Friday, April 30, 2010

Waitor, there is too much pepper on my paprikas...

....but I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie.

I couldn't resist reciting that line from "When Harry Met Sally" out loud last night as I was making dinner. Yesterday I had a rather awful day at work. It was one of those days when all the crazies seem to crawl out of their caves at once and unleash their cranky-hyperventilating-stubborn-looniness on the world. Keep in mind, I don't work in a hospital. I work in a law firm!

The hubby was out for the evening, so I was looking forward to a nice, quiet, and relaxing few hours all by myself. My dog Nella was there of course, but she's the silent type and gladly listens to me whine. Before I left work I decided I would cook myself a nice dinner since I haven't done a lot of cooking lately. We live on a very social street with neighbors who have us over quite often to eat, and lately it's been very often, so these days I think my kitchen may be a little mad at me. I've been wanting to make Paprikas Csirke, otherwise known as Chicken Paprika, from my Joy of Cooking cookbook. I have the 2006 75th Anniversary edition and I love it to pieces.

I had all of the ingredients I needed except for the chicken, so I grabbed some on the way home. The recipe called for 3 1/2-4 1/2 pounds chicken parts. Hmmm, but which parts exactly? It wasn't specific so I went with thighs and drumsticks. Dutifully, I pre-measured out all of my ingredients so I'd be ready to go. In the mix were a gazillion thinly sliced onions, a quarter cup sweet paprika (I use the good Hungarian sweet paprika), a cup and a half of chicken stock, two tablespoons of garlic, a bay leaf, salt and pepper, sour cream, and of course my trusty chicken parts. Lots of good, basic ingredients right? This should be a snap! I'll be watching "Family Guy" with a plate full of orangey colored chicken in no time....Ha...Ha.

Cooking this meal took forever. Was it easy? Yes. But there were so many steps, and quite frankly so many damn pieces of chicken that make up four pounds that have to be browned (without crowding) on both sides for 5 minutes each, and various steps of thickening the sauce it cooked in, that by the time I prepared the ingredients and cooked the meal from start to finish, I wasted over two hours! The browning of the chicken alone took over a half hour. On top of that the onions had to be cooked and the sauce created, which also had to simmer. The chicken got put back in the sauce and had to simmer till it registered about 180 degrees on a meat thermometer. According to the book, it estimated 20-30 minutes. Uh, yeah right. Try 45-55 minutes. You'd think it would be done at this point, but I had to remove the chicken AGAIN and thicken the sauce in two stages--by itself and then with the addition of sour cream. At last it was finished! Was it worth it? The sauce was, most definitely. I would love to make the sauce again to jazz up boneless, skinless chicken breasts or maybe even pork chops, but I don't think I'll ever prepare the overall meal listed in the book. The chicken was tender and juicy, but the skin was pretty soggy by the end of it. Using bone-in chicken like that just takes way too long, especially on a weeknight. The whole point of my making this meal was to unwind and relax, but I never got a chance to even do so till around 9pm. Lesson learned! I ate it over some white rice and I do have to say it was pretty darn tasty.

The Stuff

Brown, damn you!

Sort of looks like the Valentine's Day Massacre, doesn't it?

This is not the most appetizing picture. I forgot to get a picture when I first got the sauce done. This was my dumping some of the leftovers into corningware. But I promise, the sauce is excellent!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Thank you very mulch...

Working in the yard is definitely not my favorite task around the house. I'm not one of those people who can't stand getting dirty, but the minute I hear the words "do some yard work", I immediately get a case of Elvis-lip (you know, when your upper lip pulls up in one corner as if a fish-hook yanked it). I hate admitting it, because it makes me sound so obnoxiously whiny, but I think subconsciously I loathe yard work because I know being outside sweating in the Florida humidity will frizz my hair. You see, my hair and I have a very complicated relationship with one another. We fight like cats and dogs and rarely get along. We've threatened to go to the mattresses on more than one occasion, but somehow always manage to make up in the end. These days I'm sporting a chin-length angled bob, tamed with Chi silk infusion and my trusty straightener. She's behaving...for now, but she punishes me severely this time a year when it starts getting very hot outside. Our fights will undoubtedly escalate into the summer months, but hopefully we can work something out...I haven't told her yet that we're going to the Keys in June. I know she's going to be furious at me, so I'll have to pack lots of beach hats and rubber bands. Oh hair, I wish I could quit you...

