Friday, November 21, 2008

"I Hate My Husband Pie" And Other Wisdom from "Waitress"

Last night I settled in for the evening with the Sundance-flick "Waitress" starring former Mouseketeer Keri Russell and was pleasantly surprised at how great she was as a down-on-her-luck pregnant chick, married to a loser with no end in sight. Russell's character, Jenna, has been squirling away money so that she can leave her husband and finally enter the big pie contest, which judging from her reputation in the small town, she would most likely win. But fate hands her a twist when she turns up pregnant and accidentally falls in love with her gynochologist (the adorably hopeless Dr. Pamatter, played by Nathan Fillion). The movie follows Jenna as she tries to navigate through her unwanted pregnancy and unconventional affair as she create pies in her head that fit her mood. Pies like "Pregnant Miserable Self Pitying Loser Pie" are common in her fantasies and they include "lumpy oatmeal with fruitcake mashed in." She thinks about pie the way a killer might contemplate a murder... obsessive and deadly, but thoughtful and meticulous. And of course the whole damn movie made me hungry for pie. I couldn't help rooting for Keri Russell's character and wondering how her big pie of life would turn out. Of course, I would eat mine a la mode.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I love my... food processors

No one should own more than one food processor. But I do. As a foodie on a budget, I find that many of the kitchen gadgets I covet are usually out of my price range. That requires the all-important "first-time" buy and then the inevitable "upgrade" buy. My first primitive food processor was a Pampered Chef Food Chopper. It's great for coarse cutting and preparing small amounts of food, but once you start using more than a cup of ingredients or frozen food, it becomes really cumbersome to use.

Naturally, it was time to upgrade to the 3-cup food chopper from Hamilton Beach. I rarely use this one now that I've made my next upgrade to the big-girl processor, especially since it shorts out the outlet in my kitchen.

Now I almost always use my Black & Decker 10-cup food processor which is great for just about everything (small amounts of nuts don't do too well, I usually use the chopper for that). I recently had a picnic with some friends and I purposely made salsa AND hummus just so I could use my food processor twice. There are a lot of electronic kitchen gadgets that I think are made to empty your wallet and clutter your kitchen cupboard but since it takes me approximately a year to cut anything (I get dizzy watching the chefs on Food Network chop), using a food processor is the next best thing!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Messes and Successes

This weekend I hosted Gourmet Friends and made the Double-Decker Pumpkin-Caramel Pie (courtesy of my buddy Rachael Ray's magazine)and the filling turned out pretty well. But the topping? Not so much. As the preparation below suggests, I melted the caramel and then added it to the whipped cream. The only problem was, the caramel was too hot so the whipped cream went back to its liquid state. Tip for those who try it - skip the caramel all together. I ended up using what was left from whipped cream in a can and filled it in with the rest of the melted caramel topping. Yum!


1½ cups of crushed chocolate graham crackers

5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1 egg white
3 whole eggs
2¾ cups heavy cream

One 15 oz. can pure pumpkin puree
½ cup light brown sugar

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp salt 28 caramel candies
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate, for grating

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2) In a small bowl, stir the graham cracker crumbs and butter until combined. Press mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Freeze until set, about 15 minutes.
3) In a small bowl, beat the egg white and lightly brush on the pie shell. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool.

4) Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix together the 3 whole eggs, 1 cup cream and the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice and salt until combined. Pour into the pie shell and bake until set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool slightly, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
5) In a bowl, microwave the caramels with ½ cup cream at high power until melted, about 1½ minutes. Stir until smooth then let cool to room temperature.

6) Using an electric mixer, whip the remaining 1¼ cups cream until soft peaks form. Drizzle in the caramel and beat until well blended.

7) Spoon the caramel whipped cream on top of the pumpkin filling and refrigerate until completely chilled.

8) Before serving, coarsely grate the chocolate on top of the pie.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The best music to cook with

If I'm going to spend an afternoon in the kitchen, I need to have decent background music to accompany my day. Usually, I'll just throw some CDs in the player and let "shuffle mode" do it's thing. But sometimes I'm in the mood for something specific. And maybe it's all in my head, but I feel like the food tastes better if I've been preparing it while listening to something especially great.

One example of what happens when great music is blasting in the kitchen is Luciano Pavarotti, which I started listening to about a year ago when he passed away. There's something about an Italian tenor singing opera that makes cooking feel a lot more successful - and of course, it doesn't hurt to make Italian food while you're listening. Check it out:

One example of what happens when holy depressing music is blasting in your kitchen is Radiohead. I LOVE Radiohead but their somber music is really a bad combination when preparing food, especially when you're chopping. Radiohead is actually banned from my kitchen because I keep accidentally cutting myself when I'm listening to it. And it's no wonder with songs like this:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Pizza" Sugar Cookies

I made these cookies last weekend for the Pizza Party with Gourmet Friends. I wasn't sure how they would turn out, but they looked awesome and tasted even better.

