Sunday, August 30, 2009


I've never had a drink made entirely of white peach puree and Prosecco, and I have to admit, Thursday night's cocktail was the best Bellini I have ever tasted. In a former life long, long, ago I had dinner alone at the bar of the Ritz Carlton in Philadelphia, PA. A man down the bar began sending drinks my way. Three, all champagne-based. The first was a Kir Royale: champagne and Chambord raspberry liqueur or Creme de Cassis. The second was a champagne cocktail: champagne with a cube of sugar and Angostura bitters. And the third was a Bellini. But the bartender messed up: he used peach schnapps instead of just plain peaches. As classy as my admirer's move was, I enjoyed the drinks heartily, nodded at him from across the bar, and retired to my room seule.

If he was dumb enough to send them, I'm dumb enough to enjoy them. But NOT dumb enough for anything else.

In honor of our impending second honeymoon - I know, I know, are you EVER going to depart?!? We tend to plan way ahead and have as much fun looking forward to it as the actual trip -I figured we'd have authentic bellinis for our biweekly Thursday-before-Mike's-Friday-off cocktail.

What is an authentic bellini, you ask? Per Harry's Bar (where they were invented):

Created sometime in the thirties by Giuseppe Cipriani, he christened his white peach cocktail "the Bellini" (after Giovanni Bellini, the fifteenth century Venetian painter) in 1948.

Made with Prosecco instead of Champagne, it is nevertheless widely regarded as the best Champagne cocktail in the world. When making a Bellini, everything (the glasses, Prosecco and white peach puree) should be as cold as possible. The general rule is to use one part white peach puree to three parts Prosecco.

Use fresh frozen white peach puree when you can, but when making your own puree, never use a food processor because it aerates the fruit. (Maurice Graham Henry often uses a cheese
shredder, shredding the peaches and using a strainer to collect the maximum amount of juice.) Add a bit of sugar or some simple syrup if the puree is too tart or a tad sour. And absolutely never use yellow peaches to make a Bellini.

Ever had a Bellini somewhere other than at a Cipriani restaurant that just tasted terrible? The barman probably threw in entirely unnecessary additional ingredients (like peach schnapps).

And in my usual way, I have to take all this fancy-pants champagne talk down a notch or two: nothing, absolutely nothing goes with champagne and derivative drinks better than boiled peanuts.

It is a lovely day here in beautiful Downtown Burbank, ah, I mean Jackson. The weather is a low, low 72 degrees in August, for Pete's sake, and rain is intermittently softly falling as a system slowly moves over the Southeast. Mike and I are somewhat worn out from yesterday's ski adventure. Six runs on an almost deserted Pearl River was just what we needed! Dante is snoozing on the couch, all the windows and doors are thrown open, and spaghetti sauce with meatballs are simmering on the stove.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Update on the Animals

If you live in the Jackson area and have pets, let me just take a minute to plug Animal Health Products. These guys are great: you can get stuff like Frontline, Heartguard, Revolution, and basically anything you need for your pet at a discount. It's not a huge discount, but I'd rather give these local boys my money than some huge conglomerate like Petsmart. And it's almost certainly less expensive than your vet. It's one of the very few places left in town in which the gentlemen will haul the bags of petfood up on their shoulders and take them out to put them in your car for you without expecting a tip. Walking through those doors truly is like walking about 40-50 years in the past.

Two days ago, I went to pick up some food for Dante. Since we brought him home, I've been feeding him what Cindy told me to: Eukaneuba Puppy Small Bites. So I reached for the usual bag in its usual spot. The guy who works there said, "You've been coming here more than a year and bought the same dog food. How old is your dog?" So I realized yep, Dante turned a year old in June. So I guess it's time for adult. Then he asked me what kind of dog he is (hound/cattle dog), what he does every day (runs 4 miles a morning with me), how active Dante is (when he's not a couch potato, he's playing with Mike or me), and we decided to try Eukaneuba Adult Active.

What a difference a day makes.

Now Dante is ON FIRE in the mornings. And last night Mike and I watched as he ran circles in the yard. No rhyme or reason - just big sweeping circles. With those deep cuts and turns like a cattle dog will do. Then he raced back into the house and flopped on the couch, smiling from ear to ear and panting, only to play chase with Mike through the house. It seems like now he has two speeds: GO GO GO and unconscious, which is currently his state on the couch next to me.

