Tuesday, March 31, 2009

An afternoon with Chicago History

Chic Chicago

Eastland Disaster

Norman Rockwell painting at History Museum

Christian Krohg

Yesterday, a friend suggested we head over to The Chicago History Museum. "Chic Chicago" and "Lincoln" were the special exhibits, however some of the permanent exhibition was interesting too.
Chic Chicago
Coco Chanel, Halston, Charles Worth, Yohji Yamamoto....and countless more designers! I found this exhibit most interesting, reading about the influential Chicago women who wore these designers.

Eastland Disaster
July 1915
This was the biggest disaster in Chicago, a ferry boat had too many passengers on board, and capsized before even leaving the dock! Almost 900 people died! I think that's an amazing amount of people for being so close to help.

This Norman Rockwell painting depicts the famous cow that started The Chicago Fire. I think this painting resembles some of the Norwegian artists I just saw at the Munch exhibit, like Christian Krohg. What do you think?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Snow!!!! A few days before April....

We woke up to this beautiful scene this morning. As you can see, Hugo is just as shocked as I am!
(Oh, Jason borrowed a camera from school so we would have a camera at home while we figure out the broken one)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Coconut Cookies

I had a sweet tooth this afternoon and found a Coconut cookie recipe that allowed me to not leave my house for the ingredients! Moist, decadent, and very easy! I'm eating my 2nd one as I type!
The recipe says bake for 10-12, but with my oven, I cooked them for 18 minutes. The first (12 minutes) batch was a little under cooked.

1 box yellow cake mix
2 cups shredded coconut
1/4 cup Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut
1/4 cup softened butter
2 eggs


Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir together 1 box yellow cake mix, 2 cups shredded
coconut, 1/4 cup Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut, 1/4 cup softened butter and 2
eggs in a medium bowl. Roll into balls and roll in additional coconut. Place on a
parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

A typical Friday night

Once a month Jason and I hit gallery openings in Chicago. They are spread all over the West side of the city, so transporting ourselves around is always the number one pain. Do we go home first, eat, and then head back out spending time going back and forth...or do we save time but spend money on meeting near the galleries after work, and eating out at a restaurant? This is always the big question. Last night we decided to meet at a new restaurant on Randolph Ave., a street that always has a new restaurant popping up. "De Cero, a modern day taqueria" was the spot we chose. I looked at their menu beforehand and saw a chic looking decor with low prices, along with a page of raving reviews. Perfect!

While I waited for Jason I had a Hibiscus Margarita, which was the highlight of our dining experience there. It was a subtle flavor, with dried hibiscus leaves floating on top. My camera is broken, as you know, so no personal pics. Jason arrived and ordered a fresh Pineapple Margarita which i thought was tasty. He liked my drink better, and eventually we shared a Passion Fruit Margarita. Hibiscus won out as best. Jason had the Carne Asada, and I chose 3 tacos:
  • ahi tuna, grilled medium rare, mango and habanero salsa
  • braised duck, with sweet corn salsa
  • al pastor, tender chile seared pork with onion, pineapple, cilantro and lime

I have to say I was sort of disappointed with my food. When they use words like "braised" and "Seared", I was expecting more succulence, especially with the duck, which is my favorite meat. Jason's food was better...the steak was cooked perfectly.

For dessert we shared a Jarritos float :
Mexican grapefruit soda served over a scoop of mango sorbet. Having bubbles in your mouth when you're eating sorbet added something really nice! The Mexican grapefruit soda was exactly like Ting(a West Indian grapefruit soda), if you've had that before. Also, Jason had Cinnamon coffee, which was really yummy! It tasted like a specialty of theirs. In fact, they only served this one kind of coffee.

On full stomaches we headed 2 blocks to the gallery area, popping into:
Monique Meloche: http://www.moniquemeloche.com/
Rhona Hoffman: http://rhoffmangallery.com.19.m6.net/exhibition.asp
Kavi Gupta: http://www.kavigupta.com/
Carrie Secrist: http://www.secristgallery.com/
Not as many galleries were open for some reason last night. There are usually about 5 others added to that list. I wasn't really blown away by anything, and some price tags were topping $15,000. The artist, Scott Stack, at Monique Meloche gallery definitely had patience and a steady hand. He created enormous paintings of what looked like Night Vision views of buildings. There was something very unique about them that I unexpectedly liked. I stared at them for a while trying to decipher his technique: Jason said it looked like he used some sort of plastic stencil for the sharp edges.

