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.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ch-Ch-Changes!

Decided it was time for a change in my layout. I know it's silly to point out, and it was a little hard for me to give up my dots! But this is pretty cool too. I enjoy the blue gas burner flames.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pancakes and Pulled Pork

I have no idea what to make for dinner. I wanted to make a sauceless sausage pizza. Like in those pizza chain commercials with sauce to dip? But we're out of yeast (unfathomable!). Matt still has a cold, so why bother making something tasty if he can't eat it. I offered him pancakes. Caloric, soft and easy to eat. Just what a sick person needs. I'm more of a savory breakfast eater. My sweet breakfasts are limited to real bake shops and holidays.But pancakes for one sick person is no trouble to make.

I'm staring into the freezer, debating frozen pizza, grilled cheese with bacon and looking into a jungle of frozen meats. Dinner for one is so unmotivating.
Matt wasn't in the mood for bacon, which rules out the motivation to defrost and cook bacon.

I finally settled on pulled pork. Put in a sandwich? Or eggs?....What about cooked inside a pancake?

Now, there's an idea. How would it taste? Sweet, fluffy pancakes with pulled pork in the middle?...It sounds like an interesting concept. It could be delectable or a wasteful disaster. Pulled Pork Pancake drizzled with maple syrup?...That actually sounds almost good, to my over active sweet tooth.

It sounds like something you'd find in one of those overly trendy restaurants that puts Celery Ice Cream and Bacon Vodka on the menu.  Not like that's a bad thing.

It'd kind of be like a filled crepe. Only thick. And a pancake.

...I'll have to think about it. I think I've been so bored today I'm dying for a reason to play with my food.


More Later!




**** Later *****
The more I thought on it, the more I wanted to try it out. I know eggs and pulled pork is all kinds of awesome proteiny deliciousness. But I really felt like playing. How bad could it be? Pancakes: Tasty. Pulled Pork: Delectable. How could this possibly go wrong!?

I made silver dollar pancakes. I figured pulled pork in the pancake might be a little difficult to make consistent throughout.
They came out a little thicker than I might have liked, but they are fluffy and light just the same.

I'm stacking these pancakes as artfully as I could, but I haven't taken a food photography class, so I can't figure out anything but making it taste good, and it never feels right when I arrange it this way or that. So screw it. It's going to get cold! So I'm sorry if it isn't ascetically pleasing.
The first forkful looks delicious. I don't know why I thought this would be weird. It looks just like a pulled pork sandwich. Isn't there a whole chain of Chicken and Waffles in the South?

The first forkful is delicious. The texture of the pancake is more pleasing
than bread or a bun; sweetish, light, soft...It's a pancake. The sauce from the pork absorbed into the layers of pancake.

All in all, pretty tasty. Almost exactly what I expected. The pork needs more sauce to make up for what is lost in pancake absorption, but now I know. Pancakes and pulled pork: not as weird as I thought.

Chicken Broth, Julia Child and Food Love

Another lazy Friday (it is Friday, right?) I got a stack of movies at the library the other day to get through the "Snowver Kill" and Matt's cold. Mostly animated movies like "Hoodwinked", "How to Train Your Dragon" and "Up". But I also got "Julie and Julia". I put it on as I was making chicken broth with what was left of the roast chicken. 

I've forgotten how much I enjoyed this movie. I love Meryl Streep as Julia. She's so charming. It's awakening the old me. The person who existed at The Culinary Institute of America. Who'd leap out of bed in the morning, put on her chef whites and with eager enthusiasm went to breakfast in the lower floor kitchen (Best breakfast and best place to eat!). The in-classmade sausage! The perfect homefries! The indescribable eggs, cooked to order! The fluffy pancakes or crisp and soft waffles. The kitchen was a carnival of so many wonderful aromas of breakfast. I wasn't an egg eater until I experienced a C.I.A Breakfast. Their Daily Special Scramble has changed my Breakfast Life.

