Thursday, December 30, 2010

slabs and sausages slices

This year, I'm starting off my New Year's celebration right... with indulgence blanketed by indulgence in the form of Bacon-Wrapped Kielbasa Bites. 

I'll be using the recipe from a boarding house reach. Very excited - Cheers!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

MCG: How to be Good at Being a Man

Welcome to the second installment of MGC.
(Molly's General Consulting is now known as MGC)

Props to the writers of all of those Blah-Blah for Dummies books. Sitting at a local bar drinking and eating my lunch right now, I am struck a strong sense of envy that they thought of the series before me. Although my idea is a little different, it follows the same theme and I'm assuming I'd get hit with some sort of lawsuit if I infringed on it.

For example, with the muse of three middle-aged men sitting at the bar near my table I have developed the following "how-to" guide.

How To Be Good at Being a Man

1.) Never say the following with a childish and feminine enthusiasm: "No! My jeans are Seven for All Mankind! My girlfriend is buying me True Religions, though!"

2.) Don't ever say to another man, "Your wife sucks! And so does your baby!" Okay, the only time you could ever say that is if his wife cheated on him and if his baby starting killing small animals and humans. But, if that is your response to your friend saying "My wife is stopping by," then you suck at being a man.

3.) Don't make a farting noise when you sit down.

With that being said... happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


First, I'd first like to acknowledge all those hard-as-nails females out there that dedicated their lives to fighting for our rights as women. Thank you for finding victory in women's suffrage, Equal Pay for Equal Work, Title IX and various other anti-discriminatory milestones.

Next, I'd like to acknowledge all those wonderful things that make stay-at-home moms so adorable: frilly aprons, fresh-baked goodies, spotless houses, home-cooked dinners, fruit bowls, errand-running, cute casual outfits, reusable grocery bags, Keds, Yankee candles, etc etc etc.

Now, I'd like to acknowledge myself for creating the best profession ever: the unmarried-yet-cohabitating stay-at-home mom with no kids. Essentially, the housegirlfriend. The housegirlfriend does all the wonderful things that a housewife does - cleaning, cooking, making sure all the good shows are DVR'ed - but, at the same time, she's a fun-loving gf, ready to don a hoodie, slam some beers and mow down on wings for a good ol' fashioned Sunday Funday.

This isn't meant to discredit the work of the afore-mentioned feminists... but how good does that life sound?

Whether you get to be a full-time or part-time housegirlfriend, here are some quick and easy tips for success:

  • Have a little appetizer ready for him when he comes home from a long day at work
  • Always ask him what snacks he wants from the grocery store when you go
  • Let him help you with things - opening jars, lifting large objects, saving your apartment from burglars
  • Let him watch whatever he wants on TV (ehh I know, it sounds horrible but we all have to make sacrifices)
So go on, get retro with it and June Cleaver the sh*t out of your relationship!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Help Get Out The Vote!

It's the most heated campaign since Obama vs. McCain, bigger than Sandra Day O'Connor's induction into the Supreme Court, more important than the ratification of the19th Amendment (although thank god women can vote or else I'd lose 80% of my support)... It's Molly Mac vs. The Others in the New England Country Soup's "Yours vs. Ours" Soup Challenge.

So please vote for my Spicy Chicken, Ditalini & Basil Soup by simply following the link below and clicking "Vote For This Recipe." It's quick and easy, plus you can vote once a day!

If I win I pledge to solve world hunger by feeding all empty bellies with this hearty soup.*

I'll be out and about kissing babies' heads, shaking the hands of the elderly and holding signs on the street corner all day today so "honk" if you see me. Hey, I didn't almost major in political science for nothing.

*provided I am given the appropriate funding 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Brown Bag Lunches: Top Ten Snacks of the 90's

Growing up there were two basic kinds of elementary school kids: ones who bought lunch and ones who brought lunch. The kids who bought lunch were incredibly lucky on rotini & meat sauce, Thanksgiving dinner and pizza days, but forced to suffer through countless nutritionally-challenged meals like bouncy hot dogs, chicken cordon blue, and "Grade D But Edible" hamburgers.

But let's not assume that all the kids who brought lunch lived in mealtime luxury because these little ones can be further assigned to one of two categories: envy-envoking snack-packed, savory sandwich lunches and bland, blah, boring whatever-is-in-the-cabinet lunches. Even though every now and then I'd get a little pasta salad or a can of Coke in my brown bag, I was, on the whole, a member of the latter designation. While my friends enjoyed individually-packaged Fritos and sandwiches on bulky rolls laden with fresh sliced turkey, lettuce and tomatoes, I was grabbing at the crumbled remains of regular potato chips from a greasy plastic baggy and trying to swallow my regular-old peanut butter on wheat.

Because my lunchtimes lacked indulgence, I was painfully aware of all the awesome bagged-lunch options out there. Here were the snacks I wished and prayed for, stared longingly at in the grocery store aisles and got only on the days we went on field trips:

1.) Dunkaroos
2.) Peanut-butter Twix bars
3.) Hostess chocolate cupcakes
4.) Kraft cheese & crackers
5.) Table Talk apple pies
6.) Jello pudding
7.) Gushers
8.) Fruit Roll-Ups
9.) Keelber Fudge-Stripe cookies
10.) Pringles (little individual cans)

When my spawn eventually goes to school, I'd like to say I'm going to pack them brown bags filled with goodies... but I have a strong feeling they'll be hitting the cafeteria armed with bananas, bottles of water and yogurts... sorry future children, I'm only thinking about your health!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kopi Luwak, Cat Poop, Say What?!

It's not secret that I love coffee. Iced, hot, lattes, espresso beans, ice cream, candy, mole sauce... if it's coffee-flavored I'll take it. And, I think as much as I love coffee, I hate poop. I am completely disgusted with bathroom humor and it takes a very high comfort level for me to be able to talk about bathroom-related things with anyone.

