It has been super hot again and everything is terrible.
What’s that? You’re upset that a person with a college education, a job, a safe place to live, and ample food is complaining about things? Then stop reading a darn food blog and do something valuable with your time. You know, like sponsor a needy rescue bat. 😀
Temperatures have risen and any food that involves making my kitchen even warmer sounds awful. I’ve resorted to lusting after popsicle recipes on Pinterest. Here are a few that look especially delightful:
I’ve had exactly one semester of Chicago’s Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School. There were going to be many more semesters, but my boyfriend at the time had other plans for our relationship, and thus my tenure in Chi-Town.
As short as it was, I learned a lot that I still use and reference to this day.
1. How To Hold A Knife
Like with a baseball bat, you’ve got to choke up on the handle.
Holding the knife by the handle makes you lose a lot of control, but if you grasp it on the blade, you’ll be chopping like all the top chefs!
Here’s a great image collection of just how it should look from Stella Culinary!
2. The Importance of the Double Fry
Pretty much all we did that first semester was chopping. Chopping tomatoes, carrots, squash, and most of all, potatoes. So. Many. Potatoes.
At the end of the day we would have all these raw potatoes just ripe for the frying. Our benevolent instructor immediately showed us how to get the perfect fry, and every single day after that we would end the class with delicious crispy on the outside, but soft on the inside, french fries.
I’ve posted about it before, so here’s the all important recipe for the perfect french fry.
3. Why You Shouldn’t Leave Your Rice Sitting Out
One of the classes I took that semester was my Serve Safe Certification class so that if I wanted to get work in a kitchen or bakery right away I would be licensed in the state of Illinois. Ever since then I have been a tyrant about how long food is left out at room temperature or kept in the fridge.
I remember after one day at school, I came home to my then boyfriend who had gotten us Chinese takeout. After we finished eating I started to put away the food containers, and he stopped me telling me that you didn’t need to refrigerate rice. I was horrified. I knew from my classes that heat treated foods were at a higher risk of transmitting bacteria, and that rice specifically could give you Bacillus cereus gastroenteritis. And lets just say as a tummy bug, it’s NOT pleasant.
Now, it’s not the worst kind of bacterial disease you can get from improperly handled food, but even as a light sentence it’s not worth risking.
I was chatting with some fellow freelancers the other day about where we find our recipes. The usual suspects came up – food blogs (yay!) like Smitten Kitchen, BudgetBytes, and My Baking Addiction as well as tv and YouTube personalities like Chef John, Gordon Ramsey, and Rachael Ray.
Then one of them mentioned how they just bought their first cookbook.
I’m not sure if my age is showing, but I have a lot of those. Behold!
You can also barely see my recipe binders where I keep printed recipes in just in case my favorite blogs ever go offline (which happens more often than you’d think).
Current three favorite cookbooks in heavy rotation at my house are:
Cooking with Trader Joe’s This one is SUCH fun and a hell of a time saver. Highlights include an INCREDIBLE caramelized pear and gorgonzola quesadilla and an especially tasty bulgogi dish. The hardest part is finding a Trader Joe’s with everything in stock, but you can make some smart substitutions in a pinch.
I made this cake for the first time about four years ago.
My boyfriend at the time was working in a managerial position for Claire’s corporate, and I had somehow ended up as the official cake baker for his employees birthdays. They quickly caught wind that I enjoyed turning alcoholic drinks into baked goods so besides for this Strawberry Margarita cake, I also made a White Russian cake and my classic Irish Carbomb cake.
When it showed up on my Timehop, I knew without a doubt I had to make it again. Fortunately I had the perfect excuse, it was my mothers birthday on the 2nd and she had requested a Mexican theme for the food. So, along with our Crock-Pot Enchiladas (for which I made my own red enchilada sauce), we had a taco bar, margaritas, chips and guacamole with the most perfect avocados I’ve seen all season, Cream Cheese Things, Tomato Basil Mozzarella apps, Coconut Macaroons, and this cake.
As you can see from the photos, the frosting looks a little suspect. Not only was it very warm in the house which exasperated the situation, but I had somehow run out of powdered sugar and it was just too late to get any more. I experimented with using a little corn starch to try to thicken it up, but it didn’t work like I had hoped.
If you use as much sugar as you’re supposed to, you’ll have a nice fluffy frosting on your hands like my picture from four years ago.
2 sticks room temperature (or hurriedly microwaved) unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons lime zest (about 4 limes worth)
¼ cup milk
¼ cup non-alcoholic margarita mix
2 Tablespoons tequila
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon water
2 Tablespoon Tequila
8 oz room temperature Cream Cheese
½ cup room temperature salted butter
1 cup fresh strawberries, blended
3 Tablespoons lime juice (about 2 limes)
2 Tablespoons non-alcoholic margarita mix
6 cups powdered sugar
2, 9" Cake pans
reheat the oven to 325 and butter and flour the inside of two 9" round cake pans.
In a small bowl sift together the flour salt and baking powder.
In the bowl of stand mixer with a paddle attachment, blend the butter and granulated sugar on medium low until light and fluffy.
Scrape down the sides and one at a time add the eggs.
Scrape down the sides slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix on low until combined. Do not over mix.
