December 31, 2008

The Year That Was - 2008

I usually dislike New Year's. Is it even a real holiday? I feel like listening to sad George Strait songs with the word fool in the lyrics. But really, I'm not sorry to say goodbye to 2008. I decided that what's been holding me back my entire life are the New Year's foods I've been eating for good luck. For 2009, I vow not to eat black-eyed peas, cabbage, or pork on Jan. 1 and we'll see where that gets me.

I'll do my year in cities again. All the cities where I stayed at least one night in 2008:

Taipei, Taiwan
Hong Kong
Alamosa, CO
San Antonio, TX
New York, NY
Dallas, TX
and (drum roll) Lubbock, TX


December 7, 2008

Serenity Now

I bit off more than I could chew this semester. Between the day job, piano lessons, schoolwork, library gig, and whatever other shenanigans I managed to find myself in, I couldn't find enough hours in the day to succeed at all of it.

My muse moved to New York and for me was reduced to a series of pixels and sound waves, which I found pretty devastating. At first, I thought the separation would give me the opportunity to rediscover my individual identity and interests - as one does after a breakup, but without the accompanying self-doubts and -loathing. That lasted for all of a week. I read a couple of books, went to restaurants by myself, did more homework than usual. I realized that my favorite hobby, the thing I looked forward to every week, was having a man to cook for, one with good taste at that. It might be terrible to admit that in this post-feminist era, but I'm an old-fashioned girl.

But we're all glad to know that Chet is doing well seeking his fortune. Perhaps he will be good enough to explain that filthy lucre in his hands. I guess playing the accordion in the subway station turned out to be a good gig after all.

The good news in the continuing saga of Kimberly is that I'm on the road to recovery. I have a lot to look forward to. This week I graduate from my Master's program and officially become an old-maid librarian. (If you know anyone who wants to make me an employed old-maid librarian, give me their contact info.) I'll have so much more free time now that I won't be spending my weeknights and weekends doing homework or avoiding it. I have a wedding cake to make, my first order: sour cream white cake, raspberry filling, and vanilla frosting. There is Festivus on December 23. Please RSVP for the Festivus celebrations at my house if you want to be included. I'll be getting the pole out of the crawlspace soon.

November 27, 2008

The Long Thanksgiving

My favorite holiday: Thanksgiving. This year our family is eating at Porter and Katie's new house. This seriously curbs my ability to browbeat everyone into doing what I want for the menu. My efforts to coordinate the menu via phone calls, e-mails, and Google Docs were completely ignored.

I talked to Mom last night on the phone about the pumpkin pie I'd already announced I would be bringing. Mom said that she had already made three pies - apple, pecan, and coconut meringue. Add a pumpkin pie to the mix and that's chaos, people.

I think people like me are the reason the holidays get ugly sometimes. Some idiot gets a plan in her head and gets very rabid if anyone varies from it. Control freaks like that tend to pout, cry, and act like martyrs at the table. "Well, I wanted to do the mashed potatoes LIKE I ALWAYS DO EVERY YEAR." Sniff sniff.

I'm in charge of the turkey, chimichurri sauce, roasted pears and salad, and the Sweet Potato Not Pie that I subbed for the pumpkin pie. This is the menu as far as I know it, but then again, who knows what I'll find when I show up for dinner?

Roasted turkey with chimichurri sauce
Cornbread dressing
Mashed potatoes
Corn Rice Casserole
Roasted pears with blue cheese on salad greens
Cranberry salad
Sweet potato not pie
White rolls
Pecan pie
Apple pie
Coconut meringue pie

Thanksgiving 2008

6:30pm update: We had a superb Thanksgiving dinner. Porter and Katie have a beautiful home and that newlywed glow that makes everything even better. The food was wonderful.

I was pleased with the turkey. I combined 3 minced garlic cloves, a couple teaspoons of lemon zest, the juice of a lime, 3 chopped jalapeños, and a handful of chopped cilantro. I spread this mixture under the skin of the turkey breast along with butter and a mix of cumin, ground coriander, kosher salt, and black pepper. Rubbed more butter, cumin, salt, and pepper on the skin. I think this method should be standard for Thanksgiving now. I do think, however, that I'll return to brown gravy. The chimichurri sauce was good, but last year I made the best gravy of my life, and I just can't move on. It'd be one thing if the whole menu were Southwestern or Latin, but you need gravy on top of cornbread dressing, and that's all there is to it.

That roasted pear salad was easy to make, and that was a nice presentation. I got the Sweet Potato Not Pie recipe from Casserole Crazy, a blog I could see myself falling for. I made the recipe as described in the video below (it's long, but hang in there), using habaneros and honey goat cheese. As you can see in the picture above, the melted goat cheese makes it look like the old standard sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top.

November 4, 2008

I think Bob Barr will win it all

(More Cake Wrecks)
Happy Election Day! I hope you have better luck than I did finding a candidate you like. I'm pretty sure the election is already decided. From Time:
"Though the Washington Redskins may not have the most stellar record in the NFL, when it comes to predicting presidential elections, they are practically undefeated. Since 1936, the superstition has held that if the Redskins won their last home game before the election, the incumbent party would stay in power. And that rule held until 2004, when both the Redskins and John Kerry lost.

In 2000, as Al Gore went up against George W. Bush, his Tennessee Titans were the last to play the Redskins at FedEx Field. Gore tempted fate by rooting for his home team, the Titans — who lost. Gore soon followed suit.

Winner of Nov. 3 matchup between the Redskins and the Pittsburgh Steelers:
Pittsburgh Steelers 23
Washington Redskins 6

Prediction according to the Redskins Rule: Obama"
Now hold on a minute! Hat tip to Auntie for cluing me in that the Family Circle Presidential Election Cookie Contest between the potential first spouses has correctly predicted the presidential winner in every election since 1992.

