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!