Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sunday #8: It Happened on a Monday

Fair Warning: I've had the better part of a bottle of wine. I told myself I couldn't go to bed until this was written. I'm not promising any masterpieces here.


It was a three-day weekend for us office types, and I lazed through Sunday without a thought to what we'd have for dinner that night.

Because I would do it Monday!

And I did, but I really didn't want to. I didn't even plan on taking pictures. I planned on making some lame post here about how it was the sitting down together that counted, and I'd be a better blogger next time.

But I know what that meant. It meant I was working on wienering my way out of this whole blogging thing - and only 7 Sundays in!

This weekend it's the boys' birthday, and next weekend we are having a birthday party on Saturday, which would obviously prevent any sort of dinner making on the following day because of like... cheese and stuff or something. Yeah. The point is I was on my way to setting up a months worth of excuses not to post.

So I told myself to knock it off, and take some pics and blog, dammit.

Not my best work, but here we go!

The Menu:
Shallota Spaghetti Carbonara Something or Other
Strawberry Trifle.

So Rachel Ray did this recipe that called for loads of shallots. When I first made it I just wanted an excuse to use shallots.

See, shallots were these exotic things. I didn't know much about them except that they hung out with the boiler and pearl onions at the Safeway and since they were in the fancy section of  produce land I didn't feel brave enough to use them.

Maybe that seems odd, but I didn't grow up spending much time in the fresh produce section. When we did hit the produce isle it was it was usually for veggie bin staples like onions and potatoes. Once in a while, if we were going to have salad or something we would get iceburg lettuce and a tomato.

Mostly our dinner vegetables came from a can. Sometimes fresh carrots would be featured if mom was making a pot-roast, but that wasn't too often. I probably had more fresh veggies when my Grandma made dinner, but that was usually garden stuff like tomatoes or cukes.

Looking back I guess it made sense. My grandparents came from people who grew a lot of what they ate, and they put up (that's canning to you) their vegetables as soon as they could harvest. Aside from being used to canned veggies, I'm sure the fresh stuff that the supermarkets carried didn't have a lot of value flavor wise. And really, why would you bother with tomatoes that travelled 2000 miles before being gassed to the proper hue if you'd always grown your own.

Shallots. Yes - I'd wanted an excuse to use those for a while. I needed something that gave me clear instruction on how to use them since they were some great big mystery. When I saw Rachel's recipe I knew that was it, that was what I'd been waiting for! I've made it a couple of times since then, and it's always seemed like it was lacking something.

So for my Monday dinner I decided to make the shallot infested pasta but with BACON! Because really, bacon fixes everything.

These are shallots which are totally different than onions and therefore require a new picture.

Man. Have I told you about my burner? My burner, I swear, waits until I turn my back and then it flips me the finger and shuts itself off. Sometimes it does it right in front of me. It's the only big burner so it's really hard to just tell it to eff itself and switch to a different burner.

I started some olive oil and bacon in a deep heavy bottomed pan.  It was sizzling and doing it's thing so I went into the living room a whole ten feet away. I heard a sound. A sound that  sounded like it wasn't making any sound.  The bastard burner had stopped working! I grabbed a towel and fiddle/shoved it around until it connected and heated up again. We have to do this all the time now. God, I hate my kitchen.

I did this for about an HOUR and by then I had been stupid enough to believe it would work and had added the shallots. At one point I was left with sweated shallots, which isn't what I was looking for. It looked like sick, sad, limp, feeble onions swimming in their own ick. I wadded up some paper towel and soaked up the shallot sweat and then dumped it all into my skillet, cranked up the heat, and demanded that it BROWN.

And it did, around a half hour later.

This is all the crap I was dealing with, and it was about this time that I was getting all "screw this, blogs are dumb!"

Oh, also my Kitchenaid stand mixer died. A little piece of me died with it. It wasn't a good weekend for cooks.

About halfway through my fighting every urge to call my stove a cunt and dump dinner and demand we go out to eat I realized that the bacon made this dish sort of like carbonara.

I didn't know much about carbonara, except that there was bacon in it.

