Friday, September 21, 2012

Zucchini Bread

People at my office always bring food and leave it in the break room. Cupcakes, pie, doughnuts, you name it. I call it "throwing it to the wolves", and I mean that in the nicest possible way. It always, always disappears quickly.

It's great if you need to get rid of leftovers. My leftover Thanksgiving desserts and Easter candy? Gone by lunchtime on both occasions.

This summer was the summer of zucchini. Bags of it in the break room, multiple times per week. I don't garden, so I don't know... is zucchini a weed? Does it multiply like tribbles? Everyone I know with a garden is always trying to unload extra zucchini. Anyway, I took one, and decided to bake my mom's zucchini bread.

Growing up, Mom also grew way more zucchini than she knew what to do with, so she made zucchini bread. Lots of zucchini bread. She'd give loaves away to everyone, and I'm told it was quite the hot commodity. So much so she published her recipe in my elementary school's PTA cookbook. I still have a copy.

Cute, right?

Zucchini bread is really easy to make. Apart from the zucchini itself, you probably already have all of the ingredients. The only part I hated was the grating. I need a food processor.

I started with this... (That's what she said?)
...and ended with this.
Not pictured: My blood, sweat and tears.
(That's what she said?)

Three cups of grated zucchini from that monster. Mom's recipe uses 2 cups. I honestly expected more from you, zucchini.

Anyway, on to the recipes!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Shrimp Pad Thai, Take 1

I promised I'd write about my first Pad Thai experience! What can I say, I love Thai food.

It didn't turn out horribly, but it wasn't great either. The tastes were right, but the texture and the whole experience of the dish was way off. Luckily, I know exactly what went wrong, so I know what to do to make it better next time. Heed these words of wisdom and learn from my mistakes!

Mistake #1: Forgot to check on noodles and didn't rinse with cold water thoroughly
Result: Mushy, overcooked noodles
Solution: Keep a better eye on the noodles as they boil, and rinse them better.

Mistake #2: Dumped freezer burned shrimp, complete with ice crystals, into pot.
Result: Dish came out soupy. Watery straight-out-of-package tofu may have also contributed.
Solution: Use fresh shrimp, or thaw and drain frozen shrimp. Also pre-fry tofu or buy extra firm tofu next time.

Mistake #3: Cracked egg directly on top of cooking food instead of pushing food aside and cracking into empty space in pan
Result: Weird egg white specks throughout dish instead of those nice yellow chunks-o-scrambled-egg
Solution: Follow the recipe, jerk (me, not you)

The morals of the story are 1) don't do what I did, and 2) don't be a jerk. The latter can be applied to almost any situation, how's that for efficiency?

Shrimp Pad Thai
From Skinnytaste


  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1.5 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp chili powder or to taste
  • 3 oz rice noodles or rice sticks
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 oz medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 oz firm tofu, cut into slices (optional)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 5 oz bean sprouts
  • 1 oz Chinese chives or scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp crushed peanuts
  • lime wedges

  1. Prepare chives, tofu, garlic and peanuts and set aside. This recipe moves quickly, and I'm a slow chopper. Not a good combination. Cutting everything up beforehand makes things so much easier!
  1. Prepare noodles according to package, rinse with cold water and drain (seriously).
  2. Mix fish sauce, sugar, water, rice vinegar and chili powder in a small bowl, set aside.
  3. Heat large skillet on high and add oil.
  4. When oil is hot, add garlic. Stir until you can smell the garlic.
  5. Add tofu and shrimp and keep stirring.
See? Soupy!
  1. When shrimp changes color, add noodles. Stir for 30 seconds.
  2. Use a big spatula to push the food to one side of the skillet, then crack an egg into the empty part of the skillet.
  3. Break the yolk with a spatula and let cook for about 30 seconds.
  4. Combine egg with rest of food.
  5. Add sauce and stir to combine.
  6. Add bean sprouts and chives and keep stirring.
    Hard to tell, but still soupy. 
  1. When sprouts are done, add peanut.
  2. Turn off heat and serve immediately with lime wedges.

Like I said, it wasn't a complete disaster, so I'll definitely try this one again. If at first you don't succeed and all that.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Rockin' the Guac

I reached out to the Twitterverse for suggestions on what to do with my windfall of salsa and guac from the Emily Bites Wholly Guacamole giveaway. Ms. Bites herself suggested taco cupcakes. Who am I to bite the hand that feeds me, especially when she also (indirectly) fed one Anderson Cooper?

