Friday, February 7, 2014

Is this thing on?

Yep.  Let's pretend this five month delay never happened.

New things happening in my kitchen: the baking edition

I was asked to make cookies for a friend's "we got married so let's have some people over and not call it a reception because it's not a reception but it's a reception" party.  I made three dozen classic chocolate chip (from this recipe which has never failed me and which I have ever so slightly adapted) and three dozen cranberry white chocolate chip cookies (using the same dough as a base).  I also made three dozen sugar cookies frosted with white royal icing and adorned with the new couple's initials (those took forever but they looked great).  I am never quite happy with the taste of sugar cookies but I've tweaked this recipe according to some of the comments and now am pretty satisfied.  They always look great though, even if I spend hours frosting them -- the crowd reaction is worth it.  Finally, I made some amazing pecan squares from a recipe in the Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook by Christopher Kimball.  

I also co-hosted a baby shower for a friend and made most of the food.  Here is the menu:
-bruschetta (homemade tomato topping, toasted the bread)
-caprese toasts (with basil picked from my window plant, thus far the hardiest of all my plant projects and still going strong)
-steak bites (marinated in soy sauce/worcestershire/pepper/garlic)
-giant cheese plate (brie, jarlsberg, goat cheese, with dried fruit and crackers and apricot preserves)
-meatballs in marinara sauce (cheated, used frozen meatballs and jarred sauce)
-sliced sausage in BBQ sauce (cheated, cut up some sausage from the store and used bottled sauce)
-pasta salad (pasta, olives, sliced salami and pepperoni, red onion, cherry tomatoes, in a balsamic dressing)
-finger sandwiches (three varieties: cucumber, egg salad, and blt), crusts cut off of course
-mini-wedge salad skewers (iceberg lettuce, cherry tomato, bacon, with a bowl of blue cheese dressing for dipping) (these were a huge hit)
-potato chips with ranch dip
-veggie tray with hummus
-fruit plate

And the desserts:
-mini chocolate cupcakes with pink frosting (cheated, used box cake mix and canned frosting)
-chocolate chip cookies
-cranberry white chocolate chip cookies (people love this flavor combo)
-sugar cookies shaped and frosted like daisies, butterflies, and tulips
-raspberry jam sandwich cookies (used the sugar cookie dough for these)
-a massive cake (I did not make this but it was really really good)

If there's anything this shower taught me, it's that I love cooking for a large crowd.  I also love assembly line style baking and a big project.  I also hate cleaning up.

That's all for now.  More later on recent kitchen adventures, unless I am again afflicted with mysterious amnesia that causes me to forget my fledgling food diary.

Friday, August 9, 2013


This is Bertie.  The only tomato to grow on my tomato plant, Bert.  The lone ranger.  The solitary fruit.  The chosen one.

He better taste good, because after the pot, the soil, the starter, and the cage, at this point he's basically a $20 tomato.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

New tools

Several weeks ago my cookie scoop (Farberware, purchased for $5.99 at Big Lots, one tablespoon measure) broke. Like, totally just quit. The little blade had somehow come unhinged and despite much sweat, cursing, and assistance from T., that thing was not going back into its place. Alas, all good things come to an end.

That cookie scoop probably scooped over a dozen dozen cookies. maybe twenty dozen cookies. I'm not super good at math but I'm pretty sure that comes out to about almost no cents a dozen. Despite the incontrovertible economy of the scoop I resisted buying another...and regretted it deeply when, last weekend, I had to drop chocolate chip cookies onto baking sheets using the ancient art of "two spoons." Such rudimentary technique simply could not stand. I resolved to purchase another cookie scoop (aka disher, to my less cookie minded friends) as soon as I was able.

Well, the baking gods had their kind eye in guiding my non-buying hand, because my angel of a mother in law sent me a brand! new! cookie scoop! in her birthday gift to me, opened last Thursday and triumphantly wielded by me this night as I bake a late night batch of peanut butter cookies while keeping T. company as he slogs through document review.

In short: I vow to never bake cookies without a cookie scoop again. The sheer efficiency is unbelievable and the uniform results far more pleasing to the eye. As Scarlett said "I'll never go [without a cookie scoop] again!"

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Recent Projects

I'm growing a tomato plant. Well, attempting to grow. My previous experience with green things (Basel, my basil plant from three summers past; my orchid from last year; our three indoor trees (Nicki, Layla, and I forget); the list goes on. I don't know if Bert (that's his name, Bert) will bear any fruit but so far he's doing ok. A few of his leaves look peaky but since I am not a gardener I have resorted to alternating watering days and also giving him words of encouragement. He lives in a pot on the deck.

I've also found the one chocolate chip cookie; yes, the one. It is Alice Currah's recipe from Sweet Savory Life and it hasn't failed me yet. I'm getting perilously close to having the recipe totally memorized.

I bought several varieties of dried chiles at a Mexican grocery (which also has super good tacos that are served at a handful of tables in the back). I'm gearing up for the day when I make some real deal Texas chili (no beans, all meat). My window is closing because chili is most definitely not a summer food.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Adventures, lately

Having not checked in here in quite some time, I thought I would just make a brief record of some of the things I have (semi) successfully attempted in the kitchen.

1) Fish.  I am usually quite leery of cooking fish, but a growing consciousness of how important it is to maintain one's health led me to pick up a package of tilapia filets at the store.  I steamed them in foil packets with thin slices of lemon, onion, potato, and chopped kale on top.  T. loved it and said he could eat it twice a week! Baby steps.

2) Soft pretzels.  I made them! I did it! And they taste great, dipped in mustard or just ripped up and eaten out of hand.

3) Innumerable cookies. I tried a number of different recipes and they've all been great (duh, they're cookies).  Although I've made cookies twice now and forgotten some kind of random ingredient (once salt, once vanilla). It really just goes to show you that even as I have grown much more comfortable in the kitchen, a little complacency can lead to a little inattention can lead to cookies missing that subtle kiss of salt.

4) New banana bread recipe.  My go-to recipe has changed several times: I was a devotee of Molly Wizenberg's (Orangette) chocolate chip banana bread with cinnamon crumb topping. Then I started using Florence Chang's recipe from Flour bakery.  Now I use a recipe I got from a copy of Williams-Sonoma's Home-Baked Comfort by Kim Laidlaw called Super Banana Bread.  It's awesome.

5) Bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with Manchego cheese.  Do I need to say anything else about these?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy by the numbers

During Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, I made the following:

32 tomato-mozarella-olive skewers (eyeball skewers for potluck)
16 brownies
13 pumpkin muffins
3 small loaves of bread
1 pizza
1 batch of pumpkin seeds
1 pumpkin, carved

Achieved only because we were extremely fortunate and never lost power. The lights flickered a few times, and rain absolutely drenched our area for probably 48 hours straight, but at least we are not contending with 7-10 day outages like some people in my family who dealt with Sandy in central NJ.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Crockpot

Yes, we have discovered the crock pot.

I have never owned a crock pot in my life; however I fortunately married a man whose mother allows none of her children to leave home crock-pot-less. Therefore, we are the proud owners of one large hunter camo print crock pot. There's something about the deep woods camo that just screams "I am delicious!"

Because the crock pot definitely does make delicious foods. Its first use was for some pulled chicken, made for a football viewing party. It turned out deeeeeelicious and it stayed hot the whole time! Easy peasy. Thus, I am using it again for the crockpot pulled chicken to be served on delightfully soft potato rolls.

This was a boring post. I'll just link to the recipe here: