Monday, May 31, 2010

Cookies for All

Janet here: Yes, it's true, we're kicking off this holiday week with a posting about cookies. Regular readers realize that we believe strongly that a day without cookies is a questionable day indeed. I always feel better after baking cookies, and I feel pretty darn good after eating one warm from the oven. It's the proverbial win-win.

You can feel particularly good about making and eating these cookies. They're oatmeal after all. It's fiber for God's sake! Yes, there are milk chocolate chips too, but fiber!

Anyway, I put in chocolate chips and pecans this time, but one of the things I like about these cookies if you really can add anything you want. Hope you enjoy them.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

2 sticks of butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugard
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup pecan pieces

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda and salt. Mix well. Stir in chips and pecans or whatever else you're adding.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool one minute on cookie sheet; then remove to wire rack.

Feeling lazy? Put the whole shebang into a 13X9-inch baking pan and bake 30-35 minutes to make bars instead.

Rachel here: Oh, cookies. This weekend I made glazed molasses-spice cookies (from "The Best Recipe" by Cook's Illustrated...of course), mostly because I'd never made them before. I sort of figured I'd have to send John off to work with a bunch of them because I didn't think we'd be all that into them. Don't get me wrong--I thought we'd like them--just not in that eat-a-dozen-each kind of way. I was seriously, seriously wrong. The flavor and texture to these cookies was perfect.

You know when you really love someone and you unwittingly make them really happy? It is one of the great little surprises in life, I think, and such a good feeling. Anyway, while I have definitely enjoyed my fair share of these cookies, John unexpectedly went gaga for them. I think even he was surprised by how much he liked these cookies. It was a simple and happy little development in our weekend and I made a little note in my cookbook for some future rainy day when my man could use a little pick-me-up or when I just want to make something to show him I'm thinking about him and I love him.

Glazed Molasses-Spice Cookies
makes 15-20 large cookies

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 tspn. baking soda
1/2 tspn. salt
1 1/2 tspn. cinnamon
1 tspn. ginger
3/4 tspn. cloves
1/4 tspn. allspice
12 T. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. granulated sugar, plus 1/3 c. for rolling cookies
1 large egg
1 tspn. vanilla extract
1/3 c. unsulphured molasses
1 1/4 c. confectioners' sugar
2 T. milk

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and spices and set aside. Cream together the butter, brown sugar and white granulated sugar until fluffy. Add egg, vanilla and molasses, beating until combined. Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Place remaining 1/3 c. of granulated sugar in a shallow bowl. Roll dough into balls, using approximately 2 T. of dough per ball. Roll each ball in the bowl of sugar before placing on baking sheet. Bake, rotating halfway through, until the centers are soft and puffy and the edges are just beginning to set. These cookies will not look as done as you're probably used to and you don't want them to; this is key for establishing their super soft texture. If your cookies get hard as they cool or by the next day, then next time try cooking them less.
Cool cookies. Once completely cooled, sift confectioners sugar and stir in milk until smooth. Using a spoon, drizzle the glaze over your cookies (I suggest doing this over a piece of wax paper for easy clean up). Let set and enjoy.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Grillin' and Chillin'

Janet here: I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again after this post, one of my favorite parts of summer is sitting on the porch or patio with family and friends, and just relaxing with some good food and drink. It's a cheap form of escapism, sitting on your patio, pretending the work world doesn't exist for even just a few hours.

So I am always on the lookout for new sauces to try for barbecuing and was excited to try this one from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave. I've made it twice now and can say with confidence it's wonderful. The mango/jalapeno pepper combo is the perfect sweet/hot combo. If you've got a favorite barbecue sauce, we'd love to hear about it. Enjoy the long weekend!

Mango Barbecue Sauce

will amply marinate and cover 8 pieces of chicken

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced, about 1 cup
1 medium red pepper, seeded and diced, about 1 cup
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped, about 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 medium ripe mango, peeled and pitted and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
2-3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring a few times, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the bell pepper, garlic, salt, pepper, and allspice and cook, stirring for 2 more minutes. Stir in the vinegar, molasses, Worcestershire, lime juice and tomato sauce and cook for 1 minute more. Transfer mixture to a blend, add the mango and jalapenos and blend until smooth.

Put 2 cups of the barbecue sauce in a large resealable plastic bag with the chicken and marinate at least one hour. Reserve the rest of the sauce to serve on the side with the cooked chicken.

When ready to grill the chicken, remove it from the sauce and toss that sauce away. Grill the chicken the way you like and serve with reserved sauce.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Food for Thought Thursdays: My Ongoing Fantasy

Rachel here: This is a post that I write--no joke--everyday in my head. It is a list of all of the foods I am going to eat once I am no longer pregnant. In the fantasy I've been entertaining for, oh, let's say the last 36 weeks, there is a night in my (now not so distant) future in which I ditch the kid and head out for a night of culinary indulgence. When I mention this to some people they say, "Oh, but you won't want to leave your baby with a sitter for a while," to which I calmly reply, "You must think I want John to come." See, part of the fantasy is having no witness as I stuff my face. I want a few hours in silence with all of the foods I have missed so dearly during pregnancy, to reconnect and rekindle. Oh yeah, and I'm having a g-d drink or two while I'm at it (an urban perk is that you never have to drive!). Sure, John and I will need to find time to spend alone together once M is here (we're pretty sure that's the kid's first initial), but I've got an itch in my belly that I can't wait to scratch. Anyway, without further ado, the list:

