Friday, January 22, 2010

"I Can't Make This Shit Up," A One Act Play

E, a 29 and 11 month old (hahaha!) man in pajamas, the husband of ME
ME, a 30 year old woman in pajamas, with very messy hair, the wife of E

Early morning, ME sits at a breakfast table, eating scrambled eggs and toast. E enters with a mug of coffee and sits.

I could not fall asleep last night.

 (continues eating)
Mmm hmm?

So I was laying there for like an hour, and I started thinking: What if a zombie kid suddenly came into our bedroom? Like "Dawn of the Dead", but for real?
(pauses for effect)

Uh huh...

What would I do?
(pauses for effect)
So I'd have to kill it. I'd have to find something to hit it in the head with, or cut it's head off so it wouldn't bite me.

(looks at E, saying nothing, and continues eating)

But after I cut it's head off, what if I looked over at you and it had bitten you? Then I'd have to cut your head off, too! Because otherwise you'd turn into a zombie. Then I was like: What if it turned out the kid wasn't really a zombie, but was drunk or something or I was kind of dreaming, and then I just cut off my neighbor's head, and my wife's, too... How do you explain that to a judge?

Nice. Can you get me some coffee?


Such conversations are not rare at our house.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Food Should Taste Good

I don't buy junk food. I actually don't even like junk food all that much, with one huge exeption: chips. I love salty, crunchy chips, especially rippled potato chips dunked in creamy, fat-laden onion dip. E's weakness is Doritos, any flavor really, though he's partial to Cool Ranch and Spicy Habanero. Between the two of us, we could easily polish off a whole bag in one sitting, hence my not buying chips. However, a few months ago I was wandering around the fancy grocer's in Ann Arbor when I stumbled upon Food Should Taste Good chips. They were all natural. They had interesting flavors. They were baked instead of fried. And most importantly, they were on sale. I am a cheapskate, after all.

I bought two bags: Multigrain and Sweet Potato. When I got home, E was, as usual, skeptical of my new chips. Then he tried them. Soo good! These chips are more like crackers than chips really, since they are a little thicker and so much more flavorful. We ate the sweet potato chips with pumpkin dip, and the mulitgrain ones with hummus. Thus began a serious addiction. I checked out the Food Should Taste Good website for coupons, and noticed they also do a recipe contest. So duh, I entered my pumpkin dip recipe, then joined the mailing list. I emailed the link to a bunch of my friends, then I got an email. I won a case of chips! Sweet. They even let me choose which flavors I wanted, so we went with two bags each of Cinnamon, Sweet Potato, Jalapeno, Olive, Buffalo, and Multigrain. Between holiday parties, going away parties, and general snacking, we finished off most of those bags fairly quickly. I was saving the Cinnamon bags for baking. It took me a long time to decide what to do with them until I stumbled upon a blog post by Melissa. Her aunt had a genious idea for a pie, and since my parents were coming for a visit this past week, it was the perfect opportunity.

You may remember that my mother is a health food nut, so if I'm going to make her dessert and it isn't a holiday, it had better be relatively healthy. I switched up this recipe to use whole wheat instead of AP flour, reduced the sugar and fat, and used my Cinnamon FSTG chips instead of the cornflakes. This was, seriously, one of the best desserts I've ever made. Not too sweet, creamy and crunchy, and with just a little tartness. Yum!

Food Should Taste Good Cottage Cheese Pie

1/2 c. FSTG Cinnamon Chips
1 Tbls. Sugar
1/4 tsp.cinnamon

1/2 c. butter, cubed
1/2 c. sugar substitute
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbls. fat free sour cream

1 lb. 2% or nonfat cottage cheese
2 eggs
1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. fat free sour cream
dash of salt
2 tsp. lemon juice

For topping,  pulse ingredients in a food processor or crush in a plstic bag to create coarse crumbs.

For dough, pulse butter, sugar, egg and vanilla in food processor for 2 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add remaining ingredients and pulse to combine. Press dough evenly into the bottom and up sides of a 9 inch pie plate.

For filling, pulse all ingredients to combine, scraping sides of the bowl as needed. Pour into pie plate and spread evenly over dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon topping. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Let stand at room temperature for one hour, than chill overnight. Serve with fresh berries, warm jam, or fruit compote.

Print this recipe!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cracker fail!

Sometimes things just don't work out the way you plan. Such was the case when I tried to make the Spicy Whole Grain Crackers for HBin5 this week. After reading some of the tips from other group members before I started, I decided to start with a piece of dough about the size of my fist. I floured it, put it between two pieces of parchment and rolled. Then I gave it a quarter turn and rolled some more. I rolled more. And more. And more. I was left with a sheet of dough so thin I could have fed it through my printer, so I figured it was all good. I figured wrong.

After cutting small squares and brushing the tops with a little olive oil, I sprinkled them with my own seasoning mixture. I thought the mixture called for in the book was a little bland (Salt and cayenne? Snore!), so I went with a little Indian inspiration instead. I mixed 1/2 tsp. each of cumin, curry powder, cayenne, chili powder, and kosher salt to punch things up a bit (did you think I'd say kick it up a notch? Come on now.). Then I popped the sheet pan in the oven and waited.

Failure. Every square puffed up into a tiny spiced pillow. Sure they were cute, but WTF? I seriously could not have rolled that dough into submission for any longer. I was irritated. They tasted good, but were chewy instead of crispy and not what I wanted at all. I was making soup for dinner and these friggin' crackers were meant to work with it, adding the necessary crunch to round out the meal. Foiled again! So I stretched the last of my dough into bread sticks, topped them with the remaining seasoning mixture and let it go. Deep breath.

As usual, E didn't notice anything wrong with anything I put on the table. He ate the breadsticks, the crackers, and the soup, which we both agreed came out well enough to cancel out any of my previous disappointment. We both love Indian dishes, but I was in the mood for soup, so I used Chicken Biryani as inpiration. It was quick and simple; I highly recommend it :)

Chicken Biryani Soup


2 Tbls. olive oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. ginger
1 1/2 tsp. garam masala
1 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 32 oz. carton, plus 1 14.5 oz. can chicken broth
2/3 c. raisins
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro (or 2 cilantro cubes)
1/4 c. almonds, chopped
lime wedges
1 c. basmati rice

Heat oil in a dutch oven or large soup pot over medium high heat. Add chicken to pan and brown well on both sides, about 5-7 minutes a side. Add onion and cook until tender. Add jalapeno and garlic and cook until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ginger, garam masala, cumin, and salt and stir. Add tomato and broth and bring to a boil. Add rice and wimmer 15 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove chicken and shred with a fork, return to pot. Stir in raisins and cilantro. Serve sprinkled with almonds and a squeeze of lime juice.

p.s. I did succeed in making a pretty nice epi this week when my parents came to visit. My mom is so impressed with my new bread skills (ha!) that she's going to buy the book. At least something worked!
Don't forget to visit the Bread Braid at Michelle's blog to see how nicely everyone else's crackers and epis turned out :P

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Getting Back on Track

Finally! With the holidays and our move complete, I feel like I can actually get back to some semblance of normalcy! Even though most of my day is consumed by waiting on hold for the NJ Dept. of Ed. staffers to answer the damn phone, I have been able to make a little bit of progress getting the new house into a liveable condition. Of course, in doing so I may very well have broken my vacuum cleaner and destroyed one of my Calphalon pans. The former stinks like burning rubber (I may have sucked up a few screws along with the million cobwebs, piles of dirt, and insect carcasses in the basement); the latter has black plastic cemented all over the bottom. Crap.

Having a working kitchen of my own again does mean that I can get back to my baking goup. Yesterday I mixed up the first batch of master dough from my fabulous new Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day book. (Thanks so much, Michelle and Zoe!) There are so many great breads that I just can not wait to try. I started with the basic loaf, brushed it with egg wash, and sprinkled it with a combination of pine nuts, flax seeds, and sunflower seeds. It came out beautifully. Soft and light on the inside and nice and crusty on the outside. I think doing it on the baking stone really does make a big difference (I use mine often, as you can see!). The bottom crust was just as crisp as the top. Since I can't post the recipe for you due to copyright (visit the HBin5 blog linked above for it!), I'm sharing the sandwich I made instead.

Yesterday I made a simple grilled cheese with brie and bartlett pears, which is pretty self explanatory! Today, I had an Italian Flag Chicken Sandwich. I'm sure you can figure out the name :)

Italian Flag Chicken Sandwiches

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 cups fresh baby spinach
1 can diced no salt added tomatoes
1 ball fresh mozzarella, cut into slices
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbls. dried oregano
1 Tbls. dried basil
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 cup chicken broth, heated
2 Tbls. flour
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
1 loaf of crusty bread

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Add to the hot pan and brown on each side. Add onions to pan and saute until tender. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in diced tomato, basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes. Cover chicken with spinach, cover and let simmer until spinach has wilted. Whisk flour into broth and then pour, stirring, into pan. Cook until sauce is slightly thickened. Arrange mozzarella slices over chicken breasts, cover and simmer until melted.
Serve over pasta or, for sandwiches, remove chicken breasts from sauce and lay on a cutting board. Slice each breast in half lengthwise. Slice bread in half lengthwise. Layer chicken over bottom half of bread, spoon any remaining spinach in the pan on top, then top with other half and slice into 3 inch slices. Serve with sauce for dipping.

Don't forget to swing by Michelle's blog for the monthly Bread Braid! You can check out all of the other group members' blogs and see what they've been cooking up.
Print the Recipe!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

It's New Year's Eve*, folks. Feeling nostalgic? Weepy? Excited to put the last year behind you? I am, fo' sho'. While everyone is busy compiling their 2009 top ten lists of favorite recipes, favorite songs, favorite movies, favorite stupid celebrity moments and on and on in celebration of the new year, I've been thinking about what the Dickens I've been doing with my time for the past year. It seems like it flew, and yet, I don't really feel like I've accomplished all that much. Upon closer inspection, I have come to the realization that I allowed myself to get sucked into a few bad habits that consumed massive amounts of my time, but created nothing positive or productive. Thus, I give you my Guilty Pleasures of '09. I'm not proud, but I'm being honest so I can move forward into 2010 with a clean conscience.

1. Taylor Swift - I'm not a country music fan. I'm not even a pop country music fan. Yet, somehow this little blondie with her ridiculously over-choreographed stage moves and lame-o "real life" drama has got me hooked. Suddenly, I stopped switching radio stations and began singing along at the top of my lungs. Is it the sweetly naive romanticism? The catchy beat? I don't know, but it's workin'.

2. The Real Housewives of Orange County, New York, New Jersey and Atlanta - Do I even need to explain this one? I've seen every episode of the OC shows since season 1, and I hate Vicki more with each one. I wish I could hug NY's Bethenny, and if offered the chance, I'd kick Krazy Kelly in her collagen-plumped mouth. The NJ ladies make me laugh soo hard, even more so now that I'm actually a NJ resident. And while I could do without some of the violent antics of the Hot-lanta mamas, I can't get enough of that nutcase Kim singing. I don't know what I'd do without you, Bravo programming!

3. Lady Gaga - I blame E for this one. Actually, it is probably more his guilty pleasure than mine. He's the one who came in from work crooning "Poker Face" when I hadn't even heard of this chick, yet. While I scolded him for listening long enough to know the words, I simutaneously committed them to memory, then found myself humming along days later. I almost dressed like her for Halloween (come on, that bird nest face would have made a killer costume and you know it!). I want to hate her, but I just can't do it.

4. Sweepstakes and Giveaways - I'm such a sucker! I must have entered over a thousand online sweepstakes and giveaways this year, from the huge and amazing to the paltry and pathetic. I still haven't won my dream home, an Allure makeover, or a million bucks, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I did win a case of chips, a KitchenAid Slow Cooker, several cookbooks, and some jewelery, so my luck's not all bad. I realize that this is a mostly fruitless endeavor and a huge waste of valuable time, but that little nagging "what if?" gets me every time.

5. Pancheros - No night out in Ann Arbor was complete without a late night visit to Pancheros for grub. I know it is disgusting to pig out on Mexican food at 3:00 in the morning, but it's almost impossible to resist a Chicken Veggie Quesadilla calling your name as you walk by. Plus, it's warm inside, which is a nice bonus when you forgot where you parked in the winter. They make the tortillas fresh, they never skimp on guac, and the guys who work there are as entertaining as the mini skirted college girls in 20 degree weather.

5.  Blogging - I can't count how many hours I've spent this year writing blog posts. I just know that there are probably lots of more constructive things I could have been doing, like working towards my Masters Degree, volunteering at a homeless shelter, or curing cancer. I know I am meant to feel guilty about this (E reminds me on occasion!). But honestly, I feel more sane and creative and calm and inspired when I am blogging and reading blogs, so I don't plan on shelving it any time soon.

So now I'm wondering, what kept you obsessed this past year?

*Oops, looks like it is actually January 6th. How's that for lame? I wrote this, thought I posted it, then realized I never did. I don't think I'd started drinking yet, but you never know :)