December 15, 2016

Adventure

That's right! It's a recipe for adventure. Something I'm assuming I'm totally qualified to give based on the facts that:

A)I'm on a crazy adventure right now

B)This is seeming to be a regular occurrence for me lately

C)This is MY stupid blog. Go make your own if you wanna be getting all up in my qualifications at life. I'm sure we’ll all enjoy your insights into the surprisingly political world of competitive knitting. 

The current adventure in question is a trip from Chicago to Iceland and Scotland, via Los Angeles. Some of the more geographically astute among you may be wondering why I traveled west, just to end up going east. Fortunately, the first rule of adventuring is: “shut it with all the questions already.” You've gotta have a can-do attitude, and a willingness to not overthink things. And, if saving hundreds of dollars on your plane ticket and getting to see your friends in LA are side-benefits, then so be it. 

Basically, the rules of adventure are to do your research, don't be afraid to pull the trigger on a crazy idea, and to shut up and let life happen. Of course, some people need a running start at being decisive. Try starting with small and utterly inconsequential decisions in your bland adventureless life. Emphatically choose what interchangeable brand of coffee is your brand. Decide that you're giving up gluten for literally no reason. Vote in a presidential election. Then, once you've mastered being pointlessly didactic, you can try it on real decisions, like whether to go into debt just to have a mind-blowing experience where you get to see utterly unique things, and also fly owls (Yes. The answer is yes.)

There are other minutiae, sure, but once you've mastered just biting the bullet, pulling the trigger, and mixing the metaphor on adventure, everything else kind of starts to come together. Though I highly recommend using Google Flights and AirBnB to help keep your costs low. 

So, as you may have gathered (from...you know...reading) I'm traveling right now to fun and far off lands. I don't know how regularly I'll be updating. I hope super regularly. Maybe even more regularly than usual. So regularly that you won't even be able to handle it. Or maybe not. Also, as is tradition on my trips, my posts will probably be less recipes, and more...my crazy and random musings about the things I've done and seen. And possibly the food I've eaten. In any case, I'm gonna leave you with a picture of a delicious pulled brisket sandwich I had in LA, because it warmed the cockles of my heart and stomach. See you soon!



November 29, 2016

Sparkling Ginger Cocktails

Lately, it seems like everybody I know is having babies. Not in the weird millenial way, where you get a pet and then tell everybody you know that you have a baby, and then when they find out it's actually a pet they have a weird combination of emotions containing pity, disgust, and the urge to punch you in the face. Real babies. The kind that you can claim as dependents on your taxes. Apparently fecundity is the new fashion of the season (Winter), and everybody's getting on board. So celebration is in the air! And since I can't really post a recipe for cigars, a cocktail to raise is the best I've got.

Ingredients:

Ginger Ale
Grapefruit Juice
Prosecco

As you may have noticed, there isn't exactly an extensive ingredient list. That's a good thing. The first rule of making any sort of cocktail is that the more people you're making it for, the simpler it should be. Especially when the celebration is for a birth. If it takes a team of experienced bartenders 30 minutes to traverse your drink (with the aid of experienced sherpas), then by the time everybody's gotten one, the baby will have grown up, gotten married, had a kid of their own, and then you'll have to start the whole process over again. It's a vicious cycle. So let's get started! Get something to put the drink in. It can pretty much be anything, though a glass with a stem is preferable so that your grubby hands don't heat up the drink while you're holding it. If you happen to have the skull of a vanquished enemy lying around, I've heard that making a toast out of that is supposed to ensure that the baby grows up to be a mighty warrior. But it doesn't have a stem, so there are pros and cons.

Fill up your drink receptacle 1/3 of the way with your ginger ale. Then add in a splash of grapefruit juice, and top it off with your prosecco. Then add in garnishes to fancy it up, if you feel like it (strawberry slices go great with the skulls of vanquished enemies. Prove me wrong!It seems simple, right? That's because it is. Remember that part about keeping cocktails simple that I said literally a minute ago? Yeah, this is your payoff. Congratulations! And yes, I know that "a splash" of grapefruit juice isn't exactly....exact. Go complain on your own blog. The grapefruit is there to help balance the sweetness. If you're a fan of excessively sweet things, use less. If you like things a little more tart, add in more. If you really hate even the faintest bit of sweetness, go suck on a lemon in the corner. Isn't it fun when weird insults from the 1920s have actual literal applications? That sounds like cause for celebration to me. Happy child rearing!

November 22, 2016

Mashed Maple Yams

Sure, this is adorable, but it raises some disturbing questions.
It's Thanksgiving time again! Which is exciting for me, because it's my favorite holiday, despite the fact that it's basically celebrating the prequel story to genocide and oppression. Which, when you think about it, so is New Years. The point is, Thanksgiving is upon us and that means that along with eating copious amounts of Turkey and stuffing, we all subscribe to the mass-delusion that is yams with marshmallows on top. If you're one of those guilty parties, who always makes sure that a dish of sliced up yams covered in an impenetrable layer of marshmallows is at whatever Thanksgiving meal you're attending, stop it. Just stop. If I could smack you with a rolled-up newspaper via the internet, I would. Nobody wants that nonsense. Which is not to say that yams aren't awesome, but if you're gonna add sweet on top of sweet, you've got to be more nuanced in your flavors. Otherwise you end up with this gross cloying sweetness that's super off-putting. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is: your food is bad, and you should feel bad.

Ingredients:

3 lb. Yams (Or Sweet Potatoes. Or...whatever. They're really the same thing on this continent)
4 TBSP Vegan Butter 
1/4 cup Soy Milk
3 TBSP Maple Syrup
1.5 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
Cinnamon

You may be asking yourself "why would anybody willingly use vegan butter and soy milk in a world where cows have not enslaved humanity? Well, some people are vegans. And we want to make them feel like they're welcome in our houses on Thanksgiving by having food they can eat, even though we secretly judge them. Also, some people of the more jewishy variety, like myself, don't eat dairy products and meat together. Which means that we're either sacrificing the butter or the turkey. And I am not sacrificing eating turkey. The point is, shut up. It's happening. Get over it. Now fill up a large pot about half way with water. Then peel the skin off of your yams and toss them in the water, teaching them the valuable Thanksgiving lesson that they were wrong for having skin, and should try harder not to have any in the future. Then, as a warning to the others, crank up the heat and boil them until you can easily jab a fork into them with no resistance.

It may look weird, but it's awesome. Kind of like Jack White.
Exactly like Jack White.
Once your yams have been sufficiently skinned, drowned, boiled, and stabbed, drain the water out of your pot. Mash them into a pulp using any combination of: a potato masher; a large fork; several small forks; your hands, because...you know, you're a man; your mind; the will of a true warrior. Once your yams are mashed, and the burns you got establishing your masculinity have eased, add in the rest of your ingredients and stir until everything's incorporated. Throw that whole mess of gloppy goodness into a bowl, sprinkle some cinnamon on top of that sucker, and go to town on it. By which I mean serve it to your friends and family. Unless you're eating alone on Thanksgiving, in which case you should shovel all of it into your mouth using your already burnt man-hands, and then lie to your co-workers on Monday about what went down. Happy Thanksgiving!


November 15, 2016

Mint Chocolate Brownies

Mount Vesuvius of sugar, courtesy of my sugar-free sister
So my sister has been in town, which is something of a rarity. In honor of this, it seemed like a good idea to steal a recipe from her instead of making one up myself. Maybe because of family, and togetherness, and all of that stuff that I learned on the "very special" episodes of 90's sitcoms. Maybe because this way I'll have this blog post to always remember her visit by. Maybe because it's easier than actually making one up myself. It should be noted that my sister is a crazy person who, a long time ago, stopped eating sugar, and white flour, and red meat, and pretty much all of the other things that make life worth living. Which is why it's hilarious to me that the first ingredient in this recipe is a buttload of sugar.

Brownie Ingredients:

3 cups Sugar (Told you)
1.5 cups Oil
1.5 cups Flour
1 cup Cocoa
6 Eggs
1 TBSP Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt

Frosting/glaze Ingredients:

1 lb Powdered Sugar
1/3 Cup Oil
6 TBSP Butter
3 TBSP Milk
1 TBSP Mint Extract
1/2 lb Bittersweet Chocolate

The first thing you're gonna need to do is make some brownies. To start, beat your eggs into submission until they stop judging you for how much sugar and fat you're about to consume. Then, take the oil, vanilla, and sugar, and whisk them into the eggs, like some sort of awful egg foie gras. Then take another bowl, and whisk together your flour, salt, baking powder, and cocoa. Bear in mind that powdered cocoa was designed by a mad scientist hell-bent on covering everything you own in a layer of dust. So maybe take some precautions, like using a super large bowl, wearing a smock of some kind, or cooking at someone else's house. Once your flour/cocoa mixture is finished, along with your friendship, slowly add it into your sugary egg-glop in a couple batches, each time fully incorporating it into a homogenous chocolatey goop before continuing. Grease up two 9x11 pans and throw them in a 350 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes, when they're not goopy in the middle any more. Do not just dump it all into one big pan and expect things to generally kind of work out. Because it won't. And your brownies will be burnt on the outside and raw in the middle. And you'll be sad. And I'll be laughing because for once it won't be me.

And that is the true meaning of christmas. 
Once your brownies are out of the oven and cooled down, it's time to make some frosting. Mix together your powdered sugar, oil, milk, and mint into a sugary minty ooze. You can totally add in some green food coloring here just to let everybody know that you're super classy, and also that mint leaves are green. Or not. In any case, splorp your minty nonsense onto your brownies and spread it out evenly. Then heat up your bittersweet chocolate and butter, either in a microwave or on the stovetop (pro-tip: If you're cooking on a stovetop, put it in a pot first to make your cleanup easier). Stir until the chocolate is smooth, and then dump it on top of your frosting which is on top of your brownies, which are in a pan that's probably on top of a counter of some kind. Let it cool, then cut into it and enjoy. Normally I'd say something at this point about how you can totally not wait for it to cool and just dig in, burning away your hands, mouth, and the shameful feeling of having accidentally cocoa-coated your friend's home and loved ones. And, of course, today is no exception.



November 1, 2016

Peppermint Scnogg

Dramatization
Some of you may have noticed that I didn't post anything last week. This may or may not have to do with the Cubs being in the World Series for the first time in generations. All we know for sure is that during the unscheduled break, Halloween happened. Which means that, legally speaking, it's now the Christmas Season. You can tell from how I was totally able to go buy Eggnog at the supermarket. That's one of the main characteristics of the Christmas Season. The others are trees smothered in pounds of tinsel, popcorn strung up and hung as a warning to the others, and people in weird hats asking you for money. And what better way to celebrate a new season (or month, or day) than with booze?

Ingredients:

3 Parts Eggnog
1 Part Peppermint Schnapps (Sure, you could totally buy this from the store like some sort of fancyman who likes spending more money on less quality. Or you could be a man and make it yourself)
Mini Chocolate Chips

The first thing you're gonna need to do is find or steal some holiday cheer. Because it's barely even November, and we're gonna be stuck with obnoxious music and displays in our stores for a long time. Once you're done storing up cheer for the barren winter months, go get some eggnog. I'm experimenting with some eggnog recipes, and may end up posting one in a week or two, but for now anything you find in the store is fine. Within reason. Don't get some weird unmarked carton that has "nog" scrawled on it in crayon. Also don't get some weirdly flavored, artisan, vegan, cruelty-free, fair-trade, bespoke "egg"nog that costs 12 dollars per ounce. Just regular eggnog, like a normal person would.

Santa hat I wore through Ireland added for nostalgia purposes
Take your aggressively neutral nog and mix it with peppermint schnapps. The amounts don't really matter. It all depends on how many people you're serving, or on how sad and alone you are. The important thing is the proportions. For every 1 part of schnapps, add in 3 parts of eggnog. Mix it together and pour it into some glasses. Top it with mini chocolate chips to make it look all pretty and delicious. Because we're full of holiday cheer, and so we're gonna be festive and decorative, you hear? Or else I'm gonna turn this car around and nobody gets to go to Santa's village. It's gonna be a long couple months.


October 19, 2016

Exploded Egg Rolls

Dramatization
What do you get when you explode an egg roll? If you answered something like "a mess," congratulations! You have no poetry in your soul. You're well suited for a job hurting others for pleasure and profit, like a tax collector or a lawyer. The rest of you, gather around. Because deliciousness is about to happen. Deliciousness stuffed in a wonton wrapper, and cooked up open to make a wonton cup full of awesome food and joy. You're welcome. Or as my Asian American friends would say, "you're welcome." Come on. It's 2016. Don't be that guy.

Ingredients:

Wonton skins (If you can't find these fresh, go out and skin a wonton or two. Don't let their cries for mercy fool you into thinking they don't love being part of your delicious snack)
1 Chicken Breast
1 Bell Pepper
5 Button Mushrooms
1/2 a standard-issue Onion
1 tsp grated Ginger
2 tsp Soy Sauce
Toasted Sesame Oil
Cooking Spray

The first thing you're gonna need to do is cook your chicken breast. Boil it, bake it, stare at it funny until it gets uncomfortable and cooks itself from sheer embarrassment, whatever. If you can't figure out this part, just stick it in a 450 degree oven for like 20 minutes. Once your chicken is cooked, set it aside. Choppity chop your vegetables into tiny little bits (Pro-tip: washing them first can help avoid an embarrassing case of "dirt-face."). Now take your chicken, along with two forks and the sure knowledge that your hands are gonna be cramping up soon, and shred that chicken. Pretty much just stab it with the forks and rip it apart. If it helps you get into character, pretend you're a vicious predator mauling your prey. This is absolutely nothing like that, but I won't judge the fact that you totally went along with that for a second.

"They're too pretty to eat" is something somebody might say
about these. Somebody who doesn't understand what food is.
Heat up your oil over medium-low heat, and tosss in the chopped up vegetation, along with your ginger. Sautee that nonsense until the vegetables start to get soft, and the whole things smells like awesomeness. Then add in your chicken and soy sauce, and cook it down for another minute or so. Now it's time to deal with your wonton skins. Take a mini-muffin tray (I know, you didn't sign up for some fancy-dinner-party nonsense with a mini-muffin tray. You were just here to make dainty wonton cups dag-nabbit! Get over it.) and spray it down with your cooking spray. Then squish wonton wrappers into each little cup, generally being careful not to violently tear anything. Which is just how most of us go through life, but I guess it needed to be said. Anyhow, spray down your cupped-up wontons with a little more cooking spray, and then fill them up with your chicken and vegetable mixture. Throw that nonsense in a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the wontons get brown and crispy. You might want to check them pretty regularly, because they have a habit of going from undercooked to charcoal pretty rapidly. And that's it! You've got little cups of deliciousness to serve to all of your fancy friends. Or to eat entirely on your own after staring at the phone for an hour wondering whether your should invite anybody over. Either way!

October 11, 2016

Yom Kippur 2016

Sadly, today there will be no hilarious recipe, full of the wit and charm you've come to love and expect. I know, I know, but I think one week off won't kill anybody. Probably. I'm like 60% sure. The point is, tonight starts the culmination of the Jewish High-Holy Days. A day called Yom Kippur, which, aside from being a day on which it's custom to refrain from food or drink, is considered the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. It's traditionally a time for repentance, sorrow for past misdeeds, and a commitment to real change for the future. Sadly, often these vows to change, to be better, fall by the wayside in the coming year, but my personal belief is that the constant struggle to better ourselves is just as valuable, if not more so, than any specific change we could make. Working to better ourselves is a never ending journey. I tell myself that often, while sitting on the couch, watching TV, and eating chips directly from the bag. The goal is worthy, and in many cases achievable, but it's the desire to be better and the work we put in that is truly impressive. So good luck to each person moving forward this year, may you have peace within and without, and you stay classy, San Diego.

October 5, 2016

Roasted Vegetables

Brightly lit kitchen courtesy of my parents' kitchen, which
isn't located in an apartment that was built in the 1940s
Well, it's official. Autumn is here. You can tell from the crispness in the air, the dead leaves on the ground, and the pumpkin-spiced everything in the store. It's the time of year when our hardy forebears would start looking toward their root cellars to provide their meals. I'm the same way. Except I live on a 2nd floor apartment, so when I dug my root cellar, my downstairs neighbors got super pissed. Thankfully, unlike my root-grubbing ancestors, I live by a whole bunch of large supermarkets with produce sections. So even with the pending lawsuit over my root cellar, I can still get some vegetables, roast them up, and taunt my neighbors with their deliciousness. 

Ingredients:

2 standard-issue Onions
2 bulbs Fennel 
2 lb. Mushrooms (any mushroom you've got will work pretty well here, but I like crimini mushrooms, because they've got an awesome flavor, they cook down well, and they look exactly like the depiction of a mushroom from every cartoon I've ever seen)
2 Bell Peppers
1 TBSP Olive Oil
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
Salt

The first thing you're gonna need to do is chop your vegetables. For this recipe, there really isn't a wrong way to cut them. You just want everything to be roughly bite-sized. And yes, different people take different sized bites. That's why I recommend you line up any potential guests you have along a handy wall and, using a protractor and compass, measure each of their bites before cutting your vegetables. Or you could use your best guess. Once your friends and family have been probed and measured, and your vegetables are cut, toss them (the vegetables) into a bowl. Mix them together with your oil, pepper, and a large-human's pinch of salt, and then lay them flat on a baking sheet. You want the vegetables to be in a single layer, not stacked on top of each other. So if you need to, break out some backup baking sheets (Backup Baking Sheets sounds like it should be the name of the absolutely worst band from the 60s. Like, so bad that they'd have opened for The Turtles).

Warning: highly delicious. Only throw at neighbors if you're
out of rotten tomatoes and cabbages.
Take your carefully distributed vegetables, and throw them in a 450 degree oven. Leave them there for about 20 minutes, or until your house starts to smell super awesome. If your house starts to smell like burning, you may have left them in for a bit too long. If you notice flames coming out of the oven, wait and see if the situation gets any better. If the eggs on your counter start to cook despite not actually being in the oven, consult the appropriate authorities. Once your vegetables are ready, take them out of the oven and eat them. Or throw them at your neighbor through a perfectly innocent hole in the floor. I've heard it both ways.

September 27, 2016

Pasta Salad

Pre-made dried pasta. Imported from Italy, for Reasons.
The first US presidential debate just happened. It was a stark reminder that we, as a nation, are rapidly approaching that important time when Baseball, Football, and Hockey are all happening at the same time. We're gonna need snacks. And since I've already posted some recipes for a whole bunch of different dips, as well as an awesome potato salad recipe, it's time to delve into the world of pasta salad. And let's be clear: there are a lot of different kinds of pasta salad, but when it comes to randomly eating while watching sports, I go with a basic pasta salad. Some people differentiate this kind of salad by calling it "macaroni salad," but I'm not about to limit myself to one kind of pasta to use. I'm not ready for that kind of a long-term commitment.

Ingredients:

1 lb. Pasta (I prefer a rotini or fusilli, but any smallish pasta shape will do. Follow your heart! By which I mean "use whatever you have lying around.")
8 oz. shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1 Bell Pepper
1 Red Onion
1 TBSP Sour Cream
1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
Salt

One of the things I like about this recipe is how simple it is. You could pretty much make it while you're watching the game. So I guess the first thing you'll need to do is make some friends who like watching sports. After you accomplish that, and then somehow convinced these people to come over to your gross home, it's time to make some pasta. Pretty much every pre-made pasta ever has directions on it, and following those is a good way to go. But if you can't be bothered to because you're busy, lazy, or already threw out the container, boil up some water. Add in a large pinch of salt, and then your pasta. Stir it, and then boil it for about 10 minutes or so. The party line is that you want your pasta to be "al dente," which translates to "to the tooth" and means the pasta is cooked but still firm, offering resistance when chewed. Why this is supposed to be implied by "to the tooth" is one of the great mysteries of culinary history, along with the correct pronunciation of worcestershire, and who really killed Chef Boyardee. Once your pasta is sufficiently toothy, drain it and toss it in a bowl.

could have used a green pepper so it wouldn't be the same
dumb color as the cheese. But orange peppers were on sale. 
If you planned ahead, you used the 10 minutes your pasta was cooking to dice your vegetables and to mix together your dressing. But you were watching 30 seconds of football, interspersed between ads for beer and Cialis, so let's do it not. Dice up your pepper and onion, and throw them in with your pasta. Then mix together your mayo, sour cream, and vinegar, and add it in the bowl as well. Toss the whole thing together until it's well coated. And...that's pretty much it. Like I said, simple. Throw it in the fridge so that all the flavors have a chance to get to know each other, hit it off, get married, have little flavor babies, get divorced, and die alone in Utah. At least an hour. Or, as it's known in the NFL, 10 minutes of gameplay. Enjoy!


September 20, 2016

Vegetable Fried Rice

Exports of the Riceland include rice, brown rice, and meth
There comes a time in every man's life when he must eschew the brightly colored fried blobs of inauthentic deliciousness sold to him by American Chinese restaurants, and seek out something more legit. Something more culturally relevant. Surprisingly enough, that turns out to be fried rice (the existential journey's over and you didn't even have to leave the restaurant. You're welcome) Apparently, despite the fact that it seems custom-made for US restaurants, fried rice goes back pretty much forever in China. Like any respectable cultural dish, it developed as a way to force a family to eat the leftovers that are just lying around. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. That seems about right. When you've got a whiny family breathing down your neck for food, for the third time this week, and all you've got in the fridge (or...root cellar, or whatever they had back in ancient China. Probably not fridge.) are some scraps of random vegetables, and leftover rice, you'll get to inventing pretty quickly. That's how fried rice, and probably also the wheel, justified homicide, and divorce attorneys, were created.

