For this month’s Foodzie box, I had a choice (as I normally do) for which tasting box I wanted to have delivered, and decided on the themed package that showcased snacks, candy and general awesomeness from independent food companies in a location-specific NYC borough — named, appropriately, the Brooklyn Box.
In the Box:
Beer Truffles from Nunu Chocolates – Two of my favorite dietary must-haves in one treat? SOLD! Also, if I ever make it to NYC, I have to visit their flagship location for chocolate AND BEER (yeah, their draft list is hella awesome).
“The King” Bar from Liddabit Sweets
Bacon Fat Old Bay Peanuts (oh yeah) from Ovenly — yeah, I’m over the bacon thing… but the boyfriend appreciated the inclusion of this bag of seasoned nuts.
Red Onion Rosemary Crackers from Z Crackers — these will be going on our cheese & Charcuterie platter for our “We Bought Some Patio Furniture!” Patio Party.
Organic Dried Mangoes from Peeled Snacks
And my favorite item o’ the box: Farmhand’s Choice Granola from Early Bird Granola — true story: I am not likely to buy my granola from anywhere else. This mix of organic oats and grains and nuts and olive oil is so fucking delicious. I want it on and with or after everything. I will also continue giving them my money in exchange for good stuff because of THIS:
Disclaimer: I am NOT paid, sponsored or fed by Foodzie. But you really should subscribe to their monthly Tasting Box.
Some background listening music for you, while I concoct my Valentine’s dessert right before your very eyes.
This is the dessert you make when you no time or no talent for baking. Or a little bit of both.
Remember when society was so fucked up IN THE 90s, female students were still required to take a class that taught them about… COOKING? And sewing. Because we all know that learning German isn’t going to get you anywhere in life. So, you best put on your apron already and just shut your whore mouth.
So, in my ninth grade Home Ec class, I brought in this Valentine’s Day-inspired recipe from Seventeen magazine. And someone how my teacher agreed and put it on the schedule. WE DIDN’T HAVE TO COOK ANYTHING. (I’m pretty sure that means I win Home Ec).
Those days, I was lusting after Brett Borovic something fierce. If I had anything resembling balls, I probably would have made this cake specifically for him. But then, if I had anything resembling balls, this story would have gone in a seriously weird direction. Instead, it would be the LAST DAY of junior high school that I would finally work up the courage to talk to him — as he was waiting for his bus. All I could muster was asking him to take a picture with me… which I kept bedside for my summer pleasure. This was so far from my first crush, and I honestly don’t remember his appeal. I think, maybe, I was going through a mysterious phases — which would last until the ripe old age of 25. Fucking guys.
Oh, did I mention when asking for that picture, I was coyly sucking on a lollipop? I mean, I wouldn’t even know about blowjobs for another ten years, so even the sexual naïveté of the situation was lost on me.
But I digress — here’s the recipe for HONEY, LICK-MY-FROSTING CAKES (or something):
What you need
Sara Lee Butter Pound Cake (find that in the aisle where your nips get hard)
Frosting (pink or use food coloring… nobody wants a boring ass white frosted cake. NO ONE.)
Strawberry jelly (or grape… if you’re weird)
Heart-shaped cookie cutter (MINE IS MISSING from the move, of course. A paper cutout will work for tracing the cake.)
Allow the frozen cake to thaw… if seriously pressed for time, you can zap it for ten seconds IF YOU HAVE A MICROWAVE. I decided to throw into the warming oven for about 15 minutes since I DO NOT HAVE A MICROWAVE. DO NOT COOK THE CAKE. Remember when I said there was no cooking involved? You just need to be able to cut into it.
And when you can: cut the loaf in half. Then cut the halves in half. Each piece, cut into a heart, using either a cookie cutter (of appropriate size) or tracing with a knife around your pattern — or shit, something heart shaped if you got it! Remember actual hearts are not Valentine’s Day hearts. And vice versa.
Spread jelly in between two slices of heart cake. Stack on top of one another.
Cover the ENTIRE THING with frosting. This will be a mess because you likely have ZERO CLUE how to frost a layer cake AND the layers wil pull apart from one another. If you can’t keep these in place, use one of those thin, wooden kebab stakes. Toothpicks will be too short. Scoop a large helping of frosting onto the top of the cake and move around generously. Wipe (or lick) off the messy plate afterward.
Sprinkle with some jimmies, if you purchased that awesome jar of Funfetti frosting.