Scrape down the sides and add the lime zest, milk, margarita mix and tequila. Mix until combined. If you feel your batter is too thick, add more margarita mix.
Divide and pour equally into the prepared pans and place in the oven for about 35-40 minutes until golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean from the center. Rotate the pans once halfway through baking.
When they're done, remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
Remove the cakes from their pans as carefully as possible and set flat side up on some cooling racks. Brush the tops of the cakes each with a quarter of the tequila glaze.
When your frosting is ready, cut the first cake in half and place the glazed half down onto your plate or tray. Frost this layer generously.
Place the second half of the cut cake, cut side up on top of the frosting. Brush with ¼ of the remaining glaze and allow it to soak in for a couple of minutes.
Frost this layer generously.
Approach the second cake in the same way, cut in half, put the cut half on top of the frosting, frost, place the last half on top, glaze, and then frost.
At this point you're ready to frost the rest of the cake. Be generous with your delicious frosting.
Decorate with freshly sliced strawberries and a twisted lime slice right on top.
When you cakes are about ready, prepare the glaze by mixing the sugar, water, and tequila in a small bowl with a fork or a whisk until fully combined and smooth. Set aside until needed.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, place the butter and cream cheese and whisk on medium until blended and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Add the lime juice, blended strawberries, and margarita mix, whisk for another 2 minutes.
Add the powdered sugar slowly, scraping the sides of the bowl every now and then, until the frosting is at your desired thickness.
The frosting is a little week, but still delicious. However, the cake itself is amazing; super moist and tangy and delightful. You could forgo any alcohol or even margarita mix, and just use it as a zesty lime cake!
So, you’re at your favorite bulk store – Costco, Sam’s Club — take your pick!
You made the mistake of coming hungry and the samples are only succeeding in amplifying your desire to consume everything in sight.
One item after the next, your cart slowly fills up. With what, you’re not even sure anymore.
You get through check out, load up the car, drive home, and drag your catches of the day into your cupboards.
Some of those items were useful, delicious even, being used up within weeks.
Others weren’t so lucky. They represent regret every time you see them peeking out at you from behind the bulk bag of rice.
Six months later, I’m still trying to get through the last several boxes of Kirkland Organic Southwestern Black Bean Soup.
I’ve got to be honest, the stuff is bland if you prepare it as intended. Bland enough to be kind of yucky.
Luckily, I found myself in a bind – sudden guests and nothing planned to feed them. Forced inspiration struck and I managed to wrangle the bland, kind of yucky soup into a large bowl of cheesy bean dip that was gobbled up in minutes. It was pretty darn tasty, if I’m honest.
If you have a bland black bean soup on hand (or even this Kirkland stuff I stumbled upon in my hungry Costco-emptying rage), you can dress it up into a really lovely dip. Here’s how!
Serves: About enough for a large bag of tortilla chips.
Bland black bean soup (I used Kirkland's Organic Southwestern Black Bean Soup, which is about 17 ounces)
1 small can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1½ cups shredded cheddar
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cumin
Drain the liquid from the can of chipotle peppers directly into a medium saucepan (get as much of it as you can if you like things spicy, use less if you like it mild). Stir together with the rest of the ingredients over medium heat until cheese is gooey.
I recently downloaded this Android and IOS game called Lifeline for $2.99.
I’m not usually in the practice of paying for games or apps for my phone, but for the last couple of months I’ve been participating in the Google Opinion Rewards app which is free to download, but pays you in Google Play credit for take occasional brief surveys.
I had gained about $5 worth of credit and decided to browse the games section of the Play store to see what might interest me and while pocket Minecraft would have been my first choice, I didn’t have quite enough to match the $6.99 cost. So, when I scrolled down and saw a tiny little astronaut I was already hooked.
You’re connected to Taylor, a inexperienced astronaut who has crash landed on an unknown moon and whose entire crew is dead. You must help him figure out how to survive and help him make decisions through discussions where you are given two options for how to respond. Your text choices could lead him to salvation or to his death.
The game is entirely text based but keeps you fully engaged and invested. With ambient music that is occasionally accompanied by heavy breathing, I could feel my blood pressure rising in certain situations when things became more tense or urgent.
The game does have a fast mode once you’ve already completed it, but initially there are times where Taylor is busy or unavailable and you must wait for him to contact you again. This draws the game out and gives a deeper sense of immersion in the story. When Taylor contacts you again, they come through as notifications on your phone as a text or email might. However, the game does not punish you if you’re unable to play or respond for any length of time.
I completed the game in about a week with intermittent ability to play, and without dying. I do wish the game where a bit longer, or maybe more episodic, but for what there was of it I thought it was really good. I enjoyed the writing, and the humor conveyed reminded me of The Martian, one of my new favorite reads, which is appropriate considering the similarities in situations.
If you’re looking for a new mobile game, and don’t mind paying a little bit for what is virtually an interactive novella, then I definitely recommend this one.
Brandie is wife to Adam who is brother to Brie who is cousin to Cat! With our powers combined, we represent a culinary school grad, an aspiring astronaut, a culinary school dropout, social nerds, gamers, cinephiles, bibliophiles, laqueristas, food fanatics, social anxiety disorders, and more. It’s fun stuff.