Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Table Has Turned

Thank you for following the Life Told in Recipes blog. We're excited to announce that starting tomorrow, LTIR will become Table 1095! All the recipes, family memories, personal stories, and general food-loving posts you love will still be shared, with a little extra spice. We hope you'll enjoy our next incarnation!

Pull up a chair at Table1095:

Like our new Table1095 Facebook Page and Share with your friends! (To Share, click the drop-down arrow directly below the bottom right-hand corner of our cover photo, choose Share, add your own message if you like, then hit the Share Page button.)

Prize: Our Tex-Mex Package, including a copy of Mexican Cooking, More than Everyday Recipes by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee (yup not a mexcan name) from Chronicle Books AND The Homesick Texan Cookbook by the popular blogger Lisa Fain.

Follow @Table1095 on Twitter! Hit the blue Follow button at the top right.

Prize: Our Quick Tips prize, How to Squeeze a Lemon: 1,023 Kitchen Tips, Food Fixes and Handy Techniques from the editors and contributors of Fine Cooking mag, Taunton Press.

Follow Table1095 on Pinterest! Just click Follow All under our profile picture.

Prize: Our Very Visual cookbook prize, They Draw & Cook: 107 Recipes Illustrated by Artists from Around the World from a popular blog by Nate Padavick & Salli Swindell.

Follow the new blog itself for all the dish! Visit, click the Follow button at the bottom right, and enter your email address.

Prize: The Grand Prize, incuding three must-have books:
Melissa Clark's (NYT food columnist) book Cook This Now, from Hyperion
Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes from Hyperion
Fast Breads by Elinor Klivans from Chronicle Books

Friday, March 16, 2012

This moment

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. Pause, savor, remember.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes and Cheese (OK, and Meat...)

Rachel here.

First off, check this out (pardon the blurriness--my hands were shaking from excitement):


My brother, S, is staying with us this week (happy happy happy!) and our brother G shipped us this delicious surprise, replete with the appropriate cheese knife and everything. G is in Spain and these are some delicious local delicacies. Needless to say, I only snapped one picture before we dug in.

Thanks, G! Wish you were here to enjoy it with us.

But onwards.

My mom mentioned on Monday that we are moving over to a new internet home, ditching our current site and name in favor of one that we think fits us a bit better: Table1095. Part of what makes a house a home, though, is having your friends and family there with you.

To that end, we're really excited to announce a number of giveaways we're doing over the next couple weeks to welcome you to our new digs. Be one of the first to join us at the Table (by March 31st) and be entered to win great prizes. Here are the details:

Like our new Table1095 Facebook Page and Share with your friends! (To Share, click the drop-down arrow directly below the bottom right-hand corner of our cover photo, choose Share, add your own message if you like, then hit the Share Page button.)

Prize: Our Tex-Mex Package, including a copy of Mexican Cooking, More than Everyday Recipes by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee from Chronicle Books AND The Homesick Texan Cookbook by the popular blogger Lisa Fain.

Follow @Table1095 on Twitter! Hit the blue Follow button at the top right.

Prize: Our Quick Tips prize, How to Squeeze a Lemon: 1,023 Kitchen Tips, Food Fixes and Handy Techniques from the editors and contributors of Fine Cooking mag, Taunton Press.

Follow Table1095 on Pinterest! Just click Follow All under our profile picture.

Prize: Our Very Visual cookbook prize, They Draw & Cook: 107 Recipes Illustrated by Artists from Around the World from a popular blog by Nate Padavick & Salli Swindell.
Follow the new blog itself for all the dish! Visit, click the Follow button at the bottom right, and enter your email address.

Prize: The Grand Prize, incuding three must-have books:
Melissa Clark's (NYT food columnist) book Cook This Now, from Hyperion
Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes from Hyperion
Fast Breads by Elinor Klivans from Chronicle Books

Can't wait to see you all there for our official launch next Monday, March 19th.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Here Fishy Fishy

Janet here:

We're pretty excited here for the unveiling in just seven days of the new and (we think and hope you'll agree) improved LTIR. We've got a different look and a new name to reflect more options, both for Rachel and me to write about and for you our readers. While we've loved Life Told in Recipes, you have to admit the name is a mouthful. Anyway, a week from the today is the big launch so be sure to see what we've been up to.

Today's recipe is my go-to fish recipe. It's perfect for dinner gatherings because you can get it all set up before people arrive and then just plunk it in the oven when you're ready. That leaves plenty of time for you to be chatting it up, noshing and drinking with the people you've invited over because, really, otherwise what is the point?

This recipe is inspired from one of my six — yes, that clearly qualifies as a problem — Moosewood cookbooks. Mollie Katzen and the Moosewood crew were the ones who helped me realize giving up red meat did not mean a life of salad dinners and enabled me to convince my now lovely husband when we began living together that eating mostly vegetarian (with some fish thrown in) was actually going to be just fine. In 30 years of marriage, I've only made one thing we couldn't eat (zucchini pancakes) and I hope to revisit this epic fail someday now that I know a thing or two more about cooking with zucchini. My measurements for this are a little loose (a surprise I know) because I just do it by taste but that's part of the wonder of this recipe: There's plenty of room for experimenting. I served it with this leek, sage and potatoes gratin, which was a killer combination.

Fabulous Fish

serves 4-6

1/2 lemon squeezed and the zested rind from that too
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried basil--maybe two or so if fresh and chopped
2 cups bread crumbs
2/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

fish fillets: I've used scrod, halibut, tilapia. You want something a little meaty but not as meaty as, say, tuna, so that the breadcrumbs complement the fish but don't overwhelm it

Heat the olive oil and lemon juice and rind in a heated pan. Add the garlic and basil and saute briefly. Mix in the bread crumbs until they are coated with the oil and saute, stirring regularly, until they are golden brown and dry. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese and pepper.

Place the fish in an oiled baking pan. Spread the topping over it. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cover and bake 20 minutes.

Friday, March 9, 2012

This Moment

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. Pause, savor, remember.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (a few days late)

Rachel here.

So, I thought I had two disparate post ideas for today, but after thinking them over for a while, I've realized that, in fact, they're deeply connected.

As you may or may not know, last week was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. The goal of the week (helmed by the National Eating Disorder Association) is to increase awareness and, along those lines, this year's theme was "Everyone Knows Someone."

Think you don't?

You do. You know me.

NEDAW has been going on for a while, and every year bloggers stand up and speak out en masse. They write about their experiences, their hopes, their struggles. They chronicle their victories, their defeats, and their gains. They write for themselves, for those who find themselves mirrored back in their pages, against silence and invisibility. They write for everyone.

Every year I vow that I am going to add my voice.

Every year I am silent.

And I was this year, too, though I thought and thought and thought about writing. I piled excuses up against the desire, a barricade against a story who's entirety I have only ever told one person (my holy-crap-amazing therapist), until finally the week had passed. And now it's today, and I'm sitting here after a pleasant but exhausting day at the restaurant I work in, cheeks puffing out with the explosive desire I have to tell my own, small story.

The other post I was considering for today was about realizing during our trip east that, though we share a food blog, I had never cooked with my mother until this past week.

Nope. Never.

We've baked together countless times. Most of what I know I learned at her hip. But not until this past week did we stand side by side, chopping and seasoning and stepping around each other to prepare the entirety of a meal (I'll try not to over-think the fact that she relegated me to salad duty uummm....every night).

It was so, so nice. I hate the word "nice" but this is one of those rare moments where it feels just right. It was relaxed and gentle, a sharing so basic it left me feeling calmly full before the meal even began. Nice. It was really, really nice.

