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Archive for the ‘Ask Lemmonex’ Category

This One is For The Fellas

So…Valentine’s Day. I have thoughts. This is going out more for the gentleman, because let’s be honest here, ladies: we got it easy. Slap on some cute lingerie, maybe give in to a few kinks and viola! His day is made. But guys? I feel ya. Besides ball sweat, Valentine’s Day is the main reason I am glad I am not a dude; there is a lot of pressure. I am a woman, a generally reasonable, fairly typical woman, and I am here to help. Do this and she will pay you back in kind; I guarantee.val_16

Most men claim they cannot cook which I find a tragedy and a damn shame, but that is a rant for another day. Let’s say you are one of those guys who cannot cook…still try to cook for her. I guarantee you it is ten times more romantic than picking up the phone for a reservation. It shows effort and forethought. Keep it simple. There is no shame in spaghetti and meatballs with some garlic bread (garlic ain’t bad if you both eat it). Pick up a baguette, some cheeses, assorted olives and some cured meat, as well as a bottle of wine, and lay out a picnic. Or maybe breakfast in bed? For real, french toast is about the easiest thing ever. Serve it with some fresh fruit and mimosas and she will be puddy. Even if you screw up (you won’t…promise) she will still find you incredibly charming.

If you actually do know your way around a kitchen, I say knock her socks off. While I have talked to a few women recently who said they would love a steak for Valentine’s Day (really, don’t date a woman who is afraid to eat in front of you), I would advise keeping it light. You don’t want to fill too full for later activities if ya know what I mean. Nothing is hotter than a bloated, distended belly. Stick to fish (maybe a seared tuna) or chicken (perhaps with olives and artichokes).

val_571If all else fails, get her drunk. It can be as simple as some prosecco with a few frozen raspberries or a really great bottle of wine. Served with some chocolate fondue, you cannot go wrong. Yes, I know fondue and bubbles are played out, but guess what? Some things never get old. It is like telling a girl how pretty she is or how much she makes you laugh…MORE IS MORE.

I have done all I can do. Go forth and be brave gentleman. I promise you that this will get you much farther than a dozen roses. Just put in an effort and treat her like she deserves; it isn’t that hard.

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Self Indulgence

The fantastic brookem, with whom I have a very random and spooky real life connection, interviewed me the other day. Since it is Friday, this city is on lockdown, and you fools are all hung over anyway, I figured it would be the perfect time to post my answers.

1- What is your go-to meal to make when you have company over, or are asked to bring a dish to a par-tay?
I have said it before and I will say it again: chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. I just cannot help myself.

2- What would be your ideal job?
Like every other schmo with a blog, I harbor a secret desire to be a professional writer. That seems as likely as becoming a princess or Javier Bardem’s personal masseuse but I am a woman with a dream.

3- You talk about healthy eating and working out a lot on your blog. If you could eat whatever you wanted, and never gain an ounce… if you could skip the gym forever and still maintain your weight, would you?
This is almost an impossible question for me to answer because I cannot even conceptualize it…but, yes. Fuck it. Fuck the gym–I hate it. Fuck my health–we are all going to die anyway. Fuck whole grains–I like the white stuff better.

4- Have you always been a “foodie?” Always liked to cook as much as you do now?
Have I always loved stuffing my face? Yes. Have I always been adept at making food? No. That started about 5 years ago.

5- What’s a surefire way to make you swoon?
A backrub, an awesome head of hair, a sense of humor, a backrub, facial scars and ink, self awareness, and a sincere compliment that doesn’t involve my jugs.

scar-hottness


If you’d like to play along, just follow these instructions:
1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. Be sure you link back to the original post.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

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Tina at Building a Family asks:

I’d love advice on how to cut down the traditional family thanksgiving dinner so it serves two without sacrificing the quality of the food. most one or two person thank giving recipes have turned out pretty pathetic taste wise. Reasonable amounts of left overs are acceptable but I don’t want to eat that dinner – no matter how fab for a month.

I am about to suggest something, Tina, that sort of makes me want to stab myself in the face. The reason I have this case of the stabbies is simple: I got this idea from Rachel Ray. Rachel Freaking Ray. You know how I feel about Ray Ray.

But here it is: just roast a turkey breast. Of course, if you are in to dark meat, you will miss out, but this seems like a perfect solution. It is smaller, yet still has skin to stuff herbs, some lemon zest, and butter under. There will still be some leftovers, but a manageable amount.