So when I got wind of kopi luwak, also known as civet coffee, I was really struck with a strong mix of emotions - anger, disgust, interest... Kopi luwak is, simply put, cat poop coffee. And it is crazy expensive! Like, a cafe in Canada is charging a whopping $25 per cup (well, that's only $24.70 American dollars so I guess it's not that bad). And the rate per pound can range from $100 to $600! Apparently these Asian Palm Civets love to eat coffee berries. I guess they're sort of cat-like, but they look more like rats to me. Really though let's be reasonable, how appetizing is "rat poop" coffee?

Anyhow, they eat the coffee berries and then, of course, you know, go. Then, creepy Indonesian men like this guy collect their goings, clean and filter them, and then sell them to silly coffee lovers across the world.

The kopi luwak has a less bitter taste and, as one coffee critic describes it, "the aroma is rich and strong, and the coffee is incredibly full bodied, almost syrupy. It’s thick with a hint of chocolate, and lingers on the tongue with a long, clean aftertaste." I'd think you wouldn't want the cat poop to linger on your tongue, but what do I know?
With the tough economy, I would assume entrepreneurial-minded cat-owning Americans would be jumping on this craze! In fact, I myself might go get a coffee plant, feed its berries to my mother's cats, and start cashing in. Or maybe to my mom's pug... pugs are cuter than cats anyway.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Soup Challenge: The Final Recipe

The recipe is finished. I've tested, tweaked and tasted to brothy perfection and, finally, I'll present to you, my worthy readers, my submission for the New England Country Soup "Yours vs. Ours" challenge...

Spicy Chicken, Diatlini and Basil Tomato Soup

Disclaimer: This isn't a shortcut, easy-as-pie soup. The total prep time is about half an hour and total cook time is roughly four hours, which you'll most likely want to spread out over a couple of days. The reason there's so much time behind this seemingly simple soup is that I wanted to build as much flavor into the recipe as possible and there's only one way to get a slow-cooked taste... slow cooking! So, I've included roasting the chicken and making the chicken stock in my soup recipe.

The ingredient list...
1 4.5-5lb whole chicken
4 carrots
4 celery stalks
3 onions
2 cups water
1 tbsp butter
4 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 28 oz can ground peeled tomatoes
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
2 cups ditalini pasta

First Step: Roasting the Chicken

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut two carrots, two celery stalks and one onion into large chunks. Wash off your chicken and place it in a roasting pan.

Spread the butter over the skin and sprinkle with one teaspoons each kosher salt and pepper. Line the roasting pan with the carrots, celery and onion and pour in 2 cups of water. Cook uncovered for twenty minutes for each pound plus 15 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 165 degrees. Start with the chicken breast up. One third of the way through cooking time, turn the chicken on its side for the second third, and then switch it to its other side for the last third. Baste every time you turn the chicken. This ensures an evenly cooked and juicy chicken.

When the chicken is done, let it cool a bit, then carve it. Reserve two cups of the breast meat (without skin) for the soup. The rest of the meat will be great for a roasted chicken dinner, sandwiches or even chicken soup! 

Next Step: Making the Broth

Put the chicken bones (don't worry about taking off the skin or any leftover meat, we'll be straining that out) in a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and let it go for one hour. Then, add two chopped carrots, two chopped celery stalks and one chopped onion as well as two sprigs of thyme and two teaspoons of kosher salt. Bring this to a boil and let it go for 45 minutes.  Then, pour through a tightly-meshed strainer into another pot. If any fat gets through, just scrape it out with a spoon. Boil this down to 2/3rds of its original amount.  This should make you about six cups of broth but you'll only need four for the soup, so freeze the remaining broth.

Finally - the Soup!

Put on water for your pasta according to the package's directions and cook the ditalini to al dente. Strain and set aside. 

Dice one onion and warm up 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When you can smell the oil, add in the onions and let them sweat out until they are translucent, stirring often. Next, add one can of tomato paste, stirring it into the onions, then cook for two minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so. 

Now, add 1 can of ground peeled tomatoes, four cups of your homemade chicken stock, one teaspoon of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of hot pepper sauce, 1 bay leaf, 3 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil and 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped oregano. Bring this to a boil then turn the heat to low and let it cook for 20 minutes. 

Then, add your diced chicken and ditalini. Bring the heat up to medium and cook for 20 more minutes. 

Finally, you're ready to eat! I'd recommend serving with some good bread for soaking up the extra broth. This soup freezes well and makes enough for 4-6 servings.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Croissants and Dying Wishes

(Knock on wood) I think I'm in pretty good physical health at the moment and, barring any freak accidents or encounters with active murderers, I don't think my time is going to come any time soon. But, one can never be too prepared so I'm going to lay out my dying wishes for you on this chilly December Sunday. They include three major themes: memories, celebration and croissants.

I want someone that loves me to put together one of those slide shows of pictures from my life, sprinkling in some adorable childhood photos, like the one where i'm wearing pearls, an oxford shirt and holding a fake machine gun, and then only really good pictures of me now where I look skinny and I don't have a lopsided smile or a big nose. I want you to play it during my ceremony like in Love Actually and everyone has to cry really hard.

But then, halt the waterworks! After you've all shed a few tears, I want someone that loves me to rent out a hall or some sort of venue that can accommodate a deejay, a dance floor and an open bar. I'd like the signature cocktail to be a cucumber martini with Hendrick's gin in remembrance of me. I want everyone to loosen up and dance and talk about how awesome I was - but no more crying.

And lastly, please fill my coffin with fresh baked croissants from Blue Tierra chocolate cafe in South Boston. This dying wish came to me about twenty  minutes ago while I was eating one of those buttery, flakey, heavenly pastries. After finishing mine and pushing back the temptation to eat the croissant I got for Mike, since he was still sleeping and wouldn't know what he's missing, I stared at the stray flakes on my plate and decided I want to be rolled into croissant dough and baked when I die.

Then I sort of thought about that and realized a couple annoying things would have to happen. First, I'd have to be cremated and I really don't feel like being incinerated, even though, I know I know, I'll just rot in my coffin and that's pretty disgusting but hey, it's my body and I'll do what I want. Second, a loved one would have to bring my ashes to the cafe and ask the baker to use them in the croissant dough, most likely violating food safety requirements and ruining the taste of the croissant. So, I figured filling my coffin with the croissants will be good enough.

