Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lemon Rosemary Roasted Chicken, a Treatment Update, and Other Random Nonsense

Oh.  Hi there!  ((Waves vigorously.))  I got distracted again.  I swear, I don't have ADD/ADHD, I've just been incredibly busy... back to doing some legal stuff part-time, doing a couple of freelance writing gigs, adopting a pit bull (or maybe I should say she adopted me), FINALLY resolving my horrendous back pain, having my wallet stolen...  You know, the normal course of events.

This situation with my lower back had gotten completely and totally out of control.  Finally, after 6 straight MONTHS of it being at a Level 9 I Want to Chop My Leg Off Just to Make It Feel Better, without so much as a single minute where it wasn't basically excruciating, I found the answer.  I started treatment at a place which specializes in athletic injuries.  I knew I was in the right place when the words I heard most outside of the normal "physical therapy" speak were "gymnastics," "jiu-jitsu," and "MMA."  After the first treatment, I had 2 glorious minutes of being completely pain-free.  After the second treatment, two hours, at which point I declared that the doctors there were all getting lap dances for Christmas.  After the third, it was back down to intermittent, with several hours of being pain-free in a row, but the peaks weren't even holding a candle to what I had been having at the BEST moments previously.  At this point, it is SO much better than I'm really only fighting with it for a little bit in the morning.  My liver wrote me a nice card saying thanks for not pumping me full of painkillers, you rotten bitch, you're lucky I have the capacity for regeneration.

((If you're lost, I wrecked myself in gymnastics at the age of 12 with a complete hamstring tear out of the origin, a ruptured disc, and a fractured vertebrae.  It has been bad on and off for the last, ahem, some number of years, but this went completely batshit insane and was far worse than when I actually broke it.))

Let me just tell you:  Nothing wrecks your life like being unable to walk, sit, stand, or lay down without throbbing pain.  Jeezus.

Anyway...  

Deb's birthday was last week and Sunday night I went out to make dinner for her and a friend.  I ended up making Lemon Rosemary Roasted Chicken.  Recipe adapted slightly from The Pioneer Woman.

Looks fancy, no?

What you need:

1 FRESH whole chicken
1 stick of softened butter
4 springs rosemary
3 lemons
Salt and pepper

Ready? Go:

Preheat the oven to 400.

Open up the chicken and remove the giblets.  Yes, this is completely revolting.  I know.  Power through it.  Rinse the chicken inside and out with cold water, contemplate whether you are really a vegetarian after all, and then pat dry with paper towels.

Line a baking dish with aluminum foil and spray with a nonstick spray.

Realize you forgot to soften the butter and stick it in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds.

Chop the rosemary leaves from ONE sprig as finely as you can.  Add that to the butter.  Zest two lemons ((being careful not to get the white stuff)) and throw it on the butter/rosemary mixture.

Stir to combine.

Using your hands, spread the buttery gooey goodness all over the chicken, getting it into all the nooks and crannies and feel slightly dirty while doing so.  ((Wash your hands with dish soap to cut the grease quickly.  You're welcome.))

Squeeze the juice of one lemon all over the chicken.  Crack some salt and pepper over it as well.

Now slice the other two lemons in half and cram them and the remaining rosemary springs ((whole)) into the chicken cavity.  ((You may not be able to get it all in.  TWSS.))

Roast uncovered for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Remove from oven, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Carve it up ((or hack the living shit out of it, whatever)) and serve.

*****

So that's it!  Talk to you tomorrow or next week or maybe in November!

Monday, August 13, 2012

We Need to Talk

We need to talk.  You know how I originally said this was a space for information on cooking, recipes, and crap like that?  Turns out I was wrong.  I'm not sure I've ever publicly ((wow, major typo just caught... the "L" is important in that word)) admitted I was wrong before.  Well, maybe once before, but I might be wrong about that in which case that makes this the second time I have publicly admitted wrongdoing.  Or the third?  Or maybe less.  I don't know.  Math is super hard.

Back to the point... While I still cook quite a bit, I found myself in a position where I was coming up with things to make just to have something to put in this space.  While that was fun for several months, as with many things, it can become an obligation and an obligation can become something that lacks fun-ness.  I have always said that I started doing this because it is fun and I *want* to.  But then, I started to kind of feel like I *had* too, which I know is bullshit, but then some commenter says, "What, did you run out of ideas?"  Then someone else told me I wasn't funny anymore ((do you know how hard it is to make a turkey burger funny?)) and commence Jules going on strike because that is certainly the best way to counter that idea.  Counterproductivity for the win!

I also read a lot of cooking/recipe blogs and Jesus H. Christ, some of them are the drollest things I've ever seen.  I swear to carbs, if I see one more picture of some fucking overnight oats that are the Best! Thing! Ever! I am going to hurl chia seeds through the internet into that asshole's eyeball.  I don't want to be that person.  On either end.

((No, I'm not breaking up with you all.  Relax.))

Anyway, FROM NOW ON, ((and that was in all caps so you know it is important)) we are going to talk about whatever the hell we ((I'm not sure who "we" is, probably the Royal We)) want to.  If you know me In Real Life or via Facebook or Twitter, you are aware that a LOT of really bizarre shit happens to me and around me.  We will still cook stuff sometimes.  ((Read as:  We will still cook stuff and screw it up and try to figure out how to fix it.))  But we will also talk about the time I took a javelina named Javier to a book signing while I was wearing a red satin gown and how my picture got blasted to 258,152 people because THAT JUST HAPPENED and then even more awesomeness unfolded.

Trust me.  I can explain.

Explanation ((or the best one I can muster which honestly isn't all that good)) will be forthcoming.  Thanks for playing and I'm serious, I'm not breaking up with you.



Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chile Lime Chicken, Microwave Sweet Corn, and Cilantro Butter

I still maintain that it is too hot to cook, BUT I am officially over the cereal straight from the box routine.  Over it.  However, as frequently happened, this seemingly simple idea turned into a "what the hell do I do now?" moment.

The chicken is a total cheat, but I have an explanation...  I was given a Williams Sonoma gift card for my birthday ((Thanks, Jimmy!)) and in an attempt to use the remaining four dollars on it after I got some REALLY good stuff, I ended up buying one of their spice rub thingys.  All you do is to throw a cup or so of breadcrumbs with 3-4 tablespoons of their Chile Lime Spice Rub into a baggie and toss it around until it is fairly uniform in color.  I then just threw the chicken in there ((no egg wash required)), tossed it, and threw it in the oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  Easy.

The picture sucks because the pool guy who has more than a slight resemblance to Mr. Belding showed up and I didn't have the gall to take food out to photograph in front of him.  Oops.

About 20 minutes before the chicken would be done, I put on a huge pot of water to boil.  When I went back to check on the boilitude ((that's a word, eff off spell check)), I found the pot was full of foam.  Uhhhh... Well, I had used that pot to boil a huge batch of Chinese herbs to make a tincture for my back.  That concoction smelled like a combination of Christmas, despair, and a flop house.  I soaked that damn pot for days to get rid of the residue.  And then more days.  And then I scrubbed it some more.  Then it soaked for another week.  I'm afraid whatever medicinal properties ((and contact high)) I got from the "treatment" may have resulted in ruining the stock pot.  Oh well.  

