The Cooking Cure: Day 1 and Day 2

As an attempt to start blogging again (and an accountability method), I’m going to liveblog (whee!) The Kitchn’s Cooking Cure.

To catch up:

Day 1: Make a list of everything you ate for breakfast last week.

For reasons I may or may not discuss at a later date, I keep a pretty good record of what I eat.  This is good, because it means day 1 is easy.  It’s also bad, because if I write things down, my brain says “great!  no need to waste energy remembering this!”  Perhaps it’s time I look into Lumosity?

At any rate, the Kitchn requests that this take place on paper, so here we are:

IMG_1145

Let’s save the judgement for today, shall we?

Day 2: Ask yourself 3 questions about your breakfast habits. (AKA judgement time!)

Q1: What am I tired of eating? (Nothing!  Because I don’t eat breakfast!)
Q2: What do I love eating (Coffee, apparently)
Q3: What would I like to eat more often? (Breakfast.)

Goals:
1. Eat breakfast
2. Not muffins
3. Moar veg!

To be a bit less flippant, I’m not really a breakfast person.  I like coffee when I wake up, and then to eat a lovely breakfast of exactly what I want around 10 or 11.  For instance: yesterday was a snow day (hurrah!), and I had coffee in the morning, followed by a whole wheat tostada with beans and sweet potatoes and salsa and cheese.  That’s not really realistic for my weekday life, so instead, I have coffee and an early-ish lunch.  I made oatmeal last night in an attempt to have breakfast ready and waiting at work.  I even packed some delicious blueberry jam to swirl into my oatmeal!

It’s 12:43 and it’s sitting in the fridge uneaten.  I did have 2 cookies and a slice of king cake though, so partial success?  Breakfast is slightly more complicated for me, because I don’t like eggs, and I’m trying to stay away from meat.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings, shall we?

rebirth

I have a friend.  She is funny, and kind, and likes British historians and bad tv as much as I do.  I have known her a long time.  Our moms are friends, and if we’re lucky, we’re going to grow up and be them, drinking too much wine and gardening.  Probably without the gardening part.

I met her in high school.  It was right around the time the cool kids were getting learner’s permits and cars. I was not a cool kid.  She was.  She got a permit.  And a car.  A used car- a green Volvo.  The Green Beast.  She was 15, and her parents (her dad especially) thought it would be safe.  She needed a good, safe car to learn how to drive.

She got her permit, I got my permit.  She got her license, I got my license.  I did not get a car.  But we did a lot together, so she gave me rides.  We became better friends.  The Volvo took us to lacrosse practice on the other side of town, because our (horrible) football team thought girls’ cleats messed up the field more than the boys’ lacrosse cleats did.  The Volvo took us to the mountains, on an ill-fated trip to Cheeseburgers in Paradise.  The Volvo survived a run in with some wild turkeys on the way.  The picture from that day is on my bookcase right now.

We had an accident on the way to see our favorite local band, after her dad told us it was raining too hard to drive to Winston-Salem (he was right).  We sang terrible songs in the Volvo.  We drove to youth group.  We made up terrible dances to terrible songs in the Volvo.  She drove me to my first surprise birthday party (her idea).  We grew up and went to college.

The Volvo took her to Pennsylvania.  It made several trips from there to home, to North Carolina.  We drove to the mountains (again) and had another unfortunate run-in with animals.  Hogs this time- falling out of a truck all over I-40.  I will never forget the look on her face.  We took road trips.  I got a car.  We spent a summer racing around twisty mountain roads working at a summer camp.  My sister took my car.  We graduated.

She moved to Baltimore.  I got my first real job.  We drove Tampa one December, because we could.  Somewhere, I still have the sweatshirt from that Outback Bowl.  The Volvo came to DC.  We road-tripped back north from holidays at home, stopping at her aunt and uncle’s for ham biscuits.  I drove us home from the wedding where our first close high school friend got married.

Somewhere along the line, the Volvo began to show its age.  There were some close calls, weird smells, odd leaks.  A boyfriend suggested a new car.  He didn’t understand why she hesitated.  I did.  She called one day, stuck on the side of the highway in the rain.  The wipers wouldn’t work.  There were more problems.  She got a new car.  The last time I was in Baltimore, I refused to get in it.  We drove the Volvo instead.  Her parents came to get it a few days later.

