Friday Fixins: June 28th

WHAT A WEEK.  I don’t want to be That Blogger who decides to come back with a vengeance and then has to post ANOTHER apology for going off grid, but this week has been kind of a madhouse.  Last weekend we had a big family picnic/reunion, and planning for that took a lot of quality blogging time out of my life.  And on top of that, just when I thought things would be smooth sailing once the weekdays hit– nope.  Business has been slow at work, which means the bosses want us all to Buckle Down and Band Together, which has…just been hell, quite frankly.  But the week is over!  It’s Friday!

(Or…Sunday.  Hush.)

So, your Fixins this week are really just going to be mroe of a weekend roundup– forgive me?  Things have been (good)crazy; the kind of crazy where I’m bummed that I haven’t had time to post, but that means things have been going well.  I had a job interview on Friday afternoon (second round and sounds promising!)  Then I spent the rest of Friday afternoon sort of tooling around Mass., which was good for head-clearing.  Saturday I baked (recipe to come because oh my god) and saw a number of people I haven’t seen in a VERY long time.

Which was pretty damn sweet.

To kick off the part that’s more broadly applicable, have some things I cooked last week in the frenzy!  First, to combat the nasty heat wave NE was dealing with last weekend, foccacia and gazpacho.  Yum, dude.

foccacia and gazpacho

Gazpacho is like the slice-and-bake cookie of the soup world.  You literally just cut up vegetables, toss them into some tomato juice, and call it a day.  What could be easier?

Besides maybe opening a can, but that’s just not any fun.

And remember that thing I told you I baked?  Yeah.  You want some.

heart shaped boxWhat is it?  A surprise, that’s what.  Don’t get greedy on the information, now.  You’ll be hearing about it soon enough.

 

Friday Fixins: Subscription Box Review – Love With Food, June 2013

I got both the LWF box and the Goodies Co. box for May; neither was killer, but there was enough in the LWF box that I loved (namely these three) that it survived the competition.  Goodies Co. has since been canned.

Nothing to do with the fact that one of their items last month was the hugest bottle of coconut water in the universe.  And that it tasted like feet, because that is what coconut water tastes like.

lwf 6/13

Anyway, here we are with another month and another box on my front step!  Super exciting.  June is the Summer Beach Bash box and tastes appropriately tropical (read: if you don’t like pineapple, get the hell out of this box).  According to the insert, each of the June boxes helped to donate not one, but TWO meals to Oklahoma food banks– just go on ahead and hit me with the feelgoods, LWF.

Roasted Seaweed from Seaweed Love
lwf 6/13 seaweed
This stuff had the approximate texture of a Listerine strip.  I’m not huge on seaweed as a food product in general, so that might’ve tipped the scales for me here, but I wasn’t too in-love.  They smell a lot stronger than they taste, true, but the only flavor I was actually getting hit with was a (very) light saltiness.  Eh.

Coconut and Mango Fruit Ice from Smooze
lwf 6/13 smooze
I liked this better than I thought, considering I’m not huge on mango and that that’s the flavor that comes across as dominant.  It’s a reeeally smooth fruit popsicle (I’m guessing that has something to do with the coconut milk) with a punchy flavor; I can imagine loving this if it was sitting in my freezer in something other than mango.  The problem is that I can’t figure which; the Smooze website lists mango, pineapple, and pink guava, all of which are a little off my flavor dreamland.

(P.S.: tropical and I are not close.)

Gluten-Free Pineapple Coconut Cereal Bar from Do More Bars
lwf 6/13 Do More
The packaging advertised this as “tasting like a Rice Krispie treat with the bonus of brown rice” and that, my friends, is a very apt description of what this is.  Like crunchy brown rice cooked with brown sugar and a little pineapple juice.  Can’t see myself making these a regular part of my snack routine, but I enjoyed my sample.