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies
(AKA Pizza Cookies)
1 Cup Soft Butter or Margarine

1½ Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
3 Tsp Vanilla

3½ Cup Flour
2½ Tsp Baking Powder
½ Tsp Salt

Food Color

“Toppings” (I used assorted sprinkles, cranberries and almonds and chocolate covered peanuts)


1) Beat butter or margarine, sugar, eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy.
2) Add dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt) and mix thoroughly.
3) Separate dough into two amounts and add food dye. Wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill (at least one hour).
4) Preheat oven 400 degrees
5) Pinch off small amounts of the two colors of dough and press together to make little “pizzas.”
6) Bake for 6-8 minutes or until done.

7) Let cool – Ice and add toppings.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gourmet Friends

About a year ago, my friend Mary started a cooking group called Gourmet Friends.
I'm a proud "charter member," and it's always a really great time. We select a theme based on recommendations from the group, then everyone brings a dish to pass about the theme. We've had Spanish night, Southern Food, Appetizers, and this Sunday, a Pizza Party, just to name a few. What's great about the group is that we're all just a bunch of foodies (or wannabes) that love to cook, love to eat, and love to talk about it. We also bring copies of the recipes so if there's anything that we want to taste or try, we can do it. Plus, there's usually leftovers.

Here's a picture from the pizza party and the smiling (and stuffed) GFs are: (Left to Right, Back Row) Matt, Mary (The Gourmet Godfather), Bill, Beth (Vegetarian extraordinaire), Kyle (GF newbie), David, Jen, Kellie (Left to Right, Front Row) The Wannabe, Maddie "I don't want to sit still" Keefe, Hostess Stephanie, Cristina and Kim.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Joy of Cooking

When I graduated from college and moved away from home, my mom gave me a paper-back copy of the Joy of Cooking. I needed to have a good resource for all the things I was going to attempt to feed myself now that I was going to be 2,733 miles away from home. It has been a life-saver on more than one occasion and is now beaten up and marked up with everything from "how to hard boil eggs" (pg 220) to metric conversions (pg 591). I was able to compare the family recipe for Sauerbraten (which had been photocopied and marked up beyond recognition) with the standard recipe (pg 460) to make sure I was doing it correctly. There are a lot of things in Joy that I'm probably never going to make, (like Roast Duck A L'Orange on page 453) but it's a great go-to for ham (pg 482) and raisin sauce (pg 356) with roasted potatoes (pg 317).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What's for dinner? Italian-Style Stir Fry

Here is what was for dinner last night:

Rice-a-Roni: Ok, so I know as a wannabe foodie I'm not supposed to actually like this stuff but I'm not very good at cooking rice. It doesn't help that none of my pots keep the moisture in so all the water ends up evaporating and under-cooking the rice. And I refuse to buy a rice cooker because for some reason, that feels like cheating. Rice-a-Roni is nearly impossible to screw up, which is what makes it extra great.

Italian Stir-Fry: I am a SUCKER for leftovers so I always try to make extra so I'm not eating the same boring sandwich every day (or worse, paying someone to make a sandwich for me). So, first I defrosted the chicken and cut into chunks - that way two chicken breasts can be made into three meals (two for dinner, one for lunch). I chopped up some mushrooms, onions and smashed some garlic and cooked in a skillet with the chicken and some olive oil. Then I added some baby spinach and sun-dried tomatoes (an ingredient I recently bought at Trader Joe's for the first time when I accidentally knocked a jar off the shelf. Even though it didn't break, I felt compelled to buy it since the "you break it, you bought it" concept was taught to me early in life when visiting a fancy shop with my mom and spending all my allowance on something I didn't want or need).

Jell-O Butterscotch Pudding: First of all, why didn't anyone tell me how easy it is to make pudding? I'm used to standing over a stove watching the milk like a hawk to make sure it doesn't burn and let's be honest, pudding isn't that hard to make anyway. But with the instant stuff, all I had to do was add some milk, whip for two minutes and pudding just magically appeared. This instant pudding may change my life. AND I get to have leftovers for lunch :-)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I love my... garlic press

Whenever I watch my favorite foodie, Rachael Ray, I notice that she always whacks the garlic with a knife instead of using a garlic press. Now, I'm not very graceful in the kitchen, so using that procedure and not injuring myself can be challenging. That's why I was so excited when I received my garlic press last Christmas. Now instead of buying the minced garlic in a jar, which by the way is awful, I can have freshly pressed garlic whenever I want. It's been especially helpful with bruscetta, garlic bread, and pretty much any stir fry dish that could use some spice.