Friday, March 2, 2012

Black-Eyed Pea Salsa, "Highly Very," and That Guy "Unknown" Says Some Good Stuff

This has been a highly, very good week.  ((There's a story that goes with the expression "highly very."  A good friend of ours about a thousand years ago or maybe closer to 2003 came back to our table at the restaurant and asked with the utmost sincerity, "Is the waitress highly in love me, very in love with me or highly, very in love with me?"  The phrase "highly very" has stuck.))  Regardless, this week has highly, very kicked ass.  Take it my word for it.


It's going to be a big cooking weekend around here.  Tomorrow, I'm cooking for a housewarming party and I've been having probably more fun than should be allowed getting ready for it.  The menu consists of deviled crab dip and black-eyed pea salsa for the appetizers; the main course is jambalaya, cajun pulled pork, dirty rice, creole baked beans, and spicy corn muffins with honey butter; dessert is brandied brown sugar bread pudding.   The host had me design the menu around his ((totally not obvious from this description)) theme and loved all of the ideas, so I got to choose.  Win, win. 

Today I made the black-eyed pea salsa so that it can all marinate together overnight and be extra marinated-y.  ((No, I don't have a better ending to that sentence.))  Living in Arizona, we are at constant high salsa saturation levels and I thought an alternative to the regular tomato, pico de gallo, and tomatillo/verde salsa would be welcome.   

What you need:  ((to serve approximately 20))

2 lbs of black-eyed peas ((pre-soaked and rinsed))
6 medium tomatoes
1 chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped red onion
4 chopped green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup Italian salad dressing
1/4 cup sour cream 
1/2 cup minced parsley
tortilla chips for serving

What to do:

Okay, news flash.  Black-eyed peas are not peas.  They are beans.  You would be surprised how many well-educated adults do not know this.  So you are going to find them by the bulk beans in the market.  ((You could theoretically buy the canned stuff, but where is the fun in that?))

Beans need to be soaked.  I used a quick-soak method because I lack patience, but I'm hurrying up and trying to work on that.  Basically, you rinse the beans thoroughly in a mesh colander.  Pick through them, practically one by one, to be sure there aren't any stones.  Add them to a large stock pot and add the amount of water that the bag prescribes, I used 8 cups.  Bring the pot to a rapid boil, let it go crazy for two minutes, then cover, and remove from the heat.  Let them sit for one hour.  Re-rinse them and you're good.

Dice up all of the vegetables.  Take note that if you are using a knife that has never been used before that it will be exceptionally sharp, make you realize how much your other knives suck, and might make you suffer from knife envy.   Add  your vegetables to a bowl with the drained and rinsed beans.  In a small bowl, combine the salad dressing and the sour cream and whisk it until you get a cramp.  Dump it on top of the bean/veg mixture, put a lid on it, and shake the living hell out of it until everything is well-coated.  Throw it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but overnight is much better.  

Nutritional Info:  Not too shabby.  75 calories, 5 grams of fat for a 1/4 cup serving.  

Recipe adapted slightly from Taste of Home.


I better get moving...  I have a massive amount of stuff going on in the next 3 days.  No complaints.  None at all.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Drollness, Rumminess, and a Case of the Hiccups

I just wrote a long, exceptionally detailed, and totally fracking droll post on how to host a dinner party, from the menu planning and preparation perspective.  I got so bored with myself, I just quit.  If anyone actually cares, and you probably don't, feel free to comment or email me and maybe I'll post it or just send it to you.  Gawd, I hate it when I bore myself.  That almost never happens.  I'm too weird for that.


On that note, it was an exceptionally long morning that didn't end until 3 pm, so I'm probably still about to be boring.  Nah, doubtful.  Let's spice things up.  Rum cake.  Cake plus booze.  If that's wrong, I don't want to be right.  Right?  


Back about a thousand years ago, I received an invitation to a party at some weird old broad's house which informed everyone what they were bringing and that I was bringing a rum cake.  ((I know this sounds like that old joke, but I'm dead serious.))   I, of course, didn't comply and instead developed a raging case of prostatitis to avoid attending.  She oddly, never figured out that my prostate was in fact, just fine.  Particularly given that, well, I don't have one.  

