Kentucky Woman

Dear Anne,

I have been in the Commonwealth of Kentucky for almost a month, and I have to say I don’t hate it.  I never thought I’d be living in the South, at least not this part of the South, and I certainly never thought I’d enjoy it.  My first weekend here, a friend from home visited.  She recently moved to the Carolinas to teach outside of Charlotte, which is about 8 hours away.  I’m glad she did because it forced me to get out of my apartment and explore Louisville.  Our adventures were quite fun, and definitely had a culinary theme.  We took a ride on the Spirit of Jefferson, walked the pedestrian bridge to Indiana, walked around Cave Hill Cemetery and saw Colonel Sanders’ grave.  Later, we stumbled up on the world’s fanciest KFC — KFC 11.  No one knows why it’s so fancy, but it is.  We also went to Comfy Cow, which is number two on this recommended list by Buzzfeed, Tom + Chee, which is now a franchise that only sells variations of grilled cheese and tomato soup. I discovered this place when I lived in Cincinnati, but didn’t realize they had expanded.  You cannot go wrong with grilled cheese and tomato soup.  Saturday night we went to a comedy show at the Laughing Derby and had a good time.  Sunday was magical.  We started the day out by brunching at The Monkey Wrench, which serves Southern-style cuisine and provides you the opportunity to design your own mimosa or Bloody Mary.  They also have banjos playing every Sunday morning. Amazing!  I ordered the biscuits with mushroom gravy (delicious!) and took a stab the Bloody Mary bar.  I must admit I was sorely disappointed by the Bloody Mary bar.  My ideal Bloody Mary has spicy pickle juice in it, and there were neither pickles nor juice to be found.  I also really don’t care for vodka, so maybe my ideal Bloody Mary is briny tomato juice.  Who’s to say?  That afternoon we hiked the pedestrian bridge over the Ohio River.  After we walked to Indiana and back, we foraged for a barbecue place because if I’m going to live in the South, I’m for sure going to try to eat as much pulled pork as humanly possible without getting the meat sweats.  Based on the name alone, I am 98.64% certain you would love this place:  Momma’s Mustard, Pickles, and BBQ.  It was well worth the 20 minute drive from the riverfront.  I had a pulled pork sandwich with baked beans and mac and cheese.  I have been dreaming about going back since we finished that meal.  (Memo to self: make friends so people will go get BBQ with you.)  Since that weekend, I’ve been trying to prepare my own food because dining out is expensive, but I’m glad I explored Louisville.

The other day I read an article on The Toast called “On Cooking For One,” which completely summed up my feelings on solo culinary adventures.  So many people in my life complain about the difficulties of cooking for only themselves.  I wholeheartedly disagree with their sentiments, though I respect their right to express their opinions.  Cooking for myself is an act of self care and a little bit of meditation.  I find peeling vegetables and methodically preparing a meal to be soothing.  I will concede cooking for one can be daunting in the beginning, spurring questions like “What do I make,” “Why does my grocery store assume I’m cooking for at least four,” and “Is this going to get expensive?”  Fortunately, five years ago you sent me off to grad school with this book:  Going Solo in the Kitchen, by Jane Doerfer

 

Jane so brilliantly discusses the philosophy of cooking for one and how to shop for one.  I’ve made a number of her chicken recipes and her sweet biscuits with a cold fruit compote are delicious.  Sadly, as I am back in the land of Kroger, so much of my produce is prepackaged or pre-portioned.  I have found a more local grocery store that allows me to purchase only what I need, but it’s kind of out of the way.  I’m sure after a few more disappointing Kroger runs, I’ll be more willing to schlep out to the Highlands for produce.  Fun fact: this book made it’s way to England this past winter as I lent it to a former intern of mine for her study abroad this semester.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been cooking for myself again.  Getting into a routine took longer than I anticipated, so my cooking has only begun in the last couple weeks, and it’s mostly been staple foods that I can freeze for later.  Two of my standby basic recipes are crockpot (not) refried beans and black beans.  Both recipes com from Budget Bytes, which is by and large my favorite food blog on the interwebs (aside from Dear Broccoli).  I know I’ve written about Beth and her blog before, but I will not stop singing her praises.  The black beans are the easiest recipe I’ve even encountered because it’s a bag of dried black beans and water in the crockpot for hours.  That’s it.  Each one pound bag makes about three cans of black beans.  I freeze them until I use them in soups or enchiladas.  The (not) refried beans are only two steps more difficult because in addition to water and beans, you throw in some diced onion and jalepeno, plus some herbs and spices.  After the beans have cooked for their requisite time (heat setting dependent), you mash them with a hand blender.  Those beans are also sitting in my freezer until I make some enchiladas.  I’m waiting to make the enchiladas because last week I made chicken taco bowls, which are also from Budget Bytes.  Again, this is a crockpot recipe.  All you do here is load your crockpot with some chicken breast, a jar of salsa, a can of black beans, frozen corn and some herbs and spices and let ‘er go. I added a can of mushrooms to help beef up the meal. Once everything has cooked (read: chicken is not raw), shred the chicken.  Serve over rice and top with cheese.  I was too lazy to make rice.  Also, I didn’t have the cooking instructions for this particular kind of rice and could not find them online. . .  At any rate I ate this for lunch almost everyday this past week.  Without the rice, it’s sort of like a really thick chicken chili.