Ingredients:

3 cup Water
1.5 cups uncooked Rice (You're gonna want something in a long-grain rice for this. Short grain rices are good for things like risotto, where you need a lot of starches released into the dish to hold everything together. That's not what we're doing, so keep that mess away from fried rice.)
2 Eggs
12 oz. frozen Peas and Carrots 
1 standard-issue Onion
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 bunch Green Onions (The part of "scallions" will be played by "green onions" today. The two terms are completely interchangeable, but when I say "scallions" I get angry hand-written letters from my mom telling me I'm a disappointment.)
1 TBSP Canola Oil
3 tsp Soy Sauce
1 tsp ground Ginger
1 tsp Toasted Sesame Oil
Salt


The first thing you're gonna need to do is make your rice. Unless you like sad and crunchy fried rice that gets stuck between your teeth, which makes you a laughing stock at the winter formal. Again. So take your rice, shove it into a pot along with water your water, ginger, an average-sized human's pinch o' salt, and 1 tsp of your soy sauce. Let those guys swim together and really get to know each other. An awesome icebreaker is fire, so bring that pot to a boil, cover it with a lid so that nobody escapes, and simmer it for 15 minutes. Turn off the fire, uncover the pot, and stir that nonsense around with a fork to help keep it from forming a massive, dense clump of rice and sadness. That's the rice part down. Now we just need to work on the fried part.

Slice your onion, and toss it in a large sauté pan (or a wok, if you've got the disposable income to buy things like woks) over medium-high heat, along with your canola oil and an average pinch of salt. Cook that mess for about 5 minutes before adding in your peas and carrots (pro-tip: defrost the peas and carrots first to have your dish turn out more "delicious," with even fewer "needless expensive dental bills"). Cook those together for another couple minutes, when the peas and carrots are heated through, and the smell coming off of your pan starts getting aggressive with your nose.

Chopsticks added because I'm apparently fancy.
Use this time to thinly slice your red pepper into little strips. Add your dainty red pepper strips into the business end of your pan along with another pinch of salt, and cook them for another minute. Then form an empty well in the middle of the pan, beat your eggs so they won't try to escape, and throw them in to the well (I had a joke about throwing a sack of adorable kittens down a well but I decided it was in bad taste. And now I'm struggling to not make a joke about cats being "in bad taste" in traditional Chinese cooking. You're welcome, political correctness enthusiasts). Stir the bejeezus out of the eggs so that you end up with small, evenly cooked egg bits, instead of a big dumb egg-patty that's burnt on the bottom. Chop and stir in your green onions, and then unceremoniously plop your rice down on top of your vegetables and eggs. Add in your sesame oil and the rest of your soy sauce, and stir that sucker up. Let it cook for a couple minutes, stirring regularly, to let all the flavors really get in each other's business, and that's it! A big steaming pile of vaguely-authentic deliciousness! Get some friends together and gobble it down on it's own, or pair it with some of the other authentic Chinese dishes you prepared, like your famous "Number 87 with extra sauce."

September 13, 2016

Caramel Cocoa Puff Treats

It kind of makes you wonder what's in their "non-real" cocoa.
I've thought long and hard about the issue that's plaguing our one-great nation. Namely, why I seem bored, or at least unenthused with Rice-Krispy treats. We can all rest easy, because I think I've found it. The weak link in the marshmallowy chain that makes them so...uninspiring. It's the Rice Krispies. They're puffed up bits of rice. That's the worst thing I can think of. It's like taking air, and wrapping it with stale, less flavorful air. And sure, the argument could be made that their bland taste and small flat shape makes them the ideal vehicle for big marshmallowy flavor and texture. If you hate joy and freedom. I don't buy that we have to start off boring to end up with balanced awesomeness. We can go big from the start, and ride that wave of deliciousness as far as it'll go. Or until the diabetic coma sets in. Either way.

Ingredients:

2 Cups Cocoa Puffs Cereal
20 oz. Marshmallows (Some people might say this is too many marshmallows. Some people might point out that you'll end up with more marshmallow than cereal, and cereal is supposed to be the key ingredient. Some people are fools.)
1/2 cup Toasted Hazelnuts 
1/2 stick Butter
2 oz. Caramels (You can totally make your own caramels. Just make the caramel from this awesome recipe, except let it get to about 300 degrees, and when you stir in the butter, also add 1/4 cup of cream. Or you could go to literally any grocery store and buy caramels.)

The first thing you're gonna need to do is toss your cocoa puffs in a bowl along with your Hazelnuts. Then it's time to prep your caramels. When I first started trying to prepare this recipe, I started chopping my caramels into tiny bits before adding them into the cocoa puff bowl (The Cocoa Puff Bowl would be a great name for a rap album from that brief period in the early 2000's when rap stopped taking itself way too seriously, and was ok being goofy and making fun of itself). Which mostly resulted in a sticky mess all over my knife, hands, and very soul. Then I learned that I could totally just rip off little bits of caramel, roll them into balls, and toss them in with the cocoa puffs, which had the result I wanted, and was way easier. So enjoy that tip, that rare glimpse straight through to my mind-brain. Or ignore it and spend all day and night cleaning caramel off of your everything. Either way.

Sure, it's a loose assortment of cereal, nuts, and caramel held
together by marshmallows, but I'm sure there's a down side
Melt your butter over medium-low heat, and then add your marshmallows in. Stir pretty constantly. At first you're gonna think something along the lines of "hey! The butter is keeping the marshmallow from sticking to the pan! This cleanup isn't going to be as bad as I thought!" This is a trap, to lure you into a false sense of security, just to crush your hopes later. But more on that later! Right now, you're stirring your marshmallows until they lose all distinct marshmallow shape, and are pretty much just a viscous white ooze, glopping around in that pot. Turn off the heat and take your bowl of cocoa puffs n' friends, look deep into their soul and then just toss them in the ooze. Stir all of that nonsense together until it forms a goopy and unmanageable wad. Grease up a 9x13 pan, and dump your cereal wad into it. Use your hands to press it down and into the corners. Yes, this will get your hands messy and sticky. Get over it. Stick the whole thing in a fridge for about 1/2 an hour to cool down and set. Then cut it into pieces, and devour. Seriously. Normally, I'd throw in something about how you could just eat it all on your own and hate yourself, or something. But these need to be shared. The word needs to get out. So now you have homework. Enjoy!

September 6, 2016

BBQ Chicken Tacos

Not pictured: tequila shots
Recently, a tier-3 vassal of some idiot politician made some dumb comment about lax immigration control leading to "a taco truck on every corner." Practically nobody has heard of this random flunky, including key members of his immediate family. For all intents and purposes, his opinion doesn't really matter. So naturally, it's all anybody has been talking about for a week. Because the news sells ads based on people watching, and they're more likely to watch when they're scared or outraged. So if there's nothing to scare or outrage people, it's time to make something that'll scare and outrage them. It's not uncommon, during a particularly slow news week, to see Anderson Cooper killing penguins at the the zoo. But I digress. The point is, now I have an excuse to make delicious delicious tacos. Also, yadda yadda xenophobia. Tacos!

