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Archive for October, 2007

House Frau

Things Annie Birdie and I discussed while I cooked us dinner last week:

1. Boys

2. Our holiday party and all the cleaning we need to do in preparation

3. That I need to hurry the hell up because Annie is hungry

Things I forgot to add to the recipe because I was under pressure:

1. Red pepper flakes

2. Sesame oil

3. Water chestnuts

There was a time when my hard work was appreciated in Chez Birdie-Lemmonex, but Annie’s harping has become increasingly distracting. My meals were once lovingly fawned over and complimented copiously. Annie felt grateful to have such a wifely and devoted roommate. Now, it is all “Bitch, where is my dinner! I’m hungry!” Food gets devoured with nary a word; it’s just another meal. She never tells me I am pretty anymore, or rubs my back, nor does she buy me flowers (ok, I am not really a flowers kind of gal, but that is besides the point). All I want is to be appreciated! I work so hard for her-would it kill her to show she cares?

This recipe is a combination of what happened–which was still very tasty–and what should have happened. I wrote it using the omitted red pepper flakes, sesame oil and water chestnuts. It is a very basic Chinese recipe; it can be used for beef and broccoli, chicken and broccoli, etc. The wine is optional, but adds depth to the recipe. This is improvised and open to a million different interpretations. Have at it.

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Chicken and Snow Peas

1 large chicken breast, cut into thin strips

1 1/2 cups fresh snow peas

1 can water chestnuts, drained

1 Tbs olive oil or margarine (I used margarine)

1 large garlic clove, minced

1/2 Tbs fresh ginger minced

Pinch red pepper flakes

1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth

2 Tbs low sodium soy sauce

1 splash (about 1 1/2 Tbs) white wine

1/2 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp corn starch

Salt and pepper to taste

Saute chicken strips over medium heat in frying pan until cooked (about 7 minutes). While cooking chicken, blanch snow peas in salted boiling water for about 2 minutes. Also, mix together chicken broth, sesame oil, wine, soy sauce and corn starch while chicken cooks. When chicken is fully cooked, add garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes. Saute for an additional 30 seconds Add snow peas, water chestnuts and soy sauce mixture to pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook an additional minute. Serve over rice.

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While partaking in my favorite Sunday activity– laying on the couch, drinking coffee, and cursing the amount of cigarettes I smoked the night before–this weekend, I caught an episode of “Best Week Ever” on Vh1. One of the segments pulled together clips from a recent episode of “The Maury Povich Show”. In the segment, it showed a woman who was deathly afraid of chickens. The show, being the bastion of elegance that it is, had a man in a huge chicken suit come out and terrorize this clearly traumatized woman. It was pure trash, but she seemed genuinely upset.

When I was a little girl, my Memere was damn near obsessed with coconut. She served coconut cream pie or coconut layer cake every time we went over for dinner. Her lotions and shampoos were coconut scented, and just in case she hadn’t made her point, her bathroom airfreshner was coconut. One huge problem lies in all of this: I detest coconut.  It is truly the work of the devil. I would gladly eat anything–organ meat, rotten food, dirt–before I would eat coconut. The smell of it alone turns my stomach; trips to the beach are hell. It is the only thing I refuse to eat, but the intensity of this hatred is epic.

I feel the pain of the woman who fears chicken. I am that woman.

One of the painful things about this intense hatred is I have seen so many beautiful things defiled by coconut. I have had to sit back while it has ruined a perfectly good carrot cake or a beautifully umbrellaed drink. One dessert I have always admired from a far is the Hello Dolly–always pondering if it could be made without the coconut. Deb at Smitten Kitchen made some a few weeks back and this reawakened the Hello Dolly obsession. I decided to tackle the recipe this weekend and bring the results to a World Series party to see how they turned out. If I am going to fail, I will do it in front of a group of people it seems.

This weekend, I discovered I am a genius. In the place of the coconut, I swapped in some rice krispies. It worked out so well for two reasons. First, the texture of the rice krispies becomes slightly chewy with a touch of crunch, much like coconut, when baked. Second, the cereal does not add much sweetness, which is essential in a recipe that is already so sweet. In the original recipe, the coconut (I assume) acts as a bit of a neutralizer, and the rice krispies do the same thing. These bars are tooth achingly sweet; I ate a few nibbles while prying them out of the pan and it gave me the shakes. They are pure decadence. I suggest cutting them into teeny, tiny pieces in order to avoid a sugar induced coma.

And if you ever make these, please do not tell me if you use coconut.

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Hello Dolly

Recipe a combination of many

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (I blitzed 7 crackers in the food processor)

1 stick butter, salted

1 cup rice krispies

1 cup pecan chips

1 cup peanut butter chips

1 1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1/2 small can sweetened condensed milk (about 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter and mix with crumbs. Press crumb mixture in to 8×8 pan. Add rice krispies, nuts and chips in layers. Do not mix. Drizzle condensed milk on top. Bake for 25 minutes, cool in fridge and cut.

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The weather as of late thrills me. My turtleneck sweaters have emerged (everyone loves a girl in a tight turtleneck) and the knee high boots are in heavy rotation. I have bid a happy adieu to white wines and have cracked open the Bordeaux. I drifted off to sleep last night with the window open, huddled under my heavy comforter, rubbing my feet together as the rain tickled my window. Even the persistent wetness of my pant cuffs cannot bring me down.

I only wish I could have made this pear and blackberry cobbler this week in the cooler weather. It just was not quite the same in oppressive heat of last week, but I am not complaining. I made this at my friend WiseOne’s house while she prepared a fantastic meal. After weeks of trying to get together with WiseOne and my other friend, Makeout Bandit, we finally (finally, finally) scheduled a dinner party. My free labor was employed and this desert was the outcome. It is everything you could really want in a cobbler; sweet but not cloying, warm and homey. I also love how the fruit is dumped on top of the batter; this is virtually idiot proof. WiseOne found the recipe; a few tweaks were made but this was an excellent choice on her part.

A note on the photo: This is what happens when three girls plow through three bottles of wine. At the time we considered ourselves ourselves photographic visionaries; I now see it as a bit of a cluttered mess. I adore this photo and it’s forced autumnal theme.

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Pear Blackberry Cobbler

Adapted from Bon Appetit

3 cups frozen blackberries (about 15 ounces; do not thaw)
1 1/2 large pears, halved, cored, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
2/3 cup plus 3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons dry red wine
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus additional for sprinkling

1 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Shake of cinnamon

Powdered sugar
Vanilla ice cream (optional, but awesome)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 1/2- quart baking dish with 2-inch-high sides. Gently toss berries, pears, 2/3 cup sugar, wine, peel, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in medium bowl.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 3/4 cup sugar in another medium bowl. Add milk, melted butter, almond extract and cinnamon; whisk until blended. Spread batter in prepared dish. Place berry-pear mixture atop batter (do not stir). Sprinkle with additional cinnamon.

Bake cobbler until crust is set in center and brown at edges, about 1 hour. Cool 30 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar; serve warm with ice cream, if desired.

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In college, my friends diagnosed me with a syndrome they dubbed “the rage”. The rage is something I have suffered from almost my whole life, an affliction that shakes those in my path.

It works something like this: I cannot find something or I royally screw something up or I am trapped in a situation. Suddenly, a switch will flip and I go from 0 to 60 in about 2.2 seconds, shouting profanities and pacing back and forth. Sometimes, there is slamming of doors and my (wimpy) fist on a hard surface. I have become fairly adept at keeping it together in my later years–silently stewing inside while the rage threatens to bubble out–but those who know me can see I am about to boil over. A lot of times it involves me rummaging on my floor screaming “Where are my f’ing black stilettos?”as I violently launch things around the room in my quest for the missing footwear. Some instances of rage that are particularly memorable: writing a paper on the WRONG WAR in my American Studies class freshman year, the washer/dryer eating my money at my apartment complex halfway through a load, and a Puerto Rican accordion troupe pushing me to the brink at a San Juan airport. I look utterly ridiculous when this happens, but I can barely control it. Many laughs are stifled by friends and family.

The rage has gotten better as I have matured and it is rarely focused on anyone but myself. I just get pissed when I screw myself over. That being said, if someone has witnessed a rageful scenario, it is reasonable they may fear they will come in my scopes some day. So, when I returned from the gym Monday night to see Annie Birdie waiting for me nervously, with hesitation, I knew something was up.

