Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Falling in Love

I will admit, I am a toughie to buy a gift for.  I just ended a sentence with a preposition; it's that serious.  My husband would ask, "What do you want for Christmas/birthday/random gift-giving holiday?"  I don't make it easy; I'd say, "I dunno" or "How about Lego Harry Potter?"  He would often suggest a gift, for instance, "You love to cook; how about a food processor?"  To which I'd wrinkle my nose and say, "Ugh, no.  Boring!"

Don't even get me started on the time he suggested a new vacuum cleaner.  Men, if you happen to read this: never, ever give a vacuum cleaner as a gift.  That is a line which must not be crossed.  You will have some serious making-up to do.  I don't even care if it is a Dyson. 

There's no rhyme or reason behind this and I know somebody will be perverse and comment, "I received a vacuum and it was the most beautiful gift I ever received." I have no words for you, Pervercia.  It also makes no sense that I have purchased my husband power tools; however, in my defense, he did ask for them.

This Christmas, we went to my parents house and my mom gave me this awesome gift.  And thats when Bianca and I fell in love. 

Who's Bianca, you ask?  She's my Cuisinart food processor.  We have a relationship based on trust and mutual respect, and also based on being able to grate cheese in approximately 0.4325 seconds.  She can also make a mean batch of hummus. 


1 can of chickpeas, drained, but save some of the liquid!
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon cumin
1 lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place all of the above in Bianca.  Pulse until totally pureed, or to the consistency you like.  Add additional oil, or tahini oil if needed to thin the mixture.

How easy is that?!?  Bianca totally simplifies your life.  Now you just need to slice up some pita, or get out some lathed carrots (don't fool yourself into thinking they're baby carrots like I did for all those years), or cucumber wedges.  Or bell peppers.  Go crazy.

You know what tastes amazing?  Toasted wheat bread, spread with hummus, and piled up with cucumber, sprouts, and/or other vegetables.  Once I was trying this vegan thing and pretty much ate this every day,  twice a day for a week.  At the end of the week I think I had a bacon-wrapped turducken with a side of trout.  Love me anyway.

You can add in other things like a fresh jalapeno, some roasted red bell peppers (drained if you use the jarred variety), or herbs like cilantro.  Go for it!  Get creative!

I would also like to thank Rita, my mini-prep, for years of faithful pesto making and garlic mincing, and Judith, my trusty Kitchenaid, who sees me through burned batches of divinity and perfect chocolate chip cookies. 

I'm working on a photo montage set to some thoughtful music to show how much I appreciate them both. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Abominable Food

Just when you thought you'd heard the last of me, I'm back!  You're so glad.  I can feel it.  I got swallowed by a work-dragon, but it mercifully spit me back out.  After a few showers I'm nearly as good as new!

Some foods should never be combined.  Some foods should be considered criminal when paired together.  However, believe it - some foods that sounds absolutely disgusting end up being totally amazing when they get together.  Case in point - the waffle recipe I'm about to share.

Who doesn't love waffles?  Don't tell me, because I just don't know if I could look you in the eye next time.  I for one LOVE waffles.  Real waffles - not eggo waffles.  I love getting out my shiny waffle oven and mixing up a batter that's going to be crispy and airy and light and delicious.  I love the versatility and appeal of a perfectly made waffle.  Then I love messing it up by adding savory ingredients. 

Probably many of you love savory waffles and I'm just the last person on the caboose.  It wouldn't surprise me.  Such things have been known to happen before.

I got my most recent issue of Bon Appetit.  I ripped off the threatning FINAL NOTICE envelope I've been getting since last April and trashed it.  Get a grip, BA.  I'm not renewing.  Blame Rapoport!  It's turned into GQBA.  Bring back Fairchild! *Nerd moment*

Anyway, before I got off track, I was going to say that I saw a recipe that made my heart stop for a moment.  Not just because of the ingredient list (although that made it stop a second time - note to self, get a checkup) but because it sounded so amazing I knew I would have to make it ASAP.

Bacon-Swiss Waffles (adapted from BA - they called for ham and cheddar and I had neither)

Warning: this recipe contains both bacon and copious amounts of butter.
Warning: I am a terrible photographer.
Look!  Salad!

1 package bacon
1 3/4 cup flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 eggs, separated (they'll be reunited later.  It's a beautiful ending, and not in the least bit disingenuous.)
1 cup of butter, melted.  That's two sticks.  I know.  YIKES!
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup soda water - actually, I used an old almost flat bottle of Pellegrino. 
1-2 small, thin slices of swiss cheese

Turn your broiler on high.  Turn on your vent fan while you're at it.  Maybe open a window.  See where I'm going with this?  Put your bacon on a grill pan and broil it for approximately 13-15 minutes until crispy.  I'm one of those people who likes very crispy bacon, and not soft-ish bacon.  I like it to be almost burned.  This method turned it nice and crispy and not one bit burned though.  My husband was relieved.

Once your bacon is finished (you might need to do it in two batches) then take it out.  Keep it in reserve until needed.  Don't let your 4 year old eat it all.  That would be just wrong!  Plus you need some for the recipe.

Get out your waffle iron.  Dust it off, if need be.  Plug it in.

Sift all of the dry ingredients.  Put the egg whites in your mixer and whip them into shape, shape meaning that they're foamy and white and not too stiff.  Whisk together the wet ingredients.  Guess what?  When you add cold pellegrino to melted butter, it gets kind of clumpy.  It's ok.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and whisk in the wet ingredients except for the egg whites.  Once your dry and wet ingredients are whisked, fold in the egg white.  By "fold" I mean dump in the whipped egg whites, then gently mix together the egg whites and the batter.  It's hard to explain.  Foodies, feel free to rip me a new one in the comments.

Once your batter is ready, open up your waffle iron.  If you don't have a non-stick one, then spray it with cooking spray.  Pour in about 1/4-1/2 cups batter.  If you're like me, you forget that the batter travels and you overdo it, and it will ooze out over the sides.  Don't you be like me!  I just said that in a Jack Nicholson voice.

Before you put the lid on, here is where you add your ingredients.  For my son, I add in some chocolate chips.  For me, I sprinkled bacon pieces and little chopped up pieces of swiss cheese.  For my daughter and husband, I added nothing.  They're waffle purists.

The beauty of your waffle iron is that a little light will blink on when they are finished, between 5 and 10 minutes later.  Awesome!  This recipe made waffles that were very crispy on the outside and light and airy on the inside.  I think that's what happens when you whip the whites separately and then gently fold them in.  Oh, and possibly the scads of butter added. 

I went that one step further and added homemade apricot-raspberry jam to my waffle. Because when you're in for a million calories, what's a few hundred more?  My homemade jam sometimes has almost whole apricot halves in it.  They're the treasure in the jar. 

I also had salad.  Hopefully the salad is fighting off the butter right now.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Simple Parent Math

I do most of the purchasing of clothing for kids and no matter how many times I've done it, I keep making the simple mistake of purchasing plain white shirts.  Ostensibly I buy them to wear under spaghetti strap shirts or for a crisp look to go with some funky shorts. However, they're typically unwearable after the first couple of times.  Here's why:

Typical kid-day:
1.5 hours of meals (hands wiped on shirt despite readiness of pristine napkin)
2 hours of making mud soup in the backyard
1 hour of bubbles
1 hour of playing tennibaskebasevolly in the backyard (gotta slide to make that last shot)
15 minutes of runny nose after being hit in face by ball (nose wiped on shirt despite readiness of tissues)
1 hour of helping make cookies in the kitchen (hands wiped on. . . you get the drift)
1 hour of coloring/painting

All that equals 100% guarantee I will forget about this and buy a new white shirt in a few months.

Wisk THIS, baby!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Going, Going, Gone!

The other night, about 90 minutes before I had to go to work, I decided it was time I brought volunteers a treat.  It was just enough time for me to whip up this delicious coffee cake.  We had our meeting and at the end of it, I said, "Oh, and I brought cake, coffee, tea and cider for a little treat." 

"Yay, cake!"  many said, and went and got slices.  Halfway through their refreshments, they suddenly got wide-eyed.  It grew a little quiet.  Someone said, "Uh oh.  What's the bad news?" 

Really!!  I mean, they must know me so well.  They know I will always try to lure them to the dark side with treats.  Actually, I had no ulterior motive that day - just gratitude to them for the work they do with youth.  What would we do without volunteers?

Epicurious is my favorite recipe site.  A couple of tips - when you go there, anything more than 3 1/2 forks and from Bon Appetit magazine is usually golden.  My favorite though is to read reviews.  Someone will say, "I know that this called for 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 1 cup apples, 1 cup raisins, but I added bananas, cocoa powder, omitted the sugar, added agave nectar, threw in some nutmeg and baked it for 30 minutes less than it called for.  And it was terrible!"  Those reviews always crack me up.

Only crumbs are left. A pan like this means you have succeeded.

Blueberry Coffee Cake - from

1/3 cup flour
1/2 stick butter (forgive yourself now for the butter) room temperature
1 cup coconut
1/2 brown sugar (oh yeah - and forgiveness for the sugar too)
1 tsp cinnamon

2 cups flour
1 stick butter
1 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries or one package of frozen and unthawed blueberries

For the topping, combine all the ingredients required and mix until crumbly.  Hang on to that topping for later.  Just hang out, topping.  Chill.  You're up soon.

Preheat your oven to 360.  So, the recipe called to preheat the oven to 357 degrees.  I'm assuming it's a typo, because really?  I don't have that kind of oven.  When replacing our dinosaur oven, which for the last 2 years we owned it, I had to consistently pull out the burner and put it back in DURING cooking something whenever it suddenly lost heat, we went for the lower-mid-level option.  Which means it looks pretty fancy but is still pretty basic.  I don't have an oven that allows you to get to degrees between increments of 5.  I'm obsessing about this typo.  I do stuff like that.

Anyway, put those obsessions to the side.  Butter and flour a 9x13 pan.  Combine the dry ingredients (except for the sugar) and put off to the side.  You're already turned off, I can tell.  Don't worry!  So you have two extra bowls to clean.  It's worth it, I swear!

Cream the butter and the sugar together until fluffy.  Why do they call it that?  It just seems inadequate.  Beat them together until adequate in your mixer.  That means the butter is light in color and the mixture is thick and not grainy.  Add the eggs, one at a time.  I usually scrape the pan with a spatuler (my favorite way to pronounce "spatula") between each egg addition so that we can incoroporate all of the stuff sticking to the bottom of the bowl.  That stuff has to join in.  It has to cooperate.  This cake is a joint effort.  There is no "i" in cake. 

Stop digressing and add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk, which you remembered to combine with the vanilla.  Do it in three additions each.  The mix in the blueberries.  Gently!  Don't squish them.  You might do the mixing with a spatula.  Treat them tenderly.  Blueberries are delicate.

Pour that luscious batter into the baking pan.  Sprinkle the crumb mixture overtop of the batter and bake it all together for about 40 minutes unless your oven stinks like mine does (I baked mine for 55 minutes).  How do you know it is done?  Poke a toothpick into the middle.  Not a used one.  A fresh one.  Don't take the one Grandpa is chewing on, not even if it's the last toothpick in the house.  When you pull it out, moist crumbs should cling sweetly to the wooden pick.  You should not have slimy cake goo on the pick.  The description of testing this cake is going into a dark alley that I really don't want to explore, metaphor wise.  Lets leave it for now.

The topping should also be golden at this point. 

If you're like me, you throw on your oven mitts and whisk it into your car, resisting the urge to pick at it all the way there.  Once you get a slice, it will still be warm.  You could get people to agree to all kinds of things with a cake like this.

Not that I would dare try.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Toe-body Knows The Trouble I've Seen

The things that my son gets into and says slay me on almost a daily basis.  Yesterday evening, while playing an innocent game of "lets throw stuff over the fence into the pool," my son decided to pick up the heavy play slide and . . . who knows.  Not even he knows.  Sometimes things just exist to be picked up.

This picture has no bearing on the story.  It's just so I can show how cute he is.  It's also a bit dated.

Of course, it is a heavy slide.  So it slipped from his fingers and landed on his foot.  A couple of hops around the house and I thought all was well.  I went to work, we ate cake.  More about that later.

I came home at 10 PM and he was holding on to his shin for dear life, weeping.  "Get to bed!" my husband proclaimed.  "Mommy, it hurts so bad!"  my son argued back.  So I took a look - hmmm, not really swollen but kind of firm to the touch.  So I cuddled him until he fell asleep (don't tell his friends.  Nor his enemies).

He woke up several times in the night because of the pain, and when he woke in the morning crying about it, I said, "No problem, you can stay home today."  "Yahoo!" he cried, leaping out of bed.  Then he stopped and said, "Oh yeah.  Ow!"

I was sure I was snowed.  I made an appointment with the doctor and was relieved to find out - no!  I was not snowed!  He had an infected toe.  What a relief.

Isn't that dumb to feel relieved that there really is a (semi)serious medical issue going on?  I hate going to the doctor and seeing her give me The Look.  "He's fine," she'll say.  The subtext I always hear is, "Really?  Calm down, Hoverlady!"  But not today!  Today I got my money's worth.  "Keep his activity level low," she advised. 

After running out of the building, skipping up the stairs, racing to the car and talking about the bike riding he was planning for later, all punctured by thoughtful "Um, oh yeah.  Ow!  It still hurts," I thought about asking next time for suggestions about keeping a 6 year old's activity level low.

On our way home, I had him call my husband to give him a guilt trip.  "Daddy, you were WRONG!" he crowed into the phone. "I DO have an owie on my toe!" 

We all felt better after that.

Chicken Pancakes

Did that title make you want to throw up?  It certainly doesn't sound very appetizing, which is why I'm renaming it "chicken patties."  Yes.  Boring.  Safe.  Palatable.  When I think chicken pancakes, I just squirm a little.  I picture chicken and maple syrup which seems a culinary atrocity.

Now chicken and waffles?  Totally fine.  Don't ask me why, I don't make the rules!

I adapted this recipe from one I found online, mostly because I didn't have any chinese 5-spice powder.  I have about 473829 other spices in my spice cabinet but not that one.  So, I decided to take a different flavor profile with mine.  Did you like that term?  Makes me sound like a professional.  Either a professional or a totally pretentious git.  The other recipe also sounds delicious though and I encourage you to check it out here:

This is a really healthy recipe.  Very little oil is used and no bread crumbs!  I served these with a baked sweet potato and some steamed zucchini.  I like my baked sweet potatoes with a teaspoon or so of grated parmesan cheese melted on top.  Don't knock it; it works.

Chicken Patties

1 package ground chicken (or turkey if you're feeling wild)
1 tbsp thyme (not ground; although if you go down that alley, reduce it to about 1 1/2 tsp)
2 tsp dried basil
1 egg
5-6 green onions, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter or olive oil for pan

Preheat your oven to 350.  Spray a baking tray.  Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix together.  You should always be careful not to overmix; it makes your patties tough.  And nobody likes tough patties.  Doesn't that sound like some kind of nasty innuendo?  Maybe these should be Innuendo Patties.

Once your ingredients are mixed, get out your griddle pan, or if you don't have one of those; just a pan.  It's that simple.  Brush the bottom of the pan with olive oil and heat on high until a drop of water dances across the surface of your hot pan like a fouette-obsessed ballerina.  I used to be able to do fouettes.  But not without coming pretty close to kicking something.

Once the pan is hot, form the patties (I tried the wet-hands rumor and it is true!).  Don't make them too thick or they won't cook all the way through.  Put them on the hot griddle and let them cook for about 5 minutes on each side.  Once both sides are cooked and golden, remove them to the oven to finish off. This method avoids you cutting into each one obsessively to make sure it is no longer pink inside.  Usually you can tell if there is still some pinkness if there is a pink line around the circumference of the patty; however, sometimes you just can't be sure.  Putting them in the oven for 5-7 finishes them off without making them too dry.

Serve them with something healthy, for the love of all that is holy!  They would be great with some tzatziki sauce on the side, or in a pita with some salad and feta thrown in for good measure.  My husband had these the next day on toast with cheese and tomato and I proclaimed them acceptable for human consumption.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Attack Of The Growth Spurt

My four year old is ravenous lately.  Here's what she ate today:
  • 2 waffles with syrup
  • 1/3rd of a pack of sliced turkey
  • 3 popsicles
  • Goldfish (the crackers, not the pet. Come on!)
  • A little bit of beef with barley soup
  • Half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • 4 strawberries
  • Some salt and vinegar pringles
All this before 2 PM.

Yikes!  She's also been sleeping through the night in her own bed for the past 3 days.  This is a record.  Usually she comes into our bed and creates the horizontal part of the letter "H." 

The other issue is that after just fitting into size 4t pants, after 2 months of wearing that size they have now become obsolete.  I had to buy 3 new pairs of pants on Friday so that she doesn't walk around in fear that someone will run up to her saying, "ma'am, ma'am, where's the flood?"  She also woke up one morning unable to put on any shoes that didn't pinch her toes.

Please, universe!  Let her grow a little slower!

Way Back Then:

Adorable, yet cheeky 1 year old.  Apple to her mom's eye.  Brother may have different outlook.  She used to let me do her hair however I wanted. 

Now (well, a couple of months ago):

All-grown-up four year old.  Now with opinions on her hair and clothing.