Kearney has developed a behavioral problem of confusing the human beds in the house with his litterbox. The first time it happened I thought his system was upset from the new food we've slowly introduced into his diet. The second time I had the notion that he was mad at us for something (I hate cats for that). The third time was the last straw. Now he spends most of the day in the backyard, and he L.O.V.E.S. it. I don't like cats in general, so I hesitate to label myself the cat whisperer, but maybe that was his problem all along?

Kearney actualy ASKS to go out. There's a wind chime on the doorknob that Dante used to bump with his nose when he needed to go. Now Kearney plays with it and makes the same noise when he wants outside. So far he sticks to the backyard and has not yet asked to come back in, and I see that as a good sign and a contented, happy cat. When we want him to come inside, we have to go pick him up, and usually he moves 2-3 steps away because he knows outside time is over.

You can usually find him stretched out on the warm concrete of the patio, on his back in the grass, or creeping around in the bushes like a lion. He gets a lot more exercise too, stalking birds and chasing lizards and just checking out the world in general, which is bound to help with his weight issue. The litterbox is still inside, but so far his new domain has fixed the behavior problems.
Fulfilling his true cat destiny.

Meanwhile, did you know there are chipmunks in Clinton, Mississippi? Our yard is full of them. They're cute little buggers, but they are FAST. It's hard to get a good picture.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Brownie Binge

Not to sound like a snob, but I don't remember ever making brownies from a mix. Sometimes that was the only chocolate in the house: for me, brownies have always been the easiest way to turn cocoa powder into a viable, edible, usually delicious chocolate substance.

Picture it: Jackson, Mississippi. November 6, 2004. It was a big day. I turned a quarter of a century old. After 5 years of college and a eighteen months of studying and finally passing the test, the State of Mississippi bestowed upon me the license of my livelihood: my CPA. That morning I was almost as excited as I was the morning of our wedding day. I was all dressed in a gorgeous Jackie O suit with satin collar and pencil skirt. Ready to go. I forget why, but I reached up and opened the cabinet above the oven in Mom's kitchen. Out fell a Hershey's box FULL OF cocoa powder. On my head. Exploded. Covered completely in chocolate.

But since it was chocolate, I took it as an extremely good sign. And it somehow magically came right off, and I was ready to go within 10 minutes. The best part? My hair smelled faintly of cocoa all day.

One of my earliest memories in the kitchen was also one of the goofiest. My sweet cousins Katy and Sarah were spending the night at my house one summer. We were about 10, and it was Katy's birthday. Being an only child, these girls are my surrogate sisters, so spend-the-night parties were always super-special. The next day was going to be Katy's birthday, so Sarah and I decided to bake her a birthday cake in the middle of the night to be a suprise for when she woke up. Like the birthday cake fairy came. Forget the fact that the den in which we were sleeping was right next to the kitchen; now I'm fairly certain that we only succeeded in keeping Katy up all night long.

Nothing is more loud than a pair of girls in the kitchen trying to be quiet.

But we couldn't find a cake mix, and the only ingredients available to us would make brownies. By the time we had the batter in the pan, we were pretty tired. So if memory serves correctly, we figured if we doubled the heat, they would cook twice as fast. Which was sort of true. Fortunately brownies are already brown, so the burnt parts didn't show so much. We further covered our transgressions with candles and non-pareil sprinkles. (CakeWrecks, anyone?)

Lessons learned: 1. baking requires that you at least follow temperature instructions, 2. Sprinkles cover a lot of sins, 3. Katy is an awfully good sport.

Hmm... now that I'm older, that memory is foggy. I can't remember if it was Sarah's birthday and Katy and I were making the brownies or vice versa. I guess that's what age does to you. Girls, if you're reading this and I have it wrong, set me right!

Brownies also taught me how to substitute within acceptable parameters. I remember Mom used to make the best sherry brownies in her wilder years: the best part was when she would tip back the sherry bottle and take a slug after substituing sherry in the batter for vanilla. I've learned on my own that Marsala wine is a good flavor substitute for vanilla too. (hiccup!)

Furthermore, I would never use walnuts in a brownie recipe as directed below: pecans are the only nut for this Mississippi girl. Maybe almonds. I'll usually dump in more chocolate chunks (not chips) than directed, and never forget the virtues of English toffee chips. Yum.

Below is my favorite, most versatile brownie recipe. Of course it's from my favorite Foster's Market cookbook. Usually I make half of the recipe and use a 9 x 11 inch pan instead of the 17x12 as directed below. I like to half the ingredients in my head while I'm baking: it's a good little brain stretch for this CPA.

Foster's Market Brownies
These moist fudgy brownies are easy to make and keep well. For a special dessert, warm the brownies and top with ice cream and your favorite chocolate sauce.

