Nachos, Eventually

I watch Superbowl for the food. 

Since 1996, I have lived with a man who will watch anything so long as it's A) on TV and B) involves at least one ball. I have endured bonded with him over more rubgy, football, golf, billiards, cricket, futball, bowling, hockey, ping pong, Klootschieten, baseball, basketball, and Tour De France than any woman should ever be asked to. 

I'm not actually with that man today, or any other day anymore, but I'm still "watching" the Superbowl, because it's important. Why it's such a big deal I may never really get, but I appreciate it for what it means to us as, like, Americans or something? I don't know. Maybe it's the closest we can get to shoving gladiators into amphitheaters with lions and tigers and inmates, or maybe it's just because dudes get to be unapologetic dudes for one whole day. Whatever it is, it matters to us, and I support it.

From the kitchen. 

Today, actually, I am supporting it from the bar of a hotel in San Francisco while eating what can only be described as the worst mussels the world has ever known, or ever will know, and chasing them with chocolate everything while a woman who has amazing for 1992 hair screams at the bar TV like she has any clue what's happening on it aside from muscular men in latex and HD.

I actually look forward to making food for Superbowl Sunday every year because it gives me an excuse to hide in the kitchen and not have to watch 10 minutes of action! packed! excitement! crammed into four hours Superbowl is something of an event, and events are special, and special means I get to show people I love them, and I show people I love them with sauté pans, and that explains The State of My Hind Quarters. But this year I don't even get to make my grapes with onion dip because it's their dad's day to have them and I'm on a business trip. 

Not one to be bogged down with pesky details, I got my Superbowl food fix in, just a wee bit early. 

Gratuitous and totally unrelated product plug, simply because it's true aside: That gooey mess of a picture was taken on this damn HTC Windows 8 phone that against all my better judgement and hipster-reason I am coming to love. #Troop8X #HTC8 #shutup

I made those nachos the night my new babysitter was supposed to come over and learn the layout of my house and how to properly feed and water my precious whittle puppay, but she had to reschedule because uterus and so we were left alone, just the four of us, with a tray the size of the Strait of Gibraltar full of that nonsense.

Worse things have happened. 

And the whole entire point of this post was how to make a tray the size of the Strait of Gibraltar full of that nonsense but it takes me a while to get to the point because shut up. Here's the recipe:


  • Brush a few (let's say three) chicken breasts with olive oil, a bit of taco seasoning, and some Emeril's Essence Creole seasoning (or whatever spicy mix you like), bake them until they're just done and chop them up into not-sissy-sized cubes.
  • Take a really big serving tray, like, say, the one you serve your en-tire Christmas dinner on. Smear a whole bunch of heated refried beans onto the tray. 
  • Dump your favorite kind-of-thickish tortilla chips onto the tray, smooching them into the beans so they'll stand up a little bit (don't use those fancy super-thin white chips, they won't hold what's coming next) (for this, I usually use Mission tortilla chips) 
  • Sprinkle your not-sissy-sized chicken chunks all over the chips, making sure most fall in-between the chips.
  • Do the same with a mess-a black beans, rinsed and drained.
  • Pour your favorite chili verde over all of that (or half of that, if you have little kids who will keel you when they see that you've ruined nacho night with *flavour*
  • (If you through a pork butt in a crock pot with some water and big ol green chilis and some seasonings for about 8 hours, you will have your own chili verde. If you don't want to do all of that, Safeway makes a pretty decent chicken green chili which they sell in their fresh soup section near the deli.)
  • Dump all of the cheese on top.
  • Bake until you can't stand it anymore.
  • Eat. All by yourself. After the kids go to bed. No one is judging you.
  • Live long and prosper.

How Stella Got Her Mixing Bowl Back

When I was in 2nd grade, my music teacher took notice of my Fierce Lesbian Fingers ™ and told me that I might be a decent piano player if I took lessons. He started teaching me which keys played which notes, and explained the clefs to me. After a little while, he told me it was probably time to ask my mother to teach me more at home.

I came home from school that day and told my mother that my music teacher said I was born to play piano (which he did) and that he thought I should take lessons. My mother said, "You want to learn to play piano? Here -- play this." She handed me the sheet music for the theme to The Incredible Hulk circa 197something, and opened the piano for me. 

We actually had two pianos in our house for a while, and before you go thinking ooooo-la-laaaa, let me point out that both of them were ancient, out of tune, non-functioning player pianos handed down to us by our congregation, because white people give weird shit to the poor.

One year later, I could play the theme to The Incredible Hulk, and just about anything else I wanted to play. Watching me play piano was cringe-worthy, to be generous. My fingers were in all the wrong positions, I twisted my wrists around like I was playing drunk stripper Twister, but it sounded magnificent. I taught my little brother and sister how to play, too. We's each sit at a piano and play off of each other (add overpriced, under-poured martinis and we would have invented piano bars) (I also invented pore strips around this age) (true story). It was wonderful, and I loved every minute of it. I used it as an escape -- no one bothered me when I played, my mother was kind to me while I was playing, and even forgot herself enough to pass me the errant compliment when i got through a particularly challenging piece. I played almost day, and got, while not Julliard good, pretty damn hood-good. 

And then I moved to Colorado on January 9th, 1992, and never saw my mother, those pianos, or that house again. And I haven't been able to play the piano since. 

I can't explain it, I just lost the ability to do it. It doesn't work. I can barely muddle my way through the first of Dr Bruce Banner's sad, lonely steps into the unknown future before my fingers stutter and trip over themselves and my brain remembers, 'Hey wait. WE AREN'T DOING THIS ANYMORE'.

It's no one's fault; it just happened. And it happened again a whole lot of years later, but this time it was with baking. 

I used to bake a lot. Like, a lot-lot. I've been a hobbyist cook for many years, but one day I just woke up one day and thought, "Hmm, I'd like to make a Yule Log for my in-laws for Christmas." And in three days, and a whole lot of homemade buttercream later, I did. And there was much rejoicing. 

I baked avidly for years, and then one day it just stopped. I kind of stopped cooking, too, but when things got really gong show crazy with Soon-To-Be-Ex's drinking, I just lost the will to bake. It was no one's fault, really, I just didn't want to anymore, and when I tried it flopped, and that made me want to less, and so it goes. 

But I kind of felt the twinge come back this summer, while I was in California for seven weeks working and staying with baby god-daddy & co. I think I started to remember who I was during those weeks I was gone. That's one of the hardest parts of being the enabler in a co-dependent relationship -- we take on so much of the other person's shit that we don't have room for any of our own stuff. This is no one's fault but our own, and it's a hard habit to break. 

Seven weeks a few thousand miles away from one's co-dependent isn't the worst way to start breaking that habit. 

While I was at baby god-daddy's house, his wife and I talked a lot about what she bakes (the baked goods of the Gods, in case you were wondering where to find them) and what I used to bake, and you know, I kind of started getting the itch again. She'd bake cookies and we'd think up fun ideas for ice creams to go with them. We'd eat her favourite cupcakes and we'd talk about what other kinds of buttercreams would go with the cakes. I'd watch her mixing batters and I'd start missing the smell of flour. 

So I came home and started baking again. Turns out, I still gotz it. In fact, I gotz it, plus. These? Are cookies. I made them, and they aren't dead. 

Cookies are my life-long foe. I have never successfully baked a cookie, until now. Now I spend my nights dreaming up new variations on these little masterpieces. My kids are telling their new friends that their mom bakes the best cookies on Earth. I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING. I am going to have to order new business cards now, because it seems I am no longer a cookie assassin. 

I don't even know what this means for my future, but I do know that it's probably time to start posting weekly recipes again. It's been, what, years since I did that last? Yeah, we're bringing sexy back. 

Those cookies up there are Oatmeal Coffee cookies on the left, and cherry pistachio cookies in the middle. The cherry pistachio ones still need some tweaking, but I've got the oatmeal toffee ones down to a science. The recipe is based off this one from Hershey's website. Someone in my Houston Al-Anon group gave me that recipe, and I have been messing around with it for a few weeks. Here's how I altered it:

  • Use 1 cup less oats than recommended (so 2 cups total)
  • Use a little less sugar than they call for (so, like, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar - you'll have to find your comfortable sweetness level. I was going for less-sweet entirely)
  • Mix the wet ingredients and refrigerate the mixture overnight, then soften it slightly the next day, and finish the recipe
  • For sure use the coconut, since you're using less oats
  • Add 1/2 nuts. I used slivered almonds that I then chopped a little, so they'd be about the same size as the oats. 
  • Use PLAIN toffee bits, not the chocolate coated ones. They're harder to find. They are also worth it.


