29 November 2011

a traditional turkey day with a bunch of hams - a holiday photo blog

Greeting from a couple of turkeys!  As we polish off the last of our Thanksgiving leftovers in the form of turkey ala king, potato pancakes, the best turkey clubs ever, turkey soup, bread pudding, etc etc etc... I'd like to give all my lovely readers a peek at the wonderfully wonderful Thanksgiving day I got to spend in New Jersey with my super amazing family.  I haven't had the chance to head down to Flemington for the holiday in a couple of years now and the last time I went, I ended up spending most of the day in the hospital because of a freak asthma attack.  Last year I made a giant feast for myself after watching the parade and crafting Sedaris-style stories for my eventual memoirs (maybe I'll title it 'Writing Recipes in Closets'.)  But this year, I returned to my homeland and celebrated with some of my nearest and dearest!

But before we get down to it, I'd like to send a shout out to my blogtographer, guest hostess with the mostess and T-day birthday girl, my lovely cousin, Nicole!

Thanks for the great shots, girl!

After an arduous, seemingly forever long journey from the bustling streets of Manhattan to the quiet and picturesque rural beauty of Flemington, NJ, I was about ready to crash.  Then I got to hanging out with my wacky cousins and it was decided that I, the twenty-eight year old kind of grown-up, would go to Thanksgiving Eve party in New Hope, PA with my twenty-one year old cousin and all her high school friends.  But since we both really like to dance to bad pop music, it kind of worked out perfectly.  So after a bit of food prep and a lot of catching up over lasagna with the Barbellas and Aunt Carolyn, me and my dance partner headed out to shake our grove thangs and burn enough calories to permit us to be complete gluttons the next day.

Thanksgiving day started like any other crisp November day, with Aunt Patty and Aunt Carolyn being early birds, me and Kelsey waking up super late because we were out partying the night before, and everyone else waking up super late because they're lazy bums.  We all put on our Thursday finest and awaited the arrival of all the cousins and aunts and uncles.  Uncle Rich was very eager to start frying up the bird, heavy duty man work -

this is man work!

Meanwhile, all the ladies gathered round the kitchen to indulge in some libations before we started prepping all the rest of the food.  Pear nectar, sparkling cider and bourbon?  Yes, please!

a long ways away from the Cuzzins Cafe

A few rounds later, we began to prep.  Many thanks to my assistant pastry chef, Mia.  Though she may be the youngest of the bunch, her expert whoopie pie icing skills may even surpass my own... then again maybe it was just because she didn't partake in any pre-prep cocktails.

Though ham isn't traditionally on anyone's Thanksgiving menu, we always have a few at our get together.  Like here, Kelsey and Alex hamming it up for the camera... and slicing up some of Lizzie B's famous homemade bread.  How many loaves did we go through this year, Mom?  I'm pretty sure that Alex and Kevin devoured at least one loaf between the two of them.

After all that slicing and icing, Kelsey and I needed another round of dancing.  Break it down now -

After dancing off all of the pre-feast black olives that I indulged in (Patty has to hold off as long as possible before she put them out on the table with the celery because all us kids gobble them up real fast and then complain that we're hungry when supper is still hours away; but I ate a few green olives, too, as I am an equal opportunity olive snacker,) it was time to set the tables.

Table settings were finalized just as the turkey thermometers popped.  Check out these beautiful birds - 

juicy brined
crispy fried

And like the vultures we are, everyone quickly swooped around the carvers and started to pick at the slices and skins and crispy bits.  By the way we dove in and started sneaking bits and bites you'd think we hadn't been fed since last Thanksgiving.  But the title of King Turkey Picker has to go to Anthony for his unabashed indulgence in the entire fried turkey carcass.  Congratulations Anthony!  And then you even went on to top yourself by shoveling approximately twelve servings of stuffing onto your plate - no wonder you couldn't even wake up to say goodbye.

the king

A few finishing touches to the table (no picking Daddy-o!) and we're ready to eat -

my homemade tangerine clove cranberry sauce vs. the kind from the can,
still in the shape of the can - which one do you think got gobbled up first?

yes, our butter is shaped like a turkey.  we love holidays in my family!

the whole gang ready for some gobble gobble time!

