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

Procrastination, with a side of chocolate chip cookies

I bought some bookshelves from a friend's garage sale on Saturday, and they've been sitting in middle of the front room ever since. I'm off today, so I told Dear Husband that I'd like to put them in the bedroom while we are both here.

Except that what I really feel like doing is making these cookies. And I know Dear Husband wouldn't object to my making cookies instead of working. I must be strong!

Chocoholic Cookies
2 c Rolled oats
12 oz Pk semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 lb unsalted butter; soften
1 c Dark brown sugar; pack firm (you can use light brown if needed)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c Unsweeted cocoa; preferably Hershey's Premium European Style
2 large eggs; slightly beaten
1 tbsp. milk
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 bars white chocolate; 3oz ea preferably Lindt Swiss White Confectionery Bars
1 1/2 tbsp. Crisco

  • Preheat oven to 350. Butter 2 cookie sheets. DO NOT alter the order in which the ingredients are combined.
  • In a large bowl, combine the oats and chips; set aside. In another large bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until creamy.
  • Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa and then add to the butter mixture, stirring until thoroughly combined. The batter will be very stiff.
  • Stir the milk and vanilla into the eggs, then stir this mixture into the butter mixture until thoroughly combined.
  • Add the chips and oats; stir until mixed well.
  • Using a 2-tb scoop, drop batter 2" apart on cookie sheets. Bake 9-12 minutes, until cooked through.
  • Cool on pan 1 minute; transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
  • Melt the white chocolate with the crisco in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Holding a cooled cookie between your thumb and forefinger, dip the edge into the warm white chocolate to cover the top third of the cookie. Place on a rack over wax paper to dry completely.
  • Store between layers of wax paper in an airtight container in a cool place.

Source: The Main Corpse by Diane Mott Davidson

If you'd like to see pictures of the finished product, check out this food blog. I almost never put white chocolate on mine -- it makes them too sweet for me. I think the cookies are just perfect without. But it makes them prettier, and I bet some people like it better that way. Experiment, see what you like best. That's my favorite part of cooking!


Do robots dream of electric chocolate?

Just what I need -- a robot to tell me what I should be eating.

NEC System Technologies announced o­n the 9th that in cooperation with Mie University they have developed a personal robot capable of "tasting" foods. It is reportedly the first robot capable of judging tastes. The composition of foods is analyzed with an infrared sensor, and the robot will give advice about health and eating habits.

At least I'd never have to worry about poisoning it with new recipes.

The Big Link

This week's BIG LINK. Check it out.


Food bloggers roll call

There are a lot of food bloggers out there, and I don't have delusions that mine is great -- I'm blogging mostly for my own benefit and hoping it helps someone else out in the process. Some of the food blogs out there are exceptional, though, and Press For Change has compiled some of the best posts and recipes into a recipe book. I haven't bought the book, but the intro on their Web site has something even more valuable for me -- a list of the best of the food blogs out there. When I get a chance to check them out, I'm going to add some of the better ones to my list of sites on the side.


Bet you didn't know you could cook in your dishwasher

Since I can't even think of anything to say to this, I'm just going to post this for your enjoyment.

Dishwasher Salmon with a Piquant Dill Sauce
Poaching fish in the dishwasher is a virtually foolproof way to shock your friends, prepare a succulent meal, and do the dishes—all at the same time. I've poached salmon in more than 100 dishwashers on 3 continents. There's never been a dull party. Set your doubts aside, put dinner in the dishwasher, and watch this multitasking kitchen appliance steal the show.


Cinnamon pound cake results

So I took the cinnamon pound cake with stewed peaches to a sleepover Friday night, and it was a big hit. The pound cake was good on its own, with just the right amount of cinnamon and a moist texture. Adding the peaches was even better, though -- the cinnamon accented the sweet peaches just right. We didn't add the ice cream -- I think everyone was too lazy to get up and get any! But it would have been pretty good, I'm sure. I know this is a recipe I'll be making again!


The release of my pent-up need to bake, with a side of brownies, pound cake and rice krispie treats

About 3 weeks ago, I had surgery on my hand to remove some masses from between two of my fingers. Needless to say, it has been wrapped in a bandage with instructions to keep it clean and dry since then. While that meant no washing dishes, it also meant, of course, no cooking. Even without the whole keeping it dry thing, the one-handed wonder (me) couldn't have cut up a vegetable or opened a jar to save my life. It was, to say the least, torture.

For me, baking and cooking is kind of a zen thing. I get to clear out my mind as I measure ingredients, cut vegetables and boil water. It means I don't have the brainpower to worry about paying the bills, the job or the million and one things that need doing around the house. Not to mention, there's always a tangible product when you're done. It's something I love and need to do.

Well, as of Tuesday, I was once again able to get my hand wet. And being off today, I finally took advantage of that in the kitchen. At first, I was just going to make brownies for a sleepover at a girlfriend's house tonight, but once I got going, I couldn't stop.

After baking Scout's Brownies from a scrumptious recipe I found in Dianne Mott Davidson's culinary mystery "Dying for Chocolate", I went to the Food Network's site to search for a recipe using the peaches I had picked up yesterday. I found a good looking one from Emeril, "Cinnamon Pound Cake with Stewed Peaches". And while I was waiting for the pound cake to cook, I whipped up a batch of Rice Krispy treats (this link goes to a bunch of different recipes for the treats -- including one you can shape into a Mother's Day or Father's Day mug).

