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Archive for March, 2009

Despite my propensity to use the word y’all in every day conversation and my love of Jack Daniel’s, I am a Northern girl to my core. I drive like crap, I hate talking to strangers and give me enough to drink and I can barely fight my hideous RI accent. I haven’t been there in 9 years but I am a Rhody girlwafflehouse through and through. This is why it blew my mind when the crowd here revolted last year when they learned I’d never been to Waffle House. Sure, I have driven through the South but our family’s southern fare of choice was always Cracker Barrel (we like racism with our country apples, apparently). There are far worse since….such as the complete lack of a letter between Q and S in my native tongue.

During my visit to Atlanta, BettyJoan took it upon herself to right this deeply offensive wrong. She is doing the people’s work. I knew I would love the place as soon as the waitress standing in front of the building, covered in prison ink and smoking a cigarette, opened the door for us.

This woman turned out to be our waitress. Her name was Deb and she was missing multiple teeth. She was friendly, welcoming, and completely thrilled that I this was my virgin voyage to a Waffle House. Now this was a woman who has clearly towed a rocky path in life but she was totally awesome in that that woman who calls you “sweetheart” at the diner kind of way.  We don’t see people like this in DC.

And the food you ask?  Well, any breakfast sandwhich served on grilled Texas toast is ok in my book. It was slathered in butter and shamefully sinful, but hey it was vacation and believe me, I have paying the piper at the gym.  I got hashbrown, sweet delicious hash browns, “smothered” with onions and they were pretty damn perfect.  BettyJoan was kind enough to let me steal a few bites of her chocolate chip waffle and that was pretty delicious as well.  (Speaking of BettyJoan being kind, she is doing a triathlon to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Have you made a donation? You should.  All the cool kids are.)

So finally, FINALLY, this Northern girl has tried a Waffle House.  All the wrongs in the Universe have been righted and I can sleep easy at night.

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Feeling Feelings

I’ve had a secret shame buried deep inside me for a few weeks.

I watched “Twilight”. I watched “Twilight” and I liked it.

Now, everyone is carrying on and on about the dreaminess of Edward Cullen and I do feel a bit superior when I proclaim I did not find him the least bit attractive. Now this is not to say there haven’t been a few young men I have taken a shine to; I feel a special kind of flutter every time I see Joe Jonas. Say what you will but that boy really does look like he needs his purity ring tarnished and I am happy to take on that job.  Also, I find his floppy brown hair lovely.

But Edward Cullen? Too pale, skinny, hairless and far, far too blond for me. I do not handle emotional boys well and our dear Edward feels far too many feelings for my liking. He seems a young man that would be scared of hurting me, only wants to make love and would talk incessantly about what a deep connection he feels. I do not care for this one bit.

Oh, and he is a vegetarian. I know plenty of lovely men who are vegetarians, but really? Nothing produces a pile of sawdust in my panties faster than a man who won’t eat a steak.

What I think got me about the movie was the sort of wide eyed faith Bella has in what she is feeling. She is in awe he loves her and doesn’t quite understand it, but she just goes with it.  She is young and unscathed by heartbreak.  There are no “what ifs” and she doesn’t hold back scared of the possibility of being hurt.  The movie reminded me of the free fall of first love and made me wish I was 14 again.  Well, 14-years-old minus the acne and the disproportionately large rack.

Except in my 14-year-old fantasies, it was not Edward Cullen…it was Anthony Kiedis.  There will be no pale vegetarians on my watch, no propping of of weak men who are far too emotive.  The only thing I am ready to handle on a regular basis is raves about my cooking  and Mr. Cullen would not be able to even eat my food and that’s just too bad.  Not to say their aren’t some misses but I like the accolades when they are deserved.  For instance I threw this meal together totally last minutes and it came out really well.  Sure, it is just pasta, but it is flavorful and I managed to get a ton of vegetables in here.  For a fast week night dinner that will leave you a ton of leftovers you really cannot go wrong. The whole wheat pasta adds a nice depth and the sauce, more chunky than a normal sauce, manages to stay light(er) thanks to the turkey and artichokes.  Hey, this isn’t going to change your life but it is way better than a jar of Ragu.

And how do you feel about that, Edward?

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Summer Pasta

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, minced

1 pound mushrooms, chopped finely

2 teaspoons dried basil

1.5 teaspoons dried oregano

1 package (about 1.5 lbs) ground turkey

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 8 0z. can tomato sauce

1 14.5 oz. can chopped tomatoes

1 14.5 oz. can artichokes, drained

Salt and pepper

1 box whole wheat pasta

Parmesan for sprinkling

Boil salted water and cook pasta while preparing sauce.

Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Add garlic and onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms,a pinch of salt and some pepper and cook for another 3 minutes. Drain off some of the liquid from the mushrooms with a spoon. Add basil, oregano, balsamic and turkey and cook for 8 minutes. (You may need to spoon off some more liquid.)Pour in tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes and artichokes. Cook for an additional 7 minutes. Salt and pepper and mix with pasta. Top with parmesan.

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Ya know, I have plenty of things kicking around in my back log and too many restaurants I should be writing about but it is Friday.

It is the freaking weekend as R. Kelly would say.

So instead of telling you about another slice of carrot cake or regaling you with another story about my complete inability to make a healthy decision, I give you this.

Right. I know.  Another burger.  But for this one, both boys and girls alike, I think you can forgive me.

Don’t leave any evidence behind.

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Waste Not

I was home sick from work yesterday. Even during a sick day, between naps and trying to watch Tropic Thunder, I laid in bed thinking of all the things I needed to do. (Side note: Thoughts on Tropic Thunder?  I am conflicted.  The whole “full retard” bit was genius but I could have done without some of the subplots.  I mean really? Alpa Chino is gay and in love with Lance Bass? Jesus.)

But anyway, the trash was overflowing but putting on pants to take it out seemed too much an effort.

My room, after one of those weeks that happens to all of us, was trashed. I mean, it looked like an oversexed member of a boy band on a coke bender had tried to exorcise his personal demons within the confines of my four walls.

It is no secret that I’m “go go go” all the time and sick days are no different. I ended up tidying a bit, making dinner and slapping on pants to take out the trash. I really should have remained in bed, but that’s how I do. I hate wasting time and sometimes it is my undoing; I never feel totally rested and I always feel like there is more I could be doing.

At least these compulsion to not waste is channeled in to other things.  Take, for instance, these croutons.  I know, I know, a recipe for croutons.  This is some thrilling stuff. Yet, this is a really simple way to put use to a half finished loaf of bread.  Just cut the bread in cubes, dry it out and toss with some staples from the pantry.  As an added bonus, they taste a hell of a lot better than those croutons from the box.

Hey, you can even compromise….make them sans pants.

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Croutons

3/4 loaf bread, cubed and dried (either left out over night or dried in an oven for about 30 minutes)

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1.5 teaspoons onion powder

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

Salt and pepper

Heat oil over medium heat and add bread cubes. Toss and cook for about 3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cook for about 3 more minutes. Cool and serve.

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Call and Answer

Recently I was discussing my reading habits with a friend, namely that I don’t have many. I consider myself informed; I listen to NPR and hit on news websites, but a book? Magazines? I go through fits and starts. I will ravenously devour them for short periods and then abandon them completely. I have too many blogs to read, too much cooking to do and too much life to live. Oh, and yes, passing out in various gutters really eats away at the time as well. The books always get cut in my attempt to manage my overburdened schedule.

Of course, I had to find out through Twitter yesterday (Thanks Jessica!) that I had been named one of the top websites in DC by Washingtonian. The irony is not lost on me.

As a creature that lives her life online, I fervently searched online for the link. It was no where to be found, so I had to do it the old fashioned way: buy the print copy. There it was…a short paragraph on page 50. Sweet sassy molasses. Who knew? Oh, right. You people who read.

The power of blogging has already been celebrated this week and stated far more eloquently than I ever could say it. It shocks me that a girl comprised of equal parts raging narcissism and crippling self doubt could scream in to a well and get folks to yell back, but I’m humbled.

Also, I am pretty bemused. Culinary Couture was listed in the category of the area’s best drinking and dining blogs and below I have presented you with a recipe that uses quick grits. Washingtonian? Are you sure? This is a pretty egregious sin against Southern cuisine, but it works. This whole dish was some uncharted territory for this Northern girl, but I made it happen, my way. I am still trying to figure it all out, cobble together the pieces of my life as I stand over the stove and stare in to my navel. Thanks for coming along for the ride and yelling back at me when I scream in to the well.

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(I made these with bettyjoan during my trip to Atlanta and despite the use of quick grits, this turned awesome. The shrimp was simple and fresh and the grits were rib stickingly good. I used some smoked sausage for this, but yes, you bacon freaks, use it if you must. Even my beloved bettyjoan, a true Southern girl, gave this the thumbs up. Hop over to her place and check out what she made for desert.)