Watch me as I fill my plate with every bit of awesome deliciousness I can manage to pile on - fried turkey, brined turkey, mashed potatoes, caramelized sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts with pork belly and pecans, sauteed mushrooms, creamed corn, creamy pearl onions, carrots, sausage stuffing, turnips, cranberry sauce (the real kind, not the canned kind,) bread & butter, and loads of gravy!  And you better believe I went back for seconds -

We don't necessarily have a kids table and a grownup table in my family.  We just set up two huge tables and connect them though, it seems that all the cousins (most of us no longer kids,) congregate at one end while the Aunts and Uncles gather round the dining room half.  But there is one tiny table that the tiniest of tiny are made to sit at.  Yup, I'm referring to Tyler and Mia, the first offspring of my generation, Mike and Emma's adorable kids.  They weren't too pleased with this arrangement and when the announcement was made that my kid sister, Tricia and her fiance, Danny wouldn't arrive until about twenty minutes into supper, they jumped at the chance to grab those two extra seats at the big table.  With drumsticks raised in glory, Tyler and Mia joined the big kids, banishing Tricia and Danny to the itty bitty place settings.  At least we gave them normal sized plates!

VICTORY! or is it victurkey?

that's what you get for being late!
oh yeah, you also missed all the olives.

After a swift clean up and a brisk walk around the block to wake ourselves up, it was time to open the pie holes for a bit of dessert!  All the traditional sweets (including whipped cream and vanilla ice cream for those who like it a la mode) and a couple surprises -

pumpkin pie
apple pie
pecan pie
a twist on tradition -
pumpkin whoopie pies with a maple cream cheese icing
banana bread? really, kelsey?
this has no place with turkey day desserts!

And for our Thanksgiving baby?  A Carvel cake with a picture of a turkey.  Happy 19th birthday, Nicole!

make a wish...

and make it quick! we're all ready for dessert!

All in all, I'd say Thanksgiving was a wild success!  The food was all so delicious that I truly could not stop picking.  I'm pretty sure I ate more last Thursday than I have the entire rest of the month.  But it was so worth it and it was so wonderful to see everyone all together and have a great time and chat and laugh and just have fun!  Thank you Aunt Patty, Anthony, Kelsey, Nicole, Alex, Kevin, Aunt Carolyn,  Uncle Rich, Aunt Kim, Kelly, Aunt Donna, Mike, Emma, Tyler, Mia, Aunt Kathryn, Uncle Eddie Brown, Lizzie B, Daddy-o, & even the latecomers, Tricia and Danny!  I love you all and am so excited to do it all over again come Christmastime!  Until then, I'll be resting up and plotting new tasty treats to fatten you all up with! xoxo

girlfriend in a tryptophan coma

until next year...

Oh yeah, if you're interested in any of the recipes we whipped up just drop me a line.  I'd be happy to share them with all of you.  And please feel free to share your T-day stories and recipes!  I'd love to mix up our traditional holiday with a few twists from my lovely readers.

28 November 2011

upside down you're turning me

A little over a year ago, I was attempting to start a Mad Men evening at one of the neighborhood bars I frequented.  Though it didn't really work out the way I had hoped (a 10PM screening at a busy bar in Brooklyn isn't exactly calm and quiet enough to enjoy an hour long TV show,) I did serve up some wonderful 1960s themed treats in my attempt to make a party out of a regular Sunday night while watching my fave show without having to get cable.  While trying to find some delicious new old recipes, throwbacks if you will.  One retro recipe that I came across was for Pineapple Upside Down Cake.  The recipe from Elise at Simply Recipes turned out to be one of the best pineapple upside down cakes I've ever had... ever.  So much so that it's become one of my go to quick and easy entertaining cakes.  It was sweet, but not too sweet; nutty, caramelly, warm and fruity.  It was the perfect coffee cake, to be enjoyed warm with a cup of tea in the afternoon, or for a late breakfast while relaxing on a day off with the paper and some good friends and family.

In other words, the perfect breakfast to enjoy after a gluttonous day of turkey, gravy and all the fixins.  But pineapple upside down cake has always been more of a summery thing in my mind.  So to make a perfect post-Thanksgiving brunch treat, I seasoned it up.

pear upside down cake
looks like the fruit of the month club - pears every month!
Follow this recipe but instead of pineapple slices, use sliced pears.  I tend to be a little overzealous about everything so I used four different kind of pears and loaded the bottom of the pan with slices of bosc, bartlett, anjou and forelle.  Because I used so many pear slices, my cake pan didn't fit as much batter as it normally would so I made itty bitty upside down cakes in a cupcake tin with the leftover cake batter, some leftover caramel I found in the fridge and small slices of pear.  Substitute the ground almonds for 2 cups of finely ground walnuts.  Also, add about a tablespoon of cinnamon to the batter to give it that extra Autumnal kick.

Thankfully, I did a test run of this recipe at home in Brooklyn for a couple of friends the other night when we decided to have a last minute rainy night cake & champagne soiree.  Because if I hadn't tested it out beforehand, I would have wound up serving this mess to my entire family -

maybe the champagne was to blame and not the caramel...
it's a mystery.  a delicious mystery.

There is an art to the upside-downing of a cake.  The caramel hardens pretty quickly and if that happens before you flip the cake, you'll end up losing half the cake because it will all be stuck to the bottom of the pan.  If you flip it too soon however, the caramel is still hot lava melty and it breaks the cake into a million pieces.  You must be careful to time it perfectly!  Even though the cake crumbled a bit, it still tasted delicious and was perfect for a post Autumn celebration breakfast or coffee.  This cake is kind of like my original, prize winning cherry almond coffee cake - versatile and seasonal.  It just takes a little culinary creativity to make it fit every occasion.  And perfect timing.  It definitely takes that, too!

26 November 2011

bright & bubbly

I'd like to give thanks for the newest member of the Matos-Kohler kitchen - a warm welcome to our SodaStream Fountain Jet!

We're big fans of seltzer in our house.  Isabelle says that's why we hang out in bars so much, because the seltzer is free.  But seriously, we have a lot of recycling every week because our Pellegrino consumption is out of control.  So with an aging gift certificate in hand, we took a rainy day trip to my favorite local shop, The Brooklyn Kitchen to pick up our new favorite kitchen gadget.  We splurged and bought the big CO2 canister and have a bet to see how long it lasts.  Since we went through two bottles the first night, it may not last as long as we thought, but at least we'll always be super hydrated!  And bubbly.

24 November 2011

happy turkey day!

Just wanted to pop in and wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving!  This year, I'm spending the day in the jerz with the entire Burchnall clan who I haven't seen all together in over a year.  And I'm totally thankful for that.  I'm also pretty thankful for my mobility, being able to dance again, my awesome roomie and amazeballs friends, my pilgrim dress, and that I get to eat some really wonderful food.  So, I hope y'all are equally thankful for everything you have and are as fortunate as I am this year.  Have a wonderful holiday and stay tuned over the weekend for some great recipes from my Thanksgiving menu!  xoxo, lady baby j

eat me!

Here's what I'll be stuffing myself with on this Thursday of thanks:

brined turkey
fried turkey
sausage & sage stuffing
mashed potatoes
candied carrots
brussel sprouts with pork belly & pecans
green bean casserole
basby pearl onions
tangerine cranberry sauce 
canned cranberry sauce
creamed corn
homemade bread
apple pie
pecan pie
pumpkin maple whoopie pies
pear nectar cocktails
apple brandy cocktails

22 November 2011

curds and yay!

I love a good lemon curd.  The creamy sweet tartness is an amazing addition to so many cakes and tarts.  Lemon curd is amazing spread on toasty warm biscuits.  And up until now, I've been perfectly happy and content with the way lemon curd, the only curd, has been present in my life.  Little did I know that any other kind of curd could have even existed.  Boy was I wrong!  Apparently there are all kinds of fruit curd including the perfectly Thanksgiving-ish cranberry curd.  I wish I could remember where I came across the idea of cranberry curd, but I can't.  Still, the idea was planted and I had to figure out how to get my hands on some.  Seems that cranberry curd isn't something that can be picked up at just any old store.  In fact, none of the stores I frequent had any.  But thankfully the Brooklyn Kitchen has a great supply of beautiful, fresh cranberries from a farm in Vermont and I figured curd couldn't be too hard to make.  Again, I was wrong.

