1,000 words

Perfectly-made falafel. 2 cans chickpeas, 1 partially drained, 1 fully drained. 1 teaspoon baking soda. 3 big tablespoons flour. Hot sauce. Parsley. Cumin, curry powder. Garlic. Shallot. Salt. Pepper. Mashy mashy with a potato masher.
Form into balls.
Roll in seasoned breadcrumbs.
Deep-fry in vegetable oil or sunflower oil or any kind of oil you feel like.
Try to not drool into the oil.

And then.... nom. Amazing. I have no more.


We have a winner

Last night, I made an old fave. One that I haven't made in probably 6 months.
Penne alla Vodka with Chicken Meatballs. Yum!!
And because I haven't had any batteries, and I suddenly got some really good batteries for my digital camera, I took pictures!! Aren't you excited? So, a photo-heavy entry it is.
Step 1: Meatballs are made and pan-fried:

These end up a little funny shaped, because they get cooked on one side until they are golden and gorgeous..... and then they get all turned about and golden and gorgeous on other sides:

Mmmmm..... Golden brown and gorgeous.

The sauce is onions and garlic sauteed together until they get all soft and pretty. Then, you add vodka, tomatoes, cream, salt, pepper, and eventually, the meatballs. Mmmm!!!

Then, you add the cooked pasta straight in, mix it all up, and plate. NOM!!!!

Also, this was a gratuitious chance to show off my Le Creuset again.

I love this meal. I love Penne Alla Vodka. Especially with chicken meatballs. And when the vodka is Georgi.



And here I'm drinking milk.....

Sunday is generally the day that I catch up on all the food blogs I haven't read during the week, pick out new recipes that I want to make or want to read again, and troll for new food bloggers that I don't read yet. We'll get to Sunday in a minute.

Saturday, Jesse and I were busy. We went out to brunch at Essex, the perpetual favorite, where I once again, for probably the millionth time, got the spectacular Mexican Matzo Brei. The table of tourists next to me asked me what it was, and one of them ordered it. It's delicious. Scrambled eggs, tortilla chips, all manner of veggies and cheese, with black beans and pico. Amaaaaazing. Mmm :)
After that, we walked up to the Union Square Christmas Market, and did some Christmas shopping. GLEE!! I love Christmas, and sending people gifts, and all that fun stuff. Combining giving people gifts, with a big meal, is the best idea ever. Trust me. My favorite holiday. Evar. Then, we headed to Target, to procure lights, ornaments, and the various acoutrements that accompany one's first Christmas tree. And, from a vendor on Atlantic..... THE TREE!!!! :)
We came home, set it up, and set our penguin topper atop the branches. It looks beautyful. I promise, I will post a picture once there are wrapped presents under it. :) We watched Rudolph and Charlie Brown Christmas. And then I remembered that I should probably get around to making dinner. So, I baked 2 butternut squash, for soup.

I cut them in half, scooped out the seeds, and poured butter with cumin and curry powder all over them, on the cut side AND the outside. And of course, liberal salt and pepper. I baked them at 440 for about 45 minutes.
(and then I cut Jesse's hair. I love at-home haircuts).

When they came out, I let them cool and diced up a shallot (small) and half an onion, and a stalk of celery. I put those in a soup pot with some olive oil to sweat out, and added a little salt. When the squash were cool enough to handle, I poured the last of my chicken broth (a cup and a half tops) into the soup pot with the aromatics.
After that went in, I started peeling the squash. Are you supposed to peel butternut squashes before baking? I always peel after. I dunno. So anyways, I realized that pulling off hte peel by hand was too slow. So, since they were mush already, I just grabbed a spoon and scooped out the flesh, into a bowl with all the juices and residual buttery goodness. I added that to the stuff already in the soup pot, stirred, and added 2 cups of water, as well as more salt, pepper, cumin, and curry powder.
All that came up to a bubble, I tasted, re-seasoned, and then, busted out my immersion blender. Off the heat, I buzzed the soup up. It's nice. Even more savory than last time. I think the stock was superior. Fresh Direct recently started carrying another brand of boxed stock, which is WAY better than College Inn's watery-looking stuff. Much thicker, cloudier, chickenier. Smells better. Looks better. Yields better results. I'm sold.

Today, after fiddling around for a few, I came upon a post at Cooking After Five, for Homemade Oreos. She got the recipe at Smitten Kitchen, which is where I got it from as well, when I made them today.

Both CookingAfterFive and I made a rookie mistake, making cookies that were way too big. Deb at Smitten Kitchen's recipe makes, reportedly, 25-30 sandwich cookies. I got 16. Next time, using JUST a teaspoonfull, no rounding, and I'm smashing them down. These did not spread and thin out that much at all. Also, it explains the OVER ABUNDANCE of cream filling I have left over. Next time.... and there will be a next time.... I'll do better.

Argh. I was trying to post a beautiful photo that Deb took of her cookies, but Blogger and I are having a fight. I'm going to go eat another Josie-O. Dunked in milk. So there.


...Ain't nothin' wrong with that!

Cornbread, immortalized by Chris Rock in "No Sex in the Champagne Room", is one of those things I should really make more often, considering how much I love it. And how easy it is. I made some off the back of a bag of cornmeal today while I was bored. And I was rewarded with some deliciousness. I'm sitting here, contemplating eating the rest of the pan, knowing I should save it for Jesse, or at least for us to share. It's difficult.
This cornbread is pretty dead simple:
1 cup of cornmeal, 1 cup of flour. 1/4 cup of sugar, 3 teaspoons of baking powder, 1(admittedly, heaped) teaspoon of salt. 1/4 cup of shortening cut into the dry ingredients. 1 egg & 1 cup of milk beaten together. Added to the dry mix. Swipe, swipe, swipe, allow for lumps, don't stress. Bake 22 minutes at 425. Nom!!

I'm making a lentil-and-kale dish to accompany some lovely salmon filets for dinner tonight.
The lentils went into a pot with 2 slices of thick-cut bacon, half an onion, and 2 chopped up garlic cloves. about 2 cups of water and a cup and a half to 2 cups of chicken broth. After 15 minutes, I added a few chopped-fine leaves of lacinato kale, and some red pepper flake and salt.

The salmon, I'm planning to just pan-cook, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. I don't go for fully-cooked salmon. Medium-rare is fine with me. :)

Mmmm.... lentils and cornbread. Yum!


But of course

So Giada DiLaurentiis is on tv, and that gives me half an hour to blog, because I can't really stand her and I don't feel the need to watch while she's on. So.... blogging.

This week was rough food-wise, because I've been working late every night. But this coming week will be spectacular (I hope)

Monday night I worked till about 8. I don't like working till 8. On my way home, I was feeling very bummed out, because I didn't want to eat left-over red beans and rice, and because I didn't want to have worked so late and.... anyways. I stopped at the grocery store next to the subway station, trying to see what they might have for dinner. I found a pound of London Broil (not a cut, but a mehtod, I know!) for ridiculously inexpensive. So I decided we would have, essentially, steak au poivre on the cheapy-cheap. London Broil, frozen french fries, pseudo-au poivre sauce. YUM!

I sprinkled the steak with olive oil, salt, pepper, and my uncle's dry rub (again, it appears to be granulated onion, garlic, rosemary, and possibly cayenne). I let it hang out for a while, turned on the oven for the french fries, and when everything was hot, I put the fries in the oven, and the London Broil under the broiler.

I sauteed some shallots in butter, and then added the left-over cognac from when I made Steak Au Poivre last time. I didn't flame it, instead just letting the alcohol boil off a little. Then, I added half and half, instead of cream, simmered it a little, and ta-daaaa, everything was ready!! Yum.

Tuesay, I worked till 8 again, and we ordered a pizza.
Wednesay, we had Velveeta shells & cheese. Don't judge me. I worked till 8.
Thursday, I made some bangin' biscuits. They're my basic biscuits, stolen from Alton Brown. I added a huge hunk of grated romano cheese too, because I wanted to have savory cheesey biscuits. And they were delicious. I added a quarter cup of extra milk because I was trying to compensate for the cheese adding bulk. I didn't need to, and ended up dusting with way more flour than generally necessary. BUT, I baked them in the cast-iron skillet and they came out delicious!!! :)

Last night, I made chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes. It was delicious. There are 2 CFS' left in the fridge, as well as some mashed tato and some gravy. I'll probably be having one of them for dinner tonight, since Jesse will be out at a surprise party and I'll be home alone watching the Big 12 Championship Game in hopes of seeing the Sooner Schooner run around the field after a score. :)

I'm a nerd.

Tomorrow night, we're having friends over for Mulled Wine and Macaroni and Cheese and Football and Rockband and Beer and ..... joy. :)


In which I hang my head in shame

Ok. I admit it. I fell right off that wagon. The one I was back on. I tripped, and I fell off. I can't even remember what I made, specifically, over the week and a half since I've last posted. Let's see. I know that I made chicken fingers on Friday the 21st, Chickpea and Leek soup and bread on Saturday the 22nd, Red Beans and rice, which deserves and will hopefully get its own post, on Sunday the 23rd.
Monday the 24th I made Chicken Cordon Bleu, and Tuesday the 25th I believe we ate left-overs. Wednesday, we departed for MA, and had pizza from Sorrento's after the journey. Thursday was a day of much cookery, involving roll-baking, pie-making, and risotto-crafting. Saturday around midday I made a wonderful turkey hash which will find its way onto the menu at 2 chairs during the holiday season. It was so easy too.... shallots and garlic in butter, then turkey and mashed potatoes mixed together in the pan, and pressed down so they got a little crusty. 2 eggs on top. Delicitude.
Saturday night I made Mac & Cheese, complete with a vegetarian version for my brother, which was pretty awesome despite not posessing any pancetta. I learned from my earlier mistake with the risotto, and tasted the vegetable stock compulsively, and the cream sauce compulsively, to make sure it wasn't too sweet to be delish. I am happy to say that it was comforting, or so I hear from my mom. The regular came out as it always does.... well. :)

Tonight was supposed to be left over red beans and rice, but when your ghetto grocery store is carrying London Broil for 4 dollars a pound, you get on that. So we're having modified steak frites.... London Broil, french fries, and a sauce of some sort.

And now, with 3 and a half weeks till Christmas, we're in a serious stretch, and we're approaching the fist anniversary of this blog. Scary, but true!!!


In which it's delicious

The boiled kale was great. It really was. And in an amazing turn of events, I managed to make perfect toast. Like.... it was gorgeous. Beautiful toast.
Of course, it got all sogged up with the broth and the slippery kale and the egg yolk and the melting gruyere.... but still. For a minute, right between when I pulled it out of the broiler and when I smeared it all over with a garlic clove -- just golden, still soft, but crispy too.... it was wonderful.

So, the recipe, in case you didn't click on the link to Orangette.
1 medium yellow onion, diced.
2 tablespoons of butter and about the same of olive oil.
2 finely sliced garlic cloves.
A pinch of crushed red pepper flake.
Reportedly, about 8 ounces of kale. I used a bunch of Lacinato kale.
About 4 cups of a combo of water and chicken stock.

Put the oil and butter in a pot to melt up, and then add the diced onion while you're slicing the garlic and stripping the kale leaves away from the woody stems. When the onions are clear, but a little soft, add the garlic and a pinch of red pepper flake. Start slicing your (well washed) kale leaves into little ribbons - I did this by rolling them all up together and then slicing them perpendicular to the longest part (aka I took a leaf, stood it up, rotated it 90 degrees so it was lying on its side, and then cut it across so that my knife was going up and down)

Add the kale to the pot, with some salt, and toss it all around until the kale is all wilty. Then, add the water and stock until your kale is covered by about 1/2 an inch. Or until you get sick of it and have decided that it's done regardless. Not that this is when I stopped pouring in water or anything.... of course not.
Bring the liquid up to a simmer, and cover the pot while turning the heat down a little. You want it, apparently, to keep simmering and not boil. Whoops.

After about half an hour, fire up your broiler, slice your bread, and get your eggs out. Taste the kale - you might need to add salt. I sure did. Toast the bread up, and fry a few eggs. Perhaps get out the left-over hunk of gruyere that's in your fridge from Mac & Cheese making last week. To plate, grab the bread from the broiler and rub it all over with a garlic clove.
Put it in the bottom of a soup plate.
Spoon the kale and some broth over it. Shred some gruyere over (or parm/romano/whatevs), and then top with a fried egg. I'd recommend sunny side up -- Jesse's plate looked much more beautiful with the sunny-side eggs than my over-"quick before the top cooks too much" egg. More gruyere is always welcome here.

I brought out a second slice of gorgeous toast for dipping and soaking and the like, because the first piece got really soggy really fast.

And to my darling reader in Tulsa, OK -- I promise that as soon as I have more batteries for the camera, I will take more pictures. For now, they're being utilized by the drums. Smooches.

In which there is no ketchup

I'm going to post this lunchbreak, to catch up to where we should be. I'm not going to backdate, even though i kind of want to. SO I'll admit. I broke National November Blog Posting Month or whatever it's called. But I got halfway through. Legitimately. And I'm not giving up and letting it go for the rest of the month, even though It'll be tough because Thanksgiving is coming. But regardless.... here we go.

Monday. November 17th.
The plan had been to use the left over pork shoulder cooked on Sunday and do something fabulous with it. But since it was bad, there was no help there. And we didn't really have much else in the way of.... food. Because when the plan ends, you need another plan ready to go.
So I turned to the staple of frazzled cooks everywhere.


I had eggs, potatoes, an onion, and I scrounged up some pancetta slices. I even had some cheese left. (Honestly, I had a ton of cheese left). So, I shredded my potato and half the onion on my grater, and put them into a pan to cook like hash browns. These potatoes are weird, and kind of wet, so I had to press them out with a paper towel to get some of the moisture out so they would get a little crispy, instead of just mushy. I sliced up the pancetta into similar shapes as the potatoes and onion, and I got them in the pan as well. While everything got happy, I whipped up 6 eggs and some cream. Y'know, to ensure that we would still get our caloric intake for the meal.
I poured them in, on too high a heat, but whatever, and began to scramble. Added a little hot sauce, salt, and pepper. A little curry powder went in with the onions and potatoes.
It was good. I put shredded cheddar and the feisty romano on top. We finished off the boxed soup from last week, and had a small salad. Deeelish.
And of course, we had some ice cream with salted caramel sauce on top. Naturally.

Tuesday. November 18th.
The original plan for Tuesday was to have Pizza. Wall*E had arrived on BluRay and in honor of hte Captain of the Axiom and his desire for a pizza plant, we were going to order a pizza. But some things went crazy with our finances (ahem, holler student loan payment going up unexpectedly) and while we sort of have the money for pizza, it's all tied up in savings accounts and suchlike. Not accessible. So regardless.... we made pizza instead.
We didn't have much, so I worked with what we had.

Basic Pizza crust, sprinkled with mozzarella. Half a thinly-sliced onion. Garlic cloves smashied. Arugula. Gorgonzola crumbles. Olive oil over the top. Baked at 425 for about 20 minutes. Delicious. INcredible. You'd never know this was a refrigerator clean-out instead of a planned meal. In fact, I probably shouldn't have told you.
Strike all of the above. This was a totally planned pizza. We wanted to make our own. And we thought that the above ingredients would go perfectly together. And they did. Teh End.

Tonight, I think we're having boiled kale, inspired by Orangette, probably some others, Rachael Ray, and basically, my desire to be warm. I've wanted this for days, and I've never even had boiled kale before.
So, you'll get a post tonight, my loves. I promise. I'm back on the wagon.


In which we have a roast

So my original plan for tonight's dinner was to do something fun and fabulous with the remaining Pork shoulder that I hadn't turned into yummy pork tacos last week.
I was researching different things to do with the porky goodness, when I ventured to remove it from the fridge. It had gone bad. I didn't realize that pork could go bad so quickly. I was used to chicken, which you can put in the fridge for a week and it's ok. But, this huge hunk of pork was not ok. I had to throw it out.
This wouldn't have been such a huge problem if my dearest Kristin wasn't coming over for dinner tonight!! So I ran to the store next door, which thankfully has really really ghetto pricing, and bought a pork loin roast. It was kind of fab. I used a combination of a Tyler Florence recipe and a Nigella Lawson recipe, because among other things, I've never cooked roast pork before. I had mixed Tyler's rub before I bought the smaller roast, so I went for it, even though Tyler's rub is for pork shoulder, which means tougher meat out of which one needs to coax juices. It had a lot of salt in it. So, I rubbed it all over the pork, and set it to marinate like Nigella and Tyler recommended. I roasted it according to Nigella's instructions, although eventually I needed to pour some water into the roasting pan because things were getting a little dry. But in the end, it was pretty delicious and I'm sure that if I were to do something else, like butterfly it, rub the inside with flavored butter and herbs, and then tie it up and roast it with the butter stuff on the outside too, it'd be even better. The flavor didn't appear to soak into the meat all that much. I didn't slit the meat to allow the flavor to get in. I'm nto sure what the real issue was But basically, I'm ok with it. And we had mashed tatoes, and salad, and I got to see my girl for a while and talk. It was good.

