Saturday, November 19, 2011

Mac N Cheese to feed a crowd

Next week we are hosting "The Great Consular Section Thanksgiving Extravaganza!" Ok, well, it's not actually all that impressive, that's just how I refer to it in my head... Anyway, we are hosting DH's section for a Thanksgiving lunch.  All totaled we are looking at about 20 people to come and eat Turkey.  I went to the fish market this morning and bought two 10lb turkeys to serve.  I took my camera, but was too focused on not slipping on the muck to take any pictures, but I intend to go back so I will be sure to snap some pictures next time.
Anyway, last night I made the Macaroni and Cheese to put in the freezer for the extravaganza and I realized that for this I actually have my own recipe.  It tastes very similar to my Aunt P's recipe which uses cream of mushroom soup and old bay seasoning, but since I have neither cream of mushroom soup nor old bay seasoning I can't make that.
Anyway, I made this recipe, but tripled the recipe.  I took the double portion, without the bread crumbs and put it in the freezer for next Wednesday.  In case your wondering, this is what a double portion of Mac n Cheese looks like. 

From Blogger Pictures

The third portion I topped with bread crumbs right away and served it for dinner with sweet and sour cabbage and a tomato, cucumber and basil salad. 

From Blogger Pictures

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A shawl for my mamma

At the beginning of the summer I started making a shawl for my mamma.  I started on this idea because I saw this picture of a shawl in the knitpicks catalog and it was beautiful!  (If you're a knitter and have not looked at the knitpicks website then you must go there now!) Anyway, to make a long story short, I did not get to knit that shawl, but started looking around for a shawl to knit my mamma for Xmas because she didn't want anything that would be too hard to put on or take off.  The one I picked is named the Elizabeth Zimmerman 100th anniversary camping shawl (which is a mouthful to say) by Mwaa knit obsession (it's free on Ravelry).  I took the idea from the original idea and held my yarn double and then changed colors as I knit to give it a fading looking. 
To be honest, I never really saw the point of knitting lace shawls...  I'm not 80, I don't generally wear shawls, but by God was that fun!  I found myself wanting to knit on the shawl exclusively.  I had a couple of other projects that I was supposed to do, but this one was so much more fun.  I've already planned out at least two more, possibly even three or four.  I guess what I'm trying to say is.... I get it now.  

From Blogger Pictures
From Blogger Pictures
From Blogger Pictures

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lasagna from almost scratch

Last week I embarked upon  an afternoon of lasagna making.  Why, you may ask, would I do this?  Well, I recently rearranged my consumables closet (read-hordes of food) and realized that I have like 12 boxes of lasagna noodles!  So I said to myself, Self we need to make lasagna! Then I looked around and realized why I have not made lasagna before... no ricotta cheese.   BUT have no fear, ricotta cheese is very easy to make.  It apparently only takes 20 minutes (despite THIS websites claim to do it in 5)
I bought some milk, blocked off an afternoon and prepared myself....

From Blogger Pictures

and gathered together the ingredients.  Milk, salt, vinegar, a big bowl, a slotted spoon, and a colander lined with paper towels. 
Then I put 3 cups of milk, 3 tablespoons of vinegar, and some salt in a big bowl and put it in the microwave. 

and I microwaved it for 3 minutes, but....

it was still too milky and had not really separated out. So I popped it back in the microwave some more until

the curds are much easier to see and the liquid was pretty clear.

So I drained it...  And while that was happening

I boiled the noodles (it occurred to me later I could have made the noodles from scratch, but lets not get carried away shall we?)

and made the sauce.

grated the cheese.

And finally assembled the lasagna. 

then it baked for awhile.

And I served it with some stir fried greens and honey glazed carrots and radishes

Monday, November 07, 2011

There and back again.

Well, the bidding process is almost over!  DH has been offered a position in DC for the next two years to start next summer (Hmm that was an awkward sentence).  I'm excited, but...
ACK!  We're going back to the US!  This means I'm going to have to mop my own floors and clean my own toilets!  And OH NO I'm going to have to get a job! Who is going to hire me?  I've been at home now for more than 5 years?  How do you translate overseas stay at home mom into recognizable skills on a resume?  And yes, I do have skills.  I can organize a move, including suitcases, airfreight, ground freight, and storage shipments across continents, seasons, and languages.  I can arrange transportation for an 80lb dog including import/export paperwork requirements.  I can organize a meal for over 15 people with one oven, 4 burners, and no catered or boxed dishes (meaning no stove top stuffing, or pre cooked turkey from the grocery store).  I can think about what we are going to have for Xmas in October so that everything is ordered and arrives at post before the holiday.  I can arrive in a country speaking only minor amounts of the language and find grocery stores, vegetable markets, bakeries, etc.  I can start from scratch every two years....
*sigh* despite my whining it will be good to go back. We'll be super close to family.  I'll be able to understand the dominant language spoken.  Everything will be much more convenient.  I'm curious to see if all my hard won knowledge will become rusty once I am back in the US and can go to the store to buy granola and yogurt and fresh baked bread.  But oh the cheese, and ooh fresh milk.  Oh and one stop shopping!  I'm curious how much time shopping and making food will consume when I don't have to go to three different stores for my weekly shopping and still not find everything that I'm looking for.  And we'll be living in our own house, so if I want to paint a wall, I can.  Oh to have color on the walls!  I can't wait to paint!  I'm going to have to start looking now to see what colors I want to use!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Out with Babes

