This weekend is Memorial Day here in Texas, but also my grandmother-in-law’s 89th birthday. She requested “bird’s nest cake” or “poke cake.” I wasn’t sure what bird’s nest cake was (later discovered it was hummingbird cake!) so poke cake it was. A poke cake is a cake where you pierce the top with a fork and then pour liquid on top of it for extra flavor or to make it very moist.
A lot of poke cake recipes seemed to just be normal cake with colorful juice or liquid poured on top, which didn’t sound very delicious. What is the best poke cake in the world? Tres leches.
Continue reading Tres Leches with Strawberries
Shakshuka is a really popular recipe right now, although I had never heard of it until recently. But the pictures all looked so striking and delicious and eggs poached in tomato sauce sounded like a fabulous idea! I’ve been including a lot more eggs in my diet lately and also more vegetarian meals. This has become one of my favorite dishes for lunch.
However, what I make isn’t quite shakshuka. Let’s call it shakshukish. I made real shakshuka once and enjoyed it, but I found myself wishing for tomato sauce flavored more like marinara sauce. So then I made it that way, with parmesan cheese on top instead of feta. But then I missed the feta. So now it’s marinara sauce for me…with feta!
Continue reading Shakshukish
There is a wonderful Turkish restaurant named Istanbul Grill in Rice Village in Houston. Their meats are always full of flavor and they have a rice pilaf with chickpeas that I could eat forever. But what always makes me think of going there is their red lentil soup. A few years ago a friend recommended it to me and I’ve been in love since. It is the perfect soup for a cold day.
Unfortunately right now in Houston it’s been hitting the 80s in February. But between bouts of existential dread at global warming we have had a few chilly days and I decided to try making Turkish red lentil soup myself. Continue reading Turkish red lentil soup
For the past six years I’ve undertaken a project which sounds simple, but is in fact deceptively complex: Christmas cookies. I’m not Christian, so really these are just “random cookies my friends get in the mail in December,” but I still really enjoy and celebrate a secular Christmas so who cares what they’re called!
This began because I have a lot of friends who unfortunately live all over the United States. They mean a lot to me and I wanted to give them something for Christmas. However, I also didn’t want to start a horrible cycle where you not only have to worry about presents for your family but also for friends and no one really knows what to send or how much to spend and do they even need socks and we all have too much stuff anyway and wait why am I buying my friends presents? No one wants this. But everyone enjoys cookies. And they are the present that gives and then stops giving after you eat them and they no longer take up space in your house. Continue reading Project: Christmas Cookies
So while I could keep sending cookies to an increasing list of people every year, my time and cost would also keep increasing. I’ve found that my good middle ground is send to about 12-15 people/households. So 12-15 boxes that I need cookies for and then have to package and mail.
I could make 10,000,000 chocolate chip cookies and send everyone those and I’m sure people would be thrilled. But I like having a variety of things in each box, just a few of many different kinds of cookies. So before cooking every year I have to make sure that I’m making both a good mix and also making enough so everyone has a satisfying amount of cookies. In the end it’s a bit too little when sent to a family and a bit too much when sent to a single person, but I figure it’s free cookies in the mail so who complains?
Just remember: Do not let your cookie list grow out of control (a.k.a. avoid cookie scope creep). Continue reading Project Christmas Cookies: Scope
Beyond the sheer amount of effort of making a lot of different cookies, the most difficult part of this is the time. Cooking this much stuff takes a long time and is pretty exhausting. And when I get exhausted making Christmas cookies I get all cranky and weepy and it’s not good for the holiday spirit. I am proud to report that 2016 involved zero tears, however! Continue reading Project Christmas Cookies: Time
As far as human resources go it’s primarily just me. Most years I do all of it. This year Mr. R assisted a lot. He was a big help when packaging the (over 70) caramels and wrapping the cookies. I always think packaging is just a detail but it actually takes approximately forever.
It’s important to make sure that you have enough cookie sheets for this. In the past I’ve done it with two (do not recommend) and also with two good ones and two crappy ones (better, still not recommended). This year I sprung for two more high quality cookie sheets for a total of four and I bought three more cooling racks for a total of six. I also have two sets of measuring cups and spoons. I also use silpat mats to line my cookie sheets — nothing sticks and I don’t have to bother with cutting parchment paper. This makes for slightly expensive equipment. This project can absolutely be done with just stuff from the grocery store, but if you want to invest in some slightly better cooking equipment it will be used well doing this. Continue reading Project Christmas Cookies: Cost/Resources
I’m not from Texas and I never had much experience with Cajun food until I was introduced via my inauthentic but delicious Fluffy Gumbo. Then I moved to Houston and ended up with family who live on the border of Louisiana. My image of Texas was very much cacti and cowboy hats before I moved here, but really that’s more West Texas (well, ok, the cowboy hats are everywhere). I haven’t spent much time there, having had much more experience thus far in the odd world of East Texas/Louisiana.
So for holidays we often have Thanksgiving or Christmas gumbo instead of a turkey. It’s full of chicken and sausage and lots of oil and it’s SO DELICIOUS. I don’t know how to make it (yet) so this post isn’t actually about that. It is however about my first attempt at making bread pudding. Continue reading New Orleans Bread Pudding with Lemon Sauce and Chantilly Cream
It’s been quite a while since I posted. I was planning a big series on a cooking class I traveled to Tokyo for, but unfortunately while on the trip Mr. R got extremely sick and we had to come back to the US early. I’ve been cooking here and there, but lately I’ve been feeling distracted and uninspired. Real life and current events have been hard to ignore lately and it’s made hobbies difficult to focus on. But I’m striving to find some normalcy in a newly not normal world and giving a lot of consideration to what is in store in my own personal future.
Continue reading Two months
I don’t usually cook a lot of red meat, but one of Mr. R’s (awesome!) associates at work gave him some venison. Two packages of deer steak, two of elk. I grew up eating venison (mostly deer, antelope, sometimes elk or bear) so it’s always the kind of steak I prefer and also why I am not fond of beef steak. However, I don’t hunt and my father lives far away, so I don’t have venison to cook. But now I do! Continue reading First Time Steak a la Elk