Saturday, September 29, 2012

Crepes with Stewed Cherries

On Turning Twenty

I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that when growing up, my birthday was the one day out of the year where I was allowed to be ruthlessly conceited and allowed to do anything I want.  I was taught that I was special.  I became popular for bringing cupcakes to share with everyone in my third grade classroom.  My ego became inflated when I logged onto Facebook and saw a sea of "Happy Birthday" posts on my wall.  Every September 30th, I was allowed to rule the world. 

But there are thousands with the same birthday.

With the exception of 16, 21, and 40, birthdays just don't become special anymore.  I don't like being celebrated.  I think that you should only be celebrated if you have done something great in the world, and being born isn't really one of them.  Everyone is born as well, and along with thousands (if not millions) of people who share the very same birthday as mine, I am thus definitely not special by any stretch of the imagination.  

It could just be that there are still some parts of me that are naturally shy and don't like being the center of attention.  I think having to sit through Happy Birthday is one of the most awkward and uncomfortable experiences one can go through, so every September 30th I try to find ways to get through those forty five seconds without as much discomfort as possible. 

So in conclusion, I really don't think that tomorrow will be different from any other day.  I most likely won't be hungover, I won't feel any different, and nothing will have changed from the day before.  I won't be anyone special.   I'll just be twenty, which is perfectly fine by me. 

I've been on a dessert buzz lately (but then again, when am I not on one), and had an extreme hankering to make crepes.  Thin, lovely, almond-scented pancakes to wrap around vanilla bean ice cream and nutella- you know, the only things in the world that actually matter.

I also made some stewed cherries to ladle on top, laced with cinnamon and cognac.  This dessert definitely does double duty as both a summer and winter dessert.

just another weekend

Friday, September 21, 2012

College Dining Journal 9-21-12

Little Gifts

I have a confession to make...

I'm absolutely obsessed with the lighting in my apartment kitchen.  I'm sure the campus didn't have food bloggers in mind when constructing on campus apartments, but the white laminate countertops, their distance from the window facing the sun, and the shadows cast by the overhead cabinets provide the perfect lighting for journalistic food blogging.

I'm in love.

San Luis Obispo is renowned for its farmers market every Thursday.  Words can't express how captivating it is- the entire downtown is transformed each week into a festival, with lights twinkling in the trees as stalls line the street with produce, street food, and flea market merchandise.  I meant to document it this week to share with you all, but being the bonehead that I am I carried my camera like an Asian tourist but left the memory card in my laptop at home.

But at the same I don't need an excuse to go every week.  The strawberries are sweet year around, the grapes give a tremendous explosion of sweetness with every bite, and the vegetables are always vibrantly colorful.  The kicker though is that while everything is remarkably inexpensive, every single vendor grows their produce locally, without any pesticides, with a good majority of it being organic. 

Each week that I've been shopping for all of the food I eat I make it a test to see how little I can spend, with the hopes that I can eventually participate in my own Eat on $30 challenge.  (Only thirty dollars to feed yourself for the entire week, which is the average amount Americans who live on food stamps have to spend; for an excellent example read Jen Yu's experience.)

This week's budget break down:
Farmer's market ~$12
    -a couple of apples, 1/2 pound of grapes, a head of red leaf lettuce (only $1), 3 pints of strawberries
Food 4 Less ~ $11
    -deli meat, bagels, english cucumbers, hummus
Trader Joe's ~ $12
    -trail mix, salad dressing (too expensive to buy a selection of vinegars and such), ground turkey
Total: ~$35

And finally what I ate today (which was mostly food from last week's shopping).

A bowl of strawberries from the farmer's market with a nature valley chocolate granola bar crunched on top.  Extraordinarily simple but exceedingly satisfying.

I had a couple meetings to run to today, so lunch was half assed bagel spread with hummus, some deli meat, and grapes.

Earlier this week I made boxed mac and cheese with diced celery, onion and chive cream cheese, and lots of red pepper flakes.  I had the leftovers with some more grapes for dessert.  The beverage as always was water for today.

 simple pleasures and little gifts

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

College Dining Journal 9-19-12


For the past 3 days my alarm was set at 6:00AM so I could go to the gym before class.  For the past 3 days I slapped snooze and woke up at around 8:00 instead.  It'll be a while before I get into the groove of things, but hey, it's still only the first week at least.  (I've been compensating by going for occasional hikes, but after getting painfully attacked by ticks or some other sort of insect yesterday I've been starting to rethink that.)

