Thursday, February 26, 2009

Korean food



Monster proof


This is Drew's closet. I blocked it off to keep the monsters from getting into his room at night. He slept really well last night. So i guess it worked.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Marketing failure?


To be fair, i clipped off the part of the ad showing late hours.

Rainbow


Right before we got home, between Williams and Woodland.

Nice weather?


This was shortly after driving through the nasty storm.

Bad weather for driving



On the way home


It's very rainy. We both got wet when we stopped for Drew's potty break.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Baby Hailey


My cousin's 3 day old baby.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

AC abapter


Oh ebay! Maybe I should stop buying from Chinese sellers.

THE Best Banana Bread

I've made many a loaf of banana bread in my day. I had great success with a sour cream based recipe. I prefer nuts. I like a banana bread with a lighter texture. Not quite cake, a bit moister than that.

Banana bread is quite controversial. I've tried many recipes. MANY recipes. Dana's got a really good one that is even lighter than mine. Julie and Aaron make variations on the Joy of Cooking's recipe which are really tasty. In my quest for the best banana bread, I've read through recipe after recipe and made lots of them. Using butter, shortening, oil, yogurt, applesauce, bread flour, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, whipping egg whites, using only egg yolks, buttermilk, milk, soy milk...you name it, there IS a banana bread recipe out there that uses it.

To be clear, I do not count banana breads with additions other than walnuts to be legitimate. The addition of coconut and dried fruit is...well, silly. I'd consider making a banana bread with coconut for Rich if he really wanted it, but I don't think he cares enough.

While reading through the Epicurious site's recipes for banana bread, I was reading the reviews of one of the recipes when I stumbled across a recipe in the comments! There are comments which review the recipe, which is like seven pages into the 24 page comments section! The comments kept referring to John from MA's recipe, so I tried it. Pretty darn good. I don't add vanilla and spices, although I'm sure they'd be great. I just make it as is with some of the nastiest, ripest bananas ever.

Bananas are a...touchy subject in our house. I buy them. No one eats them. They turn brown. I don't buy them, suddenly Drew and Rich can't live without them, they eat a few and then the rest turn brown. I have taken to freezing them when they achieve blackness to a degree that even I would not eat them.

The black banana thing is a result of a recipe for banana bread from the Olives dessert cookbook which is part of a banana nut bread pudding with all sorts of yumminess. Anyway, in that recipe, you take the blackest, nastiest bananas and beat the bejeezus out of them. Honestly, that is how the recipe reads!

I figured, hey, black bananas are black bananas, so I started using grossly black bananas for all my banana bread. And...well, only good things have happened. I tend to decrease the volume of sugar in all my banana bread recipes by at least a third since the bananas have plenty of their own sugar. And even as I strain most of the kind of gross liquid from the bananas before dropping them into the mixing bowl, they retain enough moisture that the bread is never dry. Plus there is no way to tell once they're frozen how gross or not they were as freezing turns them black, anyway. I just pack them in a gallon sized ziploc bag (they tend to ooze a little sometimes) and pull out a few to thaw whenever I want to make banana bread. It's pretty handy, actually. Note that everything I have read about freezing bananas recommends freezing them in their peels, whole. After thawing, the skins come off very easily and can be discarded or composted, per SOP.

Anyhow, my recipe du jour for the Best Banana Bread is below. As I mentioned, I use about a third to half less sugar. And I use room temperature butter and eggs. Many of the comments about this recipe note that adding a dash of vanilla, a pinch of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, or an assortment of other spices only enhances the flavor. Add what you want. Don't add anything. It's whatever you want. And remember to do!

John from MA's Banana Bread

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttter, at room temperature
3 ripe bananas
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup crushed walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the flour, salt, baking soda three times. Yes, THREE times. (Apparently this is the magic number for fully uniformly distributing the soda and salt. Alternatively, you could put it all into a stand mixer bowl and just whip it around with the whisk attachment for a few minutes.)

Cream butter and sugar.

Add bananas and eggs. Beat thoroughly to incorporate.

Add all the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Stir in the nuts and pour into a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Bake for exactly 55 minutes. (Seriously. 55 minutes. I get twitchy and rotate the pan after fifteen minutes. That's optional if you have a well balanced oven. Mine has a hot spot, so I'm a paranoid rotater.)

