Trouble down south

I made a blow out Southern meal last night, although it ended up slightly less put together and more thrown together in a desperate bid to use my previously purchased ingredients while still putting calories into my body as fast as I can. And, boy are you lucky, I have a story for you.

Yesterday, I wrote Chris a text message around 2 that said “We running 6 tonight?” I was being facetious, since he doesn’t get home ’til after 5, we have to drive to our running spot (ironic), and I had a big dinner planned. I thought he’d tell me we needed to run 2 or something. I’m talking about miles, btw. But no! He wrote back “What are you, a pansy? I’d say we run an Elway plus a Chris. That’s a 7+1). Whoah. Telling me I’m a wuss is a surefire way to make me do something. There are a LOT of high school and college guys whose lives would have been changed forever had they known that particular factoid. Fortunately, they didn’t ever figure it out. Anyway, what it meant was that I immediately, spitefully agreed to run 8 miles on a Wednesday evening. After a morning spinning class and upper body lift. I’m a crazy woman.

The problem is I’m chasing something so genetically elusive that I will likely never find it. That thing is “a waist.” I was born without one, it seems. When I was 30 lbs heavier, I just assumed it was because I was chunky and that if I lost the weight I’d discover a magically delicious abdominal region that I could play beer pong on and flaunt around like a complete floozy in teensy half-shirts like the ones you see in Paula Abdul videos. But here I am, about 2 points away from being “underweight” on the BMI scale, my legs looking like some sort of ad for Fitness magazine, and I’ve created triceps out of thin air. And would you like to know what my abs look like? Would you? They look like shit, that’s what. Actually, they look like nothing because you CAN’T SEE THEM. They’re hiding under a layer of what I can only assume is the collective efforts of many, many cups of frosting that I have personally consumed without the benefit of a delivery system called “cake.” I can see my top two abs just fine. They’re right below my rib cage and have a lovely canyon of definition between them. After that though? They are lost in the butter abyss. I blame you for this, mom. Am I genetically incapable of a flat stomach? Will my heritage prevent me from ever having an hourglass figure? Ugh. There go my plans to get rich by starring in anonymous internet porn…

So I spend most of my time either running around attempting to be “fit” or eating in an attempt to be “happy.” It’s about 50/50. And one cancels the other out.

We started our run and all was good until about the one-mile marker, at which point I realized that I had over-hydrated and had to pee RIGHT NOW. But we were nowhere near any kind of relief, and EVEN IF there had been a reasonable roadside gully in which I could pee without being seen by motorists, I would have stood up from my hover with a horde of angry scorpions attached to my looooove shack by their pincers. Fuck that. So I kept running, hoping my body would reabsorb the liquid to use as hydration. Noooooooo. That didn’t happen. What did happen was that I felt physical pain every step that I took as my poor kidneys got jarred. At mile three, we happened upon a fire station. Chris suggested that we go up there and get a refill on our water and I could ask them if I could use their bathroom facilities. We trudged up to a group of, and I cannot explain this, completely obese firemen smoking cigarettes INDOORS. Weird. We got our water, but I chickened out on the bathroom. I didn’t want to even say the word “bathroom” in front of a group of strange men. I have potty issues, and always have. I don’t like to talk about the bathroom or what happens in it, and I don’t wish to hear what happens in other peoples’ bathrooms. It’s just a thing, alright? So we jogged on and I was SERIOUSLY regretting not having used the bathroom, sure that I’d have to brave the scorpions soon or I’d be pissing blood by the time we found a bathroom. Chris announced, somewhere along the line, that he also had to pee. We were a pair of hurting puppies, yet were STILL RUNNING AWAY FROM OUR VEHICLE. Soon we came upon the Gray Moss Inn, which is a very tony dining establishment with an expensive menu and a rich history of excellence. I came up with the genius plan of walking in, asking for information about holding our wedding reception there, and then sneaking off to the bathroom afterwards. Good, right? No. We were dripping in sweat, giant pit stains spreading under our arms like STDs in a community college, and out of breath, and before we could enter the restaurant, a nervous looking maitre d’ ran up to us to ask if he could help in a tone of voice that clearly said “please do not besmirch our fine dining establishment with your schwag-asses.” But I threw down the possibility of an expensive wedding reception, mentioned Chris’s doctoring, and he took us right inside. It was pretty humiliating to walk past women in elegant Dior suits while I was wearing a soaking-wet wife beater and a fanny pack. The guy went to get information and I ran to the bathroom which was, awfully, right by his office. The one he was in. I locked the door, sat down, and realized…I had come down with a TERRIBLE case of stage fright. I was torn between a biological need to empty myself before achieving nephrological failure and mortification that he might be able to hear me pee. I turned on the water, and nothing helped. I actually began to cry a little. Nothing was going to happen, so I went out and saw Chris helpfully providing the little dude with my real phone number. Thanks, honey! We left, and when I told Chris about my problem, he looked less than amused. We ran on.