Finally, we hopped North West via cab to the Green Lantern Gallery to see our friend Karin Patzkes group show. http://www.thegreenlantern.org/
The atmosphere at this gallery was much more playful than the previous See-And-Be-Seen galleries we had just left. Many art pieces were interactive: Visitors were to cut out paper buildings and glue them to the wall, coloring in designs or landscapes around them; Adorning another table were cloth/paper masks you were invited to borrow and walk around wearing, and finally, Karins artwork was a collection of hand made paper dolls. The paper dolls were different from the norm in that human bodies were attached to animal heads(a bear, a wolf). The dolls had various outfits laid around them for us to dress them in. It was very creative! Her printmaking skills came alive, literally.

And then Home! I think we were in bed by 9:30.

Friday, March 27, 2009

If you are in the Virgin Islands this weekend....

Art In the Garden
The Palletteers of St.Croix
St. George Village Botanical Garden
Exhibit and Sale of Original Paintings, Prints and Cards

Artists’ Reception, Exhibit & Sale Saturday, March 28, 6-9PM-- $20
Exhibit & Sale Sunday, March 29, 11AM – 4PM--$5

Also on Sunday: Displays by the Orchid and Bonsai Societies;
Palletteers painting on the grounds of the Garden


I think Twitter is:
really annoying/kind of useless/pointless/taking up too much web space/a fad that will die with Friendster and Myspace/a social network I surprisingly am not addicted to.

But, I think I love Christopher Walkins daily statements.


Broken Camera

This is the camera in its coffin.

In a household of 2 very visually minded people, we use our camera multiple times a day. Jason will go taring through the living room, exclaiming, "There's amazing light in the bedroom right now!", and proceed to snap away at some object brought to life by light. I will see Bamboo or Hugo doing something unbelievably adorable and capture the moment, or take photos of Jason sitting serenely on the couch.

So, as the above statement infers, our camera is akin to our daily cup of coffee. If we don't have our camera, we twitch away and get grumpy.

Our camera stopped working yesterday. It's 2 years old, a gift to us from my parents 2 years ago for Christmas.

We have bills to pay.

I am basically very unemployed.

We need a camera.

We will probably buy a camera instead of paying our heating bill.

Do you have a camera you love? Please share brands. Jason, of course, wants to upgrade to a digital with a fancy lens. I agree.

My plan ahead meal was outstanding!!

Remember my chicken-plan-ahead-freeze-meal I put in plastic bags a few days ago? http://jenniferstec.blogspot.com/2009/03/i-planned-ahead-big-time.html

I used one of the bags last night, and it was really good!!! We have 2 bags left, which is great for future dinners! I roasted it according to the recipe, and it turned out crispy and very flavorful. We had corn on the cob with it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Parmesan Buiscuits and Vegetable Soup: To Die For!!

Again, Real Simple recipe saved our bellies last night. Jason called the recipe "amazing". It really hit the spot, and I think is the best thing i've made this month! I added a bay leaf and a tablespoon of rosemary because i was worried about the limited spices in the recipe. HIGHLY recommend making this. It was extremely easy too, and i used squash for the first time.....which now i know you use a peeler to get rid of the skin, not a knife.

I splurged: Time and $

I decided to go downtown with jason this morning. I wasn't called for a sub job, and i needed to return a book to Borders. I also saw the Munch exhibit(see below). The Museum doesnt open until 10:30am, so I had about an hour and half to kill.

I always buy my books at extreme discount, used, from amazon.com. Then, i promptly re-sell them on Amazon to get some $ back, after i'm done reading them. I think it's a waste of money to buy new books from the store. A book selling for $16 in the store can be found for $.01 online. That said, it is so much fun browsing for books in a store. I have been to a book store maybe 2 times in the past 5 months. During those 2 times I accidentally bought a book I had already read. Did you read that? The TWO special, fancy times i went to a bookstore, I made the same mistake. Different books, but same problem. I thought they were books i had just pondered over many times. Is my brain going downhill at 30? ANYhow, i went to Borders today to exchange the book i bought on Sunday(a book, after getting through the 4th page i realized was eeeerily very familiar). My other book buying rule is to never buy a hardcover because they're so much more pricey than a paperback. Well, i broke so many book rules today. I bought a new hardcover book from a bookstore. The Lost City of Z, a true story about a daring Amazon expedition. I had stumbled across this review recently and as soon as I saw it at the store, I had to have it. I splurged. But this is rare.

I will probably not talk to much on this blog about my book choices because that's what my goodreads.com account is for. I have reviewed close to 200 books on that site if you are interested in joining. But, this was a big event today.

"Becoming Edvard Munch" Exhibit

Edvard Munch
Norwegian, 1863–1944

Moonlight, 1895

Edvard Munch
Norwegian, 1863–1944

Kiss by the Window, 1892

I visited with the husband for coffee for his 10am break, and then was lucky enough to go to lunch with him at noon. In between, I went to The Art Institutes new Munch exhibit. I was hesitant to go because I photographed a lot of the work for the catalogs,etc. this summer when i was still a Photographer there. I saw a few of the pieces way too many times and was kind of sick of him after a while. I am very happy I went, however, because it was a great show and there were many pieces on loan from various museums I hadn't seen as of August(when i left)!