Makes about 2 dozen 2 1/2- to 3-inch brownies

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 large eggs
4 cups sugar
1 pound ( 4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
2 cups ( 12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Lightly grease and flour a 17 by 12 by 1-inch baking pan and set aside.
3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a bowl and stir to mix.
4. Cream together the eggs, sugar, butter and vanilla in a separate bowl until well blended.
5. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix just until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not over mix.
6. Fold in the walnuts and chocolate chips and stir to blend. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
7. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the brownies are firm to touch. They will be slightly soft in the center when tested with a toothpick. Remove from the oven and cool about 40 minutes before cutting.
8. Trim the edges and cut into 2 1/2 by 3-inch bars.

I like to add 1/4 teaspoon cheyenne pepper to the dry ingredients of these babies. It produces brownies that bite back!

Photo courtesy of Erin's Food Files.

Update: I tried the Better Homes and Gardens Cinnamon Spice Brownie recipe last night. The brownies produced were entirely too cakey for us, and the chocolate chunks sunk to the bottom of the batter. But I love the addition of cinnamon and cayenne pepper to the batter. The spice gave them the perfect kick!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Odds & Ends

Today I lost both of our passports. Stuff like this happens to me in the weeks preceeding a trip, and I never fail to go through the same set of motions. Absently think, "Hmm.. I haven't seen my passport in a while," when I'm working out. Some time later I can't stand it, so I pause the treadmill/video/stairmaster and go casually check a few places. It's not there. As I'm looking I decide that we'll need Mike's passport too. It's not where I thought it should be. And it's not in the last place I remember having it. Purse? No. This drawer? Nope. That drawer? Nada. MY CAR?!? Nyet.

At this point I'm thirty minutes into it and in a state of full-on, panic-fueled race against my own mind. The passports aren't going anywhere, but for some reason I HAVE TO HAVE THEM RIGHT THIS MINUTE.

Not sure why I react that way. I thought that perhaps Mike's patience would rub off on me and I would be more levelheaded after we married. That's true in some areas of life: even eating has taken a backseat to taking the time to cook something worth eating. But then an odd detail like our passports before a trip sends me into a tailspin. I email Mike at work in a panic. I tump out drawers. I tear up the house, all the time thinking, "It's OK. We can get new ones issued. It'll just be really expensive, and they may or may not come in, and I'm pretty sure we have to turn in the OLD ones before we can get new ones issued, which means I'll have to find them in the first place. Crappity crap crap crap."

A half hour later I found Mike's passport in a folder in a drawer in his office conveniently labeled, "Birth Certificate and Passport." Another fifteen minutes after that, mine turned up tucked among our train tickets that were already located in our travel folder. So basically I hid them from myself and panicked for nothing. Oh well. I guess it kept my heart rate up until I could get back to that workout.

In other news, I picked up this appetizer grill rack on sale at Williams-Sonoma while shopping at the Summit in Birmingham with Leigh and Asher. I see stuffed mushrooms, small bell peppers from the yard, roma tomatoes, and maybe even some jalapenos in this baby's future.

But you know what my brilliant husband thought up? It would be the perfect rack for dying Easter eggs in April!

Photos courtesy of traveldocs and Williams-Sonoma.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Girls' Weekend Out

This weekend Asher and I took a quick jaunt to visit Leigh in Birmingham, Alabama. Yes, we were momentarily assed by Vulcan.

After a short visit with Leigh and her family at her house, the three of us made our way to The Cheesecake Factory for lunch. Am fairly certain I gained five pounds in the name of research alone, but come on. Could you resist this?

I didn't think so.

Then we had a day of fabulous shopping at The Summit. Sephora, Williams-Sonoma, Smith & Hawken, Francesca's, Anthropologie, Vera Bradley, watch out. It was too much fun.

We had supper at The Fish Market in downtown Birmingham. You should check out the website. Seriously. It is a hoot. During our meal our friend George came by to be sure everything was good. Such a character! And I've never had such great fried pickles.

The rest of the trip is a secret that only the three of us will know. Suffice it to say Mike was relieved we made it through the weekend without having to call him for bail money.

But most importantly, we had a truly fabulous weekend! It was way more fun than three old married women should be allowed. Thanks y'all.

Mix1 Winner!

Congratulations to Asher at Asher's Happy Thread for winning last week's Mix1 Giveaway! Asher, if you're reading this, you know who you are and what to do.