Working with wonton wrappers was surprisingly easy. They come pre-floured so they don't stick together, and you can freeze what you don't use.

You'll find I deviated a bit from Emily's recipe to account for personal taste and to make enough leftovers for lunches. It's not the healthiest of meals, but it's fun to make and eat. If you have leftover meat and toppings, make yourself some rockin' taco salads. There is no downside to any of this.

Taco "Cupcakes"
Adapted from Emily Bites


  1. Preheat oven to 375. Spray muffin tin with non-stick spray and set aside.
  2. Add chicken to skillet, then add taco seasoning. Stir occasionally until browned.
  3. Add black beans and keep cooking until warm.
  4. Press a wonton wrapper into each cup of the muffin tin.
  5. Dab about a teaspoon of the salsa con queso into each cup and spread it out around the bottom.
Yeah... that's more than a teaspoon.
  1. Add about a tablespoon of the chicken/bean mixture to each cup.
  2. Add just enough salsa to cover, then sprinkle shredded cheese on top.
  1. Press another wonton wrapper on top to smoosh everything down (but not too much), rotated 45 degrees from the first wrapper for maximum visual appeal.
  2. Repeat steps 5-7.
  3. Bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool for a few minutes before removing from the muffin tin.
  1. Dab your favorite Wholly Guacamole on top, and enjoy!
Served with Emily Bites' Cheesy Amazing Mexi-Rice,
which was both cheesy and amazing.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Don't make me tongue Thai'd: Coconut Curry Shrimp

I like Thai food. And coconut. A lot. I made that chicken coconut soup a while back, and I'll be sharing my semi-successful first attempt at Pad Thai... someday.

Recipes containing "Thai" and "coconut" have a 99.999% chance of getting pinned. The .001% accounts for the possibility of an accompanying terrible ingredient like raisins. Or hair (but mostly raisins). Lucky for me, Skinnytaste's Red Thai Coconut Curry Shrimp contains neither.

I was a little nervous going into this, as my biggest successes so far have been soups, salads, baked goods and crock pot dinners... AKA dump stuff in a bowl then either eat it right away or wait until it's done. This was easy peasy though, and so good! I love the way it makes my whole apartment smell like coconut.

I linked some of the ingredients below so you can see which brands I used. Your local supermarket should have all of this stuff. This recipe moves fast, but you'll be fine as long as you chop and mince everything beforehand. With rice, it made enough for 4 lunches.

Red Thai Coconut Curry Shrimp

From Skinnytaste


  • 1 tsp oil - Canola, vegetable, something bland
  • 1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 6 oz light coconut milk
  • 4 scallions, chopped - Separate the whites and greens
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined - Go with the frozen kind, less work for you!
  • salt to taste


  1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high.
  2. Add scallion whites and red curry paste, saute for about a minute.
  3. Throw in shrimp and garlic, season with salt, cook for 2-3 minutes.
  1. Add coconut milk and fish sauce, mix well, and simmer until shrimp is cooked through (2-3 minutes, longer if shrimp is frozen but still pretty quick).
  1. Remove from heat, then add scallion greens and cilantro.
  2. Serve over rice and eat your heart out! 

I have yet to perfect the art of cooking rice, but that's a whole other blog post.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I'm a winner!

Though I do have an overinflated ego at times, I honestly am a winner.  Emily from Emily Bites notified me earlier this week that I was a winner of her Wholly Guacamole giveaway, and the goods arrived today!

I squealed.  Not gonna lie.
Check out this haul!  The avocado on the right is an
adorable squishy stress ball.

While I haven't "rocked the guac" just yet, I did crack open the Classic Medium Salsa to go with a Mexican egg scramble.

2 eggs, shredded taco cheese, chopped scallion.  Not pictured: Tater tots.
Dinner of champions.

I have a lot of salsa and guac to work through, so I'm opening the floor to you!  What should I make?  Suggest a recipe.  I'll make it, and I'll write about it.  Here are the options:

Many thanks to Emily and the Wholly Guacamole crew!  The next few weeks should be fun :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer salads, had me a blast.

I did it!  I found the perfect summer meal, no grilling required.  Nothing against grills personally, my apartment complex doesn't allow them.  

Don't worry, future grill.  Our time will come.

Arugula salmon salad?  Meet watermelon feta salad with mint.  So many good things happening on this plate.  