I've been thinking since we came home about why it took so long for this coming together at the kitchen counter to occur. Sure, some of it has to do with not having lived together since I was an asshole teenager, and some of it has to do with the years since being spent thousands of miles apart. But there was something else lurking, something I struggled to put my finger on as I sat at the dining room table with my family, enjoying food prepared by my mom's and my hands.

And then I figured it out. Baking doesn't require eating. Baking, in fact, is the perfect culinary sport for someone who is obsessed with controlling their food. Baking is something you do for other people; it generates a product no one bothers to notice whether you consume or not. Cooking, in that regard, is the food addict's nemesis. People watch you at dinner. They watch you after dinner. Dinner is, if you will, on the table. It is access, particularly in our family where sharing dinner was an important and regular staple in our days. Baking is a way to touch food, to smell it, to take teeny tiny tastes, without ever being expected to actually eat. Cooking is the exact opposite.

So I didn't cook with my mom. I baked and hid and maintained a white-knuckled grip on what went into my body.

It is a bigger story than this. Much bigger. It is the better part of 27 years and, I now know, something that I will never remember living without. It is my albatross.

It's funny--I had this deranged idea that being pregnant cured me of my entanglement with eating disorders. While actively knowing that part of how I maintain a relatively healthy relationship with food is contingent on the fact that I still nurse Maxine--like, there is a voice in my head that says make sure you eat enough or else you won't make breast milk or you will make really crappy breast milk and you have a kid with a weak immune system so don't you dare do that--I still tried to convince myself that I had turned some corner that I could never walk back around. And then we all got the flu and two really terrifying things happened.

The first was that I didn't get the flu. John fell first and, without somebody to eat with--to notice my eating--I just stopped. I didn't even think about it. I ate two peanut butter cookies in as many days. The part that shook me, though, wasn't the not eating. It was that I didn't realize I'd stopped until John got better. It was that effortless, that deeply rooted in my subconscious, still that familiar in spite of years of hard work.

The second thing that happened was that I did get the flu. I should say that what happened to John with the flu was unlike anything I've ever seen. That guy was SICK. Explosively, uncontrollably, every 15 minutes, SICK. It was wild. And then when I got it, I threw up two times. That was it. And I was disappointed. Which, now that I've got some space from that whole debacle, makes me feel really sad. Really, really sad. In a feverish haze I lay in bed considering my turn with the flu a bit of a missed opportunity.

I am 27 years old. I am a mother who wants NOTHING more for her daughter than for her to inhabit her body with love. I practice yoga. I work in food. I have a food blog. I love eating. I have spent years and years in therapy. And yet, when the flu comes knocking, I stop taking care of myself without realizing it and feel jealous that I didn't expel as much of my insides as my partner did.

I am 27 years old. I have eaten to numbness. I have binged and purged. I have eaten laxatives. I have starved to the point of fainting. I have pulled out clumps of my hair in the shower. I have bruised. I have bled. I have dropped out of college because I feared for my life. I have stopped getting my period. I have had my husband and brother threaten to hospitalize me. I have known how many calories I consumed in a day, a week, a month. I have avoided social situations for fear that I might be expected to eat bread. I have walked 5 miles to work to justify eating a cup of plain grits. I could go on. The list is long. I am a professional. We all are.

And I have clawed my way out.

And I claw myself out.

One day at a time. A breath. An expansion. A refusal to disappear. Hands over eyes, I part fingers. I peel them apart and make myself peer out at the world. See it. Be in it. Stop hiding.

There is an arsenal working against me. It is social and it is personal and it is unrelenting. I am stockpiling weapons, though, each day stashed aside as MINE.

I am putting cooking with my mother in my pocket. It is a reminder of how wonderfully full a life with food can feel. It is a reason to fight.

Because cooking with my mom? It's so, so nice.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Janet here:

First and foremost, I am coming off a week-long visit with Miss M and her caretakers and I am officially in mourning. Despite the fact that they all had colds, it was wonderful on every level possible and I am counting the days until we are all together again. (Anything longer than a month is too long in case anyone is wondering.)

But on to the food. Best part: Rachel and I got to cook together AND the Divine Miss M joined us. Best. Thing. Ever.

But when Max wasn't helping in the kitchen, the other best part was cooking for more than two and cooking new food. This leek and sage casserole was a killer side to a fish dish I made (stay tuned for that recipe). I've said it before but it bears saying again: I was a fool for presuming that leeks were the same as yellow onions for ALL OF MY COOKING LIFE UNTIL LAST YEAR. I was an idiot. If you like leeks even just a little bit, make this now. You won't be sorry.

Sage and Potatoes Gratin
serves 8

2 tablespoons butter
4 leeks, cleaned and sliced
1 cloves garlic, crushed
about 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
about 2 pounds potatoes (I used Russet but I think you could try this with Yukon too), thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped sage leaves
1 1/2 cups (or so) grated fontina cheese or cheddar if you prefer
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Melt the butter in a frying pan. Add the leek and garlic, salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Place the sweet and regular potatoes in a bowl with the olive oil and salt and pepper. Toss until well coated.

In a casserole dish (9X13 or smaller), create layers. First the potatoes. Then the leek mixture with cheese and sage. Then repeat, finishing with a cheese layer.

Cover loosely with foil. Bake for 30 minutes with the foil on. Then uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes. Serve.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Beer and Chocolate. No Joke.

Mike the Gay Beer Guy weighs in on the wonders of chocolate and, yes, beer.

So who likes chocolate? Here’s a quick desert that takes about 20 minutes to make, 10 minutes to bake, and an evening to enjoy! We make this molten lava cake a few times a month ... very little “real” baking technique is required and the results are amazing. This recipe is from Epicurious, and can be doubled or halved as needed. For tonight I only made two, even though we have 4 ramekins. Did I mention it’s quick and easy?! And of course why would I pair this with anything other a chocolate beer!

Molten Lava Cake
Serves 2 (or 4...or 8)

3 ¼ oz bittersweet chocolate
1 ½ tablespoons butter
Pinch (or less) of salt
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoon sugar
1 large egg white

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F and grease/flour (or maybe use cocoa powder?) your ramekins. Over a double boiler (or my makeshift stainless-bowl-over-a-small-pot-of-water) melt the chocolate, butter, and salt; there will be a noticeable texture change and that’s when you’re done. Set the bowl aside to cool for about 10 minutes.

In a new bowl, beat the egg yolks and 2 ½ tablespoons of the sugar together until smooth, about 2 minutes. Fold the cooled chocolate/butter mixture into the yolks and set aside. Using another bowl, whisk the egg white and remaining sugar until stiff, but not dry... the recipe from epicurious recommends using an electric beater, but for one egg, I just do it all by hand. Fold it gently into the chocolate mixture being careful not to deflate the egg white. Divide the mixture evenly into your ramekins, put them on a pan, and pop ‘em into the oven for 10 or 11 minutes.

When the cakes are done baking, let them cool for about a minute on a wire rack. Loosen the cake from the ramekin by sliding a knife around the edge and invert the cake onto a plate. Garnish with whipped cream and/or strawberries (seriously, I thought we had strawberries in the fridge... I’m kind of upset they weren’t there).

