Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Happy Birthday Pugs

The pugs turned 6 years old a few weeks ago (this is late).  We don't typically make a big deal out of their birthdays, because, well, we forget to (so awful!), but this year things were different.  We just happened to be on one of our 5x/week trips to a local bakery that makes these little wonders called "pupcakes"!

How did the pugs handle this birthday hedonism?

I presented to them da goods. Bunni is mesmerized.  Notice Kevin's hand in the background keeping Bunni's ass planted on the floor.

A closer look, madame? Perhaps you would like just a teensy leetle bite to make sure zat zeese pupcakes are to your liking?

What part of "teensy leetle bite" did you not understand??

While Bunni cleverly destructed her pupcake in .001 second, Rikki's strategy was to lock her jaws around the pupcake entire, trot around the living room in simultaneous jubilee and utter fear that someone would rob her of her precious pupcake, only to be nabbed by Kevin all wide-jawed and just bizarre-looking.  All the while, mind you, not actually biting into the pupcake.

She still doesn't get it.

After some considerable time (and, ahem, Kevin retrieving the pupcake from her jaws and breaking it up for her), she finally did get the hang of the pupcake.

After the carnage, the pugs retreated to their bed.

I expected gratitude after the pupcake extravaganza. I expected unadulterated love and adoration.

Instead, I received one sleepy look and one "what da f&#! you want?" look.

Rikki did open her eyes in hopeful anticipation of a stray pupcake.

Bunni, that blessedly iron-hearted pug of mine, gave me a glare that said it all: "You gave me one pupcake.  One. I don't understand how you expect me to live."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Roasted Mushrooms

I love mushrooms. I think they're delicious, I like the texture, and they add such a meaty component to dishes.  I know not everyone feels the same way about mushrooms, which makes me sad.  The cafeteria in my office building had roasted mushrooms every day as a selection in the buffet for about a month, which made up for the sadness.  But then the sadness returned when they stopped offering the mushrooms.  My emotions are being toyed with.

If you do like mushrooms, here's a recipe for an easy side dish. Or, if you're like me, you'll eat the entire pound of mushrooms all by yourself as a whole meal. It happens.

I looked at various roasted mushroom recipes and liked this one the best, and adapted it just the tiniest bit.


1 lb. mushrooms (crimini or white)
2 TBS plus 1 tsp olive oil
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 TBS finely minced garlic
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
1 TBS finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 TBS chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Serves 4 as a side dish, or 1 if we're talking about me

About prepping mushrooms: they say you're not supposed to rinse mushrooms because they soak up too much water, and that the best way is to wipe each f*(#$ one with a damp paper towel.  However, I was watching Jacques Pepin and he said washing mushrooms is fine, as long as you wait to do it right before you use them (otherwise the water soaks in too much, causes soft spots, something like that).  So I decided to side with Jacques on this one since it made my life easier.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Crank it!

Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Trim the dried ends of the washed mushrooms and quarter them--some of then were petite enough that I just halved them, or, if extra mini petite, just left them whole.

Toss with 2 TBS olive oil, salt and pepper, and place mushrooms onto a baking sheet.  Give them some space so they actually roast instead of just steam each other.  Roast the mushrooms for about 15 minutes, stirring things around halfway through.

While the mushrooms are roasting, prepare the very complicated sauce.  What you do is combine the remaining 1 tsp of olive oil, balsamic, garlic, and thyme.

Toss the sauce with the roasted mushrooms (if there is a lot of liquid in your baking sheet, pour that off before this step).

Put the mushrooms back into the oven for another 10 minutes.

And enjoy.  I think they say mushrooms have a lot of umami. I find them addictive. Hence a pound of them disappearing into my mouth in 10 minutes.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

For the Twilight Fans, Again

Remember the cupcakes I came across last year that commemorated the release of Eclipse? Well, I'm a little late in posting this, but a local bakery made a very special Breaking Dawn cupcake a few weeks ago.

Reader, I ate it.

