Well it’s happened again. The slow but inevitable progression of time has once again thrown us into the cruel and ignoble gladiator ring known as Fall, or as I like to call it, “The Pre-Winter.” I know, I know. Some of you like fall. The cooler, sweatshirt-y weather, the apple cider and donuts, the corn mazes and the tricks-and-or-treats. It’s glorious, Josh says. Ha. I know the truth. It’s the beginning of the end…
…of my summer vacation from blogging. Did you miss me? We’ll just pretend you did. I missed you too. In fact, I’ve brought you this gift. This beautiful, delicious gift:
Do you like it? Continue reading
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
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
There’s a great joke in an even greater movie, a classic work by an utterly influential artiste. Anyway, in the joke, this guy is talking to a girl he likes at a party and he lists off all these fantastic foreign foods that are sitting on the buffet, including dates. And he offers her a plate and says, “Would you like a date?” “Sure,” she replies, reaching for it. He pulls the plate away. “How about next Thursday” Hahahahahah. That, my dear friends, is the genius work of Mel Brooks in his cinematic masterpiece Robin Hood:Men in Tights.
That joke is what I’m always reminded of when I think about dates, the fruit. If you’ve never had a date, they are these delicious little elongated fruits that come from a tree called a date palm, indigenous to the Middle East. You can usually find them dried, sometimes pitted and bagged in the grocery store. They are delicious in savory and sweet dishes and are often the base for various healthy snackbars, like Lärabars or Youbars. In fact, those very bars are the inspiration for these little snackables. Continue reading
It is a really icky day here. Cold, wet, rainy, some hail. Not exactly a vision of spring bursting forth with sunshine and warm rays and flowers and bunnies with miniature gold pocket watches in little tiny pockets.
But that’s ok, because summer marches on an endless parade in my head. Well, summer and a small battalion of green plastic army men, à la Toy Story but with less realism. I decided that since I was on my own, I should make a dinner that was as seasonally uplifting as my imagination. In the winter, I stay about two energy levels above hibernation and only because as of this writing, there is no way for humans to safely and economically hibernate through the less desirable parts of the calendar so far as I know. (If you know of something…email me.) I stay indoors, surrounded by warm blankets and fuzzy socks and eat hot, heavy, delicious comfort foods like chili, short ribs, mac and cheese, meatballs and lasagna. But in the summer, I tend to slide more towards light, fruit and veggie heavy meals. This dinner totally fits the bill. Continue reading
Lemon curd has become my new it-dessert for spring, I think. It’s cheerful and luscious and sweet and tart and quick and easy. I like to eat it with a spoon and someday, I may even spread it on a scone or two but mostly, I like to eat it with a spoon, in front of the fridge. With the door open, of course. Because I’m classy like that. I like lemon curd so much that I started wondering what other kinds of fruit curds I could make. Lime was my first thought. My second thought was “spiked with rum.” But then I had what I consider to be a brilliant idea…pomegranate. It’s sweet, it’s healthy, it’s got a luscious red color. And I know from previous experiments in pomegranate that anything made out of it is delicious.
So I set about trying it out on Saturday morning. After a week away, it was a relief to be back in my own kitchen, puttering away. I debated whether to add another flavor in with the pomegranate in the curd. I didn’t want to do lemon–although I will try that next–because I didn’t want its flavor to overpower that of the pomegranate. I also didn’t want something super citrusy. I decided on vanilla, figuring it would make an elegant, rich companion and it did. Continue reading
Cream makes everything better. So does butter. We always suspected it, but more and more I realize that it’s an eternal truth. In fact, I’m starting to suspect that primordial ooze was really sweet cream butter. Yep, that’s right. Full-fat dairy gave birth to the universe as we know it.
All right, well maybe not. But it did give birth to these pancakes. But don’t worry; it was a lot cleaner than you think, and with less screaming.
I’ve struggled to make good pancakes for a while. I could do it when I was a kid but that was when we bought like, Aunt Jemima boxed mix and it was chemically engineered to be so easy that even a 9 year old could do it. But when I try to make that kind of magic out of raw ingredients on my own, sometimes it doesn’t work out. They turn out rubbery or chewy or whatever. This is, of course, a travesty because Josh likes pancakes. So Lauren practices her pancakes. I have a go-to recipe that I trot out and it’s usually pretty good but a few weeks ago, I found a way to make it even better. And then earlier this week, I tried it again for dinner. And let me tell you, it works. What’s the secret, you ask? Continue reading
maybe she meant, let them eat cherries
Or, “What to do with 14 pounds of canned cherries.”
Josh likes cherries. Josh likes canning. Josh cans cherries. Lauren carries off two cans of cherries. Lauren cooks cherry cake. Cherry coffee cake. Cherry coffee cake with canned cherries. Josh is cheery. Josh likes cherry coffee cake with canned cherries.
I was bored on Saturday and that’s usually a recipe for disaster deliciousness because when I get bored, I bake. Only I was running low on ideas. It’s amazing, really—there are seven hundred and fifty recipes in my Evernote cookbook and yet, not a single thing I wanted to make right then and there. Well, that I could make anyway, with what I had on hand.
