12.22.2010

recipe-share: white chocolate chip pecan cookies

Thanks to the holidays and my love of anything with white chocolate in it, I've made this recipe twice in one week. It can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes and great for a Christmas party.

White Chocolate Chunk Pecan Cookies



Don't worry about breaking up a bar of white chocolate. A small bag of chips works just great. Get the recipe here at All Recipes.

~jennifer

12.20.2010

recipe-ish: homemade pizza



I've been wanting to make this for a while. My own pizza. Totally from scratch. Make the dough. Make the sauce. Practically milk the cow and make the cheese. Last night, I had my chance. I found a random packet of pizza dough yeast and considered it my calling to make homemade pizza. Here's how it went.

I go into this with a vague idea how to make everything and just a handful of ingredients.

12.18.2010

what's good: potato bacon soup

Your winter just got warmer.



When you have a surplus of potatoes, bacon and a spare Saturday afternoon, I implore you to make this soup. It's hearty, it's rich, and it lends itself to well to improvising.

Thick and Creamy Potato Bacon Soup from Cooking by the Seat of My Pants.

12.17.2010

recipe-share: macaroni and cheese with butternut squash



I bought another butternut squash from the farmer's market. It's winter; 'tis the season.

I'm continually amazed at all the things that this vegetable is good for. Last night, I discovered it has good chemistry with cheese. I made Macaroni and Cheese with Butternut Squash from Martha Stewart. It's like your classic baked macaroni and cheese, but with some soul. Here's how it went down.

We start with a pound of squash. They are notorious for being nearly impossible to peel. And you can see why. Awkwardly shaped, even when halved.

12.15.2010

pretty pasta

Since learning now to make pasta about a week ago, I can't stop. It's an obsession.

You remember my first few tries.



I called this "ugly pasta".

Then, I hung it from a suspended wire rack, which resulted in the "folded pasta".

12.14.2010

recipe: gingerspice bread pudding



This is an adaptation inspired by a recipe I received from Martha's Place owner and chef Martha Hawkins. The twist is that the only bread I had in the house was gingerspice bread. Here we go.

12.13.2010

what's good: glorious dippable bread

My friends are my culinary inspirations. It's through these beautiful people that I learned the ways of sushi, gluten-free and that the chimichunga is not real Mexican food.

From my dear friend Kellie, I was introduced many years ago to glorious, dippable bread. She was the first person I ever saw make a meal out of artisan bread and olive oil. Ever since, I've been hooked.

It sounds overly simple. It is and it's delicious. I have all kinds of combinations. A French baguette. Rosemary loaf. Italian round. I experiment with the oils. Garlic olive oil. Olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I've branched out and started making my own marinara. Below is roasted pepper tomato sauce.

12.11.2010

what's good: pasta alla carbonara

I promised you at least a picture of pasta alla carbonara. I make good on my promise.

It all starts with a great cookbook, Complete Italian Cooking.



This is like breakfast pasta. You cook bacon and mix egg, cream and grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese to make the sauce. So delicious. So simple. And made with the fresh pasta, well that just sets it off.



~jennifer.

12.10.2010

recipe-share: make your own granola

Part of running is consuming a lot of granola. For me, it's the easy thing to eat before a race or a long run. It breaks down well, doesn't sit in my stomach like a brick and can be eaten mindlessly at 5 a.m. when I'm half awake.

So fellow runner, author and slow food activist Mark Bittman is a good source for granola recipes. I made his version this weekend.


12.09.2010

merry christmas from the boss

If Bruce says Santa Claus is comin' to town, you best believe...



~jennifer.

12.08.2010

recipe-ish: pasta with chili sauce

Just so we're clear, this is not chili like you're thinking chili.

I'm still cooking from Complete Italian Cooking, the one I mentioned a few days ago (remember the gnocci?). The library will eventually make me buy this cookbook.

I am also still making my own pasta. So it was a good time to move on to the next recipe, Pasta with Chili Sauce.


12.06.2010

ugly pasta

All week long, I've been making my own pasta. I haven't had this much fun since I learned what pop rocks and soda do together.

