Canning continued…

I just finished my final canning project for the week, and am currently listening to the sweet popping sound that indicates my apple butter is hermetically sealed from the world. Very exciting. That picture up top is my apple butter on a lemon biscuit/cookie. It was delicious. I’ve also got lemon rind candying away on the stove, and some interesting dinner in the oven. I’ll fill you in.

My apple butter, which is now on its third day, has been an arduous process of trying to get it to caramelize sufficiently without burning it. I thought that leaving it in the crock pot overnight on low heat would accomplish this fairly well. But this morning, at 7 a.m., I came down to find my apple butter had burned through and through. This set off a remarkable temper tantrum on my part. I even stamped my foot while yelling “Now I’ll NEVER have any apple butter!!” There were also some flavorful word choices added to that sentence. You see, Chris and I were up extremely early to complete another run. We’re brain-damaged like that. So I was in a total huff and we ended up leaving the house about 20 minutes late. In the car, Chris mentioned that he wished we weren’t late, at which point I was still mourning the loss of my apple butter and was unable to be nice. So I said “GOD! Shut up already about the lateness!!!” He was quiet for a moment before saying, “I’m sorry that your apple butter burned.” That comment really pissed me off, and prompted me to reply, “Okay FINE. I’m sorry you’re being such a B*TCH, since we’re obviously all about the passive-aggressive apologies right now.” Silence swirled around the car as it dawned on both of us that I needed to take my own advice. Point made.

We reached our running site, which is slightly outside San Antonio because it appears that San Antonio has a law against thinness or the pursuit thereof. We proceeded to run another 13.5 miles! Because we are AWESOME. It was great. Last time the suckiness of the run was amplified by the fact that the complimentary water stations placed every few miles by the local tri-sport store had been taken away by the time we were on our return trip, so we were desperately dehydrated and had to run that way until we were two miles from the car and found a fire station that would let us drink out of the hose…and we did. THIS time when we reached the water stations on the first half of the run we took a jug from each and hid it in the woods. Well, Chris hid it in the woods since I’m afraid of Texas nature. But it was hidden, so even if they came to take them away before our return trip, we’d still have water. I even took off my engagement ring before we left so when my little fingers turned into sausages from the edema it wouldn’t cut into my ring finger. We were PREPARED. And managed to shave 23 minutes off of our time. So we were able to laugh at the irony of the water stations still being in place this time, making our whole water-heist a waste of time. Chris went back into the woods to replace the jugs so as not to disturb the natural habitat of the fire ants.

When we got home, I made us a hearty breakfast of turkey sausage, eggs (I had Eggbeaters so I could feel self-righteous), and whole wheat cinnamon pancakes with diced honeycrisp apples inside. Some dark, amber maple syrup and butter, and it was post-run utopia. Here is a picture of Chris’s breakfast pieces (minus the sausage). He likes his eggs yolks to still be runny; a practice I find repugnant, but comply with. I have a tendency to do everything I can to comply with peoples’ egg wishes, since mine are so frequently ignored. My preference is over hard. By this, I mean that the egg is golden brown around the edges and the yolk is opaquely yellow all the way through. This NEVER happens at restaurants. EVER. The closest they come is to have the yolk be a solid-but-translucent orange inside, which I can’t eat (won’t). I tried changing the way I ordered it, “I’ll have my eggs over ROCK-HARD,” but found that this was easily mistaken for an entirely different breakfast offering, if you catch my drift. I have now found the perfect way to ensure I don’t receive gooey eggs, and that is to say “I’ll have the French toast.” Works a treat.

Dinner last night was particularly Texan. I got some of those little fajita skillets and some prime sirloin, and served them up with seared peppers, onions, cheese, and my new salsa creation. Gawd. I love fajitas. And now I have the skillets, so my fajita circle is complete.
A close up of my personal fajita assembly:

Okay, I have to go finish dinner. I made some buttermilk honey mustard dressing (no mayo–hellz yeah!) and am serving up a spicy chicken over cucumber and lettuce salad. Only the chicken is actually Boca meatless Chik’n. I’m feeding it to Chris and not telling him. Hehehehe.

Canning


I have been very busy with my canning projects these last few days. And I’ve learned several things. When I announced my canning ambitions to Chris, he paused thoughtfully, cocked his head and said accusingly “You’re trying to get us off the grid, aren’t you?!” I gave the idea some thought and realized that I absolutely am. It’s not that I don’t want to be around society. I’ll tell you a story in a moment to prove it. It’s just that I like the idea that if society falls, I could sustain us. I know how to catch wild yeast, bake in open fire, preserve food, mill corn into masa, and purify water. I can recognize lots of different foods, and understand that if you lick a mushroom and it stings your tongue, it’s likely poisonous. I think I’m getting close to making us a potentially sustainable household. And I’d kill to have a house equipped with solar and wind power. Seriously. But as I said, I’d get lonely. During my canning days I was pretty isolated, and I think I have spent too much time away from the company of people, or at least away from the opportunities to boss them around.