Thanks to your post about Iowa sweet corn, the best corn in the world, I did end up making a couple dinners that didn’t come from a crockpot.  The first was sauteed mushrooms and green beans with a side of corn.  Okay, I lied.  The corn was the main part and the mushrooms and green beans were the side dish.  They just awkwardly sat there while I nearly inhaled the first corn on the cob I’ve eaten in almost three years.  Kentucky sweet corn is just not as good as Iowa sweet corn (what is, really?), but it certainly hit the spot.  I had an ear leftover, so I cut the corn off and tossed it with the remaining mushrooms and green beans and served it over some Ramen at work the next day.  I bought some more corn yesterday with the intent of trying out your recipes.  I want it to be tomorrow night already so I can make the corn.  I’d make it tonight, but I’m headed to a coworkers for a Labor Day get together this afternoon and going to a University of Louisville football game tonight.

Remind me to tell you about pies and Brussels sprouts next time.  I promise it’s not a Brussels sprouts pie.  I don’t know how I feel about that.

 

xoxo,

Carolyne

 

 

Corn Forever

Dear Carolyne,

First and foremost, congratulations on your new job! I am very excited for this new chapter in your life, though I will miss receiving postcards featuring busty opera singers.

Now her breasts are talking to God.
Now her breasts are talking to God.

While you are busy moving many states away from your current location (but also many states closer to me!), I made a pilgrimage to the motherland. That’s right. I went home to Iowa.

Well, not home exactly. I went to north eastern Iowa for my aunt Linnea’s 60th birthday celebration, then on to the river to stay with some friends. The celebration was lovely, even though my mom forgot the dates and couldn’t be there and I only saw Grandma Pat for a few minutes. We mostly drank beer and sat around a campfire, which it 100% cool with me.

While home in Iowa, I made it a priority to buy (of course) corn, which is in season. I am 100% a corn snob. I won’t buy it up here in Minnesota, claiming it is simply not as good (it’s not).

The essentials.
The essentials.

Okay, I did get some elote recently from the Sonora Grill, and it was good purely because it was smothered with all kinds of stuff. The corn itself still did not match up.

Alotta elote.
Alotta elote.

So anyway, I brought corn back with me to Minneapolis and cooked it up tonight. My original plan was to eat a few ears, save a few ears for Drew, and then use the rest in this bacon corn salad recipe I found. However, I’ve already eaten half of what I bought and Drew’s not even home yet.

Tempting.
Tempting.

Do you remember the first time you realized you didn’t have to eat how your parents ate? To this day it is one of the happiest things about adulthood I can name. Not that we ate poorly or anything, but it’s just so nice to realize that you don’t have to do anything a certain way because that’s how mom did it or whatever. Also, I never have to eat boiled dinner (kielbasa and new potatoes boiled together with, like, no seasoning) again. I hate you, boiled dinner.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that of course it is fine and delicious to just put butter and salt on your sweet corn. BUT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO.

Instead, tonight I made a pesto compound butter and sprinkled my corn with pecorino romano. I have no pictures of this because I inhaled it.

For the pesto butter, I used about a 1:1 ration of pesto to butter, and added in about a half tsp of cayenne for subtle heat.

This picture is not attractive, but trust me, this stuff was delicious.
This picture is not attractive, but trust me, this stuff was delicious.

I am now corned out until next year, and I seriously doubt there will be leftovers once Drew gets home.

I hope your move goes smoothly! I can’t wait to hear about your new city and new job.

Love and sweet corn,

Anne

New Year, Same Story – Maybe

Dearest Anne,

I hope your holidays were merry and bright, or at the very least you had enough alcohol to get you through any familial crying episodes.  I spent Christmas up in Vermont where I tried skiing for the first time (and lived to tell the tale), ate some delicious sauteed kale, and tried maple cotton candy. Oh, also, we went on a sleigh ride, and there were fresh cookies and Cabot cheese at snack time.  My favorite part of the trip was sledding on our first night in Vermont. I had never been sledding in the dark before, but it was so much fun. I love sledding.  Now, that Upstate has snow this year, I will be able to do more sledding. Lastly, I kicked butt at Jeopardy.

 

Anne, unfortunately, this holiday season did not allow me much time to do any real cooking or baking.  Since I did not go home for the holidays, I was not able to participate in the annual Comito Family Ravioli-Making Extravaganza.  However, it was confirmed by Uncle Frank that without me quality control has been down the last two years. Picture cavatelli making with more of an assembly line atmosphere.

