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Archive for October, 2008

Seven with a Twist

Ever since the movie “Seven”, I have found anything tied to the number seven a bit creepy. (PS–I would totally take the pills…) Yet, I have been hit 7,777 times with this “Seven Things about You” tag. So, since it is Friday and none of you are reading, I am going to take it on. This being a food blog and all, here are seven things about me relating to food:

1. My favorite food as a baby was carrots. I went through a stage where that was all I would eat. I turned a light shade of yellow due to all the beta carotene.

2. I love black licorice. In fact, I adore black licorice. I always pick out the black jelly beans and those bastard child Twizzlers are my favorite.

3. My mother used to make this weird version of Spanish rice and, sweet baby Jesus, I really hated that crap. I think as an adult I could eat it, but the thought of it does not thrill me. Sorry, Mom.

4. I have eaten horse and I liked it. It freaks people out, but please keep in mind: many feel about your hamburger the same way you feel about eating horse.

5. When I think about what it would be like to have kids, I always think about food. I am desperately afraid of having fat children, not because I don’t think I would love them (I know I would), but because I know how painfully difficult it is to be an overweight child and adolescent. I also wonder how I could reassure a child about “loving themselves” and “it is what inside that matters”…when I know that is not the truth. I am scared I am not capable of instilling a healthy relationship with food in a child, as my relationship with food is tenuous at best and volatile at worst.

6. My best friend in elementary school and I used to eat dog biscuits just to prove we were badasses.

7. Anyone who has spent about 2 minutes on this blog knows how I feel about coconut. The only other thing that I hate with even half the fervor I reserve for coconut is Hawaiian pizza. In college, I had an unfortunate incident with vodka, pineapple pizza and my nasal passage. I have never quite recovered.

And my Halloween gift is I am not tagging any of you…

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On Routine

For such a “free spirit“, I can be shockingly rigid.  I like certain things a certain way and that is that.  My coffee has to be just so (red eye with splenda and 2% milk), I will move hell and high water to avoid a phone conversation (gchat and I are well acquainted), and I have a very specific MO when I travel (there is a meltdown if I get there less than an hour before the flight takes off).

Yet, the one ridiculously structured ritual I undertake every day is my morning routine.  I will spare you the details, but know this: I do the same exact thing in the same exact order every single damn weekday.  If something goes wrong–I am out of coffee, I break a glass or I realize I skipped a step and have to go back and apply my perfume AFTER my deodorant–I am screwed for the day. I never said I wasn’t a freak.

The weekends are different, though.  They are lazy and lovely.  I sleep in, make calls and scratch myself up something to eat.  Normally it is something somewhat healthy, but if I have guests, all caution is thrown to the wind.

This weekend, the beautiful and lovely KassyK came for a visit to go attend VK‘s birthday celebration.  Fun times were definitately had by all.  There were shots, there was dancing…there were more shots.  OH DEAR GOD, I AM NOT 21 ANYMORE…PLEASE NO MORE SHOTS! I am not saying that Kass and I wrecked through some bagels at 4 am, but I am not saying we didn’t.  All I know is we woke up (sorry kids, didn’t spoon her this time) and we needed food.

Knowing Kass loves challah french toast, I threw this together.  This was some good stuff–the french toast especially tasted great.  I love the pillowy softness of the challah bread contrasted with the eggy outer layer.  Truth be told, I think the bananas could have been better, though.  Next time I will use brown sugar and cook them for a tad less amount of time…they were just a bit mushy, but still super tasty.

It was, indeed, a glorious morning routine with a wonderful friend.

Challah French Toast with Bananas Foster

For French Toast

6 slices challah bread

3 eggs

1 tbs sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup milk

For Bananas Foster

2 bananas, sliced

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 tbs sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tbs butter

Splash water

For toast: Beat together eggs and cinnamon.  Ad milk, sugar and vanilla.  Dip slices of challah in egg mixture and place preheated nonstick skillet (spray with Pam or add a pat of butter to pan) and cook on eatch side until golden brown.