Note: I have used an 8 x 4 loaf pan with Magic Cake strips to great success. Without the strips, the bread would have gotten very overcooked on the edges and exploded out the top of the smaller pan. This way, I got a realy nice and even loaf that looked really pretty and tall. Alternatively, just use those lovely disposible wax loaf pans and adjust time accordingly.

And voila. That's it. The Best. For now. :)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Grapefruit


Amy will peel a 15lb bag of grapefruit occasionally. Drew and I enjoy the sweet end result.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Superheroes


Drew and friends at Devin's birthday party.

Ode to a Teapot

Almost five years ago, now, Aaron and Julie bought me a teapot for Christmas. I'm pretty sure it was Christmas. It was either Christmas for my birthday. Anyway, they bought me a teapot because they were shocked to discover that I did not own one. (They were also shocked to discover that I do not own a double boiler despite all my chocolate melting and tempering.)

Anyway, it was a bright red teapot, enameled and boiled a surprisingly large amount of water. And it whistled. The whistling was...well, standard. And annoying, as it is meant to be, when water boils.

Being me, I used the teapot, rarely putting down the whistle part, because I'd be working around the kitchen. And now, it's a habit. (I know you can ALL see where this is headed.)

Today, after lunch, I decided to have a cookie and wanted to have a cup of tea to go with it. Just to cut the richness and also to warm me up. As per my SOP, I put a lot of water in the pot as I have often found that having more hot water is always a good thing.

While I was reading this afternoon, something smelled funny. I have a sensitive nose and can smell all sorts of things (most of which I don't want to smell). A strong metallic smell wafted upstairs and I couldn't figure out what appliance could be causing it. It's the same kind of scent I smell when I turn the oven on to cleaning mode. The kind of scent that kills birds.

I wandered downstairs and discovered that I...ummm...forgot about the teapot. And...no more teapot. All the plastic components...liquefied. And ran down the side. It used to be a bright, cheerful red. And now...the heat and burn...well, it's kind of darker now.

And so I bid farewell to the teapot. It served me well.

Luckily, I have another one I received a while back, which I can use. And it's even red-ish. But this one that I will place in the garbage in another hour after it cools down, this one was good to me. And it will be missed.

It almost looks okay here...



Until you look closer.







*Sniff* Poor teapot. It didn't do anything wrong.

Chalkstrong



Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ssam

Rich likes some Korean food, but on the whole, given a choice, he'll eat other foods first. One of his favorite Korean foods, however, is ssam, Korean BBQ.

Essentially, Korean BBQ is consumed as lettuce wraps with a piece of grilled meat (our preference is kalbi, marinated beef short ribs), a slice of raw garlic, a slice of fresh pepper (we use jalapeno or serrano), and a dab of Korean miso. Personally, I add a small lump of rice and wrap it all up. It is generally consumed by popping the whole package into one's mouth. This is not a two or three bite lettuce wrap. The idea is to cut the lettuce into a piece of appropriate size to wrap just enough for one bite.

Interestingly, ssam used to be very traditional Korean fare. You would see it at Korean BBQ places, but only Koreans or those in the know would know what to do with stack of lettuce leaves left at the table with the banchan (side dishes). Nowadays, in NY, David Chang has got Momofuku Ssam Bar, which is one of those uber difficult places to get a reservation. And apparently, it's very good food.

I doubt we'll see a ssam bar in Sacramento anytime soon, but at our house, we eat ssam. And Drew loves the idea of it. He gets the little baby leaves from the heart of the lettuce and puts a little bit of rice in them to eat. He eats the meat separately as he isn't really into the whole wrap concept yet, but he does like the lettuce and rice. I'll make a good Korean boy out of him yet.



Lance Sighting

After lunch today we went downtown to see the Prologue of the Amgen Tour of California bike race. We drove downtown and then took light rail to watch the riders. Drew did a little train dance while we were waiting at the station.

We rode the train as far as it would go and then walked the last four blocks. It was crazy how many people there were! We walked all the way around the capital and saw the race from several vantage points. After seeing it from the finish line, we decided to keep walking and see the start line.

