Friday, June 26, 2009

Fun with the Inlaws, Part 4

Let's call today "The Catholic Indoctrination." I should preface this by saying my own religious beliefs are that there is no right or wrong religion, religious belief, or path to G-d. TFIL doesn't agree with me. He spent almost half of his life as a Catholic Priest and has expressed on numerous occasions that Catholicism is the only religion without fanatics. He believes that the Catholic church should control everything the public hears, sees, reads, experiences. (Because he believes that you and I, or the general population, aren't capable of making wise decisions regarding books, movies, newspapers, etc. etc. etc.) If the Catholic church speaks out against something - he is against it, without ever doing any further research or experiencing it himself.

Given his own obsession with all things Catholic, I thought TFIL would really enjoy a visit to Mission San Diego de Alcala, the first mission built in California. There was one small problem, all the inlaws came down in one vehicle, and TBIL and TSIL decided they wanted to spend the week their friends. They made plans to go to SeaWorld, Legoland, and other activities which didn't include TFIL or TMIL who were stuck at the hotel all day without a car. Don't worry though, TBIL and TSIL made sure that their plans ended JUST in time for dinner at our place.

So it was up to us to make sure TFIL got to see the mission.

Mission San Diego de Alcala was the brianchild of Father Juniperro Serra. I would say "built" but as TMIL pointed out, it was most likely built by the Native Americans who were living on the land before the church and Father Serra showed up.

This room was marked as Father Serra's living quarters. Portions of the original frame and adobe were visible. Around here I got a fantastic lecture about how well educated Father Serra, and the education of priests in general.

Okay, this for sure was the coolest part of the visit. Inside the chapel. You don't see anything unusual do you? Well TMIL took the same picture and in her picture, on the left hand side, behind the roped off area, there is a perfectly formed, blue/white orb. Now, when Thatboy and I were in Savannah last September we went on a ghost tour. The tour guide told us that ghosts and spirits are usually visible in photographs as orbs of light. Having never seen the phenomena for myself, I shared the theory with TMIL who decided to try again and see if it showed did....only this time it was on the right side, and halfway down the aisle from us. Spooky huh?

The bells of the mission. TFIL told me about how he was used to bells telling him when to do what. I offered to get him and alarm clock with the sound of bells for his next birthday. That was a big mistake. TFIL believes that humor is the root of all prejudice and doesn't appreciate my jokes. He went on to tell me that moving from one activity to the next is a sign of maturity. The immature will dally between activities or tell you they'll be there "in a minute."

All 21 California missions associated with Father Serra. TFIL and TMIL have been to most of them.

Father Serra himself.

This is a Carmelite chapel - for Carmelite monks. I'm still not 100% clear on what Carmelite monks are.

I did a bunch better job of taking pictures at dinner, since we weren't in a hurry to get anywhere. Although Thatneice was anxious to finish since I had promised her she could watch "The Phantom Tollbooth" after dinner. (She had recently finished the book). And it's a good thing I had made plans for the kiddies, since after dinner Thatboy and TFIL got into a heated discussion over gay marriage rights. As you can assume, TFIL is against anything having to do with homosexuality, because the church is against anything having to do with homosexuality. Nevermind that this same church used to be for slavery, or against interracial marriages (like TBIL and TSIL), or even divorce (like TMIL and her first husband). TFIL made arguments such as "against biology" and "the definition of marriage is for procreation." As I listened to my kind, sweet, wonderful husband attempt to dissuade and bring reason to a stone I thought about how lucky I was to have him in my life and how thankful I was that the apple fell far from the tree.

Green Salad with Vinaigrette
French Bread
Roast Chicken with bread stuffing
Steamed Baby New Potatoes

Spring Vegetables with Tarragon Butter

Chocolate Mousse

TFIL, the same man who has thrown out multiple loaves of bread I have made and brought to his home, has finally realized that I am a fantastic bread maker. He's been packing away my baked goods like a squirrel waiting for the winter. One of my tricks with bread baking is to make the dough ahead of time, on a day when you have a lot time to wait for rises. Refrigerate or freeze after the first rise. Then when you want it, you can just pull it out of the fridge or freezer, shape it, give it the second rise, and throw it in the oven!

