Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

Wes, Me… and Paula

Monday night is date night for Wes and I.  For most people, date night usually involves leaving the house and, you know, going on a date.   (Most people also do silly, ridiculous things like celebrating Valentines Day and anniversaries.)  But Wes and I are not like most people.  (And all our friends say “Amen!”)  And while relationships are usually based on love and affection and respect and shared values, I think the real basis of our relationship is food.  Wes and I like food.  A lot.  We spend a lot of time eating food.  We spend a lot of time cooking food.  We spend a lot of time talking about cooking and eating food.  And then we go watch Harry Potter, which, incidentally, has a good deal of food in it and must be accompanied by appropriate amounts of candy.

I’ve decided that food is my love language.  I’m trying to pass it off as my spiritual gift, but I suspect God has other intentions for me.  So when one of us (and by one of us, I mean Wes) is fasting, my world gets pretty dark.  We drink cups and cups of tea and stare at each other, and I wrack my brain.  Isn’t there anything else we like doing?  Don’t we have any other friends?  Interests?  Hobbies that don’t include beer and garlic and butter?  And then we usually end up talking about God, and it all works out.  But I’m always relieved when the fast ends and my life can go back to normal and I can once again pretend that I’m a balanced, well-rounded person with a variety of passions and activities.

No one was fasting last Monday, though, and like I said, Wes and I don’t go out on date night.  There are a variety of reasons for this.  Apart from the fact that we’re still college student-poor, we’re also unashamed food snobs.  We cook for ourselves because we’re convinced that what we make at home will be better (often true) and cheaper (meh… sometimes) than what we can buy at a restaurant.  And yes, we’re Southern, but we’re not Paula Deen-Southern.  We still consider ourselves to be health-conscious.  If we cook at home, we can be careful about what goes into our food and avoid unnecessary preservatives and oils and fats.  But apparently, our concept of “healthy cooking” has some holes in it.

Last Monday, Wes and I went on a romantic outing to Publix to buy groceries.  Because we’re “spontaneous” (ie, bad at planning), our usual approach is to just look around until we get inspired.  If you know Wes and I, you know that this approach is… exactly as effective as it sounds.  But eventually, we decided what we wanted to cook.  Wes was inspired by the fresh brussel sprouts in the produce section.  (Fresh vegetables!  We’re so healthy!)  I was inspired by, um, heavy cream.  (Uh… dairy has lots of calcium?)  So we made chicken pesto alfredo and sautéed brussel sprouts.

Admittedly, not the most calorie-conscious meal, but I wasn’t exactly in the mood for healthy and I figured that at least this way I could take full responsibility for the degree to which my arteries were clogged.  Besides, the brussel sprouts were going to be healthy, and I wasn’t planning on eating a softball-sized wad of pasta.  I made the cream sauce with butter, half-and-half, pre-made pesto and some spices, and tossed it with linguine, sliced grilled chicken, and fresh parmesan.  Wes caramelized the brussel sprouts with butter and garlic.  We tasted the cream sauce, tasted the brussel sprouts, talked about how much better they were fresh, and started serving the plates.  Then I decided to clean up a little before we ate.

I had used half a stick of butter in the alfredo sauce and left the other half on the cutting board so Wes could use some of it in the brussel sprouts.  But as I cleaned up, I noticed it was still sitting there – and the other stick of butter was gone.  So I asked Wes about it.

“How much butter did you put in the brussel sprouts?”

“I don’t know.  Like a few tablespoons?  I used the butter on the cutting board.”

I pointed to the counter.  “But it’s still sitting there.”

“Oh,” Wes said.  “Then I guess I used half of the other stick too.”

So yes, our oh-so-healthy vegetables were seasoned with an entire stick of butter.  I think that’s my cue to get out of the South, now.  Apparently Paula Deen’s influence is far greater than we thought.  You think you’re safe, then all of a sudden, you find yourself deep-frying a block of cream cheese and wondering which recipe of cornbread casserole you should serve with your turducken.

Tonight is date night again.  Wes and I are going out for once, and I’m going to do my best to order a meal with lots of leafy green somethings.  Maybe there’s still hope for us.  But if you ever hear me talk about combining a sausage patty with bacon, eggs, and cheese and serving it between two doughnuts, someone please come kidnap me and force-feed me tofu until I come to my senses.  I will not let Paula win…


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Rain, cookies, and diplomacy

We’ve been having relentlessly perfect weather in Florida lately.  Cloudless blue skies, low humidity, 78 degrees.  The kids here don’t have to wear windbreakers and sweatpants under their Halloween costumes, and when I carved a pumpkin last week, outside, my hands didn’t go numb. People are out walking their dogs and riding their bikes.  Everyone’s driving around with the tops down on their cars and gleefully commenting on how cold it’s getting up north.  Instead of fall, Florida usually just gets another spring in between summer and Christmas.  But today, the universe took pity on me.  It’s cold, grey, and rainy.

Especially after living in Colorado, with “300 days of sunshine”, I love rainy days.  Let me clarify:  I do not love rainy days on college campuses in Indiana, which usually involve walking 15 minutes to class in 40 degree weather while wind gusts blow freezing rain in your face.  After living there for four years, I can tell you: rain boots go with everything.  And umbrellas are never made large enough.

But I do love rainy days as long as I don’t actually have to be outside.  They make me want to sit on the couch under a blanket and drink hot cider and eat a cookie and read a book.  Especially in my dad’s sun room with the soft, fluffy white rug and the couch with the feather pillows.  Unfortunately, the blanket/book/cider combo isn’t happening today.  I have quizzes and homework to grade before tomorrow.  I have to write Bible lessons and learn how to make mentos and diet coke explode before Sunday.  And when you’re stressed because you don’t have enough time to relax and de-stress, then taking time to relax and de-stress won’t actually de-stress you.   But the cookies, I can do.

One thing I love about my dad’s house is that I can pretty much count on him to have all the baking supplies I need in his pantry.  That’s because I’m the one that put them there, and I’m the only one that ever uses them.  He might not have any milk or butter or bread, but thanks to me, my dad has brown sugar and shortening on the shelf.  And peanut butter, as it turns out.  So I made peanut butter cookies.

About the shortening: I’m pretty sure that whoever invented it should be tried for crimes against humanity.  What is it, exactly?  How does it help make my baking shorter, and why do I want my baking to be shorter?  What plant/animal does it come from?  The only greasy white mounds of goo I’ve ever seen in nature were definitely not things I wanted to touch, much less put into my body.  It doesn’t even have to be refrigerated.  Who decided it was a good idea to eat this?  And to make things even worse, mine was butter-flavored.  Southerners out there, explain this to me.  And while you’re at it, what’s the deal with lard?

But regardless of the other shortcomings of shortening – wait, really?  Did I really just say that?

Regardless of the other faults of shortening (thank you, thesaurus.com), it does make good cookies.  I don’t want to know why anymore, because these are yummy.

These aren't really gargantuan cookies the way they appear to be. The hershey kisses on the top are actually chocolate chips.


A food photographer, I am not.  And if I wanted to be, I’d probably need to invest in something other than a point-and-shoot digital camera.

all of my assignments would probably end up looking like this anyway.

So the bad news is, I still have papers to grade and diet coke and mentos to explode.  But the good news is, I’ve decided that all of the world’s problems can be fixed with cookies.  I’d be the worst diplomat ever.  Or maybe the best…


[note: this was really written November 4 and published today.  Which doesn’t matter at all, except that it didn’t rain in Florida today and I’m OCD and half of the cookies are already gone.]

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