Thursday, May 3, 2012

buttery birthday dinner

The new LKTC, previewed yesterday, is pretty much the only room in "the nest" (aka my new apartment) that isn't going to undergo any changes any time soon. I don't love the cabinet colors, the layout, or the flooring, but I'm young and poor, and the honest truth is that the kitchen is 100% livable as it is, so I can afford to wait. Actually I have to wait so I can afford to spruce it up. Semantics.

Anyways, much to my surprise, as we were moving in and unpacking, everything fit! That cabinet above the sink is fairly deep, and really long, so it held all my plates, bowls, cups, mugs, and some stemless wine and champagne glasses. The floor to ceiling cabinets that you can't see in the LKTC photos are on the right by the fridge and on the left hand wall, and they magically contain all my pots, pans, baking dishes, tupperware, cloth grocery bags, various small appliances, spices, and food. Even Fiona fits in there nicely, but Kitty the Kitchenaid Stripper is just too large and in charge, so she lives towards the back of my weird green counter. 

So although I was extremely pleased at how well everything fit in cabinets, I worried that cooking/baking would prove to be a challenge given the drastically reduced counter space in the nest. Let's do a little comparison, shall we? Here's the most recent Arlington-based LKTC: 

There's easily 4 or 5 times the counter space here...

And here's the new LKTC again:

...than here!
And yes, I did actually intend to show you the new LKTC in this state of hot mess total disaster-ness. In my old kitchen, I could afford to do more meticulous, organized, well-spaced out preparations for various components of a meal. This one, however, is an entirely different animal, and I quickly had to relinquish my more type-A tendencies in favor of just using all available surfaces in rotating fashion as I tried to turn out dinner and a birthday-worthy dessert. 

Actually I also had to relinquish said tendencies in the gathering of supplies for the first Monday dinner in the nest. I love my new neighborhood, and the proximity of a grocery store to my apartment building, but it's a tiny one, and doesn't even stock beer or wine, or, apparently, corn flakes, all of which I needed, forcing me to bounce around the area sourcing supplies. 

Of course none of this would have happened if I hadn't gotten my mind so set on a handful of ideas. The first thing I knew I just had to try was cake in a can. As in cake baked IN a can. Why? you ask. Well...why not? Actually, the real answer is "because 1) two people don't need to eat an entire full sized cake, 2) I don't own cake pans, and 3) I saw it on this blog and was intrigued."

The original Ladies' Home Journal article suggests using boxed cake mix, which I was totally on board with...until I remembered that I recently saved a handful of cake/frosting recipes I'd been dying to try. One of which was a chocolate stout cake with vanilla bean frosting. And Sophie likes Guinness. And I'm generally averse to boxed baked goods. And...well, you can see how that one spiraled out of control, right? But of course the grocery didn't have beer or wine, so I was off to the liquor store. Where they only sell giant bottles of Guinness. Which was fine, because halfway in to this cake baking/frosting making/chicken cooking adventure, I needed a few sips of the stuff to get me through, and to help me forget that the tiny cake (+ half a dozen cupcakes) and the frosting contained two sticks of butter!!). In case you're curious, here are a few snapshots (of the can cake, not of my drinking straight from a large bottle of Guinness. I have some standards...).     

I used a 24-oz can of crushed tomatoes, the contents of which went straight in to my freezer for later use.

The fresh-out-of-the-oven product, which kind of looks like a giant cupcake, and which I tried to frost when it was just a touch too warm.
Which led to this kind of drippy icing phenomenon (I mean, it does contain a stick of butter...)

Dripping icing aside, we each ate two slices of the stuff. It was, as you  may've guessed, quickly deemed a success. I brought the cupcakes in the next day, and they got similarly rave reviews, although I do think this is a cake best eaten fairly soon after its made, as both the cupcakes and the leftover cake dried out a bit in the fridge. 

Anyways, after the can cake (and its siblings, the overflow cupcakes) were baking away in the oven, I gave Kitty the Kitchenaid stripper a rest and turned my attention to the main dish of the evening: pecan crusted chicken. Don't ask me where that idea came from (for once, the answer is not "Pinterest," "a blog," or the "dinner tonight" subscription). But again, once it was in my little head, it was stuck. And I thought to myself "I have pecans at home, so all I need is the milk and the corn flakes."

Turns out I had no pecans at home, and the grocery didn't sell corn flakes. The nearby 7-11 came to the rescue with their travel sized boxes of cereal, but I never did procure pecans. I had already bounced around my block enough to pick up the Guinness, the corn flakes, and the rest of the ingredients, and I needed to start cooking if we had any hope of eating before bedtime. Sophie was already bringing bagged salad, wine, and sponges (don't ask), so I didn't want to ask her to pick up anything else. Almonds would have to do, I decided. 

And then I realized I had forgotten to buy the dried cranberries for the salad. At that point, I decided to completely depart from the recipe, which, oddly, came from Good Morning America, and was written in extremely cheesy fashion. Since I'd already replaced pecans with almonds and nixed the cranberries all together, I felt no guilt about baking the chicken strips versus pan frying them. We were, after all, about to consume a tiny dessert made with two sticks of butter! and needed no more fat in our lives. Sophie and I agreed, though, that it came out just fine, and tasted pretty fantastic with the dressing whipped up from the same GMA recipe.

pecan-turned-almond crusted chicken
I officially deem the first meal cooked in the new LKTC a success. It's one of many "firsts" that I'm loving far more than any normal person would. First thunderstorm, first time using my tee tiny dishwasher, first take out dinner, you get the idea. If all goes as planned, the first brunch will happen this weekend before my friends and I embark on a tour of all the embassies having open houses on Saturday. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Often out which devoid of one is including creating a home and not using a selection. Probably not however, you will definitely get pleasure from the other sink area for all holiday foods.