Spicing up the kitchen

I ran out of cayenne pepper about a month ago. Yes, you read that right. I was cayenne-less for a month and that’s the longest our kitchen has gone without one of our favorite spices. Ever since I discovered the wonders of cayenne and the subtle kick it adds to every dish, I have kept the kitchen stocked with it. But I forgot to check my pantry and found myself shaking an empty bottle one day.

No problem, I thought. I would go to the store and get more.

But when I got to the store, guess what? They were out of cayenne! The little row labeled ‘cayenne pepper’ was empty. I figured that the store ran out of stock since it’s a pretty common and popular spice so I decided to check back the next week. Again, the row was empty so I waited patiently for the next week. By the third week, I asked the store clerk if they were going to restock it. She said she didn’t know.

Finally, after a whole month of waiting and realizing that it might not get restocked for whatever strange reason, I decided to go for cayenne’s neighbor, California chili pepper instead. So far, it has been a good substitute but you can bet I’ll be snagging as many bottles of cayenne pepper as I can when they get restocked!

Yes, you can have your cake, and eat it too

Yes, you can have your cake, and eat it too

And so there was the afternoon when we actually made a trip to the bakery for some pastries and a slice of cake. Not on purpose, of course. We were on our way back from lunch and the bakery was just one tiny fattening U-turn away. Convenient, ain’t it?

And of course, this smallish bakery is just about the most happening place for people eager to have a finger in every pie, so to speak. There’s such a big selection of desserts they’d be crazy not to. Want to have a finger in every pie, that is. So we got our fingers ready too. To point at what we wanted.

Because the desserts aren’t displayed with those little name cards we’re so used to seeing. These pastries and cakes have no names because well, the regulars who frequent the place already know the names like the backs of their hands. Not us though. Frankly desserts aren’t that high up on our to-do list.

So let’s see. We had the Blueberry Danish, Cinnamon Roll, Bear Claw and Nicoise Cake. And the verdict: They were all really delicious.

Yes, you can have your cake, and eat it too

The cake was creamy, way too creamy. But hey, what’s a little cream? Because you can always count on your New Year’s resolution to get you back into shape, right?

Reflecting on 2016

Reflecting on 2016

Okay, so I started writing that obligatory end of year post that tries to capture, in a single post, everything that’s gone on in an entire year, but I didn’t finish it. Frankly, it’s harder to write than most years. 2016 was meh, at least that’s how I feel right now.

I’ll say though that yesterday was a beautiful winter’s day outside, the kind of scene you read about in novels – gray, foggy, rainy and trees now devoid of leaves – and so cold I had to keep my hands wrapped around the electric kettle. Gorgeous weather…

… and enjoying baguette slices gently toasted with homemade garlic butter and a bowl of piping hot homemade tomato soup. Aaah!

But the show post must go on. In keeping with the tradition of past reflection posts, I’m going to throw a bunch of completely random recap of our food adventures out there.

Cooking firsts

It’s again been a year of kitchen explorations with lots of cooking, lots of baking, lots of eating. What’s exciting is the bevy of budding chefs working alongside me in the kitchen churning out lots of creative ideas and new favorites. Our joint successes this year include:

New food loves

2016 was, in many ways – grilled, braised, pre-seasoned – the Year of the Pork Rib for us. It’s also been the year we ate a lot of fish #happy and too many desserts and snacks #notproud. Happy New Year!

Happy tummies, happy holidays!

Happy tummies, happy holidays!

So okay, we attended a Christmas breakfast. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Is she going to serve oats? cereal? fruits?  Hmm, now I know. Christmas breakfast is another way of saying Christmas lunch because by the time her entire family arrived, it was lunch time! Understandable, of course, given that her children and grandchildren were driving into town from all over the state.

Meanwhile, she’d been up since the crack of dawn to start making – breakfast? – for 15 people. She was thrilled when the elves showed up bright and early – 9:30 on the dot! We immediately got to work – washing and arranging strawberries, raspberries and grapes, cutting pineapples, slicing bananas to place on the jello. Yup, I was right about the fruits *winks*.

Them there were the leek and feta cheese phyllo pastries to arrange on the baking sheet to go into the oven. She has 2 full-sized ovens, by the way, and was lamenting that she needs 3! Between whipping the cream, arranging the crackers and wheat thins, laying out the jams, sauces and salsas and the doorbell ringing every 10 minutes, time flew by rather slowly!

By noon, we were running really low on fuel. At this point, we were willing to do just about anything to help her speed things up so we could sit down and EAT already! Good thing we always eat before attending invited events. In fact, we’d had 2 breakfasts at home that morning before heading out. Winter does weird things to your digestion.

Finally after 3 whole hours, my plate was filled with turkey, ham, sausage, bacon, corn salad, biscuit, crackers and fruits – hohoho! – followed by an afternoon of games, gift exchanges and some photos before dessert. There was so much food I ended up having only a slice of pumpkin pie. Good times, good food and lots of laughs.

We got home in the evening to pop those ready-to-cook ribs into the oven.

Happy tummies, happy holidays!

Thank goodness everything else was pretty much ready to eat – my homemade cranberry sauce, coleslaw and mashed potatoes. Happy tummies, happy holidays!

Happy tummies, happy holidays!

