Food Memories – Frizzled Beef and Macaroni

Frizzled Beef and Macaroni

Today’s Food Memory comes to you courtesy of moi.  This is my story and I’m sticking to it.

There is one dish that sums up all that was good for me as a kid – Frizzled Beef and Macaroni.  Its cheesy, beefy, creamy goodness is a favorite, not for any particular moment it recalls, but because it recalls so many. Continue reading “Food Memories – Frizzled Beef and Macaroni”

Flashback Friday – You Are Here

Flashback Friday

Today’s Flashback Friday entry was originally posted on 9/4/07 at Exit 51.

You Are Here

Every story begins somewhere. I mean you wouldn’t open a book and start reading from the middle would you? So I guess it helps to know where this story began to take in the scenery here along Exit 51.

I got to thinking about the notion of when exactly I started down this road because I’ve got a trip coming up to go to the Toronto International Film Festival. Back in 2001 I had exactly the same plan – just watch movies, spend time with friends, and enjoy myself.

Only I never got there. I was supposed to get on a plane on September 13, 2001. As we all know, it took a while for flights to resume after the 11th. And as far removed as I was from any direct connection to the events in New York, DC, or Pennsylvania, I’m still feeling the effects of a chain reaction that was set in motion that day.

If it hadn’t been for that day, I would not have met my husband. He was in the middle of packing up, selling his house, and moving out of state in October 2001. Then he got word that his National Guard unit was being mobilized for a year. Bye-bye Austin, hello Aberdeen. It was during that mobilization that we met.

Fast forward to October 2004. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, surrounded by family and friends, we became husband and wife. All through the process of planning our wedding, the idea of another deployment was in the back of our minds. We’d even gotten a second marriage license just in case orders came through before our planned date and we needed to visit the courthouse. But thankfully, the day went without interruption from the Global War on Terrorism.

Two weeks to the day after our wedding, I got the worst news possible. Orders were coming through for an extended deployment. In that moment, I was no longer the ‘newlywed’. I became the ‘war bride’. The next two months were spent in crisis management mode pulling together what usually takes a lifetime – wills, power of attorney, cemetery plots and burial plans. Have you ever tried to buy a life insurance policy for someone going into a war zone?

Eighteen months later we are reunited. We buy a house. We get on with the business of building our life together. And then eight months later it happens all over again. By the time we reach our 3rd wedding anniversary later this year, we will have only spent 15 months together in the same place. The Army, the Global War on Terror, has had him more than I have.

I think about that a lot with this trip coming up. That one day which so profoundly and utterly marked a country, changed lives, is still being felt in countless ways. For me, I see it every time I open the door to an empty house, with every piece of his mail that I have to open, in the face of people when they learn that he deployed again.

That’s how I got here and I can’t do a thing to change what’s happened. I can’t rewrite world history. Nor do I think I would even if I knew then what I know now. How could I, knowing that the same force that has taken him away from me twice now is what brought him into my life in the first place.

Butternut Risotto

Screen Shot From Our Life In The Kitchen

For Christmas dinner, I decided to shake things up and made risotto instead of our usual brown rice.  I figured if I couldn’t indulge at Christmas then when could I?  So I printed out Our Life In The Kitchen‘s Butternut Risotto recipe and was all ready to color inside the lines and follow directions.  Until I went to cook the squash and remembered that it needed to be baked at 350 but the oven was in use for an ungodly amount of time at 170 with the roast.  At that point, I started winging it.  The squash got cut into small cubes and spent a portion of the afternoon keeping the roast company in the oven.  Then it took a soak in the chicken broth as it heated on the stove. Continue reading “Butternut Risotto”

Hug It Out

Crispy Skinned Orange Chicken

Some people believe that your astrological sign determines facets of your personality.   If you were to ask The Mistah to describe my personality, I’m sure he’d find a polite answer that didn’t involve the phrase ‘crankypants’.  But I’ll tell you the truth, I AM a crankypants.  I must have been born under the sign of Cactus instead of Cancer because there are days, when for no good reason, I’m just all prickly.  Simple questions come out of my mouth with the tone of an interrogation.  Every question that gets put to me receives a reply drowning in sarcasm and impatience.  The Mistah has gotten good at reading the stars and knows that when Cactus is rising in the Seventh House, it’s time to hug it out. Continue reading “Hug It Out”

Sweet and Spicy

Apricot Glazed Pork with Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

I’ve been doing more cooking that writing lately, the holidays will do that to you.  So I’ve got several recipes to post.  While I would prefer to write something witty and special for each of them, I’d rather get them up before next Christmas.  The recipes will just have to speak for themselves.

Apricot Glazed Pork Tenderloins

  • 2 whole pork tenderloins
  • 4 ounces apricot jam
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Dry pork with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Tie the tenderloins together with kitchen string for easier handling.