If you aren’t in to the turkey breast idea, how about cornish game hens? I know to many people that Thanksgiving means turkey, but truth be told, I feel like half the people I know don’t even like it. Buck tradition a little, roast everyone a hen, and be done with it.

As far as the other stuff goes, I say be brutal and make cuts as to what you are going to have for side dishes. For me, the mashed potatoes are always the first to find their way to the chopping block; I can eat those any time. But a Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce or cornbread stuffing? Unthinkable. Unclutter your table and make some tough choices.

Lastly, get out of the mindset that you need to make huge portions. Dice up and roast two sweet potatoes instead of making an elaborate casserole with 6. Make a quick stuffing with a few pieces of bread. Purchase a few rolls, loose, at the bakery instead of a whole package. Throw together a small, simple apple crisp with a crumble topping instead of a huge pie. It seems obvious, but us gluttonous Americans have a tendency to think more is more and we are not satisfied unless our bowls are overflowing. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

The next few weeks are going to be filled with Thanksgiving posts, so if you have questions pipe up.

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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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Ya know how sometimes you ask a woman a question, a very simple question, and you quickly realize you have made a mistake? She rambles and carries on and your rued the day you made the inquiry? Because, sometimes with us ladies, things are just not so simple? Yeah, I am that woman. Talking in circles and never quite to the point, you never really know where I am going to go. I always get there, though, even if it is more information than you need. Don’t let anyone tell you life with me isn’t an adventure.

A few months ago, WiB asked me for some cookbook suggestions. I finally got off my lazy ass a few weeks back to answer him. But, not shockingly, I have more to say. Cookbooks are a great start, but if you are looking for food inspiration and recipes, there are far too many places on the internet to ignore…so onward with more information than you asked for:

1. WiB has already told me he knows Epicurious (the most useful tool on the site is their extensive recipe review section), Food Network (you have to pick through some supremely craptastic stuff on here, but there are some gems) and MyRecipes (Cooking Light’s site…a friend to everyone watching their caloric intake). Two more super recipe sites everyone should have at their fingertips: All Recipes and Cooks.

2. Everyone knows the internet is really for porn; find your food porn at Tastespotting. The best of the best on food blogs reside on this site. The pictures are drool inducing and the recipes vary from beginner to ultra advanced. Hours of inspiration can be found on this one site. I dare you not to lick the screen.

3. Serious Eats is just that; a site that is serious about everything food. A handful of recipes are thrown up every day, as well as food related news, trivia and trends. Of the same ilk, I am also partial to Slashfood.

4. Some big national blogs to keep at the tip of your fingers are Smitten Kitchen (she never runs out of ideas and her recipes are concise and always delicious), Steamy Kitchen (you too can cook Asian food!), Dorie Greenspan (the undisputed queen of baking), Joy the Baker (her stuff makes me drool and I want to be her friend) and Coconut and Lime (every single recipe here is an original).

5. Finally, I have to give love to some of my DC Bloggers: the informative Endless Simmer, the incomparable bettyjoan (Yes, I know she just moved to Atlanta, but I am denial), the talented French Laundry at Home, and the always inventive Food Rockz.

This is just a primer and I have left off a ton, but this is enough to get anyone started. Have at it…and make sure to let me know in the comments any of your favorites.

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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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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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Shannon asks:

Can you please recommend a tasty salsa recipe that isn’t tomato-centered or boring, but isn’t so bizarre that my friends’ kids will refuse to eat it? Bonus points if there’s watermelon involved, as that’s on special at Safeway and I’m a horrid cheapskate.

Now, let me first assert: you are not cheap, you are a realist. Food prices are insanity lately, as we all know. Cindarella called me just yesterday with a very valid rant after spending $17 at the supermarket and leaving with three items. Three items! And none of them contained gold, meth or anti-aging elixir.

I poked around a bit and found a watermelon salsa at Epicurious that looked better than most of the others. Cucumber and watermelon are great compliments to each other, and not only in some horrible body lotion you can pick up at the mall. The flavors work well together and the crystallized ginger in this recipe appeals to me. (You can probably get a small nub of it at the devil store Whole Foods. It is good for some things.) If there are kids around you may want to cut down on the jalepenos, but I say teach kids not to be food-phobic at a young age and keep the heat.

I love avocados, a love almost proportionate to my love of Javier Bardem, and a corn and avocado salsa would be lovely and cheap. The avocado is the only real cost, and this recipe only calls for one. It also calls for an ear of corn, but if you cannot find fresh, I promise I will not tell anyone of you use canned sweet corn.

On the avocado tip, my friends Foxy Moron and Shiftless Badger recently had me over for dinner and made a mango and avocado salsa. It was pure simplicity and could not have been better: mango, avocado, lots of lime, chili, cilantro, salt and pepper. Just, um, please don’t use as much chili as dear Foxy did, because I had steam coming out of my ears for two days. Still, quite delicious, though my digestive tract will never really be the same.

There is no salsa planned in my holiday future, but you may have inspired me. Up until now the plan was to drink wine and eat pigs in blankets at Cape May all while teaching my six-year-old cousin yes, it is normal to sob when you put on your bathing suit and, no, I am not a ghost, my legs are just this pasty.

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The dapper Virgle Kent asks:

Look I’m not going to do the whole email a question shit for rillz cause a brothas too slack… but

for serious what’s the big deal with the whole “preheating the oven” thing, does it make that much of a difference. I guess I’m a guy so I just turn that shit on to 400 degrees and throw shit in there…. done and done. Why the fuck would I wait 10 five minutes for it to heat up? It’s like an extra step cause it’s going to get to the same temp anyway right?

RIGHT!!!

Because I said so. Is that not reason enough? Seriously, just do what I say. I know how much you like women telling you what to do.

In truth, preheating is much more important when it comes to baking. Baking is a science that depends on precise chemical reactions and exact amounts of time in the oven. If breads, cakes or cookies are placed in an oven that has not reached proper temperature, they bake unevenly and rising could be an issue. It is not such a huge deal when it comes to something like a frozen pizza or even a chicken–it will eventually cook–but it is harder to determine when dinner will be done since the temperature has fluctuated throughout the cooking process. Also, uneven cooking temperatures (ie, one that slowly increases for the first 10 minutes of cooking) can lead to weird texture issues in the food, like chewiness or gumminess.

There are lots of other urban legends on preheating, but I consider them just that. Check them out if you need a laugh though; nothing makes you feel more superior than reading message boards. The internet has convinced me that I am a genius.

The only argument I have ever seen against preheating is from the environmentalists. It obviously wastes a bit of energy. While I could never pour battery acid in the Atlantic Ocean while the engine ran on my Escalade, the environment ain’t really my issues, so I say preheat. Live your life like a excessive glutton, fearless of any consequence; our grandkids can deal with the repercussions…

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The amazing jess asks:

as a total screw-up in zee kitchen, i’d love a column on ‘if you don’t cook, start with this’ type of thing.

Wow, a lot of ground to cover and I am still recovering from Christian’s win on Project Runway. (I must admit, though…I never met a ruffle I did not like. I kinda dug his collection, but it may have been the champagne misguiding me…) Let’s see if I can piece it together.

So, I have stated before: pan sets, starter sets, and bakers sets are a total crock of shit and a conspiracy to steal money from you. All anyone needs–for the basics–is: a sauce pan, a fry pan, a soup pot, a cookie sheet, a great knife, a mixing bowl, a wooden spoon, a spatula, a cutting board, a pair of tongs (I originally had a typo in here that said a pair of thongs…Aunt LifeSaver astutely pointed out they are nice but not necessary…I think it depends on who you are cooking for…), and a few good ideas. Of course, like anything in life, what becomes essential grows at the same rate as your skill, but this is how you get it started. Also, tip of the century: kitchen goods are deeply discounted on Amazon. I buy all my calphalon pans on there at half price. If your kitchen is empty, it is a great place to stock up. And while we are speaking of discount kitchen items: get thee to a TJ Maxx. I have uncovered some gems in their admittedly chaotic kitchen/home section.

If you are just beginning, and have some interest in baking, why not try a technique class at Williams-Sonoma? They are free, they are informative, and they only take an hour of your life. Annie Birdie (who was kind enough to find these and sign us up) and I headed over to one of these in Friendship Heights this past Sunday and it was well worth it. I consider myself fairly versed–but in no way an expert–in baking, but I still found substantial value in this class. Who knew you should cream butter for eight minutes? NOT ME. The instructor at my class was sweet and knowledgeable, though a bit disorganized. I was expecting to be pressured in to buying something at the end of the class, but refreshingly, was not.

Hope this gets ya started, dear.

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