Friday, January 29, 2010

Freaky Friday Fridge Fiascos

I decided it was time to clean out the fridge this Firday, mainly because I had run out of plastic storage devices. Any guesses to what this stuff was? Winner gets laud on the blog and maybe a prize if I can scrounge something up. Click the photo for a large and grosser view.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

As Promised...Wordless (or Near Wordless) Wednesday 2 weeks worth!

"Easy Crock Pot Potato Soup"= raw potatos + a layer of milk+ a layer of butter fat floating and 4 hours of wasted time waiting for a meal.

 Die soup die!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Food Blogging...yet another stressor in my life.

You know what is hard about being a food blogger? Competing with freaking chefs with their fancy recipes and their professionally photographed cakes, turkeys, aspic and what-have-you! My blog looks ghetto in comparison. Are there any professional photographers or graduatestudents who would like to build a portfolio off my baking debacles? There is poorly executed broke food in it for ya...

I started blogging about food because I like food, I like experiencing food. Not only the tastes, but the smells, appearance, and texture. I also starting because I love writing. Call me nerdy, go ahead. I bird watch, too. Want to make something out of it?!

I started this blog mainly for me. On a whim, I clicked  "View the Next Blog" just to see what others are writing about. Now most of my "next blogs" are other foodies, typing away about their perfect recipe or how to decorate 5 dozen sugar cookies so each one is unique. Yea, I'm not that kind of foodie or blogger. However, viewing these blogs gives me a horrible sense of inadequacy. Not only because the mother of 6 in the next blog makes fondant covered cakes with exquisite detail between breast feedings, but because it appears she has a team of stylist designing her blog and taking photographs at the proper aperture and angle. 

Perhaps my blog fills a niche. I am neither a great cook, nor a great satirist, though I desire to be. What brought you to my blog and what keeps you here? I'm dying to know. "Will Cook for Comments"

Blog Envy & Tattoos

Yea...I don't know how to start so I am just going to say it: I have horrific blog envy. For you regular bleaders you will have noticed that my blog has changed color/background/picture/layout no less than a dozen times in the last week. That would be the blog envy and my insatiable lack of commitment to any look long term. That is why I will never have a tattoo.

Here is the list of tattoo items I have "SO had to have" but never committed to because I can't commit to a look (or can't imagine having as a 90 year old granny) :
1.) Clown fish
2.) Maltese Cross
3.) Blue Jay
4.) Barcode (yea I had the cajones to admit I wanted the barcode at one point in time. Don't judge me, you know you wanted it, too).
5.) dragon
6.) Sign language spelling something out

I hope my frequent aesthetical changes inspire you to check back regularly to admire rather than to get annoyed at the new looks. Feel free to comment. I saw an awesome halloween background I am saving for the appropriate season, but for now we will be bright and airy.

Commitments to My Bleaders and Other Half-hearted Promises

Dear fine Bleaders (Blog + Readers= Bleaders) oh and lurkers yet to join (you know who you are!):

I am officially making the commitment to a minimum of one post a week so you won't go desperate for my musings. (LOL yea right!) I am introducing a new item to my blog that you can revel in every hump day: Wordless Wednesday.

Each Wednesday, I will post a picture only with a title and a brief caption. The grotesque-ness and hilarity should be self-evident in the photo; therefore, requiring little commentary on my part, but begging highly for yours. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rich Neighborhood Grocery Stores are Awesome, Yet Suck!

 I love going to the houtie-toutie neighborhoods around the area just to see what they have. I mean, I just get shocked at the items I have been scrounging at my poor-people store that are here in the rich-people store in a dozen different varieties. Take for instance, the spice area. They actually have spices other than salt, pepper, chili powder, and Tony's and Mrs. Dash. Note the only slight amount shock and awe on my face in the photo.Yes, you can be shocked, too. Everything you see to my side are spices. Spices I would have no idea how to use...but would eventually like to try to figure out in some marvelously disastrous way.

There is a problem though (besides sticking out at the fancy store because I'm not toting a designer purse or ordering around a nanny who is holding my screaming toddler) everything is GOD-AWFUL ridiculous expensive. I picked up a pack a package of low quality meat just as a cost freakin' $26! However, with my "remarkable" card it netted down to $16. First of all, that's just ridiculous with at capital "R". Second of all, that is highway robbery. Lastly, there are idiot rich women out there that are probably not using that card and paying $26 for 2 lbs. of beef shank. Ridiculous. I get angry just thinking about it.