Now, that we’re through Christmas and New Year’s, I’m planning on spending more time in my kitchen.  I’ve already made a curried butternut squash soup, a seven layer dip, quesadillas, and two kinds of beans.  As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, and I’m nothing if not repetitive, I love the blog Budget Bytes. I love how Beth creates inexpensive recipes that use common ingredients.  The recipe I use most often is her (not) refried beans. So easy. Just toss all the ingredients into your crockpot for 4-6 hours and walk away. I’ve been making these since grad school; they’re good with just about anything.  Lately, I’ve been using the not refried beans as a base for quesadillas I freeze for lunches when I don’t have time to shop and cook.  They’re also good as the base for seven layer dip, which is what I made for New Year’s Eve.  The other beans I made last weekend were some straight up black beans.  I used some of the black beans in the quesadillas, and then froze the rest.

Speaking of New Year’s, I didn’t really make any resolutions for the actual day, but I’ve spent last week thinking about things I’d like to accomplish in the next year.

  1. Write everyday. I bought a “line a day” journal that has a couple lines for you to write everyday for 5 years. At this point, I’m not entirely sure if I’ll make it a lesson in concision, or if I’ll use it just to take note of mundane happenings. I’m excited to see how it evolves. In addition to writing in this line a day journal, I need to keep up with my other journals, this blog, random writings, and my thesis.
  2. Find an answer to the question, “What do you do in your free time?” It is no longer acceptable to say, “I don’t have free time,” because frankly, that’s a cop out and untrue. It’s also not acceptable to say you spend all your free time wearing sweatpants and reading the newspaper, even if that does sound like a great way to spend one’s time.
  3. Stop using my office as a glorified storage room and actually use it as an office. Resolution 1 will probably complete itself if I actually used my office for its intended purpose.
  4. Feelings — accept that I have them and deal with it. Anne, you and I both know how much I dislike having the feelings, but I must accept that I am human, which means I get the feels from time to time and there’s nothing I can do about it.
  5. As cliche as this is, be more present. I am going to make efforts to listen more fully and really participate in conversations and really commit to what’s going on around me rather than experiencing things peripherally or superficially.

So, Annes, now that I’ve told you and all the interwebs about my plans for 2013, I must accomplish them, because everything on the internet is true, and I don’t want to ruin that record.

 

Luff,

Carolyne

Soup there it is!

Dear Annes,

I hope you like my Space Jam inspired title. Oh, yes. That’s right, Space Jam. Takes me back to a happier time, like when Starter Jackets were cool.  However, that was also a time when butterfly clips were the hair accessory d’jour and gel pens reigned supreme. I think this was pre-glitter, but I could be wrong. I don’t feel like consulting my angst-ridden preteen journals. I do not think I can handle 10-year old Carolyne at this very moment.

At any rate, let’s talk about soup. Gah! That would have been a much better title than “Soup there it is!” What was I thinking? I could have rewritten the whole song and filmed a music video just for you. Damn. Maybe next time.

So, back to soups, yes? Okay. Well, after I returned from Thanksgiving in the windiest of all cities, I proceeded to get sick. Thanks a lot, immune system.  In all actuality, it was a mere head cold, but because I have a dramatic streak, I acted as if I was dying. In fact, I called my mother and told her as such*.

Me: Mom!

Mom: What?

Me: I’m dying! It’s horrible! Okay, I’m not dying. I have a cold, but it’s still horrible.

Mom: You’re weird.

Me: That is not how you talk to a dying woman.

Mom: I stand corrected. You’re very weird.

Me: I suggest we agree to disagree. Moving on, I wish I had soup right now.

*Please note this is a dramatic reinterpretation of what actually happened. I may or may not have previously mentioned I have a flair for dramatics.

Then my mother so rudely went on to talk about the turkey noodle soup she had made from the leftover turkey and cavatelli (sans sauce, fyi).  After this torture, I decided to wander to my local Price Chopper to acquire the appropriate ingredients for chicken noodle soup.

Let’s see, ingredients included some chicken broth, an onion, celery (v. important), carrots, noodles, and a rotisserie chicken.  I got the idea for the rotisserie chicken from your post about soup. So good.  Anne, I don’t know if you remember my aversion to handling meat, but I hate handling meat. It’s disgusting. Not a read. That’s a fact.  However, through some sort of heroic force, or maybe I was just sick enough to alter my thought process, I took all the meat off of that rotisserie chicken by myself, and I didn’t cry at all. Not one bit.  I did whimper through a good portion of it, but no crying from this kid.  Poor roommate Wesley tried to save me from myself, but I made him leave me alone. I told him this was my fight. Sometimes, I don’t understand how the world puts up with me.  At any rate, I put all the meat in the soup, and it was wonderful. I froze a quart or two and ate the rest of it throughout the week.

