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Recipe reviews

May 13th, 2008 | Posted by Brinestone in Random Musings | Uncategorized - (6 Comments)

In the last few months, I’ve been trying to make one new recipe every two weeks. Some have turned out great and some not so much. Some of the recipes have been so great that I want to share them with anyone who likes to cook.

The biggest disappointment, I think, was a chicken and Italian sausage recipe from a gourmet cookbook. I have since given the cookbook away because I hadn’t used it yet in four years of marriage, so I don’t remember what the title of the recipe was. It just didn’t turn out looking anything like the picture, and the flavoring was really weird. Also, it used dark-meat chicken, which I don’t prefer. Needless to say, I won’t be providing this recipe for you.

Pasta in Bolognese Sauce

If you have the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, look this one up in the pasta section. I highly recommend it because it didn’t require any very weird ingredients, it went together quickly, it tasted great, and it provided a nice variation from your standard pasta and marinara sauce. The sauce is essentially a marinara, but with Italian sausage, beef broth, whipping cream, and green peppers. It’s hearty but not heartburn-inducing. I did use mild Italian sausage instead of the hot that it called for. Grade: B+.

Pepper Lime Chicken

Another BHG cookbook recipe. I’ve made this one twice now, which I guess vouches for its tastiness. The recipe calls for a semi-complicated broiling method in the oven, so the second time, I tried doing it on the stovetop. I think it worked out pretty well there too, but I did have some trouble with the sugar from the lime juice getting too dark. Next time, I might brown the chicken and then add the lime glaze just before the chicken is done. Jon Boy really liked this recipe, though. Grade: A–.

Orange Beef

This one was okay, but it would need somewhat of an overhaul to be good. I used half as much honey as was called for, and it was still too sweet with too strong of a honey flavor. The orange flavor, however, was almost imperceptible. I made the recipe with different vegetables, but I often do that with Asian recipes. I can’t remember now if it was too spicy or not spicy enough or just not flavorful enough. If I decide to do an orange beef recipe in the future, it won’t be this one. Grade: C–.

TOPH Apple Pancake

Wow. If you want to know what to make for the last meal of your life, you have my recommendation for this. The Original Pancake House is a restaurant chain that only serves breakfast—very good breakfast—and closes at 2:00 p.m. each day. We’ve eaten there twice or three times now and loved it each time. Their biscuits and gravy are better than I thought biscuits and gravy could be. This recipe is for one of their signature dishes, the Apple Pancake. Really, it’s a puffed German pancake, and it will pretty much kill you. (Don’t look at the nutrition facts!) I did use more apples than the recipe called for, and next time I would cut down the sugar because I think I could do that without harming the tastiness of the recipe. Lego, Jon Boy, and I couldn’t finish it, even though we all loved it. Grade: A+.

Chicken and Sweet Potato Caribbean Stew

This was definitely interesting. I will make it again, but probably not on a regular basis. It’s not that it wasn’t good; it’s just that it’s unusual enough that I have to be in the right mood for it. I’m not usually a huge fan of sweet potatoes, but the thyme and cayenne pepper in the recipe acted as a lovely counterpoint to the sweet starchiness of the sweet potatoes. It was hearty and satisfying and extremely healthy. Plus, making it made me feel somewhat closer to my brother, who is on a mission in the West Indies right now. The picture on Recipezaar is mine, by the way. Grade: A–.

Thai Masaman Curry

Ambrosia and Bawb came over Saturday night to cook, and we made this along with an amazing chocolate brownie cake with caramel peanut topping. I’d made Thai curry before, but never this authentic, and never this delicious. 🙂 This recipe also got me to an Asian market for the first time ever, which was a really fun experience that I will repeat when I can. I was very proud of how the curry turned out, and I think everyone—including Lego—really enjoyed it. I will use slightly less lime juice and more masaman curry paste if I am brave enough to do it again. Oh, and have I ever mentioned how divine Jasmine rice is? It really puts regular white rice to shame. Grade: A. (For the curry, not the rice.)

Chicken with Tarragon Cream Sauce

This tasted good, but the title is a bit of a misnomer. You would have to double the sauce ingredients to actually have something that resembled a sauce; otherwise, there’s barely enough to coat the chicken. Also, my “sauce” was more like a slightly creamy chicken gravy than a cream sauce, and the tarragon flavor was very, very subtle. I will definitely be making this again (what else am I going to do with fresh tarragon?), but I will double the lemon juice, add milk, and maybe even add some chicken broth. I will also use a bit more tarragon. The chicken turned out nice and tender, though, and the whole dish had a nice flavor. Grade: B, with the potential to be an A with revision.

On Monday, I was driving up from Spanish Fork after dropping off an application for the perfecter place. I’d been having mild contractions fairly regularly for some time, so I decided to time them. The first four I timed were 3–4 minutes apart. (You’re supposed to go to the hospital when you have contractions 4–5 minutes apart for an hour straight.) Freaking out, I called Jon Boy. I had Lego in the car, I didn’t have a bag packed, and I was an hour from home. The only person I know well in Utah County is my sister, and she has an erratic and busy schedule. I had no idea if she could come rescue me if it came to that. I had NOT planned to go into labor this early! I was still almost a month away from my due date.