I loved to eat and to learn at school. I couldn't get enough of sitting in the bakeshop, listening to these incredibly talented Chefs explain to me how these wonderful ingredients work together to create crusty sourdough, airy chocolate mousse and caramel filled chocolates.

Julia is showing me again that love of food. Food! Food is life for me. I long for what Julie and Julia has done. At home in the kitchen, experimenting with this and that just for the experience of learning.
I loved learning that in the baking world, precision is practically anything. A few degree difference in the water temperature when proofing yeast can make your yeast well fed, bubbly and happy or a dud. Or how well your meringue will whip depending on how clean your bowl is and how warm the whites are. It's all so fascinating and delicious.

If I had a job that could allow me to spend my time off and my money just playing with my food again Matthew and I would be incredibly happy, well fed and a few pounds overweight. I would spend all day on a beef stew. Hours on tempering chocolate for candy. Work endlessly on creating the perfect baguette. Aahh, maybe someday.

I can't fully describe the love I used to have for food...The love that's coming back little by little since I left my last job. Now I love to plan meals, think of the best way to cook beef or pork. Dream of a great pizza dough. Food is such a simple joy and pleasure. It's love. It's creating something out of simple things. And Julia got that. She wanted us to know that. Her passion for cooking and helping us be able to cook well is a gift.

...My chicken broth is a little fatty. Which adds an extra step of chilling the broth so I can skim it before I put it in the freezer in little baggies,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Haphazard Soup

Matthew has had a cold for a few days. Which means I'm cooking dinner for one. Last night I made myself pulled pork quesadillas with corn and cheddar. It was everything a quesadilla needs to be: cheesy, meaty and crispy. The sour cream was the usual deliciously creamy cold addition.

Last night Matthew asked me to throw together some soup: sauteed cabbage, chicken, carrots. We keep boulion cubes for assorted uses, and served as the base. It really wasn't much, but when cooking for someone who couldn't taste anything I didn't have much to loose; how would he know if it wasn't great?

He asked for the same thing today, so I took more care this time, and made a bigger batch. I chiffonaded the cabbage into smaller bite sized pieces and sauteed it with more spices and some corn. I picked apart the chicken to nothing more than skin and bones, and threw in a drumstick into the pot for a little more flavor. I even threw in a bay leaf for good measure. I went more heavy handed on the pepper, paprika, onion and garlic powder.
The soup is simmering and it really doesn't smell too bad. I'm just waiting on the carrots to cook through and it'll be ready to eat. Even though it smells alright, I think I'm going to stick to something else. We have a small amount of beef in the fridge that might be tasty in a stir fry or sauteed for a salad.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cara Cara Oranges

My winter love has returned. I have a very small window for the relationship, and it is quick and delicious.

These little jewels appear to be normal oranges. But on the inside, the flesh is a light pink. They are juicy and some of the sweetest fruit I have ever tasted.
I discovered them this time last year at Trader Joes. Their quirky display and promise of "The sweetest orange" sold me. I wanted to get healthier anwyay, and my favorite Honey Crisp apples were out of season, and I was craving a sweet replacement.
When I got them home I peeled it carefully with a paring knife, the way Matthew had shown me in oranges of the past. Very carefully peeling away as much as that bitter white stuff as I could.
I was surprised by their pink flesh. A little pinker than the flesh of a grapefruit. I sniffed it suspiciously before popping a segment into my mouth....Holy Cow.  This particular orange was juicy. An explosion of sweet juice. It was sweet as a perfect summer melon. I was completely hooked. I ate two more of them before restraining myself, as they were a tiny bit pricey (but totally worth it).

My love for theme continued all winter. I'd go through a 3 pound bag every few days; one for work, two after work. It got a little excessive. But better for me to buy bags of oranges than Kit-Kat Bars, right?

