Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"It's Getting Weird In Here" or "Getting Handsy With Meat"

I made a meat loaf! Successfully!And it was delicious!
It's like bread, only it's a salty dinner meat thing!

Whatever, I know you know what meat loaf is. I'm just excited.

When I saw this recipe in the newest issue of Food and Wine I knew it was the perfect device for my crossover from baker to cook. It's meat, only loafy. You know, like bread. Work with what you know, to learn about what you don't know. Is that a saying? It needs to be. Anyway the idea worked out marvelously well.

It was quite an experience to create too, I had to get wrist deep in raw meat. Yeah, it got real.
The number one reason I don't cook meaty dinners is because before you cook it, the meat is just sitting there all CSI without the sunglasses, and my mind... it just goes places so very much the opposite of tasty delicious. 

 I know, I'm a lady sometimes. 

 However, when making meat loaf you sort of have to get super cozy with this stuff and squish it all together with your fingers ( a technique I usually enjoy), there isn't really any other way to do it. You either man up or don't make meat loaf. So, I put on my poker face and got my squish on. 
I also made green bean fries, but they weren't very good. Let's not talk about that.
But here's the deal, and what I realize now has been my problem all along. As a cook, you need communicate with  the food you cook, before you cook it so that you know what's going on (and what needs to be adjusted) but since food can't actually listen and answer you, touch and smell is how you swing it.

My problem: cooking is about communication, and I'm a bit of a wallflower.

Let me paint you a picture. Imagine my kitchen is college a party, and I'm new in town, here trying to make friends.

With bread it's simple (and we're total besties at this point). Bread already wants to be my friend, it's all fresh faced and getting born. It's like a drunken birthday girl who wants hugs from everybody and even lets me do a few braids. Bread is pretty easy to figure out, if it's puffed up and smiling I know everything's cool, and if it's flat, droopy (or looks pale) I know something not so great is going down.

Meat though is much more introverted and hard to read (I really like him, but our relationship is weird). He's at the end of his party, he's headed out the door on his way, ( and he looks busy) so I can usually only manage a sort of awkward wave goodbye.You know, from across the room. That he may or may not see. And there of course is the problem, no touch no communication, no tasty biteums.
Don't be like me!

You can't be so timid. You've got to tackle meat guy! (he sounds like a Scorpio so he won't mind) you've got to squeeze him goodbye so he knows you mean it. If he likes you, you'll know it. And if he's got a funky problem, you'll know that too.

 So by this recipe forcing me to get frisky (spending that mandatory squish time, all warm and cozy)  meat and I had a moment. We communicated, and it gave me this feeling of confidence.

Did meat being a guy get awkward there? Sigh. I should have made bread the dude....

Maybe not the most attractive guy, but definitely worth your time
Anyway the end result was amazingly satisfying, when I set it in the oven to bake I felt 90% more confident that it would turn out successfully because I'd had physical contact with what I was making. P.s. It was in a totally PG wholesome way. You know. Just to be clear.

And when it was all baked up and finished it was perfect. Okay maybe it was a kinda ugly because I'm new at this but the difference in taste was remarkable. It even got the double raised eyebrow from my boyfriend. Two eyebrows raised in delighted surprise. And all because I touched the meat. 

...wait! That's not what I meant!


Original Recipe for The Amazing Meat Loaf  can be found on the Food & Wine website Here

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"I Am an Attractive, Intelligent, Confident Biscuit Woman"

I've been in kind of a funk lately, not the serious kind, just a sort of "Dear Life, I hate your face. Sincerely -Me" type of funk. This feeling comes around every now and then (usually after ladybusiness strikes) and I feel like punching myself in the face because I know there are people in the world with real problems but I still can't seem to get over myself.

The main issue (in my head at least) is the feeling that the life I'm currently living is a waste of my time and that I'm actually meant to go travel the world, swim with the sharks, and have torrid affairs in Versailles*. But really (logically) if this was a regular option wouldn't (you/I/we) be all over it already? 
"Travel the world you say? Nah I think I'll sit this one out"

My usual fix for this ridiculous funk is to sweat it all out in a zumba class, but inconveniently (ironically?) my favorite teacher just stopped teaching and left town to travel the world with her husband.With the sharks. In Versailles.