Roast Pork a la Tyler and Nigella
Tyler Florence's marinade:

4 pasted garlic cloves (I used my microplane)
A handful of oregano (I used parsley since I didn't have oregano fresh) chopped up fine.
A tablespoon of salt for each pound of the meat.
A tablespoon of coarsely grated black pepper
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil (I used olive oil)

Nigella Lawson's marinade:
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 pasted garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
6 bruised peppercorns
6 crumbled bay leaves

In both cases, you rub the marinade all over the meat, contain it, and leave it to sit for as long as you can. Tyler recommends cutting slits about an inch deep into the fatty part of your pork shoulder, and I would also recommend doing this if you've got a pork loin roast, to let the flavors get more inside the meat. It was probably too salty, although all the salt created much juiciness. Pork just doesn't really taste like much without some flavorant.

So once the marinating was done, I used Nigella's roasting method, although I have a bone to pick with it.
She says to slice up 1 onion and put it in the bottom of the roasting pan, and then put 10 bay leaves on top of the onion, and the pork on top of that. Then, you roast for an hour and 45 minutes, at 400 degrees, basting regularly with "pan juices".
#1 - my onion burned up.
#2 - I had no pan juices. Maybe this is a result of the salty marinade crust thing. Maybe I should have added 3 more tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. But there was nothing with which to baste this sucker. So I had to just pour in some water eventually, to keep the onions fron burning so badly that they set off my smoke alarm or made the porky goodness taste like burning. I welcome any and all input for why the hell this happened.

Regardless, once the pork came out an hour and a half later, it was juicy and tender and the juices ran out and created a lovely little jus thingie that I spooned over the pork and the mashed potatoes to feed my hungry friend and my love.
And now I've said good night to my friend, and taken out the smelly trash. My fridge no longer stinks, and I'm much happier about all the rest of this stuff. Now.... to bed, and byebye till tomorrow!!!


In which I win

So I just created a recipe. Like, a muffin recipe. I worked it out in my own little brain and I made it and it's pretty darn delicious.
Shock. Awe. Amazement.

Apple Pecan Muffins, with a Salted Caramel Drizzle.

they didn't come out perfectly. They're a bit moister than I'd like, although that can be adjusted either by baking longer or by adding a touch more flours. I'm pretty confident. Plus, I could have created a drier applesauce by not ignoring the author's indications regarding the right amount of water to go into the saucepan with the apples. I need to not get over-confident. I need to remember that I don't know how to intuitively make everything. Like applesauce. Also, I should probably research apples to see which ones hang onto themselves a little bit better while cooking, because McIntosh and Gala are went to mush. And I probably should have held out a little longer while making the caramel drizzle. I pulled it before it got the right color, so it just looks shiny atop the muffins, instead of caramel-y. But.... next time.
Howevs. Here is my recipe. Tweak if desired.

Step 1. Applesauce
I borrowed the particulars of this from the recipe in Bon Appetit for Chaussons aux Pommes (apple turnovers).
4 apples. I used 2 Gala and 2 McIntosh, feel free to pick your faves. Peel, core, and chop up into chunks. Put in a saucepot with 1/4cup of water. Bring to a boil, and then cover and simmer until the apples are soft. Mash them with a potato masher. Let the applesauce cool.

Step 2. Pecans
I like roasted pecans. So I put them on a cookie sheet, and toasted them up in a 350 oven for a few minutes, then reserved them and let them cool too.

Step 3. Muffins
Preheat the oven to 350 and grease your muffin cups.
Put the following in your mixer's bowl:
1 3/4 cup applesauce
1 stick softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
Mix until everything is light and fluffy. If you have little bits of butter showing in the mixture, that's ok too, I had that.
Once everything is incorporated, add 3 eggs, one at a time. This bit is very wet, and there will be batter flinging all around regardless of how careful you are. Accept it. Scrub your walls.

While the Butter/Applesauce/Sugar are mixing together, in a separate bowl, combine the following:
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix these to combine.

Once all the wet ingredients are combined, take your mixer bowl off the stand, grab a spatula, and start adding in the dry ingredients a little at a time. Don't over-mix.... once you can't see the flour in the batter anymore, add some more. When you can stand your spatula up in the batter and it doesn't tip over, it's done.
Add the chopped up pecans. I probably added about a cup.

Depending on the type of apples you used, you may not need all the flour, and that's ok.
I used an ice cream scoop to get my batter into the muffin cups. These don't rise that much, so you can fill the cups right up to the top. You can totally use the paper liners if you want to, but you don't have to.

Bake them for 23 minutes, and then test by sticking a toothpick into the center of one. It probably won't come out clean. These took around 25 minutes for me. Maybe longer. Keep testing and adding on a minute or two. I wasn't watching the clock, sadly, as much as I was watching my caramel sauce. Cool them in the pans for about 10 minutes, and then take them out and cool them on a rack.

Step 5. Drizzle.
Make the Salted Caramel sauce:
1 cup of sugar
4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup.

Put those 3 into a pot, stir until the sugar is dissolved, and then cover and cook for 3 minutes.
Uncover and boil until the caramel is a golden amber color, shaking the pot to make sure it doesn't burn. When it's a golden amber color, remove it from the heat and amass the following ingredients:
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt.

After 30 seconds off the heat, add the cream to the caramel. This will bubble up, don't be scared. Be brave. mix in the cream, then add the butter and salt. It's delicious. Let it cool.

Once everything is cooled down, drizzle the caramel over the muffins (put the cooling rack over a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet) and let it sit for a few.

They're so good. I'm pretty satisfied. And I see the potential and it's infinitel I'm trying it with bananas and walnuts next. GET EXCITED!!!!


In which we light it up

It's going to become a muffin situation in here tomorrow, which will carry through the week. Hopefully it'll be a good one. I'll be posting.
But tonight, I saw Quantum of Solace, which I recommend to everyone regardless of whether I know you or not. SEE THE MOVIE. It's good. And Daniel Craig is beyond sexy. But that's not the point of this blog.
I just roasted a pepper on my gas burner. It was a pretty amazing experience. It went so well that i'll probably roast another one if we have pizza guests tomorrow like I'm hoping we will.
I put the pepper on the burner, directly on the gas element, and I turned it round and round. I think tomorrow I might want to broil it instead, but maybe not because I'm not sure I can get it close enough to the heat. I need to find the perfect set of tongs for htis - obviously metal would be ideal (no melting the head of hte tongs) but it gets hot so fast. Maybe metal heads and coated handle? Something?
Someone come up with an idea for me. Please.
For now, I'm going to rinse the skin off my pepper, chop it up, boil some spaghetti, and sautee some spinach in garlic and butter. Probably a shallot if we still have one. And then, I'm going to mix it all together with the spaghetti and add some romano and call it dinner. NOMMMM!!!


IN which we follow up

Well. The taco soup is delish. I had some for lunch today. I've had more for dinner. I think I will second Leah's potential for bathing in it.
However, I'm exhausted so I won't be bathing in it tonight. This morning, I got up and baked muffins to bring in for the birthday breakfast we had for my boss. The muffins were, luckily, a HUGE hit. So huge that I had to pass on the recipe to one of hte other managers. She is a huge fan of these things. My boss literally called me into her office to write the recipe down for her friend (the other manager). She then asked me where the recipe came from. The truth is, I kind of made it up. I took a banana bread recipe, and tweaked it around and swapped the bananas for pumpkin, and the walnuts for chocolate chips, and messed with the seasonings, and the amount of flour and..... basically I created a recipe. I'm kind of proud. I'll post it later, but right now, I'm going to bed because I am le tired. Or at least, going to read "How to Eat" by Nigella in bed. :)


In which we're cutting it close

Ok. So we just got back in from a movie (JCVD) and it's after 11 and I have to get up at 5:30 to make pumpkin chocolate chip muffins for work tomorrow because it's my boss's birthday.
But I need to post.

I'm making Leah's Taco Soup tonight. Here is the recipe, in her own words. I'll be back tomorrow to tell you how it went.

If I could only have one meal for the rest of my life, it would probably be this. I would consider bathing in it. I call it "taco soup" but it is probably closer to a chili. It makes A LOT. I usually end up snacking on it all weekend and freezing leftovers. It takes about 10 minutes to make---the longest part is cooking the meat. The rest is dumping cans in a pot. Oh man, I think I will make this on Saturday!

Leah's "Taco Soup"

1 lb ground beef (I use turkey. Tastes the same!)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can Ro-Tel
1 can kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can hominy (tastes like little cornbread balls in the soup!)
1 pkg taco seasoning dry mix
1 pkg Hidden Valley Ranch dressing dry mix

Brown the meet. Pour off the grease. Add chopped onion and cook on medium heat until tender or 5 minutes. Add all the cans (do not drain. You want the juices.) Add taco seasoning and ranch dressing mix. It's ready to eat but if you let it simmer 20-30 minutes it's even tastier!
Serve with your favorite toppings. Good with cornbread. We like fritos, chopped onion and shredded cheese. I add a few dashes of hot sauce if I'm feeling feisty.