Bière au Chocolat

Our local big brewery, the Boulevard Brewing Company, just released a batch of its Chocolate Ale here in Kansas City. The beer attracted so much attention that my friends and I couldn’t even find a bar that wasn’t sold out by the time we got there, let alone buy a bottle or two to drink at home! So Dr E, my microbiologist friend, asked me to make a version... the end result is nothing like Boulevard’s, but it’s certainly something I’m happy with. The recipe is based on my Brown Porter recipe, but without the Brown malt and of course with chocolate. By the way, I told Dr E I would come up with the recipe but that HE would have to be the brewer... this is his first beer, with my assistance of course! Cheers!

OG: 1.060
FG: 1.018
IBU: 29
SBV: 5.5%

10 lbs 2-Row Malt
2 lbs Red Wheat Malt
1 lb Crystal 40
1 lb unsweetened baking cocoa powder
½ lb chocolate malt
½ lb biscuit malt
½ victory malt
1 ½ oz East Kent Golding Hops at 5% AA for 60 minutes
½ oz East Kent Golding Hops at 5% AA for 30 minutes
WLP 005 British Ale Yeast (or any English yeast will do!)

Mash grains at 155*F for 60 minutes or so. Sparge as usual. Boil your wort adding the hops at the times indicated; add the cocoa powder during the last 2 minutes or so to sanitize. Ferment (chocolate sludge and all!) at the lower end of the spectrum to provide minimal esters, but still retaining the English character... I went with 65*F. I think this beer works best with minimal carbonation; just the slightest hint of bubbles is my preference... think about 1 to 1 ½ volumes of CO2.


- Mike TGBG

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

You're Welcome

Rachel here.

Do you see that picture? Do you know what it's of?


And now that you've put that all together, you understand the need for all caps. I mean, come ON. Had you ever even imagined that such a wonder existed in the world? I say this as someone who has witnessed the miracle of birth relatively recently, too. And yes, I'm putting the bars and the baby on the same spectrum of holy-crap awesomeness.

This is how I came to have the amazing good fortune of snapping the above shot. I was on Pinterest (yes, yes, I may need a pintervention...) when suddenly, before my eyes, a vision appeared. I rubbed them to make sure it wasn't a mirage. Could it really be? Could Snickers bars be made at HOME? As regular readers know, I'm a pretty staunch believer that most things can be made better by our own two hands than whatever crazy factory processes are capable of behind closed doors. In other words, there was no way that a homemade Snickers wouldn't be better than it's store-bought counterpart.

And then I figured out a way to make them even better...have my MA make them instead of me! So I quickly emailed the link with a note saying something like, "It's so sweet of you to fly us all out for a visit, but I'll know you truly love me if you make these for me." And, because she really DOES love me, she did. On Friday. And I have eaten two a day since, because two homemade Snickers a day keeps...oh, who needs a reason.

The lovely lady who generated this recipe writes over here at How Sweet It Is. Her name is Jessica, and it's totally fair to say that her homemade Snickers bars are a gateway drug into the awesome realm of her beautiful blog. Seriously--after sending my ma the recipe I spent the rest of Maxine's nap perusing Jessica's recipe files, chuckling out loud and bookmarking future culinary endeavors.

Click here for the recipe. Our friendship will suffer if you don't.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Vegan Artichoke Dip

Exciting doings here at LTIR central: Rachel and I are actually cooking together because she is visiting the East Coast. Last night we whipped up this tasty dip inspired by a recipe from Blissful Bites by Christy Morgan (a cookbook we highly recommend).

Despite Rachel freaking out just a little because I don't own a single measuring spoon, meaning she had to "estimate" an actual tablespoon, we managed to make this without coming to blows. And I took just a little pleasure — okay, a lot — when it tasted just fine despite the inadequate cooking utensils chez Mom. Hah!

The original recipe calls for garam masala, but I didn't have any so we added a few different curry powders, cardomon and tumeric. My point is don't be afraid to experiment. Enjoy!

Indian Artichoke Dip

1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon spicy curry powder
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon cardomon
1 teaspoon sweet curry powder
2 tablespoons tamari
salt to taste
paprika to garnish on top

Puree in the food processor and adjust to taste. Yup, it's that easy.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Speedy Shrimp Fried Rice

Janet here: First things first. The Divine Miss M is arriving in a matter of hours. Yes HOURS. It's been four-plus months since I last squeezed her and I CAN'T WAIT!!!!!!!

Okay. On to a quick recipe.

I don't know about you, but I often like the fried rice that comes with Chinese takeout as much as the entrees. It's one of those dishes that I've always wanted to make at home but wasn't sure where to begin, until I ripped out this recipe from the Food Network Magazine — yup another of my ripped recipes — and did a little tinkering. You can obviously tinker too. Try it with chicken or pork, or maybe just more veggies or ... I'd offer more options but I've got some squeezing to do. :)

Shrimp Fried Rice

2 large eggs
salt to taste
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into pieces
1 tablespoon minced ginger
4 ounces snow peas
1 cup shredded carrots
1 bunch scallions, chopped
3 cups cooked rice


Whisk the eggs with a little salt in a small bowl. Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a wok (or large skillet) over medium heat. Add the eggs and cook, without stirring, until almost set. Then flip the eggs with a spatula and cook until just set on the other side. Remove from heat to a board and then cut into strips.

Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl and set aside. Heat the remaining tablespoon of canola oil in the same skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp and ginger and stir fry until almost cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add the snow peas, carrots and scallions and continue to stir fry until just done, about another minute. Add the rice and soy sauce and stir fry until just warmed through. Stir in the eggs and serve.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Leaving On A Jet Plane

We're packing our bags and heading out.

Getting ready to soar cross country, leaving California in the dark of early morning to land in Connecticut in the quiet of early night.

This means we're eating leftovers like it's our job. And lamenting the fact that I had to buy milk this morning.

It also means that in 36 hours I'll be eating in my ma's kitchen, sitting around that table I spent the better part of two decades at, now with my husband and my kid.

It's the kind of stuff that's good. Crazy good. Toddler-with-a-cupcake good.

What could be better?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Red Velvet Wonderfulness

Janet here: I have never met a cheesecake I didn't like. The creaminess, the cream cheese taste, the complete decadence — it is one of my favorite indulgences.

I am also a major fan of red velvet cupcakes (which I would just like to register a moment of complaint about here that at Rachel's wedding celebration in our backyard we had both red velvet cupcakes AND cheesecake cupcakes and I did not get a single one. Apparently our guests share my tastes.). Anyway given the combination of cheesecake and red velvet tastiness in this picture I saw in the February Food Network Magazine, it is no surprise I ripped this recipe out of the magazine immediately.

I probably should have done this post last week before Valentine's Day, based on the obvious red factor here. But while I made the cheesecake before VD, I went with something healthy instead. As you can tell, I didn't quite master the whole completely red thing (sometime between the last time I played with food coloring with my kids and now, food coloring has become a gel, which I didn't know exactly how to handle). I also think I need to practice the "pulling up" of the red velvet part of the cheesecake, which would also make it more red. Now practicing that is something I can get behind. :)

Red Velvet Cheesecake

ingredients for the crust

1 1/2 cups crushed chocolate cookies (the recipe calls for chocolate wafers; I couldn't find them so I used Oreos, which worked just fine)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
pinch salt

ingredients for filling
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons flour
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon red food coloring

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the cookie crumbs, the melted butter, sugar and salt in a bowl. The press into the bottom and a little up the side of a spring-form pan. Put the pan on a baking sheet and bake until set, about 10 minutes. Let cool

To make the filling reduce the oven to 325 degrees. Beat the cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a mixer about five minutes. Add the lour and then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Transfer two cups of the batter to a bowl. Stir in the cocoa powder and food coloring. The pour the red batter into the crust. Pour the white patter on top and using a spoon, pull up some of the red batter from the bottom and swirl. Be careful not to pull up any crust.

Bake until the edges are set but the center is wobbly, about one hour, 20 minutes.
Turn off the oven but keep the cake inside for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan (don't remove the spring-form side). Then transfer to a rack and let cool. Refrigerate at least four hours before slicing.

Friday, February 17, 2012

This Moment

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. Pause, savor, remember.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chard Chips

Rachel here.

So, I was going to write a post for today about these amazing cupcakes I made for John as a Valentine's Day treat. He's a vanilla vanilla man (as in vanilla cake with vanilla frosting) and I found a recipe that used 6 egg whites instead of 2 whole eggs, generating the fluffiest, pillowiest little cupcakes I've ever put in my mouth. I also found a whipped frosting recipe which served as the perfect cloud-like topping for these treats. When I sat down to write, though, I realized that by the time you all read this, you'll probably have made your way through a whole box of chocolates--either from someone who has a crush on you or to celebrate your single status on the day dedicated to love. When I eat a whole box of chocolates (or, you know, half a batch of cupcakes...), I usually find myself jonesing for something savory the next day. Oh, and nutritious. I really like to follow up sugar binges with vegetables, thereby creating a zero sum equation in my head (or some such logic).

Enter chard chips.

You've probably heard of kale chips (I feel like they're all the rage, at least around these parts). Our neighbor gifted us with four bunches of chard the other night when she stopped by to borrow a measuring cup and spoons for her daughter's birthday cake. Not really paying attention, I just assumed it was kale because she's given us bunches from her garden several times in the last few months.

With 20 minutes to kill before our friend arrived to watch Max so we could go on a date, I washed the chard and then all three of us sat on the kitchen floor tearing it from its stalks into bite-sized pieces. Into the salad spinner it went until it was super dry and, from there, into a big bowl where I tossed it in olive oil and sea salt. John spread the chard on a baking sheet (at which point we both realized it was chard instead of kale...not sure why it took us so long since the two really do look pretty different from each other) and then put it into the oven at 350 degrees. Ten minutes later, when the edges had started to brown, we pulled it out.

Oh. My. God. Good.

Like, so good.

Like, pumpkin seeds on crack good (though, now that I've re-read that sentence, I'm pretty sure pumpkin seeds on crack is gross...but whatever, you follow).

And so easy! And so quick! And so good FOR you!

So grab a bunch of chard the next time you're at the market and whip up some chard chips. You'll be smiling and munching through your daily dose of vegetables.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Almond Pesto Magic

Janet here: After admitting my little magazine recipe-ripping, um, problem, I started 2012 with a new plan. I would start actually cooking some of these recipes and then, if I like them, put them in a neat little notebook. Last week I dutifully bought my notebook, complete with plastic sleeves to stick the pages in and dividers so I can organize them by categories. I was so pleased with myself.

But then it was time to attack the pile, a daunting task for sure because it is a mini-mountain by now. Happily we were having another couple for dinner so I found a new way of doing pesto, using almonds rather than pine nuts.....Result? Brilliant and a total keeper. Into its nice plastic sleeve it goes.


Almond Pesto with Beans Linguine
from Food Network Magazine
serves 4

1/2 cup unsalted roasted almonds
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 cups fresh parsley
1 1/2 cups fresh basil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
12 ounces linguine
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
salt and pepper to taste


Bring a pot of salted water for the linguine to a boil.

Make the pesto by pulsing the almonds and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the parsley, basil and Parmesan; pulse some more until the herbs are chopped. With the motor running drizzle in the olive oil until blended.

Transfer to a large bowl and add the ricotta and olives.

Cook the linguine, adding the beans for the last two minutes. Reserve one cup of the cooking water; then drain the pasta and beans. Add to the bowl with the pesto and toss to coat. Add the chopped tomatoes and as much of the reserved cooking water as you like to have the perfect combination. Salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, February 10, 2012

This Moment

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. Pause, savor, remember.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In the Kitchen, Family Style

Rachel here.

No recipe today. Just a moment instead.

We spent Saturday afternoon in the kitchen. John whipped up a gorgeous roast chicken, stuffed to the brim and lying in a bed of sweet potatoes, carrots and onion. It was simple and fresh and, after Maxine was in bed, it made the perfect date night dinner (we have dates on Saturdays, come hell or high water). While he did this, Max and I threw a thousand little bits and pieces into our slow cooker. A handful of corn, pinches of peas, tomato and chicken stock, freshly snapped green beans, carrots and celery and onion freshly sauteed, orzo...and then a little more, and whatever seasonings we could get our hands on from the spice drawer (which is in serious need of a restock). Chicken roasted, soup simmered, and for an hour or so there, all three of us were chitchatting and giggling while our hands worked, sharing tasting spoons and reveling in the warmth and good smells that seeped throughout our house.

I caught myself for a moment, thought "Oh! I'd better start writing this all down. I'd better start snapping pictures." But then I forgot, pulled back into the present by Maxine's request for a spoon to stir with or something like that. And I'm glad.

Because this little pocket in a Saturday afternoon?

It was one of those moments I'd always imagined for my family when I was growing up. Everyone was involved, we were focused on tending to our most basic needs, and none of it felt like work.

It was awesome.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Chocolate + Caramel = Amazing

Janet here:

Yes, the cookie obsession continues. Here's the inception of this particular combo. The setting: Casa de Roomie, where I live part-time as I travel between New York and Connecticut. Scene: I'm ripping out recipes from magazines (click here for my little, um, issue with this habit). Roomie is ripping out magazines for a vision board. Her daughter is finishing adding the finishing touches on a Modge Podge project.

Roomie: Oooh these cookies look good (coconut with gooey circles of caramel in the middle from a magazine).

Daughter of roomie: Oooh make those for my birthday please. I love coconut!

Me (not a fan of coconut): Oooh these would be good with chocolate instead of coconut, don't you think?

A few days later I'm in the kitchen, whipping up my variation of these little numbers and I'm just going to say that my hunch was correct. I have no idea how they'd be with coconut (and never will since I don't like it) but I can say with a degree of certainty, they are awesome with chocolate. Enjoy!

Chocolate Caramel Cookies
makes about two dozen

2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
about 20 Kraft caramel pieces
6 tablespoons heavy cream
fleur de sel (sea salt crystals)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper (which really is one of the great inventions and I can't believe I didn't ever use it until last year!). Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.

In another bowl mix the butter using an electric mixer or by hand (my method). Beat until light and creamy, however, you choose. Add the sugars, beating until light. Add the eggs and vanilla. Beat in the dry ingredients until just mixed.

Place spoonsful of the cookie dough on baking pans and bake for 15 minutes.

While the cookies are baking, melt the Kraft pieces in a pot with the heavy cream on low heat.

When the cookies come out of the oven, take a spoon and smoosh a little hole in the warm cookies. Pour about a teaspoonful of the melted caramel into the hole and then sprinkle a little fleur de sel over the cookies. How much salt you add is up to your own salt senses.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fondue WHAT?

And now, ladies and gentlemen, for our monthly dose of wisdom from Mike the Gay Beer Guy. Be still our beating hearts...

Mike here.

We’ve all been there... you know, THAT couple that invites you over for a Fondue party. Cheese, oil, chocolate - it’s all the same. Little tiny forks sticking out of center bowl warned over a tiny burner. Well roll up your sleeves and get ready to impress your friends with this spiced up version! That’s right - HOT POT.