So, there you go! And a preemptive "thank you" to the loved ones that will one day fulfill my wishes, plus a "you're welcome" for the fun you'll have at my funeral party!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Quick Tip: Let Your Sally Homemaker Self Take a Breather

My dream for years has been to be a stay-at-home mom with no kids, spending my hours cooking, cleaning and running errands. Well, thanks to funemployment, my dreams have come true. I kid, I kid... I left my job just last week and I'll be focusing on writing while I finish up my degree (no cool kids at ASU graduate in 4 years...). Before I dive head-first into building a freelancing career, I'm letting myself have a few indulgent days this week to play the part of a full-time homemaker. 

While I am loving every  minute of my new life, working around my own schedule and not burning under the florescent lights all day, I still manage to be very very busy! There are just so many things you realize you need to do (and can do) when you're not confined to a cubicle like grocery store runs, trips to the hardware store and paying bills. Well, I swear I'll do all that stuff soon... 

Yesterday I by accident spent four hours shopping (with my birthday money!!) and didn't have the energy to cook a meal for my man. So, instead I busted out my trusty frozen backup... PF Chang's Meals for 2

I typically don't like to buy frozen foods except the good junk food like Toaster Strudels and chicken nuggets, especially when it's from a major chain restaurant like the Boston Market or the TGI Friday's meals. But the PF Chang's frozen dinners are unbelievably good - literally just as good as the meal at the restaurant. You just heat it up in the skillet, cook up some rice, and you've got an A+ meal for under $10. They usually cost around $9 but I grab them whenever they're on sale and save them for a lazy day. Now if only they could figure out how to freeze the dishwashers too...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

HoHo Hello Holidays!

Okay, blah blah blah, the turkey's been cooked, eaten, and it's leftovers have been made into various forms of sandwiches, soups and casseroles. Now, it's time for holiday baking. The first holiday party of the season is coming up in a couple weeks and I am definitely making a recipe for red velvet cake balls I found on Bakerella.

I think I'll make them into lollipops so no one has to deal with chocolate fingers at the party and I might add a little something, like a chocolate center or or a dusting of crushed peppermints over the chocolate to make them just scream "merriment!"

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Some Stuffed 'Shroom Starters

I love parties. I really really love catered parties. I really really really love catered parties with passed hors d’oeuvres. My hands-down favorite bite-sized starter is the stuffed mushroom. I literally can’t get enough of them. At special events, it’s so hard to maintain a prim and proper appearance when my fingers are twitching, my mouth is watering and my eyes are darting around the room in search of the mushroom girl, zoning in on the door the servers are popping out of, their fully stocked serving platters balanced easily on their upturned palms.
So, when I finally catch one emerge, I “run to the bathroom” or “go over to talk to blah blah blah” then ambush the server, attempting to distract him or her with my wit as I rob them of their cheese-filled earthen delights. And, as so often happens when one is fueled with free white wine, my attempt at charm fails to shine through, the server stares at me blank-faced and everyone at the party sees me popping more than my fair share of appetizers into my beak thus igniting a blush on my cheeks that mimics the hue of a third degree sunburn.

But last night, I set myself up with the sweet luxury of open indulgence. I had a bunch of leftover mushrooms and a big ol’ hunk of gorgonzola, so I decided to make myself and my roommate a nice little appetizer. 

First, I cleaned the mushrooms and removed their stems and set the oven to 350 degrees. Then, I threw some butter in a pan and tossed the mushroom tops in for a couple minutes. After they were all evenly coated, put them hole-up on a cookie sheet.

To make the stuffing, I diced some onion and garlic up finely and chopped the stems of the mushroom. After heating up a little bit of oil, I added the onions and let them sweat down until they were translucent. Next I added the mushroom stems, let them soak up some of the oil and added the garlic. I cooked this for a minute or so, then crumbled in the gorgonzola. I turned off the heat but kept the pan on the burner to melt the cheese as I sprinkled in breadcrumbs and drizzled in some hot sauce. When the ingredients were all incorporated, I put a small spoonful in each mushroom and sprinkled with parmesan. They went in the oven for 30 minutes and came out so tasty!

Next time I’ll sprinkle the tops with breadcrumbs because, while the crunch was nice, the saltiness of the parmesan was a little overpowering. But the best part? Mike doesn't love mushrooms, so I got to enjoy a little more than my share :) Mmm!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Boston's Best Burger?

Every year, Bostonians anxiously await Boston Magazine's "Best of Boston" nominations for the best of everything in the area. We trust the magazine's opinions as though they are the truth handed down directly from the heavens, decrees of superiority determined in benevolence by the gods of judgement. I think we're all playing the part of the small fool because, in reality, the "Best of Boston" hoopla is most likely a revenue generating stunt for the mag, albeit a genius one, that produces superlatives based 30% on taste/quality and 70% on advertising dollars. It's a clever little trick, making it seem like they're cluing us in on a townie secret... Like, surprise, the best steakhouse is Grill 23! The best bakery is Flour! The best Italian is Strega! Okay, okay I'm being a cynic... and (yipes!) a hypocrite because, this year, I totally fell for their "best burger" choice...

After a friend kept insisting that the nod to Sel de la Terre's burger was so so so true, claiming she experienced a taste of mouth watering beefiness from her boyfriend's burger even though he surprisingly ordered his well done, a request that caused her a great deal of panic and anxiety and left her thinking "... is he really the one? Can I be with a man that orders beef and asks for all the juicy fatty goodness to be cooked out?" That is, until she asked for a bite. Even after this burger had been left on the griddle well past the pink medium center she prefers, she said the meat just melted the minute it hit her tongue and, full-mouthed, she stood right up and stepped up on her chair, waving the burger in her hand, and declared "Waiters, waitresses, servers that only bring over the wine, cooks, dishwashers, hostesses, fellow diners, this is the best burger I have ever had!"

Well, slight exaggeration there, but she did like it enough to convince six of her girlfriends to all order the burger on our recent trip to Sel de la Terre. So seven burgers were brought to seven girls accompanied by rosemary fries, each a little different - some without pancetta, some medium, some medium rare, but all absolutely delectable. I don't think I partook in any conversation until my burger was completely gone. It tasted like a sirloin burger met a filet au poivre and they had this wonderful little cheese-covered, bun-encased love child. I could probably have eaten the burger with nothing but a knife and fork and been just as happy.