I was at the store for milk ($5 for 1/2 an organic gallon!) and a 6 pack of cokes ($7!) and some how managed to pay a total of $50 for like less than 10 items. Well, actually my semi-wealthier buddy paid for it since I would be cooking it all. But really, $8 for a bag of walnuts...ludicrous.

Our List:
12-pack of coke
1 carton whipped cream
1 graham cracker crust
1chocolate mousse mix
1 green apple
1 bag of spinach
1 bottle of red wine vinegar
1 bag of cheetos
1/2 lb of bacon
1 2-liter of fresca.

There is no way that should eqaul $50. It's un-American.

So onto cooking.

The meal consisted of grilled pork chops (he took over the chops, I made the rest). I whipped up the chocolate mousse and poured it into the shell for a french silk pie (later to be covered with the whipped cream).

I tossed 1/2 the apple (finely diced), 4 slices of the cooked bacon (also finely chopped), with the baby spinach. Then, I tossed on some chopped walnuts. I used some "thank God purchased at the poor-people store" olive oil with my red wine vinegar to make a nice vinaigrette for the salad. Quite tasty.

(The cheetos and coke were for drunkenness gorging later on the evening, so they were put away.)

The meal with friends was quite pleasant. Since the four of us spent so much money on a ridiculously few amount of items, we took on the personas of  rich, white Republicans and under-jawed at each other for the rest of the meal. I took on the role of Catherine, fondly "Kitty". Jon was George-Henry, my husband - but would also have to step in as Winston the Butler when we needed things from the kitchen. Girlfriend Julie became Diana with her "husband"  Preston..who did the purchasing and grilling.

Winston was fired multiple times for various serving fiascoes. However, he was ultimately dismissed as he pied the back of the freezer. (Seriously, it slid off the ice cream container and down the back of the freezer).


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Girl's Night In-Party Foods

Ahhh the joy and anxiety involved in having a party. I have to think of some foods to serve all these awesome ladies that are going to crash my joint for a girl's night in. I need ideas loyal reader(s), and not so loyal readers, and lurkers...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Miraculous Results from the KC Luncheon Crowd

We dropped the cake of at 9:00amish so that the volunteers could begin plating it before the doors opened at 11:30ish.

After Mass, we drove over to pick up our plates at about 12:20ish. After perusing the dessert table, we made a startling discovery: My banana cake was completely gone already, and most of the carrot cake was, too!

What makes matters even more exciting is that there was still a plethora of desserts to choose from...and the diners chose mine.

Eat your heart out Julie Powell.

Finally, Dessert #3 Carrot Cake- Lessons Learned

The Carrot Cake is not all that exciting, and there is really not much to tell.

Except this: Buying pre-shredded carrots instead of using the baby carrots you have on hand and manually grating them is infinitely more wise. I would post of a picture of my shredded, disfigured fingernails, but I had to file them all down when they continually caught on everything. It would probably gross you out, too. To my knowledge, no one found fingernail in their cake.

The cake tasted marvelous, and I actually got a piece of it at the KC Luncheon. So yea for that.

Excuse me now. I am off to kill my Rumba for getting stuck for the 14th time in the same place. It's like door jams are like a black hole for Rumbas.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dessert 2: Banana Cake "Bomb" and Other Firey Disasters

Jon’s parents are on weird diets which are high protein and very low carb. Not that Atkin’s nonsense, this was actually derived from a cardiologist at John Hopkins I believe. I don’t know when the event took place, but it appears Jon’s mother threw out any kitchen implements that would lead to the easy preparation of baked goods (i.e. cake pans). I had to scrounge around the back their pantry until I found (quite luckily I might add) 2 of those small disposable, aluminum cake pans.

You know the great thing about using someone else’s kitchen is that you get to use the gadgets they have that you do not. Gadgets like electric mixers, large shiny bowls, and a convection oven. Well, as great as it all is, you still long for some of your own tools. In this case, more than one spatula. How does a person operate with only 1 spatula in the kitchen? I will never know. But I digress.

I start whipping this bad boy up and it calls for, get this, 6 mashed bananas. Thank God the woman had jumbo bowls because my batter quadrupled in size and weight. The electric mixer said “screw this” and the blades would not even turn. I had to stir it by hand.

As I am mixing, I get a call on my cell:

“Come eat lunch with us, we are taking a quick break from the store.” It’s Jon. He’s headed to the BBQ joint near the store and about 10 blocks from the house.

“I can’t I am elbow deep in cake, I have to get it in the oven.”

“How much longer will it take?”

