armadillas


Radios

I’m so excited! Every year my friends and I gather together for a pre-Thanksgiving meal. It’s been a tradition since freshman year of college. It’s one of my favorite things to do every year. As it happens, our dinner is planned for next Sunday, which I think is appropriate because it will be the end of my first week on the new job and it’s also a few days away from Sarah Beth’s birthday. Needless to say, there will be lots to celebrate the end of that week! Did I mention I’m excited? I’m really really really uber excited to see all my friends!

(Oh the kitchens of college kids)

So far, I’ve always been in charge of the turkey. Last year I tried to do some crazy spin off a turducken…but all I ended up doing was wrapping the thing in bacon. I won’t sit here and say it was a HUGE success, but regardless of looks it was tasty and the whole idea of it was fun anyway.

This year, I’m going to fry the turkey. I’ve only ever had fried turkey once and I was too young to really remember if it was as divine as everyone claims. Which of course means that I have never fried a turkey before and I’m a little nervous about the whole ordeal. Gallons of hot oil does not sound all that fun to me, but hey- after I give the bird a good rub down it’s going outside with the guys anyway and I won’t have to mess with it at all if I don’t want to. And it’s going to be delicious. Plus, that means free oven space. Win-win all across the board in my opinion.

Since I’m thinking about not being in charge of the actual frying of the turkey, I get to play around with other recipes this year. Like a cranberry-blackberry sauce. And homemade baked mac n cheese with white cheddar and gruyere and crispy bacon sprinkled on top. Oh, and let’s not forget the sweet potato souffle. Mmm with pecans and gooey marshmallows and no coconut in sight. I can’t wait to see what everyone else is bringing (hopefully some dessert!). I’m sure it’s going to be a blast. I just wish everyone could make it. We were short a few faces last year and will be short a couple this year. Guess that’s what happens when you grow up and start moving away.

But clearly, we always have a good time!

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Cheater cheater pumpkin eater

So Saturday the boys and I had a steak-off! That’s right, I was the only participating female. Kinda makes you realize how often your time is spent in the company of gentlemen. Guess that happens when all your friends start to leave and get married and begin their lives. Sigh…looks like I’m falling behind in that department. I always was the late bloomer.

Anyway, enough of that gloom because I have reason to celebrate. Back to the steak-off! I feel like we’d been planning this steak-off for weeks and something always seemed to get in the way. But not Saturday. The three of us- Bobby, Frank, and I- were determined. And by golly, we made it happen!

Originally, I was going to come up with a new marinade. But the boyfriend told me to use the one here. I obliged. It’s a good marinade. Full of flavor with a hint of heat…which could be a downfall if your judges don’t like heat. To each their own (cough cough bunch of babies- just kidding!)

Now, a certain someone didn’t feel like pulling out the charcoal grill so Bobby and I had to turn to my trusted broiler

 

Bobby went and got fancy on us with a nice Porterhouse. Man, I wish I had gotten one of those! It was so much juicier than my puny little steaks

 

I was aiming for medium, but I think I ended up with medium-well. I think my thermometer is on the off side

 

Then these guys showed up (late) with a grill. If only I had known!

 

That’s okay. His steak might have had that char-grilled taste, but he and Frank are cheaters. Take a look at this:

Store bought marinade! Oh, the shame of it. Actually, I didn’t mind all that much. In my opinion, it gave Bobby and I the advantage. Not too shabby for oven cooked steak

 

And here is the lineup of judges

 

So who won you ask? ME! Yay, I beat out all the guys!

Tijuana: III

Bobby: II

Chris/Frank: I

Frank/Chris: 0

Chris and Frank brought two steaks. I don’t know which belonged to whom. It doesn’t matter. Homemade marinades rule! Next time I think we should all buy the same cut of meat. It really does affect things.


Rushmore

Last night we had an oyster roast

Actually, it turned into a clam bake because apparently the oysters at the market weren’t tagged and therefore could not be sold. That was okay with me. I much prefer clams anyway and these little babies were nice and salty. I didn’t even add butter to mine that’s how good they were

Yum! Truth be told, I had never attended an oyster roast or clam bake before. Truth be told, the only shell fish I’ve ever actually chowed down on before is crab and shrimp. The last time I had oysters was a nasty experience. They were raw and cold and slimy and I think I got three down before pushing the platter as far away from me as possible. But I was excited nonetheless. I mean, who wouldn’t be excited for something called an Oyster Roast? Come on! Plus, some family members of the boyfriend were coming into town from Pennsylvania, which obviously gave us cause for celebration. And did we celebrate. I don’t think I’ve felt so stuffed since Christmas. It was a feast of oysters, clams, marinated shrimp, Napa salad, asparagus, cheesy potatoes. I don’t know if I even want to get into dessert- ahem cheesecake, chocolate covered strawberries, and peanut butter cups!

