Let's eat!

Hi. My name's Carol, and I love food. No, you don't understand. I love food. If I were on the Titanic, I'd be in the galley (kitchen) eating up the chocolate pudding and the roasted quail. I go to most events, activities and parties just for the food. The company and the conversation are secondary. Here, I'll try to document everything that goes into my mouth. Aren't we excited? Oh, hey, are you gonna eat that?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

From Freezer Pumpkin Loaves

I used a recipe from Recipezaar as a base for my two pumpkin bread loaves tonight. Mostly, it was an excuse to use up frozen pumpkin puree (two cups total, imagine that) and, in the middle of the process, try Craisins and semi-sweet chocolate chips as a combination filling instead of the requisite two cups of raisins (or nuts).

Last time I made pumpkin bread, I'd thrown in only a handful of dark chocolate chips as an experiment, not sure it would work. It worked. My friend loved the combo, asking for more next time. I had also run out of regular raisins and used Craisins in their place. Much, much better.

Thawing pumpkin puree, though, is gross. Way too much water to squeeze out through a tight sieve, texture disaffected. I don't get why so many women prefer freezing baked goods. I hate it.

This recipe of a lady named Leslie is supposed to bake up dense, moist pumpkin breads. It's easy to prepare, add things to, adjust other things. I also threw in a tsp. of kosher salt and made half the sugar brown. Judging from the smell, me and my family are in for a breakfast treat. At least this will tide me over until I can make it back to PCC for my zucchini muffins.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Campbell's Kitchen Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

I was riffling through a People magazine the other week, searching desperately for a picture of a chocolate cake for my son's school carnival cakewalk (long story--I never found one until days after, upstairs in my bathroom, in an old Costco recipe book)... when I came across this Campbell's recipe for creamy chicken enchiladas, using their cream of chicken soup. Cream of chicken soup, Pace Picante Sauce and sour cream, mixed in with chopped chicken, eh? Sounds infinitely doable, especially if I substitute store-bought roast chicken. It's not authentic, but neither is my authentic Mexican enchilada. I use a can of enchilada sauce as opposed to brewing up mole from scratch.

I loathe flour tortillas, so I used corn tortillas (the white ones) instead. I remembered Rick Bayless's PBS cooking show, "Mexico One Plate At A Time", where he advised the proper, quick method of softening corn tortillas to make them more pliable for rolling into enchiladas. Get two paper towels, connected together, put a little water over it, squeeze water out, separate each tortilla and put them in the stack you need, wrap with the damp paper towel, stick into a microwave, and nuke for about a minute. Works every time. Worked for me tonight.

The recipe also does not call for topping the enchiladas with any cheese before popping into the oven. It calls for no topping at all, really. But I ignored that and added shredded cheddar and chopped cilantro. It was then that I realized I'd bought the low-fat shredded cheese mix from Albertson's. Dang the food police; they're everywhere. You can't get regular anything anymore, especially in the dairy case. I'm constantly having to pick through jar after container after bag, reading the fine prints to make sure it's not non-fat, low-salt, low-fat, no-flavor.

I was tempted to leave out the chopped tomato and green onion at the end, after it baked. I'm glad I didn't. The topping gives fresh, light flavor to the creamy, heavy enchiladas. I'm looking forward to experimenting with the other enchilada variations out there using Campbell's soups. There's a green chile enchilada recipe I've got my eye on.

This is one of the easiest recipes ever. I'm a fan. Easy to put together, easy to put away. I ate about half the friggin' pan when all was said and done.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Shortbread Hearts and Circles

It's the oddest things that often catch my attention, then I'm craving all the lifelong day. Two weeks ago, I was enjoying myself at a friend's house eating grilled Mexican carne asadas. But it was the dessert that did me in. Store-bought, thick shortbread hearts drizzled with white and semi-sweet chocolate.

Immediately, I looked up Ina Garten's version at Food Network, and today, went about preparing them. Adjusting for heart- and circle-shaped cutters, and whatever leftover chocolate pieces in the pantry (semi-sweet and bittersweet).

