Then I went to sea. In a donut.

Not kidding.  Not experimenting with hallucinogenic snacks (but that would have made for a crazy donut ride).  Fall may be in full swing on the other side of the country, but here in SoCal we’re having an absurd heat wave. So we did what anyone longing for that crisp cool fall air and the sound of leaves crunching underfoot would do.  We BBQed in a donut while floating in the Pacific.

Learning how to drive the donut.

{I would like to point out on an only-vaguely-related note that Al Gore and his interwebs have finally gone too far.  At first I thought it was awesome that you could see into my car from space, but now I’m pretty sure they’ve bugged my office and possibly my bathroom and I’m feeling a little violated.  You know how after you send a completely personal and private email to someone about salmon or bridesmaid dresses or sock monkeys and suddenly every banner ad your computer can fit on a page has something to do with the topic of that email?  Yeah. Weird. But kinda cool in a nerdy, I’m too cool to care about Big Brother kind of way.  But when banner ads start reflecting the topics of your conversations? CREEPY and STOP IT.  I told someone at work about “the donut” and the next thing I knew, not only was there an ad for it, but the next day there was a Groupon for it.  Either I am remarkably on trend or there’s a microchip in my brain recording my conversations for marketing purposes. And, wow, that would explain that strange alien dream.}  But anyway…

Proving that we (probably) wouldn’t crash.

Though it looks like it should, the donut cannot be spun around using the table like the teacup ride at Disneyland (I tried), so we just puttered around, anchored, and cooked deliciousness.

kebabs + veggies = endless summer

B is the master of ALL the bbqs. Even the ones in donuts.

When we picked the orange orb of adventure, we were specifically instructed: “no getting air”.  Which immediately led to a brainstorming session where we could to jump this thing off a ramp.  Failing a suitable boat-jumping venue, we ate more food.

‘shrooms marinated in carne asada sauce. best meat substitute ever.

Dessert

And then we puttered back under the covetous glares of people on “real” boats with bows and afts and ports and starbords and all sorts of other crap that round floaty bbq boats don’t have.  Because they’re too cool for directions.
In this case, though, jealousy is not a sin.  It’s a requirement.

Our lovely co-captain, Sayzie. Being a good sport despite having no idea where she was going.

The lovely Jessica

Donut-induced food bliss.  No actual donuts necessary.

Happy Indian Summer!

Posted in cooking, food, Travel, Uncategorized, vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The scariest (and most delish) vacation ever.

You may remember that I confessed my completely rational childhood fear of being buried alive by molten lava a while back.  Once I got over my crippling belief that the sunset was actually the red glow of magma coming to get me, this was not a fear I struggled with on a daily basis (I’m far too busy dealing with my fear of clowns and dentists for things like lava these days).

Anyway, cut to B and I planning a vacation to Hawaii.  The Big Island, to be precise.  Like any good tourist, I booked tickets and a hotel, bought the highest rated guide book out there and immediately read none of it.  I always tell myself I’ll read it on the plane, then I feel all pressured because B expects me to be the tour guide but I haven’t actually planned anything and I don’t speak the language and can’t figure out the currency and I’m a total failure at tour-guiding.  I find that history is dead set on repeating itself, so I didn’t read the stupid book on the plane because we watched Battleship (aka The Worst Movie Ever Made) instead.  Then I ate some soggy crap I bought at the airport and read a magazine and BAM we were there.  And it was dark, so we got food and crashed, vowing to explore in the morning.  Imagine my surprise when I woke to discover the ENTIRE F*ING ISLAND is covered in lava.  And roads.  But they had to move the lava to make the roads.

Lava. Lots and lots of it.

