Friday, December 31, 2010

the year in pictures.

yeah i know, i've completely sucked of late regarding the whole blogging front. in my defense, i've been busy procrastinating. i'm really good at procrastination. no point in even trying to change that bit of myself and put it on a nonsensical "resolutions" list, because i like to procrastinate as it gives me time to do other things i would not be so inclined to doing, such as sorting laundry, cleaning the toilets, or restacking all of my college textbooks (which I still have; lord knows why i keep that immense volume of Architectural Theory and Criticism since it's the only C i got in college. but every once in a while I like to read about spiritualism in art or the Vitruvian Man - yes, i'm an architecture geek). anyhoodle...

so i'm just going to do the easiest thing for me to do right now before dashing out the door to get some phở for lunch, and that's to recap 2010 in pictures. events and food that were important to me. it's not a comprehensive list, as i've thousands of pictures to choose from, and i don't have too much time right this second to dig through them all.

1. who's that Mountain Man?

why, that would be the boy, who was growing his beard out for the Warrior Dash. the award for Best Beard for Day 1 of the Southeast Warrior Dash ended up going to our friend Ken, so congrats to Ken for winning. and those would be wings on the grill. grilled wings are fantastic; you should try them sometimes.

speaking of Warrior Dash:

2. second from left is Ken and his award-winning beard


award-winning, i tell ya! and apparently itchy as hell. i'll take his word for it.

3. how to prepare a pig butt for the smoker


2010 was full of weekends devoted to the art of smoking various bits of edible animal. in fact, we're smoking a pig butt this weekend because we happened to find one in the bottom of our freezer that we had no idea was there, and i'm all about nice surprises. aren't you?

that pig butt turned into this:


yum.

there was also some Baltimore-style pit beef; and i'll be honest with you, in the 5 years i lived in Baltimore i never even knew they had their own "style" of pit beef. the boy grew up in the Baltimore-Annapolis area, and he didn't even know either. we had to come to the good ol' South to find out! and you know what? it is good. behold:


served with a horseradish sauce. good God, that was good.

4. 2010 also was the start of a project my friend Caprice and I embarked on, which we call "Mangia Più Frutta!" (complete with facebook page). I've known Caprice since I was 19, but she lives in Baltimore and I live in Georgia, so we don't get to see each other very often at all. we figured by eating a bunch of fruit, commonplace and exotic alike and then writing about it that we'd feel slightly closer to each other even though we're physically not. a couple of the things I tried out this year:

the cocktail grapefruit


lychee


i used to eat the heck out of these when i was a kid, although in canned form. when we first moved to France back when i was a wee tot, my parents would take us out to eat Chinese food every once in a while, and i always had lychees in syrup for dessert. fresh ones are good, although they remind me a bit of eyeballs. looks-wise, not taste. i wouldn't even know what an eyeball tastes like.

cheremoya


this was pretty sweet and custardy. i also bought a breadfruit along with this purchase, which i was super excited about because remember that's what the ol' mutiny on the Bounty was all about? Fletcher Christian and all that? i wanted to find out what all the hulabaloo was about, but unfortunately the damn thing rotted in the fridge before I could get to it. apparently it must be cooked (with onions!) to be edible anyway, so that was a disappointment. i would have mutinied too.

5. we also had a trip to St Augustine, which as a whole is a pretty haunted place. take my word for it.


we mostly ate out (i ate a crapton of oysters at this biker bar in Crescent Beach), but we did manage to grill some shrimp with a rum and brown sugar glaze after a morning of people-watching and vodka-lemonade-swilling on the beach.



6. a couple of trips up to North Georgia wine country and our buddies at Montaluce:

in january


and again in july





7. and then there is that drunken camping trip we take every year to Atlanta Motor Speedway to watch people floor it and hang lefts. i joke about that, but i really do like it. don't you roll your eyes at me. something about fast cars and the roar of engines really turns chicks on, i tell ya.

me and Miss Sprint Cup:


isn't she cute as a button? and so slender. bitch. she's really nice though.

of course the infield at AMS is full of the antics you would expect:



my friend Chris went to the infield bathroom and found this in the trash bin. she decided to bring it back to our campsite, because why not? she said it seemed like a good idea at the time. yes, we were drunk. no, we didn't put that ciggie in her; she came to us like that.

i've no idea what happened to that thing. i vaguely recall someone we didn't know coming up and asking for it. she was not defiled in any way while at our campsite, trust me.

ok so this post is getting pretty long, and that Ferrero Rocher i had when I woke up 3 hours ago is not cutting it. headed out for one last bowl of 2010 phở. here's wishing you all a groovy New Year, and let's hope it's just as fun as 2010 was.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

traditions.

There’s something very comforting about tradition this time of year, therefore I understand why people gravitate towards that green bean casserole made with canned cream of mushroom soup. I never had it in my house growing up, but wouldn't dare berate it as I’m sure it’ll appear on millions of tables tomorrow and be happily gobbled up. Who am I to mess with tradition on Thanksgiving?

At our house we enjoy our Thanksgiving meal rather late in the day (between 4 and 6 pm), and I’m really not sure why, although maybe it’s because that’s the usual custom at my mom and dad's house, so it must have carried over to us. We normally host a medley of people, but this year it’s just the two of us. It just kind of worked out that way, plus I have some deliveries to make earlier in the afternoon for the new business. Since there is no real sense of urgency or rush about dinner itself, I plan to lounge around in my pajamas most of the morning while drinking some spiked coffee and making fun of the Macy Day Parade in New York (I know it’s not called that, but that’s what I like to call it). The boy and I have had spiked coffee every Thanksgiving morning for yearsss and I can’t imagine a Thanksgiving without it.

Nutty Irishman. For one serving:

. coffee
. 1 oz Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)
. 1 oz Bailey’s (or other Irish cream)
. Whipped cream

Pour coffee and liqueurs in cup. Stir, and top with whipped cream. Drink. Repeat. Smooth sailing into the morning.


