Shamleless Plug

I'm embarking on a new part of my life that is happier and going in a direction! It's really refreshing.

I was married May 19th, 2012 to a great guy I met at the C.I.A and we're go excited to embark on a life together. He has as culinary degree to match my baking and pastry degree. It's going to be a Good life.

I hope you enjoy my thoughts on food and cooking. I am but a humble baker, who happens to love cooking and embraces the joy of food.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Food and Grammar Jokes

Matt, reading a cookbook: "Oooh, Morels with Madeira!"
Me: "I only understood a third of that sentence."
Matt: "Well, 'Morels' is a mushroom, 'with' means 'to accompany' and Madeira is a sweet wine."
Me: *laughs uncontrollably* "That's good! That's really funny!"

For the record, I know what "Morels" are and what "With" is.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mac And Cheese

It was 12:30 on a Friday afternoon. I had been thinking about what to make for dinner all day. The chicken I had taken out the night before was almost fully thawed in the fridge. I wondered if either Matt or I had it in us to fabricate, make bread crumbs, dredge and cook chicken cutlets. Then I got the text from Matt: "I have dinner." Yes! Whatever it was, I was happy.

He came up the stairs carrying fried chicken that he made at work. "Ooh, can we have it with mac and cheese!?" I asked.

Macaroni and cheese. A staple in a kid diet. We used to have that Velveeta mac and cheese dinner, with that squishy neon orange cheese pouch. It paired well with Minute Maid Berry Punch. But as I grew and my tastes evolved, I somehow came across Annie's Shells and white cheddar. That lovely purple box with the rabbit of approval.

I don't know when it was that I first had this uncommonly delicious food. But it was probably when I was babysitting kids with a mom who had good taste in dinner. Whenever it was, I became hooked. No more of that squishy pouch for me.

White shells and cheddar was mild but cheesily delicious. The shells absorb and hang onto the sauce. A little bit of butter, a little bit of milk and you have lunch, dinner, breakfast, snack. Didn't matter. 

It was a staple for quick but wholesomey dinners. Burgers with a side of Shells and white cheddar? Dinner in your dorm room? Yes, if you can stand to cook the pasta on high for fifteen minutes, almost scald yourself trying to pour water down the drain, and not manage to drop it with the heat of the bowl. Don't ask me how I know that......It was the first thing I made for Matt in that early stage of dating.

Then something wonderful happened. Trader Joe's started selling Annie's microwavable Shells and Cheddar!  In single servings! And it was good. A few seconds under the directed cooking time and you have a slightly al dente alternative to peanut butter crackers. The trick was to under cook it slightly and add slightly less water to boil. That made the sauce thick and cheesy and bold and delicious.

I tried a box of Velveeta Shells and cheese last November. Just to see how it was after all these years of purple box bunny goodness. It was kind of "Meh." After boxes of the Shells and Cheddar, Peace Pasta and Parmesan, and other delicious varieties, Velveeta just didn't compare. My favorite Shells and White Cheddar with half a cup of sweet corn. Holy goodness. Crisp, sweet yellow corn nestled inside the wee shells that are coated in white cheddar? You can't say no to that.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Holidays are coming!

Well, here it comes. The holiday season. Two months of non-stop commercials, sales, and general holiday cheer lunacy. For us in the food industry baking world, it means various degrees of kindness and patience from customers, ranging from "Oh, I totally understand that the pie wont be ready til 12! I can surely come later in the day." to "WHY CAN'T I HAVE A CHERRY PIE IN DECEMBER!!?!?? *click*"  Ho! ho! ho! We've all been there.

.....Anyway.... It's great that it's going to be chilly and blustery, because all those warm and filling dishes can be made and frozen! With the crazy holidays coming up, hours are early and late. So I can do one of three things: Make things for the freezer, pick up whatever looks good at Whole Foods, or let Matt cook. Or! The secret fourth option: Going through Mcdonald's and wolfing down whatever it is I buy before I reach the first stop light out an letting Matt fend for himself.

Clearly, the first three are better. I love Matt's cooking, but I hate for him to cook a meal after he works all day doing just that. Whole Foods has amazing soups, pizzas, sides, sandwiches and all kinds of wonderful things to eat in a pinch, but if I'm getting out of work at 5pm after being there since 2 am, driving to a store would make me nutty and agitated.

