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At the beginning of the year, I planned to complete six lists of one hundred items each. Although I didn't complete any of the lists, I consider the year a success. Well, I don't know that I didn't complete any of them. I actually just stopped counting; it was more of a distraction from the experience than anything useful.

1. Read 100 books that I've never read before.
2. Make 100 improvements to my apartment.
3. Run 100 miles.
4. Have 100 firsts.
5. Update my lj 100 times.
6. Try 100 new recipes.

I've learned some things:

I love me some butternut squash. All my favorite recipes this year included butternut squash. I think my top favorite was the first way I tried it - simply roasted and served with a mustard vinaigrette.

I haven't updated the lj as much as I wanted, but I lurked. You are all an important part of my life.

Running a marathon takes much more discipline than I expected it to take. It takes more discipline than I currently have. I want the kind of discipine it takes to train that hard.

I love feeding people. I get a little insane about an hour before people come over, but I love it. I like creating the dishes, and I like watching people enjoy them. I wonder how I would like culinary school. Maybe I'll take a few cooking classes this next year.

Cake can't taste like eggs if you don't use them to make it.

It's going to take way more than a year to get my apartment the way I want it.

I don't like feeling obligated to try new things. It's exhausting.

Just because someone loves something I love doesn't mean that I will enjoy reading his or her book about it. Especially if he or she is a twit.

I make a mean pie. I also make a mean cookie. That is, I make a mean pie and cookie with Maggie helping.

New favorite books - food memoirs.

Tomorrow, I'll post a new resolution post. I hope all of you are having a good week.
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We tried a lot of new cookie recipes and then invited people over to try them. It was a BYOT (bring your own tin) party, and people really seemed to like it.

We had originally meant to make fourteen types of cookies, but the last cookie wouldn't stay together, so later I baked it as granola, and it was pretty tasty that way.

Here's the rundown:

1. Chocolate Chip Cookies - We used a bourbon vanilla instead of regular. We weren't sure what the weird flavor was at first, but then we remembered. Bourbon. I definitely prefer it without it, but we didn't have any problem getting rid of them.
2. Sugar Cookies - these cookies were delicious. But they were a bitch to roll out to cut into shapes. I suggest just rolling or dropping.
3. Neiman Marcus Cookies - We didn't put nuts in them, because I don't like them. They turned out pretty crispy, and they were the least favorite of most people. They were near the top of my list, though.
4. Raw, Vegan, Almond-Oat Cookies - These were good, as long as you got them straight out of the freezer. At room temperature, blech.
5. Gingersnaps - I may never buy gingersnaps again. These were so easy and so much better than store-bought cookies.
6. World Peace Cookies - These were pretty good. We decided that they were called World Peace Cookies because if you just gave one to every world leader, they'd all have to go take a nap and couldn't get into any wars or trouble.
7. Key Lime Cookies - These were my second favorite cookies of the weekend. They're so tasty. They're especially tasty with buttercream.
8. Nutella Cookies - I know that the recipe says to only replace part of the peanut butter, but we went right on and ignored that. Replace it all. You won't be sorry.
9. Peach Shortcake Cookies - A few notes - don't expect these to taste like cookies. They're shortcake. Eat them with fresh berries and whipped cream or clotted cream. Also, use fresh peaches. Frozen - even from your mother's orchard - won't do.
10. Samoas - What a pain in the ass. But the people loved them. I'm totally making this into a pie, though.
11. Espresso Chocolate Chip Shortbread - Mmm...tasty. Very, very espresso-y. Of course, I may have been a bit liberal with the espresso...
12. Cheesy Cornflake Cookies - These are a tasty breakfast treat. But you're gonna want to eat them warm.
13. And last but not least, the Best Cookie Ever - my mom's Surprise Cookies )
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This weekend was full of fun. Mostly, it was full of laziness, which I find fun, especially when the laziness follows a crazy week like the one I had.

- I'm going to go to Memphis as a Staff Advisor on Alternative Spring Break. We're going to be working at a food bank there. We started picking our team on Friday. We are interviewing eight people this week and must narrow it down to seven by this coming Friday. I'm super excited about the trip.
- I'm now officially a Pampered Chef consultant. I am hoping to make a little extra money, and this seemed like the most feasible (i.e., flexible with my insane schedule) option.
- I have dropped down to a leg of the relay on my marathon because my fundraising wasn't going well enough to continue the full or half. I'm choosing to look at it as, "Hey, now I'm ahead of schedule." My body seems to be looking at it as "Hey, now I can be lazy," because I have never not wanted to run so much in my life.

I tried out a few recipes this weekend.

Friday, at my Pampered Chef party (at which I decided, "Hey, I could do this!"), we made two delicious but simple things. For the appetizer, we had the Antipasti Pull-Apart Pizza. I don't remember the exact ingredients, but picture a sectioned French Bread crust smothered in mozzarella, olives, red bell pepper, artichokes, and garlic. So good. For the main course/demonstration, we made the Lightning Fast Veggie Chili. It was a basic chili, but smoky (accomplished by semi-roasting the squash and adding poblano pepper). It had a kick to it. Happy.

Saturday, I slept in (nope...didn't run...not at all). For lunch, I made Tofu in Sichuan Sauce. It was even easier than I expected, and it was delicious. I'm going to add vegetables next time, but overall it was a success. For dinner, I made Ribollita Soup. I left out the stale-bread-crumbs-in-otherwise-delightful-soup step, because I do not enjoy soggy bread dishes (French toast and bread pudding, I'm looking at you). I compromised and crushed up a few saltines in my bowl before eating and then hurriedly ate those bites before they could get too soggy. Sure, I may have scalded the roof of my mouth, but that's really a small price to pay not to eat soggy bread. The soup itself was awesome. It may become my go-to veggie soup.

