Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Christina Can Cook!

Alright, I can cook SOMETIMES! When I want to, basically. Just like everything else in life. Last weekend we were stuck at home nursing Maisy back to health. I use "stuck" loosely here because I happen to like my home and my husband and my silly little dogs. I have the comfiest bed in the world, a nice TV, TONS of DVD's, a plethora of kitchen gadgets at hand and the disposable income of a dual-income household with no children. Home ain't so bad! So over the weekend I decided to put some of those gadgets to use and make some recipes I've been holding onto.

I read a few blogs. One of them is The Pioneer Woman. I like her a lot! She's funny, charming and talented. And although she lives on a sprawling ranch in the middle of nowhere, she doesn't act like it is the ONLY way to live your life. I appreciate anyone who doesn't come across so egocentric. I like to LEARN about other people's lives, not be beat over the head with how much better theirs is than mine. She gets it.

The Pioneer Woman has an AMAZING food blog! AH-MAZE-ING! I love it! She's a little too spicy for me but I just omit the spice and everything turns out oh so nice! Let me share with you what I made last weekend. Not all of these are her recipes, but I got all of them from her page.

The first thing I made on Friday night was this delightful little twist on a burger:

It's a Long Boy Burger from this website. FANTASTIC! Such a "DUH, why didn't I think of that?" kind of recipe. A french bread burger, just like the (brilliant) french bread pizza! Delicious and fun to eat! The only change I would make is to saute the onions a little bit first. These don't stay in the oven long enough for the onions to caramelize. I also added more garlic to the recipe. I do that to most recipes. With the exception of cakes.

The next thing I made was this wonderful Strawberry Buttermilk Cake, recipe found here:

I screwed up this cake. I will never forgive myself for it. I made it in the morning so I was still kinda sleepy. (Yes, for breakfast. If you can have buttermilk pancakes with strawberries for breakfast then why not this? If you still question that perfect logic, check out Jim Gaffigan's "Cake" segment on YouTube. He'll set you straight!)

Anyway, I screwed up this cake because I set the temp too high. It scorched on the top and it was goop in the middle. I (by "I," I mean Andrew) caught the temp problem early and we turned it down to save the majority of the cake. Thank goodness! Because it was friggin delicious!!!! You have got to make this cake. But don't screw it up like I did! There is lemon zest in this cake. Do not skip that part! That gave it this bright, summery flavor that just made your taste buds do a happy dance. Bake this today! Don't change a thing in the recipe!

I also made an omelette for Andrew & I to split that morning. Omelettes are boring. Moving on.

The next thing I made in the afternoon (by "I," I again mean Andrew) was homemade guacamole. Andrew always does great with his guac but this time it was magnificent! There's no recipe, we just wing it. Works every time.

To go with the guac, I made these super delicious Creamy Baked Chicken Taquitos:

OMG, OMG, OMG! This is my new favorite recipe! I followed it exactly with 1 exception - only use 1 to 2 tablespoons of filling in each tortilla. Otherwise too much of the creaminess oozes out and/or your tortilla will split and then get soggy! I used the extra thin tortillas but there still would have been oozing if they hadn't broke. By my second batch these were perfect and let me tell you... they are the ideal balance of creamy and meaty and the tortillas actually get nice and crispy without frying! I did do one extra thing the recipe doesn't say to do. I squeezed lime over them before I salted them. That was a nice little something extra. Make these! You won't be sorry!

Okay everyone, are you ready for some indulgence now? This isn't going to make some people very happy. But this is real life. And cake made from candy bars happens in real life. So just man up and deal with it! Ladies and gentlemen... I bring you... the Milky Way Cake:

I both love and hate The Pioneer Woman for sharing this with the world. It was thoroughly delicious. I followed her steps to the letter and clung to every photograph like a life preserver bobbing in the stickiness. The milky ways melted weird and I was worried about the frosting but it all turned out just grand! I halved her recipe and made an 8x8 cake. It was so rich and beautiful. The frosting set nicely and I didn't have the problems she described about the cake not holding together. Perhaps because I was patient and let it set before cutting it! The cake was actually more like a brownie by the time I cut it. It was even better the next day. You need to make this cake. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not the next day. But put it on your bucket list, okay? It's so unique yet you feel like you've known it your whole life with those familiar milky way flavors all throughout. It was kinda shabby-chic!

For dinner that night I made beef stroganoff. Nothing new and exciting for us. It's a regular 'round here. Snooze.