While last year I endured the mediocrity of campus dining, things are different in that I'll finally be in charge of cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday.  While frozen food is definitely convenient, it kind of defeats the purpose of getting off of a meal plan since it can be just as expensive, unhealthy, and just as crappy-tasting. 

Omelette made with egg substitute, some sauteed onions in olive oil, and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese; a small bunch of grapes, and a little apple juice.

A sandwich made with an onion bagel, onion and chive cream cheese (I like onions alright!), and some deli turkey.  Along with that was some celery, a granola bar, an apple, and some cheeze-its to power me through the day until dinner.  I had a couple bottles of water (reusable bottle of course) throughout the day.

I ashamedly pulled a Sandra Lee kind of dish by sauteeing some mirepoix (MOAR ONIONS) with red pepper flakes, garlic, and salt.  Afterwards I dumped in a can of chili from Food 4 Less, pasta (plus some pasta water), and some cheese.  Delicious in a this-should-taste-bad-but-is-good-anyway-kind-of-way (if that makes sense).

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Raspberry Crisp


The last time I wrote a post about moving in to college signaled an era of one post every other month.  I would like to think that from then until now I have learned to make better use of my time, though for some reason I feel like this isn't the case.

However, it also helps however when my kitchen this year is much more usable and doesn't feel like I live in a New York studio apartment in Manhattan.  Compared to the last year, cooking is a dream; I can actually use the stove and cut some onions at the same time now!

chalupa's old headquarters

the chalupa's new headquarters

It's hard to express in words the feeling of moving back from one home to another.  For a short time, the magic of college had temporarily been replaced by dread.  As of now, I can't spend all day cooking just because I want to.  It's back to cheap, quickly made eats and most likely a diet of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, granola bars, and a slew of various other carbohydrate while studying with roommates.  

 always prepared for friends to stop by

However, nothing can top being reunited with people you haven't seen for months.  Nothing can beat the almost intoxicating sensation of living life on your own and not only being raised up by your own accomplishments but getting beat down by your own follies without anyone to steer you on the right path.  

My favorite thing about college, or should I say San Luis Obispo in general though is every single person is genuinely nice.  I can't explain it, but this place has a way of making you feel like you belong here.  Eating dinner is much more enjoyable in the presence of both new and old friends.

back to an electric burner

 the trusty tea kettle from home

Now is also the time where I get to welcome my favorite season of all time- autumn.  Not to say that summer didn't treat me well at all though.  Summer is when berries are at their sweetest, and when they deserve nothing more than the simplest of preparations.  Before pears, apples, and pumpkins storm the downtown farmer's market, it's time to say goodbye to the last batch of summer fruit.

simple (how it should be)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Triple-D Drinking Game

I'm busy moving into year #2 of college apartment living, so until I get back to posting weekly recipes, I have a little adventure for you to partake in.  Seeing as how FoodNetwork likes to show reruns every night, an opportunity for you to play this game shouldn't be far off in the future...

My beverage of choice: plain old apple juice (and I'm being totally serious... booze doesn't sit well with me)

  • Take a drink every time Guy puts his greasy, flabby fingers into the food to take a bite.
  • Take a drink if Guy's sunglasses are wedged onto the back of his sausage neck.
  • For every piece of bling/jewlery guy is wearing this episode, take a sip.
  • Take a shot/swig if Guy says "on point" or "fortified".*
  • Take a shot/swig if Guy mentions something about Flavortown.
             Take a second if the word "train" or "manhole cover" is used in the same sentence as  
  • Chug if Guy says "you can put that on a flip flop and that will taste good."

  • Drink every time Guy is annoying. (Please be careful)

*Side rant: Dear Guy- using the word fortified doesn't make you sound smart or educated at all.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


For the past month my template designer (how I change this blog's appearance) has been knocked out of commission, and multiple bloggers have experienced the same problem.  Turns out anytime you use the "Add CSS" feature of the template designer, it disables the ability to change fonts, etc....

So until I find a fix get used to everything being left aligned for a bit...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labor of Love

Well first off, happy belated labor day... and to everyone who sat outside stuffing their face with hot dogs and tipping back icy beverages, all I have to say is that you probably had a lot more fun than I did.

I'll never turn down an opportunity to make a macaron; no matter how overdone they may be in the blogosphere, to me they are their own artform inside the world of pastry.  I've made macarons before, and luckily they turned out relatively good on my first try.  However, the macaron gods this past labor day decided it was time I experience what macaron hell is like.

Trial 1: Raspberry macarons.  I've successfully used freeze dried fruit before in order to flavor the macaron shells.  After pulverizing freeze dried raspberries in the food processor, I substituted them for some of the powdered sugar.  However for some reason it messed with the texture during macaronage, making the batter thicker than usual.  As a result, I kept mixing and mixing, thinking the batter was too viscous.  They piped and dried out nicely, but alas, they crumpled and cracked in the oven, and their feet became enveloped under the wrinkly shells.

 fail #1

Trial #2: Green tea macs.  This was straightforward enough- I overmixed the batter again, and I knew it.  The batter was running out of the tip of my piping bag as I was filling it up.  As a result the shells burst in the oven, and the feet spread too widely.

fail #2

Trial #3: Almond macs.  This time I was completely fed up.  I double checked all my measurements, and flavored the them with a teaspoon or two of almond extract, so I knew this time that there was no flavoring that could mess up the macs.  I performed the macaronage step pefectly- the batter was still thick, but settled into perfect rounds when I piped them... Except I piped them on wax paper because I was out of parchment.

As they cooled out the oven they settled beautifully into the most perfect macarons one could envision, with smooth, shiny tops and wonderfully ruffled feet.  Except they stayed there forever.  No matter how much I tried I couldn't pry those little f*ckers off of the wax paper. 

fail #3

It's hard not to get discouraged after having three consecutive failures in one day, and I'll admit that for a while I was in a pissy mood- macarons just have that magical power to toy with your emotions.

And for those of you who will view this post and are curious about how my most daring meal went, I will say that it left me with a mixed bag of emotions.

shrimp and arugula salad

It wasn't bad per se, but the amount of time I put into the meal did not necessarily reflect in each meticulously crafted dish.  Everyday that week I went to bed with sore feet, prune fingers, and garlicky body odor, too exhausted to do any of the other non-food related tasks I had assigned myself that day.  Yet, each dish failed in delivering the epiphany inducing bites I was secretly hoping for.

Don't get me wrong- my guests (family members of course) were as entertaining as always, and I sat in the candlelit glow of good company and slightly dry pork loin.  No matter how critical you may be of your own work, there will always be people there to give you a kick in the gonads and tell you that no matter how pessimistic your feel there's always a redeeming quality in everything.

roast pork loin

Even still, to be honest I felt slightly unfulfilled by the end of the meal.  Was the bar set too high?  Admittedly perhaps, and it is always disappointing to reach below your expectations.  After spending this entire week in the kitchen, I felt like the payoff wasn't as big as I wanted it to be, and at the end of the day I just want to eat something a little more humble and a little less pretentious.  While my riff on Keller's candied apple for dessert was still very delicious, ironically at the end of the meal all I was craving was that homey, juicy fruit crisp I couldn't stop thinking about but wrote off anyway during my menu planning.

winding down with conversation

P.S. Thank you Brooke of FoodWoolf for your captivating email.

One year ago: Dark Chocolate & Bing Cherry Frangipane Tart 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

in the home stretch

I'm almost there.  Just one more day and the most complicated and involved meal I've ever made in my near twenty year lifetime is coming to a close.

My feet are once again sore from standing on cold kitchen tile, and I basically scrubbed off my top layer of skin in the shower in order to get rid of the meaty particulates and grease that have been accumulating over the course of cooking bacon on a hot and humid august day. 

I can't get the smell of onion off of my fingertips, and I'm having recurring daydreams of my tagliatelle turning into a gummy mess in the boiling water.  Right now my brain is trying to figure out how many disasters I can have right before dinner is served.

But most of all, I'm dreading all of the dishes that are going to be passing through the sink tomorrow night, and how my fingers, in addition to smelling of onion, will eventually be resembling dried prunes.