NaNoWriMo begins! If my behavior so far is indicative of the month's pattern, you may be hearing from me a lot. In the last few hours, I've written 665 words, played Bejeweled an obscene amount of times, started working on my NaNoWriMo 2010 playlist on YouTube, and posted this entry. procrastination here. *sheepish*

Who else is doing NaNo this year?
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These may not be in the order in which I read them, but here is the next group of new books I've read this year.

25. My Fair Lazy: One Reality Television Addict's Attempt to Discover If Not Being A Dumb Ass Is the New Black; Or, A Culture-Up Manifesto by Jen Lancaster
26. Bitter is the New Black : Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office by Jen Lancaster
27. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
28. Be Cool by Elmore Leonard
29. Eliot's Banana by Heather Swain
30. My Favorite Ingredients by Skye Gyngell
31. The Flawless Skin of Ugly People by Doug Crandell
32. I Shudder: And Other Reactions to Life, Death, and New Jersey by Paul Rudnick
33. The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet by Alicia Silverstone
34. Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table by Ruth Reichl
35. Same Kind of Different as Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together by Ron Hall
36. Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

And, continuing in my reading of YA fiction...

...1/2. Paper Towns by John Green
37. Dreamland by Sarah Dessen and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
38. I Was a Non-Blonde Cheerleader and Non-Blonde Cheerleader in Love by Kieran Scott

I actually enjoyed all of these books. I enjoyed them for drastically different reasons, but I enjoyed them. Well, except for the Kieran Scott books. The characters in those were pretty annoying. But the rest, I liked.

Suzanne's bookshelf: read

Bright Lights, Big CitySame Kind of Different as Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them TogetherTender at the Bone: Growing Up at the TableThe Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the PlanetI Shudder: And Other Reactions to Life, Death, and New JerseyThe Undomestic Goddess

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As many of you know (and as many roommates can testify), I have a cake disability. I'm just not good at it. I either leave it in too long and burn it, or it comes out smelling and tasting like an omelet. I'm not sure how I do it. I can follow the recipe verbatim, but still I will fail.

You know how not to make a cake taste like an omelet (assuming you're me and not a normal person who can make cake)? Don't use eggs.

I tried my hand at vegan cake. It was tasty. Not the best cake I've ever tasted, but definitely the best cake I've ever made. I was skeptical at first - it had avocados (I assume to take the place of the egg) in it. And it pretty much smelled like guacamole until it was about halfway done baking, which was disturbing. But it turned out pretty edible.

What was even more disturbing, though, is the icing that went with it. Avocado buttercream (although it included neither butter nor cream). That was weird. But clicky and look how pretty they are!. I just had to try it.

My icing (not frosting - something has to be truly decadent for me to call it frosting. I realize that these terms are interchangeable for most people, but not for me.) was a darker green, but it turned out okay. I was not a big fan, because while I am in favor of cramming as much sugar as one possibly can into icing, I am not a fan of cramming any sugar at all into avocado. Noted.

This is not an icing that I'll be using again any time soon, but I think that I have found a not-so-bad-for-me cake. Happy.
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So you remember how we had a little impromptu party on Saturday night of Pie Weekend?


Fast forward to Sunday morning with a very tired me who does not want to get out of bed or deal with the toilet that somehow broke during the night's festivities or continue to make pie.

But we continued to make pie anyway.

We started the morning off with another quiche - Tomato, Spinach and Dill Quiche with a Potato Crust, to be specific.

One might ask, "Who in her right mind shreds potatoes when they come pre-shredded in the freezer section?" I would answer, "I do," but I don't think I fit the right-mind criterion. I forgot that shredded potatoes often turn odd colors and make the grater nasty and gross. Note to self for future makings of this quiche: frozen hash browns for the crust. Definitely.

Other than that, the making of this quiche was nice, and the eating of this quiche was even nicer.

The next pie was a doozy. It sounds like something that might be just my most favorite thing ever. Espresso Chocolate Pie. Say it out loud. Espresso Chocolate Pie. Sounds amazing, right? If you click on that link, you will see that it also looks amazing.

It had the potential to be amazing. But it's reality was that it was a pain in the ass.

The crust was easy - basic graham cracker crust. The ganache was easy - basic chocolate ganache - smooth and rich. Then I got to the espresso layer. Essentially, one might look at this recipe and go, "Hey, that's just a layer of coffee-infused cheesecake pudding," which is what I'm going to use if I ever have the heart to try to make this pie again. Because when I made it according to the recipe, it would not set. It would not even thicken. I tried to add extra cornstarch and more whipping cream and whipped it into quite a frenzy, but it stayed the exact same texture. It was quite a marvel. Physicists all over the world would be baffled by the phenomenon that occurred in my kitchen that day. If Sheldon Cooper had been present (and, you know, a real person), it would have given him pause.

I gave up and poured it on top of the ganache layer, which by this time, had had ample time to cool and harden, and hoped against hope that it would set if I froze the pie.


Two days later - still runny.

We ate it anyway. The crust and the ganache layer were delicious. The rest of it was delicious, too (because come on - how could it not be?), but I had to eat it with a spoon.

While that pie was in the freezer not freezing or setting, we started the Blueberry Pie. Disheartened as I was by the previous endeavor, I was looking forward to this one the most. Berry pies, particularly blueberry, are my favorite. I used the crust from this recipe and even did the lattice work (pretty but troublesome unless the dough is perfect). I was pleased with the result and, yes, it was my favorite pie of the weekend. Behold:

We were going to make another savory meal (Goat cheese pie pockets - stay tuned, as I'm sure I will need to make these at some point in the future), but we were so tired by that time that we were at the end. Maggie had a brilliant idea to use the leftover pie dough from the blueberry pie - spread it with cream cheese and a little pickapepper sauce and bake it. Between that and the rest of the quiche from the morning, we pretty much gorged ourselves into a glorious food coma that caused us to sprawl and loll about in front of the tv.

