Does This Post Make Me Look Phat?

>> Sunday, December 30, 2007

Yvo over at ALL MY BENTO ARE BELONG TO ME has announced an extension to her first ever contest. Click here for details. The winner gets a new bento box and a t-shirt from sushiday. Don't get your hopes up on that PowerPuff Girls box though, that baby is mine!


Check Out My Nuts!

>> Saturday, December 29, 2007

This is my entry for Click! - a food photography event. This month's theme is NUTS! You can look at all the other lovely nuts by clicking -->here.

These honey-toasted walnuts ended up on top of a nice bowl of oatmeal with some dried apricots, milk, and a little brown sugar. I can think of worse ways to start a day.


Pannetone and Brandy Butter

The feasting continues with this glorious bedtime snack. Pannetone is an Italian bread - mine is studded with raisins and candied orange and citron. It can be a little dry on it's own, but it makes wonderful french toast. Now I've discovered it's also an excellent little sponge for Brandy Butter!

Brandy Butter, oh my Brandy Butter! Where have you been all my life? My two favorite food groups melded together with a bit of powdered sugar. Oh sweet Mama.

Brandy Butter

1/2 stick of soft butter
1/4 c powdered sugar
1/4 c brandy

Whip the butter, add sugar and whip until it's smooth. Add the brandy. Whip again. Cry when it looks curdled but keep whipping. Rejoice in it's smooth alcoholic goodness. Slather on everything in sight.

You could add a drop or two of lemon juice, or maybe vanilla. You know, if you've got that kinda time.


Holiday Feast 2007

>> Wednesday, December 26, 2007

We are traditionalists - only the slightest deviations are allowed in our Christmas menu. I can't imagine what sort of chaos and carnage would ensue if I plopped a ham on the table. Or a green vegetable. Here's a rundown:

We always have cheesy holiday paper plates and napkins. This year we had sledding snowmen!

We must have tiny pickles, both sweet and dill, pickled beets and okra, and green pimento stuffed olives.

There must be summer sausage, and there must be cheese. Lots of cheese. At least 1 pound per person and it must include something nasty that nobody will eat. The winner this year was the mottled looking "Porter" cheese. Ack!

We always have something wrapped in bacon, and either meatballs or little smoked sausages wrapped in canned crescent roll dough.

This years bacon-wrapped thing was a disaster. I'll never trust that Pioneer Woman again. Club crackers and powdered cheese? What was I thinking? Monumental waste of 8 slices of damn tasty bacon is what this was. Next year we're going back to chicken livers.

The star of the show is always the Roast Beast.

Six pounds of prime beef goodness roasted to just barely medium rare. Sliced thick.

With those f'in potatoes. Everyone loves them. Except me.

Avert your eyes if the sight of bloody beef on a plate offends you!

Vanilla cupcakes with dark chocolate frosting.

Sugar cookies with frosting.

Truffles from See's. I generally don't like to share these.

The only thing we missed was Grandma and Grandpa. Wish you guys could have been here.


Daring Baker Challenge - Yule Log

>> Saturday, December 22, 2007

This was the baking trifecta of firsts. First Daring Baker's Challenge, first cake not made from a mix, and first buttercream.

The challenge was to bake a genoise Yule Log with coffee butter cream frosting and decorate it with either marzipan or meringue mushrooms. We were provided with recipes for a plain genoise cake, the coffee buttercream frosting, and meringue.

I flavored the cake with a little vanilla, used the same coffee buttercream frosting for the filling, and made the mushrooms from meringue. The only other real deviation was that I used a half sheet pan rather than the size specified. I didn't scale up the recipe so my cake layer was thinner than it would have been.

It wasn't a technically difficult project, but I am a lot better at making and eating frosting than I am at decorating cakes with it! The children and I thought the results were tasty, and we all loved the coffee buttercream.

Click to see the rest of the Yule Logs!

Edited to add: Now that I've looked at all the other logs (and man are there a lot of them!) I can see how far I have to go. There are some incredibly talented people out there. This is one of my favorites - La Casserole Caree. Is that not amazing? I really wanted to comment, but it's in French and I couldn't figure it out. Such a doofus!


Locked Inside Your Heart Shaped Potato*

>> Thursday, December 20, 2007

Today was my first time using my super cool new potato shaper. It's somewhat similar to an egg mold but much more difficult to find outside of Japan. I bought mine off eBay for $27.99 plus $12.00 for shipping! For a nicely formed potato just boil a 50 gram Yukon Gold until perfectly cooked. Call the children into the kitchen and show 'em how the real game of Hot Potato is played. This should take about 3 minutes. (first child in tears is the loser) Insert the still steaming, but slightly less hot potato into the shaper and submerge in ice water for 13 minutes and 27 seconds. Remove and trim the edges with an uber sharp knife. When the bleeding's under control you can then color your potato with purple food markers as in the picture below.

