Friday, July 29, 2011

I decided I should take a break from obsessively checking the radar before I talked myself out of tonight's flight entirely.  In case you don't know me, I should explain.  It's simple, really.  I am terrified of flying.  Fear isn't rational, people.  Don't try to talk me out of this one.  (Now my slight fear of revolving doors and automatic flush toilets? I could be convinced to relinquish those).  If you haven't flown with me, or with someone who is similarly anxious about airborne travel, this is how we feel. (seriously, if you click on a single link in this blog ever, let it be this one. it is hilarious, maybe not so much so when I'm actually flying, but definitely when I've got both feet safely on the ground)

What I'm getting at here (sorry, fear makes me particularly inarticulate) is that I need a distraction from trying to calculate whether or not the storm clouds will reach the flight path of my plane between now and 7pm.  Having a background in business and English is not helping the cause, here. 

So, you finally get to hear about Sunday dinner! Two posts in one day! My attempt at false enthusiasm in the face of imminent fear! 

Initially, the plan was to exploit the grills by the pool at Allie's building.  That bright idea was quickly tabled in favor of something indoors.  DC being the center of the massive heat wave and all, we figured it would be totally unenjoyable for all involved, which is the antithesis of the meaning of Sunday dinners.  So this is what we turned out instead:

I know you think you know what this is, right?

But if you were right, then it wouldn't be served with...corn...right?

If you guessed pesto, you fell for my oh-so-clever little trick. It's actually...

...espagueti verde, a recipe Allie found on the blog Serious Eats.  When she sent it to me, the recipe made me immediately think manchego lime corn! manchego lime corn! Ok, I doubt I had that much pep in my step after two straight weekend days in the office, but I really love corn, so, I don't think I'm too far off in my recollection.  I had just stumbled upon the recipe while leafing through an issue of Bon Appetit that I scored for 40% off at one of the innumerable Borders that is closing.

I don't have much to say about the preparation of these dishes, because it was honestly pretty spectacularly easy.  Allie handled the pasta/sauce, I handled the corn.  It took maybe fifteen minutes total (minus roasting time for both corn and poblano peppers, but I'm talking hands on stove time here).  Allie generously cut the jalapeno for my dish (my first and last un-gloved brush with hot peppers ended up ruining a pair of contacts) while I ignored the recipe's direction and tried to shuck the corn while it was still hot (don't do that, it's stupid). 

mmmm, roasted corn.
(but really, they aren't joking when they say: let it cool)

corn, red pepper, lime, jalapeno, many things i love in one bowl

All joking aside, this was a delicious alternative to grill night.  The pasta sauce wasn't at all spicy, and we actually all agreed we'd throw a little red pepper in there next time.  But if you don't particularly like spicy food, you could make this pasta and love it just as much as we did is what I'm saying. 

The perfect end to the meal, I think, would have been this Mexican chocolate ice cream.  Now I just need to buy that ice cream maker...


As you've possibly noticed, I am totally slacking on the whole posting thing.  (Well, all four of you who read this blog, anyways)

I've gotten maybe a third of the way through a spirited post about my spice rub kick and spat with George, but just don't seem to have the heart (or the time) to wrap it up completely.  And I haven't even started describing this past Sunday's amazing dinner.  Shameful, really. 

Somehow I have found the time to do some online window shopping, which has led to the creation of a totally self-indulgent new feature: kitchen covets.

Before you even ask, no, you cannot use "covets" as a noun in this way.  The only recognized noun form is coveter (you better believed I looked it up--no false information on this corny blog, friends). But the minute it popped in to my head, it stuck.  Kind of like Mom's name for my mixer (Kitty the Kitchenaid [stripper]).   

So if intentionally un-impeccable grammar is a dealbreaker, you're going to want to avoid the (maybe) weekly "kitchen covets" series.  If you are my family and in need of holiday gift ideas, however, this is your scene.  

First up? A shiny apple-red ice cream maker.  See, isn't she pretty?

(image from here)

How did you decide you needed one? you might ask.   

Well, I don't know if you remember the three-part belated birthday dinner a few weeks ago, but that's where it all began.  See, I had made the peanut butter squares before meeting a few friends at a fundraiser/happy hour.  Upon arrival to said happy hour, I was describing the squares (and the rest of the eventual Sunday dinner) to my friends. One of the friends ended up mentioning the salted caramel ice cream he was making. 

