Sunday, May 30, 2010

It's called a lance, hello!

I love asparagus and if you ask me, it gets a really bad rap. But I can kind of understand why. For the most part people are introduced to it via canned vegetables *shiver*, which means that they get mushy, greyish "spears" that taste like ass. Fresh asparagus is a complete 180; snappy, vibrantly green and succulent.

About a month and a half ago, I bought three pounds of asparagus and wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it. I really didn't feel like Hollandaising it or dousing it with any other heavy sauce. Luckily, I was on the phone with my mom gushing over my fabulous purchase and she gave me told me what to do.


Sauteed Asparagus
2 lbs cleaned and snapped aparagus
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs unsalted butter
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
zest from one lemon (optional)
juice from 1/4 lemon (optional)

In a wide pan over medium heat melt the butter with the olive oil. Add in the asparagus a single layer at a time, adding salt and pepper to taste. When all the asparagus is in the pan use tongs or two spatulas to move the spears around so that they all get coated. Saute spears for about 15 minutes, rotating frequently. Remove from heat, add in zest and juice, and gently toss to distribute. Serve immediately.

And yes, my stove really is THAT small.

Not sure how to snap asparagus? Join my daughter's hands...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Beef, It's What's For Dinner

Cooking steak intimidates me. It always has. I think it's because I can't grill or barbecue to save my life. I've tried pan frying and broiling before, always with lackluster results. But with the meat bundle I bought from Jaworski's I got some really, really nice Angus steaks like the ones you see above; sirloin tip. And I couldn't just let them sit around...I mean look at them! They're beautiful! And I couldn't get the image of Gibbs and Shepard eating steak au poivre out of my head (I really do watch too much NCIS). So I brought out one of my French cookbooks to see how this wonderful sounding meat was made.

To say that it was simple is an understatement and as long as you have a good piece of beef, your taste buds will sing "happy, happy, joy, joy".

Steak Au Poirve
4 - 1 1/2 inch thick steaks
4 tbs unsalted butter
2 tbs olive oil
1/4 medium onion, finely diced
1/4 cup semi-dry white wine
kosher salt
cracked black pepper

Make sure to let your steak sit out of the fridge for about an hour before doing anything with it. I set mine on paper towels to make sure that any excess moisture would be wicked away. Sprinkle kosher salt lightly on one side of the steak, then sprinkle that side generously with cracked black pepper and press it into the steak firmly with your hand. Repeat on reverse side. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy bottomed saute pan with the olive oil over medium-high heat. When oil and butter are shimmering add two of the steaks to the pan. Sear steaks without turning for 3 to 4 minutes (for medium rare). Turn and sear on opposite side for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove to a heated plate and put in a warm oven while searing the remaining steaks. Lower heat to medium and add the finely diced onions to the pan. Saute until onions begin to turn translucent. add wine and deglaze pan. Taste for salt and add if needed. Turn off heat, add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and swirl to incorporate. Spoon sauce over steak and serve immediately.

I served my steak with sauteed asparagus and mashed potatoes. There was a general cry of joy as we all dug into our steaks and then we all sort of fell into a beef coma. That coupled with losing daylight made for a dark picture. Tomorrow I'll show you the asparagus. God, I love asparagus.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Insanity Update

I've made some progress for the Insane achievement:
Bloodsail Buccaneers: Honored (this one is done)
Darkmoon Faire: Friendly
Ravenholdt: Friendly
Shen'dralar: Honored
Booty Bay: Hated
Everlook: Hated
Gadgetzan: Honored
Ratchet: Hated

And I'm really sick of running Dire Maul North >.< I've been going out and killing the pirates in Lost Rigger Cove for goblin rep in between runs of DM. That's how Gadgetzan ended up further along than any of the other goblin factions.

Priestly Fail

I have an alt in WoW that I enjoy playing almost as much as my main, and on occasion I fool myself into believing I can play her as well as I play my main. Then I get my ass handed to me in Ulduar and I realize that I'm sailing a failboat and there are no life-vests or life-rafts on board.

Sephina is my priest. She's cute (see picture above), makes all my flasks (elixir master ftw) and has the ability to herb frost lotus at an amazing rate (seriously, I got 27 in one farming session). She's also a healer. Which means that even if I knew what it was like to be at range during a fight, I still wouldn't know what to do with lightening speed. Couple that with the fact that until today I've only healed as disc and what you get is disasterous on 10 man Firefighter. I wanted to cry, I was failing so badly. AND after I switched spec to holy, I didn't realize that I needed to train circle of healing and was using rank 1....*sigh* How the boys put up with me I'll never know, but they did. Even stuck it out when I said they should replace me.

To all the healers in my guild (except one who shall remain nameless), I take my hat off to you. Especially Dizzy, without whose help I would have failed even more abominably than I did. To the guys in my alt 10 man, thanks for sticking it out with my priest in the group. She looks like the ugly red-headed step child of alts on her lowly griffin. Getting a rusted proto on her will be like going from a gremlin to a rolls.

Friday, May 21, 2010


When we were growing up, my mom would go through stages of food and we would eat a specific food type or group for weeks on end. One of those that happened when we were living in sunny California was bread. All different kinds of bread, including homemade pita and one that I fell in love with, scones. Like a biscuit, but richer and sweeter, I just couldn't get enough of them. Anyway, when I decided to make strawberry shortcake the other day I really wasn't looking forward to the hohum biscuit cake that is usually the base for this dessert. That's when I remembered scones. Oh yeah, that dog'll hunt.

