Prep

Tomorrow I have dinner guests. I am working tomorrow so I’ve prepped everything ahead of time. I washed and cut butter lettuce and put it in my prettiest (and only) wooden bowl. I cut sweet potatoes and put them in water. Soaking potatoes in cold water does something with starch and makes them more crisp and delicious. I wrapped figs in bacon and skewered them with toothpicks. I skewered them because the bacon was thick-cut, otherwise you can just put them cut side down. The chicken parts are double-bagged and resting comfortably in their marinade (which I hope doesn’t suck because it was impulsive). I also made apple frozen yogurt. I am trying to like frozen yogurt but I don’t, I just don’t. It got the roommate seal of approval and so it will be served.

Also, I quit my second job today at a catering company. Working seven days a week became overwhelming. Today, I was going to learn how to amount for food per person at the market. I should have stayed for that lesson. I amounted wrong for this dinner and have too much food but more free time.

Chicken marinade:

1 cup white wine (again, from roommate)

1 cup yogurt

pinch cinnamon

generous pinch saffron

about a tspn cumin

salt & pepper

juice of 1 lemon

tbsp honey

a few cloves garlic, minced

Apple frozen yogurt:

1 4oz container greek yogurt

1/2 cup vanilla sugar

some cinnamon

2 golden apples

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp honey

Preparation: Melt butter in a skillet and saute the apples with cinnamon and honey. Put in a big bowl and  let cool. Add remaining ingredients. Chill for awhile or overnight. Make in ice cream machine. Enjoy, or not.

 

Revision: soaking sweet potatoes was a bad idea. They turned to mush so I made them into soup (which was fantastic).

Fear and Frustration

Cooking brings me joy but it can also be a struggle. Like all things in life, dishes do not always turn out as you had hoped or planned. When this happens I usually become frustrated and angry. Becoming angry with myself not only feels terrible but prevents me from figuring out what went wrong and how to fix it. As an act of love and care towards myself this has to stop. I am human, I make mistakes, I move on, and I am better. My mom says, “make different mistakes” and I like this better than “learn from your mistakes” because it sounds like less work; I feel free to make new mistakes and trust that the learning proces will occur organically.

Here is a comic I drew about a month ago when I went to war with granola…

Chicken Cutlets as Anger Management

Bad day? Make chicken cutlets for dinner. You get to hit them repeatedly with a mallet.

Chicken cutlets are not difficult or time consuming but they do involve several steps. Breading and frying is about being organized. Anyone can do it.

Ingredients:

one boneless, skinless chicken breast

homemade bread crumbs (about one cup)

flour (about one cup)

two eggs

parsley

vegetable or peanut oil

salt & pepper

Preparation:

Cut the chicken breast in half. Cut each half down the middle (if you need step by step pictures see yumsugar.com). Flatten each piece with a mallet and let go of your frustrations from the day. If you’re afraid of salmonella (I am not) you can put the chicken between wax paper or plastic wrap before smashing.

Now setup your breading station with three dishes: flour,  eggs (beaten), and breadcrumbs (add chopped parsley, salt & pepper). Use one hand for wet and one for dry so you do not coat your hands in breading. Dredge each cutlet in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Set aside.

Get a big skillet out. Pour in some oil about an inch or two deep. Heat on high flame. Pan fry the cultlets in batches. Remove and set on plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. Serve with lemon wedge and/or ketchup. If you want to go the distance (and I don’t) you can make them into chicken parmasean.

On the side: saute spinach with red pepper flakes, lemon juice, olive oil, salt & pepper.

Also, my brother sent me this video of Jamie Oliver trying to scare kids off chicken nuggets.

Pumpkin Soup

I got home from work and made pumpkin soup. The pumpkin puree was left over from the ice cream- I hate throwing things away. We have cupcakes, ice cream, sorbet, and cookie dough in the house so I was not about to make more dessert.

My dear friend Rachael was my taste-tester. The apple was added last minute because we thought acidity would brighten the dish up. In the recipe I tell you to saute it in the beginning and you should.

Ingredients:

pumpkin puree

chicken stock

apple (I used a gala- maybe you want to peel it but I did not)

red onion

heavy cream

garlic

fresh sage

olive oil

salt & pepper

Preparation:

Heat olive oil over medium flame in a pot. Throw in the apple, then onion, then garlic, then sage. Hit it with some salt & pepper. Cook until tender. Add pumpkin puree (maybe I had 3-4 cups). Add stock (maybe I had 4-6 cups). Like all soup: bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Puree using immersion blender or in small batches in a food processor or blender. Taste to adjust seasoning. Add some cream. Enjoy.

Notes: Let’s talk about one of my favorite tools, the immersion blender. I acquired this tool sometime during college from my parents. My parents have a surplus of kitchen gadgets they keep in the garage. This is where I shop for kitchen appliances. The immersion blender was one of my best finds. I just googled it and they seem expensive- maybe you can get one on ebay? Anyway they are a poor cook’s best friend. You can make soup out of the cheapest vegetables (or fruits) and add any spices. You can do this in one pot. Think on this.

