January 2010


There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who love sweets and those who crave salts/fats. I fall squarely into the fats/salts category. I will always choose french fries over a cupcake.  It might be a toss up if it’s a keylime pie, but I’m 80% of the time I’m grabbing the fries.

This means I’m not much of a baker. Because let’s face it, as much as I ADORE cooking for others, at the end of the day I want to enjoy what I make. So baking to me is pretty much limited to dumping the cake mix into the bowl and turning on the beaters. At least it’s something.

But in the spirit of becoming a well rounded cook and trying new things, I decided to dive into the world of baking. First of all, what a racket! Have you seen the baking goods aisle at Bed Bath and Beyond? Now, I don’t want to make broad generalizations, but some bakers must be SUPER gullible. Who the hell needs one of these:

Cupcakes for giants!

That’s right. You can bake a cupcake 25 times larger than a normal cupcake! Amaze all of your friends!  Is it a cake, or a cupcake? Only you know for sure! (If you own one of these, just ignore the above. Good for you! Bake me one for my birthday!)

The baking equipment aisle is a frightening place to a non baker. We will just leave it at that.

Anyway, the recipe that I’m getting around to discussing (stay with me, we’ll get there) called for a springform pan.  And parchment paper. Frankly, I figured that was overkill. As noted a few paragraphs ago (before the giant cupcake. Stop staring at it and drooling!) I’m not a baker, so buying two new kitchen items that will most likely gather dust seemed a tad wasteful.  I called my mother and my baking friend Jessica (go visit her blog, she is entertaining). The results were mixed. I decided to go with the pan, bust skip the paper.  This wasn’t logical, it that the pan was more expensive, but whatever. I could possibly use it again.  Where as the parchment paper will probably only come in handy if the CIA comes around looking for me to forge a copy of the Constitution.

This may have proven to be my undoing.

The recipe was for a Lemon and Olive Oil Cake, which I found over at Epicurious.com.

Here it is:

Lemon Olive-Oil Cake
3/4 cup olive oil (extra-virgin if desired), plus additional for greasing pan
1 large lemon
1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
5 large eggs, separated, reserving 1 white for another use
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Special equipment: a 9-inch (24-cm) springform pan; parchment paper

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease springform pan with some oil, then line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Oil parchment.

Finely grate enough lemon zest to measure 1 1/2 teaspoons and whisk together with flour. Halve lemon, then squeeze and reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.

Beat together yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add olive oil (3/4 cup) and reserved lemon juice, beating until just combined (mixture may appear separated). Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture (do not beat) until just combined.

Beat egg whites (from 4 eggs) with 1/2 teaspoon salt in another large bowl with cleaned beaters at medium-high speed until foamy, then add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating, and continue to beat until egg whites just hold soft peaks, about 3 minutes.

Gently fold one third of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Transfer batter to springform pan and gently rap against work surface once or twice to release any air bubbles. Sprinkle top evenly with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until puffed and golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of pan and remove side of pan. Cool cake to room temperature, about 1 1/4 hours. Remove bottom of pan and peel off parchment, then transfer cake to a serving plate.

It tastes great! I wouldn’t recommend it if you aren’t a fan of olive oil, as Duhhh, it tastes like olive oil.  I used extra virgin olive oil, so the taste was very strong.  It also isn’t that sweet, although I’m sure if you wanted to sweeten it up you could add a sugar glaze as it isn’t iced.

While it tasted great, it looked like shit:

Woopsies!

No, it wasn’t mauled by a pack of hungry wolves, it stuck to the top of the pan. I guess I should have sprung for the parchment paper.  I wasn’t trying to win any beauty contests, so I just ignored it.

The verdict? I’ll make it again and invest in the parchment paper.

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Something weird is happening in my living room.

I keep hearing pieces of a conversation that my boyfriend is having with himself.

“How crazily confusing!”

“This must be easy to put together, it didn’t come with instructions.”

“This guy probably goes with that. These guys go over here….probably”

These phrases have all been uttered in the last two minutes….to himself. Unless he’s talking to the dog. She does manage to tilt her head and seem like she’s listening.

I’m hiding upstairs. Because you know what he is putting together down there?

No seriously, guess.

Because it might be the worst thing you could imagine.

Ready for it???

A practice drum kit. Yeah, I know. Guess who decided 2010 would be a good year to learn to play the drums?

I’m just thankful its not an actual drum kit that makes actual drum noises. And I’m patting myself on the back for talking him out of the electronic version that did make noise. This just appears to make a dull thud noise, and has no symbols. Though to be honest with you, it sounds like things are going poorly down there, so it might not even get put together. Fingers crossed.

(More crazy noises and “what the fuck is this thing?” I’m afraid. I’m really afraid.)

I quietly escaped upstairs after salting my chicken (more on that tomorrow. Why does that sound slightly dirt?) and immediately ran to itunes to buy new music. Because my ipod is clearly going to get lots of use while he practices.