Strawberry Shortcake
6 scones, warm or room temperature
2 lbs strawberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup Marsala or other fortified wine (optional)
2 cups heavy cream
powdered sugar, to taste

Hull and slice the strawberries. Mix them together in a bowl with the granulated sugar and Marsala (if using). Allow to macerate for at least an hour. Whip the heavy cream with powdered sugar to taste. Split the scones in half, slather bottom half with whipped cream and spoon over strawberries with juice. Top with the other half of the scone. Enjoy.

About those scones my mother use to make, I never did write down the recipe for them. And then I received as a gift Biscuits and Scones by Elizabeth Alston. The book has a plethora of amazingly delicious recipes that I've made...and it has a recipe for ordinary scones that taste exactly like the ones my mother use to make. Divine.

Simple Sweet Scones (Biscuits and Scones, Elizabeth Alston)

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 tbs cold unsalted butter, cut up
1/4 - 1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 egg white

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Put flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl; stir to mix well. Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender or rub in with your fingers, until mixture looks like fine granules. Add sugar; toss to mix. Add milk and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms. Form dough into a ball, put onto a lightly floured board and give 10 to 12 kneads. Pat dough into a round 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick. Cut round into 6 or 8 wedges. Place wedges on baking sheet lined with parchment. Beat egg white until frothy and brush over tops of wedges. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for about 12 minutes or until medium brown on top.

To make smaller scones cut dough ball in half and pat each half into a round about an inch thick, then cut into wedges.

The scones you see in the picture were made from a recipe and a half of the dough. I usually spread them liberally with butter and homemade jam and that means they need to hold up. My mother makes the best jams and jellies I've ever had, a teaspoon or two just isn't enough.

Oh, and sorry for the post title, I was watching NCIS while I wrote this. Gibbs makes my heart pitter-patter.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Odds and Ends

We all have times when our fridge looks like the plastic containers thought they were rabbits and multiplied accordingly. Most of the time that means it's time to throw out half the contents of your fridge. But on those rare occasions when it's all still good, you can build unique and tasty one-off meals. Or even more rare, build a meal you can reproduce with a little bit of work.

That's what happened a couple of months back when I was poking around, trying to find something to eat and not really wanting to work for it. Half a head of cabbage, some leftover chicken, a piece of cheese......mmmm....salad. It turned out to be so good that my youngest and I ate the whole thing and decided we would have to make it again.

House Chop Salad
1 head green cabbage
1 large onion
1/2 lb olives
1 lb extra sharp white cheddar
1/2 lb feta
2 cloves garlic
3/4 - 1 cup vinaigrette
1 - 2 lbs cooked chicken

Chop all ingredients, except vinaigrette and garlic, into pieces about an inch or so in size. Mix chopped ingredients together in a large bowl. Crush garlic and whisk into vinaigrette. Pour mixture over salad and toss to coat evenly.

Yeah, it's really that simple, but the taste will amaze you. And the type of onion, olives, vinaigrette and chicken you use is completely up to you. For this one I used a Spanish onion, green olives (the regular old ones you find in any grocery store), garlic-herb vinaigrette and citrus marinated chicken breasts that I made especially for the salad. The chicken I had used the first time I made this was of a similar ilk and I was looking for that flavour again. If you want to serve this as a side dish, cut the recipe in half and omit the chicken.

Citrus Chicken
2 - 3 lbs chicken breasts
1 grapefruit
1 orange
1 - 2 tbs kosher salt
3 tbs dried rosemary
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Cube the chicken breasts and put the pieces in a large zip-top bag. Wash the grapefruit and orange well. Cut each in half, squeeze the juice on top of the chicken, then cut the skins into large pieces and place in bag with chicken. Add salt (to taste), rosemary, olive oil and garlic to the bag and close while expelling most of the air inside. Squish the bag for a few minutes to mix all the ingredients together. Let the chicken marinate for at least one hour in the fridge, two or three is even better. Melt a few tablespoons of butter and a few tablespoons of olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add pieces of chicken breast to the pan in small batches and brown on both sides. Chicken is cooked when the juices run clear. Cool completely before adding to salad.

WoW Introduction

My main toon, Sephestra, a level 80 enhancement shaman. I raid with my guild, Bleach, on the US Azjol-Nerub server. We're pretty good and it's a lot fun. Right now we're working on 25 man Lich King in ICC and 10 man hardmode ICC.

And outside of raid I'm working on the Insane in the Membrane achievement....because I am an achievement whore. I can't lie, I love to see the little pop up when I get one. It's shiny and flashy and pretteh. (Yes, I change my toon's hairstyle based on the gear I get, why do you ask?) When I finish this achievement I'll get a very nice title, Sephestra the Insane, and a bunch of achievement points.

I'll tell you more about that later, for now just know that I enjoy playing WoW as much as I enjoy cooking. And that's saying something.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

So this week has been pretty productive. I made cinnamon rolls, orange rolls, banana custard cake, schnitzel, potato salad, and macaroni 'n cheese....all from scratch. I also completed 10-man hardmodes for Marrowgar, Saurfang, Festergut, and Rotface. Food and WoW, two of my favourite hobbies. I hope you'll join me as I write about both of them.