Monday, August 17, 2009



Mike and I worked around the house on Friday, and wow, did it pay off. I had the tires balanced and rotated on the vehicles, he changed the oil and air filters in the vehicles, I washed the inside of the windshields, we fixed the loose arm on the dining room chair, installed a set of hooks in the bathroom for robes and bathrobes, replaced his towel rack in our bathroom (I spackled, he drilled), and he installed a full-length mirror for me! Now I don't have to hop up and down to see if my shoes match my clothes for the day.

It's a good feeling.

Mix1 Giveaway!

We went skiing at Wolf Lake this past weekend. I took along a bottle of Mix1. I skied seven times. It was awesome. Yes, it's an energy shake, but it is creamy and tasty and makes me feel like Popeye when I've had one. Invincible.

Per Mix1:
It seems our days have become increasingly packed with events as we juggle family, work, and fitness leaving less time to focus on eating right throughout the day.
There are many nutritional products claiming to deliver amazing benefits but in reality fall short on balanced nutrition. With this in mind, we started mix1 with the following mission: to create the highest quality all-natural products that promote health, wellness and performance through truly functional nutrition.
mix1 products deliver all-natural balanced nutrition with multiple benefits in a convenient way. We use the right balance of ingredients, at efficacious levels, to provide the maximum benefit to your body.

But wait - there's more! The delightful Randy at Mix1 has offered a case - a CASE! - of the beautiful bottled beverage. All you have to do to enter this contest is leave me a comment with your email address on this post by Monday, August 24th.

Good luck, and happy Mixing!

Photo courtesy of Mix1.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Check out what was waiting on our doorstep when I returned home yesterday afternoon. Thank you Randy at Mix1 and Amanda at Nourish!

I have to admit. I am an novice when it comes to protein, antioxidant, or energy drinks. I'm also rather skeptical in my old-school ways. Well, except for coffee. Does coffeee count? Probably not.

But let's just say I had one this morning for breakfast. And I had enough energy to run/walk the dog 3.5 miles, unload the dishwasher, wash, dry, and fold 3 loads of laundry, and mow the lawn. Mow the lawn, people.

All before lunch. Did I mention our mower is an old-school pusher, powered only by yours truly? And we have hills?

This stuff is definitely worth a try.

Boiled Peanuts

ARE IN!!! Am beside myself with excitement. Do you know what this means? Do you??? It means we're close to fall, the end of 200 degree weather, the start of football games, closer to crazy trips to who-knows-where, David's wedding in October, and the final trips out on the boat.

I remember the first time I had boiled peanuts as a child. It was about 26 years ago on the front porch of a BBQ joint that is now an Italian restaurant on Lake Harbor Drive. Dad and I would spend Sunday afternoons with his sailplane club, but before we set off, we would have lunch there. It was divine. You ordered inside, where I remember the dark walls and counter were rough-hewn wood that smelled deliciously smoky, and there was a red, white, and blue cardboard placque on the counter in which patrons were encouraged to insert quarters. I couldn't read at the time, but Dad told me it was for a charity.

Once ordered, the gang and we would sit in the breeze under the fans on the shady front porch on picnic tables, surrounded by the same wonderful-smelling wood. Dad always ordered a pulled pork sandwich for me, but when I was really young I remember I would only eat the boiled peanuts. And a Sunkist. Only a Sunkist would do. Sunkist and boiled peanuts: doesn't get any better than that. My favorite trick was to eat the peanut meat, put the halves of the shell back together, and hand it to Dad as if it was whole. It looked whole to me.

Then we were off to go up in the sailplanes. That was a really neat experience. I'm told Dad raised me in a sailplane: he would take me up in his lap as an infant, and we would bond and enjoy each other's company. When I was old enough, he would put me in the front seat and steer from the back. I remember the initial gentle yank on the ground as the tow plane started up, the drag and slight heave as we left the earth, and how hard I had to pull to let go of the towing plane.

Once up and unhooked from the tow, it was very, very quiet up there. No engine noise, as there was no engine. The only sound was the wind and each other's voice. You could see brilliant sunshine and the sparkling reservoir. Dad remembers the minute I outgrew sailplanes as a child: apparently I told him, "I'm tired of this. All we do is go around in circles." Now as a grownup, I would cherish another flight.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Boiled peanuts.

I remember the first time I had boiled peanuts as an adult. I was with Mike in Florida, visiting his parents for the first time. Nervous was not the word: I was terrified. Mikey-Doo has always loved boiled peanuts, so his mom made some for his homecoming. I was astonished. I had only ever seen them at that BBQ place and on the side of the road, and who knows what kind of magic side-of-the-road chefs can produce. Wide-eyed and open-mouthed, I asked Judy, "How did you make boiled peanuts?!?" To which she very politely replied (wondering what kind of idiot her son was dating, I'm sure), "Well, you put them in a pot and boil them. With salt."

