Sunday, October 31, 2010

Boo! Boo! Boo!

the wizard; no beard just yet

Bob and The Wiz

Our delightful cat-o-lantern

Our first real Halloween: we walked the street and brought home candy. In case you can't tell, Elliott was Bob the Builder, and Ezra, despite popular opinion tonight, was not Harry Potter, but was just a plain old wizard (our answer to What is a boy witch?).

Being the mom, and a mom who loves making things, I was quite pleased with myself that the homemade costumes--well, the homemade parts--came off so well. Though you can't really see it, Elliott's Bob the Builder shirt is a painted long-sleeve t-shirt. (His knit hat is homemade too, but it was a necessary addition, not keeping with the theme, though I was delighted he'd wear it. I can never bundle him up enough.)

Ezra's wizard hat was my triumph. I whipped it up in a quick hour while Elliott was at preschool one morning. It was a felted wool sweater and some scraps of fabric and ribbon. It became a wizard hat that barely fits. Again, I'm tickled pink that he kept it on his head--more attributable to the dip in temperature than to my fine handiwork, I'm sure.

Ezra's gown is a piece of plain fabric, folded in half and with a head hole cut out. The little belt is another fabric scrap. His beloved broom got spruced up with some sparkly ribbon wound around and taped on.

We gathered altogether too much candy on our brief walk, and Elliott's sweet tooth is raging. I'm sure he'll make a beeline for it tomorrow morning.

The pumpkin is another delight, though it was short-lived. Elliott was not nearly as interested in pumpkin carving as I'd hoped. Both boys were actually much more fascinated with the carving tools (not a knife, thank goodness, but a "safe carver") than what we found inside the pumpkin. Elliott helped a wee bit, and Ezra just sat on the kitchen table.

As you can see, we carved a darling, mischievous, snaggle-toothed cat. He came out well, and I was so proud. And so I took it personally when I found him this morning all chewed by squirrels. I know it's just the way of the world, but I couldn't help feeling that the squirrels singled me out--not unlike that angry humiliation one might feel upon finding the car rifled through after leaving it unlocked overnight. I was asking for squirrel trouble.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Small things: mirepoix

As we age, and our tastebuds dull, one might generalize that we mature into an appreciation of complex flavors. There's definitely something to this, and I'm sure I'll explore it in a later post. We tend to like more things because, ironically, we don't taste them as well, or as acutely, as we could or would have—had we dared—in those youthful salt-and-sugar-filled days.

But I'd argue that we also have the capacity to appreciate simple tastes. As I become a more mature cook, I thing I'm appreciating simpler fare. Okay, I give myself too much credit. Perhaps I'm just becoming a lazier cook. Regardless of the reason, today I sing the praises of mirepoix.

I remember my delight at discovering this luscious French word that makes "onion, carrots, and celery" sound exotic. But of course those foodie French have a lovely little word for, according to my trusty Food Lover's Companion, "a mixture of diced carrots, onions, celery and herbs sautéed in butter" (391).

On Sunday we gave thanks over bleak dinner fare: pasta and sauce. As my ever-gracious husband noted, "It's food."

Unsurprisingly, Monday found us with plenty of leftover pasta and a sauce that, while not bad, was clearly a dinner plate team-player without a team. Poor jarred pasta sauce. You tried.

Enter mirepoix. What would we have done without you? With you, dinner goes from blah to blah-ZOW!

So if you find yourself in a similar tight spot, consider a little mirepoix magic:

Lovely Baked Pasta

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Get a casserole pan ready.
  2. Boil some pasta in a pot (shapes are better than spaghetti).
  3. Meanwhile, mince an onion, a carrot, and a rib or two of celery. Use a food processor if you've got it. That's your mirepoix, darlin'.
  4. Sautee the mirepoix in some butter. Cook it until it's good and soft.
  5. If you want to brown a little ground beef too, throw it in.
  6. Add some dried oregano and basil, and a little salt and pepper.
  7. When it seems nice and cooked down, add some spaghetti sauce. How much? Whatever's in the fridge or the cupboard. Whatever looks good to you.
  8. Now toss the saucy mix with the pasta, which should now be cooked and drained, and pop it into the casserole pan.
  9. Add some cheese if you're into cheese (we are).
  10. Sprinkle more cheese on top.
  11. Cover with foil and bake for at least half an hour.

This, like many pasta meals, improves with age—to a point, of course. Enjoy it, and enjoy your leftovers the next night. Pat yourself on the back for (1) learning a French word, and (2) jazzing up a boring old pasta meal. Go you!