Saturday, April 30, 2011

ambrosial april!

ambrosial april!
Ambrosial? Clearly, I'm running out of adjectives that are synonyms for "delicious".

Anyway, here's how we can summarize our eating habits in April (sing to the tune of Duck Duck Goose): Carb Carb Carb Carb...Salad!

Seriously, if making these food collages each month does one thing, it's highlight the shortcomings in our diet. Hi, I'm Rachel and I'm a carboholic. I say it every month, but look: puff pastry, pizza crust, fried chicken breading, hot dog buns, tart crust, quiche crust, bread, SALAD (but with croutons...and also cheese. And bacon bits.), pasta, more quiche crust, buns, cake! Oops. But it was good, oh so good. And I managed to make both an international meal (England/Ireland) and a bread of the month (Hot Cross Buns).

Now that the weather is finally getting nice, we're out on the patio and using our grill once again! Hallelujah! Mostly just burgers and dogs and our favorite - grilled pizza, but I'm looking forward to more and more grilled meals and evenings on the patio drinking wine and hanging out by the fire.

Our best meal this month was hands down the night we invited a few friends over to watch the game and for some reason decided to make an Asian-themed meal. It was a hare-brained and last minute idea. (Luckily, our friends are very patient with our culinary experiments and don't complain when the food prep takes ten times as long as anticipated or we wreck our kitchen in the process and end up eating at the counter among a pile of dirty dishes at 10 pm when the food is finally done!) Larry and I both love Asian food and have a cabinet full of exotic oils and pastes from our occasional attempts to cook it, but our previous attempts usually taste rather Americanized and not at all like what you would get at a Thai/Chinese/Vietnamese/Japanese restaurant. Larry made twice-fried Korean Fried Chicken which was an extra challenge since we rarely fry food for several reasons:

1. It is unhealthy.
2. It is scary.
3. It uses and wastes an ungodly amount of oil.

But Larry knocked this fried chicken out of the park. The secrets? Use a thermometer to regulate the temperature of the oil. Use a large deep pot. Don't skimp on the oil. Fry the chicken twice - this makes it extra crispy and totally awesome. After frying, the chicken is then tossed in a sauce made from gojujang, a spicy Korean chile paste. Seriously, I am not usually a fan of fried chicken or of gnawing meat off the bone, but this recipe blew my mind and my tastebuds. A top ten recipe for sure.

My contribution to the night was Spinach and Pork Wontons, which were surprisingly easy to make and fun to fold. And also delicious. I am now a little obsessed with wontons (I want to fry them next) and am on the lookout for more recipes.

And see that pic in the bottom right corner? That is flourless chocolate cake with BOURBON ice cream (which may be one of the most awesome things ever!) - both made by one of our friends. Luckily for us he left us the leftovers. The next day I topped it with strawberries and promptly fell over in diabetic shock. Sinfully delicious!

What we were eating and cooking this month: burgers/hot dogs/pizza on the grill, carbs, English/Irish food, Asian food, bread, and since no month is complete without trying at least one recipe from Smitten Kitchen, this Cauliflower and Carmelized Onion Tart.

What Larry was eating this month: Pie.

(In his defense, if there were ever a pie truck in my general vicinity during lunch time, I too would have two pieces of pie for lunch. Alas, we don't have food trucks out here in the suburbs.)

Friday, April 29, 2011

around here: april

Around here, we're basking in spring and sunshine:
bleeding heart
Eating grass,
goat dog
And napping in it.
gravy in the grass
Grilling pizza.
grilled pizza
(The world's ugliest, yet most delicious pizza.)
grilled pizza
Admiring new growth and fuzzy ferns.
Hanging out.
my boys
our mantle
Enjoying the patio.
our patio
Waging war on dandelions.
my nemesis
Eating sticks.
Car shopping. (New wheels for Mom!)
mom's new wheels
Hoping for baby strawberries.
baby strawberries
Destroying things.
gravy vs. dragonfly
Loving turquoise.

Trying to get the yard under control.
our yard
And of course, drinking beer.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

bread of the month | hot cross buns

hot cross buns
My sole contribution to celebrating Easter this year was baking hot cross buns. No dyed eggs, no chocolate, and actually no Easter dinner - Larry heated up some soup and made us grilled cheese sandwiches which we ate while watching TV since I wasn't feeling well.

Hot cross buns are my dad's favorite. I'm generally not a fan because they contain raisins/currants/whatever type of dried-up grape you prefer - they're all nasty. So I thought I'd substitute blueberries instead. Blueberries = good. Raisins = bad.

