Friday, June 29, 2007

Two Trifles

Last night, I had this crazy dream in which I was on Saturday Night Live. Incidentally, I was not a main cast member, but one of those comedians who get relegated to the back of a scene while an Amy Poehler-type shines. So sad.

Earlier in the day, I had been on the set of Conan O'Brien (I don't know why) and there had been an explosion. Not an comedy explosion, but an honest-to-God fiery explosion with heat and smoke and flying glass. Needless to say, it traumatic. Conan suggested I take Saturday off.

Dedicated to my job, I went to work with the intention of performing on Saturday. But it was hard to function. So I asked Lorne Michaels -- who was not actually Lorne Michaels but the character Danny Tripp -- if I was in any scenes on Saturday. Brusquely, he said, "No."

So, I asked for Saturday off. And Tripp turned on me, telling me that I had to come in because even if there weren't scenes for me to be in, it was important I was on set to watch children and tend to chickens.

I burst into tears, because a) I was singed by an explosion earlier in the day, and that was stressful, and b) my asshole boss was essentially telling me my dream of being a comedian was fruitless but hey, I could always be a chicken herder.

Then Danny Tripp fired me.

At least in my waking life, I'm successful at making dessert. This lime-berry trifle is delicious: light, tangy, sweety, fruity. Oh, and it's incredibly simple to make.

Suck on that, Danny Tripp. You can't have any, but Conan is welcome to the entire thing.

Lime Berry Trifle
(adapted from The Pampered Chef's "Spring/Summer 2007 Season's Best Recipe Collection")

3 limes, washed
6 oz cream or nuefatchel cheese, softened
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk (regular or fat free)
12 oz whipped topping (regular or reduced-fat)
1 qt. assorted fresh berries, washed and cut up, if needed
1 large, prepared pound cake or angel food cake

In a large mixing bowl, zest 1 lime. Squeeze the juice of 2 limes (including the zested lime) into the bowl. Cut remaining lime in half and slice one half into thin rounds; set lime rounds and untouched half aside.

Add cream/neufatchel cheese and condensed milk to the bowl; whisk to combine. Gently fold 2/3s of the whipped topping into the lime mixture until smooth. Taste; if needed, add more lime juice from reserved lime half.

Cut cake into 1-inch cubes. To assemble trifle, place half of the cake cubes into the bottom of a trifle bowl or other attractive clear bowl. Top with half the lime mixture and half of the berries. Arrange lime slices against inside of bowl to garnish. Repeat layers once more with remaining cake cubes, lime mixture, and berries.

Using the reserved whipped topping, cover the top layer of berries, smoothing as best as possible. If desired, use a pastry bag with a star tip and/or extra berries and lime slices for additional garnish.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Death By Chocolate

In looking for a dessert recipe to bring to a Fourth of July party, I came across the "Over-the-Top" Chocolate Passion .

The Chocolate Passion calls for a layer of brownies to be topped by a "pudding cake" (made with butter flavored shortening!) and two layers of chocolate cake, in the midst of which are chocolate chip cookies secured with canned frosting. More frosting is used to cover the whole shebang, which is then topped by chocolate chips, and chocolate covered strawberries.

I feel sort of dirty just reading the recipe. And at the same time, I want to make it. And eat it. And that makes me feel dirtier.

It reminds me of The Simpsons' "The Good Morning Burger."

"We take eighteen ounces of sizzling ground beef, and soak it in rich, creamery butter, then we top it off with bacon, ham, and a fried egg. We call it the Good Morning Burger."

-- Homer watches a television advertisement, " Bart's Friend Falls In Love"

Mmm ... fattening.

Grilled Corn with Lime and Cheese

Grilled Corn with Lime and Cheese served with Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak.

"Grilled Corn with Lime and Cheese." It sounds fabulous, doesn't it? And there are elements that are good: kernels of fresh corn, sugars caramelized by high flame. The tart yet fresh juice from a good lime. The subtle heat from a dusting of chili powder has its place, too.

But I don't care for mayo dressing (yes, mayo) or the feta cheese. I like these ingredients separately, but together, they don't work for me.

I'm thinking, however, that grilled corn slathered in a lime-garlic or lime-chili butter would be great. And I'd like to try that with a sprinkling of finely grated cheddar or Monterrey jack cheese.

But not mayo and feta.

Grilled Corn with Lime and Cheese (cooking method slightly adapted)
4 ears of corn
2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
2 ounces finely grated feta cheese

Heat grill to medium. Remove corn husks and wrap cobs in aluminum foil. Cover and cook, turning occasionally, until kernels are tender, 15-20 minutes.

Combine reduced-fat mayonnaise, lime juice, and chili powder. Place cooked corn directly on grill for a bit of charring, if desired. Brush dressing on cooked corn. Dust with finely grated feta cheese. Season with coarse salt; serve with lime wedges.

Monday, June 25, 2007

SHF #32: Ooey-Gooey Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies

When I was a kid, my favorite candy was Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I couldn't get enough of that sweet yet salty, crumbly peanut butter middle, enrobed in Hershey's milk chocolate. Sometimes, I'd nibble the chocolate sides, leaving only a peanut butter center sandwiched by a thin layer of chocolate. I might pull the bottoms off with my bottom front teeth, leaving the exposed middle primed for licking. If I were impatient, I'd take a hearty bite, enjoying the feeling of harder chocolate co-mingling with a softer middle.

As I got older though, my chocolate-peanut butter cravings diminished. Sure, I'd enjoy a Reese's from time to time, or a scoop of chocolate ice cream with ribbons of PB, but my cravings took me elsewhere. (Primarily, to cookies.)

Until this year. January heralded a renaissance in peanut butter-chocolate love for me. Peanut butter cups? Yep. But even better are PB minuets, with super creamy centers covered in a more sophisticated chocolate. Or decadent brownies swirled through with rivers of peanut butter. Or, my new favorite, Chocolate Peanut Butter milkshakes from Abbott's Frozen Custard.

But, though we may not like to face it, food bloggers live in a real world where calories do count, and if I indulged my cravings as often as they'd like, I wouldn't be able to get out the door and get a milkshake.

So I found this Cooking Light recipe for Ooey-Gooey Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies. They are good, but are not as decadent as they look (or should be). They're also chewy enough to pull out a loose filling, so watch out.

Still, if a raging Choco-PB craving hits you but you're not ready to blow the calorie bank, these will help you out. I brought them to a picnic, and they were among the first desserts to disappear from the table, so all in all, not a bad choice.

Ooey-Gooey Peanut Butter-Chocolate Brownies

3/4 cup fat-free sweetened condensed milk, divided
1/4 cup butter or stick margarine, melted and cooled
1/4 cup fat-free milk
1 (18.25-ounce) package devil's food cake mix
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
1 (7-ounce) jar marshmallow creme (about 1 3/4 cups)
1/2 cup peanut butter morsels (plus more for garnish, if desired)

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.
Combine 1/4 cup condensed milk, butter, and next 3 ingredients (butter through egg white) in a bowl (batter will be very stiff). Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil (allowing extra to hang over the sides for easy lifting later). Coat bottom of foil-lined pan with cooking spray. Press two-thirds of batter into prepared pan using floured hands or a rubber spatula; pat evenly (layer will be thin).

Bake at 350-degrees F for 10 minutes. Combine 1/2 cup condensed milk and marshmallow creme in a bowl; stir in morsels. Spread marshmallow mixture evenly over brownie layer. Carefully drop remaining batter by spoonfuls over marshmallow mixture. If desired, sprinkle extra peanut butter chips over marshmallow mixture. Bake at 350-degrees F for 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Lift out using foil, and cut into 24 brownies using a pizza wheel.

Yield: 2 dozen (serving size: 1 brownie)

CALORIES 176 (25% from fat); FAT 5g (sat 2.1g,mono 1.6g,poly 1.1g); PROTEIN 2.6g; CHOLESTEROL 6mg; CALCIUM 30mg; SODIUM 212mg; FIBER 0.8g; IRON 0.8mg; CARBOHYDRATE 29.9g

Cooking Light, SEPTEMBER 2000

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak

On the grill.

It's dishes like this that remind me why I love beef. So tender, so flavorful -- sweet and a little smoky, all anchored by the umami flavor of the steak. It's amazing. For a perfect meal, all this needs is a little side salad (maybe a classic iceberg with a drizzle of blue cheese dressing) and perhaps some corn on the cob.

On the plate.

One note: I cooked up 12 oz. and felt 3, 4 oz. servings were quite nice. Using this math, you could get 6 servings, not 4 as the recipe suggests, out of 24 oz. of steak. Having said that, Shane ate two servings.

Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds skirt steak, cut crosswise into 4 equal pieces
Oil for grates

In a resealable plastic bag or shallow dish, combine vinegar, sugar, garlic, rosemary, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Pierce meat all over with a fork; add to marinade, and turn to coat. Let marinate at room temperature at least 15 minutes, or cover and refrigerate up to 1 day.

Heat grill to high; oil grates. Remove steaks from marinade, allowing excess to drip off. Grill steaks 2 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate; cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest 5 minutes. Serves 4.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Written Saturday at 10:05 p.m.:

I have to bring a side to a picnic tomorrow, and all out of energy (Kian's birthday party was today and it was great, but we're exhausted, especially me, and I've got the I'm-tired-bitchies -- anyone looks at me crosseyed and I'm ready to rip their head off -- along with a clear case of stream-of-consciousness writing and an overuse of hypens and em-dashes) I went to the store, threw a bunch of ingredients in my basket and slapped a seven layer dip together (one with six layers). I think it will work.

Written Sunday at 4:42p.m.:

It worked: really, really well. The heat from the refried beans and salsa was tempered by the cool tang of the sour cream, the black beans added substance, and the guacamole added a fresh kick. If it hadn't been completely devoured, I'd be eating some right now.


16 oz (1 container) sour cream
1 packet taco seasoning
16 oz (1 can) refried beans with jalapenos (or add some diced jalapenos to plain refried beans)
9 oz. (about 1 1/2 cups) guacamole (homemade or store-bought)
16 oz. (1 jar) black beans, drained
16 oz (1 jar) hot salsa
1 to 2 cups shredded "Mexican-blend" cheese (or a cheese of your liking)

In a small bowl, combine sour cream with about 75-percent of the taco seasoning. Taste, adding more seasoning, if desired.

In the bottom of a glass 10-inch pie plate, evenly spread the refried beans. Top with guacamole, black beans, salsa, and seasoned sour cream, evenly spreading each layer before adding another. Top with cheese; chill for several hours to allow flavors to meld. Serve with tortilla chips.

(Note: using lower fat products -- like low fat sour cream and fat free refried beans -- reduces the calories and fat in this recipe but retains the flavor. )

Thursday, June 14, 2007

UPDATED! From Retro, With Love: Retro Recipe Challenge No. 7 Round-Up

Let's take trip 'round the world, retro style, shall we?

Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once offers a delicious "uber retro, Swiss-classic, fondue" perfect for any well-heeled jet-setter.

The recipe hails from Graham Kerr's classic 1973 cookbook, The Complete Galloping Gourmet Cookbook.

Retro pro Emily at Appetitive Behavior visited France via Hungary (read her post for the details) to create "Flaky, uberbuttery, layer-y, crisp on the outside and soft inside, and all told pretty darn awesome [croissants]." They look fabulously French (yet make me hungry for Hungary).

The recipe comes from the Illustrated Good Housekeeping Encyclopedic Cookbook, 1965, Vol. 3.

Theresa at Vintage Style Files (a woman & blog after my own heart) took a tour of the orient with her gorgeous Tokyo Salad. It's a "spicy Asian shrimp and noodle" salad hailing from Kitchen Fare, International Menus Cookbook, just the kind of book that inspired the RRC No. 7's theme.

Tara at the hilariously named Should You Eat That? (have you been looking in my fridge, Tara?) tantalizes the taste buds with Sweet and Sour Pork. She found a classic irony in retro recipes: turning something healthy into food that could take down an elephant.

"I found it amusing," Tara writes, "that [the recipe] required lean pork, which was then deep fried, but I suppose it is better than the alternative of 'fat' pork being deep fried."

Rachel at Coconut and Lime whets the palate and wets the tongue with her fizzy Moscow Mule, which is "credited with having popularized vodka in the United States" during the 1950s.

Having recently been to Russia, I can definitively say the Moscow Mule is vast improvement over the traditional Russian summertime drink, квас (kvas).

The Expat Chef in The Expatriate's Kitchen takes a turn updating a classic favorite, Spinach Artichoke Dip, with her Spinach Artichoke Tart in Puff Pastry.

She writes, "You can actually taste the vegetables now that your taste buds aren’t doing the backstroke in butterfat."

Last but not least, Gillian at Food History provides dessert with her Dundee Cake. Gillian writes, "This is another of those 1950s recipes from my grandmother. We used to make Dundee Cake a great deal in the late sixties, but I haven’t seen it anywhere recently. I think it’s time it was revived!"

And that's the tour of the globe! Thank you to all who participated! (If I've neglected to include a submission, please email me right away. Except you, porn site. We don't feature that kind of eating on this blog.)

If you're interested in hosting the next round of the Retro Recipe Challenge, please drop me a line!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Strawberry Rhubarb Marvelous Muffins

I picked up a copy of Joan Donogh's recipe for rhubarb muffins with a bunch of rhubarb at the Canandaigua Farmers' Market. I'd also picked up some strawberries so, with a couple of minor changes (can you guess the biggest one?) these became strawberry rhubarb muffins.

Extremely moist and flavorful, these muffins have a sweet brown sugar-cinnamon topping and mildly vanilla flavored base studded with fresh bits of rhubarb and strawberry. If you'd like more of a rhubarb bite, increase the rhubarb and decrease the strawberries, as long the total amount of vegetable/fruit comes to 2 cups -- or just use Joan's original recipe! (I've got some rhubarb left over, and I'm thinking that's just what I'll do.)

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins (adapted from Now... You're Cooking!)

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped rhubarb
1 cup chopped strawberries

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and brown sugar. In another bowl, beat the egg, stir in butter, buttermilk and vanilla.

Make a well in the dry ingredients, and add the egg mixture all at once. Stir until just blended. Fold in strawberries and rhubarb. Spoon into greased or paper-lined muffin tins.

For the topping, combine sugar, butter and cinnamon. Sprinkle a spoonful of topping over each muffin and bake 20 to 25 minutes.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Double Chocolate Cookies

I love these cookies. They look so happy! And why wouldn't a chewy cookie with a deep chocolate flavor and bright spots of color make people happy?

A couple of notes:
1) these cookies taste best the day they're made.
2) to get a very round final product, after dropping the cookie dough on the sheet, place a square of parchment paper on top of the dough and, using a flat bottomed drinking glass, press down on the paper and dough gently but firmly.
3) for an especially pretty cookie, press a few additional M&Ms into the flatted cookie dough before baking.

Double Chocolate Cookies (adapted)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
4 ounces coarsely chopped good-quality milk chocolate
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup M&Ms
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Using a microwave, melt chocolate with butter in a small microwave-safe bowl (use 30-second intervals, stirring in between "zaps.")

Put chocolate mixture, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until combined. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture. By hand, fold in M&Ms.

Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies are flat and surfaces crack, about 15 minutes (cookies should be soft). Let cool on parchment on wire racks. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Green Garlic Pesto

Saturday was the first day of the Canandaigua Farmers' Market season. (yay!) There was only a smattering of booths but among them was Honeyhill Farms from Livonia, NY selling pickled garlic scapes (delicious!) and fresh green garlic.

Green garlic are the fresh shoots of the immature garlic plant (source). The woman I spoke to at the Honeyhill Farms booth suggested I use some to make pesto.

I'm so glad I did. The flavor is phenomenal! Spicy, intense, and fresh, this pesto will perk anything up. I'm planning to use it on pasta but I spread some on a Boca burger yesterday with fantastic results. And I've also topped a few tortilla chips with it. I'm not sure everyone would go for that, but I'm betting a thin spread of it would taste great on a cracker topped with cheese. And, come to think of it, maybe it could be mixed with a bit of sour cream and mayo for a veggie dip...

In an effort to cut down on the fat (however healthy) inherent in pesto, I adapted this recipe from Cooking Light. If you prefer, substitute the water for more Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Green Garlic Pesto

6 shoots of green garlic, chopped into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup warm water
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil*

Drop green garlic through food chute with food processor on; process until minced. Place next 4 ingredients (nuts through pepper) in processor; process 10 seconds. Combine water and oil in a measuring cup. With processor on, slowly pour oil mixture through food chute, processing just until blended. Taste and adjust seasonings. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

*If using on pasta, add more oil until the desired consistency is reached.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

From Russia, With Exhaustion (updated)

Links to more photos below.

I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that our trip to Russia (visiting Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Borovsk) with the HWS Russian Study Tour was the most exhausting trip of my life.

We took an average of 20,000 to 30,000 steps a day, which (I'm told) translates into 10 to 15 miles. Additionally, it was around 90-degrees and few of us were prepared for the heat (exhibit A: wearing long pants in Red Square, above). And I can't effectively convey how difficult it is to navigate a place where you can barely speak or read the language, especially because the alphabet is so different from your own. (It did make me think quite a bit about communications theory, however, especially as it applies to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel.)

Having said that, we had a great time, especially because of the people we travelled with. I'm amazed at how well our group clicked. We rollicked with laughter the entire time -- even in a hostel with only one toilet and shower.

Click here and here for links to our pictures.

Itinerary with Commentary

Day 1 -- Monday, May 21. Afternoon flight from JFK Airport.
I don't remember if I've flown Delta before, but I'll be glad to again. While the seats were a bit small and the flight was long (8 1/2 hrs), the crew was amazing. We were treated well (even in coach) -- I even got three free drinks! (Two passion fruit mojitos and one small bottle of wine.)

Day 2 -- Tuesday, May 22. Moscow: Arrive Moscow a.m. Walking tour downtown.

We arrived at the airport around 10 am and between customs, the drive to the hostel (employees good, accommodations atrocious), and settling in, I think we hit the Red Square around 1 pm. It's between 85 and 90 degrees. The photo above is from this day. We also ate at a restaurant in Russia for the first time. Fortunately, I was able to point at pictures, as the menu was otherwise impenetrable. (Thanks for leaving me high-and-dry, Russian Studies professor and students! You know who you are.)

The seven women roomed together, sleeping on bunk beds. We left the windows wide open, trying to catch any stray breezes that blew our way. We felt sweaty, sticky, and dirty, a feeling that would not leave us until we returned home to our showers and air conditioning.

Day 3 -- Wednesday, May 23. Moscow: Kremlin museums, churches, Armory.

This is where things start to get fuzzy and my recollection of things starts to run together. Is this the day we hung out in the park under the trees, or was it the day before? I don't know. I do know that I liked the Armory with its display of czarist trappings (royal gowns, jewelery, coaches, and the famed Fabergé eggs).

As this was the first day going into the churches, it was also my first day having to wear a headscarf. Not a good look for me.

Day 4 -- Thursday, May 24. Moscow: Red October Chocolate Factory Tour, Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Banya

How sad is it that, out of everything else scheduled on the trip, I most looked forward to the chocolate factory tour? Anyway, it was kick-ass: we walked along the production line, sampling freshly made confections (lots and lots of samples) then retired to an air conditioned room (!!!) for tea and more candy. Awesome.

From there, we headed to Cathedral of Christ the Savior. It's a recreation of the original cathedral, completed in 1881. Stalin had it demolished in 1933 and a swimming pool was put in its place. Reconstruction began in the 1990s and was completed in 2000. On a 90-degree day in Moscow, I would have preferred the pool.

I got my wish, however, when we visited a banya. We had a private one all to ourselves, consisting of a large and cushy lounge area (decorated in a style befitting Hustler magazine) and the "pool" room, which featured a very hot sauna, a large, cool (and green hued) pool, plus a small cedar bath with icy water. I jumped from the sauna to the pool a few times (as is the custom) before deciding to just hang in the pool. Shane ordered a bottle of very crappy vodka, which tasted like rubbing alcohol and smelled like Sharpie markers (tm Mandi). Not tasty, but drinking it definitely put me in the banya mood. I also spent some time photographing the kitschy yet pornographic sculptures decorating the lounge. (Do I know how to have a good time, or what?)

Day 5 -- Friday, June 25. Borovsk. More TK...

Friday, June 01, 2007

RRC # 7 Extended to June 10

The deadline for RRC 7 has been extended to Sunday, June 10 at 11:59pm EST. All the more time for to whip up that '76 recipe for goulash that's been lying around.

We're Back!

...and we're exhausted. Seriously, Russia kicked my ass.

Details & pics to come!