Happy Moanday: Blogging Because I Lost My Voice!

Hello friends, and Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwazy Kwanza, Tip-Top Tet, and solemn and dignified Ramadan.*

I am blogging in my bathroom and slippers, Planet Earth playing on the tube behind me (I'm learning about the importance of grass!), a cuppa tea at my side because, after almost a year of steadfast healthiness, I've finally been felled by the cold that savaged its way through my family this holiday season (at least, unlike my brother, I am not heading to China today, a country whose motto is "If you threaten us we will detain you." Have fun in that Chinese prison, brother).

I've just finished hour 11 of feverish, coughing sleep, and now I'm trying consciousness (hooray!) and waiting for Dave to come home so he can heat up the won-ton soup in my fridge (toooo acheeeey to mooooove...). We were supposed to go to Shake Shack tonight with friends, celebrating me and Dave being in the same city, but it is looking more like Boo-Hoo Flu Soup with Tina Fey (on Dvd! Because Dave got 30 Rock Season 1! Totally faked you out, huh?.)

Also pause this post because LIONS ARE TAKING DOWN A FULL-GROWN ELEPHANT!!! And isn't nature cool? Ok, post back on.

So I am sick and not feeling good and another nap seems to be in my very near future, but (obligatory cooking news!) I got lots of fun cooking stuff from Santa, et al! My mom got me a set of ramekins (so I can try again to make Cheryl's amazing molten cake), little cake tins that make mini three-tiered cakes, a new silicone pastry brush, and ONE HUNDRED COOKIE CUTTERS!!! They are awesome and my friends and family will be so fat(ter) soon. My brother got me an aMAzing pastry decorator that is a triumph of usability and design, and Dave's mom sent me Julie and Julia on DVD. One of my friends from high school almost got me a recipe book, choosing instead to go with a heating pad (she is a good friend, and I wish I had that heating pad now instead of leaving it at my parents' house). I was surprised that everyone thought I was such a foodie until my brother was like, "Um, don't you have a food blog or something?" Oh right.

Well, I am back to feeling like I want to guzzle cough medicine, curl up under my new Snuggie, and let David Attenborough's smooth narration lull me gently to sleep. Here is an oldie but a goodie to keep you all in fighting mode: my Boo-Hoo Flu Soup, which Dave says should be on the cover of any (non-existent) cookbook I publish.

1 large potato
1/2 chicken breast
1 can Campbell's condensed chicken broth
8-10 baby carrots
thin egg noodles
1/2 tablespoon rosemary
1/2 tablespoon thyme
1/2 tablespoon tarragon
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
Coffee filter and needle and thread (for bouquet garni)

Add 1 can water to condensed chicken broth and set to boil in a pot
Cut chicken into very small pieces--no bigger than a dime
Cut carrots (coins not spears)
Peel and dice potato
Add chicken, carrots, and potato to broth, boil and reduce to simmer
Make a bouquet garni: fill coffee filter with rosemary, thyme, tarragon, and garlic; pull ends together and secure with thread
Add bouquet garni to broth
Cover and simmer for 20 minutes
Add about 1 cup of egg noodles to broth, cook for 4-5 minutes
Remove from heat, let cool briefly, and serve, seasoned with pepper and salt to taste

*Krusty the Clown, American comedian and entertainer, 1989?- Read more!

Booze-Free Bourbon Chicken

Oh, what panacea of earthly hunger is the mall food court. The malls in my area being too strip-y (it is New Jersey, after all) or fancy (you could never call it Short Hills Mall) for food courts, I really first discovered them in college, when I hopped the Wave to the Cambridgeside Galleria. There I spent many happy lunches among cheap Indian food, glistening pretzels, barrels of bright and beautiful sherbet, and, of course, free samples. I like free samples, even though I am aware that they are mini food traps, designed to lure you in with one bite, so that the tiny chocolate-chip-studded bite from Mrs. Fields eventually morphs into an $8.99 "chocolate deluxe" cookie monster. Still, free food=good deal.

Usually I am shameless about free samples (there is a cheese shop in Cambridge Dave refuses to enter with me), and I rarely end up buying what's offered, but a few weeks ago I fell head over heels for a sticky, sweetish, deliciously fattening and flavorful morsel--bourbon chicken.

Bourbon chicken is what you would get if Chinese food and Southern food exploded together. It is rich and tangy, completely coated with a sweet, dark glaze. Although the name suggests otherwise, there's no bourbon in it (at least not the recipe I use), making it safe to feed to infants and recovering alcoholics alike (what do people who can't drink do when confronted with vodka sauce? or beer-battered chicken? or chicken marseilles? hmm...). I found this recipe online, and the delicious result, simple ingredients, and no-fuss directions make it a keeper in my (recipe) book. I served it over white rice, Uncle-Ben-style since I don't have a rice cooker. Still good.

chicken thigh and leg meat, cut into bite-size pieces
1-2 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup apple juice
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce

Heat oil in a large skillet.
Add chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned.
Remove chicken.
Add remaining ingredients, heating over medium
Heat until well mixed and dissolved.
Add chicken and bring to a hard boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Serve over hot rice Read more!

