FailCake is Fail.
June 30, 2009, 3:03 am
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A little medicine for an angsty cook.

A little medicine for an angsty cook.


It’s my birthday today.

So, after a horrifying day of wrangling an angry toddler and attempting to make sense of the DMV…Oh, I am sorry, Washington. The Department of Licensing.

After a day like I’ve had I decide I am going to bake myself a birthday cake. Yeah, me. Failbaker should be my name. I’m not precise. I’m inattentive. I substitute just because I want to. But today, I promised myself, I would do none of those things. I had the recipe! Oooh, it sounds good. Grandma’s Lime Cake. I love grandmas, I love limes. I love frosted things. It should have been perfect.

But instead of eating cake I am drinking boozythings. I don’t know what went wrong, honestly. I think I need classes in baking. I just stink at it so royally, it’s embarassing.

So make me feel better! It’s my birthday, tell me what YOU stink at in the kitchen!

Oh, in case you’re wondering what’s in the glass:

1 shot dark rum

1/2 shot 99 bananas

glass the rest of the way full with blood orange italian soda.

I rimmed the glass with sugar, which I don’t think you can see. Garnish with fruity, frilly things and drown your cooking sorrows. But don’t forget to share them here first!


Clean-Out-the-Fridge Peanut Sauce Noodle-y Bowl
June 28, 2009, 3:39 am
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Thai-inspired Peanut Sauce Noodles will do, to be brief. If brevity is your thing, I guess. 

I wanted some thick, chewy noodles with a salty sauce with a tiny bit of kick to it. If I had actually planned this dish I’d have added some Thai Basil and some bean sprouts, but as the name suggests this was a bit of a fly by the seat of your pants kind of dish. Feel free to improvise as you see fit, this will accommodate just about anything you’ve got in your fridge about to go off.

Peanut Sauce Noodle-y bowl

  • Enough pasta to serve, well, as many as you’re trying to serve. Eyeball it! (I used udon, I think the chewier the noodle the better in this case.)
  • 1 lb chicken breast, chopped fine.
  • 1 large carrot, sliced/diced fairly small. 
  • 1 broccoli crown, woody stem discarded and chopped fine.
  • 1 Tsp Sriracha hot chili sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced fine
  • a good handful of greens, chopped (I had spinach about to go off, it worked pretty well!)
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil

For the sauce

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tsp Sriracha hot chili sauce
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar


  • handful of cilantro leaves and a dash of red pepper flakes to garnish

Combine the ingredients for the sauce in a small pan over low heat and mix. Let it go for five minutes or so, stirring regularly. Set it aside for now and move on to your meat and pasta. Start your pasta cooking as per the directions on the package. 

Heat your sesame oil over medium heat in a wide pan, then add the chicken, carrots, broccoli, greens, garlic and sriracha. As long as your chicken was diced really finely you’ll find that everything magically seems to be cooked at about the same time. Turn the heat down a bit more if you need to, don’t burn the garlic! (And keep an eye on that pasta, I nearly lost mine to inattention!)

When your pasta is done and drained, add your meat/veg and sauce over the hot noodles and mix well. Garnish each bowl with a sprig or two (Or three, if you really like cilantro!)  of cilantro and sprinkle a few chili flakes over the top. Serve with lime-aide!

Grill night, guys. Oh yeah.
June 26, 2009, 3:11 am
Filed under: Uncategorized



Fava beans. GRILLED.

Fava beans. GRILLED.

Okay, this is the opening shot for this entry simply because I could not believe how great these things were. I was browsing my local farmer’s market and came across a stall filled with fava beans. I pounced and the vendor had to ask: “Are you a fava bean person already?”

Me: “Of course!”

Vendor: “Then you gotta try this!” *Hands me a sheet of paper.*

Me: “Grilled fava beans? OH YES.”


And it was good. So, so good. They steam in their shells on the grill, and it is left to the eater to do the dirty work of shelling. I served them to a group of fava bean virgins and everyone loved them.


Home-Chopped burgers, homemade garlic buns, fava beans and Dave's lip-smackie-tery-effin'-yaki wings

Home-Chopped burgers, homemade garlic buns, fava beans and Dave's lip-smackie-tery-effin'-yaki wings

I have first got to thank my brother-in-law for basically going along with any idea I had. He’s cooked professionally in various capacities for years now and he’s invaluable in the kitchen. Anything I’m not sure about, any technique I really don’t find myself sure of: “Joe? Is this right?”

So we have on the plate: Roasted Garlic Buns, Home-Chopped Top Round Burgers, Grilled Fava Beans and Grandpa Dave’s Lip-Smackie-Teri-Effin’-Yaki Wings (Drummettes). I’m not a huge wing girl here, but I found myself dipping my fingers in the sauce all night. The burgers were good, but I would’ve enjoyed them more if I’d gone with the bacon in the burgers like I’d intended. My processor is super weak and required almost all the fat to be trimmed off the top round, so the burgers were a tiiiiiny bit dry. I’d made them before with a sirloin and two slices of bacon and the fat content was just perfect.