A friend of mine lent me his weathered copy of Pasta Tecnica by the bearded Pasquale Bruno, Jr., and I used the black and white culinary tutorial to make pasta. A few eggs and a lot of flour was sacrificed, but I think I've got the hang of it now.

It sounds simple. 3/4 cup of flour. 1 extra large egg. A few tablespoons of water. Mix. Roll out. Cut. Boil. Eat. I said, it sounds simple, but the technique and the equipment to which one has access makes all the difference.

12.03.2010

recipe-ish: potato gnocchi



I was inspired to make gnocchi from an episode of Tyler's Ultimate on The Cooking Channel. He made it look super easy, so I had to try it and my copy of Complete Italian Cooking had a recipe. Lucky me.



We start with the essentials of gnocchi: one egg yolk, 12 ounces of potatoes, 3/4 cup of flour, and nutmeg. Alongside are 2 to 3 tablespoons of butter, white pepper, kosher salt, and my faithful kitchen staple parmesiano-reggiano.

12.02.2010

memories, mitch albom and making gnocchi

I left my audio copy of Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom at my parents' house months ago, and I waited eagerly until Thanksgiving when they would bring it with them. I got it back on Thursday. I finished it by Sunday. It's a really good book.


11.30.2010

the chimi burrito that will save your turkey leftovers

So, originally, I set out to make these Baked Turkey Chimichangas, and my plans were nearly thwarted by an ill-fated plan to make refried beans.

Once I regained my composure and my friends went to the store for a can of refried beans, I got back on course. We made a few changes to this recipe... mostly we fattened it up.

As I cleaned up from the earlier culinary mess, my friend heated up some leftover turkey with two teaspoons of vegetable oil, salt and pepper on medium heat.


11.29.2010

the misadventures of refrying beans

Do not underestimate a two dollar can of refried beans. It's harder than it looks.

Saturday night, I had friends over, and naturally being the weekend after Thanksgiving, I wanted to flex my skills with some leftover turkey. There is no shortage of online ideas for your late November turkey, but I've had one in my back pocket for years: Baked Turkey Chimichanga... but far less healthy.

I did not have refried beans, as the recipe called for, but I did have a bag of dry pinto beans. And, as usual, I said, "How hard can it be?" And didn't go off of more than that.

The bag had instructions for quick cooking, which is not entirely true. Beans need to be soaked overnight. I boiled and soaked for upwards to four hours. That apparently was not enough.


11.23.2010

the evolution of eating well

So you're well acquainted with my nerd-like devotion to online lectures. I've got another one for you.



New York Times bestselling author of Food Matters and How to Cook Everything Mark Bittman gives us even more reasons to eat well -- not only for your own health, but for the environment as well.

11.22.2010

out with the old, in with the new shoes

Saturday marked the official retirement of my Nike Air running shoes. I bought them three years ago in Chesapeake. They've run throughout the neighborhoods of Hampton Roads and northern Virginia. They endured a year long membership at Gold's Gym and witnessed me being hit on by a handful of handsome military men. They were there when I fell on a trail in Annapolis, resulting in leg scars I may have for life. They've done two official 5Ks, one half marathon and countless miles of training. I kept them far longer than I should have. Saturday's run was purely for sentimental value.

The Good Journal: Old Shoe

Meet my new shoes. Brooks Ghost 3 Women's Running shoes. I tried several pairs and after lightly jogging around the shoe store in these, something about them made me want to run.

The Good Journal: New Shoe

Marine Corp Marathon 2011.. I'm comin' for ya.

~jennifer.

11.20.2010

what's good: snickerdoodle cookies

While cooking from scratch is still a recent dalliance, there is one element of the culinary world that I've been involved in since I was the little kid: baking. I grew up as a resident cake, cookie and assorted baked goods expert in our household. So every time I break out the flour, sugar, shortening and eggs, no matter where I am, it feels like home.

Last night, I got that sugar craving at around 8 p.m. and went to work on some Snickerdoodles -- essentially cinnamon sugar cookies.

The Good Journal: Snickerdoodles

11.19.2010

what's good: roasted artichoke

I had my first artichoke this year. I'd eaten it in sauces and dips before, but a few months ago was the first time I was in possession of a raw artichoke. I had options, all of which sounded tasty.