The chicken noodle soup was for lunches and stuff, but what I really wanted on that fine post-Thanksgiving Sunday was grilled cheebs and tomato soup. In an effort to eat less sodium, I have cut out most processed and canned foods. While I just wanted some classic Campbell’s tomato soup, I forced myself to make soup from scratch.  I used Michael Chairello’s recipe from the Food Network.  I was excited to have the opportunity to use a bay leaf.  Former Roommate Ellie left me some, and I haven’t been able to use one yet.  Due to my lactose intolerance, I skipped the heavy cream.  Overall this recipe was perfectly okay.  I appreciate that it only makes about 4 servings, so I can consume it in a reasonable time.  The flavor was a little lacking for me.  it didn’t really taste like tomatoes, so I added some tomato past to boost the flavor. On Sunday, I thought the whole thing was a little flat.  Roommate Wesley said it tasted fine.  I couldn’t really taste anything thanks to my head cold.  However, a few days later when I finished the last serving of soup, it was great.  Perhaps, having conquered my cold allowed me to taste again. It was like I was tasting soup for the first time. (Not really.)  Perhaps, the soup’s flavors married and created a better bond for my taste buds. Who knows. I’ll just have to make the soup again when I’m not dying.

Anyway, how have you been? How’s the new jorb?  How’s the tree climbing thing going?  This weekend I have to get a new phone, and then I’m headed to the City for work.

Luff and stuff,

Carolyne

Ladle me this, ladle me that

Dear Carolyne,

I was excited to hear that Wesley moved in with you, based on the lovely things you said about him the last time I saw you. I’m jealous and wish I was around to partake in the fun.

I don’t recall you ever bringing me homemade pasta back in Wash 6, which obviously means you don’t actually love me. 😦

Kidding, kidding. By the way, I am still working through the red sauce you made me and impressing family and roommate alike.

My own time in the kitchen has been limited lately due to, like, life happening and stuff. I got into a minor car accident right before Halloween that resulted in a prescription for muscle relaxers. I wasn’t really hurt, thankfully, just really sore. My car also wasn’t hurt too badly, but the guy who hit me’s insurance company is paying for some body work. 

Also, I quit my job without notice, which is the most irresponsible thing I have ever done in my entire life. Luckily, I start a new one on the 27th.

So, with all this funemployment vacation time with which I find myself, I finally can get back to making things!

Yesterday I stripped a rotisserie chicken for the purposes of a) having chicken meat around to use, b) to have a chicken carcass (ew, I hate the word carcass) so I can make stock, and c) to make chicken wild rice soup. I had just had some really excellent chicken wild rice soup at Tilia that cited bourbon as one of its ingredients, so I was itching to make some for myself.

It turned out awesome, albeit pretty thick. I am having this problem lately where I cannot make a thin-brothed soup for the life of me. I made Drew some chicken noodle soup a week or two ago because he had a cold, and he told me it was good but so thick it was more like white chili (I’m sure all the cayenne and black pepper didn’t help in that respect). The thing is, I like my soups thick. I have this carrot ginger soup from Trader Joe’s in my fridge right now that tastes lovely, but the texture bums me out. It needs cream or chunks of butternut squash or something to punch it up. I hate to see a good soup wasted just because it doesn’t meet my texture demands.

Anyway, my wild rice soup is almost too thick to even be called soup, but I like it that way. Here is basically what I did:

6ish Tbsp olive oil

2 c. chopped celery and onion (I had this leftover stuffing starter from Trader Joe’s that was celery, onion, and some herbs that was ideal for this kind of thing)

1.5ish c. chopped carrot

3ish Tbsp flour (here is my whole problem, I am sure)

3ish tsp mustard powder

Lots of garlic powder, because all of my actual garlic had gone bad :/

1/3 c. bourbon

1 of those cardboard things of chicken stock, it’s like 4-6 cups or something

1 Tbsp poultry seasoning

2ish c. shredded rotisserie chicken

1/2 lb of uncooked wild rice (probably the other part of my problem)

1/3ish c. of half and half

salt and pepper to taste, of course

Pretty much you know the routine here. Saute up your veggies in the olive oil, then add the flour  + mustard powder, garlic, curry. Then the bourbon, then the stock, then the rice. Let it simmer while the rice cooks. Once the rice is cooked, add the chicken and let it heat through. Add the poultry seasoning. Lastly, add the cream and the salt + pepper. Oh, I am pretty sure I put a hit of cayenne in this too, because I always do and cayenne is good at bringing out the other flavors. Just a hit, though. Like, 1/4 tsp tops.

 

I am really happy with how it turned out. I mean, minorly irked at the thickness, but only for the sake of tradition. I like it thick *eyebrow waggle*.

 

Today I am going to make my mom’s pumpkin bar recipe. Did Mom ever send pumpkin bars with me to Wash 6? I feel like she probably did, but I can’t recall. Anyway, here is the exact e-mail she sent me with the recipe, and I appreciate the air of, “Eh, whatever,” that comes with it as well as all of my mom’s recipes.

 

this cookbook had the most stains so I think this is the one I use.