However, I have changed my ways.  Rum cake and I are now very good friends.  Maybe too good. 

Here's what you need:

RUM.  Lots.  Some for the cake too.
3 cups flour  
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter
4 eggs
1 3.4 oz package of DRY instant vanilla pudding
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup rum

What to do:

Take a swig.  Check.

Add all of the ingredients to a bowl.  Mix at medium speed for two minutes and for Christ's sake do NOT overbeat it!  Pour into one large greased and floured bundt pan OR two smaller ((7 inch)) bundt pans.  Place in 350 degree preheated oven.  One large will take 50-60 minutes.  Two smaller will take 35-45 minutes.

Halfway through baking, put a piece of foil over the top to keep it from getting overly brown.  Feel free to test the rum again to make sure it hasn't somehow gone bad during the cooking process.  That would be a damn shame.

When time's up, place the cake still in the pan on a wire rack until it is thoroughly cooled.  This will take a while.  Once cooled, flip it upside down onto a plate.  Locate some long, skinny item to prick ((stop it)) the cake with.  Skewers or a meat thermometer will work just fine but any kind of a long pokey stick will suffice.  Yes, that's a technical term: Pokey Stick.  Prick ((can't help it)) the cake all over.  Prick.  Prick, prick, prick.  ((Wow, I'm immature.))

Now make the glaze.  You need 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup water, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup dark rum.  Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the water and the sugar and let boil for 5 minutes.  Then add the rum.  No, you're right.  It totally didn't burn off.  At all.  Sorry.  Drizzle the glaze all over the cake, making sure it makes it into the holes and down the sides.  Let it soak up all the rummy goodness.  Again, this gets better as it sits, not that you will let that happen.

Nutritional Info:  Who cares?  At this point, you've had too much rum to worry about it.

This recipe was printed in the L.A. Times sometime in the 80's and came to me via the power of the Google in several locations.  


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Corn Flake Chicken, Crinkle-Cut Squash Fries, and Shopping List OCD

This morning, after work-work, I tackled the construction of what is now known as "The World's Most Detailed and Complicated Shopping List."  There were lists, sublists, flowcharts, Venn Diagrams...  ((I'm cooking for an event on Saturday and there are eight dishes to prepare.))  I started with an ingredient list by dish, then compiled that into a list that covered absolutely everything (listing quantities for items used in two or more dishes), and then rearranged all of that by store category ((bakery, produce, meat, etc)).  It was actually quite hilarious, but dammit, I have every single thing I need.  Second trips are for losers.  Yes, there was checking and cross-checking and perhaps a form of a rain dance.  Whatever works.

Because I was shopping on someone else's dime, I had to be very careful.  And here is when I had item #347 of proof that people are assholes.  I'm walking through the market, crossing things off the various lists, and I have a calculator where I am keeping track of the total.  Because I don't trust myself, or technology, more so, I was also keeping the total written on yet another list to be sure that I didn't erase the whole thing accidentally and have a nervous breakdown.  This horrible woman with bad teeth and very unflattering pants actually had the goddamn nerve to come up to me and say, "If you have to count every penny, maybe you shouldn't be here and you definitely shouldn't be buying crab."  And that's when I got arrested.

Just kidding.

I actually did manage to hold my tongue and as sweetly as possible ((through the venom that was seeping from every pore)), "Thank you for your concern.  It is unnecessary."  Now OF COURSE I have about 389 come-backs to that, but I decided it would be good karma or something to just move along.  And then tell all my friends on the internet about how fracking unfortunate her capris were and how she really should look into varicose vein removal.  PEOPLE.


Anyway, tonight's menu is Corn Flake Chicken and Crinkle-Cut Squash Fries.

Clean Living
For the chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts  ((I actually used chicken tenderloins because I'm not eating much meat these days))
1/2 cup of Corn Flakes
Various spices, just a little of each  ((minced garlic, onion powder, black pepper, sea salt, and cayenne is what I used))

Preheat the oven to 350.

