Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"I confess I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing....."

I have never much liked the 4th of July. It is a stark reminder of how our country has diminished in freedoms since that day was first celebrated. In the time since then, I have become less sure that a republic, however great its potential, is a sustainable form of government, as it is so easily corrupted. Frederick Marryat summed it up quote well: "A monarchy may be overthrown by a revolution, and republicanism succeed, but that is shortly followed by despotism, till after a time, monarchy succeeds again by unanimous consent, as the most legitimate and equitable form of government...In a republic, those who govern are more powerful than the rulers in a restricted monarchy—a president is greater than a king, and next to a despot..."

Ah well, I shall put aside my monarchist leanings, and write an unbiased post about our 4th of July, which was fun in its own right!

The Hector family knows how to party! This time, it was the turn of the Turlock Hectors to host festivities, and so everyone headed to our house for the weekend, starting with Tiffany's sister, and her family.

Waiting for our guests to arrive!

It was the hottest weekend of the year, so we headed for the local water park!

Joshua got in on the games, and even dragged his dad into the water....

Oh, yeah!

Dressing in patriotic colors. (What color is the Union Jack?)

1260 sq ft / 31 people = FULL HOUSE OF FUN

In the card room.....

37.6% of California is of Hispanic heritage. That calls for a margarita!

Water balloon fight. Time for Nic to take some heat.

He is beloved by the people, you can tell.....


Sara took an opportunity to stab her brother in the back....

Someone will pay for that!

"Me, wet? Nah!"

Now that the fight was over, time for the vittles.

By 7pm, it was finally cool enough to sit outside! Only 96 degrees!

Water balloon fights leave a mess, so Tiffany charged people for pieces of pie, 2 oz a slice.

Josh was touch and go, almost didn't have enough!

Patriotic pies.
Eventually, the fun was over, and everyone had to return home. It was an enjoyable day, even if Tiffany wouldn't let me sing "God Save the Queen".

Bye everyone! Come back for the next party!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We The Foodie People...Week 5: Ethiopia

E is for elephant...or Ethiopia!

This past winter, Ben and I discovered an Ethiopian restaurant close enough to eat at, but far enough away to keep us from eating there every day! When we first came up with the idea to "go around the world" alphabetically, we were both thrilled that "E" would be near the top. Experimenting with Ethiopian food has been sooo much fun and both Ben and I have enjoyed the huge variety of flavors that this country has to offer. There were ups and downs when it came to the traditional bread, known as Injera. Actually, I cried the first day when it didn't turn out quite right...*blushes* By the end of the week, the bread had the consistency and flavor that we remembered and maybe one of these days, I'll make enough Injera to cover my table! In Ethiopia, they "eat their tablecloth" because the Injera is the table cloth...*sigh* Sounds delicious, doesn't it? Okay, I'll let you see some pictures now...

Mmmmmm, baby love! Sometimes this is better than food!

Our first meal of the week wasn't exactly Ethiopian...or at least, I didn't use a recipe. We had a private estate sale to go to right after Ben got off of work, so we had a quick dinner. Pita bread, sliced beef, tomatoes, onion, parsley, mint, basil and feta...a good dinner, if you ask me!

One of the many things that I learned this past week, was that Ethiopians love their onions and garlic! Now that's my kind of food! Most of the recipes called for at least 2 onions and 4 cloves of garlic!

Ben is so sweet...posing for pictures while the aroma of Zigni We't filled the air. Onions, beef, butter, cardamom and a light sauce... *sigh* I'm getting hungry again! Along side our main dish you see Iab...or cottage cheese, Lebna and herbs. It was nice to have something "cooling" with our spicy meat!

Ahhh! The weather finally started cooling off in the evening...or at least, it did last week! Now that our back patio is set up and we have a table outside, we've been using it as much as possible! On the tray you see some more Injera (served with every meal), one of our VERY favorite dishes of the week, Zilzil Alecha, or what we called "the green bell pepper dish." Sauteed bell peppers, a chili pepper, strips of beef, lots of onions, garlic and butter...mmmmm. The side dish was a light tomato salad that had marinated for a an hour before we ate it.