We were in mid-loll when Tammy, Matt, and Michelle came to visit. Danielle joined us later. They pretty much finished off the pies that were ready, and I even had some to send as care packages.

What I learned this day:

1. There's no shame in frozen potatoes.
2. There's also no shame in reading a recipe, deciding "I know an easier way to do that," and going with that easier way (which, by the way, will set within the hour).
3. I know that I'm tired when I can't even be inspired to create something with goat cheese.

All in all, a successful weekend! Major events to look for in the year ahead:

* Cookie weekend, ending with a BYOT (bring your own tin) party where friends can sample and take home their favorites (late October/early November)
* Soup week (probably mid-January)
* ABC weekend (one food for every letter in the order but also sometimes together) or Casserole week (sometime in the spring)
* Cocktails and Crudites, ending with a cocktail party (yes, you must dress for it) at which we showcase our favorites from the weekend (next summer)
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Pie Day 2 started with leftover quiche. It also started with opening a bottle of wine at 7:30 in the morning. Why on earth would we open up a bottle of wine at 7:30 in the morning, do you ask? Because Jen Lancaster mentioned it somewhere in her blog, and being both 1) Jen Lancaster fans and 2) lovers of wine, we thought this sounded like a stellar idea.

You know what's not a stellar idea? Drinking wine on an empty stomach when you have a whole day of pie-making ahead of you. Word to the wise - save the 7:30 a.m. wine-drinking for vacation.

Our stomachs weren't empty for long - we finished off the quiche (an empty pie plate is a successful pie plate). It was even better warmed up than it was the night before because the swiss next to the crust got all melty and amazing.

The next thing we did was finish off the Berry Cheesecake Pie by adding the berry mixture to the top of the completely cooled cheesecake. The verdict:

1. Beautiful pie, both in the pan and on the plate, topped with Cool Whip.
2. Greasy crust, as we suspected that it would be. It may be easy, but that greasy a texture could only hold up to a very firm pie (like a cheesecake) or a custardy pie. It was a very sturdy crust, though, which is useful when the pie is this heavy.
3. As far as cheesecake goes, this was a mid-level difficulty with a top-level taste. A friend of mine used to spend thirteen hours making cheesecake, and it was delicious, but this was almost as good with only a two-hour (okay, and an overnight refrigeration) work/bake time.
4. Let's just look how pretty it is one more time. Go ahead. Bask in the pretty of this pie. Ignore the empty wine glass in the picture (maybe it made us loopy because we drank it so quickly?).

Having finished up the pie we started the night before, the next pie we made was French Silk Pie (Recipe 25). Alas, in my sugar high and possible tipsy state, I neglected to take a picture of it. But it was pretty. It was easier to make than I anticipated. It was also much, much richer than any French Silk pie I have ever had. It was not my favorite, but when guests came over, I noticed that we didn't have any trouble getting rid of it.

The last pie of the morning was the Coconut Custard Pie (Recipe 26). Of the custard/cream pies, coconut is my favorite, so this was the one I was anticipating the most on Day Two. And it did not disappoint. The piece you see in the picture was when it was still warm from the oven. Heaven.

Even people who claim not to like coconut liked this pie. Because the recipe called for a pre-baked pie crust, I used it as an opportunity to try a different one, so I rolled out Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and used his basic flaky pie crust recipe (Recipe 27). I believe this is going to be my go-to crust. It was just right.

The only thing I would do differently with this pie is to use a slightly shorter time to pre-bake the crust. By the time the pie itself finished baking, it was a little brown for my taste.

At this point, we transferred all the pies that we had made to Maggie's house for a little change of scenery (and to give my oven a break), where we made the next two pies.

The first pie we made at Maggie's house was Momofuku's Crack Pie (Recipe 28). Yes, it was chosen for its name. As you can see, it did not turn out pretty.

In fact, it looked pretty weird all throughout the process, from the oatmeal cookie crust (which involves first baking a large oatmeal cookie and then pounding it into bits and buttering it back together to make a crust) to the batter before we poured it into the crust, all the way to the finished product. It tasted okay, though. In fact, it was Michelle's favorite of all the ones she tried. It was super sweet. It tasted like a cross between maple candy and a pecan-less pecan pie.

The next pie we made was a Cream Grape Pie (Recipe 29). This was an intriguing concept to me, so I just couldn't resist. Again, I forgot to take a picture of it, and I'm so sad about that, because it was pretty. That was the best thing about it. It never set. We picked at it - turns out that cooked grapes have a similar texture to cooked cherries - but I was never able to get a piece of pie that looked like pie out of it. I may try just a plain cream pie recipe and add grapes to it at some point in the future to see how it would taste.

For dinner that night, we went back over to my house. We had a full guest list - several people were already in town for Max's funeral, so they just came over for pie afterward. Pie and alcohol, apparently. Funny how gatherings at my house seem to go that way.

Dinner was Deep Dish Pizza (what? It's a pie! Recipe 30). We made three of these - one with spinach, one with mushrooms, and one with roasted peppers. I ended up using Natalie's basic pizza crust (which I can't remember off the top of my head, but it was super simple - just mix and let it rise while you make the sauce). Once again, there are no pictures to prove it, but it was awesome. The only thing I would change about it is that I would pre-bake the crust, as it was a little doughy at the bottom for my taste.

Then people stayed over for what seemed like forever. Maybe I was just tired. It had been a full day.

Things I learned:

1. Wine at 7:30 in the morning? Not as great an idea as it sounds. Unless, of course, that is all you plan to do that day, and then by all means, godspeed.
2. Quiche makes for amazing leftovers.
3. Pre-cooking texture can tell you everything you need to know about post-cooking outcome.
4. Coconut is manna from Heaven. Who am I kidding? I already knew this.
5. It doesn't matter to most people how it looks as long as it tastes like sugar.
6. I'm a shit hostess when I'm in the middle of a task. Or task weekend, as it were. But even when I'm not a good hostess, the party is still good if there's food and drink.
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Pie weekend shall be continued, but first, I wanted to do an updated book post.