Anti-Vampire Food, or Twihard with a Vengeance*: Lemon Alioli Sauce

Discovering a food in a restaurant that I love and crave for is a wonderful and terrible experience. Wonderful, because eating food that's so good that I fantasize about it more than my fiance (sorry puppy) is nothing less than a gift. Terrible because I don't live in that restaurant and/or can't visit regularly and/or am too poor to subsist solely on my ideal meal.

Occasionally, for foods that truly capture my heart, I will try to recreate them at home. Sometimes this turns out wonderfully, like the shrimp ravioli in tomato veloute sauce (adapted from a lobster crepe I had at Basso 56), sometimes terribly, like my desperate imitation of Border's sublime pastelitos, about which no more should be said. Every now and then, though, I'll skip the hard work and simply ask for the recipe, which is precisely what I did for Iron Hill Brewery's distinctive and flavorful sweet potato fry sauces.

Generally when it comes to my s.p.f.'s (woah! I just got that!), I stick to ketchup, tried and true. A few weeks ago, though, Dave and I visited his home town and got some lunch with his (and my) dear friend, Chris, at the Iron Hill Brewery. The fries were on the menu and I pounced, but when they arrived I was surprised to find that rather than ketchup, they were surrounded by three bowls of different sauces: a spicey, liquidy lime; a smooth and sweet vanilla; and a lemony, creamy garlic. Although I leaned more towards the vanilla and garlic, all three nestled in the hearts of my tastebuds (weird mental image), and on our next visit to Dave's home I lobbied, successfully, for a repeat visit to Iron Hill.

Since I am shy when it comes to those things, I asked Chris (a studying doctor and future McDreamy) to charm the waitress into getting me the recipes. "It'll be my Christmas present!" I said, and he replied with the kind of look that said "Was I going to get you a Christmas present?" Chris prevailed, of course, and our waitress returned with all three recipes, plus their technique for making the fries, written out on a little piece of paper. I was grateful until I realized the recipes were for restaurant-sized portions (seriously, one called for a *gallon* of mayo). Luckily, I remembered my grade-school proportions equations (one of the few forms of math I use on a regular basis), and managed to reduce the recipes to human size.

This weekend I tackled the easiest, the lemon alioli sauce. Alioli, which basically means "more garlic than you can safely ingest," is one of my favorite sauces, being a garlic-phile, but this one added the sharp tang of lemon with a little extra bite of paprika. It was easy, cheap, and turned out exactly like I remembered, earning it the seal of approval. Plus, it required roasted garlic, which is absolutely heavenly to make.

I paired the sauce with some fries and a nice piece of salmon, but I could see it working well thrown over some pasta or tossed in a salad. The only problem was my unfortunate blender failed to adequately chop up the garlic slices, so I had little chunks floating around, but it was still good. Plus it repels vampires! Hooray!

dash paprika
4 1/2 tbsp mayo
3 1/2 tsp lemon juice
3 1/2 tsp roasted garlic puree
3 1/2 tsp minced garlic

Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor

To make roasted garlic:
Cut off the tips of the garlic cloves while still keeping them in the head (see image)
Place on tin foil and coat with olive oil
Roast at 400 degrees for 40 minutes

*Against my better judgment, I did read Twilight. For those of you who haven't read it, let me sum it up here: "I'm so awkward! Who's that gorgeous guy? He's a vampire! And god-like in his beauty! But I love him! Because he's perfect! He loves me! Wow I'm lucky! Oh no evil vampire, ok, he's dead. I want to be a vampire!" Fin. (I hope I don't get mowed down by 800 tweens in "Team Edward" tshirts for this...)

Read more!

Happy Moanday: Cookies for Happiness!

I am slowly bringing myself back into the realm of the cooking, tentatively trying out new dishes that have (so far) filled me with glee (like the show! go buy the soundtrack! it is like concentrated joy!). At the moment, Neiman Marcus cookies are turning golden brown in my oven, a last-minute baking decision after my roommate came home with unfortunate work news. "Cookies solve everything!" I said, although she might have appreciated some job leads more...

In any case, I am baking cookies and relaxing after a long day of work, counting down the days until Dave and I leave for our mid-winter adventure, wherein we plan to visit (in 10 days) Boston*, Martha's Vineyard, Philadelphia, Washington DC/Baltimore, southern Jersey. Somehow we will relax (?). At least we are sequestering ourselves in my parents' MV beach house, where, car-less and somewhat heatless, we plan to spend long, windy, rainy days curled up in front of the fireplace, popping popcorn and drinking hot cocoa.

Oh my gosh I just took a break to get the cookies out of the oven and lordy they are amazing and Belinda Carlisle was wrong heaven is not a place on earth it is a cookie and I am eating it ooooohhhhhh....... that's good.

Ok then! Cookie eaten and grease all over my keyboard (sorry Mom and Dad, I know you lease these laptops but I'm only human). I am back to hoping I'll update this blogorrino semi-regularly, but the unhealthy amount of satisfaction I am reaping from doing two "Happy Moanday"s in a row probably means I will end up resting on my laurels. Well, we can dream.

Since everyone needs a little cookie happiness, here is the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe (I substituted cocoa powder for espresso powder and am ecstatically happy about it). Btdubs, the story referred to in the introduction, about which NM says (nose in the air) "we won't perpetuate...here," refers to an alleged incident wherein a woman requested to buy the recipe and was charged "two-fifty," not realizing the witty attendant meant $250. Supposedly a myth, but I'm suspicious of anyone who sells a $25,000 cupcake car.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softenened
1 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy (approximately 30 seconds)
Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract for another 30 seconds.
In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in the espresso coffee powder and chocolate chips.
Using a 1 ounce scoop or a 2 tablespoon measure, drop cookie dough onto a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into a 2 inch circle. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie.

*Yes, I will be going to the Border Cafe and no, I will not be leaving. Read more!

Happy Ruesday: Guilty of Non-Blogging

Hello, dear readers. Yes, almost a month has passed by since my last post. Sorry folks. Remember when I last wrote? What I said about more posts? More pictures? More laughs (and tears)?

Empty, empty promises...

Sorry about that!

Since the past three months I've been mulling over various blog posts, only to stumble home lazy and tired, muttering an incomprehensible "Lata..." as I click off to Gawker and watch endless reruns of Seinfeld on TBS.com (did you know they no longer air them on Fox?! I mean, the Office is nice and all, but where're my random reflections on the eccentricities of daily life?). Anyway.

Let's just say I'll commit myself to a semi-random, mostly-infrequent schedule of blog postings. You know. Just to keep you on your toes. And it's worked! Since my blog-hiatus I've added two new followers, garnered a comment or two, a friendly email, and not one but TWO real companies offering me real products to share with my real readers (hello, future in-laws!)!!! That last part is not even a joke, as I have corporate sponsorship, sort of. Look for glowingly bloated reviews of famous food/drink/appliances!

Since it's been ages since I last posted a recipe, I will leave you with my new favorite, shockingly easy iced tea that is refreshing, delicious, and about as literal as you can get (let the cop out start now?). This comes from my future mother-in-law, who actually managed to ingrain it into my "lez heat up a frozen pizza" fiance, who taught it to me in about 25 seconds.

2 bags black tea
glass jar with a closeable lid

Boil water in a pot
Pour water into jar
Add tea bags
Seal up and place in fridge until cool
Remove tea bags and enjoy Read more!

Hello food fans! It has been a long, cold, dreary time without you... A time filled with ramen noodles (15 cents a package!), dried-out steaks (au vin), and hamburgers, hamburgers, hamburgers (no shake shack attack). As Dave pointed out, I posted all but once in October and my previous posts were uncomfortably close to that xkcd comic. But, I am back, with a vengeance (and an appetite!).

As I reheated my second bowl of ramen noodles last night, I pondered the meaning of food blogging. Was it to record my recipes? Share them with my devoted reader(s)? Gain a small but rabid group of followers a la Joss Whedon (BTVS 4eva)? No! It was for my own selfish gain, to explore and try out new recipes so that my poor, wasted body might wring out a few new nutrients from the exotic foods I'd sample (like lettuce!). In the past few weeks, as I returned again and again to grilled cheese sandwiches and sweet potato fries (my conquered foe), I realized that my semi-quasi-maybe healthy diet was nose-diving into a pile of cheese and sugar (mmm...). With that in mind, I'll be focusing on more health-conscious fare ("more" meaning "any"). But we can't all rely on tomatoes and sprouts to get us through the day, so more cakes, I say! Truffles, cookies, cuppacakes! I can dream...

I've also taken my first shaky but exciting steps into the world of bridal registry, by which I mean, the world of working kitchen appliances. I have some bold ideas (all white china! no lemon zesters!) and I also found THE BEST THING EVER!!! during my last trip to BBB (that's Bed, Bath, and Beyond to you) that is deserving of a blog post all on its own. So, an exciting November, yes? Yes. Read more!

Happy Moanday: Banner Back, Blogger Back!