Ingredients:

2.5 lb Chicken Breasts
28 oz Crushed Tomatoes (This is gonna get cooked down with a lot of big flavors for a while, so you don't need to splurge on the best brand you can find. But it's probably still best to avoid products with names like "Big Jim's Sack of Backyard Tomaters.")
2 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce 
1.5 TBSP Brown Sugar
1/2 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 TSBP Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp Hot Sauce
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder 
2 Limes
Corn Tortillas
Avocado
Red Onion
Cilantro

The first thing you're gonna need to do check and see if you have a "slow-cooker," which is the network-television-nonsense way of saying crockpot. If you don't, you can still make this recipe, but life will just suck a little bit more for you. Even more so than it does now, which is probably a fair amount because you don't have a crockpot. Take your crushed tomatoes, and throw them in the crockpot (or, if you're one of the uninitiated crockless, a dumb old regular pot) along with the chicken, worcestershire, brown sugar, vinegar, chili powder, onion powder, hot sauce, salt, and garlic powder. That's pretty much everything. That's how you know it's gonna be a good recipe. When youp pretty much just shove everything together at once, flourish your hands like a terrible birthday magician, and say "cook!" Set your crockpot to high, cover it, and let it cook for 4 hours. Or, if you're using an analog pot, set it over low heat, cover it, and let it cook for 4.5 hours. Normally when there's some down time in a recipe, we use it preparing the next bit of cookery. But this is a 4 hour break. So go do something that takes almost 4 hours. Binge watch a TV show, go to the DMV, or watch the first 10 minutes of a Zack Snyder movie. Everybody meet back here in about 4 hours. On your mark...set...GO!

Not pictured: more tequila shots. All the tequila shots.
See you all on "why god, why?" Wednesday!
Welcome back! You're just in time for the fun part, and by "fun" I mean...cathartic, I guess. Take the lid off of your pot, grab a couple forks, and shred the bejeezus out of your chicken. It should be crazy tender and just kind of fall apart, but stab it repeatedly with your forks and rip it asunder just for good measure. Then add in the juice from your limes, stir that nonsense together, cover it with a lid again, and let it sit for another 10 minutes. Use this time (see, I told you) to chop your remaining vegetation, and to heat up your tortillas. Chop your avocado into slices, and chop your onion into itty bitty onion bits. Then set a pan over low heat, and toast your tortillas on both sides. If you like things extra delicious, add a little bit of oil to the pan before you do this. You're not deep frying them or anything, so just barely coat the pan. After about 30-60 seconds on each side, they should be fine. Then take your tortillas, stack them 2 deep so they don't just fall apart, add some meat, avocado, red onion, and a little bit of cilantro on them, fold and consume. You may have noticed you have a lot of chicken. That's because it's taco tuesday, not a day for the solitary eating of one taco, but a day for the mass gorging on tacos by the populace at large. So gather or hire some friends, get everybody together, and eat awesome food. Or just eat them all yourself. The important thing is, even though I still don't know the name of the guy who started all of this controversy in the first place., we managed to turn nothing into a massive public debate, thus saving the lives of all the cats living in Brian Williams' neighborhood. Also, tacos!

August 30, 2016

Blooming Onion

Australia: It's not just for being a jerk while playing Risk
Australia has given us some great things over the years. Kangaroos. A fantastic Simpsons episode. And probably other things. Also, thanks to Australian-American restaurants, blooming onions. Sure, some random diner in New Jersey claims that they invented it in the 70s, but that story has some problems, like how suspiciously far from Australia this diner is, and the fact that I don't know if it's true or not. So I'm assuming it was dreamed up in some dingo-encrusted office at Outback Steakhouse's corporate office. Which I'm totally ok with, because they did an awesome job. It's like an onion that's wrapped in fried deliciousness, and blossomed into the best thing ever. And then gave you a free car. And like 6000 superfluous calories. So it's exactly like Oprah.

Ingredients:

1 cup Flour
3 Eggs
1/2 TBSP Smoked Paprika 
1 tsp Salt
1 large human being's pinch of Cayenne Pepper
Onions! (Yes, this recipe makes enough flour and eggs for more than one onion. Yes, that is a good thing, because after you serve your guests the first one, they'll immediately devour it and want another. Assuming you have guests, and aren't just sitting home alone making party food in an ever-growing sea of sadness and fry oil.)
Oil for frying! Any relatively neutral oil with a high smoke point! Like peanut, or canola! 

 The first thing you're gonna need to do is increase your insurance coverage. Because onions are pretty much full of water, and we're pretty much dumping one in a vat of oil. As you may remember, oil and water have a complicated relationship, whereby they try to kill each other, and then kill you for introducing them. Yes, you can help mitigate this by cutting your onions ahead of time and letting them sit in a sealed container overnight, but you're not gonna do that (For the record, that also would have helped your fried bits cling to your onions. Oh well). The point is, you're either gonna burn yourself, your house, or some combination thereof today. Isn't learning fun? Once you've made peace with your impending doom, whisk together your salt, flour, cayenne, and paprika in a bowl. Then take a separate bowl and whisk your eggs in it. You may be wondering where the onion comes in, given that it's a title character of this little adventure. The answer is now, or more accurately at the beginning of the next paragraph.

Chop the head off of your onion, and peel off its outer layer, like you're some kind of sadistic spanish-inquisition style torturer who's trying to convert onions to Catholicism (For those of you now wondering about onion anatomy, its butt is the brown, round, kind of stringy bit on the bottom, and the head is the bit at the top where the excess skin forms a narrowing point. Just like with people). Take a spoon, hollow out your onion's "core," (read: heart) and cut wedges into it, being careful not to cut all the way through to its butt. I know that was a little complicated, so I'll wait here for a few seconds while you re-read it a couple times and make sure you've got it down. Ready? Cool. Now comes the fun part, and by "fun," I mean "kinda of gross at first, and then a healthy mix of terrifying and potentially deadly." Take your onion, and dunk it in your flour mixture. Make sure to get it in all the nooks and crannies. Use a spoon to help you if you need it. There's no shame in relying on spoons. I'm hardly judging you at all. Once your onion is floured, set it aside for a couple minutes. Use this time to heat up your oil in a pot. How much oil? Enough to cover your onion. How big of a pot? Big enough to hold your oil and onion together. And yes, a smaller pot will mean it'll take less oil to cover your onion, saving you as much as one shiny dollar. But you'll have to make a deal with some sort of cruel and malicious deity to eyeball the amount of oil just right. Otherwise, it either won't cover your onion and you'll end up with garbage, or you'll have too much oil, which will spill all over the place, burning your hands, kitchen, and probably soul. All of which you'll then have to spend an hour cleaning up afterwards. So maybe go with a normal sized pot. 

Don't get me wrong, this tasted awesome. Anecdote over.
Using either a deep fryer, a candy/fry thermometer, or the maniacal guesswork of the damned, heat your oil to 350 degrees. Then take your onion (Remember your onion? It's a recipe about your onion), and dunk it in your egg mixture. Then, like two different OCD personalities trapped in one body, dunk the onion back in your flour mixture, again being certain to get floury goodness into every bit. Toss (or, you know, carefully and gently place) your onion into the oil, and fry it at 350 for about 10 minutes. The whole thing should kind of bloom open like it's inviting you into the halls of deliciousness, or, depending on the previously mentioned deity you made a deal with, valhalla. And that's it! Drain it on a rack, or a plate with some paper towels, grab your favorite dipping sauce (I like sriracha-mayo), and dig in. The pleasant ambiance of the warmth and gentle glow from your burning house is an added bonus.