Editor's note -- I have no idea what Ro-Tel is. I had to Google it, and I couldn't find it at Whole Foods or on Fresh Direct. But Muir Glen makes fire roasted diced tomatoes wtih chipotle peppers, and I feel like that's close enough.

The onions just went in. For the first time ever, I'm not salting, because I know that canned beans and stuff are very salty. SO, I'll tell you about the deliciousness as soon as I can keep my eyes open long enough to post it tomorrow. :)


In which the cupcakes steal the show.

So tonight for dinner, I made Musty Crusty chicken, and Wild Rice risotto. The risotto was a little weird because despite my most nurturing efforts, wild rice has a harder bran coating, or whatever, and therefore doesn't absorb stock the way that arborio does. So.... I had to improvise, and pour in a few ladles of stock, cover the pan, and let it bubble for a few, then come back to it and repeat. It took a darn long time. And yet, it was pretty good. It just doesn't get soft the way I want it to. Ever.

But the real star of tonight's show was this delicious recipe for Chocolate cupcakes with a Salted Caramel frosting.
I of course messed around, and made a different chocolate cake recipe, because I didn't have the amount of butter necessary for her cake recipe. And I didn't make the same frosting recipe (not the caramel. I followed the caramel recipe exaclty) because I didn't want to use 2 sticks of butter AND a package of cream cheese to frost cupcakes that just Jesse and I were going to be eating. That seems a bit rich.
So I took a page from Half-Assed Kitchen's book and made babycakes (mini cupcakes), because I call Jesse Babycakes.
These took ages. I always am wary of making cupcakes, because they always take for darn ever. You have to bake them, and because I only have 1 mini pan, you have to do the shuffling act and bake the batter in waves. And then you have to let them cool. And then you have to make the icing. And then once the icing sets up, you have to ice the cuppycakes.
It's so much work. And, I'll admit this freely, I always want the cupcakes a lot more when I start baking them than by the time I finish. But, regardless, Jesse wanted these cupcakes and I wanted to try and make caramel, and eat cupcakes, so cupcakes were made.

They're good. The frosting is pretty good, but I think that I need to keep more of the caramel sauce for the frosting next time. Basically.... it's good and there's room for improvement.

Also.... beware. Salted Caramel sauce is going to be playing into my daily life. Everywhere. Any chance I get. Ice cream. Brownies. Toast. Get excited!!

Until tomorrow.....

Lunchtime Links

Hello there, readership.

I decided that since I usually spend my lunch hour in the pursuit of left overs and ESPN.com, I would today post a few links to food blogs that I thoroughly enjoy.

Feast away::

The Half-Assed Kitchen. Perfect for me, my life, and my readership. She's smart, and not too fussy. It's awesome.

Also, this post from Orangette (does anyone NOT read this girl???) is pretty much making me wish it was still tomato season. Does anyone have a hothouse where they can give me a few tomatoes??? Anyone??? ..... I thought not. Anyways -- Molly got it from Luisa at the Wednesday Chef, but since it's already linked, I don't have to do the double linking thing. Whew.

This isn't actually food related, but I love the pictures of this woman's fridge, and wish it were my own. I wish I was this well-prepared, not to mention that Jesse could y'know, make duck confit and that I had enough zipbags and whatnot to make and freeze that much stock, etc.

That's all I've got for today, but I think that's pretty good for a new section.
Check back sometime next week for another edition of Lunchtime Links!!


In which we mix it up

Ok, so part of the beauty of havving a written-down, planned-out menu is that you don't have to think about what you want for dinner. You thought about that a few days ago. You have bigger things to think about. Like.... knitting fuzzy slipper socks for a friend who needs some warmth and love right now. Or building a website. Or thinking up Christmas gifts. Seriously. Better things. Bigger things.

But this week, we kind of lightened up on the whole "weekly menu" thing. We made it on the fly while trying to get our order in before 11pm on Thursday night. I didn't write it down, although I have a pretty good idea of what was supposed to be on it. Burgers Friday, Pork tacos Saturday, Bleu-cheese Stuffed chicken Sunday.... after that, the dishes were sort of malleable and I'm not sure exactly which one was supposed to go with what day. So tonight I gave Jesse a rundown of the choices, and his pick for tonight was macaroni and cheese. Smart boy.
Tonight's roni featured extra sharp New York cheddar, and Cave aged gruyere. Cavatappi pasta.
I learned some things from this roni. I learned that I'm unsure as to the nature of such a strong gruyere and such a strong cheddar dancing together. I'm not sure if it's exactly a happy partnership. I learned that Cavatappi is my new favorite pasta for cheese sauces.... because they're big thick hollow corkscrews, so sometimes you'll get a noodle that's covered in AND filled with cheese sauce..... and it's amazing to have the cheese sauce squeeesh out when you bite. I learned that the Romano cheese I used as the top crust cheese is exactly the kind I should always be using. I learned that Jesse will go out and buy flour for me if I realize right when I should be adding it to the pancetta/shallots to make the roux..... that I'm all out of it.
I think I need to work more on the cheese partnership. Maybe a milder cheddar, or not so strong a Gruyere. Maybe.

It was good though, and now I have to go pick up the needles and get to knittin. But I wanted to keep up. I wanted to not blow the Na No Blo Po Mo Fa So La Ti Do or whatever the acronym is.

So now, time to "click the pricks".... I love old Scottish sayings!!!! :)


In which we improvise

Tonight's recipe was sort of off-the-cuff.
I'd seen a recipe for gorgonzola-stuffed chicken breasts on Epicurious, and was intrigued. But I felt like that was putting a lot of pressure on the Gorgonzola to flavor the chicken. Gorgonzola doesn't need that much pressure in its life. So, I decided to help it out a little. I added some spinach. And I wrapped the chicken breasts in Pancetta. Like you do. :) Who doesn't love a little pork fat?

Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Pancetta:

2 big bone in chicken breasts with ribs. Skin on is preferable, unless you're grossed out by that.
About 2 ounces of Gorgonzola crumbles (or domestic bleu cheese, I'm not picky)
2 handfulls of spinach
4 slices of pancetta (you can totally use bacon too. stick with the same 2 slices/breast ratio)
Obviously, just double all this stuff if you have more than 2 people to cook for.

Season the chicken breasts on the outside with salt and pepper, and using a sharp knife cut a pocket into the upper portion, opposite the ribs, of the chicken breasts. Put a little salt and pepper into the pocket. Leave the chicken breasts to sit, and wash your hands.

Grab the handfuls of spinach, and scrunch all the leaves together, kind of rolling them up together too. Slice them perpendicularly, so that the leaves turn into long ribbons. Mix together with the bleu cheese crumbles.

Cut the slices of pancetta in half. (or grab the bacon slices - 2 per chicky as noted above).

Preheat the oven to 350.

Stuff the spinach and bleu cheese into the pockets you've cut in the chicken breasts. Stuff in a lot of it.... it's ok if it spills out. I promise.
Wrap the pieces of pancetta or bacon around the chicken breasts. If you're fancy, you can use toothpicks to secure it. If you're not, don't worry. Just tuck the pork product under the chicken breasts and put the end-side down in the baking pan.

Put the chicken pieces in a baking pan. I used a silver one that's the perfect size for brownies. Put them in the oven, at 350, for about an hour. If things start looking dry or crackly, you can drizzle with a little olive oil. But basically, just put them in the oven and wave at them every now and again. After an hour, check to make sure the juices are clear, and NOM!!!

I also made some sauteed spinach, which was just as simple as putting some butter, garlic, and shallot in a pan, and then adding several handfuls of chopped up spinach. I tossed it around, added a little olive oil, salted and peppered, and when I was just about done, I splashed on a teeny bit of balsamic. Next time I'll probably add more. Or even some white wine vinegar. Just something a little acidic to offset the other flavors.

It was delicious. And a good kickoff. Tomorrow we're scheduled to have Musty-Crusty chicken I think. Or maybe it's Leah's taco soup. Regardless, we're having musty-crusty chicken, taco soup, pizza, mac & cheese, and left over taco pork this week. Stay tuned!!


In which I moonlight as a butcher.

A few weeks ago, when I first endeavored into pork cookery, Leah suggested I make these bomb pork tacos. They go in the slow cooker. They're a lot like pulled pork. I know that Jesse likes pulled pork, and that I like tacos. So.... we ordered some pork shoulder from Fresh Direct, so I could make them. I have a tiny slow cooker. It's the perfect size for two people, but most slow-cooker recipes are not written in base-2, so I'm always trying to figure out how to scale stuff down for size if nothing else.

