Monthly Archives: December 2012

I love smiling. Smiling’s my favorite. An Elf Dinner Party.

The holidays are full of traditions. Some good, some bad. Some so bad they’re good. (Folgers incestuous brother-sister Christmas commercial, anyone? YOU’RE MY PRESENT THIS YEAR, INAPPROPRIATE BROTHER.) And some of them are phenomenal. This one is simply phenomenal. 

For the last 6 years, my friends J & B and I have gathered to watch Elf. We watch, exchange presents, decorate cookies and cry when Buddy saves Christmas*. BACK OFF, IT IS EMOTIONAL.

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*Please note, J and I are the only ones who cry. B, being the man of the group, does what every man does when women are crying at Elf: makes fun of them for crying at Elf. 

This year’s party was in J & B’s awesome new house. New house, new Elf party. Why not incorporate a new twist? Let’s add some Elf themed food.

When I told my dad about this, he assumed that that meant we’d be eating spaghetti with syrup on it. A little on the nose, Dave. But the principle was right. 

J assigned each of us one of the Elf culinary staples. B got coffee (from the scene where Buddy congratulates the shitty diner on the world’s best cup of coffee), J got marshmallows (which Buddy puts on his spaghetti, along with pop tarts and other stuff), and I got maple syrup. Which was both exciting and terrifying.

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I have to make another confession here on the ole blog: I don’t think I’d ever had true maple syrup before. I’m not a huge pancake fan. I’ll do a waffle from time to time, but it sure as shit better have a piece of fried chicken on top. I’ve always been drawn to the savory more than the sweet, so this may have been my first experience with maple syrup. Like, in the world.

Worst. Food. Blog. Evar.

But, I had a mission. To create an appetizer with maple syrup for our Elf party. Buddy didn’t let Santa down. And I was not going to let Santa down either. Or my friends. Since Santa was not attending this party.

I found a recipe on the Epicurious app for Very Simple Pumpkin Soup that featured maple syrup. Sidenote. The Epicurious app is an awesome cooking app, y’all. The functionality is amazing. The way I found this recipe is by searching by ingredient and then by course, weeding out the thousands of French toast recipes and only focusing on the things that were appropriate. Download the Epicurious app.

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And before you ask, yeah right, Epicurious is not paying me. They’ve never even heard of me. I’ve barely even heard of me. Just a rad app for iPhone and iPad. 

Anyways, this soup is good. It’s easy because you’re using canned pumpkin. And it’s a bit sweet, because of the pumpkin and the maple syrup. But the Chinese Five Spice gives it some depth and spice (….5 spices to be precise…) without being spicy. Top with sautéed shitake mushrooms and you’ve got yourself a treat even Buddy might like. 

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B brought the baking with a pumpernickel bread made with coffee. It was terrific. Really rich flavor and paired so well with herbed goat cheese and a creamy swiss.  

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And J made an elegant smores bar, inspired by her some searching on Pinterest. She stepped it up by adding some bacon. Cause bacon makes everything better. We got to toast the marshmallows in their brand new fireplace.

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It was an excellent night. And now, all I want to do is make food inspired by movies. Watch Midnight in Paris and make coq au vin. Watch Ocean’s 11 and make fruits de mer. Hell, I’ll even give Silence of the Lambs a go.

CALM DOWN, JERKS.

I would make LAMB with a chianti sauce and fava bean risotto. And tiramisu. Cause it has lady fingers. PUNTASTIC!

Very Simple Pumpkin Soup, from Epicurious.com

 

  • 2 15-ounce cans pure pumpkin
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed | I do not have a presser of garlic. So, I minced. 
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder | * A blend of ground anise, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and ginger available in the spice section of most supermarkets. I thought I was going to have trouble finding it, but found these at Fresh Market. 
  • 4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, sliced | These I found at Whole Foods. 

Bring first 4 ingredients to simmer in large saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking often. Whisk in syrup, 2 tablespoons butter, and five-spice powder. Simmer soup 10 minutes, whisking often. Season with salt and pepper. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Divide soup among 6 bowls. Sprinkle soup with mushrooms, dividing equally; serve.

Soup can be made 1 day ahead. Chill until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Bring to simmer before serving.

