Monthly Archives: March 2010

It’s Peanut Butter Cookie Time! Peanut Butter Cookie Time!

Sometimes, I get the urge.  The urge to merge wet and dry ingredients.  The urge to stir.

One of the reasons I cook so much is because I get easily bored and then I have to find something to do.  I have books to read, movies to watch, house to clean, dog to keep from drooling everywhere…but it’s not the same.  I prefer to be cooking.  And since I can’t cook two dinners a night, I end up baking something.  It calms me.  I listen to music (mostly Motown) and bop around in my kitchen.  Sprinkle a little of this, a pinch of that, an estimated teaspoon of something or another, a handful of chocolate chips…or four.

This is pretty much what happened last night.  I cleaned the kitchen after dinner, sat down on the couch to relax, opened up Evernote, saw a recipe I’d recently collected, got off the couch, went back to the kitchen, made sure I had brown sugar, went back to the living room, got my laptop, went back to the kitchen and began to bake.  These are the days of my life. Continue reading

If you give a Lauren a marshmallow, she’s gonna want a s’more


M is for the many yums you gave me.
A is for the appetite you sate.
R is for the reason I go camping.
S is for the satisfying taste.
H is for the holidays that wouldn’t be the same.
M is for the merry times we share.
A is for the awesome mix of flavors.
L is for the lighting of the flame.
L is for the luscious, gooey texture.
O is for the om nom nom nom noms.
W is for the epic, epic WIN.
Marshmallow. Continue reading

Tell everybody that we’re having a party

It was a busy weekend.  On Friday I baked several pies for a charity bake sale.  And on Saturday, well…

We needed to cut down a line of small trees by our driveway, as several were dead and falling down already.  My mom and step-dad took the wood.  As the trees were a fair-height and there were about 8 of them, Josh enlisted my step-dad’s help in the project, as well as our friend Brian.  We also invited another coworker and his family to come watch the festivities.  It was truly a feat and I’m sure that all the guys are duly sore now with all the lifting—luckily, no human limbs, dogs, fences, vehicles or power lines were harmed during the making of this blog entry.

tree in motion

To reward everyone for their help, I planned out a big work-party feast, which, I admit, was partially inspired by a trip to Costco.  Ah, Costco–is there nothing it can’t do?

And I’m totally serious on this one.  Josh and I were doing our monthly bulk-shopping trip when we stumbled upon the deal of a lifetime in the meat department—14 pounds of pork shoulder.  For $20.  14 pounds.  Twenty dollars.  And lo, the Heavenly Choirs of Angels did exclaim in one voice: “Holy s***!  That is a great deal!”  (They probably didn’t say that—but they would, if angels ate regular food…or shopped at Costco.) Continue reading

Pie in the Sky

The best kind of pie is one that I'm eating.

There are two kinds of people in the world: pie people and cake people.  I am one of the latter.  Josh is one of the former.  They do say that opposites attract.  Anyway, I have not done much pie-making in my life (though I occasionally make things for pi).  I chalk this up to two things: one, my status as a “cake person,” and two, the cancellation of ABC’s “Pushing Daisies,” which deprived me of my inspiration to produce top-quality pies (if you watched the show, you’d understand).

However, when Jen Haines of A2EatWrite fame—and a fellow member of the illustrious Michigan Lady Food Bloggers Group–sent out a message about needing pie donations for a pie-sale fundraiser for Ann Arbor’s Community High, I figured…this is a good excuse to try out some pie recipes. I sifted through my giant Evernote recipe file (701 recipes now) and my Stumble Upon favorites for a couple suitable recipes.  I ended up decided on a chocolate chip cookie pie from Bakerella and–at Josh’s request–a variation of a pumpkin pie with streusel topping, recipe below.  As I am not a fan of what I consider to essentially be a “squash pie,” I had to rely on the kindness opinions of strangers people I’ve known for years.  They said, “Om nom nom…yummy.”  That’s a paraphrase.  There were actually five more noms than that.