I was particularly moved by "Kiss by the Window". It's enormous. I looked at it for 2 seconds and there were tears in my eyes. I ran into Jay, the curator of the show, when i later visited some offices of co-workers, and she said i was moved by it because i'm a newlywed. Maybe.

I also really liked "Moonlight". Something about the geometric shapes in the sand and the reflection....so unlike my artwork. Really inspiring for some reason. This, too, was also quite a large painting.

Many of the displayed art pieces were by other artists who had influenced Munch (which explains the title of the show.."Becoming Edvard Munch"....basically who shaped his art making). Anyhow, great show. Go see it if you're in chicago.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I planned ahead big time!!!

I Love Real Simple magazine! Unfortunately my subscription just ran out. Paying off my enormous student loan debt comes before magazine subscription luxuries these days. But, when I did have a subscription I tore out recipes and saved them in probably the only organized file I have. I'm still getting around to making some, and I saw this one yesterday before heading to the supermarket and decided to plan ahead! So now i have 3 ziplock bags in my freezer, each filled with 3 chicken legs or drumsticks and this sauce. I havn't TASTED this yet..but one of these days I'll let you know! It took seriously less than 10 minutes!

Jumbo Shrimp Marsala House-wife Style (Gamberoni Casalinga Siciliana)

I still had half a bottle of Marsala Wine from chicken marsala and steak marsala I've made this month, so before our trek to the supermarket yesterday, I looked up a recipe. I was worried I wouldn't be able to find Currants. Surprisingly they were easily found, and the recipe itself was VERY easy! There was a little spice to it, which was nice for sick girl here. And the currants added a really great flavor! I thought it was a nice recipe.
Here's the source: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Jumbo-Shrimp-Marsala-House-wife-Style-em-Gamberoni-Casalinga-Siciliana-em-350682
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 rib celery with leaves, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 medium plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon currants
  • 2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup dry marsala
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
  • 2 pounds jumbo (U-12) shrimp, pealed and de veined
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. In a 10- to 12-inch sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add the onion and celery and cook until softened. Add the tomatoes, pine nuts, currants, capers, marsala, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf and bring to a boil.

2. Remove the pan from heat and lay the shrimp in one layer in the tomato mixture. Cover, set over low heat, and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper to taste, and allow to stand for 5 minutes, covered.

3. Serve warm, or allow to cool to room temperature.

Monkey Boy got a Sweater

Bamboo, or "Monkey Boy" ---the husbands nickname for him after his haircut..., got a sweater. I know, I am shocked we actually are in the category of clothing an animal myself. It was actually the husbands idea. Bamboo was sheared of a few pounds of fur which he is really happy about by the way, prancing around like a kitten(to all you neigh sayers screaming animal abuse for shaving my cat!). Anyhow, it's still in the 40's here, and he seemed to be stuck in a little ball, attempting to stay warm. So, yesterday we hit Pet Smart and bought him an $8 old man sweater. It fits great! And he seems to like it, which i'm truly shocked by. I assumed he'd immediately try and get it off of his body..but instead, he curled up and started purring. !! Shocking, I know! Anyhow, good purchase on our part i guess.

I've been SICK!

Since last Sunday I have had a voice ranging from zero to slightly having a voice. My throat stopped hurting only 2 days ago, but i still have a pretty bad cough and am beat! A week of sick and being home! You would think it would be gone by now. Ive been using my juicer to juice bags of carrots and random concoctions. Saturday I used 1 bag of Carrots(that's like 13 carrots), 1 Beet, 4 Oranges, 1 lemon, 1 Pomegranate, and 1 Apple. It was great! AND the juice was loaded with tons of vitamins--I thought i'd be cured miraculously. No, still sick today. I do have to give mad props to the Neti Pot. If you ever suffer from congestion, whether it be from migraines, sinus stuff, or a cold, the Neti Pot is the bomb! It gets rid of some serious gunk in the head, and doesnt feel like anything by the way for those scared of drowning...i didnt even think water was going into my nose the first time i did it, and then i blew my nose. Miraculous.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bamboo gets his yearly cut

And After: doesnt he look peaceful, all that weight off of his little shoulders? :)

My long haired Persian Himalayan was in need of a haircut. I give you the before and after. Dont worry, i took the kerchief off him after photo taking. The groomer did that! Both Bamboo and I were relieved to be off the bus and at home. Now for a nap.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Stawberry Cake

My photo isnt very good, but the frosting.....ahhh...i keep eating the frosting!!!!