Along the way, we found the team buses and warm up area. I thought I took some photos of the crazy crowd around the Astana warm up area, where Lance and his crew were warming up, but the camera was uncooperative. We did see a couple of other teams warming up.





Also in that area were the equipment trucks. Check out much they pack into this truck!



We finally made it over to the starting block and were able to watch a few riders take off...but from behind. You can kind of see the sharp end of the rider's helmet in the shadows here. The whole area around the start was packed with press and fans who were probably there much earlier than we would have been willing to get here.



We walked over to the area where the riders, after doubling back on K St, start their circuit around the Capital. We managed to see several riders.



When some of the more famous riders started showing up, this little area in the bottom of the photo was swarmed with press photographers. So we took off and started walking through all the booths and displays.

The walk up to the capital was really nice. And Lance was pasted all over the place!



We walked by the Jelly Belly booth where they were handing out samples of their Sports Beans. We picked up a couple and Drew demanded one pretty fast, so I opened it up. Drew loved them. I suspect it had more to do with them being jelly beans than sport beans, per se. Rich said they tasted like Gatorade, which explains Drew's obsession. Gatorade is Lightning Juice in our house and with my family. Drew loves it. And the sports beans turned Drew's tongue a lovely shade of chartreuse.



We settled into a lightly populated area across from the southwest corner of Capital Park. Drew fooled around with barricade for a while as we watched riders round the corner and hit the straightaway on L Street.













After a while, though, Drew got tired. And sat down at Rich's feet on the curb.



That's about when we noticed this woman, across the street, lying down on the street over a very large camera on a very small tripod.



We stayed for the last of the riders. We saw Dave Zabriskie, Levi Leipheimer, Thor Hushovd, George Hincapie, and Fabian Cancellara. It was very cool to see all these riders I've seen on TV and in the paper ride by.







And, of course, there is Lance Armstrong. I actually got a semi-decent shot of him with my little point & shoot camera!



After Levi Leipheimer, the last rider, rode by, the tour volunteers and police officers let everyone cross the course and cut the tape barriers.

After seeing the crowds heading to the light rail, we decided to walk the thirteen blocks to the car instead of trying to catch the train. Drew did okay for the first few, but then needed a ride on Rich's shoulders. It was a long day and desipte those sports beans, he needed a lift. We walked by the train tracks just as we got to the car and saw how packed the trains were, even then.

It was very interesting seeing a bike race. Maybe next year we'll try to bike down from home if Drew's riding ability improves. Or maybe we'll have to drive downtown and then ride our bikes. There was a little social/community ride before the time trials, on the route of the trial, that the mayor of Sacramento led. I can see enjoying something like that. They even had secure valet bike parking for up to a thousand bikes!

Ultimately, though, I don't know that we'll go again unless it's a time trial. It's a whole lot of effort just to see the peleton as it rides by. At least with the time trial, we saw each rider, individually, and over a period of time instead of all at once. That being said, it's just easier to watch on TV. I should note an exception, which would be for the Tour de France. I'll go see that at any opportunity, even a stage race. Hopefully with Steph.

An Unusual Hat

Rich came down the stairs this morning with something in his hands and told Drew it was a hat. The next thing I knew, Drew looked like this:



The power of parental persuasion. Never underestimate the blind trust kids have in their parents. And don't forget this moment. Rich got Drew to put a diaper on his head. A diaper!

Drew's Valentine's Day present

This morning, Drew got to open his Valentine's Day present. At least we were telling him that it was his Valentine's Day present. Rich ordered it a couple of weeks ago and when it arrived, it took a superhuman feat of discipline not to open it. Today, we let Drew open the box after breakfast. And boy was he excited.

video

We played some Rock Band after getting the drums set up...and it was slightly less than successful. First off, I suck at the drums. Even on easy, I suck! It was remarkably hard. So I took over the mic and Rich took over on the drums. Drew had a difficult time giving up the drums, despite the fact that it was going so badly, even with my assisting him while doing vocals that Rich couldn't keep us alive with his guitar goodness. After a surprisingly short time, Drew had no interest in the game whatsoever, even with the drum set.