“The recipe says 45 minutes, but I don’t even have it in the pan yet.”

“Just come on. Don’t worry about it.”

“I can’t just ‘come on’. Ask your mom if cake batter can rest.”


“She says it can’t, it has to be made right away.”


Side Note Here: Jon’s parents and I have very distinct philosophical differences in regards to fire safety. I was taught to never leave an unattended candle burning, never walk away from the kitchen when you’re cooking, and always unplug appliances not in use. His parents routinely leave a prayer candle burning in their house, and a fire in the fireplace to keep the place warm when they head to the store in the morning. EEK!

Back to the story:
“I can’t make it. Just bring me something later,” I tell Jon.

“Oh come on, get it in the oven and you will make back in time before it is done,” he assures me.

*My eyes glaze over* I can see the headlines now: “Disgruntled Girlfriend Torches Future In-laws House Due to Delays in Wedding Proposal.” I see his parent’s house engulfed in flames with fiery bananas exploded against the wall like ignited napalm.

Against every fiber of my safety being I acquiesce. I pour the batter into the pan…and notice that we have a problem. The batter is filling the pan up way faster than it is emptying out of the bowl. Shit! :-O

A logical person would have stopped pouring and tried to save the rest of the batter for a smaller side cake. Not me, I can make it fit! Well all the batter fits, to the rim of the pan. I know this is not going to end pretty.

I try to lift the pan to get it into the 350* oven. It almost buckles under its banana sodden goodness. Crap! I slide a cookie sheet underneath the pan to catch the inevitable overflow and support its girth.

I send a text and smash banana into the crevices of my cell: “On my way.” Guess what happened.


Dessert 1: Lemon Jelly Roll

Jon’s mother has made 2 of these unsuccessfully this week. Don’t get me wrong, they were eaten right away, but they didn’t come out the way that was intended by the recipe. She gave me a couple of warnings and then I went to work.

The recipe calls for you to make a thin cake dough that you cook until it is “just done” then to “at once” spread a jelly topping on the de-panned, "just barely done" cake.

My feeling about the recipe at this point has already gone sour. Julie Powell, author of “Julie & Julia” writes about this exact feeling in her new book “Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession:”

“Heat the oil until almost smoking. (Don’t you just hate it when recipes say things like “almost smoking”?) Reminds me of that Beckett story about a stage direction reading that a door should be “imperceptibly ajar.” Fuck you, Beckett. The oil can be smoking a little. Or not. Just make sure it’s good and hot.” (p. 38).

So that is how I feel about this recipe. To make matters worse, this old world cookbook gives no indication of how long it will take until the cake is “just done.” When the time comes to bake this portion of the recipe, I have to stop what I am doing (cooking a bean stew for 6, and prepping for the other two cakes to be made) to stand watch.

But first, the jelly for the roll has to be made. This is contrary to the recipe, but never having made a jelly, and only slightly experienced in a jelly like pie (lemon meringue), I didn’t want to be still fussing over it when the “at once” moment came along. So I beat 3 egg yolks, add the lemon juice, corn starch, etc. and begin to slowly bring it to a boil on the stove.

What you need to know about concoctions like these is this: there comes a critical moment where all of a sudden they gel. If you aren’t hovering over it constantly stirring, it is going to burn. Ruined. In the trash, can’t be saved.

I am whipping this stuff around trying to get the cornstarch to dissolve. Powered mix-ins are to me how jellied items are to Julie Powell: they just don’t jive for us. I can never get the little clusters of powder to break up and mix with their ingredient brethren. They just make their way into the final product all lumpy and disgusting. That is why I am whipping this bad boy like my life depended on it.

So when the jelly gels, FINALLY, I get the 12x14” baking sheet greased and floured. I pour out the cake batter, but it does not coat the whole bottom of the pan. Crap! I spread it using gravity like 99% of the rest of the population. Into the oven, and onto the floor where I sit and watch for that "just done" moment.

You know those time lapsed commercials where the little cookie in the oven suddenly pops up and looks ready to eat? Well the cake did that…sort of. I took this to mean that it was “just done.”

At this point you are supposed to flop it on a towel and shemear on the jelly. Well, I carefully loosen all the edges as the “at once” window is quickly closing. I want it to come out of the pan seamlessly, but it holds on for dear life! I turn over the pan against the towel and begin to pound on it, hoping to shake the cake loose.

No dice.

Scrape, scrape, scrape, pound, pound, pound.

Repeat 3 times.