At mile 4, Chris found a tree to pee on and I just accepted that I would probably die. My stomach had gotten very upset by how tense I had been keeping my lower body, and I had been favoring my bladder so much that I had run my knee in an awkward manner and it was swollen like crazy. We ambled home, both feeling unwell, and by the time we got back to the car it had been a solid two hours. Running is worse than walking when your pieces hurt.

We got home after 8, and I attempted to make our dinner, which was chicken fried sirloin, Texas cream peas with bacon and butter, and hash browns. I had reduced our leftover french onion soup from the other night into a glaze, added tomato paste, and called it “gravy” since I detest the cream gravy crap they usually put on chicken fried steak. It was damned good. Then I ate a fudgesicle and raspberries. My stomach hurt until I woke up this morning. My knee still hurts. But I ate and enjoyed a chicken fried steak, which has never happened before, AND I came to appreciate Texas cream peas (a hard-to-find shelled pea that is like a more delicate black-eyed pea). I had seen them in the grocery store a few days ago and gotten really excited about a produce I had never heard of, so I brought them home. With bacon, they were superb.

So that’s my southern cooking story, which is more me bitching about my jiggly belly and pathetic bladder problems. It’s my blog, and I do what I want.


Don’t ask me how I found this recipe. Consider it a gift from God. Send me some pears from Harry and David as a reward. Write me love letters of gratitude. Whatever. I just know that you totally owe me.

I was playing on the internet after watching the presidential debate. Yes, the selfsame one that made me scream “I AM NOT YOUR FUCKING FRIEND YOU OLD COOT” like a crazy bag lady. The same one that, when McCain announced that we would never have another cold war caused Chris to scoff and say “So, what? You’re, like, clairvoyant now? Or did you ask Sarah Palin to phone God directly to ask about the future?” The same one in which McCain repeatedly talked about “goodies” in a tone of voice that made me feel like I was being asked to get in his car and help him find his lost puppy because my mom was at the hospital and too hurt to pick me up from school. The same one that had me mainlining desserts. Yeah. Plural. Anyway, I can’t even remember what I Googled. That happens sometimes, where I click on so many links and Google so many references in so many different windows that I have no idea how I got there in the first place.

Wait, I’m having a moment. Just like McCain, I guess. I think it’s because of a post on CookieCrumb’s blog about a foreign blogger called ChickyEgg, and how a totally different blogger tried to figure out what that meant and that the answer to that question was “interesting.” So I Googled Chicky Egg, hoping it would be something dirty. Instead, one of the first links featured this recipe:


Ingredients: Cresent rolls Cinnamon
Melted Butter Sugar
Large Marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Give each child a triangle of cresent rolls. The cresent roll represents the the cloth that Jesus was wrapped in.

Give each child a marshmallow, this represents Jesus.

Have him dip the marshmallow in melted butter, which represents the oils of embalming.

Then dip the buttered marshmallow in the cinnamon and sugar which represents the spices used to annoint the Body.

Then wrap up the coated marshmallow tightly in the cresent roll (not like a typical cresent roll up … but bring the sides up and seal the marshmallow inside. This represents the wrapping of Jesus’ body after death.

Place in a 350 degree oven for 10 – 12 minutes (The oven represents the tomb — pretend it was three days!).

When the rolls have cooled slightly, the children can open their rolls (cloth) and discover that Jesus is no longer there, HE IS RISEN!

(The marshmallow melts and the cresent roll is puffed up, but empty).

And then I snorted Propel fitness water out of my nose, despite the fact that my most major act of fitness tonight has been scooping ice cream onto Jell-O. I told you I had reached dessert rock bottom, didn’t I? Thanks for that, McCain.

