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Archive for April, 2010

chocolate-covered crack

It’s finals week here at Ye Olde Grad Schoole, and I’ve never been known to make good eating decisions when under duress.

Remember 2007? The last three weeks of my undergraduate career? When I discovered Qdoba?

And proceeded to eat nachos for 1 or 2 meals a day? For three weeks?

Oh, Finals. Always making me loathe normal food until I’m so starving I have to eat junk.

So fast-forward to this past Saturday. I made a solo trip to Trader Joe’s. I came home with a bag of addictive cheesy puffs, addictive veggie tortilla chips, a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, and this little 99 cent dude who was waiting for me at the checkout, impulse-buy shelves.

Under normal circumstances, I’m not an impulse buyer. I promise. Under normal circumstances, I’m not even a peanut-butter sweets lover.

But it’s finals week.

Do not buy Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate Covered Mini Peanut Butter Crackers. They have over 200 calories for every NINE quarter-sized crackers. They are impossible not to eat. Your boyfriend will eat one cracker, say “yum,” and forget they are in the fridge, which will leave you feeling like a glutton who is undeserving of love.

They will make you feel like a sorry, sorry person.

Unless it’s Finals Week. In which case you should stop stressing about a cracker and get back to work, you idiot.

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My Number One favorite food of all time, the only thing I ever want on my birthday, my Death Row Last Meal, the food I dream about when I’ve been away from home for too long, is apple cake.

Not just any apple cake, although every variety I’ve ever tasted has been delicious and satisfying. No, I need straight-up, Grandma-and-Mom’s apple cake, unlike any other I’ve found anywhere else.

It’s a conundrum, this cake: The top is dry and crumbly, almost a crust. The inside is so moist, so rich, you’d think it wasn’t a solid at all, but almost a firm pudding of cake-y, fruity goodness. Only my mom, and her mom, make it, and even though I’ve had the recipe for about six months, sitting in my little recipe book, I didn’t dare try it. What if I wrecked it? WRECKED MY FAVORITE CAKE? I’d be ruined forever.

Well, it’s time to cowgirl up. I made my cake last night.

And it. Was. Delightful.

Here’s what you do, taken straight from the index card my momma wrote:

Peel and slice four Granny Smith apples

Mix together: 1 3/4 C sugar, 1 C oil, 3 eggs

In another bowl, sift together: 2 C flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt

Combine the mixed and sifted ingredients. Then, pour in your apples and as many walnuts as you like. Note from me, not Mom: This is not going to look like a cake batter at this point. If you used the right amount of apples, it’s going to look like they’ve been barely covered in the most delicious fruit dip you can think of. Don’t worry.

Pour into a 13×9 greased or Pam’d cake pan and bake at 350 for 45 minutes (allegedly; I cooked mine for a little over an hour). You’re done when the top of the cake is a lighter color and really firm, almost cookie-like in texture. Serve warm or cold. When it’s cool, cover lightly, otherwise the crust gets softer and the soft insides get dry, which is some science I just don’t understand.

You will love this cake, or my name isn’t Lindsey. It is the world’s greatest birthday cake if you’re not really an icing person, but I also like it for breakfast. Grandma dusts it with powdered sugar; Mom serves it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I like it alone or with a cup of vanilla-honey yogurt. You be the judge.

-Lindsey

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Whoever decided to boil sugar and water and call it SIMPLE syrup should really be punched in the face. Probably by me.

Simple. Easy. Easy as boiling water… with sugar in it.

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.” Just as reading the works of Mr. Thoreau make living in the woods with nothing but your bootstraps seem easy, fun, and desirable, so does the promise of that Simple Syrup.

1 & 1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup water

2 tbspn butter

Boil until a delightful yellowish, caramelish, color

Things recipes fail to mention:

1) Boiling sugar is very hot and very scary and the bubbles look like they might spill out onto your stove and eat you alive

2) You can’t see what color your syrup is because there are too many scary burning bubbles

3) Stirring is not a desired activity. In fact, if you stir your syrup before or after it cooks, look what happens!