1. sliced red and white baby potatoes
2. purple heart shaped potato
3. mini red bell peppers
4. Trader Joe's Mediterranean hummus
5. baby carrots

Yeah, I made all that potato shaper stuff up. Partly from frustration with my stupid egg molds, partly excitement over Christmas vacation. Yay! No more work 'till 2008. Take that you bitches! Yeah, pretty excited. Sorry about that.

*Apologies to the remaining members of Nirvana.


Red Hot Dogs! Get Your Red Hot Dogs Here!

>> Wednesday, December 19, 2007

There's not a whole lot of things you can get in Arkansas that you can't get in Arizona, but one of those things is King Cotton hot dogs. And bacon. But that's a different lunch. King Cotton hot dogs come in a couple different price levels, but the best ones are the cheapest ones. Kinda skinny, kinda salty, and really really red. The kind that can stain a porcelain sink pink if you dump out the boilin' water without rinsing it quick enough. God I miss 'em.

Anyway, I guess folks out here in Arizona don't like cheap, salty red hot dogs. Or at least that's what I used to think. Apparently I was wrong. Mexican people like red hot dogs! Okay, that may be a little bit of a generalization. Not trying to sterotype anyone here, but I did find a huge display of gorgeous red hot dogs at Ranch Market this weekend. Now admittedly they aren't King Cotton, and the texture is maybe a little mushier, but they are cheap, skinny, salty, and RED! We grilled 'em up and ate like a bunch of 7 year olds in a hurry to get back in the pool. Except we had black bean and pasta salad instead of greasy potato chips on the side.

And the leftovers were for lunch.

Check out the awesome redness! The pasta underneath picked up some pink.

This one was Boo's. She'd probably be jealous if she knew I got a hotdog flower and she didn't.

Black Bean Pasta Salad

Boil, rinse and drain 1/2 pound of dry pasta. Dump in a bowl. Rinse and drain a can of beans. Dump in the bowl with the pasta. Chop up some vegetables. I used red bell pepper, green onions and flat leaf parsley. Dump in the bowl with the pasta and beans. Throw some dressing on top. Stir. Chill. Stir. Serve.

Basic Vinaigrette

1 clove garlic
1 t mustard
3 T vinegar
1/2 c oil
pinch of salt
grind of black pepper

Put all of this stuff in a blender and let her rip. When it looks creamy, it's done.

For this pasta salad I used balsamic vinegar and olive oil, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Mix and match oils and vinegars for something new and exciting. Sometimes I add a bit of nut or sesame oil, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I add some herbs, sometimes I don't. I like my vinaigrette pretty vinegary - if you don't cut the vinegar back to 2 tablespoons. Or add more oil. You really can't mess this up.

Recipes always say to drizzle the oil in slowly blah blah blah like you're mixing up some enriched uranium or Italian buttercream with danger lurking all around. Not so! I have Sue over at Food Network Musings to thank for setting me straight on this. Dump it in the blender. Emulsify. Works every time.


Curry Season

>> Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I just can't get enough curry lately. This one is leftovers from dinner. I had to jump up and scoop some out for my lunch midmeal, fearing otherwise there'd be none left!

1. yellow Thai curry with yellow and orage carrots, snow peas, potatoes and chicken
2. jasmine rice with snow pea hearts
3. tomatos
4. stirfried baby bok choy

The bok choy was based off a recipe from Ruth @ Once Upon a Feast with the following modifications to suit my pantry:

  • sliced green onion for the onion
  • jarred ginger garlic paste instead of fresh
  • toasted sesame oil
  • added black sesame seeds
  • instead of splitting the bok choy lengthwise I just seperated the outer leaves from the center and trimmed the stalks

    I really liked this, but the rest of the family only tolerated them. You've been warned.

    And because it's just so damn cute I want to show off my new bento box. I picked this up for the outrageous price of 99 cents at the 99 Cents Only Store. It even came with a little fork and spoon. Useless fork and spoon, but whaddaya expect for 99 cents? I also got one with a ladybug lid. Too. Freakin'. Cute.

  • Chocolate Makes Everything Better

    1. P&P loaf on picks
    2. Babybel cheese
    3. container of mayo
    4. crackers wrapped in cling film
    5. tiny mango pudding bite
    6. organic chocolate bar

    I packed the candy because Boo's been having a bit of a rough time lately and we all know chocolate makes things better. As does fat. Hence the mayo. Not to mention the P&P loaf. (loaf?) No. No praise please. Just doing my part to pass on unhealthy eating habits to the next generation.


