Category Archives: General Musings

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It’s been a crazy week since the launch of the first Melties. There’s was a lot going on.  Most importantly, the raised garden beds that Josh has worked so painstakingly on the last few weeks were finally finished!  Stained, put into place, filled with dirt and on Saturday, most of the garden was planted.  We have two beds: one tomato/pepper bed (we’re also planting some lettuce into it) and one herb bed for my kitchen.  Of course, within hours after planting, our mastiff Maggie had managed to jump on and run through both beds, decimating a couple pepper plants and a tomato.  So today, fencing went up as well.  Ah well. Continue reading

Something awesome transpired here Saturday night.  Josh and I hosted the inaugural Melties, a semi-formal grilled cheese dinner party.

Let me say that part again.  A semi formal grilled cheese dinner party.

You know, as many times as I say it, it never sounds less awesome.  All around, it’s probably one of my better ideas.  I highly suggest that each and every one of you conduct your own Melties as soon as you can.

Let’s start with the invitation.

A few of our grilled cheese lovin’ friends received the following invitations in the mail (real invitations on real paper sent through snail mail.  Retro, I know):

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If you just now realized that tomorrow is Mothers Day and have yet to do anything for your respective maternal figure, don’t worry.  I’ve got just the solution to your procrastinatory, slack-alicious problem: these mini homemade mounds bars.  Or as I prefer to call them, “Mounds Bites,” since they’re just little nuggets of candy. Because moms like chocolate and moms like coconut and moms like things that are homemade.  And because these are quick and easy and have garnered rave reviews for me the past couple of days and since they’re bite-sized, it makes for easier portion control. Also, did I say they were delicious?  Cause they are.

So make a quick trip to the store, throw a batch together, nestle them into a pretty container and let your mom know how much you care…about her having delicious eats.  Do it for the noms.  I mean, moms.  Do it for the moms. Continue reading

Lemon Aid

homemade limoncello

I know what’s going on.  Your path to life has taken a sour turn.  Your mojo is running out of juice.  Food has lost its a-peel.  And my pith-y jokes…well, they lack a certain zest today.  But it’s okay.  I’ve got the cure for what ails ya.  Because, my dear friend, when life has given you lemons, sometimes you wonder…”What the hell am I going to do with this?  Make lemonade?  Uh hello, that is so 1956.  Laaaame.”  Well today, we are going to save your relationship with the lemon.

Because after all, the lemon is a little culinary powerhouse.  There is nothing it can’t make better.  Not only is it full of vitamin C, and not only is it an awesome little addition to homemade cleaning solutions, and not only does it bring out the delicious flavors of foods it’s paired with, but its own flavor is bright and tart and yummy.  To steal a line from Genie, the lemon is “phenomenal cosmic power, itty bitty living space.” Continue reading

Silly scone. You’re not a cookie.

I can hear the battle raging on inside of Cookie Monster’s head already: “It look like a cookie.  But it not a cookie.  But it have chocolate chip like cookie.  But it scone.  But it round like cookie.  How it not cookie?  Cookie Monster like cookies.  Cookie Monster not Scone Monster.  To eat or not to eat scone cookie?  That is the question.”

 

The story behind these scones is pretty simple.  Last night I wanted to bake something with chocolate in it.  I didn’t want to make another batch of chocolate chip cookies.  So instead I made something that looked like a chocolate chip cookie instead.  I don’t know what to think about this.  Granted, it’s a very good scone.  Airy, fluffy, sweet, delicious, easy to make.  Vanilla-y with little morsels of semisweet chocolate.  Everybody loves them.  But I’m starting to wonder how bad my obsession with chocolate chip cookies has gotten if I start making little cookie clones out of other types of food.  First the chocolate chip cookie pie and now scones?  Maybe I’ve given scones low self esteem, made them the Jan to the chocolate chip cookie Marsha.  I mean, maybe it’s always, “Cookie, cookie, cookie!” What’s next?  Will my other baked goods start making up fake boyfriends, maybe a George Glass of Milk, to try and convince me of how wanted they are?  What should I do about this?  How should I put this poor pastry out of it’s misery?