I say this because I was at the grocery store earlier today and there was a bearded, rotund guy in his mid-sixties standing in the same aisle as me. This was pretty much where he went wrong. It was just the two of us, which is highly unusual in our local supermarket. It’s not uncommon for children and the elderly to be trampled to death beneath the teeming masses of shopping Texans who, when seated, are the size and shape of Volkswagen Beetles, all searching desperately for the last packet of the advertised fried pork rectums for $.35 a lb. I regard our local supermarket with the sense of loathing I usually reserve for stinging insects and/or acts of genocide.

Anyway, he was searching the shelves of salad dressing for some time before a store worker passed close enough to be bodily grabbed by Mr. Beard. It turns out the guy was looking for a salad dressing his wife had told him to get. This makes sense, because in my experience a man will only spend that much time shopping for something if his wife has yelled at him, repeatedly, for coming home with the wrong item. If a man is shopping for himself he’ll usually treat the trip as a food-getting derby of sorts, his cart being raced at Nascar speeds down the aisle, grabbing items without looking up at all. This sometimes results in comical food substitutions, such as Doritos dipped in strawberry yogurt as opposed to the item on the list (Nacho Cheez). But this guy was working really hard to locate something called “Tangy Tomato with Bacon” dressing. First off, ew. But I’m not here to judge (lie), so I just eavesdropped and pretended to study my canning jar options. The store worker was also a guy, which meant they both stood there staring at the shelves and shelves of dressing options, but actually SEEING none of them. The store worker shrugged and said he didn’t see it either. So after he left, I shimmied over toward Mr. Beard as inconspicuously as I could and had the following conversation:

Me: “There are so many OPTIONS!”
Beard: “Yeeeap. Sure are. Can’t find the darned one I need.” *extreme Texas accent*
Me: (innocently): “Oh? Which one are you looking for?”
Beard: “Tangy Tomato with Bacon.”
Me: “We need to figure out the brand.”
Beard: “I already called my wife and she didn’t answer.”
Me: (I have already pulled out my iPhone and begun to Google like a maniac) “Here we go! That dressing is made by Kraft!”
Beard:(suspiciously) “So you’re a texter…?”
Me: (cheerfully)”More of a Googler, actually. Let’s look at the Kraft section!”

—We look, and it is nowhere to be found—

Me: “I’m sorry to butt in like that.”
Beard: “Not a problem, young lady. Thanks. I’ll just get this sundried tomato vinaigrette and she can cook some bacon to put in it.”

Here’s the great part. Despite having already apologized for butting into his shopping, I hear my mouth saying the words “Um…actually, she’s not going to want that at all. If you want her to modify it to make the one she wants, you should go with maybe a Catalina because it’s more like the tangy tomato base. And here are some pre-cooked bacon crumbles to put in it.” The guy started to back away, still clutching his vinaigrette and looking irritated. Awesome. I started to blush and said “I’m so sorry. I’m a busybody.” He just raised his bushy eyebrows and sped up the backing until he was around the corner. I actually FRIGHTENED an old man. So maybe my canned food will come in handy when I get banned from the supermarket for disturbing the hapless customers.

Anyway, back to canning.

Here’s the thing about canning: it’s hard work. I didn’t think it would be, for some reason. I pictured myself packing tomatoes into jars, putting the lids on, and boiling them. And that’s not how it really happens, unless you’re fond of paralysis and/or death. My giant batch of tomatoes has now been turned into two different things, on two different days, in two different kinds of jar. I was so impressed with myself that I was doing the Zoomba dance in the kitchen. But to get it there, I had to perform a number of very precise steps.

First, you have to peel all of the tomatoes. This means you cut an “x” into the bottom of each tomato. Even though there are about 4 million tomatoes in the giant box you got from the farmer. This should take long enough that you start developing forearm cramps. Then you boil water in a really big pot, and fill another really big pot with ice water. You dump your tomatoes, batch by batch, into the boiling water, until the skin starts to float around the tomatoes like a big, red leper colony. It is of utmost importance that you splash yourself with boiling water when you do this. The splotchy red burns on your arms motivate the tomatoes to let their skin fall all the way off. You remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and put them in the ice water, either causing the ice water to overflow all over the counter and underneath the plugged-in toaster OR you put the tomatoes in and discover you haven’t put enough water in your second pot, causing you to frantically rush around the kitchen trying to find a clean pitcher to add water and ice to the bath. I tried both methods and didn’t really notice a difference in the outcome of the tomatoes.

After a moment, you reach your hand into the water and grab a tomato, discovering too late that it is now both still hot AND incredibly slippery. You drop the first tomato, much to the delight of your dog, and it splatters on the floor, your pants, and any nearby cabinets with tomato poop. Try again, and pull the skin off. Repeat this process, feeding every third tomato to your pants and the dog, until all of the tomatoes have been peeled.

