Wednesday, March 12
First off, I apologize for my lack of posts this week…with Nate’s PhD defense fast approaching and my own freelance work picking up on top of that, I’ve been a bit neglectful of my TWFD friends! Please stay patient the next few weeks – I’ll try to post as much as I can!
Today’s tip is another one of those things I should have figured out LONG ago but only discovered in the last few years. I used to tear up my basil by hand whenever I made pizza…or just chopped it very poorly. Then one day I discovered a great way to chop it up…it is NOT an original idea, but it sure made life easier. So, if you’re like me and haven’t yet put 2 and 2 together, this post should be helpful!
How to cut up basil the awesome way:
Stack your leaves.
Compliments to the amazing one-handed basil chopper for modeling. Okay, the other hand was holding the camera…sorry there were no real action shots. Kind of tricky with only two hands.
Sunday, March 9
I love fresh mozzarella. It’s pretty much all I use on our pizzas nowadays. And I can make myself sick eating caprese salad. But I tend to mangle the cheese when I slice it. Quick side note – Cate loves Rachael Ray. It’s hilarious. I asked her why she likes her so much and Cate responded, “Because she’s nice.” So cute. While Cate was watching an episode of 30-Minute Meals one day, I overheard Rachael give a great tip for slicing fresh mozzarella – use a serrated knife. DUH! Don’t know why I never thought of that myself, but it definitely helps. It would probably work well on other softer cheeses as well.
Here’s the menu. It’s another crazy week. Actually, this whole month is crazy, but fun and exciting, too. One week and one day until Nate’s defense! And this week we should get our apartment up near Stanford squared away – yea! What a mix of emotions right now…so busy, so stressed, so excited, so sad to leave San Diego. If I start talking crazy talk on here, please forgive me.
- Chicken Noodle Soup
- Good crusty bread
- Mac & Cheese
- Book Club at Jen’s
- Eat out – family arrives for the Nate’s PhD defense!
- Family in town…and the night before the defense…can’t decide what we’re going to do yet!
Thank you all for your great menus every week! I didn’t respond to anyone’s comments/menus last week. Please know that I read them all and use them for inspiration. As always, I was so happy to see people posting menus for the first time! And thank you for the PhD congratulations some of you left in your comments! Have a great week, everyone!
Confession: we watch American Idol. I even vote. So embarrassing. But I would hazard to guess most of YOU are watching and voting too, so I’m in good company, right?
One of our favorite guys this season is Jason Castro. One of the reasons we like him is because he picks good, interesting songs. This week was no exception – he sang Hallelujah, originally a Leonard Cohen song. Randy & Simon talked about how their favorite version of the song was by Jeff Buckley. They also thought Jason did an amazing job, which he did.
As he was singing the song, I felt like it was in a movie or something that I really like…I did a little investigating and BINGO! It was on my most favorite Scrubs episode ever (one of the first episodes, My Old Lady, which you can download on iTunes…it made me cry both times I saw it). That version of Hallelujah was done by John Cale. The song was perfect in this episode. I think it would be perfect for my next American Idol audition, too. Maybe I’ll actually make it through this time! That is a JOKE, people.
The entire Scrubs soundtrack that Hallelujah is on is pretty cool. Yes, it was released 6 years ago, so maybe not the newest music, but I really like a lot of the songs on there. Definitely worth checking out.
Be sure to click on the names of the songs/artists to hear samples! You can also buy the DRM-free MP3s on Amazon, which means you can put the song on as many computers as you want.
Thursday, March 6
Today’s featured recipe is one of my most favorite recipes ever – Mini Molten Chocolate Cakes. Oh so good. Better than any lava cake I’ve had at any restaurant, except Rialto in Harvard Square, although it looks like the lava cakes are no longer on the menu. SO SAD. It is still an excellent restaurant. I mean excellent.
Okay, focus Jane, back to the recipe. It comes from the Better Homes & Gardens New Baking Book. It’s way gourmet but super easy to make. Definitely one of my favorite desserts. Of course this is coming from a person who doesn’t eat dessert unless chocolate is involved…and my tolerance for rich chocolate desserts is OFF THE CHARTS. But that means I’m picky about my chocolate, and these cakes get an A+. Click on over to the Recipes-Sweet Things and scroll to the bottom of the page for the recipe.
A few quick notes:
Before I had my KitchenAid I would just use my hand mixer to beat the egg mixture. That worked just fine…but the KitchenAid is pretty awesome at getting the eggs oh so light and fluffy.
The recipe calls for melting the chocolate & butter in a heavy pan on low heat, but I usually use a double boiler (pyrex bowl over slowly simmering water). I trust myself more this way…less chance of me burning the chocolate. Also, you can just use chocolate chips – they taste great. I’m sure fancy chocolate would taste even better, but the chocolate chips work very well. If I wasn’t the cook, I would never guess it wasn’t the highest quality chocolate being used.
I use 6 small Crate & Barrel ramekins for this recipe. It’s the perfect ramekin:batter ratio. Don’t forget to butter and sugar the ramekins before pouring in the batter. When you invert your cakes onto plates after cooling, they’ll come out pretty nicely (sometimes you need a knife to loosen them around the edges a bit first). The sugar also gives the cakes a nice outer edge.
The only tricky part is taking them out of the oven at the right time. I used to always cook them too long, turning them into plain old cakes, no molteness to be found. Now I tend cook them too short, making them too reminiscent of a real live volcano. It you find that happy medium, you end up with the perfect amount of molten goodness. The edges should looked cooked and the center should be firm, but not as cooked as the edges. You just need to experiment with your oven to get it right. The picture here is of a lava cake that is NOT cooked enough. Hopefully that can help you gauge correctly! I know, so helpful. Sorry! If you don’t cook them long enough, inverting them onto a plate will be disastrous…still tasty, but not so pretty. We usually just eat them right of the ramekins, anyway…less dishes to wash. And, unless you burn them or completely undercook them, they are still mighty good even if they’re not perfect.
Tuesday, March 4
My good friend and neighbor Adrianne has done yet another beautiful and impressive thing that I’ll never get around to doing. It’s a good thing for you I have talented friends to shake things up a bit on the blog.
Adrianne grew some grass…no worries, this grass is legit. It’s wheat grass and it’s beautiful. I mean, it is SO PRETTY! And a great idea for an Easter centerpiece. For easy-peasy instructions, click on over to Design Mom. She says it takes about 1-2 weeks for the grass to grow. Since Easter is 1-2 weeks away, it’s perfect timing for you to get your own basket of grass growing! Your Easter guests will be mightily impressed.
And since this IS a food blog, I suppose you can always grind your grass up and drink it. Um, yum? Probably not. But anything that tastes that yucky has got to be good for you, right?
Sunday, March 2
Yesterday I stopped in at Village Mill Bread Company in Del Mar. Their Cinnamon Swirl bread is awesome, by the way. Yesterday I grabbed a beautiful loaf of challah, allowing us to have a great french toast breakfast this morning!
Menu planning the next two weeks is not going to be so fun…Nate’s final defense is in 2 weeks, so he’s busy, busy, busy. Poor guy – it sure will be nice for him when it’s all done! Can’t believe 6 1/2 years of a PhD are almost done. Amazing. Anyway, when he’s not around, it’s very hard to motivate myself to cook. But I’m going to do my darndest.
- Bistro Chicken
- Chicken a la King
- Homemade pizza
- Eat out
- Chicken Noodle Soup
Saturday, March 1
The Song of the Week is Vegas by Sara Bareilles. I recently purchased her album Little Voice and have really enjoyed it, especially when I’m cooking and working. You may have heard Love Song – that’s a good song too. In fact, I like the whole album. She has a great voice, plays some pretty cool chords on the piano and just writes some nice songs. It’s funny, I had decided Vegas was going to be the Song of the Week, and then Nate told me that he didn’t like that song very much. I started to doubt myself, but I’ve decided to stick to my guns. Bottom line – hopefully you’ll like it too! And, I just want to say, I totally found her before she was on TV – I swear! Just have to prove I’m cool, which I think means I may not be so cool after all. Shoot.