On Sunday I made my second batch of taquitos and then mozzarella sticks from scratch. With panko crumbs, of course! Because there is no other way to make them. Just go out for fast food if you plan on making them with regular bread crumbs. Save yourself the hard work that will be worthy of excellence but only produces mediocre results. I used some tips from Pioneer Woman for my sticks, found here, but I pretty much know how to make them. It isn't hard! The trick is getting the breading to stick and then figuring out your heat so you get that sweet spot between un-melted cheese and exploding cheese. A few of mine exploded. But they were STILL delicious!

We had leftovers for dinner on Sunday night so this ends our culinary weekend. I am so proud of the stuff I made! I have a love/hate relationship with cooking. I get frustrated very easily when I screw something up. But then when I do something well, I think to myself, "Big deal! People have been cooking since the beginning of time. Put down the wooden spoon and go create something new in the world, dummy." I'm finding the balance between the challenge, the enjoyment, and finding my favorite recipes. That really helps, to find your favorite foods are things you make yourself - it's kinda cool! My love/hate is turning more love and less hate. But it's not likely I will become one of those people who takes pictures of my food and posts it on facebook every night. I just can't shake the, "Big deal!" feeling or the feeling that I'm being braggy or being inauthentic. I'll do the occasional cooking post here, I guess, when appropriate. Maybe pictures too. When I have better lighting in my kitchen and everything doesn't turn out dull and yellowy! Bad food pics just aren't appetizing, people! And sometimes bad pictures happen to good food. Not in my house, sir. Not in my house!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend

Andrew and I spent our entire Memorial Day weekend indoors. What a shame, I know. It was beautiful outside. People were out at the beach, on road trips, BBQ'ing, boating, visiting farmer's markets, being Californians. And we weren't. But that was fine by us. We had an injured baby to take care of. Somewhere during the week leading into Memorial Day weekend, our Maisy-girl got some sort of a bug bite on her tail. It was a little red spot and it bothered her and she gnawed at it a little but we figured it would eventually get better. I mean come on, it's just a bug bite. But this is our Maisy we're talking about. The dog who has, on 3 separate occasions, been stung by a bee and had her face swell up like a balloon. The dog I came home to once, to find a bloody massacre all over our apartment... she had so much blood in her stool, it was everywhere, it looked like someone was killed in our apartment. It was very scary.

Sorry to get graphic. I just have to give you some examples so you know the medical mayhem Maisy can get into. So of course we should have known this wouldn't be a regular ole' bug bite that would heal in a day or two on any other dog. No way, no how, not on Medical Marvel Maisy. The little red spot grew bigger and bigger on her tail and she chewed on it more and more and by Saturday she would no longer let us touch it to look at it or wash it or put neosporin on it (yes, I did that) so we had to take her to the vet. They shaved her little tail and cleaned it and sprayed something on it with alcohol but also a soothing agent, gave her an antibiotic and prednisone to take (YAY, pills in peanut butter... that made her happy) and, much to Maisy's dismay, the latest version of the "cone of shame." Except it's no longer a cone! It's now a "foam of shame." It's this foam donut she wears around her neck like a life preserver so she can't reach and bite at her tail. She looked like she was ready to go boating. Take a look for yourself!

Sitting by the door, waiting for us to pay and leave this horrible place that [GASP] shaved her tail! (We heard her give her desperation bark when they had her in the back, shaving it.)

Blurry, happy face because we're about to leave.

She hated the foam of shame. She tried to pull it off and succeeded several times. We hated it too. She slept with it on the first night. Well, she TRIED to sleep with it on. Not much sleeping was had. Not by anyone! We put her in between us in bed so we could keep an eye on her and she kept waking up and rolling over or turning around and kept hitting us in the face with the foam. No one got much sleep that first night!

As the weekend carried on, we kept her on the couch, close to one of us at all times, with the foam of shame on her head as little as possible. She just couldn't sleep and be comfortable with that thing on! And she needed to sleep and forget about her tail. Andrew and I rented movies and cooked and stayed in the entire weekend. It was kind of nice. It was especially nice because I made some AWESOME food! I'll share with you what I made but not now. I'm tired.

So how has Maisy fared since last weekend? Luckily, she began to heal pretty quickly. The red, fleshy, constantly wet spot turned into a dry, scabby terrain and she no longer tries to furiously chew off her entire tail. She sleeps next to me right now, content and comfortable. YAY! The foam only lasted for that first 2 days. All her medicine is gone so no more peanut butter. BOOO! We are all much happier and even managed to make it to our beloved dog beach this weekend. YAY! But my knee started acting up again at the beach. BOOO! And it's Sunday and the weekend is over. BOOO! But we both have jobs to go to tomorrow so YAY! Also we managed to squeeze in X-Men First Class this weekend so YAY! And the "YAY"s outweigh the "BOOO"s so life is grand. I hope you can say the same for yourself!