Hello reader(s)! I have returned and brought my sneaky banner with me. Sadly, I'm still on a "blog light" menu, as my adjustment to new hours is causing me to mostly fall back on hamburgers and sweet potato fries (still delicious!). Last weekend I did make some Toniatti sauce, though, and tried out my brand-new pasta press (a gift from Dave's mom). The ensuing lasagna was delicious, although perhaps not fatteningly cheesy enough. Mostly I'm subsisting on Fresca (it's caffeine/sugar/carb free!) and candy corn (none of the above), wondering idly when December will roll around and with it my mini-vacation (staycation with the fiance woohoo!).

How is this little blog doing? I have ideas for posts rolling around in my yet-unfrazzled brain, and, energy-willing, will post those ideas into reality some time soonish. Frankly I should be happy I'm eating something other than Spaghetti-Os (oh I just remembered I have some in my cabinet! I know what I'm having for dinner tonight!!!). I did come up with a lovely addition to a typical pan-fried burger: a dash of balsamic vinegar (I like Trader Joe's) into the ground beef gives the burger a delightfully tangy and fragrant taste. I loved it, and now I wish I had more to eat.

Ok, Res-o-puh-leesers, fingers crossed that the next time two weeks goes by sans posts, it is because I am lounging around in some exotic locale getting engaged (oh! did that already!).

*seriously? When I first made all the little months pictures for my blog, I apparently neglected to make October (wtf?). I guess I thought I wouldn't last that long... Read more!

Happy Moanday: Tired Bloggers, Tired Blogs

Wondering what blog you have arrived at? Yes, it is still Res-o-puh-leese, but my banner has disappeared like it was the leaning tower of Pisa in an episode of Carmen Sandiego (I have have a lot of PBS nostalgia lately...). Unfortunately, the website that hosted the banner and several other images is still offline, meaning the problem will not just fix itself, as I'd been hoping, but must be fixed by me. Le sigh.

I will get around to fixing it, hypothetically, as soon as I will my tired little fingers to tap-tap-tap out the correct code and find another website to host the gargantuan files (still possible: clicking the area where the banner was to get to the main page. hooray for shoddy coding!). Add it to the list of To Dos, which has grown to include rearranging my bedroom, getting a new TV(?), and replacing my sweet little sort-of dying plants, which my landlords unceremoniously threw away without my knowledge over the weekend (wtf?). Also on the list: eating, sleeping(?), basic personal hygiene (impressed coworker: "Wow! Make up! You look so different!" unimpressed me: "Thank...you..?").

But, while I mull over abandoning my messy apartment and the stresses of New York for the relative happiness of a life of a trapeze artist, the world still turns. Yes, it is still fall. I like fall. I like the clothes I wear (layers of browns and golds, bright cheerful blues and reds), the fresh air, the clear skies, the inviting, snappy chill. Last week I enjoyed Indian food and warm soups, and it seems some repeat performances are in order. I'm going to drag out How to Cook Everything, my favorite cookbook (from Mark Bittman), to see what the scribe himself has to say about soup (good. warm. liquidy.). I am thinking some kind of chicken-mushroom broth, maybe with some beans, fresh bread, happiness. Oh fall, when I wish I were a little mushroom, swimming joyfully in sweet steamy broth! (is this sleepiness, hunger, chilliness, or growing hysteria talking? who knows?! Soup!) Read more!

My little blog is missing all its fancy-pants images because the website hosting the images is currently down. Will it go back up? Will I lose all my handiwork? Will I have to fix it myself? Will I remember how to do it?!?! All valid questions. Instead of answering them, let's just ponder quietly to ourselves... Read more!

Chicken that Warms You to the Korma

Mmmm, Indian food (or let's be specific, folks: South Asian cuisine). I love it so although Dave likes to point out that I don't love it so much as I love chicken tikka masala, naan, paneer pakoras, and sweet lassi. I love these things so much that I order them each and every time we go out to an Indian restaurant, snarling over the bowls that, ostensibly, are meant for sharing ("But you can have some of mine if you let me have some of yours!" yeah no). It's not that I'm against other kinds of South Asian food, it's just that, once I've found something that makes me happy, why would I ever stray (I'm talking about food here, but I guess I am also 23 and happily engaged... hi kiddo).

Annnnnyway... My food boundaries are being continually expanded thanks to the ever-interesting/challenging/exciting/delicious Taste & Create. This month, I was lucky enough to be paired up with Shaista, whose cute, peppy blog, Mixcalculations, came from her forays into cooking with just the ingredients sitting in her kitchen cabinets. I am always impressed by people who can look at a random assorted pile of cans and spices and whip up magic, but I added "intimidated" to "impressed" when I saw that Shaista cooks amazing, authentic South Asian food. I let my mind boggle for about 5 seconds, and then I stumbled upon her recipe for chicken korma, a meal that Dave has often ordered but I, starry-eyed from some CTM, never ordered.