But I enjoy the idea of making things ahead of time, I'm generally excited to make things for the freezer. Today, I'm going to make chicken and biscuits and a pot pie. The usual delicious half butter/ half shortening crust, lots of corn, (unpeeled) potatoes (or even better, sweet potatoes!), parsnips, peas, onions and celery.Possibly mushrooms. Some people may be content with a plain mirepoix and potatoes chicken pot pie, but I love my pot pie bursting with crisp vegetables. I'd put butternut squash in, if Matt would let me.

I admit it's a lot of work. Pulling the chicken meat (preferably a roasted chicken for that little extra something), chopping the vegetables, parcooking them, making whatever your crust preference is, and the nice delicious creamy filling (whatever you prefer. I'm a fan of half cream of whatever soup, and adding stock, cornstarch, and so many lovely spices).One tin of chicken and biscuits or a pot pie for two people means one main meal and lunch, plus a snack for each of us.
It's worth the 45 minutes of work on your day off to have zero effort on the day when you really can't bear to think about washing your hair, let alone chopping carrots.

I'm so excited for the cold weather. I love filling hearty meals. Best for the freezer, best for pulling from the freezer into the fridge and then into the oven after work. No mess, little clean-up, and 100% delicious and hearty. Cheaper than take out. Better than McDonald's. 

I think next time I'll do a Shepard's pie, with sweet potatoes. My mother started making that a year or two ago with left over beef, and it's one of my most favorite winter meals. Peas, corn, beef, sweet potatoes! Yum. Or maybe some kind of pastry wrapped meat? Biscuits filled with ground beef and cheese? Or perhaps a veggie pot pie? So many delicious things and so little space in my freezer!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Reposting, Marshmallow Junkie

I made chocolate marshmallows less than a week ago. It was an 8x8 baking dish, and they were very thick and damn perfect. They are almost gone, and I'm pretty sure I consumed about 80% of them. I am considering making more, and went to do a post about Marshmallows, my die hard addiction, and I forgot I did two years ago. So to hell with it! I'm re posting it. Isn't that what bloggers do? No? Oh well.

Marshmallow Junkie

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I love milk.
Sometimes, I feel like milk is a wine, and pairs better with some meals more than others. Pizza and a salad? Not so much. Hearty beef strew and rolls? Heck yes!

I drank a lot of milk growing up.We're spoiled by good milk in this area. Stew Leonard's milk is full of body and mouth feel. I've found that when it comes to their milk, it is so fresh that each level percentage tastes like one level higher than it really is. Skim tastes like 1% and 1% like 2% and 2% is creamy, delicious and rich.

At some point in my pubsent life, we made a switch to skim milk (probably due to all that cultural pressure of 'healthy eating' and 'weight loss'). When it came to Stew's milk, I hardly noticed the difference, as it was still creamy and had a nice mouthfeel. But any other kind was just thin, watery and disappointing.

But I kept with the skim. God knows why. At school, we had fresh milk from a dairy fairly close by the school. The quality of the skim was still better than most brands. At school, we had skim milk dispensers and whole milk dispensers, which allowed a whole spectrum of milk fat deliciousness. Mostly skim with a shot of whole? Mostly whole with a shot of Skim? Half and half? Any combination was possible and adjustable to combat the potential heat of your lunch or dinner. And they were all fresh and creamy.

One classmate back in B-Block (early freshmen year) refused to drink the milk, because "it was shipped in bags.". It makes me laugh now, because I'm pretty sure most if not all milk in Canada is sold in bags.

Milk and I had an on and off relationship over the seasons and the years, which has comfortably settled into a familiar spot in my fridge.

Now to get out my soapbox here, because it's time for my stand on milk!

Milk contains numerous essential vitamins and minerals. Many of them are fat soluble, which means you can get the R.D.A of them about every other day or so and be healthy, because they are stored in your body fat. This is different from water soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C, because it gets used and flushed out of your body every day.

But it would also be safe to say to get the maximum absorption of fat soluble nutrients you need fat. So if I were to drink 1% milk and someone else were to drink the same amount of skim, I would be getting the most absorption from the nutrients. But whole milk shouldn't really be consumed by anyone over the age of 10, because no one older than a child should be getting that much saturated fat unless they are doing a Triathlon, or something. It's great for baking and cooking, but direct consumption? Not so much.

