Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Halloween!

P.S. I'm the twin on the left

My other twin - almost a year old already!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Chickpea Piccata from Isa Chandra

tuuuurtle!  totally unrelated to this post, but really cute, no?

I'm not one to be excited about vegan dishes, usually.  We have several vegan restaurants in Memphis and I haven't tried any of them.  My husband and I both eat anything, so usually a (to me) more realistic option for us is somewhere that, you know, serves dairy and meat. 

However.  I also really love vegetables and could probably become vegetarian if the need arose.  I usually order meals that aren't very meat-centric, and we eat meat-free salads all week long (which helps us balance out our typical gluttonous weekends of eating out and my baking habits).  So, when I saw Appetite for Reduction in my suggested reads on my Amazon homepage, I was somewhat dubious but intrigued because, wow, if you take one look at the reviews it's pretty hard not to see that this is a promising book.  I bought it last year sometime, and of course am just now getting around to using it.

But poor me!  I could have been enjoying these recipes for an entire year.  Dang, people, these are good recipes.  Not only are they full of flavor, you have barely anything to feel guilty about - approximately 200 to 400 calories per serving and you're done.  Seriously, go try some of her recipes here.  And then buy her book.

And if you try just one recipe, try her Chickpea Piccata recipe.  I made it over the weekend and brought it to work for my lunches.  I added some chicken (not vegan, remember?), and ate it over arugula.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Seriously.  Somehow the flavors combine and give you rainbows in your mouth.  I read a lot of food blogs and become irritated when people get excited about a recipe online ("Try this!  OMG!") because then I have to wait hours until I can get home and try it myself, but at the risk of being annoying, I'll say it again - make this recipe NOW.  So good, so fast, so easy.  You could serve it over potatoes (or her Caulipots which I still have yet to try), or just eat it with arugula like I did.  Seriously.  Go now.  Then when you eat this for lunch (like I did today), you'll have extra calories that you can use up on the lemon meringue pie you baked over the weekend and will eat a slice of (like I will tonight).

Monday, June 3, 2013


lazy Sunday

A roundup of food happenings at our house...

A few Saturdays ago I really wanted something crispy and crunchy, and something with shrimp.  I thought long and hard about this, and wrote a recipe in my head that involved breading shrimp with panko and then baking it.  As much as I would like to think that I'm the first one to think of it, a quick google search proved me wrong.  There are no more real, original ideas, right?

I settled on this recipe, and modified it back to reality by using a whole egg and 2% milk.  I knew going into it that the seasoning looked a little on the bland side, and yikes, I was right.  Next time I'll amp up the flavorings for sure.  If we had eaten this shrimp on its own, the lack of flavor would have been more of an issue, but I served it with homemade remoulade, which more than made up for the flavor deficiency in the shrimp.  I typically use the remoulade recipe from this book (gosh how I love this book.  Have I told you that before?  I bought this at an antique mall - at the much missed Bojo's in Memphis - after our honeymoon to New Orleans and I looove it.  Love!  His little stories alone about his mom and grandmother are worth the price of the book, but the recipes are great as well). 

Also:  Mother's Day.  Let me just husband did so well.  As did the weather!  I told him I didn't want any gifts - just time with the two of them.  So that's exactly what we did.  We kicked off the weekend with brunch at Cafe Eclectic, and then we drove out to Shelby Farms to pick strawberries.  I told my husband that I want this to be just one of the many traditions that we start with A.  My grandmother took me to pick strawberries when I was young and I always remember that fondly.  After the berry picking (and A's first taste!), we had milkshakes at Wiles-Smith, and then we went home and I got to make jam while little A played in the kitchen with me.  That night, we grilled pork steaks and corn on the cob and enjoyed our deck and the nice weather.  On Sunday, my husband made me buttermilk waffle, bacon, and coffee.  Do you see a theme with this Mother's Day?

And then last weekend (yes, I'm still typing, I'm really sorry), there was a request put in for some homemade ice cream, so I made french vanilla ice cream using this recipe from my KitchenAid ice cream maker recipe booklet.  I know, way to branch out, right?  But I've made it before and it's so. so. good.  Does anyone else sort of gasp when they start pouring the custard into the mixer, like it won't all fit in there?  It always miraculously does, though.  And each time I make ice cream I think about the other recipes that I want to try, like this.  I'm also on the lookout for a pistachio ice cream (or gelato? custard?) recipe.  Any ideas out there?

Also, this is how I feel about coffee.  I wish every moment was a morning moment so I can just slowly sip good coffee and pick at a warm pastry.  Right?

Ok, one last link.  I made this brisket on Saturday night for some good friends (who are expecting!  Any day now, and our little boy will have a playmate!), and it turned out beautifully.  I didn't have any peach preserves on hand, but I did have canned peaches.  I tried to make them better by simmering them in butter and brown sugar for an hour.  It was a good stand in for the preserves, surprisingly!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March Miscellaneous

Mommy, why am I still wearing hats?  It's March!

I promised a report on those pink cookies that I made last week last month.  I'm afraid to say that I was a bit disappointed in them.  I think the cherry flavoring (the one thing that had intrigued me about that recipe!) really threw everything off...the flavor was subtle but I still felt like I was tasting icing mixed with cherry cough syrup.  I sent the majority of them to school with my husband (the students loved them of course, but what kids don't love cookies?), and the rest I have frozen: iced and ready to go, for the drop-in guest, since I doubt we'll eat them soon.  Not the worst cookies I've ever made, but...I don't think I'll be revisiting that recipe.  Sorry, Molly!

In other cooking news, I've really been interested in cooking more meat on the stovetop (as I've said before, I usually leave the meat to my grill-loving husband), so for the past few weekends, we've been indulging in some warm, fatty meals.  It's usually a combination of stewed/braised meat + grain/carb.  My recipes of choice have been:
  • Pork Vindaloo (Spicy Pork with Cinnamon), from How to Cook Everything (here is the original recipe, but I really like this adaptation - she added squash and raisins!) + rice
  • Beer Braised Short Ribs (here) + cheesy polenta

The spicy pork recipe is an absolute winner, which makes me glad that I ignored my inner cheapskate and shelled out the $10 for the cardamom spice.  A warning, though: the color of the final dish is a dismal, almost unappealing dark grey.  That's why I really liked the idea of adding squash (or onions?) to the mix for next time to add some color.

We did have one warm weekend somewhere near the end of February so I made Creamy Cabbage and Potatoes (here), and served it with Cheese Stuffed Grilled Flank Steak (you like how I capitalized that like it's an actual recipe?).  Whenever we put out sausage and cheese plates for dinner guests (or just ourselves, we love apps!), we'll sprinkle some Rendezvous seasoning on the sausage, so we thought why not adapt that for the steak?  We sprinkled the meat with the seasoning and then stuffed the steak with sharp cheddar.  Paired with the cabbage and potato dish, it was such a good combo!  We patted ourselves on the back for that one.

On the sweet side,  I made Spicy Date Bars from my absolute favorite cookbook (this one).  I've probably posted about it before, but every recipe I try out of it is a pure winner.  It seems like so many of the recipes  in the book involve dates, prunes, or raisins, so if those aren't your thing then you may not like it. 

I also made these Orange Chocolate Chip Ricotta muffins over the weekend.  The base batter was fantastic, and the orange flavor + chocolate was very good.  I think next time I'd use a combination of bittersweet or semi-sweet chips - milk chocolate was just too sweet, but I was trying to use up what's in my pantry (don't you love doing that?).  I also think another good combo would be to substitute walnuts for the chocolate chips.  I cut back on the sugar a bit and left off the glaze, and we didn't miss either.

P.S. Why is it still so cold??  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pink Cookies for Valentine's Day, and a Dutch Baby

We used to have the neatest bookstore here in Memphis.  It was about halfway between downtown and East Memphis and it was actually an old movie theatre that Elvis Presley used to frequent.  It had a big upper balcony that - from what I've heard - he used to rent out completely and then invite all of his buddies to watch movies with him.  Here is a neat link that suggests the term "Elvis has left the building" may have been shouted here for the first time.  Here's another link, if you're interested in the history.

So, back to the bookstore.  We loved frequenting this place because it was one of the few bookstores within the loosely defined midtown limits (read: less than a 10 minute drive from our house).  Plus, it was independently owned and my husband was always able to find great poetry there.  Considering our great love of this store, we were devastated when it was announced that it would be closing in late 2010.  Mad sales ensued, so we made sure to stop in every weekend or so to see what sort of deals we could grab.  Surprisingly, I found Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life in a discount pile by the door, marked at 50% off the already reduced price - down to $3.  Since I've been following her blog for awhile now, and was surely convinced that everyone around me did too and knew who she was, I was surprised that no one had snatched it up yet. 

That was in 2010.  I read the book cover to cover in about a day and a half - the writing is captivating, the stories are heartfelt and genuine, and she writes about food the way that I feel about it - that it's not just food; it's a link to our past, to our ancestry.  It's about building memories, and passing on traditions.  I feverishly bookmarked almost all of the recipes that she includes in the book, and...then I put it away.  And didn't actually make any of those recipes.  Until yesterday.

Because one of those recipes stuck with me.  Does that ever happen to you?  You have that one recipe that's been in the back of your mind, always hovering, whispering to be made.  For me, that recipe was Jimmy's Pink Cookies (and here).  The cookie dough recipe didn't strike me as anything particularly fancy, but the pink cream cheese icing, with hints of cherry or kirsch flavoring, is what sealed the deal.  I even went out and bought pure cherry extract a few weeks after reading the book, in anticipating of making the recipe soon.  I had good intentions, alright, but no follow through back then. 

These cookies also came about because I am stuck on the idea that now I have a son, I really need to make more of an effort to celebrate each holiday and these cookies seemed like the perfect treat for that.  (Don't worry, the baby didn't get any cookies this year.  I'm just gearing up for when he will!).  These cookies were made in small, drawn out, baby-friendly steps.  I mixed up the dough on Saturday, rolled and cut them out on Sunday morning, stuck them in the fridge on the baking sheets, and then baked them on Sunday night.  They are currently in my freezer, waiting to be iced.  (Side note: don't be like me and insist on using a barely 2" wide mini heart cookie cutter.  I ended up with, I don't know, 75 or more small hearts, and icing each one of them is going to be exhausting!.  I love mini cookies, but I don't love making them.  Hopefully their adorable-ness will be worth it).  I have yet to make the icing, but I will report back once I have them fully assembled and will let you know the result.  If any of you have small babies, you'll understand why this is a big undertaking.

Also of note: I ended up making Wizenberg's Dutch baby on Sunday morning.  Since I had pulled out her book to make the pink cookies, I found myself rereading the stories and recipes and was thrilled to see the Dutch baby one.  Weirdly enough, I had pulled another Dutch baby recipe to make that morning, but I didn't want to use my 10" cast iron skillet and the apples seemed like way too much work before 10 am.  This ended up being one of those ridiculously perfect recipes for that exact moment, because I had everything I needed, the Dutch baby batter came together in a matter of minutes, it fit into my 8" cast iron skillet, and the recipe was written for 2 servings.  Perfect for my husband and me (and baby - kidding!  No Dutch baby for him yet.  Can you tell that I just cannot wait for him to be able to eat real food with us?).  The recipe I linked to mentions using clarified butter for the topping, but you really don't need it.  I even skipped the lemon juice because I was lazy, but I'm sure it would be spectacular with that.  For us, all it needed was a liberal sprinkling of powdered sugar, and to be paired with a few pieces of salty bacon and a strong cup of coffee.  Sunday morning bliss, I tell you.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Ginger, Pear, and Walnut Cake

Feed me!

This girl is so happy to be eating again.  I unfortunately fell victim to the norovirus (or food poisoning? Does it matter?) last weekend and thought I'd never be able to eat anything again.  Nothing sounded good and the things that I did manage to choke down all tasted like cardboard.  Not fun.  Also not fun when you're breastfeeding a baby. 

But not this weekend!  I felt a million times better and couldn't get my hands on enough food.  I took advantage of little A's good mood on Saturday afternoon and simultaneously prepped ingredients for dinner and a dessert.  Also, can I mention how good my baby is?  If he's not hungry, he'll sit contentedly with me in the kitchen, watching my every move and cooing softly while I cook and bake.  It's a lovely time.  I'm hoping that some of this will rub off on him and he'll share my love of food.

Back to the food.  I had bookmarked this recipe for pork chops and scallion dressing awhile ago and decided this weekend was a great one to try it.  I ended up sautéing the scallions, ginger, and the leftover marinade in the pan with a big handful of mushrooms, and served that alongside the chops, all on a bed of napa cabbage and shredded carrots.  I'll be honest, I think the marinade was lacking in flavor - either that or I just didn't marinade it long enough.  We skipped the sweet potato fries because someone does not like them (I think he's crazy).

