armadillas


Sanguistas

For the past couple days, a friend and I have been exchanging emails in search of the perfect chocolate frosting. She’s gone and made a birthday cake for one of her friends and the request was simple: chocolatechocolatechocolate! Of course, I’m not the biggest chocolate fan, but I understood her needs. We wanted a real recipe, something worth presenting for a birthday! Not one of those wimpy recipes claiming to be the best only to be the most flavorless thing you’ve ever tasted. No ma’am! My first thoughts were maybe something along the lines of a ganache, but considering the size of her cake, well, that would require a lot of frosting and a bit of money. So now there’s naught to do but choose a nice fudgy frosting. I’m sure it’ll work out fine and the chocolate lover will be most happy with the results, which will have consisted of international efforts!

All this talk of frosting has put me in the mood to bake a cake. I’ve never been much of a sweets person, but here lately I seem to be craving them all the time. Maybe craving is an exaggeration, but I usually get around to making something sweet once a week when once upon a time I made something maybe once a year (ahem my own birthday cake, which is quite divine!). I blame all the boys. In this house, we usually have some sort of weekend gathering, typically involving a bonfire surrounded by a lot of menfolk. One day, I decided to make them cookies. Then I made them brownies. Then I made- well, you get the picture. Anyway, I’ve created some sort of monster. They want sweets…and I want to make them! There’s just no controlling this new found urge. Sometimes it’s best just to give in.

Anyway, I went to a little dinner get together last night with my friends and I decided on a whim to provide dessert. For probably the past month I’ve been making a lot of chocolate things (huh?) and was itching for a change. That’s when I stumbled across a bag of pistachios in the cabinet.

Mmm pistachios! I am a recent lover of pistachios. A few years ago a friend’s grandmother made us watergate salad (oh yum!) and I was intrigued. A year later I tried some pistachio ice cream in Costa Rica and I was hooked. Finally, I had a little taste of the tiny green nut itself in a grocery store and I knew there was no going back. What a marvelous little fellow. Great snack! So addicting. Before you know it, the whole bag is gone…be warned!

I do, however, have a confession to make. I cheated. I did not make my cake from scratch. I bought a box and dumped the contents into a bowl then added a few extra tid bits. The cake was good, don’t get me wrong. It was gone by this morning. But in my opinion it was a little on the sweet side so next time I am most definitely doing it start to finish myself so I can make adjustments. But the recipe is a keeper so I thought I’d share as is. It’s a nice summer treat!

Ingredients:

The Cake

  • 1 yellow cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 2 tsp orange extract
  • 1 package pistachio instant pudding
  • 1 cup water (or lemon-lime soda)

The Honey Frosting

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbs lime/lemon juice
  • 2 tbs honey
  • Pinch of salt
  • Splash of milk

Talk about easy! Take all your cake ingredients and put them in a bowl

Find your mixer and put it to work!

If you want, add some green food coloring (I didn’t have any)

Goodness gracious, this is going to take less then 5 minutes! Take a pan of your choosing and batter up (hehehe get it? Eh, maybe not). I chose to make a bundt cake, but I’d bet money these would make great cupcakes! Always a crowd pleaser

Gah! Go preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Once day you’ll remember to do this ahead of time. Hmph! Now for the frosting, which we are going to do ahead of time so as to let it set up a bit in the fridge. Cream together softened butter and honey. I may have been generous with my honey

Slowly mix in sugar and milk. Now, some people don’t like to find “odd” textures in their food. For the most part, I am not one of those people. That’s why I added both powdered and granulated sugar to my icing. But if you doubt me (and someone did just before they ate two slices), skip the granulated sugar and double the powdered sugar to two cups. No problema

Finally, mix in the rest of the ingredients. I love the tang that cream cheese brings to an icing. Since I didn’t have any cream cheese, I used citrus juice to create a similar flavor. It’s a nice, unexpected surprise. When your all done, put the icing in the fridge. Do you say icing or frosting? Is there actually a difference…

The cake is done. Let it sit for about 5 minutes before flipping it. If you remembered to grease your pan, this will be a cinch!

Ta-da! It’s like magic. What a beauty! Just admire that golden color

If you’re nervous your friends won’t like your new frosting experiment, serve it on the side. Ooh, how fancy!

To make it fancier, sprinkle chopped pistachios on top

To make it even more fancy, spread the nuts in shell around your cake like a professional! It’s all in the details. Guess they liked it

Hope you do, too! Next time, I”m going to try two packages of pistachio pudding. Just to see how it affects the flavor.

Tijuana

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Worries lead to worts, wrinkles, and grey hair

Sometimes life hits you full force and your reaction is too slow to do anything about it. It’s like that black cloud you keep getting rid of finds a way back and you have to keep pulling out your umbrella. You’re always having one of those days, or one of those months, or heck even one of those years. Maybe your car puttered out or you lost your job or a loved one skipped town without a moments notice. Or maybe you just struggle with your bills. Seemingly worse, someone dear to you can’t stay out of trouble and you feel helpless as what to do for them. Perhaps you’re powerless to do anything at all except wait to hear the judgement.