Christmas menu planning 2016

Christmas menu planning 2016

My Christmas menu is pretty much a blank right now. Blame it on the weather, what else? It’s very sunny but it’s also f-f-reezing, if that even makes any sense. Step outside and you’ll feel Nature’s air-conditioning on the highest setting! It’s really quite delicious – ugh, you know you’ve been writing too many food posts when you use ‘delicious’ on everything including the weather!

Some delicious onion bagels and Hip2bDaughter2’s homemade tomato soup to warm up the insides…

Christmas menu planning 2016

… before we make our shopping and grocery rounds. Strangely, my grocery cart has little in it that has to do with Christmas dinner. We’re just gonna wing it this time because we’ve been invited to a Christmas breakfast? Never heard of it. Not quite sure that it means. Do we roll out of bed and over in our jammies and hurricane hair? I don’t know but we’ll find out.

Meanwhile, we’ve been picking out Christmas cards and shopping for baking ingredients for the cookies we’re planning to give out to friends. Christmas cards, I haven’t bought any in ages since I decided to be environmental and send e-cards instead. But Christmas cards seem to be in vogue here so here’s to a bit of nostalgic shopping.

I’m guessing we’ll be coming home after breakfast to cook our own Christmas dinner. To be honest, it really doesn’t matter when we have our  dinner because we don’t celebrate Christmas, not as a religious event anyways. It’s just seems fun having it on Christmas Eve along with the rest of the world.

For many years now, we’ve had roast turkey on both Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year, instead of roast turkey (which we decided to limit to possibly one a year after reading about the inhumane ways they treat turkeys), I’m planning to grill pork ribs of the pre-marinated kind (from that mile-long rack we bought recently) and whip up my homemade cranberry sauce, coleslaw and mashed potatoes to go with those ribs. So there, I’ve got my Christmas menu figured out just like that!

What meal do you have lined up for Christmas?

Shout-out to the God of Ribs!

Shout-out to the God of Ribs!

A while back, I bought some amazing ready-to-eat pork ribs and loved them so much I went back for more. But! They were out. Bummer! Looks like I’ll have to make my own from scratch then. Not a problem, just got to get my hands dirty is all! If you want to eat something good and delicious, you got to get in there and do it yourself sometimes.

What I didn’t know was that apparently, the God of Ribs was smiling down on me. Before I even got around to buying those raw ribs, I noticed the ready-to-eat ribs were back on the shelf. Woah! I instantly set out to grab some but on the way there, I noticed trays of pre-marinated, ready-to-cook ribs at like half the price. Hey, why not, right?

Back to the shelf went the ready-to-eat ribs and into my cart went the pre-marinated tray. Gotta love a deal this good. If the God of Ribs sends me a rack of such reasonably priced ribs that only requires me to shove straight into the oven and walk away, I’m laughing all the way home!!

This rack costs around the same price as the ready-to-eat rack I bought a while back. When the pack was unwrapped, surprise, look at the size of this thing. It’s the length of a freakin’ freeway! Enough for like 3 or 4 meals lol. And I’m pattin’ the God of Ribs on the back and goin’: thanks, dude *muacks*!

Shout-out to the God of Ribs!

We had the cut off the top of the rack for dinner one night – the part that’s folded down in the above picture. No bones here, all meat and cartilage, not fall off the bone but still has a bite to it. So moist, so delicious. Just the way I like it *chuckle*.

Shout-out to the God of Ribs!

Happiness is a warm cream puff

Happiness is a warm cream puff

What do cream puffs and happiness have in common? Everything! They’re one and the same thing. I mean, who can dispute that one bite into a soft luscious cream puff is all it takes to make everyone in the room get up and do the macarena? What?? Never mind, you get the idea, that’s how I feel about cream puffs!

Over the years, I’ve made my own cream puffs a few times. Obviously not often enough. I’m not sure what got me thinking about cream puffs recently. Could be from looking at clouds lol. But here was one of those cold and quiet Sunday afternoons entirely in need of some excitement of the pastry kind.

Mere nanoseconds before my forehead hit the slumber button on my keyboard, I jumped up and declared: I’m making cream puffs!! Not long afterwards, the house is smelling like a bakery. I’m not even kiddin’! That aroma alone is enough to start up the macarena song. Seriously, it’s been too too long since I last made cream puffs. Where have I been?!

Seriously, look at these beauties. So cute and round, so airy and light, simply gorgeous! I can’t stop smiling.

Happiness is a warm cream puff

The cream puff seems to be the most underrated pastry of modern times. Heck, trendy bakeries are sprouting up everywhere but I don’t see them selling cream puffs (not that I’d necessarily buy any). Where’re the cream puffs?! In fact, I think I’ve only come across one old school bakery that sells them, and even then, they’re stashed in a corner where only a true cream puff enthusiast would seek them out. What a shame!

Happiness is a warm cream puff

Well, this cream puff enthusiast ain’t relying on no one for her supply. She rolls up her 4 sleeves and makes her own!!! Oh man, I can’t even begin to describe how amazing these cream puffs taste. To me, of course. I can’t speak for anyone else. I could eat the whole tray.

Baking ’em at home means I can do whatever I like aka more pastry, less cream. My cream has a unique taste and color, and a lusciousness of its own because of the kind of milk and sugar I used. Want a bite? *wink*

Happiness is a warm cream puff

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