Tuesdays with Dorie-Brownie Caramel…stuff

This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie assignment was absolutely delicious. Or so I’ve heard, since I didn’t get to eat any of it. I shipped it off to the hospital, made someone else pay for it, and got to take pretty lil’ pictures of it. I can vouch for the caramel, since a fair amount of that just got shoveled directly into my maw via a wooden spoon. That part was fantastic.

I made the chocolate brownie cake, and it turned out pretty well. The center fell further than I think it should have, despite the fact that Dorie Greenspan says this is A-OK. How is it A-OK for the middle of your cake to be a crater reminiscent of the one covered up in Roswell? How? Especially how is it possible if you’re supposed to have a glisteny, gooey layer of caramel/toffee/peanut brittle-style sauce on top of the cake? All that shit just slides into the middle of the cake making a veritable lake of caramel? *Note: if and when I die, I want it to be by drowning in a lake of caramel. Salted, preferably.* The cake was a nice consistency, though, and I guess was moist and flavorful.

The caramel was tricky since I was making it as an afterthought at the end of the day right before Chris came home from work. I had a head full of hot rollers because I am still desperately chasing those bouncing curls that Maria Menounos keeps telling me I can have with just a spritz of Pantene and a vigorous tousle. She’s a damned liar, that woman. The rollers were my latest attempt at recreating her hair, not because I really WANT her hair so much at this point, but because I want to have documented evidence of how much work it takes to make the bouncy curls when I write her the strongly-worded letter I’ve got planned. Spoiler alert: One of the “strong words” is “whore.”

But I was toiling away with my scalp being burnt to a crisp by cylinders of molten plastic as I stirred. I let the sugar get pretty damned dark before I added the cream, and I was rewarded with an intensely flavored caramel with gorgeous consistency. And that, my friends, is why I had to eat most of it. The leftover cup or two of caramel that she assured me would be available for future ice cream sundaes went half into my mouth and half into the crater. The peanuts were strategically arranged so as to disguise the depth of the lake.

I’d still eat the hell out of this cake, just so you know, but would much prefer it with cashews or hazelnuts. I’m not a big fan of peanuts unless they’re made into butter, and at that point I can’t really have them because a tablespoon of peanut butter has about the same number of calories as a tablespoon of regular butter, and I can’t put peanut butter on my potatoes. Or shouldn’t, at least.

A hodge podge

I don’t know what it is about weekends… Maybe it’s all the free time. Maybe it’s because my weekends are usually a jacked-up melange of hangover pain and running pain. Usually one morning of each. Either way, we end up eating a ridiculous pile of things on the weekends, compared to our relatively sane eating patterns during the week. Yesterday we did two things: Jack and shit. Both of us were hung over and sore, and both of us had knee pain that caused us to hobble around the house looking for things we’d lost the night before and yelling about the youngsters being too loud outside. It was like the prequel to our old age together. So we sat. And we ate. And we sat.

Dinner was great, though–Shepherd’s pie and a dessert trio that did not go with one another, let alone with shepherd’s pie. I’d never had shepherd’s pie before. I thought I’d hate it, since I don’t like to have gravy on my mashed potatoes (unless by gravy you mean a rich, nutty sauce comprised of butter and salted butter alone). It ended up surprising me. Chris was happy as a fat kid wee-wee deep in a tub of vanilla frosting. I browned up some onions, roasted garlic, and sliced mushrooms in butter. I then added a can of tomato paste and a pound of lean ground beef. I stirred it until the beef was all broken up and the paste had developed a dark burgundy tone. I added a splash of red wine, Worcestershire, and beef flavored “Better than Boullion” paste. Once it had gotten sufficiently thick and hearty, I stirred in a few cups of steamed green peas. Topped with mashed potatoes (made with fat-free half and half and Brummel and Brown yogurt spread–on account of all the sitting not being worth shit for calories) and 2% milk cheddar, it was baked until the top crunched and the inside had taken on a Trump-like richness. GAWD.