I found this quick tutorial from Food Wishes on YouTube for roasted artichoke and it proved quite delicious.


Simply Roasted Artichoke - Wrap and Roll - Food Wishes

~jennifer.

11.18.2010

recipe-ish: (a type of) pesto sauce



I'm very happy that olive oil is good for you, because I use it every day. Seriously. What's coursing through my veins now is, no doubt, three parts blood, one part Bertolli.

11.16.2010

chicken and dumplings... or "attack of the mystery bouillon cubes"



I debated for a while whether or not to post this blog, but if you're going to get a virtual view of life in my kitchen, you should know things often go awry, and a large portion of cooking is making mistakes and bouncing back. A metaphor for life, if you will.

Last night, I searched the Web high and low for a suitable chicken and dumplings recipe that did not require a Dutch oven or two hours of prep and cooking time. It was harder than it seems.

I finally found a feasible recipe from food and cooking bloggers Kevin and Amanda. And nearly destroyed it.

11.10.2010

what's good (kinda): not-so-french breakfast puffs



One of my roommates grew up in France. When I showed her the recipe for French Breakfast Puffs and asked her if she'd eaten such a thing before, she furrowed her brow, then shook her head. So I went into this feeling a little suspicious.

Yes, as the picture depicts, I used 2% milk, which I believe is why my dough runneth over. That aside, it was sweet, rich tastiness. Instead of rolling the puffs, I broke off pieces, dipped them in melted butter then dipped them in the cinnamon sugar mixture.

A quick Google search reveals that everyone has a French Breakfast Puff recipe. I used the one from All Recipes. If you find one that works, let me know. Even if it's not really French...

~jennifer.

meditation.... or "breakfast with God"

Mornings are important. It's the tithe of the day. If you don't invest it in something worthwhile, your whole day is off course.



Yesterday, I was tweeting back and forth about meditation with author and natural hair expert Chris-Tia of Thank God I'm Natural. I'm not a sit and oooooooommmmm type of meditator, although I have been known to practice some pranayama. Feels quite nice actually. I mostly love the idea of quiet time.

11.09.2010

the savory and the simplicity

Yesterday morning, I had porridge for breakfast. The tempering of the egg aside, it was marvelously simple and it got me thinking, ironically enough, about fancy food.

Since joining the fray of food blogging and watching more cooking and food travel shows than intellectually necessary, my eyes are inundated with complicated dishes. Foams, bone marrows, gold flakes, truffles, and other expensive examples of gastronomy... I watched a chef just the other day on YouTube making a lovely dish, but he lost me right away when he said the words "liquid nitrogen".

Really?

11.08.2010

recipe-ish: roasted red pepper tomato sauce

This was adapted from Epicurious. I got a large beautiful red pepper from the farmer's market with this recipe in mind.

The Good Journal: Red Pepper, Ready and Willing

Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Sauce
from Epicurious
of course, tailored to my insatiable love of mushrooms and onions

11.06.2010

dinner with friends

The Good Journal: Beef Tenderloin and Roasted Vegetables

My friends come over. I love to cook for them. It happens often, and it's a true joy in my life. I love to see people relaxed and happy, and there's nothing like the happiness that comes from a casual, home-cooked meal. Simple as that.

Once a month, though, I do a more formal dinner party. I invite different people over every time. The menu is a more complex, and we eat at the dinner table like actual grown-ups. Last night was such a night.

Beef tenderloin with roasted shallots. Roasted vegetables. Feta cheese mashed potatoes.

11.05.2010

erykah badu: next lifetime

I have a few reasons to post this video as our musical selection of the week. First and foremost, Erykah Badu is the pure embodiment of soul. She is effortlessly harmonious and strong all in the same note.

Not to mention, her music is timeless. This takes me back to another lifetime.

11.04.2010

what's good: tyler florence and his amazing flying potato chorizo

Okay, so chorizo can't fly, but otherwise, it seems to do no wrong.

This is a recipe-share, one of those great times when I step aside and just share a few pictures of a recipe so delightful that I didn't need to change a thing.