Yeah, okay maybe not with sharks but still, this is soo not helping my crazy head situation. 

This calls for some carbs.

I'm a weirdo, you know this. But something I've found to be a wonderful stress reliever when my head is all crazy is to somehow get my 'tudy self wrist deep in flour and butter. It's something about the squish and the temperature... and the squish. I don't know. Usually I go for pie dough (it's so buttery) but Joy's recipe for Cheddar Black Pepper Biscuits might just place as my current dough squish favorite. Also, they're delicious, tall and flaky.

The general experience of baking bread whether I'm upset or not lends itself to a peaceful mind, it sort of empties my thoughts into my fingers through the action of kneading the dough. It's like hands-only yoga (or boxing depending on your mood). If I'm in a good mood I get giddy, if I'm in a bad mood it uplifts me, and if I'm in a really bad mood... I make two batches.

Confession: this was a two batch day.
 But guess what? I totally feel better.
P.s. Thanks Joy

Other things currently soothing the savage beast(breast!)

What do you do to get yourself out of a funk?

*= with my boyfriend(Hi!)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"LET THERE BE LIBRAS!" or "¡El Bigote!"

I am an embarrassing older sister. When I discovered this recipe for cupcakes with faces on Xiaolu's page, I totally bookmarked it with absolutely permanent plans to make them for my brother on his birthday.

When October 9th rolled around, I whipped out the recipe and baked up a bunch of these little cuties giggling while I put their little eyes together on their little cupcake faces. Yes I giggled, the whole time, like a dork.

I kept picturing my brother's face when he saw them, what he would think about their little mustaches and junior mint eyes.

Why is this embarrassing? Well...

My brother isn't exactly 4 Or 6. Or even 12.

He um... just turned 20...

I know. What's wrong with me?!? My brother though, he expects this from me. It has always been our relationship. We're not the type of siblings who will sit around with beers telling dirty jokes and eating boob shaped cake when we're  40.

Our relationship is this: every year he will get older, every year I will pretend that it isn't happening and make things for him that he and his preschool friends will enjoy, and every year my 6'1", goateed, fully grown brother will smile sweetly and genuinely thank me. Every year. I have no idea how I got lucky enough to get a brother like this. No clue.

Though I'll confess that if I gave me these cupcakes, I'd thank me too.

These cupcakes are AMAZINGLY good. And if it turns out maybe you want to be a grown up and leave off  the tiny faces, they won't turn out any less amazing because what we're dealing with here is chocolate cake, with oreo inside. I didn't really know what I was getting myself into when I baked these (I was mostly in it for the faces), I got a sort of hint they might be good when I smelled them baking, but when I sunk my teeth into that very first warm chocolaty bite, it was so good I had to sit down. True story.

They are love sonnet good. They are break into song good. They are chuck your boyfriend out the window because who needs a man when you've got this cake* kind of good.

... what?

It's a very lucky thing that the recipe only makes 18 cupcakes because they are dangerous. It is also very lucky that 12 of those 18 cupcakes actually made it all the way to my brother's house. Because really, eating all the cupcakes before they got there would be even more embarrassing than just putting eyes on top of them. But only slightly more.

Oreo cupcakes. With or without the eyes, you need these in your life. I won't tell your boyfriend. 
I  promise.

You can find the original recipe here.

* P.s. I totally love my boyfriend (who always reads my blog) just slightly way way more than cupcakes. Duh. (p.p.s.Hi Alan!)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Quinoa Cake, Carnivorous Again, and a Blogiversary"

Is it a tacky internet faux pas to have multiple sappy posts in a row? 
Yes? Well... ugh... I'll be fast!

Today (October the 5th) is my blogaversay! My blogirthday! The Full Woman (previously Vanilla Black Cherry) turns one year old today (another Libra in the family! woop!) and looking back at my first few posts I'm so proud to see how far I've come and how much my photography has improved (woo for stuff on tastespotting!).

