Baconater


You know what’s awesome? Bacon doughnuts. You know what I made this morning? Bacon doughnuts.

Yeah, they’re a little played out, having gotten all that press on Food Network, but that doesn’t make them less delicious. I had never had one, but I assumed I would like them based on these facts:

I love bacon

I love doughnuts

I love maple syrup

Fat and sugar together increase opiod levels in the brain. Ergo, doughnuts and vicodin are equally effective in making you feel good.

Doughnuts are available without a prescription, and vicodin is difficult (not impossible) to fry.

So basically the obvious choice when you’re trying to get high is doughnuts, and it turns out that doughnuts and bacon are not natural enemies as one would assume, but instead create the most delightful offspring. Like little breakfast mules.

You can make these at home in no time flat, using this recipe Then just mix real maple syrup with powdered sugar to form a spreadable paste. When the doughnuts have been fried but are partially cooled, then spread the top with maple frosting, and sprinkle crispy-fried bacon batons (lardons) over the top.

Of course, some people will be not-so-interested in bacon doughnuts. It’s good manners to provide them with a parting gift as you kick them out of your circle of friends, so I’d suggest one of the other options I’ve created. Like the eggnog frosted doughnuts. Or the almond frosted doughnuts. Or the almond frosted doughnuts with jewel-toned sprinkles.

How sexy is this doughnut??

It’s a good way to say “you’re no longer of any value to me, as a friend, given your refusal of bacon doughnuts, but I’m sure there’s somebody out there who will love you and your non-bacony ways. Here is a peace doughnut to keep you fueled as you traverse the globe looking for such a person. God speed, heathen. God speed.”

Happy Halloween to one and all!!

An aside: After consuming the doughnuts, my arteries feel all cozy and snug on the insides. They’re coated with a thick layer of wooly arterial plaque. What a festive winter feeling!

Spooky. And gross.

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Halloween. I know that in certain circles that makes me the un-costumed version of the devil, but I’m just not. I don’t hate it, per se, I just don’t go all out. I have three basic reasons:

1- I am easily frightened. People have little RIP tombstones littering their front yard and a skull on their doorstep, and I begin contemplating my own mortality. People have a scarecrow with a Freddy Kruger mask just chilling in their flower beds, and I spend the next three or four nights either lying awake in my bedroom with all of the lights on, trying to convince my uninterested dog to stay awake with me while Chris sleeps, or popping sleep aids like TicTacs to relax my oversensitive imagination. I do not like scary costumes AT ALL, and I think masks are just disgusting in general. Gory makeup is not my bag, and seeing an axe sticking out of someone’s back makes me tear up with fear. Also, people seem to think that giant spiders are acceptable at this time of year, and I could not disagree more. Until Halloween decor changes from fright and gore to nothing but Jack o’ lanterns and cute little Casper-style ghosts, I am going to spend most of October being alarmed.

2- Halloween costumes have gotten very bad in my age group. When other women ask me what I’m going to be for Halloween, I’m very tempted to respond, “I’m going as a slut. I’m assuming you are also going as a slut. The question is really what VARIETY of slut we’ll be going as. Will you be a devil slut? A nurse slut? A freaking slut bumblebee? Tell me. A slutty ladybug? A slutty cat? A slutty scarecrow? The options are limitless.” (in case you were wondering, this year I will be an an angel slut, because I found a really cute BCBG white dress that I wanted to buy, and have very few occasions in my life where a pure white dress will be appropriate). I remember the first costume I ever saw that was “sexy” instead of costumy. In third grade, my mom helped me make a costume that was supposed to be a Graduate of Hershey College. I had a little graduation gown and cap, and a diploma around my neck that had crumpled Hershey wrappers glued to it. I was incredibly proud of my costume, mostly because I really, really loved Hershey chocolate. But before lunch, at the water fountain, Allyson Wierda made fun of my costume for being childish. She was wearing a scandalous little pirate outfit, which in retrospect was probably not the most appropriate outfit for a third grader to wear. I was ashamed, and from that year forward, I tried to come up with more grown-up costume ideas.

Note: it is pointless to wear anything other than face paint for Halloween in Colorado, because it invariably snows on Halloween, and your parents make you wear a snowsuit and mittens and a hat over any potential costume.

Second Note: If Allyson Wierda ever reads this, I’m sure you’ve turned out to be a lovely, non-scandalous adult. No hard feelings. Although you pretty much did ruin pirates for me.

3- All of the children who come to our door are greedy little snot factories. Babies in costumes are ADORABLE. Toddlers in costumes are ALSO ADORABLE, provided their parents put them in something cute–nobody wants to see a toddler in stained Carhartts and a George W. Bush mask. But children over the age of 8 end up just being greedy and taking handfuls upon handfuls of candy that I very specifically purchased for myself in hopes that we’d have very few trick-or-treaters. Case in point; last year I bought a whole enormous bag of miniature Twix bars. I figured we’d hand out one or two, and then I’d have an excuse to plow through the rest of the bag. INCORRECT. Instead I had fat twelve-year-olds grabbing 10 or 20 at a time, leaving me with a grand total of zero Twix bars, and also forcing me to scramble around my house trying to find extra candy so that we’d not have to turn any trick-or-treaters away. Hell hath no fury like a scorned trick-or-treater. The last several children got Ricola cough drops for Halloween. To your health, children, to your health.

Note: I trick-or-treated until I was 21. Then I went to bars. I am aware of my hypocrisy.

Second Note: One year (age 22 maybe?) I went to the bars as slutty Catwoman (is there another kind?). I had one of those little whip-like cat toys as part of my costume. There was this EXTRA slutty girl wearing a skirt that was clearly designed for a preschooler and no underpants, and she was rubbing against all the boys–even the ones who had been spoken for. Three drinks in I lost my temper and thwacked her in the cooter with my cat toy/ whip. I turned around and kept dancing before she could visually figure out who or what had hit her babymaker. I am simultaneously proud and ashamed of this achievement.