I just finished "It All Changed in an Instant" - More Six-Word Memoirs. It's a collection of just that - memoirs, written by well-known and lesser-known authors, actors, activists, etc., that are just six words long.

Here are a few of my favorites )

Anyway, that's Book #9. Other books I've read since my last update:

10. This Beautiful Mess: Practicing the Presence of the Kingdom of God by Rick McKinley
11. Comfort Me With Apples: More Adventures at the Table by Ruth Reichl
12. I am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World by Eve Ensler
13. Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why It Often Sucks in the City, or Who Are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me? by Jen Lancaster
14. Pretty in Plaid: A Life, a Witch, and a Wardrobe, or, the Wonder Years Before the Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smart-Ass Phase by Jen Lancaster
15. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
16. Pure Drivel by Steve Martin
17. That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
18. Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert
19. Flight by Sherman Alexie
20. Note to Self: On Keeping a Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Samara O'Shea
21. The Fire Gospel by Michel Faber

And I've also become oddly fascinated with Young Adult Fiction. However, I cannot bring myself to count them as whole books (at least, not toward my goal of 100), because they take me about a breath and a half to read and, thus, feel like cheating. But I will count them each as half a book.

22. Me, My Elf and I by Heather Swain & The Secret Rites of Social Butterflies by Lizabeth Zindel
23. Chicks with Sticks (It's a Purl Thing) by Elizabeth Lenhard & An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (aside - if you have teenagers in your life who like to read - I recommend John Green)
...1/2. Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

I would include all my comments on these books, but that would take a year to type and to read. Instead, you can see some comments or at least get my rating on each of these on Goodreads. Even better, you can see reviews from multiple people. If you're on Goodreads, add me! Just follow the widget:

Suzanne's bookshelf: read

It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & ObscureThe Fire GospelNote to Self: On Keeping a Journal and Other Dangerous PursuitsFlightLock and KeyCommitted: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

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After buying all the supplies and getting the room to a bearable temperature, we started Pie Weekend with dinner - a broccoli quiche. What drew me to this recipe of all the others was that it claimed to have "the perfect crust." As I am a fan of good crust - it can make or break a pie for me - I had to test it.

It was a nice crust. I wouldn't say "perfect," but it was nice. It was flaky and buttery. As you can see in the picture, I didn't spend a lot of time making it pretty, but in my defense, we were hungry. Ugly crust tastes just as good as pretty crust. As far as the egg portion of the pie, I will probably go with more egg and less milk/cream next time, but it was good nonetheless. Dish number one = success.

Our second pie was featured in The Sweet Potato Queens' Big-Ass Cookbook (and Financial Planner), written by one my southern heroes, Jill Conner Browne. It's called It's a Miracle! Pie because it makes its own crust. It tasted similar to chess pie or a buttermilk pie; it definitely had that same custard-y feel. As I am not particularly a fan of chess pie or buttermilk pie, particularly as a texture, this pie was not my favorite. It was, however, easy to make (not much more involved in the process than blending some ingredients and dumping them into the pie plate), and it was really pretty on top (behold the picture).

Our third and final pie of the evening was a Berry Cheesecake Pie. Well, at least the cheesecake part. It had to cool before we could add the berries (something to look forward to on Pie Day 2). I used the crust listed with the recipe, because it was a no-roll crust, and I found this intriguing. You simply mix the ingredients and press the crust into a pan. The dough had a very oily texture, but that also made it easy to work with, which, as the person working with it, I consider to be a hell of a mark in its favor. We baked the cheesecake and let it sit in the fridge overnight to cool.

What I learned on the first day of Pie Weekend:

1. When making quiche, I am of the "More is more" philosophy when it comes to number of eggs.

2. A clever name cannot trick me into liking chess/buttermilk pie.
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I have officially signed up for my first marathon. I may be walking a lot of it, but I'm going to finish it. This will be the first official race that I've ever done beyond competing in school (First #13).

Even more important, I'm running for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and raising money. As many people as I have on my list, if half of the people I ask donate just $5, I'll reach my goal.

If you would like to be one of those, click here to donate.

I'm super excited about this. I am meeting with one of my mentors on Thursday (for coffee, naturally) to talk about fundraising.
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I've taken to hosting regular dinners and parties at my house. This is a relatively new thing for me. I am really enjoying it.

I think I enjoy it more than I thought I would because I have a Craig (little shout-out to the Frugal Gourmet). Maggie usually assists me when I have people come over, which is fun for me. Even when my house is 20,000 degrees because the oven is on, I have fun cooking when there's someone there to help me (or at least pour the wine).

During one such dinner, I had Maggie, Ryan, Austin, and Kim over to test some recipes. The appetizer was roasted red pepper crostini. The recipe called for baguette slices. Now, a normal person would just buy a baguette from the local bakery. But I am not now nor have I ever been a normal person, so I was like, "Baguettes - how hard can they possibly be to make?" Luckily, the answer was "not hard at all." So the crostini were served on fresh baked baguette slices.

The main course was pasta with ricotta and heirloom tomatoes. I love me some tomatoes. I eat those little grape and cherry tomatoes like they're candy. With this dish, you serve the tomatoes uncooked, on top of the pasta. It was an interesting flavor.

For dessert (and really, the whole reason I needed a group, as I really should not eat this alone), we had a berry trifle. Maggie made the cake, because I have Cake Phobia (as would you if every cake you had ever attempted from scratch came out as more of an omelette), and we layered squares of it with a marscapone cream and blueberries and strawberries in a sherry sauce. I would have been happy with just the sherried berries. Yum.