1. Steak. When I say steak, I mean the kind that leaves blood on your lips. I guess I could have eaten it while pregnant, but this is just one of those foods that is simply not meant to be cooked to a gray death the way I would have had to in order to eat it. So yeah, steak. With lots of blood.
2. Runny egg yolks. I can say with some confidence that, though I have dutifully eaten them for their protein, if I never see another scrambled egg on my plate again it will be too soon. I am picturing a popped yolk running down the sides of a bloody steak and it is making my heart I am picturing a homemade caesar salad...I see buttered toast dipped in that marvelous yellowy goo...ugh...I might actually drool.
3. Raw fish. Prior to being pregnant, I could have eaten sushi and sashimi weekly. In fact, when I had my druthers, I'm pretty sure I did eat it weekly. Needless to say, our reunion will be joyous. I think I feel myself tearing up at the mere prospect.
4. Gin. Ok, I know I talked about this being a food list, but where I come from gin IS a food. Don't even try to convince me or mine otherwise. I will be having mine with tonic water and a wedge of lime over ice. I can feel myself melting into my chair at that first sip already.
5. Pate. Do I even need to explain this one? I guess some folks can't get down with pate. This is good because it guarantees I'll be able to find some when I'm ready for it. Give me some gherkins and I am good to go.
6. Roast beef. Some women are psychotic about what they eat when they're pregnant; I am not one of these women. However, as with my more general desire for steak, I have abstained from roast beef for these long months. I can see us running towards each other in slow motion, the thinly sliced rare roast beef leaning in for a hug, and me ducking and tripping the meat so it lands on a baguette with blue cheese. Oh, it's a magical little video and sometimes I play it on repeat while I am eating my 9 millionth vegetable sandwich.
7. Oysters. Raw, on the shell over ice, with a squeeze of lemon and a drop of hot sauce. It will be hard not to moan. I'm not even sure I'll try to stop myself.
8. Tuna salad. This is, no doubt, the lamest thing on my list. For someone who's on the brink of motherhood, I certainly retain (amongst others) the childish tendency to want the very things I am told I can't have. And so, though I had probably eaten tuna less than five times in the year leading up to my pregnancy, I find myself dying to bite into a tuna melt. Though I won't eat it again for eons after my debaucherous romantic evening alone, the tuna's definitely invited on this date.
9. Mayonnaise. I don't even really like mayonnaise (I used to give it up for Lent at church when I was little and everyone thought I was so devoted...good trick, no?). The thing is, though, that a month or two ago John mentioned an interest in making it from scratch. I told him to go for it but that he'd have to eat it all himself or give it away because I wouldn't be able to eat it due to the raw eggs involved. The same propensity for wanting that which I can't have kicked in and now I have wanted to eat homemade mayonnaise ever since. I'm thinking I could do some serious damage to good aioli. Scratch that, I'm thinking I'm going to have to.
10. Homemade ice cream. See, we have an ice cream making attachment for our KitchenAid mixer. When I open my freezer to get my store-bought ice cream (every single day), I see the attachment sitting in there just waiting for me. Once upon a time I made vanilla bean ice cream that nearly brought tears to my eyes. The two of us are going to meet again and it's going to be nothing short of glorious.

Now, I'm sure some of you have read this list and thought, "Rachel, most of that food should never appear on the same table at once." To you naysayers, all I have to say is that most of what I've eaten for the last 36 weeks shouldn't be eaten together at once. I haven't been super weird about what I've eaten, just a little bit particular, and my meals have often been makeshift in the name of ensuring proper vitamin intake (ok, except when my hot wings problem dictates). The real problem with my list is going to be finding one restaurant that offers all of these things at the same time. The good news, though, is that I've still got time to find this wonderful, wonderful place. If you're lucky, I'll tell you where it is once I'm done.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Summer Salads

Janet here: One of the stories of my childhood that was told repeatedly around family gathering dinner tables — sometimes to great embarrassment, depending on my age and who was at the table — was of me and my grandmother Doree's potato salad. I really loved my grandmother's potato salad. I mean really loved it. One day while visiting my grandmother when I was around 4, I decided I didn't want to wait until it was time for dinner to dig into this delicious concoction. So I wandered out to the kitchen, climbed up on a chair and dug in, using the serving spoon that was already in the salad. I was a happy camper ... until my grandmother discovered me and put a stop to the dining — and promptly told all the relatives who were there what I was doing. And so a family tale is born.

I've basically been trying to recreate that potato salad ever since. I pay attention to potato salads at restaurant and am quick to dismiss the substandard mayo-y glop that passes for potato salad after one bite. My mom made a good version, but nothing has quite equaled the ambrosia I remember from my childhood. I'm not sure I've recreated Doree's version, but I'm pretty happy with the one I have created. I hope you enjoy it too. As with many of my recipes, these measurements are approximations. You should feel free to add or delete, depending on your taste. After all, isn't tasting what you're making part of the fun of cooking?

Potato Salad
makes about 8 side servings


4 Russet potatoes, skins on, and diced into bite-sized pieces
1 medium onion, diced
3 celery stalks, slit lengthwise and diced
2 kosher dill pickle spears, slit lengthwise and diced
1 tablespoon kosher dill pickle juice
1 tablespoon mustard
1/2-3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/4 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste


Boil the potato pieces until just done, about 5-10 minutes. You don't want them overcooked or you will have potato mush

While the potatoes are cooking, dice the onion and celery and place into a large bowl. Add the other ingredients except the salt and pepper.

When the potatoes are done, drain and rinse immediately in cold water to stop the cooking. Add the cooled potatoes to the other ingredients, toss and add salt and pepper to taste. I like my potato salad crunchy so at this point, I take the first of a few (okay maybe several) bites to make sure I've got enough celery in there. If not, I add another diced stalk.

This is best served cold so make it ahead of time. I always taste again before serving to see if I want to add more caraway, mustard or mayo — at least that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Rachel here: Ok, so before I go any further, I just have to say that my ma makes seriously grubbing potato salad. Growing up, I used to eat it with my fingers out of the fridge when I'd walk through the kitchen. I think I'm going to have to make her make it for me when she comes out to visit and meet the baby.

But anyway, I didn't make potato salad and so, though I'm dreaming of my mom's, I guess I'd better share the salad that I did make. I'm calling it Spring Bean Salad, though if you live in a less temperate climate it might really be a summer bean salad depending on when the various ingredients I use come into season. Regardless, it's a super easy and delicious dish. And, though it's not my ma's potato salad, I've still been picking at it when I walk through the kitchen all day.

Spring Bean Salad
serves 10 generously as a side

3 c. cannellini beans (if using canned, rinse and dry well; if cooking them yourself, be sure not to overcook)
1/2 c. kalamata olives, halved
2 medium cucumbers, chopped
1 smallish red onion, diced very small (but not minced)
4-5 large basil leaves, torn (I tear basil instead of cutting it because cutting it releases its delicious oils onto your knife and cutting board. When torn, everything ends up in your food.)
2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 c. feta, crumbled
8 oz. mozzarella, chopped
juice from 1 large and 1 small lemon
salt and pepper
olive oil
apple cider vinegar

Put all of the ingredients from the beans through the mozzarella in a large bowl. Toss by hand (this is a gentler way to combine ingredients and will help everything hold up since there are largely soft foods involved). Add lemon juice, salt and pepper, olive oil and apple cider vinegar to taste. Toss well and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate for a few hours so everything settles. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Blogs That Make Us Hungry: Stanton St. Farms

Rachel here: In the name of all things spring, today we are delighted to share with you the Stanton St. Farms blog. Unlike any other blog or book that we've featured in our BTMUH posts before, the Stanton St. Farms blog is devoted to a community garden in Portland, Oregon. In the name of full disclosure, I should reveal that I discovered this blog because it is run by one of John's friends, Ian. Regardless of the John connection, though, this is definitely a blog I would be excited to be sharing with you all today.