Though I found a simple enough recipe, the process wasn't that simple.  See, it tells you to use a food mill.  At the time I made this, I did not own a food mill.  I went to the store to check them out and see if I could maybe pick one up for a song.  I could not; they cost about $50!  So the pureeing of all of these cranberries consisted of me mashing them through a mesh cone with the back of a spoon until I thought my arm was going to fall off.  It took about four turns through the mesh to get all the goop out, but it finally happened.  Thanks to Aunt Patty, I will never have to struggle through that again as she gifted her rarely used ricer to me when I went to her house for Turkey Day.  Not that I need to worry about making more cranberry curd anytime soon.  As usual I failed to read the recipe ahead of time and didn't realize that the small batch I thought I was making would actually make five jars of curd; and that the cookies I planned on filling with the curd would take only one of those jars.  Thankfully it's the holiday season and I'm poor and people love homemade gifts!

cranberry curd for days

So if your in the mood for a more seasonal approach to the typical fruit curd, try whipping up a batch of this, adjusting the recipe for your needs of course.  Follow this recipe from Aunt Cookie on and voila!  Holiday happiness.  I kicked it up a bit by adding a few of the ingredients that I typically put in my own cranberry sauce figuring that my cranberry sauce is pretty delish and that in curd for would be amazeballs!  So if you're interested in my version, check this out -

lady j's cranberry curd (adapted from Aunt Cookie)
1 lb fresh cranberries (fat, juicy ones from NJ are best, but the pretty speckled ones from VT worked just fine!)
1 cup plus water
7 tbsp unsalted butter
1 2/3 c sugar
6 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1/8 c fresh squeezed tangerine juice
1. Put the cranberries, water and tangerine juice in a covered saucepan and cook on a low temperature until popped and mushy.
2. Puree the cranberries using a food mill or ricer.  If you want a major workout, smash them through a mesh strain about 8000 times until you've got all the good stuff out.  Return all the good cranberry mush to the saucepan.
3. Slowly melt in the butter and sugar, stirring consistently.  Gently strain in the eggs while still stirring so the eggs don't cook on their own ( that would be really gross.)  This part can be tricky if you aren't super coordinated like I am so you might want to grab a sous chef to help you out.  Continue to stir constantly over a medium low heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon but not gross and curdled (then you just have scrambled cranberry eggs and trust me, no one wants that!)
4. Let cool before pouring into five 1/2 pint glass jars.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Like I said, I used my cranberry curd as the thumbprint in the tasty cookies that I gave to the grand prize winner of my Halloween costume contest.  But, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there are lots of other uses for cranberry curd, or any other fruit curd for that matter.  Try mixing some into a simple cake recipe for a little extra flavor, or smearing a bit onto toasty, delicious English muffins.  How about spread on warm scones at afternoon tea?  Try serving it in place of syrup for a pancake or waffle breakfast.  The possibilities are endless!  You can even mix up the fruit you use; maybe try oranges or cherries or lemon-lime curd!  What would you do with your fruit curd?  Also, I wonder if you could recycle your leftover Thanksgiving cranberry sauce and turn it into cranberry curd... ooo my brain wheels are turning.

louise brooks approved

When Emilia found out that she had won the costume contest, she was super pumped.  When I gave her the choice of traditional or experimental seasonal cookies, I think she got even more excited.  And being the daring, adventurous gal she is, Emelia chose to go with anything but traditional.  I promised a second batch if the one she got wasn't satisfactory but, thankfully it was.  That doesn't mean that I didn't make a few batches that were so awful that I had to throw them out.  No no no.  After all, experimental baking is bound to include a few disasters before something delicious gets pulled out of the oven, right?  Well, my original plan was to make a ginger cookie - one that I have epically failed at before.  I learned the hard way that there is a ginormous difference between shortening and butter and if a recipe calls for shortening, you best get your ass to the store and pick up some Crisco.  Then I decided that I wanted to use a walnut flour, kind of like how I love using almond flour.  As I ground bag after bag of walnuts into submission, I realized that walnuts are way more oily than other nuts and are not conducive to being flour-ized.  So I ended up with a whole lotta cups of ground up walnuts that couldn't be used as flour.  What to do?  How about combining two disastrous recipes?  Yup, that's what I did.  Then I added in a touch of the cranberry curd that I made way too much of a little while ago (don't worry, I'll post that in just a jiff.)  And the result was brilliantly successful and seasonal and warm and delicious and worthy of gifting as a grand prize!

