Monday, August 31, 2009

THE Ward Campout

DH and I went on the ward campout this weekend. Have you ever gone camping with a lot of native mexican and salvadorean families? Me either. And I learned some very important things:

1) Don't worry about being hungry. There is always food. Even if they tell you initially you will be on your own for breakfast, don't listen. Everybody will bring so much food that you won't even notice you forgot the pumpkin loaves and hard boiled eggs (that were supposed to be your breakfast) on the counter at home.

2) As Sarahi told me, there are no light meals in a Mexican home. All meals are big. There are no "light" breakfasts in Mexico.

3) Salsa. (or Chimol, did they call it? I googled it and it is the name for Salvadorean Salsa.) Araceli did nothing but make salsa. Always chopping, adding to the bowl. And we ate it. Yum. She cut up tomatoes, onion, jalapenos, cilantro, and squirted lime juice into it.

Then there was the other salsa. Hermana (sister) Garcia had roasted jalapenos and tomatoes at home, and brought them to camp. She also brought a very coarse mortar and pestle (very heavy). She peeled the jalapenos and tomatoes, and crushed them together. It was hot! My mom would have died coughing. Hermano (brother) Garcia claims that the salsa tastes better when crushed in the mortar, when compared to mixing or chopping in another bowl.

4) How to cut vegetables REALLY tiny. Now I am going to be the master chopper woman, after watching the pros.

5) The art of grilling. They sure can fire up a grill! At Mexican groceries, you can buy meat from the butcher sliced very thinly. It's thin enough that you can tear it apart into strips with your hands. I learned how to clean a grill too--you scrub it with an onion! Maybe everybody else knew that except me.

6) Grilled scallions (green onions). They grill them and then just chomp away at the white parts. As I was told repeatedly, onions are good for the lungs. Apparently.

7) I asked one woman if she uses tomatoes with every meal. It was met with a resounding YES! And she also uses pinto beans and perhaps (corn) tortillas with every meal too. Then I asked her if she eats the same thing every night. She laughed (of course, since it was a joke) and said no. I have yet to discover her cooking variations however. Hermana Garcia's kitchen hopefully will not be shrouded in mystery for too long.

8) They sure know how to party! DH and I were tired and dirty by the time we were done with breakfast (more like brunch). Everybody else was like, "Aw, you are going home? We were going to go party at the beach." And they were 20 years older than us!

The end.

Monday, August 24, 2009

happy birthday to me:)

I am now 26. (As of yesterday). Being an even number will put things in perspective I'm sure. Both my factors are prime too. 2*13. That's almost as good as being a real prime number.

Look at the lovely gingerbread upside down cake (made by DH!):

Notice there are only 19 candles (we ran out). I was ok turning 19 though. That year was not such a bad year. It is a prime number and everything.
Some of you may think I get too excited about the mathematical relationships of my age. Some of you might think it is nerdy and lame. But when I am 89 (and excited to be 89 because it is a prime number) you will be just plain old 89 with lots of health problems and nothing exciting going on.
So there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

the perfect bean: a journey

When it comes to burritos, I always get pinto. (You know, they always ask "black or pinto?" unless they haughtily assume you want black and don't ask). I like pinto beans. Black beans would be like invaders.

Except, there are things in which I think black beans are perfect. For example, something I have made increasingly often this summer is a black bean salad. It contains: 2-3 chopped tomatoes, a can of black beans (or 1 1/4 cup cooked black beans), 2-3 ears of corn (raw & fresh!, with the corn cut off the ear), a chopped avocado, and lots of chopped cilantro (like half cup of leaves maybe?). Reija was my inspiration on this recipe. She made a version of it for the dinner at which we met her beaux, Bob, this past summer. (And now she is engaged, how wonderful is that!)

I have all the sudden remembered I have two ears of corn in the fridge. Anyway. Back to beans. So, I decided that though 89 cents for a can of black beans is not highway robbery, much of the time I don't have a can of beans (alas, poor planning). This means I have to go to the "charming" but expensive corner store to get beans, and they charge 50 cents more for a can. So I decided my dependence on canned beans must end.

(As a side note, another reason for having black beans is because eventually I want to try to make this flourless chocolate cake that uses black beans.)

Attempt 1. Method: Soak all day, then boil.

This did not go well. The soaking went fine and I rinsed the beans afterward. Next, I boiled the beans. It took more than 2 hours of boiling for the beans to be fully cooked. They did not hold shape well either and were falling apart. This would be ok for a pureed dip, or inside a burrito (someone else's burrito perhaps), but NOT in a salad. Alas.

Attempt 2. Method: Overnight soak, then pressure cook.

See the pressure cooker. I just bought it last week. Before today, I had NEVER used a pressure cooker. (And didn't know how to use one either!)

