Friday, October 28, 2011

And Then I Fried Some Pickles

The one on the left is having a sexy wardrobe malfunction.
Pinterest has struck again.

As I was goofing around on Pinterest and trying to plan this weeks menu, I stumbled on a recipe for one of my guiltiest pleasures - fried dill pickles.  Now, I'm no connoisseur in the world of fried pickles - my entire experience with them starts and ends at Hooters - but I know two of my favorite ingredients, pickles and fried, are invited to the party.

Since this is me we're talking about, I all but disregarded the recipe, and did pretty much whatever I wanted.  XD

I used:
16 oz jar of dill pickle slices (I didn't use them all, I still have some marinating in my fridge!)
1 tsp dried garlic
1 tbsp hot sauce
1/2 pint buttermilk
16 oz peanut oil (or more, which is probably better.  I'm just cheap)

What I dredged it in:
1 cup AP flour (despite being told "SELF-RISING IS EVERYTHING" from my Southern friend, Amber)
1/4 cup cornmeal

Dump out a little more than half your pickle juice, and add the garlic, hot sauce, and buttermilk to the jar.  Shake it up to evenly distribute, and plonk that back in to the fridge for at least half an hour.  In the mean time mix up your dredge mix.  I do this on a plate because I find it easier to mix and add all my dredge-worthy food in (and find afterwards).  Next, mix up your favorite beverage.  This is not part of the recipe.  ;)  Start heating your peanut oil in a pan.  This is a point when I wished I had used a heavier pan that retained heat better, but all my heavy pans are too large in diameter, and my meager peanut oil would have been too shallow.  I heated the oil to 350 degrees (yay food thermometer), turned the heat to low to maintain, and retrieved my pickles from the fridge.

I retrieved 6 of the pickle slices and placed them in my dredge mix.  Shuffled them around a bit to evenly coat, and started by putting 2 of them in to the oil.  This will cool your oil down, so don't overload your fry pan!  Too many pickles will cool it so much that it won't fry - you can do more pickles at once by using more oil.  Leave the pickles to fry for a few minutes - they should start to turn that delicious-looking golden brown.  Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel-lined plate to cool and allow the excess oil to drain.  Your oil should be back up to temp at this point, so put in your next couple pickles slices.  I admit, I overlapped a bit and added new pickles before the first ones were done.  And nothing bad happened at all!  :D

When your pickles are done draining and won't burn your face off, plate them up with a side of blue cheese dressing and enjoy!  I considered making some chicken wings with these, but really I'd rather just eat a double order of pickles, if I'm honest.  :D  And really, these are WAY better than Hooters' pickles.  Really.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Crockpot Macaroni & Cheese

Oh, macaroni & cheese (going forward referred to as "macncheez"), I love you so.  You bring me memories of childhood, of warm food on cold days, on being one of the few things I was comfortably able to cook when I was first on my own.  There are so many options, and whether you prefer stovetop, oven, from a box, or using only all-natural ingredients, none of them are wrong.  Ever.

Enter my crockpot obsession!  I originally found this recipe on Pinterest, but I changed quite a bit of it, so I don't know if you really want to call it the same recipe.  I'm linking to it anyway, since it was my original inspiration to try this. 

Since we're not talking about a huge hunk of meat, this is not an ideal recipe to put in a slow cooker and leave for 8-10 hours.  Mine was pretty happily done in 3, 3.5 hours.

Collect your ingredients!
2 and 1/2 cup of whole milk (plus a little more for any "extras")
2 tbsp butter, softened (room temperature, or melted)
1 egg
pinch of salt
2 and 1/2 cups of shredded cheese (whatever YOU want, pick your faves! I picked cheddar and Monterey Jack, and wish I had played it a little bit bolder. Next time)
8 oz elbow macaroni
Spices (Pepper, and I also used Penzeys Northwood Seasoning)
Other? (here's your chance to add tomato, or bacon, or broccoli, or ham, or...)
Parmesan cheese to cover the top

Before we go much further, let's talk about par cooking your noodles.  I decided to be REALLY CRAZY and dumped 8 oz of raw, dry macaroni into my crockpot, and it came out great.  Not quite al dente, but certainly not gooey.  It seemed odd to boil my pasta before I cooked it for 3 hours, so I didn't.  And yes, I'm one of those Americans that uses "pasta" and "noodles" interchangeably.  I just think they're both really fantastic words.  ;)  Anyway, if you prefer your noodles to be really soft, feel free to par cook.  If you're lazy like me, or like a less squishy noodle, save washing the extra pot and throw them in raw.

OK!  Add your milk, butter, egg, and salt to the crock (no heat at this point) and whisk that until it's all completely combined.  If you used room temperature (non-melted) butter, you'll have to whisk a little more vigorously, but you can do it!  Next, add in you cheese and macaroni, stirring everything together.  When you add your pepper and/or any other spices, it'll look like this:

Also, look how pretty my new crockpot is!
Try to push as much of that macaroni to be as level with the liquid level as possible, especially if you're working with raw mac.  If that's proving to be impossible, add a little more milk, but it shouldn't be drowning in liquid.  Remember with crockpots, the liquid doesn't go anywhere!

I then shaved some parmesan to create a thin layer over the top, and started off by turning my heat to high for about 20 minutes - just until I heard the pot start to rumble, and I then turned it to low for another 3 hours.  I was rewarded with a very flavorful version of one of my all time favorite meals.


I Bought Chocolate Frosting Vodka

Look at all these posts about food - what do you say we change it up?  Here's Johnny! alcohol!  After becoming a big fan of Cupcake Vineyards (must be 21 to enter their site), I became obsessed with tracking down some of their Cupcake Vodka (you still 21? Good).  After a bit of research and a bit of dumb luck I found it, and while trying to Google cocktails while in Bevmo on my ridiculously ancient phone, I just bought a bottle of Devil's Food and figured I would get creative at home.

As luck would have it, I had just recently bought 3 pints of strawberries at a farmer's market, and de-topped and frozen 2 of them.

I tried the vodka (it's like liquid frosting, no lie), and let it chill in the freezer while I attempted to find my blender.  Remember how I told you about my Crockpot being banished to the deepest, darkest corner of my under-the-counter storage?  Well, the only thing behind it was the blender.  I just don't blend things!  I drink margaritas on the rocks!  I buy creamy soups in cans!  I don't know what else you do with a blender!

So I got out the blender.  It was so far back there, it would have been easier to just have Narnia mail it to me.

I told my husband "try this vodka, and we have frozen strawberries! and I'm going to throw some stuff in the blender and it'll kinda be like chocolate-strawberry daiquiris, but maybe not, because I think daiquiris are a tequila based drink?  Whatever, it has chocolate AND strawberries."

To which he replied "...we have a blender?"  I declared "Funnay!" in my best Fozzie Bear voice and started to put things in the mysterious blending contraption.

Honestly, I had sampled quite a bit of the chocolate vodka by this point (just because I PUT it in the freezer doesn't mean it STAYED there), and the husband was being a laugh riot, so the only thing I measured was the vodka (hilariously).

4 oz vodka (this is for 2 drinks, as pictured)
1 pint frozen strawberries (I had 2 pints, and used half my strawberries)
2ish oz of agave syrup (you can also use simple syrup. I also wished I had used a bit more)
some dashes of lime juice (prevents scurvy)
a small handful of ice (I like that it breaks up the drink and introduces some water, but it's definitely not necessary with frozen strawberries)

As you can see from the photo, what resulted was not so much a drink, but a thick sorbet-like dessert that we had to eat with spoons and which was pretty tasty and refreshing.  Of course, you may find it even better if you don't have to go on a recon mission to get to your blender.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


When we need comfort, we often turn to food.  For me, nothing can beat a grilled cheese sandwich.  Well, make that a grilled cheese sandwich on fresh white bread that I made earlier in the day.

My secret technique: butter the bread, not the pan.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Get Ready for My Crockpot Obsession

I recently developed an overwhelming obsession with slow cooked food.  I've owned a crockpot for several years, and for most of those it's lived in the darkest corner of the deepest cabinet.  It just...wasn't how I cooked.  People would share their amazing recipes that had been passed down for generations, and I would shrug and try to think of a way to cook it without disturbing all the appliances that lived in front of the crockpot.

Then, we got our Winter.  Well, more specifically, we finally got our Summer, and then 2 days later it got cold and rained.  We turned on the heater, we shook our fists at our jobs for dragging us out of bed at 6 am, and I CRAVED the smell of meat stews being cooked for hours.  I crave this smell sometimes, but this was different.  I actually wanted to do something about this.  And the more I thought, the more I fantasized about coming home from a long day of work and a cold drive home, and having the smell of pot roast greet me at the door, and of stew with flavors that have been mingling all day, and of doing no work after 5 PM and enjoying my dinner and my night.

I reached out to friends, family, and the internet in search of recipes.  Insert another obsession - Pinterest.  Those that aren't familiar with Pinterest may not be aware of how addictive it is to stare at beautiful art installments, interesting photography, and outright food pr0n that they'll encounter as they flip through their friends' boards.  I had a specific quest, so I had to try not to get too distracted.

I discovered this yummy site, and found myself licking the screen at the Zesty Slow Cooker Chicken BBQ.  So, it was decided.  That would by my first foray in to slow cooking in years.  I followed the recipe and only substituted a vinaigrette for the Italian dressing (Italian dressing is not very Italian to me), and was thrilled at how delicious the results where.  I would probably shorten the cooking time just a bit - 8 hours on low turned out to be too much, and much of the liquid had dried.  But at the same time, there was just enough to coat my beautifully shredded chicken, and I definitely would eat this over and over exactly as it.

I coated one side of a sourdough roll (not homemade, not this time) with avocado, and put some mozzarella on top of the steaming hot chicken to let it melt over.  I served up the last of the leftover mashed potatoes to go with it, and didn't even wait for my husband to get home!  (Don't worry, I left some for him!)

I'm liking this new obsession.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Change: It's Actually Good

I don't do well with change.

I think I do.  I pretend I do.  I openly tell people "change is inevitable!  Embrace it and you'll be so much happier!" and then I grumble when I discover someone has moved the coffee machine and it doesn't work the same way the last one did and why did we buy this new brand of coffee?  The last one was the same!

I bring this up because for the last couple years we've had the same neighbor in our duplex.  It's important to know your duplex neighbor, because you're sharing a wall, you need to communicate when you're temporarily taking over a shared space, you share the same plumbing so need to coordinate calls to RotoRooter.  It's a symbiotic relationship, and a fine balance, as you want to know them and trust them, but at the same time you don't want to hear or see each other all that much!  ;P

We had a good symbiotic relationship.  That is, until he selfishly decided to move!  All of a sudden, I saw MY world being turned on its head.  Everything would no longer be the same.  Our old neighbor was so quiet - so surely new neighbors would be ridiculously loud.  Old neighbor would handle our stupid plumbing issues.  With new neighbors we'll have to do EVERYTHING.  Old neighbor would quietly come home and make his dinner.  New neighbors, I know you're going to come home and set stuff on fire on my porch!

Do you think I overreact to change much?

Today, I worked up all my bravery and went to introduce myself.  I was greeted by the sweetest young lady, who apologized for the mess (which was cleaner than my house, and I don't have an awesome excuse like "I just moved here 1 day ago"), and introduced me to her adorable toddler, Tenoch.  "You have a toddler?  I would have never's been so...quiet."  She let me know that the plumber was coming back on Monday due to some drainage issues ("you're already handling that stuff?"), and didn't set anything on fire the whole time I was there.  I was disappointed that my husband was still asleep - I wanted to show him how awesome this new person was!  I also felt very silly, for putting together such a negative image in my head of someone I had no experience of whatsoever.

I really like the new neighbors.  I hope that never changes.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Starting Christmas Knitting!

But this recipient doesn't read my blog (surprising, when you consider the high quality and entertainment value), so I can show you!

This is only one night of progress so far, so hopefully I can knock this one out quickly (not least of all because you know pink is not my favorite color!).  The pattern is remarkably easy, it is called the Tipsy Rib Scarf by Pamela Wynne, and by the time I got to the 5th row I had it memorized.  Also, it's reversible!  That's a nice quality for scarves to have!

The yarn is one of my favorites - Stonehedge Fiber Shepherd's Wool (Ravelry link).  It has a rustic look, but unlike a lot of rustic wools it is delightfully soft and is comfortable to wear around the neck, even for us sensitive folks!  The first project I made with this yarn, I gave away.  This project, I'm giving away.  I have some more of this yarn in navy blue for my third project with the stuff, and it's MINE.  ALL MINE!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Some Things Aren't as Awesome as They Seem

Recently, I was asked to identify a knitting project that I was well-admired by others, but that I found disappointing.  It took a little thought - for the most part, the projects that get admiration are well-loved by me, too.  I'm probably even saying "LOOK HOW AWESOME MY SCARF IS!"  But they haven't all been successes, and some projects are surprisingly sneaky in how evil the really are.

Old pic is old.  Sriuz face is sriuz.
I already know what you're thinking.  No you can't have it.  If I gave it to you you would wonder what you did to make me punish you so badly, plus it's not mine to give away, since I threw it at the back of a donation truck and jumped in the bushes so they couldn't find me to give it back (they probably could have recognized me by my He-Man haircut, which is why I hid).  I dare not speak its name 3 times, lest it appear.

What's wrong with it?

1) It's riddled with errors, very few of which are my fault.  The pattern does a lot of assuming.  I don't mean that it assumes you know what you're doing.  That's a moot point.  It assumes IT knows what's it's doing as it has you "continue in pattern" even though things have CHANGED.  An obvious example of this is the cable - at the top it just stopped crossing, because I had decreased a lot of stitches and the cable was that entire panel.  Also note the yarn overs next to the button band.  They just end like a critically acclaimed yet poorly rated show on Fox (but I still wanted to watch that).

2) Bulky yarn and bulky sweaters don't hide ANYTHING.  The easiest way to make a bulky sweater even bulkier?  Seams.  Which this sweater totally has.  Please be sure to look at the seam around the sleeve and observe the bulk.  One smart decision I made?  Not putting on the front pockets, which sit right at your hips and make you look swollen.  This thing was also warmer than my Winter coat.  I live in California.

3) The yarn choice is at least partially my fault.  First of all it's pink (what was I thinking?), it's single ply so was one big rubby disaster waiting to happen, and it shed like a cat in Summer.  Due to my terrible color choice, this sweater looked best with a black shirt, which was officially a pink shirt by the end of the day, even if I just sat in the same room as the damn thing.  I don't want to think about how much of this sweater I inhaled.  I keep waiting for the daytime lawyer commercials to address it - "Do you, or someone you know, suffer from symptoms of sheddy bulky wooly sweaters?  Don't wait!  We can help!  Not valid in New York State."

I could go on, but I've gotten to a point where I really don't want to talk about it anymore; it's making my blood pressure rise and my teeth itchy.  Suffice it to say, all my projects haven't been perfect and bragworthy, all that sheds all over your stuff is not gold, and I hope some day I can forget this monstrosity.  To the person that picked it up in a charity shop - I'm so sorry.