Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The definition of a vegetarian

The Perfect Housewife might shank the next person who writes a recipe that includes chicken broth or seafood and labels it vegetarian.

A vegetarian does not eat poultry, red meat or seafood. That is why they are called vegetarians. A person who eats seafood, but no poultry or red meat is called a pescetarian. A person who eats poultry, but no red meat or seafood is called a pollo-vegetarian.

This distinction is an important one, but sadly one that not many people know about. Luckily for me, my friends and family know that, as a vegetarian, I do not eat seafood or poultry. They saved me from stomach distress many times because of this knowledge. However, writers of many cookbooks and vegetarian recipes don't seem to understand the difference, and contribute to the myth that real vegetarians eat poultry or seafood.

It is extremely frustrating to be told that the "vegetarian" soup on the menu at a restaurant actually contains chicken broth, and that I have to wait for the second course to eat because none of the first course options will suit my needs. And yes, it is a need. I have been a vegetarian for more than twenty years now, and thus I cannot digest an animal product that I have either never been exposed to (red meat) or haven't been exposed to in nearly two decades (chicken, after my brother told me the chicken nugget was a giant Tator Tot when I was 11.)

It's even worse when it's something cooked in another person's home. I always feel that declining to eat something that has been prepared for me is rude, and I don't want to offend someone by refusing to eat their cooking. Unfortunately it's become more and more common for people to assume that vegetarians can and will eat poultry or seafood, and I firmly believe it's due to the pervasiveness of recipes labeled as vegetarian that are actually anything but.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Another chocolate and peanut butter experiment

As I've noted several times on this blog, I love chocolate, and I love peanut butter. I love it even more when they're together. And thus, I'm always on the lookout for something else that will put the two together. My last experiment was the chocolate peanut butter cheesecake I made for my brother's birthday in October. This time, I decided to make some candy.

Usually for Christmas I make some mint-chocolate cookies from a recipe that I discovered several years ago. This time, Mr. V and my brother suggested that I try something different (not that the original cookies weren't good of course.) So, I scoured the Internet looking for something with my favourite peanut butter and chocolate.

I found these. We had everything in our pantry, so I set out the ingredients and set to work last week. The recipe is not complicated, but I found it to be very, very time-consuming, and messy. After rolling a few of the treats, my hands were sticky and covered in chocolate, and the counter was full of bowls and cookie sheets. It took about an hour and a half from start to finish, and then they hung out in the fridge overnight.

However, the end result was absolutely, one hundred percent delicious. Though they were definitely the most time-consuming of my baking this past week, they were worth it. My in-laws gobbled them up, and my family polished off their share handily as well. I will definitely be making them again.

The downside to Christmas? The huge mess in my apartment. We didn't have time yesterday to put our gifts away, so they are now sitting in our den waiting for us to have time to find a place for them. We were very lucky this year, and our families and friends were very generous with what they gave us.

Now the Perfect Housewife has to get off her butt and put everything away. The pile of laundry in our room is yelling at me, the carpets need to be vacuumed since there are scraps of paper all over it from my wrapping party last week, the floors need to be washed, and the stove and kitchen countertops need to be cleaned. Taking a week off from housework is plainly never a good idea.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The problems with dieting

Mr. V and I will be heading to Mexico in April for our honeymoon, and thus, I have returned to my strict calorie-counting ways. While dieting is never enjoyable, it's proving to be more of a challenge than it used to be.

This entire blog is devoted to becoming the best "housewife" I can possibly be, and in general that includes cooking delicious meals for my husband. Though it is always good to be watching what you eat, no matter who you are, I don't want to be passing on my food issues to those I am cooking for. Mr. V and I have been eating delicious food since a couple weeks after our wedding, and it's been amazing. However, I couldn't even begin to count the calories in some of the food I've been making in the last few months. Though I follow the recipe from beginning to end the first time, I've then been deviating and improving on everything I've tried, if it's deemed worth making a second time. This makes calorie-counting rough.

I don't want to shut down the cooking side of my Perfect Housewife Project until May when we return from our honeymoon, but nor do I want to continue on my path of eating tons of delicious food without even thinking about what goes in my mouth. I was not born with a metabolism fast enough to negate everything I eat, and though I enjoy the gym, I don't want to live there either.

Ah the conundrum of The Perfect Housewife. It is now my project to find healthy, delicious recipes where I can count the calories, but also not to deprive my husband and others I cook for. Food is an important part of our lives in that we enjoy going out for dinner with friends or having people over to spend time with us. I also live for baking, and I would die if I could never bake again. But unfortunately life is no longer simple enough just to eat, drink and be merry.

Even at Christmas.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Perfect Housewife and the No Good Really Bad Couple of Weeks

Well, maybe not so bad. I've had worse certainly, but these past few weeks have been a doozy.