This year, Cindy McCain's oatmeal-butterscotch recipe received 54 percent of the readers' vote, to 44 percent for Michelle Obama’s shortbread cookies.

Sounds like a split decision. Whether you voted or not, do something that will actually make a difference: make some cookies.

Cindy McCain's Oatmeal-Butterscotch Cookies
Yields: 5 1/2 dozen cookies
3/4 cup unsalted butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups rolled oats
1 2/3 cups butterscotch chips
In a large bowl beat the butter or margarine, granulated sugar and brown sugar together. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating well. In a medium-size bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture; stir until blended. Stir in oats and butterscotch chips.

Drop by tablespoonfuls about two inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 375ºF for 10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Michelle Obama's Shortbread Cookies
Yield: 6 dozen 2-inch by 3-inch cookies
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons Amaretto (almond liqueur)
1 teaspoon each orange and lemon zest
3 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 beaten egg white
Chopped nuts or dried fruit (optional)
Heat oven to 325ºF. Line a 17- by 12- by 1-inch baking pan with nonstick foil.

In large bowl, cream together butter and 1 1/2 cups of the sugar. Slowly add egg yolks, and beat well until smooth. Beat in Amaretto and zest. Stir in flour and salt until combined.

Spread dough evenly into prepared pan, flattening as smoothly as possible. Brush top of dough with egg white; sprinkle with nuts or fruit (if using) and with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake for 25 minutes or until brown, turn off oven and allow cookies to sit in oven (with door ajar) for 15 minutes. Cut while slightly warm.

November 3, 2008

Kimberly is 26 and Freeeeee!

One of my favorite blogs is Cake Wrecks. Maybe because I've made more than my fair share of cake wrecks. Spotted this one a few weeks ago:


Wendy and Katie recreated it for my own recent 26th birthday:

Kimberly Birthday 2008

And Marmee made my favorite birthday cake, the Chocolate Pumpkin Cake (recipe from Country Living).

Kimberly Birthday 2008

It was a good birthday, perhaps as a result of low expectations. And Texas Tech beat Texas, so I got my birthday wish.

October 19, 2008

Honorable Mention

From haute cuisine to bourgeois fare, I implore you to check out this year's new food additions at the State Fair of Texas and this video with the winning entries.

My favorites:
  • Chicken Fried Bacon – Thick and peppery Farm Pac® bacon is seasoned, double-dipped in a special batter and breading and deep-fried. Served with a creamy side of ranch or honey mustard sauce. (A judge in the video said, "I'm pretty sure this is the way God intended bacon to be eaten.")

  • Fernie’s All-American Fried Grilled Cheese Sandwich – An American classic with a State Fair twist. Two slices of white bread filled with a blend of American and cheddar cheeses, dipped in an egg and milk batter and lightly coated with panko bread crumbs for extra crispness. Served with a side of shoestring potato sticks, a pickle spear and tomato soup dipping sauce.

  • Texas Fried Jelly Belly Beans – Jelly Belly Beans are rolled in funnel cake batter and fried to a crunch. People can share the treat with friends and try to guess the flavors before biting down.

  • Fried Chocolate Truffles – A silky-smooth, handmade, dark chocolate truffle is rolled in cocoa powder before being battered and deep-fried. The melting chocolate goodness is dusted in cinnamon, sugar and cocoa powder. (Now why would you go to the trouble of shaping a handmade truffle if you're going to fry it?!?)

Be still, my beating heart, indeed. What are your favorites from the list?

The South Plains Fair has nothing on the food court at the state fair. Speaking of the fair, I got my blue ribbons and prize money in the mail yesterday. Two checks totaling $16.75 for my cake and cookies. That should cover the cost of the ingredients. Oh! Guess whom I saw at United last night on a midnight grocery run? Stocker/Stalker Boy. I returned his hello and quickened my shopping pace.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

I read My Life in France over the last couple of weeks and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was a little sad to finish it. No more foodie adventures with Julia Child. The book mainly covers her first years living in Paris, where she began her culinary training and started writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The audio book is great, too, for picking up correct French pronunciations.

I remember in 1996, my family got a new PC (with Windows 95 and everything). It came with a hodgepodge collection of software, things like Grolier's Encyclopedia, a golf game, and Microsoft Bob. One of the included CDs was "Julia Child: Home Cooking with Master Chefs." I remember being very excited, since I was a budding cook, and had already gotten a bit of a reputation for making good desserts. I knew this would be a wonderful resource, and it was on the computer, too! What a disappointment it was, however, to find that the recipes on the CD were for traditional French entrées and other very snobby gourmet foods. Roasting a whole chicken did not much appeal to a teenage girl more accustomed to Taste of Home recipes with five ingredients, one of which was always chocolate and another peanut butter. Not much has changed on that front either.

Thus concluded my experience with Julia Child. Until now, that is. I love the enthusiasm she had for cooking and food. I love one story Julia tells about getting too self-confident while she was in cooking school. She served the most terrible meal "one could imagine outside of England." But she made sure not to apologize for it. She writes:
I don't believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. When one's hostess starts in with self-deprecations such as "Oh, I don't know how to cook...," or "Poor little me...," or "This may taste awful...," it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not. Besides, such admissions only draw attention to one's shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings), and make the other person think, "Yes, you're right, this really is an awful meal!" Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed - eh bien, tant pis!

Usually one's cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, as my ersatz eggs Florentine were, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile - and learn from her mistakes. (p. 71)
While reading this book, I got an intense craving for French food. I quelled the cravings somewhat by eating dinner at Cafe J. I had pan seared duck breast with béarnaise, sweet potatoes, and spinach. It was a beautiful presentation and very delicious. I thought as I ate the spinach that I should take some back to the workplace cafeteria. "You see, this is what cooked spinach should be! See how it is still bright green. See that it still has some shape and some bite to it. It's also seasoned!" For dessert, I had a crepe filled with vanilla ice cream surrounded by raspberry sauce and topped with whipped cream, fruit, and almonds. I'm making plans to reserve a table for me and my book at the reliable Frenchman Inn here in town. Very spinster librarian of me. Also making plans to try some classic French recipes, perhaps coq au vin to start. I like this quote by Julia's instructor, Chef Bugnard at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school:

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake"You never forget a beautiful thing that you have made. Even after you eat it, it stays with you - always."

October 15, 2008

Adiós Amigo

I'm sure you're all waiting to hear what I made for dinner last Friday, the Last Supper, or as I started calling it, the Adiós Amigo Menu:

Spiced pecans with rum glaze
Mexican shrimp martini
Rib-eye steak with red chile onion rings
Fiery corn salsa
Bananas Foster with vanilla bean ice cream

Adiós Amigo Mosaic

I decided to go with a Tex-Mex theme, with pecans, steak, and onion rings to contribute the "Tex." I kicked up the spice level of the salsas by adding habaneros. It was the first time I've tried to do bananas foster, and it was mediocre. Next time, I'll use more brown sugar, add banana liqueur, not overcook the bananas to mush, and try using a smaller pan to get a bigger flambé.

I couldn't help but feel especially sorry for myself on Monday afternoon. I had spent my lunch time researching fun cafes and restaurants in Brooklyn, whilst eating a tray of cafeteria slop: King Ranch chicken casserole, fiesta corn, and spinach. First off, why is there such a thing as King Ranch chicken casserole? Dad rightly notes that the King Ranch was a cattle ranch. This one was a little too heavy on the full sodium condensed soups. I tried mixing in the generic frozen corn and the soggy spinach that had all of its brightness cooked out of it. Even Tabasco didn't help much.

But that's the end of that. I have a few party menus in mind. I definitely think it's time for another dessert party. And there are dozens of spooky Halloween treats I want to make. I'm really channeling Martha Stewart this year.

October 1, 2008

Chet dies after eating 'superhot' chilli for bet

Chef Dies After Eating Superhot Chilli for Bet

Oh wait! It says 'chef.' Thank goodness. Cause that superhot chilli really sounds like something he'd be into. What am I saying? It sounds like something I'd be into.

I tried a Chuao Spicy Maya Bar for the first time. It's my new favorite chile chocolate bar. Dark chocolate with "a hint of Pasilla chile, cayenne Pepper and cinnamon." Dark chocolate has antioxidants, so it's just for my health. Remember, though, don't drink milk with dark chocolate. The milk wipes out antioxidant absorption.

Why spicy foods are good for you

Starting yesterday, Chet and I are celebrating our one year anniversary week - a year since we met, since our first date...

Our friends John and Sarah introduced us. Sarah called to invite me over for dinner and a game night. She said that they were inviting another guy over to make four people, an even number for playing games. Not to worry, because "It's not a setup!" A couple of days after I accepted the invite, she left me a voicemail message saying, "I was thinking, 'Why not Kimberly and Chet?' So keep it in mind. Call me and I'll tell you about him if you want." Very sneaky.

On the night of our first date, the Friday after the setup, Chet came to pick me up and brought me flowers. I was nervous. "Don't drop the flowers," I told myself. It would be just like me to drop the flowers and accidentally step on them or something clumsy like that. "Fill the vase. Add the flower food. Breathe in. Breathe out. Smile."

We went to Manna for dinner and hit a couple of sites on the Friday Art Trail. We went to La Diosa for cheesecake afterward. We sat by a table with a lot of other people because it was crowded. We were sitting between them and the band. They didn't even pretend to watch the band; they just stared at us the whole time. They had imbibed enough to lose their inhibitions, so they asked Chet and me if we were on a date. "You two haven't stopped talking," and "You must be on a date because you're sharing that slice of cheesecake. If you were together, you'd each get your own." We told them it was our first date, and they secretly ordered champagne for us.

The waitress set glasses in front of us and started pouring. I tried to tell them we weren't drinking, but the band was too loud. So they just stared even more and wondered why we didn't drink the champagne. Then they started telling us we had something special and toasting us, “To first dates!”

They started asking us all kinds of questions about how we met and saying Chet and I seemed like we had a lot in common. At that point, it felt like I was on a reality TV show, what with all the staring and unsolicited feedback from the judges. Every time I smiled at Chet or laughed at his jokes, I felt their eyes on me and imagined them thinking, "Oh my gosh, look at her grin at that guy. She's got it bad." I leaned in and whispered to Chet that we should go. We picked up Shaun of the Dead at his house since I had never seen it and watched that. It's just been a whirlwind romance ever since, yes, just a whirl of wind.

Tonight, I'm planning the menu for our anniversary dinner. Meh, he's moving, make that the Last Supper. Maybe something spicy? As for outings, these are the kind of Friday selections one finds around town:
Friday Ladies' Bible Study
NAMI's Mental Health Recovery Support Group
Mac and MeI'm not sure what happened to the no gifts agreement. Chet gave me a MacBook last night. (Unless you are a burglar, in which case he gave me a used VCR and a knife set.) Trying out Photo Booth...

September 28, 2008

Lots to Love

This weekend I'm pretty much having a nervous breakdown due to worry about my comprehensive exam essays which are due on Tuesday and my Chet who's moving in not weeks, but days now. He's trying to make it up to me with homemade cinnamon rolls. I think I'll let him.