On those dark days, we all deserve a little comfort. We deserve to feel love and warmth to give us hope that things will turn out better than we ever could’ve thought. When I’m feeling low and am seeking comfort, I head into the kitchen (after finding a big hug of course). It’s not that I have a need to eat, and honestly I’d rather cook for others than for myself. I go to the kitchen because it’s my favorite room in the house. If I could put a recliner or couch in there I surely would. Aside from writing my feelings and thoughts down, cooking is my most therapeutic habit. There’s something extremely calming about pulling ingredients from the cupboards and following a recipe. It’s the act of creation, I suppose, that eases the mind and settles the soul. Like any physical act, cooking gives you a sense of purpose for the moment.

When I want to make comfort food, pasta usually comes to mind. I grew up with an Italian-American father and our meals were thus heavily influenced by his Sicilian heritage (though probably not as influenced as my childhood memories would have me recall). On my mother’s side of the family, pasta was an easy go to meal when people unexpectedly showed up. Spaghetti was common fare. So sometimes, that’s what I think of when I want to indulge in some comfort food- and don’t feel like making lasagna. So that’s what I made last night for dinner after receiving some disheartening news.

If you haven’t guessed by now, it’s safe to say I like things hot! You’d think I was making arrabiata instead of spaghetti and meatballs. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again; season things to your own taste. If you don’t like an extra extra kick in your sauce, by all means only add a tinsy winsy bit of crushed red pepper. I’m pretty sure I added more this round then I meant to anyway, but I still loved it (I feel for the poor boyfriend though. I’m always adding hot stuff into our food it seems!) Also, there’s only two of us so I didn’t make all that much sauce. Waste not, want not! You can double, triple, quadruple the recipe if you like. Add some wine, too, if you feel like it!

Ingredients:

The Balls

  • 1 lb ground beef (or meat of your choice)
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs (I used an Italian blend but unseasoned is okay)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan (grated is fine)
  • Splash of milk or water
  • 1 tbs garlic
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Small handful fresh basil, chopped

The Sauce

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tbs garlic (plus some extra if it suites your fancy)
  • 1 large can crush tomatoes
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch pepper
  • Pinch sugar
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • Handful fresh basil, chopped

Since basil is the only thing that seems to be growing in my garden, that’s the herb with which I used to make my sauce. But you can use any Italian herb to your liking- parsley, oregano, mixed blend. Plus, I just really love basil.

First, we need to make our meatballs. Take all those ingredients in the first list and plop them into a medium bowl

I almost forgot the cheese. Wouldn’t that have led to some sad meatballs!

Mix mix mix! Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. This is the fun part! Ah, if only dough were as easy to work with as ground meat…

If you possess a melon baller (unlike me), this would be the time to break it in. A mini scooper of any kind would work as well. Just dig in and make some balls! But some of us have to do it the old fashioned way. Pinch off some meat and roll in between your hands until it forms into a little ball

Keep your meatballs uniform in size so they’ll cook up evenly. I like mini balls, but make them whatever size drives your tractor. You’ll need to stick them in the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up. Or you can just go ahead and cook them. However, I like the freezer step. In the meantime, chop your onion and mince your garlic if you’re using fresh garlic

Back to the balls! In a heavy (deep) pan, cover the bottom with olive oil and fry your meatballs. We aren’t cooking them all the way through. Just giving them a nice sear is all

I developed a lovely method of swirling the hot oil and balls around in the pan. DANGER: don’t try this at home (or attempt at own risk)

Once the meat is browned (but not cooked), set aside on a paper towel

On to the sauce! Now, I’m not much of a beef fan so I drained the excess grease from my pot (though I didn’t wipe it clean) and drizzled in some olive oil. But by all means, use the beef drippings if you like! Dump your onions and garlic into the pan and cook until translucent

Everything’s downhill from here! Stir in your can of crushed tomatoes

Add sugar, salt, and pepper. The sugar combats the acidity in los tomates

Now add the basil. Add more than this. We LOVE basil. My garden is just a little low on fresh leaves at the moment. I really should get some more plants planted…

Finally, it’s time to add the meatballs back in. Turn heat down from medium to low and simmer for half an hour until the meat if fully cooked. While that bit of magic is happening, don’t forget to cook your spaghetti noodles in slightly salted water. My dad adds a splash of oil to his boiling water and so do I!

Oh yeah, don’t forget to add your crushed red pepper flakes either. You can do that when you add the salt, pepper, and sugar. Or when you add the basil. You could do it when you add the meat, but it’s easier to sir around if you do it beforehand

Buon Appetito! Load a bowl up and sprinkle with some of that shredded parm. If you think it’s too spicy, pour yourself a nice glass of milk. Or think fondly of your late Italian-American grandmother and make yourself an espresso.

Here’s too comfort food and cooking your worries way! Mangia!