Boy, was it a great dinner!

The oysters came in a bad with ice

Then were popped onto the grill. So simple

Then came the clams. There was a pretty serious wager on how many clams came in that bag

These are some of the boys counting them up

There were 98. I lost

But I still got to eat them so didn’t bother worrying about it!

I did use butter for the oysters, which were from the James River

Hmm, oysters or clams, oyster or clams…I think the clams just look more appetizing in general

Ahh, an after dinner cocktail: Sweet tea vodka, raspberry lemonade powder, water, and a lemon twist. So much better than it sounds!


Air mail

Ahhhhh! Look what came in the mail today all the way from the U.K.

 

 

 

Yup, that’s right! It’s a pasty maker! Guess I should go buy some pastry and give it a go (you know, since we all know how making the stuff myself goes). I’m so excited.

Thanks Stepfordtart! Cheers to online communities/international friendship!


To the birds

(Allison stuck the cake topper onto his chest)

My best friend left us for Seattle. Left us for good. So he can go study Comparative Literature in a cozy grad program. We’re all excited for him, and perhaps just a tad bit jealous. Needles to say, we had to throw a little get together since Seattle is on the other side of the country. No more driving down the street to see each other!

Originally, the get together was supposed to be some sort of potluck, cookout thing. But it rained. And for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to try out a gnocchi recipe I had. Bad idea. The gnocchi didn’t exactly turn out, and it’s not really cookout food either, is it? But that’s okay. I managed to do something resourceful. See, the best friend decided to make quinoa salad.

I don’t know about you guys, but in my very good opinion the quinoa he brought into my home looked like a bag of birdseed. I was not excited, not at all. But I watched him cook it up. He roasted a red pepper to chop up into it and opened a can of beans. It now looked like fluffed up birdseed mixed with veggies. Poor guy! He didn’t make a sauce/dressing to go with it and that quinoa was one of the plainest things I’ve ever tasted. It wasn’t bad per say, but as bland as a econ book.

When I discovered the stuff sitting in my fridge the next day untouched, I decided something had to be done. It already had red peppers and limes, why not continue a southwest theme? Only problem was a lot of recipes I found called for lime and I had just used the last of my limes not too long ago. Same goes for my lemons. But I had some Greek yogurt. And some BBQ sauce.

I also had a couple tomatoes from the garden. I’m not that much of a gardener, but I encourage everyone to buy a tomato plant. Right now. Do it! So delicious and I’ve never been one to just bite into a tomato

A little more BBQ sauce and we were in business.  The quinoa was now reminiscent of a chopped BBQ salad I’d had at a couple restaurants. Not too shabby for something meant for birds…

I also made up some of these muffins because I had no idea they existed. Reese’s are my favorite candy, especially the holiday ones. Oh. baby!

Here’s to lasting friendships!


A picture says a thousand words

It’s always fun cooking with friends, especially if they are the ones doing the cooking. Of course, the whole dinner is a group effort, but there’s a need for someone to take charge. For the most part, I find that person to usually be me. The kitchen is just where I like to be. But sometimes you need to step back and give someone else the reins. Last night, they were handed over to Alan

He made us curry. Aimee acted as sous chef, slicing the zucchini, chopping the onion, and grating the ginger. I diced the chicken and cooked the rice, silently reminding myself not to chase people out of my kitchen. It’s a good thing to have friends that know how to cook! Allison provided the entertainment on Alan’s Mac. We watched a  Karmin video and then she introduced us to Beauty and the Beat. Oh yeah, Aimee was also our photographer. Sure, I snapped a few shots myself but her camera is by far more superior than my little rinkydink phone.

As of yet, I do not have the recipe for Alan’s curry, but there are plenty of pics for you until I can procure it.

Yum! Great meal. I do prefer red curry a little over yellow curry, but I was not complaining! Oh, and we got our free slurpees from 7-11. You know, since it was 07/11

 

 


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


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!