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Archive for June, 2008

Love Lost

“Watch out for Lem on the metro; don’t let her pick up any guys”, Aunt LifeSaver ordered sassE.

This is how a girl gets a reputation. You pick up a guy ONE TIME on the metro and you never live it down. He wasn’t a complete stranger; I had met him a few times. It was baschert, to be honest. I ran into him on the platform after a night of celebrating my birthday. He was a friend of a guy I dated. Sure, he needed coercing, perhaps I maybe had to reassure him our friend was “dead inside” and most surely wouldn’t care. Look, it was my birthday. A gal should always bestow herself with the best, prettiest gifts and my gift to myself this year was a 6’3″ cornfed Midwestern boy. I normally don’t do pretty, but boy oh boy, was he ever.

We got back to his place, proceeded to drink and talk until 5 am, smooched a bit…and we passed out. I woke up the next morning, said good bye, and participated in the most bizarre walk of shame. I had nothing to be ashamed of, yet my dress from the night before betrayed me. A few sideways glances and muffled snickers were thrown in my direction as I sauntered home.

It is shocking, really, how I always manage to foil myself. Such a perfect opportunity he was…just such a damn waste. It was all for nothing.

It was as if by mentioning this incident Aunt LifeSaver cursed me. Another metro tragedy ensued this weekend, but of much lower proportions: I arrived home to realize my leftovers had materialized in to the ether.

Metro would not get the best of me a second time–one delicious thing has already alluded me–so I took last night to recreate my lost meal. This salad with Korean beef took about 5 minutes to prepare, making it a great option for a weeknight dinner. The marinade can be thrown together the night before and the meat left to sit in it overnight. The siraccha adds kick and the brown sugar gives the meat a sweet edge. Flank steak is a very tender cut of meat; the steak is velvety and delicious. It is a flavorful, easy, and healthy dinner.

It was just as good as my lost leftovers…but I can guarantee not nearly as good as that boy would have been.

Korean Flank Steak

A Lemmonex Original

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons siraccha chili sauce

1 spring onion, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, mined

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 flank steak (~1 lb)

Combine first eight ingredients together. Tenderize meat and put it in a large freezer bag. Add marinade. Marinate for at least an hour, flipping the bag over a few times. Cook on grill (or grill pan/foreman grill); 4 minutes on each side for medium rare. Let rest for about 5 minutes before slicing meat against the grain. Serve over salad.

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Shannon asks:

My friend just had a baby, I was going to take her something to eat. Her mom has the Shepherd’s Pie cornered (darnit, there goes my idea…). So what should I take her? Casseroles, chilis, whatever freezes well or tastes good reheated.

I was thinking my taco vegetarian chili, I used to fix it when I was living with her and she really likes it. But, if you’d just given birth, what would you want your friend to bring you to eat?

If I had just had a baby I would like you to bring me a fistful of Klonopin, a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, and a paternity test stat.

Oh, I kid. Hold off on the booze. The kid already won’t have a daddy; it doesn’t need a mother in Betty Ford as well.

As far as your friend is concerned… yes, I say bring her the taco soup. It reheats well, you know she likes it, and it is easy to grab and go. When cooking for new moms, please keep spice levels in mind. You may want to cut down on the amount of chili pepper/powder, though. Spiciness is transfered over to breast milk, so something with too much heat can result in one unhappy baby. Proceed with caution. You want your friends remembering your kindness in the days after their little rugrat arrives, not shaking their fists at the heavens and screaming your name as their baby shrieks in pain at 3 am. I made some spicy meatballs for a some dear friends when their daughter arrived this winter; I cut down on the amount of heat significantly and those bastards were still damn spicy. I could have had a disaster on my hands, but all was well. Please learn from me.

Also, when packing up the food I recommend breaking the meal into two person portions, individually wrapped. They may not want to eat taco soup four nights in a row; ladle the soup into four, freezer safe containers so even a few weeks from now they can haul the soup out of the freezer, zap it and have a quick meal. They will thank you for your thoughtfulness and you get to feel superior to those chumps who bring a whole huge vat of soup over, leaving the new parents to try to deal with repackaging everything.

So, on to the actual food. I am thinking comfort foods–meals that are simple, homey and delicious. Chicken parmesan with some pasta, lasagna, chicken casserole, black bean soup, tomato soup, and beef stew all freeze well. Jambalaya (watch the spice!), lentils of any type, and any kind of stirfry with rice works great as well. You basically just want to stay away from anything too creamy, milky or rich; it won’t hold up in the freezer.

