out the whole ladyfingers thing again (I had made them a while ago for tiramisu), get hold of some marscapone --which I ended up "making", and make the mousse and coulis. Then figure out how long to bake it . Then there was the whole presentation issue: what would it look like at the end. It took me a whole day, not counting the test recipes I made, but I felt like Julia Child when it was done, so way worth it.

The first job was for my friend's husband's work party, and it was all appetizers and mini desserts. Not health food, but that's the point of a party in my book --party food! I had a tragedy on the way in the door though, and the mini pitas with basil pesto rotisserie chicken salad and roasted peppers ALL FELL OUT OF MY CAR when I opened the back. This was extra rotten, because it took me days and a trip to Salt Lake to find the dang mini pitas. Luckily I had some back up mini deli bread things, and we were able to whip up a few in the kitchen before serve time.

This was Artichoke two cheese fondue, with french bread chunks. I was so happy to find an artichoke in the store for the center. The fondue isn't super pretty without it.

Cranberry-Orange meatballs. Those are orange not lemon slices around the edge (told you the lighting for these was screwy).

Shrimp Cocktail with fresh mango chutney. I tried a different recipe for this party than the last wedding with the chutney, and I was really pleased with the flavor. I've been using it for a salad dressing mixed with a little tahini at home --which is also good. You can barely see the corner of the chutney jar in the picture (the shrimp platter was prettier).

Here are the "back-up" sandwiches, and also the Spinach-Italian sausage savory tartlets. We were so lucky to have late frosts this winter. All of my herb garden was still in full swing for this party, and the rosemary smell filled up the kitchen. If they ever make a rosemary perfume that smells like the real thing I'll buy it. As it is, whenever I'm working with it, I rub it all over my hands and arms. It makes me happy. Like catnip I guess.

This was a Praline-cranberry marscapone dip with sugar cookie dippers. A couple of them got a little brown, but they needed to be a little crisp to dip. I loved this dip. I do think it was better with the praline chunks crispier, so if you ever ask me for the recipe, leave those out until the last minute, and stir in just before serving.

Eggnog with fresh grated nutmeg --the fresh grating makes eggnog 2000% better. In fact I realized a couple of years ago I liked eggnog just BECAUSE of the nutmeg, and started putting it in milk, protein shakes, you name it. When it's fresh it's just yum. There are also some streuseled apple pastries in this picture. These were fast and good too. Anyway, the catering and vacations are done, and now it's on to Christmas! (Oh heaven help me :) )

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cornhusk Nativity (Thanks Kelli!)

I've got a lot of posts to catch up on, a couple of catering ones, and our family trip to Disneyland (!) but first things first, and we did this first. Please check back and comment on the other posts, they should be going up in the next couple of days.
My friend Kelli recently posted on making cornhusk dolls, so I begged a tutorial off of her. I then proceded to invite myself and all of my kids over to her house for her to show us her secrets. She was very nice, and didn't kick us to the curb which she probably wanted to --just a couple days before Thanksgiving. We had a second session at my house to finish up a full nativity for both families. The kids had some GREAT ideas too on making animals and crowns. Here's ours.

Tia started first with her shepherd. All the other dolls looked like buff giants next to it, so we made him a shepherd instead of Joseph so Mary didn't get a fat complex. Then the neighbor girl had an idea for a sheep --if you squint, and it's next to the shepherd you get the idea right?

This is our Mary and Joseph and baby in the manger. You can't tel with this picture a little washed out, but there's a little head peeking out of the "swaddling". I did the baby and Tia did the manger. Ari did Mary (with a little help) and I did Joseph.

These are the three kings. Aren't they cool? Tia had the idea for the crowns --maybe with the neighbor's help.

OK, this was my favorite. The neighbor girl had this idea, and I was doubtful it would work at all --but the three kings need a camel right? I love it.

Almost forgot the angel, but we had enough stalks just to finish her. Come over next fall if you's like to make some with us next year. It's a really fun family activity.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Simple Family Dinner.

OK, I know this doesn't look like the prettiest food, but it really satisfied our needs tonight. I've got to revamp our regular dinner rotation menus. Our dinners now most of the time need to be 1. Cheap
2. Have some major vegetable protein
3. Nutritious and vegan (although we're still putting cheese on the table for the kids --they'll eat anything with cheese)
I'm doing a lot of prep cooking for a job for this weekend and with church stuff too, our meals need to be made fast.

I saw this recipe on 101 cookbooks today, and it inspired me to copy --with my wing nut personal touch.

4 cups broccoli florets --drizzle with a couple t. olive oil and roast for 20 minutes at 450
2 cups tvp chunks --soak in hot water (or broth of your choice) and drain
1 big onion chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 can great northern beans rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups mashed pumpkin, sweet potato, or winter squash (already cooked) (I used my kabocha)
1t. salt

saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes, and add the tvp. Keep sauteing until you see a few crisp brown parts on the soy. Your broccoli can be roasting at the same time, and add it at this point. Stir together and combine, then add the pumpkin, salt, and a little bit of water. You can serve with parmesan, but it didn't really need it.

My kabocha was really sweet, and really creamed together the flavors of the other vegetables. It may not have looked really pretty, but was yummy and very satisfying.