Fresh Direct decided it was going to be funny. When I ordered 1 boneless pork shoulder from them, they projected the size at about 5 1/2 pounds. So, I planned to cut it in half and use the other half for some other slow cooker recipe.
The pork shoulder we got was SEVEN POUNDS!!!
So this morning, there I was, sawing into a 7pound pork shoulder, trying to get a hunk off that would fit in my ittybitty crock pot.
I finally managed it, and set the thing up to cook.

Fast-forward eight hours. I pulled the pork out in chunks (because it was so tender that it fell apart.... WIN) and shredded it, like the recipe said. But then, the recipe said to pour a half-cup of the liquid from the cooking over the pork, and serve.

That liquid did not look to me like it would enjoy being poured straight over hte pork. So, I did what anybody who's like me would do. I poured it into a saucepan, reduced it a little, pureed it with my immersion blender, and then put the pork into the sauce and let it stew for a few minutes, to really infuse it with the flavor of the sauce stuff. I stand by that decision, because it was delicious.

We had these in wraps with shredded spinach and cut up tomatoes, and ricotta instead of sour cream or other cheese. Ricotta serves the purpose of both. It was..... delicious and fabulous.
And luckily, I now have tons of that left over, and probably 4 pounds of pork shoulder still sitting in my fridge waiting for me. Maybe even more. I don't know what I'm going to do with it, but I'm definitely open to suggestions!!!


In which I'm the Breadwinner

For some reason, all the early-waking and late-sleeping of the past week has really gotten to me. So when I got home from work tonight, instead of following my immediate plans, which were to start bread dough and get things ready for tonight's burgers, so that things could be all set by the time groceries got delivered and before Band Practice (!!) -- I decided to lie down on the couch and read a few blogs that I really respect.

Cut to Jesse coming home an hour and a half later, to me sound asleep on the couch with my laptop open in front of me. Fabulous.

Luckily, I was figuring that I still had about 2 hours before the groceries would come, so I set the bread dough. And then, about 3 minutes before 8, the buzzer went, and teh Fresh Direct guy showed up!!! I was amazed -- we had scheduled the delivery for between 8 and 10.
So I kind of forced the bread to rise faster by covering the bowl with foil for a while, which traps all the heat and moisture and gets the yeasties on overdrive. Then, I let it relax and covered it with a tea towel for a few more minutes, and then, punching time!!! I knocked it down, made 2 rolls, and turned the rest into a loaf. I love making rolls.

So they went for a quick second rise, and then, into the oven. Meanwhile I mixed up the burgers. Pretty basic stuff - shallot, garlic, worcestershire, hot sauce, salt and pepper. I put the last of our swiss cheese on them, and called them dinner. It was pretty spectacular. I absolutely love homemade rolls. They're so much better than regular burger buns.

And in a few minutes, we will have band practice with some Harpers. And then.... tomorrow we hit the slow-cooker once again. GLEE!!!


In which we Thai it up

No cooking again tonight, because it was my dear friend K's birthday dinner!! We went to Thai on Two for some delicious Thai food, that was incredibly cheap. This was most definitely the kind of Birthday dinner I could get behind-- $15 a person! :)
However, we ordered groceries tonight so that the plan can continue, which means that starting tomorrow, we will have real food to talk about. I will recommence with the cooking and the actual blogging. Get excited!!!!


In which nothing much happens

Today kind of sucked. It started out so great, so bright, so exciting!!! The whole world was glowing, and everybody that I saw was happy because finally, FINALLY the good guys won. And yet, today I ended up so miserable because of where I work and who I work with that all I could muster tonight was soup from a box, and grilled cheese sandwiches. I swear I'm getting it together, but today..... today sucked.

Of course, once I opened the box of soup, I added cumin, cury powder, garam masala, and hot sauce, as well as salt and pepper, to the soup. Because what's tomato and roasted red pepper soup without a few embellishments??
The sandwiches were basic grilled turkey and cheese. A little mustard on the inside of the bread, right next to the cheese, and the turkey. It was good. It was satisfying. And on a day where I basically hate everything that involves my job.... and the only bright spot is the president-elect of our country.... soup with grilled cheese is probably just what I needed.


We the people....

Ok, I'm so nervous I can barely type. I'm so excited that I can barely sit still. I'm counting down the minutes until 11pm, when they close the polls on the West Coast and call California for Barack. I'm dying. I need this to happen.
Let me back up.

We got up and got to the polls at 5:30 this morning. We happily finished voting in time to come home and eat oatmeal for breakfast. On the way to work I booked it to Starbucks to get my free "I Voted" coffee. :) I love free things. We also had plans to go to Ben & Jerry's after work, to get our free I Voted Ice cream.
However, when we got to the Ben & Jerry's on 3rd ave, the line was even longer than it had been to vote this morning. So....we skipped out on the ice cream. And instead, we went to Pommes Frites and had delicious french fries. This does, of course, mean that all I cooked today was Oatmeal. But I'm too excited right now about the prospect of the future of our country to really worry about whether or not I cooked today aside from Oatmeal.



Monday, Monday

Today, I was a little lazy food-wise. We weren't really sure what the plan was, we hadn't made another grocery order/menu, we were kind of in limbo. So, I had to improvise.

I knew that we would be getting up REALLY early tomorrow to vote, so obviously I didn't want to make something that would take a long time either to cook or to eat. In the end, I opted for breakfast sammiches. They accompanied our television fare of The Daily Show/Colbert Report perfectly. They will also go well with what we watch next - SNL's Presidential Bash!!!! :)

So anyways. Breakfast sammiches. I made Alton Brown's biscuits, and while those were baking and cooling, I fried eggs, and sizzled up some sliced turkey. Then, I split a biscuit for each of us and topped it with a piece of cheese, some sizzled turkey, and the egg.

It wasn't fancy. But it was yummy!!!


In which we epic fail.

Ok. So I missed blogging yesterday as the start of NO JO Mo or whatever the heck it's called. But it was for a good reason!! I promise! I was throwing a party, and I didn't really cook except for breakfast, and then making dip and guacamole.

Fail. But I made mulled or spiced cider. And that was a win. Especially with rum poured in.
A gallon of cider, a gallon of apple juice. Two orange peels. 3 cinnamon sticks. 6 whole cloves. Simmer. Forever. All day - this only gets better as it simmers, and it makes your house smel all pretty and it's very nice. And then you add rum and it just becomes an even more beautiful thing.
Today, I'm making carbonara for dinner. Lots of carbonara. Because it is delicious and we are hungry kidlets.
And it's cold, and let's face it, it's always better when you're eating dinner out of one dish with two forks. And you're sitting all snugged up on the couch in your *remarkably* still clean post-party place. :)


Update: The Pumpkin Chronicles

Ok, I've kind of decided to enter into that whole NoNaBloPo or whatever it is, where you commit to blogging every day in November.
Admittedly, food blogging Thanksgiving when I'm going to my Mom and Dad's house is going to be a bit rough, but maybe this year they'll let me help more with the cooking!! :) Glee!!
But anyways, I'm going to try. And to get myself all up in the sperrit, I'm mentioning this now, while I'm on my lunchbreak:

I am eating reheated pork chop and pumpkin polenta, and it's official. I am a convert. I am obsessed. It didn't get dry, it didn't get gross, the polenta is just about as wonderful as it was last night (not quite though, because it's microwaved and well.....we know how I feel about that).
I'm obsessed. I'm totally adding canned pumpkin to basically everything that I can. I am a canned pumpkin lover.
I will take and attempt any and all suggestions that I deem reasonable. I might even make chocolate pumpkin bread. Glee!!!

Ok, back to finish up my delectable delicious pumpkin polenta.

Envy me.


In which we are whelmed

Since my first foray into the world of non-cured pork went so swimmingly, I decided to get tricksy and go for a second shot. This time, I changed basically everything except the cooking method. And y'know what? I liked them better the other way.
Balsamic and Sage Pork Chops with ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS PUMPKIN POLENTA!!!!
Recipe calls for 4 1-1/2 inch thick boneless center-cut pork chops. What you need to do, in my opinion, is get them with the bone in. Or, in retrospect, maybe just go for the thickness which the recipe recommends, which might have been my mistake.
You heat up olive oil in a big skillet. Meanwhile, you preheat your oven to 375.
Drizzle about 2 tablespoons (a few big glugs if all your measuring spoons are *cough* dirty) of balsamic vinegar in a bowl, as well as dropping in a chopped up garlic clove (or a shallot if *cough* for the first time in history, you find yourself out of garlic), 5 or so chopped up sage leaves, and some chopped up parsley. Drizzle in some olive oil too. Sprinkle in some salt, and some pepper of course.

