Kitchen Fail: Adorable Food

diy-mini-caramel-apples(photo from athomeinlove.com)

These mini-caramel apples have been making the rounds on facebook, pintrest, cooking blogs and various other parts of the internet. They don’t seem all that hard, really.  And yet….  I could not make them work.  No matter what I did.

I started out easy- scooped out the mini apples from a whole apple using a melon baller. photo 1 photo 2I melted the caramel and got my toppings ready.

photo 4I speared an apple with a toothpick and got to dipping.

photo 2But then this happened.

photo 4Back to the blog posts.  I tried freezing the apples first.  I tried drying the apples first.  I tried hotter caramel. I  tried cooler caramel.  I tried dipping in caramel and then sprinkles.  No good.

photo 3I have been bested by mini caramel apples.  Never fear.  I will conquer this.  Someday.  Maybe.  To help me, feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments.

A Sticky Situation

I love carbs.  I know that nutritionally speaking they are not the go-to snack, particularly for those of us that need to watch our weight gain.  Nonetheless, I love carbs.  Potatoes, rice, pasta, cookies, cakes, bread….  I love carbs.

I have tried to love quinoa but so far we’re only in a “like-like” situation.  It’s not true love.  My true love is rice.  White rice.  I’ll tolerate brown but when I eat it, I feel like I’m being good.  White rice is my hide-in-the-closet, don’t-tell-anyone carb.  White rice with butter, catsup, salt and pepper.  White rice with soy sauce.  White rice with hoisin sauce.  I just love white rice.

So it’s funny that I have had this bag of japanese sweet rice in my pantry for…..years.

I was intrigued by the idea of sweet rice but each time I read the package directions I was daunted.  It involves a good rinse, followed by a 12 hour soak and then some fancy steaming.  This is not rice of the throw it in the rice cooker and wait 20 minutes variety.

This week I decided it was time to try.  I read up on rice to try and figure out what was really needed.  I found lots of different answers and finally decided to just go with the instructions on the package.

The night before I wanted it, I rinsed the rice well in a colander.  I swished it around with my fingers and tried to get the water to run clear.

Once that was done, I dumped it into a bowl and covered it with cold water.  It sat overnight.  Then the complicated process began.

I lined a steamer pot with cheesecloth.  I admit it, I was lazy and didn’t line it as well as I should have.  I set this pot over another pot with boiling water.  The rice was dumped in and spread out as much as possible.

The lid went on and the timer was set for 25 minutes.

I checked it after 25 minutes and added some salt, per the package instructions.  I reset the timer for another 25 minutes and added more boiling water under the steamer pot.  I must confess that I totally did not account for the long cooking time.  At this point, the rest of dinner was ready so I went ahead and served it since the toddler and baby were screaming.  I was hungry too.  I will also cop to having trouble with the cheesecloth lining since I didn’t put it in correctly the first time- the rice was sort of half on it and half on the steamer pot itself.

After another 25 minutes, I was left with….  rice.  Very sticky rice, but simply rice.

I think I’ll try it again at some point. It was good but the sweetness was too subtle for me to notice.  What was different was the texture.  It was sticky and starchy and just the way I like rice.  I was even a nice wife and made a plate for my husband who wasn’t home for dinner.  I may have eaten more rice than was strictly necessary but it was pretty good.  And have I mentioned how much I love rice?

Kitchen Fail: Father’s Day Edition

You guys, I know.  I KNOW, ok?  I’m not posting, I promise I will and don’t. Then I come back, ask for forgiveness and promise to post more often and then I don’t.  I offer you teasers about what I’m cooking, promising to tell you more about it “soon” and then I’m gone for weeks at a time.  I’m like the ultimate Bad Boyfriend.

Please don’t quit me yet.

I offer you today a kitchen fail.  I have no real fix for it, just wanted to tell you about something that didn’t work in my kitchen.  But I offer it to you with a promise:  tomorrow I will post a delicious, healthy, awesome for summer salad.  No lie, I made it for dinner on Tuesday and then had it for lunch on Wednesday.  I will have it for you, with photos tomorrow.

I promise.

