September 30, 2007

¡Viva Italia!

I reached a new level of homework avoidance this week by having a three-day Godfather marathon. Steve let me borrow the trilogy months ago, but I hadn't gotten around to watching it. It's hard to believe that I consider myself a classic movie buff but hadn't seen this one. It deserves the accolades it gets. I liked the slow, subtle storytelling, and I didn't feel like the screenplay beat me over the head with implausible dialogue and plot points. Good acting and amazing cast list, too. Beware of oranges and the color orange in that movie - there's definitely a death symbol there.

The bad thing was that I hadn't eaten dinner before starting this relatively long film. There are a few scenes that take place over the dinner table, and I thought I would probably die if I didn't get some pasta. I ate a Lean Cuisine frozen lasagna at about midnight when the movie was over, which wasn't enough to quell the craving.

So, I followed my own dinner and a movie suggestion on marathon night two. Steve and I ate Chicken Marsala while watching The Godfather: Part II. That Chicken Marsala is a tasty recipe despite being very quick and easy to make. The only problem was that I was running low on Marsala and didn't have time to buy a new bottle, so the sauce was a little oily. I whipped up a honey-dijon vinaigrette for the salad, heated some garlic bread, and I thought it was quite good. Steve was lucky to have a prize-winning cook making him dinner. Part II is good. It would stand up better for me if it weren't connected to the original. On its own, a good film, but it's very different stylistically from the first, and I favor the original.

The next night, after watching the season premiere of The Office (glad to see Pam and Jim dating), we ended up watching The Godfather: Part III. This one was accompanied by Tiramisu from the grocery store. I am determined to make some Tiramisu soon, but I haven't found a recipe I trust yet. There is a delicate balance to be achieved between all the ingredients in that dessert: lady fingers, espresso, mascarpone cheese, eggs, cream, sugar, Marsala wine, cocoa, and rum. I looked for some cannoli at the store, which would have been better. I want to try making those, too. My best quarter-Sicilian friend even has some of the tubes you need for frying the shells. I don't want to be hit by the Mafia, so I'll be sure to return those as soon as I'm finished. Seriously, I remember when we were little and she pointed to a relative in a very old family picture and said he had "connections."

So basically this week was not only lousy for homework, but also for exercise and healthy eating. I expect to get kicked off my Get Fit Lubbock team on Monday when I turn in my points total for the week. I hope you don't lose points for gaining weight.

In other international cuisine news, it is Mid-Autumn Moon Festival time in Asia. They probably have a cooler name for it than that over there. Katie wrote "Zhong Qiu Jie Kuaile!" in her last e-mail. I can only assume that is a translation of "Happy Mid-Autumn Moon Festival", not "Send money and food, you lazy American sister." She also wrote:
There were so many families outside having BBQ and setting off fireworks. I love holidays. But I especially like Moon Festival because it was the first holiday I had in Taiwan. And they have moon cakes which are both strange and delicious. Most of them have a cooked egg yolk in the middle of them. The curry chicken moon cake is my favorite, but they also have red and green bean moon cakes. Everyone has a barbeque, but they don't have back yards here. So everyone sits out on the street and cooks their meat on hot coals on the ground.
Check out the link for a video on making Moon Cakes. It looks fun, but the recipes I've seen online look pretty complicated. I think I'll just hit the Asian stores instead.

September 23, 2007


Tonight it's back to reality for me after shirking my homework for weeks. I'm combatting it by watching the Cowboys/Bears game, reading the BYU Police Beat, and surfing for college football news. That shows maturity. I'll share some funnies with you in case your team lost this weekend, too:

From the BYU Police Beat, July 11, 2007:

Tip of the Week: Make sure blinds and curtains are fully closed in the morning or at night when showering and getting dressed, as warmer weather tends to bring out exhibitionists.


Criminal Mischief

July 4: A man was reported making a suspicious phone call to a female in Helaman Halls in which he claimed he was doing a psychology project and then proceeded to hypnotize the female student on the other end of the line. The roommate of the female came home to find her asleep on the floor. The female is reported of reacting strangely when certain words are spoken.