Third note: Mostly proud.

Grocery stores need to respect my authoritai

Can I bitch for a second? It’s about animal welfare, so I apologize in advance for the lecture. I’ll keep it quick before moving on to stories about food and deliciousness. Actually, I’ll even highlight the part about animal rights so you can skip through if you aren’t interested. Anyway, Chris and I have been trying to be more food-responsible, and have (in the last few months) entirely eliminated:

Large, commercial dairies–I don’t understand how militant vegetarians are able to slug back eggs and milk and cheese and ice cream and other dairy from commercial dairies, when those animals are treated every bit as badly as slaughter animals, not to mention that dairies are basically where veal comes from. So we’ve had to be mindful of sticking to companies that support small family farms, or humane practices. Organic Valley, Ben and Jerry, Humane Harvest eggs…it’s really not too difficult if you know what to look for. Even Borden Organic (a pretty big brand) is a humane option.

Basically the whole pork industry– For animals who are as smart or smarter than dogs, pigs are treated incredibly poorly in the meat industry. Beatings and immobile gestation and cutting off the tails without anesthesia–not okay in my book. Plus, these commercial pork farms are responsible for major disease spreading (h1n1 anyone?). So we’re sticking to Whole Foods butchered pork or Niman Ranch. Heritage pork is almost always humanely raised, but is pretty pricey, so we’re doing that in moderation. Anyway, Target carries Niman Ranch, or you can buy it in bulk online.

Any and all grocery store chicken– The conditions that regular chickens are raised in are disgusting, filthy, and horrifically mean. So we double check the sources of any chicken before we buy it. Takes about five minutes, and is the right thing to do. Also, things like chicken stock, chicken burritos, etc can be hidden sources of the “bad kind” of meat production, so we keep an eye on that, too.

So with the new guidelines on food sourcing, I only have one complaint. Why is it so hard to find the things I want? Why is the “norm” feedlot crap? How can people justify bitching about vaccinations for their children when they’ll cheerfully feed them Tyson chicken nuggets or McDonalds, which are full of hormones and fillers and other abortions? With all the hormones floating around in our food, it’s no wonder we have 8 year old girls with breasts trotting around in their My Little Pony bootie shorts.

Shouldn’t I be able to walk into a grocery store and make a choice between eating meat that came from hell-on-earth environments, and meat that comes from family farms, responsible animal stewards, and sustainability-oriented practices? It shouldn’t take an act of congress to find a pork chop that I can feel good about. I just don’t understand.

While I think it’s reprehensible that people knowingly buy the “cheap” stuff to save a couple bucks, even though many of them know it was produced in a way that violates common human decency, I think it’s even worse that grocery stores don’t give people the clear option to do the right thing. And I think it’s terrible that the “cheap” option is the one that’s loaded with chemicals and cruelty and pollutants.

I really, really wish the government would start taxing the everloving crap out of shit foods. I’d still eat Doritos and Twix bars and Ramen noodles (Oriental flavah), but I’d be more conscious that what I was eating was a crime against nature. Also, my ass would be significantly smaller, because mass-produced foods make people FAT. Cheap ground beef, from feedlot animals, means people can eat twice as much. And that’s why I believe poverty and obesity are so closely interlinked. When chicken is $5 a pound, I’m not going to eat as much as if it’s $2 a pound because it was factory-produced. Doy-hickey.

Sometimes junk food is what hits the spot. Sometimes I just want a friggin’ chili dog. And when mama wants something, but mama doesn’t want to feel like an asshole for eating it, mama makes it her OWN SELF out of a series of ingredients.

Thus, without further lecture, I bring you: The Responsible Chili Dog

Spicy Beer Chili

1 lb ground, pastured beef (80/20)
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 (14 oz) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 bottle dark beer
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 poblano or anaheim chile, diced (more to taste)
4 T chili powder
1 T smoked paprika
1.5 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1 T ground cumin
1/2 t oregano (preferably mexican)
salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste

Method

-Brown beef in a large, hot soup pot. When it’s brown, drain it and set it aside. -Put one T of the drippings back in the pot and sweat the onions, garlic, celery, and chiles. When the onions are mostly translucent (about 5 minutes), add the ground beef back to the pot.
-Stir in your chili powder, paprika, chocolate, cinnamon, cumin, oregano, and about 1 T salt. When the chocolate has melted, add the beer. Stir for one minute, then add the tomato products and the beans.
-Stir well, then simmer over medium-low heat for an hour, adding more beer or water as necessary to keep it from getting too thick. Check periodically to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom.
– After an hour, if there is too much liquid, simmer on medium heat until the mixture is slightly thickened (a good chili consistency).
-Taste and season with salt, pepper, and cayenne to achieve desired salt and heat levels.

This makes a shitload of chili, and it freezes well, as well as making great chili-cheese dip when mixed with a pound or so of fresh (organic!) sharp cheddar or jack.

To assemble your chili-dog, make or purchase some basic white buns. Shred some cheddar cheese, and warm some hot dogs in water (we use Coleman Natural, which are pastured and delicious, and don’t have ingredients like “Now with more anus!”)

The order is bun, hot dog, chili, and then cheese. Eat it up and think about how, with a few simple shopping choices, you’ve become a version of white trash that can be respected and admired, both within the white trash community, but also as good human beings!

Buttered…stuff

Just reached that point in the day where I have to decide between a nap and a Red Bull. My sleep schedule sucks. It’s not because I’m all burdened with taking care of sick children vomiting on the dog in the middle of the night, or fighting through pouring rain to get to the office at 7 a.m. so that I can surf the internet in a quiet cube for 30 minutes before my despicable boss shows up. Actually, I think it’s from NOT being at work at 7 a.m. or having sick children up all night. I think my days are so chill that I’m never exhausted, meaning that 10 p.m. isn’t so much a relief from a hectic day as it is just a meandering taper down from daily activity.