Take a look at Tyler Florence's Potato and Chorizo Tortilla. I found it on the Cooking Channel website. It was the first thing I made with my newly acquired tube of chorizo.

See the sizzle.

The Good Journal: Chorizo

Okay, so it starts out a little greasy, but it gets better once it goes in the oven.

11.02.2010

recipe-ish: grilled gouda and bacon sandwich

Grilled cheese sandwich. Its deliciousness is in its simplicity. Butter bread, cheese, grilled. If this food was any more comforting, it would come with its own blanket.

I'm not big into "taking a twist on a classic" or any of the other ways people ruin food. However, grilled cheese just leaves so much room to improvise. I'm trying this version out, Grilled Gouda Cheese and Bacon Sandwich, because we all know everything is better with bacon.

Cut four slices of artisan bread. Something thick. I use an Italian round.

The Good Journal: Bread

11.01.2010

mint lemon tea: the feel-better-soon remedy

The Good Journal: Mint Lemon Tea

Today, I'm ill. And not in an '80s hip-hop kind of way.

I'll spare you my ailments, but let's just say that you know I'm sick if I'm not hungry. And today, I'm not hungry.

Whenever I get like this, I want simplicity, preferably piping hot. I want tea.

10.29.2010

i still believe in frank turner

I can tell you the exact moment I fell in love with Frank Turner.

I am writing in this restaurant downtown on a slow Sunday night, and the playlist going on overhead is some of the weirdest that I've ever heard. If I recall, they go from Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice" to Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" in less than three songs. It is my kinda joint.

Anyway, this song comes on, and I hear a man with an English accent sing about all the girls he's lost. He shrugs it off with this line: "Music is my substitute for love."

10.28.2010

what's good: roasted pepper and salami

I have two old peppers. And no, that's not a euphemism.

The Good Journal: Old Peppers

So wrinkly, this geriatric produce is almost done. Gotta eat it now.

I also have a pound of salami leftover from a dinner party dish I did last week. So the first thing I do is look up both those ingredients. Thank the Google gods, this recipe comes up: Baked Red Pepper and Salami Salad from @Cooking.com.

10.27.2010

because food is important

I think it's funny when people say, "You're really into food." I mean, isn't everybody? It's a biological need. But I see what they mean. I know a guy who lives off of cereal and protein shakes. The only way I'm eating like that is if I'm in the hospital, in which case, pull the plug.

While I loved food my whole life, I don't think I really understood it until I started to cook. How it truly has a life all its own. How it speaks to you. Reminds you who you are sometimes. For example, I could be 100 years old, but if I somehow get a bite of Grandma Boyd's apple dumplings, I am instantly 10 years old again and it's Thanksgiving.

Sometimes food simply brings chaos into order. My favorite line from the film Julie and Julia comes when Julie Powell is making chocolate cream pie and she says to her husband, "You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when nothing is sure and when I say nothing, I mean nothing, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. That's such a comfort."

10.26.2010

recipe-ish: fried rice

I was almost embarrassed when I realized how easy it was to make fried rice at home. Really. Burn (or better yet, recycle) that tired Chinese take-out menu and make this super basic recipe tonight.

First, make some rice as you usually would. All I had was brown this time.

Brown Rice

In a skillet, heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil (and I add a teaspoon of bacon fat for fun). This is where you will saute whatever vegetables you'd like. I hate peas and carrots in Chinese food, so I don't use them, but feel free to. I add mushrooms and green peppers. The only must is onions. Gotta add onions. Also, this is when you add the chopped meat, if you want to.

10.25.2010

recipe: real simple's brown butter biscuits

The Good Journal: Brown Butter Biscuits

Many years ago, I took scissors to my growing collection of Real Simple Magazine issues, cut out their "Five Easy Recipes" and made a folder of my favorites. Now, out of all the cookbooks that I've received over the years, this homemade binder is the one I refer to the most. One recipe in particular I probably make at least once a month.

The Good Journal: The Making of Brown Butter Biscuits

10.23.2010

in pursuit of perfection

I have friends over for dinner all the time, but Friday night was the first time since April that I've entertained guests for a more intentional dinner party.