I will say that on account of my sluttish laziness I took my first short cut EVER on mashed potatoes. I am a stickler about ‘taters. I won’t eat them in restaurants unless they’re very upscale, and I try to avoid eating them at other peoples’ houses. I live in perpetual fear that someone will try to slip me either potato flakes or pre-packaged potatoes of some kind. Or reheated potatoes. Or unintentionally lumpy or pasty potatoes. Anything bad, really. So I hold myself to the same golden standard. Yesterday I saw, for the first time outside of television, those new peeled and quartered Ore-Ida steamer potatoes. They’re just pre-peeled and pre-cut, so you steam them in the bag, open them, and then mash them with your own ingredients as you would if you had peeled and boiled them yourself. I was doubtful, but I am now COMPLETELY impressed. I prefer to mash yukon golds, but in a time-crunch these were invaluable. There’s nothing added to them, so they tasted just like they always do when I make them. Seriously. You should try them. Ten minutes to perfectly fresh mashed potatoes. And they loved being on top of my pie.

Then for dessert, I made a lemon-vanilla angel food cake and some blueberry and vanilla rum panna cottas (mostly stolen from Choosy Beggar Tina’s blog–thanks much). I served them up with lemon curd I had leftover from a tart, and it was a great trio.

Except I over-rummed and under-sugared the blueberry layer of the panna cotta, so it tasted like a straight-up Jell-O shot. Thank heavens I am such a big fan of Jell-O shots! The white layer was all sweet, buttermilky goodness. And the lemon curd went amazingly well with the angel food cake. BTW, homemade angel food cake is simple to make and tastes like a whole different animal from the grocery store stuff. It’s like comparing a cross-eyed tabby and a majestic white tiger. Or something.

Today we went for a quick(er than usual) 10 mile run since we were still sore and weren’t feeling up to a full half-marathon. We got home and made some concoctions Chris has been talking about, and a dessert I’ve been dreaming about. He’s actually pretty good at thinking up new food ideas. Anyway, here are the step-by-step photos. I was feeling camera happy.

Sweet pork egg rolls:

8 lb pork shoulder roast
1 jar (my homemade) salsa
1 C brown sugar
1 can pineapple chunks in juice
1/4 C Frank’s red hot
Garlic and onion powder to taste
Brown the pork. Put it in the crock pot with everything else. Cook until it’s falling apart. Remove the pork. Boil the remaining liquid until it’s reduced to a slightly thicker consistency. Shred the pork and return to the sauce. Serve over rice. Have multiple orgasms.

The next day, put leftover pork mixture into egg roll wrappers, roll them up. Determine that they’re leaking all over the cutting board. Wrap them in a second wrapper, telling them loudly “You wanna act like a hooker, I’ll treat you like a hooker. I’m going to double-wrap you.” Fry them up and serve with a homemade cilantro-honey-lime vinaigrette.


Then we had shoestring fries (soaked and double fried for extra crunch)topped with Chris’s completely genius spicy seasoning mix served with ketchup *ACCEPTABLE ON FRENCH FRIES* and coarsely ground pepper mixed together.

Finally, we had fresh flour tortillas drizzled with honey and cinnamon-sugar mix, topped with balls of fried, homemade buttermilk sorbet that had been coated in crushed cinnamon toast crunch batter. I love myself. I love this dessert.


I am downstairs at the computer. Chris is still in bed, though I think he’s up because he just posted a comment to my previous blog entry. I think I might throw up, and my eyes are all gunked up and hard to see through. My left arm has a series of lines and circles drawn on it in thick Sharpie. My right arm has my name written on it in the same media. My knee is the size of a toddler, and my legs feel as if I’ve just participated in a reenactment of the Rodney King beatings. My tummy and cheeks are all puffy with retained water, and my hair looks like someone spunked in it. But man, is my ass FIRM.

You see, last night Chris and I elected to attempt our first socialization experiment in San Antonio. We selected our approach carefully in a manner that was designed to find people who are roughly our age, weight, and tax bracket. The other option down here is, of course, desperately impoverished people who eat their own weight in Funyuns on any given day and have established families with HERDS of children long before they reach my ripe old age of 26. The other day at the gym I saw a mini van with one of those little, cutesy stencils on the back of a stick figure family. You know the ones. Stick figure mom and dad with a representative number of stick figure children underneath and the family’s last name? But this one had a mom and dad and then SEVEN children all followed by…this almost puts me over the nausea-edge into puking territory, “The Johnson’s.” Yeah. Go ahead and tally up seven more children who will be brought up thinking you have to use an apostrophe to pluralize. That makes me livid. The woman unloading the kids from their car seats turned around and, I swear, was far younger than I am. I think kids down here start breeding around the same age as kids in my hometown are still using their Leapster Learning Pads as a means of extracurricular education. But I digress.