FROSTED PUMPKIN BARS

1 3/4 C. SUGAR                                     1/2 TSP CINNAMON
3 EGGS                                                 1 8 OZ PKG CRM CHEESE, SOFTENED
3/4 C. OIL                                               6 TBS BUTTER
1 CAN COOKED PUMPKIN                      4 C, POWDERED SUGAR
2 C. FLOUR                                            1 TSP VANILLA
3/4 TSP BAKING POWDER                     
3/4 TSP BAKING SODA

Combine first 8 ingredients together in order given. Pour into jellyroll pan.  Bake @ 350 for 20 to 25 minutes.  Mix cream cheese, butter, powered sugar & vanilla until spreading consistency.  Spread on top of cooled bars.  ENJOY!!

(I use more cinnamon and a pinch of what everelse I have, like pumpkin pie spice, cloves & or nutmeg.  Use what you like)  let me know how they turn out.

 

Ah, mom. I am looking forward to trekking back to Iowa next week to see her and the rest of the fam. Also the pets. I anticipate coming home covered in scratches and dog hair. What are your plans this year? I’m guessing you’re not coming back to the corn capital of the world. One of these years we need to be in the same place for Thanksgiving so we can do the dinner ourselves. Can you imagine? Everyone we invited would die from awesome.

 

Love and cinnamon,

Anne

 

 

Pasta Straight from My Kitchen

Dear Anne,

I have not been doing enough cooking lately.  Because things have been busy, and they aren’t going to stop any time soon now the holiday season is upon us, most of my culinary adventures are relegated to the weekend.  Fortunately, the holiday season means I can bake to my heart’s content and people at the office will make less fuss about me constantly bringing in food. This weekend I got a little crazy and made pumpkin pancakes and cavatelli from scratch.  However, I heard no complaints from roommate Wesley.

The pumpkin pancakes were not as good as I had hoped, but I think that’s my own fault for building them up in my head.  The recipe called for a pinch of cloves, and I was too generous in my pinching, because the clove flavor overpowered the other, more desirable flavors, such as cinnamon.  In the future I will most certainly be increasing the cinnamon in this recipe.  Also, I served this with butter and real New York maple syrup, but it was too sweet.  I spent the rest of breakfast trying to figure out how to make this better.  Perhaps a fruit compote, like apples with cinnamon for instance, would be preferable.  It wouldn’t be too sweet, but would keep the overall experience from being too dry. (Sorry no pictures because I am the worst.)

Most Sunday evenings, some coworkers and I place euchre.  We rotate houses, and whomever is hosting that week makes dinner for all of us.  This week, Wesley and I hotsed.  Wesley made this beauty of a cheesecake:  pumpkin nutella cheesecake.  Please take a minute to appreciate the amazingness this dessert.  It took a lot of will power to not sneak bites all afternoon.  There are two pieces left in the fridge as I type this, and I am thinking about getting one even though I am not at all hungry. It’s that good.

While Wesley encapsulated heaven in cheesecake form, I made cavatelli, which is an Italian pasta with potato in the dough.  It’s similar to gnocchi, but it uses much less potato.  I guess you could call it a light dumpling.  I choose to call it wonderful.   Every Thanksgiving, my family makes thousands of cavatelli.  Then with our turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, we have cavatelli in red sauce.  I may have described the cavatelli-making process with you before, but I’m going to relay it again because 1. I repeat myself often, and 2. I won’t be participating in Thanksgiving cavatelli this year, so I must relive the experience in my mind.  At the Comito Family Stead, aka my mother’s kitchen, a myriad of relatives convene.  Everyone has their role, one they’ve usually been doing for years with the hope that someday they will be old enough to move up to a new job.  However, there really is no upward mobility in the Comito Family Cooking School.  You do what you’re told, and you don’t ask questions.  For cavatelli, my role is usually “cranker,” meaning I get to feed the pasta through the machine.  This is a role I lobbied for years to win, and one from which I do not plan on retiring  anytime soon, regardless of my lack of participation in the last couple years. I spent a lot of years rolling dough before I got to be cranker.  Anyway, the real magic of cavatelli-making is the atmosphere. It’s hard to accurately describe, but I will sum it for you in this haiku:

Insults thrown, laughing

Vince Guaraldi blasting loud

Who is crying now?

Did I ever make cavatelli for you, Anne?  I know I never made it from scratch for you, but maybe I brought some back to Wash 6 and made it with red sauce? Last night, I chopped up half an onion (more accurately, Wesley heroically  cut the onion half), sauteed it with some mushrooms, wilted some spinach, tossed it all with the cavatelli, and sprinkled some good parm on top.  The group devoured it, and we have no leftovers.  However, we do have quite a bit of cavatelli in our freezer since I made a bigger batch of dough than I anticipated.  Sometime after Thanksgiving I’ll make some sauce, but don’t think it the recipe will make it to the blog.  Nice try, Annes.  However, if I can figure out how to ship you some, I will.

