Moving on

In the next day or two, I won't be updating this site any more. Why not? Because I'm moving over to the News & Record site to do a cooking blog. So, all of my two readers, I urge you to check me out over there. I'm going to leave this site up, but I hope to gradually move the posts over to the N&R's site as well, so you can find all my recipes and posts in one place. Thanks for reading!


The weekly special

Why don't you try a big, heaping platter of The Big Link?


An announcement, and a helping of Big Link

Well, I mentioned that I had an announcement, and now that JR has made it public, I guess I can let my both of my readers know: Sometime in the next couple of weeks, I'm going to start doing this cooking blog for the News & Record, under a different name: Mel's Kitchen. I'll let you know when it happens and what the link will be. Hope to see you there!

Now that the excitement is over, check out The Big Link.


Comfort food, with The Big Link on the side

I finished reading the latest Harry Potter book. I got it last night after work, and I read til 5 a.m. Woke up, finished it about 1:30 today. And after the sobbing and crying had subsided, I really needed some comfort food. So I whipped up a batch of biscuits and gravy and tried not to think about it. My husband (who had held me and rubbed my back during the really bad parts in the book) immediately recognized it as such -- he can always tell when I'm in a bad or sad mood by what I'm cooking. Such an amazing book, though -- her best yet.

I've slowed down on posting a lot because I've been waiting for the right time to make a big announcement concerning this blog. It looks like that might take another week or two, though. Meanwhile, check out The Big Link.


The Big Link

Who knows where the wind blows? The Big Link knows.


My "kitchen personality"

According to the Food Network, my kitchen personality is "Country and Comfort."
Your kitchen personality reflects a sense of comfort and charm. You seek a cozy and inviting look for your kitchen and want guests to feel at ease in it.
And sure enough, the pictures of examples of this are ones I adore. There's just something about copper pans hanging from the ceiling that makes me want to cook.


The Big Link

It's time, once again, for The Big Link.


Carrot foam, with a side of chemistry

Um, $190 for carrot foam? I'll have to pass.

(CNN) ROSES, Spain -- Bright green truffles, carrot-flavored foam and liquid that tastes like olives may sound like odd dishes, but they are among those that have helped Spanish restaurant El Bulli earn its reputation as one of the best in the world. ... The gastronomic innovator and his team serves diners a 27-course meal full of weird-sounding food. To start there is "pistachio truffle cooled in liquid nitrogen" or "air of carrot," a beautifully presented dish of frothy carrot foam.

The article goes on to talk about warm gelatin and salty ice cream and peaches dipped in liquid hydrogen. I know it's all revolutionary and everything, and he's the greatest chef in the world, but some things were not meant to be invented.

Here's a first-hand account of some of this type of "food," along with pictures.


The Big Link

Check out a delicacy at The Big Link.

Computer malfunctions, with a side of peanut butter brownies

I was going to post this yesterday, but after I wrote it all out, poised my mouse pointer over the "Publish" button, and ... nothing. My computer froze and took the post with it. To avoid killing the computer, I went to dinner to calm down. Here is try No. 2.

This was the week of the peanut butter brownies. I was making some Scout's Brownies to send to Dear Husband's dad for his birthday, and while I had the ingredients out, I decided to do some experimenting. I had some peanut butter chips around the house, which led to inspiration.

Using the Scout's Brownies as a base, I switched a few ingredients out and ended up with a pretty good recipe. It's not as sweet as some people might like, and the peanut butter is more of a smell and a hint of a taste, but I liked them a lot. So did a certain business editor at work.

1 cup unsalted butter
4 ounces peanut butter chips
3 tablespoons european style unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (high altitude, add 2 tbsp)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup good quality chocolate chips (I used a mixture of half peanut butter, half chocolate chips. I think dark chocolate chips could also be good).
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees (high altitude 375).
  • Melt butter with unsweetened chocolate in a double boiler. Set aside to cool.
  • Sift together cocoa, flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Beat eggs until creamy, and slowly add the sugar, beating constantly.
  • Add vanilla and cooled chocolate/butter mixture.
  • Stir in dry ingredients until just combined.
  • Spread batter in buttered 9x13 pan.
  • Sprinkle chips over surface.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes or until center is set. Let cool before cutting.
Then on Saturday, I made another batch from a recipe I found online to take into work -- one of our copy editors was leaving us, and we responded with bringing tons of food for her last night. The recipe produced a peanut butter brownie very reminiscent of peanut butter cookies. The peanut butter taste was much stronger, and the brownies were moist and chewie.

Both batches went over well at work, but as I've said before, journalists will eat anything, so I don't know if I can judge by that. I prefer the first batch I made, but I think they were both good and would do well in a peanut butter fix.


On committing one of the seven deadly sins, with a side of cheese

I know why the Romans invented vomitoriums. (Or if they didn't, why they should have.)

Dear Husband and I went to The Melting Pot tonight to celebrate our second wedding anniversary. We ordered the Big Night Out, which is a four-course extravanganza. The saddest part is that dessert comes only after you have filled up on cheese fondue and various meats and vegetables. We both left several pounds heavier and several dollars lighter, but it was a wonderful experience that we would both repeat.

