Mostly, this is about food, so if you don't want to be bogged down with food details, you shouldn't read any further!
Sunday and Monday, as far as I remember, were uneventful for the most part. Sunday I went grocery shopping because we had basically no food in the house. Since we hadn't been here for the first three days of Pesach, I really did a very poor job planning out the week. Normally, I'm very good about this. But such is life. I also went to Jeanne and Hillel's house for "cake" (and fruit salad) and coffee and to generally hang out. I haven't done that in a while, and it was nice to spend time with them that way. Eventually I'd been there for a while and we were talking about food and movies and such. Jeanne mentioned that she hadn't seen Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This had to be fixed! Fixed I tell you! So I ran home, finished some errands, picked up Harry Potter and returned to their place where we had a delightful dinner (brisket and spaghetti squash yummers) and then watched the movie. Well, I left an hour or so into the movie, but I've seen it a few times and I did want to make it home before Seth got home from work.
Monday and Tuesday, Seth and I both worked. Or maybe I called out sick on Tuesday. It wouldn't surprise me. By then I was really not sleeping.
Tuesday evening we had Jeanne, Hillel and Jacob as well as Hillel's father over for dinner. I had some veal chops, and also made TURKISH MINA DE ESPINACA CON CARNE thanks to a recommendation from mamadeb. I had never cooked veal before, and I really had no idea what to do with the chops. I was very limited in ingredients because I didn't realize I was going to make them. On top of that, my recipe books were all chometzdik, so I couldn't use them (I forgot to pack away a Pesach cookbook last year, so I had to wing it for most of the week). But, in my humble opinion, they turned out rather well. First I rubbed the chops with garlic, pepper, and um, maybe some onion powder...not sure I remember that part. Then I browned them on the stovetop briefly to seal in the juices. I took the chops out of the pan and placed them in a single layer in a roasting pan. In the same pan I had browned the veal in, I sauteed some onions and garlic until they were translucent. I then added some chicken stock from the matzoh ball soup I had made and brought it to a low boil. I added some potatoes (cut into small pieces) and cooked them until they were about halfway done. I poured the entire mixture over the veal chops and placed the roasting pan in the oven (350F, I think) for about 40 minutes. They were amazing. So tender and juicy and the whole house smelled delicious for a long time after they'd finished cooking. I was very pleased.
The Mina de Espinaca also turned out very well, and I'm glad that I had it, because Hillel doesn't like to eat veal (I never ate veal before I found out that kosher veal is free-range, so I understand his concern). I wish that I had added slightly more allspice and slightly more salt (I didn't really measure any of the ingredients, and I definitely got the spice proportion a little off), but it was otherwise *delish*. I was a little shocked that the matzoh "crust" didn't end up soggy, even on the bottom. But that was a pleasant surprise, not an unhappy one.
I also had salad and farfel stuffing and spaghetti squash (I was inspired by Jeanne and Hillel's find). Lacking ingredients, and also being a bit forgetful, my farfel stuffing was a bit different this year than last, but it was still fairly yummy. First, I sauteed onion and celery in a couple tablespoons of oil until they were translucent, I added walnuts and sliced mushrooms (I should have used more mushrooms, but that's okay). Normally, I would have added diced apples or raisins at this point, but I didn't have raisins and I completely forgot about the apples. I added a little bit of salt and pepper and then tossed the farfel (7 or 8 cups) in the mix. I made sure the farfel was coated in the oil sufficiently enough that it would not get soggy later. I let it cook a little bit so that the farfel became slightly toasted. I then added about 2 cups of chicken broth. I spooned the mix into a disposable baking pan, covered with aluminum foil and baked it for a while. Just before I was going to serve it, I took the aluminum foil off, so it got a teeny bit crispy on the top. It was relatively tasty that night, but even more tasty the next day.
Incidentally, the spaghetti squash was very nifty and incredibly easy. Per Hillel's instructions, I cut it in half (I had to microwave it for a few minutes to get it soft to the point that I could get a knife through it and even then it wasn't so easy). I scooped out the "guts" (seeds and pulp) with a spoon and then placed it face down in a large bowl with about 1/4 cup of water and covered with plastic wrap. I microwaved it on high for I *think* 7 minutes, which was probably a little too long. I took a fork and scraped the squash and amazingly, it really does scrape off stringy like spaghetti! Mix in a little tomato sauce (you can add garlic, salt, pepper, whatever if you like, but it happens that I used a tomato sauce that had spices in it already), and voila! it's perfect.
For dessert, we had a simple fruit salad, which Hillel was kind enough to help with. He's a whiz with a pineapple, and well, I'm not. So I asked if he would cut up the fruits for the salad, and he was more than happy to oblige. Pineapple, apple, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries went into the mix with about 1/2 a cup of orange juice.
There were so many leftovers and the food was so well-received (yay!) that Hillel jokingly said "what time's lunch tomorrow?" Well, heck, I wasn't going to turn down a suggestion like that! Yom Tov is so much more beautiful when shared with friends. So back they came.