Organic Fruity Bears from Surf Sweets
lwf 6/13 Surfsweets
Tropical gummy bears?  I’ll bite.  (Hilarious, right?)  These are like no gummy bears you have ever found in the store.  My tester was grapefruit.  When have you ever had a grapefruit gummy bear?  Never, that’s when.  And you can definitely taste the fruit; if it weren’t for the fact that you were chewing, these little guys taste almost juicy.

Sweet Plantain Chips from Turbana
lwf 6/13 Turbana
These little guys have a nice subtle honey flavor and the texture of a thick-cut baked potato chip.  I could imagine munching them with like a strawberry-and-mozzarella grilled cheese sandwich, because who doesn’t like having an all-sweet lunch?  They have a slightly bitter aftertaste, though, which I’m attributing to the fact that plantains roll like that.

All-Natural Fruit and Soy Bar from SoyJoy
lwf 6/13 SoyJoy
I LOVED this thing.  It’s like a cookie had a baby with fruitcake and soy.  I know that sounds really weird, but it was super awesome.  The bar is thick and chewy and the little bits of fruit inside are a nice textural surprise.  The sweetness was subtle and the pineapple was subdued and in general I was a happy camper while I was munching it.

Plus, protein.  I am a fan of protein.  Protein makes me perky in the morning.

Pomegranate Mint Chewing Gum from PUR Gum
lwf 6/13 PUR
I was super excited at the idea of this stuff, and I was ready for love at first chew.  The first few bites definitely do pack a nice pomegranate flavor, after about the fourth you’re left with a weak pre-chewed mint taste in your mouth.  So much promise, but execution just needs a little oomf.

Organic Hard Candy from GoOrganic
lwf 6/13 Go Organic
Another product that seems standard (hard candy!) but comes with unique flavor (blood orange!).  They were a little sweet for me, but that’s just hard candy’s deal.

Organic Drink Mix from Flavrz
lwf 6/13 Flavrz
So when I tried this stuff in a super-concentrated capacity (aka with about a shot of water) it was like drinking pomegrante juice, but when I tried it at full dilution (aka into a bottle of water) I could barely taste anything.

Overall: again, I wasn’t overwhelmingly gaga over the things in this box, and this time around I’m not sure there’s anything I would go out of my way to buy again (those SoyJoy bars, maybe, if I found them in a store I actually go to) but it was still nice to kick a little variety into my routine– which is why I do this, anyway.  Hopefully next month’s box will be a little less tropical (hint, hint, LWF).

Also, again with the Naked Wines gift cards?  I do not drink nearly enough wine for these to be helpful.  And when I do it’s bottom of the bottom shelf wine.  Talk to me about beer gift cards, LWF!  Please.

Please.

Please.

(For those of you with eagle-eyes, or for anyone who just acutely watches my blog like it’s some kind of high-drama series about people with interesting lives: a, what is going on in your life that that’s your top priority and b, you might’ve noticed that the Friday Five has been replaced with the Friday Fixins.  Why?  Because I’m in the slow process of tweaking a lot of things around here, that’s why.  And so that my Friday post can be more of an “anything goes” kind of situation– if I have five things I dig that week, that’s dandy, but now I can fall back on things like subscription reviews and CRACK or whatever it is strikes my fancy when I’m drafting the post.

And that has been my Blog Insight for the day.  Certainly giving y’all a lot of that lately, aren’t I?)

Weeknight Cooking: Down-and-Dirty Chicken Stir Fry and (Leftover) Fried Rice

A few weeks ago, my parents went on a weekend jaunt to Pennsylvania.  They had a grand time and brought back some neat swag, while my sister and I minded the house and the animals like the good offspring we are.

Or something similar.

When they got back, as is tradition, we got the rundown of the trip’s events.  Last year, when they went to Chicago, my mom opened up the map of the L and pointed out all the stations they’d stopped at; no luck this time, since PA’s not so big into mass transit.

(Damn.)

It’s all really interesting, really.  Case in point, I learned that the Yuengling brewery has always been family-run, and rather than just passing the company from generation to generation, anyone who wants to take over has to buy it at full market value.