That’s not actually true.  About 7 square inches of the island are covered in coffee plants that make delicious coffee and that is secretly the entire reason I wanted to go to the Big Island to begin with.  (I should note here that I’m not a complete twit and I knew that there is an active volcano on the island and that there was even the possibility that I would be lucky enough to get in a small watercraft at 4 in the morning and go play in the white water to see lava flowing into the ocean.  I figured I’d be so excited about the ridiculousness of everything I just said to forget my fears and be in the moment.)  However, the lava knew I was coming and ceased to create life altering dramatic experiences for tourists a few days before we arrived.  It’s thoughtful like that.  So, we set about exploring and, as always, eating our way across one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.  And we went to the volcano and I didn’t even have a (visible) panic attach or accidentally knock anyone into the volcano.  That would have been awkward.

For the record, B gave up being vegetarian for vacation (and I ate fish for almost every meal).  He started things with a bang at the Hawaiian Style Cafe:

I’m fairly certain that’s fried rice, spam, fried chicken, pork chops and a fried egg topped with gravy.

Mine is healthy.  It has fruit on top.

Banana mac pancake goodness

There was fruit. Under a tree. On a road that I’m fairly certain was not on any map.

Beach picnic of local poke and cold beer

Followed by a nap with this view

Hey look! A sign for things I will NEVER DO.

And a cute little lizard having lunch.  I’m all about cute (cuz I’m gonna get to the terrifying part later).

This place is why I want to marry Yelp.  Without Yelp, we would have driven right by Super J’s.  Turns out, they were on the Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate” and will play you the clip while you eat your food without asking.  But they’re so awesome that you won’t even care.  You’ll wish you were in on the secret and didn’t end up here because you were both starving and cranky and willing to go to the first place a phone told you wouldn’t make you sick. They serve 2 things.  Have them both.  Be forewarned that your spouse will randomly say Lau Lau completely out of context for the rest of the trip.

Chicken Lau Lau (I couldn’t bring myself to eat pork…but there is no veggie option at Super J’s. When in Rome and all that…)

They hope this will last “3-4 days”. Sometimes they run out.

warm malasadas. like donuts, but good.

Beyonce and Ben Affleck have a show-girl cousin in Hawaii.

The weirdest thing I ate in Hawaii…it’s a grilled cheese. but opened faced. with an elaborate salad on top. huh.

Flaming coffee and salad sandwiches? Ok. I’m game.

It was at this point in the trip that we headed to the other side of the island to “see the volcano”.   My fears were abated because everyone we’d asked (and I asked everyone I met) said the lava wasn’t flowing this week.  Of course, they said it like it was the most disappointing thing ever, rather than celebrating the fact that there was no possible way they’d end up vaporized on their way to work.

Seriously? What the CRAP!??

Even the museum people know middle earth is a magma bomb.

We visited this museum (of terror) after deciding we’d join an unsanctioned illicit hike to the edge of the volcano after nightfall.  Because I completely lost my mind.  And it was glorious.

The following conversation took place immediately before we saw this:

Me: Did I ever tell you about how, when I was a kid, I was convinced that the sunset was a lava flow coming towards my house that would trap us?
B: No.
Me: Really?
B: I’m pretty sure I would have remembered that.
Me: yeah, I saw it on 3-2-1 contact.
B: You saw the sunset turning into lava on 3-2-1 contact?
Me: No, I saw lava. The sunset thing was a product of my very healthy but overactive imagination.
B: Right.
Me: So, in my nightmares, my family would be in a VW Beetle and the lava would cool over us and we’d be trapped. Which is weird, since we never had a Beetle.
B: That’s the weird part?
Me: Holy crapballs!!! It’s like Hawaii staged this to screw with me!
B: Who are you?

So, that happened.

This was remarkably terrifying but actually very cool once B convinced me that there were not families trapped in cars under the lava.

remarkably good Thai food in Volcano Village

One of the top three meals on the island. Grilled hebi sandwich and yucca potato salad.

Cafe Pesto.  Decidedly touristy sounding, but recommended by a local.  And delicious.

more hebi. I didn’t know what it was either.

Our last real meal was at the Four Seasons for lunch.  Everyone told us it was worth it…and it was.

This is a seafood hotdog and sweet potato (though I think they’re yucca) chips. The best part about this meal was the view. And the cute little fry basket the chips came in. I’m a sucker for packaging.