At this point, there is now 6 minutes left for the chicken so I quickly googled if you can microwave sweet corn and if so, how.  Basically, you shuck the corn, wrap it tightly in paper towels, and nuke it for 5 minutes.  I have to say, it turned out pretty well.  It didn't get quite the same golden color as when you boil it, but it was perfectly edible.


I then basted it with a cilantro butter.  Melt the butter and chop up a LOT of cilantro into really small pieces or until you get annoyed with it.  Add it to the melted butter and let it all seep together for a while.  Brush it on the corn with a basting brush.  

*****

All righty... I need to quickly finish up some freelance work.  Happy Wednesday!  Or Happy Whatever Day You Read This! 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cheesy Mexican Hash Brown Potatoes, "I Have a Cooking Blog?!" and a List of Excuses

WAIT.  I have a cooking blog?!  Who updates it when I flake out for a couple of weeks?  Oh.  No one?  OOPS.  Ready for a list of excuses that will be interesting to exactly no one?  That's what I thought.

1.  It's hot.  It's like 108-112 degrees hot.  It is damn near impossible to confront a hot grill, an oven, or even to boil water when it is that hot.  It also kills your appetite.  I assumed ((rightly, I believe)) that no one was interested in a recipe for Cheerios from the box.  Or a store-bought popsicle.  If you are, well, you have other issues that I don't feel capable of addressing at this time.  Maybe later though.

2.  I broke up with the co-op which apparently provided a lot of my inspiration.  The suppliers had a rough early summer... quantities went way down, the quality went down, and it was no longer the massive savings that it typically is.  The other thing is that the people there had gotten too familiar with me.  What used to be a less than 5 minute in and out/pick up the shit and go turned into 20-30 minutes because of all the chatting and asking for advice.  I realize this is actually a compliment, but I just don't want to be that chatty at 7 am on a Saturday.  When I relocate next week, I will pretend not to speak English.

3.  Negative comments.  I understand that the Internet is a place where people can hide behind anonymity and I know that ((like everyone else who publishes shit on the internet)) people will sometimes be horrible to me.  I purposefully moderate the comments so that a bunch of negativity doesn't get spewed by ugly people who seriously need a hobby.  Well, two negative comments got under my skin last weekend and I went on strike.  If you don't like the way I swear, what I make, the randomness of any of it, just don't read it.  I'm really not that interesting anyway.

4.  Did I mention it is hot?

*****

That said, let's make something.  In typical style, I set out to make one thing and ended up with something completely different.  The plan was to make breakfast burritos with Italian sausage, but it turned out my eggs were closer to being chicks than eggs, the milk was expired, and defrosting the sausage at that point seemed like a waste of time.  ((Must go to Trader Joe's.  Stat.))  Instead I ended up with cheesy Mexican hash brown potatoes.


What you need:

16 ounces of hash brown potatoes ((I prefer the refrigerated kind, not the frozen ones.))
1 tablespoon of butter
1/2 cup Mexican style shredded cheese
1/2 cup salsa
1 tablespoon chopped jalapeno pepper
Salt and pepper

What to do:

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium to high heat.  Add the potatoes in a thin layer and smash them down with a spatula.  ((The instructions call for vegetable oil to "fry" them in, but that's just gross.))  Let them cook for 6-7 minutes, or until they get golden brown and crispy on the bottom side.  Oh and leave them alone!  Don't be stirring them all around or anything.  Let it be.  Put a few cracks of salt and pepper on top.

Flip the potatoes over ((if it breaks up, that's totally fine)) and cook for another 5-6 minutes.  Again, add a little salt and pepper.

Smash them up a little and add the salsa and the jalapeno.  Stir it around and add the cheese.  Let cook just until the cheese is melty and gooey.

This can be eaten as a side dish or on a tortilla.  ((The original plan was to mix this with scrambled eggs  and browned sausage...  I'm sure that would be even better.))

*****


I'll be back some time with something!  ((Just kidding.))  I *believe* we are doing a photography shoot next weekend so there will be much to look forward to.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Cake Batter Truffles, A Shot of Insulin, and Bourdainmania

Last week, I announced that I thought Tony Bourdain might be my spirit animal... After devouring his latest book, "Medium Raw," in less than 24 hours, I am now convinced that he is not just my spirit animal, but perhaps my long-lost ((and oddly enough at least 15 years old than I am)) twin ((science is funny stuff)) or at the very least, my soul mate ((which is tricky because I don't really believe in soul mates, but I don't know how to get across the depth of feeling I have for this person.))

This passage is when I knew our bond was true:  "...members of families who eat together regularly are statistically less likely to stick up liquor stores, blow up meth labs, give birth to crack babies, commit suicide, or make donkey porn."  YES.  A thousand times YES.

All hyperbole aside, it really is a stellar, funny book that is a bit of a gossipy, insider view into an elite foodie and traveller scene.  You should read it.  Now.  He talks shit about Emeril and a whole bunch of other famous people.  I love that.

Let's make something not terribly foodie like... Cake Batter Truffles.


What you need:


Recipe source: The Girl Who Ate Everything

1 ½ cups flour
1 cup yellow cake mix
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
3-4 Tablespoons milk
2 Tablespoons sprinkles

Truffle Coating:
16 ounces ((8 squares)) almond bark ((or white candy melts))
4 Tablespoons yellow cake mix
Sprinkles

Beat together the butter and sugar using an electric mixer until combined. Add the cake mix, flour, salt, and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Add 3 Tablespoons of milk ((or more if needed)) to make a dough-like consistency.  Roll dough into one-inch balls and place on a parchment or wax paper lined cookie sheet. Chill balls in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm  them up.

((Side note: come back tomorrow to see what search terms have led people here.  I've managed to use "donkey porn" already and now I'm on a personal mission to write "balls" as many times as possible.  Balls.))

While the dough balls are chilling, melt the almond bark in the microwave in 30 second intervals until melted. Stir in between intervals. Once melted, quickly stir in cake mix until incorporated completely. Using a fork, dip the balls into the almond bark.  Shake off the excess by tapping the bottom of the fork on the side of your bowl.  Do not become frustrated when you repeatedly drop the entire thing into the bowl. However, quit doing it the exact same way and being surprised when that keeps happening.  Place the truffle back on the cookie sheet and top with sprinkles. Repeat with remaining balls until finished.  ((Balls.))

Chill cake batter truffles in the refrigerator until serving. Makes around 24-30 truffles.

Use the leftover bark to dip some strawberries too.
These are SWEET.  I'm not kidding.  They are like scream your fillings out, beg for an insulin drip, smack my ass and call me Sally, sweet.  A little will go a long way.  See also:  If you see me bring these to some kid's birthday party, you can be assured I either hate the little bastard or the little bastard's parents and you can guarantee that I will not stay very long because the sugar rush that will occur is apt to throw the planets out of their orbits.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Oaxaca Mole Verde, Measurements are Dumb, and Please Come Back

I, semi-last-minute, decided to make dinner for my mother and her friend, Kathy, last evening.  I had been given this totally gorgeous cookbook by Kathy's daughter ((one of my favoritest people)) and was itching to try something from it.  I decided on a pork tenderloin with a mole verde sauce.  ((Little did I know, pork tenderloin is one of Kathy's very favorite things, so look at me, I'm a winner.))