I’m now the proud owner of “The Essential Cyndi Lauper”. Because girls just wanna have fun, and ignore the banging from downstairs.

I could be the last person on the planet who gets excited by the prospect of mail. Like real honest-to-god mail in the mailbox mail. Not bills (of course), or email, or the stupid fliers from the grocery store, but something that someone has taken the time to write and put in an envelope and send to me.

I adore getting holiday cards. Religious, funny, ugly, whatever, I love getting them. And the holidays are pretty much the only time that it happens. The occasional thank you note will arrive, but certainly not regularly.

Which is another topic, whatever happened to the thank you note? From the age of about 4 it was drilled into my head that you should write one for just about everything. I guess people just aren’t that into them anymore. It might be the mid-westerner in me, but I just think that nothing can replace a nice handwritten thank you. It takes about a minute out of your day and is truly gracious. An email just doesn’t show the same level of thoughtfulness, in my opinion. Wow, I just realized how Ms. Manners that sounded, so I just spit on the sidewalk and pushed an old lady. Equilibrium restored.

And as long as I’m headed down this road, what is it with people sending out Holiday cards with absolutely NO PERSONAL TOUCH? I mean, if you can’t even bother to actually SIGN a card to me, or write just a quick little sentence to personalize it, please don’t bother. I don’t really need to be part of your envelope stuffing campaign. Wow! From Ms. Manners to crotchety old lady, all in one post.

Circling back around, outside of the thank you note I’ve never been much of a note writer. I’ve decided that perhaps the key to RECEIVING mail is to send it. So I’m making a conscious effort to be one of those people who remembers birthdays, special occasions, or just because, with a card or a note. I’m not going to single handily turn around the woes of the post office, but I’m planning  on doing my part. And honestly, with all the cute stationary and notecards out there, I don’t think it should be a problem. I’ve ordered some really cute notecards, and some personalized correspondence cards.

My pretty new notecards!

Now to fill up some mail boxes!

I don’t know that I’ve addressed it here, but I seriously LOVE my kindle. Like enough that I want to marry it. Which would probably be a little bit difficult because I married Mountain Dew in 4th grade, and while we’ve been separated for awhile, I’ve never actually gotten a divorce.  I know that seems a little sleazy, but I’ve got a friend who married a baseball card in 3rd grade, and he’s been dating other women ever since. Scumbag.

Anyway, back to my Kindle love.

I never have to carry around heavy books. If that isn’t a reason to write love notes I’m not sure what is. I take the train to work everyday, so this is kind of a big deal.  In addition to the ability to hold thousands of books that I’ll never need to carry, it’s also saving me from walking funny due to a bum shoulder from carrying books in my handbag. Yeah, I’ve caught myself giving sympathetic glances to the people on the train lugging 400 page books. But certainly not in a smug way!

New releases are $9.99. Okay, blessing and a curse. I used to go to the libarary a lot more, so I’m not actually sure if I can point to any real cost savings. But still!! Other people are spending 23 bucks for hardbacks! No, we won’t mention the initial cost of the device, I’m sure I will have made up for that in book prices in the next few months.  So if you are debating one, make the move. I  haven’t had a moments regret.

Currently Reading/Recently finished

Taking Woodstock

The Recipe Club: A tale of Food and Friendship

With all the reading I’m doing for the 5 bookclubs I’ve joined (Whoops! Am I over doing it?), I’m getting behind on my DVR. So I caught up on Project Runway this evening. Ummm,  hello??? Ping’s model struts down the runway with her ass on display (not to mention last weeks disaster. Seriously, that outfit is what I look like when I stumble out of bed with a hangover and get caught up in my sheets), and she is STILL here? Oh Heidi, you disappoint me.

I’ve been doing swimmingly with my one new recipe a week rule, even being a bit of an overachiever (Okay, it’s only the third week of the year, so I’m not getting too confident yet). This week I was craving rich food and tastes. It might have been the damp and chilly weather, or the stressful work week, but I wanted something filling.

The first new recipe is one that I’ve been meaning to try for a few weeks. I have a habit of buying ingredients and cooking around them, as was the case with this.  When I was home over Christmas I discovered a shop, Vom Fass.  This place is a little slice of heaven. The oils! The Vinegars! The Liqueurs! The gorgeous bottles you can choose to put them in!  I could have spent days tasting the incredible things they have to offer. There were months worth of new recipes and exciting flavors that could come from this place.  As I was pressed for space in my suitcase I decided to be responsible and only picked a small bottle of truffle infused olive oil.

I wasn’t sure exactly what I would use it for, but truffle oil goes with everything so I knew I could find a million uses for it. Convieniently enough, the man working at the store attached a recipe card to my bottle.

Roasted Potatoes with Truffle Oil. Sold. I’m happy to report that it was as good as it was simple. The truffle oil added a fantastic depth to the potatoes.