A close up of the Injera. It's a gluten free bread made with Teff flour...no, I had never heard of it either. The thin batter ferments for three days prior to use, and has a spongy texture.

It also serves as your utensils for every meal. How fun, eh?

And MORE onions! On day four we had Doro Wat, which is a chicken dish cooked in nitter kibbeh (a spiced ghee/butter) and Berbere seasoning. It has a very unique mixture of cinnamon, cayenne, garlic, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, tumeric...okay, so like gingersnaps with a kick! *grin*

Lilyana thinks that sounds reeeeeeeeeally good!
Her eyes are SO blue!

Ah! Our "new" table! Actually, it's older than it's predecessor. Our "new" table has two leaves that fold into the table (hurray for no storing those!) and five chairs that need a wee bit of help. But we like the table more than the chairs and will eventually replace the chairs. Until then, however, we will simply enjoy our new dining room set. Oh, and you can comfortably seat ten people here!

Beautiful, eh? My mother bought the loverly sconces for me as a wedding present and after months (okay...one year!) of contemplating a good "home" for them, we settled on this wall. Lilyana enjoys looking at them, too.

And she LOVES her pink giraffe.
Giraffe or Girafe? Depends on where you're from, I guess...

Oh, that's right...we had some pressing errands to run on Friday and we were also getting ready for our 4th of July party, so somehow we ended up being out very late and didn't get to eat Ethiopian food on Friday. We did, however, eat tacos...so we DID eat with our hands! *grin*

Our table was graced with three extra mouths (yes, they had bodies). Joshua (our nephew) was so ready to dig in, but pictures must be taken first! Key Wat, another beef dish which had a tomato sauce and lots of Berbere seasonings in it.

Recipe time! Picking the "best" of such a good week was really hard...but we did settle on one recipe and it is:

Zilzil alecha


2 medium Green bell peppers, seeded coarsely chopped
1 medium Green bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips about 1/2 inch wide and 2 inches long
4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh hot chilies, preferably green
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 cup dry red or white wine

1/2 to 3/4 cup butter
2 pounds boneless sirloin steak, trimmed of excess fat, sliced 1/2 inch thick and cut into strips about 1/4 inch wide and 2 inches long
2 cups finely chopped onions

Combine the 2 coarsely chopped green peppers and the chilies, garlic, ginger root, turmeric, cardamom, salt, white pepper and wine in the jar of an electric blender. Blend at high speed for 30 seconds, then turn off the machine, scrape down the sides of the jar with a rubber spatula, and blend again until the mixture is a smooth puree.

In a heavy 10 to 12 inch skillet, heat 1/2 cup of the butter over moderate heat until a drop of water flicked into it splutters instantly. Brown the strips of beef in the skillet, a handful at a time, turning them about with a slotted spoon and regulating the heat so that they color richly and evenly on all sides without burning. As they brown, transfer the beef strips to a plate. Pour the remaining fat in the skillet into a measuring cup and, if necessary, add enough additional butter to make exactly 1/2 cup. Set aside.

Wash and dry the skillet, then drop in the onions and cook over low heat for 5 or 6 minutes, until they are soft and dry. Stir the onions constantly to prevent them from burning. Pour in the reserved cooking fat and, when it begins to splutter, add the green pepper strips. Stirring constantly, cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the pepper is soft. Add the reserved green pepper puree and, still stirring, bring to a boil. Return the beef and any liquid that has accumulated around it to the skillet and turn it about in the sauce to coat the pieces evenly. Reduce the heat to low, cover partially, and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the beef is cooked to your taste.

A sneak peek into our 4th of July party! My sister and her family came up to celebrate with us, and Ben will be posting pictures soon!

Yup! Our busy life continues to wear her out!

Since I'll be leaving in a few days to go back east, Ben and I decided to eat "normal" food this week...we're on "F" and don't want to skimp on French food!!!! Our foodie series will be postponed until I return and will resume in August.

However, do check back for updates on Ben's "bachelor" time and my visit with my family!