So how did they come out? The brownies were a hit with my husband, whom upon trying one wanted to know what I was taking to the sleepover -- they were staying home with him! I haven't tried the total effect with the pound cake yet, but from taste-testing the peaches and an errant piece of the pound cake, it's gonna be pretty darn good. I did have a mishap with the pound cake -- it bubbled over the bundt pan I used and burned onto my oven, but it turned out gorgeous in the end.

I'll let you know what the girls think at the sleepover.


A tisket, a tasket ...

Just wanted to test a picture upload to the blog, so I picked a pretty one for you. This is a watermelon basket I made for our Cinco de Mayo party last year. It's a bit gaudy with all the flags, but I like it :-)

Thoughts on crockpot cooking, with a side of beef stew

For some reason, I almost never use my crockpot in the summer. It just seems like a winter sort of thing to me -- thick, hearty stews and chowders, chili on a cold day.

Then it hit me today -- summer is really the perfect time to use a crockpot. Think about it -- there's nothing worse than sweating in a hot kitchen
when you're cooking dinner in the summer, oven and stove going full-blast. Crock pots eliminate all that. Dump everything in, turn it on and leave -- and your kitchen stays nice and cool all day. The other day, I dumped a pork tenderloin in with some barbecue sauce, and at the end of day, all I had to do was heat up some corn and bread to go with it. Wonderful!

One of my favorite crockpot cookbooks is "Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook: Feasting with your Slow Cooker". (I recommend buying the spiral-bound copy so it can lay flat when you're cooking -- I've seen them at Sam's and Wal-Mart.) I recently bought "
Fix-It & Forget-It Lightly : Healthy Low-Fat Recipes for Your Slow Cooker", but I haven't had the chance to use any of its recipes, yet.

Here's one of my favorites, from the original cookbook:

Layered Herby Stew
(Elizabeth Richards, Rapid City, SD)
Makes 8 servings

2.5 lbs. lean beef chuck, cubed
1 medium to large onion, cut in 1-inch pieces
8-12 small red potatoes or potato chunks
4-6 carrots, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 large ribs celery, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup red wine, or water
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. dried marjoram
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
2 bay leaves
6 Tbsp. minute tapioca (use only 5 Tbsp. if using water instead of wine)
28-oz. can of diced tomatoes (I use the Italian-seasoned)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Layer all ingredients except parsley in slow cooker in order given.
  • Cover. Cook on High 6 hours.
  • Immediately before serving, garnish with parsley.
Now, I have to admit, I skip the carrots, celery and parsley. I don't like the first two all that much, and I don't like buying a bunch of parsley for just one dish. I also add a little bit more on most of the spices, along with a dash of steak sauce if I'm in the mood. But it's one of my husbands favorite dishes, and it's a great company dish -- put it on in the morning, then serve with your favorite bread on the side.

A welcome note, with a side of fudge

I'm going to try something new -- keeping track of my cooking experiments online, so I'll have everything in one easy-to-find place. And maybe you'll even benefit from my mistakes and successes -- I'll post what does and doesn't work out.

Luckily, I work in a newsroom, so my husband won't have to be the only guinea pig trying my experiments. (Note to readers: People working in a newsroom will eat anything -- and they won't ask silly questions, like where did this come from? If it shows up in the office, it will be eaten.)

I'll leave you with one of my favorite fudge recipes for this first post, found in the pages of the Daily Press in Newport News a few years ago. (If anyone can give me the name of the person who submitted it, I would be more than happy to give them credit.) It's a fast microwave fudge recipe. (I know what you're thinking -- microwave fudge? But it's delicious, and no one has ever been able to tell the difference. And it's so much faster!)

French Silk Fudge
2 cups super-fine sugar
1 small can (5 ounces) evaporated milk
1 stick (½ cup) butter
2 cups miniature marshmallows
2 bags (11.5 ounces each) milk chocolate chips (3½ cups total)
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup already-chopped pecans (Optional: I never use them, since I don't like anything to mar the perfection that is fudge.)
  • Butter an 8-by-11-inch baking pan and set aside.
  • In a 2-quart glass bowl, mix the sugar and the milk. Microwave on high, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Remove from the microwave oven and stir.
  • Microwave an additional 2 minutes, watching closely so that the mixture doesn't boil over. Meanwhile, cut the butter into four pieces and set aside.
  • Remove the sugar mixture from the microwave and stir in the butter and marshmallows until both are melted. Add the chocolate chips, vanilla and nuts, and mix well. Spread into the buttered pan and chill for at least an hour or until firm.
  • Cut into small (1-inch) squares and store in tins or plastic storage containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Makes: about 80 (1-inch) pieces of candy.
Start to finish: 10 minutes, plus 1 hour chilling time
Approximate values per serving (1 piece): 80 calories (46 percent from fat), 4.7 g fat (2.3 g saturated), 4.9 mg cholesterol, 0.9 g protein, 11.3 g carbohydrates, 0.4 g dietary fiber, 21 mg sodium.