Arugula & Spinach Salmon Salad with Capers and Shaved Parmesan
Adapted from Skinnytaste

  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1 cup baby spinach 
    • If you're really fond of one of these greens, double your favorite and cut out the other one altogether!  Or, use a different green.  The power is YOURS!
  • 4 ounces salmon, skin removed (optional)
  • 1 tsp capers, drained
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp shaved parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Season salmon with salt and pepper.  Cook in pan with oil or grill for 10 minutes.  Remove the salmon skin if you want to be healthy.
  2. Place greens on plate, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Top greens with salmon and capers.
  4. Drizzle oil and vinegar, then sprinkle parmesan.  As you can see above, I used way more than 1 tablespoon.
I bought a lot of greens, cooked up a lot of salmon, and brought this salad to work for lunch for a few days.  It was quick to throw together in the morning, which is a must because I'm always running late.

Watermelon Feta Salad with Mint

  • Seedless watermelon, chilled
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Lime juice
  • Fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • Crumbled feta
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Cut rind from the watermelon, the cut into 1-inch chunks.  Place in colander and drain.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper.
  3. Place watermelon in a bowl, toss with dressing and mint.
  4. Add feta, stir to combine thoroughly.
  5. Serve with a slotted spoon so watermelon juice stays away from the rest of your food.  Unless you really like watermelon juice.
You may be skeptical about combining watermelon, feta, and mint.  If I had to throw three things into a salad, they'd be the last three things I'd pick.  But trust me.  A friend made this for a recent spa night, and the salty and sweet complement each other perfectly.

Three notes:
  1. I purposely omitted amounts from the ingredients.  I didn't make as much as the original recipe called for, so I just eyeballed it.
  2. Make this salad just before serving.
  3. Try to avoid leftovers.  It doesn't keep well.  The dressing congeals and it's just gross.

Looks great, doesn't it?  With sangria to drink, everything about this meal just oozes summer.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

This bread is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

I've always been a master procrastinator, but Spring 2012 has been the semester of baking. Why do schoolwork when I can make stuff that I can stuff my face with?

Someone told me you can freeze bananas for later use in banana bread. This was great news because whenever I buy bananas, I get sick of them before I finish the bunch. One or two get all brown and gross, and I chuck them into the woods outside my apartment in hopes that local deer or squirrels will enjoy the potassi-yummy goodness.

When my next banana started to turn, I just threw the whole thing in the freezer.  I wasn't really thinking ahead.

solid as a rock
Oh let me be your sledgehammer.

A better idea is to cut the banana into pieces and put them in a freezer bag.

smaller pieces, though size doesn't matter
Don't mind the freezerburn.

Thankfully, bananas thaw quickly.  When they do, you basically throw everything into a bowl, mix it up, pour it in a pan, and bake it.

Bready to eat!

It tastes good, and it makes your home smell good.  And if you're like me and require constant validation, bring a loaf to work and bask in compliments.

Banana Banana Bread (Allrecipes)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease a loaf pan.
  3. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Combine butter, and brown sugar in a separate bowl.  Stir in eggs and bananas until well-blended.  
  5. Add banana mixture to flour mixture, stir until moistened.
  6. Pour batter into pan, bake for 60-65 minutes.
  7. When the toothpick test says its done, remove from oven and let cool in pan for 10 minutes.
  8. Flip bread out onto a wire rack and let sit until cool.
  9. Cut and serve.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

DIY Spice Rack or Magnets, how do they work?

Apartments never have enough cabinet space, do they? In the nine months I've lived here, I've amassed quite the collection of spices. Most were from the supermarket, but others I dried myself and stored in ziplock bags. I quickly grew tired of digging through my "collection" to find what I needed.

How could I solve this problem? Countertop spice racks were out of the question, as I have less counter space than cabinet space. Plus, they all seemed to come with spices. I already had spices, hence my issue. I didn't need more!

A wall-mounted spice rack seemed the way to go, but the reasonably priced ones I found online were ugly. It was during this search that I discovered magnetic spice racks, and thought they were the perfect solution. Sleek! Shiny! Space-saving! But the prefab racks were so expensive, and some didn't hold many jars at all.

I decided to DIY it. Using theKitchn's article on making your own magnetic spice rack as reference, I got to it.

Step 1: Prepare the back

I decided to drill 7 holes in the sheet metal: 3 along the top, 1 on each side in the middle, and 1 on each bottom corner. Place painters tape over each drilling area before you start. Sand each hole after drilling to remove any pointy bits, and mop up any shavings with some more tape.

Use tape to pick up metal shavings after drilling.

Step 2: Prepare the wall

This part is easier with two people. Hold the sheet metal against the wall where your rack will hang, then drill holes in the wall.