Lastly, if you are the kind of gal or guy who cannot cook, fret not. Everyone always brings over casseroles and starches when a baby is born, but seem to forget that new moms and babies need nutrients, too. How about grabbing a whole bunch of frozen veggies along with a grocery store gift certificate? You don’t want to new family dying of scurvy as they sludge through the first few difficult weeks. Other food related ideas that don’t require cooking: a Visa/Mastercard gift certificate tied to a bunch of take out menus from the area, a few pounds of coffee (for Dad) and boxes of Herbal Tea (for Mom) for those late nights, and a gift certificate to a local restaurant along with an offer to babysit for the first date night after baby arrives.

Luckily, I will not be in need of any of this for a looong time (thank you, Orthocyclen!), but I hope this helps you out.

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Warped Priorities

A lot has been made in the news recently about the lipstick effect, the tendency of consumers to buy small luxury items during a recession instead of purchasing high ticket items.

Apparently, the recession has hit me hard:

Behold the infamous “Tackle Box”. This carrier houses my not-so-secret shame and the pinnacle of my girly indulgences. I am not even going to try to defend this frivolity on my part; every woman deserves to feel like a pretty, pretty princess. I fully recognize I don’t need this, but I like it, and that is enough for me. The thing with makeup is this: it can tweak who you are and how you see the world. A smoky eye leaves me feeling vampy and flirtatious; a light wash of pink blush and sheer lip gloss results in a sweet and innocent reflection in the mirror; and taupe lids with a nude lipstick are all I need to be reminded it is time to get serious. I’ve been obsessed with make up since high school, which isn’t shocking. It is the time in everyone’s life when they desperately wish they were anyone but themselves; my kohl rimmed eyes told the world not to screw with me and served as a layer of protection.

So when economists talk about the lipstick effect, I get it. These little pots of powder and jars of paint are a luxury I could never imagine relinquishing even in the toughest of times. Take away my vacations, President Bush, but you cannot take away my Lancome.

Of course, all this money going to make up has to be taken from somewhere else. It’s okay to pluck from my food budget to subsidize my material lusts, right? Right? Well, I am the boss around here and what I say, goes. Out with the steak, in with the ground chicken… These chicken burgers were made solely from things already in my pantry and came out shockingly well for being thrown together on a whim. The sesame oil added moisture to the ground chicken, which can often become dry. The red pepper flakes offered a touch of heat without becoming too overwhelming and the soy added a touch of sweetness. Had I been thinking (I am often not), I would have added some ground or fresh ginger; it would have added a nice element of depth. Oh well; they still tasted great.

And I am still left with enough money for a trip to Sephora…

Asian Chicken Burgers

Lemmonex Original

1 package ground chicken meat

1 1/2 tablespoons seasame oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 medium sized shallot, mined

1 garlic clove, minced

1 pinch crushed red pepper

Salt and Pepper

Combine all ingredients together (will form 4 patties). Cook until no pink remains in burger.

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A Letter to My Body

Dear Body:

I have so much I want to say to you.

My first compulsion is to apologize. It seems such a female thing to do, to repent and offer up a bucket full of sorries. We’ve been taught, us women, that there is always something to be sorry for. We are sorry for our emotions, sorry for our age, sorry for our opinions and sorry, of course, for our bodies.

I am sick of feeling sorry.

Body, I have done some awful things to you. I have not treated you the way you have deserved. I have let how you look affect my whole psyche. A lifetime of hatred towards you permeated my entire being. I lived in a strange space, where you were fully ignored and an all-consuming preoccupation.

I spent years stuffing you full of food. My gut would ache, yet the meals would never end. Food was an intoxicating drug I could not quit, no matter how large my stomach swelled. I have yards of faint stretch marks, a memorial to the abuse I have put you through.

I have compared you to countless other bodies. I have cursed you for having thicker thighs than the women I pass on the street, a fuller stomach than the girls at the bar and a wider ass than the lady sitting next to me at the coffee shop. You have been subjected to a lifetime of unrealistic expectations.

I have shared you with men undeserving and unkind. As a teenager, I would pick the skin on your face, hating the red, angry bumps that flecked every inch. You still have the scars. I would stand in front of the bathroom mirror, face inches away from your reflection and call you ugly. I would wish for fuller lips, bigger teeth and different colored eyes. I have smoked countless packs of cigarettes and bottomless pints of beer, subjecting you to achy, painful mornings. I spent a year of my life dedicated to shrinking you, assuming that if you were smaller, all my problems would be solved. Some problems did evaporate, but a whole new crop popped up, and of course I blamed you.