Lunch was partially made up of leftovers (basically, the potatoes and the stuffing and the mina de espinaca got served again), but it was mostly new food. We had matzoh ball soup, which I hadn't served the night before, some brisket (made with tomatoes, garlic, and red wine...it was very simple and not as tasty as my normal brisket...but I didn't have many ingredients, and I definitely had no handy recipe laying around), and the piece de resistance: Lemon Chicken. The lemon chicken was somewhat of a triumph to me. I hadn't really planned what was going to happen with my boneless, skinless chicken breasts, so I looked around at what I had. I had a gazillion lemons, some chardonnay that I knew Seth wouldn't like (too dry for him), garlic, matzoh meal and a few spices. So, using basic principles from other recipes I'd used...my creation was born. I dredged the chicken in matzoh meal mixed with pepper, then egg, then more matzoh meal (it gets a better coating that way for some reason). I heated about 2 tablespoons of oil until it was very hot, added the chicken and browned on both sides. Then I added whole, peeled garlic cloves (lots of them, but I'm not sure how many), and a cup or two of chardonnay. I let it simmer for a few minutes and then squeezed two lemons over the chicken, added yet more chicken broth, reduced the sauce quite a bit, covered and simmered for about 20 minutes. Then I took the chicken and the sauce and put it in a baking dish, put lemon wedges over them, covered with aluminum foil and put them in the oven for another 15 minutes or so. It was yummy, yummy, yummy and very tender. In retrospect, the only thing that I would have changed was the lemon wedges. I shouldn't have baked the chicken with the lemon wedges because the chicken got a slightly bitter taste from the lemon rind (no one else would admit to noticing this, so maybe it was just me)... perhaps if I'd used slices of lemon it would have been different. The funny part was that *after* I'd finished making my creation, I noticed on the back of the matzoh meal box, it had a recipe for lemon breaded chicken or some such thing that was quite similar to what I had done.
Lunch was much more mellow than dinner the night before had been. Seth got back from shul before Hillel and Jeanne got here. Jeanne hadn't gone to shul in the morning, so Hillel went by the house to pick her and Jacob up before heading to our place. When they arrived here, Jacob was napping in the car, so Jeanne stayed in the car and Hillel came in without them so that Jacob would be able to nap. So, we brought a bowl of matzoh ball soup out to Jeanne in the car. My matzoh balls were quite fluffy... Jeanne likes dense matzoh balls, and mine are nearly always fluffy. So the LAST time I made matzoh balls, I attempted to make them denser than usual...but it backfired and they were like hockey pucks, so I decided that this time fluffy it was! The soup was pretty yummy, but not my usual soup yumminess, so I was a bit disappointed in that, but oh well. Then we also brought her out a plate of food, which Hillel lovingly cut up into little pieces, thereby earning major husband points as far as I'm concerned. Jeanne came in with Jacob shortly after receiving the plate of food, so she was able to eat most of the meal with us, fortunately.
We lounged in the living room for a long while after lunch, and leisurely snacked on some Pesach chocolate chip "cake" which I did not make, and eventually they made their way home.
Wednesday night dinner we were possibly expecting my father, but his trip got cancelled, so Seth and I dined alone. We had offered that Jeanne and Hillel were welcome to come for a third meal, but they really needed Jacob to get to bed at his regular bedtime that night. It was nice and quiet and peaceful. Thursday was also wonderfully peaceful and very quiet. Seth went to shul, I slept in, and we spent the day lounging, reading, munching, and talking.
Thursday night, with the holiday gone, we were in desperate search of chometz! I had originally planned on making pizza, but beaniekins had suggested getting pizza and she'd come over after her Moshiach Seudah (this is a Lubavitch minhag, I believe, though maybe it's more generally Chasidic?...it's really a nifty tradition, but I'm not sure I'd want to put off pizza for that much longer). Since we always like seeing Bea, and since buying pizza meant less work for me, that was just fine for me. Bea had three requests: Pizza, french fries, and please, please, some coke or Pepsi (Another Lubavitch minhag is not to consume processed foods/drinks during Pesach, so even pesachdik soda is out...she didn't care if it was regular or pesachdik soda, so long as it was something she hadn't been allowed to have for the previous 8 days!). Fortunately, those were three requests that we could accommodate!
Seth started calling Ben Yehuda at 8:45. Around 9:15 he got through. The conversation went something like this:
"Ben Yehuda's, can I help you?"
"Yes, I'd like to purchase some chometz"
"We've got that!"
Two pizzas and an order of french fries later, we were set. I called Ian and Alida, asked if they'd like to join us (they did and brought along a lot of pesachdik soda we'd left at their house), so it was a nice way to end the holiday. Bea came over after her seudah and stayed after Ian and Alida left so that she could help me turn over the kitchen. This was the other nice thing about not making the pizza myself. I didn't have to turn over the kitchen before getting down to the cooking and the eating. Since I've got a small kitchen, really Bea was there for moral support...it was nice to have someone to chat with while I packed up my Pesach stuff. There wasn't too much of it this year, since I didn't have to unpack everything...the one advantage to not making a seder for 12 this year (unlike last year). After I was done, Bea and I sat and talked for a bit, something we've not had much opportunity to do since she moved to Baltimore, so that was very nice.
All in all, it was a very nice Pesach. I wish I'd planned a little better, but the nice thing was that my lack of planning led to some very nice culinary creations. I will, once again, be shocked if anyone actually reads this far, and I definitely need to get some stickers to pass out that say "I read Karen's whole long, babbly journal entry and all I got was this lousy sticker"...but until that time, all you get is my awe. :)