So Babes and I walked up to (what I feel to be) one of the better dumpling shops in our area.  We had a nice walk there, and then a nice lunch and a nice walk back.  While we were there it crossed my mind that I have not done a "useful things to have when traveling with a child" post.  And while none of this is earth shattering, if you've got a toddler or preschooler and you travel you might like to have some (or all) of this stuff with you. 

1. Umbrella (in a lot of places rain pops up unexpectedly and it's always nice to have a tiny umbrella to keep dry)
2. Travel fork and spoon in carrying case.  (I have been many places overseas and in the US where a child sized fork and spoon made all the difference between me feeding my child and my child feeding herself)
3.  Scissors with protective case (CANNOT BE CARRIED ON A PLANE) these are awesome, I saw some Taiwanese mom chopping up noodles with a pair of scissors and I've been carrying them ever since.  They make quick work of noodles, dumplings, large pieces of meat, vegetables and fruit.  Much easier than trying to carry a knife, and easier to lean over and cut something too. 
4.  Hand Sanitizer. 
5.  Liquid soap in a travel sized hand sanitizer container.  Can I tell you how many times I've gone into a public restroom and not had soap.  Call me fastidious, but my hands feel yucky for the rest of the day if I have gone to a bathroom and only had water to scrub with. 
6.  Wet ones (I used to carry a lot more, but now this is just for emergencies)
7.  Travel sized bug spray.
8.  Travel packs of tissues.  These can be lifesavers, not only for blowing your nose, but also makes excellent replacement toilet paper.
9.  Water bottle (how many times have you gone somewhere and the only drinks they have are cokes?) 
There are other very useful travel items, but these are things I carry in my purse.  Because I go into public bathrooms too. ;)
If you can think of anything that I've missed, or that you've found really helpful let me know.  I'm always looking to make my life simpler. 

Thursday, November 03, 2011


Did you know how easy it is to make your own granola?  It's even easier than making yogurt.  As with everything else my first thought was "why make it when you can buy it?" So I never bothered, but, as with everything else, we ran out of granola and I looked into buying it, but it is expensive!  So I finally broke down and looked up how to make it.  It didn't look too bad so I decided to go for it.
It's messy and involves smooshing ingredients together with your hands so I enlisted my resident ingredient smoosher to help me out.

From Blogger Pictures

ingredients in the bowl.

From Blogger Pictures

then the smooshing

From Blogger Pictures

after the baking in the oven, add the dried fruit (if you like that sort of thing)

From Blogger Pictures

tasty granola in your cabinet with the rest of your cereal!  Did I mention that I love oats (oatmeal, granola, oatmeal bread, oatmeal muffins)?  I think I might be turning into a horse.  

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Fall is in the Air

We're back in Chengdu, and the weather has turned grey and cool.  Cooler weather always turns my mind towards soups, baking, and knitting.  In fact, I had to make a run to the Yarn Market near the North Market today because I realized I did not have enough grey and black yarn to finish my shawl.  I've only been to the yarn market once before, and that was during the summer.  Back then it was a listless place with empty stalls, and brilliant sunshine driving the merchants under awnings.  But today, all the stalls were bustling, there were little old Chinese ladies everywhere fingering the yarn (and my hair... grrr!) and discussing the colors and weights of yarn.  And the colors!  I had to keep my blinders on because I was only there for black and grey, but oh!  I wanted to stop and touch and take home everything.  I wish I had taken my camera because despite the greyness of the day (a usual occurrence in Chengdu) the yarn market was awash with happy colors.  *sigh* but I digress.
Anyway, I have already made my first soup of the season (actually second soup, I made a baked potato soup earlier this week).  My family loves Chicken n' dumplings. 
From Blogger Pictures
Can you believe I'd never had it before I started cooking for myself?  My dad despises dumplings so ne'er a dumpling was seen in my parents' house growing up, but in my house Chicken n' dumplings is a regular on the rotation, I can't wait for the weather to cool down so that I can make some more.  Then I baked a loaf of bread (another sourdough oatmeal loaf) and made some pumpkin gingerbread for Halloween. 
Oh!  And I discovered that I can make more than fudge!  I made these Halloween pumpkins out of peanut butter and confectioner's sugar!  Super easy and super cute!

From Blogger Pictures

Up next: make your own granola.