When I went to roll out the chilled dough, I almost gave up. No matter what I did, the dough shattered in my hands. Maybe I didn't chill it long enough. Maybe I didn't mix it long enough. What if the two seconds of high messed with the texture? How the heck am I going to firm and smooth this crackling dough? Somehow, my mind went on automatic and I kept trying. Instead of trying to roll the entire flattened disk, I took pieces out, working slowly, gently with that, molding as best as I could, trying to get that smoothed-over texture.

I managed to cut out enough hearts and circles (remind me to invest in a smaller, cylinder shape like Ina's) to feed my sugar-crazed family, with a small ball that just wouldn't adhere which I snacked on. Nothing like raw sugar dough. So good.

As for the chocolate covering, I didn't know whether to dip half like Ina did (which looks weird on gigantic hearts and circles), so I did one like that, covered a few others just on the fronts, and then drizzled the rest, as the recipe originally calls for.

FYI: try to roll out the same height of dough, or else some of the shapes will burn on the bottoms like some of mine did. Right now, they're cooling and hardening on my kitchen counter--if my husband can wait long enough.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

(broken) dream brunch at Cafe Campagne

"Does your child have a, a, food allergy?" -waitress
"Yes, it's called I'm a nitpicky eater-itis." -me

Cafe Campagne wasn't a dream come true. Not even close. At the end of our planned brunch, we didn't even have room, time or the inclination to even ask about the pear clafouti.

Oh, the food was okay. But my husband and my mom could make better brunch at home, and have. I could certainly have done without the jam-packed crowds, the five-minute wait (and we had reservations), the one stall in the women's restroom that always seemed occupied (when I waited, I counted past three minutes before I resorted to the men's, which was like a revolving door), the lack of a child-friendly menu or options, the lack of grown-up options (where are the baked eggs I dreamed about?), and the late service, however friendly (our waitress came straight out of Vogue Paris).

It didn't help to start off the day bone-tired, driving all the way down to Pike Place only to find the entire area closed off for a cheese festival. We parked across from the Wharf, thanks to some random guy holding up a sign that read, "City Parking free!," showing us that a car was leaving. Of course the driver was taking 10 times longer because we were waiting for her and her party of 400 to leave. Then, we all had to walk, with me in cheap, Mexican slip-ons that blistered my feet and no slip for my fancy see-through, muumuu-type dress--past several blocks and up a near-vertical flight of stairs (35 steps totaled, I counted). By the time we entered upon a jam-packed Pike Place Market, both me and my son had to go #3.

By the time we were seated in the middle of small room surrounded by loud people who looked territorial and paranoid, I was ready to go back home, go back to sleep, and have my husband make us his own omelettes. But he said let's just try it since we're here.

I couldn't find anything suitable for our son James. We finally settled on a baguette (hard, dry and chewy as boot leather) with French style butter, local honey and confiture (jelly), hold the honey and confiture, along with a side order of pommes frites after I was assured that they did not come with parsley on top. Thank God they had a container of white and brown sugar chunks is all I have to say.

The house-cured salmon Gravlax with salmon rilettes and demie-baguette with fennel, red onion and citrus salad sounded intriguing, but I was there for the baked eggs which was never there to begin with. I settled eventually for the Oeufs en Meurette (poached eggs on garlic croutons (which tasted more like flavorless spongelike brioche) with pearl onions, bacon and champignons in red wine-foie gras sauce, with pommes frites, while Eddie had the French-style rolled omelette with herbs, escarole, and chevre cheese, and chicken/pork sausage.

I overcame my distaste for brown anything near my eggs quickly, the second I took a bite. The sauce saved the mostly bland eggs and "croutons" (shouldn't croutons be crunchy?). The wine and foie gras gave the sauce a depth of flavor and just enough saltiness. I really enjoyed the bites of my husband's omelette, which was soft and creamy. Too bad Ed doesn't like goat cheese. His chicken/pork sausage was salty though, while the roast potatoes seemed to need more salt.