From the BYU Police Beat, September 20, 2007:

Roommate Conflict

Sept 12: A conflict, due to a failure to communicate and talk problems out, was reported between two 18-year-old female students living in M. Smith Hall in Heritage Halls. The roommates have been arguing over apartment chores and accusing one another of destroying each other's food. Profanity and some hair pulling was involved. This has been turned over to the housing office for a resolution.

I found a great Red Raider blog in Disco Tech. You probably have to be a pretty diehard fan to appreciate most of the site content, but I hope everyone can appreciate this Budweiser Real Men of Genius ad turned anti-Oklahoma State propaganda.

Lemon-Buttermilk Sherbet in Caramel SauceAnd of course the best way to unwind is with some ice cream. I tried another recipe from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop. Lemon-Buttermilk Sherbet is extremely quick and easy to make, and this atypical combination just sounded good to me last night when I was perusing the book. I really liked it with the caramel sauce. The picture doesn't look great, because the sherbet was very soft and didn't form a nicely rounded scoop.

Lemon-Buttermilk Sherbet
Recipe by David Lebovitz from The Perfect Scoop
Makes less than 1 quart

1/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
1 lemon
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a medium, nonreactive saucepan, mix the water and sugar. Grate the zest of the lemon directly into the saucepan. Heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let stand until the syrup reaches room temperature, then chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Whisk the buttermilk into the syrup, then whisk in the lemon juice. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

September 22, 2007

Awards Acceptance

German Chocolate Cake

I finally decided to enter the German Chocolate Cake in the Fair competition. I love this cake. I remember one of the first German Chocolate Cakes I made. Funny story. A few years ago, I had a crush on this guy, and I was trying to win brownie points with his mom, and so I baked her a German Chocolate Cake for her birthday. I used the famous Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate recipe. Ended up just being friends with the guy. As usual, the mom liked me more than the son did.

A few years back, Auntie shared the German Chocolate Cake recipe from Cook's Illustrated with me. The folks at Cook's took the original Baker's recipe and experimented with a few changes until it was vastly improved. They used less sugar in the cake and filling, kicked up the chocolate flavor, and dispensed with whipping egg whites separately for the cake. We had it for Daddy's birthday in April, and it was an instant favorite with me.

I took the cake to the fair on Thursday morning for the judging. You have to take a whole cake, then they cut it in half and return half to you. I took the leftovers to work. I didn't know the judging results until my boss spilled the beans on Friday. A few of the managers from work went to the fair for lunch. When they got back, Russell said, "Congratulations on first place." I must have looked surprised, because then he started going back and forth and changing the story to tease me. He talked about looking for the cake, since they knew I took one. He said they looked and looked and finally found it in the corner with the Culinary Best in Show.

German Chocolate CakeThis morning I went to the fair to see for myself. I talked to the lady that got Best in Show for her cloverleaf rolls. This lady was amazing. She does a lot of gardening, canning, and baking. She had more than thirty different entries and won fifteen first place ribbons and placed with some others. Her husband and grandson won ribbons for something they brought, too. Also, the husband worked for a decade and a half at the cotton gin where my Dad takes his cotton. Small world. I walked around and looked at all the cakes, cookies, candy, and bread. Reading some of the names, you know that the food was made by a little old lady when you see Doris, Ida, or Shirley. The youth division entries were fun to see, too. There was a chocolate cake that was already growing some fuzz.

Mom and I decided to compete against each other next year with our respective Peanut Butter Cookie recipes. I'm going to have to get Katie to send me some more peanut butter from Taiwan. I don't know what's different about the consistency of Skippy from Taiwan, but those PB cookies were just better.

Fun stuff. Thanks to Auntie for sharing the best recipe ever, and thanks to Granddaddy for sharing his wonderful homegrown pecans.

September 18, 2007

My Fun Job

I'm teaching 12 piano students a week now, and there's never a dull moment. I have a couple of new students this fall. I think it's fun to start a little one out on the piano, when they're still excited to play, before that "I hate piano!" phase kicks in. I've certainly heard enough of that. When a kid complains to me during the lesson, I say, "Take it up with your parents later. Right now, we're playing Ode to Joy."