Shrimp and Grits

Loosely adapted from Cooking Light

Shrimp

1 pound peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp

Juice from one lemon

1 teaspoon Tabsasco sauce (or to taste)

Pinch kosher salt

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 smoked sausage or 3 slices bacon, chopped finely

2 cloves garlic, minced

5 green onions (I used 3 green onions and a leek)

Pinch salt

Pepper

In large bowl, mix shrimp, lemon juice, Tabsco and salt. Let sit while you heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. When oil is heated add sausage or bacon. Cook for about 4 minutes and then add onions and garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes (just to soften onions). Add shrimp mixture and cook for about 6 minutes (shrimp should be pink). Salt and pepper and serve over cheese grits.

Cheese Grits

3 cups chicken stock (or water)

3/4 cup quick grits

3/4 cup grated sharp cheese

2 tablespoons butter

Pinch salt

Boil broth and add grits. Stir for about 3 minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat. Add cheese, butter and salt. Serve immediately.



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Testing My Limits

Step One: We Can Have Lots of Fun

Step One: We Can Have Lots of Fun

Oh, for the love of Christ, this is going to be a difficult post to get through. Largely because when one is discussing the process of peeling and deveining a shrimp it is hard not to talk about what the vein actually is. Suffice it to say the vein is the whole digestive track of the shrimp and it is black because…well, yanno. This is all I am really going to say about that. Now that we have that out of the way and I have reached the limit of my personal comfort when it comes to discussing such matters, here it is…a lesson in something you should know. How to peel and devein a shrimp in just a few simple steps.

Step Two: There's So Much We Can Do

Step Two: There's So Much We Can Do

1. Look! Here is a shrimp. This one isn’t so shrimpy; in fact it is jumbo. I prefer large or jumbo shrimp for obvious reasons. Call me a size queen if you must, but it is just easier and makes for a hell of a lot less shrimp to peel.

2. Ok, so start from the top of the shrimp and start ripping the shell and legs off. Pull the last little set of legs off but make sure you leave the tail intact.

Step Three: It's Just You and Me

Step Three: It's Just You and Me

3. If you look at the top of the shrimp, most of the time you can see a black line under the surface. Slit the top of the shrimp so the line aka the vein is exposed.  You don’t need to cut too much at all; just break through the surface.

4. With the tip of your knife pull the vein out. I sometimes find it easier to run the shrimp under water as I pull the vein out. Sometimes you can’t see the vein because, well maybe the shrimp got really scared in it’s last moments or something…GOOD GOD I HATE THIS.

Step Four: I Can Give You More

Step Four: I Can Give You More

5. And yay! Your shrimp is clean. All is right with the world. Start making something delicious.

Step Five: Don't You Know That The Time Has Arrived

Step Five: Don't You Know That The Time Has Arrived

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I am fully aware I am about to get spanked. Hard. It is a fate I accept.

Ya know how I talked a big game about getting the double pass bypass burger at Vortex while I was in Atlanta? Anddscn1133

I was all pumped up for it, ready to eat this bacon, egg and cheese burger with grilled cheeses as buns? Well, I bitched out. I lost my nerve. And some of you may think it was because the prospect of eating all that fat smooshed in between two grilled cheeses was just too much for me to put my stomach through, that I came to my senses and realized just because you can use grilled cheese as a bun it doesn’t mean you should. Well, no, you are wrong. It was not at all about the overkill of those grilled cheeses, it was in fact about the presence of two eggs on the burger. I will eat damn near a whole pound of meat and cheese but that second egg was just too much and a girl has to stand for something or she will fall for anything.

I decided to go with the totally reasonable Single Coronary burger. It was rare meat topped with bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and one egg atop a sesame bun. I always worry places like Vortex, which has been featured on many a travel show, are all hype and no substance, but I was not disappointed. The dscn1134meat was well seasoned and cooked perfectly. The lettuce and tomato were fresh and the egg on top of all that bacon and cheese was the perfect touch. I chose the tots as a side at bettyjoan’s urging and of course she was right. They were piping hot, wonderfully crispy and deliciously salty. The food was amazing, the company was great and the slightly bitchy but also kinda of sweet waitress made for an amazing night even if we did have to wait a painfully long time for a table.

It was delicious and everything I could have hoped for ad more.  Well, minus the grilled cheese bins and all that. And yes, I’m a pussy.  Please don’t hate me too much.

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