Pour the corn flakes into a small plastic baggy.  Add a pinch or a shake or a couple shakes or however the hell much you want of each of the spices into the bag.  ((Here's where it gets fun.))  Seal the bag and throw it on the floor.  Walk on it.  Jump up and down.  Do the choreography to Bad Romance.  ((I know you know it.  Or can at least fake it.))  Now you don't need to pulverize it, but if you are having fun, well then, more power to you.  Keep going.

Recover and breathe deep.  Add the chicken to the baggie and shake it around.  Resist the urge to quote 1980's Shake and Bake commercials.  Add the chicken to a baking dish ((NOT IN THE BAGGIE)) sprayed with cooking spray and throw in the oven for approximately 40 minutes.  ((This might be longer depending on how big your breasts are.  Sorry.  I couldn't help myself.  For 4 ounce, thin breasts, it takes about 30 minutes.  For 8 ounce breasts, closer to 40.  12?  45-50.  You can always cut into the thickest part when it is about time to be sure there is no pink left in it.  There's no shame here.))

Oh cluck.

While that is cooking, make the squash fries.

All you need is a yellow squash, the same spices you used above, and some more cooking spray.  Slice up the squash ((and hope you have the awesome crinkle cut attachment that I have because it looks fancy.))  Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Throw the squash on there in a single layer.  At this point you can either mist or drizzle it with extra virgin olive oil OR you can spray it with the cooking spray.  I swear.  It tastes totally fine.  It also saves between 100-200 calories if you care about that sort of thing.  Then sprinkle the spices over the top.  ((I also added this applewood rub that I got yesterday because I wanted to sample it.  That's why mine looks different than yours probably will.))

When there is about 15 minutes left on the chicken, put the squash on the top rack of the oven.  Keep an eye on them to make sure you don't burn them.  Again, depending on the thickness, the time will vary.  I cut these pretty thinly and let them go for about 10 minutes.  You could also use the broiler if you aren't using the oven for anything else...

Fake Fries

You are a child of the 80's if you said, "And I helped."

Nutritional Info:  Sainthood!  For a 4 ounce chicken breast and making the squash without additional olive oil,  approximately 150 calories and 1 gram of fat.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Almost Birthday Presents, 998, and Toaster Phobia

Quick update today because I have a million and twelve things to do.  Yes, that number is precise.  I happen to be sure of that because I counted the items on the to-do list rather than, you know, actually doing the items on the to-do list.  It turns out getting up at 4 am, cranking out some work, leaving by 7, attempting to be in two places which are 25 miles apart at once, meeting up with friends for Thai food for lunch, and generally flailing around like a dolphin on meth is NOT good for your focus.  

However, despite all that, there has been some major progress made today...  LLC's are being registered ((KJ rules,)) the rest of the cards came, hit up a friend for design work, finalized the menu and shopping list for Saturday's event ((which is going to be totally amazing,)) worked on the menu for Sunday's event, spent two hours studying, went to the gym for an hour, and somehow, I am still maintaining an upright position.  And then this happened.  LOOK what came today!

Happy Almost Birthday, Jules
 I know, right?  Best and heaviest birthday box ever.


In bloggy news, last night I posted on FB that I had 910 hits on this site in two weeks.  As I am writing this, I am at 998.  Thank you so much to everyone who is playing along, enjoying the recipes and my general goofiness, commenting, asking for recipes for toast ((HD)), etc etc etc.  Reminder: you can "follow" by the link that I think I got to work in the upper right hand corner via a reader, get email updates, or play along on FB...   Here is the link to the FB page.


What you need:

2 slices bread
butter or margarine

What you do:

Put bread in toaster.  Push button.  Wait for pop-up of toaster.  Get sort of scared when it does it because you have stuck your face quite near the toaster to see if it is done yet.  Apply butter or margarine.  Enjoy!


Now leave me alone.  I have to go play with all my new stuff.  

Monday, February 27, 2012

Meatballs, Meatballs, and More Meatballs

Meatballs.  ((Yes, at this point I am just begging for google analytics to do some weird stuff, I can't help myself.))  Not to blow my own horn ((I just made it worse, didn't I?)), but my meatballs are really popular.  At a poker party I hosted last year, my ravenous friends went through six pounds of them in about two hours.  AND there were only twenty-five people here.  In fact, my brother almost moved across the country because of these meatballs.  So, they are pretty good.  I have witnesses.

