Monday, April 28, 2008

Comfort Food

I'm feeling a little down today. And eating and cooking are the farthest things from my mind. Okay, so that's not exactly true. I don't feel like doing either today. That is unusual. If I've got the blues or am upset, there's nothing like a bowl of ice cream or a plate of meatloaf and mashed potaoes to make me feel like the world isn't such a bad place. Cotton candy makes me happy. It is sweet, sticky and you get to eat it with your hands. The same goes for funnel cake. If the idea of so much sugar seems off-putting, I also like eating grapes and melon in the summertime. They bring back the warm feelings of sitting on our aunt's front porch watching the sun go down over her garden. Hot fried chicken brings memories of watching my uncle cook Sunday dinner. Hey, it was his turn. I cooked the other six days of the week and I was still in high school. The smell of fresh baked rolls can send me hurtling back in time to Christmas 1981. It was cold outside and so warm in my aunt's kitchen. The horde would gather around the hot pan barely waiting for her to plate them as we fought over the butter or margarine. I always had to have a center one. No edges please. Ahh, the smell of cabbage cooking with a ham hock in for flavoring evokes memories of my mom having a hot meal on the table for us after school. Sadly, my mom and her sister have passed and I'll never again taste the delicious meals they cooked. My uncle refuses to fry chicken for me. He says I'm big enough to do it myself.

Hey, I'm beginning to feel a little better. Who says you have to eat the comfort food? And was it really the food that was comforting? Was it the people who prepared it for me? Or the knowledge that they gave me the tools that I need to make my own comfort food and the wisdom to know when my soul needs to be fed as opposed to my stomach?

What is your favorite comfort food? Can you make it yourself? Who is or was your go to person for old-fashioned favorites?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ah, The Best Laid Plans

Last night I was supposed to make french toast for dinner. After stopping to pick up the milk (free!), I just didn't have the wherewithal to go through with dinner. Maybe tomorrow for a late breakfast. I'm sure you're wondering what MJ and I had for dinner. Well, MJ loves tortilla chips. And I've begun frying my own at home. So, that's what I did. Fried white corn tortillas with our favorite spice blend. We weren't terribly hungry so this was a quick and easy snack to munch on while watching "My Name Is Earl". Don't judge me! It can't be all Food Network all the time. Besides, the best cooking shows are on PBS.

Is it dinner if the table isn't set with linens and silverware? Or have you seen the table recently? Is it like mine covered with jewelry boxes (I'm a Silpada Designs rep) or mail? When I find my camera, I'll let you take a peek.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What's for Dinner?

Or breakfast or lunch? This is a tough question in my household. For the most part, I make all the food decisions for my family. That means they are at the mercy of my tastebuds and my stomach. I'm not a meal planner. I may have a general idea. Or I know what is in the freezer or fridge. Inevitably, I don't want that. I want something that I don't have to defrost, cut, chop, slice, dice, mince, boil, broil, bake, roast, etc. Okay, that sounds like I don't want to cook. Well, sometimes I don't have the time or energy.

Take last night for instance. I wanted the leftover mini burgers. Only someone raided the fridge before I got home. It's not like I called dibs or anything. There were sandwich fixins, but I just didn't want those. So, last night's 'dinner' were two ice cream sandwiches, the full fat ones. Can I just tell you it might have been the best dinner I've had all week.

I promised MJ and TY that we would have french toast for dinner one night. See, breakfast for dinner is a no brainer. Most of the time, the meal is easy to prepare. I always have eggs, sugar, and butter on hand. I have to ration bacon. If we open a pound, a pound we'll eat. I try to only have it at home once a month. The french toast for dinner this week came about b/c we had a bad breakfast experience on Sunday. I don't know about you, but I like a pillowy soft french toast with a little structural integrity provide by the crust. This stuff looked like it had barely touched the batter. You cut into it and the inside was pure white not creamy yellow. WTF!!! Did I mention it was hard. So, I promised I'd make breakfast for dinner. Twenty minutes is all I really need to make a decent french toast. This fits into my slacker way of life.

What do you do for dinner when you're pressed for time? Have an unhealthy ice cream dinner life myself? While the french toast might not be the healthiest, breakfast for dinner is a quick alternative. BTW, I'll have MJ slice some oranges and pineapple and TY blend up some strawberry/cranberry fruit slushes to add a little nutrition and some color.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hello Cupcake!

One of the local TV stations did a taste test of cupcakes a few weeks ago. While I didn't see the segment when it aired, I read about it online. They tested four or five cupcakes from local grocers, a couple of bakeshops, and homemade from a mix. The judges spoke of the flavor, the moistness, density, etc. The winner was from a bakery in Georgetown. It had all the right stuff that cake dreams are made of and a price tag to match. I'm not saying that I haven't paid $2 or more for a cupcake b/c I have. And was disappointed that my $2 went to something that didn't taste as good as something I or some of my friends could make and make better.