Though I have accomplished much (including my entrance to the butcher shop and learning a new trick to cutting onions without crying from an online friend), it's also been a really rough few weeks. After my trip to the butcher shop on Remembrance Day, I came down with the flu bug from hell, which left me working from home for an entire week and completely isolated. Mr. V's cold returned, meaning that neither of us were up to anything more than sleeping and eating Jello for nearly a week.

That went away, but it left me weak as a ragdoll and exhausted. I'm still exhausted, and the flu has been gone for over a week now.

This exhaustion has curtailed my hot yoga and turned me into a weakling at the gym. Instead of spending 45 minutes on cardio, I was able to make it only 15 before having to get off the elliptical before I fainted. This, as I'm sure you can understand, feels like a failure. I worked very, very hard before our wedding to get up every morning and hit the gym before work, and now, four months on, I'm too exhausted in the mornings to do much more than hit the snooze button. I assume some of this is due to the cold, wet weather we are having, but it's also just a general feeling of malaise. I want to go to the gym, I really do. But I'm just too exhausted to go.

Thus far, this week has not been much better. This morning I hit snooze until it was too late to hit the gym. I am determined that tomorrow will be a better day, even if I have to put my alarm clock on the other side of the room to force me to get out of bed. If I don't go to the gym before work, I don't get to eat dinner tomorrow night until I go for a run, in the rain. That should be punishment enough for anyone, let alone The Perfect Housewife in training.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wherein a vegetarian visits a butcher shop

Yes, you read that right. I, a life-long vegetarian, went to a butcher shop last week to purchase sausages for my husband, who wanted some to add to pasta I was making for dinner.

It was my own fault for volunteering to run across the street and buy some groceries for dinner, as well as some other household items. As I was leaving to hit the farm market, Mr V. asked if I would pick up some lamb sausages. I was worried, to put it mildly.

The farm market was easy and normal. Then, I entered the butcher shop, and immediately wanted to turn around. Not only was I completely out of my element, the huge array of meat products was way too overwhelming to me. The man at the counter may or may not have immediately noticed I was paralyzed in the doorway like a frightened rabbit.

He asked if he could help me, so I told him what I wanted, and that I was a vegetarian and thus completely confused by everything in the shop. He laughed, packed up the sausages, and let me pay for them without further comment.

Thus, a vegetarian made her first foray into a butcher shop. My husband better appreciate it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The hot yoga experiment

Well, I finally got my kitchen back, with its brand-new light fixtures and a freshly painted ceiling. Ah, bliss once again falls over the land.

However, I haven't been using it much as of late. It was a busy week last week, so we didn't end up sitting at home much. Despite this, I am quite proud of the state of my home. The office is being cleaned out this weekend (thank the deity of your choice for long weekends), and then I will finally have the giant bookcase out of my living room.

Another facet of being the Perfect Housewife is to take good care of yourself, through good grooming and exercise. I've been a horseback rider for nearly 13 years now, but last week I decided to try yoga. Not only yoga, but hot yoga.

Now, I've been doing yoga on and off for awhile and I love it. However, I was terrified by the prospect of doing it in a room heated to 40 degrees, in front of people who have been doing yoga for years. Because of horseback riding and a genetic predisposition to being completely inflexible, I have a ridiculous lack of flexibility in my legs. My back is the most flexible thing on the planet, but tight hamstrings (honed by controlling a large pinto) prevent me from reaching my toes without bending my knees, and contribute to occasional out-of-control back spasms.

Thus, I headed off to my first hot yoga class with trepidation last week.

Yes, it was hot. Yes, it was hard. And yes, many of the people in the class were way more flexible than me. But honestly? I loved it. I came out drenched in sweat, but calm and happy. Exhausted and thirsty, but happy.

To make sure it wasn't just a one-off, I tried it again earlier this week. Again, I returned home calm, happy and high on endorphins. I think I've found something new and exciting, and I plan to return to class a few more times before my experimental pass runs out next Wednesday. After that, it will be a weekly treat to myself. Perhaps I won't get more flexible, but at least for an hour I can turn my brain off and just breathe.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The quest for enlightenment

The Perfect Housewife hasn't been around in the past few days. Why you ask? She has no kitchen.

Mr. V "accidentally" (this is up for debate) broke the kitchen light a few days ago, and thus he was quite excited to get to replace it. I'm not too familiar with how long it takes to renovate things, so I was expecting it would take him about a day, so I would only be without a kitchen for one meal.

Alas, it is not to be. We're now on day three, and still no kitchen for the perfect housewife. Instead, my kitchen is draped with plastic like Dexter's kill room, and I'm not exactly sure when I will be able to get back in it. Luckily for us my parents live close by, so we've been mooching off of them for the past couple days.

