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february-2009-004I’ve really been hyping my first use of the KitchenAid stand mixer you ladies got me. And let me tell you: our initial run together was an earth-shattering success.

My friends, I present to you Smitten Kitchen’s Car Bomb Cupcakes. I was so excited that I took an annoyingly large number of pictures, so you’ll have to bear with me.

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I love the feeling of cooking a new recipe and knowing that it’s going to become a go-to dish for me. That’s how I felt when I made the grapefruit yogurt cake, and the Grandfather’s soup, and the black bean quinoa dish a couple of weeks ago. And now I’ve found another! I present to you, adapted from Smitten Kitchen as always, the dish that made Dave do an interpretive dance of deliciocity:

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This recipe is adapted from one in The Ultimate Soup Bible by Anne Sheasby. My Dave gave it to me last Christmas and so far this soup is my fave from the book.

See the snow in the background?!

See the snow in the background?!

The book calls it Grandfather’s Soup, which always leaves me wondering if there has ever been a grandfather in the history of time who knew how to make soup. I mean, that’s grandma territory, right? Still, I like the name because it sounds like there’s a story behind it. A story that you could easily make up and use to impress someone who’s eating the soup.

Click here to keep reading this friggin awesome recipe RIGHTNOW!!!

I’m not talking about Dave, although our three-year anniversary is tomorrow and I’m excited-slash-nostalgic that it’s our last anniversary before we’re married. Also, being jobless = no present-buying on my part, so I’d luuurve any suggestions you  have for me. Don’t worry, he doesn’t read this unless I tell him to.

Anyway. That is not what I’m trying to tell you about. You brought something up in your earlier post that made my soul cry out in longing. I’ve kept relatively quiet (for me) on this front, since I didn’t think that anyone would agree with my forbidden love. But I could tell that you, Linds, understand the depth of my devotion. Once you’ve used one, you can never go back. And I’m still a virgin to it! I’ve never laid so much as a finger on one.

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O, Kitchenaid Professional Stand Mixer, how I long for thee! Like Britney Spears to a bag of Cheetos, my soul reaches for you no matter what anyone says! I don’t care that you’re overpriced and take up more room than I have in my kitchen! I need you. I will lovingly prepare a haven where you can rest between bouts of foodmaking with me.

So, yes, I will be registering for one. Molly, I know you’re reading – did you end up getting one of these guys? Are you glad you did? My only concern is that it’s sorta spendy…and I’d rather my guests didn’t feel weird about getting it for me. Thoughts? Comments?

So I came across this recipe and thought it sounded amazing. I mean, apples? Bacon? How could you possibly go wrong?

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But I gotta be honest. It didn’t knock my socks off like some of the other stuff I’ve been cooking up recently. I did modify the recipe somewhat due to laziness and Trader Joe’s not having escarole. I used Belgian endives instead, which are in the same family as escarole, (foolishly?) thinking that there would be little difference.

However! There was some potentch there, which is why I’m telling you about it. Plus, it was easy. So here’s what I did, with little notes about what I would change in the future. My advice is not to plan on making this, but if you happen to see some particularly good-looking endives/escarole/apples/bacon at the store, then grab the other two ingredients and have at it. You probably have everything else you need in your kitchen, or can find a good substitute.

  • Ingredients: 4 strips of turkey bacon, 1 green apple (but if I made this again I would use at LEAST two, if not three), 12 endives (TJs sold them in packs of three…I would have been fine with just 9 but I was being careful. Also, I’ll bet escarole would be better anyway), chicken or vegetable broth (maybe a quarter cup), some lemon juice
  • Get your man to cut some turkey bacon into thin strips and throw them into the pan on medium heat.
  • Cut the apple into thin pieces – not as chunky as the Kitchn recipe recommends. 
  • When the bacon looks crispy and delicious, take it out of the pan – THEN add the apple. If you try to have the apple and the bacon in the pan at the same time, as the Kitchn suggests, it gets confusing. Also, you might want to have a tiny bit of butter or olive oil on hand, since when we did this the apple seemed to want to stick a bit.
  • When the apple browns, toss in the endives (or escarole). Add the broth and some glurgs of lemon juice (I didn’t actually use lemon juice but I think it would have been a nice addition), then cover the pan but leave a gap for the steam to escape. 
  • After ten minutes, or whenever the liquid evaporates, add salt and pepper to taste and then serve, sprinkling with the bacon.

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So…yeah. I don’t know why I didn’t love this. Maybe it’s because I made so much that I felt compelled to eat all of it, even though it’s really only good as a small side dish. Dave liked it, but he likes everything. It would have been heavenly served over some whole wheat pasta, though. I’ll have to try that next time.

I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen and immediately felt the siren call of potatoes, mustard, garlic, and lemon – the quadfecta of dee-lish, if you will. Also, Dave was happy to go along with the dish because potatoes are so cheap. He’s not a fan of my kitchen forays when they involve 18-dollar Italian jars of balsamic vinegar jelly. We threw this together about an hour and a half before we left for our first T-giving dinner. I was sort of going kooky at that point, muttering to myself and being completely incapable of forming complete sentences because I was on cooking overload. So he very sweetly offered to help by washing and slicing the potatoes, and by helping me toss and roast them. (He also independently decided that he would like to make mulled wine for our T-giving evening, which I found unbearably cute. He did everything by himself and it was delicious and warm just before bed. Jesse would have been proud.)

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The recipe is simple (I would half this* if you were just making it for two, unless you feel like having tons of leftovers, which wouldn’t be a bad thing):

1. Whisk together 1/2 a cup of Dijon mustard (I didn’t have the grainy kind, although I think the dish would have been even better if I had), 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, the juice of one lemon, the zest of 2 lemons, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a tablespoon of garlic paste (or whatever that stuff is) (I really should look into that soon) (but not right now). We forgot the oregano, which I’m sure would have been good, but I certainly didn’t miss it.

2. Hopefully you’ve used your biggest bowl for this, because next you dump in all of the potatoes and toss them until they’re coated in the mustard mixture.

*You know what? On second thought, I think this would be INCREDIBLE if you didn’t half the mustard mixture, but DID half the amount of potatoes. Yes. That would be amazing. Granted, maybe with grainy mustard it would be a little too intense, but if you’re using the smooth kind, make as much of the mustard mixture as you can because holy crap it’s run-on-sentencely delicious.

3. SPRAY TWO COOKIE SHEETS (we forgot to do that and ended up wih a few casualties that cleaved to the sheets during the roasting process). Spread the potatoes evenly on each sheet and slide them into your 425-degree oven, one sheet on the top rack and one on the bottom. After 20 minutes, stir the potatoes around a bit and swap the sheets’ positions. Leave for 25 minutes and prepare yourself for amazing, amazing amazingness.

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One little sidenote: by the time we got these to the first T-giving dinner (in a glass bowl covered in tin foil), they were already a tiny bit soggy and not as crispy-delicious as they were right out of the oven. They were still bomb, though. And I hate myself for using that word, but there’s really no better expression for the way I felt when I ate them. Anyway, I’d recommend either serving the potatoes immediately, or keeping them on the cookie sheets and sticking them in a 350+ degree oven for about five minutes just before you dish them out.

blog-pictures-0401You THOUGHT it was my grapefruit yogurt cake, but it was actually just pumpkin bread, baked in the same pan. I don’t deserve much cred at all for this little guy, since it was a boxed mix that I bought at Trader Joe’s. All I had to do was add oil, water, and an egg. Still, when I took a picture, it looked like it had a halo, so I figured that somebody was trying to tell me something.

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The one thing I DID do from scratch for this little guy was the glaze. Alas, it was a simple (yet AWESOME) recipe: 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, some dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. So good. So, so good.

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Also, we started eating these as soon as they came out of the oven (I made two loafs in 8×4 loaf pans…in hindsight, I could have fit the batter all into one pan, but oh well). So the result is that there is no good picture of a whole one. Ooooopsieeeees.

Pie crust freaks me the eff out. Yesterday I made a version of the Cook’s Illustrated vodka crust – yes, VODKA crust – but instead of the shortening, I substituted 4 extra tablespoons of butter. I ended up making enough for six single crusts, but I only actually baked two of them. I filled them with the nutmeg-maple cream pie that I made last year.

I was a complete psycho about keeping everything cold, which is a must when making pastries. I mean, seriously. I put EVERYTHING in the freezer or the fridge. Even the flour, and the butter before and AFTER I’d cubed it.

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I ended up adding an extra 1/8 cup water to the dough because I couldn’t for the life of me get it to come together. Eventually I just dug in with my hands and made some dough art, just for you, Linds.

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Next, I made dough hamburger patties, wrapped ’em in saran wrap, and dumped them in the fridge. I’ll be making more pies next week, but honestly, the two I made yesterday sucked my soul a little bit and I just don’t think I can dive straight back in.

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I didn’t take a picture of the first crust because…let’s just say it’s not very pretty. I need work on my dough-molding skills. It collapsed a bit on one side, so I wasn’t able to fill it completely. Oh well. The nutmeg-maple cream pie is NOT about the crust. It’s about the food orgasm that you fill the crust with.

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Here’s the recipe I used for the crust:

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup vodka from your freezer, and I KNOW you’ve got vodka in your freezer
1/4 cup water, poured from a big glass that has ice cubes in it 

Cube the butter (it’s easy; just cut the stick length-wise, then turn it 90 degrees and cut it lengthwise again, then slice into cubes). Plop it into the fridge. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt together in a big bowl that, if you’re me, you’ve had waiting in the freezer for the last hour.

Next! Put the butter into the dry ingredients, get out your pastry mixer, and proceed to give yourself carpal tunnel syndrome trying to bring everything together. Seriously. My hand is sore right now. I ended up having to put the bowl on the floor of the kitchen and squat over it like a baboon to actually get the butter to break down. Maybe it was a little TOO cold. 

When everything’s roughly pea-sized (or smaller), add the water and vodka. I just poured both of them into the same mixing cup, followed by a splash of vodka into the cup in my face (a.k.a. my mouth). With a spatula, try to get the dough into larger chunks. This is ridonkulously frustrating and hard, if I’m being honest, because the dough just didn’t seem to want to come together. There were still grains of flour and butter at the bottom of the bowl, and the only way I got rid of them was by using my hands and practically kneading the dough like bread. I kept the glass of ice water nearby and added it one tablespoon at a time until I could get the dough to stay in one piece. Eventually it formed a ball (you saw that above in the sculpture I made for you) which I divided in half and refridgerated. Lovely.

Keep the dough in the fridge for at least an hour, but preferrably longer, until it’s pretty hard. Then, pull it out and stick it between two flat sheets of saran wrap. Using a cold bottle of wine (because I don’t have a rolling pin, plus the wine stays cold which helps keep the dough cold), roll the dough out until it’s a 12-inch diameter circle-ish shape. You’ll end up having to unpeel and reposition the saran wrap so that it doesn’t stick to itself and prevent the dough from rolling out.

THEN!!! Keeping the saran wrap on the dough, put it on a cookie sheet and stick it in the freezer for about three minutes or so. Any longer and it will harden into the shape of the sweet potato fries you got from Trader Joes, and then you’ll have to wait for it to thaw when you’re ready to put it in the pie dish (p.s., those fries are friggin DEE-lish, and if you haven’t tried them yet, then you must drop everything immediately and rectify the situation).

Take it out, remove the top layer of saran wrap, and cut a niiiiice 12-inch circle. I used a bowl in my kitchen for a guide cut around it. Get rid of the excess dough, and keeping the circle on the bottom layer of saran wrap, turn it over into the pie dish. At this point, I won’t even try to advise you on what to do because I was such a failure, but…..I gently pressed the dough down into the shape of the 9-inch pie dish, leaving the saran wrap on until it was settled. Then, I peeled off the wrap, folded the edge under, and tried to make it pretty. As you can see from the pictures, that didn’t really happen. To keep my second crust from collapsing, I actually molded part of the edge under the rim of the pie dish, to give it some grip. I’m sure that’s a cooking no-no, but it did the trick.

FINALLY, put the crust back in the fridge for a while, until it hardens up again. THAT’s when you start your maple cream pie filling. I didn’t deviate from the Smitten Kitchen description for this one, so I won’t repeat it. Here’s the link again, just in case. The only thing I changed was that I didn’t strain the filling through a mesh strainer because I’m lazy and it seems like a ridiculous waste of time and effort. Also, when I added the cream to the maple syrup, it was so cold that it froze the bubbles in the syrup and I ended up with this tangle of hardened maple stuck to my spoon. I panicked and screeched at Dave to make an emergency trip to get more cream, but he remained calm and told me that the maple would probably re-melt once everything got heated up. Whaddya know, he was right – it just took a couple of extra minutes. Still, he went out to the store and got me more cream, just in case. AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

One more thing: the pan that had the maple syrup and cream in it…well, let’s just say that you’re a fool if you don’t put your entire face in it and lick it out after you’re done mixing the pie filling. Holy em-effing eff, it’s amazing.

And….that was a lot of text with no pictures, for which I apologize.

We’ve been really bad lately about polishing off our produce. I think it’s because Chicago grocery stores do this weird thing where they pre-package their veggies and then price them as a unit (rather than by weight? I’m not sure). The result is that if you need six tomatoes and the store only has a four-pack, you’re going home with eight tomatoes.

So…that’s sorta what happened to us, I guess. No it’s not. I’m lying. I just impulse bought a crap-ton of tomatoes. And I opened the fridge today to see a bunch of soft, lumpy tomatoes that would be disgusting to eat raw (unless you’re Dave, who will eat just about anything unless he’s allergic to it).

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This is a little easy trick that my mom taught me. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Take all of the tomatoes you have no use for (or even the ones you have; this is friggin’ delicious). Halve them and stick ’em in a rimmed dish of some sort.

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Then, mix together a couple of glurgs of olive oil, some ground garlic (is the stuff in a tube ground garlic? I never know what to call it. Paste? I suppose I could get up and look in the fridge, but the computer battery is keeping my lap warm and I don’t want to), and whatever herbs you feel like. I put cumin, marjoram, dill, and oregano in this batch. I use cumin in EVERYTHING. I’ll bet a real chef would be horrified by me.

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Then, drizzle that shizz all over the tomatoes. Ohhhh yeah. Just like that. Mmmm baby. That’s good.

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Sprinkle with salt and pop it in the oven for 25 minutes (or whenever the tomatoes look a bit wrinkled and soft). At this point, your boyfriend will either a) try to eat one of the scorchingly hot tomatoes fresh out of the oven, b) say “Hey, that’s not the way it looked last time!” or c) all of the above. Banish him from the kitchen, grab a fork, and mash up the tomatoes until you have a nice dish of deliciousness.

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Transfer to a bowl, toast up some slices of pita (or whatever) in a pan, and un-banish your man. Pig out. Then camp out by your condo’s front door and listen to people in the hallway saying, “My LORD, what IS that AMAZING smell? Is there a restaurant next door?!”

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This is ridonkulously simple, but I’ve never made teriyaki before so I figured I’d share last night’s adventure into the world of Asian cooking.

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It was actually pretty dang great. We still have a bunch left in the fridge and I even got over my disdain for eating leftovers for lunch today.

Ingredients:

3 small chicken breasts

Sesame oil

Tamari sauce

Rice wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, or lime juice

Brown sugar

2 small red onions

Brown rice

See our set table in the background?

See our set table in the background?

Step 1: Make your boyfriend cube the raw chicken because you’re too squeamish to touch it. Also make him start the brown rice in the rice cooker because you don’t know how to use it.

Step 2: Dice the onions and begin to sautee them in a pan with some sesame oil.

Step 3: In a pie dish, combine 1 part sesame oil to two parts Tamari sauce,  a splash of the vinegar/lime juice, and some brown sugar…I think I probably put about a two tablespoons of it but I can’t be sure. Just make sure that you make enough to coat all of the raw chicken (and have some left over to pour into the pan when you begin to cook the chicken).

Step 4: Oh! I forgot! I also had garlic in with the onions! But that’s optional. Once the onions start to look friggin awesome, dump everything that’s in the pie dish – including the sauce – into the pan.

Step 5: When your boyfriend’s not looking, add another good glurg of delicious sesame oil, but then he’ll catch you and yell at you about how he wants to be healthy and not eat so much fat. Tell him that you needed to cut the Tamari flavor a bit. Then he’ll tell you that he would rather you add brown sugar to cut the Tamari flavor, to which you’ll reply that a glurg of sesame oil isn’t nearly as bad for you as extra sugar. He’ll say (without once ironically glancing down at his 6’4″, 168-pound Adonis-like body) the he’d like to eat more sugar over more fat ANY day.

Step 6: Magnanimously apologize.

Step 7: When the chicken is cooked through, serve it over the brown rice. When your boyfriend starts saying “Mmmmm this is soooo goooooood,” say “See? Aren’t you glad I added the sesame oil?”

Step 8: Feel guilty because he’ll agree with you and be very sweet and apologetic about his backseat cooking, and now you look like a crabby, score-keeping housewife.

 

Poor Dave. He’s so nice to me.