I'm going to warn you, the ingredient list and the instructions look long, but it comes together relatively quickly and is completely worth it.  As you are reading this, you will probably say, "Oh screw her.  This is ridiculous."  I swear to you, I left for the store at 3 pm to get the missing ingredients in within one hour I had made the rub, the sauce to completion, and 2 dozen green chile muffins, Mexican rice, and loaded up everything I needed to take this show on the road.

Original recipe from "Sharing the Table at Garland's Lodge"

What you need generally:

4 pork tenderloins

For the rub:

2 tablespoons each oregano, sage, thyme, cumin seed, and ground red chile
1 tablespoon each cinnamon and nutmeg
1/4 cup of salt ((I used a lot less))
2 tablespoons coarse black pepper

For the mole verde:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium white or yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 pound tomatillos, peeled, rinsed and sliced
1/4 cup chopped hot green chiles ((not the canned crap-- I used less and deseeded them for wimpier palates))
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons each oregano and cumin seeds
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro ((so like half a bunch with some of the stems left on))
2 - 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock
2 tablespoons of lime juice

Are you still with me?  I know.  It seems like a lot, but the vast majority of this stuff is in your spice rack or pantry.  If you don't have something and aren't going to the market, leave it out.  It's fine.

Start by making the rub.  Combine everything BUT the salt and pepper in a small skillet and heat until it smells like heaven.  ((This won't take long, just a couple of minutes on a medium heat.))  Remove from the heat and let it cool a little.  Put into a small baggie and add the salt and pepper and shake it around.  ((I confess, I didn't measure anything, I totally eye-balled it.  Feel free to do the same.))

Preheat the oven to 350, after putting the rack on the highest shelf you can, but still being able to get the pan in.  Drizzle the pork with a little olive oil and then spread the rub over it.  Give it a good pat to make it stick and get all the sides.  Set aside for 30 minutes.  ((I know.  I was a little concerned about leaving pork to sit out.  It's fine.  You won't die.))

Next, we will make the mole.  Heat the olive oil in a heavy sauce pan over medium high.  Add in the onions, garlic ((I didn't chop the garlic cloves, I put them in whole)), tomatillos, and salt.  Give them a stir and then reduce the heat to medium.  Add in the chiles.  Loosely cover the pan ((like make it so that it is half off)) and cook for 10 minutes or until everything is soft.  Stir it every so often to make sure nothing is sticking.

Combine the pumpkin seeds and the oregano and toast in a small skillet until they begin to smoke.  ((Technically, you should grind them with either a grinder or a food processor after this, but I didn't, so don't worry about it.))

Add the pumpkin seed mix, the cilantro, and 2 cups of chicken broth to the pan with the onions/tomatillos.  Stir it well and let cook for just a couple of minutes.

Transfer the sauce ((it's hot in case this isn't obvious!)) to a blender and process until it is very smooth.  You may need to do this in more than one batch depending on the size of your blender.

Return the mixture to the sauce pan.  If it is really thick, add a little more broth.  Add two tablespoons of lime juice and some more salt.  Keep warm while the pork cooks.

**These are their instructions... This did not work for me.... Roast the meat for 8 minutes, reduce the oven temp to 300 and continue another 8-10 minutes.  A meat thermometer should read 140 at the center.  ((I followed these instructions and knew there was no way in hell they were done.  I turned the heat back up to 350 and let them cook for an additional 20 minutes.  I thought maybe I had somehow missed the part where you slice them first, but no.  No idea.))

When cooked through to 140 degrees or just barely pink, remove from the oven and cover with a clean dish towel for ten minutes to rest.

Slice them diagonally at about 1/3 of an inch thick.  Serve with 1/3 cup of the sauce ((which you have kept warm)) over the top.  ((I put it on the side because I was concerned it would still be too spicy for them even though I had mellowed it out some.))

Not the greatest picture because of the lighting, but I was trying not to be "that person" who keeps everyone waiting while they take pictures of food.  
I repeat, this sounds way harder than it is, but whoever you are making it for will think you are a superhero.  I served it along side ((as alluded to)) Mexican rice, black beans with cojita cheese, green chile corn muffins with honey butter, and the now famous, sopapilla cheesecake.

The verde sauce will keep if kept tightly covered in the refrigerator and would be good on basically everything.

*****

All right, this might win the award for the longest post ever.  I'll be back with something a little less daunting ((or at least wordy)) tomorrow!


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Baked Mac and Cheese, Recklessness, and the 100th Post

Confession time:  I had never had mac n cheese ((from a box or otherwise-- more than a bite anyway)) until 2005.  I'm sure that sounds like blasphemy and like I must have had a terrible childhood.  There was something about the consistency that freaked me out.  I just couldn't tolerate it.  Then in 2005 ((yes, I remember the actual day specifically too)), a box, or actually several boxes, were brought into my house.  The first time I tried to make it ((and I'm talking the add water to the pre-filled carton variety)), I thoroughly screwed it up.  This is why I say that I could not cook at ALL until really quite recently.  If you screw up macaroni and cheese in a microwavable package, there is still hope for you.  #Endtrueconfessions.

What was my point?  Oh yes.  Macaroni and cheese is many people's ultimate comfort food.  I had the honor of making dinner for a girlfriend ((and 8 others)) who has been through quite the ordeal lately.  This occasion required macaroni and cheese.  Specifically, baked mac and cheese with buttered breadcrumbs.  

*Recipe adapted slightly from Alton Brown.

<<Imagine a picture right here of ooey, gooey cheesy pasta with breadcrumbs on top.  Blogger is NOT cooperating with me to load photos.  If I get it to work later, I will add the picture.  GAH.>>

What you need:
1/2 pound elbow macaroni ((or something similar))
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
16 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper

Topping:
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

The Destructions--oops Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350.

Cook the pasta to the package directions ((like, boil the crap for 10-12 minutes)) and drain.

Chop the onion and set aside.

In a good-sized sauce pan melt 3 tablespoons of butter.  Add in the flour and the powdered mustard and KEEP IT MOVING for 5 minutes.  This is going to seems really ridiculous.  It is kind of a clump of yellow-y stuff and you will think this is the second dumbest thing you've ever done.  ((Feel free to leave the dumbest thing you'e ever done in the comments.))  However, if Alton Brown says to do it that way, we do it that way.  Respect, people.

Add the milk, the onion, and the paprika and allow to simmer for ten minutes.