My other concern with hot cross buns is this: not enough frosting! Seriously, why is there only that little puny cross of frosting?! I guess if they were slathered with frosting, they wouldn't be hot cross buns, but they'd sure as heck taste a lot better.

So I made the buns, let them rise twice and all that, and ta-da - they looked beautiful!
hot cross buns
Unfortunately, they looked a lot better than they tasted. They were too dry. The dried fruit (I ended up using dried mixed berries) did nothing for me. There wasn't enough cinnamon. And as I feared, there wasn't enough frosting.
hot cross buns
hot cross buns
The recipe made two batches of buns - one I cooked in a round pan as instructed by the recipe. Then I realized that was stupid and I cooked the other batch in a square pan which worked much better. I frosted half of them with vanilla frosting and the other half with the orange frosting from the recipe (I was not a fan). I ended up frosting the buns in the round pan in a spider web pattern using my trusty squeeze bottle (which is also what I use to decorate sugar cookies) in an attempt to get more frosting on each bun - it ended up looking like a coffee cake. Pretty, but still too dry. (AND STILL NOT ENOUGH FROSTING!)
hot cross buns
hot cross buns
Conclusion: Hot cross buns would be better if they were moister, more cinnamony, lacked dried-up fruit, and had more frosting. Actually, hot cross buns would be better if they were cinnamon rolls.

Next time make cinnamon rolls!
hot cross buns

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

sore throat: an illustrated tutorial

It's time for another disturbing and crudely-drawn child-like comic about what ails me...this time in the form of a tutorial (because misery loves company.)
sore throat - title
sore throat - step 1
sore throat - step 2
sore throat - step 3
sore throat - step 4
sore throat - step 5
sore throat - result

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

paper cutter pillow *do not try this at home!*

"Hmm...I need a comfortable spot to rest my head..."

"How about something with a sharp a paper cutter?!"

"Yes, that's it!"
paper cutter pillow (do not try this at home!)

"Ahhh...nap time!"
paper cutter pillow (do not try this at home!)
paper cutter pillow (do not try this at home!)
Criteria for a good greyhound pillow*: Hard as a rock? Check! Able to slice off one's ears? Check! Resembles guillotine, or other device used for executions? Check!

paper cutter pillow (do not try this at home!)
(No, I will not share my chopping block pillow with you!)
*Other items Gravy has used as a pillow: chunk of concrete, pile of lumber, door frame, stick.

Monday, April 25, 2011

the unshopping list

DIY Chalkboard - Unshopping List
DIY Chalkboard - Unshopping List
A common problem in our house is buying delicious ingredients, putting them in the fridge, and then forgetting about them until something starts to stink.

I will then search the fridge for the source of the smell, and inevitably locate a hunk of cheese that has turned green or some peaches that have turned putrid. Exclamations of expletives ensue as my expensive produce is tossed in the trash.

Wasting food makes me angry. And sometimes my fridge is like a black hole - it's hard to keep track of what's in there, and if something gets pushed to the back, it's quite likely that by the time we find it again, it will be inedible.

So I started writing an unshopping list - instead of listing what we need, I list what we already have - a reminder of leftovers to be eaten or ingredients to cook with.

Last summer I did a little DIY project and made myself a chalkboard to fit inside my pantry door. To make the chalkboard, I sprayed a wood painting panel with chalkboard paint and hung it using 3M Command mounting strips. I learned that using chalk markers on the board works better than chalk (the chalk rubs off too easily- usually on Larry's shirt - but the chalk markers don't smear).

Now when we open the pantry looking for a snack, we can see a list of food that we already have.
DIY Chalkboard - Unshopping List
DIY Chalkboard - Unshopping List
DIY Chalkboard - Unshopping List
The unshopping list quickly morphed into a menu planning board however - which is still helpful, because then I know what I can make with the ingredients I have, and what leftovers (L.O.s) we have. I also use it to plan our international meals.

Fall meals:
DIY Chalkboard - Unshopping List
You may have glimpsed the chalkboard in my New Year's Eve post:
new year's eve international dinner party
February meals:
DIY Chalkboard - Unshopping List
DIY Chalkboard - Unshopping List

Sometimes, someone gets in the way of my photo shoot:
DIY Chalkboard - Unshopping List

Here's what we're eating this month:
DIY Chalkboard - Unshopping List
DIY Chalkboard - Unshopping List
Some of our favorite recipes featured on the chalkboard:
DIY Chalkboard - Unshopping List