miranda's spicy lemon pasta

It's funny who all reads your blog and you have no idea. It throws me off to hear someone bring it up because I am not really sure how I feel about the whole thing. To be honest, if it weren't for my sisters' nagging encouragement I would not still be doing it. I cannot imagine my life or what I eat to be that interesting to anyone but myself, and I'm afraid I come off as really self-centered. Or maybe I'm just afraid that I really am that self-centered and this blog highlights it.  See- I just turned this paragraph into myself. It was supposed to be about getting an email from Miranda.

So let's get back to it. I received an email from my friend Miranda last week in response to my post about the disappointing spaghetti with lemon, chile, and creamy spinach. I worked with her in college and we hadn't been in touch for several months. It went like this:
try your lemon, spinach pasta with some [sriracha] instead.
we've actually been making angel hair with a splash of lemon and this and various veggies... like mushrooms and spinach lightly sauteed.

i couldn't respond on your blog.
yes i've been cyber-stalking you.... :)
And then a follow-up one saying this:
so not to get too bossy, but i usually make the pasta and toss it with some olive oil, sauce and lemon juice then toss the sauteed veggies on top. i've noticed that if you cook the sauce it loses it's punch.
 Well! What a wonderful surprise all that was! Not just the email, but also the meal she suggested. I made it the next day with some spinach (yes, I bought another 2 1/2 lb bag), mushrooms, and  whole wheat spaghetti because that's what I had. It was so good that I've been making variations of it for lunch about three times a week.

Miranda's spicy lemon pasta
via Miranda Meyer
*I have never actually measured this out, so all of these are guesses

1/2 lb. angel hair or spaghetti
1 T (more or less) sriracha 
6-8 oz mushrooms, sliced
8 oz spinach
2 T olive oil

Heat a salted pot of water to boil. Cook pasta until al dente, drain and return to pot.
Meanwhile, heat 1 T olive oil in large skillet over med heat. Add mushrooms and saute until they release their water and it is almost all evaporated. Add spinach to skillet in batches, stirring until all is wilted. 
Mix together juice of one lemon, desired amount of sriracha and remaining tablespoon of oil. Pour over pasta and toss. Add sauteed vegetables and enjoy!


parmesan cream crackers

One of the great things about working from home is that you can have this train of thought: 'Man, I'm hungry. Do I have any crackers? No.... Hey! I should make some during my lunch break." And then you do and they're great. Mine were a little thick, so they didn't get too crispy. Also, I used whole milk instead of cream because that's what I had on hand. I minced some garlic for the top, as well as sprinkled them with some coarse sea salt. Pretty nice.

via The New York Times, Published: February 2, 2009
Time: About 20 minutes

1 cup all-purpose flour, more as needed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup cream or half-and-half, more as needed
Coarse salt, pepper, sesame or poppy seeds, minced garlic or whatever you like for sprinkling (optional).

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly dust with flour. Put flour, salt, cheese and butter in bowl of a food processor. Pulse until flour and butter are combined. Add about 1/4 cup cream or half-and-half and let machine run for a bit; continue to add liquid a teaspoon at a time, until mixture holds together but is not sticky.
2. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until 1/2-inch thick or even thinner, adding flour as needed. Transfer sheet of dough to prepared baking sheet (drape it over rolling pin to make it easier). Score lightly with a sharp knife, pizza cutter or a pastry wheel if you want to break crackers into squares or rectangles later on. Sprinkle with salt or other topping if you like.
3. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack; serve warm or at room temperature or store in a tin for a few days.
Yield: About 4 servings.


hot dog octopus train wreck

When people I don't know ask me if I'm a vegetarian I usually say yes. This is a lie, but it saves so much time. I prefer to avoid going into the whole, "I eat some meat, but I have to know where it comes from, blahblahblah." Because it's very hard to come out of that explanation without sounding pretentious. And I'm not, I swear. I just watched a horrifying PETA video about factory farms my freshman year of college and realized I couldn't support something so unnatural. To me, eating meat is very natural. However I believe that you have a responsibility to the life you're eating, because it is a life and it should be allowed to have one up until it is killed.

And now here's the part where I throw all that out the window for a hot dog in a novelty shape. My boyfriend and I were at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago, trying to quickly pick up things for supper before the Blackhawks game. He had a craving for hot dogs, and once he told me I did too. Have you ever bought veggie hot dogs? They're ridiculously more expensive than meat ones. We're both very poor. It just made sense to get the beef ones that were two for $5.

So we got them and he cooked and cut them into octopi for an appetizer while I made an actual meal for us. Let me just set the scene for you- we were eating hot dogs, drinking beer out of cozies, while I cooked and Matt was on the couch watching a sporting event. I have never felt so normal in my life.