Overall, I think this dinner was a success, and we had a lot of leftovers (I sent people home with care packages).

This year, I threw my first ever July 4 party (First #12). There were quite a few people there. We had margaritas and an obscene amount of Pizza Puffs. We played Balderdash, which I normally only enjoy a little bit, but turns out, it's an awesome drinking game (meaning, "game you play while drinking," not the traditional meaning of "game you play to speed up drinking").

The biggest challenge to me was when I had Natalie and Kim over (not the challenge - the company part was delightful) to try glazed salmon. Some of you who are keeping up with my race toward one hundred new recipes might have noticed my aversion to cooking meat. It's not pleasant. It smells so bad when it's cooking. And the smell doesn't dissipate. It hides all around the house - in the carpet, in the sofa, everywhere. So for days after I cook it, I will be smelling it, making me very skittish about cooking it again in the future. Fish is particularly smelly. So I was nervous about the salmon, but I had salmon in the freezer (a present donated by Maggie, as she does not eat fish but had some left at her house from when her sister was living with her). So I made it, and it was good. We paired it with rice and green beans and had butter cookies for dessert. It was tasty, but it's not something I want to cook very often.

So there you have it. And here you can find the recipes:

16. Baguettes from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes
17. Roasted Red Pepper Crostini
18. Pasta with Ricotta and Heirloom Tomatoes
18. Marscapone and Sherried Berry Trifle
19. Pepperoni Pizza Puffs
20. Glazed Salmon
21. Butter Cookies )
coffeesnob318: (Default)
I love this bread.

See? Behold the delicious...

I also love how easy this bread is to make. This was the first time I made beer bread from scratch (i.e., not from a mix). If I'd known how easy it was, I would have never spent all that money on the mix.

I got this recipe from my friend Mel. It's really simple - Mix together three cups of self-rising flour, one warm beer (I use Corona), and two tablespoons of sugar. Pour into a greased loaf pan (or two, if you have small ones or want to shave about ten minutes off the cooking time...and I do), and bake at 350 for about an hour.

Simple as pie. Simpler, actually.

Edited to add - The most important part - after you get it into the loaf pan(s), pour a stick of melted butter over the top before you put it in the oven to give it that nice golden glow. Happy.


Jun. 16th, 2010 06:03 am
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A couple of weeks ago, I had Mel, Adam, Maggie, and Ben over for Antipasti. Oh, and Olive. Mustn't forget sweet baby Olive. She's an easy dinner guest. And she makes a lovely addition to our former Monday Night Margaritas group, although she won't be trying a margarita of her own for quite some time.

Mmm...margarita...but I digress.

I figured this was the perfect group with whom to try some new recipes. It was also shortly after I had read through Nigella Lawson's Nigella Express. Book 8, First 11 ) This also means many, many dinner parties, as most of the recipes therein are not recipes that I need to eat alone (but really, how many recipes are?).

We had the standard antipasti spread - prosciutto, nice cheese (a good manchego and some goat cheese, specifically), crackers, roasted peppers, etc. Then we added three specialty items to dinner:

10. Nigella Lawson's Mozzarella with Crazy Gremolata
Rating - 4

I love, love, love fresh mozzarella. This is something festive and simple to do with it.

Clicky, because you want this recipe )

Next time, I will probably make the gremolata about an hour ahead of time and let the flavors mix together a little more before pouring it over the mozzarella to serve, but it was delicious just the way it was, too.

11. Marinated chickpeas (from Real Simple, June 2010)
Rating - 4

This is good on bread. Or with crackers. Or just eaten as a salad. Unless you're Maggie, and you have attitude about things that contain raisins. Then it's not good. But it's become an easy, light lunch at my house.

See recipe online

12. Rustic Multiseed Wheat Bread (Vegetarian Times, February 2010)
Rating - 4
I love the way my house smells when I bake bread. Here is a no-knead bread that is gorgeous to look at and tasty to eat.

See recipe online

I used sesame seed and golden flax seeds for the "mixed seeds" part and baked it in a dutch oven. It was beautiful. I really should have taken a picture of it.

Then, we had dessert.

Before I tell you my ratings for the recipes, let me explain something. I am not the biggest fan of chocolate. It's ok. I'll eat it. I enjoy it. I just don't LOOOOOOVE it the way many people do. So the ratings are probably not a reflection of the end product so much as they are a reflection of my take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward chocolate.

13. Nigella Lawson's Budino di Cioccolato
Rating - 3

It's just chocolate pudding, but I agree with Ms. Lawson that it just sounds prettier in Italian.

The recipe )

I had doubled the recipe in order to have enough for the five of us, so I had some left over.
That is when I discovered that the best way to eat this recipe is to drink it like hot chocolate when it's still hot. That bumps my rating up to a 4.

Otherwise, however, this recipe is a pain in the ass. Between all the constant whisking and the chopping of the chocolate (Neiman Marcus cookies are the only things that have ever been worth chopping chocolate to me), I needed a nap by the time I was finished. And it was very rich, which I understand is a good thing in a pudding for most people, but it was a little too rich for us.

14. Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Macaroons
Rating - 3

These were a big hit. They are also super easy to make.

The Recipe )

These turned out great. Mine were a little bigger than they were supposed to be, which is something that often happens when I make any sort of cookie. They didn't seem done when they came out of the oven, but they hardened up a bit after they cooled. They remain moist and gooey inside, which is awesome. They also pair nicely with the pudding, and when you make them at the same time, you can use the egg whites for this recipe and the egg yolks for the other. No waste = yay!

So that was our antipasti night. Good food, good company, good wine, and dessert. Great evening.

And seriously - you should get this book. Nigella Lawson - Nigella Express. You won't regret it.
coffeesnob318: (Default)
OK, so it was more like running like a calm breeze, but I did it! I ran! The knee feels good enough to run! One collective half mile of happy. Actually, half a mile is probably a conservative estimate, but I can tell that I at least went half a mile by the trail markers.