Now you have to core your tomatoes! Dig around your house for 5-10 minutes before discovering that you don’t own a suitable tomato corer, then settle for kind of crushing them with your bare hands and hoping that you’ve pinched the core bits off and kept them in your fist. This is the step that splashes your decolletage with blistering hot seeds. Also your shirt. Swear incessantly at high volume, attempting to use the F-word so much that your dog begins to understand it as a command that means “come into the kitchen, as I’ve dropped something you can eat.”

Once you’ve crushed all of the tomatoes into a pot, turn the pot onto high. Try to forget the fact that boiling tomato sludge pops and splatters like molten lava. Surely there are still parts of your hands that haven’t been scalded beyond recognition! This must be rectified! Add salt.

Take the giant canning pot and fill it with water. Realize it is now to heavy to lift, and scoop out the water with a pint glass until it’s light enough to lift. Take it to the stove and put it on your burner, realizing quickly that you don’t have a burner large enough to accomodate such a large pot. Laugh heartily at your misfortune. Try NOT to use the F-word, as there isn’t any food on the floor at the moment, and you don’t want your dog to unlearn his fun, new trick.

Put all of the jars into the giant pot and attempt to bring to a boil. Remove the jars and fill with your tomato mixture and a tablespoon of lemon juice to prevent poisoning. Realize that your ladle is sloshing tomato all over the counter, getting very little into the jars.
Form a crude funnel out of aluminum foil, realize you should have paid more attention in geometry because your funnel has only made the jar opening SMALLER, and try again.
There you go! Now pour the tomato mixture into the jars, again spilling a goodly portion onto your hands. Remember! If your skin is only 75% covered in first-degree burns, then only 75% of your food will be first-class food!

Seal the lids in a fumbling, ineffective manner that suggests you’ve only recently learned how to operate those funny little “fingers” dangling from your hands. Place into the giant pot and boil for 30 minutes. Remove from the boiling water, praying that you won’t drop the jars and spray yourself in the face with hot fluid, and walk away. Soon you should hear festive popping like champagne corks on New Years. That means you’ve succeeded.
Now go call 911. Some of those burns are starting to look like they’ve gone all the way through the epidermal layer and partially poached you.

See?! Couldn’t be easier!! Do the same thing for the salsa the very next day, repeating all of the steps, but adding a sack of jalapenos that you’ve blistered and painstakingly peeled, one-by-one.
Wear gloves for this step so that none of the jalapeno juice gets into your (probably infected) burns. The key to this part is that you have to accidentally leave the protective gloves on your hands long enough to wipe a stray piece of bangs out of your eye, thus creating a sensation of being tasered directly on the iris and permanently damaging your vision.

Voila!

I named my salsa “Hymenoptera Salsa–Sting may cause a reaction.” It’s an allergy joke that I find endlessly amusing on account of Chris’s job. The runner up name for the salsa was “Kristie’s Lone Star Juice–Because everything’s hotter in Texas but the Texans!” I thought that was funny, but potentially offensive to any Texans who may receive a lil’ jar-o-botulus for a Christmas present or bribe. See how forward-thinking I am?

Iron Cupcake: Basil Challenge


In order to make cupcakes with basil in them, I had to think slightly outside the box. This is what I came up with.“What My Life Would Be If There Were Any Justice In The World Whatsoever” Basil-Mango Mojito Cupcakes
Yield-4 cupcakes

Ingredients:
½ C flour
¼ C plus 2 tablespoons demerera sugar (divided)
¼ t kosher salt
1/8 t baking soda
2 T melted, unsalted butter
¼ C half and half
1 T lime juice
1 T lime powder
½ t Mexican vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk, beaten
3 T fresh basil chiffonade
4 oz Neufchatel cheese, softened
¼ C fresh, ripe mango puree
½ C white sugar
1 t fresh lime zest
¼ C spiced rum with a swarthy pirate on the label for brushing

For the Cupcakes:

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a muffin pan with 4 cupcake liners. Fill the other empty muffin holes with a tablespoon or two of water each.

Sift together flour, 2 C and 1 T of the demerara sugar, salt, and baking soda. Mix in melted butter to make a crumbly paste.

Stir lime juice, lime powder, half and half, vanilla, egg yolk, and all but a few strands of the basil chiffonade in a separate bowl. Fold wet mixture into flour mixture until smooth, but using as few strokes as you can get away with.

Fill batter into cupcake liners and bake for approximately 10 minutes, or until the tops of the cupcakes start to barely become golden. Remove and cool in the pan.

For the frosting:

In a food processer, combine Neufchatel cheese, mango puree, white sugar, and lime zest until creamy. Refrigerate until ready for use.

To assemble:
Brush the tops of the cupcakes with the pirate rum once they’ve completely cooled. Frost the cupcakes with a thick layer of frosting, then roll in the remaining demerara and top with the basil chiffonade strands.

Kristie’s “What-My-Life-Would-Be-Like-If-There-Were-Any-Justice-In-The-World” Basil-Mango Mojito Cupcakes:

The last few curious moments before I died if my life actually WERE like that…

You can click on the Iron Cupcake icon on the right if you get the urge to look at other peoples’ submissions, or if you feel like voting 😉

Complaining

This is my cat, Madeleine Albright, in her official sleeping position. She chivvies under my arm while I read my catalog, then sleeps there all night. She’s seven years old and only weighs about six pounds. And she’s spiteful. She gets me.

