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So now I can talk about all the awesome presents I bought everyone:

Granny: There isn't much a 92-year-old woman really wants or needs. My grandmother lives in assisted living, which amounts to a 2 room apartment (3 if you count the bathroom), and the woman has bordered on hoarder all her life. It doesn't get too bad because her apartment gets cleaned every day, but she has a lot of stuff and I didn't want to give her something that would just add to it. So I got her a jar of soaps that look and smell like gardenia petals; each soap is good for one handwashing, it lathers up and washes away. She loves scented things, and this will be something that she'll enjoy but will get consumed.

Phil: I bought him a scrimshaw box made of water buffalo bone. He always admired scrimshaw, and he needs something to put his watch and rings in so they aren't just rolling around loose in his night table drawer.

Mom: You know those oval paper cups with the fluted edges that they serve hot dogs in when you get them at a fair or from a street vendor? I got her a set of 5 stoneware dishes that look like that. Mom likes the occasional chili dog, and you can't go wrong giving her any kind of dishes.

Jamie: I got her a bamboo serving tray that's got a slate inset and comes with chalk. So when you serve cheese or whatever on it, you can write the name underneath. It's a good size, it will hold at least 2 or 3 cheeses or appetizers. And it matches her bamboo floors!

Rian: Rian loves jigsaw puzzles, so I got him one of those 3D puzzles of the New York City skyline. What's cool is it has buildings from different eras, so you can build the 1812 skyline, then remove some of the buildings and put new ones it and re-create the skyline all the way up to next year (it includes the Freedom Tower, which hasn't been built yet).

David: David loves cookbooks (we all do; Mom, Rian, David, Jamie and I all got cookbooks for Christmas) and a few weeks ago he was saying how he thought Persian food had a real interesting flavor profile, how it blends sweet with savory. So I searched on Amazon and found him an introductory Persian cookbook.

Rian got me the Real Simple cookbook, Dinner Tonight: Done!. Uncle Larry got me The Atheist Manifesto and a gift card from Barnes & Noble (already spent that on a fountain pen!). Jamie and Greg of course got me the trip I took to Los Angeles last month and seeing The Cure at the Pantages. Mom and Phil got me season 5 of Dexter, The Girl Who Played With Fire (the novel, I already have the DVD), some instant film, a sealing wax set, some stationery, perfume (Tom Ford's Violet Blonde), gift cards to Hobby Lobby and Old Navy (already spent on capris and a couple of graphic tees), and they renewed my subscription to Real Simple magazine.

My culinary contributions thus far have been cake balls, which David says has ruined cake for him. You make a cake, just a sheet cake from a box mix. And you let it cool, preferably overnight. Then you mix it with a can of frosting and form it into balls, about rounded tablespoon size. Freeze them for at least a couple of hours, then melt some chocolate in a double boiler and dip the balls (heh) in it. Set them on wax paper or aluminum foil, and by the time the chocolate hardens the cake inside will be thawed. I made a butter pecan cake with chocolate frosting and semi-sweet chocolate, and a lemon cake with lemon frosting and white chocolate. That one is TITS.

And yesterday afternoon I baked a brie. I actually got the recipe from a magazine ad for Pepperidge Farms frozen puff pastry, which any honest professional chef will tell you is preferable to making your own. It tastes exactly the same and saves you hours of prep. Anyway, you thaw a sheet, roll it out on a floured surface, and cut off the corners. Mix chopped dried cherries (soften them in warm water first), toasted pecans, honey, rosemary, and a tiny pinch of salt. Put it in the middle of the sheet, put a large round brie on top (and when you're baking brie, it doesn't have to be a super expensive gourmet one), and pull the edges of the pastry sheet up. Flip it over onto a baking sheet, brush it all over with egg and a little water, and I usually decorate it with little cut outs of pastry from the corners you cut off. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes and cool for at least a half hour. I don't put this on crackers, I just cut little wedges and serve it that way. It's pretty and tastes like a million bucks, but it's super easy to make.

So, what did Santa bring YOU?
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(This isn't my photo, because the one I took was blurry. I am so much better with film than digital.)

I found this recipe in the January issue of Real Simple. I love that magazine. Mushrooms are a "superfood" everyone should eat more of, especially women: they may regulate estrogen levels and help prevent breast cancer. I used baby bellas, which I like in a meatless meal because they are particularly hearty and filling. I doubled the recipe, because why the hell not and there are 2 sheets of puff pastry per box anyway.