I bought myself a giant cast iron skillet as a blogirthday-versary present. In a way it's kind of a challenge for my savory side. In the past year I've learned pretty well how to bake ( I even made up with cake!) but I'm still pretty limited when it comes to dinner time. And by "limited" I mean terrible. Like "God is it supposed to smell like that?!" kind of terrible. The current theory is that  because I don't love on raw meat like I do butter and sugar the end product isn't as good, but mostly I think it has to do with being inexperienced and (pun, pun) chicken.

However, WE WILL BEAT THIS! I am determined to improve on my savory cooking by my next blogaversary. AS GOD IS MY WITNESS I'LL NEVER BE HUNGRY AGAIN!

As a start I tried out this recipe for Rosemary Skillet chicken ( to break in my lovely cast iron). I tried to picture myself as Nigella Lawson, completely unconcerned with the idea of meat having any kind of germs, lovingly massaging oils and herbs into the skin with carefree bare hands. But I still wasn't quite getting it, and I was kinda sorta still making the church lady face.

I think the visualization did actually help a little the end product turned much out better than usual (actually edible! what?!) the cooking process though, still came with my usual brand of savory food hijinks, (mysterious funk anyone?) which could have been avoided if I'd bothered to use my brain.

Pro tip, if you ever roast stuff with rosemary, use some common sense and nestle those pretty sprigs down there in the juices. Don't sit them on top and let them burn up/ make your house smell like a Pine Sol breathing dragon just crashed though. Don't be like me (your boyfriend will thank you).

Baby steps, baby steps.

Anyway, on a positive note, I also baked my little blog a blogirthday cake (that didn't smell like dragons), and not just your average regular old blogirthday cake. A crazy quinoa upside down cake! 

Quinoa! Upside Down!

What's the point of a quinoa cake you ask?  Where's your sense of whimsy!?  Honestly, I'm thinking from  just a few indicators (applesauce, whole wheat pastry flour) that this was intended to be sort of a novelty-wheat grass-Birkenstock type of baked good, but once I got a hold of it... it sort of wasn't anymore. There seemed to be delicious amounts of brown sugar and butter in there that weren't around before. So, that healthy idea? We're not talking about that.

Other subjects we won't be discussing :
1)  Funky asymmetrical apple patterns in the center of cakes 
2)  Shouting "KEEEN-WAH!" while you're baking (that's between you and your oven)
3)  Eating an entire cake by yourself in a single afternoon (that's between you and your zumba teacher)

Happy Blogerthday- versary Blog!  
Enjoy the cake(I left you some crumbs)! 
And I promise that once I figure it out, I'll cook you a night fancy dinner too. One day...

You can find the Skillet Rosemary Chicken recipe I used here

Quinoa Apple Upside Down Cake
Original Recipe Here

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1-2 Golden Delicious apples (depending on size. I used only one because it was HUGE) -peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch wedges

1 cup cooked white quinoa
2 large eggs, separated into yolks and whites
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup plain, low fat yogurt
1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour or regular cake flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375° and line the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, blend the butter with the brown sugar and salt. Spread the mixture evenly in the lined cake pan. Arrange the apples wedges in the pan in 2 concentric circles. Place cake pan in oven and bake the topping for 20 minutes (watch closely to make sure it doesn't burn). Remove from oven when the apples look lightly golden (we're going for a halfway roast here) and let cool slightly while you get the cake batter together.

To make cake:
 In a food processor, process cooked quinoa, egg yolks, sugar, yogurt, apple sauce, and vanilla until very smooth. About 2 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
Add quinoa mixture to flour mixture and stir until no flour streaks remain. With a spatula, gently fold egg whites into quinoa batter until just incorporated. Gently spoon batter over the baked apple layer in the cake pan.

Bake in centre of oven for about 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan, for about 10 minutes, before running a thin knife around edges and inverting cake onto a plate.