August 23, 2016

Chocolate Truffles

I was gonna write about me being a terrible Willy Wonka, but
got distracted by that oompah loompah who looks exactly like
Neil Patrick Harris.
Well, that's it. The olympics have ended. Which means that you've spent 17 days wishing you were in better shape than you were, all while sitting on your couch and eating chips directly out of the bag. It also means that the Paralympics are about to start! Which means you'll get excited for a second thinking that you must be a better athlete than some of them! That'll last 5 seconds, when you'll realize that overcoming crazy physical adversity to still attain a crazy high level of achievement in a sport is something you could never in a million years do. The bad news is, you're totally right. A couch dwelling chip-eater like yourself isn't destined for athletic greatness. The good news is, that means you can pretty much stay on that couch forever, and eat whatever you want. Even balls of chocolatey goodness topped with deliciousness, and rolled into a bite-size ball of awesomeness! Or take-out. Whichever's faster, because the opening ceremony is about to start.

Ingerdients:

1 lb. Dark Chocolate
1 cup Heavy Cream
2 TBSP Butter
1/2 tsp Vanilla
1 largish-sized human's pinch of Salt
Toppings!

The first thing you're gonna need to do is chop your chocolate into oblivion. You don't want any large chunks. This will get a never ending supply of chocolate smudges conveniently stuck to your knife, cutting board, body, clothing, and walls. You may have to move. But you'll end up with little chocolate bits, which you're gonna plop in a glass bowl. Now take your cream, butter, and salt, and bring all that nonsense just barely to a boil. Take it off the heat and immediately dump it on top of your meticulously melted chocolate. Whisk the crap out of your rapidly melting chocolate until the whole thing is smooth and uniform. Add in the vanilla, and stir lightly to combine. And that's it! Except totally not! Now we play the waiting game. Shove your bowl of chocolate goo (Ganache, to you people who either are culinarily inclined or have watched way too much food network) in to your friendly neighbor refrigerator, and let it cool for about an hour.

You may gain 3-5 delicious pounds by looking at this picture.
Line a flat surface with parchment paper/ Take your somewhat cooled goo and spoon a shapeless blob, roughly a tablespoon large, onto your parchment paper. Repeat until you run out of goop. Take your flat surface full of shapeless chocolate blobs, and shove the whole thing back in the fridge for another hour. (You may have noticed that this recipe has a whole bunch of waiting around time. I haven't noticed, because I'm an experienced cook-type person, and as such may-or-may-not have consumed a large quantity of culinary-grade liquor). Take your tray of solid goo balls out of the fridge, and roll them into vaguely spherical spheres. Any part of you and your home that wasn't previously covered in chocolate will be now, but that's cool because you're moving anyway. Now it's time to contemplate toppings. Because you have pretty much unlimited options. Just fill up a bowl with a topping, and roll a truffle in it until you, surprise, get chocolate all over everything! Stick the truffles back in the fridge for a couple minutes, and try again. I went with four toppings, sprinkles, cinnamon and sugar, cocoa powder, and crushed peppermint candies. But the sky's the limit! Are my flavorings better than yours? Sure, but don't let the fact that you haven't outclassed a professional (Gross exaggeration) at their own game get you down. You've got the Paralympics for that. 

August 16, 2016

Mayonnaise

In lieu of a priest, Egg and Lemon had their close friend Oil
officiate their weird, gross wedding ceremony. 
Mayonnaise gets a bad rap these days. We've spent decades just thinking of it as this weird, kind of flavorless sludge that we buy from the supermarket. I blame the corrupt media, fueled by the ever-more powerful Miracle Whip Lobby (Motto: when life gives you lemons, spend millions of dollars on advertising to try and get people to willfully shove lemons down their throats until either the lemon, or humanity, dies out). The fact of the matter is, back in pre-historic times they didn't have fancy store-bought jars full of over-processed, under-flavored, hyphenate-inducing goop. They just had their wits, and maybe a sharp stick if they were lucky. And now they're all dead. I still say that the store-bought mayo is a bad idea.


Ingredients:

1 Egg Yolk (There are a lot of store bought devices, of varying levels of grossness, that will seperate egg yolks and whites for you. Or you can be a man, and use your hands. Your call.)
1 Cup Oil (I like to go with a relatively neutrally flavored oil, like Corn, or Light Olive. But follow your heart. Your gross, weirdly flavored heart.)
1 TBSP Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 a Lemon

This is another one of those recipes that seems like an awesome idea at first. Until you've been whisking a bunch of junk around a bowl for what feels like, at the minimum, 2 presidential terms, and your arm is having serious doubts about whether it wants to move forward with you as its running mate. But it tastes good, so let's get cracking. Take your egg yolk, salt, and mustard, and whisk them together in a bowl until they get a little bit lighter and frothier than they started. Take a second bowl and juice your lemon into it, being careful to keep the seeds from falling in with the juice. Add in your apple cider vinegar, and pick out all of the lemon seeds that brought dishonor upon your family just now. Take half of this mixture, and add it in to the egg mix, whisking like a frenchman. Which is a phrase I invented just now that doesn't really mean anything, but sounds like it should be offensive for some reason. Why are we only adding half of this mixture in? Because we need some liquid to suspend all of the oil we're about to add in, forming an emulsion, along with several emotional scars. But if we add in all of the vinegar and lemon juice, we'd have a super wet mix to start off with. Which would make forming the emulsion with our oil a lot harder. We're already whisking for the duration of one of Kanye West's interviews where he talks about how much of a genius he is for wearing ugly clothes. Don't make this harder on us. Don't be that guy.

Now it's time for the fun part, and by "fun," I mean, "oh god, oh god, why?" Take your egg mix, and start whisking the bejeezus out of it. While you're doing this, start adding your oil in. At first, you want to add it in painfully slowly. Just a couple drops at a time. Add it in too fast and instead of mayonnaise, you'll just end up with oily eggs. Once your emulsion starts to take form a little bit, and the pain in your arm has started damaging your spirit in addition to your body, you can start adding in the oil a little bit quicker, in a thin but constant stream. (Protip: Apparently a measuring cup is absolutely terrible for this job. Especially if you have to hold it while you're beating your mixture, causing large waves of oil to constantly threaten to splorp out into your fledgling mayo, each time giving you new and exciting heart attacks. I've heard squeeze bottles might help with this.) Once your oil is about half done, add in the rest of your vinegar and lemon mix, and then get back to whisking. The hardest part will be the end, but not because your arm hates you, and just wants to die. Well, not just because of that. You'll see your oil coming to an end, and your arm will be aching, and you'll just have the strongest urge to just pour everything that's left in and be done with it. This is the voice of failure talking. Ignore it. 

Fries sold separately. Go find your own
Once your oil is finished, you're pretty much done! Except that you've got raw egg in there. And sure, chances are it didn't have any salmonella in it, but do you really want tiny fish swimming around in your blood? Upstream? The fridge will help keep the bacteria from spreading, but to really kill it off you need some room temperature acid. Fortunately, you've got lemon juice and vinegar in your mayo! So, the conventional wisdom says to leave your mayo at room temperature for a minimum of an hour, but some people recommend closer to a day. They move it to the fridge where it'll last for about a week. And it won't last a week, because this stuff is good. Slather it on a taco, make some tuna, potato, or pasta salad, or even just straight-up use it as a condiment on fries and whatnot. Bonus points if you mix in a little sriracha. 

August 9, 2016

Orange Chocolate Cake

I can do that, but I don't wanna
The Olympic Games are in full swing right now. Those of us who care are spending our days watching the world's best athletes perform astounding feats of athleticism to try and bring home medals for their home countries. Also, synchronized diving is happening. Because while there are many Olympic events and incredible ordeals that you can look on with awe and wonder, some of them are really ridiculous. Who decided that ping pong is an Olympic sport? I don't know, but they were obviously smoking something. The point is, however, that we're all watching incredible athletes perform at the highest levels in front of the entire world. And watching something like that isn't really complete unless you're stuffing your face with cake.

Ingredients:

2 cups Flour
1.5 cups Sugar
1 Orange
3 Eggs
1/2 cup Butter
1/2 cup Milk
1 TBSP Baking Powder
1 tsp Vanilla Extract 
1 average human sized pinch of Salt
Powdered Sugar
Cocoa Powder
More Milk!

The first thing you're gonna need to do is develop the unrealistic opinion that you could totally do what those Olympians on TV are doing if you just started working out a little more. Once you've got that taken care of, you're in prime cake-gorging mode. So whisk together your salt, flour, and baking soda in a bowl. Then take another, even better bowl, and throw in your butter and sugar. Whisk the crap out of them to cream your butter ("creaming" butter is a concept we've dealt with here once or twice. Basically, it means violently whisk together your sugar and butter, forcing the sugar crystals to rip into the unsuspecting butter until the whole thing turns into a smooth sludge. This works best with room temperature butter, but if you want to be a rebel, use cold butter, and end up sobbing in the corner over your life choices, be my guest). Once your butter is creamed to death, whisk in your eggs, one at a time. Zest your orange, and chop the zest into itty bitty zest bits. Then add them in to your butter and egg mixture, along with the juice from the orange, your 1/2 cup of milk, and your vanilla. If you're smarter than I was, save a little bit of zest for later, to sprinkle daintily on top of your cake like you're fancy and have tuxedo pajamas, which apparently are actually a thing somehow.

Remember, if you watched people exercise while you ate it,
it totally has 1/2 the calories. 
Once you've finished mixing your second bowl, googling tuxedo pajamas, and subsequently buying tuxedo pajamas (you're welcome), add your dry ingredients into your wet gloppy ones in 3 equal batches, taking time between each batch to whisk everything together and freak out over whether your batter is getting too thick or not. Once you're done, grease up 2 round 9-inch baking pans, cover your grease in a thin coating of flour, and distribute your sludgy batter equally between the two pans. Throw them into a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes. While you've got 40 minutes or so to kill, it's time to think about some frosting. Because shoving unfrosted cake into your mouth while watching fantastic feats of athleticism happen is un-American. Or maybe partially American. Like Guam. Don't be Guam. So take 3 parts powdered sugar, one part cocoa powder, and one part milk, and mix it together. The actual amounts don't really matter. Make as much or as little as you like on your cake. But keep the proportions 3 to 1 to 1 if you want it to taste right. Now that your kitchen is a powdery mess, take your cakes out of the oven. Slather frosting on top of each layer, and if you're already fancy enough to be rocking those tuxedo pajamas, add the layers on top of each other to make a double decker cake to shove in your face hole in a flurry of sweet orange flavor, denial, and calories. Happy Olympics!

August 2, 2016

Jalapeño-Citrus Bomb

Just like a jalapeño, resting on the backs of the working limes 
So I've been sick. Not any of the gross kinds of sick that you don't want to talk about around members of the opposite sex, but definitely the kind that makes you a little crazy, weak, and in need of hydration. Hydration and vast amounts of vitamin C. Because, as everybody knows, even though there's no evidence that vitamin C helps shorten or prevent illness (and the person who tried to convince us of it in the first place was a mad scientist who was trying to become immortal), at least it's doing something. And that makes us feels productive, which is important according to 3 out of 4 of the therapists I'm seeing. Especially when you're sick and quickly sinking into a vast pit of delirium.

Ingredients:

1/2 a Jalapeño 
1/4 cup Orange Juice
1 Lime
2/3 cup Ginger Ale
1.5 tsp Sugar
Ice

The first thing you're gonna need to do is...well, get up. Which isn't easy when you're feverish, delirious, and have already expended most of your energy wishing that you were either healthy, asleep, or dead. Next you're gonna chop up your jalapeño, with the stems and seeds removed. Because they're the spiciest part. And also because it's super weird to drink something filled with seeds, no matter what hipsters tell you (WARNING: link contains hipster nonsense). Throw your jalapeño bits in the bottom of a glass along with your sugar and crush it all together in a process called "muddling," which I've discussed "before," in other "drink recipes." Success is key here. There's always the chance that you might succumb to your weakened state and fail at even this simple task, signaling to your enemies that now is the perfect time to strike.
Possible side effects may include the return of a will to live

Assuming you made it this far and got your jalapeño nice and muddly, add in the orange juice along with the juice from your lime, and stir all of that nonsense together. Then top it off with your ginger ale. Take a separate glass, and fill it up with ice. Then pour your concoction over the ice and you're done! Now just sit back and relax, sipping your delicious drink, as your decaying body betrays you and those you love! At least the citrus will let you lie to yourself that you're proactively treating your illness, and the spiciness will help free your sinuses from their demons in a cleansing holy fire. Also, if you're one of those jerks who isn't currently sick (read: everyone who isn't me) you can also make this and enjoy it. Or, you can add tequila to it, and enjoy it even more.

July 26, 2016

Tomato Soup

Tomatoes, pictured here in a rare mating display
The tomato gets a rough deal. Traditionally, it's the thing we throw at people to tell them they're terrible at life, and should get off the stage. Or, alternatively, we'll mash it up with about 1,000 other things into a sauce so you can barely even tell it's there, and then combine that sauce with the things we really want to eat, like pasta, or chicken, or the still-beating hearts of our enemies, or fries (Though some tomato sauces do rise to the occasion). Rarely do we let the tomato be the star of the show. Tomato soup is no exception. It's pretty much used as a condiment for grilled cheese sandwiches. Which is reasonable. Grilled cheese is delicious, and can help make anything taste awesome. But if you make it right, the tomato doesn't necessarily need a crutch. It may suck, but it will not get off the stage. Just like me at my 5th grade talent show.