And so, hats off to you, oh worthy editors and advertising sales persons of Boston Magazine. Good call on your "Best Burger" nomination for Sel de la Terre. I humbly applaud you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

LeFtOvEr MaNiA!

When you open your refrigerator door and find it bloated with stores of Tupperware, to-go containers, tinfoil-wrapped mystery items and enough veggies to feed a small, weak vegan army, it’s time to get creative. Although I have to confess that sometimes I indulge in a little excess-food purge because it feels so good to act uber American just not need things, I am trying to force myself to live by my grammy’s wise words, “waste not want not.” And so, last night was a leftover mania at my apartment.

I remember when I first really started cooking back in college,  I’d try to make use of the food I had in-house but my concoctions would always be semi-edible disasters like provolone-lettuce-and-mustard roll ups or pasta tossed with olive oil and chopped up pepperoni. My culinary instincts can’t be all to blame, my fridge was pretty lame and most everything was white and either dairy or starch... or beer. And so, my attempts at frugality would end up with me tossing my creation in the trash and sheepishly ordering delivery from Pita Pit (then calling my parents to whine and ask for more spending money).

I’ve come a long way since those days. Long gone are the ill-fitting ripped jeans, horrid highlights and hangovers nursed with yellow Gatorade until the figurative pre-gaming bell rung. No no, now I’m sophisticated, mature, I wear aprons. And now even just a few glasses of wine manage to turn the next morning into a pulsing fog. Plus, my fridge is better stocked and my leftover creations have seen serious improvement.

For example, last night, after surveying our shelves, I put together a dinner of soup, pizza and calzone. Not too shabby if I do say so myself.

First I used my leftover stock, meat and pasta from my Soup Challenge First Test Batch to make some chicken soup. It’s not very complicated - just cook down onions, carrots and celery until the onions are translucent, then add stock and some water, chicken, a good amount of coarse salt (the key to good soup) and pepper. I added in a few dashes of basil and oregano too. Then, I brought it a boil for a few minutes and turned it down to simmer, adding the cooked pasta. I let it simmer on the stovetop for a while to keep warm and let the flavors really settle in. We topped it off with a little fresh parmesan for a nice start to our catch-as-catch-can meal.

Then, I had frozen some leftover dough from the last homemade pizza night so I let two doughs thaw and planned out pizza pour moi and calzone pour homme. I love making homemade pizza and calzones - the trick is to use a pizza stone. They aren't expensive, I've probably already used mine fifty times and they give you that crispy crust that you just won't get using a baking sheet or pizza pan.

First, the pizza. I made use of a few onions that were sitting around by caramelizing them. Again, pretty simple – just melt butter into some olive oil (about a tablespoon per onion) and then let the onions cook on low for about an hour. Sprinkle with salt ten minutes in, but other than that, just keep stirring and they’ll do the work themselves. I sautéed a few mushrooms in some butter and white wine and drizzled the rolled-out dough with balsamic glace, then topped it with the onions, mushrooms, some leftover chicken from my dinner out with  my parents the night before, and chunks of gorgonzola cheese. Popped it in the oven for 15 minutes and finished it off with a few more drizzle of the glace.

Next was Mike’s calzone. He's a buffalo chicken calzone nut, so I heated some chicken fingers up, then tossed them with Frank’s, laid them on the dough and layered blue cheese and mozzarella on top. I folded up the calzone, sealed it with water and coated it with olive oil and popped it into the oven. I’m pretty sure that the calzone was a success because he “forgot” to give me a bite of the end piece with some blue cheese like I asked… ;)!

Tonight is another make-use-of-stuff-we-already-have night so I'll be making baked rigatoni with sausage and fennel. Mmmm!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tall, Grande, Venti, TRENTA!

As a native New Englander, my caffeinated loyalty most certainly lies with the pink and orange, but, like a butt-guy whose wandering eyes venture up north when the view is just too good, I do enjoy a Starbucks bevvie once in a while. There's different ambiance in a Starbucks, one that makes you wish you didn't conform to cultural norms in the ironically uniform way that all the other societal rebels do, with black-rimmed glasses, vintage t's, skinny jeans and a iPhone from mom and dad. Well, either that or a big-sunglassed, big-pursed celebrity in full makeup who's running into the 'bucks for a venti carmel macchiato for herself and a venti non-fat, no-whip mocha for some unnamed character who is inevitably less famous or not famous at all and probably on her payroll, sitting in the parking lot calling the paparazzi with the big news that today in Hollywood, a reality TV persona is not going to suffer from a headache due to the lack of espresso. But hey, a girl's gotta get on the glossy Stars are Just Like US pages somehow.

Or a sextuplet?

Or a former presidential hopeful?

Okay, so whatever mold I feel the pull to fit when I go to Starbucks, I want to do it with a whole 'lotta fancy schmancy coffee drink in my hand. Now, we know Starbucks wouldn't be so lame as to name their sizes in English, oh, well, except the tall (which conveniently rimes with small, a little cheat I used when I was first starting out at S'bucks), they've got to go exotic with grande and venti. And, you can't just order latte with skim milk, you've got to follow the form. It goes as follows:
(iced) (size) (milk preference) (no whip) (number of pumps of syrup) (drink choice) 

There's probably more to it than that, but that's the gist of their counter-intuitive ordering system. For example, I order like so, "May I please have an iced venti non-fat no-whip three-pump mocha?" Which is much more complicated, although about the same length, as my Dunk's order, "May I please have a medium iced Dunkin' dark with skim milk and sugar?"