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A Christmas Switcheroo

When I made Thanksgiving dinner this year, my mom said “you did Thanksgiving dinner, so I’ll do Christmas dinner.” And I, in my tryptophan coma, believed her.

And then a couple of days ago, my mom started texting me to consult on her Christmas menu. But I’m MORE than happy to consult. I’m not in charge!

And then, when my mom woke up this morning, she was talking about me making more and more dishes. And then the TRUTH CAME OUT.

“I just want you to do the whole thing. You’re younger. You have more energy.”

My mom is only 65, mind you. Not 165.

Yeah. That is the flimsiest reason ever, but I’ll do it. The skeleton of the menu is there.

Appetizer:
Smoked salmon…something. Dip? Plain on crackers? That seems dull.
Maybe make those Parmesan thyme crackers because they’re so nibbly

Main:
Ham
Southern Green Beans (made with bacon, y’all)
Macaroni and Cheese (topped with peas and bacon, y’all)
Cranberry Sauce (same recipe from Thanksgiving…that I have yet to post because I’m a TERRIBLE bloggist)
Some sort of salad (I should put some bacon in it, y’all)

Dessert: Family friends are bringing a cheesecake, just like the wisemen did for baby Jesus

I had one stipulation for my mother.

Me: If I do this, will you not complain about every little thing I do?
Mom: I’ll try to contain it to 2 or 3.

Well, at least she’s honest.

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Blondies, Part Deux: Failure is Best Served Hot. Again. Twice.

Hey, remember that time that I wrote a blog post two weeks ago and it had a real “to be continued” vibe and then I didn’t write another post like ever!??!

Did you kind of feel like that TV show you’d sort of been watching had gotten cancelled and nobody bothered to tell you?

NOPE.  Just another case of Fake Food Blog. My Real Job got busy. So my Fake Fun had to take a back seat. But fear not, I have been eating and photographing. The bloggery will catch up. 

So, picking up where we left off a mere 2 weeks ago. Walker Texas Ranger was running towards the bus full of nuns that was hurtling towards the edge of a cliff. I had made really shitty blondies for work. And it was 10:40 pm. And I was pissed. Because my first batch of blondies came out looking like it should have been an obstacle in Olmec’s Temple. 

So, I decided I would make a second batch. And I would do everything right! And it would be delicious!

And as you expected, dear reader. None of that happened. Cause these sons of bitches didn’t turn out either.

I followed a different recipe this time. A Food Network recipe. No time to fuck around making brown butter. This is basic blondie time. Defense. Block and tackle. Other football words. Helmets. Lines. Mascots. 

I buttered and floured the pan. Which seemed weird. Doesn’t that seem like it’s going to make a gooey mess? NAH. The recipe says to do it! Trust in the recipe BLINDLY. THE RECIPE WILL NEVER FAIL YOU. (Let me be clear, by this point I was pretty drunk with exhaustion.)

I melted the butter! I combined it with the sugar! I cooled it to room temperature! I beat in the eggs! I made the batter! I added the chocolate chips! I put it in the pan!

I took a nap while I baked it! And then again while it cooled!

And then, after doing the whole toothpick thing and letting the pan cool, I inverted it to find this:

Blondies. UGH.

Once again. I had blondie soup. Cooked on the top. Soup on the inside. What kind of fool am I.

I even popped them back in the oven for another 10 minutes. But same deal. Just slightly more done on the edges. Just as soupy inside.

I conferred with Alison, my friend at work who happens to be a phenom pastry chef, and she thinks the problem is my terrible oven. Which is only a convection oven. I should be turning the heat down and cooking for longer, or something like that. Sheesh.

One day, I hope to open a wildly unpopular bakery where we make these soup blondies. It’s gonna be TERRIBLE. 

Blondies, from FoodNetwork.com

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter (1-1/2 sticks), plus more for the preparing the pan
  • 1 ½ cups light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for preparing the pan
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon fine salt
  • About ½ cup chocolate, butterscotch or white chocolate chips (optional) | It’s optional but I did it anyway 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 9 x 13-inch baking pan 

In a small sauce pan melt the butter. Put the light brown sugar in a large bowl, add the butter, and stir to combine. Cool to room temperature. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, mixing just until a smooth batter is formed. If using the chips, stir them into the batter.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake until lightly browned and toothpick inserted in the center come out clean, about 20 minutes.