I’m not complaining. There will be years as a parent where I’ll be gasping, gagging, pleading for 15 minutes of uninterrupted sleep. I know that, so I am really trying to enjoy my free time while I have it. And I do enjoy it, it just makes sleep difficult. I think I’ll enjoy it more back in Colorado, where I can deliver lattes to my mother at her library, or meet Becky for lunch at the Med, or ride my bike up Cherry Creek trail with my dog in tow, and just generally dance gleefully amidst beautiful scenery and people I love.

Fortunately, the weather in San Antonio is taking a turn for the worse. What this means to me is that the weather is taking a turn for the better. It was 58 degrees this morning when I left for bootcamp. 58 gloriously crisp degrees!! I celebrated by driving with the windows down. And the sun is still out, shining through the slight chill in the air. It really reminds me of home, except for that there are homicidal ants laying waste to every square inch of available soil here, so there’s to be no rolling around in the grass or picnics or any such merriment.

It does mean that I’m rolling out more and more Fall foods, and they make me really happy.

If I’m ever stuck as a governess to seven children in Austria, and I’m forced to sew them playclothes out of ugly curtains because their strict-but-handsome father doesn’t believe in fun, and I have to sing a song about my favorite things, here is how it will go:

Bellies on puppies and whiskers on kittens
Brandy in eggnog and pink North Face mittens
Any package for me that is tied up with string
These are a few of my favorite things.

Cozy corn chowder and caramel apple streudels
Brandy in eggnog and prime beef tips on noodles
Cookies and frosting that gets lodged in my ring
These are a few of my favorite things

Sweatpants and snowboots and Smashbox on lashes
Brandy in eggnog at holiday bashes
A home with real seasons like winter and spring
These are a few of my favorite things

When the ant bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad

I simply remember my favorite things
and then I still feel pretty bad, because I mean, COME ON–the ants can bite AND sting at the same time. And there’s no snow. I mean, WTF?? I’m going to go drink some brandy in eggnog.

Anyway…where was I?

Oh yes. Fall foods. A friend of ours who works with Chris was sweet enough to get me the Bouchon cookbook for no reason except that she’s generous to a fault. I almost cried, I was so touched. Who does things like that? Oh yes! Becky! She got me a tank top that shows where the separate belly for desserts is located. But aside from those two, who does things like that? Ach. Sweethearts.

The Bouchon cookbook is gorgeous and full of food that I am completely gay for, and I immediately began cooking from it. Last night was a gorgeous, hearty, and virtually calorie-free dinner of butternut soup with brown butter and nutmeg creme fraiche. Not completely calorie-free, mind you, but certainly not a diet-breaker.

I changed things a little bit, mostly to avoid lawsuit, but also so you could make it at home. Give this a try– it’s totally vegetarian, which is great for those of us who try to eat meat-free occasionally (I still implore you to try for once a week), but also would be a super-impressive starter for a Thanksgiving meal.

Roasted butternut soup with brown butter and nutmeg creme fraiche
(Adapted from Thomas Keller’s “Bouchon”)

Serves 2 fatties or 12 Olson twins. It served two of us, with a couple of spoonfuls leftover for the dog, who bizarrely is really into squash.

1 (2-3 lb) butternut squash
3 T neutral-flavored oil
1/2 t rubbed sage (or some chopped fresh)
2 (large) shallots, thinly sliced
1 (medium) yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 (large) carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, smashed
a leek, if you’ve got it, thinly sliced
5 C vegetable stock
2 T honey
1/4 t thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 C creme fraiche or sour cream
1 t honey
1/4 t nutmeg, freshly ground
3 T salted butter

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut the butternut in half, oil each side and sprinkle with salt and sage. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes, or until tender (as tested by inserting a knife into the squash–if it’s ready, the knife will slip right out).

Meanwhile, sweat the other vegetables in the oil in a stockpot or other large-ish vessel. Don’t allow them to color. Add a touch of salt and pepper, and continue sweating them until they’re completely soft.

When the butternut is roasted, remove it and allow it to cool for a few minutes until you can handle it with minimal second degree burns. Scoop the flesh out into the pot and briefly stir with the vegetables. Add the honey and stir again to distribute. Add the stock and simmer for about 20 minutes to allow all the flavors to meld.

Working in small batches so you don’t scald your arms and end up looking like violent Halloween characters, puree the soup using a blender. In a Vita-Mix this is a relatively simple task. In a regular blender it’ll take slightly longer and be slightly more dangerous re: possible shooting hot liquid. So be very careful. When the mixture is completely smooth, strain it and taste it. Add salt and pepper as necessary, and stock to thin it out if it’s too thick. If it’s too thin, put it back on the stove to reduce a bit. You’ll have to re-strain if you do any more simmering.

In a bowl, whisk the creme fraiche/sour cream with honey and nutmeg until it’s thick and homogenous.

In a small pan, heat the butter just until it is slightly golden and begins to smell nutty. Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish with a spoonful of creme fraiche, a drizzle of brown butter and sprinkle with chives or chopped sage.

Et voila! You have butternut soup that takes minimal effort and ingredients, is a very inexpensive Thanksgiving dish, and is deliciously nutritious. Low-calorie Thanksgiving food? Yes–it’s possible. Not that I advocate dieting on Thanksgiving. I’m just saying you can save more of your calorie budget for pie this way.

I also made the vanilla bean sugar cookies, which were fabulously tasty with raspberry jam. I will say that the recipe calls for no leavening, which left the outcome much more like a lightly sweet shortbread than a cookie. Thus the application of seed-free raspberry jam. I ate, at last count, 12 of them. And some dough. That’s why I spent the morning at bootcamp, in case you were wondering.

