30 April 2008

Habana havana.

Ann Arbor got its first (I assume?) Cuban restaurant this year (well, I guess it was last year... August) -- Cafe Habana. It's super delicious, and I finally even got Brad to try it out a few weeks ago (he loved it, of course). The only bummer is that every time I go, I can't resist the arepas because they are soooooo good. Why is that a problem? Well, I never get to try anything else! So I thought, hey, this seems easy enough, why don't I try to make arepas at home? And I did! Here's how I did it:

Corn Cakes

½ cup flour
½ cup corn meal
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt, black pepper
couple of dashes cayenne pepper
4 eggs, beaten (I used two whole eggs, 2 egg whites)
3 tbs. melted butter
1 tbs water

Whisk together the flour, corn meal, baking powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. In another bowl, combine the eggs and water. Stir the egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Add the melted butter and stir to combine. Then, you know, make like pancakes. This recipe is supposed to make something like 20 mini pancakes... I used a 1/4 measuring cup to scoop (not totally full) and I probably only would have gotten maybe 12 had I used all the batter.

Tops and Middles

I sliced up two small tomatoes (man, I can't wait for in-season tomatoes, holy crap! stupid hard tomatoes) and about a cup of onion (I cheated -- bought pre-sliced onion!). Mixed 'em all together, then sprinkled on some cilantro and a dash of lime.

Cut and slice. Duh.

Goat Cheese
To schmeeeer in the middle!


At Cafe Habana, they make the arepas with two gigantic corn cakes and about a pound of goat cheese in the middle. I thought I'd try smaller servings -- making two "arepas" (is this plural? singular? I have no idea) per person. Mix 'em while they're hot so the cheesy gets all gooey. Mmm. Anyway, corn cake on bottom. Goat cheese in the middle (starting with less is better, you can always add more). Second corn cake on top. Spoonful of salsa on top, add a few avocado slices. You're ready to go.

They turned out super tasty and I'll definitely make them again. Notes for the future: Try adding creamed corn to mixture. The recipe I originally found called for corn, and I saw a bunch of others that called for creamed corn. I just didn't happen to have any. I think this would add a lot of flavor to the cakes. Did I mention in-season tomatoes? This will taste amazing this summer... I can't wait! (I also can't wait to finally try one of the other yummy-sounding dishes at Cafe Habana, too).

OH... I also tried to re-create the pile of mystery stuff that they serve with the arepas. Let's just say.... I'm still not positive what it is, and yeah, it didn't work.

PS: I totally didn't die from cooking chicken last night! Woohoo! I made a pot of rice, then a big pot of (stir fry) chicken, some marjoram, four or five chopped artichoke hearts, and about half a can of cream of celery soup. All mixed together into a yummy all-American stir fry! (I just cannot get into Asian flavors -- no soy for me!)

28 April 2008

Bawk bawk.

Ok, so none of my summer clothes fit... I'm consistently getting B-s and Cs on my daily food logs... Something's gotta give. It's almost springtime, which means... da da da... FRESH, local produce! SO, maybe that will be my inspiration to get back on the cooking kick. In the meantime, I had to do it. I broke down and bought.... Meat. Ugh. Chicken. BUT it's already diced up so I don't have to touch it. (I haven't bought meat, other than my Thanksgiving [pre-cooked] turkey and brats for Brad, since last summer.) I think tomorrow I shall make chicken with rice and artichokes. I'm almost excited about it! Anyway, after four weeks of eating out at least every other day while Brad's parents were here, I need real food.

Oh, and I officially STILL love Plum Market's olive bar. In addition to the blue cheese stuffed olives, they had MUFFALETTA sandwich spread. I would KILL for a muffaletta! So this will be a nice treat to tide me over until whenever I make it back to New Orleans.

26 April 2008

I like ice.

It's been an... interesting... week. So all the bday festivities of Friday were a welcome distraction from all that is, you know, life. HA! First up was Bridget's 3rd bday at Beanstalks in Saline (Saline folks: it's in the old Calico Cat [the old church] building -- what a difference!). All the kiddies seem to have a blast, Bridget got to blow out her THREE candles, and Brad and I got to bogart some pizza. Happy bday, Bridget! Oh! FYI: The kids are STILL calling Brad "Uncle Dan," which is hilarious, and kind of amazing that they are able to keep the joking going after all these months. AND, I got my own nickname. "Uncle Steph." Love it.