They sold the Volvo to a mechanic.  He cleaned it up, replaced what needed to be replaced, fixed it up to resell.  She called me today.  Her mom had called.  The Volvo had been sold.

“A nice family bought it,” her mom said.  “Their 15-year-old girl needed something to learn how to drive in.”

“She and her best friend are going to have so much fun!” said my friend.

I hope they have as much fun as we did.

 

 

 

almost-inaugural loaf.

I like carbs.  Bread, specifically.  Then cake.  Pasta next, then maybe potatoes.

I realize this does not make me unique.

My mother was never one to worry about weight or body shame when my sister and I were kids (she saved that for after college, at least in my case.)  But the one food thing I remember from childhood?  My mother’s constant battle against my deep, deep love of bread.

I would take each slice in a sandwich loaf, roll it into a ball, and snack on a dozen while I watched Julia Child and tried to figure out what “mirepoix” meant.  After school?  All the Little Debbie Zebra Cakes I could eat!  (left unattended, that often meant a box).  I liked vegetables  and cheese and meat and other things, but bread.  Bread was my thing.  That and eating an entire pound of gingersnaps, given the chance.

Sadly, I am an adult now and responsible for my food choices.  And I still love bread.  I’ve never met a breadbasket, a Harris Teeter display, or a potato roll I didn’t love.  Adulthood means self policing though, and as anyone who knows me will tell you, I have little willpower when it comes to food.  After a lengthy course of physical therapy for a broken (again) foot, my physical therapist asked me why it was so important to me that I be able to run (apparently years of on-again, off-again injury meant running in a way that didn’t cause me to re-injure myself was going to be difficult at the very least).  “Are you training for something?” she asked.

“Dinner,” I replied.  “I really, really, really like pasta.”

This is a long-winded way of saying I have stumbled upon a solution.  I’ve been told it is time-consuming, overly complicated and more than a little stupid, but it works for me.

I make it.

I haven’t quite been able to give up pasta yet, but as far as bread?  (And other things: ice cream.  Tacos.  Brownies.  Cake.  Macaroni and cheese.  Are you sensing a very gluten-y pattern?)  I don’t keep it in the house, aside from picking up a loaf of french bread for impromptu dinner parties (and the occasional bottle-of-wine-and-cheese-and-bread-omg-life-today night.)  And if I am determined to have bread, be it muffins, cornbread, or sandwich bread-I make it.

For the most part, this has meant brunchy brioches and kerala parotha with lentils, or flour tortillas for taco night.  But today, I decided to make a loaf of bread, because I am currently unemployed, and more importantly, I wanted a really delicious grilled cheese without having to leave the house (and consequently, put on pants).  I made these rolls for Thanksgiving, and all I could think about was how delicious they would be, brushed with butter and bookending melted cheese.

Molasses Oatmeal Bread
Yield: a single 2 lb loaf*
adapted from Food52

2 teaspoons active dry yeast (use a packet.  that extra 1/4 teaspoon is fine, promise)
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/4 cup warm water (It should feel warm, not hot. Don’t kill the yeast!)
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup rolled oats (NOT INSTANT)
1/2 cup unsalted butter cut into cubes
2 tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons salt
1 egg
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 1/2-2 cups all-purpose flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar or a squirt of honey. Let stand until bubbly. Heat milk and butter in a small pot until butter is almost melted.  Turn off the heat and let it cool to warm while the butter finishes melting.

Once cool, add to the bowl of a stand mixer, along with the sugar, molasses, oats, and salt.  Blend with the paddle attachment until it’s well mixed.  Add the egg and mix well.  By this point, the mixture should be cool enough for you to add the egg and yeast with out scrambling or killing anything.  If it’s more than lukewarm, mix a little longer until it cools.  Add the egg and yeast mixture and mix well.

Switch to the dough hook, and add in the whole wheat flour and 1-1/2 cups of the all-purpose flour.  Knead with the dough hook until well mixed.  The dough should be sticky, but flat (as in not shiny).  That’s what the last half cup of flour is for- add as much of it as you need until you have a sticky matte dough.

Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl. Turn to coat and cover with plastic wrap.  At this point, you can let it rise on the counter in a warm place (as I did when I made it into rolls) or put it in the fridge for anywhere from of two hours to overnight- whatever works. On the counter, it won’t quite double, and in the fridge, it will rise very little. I find it doesn’t make much of a difference

If you’re starting with chilled dough, let it warm up to just short of room temp. If you’re using the counter dough, proceed. Turn out the dough onto a counter (you may need flour, you may not, depending on how sticky it is.

Knead a few times, and then flatten into a vaguely rectangular shape, with the short end about as long as your loaf pan. Roll the dough like a jelly roll, pinch the seams closed, then place seam side down into an ungreased loaf pan (I used nonstick). Cover with plastic wrap and let it proof in a warm place until it’s almost doubled.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 miutes. Internal temperature should be 190. Turn out of the pan and cool on a wire rack completely before slicing, although I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.

It is divine in grilled cheese, and with salted butter. Or, you know, both.

*-it’s roughly 2 pounds, but I didn’t think to weigh it until after I had eaten half of it, so extrapolation for the win. Sorry not sorry.

starting over again, again

I’m trying not to take it as a sign that wordpress ate the post.

Hello folks.  Welcome back, all three of you (hi Jen!)

New year’s resolutions are a bit cliché, but like most clichés, there’s (more than) a bit of truth in them.  I imagine that’s why they are so popular- there is always something immensely attractive about a new start. A new year, a birthday, a fresh composition book, the blinking cursor on a blog post.

While I am not very religious,  I did grow up Episcopalian.  We’re not  real big on guilt but even so, Lent is traditionally my “real” resolution time, because I feel worse about breaking my Lenten resolutions than I do about new year’s resolutions.    This year though, this year will be different.  Maybe.

Anyway, onward to resolutions!

1. Learn to frost a cake.

This is my white whale people.  So help me god, I will conquer it.  (This might sound familiar)

2. Be a better friend.

I know, another cliché.  And I don’t think I’m a bad friend.  But one can always be a better friend, yes?  There are some people I don’t see often enough, some people I need tell no, and some people I need to tell yes more often.

3. Wear lipstick, at least twice.
4. Wear fake eyelashes.

My makeup routine is nearly nonexistent.  Mascara, lip balm, eyeliner sometimes.  Eyeshadow if I’m feeling fancy.  I think I look ridiculous with lipstick, which I realize is… ridiculous.  Also, I am obsessed with eyelashes.  Into the Kardashian pool we go!

5. Write more.
6. Read more.
7. See more movies.

I miss reading.  My Amazon wish list is absurd.  I once made a resolution to read a book a week.  That seems silly, given that I am currently 3 issues behind on the Economist.  I think a book a month is more likely.  I also miss writing, even if no one else misses me writing (hello again Jen!).  And I think it might be good for me to see more movies that don’t involve Vin Diesel or Ludacris (LUDA!) or Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson.  In short, I should probably curtail my Doomsday Preppers/RHOA/Shipping Wars consumption in favor of pretty much anything else.

8. Take better care of myself.

I am not as kind to myself as I could be, so this will be the year that I will cut myself some slack.

Actually, who am I kidding?  That’s not going to happen.  But I do need a personal trainer.

9. Wash my face every night before bed.

10.  Put my house in order.

A dear friend gave me a beautiful silkscreen poster ages ago.  It needs to be framed.  I need a new couch.  I need some champagne flutes, because I drink way too much bubbly wine to not own them.

Lest you think I’m a heathen, I do own bourbon glasses.  Four of them.  Well, three of them.  My drunk friends are why I cannot have a complete set of nice things.

11. Nail game: on point
12. Update my wardrobe

My new job is more formal than my old one, with an emphasis on the business part of business casual.  As someone who regularly wore cobalt blue skinny jeans, boots, a blazer, and a Transformers t-shirt to the office, I believe it’s time to up my game.

13.  Be more patient.

With myself, with my friends, with other people. The eternal quest, after frosting.

Off we go…

(Many thanks to Lemmonex for the inspiration.)

even a broken clock is right twice a day

Among my friends, it is an article of faith that there are two restaurants in my general neighborhood where you can expect (at best) indifferent service.  One is much worse than the other, with servers who seem openly hostile to the idea of exchanging money for goods (food) and services (someone else making the food and bringing it to me)- sort of a “how dare you walk in here an expect me to answer your questions about the menu AND take your order AND bring you a beer.  THE NERVE!” vibe.  I once contemplated walking out of a tab there (it was 2 drinks) after waiting for 20 minutes (I timed) at an empty bar with the bartender ignoring my attempts to first secure another drink, and then simply to cash out.