A folded post-it note catches stray drywall dust!

Insert drywall anchors into the holes for maximum holding capability.

Step 3: Pretty-fy the back

This step is optional. I was originally going to go with plain metal, but I stumbled across a tablecloth in Target which matched my dishtowels perfectly. Fate?

Lay the metal on the tablecloth, or whichever fabric you've chosen. Cut around the metal, leaving about 1 inch extra around.  It doesn't have to be exact.

Do this next part outside, or in a well-ventilated area away from pets, kids, or valuables. Lay the sheet metal on the dropcloth, then coat with the spray glue. Smooth the fabric over the metal and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Then flip the metal over, spray the perimeter, tightly pull the edges of the fabric over and smooth. Let it sit for some more.

Once dry, find the holes under the fabric and drill so you're not blindly searching when it comes time to hang on the wall.

Step 4: Hang on wall

Again, this part's easier with help. Hold the metal up to the wall, place a washer on the screw, then drill into the wall.

Step 5: Assemble the jars

Mason jars come with 2-piece lids (ring and flat lid). I was concerned about spills when prying off the flat lid, and didn't want to glue the pieces together, so I bought the 1-piece lids. 

I glued 3 magnets to the inside of the lid in a triangle formation. These magnets are crazy strong and quite fond of each other. After gluing, hold down the magnets for a bit so they don't merge in the middle.

Be careful with these magnets!
Keep out of reach of kids and pets.

When the glue is dry, place the flat lids that came with the jars over the magnets. They're a perfect fit, stay in place due to the magnets, and will keep the spices from coming in contact with the magnets.

No glue required.

Pour spices into the jars and label. You can make your own labels, or buy some really cute ones on Etsy, but I just used the ones that came with the jars.

Place jars on rack.

Step 6: Admire your handiwork

Nice rack!

Of course I'll have to patch up the holes when I move out, but whatever. I'm so happy with how it turned out! I don't have a lot of DIY or handyperson experience, so this was a perfect starter project. Try it out, and you'll feel like Bob Vila (or Bob the Builder) when you're done!

Best part, I've regained some of my cabinet space! Not all, as I bought some very large spice jars from the Christmas Tree Shops, and have a few duplicates due to not checking what I already have in stock before I go shopping.

(Click photos to enlarge)

Materials used:
  • Pre-cut stainless steel (24"x30"), drywall anchors, drywall screws, washers, epoxy, spray glue, and dropcloth: Lowe's
  • 4-ounce mason jars and one-piece lids: Fillmore Container (buy only "food safe" lids)
  • Neodymium magnets (1/2"x1/8"): Almost Free Magnets (look for factory seconds to save money!)
  • Tablecloth for stylish cover: Target
All of the above merchants receive my wholehearted stamp of approval. Fillmore let me specify exactly how many lids I wanted, where other vendors wanted me to buy a lot in bulk. The magnets were shipped from Hawaii and I got them in less than a week!

Seriously, give it a try, you'll be amazed at what you can do!

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spice up your life, AKA my mouth is on fire

Sure, make fun of me for quoting the Spice Girls. As long as I can make fun of you for recognizing it.

A dear friend turned me onto Emily Bites, a "cooking light" kind of blog with droolworthy recipes. There, I spotted a recipe that made the clouds part and angels sing. That or I was really in the mood for pasta.