After a quick trip home to let the dogs out, it was time to head over to Jason and Krissy's for Jason's bday BBQ. As always, good times! Good peeps, good stories, good laughs. Pie-shooting machine gun? Magnifying-glass-burnt-ant electricity? Midget robbers? Damn, I love those guys. :) Krissy was nice enough to let me make Jason's bday cake again this year, and I spent a good two weeks researching something to top my dead heart/fly cake from last year. I must confess I was stumped, then Lisa Z. sent this website along: Zombirella. Thanks, Lisa! The bummer of this website is that she only posted a few times then let the blog die -- she was on to something here! Anyway, I was intriqued by these vampire bites. I didn't think I'd have time to assemble cupcakes so I decided to improvise and make a vampire bite cake.

I followed the gist of the recipe, although I just bought a cake mix instead of making it from scratch (hey, I had to work!). I bought a reduced sugar cake mix -- normally I try not to buy any artificial sweeteners, but I figured hey, cake has a lot of sugar! I also used egg beaters and applesauce instead of oil. Thursday I baked my two cakes and all was going well. I'm not a master baker, and I've actually managed to screw up many 'o cakes.

Anywya, Friday afternoon I got to the assembling. I followed the recipe for the "filling," as well as the frosting recipe. That's where I hit my one big snag. Who knew that cream cheese would lose all of its thickness once mixed with frosting? (PS I used fat free, maybe that had something to do with it?) Anyway, throughout the day, the cake and the frosting went into the fridge and freezer in random intervals -- that's the only way I could get the damn frosting to stay put! Anyway, the filling... I took the bottom cake and cut little holes all over and filled them with goo, just like the cupcake recipe suggests. It got a little messy. :)

I put the second cake right on top of the gooey mess and smooshed to secure it into place. Then I frosted the entire thing (like I said, this was an on and off all-day process! ha!). While I was doing this, I put my vampire together. Because what's a vampire cake without a vampire? I picked up a Little People (or was it Playmobil?) pirate set and removed as many obviously pirate items from the guy that I could. Then I clipped off the ends of two toothpicks and somehow managed to get the teeth superglued on there without getting superglue all over my island again.

I vant to suck your blood! Arr!

I let the cake set up some more, then made the final adjustments. Holes poked, blood shed, personalization done... And we have a vampire bite cake!

After some delicious food, it was time for cake! Jason was treated to a lovely birthday serenade by his birthday candle, and then he dug in. Check 'er out!

Unfortunately, because the cake spent most of the day in the fridge and freezer, the insides didn't ooooooze like I'd hoped. It still tasted good, though! And as long as Jason liked it, that's all that matters, right? :)

So this brings us to today... A whole Saturday to myself... What was I to do? Well, I actually did stuff! Go me! I haven't even turned the TV on yet. Nothing too exciting, but I did take Heidi and George to the dog park -- George's first time. He did SO good! They had a blast. And the two of them behaved like little angels in the car. George has always been a little scared of the car, and Heidi is a total maniac. But today, I opened the car door, they both jumped in -- and promptly went to what I suspect are their permanent spots. Heidi, of course, sat shotgun, and George hung out in the back seat. No one caused a bit of trouble. I'm so proud of them.

21 April 2008

I'm a slave 4u.

Here they are! Baking with beer recipes. :) Sidenote: I FINALLY figured out how to get my scanner to scan to my work laptop. Flippin Best Buy geeks settin' that stuff up wrong.

Ok, not sure how this'll post, but I was too lazy to retype everything.

Note: We had this bread baked on stones in a big giant bakehouse oven. The teachers said you can re-create this at home. Preheat your oven and baking stone for an hour. On the bottom of the oven, in a cast iron skillet, put a little water. Bake when ready!

PS Someone better make at least one of these! What a pain! Flippin files! ha ha :)

18 April 2008

Rock 'n roll is NOT over, baby! Rock 'n roll NEVER DIES!

Baking with beer.... funnn-o! I was a little intimidated at first. Four hours? I don't like beer! I've never baked. All these other people bake! I hate beer! Ahh! I better get out of here before I'm discovered as a fraud! But as the teacher started talking, and we got into the swing of things, I relaxed and started to enjoy myself -- and ignore all the other experienced bakers (hello! there were Bakehouse employees in the class!) -- and the four hours actually flew by pretty quickly (in a good, having fun kind of way). I've never before considered baking bread at home, but I think I may actually do so in the future. Especially since baked goods make such great gifts! Anyway, we started first with a rye porter bread (of course. I hate rye!) -- and I got to knead dough for the first time. We had to let this one sit and fiddle with it a few times before it finally went in the oven a few hours later, so it was the last one we got to pull out of the oven. Apparently, caroway seeds are typically in rye bread, and that's what makes it smell like pickles (nastay!) -- this rye bread had no seeds. Wee! So I actually enjoyed the taste. Score! Note S shape on loaf. Oh yeah, I did that. Oh, and this would be delish with some spinach dip!