    Muliple Personality Disordered Bento

    >> Monday, December 17, 2007

    A little bit of this and a little bit of that and some of the other too! And what's with the Easter egg? Don't the children know it's Christmas?

    Mine had...
    1. krab sushi
    2. sliced cucumber and red bell pepper
    3. leftover potato salad
    4. leftover grilled pork chop on picks
    5. celery
    6. Easter egg

    Boo had the mostly the same except she didn't get the cucumbers and peppers but did have Kancho (aka Butt Poke) cookies and dip for her celery.


    Thai Curry Trickery

    >> Thursday, December 13, 2007

    1. curry with shrimp, pineapples and carrots over rice
    2. strawberries with pineapples
    3. birthday bun

    I wasn't altogether pleased with the way this looked. Definately suffered from a lack of green despite my clever choice of bento box, probably shouldn't have repeated the pineapple either, or put the pink bun in. Oh well, it tasted good. In fact it tasted great. And it's fast. Of course there are better, more complex, more authentic recipes out there. But this is good. And fast. And I repeat myself.

    One Serving Thai Curry

    1 T curry paste* (I used red curry paste)
    1/2 can coconut milk (make sure you shake it hard before you open it)
    handful of protein (I used pre-cooked frozen shrimp)
    half a handful of vegetables (I used frozen sliced carrots)
    quarter of a handful of an accent vegetable(I used frozen pineapple chunks)
    couple good shakes of fish sauce

    Heat about 2/3 of the coconut milk in a small saute pan over medium high heat until it begins to thicken. Stir in the curry paste until it's all combined and then turn the heat down to medium and add your carrots and/or other vegetables. Simmer until the vegetables are tender. Throw in the shrimp and pineapple and cook until they're warm. Add the fish sauce and the rest of the coconut milk. Don't skip the fish sauce. I know it stinks. Just do it. Otherwise your just eating spicy coconut milk. Eat with rice.

    See? Easy. Easy to adjust too. Just pick the color of your curry, your protein and your vegetables and you're good to go. I like green curry with tofu, eggplant and bamboo shoots. He likes yellow curry with chicken, potatoes, and carrots and peas.

    *if you shop at an Asian market look for Thai curry paste refridgerated in little plastic tubs (Mae Ploy brand is available where I shop) - these will pretty much keep forever in your fridge and are far better and way cheaper than the little jarred pastes you can find on the shelf at the supermarket


    Deconstructing Reuben

    >> Wednesday, December 12, 2007

    I'm probably way more excited about this lunch than is reasonable. We love to go to Teakwoods, and I love to order the Reuben. But it's pretty freakin' huge, and I never finish it, and it doesn't taste good leftover, and I abhor paying for food that doesn't get eaten.

    Then I had an epiphany. No, there is nothing weird about sandwich epiphanies. I ordered my Reuben with confidence, and promptly requested a take out box as soon as our accommodating waitress slapped that baby down. I took half of the sandwich and separated the components out into little piles. Discretely, of course! Then I made this for lunch the next day.

    1. pastrami rolls stuffed with Swiss and grilled onions
    2. side of jalapeno cole slaw
    3. toasted rye croutons
    4. little peppers, one stuffed with hummus
    5. grape tomatoes
    6. sesame crackers

    The only thing that went to waste was the piece of bread that had absorbed a bit of the dressing. Yay Teakwoods, Yay Jalapeno Cole Slaw Reubens and Yay me!


    Fancy Butterfly Shrimp Bento

    Okay, the bento isn't that fancy, but the package said the shrimp was fancy, and that's good enough for me and Boo.

    1. shrimp
    2. fruit jelly
    3. cocktail sauce facsimile
    4. dried apricots stacked and picked
    5. Laughing Cow cheese wedges
    6. Honey Bear cookies

    This was a very quick and easy lunch for the shrimp-lover in Boo. Crisped up super-quick in the toaster oven while I assembled the rest. I'll make a point to keep these on hand. Should also make a point not to pack the Laughing Cow cheese. I'll spare you the details but let's just say it was obviously not a hit.


