Like so many other folks I know, I am addicted to magazines and cookbooks. No surprise there, really. Similarly, I’m sure I’m not the only one who rips out pages of magazines with the intention to make a recipe, buy a gift or to make a craft.
And what happens to all of those pages?
I rip out the page of a magazine with the best of inspired intentions. But I rarely do anything with them. And I know I can’t be alone in doing this. After all, isn’t this why we all love Pinterest?
But just the other day, a page in Saveur’s recent 100 most bestest things ever issue, there was a full page dedicated to adding preserves to cocktails (idea #56, page #49). And this struck me as beyond brilliant. And I did it. I did not let the page collect dust or get lost or get thrown out. Of course, this may have to do with the fact that this recipe could be as simple as mixing together two ingredients that I already like a lot and have in abundance.
So what did I do?
Simple. I stirred about a teaspoon of my cousin’s homemade raspberry jam into a generous glass of Prosecco.
And wham-o! A bubbly cocktail! With jam!
And, lest you be thinking, “But all those seeds?!” Have no fear. They sank to the bottom of the glass. I won’t pretend to understand why that happened, but it did and I didn’t have any seeds between my teeth. And, really, isn’t getting a mimosa with orange juice in it worse than a few raspberry seeds?
One note, you’ll probably want a jam that is very easy to stir so that you don’t stir the bubbles out of the Prosecco when you mix the jam in. But it’s a personal choice. Kind of liking choosing to have a mimosa that actually has orange juice in it (really? orange juice? why? just drink the prosecco, no orange juice.).
Regardless, I feel that it’s important to double-check that the Prosecco and Raspberry Jam combination is as good as I think it was. And maybe I’ll test some of my bourbon with a touch of marmalade or peach preserves. You know, so that I can say that I fully explored this concept and got the most out of that ripped out magazine page.
Happy New Year!
You know. All things considered, I would say I’m a fairly bright person. Maybe not a genius, but pretty darned smart.
And then, I go and do something stupid.
I’ve already learned the hard way that rubbing my eyes after handling poblano peppers is a bad idea. But, apparently, I needed to teach myself this lesson again except with way more dramatic results and an audience too.
On Christmas Eve, I was dicing celery, poblanos, garlic and onions for a jambalaya that I wanted to share with my family. You know, so I could show off this fun recipe that I make for myself all the time with like zero problems. Things were going along just swimmingly until I got to the supposedly mild onion after dicing two supposedly mild poblano peppers.
The onion was so strong that I swear it could’ve peeled paint from the ceiling and it left me crying so hard that I couldn’t see to cut the second half of the darned thing. There was no way to keep dicing the onion without splashing my eyes with water to clear them.
Big mistake. Huge. Ginormous.
Because I was splashing cold water all over my face and eyes with hands that were covered in poblano pepper oil. Instead of finding relief, I very nearly burned my eyes out of my head.
But did I even realize why it was so bad? No. I didn’t.
Seven months ago today, I packed up the last of my things and left Nebraska to move home to Texas.
One of the reasons was the need to be closer to family and friends, which could have meant a move to Texas (family) or to D.C. (family of friends). But the reality is that what I wanted most was to move to Texas, the home state of my heart.
Since it’s only a two-day drive from Omaha to Austin (if you don’t kill yourself with a 16-hour, one-day drive), Sunday will mark seven months of living in Texas. And I have loved every moment of it. Well, except for the time I found out there was a half-inch screw in my Xterra’s tire. That kind of sucked. But at least the guy at the tire shop was more than willing to help a damsel in distress. Not the point though.
So what does moving home to Texas after having spent most of my life in the diaspora mean? Well, it means that I no longer feel like I’m not where I’m supposed to be. It means that the longing in my heart to be somewhere else has quieted. If there’s a wish to be somewhere else, it’s not because I’m not happy where I am, it’s because there’s an awful darned long list of things I want to do and let’s go there or do that next.
For this reason, I think I can relate to some of what my friend Ellise Pierce may experience as she divides her time between Paris and Texas. No matter where she is at the moment, she seems to love being there, but she’s also excited for what she’ll be able to experience next – whether it is the next bowl of queso, the next brocante or the next trip (in either direction) across the pond.
Ellise’s home encompasses Texas and Paris. And so does her cooking. She has shared her recipes with us through her blog, Cowgirl Chef. And now she’s sharing her recipes that encompass her love of Texas and Paris in her new cookbook, Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking with a French Accent.
I love cooking. I’m pretty fond of baking, too. And after some pretty nice successes in the kitchen recently, I got a little too cocky tonight. The result? No out-and-out disasters, but I certainly won’t take great results for granted in the near future.
Lesson One: Careful with the peppers!
So, uh, yeah. You know those ginormous poblano peppers? You know, the ones that are mild and so versatile?
Well, I’ve taken to treating them like bell peppers because they have more flavor and they’re just so darned easy to get at the store. Heck, you’ll find the poblanos before you’ll find the bell peppers at one of the Central Markets here in Austin. So the substitution makes perfect sense to me.
Or it did make perfect sense until I decided to dice up three of them, barely run my hands under the water and then rub my eyelid. Great blazing balls of fire does that hurt. But not like a blazing ball of fire you’d get from a jalapeno or – heaven forbid! – a habanero; it’s more like a slow burn that builds up as the poblano oil seeps into my eyelid and is slowly burning away the skin and maybe the eyeball, too.
Also, for the record, three poblanos plus some red pepper flakes plus some cumin will lead to an unexpectedly spicy hot dish that will leave your lips tingling. At least some sour cream will help with that one. Too bad sour cream won’t take the sting out of my eyelid. Or will it? Hmm…
Lesson Two: Flour your cake pans!
My coworkers have requested a Pina Colada Cake. The last couple of times I’ve baked the cakes, the edges have been crisper than I liked. I thought it might be that I coated the pan with too much PAM for Baking. So what did I do? Did I use less PAM for Baking? No… Of course not. Instead I used plain ol’ regular PAM. No flour.
No flour! In a cake pan! With cake batter in it!
What a stupid, rookie mistake.
Always flour your cake pans (unless the recipe says you shouldn’t). Otherwise, you have that sickening moment when you flip the cake pan over and the cake doesn’t come out. Instead, the cake comes away from the pan with an awful suctioning sound of cake tearing. And this is what you get.
Cakes with no bottoms.
The saving grace of this stupid, rookie mistake is the fact that Pina Colada filling along with some frosting and shredded coconut will cover a multitude of sins.
Including cakes with no bottoms.
Lesson Three: Frosting is good.
That is all. No further explanation needed. Just the reiteration that “Frosting is good.”
Last week, I tried my hand at making my first ever Coconut Cake. According to my coworkers and my own preference, it was a success.
What I really wanted though was a Pina Colada Coconut Cake. Using the Coconut Cake as my starting point, I made a few tweaks. Added some rum and pineapple, tested my work as I went along, added some more rum, tested my work again, added a little bit of pineapple juice and a splash more of rum, tested it again and thought, “Well, by golly, this might be a winner!”
That could’ve been the rum talking, but I prefer to think of it as me channeling Julia Child in some fashion.
Whatever the case may be, the Pina Colada Coconut Cake was a success. How do I know? My toughest, no holds barred critics told me so.
I took this cake home to my parents. Two of the few people who rarely bother to sugarcoat their commentary if they don’t like something I’ve made. And if they do sugarcoat their commentary, it tastes like Equal or Sweet N Low, and I know they’re lying to spare my feelings.
Feb. 16 Update: It took me a couple of tries to get this right; check out the Pina Colada Coconut Cake recipe.
In college, I met my bestest friend, Lucia. She’s one of just a couple of friends who I know would most likely be sitting beside me inside the jail cell (metaphorically speaking) should I ever get into all kinds of trouble.
Lucia is also the person who got me hooked on a whole wide array of music. She had the most meticulously organized collection of CDs that spanned darned near every genre. And if my own collection grew significantly while we lived together in D.C., it’s all her doing for introducing me to the joy of randomly wandering through music stores. (okay, well, it wasn’t all her fault, i also had — fine, have — a bit shopping habit and cds were an easy fix at the time)
And, if I were to choose just one song that was “our” song and the one that we’ll dance to at my bachelorette party, it’d be Garth Brooks’ Two Pina Coladas. One of my favorite pictures of us is of us dancing on our couch singing Two Pina Coladas at the top of lungs during a Girls’ Night In Celebration on New Year’s Eve. And when the song gets stuck in my head on repeat, it’s not Garth I hear singing, it’s me and Lucia that I hear.
My love of that song and all the amazing memories it brings back, made picking it as my inspiration for this month’s #LetsLunch bunch very easy. So, for this month’s music-inspired recipes, I present my first attempt at making a Coconut Cake. In it’s next iteration, it will be a Pina Colada Coconut Cake though. Unfortunately, my baking has been curtailed by a cold that is knocking me for a bit of the loop by the end of the day.
(Feb. 16 Note: I made the Pina Colada Coconut Cake! Here’s the recipe!)
But first, more about the Coconut Cake Trials….