So, ok, I will start this recipe description by saying that I probably made it completely and utterly wrong. It was delicious fo' sho, but something tells me that an actual Indian/Pakistani person would probably politely ask me from what region comes this interesting soup? There were a few problems from the get go: I was sleepy and stressed out (if not making korma I think I would probably be rolling in grilled cheese) and missing many of the essential ingredients that, presumably, make it taste the way it should. Still, what I lacked in ingredients I made up in enthusiasm (that still makes food taste good, right?), and my slightly lopsidely flavored meal was still good enough that I could foresee trying again and, with a little more effort and better-stocked spice rack, serving up somethin delish.

I'm posting Shaista's original recipe, because the janky thing I came up with would probably make sweet little Pakistani granmums roll over in their graves.

1/2lb chicken
3/4 cup oil
2 medium onions (sliced)
1 cup yogurt
2 bay leaves
6 cloves
5-6 green cardamoms
8-10 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon black cumin seeds
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons ginger/garlic paste
3 teaspoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
salt to taste

Heat oil in a pan, fry onion till golden brown.
Take out onion with a slotted spoon and grind or mix with yogurt and keep aside
In the same pan add bay leaves, cloves, black peppercorns, black cumin, cinnamon sticks, green cardamoms and fry for a minute.
Add chicken pieces and ginger/garlic paste and fry till chicken turns colour.
Then add coriander powder, salt, red chilli powder, garam masala and saute for 5 minutes.
Add half cup water and cover, when chicken till done.
Now add onion+yogurt paste and stir, turn off flame after 10 minutes.
Serve hot with rice or naan.
Read more!

Happy Ruesday: Another One!

Sigh. Dear readers, it is just too crazy (what is? life! that's what... also, me...). A new job promotion and new hours and New York craziness (see that transition? yeah.) mean I am collapsing every day after work. My stress levels, previously floating around "yo lez chill," have now shot up into ALL CAPS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS EXTREMENESS!!!1!! So rather than coming home, lovingly opening my cookbooks, and pondering on what culinary excusion I will happily embark, I have been turning steadfastly and devoutly to that kitchen krutch, comfort food. Granted, the tomato-basil soup I made last night (paired with a grilled cheese sandwich) was delicious to the max. Still, it was a little too old man and/or young child for me to enjoy fully.

It's fall! That means chilly air, floating leaves, and, most importantly, soups, stews, and chilis. I loooove fall and winter food--hot cocoa, thick chowders, everything drenched in warm sauces. I think I must always be reeeeally cold, because even on hot, sultry nights, I'm like "Can I get a lasagna here?" I've already indulged in the aforementioned tomato-basil (made my apartment smell like heaven and/or Cosi), but later this week I'm planning on pulling out a new Indian food recipe that (I hope) will expand both my repertoire and taste buds. In the meantime, my shortish blahg update will have to suffice, as I thank my lucky stars that this is better than being unemployed (right? right?!?!?).
Read more!

Coq-of-the-Walk au Vin

As promised, I've started searching for simple, delicious, healthy (ish?) recipes that can be made in a flash but still impress. Bitten by Mark Bittman has been my foodie bible of choice, as the numerous oil splatters and flour-encrusted pages can attest. Last night I tried out his recipe for coq au vin, a traditional French recipe of chicken in a red wine sauce. I adapted it slightly to meet my picky taste buds / sparse grocery / forgetful shopping list, and the result was fantastic: a deep, fragrant, heady wine sauce paired with my favorite musty mushrooms coating an otherwise basic and delicious chicken breast. It was quick (made the whole thing in about half an hour), cheap (costing about 20 cents worth of mushrooms, $1.50 worth of chicken, and $2 worth of wine), and looked and tasted like I knew what I was doing (maybe?).

I'd decided a few days ago to try coq au vin for a few reasons. Chicken is one of my favorite meals, being usually healthier and cheaper than other meats/poultry, but my standard chicken recipes have been starting to bore me. Lately, to my surprise, I've started to love mushrooms. I just can't get enough of the deep, earthy flavor or the smooth, pleasant texture. And wine in meals? Sign me up.

I started with Bittman's recipe but pared down several of his ingredients and edited to a single serving. Coq au vin is traditionally made in a large Dutch oven with a full chicken (cut up into parts), several different herbs, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms, but I wanted something smaller and more streamlined. I just cooked a chicken breast, left out the onions (not a fan), and forgot about the tomatoes (still don't have a stocked-up can pantry). Bittman also recommended two kinds of mushroom--porcini and white button--and despite searching my neighborhood (even the high-priced yuppie mart!), I could only find button. In the end, the meal only needed a quick dash of sea salt to liven things up a little, but it was just so good on its own I completely forgot about the little pot of rice pilaf I'd made as a side.

All in all, I am very pleased with the result, and very pleased to have found another quick recipe to throw into my weekly repertoire. Plus, I still have lots of leftover mushrooms, to be pan-fried with steak or tossed into salads. Hallelujah.

2 tablespoons olive oil
flour for dredging
1 chicken breast, trimmed of fat
2 tablespoons butter
4-5 white button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 tablespoon parsley, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 bay leaf
1/2-3/4 cup red wine
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat
Dredge chicken in flour
When oil is hot, cook chicken until both sides are golden brown
Remove chicken from heat
Add butter
After butter has melted, add mushrooms, cooking both sides for about 5 minutes
Add parsley, garlic, bay leaf, and wine
Lower heat and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, turning chicken every five minutes
If sauce is too thick, add a little wine or water; if it's too thin, raise heat to high and cook
Remove chicken from heat, pour mushroom and wine sauce on top, and serve

Read more!

Happy Moanday: Good Morning!

If I am unusually chipper today, it's because I am finally sloughing off my terrible working hours in favor of ones that more closely resemble an actual "normal" workday. How terrible, and how normal? I am happily jumping from the mind-numbing, insomia-inducing, social-life-killing 3am to 11am shift to the perkier, more pleasant, and saner 7am to 3:30pm shift. I consider it the best of both worlds: the easy pace of the morning, the pre-rush hour emptiness of the trains, the early evenings, as well as the joy of waking up after sunrise, getting to actually speak with my roommates for more than 3 minutes each week, and not falling asleep at 9:30 on the weekends (good thing Dave is a homebody). So what does that mean? Hopefully, more energy for food, eating, and blogging about food and eating hooray!

I am still searching for the perfect mix of healthy, simple, delicious, and more and more I find myself relying on Bitten, the truly extraordinary cookbook from NYTimes food editor, Mark Bitman. It is just amazingly simple, clean, interesting food, the basics cooked in a way that balances between approachable and complex, familiar and exotic. Rather than branch out into wildly unusual food, Bitman appreciates the satisfaction of a good meal made well, with easy-to-find ingredients assembled so their natural flavor shines through. It's just sweet simplicity, something I can appreciate when it's 2 hours before bedtime and I haven't even gone grocery shopping yet (my friendly neighborhood grocery store is used to seeing me pad around in pajama bottoms to buy the one stick of butter or tiny bottle of spice that my dinner that night absolutely needs). The book is so easy to read and enjoyably precise that I could peruse it like a novel and I would read it before bedtime every night if it didn't make me so hungry and itching for coq au vin.

Aside from Bitten, I'm interested in visiting some local farmers' markets to check out their wares. My disdain for vegetables is not helped much by the wimpy varieties on display at my corner grocery (bitter tomatoes, plasticized corn, mealy potatoes). When I go visit my parents, the Garden State amply provides, and I happily load up on tomato salads and fresh corn (oh the sweet loveliness of a straight-from-the-stalk ear of golden-white Jersey corn!). Although I doubt being able to get the same flavor-bursting fruits and veggies here that I enjoy in New Jersey--and for-get New Jersey prices--I'm interested to sample the last of the summer bounty and the first of the fall.

What else is new? Dave is in Chicago, happily living the proto-yuppie lifestyle, and we're embarking on the strange and interesting experience of plane-based long-distance relationships (he also bought me a Snuggie! It is awesome, natch). Also, I am a (future?) auntie, after Dave's brother and sister-in-law had their little peanut, Adam Joseph (Dave and I have begun to aptly call him "Squishy."). I cannot wait until he's old enough to eat chocolate chip cookies. Anything else? I am starting up a newwww blog, regarding my emotions-wrought journey into the world of wedding planning. Details to arrive soon. That's it--have a good week, eat your veggies, and bake some cookies!
Read more!


Aside from the good company, lovely weather, relaxation, and delicious food, one of my favorite things about visiting Dave's shore house (and family) is the totally beautiful and amazing kitchen. Generally, I am a spectator / passive eater, but I like taking advantage of the solid equipment and Dave's parents' cooking intuitions whenever possible. Since both of his parents handle the entre portions of the meals with confidence and a fistful of Parmesan (I am marrying an Italian, afterall), my cooking forays have been happily limited to drinks and desserts. Some went well (I will be making daisy cupcakes with my future niece/nephew, before happily handing him/her off to the parents), some were suspicious (that margarita cupcake recipe could have used a few going-overs). One, however, stood out so much that even despite its high sugar content (or because of it), it was completely gone by noon the next day and led his sister to send desperate Facebook messages asking for the recipe (social networking at its best). One word: fudge.