Did I mention I was born blonde?

So here's how you make boiled peanuts, courtesy of Judy Peacock:

3-5 pounds green peanuts. Be sure to get green peanuts: they are available in the produce section of the Kroger, usually next to the watermelons, onions, and potatoes.
1/2 - 3/4 cup salt. I use kosher because it's less expensive.
A big pot.

  1. Put peanuts in pot.
  2. Cover with water so they have enough room to float and move around a little.
  3. Dump a lot of salt in there. Maybe 1/3 cup to start.
  4. Cover and bring to a boil.
  5. After about 45 minutes, pull one out with tongs, rinse with cold water, and check for texture and saltiness.
  6. It probably won't be salty enough. Here's where your cook's intuition comes in. I have never used a whole cup of salt for a batch of boiled peanuts. So as long as you don't go over a cup, put in as much as you think you need and taste every half hour or so. It's really a taste thing: Mike likes them salty.
  7. I boiled this last batch for a total of 2 1/2 hours. Think like a side-of-the-road chef and just leave them simmering until good and mushy.

I've tried all kinds of additions: oyster sauce, crab boil, Louisiana hot sauce. That was funny. The Louisiana hot sauce vaporized and left me coughing. When the cat started coughing, I realized I was about to hurt the both of us with the toxic fumes. Mike came home to a house with all windows and doors wide open on a 96 degree day. And I have found that hands-down the best seasoning it good old-fashioned salt.

The best way to preserve peanuts so you can have boiled peanuts during the winter and spring months is to freeze them green. I have heard a rumor of a place out from Hazlehurst where you can buy green peanuts by the bushel. If that comes to fruition this year, I'll buy the whole thing, put them in ziploc bags, and freeze them raw. When you're ready for freshed boiled goobers, just take them out of the ziploc straight to boiling water.

With salt.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sloe Gin Fizz

Ahhh. Thursday night. Before one of Mike's fridays off. Is there anything better? In general, he gets every other Friday off, so every other Thursday feels like a holiday.

So I suppose I'm drunk blogging. Bear with me.

I've wanted to try a sloe gin fizz ever since I heard Blanche offer one to somebody on The Golden Girls. Man, I must be tipsy to admit that online! I'd never heard of one before, and I thought it was "slow" instead of "sloe," and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how one could make gin fizz slowly. I happened to see the episode on again last week, and I figured this Thursday would be the night for us to give it a try.

The picture above is the second manifestation. The first try was from the back of the bottle: 1 1/2 parts sloe gin, 1 part lemon juice, and 3 parts club soda.


It was so tart that my teeth hurt. How could Blanche ever serve this to one of her gentleman callers?!? Every time I sipped it, my face involuntarily crimped up like I'd just eaten a sour jolly rancher. As I type this, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Lesson learned: don't use 1 part lemon juice.

Then Mike suggested we look at his bartender's book. I know it's a good one because it's what they use down at Wine & Sprits. Mike knows it's a good one because I gave it to him for our one-year anniversary. Hey, it was paper. And apparently we are boozehounds.

In that vein, allow me a moment to sing the praises of Wine & Sprits: if you live close by, definitely give these guys a shot. I emailed Nick back in April to see if he could somehow smuggle some Mumm champange directly from the winery for us - we discovered it during our trip to San Francisco and couldn't ship any back to Mississippi. Nick printed out my email and KEEPS IT in his binder with detailed notes of his correspondence with Mumm! Impressed? I should think so!

But I digress. Our bartender book said to try 1 part sloe gin, 1 part sour mix, and 1 1/4 part club soda. Sour mix! That's the key!

When I'm tending bar, I tend to pour by counts. For instance, gin for a gin & tonic (G&T) is a 2 - 3 count depending on how sassy I'm feeling. I'm just tipsy enough to realize that the rhythm by which I count is actually my heartbeat. Lord help me if I'm relaxed and have a slow heart rate.

Tonight I poured the sloe to a 2, the sour to a 1.75, and topped it off with club soda. Stirred it with a nearby chopstick.


Did I mention the gardenia is blooming again? I can't beleive it's that time of year. Where did 2009 go?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Prize Chocolate Cake wth Mocha Latte Frosting

Happy birthday tomorrow Sandy, you sassy girl!

Apparently I'm in a chocolate cake phase. After this one, I might have to put it down for a while. But I wanted to make a bunch of different recipes of the same type close together so I could compare notes. For instance, I loved the satin frosting on the feather chocolate cake, but the cake part used boiling water for an ingredient. I understand that the molecules in the water contributed to the feather texture, but water? Really? Just...... water? I'm of the mind that ingredients should add to flavor. Linda suggested using milk instead, but I have yet to try it: I think boiling the milk would produce scalded milk, which probably wouldn't produce the feathery texture for which I strive with that particular recipe. But texture aside, milk instead of water is awesome advice. Thanks Linda!

This dish is a conglomeration: I used the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, copyright 1953 for the cake part and my favorite cookbook for the frosting. It's a little bit of classic 1950s Americana - I love how the recipe calls for sour milk - and it's finished with a modern latte twist. It's very rich, but I think it came together pretty well.

Prize Chocolate Cake
1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 1-ounce squares unsweeted chocolate, melted
5 eggs
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour milk or buttermilk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Stir shortening to soften.
  3. Gradually add sugar, creaming till light and fluffy.
  4. Blend in vanilla and cooled chocolate.
  5. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
  6. Sift together flour, soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating after each addition.
  7. Bake in 3 paper-lined 9x1 1/2 inch round pans in moderate (350 degree) oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
  8. Cool completely and frost.

Mocha Latte Frosting
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 egg white
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons instant coffee or espresso powder
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly. Note: if the chocolate cools too much, it will be difficult to work with. If this happens, just return the mixture to the heat for a few minutes, or put the chocolate in a microwave-proof container and heat the chocolate 20-30 seconds.)
  3. Whisk the egg white, cream, vanilla, and coffee in a small bowl until the coffee has dissolved; set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, beat the butter ina large bowl with an electric mixer until soft and creamy. Add teh confectioners' sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time, until thoroughly blended.
  5. Slowly add the melted chocolate to the butter mixture, alternating with the cream mixture, until the frosting is smooth.
  6. Add 1 to 3 Tablespoons additional cream if the frosting seems too stiff.
  7. Leave at room temperature until ready to use.
  8. Note: don't refrigerate this frosting; it will become too stiff to spread.
Makes about 4 cups frosting.

Photo courtesy of artsjournal.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Rosemary Fried Chicken

Probably one of my favorite things about cooking is the freedom. I'll tell you a secret: when I'm puttering around on my own, without a cookbook or recipe anywhere in sight, I tend to cook by smell; I'll sniff what I'm making and sniff what I'm thinking about adding to it and if they smell good together, I'll dump it in.

Last night's chicken dinner had moments of the Swedish Chef: just dump it in and here we go! Bork! Bork! Bork! I opened up the dried herb cabinet and went a little crazy. And you know what? Dried rosemary is damn good on fried chicken.

Unless I'm doing a beer batter, I never measure anything when I'm frying. But for simplicity's sake, here's basically what I do:

3-4 chicken breasts. If they're very large (as these were), pop the joint where cartlidget meets bone on the backside and cut them in half with a sharp knife. If you do this, warn diners for small rib bones.
1-2 quarts vegetable oil (after frying I filter it, pour it back into the bottle, and refrigerate until next time I want to fry something)
1-2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup Louisiana hot sauce or another similar sauce. I use Louisiana because 1. it's inexpensive and 2. that's what Cain's restaurant uses. It doesn't make the chicken spicy - just adds some flavor.
4 large eggs
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons - 1 Tablespoon salt (I use kosher for more crunch.)
2 teaspoons - 1 Tablespoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons dried rosemary
Any other dried spice you might like. Cumin, coriander, paprika, Tony's, garlic powder, basil, celery flakes, onion powder. Just sniff it first and see if you're in the mood for that.
  • The night before, soak chicken in buttermilk and enough hot sauce to make the mixture slightly pink. This makes the chicken juicy post-frying.
  • Preheat oil to 335 degrees.
  • Combine eggs and enough hot sauce to make mixture orange. Beat eggs and hot sauce well with a fork.
  • In a separate bowl, combine flour, herbs, and spices with clean fingers.
  • When oil is hot enough, roll a piece of chicken in the egg mixture, then dip in the flour mixture. For extra-crispy, dip back in the egg mixture and then back in the flour mixture.
  • Slowly lower into hot oil.
  • I usually fry for about 9-12 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken meat. The best way to determine doneness is to cut into the biggest piece you fry in a batch: if all the meat is white and juices are running clear, you're done.
A chicken is like a man. The faster you cook it, the tougher it is. Let him simmer, and he's tender and juicy putty in your hands.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Chocolate Whoppers

Do you like chocolate? No, I mean do you really really really like chocolate? Do you like chocolate so rich that when you're eating it you feel like an M&M and that you might just start sweating chocolate?