Also that their current brewmaster is a lady; props to ladybrewers.  (Soon, I will join your ranks.  Soon.)

Also that during Prohibition, they kind of just said “fuck it” and made ice cream.

(See!  You just learned three things about Yuengling that you didn’t know when you started reading this post.  How do you feel?)

But for all that their stories are interesting, and that I like hearing about the things they ate and the places they went and the things they did, every time they get home I’m just sitting there, trying to be excited about all of these things, and thinking “goddamn it, why don’t I get to go anywhere fun?”  They’ve been taking these little weekend trips since like my sophomore year of college, with increasing frequency in the past few years, and goddamn it I’m jealous.  I want to take time off and go do fun things just because I can.

My dad said “so…do it?  Just go somewhere for the day.  Nobody’s saying you can’t.”

Fine.  Touché, papabear.

There’s an interesting downturn to the trip; when my mom got back to work on Monday, she learned that Stephen King had flown out of the airport on one of the days she took off.  And she tried the leftovers of this stir fry; taste-bud-lust ensued.

Down-and-Dirty Stir Fry and (Leftover) Fried Rice

Ooh! A recipe two-fer!

Quick Chicken Stir Fry

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 pound thawed frozen vegetables (plus whatever you have leftover in the crisper)

Cooking Directions

  1. Thaw your chicken and cut it into 3/4″ chunks. Toss it in a large bowl with the flour, ginger, garlic, salt, and sesame seeds.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the soy sauce, sriracha, hoisin, sesame and chili oils, lemon juice, and remaining salt and ginger.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken for just under thirty seconds, then add about two tablespoons of the sauce mixture. Toss to coat, then cook two to three minutes more.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and add the vegetables plus another tablespoon of the sauce. Let cook until the vegetables have heated through and gotten a good sauce coating. The remaining sauce can be served on the side for anyone who wants a little extra.

Fried Rice

Ingredients

  • 2 cups leftover cooked white rice
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • cooking oil

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots; cook until just softened, about four minutes.
  2. Push the vegetables to the side and add another teaspoon of oil to the center of the pan, then add the rice and ginger. Stir to combine.
  3. As the rice browns, keep stirring and adding oil as necessary to keep it from sticking or going soft. When the rice has just started to brown, kick the heat up to high and add the soy sauce; stir, and once the sizzling has gone down reduce the heat to medium. Cook until crisp.  (Note: you’ll need way more oil than you ever thought you would, so be prepared.)


Eating around the Web This Week:

What’s cookin’ in all y’all’s kitchens this week?

Happy Father’s Day: Boston Cream Cake-Pie-Monster-Thing

Whenever I ask my dad what he wants me to make for dessert that weekend, I always get the same answer.  Without fail.

“Flour.  Sugar.  Frosting.  Can I put it on cereal?”

I used to find this a lot more annoying.  I get that it’s his way of enjoying whatever I’ve baked, or something, but there was a while when I would so indignantly declare that he was ruining the dessert that I’d worked so hard to make delicious and pretty and why was I even wasting my time, because he was just going to dissect my beautiful creation with a spoon and stuff it with ice cream?

He answered with his infamous (at least in my house) theory that the uglier food is, the better it tastes, and that he didn’t give a rat’s ass about how pretty my food was.  We’ve since agreed to disagree on the issue.

Our second-biggest dessert disagreement is muffins v. cupcakes: I have explained the difference probably thirty times, and he still seems to decide arbitrarily whether something is a muffin or a cupcake.  Frosting?  Definitely a cupcake.  Chocolate?  Probably a muffin.

Or in most cases in my house, an unfrosted cupcake.  But again, agree to disagree.  And not be able to explain, apparently.

His latest “food whut” has been a bit of a griper, though: what constitutes “frosting”.  He gets the difference between whipped cream and frosting just fine, but all other filling categories (with the exception of pudding, which he is totally on board with) fall into the vague “frosting” category.  I told him I was going to make a tart with a pastry cream; that was frosting.  And when I pitched the Boston cream monstrosity that I made him for Father’s Day, going over each layer with him, his response to the cream filling was something along the lines of “that’s frosting, right?”

When I told him it wasn’t, he asked if we could replace it with frosting.

When I said no and told him we could replace it with something like a cannoli filling instead, he nodded and said “Frosting.  Good.”

I give up.

Happy Fathers’ Day, weirdo.  Glad you like your cake, whatever it is you want to call the filling.

Boston Cream Cake-Pie

Pybrids for victory!

Boston Cream Cake-Pie
adapted from this recipe, reprinted on Huffington Post from Vegan Pie In The Sky

Ingredients

for the cake:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the crust:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups graham crackers, crumbled fine
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup sugar

for the filling:

  • 6 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup milk, divided
  • 1 teaspoon powdered, unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

for the ganache:

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and generously spray a 9″ pie dish with cooking spray.
  2. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, vinegar, sugar, oil, and vanilla, whisking until smooth. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix until just moistened.
  3. Pour the batter into the pie dish and bake 13-14 minutes, or until a toothpick draws clean. (The top will be shiny, and the cake will strongly resemble a very large, very short flan.) Let cool for about five minutes, then invert onto a large dinner plate.
  4. Clean and dry your pie plate, then start on the graham cracker crust. Pour the graham crackers, sugar, and butter into the pie plate and mix by hand until combined; press into the shape of the pie plate and bake 10-12 minutes.
  5. In a blender or stand mixer, blend the ricotta, vanilla and almond extracts, and lemon juice until smooth. Set aside.
  6. Working in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine 1/2 cup milk and the gelatin. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer after 20-30 seconds and cook 5 minutes more. Stir in the sugar. Combine the remaining milk and cornstarch separately, then pour into the gelatin-milk mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened.
  7. Add the milk mixture to the ricotta and blend until smooth. Pour this mixture into the pie shell, tap to release air bubbles, and transfer to the refrigerator for 10 minutes to set.
  8. Once the filling feels slightly firm, gently place the cake layer on top and return to the fridge.
  9. In a small saucepan, prep your ganache: bring the cream to a rapid boil over medium-high heat, then remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate and butter. Pour the ganache out onto the center of the cake, tilting to spread the chocolate out to the edges.
  10. Let sit at least 3 hours in the fridge before serving.

Friday Five: June 14th

HAPPY FRIDAY!

HAPPY FRIDAY!

I’ve missed writing these!  But I’ll probably be revamping the logo for the future.  FYI.

(Because your investment in these things is great and powerful, I know.)

In advance; I’m apologizing for this being The Longest Friday Five Ever.  I’m blaming writer’s withdrawal, or maybe just having a lot of juicy stuff to talk about this week.

1. Graceland

Graceland airs Thursdays at 10 on USA

We’ll start with Graceland.  My family were huge fans of Rescue Memostly because Denis Leary is one of the wittiest pieces of shit ever to walk the Earth.  (Sidebar, I do not even know what it is about him but I would do him in a heartbeat.  Skinny Irish ass and all.  So would my mother.  And incidentally enough, he shares her birthday.)  So when mamabear heard Daniel Sunjata (aka Franco, the token Puerto Rican and general sex machine) was going to be on a show called “Graceland”, she was a little confused.  Mostly because she thought it was going to be about Elvis, and probably because I think she was confusing it a little with Nashville.

Which is totally unrelated.  In case you don’t know, Graceland is about undercover agents who are all working out of one house (…Graceland.  Get it?)  Sunjata plays this Super Agent with a rogue side and some super sekrit something that we don’t know about yet (hey, you can only reveal so much in a pilot).  Aaron Tveit, who I’m seriously regretting never having seen before, is the top-of-his-class rookie who is assigned to him for training– but wait, he’s really there to investigate Sunjata.

It has promise.  It’s from the creator of White Collar, my love for which has absolutely nothing to do with Matt Bomer.  (60% or more of it, anyway.  Honest.)  Either way, I’ll keep watching until either a, it stays awesome, or b, it completely fizzles out (and I continue to watch it anyway because that’s what I do.)

2. Hannibal

Hannibal also airs Thursdays at 10, on NBC. And is not for the faint of heart.

Along the lines of television that I have been completely devouring (I’m hilarious), I give you Hannibal, which I have NOT been able to get enough of.  (Seriously.  This show is sickeningly good.  And so well thought out that it makes your head spin.  And full of little things that just make you go “squee”, like the fact that the episodes are all named after elements of classic French cuisine?  And the fact that the show has a tumblr and it’s actually the best thing ever?  I can’t.  Gold star.)

Mads Mikkelsen is Dr. Lecter, and he’s brilliant in that way he is.  Hugh Dancy is borderline-of-psychopathy FBI profiler Will Graham, who is not only working on a series of murders actually committed by Hannibal at the moment…he also goes to Hannibal for therapy.

Hannibal wants them to be friends.  I think this is a great idea.

The show is pretty brutal, and I’m not sure how Bryan Fuller is getting away with showing this shit on network TV, but I’m super thrilled that he is.  And with the exception of Laurence Fishburne (aka Craterface 2) the supporting cast of characters is pretty damn brilliant.

Also, Eddie Izzard.  I rest my case.

3. Gillian Flynn
You guys are going to think I’m just in super twisted mode right now.  (This is probably not true.)  But aside from being able to construct some seriously twisted stories, Gillian Flynn is an excellent writer and you should give her a look if you’re not finding your usual summer-reading-list fodder to be as gripping as you’d like.

YOUR NEW READING LIST

My book club read Gone Girl for our June meeting, and we all loved it.  I foisted it on my mom, and she loved it.  Everyone I have talked to who has read this book has loved it.  (That could have something to do with the fact that it’s really, incredibly well crafted.)  I’m not going to tell you a peep about it because I don’t want to spoil anything (and trust me, you don’t want me to risk that) but basically just find it, read it, and come back to smash your fingers wordlessly against the keyboard in a comment or something when you get to The Twist.

After we both loved GG, my mom went ahead and requested Sharp Objects and Dark Places.  I gave her a dose of “but mom, I’m already reading another really excellent book and I’m getting back to Infinite Jest after that and when am I going to have time to read these things?”

I’d forgotten something in the weeks since finishing Gone Girl: Gillian Flynn is an amazingly compelling storyteller.  I started Sharp Objects Wednesday at work; I was finished by Thursday night.

Not a big.

I probably would have been done faster if I hadn’t had to, you know.  Work.

TL;DR: check this woman out.  Doctor’s orders.

(Sidebar #2: I would suggest reading them in publication-order, not because there’s any continuity or chronology to think of but because her writing builds so much.  The difference is hugely noticeable between SO and GG; they’re both fantastic, but SO has a much more subdued punch (and this one I actually saw coming, thanks to more overt clues.  GG is like GJAE;ROIYJHROT out-of-nowhere-you-expected) and I think letting your experience unfold with her development as a writer would be a good way to tackle these.)

I’ll stop writing about things like an English major now.

4. Sirens

Oh, E4. You so rarely fail me.

If you’re currently going through some Red Wedding PTSD (because that shit was as hard to watch as it was to read), may I direct your attention towards the gentleman pictured above: Richard Madden, our favorite late-great-King-in-the-North.

(May he rest in peace.)

Sirens was sadly shortlived, but it’s good comedic fodder in that crass-buddy-E4 way.  Madden and Company are a team of EMTs, and the show chronicles their antics on the job and off.  It’s a bit silly, but in a good time-wastey way with just enough heart and just enough time spent on the Big Questions to keep it engaging past that point.

Plus, Madden.  But we covered that.

I’ve been rewatching it as filler in the mornings, so I’m remembering that it’s actually a pretty decent show.

(Sidebar #3: it’ll be brought to the US next spring, thanks to Denis Leary (who is a huge softy for emergency services, if you couldn’t tell) and USA.  I’ll forgive you if you wait until then to check it out.)

5. True Blood

The wait is over, Truebies: season six starts Sunday!

I’m excited.  I want to see what’s up with Billith!  I want to know what’s going to happen with Jason and Jessica!  I want to see Niall!  I want to see Skarsgård again!  And Alcide ripping off his shirt for no reason!

Sue me.  Sometimes, I’m a really simple creature.

What have you been into this week– and what are you looking forward to over the weekend?

I’M BACK!

HELLO WORLD!  HELLO WORDPRESS!  I’ve missed you both immensely, but I’m glad to announce that after that long and very dumb hiatus, I am going to work towards getting myself BACK IN THE BLOGOSPHERE.

I’ll stop allcapsing now.  The nub and gist is that I’ve had a really rough go for the past month-ish, and trying to blog as much as I was trying to blog was really just taking too much out of me.  Could.  Not.  Do.  It was overexertion on a massive level; I was pushing myself to get out a post every day, when I didn’t have the time or the effort or really the brainpower to make that kind of quota.

So here’s the New Plan: I’ll be pushing for two to three posts per week; even if I can just get out the Friday Five and a recipe, I’ll be calling that a success.  I really want to start getting myself back out there– the writing was really v. therapeutic, when the effort of scheduling it into my life wasn’t driving me to extremes– and I feel like that’s a reasonable way to do that.

I’m also going to be puttering around with a few changes to my social presence; dividing that a little from my blog, as it were.  So keep an eye for updated links on Instagram and things like that– social media is definitely something I want to continue to use, but it has to be streamlined so it doesn’t feel like another “work” aspect of blogging or else I”

True Blood starts on Sunday. Y’all excited yet?

 

 

Friday Five: SuperFoods

We made it.  It’s Friday.  Congratulations.

HAPPY FRIDAY!

HAPPY FRIDAY!

And today is a very special Friday, indeed.  Today is Friday, May 3rd, and later today Robert Downey, Jr. will be parading around on a large (IMAX-sized) screen in front of my hubcap-sized eyes.

If you need me, I’ll be fangirling.

I have a tendency to get really exited about things that are comic books.  Adding Tony Stark aka my spirit animal to the mix just makes the combo that much more flail-inducing.  So to honor Tony, have five comic hero based things that are also food (..or drink) related!

#5: These Cupcakes.

Quickly, to the cupcake!

I made these while blogging in another life, and they’re still high on my list of favorite bakes for the past year.  Basically: deliciously magical geeky glory.

Plus, fondant capes.  Fondant capes for victory.

#4: These Cookie Cutters.

I’m really, really incredibly sad that you can’t get either of these sets anymore.  And I’m even sadder that I didn’t get them before they went the way of the dodo.

Curse you, Williams-Sonoma; you make so many great things, yet cause me so much pain.

#3: This Cookbook.

Not gonna lie, I would not have thought to do that without Peter’s help.

If you ever kill your boredom with Cracked, you might have already heard about the Mighty Marvel Super Heroes Cookbook.  Trust me, if I could get this sucker for less than seventy bucks, it would be sitting in a place of honor on my cookbook shelf.

(Apparently, DC was not to be outdone.)

#2. These drinks.

Yeah, these are happening.  All of them.  Rawr.  Tony is clearly not listed because he’s just straight whiskey, obviously.  And Hawkeye wasn’t cool enough for his own drink.

#1. THIS LUNCHBOX

Is it a food?  No.  Do I care?  Also no.  I am a sucker for capes in places that capes don’t truly belong.  ThinkGeek sells them, but they’re understandably sold out right now.

That’s all she wrote!  Have a lovely Friday, everyone.  Maybe treat yo’self to dinner and a movie?