Here's what you need:

3 pounds of lean pork or beef ((I prefer a combination of half and half))
1/2 cup of Parmesan
2 large slightly beaten eggs
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons of minced garlic
4 teaspoons of salt ((can use less))
2 teaspoons of black pepper
1 cup of milk
2 teaspoons dried oregano
4 teaspoons dried parsley
1 bottle of marinara sauce

What you do:

Set a crock pot ((two words, unlike "crackpot" as we previously learned)) to low and pour in one jar of marinara sauce.  You can use whatever kind you like.  I use the cheapest kind possible because I like to make a separate batch to actually serve with the pasta.  Why?  I'm weird.  Well that and as the meatballs cook, fat comes out into the sauce.  Some people find that amazingly yummy, I find it too fatty for my taste.

Mix all of the other ingredients ((and this is important)) with your bare, preferably clean, hands in a large bowl.  Yes, this is disgusting.  No, there is no option.  Yes, you can do it.  You're fine.  PS. Take your ring off first.  Helpful hint.

Shape the meat into small-medium sized balls ((so many jokes, let's not go there.))  They should be around an inch to an inch and a half in diameter.

Layer them in the slow cooker very carefully, put the lid on, and then WALK THE HELL AWAY.  I'm not kidding.  Do not mess with them.  Do not lift the cover for at least two hours or you will eff up the cooking time. Even after the two hours, do not screw with them!  They don't need to be "stirred" or "rearranged."  They are fine.  Leave them alone.

After six hours on low, I will grant you permission to pull out the fattest one from the top layer and cut into it to check for "doneness."  In my opinion, they are done when there is no longer any pink left.  Some people disagree, but it's my recipe and I'll write it how I want to.  They may need as long as eight hours depending on your slow cooker, the size of your balls ((sorry)), and the temperature when they went in.

As noted, I usually double this recipe.  You can freeze some right after rolling them and they come out just fine.  These are *definitely* better the next day and according to my brother Jeff, are the absolute best when eaten out of of the refrigerator in the middle of the night.

These do not need to be pre-seared.  As long as you do not eff with them in the slow cooker, they will not fall apart.

This recipe is based on one in the United Methodist Women's Cookbook from Groton, South Dakota which was typewritten! sometime in the 1980's.  They sooo don't have a website or I would link it.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Spinach Salad with Pineapple and a Honey-Lime Vinaigrette, a Divorce Cake, and 80 Degrees

Last night I attended a "My Divorce is Finally Final Party" for a friend.  The cake was made by my new friend, Janet LaDue, and resulted in random people from all over the restaurant coming over to take a picture and share a toast.  It only got weird when for some reason, the restaurant didn't provide us with a knife and someone pulled this out of his pocket:

Maybe he was afraid there was going to be a lot of man-bashing and the women would get violent?  Totally didn't happen.  Anyway, a great time was had, her cake was AWESOME, and no one was injured by any completely unnecessary tactical knives.  See also:  Sangria is good.


For lunch I threw together a spinach salad topped with fresh pineapple and made a honey-lime vinaigrette from a recipe found online at Good Housekeeping.  Isn't The Google amazing?  However, I failed to take pictures which actually saved because I suck.  So, use your imagination and I will try to suck less in the future.

What you need:

1/3 cup of fresh squeezed lime juice
4 teaspoons of honey
1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
A tiny bit of salt

Just whisk it together and that's it!  Makes about 1/2 a cup.

Nutritional info for the dressing:  Sainthood. 15 calories, 0 fat in two tablespoons. 

Nutritional info for the salad sans dressing with two cups of raw spinach and 1.5 cups of diced pineapple:  130 calories, 0 fat.


It is a low-key but EIGHTY DEGREE day over here devoted to catching up on some cleaning, some reading by the pool, and maybe a little Dexter.  I have started my "No Crap from a Can or a Box Challenge" as well.  So far, so good.  Clean living for the win.  No, Diet Coke does not count.  Let's not get crazy.