As for the dessert, I've been on such a ginger kick lately (I almost always have fresh ginger in our vegetable drawer, specifically for recipes like the one above!  Or, this one).  So it only made sense to bake this Ginger, Pear and Walnut cake (with some tweaks, of course).  I subbed in apples for the pears, and thought I'd be clever and bake it in two loaf pans instead of a bundt pan - that way, we could slice it up and pretend that it's perfectly suitable to eat as a breakfast bread.   I discovered that it didn't quite make enough batter to fill two loaf pans (or at least mine, which I think are would probably work with pans that are 8x4), so I ended up with two short and stout loaves of crumbly (but amazingly good) gingery cake breakfast bread.  If you're like me, and can justify eating cake for breakfast, than I highly recommend this, despite the short loaves.  I may cut back on the sugar next time, but as is, the recipe is a keeper.

Sunday was almost as enjoyable as Saturday, despite the fact that a certain little baby seems to be going through a three month growth spurt and insisted on eating every. single. hour.  Exhausting for momma!  Between feedings and Skyping with my parents (not at the same time, ha!) I managed to make Baked Ziti for dinner.  I followed the recipe as is, and it was good, although could probably use some doctoring up - maybe more red pepper flakes, or a ton more basil.  Either way, a hot and bubbly meal on Sunday night is almost always the perfect way to end the weekend.

I'm already plotting my next lineup of weekend recipes...any suggestions?  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Red Bean and Bacon Soup

Waiting for his oysters

Saturday started out rather bumpy.  Our best laid morning plans quickly went down the drain and instead were replaced by a trip to the minor med for my husband, who thought (and was correct) that he had a pretty nasty sinus infection.  I, of course, stayed home with little A.  Who knows what he would have caught in that waiting room?  Dysentery, probably.

But the meal we had on Saturday night made up for the rocky morning.  While my husband braved the minor med I putzed around in the kitchen, drank coffee, played with the baby (did I mention I love the mornings with him?  It's when he's in the best mood) and prepared the marinade for Chicken Satay.  I know, another Mark Bittman recipe...but I couldn't help it.  I had the other half of the chicken thighs in the freezer and Bittman's recipes are so foolproof that I couldn't turn it down.  And remember my last post when I said we were in a rut?  Well, I had a request for the same cabbage and carrot salad and the same glazed carrots to be served with the Satay.  So, maybe we're sliding into another rut again. 

Sunday morning called for buttermilk waffles and bacon since my husband was feeling so much better.  After we were finished (isn't is always after?), we rationalized this fatty, fatty meal by deciding to do next what we had originally planned to do on Saturday - go take a long walk down by the river.  With the baby.  And two dogs.  After that exertion (my goodness, the effort to pack up two dogs and a baby...exhausting), we decided to treat ourselves again to some oysters, beer, and fried okra at Flying Fish.  The baby enjoyed his oysters (kidding!).

And then I topped off my day by making this red beans and bacon soup.  I left out the tomatoes, celery, and Sherry and stuck to the 1-1/2 cups of carrots.  I also skipped cooking the bacon beforehand and just threw the bacon pieces in with the broth so it could cook along with the beans.  So I basically didn't follow the recipe at all, but the result was a nice, smoky, meaty bean stew.  Exactly what I wanted to have for my lunches this week since it is so cold today.  And for a second there I was going to type something about how healthy this was (in order to counteract the fried goodness and beer a few hours prior), but who am I trying to kid?  There was a lot of bacon.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Chicken Kebabs with Orange-Ginger Carrots and Carrot-Cabbage Salad

Mommy is a food nerd!

We had a bag of carrots and half a head of Napa cabbage rolling around in our vegetable bin this weekend and I was dead set on using them up for dinner.  I hate wasting food, even when it's something cheap like carrots and cabbage.  So I flipped through my favorite cookbook and miraculously not only found recipes that would use up those lingering vegetables, but the recipes actually worked together to create a cohesive meal.  Wha?

You see, usually I have no problem finding good recipes, but when it comes to putting a few together to make a meal that makes sense, well, I struggle.  This is because my idea of a great main dish (and the majority of my bookmarked recipes) is usually something vegetable-centered (a quiche! pasta! samosas!), while my husband usually requests meat.  So meat it is, if the weather is nice enough for grilling.  From there, my creativity seems to disappear.  Ok, for a about potatoes?  And a side Caesar salad?  Gah, how boring

But THIS meal... this was so refreshing, so different from our usual dinner formula.  The chicken thighs came together so easily (even though they were a bit tricky to skewer), and the carrots were great with the ginger and orange juice.  I'm still sort of giddy about how well this meal came together and that I was able to use up the stuff in our fridge (and even more excited that I brought the leftovers for lunch today).  Does that make me a nerd?  Probably.  

