{September 30, 2010}   For the Love of Cheese

I think that I’ve mentioned in passing that I am a member of a book club. What I haven’t said, is that it’s the best book club ever. Seriously. It’s a core group of about eight like-minded ladies (sometimes more, sometimes less) who meet mostly monthly at each others’ houses to eat, drink, chat, gossip and, oh yeah, discuss books. It’s completely laid back. Haven’t read the book? No problem. Can’t come this month? That’s cool. Hated the book? Better luck next time. It’s awesome. It’s way more than I ever dreamed when my dear friend Annika and I came up with the idea. In two years we’ve read a wide variety of books (some amazing, some horrible, some forgettable); tried a plethora of recipes (Carrie’s pumpkin trifle comes to mind); learned from one another (Your husband/boyfriend cooks twice a week? Huh. I’m going to make mine do that!); and straight up had a lot of fun.

Right about now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with cheese, right? Everything. You see, Barb (RouxBarb) was all set to host book club this month when out-of-the-blue her HVAC broke, which totally sucks for Barb. However, for the rest of us it means that we’re doing book club down the street at Los Loros (my very favorite Mexican restaurant in the universe ever). Yes! Thank you HVAC. Don’t get me wrong. I’m totally sympathetic towards Barb and her broken-down HVAC. I am. Really. And Barb is a really good cook and I’m certain I’m totally missing out on some amazing concoctions from her kitchen. Totally. But it’s hard not to be excited when I know that I’ll be having delicious (and strong!) margaritas served alongside some Nachos Los Loros somewhere around seven this evening while sitting in a booth with three (we’re a tad on the small side this month) good friends talking about books. Tequila + melted cheese + books + friends = HEAVEN.

I’m done. This day is awesome.


So, I know that there hasn’t been a recipe this week. It’s not my fault. I promise. Here’s how it happened.

This week G and I went on our long planned, long anticipated beach vacation to Destin. Since we booked the trip about 6-8 months ago, you know I’ve been planning. I found a lovely little one bedroom condo with my very own kitchen.  My theory was that we could go out three nights and cook together three nights (that’s three brand spanking new recipes, people).  In the days before the trip G and I picked out three recipes — a pasta, a poultry and a pork — packed them in my backpack and to he beach we went.  And then…the kitchen. If you could call it a kitchen. It looked like a kitchen. Had a sink and stove and fridge and dishwasher like a kitchen, but it didn’t have any PANS like a kitchen. W.T.F.??? It advertised full kitchen. It advertised a blender (which it had, but it was broken). How was I going to make new recipes with no dishes? Shit. So instead, I drank a LOT of margaritas and we ate out and lounged at the beach and saw sea turtles while flying through the air and watched dolphins from a boat and it was awesome.

So, you see, it’s totally not my fault. It was false advertising’s fault. I’m sure you have guessed by now that on our last day I sent both the condo owner and the company who we worked through a strongly worded letter.  I even spell checked it, as I had had a lot of margaritas.

I’ll make it up to you. I will.  But in the meantime, here are some photos from the trip:

{September 16, 2010}   Logic…logically

This is the conversation G and I had this morning as we were leaving for our respective works:

G: You’re acting crazy.

Me: I am crazy.

G: True.

Me: So I’m just being me.

G: Your logic is astounding.

Now, I am not a logical person by nature. I’ve been called a lot of things – quirky, eccentric, weird, crazy – but never logical. And you know what? I like that about me. I like being quirky and weird and eccentric and crazy. It feels, well, normal.

Society has long expected people to fit into a mold, to live inside the box, to squeeze all of the uniqueness and specialness out of themselves. Homogenization, it’s what’s for dinner. How boring.

As long as your particular brand of crazy doesn’t hurt anyone, what’s the harm? At the very least it will make life more interesting.

I say we revolt. Let’s be ourselves. We’ll roll out the welcome mat to crazy town and let our respective freak flags fly high and proud!

