Super Bowl

I know, I know, I’m about 2 weeks late.  Whatever.

VT had his second annual superbowl party, and requested the same thing I made last year: macaroni and cheese.

superbowl-mac-and-cheese

I am sick of mac and cheese.  I made it, but I also made something else, because I was bored as hell and had to have something to eat.   More on that after the jump

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General Tso to the rescue!

Yesterday, I left work promptly at five in search of a new pair of jeans. For whatever reason, it is all but impossible for me to find jeans. Bring on your Seven for All Mankind, your Paper Denim and Cloth. Rock and republic, Blue Cult, Levi’s….doesn’t matter. Seems that my ass will defeat them all. Usually when this happens, I get pissed and end up buying shoes. That didn’t work either yesterday. So I found myself in one of my happy places, buying clothes for M&S.

I mention all of this because by the time my shopping debacle was over, I was a little grumpy. Fortunately, between my laziness and VT’s couch, the perfect remedy was at hand- Chinese food , crappy white wine, and baseball!

What?

Yup. Baseball. We’ll get to that. Chinese food first.

There are no pictures, as you might have noticed, because VT and I (mostly me) inhaled our food. Mr Chen’s is my favorite Chinese place in the entire city, aside from the place in Chinatown that serves beer after hours (for obvious reasons). It’s a holdover from my AU days, when I had Chinese food at least once a week. We usually ordered from some place called Taiwan Cafe, I think. It was decent, but…Mr. Chen’s was a revelation! And it probably extended my lifespan by about 6 years, thanks to the generally healthy and oftentimes organic ingredients.

Our order? General Tso’s Chicken, Lemon Chicken, and a double order of vegetarian spring rolls (mmmmmm.)

As for the baseball, I think my conversion into a slightly-more-than-casual fan is complete. It just feels weird not to have some sort of sports obsession. I mean, am I supposed to be twiddling my thumbs for the next five months? Can’t deal. Our entire meal, I peppered VT with questions:

“I know what ERA stands for, but what does it mean?”
“What about RBI?”
“Why is RBI such a biased stat?”
“Why does Big Papi spit on his gloves?”
“Why do you need a starter, a reliever, and a closer?”
“How many times can you switch pitchers?”
“Who the hell is THAT?”

And on and on.

Check back. I’m also in the process of selecting an English Premier League team. It’s looking good for the Spurs.

simple pleasures

I enjoy cooking, as you might have noticed. However, when it’s just me, I tend towards really
simple things. Usually involving pasta.

Like this:
I went to my grandparents this weekend to chauffeur my grandmother on some errands and report some orchids. I skipped breakfast, and around 1 or 2, after my stomach started gurgling, I though perhaps it would be a good time to eat. I’ve been laid low all weekend by some violent allergies, and in addition to Claritin-D, my other secret weapon against this time of year is spicy food. I dump hot sauce and pepper flakes on everything I eat. Sort of like how my mother likes to have Cosmos when she’s got a cold.

I made some spaghetti, mixed in a little sour cream (had I not been in the suburbs, I would have used creme fraiche or some Greek yogurt), a pat of butter, and a few glugs of olive oil. Dump in a bowl, and sprinkle with red pepper flakes and cheese. Done and done.

Speaking of simple pleasures, VT and I went to the Nats game Sunday. It was a little on the cold side, but still pretty fun. It’s my first official game of the season. Teddy didn’t win the race, but there’s always next time. Plus, he’s a better dancer than runner.

I think Lala’s right, I might be more than a casual baseball fan by the time the summer’s over.

Just what I need in my life, another sports obsession.

HELL YEAH

This post has nothing to do with food.


Guess who FINALLY got her well-deserved fantasy football trophy today? Right. (Many thanks to the Oracle, who made it all possible. And thanks to Westbrook for taking the knee.)

Guess who’s going to the Duke game tomorrow night? THIS GIRL. (Many, MANY, MANY thanks to Sadie for making that happen. No thanks to her boss, who paid for the tickets….and has been telling me my trophy was “stolen” for the last three months.)

lunch chronicles: be it ever so humble

…there’s nothing like a good turkey sandwich.


In my case, I stopped off at Whole Foods on the way to work this morning, picked up some peppered turkey, a loaf of bread, lettuce, mustard, provolone, and Kettle Chips. Lunch for the week, for $20. Nevermind that I spent $20 to make five turkey sandwiches….

(And yes, I have been obsessing over brackets all day. Duh. This is one of the best bracket-related ways I’ve found to kill your entire workday. Also, after getting 8 bids to the ACC’s 4, the Big East is not my least favorite conference.)

friday

Best news I’ve heard all week.

Happy Friday everyone!

By the way- what the hell happened to Maryland last night? I go to bed, they’re up by 15 on BC. I wake up, they’ve lost by three. What. the. fuck.

And while I’m on the topic (because it IS march,) Georgetown looks pretty good. That 10-0 run by ‘Nova and Roy basically disappearing during the game scared me, but I watched the rest of the game on ESPN360…not too bad. And congrats to West Virginia for upsetting UConn. The Big East might become my second favorite conference.

That being said, I’m pretty excited to see who Deron Washington kicks in the face/teabags today.

lunch chronicles: smartkafe

I’m usually pretty bad about eating breakfast.

Scratch that. I rarely, if ever, eat breakfast. And when I do, it usually consists of doughnuts. Combined with my occasional propensity to drink through dinner, that makes lunch is the most important meal of the day.

Today, I scarfed some Smith Meadows Farm basil-garlic pasta and went to the gym to “work out.” By “work out,” I mean “run on the elliptical so I can watch college basketball.” I spent an hour on the damn thing, catching ‘Nova’s 10-0 run against Georgetown at the beginning of the second half, and then left, apparently right as Georgetown started to pull away.

Anyways, I was what my grandmother calls “eat-ish” when I left- hungry, but not starving. I decided to give smartkafe (recently profiled in the Washington Post) a shot, especially since the downtown location is pretty much IN the basement of my gym (which is apparently also the official gym of DC United.)

After about 15 minutes contemplating the choices (boy, are there EVER choices) I settled on a “Brazillian style chopped salad” with beef tenderloin and lavender soda.
At this point, a small part of me died. Really- Brazilian chopped salad and lavender soda? Remember the days of PB&J and a juice box? What’s happened to me?

Anyways, it was…interesting. The salad was comprised of the aforementioned beef tenderloin, hearts of palm, baby corn, carrots, red onion, peanuts, and a cilantro-citrus vinagrette. The soda was nothing more than (purified) carbonated water, (cane) sugar, and “natural extracts”
The salad itself was a little weird. The beef was decent, although overcooked, but the rest of the salad had too many things going on. The vinaigrette wasn’t tart enough, and the onions were a little too overpowering. I’m not sure I’d go this route again.

Plus, the whole deal set me back $7.19- ($4.49 for the salad, $2.25 for the soda) Is it sad that I feel like lunch for under $10 is an accomplishment? Nevermind that I paid $2 for a soda…

brunch, burgers, and exploding manhole covers.

Here’s what’s going on in my world today…
– Irony: Friend comes over because hot water in friend’s apartment goes out. Five minutes before friend arrives, my power goes out. Added bonus: someone’s car was torched in the process. The power was STILL off when I left this morning.
Proof that March Madness should be a national holiday.
Gina won the Best Martini competition last night. Shame on you for not being there, OrderedChaos was. More on that later today.
Playboy’s 10 best burgers. Compare with GQ’s 20 best list. I hope to eat all of these before I die. Of a heart attack. With bacon.
– Courtesy of the New Yorker, the history of the “everything” bagel, my personal favorite in bagel sandwich choices.

Speaking of burgers, Ace and I had Sunday brunch at Annie’s this past Sunday. We were originally going to go for doughnuts, but on the walk to Krispy Kreme, Ace pointed out that he needed some bacon.

Disaster ensued.


Maybe not disaster. But we both left feeling a little lightheaded. 3/4 lb bacon cheeseburger with home fries will do that to you I suppose. (Please note the giant tub of mayo on the side of my plate.)

Especially when combined with a big, crappy margarita and lots of coffee. Oops.

Side note: Merriam-Webster Word of the Day yesterday was “wooden.” As in, made of wood.

Really? That’s the best you have to offer?

National (Red) Velvet: a tragedy in five parts

I should have known.

After the trials and tribulations I went through to make that stupid Red Velvet Cake….

I should have known it was a bad omen.

I will never, ever, EVER attempt to bake on the day of the last regular season Duke-Carolina matchup.

I blame myself. Well, and Duke’s crappy (32.9%!!!) shooting. And Carolina’s ever-improving defense (15 blocked shots and 7 steals, compared to 7 and 3 for Duke.) And Duke’s 13 turnovers.

Whatever. I’m getting off topic

So. I finally made the red velvet cake. And I will never, ever, EVER bake at my grandparent’s again. Making Christmas dinner by myself was far easier that making a cake with my grandmother constantly hovering, offering “advice.”

Baking makes me neurotic. Seriously neurotic. I’m not very good at it, so it requires a lot of concentration on my part. When I cook, I wander away from things on the stove, I talk on the phone, I swill wine…none of that happens when I bake. I usually do it by myself, so no one has to deal with my crazy neuroses.

On to the show…

I used this recipe, figuring that since it was from the Magnolia Bakery, it couldn’t be too bad. I also immediately violated rule #1 of belmontmedina baking: FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS EXACTLY. As I mentioned earlier, Whole Foods didn’t have cake flour, so after a phone call to my mother (who is a wonderful baker) I substituted organic pastry flour. This would later come back to haunt me.

The recipe itself is pretty simple, if rather labor intensive. Everything needs to be at room temperature. In one bowl, you’ve got butter and sugar. Eggs in another. Baking soda and vinegar in another. Red food coloring, vanilla, and cocoa in another. Sifted cake flour in another. And buttermilk and salt in another. See what I mean?

First, cream the butter and sugar.
Add the eggs in one at a time.