Then these cookies are for you.

They're from one of my favorite cookbooks, and this is one of the very few recipes in my arsenal that I follow to the letter. I take that back. I have been known to add cruched Heath bar or English toffee and to use pecans and walnuts interchangeably. And put in more chocolate chips than listed. But other than that I follow it to a T. Promise! And since she's proud enough of a chef to post her recipes on the Internet (oh how I hope to be that cool if I ever actually become a chef!), I have no problem with sharing it with you here.

I baked these yesterday to celebrate my good friend Linda's birthday. And Linda, if you're reading this, I'm ashamed to tell you that you didn't get the whole recipe: Mike made me save a few for him. And he doesn't even LIKE chocolate.

That's how good these cookies are.

Per Sara Foster:
We offer these big, chewy super-chocolaty cookies at the Market daily—everyone loves them! Inspired by a similar cookie made at the SoHo Charcuterie back in the early eighties, these cookies keep well, freeze beautifully, and, since they're soft, ship well, too.

Makes about 1 dozen 2½ inch- to 3-inch cookies

6 ounces semisweet chocolate (preferably high-quality baking chocolate, such as Valrhona or Callebaut), chopped into large chunks
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped into large chunks
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¾ cup sugar
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

2. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets and set aside.

3. Melt together the semisweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate chunks, and butter in a double boiler over low heat until just melted, stirring occasionally. (Note: Do not overheat; remove from the heat as soon as chocolate has melted.) Stir to blend the chocolate and butter, and set aside.

4. Cream together the eggs, espresso powder, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the sugar and mix until thick and creamy.

5. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl and stir to mix. Set aside.

6. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and blend until well combined. Add the flour mixture and stir just until the dry ingredients are moist.

7. Fold in the walnuts and chocolate chips. (Note: The batter will be very moist—similar to the consistency of cake batter.)

8. Scoop the batter with a ¼-cup (2-ounce) ice cream scoop or by the heaping tablespoon and drop onto the prepared baking sheets about 3 inches apart. (Note: Bake right away, before the chocolate begins to cool and harden.)

9. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, turning the baking sheets once during the cooking time. The cookies will still be very gooey inside and soft, but do not overcook or the cooled cookies will be dry. Cool about 10 minutes on the baking sheets before gently removing the whoppers to a baking rack to cool completely.

Recipe courtesy of Foster's Market.

Photo courtesy of FamilyStyleFood.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Jaunt to Florida

Any Italian will tell you that everything revolves around the kitchen. We're not Italian. But I've found that Southerners are very much the same. I kid that we didn't buy a house: we bought a kitchen that happens to have a bedroom or two attached. In that vein, I named this blog my kitchen so I can keep a record of the crazy recipes I cook up in my kitchen and in life in general. That way when I'm old and feeble (assuming this mode of record is still available) I'll be able to look back and remember where we've been.

It's hard to believe that in less than a week Mike and I have been down to Florida to visit his parents and aunt and uncle and done and seen as much as we have. Wednesday was spent driving for the most part: it's a good 9 hours from home to our destination. But I enjoy long trips with Mike. And my back didn't bother me as much as it has in the past. I think the trick was setting up good lumbar support early on instead of trying to fix it once it was hurting. We arrived to a warm welcome from Roy and delicious supper cooked by Judy. She put me to shame: every time I thought we'd seen all the food, another dish would appear on the table!

Thursday morning Mike and Roy went flying while Judy and I stayed grounded (well... as grounded as I'll ever be, I suppose). They had a great morning of zooming around in the RV-7A that Roy built. Did a touch-and-go at the airport and further reminded Mike how much he loves having his pilot's license.

Then in the afternoon we toured Roy and Judy's new camper. I have to admit. I was skeptical. Until I set foot inside - wow! This vehicle is a LONG WAY from cousin Eddie's "that sure is an RRRRVEEE, Clark." They thought of everything. And storage! Every time you turn around there's a new cabinet or drawer or innovation. It was truly neat-o. I know they have many happy miles and great camping trips ahead of them.

After that, Mike and I played out in the woods. He took a lot of pictures of me, precariously balancing on an old fallen tree that was about a foot in diameter and 5 feet in the air. Mike didn't know I was so good on the balance beam. But I have a new appreciation for models, as some of the shots were of my clumsy antics in maneuvering around to where he wanted me to be without totally busting it. The camoflauged leafy forest floor provided a disappointing shot though - my feet are dangling 3 feet in the air, but it looks like I'm just sitting on a tree on the forest floor.