Anyway, I went into the New Year quitting my job, and about a week later, I see the display of Cara Cara Oranges, and I felt such a sense of sadness! I'd have to kick my two bag a week habit fast and somehow pick out one perfect bag. One bag of oranges that looked the most perfect and succulent, and that would be my one bag of the season. Better than nothing, right?...I think I need to get just one more bag. I'm a little disappointed by the bag I selected! A few oranges were tasty, but maybe my memory is exaggerating the incredible swetness of last year.

These oranges are incredibly sweet and tasty and outrageously good for you, so if you see them, grab a bag and enjoy!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pulled Pork

I can sometimes be difficult. Maybe it was the years of learning disibilities and taking a longer road to make things more effiicent for me to learn ("It's longer and more efficient!"). But now I'm an adult, and find it hard to shake the difficult tendencies sometimes.
Case in Point:
I was wandering around Stop and Shop, looking for something tasty (and inexpensive) to cook for dinner, when I saw Pork Shoulder. Not only was it on sale, it had a $2.00 off coupon on it, which made the cost of the pork only $.77/lb. Even counting fabrication loss, it would only drive the Edible Purchase Cost of the pork to about $.99/lb, which was the sale price to begin with. Still a good deal.

Anyway, I get it home and clean out the sink to rinse and trim the fat.
12:30
The fat was thick and resistant to being parted with its lean meat. I struggled with the girth and the resistant fat. I washed my hands and the knives and sharpened them.  I wished Matthew was here. He's a chef, and much more skilled with meats and trimming the fat than I am.
I sighed and kept struggling, working slowly and carefully with the now razor sharp knife. Inch by excruciating inch, I worked my way around the shoulder, carefully trimming away the bulk of the fat.

This is ridiculous. But finally the last of the fat tore away, leaving me with a 82% trimmed fat pork. Better than nothing. If I had more patience and more skill, I'd have a perfectly lean piece of meat on my hands.  But since I am but a simple baker who likes to dabble in meat cookery, I had to take what I could get. besides, a little fat in pulled pork just means juicy tender moist meat.
Into the pan it goes and I massaged it well with oil and basic spices before putting it in a low oven.
After disinfecting the sink area, I'm ready to make some BBQ sauce. Easier and tastier than it sounds!
1:15 The sauce is simmering on the stove, I'm not going to bother tasting it until it has simmered for at least an hour.
2:36
The pork is coming along slowly. I thought it would be a little further along by now, but I have about 8 pounds of pork to cook, so it's going to take awhile. It even smells moist. I went a little too heavy handed on the paprika, but I think when it mingles with 8 pounds of meat plus the BBQ sauce, it'll taper out. The BBQ sauce is tasty! Sweet, and has a kick, but the aftertaste is a punch in the face of acidity that needs to be calmed with a lot of brown sugar and honey.
6:30Pork has been cooled, and it has been picked and pulled right down to the bone. Just need to sauce it and let it cook a little bit more. The meat is so good! Moist and tender and there's so much delicious dark meat! Can't wait to let it socialize with the BBQ sauce.
7:23

Holy Goodness. This meat is moist, sweet, tender. As far as flavor goes, it is sweet and mellow, something I prefer with my pulled pork. But it might need a little more spicy kick to it. But I'm overall happy with it and excited for a pulled pork omelet for Breakfast!


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Eggplant Pizza!

I was feeling adventurous today. Roasted eggplant pizza sounded zesty, but the half an eggplant I roasted shrank a bit more than I would have liked, and it needed a little more toppings.
I caramelized a giant onion, because when it comes to Matthew and I, we seem to go by the belief that "When in doubt, caramelize onions." That zucchini we had in the fridge only had another few days on it, so when the onions were shrunken and condensed, I used the deliciously oniony pan to flash cook them.

I had made the pizza dough this morning to give it time to rise. This recipe is so strange but so perfect. It only needs an hour to rise before it's completely ready to roll. To someone who at one point in her academic career knew and practiced all Tweleve Steps of Bread Baking, this feels a bit weird. I like to try and justify it myself stupidly by punching it down and letting it rise once or twice more.
Wtih the addition of basic pizza dough ingredients, I like to add a hefty dose of garlic powder and parsley. You gotta layer those flavors! The sauce is also from scratch, but pulled from the freezer for ultimate ease of prep!

