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Archive for July, 2008

Progamming Note

It is an exciting week around here, y’all.

A few weeks back, Eick over at So Good put out a call for contributors. He is doing some smart and funny stuff over there, so of course I wanted a piece of the action. I pitched an idea and waited to hear back.

And he picked me! God damn, I was the fat girl all over again and the quarterback just asked me to the prom.

Check out the announcement below:

Lemmonex, Washington, DC: I met this smart, funny, sexy and extremely readable blogger at a DC blogger potluck a few months ago. The writer of the blog Culinary Couture, she is going to branch out a little bit and do a weekly column for So Good. Each Wednesday, she will publish a post called “I Try It So You Don’t Have To.” The idea behind this is just what you’re thinking. She will sample ridiculous, disgusting, intriguing and random food products that you were always afraid to try yourself, and then give you the lowdown.

He is going to be exremely disappointed when he realizes I am not very smart…

The column starts next Wednesday, and I could not be more thrilled to join Eick and the other new contributors. I’ve promised to stay myself…but maybe lay off on the cursing a bit. But don’t fucking worry, things will remain the same here.

This is where you come in…I am looking for ideas. The point of the column is not to eat live snakes or rare exotic delicacies, but every day stuff that can be found in the grocery store. The kind of stuff where when you walk by it on the shelves, you think “who the hell eats that?” I have your answer…me. This whole column idea came to pass a few months back when I wrote about Jimmy Dean pancakes and sausage on a stick. Though the concept revolts me, deep down inside, I secretly believe they may be delicious. I now have the opportunity to try stuff just like this, give you the skinny, and blame the fact that I ate the whole damn box on market research.

Some early ideas from pals have been cookies and cream poptarts, Vienna sausages, and any kind of flavored pork rind. Let me know if you have any ideas and I will happily throw myself on the grenade for you. One exception: Nothing coconut based. There are some things I just won’t do…

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Today marks one year of writing Culinary Couture…202 posts of life affirming validation received through Stat Counter.

It started not with a bang, but a whimper. Of course, Mama Bear was the first comment. (And let’s take a brief moment to commend my mother for hanging in there during my more, erm, colorful posts. You raised me to be a free spirit and I am glad for it.)

I sometimes cringe when I read some of the old entries, having yet found my voice. For instance, in my second entry, I alluded to an unfortunate incident. All pretense has been dropped since those early days and now I simply proclaim: I once sent a naked picture of myself to the wrong recipient. Quite a classy atmosphere has been established in this joint.

I have used this forum to write love notes to friends, to say things I have a hard time saying in real life but desperately hope they know. My birthday has ticked by, as well as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a road trip gone awry. Uh, and I was told I attended Shamrockfest…thank God for the photos or I never would have believed it.

Of course, there has been some moments of extreme narcissism and internet flirtation, but isn’t this what you have come to expect?

Oh, right…this is a food blog! I’ve had a chance to make some great stuff over the past year, some of the best being the pecan pie bars, key lime pie, filet mignon in Merlot reduction, and chicken with 40 cloves of garlic.

I often say to people that it seems you folks like me best when I am drunk and slutty. Thankfully, this happens a lot. There have been two posts–A Letter to My Body and Little Black Dress–where I was paralyzingly frightened to push “publish”, knowing they were a departure from my snark and cynicism. They have turned out to be the two posts of which I am most proud. The response over email and in comments regarding those two posts was overwhelmingly supportive and brought me to tears.

So, thank you for stopping by here, for humoring me and allowing me to be part of your lives for about 30 seconds a day. I have met so many great people through this blog–in real life, in comments and over email–and I appreciate all of you. To another year of measured vulnerability, gastronomic delights and general jackassery.

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Fire Starter

I am often asked to name my worst injury in the kitchen, a question I always find myself hard pressed to answer. For someone who spends as much time in the kitchen as I do, I am exceedingly lucky; besides nicking my fingers a few times, inadvertently trimming my nails via knife and a few stray burns, I have remained largely unscathed.

I don’t know how I have done this, frankly. I can, at times, be extremely absentminded and become totally wrapped up in my thoughts. Like an 8-year-old without his Ritalin, I become totally unable to focus. I think this is one of the reasons I am such a horrifically awful driver; something pretty catches my eye and I am swerving the whole car as I turn to get a better look. Then again, sometimes “Paradise City” comes on and I dare any of you to tell me that you don’t feel every note of that in your soul, and you just want to scream and dance in the privacy of your own car. Oh? You don’t? Well, that’s why you should be driving and I should be your co-pilot, your singing, dancing co-pilot.