French Bread
1 pkg yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp melted shortening
3 cups bread flour
1 egg white

  1. Stir the yeast into 1 cup hot water in a large bowl and let stand for 5 minutes to dissolve.
  2. Add sugar, shortening, and 1/2 Tbsp salt - stir well.
  3. Add 1 cup of flour and beat thoroughly.
  4. Add 1 1/2 cups flour and mix well.
  5. Knead by hand, or if you're a cheater like me, this is where you let the bread hook on your Kitchenaid take over.
  6. Let the dough rest 10 minutes. While you're doing this, turn on the oven to it's lowest setting- 175/200, whatever.
  7. Knead again, adding in remaining flour until dough is no longer sticky.
  8. Turn off the oven, pour the dough into a greased bowl, cover, and place in the warm (but off) oven until the dough has doubled in size.
  9. Punch down the dough, and knead for a few seconds.
  10. Shape the dough by rolling and stretching it into a long cylindrical loaf.
  11. Cover, and let rise again until double in bulk.
  12. Preheat oven to 375. Lightly beat egg white with 1 Tbsp water and 1 tsp salt. Brush top of loaf with the egg wash and bake for 40 minutes.

I wanted to make my turn turn turn chicken, but I couldn't find a bird big enough. I was stuck with two 4 pounders and I'm really too lazy to mess with turning two birds. So I just did a basic roast. I did, however, fill the birds with stuffing which is a surefire easy peasy way to impress anyone. Thatneice informed me that stuffing was her favorite food. TSIL says she only gets stuffing at Thanksgiving, so she was very happy. Here's the recipe for 2 chickens, cut it in half if you're serving less than 8 people!

Roast Chicken with Stuffing
2 sticks butter
4 Tbsp onion, finely chopped
4 Tbsp celery, finely chopped
4 cups bread crumbs
2 four lb chickens

Melt 1 stick of butter in large skillet.
Add onions and celery and cook until onions are tender.
Mix the butter, onions, and celery into the bread crumbs and season with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 325. Rinse the chickens and pat them dry. Stuff the chickens with the stuffing.
Rub about 4 Tbsp of butter over the chickens and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place chickens in a v-shaped rack in a roasting pan and bake breast side up.
Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepand and use this butter to baste the chickens every 15 minutes, until there is enough pan drippings in the pan to use them instead.
Cook about 25 minutes per pound (for my 4lbers, this was 2 hours)

Sure you could bake these potatoes, or throw them in the roasting pan, but there is something so fresh and springy about steaming them. I have a steamer as part of my rice cooker, which makes it ridiculously easy.

Steamed New Potatoes
2 lbs tiny new unpeeled potatoes
  1. Wash the potatoes and put them in a steamer basket.
  2. Steam just until potatoes are tender (30 minutes in my steamer)
  3. sprinkle with salt and serve hot!

Thatmom saw these vegetables in Bon Appetit and thought they looked delicious, so we made them a couple weeks back. They were so good, I thought they'd make a nice addition to the inlaws' dinner.

Thatnephew was a little nervous about eating a chocolate mouse for dinner. Guess he missed the second s. Super rich, and not even that bad for you - it's cream free! Thatnephew told me he did not think it was very delicious, and asked if he could have apple pie instead. No one else seemed to have his problem, as the rest of the bowls were licked clean.

Chocolate Mousse
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla

  1. Melt the chocolate in a pan over very low heat, stirring often to prevent burning.
  2. Beat egg yolks in a large bowl until pale and lemon colored. Add the melted chocolate slowly and blend well.
  3. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add a third of the egg whites to the yolk and chocolate, add the vanilla and mix well.
  4. Carefully fold in the remaining whites.
  5. Cover and refrigerate overnight.


  1. Oh, your inlaws sound just like mine! And they are coming in July! My MIL has already expressed her dislike for San Diego and that she doesn't want to come! They have to come for a conference. I should do something like you did.

    Luckily I won't have to cook as much -- they'll definitely want to go out to eat.

  2. TFIL sounds like such a gem. When do they leave again? I am quite amazed how fall the apple fell from the tree.

  3. Wow. I'm working with a guy who sounds a lot like your FIL, though I am in no way related to him.

  4. You wisely tapped into a meaningful trip for TFIL and a really interesting day for everyone. Smart thinking.

  5. Yikes. Glad YOU have a good sense of humor.

    Chocolate mouse, haha!

  6. My MIL's aunt is a Carmelite nun. It's a special type of nun, but seeing as how I'm not Catholic, I'm not very informed about it.

    We had strict instructions when in Italy to make monetary donations to all of the St. Therese statues, since they have a relationship to the Carmelite nuns. And like a good son and DIL, we complied. ;)