I’ll have to eat it.  It’s the only way.  Continue reading

I’m on year two of a five year plan that was put into operation about 15 years ago.  I’m a little behind, I’ll admit.  But the plan, the plan is still good.  The plan is to take over the world.  At first I thought I’d do it with my charm and effervescent wit.  But that hasn’t panned out yet.  So now I’m thinking I’ll take a slightly different tack.  I’m going to take over the world through a slow, steady and judicious application of macaroni and cheese.

First, I get the world’s attention with irresistible bacon comfort filled baked mac& cheese.  Then I up the ante with a sophisticated, spring-friendly chicken, spinach and leek concoction.  And now I’m sealing the deal with this sassy chorizo, garlic and broccoli  mac and cheese.  It’s just a little taste of what my reign will be like: a macaroni in every pot.

Well, a penne anyway.  Or a rigatoni.  Maybe shells.  Or spirals. Continue reading

Why did the chicken cross the road?  To get to the rooster sauce.  At least, that would be my goal.

Like most people who pray at the altar of spicy food, my favorite edible deity is srircha sauce, or rooster sauce as it’s sometimes called (check out the bottle).  It is amazing, not just because it’s hot—and it’s hot—but because it’s packed with flavor.  I love hot sauce (have you tried making it?) but the thick, complex taste of sriracha is a perfect accompaniment to a lot of things, like pasta sauce.  It is also, I’ve discovered, an excellent addition to a meat brine.

Josh is a big fan of brining for two main reasons: 1) it gives poultry a much better flavor and more moisture and 2) he likes to do science to things and brining is really easy science.  As I explained in the brining pork ribs post,

If you don’t know, brining is the process of soaking meat in a salt solution that’s generally spiked with herbs, spices and other flavorings, for a few hours or overnight.  It tenderizes, moistens and flavors meat, making it really great for drier cuts of pork and poultry, in particular.

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Chicago Eats

Josh and I headed down to Chi-town this past week so I could attend a work conference.  It was good timing.  The weather is finally starting to turn around, it was beautiful, the St. Pat’s celebration was in full swing, green river and all and I was itching to get to a bigger city and do what’s really important–eat.

I didn’t have any culinary plans, really.  The conference–and our hotel–were downtown in the thick of everything, and so my only real guideline for the week was “wander around until you find something that looks tasty that doesn’t have a one hour wait.”  And that’s pretty much what we did.  While the downside of just wandering until you find a place is that the place might suck, you also sometimes run into awesome places that make you go, “Mmmm.” Continue reading

Ogres have layers, bars have layers

It’s that time of year again.  Fat Tuesday.  Mardi Gras.  Carnivale.  For some people, “Paczki Day.”

I, for one, enjoy Mardi Gras.  Who doesn’t like shiny beads and socially accepted overindulgence?  Monks.  But we just won’t tell them about it.  Anyway, I enjoy the festivities.  There is, however, one thing that has always somewhat baffled me about the way people celebrate Fat Tuesday here in southeast Michigan, at least.

Paczkis.  The overwhelming obsession with paczkis.  I mean…why?

Now don’t hate me.  I know that already some of you are going, “Oh my god, you did not just say that,” and others are going, “You didn’t mean it; I forgive you,” and still others are going, “What the hell is a paczki?  And how do you even pronounce it?”  A paczki, pronounced here as puntj-ki, is a Polish pastry made of fried dough filled with jam. Continue reading

So a cow and a chicken walk onto my plate…

It’s a terrible dilemma, isn’t it?  Breakfast?  Or burgers?  Breakfast?  Or burgers?  Well, who says it has to be one or the other?  I say, have both.

I’m all very in to combinations this week.  On Sunday, a few friends and I had dinner at El Barzon in Detroit.  If you’ve never been there, it’s a fine dining restaurant in off Michigan Ave that serves Mexican…and Italian.  Mexican and Italian.  Mexitalian.  If that isn’t just a brilliant idea, I don’t know what is.  Why choose between tacos or lasagna?  Have both.  This is America, damnit, the land of opportunity…to have both tortilla chips and salsa and gnocchi in the same meal.  Apparently. Continue reading

