The mushroom log was so prolific, we had many to give away to Burr and Natalie, who stopped by to pick up Laura's keyboard. Burr's been building his recording studio for FAWM, the February Album Writing Month project he's started. Check out some of his songs, they're writing 14 in 28 days.
We started off playing a game of Ultra Violets, a game I'm working on based on Laura's hobby of growing African Violets. It's very rough still, and needs some work, this is the first playtest with 4 people, but I like how things are going with it. We'll see where it ends up. Burr and Natalie seemed to enjoy it, and asked for a copy when it's finished, so that's a good sign.
Other games we enjoyed were Fluxx, a game where the rules change as you play cards, making for a very chaotic and funny time, and Lord of the Fries, where you're a zombie at a fast-food restaurant trying to fill orders. With 10 people it was a little slow, but looks interesting for less people. Matt provided some nice Chilean salsas, a ham salad, and some very fulfilling burritos, so both our brains and bodies were happily satisfied at the end of the night.
To spice up a spaghetti week we tried a classic, the Classico Mushroom Olive. I thing I still prefer my own mushroom and olive mixture, just because the pieces in the sauce are larger, but we did enjoy the meaty sauce greatly.
Lastly we thought we would make our own vodka sauce with some ground turkey. We relied on our Cook's Bible and some personal modificaitons for the recipe. The result was a creamy vodka sauce with a bit of bite. We still like the smoothness of Newman's Vodka Sauce, but for our first time, the sauce turned out quite well.
For dinner, we'd made reservations at the Dardanelles, a Turkish restaurant on Monroe Street. We started out with shrimp appetizers, cream of shrimp soup and some shrimp/beets/goat cheese mixture. The meals, served with rice and couscous, were a vegetable tagine and chicken marinated with blood oranges. Everything confirmed that we should learn to cook Turkish food, as the meals were extraordinary.
The day wrapped up by making cookies with Burr and Natalie at their annual St Valentine's Day Cookie Massacre, with one of the favorites being Choco Lots. We also experimented with making Stained-Glass cookies, which are standard sugar cookied dough formed into hollow shaped and then filled with crushed hard candy (like Jolly Ranchers). Make sure you put them on aluminum foil before cooking, or they'll be impossible to remove from the pan.
And, as a comparison taste test, as we like to do here, we tried out La Choy's canned Sweet and Sour Chicken. It comes in two connected cans, one with chicken and sauce, the other with all the vegetables. For speed, it could not be beat; open each can with a can opener, drain vegetables, combine on stove and heat until warm, about 5 minutes. Taste on the other hand was as expected: processed, preservative filled, and too many bean curds, making the whole dish taste rather bland and earthy. The flavors of the vegetables, usually distinct with Chinese food, were mushy and bland, and even the sauce didn't have the fresh punch of our own. And we couldn't find many pineapples! So, if you're tempted to take the short cut, spare your taste buds and cook the authentic, that or order Chinese take-out.
Now I am not a mycologist, but last year Mark and I attended our first meeting of the Madison Mushroom society and loved it! Mark even got an awsome wall calendar with a feature fungus every month! And we found out that there are a large body of people that enjoy hunting and learning about mushrooms here in little Madison.
Tonight we enjoyed a mycological presentation by a local mushroom grower in Northern Wisconsin called Field and Forest Products, Inc. We got loads of tips and laughed a wonderful mushroom jokes! Best of all, we got the inspiration to grow mushrooms at home! Now I know what you are thinking, but you really can do it and enjoy the "fruit" year round. We are going to start with a Shiitake table top log - my amazing Valentines day present from Mark! We expect to get about three months of lovely shiitake of which we plan to be able to give oodles away to friends. Right now we are eagerly looking for lovely mushroom recipes to enjoy our future fruit!
The second variety was Spicy Honey Chicken (General Style), an excellent recipe from suburblicious.com, one of our neighbors in the Foodbloggers webring. She writes mostly in French, and luckily translated this recipe to English. I'd been looking for a good General's chicken recipe, and this is perfect. We decided to use her method of frying chicken for the whole batch, only adding sherry to the milk marinade. And for the peppers, we used Ground Chipotle Pepper from Penzeys, and the flavor is not searing hot but builds flavor as you go. The honey in the sauce is a great tangy taste instead of sugar. Both were served over a bed of jasmine rice, and we'll be enjoying it all week long.
Once there, we caught up with the old gang pretty quickly, spliting a pizza with Eliz Friday night, then seeing everyone else come the wedding on Saturday. It was a beautiful service -- it's our first post-wedding wedding, and it brought back lots of good memories. We loved the stained glass in the church and listening to the music, especially the postlude of Toccata by C.M. Widor, a song I've always wanted to play on the organ.
The food all weekend was wonderful! The reception was filled with mouth-watering h'orderves, like carmelized onions and goat cheese on a puff pastry, duck and apple in phylo dough, and basil and cucumber on wheat bread. Who knew I liked goat cheese so much? And Laura enjoyed their decadent chocolate chocolate wedding cake. The evening brought more pizza and "dead fish" beer, and we heard about Karina's most recent trip to Antarctica to work with radio telescopes, a facinating place to live for a whole year.
It all went by so fast, and it's hard to believe we've been out of college for six years; there's never enough time to see everyone. It's the same with family; we wish we lived much closer to all of our friends and could have them over for dinners on the weekends. On the train trip back, we bought Girl Scout Cookies, the coconut Samoa and the classic Thin Mint varieties; we were suprized we still had some left when we returned home.