Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fun with the Inlaws, Part 1

I just wanted to start out by giving a quick shout-out/plug to Best Western Stratford Inn. Seriously, it has recently become our number one favorite recommendation for places to stay in San Diego. It started out when I stopped by to drop off gift bags I made for the inlaws. (What do you put in a gift bag for the world's most difficult people? San Diego Wines, Chocolates, Strawberries, coupons, and a 15 page guide of activities broken down both by location and type of activity) I kindly explained the situation to the front desk (my inlaws are terribly unhappy people who hate everything. Even though Thatboy and I have been together 9 years, this is the first time they have ever come to visit us. They believe that nowhere is as good as their beloved San Francisco, and don't think San Diego has anything to offer) and they sweetly let me right into the inlaws rooms to drop off my goodies.

I called Thatboy to tell him of my success and might have mentioned that while the rooms were adjoining, they didn't have the best location or view. So Thatboy stopped by the hotel himself. After he kindly further explained the situation, the hotel upgraded both rooms to oceanview suites. TMIL and TFIL were actually put in the honeymoon suite! The hotel bends over backwards to accomidate their guests. I'm bringing them cookies later on this week, as soon as I have a free minute to make them!

I have a very special task while the inlaws are here. That task is a week's worth of menus. "Why is that a task?" you may ask, "Don't you already plan a week's worth of menus?" Why yes, yes I do. But I plan them for Thatboy, who thinks everything I make is wonderful. Unlike Thatboy, my inlaws are not so flattering. First of all, TFIL considers himself a gourmet chef. He actually used to be fairly good in the kitchen, but age has deteriorated his skill. It now takes him close to 4 hours to prepare a meal that could be cooked in less than 1 hour. And it usually involves overdone leather meat and overdone mushy veggies. And that, my friends is because TFIL doesn't know how to make veggies other than by boiling them - bleh. Second of all, TFIL will only eat "French" food. Well, he considers anything European to be French. Soooo no Mexican, no Thai, and their knowledge of Chinese Food is the most Americanized version you could possibly have. Third of all, in the 9 years I've known the inlaws, TFIL has refused to eat anything I've made. When I bring them bread, he trashes it and serves storebought. Truffles go straight in the trash. Cookies and things I make with the kids, he passes (and then I catch him sneaking them in the middle of the night). The rest of the inlaws are similar because TFIL does all the cooking for the entire family. That's right - TBIL, TSIL, and their kids eat dinner almost nightly at TFIL's house because they live next door.....and TBIL is as tight with money as you can be.

So here's my menu for the first night of the visit. They had just gotten in to town a couple of hours earlier.

Vodka Spiked Lemonade (Regular Lemonade for the kiddies)
Green Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
Drop Biscuits
Broiled Sirloin
Baked Potatoes
Sauteed Zucchini
Apple Pie

A little hint if you're entertaining kids - I froze a bunch of fruit juice in an ice cube tray and filled our ice bucket with the special pink ice cubes. The kids liked the lemonade, but the LOVED the ice cubes they got to put in their drinks.

I've been wanting to make a Green Goddess Dressing ever since I read about Mollie Wizenberg's Alice Water's experience in Bon Apetit. This is Fannie Farmer's version and it was a hit. I make Thatboy do the "finger test" with all my dressings where he dips into the mixing bowl and he loved the way the flavors on this one develop after you're done with your bite.

Green Goddess Dressing
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp tarragon vinegar
1 Tbsp anchovy paste
1 cup canola oil
4 Tbsp heavy cream
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp finely chopped chives
2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley

  1. Combine the egg yolk, vinegar, and anchovy paste in a bowl and stir until well mixed.
  2. Slowly beat in the oil, a drop at a time, increasing flow as the sauce emulsifies. The sauce should be smooth and thickened.
  3. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Those of you who have been to a party at my house have probably had my drop biscuits. They're addictive. I think they were the hit of the evening. I think TFIL had 2 or 3. TMIL was impressed they weren't made with bisquick, which is used for almost all baked goods in their house.

I found a gorgeous (and gigantic) sirloin steak at the market and decided it would make for a VERY quick and easy dinner. Thatneice had thirds.

Broiled Sirloin
Sirloin Steak
1 Tbsp canola oil
  1. Bring meat to room temperature. Preheat the broiler. Rub oil on a broiler rack set in a drip pan and place the meat on the rack. Broil for 5 minutes per side until desired doneness.
  2. Remove from the broiler and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

The zucchini was a favorite. TBIL remarked he had only ever had boiled zucchini before. I told him that this was how I got Thatboy to eat zucchini. TFIL must have agreed too, because he had thirds of this. It's amazing what a little olive oil and garlic can do.

Sauteed Zucchini
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch slices.
  1. Heat oil in skillet. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes.
  2. Add the zucchini and cook over low heat, stirring occassionally about 10 minutes.
  3. Season to taste.

Double baked pies always worry me, something about not being able to check on the doneness of what's inside. This one gave me a little extra trouble when I realized I forgot to put the butter on top of the apples...after I had already put the top crust on and cut pretty designs in it. Uggh. So this looked a lot prettier before I had to unpeel the top and smoosh it back down.

Apple Pie
Pie dough (enough for 2 crust pie)
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 Tbsp flour
6 granny smith apples
2 Tbsp butter

  1. Preheat oven to 425. Line a 9-inch pie pan with half the pie dough.
  2. Mix the sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flour in a large bowl.
  3. Peel, core, and slice the apples and toss them in the sugar mixture, coating well.
  4. Pile them into the lined pan and dot with the butter.
  5. Roll out the top crust and drape it over the pie. Crimp the edges and cut several vents in the top.
  6. Bake 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 and bake 40 minutes more or until the crust is browned.


  1. This is too funny because I can relate. My MIL and FIL have never come to our house on a holiday because they can only have it at their house. And my MIL has thrown out my bread too:) Your steak looks like it's cooked perfectly!

  2. bisquick..... BUUHHHHHHH! it makes my skin crawl. i hate the taste.

    and parmesan is also a nice topper for zucchini... it helps those people who think they dont like veggies.

  3. What's not to love about this menu. ENJOY!!!!

  4. Sounds like a real challenge feeding this crew. You did a great job- a beautiful meal for sure! I am thanking goodness that my inlaws are so easy after reading about yours!

  5. Love the pink ice cubes idea! Can you share the recipe for the drop biscuits? The apple pie pics are making me hungry!!

    You are quite the host! I hope the inlaws appreciate all you're doing for them!

  6. Kudos to you for working so hard to make nice with the in-laws. I think you're more patient than me.

  7. OK, I read all 4 parts and this is what I think:

    1. You are a real trooper!
    2. I hope they don't read your blog.


    OH, I've always wanted to make green goddess too, for the life of me, I cannot figure out why I just don't do it. I bet yours was great!

  8. Your inlaws sound like such bitter people. :(

    For what it's worth, the dinner you made sounds and looks delish!

    On another note, isn't it awesome having a husband that thinks everything you make is fabulous? Makes cooking so much more fun. :)