My easily distracted nature almost lead to my first kitchen catastrophe while making dinner the other night. I was famished, having made a trip to the gym before heading home and was trying to rush dinner while answering emails and putting away groceries. I threw these skewers on the grill pan and slopped the glaze on with a heavy hand. Before I you could say “fire hazard” the whole apartment was filled with smoke. Like a frog in a pot that slowly comes to a boil, the whole apartment was engulfed in the choking haze and I had not even sensed it happening. I ran around, turning on the vent, throwing open windows and cracking the front door of the apartment.

Luckily, though, it was not all for naught; these garlic mustard glazed pork skewers were definitely worth the slight inconvenience of a smoky apartment. As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it and it did not let me down. The grainy, tangy mustard is complemented perfectly by the salty soy and sweet honey. And all the garlic and rosemary? Perfection. I don’t think it is completely necessary to cut meat into chunks, except cubing the meat gives more surface area, which means more delicious glaze. If you have a few extra minutes, it is a worthwhile step, thought not at all necessary. I plan on using the leftover marinade on a chicken breast tomorrow. I cannot think of anything that wouldn’t be enhanced by a thick slathering of this glaze.

Enjoy, just keep one eye on the stove…

Garlic Mustard Pork Skewers

Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/4 cup whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey (brown sugar can be subbed if you are out of honey)
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves (or 1 tsp dry)
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 pinch kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 porkchops, cut in to 1″ cubes (other protein options: beef tips, shrimp, chicken…maybe even tofu?)

Whisk together all of the ingredients in a small bowl, cover, and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours before using. While glaze sits, cut meat in to cubes and skewer. Cooking pork until done–about 8 minutes–brushing with glaze every time you flip. (note: this makes a lot of glaze…you will have leftovers. Split it in half BEFORE you stick your brush in the mixture. You want to avoid contamination. Remaining glaze will keep for aout a week. Believe me, you will use it.)

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Cleans Up Well

“Tell me about your new roommate”, said Mama Bear.

“She seems really nice, sweet,” I said.

“I’m sure you will corrupt her”, was her response.

“Why does everyone keep saying that! I’m an angel!”, I cried back.

She simply replied, “You keep telling yourself that.”

My own mother….et tu, Mama? The trouble finds me; I swear.

Possible corruption aside, I am quite excited about finding a new roommate. Have I mentioned she comes with a Kitchen Aid mixer? It thrills me that I do not have to get married in order to obtain one. While I will miss Annie Birdie desperately, it appears that her love in my boon.

There is but one concern about the new living situation: we both admit we are not the tidiest people. If it weren’t for Annie Birdie’s presence, the apartment would be a total hole…it’s just not my natural inclination to pick up after myself. I fear the combination of two messy people is going to require a hazmat team or extensive fumigation after six months.

Luckily, though, the messy refrigerator situation has somewhat improved over the past months as I continue in my quest to not waste as much food. That’s a start at least, yes? I have remained diligent in my goal to eat leftovers and use vegetables before they turn. Hooray for a more pleasant smelling fridge and less waste!

One perfect way to use those remaining scraps of produce is a frittata. This is another recipe where I thought to myself “is this too easy to post?”, but I decided that is the whole damn point: this is a recipe that is too easy for you not to be making. It is essentially a crustless quiche and everyone likes quiche. I have used zucchini and squash because it is in season, but any sort of vegetable can be used; I am particularly partial to spinach. I had some shallots on hand, but any sort of onion can be used (or it can be omitted), and sausage or bacon is always a good addition. (If using any kind of meat, obviously cook that up first.) I love to add cheese as well (chevre would be great in this one), but I was trying to keep this a bit healthier, so I left it out. I may have even used egg beaters for this one…shhh, don’t tell the foodie police. It is perfect and filling for any meal of the day.

Good for you and it tidies up the fridge; here’s to clean living.

Summer Frittata

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small shallot, finely chopped

1/2 small zuchinni, sliced thin

1/2 small summer squash, sliced thin

6 eggs (or egg beaters, or egg beater/egg combo)

Splash milk (I was out, so used fat free half and half…you can even use water in a pinch)

Salt and pepper

1 tomato, deseeded and chopped

6 basil leaves, cut into ribbons


Preheat broiler. Place a non stick, oven safe fry pan on medium-low heat. Add oil and allow to heat for about 30 seconds. Add shallots, zucchini, and squash. Sautee for about 4 minutes, until soft. While the vegetables sautee, beat together eggs, milk, basil, salt and pepper. Add eggs to pan and sprinkle tomatoes evenly over egg mixture. Salt and pepper whole fritatta again. Allow to cook over heat until edges are set but the center is still a bit jiggly (about 5 minutes). (Note: you should never stir the eggs after adding them to the pan.) Place pan in broiler and cook until eggs are set, about three minutes. (Note: if you don’t have a broiler or the handle on your pan is too long to fit, this can cook in the oven at 500 degrees for about 5 minutes.)

