Friday, December 26, 2008

Gigantic Banana Muffins

I had 5 overripe bananas in my fridge just daring me to come up with a way not to throw them away. I found this very easy recipe for banana muffinson a cute blog called Cat Can Cook. The recipe called for 3 to 4 bananas, and I used 5. I added a teeny bit more butter and I added 1/3 cup of organic wheat bran into the mix, just to create the illusion that these muffins would be good for me.

I used one of those large sized muffin tins and filled each muffin about 3/4 full. They puffed up nice and high and smelled so good that Andy's son Tom got out of bed! That was pretty flattering. I ate one for my brekkie with a little butter and it was delicious!

Thursday, December 25, 2008


It's an incredibly warm and sunny Christmas day. I can't believe the weather has kept me from getting to Michigan this year--it just seems impossible when I look at the picture perfect day we're having. I have had my quota of coffee and taken a long walk to help fight the overindulgence that is sure to come later on today.

Andy and his son Tom are upstairs making a ukulele. Andy bought Tom a ukulele kit for Chrstmas, and they are hell bent on getting it made today. I am ready to roll up my sleeves and do some cookin'.

We're vegetarians, so I'm making what is a typical holiday meal at our house--a whole bunch of side dishes. We're having spinach souffle, (my very first souffle!) scalloped potatoes with Gruyere and leeks, pan fried brussels sprouts and sage stuffing patties. For dessert I'm going to make individual marmalade puddings with custard sauce.

Forgive me, for I am about to sin my ass off! If any of this mess turns out pretty, I'll take pictures.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Change of Plans!

I'm getting ready to go to the annual Kennedy-DiPasquale Christmas Eve Party tonight. This is a party that I look ever so forward to. Loads of beautiful food, caroling around the piano, tons of people I love to see! Kelly introduced Andy and me, so going to their house always feels special.

I didn't think I was going to be able to attend this year, and even told Kelly so, because I truly thought I was going to be in Michigan visiting my parents. Unfortunately, Mother Nature was bound and determined to keep me home. I waited and waited at the airport yesterday only to come to the conclusion that I wasn't going ANYWHERE. What was I thinking, routing a Christmas trip through Chicago?? Mom and Dad were really sweet and understanding when I told them I couldn't come.

The upside of all this is that I get to spend Christmas in my own home, a pleasure I rarely get! Andy will be with me and the boys are coming to visit. We will cook and laugh and have a grand time.

I'm making a huge Asian style noodle salad to take to the party. I got the recipe on Pioneer Woman's site. It's got an impossible number of ingredients and it looks like a million bucks when it's done.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Annual Office Christmas Party!

Our theatre company usually has a really fun Christmas party. It's not stodgy or pretentiously politically correct. We just get together and throw down. We each bring a dish to share. Some people have their signature dishes-Gordon always brings his sausage balls. If we're really lucky, he'll have enough time to make his gorganzola cheese grits. Other Andy usually makes some kind of outrageous pie. Phil brings barbecue and Bruce brings shrimp.

I don't have a signature dish yet! I think I have brought something different every year, and this year will be no exception. Last year I brought Stuffin Muffins, which were remarkably unremarkable. This time I am making Smoked Chili Scalloped Sweet Potatoes, many thanks to Bobby Flay (who incidentally is HOT). Andy Cleveland made them for Thanksgiving and I thought they were really good! Plus, they contain 3 ingredients, so they're dead easy! I added a little more pureed chipotle chili than Bobby said to add. Well, I guess I should tell the truth--I doubled it. This dish is going to have a definite kick!

The picture above is from the Food Network's website. I am going to attempt a pic of my own tomorrow morning when I finish cooking the dish.

Update: Here it is! My piccy is much prettier, if I do say so myself. Can't wait to have a taste!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Jackson Pollack Shortbread

As if the plain shortbread wasn't sinful enough...this version will send you straight to hell on the express train.

I used the same Joy of Cooking recipe as I did a few posts ago, but I incorporated the zest of an orange into the dough. Once it was baked, cut and cooled, I drizzled it with melted Lindt Intense Orange Chocolate.

I think I have a shortbread monkey on my back. I am powerless over shortbread.

Friday, December 19, 2008

White Bean and Roasted Garlic Soup

I had an overabundance of garlic and Great Northern beans so I went on a hunt online to find a good recipe to use them up. I happened upon a really nice looking blog called Farmgirl Fare, where I found a recipe called Garlic Lover's White Bean Soup. How perfect is that? It was flavored with rosemary, thyme and most unusually, fennel seed. Plus the added benefit of 19 cloves of roasted garlic. Okay, the recipe called for 10 to 15 cloves, so I figured 19 would just be morer betterer, right? The soup turned out divine. The garlic became sweet and caramelized and the beans had a delicate and very velvety smooth texture when cooked, and they absorbed the flavor of the herbs and fennel seed wonderfully. The recipe has very little fat and, all in all, it was a very thick and healthy soup.

Well, it was reasonably healthy until I decided to top each bowl with homemade seasoned croutons! I had an almost week old loaf of homemade bread that I just had not gotten around to eating. It wasn't mouldy or anything gross like that--just a bit stale. So I cut the crusts off, cubed it into 1" cubes and put the cubes in a bowl. This bread had a hearty firm crumb, so it didn't disintegrate when I melted some butter with some olive oil in the microwave and drizzled it all over the cubes of bread. I then tossed that whole mess with Penzey's Mural of Flavor spice blend, spread it on a baking sheet and baked them at 350 degrees for kind of a long time, like 30 minutes. Then I drained them on paper towels when I took them out of the oven. The result was golden, butter infused croutons that were so crunchy they nearly cracked my teeth.

I usually throw my old bread out into the back yard for the birds, but I might have to reconsider this plan from now on. I like the idea that I can reincarnate old bread as decadent croutons when I don't have time to bake a fresh loaf, y'know? And because fat is a natural preservative, they'll last for a day or two so I can give them a third life with leftover soup. I love being thrifty! And the French half of me hates to waste food, so it's all bon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thank You, Orangyna!

My really cool friend, Orangyna, the Roller Derby Queen, left a sample of rosemary infused shortbread cookies on my desk today and man-o-man, were they goooooooood. I am publicly thanking her. The cookies lasted about 2 1/2 minutes. I would never have imagined using rosemary in a cookie, but its lovely perfumey aroma was a delicious surprise. Orangyna's brother-in-law is a chef and has actually been on Iron Chef. That is surely the closest brush with culinary fame that I will ever have.

Monday, December 8, 2008

An Alarming Discovery

I was staring confoundedly at my checking account balance on Saturday. It just did not make sense that there was only 35.00 in the account, so I began to review the account activity online and came to the horrifying realization that, by mistake, I paid my mortgage twice in December. Judas Priest, I was so diligent in scheduling the payment that I did it twice. There's no recourse now, because it took me a week to notice this error. In case my boss reads this, NO, I can't afford to pay double mortgage payments on purpose. Andy Cleveland points out that, in a time when loads of people can't even pay one mortgage bill, I go ahead two steps and pay the bloody thing twice!! And, no, the mortgage people don't give me a month off. They just "apply the excess towards the principle." Well thanks a hell of a lot, because I have so much extra money lying around in December, in a recession.

So, part deux of this little diatribe is least I have a house. I guess I should just be grateful that my problem is not something like, "It's really cold out tonight. Where am I going to sleep?"

I am not rich by any stretch, but I am grateful.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

My First Try at Shortbread

Aside from bread, I'm not much of a baker. I was tickled to death today with this plain Scottish shortbread I made!

I used the tried and true recipe in The Joy of Cooking, and followed the suggestion of replacing a portion of the flour with cornstarch to give the cookie a little extra special crumble. What a good suggestion--the first bite is crispy and buttery and crumbly, then as you chew it all kind of melts in your mouth. Seriously, this is dangerously delicious.

It is really an easy recipe. Take 10 tablespoons of softened unsalted butter, 1/4 cup of powdered sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons of regular sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Beat them together until well incorporated and fluffy. Take 1/3 cup of cornstarch and dump it into a bigger measuring cup, like a one-cup or two-cup size. Fill the bigger measuring cup the rest of the way with all purpose flour until it gets to 1 1/2 cups all together. Then get your boyfriend to stir (don't worry, I won't tell your husband) as you gradually sift the flour/cornstarch into the buttah. It will get really doughy, and it should, because you then knead it gently until it's fairly smooth and cohesive. You may add a very small amount of water if the dough won't come together.

Press the dough into an 8X8 pan and make it as smooth and even as possible. Pierce the dough liberally with a fork and bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes. The shortbread should be "tinged with a pale golden color and only slightly darker at the edges." Mine took 45 minues, and it smelled gorgeous when it was baking.

When they come out of the oven, gently cut almost all the way through into little finger squares. When it's cooled, cut it the rest of the way and separate the little bars. I kind of liked the slightly imperfect sizes. They looked sweet and homey.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Holy Crap, 'Tis the Season for Theme Sweaters

Just because I hate your sweater doesn't mean I hate you. Okay, that being said, I hate your sweater.

I work for a non-profit theatre and we produce a show for family and school audiences every year at Christmas time. Consequently, I have had the displeasure of seeing some of the ugliest Christmas-themed outfits known to (wo)man. How much glitter, beading, sequining and embroidery can you punish one sweater with, for the love of Christ?

And the cotton turtleneck that you are wearing under the offending sweater, dotted with little snowmen, is not giving my eyes any respite. You do not need to add insult to injury. You can't improve ugly by layering ugly under it.

I wish I were allowed to take photographs in the theatre tomorrow. It's our first performance of our holiday show, "The Best Christmas Pageant, Ever." I would love to post them on this blog and have a contest for "The Ugliest Christmas Sweater, Ever."

Then I could punish the winner with a public spanking.

There, I've said it!

I feel somehow cleansed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Snack for a Single Woman

My sweet neighbor, The Debra, gave me a very thoughtful gift the other night. She knows I can't have too much salt, and she found a little jar of this stuff at Penzey's in Carytown called Mural of Flavor. It's completely salt free and really delish.

I had a hankering for roasted garlic tonight. I don't know what brought it on--maybe all the vampire mania lately? Anyway, I trimmed two whole bulbs of garlic, doused them with olive oil, and bundled them up in foil and baked them until they were all soft and sweet and caramelized. Mercy sakes alive, THE SMELL. And I mean that in a good way.

I sliced little medallions of baguette--the very same baguettes I made in my last entry--and toasted the little slices. When I removed the garlic from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes, I squeezed the soft oily and fragrant innards of the garlic cloves out and sprinkled them generously with Penzey's Mural of Flavor. Then I spread the whole mess on bits of homemade toast and gobbled it down for my dinner.

The beauty of being on my own for dinner is that I can prepare any strange thing I desire. It's ever so fortunate that I will not be sharing living space with anybody this evening. I don't need to tell you that roasted garlic definitely has its explosive effects on the digestive system. And two whole bulbs, oh my goodness. Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy ride!

Let's just say that I won't be concerned about vampires tonight. Or any intruder who toys with coming within a block of my house.