Oh, and this.  I heart spicy drinks.

Everywhere we went, the people were amazing, the scenery beautiful, and the experience remarkable.  There was a lot more food and even some activities, but I didn’t get photos of it all, including my top 2 meals on the island.   If you find yourself in this lava encrusted paradise (and you should), make sure to check out The Blue Dragon – hands down the best meal we had in a fun, locals atmosphere.  If you’re looking for fancy with a view and don’t mind paying hotel prices…the Water’s Edge at the Hilton Waikoloa is pretty damn fantastic.  And no, none of these places are paying me to say anything about them. They should though.  Seriously.

Mahalo, Hawaii. And thanks for all the fish.

Posted in food, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Warning: muffins may cause distraction

I have no idea what to say about these muffins, other than: go make them.  Right now. Every single day Some days, things pop into my email in the morning and I get all excited to make them but then realize I’m stuck in that stupid place I’m told I need to go in order to get paid. ALL DAY.  Hours and hours of just thinking about making ALL THE THINGS.  It is terribly distracting, particularly since my requests to have a convection oven and stove put in the break room are continually shot down.  These clowns clearly don’t understand how much more productive I would be if they’d just let me cook for my team all day.  On this particular day, I’m pretty sure I answered “when do you expect to have a draft?” with “GRAHAM CRACKERS!”  I’m also pretty sure my co-workers have taken to completely ignoring me when I spout culinary non-sequeturs.

The beauty of these muffins is that they look like muffins and taste like muffins, but they have chocolate in them, so they could pass for dessert too. Which, of course, just means you can eat them at every meal.  Not that you couldn’t do that anyway…I don’t judge.  Go ahead, eat trout almondine or something else decidedly dinnery for breakfast.  Really, that’s not weird.

Generally I get all panicky and upset when a recipe I want to make the minute I walk in the door involves a bunch of prep (and by “prep” I mean waiting for things like butter and eggs to come to room temperature) because I know I’ll lose interest or see a moth and whatever brilliant grand plan I had for making the best muffins before I pass out is shot to hell.  That’s what makes these even better.  No boring prep.  Just make and eat.  My kinda recipe.

As (almost) always, sift all the dry stuff together.

Don’t worry if you don’t have pre-crumbed grahams on hand…making the crumbs after a long day can be both cathartic and delicious.

Add the chips at the end to avoid over mixing (try not to shove half of them in your pie hole before you get to this point like I did).  Oh, and I used semi-sweet chips instead of the prescribed milk chocolate because “operation clean out the kitchen drawers” is in full swing and I’m not allowed to bring new ingredients into the house for fear of public lynching.  Usually I’d say it doesn’t matter, but I think these would actually be better with the milk chocolate.

Graham cracker crumb topping = best topping ever

This should be on everything.  Like vegetables.  And trout almondine.

Bake for 15-20 minutes and you have breakfast.  Or dessert.  Or gratifying emotional eating binge. No? Just me? Ok then.  Whatever, remember a minute ago when I didn’t judge you for eating salisbury steak for breakfast?  Tit for tat, people.

Personally, we’re fans of cream cheese on muffins in this house, but do whatcha want.

Yes, I took the same photo at different angles.  I liked them both. You’re welcome.

Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Muffins
from:  www.tastykitchen.com
(posted by: howsweeteats who is kinda my hero)

FOR THE MUFFINS:
2 cups Flour, All Purpose
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
½ teaspoons Kosher Salt
½ cups Sugar
1 cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
1 cup Whole Milk
⅓ cups Canola Or Vegetable Oil
1 whole Large Egg
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
¾ cups Milk Chocolate Chips

FOR THE TOPPING:
¼ cups Flour, All Purpose
¼ cups Light Brown Sugar, Packed
¼ cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
½ teaspoons Cinnamon
3 Tablespoons Butter, Melted

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line muffin tins with liners or spray well with cooking spray and set aside.