But, today at Starbucks, I was let in on a little secret. No, no, a huge secret. I stopped in before work to grab just an iced coffee, just like the man at the register next to me. I heard him order his drink the same way and I was sort of dreading the moment the first coffee was ready, like that awkward, "oh you take it," "oh no no you take it" exchange when you both really just want to slap the other one in the face as a distraction and then take the coffee and run. But, instead, both coffees were conveniently ready at the same time and, believe you me, there was no confusion about whose was whose. My venti was elfin next to his! Stunned, I turned to him and said "What is that?" And, with his simple response, he changed every Starbucks experience for me from here on out. He said "It's a trenta. A secret size. And, you're welcome." Still a bit in shock, I gave a meek thank you to his demanded gratitude and scurried away to my office, where I ran right to my friend's cube and exploded with the good news. Starbucks is now giving its people more, more, more!

Well, "give" probably isn't the best word to use. Maybe like, "Starbucks is now charging its people an disproportional amount for more, more, more!" Regardless, I'm thrilled. You can consider my order changed officially to "May I please have an iced trenta non-fat no-whip three-pump mocha?" Sweet java joy!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Soup Challenge: First Test Batch

Finally! After two days (four hours and 40 minutes of active prep/cook time), last night at approximately 9:30 pm I got to sit down to bowl of homemade chicken basil pomodoro soup. Now, this soup would normally make a quick meal but since I roasted the chicken and made my own stock I added hours to the process.

The background complexity involved in cooking is really amazing. Those unassuming little ditalini circles, basil flakes and chicken chunks floating in warm tomato soup are loaded with hours and hours of labor and thought. Yet, the flavors are absorbed with just a quick slurp and a swallow. That first spoonful runs through our mouth, adding a red flush to our cheeks and descending quickly to our bellies, spreading its warmth all the way to the tips of our fingers, right back to handle of the spoon it just left. And, during that second of detainment on our tongue, we soak up first the sweetness of the tomato, fresh basil and oregano then we're hit with the soup's murmur of acidity and slight saltiness before we get a subtle kick from that splash of hot sauce. Making this soup from scratch myself definitely made me slow my roll when it came time to enjoy it.

Overall, I'm happy with the way it came out, but I do have to make a few tweaks. Using roasted chicken and a homemade stock is a definitely must. The stock gave it a hearty freshness and the chicken chunks were moist and flavorful, but I loaded it up a bit too much on meat. This is good though, it means that my roast chicken can be stretched to be more than one meal (my mom is going to say "duhhhhhhh!" to that). I think I'll put just a cup of chicken in my next batch, instead of two whole breasts, much to the chagrin of my taste-tester, who loves a stew-like soup. I also went a little heavy on the pasta, so I'll limit that to one cup as well. The liquid-to-solid ratio in my soup was way out of whack.

And, while the hot sauce was a last resort because I by accident threw out my cracked red pepper in my Sunday night cleanup mania, I think it actually worked better. The heat of the sauce was more wholly incorporated into the soup than the red pepper flakes would have been. And, I'm going to pretty much double the fresh basil next time around. I use just a bit more basil than oregano and I don't think it stood out enough. But fresh basil, instead of dried, is absolutely the way to go.

So, tonight is the leftovers test and we'll see how well it holds up after being refrigerated and reheated. Now, I just hope Mike really did like the soup because there's going to a lot of chicken basil pomodoro in his immediate future. I'm going to have to go ahead and make another batch with my small tweaks next week! Once it's just the way I want it to be, I'll definitely share the recipe.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Soup Challenge: Step 1

Today officially marks my journey into soupville and I am not treading lightly. The first thing I needed to do was narrow down the variety of New England Country Soup I'm going to challenge. And, after much thought and deliberation, various polls and a good old fashioned eeny-meeny-miny-moe, I've decided on the chicken pomodoro. It's a light tomato soup with basil, rotini and chunks of chicken.

Side note: I love love love the New England Country Soup packaging. Instead of imprisoning their soups in a tin can, forcing us to struggle with saran wrap if we're microwaving, their soups are in easy pouches that take just a couple minutes to 'nuke and then let you cleanly pour the soup right into a bowl, preventing the scorching microwaved-bowl burn.

Ok, so back to the chicken pomodoro. In doing a little research I found that this is a traditional Italian soup, typically made with tomatoes and basil and served over chunks of bread. Now, while that sounds delish, I see why the pre-made soup doesn't have bread... I can't imagine it holds its integrity for very long and these pre-made soups have to last. No worries though, we can skip the bread and still get a tasty soup. I've put together my test recipe, keeping myself under 17 ingredients per contest rules.

One ingredient I'm definitely using is chicken stock and, since this contest is judged not just on flavor but also on nutrition, I'm going to go ahead and make my own. The best way to monitor the salt/fat content in your food is to make it yourself. So, right now I've got a little chicken roasting in the oven, filling our apartment with a hearty aroma of sage, rosemary and thyme.  Unfortunately, I can't follow the Julia Child method, which gives you an incredibly juicy bird but requires butter, butter, and more butter! I can, however, follow her technique - cooking the bird on each side and then breast-up for a totally even roast. I didn't skip the butter all together though - I did spread it on the chicken skin before I sprinkled it with S&P :).

After the chicken is done, I'm going to pop it in the fridge and make the stock tomorrow. Tonight, I've got a date with a hunk and some major pasta eating to do! It's pasta Monday at Cafe Portobello down the street. $9.95 for soup, salad and your choice of a pasta entree! So, to be continued...

Buttercup Bliss

This gorgeous piece of machinery is going to be mine in t-minus 9 days! 
Thanks to my wonderful roommate :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

So You Think You Can Soup?

I just got wind of a souper challenge and I'm so excited.

Sorry for the cheese in that last sentence, but substituting "souper" for "super" when we're talkin' about that soul-warming mix of veggies, meat and broth is one of my favorite things to do. Literally! Like, if someone ran up to me in the street and demanded of me, "Molly! Name your top five favorite things to do NOW!" I'd spit out this list:

1.) Drink iced coffee
2.) Eat food
3.) Write
4.) Say "souper" instead of "super"
5.) Spend time with people I love

So am I forgiven for that hokey opener?

Yes? Okay, thank you, gracious reader.

