Collaborating in the kitchen…

Ever come across some goings-on-about-town in your ‘hood and think “omg, I’m THE coolest person for knowing this totally  underground awesome thing exists” then find out it’s been going on for, like, 3 years?  That happened to us a few weeks ago.  But whatever, it was still fun and I’m still wicked rad (that’s what the kids are saying these days, right?).

Things like farm-to-table restaurants, pop-up kitchens and cooking classes as a night on the town are popping up everywhere and here in SoCal all of them are going strong.  My foodie friend Emily was in town, so along with gorging ourselves on Mexican deliciousness, we ventured to the frosty confines of a wholesale seafood warehouse for Collaboration Kitchen, a culinary collusion between Specialty Produce, Catalina Offshore Products, and local chefs.   The instructions were vague (mostly because they came from B half-reading his email out loud):  show up.  dress warm.  bring wine.  Well OK then.  We’ve apparently been missing out on quite the to-do.  Even local celeb Sam the Cooking Guy was in attendance enjoying the chow with his wife – prompting B to scold me for not stopping to say hi when scooching past him to get to the rest room.  Which would have been particularly classy because I would have been doing the pee pee dance while asking for a photo with The Cooking Guy.

Sadly, the photos are crap, but the food was interestingly delicious.  This particular Collaboration Kitchen featured chefs of Baja and made me want to brave rush hour traffic and the overwhelming compulsion to outlet shop to cross the border for a taste of the up and coming Baja restaurant scene (which, from what I hear is 100% worth it…a trip is in the works for the not so distant future).  You can find the whole line up and recipes on Collaboration Kitchen’s Facebook page, but here are a few things I managed to capture:

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The Scene from the “running late and easily confused” seats

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Shrimp Huatape - Flor Franco

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Big Ass Fishy

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Half eaten Green Pargo & Escabeche - Chad White

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Oyster & Potato Soup - Diego Hernandez-Velasco Baquedano
I expected to hate this – I’m not a fan of oysters at all.  But when in Rome and all that…I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t taste (or feel) like a baked potato covered in phlegm.

IMG_2232Just in case you didn’t believe me.  There was a glacier approximately 23 feet from my folding chair.

IMG_2236Erizo Style Fish “Pibil” Tacos – Javier Plascencia

(also half eaten…I have very clear priorities)

IMG_2237These boots were made for walking.  And storing silverware between courses.

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The give-away of the night – Andrea’s Truffles
These were seriously the bonus round to end all bonus rounds.  I don’t even like truffles and I’m moving into Andrea’s house or wherever she makes these as soon as she lifts the restraining order.

But seriously…order these.  We liked them so much that I’m traveling 3000 miles with 80 of them next weekend.  If they make it that far. I should probably NOT carry them on – for safe keeping.

A huge thank you to Specialty Produce, Catalina Offshore Products, and all of the talented  chefs who made this Collaboration Kitchen happen…I’m sorry we didn’t find you sooner, but we’ll certainly be back!

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Cupcakes. Lazy, tasty cupcakes.

So, not sure if you’ve noticed or not, but I haven’t been posting a whole lot lately.  I have no excuses, I’ve just been completely unmotivated.  It’s like I moved into a new house and don’t want to touch anything for fear of getting it dirty or something.  Which is ridiculous, because everything I touch gets dirty.  I’m like Pigpen from Peanuts (except without the assumed cartoon-like stench).

A friend’s birthday pulled me out of my funk, but it being a school night and all, I didn’t get too crazy.  I actually doctored cake mix and frankly, I may never make chocolate cupcakes from scratch again (that’s totally not true, but these are damn good).

Here’s what you need.  Well, this and some chocolate chips, but they were an afterthought.  I took a picture and it sucked. I’m sure you can stretch your imagination that far.

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This batter comes out thicker than regular store bought cake mix, which makes it way easier to put in the muffin cups.  Also, it makes it easier to shove spoonfuls into your face.  If you were so inclined to do something like that.

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The birthday boy loves the cinnamon cream cheese frosting I put on roughly 73.8% of baked goods – admittedly, this isn’t saying much because you could put it on a hairball and it would still be delicious.  So that’s it.  Simple.  Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate chips.  Frosting.  Done.

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Oh.  And I drizzled some Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce over the top.  Because it is magic and makes everything even better than cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  So, by default, I think that makes these the best cupcakes in the world.  Possibly in my zip code.

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Then the party was cancelled due to circumstances beyond my control, so I was forced to eat no less than 4 cupcakes because CHILDREN ARE STARVING, young lady.  Probably everywhere but my house.

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Go make these.  No one will know you’re faking it.

Doctored Chocolate Cake Mix
(from:  http://www.mybakingaddiction.com)
P.S. How amazing do THOSE cupcakes look!?

1 (18.25 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix*
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix*
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant espresso granules dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water, 1/2 cup warm coffee or 1/2 cup water. I used the coffee.
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

* These are not the weights I found – but the cake mix was the standard size at my store (14.25 oz) and I used the small box of pudding mix.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, eggs, vanilla and espresso water mixture. Beat for about two minutes on medium speed until well combined.  If adding chocolate chips, stir them in.

3. Using a large cookie scoop, distribute the batter between 24 muffin wells; about 3 tablespoons of batter per well (mine actually made about 30).

4. Bake in preheated oven for 18-22 minutes or until the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly touched. Allow cupcakes to cool inside muffin tins for about 10 minutes.

5. Remove cupcakes from muffin tins and allow to fully cool on a wire rack. Once cupcakes are cool, prepare your frosting (recipe here).

Devour at will.

Posted in Baking, cooking, Cream Cheese, cupcakes, dessert, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

And then I resolved to have more creative blog titles…Happy 2013!

Back when I was a kid (and by kid, I mean 20), old people (and by old people I mean 35 year olds) used to tell me that the older you get, the faster the years go by. I smiled politely and waited for them to leave for the early bird special at Coco’s. Unfortunately, now that I’ve turned the corner on old age, I’ve realized that their wisdom of the ages is painfully true. The years have started to fly by like the strobe lights on Space Mountain. But what those geezers didn’t tell me is that while the years pass with an increasing rapidity, they also seem to contain more. Not more “stuff” (though stuff accumulation is something I struggle with), but more meaning, more memories, more laughter, more tears, more depth.

I’ve never been a big “new year, new chances, new choices” kind of person. Fall has traditionally been my time of self-reckoning. I think New Year’s resolutions are generally a recipe for bad self esteem (admittedly, that might have something to do with my impressive lack of follow thru). But as this New Year approaches, I’m struck by how this one feels somehow different. Maybe it’s just that I felt this year more than past years. Maybe the more years I get, the more I appreciate each one. I don’t know. Maybe it’s the tequila.

This year, more than any other I can remember, I’ve laughed so hard I never thought I’d catch my breath. I’ve been overcome with such profound sadness it’s felt like nothing short of drowning. I’ve been content and restless and my heart has been so full of happy it actually felt as though it might burst. I left the first house I shared with B and celebrated the holidays in our new home with (most of) our nearest and dearest.

This year, my beautiful sister-in-law married a great guy on a balmy night in March. My best friend and I got to see each other twice in one year! Too many friends to count made tiny humans and the heavens received a new angel. I left a whirlwind trip back east with fresh perspective, a soundtrack in my head, and, after almost two decades of dormancy, a rekindled friendship that is one of the highlights of my year. It’s amazing the things you find when you’re not looking.

This year, I looked in the mirror and really saw the years. The millions of smiles and the hours of laughter buried in the wrinkles around my eyes. The late nights and early mornings. The red-eye flights and too much wine. The amazing summers spent lifeguarding and lounging without the company of my friend SPF. Everyone (including me) complains about wrinkles or aging from time to time, but there is a lot of living reflected in our faces (and hands, and bodies) if we take the time to appreciate it. This year, I did. I do.

This year, a new love helped heal a broken heart:

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This year, I met famous people:

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This year, I felt at home on an island:

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This year, I took a metal chicken on a road trip:

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This year, I took a whole lot of photos of things that made me say “what the CRAP?!”:

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This year, I saw the sun rise and set on the Atlantic and Pacific:

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I think there was some cooking and baking in there too.

As the sun sets on 2012 I leave you with all the cliches (though I actually mean them). May 2013 bring you peace, laugh lines, balance and love. Hug the people you care about. Say “I love you” often and without reservation (to people you love, not strangers…that might get you arrested). Slow down. Life is short, difficult, and wonderful. Enjoy the ride.

And the bubbles.

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On the second day of Christmas…

my true love gave to me…another adult beverage!  My true love still can’t rhyme.  And my true love might think I’m a saucy lush.  But that’s OK, because being a saucy lush at the holidays is delicious!

But first, can we talk about this:

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Because it sounds absolutely disgusting.   So of course I bought it.  And you know what?  It IS disgusting!  Hooray for having fabulous instincts!

This, however, is not disgusting.

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And this tasty beverage I actually made from scratch.  Here’s a picture of milk in a saucepan to prove it.

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You’re convinced, right?  Good…so anyway.

Once again, the brilliance of Chubby Bunny‘s creativity makes me look smart.  Or clever.  Or something.  Or it makes me want hot booze chocolate.  Chocolate + peppermint + marshmallow.  Red velvet hot chocolate was the obvious choice.

Just in case peppermint marshmallows dipped in dark chocolate and hot chocolate aren’t enough of a sugar rush for you, I highly recommend dunking the holiday Jo-Jos (the best thing about Christmas at Trader Joe’s) into the magic beverage.  You’ll be bouncing off the walls, but that’s ok, the booze will temper that in a couple of minutes.

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So, you should make this.  Put booze in it or don’t, it’s delicious either way.  But you should definitely put the marshmallows on it.

Boozy Red Velvet Hot Chocolate
beverage adapted from:  www.foodbeast.com

4 C 2% milk
1 dash water
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
1 tsp. red food coloring
4 oz. peppermint schnapps

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat.
2. Add a splash of water and sugar, and chocolate chips, constantly stirring gently.
3.  When almost melted, add the red food coloring and stir.
4.  When chocolate and sugar are melted, pour into mugs and stir in schnapps.  Top with marshmallows and enjoy.

Cheers!

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On the 1st day of Christmas…

my true love gave to me…a boozy drink with marshmallows in it.  My true love can’t rhyme.  Also on the 1st day of Christmas my mother the rest of you gave me crap for not posting anything in a month (um. give or take).  I liked the first gift WAY more.  But she’s you’re right, I haven’t posted in forever…so here’s what you probably didn’t miss but I’ll tell you anyway missed (and then we’ll get to the magic of boozy beverages):

1.  We moved.  To a house with a double ovens (!!!!!!).  In which I have baked precisely nothing (from scratch) because along with a new house came hosting Thanksgiving for 2 families 13 days after moving.  And then I lapsed into a coma for 2 weeks. Ok, not a real coma, but I hit a domestic wall (that was before I hit a door with my face in an overzealous trip to the bathroom, but that’s a totally different story).

2. The second anniversary of my blog, which was on November 3rd.   I suck.    You can go here to read the very first post (and marvel at how truly little I’ve evolved in 2 years) and then you can throw cupcakes at me for punishment.  Please aim for my face. It’s already messed up from the aforementioned door.

3.  I found these.  I really want to get them for my dog, but he’s about 872 times the size of the petite little model dog and I’m pretty sure he’d look at me all “bitch, PLEASE” if I tried putting them on him.  Then he’d sit on me.  And probably fart.

4. My BFF came to visit and we ate a metric butt-ton of food.  Some of which earned it’s own post.  It’ll be one of these days of Christmas. Perhaps 7.

5. I made cheesy photo cards for the first time since the obligatory wedding photo card with our new address and photos taken with my iPhone (because we’re pros  like that).  I even signed the dog’s name (because I’m insane like that).  Then after they shipped, I figured out there was a typo on them.  I begged the company to send me new ones, which they sort of agreed to, but they’re in no rush to fix the fact that I’m a sleep deprived moron (selfish bastards).  Those of you who know me can expect a card sometime in 2013. It may or may not have a typo.  It’ll be like a game.  If you find it you win (it’s really only a moral victory though…no prizes will be given).

6. Some other stuff that I may or may not get around to writing about but I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise, so I won’t tell you about it yet (or ever, we’ll see).

So, back to the boozy beverages…

Thanks to Chubby Bunny, this happened:

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That, friends, is spiced (and spiked) eggnog with Chubby Bunny eggnog marshmallows.  And some donuts my friend Jessica had a weird craving for at the grocery store.  Which is good because, you know, they made a good prop.

Now, before you go thinking I got all Martha Stewart on the eggs in my fridge, I’ll tell you that I spiked store-bought eggnog and spiced it up myself.  Mostly because egg yolks gross me out.  Oh, and I’m lazy.  So pay attention, this recipe is complicated:

1 mug of fresh eggnog
rum of choice to taste (I probably put in an ounce.  ish.)
extra spice to taste (I used cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg)
Microwave ’til hot.  Or heat in a saucepan if you don’t believe in microwaves or something.
Top with amazing marshmallows from Chubby Bunny (that’s the most important part).

Drink while making fun of the eggnog company’s marketing campaign.  Because seriously?  That doesn’t even make sense.  Except for the eat, drink part. That always makes sense.

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By the way, when I told my friend D that I was actually getting around to writing a new post but it was a rambling, incoherent mess, she replied with:  “I’ll edit it for a dollar fiddy.”  When I didn’t respond instantly she followed that up with “Haha.  Just kidding.  I just like the term “a dollar fiddy”.  So, she didn’t edit this (to be clear.  I didn’t want you thinking she has horrible editing skills).  Yet somehow I still feel like I should send her $1.50.  Weird.

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Easy like Sunday morning

I thought I should take this rainy Sunday morning opportunity to inform you that I am a culinary genius.  Not that this should come as a surprise to anyone (that I think I’m genius, not the actual geniusness of it anything).   It’s rare that I actually make something I thought of all by myself (or at least with minimal enough influence from the interwebs to believe I came up with it myself).  But I’m staking claim to these (unless I’m blatantly stealing from someone out there…then I’m sorry. I promise I didn’t see your idea first).

I was in the store filling my cart with random crap to further clutter the drawer that drives B batshit healthy and nutritious food choices and saw these:

Marshmallows have been around approximately 857 years and these were just invented?  What the crap, marshmallow making people?  (and by marshmallow making people, I am referring only to the commercial producers of spongy, shelf stable for 40 years variety, not the creative masterminds behind Chubby Bunny - who, P.S. just came out with Snickers marshmallows that you should go buy because they sound fantastic).

Admittedly, there is a Rice Krispy Treat recipe on the back of this bag, but who wants plain old RKTs (ok, me, every single day.  but that’s not the point.)?  A few months ago I decided that since the s’mores craze was taking over the country leaving cupcakes to cling desperately to their 15 minutes of fame, a twist on the traditional RKT using Golden Grahams and milk chocolate chips would be amazing.  I was right, as evidenced by my snarky gay friends fighting over the last one at a party, then telling me about each other’s metabolisms for 20 minutes.

Anyway, I’m a huge supporter of pumpkin and graham crackers (I’m so completely obsessed with Ethan Adeland‘s pumpkin s’mores that I made them for breakfast the other day), so revisiting the Golden Graham Krispy Treat seemed obvious.  And delicious.

You should do this.  Today, if possible.  Oh, and don’t be scared when the marshmallows look absolutely disgusting when they’re melting.  Be patient and that something disgusting will turn into magic awesomeness.  For the record, that is the same advice I give B on particularly scary hair mornings.  I think he’s still waiting.

See?  Gross.  But then you put the GG in and it looks like this:

And all is right in the world again.  Then you invite a friend over to watch so good bad TV so you don’t feel bad about eating half the pan by yourself.

Even though, really, you’re the one who ate half the pan because you also made pumpkin cheesecake specifically for said friend, so she’s eating that instead.  Details.

Best part, these are super easy (like Sunday morning), so when you finish the pan give them all away, you can whip up another batch before anyone notices.

Pumpkin Golden Graham Bars
(adapted from:  the depths of my genius brain)

1 bag pumpkin flavored marshmallows
1 box Golden Grahams
3 Tbsp butter
cooking spray for pan
Optional:  Milk chocolate for the top

1.  Spray 9×13 pan with cooking spray
2.  Melt butter over medium heat in a large pot
3.  Add marshmallows and stir until melted (ignore aforementioned grossness)
4.  Stir in Golden Grahams and stir until coated (or til the cooling marshmallow is sticking more to you and everything within 4 feet of you than the cereal)
5.  Quickly press the mix into pan (I spray my hands with cooking spray or use waxed paper).
6.  Top with shaved milk chocolate if you want (I did this, you just can’t see it in the pictures).

Other things that would be good…mini milk chocolate chips stirred in at the last-minute.   Or top with chocolate and mini marshmallows for that extra special sugar high.

Posted in Baking, cookies, dessert, fall, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Why today is awesome.

1.  It’s Friday.  Which means that tomorrow I can sleep in after the dog wakes me up at 3 AM chasing invisible mutant zombie bunnies.  Fuzzy bastard is cute but nocturnal.

2.  New shoes.  I’ve worn the same pair of black pumps since 2004 (no, I don’t time stamp my shoes.  I know this because I bought them for an interview my first year in law school. I didn’t get the job, but I loved the shoes).  And I walk like a drunk baby giraffe in heels to begin with, so new shoes scare me.  And I’m cheap, so everything I buy is on clearance and never quite right.  So I sprung for big girl shoes to replace the ones that even the cobbler declared unsalvageable after bringing them in for new soles the 3rd time.  It’s true what they say about good shoes doing great things for your mood (I have no idea who actually says that, but it’s still true).

3.  These.  Portion controlled brie?  How do I nominate someone for the Nobel Prize of Awesome?

 

4.  This sign.  In a coffee shop.  Where evidently there is a proliferation of purchases made with counterfeit currency.    “So, yeah, that’s not a real hundy, you caught me.  Maybe the picture of Kevin Costner dressed as Ben Franklin gave it away.  Think I could get that back?”

5.  I made a version of this last night for dinner.  I’ll tell you all about that soon.

6.  New kitchen counters.  We’re moving in a month, so finally getting the counters we’ve talked about for 2 years right now makes perfect sense.  We’re freakin’ geniuses like that.  But they’re SO. PRETTY.

6.  (and this is the best one of ALL).  MY BEST FRIEND IS COMING TO VISIT.  In less than 2 months!  She lives 3000 miles away, we’ve been friends for almost 30 years (holy flaming crapballs), and we share a brain. Which is awkward, given the time difference and all.  It’s been over 3 years and 2 kids (hers) since she’s been here and my liver is almost healed from last time.  From the moment I woke up to the text that said “IT’S ON. What weekend in December works?” I’ve been giggling, on the verge of tears, and grinning like a bigger idiot than I actually am.  B is fairly sure I’ve taken up sniffing glue. Further proof he just doesn’t GET ME.

May your weekend be as fantastic as my Friday.

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