“Damn it feels good to be a gangsta/I mean one that you don’t really know/Ridin’ around town in a drop-top Benz/Hittin’ switches in my black six-fo’”

And by “gangsta,” I obviously mean a member of the Russian Mafia. And by member of the Russian Mafia, I mean a girl who made Stroganoff last night. Cooking Light’s version of Stroganoff, that is. Does that make me a Cooking Light Gangsta? I say it does. I’m a meat cleaver packing member of the CLG. Don’t mess with me.

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming. (Yes, that’s  Monty Python reference)

This week’s recipe comes to you again from Cooking Light: Chicken Stroganoff Pasta.  Super-fun Leslie came over last night to reacquaint herself with the kitties – Queen Imogen the Curvaceous, Chester aka “Chesbo” of the Tripod Clan and G’s weirdo kitty Micah the Cornish Rex. Leslie will be checking in on the furry multitudes while G and I are at the beach next week.  And of course, this seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to try out a new recipe.

Out came the accordion file and this time, the poultry section. I was feeling chicken. Flip. Flip. Eh. Eh. Flip. Flip. Eureka!  Chicken Stroganoff, eh? That would be a huge leap forward in my secret plot to transform all beef dishes into poultry dishes.

“What are we doing tonight, Beth?” asks the recipe binder.

“Same thing we do every night, Binder. Try to take over the beefy world!” I reply.

(Insert diabolical laugh here a la Pinky and the Brain.)

Where was I? Ah, yes. The recipe was straight forward enough. Leslie’s not a big fan of mushrooms, so I just sautéed those up separately to be added to individual dishes as desired. To make up for the loss of body that making the mushrooms optional caused I added half a packet of pencil asparagus stemmed and chopped into two inch pieces.  Also, I used smoked paprika, instead of regular paprika, because that’s what I had. When I tasted the sauce near the end it was lacking a little something, so I added some garlic salt which really helped. I think next time I’ll throw some actual garlic into the mix.

Leslie and I both enjoyed it hot from the pan last night and followed it up with Leslie’s Pecan Bars generously accompanied by vanilla ice cream. Geoff scarfed some stroganoff down for lunch today heated up in the microwave and claims to have liked it too. You can find the recipe here:

Obviously I’m feeling a little strange and multiple personality-esque today, so just for kicks:

{September 12, 2010}   The Apron Chronicles

I was talking to my good friend Rebekah the other day about what she should get her aunt and uncle for their birthdays. We bounced ideas back and forth and eventually talk turned to homemade gifts. From there we progressed to discussing canning and baking – what we’d done, how it worked, what we’d like to do, etc. And then she asked me THE QUESTION.

Rebekah: “Do you wear aprons?”

Me.: “Of course I do. I love aprons. I have like, five.”

And then that cartoon light bulb appeared over my head with a 3000 watt bulb – boing!!!!!!!

Me: “OMG! Rebekah! We could make aprons.”

Rebekah: “Totally. I was just looking at a pattern, and I’ve seen some fabric that is to die for…”

And that is how The Apron Chronicles was born. I devoted the next 20-30 minutes searching for unused, affordable apron patterns on the internet. I wanted options. I wanted vintage style. I wanted half aprons. I wanted it all. And I found it on Etsy for just $9.99. Three pattern packets – S, M and L. Take a look for yourself:

These lovely patterns were shipped on Friday. I can’t wait for them to arrive. I can’t wait to go fabric shopping. Hello $1 a yard bin. It’s been a while. Of course, this will all have to wait until after I get back from vacation on the 25th, but I wanted you guys to know what you have to look forward to: me, waxing eloquently about aprons, fabric, debacles with the sewing machine and basically whatever else I feel like.

Oh, and did I mention that I finally want to finish that quilt this winter? I bought all the supplies years ago and they’ve been collecting dust.

I’m on it. Domestic goddess status in five, four, three, two…

A Little Note About Projects and Me

Let’s start this off right. I’m terrible at projects. Wait. That’s not entirely true. I’m awesome at projects. Hrm. That’s not true either. Let’s try this: I’m great at coming up with projects and even better at starting and accessorizing them. What I don’t do well is finish them. So, let me pre-warn you. This may never happen. Or it could start and then just as suddenly disappear. Be prepared.

{September 10, 2010}   Not All Colors Are Beautiful

I recently lost a handful of friends (may they die in a fire) when they removed their masks and showed their true faces. It was hard, and heartbreaking, to see deceptive users where I once saw friends. I know now that I am better off without their toxicity polluting my life.

Events like this make you take a long, hard look at the people in your life to try and determine who is genuine who is false. Sometimes your gut tells you right away, but some people wear masks better than others. With these people only time will show their true colors. Somehow, I don’t think that’s what Cyndi Lauper was referring to in her song…

Ultimately, I’m lucky. I have a decent sized list of genuine people in my life and a gut that knows better…if I would only listen to it once in a while.

Photo courtesy of Cooking Light

It was my turn to cook last night and the only chance I’d have this week to try a new recipe. The previous evening, racked with guilt over cheating on Cooking Light last week, I was determined to be faithful again. Since Geoff had made his version of Comfort Food earlier that evening, I felt obliged to return the favor. Out came my trusty accordion file and then the section on pasta (anything pasta spells comfort for this carb lover). And there it was: Fettuccine Alfredo with Bacon. Yes!

Here’s the recipe:

Immediately my mind began to tweak the recipe. Wouldn’t this be even better with sliced, sautéed baby bellas? Shouldn’t I use whole wheat linguine to make it even healthier? Yes and yes. And boy was I right. I have long been a lover of Alfredo sauce. I have also long avoided it because of the indulgently high fat content. Now that I have this recipe, though, I can enjoy the occasional bacon-y, mushroom-y, creamy goodness in my very own home with very little guilt. Yay!

I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I (and my trusty sous chef) did!!!

Geoff (who I refer to as “G” or “the boy” and my therapist calls “the puppy” due to his dewy age) and I don’t get to see each other very often. We live together, but he works nights and weekends 5 days a week and I have a regular M-F, 8-5 schedule. So, on the two nights of the week that we’re both home we try to take turns cooking.

It was Geoff’s turn to make dinner last night. Around four o’clock I get a text at work:

Bbq chicken, mashed potatoes and corn. Sound good?

Trying to be a bit healthier lately I reply:

Lose a starch and add a green veggie and it’s fine.

He replies:

You should really let me make you mashed potatoes sometime.

I reply:

Um, I said lose one starch, you can pick which one.

He replies:

Corn is a veggie.

Wow. Yeah. That’s right. He just told me corn was a veggie. Naturally, because let’s face it, I can be a quippy little thing, I write back:

Corn is a grass, in the grain family. Google it.

No response. Oops. That night I come home from work and G’s marinating chicken breasts in barbeque sauce, chopping potatoes (skin on) and has a large clump of asparagus washed, trimmed and ready in the steamer basket. Perfect. Guess he didn’t take that “Google it” text too hard after all.

I sit down on the couch, drinking a tartly delicious strawberry margarita that G made and prepare to relax. And by relax, I mean backseat cook. G is by no means an expert cook, but he’s not a complete amateur either (sometimes he even has to cook at work). However, he is still learning my way (read the right way) to cook, so he asks questions. I take these questions as an invitation to give long, detailed opinions on how things should be done.

For example: Do you want the asparagus steamed or grilled? You’d think one word would suffice, but no. I have to say, “Steamed, because asparagus have such a delicate flavor that the smoke from the grill really overpowers them and then it’s not like you’re even eating asparagus, but some slightly crunchy piece of char.”

Or also in example: How do you like your potatoes? Smooth, lumpy, what? I say, “I only like them mashed with a potato masher. Not a fork. Not a mixer. And certainly not my Kitchenaid. That’s the only way to get them smooth enough, but not gluey.”

Seriously, how does he put up with me? Or the better question might be why…

Any who, dinner was lovely and we ate while watching Cat Cora lose Iron Chef America (which is just weird to me, she never loses) and then I fell into a food/tequila semi-coma for the remainder of the evening. Bliss.

Now, you ask, why am I telling you this story? Well, to promote my friend’s blog, of course. Please go and check out RouxBarb: Recipes for Disaster. It’s one of the funniest new food blogs to hit the interwebs. In it, the aptly named RouxBarb chronicles her John’s attempts to provide one edible meal a week. Why is he doing this? Read the first installment to find out!

Photo courtesy of Food Network Magazine

Originally published August 30, 2010 on Facebook

This weekend I stepped totally out of character and joined the ranks of “Cheaters.” That’s right. Me. A cheater.

Geoff’s family (sister, brother-in-law, four nieces) were scheduled to come to our house for lunch and a swim on Sunday. Grilling out seemed the right thing to do (as we’ve newly acquired a grill). Since grilling is strictly a “those with a penis” activity, all that was required of me was to whip up two to three glorious side dishes. Just one little caveat — hold the wheat (one of the young ladies has a wheat allergy)! As always when doing any sort of group grill out activity, G begged (ok, he didn’t beg, but I knew he was begging inside) for potato salad and deviled eggs. He’s slowly, but surely, turning into a Southerner. This means that I really only had to figure out one wheat-free side dish.

Out came my trusty expand-a-file recipe holder and from that the entire contents of the “Sides” pocket. Most of the pages were discarded for their glutenity (yeah, I made that up) or simply for having flavors that were way too sophisticated for a child’s palate. What to do, what to do? And then I stumbled across this little gem:

So, this week’s recipe comes to you out of Food Network Magazine (See, I told you I was a cheater. I cheated on Cooking Light. Maybe now it’ll pay me a bit more attention).

The recipe was easy enough to make (although grating cauliflower is sort of a pain due to it’s intense desire to crumble) and turned out to be entirely delicious. I tweaked it (no!) by removing the scallions and adding cucumber (for crunch and because I had them leftover from making Book Club’s cucumber finger sandwiches). I think next time I’d use half as much soy sauce as they recommend. Other than that It was cool and crunchy and lemony and salty and delicious. The cauliflower flavor really shined through and gosh darn it, you just felt healthy eating it.


Photo courtesy of Cooking Light

Originally published August 26, 2010 on Facebook

I was at the grocery store last week and right smack in the middle of all of the OK, People and other trashy (but totally addictive) magazines was this lovely, glossy cover that tore my attention away from Sanda or Heidi or Bachelorette number 486’s cover — The best of Cooking Light Baking. “You need me!” it said. And it was right. Score. So, I took the magazine home, deconstructed it and filed the delicious bits away in my brand new accordion file. Joy.

Fast forward to Tuesday and I’m sitting in my living room planning the menu for my Book Club meeting this week. I was hosting and had decided to make tea sandwiches (tiny, crust less triangles of white and wheat bread filled with chicken salad, pimento cheese and cucumber cream cheese spread) and wanted something sweet, and mini, to go with it. Out comes the accordion file and I pull out the baking section. I’m flipping idly through, trying to decide what to make and there it is: Vanilla Buttermilk Pound Cakes. Mmmmmmm. Yes.

I rounded up the ingredients last night and a new sous chef — Abby Stephenson — and we set to work making all of the fillings for the sandwiches and then prepared to tackle the pound cake (which I planned to make in these tiny, adorable mini loaf pans). It was extremely easy and the end result, as my Book Club will taste for themselves tonight, is this lighter than air, but richly delicious in flavor cake that is sure to become my new go to cake recipe (well, when I’m not baking chocolate for the hordes, that is).

Enjoy and another big win for Cooking Light!

et cetera