that's forking good

adventures in a culinary neophyte's kitchen

dust off, rust off

Posted by culinaryneophyte on May 3, 2017

I don’t even want to do the math for how long it’s been since my last post; the amount of cringing that would elicit would leave me in severe physical pain. There have been so many times over the last few [busy] years when I would say, “Once I get through X, I’ll have more time, and I’ll start writing and posting again.” And, of course, I would get through that X, and another X would be on the horizon. For so long, writing and food were at the top of my priority list, and while I’m still cooking up a storm (and sharing my adventures on Instagram, @thejerc), the writing — my first love — stopped being a priority. The sadness over that causes me more pain than that aforementioned cringing.

Two of the biggest Xs on the horizon over the last 18 months were my wedding and my honeymoon. When the wedding ended, I thought, “What did I do with my life before I planned my wedding?” But, fortunately, we had delayed our honeymoon until the Christmas craziness subsided, giving me the opportunity to pour myself into my next project: planning the trip of a lifetime to Italy. Now, after the perfect winter wedding and a gourmand’s dream tour through Venice, Florence/Tuscany and Rome, I’m left thinking, “Now what?”

I’m a lifelong over committer, so it’s not like I actually have loads of free time (or any, really), but I think it’s time I elevate writing back to its rightful place on my priority list. When I worked for the newspaper, artful writing was built into every day. Now? Not so much, and that makes me sadder than arriving at Newark International Airport after 10 days of drinking espresso and eating gelato on a daily basis. But even just writing this post has been a surprisingly cathartic experience, and I finally feel like I’m ready to say “I’m back, baby!” and actually mean it this time.

…And at least if I fall flat on this promise, you’ll have this beautiful picture of salted caramel gelato to look at for the next 12-18 months.

Florence Gelato 2017

 

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Hello Fresh: We’ve got a first timer here

Posted by culinaryneophyte on September 9, 2015

Hello Fresh salmon ingredientsI am now obsessed with Hello Fresh, the weekly food box delivery service. My first order arrived last night, and I couldn’t wait to get cooking. This is the first time I’ve used a service like this, and I was super impressed. The Hello Fresh website was easy to use, and the meal selections were available a few weeks in advance, allowing me to order based on my tastes and my schedule. The giant box showed up on my doorstep on time, full of ice packs and fresh ingredients. Also, props to the the packaging designers, because everything was straight up adorable. (The soy sauce packets were little fish!)

I chose to make the fish meal first, assuming it would not stay fresh in my fridge as long as the others. (You can obviously freeze the ingredients upon receipt if your original cooking plans go awry.) I think I’ve come a long way in my culinary pursuits over the years, and I’ve cranked out some pretty good food (alongside some very sad, traumatic missteps), but the end result of this box was as close to “restaurant” as I’ve come. The fish was cooked to perfection with a nice crispy skin, and it paired nicely with the earthy beets. (Not to mention purple is my favorite color — and rarely present in my meals — so I got some food nerd fun plating the beets and the red onions.) I was a big fan of the “salsa” of beets, red onion, fresh dill and horseradish, and the side of farro added a nutty crunch.

Hello Fresh pan-seard salmon beets herbed salsa

Because I spend hours scanning circulars, scrolling through Pinterest and writing meal plans in my ladybug notebook, I wasn’t sure a meal delivery service like this would be “my thing,” but I really enjoyed this experience. Financially, it equates to a week of groceries for meals of this quality, but it also cuts down on waste. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lifted an unidentifiable baggie of vegetables from my crisper drawer, and thought, “Well there goes $3…” or let a $6-jar of something grow mold because I broke the seal to use 2 tablespoons of whatever it contained and let it sit on my refrigerator door for two years.) The weekly menu-selection process allows you to be adventurous, opting for dishes and/or ingredients you wouldn’t otherwise pick. It also makes a great date night activity that your culinarily challenged significant other pretty much can’t screw up.

If you are interested in trying out Hello Fresh, let me know and I can send you an invite email that will get you $40 off your first box (which means you’re getting six meals for $20-something — it’s a steal!), or use my referral code 7Y9WGA.

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​excuses are like cell phones — everybody’s got one

Posted by culinaryneophyte on June 23, 2015

I suck. I can’t even make excuses for my absence anymore.
Here’s my dessert from the other day: a protein waffle made with cookies & cream Cellucor protein, topped with oatmeal raisin Talenti gelato​, dark chocolate ganache and Mrs. Thinsters brownie crumbles. I know that doesn’t make up for the lack of posting, but… baby steps.
protein waffle dessert

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the great do[ugh]nut debate

Posted by culinaryneophyte on February 6, 2015

mint chocolate paleo doughnuts​I recently got into a spirited debate (at the gym, of all places) about the proper spelling of everyone’s favorite circular, fried treat with a hole in the middle. I steadfastly stood in the “doughnut” corner versus two “donut” supporters. Listen, people: It’s doughnut. “Donut” is part of a brand name; it should follow “Dunkin” or any other company/product that has legally filed its name to include the misspelling, but that’s it. Are you one of those people who calls tissues Kleenex? Stop giving these companies free marketing! (And if you’re spelling it that way because you’re too lazy to type it the correct way… just… go. Please.)