P.S. I bet these would make for great meatball subs. Mmm

Tijuana


Whitetail

Well, dear friends, it seems my computer has taken a dive off the deep end. The poor guy has been struggling to keep chugging for over a year now, but I’m pretty sure hope is finally lost. He met the black screen sometime last night while I was at work. Seeing as computers are his specialty, the boyfriend tried to doctor him up to no avail. I’d like to say this is a sad, sad day, but honestly I hated that little bugger. Always giving me problems, never functioning properly- and I hadn’t even had it that long when it started rebelling against me (though that cause could have something to do with a litter of kittens I possessed at the time, which is another story unto itself) Anyway,updating my kitchen adventures has suddenly become exceedingly difficult. I’ve resorted to using Facebook as a kind of photo medium between my phone and my blog. Fortunately, a new hard drive is being shipped as we type and will have to suffice until I can afford a new computer in my post-grad state (ahem dirt poor).


But last night I did make some pulled pork! Not THE PULLED PORK (as seen above) , but what I did come up with wasn’t too shabby. You see, I’ve been cooking with a lot of Mojo recently, a citric marinade found in your Hispanic food aisle at the grocery. It was first introduced to me a few years ago by a Cuban friend. She made mepapas rellenas. It was fabulous. She used Mojo. Now I use Mojo. Anyway, I’ve mostly only used it as a marinade for chicken. This week I so happened to have a boneless pork butt in my freezer, so I defrosted it and put it in some Tupperware filled with Mojo and let it chill out for several hours while I was at work. When I came home, feet weary from standing for so long, I took a shower, made some dinner, and finally got the pork into the crock-pot around 1 am. Nothing like a crock-pot doing all the work for you overnight. By 8 am this morning, I had nice juicy, succulent pork. I’d say it was falling off the bone, except there was no bone. Still, you get my drift!

Of course, the pork stood alone on it’s own just fine, but being the southern belle that I am, pulled pork just is not the same without a good ol’ barbecue sauce. And I’m talking real barbecue sauce. For those of you unfamiliar with real, authentic bbq sauce, that would mean a true vinegar based sauce. None of that ketchup based shenanigans. Now, I could tell you some stories about vinegar. It’s practically revered in my family. Remember the Portokalos family in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Gus’ feelings toward Windex? That’s my family toward vinegar. It’s a cure-for-all-ailments, and besides that a great addition to many meals. I love vinegar. There’s just something about that tanginess that gets my mouth watering every time. Slrrp

(Yes, it’s this serious. Bulk, baby!)

Anyway, let’s move on to the sauce. Usually, I double my batch and let the pork slow cook with half of my yield. I also generally use a dry rub on my pork and let it sit overnight. But I eliminated those steps since we used the Mojo. After all, this is not THE PULLED PORK. No, today we made a sauce strictly for dipping- or dousing- for the already cooked pulled pork. This will let individuals choose their own sauciness. Boy, do I like being saucy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper

This barbecue sauce is super easy! After today, you will hence forth make your own and always impress your guests. They’ll question if you’re indeed from the South. I like mine to have a little kick to it (mmm sweet, tangy, and spicy!), but you can always adjust to your own tastes. So…mix all the dry ingredients together!

Whisk your mixed up dry ingredients into the cider vinegar. Put sauce into jar/bottle/bowl and cover. Stick it into the fridge for at least 30 minutes, but take note- the longer it sits, the tastier it becomes. You could always make it the night before use to get those flavors flavorful!

All done! Yay! Now go get your grub on!

Hope you like it! Remember to feel free to experiment. Next time I make pork, I’ll share my traditional recipe 😉

Tijuana


Off to work

Look! Some dear friends made pasties after being inspired by my post. Theirs look like they turned out a lot better than mine did, which I think is the most fantastic thing in the world. It fills me with joy to see people experimenting in the kitchen!


Finding giants

Boy, is it HOT! Today we reached temps of 102. I’m not even going to mention the humidity. Needless to say, I am not a happy camper. And then out of the blue, the skies darkened and opened up until the streets were flooded, lightening and thunder wrestling outside the windows. Naturally, this was the perfect time to crank up the oven and bake up a little snack.

Do you see that? That there is a giant zucchini someone brought me home today. Holy smokes, it’s the size of my thigh! Just look at it! Enormous! Obviously, there’s some kind of epidemic going on around here. The vegetables are taking over, and not just here either. It seems my cousin has had some giants growing in her garden as well.

 Wow

It’s bigger than a soda bottle

I’m telling you, I didn’t even know what to do with it. I mean, where do you even begin with something so large? After a little research, I decided to make a galette. Have you ever heard of a galette? Basically, a galette is a free form pastry found in French cuisine that can be either sweet or savory. In my opinion, it resembles a pie with extra large edges folded over with an open center. Rustic food at it’s finest! oh, how I love rustic food. I may sound crazy, but rustic food reminds me of living out in the country. Or maybe in the old country. It gives me such a feeling of comfort and contentment. It makes me think of homemade bread baking in the oven, stew on the stove, and family gathered around the table laughing and telling stories, impatiently waiting to be fed. It reminds me of grandparents and hard work and doing things the old way as opposed to the quick, easy way. It makes me want to make some ravioli from scratch. Mmm mm mmm!