Cookie Assassin

My inability to bake a common cookies has been fairly well-documented on this blog. My business cards and email signature all brandish the label, "Cookie Assassin." I am trying to own my failures as a baker and a mother, but then tonight my kids bit into cookies that I had managed to make somewhat edible, but by the grace of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, they were honestly befuddled by the warmth and the softness of the entire event.

I think it's time to ask for help.

So I did exactly that, over at my foodish blog on Babble.  Or, if not help, commiseratory confessions will do just fine.

Nothing tastes as good as regular feels

In my quest to eat more for my blood-type and hopefully shake the "Everything Is Bigger In Texas" curse off my gigantic ass, I'm trying to cut out carbs. Again. There's more on that on my food-story blog at Babble Voices, naturally following up a long post about my deep and abiding love of macaroni and cheese.

The carbs...they're freaking *everywhere.*

Rate the Hate the I Don't Even Have FLOUR Yet Edition

I'm supposed to at the store right now, buying turkey for Thanksgiving on Monday.  Except that I totally forgot that my darling daughter climbed into the car the other day and turned on EVERY BUTTON in the car.  Guess who has no battery?  Guess who's husband is 30 minutes away at work until 2 this morning?

So I could clean (and god knows, I should) but I'm all sorts of pissed at the world about the car thing, so screw it.  Internet therapy for me!

We're having 7 adults and ohmygodalotofkids over for Thanksgiving this year.  And that I have 7 friends and ohmygodalotofkids to spend the holidays with is the one single thing I am thankful for this year.  Finally, I moved into Canada.  Ahhh.

As promised, the entire menu with complete recipes follows after the jump.  This year, I'm getting over my control freak issues taking it easy and letting guests bring dishes, so it's just the bare bones, meat and potatoes menu.  All of it easy, all of it delicious.  Enjoy, and feel free to steal!

(PS: The recipe contest is still open for entries!)

Turkey: I found this Porcini Mushroom Turkey recipe in a Bon Appetit magazine a few years ago, and dear lord in heaven, I could die. It was my Christmas turkey last year, and I wished I'd made four. It was THAT good.  This year, I'm making two smaller ones as opposed to one big one.  The small ones just seems to cook more evenly and still retain a lot of moisture.

First, you make mushroom butter.  You can make this up to 2 days ahead, just wrap it all up tight and don't forget to save the water:

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms soaked in 1 cup boiling water for 30 minutes to 2 hours to rehydrate

  • 4 peeled cloves garlic

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) room temp, unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup fresh, chopped parsley

  • 1 tbsp each fresh chopped thyme, rosemary and mint

  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp pepper (I like fresh ground, your call)

After you soak the mushrooms, strain them but KEEP THE LIQUID.  When you soak them, there will be some grit at the bottom, so strain slowly, keeping the grit or sediment at the bottom of the bowl.  Chop the mushrooms and put 1/2 the chopped shrooms in a small bowl.  Keep the rest (about 1/3 c) in a ziplock for the gravy later.

Chop the parsley in a food processor.  Add the butter and the rest of the spices.  Mix and then add the 1/2 of the schrooms you'd kept out.  Grind that all in a processor until it's a coarse paste.

Turkey Stock (also called water, if you're lazy.  Like me): You can totally just use water, but if you want a gravy Elvis would come back to life for, just throw 8 cups chicken broth in a large saucepan with 2 unpeeled carrots and 2 stalks of celery, cut into chunks, 1 quarted unpeeled large onion, 1 bunch (not stalk, BUNCH) parsley and the neck, heart and gizzard from your turkey (I throw the liver in, too.  Your call.)  Boil that and then simmer for about 90 minutes.  Take out the heart, neck and gizzard and strain the liquid.  Cool it, pull the neck from the neck, chop the other turkey bits, and add all that meat back to the strained liquid, and chill it for up to three days.

Now, you get the turkey ready:  I am a briner.  I swear, it makes or breaks your turkey.  If you are, too, just brine it the night before with ice water, salt and pepper.  I think I threw some Worchester sauce into the brine, and a bunch of herb stalks.  Either way.  Preheat your stove to 325 with the rack on the bottom.  Sprinkle inside the turkey with salt and pepper, and then rub with 2 tbsp of that butter you made.  Then....

