Monthly Archives: April 2012

Cooking Favorites Food

Guest Post: Creamy Zucchini Soup

My wedding anniversary’s coming up, so I just had a flashback to the first time I was going to cook for my mother-in-law, and my then-fiance just let it slip that his mother “used to run a cooking school in France.” Oh. Thanks for letting me know, because the last time I trained at the Cordon Bleu was never.

Needless to say, my mother-in-law is an amazing cook. I’ll be putting forks on the table or something and then turn around to her making a flambe of some sort that, had I tried, would have resulted in loss of eyebrows and hair. She’s also a well-known art journalist, whereas I am a famous…uh, let me get back to you on that one.

So when she said she’d share a recipe for my blog, I was excited. And she has shared one that even I, trained only by cookbooks and the seat of my pants, can execute.

*  * *

GUEST POST: MY MOTHER-IN-LAW GEORGINA

Here is an addition to the SOUP KITCHEN that is so darn easy that it seems unfair, if not outright EVIL. I mean, how can you possibly produce a delicious soup with just TWO ingredients? (Not counting water, salt and pepper). And one you can have hot or cold?

My family has forbidden me to say “this is soooo easy” so let me just say, this is not difficult. Not even a tiny bit difficult. In fact, a child could make it. And kids generally love it!

Ingredients for four:

Three average size zucchini (we in Britain call them courgettes, which must be French originally, showing how multicultural we are…)

three squares of Kiri, or Philadelphia cream cheese

water, salt, pepper

Er- that’s it.

 

Wash the zucchini, top and tail them, slice into one inch rounds, just cover with water, season, boil until soft.

Use a wand blender to liquidize until smooth with the cream cheese (I use low fat but of course it tastes better with full fat). Adjust seasoning.

That’s it! You can serve hot, sprinkled with chopped chives, basil or parsley; or cold in small glasses as a pre-starter.

* * *

Thanks Georgina! And before we close I just had to share one of the shots that I took. As you’ve probably guessed, I do my own photography and styling (with lighting courtesy of the sun). I was trying to unwrinkle the cloth under the soup but it was stubborn, so I tried sliding myself under the table stretching out the fabric, holding an ab-crunch position to stay out of camera view, while using the remote function on the camera. It didn’t work out so well.

CREAMY ZUCCHINI SOUP

Ingredients

  • 3 zucchini
  • 3 oz cream cheese
  • water (enough to cover zucchini in pot)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Slice the tops and tails off the zucchini and cut into 1 inch rounds. Place in a pot and fill with water enough to just cover the zucchini. Season with a dash of salt and boil until soft, about 15 minutes.

Using a blender, blend the zucchini and water mixture until smooth. Add in the cream cheese and blend to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4.

Baking Food

Dolphin Cake Pops (and a Cake Pop Trick)

What are the chances that a bird poops on me twice in 30 minutes? And what are the chances that that happens AND the Winklevii become VCs? 100% apparently. (Though, having lived through a couple of fundraises, I would say in general that the likelihood of getting funding is generally somewhere between the Winklevii becoming VCs and getting pooped on twice in 30 minutes.)

It’s enough to make you want to eat a cake pop.

The girls and I made some recently. And I discovered a new trick. See, the candy coating hardens fairly quickly into something that requires a hammer and chisel to remove. So this time, I put the candy coating in a little ziplock baggie, and then slid that into a mug, folding the mouth of the bag over the top of the mug. Did you know bags had mouths?

So what’s cool about this is that you after you’re done with the coating for the day, you can just pull the ziplock out of the mug, zip it up, and plunk it back in when you’re ready to work with it again. This time, I added in a teaspoon of shortening to help the coating go on a little smoother.

Maybe everyone else already knew this.

Anyway, we made dolphins. Bakerella has great detailed instructions on how to make pops on her site, but here are the basics. First you bake a cake. Let it cool. Then, crumble it into a large bowl.

You may have noticed above that I grew two more hands to do this more efficiently.

Next, squish the cake together with some frosting. Again, see Bakerella for expert advice, but if you use canned frosting, use no more than 3/4 of a can or the pops will be too slippery to stay on the sticks.

Now go to your local police station before you wash your hands and see what happens.

Next, shape them into balls…or in this case, dolphin-ish things. Stick them in the fridge to chill overnight.

When the dolphin-ish things are firm, take them out five or so at a time and dip. We decorated these with just candy coating and edible pen.

Maybe you can’t tell these are dolphins. Some of them have tumors. Our waters are very polluted nowadays.

Some look like T-Rex. I believe he was an ancestor.

Oh, whatever. Cake pops are for eating. So we ate them.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to enter the *nora fleming* giveaway! You get an autographed rectangular platter (you will faint from its cuteness) plus three adorable minis that will change your life and make you lose weight.

 

Lifestyle

Nora Fleming (Autographed!) Giveaway!

Squeal! I’m doing a giveaway and I’m giddy because — gasp — it’s a nora fleming giveaway! And if you’re looking for a Mother’s Day gift, this will arrive just in time.

Do you know someone who has the perfect decor for every occasion? A tasteful starfish for the seaside barbeque. A well-worn catcher’s mitt for the team party. A festive sombrero for the Mexican fiesta.

I was not that woman.

Until I met Janice. Janice can tie bows and wrap presents the Tiffany way. Janice does not wear sweatpants. Janice introduced me to nora fleming.

And now, with nora fleming‘s gorgeously adorable and life-changing platters, I am that woman (but I wear sweatpants). How it works: you get a nora fleming platter. Or three. You insert an appropriate hand-painted mini (they’re adorable little ceramic pieces) into it to transform your classic platter into an occasion-specific serving dish. Your friends are impressed and kowtow in admiration.

And better yet, the winner of this giveaway gets an autographed nora fleming rectangular platter plus three adorable minis (bluebird, apple and butterfly) — an $80 value. Except add a bunch more to that because it’s personally autographed by Nora.

 

Here’s how it works:

  • You have up to 5 chances to win. Just follow the Rafflecopter instructions below to complete your entries.
  • The giveaway will end on Friday, May 4 at midnight Eastern Standard Time.
  • The winner will be randomly selected through Rafflecopter and notified by email after the drawing. The winner will squeal.

Good luck!

 

read more »

Cooking Food

Eggs Benedict California

I’m ashamed to say that I missed National Eggs Benedict Day, but I am recovering from a malady for which I am taking Mucinex DM for cough and chest congestion. And though I know there is nothing hotter than hearing a woman talk about taking Mucinex DM, I will move along to the recipe at hand.

I was inspired by eggs benedict (can you say eggs benedict without saying Eggs Benedict Arnold? I wish Benedict Arnold were Patrick Henry though — you know, “Give me liberty or give me eggs”) but wanted something a little more lively. The sharp and creamy taste of the goat cheese is a nice complement to the carmelized tomatoes and lemony hollandaise — it just works.

First, make the hollandaise sauce — I like this easy version that you make in a blender.  This version is for 4-6 servings, so quarter it if you’re just cooking for yourself. Set it aside.

Toast both sides of an English muffin. While they’re hot, spoon some crumbled goat cheese on them like so:

Next, poach two eggs. Do not poach any giraffes in Africa. If you’re not sure how to poach eggs, click here for instructions.  When the eggs are done, lift them out of the water with a slotted spoon, let it drain (I wiped the bottom of my spoon with a dish towel to get rid of excess water) and place them on top of the goat cheese while hot, so the cheese begins to melt.

Hm, looks like I stopped taking pictures after that. I blame Mucinex DM.

Slice some sweet tomatoes (I used campari cocktail tomatoes, but some nice big cherry tomatoes would work nicely too), heat up a splash of oil in a pan, and put the tomatoes face down in the hot oil for about a  minute, til they start to caramelize a bit. Flip them over and let them cook on the other side for another minute. Remove the tomatoes from the pan and spoon them over the eggs and muffins.

Slice up half an avocado, and put it on top. Drizzle your lemony hollandaise sauce over everything. I had some fennel fronds so I snipped some leaves over it all for garnish. Enjoy!

EGGS BENEDICT CALIFORNIA

Begin with the hollandaise sauce; recipe found here. This recipe makes 4 servings, so adjust accordingly depending on your serving size. Set it aside.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 English muffin, halves separated (for a gluten-free version, use gluten-free muffins)
  • 4 tsp crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 3 campari cocktail tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tsp oil
  • (optional) fennel leaves for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Toast the English muffin. While toasting, poach eggs (for instructions on poaching, click here).

Remove English muffin halves from the toaster and place cranny-side up. Sprinkle goat cheese across the faces, and top with poached eggs, one on each half.

Heat the oil for a minute and place the tomato halves cut-side down in the oil for a minute until it begins to caramelize. Flip the tomatoes and allow to cook for another minute on the other side.

Slice the avocado half into long slices lengthwise and place between the eggs. Garnish with fennel leaves if desired, drizzle hollandaise sauce on top and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 1 serving.