First, let me say this. I am having a hard time not being absurdly pissed off that I’m stuck in Texas while my sister, who I know for a factual fact does not care at all about Dave Barry, gets to go meet him, along with the rest of my family, even though he’s been my literary idol since I was seven, and she probably can’t even name three of his books. But plane tickets are expensive, so I will stay at home and keep doing such intellectually stimulating things as studying for a standardized test. Because I have to take one next week.

Why? Because my school orientation is next week, and they’ve determined that my ACT score, which was great, and my AP test scores, which were perfect, do not count since I took them in high school. Awesome, right? It’d be fine, but I’m starting to feel pretty nervous about the whole school thing. People keep telling me that I’m going to meet people who have the same passions as I do when I get to school. People like me. But I have a hard time believing it. Believing that I’m going to walk through the door, look around, and breathe a sigh of relief because I’m surrounded by people who will “get” me. Am I supposed to believe I’m going to show up and see people who bake artisinal bread wearing too much eyeliner and cycling shorts? That I’ll finally meet someone else who flips with equal appreciation between Mario Batali and the Daily Show? That there’ll be another person there who is simultaneously training for a marathon AND acknowledging the fact that if they were stranded on a desert island and someone offered them a case of nutritionally complete meal-replacement bars or a single Nestle Lion Bar they would pick the Lion Bar every time? Will there be other girls who take it EXTREMELY personally when a cake falls in the middle, but feel no sense of responsibility whatsoever to change the oil in their cars? People who can drink English Breakfast to pump themselves up for a night of slamming cheap beer? People who fall asleep EVERY SINGLE NIGHT with the King Arthur Flour catalog in their arms, but are equally intense about watching the Broncos each week. People who have worked as a Hooters girl, a construction project manager, a financial analyst, and found the only common thread between these jobs is that they have, at every workplace, “won” at potluck? Are they going to be like me?

My guess is that they’re not, although that could directly be attributed to the dark cloud that’s been hanging over my head at the thought of missing out on Dave Barry.

Okay, I have to go finish canning my tomatoes so I can get to kickboxing on time. And no, that’s not a joke.

Farmers Market: Part 3


You all know how desperately I’ve been trying to find a local farmer’s market, sometimes driving upwards of 50 miles one way to save a dime on a bundle of green beans. Well, today I went out again on my quest. I’m relentless.

I ended up on the south side of Lackland Air Force base, which is somewhere that I’ve been told I definitely should not go ever, by myself, wearing pink Under-Armor. In a parking lot of a church that looked like it doubled as a soup kitchen (and it likely does), I found…TWO STALLS. Again. It’s like they have some sort of clause that states only two farmers can be at any market at any given time. The area was so shady that I’m pretty sure the only reason I wasn’t shot was because I didn’t accidentally have on gang colors. I suppose it’s possible that I could have been the victim of a drive-by shooting from a gang that struggles with its tough identity. “Look at that ho! Flashin’ her colors in that pink outfit. Nobody messes with the lemon yellow ‘hood, yo.” But I survived, and brought home a treasure trove of fresh produce.

BQ has been canning foods like a madwoman, and I haven’t canned anything ever. This wouldn’t be a big deal, except that two or three years ago we attended the SAME canning seminar together, and while she has been preserving fresh produce, I have been paying $4 a can for organic tomato paste. It’s stupid. Chris has expressed some apprehension about my pending canning venture, citing fear of a mythical creature called “Botulism.” Pshaw. That has never happened to anybody that I know, and if it were to happen to me I believe that my immune system is talented enough to remain strong, instead diverting the ingested toxin to stave off any wrinkles that may be trying to set up shop on my face.

So I bought the stuff to can salsa and stewed tomatoes, things that I use pretty regularly. I talked the first farmer into giving me an entire crate of tomatoes for $25. I don’t know if that’s a good deal or a bad deal. I certainly FELT like I was bartering, but who knows. I suck at haggling.

Me: “So, um, would you give me, like, a lot of tomatoes for maybe less money if I bought, well, a lot of them?”
Farmer: “I give you crate-$25.”
Me (having no idea how big a crate is, nor how much tomatoes should cost): “Wow. Thanks! I’ll take it.”

At this point I hadn’t seen the tomatoes. He showed me the box and I examined it in the same way that I approve a bottle of wine in a restaurant. They always seem to present it to ME to sniff and taste, and I’m always just kind of excited that it’s in a bottle, so I frown pensively, swish it around in my mouth (yep, it’s wine), and then swallow it, waving my hand in a manner that I hope says “That’ll do, Monsieur. It’s not vintage, but 2008 was a good year for Beringer white zinfandel,” but that likely inspires grand mirth in the French waitstaff after I leave (insert French laughter). Anyway, I waved to the farmer in the same way and he loaded the stuff into my car. I left quickly after that, knowing that my desperation for fresh produce was clearly visible, and that if I’d have stuck around we’d have had the following conversation:

Me: “So, um…do you have any other good deals for farm stuff?”
Farmer: “We have these dirt clods.”
Me: “Are they locally grown?”
Farmer: “Yes ma’am”
Me: “I’ll take the lot!”

I then went to the military base BX and bought some larger pots to replant my recently purchased herbs. I don’t know why I did this either, as the pots are essentially just large burial plots for the herbs that, if they haven’t died while I was typing this, will at least be dead by nightfall. I am the world’s crappiest gardener. And now I have potting soil jostling with frosting for position in my engagement ring.

As you can see, my backyard is lush and full of foliage. This is because Chris has been steadfastly avoiding mowing the lawn, citing a “weak charge” on the electric lawnmower he so proudly purchased before realizing that mowing is hard.

House


You know how every once in a while you’ll be sitting there on the couch, watching a House marathon in your sweatpants, watching your fiance drink Mike’s Hard Lemonade like the throbbing ball of masculinity that he is, and on one of the commercials you switch over to Food Network to see Alton Brown eating a fried Caribbean meat-pastry pocket? And how your fiance then says “Oh man. I want a fried pie. Or something with dough. That you can pick up *he motions picking it up* and go chomp *he makes eating noise*”? And how you then feel, at 9:30 p.m. on a Sunday that you also want a fried pie. So you go into the kitchen and make hot water pastry dough and find a can of pie filling from that time you had to make 3 Black Forest cakes in a weekend? And how, by the time the commercial break is over you’ve made fried cherry pies, convincing your fiance that you’re actually possessed with the power of magic? Well, that happened to me yesterday.



And it was everything I thought it could be.

Lunch Lady Land


Do you see how tiny this bread is? I put it on top of a bar of cheap unsweetened chocolate to show you its petite stature. Kind of how Venus Williams is going to have to date that giant from the Green Mile if she ever wants to feel like a delicate flower and not someone who has accidentally crushed toddlers by sitting down without first looking. I made it the day before yesterday in an attempt at keeping the bread we eat fresh and staving off the mold that immediately attacks any bread left at room temperature in this horrible state. So I made lots of little mini-loaves of sourdough and am freezing them, only to thaw them out prn (as needed). I had the little loaf pans because some things just don’t want to be a full loaf. Fruit cake, for example. About a week ago I made mini fruitcakes and froze them all. They’re mostly just brown sugar, brandy, dried fruits (pineapples, cherries (tart, not candied), blueberries, ginger, cranberries, apricots, and strawberries) and honey roasted cashews. People get so uppity about fruitcake because it usually tastes like grandparents smell. But if you stuff it full of really GOOD dried fruits and nuts, then baste it in V.S.O.P. for a few days, it is a work of art. Especially grilled…mmmmmmm.

The point is, I had a loaf of tiny bread to work with. I managed to get Chris and myself motivated long enough to drag our mangled, crippled legs off of the couch to forage for dinner. This was quite a feat after yesterday morning when we swore we’d never walk again. BTW, I’m walking just fine today. Sure, my knee feels like it wants to be replaced by a synthetic, but it ALWAYS does after I run, and sure enough, it’s held out just fine. I thought I’d be so sore this morning that I’d have to just stay in bed and pray for golden tanned youths with Latin accents and piercing blue eyes to come feed me frozen grapes and liquor. The first couple steps out of bed were pretty painful, because the bottoms of my feet are bruised from the pavement. My butt feels like it’s done some heavy duty squats, and my hamstrings have shortened to the length and consistency of Twizzlers. But overALL I’m just fine and will be able to complete our recovery run this morning. Chris is still in bed, and I look forward to seeing how much he milks his injuries when he gets out of bed. He’s allowed to sleep in on the weekends because he has to get up in the middle of the night to go play ARMY and prescribe nebulizing meds to people trying to get out of gym class during the week.

At the store we grabbed a cart full of turkey products. Turkey bacon, turkey sausage, ground turkey. And the candy corn that was my downfall, as previously posted. At home, I grilled the tiny bread slices, broiled some cheddar cheese on top, made a pot of turkey sloppy joes, and applied them to the bread. In defense of sloppy joes: this was a food that my parents didn’t really discuss as a means of ingesting nutrients. I think it was too low-brow. But homemade sloppy joes (not that Manwich crap that looks like nuclear waste but tastes less natural) are really tasty! They’ve got good spice balance, a touch of brown sugar, and a hearty tomato base. I like them. Even better, they are really great with turkey instead of ground beef (arguably better), so they can be healthy and light and take about 3 minutes to prepare. So give them a chance. As long as you don’t start putting ketchup on things that are not fried starches, you probably won’t have to identify yourself as a welfare person. Because my parents did teach me one important culinary lesson–ketchup is for poor people.

I made a cucumber and red onion salad out of a)sliced European cucumber (because the regular ones are waxy and taste like pesticide), b)red onion, c)white sugar, and d)apple cider vinegar. It’s a holdover from my childhood, only I used the apple cider instead of white vinegar and added onions. I used to LOVE just cucumber marinated in vinegar and sugar. I still do, truth be told, but thought the red onion would make it prettier.

It was a good and easy dinner after a long day. I didn’t eat my sloppy joe on bread because I CAN NOT TOLERATE wet bread. I hate stuffing, french dip sandwiches, subs that have been dressed anything longer than 3 seconds before I eat them. This is no exception. Oddly I love things like french toast and bread pudding, because a sweet application makes many things I hate totally delicious. Like cream cheese, or even ricotta. So I used Baked Tostitos to scoop up my sloppy joe filling, put butter and honey on my tiny grilled bread, and ate my cucumbers with my fingers. It was fulfilling.

Sweet, honeyed goodness

Here is a picture of an apple buttermilk corn-cake I made two nights ago, covered in the maple-cinnamon mascarpone cream I made in the blender at the last minute. It is the only real food you will see in this post, and it was delicious alongside the creamy chicken and wild rice soup we had as our main dish. Enjoy.

This post is going to be a little bit content-light, because I am exhausted and DESERVE to spend a few hours playing Halo and eating Tootsie Roll pops until my tongue is blue and my heart is covered in the shame of looking at a Halloween candy bag I emptied on my own. This won’t be the first time this has happened today, because about 2 hours ago I ate almost an entire bag of candy corn, stopping only to throw the rest of the bag away and pouring water on it in the garbage so I didn’t dumpster dive for it later like a diabetic hobo. I LOVE candy corn. L-O-V-E. But I’ve eaten almost 3000 calories today.

The majority of those calories came from, and I shudder to say this, Chili’s chicken crisper platter. Normally I won’t eat that shit at gunpoint. I’m not ashamed to say that. I’m even more violently opposed to Applebees. I once worked at Applebees for a week, pretended someone in my family had taken ill, disappeared to “take care” of that family member via a trip to Washington with a boyfriend, then returned to work for three days before the manager pissed me off enough that I ate my apple chimichanga and left (after extracting my tips from my black folder, of course). That’s neither here nor there. What I’m saying is that I was DESPERATE for a heavy meal. Would you like to know why? Huh? Would you?

BECAUSE I RAN A HALF-MARATHON TODAY. Some of you may be like “Ooooh! A half-marathon! I run those on my lunch hour.” But I will tell you now that I have NOT ever run that far. I once ran 10 miles on a treadmill and felt all tough about it, but running on a treadmill is to running outdoors as doing sit-ups is to performing cardiac surgery with nothing but your ab muscles and a poorly assembled sock puppet. Outside is SO much harder. Especially in the Texas hill country, which is aptly named because it is just a series of stupid hills surrounded by alarming amounts of nature that I assume contains scorpions large enough and mean enough that they’d kill me just to take my packs of energy gel. And they don’t even have mouths. The odd thing is that all of the hills are UP. On both sides. There is never a downhill. It’s like because they can’t do “barefoot in the snow” they have to stick to “uphill both ways.” Around mile 6 of this nonsense I began giggling uncontrollably and almost swerved into an oncoming semi (all of whom Chris kept referring to as “Optimus Prime”). It was almost 50% humidity and crept up to 93 degrees. But we finished. I do not wish to discuss my time, except to say that it was longer than the world record for a full marathon. By long enough for Rachel Ray to create one of her demonic “stoups.” Sad, huh? Here is a picture of me extra-sweaty to prove my triumph:

And here is Chris documenting our post-run binge:
What you can’t see in the pictures is that we both had rivulets of white crust down the sides of our faces and necks. The white stuff was grainy, gritty, and brushed off like a powder. Would you like to know what that was? SALT. I had dried salt on my own personal face that had, only a short time ago, been inside of my body.

What Chris said next is representative of why he is more awesome than anybody else in the universe. “It’s okay, Kristie. Just think of it as marathon finishing salt.”

Culinarians will know the greatness of this comment.

Shakin’ my bon-bon, so to speak

For those of you who may not have ever seen me in person, I am ridiculously tall, especially considering my teensy Lilliputian of a mother. I am of the Express/Hollister/Abercrombie school of outfits. I rarely wear anything on my feet that doesn’t have the little swoosh on them, lovingly embroidered by the delicate, nimble fingers of children in third world countries. I am shockingly pale and I wear pink lipstick, despite being in my mid-twenties. I am, basically, the absolute epitome of “White Chick.” So this next story should come as no surprise to you. This is an actual transcript of an email that I sent Chris yesterday. Enjoy.

“I have a story for you. This will hopefully help your lunch go down easier, although my imagination tells me you will likely be expelling beef fry-riiiice out your nose when you picture it.

I was WAY sore this morning from a)losing my poor big toenail to the colors and pageantry of running so freakin’ much and b)just the simple ACT of running so freakin’ much. I determined that doing a spinning class this morning where I was expected to jam my toes into the front of a pedal basket and climb imaginary bitch-hills was probably not ideal. Also my knee was clamoring for either attention or vicodin, I’m not sure which. What it might actually GET is amputated. Yeah knee, you heard me.

So I went online and saw a class was being held at 10:30 called “Zoomba.” I read the description and it said “A motivating cardio class using upbeat Latin rhythms” or something like that. I thought to myself, “Hey, self! Let’s go get motivated! To Latin rhythms!” This was my first mistake.

I showed up to class in cheer shorts and a fitted tee-shirt because I thought they created the illusion of being tall AND thin. Turns out this was my second mistake. The studio was full of about 15 “curvy” hispanic women, 1 EXTRA-curvy but very pretty black girl, and myself–the hipless wonder. The instructor was a bodacious Latina. There was a (frankly) unnecessary amount of spandex happening, considering the cpi (cellulite per inch). “Okay,” I thought, “This can’t be so bad if they’re all so…thick.” Third mistake.

The music came on, and it was unmistakably upbeat and Latin. We began the warm up, and I noticed there was far more pelvic activity in this warm-up than the ones for, oh, I don’t know, my kickboxing classes. It only went downhill from there.

You know how Dennis said he saw a class at Spectrum once that looked like it was a stripper class. This was the one. Only it wasn’t so much “stripper” as it was “Mexican dance club.” Part traditional dance, including (I’m ashamed to say) the use of a pair of hot pink maracas, and part bizzaro Swayze-esque nuevo-dirty-dancing. Would you like to guess how much rhythm the class required, versus how much rhythm I actually am in posession of at any given moment? That’s right. It was ridiculous.

In some dances there were parts where we’d wave our hands in the air in sweeping circles, then stopping to do those pushes away from our chest while our chest bounced forward and back, finally culminating in what I could only describe as “that dance where you back that ass up.” At one part we actually did the dance that you’ frequently perform when you complete a level on an Xbox game. You know, where you pretend to ride a horse around the room? Yes. That one.

What was interesting about this is that the curvy Latinas were SKILLED at this business. They looked smooth and sensual and at one with the music. They managed to follow all of the arbitrary steps like a choreographed Bring It On routine in a ghetto dance club. They looked GOOD. The one black woman followed along pretty well, looking like she was supposed to be doing the moves, and whenever she couldn’t keep up she’d just stop and, no bullshit, “make the booty go ‘clap'” until she caught back up. I’m not kidding.

I, on the other hand, looked incredibly awkward, my lanky body completely at odds with the movements it was supposed to be making. I’d swirl my hips (HA) around and be completely off beat, looking like I was trying to dry hump an invisible leg. I’d do the pony dance and look like something off of the SNL Cheerleaders. Will Farrell, though, not the chick. I’d do the hip-shaky dance in a circle and look like an overenthusiastic step aerobics teacher who’s had too much caffeine and too little brain matter to really participate in life as we know it. I have never, ever, ever looked so stupid, and I include the time that I got so drunk that I tackled Katie, football-style, on a dance floor on her 21st birthday and told her it was “Broncos season” in the middle of May.

Somehow, having the extra body fat, having the hips to create a waist, having that shelf-like booty that we disparage in Caucasian culture looks way, way, way better dancing than my pasty blonde ass. The bright side? I did not feel fat. The downside? This seemed to be a liability at the time. The worst part? The classroom is flanked by a glass wall that has treadmills on the other side, with people watching the class. Awesome. I shall forevermore be known as Epileptic Barbie by the gym people. The ones I see every day.

Also, my spin instructor saw me seizing and waved. So now she knows I was playing hookie, and that I’m rhythmically impaired. Are you sure we can’t have an elaborate high-five sequence instead of a first dance at our wedding reception? And maybe Hovarounds to wheel me up the aisle at the ceremony? Because I’m now not at all sure that I will be able to keep step with ‘Here comes the bride.'”

So now that you know what yesterday morning encompassed, I can share with you my “solution.” I decided to get in touch with my Latin flava. I may not be able to dance, sing, play an instrument, or, let’s be honest, WALK with any skill or grace, but I can make food.

I decided to roll out beef tamales with pork and chorizo green chili. Yeah, yeah, I know. Beef and pork at the same time. Whatever, I do what I want.

Tamales are a giant pain in the butt to make. That’s why all the Mexican women get together for holidays and collaborate to make them, setting up efficient assembly lines and making hundreds of the little buggers in a two-day period. I had an afternoon.

I made the masa without lard or shortening, using beef broth and a touch of olive oil and egg whites instead. I can tell you that it didn’t make a HUGE textural difference, and it at least halved the caloric content of the tamales. I threw a hunk of beef roast in the crock pot with a can of adobo chiles and their sauce, added a cup of water, and let it ride until it was shred-y. I soaked my corn husks in warm water and weeded out the small, weak ones. Thus, I had my own one person assembly line.

I spread the masa on the corn husk, which presented the only challenge in not using lard. The masa was just a lot stickier without the lube (Yeeeow!).

A small amount of shredded beef was placed in the center

then rolled in a manner that shamelessly pimps my awesome engagement ring.

——Side note: Am I the only one who is completely incapable of keeping their ring shiny? When I got it, it was a beautiful, sparkling, flawless diamond set in platinum, surrounded by other brilliant diamonds. It is now, as best I can tell, a history of the foods I’ve made in a given week. Like the rings on a tree, you can chip through each layer of frosting and dough to get information about my life. I clean it pretty frequently, but my guess is I’ll have to buy a steam cleaner, because the poor little fella just wants to SHINE, but keeps taking culinary beatings.————

Back to the matter at hand.

After piling them all in the steamer basket, I set them over simmering water on the stove to steam for approximately 7 years. Twice during this time period (TWICE) I managed to boil the steamer pot dry. This happens almost every time I make tamales. I don’t know why I haven’t figured out that I need to keep adding water yet. I am kind of a twit. I imagine it takes so long to steam because I have a smallish steamer pot and overload it so I can cook them all at once. I should probably register for a larger one, but my registry is already disgustingly full of only kitchen stuff, despite having had a Kitchenaid and Cuisinart since I was 19. I am marrying a very patient and understanding man. One who is now responsible for making sure we always have a kitchen that is larger than your average apartment, as I’ve now filled our Texas-sized kitchen and am bringing in more stuff. It’s starting to become less like a family area and more like my den of kitchen iniquity.

The pork/chorizo chili was made with the last of my Hatch chiles from this year, meaning I have to go hold a sign on one of the street corners here saying “Will work for fire-roasted Hatch chiles.” I have never run out so quickly before, and football season is just starting. Central Market wouldn’t sell me a bushel at a time, so I blame this partially on them. Selfish, I call it.

I also made some tortillas from uncooked tortilla disks I had in my fridge, then put tamales, cheese, tortillas and chili on a plate. I call it the Kristie combo. Who knew a ‘wege could come up with such good Mexican food, right?
OOooooooh. Aaaaaaaah.

Sadly, when trying to demonstrate the dance moves to Chris later, despite having immersed myself in Latin culture, I still failed to the point where he was holding on to the dog for support and gasping for air.

TWD: Chocolate Chunkers


Ugh. I’m having a rough baking day. I made Dorie Greenspan’s Chocolate Chunkers for this week’s challenge, and I burned 2/3 of them. Would you like to know how this happened? I will tell you.

I have not yet been to the gym today, which means that I have to go run at some point. This makes me very unhappy, and is EXACTLY why I usually go first thing in the morning. Then there’s nothing to dread for the rest of the day. I love working out while I’m doing it, and after doing it, but I detest the moments BEFORE I go do it. I also hate trying to find a clean sports bra. I need about 400 more, or maybe just a roll of industrial strength duct tape.

In my fervent denial of pending exercise, I decided to bake my cookies. I made the batter, which was a pretty giant pain in the ass, truth be told. It involved breaking up a LOT of chocolate bars (white, dark, bittersweet) into various sized chunks, a double boiler (a hated device of mine–why deliberately SLOW cooking??), and making a mess that I will have to clean (something I dread more than exercise). I put the first two trays in the oven, and then sat down at the computer to check emails. This is part of my very regular cooking routine: Apply heat, go play on computer. It’s also probably why my keyboard is so gross, as mentioned in an earlier comment to my sister (p.s. the comma key is only working about 30% of the time now).

I had gotten an email from Chris re: some wedding stuff we’ve been mulling over. Like how a trip to Italy is seeming more and more impractical with my school schedule, the strict cruise schedules, and the fact that the right now, the American dollar is worth about the same amount as the free packet of soy sauce that comes in Chinese takeout(I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that in China, they use American dollars to wrap up those packets of soy sauce and sweet and sour sauce so they don’t roll around in the bag during transport). And how we’ll probably have to fight with people at the reception site to allow me to bring in the quantity of fairy lights that I want. So I replied, and it ended up being this EPIC email, with a full description (in novel form) of what my dream wedding would be like. I was so caught up in my own bridefulness that I didn’t even notice that I had left the cookies in for too long, making the bottoms kind of blackened like a cajun seafood dish.

Ordinarily I’d swear for a few minutes, write an email about how Dorie Greenspan is an evil woman, and then throw the lot away. But these cookies were EXPENSIVE to make, and I had successfully gotten the grand rounds guy to pay, again, so I need cookies to give to them. DAMMIT. And I had already told him what kind of cookies (triple chocolate covered cherry with pecans, I called them), so if I don’t find a way to salvage these, I have to make this exact recipe AGAIN, and I don’t even LIKE them. Or making them. And I haven’t even cleaned up from the first batch, and buying the ingredients means I’ll have to eat another half bar of Ghirardelli white chocolate, which was 300 calories I did NOT need to tally yesterday. PISS.

Fortunately, the tops are beautiful, so if I can just sort of remove the very bottoms, then dip the bottoms in melted chocolate…wait. I’m having an epiphany. I think these cookies can be saved like a sinner at an old school Baptist revival. I’ve got to get to work. I may just screw them up further, and you’ll know if that happens, because I’ll just add an amendment to this post consisting solely of variations of the “f-word.”