This is a long post, so I'll just cut to the next morning. I went the the gym, was on the treadmill when BAM crazy stomach cramp. My gym is two blocks from my apartment, yet walking home in that time I resigned myself to pooping my pants. I didn't.  But I wasn't going to judge if I did. Two days later I ate another hot dog, though. They're really good!


cold sesame noodles

This is probably my new favorite meal. I had it bookmarked to try for months and on Friday I ended up finally making it. Also, I made it again on Saturday. Also, I think I'll make it for lunch today. It's just so easy and good and cheap. Plus you can pretty much put anything in there, so it's a great way to finish up vegetables. Like say you buy a giant bag of spinach, you can just put some in the strainer, then poor the hot pasta water over it to lilt it a little and throw it in the sauce. Easy as pie. My favorite combo so far is with spinach, tofu, and scallions.

Cold Sesame Noodles via Gourmet  
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar or white-wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar or granulated sugar, or to taste
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon Oriental sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 pound linguine or lo mein noodles
chopped scallion and cucumber strips for garnish

In a saucepan combine the soy sauce, the vinegar, the red pepper flakes, the brown sugar, the peanut butter, the oil, the ginger, and the broth, simmer the mixture, stirring, until it is thickened and smooth, and let it cool slightly. In a kettle of boiling salted water cook the noodles until they are al dente, drain them in a colander, and rinse them under cold water. Drain the noodles well, transfer them to a bowl, and toss them with the sauce. Serve the noodles at room temperature and garnish them with the scallion and the cucumber.

spinach meal #3

I finished the spinach! One of the ways I would eat it was as a salad with creamy dill dressing. It made for an excellent lunch on work days.


Spaghetti with Lemon, Chile and Creamy Spinach

I made this for lunch today. I stumbled across the recipe on Sunday and thought it sounded so good. Well, turns out it's not. I couldn't find a red Thai chile so I just went with a red jalapeno, but I doubt that's what threw it off. It was fine and I'll eat the leftovers, but I will not make it again. They can't all be gems, people!

While at Stanley's buying ingredients for this I found a 2.5 lb bag of baby spinach for $2.25/lb. After pacing in front of it for a while, I finally just held my breath and grabbed it. It was such a good deal! I had to! So now I have a crisper drawer full of spinach. Got any good recipes for it? Send them my way! Don't like spinach? Maybe don't check back here for a week or so.


no meal

Just in case you thought it was all birthday cakes and banana smoothies around here, this is generally my lunch and often my dinner as well. I made a vow last night that when I'm rich I will never eat another tortilla. Unless I'm feeling nostalgic for my poor days, in which case punch me in the mouth.


banana yumyumyum

Well this is maybe the most awesome thing. It's so great I'm having trouble finding what to say about it. Let's start at the beginning?

My sister Sarah called me up last weekend and told me she had something I needed to try. She does this every once in a while and history has taught me to blindly follow her. If I didn't I would never have tried delicious things like this, and let's not forget about this. Also, she's my big sister and therefore what she says still goes. So I tried it and oh wow! It's great! Like take a bite and (if you're me) pump your fist in the air at its magnificence great. It's like ice cream but with no dairy, so it doesn't make my stomach explode and it's actually good for you.

Here's what you do-
Take two ripe bananas, peel them, cut them up and then put them in a bowl in the freezer. When they're frozen solid, transfer the pieces to a food processor and process until they are completely blended. Once this happens it becomes the creamy consistency of ice cream. Also, it's super delicious. I've been adding a tablespoon or so of almond butter to mine.


birthday cake!!

Last Monday was Matt's birthday. We both took the day off, went for a ride on the Tall Ship Windy in Lake Michigan, sat in Millennium Park for the free Ponys show, drank vodka tonics and went out for Thai food. All in all it was pretty great.

Somewhere in there I made a cake. Because you just can't let someone have a birthday without cake! Not even if, say, you're a really awful baker with no electric mixer. Or if the birthday boy works in a delicious bakery, making it a little intimidating. Or even if last year the two of you ended up taking the flat, awful, wreck of a cake you tried to make for him and throwing it out the window at parked cars.

So I sucked it up, did a lot of research, and used a Smitten Kitchen recipe since I know those always turn out awesome. And it worked!  The sour cream frosting was a little... sour. But after we put it in the fridge and it hardened into more of a fudgey texture I really enjoyed it.

Best Yellow Layer Cake
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
Adapted from The Dessert Bible

15 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons instant espresso (optional, but can be used to pick up the flavor of average chocolate)
2 1/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 to 1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the chocolate and espresso powder, if using, in the top of a double-boiler or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted. (Alternately, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave for 30 seconds, stirring well, and then heating in 15 second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is melted.) Remove from heat and let chocolate cool until tepid.

Whisk together the sour cream, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup and vanilla extract until combined. Add the tepid chocolate slowly and stir quickly until the mixture is uniform. Taste for sweetness, and if needed, add additional corn syrup in one tablespoon increments until desired level of sweetness is achieved.

Let cool in the refrigerator until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. This should not take more than 30 minutes. Should the frosting become too thick or stiff, just leave it out until it softens again.