Trader Joe's used to have this UH-MAZING frozen savory tart: ham, gruyère, and caramelized onions. I used to buy one nearly every Friday night and have half of it with a salad for dinner and the other half for lunch on either Saturday or Sunday. I may try to recreate it with puff pastry.
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No, not that kind of baby porcupine. The kind you eat. Although I suppose you could eat this kind, but that would be sad. And gross.

Baby porcupines are meatballs rolled in uncooked rice and simmered in tomato soup. That cooks the rice, and the juices of the meat seep out and make tomato gravy. I am not a huge rice and gravy fan; I'll eat it if you put it in front of me, but I don't get the general Cajun obsession with it. Meh. But tomato gravy, I have to admit, is pretty yummy.

Mix 1 lb. of ground beef with half a finely chopped onion, a cup of bread crumbs, a beaten egg, and salt and pepper to taste. (The soup has salt in it, so go easy on the salt you add to the meatballs.) Make them into generously sized meatballs and flatten slightly. Roll in raw rice.

Bring a can of tomato soup and 2 cups of boiling water to a simmer in a Dutch oven, then put in the meatballs. The soup should just cover them, if it doesn't add more boiling water. Cover and simmer for about an hour.

And that's it! Very easy, very tasty, just add something green to your plate and you have a well-balanced simple meal. I made this for my grandmother last Sunday. Her brother used to make them when they were kids; judging by how quiet she was while she was eating, I think she enjoyed it.

You could probably use ground turkey if you'd rather.
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Today was the first day in nearly 5 months where, when I left the building at noon to move my car so I wasn't blocking anyone in, I didn't want to drop dead from the heat and humidity. It was actually... pleasant. And when I left the house this morning it was... chilly. AND! I only used my a/c at about 1/2 power on the way to work. *GASP*

We may have another hot flash before it leaves town for good, but summer's ugly grasping claws finally seem to be loosening its deathgrip.

I made supper (we eat breakfast, dinner, and supper in Louisiana) for my grandmother last night* and didn't feel like planning a bento on top of that, and Rouses was having a 2 for $5 sale on those Stouffer's frozen subs, so I just bought a bunch of them for my lunches this week. But I also have a Happy Hippo milk & cocoa creme biscuit. I bought a box at World Market a while back. THEY ARE AWESOME AND YOU ARE JELLUS

*I made my famous maple-mustard chicken, the recipe of which I've never posted because I always, ALWAYS forget to take a photo of it. I forgot last night too, so fuck it, here's the recipe:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Put 1.5-2 lbs. boneless chicken thighs in a single layer in a glass oven-proof casserole dish, season with salt & pepper to taste.
Mix 1/2 cup Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup pure maple syrup (ACTUAL maple syrup, not sugary fake crap like Log Cabin), and 1 tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar. Pour over chicken, turning pieces once to thoroughly coat, and cook for 20-25 minutes.
A good trick, which I almost always forget, is to line the dish with aluminum foil so you don't spend the next week scraping burnt maple sugar off the casserole dish.
From the I <3 Trader Joe's Cookbook

I also made my cheddar garlic biscuits, even though Mom says Granny "isn't a bread person", but I think she liked them. Mom said Grandpa would have loved them; "But he thought anything you did was ***~~WONDERFUL~~***." I miss Grandpa. Everyone should have one person who thinks everything they do is ***~~WONDERFUL~~***.

A show I forgot to mention in my quick capsule review of the 2010-2011 teevee season is AMC's Rubicon. It's sort of like Three Days of the Condor, if that movie moved at a glacial pace. And that's not a bad thing, the slow pace really makes you sit up and think about what you're seeing; as opposed to 24-style *car bombs* *people getting tortured* *hero yelling all manly WE HAVE TO FIND THE BOMB!!!* that totally numbs your brain after half an episode.

I am also looking forward to AMC's The Walking Dead, which premieres on Halloween. Zombies + Lennie James + the director of Shawshank Redemption (okay so he also directed The Green Mile, I DON'T CARE LIFETIME PASS FOR SR Y'ALL) = me, glued to the TV.

Also, this season of Hoarders has been an absolutely horrifying trainwreck, if the train was filled with cat poo and collided with a mountain of garbage bags filled with human poo.
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For some reason lately my food photos/recipes never seem to make it onto my blog. And I keep forgetting to take photos of my bentos (but none of them have earth-shatteringly new or different lately). The only thing I seem to use my digital camera for these days is food; maybe I should just leave it in the kitchen.

As always, click the photo for the recipe.

peach cobbler, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

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