And I am out of shape, but I do not care. I chugged along, determined to finish my thirty minutes of our run/walk plan. I chugged along way behind Natalie, but that's ok - she has longer legs and is carrying about fifty pounds less than I am.

I'm a little sore, but it feels so good. I need new shoes very badly.

This officially starts my resolution to run 100 miles this year. Half a mile down, 99.5 to go.

I ran! *happy dance*
coffeesnob318: (Default)
*100 Books

3. Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull )

4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows )

5. Family Affair by Caprice Crane )

6. Not Becoming My Mother: And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way by Ruth Reichl )

7. Cold Feet by Elise Juska, Tara McCarthy, Pamela Ribon, Heather Swain, and Lisa Tucker )

*100 apartment changes

6. New shower curtains up in each bathroom.
7. Coat rack on the wall in my bedroom (replacing the very fancy nail-in-wall system I had going).
8. Replaced shower curtain rings in guest bathroom.

That's it. That's all I accomplished. I have a to-do list that is so long. It just seems to take a lot of energy and time that I would rather spend sleeping. I guess after you've already done the set-up-house-by-yourself thing the first time, it loses some of its appeal.

*100 miles

Nope. None so far. The knee is so much better. I went for a test walk today. The sun felt great, and the sky was so blue. I'm excited to start running again.

*100 firsts

3. Applied for a job in another state. I have never seriously considered moving out of Texas before. But this is the year I try new things, right? I love the company. I've had a phone interview. This week I find out if I have made it through to the next round. I'm torn. We'll see.

4. New restaurant - Rise and Dine in Ft. Worth. In honor of Michelle's birthday, we went for breakfast at a new place near to her. It was ok. Not so impressed with the hollandaise, and the service was a bit off. Also, there was the weirdest looking kid I have ever seen sitting a couple of tables away from us. But it was good to hang out with Michelle and Steve, so it was worth it.

5. New coffee shop - Zera Coffee Company. Quality-wise, this may be the best coffee shop I've ever been to. The first time I went, I ordered a French Press...and I got it. Timed to perfection. And they were slow, so instead of just throwing the rest out, he kept it warm for me in a press coozie (!!! *need*) until I was ready for it. So I had two large bowls of really strong coffee. I was up for a very long time. The next time I went, I ordered a macchiato and added caramel to it. The guy was like, "Um...are you sure? It's just espresso and foam." Heh. I guess he's used to people coming in and ordering a caramel macchiato, expecting that travesty that passes for it at Starbucks, which is not a macchiato at all but rather a cappuccino with extra espresso. I think I won points with him when I replied, "Yeah, I want a real one - none of that nonsense that Starbucks does." He smirked. I like him. And I approve this coffee shop. I approve the hell out of it.

6. New restaurant - Andaman. Well, new to me, anyway. I've always planned to visit this Denton Thai place, but never have until recently. They just moved to a new location. Their pad thai was a little sweet for my taste, but other than that, it was ok.

7. Another new restaurant (I'm using these so often, I'm beginning to think of it as cheating. Must branch out beyond food) - Villa O in Dallas. On Monday nights, as a thank you to their customers, they give you a two course meal. Basically, the whole meal except for drinks, appetizers, and dessert is on them. Great deal. I mean, I still spent a lot of money because it's North Dallas, which is always a crowd around which I feel socially awkward, so I had a couple glasses of wine. And there was an appetizer involved (see next item). The food was only ok. I don't know that I would pay full price for it. But it was all organic and locally grown when possible, which I like. And they have brunch on Saturdays and Sundays with great drink deals, so we may go back to that.

8. First time to eat mushrooms and like them. At Villa O, our appetizer was portabella fries. Just strips of fungus, seasoned, battered, and deep fried. As long as I didn't look at them and get reminded of the slime that was beneath the crispy exterior, they were amazing.

9. First time since I turned 21 that I did not go out drinking on St. Patrick's Day. I went to my sister's house for dinner instead. It was so low-key. And dinner was delicious.

10. Used a drill. I've had an electric screwdriver. But for my birthday, my dad upgraded me to a drill. And two days later, I put up my coat rack, using my new toy. It wasn't kidding about the noise. But fun!

*100 lj posts

This makes 15!

*100 new recipes

I call this round Adventures with Butternut Squash (aka A Bitch to Peel). Also, I'm starting to perfect my roux-making.

I would also like to take this moment to pimp .

7. Butternut Squash Soup with Sage and Thyme (originally from Camilla Saulsbury's Enlightened Soups and adapted by Eralda from thesplitpea on blogspot) - Rating 4.

See recipe

I did not use the sage, because I did not want to break into hives, but the rest was pretty much to the recipe. It was good. Still sweet, despite Eralda's claim that it was not, but good.

8. Roasted Butternut Squash with Mustard Vinaigrette (Real Simple) - Rating 4.

See recipe

I love this vinaigrette. Also, I got a new peeler, making the peeling of the squash much, much easier.

9. Mac and Cheese for Grown-ups (Vegetarian Times) - Rating 4.

Clicky for recipe )

Great dish. If you are looking for it to satisfy a cheese craving, sadly it will not. But if (and this is my favorite part), you are looking to eat something really bad for you, it will satisfy that craving WITHOUT actually being that bad for you. A 1 1/2 cup serving is only about 320 calories and hold 13 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Of course, if you use this information to justify eating a large piece of chocolate cake afterwards (as I did), it doesn't really help you. But the dish itself is pretty low calorie.
coffeesnob318: (Default)
Another resolution update, you ask? So soon? Yes, it is true. Well, it is true about the cooking part anyway. I have been cooking quite a bit this week. It all started when I went to meet Olive (seriously so in love with this child - I just want to buy her things - I'm also a little concerned that that's one of my gut reaction ways of showing love, but that's another post for another time). There is a Central Market about twenty minutes from their house, so I was able to stock up on a lot of organic veggies at a lower-than-typical price.