For the muffins, in a medium bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and graham cracker crumbs until blended. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer), combine the milk, oil, egg, and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir in by hand.

Using an ice cream size scoop, fill each muffin liner or tin with 1 scoop, about 2/3 full.

For the topping, in a bowl mix the flour, brown sugar, graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon and stir to combine all the dry ingredients well. Add the melted butter and mix well until crumbly and looking like wet sand.

Top each muffin with 1 heaping tablespoon of crumb topping. (or approximately half a fist full if you’ve already thrown the tbsp measure in the sink and don’t want to clean it)

Bake for 16-19 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean (keep an eye on them if your oven runs hot…mine only took 15 mins).

Makes 15(ish) muffins.

Posted in Baking, Chocolate, Cream Cheese, cupcakes, dessert, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Why I’m a crappy blogger…

My friend Emily IMed me today and threatened to hack into my blog and change my “Why I’m a Crappy Daughter” post to “Why I’m a Crappy Blogger” if I didn’t post something soon.  For fear of being cyber-violated (and because I’m a giant sucker for even the slightest of peer pressure), I immediately started writing (then abruptly stopped because I was distracted by something shiny or loud or tasty).  In her defense, however, it has been almost 2 months since my last post (which is almost 17 years in blogger time).  What?  You’ve never had a dry spell?

Now, Emily is one of the few people I know who not only will follow thru on her threats but will come up with something far worse than what she threatened as punishment for not taking her seriously, so I figured I needed to come up with something before she figured out how to photoshop my face onto Snookie’s body and paste it all over the interwebs.  Thankfully for my pristine interwebs reputation, B and I had a pretty kick ass summer bbq this weekend (even if it was almost vegetarian), with super easy-yet-impress-your-friends dishes AND I took pictures.  I sensed the threat.

MENU

watermelon with feta, mint, and balsamic vinegar
grilled portabella mushrooms with goat cheese and roasted red peppers
grilled garlic ciabatta bread

homemade vanilla bean iced cream with
caramelized bananas & not homemade chocolate chip pastry

white sangria

I’m hungry again just writing that…

Three unlikely ingredients = delicious.  I know it’s weird.  Just try it.  Trust me, I haven’t steered you wrong since that unfortunate incident in 1997.

Cubed watermelon, crumbled feta, chopped mint (and a little balsamic drizzled over the top – which I guess technically makes it 4 ingredients, but the last one is barely an ingredient, so I’m not counting it.  This is probably why I haven’t been asked to write a cookbook).

Stop looking at me like that, it’s really good. And pretty.

For the mushrooms, it doesn’t get much easier (and believe me, I know easy)…

In a ziplock bag or covered dish/tupperware thingie, place mushrooms, some balsamic vinegar, olive oil (I used basil flavored, but whatever you have will work), and seasoning of choice (I used dried italian seasoning, a couple crushed fresh cloves of garlic, and some red pepper flakes).  Let sit overnight, rotating occasionally.  Grill until they look done (another advantage of not grilling meat – your chances of giving your guests food poisoning is dramatically reduced).  Here we topped each with a glob (that’s a very specific culinary unit of measure) of goat cheese and a roasted red pepper (which you can get out of a jar or make yourself) and served on grilled ciabatta bread.  From Costco.

With the food served, you can sit back and enjoy the evening’s entertainment…

A giant furball telling a small human secrets.

Small humans going in search of dessert via the path of least resistance.

Dessert (which was way tastier than it looks…it was so hot, the ice cream melted before I could grab the camera).

Oh, and caramelizing bananas? As simple as slicing them, putting them in a pan with 2 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp brown sugar and cooking until they’re, well, caramelized.

An evening of good friends, delicious culinary simplicity, and boozy fruit at the bottom of my wine glass.  Perfection.

Cheers, Snookie.  Tonight, your face remains your own.