My cold must be going away because i have my appetite back. The husband has class tonight and will come home to Pinon AND Strawberry Cake. I had leftover Ricotta cheese from that terrible shepherds pie i made last week, and i've had it in my head to use it in some sort of dessert. To top that off Emilios Produce, a cute little store on California Ave. and Milwaukee Ave. was carrying some gorgeous looking strawberries yesterday. I went in to buy tissue because my cold was hitting, but instead I left with $24 of fruits and veggies. So, my sweet tooth kicked in tonight and I found a Strawberry cupcake recipe: http://asweetfantasy.blogspot.com/2008/07/strawberry-cupcakes.html

In the midst of making the recipe, I got really lazy and predicted I wouldn't want to clean all the individual cupcake cups later, so i poured the batter into a cake pan instead. I also combined all my ingredients at once, instead of all the steps cupcake girl above does.

Heres the Recipe I created

For the Cake

1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup strawberry sauce
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs

For the Strawberry Sauce

2 cups of fresh strawberries, stem removed
Sugar to taste

For Strawberry Frosting
8oz of Ricotta or cream cheese
1/2 stick butter
2 - 4 cups powdered sugar,(depending on how sweet you want your frosting!)
1/4 cup of strawberry sauce

1. For the Strawberry Sauce, macerate strawberries with about 1-2 tbs sugar for 15 minutes. Put strawberries in a small saucepan and heat under medium heat with lid on. Cook strawberries for approximately 15 minutes till strawberries cook down and become soft and saucy. Adjust sweetness with sugar until you get the desired sweetness. Using a hand blender, puree until you get the desired smoothness or chunkiness. Cool before using in recipe.

2. For the cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grab a large bowl and beat the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Whisk in flour, baking powder, baking soda, sauce, milk, and salt.

3. Pour into cake pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes.

4. For Strawberry Frosting, bring cheese and butter to room temperature. Beat butter and cheese at medium speed until creamy. Add half of the sugar, beat until combined. Add strawberry sauce until you achieve the right color and flavor but making sure not to add too much or the frosting will be too soft. Gradually add any remaining sugar until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like.

PIÑON-Puerto Rican beef and ripe plantain casserole


Finished plantain

Ready to go into the casserole dish
Ready to EAT!

Pinon is one of my FAVORITE dishes to make. It's easy, extremely tasty, and one of my comfort foods. I used to make it once a week, but have been trying to change things up a bit and try other foods. I have had a cold since Sunday, however, and was craving this!

5-7 very ripe plantains (they should be almost black on outside, and soft)
Oil for frying
1 onion, chopped
1 Bay leaf
2 tablespoons of crushed garlic
1 lb. ground beef
1 small can tomato sauce
1/2 cup green olives (I like getting olives with pimientos)
Salt and pepper, seasoning such as Adobo Creolo (Goya)
1 can green beans, drained.
2-3 eggs
3 tablespoons of vinegar

Peel the plantains, cut into 2-inch thick lengthwise slices or small rounds, and fry in oil till golden brown. Remove, drain. Place on a paper towel to soak up the oil. Set aside.

In a frying pan, saute the onion and garlic until soft but not brown. Add the ground beef and fry at high heat for 3 minutes. Pour in the tomato sauce and add the olives. Add vinegar. Add Bay leaf. Add seasonings. Cook 15 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, adobo to taste. Add green beans at the very end of cooking, just to combine.

Beat the eggs. Most recipes call for 2 eggs, but i like adding a 3rd egg....it depends on your taste.

Layer bottom of casserole dish with 1/2 the plantain. Then layer with all ground beef mixture. THEN layer with remaining plantain. Pour the beaten eggs over the top.

Place un-covered in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 1 hour or until golden brown and cooked.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Frozen Horses

We watched "My Winnipeg" last night, a strange documentary on the directors home town of Winnipeg. I don't recommend it, but he told a short story(among many) about a part of Winnipeg history that is still stuck in my head this morning! The towns race track barn caught on fire on one of the coldest days that year, and all the horses ran into the river to escape the fire. It was so cold, that they remained frozen there for months! As horrifying as THAT is, what's even more disturbing was that it became a place for the towns people to stroll, admiring the frozen horses. I'll just leave you with that.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

We went to the Hopleaf

Last night we ventured into Andersonville, an adorable Swedish neighborhood in Chicago. We joined 2 friends for dinner at The Hopleaf and I had Mussels. They were wonderful! The deep bowl of Mussels came with bacon, potatoes, bread, and fries, all for only $11. http://www.hopleaf.com/dining_menu.html
I tried steaming clams once and it didn't work out so well...but I really want to try again one day soon, so perhaps in the near future you will see a recipe!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A "warm" March Morning

Good Morning! We ordered pizza for delivery last night. We live in the Logan Square/Avondale area of Chicago, and are just a few streets too far away to get the excellent Chicago pizza delivered to us. My favorite pizza is Lou Malnatis. They have about 7 Chicago locations and quite a few suburban locations. Lou Malnatis even ships pizza to various parts of the country. http://www.loumalnatis.com/ None of them, however, deliver to our apartment. We live in an abyss of delivery zones. SO, it is usual that we order from a new pizza place every time to try and find our new favorite. Unfortunately over the past 2 years we've lived in this neighborhood it hasn't happened. I've gone from loving pizza to crossing my fingers we get edible pizza. :( ONE more reason to move next year!