So I ran to the computer and  looked it up. I discovered that carbonara is basically* pasta tossed in bacon fat that has a Parmesan cheese and egg mixture whippped into it screaming fast while it's rocket hot to make a tasty sauce free of food born illness.
(*if you’d like to disagree and start babbling about pancetta and that sort of thing, go ahead. I’m pretty confident that I’ve made it clear that I’m a PATRIOT and will totally dilute any culture out of a food’s traditional traditionaliness until it’s nothing but a shadow of its former self. Also, there’s nothing more American than BACON and I can’t afford pancetta. Also – I can find bacon at my Safeway.  Also, the whole time I was making dinner I was fighting the urge to trash it all and demand we go out and have Cheddar Bay Biscuits or the like, so don’t give me shit about it not being “real” carbonara. I will shoot you in the face!)

I started feeling brave.

I got the Parmesan grated, and decided 3 eggs and 1.5 cups of parm would do the trick for the amount of pasta and shallots I had going.

Before adding anything to the noodles  I pulled some aside for Max. I asked Mark to butter them and add a little Parmesan and he picked up a fork full of the egg and cheese mixture thinking it was butter and cheese. "NO!!!" I certainly did not yell in a half-crazed tone. Thankfully my harpy screech was in time to prevent him from tainting the only shallot-free noodles with some sort of food-borne-illness.

Oh yeah - so at some point in the day I decided that this other recipe would be really good. I had the basil and tomato and it seemed like the way to go because I'd leave Mark for a Tomato and Basil Baron.
Somewhere between knowing that we'd have pasta for dinner, and deciding to go with the carbonara-esque dish, I prepped a bowl of tomatoes and basil.

What to do?

I couldn't just leave it in the fridge, it would have turned into macerated tomato slime by the time I got around to doing anything else with it.

So I put it on toasted garlic bread with a heavy sprinkle of grated Parmesan, what else?

Also, I put a small amount in the bottom of my pre-heated bowl and covered it with the screaming hot noodles. The result was warmed-through tomatoes that weren't mealy and gross.

I realize I'm really sucking at the step-by-step thing here. But I am, unfortunately, lacking a food photographer. I could ask Mark but I'd end up yelling at him and being mean. Besides, he usually has a weeks worth of crap to clear off the dinner table so we can sit down. You'll notice I don't have a big picture of the table this time around. It's because it's still covered in crap. It was a very lazy weekend.

So yes, anyway, the picture deal. When you're whipping eggs and cheese into noodles so that they form a delicious sauce and not freaky noodles and egg-curds, you don't have time for pics. But also, I just didn't feel it very much this weekend. I really need to invest more time into planning what we're having for dinner so that I don't find myself scrabbling to put it together until I'm half-way through it and remember I need to take pictures.

Oh yeah - I made a Strawberry Trifle.

It turned out okay. Like, on the lame side of okay. I'll tell you about it later.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sunday #7: Chicken Dinner

About a month ago I bought a ten dollar chicken. That's about twice the price you'd pay for a regular whole chicken. I wasn't sure what I was buying at the time so I did a quick search on the "Open Nature" label on my phone. I didn't find much there either. Now, our Safeway makes it barely possible to have a decent phone conversation, let alone access the intarwebs, so I didn't look very hard.

In the end I decided to give it a go. I wasn't kidding myself. Even though the label, just like lots of other labels, showed a peak at a happy little farm with free-roaming farm critters I knew that my chicken probably had the same miserable life as lots of other chickens.

That's not what I really cared about. I'm a horrible person, I know.

What I really cared about is if this chicken would taste any different. Would a chicken not being fed it's own feces (oh, wait, we feed those to cows) and not plumped with saltwater taste better? See, being a selfish oinky American I'm not concerned with a critter living a happy life before it ends up on my plate (secretly I am, but shhhh, that's not for this post.) I'd prefer a better quality product over 59 cents a pound chicken.

Having since consumed the chicken, I'm not sure there was much difference in flavor. After getting some time to look into the Open Nature product, I don't have any reason to expect much difference between this or any of the other chickens Safeway has to offer.  There did seem to be a difference in color, possibly related to feed, so that may have accounted for some difference in flavor. All in all I'm not comfortable coming down on one side or the other. I'd have to prepare two birds the same way and then try them to see if there was a real taste difference. That's science, bitches.

I probably won't do that though. When I have my thinking head (that's right, head, not hat) on I know that I need to vote with my dollars and all that, and it's unlikely that anything I buy at Safeway will cast too strong a vote.