The great doughnut debate of 2014 reminded me that I had not made doughnuts in a really long time, so I took to Pinterest to find myself a healthy[ish] alternative to Dunkin’ Donuts (note the proper spelling in this instance), and found these paleo mint chocolate doughnuts from the Healthy Maven. (Sorry if you’re sick of paleo. I’ll make the next post something bad for you.)

The doughnuts were pretty minty, and the frosting was pretty pretty with the green tint come from a bit of matcha mixed into the coconut cream. I opted to top mine with crumbles of Mrs. Thinsters brownie thins for a little added pizzazz. (If you really want to unhealthify [speaking of poor grammar] this treat, Thin Mints would also be a delicious topping.)

(​​Slightly adapted)

Makes 6 doughnuts

For doughnuts
♦1 c. almond meal
♦2 tbs. coconut flour
♦1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
♦1/4 tsp. baking soda
♦1/2 tsp. baking powder
♦1/4 tsp. sea salt
♦1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce (*I did not have applesauce in my house, so I made my own from one apple — peeled, chopped into bits, tbs. of lemon juice and boiled til it was soft enough to pulverize with my immersion blender. Yes, everything must be a project.)
♦2 eggs
♦3 tbs. honey
♦1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
♦1/2 tsp. peppermint extract​
♦Toppings if desired

Combine almond meal, coconut flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.Add applesauce, eggs and extracts. Stir well.

Grease a doughnut pan with coconut oil, and divide batter evenly. (You could also roll into balls if you don’t have a pan.) Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Allow doughnuts to cool 15-20 minutes before removing from pan. Carefully transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

For frosting
♦1 can full-fat coconut milk (left in fridge for at least 1 hour), do NOT shake
♦1/2 tsp matcha powder (mostly for color — not taste; you may also use spirulina powder)
♦1 tbs. honey

While doughnuts are cooling, open coconut milk. (Do not shake the can before opening.) Scrape the cream from the top and place in mixing bowl. Beat on high for several minutes until the cream stiffens and can hold peaks. Add in matcha or spirulina powder and honey, then beat for one more minute. It does not look like a lot, but it will go a long way. Carefully spread frosting on doughnuts.

Total time? 10 minutes prep, 15 bake, 10 minutes decorate
Cost? $6.99 almond meal, $8.99 coconut flour, $6.99 matcha powder, $1.99 canned coconut milk, ? applesauce (or the cost of the time I won’t get back from having to whip up homemade applesauce to make doughnuts… Not bitter.)
Overall success relative to expectations? 10 out 10. These were good — like, way better than I expected. I immediately fell in love with the frosting. It was only coconut cream with a little bit of matcha, but I could have eaten it with a spoon if I hadn’t globbed all of it onto the doughnuts. (A little goes a long way, but not enough to have a frosting snack.) The doughnuts stayed fresh for at least four days (I had to fend off a few suitors to make them last that long), and the flavor was good. Obviously, they’re not going to taste like fried balls of doughy goodness, but they’re definitely a viable alternative, especially if consumption of any traditional doughnut leaves you with guilt pangs for hours… days… weeks… Do not mock; this is why I stopped going to Dunkin’ Donuts. Well, that, and the misspelling.

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chocolate-covered strawberry paleo pancakes

Posted by culinaryneophyte on January 19, 2015

Thank you to Mrs. Thinsters for featuring my breakfast on their social media channel!

paleo chocolate-covered strawberry pancakes with Mrs. Thinsters brownie batter cookie thin crumbs.

chocolate-covered strawberry pancakes with Mrs. Thinsters brownie batter cookie crumbs.

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tbt: Blue Moon Cafe

Posted by culinaryneophyte on December 11, 2014

Blue Moon Cafe Captain Crunch WafflesThe first place I remember seeing featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” was a breakfast spot in Baltimore that had a female owner with a rock-and-roll personality and a menu full of crazy, drool-worthy meals. I sat there thinking, “If I ever open a restaurant, THIS is what I would want it to be.” And when I had the opportunity to finally visit Blue Moon Cafe in Fell’s Point last month, that feeling only grew.

I’m not usually a waffle/pancake person when I’m out to breakfast, but there was no way I wasn’t getting the as-seen-on-TV Captain Crunch French toast. I’d been dreaming about this thing for, like, five years. I can still taste the sweet, buttery goodness… the tart berries… the fresh whipped cream. You need this. YOU. NEED. THIS.

The decor was funky and the attitude was relaxed. We thankfully got there just before a big rush of people (on a Monday morning, even!), or we would have been waiting out in the cold; there isn’t much seating, let alone room to congregate. When we sat down, I wasn’t too excited to be right next to the front door, but I would gladly take the occasional whoosh of cold air over 30+ minutes sitting in it. I may have felt a little guilty gleefully stuffing French toast in my mouth while the frozen latecomers gazed longingly from the park bench outside. My bad, guys.

Our one mistake was not ordering the Sweet Baby Jesus as our other meal. We saw an enormous plate of hash browns, crab meat, eggs and hollandaise sauce pass by our table, and thought, “SWEET BABY JES–ooh, I get it now.” Yeah. Next time.

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