Anyway, go try the soup and tell me what you think. I was impressed, especially given my tenuous relationship with squash.

Eating twelve cookies and a slice of pumpkin cake
Watching leaves fall for someone else to come rake
Festive grocery shopping and eating like kings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Sweet Mother!

Is anybody else so excited about Twilight that they might actually throw up in their mouths a little, but then quickly brush their teeth afterward because they know how important fresh breath is to Edward Cullen? Because I am. SO excited.

He’s only 17, you total child predator…gosh.


He’s a pasty Brit. My husband is also a pasty Brit. Ergo, maybe my husband is also magic?

I’ve read the books three times apiece, and am planning on reading them again before the release date (November 20th). The only tricky part is that while reading the books I get highly overstimulated and end up a touch bitchy toward my husband because he’s neither magic nor brooding, and that doesn’t seem fair. Although it wouldn’t kill him to TRY some basic magic. It’s not like I ask for much.

Speaking of sweet porking, there is a restaurant in my hometown of Parker, CO called Costa Vida. They have this thing called a sweet pork salad, which is like an amalgam of hopes and dreams from idyllic youth across the nation, all holding hands and truly BELIEVING in a world where peace is the answer, and differences are celebrated. Hahahaha, just kidding. I know today’s youth are actually too busy playing Grand Theft Auto to be idyllically believing in anything other than the achievement points you get for “completing 25 drug wars.” No, I didn’t make that up.


But the sweet pork salad is just such an unlikely and lively combination of flavors and textures that all come together in perfect harmony with one another to create a salad that says “I’m more than just a salad! I’m a LIFESTYLE.” The base of the salad is typically a flour tortilla, which I usually forgo because that’s 200 calories that I don’t necessarily enjoy that much, since it tends to get soggy at the bottom of the bowl. Then there’s a big, hearty handful of chopped romaine lettuce. Then a spoonful of cilantro-lime rice. Then this shredded, sweet but spicy pork that blows my mind with it’s sheer awesomeness, then cheese, then tortilla chip strips. Finally, you get to finish it off with fabbity fab cilantro-lime vinaigrette, which is basically the money shot of the salad.


I MISS Costa Vida like I’d miss a high-functioning kidney, so I’ve worked tirelessly (read: experimented twice) to come up with a good copycat recipe for you to try. So, without further ado, I bring you the Kristie-Vida Sweet Pork Salad recipe:

Assembly:

1 flour tortilla (homemade if you’re so inclined–it takes about 4 minutes–but store-bought is fine too!)
2 C chopped romaine
1/4 C shredded white cheese (like queso asadero or sharp jack)
1/8 C cilantro-lime vinaigrette
1/4 C cilantro-lime rice
1/2 C tortilla chip strips, if you desire

Sweet Pork
1 (6lb) pork butt, trimmed of any thick fat
1 can full-sugar Coca-Cola
1/2 C packed brown sugar
2 15 oz cans of tomatoes (with chiles, if possible. Like Ro-Tel)
1 t cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
1 medium onion, diced
1 serrano pepper, partially deseeded (if you’re into spice)
salt and pepper to taste

Season the pork butt with salt and pepper on all sides, then sear on all sides in a very hot pan to form a crust. Place the pork into a crock pot.

In a blender, combine all of the rest of the ingredients to a puree. Pour over the pork, place the lid on the crockpot, and cook on high for 4-5 hours. Occasionally turn the pork over in the pot so it cooks evenly. Add water if the sauce cooks down at all, or if your pork is less than halfway covered.

When the pork is fork-tender, pull it from the crockpot and shred the meat. Toss in some of the sauce left in the crockpot to make a mixture that looks like barbecued pork (semi-wet, but not dripping).

Cilantro-lime vinaigrette
1/4 C fresh lime juice
1/4 C packed cilantro
3/4 C olive oil
2 T honey
1/2 t ground cumin

In a blender, blend lime juice, cilantro, honey, and cumin. Taste and adjust sweet to acidity ratio a necessary by adding cider vinegar or honey. Then, while the blender is running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste. Again, you may want more honey for a sweeter dressing, but keep in mind that the pork is sweet, too, and loves the acidity of the lime juice.

Cilantro-lime rice

1 C white rice, rinsed until water runs completely clear
2 C water
2 t salt
1/4 C packed, cilantro, chopped
2 T lime juice, freshly squeezed

Bring water and salt to a boil, add rice and return to a simmer. Cover immediately, turn temperature down to low, and leave for 15-20 minutes to steam. When the rice is cooked to a very faint al dente, fluff with a fork, then gently fold in juice and cilantro. Taste and adjust salt as necessary.


This is a solid meal, and can be easily adjusted to your taste. Vegetarians can use the same recipe, substituting black beans for pork, with great success.

And speaking of vegetarians, how sweet is it that Edward doesn’t eat people?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go cajole my dog into turning into a well-muscled youth. I’m pretty sure he’s a shapeshifter.

Then again, maybe not. A shapeshifter would have reverted back to its human form and refused to wear a lobster Halloween costume

All of our pets have gotten into the spirit of things for Halloween. I have mostly just gotten into the spirit of eating candy corn and pumpkin spice Hershey kisses, which are responsible for everything good in the world that happens while they’re on shelves.

Squarsh

I’ve been trying to broaden my culinary horizons as of late. That doesn’t mean that all of a sudden I’m purchasing things like cod and consuming them, no sir. But I am introducing some foods that don’t gross me out as much as fish does, and to my surprise I’m finding out that many of them are fairly tasty, if not great (a good tomato, for example). I don’t know what’s compelling me to do this….wait, actually I do. Weight loss.