Since we will be eating the feast so much later in the day, I plan on having some snacky things to munch on. I always have bowls of spiced mixed nuts and caramelized onion dip with chips (one of the only times of the year I’ll eat potato chips). The spiced nuts are easy peasy:

. one of those 11.5 oz cans of unsalted mixed nuts that has cashews in it (if you can only find salted, that’s fine; just be lighter with salt addition later in the recipe)
. ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
. 2 teaspoons brown sugar
. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
. 1 tablespoon butter
. 2 tablespoons of finely chopped up herbs like rosemary and thyme

Melt the butter and sugar in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the cayenne pepper, salt, and herbs; stir together. Add the nuts and stir to ensure they’re evenly coated. Cook them in the skillet for 3 to 4 minutes longer over low heat until they’re heated through and smell good. Spoon the nuts into a bowl and serve.


Tomorrow I’ll also be serving pigs in blankets. I’ve made them the last couple of thanksgivings (and also for any other festive party), and I like them because they are great warm but are equally as good at room temperature, so they can be left out on the sideboard for people to snack on. Put out little bowls of a variety of things to dip them in. I like stone ground mustard and a spicy barbecue sauce myself, but any sauce will do. I’m sure you’ve got plenty of half used bottles of dippy things in the door of your fridge.

Pigs in blankets – adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites

Technically these are “cows in blankets”, as I normally use little beef sausages, but “pigs in blankets” sounds so much more charming than “cows in blankets”; at least, that’s what I think.

. 2 cups flour
. 1 teaspoon baking powder
. 1 teaspoon salt
. 2 tablespoons grated good cheddar cheese (white if you can find it; if not, yellow is just fine)
. 1 cup whole milk
. 1 egg, beaten
. 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
. 1 or 2 packages of little beef smokies (you can find them near the hot dogs and sausages at your grocery store) (I say 1 or 2 packages because I’m not sure how many of these you want to make – each package has about 20 ish sausages I think)
. 1 egg mixed with a splash of milk and a pinch of salt.


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Put flour, baking powder, salt, and cheese into a large bowl and mix with a fork. Make a well in the middle; add the milk, egg, and oil. Mix together. You may need to add a bit more flour or a bit more milk, depending on the humidity in your kitchen. Don’t be alarmed if you do. The dough should come together and be somewhat soft but not too sticky.

3. Roll the dough out onto a floured surface. You can roll it out however thick as you like it. Anywhere between ¼ inch or less is good. Cut dough into strips about 1 ¾ inch to 2 inches wide – this does not have to be perfect at all. You will notice that this dough is very forgiving, so should you screw up cutting one of the strips, who cares? Pat it back together and roll it out again. No biggie. Not the end of the world. Cut the strips at around 2 or 3 inch intervals.

4. Take one of the sausages and place it at the end of one of the strips, and roll it up, squeezing in the end so that it doesn’t unravel. Place it on the parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with the others until you’ve got a full sheet (you may end up needing another baking sheet). Take that last egg mixed with milk and salt, and using a pastry brush paint the egg wash on the wrapped babies. Put the baking sheet(s) in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until they’re golden, brown, and delicious looking. Chuck them on a serving tray along with little bowlfuls of dippy sauces.

Here’s wishing you all a really happy Thanksgiving! and please remember to stop and smell the roses.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

pie.

it's a pie dough kind of day today.  this one is going to become caramel pumpkin.

what are you making?

Monday, November 22, 2010

what i'm thankful for.

Why do geese fly in v formation? Actually, don’t answer that because I already know the answer. Here in Atlanta we seem to have a humongous geese population. I think I’m one of the only people around here who really likes them. They poop all over everything and they scare people in the Perimeter Mall parking lot. But I like them. When I see geese flying in v formation, I deem it a good luck charm. It makes me happy. Makes me realize there is far too much beauty in this world that we take for granted and never acknowledge or barely notice.

This year has been weird, what with getting laid off last winter, then obtaining a new job which has drained me of all my vitality and happiness. I’m studying holistic nutrition, and I’m stressed out because I’m three weeks behind in one of my classes and the Proctor U site is down so I can’t schedule my final exam. I lay awake at night worrying about crap that is out of my control, worry about work issues that I can’t fix, worry that the freezer in my garage will poop out and I’ll have to throw away all those chicken carcasses I save to make chicken stock. And I worry about my family. For as much as I have been a lousy kid, what with me complaining about my mother, I do worry because my parents are getting up there in age and I live so far away. Life is fragile. I take it for granted that my mom will always be there, but one day she will no longer be around for me to bitch about – and that’s devastating. Not from the not being able to bitch about part, but because in spite of it all, I do love her. She’s just kind of nuts, is all.

A month or so ago, I got completely wound up in the whole crappy job/school/death of my uncle/starting new business mindtrap that I had a kind of minor meltdown and got sick. I went to the doctor, and while sitting there all goosebumpy in a white paper gown, I just started crying. Life has gotten me so wound up and I’ve forgotten to pause along the way and enjoy it.

So of course I’m being ridiculous, because I’m employed. Who cares if I hate my job? It pays the bills, and that’s important. I’ve got a ton of things I ought to be happy about. I’ve got a great set of friends whom I don’t see very often, but I hope they know I dig them. I’ve got a doting and loving husband, a nutty family, and a freezer full of chicken carcasses. What more can a girl want?

I promise myself to never lose my passion again. To stop and marvel at the colors of the leaves as they change. To get super excited about a really juicy clementine. To sit and gaze at the flames dancing in the fireplace. To never lose my childish innocence.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 5, 2010

french onion and apple soup with cheddar and bacon croutons


Did we just skip right over fall and into winter? they’re predicting snow flurries here in Atlanta this weekend. Which is a good excuse for me to park my butt by the fireplace; so I’m not really complaining. Much.

So last night we ate dinner on the living room floor in front of the fire, and as I put the dish down in front of the boy, he exclaimed, “Hey! Soup with little grilled cheeses on top!”, which made me happy in a dorky way, because they do look like little yummy grilled cheeses. And it’s definitely been soup and grilled cheese weather.


This soup is loosely adapted from Everyday Dining with Wine by Andrea Immer (now Robinson). By “loosely adapted”, I mean I took her ideas for using apples along with the onions, and topping the croutons with cheddar and bacon instead of the usual Swiss or gruyere. For the broth though, I used my own recipe, which has more booze in it. When the apples break down, they give the broth another layer of flavor, more depth in a way, where I think a lot of French onion soup broths hurt. The addition of apples means that you can omit using flour to thicken the soup, which some recipes call for stirring into the onions prior to adding broth, as the apples break down and their natural pectin helps bind the whole thing together.