Naturally I immediately invited him to Sunday dinner, wanting to get my hands on that ice cream (and enjoy his company, of course). Sadly the ice cream was bound for some sort of potluck and/or competition.  And ever since then, I haven't been able to get (salted caramel) ice cream off my mind. 

So if you draw my name for Christmas this year, hint hint :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

eight days a week

I was supposed to be at a networking happy hour with Allie right now.  Instead, I'm sitting slouched and half-awake on my couch, wondering if working through the weekend (and logging an 11-hour day today) has permanently damaged my brain. If that didn't do me in, this episode of Real Housewives of New York just might.  

Believe it or not, I willingly subjected myself to all these extra brain-busting hours at work.  I will thank myself when I can actually go home for the holidays using all the comp time I'm earning right now.  Until then, I'm going to have to visualize a very happy place.  

Like this...

...sigh. Maui, I miss you. 

I have some more blog-worthy stories than my extreme mental/physical exhaustion.  Once I recover from that business, I'll get around to spice rub disasters, banana bread deliciousness, fights with George (Forman) and possibly the sleeper hit of the Sunday dinner series thus far.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

baby steps

Yesterday after work, I forced myself to go to the Pentagon gym annex that is literally one block from my office.  The happy hour Allie and I were due to attend was postponed, I had a fully-stocked gym bag, and nothing to get home for.  Did I mention it's one block from my office? The guilt I would experience by not going would far exceed the slight awkwardness inherent with trying a gym for the first time.  I had. To. Go.

Despite a slightly comical, less than top notch work out, I type this with leaden arms.  Yoga tonight should be a joy...

But I digress (which, really, you should be used to by now).  So by the time I emerged from the slightly pathetic gym annex into the humid  pea soup of an evening, I was really longing for the "good old days" of peanut butter sandwiches that someone else whipped up for me.

Yep, the good old days looked just like this. 

In fact, the good look pretty similar, minus the Peter Pan collared shirts (this was my obviously child-friendly meal last night)

See, when I walked in to my apartment, I was starving, and I had already planned to have a turkey sandwich.  But I thought to myself "why not take it up a notch?"  The options were endless...toast the bread and roast some peppers? Get George (Foreman) fired up and panini press the bread? Make a grilled turkey and cheese on the stove? Throw some sort of chili garlic spread on the sandwich? And what side should I have? Maybe a salad?...

Finally the ravenous lunatic voice in my head quieted the budding foodie voice, and I went the simple turkey route.  It seems really, well, amusing, I'm sure, that such a quick and minor debate made me kind of proud of myself. But it wasn't a particularly long time ago that plain turkey (or plain pasta) every night was the status quo.  I never bothered questioning my simple, rote food choices.  Now I'm at least trying to diversify things in the LKTC.  In fact, tonight post-yoga, I'll be calling on George to help me grill up chicken kebabs with a curious spice rub that I pre-made last night (minus the chili powder, which I seem to be lacking...let's hope that's not the crucial element...). Baby steps are pretty much the way I operate (except flying, which is unfortnately kind of an all or nothing gig, I'm afraid).

But in times of extreme hunger, my newfound dilgence tends to fly out the window. Last night wasn't a dire situation, but I was quickly approaching it.  Once I'm there, it's difficult to recover, and no one likes ravenous Jenny.  She can't form complete sentences, and she may or may not stab you with a fork if you try to derail her from the pursuit of food.

Case in point, my hair appointment last week.  I thought I'd left myself enough time to metro to the general vicinity and get a snack first.  Then I had to work late.  Then the metro had one of its many infamous meltdowns.  So one frantic cab ride later, I blew in to the salon, announced that I would be back in a few minutes, and jogged to the nearby Safeway. 

I picked what I thought would be the shortest line (always a huge, huge joke) to buy my animal crackers and dark chocolate Reese's cups (see: loss of diligence in the face of extreme hunger).  The woman in front of me and her bajillion children were nearly done paying.  OR SO I THOUGHT. 