The loser in this event shall go nameless. I am not a fan of the baked goods from the place. My friends know the name and the location. I like the owner. He's very personable, charming and sincere. I just find his product lacking. Of course, I find the bakeshop lacking as well. When I walk past a bakery, restaurant or bistro, I should be able to smell that something is going on behind the brick or concrete walls. When passing a bakery, the air should be redolent with the smell of vanilla and sugar (yes-sugar has a smell when it cooks). There should be some sort of aroma that taps you on the shoulder or caresses your nostrils. It should entice you to open the door and step inside the warm embrace of freshly baked cookies or cakes. Walking past this place was like walking past the dentist office or a hospital, it felt like a sterile environment. What do I know though, there are at least three locations and business is booming.

How do you like your cupcakes? Swathed in oodles of frosting or bald, no embellishment whatsoever? What draws you in to a bakery? Is it the beautiful display that seduces your eye or does your nose know?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Want to Be Left Alone

Not really, but there are some days where I want my kitchen all to myself. I'm a temperamental cook. Many would say that I'm a PITA. It's just that I consider the kitchen my haven. It's where I go to create, to destress/relax, to fume or vent. What I cook will depend on my mood. I bake when I am happy. I love to pound chicken breasts or steak if I am angry. I've learned never to bake bread when I'm angry or sad. It won't turn out right. Something about the dough absorbing my feelings. Yes, I am a firm believer in love makes the food taste better. If you don't love what you do or the people you do it for, the it just won't be as good.

I've got two scenarios for you. A friend asked me to make cookies for her networking party. I was reluctant, but I saw it as an opportunity to meet new people for my own ventures. I need enough cookies, etc. for roughly 60 people. What to do? I could have done something fancy, but instincts told me to prepare things that I loved and was good at. They were a hit. Sure my time was limited, but I genuinely liked the person I was baking for and I had fun doing it. I had help from MJ and TY (my sister).

A few nights ago, I got a phone call to make cookies for a similar event. I said yes against MJs better judgment. I had too much on my plate to do the same caliber job. I called the requestor back and thanked him for thinking of me, but I'd rather not do a half-assed job. I didn't have the same time as the first. He understood so I do hope there'll be a next time. The smart thing for me to do as a lesson is to be like the boy scouts and always be prepared. I will freeze some cookie doough so that I can get the job done w/o sacrificing the quality.

What kind of cook are you? Are you a solo artist or part of a duo or group? Do you put a little love in what you do? If not, you should. Life will be so much sweeter that way. Are you a slacker like me or are you a boy scout? Are you ever ready for whatever life brings?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hi, My name is AJ

and I'm addicted to shopping. Okay, not just any shopping. I'm addicted to grocery shopping. I try to avoid the circulars. It's not easy. I'm limiting those quick "we need a carton of milk' runs. Those are hazardous to a girl's bank account and willpower. Inevitably, the carton of milk turns into a package of meat that has been marked down, loss leaders such as pasta (88 cents a box), package of BOGO hot dogs. For the uninitiated, BOGO means buy one get one as in buy one get one 50% off or free. Preferably free. Now, the stores are doing something diabolical to get me in the doors. The are offering Buy two, get three free. How am I not supposed to cave under such pressure. So, how do I combat this? Well, the first question is can I afford to go to the grocery store? What do I really need? Do we have th space? There's nothing worse than getting everything home and then you can't put it all away.

I have tried Peapod grocery delivery. I liked it but they kept screwing up my delivery. It kept me out of the store and I was able to monitor my budget a little better. There were no distractions like pudding for 80 cents.

What are your vices? What are your methods for maintaining your sanity in the grocery store? What happens if the list fails?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Who Do You Cook For?

When I was younger, I cooked for me. I loved dessert and having something ready from the store was not always an option. My mother suggested I learn to make my own. It was a really basic sugar cookie recipe. It had to be b/c our pantry was limited to staples. She taught me that fancy was nice, but not always practical.

In my late teens, I cooked for myself and my uncle. From him I learned the secret to great fried chicken and steamed cabbage. An older cousin gave me the recipe for rice pudding over the telephone. The simple instructions I receieved from these individual provided a solid foundation for soul food, down home, country cooking.

In my twenties, I cooked for my friends. I was the only college student I knew that always (& I do mean always) had a fully stocked fridge and pantry. My door was always open if you needed a meal, so sugar or even bacon grease (one of the secrets to that fried chicken). I had a hot dinner every night. That was home.

In my late twenties/earlythirties, I found myself cooking for my family. DOD (dear old dad) was a cook for the Navy in the 60s & 70s as well as other places throughout the years. He was my biggest critic. If he ate something I cooked and he complained, that was a good thing. If he didn't like it, he would not have bothered to comment. My mother on the other hand, she ate everything I cooked and let me know if the meal pleased her. I no longer cook for them as they have been seated at the Lord's table.