When you’re sweating the apples and onions together, don’t walk away too far, even though this process will take a fairly long time to caramelize the onions perfectly (up to an hour). However, the sugar in the apples seep out and could burn the bottom of your pot – while you do want crusty bits on the bottom of your pot, you do not want a burned layer. If you do notice burning, turn the heat down immediately and stir the onions and apples frequently. The apples will for the most part break up into bits. If you do have a layer of burn, do not be tempted to scrub it with a wooden spoon and mix it in, as this will result in a burned tasting soup. And if you’ve somehow walked away and, oh I don’t know, got on the phone with a client and then kind of forgot about what was going on the stove, carefully remove the onions and apples and put them in another pot to continue the process with a little more butter and oil.

Incidentally, do you know how to clean a pot that has a lovely layer of burn on the bottom that won’t come off?

video


Pour water into the pot until it comes up about an inch from the bottom. Add a few drops of dish detergent. Put the pot on the stove and bring the liquid to a boil. Using a wooden spoon, start scrubbing at the burned pieces. You may have to change out the water a few times. It takes gobs of time to do this and this process sucks, but it’s better than the alternative which is to throw out the pot – which in my case WILL NEVER HAPPEN as it’s my coveted huge Le Creuset.

Make a few extra croutons topped with bacon and cheddar to have on the side, because no one will turn those down.



French onion and apple soup, with cheddar and bacon croutons
- generously serves 4.

. 2 tablespoons butter
. 1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
. About 2 ½ lbs onions, cut in half from root end to top, then sliced into skinny little half moons
. 3 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼ inch slices
. 2 bay leaves
. Few sprigs of thyme
. Salt and pepper
. 6 cups chicken broth
. 3 cups beef broth
. 1 cup red wine
. One slug of brandy, Cognac, or even apple brandy or Calvados
. A good sharp cheddar, grated (I leave this amount up to you – you want enough to cover the toasts)
. 4 slices of bacon, cooked, drained on a paper towel lined plate, then cut into bits
. Baguette


In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Add the onions, apples, thyme, bay leaves, a couple of pinches of salt, and stir thoroughly. Cook, stirring frequently until the onions are caramelized (if the bottom of the pot is starting to burn, turn the heat down – see my note above). This step can take up to one hour. In the meantime, combine the chicken and beef stock in a saucepot and bring that to a simmer on the stove; turn heat down under that until ready to use.


Slowly add the wine while stirring. Slowly add the chicken and beef broths, at first one cup at a time while stirring, then dump in the rest. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, add the shot of cognac or brandy, and let simmer for a while – the liquid will reduce down. Stir every now and again for about 30 minutes, and taste for seasonings (salt and pepper).


When the broth has reached a nirvana-like state (when it’s to your liking), slice the baguette on a diagonal into rounds (figure a couple of rounds to cover each bowl you’re using, plus a few extra), and toast them on both sides. Turn the broiler on high. Ladle soup into oven proof crocks, top with the toasts, then top the toasts with a bit of bacon and some cheddar. Put the soup crocks under the broiler (I put mine on a baking sheet first then slide the sheet under the broiler – makes for easy removal) and let the cheese melt and become bubbly and golden. Remove soups from broiler, and using oven mitts, place crocks onto a paper towel lined plate so that they don’t slide all around, and serve.

Friday, October 29, 2010

you go on, eat your cupcake.


Have you ever noticed that people will turn down a slice of cake but seldom a cupcake? Why is that? Perhaps it’s because the cupcake is already portioned out. Perhaps it’s because you can eat it with your hands. But I’d like to think it’s because people like to lick the frosting off first – which is totally acceptable social behavior - and is what I do.

I don’t eat cupcakes very often, especially since embarking on the whole lifestyle change thing last year; but I have a theory about them which is the same theory I have about mocha lattes. They’re a treat, so treat yourself. I don’t order my mochas fat free and with no whipped cream; it seems blasphemous to even consider that. Then again, I only have a mocha about once or twice a year; I have it, I’m sated, and I’m happy. Besides, I gave up coffee a few months back. No, I’ve not gone crazy. See, my deal with coffee is that I do like it; I love the smell of it brewing, I love the taste. But I realized that I was drinking too much crappy coffee and it wasn’t making me happy. I think in general Americans drink too much crappy coffee and don’t even notice it. When I was in Houston last month, the hotel had one of those two-cuppa coffee makers in the room, but the coffee they provided was what an ex of mine used to call “sock juice”: it looked like coffee; the aroma promised you depth of flavor, but in the end tasted flat and burnt. Yet we seem to keep forking out our hard earned dough for this. So now, I only drink coffee every now and again on the weekend, and even so it’s only about a cup’s worth; but it’s enough to remind me that I’d rather have a quality cup o’ joe than a crappy one that tastes like burnt sock juice.

Anyhoo. Where was I before that rant? Oh yeah. Full fat treats.

And by treats, I mean “occasionally”, which to me doesn’t mean once a week, or even once a month for that matter. But sometimes you just want a good ol’ basic cupcake that isn’t some weird combination of flavors (wasabi and ginger, anyone?). I’m not trying to reinvent anything here. I just want a friggin treat.

So i’ve taken a hiatus of sorts from the blawg, for a couple of different reasons. Well, you all know about reason #1 (my nutty family and the aftermath). Reason #2 is that my day job has become a soul-sucking experience. The 12 to 14 hour days are killing me. Somehow, in the midst of all this, I’m still managing to take two holistic nutrition classes online and start a business with my buddy Ryan (she of the turkey chili – you can follow her on Twitter @realestryan). I’m trying to change my career because I really dislike the path I’ve gone down. There’s a scene in that movie Under the Tuscan Sun (yes, I’m about to get all girly on you), where Sandra Oh’s character is telling Diane Lane’s character about how sometimes you run into some people you haven’t seen in a while and you think, What the hell happened to them? Because they’ve become an empty shell of what they once were. That these people came to a crossroads in their lives and didn’t take the right path. I feel like at some point I may have gone down that path. This soul-sucking job I have is making me an empty shell of a person. I didn’t realize how much I absolutely despise what I do for a living until I got this job back in April, and now I’m trying to change that and I’m no longer going to be a chickenshit at the crossroads.

