Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How fondue you do?

Let me preface this by saying that I am by no means a connoisseuse of fondue.  I've had it maybe a handful of times (none that I can specifically remember actually) and have never actually made it. Now, I'm not really sure why I've never tried.  In fact, why is this not a more popular crockpot potluck party dish? I mean, you whip it up on the stove ahead of time, throw it in a crockpot and set the thing on warm, then stick a bowl of toasted bread next it with a sign that says "No double dipping - forks included" and voila!  Instant class at your potluck.  Not terribly original or time-consuming, but it works!  I guess it is a little expensive...I didn't know Gruyure was so pricey!  Oh well, so worth it.
 Stirring in the flour.  It was still a little lumpy at this point, and even a little afterward too.  Somehow, the magic temperature/consistency coincided with my addition of nutmeg.  Go figure.
 Classy, no?  With no one else to share the bounty, I didn't bother using our brand-new fondue set.  Just one of the forks.  The cheese cooled eventually, but that was the hint I needed to stop maowing down on it anyway.

I used a cheap, box Pinot Grigio for the white wine, and store brand Swiss cheese.  

Also, if you missed it yesterday, I'm doing a CSN stores giveaway this week!  Hop on over to that post, comment, follow, all that jazz! 


Monday, November 29, 2010

Week #7: Switzerland

Switzerland!  I didn't think of it until just now, but I really should have scanned in some fun pictures from my childhood while I was in Texas this weekend. 

Memories from Switzerland...we went on a dogsled ride in the Alps (right after a bunch of nuns, actually).  We rode on a train up to the summit of some mountain, and the snow was so bright you couldn't look directly at the mountain.  I think that was maybe Jungfrau?  I don't know. 

I remember it being breathtaking, which is saying something since I was maybe 7 or 8 at the time. 

Switzerland (German: die Schweiz,[note 3] French: la Suisse, Italian: la Svizzera, Romansh: la Svizra), officially the Swiss Confederation.

The cuisine of Switzerland is multi-faceted. While some dishes such as fondue, raclette or rösti are omnipresent through the country, each region developed its own gastronomy according to the differences of climate and languages.[159] Traditional Swiss cuisine uses ingredients similar to those in other European countries, as well as unique dairy products and cheeses such as Gruyère or Emmental, produced in the valleys of Gruyères and Emmental. The number of fine-dining establishments is high, particularly in western Switzerland.[160][161]
Chocolate had been made in Switzerland since the 18th century but it gained its reputation at the end of the 19th century with the invention of modern techniques such as conching and tempering which enabled its production on a high quality level. Also a breakthrough was the invention of milk chocolate in 1875 by Daniel Peter. The Swiss are the world's largest consumers of chocolate.[162][163]
The most popular alcoholic drink in Switzerland is wine. Switzerland is notable for the variety of grapes grown because of the large variations in terroirs, with their specific mixes of soil, air, altitude and light. Swiss wine is produced mainly in Valais, Vaud (Lavaux), Geneva and Ticino, with a small majority of white wines. Vineyards have been cultivated in Switzerland since the Roman era, even though certain traces can be found of a more ancient origin. The most widespread varieties are the Chasselas (called Fendant in Valais) and Pinot Noir. The Merlot is the main variety produced in Ticino.[164][165]

This week I'm going to rely heavily on allrecipes.com, mostly because they let me scale the recipes easily.  Nick is bonding with my parents in Texas this week, so I'll be fonduing it up on my own.  Gosh, that's a shame.  :-)

Here are the picks:

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Cheese-Rosti/Detail.aspx - the original hash browns?

Everything I'm finding is heavily cheese and potato...I won't lie, after last week, I was really hoping for something more, er, GI tract-friendly.  I think the plan for this week is to make these dishes (honestly, just three will be enough, with leftovers, to keep me fed for the week) and supplement with lots of salad.  I might try a wine fondue later on though, we'll see. 

CSN Giveaway - It's Finally Here!

Giveaway is now closed, sorry!  See who won over here!

Just in time for Cyber Monday (well, not really since the winner won't be announced until Saturday - giveaway closes Friday), I'm happy to announce that we have a sponsored giveaway!

Up for grabs is a $55 gift card from CSN, which is comprised of over 200 online stores.  I was told my first link had to be about barstools, but let's face it...I'm way more excited about the cookware site. 

In particular, this might be arriving on my doorstep soon, since I need something like it to make cheese straws (recipe to come) for the party in a couple weeks.

Anyway, moving on.  How do you enter to win?

1. Get one entry for commenting on this post (for this one time only, you can comment on facebook too, but it'd make my life easier if you'd comment on the blog).  One comment per person please, and make sure to leave some means of contacting you (email, home address and social security number, etc.  Kidding about the SSN, please don't leave that.) Bonus karma points if you post something interesting (like what you'd buy or what you'd make with what you'd buy)!

2. Get a second entry for following the blog, here or on facebook.  If you already follow, you're already entered!

3. Get a bonus entry for every day you join my cooking challenge this week AND post a picture to prove it!  It's Switzerland week, which means fondue and chocolate, folks!  Easy peasy!  Post the picture on your favorite photo sharing site and post a link as a comment on THIS post. You don't need to follow the recipes I pick, so long as they're genuinely Swiss and homemade.

4. Get an additional entry for following xcountrieskitch on twitter.  I get an email for every new follower, so if you already follow me there, DM me and I'll add you to the list.

So that's it!  Including today, that gives you 8 total opportunities to win!

The Switzerland weekly menu post is coming...just gotta catch up on some emails first.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Favorites Week

Combining the chaos-inducing stressors of Thanksgiving, work, and international cuisine has left me a bit exhausted.  I need to get stuff done at nights this week (see here for what I need to get done) so I'm opting for tried & true favorites that I can whip up in less than an hour, with minimal mental exertion. 

Last night, we had Chicken Tamale Casserole for the first time in months.  It was delightful. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of it...I thought I'd taken some last year when I made it for the old blog, but apparently I didn't.  Next time.  I did try it (more or less accidentally) in a 9x9 pan instead of the 8x14 or whatever it was supposed to be...it turned out ok.  I left it in for longer, at a lower temperature, and the bottom actually got kind of crispy, which was a pleasant surprise.  I like crunchy, if you couldn't tell. 

Saturday night was Hungarian mac n cheese (Truros whatever), with more bacon and a lot of paprika.  Didn't really taste the paprika, so maybe next time I'll try something else. 

Sunday we went out. 

Tonight I might make enchiladas (funny comfort/favorite foods all seem to be Mexican...and our favorite restaurant is Mexican too).  Or maybe chili salad.  I dunno.  We'll see. 

Anyway, sorry for the boring week.  Next week is Swiss week though, which I have high hopes for.  Also, at some point (maybe for the party) I'll make baklava.  I just haven't found an "authentic Iraqi" recipe for it (just a vague mention that it should include pistachios).  Did you know that the origins of baklava are a sore spot for a few cultures? Specifically Turks, Greeks, and middle-easterners all claim they invented it...it's apparently one of the oldest recipes known to man.  I love that there's so much history in food (sometimes).  If you have ideas for an authentic recipe for baklava, maybe I'll try out a few different variations of it and see which one turns out the best. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Figgy Chicken, Ginger Cookies, and Disenchantment

I love figs.  Love love love figs.  I will eat them in a car, in a bar, in a boat on a moat...I love them.

Until yesterday, I'd actually never had them outside newtons or preserves.  Weird, huh?  So when I saw this recipe, I thought the chicken would have a sort of figgy glaze and the overall experience would be crunchy and sweet and make me want to sing about bringing me figgy pudding RIGHT NOW.  Not so!  While the dish was still delicious, the sweetness of the figs was sort of hidden under the savoriness of the rest of the ingredients.  Each fig was like a crunchy, sweet little spy in a dish otherwise comprised of exotic spices and flavors. I'll show you.
Browned chicken in the baking pan.
Fig sauce cooking.
Figs with the sauce, pre baking.
Post baking.  Now, the recipe said the sauce would thicken a bit...I didn't get that.  It wasn't bad, but it definitely wasn't thick by any definition.
Chicken with minute rice.  Because the rice cooker was dirty, I was hungry, and I wanted to make Ryan squirm.  The figs, you can see, are crispy on the top from baking.  They were simply wonderful.  They soaked up enough of the surrounding liquid to get a slightly more savory flavor, but not so much as to completely overwhelm their inner sweetness.  I felt like the sauce could have been more flavorful though...I'd maybe try adding more of the spices next time.

In this picture, we see proof that, in case you were still under the misguided notion that I rarely fail largely in the kitchen, you're wrong.  I fail.  I make smoke.  I burn stuff that's not even food sometimes.  And to this day, I ALWAYS turn on the wrong d@mn burner on the left side of the stove. Every. Single. Time.

Moving on.  I made candied ginger cookies last night as well.  They are SO good.  Next time I'll definitely run the candied ginger through a food processor first though...the chunks were big and a bit intense, but still edible.
I'll definitely be making these for the Christmas party.  They made the house smell SO good.

So that was my Friday night.  Along with some sewing stuff that'll go in the other blog.  What'd you make?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Stuffed Grape Leaves, Or: Why We Always Double Check the Recipe

I love my husband.  I really do.  He is sweet, he's funny, and every now and then he offers to help with the "chick duties" around the house, like cooking foreign dinners.  Last night, bless his heart, he attempted stuffed grape leaves so I wouldn't have to make dinner when I got home from spin.

It wasn't a complete failure.  In fact, I quite liked them.  He wasn't aware of how...intense...grape leaves can be, so he wasn't prepared for the experience of stuffed grape leaves sans rice. It was a lot, I'll admit.

 The meat mixture.
 A bundle of grape leaves - be gentle pulling them out.
Stuffed and ready to cook.
I got home about now and took over, deciding to throw them in the pot with some olive oil and see what would happen (the rice was kind of key, but he'd already put in so much work I didn't want to undo it).  The meat shrank, the leaves cooked, and the ones on the bottom got slightly crunchy.  I took the cover off for a few minutes about halfway through, because there was so much liquid in there.  I told Nick to have Domino's on speed dial in case my modifications failed. 
I made some rice on the side, Greek style (olive oil, lemon juice, and mint), and it turned out pretty OK.  The leaves were pretty intense.  Nick actually just ate the meat from most of his.  It wasn't awful, and I'll try this again in Turkey, but for now...I'll let it be.

Stuffed Grape Leaves

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kabob, Hold the Shish

Kebab (Persian: كباب, also kebap, kabab, kebob, kabob, kibob, kebhav, kephav, qabab) is a wide variety of meat dishes originating in Persia, and now found worldwide. In English, kebab with no qualification generally refers more specifically to shish kebab served on the skewer or döner kebab served wrapped in bread with a salad and a dressing. In Iran(Persia), however, kebab includes grilled, roasted, and stewed dishes of large or small cuts of meat, or even ground meat; it may be served on plates, in sandwiches, or in bowls. The traditional meat for kebab is lamb, but depending on local tastes and taboos, it may now be beef, goat, chicken, pork; fish and seafood; or even vegetarian foods like falafel or tofu. Like other ethnic foods brought by travellers, the kebab has become part of everyday cuisine in multicultural countries around the globe.

When Nick came in for dinner last night and didn't see meat on a stick, he said, "I thought we were having kabobs?"  I told him we were, then read him the above paragraph.  Turns out, "kabob" is sort of the middle eastern version of milanese/chicken fried steak/schnitzel - many variations, basically the same thing.  Except not.  I'm not really sure I could tell you what makes last night's "kabob" similar to shish kabob, aside from the fact that meat was involved.  The spices are different, the prep and cooking were different...I'm really not sure what the "DNA" of kabobs are.

In any case, here's how it went:

 First, some shopping pictures.  I found grape leaves!  I found them in the Indian section of the "Shop the World" part of Hannaford.  Once again, I was spared from going into a real ethnic food market.  Buahaha.
 Also, I finally found phyllo dough.  Next to the puff pastry.  Duh.  Never thought to look there, and I've been literally 3 feet from it for weeks, every time I needed eggs.  Sigh.
 Using another wedding gadget - the Ninja blender/food processor.  I love that the motor is separate, and that I can use both choppers at once.  The blender was maybe not made for making beef paste, but it got the job done eventually. The red stuff on the left used to be a red pepper, like 3 second previous.  God I love food processors.
 Poor tomatoes didn't know what was coming.
 Everything in the blender, view one.
 Everything in the blender, view two.
 Eventually, it all came together.
 Next time you see this picture, don't think so badly of McD's.  Think badly of them for other reasons, but not for processing their meat.  We all do it. 
 Kini was being so good, just watching me cook.  She's been really sleepy lately...we think it's a growth spurt.  God help us all. 
 I ran out of space on the baking pan, so I tried frying a few patties.  They were ok, but I didn't know how long to cook them so they had a different texture and were really watery.  I could've left them alone for longer I suppose.
 The baking patties, after a few minutes (hence the puddles between patties).
 Fresh out of the oven.  They're not burnt, just...the stuff around them is a little.  Sort of.  I followed the directions though, I promise.
A bad picture of dinner.  Kabobs and Naan...not 100% Iraqi, but it's better than ciabatta, right?  Right.

Tonight, I have spin class after work and then I'm going to attempt stuffed grape leaves.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Shopping List

I compiled the recipes for this week into one, long, pink shopping list.  Yikes.  The first three sections are just desserts though, so those are maybe optional.  Maybe. 

Anyway, proof that I'm making headway here, folks.  I won't lie, this week has me thoroughly intimidated.  It's kinda hard cooking things you've never tasted before...I don't even know if the stuff I'm making tastes "right" when I think it tastes good...I'm sure there are some old ladies from The Old Country who'd beat me over the head with a wooden spoon and chase me out of my kitchen for some of these attempts.  Oh well, they're not here to teach me so I'm doing the best I can with the instructions I'm given.  :-) 

Also, you may notice that I'm using no recipes from the medieval cookbook.  It turns out, the recipes were literally translated from what they were in the old days.  Some of the steps included instructions like "this is best done as soon as the herd comes in from the pasture, just before the sun sets".  While they were comically eloquent and very regal in their instructions, I'm not sure I can consider Kini a milkable herd, even if she does graze when we let her outside.  The kitties are definitely unmilkable.  So, while the book was informative and interesting (and I'll read the rest later), it wasn't usable.  There were maybe 2 dozen recipes for the "modern era" in there, and none of them were distinctly Iraqi or appealing.  So there you go. 

Maybe I'll make those cookies later this week and bring them to work next week for the pre-feasting festivities.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Command Decisions, Inspiration, and a Few New Recipes

Since I've gotten a bit of a late start on this week, and I really want to do this cuisine justice (they literally invented cookbooks, after all), I'm making the command decision to extend Iraq week until next Wednesday (the 24th), and pushing out Brazil to be the last week.  I know I know, I was excited for pao do queso and all manner of rice and bean and meat yumminess too, but the fact is, deep down, I'm lazy.  I don't want to update every single one of the weeks to bump everything back by a week, so I'm just removing Brazil and tacking it on to the end.  I. am. sorry.

As for the rest of next week, I'll be enjoying the cajun/New Jerseian cooking of my heritage with my family...it is Thanksgiving, after all.  I may give a token effort to trying to make something Brazilian, but chances are good that won't happen.  Sorry. I'll do better at Christmas, I promise. 

As soon as we all stop crying, let's move on.

Unfortunately, I'm still feeling pretty gross tonight, so I'm going to opt for comfort food again (which, ironically, means we're going to our favorite Mexican place in town...I feel like I'm cheating doing that, but it is what it is.  I don't even have the energy to come up with something witty to rationalize it.)

However!  There is a light at the end of this tunnel!  I'm making progress!  I'm committing!

Here are some recipes I'm going to try this week, come hell or high water (even if Nick's the only one eating anything):

http://recipes.wikia.com/wiki/Simple_yet_Elegant_Babylonian_Apricot_Jewels - Hopefully these will turn out to be super yummy so I can serve them at this year's Christmas party.
http://recipes.wikia.com/wiki/Crystallized_Ginger_Cookies This one I might actually make tonight, just to say I've at least attempted an Iraqi recipe.
http://recipes.wikia.com/wiki/Iraqi_Cardamom_Cookies_%28Hadgi_Badah%29 - I might try these too.
http://iraqifamilycookbook.blogspot.com/2010/11/stuffed-grape-leaves.html - Not really sure where I'll find grape leaves, but it's about time I man up and really go to a foreign grocery store.  Seriously, this time I'll go. Seriously.
http://iraqifamilycookbook.blogspot.com/2008/06/saffron-rice-with-meat-dressing.html  - A special occasion recipe, but it looks yummy.
http://www.food.com/recipe/kebab-iroog-424152 - In Iraq, kebabs are baked or fried, not grilled.  Which is good, since it's getting cold out and I don't want to grill.  :-)
(While I was looking at that recipe, I found this one:
Yup, will definitely be trying that one soon.)
http://www.iraqicookbook.com/contents/poultry.html - Chicken Drumsticks Baked in Fig Sauce? Um, yes please!

So, starting tomorrow, I'm cooking Iraqi.  For serious this time.

Tonight, I need tortilla chips and chiles rellano.  However you spell it.

For more menu plans, see Org Junkie!

Bad News...

...I punked out and ate Chick Fil a last night instead of making dinner.  Sorry, guys.  Tonight will definitely be better though, I promise. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tonight's Dinner

I think tonight I'm going to attempt this:


It looks the most familiar, so I'm starting out easy until I can do some more research (tonight) and put together the rest of the week.  I've never salted and drained eggplant before, but that seems to be a common practice.  Interesting.  We'll see how it goes.

Week #6: Iraq

Wow, no pressure, right?  I have to admit...I've spent the last 2 or 3 weeks trying to figure out how to approach the initial post for this week, and I'm not sure I've come up with anything truly brilliant, so I'm just going to let it play out and see how it goes.

Having never been to Iraq, I don't have any explicit memories from there. I'm pretty sure my dad was there once or twice during Desert Storm, and I know my aunt just came back from Baghdad a few months ago.  But aside from politics, military, and media reports, I'll be honest...I know next to nothing about this country that I'm supposed to be mad at.  I'm not even sure why I'm supposed to be mad at them, to be honest.

Do you know what their flag looks like?  Until like 10 minutes ago, I didn't.  Here:

Apparently, until 2008, it was this:

And until 2004, it was this:
Oh, and before 1991, it was this:
There were 3 other flags before that one (which started in 1963), but I just think it's interesting...in my lifespan, this country has had 4 different flags flying.  The stuff between (and replacing) the stars mean "God is Great".  I know that there will be vastly differing opinions on this, and I'll leave it at one sentiment, but I just think it's interesting that, if a ruler has the power to change the flag willy nilly, and has the option to put his own handwriting on it, that he chose to write "God is Great".

Now.  Aside from politics and religion and fickle flagging, what else to we know about Iraq?

Iraq is known primarily for an instrument called the oud (similar to a lute) and a rebab (similar to a fiddle); its stars include Ahmed Mukhtar and the Syriac Munir Bashir. Until the fall of Saddam Hussein, the most popular radio station was the Voice of Youth. It played a mix of western rock, hip hop and pop music, all of which had to be imported via Jordan due to international economic sanctions. Iraq has also produced a major pan-Arab pop star-in-exile in Kathem Al Saher. The folk songs of Iraqi Turkmens are also well known, and Abdurrahman Kızılay is a leading name.
Early in the 20th century, many of the most prominent musicians in Iraq were Jewish.[121] In 1936, Iraq Radio was established with an ensemble made up entirely of Jews, with the exception of the percussion player. The nightclubs of Baghdad also featured almost entirely Jewish musicians. At these nightclubs, ensembles consisted of oud, qanun and two percussionists, while the same format with a ney and cello were used on the radio.[121]
One of the reasons for the predominance of Jewish instrumentalists in early 20th century Iraqi music was a prominent school for blind Jewish children, which was founded in the late 1920s. Many of the students became musicians, eventually forming the Arabic Music Ensemble Qol Yisraeli (Israel Radio).
Singers, on the other hand, were Muslim, Jewish and Christian. The most famous singer of the 1930s–1940s was perhaps the Jew Salima Pasha (later Salima Murad).[121][122] The respect and adoration for Pasha were unusual at the time, since public performance by women was considered shameful and most female singers were recruited from brothels.[121]

I feel like there's a punchline about today's pop starlets with that last line, but I just can't come up with it.  I guess I didn't realize music was such a big thing over there, but it makes sense...music is kind of soul speaking, so why wouldn't it be a big deal?

Football is the most popular sport in Iraq. Football is a considerable uniting factor in Iraq following years of war and unrest. Basketball, swimming, weightlifting, bodybuilding, boxing, kick boxing and tennis are also popular sports.

No big shock there.

Ok, ok...I know you all are just dying to know about the cuisine (duh, it's a cooking blog).

Iraqi cuisine has a long history going back some 10,000 years – to the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians and Ancient Persians.[123] Tablets found in ancient ruins in Iraq show recipes prepared in the temples during religious festivals – the first cookbooks in the world.

I'm just going to let that one sink in.  The. First. Cookbooks. In. The. World. Woah. 

It sort of blows my mind that what they thought was the most important thing to write down for posterity was how to make food.  Think about that for a second.  Writing, back then, was nontrivial.  You only wrote down what was absolutely necessary for the future of your civilization.  For them, that was food.

In that book I mentioned, they said that some of the folk stories people memorized and told were actually clever ways of memorizing fancy dishes, so you'd sound educated and "with it" when you were in high company.  Food, and the elaborate preparation thereof, was THAT big of a deal.  It sort of blows my mind (and makes me a little worried about the coming cooking endeavors this week).

Ancient Iraq, or Mesopotamia, was home to many sophisticated and highly advanced civilizations, in all fields of knowledge – including the culinary arts.[123] However, it was in the medieval era when Baghdad was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate that the Iraqi kitchen reached its zenith.[123] Today, the cuisine of Iraq reflects this rich inheritance as well as strong influences from the culinary traditions of neighbouring Turkey, Iran and the Greater Syria area.[123]

Some characteristic ingredients of Iraqi cuisine include – vegetables such as aubergine, tomato, okra, onion, potato, courgette, garlic, peppers and chilli, cereals such as rice, bulghur wheat and barley, pulses and legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and cannellini, fruits such as dates, raisins, apricots, figs, grapes, melon, pomegranate and citrus fruits, especially lemon and lime.[123]

Other Iraqi culinary essentials include butter, olive oil, olives, tamarind, vermicelli, tahini, pistachios, almonds, honey, date syrup, yogurt and rose water, cheeses such as baladi, feta and halloumi, and herbs and spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, fenugreek, cumin, oregano, saffron, baharat, sumac and za'atar. Similarly with other countries of Western Asia, chicken and especially lamb are the favourite meats. Most dishes are served with rice – usually Basmati, grown in the marshes of southern Iraq.[123] Bulghur wheat is used in many dishes – having been a staple in the country since the days of the Ancient Assyrians.[123]

Meals begin with appetizers and salads – known as Mezze. Some popular dishes include Kebab (often marinated with garlic, lemon and spices, then grilled), Shawarma (grilled meat sandwich wrap, similar to Döner kebab), Bamia (lamb, okra and tomato stew), Quzi (lamb with rice, almonds, raisins and spices), Falafel (fried chickpea patties served with amba and salad in pita), Kibbeh (minced meat ground with bulghur or rice and spices), Masgouf (grilled fish with pepper and tamarind), and Maqluba (a rice, lamb, tomato and aubergine dish). Stuffed vegetable dishes such as Dolma and Mahshi are also popular.

Quick, small geek-out here...I'm sorry, but IRAQ is MESOPOTAMIA???  Like, where civilization STARTED?? WOAH.  If you already knew that, feel free to point and laugh.  It just never dawned on me that ancient Iraq == Mesopotamia.  It makes sense, looking at the map, but still.  Woah.

So there you have it.  Iraq, it turns out, isn't actually defined by the current media.  It's ANCIENT.  I can't wait to explore the meals here!

A lot of my recipes will come from this blog this week.  She actually has a physical cookbook available on Amazon, but I didn't find it until too late, so I'll just be using her blog. 

I'm not going to post recipes just yet, since I need to peruse that book before making any decisions.  I also need to find phyllo dough...argh.

Anyone taking the challenge this week?

Gnocchi Know

When the recipe came with so many warnings about not making the pasta too squishy or too doughy, it should come as no real surprise that I erred on the side of squishy, which resulted in a mostly edible (when fried), but definitely squishy batch of gnocchi.  It wasn't bad.  I will make it again.  But this was not a perfect first attempt.  I needed more flour, even with only 4 potatoes (instead of the 6 the recipe called for). 

I saw "quartered" and my mind read "cubed".  The potatoes cooked faster this way, and they fit into what I'm calling my potato ricer (which I think it may be, outside of Germany) much better as well.
See, Mom?  Putting it to good use.  :-)
Supposed to be an action shot, but it's hard to squeeze and snap at the same time.  Oh well.
In the end, I browned some butter and fried these puppies up so they'd have at least some redeeming texture to them.  I only used about 2.5 c of flour (the recipe said 2-3 cups), so next time I'll definitely add more.  I have to admit, I've only made dough-based stuff in the past month or so of my life (aside from cookies from the back of the Nestle bag), so I don't have an eye for this yet.  Everyone has to start somewhere, right?
Meanwhile, not in the kitchen...the family is happily fed and passed the heck out on the couch.  Mission accomplished.
Also, we've (ok, mostly I've) started decorating for the holidays.  Shelby was confused, then hissed when I took it off her.  I did this while Nick was out of the house...I'm pretty sure he would have clawed me worse than she would to save her from this shame.  I still can't stop giggling at it.
Kini doesn't like the holidays much, it turns out.  And yes, I got her a hoodie.  She doesn't like it a lot, but it keeps her from scratching herself raw until we can get her to the vet and figure out what she's allergic to (food, not clothing). 

This one may need to be our Christmas card this year.  There are a few expletives in those eyes, huh?  He started running around the house with it on, and Kini thought he'd turned into a moving chew toy so she started chasing him.  I don't think he'll be as docile next time I try to get it on him.

Call it cruelty against animals if you want, but do it with a straight face...I dare you.  :-D

Iraq week started yesterday (I can't even justify the Domino's I had last night, sorry), so the post is coming up.  Might be the end of the day before I get it out, but it'll be worth reading I promise.

Have a happy Monday!