I worked on the music playlist for a week. I came up with a menu that I felt was ambitious while not overly complicated: cannelloni, prosciutto wrapped asparagus, garlic bread and white chocolate mint mousse. Truthfully, I'd only made the garlic bread before; everything else was brand new and that included making my own pasta.

Hopes were high. So naturally, I flipped out a little when things proved more complex.

White chocolate is a fickle mistress. It refused to melt, at least not like its dark counterparts. I ended up over-whipping the mousse to try to get the chocolate to blend. Then the homemade pasta became an epic fail, sticking mercilessly to everything in site (not even flour helped).



I could have cried and I almost did. I don't know what it is about cooking that can get me so emotional. It's like these dishes are a reflection of me. So if they fail, I fail.

Cooking is a lot about rules and proven techniques and knowing how certain foods react under specific situations. Perfection is prized. However, it helps to remember that there is an element to it all that is always out of your control, and the best you can do is roll with it. One recipe doesn't work; turn it into something else. Over-whipped the mousse? Scoop the chunky mess into a wine glass, stick some mint leaves in it and serve it anyway.

I scrapped the cannelloni idea, ran to the store, and made lasagna instead, using the same filling and sauce. It ended up being a unique take on the classic with the salami/prosciutto cheesiness between the layers.

Might I say, in the middle our evening I looked at the kitchen window and caught a reflection of our dinner party. Three girls laughing, eating, sharing stories about traveling abroad. I had to stop and take in the moment.

'Cause it's not about perfect food. It's about the good times and friends it brings together.

~jennifer.

10.20.2010

eat pray love's elizabeth gilbert on creativity

I'm a food nerd, I'll admit it. But I come by it honestly because I'm also a nerd nerd. Especially now that I'm five years out of graduate school and have regained my love of reading for pleasure, I love to learn. I enjoy lectures on topics of interest like food, art, film, and books. If more authors came to my small beach town, I'd go to readings. Big-time nerd. That's me. Out and proud.

So, I love Ted Talks and Google Talks and all kinds of lectures you can find on YouTube. I put them on, minimize the screen, and listen to them while I go about my day. And it's not just artsy stuff. These two forums welcome scientists, politicians, newsmakers, etc. There is something for everyone.

If you're not diving into these "conversations", you're missing out on valuable information. So yeah, I'm gonna subject you to them on occasion, because they're good. All kinds of noteworthy authors, filmmakers, and chefs come to these venues, talk about their books and give amazing advice. It's everything college should have been.

So today, I'm sharing with you a classic and a favorite of mine. Non-food related, but it is a brilliant talk on creativity from Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert. This is especially pertinent for writers, but I think any artist, culinary or otherwise, can find inspiration here.



~jennifer.

less assembly required cooking



I have nothing to eat.

No, that's not true. I don't have anything ready to eat.

Since beginning this culinary adventure, I've swept my house clean of processed foods. I mean, if I can make it myself, why am I letting someone I don't know make it for me, pump it full of preservatives and sell it to me at a heightened cost? No thanks.

Unfortunately in my quest to be my own personal chef, I unwittingly lost my ability to eat simple snacks. Seriously, everything in my house is a raw ingredient that requires sautéing, marinading or roasting. I came home last night in the mood for something quick and realized I got nothing. I'd love some potato chips, but I have none. I of course have peanut oil, sea salt and potatoes though. You see the problem here?

I gotta get it through my head that not everyday around here is an episode of Top Chef. Yes, I cook every day, three meals a day more often than not because I enjoy it. However, sometimes a girl just need a big, ungodly bag of Doritos.

~jennifer.

10.19.2010

leftovers: the dos and don'ts

As a kid, nothing brought down a good day like hearing we're having leftovers for dinner. Sure it was fine the first time around, but the second time? Ew. The stickiness of macaroni and cheese, the mashed potatoes that clearly lost their will to live... It just tastes old.

It's true some ingredients only respect freshness. So, a few rules of thumb:

Don't reheat things with dairy. I may be wrong, but all of the things I remember tasting gross the second day had cheese or milk or eggs in them.