Meanwhile, I had this great meal planned for my husband for father’s day.  His favorite foods- steak, roasted potatoes, green beans.  All pretty simple and easy to make- nothing new, sort of his favorite dinner standard.  What could go wrong, right?

Well, it started with the lack of soy sauce.  I couldn’t do my usual marinade.  Then, I was distracted by the toddler while making a different marinade and it ended up far too salty.  Then I overcooked the steak.  And forgot to add garlic to the potatoes.  Sigh.  At least the green beans were good.

Lest the husband think I was passive-aggressively cooking, I made a good dessert.  Granted, a great deal of it was purchased but whatever.  I got points.

Pound cake with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream.  No fail.  Really.

Sigh.  You can’t win them all, huh?

 

Kitchen Fail: Overall Fail

I know, I know, in my last post I promised to share so many things with you.  A birthday dinner, family stories and meatballs.  I was so ready!  I had a few stories from family members saved up, I had photos of my meatballs and other food and I had a whole birthday dinner planned.  But then….  disaster struck.

I’m currently cursed.

All of my food has been failing as of late.  My meatballs?  So pretty.  See:

They look good…

But they were a bit overdone and so less moist and more crunchy.  Which is not how I like my meatballs.

Then I made a bacon pasta dish that was just…so-so.

I tried to make cookies with baby oatmeal so as to add extra iron (we’re still working on the toddler’s anemia) but they were kind of odd.

The birthday dinner was pretty good but I forgot to take photos.  And then my dishwasher broke and any motivation to cook went right out the window.  So we’ve been cobbling together food from take-out, pasta and various other sources.  Last night we had BLT’s.  Tonight we’ll have Chana Masala but even this wasn’t without failure- I started it last night and got involved feeding the baby.  So I asked my husband to turn off the heat under the onions.  He turned the heat UP and everything got a bit more charred than I like.  Sigh.  I’m hoping this curse ends soon because, really, if I can’t cook, I’m not me!

At least my kiddos still make me smile.

As does this video which I’m sure you’ve seen.  I’ll leave you with it even though it has nothing to do with food.  I’m hoping to return to you in the coming weeks with stories of kitchen success.  Cross your fingers for me!

 

Pioneering

Well, hello there again!  Come on in, grab a seat.  Just move that basket of laundry aside (It’s clean, I promise), and, oh, wait, don’t sit on the crayons, let me move those.  Would you like something to drink?  I have….. milk, water and juice.  Hmm.  Apparently we have no wine or beer.  Anyway, would you like a snack?  I have, um, pretzels, snap-pea crisps and, um, baby yogurt.  Hmmm.  Apparently we don’t have much food.  Well, let’s chat about life.  What’s been going on with me?  Um….  actually, nothing.  Considering how much “free” time I have, it’s surprising how little I get done.  Mostly I spend time with my two kids- one is at daycare most days- and do laundry.  Lots of laundry.  Loads of laundry, if you will.

Sometimes I do watch television, though.  Mostly Food TV, Big Bang Theory re-runs on TBS and, sadly, various shows on Bravo (Millionaire Matchmaker and Tabatha Takes Over have sucked me in, hardcore.).  I recently got to watch an episode of The Pioneer Woman.  Now, I’ve been reading the blog for years and I love her recipes, her photographs and her story of falling in love with her husband (she was a city girl who fell in love with a cowboy and who moved to the middle of nowhere to live with him on a ranch.  She has four children and her life is magical- at least the public face of it.  Anytime I’m fed-up with my life, I click on her blog and daydream about moving somewhere isolated where I can simply spend time with my children and cook.  Then I return to reality.).  But I didn’t love her show.  She comes across differently in her writing than she does on television. Which is not a criticism, exactly, since who knows what it’s like to be on television?  I’d probably come across really differently too.

Anyway, I ended up making two recipes from that show and, who’s surprised, not only am I not the next iron chef, I am also not the pioneer woman.  The soup came out well- I’ll link to both her recipe and give you my take on it below- but the pots de creme did not work for me.  I followed her recipe exactly but for whatever reason, it didn’t set.  This is one of my continual kitchen issues.  Puddings just don’t set for me.  I did manage to fix it by cooking it in a water bath for a few minutes.  It ended up a bit like creme brulee- the top got a bit harder (read: slightly burnt) but the inside was silky smooth.