Turns out the ground beef she was buying was buy one, get one free.  So of course one of her innumerable toddlers got to go pick out a second package.  While we all stood at waited.  The kid finally reappeared and the mother paid.  After taking possibly lightyears to put her food in reusable bags, she decided she needed another couple bags.  Well, here in DC, we pay 5 cents for bags.  So she had to intiate an entirely new transaction.  Finally the man starts ringing me up, and another employee comes to ask him a question.  Instead of, oh, I don't know, multitasking, the man stopped to talk solely to his coworker.  I finally paid and quickly ate, staving off a total meltdown, but I was dangerously close to making a scene in Safeway and/or shoplifting for the first time in my entire life.

The bottom line here is, sometimes I need to revert to the good old days (turkey sandwiches, animal crackers) and forgo the attempts at creativity, or it could get ugly.  Fast.

(I think I'll leave the Peter Pan collars to my five year old self, though)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

playing tennis

Last night's full moon has nothing to do with my dinner, I just thought it was beautiful

I haven't actually been playing tennis, I just look like I have. See, I really love spicy food.  Really really spicy food.  So you'd think I'd be able to tolerate it gracefully, right?  

Not so.  Instead, I get all flushed and break out in (what I like to think is) a subtle sweat.  It looks, a coworker once told me in the middle of a spicy Chipotle lunch, like I'd been playing tennis. 

Tonight I made this Bombay curry from a Cooking Light recipe I tore out of the magazine mom left behind last month.  If you read it, you'll see it calls for both curry powder and red pepper.  The curry powder in my pantry is, naturally, super hot.  Add that to the red pepper (and the heat that builds in the LKTC when the stove is on) and it sure looks like I got my exercise today. 

Before I even sat down to eat, I was already a little flustered.  I think I could say that every time I cook, really. I always start out with great intentions and some dedicated prep work.  Something always goes awry.  Sometimes it's just a little something. Tonight, not so much. 

It started out well enough.  Onions were diced, chicken was sliced, spices were set near the stove, oil was heating up in the dutch oven, and water was poured into the secondary pan for rice.  

Except then I realized it was supposed to be coconut milk in the secondary pan for rice.  No big deal, I just needed to open the can of coconut milk.  As I was measuring it, I couldn't figure out why it looked so...watery.  Oh, sldjkfklsj, I forgot to "shake the can vigorously."

So I spilled coconut milk everywhere pouring it back in to the can.  Having forgone the ability to shake the stupid can, I resigned myself to stirring it with a spoon.  Back in to the pan it went. 

From there it was just comical.  I was inhaling curry powder, slipping on chicken juice, frantically adjusting burners when the coconut milk boiled over, and spilling carrots and peas all over the floor.  Some day I will accept the fact that I'm just not a level-headed, unflappable cook.  At least I make disaster while wearing a cute apron. 

This curry, I thought, had better be amazing. looked nothing like the picture...

It ended up being pretty delicious, despite the less than magazine-worthy appearance. Nothing about my kitchen, on the other hand, is at all photograph-worthy right now. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

the board of directors

Some time last fall, Allie and I went to an alumnae networking event that featured a panel of women who spoke on the keys to their successful careers.  One of the women talked about her personal "board of directors."  Her board of directors was the diverse, intelligent group of people who could be consulted for their blunt opinion in the face of major life decisions, moments of crises, and the like. 

I had never thought about it in those terms, but I definitely have my own board of directors.  Decision-making has never been my strongest suit, so the board gets pressed into service fairly often.  It's never a formal thing, and I don't always poll the entire group, but each of them are indispensable.  

So after an especially punishing week at work, I found myself subconsciously trolling Kayak for one-way fare to someplace Italian.  Nine times out of ten, the practical part of me is able to quell the impulsive side.  But my stress level was threatening to win this battle, and the thought of popping in to Bar da Gino and ordering a macchiatone was becoming more tangible.

Since quitting my day job and jetting back to Venice isn't exactly a sustainable plan, I decided to make pizza for Friday dinner and call in one of the board members, thereby taking out two nostalgic birds with one sad stone. (Board member Allie was my roommate in Venice, and pizza is, well, duh, Italian).