What Ian and the folks in his community have done is cleared an abandoned lot on their block and rejuvenated it to serve their neighborhood. With a hearty combination of elbow grease, camaraderie, resourcefulness and know-how, they have transformed a lot filled with tons and tons (literally!) of debris into a flourishing plot of land to feed their bellies and their spirits.

Community gardens make me happy and Stanton St. Farms is no exception. Their garden and their blog are both pretty new, so click on over to read the rest of their story and lend them some support (or a hand if you're in the area!).

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bar None

Rachel here: This week we're offering up some ideas for barbecues, picnics and the like since Memorial Day is next Monday. While the meat on the grill and the salads are certainly key components to any good outdoor celebration, I think you have all figured out by now how my mother and I feel about dessert. Fond would be an understatement. Anyway, for these types of gatherings, dessert is preferably portable and something that can sit out of the fridge for hours. Because of this, today we are making bars.

Growing up, more lunches than not at my grandma's house ended with her date-nut bars. You could usually find them tucked away in a tupperware in her breadbox if you found yourself with a hankering and it wasn't the lunch hour. Anyway, I'd never made them before this post. As has consistently happened for me when I've made recipes of those I love, making these treats transported me back to when I was younger. The sunlight streamed across my grandma's dining room table and, though full from lunch, I discovered I still had a little bit of room in my belly for dessert. A glass of milk in hand and the memory was complete. This recipe is incredibly simple, so so satisfying, and guaranteed to please those looking for something a little sweet after an afternoon in the sun.

Grandma Reynolds' Date-Nut Bars
makes 10, depending on size

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tspn. baking powder
1/8 tspn. salt
1/4 lb. butter (one stick), melted
1 c. granulated sugar
2 c. dates, coarsely cut
2 c. walnut pieces
2 eggs

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the center position. Line a shallow pan with foil (she recommends a 9x13, but I think mine was a little smaller and it worked fine) and brush with butter. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Beat butter and sugar in your electric mixer (if you have one...if not, the butter's melted, so the mixing shouldn't be too hard). Add the eggs and beat until combined. Stir in sifted ingredients until just combined. Fold in dates and nuts. Distribute batter evenly in your pan, giving it a few taps down on the counter at the end to get air out and make sure everything's divvied up nicely. Place in oven, rotating halfway through, for roughly 35 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack before inverting onto a cookie sheet and then inverting again to finish cooling. Cut into squares and enjoy!

Janet here: My friend, Anne, often makes lemon bars when we visit her for dinner and I always leave her house thinking, I should make these sometime. And then I don't. But when Rachel and I decided we were going to make some kind of bar cookie this week, I realized now was my chance. So without further ado, the lemon bars.

Lemon Bars
12 servings

1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour

cream cheese filling
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract

lemon curd
4 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
2 medium lemons grated for 2 teaspoons lemon peel and squeezed for 1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons softened salted butter

2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

To make the shortbread crust cream the butter and sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer at high speed. Add vanilla and combine. Add flour and mix at low speed until fully mixed. Then press the dough into an 8X8-inch pan evenly. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Prick with fork and bake at 325 degrees for 30 minute or until golden brown. Take out and cool completely.

While the crust is baking, prepare the cream cheese filling. Beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth with an electric mixer until smooth. Add egg and lemon extrax and beat on medium speed until light and smooth. Cover the bowl and refrigerate.

To prepare the lemon curd, blend egg yolks with the cornstarch and sugar in a medium non-aluminum pot. Place over lowe heat and slowly whisk in water and lemon juice. Increase heat to medium-low and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Add lemon peel and butter and cool 10 minutes.

To assemble the bars: Spread the chilled cream cheese filling evenly over the cooled shortbread crust with a spatula. Spread the lemon curd evenly over the cream cheese filling. Place pan in center of the oven. BAke 30-40 minutes until the edges begin to turn golden bwon. Cool to room temperature. Then chill in the fridge 1 hour before cutting. Dust top with confectioners' sugar.

Friday, May 21, 2010

So Long, Sophie

We are pausing today to mark the death of our beloved dog, Sophie. Sophie was many things to the five of us: running companion and bedside company, a warm and patient thicket of fur to nuzzle in when sad or lost, a happy face and thumping tail to greet you, and always, always a friend. A true member of the family, Sophie made dog lovers out of all of us. We thank her for her exemplary displays of love and devotion, for her wisdom in appreciating the warmth of the summer's sun equally with the crackling heat of the winter's fire, for her silliness. Regarding the myriad gifts Sophie brought to and leaves us with, words simply fail. The echoes of our time with her, however, will ring endlessly in our hearts. Thank you, Sophie, and we love you.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Food for Thought Thursdays: Grown-up Desserts and Sneaky Snacks

We are very happy to introduce Caroline Barrett, a food blogger — you can catch her musings and terrific recipes at Table for 5, one of our faves — and a mother who tries to find creative ways to feed her growing family. We've been a fan of her blog and her writing for a while, so we asked her to do a guest post for Food for Thought Thursday. We love what she's written about and can completely identify with both the need for something sweet after dinner and the sneakiness dilemma. Enjoy!

What do you eat when you find yourself alone in the kitchen? For me, it's always something sweet.

At the end of the day, when all three children are tucked into bed and baths are done, homework is checked and all is blissfully quiet, I look for something to eat. I'm not talking about a bunch of grapes or a sliced apple. I'm talking chocolate. Ice cream. Or cookies.

Our evenings usually go something like this: Dinner is put on the table. It might be ridiculously simple, like rice and beans. Or it could be something I thought about for far too long, bought special ingredients for, read many recipes about, and then wrung my hands while everyone took their first bite, wondering if all the effort was worth it. Either way, there is bound to be some complaining about eating the salad. Or the asparagus. Even a lovely bunch of green beans is likely to get a grimace from my five-year-old son. No matter the dinner or the response, I always expect the same thing when the meal is done. Someone always asks: What's for dessert?

This comes as the last bite of food is taken, and the forks have barely hit the plates. Now, depending on my mood, and how well everyone ate, I'm game for a little sweet after dinner. So I'll offer up a Newman-O (the natural food world's answer to Oreos,) or a popsicle made from leftover smoothies. Occasionally I'll say yes to a small scoop of ice cream. We usually leave big desserts for the weekend or special occasions.

So back to the good part, the one that comes after they are all tucked in bed. When I'm finally alone in the kitchen, I turn the lights down low. Wipe down the counters. Stack papers from school and put mail away. It can all wait until tomorrow. Then, I pour a glass of wine. Not a wimpy glass, no. I fill it right up, a big glass of Pinot Noir or a Zinfandel. Those both go well with late night snacking. And then it's time to bring out the good dessert: the grown-ups dessert.