Next up was a quick beer bread -- literally, quick.... like five ingredients, a few quick stirs, and then into the oven! Very tasty, dense and filling, but an excellent side bread. PERFECT for dipping in cheddar ale soup. I would definitely make this loaf again. Whereas the rye bread baked on a stone in the oven, this one just got dumped in a loaf pan and fired right up. Easy peasy.

Third in line were cheddar beer crackers. VERY TASTY. And easy! That reminds me.... Gotta bake up my leftover dough (we only cooked half to save some for later)!

And last... but DEF not least... apricot beer scones. YUM. I could have gobbled all of these up -- and it was tempting, trust me. But I have some (very little, but some) self control and quickly got as many of these out of the house as possible. :)

In addition to many new baking tips... I was also reminded that being immature never gets old. And getting busted is even better. I mean come on -- four hours of "look at the size of that loaf" and "it's like tossing a salad"? How is it possible that Lisa and I were the only ones giggling and smirking? And how awesome that, to thwart our immaturity, the dreamy teacher actually said, "Lisa? Did you have a question?" Classic.

Thursday night it was back to Novi for Hooters and double feature... This week we were treated to Wild Zero. I won't give anything away -- you simply MUST see it. But here are some peeks into the amazingness that was Wild Zero: "Love has no borders, nationalities, or genders!" "Stop being so shitty!" "You scared shit out of me!" "ROCK AND ROLL!" "No waaaaaaaay! No effing waaaaaay! Anything but that!".... and an evil Asian man in Peter Pan wig and hot pants.

Then Friday, Rachel and Floyd came over for a visit, and we took a lovely walk. Say hello to our little blonde mafia:

PS. I caught up with the last two episodes of Eli Stone today, including the season finale.... This show is SO GOOD. Love love love it. I'm so sad it's over for the year. It BETTER come back in the fall!!!!

17 April 2008

I knead to tell you.

Just a quick note to let you know that my house oooooozes of fresh bread smell... with a hint of beer. :) It's totally overwhelming and delicious. Check back in the next few days for a full recap of Baking With Beer!

08 April 2008

Thirty schmirty.

It's no secret... I turn 30 this year. In fact, I turn 30 in... um... math, yuck... three months and 20 days. Wow. Brutal. Anyway, I know 30 isn't old. But I know 30 is closer to 40 which is closer to 50 which is closer to 60, and, to be honest, I haven't been privy to many first-hand-viewable happily-ever-after-getting-old-life-stories. So yes, my friends, I fear getting old. I don't want to be a miserable old lady, bemoaning all the should haves and would haves (not saying I anticipate those, but that's just the vision I have in my head of "old"), with short hair curled into a helmet on my head, out of touch with everything in life I so enjoy now. So while I'm typically a WOOHOO! IT'S MY FLIPPIN BDAY-type gal, this year I've been a little wishy washy about the whole thing.

Luckily, I have a great husband and great friends, all who continue to humor my doom-and-gloom bad attitude about this birthday while also assuring me life will not end come July. Everyone has been so fantastic, offering to plan, attend, etc., something special for my birthday. But in my brainfreeze of not wanting to think about it, I decided I'd just gather my friends and go get dinner and drinks. I should have known my friends wouldn't let me get away with that. :) Leave it to the fantastic Rachel, with her endless supply of creative ideas, to come up with something even Brad labels perfect, and to know exactly how to approach me. And to make it top secret, so not only do I have a fun mystery to wait to unravel.... I literally can't stress about the details because Rachel is being sneak sneak about it and is just taking care of business for me. So an abundance of hugs to Rachel for sweeping me off my feet, and to all my other friends for putting up with my silly crap. Here's to a great party, and you all better be there!

07 April 2008

Vegas schmagas.

I'm home. I survived. I'm exhausted to the point of tears. But Miss, excuse me, Mrs. Melissa is married! Hooray! I saw some good friends, met some new friends, did some good work, drank a lot of red bull and vodka, and survived to tell the story. AND, George is officially OURS. All ours! Hooray! More coming soon.... Pics of the big boy who is filling in and getting furrier by the day.

Xoxo from all FOUR of us!