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Archive for December, 2008

Poof

I was discussing this past year with a friend the other day. I said 2008 “sucked pretty hard”. Truth of the matter is only a portion of it– the middle part–was B.A.D. bad. There was some loveliness at the beginning and at the end. I actually have some super, duper incredibly pants-wetting exciting news I hope to share soon that makes up for a lot of the bullshit this year brought but you are going to have to wait on that.

In retrospect, I realize this is the year I finally grew up. Now don’t go expecting me to wear turtlenecks and sensible shoes, but somewhere around July something clicked. I stopped holding my hand to open flames, I started watching out for myself a little more, and I managed to take some responsibility for some spectacularly huge fuck ups. 2008 is the year I stopped seeking comfort in chaos and validation at the expense of my own self worth. I began demanding a little more for me from myself and from others. There were a few setbacks, but I never said I wasn’t a work in progress.

This is not to say there was not some fun because, Jesus Christ in a Miniskirt, there was some fun. Lord knows there is never a dull moment up in here. I don’t expect the good times to come to a halt in 2009; my eyes will always glint with a shimmer of trouble, my laugh will remain forever loud, and my glass will remain full of Jack Daniel’s and guarded, secret optimism. I cannot imagine life any other way.

How to wrap up a random year? Why, a random post of course. Here are some things–food related, life related, blog related, Lemmonex related–that remind me of 2008. Behold, a hodgepodge of the year that was:

  • Times I used the word vagina on this blog: 4
  • Times I have managed to say it on a first date: every time
  • Time I have considered quitting the blog: 5
  • Favorite search terms that brought people here: “Stripper ass” “show me your tits” “Roissy Harem DC” “jew lover lemmonex”
  • Besides Lemmonex and Culinary Couture top search term to get people here: HUGE
  • Steadfast Enemy: the 7 pounds I continually gain and lose
  • Number of flirty emails and online dating profiles I have crafted for various friends because of supposed “mad skillz” in this area: I lost count at 30
  • Number of boyfriends I have or amount of helpful advice I can actually provide: 0
  • Number of times I almost burnt down my kitchen: 1
  • Favorite trend here at Culinary Couture: the haikus, hands down
  • Favorite New Restaurant (for me): Central
  • Friends and strangers I have come to adore through blogging: countless

I really have no idea what 2009 will bring; I certainly didn’t expect anything that happened this year. Resolutions aren’t really my style so I won’t sit here and make empty promises. I will merely say thanks for coming along for the ride. It’s been a crazy one and I have loved having you all as passengers on my bus to the Hell.

See you Monday with more recipes, more restaurant reviews, and more of the same. Happy New Year’s, y’all.

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Filthy Gorgeous

I was sitting in the backseat of my mother’s car, zoning out. My mom and grandmother were talking about…something. I have no idea. Then, all of a sudden, I saw it. I interrupted my elders and screamed out, “Did we just pass a Sonic?”. MamaBear answered in the affirmative. “Holy Crap, I feel like I just saw a unicorn!”, was my giddy reply.

A plan was hatched. OK, not a plan as much as an edict: It was absolutely essential I eat at Sonic before I headed back to DC. I have had conversations with multiple people about Sonic’s taunting ads and it’s complete inaccessibility in DC. Seriously, Sonic is a huge tease and I do not like being denied. St. Augustine, Florida brought me the answer to my prayers. I was about to pop my Sonic cherry.

First off, I had no idea Sonic was a Drive-In. I nearly died of sensory overload. Fried treats and car service? My little heart can only take so much. It really was quite glorious. Alas, this was only the beginning.

Now, on to the food: The tots were greasy and full of potatoey goodness. Now, my love for burgers is well documented and I never met a slice of Texas Toast I didn’t like, so I was pretty excited about the Bacon Cheeseburger Toaster…even though it had bacon. It was featured in a prime spot on the menu-I had to try it. Anyway, it was pretty awesome. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the following things: bacon, bbq sauce, onion rings, cheese, meat and/or Texas Toast. I was totally on board. The one disappointment was the Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup Sonic Blast. It was watery and lacking in actual peanut butter flavor. I will take a McFlurry any day.