Sometimes my husband is in on this crime with me. We keep a hidden pint of Adirondack Creamery's Chocolate Chocolate Chip hidden deep in our freezer. It's usually under the corn and behind the peas, a place no kid would look. Their ice cream is incredible rich, chocolate-y, but not too sweet. It's also sold at the Delmar Marketplace, making it easy for us to make a late-night run for a pint if we find our hidden stash too low.

Another favorite secret dessert is the really cheap kind of ginger snaps sold in any grocery store. Strange, I know. It's something about the small size of the cookie, the irresistible crunch and the real bite of ginger. All for $1.99! The serving size on the box says 5 cookies. Really, they go down so quickly that I can probably eat 20 with my (big) glass of wine. Those cookies are good for any clandestine snacking, as they also go well with coffee, tea or milk. I have been caught eating a handful on Sunday morning at 10 am, coffee cup in hand.

My most recent late night snack was the edges from a big pan of brownies. We made a double batch of brownies for Zoe's 9th birthday. It's a rite of passage at any public school to bring in something sweet to share on your birthday. So we mixed up the brownies, she licked the beaters clean, and headed off to bed while they baked in the oven. Next morning, she came down to find all of the edges from the big pan cut off and removed.

"Why are there no edges to my brownies?" she asked. I told her the truth: they were a little too crispy. I just didn't offer up the whole truth: they were too crispy, yes. So I cut all of the edges off, tucked them into a container, and put it in my other secret hiding spot behind the kitchen knives. Tonight, I'll pour myself one of those lovely glasses of wine, and pull out a few of those crispy brownie edges. Maybe I'll make Paul and myself little brownie sundaes, with a scoop of Adirondack Creamery's Chocolate Chocolate Chip on top.

There is risk in all this devious behavior. More than a few times, while we happily spoon our contraband and sip our wine, we'll hear a bedroom door squeak open and footsteps on the stairs. Thanks goodness we live in an old house. Can you imagine if the stairs didn't creak and they showed up in the kitchen, unannounced? When we hear those little footsteps, we scramble to hide our bowls, plates, whatever we were eating. We have been caught on one or two occasions. Once, when Lucy was 3 (she's now 10,) she was being devilish and wouldn't go to bed. There we were, bowls of ice cream in hand, feeling annoyed because we couldn't enjoy it. She kept jumping on her bed, then running down the stairs to see if we were paying attention. Paul calmly put his bowl down, went upstairs and told her to get into bed. Then he put his face very close to hers and said, "Lucy, go to bed, right now." To which she replied, "I smell ice cream."Lucy is no dummy. Knowing that there was ice cream being eaten in the house, there was no way she was going to bed. Paul tried to deny it, but she knew.

Maybe I should feel a little guilty about all this sneakiness. It's not the best behavior to model for my children, is it? As a parent, though, we have to take our small joys and escapes where we can find them. And I guess I shouldn't feel too bad about eating a big dessert, because I eat all my vegetables, every one of them. Without even making a face.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Not a Pig Roast

Rachel here: When this whole Lost theme first presented itself, I immediately decided that I wanted to have a pig roast (if you watch the show then you know that hunting wild boars is where it's at meat-wise). Surprisingly enough, this goal promptly shifted from fantastic to fantastically impossible. First, there's the whole issue of purchasing a whole pig. While I'm pretty confident that had I applied myself I would have located one (there are few things culinarily speaking that can't be found around here), other issues around this whole pig began cropping up. For instance, how does one keep a whole pig refrigerated? Would I have to fill my bathtub with ice like my friends and I did in college (my first go-round) to make the world's largest gin and tonic (wow, upon recalling that incident, I'm feeling like that may need to be revisited one day in a blog post of its own)? How would I season it? Then I started tallying all of the pork eaters I know and realized that I know waaaaaay too many vegetarians and vegans. And then, the final issue, is that it's illegal to have fires in your backyard here. There was no way in hell I was going to roast a pig indoors, due to the size of my oven, sure, but mostly due to the fact that half of the point of roasting a pig in the first place is to turn it on a spit over a fire. So anyway, as you can tell, within seconds my pig roast fantasy was obliterated. It was tragic, but I bounced back.

What I ended up making was a recipe I found on the Food Network's website called Pig on a Stick (click on the link to see the recipe). Before I even read the recipe, I think I had decided to make it based on the name alone. Pig on a Stick is the sort of name I would come up with for a recipe. It's very literal and to the point and it highlights the funnest part of the meal: eating off a stick. I made a few modifications, but only for convenience. First, I cooked my pork on my stovetop because I didn't feel like dealing with the whole broiler pan thing (bending over is officially number one on my list of things to avoid these days). Second, I used apricot preserves instead of orange marmalade in the sauce because somehow between leaning all the way over to pull the marmalade off the bottom shelf at the grocery store and retrieving it from my shopping bag upon returning home my orange marmalade turned into apricot preserves. In true island survivor fashion, though, I pushed ahead. The end result, John (and I) will have you know, is one of the most delicious meals I have EVER made. I served the jerk pork with couscous (cooked with a little lime juice, salt and butter) and corn-on-the-cob (the first good ears we've had this year and all the yummier for that fact). Most importantly, though, I will be making this jerk pork again and again in the future.

Anyway, thanks for joining/indulging us in our Lost obsession for the past few days. We'll be moving on to other topics tomorrow, but we'll always have a little bit of the island in our hearts (and, whether you've watched the show or not, we hope you will, too, through the recipes we've featured this week).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blogs That Make Us Hungry: Lost Addicts

Rachel here: Usually on Tuesdays when we write about either a blog or a book that makes us hungry we are referring to the kind of appetite that can only be sated through consuming food. Today, though, "hungry" is being utilized in broader terms as part of our Lost themed week of posts. The hunger that Lost Addicts Blog leaves me with is one that can only be filled by quality time in front of my television.

Ok, so there are a million Lost blogs. I didn't count when I was trolling, but there were pages and pages and pages that came up. They cover a broad variety of Lost-related topics, ranging from focusing on specific characters to message boards that contain straight up fights over various plot points. While my mom and I are certainly obsessed (John is, too, along with my brothers), we really pale in comparison to some of the folks out there.

Mike Vitullo's Lost Addicts Blog, though, emerged as one of my favorites. Quite informal, it is also very thorough (**it contains spoilers if you aren't up-to-date in your viewing**) and clearly written with love for the show. Filled with postulation on the significance of various events and people, I found myself blissfully lost (ha ha) while reading it this morning. It's my first day of summer vacation and I really can't think of a better blog assignment to take on over breakfast (strawberries, flax seeds and know, to throw some food into the mix since this is a food blog). Anyway, if you're all caught up in your viewing and looking for a site that draws lots of connections between episodes from seasons back and now, then definitely click on over to Mike's blog.