The pomme frites were brown to dark-brown, like they were burnt. They weren't crispy either. The fancy-sounding aioli did nothing to mask their saltiness. I expected perfect, slightly off-white sticks of potato goodness -- crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. What an expensive disappointment. This was not the brunch restaurant of my literal dreams, the one I swore was some psychic premonition.

For the past two days, Eddie was going on about this new venue in Bellevue, Artisanal Brasserie, a wine bar. He just landed a gig there playing keys for singer Gail Pettis, and said the food was awesome, right up my alley, we have to go.

Guess what? I checked their online menu out, kicking myself. The food there is more varied, more accessible, they have a kid's menu, happy hour menu, classic hard-to-find dishes that always make my mouth water: beignets, fondue, Penn Cove mussels, Trout Almondine, bouillabaisse, chicken under brick, Stroganoff...

Oh, and the baked eggs I'd dreamed about in the first place.

Dante/Devon birthday party

On Thursday night or Friday, I was invited to a last-minute combined Saturday birthday party for brothers Dante (8) and Devon (4). Rather, their former Tae Kwon Do teammate, my son, was. James and I are always up for a party, especially when it involves indoor, heated swimming pools (for him) and free food (for me).

Oh, the food. I always love attending Kristine (and her sister-in-law Cat's) birthday parties in the past, because they fed you well. Kristine is known for her love of baking desserts. She had quite a spread: cookies with jelly in the middle, bars with green, minty filling, vanilla cupcakes light as air topped with curls of white chocolate, Oreo crumbles or chocolate frosting.

She also had tons of Costco pizzas, including my favorite--the supreme with bell pepper, onion and sausage, and lasagna (Stouffer's, I think).

Thank God, because I hadn't had a chance to eat. I just slept in, went for my hour walk around the neighborhood, and had just enough time for a soothing cup of coffee before we had to head out. So the pizza and the lasagna, not to mention the three cupcakes and cookie, really hit the spot.

To tell you the truth, I could've eaten 10 more of those chocolate cupcakes. Something about the humble cupcake reminds me of my childhood, where there were no such beasts as calorie counting and Atkins diets.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

carnival chili dog

What a pleasant surprise. When I read all about the school carnival (my son's), for weeks earlier, I read all about the kinds of games and food Serene Lake Elementary would have for sale. Food like hot dogs, pizza, cotton candy, candy, Otter Pops, and popcorn, with lemonade and soda.

Tonight was the night. I did my volunteer hour (and 30 minutes extra, 'cause I loved calling out numbers so much) at the cakewalk, then took off for my free tickets, and dinner. As soon as I saw they had chili dogs for eight tickets, I was in. Good deal, too. Each ticket cost 25 cents. With eight, I also got a can of soda (Coca-Cola) and chips (Lays for my son later).

I made my way to a set of picnic tables and went about trying to eat this chili dog without getting it all over myself. No way. I had to find a utensil; all they had were these combination fork and spoons, sporks, so I used it to pry bitefuls. Sooooo hit the spot.

Unfortunately, I spent so much time at the cakewalk and checking out the raffle baskets (my son's class donated one for pet care), that by the time I approached the cotton candy stand, they were out. I almost cried. But settled for some popcorn and free coffee from Starbucks.

It's too bad they don't serve cheeseburgers too, like at the Everett elementary school carnival James and I attended three years ago with friends. Heck, it's too bad they aren't like Punahou's famous February carnival, featuring typical Hawaii fare: malasadas, Portuguese bean soup, fried noodles. But I digress.

Friday, May 14, 2010

tomato soup comfort

Last week, I began jonesing severely for tomato soup. I didn't care where it came from or if I had to make it myself. I didn't even care if I resorted to Campbell's sickly-sweet tomato soup.

Tomato soup from any supermarket is always sweet to some extent. I first tried one from Albertson's near our home. Not bad, especially before bedtime with baguette slices. The next day, it was Edmonds, WA's QFC and its fancy gorgonzola tomato soup. Still sweet, gorgonzola barely detectable. If I didn't know better, I would've sworn it was the same soup--just with different labels. Both bowls hit the spot, especially with several shakes of Tabasco sauce.

Well, tonight, I put together my own tomato soup--working from Giada de Laurentiis' "Hearty Tomato Soup with Lemon and Rosemary" recipe and one I'd put together after loving myself on Madison Cafe's, which no longer exists. The West Seattle cafe was the venue for Marit Peters and her band back in the day (my husband was her keyboard player). I would go, order the tomato soup and be in heaven. It wasn't sweet at all, but spicy. One of the waitresses rattled off a list of ingredients (garlic, Anaheim chiles, Asiago cheese grated fine, stewed tomatoes, cream, chicken stock) to me. Then, several weeks after, the place closed down.

I wished I had the time to make the soup on Monday. But I didn't. So it fell on me to do it today, after I baked a chocolate cake for my son's school carnival cakewalk and before I made frosting for that cake.

I included a lot of Giada's ingredients, like carrots, cannellini beans, and a can of crushed tomatoes, even pureed it with my Braun hand blender. But left out the bay leaf, rosemary, lemon zest and fancy, expensive creme fraiche (why bother? there's cream in Madison's recipe).

I've got it simmering on the stove right now, with some leftover, crusty Macrina Bakery bread warming in the oven. It's gonna be so soothing tonight.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

chocolate cakewalk

I'm crazy. A glutton for punishment. Pure ego.

I didn't have to go out of my way to bake an old-fashioned, double-layered chocolate cake from scratch (cake by Ina Garten, frosting by Kittencal|RecipeZaar). But I wanted to, because that is what I would want to win in a carnival cakewalk when I was in grade school like my son is (2nd). I also relish the idea of some unsuspecting, random winner picking out my plain white cake box, opening it and finding something from scratch and lovingly home made.

None of this buy one get one free deals from Albertson's if you mention the school. Sorry, I couldn't live with myself if I did that. Besides, have you ever had store-bought, air-fluff, shortening-based icing? Yuck.

Baking layered, round cakes with frosting is not easy for me, either. The cakes almost always crack, break off, or tear somewhere. And by the time I get to the frosting, it's always late in the evening and I'm panicking, so I forget to sift the powdered sugar as I'm doubling the one stick to two sticks of butter because I'm too lazy to blend it with an electric hand mixer and I'd rather use my trusty old Cuisinart.

Two days before baking, I went out to Michael's craft store and bought two cake boxes (a 12-inch with a window and a 10-inch), as well as cardboard cake rounds. I thought then that I should've just bought the one 10-inch cake box, but figured I might need a backup just in case and a cake round will help sturdy the bottom of the box, which seemed a bit flimsy to me.

OMG. Good thing I did buy the extras. I wound up totally needing several of the cardboard cake rounds to help me flip flimsy, delicate, cooled cakes over to the right side (Ina has you start with the wrong side facing up) before frosting, and then transferring the finished cake into the box. Without those rounds, I'd have had chocolate trifle and been forced to go to the supermarket anyway at the last minute.

I screwed up the frosting as I usually do. I don't know why, but I always panic. I have five other things going on at the same time including my son wanting popcorn as a snack, me finishing up my tomato soup recipe for my own dinner, homework, dirty dishes. And when I worry I'll screw up at the hardest part of the task--in this case, lifting the cake from the rack without wrecking everything to frost--I rush. So I rushed the frosting, doubling the amounts in my head, throwing in two sticks of butter in the stand mixer, whirring it, vaguely wondering why it was sticking to the sides and congealing, throwing in the unsweetened cocoa in 1/4th cups, throwing in the confectioner's sugar, wondering why it's so much and how the heck this frosting can handle all this sugar, then-- disaster!

1. I was supposed to sift the powdered sugar first. I did not do that. I started sifting the second batch with a wet colander out of the dishwasher. Not working. Using my hands to force it through the wet mesh, cursing myself.
2. I was also supposed to alternately do this with the cream. Shouldn't she have mentioned this in the beginning?

