Cooking: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I really should start photographing my food instead of relying on Wikipedia for images of my chocolate chip cookies. (Image via Wikipedia)

On the second day of our Super Shower Weekend, as I am now calling it, my family treated Cristina to a shower, so I decided to treat her to some  chocolate chip cookies. She did have some of her family there, but it was mostly my family. However, I didn’t just sit at home and watch sports. I baked cookies and watched sports.  Because I’m that manly.

Specifically, I made chocolate chip cookies from this recipe. This was the second time I’ve tried to make chocolate chip cookies. The first time, I tried merging two recipes together. That batch was ok, but came out a little too buttery. This time I followed the recipe from Epicurious exactly. I even used my new hand blender with the whisk attachment. Yes, I did look a little like Tony Montana when I started adding in the flour. And, I did find cookie dough in odd places a week later. It was worth it. This batch was better than my first attempt. I didn’t cook them all right away opting to put some in the fridge to cook later in the week. Those came out just as good.

However, they aren’t where I want them to be just yet. I think it needs a tad more vanilla. Also, I think I will throw some of the chocolate in the food processor, chop them up real fine, and add some to the mix. Not enough to make chocolate chocolate chip cookies but enough to add a little depth.

Cooking: A Freshly Organized Kitchen

When we moved into our house, school literally started the next day. When it came to the kitchen, we basically just threw stuff into the cabinets mainly to to just have the boxes unpacked. It worked for a while. Then, I asked Cristina to marry me.

Due to the number of the wonderful presents we are getting, our kitchen was in desparate need of of some reorganizing. Yesterday, we decided to take advantage of the day off and empty our cabinets. Five hours later we have the kitchen setup like we want.

Now, I have room for my brand new coffee maker. Unfortunately, due to Eric’s influence of giving me gourmet coffee, I understand now how horrible stuff like Folgers is. Ah, ignorance is not only bliss but a hell of lot cheaper as well.

I also now have space for my new imulsion blender. Luckily, we got the one with the whisk and a food processor attachment. I’ve already made cookies using the whisk attachment. I’ll try to post the recipe next week.

I also now have place for all my baking ware. Seriously, I think my friends and family are trying to give me a hint. Maybe, my family thinks I’ve inherited my mom’s gift for baking. When it comes to cakes, I haven’t actually made anything yet that wasn’t in a box. Now, I don’t have any excuse not to bake. Well, except the ones I’ll make up.

Also, Cristina and I found a wall shelf for our pots and pans half off at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. This was a huge space saver for us. Our house is a town house so we don’t have the biggest kitchen. In fact, our pantry also doubles as a linen closet. By attaching this to the wall and hanging our pots and pans, we emptied out two cabinets.

The best thing about having a now organized kitchen: it begs for me to cook. Everything is in it’s right place just begging to be used.

Traveling: We Have a Favorite and it’s Florence

Piazza della Signoria with Palazzo Vecchio

Piazza della Signoria with Palazzo Vecchio in Florence

Without a doubt, Florence was my favorite city of our grand Europe tour. If you offered me a job in Florence tomorrow and had already worked out the living arrangements, I would contact a realtor on my way to the airport.

We arrived late in the afternoon exhausted from riding the trains all day. The hotel was actually outside the city – not a mistake I would make a again – so we had to take a taxi. Riding in a car in Italy is, by the way, very close to riding a thrill ride. We traveled a lot by car in Italy and all drivers were the same: fast and furious. Once we arrived at the hotel, we decided to stay in. We also had an extra day in our Italian itinerary, so, fraught with worry that I wouldn’t see everything, I convinced Cristina to spend the extra day here. Florence didn’t let my faith down.
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Cooking: Apple Cinnamon Pepper Jelly

Saturday morning, I headed to the German Coast Farmer’s Market at the Ormond Plantation to get my vegetables for the week.  I came home with some fresh green beans, sweet potatoes, broccoli,  carrots and some spicy hog’s head cheese.  All for better prices than I would have paid at Winn Dixie.  I also came home with a new obsession: Mama Mary’s Apple Cinnamon Pepper Jelly.

The jelly is the perfect amount of sweet and heat.  I made sure we have had something to spread it on at every meal since.  Biscuits for supper and dinner,  just on plain bread for a snack, or with some fresh ground peanut butter from Whole Foods for lunch.  My only problem with is that I bought a small jar, and I will be out-of-town this Saturday.

Painting: Painting with Friends.

For a long time, I have wanted to do one of those Corks N Canvas classes. You go with a group of friends, sip champagne, and paint a picture. The picture can be of anything; some of the more popular items are fleurs de lis, Michalopoulos houses, street lamps, and streetcars. A friend of mine named Vinnie has been to quite a few of these classes; though they are not the “official” Corks N Canvas, it’s still the same premise. I’ve seen her  paintings and they always look so great.

Luckily, Vinnie set up a painting party with a friend of hers that throws the parties at her house. Fleur de Christi is the business that she set up in her house which includes all materials and her as the guide. On Friday, I went with Vinnie and three other work friends to paint a streetcar. None of us, besides Vinnie, has ever painted anything before, so we were all excited.

We started the evening by having dinner at Juan’s Flying Burrito in Mid-City. Kurt and I ate there one time with his sister, Natalie, and I remembered how good the food was. I love Mexican food, so when the consensus was Juan’s, I couldn’t wait. Being a Friday during Lent, and me being a good little Catholic girl, I chose the crawfish pizza. Crawfish, roasted garlic, corn, and guacamole? Yes, please! As I’m excitedly awaiting for the pizza, our waitress returns to tell me they ran out of crawfish. Bummer! I instead chose the cheese enchiladas with whole black beans and yellow rice. Though probably not as good as the crawfish pizza would have been, the enchiladas were most tasty, with a great flavor and full of cheese and sauce. My friends had equally good food (according to them, at least), choosing burritos and nachos. And the portion sizes were very generous; I don’t believe any of us were able to actually finish our meal.

Angelo Brocato's Italian Ice Cream/Gelato

Brocato's

As I tell Kurt, my sister Dina taught me long ago that no matter how full you are, your dessert shelf will always have room on it; thus, we headed to Angelo Brocato’s Italian Ice Cream Parlor. I have heard of the deliciousness that is Brocato’s, but have never tried it. Being Italian, I was always leery. My dad was an Italian chef, I’ve been to Italy and had Italian desserts first-hand. Even though the Brocato family is Italian, I didn’t believe they could measure up to true Italian taste.

For the most part, I was right. My favorite gelato, which is the Italian version of ice cream, is stracciatella, which is basically chunks of chocolate in vanilla. The kind at Brocato’s, however, was more liked minced chocolate in the vanilla, so minced that the vanilla was basically grey with chocolate. Not the same. Instead of that, I got strawberry cheesecake gelato. While very good, it was not like the gelato in Italy. I didn’t try the other desserts, like the cookies or cannoli, but they did look tasty. One day Kurt and I will go back and try out some of the other delectable goodies they have and measure them against Italy.

We then headed over to Christi’s house to start our painting party. She lives in Mid-City, near City Park, NOMA, and the Fairgrounds. A perfect spot for plenty of great New Orleans activities that occur, in a beautiful, classic New Orleans house. All sorts of paintings were hanging around the house, most of them for sale. We all fell in love with a beautiful saxophone painting, filled with gold, silver, and copper abstract in the background. Another painting that caught my eye was a beautiful cherry blossom branch. All I could think of was how wonderful it would look at my reception! (Cherry blossoms are the theme of Kurt and I’s wedding.) At the table were the canvases, brushes, and paint all laid out, on a wonderful tablecloth splattered with dry paint. A thrilling sensation overcame me as I sat down in front of an empty canvas and a jar full of brushes. How could I, who has almost no artistic ability, be able to paint a picture as complicated as a streetcar?

Fleur de Christi painting the streetcar

Christi painting the streetcar as our guide.

Quite easily and with lots of fun, as it turns out! Christi stood at the head of the table and showed us step by step what to do on our canvas. I must’ve used about 10 different brushes for various things on my painting. The great part is that even if you think you mess up, it is so easy to just mix a little bit more paint and fix whatever bad strokes you think you made. It was incredibly rewarding to see something you create come to life before your eyes, a real sense of accomplishment.

Fleur de Christi streetcar in progress

In the midst of painting my streetcar.

We all had a lot of fun, and even though we were all trying to create the same piece of artwork, it was cool to see how our own personality would shine through. Each of ours were uniquely different. Even though the school year has been a kind one to me, I know some of the others had a few stressful situations to deal with, and with the end of school so close, we are all looking forward to that shining beam of light called summer that’s right around the corner. This painting class was a great stress reliever, one we are all anxious to try again. I’m thinking saxophone, ladies!!!

Seriously, if you ever want to have fun and paint a great picture in the process, give Fleur de Christi a try. A very good deal for only $35.

Fleur de Christi streetcars

The girls with our beautiful paintings.

Fleur de Christi streetcar

My masterpiece streetcar!

Cooking: Mahi Mahi with Asparagus in a Butter Balsamic Sauce

Cristina has always been nice to me about my cooking. Now, she will tell me when something is awful. However, I never felt that I wowed her yet with my cooking. I finally achieved that goal this week.

The protein was Mahi Mahi from Whole Foods. While I might not be as picky about where most of my food comes from as I should be, I’m extremely picky about where my fish comes from. I lightly seasoned it with some salt, pepper and a very small amount of cayenne. I melted a pat of butter (truly the amount you would put on a piece of toast) in my pan on low heat making sure the melted butter covered the bottom of the ban. I raised the heat to medium high and cooked the fish four minutes on each side. I then let the fish rest.

The side dish was balsamic butter asparagus using a recipe from allrecipies.com. Before I started with the fish, I placed some asparagus on a baking sheet and salted them with salt and pepper. The recipe then called for me to cover them with cooking spray. I’m not sure why, but I followed the directions. I then put them in the oven for 12 minutes at 350 degrees.

While the asparagus and fish were cooking, I then melted two tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan. Once the butter melted, I took it off the heat and added one tablespoon of soy sauce and one teaspoon of balsamic vinegar. After the asparagus were done, I placed them in a small dish and poured the sauce over the asparagus.

When I served the meal to Cristina, she was quieter than normal. Finally, she turned to me and said this was a restaurant quality meal.

So yes, Brian, if you are reading this, I can cook.

Cooking: Sharing Traditions and Memories Through Recipes

We actually had two wedding showers this past weekend. Well, I had one shower; Cristina had two. The second shower was the traditional gender biased shower where no men are allowed within a hundred meters unless they are parking cars. We are very lucky to have such great friends and family who go through the trouble of throwing showers for us. We truly appreciate it.

One of the best gifts we received was no where near our registry. It was a box full of index cards. My sister sent these index cards with the invitations asking for a recipe to pass down to us. I was really excited when I saw this. It’s one thing to learn how to cook and find good recipes. It’s another thing to have to family recipes handed down to you.

The one Cristina wants me to make first is the bouillie recipe from Aunt Linda. It looks like I will be serving it with a side of Lactaid. Apperently, this was the big hit at the family shower with a certain cousin of Cristina’s eating quite a few bowls.

All the recipes sound great. However, that’s not the point to me. Food is more than just nourishment. Food is a way of life and it is something we pass down. Having my cousin pass down a recipe from her mother to me was very touching and very much appreciated. After cooking these recipes, I will try to make a book out of them (which will give me a much needed excuse to learn InDesign) so I can pass them down.

familyrecipes.jpg

Family Recipes