Rarely do I have enough energy on a Friday night to make much of anything from scratch, so the pizza dough came out of the freezer, and was made by my good friend Trader Joe.  While I let the oven and faux pizza stone (read: cookie sheet) heat up to a balmy 425 degrees, I tried to get the dough as thin as possible with my palms, not a rolling pin (per a tip from a cooking magazine). 

After about 5 minutes of pre-baking the crust, we pulled them out and started piling on the toppings.  Although the dough was store bought, I made the sauce from scratch.  Which sounds fancy and respectable, but it wasn't any more complicated than heating garlic and red pepper in olive oil and throwing in a can of tomatoes and some fresh basil.  In fact, I think cracking the can open was the most taxing bit of all. But homemade is homemade, right?    

Then the little pizzas went back in to the piping hot oven for a few more minutes.  I can't be more precise than that, because we were too hungry to even set a timer.  Instead, we stood in front of the oven waiting impatiently for the cheese to melt and bubble.  You could say the board was a little hungry.  

When they were finally ready, we relocated to the patio, because DC is in the middle of a relative "cold" snap.  As in, it's not 98 degrees and humid. And fortunately when I insisted we take advantage and sit outside, Allie did not argue.   

Allie doesn't know this, but she's only on the board because she has a patio.  

(totally kidding)

So we sat and ate and chatted a little bit about my career mini-crisis.  But before we got too deep in the throes of problem-solving, we decided to take a side trip to CVS so I could get dessert.  In case you didn't pick up on the trend, some form of chocolate makes an appearance in my life every single day.  

By the time we got back, I wasn't at all hungry anymore.  Suddenly exhausted, I settled in on Allie's couch for our semi-consistent Friday night tradition of watching and critiquing "Say Yes to the Dress."  (Don't knock it til you've tried it, it's highly entertaining). For two women who don't have weddings on the horizon, we have some strong thoughts on the hypothetical dress.  Nothing else at this point.  Just the dress. 

Shortly thereafter, I quickly packed up all my things and asked Allie if she could drive me home "kind of right now."  I was overwhelmingly nauseated, and wanted nothing more than to be at home if my stomach got worse. Exactly how I wanted my Friday night to go, really. 

I was horrified, worrying that it was the pizza and that Allie would also not feel well.  Luckily (?) it was just me.  I think all the stress (and not so healthy eating) this week caught up with me.  Whatever the cause, I got straight in bed and slept about ten hours.  

I'm pretty sure I dreamt about eating pizza Italy...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

too chic to be here

One day, maybe six months ago now, I was wearing a dress I'd worn plenty of times before--just a plain black work dress.  I think I had on red shoes and my favorite long necklace (it was a gift from my parents, and has a beautiful chain with a tiny charm of the Eiffel Tower).  Nothing special, right?

see? not too cliche, just, well, cute!

I ran in to a coworker in the bathroom, and she complimented the ensemble.  "What are you doing here?" she asked me.  Confused (I mean, wouldn't you be? Isn't it a bit obvious...?), I just looked at her.  "You're just too chic to be here!" she exclaimed.  I don't think she meant just the bathroom. 

It was a very sweet sentiment, and I appreciated it, but it just made me laugh.  Sure, I've had plenty of what am I doing here? no really, WHAT AM I DOING HERE? moments at my various DC jobs, but none of them were incited by my wardrobe.  

Usually those moments were the result of a scathing conversation with a boss or a particularly menial task.  They usually led to slight concern that Wake Forest would soon send me a letter asking me for my business degree back.  They nearly always led to stress baking.

Today was one of those days where there were one too many hold the phone, how did I end up here? moments, and not one was because I looked chic.  

No, they were all because of little mistakes I kept making.  Mistakes I know better than to make.  Mistakes that are my job to avoid.  Mistakes that, in turn, made a few coworkers' days harder, too.  Mistakes that I'm sure many people have made before, but that I am particularly hard on myself for. 

And I feel terribly about it.  So I am stress baking.  Tomorrow, those coworkers will arrive to chocolate chip cookies, which I hope will reinforce the litany of apologies I subjected them to today. 

But as I was cooking, I was reminded of what that coworker said months ago about my outfit.  