Finally, I get a BEAUTIFUL full side to fall off the pan in a nice sheet. I gently dangle it inches above the towel and throw out my back. It is falling out of the pan painstakingly slow, then the worst happens: a stick and tear. I get this huge tear in the cake, and 1/4 of  it is stuck to the pan while the rest flops on to the towel. Shit!

You know how you can sometimes make a hot cookie or brownie kind of mold back together with some mashing? Not going to happen with a jelly roll cake. It wants to be its own man. Therefore, I am forced to try to scrape the rest of the cake off  the pan, and try to glue it together with the lemon jelly.A nice coat of jelly over the top disguises all ugliness.

Now it's time for the rolling up part.

By now I am sure that “at once” window is long gone and is moonlighting somewhere in Albuquerque. I start to roll anyway, but the freaking cake has now embedded itself in the towel. I finesse it away from the towel and try to roll.

Roll, roll, roll.



Roll, roll, roll.



Finally I decide to quit being dainty and say (all together now) "The hell with it!"

I finish rolling the cake up and notice that it is nice and fat at one end, while looking deflated and sad at the other.

With a shrug of the shoulders, I sprinkle on powdered sugar. Jon’s parents have low culinary expectations anyway.

Visiting Jon’s Parents, Mishaps and Mayhem

Every time I visit Jon’s parents, a culinary marathon is waiting for me. For some odd reason, I am always caught off guard.

We are visiting this weekend because there is a hard freeze, and his parent’s must keep their small town hardware store open for the whole town to fix their 60 year old busted pipes.
Since I know nothing about hardware, busted pipes, or cash registers, I always volunteer to take on the meals. Jon’s mom hates to cook and is better at the store. No big deal... until she calls an hour into my cooking…

You see, Jon’s parents do a lot of philanthropic work by volunteering their time and resources to help mostly religious charitable events. This is where I come in. Jon’s mother always volunteers to make 2-3 desserts for the Knights of Columbus Chicken Fried Steak Dinner or the Catholic Daughter’s Scholarship Fundraiser. What ends up happening is I get this call while I'm lazily making tonight's family meal:
“Would you mind making a dessert for Daddy’s Knight’s Dinner tomorrow? I don’t want to put you under too much trouble…I just told them I would bring a dessert and I am so busy at the store…”

This happens EVERY time I come over. EVERY TIME. It’s not that I mind the cooking. Really, it’s okay…fodder to blog about, but it's the slight feeling of manipulation that bothers me.

“What would you like me to make?” I inquire.

 “Oh well I actually need two desserts, something easy that won’t be too much work and your good at,” she says.

“Um, ok well what’s popular among this crowd?"

"Well, mostly pies and cakes because they are going to be put on little plates and sold individually. No cookies, they never sell. Not that pumpkin cake you make because it has to be scooped out. Nothing that has to be scooped out. Something that will hold its shape on a plate,” She says.

*I stare blankly into space...*

“Um, okay. I’ll look through the cookbook.”

“I’m sure whatever you make will be fine, long as it is none of that other stuff. Thanks! *click*


Another thing that you must know about Jon’s parents is that they are big “use what we have on hand” kind of people. If they are making a recipe and don’t have one of the ingredients, it is just getting left out. Simple as that. I have eaten soups at their house that have consisted of chicken broth, flour, and egg yolks. That is it. “Dumpling Soup” is what they call it. It looks like white worms in chicken broth. Call me spoiled, but I like ummm more full-bodied food.

That being said, I go and see what they have already available. Flour, sugar, soda, baking powder, pecans, lemons, powdered sugar. Hmmm…I pull out the recipe book that I got tonight's jelly roll dessert recipe from. As I flip through the pages of old world recipes that require a minimum of 50 ingredients, sweat starts to bead up on my forehead. I start to get the kolache panic. I am not going to be able to pull this off.

Now, one may wonder why I just don’t run to the grocery store and pick up a ready made cake, pie, or confectionery delight. The answer is this: In this small town of mostly Czech immigrant families, they KNOW when you cheat. They can take one look at a slice of store bought cake and tell you 50 reasons why it tastes like sugared cardboard. Your dessert will be shunned and ignored. (Except by maybe the great-grandchild that eats that crap at school every day.) You don’t want your name associated with that. God, I love small towns.