The thing about organic vegetables, however, is that, while more delicious and the result of more ecologically friendly farming practices, they tend to go bad more quickly. Thus the cooking frenzy. It started with beans and greens last weekend (see previous post on the subject) and took off from there.

I am also introducing a new element to my recipe reports. I'll use the following ranking system to indicate how much I like each dish and the likelihood that I will ever make it again:
5 - If this dish were a boy, I'd marry it.
4 - Definitely something I'll make on a semi-regular basis
3 - Edible
2 - Well, at least it's not pot pie
1 - Oh, the humanity!

From the last post:
1. Meatballs vinaigrette - 2
2. Beans and greens - 4

And now the new recipes (clicky to read the actual recipes):

3. Curried eggplant with tomatoes and basil )

Rating: 4
This recipe was somewhat of a stretch for me, as I'm not that fond of eggplant, so I had never cooked it before. But one potluck invitation later, I decided to try it (straightforward recipe - not much could go wrong - someone was bound to like it even if I didn't). Also, it had me at "curried." I have found that I can eat just about any vegetable if it's curried or roasted. This is a nice discovery, especially since I had a lot of vegetables to get through quickly. The success of this recipe inspired experiments with other "oh, that looks interesting" vegetables this week. I might even give the beet another chance some day.

I will, however, make some changes next time. I will only use one cup of water, because two cups made the sauce very runny. In fact, it made it into more of a soup. I also used a full cup of basil, because half a cup didn't seem like enough, and that worked out well. It wasn't overpowering. I will also use a hotter curry or add peppers to spice it up. This is a super mild curry; I like it much hotter.

4. Spinach stuffed tomatoes )

Rating: 4

This is one of those things that I'm not really sure I needed a recipe to make, but I had one, so I'm counting it. It was good, and it was easy. I used minced garlic and allspice (I didn't have any nutmeg), and I didn't add the sour cream, but the flavors mixed nicely, so it all worked out. I divided the recipe by four, because what am I going to do with eight stuffed tomatoes? Two was more than enough. I couldn't finish the second, and I learned later that these are not good as leftovers.

Of course, you can use fresh spinach (about 2 1/2 cups cooked) instead of frozen. But unless you have quite a bit of fresh spinach to get rid of, I don't really think it's worth the effort. I didn't taste a big difference, and it was A LOT more work.

5. Sunshine pudding )

Rating - 1 (Trial #1) and 3 (Trial #2)

Last Saturday began as a great morning. I slept in, I discovered a new DVD from Netflix in my mailbox and, as I sipped my first cup of coffee and flipped through the cookbook, I happened upon a recipe for brunch that included eggs, cheese and bread. And I thought to myself, "Why, self, you love all those things! Surely this dish will be a winner!"

I then surveyed my kitchen. I had only two eggs. And apparently, my square baker had gotten lost in the move (which happened over a year ago, if that tells you how often I use it). And, as I desired my projected meal time to be within the hour rather than merely within the day, I concluded that there would be no time for the advised refrigeration.

Now, if this had taken place in a movie, this is the point at which the eerie music would begin playing softly, warning me that certain disaster was imminent. But without the benefit of a musical score, I forged ahead.

I knew I only had 2/5 of the eggs I needed for the recipe as it was written. Therefore, confident in my understanding of fractions, I altered it to include only 2/5 of the suggested amounts of the rest of the ingredients, which was fine as I didn't need ten servings to myself anyway. So far so good. Then, however, I looked for a device in which to bake it, and found my frittata skillet (aka, the biggest skillet I own). Of course, the bread and cheese took up comically little space while the egg mixture ran all over the pan. I later remembered that I had ramekins that would have been much better suited for this task. That was a solemn moment.

I took the first bite warily, and I was wise to do so. It was one of the most awful things I've ever tried to eat, made even more awful by my love of the ingredients. I felt betrayed. It was traumatic. It was like I had a party and invited all my closest friends only to end up angry and fighting with them by the end of the night. It was a wretched experience that even the subsequent emergency pancakes (just add water) could not overcome.

I don't usually give things that end so badly a second chance, but I was desperate to redeem a dish that included such good foods. I went to the store and bought eggs and a new square baker. I put it all together before I went to work Sunday night and refrigerated it. I came home the next morning and baked it, and while it was still not my favorite, at least it was edible (rating 3).

So overall, I consider this recipe a success. OK. Maybe not a success. A valuable learning experience - how's that?

6. Creamy shrimp with corn and bacon )

Rating - 5

This was amazing. This just became one of my comfort foods (albeit one I hope I don't resort to very often, as it's pretty unhealthy). Even buying the meats pre-cooked worked out well.

And the best thing of all is that my large skillet has been redeemed. The world (or at least my kitchen) makes sense again.
coffeesnob318: (Default)
My New Year's Resolutions were six lists of 100 things. This is my first progress update:

• Read 100 books that I haven’t read before.

Off to a bit of a slow start on this one. But here’s what I’ve read so far:

1. On Writing by Stephen King )

2. The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller )

...and that’s it so far.

• Make 100 improvements to my apartment.

1. The first thing I decided the apartment needed was an outbox. This idea was inspired by Apartment Therapy. Basically, it’s a glorified Goodwill pile. I put anything that I’m on the fence about keeping in the outbox. If it stays there by the time I make a trip to Goodwill, out it goes. A fun aspect of the outbox is that friends can “shop” in it (eyes off the table – it’s been claimed).

2. Refrigerator – it was decorated with a lot of stuff left over from when it was Mel’s apartment. It now has only my stuff on it. Simple but important task.