But today we aren’t making ravioli. We’ll save that for later. No, today we are making galettes- mini galettes to be specific. I discovered this recipe while browsing through Smitten Kitchen’s site (which can be found here under my foodies page) and decided to give it a go with my own twist. You see, galettes are made with pastry dough and we all know how well pastry dough and I get along (not!). Well, I had a can of croissant dough in the fridge begging to be baked up so I decided to be a little innovative. Some flour and a few rolls with my handy dandy rolling pin helped me out with the pastry situation without the added frustration of trying to make it myself. I guess not all things are made from scratch in this household- not yet anyway!

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen (is it weird I always say smitten kitten in my head?)

Ingredients:

  • 1 can croissant rolls
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 1/2 cup parmesan
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella
  • Basil (fresh is better but dried will do)
  • 1 tbs garlic
  • 1 egg
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Olive oil
  • Zucchini
  • Baby asparagus

In a small bowl, we’re gonna mix together all our cheeses. Make sure you really get in there because parmesan is rather crumbling and will try to escape the whole process by sticking to the bottom of your bowl. But we know better

Season cheese mixture with garlic, salt, pepper, and basil. Do this to your own personal tastes. I like really bold flavors so I tend to add…extra! Add a tbs olive oil while your at it

Next it’s time to slice up the zucchini. For obvious reason, I don’t need to slice that much. My plant is huge and the croissants aren’t going to give me that much dough. Anyway, once your zucchini is sliced up, lay it out on a paper towel and salt those babies up. This is going to pull the moisture out of your little zucchini disks. After 30 minutes (though I only wait for as long as it took the oven to preheat0, blot with the paper towel

It’s time for the fun part! Sprinkle flour onto your counter. Pop open your can of croissants. Mine yielded 8, which will give us four mini galettes. Using your rolling pin and your god-given fingers, take two triangles and make them into one square so you end up with something like this. See the difference?

Spread squares with cheese mixture. Oh yeah, now would be a good time to chop up your baby asparagus. Put that on top of the cheese

Top asparagus with blotted zucchini. You can chop it up if you like. Fold the edges over as best you can

Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over each galette, and if your as much of a garlic lover as I am, put some of that on top too. Brush your dough with some egg wash (just an egg beaten ). Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes

Voila! Not too shabby if I do say so myself. Next time, I want to try half ricotta and half cream cheese for a tangier flavor. But feel free to experiment with your favorite cheeses. Who doesn’t love cheese?

Tijuana

 

 


When the going gets tough

There are times in the early evening when you both arrive home, hungry and tired, and realize that there is very little in the pantry to eat. This is because you’ve neglected to go to the market. But there are other reasons your pantry seems so bare. The first is the mere simple fact that you don’t feel like cooking. After being on your feet all day (or sitting in an office), the last thing you want to do is stand some more in the kitchen. Any prospect of cooking turns into life or death battle where raiding the food in your cupboards will lead to a certain and untimely end. You’re brain is just too fried to plan a decent meal. The second reason falls to the fact that you accidentally somehow forgot to eat lunch. Now you’re so hungry not only can you not think properly, but nothing can be cooked fast enough to sooth your roaring tummy. Pasta takes too long. Casseroles take too long. There’s no way you’re even going to consider thawing out the pork hidden in the back of the freezer. You need food now!  Also, take-out is not an option because you’re trying to cut back on spending and eating out all in one go. What to do, what to do?!

You make waffles. Unlike pancakes, you can accomplish this task with relative finesse. You make waffles like champion! Or you have your assistant, who is equally as hungry and exasperated as you, make waffles like a champion. The best part is you can easily have them prepare the whole meal without them realizing they’re doing all the work. That is the joy of having an assistant. You can even call them your little sous chef. You’d be surprised how far a title can get someone and their willingness to crack an egg. Seriously, you love your sous chef.

And no, we are not making waffles from a box. We do things from scratch in this household. But today we did decide to try someone else’s recipe as opposed to following our own. Remember how not so long ago I said I was steadily going through the Pioneer Woman’s recipes? Well, the same goes for Joy the Baker. Today’s waffles were borrowed from her. Boy, did they sound good. I mean, who would dare say no to brown sugar bacon waffles? Not I, that’s for sure. I was sold as soon as I saw the word bacon. So, one can imagine the ghastly horror I felt at discovering I had used the last of my bacon up earlier that morning. Guess that’s what happens when you unexpectedly decide to have breakfast for dinner. Oh, bother.  The only thing to do was omit the bacon and lament. Then EAT!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk (milk with 2 tbs lemon juice)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Joy’s recipe also calls for 2/3 cup oil, but somehow in our dash to get food into our bellies…we managed to leave it out. The waffles turned out fine if you decide to follow our mistakes. Also, when omitting the bacon she recommends using cinnamon and nutmeg. I don’t much care for nutmeg, so I bumped up the amount of cinnamon. No worries!