But as a woman, I feel like milk is important. Your body needs fat to survive. I'm not saying start taking shots of heavy cream, here. I'm just pointing out that skim milk is great, but 1% is even better.
The mouthfeel is much more satisfying, and there's only a marginal calorie and fat increase. I feel that it is  worth the extra fat and calories. When it comes right down to vitamins and minerals, I'll take the few extra calories and the wee bit of fat anytime.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dam Good Soft (and easy) Rolls

...Matt told me to call them that. Because they "Create a dam for the gravy."...Anyway. I was looking for a quick pizza dough recipe, and the dough came out so tender and pillowy, I wanted to use the remaining dough for rolls.  Which came out equally tender. So I wanted to share the recipe with additions of spices.

Dam Good Soft Rolls (or pizza dough)
1-- 1/4 oz package yeast
1 cup warm water
2.5 cups flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp salt
3 tsp sugar
1 tsp garlic powder*
1 tsp onion powder*
2-3 teaspoons paprika (optional)*

* You can use any dried herb or spice you like, it makes the dough remain tender because it helps inhibit some gluten development. These just happen to be my favorite additions

  • Put the warm water in a medium sized bowl, sprinkle the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar over it. Stir gently and let sit for ten minutes. The mixture should look creamy 
  • In a separate bowl, mix the flour, remaining sugar, salt, and the spices of your choice. Mix into the yeast mixture along with the olive oil. Knead for a minute or two or until it forms a smooth ball.You may need more flour. the dough should be soft, pliable but not too sticky or too dry.
  • Let sit for 30 minutes, until it doubles in size. 
  • Knead once more and you can begin to roll it for pizza, or divide for rolls. If using for rolls, let the rolls proof for another 15 minutes. Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes.
  • If using for pizza, roll out, top as desired and bake at 425 for 12-20 minutes, or until the bottom is golden brown and the cheese is melted

Friday, September 10, 2010

Roasted Vegatables

For some people, Fall means sharpened pencils, homework, and the end of the beach. For me, it's roasted vegetables. Roasted vegetables and braised items. I could eat roasted vegetables every day. Especially if it contains sweet potatoes and broccoli. The sweet potatoes get crispy, caramelized and soft.
 What happens to the broccoli I can't really describe. Its florets get crisped. The broccoli flavor condenses into an in-your-face broccoli flavor. It took me awhile to come around to broccoli. Maybe I wasn't ready for it's delicious broccoli flavor.

Parsnips is something I never ate until I reached school. Its first appearance was in beef stew, my top three favorite meal choices at school. Those perfectly batonette cut root vegetables. Savory beefy sauce. Beef braised to tender beefy perfection. Mashed potatoes. Warm dinner rolls. Oh yeah....Nothing better on a cold Hudson Valley November night than a bowl of beef stew from Skills Kitchen.

But I digress......

The parsnips looked like potatoes, especially when coated in beef deliciousness, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover a new root vegetable. To quote Matthew, "They taste like carrots if carrots didn't taste like carrots." Which I completely understood. Funny enough, it makes sense. It's light, rooty, and lacking beta carotene. Paired well when roasted with carrots and sweet potatoes.

Looking forward to roasting more root vegetables and the first braise of the season.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bacon Fat, or Why I need to Check my Drafts on Blogger from time to time. 8/2009

Back when I was trying to lose weight and be healthy , I would never have dreamed of using bacon fat. Now, being a little older, "wiser", and sick of trying so hard, I'm looking at it in a whole new light.
I've learned I eat in stages. Tuesday-Saturday I don't really eat all that much. I muddle through my day picking at cookies, cookie dough and the occasional bagel or iced coffee. It's an occupational hazard. That's what they don't tell you about the food industry; you are lucky to eat. (But I don't mind)
Sunday and Monday, however, I'm a bear. I can't stop eating.

Which brings me to bacon fat. I am obsessed. I love how it smells when first rendered from the bacon, I love its honey color when poured into a container, I love how it solidifies into a whitish gray mass that spreads easily onto bread for frying.