I looked down and realized my apron, and many of the pretty/fancy things in my kitchen, must feel way too chic to be here.  And by here, I mean covering up my paint spattered, hole-y jeans and old sorority t-shirt.

kinda funny, right? the apron would totally be judging the jeans if they were, you know, animate objects.  the top of the apron is really the chicest part of all, which you might remember from here.

Not that I don't love my bumming around jeans--quite the opposite (how do you think they got so hole-y?)--they are my first pair of "designer" jeans, and I've had them since I was about 14.  I'm just amused by the juxtaposition of beat up old jeans and pretty little apron (another birthday gift from my sister). I'm also amused by the contrast of my mediocre culinary skills and my fairly well-stocked kitchen.  

I'm glad it's well-stocked, though, because I imagine that, until I settle in to this new job a little more gracefully, there's going to be a lot of stress baking and cooking in the near future. 

ps-in the spirit of being an informative blogger, I taste tested two cookies.  they're sinful if I do say so myself.  (hey, I deserve a touch of self-congratulations after such a spectacularly terrible day!)   

pps-Mom was the only participant in the "help me name the KitchenAid" game.  Therefore I want you all to meet Kitty.  (And while my mom was slightly concerned it sounds stripper-ish, it stuck the minute I read it.  So stripper associations or otherwise, I'm going with it.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

a belated birthday dinner, part three

Still with me?  Almost done, I promise. This is the last time I'll author three consecutive posts about carbs and/or sugar.  Actually, scratch that.  That's a promise I probably can't keep.

Now that you've heard all about the latter half of the meal, I suppose I'll tell you about the first bit. 

I've been looking for a reason to make this rosemary olive oil bread again ever since the first Sunday dinner.  At that dinner, four loaves disappeared in the time it took me to turn from the stove to the counter and back again. Which was actually an overwhelming relief, considering how flagrantly I had misread the recipe. 

Luckily this time, I knew I needed to start four hours in advance, not two.  And, I guessed it...the handy KitchenAid. I am here to tell you, there is a world of difference between kneading something for ten minutes and letting a dough hook knead something for ten minutes.  My muscles were already shot from kneading the pasta dough, and I had a plethora of dishes to attend to, so I let the KitchenAid knead away, and I attacked the kitchen.  After maybe 15 minutes of prep, the dough went into an olive oil-coated bowl, and got a nice little saran wrap covering.  

Now THIS is what I mean when I say I want to see some results if I'm required to sit around waiting for hours (disclaimer: it looked way more impressive before I peeled the saran wrap off):

Then I formed "four equal pieces" (which, if you look closely, you'll note are anything but equal).  I'm about as skilled with the equal division of dough as I am with the formation of the dough into little loaves.  Why is it so complicated? I don't know.  But somewhere between "divide into four equal pieces" and "fold the sides to make a free-form square," I just kind of fail.  Which leads to more flying by the seat of my pants. 

Which I would say worked out alright, because I think the bread looks just delicious once it's been sliced.  You can't totally tell that each of the four loaves was a little different in size.  Or that I hadn't a clue what I was doing when I made the dough to loaf transition. 

And this was the perfect excuse to use Allie's matching cheese plate, appetizer plates, and dipping bowls.  Because she wanted to use all four, we even had a variety of oil options for our bread.  I could eat all of these things (sans tomatoes) ALL DAY LONG. 

The bread was also totally strategic on my part.  I needed to distract everyone while I was finishing up the sauce for the basil pasta.  I decided some sort of white wine/cream sauce would go well with basil pasta.  Problem was, I'd never made such a sauce.  But in the spirit of stubbornness and slight invincibility, I searched for a well-rated recipe, and decided to just give it a shot.  We could always order pizza if it was disgusting.

I used this Food Network recipe, and it was so/so.  I'm not a huge cream sauce fan, and I think it could've used a little spice (which I totally meant to add, but forgot in the slight chaos that ensued when I was supposed to be coating half-cooked bread in olive oil and rosemary while heating garlic, olive oil, shallots, and wine).  But it wasn't gross.  Ringing endorsement, I know.  At least it looks pretty!