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Making It

The plan for tomorrow night is a simple one. Get dressed up, have a few drinks and forget everything.

Forget the entanglements and the frustrations. Wipe the week away as we dance and flirt. Eradicate every event and start fresh.

It gets to this point every few months. We are tired, worn out, and don’t want to be around anyone else. One of us says it, “Let’s get dressed up and talk to boys”…and we are off. Locations are volleyed back and forth. Options are considered. Probably too many places are written off because so-and-so may be there.

When things are hectic, unclear, confusing…I want to be near friends like her. Tier Ones, Cindarella calls them. The people who really know me. Conversely, it’s the same when I am truly happy; the urge to share with everyone is strong, but it is only with a select few that I feel I can truly relish in it. We often say to each other “Thanks for listening” or “I know this is insane, but…” Those things are said, but thanks are never necessary and if we cannot be insane with each other, who can we unleash the insanity on? She is one of the ones where I can be me..even if me is hard sometimes.

The more I look around, the more I realize how many people are faking it. They tell themselves they are happy (they aren’t). They lay awake at night, hoping their partners will change (they never will). Hours tick by as they attempt to convince themselves that everything is okay (it isn’t). They think all the things, possessions, that surround them make it all easier (it doesn’t). Years slip by and they assert that they have no regrets (they do).

There is nothing wrong with telling yourself a few lies to get through the day. A little self delusion never hurt anyone. But with good friends, the special ones, the ones who drag you out, share your pain and your accomplishments, that is never fake. She told me the other day that sometimes we need to fake it to make it. With her, it is never faking it.

(So, these are not french fries–they cannot be faked. That being said, they are damn good. The panko and parmesan make the outsides crispy and there is a perfect amount of salt. Dipped in loads of marinara, they are a perfect little summer treat that you don’t have to feel an ounce of guilt over.)

Zucchini Fries

from Cooking Light

1 large zucchini
1 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup egg substitute
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°.

Cut zucchini in half crosswise; cut each half lengthwise into 8 wedges. Repeat procedure with remaining zucchini. Combine breadcrumbs, panko, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper in a shallow dish. Dip zucchini in egg substitute; dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Place zucchini on a wire rack coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat zucchini with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately with marinara sauce.

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Cuts Like a Knife

When I was a kid, we had a drawer full of knives in the kitchen. Yes, you read that right. A drawer. full. of. knives.

We knew it was off limits, but just like the “two cookie rule”, this was a mandate that was not followed. My brother and I often dug around the drawer when no one was looking, praying Mama Bear didn’t bust us. Why butter your toast with a wimpy butter knife when a shiny chef knife could be utilized? Truth be told the butter knives were probably sharper than those that resided in the drawer (clanking around, uncovered, is not how a knife should be cared for), but the bigger knives were forbidden, so of course we wanted to touch them.

I was particularly partial to a set of paring knives, their handles colored like hard candy and their blades flimsy. I had been caught pulling them out of the drawer more than once, but I could not be stopped. One morning as my parent’s slept, I pulled out one of the knives and proceeded to use it to cut an orange, peel still intact. The dexterity of a 9 year old, combined with non existent knife skills and a weak blade? I am sure you can see where this is going.

The blood poured everywhere and I began to panic. The citrus juice stung as it sunk in to the wound. I began contemplating the way in which my mother would kil mel when she discovered what I had done. My brother stood by, laughing, taking glee in my misfortune. He was always the one getting caught, while I flew under the radar, so he could not help but relish my carelessness. I somehow managed to silence my brother, run my finger under cold water to stop the bleeding, and put super glue on it to close the wound. I’d seen my father do it and I was that hardcore, yo. Mom never knew…

I couldn’t help but reminded of this near disaster while slicing oranges for this zesty citrus chicken. Cutting through an orange is some dangerous work–it is a bit unstable and I never seem able to get a straight cut–but the risk was certainly worth it. This recipe is perfect for a quick weeknight dinner. The chicken breasts could surely marinate over night. Conversely, if in a rush, marinating the chicken for half an hour is sufficient enough time to get some tangy citrus flavor. The brown sugar/lime sprinkling atop the the breasts add a nice contrast to the slightly acidic chicken. This is simple, fresh and light. The photos don’t really do it justice, but baked chicken breasts aren’t really the prettiest things.