Last night we participated in an activity called “Running-A-Tab.” The premise is that you all meet in your running clothes at a bar downtown and drink. Then, at a predetermined time, you sprint between .5 and 1 mile to the next bar and drink some more. Then again. And again. Until you’ve covered about 7 miles and 7 bars. And every time you finish a drink or a shot, someone writes a line or a circle on your arm in Sharpie. The downside of running 7-minute miles while totally shit-faced? You have a tendency to stumble, thus creating muscle soreness and knee swelling. The upside? Every drink you finish has already been calorically accounted for in the run to the bar. And it really causes an uproar when 30 drunk, sweaty, under-armored yuppies sweep past crowds of people waiting on street corners for buses that may or may not ever come on a Friday night. At one point we were running and I announced, loudly, “my exertion tastes like tequila!” And it did.

The trickiest part of the evening was when we had to run past the Alamo. The deal with the Alamo is this: I am not going to see it while I live in Texas. I flat out refuse. Everything here is named “alamo-this” or “alamo-that” and it irritates the hell out of me. I want none of it. So I made a resolution to NEVER set eyes on the Alamo while I’m here. This is hard because it’s right in the middle of downtown. Several times I’ve had to take elaborate detours to avoid driving by it. Last night I had to run past it looking at my feet, running into the people around me, guided only by Chris’s yells of “Don’t look right, Kristie! Just keep facing down! I’ll tell you when it’s safe!” He’s a good man. The marathon runs past it, too. It’s going to be a feat, but I’ll remain strong and never, ever remember the Alamo. It’s that simple.

Anyway, that’s my story from last night. I’m going to go throw up now. Or eat pancakes. Or eat pancakes and then throw up. We’ll see.

Butt-cheek stew and the unexpected visitor

I just watched the Palin-Biden debate while getting stuffed with vanilla malts, hamburgers in homemade onion buns, and fresh cut french fries. Mmmmmmmmmm. After listening to her spew her folksy garbage and stupid colloquialisms, I was reminded of a dinner we made the other night. Probably because of her stance on Roe v. Wade…

One week, long ago, I was searching for organic meat “bargains.” I put that in quotes because it’s such an improbably word pairing. But down here we use all parts of the cow, just like our native counterparts in their festive feather tiaras. Which meant that I found a cut of beef called “beef cheeks.” I have seen them use cheeks from various animals on Iron Chef with great fanfare, talking about how tender they are and what a delicacy they are, so I was pretty excited. I thought I’d be able to come home and Batali (the Food Network version of the verb “to Google”) a quick but tastefully extravagant beef cheek something-or-other. And that’s why I should never go to the grocery store immediately after the gym. Because I’m too hungry and dehydrated to think things through. Nevertheless, by the time I got home and the Clif bar had some time to meander into my bloodstream, the cheeks got stuffed into the back of the freezer and were forgotten about.

The other day I unearthed them in a search for frozen artichoke hearts. I thawed them on the counter, and I Batalied the hell out of them to no avail. Turns out BEEF cheeks aren’t as popular as, say, giant tilefish cheeks or whatever. I found a couple of obscure braising recipes, though, so I went through with it. I opened up the package and…Quelle Horror! It was a multi-dimensional pro-life exhibit! OMFG. I pulled off the the sticky black blood clots (or as I’m calling them “pickled peppercorns” so I don’t have nightmares about this later on in life), and shoved the entire contraption into a bowl with a bottle of Rioja and some onions. It was tightly covered and then stuck into the fridge. The next day, before I was fully conscious, I pulled it out, washed it thoroughly, and put it in the crockpot with some stock and more wine. I left for the day, leaving all the doors unlocked and cracked in hopes that a gang of rogue hobos would bust in and help themselves. But they didn’t. I think they’re still holding out for the grape jelly.