So that is the end of the belated birthday dinner saga.  An overall success, but with some room for improvement. And down-sizing.  No one needs to eat leftover pasta and chocolate peanut butter squares for a week...

a belated birthday dinner, part two

Once I decide I want to try and cook something, that's pretty much the end of the story.  Nevermind that it involves some exotic (read: expensive) ingredient, an un-Godly amount of time, and/or a skill I don't actually currently posses. 

Fresh pasta is on that list. Before my birthday, pretty much all of the prohibitive factors were in place.  But, my lovely sister got me a pasta attachment for my KitchenAid (seriously, he (or she) needs a name!), and I was suddenly impervious to all of the other factors.  

So I decided I was making fresh pasta with basil, sauce TBD for dinner.  Allie is the queen of fresh pasta, and handed over her well-used recipes.  I had found several recipes online (and in the booklet that came with the pasta attachment), and out of sheer ignorance, decided to do a mash up the many recipes. 

First I "borrowed" a crop of basil from Allie's plant.  I am also growing basil, but my apartment lacks a) a balcony and b) any direct sunlight after about 10am. Therefore my basil plant only aspires to grow like Allie's.      

I beat the eggs, olive oil, salt, and pureed basil together, and poured that mixture slowly into the bowl of the KitchenAid, which was full of "00" flour.  This was where the recipes really all got mixed together (pun sort of intended?).  I was following Allie's recipe for quantities, an online recipe for the basil add-in, and my KitchenAid booklet for the "how to use the mixer" aspect.  

Then I reverted to Allie's recipe for the whole "knead for 10 to 20 minutes" part of the adventure.  The recipe specifically instructs you to put your whole body weight in to the dough.  I'm not sure how successful I was at that part of the process, but I will say my upper body was maybe just a wee bit sore.  Maybe it still is. 

The dough then sits for an hour at room temperature, which is particularly obnoxious if you really want to hurry up and try out your new kitchen gadget.  And if you have to get ready to go to a fundraiser by a certain time.  Details.

So the dough sits there and rests, and changes not at all in appearance (which I find annoying...if I have to bring my culinary adventure to a halt, I want dramatic results for my troubles).  And suddenly it's time to feed it through the "hopper" of the pasta attachment.  And then pasta is EVERYWHERE.

There's pasta in a giant dough ball.  There's smaller balls of dough waiting to be fed into the machine.  There's pasta coming out of the machine.  There's pasta rapidly filling up a clean towel on a cookie sheet. There's pasta on another cookie sheet in the freezer.  And it just. keeps. coming. 

It took me a while to figure out any semblance of a rythm, so for a while, things were pretty frantic in a very amusing way.  Allie compared it to the episode of "I Love Lucy" which involves a chocolate factory. 

I was really curious to see how it tasted, so I saved a little bit for a pre-fundraiser dinner.  I think I overcooked it a bit, but it tasted a little too...thick.  I ate it all anyways (never one to turn down pasta, even if it's questionable pasta), and hoped it'd taste better the next day. 

I'm not sure it was out of this world by any stretch, but, boiling it for a little less time (and smothering it in cream sauce) sure helped.  I really need to work on the method/recipe, but I'm encouraged that my first stab at fresh pasta wasn't a wholesale disaster.  I'm also pleased with my increasing ability to deviate from recipes and just fly by the seat of my pants.  I'm not saying it doesn't still give me a touch of anxiety, but, I'm getting much better and shushing the worries and just going for it.

And finally, up next: bread and pasta sauce. 

a belated birthday dinner, part one

Grab a big cup of coffee, friends, because I'm going to tell you about all this stuff I made, and it's going to take me three posts to do it.  I figured that would be preferable to my penciling the world's longest blog post.  Although I've always wanted an entry in the Guinness World Records...

Not only am I going to hit you with three separate detailed accounts of my kitchen antics, but they're going to come at you in totally illogical fashion.  Well, it's logical to me (it's, in general, the order in which I prepared things), but doesn't follow your typical meal progression.  Unless, of course, you're me, and you routinely eat dessert first.  Or only dessert.   Anyways, here we go.

My friend Allie (fellow blogger, former roommate in Venice, future road trip cohort, general partner in crime) had a birthday, but happened to spend it in Punta Cana with her family, so a little belated celebration was in order.  I knew she'd had her eye on a Reese's peanut butter and chocolate squares boxed mix.  I had my eye on this recipe.  They sounded exactly the same, but the boxed mix left no room for culinary fiascos.  Naturally I had to try a recipe instead.  If you read the recipe, you already know what's missing from the first picture. 

