Monthly Archives: January 2011

Day 18: Reflections at 30,000 Feet

At least once a day someone used to ask me, “How are you?” and at least once a day I would cheerfully respond, “Good! Good, good, good. Work is great…super busy, so that’s good. Matt’s working on a really cool project, so he’s feeling good about that. Family? They’re good. All is good. Good, good, good.”

The only thing more worrisome about this response, besides my seeming lack of vocabulary, is that up until a few weeks ago I seldom actually thought about the question.

How was I?

On paper, things were great. Killer job, happily newlywed, loving family, great friends, etc., etc., etc.

But the reality was I often felt like I was missing something. So desperate to “maximize output” and “cost benefit ratios” I charged around like a woman on a rampage. A woman on a rampage at the park, at the grocery store, brushing my teeth. It was exhausting for me, and I’m hearing on good authority from friends and family, not entirely enjoyable for them either.

And so when this opportunity to take a month off presented itself I pushed back the feelings of fear and self-doubt and dug into my month of exploration.

And in case you’re wondering….I’m loving it.

I’m loving the adventure and I’m loving the quiet. I’m loving not having my day scheduled in 15 minute increments, and I’m loving saying yes to things I never would have before. I know this reality isn’t for me forever, I’ll be very excited when the time comes to return to work, but for now this little diversion is the best thing to happen to me in a long time.

Soon to be landing in Dallas, then on to Puerto Rico for a week of swimming, sunning, snorkeling, and of course, snacking.

Stay tuned for lots of delicious PR inspired recipes and meal ideas…and until then, thanks for reading!

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Day 10: World’s Best Macaroni and Cheese

World's Best Macaroni and Cheese

World's Best Macaroni and Cheese

Today was a spectacularly beautiful day in Seattle. The kind of day that makes you appreciate living in the NW and just a tad bit smug that you aren’t living in New England and bracing for the next foot of snow to drop. The sun was shining, the buds on the trees starting to awaken, and Seattle-ites out in full force enjoying every minute of it. Onca and I were no exception and enjoyed a long walk along the lake and a trip to PCC complete with Onca’s backpack so she could pull her own weight (and by own weight, I mean beer, wine, cream, and milk). It was an exhausting trip and clearly required a full nap afterward.

Such a busy day.

While Ms. Onca slept I pondered what we should have for dinner that would be worthy of this day. Having enjoyed an amazing dinner with our friends Wendy and Andy at The Walrus and the Carpenter last night I was eager to keep the creative foodie genius I’d experienced going. And clearly, nothing says creative foodie genius more than a January BBQ and Bonfire with neighborhood friends.

Matt volunteered to do burgers, and Angela claimed ribs and spinach salad, which left me with no other choice but to make a big dish of the World’s Best Macaroni and Cheese. This is based  on Beecher’s famous recipe, but with a few suggested tweaks/additions, and I would challenge you to find a recipe you like more. This is certainly a treat to make since it’s so undeniably unhealthy, but as a once-in-a-while splurge there’s really nothing better.

This serves 8, but halves beautifully, or you can also make it in two smaller dishes and freeze what you like for a quick dinner some weeknight. Also, feel free to experiment a bit with the cheeses and use whatever you have in the fridge. Goat cheese is a nice addition and doing a bit of Parmesan gives it a slightly more complex flavor.

World’s Best Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients

1 lb  penne pasta

Beecher’s Flagship Sauce (recipe follows)

1 ounce cheddar, grated ( 1/4 cup)

1 ounce Gruyere cheese, grated ( 1/4 cup)

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

1/2 cup Panko Bread Crumbs

BEECHER’S FLAGSHIP CHEESE SAUCE

1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups milk

14 ounces semihard cheese, such as Beecher’s Flagship, grated (about 3 1/2 cups)

2 ounces grated semisoft cheese, such as Beecher’s Just Jack

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

dash of hot sauce (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Oil or butter a 9×12 baking dish

Cook the penne 2 minutes less than package directions. (It will finish cooking in the oven.) Rinse pasta in cold water and set aside.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce, melt the butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the flour. Continue whisking and cooking for 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat. Add the cheese, salt, chile powder, garlic powder, mustard, and hot sauce. Stir until the cheese is melted and all ingredients are incorporated, about 3 minutes.

Combine cooked pasta and Flagship Sauce in a medium bowl and mix carefully but thoroughly.

Scrape the pasta into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the cheeses, chile powder, and panko. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Note: The sauce can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to three days.

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Filed under Comfort Foods, Month of Exploration, Pasta, Vegetarian

Day 5: Quiche Lorraine and Locust Pose

Quiche Lorraine

Quiche Lorraine

Forget Eat. Breathe. Love.

Try Eat. SWEAT. Love.