Someday soon I hope to spend those dollars and pay the higher price for beef, chicken, and lamb not raised on a feedlot, in a overcrowded barncage, or shipped from New Zealand (where the lambs, from what I hear, do have a better quality of life and aren't eating cows blood - but seriously, New Zealand?) There really is more than critter feelings to consider in our food choices. Eating grassfed beef isn't just a treehugger thing, it's health thing too. Beef wouldn't be such a no-no with regards to health if it wasn't so high in fat. Grassfed beef is, cut for cut, about 100 calories less per six ounce serving because it's not as high in fat. Just sayin'.

Okay, enough of that.

The Menu:

High Roast Chicken and Potatoes (recipe courtesy of America's Test Kitchen)
Honey Carrots
Asparagus with grilled onion and Parmesan

The Chicken:

I'd seen America's Test Chicken do a high-roast technique and went hunting it down. They used a whole bird, and left it in the traditional presentation style. I didn't find it. I found this one.

As you can see (if you bothered to look) America's Test Kitchen wants you to pay for the luxury of that recipe. Don't worry though, youtube has my back.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

I made the brine with 4 quarts of chicken stock, some allspice berries, peppercorns, a quartered onion, 3/4 cup of kosher salt, 1/2 cup or so of sugar. Probably some other stuff too that I can't remember. Basically, if you think it'll taste alright, if it goes with whatever else is in the brine, and if you wont have to pick it out of the crannies of the chicken (meaning that it dissolves completely or is big enough to wash away - like the peppercorns) then toss it in there.

I brought this to a boil and then left it that way until Mark asked how long I was going to boil it. I'd guess a 1/2 hour or so. Then I added another 4 quarts worth of water, and plopped in the chicken. It stayed in there about 12 hours all together, with one flip of the bird somewhere in the middle of that.

If you watch the video you'll notice some differences between their brining instructions and what I did.

  • The first thing would be the volume of liquid. My brining container was bigger, so if I'd used less brine the chicken wouldn't have been covered.
  • Considering the volume, there wasn't nearly enough sugar and salt to match the recipe. There was plenty of salt in the chicken stock, so no worries there. As for the sugar - I dunno, I thought that was an awful lot of sugar so I didn't use as much. So there.
  • Ingredients: America's Test Kitchen didn't use any flavoring ingredients. What's the sense in that? All of the flavor in the brine is supposed to be pulled in along with it as it fills up the bird. Yay for flavor is what I'm saying.
  • Time: I brined my bird for half a day. Alton brines his turkey for up to 16 hours... whatever. I was too lazy to take it out in a reasonable amount of time. It needed flipping once we got home from the movies for... gravitational purposes, and then I wanted to go to bed. Obviously there was no other way.

This recipe has you butterfly the chicken. This calls for cutting the spine out of the chicken. I'd taken a chicken apart before and it was a giant pain in the ass, so I wasn't looking forward to it. It didn't turn out to be too hard, though I did use my old crusty kitchen shears rather than my new ones. That probably didn't help but I didn't want to ding up my new shears with chicken bones!

I kept it pretty close to the spine. I think this was my only mistake. In the future I'll cut out most of the back. It'll help the chicken lay flatter, the bones I'll have to cut through will be thinner, and who wants back meat? Starving children, that's who, and we're not them.

The recipe has you make a compound butter (butter, and mix-ins basically, I used garlic and Italian seasoning blend) and smear it up under the chicken skin. Butterflying the chicken made this a whole lot easier, by the way.

I decided this would be a good time to start taking pictures. My bird ended up looking a little whorey:

but I helped it to look more decent:

I left it on the rack to air dry. Our kitchen doesn't get much above 55 degrees so I wasn't worried about it taking on  life of it's own and crawling away with disease or anything.

While chicken was busy not being lewd, I prepared the potatoes.
This recipe calls for baking the chicken on a broiler pan at 500 degrees with potatoes in the part of the pan that usually catches the grease and oil. I was worried about the potatoes not only not cooking all the way, but being burnt to shit on the outside too.

I used white potatoes and a russet (the recipe calls for all russets to absorb some of the butter and chicken run-off) and sliced them very very thin to help alleviate my "what if they don't cook all the way!?" fears.

This was a thick one.

You toss all of those with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and then spread them out on the bottom half of broiler pan (covered with heavy-duty foil, of course.) Then you put the top on and put the chicken on top and bake for forty minutes in the aforementioned 500 degree oven, turning once midway.


Ready to burn!

The Vegetation:

While chicken was or was not burning I got the carrots and asparagus together.

I told Mark that I wanted skinny, whippy asparagus, but not to bother at all if it was expensive. I don't know what he paid, but this is what he brought me.

Mmmm, bamboo!