Back to the issue at hand, the New England Country Soup Ours vs Yours Home Soup Challenge. This adorable soup company has challenged those that claim home-made to be the best-made to step up to the soup bowl. From now until January 1st, you can submit your recipe challenging any of their signature flavors, including:

New England Clam Chowder
Chicken Corn Chowder
Chicken Pomodoro
Yankee White Bean
Nana's Chicken Soup
Caribbean Black Bean
Sweet Chicken Curry

Basically, your soup needs to match up to the ingredient requirements, the number of ingredients allowed and follow the limitations (in the official rules). The prize? A summer-kickoff weekend away for two on quaint Martha's Vineyard in late May. Not too shabby!

I'm pretty pumped. Please note, I'm not saying confident. Not for a minute did I think "I've got this one in the bank." For one thing, these New England Country soups are good! And the other... the final judging will take into account how healthy the soup is and, I have to admit, I don't always cook with low-fat/low-cal in mind. But, I am trying to wean my newbie-cook self off the dependence on salt, butter and oil so this will be a good exercise. It's really hard though because things that are fatty and salty taste really good.

And, even though I've got a couple soup recipes in my arsenal, none of them match up exactly with the varieties we're allowed to challenge. So, it's prompting me to throw on the apron and dive ladle-first into a souper adventure in the kitchen.

Bring on the broth, I'm ready to start simmering!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Perfectly Poached Eggs

Yesterday, I got up and started to prep for my typical Sunday breakfast - homefries, fried eggs and some kind of breakfast meat. I always make my potatoes the same way - cut into chunks, boiled to soften them up a bit, cooled down with cold water and a short stay in the freezer, and then cooked stove-top with butter, oil, onions and packet of Sazón Goya (a magical little mix of spices that give the taters just enough color and flavor).

But, when I reached into the box to grab the little spice packet, all I found was a whole lotta nothing! So, I decided to mix it up a bit. Instead of cooking my potatoes on the stove, I sautéed the onions quickly in some butter, then added the butter and onions to the potatoes and tossed in some paprika, garlic powder and salt and cooked them in the oven at 375 degrees until they were nice and tender (about 50 minutes). Then, to finish them off, I quickly threw them into a pan with some olive oil because they got a bit dry in the oven. They turned out pretty good but, by accident, I went a little heavy on the paprika (not my fault, the top is broken because I dropped the jar when I was unpacking... well I guess that means it technically is my fault). So, I decided to counter the over-seasoning with a nice light poached egg.

In the past, I have sort of winged my egg poaching. I knew the basics - get the water to be just-about to boil and drop the egg in with a bowl or a ladle, then cook for 2-3 minutes and scoop it out with a slotted spoon. But, I have do admit I have struggled, always thinking maybe I was leaving the eggs in for too long or that restaurants cheat with fancy-schmancy poaching machines. Instead of trying my luck, I went ahead and did my research.

To perfectly poach an egg, I found a few guidelines that really helped and I never would have figured out if I just kept at it on my own... thank god for the internet!

Here are the keys to perfect poaching:
- Use about 3 inches of water (Previously I had just filled up a pot)
- Add 1 tbsp of vinegar to the water (enables coagulation)
- Heat the water to 180 degrees (this is, probably, the most important part. Its fairly hard to determine just what it means to heat water to just under a boil. I used my beloved meat thermometer to test the temp, waiting until it hit exactly 180)

As always, you want to crack the egg into a bowl first, ease it into the water, and remove it with a slotted spoon. Then place it on a paper towel and gently wipe off the excess egg whites and water.

I cooked my eggies for just over 2 minutes and they were adorable little white puffs. I put them over a bed of the potatoes, sprinkled a bit of S&P and, as I suspected, the runny egg yolk and soft egg whites countered the over-seasoned tots perfectly!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

For the Love of Chicken Tortilla Soup

Yesterday, half way through my doubly cream-cheesed bagel, it happened. That ominous knowledge I keep hidden in the back of my mind that always threatens to expose itself in the middle of my gluttonous bites of anything delicious and unhealthy, reared its truth-telling head and broke through the barriers I’ve built of salt and fat and taste. Like an atom bomb, it exploded into my thoughts, demolishing my memories of anything wonderfully indulgent and replacing them with that noxious feeling of extreme guilt. It was in this moment, mid-bite, that I realized I’ve been a fatty lately and I need to whip myself into shape.

And of course, aside from upping the activity level, which will be easy since my exercising self has been dormant for quite some time, a huge part of getting healthy is eating right. It’s difficult to do so on a budget, with pasta and all those other edible starchy minxes coaxing me with their promises of satiation  and frugality. Which is why, when I find a healthy, inexpensive and honestly delicious meal, I always want to share the love.

So, I promise that this tortilla soup recipe is going to be easy on your wallet, full of flavor and really filling meal in itself!

You’ll need:

Olive Oil for sauteeing
1 onion, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped (optional)
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ red bell pepper, chopped
½ green chili, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 ripe avocado, sliced
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped very fine
1 can of black beans (16 oz)
1 small can of green chilies
6 chicken tenderloins or 2 chicken breasts, cubed
3 cups of chicken stock
2 cups of water
1 can of diced tomatoes (16 oz)
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 teaspoon of oregano
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of salt
Shredded cheddar or jack cheese (for topping)
Tortilla chips (for topping)

Boil the chicken for 5-7 minutes, then drain and shred.

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat and cook the onions, shallots, and garlic until they’re soft. Add water, broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, beans, chicken and spices. Bring to a boil, then turn to simmer for 7-10 minutes. Add the cilantro, green chilies (fresh and canned), red peppers, salt and jalapenos. Bring that back up to a boil for 10 minutes, then turn back down to a simmer for 15. All the while, keep giving the soup a good stir fairly often.

Prep your bowls with a few tortilla chips on the bottom and then ladle the soup into the bowls, top with cheese, avocado slices and a couple more tortilla chips. Then, enjoy the spicy, heartiness of this healthy soup! It’ll make about 6-8 bowls and is freezable.