Does making a Bart Simpson/Butterfinger joke make me old?  No, of course not, don’t be silly.  But the fact that the Simpsons as we know them debuted on my seventh birthday in 1989 makes me feel old.  And awesome at the same time.  I never liked Butterfingers as a kid, cowabunga-cred notwithstanding.  Even now, I don’t eat them.  I much prefer my candy bars to either be all chocolate and nuts or contain vast amounts of caramel.  Josh, though, Josh loves Butterfingers.  Josh likes any combination of peanut butter and chocolate but Butterfingers are his go-to candy bar when we’re on the road and we’ve stopped in to a gas station for a pick-me-up.  So when I started experimenting in making homemade versions of popular candy bars last year, this was his request, and it was seconded by my friend Tim.  I sort of slowed down the candy-train a bit over the last few months due to just being busy with other things but now, spring is in the air, Valentine’s Day has come and gone, Easter is around the corner…the allure of melted chocolate is once again knocking on the proverbial door.  Continue reading

Share the Love…and Pass a Plate

strawberries

I like Valentine’s Day.  I know it’s a somewhat controversial holiday (which ones aren’t, these days?) but I personally appreciate it, for about the same base reason that I like Halloween: you just can’t go wrong with a holiday where a major focus is candy.

The second best part of V-Day is the silly cards you can swap with your friends.  You know, the “I choo-choo-choose you” train-shaped cards like Ralph gave to Lisa on the Simpsons?  Those are awesome and fun.  Any cute little paper card that references a cartoon I grew up watching is a winner. Unless it’s Captain Planet themed.  Then I just feel guilty.

Anyhow, the candy is really what’s important here.  My mom always makes sure we have some sort of Valentine’s treat—cookies or candy hearts or those little sampler boxes of Whitman’s chocolates.  And then come’s the inevitable Forrest Gump reference about life being like a box of chocolates.    Ha.  I wish. If life really was like a box of chocolates, I would be deliriously eating my way through the fabric of space. Om nom nom.

Where was I going with this?  I don’t remember.

The important thing is that whether you’re celebrating the Big V…alentine…with a significant other or friends or that random guy who always sits next to you on the bus no matter how many other seats are available, I’ve got some awesome meals and treats that will make your day delicious. Continue reading

Meyer lemon curdI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: real desserts have chocolate in them.  But sometimes, sometimes it’s nice to have an “after diner snack” that is light and fruity instead.  And I adore fruit for breakfast, snacks…basically any meal of the day.  And fruit is more than welcome to dip itself into some melted chocolate and march itself into my mouth.  By all means, please do.

Having said that though, I do have a soft spot for lemony sweets as well.  Lemon is an amazing flavor when treated right.  Sometimes it can be too sweet, or too harsh and sour.  But sometimes it can be just the right amount of sweet, just the right amount of tart, just the right level of flavor and then it’s amazing.  It’s bright and light and interesting and to be honest, makes me feel like a kid again.  As a kid, my favorite (non-chocolate) dessert sweet snack was lemon meringue pie, a favorite I shared with my dad.  But mostly lemon makes me think of my grandmother.  For two reasons.

One, when I was young–and occasionally still these days–my grandmother would make us lemonade from scratch.  As in, from real lemons.  Not from packets of Kool-Aid like I know some of you think of when you hear the words “make lemonade.”  No, this is the real deal.  She hand-squeezed lemons (a juicer? Pshaw) and strained out the seeds and mixed in just the right amount of sugar, water and ice to make a perfect icy cold tart-with-a-hint-of-sweetness treat, especially great during the hot summer days when my sister and I would come over and catch butterflies in the fields by their house, or to make me feel better after their chickens chased me around the yard.  Continue reading

The Edible Guide to Surviving the Snow

french toast casseroleIf you’re in the midwest, chances are you’ve been hearing about this massive snowstorm of Texas-fair-sized proportion that is currently bearing down upon us.  Depending where you are in the midwest, you’re probably already seeing the terrible side effects of living in a non-tropical climate.  At the very least, you probably at least ran to the store for “supplies,” are flexing your shoveling muscles in preparation for tomorrow and your kids are assuming that the time-honored childhood glory that is the Snow Day is a foregone conclusion.

I’m hoping so myself.  Either way, there’s a good chance that Let It Snow will be more than a quaint Christmas carol tonight, and you should be prepared for that with my Storm Sustenance Checklist.

The Checklist

–Lasagna heating up in the oven as we read/type
–Cookie dough made and chilling in the fridge until baking later
–Plenty of milk
–Plenty of booze
Hot Cocoa
–Netflix subscription paid
–Dogs indoors, asleep on couch, drooling on their toys
–Low-fuss breakfast planned (french toast is a good one–you know the picture has made you hungry)
–Thawed meat roast for slow-cooking all day
–Plenty of booze
–A tub of peanut butter.  Just in case.
–some sort of fruit.  just because it’s a snow day doesn’t mean you can’t be healthy.  bonus: fruit dipped in chocolate.  negative points: fruity pebbles cereal.
–The will to cook the cookie dough before eating it
–A second batch of cookie after your will to not eat the first batch raw fails
–Enough bacon and mashed potatoes to create a sizable fort.
–Peas.  No really.  They’re good.  Give peas a chance.
–Sugar for making snow cream
–Tums

Wrap it up: shredded pork and red pepper salad

pork and red pepper wrapsI like weekends that are both productive and lazy.  Productive as in “I made a lot of delicious food.”  Lazy as in “said delicious food require very little effort on my part.”  It’s nice.  It was a good way to spend the last weekend of January 2011, alternating between lounging on the couch with Josh and the dogs and spending a few minutes in the kitchen here and there, whipping up something tasty and fun.  I made another batch of beef tallow, rendering down about 3.5 pounds of suet, and I made my very first brioche which was then used in a delightful but deadly french toast casserole with heavy cream, whole milk, eggs, raw sugar, vanilla and Vietnamese cinnamon.  However, one can only indulge so much without slipping into a coma.  I love good, hearty comfort food spiked with full-fat dairy as much as the next person, but not all comfort food has to be loaded down with fat.  Most, yes, but not all.  So Saturday afternoon, I made a delightful dinner of light and flavorful lettuce wraps to combat the growing comfort food coma.  Continue reading

Comfort Food: Three Little Pig Chili

It was ungodly cold in Michigan this weekend.  A high of 14 yesterday.  Fourteen. No, I didn’t really mean to type 41.  The 1 and the 4 were in the correct locations.  14 degreesFahrenheit.  I don’t know about you, but in my opinion, 14 is not a temperature.  It’s an awkward time in adolescence, yes, but it is not a temperature.  It is against everything that is right and holy in my world.

Luckily, to combat this, my office had a chili potluck on Friday, complete with 4 delicious chili concoctions to take the freezing edge off, as well as chips, cheese, cornbread, biscuits–all the necessary accompaniments–cookies and cupcakes.  It was delighful.  But all too soon it ended and I found myself on my own Saturday morning with the cold wind trying to slide into the creaky doorways of my house.  My house is a delight.  I enjoy it immensely.  After all, we did strive to pick a house that we adored, because I intend to live there until I die and then I’m going to haunt it (although admittedly, indeed, I do plan on retiring someplace warm and sunny, but I still plan on keeping and haunting this house).  But some days, the grand old house is a little less grand.  Like days where it’s 14 degrees outside.  My house is three solid layers of brick wall (so if that big bad wolf ever comes around, I’m golden)…and no insulation.  And all wood floors.  And single pain, 150 year old windows.  It just soaks up the cold like a sponge.  With Josh off playing some RPG game with friends, and the dogs out of the house playing at day care (you laugh but it’s the greatest thing in the world if you have a puppy, especially one that weights 95 pounds and is the size of a deer, like our mastiff), I knew that if I followed my instincts and just melted myself into the couch, cloaked in a blanket like a ghost and watched endless hours of the Cooking channel, eventually….wait, why didn’t I do that?  That sounds awesome. Continue reading

Potatoes as nature intended: fried in beef fat

One of the things I’ve wanted to do for a while was learn how to make and fry thing in beef tallow.  I know it might seem like an odd aspiration for a girl, but those of you who know me are probably nodding and going, “Yeah, that sounds about right.”  It’s said, though, that the best fried potatoes are fried in beef fat  and even McDonalds used to cook their French fries in tallow.  Remember those days?  When McDonalds had the best fries in the entire damn corporate restaurant world?  Well now you know why.  Beef fat.  Beef fat sits up there on a pedestal with pork fat and butter as the holy trinity of lipids, in my opinion, veritable liquid golds when melted, with the unparalleled ability to turn food from good to face-down-in-the-plate-awesome.

And as someone who also loves potatoes–I do love potatoes, they are the perfect vegetable, gastronomically–of course I’ve had a lifelong dream to dip slices of soft baking potatoes into clear, sizzling hot beef tallow, remove said starchy delight, coat it in salt, pepper and mountains of cheese and eat it–I mean, who doesn’t have that dream?  Maybe vegans.

But either way, I can proudly say to you that indeed, I have conquered this beefy potato mountain.  I have stood on its peak and raised my foodie flag to the sky and proclaimed, “It is done.”  And it was good. Continue reading

I’ll say that one more time: double chocolate chip almond cookie pie.  Cookie pie.  Cookie pie. Cookie pie.

This is a beautiful dessert, in so many ways.  First of all, it contains some of the most important ingredients known to man: chocolate, double chocolate, almonds, butter, pie crust.  All it’s missing is pork…and you could remedy that buy adding in crumbled bacon and/or using lard in your pie crust.  Just something to consider.  Secondly, it solves that terrible, gastronomical conundrum that is, “What do I want for dessert?  A cookie or a slice of pie?”  Welcome to the future, my good hungry friend!  Who needs flying cars?  You can have cookie pie.  That’s two desserts in one.  It’s like a culinary double rainbow.  Plus, it offers twice the opportunity for supplemental dairy.  I mean, pie needs to have one of two things to go with it: ice cream or whipped cream.  Or ice cream and whipped cream.  And cookies need milk.  So you could have a slice of cookie pie with some whipped cream and a glass of milk.  Boom. Done.  Third, think of all the neatly paired colloquialisms you could make.  “Any way you slice it, that’s the way the cookie crumbles!”  And uh…um….ok, well maybe that’s the only one.   Finally, this dessert is extremely easy to make, even for those of you who are baking-phobic.  And do you know what you get at the end of this easy process?  Flaky, buttery pie crust, crunchy top and a nice thick layer of chocolate in the middle. It makes a great alternative to the usual whipped chocolate or fruity pies.  And if you’re tired of eating pumpkin after Thanksgiving and Christmas, then I believe this one is calling your name. Continue reading

All Taste, No Fuss: Broccoli Almond Soup and Red Pepper Beef

One of the questions I get asked on a regular basis is—how do you do it?  And no, they’re not asking me how I remain so effervescently awesome–it’s clearly obvious that’s a trade secret.  No, they’re asking me, “How do you put a meal together?  And not a meal from a recipe you’ve searched for and pored over and planned out and executed with ninja-like precision (speaking of, there are at least 5 ninjas in this article.  But you can’t see them).  No, a meal from just whatever you have on hand.  How do you do that?”

It occurs to me that somewhere along the line, cooking became some sort of mysterious alchemy to a disturbingly large amount of people.  Food goes in one way, and deliciousness—or for some, vast amounts of thick black smoke–come out the other.  What happens in between is a mystery.  But it really doesn’t have to be that way.  You don’t have to go down the long, dark path to Frozen Foodland most nights, or make the same safe spaghetti and meatball dish every single night.  Not that I’m hating on meatballs–I love meatballs, some of my best friends are meatballsor anything like that.  But of all the things in the world to fear, making dinner shouldn’t be one of them.  You don’t always have to have a plan.  It works to just toss in what you have. Continue reading

Well, it’s New Year’s Eve. How exciting and yet terrifying. I mean, after midnight tonight, it will officially be 2011.  And I have to say, I’m a bit disappointed. I mean, I love my Camry and all but I kind of thought by now I’d have a flying car, or at least a pegasus that was hooked up to a cart of some sort. But no. My vehicle is still a non-magical, non-nuclear powered terrestrial vehicle.

But if I can’t have a personal automotive levitation device, I might as well have the next best thing this new year: brunch. I love brunch. First of all, it’s a delightfully crunchy-sounding word. Brrrrruncccchhh. It’s like weekend-in-a-bowl. It’s also flexible, relaxing, laid back, amenable to last minute plans, sociable and full of delicious flavors and my friends and I are indeed fans of delicious flavors (and also of the TV show Psych). Thus, we are big believers in the awesome healing powers of a good brunch.

Our last brunch was a bit last-minute. It was a couple weeks ago and the planning started on Friday, I think, with Paul messaging me as to whether we were interested in brunching at his place on Sunday. On Saturday, he laid out his menu ideas and we assigned tasks during a quick phone call and then we went grocery shopping for whatever items we didn’t already have in stock. On Sunday, Josh, myself, Brian and Rita trooped over to Paul’s house to get the party started, so to speak, with him and his roommates. Continue reading