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.
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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?!?!?).
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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

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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!
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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.
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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).
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