Ryan and I are doing some small scale catering, mostly on the weekends; and the cupcakes in the photo above were for a baby shower last weekend (we made vanilla and strawberry ones). I have a lot of catering experience, having worked most of my life previous to the corporate life in the food industry. In fact, even when we lived in Maryland where the boy cheffed at a couple of places in Annapolis, I would help him with offsite catering jobs on the weekends and when I wasn’t working the day job. I love that atmosphere, I love being around food and slightly stressed out over time constraints, and I love how I feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. The happiest I’ve been lately was last Sunday when I got home from another gig Ryan and I did and I poured myself a glass of wine and emptied the dishwasher. For the record: I LOATHE emptying the dishwasher. I don’t know why, really; it’s just one of my most detested household chores. Yet I found myself unloading it without feeling any animosity and with a big fat smile on my face.

Change is good. I think.

Vanilla cupcakes
- makes 24 cupcakes; frosting recipe to follow

The cupcakes were adapted from a cake recipe in Baking Illustrated. The good folks at Cooks Illustrated have never steered me wrong. And as to all the butter in the buttercream, well yeah. Like I said above, this is a treat. It’s not like you’re going to eat all the darned cupcakes yourself. You’ll have one and share the others, right? Right.

For the cupcakes:


. 1 ¾ cups cake flour
. 4 large eggs at room temperature
. ½ cup whole milk at room temperature
. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
. 1 ½ cups sugar
. 2 teaspoons baking powder
. ¾ teaspoon salt
. 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 16 pieces

1. Heat oven to 350 ° F. Put paper cupcake liners in 2 12-cup cupcake tins.

2. Put the eggs, milk, and vanilla in a small bowl and beat with a fork. Measure out 1 cup of this and set it aside.

3. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer (if you don’t have a stand mixer, handheld will do just fine). Mix the ingredients well with a fork. Turn the mixer on the lowest speed and add the butter one piece at a time; mix until it looks like pebbly sand, with pieces about the size of peas, about 30 seconds after the butter is added. Add the 1 cup of reserved egg mixture and mix on low until incorporated, about 10 seconds. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. with the mixer still running, add the remaining egg mixture in a slow stream, taking about 30 seconds. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Turn the mixer back on to medium high speed until it’s thoroughly combined (it will look slightly curdled), about 15 seconds.

4. Using an ice cream scoop (or a couple of large spoons), scoop the batter into the cupcake liners but only fill them no more than ¾ the way full. You should have enough for exactly 24 cupcakes. Put pans in the oven and bake for approximately 17 to 18 minutes (check at 15 by inserting a bamboo skewer or cake tester into the middle of one of the cupcakes to see if it comes out clean). Remove pans from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the cupcakes from the pans and let cool completely on wire racks before frosting.


Rich vanilla buttercream frosting
– adapted from Baking Illustrated

. 4 large eggs
. 1 cup sugar
. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
. Pinch of salt
. 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1. Combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer; place the bowl over a pan of simmering water but do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water, should be above it by a few inches. Whisking constantly, heat the mixture until it is thin and foamy and registers 160 °F on a thermometer.

2. Take the bowl off the water and attach to the standing mixture (can be done with handheld beaters too). Beat the mixture on medium high speed until light and airy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter one piece at a time. Once all the butter is added, increase the speed to high and beat for 1 minute until light and fluffy.


I would use the frosting the day you make it, because should you put it in the fridge, the butter will re-solidify;  it’ll take some time to get back to room temperature and it may split on you, meaning the butter solids will break up. Not good. I speak from experience.

Also, when specified to use products at room temperature, I mean it. If your butter is not at room temperature, you won’t get the best consistency and texture in your frosting.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

beans. sausages. eat. enjoy.


My uncle in Houston passed away after suffering really horribly. All his internal organs failed one after the other and he had gangrene in his stomach. He passed peacefully last Monday evening, with my aunt and my mom by his side. That was the last bit of peace to be had for a while.

So I flew out to Texas to be with family; and all kinds of cousins showed up from California and France, people I hadn’t seen in many years. I’d previously mentioned that my Texas aunt is batshit crazy, and she is. She firmly believes that the doctors killed her husband, and she plans to get an autopsy and sue. My poor uncle had a funeral service this past weekend, but as I type this, he’s still not laid to rest – and probably won’t be for a good long while. I watched my aunt grieve in the weirdest and worst of ways, by being horribly mean and lashing out at everyone. Nothing anyone did for her was good enough. We all left one by one, parting ways with her in an unfulfilling way. I have no idea if she will get through this.

There’s a lot more to this story, so much more, but it’s sad and angry and depressing. I’ve been in a funk since I returned, only to be faced with tedious work issues and perhaps a mid-life crisis of some sort where I just really loathe my current job and am desperately looking for a way out. On the plus side, I came home to Atlanta, where lovely breezes blow through open windows, and the first smell of fall is in the air. It’s so good to be home.

For a number of reasons (change of season, work schedule, depression), I’ve been looking for comfort food that won’t take too long to make apart from a bit of prep work; and right now, a bit of hacking away with knives at things in the kitchen seems to be good therapy for me. I’m also trying to make things that aren’t too unhealthy; although having said that, if someone put a bowl of buttery mashed potatoes in front of me right now, I’d devour it (inexplicably, mashed potatoes are my favorite comfort food. So are bread and cheese). Yesterday I made my friend Ryan’s turkey chili with the last jalapeno from our yard. The jalapeno and the basil are the only things that survived the ridiculous heat we had this summer, and one lone pepper still hung from the plant, waiting to be plucked. For dinner tonight, I’ve made one of my recent standby comfort meals, which is beans and sausage. Sure, you can make your own sausage, but I will not (in the interest of time). Sure you can soak your own beans overnight – but I’m going to go the lazy route and use canned beans for this. Besides, I always have a ton of canned beans in the pantry. The point of this meal is that it’s satisfying, it’s fast, and it’s comforting in a not so comforting moment. It’s not super original, but at times like this, I don’t give a rat’s ass about originality.

Beans. Sausages.
Heartily serves 4 (2 sausages per person).

