Monday, November 30, 2009

Beating the Monday Blues

The only thing worse than a Monday is a rainy Monday, especially one after a lousy night’s sleep.  I kept dreaming that I was drowning.  Not exactly restful.

So, I decided to do things to counteract that today.  I went to one of my favorite Mexican restaurants (by myself, a first for me) and ordered the most amazing guacamole and bean nachos.  I sat there, read my book, and ate at my own pace.  It was blissful.

Unfortunately, this indulgence set me back in my “Beat the Blues” plan.  I was so full after lunch that I couldn’t go home and do pilates like I wanted.  Instead, I made some earl grey tea and watched the latest episode of Ugly Betty (such a fabulous show).

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Finally, I felt slightly less like a bloated whale and was able to get in 20 minutes of pilates.

I believe in moderation, so tomorrow, it’s back to eating normal portions at regular times.  But for today, that pile of Mexican food, the book Eat Pray Love, and earl grey tea were just what I needed.

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It really is time for this semester to be over.  In one of my classes this afternoon, I wrote down blog ideas and to do lists instead of learning about elliptical conics.  Don’t worry, Mom, I didn’t completely zone out.

If you look at the left side of my page of notes, you will see just how detailed these lists became.  The amount of detail is directly proportional to my boredom.


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Well, it’s back to the real world and physics homework for me.  How do you cure your Monday (or Tuesday or Wednesday) blues?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Break Over

Well, I'm back at university, about to settle in for three killer weeks of studying and finals.  Boo.

On a positive note, I did a TON of baking yesterday to make up for my lack of it on Friday.  I also happened to make the world’s best grilled cheese sandwich. I got the recipe from an insert in a package of Sargento Mozzarella Cheese.

The World’s Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich

There’s not really a specific recipe for this, you know using measurements and everything.  However, you will need PER SANDWICH

Two slices of really great mozzarella, the kind that comes in a block or a knot.  Not the shreds.  If you can, get the whole milk kind.

Two slices of tomato

Some mayo

Some butter

Assemble the sandwiches by slathering the pieces of bread with the mayo, then add the slices of tomato and mozzarella.  Set aside. 

Melt about a tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.

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When it just starts to brown, add the sandwich.  It should sizzle when it hits the pan. 

When that side is brown, flip and brown the other side, making sure that the cheese gets all melt-y and lovely.

Lastly, enjoy the world’s best grilled cheese.

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On the baking side of things, I made Joy the Baker’s S’mores Brownies.

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I also baked my first apple pie, although it wasn’t from scratch.  I feel a little ashamed.  Regardless, it was really great.

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That thing in the middle is a homemade pie bird.  It vents the steam from the bottom of the pie, so the bottom crust doesn’t get mushy.

I also made my mom’s cheese straws.  However, in the process, I screwed up the beaters of her 30 year old stand up mixer.

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I was using a rubber spatula to push the dough toward the beaters, and I guess I misjudged the distance.  Thus, twisted beaters.

To top it all off, I made some more of those amazing blueberry muffins.  However, I got hasty and didn’t let the blueberries thaw thoroughly.  So, they overflowed and fell in the middle.  Regardless, they still tasted wonderful, despite looking like purple blobs.

Here’s a pre-baking picture.  I should have known then what was to come.

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On a completely non-food note, I had to leave my new kitten at home with my parents for the next three weeks until I transfer back home.  This saddens me greatly.  I got back to my apartment at university and found kitten formula in the fridge from when I rescued him two weeks ago.

Here he is when I first rescued him.

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And here is a picture from today, right before I headed back to the university.  I apologize for the blurriness.  He rarely sits still.

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He’s already noticeably bigger.  They grow up so fast, don’t they?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Feeling Kind of Slutty

I didn’t cook a thing today, unless you count throwing some tofu dogs in the microwave.  I was supposed to make more mexican wedding cookies for the boyfriend (because I ate the ones I was saving for his return), but that didn’t happen.  I mean, he had one, so that’s enough, right?

I feel a little slutty.  I mean, what did I do all day if not cook?  Well, I went shopping on Black Friday, something I have never done.  My mom bought me the most adorable winter coat.  I wore it all day, and it’s not even that cold.

