Sunday, January 31, 2010

Free Rice.

Au secours! Au secours!
Skipped pebble under rubble.
We're in trouble.
Our Prince— overthrown.

Responding to a natural disaster on this size scale overwhelms me to the point of paralysis. How can one help? Who do I give to? Which organization is going to be the most vigilant? Who is legit? Is $5 enough? How can I give my all and pay my rent? Is Wyclef for real? Nothing seems to meet this unfathomable challenge.

My significant's Mother is leaving for Haiti this morning. She'll be working as an EMT for 2 weeks. This is actually her day job relocated. Yes, flying around in a helicopter saving lives. She also has four kids, two fur-balls, and an immaculate home. Her courage and grace is humbling to say the least.

I decided to get over the ego and do SOMETHING besides moan about corruption. Weighing my options I debated what humans need most to survive. Then I considered what is accessible. The conclusion: I'm giving free rice and blood, separately.

Everyone and their Mama knows about the Red Cross. I doubt elaboration is necessary. Want to donate blood? Make an appointment "here." Any A negatives in the house?

About the rice. Free Rice is a nonprofit website hosted by the UN World Food Program. They are partners with Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. The website has two goals. To provide free education for all and food to hungry people around the world. In order to donate free rice you must answer questions regarding: vocabulary, grammar, an assortment of languages, art, chemistry, math, and geography. One properly answered question yields five grains of rice. I can dig it. A bit of warning, this site's addicting. Setting personal goals for the week and attempting to top the following is a bit consuming. You'll also feel smart, for those looking to feed the ego :)For more information check the website here or click the banner over there -->

For those of you passing through this itty bitty corner of the web I would love to know what others have done to help. Information regarding superb alternative non-profits is also appreciated.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Well that was fast. Where did January go? You can say I've been a bit preoccupied around here. Learning the ways of working the graveyard shift, camping out on the living room futon for three days with my sister, and slowly redecorating our apartment has kept me busy. After finishing college I imagined being up to my ears in free time. The reality, not so much. The little bits of living as an "adult" in the "working-world" adds up. After scrubbing the shower, cleaning the cat box, and washing the never-ending mountain of dirty dishes and/or laundry I don't feel like cooking an extensive meal requiring MORE dirtying of dishes. So, I cook in bulk (or order a pizza, shhhhh.) I'm content with eating roasted root vegetable quinoa consecutively for three days. Vanilla butternut squash cider soup for lunch everyday this week? No problem. Bananas and chocolate soy milk every morning for the rest of my life? Sure, why not. In short: lately my food has been a total snooze fest.

Then there was Supper. Philadelphia, and a handful of other cities host an event called Restaurant Week. Two weeks every season the Philadelphia Center City District invites restaurants to participate in a $35 three-four course dinner or a $20 three course lunch. I have experienced some fantastic dinners and other times, eh. I normally give the fair experiences a second chance if the occupancy is unusually high or the menu choices for the evening are not well planned. For the most part, I have rarely left a meal unsatisfied.

Numerous events have been cause for celebration this month. Promotions,graduations, and discussions of friends getting hitched was reason enough for a celebratory dinner during RW. My dear friend Ally suggested we reserve a table with Supper, an "upscale modern American cuisine served in a beautiful, relaxed setting." Honestly, one of the best experiences to date...aside from lunch at Tequilas last Fall :) The wonderful company and fantastic cocktail of makers mark, ginger cognac, and citrus definitely helped. The service was nice. Nothing out of the ordinary, but we were attended to without feeling like someone was up our butts nor neglecting the table. The decor was just right. Warm lighting, exposed rafters, and interesting well-placed artwork. Nothing tacky, which was my only qualm with Tequilas. Why do Mexican and Southwestern restaurants feel the need to communicate their authenticity through silly caricatures of what is considered Latino? Awesome food and beverages speak for themselves! Oh well.

So yeah, Supper is great. Go there, even if it requires visiting the disgusting tourist trap known as South Street. This gem tucked between head-shops and disappointing pizzerias is worth it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Let there be bread...and pasta...and pizza..and jam?

I've inherited a bread machine. Thank you to the kind individual supplying my mother with this piece 10 years ago. At first, I was giddy with endless possibilities, then I read the manual. For me comprehending a bread machine manual is like taking a standardized test...

I am not a strong test taker. Note to self: use process of elimination.

Luckily, I am head-over-heels for a determined Italian with a ferocious appetite. While conducting my 15 minute tirade of dinner being completely ruined, and vowing to never bake bread again, Anthony salvaged tasty morsels of "toe."

I'm not sure if this is a universal term. In my family the crusty ends of bread are called toe. My world was shaken when someone questioned my use of the word. What else would we call it, crust? That's something entirely different and at times avoided by every child I have ever met, including myself for several rebellious years. Whatever the preference in expression may be we had just enough to compliment the pumpkin turkey chili I bookmarked while reading up on healthy winter recipes on Serious Eats.