All these things have happened. It is done and they are in the past. I won’t apologize; I merely sit here hoping you have already forgiven me, knowing this was the journey I had to take.

I like to think we have entered in to a silent pact. You accept that I am doing my best, but sometimes, there are setbacks. I, in turn, aim every day to keep up my end of the bargain. I know I will still overeat, but I will do my best to get on the treadmill and remind myself that tomorrow is a new day. I will continue to have moments where I criticize your stomach and thighs, but I promise to not linger in that place too long. I write a food blog, for the love of God; why must I insist on testing us so much? This seems a special type of torture. I think you know that is just my style; always striving, always wanting more, always hungry for everything life has to offer. I will push us and always bring us to the edge of our boundaries.

I am always doing my best, though. I promise.

Unapologetically,

Lemmonex

(Note: Though the deadline for “A Letter to my Body” has already passed for BlogHer, I set it as a personal goal for myself to finish my letter before the end of June.)

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Sticky Fingers

In kindergarten, there was a spate of robberies in my class. Some selfish little twit decided he had the right to all of our pudding packs, fruit roll-ups and ring dings. He would systematically pilfer through our lunches throughout the course of the day; for about three months I would sit at my desk in the morning and pray I would still have my beloved Bugles when it was time for lunch.

The search for the thief was an intense one. Our class was questioned as a whole and as individuals as our teacher attempted to figure out the culprit. She had to be sick of listening to a room full of five year olds whining their way through lunch everyday, lamenting their lost goodies. She was as invested in finding him as we were.

Except it wasn’t a him. They finally caught my classmate, K, the daughter of another teacher in our school, redhanded, pockets stuffed full of junkfood. K was never my favorite person; I had a hatred for her that only a small child could muster. She teased me mercilessly,tormenting me endlessly. The sight of her standing in front of the class, apologizing to us, was a particularly triumphant moment on my short life.

I never would have thought 20 odd years later, I would become a bit of a food thief in my own right My friend Peep made this at a party several years ago and it was love at first taste. I have been making it ever since, usurping it as my own. This couscous salad has become a classic for me, the go-to recipe I whip up when asked to bring food to a barbecue or summer pot luck. I don’t even measure anything anymore, just kind of throw it all together and know no matter what the proportions are, it will taste great. I have subbed in dried cherries, golden raisins and chives in place of the cilantro; it is great every time. The dried fruit and lime vinaigrette are light and refreshing, a welcome alternative to the heavy potato and pasta salads that are normally served at cookouts.

I highly suggest you steal this one and keep it for yourself.


Summer Couscous Salad

From GSN Recipes

3 cups cooked couscous (about 1-1/3 cups uncooked)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, very finely diced
6 dried apricots, finely chopped
3 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons dried currants
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Lime Vinaigrette

3 limes, juiced
3 T olive oil
1 shallot, finely minced
2 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Toss together salad ingredients. Add vinaigrette and toss again. Chill and serve.

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Reward

On a recent ride back from the beach, the topic of small talk came up. Specifically, how absolutely soul sucking it is.

Unless I love you in some fashion, be it we are related, you are a friend, or one of the select co-workers I actually like, here are a list of things I care nothing about:

  • Your kids
  • Your dog/cat/gerbil
  • Your trip to Home Depot
  • The book you are reading
  • The cookout in your cul-de-sac this past weekend
  • Your kids

Why must we all play this charade? The whole “How was your weekend?” shuffle is absolutely pointless. No one really cares that much about me or you. Are we that desperate for connection, no matter how surface and superficial it is? An ex of mine would often laugh when I would run into acquaintances when he was with me. I would say hello, exchange brief pleasantries, and then be on my way. I never make the customary gesture of ‘Hey, we should get together’ unless I meant it. Why pretend? If we were the kind of acquaintances who hung out, we would be friends and friends we are not. Call a spade a spade and move on; I have enough guilt in my life. I don’t need to feel bad about not calling someone I interned with up for coffee.

A co-worker I actually did like (despite some early differences) left a few weeks back for greener pastures. She never forced me in to any awkward small talk and this is something I really enjoyed about her. We had a joking professional relationship and that was that. When I like someone, they get various assorted baked good from me. These ginger pear muffins are the perfect reward for not subjecting me to unending, meaningless prattle. The sour cream keeps them moist and the pear and ginger flavor is a welcome change of pace from the typical blueberry muffin. This is one of the best muffins I have ever made and special enough to serve at a work party.

My coworkers loved them, and shockingly enough, I can tolerate small talk when it is in praise of me.

Pear Ginger Muffins

Adapted from Nigella Express

Muffins

1¾ cups flour

¾ cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground ginger

2/3 cup light sour cream

½ cup vegetable oil

1 Tbs honey

2 large eggs

1½ cups peeled and chopped pears, about ¼-inch dice

Topping

1/2 T flour

1 T butter

1/2 tsp ground ginger

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper muffin cups

Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl: flour, granulated sugar, the ½ cup of brown sugar, baking powder, and ground ginger.

In a large measuring cup, whisk the sour cream, oil, honey, and eggs together and then fold this into the dry ingredients.

Mix in diced pear and then divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Sprinkle each one with mixture of brown sugar, ginger, flour and butter (Crumble butter in to ingredients) and then bake for 20 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack. Best eaten still a little warm.

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He told me it was one of the dirtiest things he had ever heard.

The thing was, I didn’t think it that dirty. Dirty enough I won’t put it here, but not so dirty I hesitated saying it in front of a stranger. I know sometimes I spout off. I test limits. But this? Dirty? Sure…dirty enough, but not the pinnacle of dirty. It was Skinamax dirty..dirty covered in brown paper, dirty you hide from mom at 13, dirty you shy away from on the first date…but never the dirty I would deny. It was a comfortable dirty, the gentle whisper of dirty on your neck.

It left me questioning, though. How does one know when to stop? Once you reach a level of comfort, can a coarse be altered? I fear settling in, always being the dirty girl. Things I say are often relayed back to me with amusement. Will I always be the girl who leaves a very certain kind of impression? Dirty is an easy settling point. My laurels, they are being rested upon.

But for now, it is way too fun to be bad. Bad can be good, like this recipe. French toast? Stuffed with cream cheese? Sign me up. If this is wrong, I don’t want to be right. You should always start the day off with a little naughty.

Stuffed French Toast

Adapted from Cooking Light

24 (1-ounce) slices cinnamon-raisin bread
Cooking spray
3 cups skim milk
2 cups egg substitute, divided
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup splenda
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 (8-ounce) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
1 (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
Bottled cinnamon-sugar (optional)
Trim crusts from bread. Arrange half of the bread in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Combine milk, 1 1/2 cups egg substitute, half-and-half, and 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 splenda in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Pour half of milk mixture over bread in dish.

Combine 1/2 cup egg substitute, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, and cheeses in a food processor or blender; process until smooth. Pour cream cheese mixture over moist bread in dish. Top with remaining bread; pour remaining milk mixture over bread. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Uncover and bake at 350° for 55 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, if desired.

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WiB asked me ages ago for some cookbook recommendations. Sorry, dude. Hope you have somehow managed to eat in the past few months. If it makes you feel any better, I swear I have not done any laundry since you asked. I have been that busy.

Truth be told, I don’t use that many cookbooks. My MacBook, Diego, is my most loyal companion in the kitchen. He has the splatters and marks that prove his status as my sous chef. I am always on the internet, flipping through various cooking websites and blogs, searching for something new or just trying to get ideas. As this posting would reach epic proportions if I listed sites and books, I plan on posting some of my favorite sites soon. See, WiB, you get a bonus entry for your wait.

So, without further ado:

Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything: I know, right? I have recommended this a million times. It is that good. This is the only cookbook you need to own. For serious. It gives bare bones recipes and then provides the building blocks to make the recipes more intricate. Couldn’t be easier.

Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Because even though I do not understand vegetarians or vegetarianism, you all need love too.

Bistro Laurent Tourondel, New American Bistro Cooking: Annie Birdie bought this for me for my birthday. Though I have yet to recreate an actual recipe in here, it has served as inspiration on multiple occasions. It also just won a prestigious James Beard award, proving once again Annie has an eye for the finer things in life. American bistro dishes explained well and thoughtfully can be found within.

Maryana Vollstedt, The Big Book of Easy Suppers: Easy is the key word here, but easy is not a bad thing. This is the perfect book for the novice chef or someone just looking for some new ideas for dinner. The basics of pizza making, stirfrys, soups and other essentials every chef should know are explained.

Rose Levy Beranbaum, The Cake Bible: I like cake. I am sure all of you like cake. When you decide to make me cake one day (I really am under appreciated), please use a recipe from here. It really is the only acceptable option.

OK, now I know you all have opinions and I could use some more options. Please chime in with comments of any favorites…

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Kitten to Cougar

People rarely believe I am 27-years-old. I am often carded, have repeatedly been asked if I “just” graduated, and bouncers express surprise upon seeing the year 1981 on my license. In this matter, I consider myself the winner in the genetic lottery.

Reality, that cruel bitch, slapped me right off my pedestal this weekend.

The boy was impossibly pretty, in possession of a body so perfect it was almost criminal. He didn’t seem very smart, but matters of intelligence are of very little importance for what I had in mind. He worked at the bar, blessedly handing out drinks in his underwear. When he broke away from his duties and we began to talk, I found myself distracted by just how perfect his body was. My inebriation had made me a tad handsy. I haven’t seen a chest so unmarked, so smooth, so fit in years…maybe since college.

One never wants to ask, but I did. “How old are you?”

“21.”

Oh. Oh, dear. I braced myself for his inquiry to my age, which inevitably came. I answered.

“It’s cool. I like older women.”

Christ on a freaking cracker. Stab me in the god damned heart. Bring on the botox.

But I must admit I am getting older, because the weekend, full of sloppy drunk shenanigans, late nights and greasy food has left me feeling like absolute swill. It’s a an excruciatingly brutal fun hungover. I actually just received a note from my poor, exhausted body that said, “You silly girl, please stop testing our limits.” I intend to follow the instructions on this note, at least for a week…salads and grueling hours in the gym await me.

Last night, a grilled chicken breast and vegetables were on the post debauchery menu. This zucchini saute is another one of those recipes that I hesitate on posting; it is simple and basic and barely a recipe at all. The fact that it is delicious, healthy, fresh and in possession of highly in season vegetables helped it eek out a spot here. It barely took any time at all and is way more satisfying than a handful of frozen vegetables.

It can’t stop time, though.

Zucchini Saute

One teaspoon olive oil

One clove garlic, minced

One small shallot, mince

One small zucchini, cut into rounds

One tomato, roughly chopped

One teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dry if you don’t have fresh)

1/2 teaspoon dry oregano

Salt and pepper

Add oil to preheated pan. Toss in shallots and garlic and saute on medium heat for about two minutes. Add tomatoes, zuchinni, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper and cook for additional three minutes.

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Not So Sweet

“Is that man carrying a baby? Or a doll? Wait, is it a dog?”, K asked.

Thankfully, it turns out the man was carrying a doll. I say thankfully for he was clearly mentally unstable, shambling down the street, wearing the finest Laura Ashley frock a homeless man can get his hands on. Now, this is not to make light of the mentally ill, nor the transgendered, or the homeless, but I think we can all agree that a man who stumbles down P Street at 10.30 pm in a flowered dress carrying a plastic baby needs some sort of intervention. So, yeah, thankful it was not a human baby.

Then some Buddhist’s walked by, in full on garb. I shit you not. It was a weird night.

This all went down after I had just popped K’s Pizzeria Paradiso cherry (there was nothing gentle about it) and we stood on the street indulging in some Tangy Sweet.

Oh, Tangy Sweet. You are delicious, but there is nothing delicate about you. You are a full out, tangy assault on the taste buds. You left K and I flummoxed on how to describe you.

The place was packed, which is no shock seeing how Dupont has been in desperate need of a frozen yogurt spot since…ever. The staff was friendly, greeting every customer with the slightly repetitive “Welcome to Tangy Sweet”. (I always find it a tad strange when an establishment informs you of your whereabouts. Like, I know where I am. I didn’t have that much sangria. I don’t think this is Target…) The line was long but moved quickly.

Yogurt comes in three varieties: original (which has a slightly lemon lime flavor), pomegranate and green tea. I got original, and like I said, TART! TANGY! NOT FUCKING AROUND! K had the pomegranate, which definitely had a sweeter edge. The whole concept of the place is it is frozen yogurt that’s actually yogurt, not some weird synthetic replication of what we have come to define as frozen yogurt.

Keeping on the crunchy slant, toppings are healthier than the normal hot fudge, jimmies, and candy options at most frozen yogurt shops. Cereals, berries, nuts and granola are all up for the taking. As I am classy and in possession of a highly refined pallete, I went with Captain Crunch, Corn Pops and blackberries on mine, where K got Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Oreos and raspberries.

I definitely liked it, I would eat it again, but kind of like my whole evening, it was just this side of weird. Luckily, I enjoy weird. Bizarre is my constant companion. You just gotta be down for something new sometimes.

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