06
Jan

First of all, for anyone who might be on New Year’s diets, here is the potpie I made last night:

who wants pie?

What’s inside?  Oh, you know, just some root veggies and chicken:

Packed with parsnips!

Ungghhh.  Excuse me while I go eat some leftover potpie.

I’m pretty sure that the deliciousness of the pie is the reason the Hawkeyes surged to victory yesterday in the Orange Bowl.  I know it seems like the football players themselves might have had something to do with it, but really it was my awesome cooking.  Don’t ask me to explain.  The science would just confuse you.

The potpie isn’t the only awesome thing I accomplished yesterday, though.  I also introduced the Aerogarden into its new habitat (aka, the basement) and planted a new crop of seeds, a gift from the incomparable Gabe and Amy who clearly know me better than I know myself.  They were not fooled by my boasting last fall that I would skip the pre-packaged seed kits and hack the garden for replanting.  They knew the Aerogarden would lie dormant until someone else did the hard part for me.  They bought me Salad Greens and set my heart to pitter-pattering.  Salads all winter!  No more prepackaged greens from afar!  Freedom from the flavorless shredded carrots they are always trying to sneak into the spring mix without my noticing!  And the timing was perfect–if I got the garden going asap, it might see me through until the farmers market folk were selling green things again.  Bully!

Only when I “planted” the “seed pods” into the “growing dock” and plugged the thing in, the lights came on but the water did not cycle through the garden to feed my tiny little future salad greens.  This, I discovered after a little online troubleshooting, meant I had to clean the pump.  Which involved screwdrivers and pliers and tiny movable parts.  A shudder of terror ran through me.

But it turns out the excellent folk at Aerogarden have an online video that shows just how to fix a broken pump, and not only that, but it is amazingly easy and well-designed.  Fancy that!  So, two hours and, amazingly, no electric shocks later, I had one working Aerogarden, seven seed pods, and a new nightlight for the basement.  BEHOLD:

The Rumpus Room just gets more awesome.

By this time next week:  nicoise.  Right?

05
Oct

I mentioned a while back the book ARTISAN BREAD IN FIVE MINUTES A DAY.  Now, at last, I have some five minute artisan bread in my kitchen rising and I must say, if this tastes at all decent, then this technique is the most amazing breakthrough in the history of the world including television.

Here’s how it works (she said optimistically):

You make a really wet dough by just stirring, not kneading, together yeast, flour, water, and salt.  I used the dough blade in my food pro because:  lazy.  You don’t bloom the yeast or anything; just dump the stuff together in the work bowl and pulse a couple times.  You will have a wet sludge.  This you let rise until it’s collapsing on itself.  Then you put it in the fridge and wait.

I did all of this on Saturday, while making jalepeno dip and apple butter and listening to the Badgers beat the Gophers.

This morning I took the sludge out of the fridge and it looked like this:

Looks sort of like bread dough now, no?

Remember, I have not kneaded or punched or proofed anything.  I have mixed and chilled both literally and figuratively.  Total time outlay at this point is hovering right around 8 minutes and that includes doing the math to reduce the total recipe from four loaves to three.  There were fractions.

With Josh timing me, I pulled out a blob of dough, cloaked it (you know, you pull the “skin” tight over the top of the dough so it’s a nice smooth ball), dusted it with flour and slashed it.  Yes, slash is the fancy word for cutting a little cross on the top.  I don’t know why bread baking terminology uses words like cloak and slash and punch and proof but I have a sneaking suspicion that it has to do with a french baker way back when with an inflated sense of self-importance.

Here’s the bread at this stage:

I'm supposed to be using a pizza peel here.  But one asks oneself, why would one own a pizza peel if one doesn't work at Papa John's?  One wouldn't.

That took me five minutes.  Then, after a rest, (for the bread, not me) I put the dough in a hot oven and threw some water in a pan to help the crust get crusty.

That took maybe a minute.  Probably not quite that.  Now we wait.

Tune in to see how this exciting story ends.  Probably with a loaf of bread, but WHO KNOWS????

Yeah, I’ll post a picture of the bread in an hour or so.

Editor’s Note:  All times, quantities, and ingredients omitted to protect the royalty earnings of the inventor-authors.

05
May

Most people have (sleeping) dreams that bear some analysis.  A crab is walking down the beach backward and then attacks.  Or they are being held hostage on a sailboat with a robot bomb strapped to the bottom.

Last night I dreamed one of my typical, wildly literal dreams as follows:  I’m in a steamroom catching up on my Google Reader, when I see a new post on my friend’s blog.  This friend (in real life) is definitely one of those people whose path on the walk of life is substantially more direct and efficient than mine.  In other words, her shit is together, whereas my shit is scattered in tiny piles throughout town (ew).  In my dream, she has blogged about the plight of uninsured children in America, and as a postscript, she has linked to this site as an example of a blog that is pointless and a waste of everyone’s time.

One doesn’t exactly need Freud to understand a dream like that.  Nor is he called for in the instance of the other dream I remember last night,  which involved Gilles from Dancing with the Stars and a bed made of yarn.  Apparently my psyche doesn’t trust me to decipher even remotely symbolic dreams.  My psyche is all, “KELLY YOUR BLOG IS POINTLESS (and those pores could use a good steam).”

Look, I know this, Psyche.  I realize that the most oft mentioned topic on my blog is a hydroponic auto-garden.  But I don’t really want to talk about underinsured Americans right now, okay?  I am an underinsured American, and it’s kind of a downer.  Last week I got a bill for my yearly Lady-Exam that cost more than a Pontiac Grand Prix.  And nothing was wrong with me!*

It’s too depressing. Instead, let me give you my recipe for…

Chicken Shawarma for Lazy Underinsured Americans whose Blogs are Pointless (adapted from cooking light)

Mix in a bowl:

1 lb skinless boneless chicken breasts chopped up into 3 inch long strips (guys, if you are buying it at the grocery store skip the “natural” and “free range” stuff on the labels.  It means nothing–go on, ask the chickens.  Buy it organic, from a reputable farmer, or buy the deeply discounted $1.69/lb stuff.  There is no middle ground.)

Juice of half a juicy lemon

2 cloves minced garlic

1 tsp curry powder (go ahead, make your own, jerks.  But the Penzey’s version tastes fine to me so you won’t find any recipe here.)

3/4 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 T (eyeball it) olive oil

Let them sit for twenty minutes.  Meanwhile preheat the broiler and mix in a different bowl:

1 blob greek yogurt

1 more clove garlic, also minced

juice of other half of juicy lemon

2 T tahini (so, maybe you should consider using lowfat yogurt)

salt to taste

Go watch Dancing with the Stars.  After twenty minutes have gone by and Gilles has finished doing the rhumba, mop  your fevered brow and go put the chicken strips under the broiler for ten minutes.  Watch Lil’ Kim’s “bionic booty.” Flip the chicken over and broil until done or another five minutes at my house.   Chop up a good tomato (they have them at Trader Joe’s right now, how I don’t know) and some romaine and warm up four whole wheat flatbreads or pitas or frozen naan or whathaveyou.  Hell, make it into a salad if you want but I don’t approve.

Using foil to contain the mess, wrap up a flatbread around a few pieces of chicken, lettuce and tomato, add sauce, fold down foil and enjoy.

*As an aside, when I called my doctor’s office about this, they said, blythely, “oh, here’s your problem:  we charged you as though you were uninsured.”  That’s right.  They have a special DOUBLE price for the uninsured.  I know this is to make up for the insurance companies and their Sams Club-style discounted fees but come on, Doctors.  You know better than that.  Do your friends down at the Piggly Wiggly charge extra for deli meat when they’re selling it to the malnourished?

06
Apr

After very little consideration, I’ve decided to enter the Pillsbury Bake-Off.  Finalists get a trip to Orlando to cook their dishes under extreme pressure and scrutiny.  One winner gets a GE stove and one million dollars.  I don’t really need the stove; I already have one that is only about six hundred years old right here in our tiny little apartment:

Yes, it's a push-button stove.

but I could probably use the money somehow.  Also, if I lost, the consolation prize of getting to visit Epcot Center would probably cushion the blow.