Anyways, it has been a good day despite the lack of kitchen time.  Currently, I’m chilling on the couch with boyfriend watching “Say Yes to the Dress.”  He is dying of boredom.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bah. Humbug.

Call me a Scrooge.  Call me cynical.  You can even call me a terrible person.  But I am so glad that Thanksgiving is over.  Yes, the food was great.  Yes, I enjoyed hanging out with my parents.  But really, it’s a whole lot of hoopla for not a lot of fun.  My idea of fun is relaxing with simple food and a few really good friends and family.  Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the antithesis of what Thanksgiving is all about.  Oh sure, in theory, you’re supposed to get together with your family, all of whom you absolutely adore, and sit down to a meal that’s been effortlessly prepared in under an hour.  The fact of the matter is that you are forced to travel however far you must to visit family that nine times out of ten makes you want to cry, shove bamboo shoots under your nails, vomit, commit murder, and laugh maniacally simultaneously.  Then you must sit down to a meal whose preparation has caused two panic attacks, eight threats of leaving, and five glasses of wine to be consumed within half an hour. 

Maybe I’m strange, but that doesn’t really float my boat.  Fortunately, this was one of the better Thanksgivings.  But next year, it’s sandwiches all the way.

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The place setting.

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The table.

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My favorite thing at Thanksgiving.  Jellied cranberry sauce with the can ridges imprinted in it.  No really, I could eat this stuff every single day.

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The turkey was gorgeous.  Of course, I didn’t eat any, being vegetarian and all.

Anyways, I hope y’all had a great Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy to Be Back in the Kitchen


I’m back home from university for the week.  That means I have a kitchen.  I started off the week with making Joy the Baker’s Browned Butter Blueberry Muffins.  However, being without whole milk, I used half and half.  This was a pretty bold move for me seeing as how the last time I deviated from a baking recipe I substituted salt for cornstarch.  (Cut me some slack; I was, like, 5).  Anyways, they were, in a word, amazing.  You know those muffins you get from the coffee shop in the morning?  You know how they’re all dry and crumble all over your car?  Yeah, well, these were nothing like that.



Did you notice that it even has an ethereal glow?  That’s how heavenly these muffins are.

In other news, I took a shot at making my mom’s Mexican Wedding Cookies.  I ate four today.  Of course, they will never be as good as Mom’s, but they are pretty doggone good.


I described them to the boyfriend (who is six hours away with his family for Thanksgiving. Boo.) as tasting like cripsy butter with powdered sugar.  What else do you really need in life?

Speaking of the boyfriend, we had an interesting conversation a couple of days ago.  As he was watching me cook, he asked, “Which do you think takes more skill: cooking or baking?”  Why, that’s a very interesting question, boyfriend.

On one hand, baking is so precise, that you need to have ridiculous amounts of patience to do it.  (I’m still working on this.)  One of the most amazing things to me, is those kinds of people who can invent a baking recipe out of nothing.  All baking is is chemistry.  You need to have exact ratios of salt and baking soda to flour.  In order to dream up your own baking recipe, you have to know just how many eggs will bind that dough without making it too runny.  The most invention I can do with baking is substituting blackberries for blueberries.  Go me.

On the other hand, you have cooking.  There are so many more flavors to play with in cooking.  Directly proportional to this is the opportunity to mess up.  Yes, you may love bbq chicken and orange chicken, but put all that together and you get a whole lot of yuck.

So, in a classic cop-out answer, I would say that cooking and baking both have their own difficulties, none of which that outweigh the other’s.  And really, why do we have to choose?  That’s right.  We don’t!

In the spirit of not choosing, let me share with you my latest savory adventure. 

On a whim, I decided to do something nice for my mom by making her dinner.  The menu?  I think it’s pretty super.  Even if I can only eat half of it.

-Lemon pepper chicken

-Firecracker salsa

-Avocado, tomato, and mozzarella salad.

All of it was super simple, so there was no way I could screw it up.


Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Lemon juice


Black pepper


Italian dressing



Mozzarella Cheese

To start off, I threw a boneless, skinless, chicken breast piece into a freezer bag with some pepper, lemon juice, and zesty italian salad dressing (something I always keep in the fridge for its usefulness).

Seal the bag and make sure the chicken is coated.  You may want to beat up the chicken to tenderize it or vent some anger.  Your choice.

I then let it come to room temperature so it will cook evenly.