I live in hope that my kitchen will return tomorrow, but there are no guarantees. My next project, when I get my kitchen back, is the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Damn all the onions

I said at the start of this project that I wanted to learn how to chop an onion quickly like Gordon Ramsay. I have begun to learn, but I'm still definitely not as quick as regular chef. I will keep trying though.

However, the problem with chopping all these onions is that I apparently haven't yet taught my tear ducts to stop crying. Today, while making vegetable wraps for dinner, I literally had tears rolling down my face. It doesn't always happen, but it's very annoying when it does. There has to be a way to not weep while chopping onions, otherwise there'd be chefs sobbing in every kitchen.

In other Housewife news, I finally have a clean-ish house. On Friday, I spent the afternoon reorganizing our big cabinet to put away some of our wedding gifts. Prior to that there were piles of boxed bowls and such everywhere; now the only things left to put away are some charger plates and our nice china place settings. I'm aiming to get that all done this weekend, but I'm not completely certain it will work out as planned.

Unfortunately our office area is still a rubbish tip. Because of this, we have three big boxes in our living room that hold the pieces of a bookshelf, and it's starting to wear on me. However, we aren't able to build the bookshelf until we clean out the office completely. A homeowner's work is never done I guess.

Recently I've hit a wall in the recipe-trying arena. I'm still finding some recipes that look great, but they just seem like a lot more work than I'd hoped for. On Friday and Saturday it's not so bad since I'm not at work, but every other night it just seems to be too much by the time I get home. If we didn't live across the street from a grocery store, I don't think we'd be eating at all some nights.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Keeping everyone else's life perfect

Today, I am thinking about more than being the Perfect Housewife. I am attempting to become the best woman I can possibly be, and sometimes this spills over into my job as a journalist. It is my job to tell you what you need to know, to educate you in current events, and to make sure you don't miss a thing.

This week, it was also my job to keep things from readers. Those who live in Canada cannot have escaped the trial of (now-stripped of his rank) Colonel Russell Williams, the former commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario. On Monday, he pleaded guilty to 82 fetish break-and-enters, the rapes of two women, and the murders of two more.

The trial lasted for four days, ending with his sentencing yesterday, to two concurrent life sentences with no possibility for parole for 25 years. He is now locked up in Kingston Penitentiary in Ontario, the same prison that currently houses Paul Bernardo and used to hold Clifford Olson.

Though much shorter, the trial brought back echoes in my mind of the Robert Pickton trial, which I attended for nearly a year, used as a basis for my journalism honours thesis, and wrote about almost-daily.

During both trials, photos and video were presented to the court. Some of these photos were then released to the media, including photos of the pig farm (Pickton) and the hundreds of items of lingerie stolen during break-and-enters (often modeled by Williams). However, many were not, for which the entire world should be grateful.

Thus, it was up to the editors and reporters of every newspaper what they would write about and print. This week, the details flowing out of Ontario were gruesome, depraved and sadistic. They were horrifying, disgusting, and at times extremely heart-breaking.

I love my job, I do. I have wanted to be a crime reporter since I was in first year journalism school and I was sent on a ride-along with the Vancouver Police. But there are weeks, and trials, that are extremely hard to take. The trial of Russell Williams was one of these trials.

It is never easy to be a crime journalist. It is fascinating, rewarding and eye-opening, but it is never easy. It is our job to tell you what you need to know without horrifying you. It is also our job to make sure you know the magnitude of the crimes committed.

It is a very fine line, and it can be wearing sometimes. However, I went into journalism knowing what I was getting into, and I do not regret the decision. Most people who read the newspaper do not realize what went into the story they are reading, and thus, this post is born.

When you read that news story about the murderer, the rapist, the abuser, remember that someone wrote that piece. Remember that someone had to read the court transcripts, interview the victim's family, and look at many, many photos. Remember that someone listened the words of a parent who has lost their child, a brother who has lost his sibling, or a friend who has lost their confidante.

I read those horrific details so that you don't have to. I look at those photos so that I can choose the one least likely to hurt you. I listen to those people so that I can write the best story, the story that will show you the human face of this crime.

And sometimes at the end of the day, I cry at what I have heard. Remember that next time you don't like how something has been portrayed in the media. A real person wrote that story, a person who lives a life very much like yours. I am not a monster looking for the most sensational angle. I do not live to hurt other people, or profit from the pain of others.

My job is to keep you informed, up-to-date and knowledgeable. But sometimes, it is also my job to keep details from you that you just don't need to know, to keep you innocent of the pain that someone else has wrought upon another human being. Sometimes, it's my job to keep everyone else's life perfect.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A real cream of mushroom soup

Finally! Food and Wine has come through for me once more!

You may remember my obsession with the perfect homemade cream of mushroom soup after my fond memories of my cousins in Ireland. I tried a few weeks back with a regular mushroom soup, but had no luck when it turned out that I apparently can't read recipes, and it was just mushrooms instead of the all important CREAM part. Still delicious, but not what I was looking for.

