new kitchen treats

I splurged yesterday and bought myself more things for the kitchen. Well, it wasn’t as much of a splurge as it could have been because I bought them at TJ Maxx.  And they were things I needed. Okay, well sort of.

Meet the two newest members of my kitchen:

The cutest saucepan ever.  I’ve been a one-saucepan-kitchen for many years now, and it was getting old.  So when I saw this on sale, I couldn’t resist.  And it’s perfect for a single person.  I made mashed potatoes tonight and cooked two potatoes in this.  It was perfect.

And the cutest little casserole dish.  Well, the second-cutest, because the cutest is still at TJ Maxx.  It was smaller than this one (you can’t tell how small and cute this is, but it is) and I decided it wasn’t the most practical thing.  But this one is perfect– once again, great for a single person.  Some day I’ll own Le Crueset, but until then, this knock-off will have to suffice.  7 dollars is more my price range than $140.  (Mine isn’t cast iron.)

Dinner is served!

Mike Pence

When Governor Mitch Daniels ran for governor of Indiana, he ran with the slogan, “My man Mitch.”  It was particularly funny to me because when I was little I used to call Ronald Reagan “my man.”  Who knew I had such great political views at age 5?

I like Governor Daniels, but I don’t know if he’s up there with Ronald Reagan to be worthy of being “my man.”  Now Mike Pence, on the other hand…

I was blessed to hear Congressman Pence at a Right to Life dinner last November, and I was really, really impressed by him.  The way he carried himself, his message, his family, his humor, his poignant remarks — not many people can make me laugh and cry in a single speech– let alone in one of those “chicken and cheesecake dinner” speeches.

I first heard his name at the March for Life several years ago (probably one of the first Marches I attended).  I didn’t hear much of what he said (that’s how the rally at the March is) but all that mattered was that he was from Indiana and he was for life.  I was in the nation’s capital, surrounded by friends from California and New York and Florida — the “important” states, the states everyone always talked about — who cared about little podunk Indiana?  But there he was — sharp, articulate, and prolife.  From Indiana.  My state pride swelled.   Every year I would hear him at that rally, and every year I would announce to the people around me, “He’s going to be President someday.”

I didn’t know there was actually a chance until he won the “Value Voters” straw poll in Iowa last year, beating out people like Huckabee, Gingrich, Palin, and Romney.  And then it became clear he was “considering his options” for 2012.

Well, it seems that he will not be running for President.  But perhaps he will run Indiana for awhile, and then we’ll see.  After all, it’s good for presidents to have some executive experience, right?  (Let’s just hope if he does do that, he serves longer than the last Indiana governor to be elected President.)

(photo courtesy of the nice official lady who took it.)

8 minutes of hilarity

I saw this last night, after getting lost in youtube for a bit, and I was still laughing this morning at work when the thought of Raymond would pop into my head.  I don’t usually laugh out loud when recalling youtube videos.

It’s long, but it’s worth it.  One of my favorite parts is at 5:41.  But really, there are too many funny moments to count.

Oh, and Pat Sajak is fantastic.

second try

This weekend I continued my quest to make the best vanilla ice cream.  This time I followed David Lebovitz’s recipe almost exactly (I say “almost” because I’m sure I did something differently or wrong), instead of using a blend of the Cusinart recipe and his recipe, like I did last time.  So the major difference between the first batch and the second?  Egg yolks.

I used to think that ice cream with egg yolks is automatically custard, but I’ve since found that’s not true.  A lot of premium ice creams have egg yolks in them.  For it to be custard, it must have 10%  milkfat and 1.4% egg yolk solid.  I’m not exactly sure how to measure that, so I’m not sure if I made custard or ice cream.  I’m thinking since David calls it ice cream, it must be ice cream.

…Although I used six egg yolks instead of five.  Ha!  See, I told you I probably did something differently.  It just took me a little bit to figure out what exactly.  So maybe I made custard.  Who knows.