So if you're looking for something sweet to serve this Thanksgiving that isn't a pie or pumpkin-y, you should definitely make these.  The spiciness, the gooeyness and the sweetness with the crunch of walnut really gives off the flavors of the season.

they even look holiday-ish

ginger walnut cookies with cranberry curd
1 1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 c shortening (get the butter flavored kind)
3/4 c molasses
4 c flour
1 1/2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp ground cloves
1 tbsp allspice
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2  - 2 c ground walnuts
1. Sift together flour, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, baking soda and salt in a bowl.  In the bowl of your mixer, blend sugar and shortening until light and fluffy.  Add molasses and continue to blend until smooth.  With mixer on a medium speed, slowly add the dry mix, blending well and making sure there are no lumps.  Stir in the walnuts.  Cover the dough and chill for at least three hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 350.  Pull off pieces of dough and roll into pieces the size of golfballs.  Press down with your thumb being careful not to break the cookie.  Fill the thumbprint with cranberry curd.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until the edges of the cookie just begin to brown but not burn.  

16 November 2011

novel nosh - The Help

When my roomie moved in a couple months ago we both started reading the same book.  Why I own two copies of The Help I'll never really know.  But it worked out perfectly because it meant, ready for it?  Book Club!!!  So we set a date, got to reading, told all our girlies about it, and planned our first group meeting.  I finished the book long enough before the meeting that I forgot all the little details that are necessary to recall in order to discuss the book.  I really enjoyed it, but immediately started reading two more books and got a bunch of details mixed up.  Roomie still has 100 pages left to finish but she's totally digging on the story so we can kind of chat about it.  And our only galpal to come through for Book Club Chapter 1 didn't even buy the book and never got around to watching the movie.  Book Club fail.

But we got together despite our literary slacker-ness to share a Help themed nosh and cocktail like proper Southern gals... well, me and Birdy are total Yanks but Isabelle's from ATL.  Our conversation may not have been based on the book, but our menu certainly was - Stuffed Mushrooms (those might not be Southern but we can pretend) & mini Sweet Potato Pie bites from Trader Joes, Southern Champagne Cocktails, and my own version of Minny's Famous Caramel Cake.  We decided against any chocolate pie and if you've read the book, you'll totally get it.  The conversation was girly and bubbly and wonderful so all in all, our Book Club wasn't a total failure.  Plus we were able to narrow down our options for Book Club Chapter 2 which you're all totally invited to join!  But before I let you in on the details, how about I give you a little glimpse into the Junior League cookbook and share a recipe or two?  Yeah, I thought y'all would like that.

thanks to Trader Joes for the tasty treats

Minny's Famous Caramel Cake
I actually found this recipe on Kathryn Stockett's website.  I guess bragging about how delicious an imaginary cake is brought in an awful lot of requests for a recipe.  And wouldn't you know that the recipe she gives is from a cookbook put out by the Junior League of Memphis in 1952.  Amazeballs!  Unfortunately, it was just the recipe for the caramel icing so I just slathered it between a couple layers of basic yellow cake.  Basic yellow cake with bourbon vanilla because bourbon is deep South like the gals in the book.
yellow cake
2 c cake flour (not the self-rising kind)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 unsalted butter, room temp
1 c sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp bourbon vanilla
3/4 milk
1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease two 8" cake pans.  Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
2. On a low speed, add the eggs one at a time to the butter and sugar.  Add the vanilla and mix well.  Alternately add the milk and flour mix until the mix is creamy and smooth.  Split the batter between the two pans.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Cool completely before icing.  Ice with the Never Fail Creamy Caramel Icing from the Junior League of Memphis that Ms. Stockett so graciously provides the recipe to.  I was left with a lot of extra caramel but once it all soaks into the cake, you might want to put a few extra scoops on for good measure.  Really, you can never have too much caramel!
Southern Champagne Cocktail
1 oz chilled Southern Comfort
4 oz chilled champagne or sparkling wine
dash of Angostura bitters
orange twist
Pour SoCo and bitters into a glass, topping with champagne.  Rim the lip of the glass with the orange peel and garnish with a twist.