((We are about to get fancy, don't be scared.))  Temper in the egg.  ((WHAT IN THE BLOODY HELL DOES TEMPER AN EGG MEAN?  Yell at it?  Try to piss it off?))  Tempering means that you make it so that the egg doesn't just "scramble" in the pan.  Start by whisking it in a bowl so that the yolk and white are combined.  Then add some of the hot stuff to that bowl slowly, whisking it at the same time.  Try not to make a mess.  Just add a little at a time so it doesn't cook the egg.  Keep doing this until the egg has reached the heat of the original mixture and it is mixed in.  Bad news, if it clumps up, you should really start over, but I won't judge you if you say eff it, good enough.  

Return the mixture to the pan and add the cheese.  The original recipe called for 12 ounces.  I eyeballed that and decided that wasn't enough so I basically went hog-wild at that point.  I'm guessing I added more than a pound of shredded cheddar.  ((That's fun to say: shredded cheddar.  Shredded cheddar shredded cheddar shredded cheddar.))  Mix it together until the cheese in melted and pull off the heat.

Place the pasta into a sprayed 9 x 13 baking dish.  Pour the cheesy-goodness over it and stir.  

In a small bowl, melt an additional 3 tablespoons of butter.  Add in a cup of panko breadcrumbs ((or regular if that is what you have)) and mix them around with a fork.  Sprinkle on top.  

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.

*****

This is the 100th post!  It is completely astounding to me that since February, as of today, 7,500 different people have viewed some of my nonsense.  Not too shabby.  


Friday, July 6, 2012

Wine Poached Pears and TFN's Unintended Hilarity

You know, if I keep this up, people might get the impression I'm getting back in the groove.  It just might happen.  I am actually going to be making something for the first time in two weeks over the weekend, first for a barbecue and then I'm doing a dinner party Sunday, so we will see if I somehow lost whatever instinct I may have in Mexico.  I remain hopeful.

This was a dessert we also had in Manzanillo... This recipe is a combination of what we could discern from the staff with a little help from Epicurious.

Pretty, huh?
What you need:

4-6 peeled pears ((look for Bosc or Anjou))
1 1/2 cups of red wine ((I maintain you can use table wine or something you may not especially care for))
3/4 cups of granulated sugar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice 
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons of cinnamon

What to do:

Add everything but the pears to a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, take the heat down to a simmer ((small bubbles)) and add the pears.  Simmer them for 10 or so minutes WITHOUT STIRRING.  ((Sorry about the yelling, but I know how you people are.  Fidgety.  That's how you are.  Fidgety.))  Turn the pears and continue simmering for another 8-10 minutes.  They are done when the pears are tender and forkable.  ((You remember forkability, right?  Right.))

Remove the pears from the pan and set aside to allow to cool.

Crank the heat back up and boil the wine sauce.  Keep boiling it until the total amount in the pan is cut in half.  ((That's called making a reduction.  Feel free to gloat.))

Arrange pears for serving and drizzle with the sauce.  If you are trying to impress someone or maybe even just impress yourself, top with marscapone, creme fraiche, or Devonshire cream ((not pictured.))

*****

That reminds me...  This morning I turned on the Food Network for some background noise/distraction.  There was some super cheesy ((not literally)) show on about making a romantic dinner.  The host/demonstrator then says something to the effect of, "Feel free to romance yourself, too!"  I almost lost a lung I was laughing so hard.  ((HI DEB.))



Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tres Leches and a Slow Return to Reality

Hola!  Yes, I am alive and well.  We had a truly incredible week in Manzanillo.  It was everything and nothing that I expected.  I can go on about it for hours and have thoroughly tortured everyone I know with photos and stories and then more photos.

The property we stayed at had the most incredible food.  Every morning, we would select what would be served the following day.  I, of course, quickly commandeered this task and embarked on a "write-in" mission which probably drove the chef, Pilar, insane but was a lot of fun for me.  One day we requested Tres Leches, literally, Three Milks, which is a form of cake.  I managed to finagle the recipe out of Pilar.


Disclaimer:  I have not attempted this recipe yet... There was a bit of a language gap as well.  I have filled in a few items that I think may have been lost in translation with some help from The Pioneer Woman.  Consider yourselves warned.

What you need:


1 cup All-purpose Flour
1-1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
5 whole Eggs
1 cup Sugar, Divided
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1/3 cup Milk
1 can Evaporated Milk
1 can Sweetened, Condensed Milk
1/4 cup Heavy Cream
_____
FOR THE ICING:
1 pint Heavy Cream, For Whipping
3 Tablespoons Sugar


What to do:


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan very liberally with spray.  When you think it is coated, do it again.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and set aside.

Separate the eggs.  Get a little frustrated.  Shake it off.

Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are a pale yellow. Then stir in the milk and vanilla.

Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir it together very, very gently, just until combined.

Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. ((Soft peaks means that when you lift the beaters out of the eggs, there are little "hills" which then sink back down.))  With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.  ((At this point, the hills will be more like mountains and will stay that way.))

Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread it evenly.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a platter with a lip on it and allow to cool.

Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When cake is cool, stab the surface with a fork several times.  Don't get totally aggressive, this is not therapy time. Slowly drizzle all but about 1 cup of the milk mixture onto the cake—try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can.  ((Yes, you are going to have some left over milk mixture.  These things come in premeasured cans, so we just have to deal with it.))

Allow the cake to soak it up for 30 minutes.

To ice the cake, whip 1 pint heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of sugar until thick and spreadable.
Spread over the surface and decorate with slices of peaches or mangos to make yourself feel fancy. Cut into squares and serve.

Nutritional Info:  A gazillion calories.  Seriously, a lot.  This is a once in a while treat, so don't sweat it.

*****

The return to reality has been a little slow, as you might guess.  7 days of having exactly nothing to do will do that to you.  Add in a mid-week holiday, and it is a total disaster.

We will have lots more recipes from Mexico coming up in the next while!  Yes, I take requests so if there is something you are dying for, settle down a little and then let me know!




Friday, June 22, 2012

Adios!

In twenty-four hours I will find myself on a beach in Manzanillo, Mexico.  Assuming that we have an internet connection, I will try to update a couple of times but obviously, that might be tricky.  The home we are staying in comes with a private chef and you can damn well bet I will be attempting to talk myself into the kitchen in whatever language necessary at least a couple of times.

This is the house we have to ourselves... 9,500 square feet


I'll be under that umbrella if you are looking for me

The amazing view from the patio

Everything that I packed minus the flip-flops


Talk to you from Manzanillo hopefully!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The World's Easiest Fruit Dip, Go-To Turkey Feta Wraps, and Go-To Refrigerator Pasta

I wish I had some fantastic reason as to why I have been AWOL from these parts, but I just don't. While I have been making a few things, they are so terrifically uninspired that I chose not to bore you with them. ((Reasserts vow not to be one of those people who make a fried egg on toast and takes a picture of it. Double reasserts that would never eat a fried egg on toast anyway. Gross.))

Instead, I will give you the World's Easiest Fruit Dip recipe which is so ridiculously simple that it is almost laughable.  I made this for the Elopement Party with a berry salad over the weekend ((strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries)) which looked really pretty, but AGAIN, I failed to take a picture of.