While that’s happening, I mixed some pineapple chunks with some diced cucumber, diced jalapeno pepper, lemon juice, and a heaping teaspoon of brown sugar.  Do this all to taste.  If you like things spicy, add more jalapeno.  Like the sweet stuff?  Add more brown sugar.

For the salad, I sliced up some tomato and avocado.  I also thickly sliced some whole milk mozzarella.  Stack it all up in this order: tomato, cheese, and avocado.  Then, drizzle with the teensiest bit of italian dressing (there it is again).

Back to the chicken, throw it in an oven bag and bake with some slices of onion and lemon at 350 degrees.  Times will vary depending on how much chicken you have.  I tend to overcook, just to be on the safe side. 

To assemble, plate the chicken with the salsa on top.  On the side, plate up a couple of those salad stacks.

Sorry the pictures kinda suck.  We had already started eating by the time I remembered to take pictures.



Super simple, super healthy.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Grouchy then Content

I was really craving a house calzone (I mean, really, look at that picture.  How can you resist?) from Mellow Mushroom with a cup of their tortilla soup for lunch today.  Unfortunately, boyfriend couldn’t go—physics homework, and he didn’t feel comfortable with me walking downtown by myself.  Because, even though it was broad daylight, that place is creepy.  Anyways, I settled for a burrito and chips from a place on campus.  It was a letdown.  Except for the cheese dip.  That was passable.  I was pretty grouchy about having to go to the burrito place until I got my blood sugar back to normal, then I was merely peeved.  But I am still CRAVING a calzone (oh the cheese and mushrooms and spinach and tomatoes) and tortilla soup (absolutely perfect).  I get paid tomorrow, so you better believe that the boyfriend and I are gettin’ us some calzones.  Of course, this will have to be after we see District 9.  Maybe I’ll like it.  Maybe it'll surprise me like Zombieland did.  Here’s hoping.

Currently, I am sitting in the cafe of a bookstore, sipping on some sugar and spice/pumpkin spice/Christmas-y latte variant.  It’s pretty bland.  I work in a coffee shop during the summer holidays, so I’m one of the biggest coffee snobs you’ll ever meet.  By the way, drink Ethiopian coffee with some lemon pound cake.  It’s amazing.  Or with a blueberry muffin.  Also, don’t put your coffee in the freezer.  Just keep it in an airtight canister on the counter.  If possible, don’t grind it until you’re about to use it.  At the very least, grind just enough for the coming week.  One more thing, when you go to a coffee shop, please don’t make your drink super complicated just for the hell of it.  You can leave off about half of those modifiers, and your drink will taste exactly the same.  You know who you are.  I had a customer who would specify IN FRACTIONS exactly how much flavoring she wanted.  You really think that 1/8 really makes a difference?  It doesn’t.  Promise.

I’ll get off my soapbox.

In addition to this subpar coffee, I am eating a triple chocolate brownie, which still doesn’t have enough chocolate for me. Sigh.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Stop the Presses!

For the first time in two years, I am not hungry. I don’t know if I’m sick or if I have simply satiated my constant cravings…finally. This is not to say that I couldn’t go for, say, the lettuce wraps and tofu pad thai at my favorite thai place. But I’m not dying to go, as is usual. Nor do I salivate at the thought of fat, crinkle cut fries and feta dip. Well, maybe a little, but I don’t want to hop in my car and drive over to the diner.

Some of you might think to yourself, “So what? You’re not hungry. It happens.” You don’t understand. I am ALWAYS hungry. As I have mentioned before, I dream about food. I’m hungry even in sleep. There have only been two times in the past two years when sickness kept me from eating. Wait, three. The third time was when I had all four wisdom teeth removed. Not only was it painful to even think about eating, whatever medicine they had me on (and that was gooood stuff) evaporated any appetite. So, yeah, I’m always hungry.

Maybe this is a new chapter for me. Maybe I will finally be able to pursue hobbies other than cooking and reading cookbooks and food blogs. Maybe I’ll eat meals like, “A cup full of raw veggies with 1/2 a teaspoon of dressing, with a banana.” But contrary to what readers might think, I am not overweight. Sure, my arms jiggle more than I’d like, and you can only see a “2-pack” on my abdomen. Also, my butt isn’t perky. I’m not entirely sure what a perky butt looks like, but I’m positive I don’t have one. Anyways, maybe I will use this lack of appetite as a springboard for a new way of life—one of 200 calorie meals and jogging.