Before leaving for the gym, I asked her to pull my chicken breasts out of the oven when the buzzer beeped. She somehow got distracted by her phone–I’d like to think discussing a solution to world hunger with the President because what is more important than my chicken–and never heard the oven beep. So, when I came home I was confronted with some very well done chicken. It had shrunk to half it’s size, was a nasty brown color and possessed a weird, crispy, hardened layer. She was thoroughly apologetic, but she learned a vital lesson about me: I will always be more angry with myself than someone else. I actually wasn’t much pissed at all, just a little out of sorts because my plan for the evening was foiled.

Any minor annoyance I may have felt was smoothed over with many “hot nuts” jokes when I threw together this curry chicken salad. Like most of my recipes, this is heavily open to individual interpretation. I just grabbed some stuff at the store and threw in a bunch of things hanging in the pantry. Some other ingredients that could be substituted/added are almonds, diced peppers, crasins, celery, scallions, pears, dried cherries, etc… These measurements are all estimates, easily tinkered to suit individual taste. Poaching the chicken–something that occurred to me after the great Annie Birdie Disaster of 2007–makes a huge difference as it keeps the chicken extremely moist. The curry is the real key–it adds punch and a welcome change of pace.

Just keep one eye on the stove while making this…

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Curry Chicken Salad

A Lemmonex Original

5 chicken tenders or 2 breasts

2 cups water (I used 1/2 water 1/2 chicken broth to preserve some flavor)

3 Tablespoons walnuts

1 granny smith apple

3 Tablespoons raisins

2 Tablespoons currants

2 Tablespoons onions, finely diced

1 Tablespoon curry powder

2 1/2 Tablespoons fat free mayo

Salt and pepper

Poach chicken in salted water (or broth/water combo) until cooked (about 8 minutes with the tenders). As chicken poaches, toast nuts and chop when cooled. Dice apples and onions. In bowl, mix nuts, onions, apples, currants, and raisins. When chicken cools, add chop and add the nut/apple mixture. Add mayo, curry, salt and pepper and mix.

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My parents mercifully divorced when I was 12-years-old, which set off a chain of events that have shaped the person I am today. Without a doubt, I would be drunker, sluttier, and fatter if they were still together, so the divorce gave me a semi-shot at normalcy. I can never thank my mother enough for the courage it took to leave that marriage.

As my mother, brother and I attempted to salvage ourselves from the wreckage, we set out on the unenviable task of selling our house. This house was filled with a decade of memories: art projects loving saved, report cards archived and every toy placed in the basement. I fully admit that I am a slob, something my mother needles me endlessly about, but I know I inherited some of these tendencies from her. This woman saved every damn spelling test LittleBrother and I ever took; they filled boxes upon boxes, shelf after shelf. My mother held on to all of our baby teeth, which I unearthed when I was 10; only then would she admit that there was no such thing as the Tooth Fairy. Clearly, pack-rat-itis is a trait passed down from generation to generation.

When we finally put the house up for sale, of course the market was in the tank. It sat for months and months and desperation grew. My mother finally hired a big time real estate agent in hopes of unloading the burden of a house we could no longer make the mortgage on. The agent probably cost more than we could afford, but it was desperate times, and she was a pro. Regular open houses were finally taking place and a constant stream of strangers moved through.

Before one important open house, my mother threw together a simple applesauce in a crock pot in an attempt to fill the house with a smell other than wet dog. We busied ourselves for a few hours and returned to the house, which suspiciously lacked any apple scent. The real estate agent, an ample woman, had torn through a whole crock pot of applesauce. My mother was incensed, this being the final straw in a year full of indignities. The real estate agent finally sold the house, but from that day forward, my mother could not speak of her without mentioning this affront.

Like my mother, I never forget a transgression and I still think of this every time I make applesauce. In an attempt to force fall, I whipped up some rustic applesauce this weekend. You haven’t had applesauce until you have had it warm, straight from the stove top. It just feels so damn wholesome and American and tastes perfect. After the (fun and filled with great new people) DC Blogger Happy Hour, where I showed a whole new group that I put the “ass” in class, a dinner of porkchops and applesauce felt downright Puritanical. One of my favorite things about making applesauce is you are only limited by your imagination; it can be simple or ornate, sweet or potent. Below is what I threw together this time, but cloves would be great, as would adding some cranberries or orange.

It’s almost impossible to stop yourself from eating the whole pot.