Cavatelli

*Note:  This is another vague Comito family recipe, where you are required to go by feel.

Ingredients

Flour

Large Eggs

A mashed potato (use a starchy potato)

Milk

Salt

*These are the basic ingredients.  The ratio of flour to eggs is 1:1. For example, I used 5 cups of flour and 5 eggs.  When I called Aunt Jackie she said to to 5 cups of flour and 4 eggs, but four eggs weren’t enough for me. I think when my family does this, they use jumbo eggs, which would make the 5:4 ratio more accurate. Also, I don’t think we ever use more than one potato ever.

Instructions

1. Peel and boil potato

2. Mash potato, add a little milk

3. Combine flower and eggs. Dough will be mealy and dry. Add a little potato. Maybe some milk.

4. Knead until you have a slightly sticky dough, and it is malleable enough to form decent ball of dough. (You will likely need to add more milk and potato before you get to this point. Like I said earlier, this is a vague, play-it-by-ear recipe.)

5. Let ball of dough rest under a bowl for 30-60 minutes, or whenever you remember you’re cooking

6. Get out your amazing cavatelli machine, courtesy Aunt Jackie.  Properly assemble.

This is not the exact machine I use, but it’s basically the same.

7. Slice dough into decent sized pieces. (Again, you’ll just have to eyeball this.) (At this point, your dough should be a beautiful and supple ball of dough that is smooth to the touch and bounces back ever so slightly when pressed.)

8. Roll dough into ropes.

9. VERY LIGHTLY DUST ropes with some flour. (For the love that is all good and holy, do not over flour this stuff. It will make your life terrible.)

10. Place a floured cookie tray under your cavatelli machine.

11. Send those VERY LIGHTLY DUSTED ropes of delicious dough through your cavatelli maker.

12. Make sure to spread out the cavatelli as you make them.  You don’t want them to stick together.

13. After you fill up a tray, put it in the freezer.  (Letting them freeze makes them easier to handle when putting them in bags or containers for storage.)

14. Keep doing this until you run out of dough.

For consumption:  boil water (remember to salt the water), add cavatelli to boiling water, and cook for…I want to say 10-ish minutes. I could be wrong about that.  I literally just taste the cavatelli at various points during the cooking and turn off the heat after I’ve determined they’re done.  Strain cavatelli, and enjoy with your favorite sauce.  We usually just use a red sauce, but you can do just about anything with them.

Kisses and kitten,

Carolyne

Reunited and it feels so good.

Dear Annes,

I’m sorry this post is coming to you so late. My excuses are work,  game night, and changing of the roommates.  However comma but, I have done some delightful cooking. Sadly, there are no pictures because I am the worst. Please enjoy.

So, this cooking and baking from the last few weeks includes, but is not limited to curried squash soup, purple cauliflower soup, fluffy pumpkin cookies, a red purple velvet cake, harvest soup, the real rosemary applesauce, and ciabatta bread.  Fall really makes me want to create food.  I have to admit, former roommate Ellie made the curried squash and purple cauliflower soups.  All I really did for those was taste them throughout the cooking process and eat them later.  Both were very delicious, and I don’t have the recipes.  However, I will discuss them a little more in depth below.

Curried squash soup:   This soup had butternut squash, red lentils, onions, carrots, some tomato pureee, curry and some other ingredients I cannot recall at present.  When we first made this soup, we left everything chunky, which is not my preference.  Regardless, the soup was delicious and flavorful.  Because both former roommate Ellie and I are Italian, we have very little control over the amount of food we produce.  We have an innate drive to feed everyone, so we always end up with SO MUCH FOOD.   There was so much soup left over, but don’t you fret your pretty little head, because I turned it into other food, aka Carolyne pretends she can make Indian inspired foods.  That experiment consisted of me blending the soup, putting chunks of chicken breast in it, and pouring it over basamati rice.  Delicious.  Just thinking of it makes me want to eat some now, even if it is 10:30 PM.

Purple cauliflower soup:  Ellie bought this beautiful purple cauliflower from the farmers market and decided it would become soup.  We conjectured a very pretty soup with vibrant purple color.  What we got was dingy lavender color, but a damn delicious soup.  I’m not entirely sure what Ellie did to create this soup, as it was nearly finished when I got home from work this past Tuesday.  Again, we had so much soup leftover, mainly because the cauliflower was ginormous.  It was about the size of a beach ball.  I happily at the rest of the soup all week.

Fluffy pumpkin cookies:  This was my contribution to Tuesday’s meal.  These cookies are like warm, plush pockets of pumpkiny goodness.  I liked them best just out of the oven and sans cream cheese frosting, which could be a little overpowering.  Ellie made the frosting because she’s better at it, and I’m not big into frosting. I like my cookies naked.