I continued to have contractions all the way home, but they did space out to every 5–6 minutes or so. Once home, I called my OB/GYN’s office to see what to do. They said I should go to Labor and Delivery if I kept having them that close together in the next half hour or so. I decided to try to relax instead. Really, they weren’t that strong—I’d been able to drive unimpaired with them, after all. After relaxing for half an hour, they’d slowed way down, and by evening, they were 20 minutes apart or more.

Tuesday evening, I had another episode like that—an hour and a half of contractions every 5–6 minutes. Again, they weren’t that strong, and I was able to continue making and eating dinner. But they weren’t slowing down, either, and I’d done all the standard things they tell you to do to try to slow down labor. I called Labor and Delivery to see what I should do, and also to see whether they’d try to stop my labor. Apparently you’re considered “term” at 37 weeks, which means the baby’s lungs are usually developed enough that he’ll be just fine, if small. (I will be 37 weeks tomorrow.) The nurse said that they wouldn’t try to stop labor if I came in, but that it would be better for the baby to delay it as long as possible if I could. She advised me to take a warm bath and lie down, so I did. The contractions slowed noticeably, and I went to bed.

At 2:00 a.m., I woke to go to the bathroom. After that, I couldn’t sleep because of frequent contractions once again. Finally I gave up on sleeping and read some stuff online about how to know when you’re really in labor. It seemed I wasn’t—or if I was, it was really early labor. Two hours later, the contractions were still regular and close together and still not strong. I was exhausted, so I lay down and tried to at least rest. Sometime over an hour later, I finally fell asleep. Half an hour after that, Lego woke up for the day. I thought I would die.

I told Jon Boy when he woke up that he probably shouldn’t go to work. He drove me to my prenatal appointment at 9:20, where I found out that I’m dilated almost three centimeters. I wasn’t having many contractions by that point, so he went to work. The rest of yesterday was pretty boring. I continued to have intermittent contractions, but they were weak and not frequent.

I think I’m having more again today. I’ve had a few that come close together and hard, but never for very long periods of time.

Now that I’m accustomed to the idea of having this baby sooner than planned (and now that I have my hospital bag packed), all these false alarms are driving me nuts. I just want the contractions to either produce a baby or leave me alone. Also, it’s hard to focus on anything mundane when “Will I have the baby today?” is looming over my head.

I mentioned finding an apartment that was even better than the almost-perfect apartment we didn’t sign for in my 100th post. Well, the landlord has decided to let us sign for June 1st on! We’ll be residents of a basement in Spanish Fork. It has two good-sized bedrooms, a huge, gorgeous kitchen that also has space for an office, a large living room, an enormous cold-storage closet that will fit all of our junk and maybe food storage too, a backyard with a sand box, washer/dryer hookups, and of course a dishwasher. It doesn’t have air conditioning, but I’m thinking in a basement it won’t matter. The landlord seemed great, the neighborhood is a fairly nice residential one, and the upstairs neighbors apparently have a little boy who’s one or two, so maybe a playmate for our boys.

It’s not going to be fun moving our furniture down the whole flight of stairs into the basement (hello, piano movers), but there are worse things, I guess.

One thing that surprises me is that the landlord said he’s got other people interested in it, but he still went with us. We sign on Saturday, provided I’m not in the hospital then. If I am, I’m totally sending someone down with a deposit.

Big Brother Is Watching

May 5th, 2008 | Posted by Brinestone in Random Musings - (4 Comments)

The other day, we got a packet of coupons from Smith’s (a grocery store) in the mail. The packet said that we’re one of their best customers, that only a small percentage of their customers get these packets, and that the coupons were specifically chosen for me. The “best customer” bit didn’t surprise me. I usually shop sales and go to more than one grocery store, but Smith’s is really the only good and affordable grocery store within a reasonable distance of where we live, so I’ve been shopping there nearly exclusively for a year.

Looking through the packet, I couldn’t decide whether to be delighted or weirded out. Nearly every single coupon was for something I buy tons of—and they were all really good. Like, a free frozen pizza from a brand I like. Or, $2.50 off when I buy $10 of beef. At the same time, it bothers me a little that Smith’s apparently is very well informed of my spending habits.

Only a little. The rest of me thinks, “Who cares if they know I buy S&W brand of beans if it means I get cool coupons because of it?” It’s not like they’re watching me sleep or take showers or something.

Or are they? Dun dun dun.

Post 100

May 5th, 2008 | Posted by Brinestone in Uncategorized - (4 Comments)

This is my 100th post. Also, today I was worried I was going into labor while about an hour away from home, driving, and with Lego in the car. That was not fun. I am not, however, going to have the baby today (or, I’m pretty darn sure I’m not).

We didn’t sign at the almost-perfect place. We did find another place that’s perfecter, but it’s available mid-May. If we can convince the owner to let us sign from June 1st on, we’ll probably move there. I really hope so. It’s a basement, but it’s a nice place in a nice neighborhood, and all our stuff will fit there. I can picture us there. Here’s hoping.