I gained a substantial amount of weight after the wedding and surgery, and am now vying mightily with my body to get it to drop down 12 more pounds. It was 20 pounds to begin with, which is a testament to the value of strenuous exercise. Take the marathon away from the girl without removing her marathon-style eating habits, and what you’ve got is Jabba the blonde in no time flat. I lost the first 8 in the last two weeks, but those were easy because much of it was water weight. Now I’m down to the nitty gritty, and that means that sometimes I have to have squash for dinner.

On the whole, I’ve grown up with considerable animosity toward all things squash-like. I even hated pumpkins, which I thought were beautiful and important falloween decorations, and which I loved to carve, and whose seeds were excellent for toasting, but gross for eating the flesh. I still can’t get behind a pumpkin pie, but I have a feeling that’s going to change this year. Last year I made pumpkin bread for a neighbor in distress, and it turned out so delicious that I started hesitantly experimenting with pumpkin desserts and am feeling really pumpkin-brave. Maybe I’ll do a pumpkin curry…maybe.

But lately I’ve been trying really hard to give squash a chance. I’ve selected the sexiest squash by only buying from WhoFo or Central Market. I’ve consulted the internets to try and find the best recipe ideas. I’ve done the whole “paper bag over the head” thing by putting zucchini in kung pao. I’ve been a little squash ambassador.

And this is helpful, because squash are filling, healthy, and have virtually zero calories. Which is a Good Thing.

So when I made dinner the other night, I made a whole delicata squash to go with it. Guess what? Delicata squash are delicious. Like, really, really good. And super easy to prepare! I just cut it in half, scooped out the seeds and delicata guts, filled a pan with 1 inch of warm water, placed the squash cut side down in the water, and baked at 375 for about 15-20 minutes, or until a knife slid easily into the squash. Then I pulled it, cut it, seasoned it with salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg. Done. Easy.

But it’s not like we could just eat squash. I’m not about to martyr myself for a few measly calories, so we also had some sides. The full plating ended up with couscous, glazed carrots, delicata, and sirloin steak roulades.

Roulades are so pretty, and so easy to make. There’s no reason you can’t do it with any type of meat, even though poultry is the most common I’ve seen. This was a “wing-it” recipe, and ended up so good that I thought you guys should have the low-down.

Beef roulades with balsamic and red wine reduction

1 free-range sirloin steak, big enough for two people
1/2 onion, small dice
3/4 C panko crumbs
1/4 C chopped parsley
1 T butter
2 cloves garlic, roasted until soft and sweet
1/2 C red wine (whatever you’re drinking)
1/2 C balsamic vinegar (at least a semi-decent one)
salt and pepper to taste

Procedure: Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Using a paillard (meat mallet), pound the sirloin until it is about 1/4 inch thick. This may take a while, but get it evenly flat and thin, and place the sheet of beef on a thick piece of plastic wrap.

In a large pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat and saute the onions until they start to brown just a touch. Add the panko and toss to combine thoroughly. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes

Season the meat with salt and pepper on both sides, then spread the filling over the meat, leaving a one inch space on one side that is uncovered.

Roll the roulade like a jelly roll, and use the plastic wrap to keep it tightly formed.

Oil an oven-safe pan that is large enough to hold the roulade with at least one inch of space all around. Heat it to near smoke point, then sear the roulade on all sides (after removing it from the plastic wrap, doy). Deglaze with wine, then add balsamic and place the whole pan into the oven.

When a meat thermometer registers 120 F for the meat, remove the pan from the oven. Place the meat on a cutting board to rest, and reduce the liquid in the pan until it thickens slightly. Stir in the roasted garlic, taste, and season as necessary. This is a very powerful glaze, so expect a flavor punch.

Cut the roulade into 1″ segments, and fan out on the plate.

Top with the glaze and serve.

I love that a single steak can stretch to make two dinners and a lunch for the next day. Filling it helps, as does my sorrowful dieting. But it’s the squash that’s the unsung hero of this meal. So go forth, my little minions, and eat squash! It’s not like it’ll ever run out, because it’s a demon vegetable.

Pet pigs

I am a whore for truffles. I don’t mean that in the sense of “I really love truffles!” or “I’d sell my mother down the river for a truffle.” I mean that I would almost certainly have awkward, tearful sex with someone to get my hands on a truffle. Not someone totally gross, mind you. I mean maybe a close and attractive friend, or perhaps one of your less skeevy movie stars. And only with Chris’s permission. And he’d totally give me that permission, because he also loves truffles.

The first bite of truffle I ever had was in culinary school, and it was a weak-sauce truffle from Oregon, which had been plucked from the ground prematurely and hadn’t had the opportunity to develop that tell-tale funk that comes from real, honest-to-goodness truffles. You want the real thing? It has to be black perigord truffles, plucked in the dead of winter from the cold ground at the base of an oak tree in Perigord, France. Does it sound like I’m describing something mythical, like a tree nymph or a fountain of youth? Yes? Well, good. Because real-life human life lacks the appropriate level of majesty to deal with the flavor of a black truffle.

The first bite of Perigord black truffle I had was draped naked and spread-eagle over a ball of potato confit at Alinea. I put it in my mouth and spontaneously ovulated, shedding tears of ecstacy and wonderment. Love at first bite, plus an insatiable lust that has caused me to search out any avenue in which I could possibly be exposed to the musky, earthy flavor of truffles.

Since I am not a millionaire, or even a thousandaire, really, I am forced to seek out shadows of the real thing. But you know what? Even the shadow of a tree nymph is pretty magical. It’s still the moving, living image of an effing pixie, right? And it still has that trail of pixie dust sparkling effervescently around it. So I’m quite pleased with my collection of truffle essences, and will cuddle them close to me at night until such a day that a Perigord truffle knocks on my front door, legs gripping the sides of a winged unicorn, to kiss the sleep from my eyes and whisk me away to….OMG, I think I’ve finally cracked.