Chet's Cinnamon Rolls

The first time Chet and I talked on the phone after we met, he told me that he made really great bread and cinnamon rolls. I remember that conversation. He said that he was an aficionado of baked goods. I was cheering inwardly, glad that he wasn't one of those guys that doesn't like sweets, and thinking I could win him over with my desserts. Well, his cinnamon rolls can definitely stand on their own. They're out of my league.

He also let me borrow The Office, Spaced (five years, eight months, and three days!), and 30 Rock DVDs. I want to be Tina Fey when I grow up. Sigh. Back to work.

September 23, 2008

Local Fare

Fair Culinary CompetitionI never pass up an opportunity to heap praise on myself, so I'll divulge the news that I got first place for my white cake entry in this year's fair. I still think that white cake is far inferior to just about any other cake - chocolate, lemon, pound, coconut - except Angel Food cake, which is a cake at which I'll turn up my nose. It's another cake you make when you're stuck with some egg whites you need to use.

White Layer Cake

Peanut Butter Cookie DoughI did have one more fair entry. I made a batch of peanut butter cookies. Not much makes my PB cookie recipe different, except for the addition of extra peanuts and their jumbo size. The dough was delicious, but I was disappointed when they came out of the oven. They had run together on the baking sheet, which is the disaster of all disasters when it comes to baking cookies, right? They weren't very beautiful.

On top of that, when I went to turn in my cookies, the volunteer noted the jumbo size of my cookies and told me that next year the cookies cannot be larger than 2" in diameter. "Otherwise, we'll give you a knife so you can cut them down."

I would sooner take my cookies back and go home. "Great," I thought, "the judges have a preference for smaller cookies, and here I am with cookies on steroids. I should have used an alias."

My fears were unfounded. Maybe the judges are waiting until next year to decide that size matters. Maybe the bribe worked. Anyway, I got first place for the cookies. Here's a shot of almost all of the peanut butter cookie class. Mine are at the bottom right, looking very disheveled on the plate.

Fair Culinary Competition

That's the end of my win streak at the fair, though, because if I'm still in Lubbock at this time next year, I'm going to throw myself off the Ferris wheel.

Apple Butter FestivalLast Saturday I went to Apple Country Orchards in Idalou for the annual Apple Butter Festival. It started out as a date idea for Chet and me. Then we decided to invite our moms. I called Mom Saturday morning to make sure she was still going. Yes, she was, and Dad wanted to come, too. She called back a few minutes later and said that everybody wanted to go. Hopefully that wasn't too much family time for Chet's mom.

I have good memories of going to the orchard to pick apples when I was younger. Mom picked us up after school in the Suburban, and we'd drive out. You have such a different concept of time when you're a kid. That drive to Idalou seemed so long, but it was probably only twenty or thirty minutes. We drove up FM 400 which passes through a canyon, which was exciting to us. Mom would get lost, and I'd probably be the only one of the kids who hadn't dozed off, so together we figured out where we missed the turn. While you pick at the orchard, it's all you can eat apples. Mmmm. The apples peeked out at us from underneath the tree leaves. We probably had to be told more than once not to pick the wormy ones. The autumn sun cast its inimitable shadow and the fall air remained cool. It made this farm girl think of harvest time. We would get apple cider slushes, and they also had a soft serve machine that dispensed an apple yogurt that was amazing. I haven't seen that in years, but they still have their fabulous bakery and delicious cider. A few years ago, I had a job in Idalou. There were a few times when I would drive to the orchard during lunch, buy a loaf of Apple Cake, eat the whole thing, and take a nap.

The orchard was already pretty crowded Saturday when we arrived. Lots of young marrieds and toddlers. Pretty WASPy. Different crowd than the fair, for sure. We grabbed some buckets on wheels and started picking apples. We found a few varieties. There were some pretty Holly apples. Other than that, the highlights were seeing a Horny Toad and me standing in an ant hill for a couple of minutes until I realized I was getting bitten by red ants. Farm girl, indeed.

Apple Butter Festival

September 18, 2008

Where the Competition Is Stiff but Sweet

It's time for the South Plains Fair to come to Lubbock again. I jus can’t not tell you how excited I am to git one of those fried cheese on a stick things. And slash or one of those fried Snickers or cheesecakes on a stick with the powdred sugar that gits all over you. I am super excited about gitting a turkey leg and a couple 32 oz. lemonaids for lunch everyday next week.

The only thing better than fair food is fair shopping. I can’t not wait to git a salt lamp and a T-shirt with that gangsta writing on it. Last year I spent all my mad money on a carikature of me playing baseball. A T-shirt will be way more useful than that.

I made a cake for the judging contest this year. Last year I made a german chocolate cake and got a prize so can’t do that cake again. I really thought about making a pound cake (Elvis’ favorite) or prune cake then I decided to make a white layer cake. Chocolate and butter are sooo expensive that it is almost crazy to think of making a cake these days. Eggs too. But 1st prize for white cake is $10 and that will buy a fried apricot pie and a super stuffed baked potato.

Maybe you are like me and think that white cake is BORING unless you poke holes in it and pour JellO over it or Hershey’s syrup or something. Or maybe you don’t like to waste all those egg yolks. But the best thing to do with egg yolks is make ice cream! It might not be as yummy as Blue Bunny Mouse Tracks with the peanut butter – yummo! – but it is still good. A lot of people won’t take time to make a cake. Cake mixes are easy and delish but there banned at the fair (except for the cake mix division which is for weenies!!!).