That night we went for a run so that we’d be hungry enough to eat whatever it had morphed into during its crockpottitude. I made thyme and garlic polenta and a rioja/black pepper reduction, as well as a leek confit to serve with it. It actually shredded without any kind of resistance, though the yield was very low because I threw away (by feeding to my dog) any piece of meat that looked like it might have originally been attached to the “it’s a cut of meat, not a CHOICE” that I had pulled out of the plastic the day prior. It was very tasty, very tender, almost like a buttery-soft pot roast, and I was able to eat a whole bite before I started to gag remembering what it looked like originally. Chris valiantly trudged through his whole plate, which I rewarded him for by packing the rest as his lunch for the next day. Hehehhe. The polenta was awesome, and the beef cheek was lovingly nicknamed “butt-cheek stew.” Ironically, a rump roast is much more appealing and it’s ACTUALLY MADE OF BUTT.

Now, today after the debate I was assembling the shredded chicken mixture for tomorrow’s grand rounds when I heard Chris say tentatively, “Kristie? How good are you at…catching lizards?” My ear cocked up slowly and I stopped shredding, “I’m good at it? Why?” I knew, I KNEW that there had to have been one in our house, and I was trembling with joy like a cat with a mouse trapped behind a couch. I LOVE catching things, as long as those things are not members of the “overly-legged” family. Or have wings but aren’t birds or butterflies. Or have any type of overt poison delivery systems. Or any combination thereof. But lizards. Shit. Those are right up my alley, and my mom can verify that I was a strange child with a penchant for both pink sweats and running to the neighbors house to catch garden snakes that were mistakenly sunning themselves in running distance of my house and my aquariums. It’s a wonder I ever learned to feed myself Budweiser or remove a pair of boxer shorts. Anyway, I looked over and sure enough! A lizard was on the ceiling next to the back door. I grabbed a kitchen chair and a tupperware and ran excitedly to entrap my new BFF. Chris said “I think it’s a chameleon.” It actually turned out to be an anole, but its interpretation of our tan walls was a kind of translucent pink, so it was clearly a reptile after my own heart. I got up and caught it after a brief chase across our kitchen wall. By this point Chris was in the living room making encouraging and masculine noises that sounded a lot like “eeeeeeeeeeeeeee” in a high-pitched, keening manner. I got it and subdued it, and then set up a photo shoot on the kitchen table. Who’s a sexy lizard? Who is?? You are!

While I was doing some tasteful nudes with the lizard, I started campaigning to keep him or her, purely as a platonic friend. Chris disagreed on this point.

Me: It’s very nice. A nice lizard. I think he wants to live with us.
Chris: Put it outside. Eeeeeeeeeeeeee.
Me: I think it wants to stay here. It says it will snuggle nicely in our bed with us.
Chris: Eeeeeeeeeeeeee. No.
Me: (turned around, placed tiara on head and began to bat eyelashes furiously) Please???
Chris: No, dammit. That’s very cute, but no. Put it outside. You can snuggle it outside.

At this very moment, and God this was clever of him, the lizard made a break for it. He didn’t WANT to go outside. He wanted to run like a little speed demon toward our liquor cabinet while I clapped my hands with glee, the dog danced in excited circles (though he had no idea WHY), and Chris’s eyes got very, very big and excited. Or fearful. I’ve always mixed up the two. All of his arms and legs were curled up on the couch with his torso like a shrimp. I recaught the lizard with the same gusto and pleasure that I had done it with the first time and it decided to make a disguise for itself by removing its detachable tail in the tupperware and dancing around WHILE THE SEVERED TAIL CONTINUED TO DANCE AROUND NEXT TO IT. Awesome. Science is awesome. I tried to show my darling fiance how cool science was, and to teach him how the tail was twitching to try and distract us from the lizard, and how this worked for birds, and how, without his tail, he’d definitely need to stay with us until he grew a nice new one, but he was having none of it. So I put the lizard outside. I kept the tail for a minute, but the cat became interested so I put it outside as well. Maybe they have little lizard ER docs who can reattach it.

Anyway, I put him in my basil plant, and I hope he stays there and sets up a shop and maybe a family. I’ll be nice Auntie Kristie, and drop off freshly baked crickets. Or butt-cheek stew.

Real panang in all its glory

I’d made a cheater-cheater-pumpkin-eater version of panang curry a couple of weeks back, and when the opportunity came up to make it again, I figured I’d do it correctly.

Here’s the cast of characters:
Bell peppers: Is it just me or are bell peppers far more likely to contain alien spawn when you slice them open than any other vegetable? They’re like the Katie Holmes of the produce world. Probably one out of every two, when cut, produces some sort of freaky bell-pepper-fetus that’s all misshapen and shrunken. Why is it never, ever just seeds and veins??

