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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The good, the bad and the hard to cut *plus* a sneak peek at our redo

So, our menu on Sunday wound up as this:

Appetizers, snack-y stuff

  • dry-roasted peanuts, bought at WinCo in the bulk bins, just enough to fill a small candy dish @ $1.55/lb -- cheaper to buy just exactly what we need, than to buy a large can
  • crackers that I got for free as a Friday Freebie at Fred Meyer last week -- I definitely like that price, and the crackers were pretty good, a nice rice cracker that we enjoyed
  • a cream cheese, cheddar cheese, chopped fresh thyme, chopped black olive and green onion (actually shallot tops from the garden) spread, using just what I had at home. It's my mom's recipe, and normally calls fro bleu cheese. But as I was doing this with what I had, I subbed cheddar.
The dinner
  • roasted pork loin, herb crusted overnight, in a mixture of chopped thyme, chopped rosemary, kosher salt, garlic powder and black pepper -- the flavor was very good, it was just dry inside, and hard to cut with just a fork, slightly easier with a table knife, but really, we could have used steak knives with this roast.
  • dinner rolls using my mom's recipe for refrigerator roll dough. It's a good one and the dough keeps for several days in the fridge. I always make them into crescents as that's what my mom did, and it's easy to shape, but looks grand.
  • potato salad. I mentioned in the comments that potato salad was one of 2 food items specifically mentioned when I asked our guests what they think of when they think of potato salad. And it was pretty good. Our guests had seconds, always a good sign
  • tossed salad of garden greens (lettuce and spinach), green onions (actually shallot tops/greens), sliced celery, lots of fresh strawberries, some toasted almond slices and a sweet vinaigrette. This salad was a big hit with Angie's dad. He asked for this salad bowl, specifically, to be passed back to him. And they were very delighted to have the strawberries from our garden. Plus it was pretty to look at.
  • Mushrooms sauteed in butter, with fresh thyme. I was cleaning out the fridge on Saturday, making room for all of the food I was preparing, and I came across these two boxes of fresh baby portabello mushrooms I'd bought on markdown earlier in the week. They needed cooking up. And I just thought they'd be delicious with the dinner. 
  • oven-roasted zucchini, green pepper, onion, tomato, garlic medley. I went to the produce stand near WinCo on Friday and got the zucchini for 79 cents per pound, the Roma tomato for 99 cents per pound, a yellow onion for 50 cents per pound, and a green pepper for 69 cents. It was delicious, colorful and a nice contrast in flavor from everything else. And as we only ate half of the veggies I prepared, we had the rest for last night's dinner.
  • watermelon pickles. Of everything we ate, the watermelon pickles seemed to garner the most attention. It was the last of my last jar, too. So, I'll be needing to make more watermelon pickles this year.
  • blackberry-rhubarb pie. It was good, but just "normal" tasting to me. We were all full at that point, so I don't know how much it was enjoyed. But it looked pretty. I didn't feel like making a lattice crust (too much work, weaving it all, in and out), so I just used a small, heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut vents into the crust before laying it onto the fruit -- larger and prettier than slits.

  • lots of Jasmine tea. This was the one thing I made sure would be something they might like and be very familiar with. I made several pots of Jasmine tea over the course of the dinner.
  • water goblets with filtered, chilled water and a lime slice in each glass.

I began preparing, by setting the table, cleaning up the main floor, thoroughly cleaning the powder room (and then closing the door to keep family out until Sunday) last week. Then on Saturday, I had a marathon cooking day. I was able to prepare about half of everything on Saturday. Sundays' cooking was more manageable that way. And by about an hour before our guests arrived, I was able to make myself a cup of coffee and sit down for a bit. That worked well for me to recoup my energy for the evening.

So, some thoughts should we have the opportunity to have them as our guests again. The meat was tough, and I think I should stick with meats that I'm more comfortable cooking, or in ways that I'm more comfortable, or use an electric knife to cut the slices even thinner. In other words, the meat needed some improvement.

The pie -- our wild blackberries are seedy, but we don't notice them any more, we've eaten them for so long. However, I think the seeds took our guests by surprise. I wish I'd thought of that beforehand. In the future, if I make a pie, I would steer clear of anything seedy. What might have also been good is a pumpkin pie, as that's a pretty standard American pie.

On the positive side, I think I guessed right, that our guests would want something typically American. When we talked about some of their plans before they go back to Shanghai later this week, they said they wanted to go to an American shopping mall, and have the American shopping experience. And if I went to another country, I think that's what I'd like most, too, to experience their cuisine and culture. 

As they had been so kind and generous when my son visited Shanghai this spring, I did want to give them a small gift of thanks. I found a coffee-table type book about Seattle. There's very little text, just lots of photos. The book itself was an ice breaker, of sorts, when they first arrived, as they opened it right away and we could all look at the photos of various landmarks in their daughter's area.

I think our guests enjoyed themselves. I know that we all enjoyed the opportunity to get to know them a bit. And Chris and Angie were both happy all evening long. Successful evening. 

Before dinner, we sat in the living room, where we had the new doors installed. I'll give you a full tour later this week, but thought you might like a sneak peek today. I hope we make many happy family memories, in our rehabbed living room. And now we can actually see out the windows! (Old windows were double-paned, but the seal was broken and the windows were permanently fogged.)

Thanks so much to all of you, as you helped me with my planning of a VIM (very important meeting). Very much obliged!

Have a great day!


  1. Sounds wonderful, Lili! So glad everyone had a good time! Love the new doors, too! :) Sara

  2. Sounds like all your hard work in planning and execution worked extremely well. Valiant effort and so glad that it worked out very well.

  3. It sounds like everyone had a good time and your guests felt comfortable in your home--mission accomplished. Great job! Melissa

  4. Very good planning to your credit, and loads of preparation. You worked very hard on this VIM and it didn't disappoint, of course to the credit of everyone's graciousness too. I loved reading that your son and his girlfriend were happy all evening, that truly is the clincher and the crux of this all.

    I had a thought when you mentioned watermelon pickles on your menu, that your guests would find it interesting. The Chinese are very resourceful and take pride in their ability to make the most of what they have. I'm sure they were interested to learn that that part of the rind can be used too.

    A wonderful, perfect gift and a nice souvenir for your guests. I'm sure the book will help them enjoy their stay better and can serve as a guide to where else to visit. They are probably more interested in your city than the average visitor, being their daughter and your family live there.

    The doors look like they were original installation...good job. Love the color of your walls, and can I ask what is the name of the color?

    Have a pleasant day!!



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