I had to scope out a good recipe for the white cake. I compared a few. I didn’t trust Martha Stewarts’ because she’s a Yankee. So I used a recipe I’ve tried before. It has almond extract in it which gives it a good flavor. Unfortuneatly, one of my cakes did fall in the middle when it came out of the oven. But I disguised that with frosting. I made a merangue butter cream frosting and put jus a little rum in it. I don’t think this cake is my best ever. But maybe I can at least git a Participant ribbon.

I can’t not wait to go to the fair. I am super excited about the hypmotist show. One time I saw someone get hypmotized and act like Britney Spears so I am a beliver. I want to tell the hypmotist to hypmotize me off of cake and cigarettes. The fair rides are even more fun than the Joyland ones. Because Joyland doesn’t have the big strawberry tilt-a-wirls. Plus It’s a good place to hang out with my friends that are working at the sausage stand and git free funnel cakes. And I always can git ideas for what my next tat should be and where I should put it.

September 14, 2008

Foreign to me

The last few weeks I've been staggering through my routine, a little shell-shocked by a crazy schedule, family upheavals, and the anticipation of my Chet moving to the Big Apple without me. I've been mopey and whiny and hitting the ice cream too hard. I recognize that when you don't have the direction, drive, or focus it takes to complete a stupid blog entry, it's time to get help. I thought tonight I would polish my rusty old html coding and complete multiple entries I let languish as unpublished drafts. Excuse a personal indulgence.

Hong Kong March 2008

I came across an SD card of photos from the Hong Kong trip in March. I can't believe that was six months ago. It was pretty cool to see the sights of Hong Kong again in The Dark Knight. In filming, they had to cut a scene where Batman jumped into Victoria Harbor because of its polluted state. I found that Hong Kong was absolutely as polluted and disgusting as you would imagine from hearing that. I still don't believe that you can ever completely see the sun through the fog.

An interesting thing I learned in Hong Kong is that each finger on your left hand has an important meaning. A ring on your thumb means you are looking for a boyfriend or girlfriend. A ring on your pointer finger means you have a boyfriend or girlfriend. A ring on the middle finger means that you are engaged. A ring on the ring finger means you are married. A ring on the pinky means you are divorced or do not want a boy/girlfriend or do not want to get married.

Speaking of trips (in every sense of the word), I went on my first outta town trip with Chet's family. I got to go to San Antonio and see Gordo on tour with Shooter Jennings. That was one highlight of a fun weekend. Other highlights:
  • Sea World
  • Chet's iPhone getting stuck inside the door panel of his parents' car, having to stop at Dollar General in Big Spring to buy a screwdriver, dismantling the door to retrieve the phone, with me watching and laughing hysterically the whole time
  • Hanging out with the niece and nephews
  • Eating sushi on the ride home - my favorite was the "Heat Attack": spicy tuna and cream cheese inside a jalapeño - but we also got some flaming eel or something
Flaming Sushi

Back in Lubbock, for Friday dinner, Chet and I tried a couple of spicy Indian entrees, Lamb Vindaloo and Paneer Tikka Masala. For dessert, I made Alton Brown's Indian Rice Pudding. It was such a cinch to make, I had it again today for breakfast. The only substitution I made was swapping ground cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg for the ground cardamom. At $13.99 for a small jar of the cardamom, I figured I'd use what was on hand.

Indian Rice Pudding

August 29, 2008

I Love New York

Times Square

Chet's friend Andrew that we met in New York recommended a creamed spinach recipe by Emeril to us. I checked out the recipe and it sounded yummy, and spinach being one of my favorite veggies, I thought that I should try it. The other recipes from that particular Emeril Live episode sounded delicious, too. Not to be outdone by Andrew, I told Chet to rub it in with Andrew that I would be making the whole Emeril meal. "I scoff at your spinach. Bam!" The episode was called I Love New York and featured:
Emeril's Blue Cheese Waldorf Salad
Hash Brown Potatoes
Creamed Spinach
New York Strip with Beurre Maitre d'Hotel
New York Cheesecake with Caramelized "Big Apple" Topping

Emeril's Blue Cheese Waldorf SaladThe Blue Cheese Waldorf Salad was very good. It has a mayonnaise and buttermilk- based dressing with blue cheese and yellow onion. You toss that with some apples, grapes, celery, and walnuts, and serve the mix over a bed of Bibb lettuce. With the addition of some chicken breast pieces, this salad would be a hit at a luncheon as the main course.

I Love New York

The hash brown potatoes were pretty standard but had the addition of Emeril's Essence. I've made better before. The creamed spinach was very good indeed. I took about half the shallots called for out of the pan before adding the spinach. I always need to double or triple recipes that serve four when the whole family is over. I can't remember if my ingredient estimates (who needs measuring cups?) were off or the recipe was. The New York Strip with Beurre Maitre d'Hotel was pretty good. I underseasoned the roast. The beurre maître d'hôtel is a parsley butter with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. I have some left that I want to put on a salmon steak or a filet mignon or something else I can't afford these days.

Emeril doesn't know his cheesecake, or more likely, the recipe on the site is missing the correct instructions on cooking it. I read the directions which said to cook the cheesecake at 375º for an hour and thought, yeah, that's definitely going to burn. I was right. The top was very brown and the cheesecake looked like the Grand Canyon with all the cracks it had in it. I usually do cheesecakes at 450º for 10 minutes and then drastically lower the heat to about 200º for the rest of the long cooking time. There's also the water bath option, which is risky. You have to baby the cheesecake when it comes out, too, because cooling it too quickly will also cause it to crack. I read a secret for fixing cracked cheesecakes. Unmold the cheesecake from the springform pan, wrap a wide ribbon around the cake's perimeter, secure it with a binder clip, and leave for a few hours. That helped a little, and luckily, the apple topping masked imperfections.