As an option, you can always fry up your own tortillas (less healthy/more salty, fried goodness). Just take corn or flour tortillas from the store and cut them up into strips. Heat canola oil over medium-high heat and drop them in - watch them though, they'll cook quick. You'll want to get them a nice brown each side, turning with a metal slated spoon. Then, dry them over paper towels and salt 'em up! Just watch out... if you make these and leave them out on the counter while you're cooking, you may by accident eat half the batch...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Perfect Wedding

This weekend, two amazing friends of mine were married against a backdrop of shimmering Gulf waters that sat calmly below the kind of cloudy sky that threatens showers but never delivers, leaving us instead with breaks of intense afternoon rays and the most powerful sunset I’ve ever seen. The bride walked down an aisle of beach designated by trims of white rose petals, glowingly gorgeous arm-in-arm with her adoringly proud father. A beautiful ceremony and personal vows kicked off a night infused with romance, sentiment, fun and, most importantly, killer eats.

Now, I find I am “always a caterer, never a guest,” so, although I haven’t been to many weddings, I have eaten my fair share of wedding hors d'oeuvres, entrees and desserts. And, I am not just saying this because the bride is one of my closest friends… this food was A-plus, seriously spot-on. 

Let’s start with the cocktail hour.  The deep, cool sounds of steel drums set the tone as we enjoyed cocktails on the beach and a bit of Caribbean fare.  Conch fritters, crab cakes, coconut shrimp and skewered Jerk chicken held us over until dinner while we oo’ed and ahh’ed over the picturesque wedding and the beaming newlyweds (and snapped about a hundred group pictures, taking maximum advantage of the good lighting).

A few soft notes of the dinner bell slowly transitioned the group from the sand to the beach house for a plated dinner. Sitting on the second floor of the oceanfront hall guests started on a bit of a deconstructed Ceasar salad, a circle of romaine holding up a crouton and salad mixings while the view slowly turned from pink and orange to navy blue. After a champagne toast from the father of the bride, we indulged in a surf-n-turf of fresh mahi-mahi and filet complemented by a delicious little pierogi. We were, thank the lord, spared from the typical catered veggie mix of green beans and carrots shaved to a point with stalks kept on for show and instead treated to simple spears of asparagus and a bed of potatoes.

Before burning off every single calorie we consumed with some serious dancing, we finished off our meal with cake layered with a subtle frosting of either mocha or peanut butter.

All in all, it was an incredible wedding and I can speak for all the guests when I say we are genuinely lucky to have been a part of it and to feel an extension of even just a fraction of the love, support and adoration Laura and Brian have for one another. Once again, congrats to the bride and groom!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Screw Sandwiches.

Screw Sandwiches.

Oh no, that’s blasphemy! I take it back, please do not screw sandwiches. I love them, I really love them, I really really really love them... however, not unconditionally. Because, while a sandwich can hold between its loafy structures layers of celestial goodness, it can also fail to impress.
Take your utilitarian turkey sandwich for example. Even in its simplest form as the star of the brown bag lunch, it can go one of two ways. Its creation can be given time, effort and affection, beginning with a thick layering of thinly sliced turkey onto graciously mayoed bread sprinkled with a bit of salt and fresh-cracked pepper, topped with a sharp cheddar, crisp lettuce and a thick tomato slice then cut into diagonal halves and wrapped neatly in classic wax paper. Or the turkey sandwich can be treated as though its serves to merely fulfill our lunchtime calorie requirements and shove its bland, textureless self in front of our tastebuds, leaving them with an empty, hollow desire for more, by quickly slapping a couple slices of meat onto hastily dressed bread before shoving it into a clear sandwich baggy only to be squished and molded into a ball at the bottom of your lunch sack.

My love/hate relationship with sandwiches leads my search for the perfect bagged lunch alternative. I understand that most of us don't have the time every morning to masterfully craft a five-star sandwich. Hell,  I barely give myself enough time to throw on clothes and brush my teeth. There are the obvious anti-sandwich options – bring leftovers to reheat, pull together a salad, just go out for lunch, but I have found instead the ideal solution – the stuffed pepper!

Not only is it a healthier option, it’s versatile, quite filling, and easy to make. With a quick boiling out of hollowed peppers to soften their structure a bit, you can mix together any combination of rice, cheese, red sauce, and meat for filling. Think ground chourico, rice and cheese or just rice, cheese, and a chucky and spicy tomato sauce. Go wild – throw in some shrimp or chicken. Then, simply wrap your stuffed peppers in tinfoil and pop them in the microwave (sans tinfoil) for lunch. 

Now I know one cannot survive on stuffed peppers alone. I'm just throwing this out there as a solid option to spice lunch up a bit. Plus, it's much more satisfying than that hum-drum bland blah sandwich (and cheaper!).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Special Edition: Molly's General Consulting

Hello and welcome to today's special edition post and the beginning of a reoccurring series brought to you by a budding general consultancy I like to call "Molly's General Consulting." Veering from the typical culinary adventures a bit, I am going to give you a sneak peek into some of the other chambers of my mind and allow you to experience the phenomena that are my strokes of genius.

A mishmash of random innovative thought, Molly's General Consulting is a brainpower dedicated to solving a wide array of problems that the leaders of the world just cannot seem to find a solution for. Today's idea provides a smooth transition from this blog's typical food talk into the kickoff of this special edition series. We are going to talk about ketchup. Specifically, ketchup packaging. The ingenuity lightning bold struck just yesterday while Mike and I were enjoying a little snack from Burger King.

Now we know America loves ketchup. Like, America loooooooooves ketchup to the point that its almost gross and its Hollywood starlets chug it straight from the squeeze bottle on late night talk shows for a hearty laugh...

And yet, we are restricted to tiny, messy packets that provide us with a few dribbles worth of it whenever we get a meal to-go. So, as Mike and I happily worked our way through our snacks (or, err, a Whopper Jr. meal and a double-bacon-burger-something-or-other meal), and Mike happily dipped his fries into his buffalo sauce in its tidy container deep enough to get the perfect coating on each fry and I scrambled to scrape up the ketchup Id squeezed onto my burger wrapper, a light bulb went off. I said to Mike, "Why dont they put ketchup in one of those to-go packages like your buffalo sauce and their sweet & sour and bbq and hot mustard and all the other condiments besides the most popular one, ketchup?" Mike just nodded in agreement and acknowledged that Mollys General Consulting has done it again.