This morning has lots of optimism because it's about 10 degrees warmer than yesterday, so the windows are wide open for the cats to gawk at the birds. I began the day with a nice looking bowl of cereal ---My favorite is Honey Bunches of Oats topped with fruit, add some cream, add a spoonful of ground Flaxseed, pour in milk....and voila! I swear I started this blog just to have a reason to photograph food. A good photograph of food is really hard to get, but when you do, it is satisfying.
And of course Coffee. Anyone have a favorite brand of coffee? Please share. My favorite is Intelligentsia http://www.intelligentsiacoffee.com/
More optimism(what a hard word to spell, by the way. It deserves 2 "p's" I think): the school I subbed at on Friday called me after school yesterday and wants me to sub again on Monday. yay=$$!
AND I have 4 more applications for Fall Art Teacher jobs i have to fill out this morning. This totals about 10 open art jobs for fall so far.....

Now to enjoy my coffee and work on application essays....

Friday, March 13, 2009

Chicago Architecture in Garfield Park, and more....

I subbed today in the Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago. This is a poor, run down neighborhood with a lot of history. Martin Luther King lived there, The famous Garfield Park Conservatory is there, and an abundance of amazing homes are scattered in between vacant lots and boarded up buildings. This USED to be a nice neighborhood, and then the Race Riots in the mid 1960's turned it into one of the worst places to live. The population of the neighborhood dropped from 70,000 people in 1960 to 20,000 in 2000. ANYhow, I've subbed at schools in this neighborhood before and am always in awe of the beautiful art deco mansions. I saw one today for sale, with a small coach house attached(future art studio?), and was curious how much such a gorgeous piece of architecture history sold for in a terrible neighborhood. http://www.atproperties.com/listing/6839577 $525,000! Yikes. Too much. Pretty low for how cool it is inside though, dont you think? I need to bring my camera with me on monday to take some more photos because it's really strange walking past these jaw dropping buildings in obvious war zone territory.

We made a terrible dinner last night. I watched Oprah the other morning and she had famous chefs go to these peoples(people who couldnt cook) houses. Some of the recipes looked easy and tasty, so i wrote down a few recipes. I made the Turkey Macaroni Sheperds Pie last night. I followed ALL the directions, and simmered, and reduced and allll that mumbo jumbo....and it turned out to look good but be very flavorless. If you'd like to see all the chefs recipe ideas, go to: http://www.oprah.com/menu/food/menus/20090227-tows-celebrity-chef-recipes

The Tyler guy was the flavorless recipe, so im recomending you skip him.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pan-Seared Rib-Eye Steak with Béarnaise (Entrecôte Béarnaise)

For steaks
  • 2 (1 1/4-inch-thick) boneless rib-eye steaks (16 ounces each)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

For béarnaise
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, divided
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 tablespoon Thyme
  • Cook steaks:
    Halve steaks crosswise, then pat dry and sprinkle all over with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper (total).

    Heat a 12-inch heavy ovenproof skillet (not nonstick) over medium heat until hot, then add oil, swirling skillet to coat bottom, and cook steaks 5 minutes per side for medium-rare.

    Transfer steaks to a platter and let stand, loosely covered with foil, 5 minutes.

    Make béarnaise while steaks stand:
    Boil wine, vinegar, shallots, and 1 tablespoon tarragon in a small heavy saucepan until liquid is reduced to 2 tablespoons, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve set into a medium metal bowl, pressing on and then discarding solids.

    Whisk yolks into vinegar mixture, then set bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and cook, whisking constantly, until yolks have thickened slightly (do not scramble).

    Whisk in butter 1 piece at a time, adding each piece before previous one has melted completely. Remove from heat and whisk in lemon juice, remaining tablespoon tarragon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper (or to taste). Serve steaks with sauce.

  • Shoe String Potatoes

  • About 6 cups vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 russet (baking) potatoes (1 1/2 pounds total)
  • Equipment: a deep-fat thermometer; an adjustable-blade slicer fitted with 1/8-inch julienne blade


Heat 2 inches oil to 375°F in a wide 5- to 7-quart heavy pot (at least 4 inches deep) over medium heat.

Meanwhile, peel potatoes and cut lengthwise with slicer to make 1/8-inch-thick julienne strips.