I teach the lessons at the students' houses. One time I was at the piano, waiting for my pupil. She was upstairs throwing a full blown tantrum, complete with screaming, wailing, and crying. "I hate piano! I hate piano!" The happy ending is that she took a little hiatus from lessons, but now she's back and is one of my best students.

Last night I got to the cousins' house, where I teach Ty, Molly, and Abby. I saw Abby playing outside. "Are you ready for piano lessons?" I asked. No answer. I kept walking closer and closer to her and repeating myself. Finally, I was upon her and she couldn't avoid the question.

"Uh, let me go get Ty and Molly, so they can go first," she said. Such enthusiasm!

When it was Molly's turn to come in from playing outside, she walked in the back door and said loudly, "I don't want to do piano lessons."

"I'm in the room!" I retorted.

She really wanted to play outside with her friend. In protest, she would only play Christmas songs during the lesson. Not too shabby on Jingle Bells and Deck the Hall. When Abby's lesson time came, she wanted to talk about snakes. I learned that bull snakes are big, but rattlesnakes are bigger. They're nothing to be afraid of if you have a gun or a knife. Oh my.

I've had a couple of kids bring clocks and watches in for the lesson, so that they could make sure that the lesson doesn't go one second past thirty minutes. Today I had a student come and say he couldn't do his lesson, because he just got a wart removed today. He held up a bandaged finger proudly. I found out later that he then went outside to play football. He was forced to come back in and play some scales, left hand only. Hopefully all will be mended next week.

2005 Christmas Piano Recital

September 17, 2007

Support the Team

There is an episode of Seinfeld where Elaine is dating David Putty, who paints his face in Devils' colors for the NHL playoffs. "Gotta support the team!" In classic Seinfeld fashion, Putty's simple face painting has terrible consequences when he scares a foreign priest to near death. As unfunny as my description sounds, that episode is truly hilarious. Okay, I'm going to watch it now. Season 6, episode 23.

Hawaii QB Colt Brennan shaved off his dreadlocks, went platinum blonde, and then dyed the Hawaiian Islands in black on the side of his head. There is a rash of boys my age named Colt. I would have a kid just to name him Colt, but I'll need a better reason than that to embark on parenthood.

Check out the studly #33. Going to Scott's games makes me wish that I had more school spirit in high school. I know it will surprise you, but I had quite a superiority complex in high school. I thought I was too smart for that school, and I let everyone know it. I was in band, so I had to go to all the football games, and I hated it. I thought my school was too small town, and I begged my parents to let me go to a bigger school with harder classes. I ended up dropping out. It's too bad that I had such a bad attitude. It's been fun to watch my siblings make Ms. CHS, valedictorian, football team co-captain... Then again, I still make fun of that school when I go to the games, so nothing's changed.

How do you support the team? Face painting? Throwing tortillas? Releasing wild hogs on your opponent?

September 16, 2007

Guide to College Football Picks

Wes Welker of the Patriots is having a great game against the Chargers. He's doing the alma mater proud. I can actually say that I went to some of the games that would show up on his Tech highlight reels.

I'm not doing too fabulously with my NFL picks this season. Cleveland and Houston won today. I did not see that coming! I enjoy watching the pros, but I still prefer college ball. Here are my rules for picking college favorites:

1) Texas Tech first. Always.
2) Texas teams over non-Texas teams.
3) Big 12 teams over non-conference teams.
4) Non-California and non-Florida teams over California and Florida teams.
5) All bets are off with religious schools.

And I can pretty much override any of those rules at any time if I feel like it. It's my prerogative as a woman. Rivalry teams are a whole other monster. I keep hoping UT will lose to one of these second-class teams on their early schedule, even though that clearly goes against rules 2-5, in the cases of Arkansas State, Texas Christian, and Central Florida. There's no logic to any of it. It certainly forces me to root for the underdog on a regular basis.

