• We’ve Got It Made (Sort of): Pavlova

    I’m renewing our segment “We’ve Got It Made,” in which we highlight our joint ventures in the kitchen. HTT is in the house, baby.

    After sitting on the recipes from the awesome Mrs. Wheelbarrow class on Easter Desserts for nearly a month, I up and went to the grocery store this a.m. to ensure I had all the ingredients to make a pretty pretty pavlova.
    Since I won’t be here for Easter, I thought it would be nice to make it anyway.

    Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s take on the dessert (the link has measurements in metric - thus here’s a handy converter - sorry, it’s 10:15 on a school night, kids so I’m not typing out the recipe).

    It all starts out with the baking sheets - circles drawn on parchment paper to ensure a nice shape for the mini pavlovas.

    Then, the real fun is juggling the egg yolks to get all the whites. My over-eager juggling resulted in a few strands of yolk joining the whites — which can totally corrupt the whole situation. I fished them out, but it may have been major blunder Numero Uno.

    Then, I took to the bowl of egg whites with my hand mixer — unlike the fabulous Mrs. W., I have no equally fabulous Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I have a $30 Michael Graves hand mixer from Target (thank you, wedding registry and fine person/persons who gifted it) and thus nearly throttled my hands and arms to their demise with all the mixing. After 7-8 minutes, adding the sugar incrementally, and no “stiff, shiny peaks” forming,  I switched from the whisk attachment to the beaters and had a little more success getting the snow white foamy mix to get a little more substantial and less runny.

    After 10 minutes with the hand mixer, I was over it and Scott was dubious of my capabilities to produce said shiny firm peaks of meringue. I folded in the cornstarch, vanilla and white wine vinegar, stirred it up, and dolloped the mix onto my circles (pencil lead side down, of course).

    Not feeling entirely super about my pavlovas, in comparison to the super-firm ones we made in the class last month, I popped them in the oven at 350 degrees F and went about my business. Scott did the dishes. He rocks like that.

    Thirty minutes later,  I turned the oven off and kept the Pavlovas in the over for another half hour. I showered and read some of Tina Fey’s Bossypants  (it’s a total chucklefest — check it out!) and then before you know it, that 30 minutes is up and Scott is practically drooling (and admitting he ate the tiny dollop of meringue that colored outside of the lines while I was in the shower — sneaky sneaky.)

    Scott supervised me while I whipped the heavy cream, which means he yelled a little when I over-zealously battered the bowl of cream and smeared a little (ok, a LOT) on the kitchen table. And counters. And cabinets. But, whatever.

    Topping the pavlovas with the cream and some strawberries soaked in a little sugar and triple sec, we settled down to eat our Sunday evening project. It was a little less chewy and dense than the one from Mrs. W’s class, but Scott didn’t know that, so he lapped it all up — he literally licked the plate. (Sorry, hun, but that’s blogging for you - we get to overshare way too much on the Internets.)

    I think my fatal error may have been the errant yolks getting in the mix, but ah well. When your husband licks the plate, I think you’re forgiven.

    And that’s how we’ve got it made — Good night!

  • 3 years ago
  • Sugar Comas and Google Machines

    Blogging sucks. Blogging is the best thing ever. I hate blogging. I live to blog.

    Welcome to my mind, in which I debate why I haven’t posted more often here lately. Blame my ever-increasing disinterest in cooking — I had the “mehs” this winter, but damn if it isn’t sunny outside and spring is almost here and well, I miss writing and having good tasty things to write about.

    So… I’m presently reeling from a dyno-MITE class with Mrs. Wheelbarrow: Easter Desserts rocked my world, and the worlds of friends A & S, who were so smart to join me today to learn how to rock a coconut cake, tishpishti, and a pavlova. 

    Let the record show I’m heading out in 20 min. on the greenway to burn off what I’m about to describe:

    A hell of a lot of butter, sugar, and other amazing things:

    - The coconut cake (2 layers) with a pineapple filling and a Swiss meringue butter cream frosting.

    - The Sephardic Passover tishpishti (say it, it’s FUN: tish-pish-tee), a flour-less delight of walnuts, eggs, almond meal, sugar (and more sugar), orange zest, and other things baked up, over which a rosewater syrup is then poured and left to soak in. SO good upon first bite, I uttered, “Mercy,” which our lovely instructor, Cathy, seemed to appreciate.

    - Pavlova, my favorite of the three. A meringue baked and topped with freshly whipped cream and strawberries macerated in sugar and triple sec. Light and chewy, quick to dissolve upon hitting your tongue, while the crunchy bits hang out and make you happy that there’s a conduit for whipped dairy products and luscious fruit. 

    I’m definitely making a Pavlova very soon - I’ll be in Italy for Easter, but who says you need a special occasion for dessert??