Posted in bbq, dessert, dinner, dogs, food, meatless, recipes, Uncategorized, vegetables | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Why I’m a crappy daughter

So, I wrote a Mother’s Day post for my mom that she loved.  She even figured out how to comment on it (and in the process outted my totally embarrassing childhood nickname to the seven people who regularly read this blog the entire inter webs).  Because I’m a pleaser, I promised my dad an equally sentimental tribute for Father’s Day, then proceeded to go away for the weekend and write zilch.  I suck.  Here’s what I should have written on Sunday…

I am equal parts my parents in very different ways.  I look like an overfed clone of my mother, but my personality is a James Joseph reproduction.  I’ve learned so much from him, but the older I get the more I become him.  I am gregarious, I have my own special brand of crazy and I’m not ashamed to let it show.  I talk too much and have not mastered the fine art of the inside voice.   I almost never pay retail for anything – there is always a bargain to be had if you’re willing to look for it.  I’m proud of all of that and so much more, because it came from him.

I could probably rock a wool poly blend 3 piece suit, too. I mean, I already have a mohawk.

A smattering of things I’ve learned from my dad (and learned about myself because he is my dad):

I can be incredibly patient when it matters and incredibly impatient when I’m in the car.

From him I learned to ride a bike and love the water.

We have 8,372 photos just like this.

That Brooklyn is a way of life, not a borough.

When life knocks you on your ass you have two choices: give up or get up.  He always chose the latter even when I’m sure there were times he would have liked to stay on the ground and wait it out.  And he always did it for his family.  I hope someday I can say I had that strength.

How to talk people who know better into almost anything.

He talked the captain of an ocean liner into letting us fly this off the back of the ship. While under way.  In international waters.  He sort of looks like a pirate in this photo, actually.

Embarrassing people (particularly your children) in public is a fantastic form of entertainment.

My 21st birthday. Dad arranged for a giant pink gorilla to show up at the public beach where I worked and sing to me. Best public humiliation ever. Also, BEST HAIR EVER (him, not me).

I learned to ‘go for it’ (an inside joke involving several canoes, class 3 rapids, and one broken finger).

A love of animals (big, small, and creepy crawly) and fondness for burnt hot dogs (those don’t go together at all, I just thought of them at the exact same time).

Please note how thoroughly amused my father seems to be at what is clearly my imminent demise at the unhinged jaws of a giant African HUMAN EATING SNAKE.

Just because someone can’t always be there doesn’t mean they’re not always thinking of you.  And sometimes it’s harder for the person missing it.

A love of photography (and that the amount of time it takes to set up the perfect shot is inversely proportional to the amount of energy your child has).

This may look like an adorable candid photo of a child with a goofy hat on her head, but it’s actually a calculated photo shoot that required me to sit on a rock for approximately 17 hours.

That traditions matter.

He read me The Night Before Christmas every Christmas Eve, even through my college years, even if it was while I was sleeping or meant leaving a voice mail. (And no, Niki, that is not a new carpet)

Haughty disdain.  And a love of Notre Dame football.

Coffee is the nectar of the gods and should be consumed frequently and with complete disregard to appropriate human sleep patterns.

It’s pretty clear that we are firm believers in absurd hats in my family. And for those of you who want to mock my shirt, this is 1993. That makes it OK.

Integrity, honesty, a willingness to talk to strangers about anything, and a great smile will open doors or kill several hours stranded in an airport half way around the world, whichever you need at the moment.

My father taught me that your parents can be your friends too, that trust goes both ways, and to laugh out loud and not give a crap who’s watching – if you’re having fun, you’re doing something right.  He’s a father, a husband, a salesman, a photographer, a performer, and a complete goofball, and he somehow manages to be remarkable at all of those jobs and so much more.

And I’m the luckiest girl in the world.

Happy (belated) Father’s Day, dad.

(clearly one thing you didn’t teach me was punctuality.  So this being late is pretty much your fault.  I forgive you.)