Janet here: The only reason I handed over the assignment of finding a Lost blog to feature on BTMUH Tuesdays is that I actually have a job to do and I knew myself well enough to know that I would would get sucked into this Lost vortex the way Juliette got sucked down that well during the hydrogen bomb explosion and that would mean nothing productive got done. So I can't even allow myself to check out this blog until, well, until it's the weekend because I can't trust myself. So there it is.

Monday, May 17, 2010

We're Completely Lost

Janet here:
On the off chance that you don't have cable or internet access, this week is the last week of Lost, ABC's multi-year series about a group of people stranded on a mysterious island. This means that Rachel and I are in the last throes of Lost obsession. Will the island be saved? Will good triumph over evil? Is this series even about good vs. evil?

Sunday is going to be a crazy multi-hour Lost extravaganza that will put the Super Bowl to shame for its pre-game hype. Apparently ABC is going to re-air the pilot, air a two-hour recap show and then present the 2.5 hour finale. I personally can't wait.

To honor this event, we decided to try to cook food with an island theme this week. It's been harder than we thought and some of the recipes will admittedly stretch this conceit a tad, but hey it's our blog and our obsession.

Fish obviously is a source of food if you're stranded on an island, assuming of course you can spear it, which I know I wouldn't be able to do so I would probably snuff it pretty quickly if stranded. At any rate, we decided to make fish tacos, which I have eaten and loved but never made myself. I got my inspiration for this recipe from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave, which I amended a bit.

Fish Tacos
serves 4

for the fish

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound white, flaky fish (like tilapia, mahi-mahi or halibut)

for the chipotle cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoons finely chopped canned chipotle chile in adobe sauce

for the tacos
8 soft taco shells, warmed in the oven
1 cup shredded green cabbage or lettuce
1/2 cup cooked corn kernels (I microwaved mine.)


To make the fish, whisk together the oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Pour over the fish and let marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes.

To make the chipotle cream, mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream and chipotle chile.

Fry the fish in a frying pan in the marinade. Ellie suggests grilling it, which would probably be very tasty too.

While the fish is cooking, heat the tortillas in a 300-degree oven for about five minutes.
Flake the fish with a fork. Spread each shell with one tablespoon of chipotle cream. Top with the fish, cabbage and corn and serve with lime wedges.

Rachel here: I don't even know where to begin for this post. Two of my favorite things ever have come together and it's a little overwhelming. Lost is my favorite television show and fish tacos are one of my favorite meals. I'd never eaten them until I moved to California and, after my first, I have eaten them whenever the opportunity presents itself. When I make them at home, I always do pretty much the same thing and this time was not different. I am definitely going to have to give my ma's recipe a try, though...once I can pull myself away from the tv, that is.

Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa

Roughly 1/2 lb. of fresh wild rock cod snapper filet (per two people)
cornmeal (to coat fish, approximately 1 c. per 1/2 lb. fish)
salt and pepper
mango (1 large or 2 small), diced
1 medium white onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
3 limes (2 for salsa, plus 1/2 a lime per person to garnish with)
3 roma tomatoes
cilantro (to garnish)
cheese of your preference, grated (I used this cheese called Duet that was fantastic...pretty mild, but with enough flavor)
corn tortillas

I like to make the salsa a few hours early so it can macerate and get good and flavorful. In a medium bowl, combine half of your mango, onion, tomatoes, and jalapeno with a hearty dash of salt and the juice from one lime. Stir well and taste. From here, add the rest of these ingredients until you have a balance that you like. Stir well, cover and chill for later.

For the fish, heat your skillet and melt some butter in it. Coat your fish in cornmeal (that has some salt and pepper in it for flavor) before placing in pan. Cook until done. Heat tortillas towards the end (I just throw these in my skillet, but if yours isn't big enough toss them in the oven until they're warm).

To serve this meal, I pile two tortillas on each plate ad then divide the fish over them. I sprinkle the cheese on so it melts before adding generous spoonfuls of salsa and garnishing with cilantro. I like to add some slices of avocado and black beans on the side. It's a quick dinner that's good for you and incredibly satisfying.

Oh, and in case anyone's keeping track, I used wild fish instead of farmed (*ahem, Mother*)...not only does this clearly make me a bigger fan of Lost (I'm pretty sure there aren't fish farms on the island), but also the more ethical consumer. If I'm being honest, I'm not sure which of these facts pleases me more.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Yogurt in Cake? You Bet!

Janet here: I have been a pound cake fan since I was a child. While I can pass by another cake for a week without being tempted, pound cake and all its buttery goodness is something else entirely. So I was intrigued to check out the pound cakes made by the Barefoot Contessa. She offers at least two versions, and I've made them both so I can say with authority that if you are looking for a pound cake with a difference, you need look no further than this lemon yogurt cake from the Barefoot Contessa's At Home. It is unbelievably moist and just the right bit of tangy with the addition of lots of fresh lemon. I have served this a number of times and gotten oohs and aahs every single time, which is pretty satisfying as you can imagine. Enjoy!

Lemon Yogurt Cake

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

for the glaze

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2 X 4 1/4 X 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into one bowl. (For the record, I have never sifted a thing in my life and all my food turns out just fine.) In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place it on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.

Rachel here: I, like my mother, love pound cake, particularly when lemon is involved (John will tell you that I always love food when lemon is involved). This is definitely a recipe I'm going to have to whip up sometime soon. I just wanted to chime in here to bid adieu to Cake Week. What a delicious fixation we've gotten to entertain! We hope you've enjoyed the sugary indulgence as much as we have.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Food for Thought Thursdays: Fake Cake

Janet here: As soon as my very good friend Susan Diters whirled in the door to our house and announced she had made "fake cake" for our communal dessert, I knew we had to get her on the blog. I mean, who offers to make dessert for a group dinner and then proudly announces it's fake? Susan is the only person I know who can do that and pull it off (this despite the fact that I once served strawberry shortcake and made the mistake of using Cool Whip instead of real whipped cream, which she then loudly proclaimed to the rest of the dinner party "Is this fake whipped cream?" I have never lived it down since.)

Anyway Susan can pull this kind of thing off and it's one of the many traits I love about her. An accomplished ob/gyn nurse and mother of three, Susan would absolutely be one of the people I would choose if I had to go into battle or was going to be abandoned on a deserted island like the one in Lost. She is gutsy and true blue.