So, I chopped about half the length off and microwaved them for 3 minutes in a semi-sealed container. Usually I don't parcook asparagus this way, but a few minutes in the tasty skillet wasn't going to cut it for these big boys.

I had a skillet with some garlic and onion going - 
I think this is going to be my stock
photo for "Denise is cooking
garlic and onions again"

 and added the parcooked asparagus to that. I'd briefly thought about splashing in some balsamic, but decided it'd ugly up the Parmesan. I cooked the branches for 5 minutes or so, turning often with tongs and scraping up onion bits when I could so they wouldn't burn. I layered half on to a plate, sprinkled some shredded Parmesan, and then add the rest with more parm, and the onions scraped from the pan.

The carrots were very easy. In a microwave container I sealed in a pound of peeled and halved carrots with a quarter cup of honey and a pat of butter, then microwaved it for 6 minutes. These were very simple carrots. That's all I really wanted out of them, complexity isn't something you need out of every dish.
Though, I did think later that some ginger would have been nice. Also, if you're the type who likes to salt their watermelon, you'll want to give these a sprinkle.


Oh yes, we also had biscuits. If I were making chicken and dumplings I would make my own, but my recent attempts at biscuit making haven't turned out anything very marvelous - at least not so marvelous that I feel the need to make my own.

So we had canned biscuits instead:

These were diseased with "butter" pellets. I can only imagine what sort of trans-fat nightmare they were really made up of. I usually go for the non-diseased kind, but I can't even blame Mark here, I got these on a shopping trip that I took all by myself.

These are spaced so weirdly on the sheet because I like my biscuits super soft, and Mark likes his stupid. He doesn't think they cook all the way when they're touching. Stupid.

Get to the kitchen!

Chicken: Not burned!

Mmmm, browny bits.

Before serving the potatoes you're supposed to blot off the oil. I used a mini bulb syringe. Yikes. I'd like to find a way to lessen the amount of butter schmaltz in a recipe like this. I'm thinking maybe less butter to begin with.

I was the only one excited for this.

I added some sliced tomato and cidered cucumbers (2 parts apple cider vinegar, 1 part water, tsp-tbsp of sugar, pepper, dill - refrigerate a couple hours, tasty!) to up the vegetable quotient.

Yay dinner!

The Verdict

There was nothing about this dinner that made me sad. Nothing got burned!

I'm usually don't go crazy for chicken skin, not like some people. Watching people pull off giant wads of fried chicken skin and cram it in kinda grosses me out. This was different though (you never notice how ugly your own children are) the skin was super thin and crispy crisp. I had a little sliver with each chicken bite and it was so tasty.

And the potatoes? So good. SO GOOD! Next time I'll use a bit fewer (the recipe video shows you filling the bottom pan completely) and hope for more browned bits. Most of the bottom brown bits were stuck to the foil, may I had the wrong side up, I'm not sure. I'd like to think that having less crammed in the pan would let them brown more. That aside, they were super tasty.

Really, everything was good. I don't usually get all "I'm so great!" about this stuff, but I was really happy with how this all turned out.

In fact, this is the only way I plan on making a whole chicken again. I might fiddle with the high-heat and cook times, but butterflying is definitely the way to go. I wasn't nearly as paranoid about it cooking through in the thighs as I have been every other time I've made a whole bird.

This recipe has given me a new love for the broiler pan. I've always hated that thing. It's a pain to clean, and the only real benefit to using it is being able to cook a whole package of bacon at once. That still just leaves you with weird bacon (I like mine better in the skillet) and a gross pan full of bacon grease. Ick.

But this recipe has opened my eyes. I'd never thought to use it with vegetables underneath as delicious flavor catchers. You know what I'm really excited to try? LAMB with roasted veggies. I'll have to figure cooking times and fat content, but I think I can figure something out. Yum.

Oh, also:

I made myself a lunch like a good girl. It was really hard not have the meat/carbwad switch places with the veggies, because really all I wanted was a giant bowl of potatoes.

And another also - I didn't make dessert. I'm not very inspired in that area just lately, so the boys had drumsticks and I kept stealing more potato slices until I finally put them in the fridge and hid them from myself.

That's all.

Well, I guess there's also this:
See Max's plate? He had that and a biscuit. So much for veggie variety.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Tragedy of Apple Cake

For a while I was kind of obsessed with apples. After I made that pie, and tasted how tasty the available apples were I went apple crazy.