Now, I cook for myself, MJ and my sister. The great thing about MJ is that he loves whatever I cook. My sister likes most things. It's funny she and I have yet to catch how MJ eats around vegetables. It's comical. You see a bowl or plate filled with pot roast or pot pie and the next minute there's nothing left but the veggie bits. Still, there's something warm about cooking for people you love.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Some Nights I Just Don't Feel Like Cooking

Okay, most nights for the past month or two, I have not felt like cooking. And that's just awful considering I love food and cooking. My intent when I arrived home was to prepare saucy turkey meatballs. Unfortunately, life had other plans. MJ and I ate some more of the sliders I had prepared and were prepping to drop off some glass to a friend's brother. There wasn't enough time to start cooking as we waited for said friend to call with the logistics. That threw off my evening. Eight at night is no time to really cook. I will say that it did give me time to relax. By nine, my cooking mojo was back. I stepped in the kitchen and prepared the red velvet cupcakes I've been wanting for two weeks. While the cupcakes are Duncan Hines, the Kahlua cream cheese frosting I will make tonight is from scratch.

Hey, I was on a roll so I decided to boil a dozen eggs for a quick snack in the evenings and to take to work for breakfast. Not content to stop there, I had one more chicken breast that I decided to pair w/smooth peanut butter, a can of chicken broth, a can of coconut milk and red curry powder. Soup! The soup lacked meat so I steamed some frozen shrimp and tossed it in. I have a tasty lunch to look forward to today.

What do you do when you don't feel like cooking and the thought of calling Papa, Valentino's, Ralph's, etc.? What inspires you to cook? What is your guilty pleasure? Do you need a recipe for all of your meals or are you as off the cuff as I am?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I Hate White Castle Burgers!!!

I love NYC. Went for the very first time in 1998 w/a GF. Well, she gave me a tour of some really cool spots in Brooklyn and Manhattan. One night, we were out and as usual I was hungry. She said, "Let's go to White Castle." I'm thinking, "Hey, this place is a burger institution." She orders a pair for both of us and some fries. I have a rule. If it doesn't smell good, don't eat it. Well, I didn't listen to my intuition. Those were the greasiest (not that I've ever had a problem w/grease) things I'd ever eaten. I love onions, but those smelled like they'd been canned too long. YUCK!

There was one thing I did like about White Castle burgers, their size. Those things are just as cute as they can be. So, every now and then I try to recreate that look, that size, that cuteness. Remember that 2 pounds of ground beef from yesterday. I decided to make sliders. It was super easy. I lined a baking sheet (one with sides) with parchment paper (wax paper will work, too). Next, I spread my ground beef (unseasoned) onto the sheet and topped it with plastic wrap. I wanted to see what I was doing. I used my rolling pin to press the meat into a thin layer. I then seasoned it with a mix of salt, pepper, and garlic (use what you like). I cut the sheet into twelve squares (okay, so I scored it). Parked them in the freezer (1954 Int'l Harvester) while I got my grill pan piping hot. Oil the pan and when hot, drop those cute little burgers on there. B/W two-three minutes on each side and you've got sliders. I don't know about you, but bread choice in burgers is paramount for a good sandwich. I chose potato dinner rolls. I topped each mini with sharp cheddar, a circle of ketchup and a dot of mustard.

I can't wait until lunch time. Now, what am I going to do with the ground turkey. I'm thinking that a turkey meatball soup might be in order. Let me know what you think!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Grand Ideas

I have heard that good intentions pave the path to Hell. I hope this isn't really true. You see, it is always my intention on Sundays to prep meals for the coming week. If you noticed, the name of this blog is The Slacker Kitchen. Yep, inevitably, my slacker gene kicks in sometime Sunday afternoon and I just don't feel motivated to do anything let alone cook. Yesterday was no different. I did a job for a friend (getting paid for it) and that was bout it for the day. I had taken out ground beef and ground turkey as well as a pair of pork chops. I had no idea what I was going to do with any of it. Well, there was still the leftover StoveTop to eat so I figure I'd just bake the pork chops for mine and MJ's lunches. That really didn't require any work. Now, those ground meats require some thought. I'm still kinda keen on the idea of a mini burger burrito. And I saw a recipe recently for homemade sloppy joes. I think that would be a great way to add flavor and keep the ground turkey moist.

See, grand ideas. Stay tuned to see what happens with the ground meats. Also, let me know what you do that is quick, easy and tasty with ground beef and ground turkey.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I Have No Idea What to Have For Dinner

Okay, so there are leftovers in the fridge. I don't want them. Baked chicken and Stove-Top just ain't gonna cut it today. I want something tastier. I have some tortillas, some salsa and some pepper jack cheese. Could quesadillas be in my future? I am not having cereal b/c the milk went bad. With the cost of milk, I should be ashamed of myself. Maybe I should start planning cereal nights. So, what do you do when you don't feel like cooking and have no inspiration?

Friday, April 11, 2008

I Can't Believe I just Did This

I'd like to thank AEW and GSJ for inspiring me to start blogging my food tales. They understand my quirky food sense and the grand ideas that never get done. As I truly am a slacker, this is it for now. Check back in a few days to see if I've come up with something fabulous or visited somewhere tasty. As you get to know me, you'll find that I am always on the lookout for something tasty. If you know of good food spots in MD, DC and VA, please let me know. I'll check them out when I am in that area or when I need to get my DH out of the house.