Carrots: Carrots are tricky for me. I adore them raw, I adore them cooked to tender-crisp, but I ABHOR them all the way cooked. Mushy carrots are horrible. I’d rather eat a pepper fetus than a mushy carrot. So I always end up adding the carrot about 1-2 minutes before serving so that they’re warmed through and aren’t raw, but are nowhere near as cooked as the rest of the veggies. People who eat at my house probably just think I’m not smart enough to cook carrots…

Onions: How come some onions are clean, ringed globes of definition, but others have, like, fascia between every layer? That wispy, thin tissue paper stuff that comes off of the layers as you peel them apart. Do you know what I’m talking about? How come that only happens to some of them? Is it related to age? Oh, and onions don’t make me cry. I think it’s because of my contact lenses. Do any other contact-wearers notice this immunity? Or is it just further evidence of my superheroinity?

Coconut milk: I have tried to make this with “lite” coconut milk, and the flavor isn’t anything like a true panang. The creaminess of the whole coconut milk is required to cut through the harsh spices in the curry paste. Believe me, if I thought I could lower the calorie content I would, but in this case you can’t.

Fish sauce: I don’t and won’t own the stuff. I know that people say that it just adds saltiness and can’t be replaced, and that it’s not fishy at all, and that it’s an integral part of the Asian cuisine in all the restaurants I enjoy, but the bottom line is it’s SAUCE made of FISH parts, which basically means it’s chum. I’ll eat it if I don’t know it’s there, but I’m not going to willingly open a bottle of it. Plus, I’m afraid that it’ll smell like a whorehouse. I substitute ponzu sauce, even though I know they’re not similar. Saltiness without the pungent and distinctive flavor of soy sauce, nor the fish-part-y-ness of fish sauce. It works.

Kefir lime juice: I would never, ever use enough of this stuff to track it down and purchase it. So I use either lemon basil or a few drops of lime juice. Again, nothing alike, but the flavor ends up similar.

Panang paste: Get it online. Mix it with 4 oz of coconut milk and 2 T of sugar to make a more usable paste that is less harsh. Sadly, doing so means you have to use it within 6 weeks. You’ll want to eat it that frequently anyway, once you’ve made it once. It’s like a new trick. Who knew you could make such good Thai food at home in 15 minutes?

Chicken: I cook it in water with veggies for a few hours to make stock, and because I’m stockpiling chicken fat in my freezer to make chicken confit someday soon. I know it’s a little weird, but you’ll all be eating your words when I’m eating chicken confit. Mmmmmmm. Then I pull out the chicken and shred it. It’s juicier than cubing it raw and cooking it in a pan with the stir fry. There’s another free trick for you!

Put it all together, and you’ve got a real beauty of a curry.

I served it with marinated cucumbers (per usual), steamed jasmine rice from the magic rice robot, and stir fried green beans in garlic chili paste. Wheeeeeee. I didn’t like the green beans.

To Dorie, with love

I forgot to post my Tuesdays with Dorie post this week, although it really doesn’t matter since I didn’t do the creme brulee. I don’t have any decent ramekins, my blowtorch is out of fuel because I have an unfortunate tendency to play with it when I’ve been drinking, which is frequently, and I was short on egg yolks and a willingness to divide any more of them. I have a whole tupperware of egg whites right now from making ice creams and custards and baked goods over the last week. I should do an angel food cake today. I’ve never done that before, and I have the pan just sitting, fallow, in my cupboard. Also I feel like angel food cake will be more gentle on my stomach when I’m laughing so hard at Sarah Palin’s general jackassery in tonight’s debate that I have to throw up in my mouth a little.

The option was given this week to do either creme brulee OR another item from her book. As you may know, I’ve made her lemon creme tart before, and it was GORGEOUS. I was lazy, though, so I made the lemon curd and then tossed it with whipped cream to lighten it. What was really special is that I was dicking around with my apple butter while I did it, so I let the egg yolks get good and scrambled in the curd. I blended it up, and the egg yolk pieces turned into teensy egg yolk pieces which I then passed off as…I can’t even say this with a straight face…”candied lemon pulp.” And it got rave reviews. So there, conventional wisdom! I made a beautiful tart crust, though. I wanted to eat it because it smelled like sugar cookies while it baked.