I decided to make Caramel Apple Coffee Cake for dessert after Sunday #5.

I was going to post about this, I had a dozen AWESOME pictures of the various stages of wonderfulness that preceeded the awful destruction of the cake.

But the picture uploader was being a slow, slow bitch not showing me my pics.
So I went to Picasa and saved the pics I wanted to my computer (having long since removed them from the camera since they were on Picasa) and then deleted the pics from Picasa to lessen the wait time in accessing my pics.

And then when I went to pull them from my computer all there were were these weird blank doc pages. Whatever that means!

So sorry apple cake, there will be no memorial for you.

Just let me say that if you decide to make a caramel sauce of apples, pecans and CARAMEL and then want to get all "pineapple upside down" cakey with this cake but by using the aforementioned ingredients in the place of pineapple and such - yeah - if you decide to do that don't be an r-tard and ALSO use the tube-pan that they suggest. It will NEVER COOK before the caramel burns to death because the cake piled too densely. Use a 9x13 or something.

The inside of this cake was awesome, we cut off the burnt and froze apple cakey chunks for later enjoyment.

I'd show you but I'm clearly too stupid to manage a picture folder. Yay me!

Sunday #6: Salted Fatty Carbwad

Last weekend I had it in my head that I'd make chicken for dinner. Then we went shopping and I bought baby bok choy and got excited for WONTON SOUP!

So we decided on wonton soup, and I made Mark go to Safeway after we'd spent the whole of Saturday running around, skating, shopping at Cosctco the day before the Super Bowl, and collecting Pokemon.

But things would change again because while at Costco Mark and Simon tried a sample of this:

I knew they'd liked their sample and were getting some, I just didn't realize how awesome-crusty-perfect they were until the next day.
Perfect for french dip!

So, for the sake of the bread, we decided on dips for dinner. We couldn't just ignore the bread til later in the week, it wouldn't have been as good. It would have been all dried out and sad. At this point you might be asking yourself why that would matter when the bread would get dunked in salted beefwater. Maybe, you're thinking, we just wanted an excuse not to make a decent meal.

Pffft. You don't know me! You don't know me at all!

It was for the BREAD!
and... The Superbowl! Yeah! Dammit I was being American by celebrating with garbage food!

So anyway, this meant another trip to the store for Mark on Sunday morning for deli roast beef. That's right, DELI, I certainly wasn't cooking a roast on Superbowl day!

I stared by preparing the vegetable:

We cooked it until it looked like this:

We cooked this fine vegetable in a couple tablespoons of butter. Butter is a well known vegetable enhancer, so it's practically a veggie in it's own right. Respect it.

We pre-toasted the bread after slicing them all in half. Mark and I had a brief discussion on whether or not to
prepare the remaining five loaves (there were six, he had one that morning, this is of note for later) or just one for each of us.

Eh, why not just do all five!

So we did. The roast beef we'd heated through in the au jus. Also, I did saute up some mushrooms at some point, I just didn't document it.

Ready for the oven. As soon as MORE CHEESE was added to the beefy side of the loaves.

We heated them until everything was melty, browned, and trying to slide off the bread.

Dairy Management Inc. is doing their job, and doing it well.

How much cheese is that? I dunno, we didn't measure.  A half a cup a side? A full cup per sandwich? Yeah, that sounds about right.

See the purple from the onion? That's what makes this a balanced meal.

I finished mine because I'm a champion overeater, but Mark and Simon ended up picking the beefy goodness out of it's bready casing towards the end.

We decided we could have easily had half a sandwich each and would have been perfectly happy... or mostly happy.

We should have figured this out before gorging on cheese and beef and bread. Why? Well for one, no one but Dominos would ever think this much cheese was good idea, no matter how unbalanced the meal. Well, no one but them and me, apparently.

Also, I'd looked at the nutritional information for these guys. Each loaf was 3 servings and 120 calories. That should have been a clue.

Even Mark is partially to blame. Remember how I said he'd had a loaf earlier that morning? Well AFTER we'd all slurped down our bread wads like some sort of park ducks, he mentions that he should have known better when he struggled to just eat a loaf of bread by itself for breakfast.

It looks like we'll never learn.

You know what else?

Either will he:

Not with our fine teachings he won't.

Oh wait! I excused all of this for the superbowl! Yeah!

Cheese people played, right? See, this dinner was just in honor of the cheese people.

Dietary Mom Guilt: Vanquished.

Oh yeah, that fifth sandwich? Mark and I each half half for lunch later in the week. Half a sandwich and some fruit was perfect. I'm sure I'll forget that by the next time I get excited for Salted Fatty Carbwad.

I'm writing this a week after having it and I'm already thinking it sounds like a good idea.


Because we're having chicken, the anti-beef.
(someone out there might think that Tofu or something is the anti-beef, but they're wrong, it's chicken.)

Oh yeah - Max had half a loaf of that bread with some melty cheese on top. Not the best dinner, but no where near the coronary catastrophe the rest of his family had. It's scary when Max is leading the way nutrition wise.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hey, Wanna See Something Gross?

Found a recipe, found a recipe, found a reeeeecipe just now....

I shoulda known when I saw the staged photo that this recipe was going to be full of lies.

Made it anyway, made it anyway, made it aaaaaaanyway just now...

I decided to make this for dinner last Wednesday. It turned out so darn special, I thought I should share.

I followed the recipe most of the way, the only thing I changed was cooking up some leeks with the garlic before adding in the rest of the ingredients.

Oh, also, when it came time to add in the balsamic I went "shake-a shake-a" without realizing that this bottle doesn't have that little dribble lid you see on some other vinegar/olive oil bottles. So much dumped out that I decided this needed to be a double recipe. Sure, I could have dumped some out, but balsamic is spendy, so eff that noise!

It was scary, it was scary, it was scaaaaaary just now...

I shoulda known when I added cream of mushroom soup to it and saw it turn... colors, that this was not going to be good, not in the visually appealing sense anyway.

And then you're told to wilt spinach in it. Yeah...

Okay, enough with the suspense, are you ready? Seriously - make sure you're ready. If you get queasy easily or are just preparing to eat, you might not wanna see this right now.




Wait for it...





A nice Chianti, anyone?

Ate it anyway, ate it anyway, ate it aaaaaaaanyway just now...

Yeah, that looks like nothing but awfulness.
There were no seconds for Mark, there were barely firsts. He said he could have eaten more if he were blind.

Obviously Max was not having it. He had a piece of naked chicken, and some bread.

Simon ate two servings.
Simon brought some to school with him.
He cackled like a mad-man.

I took some to work the next day, but wanted to eat it in hiding - and not because of my regular urge to hide my eating habits either (I don't have mental health issues at all!) but because it was so ugly. If it were my baby, I'd make it wear a sack on it's head.

What could have fixed this?

Well, a friend at work mentioned that "golden" cream of mushroom soup is a little darker, so maybe if I'd have used that the sauce stuff would have been browner instead of that weird gray color.

Also, when I decided to double the recipeI didn't realize the big container of spinach I had was only 9 ounces (a doubled recipe would have called for 14oz.) So there would have been more of the bright green, and less industrial gruel coloring.

But seriously, look at these pictures side by side:

There is NO WAY that the second could ever become the first. No amount of spinach would have soaked up all of that beany mushroom goo, there's just no way!

I know I still have blah-blah-blahs still to do for the burnt apple cake and last Sunday #6. Wednesday is usually my day for that but I decided to spend mine going to the doctor, bussing and walking for 2 hours afterward, and then laying in a pile playing Xbox and feeling like I'd done enough for the day.

So there!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dinner #5: Meat, Cheese and Sacrificial Apples

My only goal for this dinner was to end up with no more than 4800 calories worth of food total. This would have been 4 dinners at 800 calories maximum, with two meals left over for lunches and what have you.

Did I succeed? I dunno, I was too busy slapping stuff together to count calories. I made about three times the macaroni and cheese we needed. I think that's all the answer you need.

I think I did alright, all things told. We aren't counting the wine though, right? Right!

The Menu:
Rib Eye Steak
Macaroni and Cheese
Apple Cake Burnt Offering to the God of Cake

I'm not telling you how I made salad. It's salad. Vegetable pile with dressing- hoodily hoo!
I'll tell you about the dressing though, because I've been eating that all week. I've made it twice. It makes everything about lunchtime better.

1/3 cup mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup buttermilk
TB or so of cider vinegar
ounce or so of grated Parmesan (get yourself a microplane grater, best ten bucks ever.)
1/4 tsp of Dill
1/4 tsp Italian seasoning
TB of Johnny's Garlic Seasoning

Starting by whisking the mayo and sour cream together, and then adding about half the buttermilk, and mixing it completely before adding the rest. You don't want gross nasty lumps, do you?