For bananas foster: Slice bananas and add sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.   Add butter to pan and add bananas.  Stir for about a minute and add a splash of water.  Serve over french toast and sprinkel with powdered sugar if desired.

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Bright Ideas

Having a roommate is a very good thing for me. Not only do I have someone to keep track of me (the odds of me one day ending up in a ditch are pretty likely) and split the rent and cable bill with, but it keeps me in line. If it weren’t for the presence of another person in the apartment, I would continually wander around, sans pants, cigarette hanging out of my mouth, while garbage and dishes piled up. You’d see me on Oprah, living in an apartment stacked high with newspapers from 1999 and every issue of Entertainment Weekly since the characters of Melrose Place graced the cover.

How do I know this is a possibility, you ask? Because all hell breaks loose every time my roommate leaves for the weekend. I have the decorum of a frat boy and clearly need other people around to keep me in line.

Yet, I have decided on my own that there shall be no more smoking in the apartment. This decision was made several months ago when, unable to find a book of matches or a lighter, I leaned over the stove to light my cigarette and singed off a lock of hair. Not my hair! It scared the hell out of me and smelled horribly to boot.

Yes, I know I shouldn’t be lighting my cigarette off my stove. In fact, I even know my habit of enjoying the occasional Marlboro Light is a dirty one that makes my clothes smell and increases my risks for lung cancer and wrinkling…but I am a moron.  Yet, if my hair isn’t a reason to change, I don’t know what is.

I tell this story to once again prove how incredibly idiotic I am capable of being…ya know, just in case you forgot. I am, in fact, so stupid that every time I have a great idea, even a decent one, a parade should probably be thrown. They do not happen often and are event worthy.

So, I am just going to say it: this cake deserves a parade of Macy’s proportions. I cobbled it together from multiple carrot cake recipes, using an All Recipes recipe as a point of reference. Instead of using all white sugar, I swapped out a cup of the white stuff for brown sugar. I added raisins and pineapple for extra moisture and flavor. To plump up the raisins, I had (if I do say so) the genius idea of using the reserved pineapple juice for even more flavor. For an added depth, I toasted the pecans before throwing them in to the batter. This cake was crazy moist; so moist that it almost fell apart and stuck to the pans a bit. To avoid crumbling, I added an extra 1/4 cup flour to the recipe and suggest using parchment in the pans. The frosting complemented the cake perfectly and was fantastic. Four days later this thing is still as tasty as when it came out of the oven and not dry at all. My roommate called this “the best carrot cake she has ever had”…and I have to agree. Look people, I know carrot cake. If I cannot get this right, I might as well hang up my shingle and shuffle away in shame. Thankfully, there was no shame in this…

It was pure genius. For such an idiot, I done good.

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It’s Wednesday! Get your hot ass over to So Good and see what (Haloween themed!) treat I am eating this week!

Best Carrot Cake in the Whole Freaking Universe

Heavily Adapted from All Recipes

4 eggs

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

3 cups grated carrots

1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

2/3 cup raisins (I used golden)

1 – 8 ounce can crushed pineapple, juice reserved

1/2 cup butter, softened

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 cups confectioners sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease two 8 inch round cake pans, then line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pans (with the parchment on the bottom).

Shred carrot and let then drain in a colander for 45 minutes. Drain pineapple and heat reserved juice in the microwave for one minute. Dump raisins in juice so they can plump.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, white and brown sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in carrots and raisins that have been drained from the pineapple juice. Fold in pecans. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

To Make Frosting: In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Frost the cooled cake.

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Knowing my deep and dying adulation of any carroty confection, I had been urged by several people that Founding Farmers was a restaurant to add to my “must visit” list. The carrot cake, I was told, was not to be missed. Well, I went, but there was no cake…I had given up on the place long before it was time for desert and even the promise of my favorite sweet treat could not convince me to stay another twenty minutes.