 Cool the blondies in the pan slightly before inverting them onto a cooling rack. Cool completely. Cut into squares and serve.

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Undeniable Failure: Brown Butter Blondies for Work Bake Sale

If y’all saw the Google searches I do while I cook, you’d be embarrassed.

Which is exactly why I’m sharing it here. Sometimes, people need to confess to their ridiculosity.

Here’s the background. My friend Alison asked me to bake for our office’s United Way bake sale tomorrow. She was awesome. “…Don’t you think the readers of your blog would love to read about a delicious blondie recipe??”

The girl has skills. So, I signed up.

But there’s something I forgot to mention: Alison is a trained pastry chef.

Yeah. Remember, this is a FAKE food blog. Intimidated. This blog is mostly jokes about Snoop Dogg and a LOT of capital letters so that people who know me IRL know when I’m saying something louder or with more EMPHASIS. 

Luckily, in addition to being a trained pastry chef, she’s a really nice and awesome chick. So, I didn’t feel bad that my potentially embarrassing blondies were going to be sitting next to the chocolate chip cookies that were made by the hands of someone who can legit wear chef whites. (Just to paint the picture, this is what I was wearing as I baked: jeans and a paint splattered t-shirt from a 1981 production of Annie Get Your Gun. That was 3 years before I was born.)

Alison, in her infinite niceness, even found me a recipe. Which was awesome because I’ve had a couple busy weeks at work. I shamelessly stole this recipe from another blog. But I will not lie to you folks. It did not go well. 

I started making the brown butter blondies. I’ve always loved brown butter. Only catch? I’ve never made it before. Like every recipe I make before an event. I’m nothing if not predictable. 

So, I put the 21 tablespoons of butter on the stove on low heat.

Let me say that again. I put the 21 TABLESPOONS OF BUTTER on the stove on low heat. #nothingcankillpauladeen #notevendiabetesyall

The recipe says it’ll take about 6 minutes for the butter to brown.  And I’m pretty sure it took me an hour to brown the butter. Which is like, a lot more than 6 minutes. That was my first sign that this wasn’t going my way. 

Here’s where I start the embarrassing googling:

  • How to brown butter (I should make sure I’m doing it right)
  • What does brown butter look like (I should make sure I’m not missing the signs)
  • What are the lyrics to Trick Daddy’s “I’m a Thug” (I should make sure I know these)

And then all of a sudden, BOOM. Brown butter. That nutty aroma the recipes kept talking about? I actually smelled that. WITH MY NOSE.

The rest of the recipe is fairly simple. You know. Except for the fact that I COMPLETELY failed at the recipe. No joke. When I tested it with a toothpick, it came out clean. But the tops were crispy and the insides were goo. Let me be clear. This was goo that tasted good. But I can’t serve it. Not with a pastry chef around. It’s a bake sale. Not a goo sale. Seriously, look at it.    

Rapture

I saved the only square I could actually cut for Alison (per her request!), pitched the rest, and started another recipe at 10:40. Part 2 of this epic story to come tomorrow! 

Brown Butter Blondies, Recipe from The Red Spoon 

  • 3 cups all purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 21 tablespoons (2 sticks + 6 tablespoons) unsalted butter

  • 2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter a 9 x 13-inch pan. Line with parchment, letting the edges overhang making a parchment sling. Butter parchment paper lining and set aside.

In a large bowl add flour, baking powder and salt and mix to combine. 

In a small saute or sauce pan, over medium-low heat, cook the butter until light brown and gives off a nutty aroma, about 6 minutes.  Remove pan from the heat, and let cool.

In a second bowl, combine brown sugar, granulated sugar and cooled butter.  Stir to combine with a wooden spoon.  Add eggs, vanilla, and lemon juice and stir until smooth.  Add dry ingredients in 2 batches and stir until just incorporated. 

Spread batter evenly into prepared baking dish.  Bake for about 35-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out either clean or with crumbs, but not batter.  If using parchment paper, gently lift blondies out of baking dish or pan and let cool on a wire rack. 

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