Tuesday, January 29, 2008

For Your Oogling Pleasure

Are you sick of me carrying on about my deep, obsessive fascination with borosilicate glass yet? I think I'm headed for a twelve-step program. And the best clue that I am addicted?
You'll recall one of my recent proclamations: "I abhor chachke to the point that I think giving and buying it should be illegal"

But lab glass? That's not chachke, it's totally different. I mean, duh.

Not me.
Not addicted.
No way.

This monster just might have happened to show up from Ebay the other day....

It's a 6000ml boiling flask, aka the bigbeaker, and I caught the itch to have one from watching that new show on AMC, Breaking Bad. Have you seen it? (it's freakin hilarious and dark all at the same time in the way that Nip/Tuck used to be before it went lame)

Because in addition to being obsessed with borosilicate glass and the fact that I thought this jumbo beauty would make a nice addition to my trio of 250, 500, and 1000ml flasks, I am a freak for anything that is a play on scale.

But hey, it's not chachke, because I'm going to do something with it.
Like take up hydroculture or use it for a fish bowl, or, as Boy suggests, use it to hold sangria at our next party...

Pretty cool, eh?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday Dinner

Steak with Boursin Wine Sauce and Mac and Cheese!

Completely by accident, this was one of the best meals I've made in a while, and without even really trying or thinking too much which makes it Sunday-perfect in my world.

Really though, this was a complete no brainer and just what I need after a long, hard weekend of doing...

I followed the steak recipe linked above (which is very, very simple)pretty much as written using a couple of fabulous and low-guilt 100% grass beef NY strip steaks, although I did substitute a Bordeaux instead of Merlot because it was what I had on hand. The mac and cheese was from the hip starting with some gently sauteed onion and garlic and a great bechamel and then using up the various scraps of cheese I found in my drawer, namely a great Cheddar, some aged Gouda, and a titsch of Amish Blue.
I don't know what got me into the idea that this would be a good side for the steaks because I am SO not the kind of cook that has a mac and cheese family history or even the kind that makes it more often than, say, once every couple of years. I mean I've tried a few of recipes here and there but basically it's just not something I ever really think to think about making. But as it turns out, this was one of my best batches of the stuff ever so I guess I musta learned something some place along the way. And it also turns out it was a most agreeable companion to the steak and wine sauce and the rest of the meal, so much so that it has the potential to become a regular, big meat meal stand-by. Look out Paula Deen.
The salad there in the back (because you KNOW this girl's gotta have her green salad) is just baby spinach and arugula with some orange supremes, grape tomato and a nice bright citrus vinagrette. (And BTW, if you haven't already discovered it, the citrus this season is AMAZING so go out and buy some oranges or grapefruits.)

So we're full and happy and looking forward to the evenings' dog-walk in what remains of the veritably balmy weekend weather.

Here's to a great steak dinner and an excuse to finish off an open bottle of wine!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Fettuccine with Brown Butter and Sage

with some parmesan-panko crusted chicken that I added to up the entree appeal.

Wow, wow, wow.
Honestly, I wasn't really expecting much, what with the recipe calling for all of four ingredients but let me say that as far as quick and tasty go, this gets an A. The thing is, what makes it really great is the fried sage which seems like such a minor thing and that I would never have guessed would be so delicious. And for the record, I didn't have any egg fettuccine so I just used the regular boxed kind which was fine, but I think it would be AMAZING with dried or better yet, fresh, egg fettuccine. In fact, this could just be one of those recipes that motivates me to make my own fresh pasta.
So yes, this one is a keeper. The chicken I crusted and pan fried in the spirit of the pork with lemon and caper recipe I told you about the other day. For serving I just sliced it up and dressed it with a quick squeeze of lemon to add a little brightness and then topped everything off with the fried sage leaves. As I said, the buttery, salty fried sage was surprisingly tasty, and next time I'm going to be sure and fry some extra leaves to crumble up directly into the pasta in addition to using them for garnish.

So you really have no excuse not to get up and make this one...with only one or two ingredients that might not already be in your pantry. And if you're like me and have the ends of a couple of chunks of good Parmesan hiding in the corner of your cheese drawer, all that's left to grab on your next grocery get is the fresh sage.

Happy Wednesday everyone!


Monday, January 21, 2008

No Licking the Screen!

File this first one under bigger than my head...

I had been craving sticky buns in a dire way, and hey, it's Minnesota in winter, and what else do we do when it's -16 than stay home and cook naughty things to eat? Well, technically, I guess we, or the I part of we, stay home and cook naughty things to eat and then spend an hour or two on the NordicTrack and stationary bike in an attempt to escape the leftovers, ie, guilt.
Sticky buns.
It all started because I had the bright idea to put a recipe that was supposed to make 12 buns in a standard muffin tin into my JUMBO muffin tin, meaning that the dough/sugar/nut roll got sliced into only 6 pieces instead of 12. I knew I was in trouble about halfway through the final rise...

Me: "Holycrap. These are huge. They look like big boobs. Sugary, nutty boobs."
Boy: "OH goodie!!"

But at that point, what could I do? So I went ahead and baked them off, and yes, they were huge. (And, fortunately slightly less like boobs once they were browned.) And they were OK tasting, but not great, which I attribute more to the fact that the recipe I chose (from the Gourmet cookbook) just wasn't great rather than the fact that they were much too big and overflowing their ahem...cups...and therefore wonky and overbrowned and texturally unsatisfying. But I guess I like a more typical bread dough for my caramel rolls rather than the buttery, airy, tender sweet roll dough the recipe produced.

Also in the new recipe category from last week:
Crispy Pork Cutlets with Capers and Lemon
Caramel Cake

The pork was great and really easy (I used Panko instead of making fresh breadcrumbs like the recipe says), and the caramel cake I probably wouldn't bother with again. It was pretty boring and most of it preceded the sticky bun boobies into the trash.

So then, check out the fabric lusciousness that showed up today:

You know I'm more than a little obsessed with stripes, and these two had me under their spell from the moment I spotted them. It's all I can do not to lick them they're so delicious looking, and that first one is an almost perfect compilation of all of the colors I have in my house which has me a little lightheaded, pondering the possibilities for what it may become. Oh yummy, stripey, bright and colorful fabric, how I heart thee!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What's For Dinner Wednesday!!

I've been on a little bit of a cooking bender lately, with lots of recipes in my queue for the rest of the week and the upcoming, very cold weekend. As a result, I have the fruits of tonights effort to show you in honor of our long, lost excuse for new recipe-trying, WFDW.

Corn and Bacon Pie:

with a side of spinach salad because I've been a helpless slave to spinach eating lately. This one got done up with with avocado, purple onion and orange and my favorite home made honey mustard vinagrette.

The corn and bacon pie was yummy! As the recipe says, it's like a rustic quiche, and really, how could you possibly go wrong with corn, bacon and cheese? My only complaint was that the thing overflowed all over inside my oven and made a mess, but I'll chalk that one up to going a little overboard with the onion and peppers compounded by the fact that I was too lazy to put a sheet pan under the pie dish.
For the crust I used some organic, whole grain cornmeal from Bob's Red Mill that I found in my pantry, and I think it was probably a little on the coarse side for an application like crust that doesn't offer the rehydrating feature of a liquid. As such, the result was a tad grittier than I would have liked but the advertised "crunch" was definitely present and the taste was delicious. In general, the cornmeal crust aspect was a nice change from plain old pastry and one that made the dish a little heartier.... and manly. Because, as you may remember from the 80's, real-men-don't-eat-quiche.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Things Are Not What They Seem

Generally speaking, happening upon cool stuff that's worthy of an impulse buy, or that I would consider my "style" is a rarity. I've told you before that I abhor chachke to the point that I think buying and giving it should be illegal, and even when I'm in the market for a perfect something for myself, finding things I really, really love just doesn't happen all that often.
But sometimes, retailers just get it, and currently, CB2 seems to be one of those retailers. The number of things I find in their product lineup in any given season that I absolutely can't live without is a little frightening. And it seems that they fall into same category as IKEA in that their stuff is enticingly inexpensive and just keeps getting better and better.

Part of my love, it seems, comes from the fact that CB2 really seems to get my affliction....er addiction to borosilicate glass. Plus I lovelovelove that they cater to my craving for whimsy in practical, everyday objects.

Case in point, my latest acquisition:

No, it's not the leftover mess from last night's party. Those friends, are my new cocktail glasses. Yes, I said glasses. And I also said cocktail. And no, I haven't served anyone a cocktail in a wonky disposable cup that they could write their name on with a Sharpie since my days of WOP and the $5-a-head kegger. And that was a looooong time ago.
Although I may try the name-in-Sharpie trick just to be funny...