Well too bad! You're getting lumps anyway, thanks to the parm, enjoy!
(this does better after spending a night in the fridge, btw)

Macaroni and Cheese:
Someday I need to actually use a recipe for mac and cheese. Someday, but not this day! This day I slapped things together an ingredient at a time.

I started by boiling the noodles, duh. When they were done I strained them and tossed them with about a tablespoon of butter. Just enough to get them slippery. Then, oh then I sifted some Vermont Powdered Cheese onto the pile and stirred it all around.

While the noodles were busy boiling I finely chopped 3 large mushrooms, a shallot, a couple cloves of garlic and added them to my trusty skillet with a little butter and a little salt.

I browned them until they were brown.

After they'd gotten good and toasty looking I added a cup or so of the ricotta cheese to the pan. I'd never used ricotta in mac and cheese before, but I still had most of a container left over from last week's adventure so I went with it.

I cooked that until it was heated through and looked sorta like vomit.

Open up, baby birds!

Then that got all stirred around and I started to dump in the shredded cheeses. Probably a cup and a half of white cheddar, cheddar and mozzarella. I dunno, I didn't measure.

Yay cheese!
Seen here looking less like barf...sorta

Before we move on:

I made lunch servings!

I dumped the remainder of the noodles into my favorite casserole dish. They were looking sort of dry and needy (probably from not adding in my usual amount of cheese. The usual amount? ALL THE CHEESE) so I mixed together a cup of milk and two eggs and poured it over the top. I don't usually go for the custardy type of mac and cheese, but this  seemed a better alternative to dry and burned noodlewad  - as if dry and burnt would ever be a concern of mine. 
More cheese on top:
You all should note something here. Even though the baking dish is huge I made only about a 1/3 of what I usually would have. In days gone by this dish would have been practically overflowing with noodles and cheese. So, hooray for me! Such mindfulness to my family's waistline could only end well, right?
This went into the oven at three-hundred-and-something for 40 minutes.

At the halfway mark I added in a little non ricotta ramekin that I'd made for Max.
Mothers: Enabling picky eaters until
the end of time.

It was then that I noticed the large batch was looking pretty brown and melty, and that maybe I should pull it soon. I'd not really considered how shallow the noodles were spread in such a large dish, and how they would cook much faster.

It was agreed, me and myself would be sure to pull it in the next 5 to 10 minutes.

20 minutes later:
I would later throw half of this away because dammit,
 I'm a proud American.

How could this have happened? It's as if I have long and sordid history of overcooking everything somehow!
It doesn't look so bad here, but trust me, it was pretty chewy. I'm just skilled is all. Skilled at driving out all the moisture and love a food has to offer.

The smaller serving? Oh, it turned out fine, naturally. My desication skills are usually only applied to the things I'm excited for.

Max wins again

Rib Eye:

It's Taxmas season, and I was feeling rich, so I spent 25 bucks on four steaks. I don't regret it, they were awesome.

I turned the meat over to Mark. I'm such a good little woman, trusting the man to be all manly. Feeding his ego by letting him be the helper. I could have done it all, but I learned that the man sometimes enjoys feeling valued in the kitchen, so I shared my burden.

Okay, so it's also because if I had made them they would have turned out sad and grey. I'm good for getting about 2 out of every 10 steaks with any sort of crust or browning. Most of them juice up the pan and then cook in their own slobber, never getting brown but usually getting plenty tough. Also I never seem to be able to cook them any way but raw or cooked-through.

I did help by pulling them from the fridge and arranging them on cooling racks to reach room temperature and to dry out a bit. I even blotted them with paper towels every so often to pull off the excess moisture (some of you savvier cooks out there may have been ready to tell me how if you don't dry the meat it won't brown - I know this, I dry it! It just hates me -I've accepted it.)

I didn't watch Mark work his magics, because I was busy putting a failcake together, but I know his methods included cooking them under the broiler and then putting them in a cast iron skillet to brown. We had ours a little towards the medium well side. There was also au jus and horseradish sauce - basically those two condiments were what the whole night was building up to. Salty meat water and creamy heat sauce. Yum.

To the Table!

I guess this is the pose the boys have decided on. Simon's looking pretty unimpressed even though we allowed him access to cutlery! That look on Max's face? That's the look of winning. He saw the crusty dried out mac and cheese we had and mocked us with his enjoyment.