The other teeters on tolerable.  It’s in a good location, has a commitment to cleanly produced food, and is part of a locally owned mini-chain.  But.  As a former server myself, I am willing to let a lot of things slide, but agressive indifference towards customers is not one of them.  As such, I pretty much never patronize this particular restaurant.

I found myself with a group there for brunch last winter though, because I like to think myself too considerate to force my restaurant jihads on other people, or at least on other people I don’t know well.  A more attentive server could have increased the check considerably, but ours seemed uninterested in serving us more than a perfunctory round of bloody marys.

I digress.  The point of all this is that at this infernal restaurant, I happened upon one of my most favorite dishes in all of DC.  It’s right up there with the crabcake pasta from Afterwords and the black cod at Rasika. It is neither glamourous nor particularly complicated, but it is goddamn tasty, and until that moment, completely new to me.

A burger.

On a salad.

I know, I know, I’m sure that’s not earth shattering to most of you out there, but cut me some slack.  I’ve been far too concerned with finding the perfect burger bun to realize it could ever be anything other than a sandwich.   I have a long and storied history with chopped salads- with bacon, with chicken, with beans.  With beef even, in the form of leftover steak.  But never, ever a burger.

This salad changed all that.  It has all the best parts of a burger, with all the textural complexity and bright colors (my favorite part!) of a good chopped salad.  It’s (perhaps), healthier than a burger, but it’s also far more filling, with much less meat.  The most important part is to dice or chop everything to roughly the same size.  And feel free to alter- I hate tomatoes, but they’d be a great addition.  So would corn, pickled onions, cucumber, or whatever else you have languishing in the produce drawer.  I’ve been known to cook enough meat for several of these salads at once, but it’s also a good way to use up all those leftovers from summer barbecues.  You know, if it ever gets warm again.

Burger Salad

4 oz burger (I like beef, but whatever floats your boat, cooked to your desired doneness/leftovers), room temp

1 head romaine lettuce, end discarded, chopped (or a bag of mesclun)

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 can chickpeas, rinsed

1 carrot, diced

2 oz cheese (feta, pepper jack, cheddar- whatever), diced in 1/2 in cubes

ranch dressing (please, make it from scratch, it’s not hard)

Worcestershire sauce

1. Assemble all ingredients in a large bowl and toss

2. Crumble cooked burger on top

3. Pour over dressing (go with half what you think you’ll need- trust me) and toss

4. Season to taste with worcester sauce and pepper.  Eat immediately,

2012.

Well, the new year is here.

2011 was an okay year.  It started out with some things I’d rather forget, included a lot of things I will always remember, and (insert other platitudes here).

I’m going to record some resolutions here , if only to keep myself accountable.  So, Here goes.

1. Be a better friend.

2. Learn to make 12 different things (more details on that later, but chiles en nogada, I’m coming for you)

3. Take better care of myself (cliche, I know, and I have some more specific targets in mind, but I’ll keep those to myself thankyouverymuch)

4. Throw one party that is exactly the way I imagined it in my head

5. Take a trip somewhere, alone.

6. Read a book a month.

7. Write once a week.

8. Learn to properly frost a cake.

9. Go an entire month with a perfectly manicured nails.

10. Find the perfect pair of black pumps.

There are others, but they’re not for public consumption.

 

Happy 2012 y’all.  The world might be ending, so let’s make it a good one.

sherbet punch and hostessing tips

In my family, almost all of us are born in March, June and December.

Seems like everyone else I know is born in October.

Which brings me to my nemesis, sherbet punch.

My friend SJ had a (in her words) “non-important” birthday this past Saturday.  She didn’t want to make a big deal, because it wasn’t a nice round number, and frankly, I think she was a little apprehensive about the number anyway.  However, thanks in large part to my mother and overly festive family, I do not believe in such things as “non-important” birthdays.  Every birthday is cause for celebration, much like a random Tuesday is the perfect time for champagne and popcorn for dinner.  Life is short, might as well enjoy it.  Besides, who looks back and says “man, I wish I hadn’t thrown/gone to that great party”?  NO ONE.