About this time, also put about 2 and a half cups of chicken stock(or vegetable stock), and a cup of milk into a saucepot. Add some salt and pepper. Open a can of pumpkin PUREE (NOT pumpkin pie filling!!!!!) and add it into the milk/stock mixture. Stir and put it over hte heat until it starts to simmer. While it's getting all warm and friendly, swirl your pork chops around in the balsamic/garlic/herb mixture, and drop them in your skillet with your olive oil. Sear them for about 2 minutes on each side. After your 4 minutes are up, you're going to want to put them in the oven for a few minutes, until they're cooked through.

Just before you put the chops in the oven, pour a box of quick-cooking polenta into your stock/milk/pumpkin mixture. Whisk like crazy, and then put your chops in the oven in your skillet (wrap the handle in tinfoil, or even better, get a silicone skillet-handle-cover like I did!!!). Whisk whisk whisk and when it starts to get thick, add butter, parmesan, more salt, more pepper, and my secret best friend for this: ricotta. About a tablespoon of the ricotta. More if it's not creamy enough for you.
I definitely had to add more milk a couple times. Polenta is good like that, though. It will take all the buttery, milky love you give it and absorb it. And it will give you back something even more amazing.
As an aside, I am now a canned-pumpkin convert. I'm probably going to make macaroni and cheese with some really sharp cheddar and pumpkin in the cheese sauce. Yum!! Also, this is a SAVORY DISH, people. Don't go adding any brown sugar, maple syrup, etc. You can do that to your pumpkin pie filling. But your canned pumpkin is a beautiful thing in this polenta.

So basically, you take your chops out when they feel done to you. Mine felt like when I poked them they gave a little and then sprung back. Mine were also pretty anemic pork chops. But that's ok, because it meant I got to eat more polenta!!

In all seriousness, I didn't love the pork chops. They were ok. They were not great. They were too thin and a little dry, because they were so thin. The seasonings were nice. I think, if given the choice, I would have done something involving a creamier sauce, and maybe finished with balsamic instead of marinating them in it. But, for a first try, this created many new ideas and learning opportunities. AND a really bitchin' dish of polenta.

I'm honestly already thinking about ways that I can use this in breakfast tomorrow. Pumpkin porridge. Mix it in wtih our oatmeal. Eat it cold while no one's looking. Cut it into squares and fry it in butter. I don't know. But I officially need more pumpkin polenta in my life.


In which we veer

I know that this is a blog about cooking.
But it's also a blog about food, and food is something with which the majority of the females I know have a contentious relationship. 98% of us have said the phrase "I shouldn't eat this" or some form of it at one time or another. And really, if we're being honest here, it generally doesn't keep us from eating whatever it is. We say we shouldn't, and then we do, and we feel badly about ourselves because of it.
The majority of the girls that I know have body image problems. We think we're fat, or that our bodies are imperfect. We think that losing 15 pounds, or growing 3 more inches, or whatever it might be, is going to make us perfect, make us happy with our bodies. But honestly.... the kind of things that we're angry with our bodies for are the kind of things that won't change by losing 15 pounds or growing 3 inches.
My body has changed shape significantly over the past 5 or 6 years. Only one of my readers knew me then, and frankly, she's my mom. Through it all though, I've never had a problem about food. I mean, I've been happier since I started cooking for myself. I've discovered better things, and I feel like I'm eating better, because I know what's in my food.
No matter what else I worry about regarding my weight/shape/etc, I never worry about food. I blame myself for getting chubbier than I was before, but I don't think about cutting down on the butter intake. I don't resolve to join a gym, or work out in any other way. I just get mad at my body for not metabolizing as quickly as it used to. Weird.

It's not pro-active. In fact, it's hardly active at all. But I'm still not mad at food. I understand that I can eat whatever I want, as long as whatever I want is in moderation. I need to remember to moderate a little better, but in general I'm ok. I just need to remind myself of that from time to time. My doctor told me that I'm in perfect health. I need to be a little more active, but I'm healthy. I'm strong. It's time for me to enjoy myself and not blame my body, or my food.
Maybe it's that time for all of us. To just be healthy, to be active, and to not blame our bodies for what they're made to do. Let's try and just... be happier. be healthier. be calmer. be prouder.


Cooking activities have occurred over the past week, never fear. I'll try to bust out a recap as coherently as possible. Stop me if I go to fast.


I love long weekends. I don't love long weekends where Jesse has to work and I don't, but I love when he comes home.
The best part about having Monday off? Laura and Steele came over, bearing beer and wine, movie theater snacks, and movies. I had thrown together a Crock Pot Roast that I found on a very fabulous blog that I have been trolling for ideas lately since I realized that my crock pot is a ROCK pot!!!
The pot roast fed 4 people. It was tender enough to shred and fall apart. It involved a powdered packet of grill seasoning, a powdered packet of Italian dressing mix, and a powdered packet of ranch dressing mix. Next time, I'm making my own spice blend.
If I had a bigger crock pot, I would have been able to add more veggies. I would have been able to get a bigger roast. Which would have been nice because next time, I want left-overs. But, I recommend this. It's pretty basic. I'm a big fan. :)


We had fried chicken. It was Jesse's request, and of course I complied. We're working on a side-project right now, which will hopefully be up and live soon for you all to enjoy, and since he's going to be doing a lot of the work on it.... but not getting a lot of the credit.... I'm going to acquiesce to most of his food requests for now. :)

The fried chicky was pretty good. It's generally pretty good. It wasn't transcendent, but I'm content to make good fried chicken.


Jesse had plans on Wednesday night, that involved bicycles and a bar. Not together. So I bought some mussels, some cambazola bleu cheese, and some bread, opened a bottle of wine, and had myself a party!!
Actually, it wasn't much of a party, but it was still nice.
And then Jesse came home, and that was nice. :)


My friend Marla came over for dinner!!! I made this recipe from Rachael's website -- it seemed like a really good way to embrace both the lingering warm (white wine instead of red) and still aknowledge the snap to the air. It worked out brilliantly, although it had no leftovers, which was sad because it was damn delicious. I did not use frozen pearl onions. But basically I followed the rest of the recipe.


We like to do a Friday night burger. It's a nice end to the week, and a good kickoff to the weekend. And this week was an especially good week for a burger, since after work I picked up a Zipcar to go to the Fed Ex pickup place and get our copy of ROCK BAND 2!!! Woohoo!! Burgers and rockin' were most definitely in order. So burgers and rockin we engaged in.
I made Rachael Ray's Thanksgiving turkey burgers. The best part of these things, by far, and these were delicious burgers, was the cranberry-mustard spread that you spread all over the rolls. It's delicious. I plan to make this and smear it on everything. Toast. Kittens. Sandwiches. Anything.
It's delicious. It's literally 1/4-cup of whole berry cranberry sauce, and 2 tablespoons of grainy mustard. I used less mustard. It was glorious. Make this. spread it on..... anything. Seriously. You will thank me.


This doesn't really have to do with food. But it's my blog, so I'll do what I want.

GO SEE NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST!!!!!!! We saw a Saturday matinee. It was wonderful. GO see it. Seriously. Why are you still reading. Work is not as important as this movie.

Ok. Till next time.


In which it comes full circle

My parents came down to Brooklyn yesterday, to visit. I was pretty excited, because after 24 years of my mom and dad cooking for me, and me coming home to see them, it was happy for it to come around and for my parents to come see us, in our house.
I decided that I would make my RoniCheese for them - it's easy because I've made it so many times, and it's always delicious, and it's something they've never had my way. I also planned to make an apple pie, because my dad loves apple pie with sharp cheddar cheese -- it's a New England thing, try it sometime.

They came down and their visit was a lot of fun. They brought Chloe, which was wonderful because of course I love any chance to see my puppins:
She's checking life out, getting used to the Brooklyn vibe.

After a nice walk in the park and a lovely afternoon of guacamole, chips, and fried pickles at my father's request, we set in to the pie-making and RoniCheese making.
I actually timed it just about perfectly, putting the pie in as I started making the macaroni and cheese. I finished the roni under the broiler as the pie was finishing baking, although I had to throw a little broiler at it after the pie came out.
My parents loved the food. They loved it. My dad loved it so much that his first remark, after a mouthful, was ..... "This is damn good."
That means a lot, because it was said in a tone of absolute honesty. And it was a new one for my dad, who generally has two settings, His cooking and Everybody Else's cooking:
His Cooking: "This is pretty good, huh??? Hey! This isn't bad!!"
Everybody Else's Cooking: "That's ok. Yeah, that's fine"
Heheh we tease him about it. But, it's true.