Did I mention there were spiders?

In the evening, we went for a drive through the neighborhood in search of deer. We found them! The only photo we could capture was super-creepy.

Friday morning we headed out to visit Nancy and Bill and their puppies Abby (sp?) and Dexter. Took a beautiful cruise on the Intercoastal Waterway and enjoyed the beautiful weather. A pair of dolphins played very close to the boat, but they were too quick to get a good shot. Nancy had a birthday Saturday, and we all went out to the beach and had lunch and enjoyed the great company.

But wait! There's more! Saturday we went antiquing in Roy and Judy's town that reminds me a lot of Mayberry. That was fun. Well, fun for me - Mike kind of put up with it. I found a great marble-topped table, but the marble had been stained red from an unfortunately-placed candle, so I had to pass on that deal. I did find a set of cordials to go with the newly-found-lost-for-two-years bottle of Drambuie.

Then Mike and the Colonel headed for the pool to check out their scuba gear. What can I say? I married James Bond. All that equipment is so light in the water, but it's tough to lug around on land. Glad I was in charge of the camera.

Sunday was filled with the trip back home, losing an hour for the time difference, so technically it was only 8. Dante was thrilled to see us; Keareny was aloof. It was a lovely trip filled with good food, great times, and the best company.

Today I Turned into Andy Rooney at the Victoria's Secret

This afternoon I went to Victoria's Secret: I had a coupon for free panties. I've never before in my life felt like a big prude. I was the girl dancing on the bar in Rome with a rose in my teeth. Growing up in a medical family, I've talked out loud about things that make most people blush to their toenails. I've bought all sorts of crazy personal items in shady places with a defiant gleam in my eye. I went to a liberal arts college. I am also a grown-up.

And I was brought up short by this kid.

He was 15, 16 max. Definitely could not yet shave. Accompanied by his equally young girlfriend who was, of course, yakking on her cell phone. You know the one. It has stickers and charms and glitters all over it.

I don't mind glitters and charms - I actually like them. But for Pete's sweet sake! What happened to common decency? Leave the boyfriend across the hall at the Buckle or downstairs at the food mart. Have some sort of mystery when you're picking up your everyday underwear.

But was she picking out everyday stuff? NoooOOOoooo. She most certainly was not. They were picking out sexy lingerie for each other. They were BABIES! And here he was, in ancient flip-flops, wearing a stained T-shirt, covered in acne, sporting a super-swoop hairdo, sucking on a soft drink with one hand and holding up bras and panties on this baby girl's front while trying to size up what she'll look like in the sack.

I wouldn't do that in public WITH MY OWN HUSBAND.

The defiant gleam in HIS barely-pubescent eyes absolutely turned my stomach. Come on honey, let yourself grow up a little. What the hell happened to soapbox car races? OK, that's way too old-fashioned. Playing basketball? Movies? Fishing? Swimming? A summer job to buy a car? Or even xbox tournaments? At least that couldn't stick you with a kid or an STD.

Really. What's wrong with these people?

Our children are going to hate me.

Photo courtesy of VS.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Two nights ago, I had the most vivid dream. It was one of many that I have had about communication. I had a piece of special cloth and thread. The cloth was a red plaid with golden yellow cross marks, and the thread was pink. I embroidered on it the words, "I sure do miss you, Alan."

As I watched the fabric, in a hand that was distinctly Alan's, an embroidered pair of beautiful silver skates appeared. They had rabbits engraved on them. And I knew as I watched the embroidery work that though Alan didn't like using the pink, he was active, happy, up, playing, mobile. He was being a normal little boy and having a good time wherever he was.

Once finished, the fabric was such a treasure. I held onto it tightly with both hands. And when I woke up, my left hand was clenched so tightly that it's still a little sore.
And so once again, I find myself digging my heels in as unslowable, unstoppable time keeps marching on to October. This happened as 2008 came to a close: I didn't want 2009 to come. It wasn't fair, wasn't right, wasn't natural that a year would exist in which Alan wasn't here. Now I don't want it to have been a full year without him. Most people would say that time heals all wounds, but I'm still railing against it.
I remember when I first heard. My initial reaction was to say out loud, "I'm so glad." But I was glad he wasn't in pain, glad he was free from worry and strife and his uncomfortable mortal coil. And I still am. Now I'm so glad he's somewhere skating on silver skates. But the vast gap between us is more difficult than I ever imagined.

We sure do miss you, Alan.

Photo courtesy of FreeFoto.


Made by Lena