Ok. After spending hours trying to figure out the directions (which were insufficient, and thus I turned to the web and youtube), I finally began my first use of the pressure cooker. In retrospect, I can say that I did not have the heat turned up high enough to build pressure up all the way. (The giant toggle thing in the center of the lid is supposed to shake around at the correct pressure, but there was steam coming out near the handle so I was confused!). Thus the beans weren't fully cooked after 10 minutes. (10 minutes, by the way, is what the pressure cooker directions say is necessary to cook soaked black beans. Only 10 minutes! Not 2 hours!). So I tried again, and this time waited longer, on the edge of my seat, and the pressure built up correctly. There is a little pin that pops up near the handle when it reaches pressure, I discovered. I think that also locks the lid in place so you can't open it until the pressure goes down.

So. After cooking (at correct pressure) 5 more minutes, the beans were cooked, but falling apart. The directions said for the beans to stay in tact, I should let pressure fall naturally (which is what I did) and not manually release the steam. This is what it looked like (below):

I think I added way too much water.

And this is how it looks strained and rinsed (below). The pressure cook method worked better than boiling, for sure. But I think if I'd used the pressure cooker correctly it would have turned out better. Next time, hopefully it will be perfect! (Must add salt next time too.)

P.S. There is one thing I can't figure out about my pressure cooker. There is a backup safety valve on the lid (the small attachment shown to the left on the lid in the picture). It screws on and off. Is it supposed to be screwed on tightly (or loosely)? The directions do not say...and I know not. Anyone know?

in the heat of battle

Also while visiting Utah, DH and I spent time athleticizing with his family.

Mrs. H sure can swing that club.

My brilliant balancing act.

Jonny watches thoughtfully from the sidelines.

Mr. H preps his golf ball. Let it be known he had 3 holes in one. Go Mr. H!

And now, tennis. Be aware that the temperature was in the upper 90s. If you are wondering why I am not in these tennis pictures, it's because I was sitting in the shade leaning against a fence like any sane person would under the circumstances.

I inherited nephew Cooper upon marriage to DH. He is so adorable.

Aw. DH is smiling at me.

Cooper's mom, Anita (below), turned 25 the same day my nephew Lucas turned 1. She and I are the same age now...but regrettably for only 3 weeks since I am soon to leave 5^2 for 2*13.

The H brothers battle it out. Notice the intense facial expressions!

Jonny is ready for anything DH can dish out.

This is Jonny's thoughtful moment before he pounces!

With the amount of golf and tennis going on this trip, you might be fooled into thinking that's how the H family spend most of their time. But don't be fooled. Trivial Pursuit, Guess-what-President-is-on-my-forehead (below), and newspaper Price is Right are just a few of the games known to have gripped the H family during our trip:)

Monday, August 17, 2009

fame in the eyes of many / love poem

DH and I met in an LDS singles ward. Stanford 1st, to be specific. I didn't like him. (But he liked me!) You might even say I avoided him. In fact, you might say a lot more things that I can't believe I ever felt/thought/did! A negative opinion, once formed, dies hard. Unless God smiles upon you, that is.

But then, 3 years later, we got married. How did this happen? Loathe to Love in 3 years flat. Our story has become famous (or infamous?) among the Stanford singles wards. People I don't know and have never talked to know about us (that is, never talked to until they walk up to me at a party and say, "Are you the laura that dated so and so..." etc). I also suspect that it is a celebrated story because it has some similarities to Pride and Prejudice (which is of course wildly popular you know).

But we have now possibly reached the pinnacle of fame. We have been mentioned on The Apron Stage, by none other than Sarah Olson. Quoting her post from August 17:
And a few years ago, a guy in my church (Dave) loved a girl in my church (Laura) who hated him. She hated him. But Dave pursued and pursued and one day Laura realized she was ridiculous for not loving Dave because he was so awesome. They married and still beam at each other in public and in private. (As charming and hope-giving as their story is, it put the fear of Love into each of the women we knew. What if the man of our dreams is the very guy we like the least? This is a question I have still not resolved. I hope I never have to, please bless.)
Sarah's point about the fear of Love is well founded. It is true I did not like DH. Then, all the sudden I did. This was nothing less than God opening my eyes. There were several difficult months of dating DH where I had two warring angels on my shoulders. The good angel saw DH with newly opened eyes, and the bad angel remembered the way I used to see him. It was difficult (to say the least) to reconcile the two versions of feelings in my head.

And now I must say this: DH did not deserve to be unliked. He was only ever charming and handsome. Beware how quick you judge a potential suitor. People get nervous and say stupid things. Or you might feel emotionally unavailable because you met someone the day before that you already like a lot. Tunnel vision is not helpful there. Or you might hate bowling and thus remember that date and suitor negatively.

And now for a love poem (haiku).

Ode to DH

DH is my love
my hiccups are really loud
but he still loves me

Lucas: 1.0

David and I went to Utah for a few days to visit the fam. While we were there, my nephew Lucas had his first birthday. See below for a scene by scene description!

Lucas eyes the carrot cake, amidst a crowd of relatives.

Lucas is now thinking it might be ok to eat some of the cake.

The Sassy Mama. (Talking on the phone AND cutting cake at the same time! So talented.)

Lucas has not only decided he likes the cake, but decides to crush it against his chest. Good thing the Sassy Mama decided to remove his shirt!


So long, and thanks for all the fish.