Spicy Sausage & Eggplant Spaghetti Bake
From Emily Bites

1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch square pieces
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided in 2
4 oz dry wheat spaghetti
1 cup red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lb hot Italian turkey or chicken sausage, casings removed
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup 2% or skim shredded Mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooking spray
Basil leaves, sliced (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Spray baking sheet to coat and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, toss eggplant with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste, until eggplant is lightly coated. Spread eggplant in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
  3. Eggplant, not hash browns
  4. While the eggplant bakes, bring a pot of water to a boil, then cook the spaghetti until it is al dente. Drain pasta, reserving about 1/3 cup of the pasta water. Set aside.
  5. While the water is boiling and/or pasta is cooking, pour the other tablespoon of olive oil into a large pot and heat on medium. Add onion and cook for a few minutes, until soft and almost translucent. Add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add sausage to garlic and onions, breaking up into chunks with a wooden spoon. Stir in marinara and turn heat down to low.
  7. When eggplant is ready, remove from oven and set aside. Turn oven down to 375, spray a baking dish and set aside.
  8. Add drained spaghetti to sauce mixture and stir to coat.
  9. COAT'D!
    Add eggplant and crushed red pepper, stir to combine. 
    Remove from heat for 10 minutes. 
  10. Add mozzarella, 1/2 cup of Parmesan and the 1/3 cup of reserved pasta water, stir until well combined.
  11. Pour mixture into baking dish and spread out evenly. Top with bread crumbs and remaining Parmesan.
  12. Bake for 25 minutes or until bread crumbs are golden brown and cheese is bubbling.
  13. Top with basil leaves (optional) and serve.
  14. Let's eat!
    1. This is a great recipe to make on Sunday and bring to work for lunch all week.
    2. Yowza, this dish was hot! The sausages had enough heat for me, so next time I'll do without the crushed red pepper entirely. I had to add extra cheese and sauce so I could eat without pain.
    3. There's debate over whether peeling eggplant is necessary. I did for this dish, but will refrain next time to see if there's a noticeable difference. Plus, the New York Times told me not to.
    4. Hey ShopRite, thanks for driving me batshit crazy. Why on earth would you put all of your wheat pasta, including non-organic brands, in the organic section?
    5. Get the bread crumbs without cheese to lighten this recipe up further. There's already lots of cheese in here, how much more do you need? Don't answer that.
    6. It helps to chop up the onion and garlic prior to starting. I felt rushed getting everything together on the fly, and burned the onion while mincing the garlic.
    7. Speaking of rushed, there's a lot of "doing stuff while other stuff is going on" which stressed me out a little. I need to work on time management or just chill out.
    8. Use a large pot to saute the onion and garlic.  It'll be easier to add everything else to it later.
    9. I used Thin & Trim Spicy Italian Chicken Sausages. I don't think they were encased, but that didn't stop me from trying to remove the casing from one poor sausage anyway. I gave up after that one. Oh, and they're already cooked so no need to worry about disgusting raw chicken.
    10. Recipe calls for a 7x11 baking dish. All I had was 9x13. It came out fine, just flatter.
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      Monday, March 5, 2012

      A Farmers Market Dinner

      If you told my 20 year old self that someday I'd wake up early on Sunday mornings to go to the farmers market, I would have laughed at you. Now I look forward to it every weekend.

      Every item in this bowl of deliciousness is from the Schenectady Greenmarket, save for the sun dried tomatoes.

      This reluctant domestic has been busy being a reluctant grad student, hence the lack of posts.  But I've been busy cooking and taking tons of pictures, and it's my spring break, so expect more posts this week!

      Friday, January 27, 2012

      En-Thai-sing soup: Chicken-coconut with vegetables

      I've made several soups and crock pot recipes over the past few weeks, but nothing that excited me enough to say, "I really need to blog about this." Until today!

      Brandon's Thai chicken-coconut soup with vegetables
      From a fairly lame husband vs. wife column on CNN.

      32 ounces chicken broth
      1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
      1/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
      1 pound boneless chicken breast
      4 garlic cloves
      3 jalapeños
      6 shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
      4 medium-sized carrots, sliced thinly
      6 ounces water chestnuts, sliced thinly
      6 stalks fresh lemongrass, peeled
      1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
      1 bunch fresh cilantro
      6 ounces frozen corn
      3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
      1 tablespoon soy sauce
      1 tablespoon olive oil
      Dash red pepper flakes
      Salt and pepper to taste

      • Don't want to squeeze limes? Me either. Your supermarket produce section sells lime juice for a reason.
      • Don't know how to prepare jalapeños? Me either. Hot peppers are scary. Thank heavens for YouTube.
        • Sub-tip: Wear gloves, especially if you have a paper cut and/or are prone to biting your fingernails, even hours after the fact. Yow.
      • Squeezy Herb TubesCan't find fresh lemongrass? I actually did (props to ShopRite!), but they didn't have enough. Right below the fresh stuff were what I like to call Squeezy Herb Tubes by Gourmet Garden. I think the name will catch on. One Squeezy Lemongrass Tube equals 6 fresh lemongrass stalks. Perfect! I also got a Squeezy Ginger Tube because I hardly ever use ginger and didn't want to buy a whole root for one tablespoon.
      • I bought a bottle of Thai fish sauce without checking to see if I already had some. Because really, why would I have Thai fish sauce? But I did. So now I have two bottles.  What's a girl to do with so much fish sauce?
      • One bunch of cilantro is way too much for garnish. I'm drying the rest for use in my future spice rack.
      • My supermarket produce section sells fresh, pre-sliced water chestnuts! Also picked up a container of bamboo shoots. Easy.
      Let's make some soup!