However, I have finally done it. Though this soup did not turn out perfectly, it was the closest I have ever come, and it was way better than any tinned or boxed soup I have ever tried. The one thing keeping it from perfection was that it was a lot chunkier than I had hoped for, and there wasn't quite enough broth. Both of these issues are easy to fix though, with the addition of more vegetable broth and perhaps sticking the soup in a blender instead of the food processor.

Either way an excellent addition to my recipe book, and certainly something I will try again.

Tomorrow, I attempt a panini. I may or may not be mildly terrified.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A treatise on Italian night

I was so looking forward to my night of Italian deliciousness, and it didn't turn out as planned. My parents often told me when I was a kid that I should have been born Italian instead of Irish, just because of my obsession with Italian food.

Obviously, I've made many different types of pasta before, including during this project. But I have never attempted to make anything other than pasta, so I decided to try my favourite Italian appetizer, tomato bruschetta. The recipe looked fairly easy, so I figured all would be well.

I didn't count on getting lip from my husband about the fact that sourdough bread is not Italian. I had originally planned to ignore the edict in the recipe about sourdough bread and buy a French baguette instead, but I am a sourdough bread addict so when I actually found sourdough rolls at the grocery store, I was deliriously happy.

Amazingly they fit in the toaster, but unfortunately I wasn't paying as much attention as I should have been, and they ended up much harder and crispier than I had planned. Mr. V had no problem with this, but I'm not a fan of hard, crispy bread, so it didn't turn out quite like I had hoped. We did however grate some provolone cheese over top of the tomatoes, which was delicious. Next time, I pay more attention to the bread. I would also try roasting some more veggies to put on top as well, since it was a bit plain. It was a good first try though I suppose.

The pasta was a definite disappointment though. The recipe, for fettucine alla boscaiola (mushroom and tomato sauce) came from another one of my cookbooks, and the picture looked delicious. Unfortunately, the sauce was way too watery and it ended up looking like fettucine soup. A dose of cheese helped a bit, but there was still way too much liquid. The sauce was still tasty despite the liquid, but next time I would definitely add more vegetables (the only veggie in the sauce being onions) to give it substance, and ignore the instruction to add the liquid from two cans of whole tomatoes. The tomatoes themselves gave off quite enough liquid themselves.

So alas, Italian night was decidedly not a success. Hopefully tonight's menu, whatever it is, will be better.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Return of the phyllo pastry

Tonight, I decided to try something different. When Mr. V and I moved in together, I brought a ton of cookbooks into the house. I placed them in our bookshelf, and then forgot about them for the most part. Instead, I depended on Mr. V to help me cook, or got ideas from websites, magazines or T.V.

So, last night I pulled out my pile of cookbooks, and we went through them to find a recipe for dinner tonight. We ended up choosing a mushroom and ricotta tart, made with phyllo dough. We still have phyllo left over from my experiment with mushrooms and asiago en croute, so that was a good start.

Now, I don't eat eggs. Yes, I'll eat a cake or something that uses them as a hidden ingredient, but I don't like the taste of eggs on their own. This recipe worried me a bit, because in this case the eggs are really front and centre. Granted they were mixed with ricotta cheese and sour cream, but as I beat everything together, it looked much more egg-y than I was comfortable with.

However, it was delicious. The biggest problem? There wasn't enough of it. Between Mr. V and I, the tart disappeared quickly (it was a small tart in the first place) and he was still hungry. He ended up zapping a frozen pasta meal, so I guess that was a Perfect Housewife fail.

Bad housewife, bad! You did not feed your husband properly!

Tomorrow is going to be an Italian night, with tomato bruschetta for an appetizer, and then some spaghetti with mushroom sauce for dinner.

I will also (finally!) be cleaning my house. At this point, the only clean room in the house is our den, and that's just unacceptable in the Perfect Housewife universe.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The chocolate peanut butter experiment

Chocolate and peanut butter is the best combination ever invented. Seriously.

Thus, I was extremely happy when my brother asked for a peanut butter cheesecake for his birthday, which also coincided with Thanksgiving. After at least an hour of searching my cake cookbooks and the Internet, I discovered this recipe. Ah, perfection!

I chose not to make my own cookies for the crust, since that would have taken far more time than I had. So, I used graham crackers that we reduced to crumbs in the food processor and then mixed with butter. I chilled it overnight, and then made the cheesecake itself on Saturday. Though it looked complicated, it didn't end up being as tough as I thought it would be. I also didn't include the peanut butter patties because I felt it would be peanut-buttery enough without them. I may try to make them next time though.

After being chilled overnight again, I mixed the ganache and poured it over the top before chilling it for the last time.

The cheesecake was amazing. Absolutely, one hundred percent, wonderful. It was a hit at Thanksgiving dinner, and by the end of the next day, it was completely gone. Definitely a recipe for me to make again.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A tale of an internal struggle

This entire project has been to make me into the Perfect Housewife, who cooks, cleans and takes care of her handsome, hard-working husband. By definition, The Perfect Housewife is a throwback to a time when women were the only ones who took care of the house, and the men hunted and gathered in order to keep the wife in the house instead of out in the real world.

That definition is in contrast with how I actually want to live my life. I still go to work five days a week, and I expect people to help me with cleanup if I am the one who cooks, and vice versa. I don't want to be the woman who works all day then comes home to cook and tidy while the man of the house sits and watches TV. However, I often struggle with housewife guilt, in that I want people to admire that I do hold a job while having the perfect house and cooking delicious food. It can be tough sometimes.

This internal struggle came to a head during Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws. When Mr. V and I arrived, his mother and sister-in-law were preparing dinner for the 25ish family members who would be descending upon the house. I, feeling guilty, stepped in to help while Mr. V helped his brother with the turkey. In the next three hours, the boys sat and supervised the deep-frying turkey while I, my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law cooked a ham, steamed vegetables, roasted potatoes, made pots of rice and stuffing, and laid out the table. We then ferried food down the stairs once people began arriving.

After dinner, our little female cast was joined by my aunt-in-law and two cousins-in-law. We ferried platters back up the stairs, washed, dried and put away dishes and leftovers. The men in the family watched the hockey game, and sat around and had some drinks.

Herein lies my dilemma. It was fun to be in the kitchen with the women, catching up on family gossip and chatting. However, it was hard to walk past the living room and see the men sitting there with their beers while we carried, washed and stored food before then carrying more platters full of food (dessert this time) down the stairs again.

While I understand it's a habit that's been long-ingrained in the family, it was tough to swallow. I don't mind cooking and cleaning up (obviously, look at this project), but it felt like there was no reciprocation. The men didn't clean up, they didn't carry things, they didn't put things away. They sat on the couches and watched a hockey game.

I worry that this project is just reinforcing the stereotype that a woman's place is in the kitchen. I love cooking, I love taking care of my home, and I love my husband. What I don't love is the feeling of being nothing more than a housekeeper, and I certainly felt that over the weekend.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Crazy bastard

As I said yesterday, I tried Fusilli alla Crazy Bastard last night. I've mentioned on this blog before that I love Mario Batali, so I was obviously excited to try this recipe, apparently inspired by him.

According to Mr. V, this was the best pasta I have ever made. Pasta is my favourite food, so it's always been something that I want to perfect, and I've attempted many a recipe in our nearly three-year relationship. Apparently this was the closest I've ever gotten to perfection.

I did find that the tomatoes didn't roast as much as I would have liked them to. I was a bit nervous by the hissing and popping sounds coming out of my oven, so I probably pulled them out a bit earlier than I should have. They were delicious (I love cherry tomatoes), but they didn't have the taste I was expecting. The sauce was also a bit thicker than I'd have liked, but that was due to the goat cheese I'm sure. Next time I would add more tomatoes to give it a bit more tomato flavour, and hopefully also give it a bit more liquid.

I will definitely make this again, and I owe another debt of gratitude to Mr. Batali.

I now enter the longest, most family-full weekend. I am in charge of two batches of spinach and artichoke dip (one for each family dinner), and two cakes, including the peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake I mentioned earlier this week.

I've definitely fallen down on my Perfect Housewife duties this week though, in that our house needs to be vacuumed and dusted, and our kitchen floor is pretty gross. Hopefully I will have a bit of time to do at least one of those things on Monday after work; time to put my soul in the hands of the domestic goddesses again.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The results

As I noted on Tuesday, I am on the quest for the perfect mushroom soup recipe. Last night, I tried this one from Food and Wine Magazine. While it was not a cream of mushroom soup (which I didn't pay attention to when I was skimming the recipe), it was still delicious.

However, making it pointed out some deficiencies in my kitchen. The recipe calls for coarsely grated potatoes, which seem easy enough until you realize that you don't have a coarse grater. I have a small grater that I've used for grating fruit zest and cheese for pasta, but there was no way it was going to work on a potato.

So, Mr. V very nicely chopped up the potato for me. It was delicious, but chunks of potato don't really dissolve like the recipe called for. A small setback, but one nonetheless.

Despite the small issue of the non-grated potato, the recipe was amazing. I took the leftovers for lunch today, and several people stopped by my office to tell me how good it smelled.

Tonight's dinner? Fusilli alla Crazy Bastard, which I'm making just because I love the name.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My next experiment

I have an all-abiding love for cream of mushroom soup, which is something I picked up several years ago while visiting my family in Ireland. There, I spent an afternoon picking wild mushrooms out of my cousin's yard, and carrying them home to be made into the best wild mushroom soup I have ever tasted. Sadly my cousin was killed two months later, and his house no longer belongs to the family.

Since my visit, I've bought the boxed soups in a vain attempt to taste that wonderful flavour again (and maybe remember the fun I had that afternoon.) Of course, it has thus far never been matched. So, tomorrow evening I am going to attempt to make wild mushroom and potato soup from a recipe on Food and Wine Magazine's website. This is the first time I've actually been nervous about trying a recipe, for reasons that even I am not quite sure. Perhaps it's because this soup has a lot to live up, or perhaps it's just the memories that I hope it will bring.

Though it's obviously not going to be the mushroom soup I remember, I hope it will be equally delicious.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A bit of Batali, and other deliciousness

For the past several years, I've been a huge fan of Food Network and pretty much anything cooking-related. One of my particular favourites is Iron Chef America, though I can rarely eat the things the chefs cook. My favourite chef from Iron Chef? Mr. Mario Batali.

Mr. V and I were lucky enough to eat at one of Batali's restaurants while we were in Vegas on our mini-honeymoon. It was, without exception, one of the best meals I have ever eaten. So, I was excited to find some recipes from him on the website of Food and Wine Magazine. I had planned to try this pasta early last week, but circumstances prevented it so I finally made it on Wednesday night. It was absolutely delicious, though making the sauce ended up being quite messy as the tomatoes are meant to be squeezed by hand just before putting them in the sauce. I may or may not still be cleaning up splatters all over my stove and walls. Without a doubt, I would make it again however. I didn't realize it would be quite as spicy as it was though. I don't have an issue with spice, but for those who are, leave out the hot chili flakes.

On Thursday night, I attempted to make vegetable yaki udon again. The noodles weren't an issue, but I blanked halfway through making the sauce and almost forgot the cooking sherry. Luckily Mr. V came home just as I was mixing up the sauce with the vegetables, and a small crisis was averted.

In yet another triumph in cooking (we're not going to discuss the state of our apartment right now, due to having a giant Ikea bookshelf box in the middle of our living room as we haven't had time to build it into our office yet), I discovered a new love for corn tortillas. Prior to this past weekend I had only seen hard corn taco shells, but never enjoyed them. We had plenty of vegetables, so we stopped by a local Mexican importer and picked up some soft corn tortillas, along with guacamole and red corn chips.

It was like a revelation. First off they're way healthier than the huge flour tortillas that I usually buy, and secondly they were delicious. Though I prefer the flour for my grilled veggie wraps, we will definitely be using corn tortillas for fajitas and tacos from now on.

Thanksgiving is now this coming weekend, and I will certainly be earning my Perfect Housewife stripes. Between the two family dinners (one Saturday, one Sunday) I will be making two batches of hot spinach and artichoke dip, one peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake (using this recipe) and a traditional chocolate cake. At least I don't have to cook dinner for either day!

Monday, September 27, 2010

A weekend wrapup

The Perfect Housewife isn't moving too quickly today after pulling a muscle in my back on Friday, but I've managed to get a lot done!

I was finally able to try out my asiago and mushroom en croute on Friday. The original recipe called for puff pastry, but the grocery store didn't have any so I bought phyllo dough instead. I am a huge fan of phyllo, especially when filled with spinach and cheese to make a Greek spanokopita (something else I plan to try to make at some point), so I figured it would work out pretty well. Now, I'm normally the type of person who follows the recipe to the letter on my first try, but in this case I wasn't going to visit every grocery store in the Lower Mainland trying to find frozen puff pastry. It obviously exists somewhere, but I have no idea where at this point.

Anyway, it did turn out well. When I make it again, I would add more vegetables to the filling, since I found it to be a bit thin. Also, a single large pie plate was too small for two servings, at least without something else to go with it. I think if we had some side dishes as well it would have been fine. Either way, it was delicious.

Along with the pastry, I decided to tackle two cookie recipes I found on Martha Stewart's website. The first one was called Outrageous Chocolate Cookies. Chocolate is a one of my weaknesses, and I'm always looking for new cookie recipes. They were indeed delicious, but a bit small. They were a hit the next day when my in-laws moved house though.

My second attempt at baking were Peanut Butter Surprises. They were much larger than the Outrageous Chocolate Cookies, but I found them to be a lot more work to make. The dough was extremely sticky and therefore hard to form, and it was tough to really hide the peanut butter as you're supposed to do. Nevertheless, they turned out amazingly, and were also devoured over the weekend.

My last contribution to the perfect household was vacuuming every room, and putting away the mountain of laundry that had taken up residence in our bedroom. Mr. V told me I had to make sure to post that I had even put away his laundry, including folding his t-shirts. I'm not quite sure how folding his shirts makes me the Perfect Housewife, but apparently it does.

Unfortunately my work schedule will keep me away from my apartment tomorrow night, so The Perfect Housewife will return on Wednesday.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The curse of the puff pastry

The Perfect Housewife needs to learn to read directions. I had all these grandiose plans to make Asiago Cheese and Mushrooms En Croute, which involves frozen puff pastry (because I haven't learned how to make it myself yet), with a cheese, onion and mushroom filling. On Monday, I was very proud of myself and went to the grocery store to buy a packet of frozen pastry. Excellent, yes?

Well, it's excellent when you actually read the box. Mr. V pulled the box of pastry out last night so he could help me roll it out onto a pie plate, and discovered that you have to thaw it for five hours before you can use it. Having no desire to eat dinner at 11 p.m., we ended up eating Subway sandwiches instead of a hopefully delicious pastry.

The puff pastry is now thawing, so I will try again tonight.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Trying something new

I have accomplished one of my goals! Well, sort of.

Yesterday Mr. V decided that he wanted toast and scrambled eggs for dinner. Now, toast I can do with my eyes closed thanks to the magic of the toaster. However, as I've mentioned before, I have no idea how to cook an egg, since I've never eaten one. So, that was my task for the evening. Surprisingly, it actually worked! Granted those are the easiest type of eggs to make, but at least it made a dent in my plan to learn how to cook eggs.

Today was my first foray into making something I've never made before. I'm a big carbohydrate fan, so anything noodle-related is good with me. As a new reader of Food and Wine Magazine, I decided their website was a good place to start looking for new recipes. Today, I decided to make Vegetarian Red Curry Noodles, which was basically dried Chinese noodles in a spicy sauce made with coconut milk, brown sugar, Hoisin sauce, chili peppers and vegetables. The original recipe called for fish sauce, which isn't vegetarian, so I substituted Hoisin instead.

As an aside, it's very frustrating when recipes call for fish and seafood-based ingredients in a vegetarian recipe. Vegetarians don't eat fish or seafood (those who do are called pescetarians), but it's a common misconception. I can't even count the number of times people have told me I'd be fine eating something, because it didn't have meat in it. When I questioned further, they'd often tell me it has fish stock or some such in it. *Sigh* Not quite vegetarian then.

Anyway, the noodles were quite good. I found them to be a bit too sweet however, so next time I make the recipe I will probably omit the brown sugar and see if that helps. I'd also add some more veggies, because it was a little lower on them than I'd prefer.

Tomorrow, I plan to make grilled portobello mushroom sandwiches with spinach and goat cheese. Delish!

Sunday, September 19, 2010


After over a week of plague in the V household, which unfortunately coincided with the beginning of The Perfect Housewife Project, I have finally done something other than cleaning the house (which, I must say, is very clean right now with the exception of the office.)

Last night, I decided that I was in need of something warm and comforting. It's been bucketing rain for three days, and it's rapidly becoming depressing. So, what did I make? Tomato, chickpea and wild mushroom soup with spinach!

It was delicious. I've made other variations of it before, but this was the first time I used wild mushrooms, which we purchased dried from a local grocery store. It gave a bit of a nuttier flavour than the regular button mushrooms that I usually use. I used some sage to flavour the broth, plus some garlic, onion and a bit of rotini pasta. All in all, I say it was a roaring success, and I was quite happy to have another bowl of it for lunch today.

Tomorrow will probably be leftovers, since I haven't done a good grocery shop since last week. However, I plan to return to cooking something delicious on Tuesday, though I'm not quite sure what it will be yet. I still haven't learned to cook an egg yet, so I'm hoping I can accomplish that next weekend.

My next Perfect Housewife task will be to learn to quickly chop an onion. My chef idol is Gordon Ramsay, and recently on MasterChef he taught the contestants how to perfectly dice an onion. My efforts last night while making the soup were sadly lacking, so I have set myself the task of chopping an onion like Gordon Ramsay as my newest mini-project. I'm sure we'll be up to our ears in my practice onions, but at least I can always put them to good use in spaghetti sauce, stir frys or veggie wraps.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The plague of death

Well, the plague of death has hit The Perfect Housewife. Sadly, this has curtailed my plans, though unlike Mr. V I don't plan on surviving on neon yellow chicken noodle soup until it goes away. Time to mainline Cold FX, vitamin C and orange juice until the virus exits my system.

In good housewife news, I have plenty of time to look up wonderful recipes and make plans for next week when my throat stops hurting and my back and head stops aching. I still plan to learn how to cook eggs, so we'll see how this weekend plays out.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cooking again

Finally, I cooked a real meal for Mr. V and myself that didn't include soup. It was kind of exciting. Granted he's still snorking up a lung, but at least he's able to eat my cooking again.

So, today I made vegetable yaki udon. I don't eat sushi (vegetarianism and all that), so that's been what I eat when we go out for sushi. It's basically stir fried vegetables with soy sauce and black bean sauce, mixed with udon noodles that we picked up at the local Asian supermarket (a plus of living in Vancouver, with its large Asian population.)