In a large bowl, mix together all your dry ingredients

Find yourself an assistant/sous chef. Have them use their lovely muscles to whip together the wet ingredients. If you are making your own buttermilk, let the milk and lemon juice stand aside in a bowl for 5 minutes. This allows for the chemistry to take place. Grraaawwwwl

(What a lovely hand and forearm)

Now mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. When you’re all done, it’s okay if there are lumps in your batter. You just want to mix it, now kill it with the power of your wrist. Over mixing= no no

 You see that? That is my trusty waffle iron. His name is Olav, and if he didn’t exist I’d be cursed with making pancakes all the time. We’re going to plug him in and wait for him to heat up

Olav, as dear as he is, can be a little picky. Sometimes you try to cook some waffles and he just botches them all up in his mouth. So we’re going to feed him some PAM first. If Olav was a penguin and if our batter was a penguin, PAM would be the engagement pebble to unite the two together in holy lifelong monogamy. Random penguin fact for ya!

 Now that all parties are happy, take over for your wonderful sous chef and pour the batter onto your greased waffle iron. Close him up and wait as patiently as possible. Dinner will be served momentarily

In the meantime, giggle wholeheartedly as your boyfriend sous chef attempts to crack eggs one-handed into a skillet. He witnessed your amazing skills earlier and is determined to master you

Hehe

Haha

Hahahaha

Ahahahahahahaha

Laughter aside, feel free to frown when your assistant decides to take charge and declares he shall be serving cheeseless scrambled eggs. Say what?! Fervently ask what planet he hails from and when he refuses to hear your arguments against a plain scramble, begin plotting against him. Discretely chop up some of your leftover baby asparagus. You’re in enemy territory now…

Subtly, set asparagus aside and continue cooking waffles. When the waffles are done, plate ’em up and butter as generously as you please. Oh, look! One is missing a bite

Time for operation scrambled eggs! When your sous chef, who is trying to work their way up to head chef, exits the kitchen, quickly drizzle some olive oil in a pan and add asparagus. Don’t forget a spoonful of garlic. Salt and pepper everything

Sauteing the asparagus will take no more time than 2 minutes. Maybe even one. Throw in your plain eggs and cook until warm

Pour your yummy scrambled eggs into a bowl and top with a little bit of parm and mozzarella. Waltz on into the other room with your eggs and waffles and try not to look too snooty. Not everyone has as refined tastes as yourself

Hello dinnnaaaaaaaar! Leftover waffles make a lovely snack for later. Just toast and butter. Or you could put some fruit jam on them. Yummm

Tijuana


Sleeping in after a long night

Ah, there’s nothing like sleeping in on a Saturday morning. The sun is shining, the weather is breezy, and you aren’t obligated to leave the comfort of your chambers for nothing. Except, perhaps, your grumbling tummy. After all, you haven’t eaten in a good 17 hours. But it’s too late to make breakfast (in some opinions) and you’re not quite awake enough for something heavy. There, my friends, is the beauty of brunch. Not breakfast, not lunch, but a magical combination of both.   In college, brunch was probably my favorite meal…and I was always sad when I had to go into work and miss out on the yogurt bar which was only served on Sundays. It was a conspiracy, I tell ya!

Aside from a brunch bar with tangy yogurt, fresh fruit, and crunchy granola, I can’t think of anything more perfect to feast on for brunch than a yummy quiche. With a glass of milk. And a ripe peach on the side that smells impeccably of summer. Yes, we are about to die and go to heaven. Might as well write your wills out right now.

I must admit I had my doubts about quiche. You see, I’ve never tasted a quiche before. Souffles, yes. Quiche, no. So I was quite surprised when I padded to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, noticed the bacon and asparagus, and then pulled out the eggs, milk, and cheese. I knew exactly what to do with all these ingredients. It’s like I was possessed! With such a delightful outcome, I’d happily become possessed again. I’d volunteer!

Perhaps you’ve never had quiche before either. Maybe you’re not much of an egg person and would rather move on to the cereal cabinet or see if there’s any deli meat left in the fridge. I promise you will not want to miss this. The quiche is divine, not eggy like one would expect, and if I had known how good it would turn out, I would’ve been making it for years.

Ingredient:

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1/2 package bacon
  • 1/2 tbs garlic
  • 1 handful baby asparagus
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese (but I bet fontina would be a star in this dish)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Let’s start with the bacon! We’re only going to use half a package. We’ll save the rest for some BLTs. Go ahead and take your half package of bacon and cut it into bite size chunks. Place it in a skillet over medium heat and fry it up! Hello, love!

Set bacon aside. Next, drain the majority of the bacon grease from your skillet. Seriously, we aren’t cooking with it today, though a hint of flavor won’t hurt

Return skillet to heat and melt a pat of butter. Throw in your asparagus! On a whim, add the garlic. And a sprinkling of lemon juice. It’s habit! I can’t help it…

Oh yeah, and make sure you cut off the ends of your asparagus stalks. Oh, and preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Phew, that was close!