3. New toaster oven! Christmas present from Mom and Dad. It’s red. :)

4. Replaced old utensil holder with a yellow one that actually matches the kitchen.

5. Started putting pictures up on the wall in the office.

Next on the list – putting up curtains and the rest of the pictures in the house, new shower curtain in the guest bathroom and new shower liner in my bathroom.

• Run 100 miles.

As planned, this one is still on hiatus. The knee is still a little shaky, especially, I recently discovered, in the rain. I’m now one of those people who creak when it precipitates. :/ I am shopping for gyms, though, so that I can start easing back into more activity than the yoga and pilates I’ve been doing at home.

• Have 100 firsts.

This one is proving to be a bit of a challenge. I’m going to have to get creative.

1. Highlights – pretty, shiny, copper highlights. Meredith was right. It really does make my eyes pop.

2. First time to use a bay leaf in cooking (see new recipes for details).

Wow, my life is boring.

• Update my lj 100 times.

Four times so far, not counting this entry. Five. I’m so counting this entry. What? It’s an update.

• Try 100 new recipes.

I’ve learned a few things in just looking for recipes to try. First, my concept of “simple” and foodies’ concept of “simple” – two different things. This first month has mostly been eating up most of the mixes and frozen meals that normally reside in my kitchen just to make room for the behemoth ingredient list I’m acquiring. But I guess that goes right along with my save-money-and-calories-by-cooking-at-home goal. I am happy to report that it’s working already.

Second, there are recipes for everything. For example, who needs a recipe on how to make a quesadilla? It’s a pretty simple thing to make, even for a non-foodie like I am. I may be including a few of these, though.

Third, I’m a pickier eater than I thought. I have modified just about every recipe that I have tried or am planning to try in the near future. Without further ado, here are the ones
I’ve tried:

1. Meatballs Vinaigrette – one of the first recipes sent to me. It is basically what it sounds like it is. Meatballs with a vinaigrette as a sauce. Now one might think to oneself, “Self, do meatballs really need more oil, such as the oil that a vinaigrette tends to bring to the table?” And the answer would be no. No, they do not. It didn’t taste bad (I ate them over a bed of rice), but it definitely made me feel bad. I’m going to stick to a nice tomato sauce or maybe something barbeque-ish when I do meatballs in the future.

2. Beans and greens – I am a sucker for a food that rhymes. This was pretty simple – just some white beans (I used navy beans) and dark greens (I used kale), plus some salt, pepper, and garlic. The new thing about this to me was that I had never seasoned a dish with something that was meant to be removed before serving. The visitor here was an onion with a bay leaf and a clove inserted into it. I liked this dish a lot, even though I scorched it a bit because I have a short attention span and neglected to add more water in time (that smoky flavor – I meant to do that. Yeah.). The recipe suggested drizzling it with olive oil before serving, but I stirred in a little goat cheese with the first serving instead. It was delicious both ways (and also without either – there was a lot of it – gave me a lot of chances to try different serving options).

So there you have it. My first round of resolution-keeping. Most of them are behind schedule, but I am not discouraged by this. I expect the pace to pick up once I get used to it.
coffeesnob318: (Default)
My New Year's Resolution List (which I was not going to make this year, but let's be honest - I'm not going to shirk an opportunity to make a list) revolves around the number 100. It started with one hundred books and just snowballed from there.

1. Read 100 books that I've never read before. When I was cleaning my office yesterday, I counted the number of books on my shelves that I haven't read. If I read nothing but those books this year, I will more than meet this goal. Given my current minimalist phase, I am quite uncomfortable with so many things that I don't even know if I like or not taking up space in my home. That should be a nice motivation.

2. Make 100 improvements to my apartment. Basic maintenance/cleaning does not count. No points for taking out the trash or recycling (although I will count taking a carload to Goodwill, as that means that things that were previously taking up more space than their use merited are now purged from the house). But I have a lot of things that I want to do there, and that list just keeps growing. Time to whittle it down a little.

3. Run 100 miles. The knee injury will delay this one a bit. I'm not even going to think about starting up again until March. I mean, I probably could run now if I wrapped it and wore the brace and only ran on the track, but I'm just not willing to risk it yet. Even starting in March gives me ten months - so ten miles a month - which is still taking it pretty leisurely.

4. Have 100 firsts. I often find myself complaining that I am living the same year over and over, just with different people. It's like I'm stuck in the movie Groundhog Day, except in my version, at the end of each day the rest of the cast gets to go on with their lives, like normal people do, and I find myself waking up the next morning to the same thing, only with an all-new cast. And about the time I start to feel connected to them, the day ends, they move on, and I get sucked back into the repeat. The purpose of this resolution is either to prove to myself that this is not true or to make it not be true. Each first can be as simple as trying a new restaurant or as lavish as taking a vacation to a place I've never been before. The first first on my list - getting highlights. Copper highlights, to be exact. They're so shiny!

5. Update my lj 100 times. This keeps me writing something (even if it's not the best quality writing) on a regular basis, which is good for my soul. Also, I just miss you. I miss knowing what's going on in your lives (or at least in your fandoms), and I miss having you in mine.

6. Try 100 new recipes. I have to stop eating out so much. It is bad for my budget and my health. The reason I do it so often (well, other than convenience and I just like to) is that I get bored with the few dozen things that I know how to make. So I'm expanding my repetoire, and I am open to suggestions (preferably vegetarian ones - I don't cook with a lot of meat).

It's a pretty simple list, actually. The most daunting thing about it is finding the best way to keep track of six different lists that eventually will total 100 items apiece. The most obvious answer is a spreadsheet, but I'm not sure I want to be that nerdy about it. I'll probably just do an lj post updating my progress on a weekly or monthly basis. I'm on the fence about whether these posts will count toward my 100. It's tempting, but it also seems a little cheaty. We'll see.


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