Ooooh, fudge. I can still remember the first time I ever ate fudge, at my first "cool kids" middle school party (there were boys! lights were dim! we played "light as a feather, stiff as a board!"). One of the girls brought a plateful of homemade chocolate fudge and, mistaking them first for dried-out brownies, I casually took a bite. Oh dear. You all know the sensation: the sweet, soft, pliant feel of the fudge being crushed slowly in your mouth, the teeth-achingly sweet flood of chocolate, sugar, and butter. Although my memories of the party don't extend much beyond the dessert table (I think it was my audition to be cast in the popular clique, but my focus on the fudge probably indicates how well I did...), the sweet, sweet moment of my first taste of fudge is something I hold dear.

Usually I get my fudge from trusted sources, like Murdick's in Martha's Vineyard (true story: mid-argument with my parents about who was paying for my wedding, my dad pulled out a box from Murdick's from their recent trip to Martha's Vineyard. Without even finishing my sentence, I pounced, stuffed a corner piece into my mouth, and domestic harmony was restored. We still never resolved the wedding thing, though). Last month, however, I was paired with Min from the Bad Girl's Kitchen for the monthly Taste and Create event. Although some miscommunication eventually had me paired with Alisa from One Frugal Foodie (check out my take on her delicious cookies here), I had already discovered and fallen in love with Min's recipe for homemade fudge. A shore weekend coming up, I figured I would have all the help (and willing eaters) necessary to make the fudge a success. And it was!

Everyone helped out in a way: Dave's parents pointed out the right equipment, his sister assembled the ingredients, her boyfriend diligently measured, Dave's brother took the photos, and his sister-in-law (currently gestating a new family member) ate for two. Dave also helped(?) by licking the extra-hot stirring spoon (how does he even have tastebuds anymore?). The recipe called for milk chocolate chips, but the local grocery was out, so we went with Hershey's bars instead. Best. Idea. Ever. It was like eating gently melted Hershey's bars, and sent everyone hopping off the walls with happiness. If I were going to remake the recipe (which, let's be honest, is a given), I might swap in a higher-quality chocolate bar, something like a nice Lindt, which is creamier and less acidic than Hershey's. Still, the fudge was simple, quick to make, and delicious, hitting what is in my opinion the perfect trifecta for a successful recipe. Check it out below and avoid the Facebook messages!

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup Evaporated Milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 1/2 cups Milk Chocolate Morsels
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with foil.
Combine sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
Boil, stirring constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove from heat.
Stir in marshmallows, morsels, nuts and vanilla extract.
Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until marshmallows are melted.
Pour into prepared baking pan; refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.
Lift from pan; remove foil.
Cut into 48 pieces.
Read more!

Happy Ruesday(?): Labor No Labor Day

Hello reader(s)! I have had the nutsiest week, wherein my attempts to eat healthily did mostly crash and burn (I did eat a very nice balsamic-chicken salad, and another lemon-wine-chicken salad, but followed them up with pizza...). Work exploding like it sometimes does, I was lucky enough to get home at a reasonable (for me) hour, exercise, nap, and get in my daily Sims fix (my girl had twins last night! ...ok fine...) without worrying about food and/or writing about food. I did break down a chicken, though, and that was fun, if a little bloody and slippery...

So, what is the what-all this week? I'm in week 2 of no fiance, but getting excited for my first trip to Chicago on the weekend (Dear Southwest Airlines: How you doing? We will become good friends. Love, you know who). Dave and I have tentatively decided to nix the open bar at the wedding in favor of wine, beer (list by Steve), and a signature cocktail which we'll design, meaning if we get sloshed this weekend trying out various mixed drinks we aren't just drinking, we are researching (oh how I wish I could just plan the fun parts of the wedding, trying on dresses, auditioning hair and makeup people, sampling gourmet food and--heavens--cake. And yet, venues to be booked, churches to consider, guest lists to trim...).

Yesterday, a headache and slight chill left me wanting something easy and warming, so I broke out the giant frying pan for some lovely and delicious chili (it's getting to be that time of the year!). I'm starting to figure out now that spicy food gives me stomachaches the next morning, something to consider as I'm spooning that next amazing bite of firey-sweet chili (chicken tika masala, spiced fish, etc etc). Is this normal? I'd like to think I'm not stripping off my stomach lining, but somehow I never consider the ramifications when it's 5:30 and I'm hungry and that spicey food is just callin' my name...

So chili is likely for tonight, and damn the rumbly in my tumbly. For the rest of the week, I might tone things down with some fish or shrimp or salad, courtesy the ever-burgeoning farmers' markets of which New York is so fond. Then Friday I flit-fly off to Chicago to see Daaaave hooray!! Where will we go? What will we eat?? Who knows! But I am excited (as uus).
Read more!

Happy Moanday: Keepin' Cool

Well, my wish was finally granted. Going to bed last night I felt a chill, gathered up my quilt, and huddled under the blankets. Sleepy and content, it took me a minute to discover what had actually happened: I was cold. Cold! In my apartment! In my poorly-ventilated, air-conditionerless, boxy, barren apartment! It was, oh, fantastic.

So, I am dreamily wafting through this week, cheered by the slight crisp in the air and dismayed that I have just managed to move my winter clothes out of my closet and into storage.

After this past weekend, though, and all the many weekends this summer filled with pizza, ice cream, cookies, hamburgers, soda, etc etc, I am craving plain, simple food that fills me up without filling me out. Although most people seem to gain weight in the winter time, I tend to switch things up (like a bear!), piling on the pounds in the summer to last me through a cold, dark winter. Of course, now that I am engaged and every personal trainer in the tri-state area is sniffing me out to remind me that no, in fact you cannot get married unless you go through something called "Bridal Body Boot-Camp Bonanza," the realization that there is more of me to love is even more distressing. So! With Dave rolling, rolling, rolling on a multi-hour drive to Chicago (tell them about the time you ran out of gas in the middle of the intersection...), I am looking forward to lighter meals.

Yes, I think I will put away the baking and deliciously cheesy, saucy, buttery dishes that I so love (at least most of the time), and focus more on salads, simple chickens, whole grains, and sugar-free alternatives (my big vice: amazingly sweet and tart fruit juices. mmm baby). Although I am mostly against going on diets, since I find them depressing and degrading (I spent one terrible month trying to follow a diet in Us Weekly that completely eliminated dairy, spices, and most carbs. Oooh I still shudder), I like finding meals that are healthy and delicious, relying more on blends of spices and subtle balances of natural flavors than addititives like butter, sugar, or cream. Plus, I am delighted to discover a slew of farmers' markets in the area, which hopefully will lead to better and fresher vegetables than I usually am subjected to (my little market is far, far, far away from organic yuppie-dom).

For tonight I am thinking of starting out simple: balsamic chicken salad with a sprinkle of walnuts and blue cheese, paired with a white wine. Not sure what I'll end up with for the rest of the week, but I did pull out my copy of Mark Bitman's Bitten, and the recipes there seemed to sing they were so amazing. So perhaps I'll work my way through that? Read more!

La Cocina Espanol: Pollo al Ajillo

One of the best meals we cooked in Spain was, coincidentally, also the first. It was also not made by me. Our first night in our casita in the mountains, I was feeling woozy and headachey and tired, so Dave told me to take a shower, have a cup of tea, and relax while he cooked dinner. Did I mention I am thrilled to marry this guy? Although Dave does not usually flex his culinary muscles (sometimes he cooks for me for my birthday, and that is very nice), he usually does a good job, diligently following directions and sampling to his heart's content (which means a LOT. seriously. the guy will eat anything in any state of preparedness).

Dave made me garlic chicken, another typical dish in Spain, and as soon as it hit the table my wooziness went away, to be replaced with wild, ravenous hunger. And it was soooo delicious. I love garlic and generally feel that anything can be made better with a crushed clove or two, but this was inspired: coated with a fine mix of oil and garlic, lightly salted, it was simplicity at its best, a clean, strong-tasting, utterly delicious meal. I loved how the garlic was able to shine through, balanced by a restrained sprinkling of salt. Cooking the chicken--which was also much better than what you'd find in the U.S.--released its juices, which mixed and mingled with the garlic and oil. The resulting chicken was evenly coated with the delicious mixture, more a sauce than a flavoring. It was amazing.

Eating the chicken, Dave and I both marveled how delicious it was, but also how incredibly simple. In fact, Penelope Casas said when she asked the chef at one of her daughter's favorite restaurants for the recipe, he wrote back, essentially "Cut up a chicken, pan fry in oil and garlic, sprinkle with salt, serve."

Although the chicken is perfect for a simple meal (I could see these going fast at a picnic or tucked into a sandwich), it's a little too bare-bones for anything very fancy. In Spain, we had just the chicken, since Dave was so focused on the one meal he forgot the potatoes we also meant to eat, and it was good if bordering on bland. A few days ago, we recreated the meal, this time adding patatas bravas, the Spanish version of French fries which we downed at most tapas bars. Although our chicken dried out a little more than we wanted (poor timing--save the chicken, which cooks up in less than 10 minutes--for the end), it still paired wonderfully with the potatoes and the spicy, tangy patatas bravas sauce.

2 chicken breasts, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
7-10 cloves of garlic, crushed
salt to taste

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pan
Add chicken and cook until no longer pink
Add garlic and lower heat
Cook chicken until golden on both sides
Remove from pan and sprinkle with salt

Image from mundorecetas.net

Read more!