So yeah, we got a little tipsy and had a ladies night instead of chatting about a book.  It didn't matter though because we had a great night!  We've narrowed down our Chapter 2 reads to two books - F Scott Fitzgerald's The Beautiful and the Damned or Baby Let's Play House: Elvis and the Women Who Loved Him by Alanna Nash.  I'll let y'all know the second we make our final decision so everyone can run out to the library and grab a copy.  Join our book club!  Tasty treats, sassy ladies and novel noshes - you know you want in!

at least we looked bookish.

14 November 2011

empty pot, empty handed

I was really nervous about entering my first ever chili cookoff yesterday... and understandably so.  The chilis there were amazeballs and totally inventive.  Needless to say, me and my subpar chili did not win the main event.  But my 20 minute hobble to the bar with the heaviest pot of chili in the world (so heavy that my arms wouldn't stop shaking for nearly 30 minutes after I finally put the pot down) was totally worth it because I did receive an honorable mention and walked out with an empty pot and a lot of compliments.  Plus I met some really nice people and got to hang out with a few of my favorites that were there, too!

People kept asking me 'what's so special about your chili?' and I would just respond 'nothing, really.'  Then again, my pot was gobbled up pretty quickly so maybe it's a little better than I thought.  You see, I'm not a huge fan of chili.  I am no doubt a regular fan of chili, but it's not something I would ever order out and the only reason I ever really make any is because it's cheap and easy and keeps you warm in the winter.  If you were to ask me for my chili recipe, I wouldn't even be able to give it to you because I don't have one.  But for those of you who said you really liked it (and also said you'd check out my blog,) here's an attempt -

lady baby j's straight up chili
ingredients (nearly all are to taste)
2 lbs really good ground beef
diced tomatoes
an onion, chopped
a jalepeno, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
chipotle chili powder
regular chili powder
cumin, lots of cumin
hot hungarian paprika
smoky sweet spanish paprika
cayenne pepper
white pepper
black pepper
chili infused olive oil
red beans
pink beans
black beans
1. In a large skillet, cook onions, jalepeno and garlic in oil.  Add meat a quarter pound at a time to brown.  Dump the entire contents of the skillet into a large, heated dutch oven or chili pot.  Add tomatoes and bring to a simmer while adding all the spices.  Let simmer for a few hours.  Add the beans.  Let sit overnight and reheat the next morning so all the flavors can really marinate.  Serve with cheese, sour cream and fritos.

If that doesn't work out for you, you're always welcome to swing by my place next time I make a batch.  Maybe you can even give me a few tips to better my "recipe" and give me a shot at next year's prize!  Though I'm not sure I could ever come up with something as creative as a Korean inspired chil-bim-bop nor would I have the patience to prep all the fixins that went along with it for everyone that showed up to the cookoff.  It was definitely a well-deserved win!

So, thanks to Jason of Me So Hungry and Justice of the Unicorns and Vanessa and Jose at K&M and all the chili cookers and everyone that showed up!  It was a blast and I can't wait for next year's event.

13 November 2011

it's a cookoff!

If you're in my neck of the woods this afternoon, join me at K&M for a chili cookoff!  I ran out of cumin while prepping my batch at 11:30 last night so what I'll be presenting is kind of subpar.  A bit shameful, but I refuse to show up empty handed.  Either way it's sure to be a super fun good wholesome(?) time so come on down and cast your vote... for me.

presented by
Justice of the Unicorns and Me So Hungry 
at K&M
N 8th and Roebling

09 November 2011

comfort worth an extra rep of sit-ups

I like to think that I'm one of those people that can eat whatever the heck they want and never gain a pound.  Unfortunately, I am not one of those people.  I have to bust my butt riding my bike and running and walking and doing thousands of sit-ups and push-ups every single day.  I have to dig deep into my being and use every last ounce of willpower that I have to eat only one cookie or a sliver of cake when I'm done taking photos and blogging about it.  It's taken me a long time to develop this kind of control over myself.  In the past, back when I had no self-control and was twice the size I am now, I could have sat and eaten an entire cake on my own, or three servings of saucy pasta, or a whole baguette slathered with butter.  Well, I could still do that now but at least I've learned to gorge in moderation and not go crazy every single day... but I still have my weaknesses.