I could NOT find Nabisco famous chocolate wafers to save my life (errr, the recipe).  After some intense googling, I learned that people use oreos, Teddy Grahams, or chocolate graham crackers in lieu of said wafers.  Those three things are fairly disparate if you ask me, so I decided to try a combination of oreos and Teddy Grahams.  And I just really wanted to eat leftover Teddy Grahams. 

So I surgically removed the cream from the oreos, and threw them in the mini-food processer with the Teddy Grahams (which, I must say, felt a little morbid).  I threw in sugar and melted butter, and after 10 minutes in the oven, it looked alright to me.  

So while that sucker cooled, I plugged in my KitchenAid (which deserves a name after the crucial role it played in the preparation of Sunday's dinner--suggestions welcome). In went all sorts of deliciousness (confectioners sugar, peanut butter, brown sugar, butter) and the paddle attachment worked its magic.

I thought it was pretty.

While the peanut butter filling relaxed in the fridge, it was time to make the ganache.  Which would be a snap.  If I had a microwave. Honestly, 99.8% of the time, I don't miss having one.  But then there's that .2% of the time when really I just would like to melt some butter without firing up my stove.  That .2% of the time also includes those times when a whole mess of chocolate needs to be melted.  

But I like to think I'm just a touch adaptable.   

Enter the poor woman's double boiler.

Hey, it worked, didn't it?

Who says you need a microwave?  (Now a dishwasher...I'd really like one of those, please.  Because let me tell you how fun this bowl was to clean...)

I was fairly confident that the squares would turn out ok given the obscene quantities of butter, sugar, and chocolate involved, but I was nervous about the crust.  I also had some issues spreading a "thin" layer of ganache over the crust.  Let's just say it was neither thin nor uniform, and leave it at that.  The unfortunate part about making something like a cake (or, say, a pan of chocolate peanut butter squares) is that there's no way to sample them without marring the whole look.  So hoping for the best, we stuck a candle in the ganche, sang a very off key rendition of happy birthday to Allie.

I turns out that my suspicions were accurate, and that the squares were actually pretty tasty. In fact, I have no pictures to prove it because we were busy inhaling them.  The sad news, though, is that I should have reduced the recipe by at LEAST half.  I have peanut butter squares that'll sustain me for days (at which point I will have to buy all new clothes, I'm afraid).

Up next: my first stab at fresh pasta dough.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

the black cat in the kitchen

I'm a pretty superstitious person, particularly when flying is involved, but it also extends to my everyday life.  So when I wear something and have a horrible experience, I'm convinced the article of clothing is at fault.

My earliest memory of this phenomenon is this day right here: 

My first day of fifth grade at our new elementary school in North Carolina.  I was already slightly convinced, even at age 10, that my life was over when we had to move to a small town in NC.  Apparently I was a city girl from birth, and did not take well to the news that we would be leaving Atlanta for good.  

Even though we were living in a hotel while our house in NC was being built, the parents tried to keep things otherwise normal for us.  Which included an annual shopping trip to find a nice "first day of school" outfit.  Obviously I was really feeling plaid back in fall of '96.  At least I can say I was a solid 15 years ahead of the print on print trend.  (And apparently anemically cold? A coat in August in NC is a pretty hilariously illogical choice)

Let's just say my fellow classmates did not appreciated my forward-thinking fashion statement. My prim plaid skirt, stockings (again, in August in NC? really?), and nice black loafer-y shoes were met with blatant stares from my jorts-clad fellow fifth graders.  I'm pretty sure I went home (err, to the hotel) that night and tried to convince my parents to move back to Georgia.

Since then, I've had some pretty unfortunate moments with other articles of clothing.  I'm especially convinced, for example, that this great black and gray striped sweater dress from French Connection is cursed.  I've worn it at least three times, and two of the three ended in spectacularly bad fashion (no pun intended).  

But I digress.  This is a food blog.  And I am now convinced that it's not just clothes that are cursed.

No, friends, I recently realized recipes are, too.  

See, way back at the beginning of Lent, I was as on top of my cooking situation as I will ever hope to be.  There were week-long meal plans and strategic grocery shopping.

As part of this plan, I was to make chili garlic pork in the crock pot one day.  That day will forever be known as that night I ate wine for dinner.  Not being a big fan of failure, I always planned on replicating the dish, but without the whole charred pork aftertaste.  

So this past Thursday, I realized I had a pork shoulder in the freezer that would be the perfect size to share.  I convinced Allie to revisit our Friday night dinners from Lent, and we planned to have the spicy pork, some sort of adventurous rice, and chili garlic edamame (not that we have an unhealthy love for either red pepper or garlic). 

Imagine my disappointment when I woke up Friday, stumbled into the LKTC to make coffee, and spotted the pork shoulder SITTING ON MY COUNTER.  Yes, that's right people, I left that stupid piece of pork on the counter all. night. long.  Gross.  

I complained heartily to Allie about my newfound chili garlic pork curse, and she came to the rescue with this red pepper risotto recipe from the Pioneer Woman blog.  

yes, it's as good as it looks.  no, it's better. 

Feeling terrible for suggesting Friday dinner then ruining the protein, I brought chicken over, coated it in this Moroccan spice mix, and turned out a batch of the chili garlic edamame while we waited for everything to cook.  Not the most conventional mix of flavors, but it worked just fine for us.  In fact, I'm pretty thrilled to be eating the leftovers as I type this.      

    turns out you should read your edamame bag closely prior to purchase if you want the pod AND the bean. who knew?

We obviously did not go hungry Friday night, but I'm now I'm consumed with successfully making that stupid pork, and any other cursed recipe that crosses my path.  Heck, maybe I'll make the bad luck pork while I'm wearing the bad luck striped dress.  Two cursed things have to cancel each other out, right? 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

eye spy

I was really excited for roasted potatoes, until I realized the one on the right looked like a mini person (see, it has some "hair" on top and two nubby "arms"...what, you don't see it?)

somehow I got over it, and diced them up

this is about as balanced as a meal is going to get in the LKTC

I think we can all recall (with some slight horror and disgust) the rotten potato incident.  This black goo-filled adventure was the direct result of my poor meal planning efforts and inability to use all the food I buy before it goes bad.  

So when I noticed that my bag of baby potatoes had starting growing eyes, I knew I didn't have long before they morphed from relatively harmless starch to vile kitchen counter contaminant. I decided they'd be the perfect excuse to use my cute new mini baking dishes (featured in the first pictures). 

Side note: I realize I totally overuse the adjective "cute" on this blog, but I'm a sucker for a well-designed little dish.  I mean, what's not to love?  Portion control in an attractive little package.  Done. 

To keep the potatoes company, I went for steak.  I don't eat red meat often, but I had just picked up steaks at the grocery, and I think I really needed the protein/iron after a series of days full of junk food and too little sleep. I definitely buy in to that whole "your body craves what it needs" mantra.   

I don't own a grill or a grill pan, so I timidly busted out the George Forman that my mom gave to me when my parents' kitchen was bursting at the seams with gadgets.  It looks to be one of the first models made, and the instruction book has long since been lost, so I was on my own.  

I've never been particularly free-wheeling in the kitchen (which is probably why I don't like cooking much in the first place), so when I got George out of the cabinet, I had a lot of questions.  Do I grease it? How do I know when it's pre-heated?  How long does it take to "grill" a steak? 

I really like things grilled, so I'm thrilled to report that George and I got along beautifully.  My only complaint is that I didn't take the steak off the grill plate soon enough.  In case you and George haven't met, he's a speedy dude.  I think we're going to be great friends.  If he stops making weird popping noises after I unplug him, that is. 

Even though I clearly ate a ton, I had bought pudding mix at the grocery, and realized I had a handful of mini Nilla wafers left over from my July 4 fireworks snacks.  I cut a few slices of banana, and made a little dish of chocolate banana pudding.  Need I even mention that the dish was super cute? 

the crappy phone photo doesn't really do the dessert justice 

a few weeks ago, alicia had us all over for fried chicken, mac n cheese, collards, and banana pudding (on a much larger scale, obviously), which was what inspired tonight's last-minute dessert