You may also ask, “Why does it matter?” Well, good food goes a long way in this town. At the Catholic Church’s annual bazaar, some desserts bring in hundreds of dollars in live auctions. There is a lady who makes a fried cookie known as a “Rosette” every year and puts 20 in large pickle jar. Last year they brought in over $1000 to the church. Another old lady makes a German chocolate cake, $800 if I remember right. It doesn’t matter if the quality is sliding because of their age. What matters is that is Mrs. X’s Rosettes and they are worth it. What also matters is that small towners talk to each other about everyone. If I bring a sub-par dessert, I may not be “good enough” for that Vacek boy. He might be better off dating the pretty Hlavinka girl down the street.

No pressure.

But I digress. I find some reasonable looking recipes: Banana Nut Cake and Carrot Cake. Miraculous, they have carrots and a can of pineapple on hand.

I sent the youngin’s to the store for bananas and a few other items. Let the cooking marathon begin…

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Broke Food

Broke Food: n. -to have to eat whatever is in the pantry because you are too poor to go the grocery store. As in: Andrea is a graduate student and has no money, so she must eat broke food.

Classic "Broke Food" Entrees:
Pasta with tomato sauce
Hot dogs, boiled no bun
Mac and Cheese if you're high falootin'
Ramen Noodles if your not
SPAM (Stuff Posing As Meat)
Bagged Cereal, with milk that is just a little expired
That mysterious can in the back of the pantry that lost its label circa 1986.

For today's misadventure, I have the luxury of trying to whip up broke food as a dinner for two. I am quite lucky that I have chicken breasts, quite unlucky in the fact that I have little to spice up and serve with them.

1.) Slap chicken breasts in glass dish.
2.) Rummage through cabinet and stumble upon taco seasoning best used by....3/10/11 WOOHOO! Still good.
3.) Cover chicken with taco seasoning and pour on salsa left over from unknown party.
4.) Bake

Side: Located a can of beans: Refried black. That's kinda Mexicanish. Like my Mexicanish chicken.

Carb: Found a box of cornbread in the back of the pantry. Unfortunately no tacos or tortillas. Crap! The bread needs an egg, and I had just thrown out all the eggs because they expired 12-05... :-/

Maybe there is an egg substitute like...oil? Excuse me I am off to Google...

Ok back! Little known fact: 1/2 a banana can substitute for an egg. As well as these lovely choices:

Applesauce: use 1/2 cup of applesauce in place of an egg in sweet baked goods. Add an extra 1/2 tsp baking powder to the recipe to help with rising.

Tofu: use 1/4 cup of mashed silken tofu in place of an egg in baked goods. Add an extra 1/2 tsp baking powder to the recipe to help with rising.

Soy flour/ corn starch: use 1 heaping tablespoon of soy flour/ corn starch blended with 2 tbsp water in place of each egg in baked goods.

Flax seeds: blend 1/3 cup whole flax seeds in a food processor, then slowly add 1 cup water to the food processor. Blend until it becomes thick. Makes 6 "eggs".

Of course I have none of this stuff. Gonna try butter and see what happens. Fat is fat right?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy Plates and other Jonathanisms

Let's just say the pork loin was a success. It was a little dry in the meat area and greasy in the breading. Personally, I like it the other way around. But it got the "happy plate seal of approval" and the all high praise of, "I'd eat it again" from the J-miester. Oh, and no, there is nothing hiding under the napkin in case you were wondering.

Tonight's Menu: Pork

So, I have to say, I am not a big porker. A pork eater that is. My step dad LOVES pork. As a matter of fact we had fried pork chops weekly as a kid. My mom fried the hell out of them, until they were paper thin, sopping with grease, and chewy like taffy. All that was needed was to slather it in ketchup.

Jon, on the other hand, also loves pork. Ewww. He's a pork-a-holic. Double Eww. The only thing that thing that has me going down this path is the following:

1.) My baby loves pork, and shoots it for sport on a regular basis. Thus we have a huge supply.

2.) We were recently gifted some boneless pork loins from Omaha steaks for Christmas. They are higher quality and won't taste so gamie. (hopefully)

3.) I am sick, yet again, and my beloved is on this way to the store to buy my organic cranberry juice. (not cocktail, no sugar-added, glass container NOT plastic, in the near non-existent "organic" area in Wal-Mart). He can be so wonderful, and must occasionally be rewarded.

But I digress...

Behold today's recipe: Breaded Pork Tenderloin.

Straight to the point no muss no fuss. Well sorta. It calls for saltines. I figure any crackers will do, right? I have some houtie toutie crackers from one from one of those gift baskets at Christmas. I mean "smoked mozzarella crusted pork loin" sounds WAY better. Hopefully, they will make this meal tolerable.