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Rustic Applesauce

A Lemmonex Original

5 fiji apples, peeled and diced into ½” cubes

½ cup water

Juice of ½ lemon

3 strips of lemon peel (use a vegetable peeler)

1 cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 pinch ground ginger

1 ½ Tablespoons white sugar

2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar

Throw all ingredients in a sauce pan and cook over medium-low heat for 1 hour, occasionally mashing with a fork or potato masher, but still leaving chunks of apple. Pluck out cinnamon stick and serve.

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Modern Day Philosophies

Three personal philosophies have never failed me:           

            1. Timeliness is next to Godliness

            2. When in doubt, show more cleavage

            3. Cheese makes everything better

Philosophies 1 and 2 deserve much further discussion, particularly number 2, but I am feeling classy today, so the topic of discussion shall be cheese. (I will say this to every boy who made fun of my 12-year-old D cups: “How do you like me now?” If only I could speak to my tortured adolescent self…)

I honestly think that you could slather woodchips in melted gruyere and I would not question this culinary decision for a second.  I have met several people in my life who are strong members of the anti-cheese camp, and it just boggles the mind.  Cheddar and manchego are diametric opposites, as are parmesan and havarti.  This is just pure laziness on the account of the individual and it irks me to my core. Turning away cheese is like turning away free Springsteen tickets; why would any sane person do this?

Goat cheese is given a rare opportunity to shine in the recipe that follows.  Usually relegated to salads or crackers, this tart cheese shines on top of a simple chicken breast.  Taking only 20 minutes to prepare start to finish, this once again proves my point that meals don’t have to come from a drive thru to be quick. I made this with Irish Lebowski’s help last week and finishing the bottle of wine was our favorite part. 

Hopefully philosophies 1 and 2 will hold as steadfast in the future.

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Chicken with Goat Cheese Sauce

Adapted from Cooking Light

4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup (2 ounces) soft (log-style) goat cheese with herbs

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add chicken; cook 6 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

Add wine to pan; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook until mixture is reduced to 1 tablespoon (about 1 minute). Add broth; cook until mixture is reduced to 1/2 cup (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat.

Add cheese to pan; stir with a whisk until smooth. Serve sauce over chicken.

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The path to my blog addiction was born out of boredom at work. A friend innocently passed on a celeb gossip site to me about two years ago and a beast was created. The daily visits to this site were not enough and the slow updates bored me…I abandoned it for much greener gossip blog pastures.

But a gal can only take so much gossip. I found the now departed DC blog “Kathryn On” and it shut down a few months later. Isn’t this always the way? It did lead me to the usual local suspects, and hours filled with laughs, slight shock and even a friend. Things snowballed from there, and between local bloggers, makeup blogs (a secret dream of mine is to indulge my creative side and become a make up artist), gems from out of town and just general randomness, blogs became a time consuming obsession.

I finally found my blog bliss when I fell into the cooking blog world. Smitten Kitchen was the holy grail, but many others followed. Cooking is something I love! And something that I actually posess talent in! These places on the interweb spoke to me. It was home. Without all these blogs, I never would have learned that October 14th was “National Chocolate Covered Insect Day” (I cannot make this up) or that we are currently in the midst of “National Chili Month“.

The knowledge of all these food holidays, the unbearable weight of so many recipes to try, is your windfall. In celebration of National Chili Month, I adapted a chicken white bean chili for “Healthy Lunch Tuesday”. The main adaptations include using cooking spray instead of oil, fat free half-and-half in lieu of full fat cream and all white meat. It is a shame you cannot see the pale green flecks from the green chilis that run through this hearty meal in the photo; they are beautiful. This is all the flavorful, meatiness of a chili without an ounce of the guilt.

Who knew addiction could be so fruitful?

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White Bean Chicken Chili

Adapted from Wine Skinny

Cooking spray

1 large onion, chopped

5 large garlic cloves, chopped

1½ tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper, or more to taste

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast,tenders, etc, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 15-ounce cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed

8 ounces chicken broth, fat free and low sodium

7-ounce canned diced green chilies, drained

1/2 cup fat free half-and-half

Grated cheddar cheese and chopped fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)

Spray large heated pan. Add onion, garlic, cumin, oregano and dried red pepper. Sauté 5 minutes. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to pan. Sauté an additional 5 minutes.

Drain beans; reserving 1/2 cup bean liquid. Add beans, broth, chilies, half and half, and reserved bean liquid to chicken. Simmer until chicken is tender and cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle chili into serving bowls. Top with cheese and sprinkle with cilantro, if desired.

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