I learned an interesting fact from our waiter, who had a slightly snarky and wonderful sense of humor. (He also may have been a med student in his spare time: At one point, he called us patients.) Apparently, they flour the grated cheese before adding it to the fondue, and this affects the oil in the cheese in such a way as to make it blend better with the other ingredients. Hmm. Google, here I come.

What did the all-knowing wizard of Internet searches reveal? Most recipes for fondue do have you mix cheese with flour in the first step, but none of the ones I found explained why. However, on a page about gluten-free living, I did find this nugget of information: Packets of ready-grated cheese may contain flour. So, does this mean you don't have to add flour when making fondue at home? An interesting question, but it's one I can't answer. I will say, though, that I don't think it would hurt to add more flour. Unless, of course, you have coeliac disease. But you probably already knew that.


If this had happened to me, it would have been a shot-gun wedding

I could have at least made a wedding cake that would stand up.

This is everyone's worse nightmare on their wedding day.


All about cooking, along with an ode to an Aid

I stole this great meme from Delicious Days, a decadent blog I discovered through Becks & Posh.

What is your first memory of baking/cooking on your own?
I had an Easy-Bake Oven that I remember using once, and I thought the finished product was awful. It sat on our backporch with my other toys, unused, until we finally gave it away or sold it in a garage sale.

Who had the most influence on your cooking?
Definitely my mom and my grandma. My mom ran a catering business for more than a decade, and I grew up helping to make food trays when I was younger and more complicated dishes as I grew older. (I always had to wash dishes -- which is why I think I hate to do it now. Dear Husband and I have an agreement -- I cook, he cleans.) Both my mom and grandma are very Southern cooks, so I have a special place in my heart for things like fried chicken and mashed potatoes smothered in milk gravy.

Do you have an old photo as “evidence” of an early exposure to the culinary world and would you like to share it?
I will at some point, but I think my mom has all photos of me as a young chef.

Mageiricophobia -- do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that makes your palms sweat?
I don't do fish. I've tried, once, but I was so scared about cooking it too long or not cooking it long enough, I prefer to just eat fish at restaurants. Not to mention DH doesn't like seafood, so I don't cook it much any more!

What would be your most valued or used kitchen gadgets and/or what was the biggest letdown?
I adore, adore, adore my KitchenAid stand mixer! It's a beautiful cherry red color, and I got it for a steal on Amazon -- only $160 or so, new, including tax and shipping! It makes life so much easier in the kitchen -- no longer do my arms ache with stirring chocolate chip cookie dough! No longer do my mashed potatoes come out lumpy because my hand mixer lacks power! No longer do I have to ignore recipes when they tell me to add ingredients while continuing to mix! With my KitchenAid at my side, I can conquer any recipe!

Name some funny or weird food combinations/dishes you really like - and probably no one else!
I adore peanut butter and Miracle Whip sandwiches -- sometimes I'll add a banana into the mix if I have them around. (But the banana has to be mashed into the peanut butter before adding it to the sandwich -- it just tastes better!) I also like mac & cheese mixed with tuna, peas and diced tomatoes -- I guess from my college days.

What are the three eatables or dishes you simply don’t want to live without?
  • As my Dear Husband can tell you, any time I need comfort food, I break out the sausage gravy and biscuits. It reminds me of home, and it's an instant pick-me-up on those bad-mood days.
  • I couldn't live without seafood -- crab legs and shrimp especially.
  • The last thing on the list would probably be pesto, which is a new favorite. I put it on everything! I can't believe I lived much of my life without it. (Quick pesto tip: Tired of plain ol' crescent rolls from the can? Before you roll the triangles up, spread with a bit of pesto. Roll up and proceed as normal.)
Any question you missed in this meme, that you would have loved to answer? Well then, feel free to add one!
What dish you love to make?
I love making Italian dishes with a lot of ingredients. Something about taking a ton of ingredients and turning it into one harmonious dish makes me so happy! One of my new favorites to make is a the chicken cacciatore from Bucca di Beppo (which we sadly do not have here in Greensboro). The nearest location is in Pineville, more than an hour away.


It's fun, it's exciting, it's a nonstop thrill ride.

So check out The Big Link.


Jackson's trial verdict, with a side of a Southern delicacy

In honor of Michael Jackson doing the moon walk today, I give you a recipe for a Southern classic: The Moon Pie.

Southern Moon Pies
Vanilla extract may be substituted with coconut or mint extract. Makes 2 dozen pies (24 servings).
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup marshmallow creme
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a cookie sheet.
  • To Make Cookie Crusts: In a large mixing bowl, cream together 1/2 cup butter or margarine and white sugar. Add egg, evaporated milk, and vanilla. Mix well. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, salt, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. Add flour mixture slowly to sugar mixture while stirring. Mix just until all ingredients are combined.
  • Drop the dough onto greased cookie sheet by rounded tablespoonfuls. Leave at least 3 inches in between each one; dough will spread as it bakes.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 6 to 8 minutes, until firm when pressed with finger. Allow to cool at least one hour before filling.
  • To Make Marshmallow Filling: In a medium mixing bowl, blend together 1/2 cup butter or margarine, confectioners' sugar, flavored extract, and marshmallow creme. Mix until smooth. Assemble pies by spreading 1 to 2 tablespoonfuls of filling on flat side of a cookie crust, then covering filling with flat side of another cookie crust.
From Allrecipes, Submitted by Jody Crout