My hope was that the addition of the eggs would give some more body to the ice cream so it would be less airy than the first attempt.   I know that my ice creams will always be more airy than gelato, for example, because ice cream makers, by the sheer nature of how they work, incorporate more air into the substance during churning.  Ice cream can contain almost 50% air (think McDonald’s soft serve), versus gelato that has more like 25%.  Gelato makers churn at a lower speed.

What I made today is not gelato because (besides the whole air thing that I don’t have much control over) it has 2 cups of heavy cream and one cup of milk, just like my first recipe.  Gelato usually has the reverse — 1 cup of heavy cream and 2 cups of milk.

Okay, enough talking– here’s my second attempt:

I was surprised that the mix wasn’t more yellow; but I guess when you add two cups of heavy cream, it dilutes the egg mixture enough!

Notice there are more “black dots” this time — I did a better job scraping out the vanilla bean, I think.

Verdict: This recipe definitely has more body than the first, although not to the extent I hoped.  It is richer than the first, but isn’t custard-tasting.  I’m contemplating adding more vanilla extract in the future, too — both batches have been delicious, but haven’t hit me over the head with their vanilla taste.  Maybe that’s a good thing, but that’s what I need to figure out.

Future plans also include using a gelato recipe (more whole milk, less heavy cream) and also tracking down some Mexican vanilla and seeing what difference that makes.  Stay tuned!

UPDATE: Just purchased some Mexican vanilla!  The quest continues…

Coraggio!

“Life can be successful only if we have the courage to be adventurous.”  -Pope Benedict XVI

I’m working on a project about Pope Benedict, and I’m constantly struck by various quotes and sentiments.  This one I had to share.

I found myself reflecting on his use of the word adventurous.  I don’t think he means we need to be dare-devils or rash; the adventure to which he refers is not a jump from a plane or a trip to Mongolia.  Some of us desire glamorous lives full of what we think is adventure — we fill our lives with activities and events, looking to live life to the fullest.  And when some of us don’t have the same opportunities for such activities, we wistfully think of what our lives would be like if we did.

But life itself– fully-lived– is an adventure, a bold undertaking.  And true life, fully-lived, is the life of a Christian.  It’s that radical life of holiness that requires a daily taking up of one’s cross.  It is a saying “yes” to love, knowing that the love requires self-sacrifice, vulnerability, and surrender.

It is the adventure of forsaking sleep to feed your child.  It is the adventure of giving your gloves to the homeless man on the corner.  It is the adventure of leaving your friends and life of comfort in one city to move to another where you know no one, just because you feel God has a plan for you there.

It is the adventure of living a chaste life while surrounded by our sexed crazed culture, of fasting on January 22nd for the men, women, and children who suffer from the evils of abortion, of choosing to live a virtuous life in a world that tells you it’s impossible.

Do we have the courage?

Finlandia

Tonight I got to hear one of my favorite pieces for a mere $15!  I love this city.

The symphony sells their unsold tickets at the box office an hour before the show for $15.  First come, first serve.

So tonight my friend Maria and I heard a world-famous violinist play Sibelius’ Concerto for Violin in D minor, Opus 47.  The symphony also played Nielsen’s Symphony no 4, Opus 29 and Sibelius’ Lemminkäinen’s Return.  It was a Scandinavian evening!

But the best was their opening piece — Finlandia, Opus 26.

Beautiful, from start to finish!

And we were on the floor, 17 rows back, in $75 seats!

Interestingly enough, another classical piece that has given birth to one of my favorite hymn tunes (like Finlandia), will be performed in a few months by the symphony: Holst’s The Planets. Thaxted comes from the middle section of Jupiter. (3:07 in this video — it almost gives you chills, as it comes out of nowhere.)   But I don’t know if two minutes of chills is worth sitting through an entire orchestral suite I’m not entirely crazy about otherwise. : )