And don’t do this…
Seriously, why the fuck does this always happen.
Devour for one serious belly-aching SUGAR HIGH!
Yeah, yeah. The boyfriend is traveling this week.
This is my dinner…
“Pittsburgh BBQ” aka: Isaly’s Chipped Chopped Ham BBQ (by the bowl; I wasn’t feeling another sandwich… I KNOW! I checked my temperature. I’m fine.) and cucumbers soaked in vinegar.
Meat and veggie. Sorta healthy, right?
Definitely not culinary.
Coming back from the disaster known as Eggnog French Toast, I needed to redeem myself in the kitchen. And what better way than with mother-fucking moussaka.
Making moo-sa-KAA is no small feat — you’re guaranteed to be in the kitchen, actively cooking something for nearly 2 hours (and then another hour to wait for the fruits of your labor). I’ve made the Greek casserole only a couple times in my life… but it’s been nearly a decade. This also means that I lost my old cookbook in a flurry of ex-boyfriends, which meant I had to find a new recipe.
Seriously. Take a look at this recipe — the number of ingredients and steps and KITCHEN WORDS I DON’T UNDERSTAND. And prep time: 1 hour and 35 minutes. This, after Christmas shopping and running errands for an entire day. Surprisingly, I found my cooking Chi and went to work (with a glass of wine).
The boyfriend attempted to intercept my cooking no less than three times. Every incident he got a “GET OUT!” with a smack of my spatula. I used a Greek accent. I think he liked it.
But this Simply Recipes… err, recipe was fantastic. The directions don’t leave anything out for a beginner… especially when it comes time to make your first roux. Or temper eggs for the VERYFIRSTTIME. And why don’t I remember doing this the other times I made this dish?
Probably because I was doing it wrong. Or not. I mean, it always tasted good.
Oh, HEY! I think this means I crossed off one of my cooking missives for the new year: Learn how to chop, cut foods. Or something.
Also, I like my moussaka with a layer of potatoes at the bottom. You can argue that is MOST DEFINITELY NOT THE GREEK WAY! But I had it once — ONLY ONCE — like this in a Greek restaurant, and it was my favorite.
Even if my potatoes were being little bitches. Oh, I’M SO SORRY POTATOES FOR LEAVING YOU IN THE COLANDER FOR 18 MINUTES.
You CAN make moussaka with only eggplants for a much lighter dish, of course. I mean, aside from the entire top layer of egg custard-like bechamel sauce. Also, also: I used beef. Which, I probably wouldn’t do again because of the grease factor (even after baking). Lamb is just so goddamn expensive for something that I could potentially fuck up.
WHICH I DID NOT.
Also, also, also: definitely find the Greek cheese. The bitterness complemented the little bit of citrus that cuts through each bite, and it is delicious. But let me tell you, the absolute best part (besides eating it) is when you are simmering the meat with cinnamon; it is heavenly.
Especially so, when everything comes out of the oven looking like THIS:
But making such a meal provided me great pride — it was the boyfriend’s first taste of the cultural classic, and he was pleased. You know what, sometimes I DO know what the hell I’m doing. Especially when it comes to comfort food.
Hey, do you like my apron?
Super cute, right? Don’t take yourself so seriously in the kitchen, feminist! Check out vintage-inspired kitchen attire from Jessie Steele. Disclaimer: I received an apron via my ad network courtesy of Jessie Steele, like, two years ago.
I can’t tell you how pissed I was when I picked up a container of Dean’s eggnog and read “corn syrup” on the label. I used to make homemade eggnog (and have been advised against because of the potential issues with raw eggs). But I’m sure that simply pasteurizing a product does NOT mean adding CRAP “to make it taste better.” I make my best attempt to purchase grocery items that are as “real” and organic as/when possible. While I realize I cannot prevent this CRAP in everything, I feel that every little bit of concern helps. Yet, I remain hypocritical in my penchant for Honey Nut Cheerios (seriously, one of the worst and MOST sugary cereals on the market… ugh) and Moon Pies (is there anything NOT scientific on this label?).
I mean, have you read about the effects of high fructose corn syrup? Well, for one: IT’S MAKING YOU FAT. And the industry has coyly attempted to rename HFCS, corn sugar(s). I mean, we’re all adults here, you know high levels of sugar in your food is bad for you, right? RIGHT(s)?! It’s about balance. Consumer awareness. Sadly, three other containers in the dairy section had the same problem. WTF, Giant Eagle: on labels, you explicitly promote your chocolate milk as NOT having high fructose corn syrup — why not the eggnog?