. 8 sausages (you can buy already cooked, or a mix of several. i usually use turkey or chicken sausages)
. 3 cans of beans (I usually get a mix of white kidney, red kidney, and great Northern)
. Olive oil
. 1 small onion, diced
. 3 to 5 cloves of garlic, grated on a Microplane grater
. ¼ cup molasses
. ¼ cup ketchup
. 2 tablespoons tomato paste
. 1 tablespoon dry mustard
. 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
. Hot sauce (to taste)
. salt and pepper

1. Brown the sausages on either a grill pan, or a grill, or a regular skillet heated to medium high. When they’re browned, set aside.

2. If you want to, you can chop up a couple of slices of bacon and sauté those in a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until they render all their fat and become crisp. Remove bacon bits and let drain on a paper towel lined plate, and then sweat the onion in the bacon fat left over in the pot. You don’t have to do this, but sometimes bacon makes everything better.

3. Open cans of beans and let drain in a sieve. Heat your pot to medium and add a tablespoon of olive oil (or go the bacon fat route). Add the onion and let it sweat (which means, don’t let it brown; you just want it to get soft) for a few minutes, while stirring every so often. If it’s getting too brown, turn the heat down. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant.

4. Add the beans, and stir. Add the rest of the ingredients, salt and pepper to taste, and a half cup of water. Stir well together and bring to a simmer. Add the browned sausages, stir while being careful not to break up the beans, and clamp on the lid to the pot. Turn heat to low, and walk away for a while and go do something else like answer 15 work related emails about time entry and invoicing. Oh so much fun.

I would say give this a good half hour for the sausages to be cooked all the way through. If you cooked bacon bits in the beginning, add those to the pot before serving, or sprinkle a few in your bowl after you've dished some of the beans and sausages out.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Not remotely food related: A little bit of crazy.

I’m going to tell you a little story, all of which is true and kind of not funny; but in a way it is ridiculous.

Back in the early 90s, my French grandmother, who had not been in good health for a number of years, went to visit my mom’s oldest sister in Texas. When grammy’s health declined rapidly, she got rushed to the hospital, where Texas Aunt got into several ridiculous arguments with the doctor and nurses, subsequently firing them all and banishing them from the hospital room. When grammy eventually passed away, my mom and her two other sisters were discussing funeral arrangements and transport of the body to California, where the bulk of my family lives (and where grammy wanted to be buried). Texas Aunt did not approve of this plan, went on a rampage and attempted to steal grammy’s body from the hospital.

Sound familiar? It is strangely reminiscent of that scene in 9 to 5 where Lily Tomlin tries to maneuver a gurney with what she thinks is her boss’ body through a hospital and then chucking the body into the trunk of her car. As I wasn’t there at the time, I don’t know how far Texas Aunt got with my poor grandmother’s body; but I’m led to believe by other family members that her presence is no longer welcome at that particular hospital.

When my mom’s youngest sister passed away, I flew out to California; and as soon as I got picked up from the airport, my mom drove straight to the funeral home in Sacramento. My aunt died of cancer; and folks, perhaps this is immature of me but I don’t do well around dead bodies. I was completely unprepared to walk right through the front door of the funeral home and immediately see the gaunt body of what was once my aunt in a casket not 15 feet from me.

I have never been to an open casket funeral before, so I guess in that way I’ve been sheltered (or as my mom puts it, I’ve been living in a cotton ball my whole life). My dad, who was born and raised in the South, told me that it’s fairly common practice in these parts to have open caskets at funerals, and as a child he was forced to kiss the corpse. DUDE. THAT IDEA FREAKS ME OUT. So you can imagine my horror as we walked through the door to the funeral home when my mom rushed over to the casket and threw herself upon my aunt’s body. After hauling her off, my mom grabbed my aunt’s shoulders and shook her.

“Tu dors? Mais, reveille- toi!” (are you sleeping? Wake up!)

Things eventually calmed down, but I’m still haunted by that vision of my aunt’s body in the casket. That is not how I want to remember her. She’s not there; the body is a shell. But it’s still a dead body, and it still freaks me out.

The highlight of that day was explaining to the funeral director that he was to seal the casket as soon as we left, and under no circumstances was he to open it again. Why? he asked with a puzzled look on his face. Because Texas Aunt was on her way there and wanted to steal the body.

Texas Aunt firmly believed that my aunt did not die of cancer. She thought my cousin had slowly and meticulously planned my aunt’s demise by poisoning her to death. And she wanted to snatch the body to bring back to Texas where she would have someone do some analysis to prove her theory right.

She did show up at the funeral home and demand that the casket be opened, but her request was firmly declined.

I’ve been thinking about all of this during the past week because Texas Aunt’s husband had a heart attack and underwent triple bypass surgery. He’s not recovering well. Last night his intestines were failing somehow, so he underwent surgery where he was not expected to recover (he did, thankfully). Texas Aunt then got into huge arguments with the head nurse, banishing her from the hospital room, and then got into it with the doctor. The family is already joking about yet another body to be stolen from the hospital.

I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. Perhaps I want to justify why I live so far away from my family, why it’s a deep desire of mine to live a quiet life. I get a lot of crap from my family for not living closer to them. But when you grow up in this environment, you either turn into one of the crazies yourself or try like hell to distance yourself and be normal. I can poke fun at them because they’re MY family, my people.

Oh, the stories I could tell you. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

it's all about the grapes. the eatin' kind.

During the summer, Nell's Produce Stand sets up shop in the parking lot at the corner of Nesbit Ferry and Old Alabama Roads. (If you're familiar with the area but unfamiliar with where this is, it's in the same parking lot as The Derby, a bar i was dragged to once or twice when we first moved here by some neighbors who think it's the greatest dive in the world. it's not. take my word for it). i try to swing past the farm stand once or twice a week because a) support your local farmer, people; and b) they've got things like these gems. which are grapes.

i may have squealed with delight when i saw these the other day, because i bought some of the green ones last year and loved them. at the time i thought that they were scupperdines, but a scupperdine is in fact the name of the purple ones, as the guy at the stand told me.

Lesson #1: How to tell I'm not from the South


Me to the guy at farmstand: "So what are these called?" (pointing to the green ones)
Guy at farmstand: "Scuppernongs".
Me: "Scupper.... long?"
Guy: "Scuppernong"
Woman standing nearby points and laughs at me. "She ain't from the South, is she."


So they both taste almost identical, except the green ones (scuppernongs) are slightly more sour. I described them last year as candy, tasting not unlike those grape-flavored Now-N-Laters, except that these are far better for you than chemical-laced candy.