I’m going to make my next TWD project this afternoon for two reasons. 1) I want to make the docs pay for it, which will involve having it ready for tomorrow’s grand rounds, and 2) I will be on time this week in my posting.

See? Foolproof. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Some things…

I haven’t posted in DAYS, which is normal for most food bloggers, but completely out of character for me given the fact that my laptop and I are basically Siamese-twins. I have been writing, it’s just that I’ve been writing some entries for my cookbook and got behind on the blogging. Luckily I have a half hour to kill right now before I can put my bread in the oven, so I can post some things.

I will never make grape jam again. Grape jelly, maybe, though I don’t like the stuff, but definitely not jam. This isn’t because it’s terribly difficult to make. It’s because I am not very smart. You see, I found grapes for under a dollar a pound yesterday. I (predictably) wanted to put it in jars so that I could store it in the cupboard until we have to move and donate all of our canned goods to the hobos, at which point their little hobo-stores will throw it away since it’s a home-canned item. Even hobos don’t want botulism. I Googled a recipe for grape preserves on my iPhone and saw that it could be done by peeling some grapes and sticking it with water and pectin and sugar in a pot. Easy! And it’s fresh fruit instead of jelly, so it’ll taste better than the purple Welch’s swill! I brought home five pounds of grapes and realized that I didn’t know how to peel grapes. I checked online and the advice was to submerge in boiling water for a minute and then ice them. Seemed like S.O.P. for peeling, so I went for it. TWO AND A HALF PAINFUL, SOUL-DESTROYING HOURS LATER, I had a pile of peeled grapes and a desire to kill. Every little grape held on to its skin more tenaciously than like, ANY of Buffalo Bill’s victims in the Silence of the Lambs. It was that kind of tiny, detailed, finger-tippy work that makes you twitch, starting at the tips of your fingers, working its way all the way up your arms, at which point it usually manifests in the hurling of a large bucket of grape-skinned water at the flat-screen television. That part only happened in my imagination, though, because having lost a loved one myself, I didn’t want to see Chris in that same state of anguished loss, weeping openly into the carpet in front of his smoking Sony. I’m nothing if not a giver. Anyway, it almost put me in a mental institution, but I pulled through. Then I went to the laptop to check the recipe and it said “Peel about 1/4 of the grapes, leaving the rest intact.” MOTHER F*CKER! I didn’t look closely enough on my tiny phone screen. I missed the fact that I could have stopped 1/4 of the way through, when I was only gently irritated instead of fueled with a longing to drive my car through the door of the Whole Foods. Anyway, I made the jam. There are seven jars of the stuff. I am going to either reserve it for people I love or for people I hate. I haven’t decided my final judgement on it.

Now, here’s a slightly funny story. Daring Baker’s Challenge for the month of September was to make vegan crackers and vegan dip. I followed these steps:

1) Laughed with derision at the idea of vegan dip. Determined that the only vegan dips I could think of are salsa and hummus. Further determined that I hate hummus and salsa is boring. Complained on the message boards at the stupid choice for challenges.
2) Ignored the problem for weeks.
3) Decided to make crackers and dip for one of Chris’s coworkers. Ding! Remembered that I needed to make crackers for my challenge, and this would work in my vein of not paying for my own challenges. Awesome.
4) Made delicious herb and whole wheat crackers. Tackled the dip dilemma. Did not wish to make vegan dip. Decided to prepare spinach artichoke dip with bacon. Realized that some of the ingredients in this are not vegan. Namely, the bacon and the dip.
5) Made it anyway.
6) Mentally wrote long post including bullshit recipe involving soy cheese, soy milk, margarine, and Bac’n tofu sticks or whatever they’re called. Was pretty pleased with self.
7) Never wrote the post due to early-onset Alzheimers (the same disorder that causes me to search for my keys for HOURS whilst holding them in my hand).
8) Decided it was too late to lie about it, and that I’d have to hope next month we were allowed to use real ingredients.
9) Ate Chik’n the other night to atone. Well, actually it was to screw with Chris, but it still feels like atonement.

So here it is in all its glory! Whole-wheat herb crackers with soy parmesan and rice milk artichoke and spinach dip, fraught with delicious bits of smoked Bak’n TVP pieces. Or, as I like to call it, “I can’t believe it’s not bacon! Likely because it is…dip”