And what the fuck were we talking about here? Oh yeah, MOTHER FUCKING EGGNOG FRENCH TOAST.
Thankfully, I found that Horizon Organic makes an eggnog. And then I realized that I probably COULD have made my own eggnog in this case, since I would be cooking the battered bread anyways. Gah!
The boyfriend and I both like our French toast to be made with white or Italian bread for some serious eggnog-dippy action, so I used that for our Sunday breakfast of champions.
2 1/2 cups of eggnog
1/2 T cinnamon
1/4 T pumpkin pie spice
(optional: rum flavoring)
REAL maple syrup and powdered sugar for topping (I’ve read about an apple-cranberry compote to complement the French toast, which I most definitely will make in the future)
Let’s Make Breakfast
Whisk everything in a bowl; dip bread; place on skillet, cooking each side until golden brown.
BREAKFAST IS SERVED! Else, it should be.
This is the part of the story where you should NOT follow my directions (and why you only get “before” pictures with this post). See, I’m still getting used to this gas stove and asked the boyfriend which pan and heat setting I should use — and I followed his recommendation, but I wanted to cook by myself. My first pair of toast stuck to the pan… which, typical. I intended to start over, but it happened JUST as the boyfriend entered the kitchen to “check in” on me.
THIS IS WHAT I HATE: he attempted to take over breakfast, instead of kindly helping by offering suggestions. He told me to use oil (on what I thought was a non-stick pan), which would have been nice to know beforehand, right? But because my mind was already “FUCK YOU! GET OUT! I CAN DO THIS” (as he grabbed the spatula from my hand), his typical laughter at my expense sent me into an emotional tailspin.
I would have tried again and eventually figured it out (with butter instead of oil… ew). But at that point, I was so indignant at his response — to my doing something nice — he was being completely and totally insensitive.
So, he made breakfast for himself. I grabbed a blueberry cereal bar and went skating. The end.
MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS!
Where my alcoholics at: Serve with a little rum in your coffee. Or an entire bottle of rum, in my case.
I hope this means that one of you was SUPER, DUPER awesome & already bought a DIY Cheese Kit for me! Or is currently making me cheese from their recently-purchased DIY Cheese Kit.
See UrbanCheesecraft on etsy for more kits (currently sold out for the holidays *whomp*) and cheese-making accessories.
This is dumb.
I brought to this relationship an almost-new hand can opener that has the most awesome of rubber grips and non-rusted, can cutter-mechanisms. Seen on left.
His: old, rusted, barely turns, hardly cuts and is completely awkward to use. Seen on right.
We upgraded most of his hand-me-down utensils and such when I first moved in; my “stuff” was noticeably nicer — and lesser used. Yet he REFUSES to get rid of this stupid, old contraption. He “likes it.” Amongst a lot of other double shit around the kitchen, which I’ve finally started to pack up this week.
And I KNOW he’ll notice if it’s missing.
So, we continue to live on in a household with two freaking can openers.
Please tell me someone else has this problem.
Not to out-do (or out-stress) myself this time, I made a one-bowl meal for the third installment of “cooking for the boyfriend”, aka: my 25 learn-how-to-cook missive or things I’ve never made before.
And there wasn’t nary a cheese involved.
I followed Chez Pim’s “Pad Thai for beginners” recipe, and his direction sincerely made making dinner easier. Although, cooking to taste when you’re NOT really sure how something should taste is not a control freak’s best friend. I like to have measurements… but well, I guess that’s now you cook Thai food. And dammit, I was hungry.
In an attempt to make cooking easier, I write out my steps in numerical order as well as write backward in timed increments when to start preparing things focused on DINNER TIME, so as to NOT forget anything or having to rush. I know, I already said I was OCD.
For a Pad Thai sauce, you need four ingredients, really: tamarind, fish sauce, sugar (I used brown) and chili powder. Thankfully, I knew from a previous trip to the Asian market with the boyfriend that we HAD tamarind (a whole BRICK, actually). However, I have no idea what tamarind actually is, but it smells of something between the likes of black tea & fig newtons.
And obviously looks like diarrhea when soaked, according to directions.