Last week, Matthew brought home some Italian Wedding Soup. I had been craving bacon, so we settled on BLTs and soup. I was shameless. Not only did I substitute fresh hot bacon fat for mayo, but.....I dipped a bit of the sandwich into said bacon fat. Just a corner. Just enough for a small bite. It wasn't greasy or oily. It soaked into the bread, making it moist and warm

I want to buy pounds of bacon to render, and strain it. I want to have Matt make Bacon Mayo out of it. For BLTs with Bacon Mayo, with bacon fat brushed onto the bread and pressed in a frying pan.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Eating in Secret

Growing up, I lived on tuna. Almost literally. Tuna was second only to freshly pan fried chicken cutlets. But for the past few years, I've shunned tuna. Eating it in very rare circumstances. It is fishy, it can be messy. Evidence is difficult to hide. Being at school didn't help. I was weird enough, I didn't need tuna to make it worse.

Now that I'm living in an apartment with Matt, I've come out of the Tuna Closet. I have a few hours to myself after work, a perfect time to dabble in my tuna love.
Today after work, I blew off the gym, citing broken headphones. Also, I needed to get the half frozen chicken out of the fridge for dinner tonight. I was craving tuna.

Some people eat tuna sandwiches, sometimes they eat tuna melts. A few with crackers.
I enjoy tuna in all those forms, but my favorite way to eat it is with chips. Which I don't find weird at all. It's tuna on chips. But maybe stranger still is the best way to eat tuna. The most tasty combination of food, or at least top 20: Tuna and Doritos. It is cheesy, nacho-y and just plain good.

The Doritos were on sale last week, so with little thought, I bought them. And fixed tuna with the usual: salt, pepper, garlic/onion powder, barely enough lite mayo to bind. No celery, please. No celery ever.  Top on Doritos and enjoy.

Tasty, tasty, tasty!
Okay, so I know that's weird. And shameful. And just kinda bizarre. But don't knock it till you try it!
I enjoy a good seared sesame seeded crusted yellow fin tuna (with an Asiany kinda sauce) as much as the next person, but tuna and doritos? Heck yes.

What's your dirty eating secret?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"I'm having a real gastronomical problem with this."

Rabbit. Braised Rabbit.

The problem all started a week ago at Stew Leonards. We were doing basic shopping, when something caught my eye.

"Look, Matt! Rabbit!" I pointed. His face lit up.
"Rabbit!! Oooh! Rabbit! Can we get some, Jenni? Canwecanwecanwe!!??" He said, hopping up and down like a child begging for a puppy.  In the middle of a busy Stew Leonards.
"Auhhhhhh....." I began.
"Pleeaassee!? Pleasepleaseplease! It's $4.99 a pound!!" He begged.
After much discussion, I agreed, and here I am, at the dinner table, staring at my forkful of bunny with trepidation.

The eight year old in me, the one who had a pet dwarf rabbit, is shocked and angry with me. I can see her surprise and disdain. The 24 year old is curious. How bad could it be?

Cut to a week later, and we're braising an effing rabbit.

The rabbit smelled wonderful as it braised during Return of The King. Savory, oniony and garlicky.

However, when I opened the dutch oven, there it was, "Hey! I'm a rabbit! Don't eat me!" Its headless corpse said.

I looked into the pot before we sat down. "Where's the cabbage?" I asked. The cabbage, which we settled on in the store this afternoon, was to replace the parsnips we both wanted but couldn't find.

Ten mintues later, the cabbage is sauteed and added, and we sat down to eat.
He served me a few pieces, along with cabbage and carrots. And sauce. I tore off a piece of bread and dip. Waiting, waiting, waiting.
Now, I know this is not sheep testicles, snake liver, or donkey nose. It is a rabbit. A little bunny-wunny. Real meat. What's my problem? I popped it. And chewed........

Okay, so the sauce isn't so bad. Salty, smooth, has a kick to it. But it has chicken broth in it, so I can't judge on the sauce alone.

Okay, now for the meat. Get a forkful, hold to mouth. Build up nerve and.... eat.

I chewed as it were glass.

"Well?" Matt asks, laughing at my expressions

"......It tastes like chicken thighs." I say. Looking down at my plate. Not really sure how I'm feeling about this. There is rabbit on my plate. And it tastes like chicken thighs with a little bit of gamey to it.

I manage to plod through my meal, managing to eat rabbit with a heavy forkload of cabbage. A vegetable I'm not even that fond of, for the record.