"You have to embrace the fakeness," she says of this recipe which she got from Grandma Moreland. "I remember my sister making it in the '60s and early '70s and it was this novel idea to boost a box mix and make it better. You take a bit of this thing and it's like ambrosia. It's sweet and a really nice texture and reminds you of Mom and home and doing nothing good but nothing bad. It was like a grilled cheese sandwich but for dessert."

That taking something pre-made and making it better is something we can all probably identify with. After all, who has the time to always cook from scratch? But that ability to pull it off? That's totally Susan.

Here is the magic recipe

Fake Cake
Cake Ingredients
1 box Duncan Hines yellow cake mix
1 box pistachio instant pudding
3/4 vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 cup water
1 cup chopped walnuts

Icing Ingredients

1 cup medium cream
1 cup instant pistachio pudding
1 cup milk

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix them all together basically following the cake mix instructions. Bake in a greased 10-inch tube pan for 45 minutes. Let cool and then add the icing.

To make the frosting beat together all the icing ingredients until stiff.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Caramelized-Apple Skillet Cake

Rachel here: John's best friend is visiting us this week, an arrival which was conveniently timed with Cake Week. To be honest, when John and I are left on our own with a cake we will eat the entire thing without any difficulty and so it's really best for us when somebody else arrives on the scene to lend a helping hand. Usually my cake repertoire fluctuates between vanilla and chocolate variations but, it being Cake Week and all, I figured I'd push myself a little bit and try a new type. What I ended up with was a cake that was not too sweet, had a little bit of yummy crunch (there's cornmeal involved), and seems like the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. Plus, I kind of felt like Ma Ingalls because the entire thing is baked in a cast iron skillet. I got the recipe from Karen Demasco's The Craft of Baking. I didn't follow her recipe exactly because it's a little finicky and it was late in the evening when I started, but I did followed the majority of her guidelines. What I will post below is my rendition. The three of us thoroughly enjoyed this cake. I will note, though, that it was much lighter and fluffier the first day (as opposed to the second, though it was still completely edible).

1 c. sugar
8 T. butter, unsalted and soft
1-2 tart baking apples (I ended up only using one very large Granny Smith)
3/4 tspn. vanilla extract
2 large eggs, separated
3/4 c. plus 3 T. all-purpose flour
3 T. coarse yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 tspn. baking powder
1/4 tspn. kosher salt
1/3 c. whole milk (I'm confident that you can use whatever kind of milk is convenient)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In an 8-inch ovenproof skillet (I'd use cast iron if at all possible), combine 1/4 c. of the sugar with 2 T. of water. Stir to make sure all of the sugar is damp, adding more water if needed. Over high heat and stirring occasionally, cook the sugar and water until the sugar turns a golden brown caramel. Supposedly this takes about 2 minutes. Mine never turned a beautiful golden brown, though, and after 4 minutes I just stopped. My cake was totally fine. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in 2 T. of the butter. Do this step very quickly as the addition of butter helps stop the sugar from solidifying. If the sugar solidifies, add a T. of water and return to the heat for a few seconds to soften everything back up before adding the butter. (Can you tell I struggled with this step?) Peel and core your apple, cutting it into 1/8 inch slices. Starting at the outside of the skillet, tightly shingle the apple pieces until the entire skillet is filled. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or by hand) fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining sugar, butter and the vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy before mixing in the egg yolks one at a time. Then stir in the milk. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Dump this into your wet ingredients in the electric mixer and mix until just combined. Turn this batter out into the bowl you whisked the dry ingredients together in. Clean and dry the electric mixing bowl. Add the eggs whites to the bowl and beat into soft peaks. Fold the whipped whites into your batter. Spread batter evenly over the apples in the skillet. Bake, rotating halfway through, for approximately 50 minutes. The top will be a dark golden brown and feel pretty firm to the touch. Cool in the skillet on a wire rack for about 30 minutes before loosening the edges and turning over onto a plate. Serve and enjoy.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Blogs That Make Us Hungry: Cake Wrecks

Janet here:
It's Cake Week here at LTIR so this blog devoted to, as the name so wonderfully states, Cake Wrecks seemed the perfect blog to give a shout out to. Not that Rachel or I has ever made a cake wreck of course. But the sensibility of someone who focuses on life's imperfections — the blog's tagline is "when professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong" — rather than its wonderfulness seemed, well, like something we would have done if we'd thought of it first. Sadly, we didn't.

The post yesterday on Mother's Day cakes gone bad was especially brilliant. As a former high school English teacher and an editor now, I get more than a little irritated by grammatical mistakes and their clear indication that society as we know it is on the downward slid. And then I read blogger Jen's one-liners about these professionally-made cakes and I just felt so much better. Someone else is as bothered by apostrophe misuse and poor spelling as I am!

Jen is an equal-opportunity cake basher; anyone can submit a professionally-made cake gone awry and she'll consider it. In this world where the PC police are making humor in general something that's not allowed, it's just so refreshing to see someone willing to lighten up. I have bookmarked this baby and will absolutely use it to make my day a better one, one bad cake at a time.

Rachel here: Ok, so I'm obsessed with this website. Nothing is better in the middle of trudging through two painfully long and tedious weeks of final exams than the discovery of a website on which you can spend hours procrastinating. Ok, maybe hours is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my drift. Stuck with a boring desk job? Bookmark this site for when you've run out of people you went to kindergarten with to look up on Facebook. It is seriously, seriously funny and, plus, promises to alleviate any pressure you might feel to attain culinary perfection in the kitchen.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Will Bake Vegan Chocolate Cake for Furniture

Rachel here: John and I have needed a bureau for umm...way too long. When we moved (back in the early days of this blog), we were quick to unpack our kitchen and other essentials (like the Xbox and books). Everything else has been unpacked as we've encountered a need for various items.

Way at the bottom of the endless to-do list has been "find a bureau." This is because we initially put our bedroom in a room filled with built-ins and figured that would work for a while. It did, until our bed frame broke last week. We were both interested in moving our bedroom to a sunnier room of the house (waking up to the sunshine just can't be beat) and so we figured this was as good a time as any to make the switch. We left our clothes in the old room (now the dining room) and figured we'd probably get on that whole bureau project sooner rather than later, but certainly not until I was done with school (I'm in the thick of finals right now, so if I stop making sense and start quoting Melville, forgive me). In one of those beautifully serendipitous moments in life, the morning after we moved our bedroom I was contacted by my friend H (that's what I'll call her here, anyway) who said that she had a fabulous bureau she needed to get rid of that day because she was moving. We offered money, she refused. Instead, H and I decided that I would bake her whatever her little heart desired.

Oh, H. You are really awesome.

So, H is one of those rare sorts who is both lactose intolerant and a vegetarian. For all intents and purposes (absent, of course, certain ideological convictions), this renders her a vegan. In some bizarre twist, I have two friends who suffer the same dietary plight (I guess vegetarianism isn't really a plight, but rather a choice...just, you know, not a choice I'm making). Anyway, what H requested was a vegan chocolate cake. My stomach knotted a bit because I had never undertaken vegan baking successfully before. My only prior experience was with cupcakes several years ago that were, umm....gross. Anyway, I got on the internet and started reading recipes, looking for one that sounded the most like cake as I know and love it. What I found was a phenomenally simple recipe on I baked a practice cake to make sure everything came together well (I didn't want to give H a tasteless brick in exchange for her sleek mid-century modern bureau...*swoon*) and, after John and I devoured it, I made another one for H, confident that it would be yummy.

So, here's the deal. This recipe should be added to your arsenal. You should bake it when you forget to bake a cake or some other dessert, be it for a dinner party or somebody's birthday. It takes mere minutes to throw together and you can have the entire thing ready to go in an hour (tops). Also, because it's vegan, you can bake it as thoroughly as you'd like. If you like a little bit of gooey chocolate in the top center of your cake, go for it. It is sort of like having a little frosting tucked in there. Vegans always tell you that vegan desserts are the best. I am here today to say that, while I can't speak for all of them, this one is seriously, seriously good.

Janet here:
There's seems a certain irony to have the carnivore part of this blogging duo be the one to make the first official vegan entry. Sort of like the world order is little off kilter, in a Lost kind of way. (And there will be LOT more coming here on Lost because we are both officially addicts and already beginning to mourn the end of the series, which is in a mere couple of weeks and for which we are going to, in the geekiest of fashions, create a menu for the Lost finale evening ala what other, much cooler people do for, say, a home Oscar party or something.)

Anyway, I have never made a vegan cake and until Rachel began raving about this one, really never intended to. Now, this one is on my radar. I'll let you know how I do. On to the recipe, which looks mighty yummy.

Vegan Chocolate Cake (with Almonds)
serves 1 to 8, depending on portion size and your interest in sharing

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. white sugar (Not all brands are vegan, so if this matters, just google your brand and its sifting process. Non-vegan sugars are sifted through bone meal. Yuck.)
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1 tspn. baking soda
1/2 tspn. salt
1 c. almonds, sliced or chopped (totally optional)
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 tspn. vanilla extract
1 tspn. distilled white vinegar
1 c. water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9x5 loaf pan. In a large bowl, sift and whisk together all of your dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and stir until smooth. Pour into loaf pan and bake for approximately 45 minutes. Seriously, seriously enjoy.
*To serve, I cut the cake into slices, topped with slivers of strawberries and sprinkled powdered sugar over the whole thing. The cake doesn't need this extra love, though, to be scrumptious.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Crumble or Crisp — Who Cares?

Janet here: Sometimes the inspiration for a post is the food. This time I was inspired by these cute Polish pottery ramekins that I recently bought. I HAD to find something to make for them and I had to find it FAST.

Anyway, as the first photo shows, I went with a fruit crumble. I'm not sure what the difference is between a crumble and a crisp — if any of you know please fill us in — but I do know they are both deliciously wonderful because they feature cooked fruit combos and the wonderfulness of oats and crispy brown sugar. While people often think of these desserts in the fall in the Northeast when apples are plentiful, really any time of year is crumble/crisp season precisely because the fruit doesn't have to be perfect because you bake it. I chose pears and blueberries for this particular mix, but you can do peaches and blueberries, peaches and raspberries — the possibilities are really endless. Serve them warm and get ready to listen to the oohs and aahs.

Pear and Blueberry Crumble
fills 8 ramekins or 1 baking pan

fruit part
4 ripe pears
1 pint of blueberries
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

crumble part
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick butter, diced

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut up the pears into wedges. Mix with the rest of the fruit ingredients. Let sit for five minutes

In a separate bowl mix the other ingredients together. I just do this with my hands because I don't have a food processor, but if you have one, obviously your life will be easier.

Bake 45 minutes until top is brown and the juices are bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Rachel here: So, I didn't bake with my fruit. Nope, no oven was turned on in my kitchen (at least, not for this post). Instead, I just whipped some heavy cream, sliced some strawberries and indulged in one of my favorite combinations of all time. There are few things so simple as strawberries and whipped cream and, with strawberries galore in our neck of the woods these days, I just couldn't resist. It felt so fantastically summery and the perfect amount of indulgent. I have to say, though, that now I find myself wanting some fruit crisp...or is it crumble?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Food for Thought Thursdays: More Than Chocolate Ice Cream

Rachel here: When I was a little girl and my mom would tuck me into bed, after singing lullabies she'd pause at my bedroom door. She'd turn and blow me kisses saying, "I love you more than tongue can tell and more than chocolate ice cream" before leaving the door ajar and me to drift into sleep. I can still see her backlit by the hall light, fingers to her lips. I can hear her softly bid me goodnight and feel the dark blanketing me in safety and love.

As we all know, Mother's Day is fast approaching. This Sunday I'm sure many of us will be showing our mom's a little bit of love, be it in the form of a card, some quality time together, or just thinking good thoughts about our moms who are no longer with us. As someone on the brink of becoming a mom herself, Mother's Day this year feels a little extra poignant. I've been thinking of my mom a lot over the last 33 weeks (oh yeah, I am seriously pregnant these days) as I have begun my own adventure in motherhood. I have missed her more often than usual, wishing we could actually see each other more during this period of transition in both of our lives. There have been many, many days where I have felt like all I really wanted to do was go for a walk or grab a bite to eat with my mom. There has been this odd coupling of both feeling more like my mother's child than I have in years and also feeling more like a singular being as I grapple with my growing responsibilities.

This blog has been a great connecter for the two of us during this period. We are both busy ladies, prone to running around all day and falling into bed wiped out at night and, though we have always been close, this blog has served as a tie that binds amidst all of our day-to-day chaos. Even if it's only for a few minutes, there are few days in a week in which we don't speak. I love this. It has brought a spontaneity to our friendship that is hard to attain/maintain from so far away. We no longer need to catch up because we are both aware of what's going on in the other person's life at any given moment. Plus, I feel like I've gotten to see my mom differently, as though through blogging we found a forum to re-meet each other in some ways, to discover different aspects of the ways we both work and who we each are. It's really pretty awesome and not a gift I had anticipated receiving via our foray into the blogosphere together.