So, I berated talked SJ into letting me throw a party for her.

Happy Birthday napkin

She had one request: sherbet punch.

I hate sherbet punch.  It is sweet and dairy filled and gross and seems like the last possible thing you’d want to mix with alcohol.  What’s wrong with sangria?  Isn’t that fruit punch for grownups?  So, I did what I always do.  I asked the twitters and e-mailed some friends and asked the Kitchn and did all those things at a late enough date that I was basically left to my own devices.  Oh, and did I mention that the punch had to be gluten-free?  Because it did.

My Saturday schedule is always a bit hectic.  I am either completely exhausted by Friday evening, or am not exhausted and stay out too late.  I have to be at the market by 7:45am Saturday (I can push it to 8:10 if I stop here for coffee for Sarah, my stand coworker).  I’m home by a little before 2:00, assuming I don’t make any stops.  This past Saturday, that left me with 4 hours to shower, shop, and get the party and myself together.  To top it off, in a fit of inspiration, we had decided on a vaguely mid-century theme- think 50′s bridge club gathering for hors d’oeuvres.

Between the time constraints and my constant pathological need to entertain, I’ve learned a few things about hostessing, and I thought I’d share:

1) Get dressed.  30 minutes before go time, shower and put your outfit on- shoes, makeup, the whole nine.  It is far more festive to cook in a party dress than in gross jeans and t-shirt flecked with apple butter.  Also, you are wearing a party dress, so WEAR AN APRON.

2) Don’t kill yourself, chances are no one will notice.  I am insane and make everything from scratch.  I will happily cater to your most esoteric requests. That makes this rule is hard for me to stick to, but you should learn from my neurosis.  For this party, I only “made” the sherbet punch.  I bought cheese (the remainders bin at Whole Foods is the best friend of every cheese tray ever), pulled out some pickled pears and pickled tomatoes I’d made earlier, and bought some gluten-free crackers, vegetables, and hummus.

3) Accept help.  Another one that’s hard for me to deal with.  Saturday I completely forgot to pick up charcuterie, so when someone asked if he could bring anything, I texted back “OMG YES PLEASE.”  Problem solved

4) Disposable is okay, sort of.  I am trying to banish paper from my house.  No paper towels, no napkins, nothing.  This is dumb.  I bought small appetizer plates and festive napkins, and did not have to do dishes later (see #2).  Will I do that for a sit down dinner?  Probably not.  But every now and then, it’s okay.

5) Have a good roommate.  Mine has Thursdays off (no class, no work), and so cleaned the house in a fit of procrastination.  If that doesn’t work for you, sweep, wipe off the table, and use candles.  No one will be able to tell you haven’t cleaned the glass on that mirror in 3 months.

sherbet punch

photo: DCBenji

And now, what I bet you’ve all been waiting for…SJ’s Not Gross Sherbet Punch!

SJ’s Birthday Sherbet Punch
Serves….12?  depends on how well your friends play the part of “lush”

  • 1 container Edy’s (you can use another, but it might not be gluten-free) berry sherbet
  • 2 750 mL bottles of the DRIEST champagne/cava/prosecco/sparkling wine you can find
  • 1 cup of vodka (gluten-free note: most processing removes all the gluten, but you can go with something distilled from grapes or corn if you’re not comfortable with that.)
  • 1/2- 1 cup of lemon juice (I imagine other citrus would work, but this is what I had)
  • 1/2 lime, halved and thinly sliced
  • handful of raspberries, fresh or frozen

1) Combine sherbet, champers, and vodka in a punchbowl.  Be careful, it will foam.  Add the vodka and lemon juice to taste.

2) Stir well (AND CAREFULLY).  Once you’re done, the punch will separate into three layers- dark pink juice at the bottom, mystery light pink mixed layer, and then a layer of white/pale pink foam on the top.

3) Scatter the raspberries over the punch, then carefully place lime slices on the foam- if you’ve mixed correctly, they’ll stay suspended on the top and look pretty.

4) Yell at your friends not to muss your creation, and ladle FROM THE MIDDLE ONLY PLEASE.  Serve with a slice of lime in each glass.  Marvel at your domesticity and the fact that you now own a punchbowl.

5) Smile smugly as the birthday girl keeps gushing “it’s so PRETTY!”