The recipe was altered a tad. I omitted the cilantro, used some bacon salt (of course), mixed in tons of clove and added a dash or two or five of the banging rum hot sauce mi madre bought Anthony while on a cruise to Bermuda. We topped it with Canadian cheddar, a recommendation from the cheese-monger at Downtown Cheese. $6 for a quarter pound and so worth it. Complex in it's sharpness yet creamy, not like your typical Helluva cheese. I paired it with a 2007 Blue Mountain Vignoles. The sweet wine went well with the pumpkin and clove. Although, it did get a bit too sweet after the second glass :)

And then there was banana bread. Decadent chocolaty banano bread, pulling me out of the depression caused by the doughy monster birthed from my refusal to read directions. I do not know where I would be without quick breads. Probably throwing my new bread machine into the Schuylkill. Just kidding!

Side note: No bread machines were harmed in the blog post.

Final note: Days later a second batch of bread was successfully made and devoured within minutes of cooling. Perfect match for my roasted eggplant, tomato, and garlic ratatouille.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Broke Ass Orange Oatmeal Cookies

Cookies have followed me out of the holiday season. Not that cookies have a particular "season." Normally, my sweet tooth heads out the door once the holiday meals catch up with me. I was forced to join a gym! Typically, I bake a batch or two or five cookies in December and leave it to the occasional whim in the new year. As alluded before, the oven is my favorite source of heat this winter and it has been bitter cold this time around.

I wanted something bright and sweet and wholesome. Oatmeal cookies were the perfect solution. One of the neighbors attending the Gardella Family Christmas Party baked an oatmeal cookie that should considered a sin. My eyes seriously, rolled in the back of my head. Sadly, I do not have this recipe. And it's a good thing because I am fairly certain it used lots, and lots of butter. My jeans don't need that.

Instead, I want to post a yummy and healthy cookie. Something new years resolution friendly. A cookie that can be eaten for breakfast :) The lovely quality about cookies are the basic ingredients. Sugar, Fat, Egg, Flour... aka, the canvas. Looking for inspiration I came across Rosie Daley's Orange Oatmeal Cookies. You know, that woman who cooks for Oprah.

Now, Oprah can afford whole wheat pastry flour, golden raisins, and unsweetened shredded coconut at the drop of a hat. My broke newly post-college self cannot. So I present...

My Broke Ass Attempt to Make Rosie Daly's Orange Oatmeal Cookies*

1. Cream 1 egg and 8 tablespoons softened Earth Balance (or whatever) in a large bowl.
2. Mash 1 browning banana, 1 tablespoon vanilla, and 1/2 cup brown sugar together. Cream with egg and earth balance mixture.
3. Add 1.5 teaspoons orange zest and the juice of 1/2 an orange.
4. Add mixture of 1.5 cup flour, 1 cup Oats, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 handfuls pumpkin seeds that have been sitting in the back of your cupboard for who knows how long, and 1 scoop Amazing Grass Chocolate Drink Powder
5. Incorporate dry ingredients to wet and mix in a dash or two of cinnamon for good luck.

Bake large tablespoons on a greased baking sheet at 350 for 15-20 minutes (know your oven!)

I sexed up my broke ass attempt by freezing the batch and topping them with bourbon whipped cream and candied clementine segments.

*This recipe has been Maggie approved.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Poetry for breakfast.

This is the beginning of a journey
Emerging from a speck of space dust.
Impatient floating eggs
Baked in salt pepper and olive oil.
Yolks drizzling off forks
Slice of grapefruit.

This recipe has two intentions.
1. It's an excuse to turn the oven on after enduring blustery January mornings.
2. Bacon. Salt. It has become my favorite seasoning.

Strange Fact: Bacon Salt "is a zero calorie, zero fat, VEGETARIAN(?), and kosher seasoning. That makes everything taste like bacon!"

During a bout of car sickness I want nothing but eggs and tea once back in Philadelphia. I decided to make something similar to what I read in Wednesday Chef's Camino's Eggs Baked in Cream.The leeks were lovely but I was unsatisfied with the consistency of my first attempt "baking eggs." I have an admitted salmonella phobia and this creates some issues when cooking eggs. When incorporated with sugar and fat, no problem, I have honed my baking skills over time and learned to trust chemistry. Frying? Poaching? Baking a ramekin cradling two little eggs in cream? Not my strong suit. That was going to change because I came to terms with something. I love eggs.

This morning I was determined to successfully bake an egg. Using the handy ramekins received for the holidays from mi madre and the always satisfying flavor of bacon I made this:

1. Grease the bottom of a ramekin or whatever oven safe bakeware available. Saute thinly sliced vegetables in some oil (sparingly) and water. I used orange peppers and quartered cherry tomatoes. Add bacon salt (or cumin and pepper if it is not available) to taste. Add to ramekin when partially cooked.
2. Crack two eggs on top of vegetables and cover whites with cream. Sprinkle parsley on top and with some pepper.
3. Bake on a sheet in a 325 -350 degree oven for 10-14 minutes. *Everyone's oven is different so pre-heat your oven well before hand and peek on them every 2 minutes after the beginning 10. Remain patient... I know it's difficult eggs are exciting.
4. Remove from oven when whites are solid and yolk is to your liking. I don't recommend a firm yolk. Why? Just 'cause. Pair with black vanilla tea.
5. Eat a mind blowing 1/2 a grapefruit for dessert.