this, is not what i look like.
Savory comfort food.  Yup, I'm a sucker for it; especially when this time of year rolls around.  I love to shuffle around the apartment all day in pjs and an old man cardigan and chunky socks while cooking up something super starchy and cheesy and salty and delicious.  That's what I did the other day (before we were hit by this sudden November heat wave.)  A pound of thick cut bacon, some tenderized chicken breasts, a mountain of freshly grated cheese, and a box of pasta later, I sat down to an amazingly comfy plate of spaghetti carbonara.  Had I thought things through beforehand, I would have cut the recipe in half so as not to make so much.  But I didn't.  Still, I managed to reign myself in and only eat one serving at a time like a responsible person.  Even that one serving made me feel just a teensy bit gluttonous though and I did a few extra crunches that night.  Then I thought to myself, 'there is no way in hell Giada ever eats spaghetti carbonara' and got really mad at her for shoving her damn creamy and cheesy recipe in my face (by shoving it in my face I really mean publishing it in her cookbook.  The cookbook that I had to dig around for and then flip through every page of in order to find this recipe since the pages were stuck together with spillage from the last time I attempted this recipe.  So maybe 'shoved in my face' is a little exaggerated.)  But come on now!  I bust my ass to stay fit and hardly ever gorge on things like carbonara sauce and I still don't look like Giada.  I'm calling her bluff!

So yeah, enough ranting - let's get down to business, recipe business.  Like I mentioned, I have attempted this recipe before but have always been met with a few issues.  Either I didn't have enough cheese or I only had regular skim milk instead of cream or, ugh I shiver recalling this, the eggs scrambled in the pan instead of coating the pasta in a creamy sauce.  That result was really gross.  But this time around I tweaked Ms. DeLaurentiis' recipe and made it my own.  After all, her recipe calls for six eggs - SIX EGGS!  I don't have six eggs to spare, I bake every weekend and my roomie loves frittatas; we're lucky if there's one egg in our fridge.  The changes I made amped up the awesomeness of this comfy Sunday supper recipe making it way better than the original... not that Giada would know because seriously, I know she doesn't eat that kind of stuff looking the way she does.  That's fine though, she can keep her super hot bod.  I'd rather do a thousand extra sit-ups if it means I get to eat spaghetti carbonara every once in awhile!

spaghetti carbonara
2 tbsp olive oil (if you have chili infused olive oil like I do, use that!)
1 lb thickly cut bacon, chopped (pancetta is better, but I had a freezer full of bacon)
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, tenderized and diced
1 c frozen peas
3 large eggs, room temp
1/2 c heavy cream, room temp
1 1/2 c fresh grated parmesan cheese
1/2 crushed red pepper (or more if you like it extra spicy)
1 clove garlic, diced
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
fresh ground salt & pepper to taste
1 lb spaghetti (or whichever pasta you like)
1. In a large skillet heat oil and garlic.  Cook bacon until crisp and add chicken allowing to cook thoroughly.  In a bowl, whisk together eggs, heavy cream and half the grated cheese.  Season with salt, parsley, pepper and crushed red pepper.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.  Add the pasta and cook until tender.  When nearly cooked to liking, add the peas to defrost and cook.  When you're ready, drain the pasta (but don't rinse it) reserving 1 c cooking liquid.
3. Add the water and pasta to the skillet with chicken and bacon.  Working quickly while everything is hot, toss the pasta and meats with the egg, cream and cheese mix.  Seriously, you need to move swiftly while everything is still hot so that the eggs don't scramble.  Add extra cheese and season with fresh ground salt and pepper to taste.  Indulge.

