Tall, dark, and handsome
March 24, 2011

I have decided it is time for me to come clean about a little secret I’ve been keeping.  Every time I think about outing my news, I can’t help but think of this particular episode of Sex & the City (season 6).  “Ladies.  I’m taking a lover.  Yes.  A Lovah.”

I am having a torrid love affair.  But not just any old affair.  I am madly in love with a drink.  The Ginger Latte (with soy of course) from one of my favorite local coffee shops.

What you must understand is that for thirtysomething years I just have not been a coffee girl.  I just didn’t like it.  Too bitter, and something about the caffeine in it gives my body some serious side effects that other caffeine sources just didn’t cause.  So, I avoided it for the most part and stuck to basic tea (oh how I love tea!) and chai and hot chocolate.  But recently, I have been able to tolerate some coffee.  Mind you it’s more of the Brazilian coffee I brew in my French Press, and I still can’t stand the mass-market office coffee or anything from the particular starry-eyed, mega-bucks chain coffee shop that’s on every corner.  But now I’m having less of the bizarre effects from the coffee, though if I have too much I talk about 100 mph (compared to my usual 80 mph), but I don’t have the painful coming down from the coffee high that I used to.

So, when I saw the Ginger Latte on the special board at dose, and given my love of all things ginger, I decided to try it one day, instead of my usual apple cider (by the way they have the best hot cider).  It is amazing.  It tastes just like a ginger snap.   And I’m not talking the soft, chewy, sickeningly sweet kind either.  I’m talking about the kind that put the “snap” in ginger snap.  It’s got a little bit of bite and as you sip it, you can almost feel your front teeth threatening to chip just as they do when you bite into those old fashioned cookies.  Every single sip is exactly as delicious as the first.  I believe they make their own ginger syrup that gives it the wonderful flavor (on top of the delicious gourmet and local coffee that they brew).  If I could get my hands on some of that syrup…  But for now, I will continue unabashedly with my torrid love affair.  Walking the half mile from my office in 70 degree weather for a hot cup of my tall, dark, and handsome lovah.

Lobster Pot Pie
August 15, 2010

Yes, you read that right.  I not only made pot pie, but Lobster Pot Pie!  Here is the special dinner I made for July 4th for Beloved, who loves lobster.  It was a big hit and actually not very difficult.  Well, it’s not too difficult as long as you have some experience with getting the meat out of a lobster.  Fortunately this Southern Girl was actually born a Yankee and I was cracking open my own lobsters before I could even sit in a full-sized adult chair at the dinner table.  However, if you do not possess this skill or don’t have the time or patience to learn, you can usually find cooked lobster meat at a seafood counter, but you’ll have to ask nicely and probably pay a little more for it.

Lobster Pot Pie
adapted from Cosmopolitan (don’t laugh, I came across the link from another unrelated online story)

2 – 2 cup (at least 12 oz.) individual ovenproof  ramekins (These were very hard to find. I finally found them very cheap at Big Lots, thank you Lesley!)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 onion, diced
1 carrot diced (I bought carrot sticks and just chopped into cubes)
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk (or soy milk)
1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth, I prefer low sodium)
1/2 lb cooked lobster meat*
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 of 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (keep refrigerated until ready to use and freeze the remaining)
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375°.
Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add diced onion and carrot.  Cook, continuing to stir for around 5 minutes.  Add corn and peas.  Stir in flour.  Cook for 1 minute.

Add milk and broth, constantly stirring.  Cook until sauce thickens (approx. 5 min).  Remove from heat, add lobster meat*, thyme, then salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

* Cooking lobster: If you choose to cook your own lobster, here’s how.  I don’t recommend attempting a whole lobster on your first try, but you can easily master 2-3 lobster tails to serve your purpose here.  You need 1/2 lb of meat, keep in mind that if you buy the tails, the shells add weight, but the seafood counter can help you get approximately the right amount.
Usually the tails will be frozen.  You can leave them out in your refrigerator overnight to thaw, or you can set them in a bowl of water until thawed.  Set tails top side (the dark side) down (little legs poking up) on a roasting pan, making sure to tuck in any meat into the end.

Broil on high for 6 minutes.  Remove tails and allow to cool.  Using kitchen shears, cut down the bottom side of the tail.  Remove the tail meat.  Here’s the gross part, you will need to devein and wash off the meat.  If you are ambitious you can attempt to remove the meat from the rest of the lobster.  Waste not, want not.  Cut or tear the meat into smaller bite-sized pieces.  Then add the meat to the mixture above.

Remove the pastry from the refrigerator.  Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8″ thick.  (I just love my pastry rolling pin, it also works great for the pizza rolls recipe!  If you find one of these, I highly recommend them!)

Use the top of the ramekin as a guide to cut 2 circles for the top of the pot pies, cutting a little larger than the bowl.  Spray the ramekins with baking spray and place on a baking sheet or roasting pan to catch any runoff during baking.  Spoon filling into the ramekins.

Place one circle of the puff pastry on the top of each ramekin.  Press the edges of the pastry into the ramekin to seal.

Cut a vent or two in the center of the pastry to vent air and moisture during cooking, then brush the entire surface of the pie with the egg.

Bake about 35 min. until the pastry is puffed and turns dark golden brown.  Remove from oven, allow to cool, and wow your dinner partner with this special flare on a comfort food.

Conversion Pie
January 25, 2010

I have a few “comfort foods” that I love to make for myself that I ate as a kid.  Mac N Cheese with tomatoes (only the shells kind with the creamy cheese packet), Broccoli/Cheese/Rice casserole, and Shepherd’s Pie to name a few.  However, I was always sad I could not recreate the latter from my early childhood memory because I don’t eat ground beef and haven’t in years.  I thought about making it without the meat, but that’s really just veggies and mashed potatoes…not really the same.

Then, a few years ago I discovered veggie crumbles.  You’ve seen the veggie burgers; this is the veggie ground beef substitute.  I wasn’t sure how good it would be, but I liked it.  I pretty much could recreate a comfort food by converting the recipe from meat to the crumbles.  Yet, I never wanted to try it out on a true meat-lover for fear they would (even if only out of meat-snobbery or anti-veggie tendencies) turn their nose up at it and chastise me for attempting such blasphemy.  Recently, I got really brave and attempted such a feat with results.  I have converted a carnivore to my meatless Shepherd’s Pie.  And from what I can tell they weren’t just being nice about it, they genuinely liked it.* Therefore, I call this my:

(Conversion) Shepherd’s Pie

1 packet of frozen meatless/veggie crumbles (enough for equivalent of 1lb of ground beef)
1 12-14oz of frozen mixed vegetables (must be mix of: peas, green beans, corn, diced carrots)
minced garlic
olive oil
soy sauce or Worcestershire Sauce to taste
mashed potatoes (I prefer the container of already made mashed potatoes that you microwave, but you can make your own or use a mix)
cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat oil and garlic in frying pan.  Cook veggies and crumbles in pan.  (Usually I cook the veggies first, then add the crumbles, but I have also cooked the crumbles in the pan and the veggies in the microwave and mixed them together at the end).  Once both veggies and crumbles are in the pan and no longer frozen, add soy sauce to taste and “brown it up” some more.  You can also add Worcestershire Sauce too, but it gives it a sweeter taste.

Cook mashed potatoes separately.  (I like to use margarine in the cooking process to give it a buttery flavor.)

Grease a casserole dish (about 1.5 – 2.5 qt dish will be fine, or a 8×8 or 9×9 dish will work in a pinch) with any kind of baking spray or your favorite method.

Add the veggies/crumbles mixture to the bottom of the pan.  Then you can add a layer of cheese.  (Here I really prefer velveeta or nothing at all, because it’s so creamy and doesn’t change the flavors too much. Just a couple slices here and there will do.)  Then top with the mashed potatoes, smoothing out over the mixture and covering to the edges.  I like to add a few pats of margarine to the top so they melt into the potatoes.

Bake on 350 for about 25-30 minutes and serve.

* Sure they may like it more with real meat, but they don’t hate the meatless crumbles either.