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?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Nutella Banana Muffin Baking Lesson #2

Last weekend, my son, 9, and I launched the first of what will hopefully be a semi-regular, in-house series of baking classes. All because James indicated a desire to bake sugar cookies (really, just making frosting). After we found and made a suitable recipe for iced sugar cookies, I thought it best to diverge into something else entirely: a banana bread.

Eventually I settled on this Nutella Banana Muffin recipe from Miss in the Kitchen.

It's easy, James adores Nutella out of the jar, and it didn't require a lot of bananas. Unfortunately, I forgot to thaw the frozen overripened bananas for the recipe, so I just grabbed the barely ripe one off the fruit bowl. *Mental note: eat All Bran with sliced bananas the rest of this week.

In the middle of trying to excavate 1/2 a cup of Nutella out, James declared he'd much rather make and roll out sugar cookies. So we'll focus more on variations of sugar cookies from now on, provided he find a way to finish them and share them with the neighbor friends before the next lesson, which he hasn't done with the first batch we still have.

He also refuses to try any of the muffins. That's alright. I'll have them with my bowl of blueberries or raspberries. Bananas are nutritional, right?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Whatever You Have Sugar Cookies

It all started when my son asked how to making frosting out of the blue last Wednesday. I was busy then, so I promised him we'd do a proper frosting lesson. Next thing you know, I'm doing laundry up in my bedroom with the TV on when Giada de Laurentiis's cooking show comes on and she's making Animal Sugar Cookies with Basic Frosting. I'd seen this rerun before, it's for her daughter Jade's first birthday party, but it came on at just the right moment.

I knew there was a simple recipe that broke down frosting into four basic components: a fat (butter), a flavoring (vanilla), a sweet (powdered sugar), and a liquid (water, milk, or cream). I just couldn't find it online; almost every frosting recipe there was very involved with a million tons of powdered sugar and fancified techniques (whipped egg whites?).

I gave my son an option on the frosting: water or cream? He wisely chose cream. It really does have more flavor. Otherwise, our baking lesson was fairly straightforward. He was neat, attentive, and rolled out dough/cut out shapes cleaner than I ever did.

This recipe's cool because you can use a basic Pillsbury sugar dough, with some additional flour and let your children go to town. They can do pretty much anything the recipe calls for, and my son did.

What I enjoy about the frosting recipe in particular is that you can play with the amount of powdered sugar and cream. Unless you have a scale, you have some leeway as to the interpretation of a pound of powdered sugar. We started off with 2 1/2 cups, then my son just added 1/4 cup extra, until he tasted more sweet and less butter. It taught him measurements and instinct.

He got really excited about coloring the frostings his way. After I told him that rainbow might turn into brown, he went ahead and mixed up very vibrant colors in red, green, and blue. Red can be difficult. You need to use a lot of it for red red. He wound up with fuschia. But it's all good.

We didn't have animal cookie cutters. Just a mishmash of way too large gingerbread men, hearts and flowers, and little teeny stars, a chili pepper, and random stuff like that. We used what we had. It was fun.

About a third of the way in, frosting the cooled sugar cookies, he got tired, and I finished up.

We liked our baking lesson so much -- and James loved that he had leftover blue-green frosting for snacking on the rest of this week -- we plan on continuing it on a semi-weekly basis. Next Saturday, we may bake banana bread.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Boring Prelude

It may be easy to make Ina Garten's Tuna and Hummus (Open-Faced) Sandwiches, but it's not worth making.

I thought I'd enjoy the French exotica of radish-topped Tuna and Hummus, but -- after making the recipe the other day -- I didn't. It was ... blah.

Yeah, yeah, hummus with tuna. Big surprise. One big blob of pablum. Maybe if I made my own hummus. The one I bought from a health food store (lazy me) was very good and I even doctored it up with more olive oil and garlic. Nature of the beast.

Also, what's the difference between pickles and cornichons? Cornichons seem like fancy pants talk for mini-dills to me.

What do I do with all this leftover sourdough bread from Grand Central Bakery? Hmm.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Post-Fourth of July Digestive Clean-Up

You'd probably tell me to give myself a break, it's the Fourth of July holiday, everybody overindulges. But I made a promise to myself over a year ago that I wouldn't do this anymore. I would not limit the kinds of food I ate, but I would listen to my body when it screamed it was full.

It was screaming to beat the band yesterday as I bellied up to every potluck picnic barbecue buffet line, loading up way past full. I almost ate myself sick. I'm surprised, when I woke up today, that I was hungry at all.

Instead of eating breakfast as I probably should've -- All Bran, banana, zucchini muffin? -- I headed straight out the door to a nearby farmer's market to pick up the makings of my homemade guacamole, as well as other seasonal produce.

I made the guacamole. Awesome, btw. Simple too. Just make sure the avocados are fresh. I bought my mini ones for at least a dollar less than the supermarkets. Essential ingredients include cilantro, garlic or onion (I used both), lime (I used two), some chile pepper (serrano's good), salt and pepper to taste. This time I fooled around a bit with garlic-salt.

I also picked up fresh WA strawberries and Rainier cherries. I don't know why but I haven't had a really sweet strawberry since 1989 when I was at Oxnard's strawberry festival and they came in crates. Even when I went to a U-Pick Farm up north a few years ago, the strawberries needed help.

So far, I've just had coffee, some guacamole as I made it with tortilla chips, strawberries, cherries--not a lot, and, nothing else. Dinner's going to be Malia's Chili (I made more; it's even better than the last time I made it), rice, and more guac.

Monday, July 4, 2011

To Share for the 4th

Found out our neighborhood is having a picnic after its annual Fourth of July parade. Our son, 9, always participates in the parade on his bike but we'd never heard of a picnic before. Maybe it's new. Since I was already going to make chili (forgetting entirely about this American holiday coming up), Malia's Chili, I offered to bring it to the picnic as a covered dish to share.

Then, my husband told me a neighbor friend of James', well his dad invited us over to their house for their July 4th party and fireworks that evening. So, we'll be there too--with my Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies, which I also baked after I made the chili and had it simmering on the stove.

Malia's Chili makes a good base for chili. You can add to it or leave it basic. Tonight, I added a small can of fire-roasted green chiles. Instead of kidney beans, which I find too mealy, hard, and invasive, I used cannellini beans, some form of white bean. I had a bowl of it just now. It's not enough. Even though I inhaled three dinners at a diner earlier, I'm still hungry, so I'm going back for another bowl. Oink, oink. But this chili really is so good, so simple to prepare with simple ingredients yet so complex and deep in flavor.

Don't be haole (Mainland). Serve over rice, not crackers.

The chocolate chip cookies came out without one cookie burnt. I think I'm getting the hang of it, the baking times, turning the pans, using parchment paper, and going with my gut. For some reason the cookies are never done in the 9-11 minutes the recipe calls for, but for much longer. They won't last either.

For the Comfort Food

The other night, we went into Finn MacCool's, a hot, happening Irish pub in the U-district of WA, mostly because it was open at 10 p.m. We also hoped to have some killer Irish/bar food.

(Btw, why are there so many Irish pubs serving Buffalo Wings and Nachos? Those aren't Irish and they certainly aren't pub food. Strange.)

We were wrong. How can slices of bread be so bland, Wonder bread in French bread form? Why do people insist on putting celery in beef stew but not enough salt?

Going there got me going for comfort food in a bad way. Today, while thinking we were going for a drive around Seattle, maybe stop by spontaneously at wherever the wind blew, maybe an ice cream parlor, a burger joint, Beth's 12-egg omelettes... we wound up at Crystal Creek Cafe in Bothell, not far from downtown Seattle. We'd been there before this past spring for dinner. It's near a Hilton we stayed at overnight. Such good comfort food.

As soon as I walked in, I saw pot roast on the specials board. That was it. I almost faltered when I saw the breakfast menu as I tend to but in the end, I held firm. Glad I did. The half-order was just right, the pot roast very moist and tender (unlike my husband's tough pork roast, sorry honey), the gravy to-die for, and the half-order enabled me to add a short stack of buttermilk pancakes. I still had to have some kind of breakfast, no?

Everything on our table was comfort food to warm the senses: the pot roast, chili and crackers, cheeseburger and crinkly fries, pancakes, Texas toast, vanilla ice cream for a Coke float, vanilla ice cream with mini-MnMs, raspberry-peach pie...

We had our fill of comfort and then some. After tomorrow's all-American hot dogs and hamburgers--it is 4th of July in the USA, people--I should be cool with having been bad for another month or so.

Until that pot roast comes calling again.

Ugh, Raid Linguine

I think I'm done with spaghetti in some form of tomato sauce, at least when I try to make it at home. I don't have a problem when someone else makes it, like my husband. But when I do it, even if it's from a jar like this, it comes out wrong.

I thawed a container of Arrabiata sauce from the freezer, added a can of clams, grated fresh Parmesan over it, but the stuff still tasted tasteless with a trace of Raid. Looks good don't it? Looks can be deceiving.

I really am hating Facebook right now. Looking for a reason to save it. All I see are reasons to kill it. Tired of the bragging. Maybe reading everybody else bragging about their stupid lives outweighs any pluses I once had in even opening an account three years ago. Does anybody over there read and respond to anybody else, or do they even care about anybody else but themselves? Who knew my "Friends" were so self-centered and shallow. I didn't.

Coke Float

I don't know if I've been craving a Coke Float for real for over two weeks. It just seemed like the best thing to have -- man I could really use one now too -- during a stressful Friday trying to finish soap columns on deadline. I kept a look-out for it until today, when my husband suggested we might find it at the Crystal Creek Cafe in Bothell, WA. It's an old-fashioned American diner we first went to in the spring while staying overnight at a hotel nearby just for giggles. We really loved the ambience of the place, the homemade pies, and my husband's hot turkey sandwich (with real slabs of turkey).

Sure enough, they had Root Beer Float which they easily converted to a Coke Float for me. I even received a small plastic container of extra Coke to pour over my three scoops of vanilla ice cream. I must say, I was so full I didn't appreciate it. But after emptying my bowels coming home, I could totally polish one or two off now.

There's something so comforting and nostalgic about a Coke Float. I think too many of us take it for granted or simply don't even think of it when we should. There should be a Coke float in every restaurant and fast food place. I think McDonald's even served Coke floats at one time.