He loved it so much that he didn't give Chloe any noodles until almost his second helping. He hardly spoke until his second helping, at which point he started asking questions.
My mom really loved it too, but she was of course pre-conditioned to love it because I made it, which is a carryover of the Christmas Present Principle (you are my kid and I love you, so I will love anything you buy/make/give me). I'm really proud of it - it was delicious, the Asiago that I used on the top was perfect, and basically, it was a win. Even Chloe thought it was nommy.
I was so happy to cook for my parents. I was so happy to help them understand that this really is what I'm best at, and it's the best way I can show people that I love them.... have them sit at my table and eat something I made with them in mind.

I was so happy to hear my mom say that she was proud of me for our place, that she was happy about how these events had turned out, that she was happy to see us here and like this.

And I was happy to see my dog!!!!!

In which we get stuffed

Ok, so I'm not the world's biggest appreciator of pork. My mom makes pork chops with cream of mushroom soup and they're good. Gie makes pork chops some other way, and they're good. The occasional pork roast finds its way onto my plate when it's cooked for me, and I'll eat it.
But like so many things which I don't love wildly, I've never cooked any pork products with the exception of bacon.
My friend Marla and I were discussing cooking one day, and she mentioned that she made a mean pork chop. I remembered my friend Alyssa (a fellow Pretty Girl) telling me about some pork chops she once stuffed with pancetta and proscuitto. Leah mentioned pork tacos to me. Basically, I was thinking pig when I went to the store on Tuesday to try and figure out what we'd eat for dinner. On the train, I thought again of stuffed pork chops. For a while I was fighting the image of cornbread, asiago, and sage, which of course is a traditional stuffing but wasn't really what I was thinking for stuffing these chops. Eventually, I got to spinach, asiago, and mushrooms.

I consulted Alyssa to find what kind of chops she used, bone in or boneless, etc. I consulted Leah for any input she might have vis a vis cooking pork. And then, I procured my spoils and began the process. The rundown is as follows, before the photos: I sauteed garlic and sliced mushrooms, with a little lemon zest, then added the spinach and several handfuls of asiago.
I let that cool while slicing pockets into my pork chops (I sliced along the line of fat that is opposite the bone).
I salted and peppered the inside and outside of the chops.
I seared them for about 4 minutes a side, then put them in the oven to finish cooking (400 until my internal temperature thermometer went off).

I made mashed potatoes, and somehow managed to make them perfect. I think this was the result of a lot of pepper, plenty of butter, not too much milk, and no cream. Or something. ANyways, it was brilliant.

And now, the images:


In which I cook to help myself will the Red Sox into the ALCS

Basically, I'm stressin. The Sox lost last night. They need to win tonight, because I don't wan them to have to go back to Anaheim or LA or wherever the hell the Angels' stadium is....meh.
I don't want to type too long because I'm afraid that it'll upset the balance, so here's some pictures instead:
Fried Pickles... Yer doin' it right!! See?

God Bless Heinz Dill Pickle chips.

Ain't no thing but Alton Brown's chicken wings.

Also, big shout out to Jon Lester, Dusty P is still my boy, and stupid grocery store, eff you for only including one drummette in the package of chicken wings. But big ups for stocking Heinz pickles.


In which I make a leap

When I was a kid, I remember my mom occasionally making use of her CrockPot. I remember one special dish that she used to make that for some reason was the most delicious thing I'd ever had. I used to ask for Crock Pot Chicken, but of course, I would ask when Mom asked, "What would you like for dinner?" and by then, trust me, it was too late to begin making Crock Pot Chicken.

Today, the original plan was for me to be circumnavigating Manhattan (traffic free, thankfully) on a bicycle, to benefit MS research. However, today dawned rainy and cool, and the idea of a relatively inexperienced bike rider traveling 30 miles in a bicycle in the rain and on wet streets is frightening at best. At worst, it might cause me to never ever want to ride a bicycle again, because I have reasonably creaky knees (result of an unfortunate situation where an opposing rugby player decided my knee needed to go a way that knees do not normally go, plus a lifetime of ballet) in the cool and damp, and it raises the possibility of me getting in a crash, and the weather is still miserable as of this writing.
Anyways. The original plan was for me to be on a bicycle for 30 miles, starting at 7:30am. After I survived the grueling bike ride, I was to pick up my friend Kim from home, and bring her back to my house, where I would recuperate and we would hang out and talk about her upcoming wedding (gleeee!!!!!!!). I figured I would be too exhausted and possibly too sore to stand around cooking dinner, so I decided that we would have Crock Pot Chicken for dinner.

I'm a little frightened of recipes that rely heavily on canned or pre-made ingredients. I don't like condensed canned soups (with the exception of Campbell's Chicken Noodle), and I'm not a fan of granulated gravy mixes. This is purely a personal choice, and I don't judge anyone for using them... I understand that canned cream of mushroom soup is basically an ingredient these days in its own right, and I definitely understand that when you need to get dinner on the table for family and kids post work and pre homework, canned cream of chicken soup, some veggies, chicken and rice is a casserole that requires no thought. In fact, I just came up with ten different variations while typing that sentence.
That being said, I'm not wild about things that can last in a can up to 5 years.

Happily, I'm not riding a bicycle on wet streets for 3 hours this morning. I've been awake for 3 hours. I've washed several dishes, and I decided to make the Crock Pot chicken becuase I already had the ingredients and I'm pretty sure I don't know how else to use Cream of Mushroom soup and powdered gravy.

So basically, here is the recipe:
Chicken pieces - this recipe calls for boneless, but I like bone in. I used drumsticks and thighs.
Powdered chicken gravy - 1 packet
Canned cream of mushroom soup - 1 can
White wine or chicken broth - 1 cup
Cream Cheese - roughly 1 package.

You put the chicken pieces in your crock pot and sprinkle the chicken gravy powder over like so:
Then, you mix together your canned soup and your broth (didn't have any white wine to hand) and you pour it over the chicken business, throw the lid on your crock pot, turn it on low, and walk away. Just walk away. 7 1/2 hours later, you come back and add the cream cheese. 30 minutes after that, you remove the chicken, whisk the sauce until smooth, return the chicken to the rock pot, and serve the lot over rice.

Here is a picture to prove that instead of making a bechamel and mixing in mushrooms, and using poultry seasoning, ground herbs, and real salt, I used canned soup, canned broth, and powdered gravy mix:
I'm excited, nonetheless. I hope this is as good as I remember it. Also, I'm using my brand new rice cooker to make the rice for tonight!!! :) Bonus points for this rice cooker meaning that we can now try making sushi, because while I make bitchin' risotto, I'm not so good at regular old ....rice. And I'm certainly afraid of making sticky rice for sushi.
SO, here it is. There it is. Everywhere it is.

I'll be back at a reasonable hour to let you know how the food went! And how Kimmy's visit went!!! :) GLEEE!!!!


In which I learn to like squash

I'll be the first to admit, I don't actually like butternut squash. I think it's disconcerting when a vegetable's most commonly-served state is puree. Puree sweetened with brown sugar and maple syrup, no less. Bleh. I'm all for mashed potato, mashed turnip, any other mashed vegetable you offer me, as long as you make sure there's plenty of salt and pepper, and NO BROWN SUGAR!!! I LOVE brown sugar, except in vegetable applications.
I stand by this.

I definitely pushed my squash puree around on my plate at Thanksgiving and Christmas the entire time I was growing up. Around my senior year of high school, I learned that I could put gravy on it, mix it in with my mashed potatoes, and almost convince myself it wasn't there. But I just. didn't. like it.
About 5 months ago, I ventured into my local Hale and Hearty Soup, and had their butternut squash soup. It was recommended to me by someone behind me in line. It wasn't bad, although I remember it needing a lot of pepper and salt. Nary a hint of brown sugar or maple syrup. Encouraging.

Since then, I'd been thinking about how that soup needed some cumin. I think everything needs cumin. I love cumin.
I've been adding cumin, garam masala, and curry powder to things lately... and thinking about adding them to other things. Witness, my meatloaf. So today, I decided to buy a butternut squash, and on a whim, bought some turnips. I had promised Jesse an apple pie, so I got the apples and flour for that as well.

I started out by halving and roasting the butternut squash, and cutting the turnips into chunks. I brushed them with curry butter.... 3 tbs butter and some curry, cumin, and garam as listed above. To taste, obviously. I brushed the veggies, sprinkled them with salt, and put them in to roast for 40 minutes at 425.

When they came out, I let them cool.

When I started making the soup, I cut up a carrot, a stalk and a half of celery, and half an onion. I cooked them until they softened in butter and olive oil (about a tablespoon of each). I added more of the seasonings listed above, and of course, salt. Then, I added the soft smushy veggies, which I cut up into chunks. Then, I added a lot of chicken stock, and let it simmer. I re-seasoned, and eventually, I pureed. (In retrospect, this is all reminiscent of the roasted tomato soup I made a while ago.) Then, I added a little coconut milk, and re-seasoned.