    Ass Poke Cookies

    >> Tuesday, December 11, 2007

    1. balsalmic roasted vegetables
    2. rice
    3. sliced apple
    4. Kancho cookies
    5. little pepper stuffed with hummus

    You know, about those Kancho cookies... Now that I'm a Big Time Blogger and all, I got this fancy little widget that shows me how people get here. And the single most common way is via Google's Image Search to a link to a picture of Kancho cookies on a store shelf from this post. I gotta admit it's been kinda weirdin' me out. So I Googled. And I found this. and this. And from now on I am going to refer to Kancho cookies as Ass Poke Cookies. I need the traffic.


    Boo's In a Rut - A Peanut Butter Filled Rut

    >> Monday, December 10, 2007

    1. peanut butter sandwich
    2. apples
    3. snowman of Nutella
    4. pudding bites
    5. crackers
    6. Babybel cheese
    7. roasted almonds

    This was too much food - only the sandwich and the almonds/Nutella got eaten. The rest was recycled in following lunches.

    1. peanut butter sandwich (no jelly)
    2. Babybel cheese
    3. pudding bite
    4. tiny apple

    1. peanut butter and jelly sandwich
    2. Babybel cheese
    3. 2 pudding bites

    1. stack of crackers
    2. vat of peanut butter
    3. 3 bite sized puddings
    4. snowman of Nutella
    5. Babybel cheese
    6. roasted almonds

    The vat of peanut butter was left untouched. I guess the love affair has ended. For now anyway.


    World's Best Furikake & A Big Pink Cookie

    >> Thursday, December 6, 2007

    1. 2 rice balls with World's Best Furikake
    2. strip from a really huge yellow pepper
    3. little orange pepper
    4. celery bites
    5. grape tomatoes
    6. container of hummus

    And for added fun today I'll show you what the box looked like after I added in my dessert.

    7. big ass pink cookie

    Now the scary part.

    No, not the size. I bought that cookie at Target. There were 3 of them in a cellphane bag. We ate two of them. Before Halloween. Yep, that cookie has been sitting in the cabinet in a loosely closed cellophane bag for nearly two months. And I ate it for lunch. Cause it's big. And pink. And it was good. And chewy. And pink flavored. I don't even want to know what unholy thing it's made from.

    Now for what you've all been waiting for.

    I swear I didn't take a crappy picture on purpose so that nobody would run out and buy it all up leaving NONE for me. That would be childish and petty and I'm so not like that. Seriously though, this stuff is so pretty! Totally worth the $2.09 I paid.


    A Day Without Disappointment ? Like a Day Without Sunshine.

    >> Wednesday, December 5, 2007

    1. leftover chili
    2. radishes
    3. apple and orange slices
    4. grape tomatoes
    5. celery stuffed with vegetable cream cheese

    Vegetable cream cheese doesn't taste as good in my mouth as it did in my mind. I don't think I'm gonna buy it again. Didn't I used to like this stuff? It's plasticy. Is that even a word? And has little hard bits of oddly strong flavored dehydrated onion. Like crushed Onion Altoids mixed in silicone caulk. Hungry yet?


    Chi Chai Monchan - Dig?

    >> Tuesday, December 4, 2007

    1. rice stars
    2. lettuce
    3. yellow pepper rings
    4. P&P loaf on picks
    5. grape tomatoes
    6. Chi Chai Monchan onigiri
    7. vinaigrette pig

    Is SO Chi Chai Monchan! No arguments.
    I accidentally put his bananas on upside down but otherwise it looks just. like. him.


    Any Day is a Good Day

    >> Monday, December 3, 2007

    for sushi!

    Pretty much identical lunches for me, Boy and Boo. The main attraction was a krab/avacado/mayo maki roll. I varied the size to fit our varying appetites.

    Boo's had:
    1. sushi roll
    2. sliced tangerine
    3. tiny pudding
    4. little peanut heart things that I can't remember the name of

    Mine has:
    1. sushi roll
    2. tangerine
    3. little containers of soy and wasabi
    4. apple jelly
    5. grape tomatoes

    Boy got:
    1. sushi roll
    2. containers of soy and wasabi
    3. sliced tangerine
    4. strawberry and grape jellies



    >> Saturday, December 1, 2007

    Normally I make lunches the night before. Thursday night I was tired. Exhausted even. I worked late, and then we went out for dinner and football watching. Boo could get lunch in the cafeteria. I could do without. Boy intervened. "I'll make your lunch." And he did.

    1. red wine chicken layered with dried dragonfruit
    2. balsalmic vegetables with rice cracker accent
    3. container of Nutellatopped with a row of pretzel rods
    4. honey sesame snack crackers

    He found recipes on the internet, he cooked, he packed, he cleaned. He even made a similar lunch for Boo. Please. Control your envy. I've forgiven him for the comment he once made about my curry. Boy Rocks.



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