Lesson #2: How to tell I never went to charm school

I'm actually surprised that I made it home with this many, because I eat them on the way home and spit the seeds out the car window, which as we all know is super classy. That's how I roll.


I think I might prefer the scuppernongs over the scupperdines because of the slight sourness. The woman at the farmstand (the one who cackled at my lack of Southernness) informed me that they make great jam. I'll take her word for it. I'll just keep eating them raw.

Monday, July 26, 2010

a day trip to wine country


ha! i got you there. you're thinking, Now what wine country could she be referring to? why, that's Georgia wine country to you. For those of you (like my mother) who never even knew that Georgia had wineries, who think that Georgia doesn't have what it takes to keep up with the big boys? Well, you've got another thing coming. It’s not just about moonshine anymore. Just what kind of slack-jawed yokels do you think we are anyway? Sheesh.


after totally crashing the party at Montaluce’s first Tweetup in January, I maintained a steady Twitter friendship not only with the Beecham brothers (the owners of the winery), but also with a few of the people we met from the last time. We were invited back last Sunday for a special Tweetup featuring the ’09 Montaluce wines just released. Seeing as there was no NASCAR on that day, the boy came with me (and as Brent Beecham later confided to me, had there been a NASCAR race that day, the TVs on the patio would have been tuned in to it).

For those of you who aren’t in the know, a Tweetup is an event where people who follow each other on Twitter get to meet in person, then Tweet about it live. It’s not nearly as anti-social as it sounds. Talking and tweeting at the same time is not hard to do – we can multitask with the best of them. Mad skills, we have.


Although it had poured down rain about an hour before we were to meet (and I mean, POURED. Trust me. we got caught in it), by the time the party started the oppressive heat had come back in full force. This time, our group was much smaller than the one in January, and it was very pleasant.

We found ourselves gathered on the large patio right outside of the tasting and dining room despite the heat, because for some odd reason the breeze blowing through really managed to cool things down in that one area. So we ended up having our wine tasting out there instead of inside, and it was cozy and enjoyable. I’m going to stop rambling now and post pictures, because that’s really what you want to see, right? So here we go.



2009 Montaluce Ristata. As I was drinking this, the breeze blew through the porch as the new vineyard manager Maria was talking about how this wine reminded her of French rosés; and I found myself drifting off into reminisces (as I always do) of the last time I was in the south of France, drinking rosé all day while on the beach. My extended French family is spread out around Provence; I remember spending summers as a child at a wee small resort called Le Lavandou. Local wineries sell rosé in bulk; you bring empty bottles, and they’ll fill them for you. You quickly learn which wineries have the best rosé and you stick with them all summer, faithfully. I found myself not wanting to stop drinking the Montaluce Risata as it was making me nostalgic for Le Lavandou (where my mom is currently). This wine is light and very drinkeable.



Maria talking about the Risata while Brad (the GM) listens.



The empties adding up. Quickly, I might add.

We also tasted their Primoro (a blend of Seyval and Vidal grapes), the Chardonnay, the Viognier, and the Dolce, which the Beecham brothers described as Montaluce’s answer to sweet tea. Then we moved inside to taste the 2008 Centurio,a reserve from 90% 2008 Georgia Merlot and 10% 2008 French Merlot.






And then, sufficiently fortified and feeling a bit giddy, our group moved outside to take a looky loo at the vines.



Maria explained that they were about 3 weeks out from harvest (2 weeks now, as this was last Sunday), and that they would harvest the Malbec first. Then we sauntered back inside to escape the intensity of the sun.



I know it appears as though I’m pretending to be Atlas in female form, but I was really hugging the barrels. They were so nice and pretty. It was about that point where we decided what a good idea it would be to saunter back upstairs where @WholeMind was pouring out his homemade mead.


Mead? Why yes. Have you ever tried mead? I never had! strawberry and lavender mead is ridiculously tasty, and reminiscent of Belgian lambic. And nothing good can come of that after tasting wine for a couple of hours and standing out in the hot sun.


@EatBuHi, @HelloNorthGA, and @montalucewine (those are their Twitter handles) left by then, and we were planning to leave as well but got strongarmed by the rest of the group to stay for dinner. By “strongarmed” I mean that they football tackled us. Right, whatever; we willingly stayed. and as we drank more wine, got more merry, and the jokes got dirtier, I knew we were having a great time . Present at dinner were (by Twitter handle): @RandomOenophile, @leoghann, @WholeMind, @CassieLorey, @MVineyards, and @Foster404.

Get yourself up to Georgia wine country; as I’ve said before, it’s a mere hour, hour and a half from Atlanta depending on where you are in the suburbs. And you won’t need a passport to feel as though you’ve been transported to another country.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

hey blackberry, how you taste so sweet.


I made strawberry jam several times with huge success last year; and this was a big deal to me because I had tried (and subsequently failed) at making jam for years beforehand. I wanted to make blackberry jam this year because the blackberry cane I planted three years ago has finally started giving off some fruit; however, these don’t usually make it from the yard into the kitchen. There’s a whole lot of eating while standing in front of the bush. Part of this is because I have this idea in my head that my immediate neighbors ,who are a boil on the butt of humanity ( to quote Shirley MacLaine in “Steel Magnolias”), might be reaching over the fence and helping themselves to my loot. They probably aren’t, but we don’t like each other; so my wild imagination can get pretty, uh, wild at times.

Anyway, there aren’t enough blackberries out back to make jam, so I took what I had and supplemented them with some found at the grocery store – the local Kroger had an unbelievable deal on them the other day – normally they’re like $5 a pound but I would like to think they were feeling generous that day. Either that or some poor clerk on the floor mistakenly put stickers on them that marked them down to next to nothing. So I bought some of those.

I based this recipe on several sources. Pretty much everyone out there in Googleland has similar recipes, so I consulted Mes Confitures (which unfortunately I’ve yet to make a successful jam recipe from), then the trusty ol’ Larousse Gastronomique. I don’t have packages of pectin lying around, and I don’t believe one needs stupid packages of pectin lying around just in case you happen to get in the mood to make jam. I used lemon zest and juice instead; and then halfway through the jam making itself into jammy goodness, I remembered that the Barefoot Contessa recipe for strawberry jam calls for half a Granny Smith apple for pectin purposes, so I tossed about a quarter of one of those, diced up really small, into the pot and let it boil away. In the end, the entire stovetop was splattered with ruby colored dots, which I wiped away as quickly as I could lest they harden and be impossible to scour off at a later date.