Start at the neck end of the turkey, and slide your hand under the skin.  Use your fingers to loose the skin from the meat, and wiggle your way back.  This is where you'll thank yourself for brining first; the skin will come up much easier if you do.  You want to loosen as much of the skin from the body as possible, all the way down through the thighs and upper drumsticks and everything.  Once it's loose, grab fingerfuls of the mushroom butter, start at the BACK of the turkey, and rub that sucker down with the butter, under the skin.  It doesn't have to be perfectly smooth, just get everything.  Work your way up to the breast meat and the neck end.

Inside the cavity, shove about 10 sprigs of parsley, 6 rosemary and 6 thyme.  You can buy fresh herb bundles at the grocery that are just called "Thanksgiving" or "poultry" herbs.  Just use that pack if you can find it, but pull out any rosemary or mint.  Tie the legs together loosely and tuck the wings under the body.

Place the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan.  Rub the outside with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Pour 2 cups of the stock (or water) into the pan.  Roast that turkey with a thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165, which should take 3 hours, but I use convection, and as I learned last year the hard way, a lot less than three hours.  Watch your thermometer.  I strongly suggest you go to Target and drop $15 on a digital remote thermometer like this, and DO NOT OPEN THAT STOVE FOR ANY REASON.  Every time you do, you slow the cooking.  It's basting itself thanks to your butter, yo.

When it's done, tilt it so all those juices run into the pan (for your gravy) and then transfer the turkey to a platter.  Tent it with foil and let it rest; it'll finish cooking all on its own and rise 5-10 more degrees if you let it set for 30 minutes.


  • 1 lb sliced cremini mushrooms

  • 3 chopped garlic cloves

  • 2 tbsp chopped shallots

  • 1 c dry wine wine

  • 2 cups turkey stock (you know, that you TOTALLY made 3 days before)

  • 1 c heavy whipping cream

  • 2 tbsp water

  • 5 tsp cornstarch

  • 1/4 fresh chopped parsley

  • 1 tsp fresh chopped mint

If it's in the bottom of your roasting pan, it's going into a big glass measuring cup.  All of it.  Scrape the bottom and stuff.  Spoon off the fat, but keep 3 tbsp of that set aside.  Heat that fat in a heavy skillet on med-high heat and add cremini mushrooms, garlic and shallots.  Saute for about 6 min, until the schrooms are tender.  Spoon out the mushrooms and set them aside, then add the wine to the pan.  Boil for about 3 minutes until it reduces to about 1/2 cup.  Add the 1/3 c porcini mushrooms you had left over from the butter to the pan, the liquid left over from soaking the mushrooms (but pour SLOWLY so that the sediment stays at the bottom!), the 2 c stock, and the contents of the glass measuring cup with all the stuff you scraped off the bottom of the pan.  Bring that to a boil, and then simmer on low for about 10 minutes.

Add the cream and the cremini mushrooms you set aside earlier to the skillet.  Mix the water with the cornstarch until smooth, and then whisk that into the gravy.  Simmer until you like the consistency, and then add the mint and parsley.

Then prepare to die and go to heaven.

Potatoes: This recipe comes from Leslie Dillinger at The Hipo Lounge.  I also made these at Christmas last year, and I licked not only the pans, but everyone's plate and everyone's face after they ate them.

  • 4 c thinly sliced potatoes

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1/2 tsp pepper

  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

  • 2 cloves minced garlic

  • 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere

  • 4 tbsp butter

  • 2 eggs lightly beaten

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 375.  In large bowl, toss potatoes w/ SOME of the salt, pepper and garlic.  Place 1/3 of potatoes in well-greased 9X12 pan. Sprinkle SOME of the nutmeg over them.  Sprinkle with 1/3 of the Gruyere.  Dot with 1/3 of the butter.

Repeat this process two more times.

In a small bowl, beat eggs, cream and remaining salt/pepper/nutmeg.  Pour this mixture over the potatoes.  Top with Parmesan cheese.  Bake covered for 35 minutes.  Remove cover and bake for another 10 minutes, until potatoes are soft.

Dude.  Seriously.

Something green: I made these last year. I posted these last year. I will make and post them every year until I find a better alternative. Which I won't.

  • 1 pound of thinly sliced shallots (or leeks. I use leeks. I like leeks. They're biblical and shit)

  • 1/3 cup plus 3 tbsp plain old flour

  • oil for frying

  • salt

  • 2 1/2 pounds green beans. This is great for child-participation. Let your kids trim the beans. They'll love it.

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter

  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced

  • 1/2 tsp paprika (I never seem to have paprika on hand, and I've never missed it in this)

  • pinch of cayenne pepper

  • fresh ground pepper

  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, stems discarded, caps thinly sliced (one time I used the whole mushroom, not just the caps, and no one had a trip or went to the hospital, so I'm guessing this part is optional. Oh, and you should be able to get these mushrooms anywhere. Just ask the produce dude.)

  • 2 cups of chicken stock

  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche (it's in the fancy pants cheese aisle. Secret? If you can't find it, use Cool Whip. It totally works.)

  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice. I promise, I promise, you want to squeeze out a lemon for this one. Don't go with the pre-bottled stuff. I promise.

Toss the sliced shallots/leeks with 1/3 of the flour, shake off the extra flour, and fry them in batches in a deep pan with 1 inch of hot oil over moderate heat. Salt them after and set them aside. You can do this the night before and stick them in a tupperware. Just recrisp them for a few minutes in a 350 degree stove right before you use them.

Boil the beans in a large pot of salted water for about 5 minutes, until they're bright green and just tender. Drain them and then run them under cold water to refresh them and stop them from cooking any further. Pat them dry and set them aside, too.

Melt the butter in a large skillet, cast-iron if you've got one, which I don't, and add the medium onion. Cook on low for about 5 minutes until it's softened. Add the paprika, cayenne and a large pinch of pepper and cook while stirring for about a minute. Then add the mushrooms, cover them and let that cook, still on low, for about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook for about 5 minutes more, until they've browned a bit. Stir in the 3 remaining tbsp flour and slowly stir in the stock until smooth. If you're doing this ahead, stop here. The rest has to be all done together, at the very end of cooking.

Let that simmer (or bring it back up to a simmer if you're coming back to it) for about 5 more minutes, and then add the creme fraiche, lemon juice and beans. The thing with dairy and lemon is that if it doesn't boil, it won't curdle, but if it DOES boil, you're screwed. Don't let it get hotter than a gentle simmer. Cover everything, watch the heat, and let it all cook together for 5 minutes. Season it with salt and pepper to taste and then transfer it to a baking dish.

Cover the dish with foil and bake it at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with the shallots/leeks, and serve.

Apps: I'm pretty sure I'll make bruschetta for before; just have the grocery store slice a baguette short-ways, toast the sliced on a Foreman or a Cuisinart grill, and then top with a fat slice of Roma tomato and a chucks of fresh mozzarella.  You can sprinkle that with diced red onion if you want, and then drizzle the bruschettas with a balsamic vinaigrette.  Easy and delicious and really quite pretty.

Dessert: I'm not making cheesecake for the first year since I've celebrated Thanksgiving.  *sigh*  I thought I'd try my hand at Lisa's Cherry Danish recipe, though.  The kids want to make something, and this sounds like something they could handle, but that still would make us all do a little happy dance:

Cream Cheese Cherry Danish Dessert

  • 2 cans (8 oz each) refrigerated crescent rolls, divided

  • 2 tubs (8 oz each) cream cheese

  • 1.5 cups powdered sugar, divided

  • 1 egg white

  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • 1 can (21 oz) cherry pie filling

  • 1 to 2 tbsp milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Unroll 1 of the cans of crescent dough. Place in greased 13x9-inch baking pan; press onto the bottom of the pan to form crust, firmly pressing the seams together to seal.
3. Beat cream cheese spread; 3/4 cup of sugar, the egg white, and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed until well-blended. Spread mixture onto crust.
4. Spread cherry pie filling over cream cheese.
5. Unroll remaining can of crescent dough onto large sheet of wax paper. Pat out dough to form a 13x9-inch rectangle pressing seams together to seal. Flip the dough over onto the cherry filling to form the top crust. Discard wax paper.
6. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool at least 20 minutes.
10. In a bowl, gradually add milk to remaining 3/4 cup of sugar, beating until well-blended and thick. Drizzle over warm dessert.

Cut into 24 rectangles to serve. Store leftover dessert in refrigerator.

And until I hear from my guests, that's about all I've got.  Except for Stove Top.  We will always and forever have Stove Top.  I just don't boil it, I bake it in a glass pyrex with the butter sliced and laid on top, not stirred in.  Because, yeah, trailer park.  Whatever; shit's GOOD, yo.