Don't use the microwave unless you absolutely have to. You can reheat anything that comes in small pieces (like rice dishes) or anything that melts (like butter), but as a general rule, just don't. It torches food unevenly. I mean, how is it possible that an enclosed heating device can manage to burn the outer edges of food while leaving the middle frozen solid?

Don't reheat seafood. Fish, even shrimp, can be delicate and fickle. I don't trust it on the second go 'round. Besides, if it's been in your fridge for more than a day, it's a little suspect anyway.

Now certain things only get better the more "leftover" they are. You make it, you put it in the fridge and let the flavors get to know each other. The garlic, the pepper, the thyme, whatever you've used -- they all work the night shift to bring you something unique the next day.

Do enjoy your chili for a week or longer. Whenever I'm making food for new parents or anyone who will likely store it for a long time, I think chili. Nothing else has its extraordinary ability to get more delicious as time goes on.

Do take your time when enjoying a good homemade tomato soup or pasta sauce. Those Italian spices especially love to hook up in the fridge and create more flavor as the days go on.

Or try this...



This dish is a spiced carrot and butternut squash soup recipe I got from Gordon Ramsey. After putting in too much orzo, it's a little pasta-heavy. But I ate it for days and it was just as good as the first time... if not better.

What are your favorite leftover meals?

~jennifer.

10.18.2010

recipe: chicken cordon bleu with roasted vegetables




A good night always starts with my friends texting me:

"Are we still on for dinner? If so, what can we bring?"

I am blessed with friends who will bring all the ingredients if I promise to cook. They get a good meal. I get to flex my skills in the kitchen without going to the grocery store. Fair trade in my book.

One of my friends is a diabetic, and I love a challenge. The mission was a low-carb, no-sugar dinner, heavy on the protein and vegetables. Easy peasy.

I went with chicken cordon bleu with a swiss cheese white sauce and roasted vegetables. Here's how it went down:

Ingredients:

4 chicken thighs
4 slices ham (not that wimpy sandwich meat, something thick from the deli)
8 slices swiss cheese
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon bacon fat
breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon butter
1 and 1/2 tablespoons flour
milk
salt and pepper
1 to 2 slices swiss cheese

2 green squash or zucchini
a handful of mushrooms
1/2 of a small onion

Set the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the thighs on a flat clean surface and pound each of them to roughly 1/2 inch thickness. Thankfully we have a kitchen mallet, but in the past I have wrapped the bottom of a glass in plastic wrap and used that. Whatever you do, use some force. Think of your ex if needed.

Lay one slice of ham on each of the flattened chicken. Lay two slices of cheese on the ham. Roll them up with the seam of the chicken on the bottom. Place in a glass pan.

In a skillet, melt the oil, butter and bacon fat together. When it's nice and sizzling, pour it over the chicken in the pan. Use a spoon to make sure that each piece of chicken has a nice all-over glaze. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on the chicken (you could omit this or really coat it, but for this low-carb version, just a sprinkle will do... and of course you could always use mashed up Chex mix as a substitute).

Now for your veggies.

Slice your squash and mushrooms. Chop your onion. Throw it all in another glass pan. Drizzle it with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper (maybe some seasoned salt). Cover the top with foil.

Put both glass pans in the oven (I don't think it matters which is on top). Cook for 25 to 30 mins.

About five or so minutes before it's done, you need to prepare your sauce.

In a skillet, melt butter. Sprinkle in the flour, whisking with a fork the entire time. When it becomes frothy and foam-like, add milk very slowly -- again, whisking to keep it from clumping. You want enough milk so that it has the consistency of gravy. So pour slowly until you get there. Toss in a dash of salt and pepper. Pick apart your remaining slices of swiss cheese and put them in the mixture. Stir until everything is melted and somewhat smooth.

When you plate your chicken, spoon the sauce on top of it. This sauce thickens and gets cold quickly so use all of it on your chicken and serve the dish with the veggies immediately.



~jennifer.

10.17.2010

knife skills... as taught by jamie oliver

From an Iron Chef to those of us who just pretend to be, everybody needs to know how to handle a knife. Naked Chef and Food Revolutionary Jamie Oliver shows us how.