So I went offline and in search of my 40-something cookbooks. I wasn’t inspired by much there that day either, until I went through a Tastebook I had put together several years ago. If you’ve never been to Tastebook, it’s basically a site that lets you organize and print your own cookbooks—it’s rather nice, and I especially like it for gifts. But anyway, I’d printed myself a cookbook of recipes I found online a few years ago and one of them–the very first recipe in the book, actually—was for a cranberry coffee cake. Well I could do that, I thought. But I don’t have any cranberries. But I did have a basement wine cellar full of unfermented fruit (I know—I’m doing it wrong). That is, full of cherries that Josh bought fresh and canned a few weeks ago. Josh likes cherries. Josh likes cake. Cake likes cherries. Lauren cooks cherry cake. Continue reading
So like I mentioned in the last post, Pom Wonderful sent me another free batch of their pomegranate juice to see what I could do with it. I love when this happens. I like having to be creative with something. Especially something free. And plus, you know, I figure that pomegranate juice is so healthy for you that it totally trumps all the egg and cream that’s in this french toast recipe, plus the breakfast meats (with an ‘s’) that I served it with.
Ok, maybe not. Maybe it won’t instantly unclog your arteries but it is full of antioxidants and hey, every little bit helps.
Oh, also it’s really tasty. And let’s be honest here. That’s the most important thing. What did Lennon used to say? “All you need is love deliciousness.” I’m pretty sure that’s what he said. It sounds right.
So anyway…I came up with this on kind of a whim this past Sunday. I come up with most things on a whim. And a prayer….Who could it be? Believe it or not, it’s just meeeeeee…..
Sorry. Had a “Greatest American Hero” moment there for a second. Where was I?
Oh, right, right, french toast. With pomegranate.
Josh is a big fan of french toast. I’m really more of pancake gal myself, but Josh, he loves him the pain perdu. He makes a mean french toast casserole. The only downside is that french toast casseroles take some planning and work. And you know me–I like to do things on a whim. And a prayer. Who could it be? Sorry, I’ll stop now. Anyway, I like to do things on a whi–er, more spontaneously, and with few ingredients. I honestly was just preparing a basic french toast batter and I thought, hmm, maybe I could just throw in some of that pomegranate juice and add a little flavor without any real work. Turns out, yes I can. Continue reading
Where do banaberries come from, you may ask? Well *pats seat* come here and sit down. We should talk.
You see, when a banana and a blueberry love each other very much, they go out on a date. Sometimes drinking is involved and they end up doing some things they don’t remember in the morning, which is probably for the best as it’s most likely somewhat uncomfortable and disgusting. Banana sneaks out in the morning to avoid awkward conversation. And shortly later the fruit of their love is born: the banaberry.
In coming up with a more succinct name for these muffins I baked yesterday, I shortened the original lengthy moniker of “Banana Blueberry Muffins with Walnut Streusel” by combining the terms “Banana” and “Blueberry” into “Banaberry.” But that’s hardly romantic now, is it?
Anyway, so I was home all day yesterday. It was a planned day off to wait for FedEx to drop off my new iPhone (yes, I’m one of those). What was not planned was that FedEx dropped it off a day early on Tuesday. But hey, I’d already taken the day off. Might as well be productive and bake something delicious.
Three somethings, actually. I made a couple batches of les petits pains au chocolat for Josh, some more cornbread (sans the prosciutto this time) for both of us (but mostly me, really) and a batch of these rather lovely little muffins, which I took to work. Continue reading
That headline’s a reference to Spaceballs, by the way, if you didn’t recognize it. And if you didn’t recognize it, shame on you. Your penance shall be sitting down immediately and watching this national treasure of a film—while you’re waiting for this jam to cook down, that is.
So I’ll be up front here. I am not a domestic goddess of any sort. I’m barely a domestic imp. I don’t sew–I can, but I don’t and I don’t have any desire to. I clean but not nearly as much as I should. I don’t really decorate. My gardening skills and interests are minimal. I don’t can. (That sentence looks so wrong, by the way.) I don’t bake my own bread. And I know those things seem kind of odd, seeing as how I do cook a great deal and I’ll even make my own candy, chocolate, oreos and now I’m working on Snickers bars. But I dunno. Canning doesn’t really appeal to me and seems like quite a bit of work for an end result that’s not chocolate. But I do like jam, and I like it minimally processed (as I prefer all foods to be, except Taco Bell, which gets an exception because it’s not really food anyway). I don’t like jelly though. I guess you could say that I’m not ready for this jelly. (No? No good? Well they can’t all be winners). But I do love jam, especially stirred into some plain Greek yogurt with some chocolate chips and walnuts—that’s a winning breakfast right there, my friends. Raspberry jam is awesome. But strawberry jam is awesomer still. Because I love strawberries so, so much. It’s my second favorite flavor next to chocolate, and right before “barbecue.” And it’s June! Fresh strawberries abound cheaply. Take advantage of it. Continue reading
I have been to the mountaintop.