I picked San Diego to win tonight because they're my favorite NFL team, even though New England was more likely to win. It's all emotion and gut instincts with me, and San Diego is losing 24-0. I miss San Diego. My tan is fading and I miss Balboa Park. We had yummy fish tacos in Old Town San Diego. Tonight for dinner we tried to recreate them. Not really anything like what I had in SD, but they're a star in their own right.

Fish Tacos

September 15, 2007

We Shoot Straight with You

Okay, I thought the wild hogs story was quite funny, so I had to call in to the Williams and Hyatt Show to find out more details. That coach is the high school football coach from Gun Barrel City, TX, and he's a regular on the show. I was wrong in assuming that he was an area coach. Gun Barrel City is just southeast of Dallas.

And if there's anything as funny as West Texas hicks, it's East Texas hicks. Rednecks are really the only group left that it's socially acceptable to make fun of. It's my heritage, anyway, so I have a pass. I went through grade school with a girl who swore that her dad was the inspiration for Dale on King of the Hill. I didn't know who Dale was until she told me he was the chain smoking guy in a cap and sunglasses. I have to agree that her dad was just like that guy.

Gun Barrel City is a town of 5,100. The population was only 60 in 1970, when the people voted on incorporation so that the town could legally sell beer and wine, and the population has just been growing exponentially ever since. Their motto is "We shoot straight with you." Gun Barrel has won second place twice in the Governor's Community Achievement Awards, and they have a water tower and everything.

Too bad to hear about their loss to West Mobeetie last week. I bet the coach can't hold up his head at the Dairy Queen. He probably has to get his steak finger basket to go. Maybe there are some beatable teams coming up on the schedule:


Before you go thinking I'm a completely evil person for laughing at humble Texas towns, I'll have you know that I donated blood on Thursday and participated in an American Association Heart Walk this morning. I'm hoping things will even out on Judgment Day.

September 13, 2007

The Most Dangerous Game

With the start of football season, I've started listening to quite a bit of sports radio. Our local station has a mix of Texas Tech topics, high school coverage, and some ESPN nationwide programming. Every weekend KKAM hosts a pick 'em contest, where callers pick the winners in weekend college games and guess the scores and stats of the Tech game. Last season, Steve and I replicated the pick 'em contest at work. We made it interesting by betting the responsibility for completing minor work assignments.

Tech fans are notorious for bad sportsmanship. There was quite a controversy a few years back about all the tortilla throwing at the football games, until the law stepped in. I even remember television ads with a referee saying something like, "If you throw a tortilla, I'll throw a [penalty] flag." I like the comments on this blog entry in favor of the tortilla tradition.
Just one thought for you. When I went to a Tech game a few years ago, several of us Aggies were hit in the head by frozen tortillas. It hurts. It doesn't leave a good impression on people. No pun intended.
Frozen tortillas? That's even better. Boo hoo, Aggies.
Why throw tortillas at all? Why spend money to throw food away when hundreds of thousands of Afgan [sic] children will be starving this winter? Why not start a new tradition and send the money wasted on tortillas to a worthy attempt to eradicate worldwide hunger?
Oh yeah, she's gotta be from UT.

Tech fans are also notorious for getting drunk out of their small minds before, during, and after the game. Scott has season tickets to the Tech home games. He related a story from a Tech tailgater. This tailgater was up in the stands and came across a UTEP fan with a noisemaker. He said something to the effect of, "Hey! You're not supposed to have that. They're banned by the Big 12 and it's not fair for you to have those." The UTEP fan responded by sounding the noisemaker in the Tech tailgater's ear. So the Tech fan threw his nachos in the other guy's face. Now that's sportmanship.

The big news in town this week is about Tech students changing the lyrics of the fight song to something profane. It's nothing too new. They were doing it during my undergrad when I was a young skull full of mush. The school's response is to stop the band from playing the fight song. Maybe we should be as worried about our lack of a defense. And at least we're not cheating like the Pats.