Thankful

In my first year of college I met my best friends. Rachael and I met in a writing class. At first I hated her for no good reason, then we became soul-mates. Breetel and I met through an ex-boyfriend. He and I broke up but Breetel and I stayed together. These women make me a better person and without their love and support life would be impossible.

So, when Rachael told Breetel and me that she was joining us in San Francisco we decided to celebrate with a feast. Nothing says home like Thanksgiving. We couldn’t find cranberries so we made a cherry sauce. We couldn’t find a suitable bird so we made pork. Some dishes turned out better than others but it was more about being together like the real holiday.


Cherry Sauce:

frozen cherries

stout

1/4 cup sugar

nutmeg

cinnamon

cloves

ginger

Put cherries in a saucepan and cover with stout. Add spices and sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for awhile to let the booze burn off. Taste to adjust seasoning and do not be afraid to get heavy-handed with the spices. The stout was from a left over bottle of Lagunitas but paired nicely with the flavor of the dark cherries. Make this. Put it on everything.

Pork Shoulder:

boneless pork shoulder

yellow onion

celery

sage

red wine

salt & pepper

Put meat in roasting pan. Rub with sage, salt & pepper. Pour some wine over it- Breetel used a left over quarter of a bottle. Roughly chop the vegetables and throw them in the pan. Cook in 400 degree oven covered with foil. Breetel, my roommate and sous chef, put it in the oven while I was at work. This piece of meat was about 2.7 lbs. We cooked it for just under two hours and let it rest. It was overcooked for my taste. Oh well.

Classic Stuffing:

baguette

celery, diced

yellow onion, diced

mushrooms, sliced

butter

sage

salt & pepper

chicken stock

Cut bread into cubes. Put in large bowl and set aside. Saute vegetables over medium heat in large skillet with butter, sage, salt & pepper. Add them to cubed bread. Add stock to bread and vegetables- enough to make it moist. Pour into butter baking dish. Bake four about an hour at 400 degrees (with pork). The stuffing was underdone for my taste. Honestly, I’ve got a funky oven and could really use a thermometer.

Pumpkin Ice Cream and Ginger Cookie Sandwiches

For the pumpkin ice cream I adapted a recipe from David Lebovitz (the king of ice cream). The only difference was I ommitted the liquor, did not measure spices, and substitutes molasses and white sugar for the dark brown.

For the ginger cookies I adapted a recipe from allrecipes.com (for the people, by the people). I also did not measure spices- I cannot be bothered. I used butter- margarine is something I don’t do. I rolled them in vanilla sugar because I could.

Here’s the whole feast complete with a taco truck Rachael brought from LA…

Something else you should know: I made brussels sprouts that were inedible. I prepared them very simply with butter, pecans, salt & pepper. Even though they looked great, they were rotten and tasted a thousand years old. I served a mixed green salad instead. Losing my pecans was tragic but these things happen. Let it go.

Pasta with Quick Tomato Sauce

Quick and cheap. This is a variation on a quick fresh tomato sauce. I added cream because I had it in the house and white wine because things started sticking to the pan. The result was delicious and the last minute additions made it feel special.

Note: there are no proportions. I cooked for two so I used a handful of pasta and about two cups of cherry tomatoes chopped. Just eyeball it. If it does not turn out the way you like better luck next time.

 

Ingredients:

olive oil

red pepper flakes

garlic

rosemary

salt & pepper

tomatoes (I used cherry)

cream

white wine (I used my roommate’s)

pasta (I used spaghetti)

Instructions:

First, get a pot of salted water going for the pasta.

In a large saucepan heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Chop the tomatoes and mince the garlic. Throw the garlic, the crushed red pepper, and the rosemary in the saucepan. Seriously take a moment to breathe in that amazing smell. Then add the tomatoes, salt & pepper. Cook a little bit. Add wine to deglaze the pan. Finish with a splash of cream. Taste and adjust as you see fit.

Cook your pasta, drain, toss with the sauce. Eat.

Don’t be confused- the glass of red wine is for drinking not cooking.

 

 

 

Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream

Tomorrow I am going out to dinner to celebrate a new friend’s birthday. Cupcakes are the perfect gift. For these mocha cupcakes I used a basic chocolate cake recipe that my mom gave me and added espresso powder (which my mom also gave me, thanks momma). I love this chocolate cake recipe because it’s adaptable and you can make it in one bowl! I hope my friend likes mocha.

For the chocolate cake:

1 3/4 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 1/4 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla

3 eggs

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add butter, milk, and vanilla, beat to blend. Then turn up the speed and beat on high for two minutes. Add eggs and beat on high-speed for additional two minutes. Spoon into lined muffin pans or you can bake it as a layer cake in two 9″ pans lined with parchment. Bake in a 350 degree oven- about twenty minutes for cupcakes and forty minutes for 9″ rounds. Test with a toothpick or see if the cake has shrunk from the sides of the pan.

For the frosting:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsp espresso powder

3 tbsp heavy cream

Beat it all together until light and fluffy.

In this weeks news: academia and the military join forces to save the American honeybees. Read on…