~jennifer.

10.15.2010

the grit cake debacle

Before I even started last night's dinner, the title for this blog popped in my head. Sometimes you can just sense when something is about to go wrong.

Things start out well. I make my cheesy grits as directed during lunch and chill them until I get home from work.



As usual, I follow a hodge-podge of recipes, borrowing the idea of adding caramelized onions from Edible Memphis.



I have my garlic ready to add just when the onions are perfect. As the onions caramelize, I heat up a second skillet to fry the grit cakes. The oil doesn't look that hot, but apparently it is. While a few cakes cook, it happens.

Grease pops up from the skillet on to me and more shockingly my camera.



Here's a problem they don't teach you about in food blogger school.

Ug. All my pictures are in a haze like I just woken up. This being my first real camera, I am at a loss and my roommate, who is a photographer, isn't home. I know enough about delicate machinery that you can't just wipe it down with anything. So, I hit the Internet and see what I can find.

One site suggests cleaning it with lighter fluid. My luck is poor enough tonight. No way am I messing around with anything related to fire. I decide to go with the rubbing alcohol and a cotton ball. Just a few dabs and thank the Lord, my lens is clear again.

In the meantime, my onions burn.



Grease splatters just about everywhere. And I'm so consumed with the camera and the burnt onions, that I completely forget to add the garlic, which sits patiently in vain still on the cutting board.



Not part of the plan.

Despite the debacle, the grit cakes turn out perfect! Golden and crispy outside, hot, gritty, cheesy goodness inside. Reminds me of potato cakes. Just a great way to use leftovers.



Let's just say all's well that ends well.

~jennifer.

10.14.2010

breakfast... quickly now: the bacon and eggs edition

I'm hurtin' this morning, because I had to fly out of the house without breakfast. These cooler autumn mornings make me want to curl up in my bed just a few more minutes. And sometimes that's at the expense of the most important meal of the day.

I always miss breakfast, if I haven't had it. People who don't eat breakfast are weird to me.

To balance both my love of sleep and food, I've been weaving cooking into the morning routine.

As you probably noticed in my last bacon post, I like to cook bacon in the oven. To me, it cooks more evenly and helps distribute that divine scent throughout the house. I use a glass pan to prevent burning.

So I set the oven to a low temp, like 350 or 375 degrees and pop a few strips in. Bacon getting those crisp edges and juicy middle usually takes about 10 to 15 mins, long enough for me to hop in the shower, pick out my 'fro and find whatever fashion-forward combo of t-shirt and jeans that is clean.

Back in the kitchen, I use a pat of butter and melt it in a skillet. I whisk in one egg and let it fry undisturbed for a minute or two. Take two warm tortillas, split the fried egg between the two and lay strips of bacon on them. After a drizzle of hot sauce (I love the Tapitio), I have breakfast on the run.

On a good day, I wrap it in foil and hit the road. Yesterday, I ate it while walking around the house looking for my wallet. Either way, it's hot, it's easy and it's way better than cold cereal.



~jennifer.

10.13.2010

sunshine anderson: heard it all before

4 Things I love about Sunshine Anderson's "Heard It All Before":


1. It's real organic rhythm and blues; an urban original, which is rare nowadays

2. For this line alone... "You have crossed the line to the point of no return / What you do from here on out I am no longer concerned"

3. The dude in this is rockin' a Redskins hat (go 'Skins!)

4. 10 years later, this song is still better than 95% of what's played on the radio



~jennifer.

10.12.2010

what's good: fettucini with butternut squash, sage and brown butter



I said I would take it easy this week, but last night, I found myself preheating the oven and chopping butternut squash to the tune of Dean Martin. I really don't know how it happened.

Okay, I have a slight idea. It all started with an empty stomach and a Google search.

I told my friends a week ago that I was in possession of a butternut squash for the first time in my life and needed some recipes. I got some great ideas, but seeing that I blew all my discretionary income on some hipster clothes from the Lucky Brand store, I couldn't get any additional ingredients from the market. Everything for this dish had to come from inside the house.