     Also presently on my mind: I hit up the grocery store on my way home and bought four bags of odds and ends. Call it stream-of-consciousness shopping. I wondered what I could make for dinner tonight and Google, bless it, came to my rescue.

    Did you know you can put in a search for a dish and it will customize recipes based on what you have in your kitchen? The left sidebar lets you check and uncheck ingredients to determine the best recipe for your needs. Observe my search for beef stroganoff - yes, I have no creme fraiche. Thanks for asking, Google! That is kick-ass.

    So next time you’re making tishpishti or mac and cheese, whatever you choose, Google it up. Muchas Gracias, Interwebs.

    And….I’m spent. Got a case of the sugahs, and the greenway & Mr. Sun are calling my name. Off I go - enjoy what’s left of the daylight!


  • 3 years ago
  • Hands Off: The Foods You Would Stab For

    I seem to have a knack lately for finding random food-related news stories.

    Forget breast milk ice cream: how about waging a full-on fight with the one you live with over Girl Scout cookies?

    Apparently someone really loves their Thin Mints. I swear, I could see this happening over the Caramel deLites (formerly known as the far-superior Samoas), but I fail to see what’s so special about mint cookies that would lead a girl to get all stabby.

    Which begs the question: what foods would you defend with your best sharp kitchen utensil? For me, it might be my stash of emergency cookies (presently Gingersnaps) - that you certainly don’t want to fool with, particularly when my hormones are raging.

    Enough said. Food stealers, beware. Step off from this Cookie Monster.
  • 3 years ago
  • Chocolates for a Tough-Man

    Erin would have gotten this for me at Wegman’s a few weeks ago, but it goes against our whole “tacky Valentines” aversion. Still, what man wouldn’t want chocolates in a tough-ass metal non-skid box?

    Posted by Picasa

  • 3 years ago
  • A Sweet For Your Sweetie

    Warning: Valentine’s Day-themed post. Continue at your own risk.

    Yes, it’s that holiday tomorrow, the one with the flowers, the heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, the ugly-ass, age-inappropriate teddy bears, and the Hallmark cards professing undying, oh-so-special, forever love, love that cannot be denied, love that won’t fade away, Big Love, sloppy wet love, etc. (OK, maybe the sloppy kind is for another occasion entirely.)

    Don’t get me wrong, I luuuuuv love. I just don’t really care for the commercialized kind. Scott and I had our first date the day after Valentine’s Day nine (!!!) years ago, and we’ve always much rather celebrate our dating milestone than to observe February 14. (Sidebar: our second date was to see The Vagina Monologues. My husband rocks, and is totally comfortable with all iterations of the terms for female genitals.)

    We’re spending tomorrow night in, with a dinner of cod fillets fresh from our Eastern Market visit today, veggies, and maybe a special dessert.

    Speaking of which, here’s my V-day gift to you: it’s neither sexy nor sophisticated, but it’s a sweet cookie with the consistency of a chewy brownie, and it’s easy on the calories and fat. (It also uses only one bowl and pan, so you won’t waste your luv-makin’ time doing the dishes instead.)

    Cocoa Cookies, from Cooking Light

    Yield: 2 dozen

    • 1  cup  all-purpose flour
    • 1/4  teaspoon  baking soda
    • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
    • 5  tablespoons  butter
    • 7  tablespoons  unsweetened cocoa
    • 2/3  cup  granulated sugar
    • 1/3  cup  packed brown sugar
    • 1/3  cup  plain low-fat yogurt ( I use French vanilla)
    • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
    • Cooking spray

    Preheat oven to 350°.
    Combine flour, soda, and salt; set aside. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove; stir in cocoa powder and sugars. Add yogurt and vanilla, and stir; add flour mixture, stirring until moist. Drop by tablespoons two inches apart onto greased baking sheets.
    Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on pans three minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire racks. Enjoy. They’re only 78 calories per cookie!


  • 3 years ago
  • Make It A Big Deale

    Ever the fan of a playful pun, I came up with several on our 45-minute car ride this past Saturday to Deale, Md., which is pretty much in the middle of Backwater, Nowhere.

    What’s the big Deale?
    I can Deale with that.
    I hope we’re getting a fair Deale.
    Deale or No Deale?

    You get the picture.

    Luckily, bad puns were the only poor thing we endured during our trek out to Skipper’s Pier Restaurant & Dock Bar.

    One of Scott’s co-workers suggested we check it out for the seafood and the Chesapeake Bay views. I wasn’t so sure what to expect, but I agreed with Scott that partaking of some oysters and crab and a few drinks on a lazy Saturday during the long holiday weekend couldn’t hurt us.

    With three friends in tow, we met up at Skipper’s, taking a big table for six inside (it is January) - this was our view:


    I was impressed with their drink specials: a $3 Bloody Mary, rimmed with Old Bay seasoning. This Bloody Mary is one of the best I have ever had!