From the gallery opening earlier this year
 What you need:

1 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
1 jar of marshmallow fluff ((yep, you read that right))

What you do:

Bring the cream cheese to room temperature. Using your mixer, beat the living hell out of it until it is light and fluffy.  Using a rubber spatula, add the fluff to the bowl and then mix for about a minute or until it is smooth in consistency.  Done.

For a twist: Add shreds of pineapple to the dip. If you must, use the canned pineapple tidbits, and then sliver them down into tiny pieces, but be sure to drain out as much of the juice as possible so that you don't break down the consistency of the dip. I have also experimented with adding honey to this, but it is really, really, like hurts your face really, sweet. I'm sure there are tons of other modifications, so if you try something, let me know!

As pictured above, I thought I was all artistic and used a mini watermelon to serve it in.  I sliced off the very bottom to make a flat surface, cut it approximately in half, hollowed it out, and then froze it for about an hour so that it would stay intact and help keep the dip cold under the gallery lights. You are quite possibly more artistic than I am ((odds are good)) so you could carve a design into the top or do something fancy. If you do, I want to see a picture and hear about how many stitches you needed.

*****

Other stuff I made this week that I didn't deem blog-worthy but am now writing about anyway...

-My go-to quick lunch of a turkey wrap. Simple. Just microwave a tortilla with several slices of turkey on it under a paper towel for 30 seconds. Top with chopped romaine, caesar dressing, and feta crumbles. I eat this more than anyone really should.

-My go-to quick dinner of refrigerator pasta salad. Some kind of pasta, a little balsamic and olive oil, with basil, tomato and pine nuts.


I warned you it was uninspired!  ((My resolve to not buy groceries prior to departure is a part of this malaise. I'm not sure my refrigerator has been this bare in over a year. It's kind of sad.))

*****

All right, I need to finish another freelance article that is due tonight. Happy First Day of Summer!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tahini Salad Dressing, Creative Party Ideas, and Why Did I Ever Start This 3 Grouping for the Titles?

Today has been spent getting ready for a small post-elopement/wedding reception... They had a really unique idea: a build your own salad for the main course. For the bed, we put together romaine and baby lettuce/radicchio/arugula/spring greens. Then we had 15 or so different toppings so that the guests could make almost anything they wanted: grilled chicken in a mesquite marinade, chili lime grilled shrimp, genoa salami, cheddar, feta, bleu cheese, parmesan, goat cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, black olives, bacon crumbles, dried cranberries, toasted almonds, candied walnuts, asiago cheese croutons, and wonton strips.  For dressings, I made balsamic vinaigrette and a tahini dressing.  Needless to say, I have grated, chopped, and crumbled my face off today.  ((We also did brie with kalamatas, ciabatta bread, a mixed berry salad of strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries with a fruit dip, and the caprese salad skewers which I always say I am never making again and then always do.))  Anyway, I think their salad bar idea is a good one. If I can keep my wits about me, I will remember to suggest that in the future.

Tahini salad dressing is a good non-dairy alternative that you can make in about 5 minutes.  ((Seriously, if you are still buying salad dressing, I don't know what to do with you. It is so easy to make, tastes so much better, and isn't full of chemicals and crap.))  What the hell is tahini you say? Tahini is to sesame seeds as peanut butter is to peanuts. That's about the best way I can describe it. You can find it in urban grocery stores or in health food stores, probably by the organics.  Don't be scared, it's delicious. Trader Joe's sells a tahini style dressing under the label "Goddess." No, I don't know why and I'm too lazy to google it at the moment.

Picture from diaryofamadwoman.com because I am a total fail when it comes to stopping to take pictures when I have multiple projects going and her's is prettier anyway and this is a really long sentence, huh?

What you need:


1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
3 cloves garlic
1 clove grated ginger
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup olive oil

What to do:

Put everything BUT the oil in a blender or a food processor and pulse until it is smooth and creamy in consistency.  Slowly start adding the olive oil and continue pulsing until it is combined.

This dressing is a little thick.  You can add more water to thin it out if so desired.  As written, this makes about 2 cups and will keep in the fridge in a sealed container for at least a couple of weeks.

*****

I'm going to go put my feet up and do nothing for a while!  Happy Father's Day if that is your kind of thing.  




Friday, June 15, 2012

Quinoa Herbed Crab Salad, Mission: Perishable, and TGIF

I'm officially onto Mission: Eat All the Perishables before my epic trip of a lifetime ((quasi-redundant, don't care)) next week.  I suppose that isn't being terribly gracious to my house-sitter who will be here full time who is also an amateur boxer who adores my chow ((yes, that might be code for don't fuck with me in my absence)), but I'm guessing he doesn't eat a whole lot of bok choy anyway.  So, to that end, let's clean some more stuff out of the refrigerator into a crab quinoa salad.

  My original idea was to make something like crab salad that is typically served either on a croissant or stuffed into a bell pepper, but without the creamy, fatty goodness.  Mission accomplished.



What you need for 4 servings:

One cup of quinoa ((cooked according to package directions))
8 oz crab meat 
4 stalks of celery, chopped,
4 green onions, chopped
Fresh thyme 
Fresh basil
1 squeeze of lemon
1 tablespoon EVOO
Salt and pepper
Parmesan

What to do:

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly prior to cooking to remove the bitter coating.  ((FYI, Costco--the second circle of hell-- had a huge bag of quinoa when I was there a couple of weeks ago.  Target has been selling a small bag for 8 bucks.  This was at least 4 times the size, but not too big to store easily--I think 32 oz-- for about 14.  You're welcome.))  Cook according to the package instructions.

Chop the celery, onions, and herbs.  ((If I had red pepper, I would have put a little of that in as well.))  

For the crab meat, for the love of carbs, do not use that fake, imitation shit.  I won't be terribly offended if you use canned stuff, but just not that whitefish that they paint the edges pink.  That is disgusting.  We aren't going to be loading this up with dressing, so you want the actual ingredients to actually taste like something.  

Mix everything together with the olive oil and add a big old squeeze of lemon.  Refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably longer and re-stir prior to serving.  Top with a little bit of parmesan, because, why not?

This was just fine all on it's own ((I ate the leftovers right out of the tupperware for lunch the next day)),  but would be good on a bed of lettuce, stuffed in a red pepper, or in a pita.

  
Nutritional Info:  Approximately 300 calories, 5 grams of fat per serving.  ((Let me give a disclaimer.  I haven't been running these all through my ingredient calorie calculator.  For one thing, I usually don't name brands and the amounts used really vary.  My idea of "top with parmesan" is pretty light as you can see.  Yours is likely way different.  I also don't actually measure anything unless I am baking.  However, my estimations are pretty damn close.))

*****

This week has been kind of a bitch.  I'm not really sure why, other than that I had an extremely unpleasant task Thursday morning which really reaffirmed a lot of things in my mind.  But, it is going to be a great weekend... drinks with friends tonight, giving a cooking class Saturday afternoon, and cooking for a small-ish party Sunday evening.   Happy Friday!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Italian Kale Pasta Salad and a Declaration

It's hot. 108 degrees hot. The kind of hot where your eyeballs want to catch fire and you can't touch the steering wheel without potholders. It is definitely too hot to contemplate anything that involves an oven. Boiling water is actually the limit at the moment. So how about a make-ahead/stash in the fridge pasta salad?