And so, Mom, though it's a few days early, I just wanted to say, now and forever more, I love you more than tongue can tell and more than chocolate ice cream. XXOO.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

It's Grill Time

Rachel here: The sudden arrival of warm weather this past weekend in the Bay Area left me seriously jonesing for summertime food. The other night we ate hotdogs and corn and, though the corn really isn't all that great yet, it still felt good to eat classic summer cook-out fare. There's something about these first warm weather meals that conjures so many summers passed. Every sense is stimulated by the sweet and slightly sticky air and I am both sitting in my backyard in Oakland and on my parents' back porch in Connecticut. Everything smells so good and I effortlessly relax in the warm twilight. But anyway, there's a recipe in here somewhere, I swear.

One of the meals we ate often in summer when I was growing up was chicken kebabs with couscous. For this reason, when the thermometer struck 80 yesterday, this was what I knew we had to have for dinner. We neglected to move our grill from our old apartment (oops!), but we have a stovetop grill pan that works just fine (although doesn't get you the same smokey awesomeness that a real grill will) in a pinch. In the early afternoon I whipped up a marinade and let the chicken soak for several hours before skewering it along with bell pepper and onion. I threw these on the stovetop grill pan, made a little couscous and--voila!--an easy, delicious, and totally summery dinner. A little later in the season I'll be adding peaches to these skewers (SO good), but they're not ready yet. What does the warm weather make you want to eat?

Smokey and Citrusy Marinade
enough for two large chicken breasts, chopped

1-2 large chicken breasts, chopped (or another meat of your choice)
1/3 c. worcestershire sauce
1/2 c. sesame oil
juice from one clementine
salt and pepper
chili powder, to taste (the more you use, the smokier your marinade will be)
1/4 c. brown sugar

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients several hours (or the day) before you want to cook your meat. Stir every hour or so to make sure meat is absorbing all of the different flavors. Skewer with veggies and enjoy.

Janet here: Rather than add another recipe to this post as I had planned to do, I'm just going to add this little tip: I put my marinade in a large zip-top baggie and throw the chicken/fish/veggies/whatever in there to marinate. It ensures that everything gets covered, makes it easy to periodically mush stuff around in the fridge to make sure everything is equally marinated and means you can slip it into whatever little cubicle you have available in your fridge (mine is often stuffed to the gills because it is A) too small, B) I overcook and C) I don't organize it particularly well.)

Eating outside with friends and family as dusk falls is one of my favorite ways to spend a summer evening. I hope you enjoy lots of cookouts with the ones you love this summer.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Guest Blogger: John Dezort

Rachel here: For a while now, we've been meaning to get some other people cooking on our blog. We love the guest posts we've been able to feature on Food for Thought Thursdays but we've also been wanting to do more. Today we are excited to kick off another outlet for voices and recipes other than our own by turning over the post to a guest blogger we're pretty sure you all already know and love: John Dezort. Though you've been looking at his illustrations for months now, and were recently made privy to a Food for Thought post by him, we're excited to show you what he can do when left entirely to his own devices. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, John Dezort.

John here: So it's spring, and even though in California it feels like spring for most of the year and locally grown produce can be bought throughout the year, spring in California brings forth an abundance of new veggies and fruits. I AM bragging, in case you weren't sure. So due to the recent availability of these vegetables, a wonderful woman I work with brought in a case of fresh asparagus she had found on the cheap and divided it among the employees. I ended up with a LOT of asparagus, which is a good problem to have. So I made soup!

6 to 7 cups chicken stock
1 large bunch of locally grown California spring asparagus (joking, any will do)
5 small yukon gold potatoes cut into small cubes
3 small ears of corn
1 large onion
3 stalks celery
1 large lemon--rind and juice
2 T parsley
2 tspn. thyme
2 T. dried mustard
pinch nutmeg
worcestershire sauce, just a little will do
Tapatio, Tabasco, cayenne, or anything spicy
1 pint or so of cream

Dice onion, celery, and the bottom half of the asparagus spears (reserve the tops for later), season with salt and pepper and saute in butter until the onion is translucent and browned slightly. Do this in the pot you will use for the soup. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add minced parsley, thyme and the other spices omitting the nutmeg, but including the lemon rind. Add hot (spicy) ingredients now as well but only to taste with a splash or two of worcestershire. Let simmer for roughly twenty minutes and then add the potatoes. Cook until the potatoes are done. While the soup is simmering, cut the asparagus tops into bite size pieces and blanch in boiling water that is very salty, like ocean-salty (really, it makes a difference). Shock in an ice bath when almost tender and set aside. Add the fresh corn from the cob to the soup (the corn will cook in a matter of minutes). Add a pinch of nutmeg and the juice from the lemon and finish with cream. Do not add the cream to a boiling soup as it will curdle, and don't reheat soup to a boil or it will separate. Adjust seasoning and add asparagus tops just before serving.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Easy Apps

Rachel here: Ok, so I know I fried pickles for our Friday post, but bear with me because fried olives are truly amazing. The first time I had them was at a restaurant in Berkeley that's now closed with a friend who I had a lot of fun with. Though much has changed in the years since then, I have never forgotten how truly awesome fried olives are. After making the pickles last week, I couldn't stop thinking about these fried olives from yore and decided I'd try my hand at them. The recipe I concocted was pretty simple and, though not as hearty a coating of fried stuff as I'd attained on my goat cheese medallions from a month or so ago or as I got to stick to my pickles last week, John and I concurred that they were not only edible, but delicious. I will definitely be whipping these up again in the not too distant future (I'd say "near future" but I'm pretty sure I should stop frying things for a little while...this penchant for frying can't be good for my arteries). When combined with the recipe my mom's sharing below, I feel like we could host a sort of retro dinner party. What appetizers do you whip up in a jiffy?

2 dozen olives of your choice (I used a medley of jalapeno stuffed, kalamata and sweet italian)
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1 tspn. salt
1 tspn. paprika
1 tspn. chili powder
2 T. cornstarch
1 egg
3/4 c. milk

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, salt, paprika, chili powder and cornstrach. Mix well. In a second bowl, beat your egg and stir in the milk. Dipping the olives first in the bowl of wet ingredients and then in the bowl of dry ingredients, add to your hot vegetable oil (you know your oil is hot enough when you drip water over it and it sizzles). Fry until golden brown, drain and serve with lemon wedges. Sooo good!

Janet here: My mom used to make this recipe, which is, inexplicably, called Empire Pate. A New York State reference? Something from Olde England? Who knows. At any rate, it is ridiculously easy to make and always a hit. I hope you enjoy it.

Empire Pate

6 oz cream cheese--whipped if you're lazy or in a hurry; brick if you've remembered to put it out ahead of time to soften to room temperature
4 oz grated cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 teaspoons or to taste, curry powder
1/4 cup chutney
2 scallions, diced

Mix the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, sherry and curry powder. Form into a brick or whatever other clever shape you want and put it in the fridge. When you're ready to serve, spread 1/4 cup chutney on top and the scallions.