The Chinese version of dipped meats and vegis in a broth is loaded with all sorts of flavor; you can almost use anything you want. Be warned, though, it’s not for the light hearted... this is serious entertaining food that gets spicier and more intense as the evening goes on. To make it more of an event, instead of having a whole ton of food just for the two of us, T and I invited our friend (and fellow Hong Konger to T) over to partake in this Chinese winter staple (speaking of winter... as I write this it’s 65* outside in Kansas City... yeah, winter indeed).

The components: the chili oil, the broth, the sauce, and all the fixin’s... ready? Here we go!

Chili Oil:
Szechuan Peppercorns (found at the Asian Market)
Dried Chili Peppers
Canola Oil

This should be done a day in advance. There’s no set quantitative value to how much chilis or oil to use. Use your judgement! Start by toasting your chilis in a dry pan until they develop some color but don’t burn; once done, set aside in a bowl. Using the same pan, start toasting your Szechuan Peppercorns. The peppercrcorns will release an amazing aroma, which seems like it’s a combination of hot spice, pepper (like cracked black pepper), and a sour/vinegary flavor. When the peppercorns have developed a nice flavor, combine it back with the chilis and roughly crush with a mortar and pestle (we actually don’t own one... a stainless bowl and a mini-rolling pin work just as well!). In the pan, combine the peppers and the peppercorns with enough oil to cover, heat through, and then set in a heat proof bowl to rest overnight.

Daikon Radish
Chicken (or Pork) Broth
Chili Oil

The broth is simple... dice the radish into 1 inch pieces. Add the water and simmer... at some point taste the broth for flavor, adjust the seasoning. After you’ve sufficiently simmered the broth, add the chili oil to taste (we found that it was more pungent rather than spicy... but use your own judgement!). This is a great time to discuss the vessel you should use: a flat-bottomed pan a few inches deep to be able to simmer enough broth to cook the fixings of your choice. As you can see form the pictures, we have a mini butane fueled stove that sits in the middle of our table... it’s kinda similar to a camping stove, but safe for indoor use. Always be safe when making hot pot!!!! At some point before serving, you’ll want to add some of your fixings to the broth, not only to enhance flavor, but to give them a head start in the cooking process... but we’ll get into the details after the sauce.

OK, here we go... a quick warning. From here on, you might be dealing with raw and cooked-slightly-rare ingredients... At no point during this meal did I ever think I was going to get any form of food poisoning. We used fresh ingredients, which certainly helps to curve the nerves. But use your judgement! My thoughts are, especially being Mike TGBG, that if you drink enough alcohol you’ll either kill everything living in your system... or at least you’ll never remember being sick!

The Dipping Sauce & Fixin’s:
Chinese BBQ Paste
Soy Sauce

Now everyone get your individual bowl. Crack your egg into your bowl, add a dab of BBQ Paste and some soy sauce, and swirl it all around with your chop sticks (you know... chop sticks, right?!). You’re going to put your fixings into the simmering broth, let them cook to your liking, and plop them into your sauce. And then eat of course!!! When you get your broth into the middle of your table (on the flame) it’s probably a good time to add whatever long-cooking items... we had fish-balls, Chinese Meatballs, and mushrooms. Also on the table (and we had EVERYTHING there): beef, chicken, prawns, squid, muscles, noodles, cabbage, tofu, fermented tofu, more mushrooms... you name it. This can be as complicated or as simple as you want... just prep everything in advance and instant HOT POT!!!!

Imperial Mild

For this evening, I had on hand an Imperial Mild that I had brewed as a kit from Northern Brewer ( For those who don’t know, a Mild (as opposed to the hoppier “Bitter”) is an English Pub beer, usually about 3% or so ABV (it’s actually really hard to find one commercially... I know of no one in the US who makes one or imports one, and I’ve heard it’s very rare in Europe too!). This recipe calls for the same ingredients, just a little higher in alcohol, at about 5.5% ABV. Full of malty flavor and some caramel sweetness, this beer paired PERFECTLY with the hot and spicy Hot Pot. For my winter brewing, I plan most beers around extract recipes so I can brew indoors without having to stand in the outside cold for hours... here is the recipe just as I made it. Maybe over the summer I can plan a full-mash version!

OG: 1.062
ABV: 5.5%

6 lbs Munton’s Amber Dry Malt Extract
1 lb Corn Sugar
4 oz each English Dark Crystal, Extra-Dark Crystal, and Pale Chocolate Malts
2 oz Victory Malt
2 ½ oz Fuggles at 60 minutes
½ oz Fuggles at 15 min
WY1187 - Ringwood Ale Yeast

Method - Back to Basics... partial wort boil on the stove

Crush and steep your specialty malts (in a mesh bag) in about a gallon of 160* water for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, collect about 4 gallons in your kettle as you drain your bag of crushed grains (don’t squeeze out every last bit of liquid!!! Just simply drain the bag of grains over the kettle! When the bag doesn’t drip, throw it away). Off heat, add the extract to the water, stir to dissolve well, and bring the wort (solution of sugars) to a boil. When you achieve boil, add your 60 min hops (you can cover the kettle to help a boil come about, but then the lid should be off until you’re ready to cool the wort); boil for 45 min, add your 15 minute hops and corn sugar, and continue to boil for the remaining 15 minutes. When the hour boil is over, cool the kettle in an ice bath in the sink (or bath tub or whatever). While the kettle is cooling, prepare your fermentation vessel... sanitize, sanitize, SANITIZE!!! The wort in the kettle is essentially sterile (although there are spores and other potential contaminants still in solution, the nasty and potentially beer-hazardous stuff has been thoroughly killed off) and you want to give your yeast the optimum and clean environment to work! When the wort is cool to the touch (ideally around 60*-70*, but any temperature which won’t kill your yeast will work), pour it into your fermentation vessel; food-grade plastic buckets are easy, but those with carboys will need either a friend and a funnel or to siphon. Your fermenter should be able to hold 6 ½ gallons of liquid... when the wort is in the fermenter, top off with clean spring water or previously boiled and cooled tap water to about 5 ½ gallons; you will have about a gallon of open head space. From here, the easiest thing to do is just pitch your yeast and cover the vessel... plastic buckets can accommodate a sanitized airlock in the lid or use a sanitized piece of foil for your carboy (I only use stoppers and airlocks for any beer I’ll leave in the fermenter for longer than 2 weeks). My procedure is a little more controlled: I make sure my wort has cooled to 60*, pitch my yeast, and then raise the temperature to 65* (assuming the temperature inside the carboy will be around 67*-68*) through the use of a heat wrap and temperature controller. Ferment until the beer has visibly stopped moving and the majority of yeast has fallen out of suspension... and then wait another 3 or 4 days after that!! Keg or bottle and carbonate VERY low... I actually prefer this beer almost still. If you bottle and add priming sugar, use ⅓ to ½ of what you would normally add. For you keggers out there (my included), just put enough head pressure on the keg to serve!

- Mike TGBG

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Rachel here.

My ma mentioned in her last post that Maxine has been diagnosed with MRSA. As anyone who's familiar with that difficult mistress knows, this means there's been a ton--TON--of cleaning in our house lately. Like, every single thing, every single day. Needless to say, cooking has taken the back burner around these parts. We have remembered out of necessity and a desire not to wash anything extra that a good portion of our refrigerator is happily and deliciously consumed raw. Yeah, these are the salad days.