What you need for 4 servings:

1 cup of pasta ((I used gemelli, but basically any kind will do))
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bunch of kale, destemmed and shredded
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup of pine nuts
2 tablespoons ((or so)) of Italian dressing ((I used Trader Joe's))
Salt and pepper
Parmesan

Cook:

Bring the water for the pasta to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.

Spray a large-ish saute pan with cooking spray and add the garlic. Allow to cook until fragrant over a medium heat, about 4 minutes. Add the torn-up kale ((mine totally could have been torn more but I was multi-tasking)) to the pan with either a splash of water or a little chicken broth. Add a little salt and pepper. Cover and allow to steam until bright green... about 5 minutes on a medium setting.  Remove from heat and set aside.

When the pasta is done, put it in a colander and run under cold water ((or as close to cold as you can get. Tap water in AZ this time of year is still hot.))  Shake it thoroughly to remove as much of the water as you can and throw it in a large glass bowl.  Add the kale, tomatoes, pine nuts and the dressing, and toss. ((If you think it needs more dressing, that's fine by me. You won't hurt my feelings.)) Top with some Parmesan, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour.



Nutritional Info: Under 250 calories per serving. WIN.




Again, this is one of those things you can add a lot of different things to. Artichoke hearts would be a very worthy addition, but either I am out or I didn't dig far enough in the pantry.

*****

Official Declaration: Today I am going to get my shit together. I've been pulled in about a hundred different directions and have the sense that I am not doing anything very well. ((I did confess this to someone over the weekend and was told that I was being ridiculous and that wasn't the case but that's how I feel, so there.)) Enough. So, by way of accountability, today I am going to submit the freelance stuff, schedule the final certification testing and hope my memory still works as well as it used to, and deal with a couple of annoying follow-up things that I have been neglecting. So be it. <<Magic wand waves.>>


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Grilled Cheese for Grown-Ups, Linkage, and Being Banned

There is a wild and nasty rumor flying around Twitter and the Blogosphere that today is National Grilled Cheese Day. Now THIS is a valid and worthy commemoration befitting the Founders' spirit of a national holiday. It seems like everyone should get the day off or something in observance. Go home now. I'm closing the banks. Oh wait, my delusions of grandeur are showing again.

Plain grilled cheese sandwiches are definitely good and obviously have their place... But let's grow it up a little. Jules' Grown-Up Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.

Grilled Cheese for Grown-Ups

What you need per sandwich:

2 slices of multi-grain bread
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of pesto
4 slices of mozzarella cheese
2 slices of tomato ((I actually used cherry tomatoes cut into slices))
4 leaves of basil

Grill them up:

Start by pre-heating your pan of choice without spraying anything on it over a medium heat.  I have a sandwich press that I like.  It seals the edges and the sandwiches look nice, but it is a total bitch to clean because the plates aren't removable.  You can also use a grill pan with a press if you have one of those ((I'll put a link at the bottom if you decide you need one and I know you probably do)) or you can always just use a frying pan and smash the damn thing the old fashioned way.

Butter the two slices of bread on one slide.  Flip one piece over and "butter" it with the pesto.  ((My name is Jules and I'm a pesto-holic.  I seriously love that shit.)) Layer that side with the tomatoes, the basil, and then put the mozzarella on top.  Quick tip: slice your tomatoes as thinly as you can so that they actually warm up.  I hate it when there is cold crap inside a hot sandwich.  That might just be me though.

Carefully transfer that piece of bread to the pan.  ((Hopefully the mozzarella on top will keep you from spilling the contents.)) Grab the other slice and put it butter side up ((I don't know how elementary some of y'all might be.))  Smash it.  You can use the grill press if you have that, a smaller pan, or even a spatula.  But seriously, smash it down.

Let it cook for a couple of minutes, or just until when you peek at the bottom side, it is getting golden brown.  Flip it ONCE and toast the other side.  The cheese should be melty in another two minutes.

Cut it diagonally because that is the correct way to slice sandwiches.  If you do it up and down into "halves" I'm not going to talk to you anymore.

Melty Mozzarella

Nutritional Info:  Let's call it about 400 calories, but this will depend on the type of bread and the amount of butter, pesto, and cheese you use.  Not the lightest thing in the world, but that's okay.


 *****

In other news, my margarita chicken recipe was linked on Healthy Living Blogs' Wednesday Barbecue Recipes.   Some of the other recipes look good too.  Check them out.

In an act of shameless self promotion, if you are looking for a grill press or any other kitchen-type stuff, contribute to my pesto fund by shopping here, would ya? I started doing this primarily to earn free kitchen stuff for my ventures. To date, I have earned over $1,200 in free stuff, so help a girl out. Cookware is expensive.

What else? We managed to get temporarily suspended on Twitter which I found hilarious. I suppose most people wouldn't think so but I thought it was awesome. You can follow me to see if I manage to do it again... The sidebar should have a link. Username is @julia_steele. In further shameless self-promotion, you can always "share" these posts on social networking sites using the buttons below too. Please and thank you and have a lovely day.

I think that's all for today. I'm entering a fiction contest and I can't wait to get to work on it before I need to redirect my attention to the private cooking lesson I'm giving this Saturday and to the party I'm doing on Sunday evening. GOOD TIMES. My "work" is better than your work.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Shrimp Fried Rice, Ice Baths, and Yes, I'm Alive

Yes, yes, yes, I am alive.  Call off the search party...  What is odd though is that once I hadn't posted in a few days, I found myself not knowing how to resume.  So, I will just start.  That's probably the best way.

This weekend, I got the Asian pack from the co-op.  Unfortunately, I was in a hurry to unload everything because I was headed out of town, and failed to store things the right way.   A lot of stuff was just stuffed into the fridge.  Whoops.  So today when I pulled out the huge bunch of celery, it almost folded in half it was so limp.  It was pretty comical and I could actually hear a cartoon-style wilting noise as it happened.  Luckily, I knew how to revive it...  Ice bath.

If you have lettuce, cabbage, green onions, or celery that has wilted, it isn't garbage.  It can be brought back to life with an ice bath.  If you live in a cold climate, sometimes it will be sufficient just to run it under really cold water.  If that doesn't work or if you don't have cold tap water like we don't in Arizona, then you can give it an ice bath.  There are a couple of different ways to do it.  You can submerge it in a bowl of water with ice cubes for a few minutes and it will perk back up.  You can also get a little more drastic and cut off the end, submerge that end in the water/ice cubes ((think of it like putting a flower in a vase)), and watch it come back to life.

I had some leftover white rice, so I opted to make shrimp fried rice.



What you need for 2 main course servings or 4 side servings:

12 large COOKED shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed

2 large eggs
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1/2 of a small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon of peeled and minced ginger
4 stalks of celery, chopped
4 cups of napa cabbage, chopped
1 cup of shiitake mushrooms
1/4 cup of chicken broth
3 tablespoons of soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon of red pepper flakes
3 cups cooked white rice

What to do:

Start by marinating the shrimp in a little bit of soy sauce and the red pepper flakes and set aside.

