4.23.2012

Eggplant and Tofu

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This dish is not so quick. It takes time to brown the tofu on all sides, and cook the eggplant, but it is worth the wait. Besides, while you wait, do the dishes, or clean your sink, there's always something you can do around the kitchen.

What I wanted as I drove home ont his particular evening was the eggplant and tofu dish you get at Chinese restaurants, the one in a garlicky black bean sauce. It's my go-to meatless option when I want a break. What I got was a substitute. I had no black bean sauce at home, so instead I mixed together oyster, hoison and soy sauce. It was close enough. The garlic was the key ingredient anyway.

The quick basic rundown, since I have no recipe here, cut up your tofu into cute little cubes, brown in some peanut oil, and set aside. Use the same pan to cook your eggplant, with a lot more oil, then add garlic, and the tofu back in, throw together your sauces, and cook everything for an additional 3 or some minutes. Serve over rice and enjoy!

4.17.2012

Turning 30 with Cocktails

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Last night, I sat down and composed a great post about my birthday weekend. It was insightful and funny, and took me longer than usual to write. I actually had to take a break from writing and upon my return, I noticed a blank screen. My text, my photos were gone. Poof!

So, here I go again... with a different take, because I can't recall any of my witty comments that were, no doubt, induced by the delicious gimlet I had been sipping on.

My first job out of college was at a senior center. Not the kind of place where old people are propped up and sit in front of windows. It was an active community center, where oldies came to work out,  take fun classes and be grouchy with their friends. And despite being the youngest person there, I fit right in. I'd work out in the gym after hours, showing everyone up with my super fast treadmill speed of 6 mph. I enjoyed visiting the library, and finding deals on the .25 cents shelf. When I'd walk the halls, Wilco's "When You Wake Up Feeling Old" would be running through my head. During my three years there, that song became my anthem, in a very positive way. You see, I was jealous of these seniors. They had all this free time to pursue hobbies, take long lunches and just hang out. And even though I got on well with them, and wanted to be like them, I couldn't picture myself their age. At 22, 30 seemed old, sometimes, if I tried, I could kind of visualize 40, but nothing beyond that.

Now, at 30, I still have a hard time picturing myself past 40. And it's not because I have this young nature I can't get past. I know people, old people, who act like they haven't aged. Who say they feel as young as when they were 20. That's not me. I feel myself aging. Not in a horrible, saggy skin kind of way. But, I definitely notice the effects of time on my thought process, my temper, and my ability to relate to people. I have grown much more patient with the people that matter to me. And I have grown much less patient with everything else. I feel comfortable redefining traditions and ways of living my life based on what I'd like to spend my time doing. I feel that I've made a lot of progress in this area, and get frustrated when I'm asked to compromise. I am enjoying a new quietness I have gained during the last year, something I can't necessarily explain, but I know is there.

This past weekend was filled with friends, cocktails and amazing presents (check out my pretty cake stand and custom-made knife above!), but also an eerie calm. I am getting older.

But enough of all this reflection, obviously the result of the Internet stealing my original post, and making it vanish. Let's get to the cocktail party! There was a menu. First, there was a taste test, then there was a menu, and three cocktails made the list -- Whiskey Daisy, Wild Thing and the Basil Vodka Gimlet. I made syrups, the husband spent an evening juicing limes and lemons, we asked a friend to wear a suit and play bartender -- we were ready to roll.

This was probably the most enjoyable party we've hosted. First, having a bartender is pretty awesome. Especially if you can find an awesome person to play the role. Second, I got to see friends I've missed. And lastly, I didn't get sick! Maybe now that I'm so mature, hangovers are a thing of the past. But probably not.
Cocktail recipe cards for guests to take home and remember me throughout the year.
Above: The amateurs posing behind the bar, waiting for the professional, (volunteer) bartender to arrive.

Below: The only official photo from the party! The ladies enjoying their Whiskey Daisies. The bartender in the background, inspecting the glassware.
The cocktail of the night -- Basil Vodka Gimlet, recipe below.
Above: New hat! Below: New sweet bike! If I wasn't a play-it-safe chicken, I could wear my new hat on bike rides. But I prefer a helmet.
And this is the cutest little kitchen timer. Hello 30.

Basil Vodka Gimlet
2 oz vodka
½ oz lime juice
½ oz basil lemon syrup
Basil or lemon peel garnish
Combine in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled glass.
Basil Lemon Syrup
4 cups packed fresh basil sprigs
(top 4 inches; from a 1/2-pound bunch)
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
9 (4- by 1-inch) strips lemon zest
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Let stand at room temperature, covered, 1 hour, then transfer to an airtight container and chill until cold, about 1 hour. Strain syrup thorough a sieve into a bowl, pressing hard on and then discarding solids.

4.13.2012

Tuna Salad Wrap with Watercress and Avocado

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"Oh man, I just feel so great after working out! I have all this energy! I  feel good!" Well, not me. I usually feel like SH*T. I know these people who feel "so great" after a workout. I hear their stories. And I curse them. Because not once, that's right, not even one single time, have I felt good. After my workouts, I am grumpy, tired and sometimes borderline depressed. What am I getting at? That it's hard for me to come home after the gym and cook dinner.

It's a good thing I have grown to like tuna salad. It requires zero cooking. There's light chopping, mixing and mostly can opening. Even in my disgruntled after-workout state, I can manage to throw together an appetizing tuna salad.

In this version, I used pickled onions for that extra deliciousness, and then decided to add celery seeds. I was really excited about adding the seeds. I only really use them in my Bloody Mary's and I had a feeling they might take my tuna salad to the next level. I was so eager about adding them, I tipped by spice container a bit too much and dumped A LOT of celery seed into the salad. Luckily, I was able to scoop the excess out, recover, and still pat myself on the back for thinking of this awesome ingredient. Because it truly did add a lot of great flavor.

To make this salad into a meal, I served it on a lightly grilled whole wheat wrap, layered with watercress and topped with avocado. I felt so healthy eating it, it made me think twice about this whole working out stuff.

4.05.2012

Yakisoba with Korean Beef and Vegetables

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Yakisoba noodles are similar to ramen in texture and both are made of wheat flour. Like my ramen, I bought these at the Korean market in the refrigerated section, along with bulgogi marinated beef.

Not having a plan for dinner one evening, I pulled out a few vegetables, the noodles and beef and stir fried them all together. My yakisoba came with a little spice packet. I am apprehensive about spice packets, but gave this one a try just to make sure. And, I was pleasantly surprised. The dish came together beautifully. I was expecting this to be reminiscent of "Cup Noodles" but surprisingly there was no traces of that. Instead, the noodles, veggies and beef complimented each other, and we now have a new, quick meal to add to our  weeknight repertoire.

A New Look (plus the story behind it)

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When I first came up with the concept for this blog in May 2009, I was sitting in my mansion, the mansion where I worked that is, looking at the fireplace in my office and thinking to myself, why don't I have a mansion? Where is my rich husband? Why am I not a tobacco heiress?

Of course, I knew the answers to all those questions. But, working in a fancy French Chateau-style mansion can make you question your life choices, and most importantly, fire up domestic desires which you never knew you had. I often pictured myself strolling through the gardens, sipping lemonade on the balcony (the one facing west with the best view) and baking pie in the pie room (yes, this place had a room dedicated to pie!). Then my phone would ring, and I'd have to get back to saving lives or dealing with a demanding bride --- I had a rather complex job description.

The time I spent in the mansion, coupled with the time I spent in my little condo kitchen, formed my housewife fantasies. One day, I sat down, started a blog and created myself a logo. And what I mean by "created" is that I borrowed images I liked, and after minor alterations, I had myself a logo! Although my Photoshop skills were rudimentary at that time, the lady with the shopping cart served me well. Yet I knew someday, someone might take offense to my borrowing of images from the internet, and I should probably change it, eventually.

Eventually happened to be several months ago, when I decided to tackle this logo redesign. I thought about it for a good month. I had some initial ideas, but needed the help of a professional, and an artist. And I knew just the artist to turn to.

My friend Sarah Tillman (this is a first EVER name drop on Housewife Fantasies, historic!) makes amazing prints and paintings. Her slogan used to be, "I can do that better and cheaper," referring to the reproductions people asked her to paint. So, on February 8, I wrote Tillman an email:

KK: Hey, so I've been wanting to redo my blog logo (since I kind of stole the one I now have, oops).  I was thinking of doing a print, but can't really draw. Would you consider sketching something for me, and I can carve it? Eh eh?

Here's some ideas I have, mostly having to do with aprons, but I'm open to different images that might convey housewifey things.

... and her response

ST: I'm in training for the next two days but I'm sure I can do whatever you want me to do.  I'd be happy to :)

There are a few things you might have picked up from the interaction above:
1) I am a visionary! And can give clear, inspiring direction.
2) Tillman loves making art for me.
2) Yes, February 8 was nearly two months ago.

Maybe it was wrong for me to assume (which I did because Tillman mentioned her inability to work on the logo for two days), that after the two days, work on my logo would begin. I assumed, that in a week's time, I'd be writing a post just like this, without this part, announcing my great new logo. For I had no doubts it would be great. My house walls are proof of Tillman's artistic abilities. But, a week went by, and nothing. I decided it was time for a quick, no pressure, breezy check-in. She was after-all doing this pro-bono.

me: so when can you work on a logo for me
Sarah: i can maybe work on it over the weekend
me: ok

Seriously, could that have been more breezy? Another few weeks, and more nothing. Not even a status update, so I decided to be a bit more assertive, and still light and funny.

me: where is my logo? have you been too busy dating?
Sarah: haha
  no I've been too busy working
  but now I'm leaving!
  i have to go order a cake for a wedding shower before I go to book club
me: but what about me?
Sarah: well you should chat me before 5?

I assumed that meant she went home to work on it, and left it alone for another couple of weeks. But then came late March, and there was still no logo conversations taking place, so I made yet another outreach effort.

me: tillman
  where is my logo?
Sarah: yes
  dammit karine
  quit bossing me!

Artists! At this point, I decided it might be time to start recruiting another artist friend.  Someone local I can visit if they should piss me off, but I gave myself a few more days, patiently hoping lazy Tillman (that is her official nickname) would get to work. And what do you know, on March 26, I get this chat:

Sarah: doing your logo tonight!
  starting it anyways :)
me: sweet
  i can't wait

Did you see that? Despite waiting for seven weeks, I was still nice, still breezy. Because I wasn't paying her, I decided that yelling would probably not be effective. And a week later, just when my patience was running low yet again, I received my logo. I opened the file, and smiled. It was just what I had imagined, but better. The image captured the lazy fantasy feel I had in mind, it incorporated an apron like I asked, and it was pretty darn cute. That Tillman! She might be slow, but she was really an artist, and a good one! I liked this logo so much, I decided to scratch the idea of making a print (at least for the time being, I didn't want to wait another month) and added color in Photoshop instead.

So here we are folks, a Housewife Fantasies original! In time for the blog's three-year anniversary. Hope you all like it as much as I do.

4.02.2012

The Notebook Brunch: Starring the Turkey Taco Salad

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You might recall, recently I met and fell in love with Mr. Tom Welling. I wasn't really sure what to do to make things better. Even though I'm married and all, I couldn't help but picture myself in Tom's arms and our future children wearing Superman jammies. Yet, I knew something had to be done before I become a full-fledged stalker. And so I decided the best way to get over my new-found love is to fall in love with someone else. Like Ryan Gosling. And during the past few weeks, I've been on a Ryan Gosling movie spree.

I watched three RG movies in two weeks, until finally there was nothing left.  Except The Notebook. I recall when this movie came out. People, and I mean the ladies, swooned over it. That was enough to keep me away. Until last week. Last week, I decided to see what all the fuss is about. It can't be that bad. People told me it was good. I was ready to believe. And support my man.

I knew that the only proper way to screen this girlie movie was to host a girlie brunch. On the menu: Turkey Taco Salads with Mango Salsa. The only other time I had made these salads was for a girls dinner six years ago, so it had been a while. But a taco salad is not brain surgery, no recipe required, you can use what you want, layering your ingredients. Now what you might want a recipe for, is the delicious and refreshing mango salsa. It was sweet, spicy and crunchy. It was actually so good, it made a mango-salsa-lover out of the only mango-salsa-hater in the group. If you're not a mango salsa lover, don't be quick to judge. I've included this original recipe below. Give it a try.

Back to the salad. My layers, from bottom on up were:
- a tortilla, baked for about 10 or so minutes in round pyrex for that classic bowl shape, see photo below
- beans, I used a one can of refried and one of pinto, mixed together, heated and seasoned with salt and pepper
- ground turkey, I seasoned the meat with garlic, onion powder, salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, chili powder and oregano. Then, when almost cooked, I decided to add some tomato paste and El Pato sauce
- iceberg lettuce, shredded
- avocado dressing, a brunch contribution from my lovely friend
- mango salsa
- queso fresco, optional

On the drink menu -- first up, Bloody Mary's. Second in line, champagne, to go along with the delicious chocolate-covered strawberries another friend brought.

The movie? Well, it had Ryan Gosling in it, that's for sure. And, even though I tried to like it, I didn't. Sorry to all the Notebookers out there, it's just not my style. But, the brunch was delicious, the company hilarious, and I did feel a little less in love with Tom Welling by the end of the afternoon. I call that a success.
Having a blast! It's because they are almost done with their drinks. And I've yet to start.
Mango Salsa
Serves 4-6

2 ripe mangos, peeled, pits removed and diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced fine
handful of cilantro, chopped
half of a red onion, diced
2 tablespoons of pickled red onion, diced (if you don't have some around, add more fresh red onion)
1 rib of celery, diced
juice of two limes
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt (I used fancy lava rock salt) and pepper to taste

1) Chop all your ingredients and combine! 
2) Let sit in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. The lime juice will marinade the mango nicely.