The smell of the jam cooking won’t perfume the house in the way strawberry or raspberry jam will, as blackberries tend to be less aromatic in strength (well, that’s my opinion). However, when I was hovering over the pot trying to take various pictures with the smell wafting up, I had a brief moment when I was transported back to childhood. The house I partially grew up in until I was 7 – the house where my parents currently reside when my mom’s not gallivanting around France – is in Northern California, and the yard out back is surrounded by wild blackberry bushes. There is a park down the hill with swings and a slide cut into the hillside. The quickest way to get to the park is to take the trail that cuts between other people’s houses, and the trail is surrounded by blackberries. My brother, sister, and I would leisurely take our time going to the park, and come nightfall when our parents would call out for us through the living room window and their voices would echo through the trees, we’d leisurely take our time climbing back up the hill as we would pick and eat those blackberries until we were full and our fingers bled from reaching through the brambles. There are very few times when I wish I still lived in California; however when I do get that urge, I must remind myself that I will never, ever be able to afford to live in Sausalito. Besides, I’m not terribly fond of Californians.

Boy am I going to get crap for that one. Anyway.

The addition of alcohol to this recipe is optional. If you have blackberry brandy, by all means use that. I have the world’s largest bottle of cheap kirsch lying around, so I used that. It just makes the jam more fruity, I guess. Ah, who am I kidding; I’ve no idea. It just seemed like a good idea at the time. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I also added less sugar than other recipes called for. I find that the older I get, the less sweets I can tolerate. I made my tried-and-true chocolate chip cookies recently for the first time in a long time; and after biting into one, realized I just can’t eat them anymore. My tastes have changed.

So I’ll call this: Sausalito Blackberry Jam. makes 1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups.

. 18 oz of blackberries (that’s about three of those usual sized containers they come in at the store – usual size meaning around 6 oz)
. 1 cup sugar (and even that might be too much)
. Zest of 1 lemon
. Juice of half that lemon
. 1 or 2 tablespoons of kirsch or blackberry brandy (optional)
. ¼ of a Granny Smith apple, diced (optional)

Stir together all ingredients in a heavy bottomed pot or large saucepan and put over medium heat. Stir as it begins to heat up, then leave it alone to do its thing until the mixture reaches 220 degrees F. If you want a smoother jam, put the blackberries in a food processor or pass through a food mill first before adding to the pot. I like a little texture in mine so I smoosh up the occasional berry or two like so:

video

Sound effects are optional.

The berries themselves will disintegrate a bit while cooking – it will take between 20 and 30 minutes to get to 220 deg F. Turn the heat off, let cool, and store in the fridge.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

this summer.

A few things to note:

1) Vertigo sucks. And I’m not talking about the U2 song.

2) Not a whole lot has been going on around here due to said recurrence of vertigo. Someone please get me off this damn boat ride from hell (although I will say, now that I’m in week 3 of it, the waters seem less choppy).

3) A pox on my immediate neighbors, who like to blast music from their car parked in their driveway at all hours of the day and night. Right now at 7:10 am, they’re waking up the whole neighborhood. They feel entitled, I guess. As the wife once told me when I asked her to turn it down, “Don’t you disrespect me. I have every right to play my music loud”. Really, honey? Let’s have a chat with City of Alpharetta Police now, shall we.

4) And last but not least, a few (very few) pics of things and stuff I’ve been up to lately.


Banana bread with walnuts.


Slow cooker beef brisket, topped with coleslaw and shoved into hungry mouths.


Actually, this picture is two months old. The boy making gumbo while drinking a mint julep (it was Derby day). The boy is no longer rockin the beard; that came off after we ran the Warrior Dash.

Speaking of Warrior Dash:


Yeah. Covered in mud from head to toe. It took two showers to get me completely clean. That biggie beer mug was filled with Dee-licious Pyramid beer (hi Nick!).

And last but not least:


Today’s birthday self-portrait is brought to you by Ava Gardner and little old man golf shorts. Happy birthday to me, to my friend MA, to my niece Vivi, to the land of Canada, to Dan Ackroyd, Pam Anderson, Liv Tyler, Debbie Harry, and Princess Diana to name a few. Wishing you all a good one. Well, except Princess Di of course, seeing that she’s no longer around and all, but you know.

Here’s to wishing this summer will be a great one, boat ride from hell and all.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

summer squash gratin


So I’m on this summer squash kick, because my friends Ken and MA gave me some that came from Ken’s great-grandmother’s farm in southeast Georgia. They also gave me some Vidalia onions, and I’m not one to turn those down. I love it when Vidalia onions are in season – I use them in everything. In trying to figure out what to do with all this vedge, I made the zucchini bread in the previous post, then turned to The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. I usually consult that book before attacking any vedge I haven’t made in a while. I came across her squash gratin recipe, and decided to adapt the non-dairy version – mainly because I didn’t have any dairy in the house that day, but also I didn’t want the end result to be too heavy on the stomach.

I have a lemon thyme plant in the yard which has just exploded, and I’m trying to use it in everything. If you’ve never heard of lemon thyme, it’s just a variety of regular thyme that’s been crossed with lemon – it’s pretty wonderful and works great in a lot of fish and chicken recipes. I think it goes well with squash because it brightens the dish up a bit. But if you don’t have lemon thyme (I’ve never found sprigs of it for sale at the grocery store), regular thyme will do, and if you want, you can just squeeze a bit of lemon over the dish before it goes into the oven. But you don’t have to, of course. Use any variety of fresh herbs you have too – I happen to have gobs of parsley and basil right now, so those went into this dish too.

I think the key to squash is to definitely add flavorings – squash likes salt, for example, so season each layer of this dish with a pinch of Kosher salt spread all over. I also add a touch of cayenne because I like the addition of a bit of heat – this actually won’t be too spicy, but you could omit the cayenne if you prefer. But again, I think the squash likes it, and won’t kick it out of bed.