I have a question for all of you dear readers of ours. Part of our daily routine now involves shoving medications up Max's nose and down her throat. The nose part sucks, but the kid is happily rewarded for her willing participation by being granted access to my jewelry. Last night--no joke!--she was walking around in strings of pearls with an arm laden with my grandmother's gold bracelets and pajamas. It was pretty cute and the sparkle seemed to help her forgot her burning nostrils. The hard part--and this is where I'm pleading with you for your own tricks!--is getting liquid meds in her. We've tried putting them in her food. We've tried milk with honey. We've accepted that the taste is too foul and the quantity too great to expect her to take them on their own. I know some of you have kids. How have you navigated this dilemma? We'll try anything.

Thanks guys! Go team!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Cooking Through Grief and Worry and Frustration and ...

Last week was not easy. I went to the memorial service of a man who was like a second father to me — my childhood best friend's father. While he lived a wonderful full life, dying only three weeks after he was out dancing with his wife of 63 years and at the age of 87, it's still, as everyone knows who has suffered this kind of loss, gut wrenching.

Last week is also when our granddaughter was diagnosed with MRSA. MRSA, if you don't know, is a fairly — no very — scary antibiotic-resistant form of staph. Of course Rachel and John have pulled out all the stops. (You can read about it in Rachel's blog.) But they're 3,000 miles away and I can't do a damn thing to help other than read things about MRSA online (I would not recommend this as a plan by the way) and try very hard not to freak out.

So in between just feeling sad and hyperventilating, I did one of the things I do when I'm trying to work through emotions. I cooked.

I made mookies (recipe here)

And roasted vegetable soup

And a quiche

and banana chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

(Oh and I also put a coat of paint on a display case I'm redoing and knit. So yea, I was a little manic.)

The cooking made me feel a little better, though. As I diced and mixed and stirred and spiced, I felt as if things were normal. I was making good food for someone I love, food that would nurture him literally and emotionally, and for at least those moments life's uncontrollable moments were held at bay. It may not be for long, but I'll take it.

Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (! 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana
1 cup rolled oats
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix together the butter and sugars in a large bowl and beat until light and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Mix in the banana. Add the flour, salt and baking soda and mix until just combined. Add the oats, chocolate chips and walnuts.

Place on a baking sheet. Bake 12-13 minutes until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Healthy + Delicious Muffins. For Real.

Rachel here.

We've got a finicky eater on our hand. By finicky I mean that someone in this household who is only about yay high has issued a moratorium on trying new things. And by new things I include hot chocolate. No matter the deliciousness, Miss M simply refuses to let anything new cross her lips. Thank god we'd gotten a few super nutrients over the threshold before the embargo settled in. The fact that she will eat interesting and strongly flavored foods (such as garlic and ginger), though, makes her refusal to continue adventuring all the more frustrating. John and I both offer her things to try with confidence that she'll like them, only to find our spoons butting against her cheek instead of her open mouth.

We're getting pretty good, though, at tricking her into eating things without knowing it. We put silken tofu in yogurt and oatmeal; John minces vegetables and adds them to pasta sauce. And the other day I whipped up some muffins that are brimming with carrots and unsweetened coconut, flax and organic whole wheat flour. Evidently, putting things in muffin form moves them into the acceptable category for Miss M. Just don't put a carrot on her plate.

Anyway, these muffins were surprisingly tasty. I used demarara sugar which is one of the least-sweet sugars around. I used just enough to cut the tang of the wheat flour and the muffins are just ever-so-slightly sweetened. These are hearty little lumps, excellent with a smear of cream cheese on top. Though generated for M, we've all been eating them.

I adapted this recipe from this old hippy tome.

According to my marginalia, I've made these muffins before in a different variation (I used apples and agave and such in that endeavor). I always mark my differences, and pretty soon my marginalia is going to crowd out the original recipe. Maybe next time I should try them the way the cookbook suggests...

Oh, you mis-measured the milk? And just poured it in anyway? And now your batter's too runny? Yeah, I did that, too. I just added handfuls of flax meal until things returned to a nice, gooey consistency again. And then I patted myself on the back for upping the health ante.

Voila! Don't these suckers look extra healthy next to the heaping basket of produce our sweet hippy neighbors dropped off?

They hold up all right on their own, though, too. I think perhaps part of tricking a saucy toddler into eating healthy muffins is putting them in cute polka dotted wrappers.

It's hard to wait for muffins to cool, but somebody's gotta do it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies with a Twist

Regular readers know I (Janet) am fairly cookie-obsessed. I love to bake them and I love to eat them. This past weekend it was snowing here in the Northeast, a time when I always feel particularly cozy baking up a storm.

There was just one little problem: I'm in the middle of my annual purification cleanse, which basically means taking a bunch of supplements, drinking a lot of water, and eating mostly fruits and vegetables. Notably not on the list are cookies.

But I really wanted to bake. The question was would I be able to refrain from eating one of these little numbers warm from the oven or perhaps sneaking an errant chocolate chip or two from the batter?

Welllllll, no. I did eat one cookie, and it was damn good. I'm pretty sure my detoxifying liver and kidney will recover.

As for the recipe, it's a good one. I added a little twist that I heartily recommend: cinnamon. Seriously. Give it whirl and let us know what you think.

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies
about 3 dozen

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup smooth or chunky peanut butter (I used a little of each)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup roasted, salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla

Put the butter and peanut butter in a bowl and mix until smooth. (If you're using an electric mixer that would be about 2 minutes.) Add the sugars and mix some more. Mix in the eggs. Add the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips, peanuts and vanilla and mix well. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough into small balls and place on a baking sheet. Flatten slightly with your hand or a fork. Bake until golden, about 13 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Mess 'o Magazine (Pages)

Janet here: Sooooo last year I posted about my magazine, um, problem. The picture probably tells the story but if you want to hear all the messy details, you can read it here.

At the time, my very clever solution was to simply tear the pages out of the magazines, thus eliminating the ever-growing stack. (You can probably tell where this is going.) But now, I have a mess of — yup — pages, including recipes I've printed from things I've read online. It's not pretty.

Clearly this strategy isn't working, especially since on top of it all I have hardly cooked a single thing from this pile. Pathetic I know.

But I've been thinking a bit about why we do this. For me I think it's all part of my lifetime quest to create the family I wished I'd had as a child. Don't get me wrong: plenty of things about my childhood were perfectly wonderful. I grew up in a middle class neighborhood and never really wanted for anything; my family was intact and many of my memories are happy ones. But there was, as there is in every family, a dark side, and in my particular case that dark side involved alcohol and all the many messy, confusing (to a child particularly), scary things that disease invokes.

And at a certain point — I think I was in 9th grade — I vowed my family would be different. I can picture the moment quite clearly. I was in my room and I looked up at the sky, hand clenched, and vowed, not unlike Scarlett in that seminal scene in Gone with the Wind, that my family, the one I created with my future husband, would be different.

I've been working at that mission ever since we had children. And food — making food from scratch, trying to ensure that everyone liked the food, literally keeping my family well fed — has played a major part. So as I flip through magazines or scroll through food blogs and recipes, this desire to feed people well is always in the back of my mind. It's about showing my love and, of course, looking for love in return.

So I rip, thinking G and S might like this one or maybe I can make that one for Rachel and her family or perhaps this one would be great when we have some of our friends over for dinner. I rip, thinking, hoping, that this next meal will add just another knot in the quilt of my life I've been sewing since I was 14. The more knots, apparently, the stronger I think it will be.

Still, something in this method has to change. So here's my (kind of) New Year resolution about this. I am going to cook something from this pile at least three times a month. (I originally was going to say once a week, but that would fail oh probably around week two, at which point I might give up on the whole thing and I'd be back to just a growing mountain of magazine pages.) Anyway, once I make the recipe, I will decide if it's a keeper or a tosser. The keepers will go in a notebook for posterity. And some day, as my children clear out what's left, they'll be able to know that these particular recipes were some of the ones that made the cut.