Bittman doesn't have the salad recipe posted, so here is my loose recipe below:

Carrot and Cabbage salad

- (2) carrots, grated
- one head Napa cabbage, shredded
- (3) scallions, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- soy sauce (I used about 1-1/2 or 2 tsp)
- lime juice (to taste, I used about 1 tbsp)
- 1/4 cup of peanut or other oil

Mix the vegetables together in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Mix the soy sauce, lime juice, and oil together in small bowl and right before serving, drizzle it over the vegetables.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Cooking with Baby

I'm back!  Confession: I always do my blog posts from my work computer (on my lunch break!  I swear!) so that is why there have been no updates...because I've been home with the bay-bee!  That's right, I had the little guy...6 lb, 3 oz on Nov 5th at 11:38 am.  I thought about typing out my birth story here but then thought better of it.  If anyone is still reading this blog, it's probably for the occasional link to a new recipe, not to read a birth story (right?). 

I will at least say this: the first two weeks were awful.  I spent the entire pregnancy reading up on pregnancy - this was dumb.  If you're pregnant and reading this - stop googling every pregnancy symptom and instead read up on breastfeeding and post partum blues/depression.  At least this is what my future self would have told my pregnant self about four months ago.  Ok, I'm done with the baby/pregnancy talk.  If you have questions, email me!  Because obviously I'm an expert, since I'm the mother of an eight-week old baby.  Ahem.  And honestly, this sounds so cliche, but it's true - I cannot imagine loving something more than I love this little boy.  After we made it through the first two weeks together, it only got better and better and before I knew it, I was truly enjoying it and felt like I knew what I was doing.  It also helps that he is extremely easy-going and really only fusses if he's hungry.  

In food-related news, it didn't take me long to get back into the kitchen.  Oh sure, we had our fair share of takeout and crappy food at the very beginning (because I was exhausted), but as time went on I was able to set up baby in his little bouncy seat in the kitchen and get right back to it.  Here is what I managed to make during my break. 
  • Chess pie, for Thanksgiving - the recipe came out of one of those church cookbooks that my mom gave to me.  I expected it to be like a version of chess squares (which I had never heard of before moving to the South), but I was wrong - it was more like a very sweet, dense and moist custard with a slightly crispy top layer.  I'd make this again.  Here are some similar recipes.
  • Buttermilk pie, for a Saturday night dinner.  Also from a church cookbook (ah, I love those), but here is a similar recipe, and here is another one.  This was a loftier, more egg-y custard of a pie than the chess pie.  I think I'd make this again but I'd like to play with the recipe a bit.
  • Moroccan chicken pot pie.  I double this recipe so I could get two pies out of one effort, and we gave one pie to our neighbor.  I've made this countless times and it's just so good.  Bookmark this one.
  • Chocolate Carmel Tart, from the Chocolate and Zucchini cookbook.  We took this up to St. Louis for Christmas and it was a hit.  Although we had so much dessert (cookies, more cookies, this tart, and a yule log cake), we barely made a dent in it.  Side note: if you don't have this cookbook, you really should go buy it.  It's got some really nice, quality recipes in it that I've got bookmarked. 
  • Rosemary Roasted Cashews, and Feta Salsa, also for Christmas (I think I linked to both of these a few Christmases ago, but oh well.  Both recipes are SO good, it's worth repeating them).
  • Pot stickers.  Wow, just wow.  I wanted to get out of my comfort zone a bit and try some new recipes from different cuisines, so I made this last Saturday night.  I'd suggest doubling or even tripling the recipe, and then freezing half for another time.  It's a bit time consuming filling all of those wrappers, but yikes this was so good.  We served them with hot mustard and chili dipping sauce. 
  • Baked Shrimp Scampi, for our quiet New Year's Eve.  I've also made this numerous times and it never disappoints.  Warning: it's quite rich.  We had lots of leftovers, so  last night I tossed it with some elbow macaroni and I have to say that I think I prefer it with the pasta.  It helps to cut the richness of it.  Either way, it's a perfect recipe.
Having said all of that, now that it's the New Year I'd love some ideas on what else to dive into.  I loved making those pot stickers, so I'm looking for more ideas on what else to try.  Do you have any favorite recipes of different cuisines that you could recommend?