The other day I had a craving for truffle so strong that it would not be quelled with white truffle oil (merely the idea of a truffle, really), nor with the quite lovely truffle salt I got at the Spice House in Chicago. I needed concentrated awesome, and I wanted it to be suspended in butter.

I headed to Central Market to pick up a wad of the delectable fat, and ended up leaving with this: a smorgasboard of truffle cheeses, black truffle oil, truffle butter, white truffle oil…wow. I am a glutton.

But really, who can blame me? Especially when the end result was this: Truffle macaroni and cheese, made with truffle-scented bechamel, two different types of truffle cheese, and topped with a crispy crust of panko crumbs sauteed in truffle butter.

Here is the recipe, per request:

Putain de Pâtes aux Truffes et de Fromage (literally “truffle whore’s pasta and cheese”)

4 T truffle oil (white is less expensive and works fine)
4 T butter
½ C flour
4 C milk
8 oz white cheddar
4 oz boschetto al tartufo (sheep/cow milk blended truffle cheese)
4 oz sottocenere (cow milk truffle cheese)
1 t strong, black truffle oil
Salt to taste
1 lb macaroni (can use elbow, cavatappi, or casarecce—my preference)
1 C panko crumbs
3 T black truffle butter

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Set a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. When the water comes to a boil, preferably while you’re working on the cheese sauce, add the pasta and cook to package directions.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the 4 T oil, then whisk in the flour and stir over medium heat for 2-3 minutes (to cook out the raw flour taste). Slowly whisk in the milk, working out any clumps that may form, and bring to a low simmer. When the mixture has reached a simmer, stir in the cheeses and continue to stir until the mixture is creamy, cheesy, and homogenous. Taste, and add the remaining 1 t truffle and any necessary salt. A bit of white pepper wouldn’t go amiss.
Stir together the cheese sauce and the pasta, and pour it all into a casserole dish. Prepare the bread crumbs by melting 3 T truffle butter in a pan over medium-low heat. Toss the panko crumbs in the butter, ensuring they’ve all received a coating. Scatter the breadcrumbs over the macaroni and cheese, and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the panko start to get golden in color. Serve immediately.

I almost cried when I bit into this. I mean that. I had actual tears in my eyes, and knew that the single bite had made me a better person, inside and out.

The truffle mac left while I was asleep, leaving nothing but a phone number on my pillow. I’d call it, but I know it’s a fake number. Guys like that truffle mac are love ’em and leave ’em types, and I’d only end up broken-hearted. Besides, I’m holding out for my Perigord prince charming.

Chili Willi


It’s flooding outside right now, because apparently Texas only has two modalities of moisture: dust bowl, tumbleweed, ant-crusading, hell-like cracks in the Earth drought, or hahahaha you can’t go outside, all the dirt is washing out of your flower beds onto the pavement, if you drive you’ll likely drown, insistent flooding. Special, no? I’ve been told that the reasoning behind this is even more spectacularly bad–the ground gets so dry during the drought that it physically can’t soak up the water from the floods. Simply stunning, mother nature.

But here’s where it gets even more thigh-slappingly humorous: if you elect to drive during the floods, and if you end up getting carried away by the 97 degree rapids that swirl around the major highway systems, you don’t get rescued so much as you get fined. $500. Seriously. So you must either drown, or pay up. Those are your flood-driving options. But who’s dumb enough to see a sign that says “flood waters, turn around” and continue to drive on through in a Geo Metro or whatever?

Possibly me. Because every time I see their signs that say “watch for ice on bridge” I burst into paroxysms of laughter so severe that I have to pull over to the side of the road, lest my mirth causes me to crash into the Alamo. And that’d be fine, except for I’m not going to lay eyes on the Alamo. Ever. Ice on bridge? Yeah-effing-right.

But the good news is that when life hands you flood waters (proving that God promised no more floods to everyone except for Texas, which also explains why I’ve never seen a rainbow here, when they show up every afternoon back home), you should take advantage of being stuck indoors and make something hearty and cold-weathery. I mean, it LOOKS cold outside, so you can almost delude yourself if you keep the doors closed and the AC on and turn off all the lights. And delete the WeatherBug app from your iPhone.

And given that I purchased and canned a full bushel of fire-roasted Hatch chiles a couple of months ago, I settled on green chili (chili verde). This time, you’ll even get a recipe for it. I HIGHLY recommend that you give it a shot, since it’s delicious and fiery and cheap and makes incredible leftovers. I’ll give you the vegetarian green chili, though you’d be more than welcome to use the meat adaptation I’ve included if you aren’t a vegetarian, and if you like it meaty. We did veg, since it was one of our two veg days this week.

Super-easy green chili (serves probably 6 as a main course, or two people plus plenty for cheesy green chili dip)

2 lbs whole anaheim or hatch green chiles (you may toss in some poblanos, if you wish)
OR
1 (27 oz) can of chopped, fire-roasted green chiles
1 large or two small onions, diced
1 lb fresh tomatoes, chopped, or 2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 T butter or oil
2 T flour
2 C veg or chicken stock
2 t ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Method: Set the oven to broil and allow to heat up for a few minutes. On a cookie sheet (without parchment paper), lay out your peppers. Put them in the oven, and watch them carefully. You want the skin to blister and turn black in spots, but not to burn the flesh of the pepper inside. Turn them occasionally to blister on all sides. When they’re done, remove them and place them immediately in a plastic bag. Seal and set aside.

In a stockpot, heat oil or butter over medium-high heat until it starts to shimmer. Add onions and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure they don’t burn. Add cumin, 2 t salt, and flour and stir constantly for 1 minute to cook out the raw flavor of the flour. Add tomatoes and stir for 1 minute, then add stock and stir the brown bits up from the bottom of the pan. Allow the mixture to return to a simmer.