Now that your bacon and asparagus is all nice and cooked, whisk together milk and eggs in a medium bowl. Shake in your salt and pepper

Stir in bacon and asparagus. It would probably help if you chopped up the asparagus (this should probably be done in step 2). Stir in cheese as well

Your batter is ready. Spray a pie pan with nonstick spray (like PAM) and slowly pour in your quiche batter. I emphasize the slow part. No sloshing, please!

Pop her in that hot oven for 35 minutes. Our goal is for the center to be set…and for the top to be a Mediterranean golden brown! Ta-da!

Oh, baby! It was so good I had to have seconds. I probably could have eaten the whole thing by myself. No joke. Talk about scrumptious! You may want to pat your asparagus dry before mixing it into the batter. It makes the bottom of the quiche a little soupy, otherwise. Enjoy!

Tijuana


A good disaster?

Alas, the life of a baker may not be in my future. It’s the dough, I tell ya, the dough. We are not fast friends. No ma’am! Okay, okay. It’s me, not the dough. I don’t have enough patience and haven’t taken the time to master my technique with frequent practice. I want all the homemade flavor without all the homemade work. Well as someone once told me, you can’t always have your cake.

Remember the other day when we made those cheese and onion pasties? Today, I decided to give the beef ones a try. You know, for authenticity’s sake. Oh, but how these pasties have turned me into a raging bull. I’m bout ready to rip my stove out of the kitchen and throw it into the backyard. Maybe I’ll toss the counter out while I’m at it. Relieve some stress!

When I sit back and think about it, it’s rather a miracle that my last attempt to make a pasty turned out at all. At the time, I thought my dough was too delicate. Wrong! This go around my dough was so soft, it kept tearing before I could begin to roll it out. I even stuck it in the fridge for awhile.  Wrapping the meat mixture in it was down right impossible and instead of having a cute little half moon…I ended up with some strange ball with pieces of potato and carrot peeking through.

The only good thing about the whole thing is I turned the rest of the filling into a lovely beef stew. And discovered that I like rutabaga. And, of course, it was a humbling experience. You aren’t born a chef. You gotta earn your skill, learn it and master it. No worries! One day I will learn to work with dough. Just give me time.

And the lover really liked the stew. Points to me! Needless to say, I have no real recipe for you today and my pictures are limited. But hopefully you’ll be inspired to cook something up anyway. We all have our off days.

But if you like, you can whip up a stew/soup quite easily. Chop up some veggies- onion, potato, carrots, rutabaga, garlic.

 

Whoa! What’s that giant thing…? It’s a rutabaga! Yummy yummy turnip. Now mix your chopped up veggies with your stewing beef

Drizzle some olive oil in a stock pot and dump your mixture in. When the beef turns slightly brown, add your stock of choice. I used a little more than a cup of chicken stock with just over a cup of water and added in a bouillon cube for a boost of flavor. Season with salt, pepper, parsley, and ground mustard. Once everything boils together, turn heat real low and let simmer until your ready to eat. I had to mourn my lost pasty. It took some time.

Actually, I got two Cornish pasties made before I gave up and started on the stew. They weren’t bad, per se. The crust was just super crumbly and refused to hold together. It was more like eating a casserole than a hand pie. But at least the flavor was there. We will try, try again!

 


Of hearts and stomachs

The other day I decided I wanted to open up a bakery. Of course, this is not the first time I got such a whim up my butt and it certainly will not be the last time. I constantly waver between pursuing a career in food or a career in academia (along with careers in writing or nutrition or agriculture). This idea of a bakery was triggered by two things. The first is a book I’m currently reading, The Baker’s Apprentice by Judith Ryan Hendricks. I find it very easy to get caught up in a character’s life, to escape into fiction for a couple hours. Before you know it, I’m romanticizing driving to work late in the night, setting a playlist on my iPod long after most people have gone to bed, and digging my fingers into flour until the wee hours of the morning. I suppose the book spurred on my early morning decision to type become a baker into my search bar. That’s how I discovered bloombakeshop.com, with its quaint and simple design. After reading the owner’s story of how she left the pharmaceutical world for a world of dough and entrepreneurship, I immediately wanted to jump on the band wagon. I’m pretty sure the tantalizing pictures of whoopie pies under her menu page helped with this sudden inspiration.

With origins in the Amish/German communities of the American north east, whoopie pies are traditionally made with a chocolate cookie cake and vanilla cream filling. We all know how I feel about chocolate, so I wanted to make a pumpkin whoopie pie with a -get this- lemon cream filling. It may sound like a strange combination to some (cough cough), but you’d be surprised what flavors can fuse together. Like Chinese and Mexican. Don’t knock it!


Unfortunately, the only store within walking distance (got to get my exercise somehow!) did not carry pumpkin puree, so I had to change my game plan. On my way home, walking up and down the streets for a little added cardio, a recipe began to form in my head. Why not make a tiramisu whoopie pie? With a hint of lemon! That way there’s coffee, there’s chocolate, there’s lemon, and there’s vanilla. Everyone is happy!

So I set about doing a little research, comparing recipes I found online and in cookbooks, and eventually came up with a pretty satisfactory recipe of my own. You know, as a child I wasn’t really much of a whoopie pie sort of person. It goes back to the not caring a lot for chocolate thing. But now as an adult inclined to spend a good chunk of my time in the kitchen, I have the freedom to experiment and these little babies have been calling my name going on a week now. Fortunately, it only takes one to satisfy the craving. Otherwise I’d probably be the size of a hippo! Remember, the great thing about baking is sharing! Send your goods over to a neighbor. Maybe you even have a cute, single neighbor. You find the heart through the stomach folks! Now, my whoopies are more cakey and less cookie-like. Just so you know.

Psst…feel free to ignore my chicken scratch. We do not live in an era of penmanship. My grandmother is quite ashamed

Ingredients:

Batter

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup instant espresso
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter milk

Orange Creme

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 8 oz cream cheese or mascarpone, softened
  • 4 tbs butter, softened too
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp orange extract
  • 1 tsp rum/Marsala (optional)

Quick tip! If you don’t have buttermilk on hand (which, who does?), it’s super easy to make. Put a tbs of lemon juice or vinegar into you measuring cup. Fill the rest with your milk. Let stand for about 5 minutes. Your milk will begin to look chunky- don’t panic!

Preheat over to 350 degrees. I always forget to do this step first. It really does save time to remember. We’re going to make the batter first. In a large bowl, cream together your butter and sugar

Once that’s done, crack in your egg and add the vanilla. Mmm I still have some homemade vanilla leftover from someone’s Nana…but I’m running low!

It won’t kill any of us to take a little taste. We’re lookin’ for a nice creamy consistency. Hey! It kinda looks like peanut butter. Eh, or smooth almond butter

In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Mix mix mix!

By now, your milk will be nice and curdled. Not being  a professional, I don’t know if that’s really what happened between our milk and lemon juice. I’m just guessing. Definitely looks more like a divorce than a marriage, though! In an alternating fashion, pour milk and flour mixture into the batter

Look at the chunks!

Time for more tasting! I won’t tell if you don’t… Dollop batter onto a greased (or nonstick) cookie sheet with an ice cream scoop. Mine isn’t the clickedy kind. That would be most helpful in my kitchen

Bake your dollops for 10-12 minutes. Repeat until all your batter has disappeared! Let cookies/cakes/whateveryouwannacallthem cool on counter

In the meantime, we can make the orange cream filling! Originally, I was going to make a plain and simple vanilla filling. Then I got the urge to add some lemon. Addict, remember? But then I discovered some orange extract chillin’ in my spice cabinet and decided what the heck! So, take your softened cheese and butter and give them a nice little whirl with your mixer/beater in a bowl

Go ahead and add the vanilla and orange. If you have orange zest, that would be fantastic! At this point, you can go ahead and mix in your rum. All I had on hand was whiskey and wine, neither of which I felt would make a good contribution to my orange cream. No alcohol for us today. Finally, mix in your powdered sugar. Do this a little at a time if you don’t want it to suddenly cloud up into the air and get all over you

Oh boy! I think that was my favorite  part. Of course, another taste test is in order. We got this under control. No bad flavors are going to sneak into this kitchen! Put the filling into the fridge for a spell to help give it some extra body

Almost done! Now that the cookies are cool and the creme is stiff, time to assemble. We’re going to make use of our Ziplocs again. Make a piping bag and swirl the filling onto half of the cookies

Then top it off with the rest of the cookies. Ahhh! We now have a nice little cake sandwich aka a whoopie pie (black moon, gob, big fat oreo, etc)

Enjoy! And don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavors. I’m dying to make one with a mint creme! Or perhaps a vanilla cookie with a berry creme for summer. Possibilities. They never get old.

Tijuana



The Forbidden Question

You see that? That’s a chicken. A very lovely chicken if I do say so myself. I’m rather fond of chicken. It dominates the meat selection in my fridge. But we’ll get back to her in a moment. I have a story to tell first!

Not so long ago, an acquaintance of mine proceeded to ask me what my favorite food was. I’m not one for exaggerations, but I’m pretty sure the whole room quieted and stared at her. It was like a scene from a movie. Sharp intakes of breath were gasped all around us. Then all those faces turned to me expectantly. Suddenly, I was in the Old West, gun poised to defend my honor. Sweat trickled down my brow as I waited for the town clock to strike, or at least for the gears in my brain to turn and impossibly narrow down a single piece of food to be my favorite. Somehow, as if watching from afar, my mouth opened and I managed to squeak out a choice for my audience. A girl next to me applauded my selection and then the duel was over.