No, really. I just got back this weekend from a cruise to Alaska and I really did stand on top of a mountain. Not a very tall mountain, mind you, and it’s not like I was climbing up it, huffing and puffing with my faithful sherpa, Hodgkiss, a few patient yards ahead of me, doing all the real work. No, I was very comfortably ferried up there by bus, 3300 feet up into one of the most beautiful landscapes anywhere.
So yes, Alaska was fantastic. I was looking forward to it (I wanted to see whales—and did!) and it did not disappoint. I mean, who knew that me, Little Miss Sunshine who is always either in front of a computer or iPhone screen, could enjoy being completely wifi-free in the frozen northwest? Although I will be honest…it wasn’t exactly “frozen.” Well, parts of it were. We did see the Sawyer Glacier and that was pretty frozen, as you can imagine.
But the rest of the time, we were blessed with 70 degree, sunny weather. And the highlight? Part of me (the cheeky part) wants to say that it was seeing a street performer dressed as Darth Vader playing the violin.
kebab's your uncle
It’s a rare day in Michigan. 82 degrees, sunny, beautiful. Not a raindrop, not a snowflake in sight. Did you hear that? Sunshine. Warm weather. Keep a snapshot of this day in your mind; it may never happen again.
So I decided to celebrate in proper form. With food on a stick.
The first thing was dinner. Josh wanted grilled Polish sausages and potato salad, but that felt just a bit too midwestern for my taste, so while I made him that, I made something more Lauren-friendly for me. The inspiration from this came from a Tyler Florence show once in which he made a salad with grilled chicken sausage and bread. I figured it would be a good basis for an antipasto skewer. I enjoy Mediterranean-inspired meals and this one is easily adaptable and super easy to make, especially because the chicken sausage was precooked. I enjoy easy, tasty meals that allow me to be outside and lounge and eat with my hands. In fact, I find very few things as relaxing as eating a light, delicious meal with my fingers while sitting in the sunlight. I don’t know what it is. Things you eat with your fingers are just inherently more delicious than things you eat off a fork or a spoon or even the fabled spork. Also, sunny days chasing the clouds away on my way to where the air is sweet make everything taste better.
By the way, you get bonus cookies if you got that reference. Continue reading
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
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.” Saveur. Eating Well. Cooks 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
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
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
I found a recipe in Cooking Light for Strawberry Jam Crumb Cake. It just sounds scrumptious, doesn’t it? It looks pretty good too. I have the week off and you know I can’t go more than a few hours without getting bored and baking something. My immediate thought was to make cookies, and then brownies, and then I thought that maybe I should try and wean myself just a little bit off my dependence on the black gold that is chocolate and try something new. And I’ve never made a crumb cake before (as least, I don’t think so, and if I ever did, I guess it was so terrible that I blocked it out) so I figured, why not?
Of course, I didn’t have any strawberry jam because what fun is baking if you actually have all the ingredients you need? I did have apricot preserves, though, since I’d needed it for my spicy apricot chicken. Works for me. Continue reading
I’m so terribly sorry. I’ve been neglecting you, I know. You want to read about food, I want to eat that food, but sadly, the past couple of weeks have not been conducive to deliciousness. There was illness, dental surgery and the tedious anxiety and paperwork of attempting to buy our first house. In the meantime, recipe ideas have just been piling up one after another. It’s a culinary tragedy.
But never fear. Slowly, the art of food is making its way back to the foreground of the landscape that is my life (poetic, aren’t I?). I thought I’d ease back into things with something simple but effective. A nice mix on an old standby. Something to bring some sunlight and vitamin C into your day. Maybe you’re a pirate suffering from a terrible case of scurvy and running out of ingredients for your morning hardtack. Well look no further, matey, I have exactly what you need.
Citrus Flavored Salt
1/4 c. sea salt
the zest of one large orange
the zest of one large lemon
Lay the zest from both fruits out on a paper towel for about 5 minutes to dry out a bit. Mix and mash into the salt, stirring thoroughly. Store in an airtight container and use as a finisher for fish, pork, chicken and well..anything you want :-).
Wasn’t that easy? It’s like your very own flavor-based Easy button.
I got a notice that POM Wonderful was having a recipe contest and I thought, “Self, we’ve never entered a recipe contest before. We should give it a shot.” Self said, “We’ll never win.” And I replied, “Way to be defeatist, Self. The point is that it’s an excuse to be creative.” Self: “Since when do we need an excuse?” Me: “Since you started screwing with my chi.” Self: “Oh okay.” So we shook on it. Mentally.
So now that Self and I were in agreement (which happens much less often than you might imagine), I started thinking about various winter meals we could make with pomegranate. I considered roasting a chicken basted with a pomegranate compound butter. Iactually did that one, too. It wasn’t bad. But it didn’t make me go, “Mmmmmmmmmmmm” with my head tilted back and my mouth wide open slouched in a chair like Homer Simpson. I also thought about stuffing a pork tenderloin with spinach and goat cheese and cooking it in a pomegranate glaze. Haven’t done that yet…but probably will, because thinking about it now has me drooling a little bit, I’ll admit it. Continue reading