I set down my fork. "I'm having a real gastronomical problem with this." I sigh.
"Why? The rabbit?"
"Yes! I know it's rabbit, but it's really new to me and I'm finding it a bit weird. I mean, I ate veal cheeks, and bison heart and venison at school. And they were great, but this is rabbit." I say. "Rabbit!" I repeat for emphasis.
"This is ridiculous!!" I exclaim, "What if a professor or Chef from school was here, what would they say!"
"They'd say shut up and eat the damn rabbit." Matt smiled, and served himself a forkful of rabbit loin. He poked at it. "It's okay little Midnight!" He said to it, and burst out laughing. Thus joining the ranks of my uncles circa 16 years ago.
"I'm sorry! I couldn't help it, I had to say it!!" He choked out through laughter.

Now I'm sitting here and I've maybe had only five or six bites of rabbit.
What is my deal? Samwise Gamgee would have been proud to have such a nice supper! He and the other hobbits would sit around the pot with a loaf a bread and some ale and talk and eat until the last crumb was gone!

Guess I'm not cut out for rabbit, but the jury is still out. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Two Words: Maple Bacon

The chicken was still too frozen. Which was okay, since roasted chicken with glazed carrots and a salad seemed too fussy for two people who had to go into work on a Saturday.

"Then what do you want to have for dinner?" I asked Matt. He poked around in the fridge aimlessly.
"Grilled cheese sandwiches?" He asked. A memory of finding Maple Bacon in the fridge this afternoon sparked my interest
"With Maple Bacon?" I asked
"And tomato?" (which turned out to not look too great)

I love bacon. Actually, I love bacon fat even more. On more than one occasion, I may have dipped my BLT directly into bacon fat, au jus style. The mouth feel of all the fat from the bacon, bacon fat and mayonnaise contrasting with the tomato and lettuce is so palette pleasing a Theasaurus would hardly do it justice. It is divine, sinful and the height of indulgence.

Add in maple bacon to that, and you have added sweet into that salt and fat. It is the ultimate of flavor contrasts: Sweet and Salty. The favorite favor of all kinds of people all over the world.

I discovered maple bacon in college. Matt and I had started dating and in the traditition of culinary courtship, we got together to cook meals together on weekends, as well as walk to the grocery store.

I believe the first thing he cooked for me with such an indulgence food stuff was Brussels Sprouts. It. Was. Awesome. One bite and I knew, I just knew I'd rarely have a bad meal with this man. He was my knight in bright chef whites.

Anyway, bacon back to the bacon.

I prepared Matt's grilled cheese and put it aside to get the pans heated up. I drizzled a liberal amount of bacon fat into my pan, while piling my grilled cheese with the remaining three slices of maple bacon, which was still shiny with fat, and crispy edges.

The bread absorbed the fat, and created a dark brown crust. The cheese melted all around the bacon, encasing it in white American (I know, I know, but I felt like going Classic, here. We can talk about how it is the bastard of all the cheeses later)

The grilled cheese was a diverse collection of melty, creamy, salty, sweet, crisp, soft and bacony gratification.

I don't even like bacon as a breakfast item apart from an egg sandwich. But when it comes to maple bacon and its fat, the possiblities are limitless.Cook eggs in it, saute vegetables. Round up enough and you can make bacon mayo, if you are so bold.

Sweet and salty. Is there anything it can't do?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Garlic Fingers and Onions

I'm downstairs making garlic bread to go along with a cheese tortellini dinner, and my fingers smell like butter and garlic. Which makes me think of those stainless steel bars of "soap"  used to remove strong odors of garlic, onions and fish. But, why? Why would one want to rub out that aroma of garlicky butter fingers. If you're about to walk down the isle, sure, stainless steel it up! *sniffffff* Ahhh, garlic! First date? If your date can't stand the smell of garlic, you're better off without them, anyway.

At work, I sometimes throw a day old seeded bread loaf in the oven, drenched with melted butter. For my slice, I channel my deceased grandfather and liberally shake Garlic Salt all over it. It is a punch of garlic AND saltiness in your face.

The only thing better than the smell of garlic is the smell of frying onions. Which sets off my Pavlovian reaction for a Pattie melt.  One of my co-workers can't stand onions. When she first said it, I couldn't believe her. "All onions!? Red, yellow, cooked, fried!?" I was incredulous. Oh man, a life without onions?! I could practically eat caramelized onions with a fork and a beer. Actually......