While waiting, remove the chiles from the bag. They should have been sitting about 5-10 minutes at this point, and the skin should slip right off of them. Peel, stem, and seed the peppers, leaving as many seeds as you like to achieve a higher spice level in the final chili. Dice the chiles fairly small–a big hunk of chile can overpower a bite with spice if you’ve got spicy chiles. Add the diced chile flesh, plus any juices from the plastic bag, into the pot and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, taste, and adjust salt as necessary. Keep in mind that you’ll be reducing this by about 1/3, so your salt level will be more concentrated than it currently tastes.

Allow this to simmer, uncovered, for about 1 hour, adding stock if it reduces by more than 1/3. Taste again for spice and salt, and adjust as necessary. Serve it up!

Serving suggestions: Serve it in a bowl topped with shredded jack cheese, chopped cilantro and fresh, warm tortillas. Or, toast a tortilla, cover it with black beans and cheese–I used cotija and queso fresco– and then pour green chili over the top to make a fantastic tostada of sorts. Leftovers can be made into green chili cheese dip by heating 4 cups of chili with 1 lb of shredded jack or mozzarella, stirring periodically until it’s all melty and combined. Serve that with tortilla chips and Broncos football and your guests will be so thrilled that they’ll buy you a pony.

To make this meaty, replace the butter/oil with one of the following:

Bacon–render the bacon until it’s crispy, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Use the bacon drippings to cook the onions and garlic as in the recipe above and continue as written. Then, at the end, stir in the crispy bacon before serving.

Fatty pork–This is the most traditional way to make green chili. Just brown the pork in the butter/oil until it’s got a delicious, caramel-colored crust. Then proceed with the rest of the recipe as written.

Pork fat–Use this instead of butter or oil and continue as written.


Aruba, Jamaica, Oooooh I wanna take you to Bermuda, Tostada, come on pretty momma!

Green chili is really traditional for New Mexico, as opposed to Old Mexico (Texas), but is delicious regardless, and works well with Old Mexican flavors and breads. I recommend making a triple batch and then freezing portions in ziplock baggies. That way, if you have a burrito or tamale or enchiladas, you can just reheat the chili and pour it over the top of your meal as a sauce. Your belly will thank you, and probably so will your thighs if you use the vegetarian version–it’s very low in calories and has several servings of fruits and veggies.

Also, chances are much higher that you’ll be invited to board your friendly neighborhood ark if you’re carrying something as delicious and fragrant as green chili.

Black Vinegar: and no, I’m not talking about people sourly, uselessly complaining about the Obama administration.

I went back to the Asian grocery yesterday, which is still like Disneyland, if Disneyland smelled like old fish and sold candied eel and red bean ice cream. I needed to pick up a couple of things for Kung Pao tofu, and God only knows that our regular grocery stores won’t have the items I need unless the regular items I need are a)soy sauce and b)whatever that Asian food is that comes in a really tall, divided can and has meat and sauce in the top can and vegetables and noodles in the bottom can. Ew. Ewewewewew.

Besides, I’ll find any reason I can to go to the Asian grocery. I always leave with some awesomely bizarre foods and the tab has never been more than $30, even when I get multiple bags full of booty.

Anyway, yesterday some of my haul included: coconut soda, whole water chestnuts, mung bean threads (essential in spring rolls), rice paper wrappers, sambal oelek (spicy chili paste), black vinegar, and sichuan peppercorns. There were some other items that I’ve already forgotten, but will remember when I clean my pantry and am like “wtf is this?” but can’t remember what the English title was on the shelf, and all the writing on the jar is in Korean, so I end up giving it to the local food bank (because everyone knows that poor people have infinite uses for lemongrass jelly!).

I also stopped at Wal-Mart (booo! hissss!) to see if they had candied cherries yet. I’ve been checking once a week, since they’re usually the first ones to get them whenever the seasons start vaguely changing in the direction of “holiday time.” Little shards of my soul break off every time I have to enter a Wal-Mart, but I really, really need candied cherries so I can make chocolate covered cherries soon. It takes a month or so for the fondant to melt inside of them, and I’d like to have them appropriately aged by Thanksgiving.

But back to my original story…I wanted to make Kung Pao tofu for one of our two meatless days this week. We’ve been eating meatless twice a week for a while now, and it’s been great. One day of eating vegetarian per week has the same effect on carbon footprint as eating only local foods. Two days just increases the environmental benefit to compensate for both Chris and myself occasionally eating imported food (like, oh, Asian grocery). Give it a shot sometime, I challenge you. Once a week is all it really takes to make a difference.

Kung Pao is a favorite in my family, mostly because my mom would always order it when we had Chinese food. She’d look away and you could spear 3-4 pieces of chicken off of her plate without her noticing, because the vegetables, meat, and nuts are all pretty much the same size. That’s the key in Kung Pao–cut all of your pieces the exact same size. Here’s a simple recipe for Kung Pao (Gong Bao), be it tofu, chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp. You decide the protein, then follow some basic steps and it’s almost indistinguishable from good Chinese takeout.

Simple, healthy, authentic Kung Pao tofu (serves 3-4):

1 lb tofu (or protein of your choice)
1/2 medium onion
2 small or 1 medium zucchini
1 large carrot
1 stick celery
2 scallions (white and light green part only)
1 T ginger, minced
1 T garlic, minced
10 oriental chiles (seeds removed if you like a milder spiciness)
2 T peanut oil (roasted peanut oil if you’ve got it)
1/2 C peanuts or cashews

Sauce:
2 T light soy sauce
2 T dark soy sauce (has a deep molasses undertone–found at Asian grocery)
3 T black vinegar (can substitute red wine vinegar if necessary)
1.5 T cornstarch
5 T water
1.5 T sugar
1 T sesame oil

Preparation: Dice all of your vegetables and protein to roughly the same size (1/2″ by 1/2″). Combine all sauce ingredients, stir, and set aside. Season protein with salt and pepper. Heat 1 T oil in a medium-sized pan til almost smoking. Add ginger and garlic and saute quickly, careful not to burn. Immediately after it becomes aromatic (10 seconds?) add the protein and saute until cooked through, but not overcooked. This should take no more than 1-2 minutes.