At this point, in between going over spelling with my son for tomorrow's test, while allowing him to help me taste-test for sweetness and spreadability, I ignored the recipe and went rogue, using everything I knew from baking for the past three years and from watching so many cooking shows.

I knew frosting required a fat, shortening, or, in this case, butter. That was the base. It also required powdered sugar. Lots of it. Vanilla and a creamy liquid, cream itself, half 'n half, or milk. I also knew if I balanced the liquid ratio right, I could add espresso powder. I could've even added a tablespoon of already-made coffee. I just threw in this and that, me and my son tasting along the way, until we both were satisfied.

After the last tasting, James said the frosting needed more flour. I laughingly told him there wasn't any flour in frosting, so he said it was okay, then watched with growing horror as I bungled my way through the frosting of the cake layers.

Turning the cakes over onto the rack, futzing with it too much, trying to flip each one over, one at a time, using the cardboard cake rounds, frosting each layer, freaking out about the congealed bits of butter, trying to hide it with more frosting, dotting the cake with leftover Hershey's dark-chocolate chips to hide the butter bits... yeah, all of that was hairy.

But when I carefully placed the finished cake in the cake box, closed the lid, and put the whole shebang in the fridge, I felt relieved, proud and happy that I accomplished such a challenging baking task. Best of all, I'll be at the cakewalk overseeing as a volunteer for the school carnival's first hour. It just so happens that my son's class is hosting a cakewalk as its designated booth. Serendipity.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sushi Toyama

There's one dish at Everett, WA's Toyama Sushi I would eat all the time without fail. It's their tofu agadashi, fried little tofu cubes, topped with slivered nori (seaweed) in a mild soy broth.

But every time I go there, I guilt myself into ordering a real meal -- the tofu agadashi is an appetizer -- with it. Then, I kick myself in the butt for giving in to senseless guilt. I go home and weeks pass. I forget. Go back, do the exact same thing.

Today wasn't any exception.

After my son had another great soccer game, scoring three points in succession, his team winning again (8-7), we both wanted to have our Toyama. His go-to meal is something my mom got him hooked on at a young age: miso soup minus the green onion, with a bowl of rice dumped in (to help cool off the hot temp). He had that with edamame (salted soy beans), which he gagged on the first three times he tried it. The fourth time, he was a goner. Loves it almost as much as I do.

I order my tofu agadashi. I didn't have to elaborate on amounts. The waitress knows our entire family, always asks about my mom living in Hawaii, and usually has our orders on the table before we have a chance to crack open the menu. She brought me a large bowl full of the stuff, about two orders combined. I should've added one more, and been done with it.

But guilt took over, and I added two pieces of sake (salmon) and a spicy tuna roll. For some reason lately, Toyama's sushi rice has tasted stale, as if it's sat out for two days.

We finished off with two orders of green tea ice cream, which I ended up eating myself, since James only ate the sliced maraschino cherries off the tops and never bothered letting me know he was already too full for dessert. No matter. Green tea (and coconut) are my favorite ice cream flavors.

The tab came to $49. Had I stuck with the tofu agadashi and left out the ice cream, the bill would've been only $20.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bananas Foster

It's hard to make Bananas Foster at home. There must be a magic ratio between brown sugar and butter, a long enough simmering time, a jigger of rum, and a flame-out to produce the right, thick, viscous consistency. This was my husband's valiant second attempt and while it was better than the last boozy time, it wasn't near as perfect as our friend Chuck's.

Chuck is a worship pastor. But he is also the pastor of fine, continental cuisine, and the master of Bananas Foster. Somehow, in his capable hands, the brown-sugar sauce is transformed into a nectar of the gods, a thing of unspeakable beauty and sweetness that you just want to drink from the bowl, mixed lightly with the melted vanilla ice cream.

Don't tell, Eddie.

Paula Deen's and Eddie's Pot Roast

What a happy, happy accident and happy day. About a week and a half ago, I know--way too late for Mother's Day, I tried to make Sunday Brunch reservations. All booked up.