Red Purple velvet cake:  It all started when my good friend, Wesley, became an employee of my company, and thusly had to move up to the middle of nowhere Upstate New York and become my current roommate.  I firmly believe that most occasions deserve cake or cookies or any baked good, really, so naturally Wesley received an “employment cake” of his choosing.  He decided on a red velvet cake.  Now, Anne, I must divulge a secret; I’m terrible at making red velvet cakes/cupcakes.  I don’t know what it is about this cake, but we are not agreeable.  I think a part of it is that this cake requires that I have abnormal amounts of red food coloring on hand, which I infrequently do not.  This excursion was no different.  I had an ounce bottle and one of the little gnome-like bottles of red food coloring, which was not enough to equal two full ounces, so I decided to use blue food coloring, which produced a beautifully rich aubergine cake. I also have to say that I am not fond of eating red velvet because of all the food coloring.  I don’t care that food dyes might give me cancer because SO MANY THINGS in this world can give me cancer, but I feel like such a large amount of food coloring alters the taste of the cake.  I made cream cheese frosting to go with the cake, and it was okay — not as good as Ellie’s, but not terrible.  Ultimately, Wesley liked the cake.  The cake did get better as the week went on. Maybe it just needed to sit?

Harvest soup: Anne, I definitely messed this one up.  I was loosely using this recipe, but was throwing in whatever else I had in my kitchen that needed to be used. (Please note that everything but the broth, pepper, and olive oil came from my local farmers market — even the celery.)  I had a leek that needed to be used, so I put it in the soup, and it killed the soup.  I’ve done that with leeks before. I think because they have a slightly onion-y taste, they can be used liked onions, but that is not true at all. At. All.  So, then I had a giant pot of soup that didn’t taste great, but I could not bear to throw it out, so I pondered my options.  I decided to add a sweet potato and some more salt and pepper and an obscene amount of curry and pour it over rice like the curried squash soup earlier in this post. Note: the curry made this SO MUCH BETTER! I threw some cubed chicken breast in it, too.

Rosemary applesauce: I did it right this time.  The fresh rosemary made all the difference; it dries out during the cooking, so the flavor is infused into the apples.  It’s actually a pretty good applesauce.  I think I need to make some pork medallions or pork chops as a vehicle for this applesauce, and I tried putting  it on my morning oatmeal. Note: This applesauce is not meant to be poured over oatmeal. That was most certainly not a breakfast of champions.

Ciabatta bread: Ah, bread.  The only bread I feel I’ve successfully made is your no-knead bread, which is great toasted with cream cheese.  However, I’ve been trying my hand at ciabatta for quite a while.  Ciabatta is a nice Italian peasant bread with a hard crust.  It doesn’t help that I’m using a vague recipe from my mother, which is apparently the Italian way to cook/bake.  The moral of this story is my bread isn’t as good as my mom’s, even if it is perfectly okay.

So, my dear Anne, I will try to do a better job at keeping you updated in my culinary adventures, especially as we go into the holiday season.  I am so very excited about all the holiday baking I’m planning to do.

Luff and stuff,

Carolyne

Soup Season

 

Beany. Leeky.

So good I didn’t bother to clean up the bowl before I took a picture.

 

Dear Carolyne,

I can’t stop making soups from my BrokeAss Gourmet cookbook. I know all the recipes are pretty much on the site, but having something to actually flip through is more inspiring somehow.

The one pictured above is the Bacon, Leek, and White Bean soup, which was very good but didn’t seem to yield as much as I anticipated.

 

I also made Chicken, Sweet Potato, and White Bean stew. Flavorwise, it’s quite good, but if I were to make it again I would toss in some flour at the start so that it’s thicker.

 

Love and chicken stock,

Anne

All I Ever Do is Make Bacon in The Oven

Dear Carolyne,

Firstly, I am the worst and I am sorry it has taken me so long to write. There have been kitchen experiments, like this pumpkin beer bread, which I found to be…underwhelming. It was lacking in both spices and pumpkin. I wanted it to be more moist (sorry) and for the flavor of the beer to come out more. Mostly it turned out like basic bread with a few spices.

More successfully, I made some of my friend Kim’s potato leek soup after a trip to the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market last weekend.  You’ve probably read this recipe before, but here it is again for posterity’s sake (copy-pasted from Kim’s original message):

“2-ish T butter
3 leeks, white/light green parts chopped (fairly fine slice)
1 small white onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2-3 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 shallot, chopped (not really necessary, but I have fun shoving onions in this soup)
4 or so red potatoes, peeled (if you feel like it) and diced
4-ish cups veggie broth
roughly 1/3 to 1/2 c heavy cream
some herbs if you feel like it (I like dill or chives or both if I have any on hand)
BACON, cooked and chopped
CHEEBS

In dutch oven or large sewp-making pot or whatever, drop the butter in and let it melt. When the butter has gotten all nice and melty, drop in the leeks and let them cook for a minute or two until they soften. Add the garlic, onion, carrot, celery and shallot, stir it around and let
it hang out for about 5 or so minutes so that all those veggies start to soften and start smelling yummy. Then dump in the potatoes and the veggie broth (and any extra water you might need to make the broth level just cover the potatoes) and any dry herbs you might want to use. Bring it to a boil, drop the heat and let it hang out on the stove for about 45 minutes – an hour or so until everything is nice and soft and falling apart.
When it’s hit that stage, remove it from the heat, dump in any fresh herbs you might want to dump in (chives are awesome) and let it cool for a few minutes,
and then blend it either in batches through a blender or with an immersion blender or what have you (you could probably mush it to bits with a potato masher,
honestly). When it’s all blended, stir in the cream and adjust the seasonings. I usually serve with a handful of bacon and a handful of cheebs thrown on top, but you could probably mix that in too and it would be good.”