I may not be the pioneer woman, but I can pretend, right?

The Pioneer Woman’s Corn Chowder & Pots De Creme

Failure first:

The link to her Pot De Creme here.

I followed it exactly but used vanilla rather than grand marnier.  I don’t actually like chocolate and orange together.  As I said, they didn’t set but I fixed that with a bit of a bake in the oven.

Whipped cream will cover a multitude of sins.

Notice the “creme brulee” top.

Link to The Pioneer Woman’s Corn and Cheese Chowder here.

I actually followed her recipe pretty closely but I will admit, I did not measure anything.

I chopped the veggies.

Meanwhile, I cooked the onions in butter. I let mine get a bit darker than recommended.

I chopped the bacon (it’s easier to chop if it’s frozen and I tend to keep bacon in the freezer so that I always have some on hand- everything is better with bacon.) and added it to the onions.

Once the bacon and onions have cooked, add the chopped veggies.

Let those cook a bit as well.  Then add the corn.  I used frozen, the Pioneer Woman used fresh.

Sprinkle the flour over the veggies.

Stir and let the flour cook for a minute or two.  Then add the broth.

As it cooks, it will get thicker and creamy.  Add the milk or half and half or cream or whatever.

After that simmers for about fifteen minutes, add the cheese and let it all melt.

Mmmm.  So good.  The husband loved it (it has bacon) and he’s not generally a soup guy.

I may not be the Pioneer Woman but at least I can pretend sometimes.

First Kitchen Fail of the Year

Hey There.

No baby yet.

Which is ok.  I’ve been saying I need to get to tonight (I had a big week of meetings and other work obligations, wanted to be able to teach yesterday and to go to the theater with my mother- we saw American Idiot, about which I have many opinions but the basic one is, fantastic production!- and to be able to get some work done today, along with domestic things (laundry! food shopping!  cooking!)) as well as go to the theater again- this time, God of Carnage– and have dinner with my mother for her birthday).  If I can get to tonight, I’d also like to get some time in the upcoming week to get even more work done but, hey, I’ll consider it bonus time.

Of course, I’m due on Super Bowl Sunday- does this mean we have to name him after Tom Brady?

No, of course it doesn’t.  We have actually picked a name but we’re keeping pretty quiet about it until he’s here, just in case we change our minds.

At any rate, I thought I’d finally bring you a new post.  It was my first Kitchen Fail of 2012.  I actually made this on the 2nd of January, just to be sure to get it in early.  I was looking for something light and healthy, quick and easy, but not boring.

It passed on the first four but not the last one.  It was kind of bland.  I spiced it up a bit with some soy sauce but I’m not sure what it really needed.  Maybe some green onion (which I didn’t have so, to be fair, it may have been better if made correctly!).  I’m also not sure where I first read about this but I just googled it and came up with a dozen different sites with it so, you can always do that as well.

Chinese Egg and Tomato

I made the larger size since the husband adores eggs.  You can adjust for portion size- I’d say 2 eggs to 1 tomato ratio for each person.  Also, not a visually appealing dish, as far as I can tell (based on my search).  So maybe good quick-comfort-food but not dinner-for-the-queen-food.

Ingredients

2-4 eggs

1-2 tomatoes

pinch of salt

pinch of sugar

1/2 onion, minced or several scallions, chopped

Oil (I used sesame but I think peanut might have added a nice flavor)

Directions:

In a bowl, crack the eggs and beat them with the salt until they’re well combined.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the eggs and let them set.

Don’t let them cook all the way through and really, don’t let them brown.  Like I did.  Set them aside.

Meanwhile, chop your tomatoes into quarters.

Chop your onion as well.

In the same pan you used for the eggs, over medium high heat, add a bit more oil (if needed) and the onions.  Let them get soft and then add the tomatoes.

Cook for 2-4 minutes, letting the tomatoes release their juice and get a little bit brown and soft.  Sprinkle with a little bit of sugar, just to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes.

Add the eggs back in and mix around so that they cook throughly.

I served mine over rice and with a bit of soy sauce (I am in the camp that soy sauce makes everything better).  As I said, not visually appealing and not that exciting but it was quick, easy, filling and healthy.  Who knew they used tomatoes in China?  Not me- I always associate tomatoes with Mediterranean cuisine.

If you try it, let me know if you jazz it up and how- I have the feeling that this could be a spectacular dish with the right additions.

I’ll see you after I have a baby- I’m pretty sure I won’t have time to post until then.  Happy eating!

 

Christmas Eve 2011

What’s your Christmas Eve tradition?  Until a few years ago, mine was to have dinner with a dear friend and her family.  It started when I was in the 7th grade and continued, almost unbroken, until maybe two or three years ago.  The dinner kept expanding and incorporating new people (girlfriends, boyfriends, adopted siblings, parents) and eventually it was several tables long and, I imagine, quite the event to prepare. It was a true Italian feast- homemade pasta and sauce (tomato and pesto), shrimp and scallops and wonderful desserts. It was a lovely tradition while it lasted and I will always remember it fondly.

Without her house to go to, I was sort of lost on Christmas Eve.  I honestly can’t remember what we’ve done for the last few years.  This year I decided perhaps we needed to start a new tradition- dinner together.  Now, during the workweek, we sometimes have dinner together.  By which I mean, we try, but as my husband went back to school a few years ago his schedule is, um…. different.  On the nights he doesn’t have class or isn’t working, we all sit together for dinner.  There are plenty of nights where this doesn’t happen but we try.

For Christmas Eve, we decided that I’d feed the toddler at her regular time (which is when we usually eat, one step removed from the early bird special time!) and then after she went to bed, he and I would sit down for a somewhat elegant meal without her.  Which may be the first time we’ve done that.  Ever.

What to make?  Mac and Cheese, of course, though not the cr$%^p from the box that he favors.  And not the baked kind, which he does not love.  Instead, I made this Alton Brown version which is quite similar (though far less chemical-tasting) to this from the box.  I also made potatoes with cheese which were supposed to be all fancy-like but ended up flat and frisbee-like.  More on that in a minute.  For the main dish, I made beef wellington which is something we had at our wedding and which, four years later, my husband still talks about while getting all misty-eyed.

Ok, so the potatoes first- get the semi-failure out of the way first, right?  I made mashed potatoes and added a little bit of flour and egg to stiffen them up (I would have used potato starch but I didn’t have any).  I also added a fair amount of cheddar cheese (shredded).  Then I dumped it into a ziplock with the tip cut off and a pastry tip inserted.

Sad, deflated "pastry" bag

I piped it out onto parchment and threw it into the oven.

I'm aware that they look like piles of doo-doo. This was my first clue that something was amiss.

I was going for something like this.  My mistake, I think, was too loose a mixture and not broiling right away- I wasn’t paying attention and put them in on bake, which allowed them to do this.

Now, they were tasty- sort of a crunchy, cheesy crust and a smooth creamy interior.  But they were not pretty.  Oh well.  Experimental cooking at its best, I suppose.

On to the beef wellington.  A word about my version- it’s an amalgamation of a bunch of different recipes.  It never comes out the same way twice.  And I definitely can end up with some soggy bottom dough (which happened this time- it was not my best cooking day).  If you are looking for the perfect beef wellington, I suggest going to cooks illustrated as they have quite an extensive recipe with many steps and directions and I have no doubt that theirs comes out perfectly.  If you want something a bit more user-friendly and you don’t mind slightly soggy bottom dough, go with mine.

Beef Wellington

3 lbs beef tenderloin (full confession, I can almost never find this and tend to just use good steak)

1 package puff pastry, defrosted (I use Dufour brand and it’s great)

8-10 cremini mushrooms, washed, stemmed and quartered (fascinating bit on mushrooms here)

olive oil, butter

salt, pepper

Splash of sherry or marsala wine (optional)

1 egg, splash of water

Directions:

Season your beef with salt and pepper.

No tenderloin this time, I used I think boneless ribeye. Maybe? I can't remember.

Heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet over medium to high heat.  When hot, add the beef and sear it on all sides. You do not want it to cook through.

Set it aside to rest and cool.  CI will have you wrap it in plastic wrap and chill it for four  to twenty four hours (this is after you already let the tenderloin sit over a rack/pan in the fridge for something like 24-48 hours.  Too many steps for me!).  I simply wrapped it in plastic wrap and let it chill it the fridge while I did other stuff- about an hour or so.

Don’t wipe out your pan, just take it off the heat and set  aside while you prep your mushrooms.

Wash and remove the stems.  Cut any large ones into quarters.  Add them to your food processor and process until very fine.

In the skillet that has the oil and leftover beef bits, add about a pat of butter and heat over medium heat.

Once the butter is melted, add the finely chopped mushrooms.

Let them cook over medium heat until all the liquid is released.  They may start to stick to the bottom of the pan and when they do, I add a splash of sherry or marsala wine to help degalze the pan and add some extra flavor.  I add a pinch of salt and pepper as well. Again, cook until all the liquid has evaporated.

Set them aside to cool.  Pull out your puff pastry and lightly flour the surface you’ll use to roll it out.  Place the sheet on the floured area and lightly flour the top.

Roll it out, gently, until it is large enough to cover your meat (heh-heh, that sounded dirty.  Yes, I’m a 12 year old boy.).  Keep moving it around so that it doesn’t stick.  I lift mine and flip it every few rolls.  Since I had two steaks, I cut mine in half and rolled each half to size.  You’ll need to put it in the fridge after rolling to let it firm up again.  I did this by using the packing it came in to help fold it back up without it sticking.

Let it chill for a bit- this is when I made the potatoes and when I took a few photos of the toddler amusing herself with my baking things.

Ok, now that everything has chilled, set up your assembly line.  You’ll need your mushrooms, some egg wash (1 egg lightly whisked with a bit of water), a pastry brush, a sheet pan with parchment on it, your beef and your pastry dough.

part of my assembly line- not shown, the parchment pan

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees.  Lay out your dough on the sheet pan.  Spread the mushrooms on one side (I used half for each steak). You may need to use your fingers. Make sure to leave some space around the edges.

Place your steak on top of the mushrooms.

Brush the egg wash around the edges.

Fold the other half of the pastry dough over and seal the edges.  I’m sure you could do this in an extremely pretty way but I didn’t.

Brush with egg wash.

Repeat with the other steak/dough if you have two.  Put them in the fridge for a bit to let the pastry firm up again.

Bake in the oven until the internal temperature of the beef reaches 113-155 for rare (15 minutes), 120 for medium-rare (20 minutes).  Take them out and let them sit for 10 minutes (to allow the juices in the beef to re-distribute) before slicing. 

Slice and serve.  Yum.

Obviously, the thicker cut of meat you use, the higher your wellington will be.  This worked just fine for us but again, the bottom was a bit soggy.  Traditional recipes also use pate and have an accompanying sauce, usually some sort of red wine-based.  Some recipes use pate and mushrooms on all sides.  For us, this was relatively quick, easy and somewhat outside our usual fare.  It may be the start of a Christmas Eve tradition!

Summer Winter Pasta

While teaching my class today we wandered a bit off track and wound up taking about food and the psychology behind it.  It’s something that interests me on so many levels.  Food is something that, for many people, connects them to their families, their cultures and their heritage.  Food can be a comfort, it can bring back memories of a loved one and it can help to soothe and organize us (don’t believe me?  If you’re feeling anxious about something, eat some raw carrots or chew gum.  The chewing helps to release chemicals that calm and organize your brain.).  Some foods can elevate our moods (chocolate is one) and some can help us change our moods (drinking warm milk to help induce feeling sleepy and calm.).  The psychology and physiology behind all of it is just fascinating.  I’m sure there are several dissertation and book topics in there.  You know, in my spare time.

For me, one memory that is intrinsically linked to food (and I have many) is Christmas Eve and Basil Pesto.  For a zillion years, I have spent Christmas Eve with my best friend from second grade and her large, loving, loud Italian family.  They serve the same dishes every year:  baked shrimp, shrimp cocktail, homemade fresh pasta, basil pesto and tomato sauce.  Sometimes there’s salad or a few other contenders and there are always several varieties of Italian cookies (including the ones with pine nuts, mmmm), cakes and other sweets.  The guest list shifts, expanding and contracting but the tables always reach out of the dining room and into the hallway.  The dinner goes on for hours and is accompanied by laughter and loud voices.  Lots of teasing- the people who attend are generally related to one another or have known each other so long that it feels like they’re related- and joking and by the end of the night, my mouth aches from my smile and my stomach is stretched to its limit.

It’s funny because most people I know associate pesto with summer.  Basil is in abundant supply in the summer and it goes well with so many “summer” meals- sandwiches, over fish, as a spread or dip and, of course, with pasta.  Until I started Christmas with my friend’s family, I wasn’t really aware that you could make pesto.  But make it you can, and pretty easily too.  Since my wonderful friend K. gave me my own personal herb garden for my birthday and included a great deal of basil in it, a few days ago I decided to make my very own Summer Winter Pasta.  It was delicious and after I ate, I called my friend to have a quick catch up.  It didn’t feel right to be eating pesto without her.

Summer Winter Pasta

1/2  box dried pasta (I’m too lazy to make my own) or fresh (which will cook much more quickly, so adjust for that)

2 cups slightly packed basil leaves (i.e. lots of basil)

2 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

2/3 cup olive oil

salt, pepper to taste

1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

Put a big pot of water on to boil.  Add salt.  Remember this is your only chance to season the pasta so put lots of salt in there.

Toast your pine nuts.  Be careful, as they will cross the line from toasted to burned very quickly.  You can toast them in a dry pan over medium heat or you can put them on a cookie sheet in the oven at about 350.  Again, watch them closely.  And lest you think I never make kitchen mistakes, here’s my first batch (which I did not watch closely):

One side too burned, the other side too raw.  So I chucked them and started over.

Once your pine nuts are nicely toasted, throw them into the food processor, along with the garlic and basil.  Whir it around until it’s all nicely minced.


Add some olive oil while the processor is going.  You  may not want the whole 2/3 of a cup.  I leave that to you.  It will make a bit of a paste.  Scrape down the sides and then add the cheese and whir again to combine.

I will admit two things about the cheese.  I grind it in the food processor rather than grating by hand.  I’m lazy like that.  I also tend to use more than the 1/2 cup.  What can I say?  I love cheese.  Scrape down the sides and whir one more time to ensure that it’s all combined. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.

My pesto tends to be on the thick side which I prefer.  I thin it out with some of the pasta water.  You do know about the magic of pasta water, don’t you?  Speaking of which, if your water is now boiling add your pasta.

Scrape the pesto into a bowl and set aside while your pasta cooks.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain (but reserve some of the water!) and return it to the pot.  Add as much pesto as you like and stir to coat the pasta.

The heat from the pasta and the pot will melt the cheese and warm up the pesto in the best way.  If it’s too thick, add some of the reserved pasta water to thin it out- I used about two tablespoons.

I serve mine with an extra sprinkle of cheese (again, I love cheese.  love it.)

As you eat, think of both warm, sunny, summer days and cold, frosty, family-filled winter nights.  Enjoy the contrast.  Consider yourself blessed to be able to have both.

Kitchen Fail, South American Style

As I have mentioned before, my family is made up of both blood and “adopted” relatives.  The family story is that around eight years old, I took a look around and finally asked my mother, “How come all the other families are all the same color?”  She had a chat with me about multiculturalism and that was that.

One family member came along after my parents got divorced.  My mom took in an international student from Venezuela, L.  L. was supposed to stay with us for a month and then move on to….Oklahoma, I think.  L. was from Caracas and was a tall, beautiful, dark-skinned woman.  After a month, she sat down with my mother and said,”I don’t want to move to Oaklahoma!  I’ll be the only black person there!”  My mother and I, thankfully, didn’t want her to go either.

L. lived with us for several years.  She attended Umass Boston, graduated and started working.  At one point, she dated a guy from Nigeria and we had many, many jokes about being on Nigerian time since he was always, always late.  I’m sure, looking back, that because of the neighborhood we were living in at the time and because of my age (elementary school), people must have thought that L. was my nanny.  She really wasn’t- she’d babysit sometimes but it was more like having an aunt living in the house.  She and my mother became quite close and for many years we were a happy little family.

L. eventually went back to Venezuela and mom and I managed to visit one year, when I was 10.  L. comes from a large family and they embraced us with open arms.  It was a great two weeks- between Christmas and New Year’s.  I learned a bunch of new traditions, ate lots of different food and saw all different parts of Venezuela.  Not bad for a 5th grader! Mom cried when we left (which is generally what she does when vacations come to an end) and L. has come back to visit often.  She’s married now and has two children of her own.  She and the children came for my wedding a few years ago so I’m pretty sure it’s our turn to visit there.

When L. lived with us she’d make black bean soup and arepas.  I didn’t like the soup (mom did) but I loved the arepas.  A few weeks ago when I was trying to make pupusas (which didn’t work), I was reminded of L’s arepas.  Pupusas are sort of a stuffed corn pancake/dumpling/flatbread.  When I tried it my dough was too dry and I couldn’t fill it properly.  I tried again a few nights ago but with the arepas in mind.  I will share with you what I was able to do.  So, in honor of L, here’s my kitchen fail/fix, South American Style.

L’s Corn Arepas with Beans and Cheese

Ingredients

Arepas:

1  1/4 cups Masa

1- 2 tablespoons butter, chopped

1/8 cup white flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1  1/2- 2 cups warm water

A few tablespoons of canned corn kernels (rinsed)

1/2 teaspoon salt

For topping:

cheese, corn, refried or regular beans, salsa

Directions:

Mix all dry ingredients together and then add the pieces of butter.

Mix in the butter with your fingers- sort of knead it together.  Add in the corn kernels.

Divide the dough into six different sections.  Roll these into balls and place them on a foil lined baking sheet.

Flatten them with your hands and cover with plastic wrap so they won’t dry out.  Heat a griddle or frying pan and brush with oil (I used canola oil).  Not too much, just enough to help the arepas brown up and not stick.

Cook on each side for about 3-4 minutes, until they’re just golden brown.

With a greased knife (I rubbed some butter on mine), slice them in half horizontally.  The inside will be sticky.  Return them to the grill, sticky side down and let that side get brown.  Once they’re cooked, place them back on the foil lined sheet and keep them warm in the oven while you prepare the toppings.

I topped mine with the leftover corn, refried black beans (a guilty pleasure that the baby loves too) and my new most favorite kind of cheese, Cotija. 

Just be sure to slice the cheese somewhat thin so that it will melt a bit.  It’s sort of like feta but not quite as sharp.

Top your arepas with whatever you like.   Pop them under the broiler to let the cheese melt and to make sure it’s all warmed through.

We all really liked these even though they aren’t true arepas or pupusas.  And they reminded me of L., always a bonus. 

Some Days…

You know, most nights I make a good, healthy, well-balanced dinner.  Especially when I’m in the midst of trying to get the baby-who-is-now-a-toddler to experience a wide range of tastes and textures in the hope that she will not be a picky eater like her father.

Other nights, I have this:Yes, folks, that’s right.  I had a coffee milkshake for dinner.

Now, I can make all kinds of excuses and explanations and discuss the guilt vs. treat decision.  I could talk about disordered eating and bad food choices and weight management and not bingeing and the love-hate relationship I have with all food. I could remind you that the baby wasn’t eating with me as I am working late and she is home with Daddy, have a well-balanced, well-thought out meal. I might mention how poor food planning, meetings back to back to back and spoiled ranch dressing led to this. But I won’t.   Instead I will simply tell you this.

It was good.

I will also give you a sneak peek at two things about which I will be posting soon.  One is a kitchen fail-turned success:

The other, a yummy dessert that was an improvisation on a recipe from a book lent to me by my wonderful friend K, who deserves a post all her own:

Soon, I promise.  Let me get through today and tomorrow (which by the way is my adopted brother T’s birthday and he’ll be coming over for birthday dinner and believe you me, that’s a post and a half!) and then this weekend we’ll have time for a nice long chat, all cozied up with some tea and biscuits.  I promise.  Maybe.

Or perhaps I’ll just be making more milkshakes for dinner.