But probably not…

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Home Cookin’

My mom is an amazing chef, raised by my grandmother, yet another amazing cook.  It goes back like that for about a bajillion generations.  When I hear people talking about how great Paula Deen and her cooking are (don’t get me wrong, they are), I smile to myself and think, “You haven’t been to my mama’s house for dinner.”  While I was growing up, my mom cooked a homemade, from scratch dinner every single night.  Except when I begged to order pizza (oh, how STUPID I was).  Spaghetti, meatloaf, chicken cordon bleu, chicken with firecracker salsa, stirfry, the list goes on and on.  In the mornings (yes, even weekday mornings), she would make me pancakes or waffles, again, from scratch.  No Bisquick or anything.  But Saturday mornings were her “thing.”  She would pull out all the stops.  She made (I guess it goes without saying now) homemade, from scratch buttermilk biscuits.  She has tried to teach me how to make them, but the only information I retain is that they involve buttermilk and flour.  However, these two things alone just make a weird, lumpy soup.  In addition, she would make cheesy scrambled eggs, grits, hashbrowns, sausage, and bacon.  Oh my goodness.  Just thinking about that bacon makes me want to renege on my vegetarian vow.  She used Jimmy Dean hot sausage and Hormel Black Label bacon.  I know, right?  I was pretty spoiled.  Lemme just tell you that a buttermilk biscuit with a slice of Jimmy Dean hot sausage and a dollop of grape jelly is just about the most perfect thing in the world.  (Again, this was before the vegetarianism.  Remember the suffering animals, remember the animals…) 

Whenever she had downtime on the weekends, my mother would make cookies and snack-y foods.  Snickerdoodle cookies, sugar cookies, mexican wedding cookies, cheese straws, and her world famous fudge, to name a few.  I know people who would sell both their kidneys and right arms for a taste of this fudge.  I’m not exaggerating.  Not in the least.  I would hear, “Tinky! Come here!” and there would be a plate of whatever creation she had whipped up and a glass of milk (Mayfield skim, of course) on the counter.  Or she would just deliver them to me wherever I was in the house.  When this happened, I would walk to the kitchen behind her anyways because as soon as she had turned her back, I was done with that batch and ready for another.

This past year, whenever I would go home for a weekend, my mom would make eggs benedict (sans Canadian bacon for me).  I would like to go swimming in Hollandaise sauce.  Please?

My mom and I actually went to Paula Deen’s restaurant years and years ago while on a Girl Scouts trip.  It was good, but my mom just shrugged and said, “I grew up eating better than this my whole life.”  It also needs to be said that my mother grew up dirt poor.  Like, “don’t even try to compare your life to hers” poor.  And she still ate and learned to make food better than the $15-per-entree stuff that they serve at the Lady and Sons.    

All this is to say that you don’t need to be rich or be like Paula Deen in order to have a wonderful meal.  Sometimes the best biscuits or the best spaghetti are right where you left them…at home.

P.S. I love you, Mommy.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The French Place

As promised, here I am to tell you more about "the French place."

My mom and I learned about this place from a friend. She simply called it "the French place." We had never heard of it. We learned why when we first visited it. The restaurant actually has a very fancy French name that I would love to be able to say without feeling like a hick. Alas, I cannot, so it will forever be "the French place."

From the outside, you wouldn't dream of the wondrous food produced inside. It is a converted house, set in a tiny gravel parking lot, on a backroad near some ugly factory. Stepping inside isn’t much better, either.  The place is tiny, miniscule even.  It seats maybe twenty inside with about ten more seats outside. 

However, upon stepping inside, you will see a glass case full of handmade, from scratch pastries and desserts including creme brulees, napoleons, rum balls, tiramisus, strawberry shortcakes, and many more.  The owner of the restaurant is actually French, with a French accent and everything.  Also, from what I can tell, the entire staff is French or can at least speak French.

After fighting for a place to sit, a world of tastiness opens up.  To try to tell you all of the items on the menu would be ridiculous, so here are my favorites.