Fry potatoes in 5 or 6 small batches, stirring, until golden brown, about 2 minutes per batch. (Return oil to 375°F between batches.) Drain potatoes on paper towels and season with salt.

This turned out great!! Jason cooked it more than i did actually. I picked it out, handed him spices, and separated the egg yolks... :) I added the bay leaf and thyme to the original recipe according to reviewers. This came from Epicurious :http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Pan-Seared-Rib-Eye-Steak-with-Bearnaise-em-Entrecote-Bearnaise-em-241756

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Rhubarb Cupcakes

Hugo sits patiently for possible treats to fall his way, keeping up the conversation while he waits.

I now know not to post a recipe before actually making it, because i never made the Brown Sugar Cookies.(I will try this weekend) Instead, I saw frozen rhubarb in my freezer and decided to try making Rhubarb Cupcakes.

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup diced rhubarb
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350. Line or grease and flour 6 wells in a cupcake pan. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla, mix thoroughly. Add flour, baking powder and salt to the butter mixture. Add the milk to the rest of the batter and beat until well combined. Fold in the rhubarb. Fill each well 2/3 of the way full. Bake 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted the center of a cupcake comes out clean or with just one or two dry crumbs. Cool briefly in the pan, then remove cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely before icing with frosting .

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 egg whites
1 stalk rhubarb, chopped* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt

Beat the egg whites and salt to soft peaks using an electric mixer. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring sugar, rhubarb and water to a boil, stirring occasionally. Continue to boil until it reaches soft ball stage (when a drop of the syrup forms a soft ball when dropped in cool water)while continuing to stir occasionally. Strain and discard the rhubarb. Keep the mixer running (you need a stand mixer or a friend to complete this next step) while you pour a continues stream of the molten syrup into the egg whites. Continue to beat for about 5 minutes, adding vanilla after about two minutes, or until the frosting is fluffy, glossy and cool. Frost cooled cupcakes or cake.

I found this recipe at:http://coconutlime.blogspot.com/2008/02/baby-loves-rhubarb-cupcakes.html

My frosting was a big FAIL, and I ended up adding cream cheese and the strained-out rhubarb to salvage it, but still tasted good!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Coconut Custard Tart Pie

I'm not even sure if this bakery is still around, but I can still taste the Coconut Tarts from the bakery in Frederiksted that we used to buy on our way to or from Pony Club. If I had gotten married on St.Croix, I always imagined buying a hundred of those rather than a cake. So, here I am attempting to satisfy my nostalgic palette. Plus, I adore anything with coconut. This recipe is much more custardy, but still passed the Jason test. He liked it better than my more flaky attempt a few months ago.
If anyone has a good recipe for REAL Crucian Coconut Tarts, please let me know!!!

This original recipe is from "Paula Dean", on the Food Network. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/french-coconut-pie-recipe/index.html

However, I always take the Review suggestions seriously when making recipes, so I adjusted the recipe according to some suggestions, and my own cravings. (Like i added half coconut milk instead of all regular milk) I think it turned out fabulous looking!! Very fluffy. It's still cooling off.


• 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
• 2 teaspoons of nutmeg
• 3 eggs, beaten
• 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
• 1 1/2 cups milk (I used half coconut milk, half regular milk)
• 1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine melted butter, nutmeg, eggs, flour, sugar, coconut, and milk. Mix. Pour into pie shell. Bake until firm, about 45 to 60 minutes.

Sweet Plantain Lentil Soup, With Love.

As everyone saw yesterday, I had some very ripe Plantain sitting around my kitchen. It was a rainy, cold afternoon, and I knew Jason, after a long day at class, and a chilly commute, would appreciate something warm in his tummy when he finally got home. A few months ago, my mother raved about Plantain soup she'd had at a Cuban restaurant in Miami, so that has lingered in my head as something I wanted to cook at some point.

After about an hour of hunting through various online recipes, ALL of which I was missing only 1 ingredient for (grrrr), I settled on a recipe from the blog, Glass Petal Smoke. What intrigued me was that the recipe was from a famous restaurant and the author had slowly squeezed the recipe out of the chef after many years of needling. You can find the original recipe and story behind it here: http://glasspetalsmoke.blogspot.com/2008/02/sweet-plantain-and-lentil-soup.html
I, however, am not a famous chef, and my kitchen ingredients are sparse, so i had to make the recipe my own way. What I excluded was TVP(a protein powder), Epazote(a spice i've never heard of), and Coriander Seed (which i have mentally noted to buy next time i'm at the Supermarket because it sounds like something I should have in my spice collection. ) I also didnt have chicken stock, so substituted chicken broth (I have never understood the difference anyway). AND, finally, I added a tablespoon of Lime juice to my bowl for seasoning afterwards, and that really was the flavor clincher. I REALLY liked this recipe, and WILL make it again. And, of course it passed with the husband, who was thrilled to have hot food waiting for him when he got home. Mission accomplished.

Following is how I made this recipe, but the oroginal recipe is attached to the above link if you have access to those special ingredients.

· 16 ounce bag of green lentils, rinsed
· 3 sweet yellow plantain (sliced into discs)
· 2 large carrots (diced)
· 2 large stalks of celery (diced)
· ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
· 1 medium Spanish onion (chopped)
· 1 tablespoon olive oil
· 4 cups of water
· 2 cans chicken broth
· 2 teaspoons ground cumin
· ½ teaspoon oregano
· · plain nonfat yogurt for garnish
Lime juice

· Heat olive oil on a low flame. Add onions and celery and sauté until onions are clear.
· Add all dry spices. Mix thoroughly, coating celery and onions with the spices.
· Slowly pour chicken broth and water into the pot. Add carrots and sweet plantain, gently mixing all of the ingredients together. Cover the pot and heat on a low to medium flame. Allow contents to simmer until they reach a gentle boil.
· When the soup begins to boil add lentils, reducing heat to a low setting and covering once again.
· Stir soup every half hour until 1hour has passed.
· When finished, serve with a dollop of sour cream and fresh cilantro. Add a tablespoon of lime juice to individual bowls.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Frying Plantain

After posting the Stewed Chicken Recipe, I had a comment requesting details on how to cook plantain. So, following are directions on how-to-fry-plantain because no one should go another day without adding this to their bellies!

Here's what I do. I buy the almost -blackest plantain in the supermarket. There should be some yellow on them. In fact, i have some home right now. I will take a photo to show you that i'm not kidding. Yes, they look nasty...but that means they are ripe! If they are overly squishy or have mold on them, they might be too ripe. Use your judgement. Usually black and semi firm works.

Anyhow, then i cut the ends off, and get the skin off. Chop, chop, chop, into fry-able slices, about 1/2 inch thick. You can either cut the plantain length wise, making long slices....or cut small rounds like a banana. It really doesn't matter. I sort of do a little of both.

Pour a lot of oil into a frying pan...i usually fill it 1/2 inch deep with oil. Get the oil sizzling, and add your plantain. If the oil starts jumping out at you, turn down the heat a little. No one likes getting splattered with hot oil. Brown them on either side (usually a minute or 2), and then add to a plate with paper towels to soak up the oil. Voila! Plantains ready.

Summer Lasagna with Fresh Mozzarella, Sausage, and Basil

Hey! I made Lasagna for the first time last night! I found the recipe from the cookbook I bought for $.01 on Amazon last year The Ultimate Cookbook 900 new recipes, by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough. It was what Chicagoans call WARM here yesterday...a balmy 60 degrees (cough cough!! Where's my 80 degree weather???). So, I had a little of the warm-bug and wanted to make something fresh and delish.

First off, after re-typing this recipe, I realized I was supposed to only add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. I added the whole can, and it turned out great. I've never been known for accurately following directions. Oh well. Adding to following directions, I dont own a 13 x inch pan. I own something smaller, so just stuff it in, is what i say.

It should be known that I have to ride a bus (sometimes very crowded) for about 20-30 minutes (depending on the air) to the supermarket with my enormous, environmentally-fabulous, shopping bags. And then, of course, back again. So the 16-18 tomatoes wasn't going to work out for me. Can you imagine seeing me cart around 4 pounds of tomatoes on the bus? No. So, I cheated, and it worked out nicely. I added 3 real tomatoes and a can of diced tomatoes. Maybe that's why my tomato paste flop didn't ruin anything.

I also realized I was supposed to cook the sausage before cutting them into rounds. That would've been a lot easier than what I did, which was cut the sausage first. Again, me and reading directions. My 1st grade teacher was a psychic, pointing this out at such an early age.

Jason (the husband) didn't talk for the first 10 or so bites, when he realized i was staring at him for his consensus(since, if he doesn't like it, why bother making it again). "Oh, YES. I LOVE it!" So, it passed the ultimate approval. :)

You all know what lasagna looks like, so instead, I posted a photo of lovely, fresh, Basil. You can almost smell it!