I would let your gratin brown a bit more than I let mine, as seen in these pictures. I should have let this one sit in the oven for a little while longer, maybe 10 minutes, but I was in between conference calls and it was way past normal lunch time. You’re going to want to wait a bit after hauling this out of the oven before you can dig in, since it’ll just be far too hot to eat. Also, it accumulated some watery juices, so I poured some of that off. But all in all, this is a nice pleasant dish, yet another thing to do with the abundance of squash and zucchini this time of year. Prior to baking, you could top with a bit of grated Parmesan cheese, which would definitely aid in the browning, however if you want to keep this vegetarian (vegan, really), omit any dairy and you really aren’t missing anything.


Alice Waters’ non-dairy summer squash gratin adapted a bit
Serves 4, although I ate this for three consecutive meals (3 servings) as my meal and I was happy as a clam. Or a pig, for that matter.

. 6 summer squash (a variety if you’d like, or keep it all one color), ends trimmed and sliced into nearly see through rounds on a mandolin. If you don’t have a mandolin, try very hard to get the thinnest slices possible with a knife, or even try a vegetable peeler.
. ½ of one of those big Vidalia onions (or 1 small onion), sliced into thin half moons
. 2 cloves garlic, minced or run through a microplane grater
. ¼ cup basil leaves, chiffonade
. ¼ cup lemon thyme, or regular thyme if you don’t have any, leaves removed from stems, chopped
. ¼ cup parsley, chopped
. Cayenne pepper
. Salt, pepper
. Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and add a bit of olive oil (maybe a teaspoon or two). Add the onion slices, a couple of pinches of salt and pepper, and one pinch of cayenne. Sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft. Let cook a bit longer until caramelized and brown. Add the garlic, half the basil, half the parsley, half the lemon thyme (or regular thyme). Stir it all together and turn off the heat.

3. Put onions in the bottom of a gratin dish (you don’t have to grease the dish). Layer on the squash slices and season with salt, a touch more herbs and maybe a wee small pinch of cayenne pepper in between each layer. When you’re done stacking, drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top (teaspoon’s worth).

4. Cover with a parchment piece, and place in the oven. Cook until the squash is translucent, 20 to 30 minutes. Take off the parchment, press down on squash with a spatula, and bake until lightly browned on top, another 20 to 30 minutes.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

a sort-of healthier zucchini bread


The boy refuses to eat summer squash solely because his mom grew it when he was a kid and he was forced to eat it all summer. Unfortunately, zucchini and squash are neglected vegetables and have a bad reputation. I think this is because when we (we = the world at large) were kids, our mothers cooked the living hell out of them, then salted them abundantly; so all we remember is an unpalatable salty mush, the memory of which sticks with us for the rest of our ever lovin’ lives. But honestly, both zucchini and squash are really tasty when prepared correctly. Raw zucchini sliced paper-thin and tossed with a lemony vinaigrette is excellent and tasty.

So a few years back, about this time of year to be exact, I stumbled upon a zucchini bread recipe. I don’t even remember where I saw it; it might have been on Serious Eats. Anyway, this is that time of year when everyone’s kitchen garden is overflowing with zucchini and nobody knows what to do with all of them, so you find yourself with armfuls of them knocking on the neighbor’s door. So what to do with them? Make bread!

Here’s the thing that people who don’t like zucchini fail to realize: you can’t really taste the zucchini in the bread. So I know your next question will be, then why bother eating it? Well, zucchini is good for you. Chock full of vitamins C and B6 and fiber. Give it a try.

The original recipe for this bread called for 1 ¾ cups of sugar, which seems like a lot. Wait – that IS a lot. My God, I can’t even imagine ingesting that amount of sugar, even split into two loaves. I’m not about to get all High and Mighty on you regarding sugar, because I use it – in moderation – in all its many mutations: brown, molasses, Turbinado, honey (I’ve yet to hop on the agave nectar bandwagon, and probably won’t). I won’t cut sugar out of my diet completely – I will still use it in my cooking and baking and morning coffee, albeit in moderation. But, seriously? One and three quarters cups of sugar?? My teeth ache just thinking about that. So I’ve tried to adapt this recipe to make it include less sugar yet keep it palatable. The end result is good, but be warned that it is not sweet – if you prefer it to be sweeter, by all means add more sugar, I won’t stop you. I’ll just wrinkle my nose and give you the stink eye, but that’s about it.

I’ve also added whole wheat flour to the mix. You could replace all of the flour with whole wheat flour, but I wouldn’t recommend it. A few years ago, when I started using whole wheat flour in my baking, I did some trial runs on pizza dough, and lemme tell you right now: 100% whole wheat pizza dough tastes like cardboard. Don’t believe me? try it. You’ll be playing Frisbee with that pizza crust. My remedy is to mix it half and half with unbleached all purpose flour.

I’m not going to excuse the addition of oil. You need oil in your diet; and I know it seems like a lot, but it’s not like you’ll be eating both loaves of this by yourself in one sitting. You’ll be hacking a slice off for a snack or for breakfast, but not eating the whole thing yourself… right? Right. I’ve also added walnuts (good source of omega-3 fatty acid) and dried tart cherries, which are not only delicious but are a fantastic antioxidant. Plus, I like the flavor combination of the cherries with the chocolate chips. Okay, I also don’t have an excuse for the chocolate included in here, other than it tastes good. Just don’t use milk chocolate; semi-sweet is better for you, and dark is best.


Zucchini Bread adapted from several sources
Makes 2 loaves

. 3 eggs
. 2/3 cup vegetable oil like Canola
. 1 cup sugar
. 2 cups zucchini, grated on a box grater
. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
. 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
. 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
. 2 teaspoons cinnamon
. 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
. 1 teaspoon baking soda
. ½ teaspoon baking powder
. 1 teaspoon salt
. ½ cup chopped walnuts
. ½ cup dried tart cherries
. ½ cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line two loaf pans with parchment (or grease and flour them if no parchment available). I only have one loaf pan, so I also use a 6 inch round cake pan, because that’s what I have handy.

3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Mix in oil and sugar, then add the zucchini and vanilla.

4. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nuts, chocolate chips and cherries. Stir this into the large bowl and mix gently. Divide the batter into prepared pans.

5. Bake loaves for 50 minutes (check it at 45 to be sure – don’t overcook), until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

6. Let cool on a baking rack before unmolding and cutting yourself a slice.


Pac Man Zucchini Bread goes in for the kill.