30 October 2006

Two Ways to Ensure your Husband’s Eternal Love

Devastatingly Rich Dark Chocolate Cheesecake

Two Ways to Ensure your Husband’s Eternal Love:

1. Braise his dinner in beer.
2. Make him a cheesecake and put a pound of chocolate in it.

I’m pretty sure these techniques work. Not that I need my husband to love me more (I’m pretty sure he loves me more than I love him), but just in case…

Husbands love beer. I don’t know any husbands that don’t love beer, and I am presently going through the list of all the husbands that I know and I cannot think of one that does not love beer.
Husbands also like ribs. True love is guaranteed forever if you brown some short ribs in a Dutch oven, sautée some onions and other vegetables in it, toss in some rosemary and a bay leaf, pour in a bottle of beer, cover it up, throw it in the oven, let it braise for a few hours, take out the ribs whose tender meat is falling off the bones, brush the ribs with a rosemary-infused maple glaze, and put them under the broiler until their sweet, herby crusts are bubbling and crispy.

short ribs before braising

After you have eaten the ribilicious dinner and your husband has confirmed his everlasting adoration of your existence, present him with a devastatingly rich chocolate cheesecake that has more than a pound of chocolate in it, if you count the 9 oz. of chocolate in the cake, the 9 oz. of chocolate in the crust, and the 6 oz. of chocolate in the topping. Oh, Nellie!

Instead of typing out Molly Stevens' recipe for Short Ribs Braised in Porter Ale with Maple-Rosemary Glaze, I will refer you to her glorious cookbook, All About Braising. The reason I am not typing out the recipe is that you should go and buy this cookbook already. Ummm…also… I don’t want to get in trouble with Molly Stevens for giving away too many of her recipes. No one likes getting sued by their idol.

As for the deep dark chocolate cheesecake recipe, you can find it on Epicurious' website.
Again, I would type it out, but you can just as easily get it on their website, and I need to stop typing soon so that my devoted husband can paint my toenails for me.

Oh, by the way, if you have 30 husbands, this would be the perfect dessert, because with the right slicing technique, you can easily get 30 slices out of this cake. It is so chocolatively dense that even a man only needs the smallest sliver to fall head over heels in love with the baker of the cake.

22 October 2006

How to get your Cat (or Husband) to Eat More Fruit

The percentage of women who meet the recommended intake of fruit per day is probably not very high. The percentage of men who meet it is probably even lower. It’s most likely the lowest for cats.

One of my excuses for not eating enough fruit used to be that I am too busy to eat fruit during the day. That sounds absurd, I know, but hear me out: When you eat fruit, your hands usually become sticky. Especially if it’s juicy and ripe, right? And unlike eating a sandwich or something you can eat with a fork, it is very difficult to eat fruit and do anything else at the same time. Then, adding to the time it takes to eat the fruit, you need to wash your hands both before AND after you eat fruit…that’s two trips to the washroom. In conclusion, if I want to eat an apple at work, it is a nine-minute ordeal during which I can do nothing else. I don’t have that kind of time!

Weighing out my options, I did some brainstorming and decided that the easiest, least sticky, and most time efficient way to get enough fruit into my and my husband’s bellies everyday is the fruit smoothie. There’s no peeling, no pitting, no de-seeding…there’s not even any chewing!

Try it and let me know if it works. But just in case your loved one rejects your efforts, I have included some potential excuses he may give you; each excuse is paired with an appropriate response to help you persuade your sweetheart to ingest the healthy and delicious concoction.

His excuse: “You don’t have time to make me a smoothie.”
Your response: “Nonsense. I can make a smoothie in 55 seconds, true story.”

His excuse: “I don’t want you to go the trouble.”
Your response: “Oh, it’s no trouble at all! I made one for myself and I accidentally made too much. You don’t want it to go to waste, do you?”

His excuse: “I have to go to work.”
Your response: “I know you have to go to work, so I put your smoothie in an empty water bottle. See? Now you can take it to go.”


His excuse: “My stomach is full of chicken.”
Your response: “We haven’t eaten chicken for a week. Anyway, it’s just liquid now, so it’s not really food. It’s like a frappuccino. You love frappuccinos!”

His excuse: “Is there spinach in it because I heard you can die from eating spinach. Death by Smoothie!”
Your response: “You don’t die from eating spinach. You die from eating poop that might be on spinach.”

His excuse: “Smoothies is chick food.”
Your response: “So is frappuccinos.”

His excuse: “I don’t have any teeth.”
Your response: “Use this straw.”

His excuse: “I don’t like cat spit in my smoothie.”
Your response: “I don’t like people who get scurvy because of the lack of fruit in their diet. No scurvy for you!”

look at all that fruit!

You really don’t need a recipe for a smoothie, but I thought I would share with you the ingredients that are essential in my daily smoothie. But you should really put whatever you like in it.

1. Orange juice or juice of any kind. The liquid helps the blender run smoothly. If you don’t use juice, that’s fine, but be prepared to stop the blender and stir the fruit a few times. Stirring adds at least one minute to the smoothie-making process, however, because you have to turn off the blender, open the drawer to get a spoon, take out a spoon, open the blender lid, stir the fruit, turn the blender back on, and repeat procedure as needed. You also have to wash the spoon. Use juice, it saves you time and work.

2. Vanilla yogurt. Yogurt adds thickness and a nice sweetness, especially if the fruit isn’t especially ripe. Yogurt is also good for you!

3. Banana. The banana ensures a creamy consistency. Smoothies made without bananas tend to have icier textures.

4. Various combinations of frozen fruits and fresh fruits. Frozen fruits make the smoothie cold, negating the need for ice, which has no nutritional value. Frozen fruit is also efficient because it doesn’t rot while it sits around and waits for you to get around to eating it. You can buy frozen fruit in bags at the grocery store, or you can freeze fruit that you buy at the farmer’s market.

5. Baby spinach leaves (some days). Spinach is packed with nutrition and only makes the smoothie’s texture a little grainier than usual. You really don’t taste it. It does turn the smoothie green though, so if your husband or offspring are squeamish about green liquids, just put it in your own.

I wasn't eating your smoothie, I swear.

19 October 2006

Bon Appétit Pop Quiz

Which of the following ingredients would you most expect to find in a Bon Appétit recipe?

a) jello
b) pizza dough in a can
c) crack cocaine

If you answered c) crack cocaine, you aren’t very smart because crack cocaine is against the law and I don’t think Barbara Fairchild is the type to recommend that you begin cooking with illegal substances. As for a) jello, I think they’re going to make jello illegal soon.
I just made that up but I don’t think it’s an awful idea.

The correct answer is b) pizza dough in a can. Yes, the pre-made dough in the cardboard tube
off of which you peel the label and onto which you press the back of a spoon until the can pops open.

Bon Appétit suggests using this pre-made dough to save time when making Cheesy Zucchini and Red Onion Flatbread.
I was shocked to read this.
Are you shocked?
I am shocked.
This is Bon Appétit we are talking about here!
Pizza dough in a can?
(I want you to know that I accidentally typed ‘Oizza Dopugh in a Van’ and I almost didn't fix it.)

In Bon Appétit’s defense, I found this recipe in the back of the issue, in the section of “Fast Easy Fresh” recipes. I suppose readers aren’t expecting any precious treasures in the “Fast Easy Fresh” section, and that’s why this one got slipped in.
Expectations of precious treasures aside, this flatbread is really quite easy and quite excellent. I think it might be nice served alongside some carrot soup with some jello powder or crack cocaine sprinkled on top.

Cheesy Zucchini and Red Onion Flatbread
~adapted from Bon Appétit August 2006

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 10-ounce tube refrigerated pizza dough
3/4 cup garlic-and-herb cheese spread (such as Alouette), divided
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
1 small red onion
1 7- to 8-inch-long zucchini (yellow or green), cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick rounds, divided
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper; spray with nonstick spray. Whack can of pizza dough against countertop until the tube pops open. Alternatively, follow directions on the tube and press a spoon against the seam of the tube until it comes open. Unroll dough onto parchment. Spread half of herbed cheese over 1 long half of dough, leaving 1/2-inch plain border. Sprinkle with half of Parmesan and 2 tablespoons parsley. Using parchment as aid, fold plain half of dough over filled half (do not seal edges). Spread remaining herb cheese over top; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Remove enough outer layers of onion to yield 2-inch-diameter core; cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds. Arrange 1 row of zucchini down 1 long side of dough. Arrange onion rounds in row alongside zucchini. Arrange 1 more row of zucchini alongside onion. Brush vegetables with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake bread until puffed and deep brown at edges, about 24 minutes. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parsley.

14 October 2006

Fat Toast

Why eat corn on the cob when you could eat corn with half & half in it?

Fancy Toast?
More like Fat Toast.
I don't know if you have noticed, but I tend to gravitate towards high-fat and high-calorie foods rather than low-fat foods.

Here is a comparison of the high-fat and low-fat recipes that have appeared on Fat Toast:

Foods with High Fat Content (or high caloric content)
1. Mexican Hot Chocolate
2. Creamy Braised Brussel Sprouts
3. Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Icing
4. Roasted Sweet Garlic, Bread and Almond Soup
5. Whole Paycheck Trail Mix
6. Pasta YiaYia
7. Bacon-wrapped Dates Stuffed with Parmesan
8. Ina Garten's Coconut Cupcakes
9. Sausages and Plums Braised in Red Wine
10. Fettucine with Walnuts, Zucchini Ribbons, and Pecorino Romano
11. Cold Sesame Noodles
12. Fresh Corn Risotto with Basil, Tomato, and Lime
13. Thai Chicken Coconut Curry
14. Best Lemon Cake Ever!
15. Dill and Curry Deviled Eggs

Foods with Low Fat Content
1. High-Maintenance Cucumber Gimlets
2. Willamette Valley wines
3. Shaved Carrot with Cilantro and Cinnamon
4. Roasted Onion Salad with Tomato, Bacon, and Balsamic Vinegar

Not listed are recipes that are neutral in fat or caloric content.
(I wish I was neutral in fat content.)
High Fat wins 15-4.
You may have noticed that two of the low fat recipes are really just about alcohol.
So really, High Fat wins 15-2.

This recipe for creamed corn goes out to anyone who can still find some good ears of corn in October, anyone who is less in a summer cookout mood and more in an autumn comfort-food mood, and anyone who loves to add half & half to everything edible.

Adding the "corn milk" from the kernels makes the dish incredibly sweet and creamy. The shallots and bacon add just enough flavor, but not so much that you can't taste the corn.

Creamed Corn with Bacon and Blue Cheese Crumbles
~adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

5 or 6 ears of corn
4 oz. (about 4 slices) of bacon, cut into very small pieces (this is done easily if the bacon is almost frozen
1 medium shallot, minced
½ garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 cup of half & half (America’s Test Kitchen uses 1 ½ cups of heavy cream. Oh so creamy. I found that using half & half gives you a stronger corn flavor, a little less creamy texture, and a little less guilt.)
½ teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (the blue cheese is fancy but not necessary)
salt & pepper

Place the large end of an ear of corn in a large bowl (alternatively, rest the end in the hole of an inverted bundt pan). Cut the kernels off the cob and collect them in the bowl.
Repeat with 2 ears (if using 5 ears for entire recipe, 3 ears if using 6 ears for the recipe)
Using a microplane grater, grate the remaining 2 ears of corn into the same bowl.
After the kernels are gone from the ears of corn, scrape them all down with the back side of a butter knife to press out any remaining pulp or milk left.
Discard ears of corn.

Cook bacon pieces in a heavy-bottomed skillet until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Leaving only 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings in the pan, add the shallot and cook until it softens.
Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
Add the corn kernels (with pulp and corn milk), the half & half, the thyme and the cayenne.
Simmer over medium low heat until corn is tender but still has a nice crunch.
Stir in bacon pieces.
Add salt and pepper to taste and stir.

11 October 2006

Mexican Hot Chocolate, Kickass!

Sometimes, when you have a friend who is traveling abroad, and you think he or she may be inclined to bring back a souvenir for you, you have to ask him or her for exactly what you want.

If your friend is going to Antarctica, for example, and you really want a snow globe with a penguin inside it, you must be very specific in your request. You should say, “Friend, when you go to that cold place, and you are thinking of buying something for me, can you get me a snow globe with a penguin inside? And if they don’t have penguin snow globes in Antarctica, can you buy me a candle made from the fat of a seal?” Because unless you ask, chances are your friend is probably not going to buy you a penguin snow globe or a seal fat candle from anywhere unless he or she is prompted to do so.

I personally know that this straightforward strategy works. I know because I used it on a friend who recently traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico. I said to my friend, “Friend, when you go to that hot place, can you bring back some Mexican chocolate for me, you know, the kind with the spices in it?” And she said, “Kickass!”

Bars of Mexican chocolate are unlike bars of American chocolate. In pre-Columbian times, Mayans and Aztecs would roast beans from the native cacao tree and then add spices and water to create a foamy beverage called chocolatl. It is chocolatl that Montezuma (the last Aztec emperor) supposedly drank in goblets before visiting his ladies in the harem. I wonder if Montezuma’s lady friends in the harem ever got any chocolatl. I bet the ugly ones didn’t.

Did my friend bring me back spicy Mexican chocolate from Oaxaca? Yes! She did! And being the kickass friend that she is, she also brought back a round, wooden whisk called a molinillo, which you rub back and forth between your palms to create a beautiful froth. I love my present. I am so much luckier than Montezuma's ugly concubines.

see the flecks of cinnamon and almond?

Mexican Hot Chocolate
1. Get your hands on a bar of Mexican chocolate. My friend brought back “Chocolate Mayordomo de Oaxaco,” which is a chocolate bar with sugar, cinnamon, and almonds ground into it. If you don’t have Mexican chocolate, use semi-sweet chocolate with various enhancements such as cinnamon, sugar, vanilla, cayenne, or ground chiles peppers.
2. In a saucepan, heat the milk and the chocolate (and spices, if using). Stir with the
molinillo (or whisk) until the chocolate has dissolved and the liquid is at a sipping temperature of your liking.


Thanks Koss!

Note: The first picture at the top of this post is being submitted for October 2006 "Does My Blog Look Good In This?" event, which is being hosted by Andrew at Spitoon Extra. You can see the other photos here.

08 October 2006

An Inconsolable Brussel Sprout

I thought that I was doing my little brussel sprout buddy a favor by letting the cats play with him instead of cooking him for dinner.
But when I braised all of his friends to make Molly Stevens’ creamy braised brussel sprouts recipe, he crumpled against the wall and sat there for hours with his head in his hands, wailing and wailing and wailing. If you have never heard a brussel sprout wail before, it really is quite adorable, more like a blind, six-day-old kitten than a distraught vegetable.

Even though I thought his howling was quite charming, he was still making me feel guilty. Nothing I could say would comfort him. He kept muttering something about the good old days at the market, sitting out in the morning sun with his pals, daring each other to roll out of the barrel and go make out with the green beans.
I tried to tell him that if he had gone into the pot, he would have been eaten by now, or even worse, cold leftovers in the fridge. He said he would rather have been sacrificed for the good of dinner along with his friends than be cast to the floor as a plaything for the smelly cats.

I thought some ice cream would cheer him up, so I went to the store and bought him a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Napoleon Dynamite ((((off the subject: that flavor is pure genius – half Cherry Garcia and half Chocolate Fudge Brownie, split right down the middle, can life get any better?)))).
Things were looking better when he ate the entire pint in one sitting, however, when he was done, he just sat there sniffling dejectedly and wouldn’t come out.

I decided he really did need some time alone, so I left the house on the pretense of errands. When I came back, he had drunk himself into oblivion on my last bottle of Oregon wine and passed out. That little monster, why did he have to go and drink my good wine?

Since he was unconscious anyway, and I was bitter, I stomped over to the fridge and took out the leftover braised brussel sprouts. I reheated them, sat down at the table, sighed, and let their creamy goodness soothe my bitter soul as I flipped through a Zingerman's catalog. I was slipping into such a delightful reverie that I did not notice my inebriated brussel sprout friend climb out of the wine glass and crawl over to the window.

I heard a faint sob, and before I could stuff the last sprout in my mouth and dash over to the window, he was gone.

goodbye cruel world

Well, there was nothing I could do.
Time for some more brussel sprouts.

Creamy Braised Brussel Sprouts
(you don’t even need a Dutch Oven!)
~ adapted from All About Braising by Molly Stevens

1 pound brussel sprouts
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt & pepper
1 cup half & half (Molly recommends heavy cream but I didn’t have any and they still turned out utterly divine)
½ lemon

Trim the base of each sprout and peel off any ragged outer leaves.
Cut the brussel sprouts through the core into half. Slice each half into either thirds or halves so that you are left with little wedges no more than 1/2” across.
Over medium-high heat, melt butter in a 12” skillet that has a lid.
Brown the brussel sprouts in the butter for about 5 minutes, until there are brown spots on the sprouts.
Pour in the half & half (or cream, if using), stir, cover, reduce heat to a slow simmer, and cook for 30 to 35 minutes.
Remove the cover, squeeze the lemon juice into the sprouts, and simmer, uncovered, for a few minutes so the cream thickens and turns into a beautiful glaze.
Serve hot or warm.
Molly recommends adding toasted hazelnuts or crisp bits of bacon for a fancier presentation.

01 October 2006

Nice Day for a Grand Picnic.

Oh no!
We were planning on having a Grand Picnic
Birthday Feast on Saturday...

Picnic cancelled?

Good thing I made cupcakes anway.......

Because twenty minutes later....blue skies!

Happy birthday Abbey and Nate!

Oh no...stormclouds over Chicago...
Here comes the rain again.

Time to run home and eat some more cupcakes!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Icing
~from America's Test Kitchen
~makes 12 cupcakes (I would double it if I were you)

The secret to these deliciously chocolately cupcakes is the instant espresso powder in the batter. The result is a cupcake that is dark, moist, and full of chocolate flavor.

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
12 tbs. (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup nonalkalized cocoa, sifted
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:
½ pound (2 sticks) of butter
½ pound confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Adjust oven rack to middle position.
Line a cupcake tray with cupcake liners.
With a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at a medium-high speed for 30 seconds. Add the sugar slowly and beat for three to five minutes, until the mixture is fluffy and almost white.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating 1 full minute after each addition.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa, and instant espresso powder in a medium bowl. Combine the milk and the vanilla in a liquid measuring cup.

With the mixer at the lowest speed, add one-third of the dry ingredients to the batter, then a third of the milk mixture. Mix until the ingredients are almost incorporated into the batter. Repeat process twice more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to gather any remaining dry bits, then beat on low speed for 15 more seconds. The batter should be smooth and satiny and sooooooooooooooooooooo delicious and I can’t stop eating it.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners.
Bake for about twenty minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

While cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting.
With a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until soft and creamy.
Turn the mixer down to the lowest setting and add the confectioner’s sugar in parts, beating after each addition.
When sugar is blended, add the vanilla.
Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat until creamy.
When cupcakes are cool, frost. Use a lot of frosting.

On the Subject of Job Interviews, Soup, and Proboscidians.

Roasted Sweet Garlic, Bread and Almond Soup

Have you ever been in a job interview where they asked you to describe yourself in one word? I have decided that the next time that I am asked that question in an interview, I will say, “eat.” If that’s not the answer they’re looking for, then I don’t belong there.

The first time I was asked that question, I asked the interviewers if I could use three words instead of one. They smiled and said no. They were so mean. Do they think that human beings should be able to reduce their characteristics to a single trait? Those two obviously did, and the one-word traits I picked for each of them were dim-witted and emaciated, respectively.

After the interviewers shot down my sensible request, I was thinking about asking them if I could combine three words into one word. For example, enthusiastic/creative/cheerful would become would become cheerativiastic, and needy/selfish/sarcastic would become sarcaneedfish, but I figured they would say NO to that too because they wanted me to be a robot like them.

Then, I considered pensively scratching my head and rubbing my chin (at the same time) for a full ninety seconds, which is a really long time in an interview, and then coming up with a marvelously random word, such as ‘proboscidian,’ which FYI is a massive herbivorous mammal having protruding tusks and a long trunk. Any way you look at it, with proboscidian, I would win. If they pretended to know what it meant and said, “Oh yes, I see, that’s very profound,” then I would win, and if they asked me for the definition, then I could either give them the real one, and then I would win (what do you think about that, robots, was that the answer you were looking for, robots?), or I could make up a false definition that required me to use the first three words that I wanted to use in the first place, and then I would also win. Take that, robots.

Regrettably, after a full second of aforementioned, mischievous contemplation, I surrendered to their merciless request, sheeplishly smiled, and said, "nice?" - articulating it more as a question than as a confident exclamation of the definitive state of my niceness.

I did not get the job. I guess they wanted a mean teacher instead of a nice teacher.

Years later, I think of all the absurd responses that would have made the moment so wonderfully and magnificently awkward:
“Royalty. If you don’t believe me, I brought my papers as well as my tiara.”
“1/64 Native American.”
“Glittery. I have glittery starts on my underwear, do you want to see the glittery stars?”
“Can I burp my answer?”

Given the fact that I don’t have the courage to sabotage myself in an interview like that, I probably wouldn’t even have the courage to say “eat,” which, as I stated earlier, is my current strategy. But outside of a formal interview, “eat” is how I describe myself in one word, and what I plan to do to this soup, which has nothing to do with anything I have written so far, except that it is food and it is delicious and you can sip it through your proboscis. Unless you are robot, that is.

Roasted Sweet Garlic, Bread and Almond Soup
~from Jamie's Kitchen, by Jamie Oliver

3 heads of garlic, separated into cloves but not peeled
1 medium white onion, peeled and finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
1 cup heavy cream
1 ¾ pints chicken or vegetable stock
1 large loaf of ciabatta bread
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar
7 oz. whole blanched almonds, lightly toasted
salt and pepper
3 oranges, peeled and segemented
1 handful fresh cilantro (leaves only)
1 handful fresh mint (leaves only)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Roast garlic for 30-45 minutes until it is soft to the touch.
Meanwhile, heat 4 tablepoons of oil in a large pot, add the onions, and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until soft and translucent.
Add the cream and the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
When the garlic is done, cool slightly and squeeze the wonderful garlic paste into the soup.
Stir in the garlic.
Cut or tear the crusts from the ciabatta, rip the bread into small pieces, and add to the soup. Add the sherry vinegar and simmer for 5 minutes.
In a food processor, blend the soup. Add the toasted almonds and blend those in as well.
Season to taste.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with orange segments, cilantro and mint. Drizzle with olive oil.

sans garnish