Tomato Sauce:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium onions chopped
6 garlic cloves
4 pounds Roma or plum tomatos (16 to 18 tomatoes) roughly chopped (Instead, I used 3 tomatoes and a can of diced tomatoes)
2 tablespoons chopped oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of tomato paste (Instead, I used the entire can)

For the Casserole:
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 lb of italian Pork, chicken, or turkey sausage
12 to 15 lasagna noodles
24 basil leaves, cut into thin strips
1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat 350 degrees F.
2. To make the tomato sauce, heat large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, add onions and cook until softened, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the garlic and cook about 20 seconds.
3. Add tomatoes, oregano, sugar, salt, pepper. bring sauce to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until tomatoes break down and sauce thickens, 30-40 minutes. Stir in tomato paste.
4. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then add sausage. Cook until brown. Cut into rings after cooked.
5. Cook noodles according to box.
6. To build a casserole, follow this method. Preferably use a 13x9 inch pan. 1 cup of tomato sauce across pans bottom; 5 sheets pasta; 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce; half the sausage; half the basil leaves, half the mozzarella; 5 more sheets of pasta; 1 1/2 cups of tomato sauce; remaining sausage; remaining basil; remaining cheese; remaining noodles; remaining sauce.
7. Cover pan with parchment paper, then with aluminum foil. Bake for 35 minutes, then uncover the pan and continue baking for 15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, March 6, 2009

My afternoon at the Field and Shedd

Seeing that i'm unemployed, my day usually consists of job hunting, facebook updating, painting (some days) and planning dinner. That is IF I don't get called in to substitute at a school. Only being at home or at the supermarket gets kind of old, so today I changed things up a bit and went to The Field Museum and The Shedd Aquarium. I REALLY wanted to go to The Oriental Institute(I've never been!)..but having no car means 2 buses and a train....and that felt like too much effort today, by myself.
At the Field I saw the new Aztec exhibit. I have to say I'm usually disappointed in the Field exhibits...they try to cover so much information, in a summarized version....and Im always left wanting more. There were, however, a few really cool objects on display. There were these flint knives that had teeth on them, used in sacrifices. I love knives with teeth... seems so viscious in an animated kind of way, like little paranhas nipping at you or something! There was also a skull with a big flint knife as a nose...im sure also used in a violent manner. They didnt let me take pictures, but I pulled some images off the web to showcase my Aztec field trip. The Eagle Man was taller than me...look at the talons on his knees! Very cool.

The Shedd was a refreshing end. Sea turtles, glowing sea horses, and this reptile guy who deserves some credit for his amazing colors. I really love the photo I got of him! He kept making eye contact. :)

Waldorf Salad Tuna Pasta

When I was employed, what to bring for lunch was a big deal! I've never been a fan of sandwiches, and luckily had a creative mother who would pack interesting food for lunch when i was younger. (meaning NOT sandwiches) But now it is on me to do this. AND, now i have a picky lunch eater husband who I pack lunches for. So, I created a variation on Waldorf Salad. Like I said in the previous post, i am usually weirded out by chicken, so i added tuna instead of the usual chicken waldorf salad. I also find lettuce to be highly unsatisfying, so I add pasta instead. I made it today for lunch.


  • 1/2 cup chopped, slightly toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup red seedless grapes, sliced (or a 1/4 cup of raisins)
  • 1 sweet apple, cored and chopped
  • 3 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Small pasta noodles
  • 1 can of tuna


In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise (or yogurt) and the lemon juice. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. Mix in the apple, celery, grapes, and walnuts. When pasta is cooled, mix everything together.

Serves 2.

Original recipe came from www.elise.com

Trini Stewed Chicken

Malanga boiling
Plantain and stewed chicken

Because I am so far away from St.Croix, I try to make as many dishes from the Caribbean as possible. If Jason let me make plantain for dinner every night I would! Last night I made Trinidadian Stewed Chicken. After perusing various stewed chicken recipes online I settled on a recipe I found on allrecipes.com.
I also made fried plantain(yay! My favorite..) and decided to try cooking Malanga for the first time. Malanga is a root, much like Taro. It's kind of intimidating looking raw. But i was inspired to do an easy boil, add salt and butter- recipe. I chopped it up into small cubes after getting rid of the rough exterior, then i boiled it for maybe 15 minutes. I drained it and added salt and butter. Final conclusion, egh....not so special. It was very similar to potato, only it was kind of purple which is fun. Probably won't bother making it again.
SO, back to the stewed chicken। It turned out great! Chicken is a meat that i rarely cook. It can taste so gross much of the time. I only eat it if it is saturated with flavor.


  • 1 (4 pound) whole chicken, cut into pieces (For 2 people i used only 2 chicken breasts)
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup canned coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  1. Place chicken on a plate. Sprinkle the green onion, cilantro, garlic, onion, salt and pepper over it. Cover, and marinate for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a deep pot over medium heat. Stir in the sugar, and cook until the sugar has melted into a nice golden brown syrup. Add the chicken pieces, and brown quickly while turning continuously. Cover the pot, and let it cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Pour in 1 cup of water, coconut milk and pepper flakes. Replace the lid, and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the ketchup and butter. Continue cooking until chicken is fork tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve chicken with the sauce in the pot as a gravy. Pour over rice.