Lucky for me, I have the most awesome husband in the world who works harder than anybody I know. Always willing to take one for the team, he dove right into the yard this past weekend. He's been dying to tweak the plant bed in front of our house that our builder created for us. We originally were given some basic green shrubs, some Heather plants, and a Japanese Blueberry tree right on the corner of the house. The shrubs are the only ones that made the cut. We loved the JB, but my in-law's have two of them in their front yard and those bad boys grow up to be monster-humongous trees. Seeing that it was planted right on the corner of the house (a careless move on whoever landscaped our house), we knew it needed to go. We actually ended up giving it to one of our neighbors, who had loads of backyard room for it. It has now been replaced with a very pretty Azalea topiary. We were told at the nursery that it will only grow to be about 8 feet high, which I can handle.

Our Heather plants, I'm afraid, didn't make it. I really liked them, but after the particularly nasty winter we had in Florida this year, they were too far gone and decided not to grow back. Oh well. We replaced them with yellow African Irises and some pretty Impatients. I chose Impatients because my mother had tons of them in our flower beds when I was growing up. My mom had a bit of a black thumb, but still managed to never kill the Impatients. So if she could do it, then I can do it! In addition to that, we re-mulched all of the beds and around the Red Maples along the side of the house. By the way, don't you just love how I keep saying "we" did this? The only credit I can really take is handing the hubby a few shovels and rakes and bringing him cold bottled water, but at least it's something! Thanks hun!

Monday, April 5, 2010

It's good for a woman to make pies...

Did any of you ever see that episode of 'Sex and the City' where Miranda's Ukrainian housekeeper gave her a rolling pin? Her name was Magda, and she told Miranda that it was good for a woman to make pies, much to Miranda's horror. Me personally, I don't think it necessarily matters if you're a man or a woman, but I do think that it's just plain good to make pies! This is the peach pie I made yesterday for Easter. This is actually the first pie I have ever made from scratch in my entire life. It was a little messy when sliced through, but it was gooooooood.

Are you there Diary? It's me, Katie.

I suppose I should tell you a little about myself, considering you're my new chosen outlet to voice my thoughts and opinions. My name is Katie (short for in Hepburn. I had a cool mother) and I live in Jacksonville, Florida. I wasn't born here, though. I originally came from a planet called New Jersey, but wound up here in the early eighties when Sitting Buffalo, a.k.a. My Dad, had his job transferred here. By the way, I'll explain what Sitting Buffalo is all about another day.

First, let me clear one thing up. I'm technically not a homemaker in the sense that some would describe. I often hear the word homemaker linked with other phrases like stay-at-home-wife or stay-at-home-mom. I am neither, sort of. I am a wife (woo-hoo!), but not a mother (boo!), but I do have a job that pays money (woo-hoo!). What I do for a living is pretty boring. Quite boring actually. So boring that I don't even have the energy to describe it. Let's just say that I work in an office with a stuffy, moody, old male attorney and even moodier, crankier old women. This crappy economy we live in today has everybody on edge, but I'm convinced the gals I begrudgingly call co-workers somehow manage to make even the most sour of folks out there look like balls of sunshine.

So why do I refer to myself as a homemaker? Because that's what I am, or am trying to be. My husband and I bought our first house last summer--built the house actually. Since then I've been putting all of my creative skills to the test. We are not rich people. I cannot afford to go out and buy every single little thing that my heart desires, so I often find myself taking on weird little projects to make my home pretty, pleasing, comfortable, or whatever a happy new home is supposed to look and feel like. I've enjoyed cooking the last few years now. Nobody taught me how to cook but myself. I'm still learning, still making mistakes, but I enjoy it a great deal and will surely post about recipes I enjoy. One thing I don't know how to do is sew. However, my mother-in-law obviously listended to me once profess that I wished I knew how, and bought me a sewing machine for Christmas. It's still sitting in the box, mocking me. I plan to learn a few basic skills and use it, I just haven't taken the initial first step to do so. It should make for some interesting blogging when I do try it, though...

Expect to hear me whine about putting in a sprinkler system, how expensive fences are, how no matter how much I vacuum and wipe there always seems to be dog hair everywhere, and a million other things. I'm trying my best to make a home, hence my title. Oh wait, I also referred to myself as an alien. The truth is sometimes I feel like one. I'm not green and I don't have tenticles coming out of my head, but at least once a day, every single day of my life, there is a moment where I stop and ask myself, how did I get here?, and, am I the only one who sees things this way? But there will be more of that to come.

Till then, nice meeting you. I hope we will get to be good friends.

Katie G.