Instead of cursing the goose-stepping populace who book these sorts of special occasions months in advance, I went a different way. While most people celebrate Mother's Day with a Mother's Day Brunch at some fancy hotel, we'll celebrate with my cheffy husband making me pot roast and Bananas Foster.

The pot roast idea just came to me, and we ran with it. I was in a comfort food mood and Eddie's good at comfort food featuring beef, like my November birthday beef stew. He did make pot roast before, a few years ago, and it turned out wonderfully.

His issue wit pot roast is, no tomatoes. No tomato sauce. No tomato paste. No tomato chunks. So he had to bypass all the starter base recipes from Food Network's Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence and Alton Brown. He settled on Paula Deen's down-home pot roast, featuring everyday pantry items like cream of mushroom soup and some red wine.

Let me tell you, the cream of mushroom soup and slow-cooking it in the oven for hours and hours really did the trick. The Chuck roast was so tender, pieces of it practically melted in my mouth. A lot of people just slice the pot roast before serving. Eddie tore it into shreds, which made more sense to me since slicing it would've just made the entire thing disintegrate.

At the last minute, he noticed the leftover buttered egg noodles I'd made for our son the past two days--just sitting there in the fridge. After microwaving the entire plastic container's worth, he used the noodles as the perfect foundation to hold the pot roast and all that luscious creamy gravy.

It was the best pot roast I'd ever had. I wouldn't add or change anything. In fact, I may request this every Easter while the rest of you are choking down the ham and the overcooked lamb.

Carne Asada Hang

All this week I kept hearing about Cinco de Mayo and Carne Asada. All I know about either is that it's Mexican and it's some sort of flank steak, grilled with spices and sliced thin for a burrito.

We spent most of the late-afternoon to evening at our friends' lake house, talking about everything and nothing, sipping Menage a Trois red wine (the women) and the hard stuff (the men), and putting together our individual burritos together from the buffet-style fixings on the kitchen counter.

A little sauteed bell pepper and onions. A little sliced carne asada freshened up and charred on the grill on the back deck overlooking a gorgeous, sun-kissed lake. A little of the guac I made, a little of the pico de gallo my husband threw together before we left our house several hours earlier. Some shredded cheese, some sour cream, some lightly seasoned shrimp (another Costco find).

It was amazing to find such delicious carne asada that came from a package. It tasted like scratch, with homemade marinade and spices. In between making burritos, I snuck one or two chunks from the cutting board to pop in my mouth and give to our friends' cute dog, Rudy. The marinade/spices seemed to include soy sauce in flavor.

I should've been content with one large surf 'n turf burrito with a side of tortilla chips and my guac. But I went in for a second and barely made a dent. I'll be having some either tomorrow for breakfast or Monday. Better Monday. Tomorrow's my at-home Mother's Day feast of pot roast and Bananas Foster.

To finish off the side-splitting meal, we all had strong coffee and heart-shaped shortbread cookies half covered in chocolate. For some reason, we had plenty of room for sweets. Had it been another burrito, we'd have all exploded in unison.

I like this kind of full. And I'm going to Costco in the near-future to hunt down the packages of ready-made carne asada, shrimp and uncooked flour tortillas.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Starbucks Pumpkin Bread Clone #3

The pumpkin breads came together at the last minute. All the way up until I'd made guacamole at around 7 p.m. earlier on Friday, I was debating and debating. Then, in a flash, I thought, what the heck, let's do it. I have to go out to get Pagliacci Pizza for dinner near downtown Edmonds anyway. While there, I might as well go to QFC across from PCC to pick up the milk, pumpkin seeds and organic unsalted butter I'd need to complete this recipe, from wegottaeat's Wendy Harlow.

There were three recipes vying for my attention. Hers, another Starbucks clone I'd baked for the school's Staff Appreciation Breakfast, and one from RecipeZaar, which I hadn't used in over a year. I wanted a recipe that was more cakey in texture than simply dense with lots of pumpkin puree and egg and little else that's liquid. That ruled out the RecipeZaar. I kind of liked the volumes of baking soda and baking powder Harlow used, as well as the mix of brown and white sugars. So I went with her recipe in the end.

None of these clone recipes ever listed pumpkin seeds as toppings. But at Starbucks (and I should know), they top theirs with roasted pumpkin seeds. Starbucks doesn't put dark-chocolate pieces in its pumpkin bread, but I did. Hopefully, pumpkin and chocolate go well together, 'cause I didn't want it all to be walnuts.

Beware. Watch the oven closely. Go by your sense of smell. I smelled the two loaves were done five to three minutes before the 70-minute recommended time. They're cooling on the rack now. One of them's for the friends we're hanging out with tomorrow, or maybe both.

guac #8

In about 18 hours, I'll be lounging deckside overlooking Lake Goodwin with friends and plowing into a giant glass bowl of this stuff with a crapload of chips, while the carne asada's sizzling on the grill. Ah, good times.

Every time I am tempted to get high on my horse from the ego-inflating compliments about my cooking, an ingredient snafu always brings me back down to earth with a big, loud thud. All I had to do today was make guacamole. My previous seven attempts were successful. More than successful, addictive and insane, taking over entire potlucks.

So of course I approached the making of this guacamole with way too much confidence. That is, until I took out the half-frozen bulbs of green onion I bought only two days ago at the Asian H-Mart. Parts of the cilantro, also bought there, had turned black and were wilting. What gives? I had some leftover red onion from months ago (onions last a long time in the fridge people, calm down). But after I chopped all the ingredients, from these to two cloves of garlic from the only remaining fresh bulb left in a large netted bag, to the three serrano peppers (de-seeded, my left hand feels numb), the two plum tomatoes and the bag of Costco avocados that had slightly over-ripened (one looked pregnant)... I tasted it a bit to make sure I wasn't going to poison anyone.

I squeezed more than my usual one lime in there (totaling three), for fear the final product wasn't flavorful enough. They were small limes. Salt and pepper along each way, with each new batch of chopped flavors. As added measure, I sprinkled a little cayenne and garlic powder, some extra-virgin olive oil. I'm surprised I didn't go out and buy some sour cream to throw in there too (Nigella Lawson's trick).

I'll know by tomorrow if the guac's improved. I may ask the husband to go out and grab me one, firm avocado to throw in to maintain a little more chunky texture. As it stands now, the avocado parts are too mushy for my taste.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Breakfast Loaves For Staff Appreciation

When I was going to school, I never had Staff Appreciation Week. It's practically a major holiday nowadays, with kids pressured to bring their teachers flowers, kids' parents pressured to volunteer time and baked goods. I'm doing my part for my kid's school, mostly because it's an excuse to bake.

Immediately, I saw and signed up to bring pumpkin and banana breads to the Monday breakfast. Besides chocolate chip cookies, these breads I can do half-asleep.

The pumpkin bread is a Starbucks clone, with variations everywhere online. The recipe's surprisingly bereft of spices. But I threw in some anyway, as well as leftover mashed bananas. I also made sure to remember to top the pumpkin batter with pumpkin seeds, which I always forgot before. These were seasoned with sea salt, cumin and cayenne. I know, I know. Cayenne and cumin with a sweet bread? Just go with it. I couldn't find any regular packages of pumpkin seeds, and I wasn't in the mood to traipse around town for options.

The banana bread is from the Kona Inn, which I've made before to wild applause. Banana and mango bread are huge gestures of aloha in Hawaii, where I spent my formative years. To make my banana bread more Hawaiian, I added chopped macadamia nuts. Here's hoping nobody at Serene Lake Elementary's allergic.

It just so happens my favorite go-to snack for whenever I get that hunger/nausea headache is banana bread. And I could eat pumpkin bread with my Kona coffee every day of my life.

I had so many ripe bananas left, I went ahead and whipped up two batches of "In Your Face Banana Bread" from RecipeGirl.com. This is a great recipe, because it uses up as many bananas as possible (five for each loaf), and I really needed to use up all the bananas I had left (10!).

I may give them away to friends as a surprise. I may eat them all for breakfast this week. Depends on my mood, or your wallet.