Chinese Night

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We have dinner parties now and then because you know, we’re grown-ups and stuff and I can actually cook now so it’s fun to have friends over and show off.

I remember when I used to have parties like this I would always make sure my mom was coming and she would cook. I’d do everything else up to the nines because of my party-planning sickness but leave all the cooking to my mom who would be sweaty and exhausted and taken advantage of.

Well, guess what? I don’t have to do that anymore! I actually focus more on cooking and less on having the right decorations and the right playlist of theme-related music, the right costumes etc etc…which is huge because I used to waste a lot of unnecessary time and energy on the minutia of a dinner party and drive everyone crazy.

I still drive everyone crazy but they have a lot more patience when they are rewarded with tasty food.
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It all started with my tablescape job. I wanted to create a tablescape around this old Japanese rice urn I bought at a thrift store ages ago. I love this dish. It is perfect for rice or taking food to a potluck. It’s heavy and sturdy and it comes with a lid! And it looks cool which is the most important thing if you are me. Of course I thought it was a Chinese urn when I started out but quickly figured out it  was Japanese when I googled it and it showed up here. But I made Chinese food and not Japanese food because I am no good with raw fish. Sushi is way out of my league.
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As usual, I was in too much of a hurry actually cooking to take pictures along the way. I’m frustrated with myself too because making these pot stickers is super photogenic (as you’ve probably seen in my Instagram feed) but add guests and taking pictures sort becomes secondary.

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Payam humored (the crazy) me and drove me to a Chinese market so I could pick up a free newspaper as my table cloth. I know it’s kind of weird and maybe dirty seeming but I thought it was cool in a gritty, urban way. It brought the theme to the table and you can’t beat the price. Of course in the beginning I had visions of red raw silk but the newspaper turned out to be way more economical and less stain-attracting.

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Then when we were out picking up drinks at Bev Mo I found these buddha beers. They had to jump in our cart if not for drinking then for the possibility of becoming the cutest vases ever!!! They were perfect and even actually tasted decent, said the beer-drinking guests who are not me.  It was fun. Everything came together and we had a great time.

And that’s pretty much it if I leave out the part where I was super emotional the day before and almost cancelled the whole event before it even happened. Heh.

I’ve figured out that this is my typical mode of operation. I like to plan things, big things! But then if I perceive even the slightest hint of failure I blow everything out of proportion and cancel the whole shebang in a heaping pile of ugly crying. It’s terrible. I kept this trait from Payam for the longest time but it has come out with a vengeance and now he knows the real me.

Sigh.

BUT! I am learning this about myself and Payam has been so encouraging. This time instead of cancelling in a huff like usual I decided to just go through the motions and make it happen. I took my failures head on. I was prepared for people to come to my event and be polite but secretly wish they weren’t there and leave as soon as it was acceptable. I was prepared for my food to be cold and untouched. I was even prepared for my newspaper tablecloth to be made fun of. I was prepared to vow to never do another party again unless people got down on their hands and knees and begged me to. That was my attitude.

You know what? I’ve written this post before. I’ve been in this learning curve so many times!! If I learn anything in my lifetime it is this: If you put out the effort, you will be rewarded. This is my new mantra. Every time I put out the effort as a hostess I always am so glad I did.

Nothing else but effort matters. It doesn’t matter if food burns or you forget to make a salad or a dessert. It doesn’t matter if you forgot to clean the cat box or put out new clean guest towels or your sink had cat prints in it. It doesn’t matter if you have put on a few pounds in the last year and you aren’t the slim, sleek hostess you want to be. It just doesn’t matter! Nothing matters except putting out the effort. That’s what people want. That’s what people appreciate.

Everyone who came to our dinner party had such a great time. I had such a great time! Usually I’m a stress case and I can’t sit down and talk but I did this time! We all talked for hours.  We ate, we laughed, the kids played minecraft….Nobody made excuses to leave early. All the food got eaten (well, if you don’t count the potstickers that got eaten as a midnight snack by someone I won’t name.) and everyone was happy. I was so happy.

I guess that means I’m not vowing to never throw another dinner party again. In fact, I might already be plotting my next one. It might even be an exact repeat of this one except with cucumber vinegar salad AND a dessert this time. Heh!

 

Reporting for Pasta Duty

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When did I become a foodie? Remember how I used to be a terrible cook or at least I thought I was a terrible cook? Turns out I’m not anymore and I LOVE cooking!  I love cooking, I love finding new recipes to try, I love watching cooking shows. I’ve jumped on the cooking bandwagon like nobody’s business.

The other day I got a crazy bee in my bonnet that I wanted to try fasting. It was a really stupid idea. I read some article about eating less and living longer and I was wondering IF I could do it. You know, as a challenge now that I’m so healthy with all my crazy intense yoga workouts. You can tell where this is going. I have “Big Fat Fool” written on my forehead.

It turns out I can fast. I can push past the hunger no problem but I don’t like fasting! I lasted all day on coffee and water until 5:30 pm. You know why? Because I missed cooking!  Seriously. I’m pathetic. Maybe if I had had some religious reason for fasting I would have lasted longer.

I found myself migrating to the couch because I had no energy and my brain refused to work on anything creative. Before I knew it I was watching cooking shows and it was driving me crazy. I think I was trying to eat/cook vicariously.  I was lost without something to do at my usual cooking time.

And I had Blue Apron ingredients in my refrigerator calling me because if I didn’t cook them on the right day they would go bad. So I gave in. Actually Payam and I tossed a coin to decide if we should give in (he was fasting with me like a total champ) and of course two out of three gave us the answer we really wanted.

Pathetic.

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I’ve got the kids cooking now too. They are the perfect age to learn how to cook. They are willing and capable to handle sharp knives and hot pots without hurting themselves and they are still young enough that they think it’s fun and they don’t roll their eyes at me with attitude about it. Bug made Taco Bowls and Joon made spaghetti (with a side of zucchini and sausage for the grown-ups). I was really proud of them.  Maybe, just maybe my new love of cooking is rubbing off on them.

I’ve been trying to try one new recipe a week. They say that’s a great way to keep your brain growing and improving as you get older. I’m horrible at Sudoko so recipes it is! So far I’ve learned how to make pot stickers, sticky chicken wings, a ton of Blue Apron recipes…AND PASTA!

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YES! I made homemade pasta!  Payam bought me a pasta roller attachment to go with my mixer for my birthday and I had to try it out right away or else I knew it would just sit in the cupboard and get dusty. I’m so glad I did too because guess what?! It’s easy! Like easier than baking a pie.

I’m still curious about making it without a mixer and completely by hand. I spend a lot of time on pinterest looking at food photography and I’m very intrigued by the whole mound of flour with eggs in the middle. I do want to try that. But in the meantime, I made my dough in my mixer and it was pretty much perfect.making-homemade-pasta2

The pasta dough went through the roller like butter. It was so fun.

However, making raviolis from my beautifully flattened pasta dough was probably not the best choice of first pasta to make.  I had no clue how to center my filling in between the pasta sheets without wasting a ton of space but I sort of managed. They looked like a kindergartener made them and I threw out about half of the dough just because it was contaminated with filling and I didn’t want to run it through the roller again.

I also had the not-so-bright idea to use some fresh corn, that needed to be eaten, in my filling. The extra water content from the corn made the sausage filling lose and kind of weird which made the whole dish a little off. But we smeared some extra spicy, doctored-up marinara on top and those raviolis got eaten up, no problem.

Next I’m going to try fettuccini!