Cooking Food Lifestyle

Guest Post: Super Lucky Charms

I have a special treat for you today: a guest blogger! Richard from HumorOutcasts was a high school classmate of mine. When he mentioned that he would be willing to eat any of the dishes I describe on this site if I paid him $100, I was touched.  He assured me that, though not a professional chef, he has a superb mastery of the culinary arts, and I believed him.

I give you: Richard.

GUEST POST BY RICHARD SPALL OF HUMOROUTCASTS

Sandi and I are great friends. We never let any more than 24 years or so go between conversations, even if the last one might have been: “Hey, um, did you drop this pencil?” So when she mentioned that I might be able to write a guest spot on her blog, I jumped at the chance. Yes, I am professional writer who has earned over $20 over his lifetime, but I didn’t think I should rest on my laurels. So I wrote up one of my favorite recipes and told Sandi I had something for her to post.

Me: “I’ve got something to post for my guest blog spot!”

Sandi: “What? Oh, I was just being polite. That’s not necessary.”

Me: “But I spent 12 minutes on it.”

Sandi: “No… really, it’s quite all right.”

But once I explained that I was a professional writer, whose work can be found at the insanely popular HumorOutcasts, soon there was an awkward silence…followed by lot of crying and apologizing, which soon became begging. And finally, once I agreed to stop crying and never bother her again, she agreed to post my recipe.

When it comes to my own library of recipes, I like to focus on quality over quantity. Today I’m going to share with you one of my favorites:

SUPER LUCKY CHARMS

Ingredients

*  Box of Lucky Charms (preferably one with some kind of toy inside, or at least a maze or some trivia on the back)
*  Package of Pre-cooked bacon (why not?)

Preparation
Open the package of bacon and separate 2 slices of bacon. Cook those first so that you can eat bacon as soon as possible. Then cook the remaining package of bacon and eat that. Now you are ready for the main course.

The average box of Lucky Charms maintains a ratio of “tasty marshmallow stuff”-to-”brown healthy stuff” of about 1-to-4. This simply will not do.You might be lucky to have a bowl of these, but wouldn’t you rather be “super lucky”?

Get the largest bowl in the house. Measure out 4 cups of marshmallow bits. Pour them into the bowl. Measure out 4 cups of the healthy brown stuff. Throw three of the cups into your dog’s food bowl or the bird feeder. Put the remaining cup in the bowl. Mix thoroughly to dilute brown stuff.

You probably remember the leprechaun saying “pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers”! Turns out that the lineup is now pink hearts, red balloons, orange shooting stars, rainbows, maybe that’s a horseshoe… and I don’t know what that yellow one is, but it’s magically delicious. It doesn’t matter. Alternatively, you could separate out the marshmallow types and use an equal number of each… but if you did that, what on earth is wrong with you?

Add milk at your preference. Season with powdered sugar to taste.

1 serving.

Cooking Food

Sunny Side Baconwich

It’s a rainy weekend and one that requires knitwear with elastic waistbands. And a delicious breakfast that involves hardly any effort at all, so that I can focus on more important things like whether or not I should get bangs.

My younger daughter had the flu and passed it along to my husband, while her sister and I have been hand-washing with Macbeth-like intensity. This was not the spring break we had imagined, but on the plus side we’re getting our money’s worth on our mortgage with the time spent indoors.

Onto today’s meal. My husband made this today, so I feel kind of bad for being in my elastic waistband and not making him breakfast either. Well, I did make a breakfast that my daughter and I ate, so to be fair, this was second-breakfast, and I think, comfort food at its best. Here’s the recipe:

SUNNY SIDE BACONWICH

Ingredients

  • 1 whole wheat English muffin
  • 2 slices bacon, cut in half (I like uncured and nitrite-free)
  • 2 eggs
  • butter (optional)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preparation

Toast both halves of a whole wheat English muffin. If desired, butter the muffins after toasting.

Fry up two pieces of bacon over medium heat, turning occasionally until cooked and edges are curled; remove and drain on a paper towel and allow to cool to crisp further. Pour off all but about a tablespoon of the bacon fat.

Crack egg into pan and cook over medium heat until edges are crispy and begin to turn up. For details on how to prepare sunny-side up eggs, click here.

Place the bacon slices on the English muffin and slide cooked eggs on top. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

1 serving.

Favorites Lifestyle Travel

Peacock Break

I’ve been trying really hard to improve my food photography. Today, I took a picture that was so bad that I had to delete it right away so that my eyes wouldn’t bleed. The good news is that I’ve been having better luck with peacocks. More so than peas.