Posted in holidays, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Why I come to work

Aside from the obvious not wanting to live in my car reasons, conversations like this are what keep my job from being so dull I want to Super Glue myself to something just to see how people would handle a glue crisis:

Guy who has been working here for 27 years, but just decided he needed to accessorize:  You’re a young professional, what do you keep business cards in?
Me: (snickering at his obvious delusions)  My cards or cards I receive from others?
Guy: From others.
Me:  Under my stuffed mouse, Mortimer (reaching to lift Mortimer from his perch to expose the large pile of business cards).
Guy: Of course you do.  Where do you keep your cards?
Me:  In my desk.  I don’t like to give them out, they have my real identity on them.  I prefer to steal cards from other people and give those out instead.  Cuts down on email traffic.
Guy:  Why do I keep asking you questions thinking I’ll get a reasonable answer?
Me:  Because you have a head injury that caused anterograde amnesia  like Drew Barrymore’s character in 50 First Dates?
Guy:  Yeah.  That’s probably it.  Want a tangerine?  Bob has some on his desk.
Me:  Sure.  I hear scurvy’s a bitch.

[Exit, stage left.  While mumbling about stuffed mice and big metal chickens]

Side note, I don’t have a bloody clue who Bob is, but his tangerines are delightful.

Mortimer, earning his keep:

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laziness is the mother of invention

Know what sucks about being the “dessert chick”?  You’re the dessert chick.  Always.  Even when you’re not feeling terribly creative.  Even when you’re in those sweatpants with a hole in the butt and don’t have any eggs in the house (and no inclination to go anywhere).  Even when you get a girls-night invite on a school night the text doesn’t say “bring a veggie platter”, it says “bring something homemade that maybe involves fruit  so we can justify eating this while drinking several bottles of wine sweet”. First thought: “OMG I have something social to do on a weeknight!”  Second thought: “What the crap am I going to make?”

I was 2 brownish bananas short of banana cupcakes (and lacked the aforementioned eggs anyway).  I had consumed the last of our strawberries 47 minutes prior to receiving the invite.  I could have made one pan chocolate cake but that 1. didn’t seem terribly interesting and 2. would have had to occur to me before I decided pudding was the answer to all of my problems.

From the depth of my cabinets I produced graham cracker crumbs, sugar, a box of vanilla pudding (I have precisely zero idea where it came from, which is mildly unsettling), and a jar of Nutella (I DO know precisely where that came from).  I broke out my mini tart pans because I never use them and made things up as I went along…

Graham cracker crusts:

Nutella.  Never not a good idea.  Never.

The one almost brown banana I did have on hand.  This makes it healthy.  Dessert with a side of potassium.  Take THAT.

Topped with vanilla pudding (which I made with a combo of half and half and almond milk because it’s what I had in my fridge.  Takeaway lesson here?  Instant pudding can pretty much be made with anything liquid in the fridge.  Except maybe BBQ sauce.  Gross. Why did my head even go there?)

The chocolate shavings were just to pretty them up a bit.  They’re from a half eaten dark chocolate bar B stashed in the back of the drawer that he didn’t think I knew about.

Dessert chick to the rescue.  Or something like that.

Crust:

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick) – melted
1/4-1/2 cup sugar (I used a little less than 1/2 cup)

Mix crumbs, butter and sugar together in a bowl (easiest to do with your hands)
Press into the tart pans (or a single tart pan, or a pie plate, or whatever vessel you want).
Bake at 375 about 10 minutes until edges are a bit browned.

Spread Nutella on the warm shell (it’s easier to spread if it’s a little warm), top with banana slices.

Make pudding according to package directions (this is the hard part people) – which is essentially “mix milk (or miscellaneous dairy & non dairy products) with instant pudding”.  Let sit.

Fill tart shells and chill (mine sat overnight – a couple of hours will do).

If you have the appropriate dairy products on hand, whip up some chocolate whipped cream, it would be even better than stealing stashed chocolate from your spouse.

Winging it never tasted so good.  And seeing my skinny-ass, hot-yoga-doing, running-even-though-nothing-is-chasing-them friends eat it all and ask for more?  Makes being the dessert chick totally worthwhile.  Love you ladies!

Posted in Baking, Chocolate, dessert, recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments