Burns My Bacon: Still Burning

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In case you haven’t noticed, I like to complain.  Partially, it’s because there are just so gosh-darn many annoying things in the culinary world, and I feel it is my duty to voice my gripes for all to hear.  Kinda like a public service announcement.  And partially, I have this idea that if I let my annoyance out in a public way, I will be able to move on with my happy-go-lucky existence.  Kinda like group therapy.  Sometimes, though, a violation to my sensitive annoy-o-meter is so heinous that the same complaint, differently manifested, bears a second airing.  So listen up.

Not all that long ago, I wrote about waste-of-space label recipes.  I wrote about it; I thought I was over it.  Then, I came upon the example above, and I knew I couldn’t keep quiet.

I confess, I do love pre-made croutons, even though they are a total ripoff.  Yes, I am paying an exorbitant amount for someone else to cube my stale bread and sprinkle ranch powder on it.  I admit it.  Just call me Sandra Lee.  However, it’s not enough for the crouton makers to basically pick my pocket.  Now, according to the package recipe for “Baked Ranch Chicken,” I am supposed to grind up the bag of croutons into bread crumbs in order to bread my chicken.  Seriously.  I think that would come out to $.02 per crumb or something.  What do these marketers take me for?

The only reason I haven’t called the 1-800 hotline to lodge my complaint is that I never considered using ranch dressing instead of eggs to get my breadcrumbs to stick to the chicken, so the recipe was not a 100% waste.  But, I will provide my own breadcrumbs and use the croutons for my salad, thankyaverymuch.

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Guacamole That Beats the Heat

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I am not a sucker for gimmicks.  Some years ago, I paid big bucks to go to a certain very fancy restaurant, wherein I was served a dish that was “a play on chicken Parmesan.”  It consisted of a one-inch piece of pressed chicken, some Parmesan noodles, and a handful of little frozen tomato sauce balls, a la Dippin” Dots.  And after consuming the one bite that was this dish, I remember thinking, “I wish I had a plate of chicken Parmesan.”  Because I am hungry, and five Dippin” dots do not a meal make.

So, when I was invited to for a preview of their summer ice cream festival, where one of the featured items was a tableside preparation of “guacamole ice cream.” I was skeptical.  Not one to resist the charms of frozen desserts, though, I tried to go in with an open mind.

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For this particular concoction, avocado ice cream was hand-blended with raspberries, mint, white chocolate and something crunchy.  It was done in a frozen stone bowl (think upscale Coldstone).  The result looked like guacamole and tasted, well, delicioso.  Cinnamon-coated fried tortillas were the perfect thing for dipping into the “guacamole.”  The presentation was cool (heh) but it was the end result that really delivered.  It was enough to at least partially obliterate my memories of those tiny frozen tomato balls.

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Stuffed Peppers Redeemed

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Here at ES, I am not ashamed to admit my kitchen defeats.  I am pretty sure that if I did the math, fully half of my all-time posts would be of the, ahem, failure variety.  I could claim that when you cook as much as I do, failure is inevitable at some point.  Or maybe those incidents are just the most fun to document.  But rarely have I failed so fully and spectacularly as when I attempted to make stuffed peppers several years ago.  I actually think I won some kind of fake ES award for that particular post.  Something about “world’s most disgusting pictures.”  Won’t be including that one in the resume.

So, when I picked up some poblano peppers on sale a few weeks back, I knew it was time for some redemption.  Lest I enter the shameful “messing up the same recipe twice” club, I decided to keep it simple.  No breading, no grapefruit (grapefruit? What the hell was I thinking?), no vain attempts to roast and skin these bad boys.  I’m still no Bobby Flay (you know he would have grilled those suckers) but at least the result was edible.  Redemption complete.

Easy Stuffed Peppers

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Burns my Bacon: Unscratchable Itch

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I love my food processor.  In my opinion, it is one of thing things Every Kitchen Needs. My food processor is of the 9-cup Kitchenaid variety, and I use it at least twice a week, for everything from peanut sauce to pizza dough.  My life as a coleslaw maker was changed the day I first used the food processor to shred cabbage.  The fact that I could come up with three food processor-related previous posts off the top of my head should tell you something about my love for this ten-ton appliance.

Why, then, if everything else about it is so great, did they make it so freaking hard to clean?  Ugh.  It’s seriously enough to make a girl consider mixing her pizza dough by hand.

Just kidding.

But barely.

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The Recipe Cycle

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Do you have recipe cycle?  Mine goes something like this:

Step 1: Decide what I want to make.  Sometimes my inspiration comes from a delicious restaurant meal, sometimes from someone else’s blog, sometimes from ingredients I have on hand.  I have been known to consult my Pinterest board from time to time.  If I don’t already have a recipe, I might poke around on the Internet until I find one or two that seem promising, or consult The Joy of Cooking.

Step 2: Execute.  I would like to say that I follow the recipe exactly the first time through, but this would be a lie.  I will say that I stick more closely to the recipe at first, but I am constantly making adjustments as I cook.  I can’t help it.

Step 3: Collect feedback and, if positive, repeat step 2.  After multiple successes, a recipe might make the cut into the family recipe binder.  (What can I say?  We like to rock it old school.)

Step 4: A precious few recipes make it into regular rotation, where I make them again and again until no recipe is necessary.

It may take months for a recipe to make it through the whole cycle, and many recipes don’t make it past step 2 or 3.    The ones that do, though, have the potential to become legendary.  Just ask anyone who has been to our house on Pizza Friday.

Homemade pizza dough

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Carrot Surprise

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When the temperature hit 90 degrees here in DC last week, it was clear that time for spring planting was upon us.  Mercifully, this week has brought some slightly cooler weather, but it seems that the time of hard frost has passed, and I am itching for some home-grown arugula.  With lots of “help” from my two-year-old, I began pulling up the weeds from our two raised-bed gardens and in addition to foot-deep dandelion roots, we unearthed-surprise!-some carrots.  Ah yes, I do seem to remember planting those at some point last year.

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Some of the carrots were clearly past their prime, but a handful were still surprisingly orange and crunchy.   I knew that these semi-miraculous winter survivors deserved some special treatment, so I decided to make a carrot-cashew salad that I had enjoyed at book club a few weeks before.  I even went so far as to (gasp) purchase some ingredients specifically for the recipe.  Served over curried chickpeas and rice, this little salad was the perfect inauguration to a summer of homegrown produce.

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Shredded Carrot and Cashew Nut Salad

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