Almost like a tasty stew, right? And this one I would wear to the Oscars:

It’s spring break season around the nation and my cousin and his family are visiting from New Jersey. I think his daughter has a future in product placement judging by the way she’s advertising that orange.

When I’m with peacocks, which you’ll be surprised to know is not that often, I’m most struck by how blue their bodies are. They are so blue.

I wasn’t kidding when I said blue. Well, except for this guy:

He was not blue at all. But the others were very blue indeed. So blue that we had to do two days of peacocks. The first day, my younger daughter was home with the flu.

Poor little pipsqueak couldn’t see the peacocks even though she was kind of dressed like them. Her older sister, who claims to be able to talk to animals, befriended one in particular. I like how the fencing looks in this picture. In real life bird poop is kind of gross, but in pictures? Rustic.

My mom and dad were with us too, and I got to be in a picture that my cousin took. My daughter was mad that she had to be away from her peacock friend for ten seconds.

I like this peacock who runs the general store in this outlaw town:

On Day 2, my youngest was feeling well enough to look for some peacocks of her own. First she befriended a female.

Eventually, she held court with a bunch of them.

Don’t trucks look better with peacocks around them?

I’ll close for now with this. I’m not really sure what it is, but it seems like a good way to head into the weekend. I’ll want to get back to the food soon…do you have any favorite photography tips to share with me?

Cooking Food

Gingered Kale and Bok Choy

 

Our friends Lew and Kim from business school were coming out west with their kids for spring break, so I wanted to start thinking about the food.

Me: Anything you guys don’t eat? I was planning on cow eyeballs wrapped in bacon but just wanted to check.

Lew: We only eat wild grown grass-fed eyeballs.

We were planning a day at the pool so I had to prep a meal that wouldn’t require too much work once we got back. Our local farm is bursting with kale and bok choy, and so is my fridge, so I went for this quick and simple but healthy and tasty side dish. I’m sad to say that I served it with steaks that did not come with eyeballs in the package.

You’ll need some bok choy, kale, ginger root and cilantro:

I prepped the kale ahead of time by separating the leaves from the tough center rib. Just hold it upside down by the stem and run a sharp knife along either side of the rib. I like to pretend when I’m doing this like I’m an ER surgeon. So I am deft, decisive and quick. But not too quick. Better to be the surgeon than the patient.

Chop up the kale and bok choy into rough 1-inch pieces. Mince a tablespoon of ginger, and finely chop a 1/4 cup of cilantro.

That’s all the prep! Now you can go to the pool with your friends fully dressed and take pictures of them from the sidelines because you refuse to get into the water unless it’s 100 degrees outside:

And then come back and look longingly at these glasses because two years ago you developed a tragic allergy to red wine.

So you might as well start cooking. Heat up some oil in a pan over high heat — I’m Chinese, so I have to use a wok. When it’s nice and hot, throw the ginger in and let it cook for about 30 seconds. You will see that the ginger appears to be delighted to be swimming in an oil bath, and may jump around a bit.

Next, toss the bok choy and kale into the pan, stirring quickly and constantly. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the greens while they’re cooking.

Add in a teaspoon of low sodium soy sauce and cook for another minute, stirring the vegetables constantly to prevent burning. Off the heat, throw the cilantro on top and mix in with the kale and bok choy. Remove from pan and serve immediately. Maybe even outside, with people trying to eat normally while you are photographing them.

In this next picture I instructed them to “smile like you’re on an organic farm.”

Got any other suggestions for ways to cook kale or bok choy? Would love to hear them!

GINGERED KALE AND BOK CHOY

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of kale leaves, center rib removed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large head of bok choy, or 5-6 heads of baby bok choy, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 TBSP ginger root, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped fine
  • 1 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • salt to taste

Preparation

Heat oil over high heat in a wok or frying pan until shimmering. Add in ginger and cook for one minute. Add in the kale and bok choy, stirring constantly to prevent burning, cooking until leaves just turn a vibrant green. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt.

Continuing to stir, add in the soy sauce and cook for another minute. Off the heat, stir in the cilantro and transfer to a serving dish. Add salt if desired. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6.

Cooking Favorites Food

Savory Bacon Kale Frittata

I’m still reeling from the shock of not having won the lottery, and, $500 million poorer than anticipated, headed back into the kitchen where I am destined to spend every evening (at least until I win the next one).

I love breakfast, lunch and dinner and everything in between, but there’s something I especially love about a leisurely breakfast, especially if it’s not too much work and but looks and tastes delicious. Maybe because it’s so rare to be able to have a lovely meal, enjoy the daylight and tell yourself that you have the rest of the day to burn the calories off. Speaking of, my calves are still growing from the new workout schedule. The other day, when I zipped up my boots, I could actually feel my pulse in my calves. Please tell me there is a point at which this will stop.

I’ve mentioned before that I belong to a CSA so I’m always trying to come up with creative ways to use the produce. I like kale chips, but kale chips all the time is something altogether different.

So one spring Saturday, I took out some very pretty eggs. Tanned, with some adorable little freckles. Is it disturbing to humanize your food is before you devour it?

I think these eggs look lovely and peaceful. Like they just came back from a restful spring break in Jamaica, but away from all the crazy college kids doing keg stands.

Spring break is over, friends. Time to get out of your shells and get to work! (I know, this post is getting a little weird.) Put the eggs in a bowl and beat them (and now it is disturbing to say that, now that I’ve humanized them). I actually ended up using 8 eggs, and added in a half cup of milk, but I thought this was pretty so I took the picture after 5. Beat in 1/4 tsp salt and some ground pepper.

Now slice up some bacon and fry it up — I like to do this in a cast iron pan. It weighs as much as an elephant baby but cooks really nice and evenly, and looks pretty and rustic too. Not that there’s anything about me or my life that’s rustic.

I’ve been using nitrite-free bacon lately, which is healthier but doesn’t last as long — so I’m quite liberal with using bacon when I’ve got a package open. If you had some left over you could try making a bacon nativity scene.

When the fat starts to render, add in some chopped up onions.

Once the onions begin to caramelize, grab a bowl of grape tomatoes and a handful of hand-torn kale leaves, and add them into the pan.

Cook for about 30 seconds, stirring a bit, and then pour the egg mixture into the pan, over the other ingredients. Sprinkle a handful of shredded cheese (I used mozzarella). Stick into a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes, til the edges begin to brown and pull away slightly from the pan. Enjoy!

SAVORY BACON KALE FRITTATA

Ingredients

  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 slices bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • handful of kale (about 1/4 cup), torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Beat 8 eggs in a medium bowl and add in 1/4 cup milk, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Over medium heat in a cast-iron pan or oven-proof skillet, saute bacon until fat renders. Add in onions and cook until they begin to caramelize, stirring occasionally. Add in the tomatoes and kale, cook for about 30 seconds, and pour the egg mixture over the other ingredients. Sprinkle the mozzarella on top.  Cook for 30 seconds on the stove.

Put the pan into the pre-heated oven and bake for about 10 minutes, til the edges begin to brown and pull slightly away from the pan. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4-6.

Tell me if you’re gonna try this!

Favorites Food

People Eating Stuff

I know that I should try to be nonchalant about this but I JUST HAVE TO TALK ABOUT MY RECENT CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS! I am totally giddy and honored that Bakerella and Marian from Sweetopia visited a recent post. You’ve already heard me go on about Bakerella so let me tell you a bit about Marian. First of all, go visit her site. Go now, I’ll wait. See the header? The one with a village made out of baked goods? I think she lives there. I think that’s Sweetopia. And her house must be the one in the middle, between the candy cane and the lollipop. You see, in Sweetopia, everything is brown and pink, and you can eat all the frosting you want and still be skinny with perfect hair because that is what Marian does.

Marian has these really detailed posts and uh-may-zing videos. What’s great about her videos is that she narrates them in her soothing, omniscient voice, as if to say, “I know the last dessert you made looked like a severed body part, but let me calmly show you how to make cookies into sheep with 3-D fur.” (Is it fur that sheep have? Or are you supposed to say wool?) She also very considerately puts some of the more tedious parts of decorating in time-lapse video, so you get a quick feel for how shes finishes the job and come away thinking, “Ok. I can do this.” Even if you can’t.

In celebration of these two ladies, I thought I would share pictures of people eating what they’ve inspired me to make.  Some of these eaters are missing their front teeth.

Eating is more fun when you have friends over.

But don’t try to bite into a cake pop with your gums. It will just make you sad.

If you happen to have teeth though, you can do this:

Otherwise, try this:

Sometimes, you might have a tea party…

…and serve some cookies that were photographed in poor lighting…

…with real table linens…

…and friends whose hair has more volume than yours.

Some friends said didn’t know they could subscribe to posts. You can do that by scrolling up to the top of the page and looking on the right hand side, where all the pretty buttons are. Anyone who subscribes is automatically my friend (that is not meant to be a deterrent).

Thanks for stopping by, and may the eats be ever in your favor.