Whisk the eggs in a small bowl with a little bit of salt.  Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a saute pan.  Add the eggs and let cook for one minute, without stirring, until it is almost set.  Flip it over and cook on the other side for about 30 seconds,  Remove to a cutting board and slice into strips.

Add the other tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and add most of the scallions, setting a few aside for garnish, the onion, and the ginger.  Let cook over a medium heat for a few minutes, until they start to get tender.  Add the celery and saute for about a minute.  Add the cabbage, the shiitakes, and a little chicken broth and allow it to steam and wilt, about 3-4 minutes.

Add in the shrimp, rice, and some additional soy sauce and stir until heated through.  Finally, add the egg back in and stir it around.  Remove to the plates and garnish with the remaining scallions.

**Obviously, you can add basically any veggies that you have to this...  Carrots, snap peas, or whatever.



Nutritional Info:  About 350 calories and 10 grams of fat as two main course servings.

*****

I will be wittier tomorrow...  I'm still recovering from the long weekend.  Add in the 108 degree heat and I'm spent.  I feel like the celery.  Maybe an ice bath would help me.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Absenteeism

Yes, I know I've been a bad recipe poster this week...  I've been exceptionally busy with other things ((some of which have been damn entertaining such as collecting horror stories from my friends about their online dating experiences for an upcoming article.  Let's just say if the girl has NO HANDS that's fine, but I think that might come up prior to meeting.))  Anyway, I am finding myself falling into that scene where I end up having Cheerios for dinner.  I will spare you the recipe for Cheerios straight from the box. I'm thinking you have got that one down.

Let's see... what else? I was recently inducted into the FitBlogging community which is for people who write about nutrition and fitness.  Yes, it is kind of ironic given that I have had to break up with CrossFit since the injury.  Speaking of, I'm 90% sure I have anterior compartment syndrome again.  ((ACS is a chronic condition where the sheathes which line the muscular structure itself become inflamed and won't yield to the changes in muscle size/shape.  It's marked by extreme pain, fatigue, and inability to tolerate standing for even short periods.))  Last time I had this it was due to multiple stress fractures... Now I'm wondering if that's what happened again and I didn't notice the fracture.  The good and the bad news is there is no treatment for it but time basically-- That's good because I have a humongous deductible and the testing alone would be a few grand, so screw it.

Headed out of the heat for the weekend...  We are staying in an old mining town that has turned into an artists' enclave.  It's haunted.  I find that awesome.  I shall report back.

Happy weekend!    

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Turkey Po-Tacos, Turkey Tac-atoes, or Oh Lord Someone Else Name Something for Me

So about a thousand years ago, I came up with the idea to put taco meat and toppings on a baked potato  ((this certainly is not an original idea, I am well aware)) and we spent an unreasonable amount of time debating what they should be called with a fervor which should really be reserved for matters of national security.  I was adamantly lobbying for po-tacos.  <<Redacted>> was just as strongly committed to tac-atoes which he later modified to tac-aters.  Ridiculous argument that always lasted way after the meal was gone aside, but has remained memorable for at least seven or so years, these are quite good and good for you.

Not the most photogenic
What you need for 2:

2 large baking potatoes
1/2 lb of ground turkey burger
1 packet of taco seasoning
1/2 c of shredded Mexican cheese
Shredded lettuce
1/2 c of salsa
2 dollops of sour cream

Go:

Start by scrubbing the potatoes and then stabbing them with a fork a few times.  Set aside.

Brown the ground turkey until all of the pink is gone.  Add the taco seasoning packet and the water as directed on the packet.  RIGHT NOW, put the potatoes in the microwave and hit the "potato" button.  If you don't have a "potato" button, well, you are on your own.  Good luck.  Once the turkey and sauce come to a fast simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer until the potatoes are done.

When the potatoes are finished, remove them to a plate, slice them open, and smash them a little.  Top with the lettuce, turkey, Mexican cheese, salsa, and a little sour cream.

Potacos


Nutritional Info:   If you are using a large potato and go easy on the cheese and sour cream, let's call it 350 calories and 6 grams of fat.

*****

Let's see.... What else?  Submitted updated menus to a bed and breakfast this morning...  Working on another writing project...  Inhaling the LaPorte eBook like it is the air I breathe...  Worked a little bit on some blog redesign around here...  I *almost* know what I'm doing at this point!  Not really...  But now if you want to share a post on FB, Twitter, or Google Plus ((cuz EVERYONE uses GPlus)), there should be buttons below each post to do so.  I appreciate it when you do!  You even get a gold star in my Book of People That Don't Suck.


Panasonic Stainless Steel Countertop Microwave Oven - NNSD797S
GE Profile Spacemaker II Stainless Steel Microwave Oven - PEM31SMSS
Cuisinart Stainless Steel Countertop Microwave - CMW-100

Monday, June 4, 2012

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Balsamic and Basil, The Best Surprise EVER, and 6,000

I have been blatantly manipulated and lied to.  For months.  By my mother. ((Referred to around this place as Deb.))  And today I got the shock of a lifetime.  This:



That would be her grand piano that was forced to be abandoned in South Dakota a few years ago when she moved to Arizona.  The crazy broad ((HI DEB)) secretly had it shipped here over the past few months.  It apparently took quite the journey: South Dakota, Oregon, Washington, KENTUCKY (WTF?), and then finally Arizona.  I have to say I first screamed obscenities, then almost fainted, then had to get confirmation that was actually it, and then resisted the urge to burst into tears.  Apparently, half my family knew about it too and has shockingly been able to keep it quiet.  CRAZY.  They were also placing wagers on what my reaction would be...  I suspect my brother is probably the closest.

*****  

Want to see something else pretty?  Roasted cherry tomatoes with balsamic and fresh basil.


What you need:  ((Warning: very precise measurements ahead.  Write this down.))

1 big bunch of cherry tomatoes
1 sizeable drizzle of olive oil
1 sizeable drizzle of balsamic vinegar
A few cracks of pepper
A few cracks of sea salt
A handful or two of fresh basil

This couldn't be easier:

Preheat the oven to 400.

Spread the tomatoes out on a cookie sheet, and how about you use one that has sides on it?  Drizzle them with olive oil and balsamic and give them a roll around.  Crack on some salt and pepper.

Roast for about 15 minutes.

When done, add the basil.

THAT'S IT.



This is good warm, at room temp, or refrigerated.  


*****

Additional Business:  Someone remarked to me over the weekend that she has a hard time remembering to click on over to this wealth of knowledge...  You can subscribe via email ((there is a button to do that in the upper corner)) and new posts will be delivered to your inbox.  Do it.  Right now.  You wouldn't want to miss a bit of what is coming up...

Oh and did you know?  I'm sure you didn't...  In under 4 months, I have had 6,000 UNIQUE page views.  That's some effing crazy talk right there.  Hell, imagine if I actually got organized!  Until next time!



Sunday, June 3, 2012

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna with White Sauce, Storage Wars, and a Float

Did you miss me?  ((I didn't think so...))  It has been a busy couple of days cooking for a wedding reception Saturday night.  The menu included Caprese Salad Skewers, Tomato Bruschetta, Pesto/Pine Nut/Parmesan Bruschetta, Italian Salad with Genoa Salami, Baked Penne with Italian Sausage in an Arrabiata Sauce, Vegetarian Lasagna, Roasted Veggies, and a Fruit Salad with a very light honey drizzle.  I learned a very important lesson about cooking in other people's homes this weekend:  Prior to pre-heating the oven, look inside it.  The home owner had stored 3 plastic cutting boards in the oven.  Luckily, I was looking for a cutting board shortly after turning the oven on, but holy shit, that could have been a total disaster.

Let's make a lasagna without melted plastic on the bottom of the oven...  Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com.

Picture via It Started with Yum...
What you need for 9 pieces:


1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
2 16-oz jars Alfredo-style pasta sauce ((I make my own, but none of y'all are probably going to do that))
1/2 cup skim milk
1 (8 ounce) package lasagna noodles ((Wild guess... you aren't going to make your own pasta noodles either so I'll omit that))
1 pint part-skim ricotta cheese
1 egg
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced  ((I used baby portobellos))
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Okay:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees after looking in it to be sure it isn't being used as a book shelf or a shoe rack.

Spray a large glass pan thoroughly with cooking spray, being sure to get up the sides too.

Take your frozen spinach ((I use Trader Joe's organic)) and place it in a bowl.  Microwave it for 4 minutes on high.  Add the ricotta to the bowl and mix it with the spinach.  Lightly beat the egg and then add it to the spinach/ricotta.

In a separate bowl, combine the pasta sauce with the milk.  ((I have had Trader Joe's Alfredo Sauce in other things and it is pretty good...  I'm not really a cream sauce fan, so if you know of something better, leave the suggestion in the comments.))

Start layering.  From the BOTTOM ((what you put in first)) going UP ((last)):
1.  Enough sauce to cover the bottom of the dish
2.  3 uncooked lasagna noodles
3.  Half of the spinach/ricotta mixture
4.  Half of the chopped mushrooms
5.  3 more lasagna noodles
6.  About a cup and a half of the sauce
7.  The rest of the spinach
8.  The rest of the mushrooms
9.  3 more noodles
10.  The rest of the sauce
11.  The mozzarella ((if you use more than 1/2 a cup as called for, I won't feel bad))

Bake at 350 for about 60 minutes COVERED.  Turn off the oven, uncover, spoon some of the sauce that has accumulated around the edges over the top, and allow to continue baking with the oven off for another 15 minutes.  You can add little Parmesan on top at this point if you are feeling sporty.



Nutritional Info:  Um.  Well.  It's bad.  500 calories per piece if you slice it into 9 pieces and about 35 grams of fat.

This comes together fast if you use the pre-made ingredients.  I would say ten minutes to get it in the oven and 4 of that is nuking the spinach.  I made two huge pans of this yesterday and it evaporated into thin air.  I suspect it would reheat well too.

*****

Lots to do today...  I need to go pick up the rest of the stuff from the reception, do something about the state of my own kitchen, finish the research for another article, and then hopefully do some sweet, sweet nothing.  A float in the pool may be just what the doctor ordered.



Wednesday, May 30, 2012

This Isn't a Real Post

Well, I suppose technically it is, but it probably isn't going to say anything of value so feel free to move on if you aren't in the mood for my stream of consciousness musings...  I know.  Let's make a list.  Lists are fun.

So what's new?

  • I'm doing a wedding reception for approximately 50 on Saturday evening.  It is being served outside and I'm praying it isn't a hundred million degrees.  I need to finish the shopping lists and get that accomplished tomorrow because Friday and Saturday we will be cooking All Day Long.  Thank God I have help for this one. 
  • I got my first real paycheck from one of the freelance writing gigs I've been doing.  I might have screamed, "HOW FUN IS THAT?" when I got the PayPal alert.  I still can't get over the the fact that someone will pay me actual money to spew my nonsense.  That's ridiculous.
  • On a related note, apparently I am very good at something called "Sentence Spinning" which is totally ironic because until three days ago I had never even heard of it.  In fact, they want me to write a piece on how to do it for the other contributors.   
  • I'm supposed to be writing an article right now ((like literally right now)) on financial planning and consulting which is pretty hilarious.  I don't think the advice should be "keep cash in a safety deposit box and forget you have said box for three years until you go to close it."  I don't think this will be my best or most informative work.   
  • I think I just accidentally had salt and vinegar chips for dinner. 
  • I have clicked through the photos of Bethenny's 5 million dollar apartment in NYC about a thousand and seventy-two times.  I think I have found my version of pornography: home decor in general and closets/dressing suites in particular.  Holy shit.  
  • Oh and I'm working on a book proposal...   
I told you this was useless reading.  Oh well.  Time to get back at it.  It's going to be a late night...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cauliflower Mashed "Potatoes", Immersion Blenders, and Apropos of Nothing

Some days just call for mashed potatoes.  However, most days do not call for the calorie bomb that is mashed potatoes.  I had come across bloggers talking about using cauliflower as a substitute and was, frankly, really damn skeptical.  However.  However, however, however. This works.  I almost think you could fake someone out entirely with this recipe.

Mock Mashed Taters, Real Butter

I started with The Food Network's recipe for "Mock Garlic Mashed Potatoes" but then decided to make some modifications. 

What you need to serve 4-6:

1 medium-sized head of cauliflower, washed and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon cream cheese
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper
1 tablespoon of butter

What to do:

In a large stock pot, boil the cauliflower, in pieces, for 6 minutes.  Remove to a strainer and drain as best as you can. ((TFN says you actually "dry" it by like wiping it down or something, but then says to add back in some broth.  Cut out the middle-man.  Don't dry it.  Eff that.))

Put the cauliflower into a large bowl and add the cream cheese, garlic, and parmesan.  Using an immersion blender* ((or a food processor if you don't have an immersion blender)), whip it together thoroughly until it is a creamy consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste and then top with a pat of butter.  Maybe two.



*Immersion blenders are cool.  You should have one.  WTF is an immersion blender?  It is a hand-held wand thingy with blending attachments that you can put right into the bowl, pot, or whatever to blend things.  They come in useful for soups, mashed potatoes, fake mashed potatoes, blended drinks, and a bunch of other stuff.  There are pictures at the bottom...

The consistency of this is a LOT like mashed potatoes and honestly, it doesn't taste like cauliflower.  Give it a shot.  Don't tell your husband/kids what you are up to and see if they figure it out.  ((You can always break them in by using more cream cheese or butter.  Butter makes everything better.))  IF you follow the directions above, the entire bowl has only 500 calories.  Leave off the butter and you can save some more.  

***** 

And now, apropos of nothing, here is a picture from my yard.


I have not retouched the color on this or increased the contrast or saturation...  There are about 50 of these puppies blooming right now. 

All right.  I have more writing to do tonight and tomorrow is going to be kind of brutal so we can chat more later.  Happy Short Work Week!

*****