    I liked it so much, I enjoyed another one. Then, I chased it with another one.

    But anyway…when we weren’t lushing it up in this seafood joint, we tasted some pretty fine fare, including
    some hush puppies that I wasn’t so sure about ordering. In the South, sometimes the hush puppies are dense, golf-ball size fried things (my personal preference) or they’re lighter, doughy oblong things similar in texture to beignets. At Skipper’s, they look like puffy oblong objects but taste like the dense cornmeal bites of pleasure I hoped for. Score 1 for Skipper’s!

    We ordered a half-dozen of fried oysters and they were excellent — still juicy and not too over battered, with a remoulade sauce for dipping. A dozen raw oysters on the half-shell, accompanied by a mignonette sauce and cocktail sauce, didn’t last long on their serving plate.

    Here I am, trying one with mignonette for the first time:

    While one lunch companion ordered King Crab, several of us decided to heed the advice of our server and try the local rockfish, caught the day before and filleted that morning at the restaurant. My blackened rockfish was perfectly seasoned, accompanied by a side of gingered cole slaw and a side of cheese stone-ground grits. I loved the unusual slaw, but the grits were — dare I even say it — too rich with cheese and cream, and almost pudding-like in texture.

    I tried my friend’s side of Bacony (said in the French style “Bah-con-ee”) Collard Greens and those seemed to be the side item to go for. Scott ordered a curried fluke fish, similar to flounder and very well-seasoned, and braised green beans.

    Certain unique touches — like gingery, piquant slaw and curry sauces — were pleasantly unexpected and set this place apart from other area seafood restaurants I’ve visited with fried shrimp platters or overpriced fish or crab du jour dishes, where you’re paying for the “Maryland experience.”  I’d rather you just feed me some fresh, good food, please.

    Skipper’s rated a high five with HTT — well-worth the drive out. I could see this being a must-do when the weather turns warm again and we’re in need of some briny oysters and a couple value-priced cocktails.

    But wait, we’re not finished yet.

    Cruising out of Deale further south to Calvert County, we drove up to a small seaside “resort” of North Beach. With little cottages and a strip of retail shops peddling antiques, coffee, ice cream and the like, it seemed like a sleepy little bayside town that time forgot.

    Chilly and in need of a pit stop, we popped into the aptly-named Sweet Sue’s for coffee and a treat. Somehow Scott and I wound up sharing this behemoth of an eclair:

    This thing was larger than a six-inch sub. HUGE. And pretty luscious.

    To cap the day off, on our drive home we hit the Wegmans that recently opened in Lanham, Md. It’s a super-sized grocery store chain based in Rochester, N.Y. Their main attractions are their ready-made prepared foods — everything from pizza and lasagna to Indian and dim sum — and the market-style counters for meats, breads and cheeses. I was a little overwhelmed, but that didn’t stop us from stocking up on some sourdough loaves and some tasty Spanish goat’s milk cheese and Gouda.

    As if we needed more food.

    But that’s never really the point, is it? To friends, food, and exploring new places!

  • 3 years ago
  • Christmas is Coming!

    Hard to believe it’s just two days away!

    What kinds of things will you enjoy this holiday season? Here’s a rundown of what I expect we’ll partake of this Christmas and New Year’s:

    1 ) Some form of sugar cake. You may recall I’ve waxed poetic on the Moravian sugar cake I grew up enjoying as a child of the N.C. Piedmont area. Winkler’s Bakery in Old Salem is the place to get the sugar cake - it’s like a coffee cake-style deal - cinnamon and sugar and all those good things. I have the recipe, but will I really work with rising yeast and stuff early on Christmas morn? That, my friend, is TBD. This little elf may want to sleep in. Mother Dear says she has a simple recipe for something similar, so we shall see.

    2) Seafood! Mom’s promising her amazing Carolina Rice & Shrimp dish, and we’re headed for Charleston, S.C. to ring in the New Year. Shrimp, I am coming for YOU.

    3) A pig roast! Scott’s aunt and uncle have held a traditional New Year’s pig roast for several years down in Mount Pleasant, S.C. and this year, they’re bringing a big fat hog from Tennessee. In years past, a certain comedian/talk show host by the name of Colbert, a Lowcountry boy, has attended.

    4) Gingerbread. What can I say? I’m stuffing my own stocking this year with an Amish-made Gingerbread Man from the Dutch County Market. He was too cute to pass up.

    5) Beef & Potatoes - it’s what’s for dinner. Mom’s promised to make some tasty London Broil to pair with the Potato Gratin and Rosemary Crust from this month’s Southern Living. I chose that as our food to make together. I can’t wait to cook in my mom’s big spacious kitchen. This teensy apt. cooking is for the birds.

    I hope that whatever you eat this holiday season, you enjoy it with wonderful friends, family, and those you love. Travel safe, and stay warm and cozy wherever you are!


  • 3 years ago