Ingredients:

28 oz. can of Crushed Tomatoes
3 standard-issue Tomatoes
1 standard-issue Onion
3 Carrots
2 cups Vegetable Stock
1 cup Water
2 cloves Garlic
2 TBSP Olive Oil
1 TBSP chopped Rosemary 
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper 
An unspecified amount of Salt

The first thing you're gonna need to do is chop up your onion and carrots. You don't need to worry about getting them into tiny uniform bits, because we're gonna blend the crap out of the thing later, but if the demons in your head tell you otherwise, go nuts. Heat up your oil in a pot, and sauté your chopped up onion and carrots along with a gentlemen's pinch of salt. While that's cooking, it's a good time to get to know your tomatoes way better than you want to. You're gonna cut out the core and the seeds. Those of you who have seen the inside of a tomato before might be wondering "how?" The answer is "messily." Because tomatoes are goopy nonsense on the inside, and at the slightest pressure they'll squirt their insides all over the place. Kind of like people. Once you're done, and you can't un-see the things you've seen, chop what's left of your tomatoes into chunks. For those of you who read this before starting to cook, let your onions and carrots cook for about 6 minutes over medium heat before adding in your tomatoes along with another pinch of salt. For those of you cooking along as you read it, you probably should have added in your tomatoes a long time ago. Also, your kitchen, and other important parts of your household, may be on fire
The rosemary sprig is optional, unless you happen to be
classy as hell, like me. 

Let that whole mess cook down for another 3 minutes before adding in your rosemary, along with the garlic which you've taken the time to chop into itty bits. Cook for another minute before adding in the rest of your ingredients. Bring the whole thing up to a boil, cover it so it can't escape, and then simmer it for 1/2 an hour. Now it's time to blend it. I prefer lightly blending it so you've got a slightly chunky texture. But if you decide you know better than me, go nuts and follow your heart. I'm sure you won't regret this decision forever. And that's all there is to it! Delicious, mildly spicy tomato soup. So the next time you feel like throwing tomatoes at some hack comedian, make a pot of this soup, and throw that at him instead. 

July 19, 2016

Brownies

Artist's rendition: Me at every party
Brownies hold a special place in my heart, and several other major organs. They're the perfect combination between a cookie, a cake, and licking delicious raw batter off of a mixing spoon, FDA-be-damned. You can eat them plain, or add various toppings like fruit, whipped cream, or caramel sauce. And yes, your mouth just watered when you read that, yet again confirming Pavlov's famous experiment where he annoyed the crap out of his neighbors. But let's be honest. Your mouth started watering back when you first read the word "brownies." Because brownies are special. They're exciting, and awesome, and if you're lucky enough to have some in your life don't let them go. If you have to stab other partygoers with a fork, so be it.

Ingredients:

1.75 Cups Sugar
1 Cup standard-issue Flour
2/3 Cup Vegetable or Canola Oil
2/3 Cup Cocoa Powder (It's important to note that Cocoa Powder straddles the fine line between "powder" and "gas." It will get everywhere if you're not carfeful with it. It probably will regardless, but at least this way you have the sweet illusion of control.)
4 Eggs
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Peppermint Extract
1/2 tsp Salt

Before we get started, it's important to note that this is part of a number of recipes I got from my mom and then gussied up (from the latin GUH, to blatantly steal, and SEED, to alter very slightly to assuage guilt). Why is it important to note this? Mostly so that I don't get sardonic phone calls all this week. The point is...well, I don't remember what the point is, which makes this a good time to start the actual cooking part of the recipe. Whisk or sift together your flour, baking powder, and cocoa powder. Allow 3-5 minutes to adequately curse at your cocoa powder, and at the stylish cocoa powder stains covering everything you're wearing. In another bowl, because we're high class snobs like that, whisk together your eggs, and beat them until they're light and a little fluffy, so you know they're no longer a threat. Then add in your sugar and beat it for about a minute, just to show it who's boss and keep it from getting ideas.

Words fail me. All I can say is: you're welcome.
Add the rest of your ingredients, including your cocoa mixture, into your egg/sugar ooze. It's gonna get pretty hard to stir. It's gonna be a thick gloppy mess. That's how you know it's good. Take a pan and oil it up, or cooking-spray it up, or whatever. How large of a pan should you get? That's really up to you. The larger the pan, the more spread out the brownies will be, which means they'll be crispier, and cook faster. Which is great if you hate joy and liberty, and love things like kicking puppies and siphoning gas out of the school-buses at the orphanage. The rest of us know that brownies are supposed to be gooey and thick and delicious. So we're all gonna take a 9x13 pan, lube it up, load it up with our brownie sludge, and bake that sucker at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. We might even say that this time we're not gonna eat the leftover batter off the spoon and/or bowl. But we are lying.

July 12, 2016

Chilled Avocado Soup

Psychic's depiction: seconds before my death
Well, it's official. Summer is back. You can tell from the longer days, the watermelons in the supermarket, and the sticky parentless children running around everywhere. Oh, and the sun is trying to kill us again. Last year I was living in LA, so the sun attacking me was annoying but manageable. But I made the dumb mistake of moving to Chicago, which was originally swampland that some idiots built huts on. Not much has changed. So nowadays when I say that the sun is trying to kill me,  it's more like the sun, along with his homicidal buddies the lake and the air, are all conspiring to kill me so they can live in my apartment and throw parties. The point is, we're gonna need refreshment. Which usually means something fruity and sweet. But you can only do so much fruity and sweet on a hot day before you start to feel all of that sugar melting into a caramel inside your stomach, and that's not as much fun as it sounds. The answer is avocados. Granted, I've lived in southern California for years, so, legally, I'm required to solve every problem with avocados, but this time it actually makes things better.


Ingredients:

2 Avocados
1 Lime
1/2 a Red Onion
1/3 cup Milk (Thanks to hipsters and their ilk, there are WAY too many options of weird nonsense milks to choose from. So don't. Just get actual milk. The kind that comes from a cow, and has some fat in it. You know, milk.)
1/4 cup Vegetable Stock
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp Cumin
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
An unspecified amount of Sour Cream and Cilantro

The first thing you're gonna need to do is chastise your avocados. Because once you cut them, avocados turn brown and gross. Surprisingly fast, too. It's pretty much their national pastime to wreck your day. So let your avocados know in a firm, but caring tone of voice, that you're not gonna be putting up with their crap today. Keep lecturing until you feel like you've really gotten through to your avocados and made a difference in their lives. Then, like any good parent, start preparing for when they inevitably try to betray you. Once you've gotten that taken care of, choppity chop chop your red onion into tiny bits until no one can identify its remains. Add in the cumin and cayenne, and set it aside. Peel and slice your avocados, and throw them in a bowl along with your kosher salt, and mash them with a fork. The large grains of salt you get with the kosher stuff will help punch through the avocado and break it down into a delicious goop. This is where your avocados will stab you in the back, despite all of the progress we made together. So add in the juice from your lime to keep things in check. Avocados may love turning brown, but citrus is having none of that nonsense. Citrus doesn't deal well with change. This party started off green, and as far as citrus is concerned, it's gonna end up green.

That's good enough to almost make up for the heat. Almost.
Now it's time to add your spiced onions in with the avocado mixture, along with your milk and vegetable stock. Stir that nonsense together, cover it, and throw it in the fridge to think about what it's done. Let it sit there for at least a couple hours, but overnight would be even better. Then, whenever the sun is pulling that "95 degrees with 80% humidity" nonsense, go to your fridge and pull out your avocado sludge. Throw it in a bowl and top it with a tablespoon of sour cream, and some chopped cilantro. Or don't, because it's super hot and you don't even have the energy to produce fully fledged thoughts, let alone add crap on top of your soup. Either way. The point is, even though the air around you is hot and sticky, that doesn't mean you have to be. Well, maybe it does, but you don't have to feel like it. Instead you can feel cool, and refreshed, and full of avocados. Like a conquistador, minus all of the rape and murder!