4) It’s really hard to get crunchy, solidified sugar out of your saucepan. Especially when it’s your only saucepan and your cake STILL needs frosting, and your boyfriend is coming home in less than an hour and it’s still his birthday whether you fail the cake or not.

So about that caramel corn.

The recipe looked easy. 1 & 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup water, 2 tbspn butter, Boil until a delightful yellowish, caramelish, color, pour over popcorn. But again, I was deceived. Simple Syrup, overcooked, with butter, right?

But I got scared of the scary bubbles, pulled the pan off way too soon, didn’t want to let it cool (recalling that last fateful batch of crunchy, cooled “syrup”), and dumped a sugary slurry right over my bowl of popcorn.

The result was frightening. Not the most offensive popcorn I’ve ever put in my mouth, but when each kernel is caked in crunchy sugar lumps, the teeth can only handle a few bites.

Or bowls.

Well, I couldn’t let all that popcorn go to waste!

After throwing away a mountain of sugar-corn, I tried again the next morning. I was patient. I didn’t succumb to fear. I let it boil and boil and boil until it turned brown! And I poured it over my popcorn, laid it out to dry, and then it was delicious.

What The Recipes Don’t Tell You:

5) Make a half batch. In fact, make a quarter batch, especially if you are home by yourself for a week and have little motivation to eat real food. Otherwise, you will eat 1 and 1/2 cup of sugar in less than 48 hours.

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen, minus the peanuts and spicy stuff, because I didn’t have any peanuts, and I’m afraid of spicy-sweet things. Also – be judicious with the salt! It doesn’t stick to the hardened caramel real well, so if you don’t add it to the caramel, then you’ll have to settle for licking it off your fingers at the bottom of the bowl.

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The first time I remember getting into trouble, it was over food.

More specifically, it was over a bowl of restaurant-style peppermint pillows, devoured in front of Sesame Street at ten in the morning. My grandma didn’t seem to mind, but boy, was my dad ticked.

Since then, food and I have had a tumultuous affair—romantic dinners, picnics in the park, drinks out after work. Secret Paczki trysts that forever lead to regret.

Now, I believe, is the time to bring food home to meet the family. It’s time to cause some trouble in the kitchen. And I’m glad Jessica’s a part of the gang, too.

That’s where The Things We Eat comes from.

~

I (Lindsey) am a reporter and editor in small-town Big Rapids, Mich. I cook for one, shop for one and bake for dozens. I’m exploring this unfamiliar room in my apartment after years of Hoovering Weight Watchers frozen dinners.

I was spoiled growing up in Metro Detroit, and now I’m trying to bring the culinary United Nations of my childhood into my own little kitchen up north. It hasn’t been the smoothest road—I even failed at pancakes, a bomb so monumental I cannot bring myself to discuss it here, yet.

But I’m not going to give up.

The truth is, I love even the biggest failures in my kitchen. Food is fun, and we are fun, fun ladies.

Look at all that fun! Clearly, I will bake for you, but I cannot clean up after myself.

Get ready for tasty treats. Prepare yourself for kitchen disasters. Take notes from our food heroes, from my Busia to our lovely foodie friends.

I hope you’re hungry.

Lindsey

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We are two college friends who were not really friends in college, but all of our friends were friends, but now we are really friends because of the Internet.

Isn’t living in the future just dandy?

We are Lindsey and Jessica.

We like to eat. And cook. And take pictures of what we eat. And invent new recipes. And throw away our recipes because they were gross and then not tell anyone.

Or maybe that’s just me. I’m sure Lindsey is a much more successful cook than I am, and never ever fills her trashcan with sugar-crusted, definitely-NOT-caramel popcorn.

~

I (Jessica) am a new resident of Boston, Mass., cooking for two for the first time, vegetarian for the first time, grad schoolin’ full time and workin’ part time, and by golly, when do people have time to cook?

And where are all the restaurants under 20 bucks a plate and without an hour and half wait?

Oh, and I also have a new little kitty.

But I don’t have to cook for her.

And I have exactly 12 inches of counterspace in my entire apartment.

I just measured.

My partner in culinary crime will be around and about to introduce herself, and then COMMENCE FOOD BLOGGING!

Over and out,

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