At that point, Rich got to actually play without interference. That worked pretty well. Muscle memory wins again.

The Amgen crowd


We went downtown to watch the time trials. The crowd was insane.

The train dance



Premature blooms


Amy said these shouldn't bloom for a couple more months. Oops.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Umm...


I'm not really sure what's going on here.

Phone call etiquette


For some reason, he enjoys scaling the furniture while on a call.

The Politics of Yogurt

In our house, we buy yogurt by the case. These cases of yogurt contain the same three flavors, every time, peach, strawberry and blueberry. It'd be nice to have more variety, but these three are the ones packaged in the cases. We occasionally buy at the grocery store, but we invariably end up with mostly these three flavors, so we only do it when we're out and can't get to the box store to pick up a case.

Rich and I eat plain and vanilla flavored yogurt that I buy in quarts and pack in smaller tupperware to take for lunch with some fresh fruit. This works really well in the summer with all the lovely berries and stone fruit. In the winter, I cheat and buy frozen fruit and cook it down with a little sugar or *gasp* buy out of season fruit from around the world. I know it's bad, but I can't help myself!

Drew eats about a yogurt a day. During dinner, he angles for one and starts talking for his stomach saying things like, "My tummy is full of dinner, but has space for yogurt." This doesn't go over well as he has to eat his dinner to get to the yogurt. This idea of his stomach independently deciding to save space for yogurt and dessert, when we have it, has grown. Now, his stomach doesn't feel well, "My tummy doesn't feel so good. A yogurt will make it feel better, I think."

As you might imagine, Drew isn't exactly pulling the wool over on us, so there is generally a heated negotiation over how much of the food that is left he has to eat to get yogurt and/or dessert. This negotiation has been heavily influenced by the removal of the post-school snack.

Drew gets a snack at school after nap/quiet time, around 3-3:30. He used to come home and immediately demand a snack saying he was starving. When we let him eat something, we noticed that dinners became exponentially longer. We'd sit around while he dragged his food around and occasionally ate it. We started getting better about eating very consistently around 6-ish, and cut out the snack and suddenly meals don't take longer than an hour. Drew still eats slowly, mostly because his mouth is busy talking, but he's eating instead of fidgeting, a definite improvement.

For about a week, Drew caught on and started telling us that he didn't get a snack at school after nap/quiet time. We didn't even think twice about that until we hit a day when he had a fit about not having been given a snack. And...well, we called his bluff and asked at school. Boy, did he get in trouble with his teacher for lying.

And now, we do not do an after school snack unless Rich and I know dinner will be delayed. In those instances, he gets a snack, generally half an apple or a nut snack.

The other sensitive part of yogurt in our house is the yogurt retrieval process. Drew has expanded the scope of his duties in the house beyond cleaning up his toys and dressing himself to helping around in the kitchen. He sets the table and reminds his dad that Rich needs to get the drinks at dinnertime. After he's done with his food, he pulls himself back from the table and lithely hops to the floor and runs to the garage, where he props the garage door open with the door stopper and get himself a yogurt from the fridge. Then he re-enters the house, closing the garage door, and get himself a spoon from the utensil drawer. He started pulling the tops off his own yogurts a few weeks ago, so he does that, now, too, throwing it away before sitting down to enjoy his yogurt.

This morning, while I was packing up a breakfast to take into work, I asked Rich to get me a yogurt while he was going to garage. When Rich left the kitchen, Drew was standing in the family room and his face looked sad. I asked him what was wrong and he said that it was his job to get yogurt. I felt bad about that since he likes to help and in the mornings, especially, he feels left out as Rich and I run around getting ready to leave the house. So when Rich brought me a yogurt I asked Drew to trade it out because I didn't really want strawberry today. Drew's face lit up and he brought me this flavor. His favorite.



After I was packed up and we were about to leave, Drew came to give me a hug and told me that he wants me to go find the rest of the peach yogurts and make sure there is at least one left for him because he is sad that he gave me the last on from the top of the box. (There are two levels to the box.) He hopes there are peach yogurts on the bottom. (Between you and me, I'll pick up a couple of peach flavored yogurts at the grocery store and put them in the box, just to make sure.)