Well, in writing this I have discovered I have been beaten to the point by the ketchup mongers themselves...

However, that does not take away from the fact that the big fast food joints have either not caught on or are ignoring the problem and that they should just ask me before placing their ketchup packet orders!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

This Little Figgy Came From Haymarket

The turn of the seasons brings us hues of oranges and reds, days that demand sweaters and scarves, and the return of hearty fall dishes. Autumn has always been my favorite season, I love the colors, the feel of the crisp midday air, and the smell of Sunday dinner roasting in the oven. It reminds me of being young... bagels after soccer games, weekend afternoons spent raking leaves, picking out my new outfits from the L.L. Bean catalog. While the fall is full of heartwarming memories for me, it's usually pretty low on fresh fruits and veggies and high on starches and meats.

I'm determined to make this fall full of all the nutritional goodness that is the second level of the food pyramid, so I've pledged to take advantage Haymarket, Boston's weekly outdoor market. I went this past Saturday and stocked up on pounds of goodies for just $18 - onions, peppers, apples, nectarines, tangerines, tomatoes, scallions, jalapeños, lettuce, avocados, figs, pita bread... even flowers!

The only problem with the food at Haymarket is that you have to use it up fast. When I checked on my figs today, a few of them were already bad... like really bad, yuck. But there were seven or so good ones left, so I decided I'd make myself a little figgy snack. But, every fig recipe I found online was either a huge baking ordeal or a savory dish. I checked out what I had in my cupboards and decided to just quarter the figs and drizzle a bit of balsamic glace over them. I let the glace soak into the flesh of the figs for a few minutes and oooo did it turn out to be a tasty treat! The glace wasn't overpowering and gave the skin a nice velvety moisture. Mmmmm!!

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Best Friend, the Meat Thermometer

When you’re a 25 year old struggling writer (well, self-declared and soon-to-be…), you have to make sacrifices. And, while I love my new apartment to death, I definitely sacrificed functional kitchen appliances for a killer view...

So, while I can see the entire Boston skyline from the South End to the Seaport, I can't set it and forget it in my little oven. I’ve mentioned this moderately malfunctioning oven before and, although I thought I had put an end to overcooking with my shiny new oven thermometer, apparently it has a mind of its own, and that mind loves overcooked meat. So, today’s post goes out my new trusty sidekick: the meat thermometer.

Dear Meat Thermometer:

I want to say “thank you.”

I try and try to trust my oven, going back to it after it’s failed me like a pathetic teenager clinging to her deadbeat boyfriend. Every time I do, I know you’re sitting in my utensil drawer, nestled between the tongs and the kitchen scissors, patiently waiting. You understand my desire to trust that the oven will go low and slow on that pot roast like I want it to. And, when it comes time to check on the meat, you don’t judge. You just tell it to me straight. Your little red needle points to 180 degrees, timidly suggesting that my meat is beyond well-done and that my oven has done me wrong again. And, after I cut into the meat to reveal the painful truth, crushing my dreams of discovering a perfectly pink center, I turn to you and vow never to go back to the oven again.

I do remember the good times... that perfectly cooked pork loin we made together, how juicy and delicious it was. I know how easy it is to rely on you, but you’ve just got to give me some time to break up with the oven. I’ll still use it of course, but it won’t be the faithful friend it has been to me in apartments past. I want more delicious meat dinners, so I promise, I’ll turn to you for next Sunday's dinner and every one after that. Your days of hiding in the dark of the utensil drawer are over, my friend. Welcome to the counter top.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Who needs butter when you have Crisco?

In my new world of blissful life-in-sin, I decided to be the ultimate girlfriend/roommate and bake Mike cookies last week.

Now, although they seem simple and they are everywhere, a good chocolate chip cookie is actually pretty difficult to make. The beginning of my foray into cookiedom began with countless batches of pancake-like blobs that wouldn't entice even the hungriest cookie monster. But, of course, I turned to my wonderfully wise mother for advice and she gave me they key to success: pudding.

While the great Kelley Mac claims chocolate chip cookies to be her culinary Achilles tendon, she did give me a great recipe that I am eternally grateful for. That's right, one little package of instant vanilla pudding will give you perfectly puffy treats.

This time around, I didn't have enough butter, but a quick swap for Crisco made for some delicious batter. I inadvertently made a triple batch of cookie dough, so I had a lot leftover which was perfect... I used them for chocolate chip cream cheese bars!

And, I'm not even tooting my own horn right now because, really, the cream cheese does all the work, but these are absolutely amazing. Soft, sweet, with a silky cream cheese filling... to die for! 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

i've gone stale.

Ah, like the half-eaten, unsealed bag of chips in the pantry, I've treated my precious blog with neglect and it has gone stale. I promise a flurry of postings over the next few weeks now that my life is in order and I've purchased an oven thermometer to stave off repeats of the recently charred short ribs.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Absence Note and Burned Ribs...

So sorry for my lack of recent posts... I've been involved in the world's longest move but it is finally over!

I've been eating a lot of takeout and pizza lately, steadily adding to a nice chubby spare tire, so I decided to bravely try out my new stove (and by new I mean tiny, itsy bitsy old stove in a new apartment) and cook braised short ribs last night. In this battle of stove vs Molly, stove won. That little thing is a lot more powerful than I expected. Point of the story.. I opened the oven to burned rips sitting in a pathetic dried-up mess of a sauce.

So, instead of looking like this...

They came out more like this... 


Friday, August 20, 2010

sushi & flowers

Last night, I grabbed dinner at my new favorite sushi spot - Samurai Kuang Eatery in Downtown Crossing. It's always quiet and the sushi is delicious and not too expensive.  At lunch there's a 2-roll special with soup or salad for $9, not a bad deal at all!  If you go with a small group, ask to be seated in the private room.  It's a little nook with a recessed table separated by opaque paneled walls that makes you feel like you're the only group in the restaurant.  Below is my R3 roll - a California roll with tobikko.

Before I leave Brighton, I need to post this!  You wouldn't believe how many beautiful flowers I pass by every day on my walk to the bus stop.  For a city full of renters, there are some meticulously  maintained small gardens... here's a few of the flowers along my route: