Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Catching Up with Pioneer Woman

I haven't cooked from A Year of Holidays in a while, primarily because most of the recipes don't click with my post-holidays detox. However, I do have a few to catch up on.

One day before Christmas, I brought Eight-Layer Dip to a friend's house (pg 43, from the The Big Game section. I like that Ree counts the Super Bowl as a holiday. Ha!) The entire event provided me with a perfect example of my current refrain of "I'M OVER NAPLES!"

My friend lives on a main drag in Pozzuoli (birthplace of Sophia Loren). We foolishly scheduled a date at 1:00 on a Sunday. I can never find parking in Pozzuoli on Sundays, because all the Italians (and I mean ALL of them) go out to lunch, unless they're going to Mama's. I drove three rounds of the area, which took my 45 minutes because of car and pedestrian traffic, and found a spot in a lot just when I was about to give up. In the lot I normally park in, you don't have to pay on Sundays. I couldn't determine if I had to pay based upon the sign in this lot. It said it was free on "festivi and pre-festivi." So that's on holidays. And pre-holidays??? I don't know. I assume that means the day before a holiday? I pretty much decided that I did have to pay, even though no one else was. I carefully formed a question in my head and asked a man who was in the lot, and after quite a bit of me not knowing what he was saying, he did gesture to the ticket machine and say "bigliette", which means "ticket." I took that to mean that I did need a ticket.

I, of course, had no change, because in most lots, you don't have to pay on Sundays. I went to the restaurant next door and asked if they could break my 20. No. I went across the street and bought a bottle of water. The cashier gave me the look of death, exhaled disgustedly, and gave me my change. They're very territorial regarding their coins here, to the point where I've had people refuse to sell things to me if I try to pay with a bill. And yet, the ATMs distribute 50s. And around and around we go...

Back to the ticket machine. Balancing my 8 layer dip on my knee, I bought my ticket for a few hours. The man I'd spoken with earlier walked up to me. I finally figured out he was saying that he was going to watch my car and make sure it wasn't broken in to. That's a thing, here. You really have no choice in the matter. If you don't pay them a few euro, they'll break your windows next time they see your car. Yay, Italy! Standard procedure is that you pay them when you return to your car and see that it's safe and sound. This guy was demanding money from me up front. I was like, "Dude, I just used all my change to get my ticket," except I don't know how to say that, so I just kept saying, "Bigliette!" like an idiot. Also, like an idiot, I still had the 15 euro in bills that the cashier had given me clutched in my hand (which was also gripping my long, heavy Pyrex tray).
Dude plucked a 5 euro bill out of my hand and walked away. Simultaneously, I realize that my legs were wet. I looked down. The tomatoes had watered down the sour cream, and the entire front of my body was splattered with white water. Jacket, legs, and shoes were soaked. I stormed down Via Napoli, cursing Naples under my breath long after I reached my friend's house. It was two months ago, and I still get pissed off when I think about it.

For what it's worth, my car was unharmed when I returned to it.

The dip was tasty, but the memory of it will always be wrapped up in residual aggravation. We ate 3/4 of a tray while watching The Bourne Identity. That's a lot of refried beans for two girls.

Conclusion: Liked it, but I might need therapy before I can make it again. 

Friends invited us over for dinner shortly before Christmas. I made Spreads (pg 312 of the Christmas section) because they looked quick and easy, and don't involve nuts, which one of her sons is allergic to. It's a basic shortbread type cookie that is spread out on a baking sheet. Right before they're ready, sprinkle chocolate chips on top and bake for another minute. These are supposed to get melty, and then you spread them out so they ice the cookies.
These are the best looking ones, and they're not that great. Most were a wreck.
Yeah. Umm. This didn't work. At all. Maybe my chocolate chips were old or something, but they didn't become spreadable. They were grainy and solid. I kept leaving them in longer and longer, hoping that they'd start to melt. Didn't happen. All I accomplished was overcooking the cookie dough, which, frankly, wasn't particularly delicious.

They looked horrendous, and tasted pretty bad, too. I couldn't bring them to dinner. I had to make a quick cake (Nigella's olive oil chocolate cake) to replace them. The cake was delicious.

Conclusion: Hated them.

For dinner one night, I made Grilled Chicken Skewers (pg 358, the New Years Eve section). This is basically chicken satay. I forgot how much I love chicken satay. This sauce was sweeter than I prefer, but it definitely satisfied the satay craving. I'd cut back on the honey next time. I was sure Charlie would like this. Nope.
Conclusion: Liked it.

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