So I'm carrying on abut CB2 and showing off this new swag because these are actually borosilicate glass "glasses" masquerading as cheap plastic party cups, and the effect is so convincing I think even I will have a hard time remembering not to throw them away.

And that milk carton in the back? I didn't just forget to put that back in the fridge. It's not paper but unglazed porcelain and it's a flower vase, and if it weren't the middle of winter I might actually be able to use it, huh?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Cooking From the Hip

Braised pork tacos with home made refried black beans:

I had a pork tenderloin in the freezer that I felt compelled to find a more creative use for than roasting or grilling, and since Boy had requested tacos, I decided it would make an adequate stand in for butt or shoulder. I cubed it up, browned it, threw in a diced onion and two fresh poblanos, some cumin, coriander and oregano, and a few chipotles in adobo. After all that got nice and friendly for a bit in my hot LeCruset Dutch oven, I dumped in two bottles of beer (Blue Moon, if you care), turned down the fire and let the whole thing braise for a couple of hours before removing the lid to let the liquid reduce.
The end result was fairly spicy (those canned chipotles always sneak up on me with their heat) and got tucked all happy and flavorful-like into warm flour tortillas. Fresh diced tomato and onion relish, avocado, sour cream, cilantro sprigs and a squeeze of lime cooled things down a bit with beans and rice on the side. The beans were a no brainer. Black beans from the can cooked and mashed with cumin and coriander.
Simple, easy comfort food with a kick...the best kind. Plus there's plenty of leftovers for weekend lunch!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Brief Intermission

....while I wade through and attempt to sew up into MOOPockets the oodles of new fabrics stacked and waiting on my worktable...

Who knew fabric trimmings could be so pretty:

Keep an eye out for a slew of fun new stuff coming to my Etsy shop shortly!

Other than that, it's been a pretty quiet week around here. Extra dog walking and pedaling and trying to eat clean in an attempt to convince my fat cells that a downsizing is in order after the weeks-long eating fest of the holidays. Plus it's been mostly gray, although warmish for January, and the lack of sunlight always makes me feel slow and blah.

Since the new year and the onset of the dark days of January I've plowed through both "The United States of Arugula" and "The Omnivore's Dilemma", and I have to say that while they compliment each other well, it's a little bit of a how-much-more-f'ed-could-our-food-system-possibly-be overload, and I am officially neurotically wigged out about processed food, etc. AGAIN.
Excellent books though, both of them. In fact, "Omnivore's Dilemma" has made an indelible impression on me that exceeds even what Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" did, and that book seriously changed my life right down to the level of my every day activities. (Read my original post about Barbara's book here.)
So, having been thoroughly and quite possibly annoyingly enlightened yet again (sorry), I now feel compelled to tell you that "Omnivore's Dilemma" needs to be considered required reading for anyone who eats, and if you haven't read it yet, move it to the top of your list RIGHT NOW. And don't worry, it's as entertaining as it is informative.

On that note....get a head start on scoping out your CSA farmshare NOW!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Vote for Pedro....I Mean Me

So, my "Bathroom Vanity 101" hack of an IKEA PS cabinet and butcherblock countertop into our guest bath vanity (aka, what led to two of my five minutes of fame courtesy of the New York Times) is up for IKEAhackers best hack of 2007. And I was rocking the vote for the first few days, but now the cord hack, ie. the least clever one, IMO, is winning.
And that just can't be.
Boy says that because it's a geek hack, the geek in question recruited all his geek friends, and Boy knows of all things geek so I assume he's prolly right.
So yes, geeks are clever, but I figured I could at least try and be clever too, so I am here, imploring you to go vote. And truly, there are several very cool hacks to choose from so I completely understand if, upon reviewing them all, you don't deem me the coolest and choose to cast your vote for another. But at least you will have seen some cool stuff, eh? And maybe you will find mine the coolest and therefore lead me to victory...
cuz you just never know.
And I loved Napoleon Dynamite, really, and I am the adoring partner of one very cute geek, but I just can't sit idly by and let geeks win on sheer geekery alone.
So like I said, go vote. You have until the 15th.
And if you're in doubt or you've forgotten, here's one of the beauty shots of said hack:

Oh yea, and happy new year!!

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