But the best football news I've heard recently was during the high school football spotlight on KKAM tonight. An area high school coach had called in and was talking about his team's disappointing Friday night loss. I missed hearing what school this coach was from, but I'm thinking it was a small town. Apparently the Friday night game was delayed because a herd of wild hogs ran onto the football field. The coach said that really threw his boys' game off. The game I attended Friday night was delayed and then called early because of lightning, but wild hogs sound much more dangerous.

September 12, 2007

Prize-winning Fare

a picture to make Wendy jealous

So, inspired by Molly, my prize-winning cook of a cousin, I've decided to enter a baked good in the South Plains Fair culinary competition. Molly won second place for her Peach Crisp at the National Cowboy Symposium last week. As long as I can come up with something tastier than typical fair foods like Funnel Cake and Deep-fried Coke, I'll be pleased.

I need suggestions on what to bake. I'm planning on a cake, but which?

Chocolate Blackout Cake with Coconut ButtercreamThe Chocolate Blackout Cake with Coconut Buttercream is a strong candidate. It's pretty. It's complicated, combining dark chocolate, ganache, toffee, and sweet coconut frosting. It has a touch of pepper, so it's definitely got an unexpected kick to it, which might also make it too weird for the judges.

German Chocolate CakeThe German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Filling I baked for Dad's birthday is my favorite cake, taste-wise, that I've ever baked. Chocolate, pecans, and coconut are a wonderful combination. I think it's nice-looking. What do you think of the unfrosted sides?

Spice Cake with Sea Foam FrostingThe Spice Cake with Sea Foam Frosting is one I thought of a bit randomly. The "sea foam frosting," seven-minute frosting made with brown sugar, makes it different than your typical entry. There might be less competition in a non-chocolate category, too.

The only other cake that would do is a recipe of my mom's. It's a pound cake that I love love love. I don't know exactly what the rules are for the pound cake entries, though. I'd probably have to bake it in a loaf pan, which is just wrong.

I would like to choose a cake that can hold up, unrefrigerated, in a display case for a few days, too. These are the things I think on. The floor is open for nominations.

September 11, 2007

Never Not Sarcastic

I received messages from a couple of friends, and I thought this was worth nipping in the bud. Despite my recent posts such as "Still Single Shower," "Always a Bridesmaid," "Stalker Boy," etc., I am not wallowing in self-pity about my single status. Apparently my jokes about being single and chubby are soooo played.

So back to more important topics such as foodie chat and armchair quarterbacking:

Feasting on Asphalt 2 ended this weekend with Alton getting a tattoo. Oh brother. My favorite sites from the series are in the South, because of the fun characters and their accents. I think next season should be a Texas tour.

High School Football

Have I mentioned how glad I am that it's football season again? I like turning on AM Radio and listening to football chat or catching game highlights on the evening news. Sorry, news about baseball and the US Open just pales in comparison. Although, we did have the Western All Stars team from Lubbock in the Little League World Series, and that was exciting business.

The only other exciting business I can think of to report is that Katie survived another Taiwanese earthquake. This one was 6.5 on the Richter Scale. She slept right through it even though the building she was in was swaying. Besides earthquakes, she almost got eaten alive by a dog. She was on her bike and got lost in the middle of a rice field one night. She passed by a house with a light on, and suddenly there was a huge dog barking and lunging at her ankles. She said she pedaled like mad while barking back and kicking at the dog. If that isn't funny enough, she had to pass by the house again later. She said the second time her pedalling was faster and her barks were louder.

September 9, 2007

Dessert Party

School has started, but I haven't started school. I don't want to go back. The semester started when I was in San Diego, so I had a pretty good excuse to postpone doing homework. Then I got back home and spent about a week getting ready for the Still Single Shower/Dessert Party. I had fun cooking. Cleaning is less fun. Maybe I should cater. It's all the fun of cooking without the stress of hostessing. I also mowed my lawn, which I hadn't done since Hurricane Katrina. Lest you think the grass grew unabated for two years, I will tell you that I bribe my dad and brother to mow my lawn for me. I was worried at first that I wouldn't be able to start the mower. I am pretty helpless. Once I got the mower started, it was easy from there. However, I was never able to start the weed eater to do the edging. That right there is one good reason to have a man around.