Mr. V has made it several times, but today I made him teach me as well. This whole project is about expanding my repetoire beyond vegetable soup and spaghetti, thus I'm going to pump everyone's brain about what they like to make. And of course, who better to start with than my own husband?

A slight issue that I have discovered en route to my Perfect Housewife designation is that I, like many people, am fairly careful about what I eat. I am unfortunately not blessed with a fast metabolism that allows me to eat whatever I want and never gain weight. However, a lot of the delicious food I have been perusing recipes for are not exactly low fat or low calorie. So, a new twist on my Perfect Housewife project will be to not only cook delicious food and keep the perfect household, but also to attempt to find lower calorie alternatives that don't lack the amazing taste that wonderful chefs are able to create every day.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Another small step

I've decided that a good first step to being a Perfect Housewife would be learning to cook an egg. I don't eat eggs (I use them in baking, but that's about it), so it's never something that I learned how to do. However, watching my husband make scrambled eggs yesterday morning, and after seeing Gordon Ramsay make contestants on MasterChef make him an egg dish as the first challenge, I figure it may be something worth knowing. I'm not sure what type to start with, but I'm thinking scrambled would be the best. Thus, this coming weekend I will force Mr. V to teach me to make scrambled eggs, and then I will force him to eat them as my guinea pig.

Domestic goddessery otherwise eluded me today, due to being at work, but I have high hopes for tomorrow when I'm in charge of cooking dinner. I'm hoping Mr. V will be over the worst of his cold and will be up for more than his chicken soup and apple sauce.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The plague

You know what? Being the Perfect Housewife is a lot easier when your husband, the recipient of this perfect housewife-ing (it's totally a word) is not hacking out a lung. It's very hard to clean the house when he's snorking, and it's extremely annoying when you've been perusing Food and Wine magazine and Martha Stewart Living for some delicious meals, and all he wants to eat is Campbell's chicken noodle soup. The bright yellow one in the box. This is not helping my goal Mr. V!

*Sigh*, anyway. I have a clean house! Well, that's not true (Perfect Housewives never lie, even on their blogs.) I have a clean living room, den and kitchen! I vacuumed, washed the glass sliding doors and cleaned the coffee and dining room tables! We're not going to discuss the state of our office, currently the home of a pile of wedding stuff that I have to find a home for, including my wedding tiara and possibly my veil. I suggested wearing my veil around the house as a testament to my skills as The Perfect Housewife, but I was overruled. Maybe in a couple more weeks when Mr. V is no longer coughing his lungs out and I can actually cook something other than neon yellow chicken noodle soup for him.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Day One

It's probably easier to start The Perfect Housewife Project on a day when you're not working as well, so today was that day! Granted it wasn't the best start, but c'est la vie.

Due to missing my husband's birthday a few weeks ago due to being at work, we went out for a belated birthday dinner at Glowbal in Yaletown. Delicious it was, but perfect housewife-wise, it was not. Somehow I don't think Martha Stewart would be giving me points for taking my husband out for dinner instead of preparing it with my own little hands. However, there's no way I could have made any of what he had, from the prime rib burger to the kobe meatball satay. The dessert on the other hand? Perhaps that is something I could look into. Lemon meringue cheesecake? It's an ambitious thought, but I will give it a shot at some point.

However, I was an excellent cleaning fairy today. Though I didn't bring out the vacuum, I did manage to clean up our living room, den and kitchen, which was a feat in itself. The only thing left is to Windex the coffee table and windows, which I plan to do tomorrow as well as vacuum and wash the linoleum floors.

Day one of my newest project is complete; it's a small step towards domestic goddessery, but as that old saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Today, my single step was tidying up, and that's way better than nothing at all.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

In the beginning...

I can't claim to be the type of woman who keeps her house clean with a smile and lays out a beautiful meal for her handsome husband every night as soon as he gets home from work. I can't even claim to have been that little girl obsessed with being the perfect homemaker from a young age, as my mother can certainly attest to.

However, I have discovered a new-found love for domestic perfection. It began when my now-husband and I moved into our first apartment, just over a year ago. Suddenly, a switch flipped in my head and I wanted to show everyone who ever doubted me that indeed, I could have a beautiful house and be the perfect hostess. That love for amazing food, perfect hostessing and a gorgeous home has only gotten stronger since our wedding, just six weeks ago.

That love has manifested itself in my new project, to become the perfect housewife. I am determined to teach myself to cook delicious food, become a great hostess who pulls off dinner parties without breaking (too much of) a sweat, and keeps a beautiful house (or apartment, in this case), all while keeping my job and social life.

While I am not a praying woman, I now put my fate in the hands of the patron saint (or domestic goddess) who deals with these types of things. Perhaps my faith would be better placed in the hands of Martha Stewart?