Wednesday, May 28, 2008

So, what did we learn?

It's been a long... while. I'm working a ton and more broke than ever. And the night before last was not restful, what with nature rousting me out of bed every 2 hours and the adjacent building catching fire at about 4 a.m. (I was too exhausted to get up and be nosy, but from my shameless sidewalk-level gawking the next day, it appears that the furnace caught fire. Why do I feel like I live in a dump?)

So, what did we learn?
  1. When you're tired, cooking over gas heat (= BLUE FIRE) may not be the smartest thing.
  2. Just because you've left the shaker tops on all of your other spices doesn't mean that the shaker top is on the crushed chili pepper. Good luck digging 1/4 cup of red pepper flakes out of your zucchini.
  3. You know how you always add olive oil to your pasta water? When oily water boils over, it tries to start a fire. Have fun with that.
  4. Splashing pasta sauce all over the stove is FUN!
  5. Don't grate cheese right over the food. Unless, y'know, you like dropping the grater in the food.
It's late. I'm going to bed.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The last thing I was able to taste properly

At least it was worth tasting. I think I'm going to strangle him if he keeps bringing colds home every two months.

Last night, we came home from work and started laying into that wine. We started with a Trader Joe's brand sauvignon blanc from Chile. Mmmmm! It was just sweet enough, and the Jarlsberg we grabbed on the way home smoothed out the tartness until it was just perfect.

We really wanted to try the dessert wine, but my sinuses started to feel like someone had poured concrete up there and I was really quite tipsy for the rest of the night... so that will have to wait until the cold goes away.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I'm like a freakin' Boy Scout, being this prepared!

It's been a rough week. Not bad, really. Just sort of... long and difficult.

Wanna know how I really knew what a rough week it's been?

When I was standing in the wine aisle at TJ's looking for a bottle of wine, and next thing I know, there are five in my basket.

The sad thing is, I'm not sure when I'm even going to drink them, considering I have to be up early 6 days a week.

The sadder thing is, the first card I used declined, and I still bought them all. I'm not sure if I'm broke or my bank is overreacting again. They seem to think everything I do is fraud.

I wonder if I can get them to decline every shoe purchase? (Shhhh, don't tell The Mr., he thinks I only need 2 pairs.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

"It's like a chocolate milkshake!"

I finally made a liquid Oreo, a drink a co-worker showed me the recipe for months and months ago. I believe that the original recipe most likely came from Rachael Ray.

This is super-simple: just shake up equal parts coffee liqueur, Irish cream, white creme de cacao, and vodka.

I had to use half a part of vodka for my portion, because I don't like the taste of vodka and I wanted to enjoy more than one without becoming intoxicated. Look, I'm not a lightweight, okay? I'm just a little small, and I don't have a tolerance nowadays. So just -- just -- just back off!! Stop making fun of me! I'll drink water if I want to!!


I made one with the full amount of vodka for The Mr., who looked at me like I'd grown a second head and announced, "It's like a chocolate milkshake!"

Truthfully, I think the problem was that I was using decent vodka, but low-to-mid-end liqueurs. I suspect that this needs the good stuff. Starbucks coffee liqueur. Bailey's. Whatever the good brand of creme de cacao is, because Arrow isn't it.

Next thing, I need to get a blender so I can make real margaritas, not that horrid crap that comes from a mixer bottle. Yum! Now if we only had a balcony where we could sit and sip margaritas...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ham and pineapple kebabs with tri-pepper couscous

I really wanted to grill these kebabs, but as I mentioned earlier, the "patio" can only be accessed by climbing over a row of bushes, which are really due for a trim. If you don't have a grill, just put the kebobs under the broiler.

  • 1 ham steak, cut into 1" chunks
  • 1 pineapple, cleaned and cut into chunks
  • couscous
  • chicken broth
  • small red, yellow, and orange bell peppers (1 of each), finely diced
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2T unsalted butter
  • freshly ground salt
  • Load the kebob skewers, alternating ham and pineapple chunks. Broil for 15 minutes, turning as they begin to blacken.
  • Bring the chicken broth, butter, and a little salt to a boil. Don't use too much salt, because the broth has plenty. Turn off the heat, then add the couscous, stir, and cover for five minutes.
  • When the liquid is absorbed, fluff the couscous with a fork. Add the diced bell peppers and the black pepper and combine. (You may wish to add Tabasco sauce; I often add some to cold couscous.)
  • When the kebobs are blackened and caramelized, remove them from the broiler and serve over the couscous.
How to Clean a Pineapple
  • Use a serrated knife. Accept no substitutes!
  • Lay the pineapple on its side. Slice off the bottom.
  • Stand the pineapple on its bottom. Using the stem as a handle, slice off the peel.
  • Use the tip of your knife or a grapefruit knife to dig out the brown "eyes."
  • Lay the pineapple on its side. Slice off the stem.
  • Quarter the pineapple along its long axis.
  • Remove the core.
  • Voila! You have a clean pineapple just waiting to be cut into chunks!
How to Eat a Kebob
  • Use a fork. Unless, of course, you vacuum your floors more often than I do.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pico de gallo

I'm taking a container of pico de gallo to a party tonight.

Salsa is absolutely my #1 favorite snack/condiment/lunch (yes, lunch: a good pico de gallo tastes great eaten right off a fork and has next to no calories).

Anyway, this particular salsa was very well received the last time I took it to a party, and this batch is even better. Here's how to make your own!

  • 8 Roma tomatos, finely chopped
  • 1 medium-sized white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 4-6 serrano chiles, minced
  • juice of 2 limes
  • Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Just dig right in with your hands.
  • Cover and refrigerate overnight. The flavors need time to sit and get to know each other, so don't eat it yet!
  • Stir before serving. It's okay to use a spoon this time.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I'm hungry for real food!

You may have noticed that I haven't been posting this week.

I basically haven't been eating this week. I've been more or less living in the library with a pile of books and an instrumental trance playlist.

The greatest diet tool ever for keeping me from getting too fat during exam time?


Mad kudos to the co-worker who showed it to me! It's really useful for things that don't have calorie information on them, like bananas or bell peppers. It even has information for a lot of restaurant foods (which can be a blessing and a curse, as I found out when I looked up the Baja Fresh burrito that The Mr. brought me).

Coming up as soon as I have time: "grilled" pineapple and ham kebobs on top of veggie couscous. Quote marks around the grilled because my apartment is halfway underground and I don't have a place for a grill. So the kebobs are going under the broiler. Seriously? Next apartment? Needs a balcony. Where am I supposed to grill and sip margaritas?

Right now, though, it's back to the grind. Send me real food. Please. The makers of diet food are laboring under the incorrect assumption that all dieters want sweets. Attention diet food makers: stop making wannabe candy bars! I've had so many protein bars that I'll gag if I so much as look at another one!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Experimenting with chocolate-dipped fruit

While some friends and I were chowing down on meat fondue last month, the conversation turned to chocolate fondue, then to Godiva's expensive chocolate-dipped strawberries, then how easy it is to make your own.

"But, but!" I protested. "When I put it on the wax paper to chill, it gets all gloppy and ugly!"

And so one of my friends shared his sister's method for dipping fruit in chocolate, which I tried last night:
  • Find a piece of Styrofoam. You can buy some in the flower arranging section of your local crafting store. I know, I know, it's not politically correct to use Styrofoam anymore. If you can rescue some from work (ever get any shipments of fragile items?) it should help ease your conscience.
  • Spear a piece of fruit -- a strawberry, a banana slice, a cube of Gala apple -- on a bamboo kebob skewer. Run the fruit over cool tap water but do not dry it. Stick the skewers into the Styrofoam and freeze for a few minutes.
  • While the fruit is in time-out, build a makeshift double-boiler out of a saucepan and a glass bowl: Put an inch or two of water in the saucepan and bring it to a light simmer. Nest the glass bowl in the saucepan. It helps if the bowl is slightly larger than the saucepan and/or has a lip.
  • Break a good-quality chocolate bar into pieces and put it in the bowl. Stir the chocolate to help it melt evenly.
  • Get the fruit from the freezer. Dip the fruit into the chocolate and return the skewers to the Styrofoam.
  • Chill the fruit in the fridge until the chocolate has solidified. Be sure to store the fruit in the fridge until it's all gone.
Tips and Tricks:
  • If you're using dark chocolate, keep some milk on hand, because the chocolate will thicken. I used 72% dark chocolate, and it got very thick. If this happens to you, add a tiny bit of milk until the chocolate reaches a consistency somewhere between "drinkable" and "something you'd pour over a sundae."
  • Don't let the water boil! Few things smell and taste worse than burning chocolate!
  • Keep the water out of the chocolate. It turns the whole thing into a sticky, icky mess.
  • Get a mini fondue pot that melts chocolate with a tea light and skip jury-rigging a double boiler!
  • Chop some nuts and sprinkle them on the freshly-dipped fruit.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

And on a more personal note...

We're getting married!!!

He asked me at the Italian deli where we had our first real date. I didn't take any pictures of the food and wine, because I was too busy being, um, teary-eyed.

But I can describe.

Now I understand why people order pasta when they go out to eat. See, I grew up with dried pasta and jarred sauce, sometimes with the green can of shelf-stable Parm. Pasta, especially in tomato sauce, has always been poor food to me.

Oh, glorious simple carbs! The hand-made cavatelli were tender and full of flavor -- not at all like the bland boxed pastas of my childhood, the ones that had to be doused in tomato sauce to be edible. Not. At. All. I would gladly have eaten them with a simple garlic butter. But no! They came with a deliciously fresh meat sauce that made a mockery of the sauces I grew up with.

The wine was a Moscato D'Asti whose name I can't remember. We loved it so much that we took another bottle home with us. I'll rave about it when we drink it, because memory just won't do it justice.

I really think that it's impossible to plug that restaurant too much. It's so terrific that I'm almost afraid to try cooking Italian food at home!