Then, add the cocoa, vanilla, and food coloring.
I will stop here to detail tragedy number 1. I ran out of food coloring. I mistakenly, stupidly assumed that one of the little bottles of food coloring would suffice (you know, the ones that come in the four pack that you use to dye Easter Eggs) I mean, hell, a drop of it stained the dishtowel. And my hands. And my jeans. And possibly the floor. I didn’t really need that much did I?

Turns out I did. So with my grandmother “suggesting” away,

Grandmother: That’s too much butter!
Me: I’m following the recipe.
Grandmother: That’s TOO much butter. (beat) The vanilla’s over there.
Me: I’m not looking for the vanilla
Grandmother: It’s in the cabinet on the side. Right there on the side. RIGHT THERE. Don’t you see it?
Me: (testily) I’m not looking for the vanilla
Grandmother: What are you looking for?
Me: Food coloring
Grandmother: It’s on the top shelf
Me: No it isn’t. I used it all
Grandmother: Yes it is
Me: No, it isn’t, because I USED IT ALL
Grandmother: Oh. (two minutes pass) That’s too much butter.

I ran out the door and to the store to get more red food coloring. For future reference, Red Velvet Cake requires one and a half LARGE bottles of red food coloring.

After that, alternate adding the flour and buttermilk in three parts.

Then stir in the baking soda and vinegar mixture.

Here comes tragedy number 2. The recipe calls for a three layer cake, or cupcakes. I decided to use a bundt cake pan, reasoning that I might actually lose all my hair and turn into a babbling idiot if I tried to negotiate a layer cake. And my grandfather is not exactly a cupcake kind of man, at least not since I passed age seven. So, I went to grease and flour the pan. Only…there’s no Pam or cooking spray. No lard. No Crisco. Nothing but vegetable oil. **Sigh** I oiled and floured the pan, dumped the batter in, and stuck it in the oven.

Whew! Finished….

Except for the frosting. I had no idea frosting was equally labor intensive. I think I lost a small part of my soul making this cake. For the frosting, you mix milk and flour, and cook it for about 10 minutes over medium heat until it thickens.
Cover it with wax paper, let it cool to room temperature,
and mix it with sugar, a pound of butter (calling Paula Deen) and vanilla.
Then it must be placed in the fridge for EXACTLY 15 minutes (the recipe states, “set a timer”) and then taken out and used IMMEDIATELY.

So, after taking the cake from hell out of the oven,
I let it cool for an hour (my grandmother spent the entire time telling me it was going to fall because I hadn’t cooked it long enough,) while I made the frosting from hell. My timing (I thought) was great- I could unmold the cake while the icing was cooling or setting or whatever the crap it was doing in the fridge (hibernating? I have no idea) and then take it out, and frost immediately.

Only the cake from hell did not want to come out of the pan. Go figure. Time for tragedy number 3! I called my mother(who was at work,) which is what I do when anything goes wrong.

Me: It won’t come out of the pan.
Mum: Run a knife around it.
(10 min later)
Me: It still won’t come out.
Mum: Tap the pan.
(15 min later)
Me: It STILL won’t come out.
Mum: You tapped the pan.
Me: Yes.
Mum: And ran a knife around the sides.
Me: Yes.
Mum: And the inside.
Me: Yes.
Mum: And you greased it and floured it well?
Me: Yes
Mum: I don’t know what to tell you.
Me: (long, shuddering sigh)

After some pleading, cursing, and dumb luck, the cake from hell emerged from its home. About 30 minutes after I pulled the icing out of the fridge. Oh well.
So I frosted it,
and carried it into the den to show my grandparents. Whereupon it slid on the platter into my already-stained-with-red-food-coloring shirt, covering my left boob with frosting.

Great. Fan-fucking-tastic. Good thing I had almost an entire bowl of frosting left after I finished the damn cake.
I fixed it, wiped myself off, and dished out a slice for my grandmother. (My grandfather, asleep on the couch, took a mild interest before he rolled back over.) Enter tragedy number 4. I was betrayed by the flour.
Whatever sort of organic, made-by-virgin-Tibetan nuns-with-the-pure-snow-of-Mt. Everest kind of expensive-ass flour I bought at Whole Foods left my cake slightly dry and chewy. The flour was made with whole wheat I think, and still contained a bit more wheat than I would have preferred. It was only a little dry, but the light, yet chewy texture threw me off completely. Next time (Ha! like there will be a next time) I’m going with the bleached blonde version of cake flour.

At this point, I decided it was time to leave and find a bar and a lot of beer to watch Duke-Carolina.

Stupid cake even ruined my basketball game.

In short, here is what I’ve learned:
1) Never bake at grandparent’s house, or at least, never bake in presence of grandmother. EVER.
2) Whole Foods can suck it when it comes to baking supplies.
3) Follow your own rules- in my case, DO NOT SUBSTITUTE ANYTHING.
4) Buy red velvet cake from a reputable bakery. Screw making it on your own.
5) I miss Shelden Williams.

I know that’s only four parts, but if you can’t guess the fifth, here’s a hint. See the photo at beginning of this post.