As you can see, yet again, nary a hint of brown sugar and maple syrup.

This is honestly, delicious. I'm really proud of it.
If seasoned differently, it could make a respectable sauce for a veggie lasagna - It could go over rice with some chicken and slake your curry craving. Basically, it's versatile. And it's happy.

Please undertake this. The roasting doesn't take too long, and you could definitely do the majority of the soup prep during the roasting. Try this soup. You will like it. I hope.


In which we celebrate.

Jesse's birthday is tomorrow. But Monday is a tough day to be celebrating birthdays. SO, instead we celebrated food-wise yesterday. It was really fun.

We started off with Cafe Lub's inaugural Saturday Brunch. The centerpiece of this brunch was Alton Brown's Overnight Cinnamon Rolls. I will admit that I'm a bit mystified by this recipe. I've made it 4 times now. I'll admit right off the bat that I'm a good baker, and I have an especially good sense with yeast bakery. And yet... This recipe has never worked for me the way it should. The "rise until it doubles in volume" never happens.... on Friday night I let it rise for 3 hours, because of an impromptu nap. And still.... not doubled in volume. The cinnamon rolls couldn't even rise to fill the round glass pie plates I put them in this time (I don't have a glass 9x13 inch baking pan). I will admit that this time I used whole wheat flour instead of regular flour -- screw you Whole Foods and your absurdist baking section!!!! But still. I think next time I'm mixing the yeast in before I add the second bit of the flour. Or maybe I'll prime the yeast with a little of the sugar and some water. I just don't think my yeast wants to rise in the room temperature setting of the recipe.
Anyways. The cinnamon rolls were delicious after the proofing and the baking and the rigamarole. They ended up filling the pie pan while baking. It was delicious. Cafe Lub's inaugural Saturday Brunch was a success. I think the Mimosas might have swayed the jury. Or the bacon, which I think was perfect. The secret is to put it under your broiler WHILE the cinnamon rolls are in their last 10 minutes of baking. Flip the bacons at about 3 minutes left and then let them bake under the broiler (I know, I know.... but it WORKS) for a few minutes after the rolls are out, until they're YOUR desired level of doneness.

Then, for dinner, we went fancy again. Sometimes, you just need to turn it out.
Jesse requested an old favorite for his birthday dinner -- Steak Au Poivre. I turned to Alton once again, and was not let down.

However, first, we started with an arugula salad, vinaigrette made with dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, and olive oil, topped with rounds of fried goat cheese.
I got the basic plan from another cooking blog that I read and lurk on, Cooking After Five. She got it from Ina Garten. I thank them both.
After the salad, we got down to the Au Poivre.
I didn't use tenderloin steaks, because a pound of tenderloin steaks last night was 30 dollars. It's almost pay day. I didn't have 30 bucks to spend on JUST 1 pound of steak.
I used top sirloin steaks, I think, which were perfect and lovely and I wish I hadn't been too hungry to take a picture.
I ground the peppercorns in my coffee grinder. I would recommend flaming the cognac only to supervised beginners, or people without wooden cabinetry, because it's fucking scary. I've done it twice now, and each time the flames have leapt up and I have somehow feared for my life. But I'm also confident that I won't burn the place down. I have an exhaust hood, and I used my grill lighter. I was much farther away from the flame than last time, which we wont' talk about it. There was no chance that I was going to light my cabinetry in the old place on fire. As far as you know.

For dessert, after the steak frites au poivre (because honestly, I'll never pass up a chance for french fries to soak up the au poivre sauce) I made a Red Velvet cake. Sans red food coloring because I'm afraid of dying my food. I had bad enough luck with roasting beets turning my chicken pink.

I had cake difficulties.
Clearly, I haven't baked enough cakes lately. IN fact, I haven't baked a cake since my roomie's birthday last November. Honestly, it's time to get back on the cake thing.
The cakes stuck to the bottom of the pan, but they were delicious. I got the recipe from Bon Appetit. I had to use a third of the frosting to stick together the two layers, because they were crumbly. I then frosted the cakes normally. The cake is delicious. I'm still really happy with it. I just wish I'd used parchment to line the bottom of the cake pan, and I wish that I'd let them bake a couple minutes longer, so the bottom would have been a little dryer. But then again, I was going to crumb coat and flat-top it anyways. So honestly, I'm disappointed but not entirely.
Here is a picture of the cake:
The frosting on the top is WAY thicker than I realized. Basically, I'm just out of practice in the area of cakery. SO, I am laying down a challenge to my friends.
Please come up with excuses for me to bake cakes. ANY excuses. It's a Tuesday. It's a pay week. Somebody's visiting. Make up an obscure holiday. ANYTHING. I'm going to buy some parchment paper to line the bottom of the pans. And we're going to have a cake situation at 2014. You heard it here first. I'll need some volunteer diners. Come on over and eat some cake with me. :)


In the immortal words of Tim Gunn....

Make it work.

On Wednesday night, I made yet another bangin' risotto. I also had my first foray into braised greens. Basically, it was a night of fabulousness.

Red Wine Risotto with Beet Greens

I guess step 1 for this risotto is:
Roast a chicken with beets, new potatoes, carrots, and onions.
Realistically, of course, you could just buy a bunch of beets from any grocery store, and remove the green tops... or even just buy beet greens. But roasting a chicken also gives you the chance to make risotto with homemade stock, and trust me, it makes a difference.

So you roast the chicken the night before (I can't believe I don't have a blog on this. I'll post one, I promise), and you boil the carcass with an onion, quartered, a carrot cut into big chunks, a celery stalk cut into chunks, some herbs if you have them, and 3 or 4 peppercorns. Boil them until it smells delicious, skim the fat, and put it in the fridge.

Next night, you cut up the beet greens, slice up 4 cloves of garlic, and braise the greens : put the sliced garlic cloves into a big pan iwth some olive oil, and cook gently until everything smells heavenly. Then, throw in the greens, and some salt. IMMEDIATELY add some red wine and some broth. The greens are tough and bitter. They need to cook down and soften. Bring the liquid to a simmer, and let the greens cook until the liquid has all cooked away. Add some butter about 5 minutes after you add the liquid, and stir it in to make things all tasty and delicious.

While you're simmering the greens, you should also be starting the risotto and for the stock, you can use your own homemade stock, and it will be delicious. When everything is finished, you stir the braised beet greens into the risotto, right about the time you add the last bit of butter and the parmesan. And then.... we have glee.
It is delicious. Try it.


Bird's the Word.

As many other bloggers, and NeoYorquinos in general, have no doubt noticed, it was cool this weekend. The first few days of fall have not disappointed. In fact, yesterday and today were stunningly pleasant, and prompted the following statement from a friend:
"When you start thinking about tights and soups, it is the beginning of a good thing".
I don't necessarily share her love for fall, but then again, I'm the girl who can come up with a new list of favorite things about New York with every passing week, let alone season. September is just bogged down with memories for me, and I find it hard to bear the weight of the nostalgia while moving through the month in a cheerful fashion.
Then on Sunday, during the partypartyparty, I drank an amazing red wine. I saved the bottle, so we can get it again.
I had almost forgotten how much I enjoy red wine.
I mean, we drank some when we drank our way through the hurricaine a few weeks ago, but that wasn't so much for any reason other than... y'know.... it was cheap and 4 bottles of white wine seemed a bit excessive.

Last night, as you may have read, I made a meatloaf. It was.... to quote Jesse.... Bangin'. It really was. I brought some for lunch today. If we had bread, I would be bringing meatloaf sandwiches for lunch until it was all gone.

Meatloaf is, I'll admit, a cold weather food. It really is. And I love it. I probably spend the last week or so of hot hot weather wishing it was November, so I could be thinking about soup and turkey and not about how to cook without making my place a sauna.
Then, I had a hell of a day at work today, and at 3:30 I didn't even care about eating dinner. I just wanted to buy a bottle of red wine and get into bed. I think it was the chill in the air, the last day of wearing a dress with no tights, all that plus the workday.
I decided on my walk to the wine store that I couldn't let Jesse starve. So, I made the snap decision to roast a chicken and some vegetables. It's comfort food. It's good with red wine. And it takes an hour to cook, which definitely gives us time to work through one bottle of wine. Heh.

I'm pretty satisfied with this roast chicken. I've made it a lot of times, and every time it's been pretty fantastic, and like fried chicken, it's gotten better each time. I love roast chicken. It makes abysmal days better. And with roasted potatoes, shallotts, garlic cloves, and beets, life should be good.

Mind you, in late October, I'm going to be wishing it was July again. And you can all shake your heads, point me back to this entry, and remind me that in late September, I was happily roasting chicken and drinking red wine.