Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sushi and Stuffed Peppers

Last Thursday we had some friends over for sushi.  If you have access to good fish, it's really easy.  Wrap a sushi rolling mat with plastic wrap and lay it flat on a work surface.  Lay a sheet of Nori (sushi seaweed) on top of it.  Cover the nori with cooked white rice mixed with rice vinegar and sugar (you'll want to look up an exact recipe for this part; I don't have one because my husband does it).  If you want the rice on the outside of the roll, you'll need to flip it over.  Then lay your desired ingredients in a line on the edge of the mat, closest to you.  We like salmon, tuna, cream cheese, scallions, avocado, roe (fish eggs), wasabi, and cucumber.  Slice it up and serve it with soy sauce and sake.

Now listen, you can't just stroll into Winn-Dixie and buy fish if you want to eat it raw.  Go to a fish market and ask them if they have anything sushi-grade.  If they don't know what you're talking about, walk right back out of the door.  They should tell you what they have, when it came in, and how much you need for your guest list.  They should have salmon, tuna, and grouper, and they might have some others as well.  They can suggest other accoutrements and should have a variety of sauces, as well as things like wasabi and roe.  They can even slice it up for you length-wise, if you're going to be rolling it.  It's expensive, about 16 dollars a pound, but if you roll it up with other stuff, it's very filling and a little bit goes a long way.  We bought two pounds for seven people.  We ate it all, but we were stuffed.  For just the two of us, we eat it chopped up over rice with soy sauce.

Tonight we had stuffed red peppers.  I've been wanting to try some, having never eaten them before, so I looked up a random recipe.  This one calls for tomatoes, ground beef, olives, and couscous.  Cut the top off of four red bell peppers and scoop out the insides.  Stand them up in a baking dish. 

You may need to fashion a wedge out of the top of the pepper to stick under it so it will stay upright.  Heat some olive oil in a skillet and add a can of diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup chopped pimento-stuffed olives, and half a pound of ground beef.  When the beef is browned, add the couscous (Near East brand), its seasoning packet, and 1/2 cup of water.  (If you were me, you'd add a jar of baby food at this point.  Just saying.)

  Take it off the heat, put a lid on it, and let it sit for five minutes.  Fill the peppers with the couscous mixture and top with shredded italian cheese. 

Cover loosely with foil and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  The foil should keep the cheese from burning.  Remove the foil and bake for another ten minutes.

My husband LOVED this.  For me, it was just okay.  Audrey wouldn't touch it :

but Ayla enjoyed the couscous we fed her:

  I think I would like it with some sauteed onions and mushrooms in the filling.  I think they would complement the red pepper nicely.

Ayla's first birthday party is this weekend so I have been shopping and party planning.  WalMart, as much as I love to hate it, has the best deals anywhere.  I bought all our party favors and favor boxes there.  I should have bought my plates and napkins there, too, but it's far away and I had already been to the party store for that stuff.  Everything is pink, pink, pink, and I'm super excited to see how it turns out.  I'm hoping to make pink pasta salad and pink spinach dip to go with our pink cupcakes and pink cookies, which will spell out Happy Birthday Ayla.  I think it will be fun to do with Audrey. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ghouls, Goblins and Greeks

We live in a large college town (40,000+ students, 3 recent, major national championships) so the Sororities put on a trick-or-treating event for the kids on the Thursday before Halloween.  The houses are all within 2 blocks of each other and are decorated to the nines, each in a different theme.  My favorite was the Princess and the Frog house.  They had their front walk decorated like a river with lily pads, a frog jumping game, and a real Princess Tiana, whom Audrey loves.  The sorority girls go crazy swooning over the cute kids and shower them with attention, as well as candy.  We're talking kiddie pools full of candy.  It was kind of ridiculous.

We went early, fifteen minutes before official start time, and I was very glad of this for multiple reasons:
1) We parked without any trouble
2) We got "extras"; extra attention, extra candy, extra stuff in our goody bags.
3) A reporter with a deadline took our picture and asked us a few questions, and we made the front page!!
4) We were done JUST as it started to get crowded.  It took us an hour and we had a blast. 

I was thoroughly impressed, and I would do just that one event for trick-or-treating as long as I could get away with it, but I don't think we'll be living here much longer.

When we got home at 6:30, I let Audrey pig out while I made dinner (below).  This has always been my halloween strategy and I'm generally prepared to deal with the consequences.  She went totally crazy, with a screamfest, and it was difficult to get her to bed, even after keeping her up later than usual.  She also usually gets a piece of candy for going potty, but she was getting too much sugar in her diet, so on Sunday we started a new strategy.  (We also already had plans to go Trick-or-Treating with friends or we would have skipped it.)  Every time she does a good job, she gets a ball in a jar.  When she misbehaves, she gets a ball taken out of the jar.  When she has five balls in the jar, she can have a piece of candy and a sheet of stickers.  So far it's happened once.  I'm hoping to lessen the number of tantrums, spankings, timeouts, and treats in my house.  Sunday night we went trick-or-treating in a nicer neighborhood than our own and had a barrel of laughs; the girls had so much fun.  She went to bed at ten (yikes) , with one piece of candy, without much of a fuss!

You know my coconut chicken with mango salsa......I made it Thursday night with some baby peaches thrown in.  It made the salsa a little more like a sauce to pour over the chicken, and it didn't affect the taste at all.  Win :)  I started the menus for Ayla's birthday party, Thanksgiving, and my in-laws' visit.  I'm pretty excited about all the entertaining I get to do this month.  Tonight we're just doing risotto....whatchacanfind.  Probably onions, carrots, peas, white wine, and baby food.  And Thursday I'm hoping to have some friends over for sushi which I will absolutely blog about.  We've done it a lot in the past and it might interest somebody out there.

We had our book club meeting on Friday and there were some adorable food items.  We read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (eh), so it was High Tea and Zombie-themed.  Octopus chicken pot pies, brain cupcakes, homemade scones with lemon curd, and my all-time favorite, cucumber sandwiches. 

Spread some cream cheese on your favorite thin-sliced white bread and sprinkle with dill.  Place some peeled cucumber slices on the bread, cover with another slice already spread with cream cheese, cut the crusts off, and enjoy :)

Today we went to a playdate and made leaf rubbings, which I've just realized is ingenious this time of year....the leaves are all over the freaking place.......I'm totally doing it with the kids at Ayla's party!  It will be perfect for their age group.

And now I'm hoping to clean up my house a little bit before my husband gets home.  It has to be done at the last possible second so he notices; otherwise he thinks I didn't do it.  Sound familiar?