For breakfast: get the Belgian waffle.  This is not just some dry, cardboard-esque thing like you might get at other places.  No, this waffle is like a piece of the clouds.  Mine was served with strawberries, whipped cream, and powdered sugar.  I’m pretty sure I put syrup on mine as well, but please don’t tell anyone about my gluttony.  Try this with the hashbrowns and you’ll be in heaven. 

For lunch: veggie panini and the hashbrowns.  You might say, “Hey, lady, you already had the hashbrowns for breakfast.”  And you would be right, but let me just clue you in on these lovelies.  They are not simply pan-fried potatoes.  They have green onion and herbs cooked inside them that amp up that oh-so-comforting potato.  They are then presented in a neat, round serving.  Just talking about it makes me want to drive the two hours from the university back to my hometown simply to eat those hashbrowns.  Then there is the veggie panini.  The bread melts in your mouth.  The veggies taste like butter.  The cheese is like some more butter.  Even the oil they cook all this in is good, and I never call oil good.  (I’d much rather cook with melted butter.)  It is perfection on a plate, and I would sell my kidney for a lifetime supply of these sandwiches.

Though I haven’t tried it (remember, vegetarian), the chicken pot pie looks like a work of art.  The pastry on top is puffed up to there, and the smell makes me go cross-eyed.

Another goody to try: quiche lorraine (get it just for the crust at the very least),

Want to know the name of this little gem?  Think you already know it?  Show me some love, and maybe I will let you in on it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Let's Talk Food

I have been remiss. I created this blog months ago, and until tonight, have not posted a single thing on it. You might (or you might not) ask what prompted me to start writing tonight, when I have 364 others from which to choose.

Well, in true college kid fashion, I am procrastinating. I really should be studying three dimensional vectors and the dot product. Also, I should be starting on some physics homework.

In fact, I will be venturing out to the dollar movie theatre in half an hour to see a movie that is (from what I hear) disgustingly gory, plot-less, and unspeakably offensive. That's how much I don't want to do Calculus and Physics.

Speaking of movies, I must confess that I adore the movie Julie and Julia, mostly because I love food almost more than I love my boyfriend (who seems to be okay with this). Also, I have a completely unrealistic dream of living a super fabulous life and being a chef. But not in a restaurant. That's too high-stress for me. I want to be paid to make food for my family in the comfort of my own home. Like I said, completely unrealistic. In reality, I am currently at a university studying mathematics and possibly computer science in order to do research and hopefully solve all of the Millennium Problems, while teaching at a wonderfully hip university in the Pacific Northwest.

Anyways, back to my love for food. Besides animal flesh (my boyfriend and I are strict vegetarians), I love any and all food, my favorites being mushrooms and chocolate (not together). I dream about food. When I get bored in my frighteningly long physics class, I invent new recipes and menus. I throw parties, not to socialize with friends, but to showcase new recipes. However, I am currently living somewhere where I do not have my own kitchen. I have a microwave, toaster, and coffee and espresso maker. Not exactly tools for a gourmet meal. So, I dream...and dream...and dream.

After a week of eating cereal and frozen dinners, I look forward to the weekends when I can indulge in eating at restaurants. One of my recent culinary adventures involved going to a place that creates a new twist on southern food. Case in point: for an appetizer, we had fried okra with a vidalia onion artichoke dip. Come on. You know you want some. This was followed with a coconut curry dish with apples, cranberries, tofu, almonds, and basmati rice. I wasn't a fan of this at the time. I was crabby because I was super hungry and traffic downtown was horrendous due to a homecoming parade. Whatever. Also, I've never liked curry, and believe me, I have tried. The thing is, the sweetness of it freaks me out. I love sweets, but not for dinner. I want something savory for my entree, not a dish that can't figure out if it wants to be sweet or savory. I griped all through dinner to my boyfriend who happens to love curry. I ate just enough of mine to keep my blood sugar stable, then let him finish it.

Remember how I said I wasn't a fan at the time? Yeah, in retrospect, that stuff was really good. I mean, all those flavors together...who but a genius would think of that? I'm not saying it will replace my favorite dish of all time the Veggie Panini and hashbrowns from "The French Place" as my mom and I call it (more about that amazing eatery later), but it was better than I thought. Maybe this will teach me not to judge a dish before I give it a fair shot. Possibly I will learn not to be so whiny about food. Probably not.