Enjoy…just watch those fingers while prepping.

Zesty Citrus Chicken

from Cooking Light

6 limes
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
6 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
1/4 cup coconut flour or all-purpose flour (about 1 ounce)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
Cooking spray
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
12 thin orange slices

Grate rind from limes, reserving 2 tablespoons rind; set aside. Squeeze juice from limes to equal 3/4 cup.

Combine lime juice, lemon juice, and chicken in a large zip-top plastic bag. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 2 hours, turning bag occasionally.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Remove chicken from bag, reserving 2 tablespoons marinade. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, paprika, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour mixture. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add 3 chicken breast halves; cook 2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Place chicken in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and chicken.

Combine lime rind and brown sugar; sprinkle over chicken. Combine reserved marinade and broth; drizzle around chicken. Top each chicken breast half with 2 orange slices. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until chicken is done. Place chicken on a serving platter. Strain any remaining liquid in dish through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl. Discard solids. Spoon sauce over chicken.

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I Want It All

One of the unexpected perks of losing such a drastic amount of weight is I can often elude people from my past. Former classmates blow past me on the street and boring former co-workers breeze right on by me. Being so unrecognizable has spared me many a banal conversation. Many a time I have stood on the metro, some minor character from my past sheepishly casting sideways in my direction. I can hear the gears in their brains’ cranking (“Is that Lemmonex?”), but I generally let them twist in the wind as I try to read the Express.

Sometimes, though, I want to talk to one of these folks. This is when the awkwardness ensues. I desperately try to make eye contact, attempting them to get them to notice me. I see hesitation but a flicker of recognition in their eyes. I often make the move to speak first, hoping my voice will jar their memories. I have many times resorted to saying something along the lines of “Wow, I haven’t seen you since I left X Office”…Usually, that does the trick…usually.

Sometimes people fake it really well and I cannot tell they don’t recognize me. This is when things get painful. Such an incident happened this week when I ran into a man I worked with about 5 years ago. This man introduced me to my ex who I was with for three years. We spoke daily. He let the conversation drag on about three minutes and then I saw the lightbulb go off.

“Oh. My. God. Wow, ok. I am so sorry I didn’t recognize you at first. You look like a whole new person. You don’t look like you,” he said as he interrupted me.

I made a joke about looking like me now. He stood there, slack jawed, and asked me three times how I lost all the weight. The compliments spewed forth. It slowly became uncomfortable. He could not stop talking about it and I desperately tried to veer the conversation away from the former and current size of my ass. Many would argue this is flattering and I should be proud that I have changed so much, but it is just…complex and difficult. Underneath it all, I am the same, just lightened up.

While I am glad so much has changed, the essence of me remains intact. Things are just a little more moderate (in some ways) and a tad less indulgent. Yes, I am proud of my accomplishments and how hard I worked to lose weight (and continue to work to keep it off.) Yet, is it too much to ask that people don’t treat me so differently? I want my cake, dammit, but I want to eat it, too.

Luckily, I can eat this cake and have it all. Still delicious, yet none of the guilt. Of course, no cake is without a little bit of sin, but using splenda keeps this cake to less than 100 calories per slice. It’s airy and sweet and topped with fresh fruit sauce, it is enough to satisfy any sweet tooth. If this what changing means, I think I can handle it.


Angel Food Cake

Slightly Adapted from Cooking Light

1 cup sifted flour
3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cups Splenda
12 large egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or walnut, peppermint, orange , etc extract)
Preheat oven to 325°.

To prepare cake, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and 3/4 cup sugar, stirring with a whisk.

Place egg whites in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and salt; beat until soft peaks form. Add 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Beat in vanilla, juice, and almond extract.

Place egg whites in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and salt; beat until soft peaks form. Add 3/4 cup Splenda, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Beat in vanilla, juice, and almond extract. Sift 1/4 cup flour mixture over egg white mixture; fold in. Repeat with remaining flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time.

Spoon the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube or bundt pan, spreading evenly. Break air pockets by cutting through the batter with a knife. Bake at 325° for 55 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Invert pan; cool completely. Loosen cake from sides of pan using a narrow metal spatula. Invert the cake onto a plate.

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