Alas, we had a party to celebrate my not having a man around. It was a fun evening. My favorite people came over and ate desserts with me to soothe the sorrow. I didn't get a chance to take pictures. My friends know I'm an obsessed flickr user, and I didn't want to make them nervous by pulling out the camera. I would have at least liked to take foodie pictures, though. I still have leftovers, so I may take those pictures yet.

Goat Cheese and Lemon Cheesecake with Hazelnut Crust


Chocolate Truffles
Chocolate Coconut Truffles
Spiced Pecans
Chocolate Cream Cupcakes
Crème Brûlée
Goat Cheese and Lemon Cheesecake with Hazelnut Crust
Strawberry-banana Punch

It is rather pathetic how much chocolate and sugar I have in my house. I sent guests home with treats, but I still have cupcakes, truffles, punch base, and many ramekins of Crème Brûlée left in my refrigerator. Now that I've had my fun gorging myself, I'm going to participate in a Get Fit Lubbock contest. I've never done anything like this, but at least I'll embarrass myself in front of a smaller audience than if I went on Biggest Loser or Extreme Makeover. Some of the prizes are things like annual gym memberships and triathlon training. I wonder if I could convince them that the ideal prize is a year's supply of Ghirardelli Chocolate. That's much more motivating!

Still Single Shower Prep

That's my chocolate tower before the party. Next year I'm definitely keeping a tally of how many chocolate bars I buy in a year.

September 2, 2007

Fake Tales of San Diego

Here are the highlights of the San Diego trip, according to me:

Fish Market MealBest Restaurant: The Fish Market

The thing I most looked forward to on this trip was getting some good seafood. I wanted fish tacos, freshly caught fish, maybe some sashimi. At The Fish Market, I got a sampler platter of steamed fish. Mom got Mahi Mahi. Wendy got fish and chips. We shared an appetizer of oysters on the half shell.

GianduiaBest Dessert: Extraordinary Desserts

Monday we skipped lunch to spend some extra time in the Balboa Park Museums. To make up for it, we got an afternoon dessert. I tried the Gianduia, which was fabulous. I wonder if Karen Krasne would let me intern with her. The Orange-Cranberry Scones from Whole Foods were a close runner-up. I'm addicted to those things.

Balboa ParkBest Site: Balboa Park

The buildings, gardens, and museums were spectacular. It's amazing to see a public space so vast and beautiful. The Museum of Man was my favorite museum. The Natural History Museum had an interesting exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls. My trip souvenir was a box of Chuao Chocolatier bonbons with Middle Eastern flavors. Unfortunately, the art museum was closed on the day we were at Balboa. Runner-up San Diego Zoo was much more fun than I expected.

Coronado BeachBest Spot to Tan: Coronado Beach

It's been much too long since I've put my toes in the Pacific Ocean. It's been almost as long since my body has seen the sun. I figured it was my last chance to get some sun before the end of summer. I'll be finding sand in my wallet for weeks.

Best Laugh: Many-way Tie

There were many funnies, as there are whenever I'm around. One funny moment was when Wendy made a quick turn and smacked her face into a glass panel in the trolley. Another was when a passenger got on the trolley and sang a rap loudly, but pretty well, actually, about the border and being in jail. A street performer with considerably less talent was playing the violin, and we were unlucky enough to catch his performance two separate times in two separate locations. He was playing an out of tune scale or something else unrecognizable.

I wore my Make Cupcakes Not War shirt and got a few reactions, the most memorable of which was on the trolley. An older man with some issues got on and sat down facing me. "Make cupcakes not war," he read aloud. "I like pie. I like cherry pie. I buy day old cherry pies every Thursday. What day is this?" Then he proceeded to read my shirt aloud again, this time by pointing his finger at each letter on my chest. I kept thinking, "I don't care how old this guy is. One inch closer and I'll deck him."

It's nice to be back home just in time for the start of football season. I want my next trip to be a Feasting on Asphalt tour. I know I could travel the back roads of Texas and come up with some interesting finds. Maybe I could even do it on a motorcycle.

Feasting on Asphalt