The flavors in this cheesecake were perfect. I liked it even better than my usual New York Cheesecake recipe. What sets Emeril's apart is the addition of orange and lemon zest to the filling. The caramelized apple topping was good, though I never got the sugar to caramelize. After prepping and cooking this meal for ten people, I lost patience with the dessert.

And then I forced Chet to play the accordion, despite his "No means no" pleas.

Accordion to Plan Accordion to plan

When Chet moves to New York, he could always play the accordion in the subway terminals and make a pretty good living. Newcomers adjust, eventually, to New York.

Empire State Building

July 28, 2008

Midnight Confession

Something about the wee small hours of the morning makes confessionals seem like a great idea. I'll go first.

I like the name Herb. It sounds like the name of a 1950s heartthrob with perfect hair, who wears a tuxedo to breakfast, smokes like a chimney, and still has perfect white teeth that sparkle when he smiles. I really like the Herb Alpert song "This Guy's in Love with You." I can't decide which video clip of the song I prefer. I mean, the first has all the classic elements of a music video: meadows, waterfalls, ocean breezes, and kisses on the beach at sunset. But the second has a charming, clad-in-black Herb singing while seated on a giant, Sesame Street-sized letter H, and literacy is important.

The neighborhood association won their suit, and I had to mow my lawn this weekend. Front yard only, though. I'm baby steppin' it.

It’s unfortunate that I let things get this bad with the neighbors. It used to be that Carmen and I would take evening walks and criticize all the houses and lawns in the neighborhood. We’d get back to my house and agree that my house was one of the best looking on the block. Now when Chet and I ride bikes around the neighborhood, he’s kind enough to point out the rare, “Honey, that lawn actually looks worse than yours!” It’s okay. I got him back by anonymously ratting him out for breaking the water restriction ordinance.

I discovered something awesome. You're supposed to fertilize the lawn on Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day, but if you don’t fertilize or water your lawn, it won’t grow, and then you don’t have to mow it. If you don't plant flowers, you don't have to water them either. No reason to weed. The mower will cut those weeds down to size, then they'll probably constitute the only green spots in the lawn. Or let the weeds grow and call it xeriscaping. That is brilliant and has the appearance of environmental-friendliness, which is admittedly canceled out by the fast food wrappers and beer cans littering the yard. Perhaps I should just fill in my lawn with gravel or pave it to make an extra large driveway. Driving past that always signals that the homeowner has thrown in the towel.

The next house I buy is going to be an apartment. With a 500 sq. ft. kitchen and maybe a living room and bathroom.

Remember the good old days when people communicated sarcasm in writing without peppering the text with those stupid emoticons? :p Pepperidge Farm remembers.

July 24, 2008

Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.

Raw milk: Panacea or Poison?

Selling raw milk is illegal in many states. That's the government at work protecting us from the real dangers in the world.

Alton Brown on unpasteurized milk, via the Good Eats Fan Page:
"Holding the milk at 145 degrees for 30 minutes [pasteurization], nukes the nasties while preserving some of the body, the character, the flavor of the milk. Heating milk to 161 degrees for 15 seconds [ultra-pasteurization] kills everything, good, bad, and indifferent... It also shuts down enzymes, and knocks off a bunch of nutrients. In other words, it kills the milk. But since that method is a hundred times's the one most often employed by the dairy industry. Which is why most American milk tastes like [a] shirt."
I have two quarts of unpasteurized cream left over from the wedding cake. I'm trying to find just the right starring role for that stuff before it spoils. What higher calling is there for dairy than ice cream? Tonight I experimented making ice cream with unpasteurized milk and cream. Oh. My. Gosh. I don't know if this was just a good flavor combination, or if using raw milk makes that much of a difference, or whether I was just really really hungry, but the ice cream tasted delicious.

Coffee Heath Bar Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 ounces evaporated milk
2/3 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 tablespoons Kahlua
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1/2 cup toffee bits
Stir together all ingredients except toffee bits with whisk until combined. Pour into ice cream maker to freeze. While machine is running, put toffee bits in freezer to chill. Near the end of machine cycle, add toffee bits. Mix for an additional 1-2 minutes, or until toffee is evenly distributed. Transfer ice cream to plastic container and freeze until firm.

I think those measurements are right. I added ingredients incrementally to taste. Might need some more espresso powder. Adding some chopped semi-sweet chocolate would be good. The vanilla bean is totally optional. I have at least a dozen beans left over from the wedding cake, which had vanilla bean frosting.

Next up: I bought some pre-made cannoli shells, ricotta, figs, and pistachios to make Emeril's Cannoli.


Too much espresso. I'll never get to sleep.

July 23, 2008

Zao Gao

One of my favorite Chinese expressions that Katie has taught me is "zao gao" (rhymes with wow), which means "messy cake." The Chinese use the expression as a substitute expletive of sorts: darn, what a mess, too bad, etc. I said Zao Gao many times while making Katie's wedding cake, but I think it turned out alright in the end.

Katie & Porter's Wedding

The thing I wasn't happy with were the little piped white pearls at the base of each layer. Unfortunately, I didn't cut the support pillars short enough, and I had some air space between the cake tiers that I had to hide with frosting. That made it difficult to pipe uniform and level pearls.

Everyone's favorite part of the cake seemed to be the ganache filling. Ganache has only two ingredients: chocolate and cream. It obviously makes a difference if you use good chocolate. Good cream, on the other hand, is hard to come by around here. The grocery store I frequent just stocks one variety: ultra-pasteurized heavy cream. Mom has been buying milk from a local milkman who sells raw milk, which has a much better flavor than pasteurized. He hooked us up with some cream. You have not seen cream like this before. It is so thick you have to stir it with a spoon, and it pours out of the jar like syrup, not like milk. It's got a slightly yellow tint to it. It tastes like sweet butter, instead of a flavorless fat glob like regular cream. I credit the success of the ganache to said cream. More on that later...