Heat an oven safe frying pan or grill pan over medium heat and lightly coat with vegetable oil.  Add pork and sear on all sides.  Remove from heat and spread apricot jam over the top of the pork with a spoon.

Cook for 30 to 45 minutes or until the pork registers 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer.  Tent loosely with foil and let the pork rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

{printable recipe}

Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes

BAH Note:  If you like things spicy, go ahead and chop up some of the chipotle peppers and add to the mashed potatoes.

  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • 4 teaspoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons adobo sauce (from one can chipotles in adobo sauce)

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into large chunks.  Fill a large sauce pan with about an inch of water, place a steamer basket in the pot, and fill the basket with the sweet potatoes.  Cover, bring the water to a good simmer over medium heat, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes until the potatoes are fork tender.

Carefully remove the steamer basket and mash the potatoes with a ricer.  Add the butter, honey, and adobo sauce and stir to combine.  Season to taste with salt.

{printable recipe}

The First Rule Of Fight Club


BAH Note:  This post was already written and queued up before my breakup with Chris Kimball.  I considered deleting it but the mental image of Chris Kimball turning into Tyler Durden amuses me.  I refuse to let him rain on my parade.

It’s no secret that I am was a home cook recipe tester for Cook’s Illustrated.  There are many of us out there testing and tasting  the dishes that will eventually show up in some form in the pages of Cook’s Illustrated.  But you’d never know it because we all agree to an honor code that we will not write, blog, or publish recipes in testing.  There’s good reason for that.  These recipes go though multiple rounds of development before they get published.  So who is to say that what I tested is what goes to print?  Besides, I wouldn’t didn’t want to get kicked out of the club for breaking the rules.  Remember the first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.  I wouldn’t didn’t want Chris Kimball to go all Tyler Durden on me, so until now I’ve kept my mouth shut about Pan Seared Scallops. Continue reading “The First Rule Of Fight Club”

Flashback Friday – What’s Cookin’

Flashback Friday

Today’s Flashback Friday entry was originally posted on 9/3/07 at Exit 51.

What’s Cookin’

There was a time when my ‘cooking’ skills consisted of zapping frozen meals, heating up cans of soup, or adding butter and water to a packet of dehydrated whatever and calling it dinner. Then through the magic of food magazines and cooking shows, I discovered that with a little more effort, I could take a bag’s worth of ingredients and turn them into a meal.

Of course, this is not to say that I don’t give in to the seduction of convenience food from time to time. There are days when I want the mac n cheese but don’t feel like the fuss and Trader Joe’s is more than happy to oblige.

I do try and plan at least one meal a week that is pulled from the stack of recipes I’ve gotten off the web or out of magazines. The keepers get put into a bulging three inch binder for future use and the rest get recycled. Here’s one of the latest keepers, adapted from a recent Washington Post food chat:

Sweet Pea Guacamole

Washington Post

1/2 pound frozen peas, thawed
1 shallot
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon cumin, or to taste
fresh cilantro to taste
tiny pinch red pepper flakes
juice from half of a lime

Place ingredients into food processor and pulse until combined to your preferred texture. If you like a chunky texture, pulse less. If you want a smoother texture, pulse more.

I added some block style feta cheese in brine – maybe a tablespoon’s worth – to try and mimick that creamy smoothness you get in guacamole.

Great as an appetizer with chips but also nice spread on a turkey sandwich…yum.

Modern Art

Jean-Michel Basquiat

There’s no picture of this dish because all the Picnik or Photoshop in the world couldn’t turn what I photographed into something pretty. Kind of like how I don’t see the “beauty” in modern art.  If you say it’s there, then I’m sure it is.  But I just don’t understand how splatters and lines and chaos on a canvas can be called a masterpiece.  I look at the Basquiat image above and have no reaction other than confusion.

I think this dish could be a food interpretation of modern art.  It involved a lot of splatters and some chaos and somewhere under all the mushrooms and Marsala is hidden beauty.  It has to be.  You just have to look hard.  Oh, that’s right, I didn’t post a photo. So I’ll let you draw your own picture.  Continue reading “Modern Art”

I Heart Bacon But

image from

Even I don’t think I would part with cold, hard, cash for most of the bacon lovin’ items on Elizabeth Large’s recent Top 10 List on The Baltimore Sun.

Bacon flavored lip balm is an accident waiting to happen y’all.  I hope the company that makes it has a healthy liability policy.

BLT scented candles are just mean.  Unless of course, a real BLT makes an appearance on a plate in front of me.  Otherwise, it’s a big tease.

However, I would totally get down with having bacon delivered to my doorstep every month.  And I imagine the dogs, cats, and other less domestic city critters that run free through my ‘hood wouldn’t mind either.

And I just don’t know what to say about this.  It looks like an accident just waiting to happen.  I don’t think my love of bacon needs to come into the bedroom.