Sometime after the water becomes “touchable” (read: won’t burn your fingernails off), you need to work that madness into a “ketchup-like” consistency. Mine never really made it there (too much water, I imagine), and resulted in something more like A-1. Then, you need to pressing out the solid gunk.
After all that annoying bullshit, I was “surprised” to find this in the fridge.
But no, come hell or high water full of arachnids, I was not cheating on this recipe. Perfect sauce, be damned! And for what it’s worth, mine tasted COMPLETELY different. Is tomato normally an ingredient in Thai sauce? Is that why there is an “easy” recipe that contains ketchup?
Pondering aside, I didn’t have a lot to prep, aside from the sauce & making sure everything was measured & ready to go when it came time for cooking as once the wok is hot, there is no time for pictures.
So, after my sauce was completed, I chopped some chives and ground some peanuts.
Side note: I thought doing that in my coffee grinder would be perfect, but the internet quickly dissuaded those plans. I broke out the Cuisanart and set it to “not peanut butter” function.
The steps in cooking went something like this: (oh, I made tofu Pad Thai, by the way)
Smoke myself out of the first level of the loft because I realized that I used olive oil
Wait for wok to cool; try again, this time using peanut oil
Fry tofu to a crisp
Add some of your yummy pre-made sauce
Add noodles (about a cup or two at a time)
Keep continuously stirring until noodles are soft (another side note: I soaked thai noodles according to package directions before this mess all started)
Add an egg to the middle
Toss that salad!
Add bean sprouts and peanuts and more sauce, if needed (or wanted, I suppose)
And… SERVE, topped with chives.
Or fuck this up. And just add more Thai sauce.
Repeat (quickly) because YOU need to eat too. But hopefully, without (or at least half the amount) all that smoke and the need to open windows in 30-degree weather.
Result: it was really freaking good. I mean, REALLY good, and I got a blow job seal of approval from the boyfriend. Wait a minute… But sadly, like most Asian food, was NOT good the next day. I made WAY too much for two people.
My first attempt at cooking for the boyfriend went well, with something I feel comfortable doing: baking. So, I made wonderful cinnamon rolls. And the boyfriend approved.
The second task I picked as my 25 project was a “surprise” for Valentine’s Day. This was no easy task, as not only was dinner my responsibility — so was the freaking grocery shopping. AB was ALL kinds of nervous, wondering if I was gifting him food poisoning for the romantic holiday. See? That’s real love.
In order for my meal to be a success, I needed to purchase a new small appliance (as if we need anything else in this kitchen!): a fondue pot. Finding an abundance of models at both Target and Kohl’s online, I thought that buying one in store would be just as easy. WRONG. Neither had them. But thankfully, at open skate that afternoon, one of my freshies recommended Bed, Bath & Beyond (I have no clue why that option escaped me while I was wandering around McKnight Road). I scored an electric Cuisanart model for less than $50, and also picked up a mini dipper crockpot for, like, $20. This thing is AWESOME, and saved a potential “problem” I recognized in serving three courses of fondue.
First course: oil and meat (and dipping sauces)
I used peanut oil, as it is supposedly healthier, but also less likely to stink up the place. I mean, we were cooking meat practically in our living room. Mmmmm, smell that Chinese restaurant on my couch? *puke* Also, never use olive oil (smoky). Anyway, the butcher at Giant Eagle was incredibly helpful, selecting a pound of filet that I had to cut into small pieces for dipping. There wasn’t a lot of fat to cook off, which was great, and I didn’t need to marinate the meat. You can also use sirloin, but… meh.
My three sauces: a sweet and sour (ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar), a mustard sauce (mayo, mustard — both dry and hot mustard, and wine vinegar), a melted lemon-herb butter (OMG, it was so delicious & we have those individual butter warmers, which was like a whole other fondue!). And of course, A-1.
Second course (served alongside the first): cheese fondue and a platter of veggies and breads
I found a few recipes online for a cheese fondue, but none of which could be made without the use of white wine (which we didn’t have… and you know you can’t buy freaking wine from grocery stores), so I had to open up a bottle of “saved” Pinot Gris (even after I asked the boyfriend not to use it THE PRIOR WEEK). I used all Gruyere, melted with the white wine, a little cornstarch, salt & pepper and garlic. I had to time it perfectly, as I had to make it on the stove first, then transfer it to the mini crockpot (which really didn’t keep it hot enough, but we made it work). It was DELICIOUS. I cut up a variety of veggies (the carrots are NOT good for fondue, but I wanted another color on the plate… consider it a palate cleanser) and a couple different breads and a seasoned pita chip.