The one downside of the trip to Sonic? The soul crushing shame. I ate half of the burger and still wanted to flog myself after that meal. I slurped down the Sonic Blast so fast I got a brain freeze. I am sure you are thinking “She said she didn’t like the Sonic Blast”. You are correct in that thought, but something overtakes you when you are at a Sonic.  You become the stereotype of a fat, lazy, glutinous American. The urge to stuff your face possesses your whole body and you find yourself scarfing things you don’t even particularly like. There is some sort of evil within those burgers which leave your stomach aching and your head hung with contrition, but you still want more.  I hated myself.

Not surprisingly, I will take self loathing for one of those tots any day.

dscn0961

Photography by MamaBear. We took others, but they didn’t make the cut. She has since been fired as the official photographer for Culinary Couture. Also, please note that double chin sprang up as soon as I sunk my teeth in that burger.  The Baby jesus was punishing me.

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Unchangeable

With the new year right around the corner, everyone seems intent on making their resolutions. Instead I would like to highlight a few things that will not change in 2009 for me:

  • If you are a man and use emoticons, I will still mock you
  • I will dream endlessly about a tropical getaway with Javier Bardem
  • I will not get an animal and bore you with stories about said creature, speaking of it as if it were a human being
  • My emails and this blog will continue to be riddled with typos
  • The photos here will most likely suck for the time being

Now, the first three things…I think you can live with them. But the typing and the pictures? A lot of you seem to have a problem with this.

Look, I like being reminded of my shortcomings as much as the next girl. Hell, I remind myself on the regular about just how much work I have to do. Yet, my goals are more along the lines of “avoid psychological meat grinders” or “achieve inner peace” than “taking a typing class” or “reading a book about food photography”. I am sorry these personal failings of mine upset some of you but for now I think this is as good as it is gonna get. While I appreciate the emails and comments about my typing and photos, I just cannot promise it will get better.

The upside is though my photography skills are lacking, most of the food usually comes out pretty damn good. Below, behold another crappy picture! Feel free to tell me as such. But, BUT…this was really good. I served it with our Christmas Eve dinner and they are impossibly easy. After all, they are really just roasted potatoes with an extra kick. This managed to not scare the picky eaters at the table and still satisfy me. The mustard grains get nice and crunchy and the lemon adds a nice punch. It is a perfect side for pork or red meat and it packs a lot of flavor.

So, though I am not a resolutions kinda gal, let’s make a pact: I will continue to cook tasty things, you can all tolerate my sub par photography and sloppy editing, and we can live happily ever after.

dscn0951


Mustard Roasted Potatoes

from Gourmet

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

1/2 cup whole grain Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

3 pounds 1- to 1 1/2-inch-diameter mixed unpeeled red-skinned potatoes, cubed

Position 1 rack in top third of oven and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 425°F. Spray 2 large rimmed baking sheets with nonstick spray. Whisk mustard, olive oil, butter, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, lemon peel, and salt in large bowl to blend. Add potatoes; sprinkle generously with freshly ground black pepper and toss to coat. Divide potatoes between prepared baking sheets, leaving any excess mustard mixture behind in bowl. Spread potatoes in single layer. Roast potatoes 20 minutes. Reverse baking sheets and roast until potatoes are crusty outside and tender inside, turning occasionally, about 25 minutes longer.
Transfer potatoes to serving bowl.

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A few weeks back I got incredibly pissy with a coworker who told me to smile. I asked him if I was his doll. He didn’t know how to react, but I hope he felt embarrassed.

It chafes me when I feel like people are telling me how to feel or the manner in which they feel I should act. I think when someone says “Smile” or “cheer up” is always more about them. People don’t want to be confronted with difficult or hard feelings, but I don’t really feel like it is my job to be a ray of sunshine day in and day out just because someone wants a pretty face to look at.

Every year I am told I should be a better sport about the holidays, that it is a beautiful and wonderful time of year. Every year, I resent this just a tiny bit, because it is a day I don’t think I will ever love and why should I pretend just to make someone happy? Largely, I think I feel this way because I am just not wired to love this most magical time of the year…I am a cynic and an avowed atheist with a bitchy streak. Christmas isn’t made for people like me.

Yet of course there is another piece of the puzzle I know I cannot ignore. I haven’t talked to my biological father nor the paternal side of my family for 12 years. I wouldn’t say it is a secret, but merely something I don’t discuss with much frequency. It is nothing and everything, a thing of the past yet highly present in the present.

A large event that sent the walls tumbling took place on Christmas Eve many years ago. The details are boring and relatively inconsequential. Bitching about them makes me feel whiny and damaged; I know far worse things have happened to people, but this doesn’t change the fact that it is the constant boogeyman in the room every Christmas. I can go months without thinking about him, them, and all the pain, but this time of the year it is lurking around every corner.

I guess I am slipping this in now because I feel it is safe; no one is reading this week, so for those of you who are I am trusting you to be gentle. This is why I hate Christmas, why I have acted a little serious lately, and why I kind of suck this time of year in general. I am so incredibly grateful that my mom married a man that I consider to be the only real, loving and caring father I have ever known, but Christmas will never be a time of pure joy and wonderment for me. I can barely remember a Christmas that wasn’t made damp by a few tears.

I am a bit of a bear to be around this time of year because I will always feel like a little part of me is missing or perhaps even gone forever; if you are missing something, it is implied it can be found again. I don’t think I can ever get certain parts of me back, but I have somehow managed to fill those gaps over time. Yet, like a phantom chunk of my heart, those pieces still throb from time to time, reminding me of what I am missing.

However, this year I was able to have some good moments and squeeze out a few tears of happiness. My grandma handed down an apron she had sewn for my beloved great grandma and I was overcome when I saw it. The tears welled up immediately; it was unexpected and perfectly appropriate. I know I am going to wear it year round, it’s holiday theme mocking me every time I cook a meal. I really want to believe in the future the tears will be of joy. This year was a step in the right direction. Maybe next year those will be the only tears.

dscn09571

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Happy Happy, Merry Merry

Today I am on a plane to Florida to visit with the family. I will never get used to palm trees with Christmas lights, but I will do my best to be a big girl about it. A house full of animals awaits me, but I am adequately prepared with plenty of drugs.

I will be updating sporadically the next week or so. I am selfish and will miss you far too much to take any real time off. Plus, I need to dump some of the fattening stuff clunking around in the queue before we start January. That’s right: In January, I am putting us all on diets. Not that you need it–you are perfect– but…um…wait, I lost my train of thought because I was thinking about cookies. Mmm, cookies.

For Christmas/Chanukah/Solstice/Kwanzaa, I leave you this, my little bacon fiends. Yes, that is a mat woven of bacon and filled with cheese. Upon seeing this, my first thought was “Hmm…would be good with sour cream and chives!” Hope your holiday is lovely and you get everything you ever wanted and more.

bacon-abomination

Via HolyTaco.com

PS: Don’t forget to go check out So Good for what I am eating this week.

 

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A Christmas Miracle

At my old place of employ, the yearly holiday party was an annual point of contention. We had offices both in DC and Delaware, but the boss insisted the party be held in Delaware every year. Let me tell you, nothing warms the heart and fills your heart with holiday cheer more than having to shell out $100 for a train ticket to Wilmington four days before Christmas.

One holiday season, the assistant to The Big Boss sent out an email inquiring if we, already put upon, bitter, and angry staffers, would perhaps like to participate in a Yankee Gift Swap at the holiday party. I had had enough. The last thing I needed was to spend $20 on some meaningless gift. I responded to her:

FUCK THE YANKEE GIFT EXCHANGE! It is bad enough I have to spend money I don’t have for a train ticket days before Christmas, but the last thing I need is another stupid chotchke to drag all the way back to DC. My vote is NO.

Within about thirty seconds, I heard a “Go Lemmy!”. About 5 seconds after that, Bitchy McSnarkster, whose office was right near my cube, let out a giddy cackle. If you haven’t guessed already, I replied all. Every single person on staff received that charming and articulate email. The color drained from my face and my stomach rested leadenly in my mouth. I was mortified and just about ready to throw myself from the window. I desperately tried to recall the message. The thing is, when you recall a message, it just makes folks more curious. They knew me and they knew it had to be good. The responses flooded in from the DC and Delaware offices; I was being given a collective standing ovation over email. Until the day I left that job the phrase “FUCK THE YANKEE GIFT EXCHANGE” was repeated to me at every single function. It is a miracle I didn’t lose my job, or at least get a stern talking to, over that missive.

That is why I loved it there. My freak flag flew freely in that office and they loved me despite (or maybe because of) it. While the people in my new office are perfectly fine, it is merely a job, a place I spend 40 hours a week. The holidays are always a very bizarre time at Current Job; no one bakes or gets drinks or spreads any sort of cheer. The holidays barely register on the radar screen.

I made this coffee cake for my coworkers and when I tried it, I couldn’t bear to bring it in. It was just too good and…well, they don’t deserve it. It just isn’t the culture there to share. I am trying to change that with the occasional treat, but there was no way they were getting their paws on this. It is too miraculous. The pears were the perfect contrast to the walnuts in the topping and the cake was moist and tangy. Joy (yes, I know, another Joy the Baker recipe…I have a very big, nonsexual, nonstalkerish crush on her) had the amazing idea of stirring a few handfuls of the strudel topping in to the cake and this is another reason I think she is a genius. She made her version with cranberries and pecans, which I am sure was just as great, but I was thrilled with the pears and walnuts.

And the biggest miracle of all? I managed to share this with some deserving friends.

dscn0933

Pear Coffee Cake

Slightly Adapted from Joy the Baker

Cake:

4 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup sour cream mixed with 2 Tablespoons of milk
4 pears, peeled and chopped to 1/4 inch pieces

Topping:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, well-softened
2/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/3 cup quick oats

Put a rack in middle oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch pan and set aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Combine butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in almond extract. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and sour cream mixture in alternate batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, and mixing until just incorporated. Fold in pears. Spoon batter into baking dish and spread evenly.

For the topping, place the flour, brown sugar, nuts, cinnamon and oats in a large bowl and stir well with a wooden spoon. Work the butter into the mixture with your fingertips until evenly distributed. Take two full handful of the topping and spread it over the cake batter. Use a knife to swirl the topping into the batter. Spread the rest of the topping evenly over the cranberry cake batter.

Bake until golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack for 15 minutes.

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Cheaters Don’t Win

Hi, guys! I’m alive…and let me tell you, no one is happier about that than me. I am still too young and full of promise to shuffle off this mortal coil.

I am finally feeling a zillion times better, though I am constantly amazed just how damn tired this overachieving bitch of an illness has left me.  I feel completely drained after a trip to the grocery store or upon completion of a simple task.  I have followed doctor’s and mom’s orders and have taken it easy.  I don’t think I have spent this much time in my apartment…ever.  Also, I have been staggeringly sober.  It is a weird feeling.

I stayed in Saturday night but found myself feeling incredibly squirrelly.  What to do?  I had already watched every single drop of “Mad Men” on DVD and I had reached the end of the internet.  The only thing left was videos of disabled animals on Youtube.

The state of affairs was bleak and I lamented as much to my friend, Old Man. He said he hoped I was drunk if I had lowered myself to Youtube browsing. I reminded him of my kidney and my illness and was then struck with an idea. Now, I don’t know if the AMA would approve of this, but a cranberry and vodka can’t be too bad, right?  Because that is what I did. It was only one and it is good for the ol’ renal system. I may have cheated a bit, but it felt like a win on my end.

Sadly, cheating doesn’t always leave me coming out ahead.  I made these sweet potato latkes this weekend in celebration of Hanukkah and was not disappointed.  It really makes absolutely no difference to me that I am not Jewish; I will make latkes every freaking year, dammit. (I also have matzo ball soup for lunch; I have a problem.) I made these two ways as a little experiement for you, my dear readers.  On the left, they have been cooked in a hearty slick of vegetable oil, coming out crisp and delciouis with a starchy and delicious center.  On the right, I tried to cheat and lost: I used Pam. Look, I am all for cutting calories, but for a once a year treat, please use the oil.  They just don’t get crunchy in cooking spray and, to me, that is the whole point. I loved this sweet potato version of a classic latke and I think the only thing that would make them more delicious is a fried egg on top.  Go ahead. Do it. You know you want to.

Just don’t cheat.  The results won’t be pretty.

dscn0941

Sweet Potato Latkes

Slightly adapted from Gourmet

1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Stir together potatoes, scallions, flour, eggs, salt, and pepper.

Heat oil in a deep 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of 4, spoon 1/8 cup potato mixture per latke into oil and flatten to 3-inch diameter with a slotted spatula. Reduce heat to moderate and cook until golden, about 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Transfer latkes with spatula to paper towels to drain.

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