The thing is, I know from watching Food Network Up All Nite* that it is extremely hard to even place, much less be one of the selected few who go to Orlando for the finals, in the Pillsbury Bake-Off.  This is like the Olympics of Bake-Offs, only unlike the Olympics, people actually want the Pillsbury Bake-Off to be held in their cities.  It fills the air with such a nice pastry smell…

And if the talent pool isn’t daunting enough, the recipes have to contain at least two Pillsbury products, either their canned doughs and sweet rolls or their frozen pre-rolled pie crust.  I only use (okay, admit to using) such items once a year, when I am making pigs in a blanket for the annual Wimmer holiday party.  I’m pretty sure that Pigs in a Blanket is not going to win me any GE appliances at this stage in the game.  Nor will “pie crust sandwiches on fluffy crescent rolls” which is the next idea that comes to mind.

But never mind the odds.  I’m going to go for it, and if I don’t final, which I won’t, I will post the recipe here and let you, my loyal readers, be the judge.  Now I just have to come up with said recipe.  No worries, I still have 13 days until the deadline.

*Why isn’t there such a thing, though?

01
Apr

Sorry about the dearth of blogging there.  I was in Iowa, shopping for kitchenwares in my parent’s basement.   Also I was there to rescue a few wedding presents that were trapped there because they didn’t fit in our NY apartment (and hence, will not fit in our Madison apartment either, but never mind that.  Just step over that tent and move the chip and dip server before you sit down, would you?) and because they were given to us at the Midwestern wedding, and thusly, hard to transport to the Big City.  If there is anything better than wedding presents, it is rescuing those same wedding presents from storage purgatory after eight months and then rushing home to play with them.  It’s like finding hidden Easter candy in mid-June, and just not generic jelly beans either.  Cadbury Eggs.  The caramel kind.

Among my “new” toys:

One Enormous Crock-Pot

A Flower of the Month kit

A stove-top cappucino maker that requires a DVD to show you how it works

and my favorite find, a thirty year old if it’s a day pasta maker.  All instructions in Italian.

If you are new to kitchen gadgetry, please be advised that a “pasta maker” does not actually make pasta. It does not stir together the dough, or roll out the dough, or even cut the dough into shapes.   Wise up, sucker:  there is only one pasta maker in your kitchen, and that is you.  The pasta machine I refer to is a graduated press with a crank, not unlike the Play-Doh Fun Factory I so loved as a youth.  (Damn, but that thing was exactly what it advertised.  If there is another way to manufacture that much fun, it involves cold medicines.)  You feed the dough you’ve made into the front of it, and out comes a sheet of pasta that is too thick and chewy to eat.  Repeat the process about, what, thirty times, and you end up with an unwieldy length of skinny, sticky dough that you must find approximately six miles of counter space to contend with.

After draping pasta dough over every available surface of your kitchen and a large portion of your living room (including your spouse), you then get to cut hundreds of tiny shapes, any shape you can imagine and also find some way to form (so, not macaroni unless you have recently given up knitting and need some way to use those 00 needles). This is something you must do by hand, one at a time.  (Unless you have saved your Play-Doh Fun Factory all these years, in which case can I please come over?)

Through all of this, you must not let the pasta dry out.  Or fall on the floor.  The second one is less important.

After you’ve cut your pasta into shapes, you then cook the pasta in boiling, salted water, and eat, plain, or with some Velveeta squeezed on top, because you are too exhausted to make a sauce and let’s face it, too demoralized to wonder what’s in Velveeta.  Two days later, you go to Trader Joe’s and discover that fresh pasta is on sale there for far, far less than the cost of the eggs you put in your dough, and you cry, just a little.

And that is how you make pasta.

I am really looking forward to it!

31
Mar

It’s on Monday nights, 10 pm Eastern, which is a good time to watch an hour-long scripted tv show, and maybe also to take out one’s knitting and thank the heavens above that one’s husband has taken charge of the dishes.

It’s about a wise-cracking novelist who shadows a beautiful, tough-as-nails homicide dectective for research but–get this--actually ends up helping her solve her cases, week after week.  It’s cute and silly and non-threatening and it will not make you cry, even during your period.  You don’t have to vote at the end of each episode.  Nathan Fillion is sexy and funny.  So is his Cybil Shepard-style lady friend, played by Stana Katic, whose hair I am now planning to emulate.

Look, I realize that this show is not Six Feet Under or Mad Men.  I understand that it is a product of the James Patterson Fiction Factory.  I get that by admitting I like it, I am opening myself up to the kind of ridicule one normally reserves for fans of Murder She Wrote and Private Practice.

But I can take the mocking, and you can too.  You’ll see.  A little Nathan Fillion goes a long way to easing the pain.