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Posts Tagged ‘cupcakes’

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Warm marshmallow frosting for Devil Dog cupcakes. Random. Not in the post. Whatever.

I’ve gotten the impression, after talking to people about food and and reading a lot about food (which is what I do in my spare time when I’m not eating), that many people avoid cooking for two reasons. It’s because they’re either lacking proper information, proper equipment, or both.

Here, then, a list. Above all, please keep in mind the helpful words of the late and much-lamented Douglas Adams: Don’t Panic. You’re not supposed to loathe cooking. My goal here is to make the kitchen more approachable. This stuff you can do.

1. Get over your fear of freezing. I was taught that freezing any food besides uncooked meat ruins it. Freezer burn was a yucky reality in days of yore, and everything else from the freezer had a weird taste. Pretty sure most of this was due to poor-quality storage containers. But today you can safely freeze almost anything as long as you make sure it’s a) completely cooled and b) use plastic freezer zip-close bags. Make sure the box says ‘freezer’ on it. Slice up your fresh babka or bagels, squeeze the air out of the bag, close it and chuck it in the freezer. In the morning, take a slice out of the bag and set it on a plate.* Then go blow-dry your hair and find your shoes. By the time you’ve done that, your breakfast will be ready to eat. It will taste the same as the day you baked or bought it.

2) Repurpose utensils. I use my kitchen scissors to snip scallions and pieces of bell pepper; I smush up apples into applesauce with a potato masher; I whisk with a fork. Don’t buy any utensil that has just one purpose (garlic press, ice cream cookie sandwich mold). You’ll use it once, then it will clog up your drawers. Go low tech and open up the format with how you use your utensils.

3) Buy three good-quality knives and give away the rest. This is huge. I’m convinced that a lot of people who think they’re no good at cooking or get frustrated just at the thought of it aren’t using decent equipment. Knives are first on that list. You need a paring knife (to cut small stuff that you can’t snip with your scissors), a chef’s knife (to chop big stuff, herbs, or chicken) and a serrated knife (for slicing bread, tomatoes, and chopping chocolate or nuts). Knives should be somewhat heavy and the handle should not be made out of crap plastic. Be sure that the metal of the knife extends right down through the handle for good balance. If your knife is flimsy, you’ll be fighting with it to chop, it’s going to break by Thursday, and what’s more, it’s dangerous.

4) Unless you’re serving a cake to company and are excessively precise, ignore recipes that tell you to both butter and flour the pan. Wow. Okay, that one’s done.

5) If you’re a novice cook and want to have people over, go with simple, straightforward recipes. Novices tend to make pheasant under glass and petit fours with spun sugar, usually with nose-dive results. They want to impress their friends. Their friends, on the other hand, want to eat. Ask around for recipes that are tried and true, pace yourself, and read the recipe all the way through before starting so you know what ingredients and utensils you need. Make brownies for dessert.

What did I leave out?

*If you’re lucky enough to have a radiator, put the plate on it. I have a cookie sheet on top of my kitchen radiator for just this purpose. Me efficient.

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Bittersweet and snow.

This time of year we’re saddled with a lot of cold, at least in New Jersey. And by February we’re hurling colorful expletives at the clouds, the snow, the evil godawful groundhog, the weather channel right down to the mail clerk, and Lowe’s for being out of ice scrapers during the first week of February.*

But the dauntless Pollyanna in me is here this week** to grin a freckled, wide-eyed, mildly irritating ‘Bash on, regardless,’ and caption us through her winter so far. Make with the packed pbj and let’s warm up.

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I shot the ingredients of the Limoncello I concocted for my Christmas presents. Neat how I got the lemon peel to curl just so, isn’t it? It only took seven tries!

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Done deal. Full of lemon peel that’s been steeped in sugar and a bunch of vodka. Served icy cold.

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My friend Doug made this awesome awesome shrimp stew that we ate over polenta.

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This chicken pot pie got me through theatre tech week, when I drove an hour door to door and braved Route 287 twice every day for a week. Once I got stuck behind a lady doing 40mph in a 65 zone. /Segue/ Mmm. Chicken pot pie with little tiny pearl onions. Mmmmmm.

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Champagne flutes in our show. Really convincing plastic, which is good, because they played in a 65-seat house. Filled nightly with chilled ‘Champagne’ (sparkling white grape juice) served out of an ice bucket.

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This is kheer, a lovely Indian dessert. It’s served chilled and tastes a lot like rice pudding, but it’s not as thick.

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Deep-dish brown sugar pumpkin pie made with a layer of fruit jam at the base.

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Hello world.
Two Mile Creek Specialty Foods and Johnnie Walker are the benefactors of that jam. Thanks for the 2 berry cherry!

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Cornbread with oodles of butter.

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Icy drop on a wild rose branch.

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The Champagne bottle I painted for the show. The script calls for Perrier Jouet, and in 1969, the year in which the scene takes place, the company put out a beautiful, iconic floral label. Painting on glass is a trick. You end up feeling like you’re hydroplaning.

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The author, with Devil Dog cupcakes (devil’s food cake topped with meringue) that I made for the cast party last night, plus my trusty weapon of destruction. Pollyanna needed to blow off a lil steam. And the meringue toasted up nicely 🙂

*Really, Lowe’s? Really?

**She was off on a choir retreat or something last week. Either way, she was very not here.

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I’m grateful that lots of people have said nice things about my cooking, but I’m actually proudest of my disasters. they make a better story at a boring dinner party. what would you rather hear about—the award-winning brownies, or the hateful wretched marzipan so hard that you could have used it to cut diamonds?

I want to wear my disasters like war medals. so let’s get on with it.

a few years ago I made an angel food cake, which I adore. if you’re normal, you can eat it with a fork, or if you’re a heathen like me, you can pick up bits of it with your fingers, squish them into tiny sugary nuggets, and pop them into your mouth. with this thought as temptation, I found a recipe in The Joy of Cooking, that bible of classic recipes, and followed it to the letter. baked it in the right kind of pan with the hole in the middle, the whole bit.

now, an angel food cake is a sponge cake, and thus is supposed to be light and airy. if you let it collapse, you get an F. how to do this? Joy told me to turn the baked cake upside down and poise it over the neck of a wine bottle. (yup.) did it like a good girl. and a minute later watched the cake drop to the counter like a brick in the river.

then there was the pumpkin-chocolate pie last november. oh and it looked so pretty. accidentally whacked it against the oven rack, which made the whole thing flip-flop upside down, splattering pumpkin-chocolate goo 1) into the hot oven 2) onto the hot oven door 3) into the drawer under the oven, conveniently loaded with every pan I own and 4) best of all, around my kitchen, making it look as if I had recently acquired an incontinent schnauzer. I used every rag and napkin in the house to clean up, and still detect a faint smell of burnt chocolate whenever I turn on the oven.

just last weekend I made some crazy-yummy cupcakes called irish car bombs, featuring crazy-yummy baileys buttercream. but tired as I was, I dumped all of the buttercream ingredients together. and soon, once I realized even a team of EMTs with the shiniest state-of-the-art equipment couldn’t resuscitate this, dumped it all into the trash.

as julia child once said, ‘you’re alone in the kitchen’ (and you have to say it like her, out loud, or it doesn’t have the full effect). which means no one needs to know the sordid details of what really happened at 11:45 last night, as long as you recover. good news for me.

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