Today I did yoga with my lovely friend Angela, at Bikram Yoga Renton, aka The Hot One. And hot it is. The room is 105 degrees with 40% humidity, and the class is 90 minutes. I’m not sure when the last time I was silent for 90 minutes save sleeping was, and I wouldn’t say I exactly got a gold star today as I did get sternly hushed at our first water break for looking over at Angela and quietly whispering, “This is insane!”

Insane it is…but it also felt great to stretch and strengthen in ways I never have before. The added bonus? Rumor has it each class burns between 600 and 900 calories, which means I felt totally justified in my craving for burgers and beers afterward. I did abstain, since I’m still trying to stick to my booze-free-month, but the Quiche Lorraine I had made this morning was a close runner-up.

You can make this with homemade pie crust, or for a quick fix use puff pastry as I did here. Below recipe is for a traditional quiche but I also did these as mini quiches in muffin tins this weekend and they were just as yummy.

Quiche Lorraine

Great for breakfast, or serve with a simple salad for a light lunch or dinner.
Serves 6

Flaky Pastry Dough or One Sheet Puff Pastry, thawed and rolled out to 12 inches by 12 inches

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 cup half and half

3/4 cup fat free milk

Generous grating of salt and pepper

Dash of dill

4 slices bacon, cooked and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 oz goat cheese, loosely crumbled

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees, and position one rack in the middle and one closer to the top.
  2. Prepare pie dish by lightly greasing with vegetable oil or cooking spray.
  3. Lay pie crust across, turn edges in, and gently crimp
  4. In a medium mixing bowl add the eggs, cream, milk, salt, pepper, and dill. Mix well until slightly frothy.
  5. Sprinkle the goat cheese evenly across the bottom of the pie dish.
    Quiche Dough
  6. Follow with the bacon.
  7. Pour the egg mixture over the bacon and cheese.
  8. Add quiche to oven’s middle rack and cook for 25 minutes.
  9. After 25 minutes move to upper rack, increase heat to 400 degrees, and cook another 10-15 minutes or until filling is nicely browned and set.
  10. Allow to stand 5-10 minutes before cutting.
    Slice of Quiche Lorraine

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Day 1: Artichoke Hearts, Prosciutto, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Fettuccine

Artichoke Hearts, Prosciutto, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Fettuccine

Artichoke Hearts, Prosciutto, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Fettuccine

Day 1 of my self-imposed month of personal work (or what my dear friend Emma more generously calls “my month of exploration.”)

Doggedly determined to do (and enjoy) all those things I always swore I would do if I wasn’t sitting at my desk at 7a I slept in, albeit waking up at 6:30a on the dot and smugly noticing that the “on” button on my alarm clock was humbly dark. I lounged in bed in my PJs. I ate toffee for breakfast. I watched two (two!) episodes of The Office and I even thought they were funny.

I made it until 12:15p.

And then, I couldn’t take it anymore. I leapt out of bed, cleaned the house, tidied up the kitchen, walked the dog in the pouring ran (the long loop!), picked up cupcakes for book club, and began organizing my closets.

Looks like I’ve got a ways to go until I reach that highly enlightened and peaceful state. In the meantime though, there’s always pasta.

This is very simple, quite yummy, and adapts well to being a base from which you can throw random leftovers into and use them up.

Make it on a rainy Thursday when you realize it might take more work than you thought to slow down.

Artichoke Hearts, Prosciutto, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Fettuccine

14 oz can whole artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

1/2 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

1/4 pound prosciutto, thinly sliced

4 oz sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced (packed in oil)

8 TB Olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Fettuccine for 4

1/3 cup heavy cream (optional)

Parmesan (optional)

  1. In a large non-stick skillet, add four TB olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the artichokes, season with salt and pepper, and cook until artichokes are softened and fully blended, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, bring large pot of water to a boil and cook fettuccine according to directions. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta water before draining.
  4. Add the basil, prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes, and remaining four TB olive oil. Stir well and reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally, about another 5 minutes.
    Artichoke Mixture

  5. Add the artichoke mixture and pasta water to the cooked fettuccine and toss well. Like all things, this is better with a bit of cream, so if using that add now and toss to combine.
    Tossed
  6. Top with black pepper and freshly grated Parmesan.
    ArtichokeHeartsFinal

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Eat. Breathe. Love. – Baked Artichoke Dip

MorningMimosas

Morning Mimosas in Walla Walla

I recently watched Julia Robert’s Eat. Pray. Love. and felt that while it was cute and moderately interesting it was not the brilliant and awe-inspiring story the critics had made it out to be. For those of you not familiar with the plot, Elizabeth Gilbert, successful NY author who seems to have it all wakes up one night and realizes she doesn’t want to be married anymore. What ensues is her personal struggle to figure out who she is, via three-month stints in Italy (Eat), India (Pray), and Bali (Love).

While I can’t claim to be nearly as tortured as Elizabeth, or as glamorous as Julia, I am at an interesting moment in my life. I am soon to be completing a one year contract doing work for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. However, in a move so uncharacteristic I’m questioning it myself I have NOT immediately lined up the next project. Rather, I’m hoping to take one month off before beginning my next adventure February 14th. Now, to most people taking one month off at some point in their late 20s or early 30s doesn’t seem so crazy. But, we’re talking about me here. The person who has blissfully had her life scheduled in 15 minute increments since the day I turned 14 and got my first Day-Timer. I am a person who craves order and control, and I’ve very purposely built a life on that.

So…upon assignment completion I will be kicking off my own little mini version of Eat. Pray. Love. Being a rather unsure agnostic I knew the Pray part wasn’t going to work so well, so I’ve changed it to Breathe.

Eat. – Here forth commences one month of totally indulgent cooking. I’m going to make sauces that take forever, I’m going to make so many muffins I don’t know what to do with them, I’m going to discover grocery stores in Seattle’s International District that I never even knew existed and I’m going to finally bite the bullet and try to make foie gras.

Breathe. – Does anyone else find breathing impossible? I do. I often realize as I’m falling asleep at night that I haven’t taken a single deep breath. So…I’m going to do yoga or Pilates every day and I won’t even ask the instructors if they have a speed class available.

Love. – They say that having a partner by your side makes the uncertain times that much easier. I couldn’t agree more. My lovely husband has been an absolute champion for this little adventure. What’s more…when I suggested to him that as part of this chapter I should perhaps take a cousin trip to Puerto Rico he totally agreed! So that’s how this experiment will end. One week in Puerto Rico with my lovely cousins.

Just some of the gang.

Just some of the gang.

This fall, as a sort of precursor to Puerto Rico, five first cousins set off for Walla Walla, WA. Arriving from Seattle and Portland we had an absolutely blissful weekend full of food, wine, laughter, dancing, and entirely ridiculous quotes that would make sense to no one else but us. We didn’t so much cook for the weekend as much as “melt stuff” but it was perfect all the same. This baked artichoke dip is sinfully delicious even if a bit ghetto. Make it ahead of time so that your guests don’t know what’s in it.

If bread, cheese, and artichokes don’t say “love” I don’t know what does.

Baked Artichoke Dip

1 medium-sized round loaf bread (cheap is okay)
1 can artichokes (well-drained and coarsely chopped)
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded + more for topping
2/3 cup mayo (don’t even bother with the light variety)
1 TB Lemon juice

Baked Artichoke Dip

Baked Artichoke Dip

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Carve out the round loaf of bread, reserving “filling” so that you can use it as crostini later. Cube filling into 2-inch chunks.

Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl and transfer to waiting bread bowl. Top with extra Parmesan cheese.

Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes, or until brown and bubbling. For last 10 minutes add bread chunks until lightly toasted. This is the perfect appetizer for a winter gathering.

**All photos by my lovely cousin Annie Laurie Malarkey.**

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Filed under Comfort Foods, Kitchen Trials and Tribulations, Make ahead, Seasonal Cooking, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

Tom Kah Kai (Thai Chicken Coconut Soup)

Tom Kah Kai (Thai Chicken Coconut Soup)

Tom Kah Kai (Thai Chicken Coconut Soup)

I was going to title this post “De-toxify: Tom Kah Kai” (get it, it rhymes?!?), but my husband looked at me like I was one of the top five biggest nerds on the planet, shook his head, and then asked me if I thought I was Lindsay Lohan checking in for more rehab.

No…I am definitely not Lindsay Lohan, but I do love to start off each year with a bit of a cleanse. For the month of January* I don’t drink. No beer, no wine, no one little cocktail at happy hour, nothing. And I have to say that it always feels great. I find that after the Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year marathon it’s pretty easy to be feeling like a little detox would be good.

This soup is the perfect remedy. It is healthy, utterly satisfying, and gives the rewarding impression of having great healing powers as it cleans out your sinuses and awakens your senses. It is very quick to make and even yummier the next day. One thing to keep in mind if you’re making a big batch is that it will get spicier on day two and three, so if you’re not a hot fan, plan accordingly.

Tom Kah Kai (Thai Chicken Coconut Soup)

Modified from Use Real Butter who modified from Thai Cooking Made Easy by Sukhum Kittivech…ah the delights of recipe evolution!

Two 12 oz. cans coconut milk (or light coconut milk if you prefer)

1 cup chicken broth (if using bouillon cubes, I’d recommend two per one cup)

1/2 stalk of lemon grass, cut into 1 inch pieces

4 kaffir lime leaves (I can only find these some of the time. If you can’t find them at your local Asian market, just use a bit more lime juice)

8 quarter inch wide slices galanga (this is like ginger, but has a more complex flavor. If you can’t find it, the former will work)

1/4 loosely packed thai basil, coarsely chopped

6 red thai bird chilis, sliced or slit pending on your spicy tolerance (sliced is hotter)

1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken, cut into thin, wide strips

3/4 pint white mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered

2 tsp fish sauce

3 TB lime juice

1/2 tsp red thai curry (optional)

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp honey

1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro, plus more for topping

  1. Place the coconut milk, chicken broth, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, galanga, thai basil, and chiles in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring so well combined.
  2. Add the chicken, mushrooms, fish sauce, lime juice, thai curry, sugar, honey, and cilantro. Bring to a boil and cook until the meat is done (being careful not to let it boil over, which is exactly what I did).
    Mushrooms simmering
  3. Reduce to simmer and simmer for 10 minutes on low, stirring occasionally, and letting the flavors mingle.
  4. Modify seasoning pending on preference. If adding more fish sauce, go slowly, that stuff is strong!
  5. Serve in bowls with cilantro sprinkled on top.

*True confession: I usually make it about three weeks.

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Welcome 2011: Oyster Shooters and Oysters on the Half Shell

Oysters on the Half Shell

Oysters on the Half Shell with Tobiko

Happy New Year fearless Shut Up and Cook readers!

First of all, I’d like to say thanks for being here. 2010 was an exciting year for this blog and many new subscribers and readers became a part of the conversation. It’s very fun to realize that it’s not just friends and family reading this (usually who  I’ve bullied into submission), as well as hearing from people all over the world about how food fits into their lives. I hope you all will continue to join the conversation this year.

The start of the New Year is one of my favorite times. Like everyone, I fall prey to the endless optimism and possibilities a clean slate creates. I walk around making lists and grand declarations such as:

  • “I’m definitely going to exercise more this year.”
  • “Sure am planning on drinking less.”
  • “I know! I’m going to write more letters.”
  • “Oh yeah, and I’m going to keep in better touch with my brothers.”

The list of things that one can achieve is endless. The reality of actually achieving all these things is daunting at best. So this year, in a very un-Erina like fashion I’m going to give the lists a break (you can be sure I’ll be archiving them though for future reference) and try to achieve one basic and yet seemingly impossible achievement which is to simply appreciate the moment that I’m in and the opportunities it provides. I am actually able to do this quite well in the kitchen, so hoping to translate that out to other facets of my life.

As a toast to this New Plan for the New Year we brought in 2011 with Oyster Shooters and Oysters on the Half Shell. These little guys definitely require you to be in the moment because if you spend too long thinking about what you’re eating my stomach tends to do a little flip. Make sure you get really fresh oysters from a reputable fish market and don’t try to save pennies with cheap vodka. You don’t need the really fancy stuff but you don’t want it to taint the oysters.

These are very elegant appetizers and a festive treat for any holiday party. Figure 2-3 per person if folks aren’t frequent oyster eaters, 4-6 if they’re fans. And be careful…those shots of vodka go down easy!

What did you make to bring in the New Year?

Oyster Shooters

Oyster Shooters

Oyster Shooters

1 TB cocktail sauce

1 oyster shucked, with accompanying liquid saved (experiment with different kinds of oysters, they offer surprisingly unique flavors)

1 shot vodka, such as Absolut

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

  1. In a small shot glass add cocktail sauce.
  2. With an oyster knife, gently pop open the oyster. This is easiest to do when holding the oyster in a dish towel so that you don’t cut yourself on the shell. Be sure to do it over a bowl so you can reserve the liquid in the oyster. Most people think brute force is required, but really what you’re looking for is a bit of leverage and popping open the oyster at the right spot. Hold the oyster so that its curved shell faces down and its flatter side faces up. Insert an oyster knife between the shells, near the hinge. Warning: Don’t use a nice pairing knife or something for this because odds are it’ll break. Giving the knife a twist, pop open the shell (remember, try to keep the liquid in the shell!) and remove the top shell. Scrape the meat from the top shell into the bottom shell and reserved juices. Be careful no shell fragments are there and if so, simply remove.
  3. Add the oyster and its juices to the shot glass and top with vodka and lemon juice.
  4. Drink in one sip without thinking about it!

Oysters on the Half Shell

1 oyster shucked, liquid saved in bottom shell, top shell discarded (see above for how to)

1/2 tsp hot sauce

1 tsp lemon juice

Sprinkle of tobiko

  1. Add hot sauce, lemon juice and tobiko to half shell with oyster and reserved liquid.
  2. Down the hatch!

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