Not the best picture, but totally the best soup.

I almost never follow the amount of vegetables precisely, tossing in whatever I have lying around. This time I added in some hot Thai chilies (also from the farmer’s market) and seasoned it with smoked salt and smoked paprika.

It was definitely worth the injuries I sustained cutting the potatoes. :/

Anyway, it’s the best soup ever. Filling, delicious, smoky, and autumnal. Plus any opportunity I get to use my immersion blender is a good one.

The other thing I’ve been doing a lot of lately is making bacon in the oven, a trick I picked up (somewhat to my shame) from Pinterest. Basically, you line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and lay out the strips of bacon. Put everything in a cold oven and then turn it to 350°F. Give it 20-40 minutes, you can usually smell when it’s done.

I don’t know if this necessarily yields tastier bacon than doing it in the skillet does, but it is easier and less messy (let the bacon fat congeal on the parchment paper and discard, then you usually don’t even need to wash the cookie sheet).

I’ve also found that this works better with normal-thinner cut bacon. I tried it today with some thick cut bacon (also picked up from the farmer’s market-why are farmer’s markets the best things ever?) and the result wasn’t quite as satisfying. Also, did you know free range bacon is a thing? I was not aware. I know “free-range” is a kind of loose term and can basically mean the animal in question just has a large yard as opposed to a stall or pen, but I like the idea of pigs running around eating whatever before they become my delicious breakfast.

I am not a good person.

Anyway, fall is here too (obviously), and while Midwestern fall may not be quite as thoroughly pretty as New England fall, it’s still pretty great.

View from my balcony. I don't know if you can tell, but it's a little Tim Burton-y today.

The other thing I have to report is that it is time for my annual trip to Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store:
Pretty much autumnal Disneyland.

This place is basically a giant yellow barn full of candy. They also sell pies and baked goods (made on site), tons of weird soda, local hot sauces and jams, and, weirdly enough, puzzles.

I will take pictures and report back!

Miss you lots!

Anne

Amazingly, the first post is not about broccoli

Dear Carolyne,

Hooray, we have a blog! I think this is going to be excellent, even if we are the only ones who read it.

I wish you had been here last week when I decided it would be a great idea to try and sort of recreate the Savory Quinoa Waffle I had at Birchwood Cafe back in April (side note: right now they have a Pumpkin, Millet and Gruyere waffle and I want to go to there). I do not, however, own a waffle iron, and I thought I could somehow take essentially the same elements (quinoa, asparagus, cheese, and bacon) and make them into muffins pretty feasibly.

Feasibly indeed.

Pardon the questionable phone picture I snapped, but here they are. They are not exactly what I wanted, having turned out a little sweeter and a little, um, breadier than what I was shooting for. They are pretty solid, though, and definitely edible. I wish you were here to eat them with me, though, because no one in close proximity likes asparagus. No one appreciates food like you, mon amie.

Here is what I did:

2 cups cooked quinoa
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup asparagus, cut into small pieces and softened in the microwave with some butter
3 pieces cooked bacon, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup shredded truffle cheese from Trader Joe’s
3/4 cup milk
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350. You know the song and dance here, mix the dry ingredients in one bowl (including the asparagus and cheese and bacon), but save the quinoa for last. Combine the milk and egg in a separate bowl, then combine with the quinoa mixture. Don’t over mix it.

Prepare a muffin tin in whatever way suits you best. You could probably grease and flour the individual cups, but that seems like work. I opted for stylish muffin wrappers, and I only mildly regret it, as  the paper does seem to stick to these a little bit.

Fill each section 3/4 of the way full or so. The batter is pretty thick so I mostly just plopped a large spoonful in each one. Bake for about 30 minutes, and you’ll know they’re done with you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.

I got about 16 muffins out of this, but you would probably get more if you are more stringent about measuring the amount of batter that goes into each muffin.

If I had these to do over again, I would increase the amount of extra savory stuff. More asparagus, more bacon, and maybe some roasted garlic or some shredded carrots too.

Negating any health benefits these might have, I find they are best slightly warm with a little butter and a dusting of grated Parmesan.

I do truly wish you were here to help me eat them, but at least we’ve got this blog thing going now!

Fondly,

Anne