Okay, I have to say that looks pretty good. The mac and cheese was a little chewy, but I'm a burnt cheese fan so it was okay (for the first and second days anyway, as mentioned earlier, we tossed lots of it.)

Even though it was really hard to do, I cut out half of my steak and put it in a lunch container for the next day. I'm pretty sure meat and cheese kept people in Seattle alive that day.

Simon thought life was great,  he got his own great big steak (as with mine, half of his went to lunch. It was thinly sliced for sammichy goodness) and got to cut his own meat with a real knife.

Max ate all of his. His dad and I briefly teased him about the cheese actually being pureed carrots (oh, if only carrots tasted like cheese and green beans tasted like bacon - what a wonderful world this would be) and he informed us that if we ever tried to sneak vegetables into his food he would know

It was kind of eerie the way he said it.  Sort of like you'd imagine a parent telling their kids that if they ever smoked Mom and Dad would know. I imagine the Max of the future doing great works to prove that all of the evils in the world - cancer, murder, pokemon - are directly related to vegetables.

I'm pretty sure Mark liked things okay - he ate meat and drank meatwater, that's recipe for happiness right there - but he doesn't always say much. In fact all head did was force salad on himself, mostly ignore the mac and cheese, and cram meat down his throat. How does that recognize my greatness I ask? That's right, it doesn't. Stupid meat being better than burnt cheese.

The End

What's that? Dessert?

Oh yeah, Dessert!

I was going to make Apple Cake. The recipe called for brown sugar and nuts to be layered in the bottom of a tube pan and the cake poured over it. I thought I knew better and I burnt the shit out of it.

It was one of the things I was really excited about so I took a lot of pictures. It really had a lot of good things going for it, so I'll post about it later.

But that night we busted out the Pound Cake from Sunday # 2 (most of the way down the page) and added a tasty fruit and mascarpone topping.

I bought a small (expensive!) tub of mascarpone cheese for last Sunday's dinner. I didn't need it for anything but apparently I thought I did because I squandered 5 bucks for a 5 oz tub. That's a buck an ounce (see how I help you learn?)

So I mixed that with about a half a cup of sour cream and a quarter cup of honey. It still needed something so I put in a half a tablespoon of KAF's super-awesome cinnamon. I did all this before I ever knew it would end up being dessert.

The tasty fruit for the evening was blueberries. I didn't even know I liked blueberries until last year. When you're trying to lose weight and cut out a lot of the processed crap (don't get me wrong, I love processed food, but it's still garbage) things with any amount of natural sugar start tasting a whole lot better. It also helps if these things are fresh and in season like my first berries from last year were.

The berries I bougth recently were not in season. Not at all. Oh, SO not at all. They were so, so sour. I bought them at the store near my work intending to have them as a snack. I could not tolerate them so they went where the punishment lives - in my purse (it's an ugly purse and something hiding in there stabbed me three different times.) After riding around in there for two days and not tasting any better, somehow, they went to live in the fridge. 

I'd seen them make Blueberry Muffins on America's Test Kitchen (you have to register to read the recipe, the bastards, but it really does look like a good one) and one of the steps for awesomeness is cooking down the blueberries. DUH! I've mostly told all berries to go eff themselves when they suck, so this never occured to me. 

What I did:

Two containers of blueberries (the small tubs)
Couple TB of sugar - or less if your blueberries don't suck.

Into a pot they go. 

I used a lot more pot than I had berries. I did this because I was too lazy to dig through the cupboards for a smaller one. Turns out the big pot is a good idea because blueberries are BLUE and they also explode.

I cooked these on medium heat until things were good and melty/explody.

Then I smooshed everything until it was sorry it had splattered up my stove:

I simmered this until it reduced by half or so:

I'd made this that night because I'd planned on adding it in as a swirl in the apple cake. That was before I decided to awesome up the cake (strike that, reverse it) in other ways. After it had reduced I set my blueberry goo to the side, wondering what I was going to do with it.

What I did with it:

It was so good. I've been having the blueberry and mascarpone stuff on a whole wheat sandwich thin every morning this week. As soon as blueberries go on sale again I'm making a boatload of this stuff.

The pound cake had lived in the freezer for a month by now and was pretty dry, but I am very much looking forward to dumping a pile of sugared strawberries on them as soon as the strawberries quit screwing around (I've seen some from California, but they look crusty and sad, like little strawberry hobos.)

I'll get around to the tragic tale of Apple Cake later. It's SO tragic I should look into selling the movie rights. It could be the next Precious.