I've been so bored lately, that I took my time carefully rolling out the dough, arranging it on the pan, pintching the dough into a crust to make it evenly thick throughout, and spreading the sauce. I enjoyed the art of making the pizza and layering everything just so.The eggplant was carefully spread onto the sauce due to the lack of quantity, I wanted every slice to contain each topping. I was most meticulous with the onions. Matthew and I clearly enjoy caramelized onions a little more than the average person, so I was methodical. I should have used another onion, for full pizza coverage, but I think I was adequate enough.

We have no mozzarella, but provolone not only melts well, but adds a sharp layer of flavor. It can also be artistically arranged!

I think I say this to Matthew everytime I make pizza, but this looks like the best pizza I have made. The dough is baking and rising up and feels pillow, soft and tender. The cheese is melting over the vegetables and the yeasty smell venting from the oven is making my mouth water.
The bottom bake is looking nearly perfect, and the cheese is just starting to get a pale golden brown on the edges. The crust is puffy and starting to brown. After it rests for a few minutes, Matthew or myself will attempt not to butcher it when we slice it and hopefully this pizza will taste as good as it smells and looks!

The final verdict: The onions with the cheese is a blend of sharp sweetness. The crust is a cushion of raised yeasted tenderness, but the bottom could have been better with an extra five minutes in the oven. Next time I'll keep it at a higher temperature longer, or knock the temperature down less. But overall satisfactory and filling.




Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mac and Cheese Fondue

I'm finally throwing together the mac and cheese with the left over bit of fondue tonight! Sunday lunch consisted of finishing off the rest of the baguette. I'm not sure I want to know how much cheese and bread Matthew and I consumed in that 24 hour span, but I can promise you it was worth it.

I sauteed some onions to throw into it this afternoon, and I'll probably toss in some frozen corn to my portion for another texture and flavor. And because I love corn in my mac and cheese.Ooh, maybe a dash of Rooster Sauce! If it were Spring, I'd like to toss in some steamed asparagus, if it were Summer, I'd like to dice up some plum tomatoes and fresh sweet corn. But since it's January and icy out, I'll have to go with my standby favorite of frozen corn. Matt just gave me the green light to go ahead and put corn in all of it. So I'm going to do better and sautee some frozen corn with some onions.

I've been looking forward to Mac And Cheese Fondue since we had our picnic lunch on Saturday. The cold consistency reminds me a little of those silver cheese pouches in the Kraft Dinner boxes. It's thick and shivery...But not neon orange. It still smells great, even cold in a bowl.

 "I don't think I'll be needing all of this." I told Matt, feeling skeptical and holding up the half full bowl, containing probably a little more than two cups of thick cheese sauce.
"Ooh, just use all of it!" he said excitedly.


......This is ridiculously cheesy. Even for me or Matthew...Well, maybe not too cheesy for him. But I think the shells will cling onto enough of the cheesy goodness that it even itself out into a more fathomable ratio of cheese to shells. Either way, it smells great and the addition of onions and corn can only make it better.
This smells wonderful. A grown-up version of Mac and Cheese. It has herbs, spices, mustard, Worcestershire, and white wine. Onion sauteed corn and Havarti. It tastes as good as the fondue from Saturday, only now instead of a sexy baguette and salty kielbasa, it's covering pasta shells.This isn't the mac and cheese you had when your mom hired a babysitter (though if you did, lucky you!)

Nearly total or full utilization of leftovers is something Matthew and I (and I imagine everyone) like to aspire to. Nothing makes a meal more delicious to me than knowing we're using up things that normally would have been wasted. I know that might sound a little crazy to some people, but I know thrifty foodies speak my language.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ratatouille and Maple Bacon Fat

"This is not a leftover dinner. We bought this produce specifically for this reason." I said, as Matthew cut the zucchini.
"It is, since we used the vegetables for other reasons." He countered.

Meanwhile, the onions cooking in maple bacon fat is so good I want to take a fork and chunks of good bread and eat that for dinner.

Matthew's making Ratatouille tonight, inspired by seeing tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini in the reduced produce section at the store on Saturday (Don't knock it! Three grapefruits for $1.12? Two eggplants for $.99? Yes, please!)
Obviously, we used one eggplant last night, our justification for two of us buying two gigantic eggplants. 

It took me awhile to come around to the dish. That movie featuring a talking rat and fancy skills....let's not visit that...I have a hard time liking things that the whole country is crazy over. He made it over the summer and it was a filling vegetarian dinner option (For when we feel like a vegetarian meal). But now that he's using bacon fat, maple bacon fat, no less, I'm salivating at the thought of onions mingling with the bacon, and fraternizing with the eggplant and tomatoes. 
It smells so sweet and so good. The maple and the bacon scents are overpowering everything else and I can detect the onions, and it just smells fantastic. Matt and I both wished we still had that bread from Fairway!!

Matthew would like me to point out the reason for the onions being overpowering because it's the only thing that's cooked, and everything will have its own individual flavor, but I insist that is beside the point. Maple bacon fat is so good it's a sin, and pair that with onions cooked in it and you have a crime scene. 


It's going to be another 20 minutes or so of cooking and mingling flavors, so in the meantime I'm prepping the last quarter of the eggplant for roasted eggplant pizza on Friday. Because (nearly) full utilization of product is always a beautiful thing.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Eggplant Cutlets

This is almost too labor intensive to be worth it!

With all this free time I have, as well as not having to get up for work, dinner has been later and slightly more laborous as of late. I'm not trying to get dinner on the table before 6 because I no longer need to go to bed at 7:30.We're making eggplant cutlets with one of the two eggplants in the fridge. Crispy and good with pasta and sauce.

Most of the labor comes from the fact that Matthew and I find store bought bread crumbs of any brand or variety are much too expensive compared to the making our own with bread we already have and don't eat too much off.

The eggplant is peeled, sliced and salted, the hydroscopic deliciousness drawing the water out of the produce. The slices of bread are cooling and I'm dreading the loud, obnoxious sound of pulverizing bread in the Cuisinart.


........It really isn't that much work if you think about it. People long ago prepared a meal like this one in the same way, probably without much thought to how long it took or how inconvenient it seemed...Maybe I'm wrong. But for something we so seldom use it's worth the time to make our own.

Matthew's dredging method is much cleaner than mine, as he possess the patience to keep one hand for one task and the other for another task exclusively. I always end up with hush puppy fingers. He's much more efficient than me.
We like to bake ours with a healthy drizzle of oil, because we only use about a quarter of the oil, which we can use to pan fry other things like pierogies and Latkes or chicken cutlets, or fish, where it's a "requirement" to shallow fry.
I'm sure eggplant isn't the top of anyone's "Healthiest Vegetables" List...Well, I'm almost sure it isn't. But for an occasional inexpensive crispy dinner treat, so crunchy and secretly good with BBQ sauce....But you didn't hear that from me.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cheese Fondue and More Kielbasa

It's Saturday morning, and we're wandering around the new Fairway Market in Stamford. Matthew took a baguette from the display, and we grabbed a gallon of milk.

In the car on the way home, he mentioned he wanted to make cheese fondue. We still had pounds and pounds of sliced cheese in the freezer from a catering gig he did a few months ago. And with the other half of the kielbasa waiting to be cooked, it sounded like a tasty and filling special lunch.


The cheese fondue is aromatic. The sauteed kielbasa smells inviting. Cheese, bread and meat for lunch! A lazy Saturday watching BBC's "The Office" on DVD, on a spread out blanket having a picnic lunch.



It's a simple fondue of white cheeses: Swiss, Provolone, and Havarti. With just a smidgen of American to bind it together.  Along with basic spices of salt, pepper, Worcestershire, garlic/onion powder, and mustard. It's so basic and so delicious.It started out a touch too thin as we began eating, but after the third or fourth bite, it cooled and thickened to the perfect viscosity to coat porous bread and thick slices of kielbasa.


The bread swelled with cheese as we submerged it into the fondue. Absorbing and coating a plain (but so very tasty) baguette with cheesy goodness.


Matthew thinks it needed about two ounces more cheese, but the flavor was good. My opinion is that it was a nice balance of all the cheeses, it was hot, viscous, and blended so well with the kielbasa and the bread.


We have a bit left, which I hope will make amazing Mac and Cheese on Monday.



Friday, January 14, 2011

Cabbage and Kielbasa

....I smell onions cooking. One of my favorite cooking smells.

Braised red cabbage probably isn't your first reaction to "What sounds good for dinner tonight?" I've been there. When Matthew wanted to stove top braise cabbage the other night, I wasn't "exactly" "thrilled". But we had a whole head to use up and there wasn't anything else at that moment that we could do with it. Long story short, I was pleasantly surprised by not only the bright color, but it was braised in such a way that it tasted good. Sweet and not as cabbagey as I might have expected.

It's two nights later, and we'd like to use the remaining cabbage head. So we're making it again. Our side was figured out, but not the main portion of the meal. I managed to find kielbasa in the freezer, which would save me a return trip to the store.

The kielbasa cooking on the stove smells sweet, savory and like really, really thick hot dogs.  I kind of wish we cooked it in the maple bacon fat I have in the fridge (I have no shame for my shameful love for bacon fat), but Matthew said it wouldn't matter at that point.

The cabbage is bubbling away on the stove, the potatoes are boiling, and we just need to sear the heck out of that kielbasa!  It's all coming together in a winter night's meal. Fatty, filling, hot, sweet and salty. This meal couldn't be any more perfect if I braised beef. If only I had a proper beer to go with it.

This was an almost authentic Polish meal. The red cabbage was incredibly sweet and surprisingly tasty. The kielbasa had a mighty nice dark sear to it, bringing out the flavor depth. Put together and it was a burst of classic flavor pairing.

It has to be said, Matt is an amazing cook. Over our years of being together, he's introduced me to foods I never expected myself to be eating. If a guy can get a notoriously overly picky eater (as a child...okay, and into my teens) to not only sit and finish her serving of red cabbage, but to actually look forward to sitting down and eating it, he obviously has some kind of secret skill.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pierogies and caramelized onions. Spectacular.

We have a lot of potatoes.

Pounds of potatoes that were on the edge of sprouting.

After a meal of (crispy perfect) latkes we decided to make mashed potatoes with dinner last night so we could have pierogies for dinner tonight. Something I haven't really had since the days of school. Pan fried, topped with caramelized onions and sour cream. Hot, soft, crisped dough, the mellow cold sour cream, the savory flavor depth of the onions combine into this color wheel of flavors and textures.

Matt is currently rolling out the dough I made this morning (mashed potato based). They are looking plump and great. The onions on the stove smell wonderful.

The dough was blissfully easy. It got me thinking about other fillings for them besides mashed potato. What about a meat filling; some kind of annoyingly uncreative take on Shepard's Pie? Mashed sweet potatoes? Sauteed veggies? Everyone loves pan fried dough with assorted fillings! Every culture has their own and I haven't met a dough rolled, fashioned into a pocket, filled and fried I didn't like.

The mashed potatoes were slightly too garlicky last night, but tonight the flavor spread throughout the dough and brought out the other flavors of the ingredients. The pierogies are just a touch thicker than I remember, making them plump, soft on the inside, and a nice golden brown and delicious crisp on the outside.

We had three stout pierogies each, piled with sour cream, onions and sauteed corn. Filling as a single bite of lembas.