Oh it's just too much fun. Although do you know what's *not* fun? Not actually seeing Breaking Dawn in the theater, just being a sad half hanger-on by taking a picture of a cupcake with a photo from the movie.  When I suggested seeing the movie to a certain someone, that certain someone countered with Harold & Kumar (which I have nothing against, but that wasn't the point).  My life.  It's the kind of thing where I would probably have to ask to see this with Kevin as a Christmas gift, the resistance is that high.  

You're saying to yourself: why don't you go see it with a friend? And then I would mutter to myself: most of my friends would react that same way as Kevin. I'm an outlier. It is my burden to bear. And I bear it with all kinds of angst, half-gasps, and incoherent sentences.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chicken and Dirty Rice

I'm sipping on an apple cocktail.  It's deleeeshous! And strong.  It took some stocking up of my non-existent liquor cabinet in order to make, but once as I bought the basics and made the thyme simple syrup, it was bottoms up. Okay not exactly bottoms up, since, and this is worth repeating, the drink is strong stuff.  It's not the most quick-and-easy of cocktails, but the making of a cocktail is a nice little ritual, isn't it? Plus, I feel ever so sophisticated. I fool everybody. And by "everybody" I mean my husband and the two pugs, the only living beings who are around while I engage in all this fine measuring and ice-and-liquor shaking and whatnot.

FYI--I've discovered that you don't need a real cocktail shaker to make cocktails. I used an old jam jar.  

Is there anything like the sound of ice gently clinking against glass?  It's such a happy, light tinkling sound.  Although when I hear the word "tinkle", I think of #1, and that's not what I mean in this instance.

By the way, this is not a sweet cocktail. While it has apple cider and the thyme simple syrup, don't be expecting Martinelli's (which I happen to love) with some alcohol thrown in. 

Onward to the point of this post...

As I mentioned, I've been starting to use my slow cooker and recipes from Slow Cooker Revolution by America's Test Kitchen.  You're like, oh my god stop mentioning ATK I can't take it anymore. And I'm like I can't. I just can't stop.

One of my favorite recipes so far is this Southern Style Chicken and Dirty Rice. Prep for slow cooker recipes can be super easy or pretty involved.  This recipe is an in-betweener.  But very worth it.

  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces of kielbasa sausage, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 celery ribs, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed 
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups instant rice
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin (I completely forgot these when I made the recipe, which renders them "optional")
Serves 6 to 8.

Heat oil in skillet on medium to medium high heat.  Cook kielbasa until well-browned, about 5 minutes.

While kielbasa is browning, prep your aromatics.

Add the onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper, chili powder, thyme and cayenne to the kielbasa until veggies are softened and onion is lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add flour. The two-word simplistic beauty of a command sentence.Which I just ruined with my rambling.

Stir for about 2 minutes to incorporate and cook flour.  Then whisk in broth, making sure to scrape up tasty bits on the bottom of the pan. Transfer mixture to slow cooker.

See? Those are the bits that you want to scrape up.  I am so helpful.

At this point you're wondering how the slow cooker makes life any easier, because this sure doesn't sound any easier than a regular recipe, and I wondered the same thing. I think this recipe is a great example of how the biggest benefit of the slow cooker comes after the prep, when you're letting it sit there doing its thing.  Be patient!

Anyway, season your chicken thighs with salt and pepper on both sides.

Place the chicken in the slow cooker and move it around a bit so that it's covered in the sauce.  Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours (I did 5 hours).

After you've gone to get a massage (or 3) and return to your slow cooker deliciousness, break apart the chicken with any utensil, or just look at it really, really intensely--the meat falls apart quite easily. Stir in rice and 1 tsp salt and cook on high for 30 minutes.

I know, you're like, why would I use instant rice?  Well, that's what the book said and we all know that ATK cooks things every which way, and they mentioned that using regular rice could lead to uneven cooking.  I don't know about you, but the last thing I wanted was for this thing to be cooking for 5 hours only to find that the dish would be ruined by misbehaving rice.  So Minute Rice it was.

This dish is really quite good, and I highly recommend it.