8 Red Potatoes

1/4 Cup Olive Oil

1/4 Cup Grated Parmesean

2 Tbls. Truffle Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Quarter the potatoes, toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and toss with truffle oil.  Allow to cool and serve with Parmesean.

Potatoes Pre-Roasting

What else could one want on a crappy rainy day? MEAT!

I found a recipe that looked and tasted amazing over at epicurious.com, Beef Tenderloin with Garlic Horseradish Cream.

This was DELICIOUS- Although I should mention that I cut the Oregano and Beef bouillion.  The tenderloin had a lovely peppery crust.  It was perfectly juicy and flavorful.  I would make this a lot, if the meat weren’t so pricey (although I’m sure it didn’t help that I got it at whole foods).

Yep, I like it rare

Overall this weeks new recipes….Success. Both will make future appearances on my table.

It’s that time of year when Hollywood takes a little time out from earning massive amounts of money to pat themselves on the back.  I’m not going to lie, I’m a sucker for awards season. The dresses! Who doesn’t love to see the awful ones? I’m looking at you Laura Flynn Boyle at the Golden Globes circa 2003:

No, this isn't an audition for swan lake

The wacky, rambling, nonsensical, touching (Tom Hanks, Philadelphia) speeches! The little movies that could! The blockbusters that suck but nobody wants to say anything! I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for all of it.

I like to see the movies that are nominated so I can pick my favorites. I’ve had a lot of catching up to do this year, as I just haven’t made it to the movies much.

This weekend I started playing catch up by renting “The Hurt Locker“.

Holy crap. I don’t think I need to see anything else. It’s amazing.

Full disclosure, I haven’t seen Avatar, but I’m not sure how it could possibly top this film.  And it certainly kicks the crap out of Up In The Air (which I have a soft spot for, as it was filmed in my hometown).

Watch it.

There are a couple of disturbing scenes (don’t say I didn’t warn you) but nothing gratuitous.

As I make my way through the major contenders I’ll hopefully find more that I like.

Any personal favorites?

Allow me to let you in on a little secret. I hate running. Actually, I hate running outside. I don’t like the fact that I have no idea how far I’ve gone, or what my pace is. It’s especially not fun in this city which is kind of known for it’s hills. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if I A.) Had the motivation/time/money and ability to work out at a set time, to join a gym and B.) Hadn’t decided that 2010 would be the year that I would run twice a week.

But that’s where I got sneaky. I only vowed to RUN twice a week. No mention was made of distance in said vow. So I’ve literally been running my errands. Movie to return to blockbuster? Run there. Need a passport photo? Run to Costco (though I don’t recommend this one, the picture looked awful). Sure it’s a little bit irritating to run back with stuff, but two birds one stone, and I’m already irritated that I’m running in the first place.

Saturday I needed a book for book club (You have no idea how annoyed I was that it wasn’t available for my Kindle), so it was time to run to Borders. Once I picked up my book I certainly wasn’t in much of a hurry to run back home, so I began to leisurely peruse the aisles. Borders LOVES to put crap I don’t need but have to at least examine on tables towards the front of the store. They also love to make said crap super cheap so that I end up buying a calendar three months into the year or a Christmas reading lamp in July.

They really got me with this months theme. It was clearly all about new years resolutions. Books about weight-loss, books about being a better you, skinny cookbooks, stop smoking, learn a new hobby. It was all spread out on the table to make everyone coming through the door feel bad about the fact that it’s the middle of January and they haven’t improved themselves a bit.

And then I saw it…….Jillian Michaels! She is my favorite trainer from the biggest loser, which I enjoy watching/crying along with the contestants with a nice order of Chinese takeout. Her workout videos (and her books) were laying innocently with all the other weight-loss material on the table. Did I mention they were buy one get one half off? I immediately snapped up two of them. This would be the answer. I might hate running and I might be feeling a little bit guilty that I’m not EXACTLY committing myself to my resolution, but if I did her video, voila! I’d be in shape and wouldn’t have to feel as bad about running to buy a bottle of wine or pick up cheese.

The answer to my guilt only cost me 21 bucks. For that I got the 30 Day Shred and No More Trouble Zones. That way I would be in killer shape when I counted a run to grab coffee as one of my weekly runs. The whole run home I was feeling very satisfied with myself.

There is a reason her contestants are always crying on the show. I’m only on level one of the 30 day shred video. It’s supposed to be the easy level and it’s only 20 mins. The morning after my second session It killed to go down the stairs. She makes you sweat like a pig.  Don’t even ask about how hard the routines to get rid of “trouble zones” are. My Abs hurt so badly that laughing makes me want to cry.

The women might be the devil. She is constantly encouraging me, saying things like “Pain is fear leaving the body”. Well thanks Jillian, I didn’t realize how much fear I was carrying around.

The only part of my body that doesn’t hurt is my fingertips.

The scariest part? I’m finding myself loving it. Clearly I need help.

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