In a large pan, heat remaining 1 T oil. When shimmering, add carrots and chiles and saute for 1 minute. Then add onions and celery, and saute for 2 minutes. Finally, add zucchini and saute for 1 additional minute. When the pan appears dry (no oil or vegetable juices visible), add the sauce all in one dump. Have water nearby in case the sauce thickens too quickly–you don’t want it to dry up and burn. Add water as necessary. Stir the sauce and vegetables together to coat, then add protein and stir gently to coat.

Top with nuts and scallions, and serve over white rice.


This is a really healthy option, given the number of vegetables and the lean protein found in tofu. And its pungent, sweet/sour/spicy tang is a powerful punch of flavor. You can amp up or tone down the spiciness as you wish by reducing peppers, or just removing their seeds. A teaspoon of whole sichuan peppercorns wouldn’t go amiss in this recipe either. And you can change the vegetables for whatever is in season or on hand. And honestly? This comes together so quickly, you could easily do it on a Sunday afternoon before settling in for a football game. And it’d probably do wonders for your hangover.

That filthy jam

One thing I have a hard time resigning myself to is Porta-Potties. I stand in line behind scores of people at whatever race/fair/concert I’m attending and pray for reabsorption. Like if I hang out long enough, my loop of henle will get with the program and pull any excess water out of my bladder, redepositing it into my blood stream where it belongs. But sadly I haven’t evolved that far just yet. So I stand in line. And I watch dirty people tromp in and out of the little green cubes ahead of me, often looking as if they’ve been holding their breath for a while. As I near the front of the line, I start keeping track of how long people have been in each cube, knowing that longer than three minutes is going to equal a particularly unsavory experience for me when I reach my destination. I end up picking whichever cube has had the fastest turnaround for its last several guests. This is usually unhelpful, as a fast turnaround could just mean a very efficient two-ser who has been holding it for long enough that they don’t need to dally in the facilities. Finally, it’s my turn. I’m anxious, I’m disgusted, I’m a little lightheaded because I’ve been holding my breath for the last 15 minutes…but I gird all of my loins and enter. I spend a good five minutes redecorating the entire cube with toilet paper, so there isn’t a surface from which I could contract unknown strains of disease (Hepatitis R?? WHAT THE HELL??). In those moments I manage to achieve acts of levitation unheard of by modern science. I float about 3 feet above the “seat,” trytrytry to get rid of unnecessary systemic water, and then bolt, gasping for air. Three out of four times, I am unsuccessful; my anxiety displacing biological necessity. Or my loop of henle FINALLY pulling itself together and completing the task for which it was designed. And that is why I hate Porta-Potties.

So imagine my predicament this past weekend at Austin City Limits, where flood-level rains created a 350 acre mud swamp, resplendent with 100,000 concert-goers carrying Tecate tall-boys, most of whom were so covered in mud that you could easily mistake them for hunks of earth, were it not for the grayish-brown smoldering joints poking hopefully from the corners of their mouths. Imagine all of those people chowing down on rain-sodden fair classics like hot dogs and kettle corn and cheese fries, drinking their own weight in cheap beer, and then trying to share a very limited number of Porta-Potties. Hunks of mud slopped casually onto every potty surface, so that one couldn’t decipher where one kind of filth ended and the next (more horrific) began… I’m pretty sure I would have left Woodstock midway through the third act, regardless of any joyful balls-tripping.

I did manage to reach some kind of biological nirvana, in which I drank a liter of SmartWater AND an entire bottle of wine out of a squeezie bottle, then thoroughly enjoyed hours upon hours of Flogging Molly, Mos Def, The Decemberists, and Dave Matthews without going to the bathroom ONCE. Granted, I may have ruptured certain renal heavy-hitters, but you gotta do what you gotta do, am I right?

And I had a blast. On Friday I saw Kings of Leon, Thievery Corporation, Bassnectar, Them Crooked Vultures, and Phoenix. We went out on 6th street for a bit afterwards, where I realized that I am old and no longer enjoy the college bar scene. There was a teenage girl dancing on a stage in such a way that I said “What is she DOING??” and Chris replied “she’s presenting.” We went back to the hotel, slept, then woke up to a hot breakfast that included a fucking waffle in the shape of Texas (gaaaaaaaaagggggggg). Headed back to the concert for the Saturday lineup (mentioned in the previous paragraph) and finished our weekend with Dave. The highlight of Saturday was not the music, nor the bladder miracle, nor the fact that I managed to rig my wine like a hamster water bottle using only a beer coozie and the strap from my purse: No, it was a tie between having a good friend in town visiting from CO, and having a truly delicious lunch at Maria Maria before heading to the grounds.

Max came to visit, which gave us a much needed dose of someone who a)lives in a Colorado ski town and could talk snow-porn with us and b)was not interested in cowboy boots


Steak burrito with a mango and spinach salad dressed in a honey-lime vinaigrette. SOSOSO good.


Chris’s dish was a steak burrito as well, but smothered in the pasilla-tomato cream sauce and Mexican Crema that I had requested on the side. Oh, and he had a Caesar salad, because he loves them and will get them anywhere we go

So it was, by all accounts, a great weekend. I think I learned that I prefer to listen to music while I’m running or cleaning the house, though, rather than while I’m being shat on with mud. Also, when I’m cleaning my house I have access to a pristine bathroom. And I do so love that.