*** Just so we're clear, I really have nothing against Gianda (in case you're reading this, G.)  I actually totally, kind of dig you and your simple, satisfying takes on classic Italian cuisine.  If you ever wanted, I'd totally whip up a batch of my carbonara for us.  We could sup together, dish about all things awesome and share secrets.  I could help you tweak a few recipes and you could give me some exercise tips!  Just in case Giada happens to come across my blog... ***

07 November 2011


So, remember a few weeks back when I discussed my desire to start Meatless Mondays?  Well, I finally got around to taking notice of my carnivorous consumption today.  And then I realized that I totally put tuna on my ginormous salad this afternoon.  Beans, beets, onions, tofu, radishes and, yup, tuna steak.  But  after the fact, I started to wonder, does fish count as meat?  Pescatarians are considered to be in the family of vegetarians, but who made up that rule?  Was it other vegetarians that wanted to broaden their community or was it snooty meat eaters who wanted to exclude those among them who won't bite into a bloody steak smothered in garlic with a side of creamed spinach?  Or was it the fish eaters themselves who felt they didn't quite belong anywhere and wanted to confuse the heck out of all of us regular or irregular eaters?

With these thoughts in mind, I'd like to propose a question to all my folks out there, both veggie and meat-eatin' - is fish a meat?  Seriously, are pescatarians considered to be in the same family as vegetarians or not?  Because as I was preparing my salad this afternoon, I thought I was being all veggie friendly.  It wasn't until halfway through devouring it in the park that this question was brought to my mind.  So let me know what you think because I'm at a complete loss with this one.  Was I able to stick to my Meatless Monday goal, or did I fall flat on my face with failure?  Help this carnivorous gal figure it all out!!!

the moment you've all been waiting for!

Thanks to everyone who entered the delirious kitchen Halloween costume contest giveaway!  I received some very excellent entries and am grateful for that extra internet-less day I had to make such an important decision.  Before we get down to the results, I have a few honorable mentions to take care of -

For being the only animal entry, my pup-neice Peanut Maya!  She gets enough lovin' and treats on a daily basis so I thought it would be unfair to let her win against some great human costumes... But boy does she make a cute little frog!

tuckered out from all the spooky excitement!

I hated to do it but I just had to disqualify one of my favorite entries in the name of fairness.  Even though she submitted not one, not two, but three amazing Halloween costumes to the contest, it just wouldn't be fair for my roommate to win the grand prize.  Come on now, she's my taste tester for just about everything I make in the delirious kitchen!  And you know she's going to snag a cookie or two from the winner's batch.  Really, all she needs to do is tell me she's hungry and I'm ready to whip up a tasty treat for her.  Plus, she gets to listen to my awesome megamix whenever the heck she wants so it's only out of fairness that I pull her from the running.  But if she weren't my roommate, this overachiever would have totally won!  

In third place, cute as buttons and certainly worthy of some extra special runner up treats come Christmastime, Darren and Ryan as sock monkeys!  Don't they just melt your heart with adorableness? I think they're probably still too young to really comprehend the awesome prestige that comes with winning a delirious kitchen costume contest, so hopefully taking third place is just a jumping point for these little dudes and their costumes will just get even better with time - though you can't get much cuter than this!  I told you it was tough being the solitary judge of this contest!

i was almost suckered into awarding these guys with first place...
i really am a sucker for cuteness
Second goes to the long distance entry from Corey all the way out in Arizona.  Her creepy flasher guy was not only creative, but let's just say she didn't come up short on any of the details... she really nailed it this year.  Unfortunately, this is a family blog (is it?  I'm actually not sure about that, but I like to think that folks of all ages can and do read it!)  Therefore, I am only able to show you this censored version of Corey's costume but trust me, she went all out!  Yay Corey and congratulations because you totally get an awesome prize for being a runner up!

i would definitely be creeped out if i saw this dude coming towards me on the street.

And now, for the moment you've all been waiting for (drumroll, please...)  The winner of the first (annual? we'll see) delirious kitchen Halloween costume contest is.............

Emilia as Louise Brooks!  Catering to my love of old Hollywood glamour (I went as Joan Crawford a few years back,) stylish sass, and costumes that require a whole lot of thought, Emilia got it all hands down.  Look at her, it's as if she just stepped out of the silver screen.  If it weren't for the guy with the ear buds next to her on the train, you might be tricked into thinking she was the real deal!  Well done young lady, bravo!  I love everything about this look - 

I'll be in touch shortly to get all the awesome prizes out to y'all.  Thanks again for entering the contest and congratulations to all my winners!  Now, let's get started on next year's costumes... my mind is already spinning with new prize ideas!!!