Third course: chocolate and several sweet things for dipping
I tell you what, melting chocolate has everything to do with the pan. We received a new Cephalon small sauce pan for Christmas, and this thing was wonderful — perfect chocolate melty-ness. I used semisweet (the individually-wrapped cubes, then chopped them a little smaller) and heavy cream and a tiny bit of vanilla. Voila! Also, I just transferred to a small Corningware ramekin for the table. It stayed melted long enough to enjoy the plate of goodies.
For dipping, I plated vanilla wafers, giant marshmallows (seriously, this campfire bag was all kinds of awesome, but it is definitely no Pittsburgh Marshmallow Company marshmallow… I just couldn’t get there over the weekend), pineapple, cut up one of those frozen Sara Lee pound cakes (seriously, I love that cake for things like this).
To be honest, I was shocked how well everything came together (even if I spent the better part of February 14 stressing out and doing prep work). It was my first time attempting fondue, and I swear, I made a time sheet to make sure I didn’t forget ANY steps. But the best part: I didn’t really have to cook anything (which, I think alleviated some of the boyfriend’s stomach stress).
What did you make (or have) for Valentine’s Day dinner?
Kind of romantic, no?
I signed up to make 25 new things this year, alongside Lead Paint Cookbook (among others). At one point, I was supposed to post a list of my 25, but you know that thing about time… THAT and that, well, getting behind blazing new trails in the cooking world was something I WANTED to do, but my brain was telling me, “YOU SO CRAZY!” And now without setting myself up for any unnecessary anxiety, I have the opportunity to both stick to my resolution, yet create something on the fly.
I’ve often considered myself a decent baker (blame those Hungarian genes) rather than a master chef, so I started my first mission with cinnamon rolls. I should also mention that I have been CRAVING these for about two weeks. This recipe online (and a somewhat easy one at that) contained ingredients that I already had in the cupboard. I did make a few substitutions: bread flour for all-purpose (didn’t appear to make a difference) and butter in place of margarine (we don’t keep the fake crap in our house). I would definitely cut down on the butter just a bit for the sugary insides — woof. Real butter means real business.
The worst part, of course, is waiting when you’re cooking — which is why I don’t particularly like to cook. When I’m hungry, I’m cranky; therefore, cooking doesn’t relax me – in fact, it does the opposite. I also don’t really like to measure… I find it stressful. But then, why do I like baking better than cooking? Perhaps because it is more exact?
Also, because I’m hungry, cranky and likely rushing, I make really stupid mistakes… like, when “softening” the butter.
Ahem. And that I make a million messes BEFORE the process even begins. Seriously, boyfriend? I will cut you for opening the flour bag in that manner. *stab*
Since I had to roll out to a 9×12 rectangle, I figured using my plastic vegetable cutting board liner would help to ensure I had the right size AND keep the dough off the counter (even if I disinfected and cleaned the thing 803 times before starting). Let the dramatic foreshadowing commence…
Rolling dough is fun! And I admit, I was quite impressed with myself for my FIRST TIME, that the dough was perfect. *back pat*
Of course, because I “forgot” to flour the plastic sheet, so the dough kept sticking. Somehow — with a zen-like acquired patience — I was able to roll it properly without any rips or tears… but a LOT of oozing.
*lick* Yeah… way too buttery. Also, my photography skills: severely lacking. That looks like a bloody sock, rather than a delicious soon-to-be-baked good. Regardless, the cut dough LOOKED like a promising end product, no?
After setting aside to double in size, I took liberties with making my own cream cheese-based glaze: cream cheese, powdered sugar, brown sugar, vanilla & butter. No, I didn’t measure, since I only had about 3.5 oz of cream cheese left, I guesstimated. Note: don’t use too much vanilla either.
Um… I think I have a little extra. I do really well with my beating arm. *wink*
Yada, yada, yada: a dozen cinnamon rolls!
Never use a beater to “drizzle” glaze over rolls. OR YOU WILL HAVE TO EAT IT. <eg> And look! I even have a black sheep in the family (he’ll just need a little extra frosting).
All that, and I still have a remaining manicure of which to speak. Hello, Zoya Pinta!
And obviously, a big mess to clean up.
I think I can label this first task a success!