We arrived on time for our 8:45 pm reservation on a Friday. We were asked to wait while a table cleared out and were seated at 8:55, which is entirely reasonable. Our waitress came over within moments to take a drink order and explain the menu. You know how some people in life just rub you the wrong way from the moment they open their mouths? That’s how I felt about our waitress. I hated her from the second she walked to our table, though I tried to remain objective about the job she was actually doing. She was a capable enough server throughout the course of our meal, but she did have a knack for never being around when we needed her and stopping by way to many times to make sure we were okay when we were clearly doing fine. She did provide plenty of entertainment with this gem, though: “Our drinks are really good and not watered down.” Well, thank God! We aren’t at Denny’s anymore, kids! The drinks were actually a highlight; strong and well balanced, I was particularly partial to the Blackberry Julep.

The food, you ask? We ordered shortly after sitting and the appetizers arrived. I started with a wedge salad; simple and basic but a guilty little pleasure of mine.  The blue cheese was high quality, but a bit excessive.  The lettuce was crisp and cold and the tomatoes were surprisingly good.  Turns out this was the best part of the meal.

We waited for our entrees. Then we waited some more.  We waited so god damn long that my grandchildren managed to graduate from high school as we sat at our table.  The whole ordeal was made more comical by the fact that twice they tried to gives us meals that were not ours.  Finally, 50 minutes after ordering finishing our appetizers, and AN HOUR AND TWENTY MINUTES after initially placing our order, our food arrived.

My free range rotisserie chicken was…fine.  It was moist enough, but I wouldn’t call it juicy or particularly flavorful.  The sides, sauteed greens and herbed mashed potatoes, were serviceable, but nothing show stopping. At $15, the price wasn’t obscene, but I expected something a bit more special.  The worst part?  It was lukewarm.  Maybe it has been sitting in a window?  Perhaps our meals has taken the same trip around the restaurant that we had witnessed earlier. Either way, it was a long wait for something totally lackluster.

So, by the time we were done our meal, I was over the place. Not even carrot cake, sweet, life affirming carrot cake, could convince me to stay. The waitress put a hard (tad aggressive) sell on us to stay, but we could not be convinced. So, off we went, disappointed and without carrot cake. Oh, and…just to end this story with a  final kick in the ass…there was some GI distress following the meal..and that is all I am going to say about that.

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On Boredom

I generally have a hard time feigning interest in topics in which I am wholly disinterested.

As previously discussed, I pretty much let it all hang out. So, if I don’t care about something, it becomes apparent pretty quickly. I abandoned Happy Potter (and countless other books) about 50 pages in. One semester in college, a semester where I had a schedule packed with boring mandatory courses, I received 2 Ds and a C. I could not even pretend to care about geology. My mind often wanders in the middle of bland and uninspiring conversations until I snap out of my haze, panicked I will be asked a question or be expected to participate in a meaningful way. Life is too short to be bored; while I may not understand the complex relationship between Hermione and Ron or have the best college transcript, at least I never feel like I am wasting my time.

Another endeavor I have never been particularly inspired to undertake is bread making. Yes, I have made the Lahey No Knead Bread, but that is pretty much the extent of it. I just feel like…it is a lot of work. Every time I eat homemade bread I realize it is definitely worth the work, but I just ain’t feeling it. The kneading, the rising, the waiting…I am just not patient enough and I am woman enough to admit it. Luckily, I can still be supremely lazy and still manage to throw together some homemade bread. This beer bread is impossibly easy to throw together and comes together in about two minutes.  You really cannot get much simplerer than dumping a bottle of beer in to some flour.  I added some cheddar to the bread mix, but it would taste just as good without the cheese.  Served with some beef stew, this dense and hearty bread was the perfect compliment to a homey fall meal.

It is definitely worth your time….


Beer Bread
Slightly Adapted from Dine and Dish

3 cups flour (sifted)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 (12 ounce) can/bottle beer
1/4 cup butter
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used reduced fat)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix dry ingredients and beer. Pour into a greased loaf pan. Pour melted butter over mixture. Bake 1 hour, remove from pan and cool for at least 15 minutes.

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One of the few draws of suburbia, at least for me, is Peruvian Chicken. It used to be Peruvian Chicken and Target, but since one of the superstores opened in Columbia Heights, I embrace hopping on the green line, picking up Dunkin’ Donuts, and witnessing street crime all on the way to grab toilet paper and a $27 bathing suit. It is a perfect way to spend a Sunday.

So, as a lady that doesn’t drive and who has a group of friends who are very sick of carting her ass around– no matter how many amusingly ridiculous tales I recount- I do not get to enjoy Peruvian chicken often. There just aren’t enough people in the world who really yearn for slow roasted bird. It is a very sad stroke of luck.

Yet, it looks like my luck has changed.

Nando’s Peri-Peri “home of legendary, Portugese, flame-grilled, peri-peri chicken” has opened in Chinatown. Now, I know there are many cultural differences between the Peruvian and the Portuguese, but none of them are evident in their chicken. I couldn’t detect a lick of difference.

The chicken is juicy and tender, with a flavorful skin. The dipping sauces offer significant heat without drowning out actual flavor; I was enamored with the garlic peri-peri sauce, but the wild herb was also great. I ordered the mashed potatoes as my side and was not disappointed; chives and garlic tickled every bite without overpowering the buttery potatoes. My friend had the spicy rice, which avoided massive amounts of salt (a common problem at these places) and complemented the chicken well.

This is not to say the place was without its faults. Service was a tad chaotic, with an over eager manager and unsure counter staff. After ordering, you are instructed to order at the counter, to sit down and then a server appears. The place is manic; it cannot decide if it is sit down or self serve, which leaves the customer feeling lost and confused.
I can deal with uncertainty in my dating life, but not with my chicken.

Even though Nando’s had its faults, all was forgiven when this appeared:

A good carrot cake can make me overlook 5 courses of faults…and this cake? Well, it could have convinced me Charlie Manson was Javier Bardem. Sure, it tasted a tad industrial, but the industry had done its research. It was moist, chock full of raisins, full of crunchy walnuts, and slathered in a thick, sweet, cream cheese frosting. A moist carrot cake with a decent frosting is a really hard thing to find, and Nando’s did a damn good job, especially for a chain.

A car? I now have one less reason to ever purchase one; smoky chicken can be purchased right here in the city. Even without the special, mind numbing powers of the carrot cake, I would go back in a heartbeat.

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Baby’s Got a Secret

I have a little secret…and I think you may resent me because of it. Come closer; I will whisper it in your ear.

I don’t work Fridays. Ever. It is glorious.

I lunch with friends and tend to appointments. I take long walks and make marathon trips to the gym. Shopping is a breeze, with minimal crowds to fight. Long emails are written to friends. I see what it would be like to be a housewife, minus the minivan, khaki capri pants or a sex life limited to missionary with the lights off.

While you will never hear me complain about having every Friday off, I must admit that working 8-6.30 on Monday through Thursday can be a bit brutal. Both waking up and leaving the office when it is dark makes for some long days. I have been drinking a “red eye” every single afternoon, I am sure effectively stripping the lining of my stomach and slowly rendering myself impervious to caffeine.

After my evening trips to the gym, sometimes pulling dinner together is a struggle.  By the time I get home, it is almost 8 and I am famished.  This is why dishes like this tilapia in mustard cream sauce are perfect. It looks pretty plain, I admit, but it tastes pretty damn good and can be thrown together in about 8 minutes.  Also, it is a much healthier option than grabbing a burrito.  Tilapia is super lean and the amount of cream is negligible when spread across four servings. This one certainly won’t change your life or bring forth any culinary epiphanies, but it does the job it sets out to do: tastes very good and gets on the table fast.

Tilapia in Mustard Cream Sauce

Adapted from Cooking Light

4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1/4 dry thyme)
Salt and pepper
Cooking spray
3/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons whipping cream
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

Sprinkle fish with thyme, pepper, and salt. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add fish; cook 1 minute on each side. Add broth, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove fish from pan; keep warm.

Add cream and mustard to pan; stir with a whisk until well combined. Cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Serve sauce over fish.

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And the winner is…

This shirt gets a lot of mileage… Anyway, congrats, lucky winner. I will be in touch.


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Wipeout

Oh, Monday was a day. I was just in a mood.

I could barely rouse myself out of bed, despite having slept 6 hours (a good night for me). It was freezing in my apartment, making it even harder to get going. I took one of those showers where you are shivering and scalding yourself at the same time, hopping in and out of the direct spray of the water. I went to the throw on my winter coat as I ran out the door and was pissed, but not surprised, to see that it was filthy as hell. I threw on a lighter jacket, froze as I hustled down the street, popped in to the dry cleaner and dropped off my coat and high tailed my ass to the train. On the metro, I looked down and realized I was wearing unmatching socks. As I hustled down K Street, running late because of the unexpected trip to the dry cleaners, I wiped out, landing on my knees. I stood up quickly, assuring the concerned man next to me that I was fine. As I surveyed the damage to my outfit, I sighed with relief upon discovering my pants had emerged unscathed from the fall. Then I noticed my right shoe; I had a large, deep, grey gouge in my brand new purple shoes.

This was all before 8 am.

Nothing quite so catastrophic happened for the remainder of the day, but the tenor had been set; I was a crank. A slow day at work lead to much reading of Matt Logelin, which…whoa. If you are a human with a beating heart, you can only take so much of Matt’s beautifully honest writing about the unthinkable tragedy he has endured before you think you are going to break. I just cannot stop reading, though…he is mesmerizing and real, but it certainly makes you a bit melancholy.

After a trip to the gym–I would not let the day kill my resolve to work out–I headed home, craving something quick, healthy and comforting. This apple and cheddar omlette was a perfect, fast dinner. I know what you are thinking…a freaking omlette? Well, if it is so easy to make an omlette, why have I eaten so many bad ones? The trick with omlettes is not overloading them (they will rip if weighed down too heavily), liberally greasing the pan to avoid sticking and cooking over medium heat so they can cook through without burning. I have done it a million times successfully…Monday, not so much. It tore when I folded it…but I am an adaptable gal and flipped it over when I removed it from the pan. See how pretty it is? You cannot even tell it is a differently-abled omlette.

Oh, and the day ended just fine, despite the fact that I hit my elbow so hard as I readied myself for bed that I saw stars. I caught two episodes of “17 Kids and Counting” on TLC. Nothing makes me happier than feeling morally superior to that Duggar family. Woman, it is a vagina, not a clown car. Any day that ends with a healthy dose of righteous indignation is a good day in my book.

(It’s Wednesday, so don’t forget to hit So Good for what I am eating this week.  Also, you have until 6 pm today to enter the contest…go ahead, ask a question, any question.)

Apple and Cheddar Omlette

2 tablespoons finely diced ham (or pancetta, proscuitto or bacon)

2 eggs (I used one egg and two egg whites)

Splash milk

1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons finely diced tart apple (I used Mutsu, granny smith is another good option)

2 tablespoons sharp cheddar cheese (I used reduced fat)

In non stick omlette pan, heat finely diced ham for just a minute or two, Remove ham from pan. Beat together eggs, milk, tarragon, salt and pepper. Set burner to medium heat. Spray omlette pan with a generous amount of non stick spray and add eggs to pan. Let them cook and start to set, about 3 minutes. Add ham, apples and cheese. Allow to set another 2 to 3 minutes, until set through. Carefully flip the fold the omlette in half, using two spatulas. Serve immediately.

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I am taking a play from the Shannon playbook and opening the site up for questions today.

Practically speaking, I am looking for Thanksgiving questions.  I have a huge series of posts in the works, but want to answer any questions you may have. Some I will probably answer on the spot today, while others will be folded in to posts at a later date. A bunch of you email me with questions, which I love, but maybe you could all help a woman out today…

Or, just ask me anything…what I had for breakfast? The reason I dyed my hair blond when I was 15? Why I am so scared of committment?  I don’t care…More than you even realize, your comments and questions help inspire posts.

I will take questions until 6 pm tomorrow (10/22) and announce the winner at the end of the week. DF can attest, I will not poison you.  Like last time I will tape the drawing so none of you think I am a cheating cheater.

Anyway, ask your questions.  Lurkers, show your faces!  Who doesn’t want to win baked goods from strangers on the internet? Come on, all the kids are doing it.

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