In the meantime, if anyone has any brilliant ideas about how they deal with their ripped-out recipes — I know I'm not the only person who does this — please share them! You'll be doing us all a favor.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Rachel here.

So, this Wednesday we will be silent. Our silence will speak volumes, though, about our vehement opposition to the internet censorship bill (PIPA in the Senate and SOPA in the House...such innocuous sounding nicknames for policy with such terrifying implications). We will be standing in quiet solidarity with websites around the country in protest of this insidious attack on freedom of expression. As writers, as women, and as mothers we refuse to be passive in the face of such violent assault on our voices.

Here is a little video to clue you in in case you're not entirely sure what the big deal is:

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

A year ago, during the Arab Spring, the United States government was outspoken about their dismay at various Middle Eastern governments' censorship of their citizens. Today, on the heels of a growing grassroots movement against the United States government, we find ourselves faced with a government that seeks to enact the very sort of policy they tsk-tsked a year ago. The rhetoric around PIPA and SOPA fronts as a sort of "defense of the entertainment industry" schtick. We know, though, that it is only the latest policy move towards privileging corporations over people, advancing an agenda of grotesque profits and power for a tiny few on the backs of the vast rest of us.

Here is one small example of both the absurdity and the stakes of SOPA/PIPA passing. My niece likes to record herself singing on her computer and then upload her little ditties onto Facebook for her friends and family to hear. She's got a set of pipes, she does, and chutzpa to boot. Her latest offerings have been from Jason Mraz and Adele. And you know what? Though she's adorable beyond description and sings her heart out, I feel confident that no one--NO ONE--has opted not to purchase Adele or Jason Mraz's music because my sweet niece's version hit the spot. She's eleven, after all, and nobody masters her tracks. The idea that Facebook, or Youtube, or even SHE would be sued over this someday makes my blood curdle. Because you know what? What is lost in a world where an eleven year old girl can't sing her heart out in her bedroom and share it with her friends over the internet is more than just the sharing of the song. We lose the sharing of feelings, we lose grasp of a way to connect, to find access to ourselves through words we sometimes can't think of on our own and we lose a vehicle for sharing this part of self or moment of feeling with other people. In a society where we are trained at every turn to self-censor--to wear only the right clothes, to offer appropriate feelings, to desire only certain bodies--the idea that we would further strip away freedom of expression--and on a policy level, no less!--is appalling.

You've read Fahrenheit 459, right? Let's stand up before freedom of expression is just a pile of ash.

Here are links to a few websites. Some have links for emailing your local representatives, others have informative breakdowns of the operations of PIPA/SOPA. If you know of any others, please share them in the comments section below.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A New Tuna Casserole

Janet here: I know tuna cassroles are staples in many households and a go-to meal for a busy weeknight but I don't think I made one while my kids lived at home. The reason is simple: the word tuna.

I made a mistake as a parent I would suggest anyone reading this with young kids avoid: for a while — and waaaaayyy longer than I should have — I made separate meals for certain kids who did not like (maybe even refused to put one bite in his mouth) of the general dinner. On a given night that could mean I made four dinners. I know, I know, I know! This is CRAZY and goes against every parenting book out there. I took the path of least resistance, what can I tell you? (And I know I'm not the only one out there.)

Anyway one night, as I surveyed what was going on at the dinner table, I suddenly woke up from this nightmare and said to myself, This is going to stop. Right. Now.

The break was not happily met but as I've mentioned at various other junctures in our children's lives, this perceived grievance (not being able to have a friend over on a school night, not being their personal short order cook, not buying the latest gadget EVERYONE BUT THEM had, are all found in the latest edition of the Parents' Torture Book, which every parent receives at the hospital upon the birth of their child and they can look forward to getting their own copy one day. I also at various points may have said something like, "Well now you have something to talk to your therapist about.")

Anyway, the point is I never went down the tuna road. Since I was making one meal I did try to come up with something that would please the lowest common denominator. I probably batted 50-50 there. Thank God for cereal and peanut butter and jelly. This particular child is now a strapping 6 feet tall.

But if your family is more adventurous or if you've just got a hankering for tuna casserole yourself, this version is a little like warmed salad nicoise. And who wouldn't like that?

Mediterranean Tuna Casserole
inspired by Not Your Mother's Casseroles

10 ounces wide egg noodles
olive oil
1 pound red potatoes, sliced
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste
4 6-ounce cans tuna, drained
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and cut into pieces
3/4 cup capers, drained
1/2 cup sliced black olives
a few hearty shakes of dried parsley
3/4 cups shredded Parmesan

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9X13 baking pan. Boil a pot of salted water and cook the noodles until al dente. Drain and place in a large bowl. Toss in a little olive oil so they don't clump.

Bring water to a boil again and add potatoes.Blanch for four minutes, drain and return to the pot.

While the noodles and potatoes are cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir for about five minutes. Then whisk in the milk. Cook for about five minutes, stirring regularly until it thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste. '

Mix the egg noodles and potatoes in the pot. Pour sauce over them. Add the tuna, artichoke hearts, capers, olives, scallions,parsley and Parmesan. Salt to taste. Mix it up and place in baking pan. Add a little more Parmesan. Bake, uncovered, for about 25 minutes

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Oh Brother, Mother.

Rachel here.

Ok, so yesterday my mom wrote this post about how she like, doesn't need to follow cooking rules or some madness like that. She claims her cooking is not only fine, but good, rules be damned.

I grew up eating her food. I turned out fine. She rarely repulsed me (except by refusing to believe that I hate broccoli and cauliflower until I was well into my 20s) and some of her dishes remain my all-time favorite meals to eat (her Greek Pizza and granola are unrivaled in my opinion). However, the woman isn't a professional. She just isn't. And, as her concession that letting dairy products warm to room temperature before baking does, in fact, improve the end product suggests, maybe the pros are onto something.

I have spent the better part of the last 6 years in a kitchen. A RESTAURANT kitchen, no less. And while the place where I've worked is no-frills, it's also deeply committed to consistency. The food looks and tastes pretty much the same regardless of who has made it. What's the key? Following rules.

I've also spent the last 6 years cohabiting with a guy who has spent more years in professional kitchens than I think he'd like me to count and announce to you all (ok, he probably doesn't care...I'm just too lazy to figure it out on my own). John almost never uses a recipe and, my inferiority complex aside, I think I've finally figured out why: he knows the rules. There are these hard, fast, reliable truths about food and preparation processes that have seeped so deeply into him that he no longer needs to be propped up by a recipe. A recipe, after all, is basically just telling you what rules to follow.

And here's the thing: My mom is a good cook. I'm an alright cook. John, though, is a great cook. The man throws things together in the kitchen that make my knees weak, and he does it all without breaking a sweat.

One final point before I rest my case. This post might have a bunch of type-os in it that I don't catch. Want to know why? Because I used a too-big knife on a too-small cutting board and hacked off the tip of my finger the other day. THINK ON THAT.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Breaking the Rules

Apparently I am a bit of a cooking disaster waiting to happen. At least I am according to the experts interviewed by Real Simple.

The January issue has a story called How to Fix Dinner: 17 all-too-common cooking mistakes (plus easy tips to avoid them). I do (or have done) about half of these tips regularly — mostly without any ill effect.