Katie & Porter's Wedding

This is the only mishap of the wedding of which I'm aware. After Katie and Porter cut and fed each other their ceremonial cake slices, the lady that was hired to cut the cake and plate it for the guests came over. She reached up to remove the top tier, which is traditionally the tier that the bride and groom save and eat on their first anniversary, and when she moved it, the bride and groom cake topper toppled off and crashed. Both the bride's and groom's heads broke off. I couldn't see it all from my vantage point, but apparently heads were rolling.

July 15, 2008

Cooking with Kimberly

What should I name my Food Network show when I'm the next Food Network star?

Tonight I made the final round, two rounds actually, of chocolate wedding cake. I'm also still working on cleaning out the fridge and freezer. Tonight I tossed some unused raspberry frosting that somehow got relegated to the back corner of the fridge. It was originally pink but was now white and brown and fuzzy. Also found a lime that rolled to the back of the fridge. It had turned brownish yellow and concave.

A great recipe to make when you need to clear out your fridge and freezer is homemade ice cream. I made two batches Sunday. First, I made a batch of vanilla ice cream, recipe courtesy Auntie, then another of raspberry. That used up some dairy, plus cleared the freezer of two Cuisinart ice cream freezer bowls. And if you have frozen fruit on hand as I did, you can mix it in to the ice cream, or boil it down and make a sauce.

Raspberry Ice Cream

Raspberry Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 ounces evaporated milk
2/3 cup sugar, plus 1-3 additional tablespoons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 tablespoons Chambord, separated
fresh or frozen raspberries, optional
Stir together milk, cream, evaporated milk, 2/3 cup sugar, vanilla, and 2 1/2 tablespoons of Chambord with whisk until sugar dissolves. Pour into ice cream maker to freeze. While machine is running, combine fresh or frozen raspberries with remaining tablespoon Chambord and 1-3 tablespoons of sugar to taste. At the end of machine cycle, add raspberries and any accumulated juice to ice cream mixture while machine is still running. Mix for an additional 1-2 minutes, or until fruit is incorporated throughout. Transfer ice cream to plastic container and freeze until firm.

**For vanilla ice cream: use only 2/3 cup sugar total, increase the vanilla extract to 2 teaspoons, and eliminate the Chambord and raspberries.

Other late great adventures in cooking with Kimberly:

Father's Day DinnerFor Father's Day dinner, we had Grilled Tequila-Lime Chicken Breast, for which I used a Lawry's marinade of the same name. I don't grill outdoors. My Le Creuset Square Grill Pan substitutes perfectly. Also had Mashed Potatoes and Fire-Roasted Corn Salsa. For dessert: Key Lime Pie served with Whipped Cream flavored with Coconut Rum.

Banana-Caramel Coconut Cream PieA rather weak addition to the many pies collection: Banana-Caramel Coconut Cream Pie. I had a homemade pie crust that wasn't doing nothing, so I filled it with a bunch of stuff that was easy to throw together. I filled the bottom of the pie shell with caramel, then layered sliced bananas, vanilla pudding, and whipped cream flavored with dark rum on top of that. I sprinkled the top with toasted pecans and coconut.

TiramisùWe had Gul and Matt over for dinner. We had Caesar Salad and Chicken Marsala, and I thought Tiramisù would be great on the menu. Tiramisù is Italian for "pick me up," and it's one of my absolute favorite desserts. It's comprised of Savoiardi lady fingers soaked in espresso and rum, layered with a mixture of mascarpone cheese, egg yolks, sugar, and rum, cocoa powder sprinkled on top, garnished with dark chocolate shavings.

Arrosto di Maiale Al Latte (Milk-Braised Pork): This one is probably worth a post by itself. The photo you see is from Adam Roberts of Amateur Gourmet. Get thee over to his blog immediately. I saw this recipe on his blog last September and have wanted to try it since then. I ended up doing a mashup of Adam's recipe and this one from Kevin Weeks. The recipe uses butter, flour, olive oil, a huge pork loin, whole milk, garlic, sage, and lemon. As Adam said, "How could that taste bad?" You need to know that I chopped 20 cloves of garlic for this recipe. My house smelled like garlic for a week and the neighbors filed complaints. It was delicious.

July 9, 2008

Cold Feet

I scored a library gig. The hours leave something to be desired. The staff's music selection is what I would characterize as Indian Pop. My stomach is very impressionable. Tonight, I got intense cravings for chicken tikka masala or palak paneer or a curry. India Palace isn't open at this hour, so I came home and ate a frozen vegan samosa. Not bad.

It's a good thing I'm chipping away at my frozen dinners, too. I need all the freezer space I can get right now. You see, I started making wedding cake a few days ago, and I'm storing cake layers in the freezer. It is countdown time to the wedding. I'm the only one with cold feet. I did my strategic planning for the wedding cake. I made a detailed schedule for mixing, baking, whipping up the frosting, assembling, and decorating the cake, plus lists of the materials I need, and risk assessment for a list of mortifying fears: the cake will collapse, the frosting will melt, and the blue color of the buttercream will not be uniform. It's all in a sexy Google doc à la the one I also created to house all the wedding plans. It didn't take long to see that I was the only one editing that thing. I shouted, "I need e-mail addresses listed for all the vendors!" to no avail. Guess we don't have to ask which sister is getting married and which one is making long-term plans with her spreadsheets.