      Finely chop the garlic and 2 jalapeños. Sauté with olive oil over medium heat for a few minutes.

      Garlic and jalapeños sautéing

      Dice chicken and add to pan.  Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.  Sauté for a few more minutes. Don't cook the chicken all the way through. It will cook more in the soup.

      Partially-cooked chicken with garlic, jalapeños, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes

      Add chicken broth, coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, lemongrass, soy sauce and ginger to a big pot. Stir and bring to a gentle boil for 2-3 minutes, then reduce heat to simmer. Add carrots, mushrooms, corn and water chestnuts (and bamboo shoots, if you got 'em). Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

      Simmering soup

      Slice remaining jalapeño and add to soup.  Simmer for 10 more minutes.  Remove lemongrass stalks (if you used fresh).  Ladle into bowls and garnish with cilantro.

      Let's eat!
      Excuse the lame bowl. I was packing my lunch for work.

      If you read the CNN column and are observant, you may have noticed the shiitake mushrooms in the ingredients list, but not in the recipe. That's because the bonehead who wrote it neglected to say what to do with them. I didn't realize this until after the soup was finished and cooled, so now I have a bunch of unused mushrooms. I'd imagine they get thrown in with the carrots so I added that above, but I'll have to wait until next time to find out for sure.

      I had to stop myself from sneaking tastes while it was simmering. The lemongrass, lime juice and coconut work so well together. I may add more coconut milk next time, as it was overshadowed a bit by the citrus. The jalapeños add just enough heat for my taste. I don't eat the slices, but I do eat the minced pieces. If you like it hot, consider adding more jalapeños and/or red pepper flakes. Serve with bread if you're looking for more substance. I've been eating an Italian soft roll with each bowl. Perfect for dipping! I've brought this soup in for lunch all week, and every time I take that first spoonful, I do a little happy dance in my seat. I love it that much.

      Note: This can be a gluten free soup if you use fresh lemongrass and ginger, and gluten free soy sauce. Squeezy Herb Tubes may contain trace amounts of gluten.

      Thursday, January 5, 2012

      Christmas Cookies and Memories

      Taken at Easter, not Christmas, but similar setup.
      When I was a kid, my mom baked cookies every Christmas. She'd go all out, baking dozens of cookies for friends, family, coworkers, teachers, you name it. It was quite the undertaking. Each batch went in a holiday-themed tin, which I suspect she bought on clearance after the holidays. Frugal, she was. I would "help," but as I was but a young reluctant domestic, I probably just got in the way. She didn't mind.

      My brother and I spent Christmas 2011 apart, but thought the same thing at the same time a few days before: We should bake Mom's cookies this year. Perhaps because it was the tenth anniversary of our last Christmas with Mom.

      So, we took to the internets to find recipes.  The AKA's are what we called the cookies as kids.

      Peanut Butter Chips and Jelly Bars (AKA "PBJ Cookies")
      From Hershey's
      • Fair warning: The dough will be dry and crumbly when you prepare it. It's OK, I promise! The jelly moistens it up.
      • Not a grape jelly fan? Use whatever flavor you like. I prefer raspberry.
      Magic Cookie Bars (AKA "Coconut Chocolate Bars")
      From Eagle
      • The Eagle Company is smart to create a recipe which requires 14 ounces of sweetened condensed milk. Know why? Because Eagle is the only company that makes 14 ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk. The other brands at the supermarket came in 12 ounce cans. Would the cookies have missed those extra 2 ounces? I didn't want to take that risk. Eagle don't play.
      • It's way cheaper to buy graham crackers than graham cracker crumbs. Besides, crushing graham crackers by hand is a great way to release pent up aggression. Not that I have any.
      • I do not recall Mom including nuts in her bars, but I used chopped almonds and thought they were a nice addition.
      Those are the only two recipes I attempted. They are both incredibly easy to make, incredibly hard to screw up, and incredibly delicious. No pictures, because I eated them (I shared!). 

      Other cookies recalled from (mostly my brother's) memory include:
      • "Spiral cookies with sugary glaze"
      • "Something with saltines, chocolate, or caramel, or maybe both"
      • "Cornflakes covered in chocolate"
      • "Chocolate balls (heh)"
      I'll give myself more time and try more recipes next year.  Maybe someday I'll make them with my kid.

      If you remember additional cookies made by Mom, leave a comment and let me know! Even a vague description will probably jog my memory. Dad actually unearthed her recipes, so I will be making copies next time I visit.