In the interest of full disclosure, I thought I would use this opportunity to begin learning how to make pie crust.  Like from scratch, not from the Pillsbury box.  That didn’t happen though.  Between work, lack of sleep, 3 pies to make and a feast to prepare for the next day, I ran out of time and energy.  Oh, oh…and the fact that since we moved, I have not been able to find my measuring spoons, rolling pin or various other baking necessities.  So…yes.  I cheated on the crust.  But I made up for it with this witty blog post…right? Continue reading

Friday Foodie Finds: the great one

I’m going to be doing a lot of cooking this weekend, so I need to prepare myself.  I need to get into the “Cooking is Awesome!” frame of mind.  How do that I do that?  I eat some bon-bons and I watch Julie Child make an omelette:

the Great Recipe Experiment: #6-Chocolate Thumbprints

i'm all thumbs today

I'm all thumbs today

You know what you shouldn’t do when baking something, especially for the first time?  Read the line in the recipe that says to place the cookie dough on “buttered or cooking parchment- lined 12- by 15-inch baking sheets” and think, “Well, I hate to butter a pan, I’ll use baking spray instead.”

This is really dumb for two reasons.  One, cooking spray ≠ butter ≠ parchment paper.  Two, if there’s a half pound of butter in your cookie dough, you probably don’t need even to butter the baking sheet at all.  But hey, let’s say you haven’t eaten much that day and you just have an absolutely Stupid Moment and think it’s a good idea to apply baking spray to a cookie sheet before laying your nicely molded cookies on it.  Let’s say this moment continues for about 20 minutes and culminates in you scratching your head as you see that your cookies have spread out to the point that they’re practically deformed and in no way resemble the cute little round “thumbprints” you intended.  Then, minutes later (how many minutes, I won’t say), the light bulb in your head suddenly goes off in an epiphany of knowledge, fireworks boom, morning dawns and the nine choirs of angels belt out in heavenly voice: why the hell did I do that?  I know better.  What was I thinking?  Duh.

And then you make a second batch of cookies.  A week later.  Because you were too tired/annoyed at yourself to make another batch of them that night. Continue reading

Build a Better Banana Bread

what did they compare to before sliced bread?

I like to look at magazines while standing in line at the grocery store.  I like to see what’s going on in the world, get an idea of the general gossip, see the current fashion trends, etc.  I admit it.  I’ve flipped through glossy pages, drawn in by the irresistible headlines splashed across the front, with their tawdy taglines and giant airbrushed pictures.  “Classic Roman Food!”  “Healthy, Quick Recipes.”  “Decadent, Dark Chocolate Delights!”  “5 Million Ways to Make Chicken Taste Less Like Chicken and More Like Something You Want to Eat.”  SaveurEating WellCooks Illustrated.  And, previously, Gourmet.  I’ve thumbed through all of them.  I’m not ashamed.

I usually don’t buy them, though.  Let’s face it, I’m part of the reason print media is dying because I’m not going to shell out $5 or $8 for a magazine, glossy and beautiful though it may be, when I can find the same recipes online.  However, occasionally, I can’t help myself.  And by “I can’t help myself,” I mean that “Josh sees me staring and pressures me into buying something for myself even though I feel guilty about paying $8 for a couple dozen recipes I could find online for free.”

This is one of those instances.

The magazine?  The healthy recipes edition of Cooks Illustrated, which is the magazine for staunch food geeks, run by Christopher Kimball who, I imagine, is much like the intimidating, giant green head version of the Wizard of Oz. Continue reading

Go-Go-Gadget Goulash!

Ah, Michigan in the spring.  This week was day after day of 65 degree weather with full sun and, thanks to Daylight Savings Time, nice long lit evenings.  We grilled.  We lounged.  We ate out at cafe sidewalks.  We…did yardwork.  It was beautiful.  It was gorgeous.  It was—short lived.  Today’s forecast?  Rain and a high of 44.  Tomorrow?  Gulp.  Snow.  Sigh.

So even though I’m positively itching (that might be the bug bites from the yardwork) to hop on the grilling bandwagon and get my yippy-ki-yay on, I went back to my cold-weather friend, the slowcooker, and decided to try a new recipe…for goulash.

Am I the only person who, when they hear the word “goulash,” immediately thinks of Gargamel from the Smurfs?  No, you do it too?  Ok, good.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had a proper “goulash,” which is a stew usually made of beef, onions, vegetables, and paprika.  Interestingly, Wikipedia tells me that the word stems from the Hungarian word for cattle herdsmen.  Ha!  It’s like Hungarian Cowboy Stew.  Continue reading

Friday Foodie Finds: the Asian edition

My favorite finds from the internet this week seem to have a predominantly Asian-centric theme.

  • Just Bento’s archive–I don’t know what it is about bento boxes that appeal to me, but they’re fantastic.  I have one of my own; I’ll probably make a post about it soon.  I love planning out my lunches!  It’s fun and delicious.
  • Korean BBQ tacos by Inuyaki.  Korean.  BBQ.  Tacos.  Those three words, when separated, are full of win.  Put them together?  Korean BBQ Tacos.  Well if that’s not just the winningest thing I’ve heard today!
  • Char Siu, or Cantonese Roast Pork, a fantastic Recipe…and then you can use the leftovers to make BBQ pork buns!
  • Japanese Sponge Cake from Just Hungry.  A dessert so dangerous that if you cook it wrong, it will kill you.  Wait, no, that’s blowfish.  This looks tasty, if complicated.
  • Fresh spring rolls and dipping sauce.  I heart rolls of all kinds—eggrolls, summer rolls, spring rolls.  But given the time of year, I think these ones are just perfect to make on a warm, sunny evening.
  • and finally, 10 Weird Japanese Foods.  Don’t read while eating.  And no, it doesn’t disappoint.

Happy Friday!

nice buns you got there

Life of Pie

Today is Pi Day.  That is, it’s March 14.  3-14. 3.14.  Tomorrow, my office will be “rounding up” and celebrating Pi Day with Pie treats.  We are awesome like that.  So to do my part, I made pies.  Mini pies.  On sticks.  Because food is better on a stick.  I made the mini pies just like I’ve done before, only I made the full “pie pop” recipe from Bakerella.  This time, half were peach and cinnamon and the other half were strawberry lemon.  I cheated by buying canned filling but then doctored it up (added vanilla and cinnamon to the peaches, and vanilla and lemon extract to the strawberry—yum).  Here is a quick pictorial of the life of these pies:

the circle of life

we meet in the middle

we are buns in the oven

a pie is born

pie bouquet!

the Great Recipe Experiment: #5-Asopao de Pollo

This post is brought to you by the letters “Y,” “U,” “M,” “M,” and “Y.”  And the number 3.  Let’s use those in a sentence.  “This meal is 3 kinds of yummy.”  Good!

This may actually be my favorite of the experiments so far.  Granted, there have only been 5–so far—but this is still one of my top ones.  My fabulous cousin Carmen picked this Puerto Rican chicken and rice stew to try out; I made it as dinner for Josh and myself tonight and bundled up a bunch to take her for lunch.  This dish is not only tasty, it’s informative.  It’s taught me at least 3 yummy things.

1.  There’s such a thing as “annatto oil,” which is made by infusing oil with achiote seeds .  It’s used to flavor and color foods in South American cooking.  I didn’t actually use it here.  I used olive oil.  But good to know it’s possible. Continue reading

the Great Recipe Experiment: #4-peanut butter cups

It's peanut butter chocolate time!

I don’t know what to tell you about this particular experiment except for two things:

  1. I don’t know why I didn’t think of doing this a long time ago
  2. Because of this experiment, I found and bought and now have 100 reeeeeeally tiny cupcake wrappers.  Like, “Honey I Shrunk the Cupcake Liners.”  And, like all miniature versions of things, they are adorable.

In addition to the tiny cupcake liners, I used a few regular sized ones to make some giant peanut butter cups.  It’s like a game of Big Cup, Little Cup.

I really like making my own candy.  I pretend that I am Willy Wonka and my house is a factory and my dog is an Oompa Loompa.  Given a little time, I may in fact convince Josh to build me a river of chocolate.  I shall call it “Bob.”  I always keep chocolate in the house, for snacking, for cocoa, for baking, for scrubbing my skin.  In fact, I bought five pounds of chocolate chips at By the Pound this weekend and Josh said, “That’s quite a bit of chocolate,” as if my procurement was odd, unnatural or unnecessary.  You can never have too much chocolate.  In fact, when I die, you all might as well just slice me open; there’s a 35.8% chance I’m made of hot chocolate. Continue reading

the Great Recipe Experiment: #3-Peppermint Patties

I bet Charlie Brown would like this

I bet Charlie Brown would like this

I always liked Peppermint Patty, maybe because she was a tomboy and I was a tomboy.  However, I never liked peppermint patties, because they were made of mint and I did not like the “curiously strong” flavor of mint.  This would later be amended to allow for the presence of mint in mojitos which is, I declare, the greatest of all mixed drinks.

I think some affinities–and aversions– for certain foods is genetic.  Like cilantro.  Some people love cilantro.  Some people may have a gene that makes them think that cilantro tastes like soap.  Apparently mint is not one of those foods, though.  My parents love chocolate mints.  I do not.  When I was a kid, we used to go to the dime store (it had a real name, but damned if I remember what it was.  I’m not sure I ever knew—we always just called it the “dime store”) or Krogers and my mom used to buy herself an occasional treat at the checkout counter and it was usually a York peppermint patty.  My dad did it, too.  They always offered me a bite and I always turned it down.  I don’t believe that mint should go into chocolate.  Mint should go into Cuban alcoholic beverages.  Or toothpaste.  Or you can chew fresh mint leaves like my grandmother does for a quick fresher-upper after dinner.  But not into chocolate.  You know what should go into chocolate?  Nothing.  It’s already perfect.  That was a trick question. Continue reading

Ancho-Chipotle-Cocoa-Super-Hyphenated-Awesome Spice Rub

A simple rub for a simple gal…I used this rub on some flank steak for fajitas tonight and it was really pretty good.  Interesting flavor, nice spice level that just hits you at the back of the throat, and simple to make.  Just throw it together, rub it on your favorite type of meat and let it sit and marinate for a couple of hours.

What’s the mix?

1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp ground ancho chiles
1 tbsp ground chipotle chiles
1 tbsp kosher salt

Mix ingredients together.  Spread on meat.  Cook meat.  Be happy.

You: Is that it?
Me: Is that what?
You: Is that all?
Me: That’s all she wrote, chief.
You: Who’s she?
Me: Me.  I wrote it.  You read it.
You: When?
Me: Just now.

You: Right on.

Friday Foodie Finds: Here’s a Tip

This week’s good finds:

  • I found this slideshow from Cooking Light on 25 common cooking mistakes pretty interesting and I’m willing to admit that I commit numbers 2, 9, 10 and 17 on a regular basis and that I’ve done numbers 5 and 23 a couple of times when in a hurry.  But darnit, I want my meat and I want it now!  I’m working on that.
  • I really enjoyed the random food tips from How to Cook Like Your Grandmother, such as, “If you’re in a hurry and buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size. You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount.”  Quite a few I’d never heard before.
  • Being an avid believer that the spice must flow (bonus points for you, dear reader, if you get that reference), I also highly recommend this article from The Kitchn on buying, storing and using spices.
  • And finally a tip from me….do yourself a favor and try out a recipe for something you may have never thought to eat before, from Joy the Baker.

Image of the Week: Cinnamon

That’s it for this week.  Cook early, cook often, spade and neuter your pets, etc, etc, etc.

the Great Recipe Experiment: #2-Cranberry Bars

so this cranberry walks into a bar...

Or alternatively titled, “Get Shortbread.”

The second recipe I decided to try for my Great Recipe Experiment was for the Joy of Baking’s cranberry shortbread bars.  Carrie and Sophia both said they’d be willing to sample these for me.  I actually would have made them early last week but for the life of me, I could not find a single, Godforsaken bag of cranberries anywhere.  Well, not frozen anyway and certainly not fresh (ha!).  And for this recipe, dried just certainly wouldn’t work.  Finally I had to resort to a Whole Foods visit–and indeed, they did have a few ten ounce bags of the frozen little fall berries.

I have a particular affinity for cranberry.  Not to eat, actually, and not because I’m fond of the taste (though I am, in juice, anyway) or the high level of antioxidants or the fairly ravishing color or any of those things.  No, my fondness for cranberries is entirely because of my grandmother.

My grandmother is just supremely awesome in ways that I can’t even express without going into a dozen different stories will titillate and awe you.  One of these days, I’ll go into more detail, perhaps when I post her recipe for cherry cordial (made with whiskey and thinned out with…more whiskey), homemade “cough syrup” (made with whiskey and…thinned out with more whiskey), and our familial favorite vanilla poundcake (oddly, lacking in whiskey).  But what’s pertinent to this story is cranberries.  And I like cranberries because they made my grandmother Portuguese. Continue reading