Goodness gracious! Never, never ask a cook such a horrid question. As someone who appreciates food with a good portion of my soul, I find it impossible to select a single item and declare it to be my favorite food. I’d much prefer to hand you a list. Naturally, I have a favorite something within a given category. I have a favorite ice cream flavor (vanilla or pistachio) and I have a favorite soda (ginger ale) and I have a favorite berry (blackberries). But to choose a  number one is quite unreasonable. Perhaps I could manage a top ten…if I was being forced onto a deserted island. Food is like music. It’s a mood thing. Depending on your mood, you might prefer jazz to rap one day and indie to classical on another. I might seriously be digging some artichoke dip for lunch one day. Then by the time dinner rolls around all I want is lo mein.

I do have a weakness for Chinese food, it’s true. Well, I have a weakness for most Asian cuisines really. My father may be Italian and instilled in me a deep passion for Italian cooking (which comprises my personal best dishes), but he also shared his love for take out with me, the result being that fried rice, pork dumplings, and soy are never far from my mind. In fact, it was kimbap that I chose as my favorite food that day. My Korean aunt introduced kimbap to me several+ years ago and I became instantly addicted to it. It’s a rice dish that, in my opinion,  resembles a Califronia roll…only much tastier. My favorite filling consists of rice, carrots, cucumbers, artificial crab meat, pickled radish (yummy yummy danmuji) and spinach all wrapped up in seaweed. I need to find a Korean bakery or restaurant around here. It’s been awhile!

As much as I love Asian cuisine, I”m not very good at preparing it. I’ve attempted to make kimbap three times now, each of which led to disaster. My fried rice is a hit or miss. My pho ga was thrown out almost immediately. I think the only thing I’ve engineered successfully to date is lumpia (an entry just dying to be posted). But I haven’t given up the fight, as proven by this:

Please, don’t stop drooling on my account. I’m right there with you! This, ladies and gentlemen, is what I shall call Chinese Black Chicken. Ah man, it was good. It was ambrosial. It was, without doubt, a winner! I mean, just look at it. Look at that caramelized color. Notice the browns and the reds and the blacks. You’re staring at a work of art. And it was so juicy! I’m going to have to make it all over again right now if I keep going on like this.

Breathe. Focus. Continue.

Chinese Black Chicken is very easy to make. After a little marination, you pretty much let her do her own thing and go on about your business. There’s some extra interaction involved half way through, but other than that this is a perfect meal to cook when you don’t feel like hovering over the stove for half the night. Even the most ardent chef likes to step away from time to time. I’m also sure it would impress anyone you’re trying to impress. Parents, friends, in-laws, love interests. Feel free to let chickie here use her powers of persuasion.

Ingredients:

  • A relatively small whole chicken, 4 lbs depending on how many you want to feed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 1 tbs garlic
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 4 tbs oyster sauce

Whenever handling raw chicken from the store, I always wash it in cold water first. Helps me sleep better. So take your whole chicken and give her a good rinse down. Don’t forget to remove the innards. I discarded mine, but do with them what you will. Pat your chickie dry with some paper towels. Isn’t she a beaut?

Place your chicken in a container or bowl large enough to marinate her in and give her a s&p (that’s salt and pepper) spa treatment, inside and out. Rub, rub, rub! Then mix all other ingredients together in a separate bowl. If you’re trying to take pictures like I was, put the rest of the ingredients on a plate. Or you could just dump them directly on your chicken. Your choice

Now that your marinade has been well photographed, your chickie would appreciate you to get on with the spa treatment. Rub her down real good, taking special care to get some of the marinade inside the cavity as well

This is one happy girl! Let her luxuriate for a few hours. The longer she marinates, the tastier she will become. Buuuuut, I stuck her in the oven after only an hour and a half. It was a lazy day. I didn’t even start the marinade until 3. Oops! Anyway…once you’re ready to roast your bird, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil (that’s right, a cookie sheet!). Gently, as not to slop marinade all over your kitchen, place your chicken onto the cookie sheet. There is probably some left over sauce in your bowl. Douse her with it. Don’t waste good flavor!

Alright, roast that chicken! After 20 minutes, turn your oven down to 375 degrees and pull your rack out halfway. See all that juice on the bottom of your cookie sheet? Brush it back onto your chicken. This, my friends, is called love. You gotta love your chicken if you want her to love you back. She will dress to impress with a little bit of extra love

Roast your chicken for another 45 minutes. The skin is going to be nice and crispy on the outside yet super juicy on the inside. It’s like magic. Let’s not neglect to dote upon her lovely coloring

I give you a 10! An A++

Do you know what else would impress? A salad with homemade Sesame dressing! I love making my own vinaigrettes. It’s so simple and only takes a couple minutes. Go ahead! Try it for yourself.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 1/2 tbs sugar
  • A bit of fresh or powdered ginger

Pour everything into a jar. Shake jar vigorously. Put jar in fridge for a spell. Serve with your greens! I love a good sour, tangy vinaigrette, so I do equal parts oil and vinegar. But make this to your own tastes preferences. Experiment! Just please make sure to taste it before you decide to pour the whole thing on your salad. Also, these measurements make a decent amount of salad dressing so feel free to downsize a wee bit. Note: the chicken tastes quite fabulous dunked in this vinaigrette as well.  Mmmmm

I wish I had more veggies for my salad…

Tijuana