Take number two: using the wrong knife. Been there, done that, do that all the time. I don't even know which knife in my fairly nice Cutco knife set (Rachel spent a brief foray one summer in this selling cult so we of course now have many Cutco knives purchased before she quit) is supposed to do what. It's a complete mystery so I just grab the one closest at hand and hack away. Mostly that method works just fine. The Real Simple story, however, suggests that this approach will "damage your food." If I used the correct knife, I would be more efficient and my dicing would be neater.

The problem is that I don't really care about how neat my diced pieces are. In fact, I mostly don't care if my food is precisely diced at all, favoring larger pieces overall and losing interest fairly early in the process. I'm more interested in the flavors themselves and getting to the finished product.

Which is why I always — until the past year, when I finally realized maybe all these cookbooks and cookbook authors I interviewed were on to something since they were all saying the same thing — just grabbed my eggs and dairy products such as milk out of the fridge minutes before I would mix them into some kind of batter and dough. This is a baking no-no (number 15) because it results in dense cakes and breads. Apparently at room temperature, the article says, eggs, butter and liquids such as milk "bond and form an emulsion that traps air." Cold ingredients don't always bond.

As part of my quest to get my cookie baking Mojo back, I decided to pay more attention to some of these baking details. Letting the eggs and butter get to room temperature has been one of my changes and I'm happy to report, I will go up against Rachel's cooking baking any day. Bring it!

But a "mistake" I don't see myself changing, despite admonitions to the contrary from a variety of well-known and/or cooks I admire, is measuring dry ingredients in a liquid measuring cup. (And this is before going into the whole weighing debate which certain people absolutely swear by.) I don't even own dry measuring cups (or teaspoon/tablespoon measuring utensils for that matter; I use my eye and pour it directly into the bowl or into the palm of my hand. Oh, and I don't sift — ever.) Apparently baking this way means that my flour is in danger of being compacted if I bang on the cup to try to make it create a level line.

The article did get me thinking, though. I am a good cook. But could I be a better cook if I was more precise, more of a stickler for detail? Is that worth exploring?

My gut reaction is no. Leave it be. I'll try new things when I want (as in with the room temperature switcheroo) and because I'm motivated, not because someone, somewhere, is declaring my method a "mistake."

What about you? Do you break certain cooking "rules"? How's that working for you? Do you have certain procedures you absolutely swear by? Let's do some sharing and see what we come up with.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Pork and, Yes, Beer

Clearly at least two of the writers of this blog have pig on the brain. First we get the Edna post (that almost made me become a moral vegetarian) and now we have a much lovelier post about roast pork, a favorite of mine back when red meat was on my personal menu. (I know pork is the "other" white meat but you get what I mean.) Anyway, without further ado, this month's post from Mike the Gay Beer Guy — Janet

Hi Janet, Hi Rachel -

Happy 2012!!! Can you believe it’s here? As I write this on Christmas Day, it’s hardly imaginable that the new year is upon us once again. Last night we made a roast pork shoulder based on a recipe from the TV show, America’s Test Kitchen. Of course, not knowing there as a copy of the recipe online, I set out putting this whole thing together by memory — and actually came pretty close! America’s Test Kitchen also suggests a peach sauce, but we made one with our Weizenbock from last month’s post...enjoy!

Roast Pork with Weizensauce

Based on America’s Test Kitchen Recipe - either from the TV show, or also found here:

pork ingredients
Bone-in Pork Shoulder (2-3 lbs for 2 people with leftovers)
Kosher Salt & Brown Sugar, equal parts
Ground Pepper

Mix the salt and sugar in a bowl making sure there aren’t too many big clumps of brown sugar. Take the pork, fat side up, and score the top; press the salt/sugar mixture into the pork on the top. Wrap the roast in plastic and put on a baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight... as you can read in the ATK link, the salt acts as a brine or curing agent, making sure the meat is flavorful throughout. When you’re ready to roast, take the pork out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature; for us, this took the better part of an hour, or maybe longer (I forgot!).

Heat your oven to 325*, unwrap the pork making sure to brush off all the excess salt and sugar, and season with fresh pepper. Place the pork on a greased up V-Rack set inside a roasting pan or high-rimmed baking sheet; add some water to the bottom of the roasting pan so that the juices from the pork don’t burn during roasting. As the pork is in the oven, make sure to replace the water as it evaporates... it’s ok if the sugars caramelize a little!

The pork should be done when a thermometer inserted into the middle of the roast reads 190 degrees; for our 2-3 lb roast that was about 3 hours. Take the roast out, move it to a cutting board, and tent it loosely with foil.

Prepare the sauce from ATK or try our Weizensauce! Serve with your favorite festive sides... we had roasted acorn squash and zucchini (multi-task... as the roast is finishing, put your veggies in the oven!!).


Drippings from the Pork Roast
1 shallot,minced
Weizenbock Beer, about 6-8 oz from a bottle or your keg
Thyme, we used 3 sprigs of fresh, but you can used dried too

Collect the drippings from roast pork; let it sit for 5-10 minutes so you can separate the fat from the juices. As the drippings are resting, prepare your shallot and saute in a small pot. When the shallots have caramelized a bit, stir in the beer, bring it to a boil so the alcohol burns off, and begin reducing. Add the pork drippings to the pot along with the thyme; check your seasoning, but the pork drippings should be salty enough. Reduce by at least half; when finished, remove from heat, remove the thyme and add the honey to taste. Serve and enjoy!

Beer of the Month - Sour Wit

Over my Christmas Break, I will be making an experimental beer based on something we had in Minneapolis at the Herkimer Pub and Brewery in Minneapolis, MN. I think everyone should try sour beers, especially if they aren’t beer drinkers; although sour and complex, most people actually enjoy this style (which is very broad) as opposed to the very bitter IPA, for example. Often you will find fruit lambics in the store, which have been soured with fruit and sweeteners added. My favorite non-fruit sour beer is from Rodenbach, which falls into the Flanders Red subcategory. This recipe will combine a Witbier (think Hoegaarden or Blue Moon) with a sharp sourness... it’s my goal that the sour will accentuate the citrus and coriander normally found in Witbiers. I am only making a half batch, just in case something goes wrong! Cheers

OG: 1.056

FG: 1.014 (apx)

IBUs: 24

ABV: 5.5% (apx)

(3 gallon batch, as opposed my usual 6 gallons!)


3.15 lbs Wheat Liquid Malt Extract

1 lb Flaked Oats (or 1 Minute Oats)

1 lb 2-Row Base Malt

2 oz Munich Malt

1 oz Hallertau Hops at 60 Minutes

½ t Coriander

Zest from 3 different citrus fruits (naval orange, blood orange, and lemon perhaps?)

Witbier Yeast (Wyeast 3944)

Lactobacillus (Wyeast 5335)


Mini-mash the oats, 2-row, and Munich malts (hold anywhere from 149-158* F in about a gallon of water for about an hour. Make sure to use a grain bag, paint strainer bag, or other filter of your choice... if after an hour the liquid tastes sweet, you’ve done it right!!). After an hour and you have separated the liquid (wort) from the grain, dilute the liquid to about 4 gallons and add your wheat malt extract. Bring to a boil, add your hops, and continue to boil for an hour; add the coriander and zest with about a minute or 2 left in the boil. Cool using an ice bath or other method of your choice, move to a glass or stainless steal fermenter (plastic is not a good choice with this beer because of the bacteria involved) and ferment with Witbier yeast in the mid 60s* F. Once fermentation has started, add the Lacto culture; the Wit yeast will finish out and the bacteria will take over giving you a nice sourness. Taste every so often... when it feels right, keg and serve!

Good luck!