Wedding CakeWe had an engagement party/cake tasting throwdown contest two months ago to choose the perfect cake for Porter and Katie's wedding. The winner in a close race was the family favorite Bobby Flay Chocolate Blackout Cake. Their wedding cake will have a vanilla bean buttercream frosting tinted blue and white "pearls" piped around the base of each tier.

I'll be cleaning out the freezer and fridge, so be wary if I offer to feed you. Might want to check the expiration dates on that yogurt. My dress for Katie's wedding is hanging in the living room as a constant reminder that I'm not supposed to be eating anything that has more calories than ice chips do. I'm trying to lose that lingering baby weight. Not the weight from a pregnancy, just baby fat I've been hanging onto for about twenty-five years.

July 4, 2008

Independence Day?

I read this NY Times blog entry about letting go of childhood and cried. Then I read the comments and cried. Kind of weird because all those words were written by a bunch of mothers who were lamenting that their children had grown up and gone away and that part of their life was over.

I still get nostalgic in the summers for my childhood. It was so wonderful to read or play the piano all day or go swimming or even work on the farm. The grass was greener and the sky was bluer and the air was warm and the world did seem magical. In August, our family would pile into the Suburban and drive up to the mountains and stay at the Storybook Cabins in the forest. I remember being fascinated at all the pines that lined the winding roads. It was so strange to be surrounded by earth and trees, unable to see miles into the distance as I could at home. Daddy probably remembers that, too, because one time around a sharp turn on a mountain road we hit a wild turkey and smashed the windshield. All of us children were small. Mom dressed us in matching shirts and jeans. The pictures are cute. We didn't complain about leaving our friends behind or missing work or some event at home. We looked out the car windows during the drive; we didn't have laptops or cell phones in front of our faces.

Cousins would come for a visit. I would sit on the window seat and stare east down the road, looking for their family car to come into view. I was supposed to be dusting, but I would steal away to search out the window every few minutes. Granddaddy and Grandmother often invited us to dinner. We kids rode our bikes over, and Mom and Dad walked. Granddaddy would grill hamburgers that were always delicious. Grandmother would butter hamburger buns and put them in the oven so they'd be nicely toasted. We ate on the porch seated around the green picnic table. I liked to eat Cheetos with my hamburger. Then we would have homemade banana nut ice cream for dessert, with pecans from Granddaddy's trees. The sky would be dark, but Katie would circle the house on her bike riding as fast as she could. We'd race our bikes home, smashing Junebugs or dodging frogs all the way. I've been missing my grandmother lately, wishing I could tell her about some recipe I'd made or a funny story about my piano students or about my sweetheart.

I remember being sad and crying in the months leading up to Wendy moving away to go to college. I was so sad that the phase of life where we all lived in one place was ending. Of course most things can't stay the same. It's a good thing that we're all getting older - it beats the alternative - and doing new things. When I was a child, I thought that my parents walked on water and that my family was perfect, and I still do.

Family at Yangmingshan Park, Taiwan

June 12, 2008

I guess some like it hot

I can't believe it. My most favorite snarky single girl librarian blogger is engaged to be married. Where am I supposed to go for sarcastic spinster talk now? Another one bites the dust. The world needs a place for sharing nightmare blind date stories, set up attempts, and the well-meaning but outrageously rude comments that we singles get. Ah, the life. Why would anyone want to give that up? What the heck, let's perpetuate some more stereotypes!

I again resort to adding spice to my life through cooking. Trying a new recipe tonight: Vegan Chocolate Pepper Cookies. I'll let you know how they turn out.

Cookie Update: Mixed reviews. I liked licking the batter bowl better than eating the cookies. I added some ginger to half the batch, and that worked well. I am pretty sure that chipotle or some other type of chile pepper goes better with chocolate than black pepper. I'd make this cookie again with more ginger and no black pepper or a good dose of chipotle pepper.

Chocolate Pepper Cookies

June 9, 2008

Yada Yada Yada

Katie's BirthdayKatie's birthday dinner was pretty good, yada yada yada, the quarter-life crisis Graham Cracker birthday cake wasn't. So much for trying to expand my horizons and find new recipe sources. The cake itself had a rather strange texture; Dad compared it to cornbread. My amendments to the whipped cream filling didn't turn out well. It was short on chocolate flavor and was an unappetizing grey color without the coffee. I ran out of time and didn't get to prettify sufficiently, either. Not a cake I'll be scrapbooking about. I am seeking a new hobby, but I don't think I'll sink to scrapbooking yet.

This F Minus comic totally reminded me of Taiwan, where the garbage man plays music like the ice cream man:

June 6, 2008

Quarterlife Crisis

Katie's the one having the birthday today, so how come I'm the one having the quarter-life crisis? It seems like the things I expect to make me happier usually do the opposite. Who was the goober that said something about happiness coming from the inside? Bob Loblaw? Also I'm a weirdo and nobody gets me. I think I'll go eat worms. No more philosophizing.

Katie's birthday cake: my take on this Graham Cracker Cake recipe from Great Cakes by Carole Walter. I'm changing the mocha whipped cream filling to cherry chocolate. I'm topping it with cherries instead of raspberries; Katie's not a fan of raspberries (blasphemy!), and maybe I'll put chocolate covered cherries around the perimeter or on the serving plates. I hear Porter likes those.

On the menu: Scott is grilling steaks and chicken. We're also having salad, baked potatoes, roasted corn, and 50 Yard Line Blueberry Muffins. Scott will probably also grill up some S'moritos. Never heard of them?

S'morito /smō'rē'tō/: a flour tortilla, spread with peanut butter, filled with mini marshmallows and mini chocolate chips, heated through in the microwave, in a skillet, or on a grill. Origin unknown: possibly Scout camp?