So I did some searching and landed on this gem from the kitchn (yes, without the "e") -- Fettucini with Butternut Squash, Sage & Brown Butter. It looked too good to pass up, so I got to work.



I had that bow-tie organic pasta, which served me just fine.

The recipe calls for real sage, but all I had was ground. Yes, I know from the looks of that picture that I put too much in. Eh, work with the kid.



This was a brilliant excuse to use the rest of my pine nuts. Lightly toasted, these little beauties are my favorite flavor enhancers. Often times, while cooking with them, I'll just start tossing back handfuls. Don't know what the cholesterol situation is with these nuts and really don't want to know.



As advertised, it took less than 30 minutes and after I ground up some cheese and sprinkled it on top, I had a sophisticated dish perfect for a balmy autumn night.

It's good stuff. See for yourself. Fettucini with Butternut Squash, Sage & Brown Butter

~jennifer.

10.11.2010

what's (not) cookin': honey and cheese

Today is a day of leftovers. Last tonight, I will feast off of my pork from Friday night (if my roommate hasn't finished it yet). Right now for breakfast, I'm warming up that decadent, over-sized apple dessert I got from Cracker Barrel yesterday.

As I focus on my writing and training for a 5K and half-marathon race, I see this week being one of warm-ups, standbys, go-to's, and easy recipes. Who says food has to be complicated? I don't know, but it wasn't me.

One of my new favorite easy dishes is one I got from the glorious Cooking Channel. I don't personally have the station, but any time I'm over someone's house who does, I make them sit through hours of hipster foodie shows like Chuck's Day Off, Everyday Exotic and Unique Eats.

My easy recipe of the day is Honey and Cheese from David Rocco's Dolce Vita. When I saw this on the show, I just had to make it for myself. It's so easy. Just cheese, walnuts and honey. I like to put little chopped bits of apple in it as well.



Between the no-cooking factor and it's natural sweetness, I can't think of a better go-to snack.

Now I know I just said I want to take it easy this week, but I'm just now remembering a Rachael Ray cooking segment that I saw yesterday. I might have to break the rules to make this prosciutto wrapped delightfulness.

~jennifer.

10.08.2010

recipe-ish: oven smoked pulled pork

They said it couldn't be done. You have to have an outdoor smoker to properly smoke pork butt, they said. You'll burn down the house first.

Ha!



Along with my bacon, I picked up one pound of pork butt from the farmers market this week. I was determined to do something new, and the first recipe to come up in my search was "smoked pork."

Yes, it is a lot trickier without a grill or smoker, and wisdom would suggest anything involving smoke should be done outside. However, that wasn't an option in the imperfect kitchen, so I improvised and used a combination of a few recipes that I found.

As I always say, you'll find lots of different ways to cook this, but here's how I did it.

First, brine your pork. I used this recipe from All Recipes: Basic Brine for Smoking. Super simple. I left mine in the fridge over night and through the morning.

Next, you'll need mesquite wood chips. Not very expensive at all. I spent maybe four bucks.



You need just enough to cover the bottom of a shallow pan, so scope out what you need and follow the directions to soak the wood chips in water for 15 minutes or more.

While those are soaking, it's time to macgyver your smoking apparatus. Get an aluminum pan (I used a metal one) and place a rack on top of it. The meat will sit on the rack; the wet wood chips will be in the pan. With the rack on top of the pan, it simulates a grill inside of your oven.



Set the oven to 200 to 225 degrees. Then I hope you have about six hours to spare. According to the other recipe I used (Smoked Pork Butt), it could take up to 18. My one-pound butt, cut in half, took six hours.

I did not burn the house down. It barely warmed the kitchen. However, I can't advise that you leave this unattended. Just the idea of wood and meat and heat over the course of hours just sounds like a recipe for a forest fire.

When it was done and I pulled it apart with a fork, it was tender on the inside and there was a slight crisp on the outside.



Even without a rub, it was highly flavorful. We put a little barbeque sauce on it and served it with a side of roasted vegetables. This little pound fed me, two friends, one roommate, and two dogs with some to spare.

~jennifer.
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