So here goes, guys. Grill night menu!

Roasted Garlic Burger Buns

  • A whole head of oven-roasted garlic, squeezed out and mashed. (Tons of tutorials on this online, super easy and so so worth it!)
  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup Warm Water
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 1 Packet Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 3-4 Cups All Purpose or Bread Flour

Mix your olive oil and roasted garlic paste and set aside. In a large bowl mix your sugar and water, then your yeast. Have it sit on the counter in a warm spot until it’s nice and foamy, try five minutes or so. Add in your salt, garlic, parsley and the first three cups or so of flour. Mix until you’ve got a tacky dough, adding in a little flour a handful at a time if it seems too wet. 

Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until you have a smooth, elastic ball. Ten minutes is a good template, I often have it done a little earlier than that. Grease a bowl, pop in your dough and cover. Let it rise an hour or two until it’s doubled in size. Punch down and break it into six or eight evenly sized balls and place them on a greased baking pan to rise another half hour or forty-five minutes. While they’re rising the last time, preheat your oven to 350. Let them bake for a good fifteen or twenty minutes, or until they’re golden and sound hollow when you tap the bottom.

Home-Chopped Top Round Burgers

  • A pound of top round, trimmed and diced fairly small. 
  • Salt and pepper to taste (Super simple, huh?)

This one is crazy easy. Trim the meat, dice it and chop it in batches in your food processor. Salt and pepper, form patties and grill it to your desired doneness. Mmmm.

Grilled Fava Beans

  • 1 pound fava beans, in shell
  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sea salt
  • 1 Tsp Sriracha Chili Paste
  • Lemon Wedges, for garnish

Wash your fava beans and toss them in the olive oil. Place them on the grill over high heat, cover and let them cook for two, two and a half minutes. Flip them, sprinkle sea salt and cover again for another two minutes. They should be done at this point, the shells should be really soft and squishy. Place them in a bowl and toss with the Sriracha and squeeze some lemon over the top. The sauce will get all over the fingers of your guests as they’re shelling and popping the green goodness out of the pods. YUM.

Grandpa Dave’s Lip-Smackie-Teri-Effin’-Yaki Wings

  • 1 massive bag of frozen wings/drumettes
  • 1 cup cooking wine  (this ingredient apparently varies in type depending on what’s available. Sherry was used this time and was awesome.)
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and diced
  • fresh ginger, peeled and diced. (This one is really to taste, but a good rule of thumb is a fairly equal amount of ginger and garlic.)
  • Sugar, to taste. (He uses a minimum of 1/4 cup. Ended up looking more like 3/4 to me, but how sweet you want it is up to you.)

Combine everything but the wings in a saucepan, bringing to a boil. The main purpose is to dissolve the sugar, but this will really bring out the ginger and garlic a lot more.

Arrange your wings in a single layer in a glass baking dish, at least a 9×13. Pour the sauce over your wings and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours, up to 4.

Preheat your oven to 350.

Transfer your wings to the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, popping one out towards the end and pulling it apart to check for doneness. When they’re finished, arrange them in a bowl and step back lest your fingers be mistaken for a wing when the beasts step in to devour them.

So we’ve had family here all week, and while we have cooked and eaten well this was the first meal planned well enough that I could share it with you, and I’m really glad I have. I’ve got big plans for the weekend too!

Oooh, yes. Rhubarb Jam!
June 20, 2009, 5:42 am
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I have a confession to make:

I had not eaten rhubarb, in my entire life, until just a few short weeks ago. My best friend on the planet flew out with her little boy to come and visit, and during an excursion to Seattle we grabbed some pastries from a little Russian joint. One was a dessert pastry, filled to the brim with rhubarb. The sharpness, the tart-sweet-ooh what is that of it just killed me.

I was not unfamiliar with rhubarb, I’d heard of it and seen it-I just assumed it was some sort of demonic cousin of celery. My hatred for celery is irrational and ferocious; I will use it when absolutely necessary and that is IT. (Like I said, irrational and ferocious.)

A week later I’d made a rhubarb coffee crumble and tonite I decided I needed jam. Rhubarb jam. I’m not going to pretend my quantities are exact or anything, so think of this as more of a suggestion of how to come upon rhubarb jam in your kitchen some day. 

Absolutely Necessary Rhubarb Jam

  • 8 impressively large rhubarb stalks (I’d bought about five pounds, all told. Used about half of it for this?)
  • 2 cups raw sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • zest of the better part of a medium sized lime (Wow, that was specific! Try a good teaspoon and increase to taste.)
  • a shot of  homemade cinnamon/allspice/clove infused vodka (Try making some! Super easy and the results are worth it. Otherwise simmer your jam with a whole cinnamon stick in it and fish it out before you’re done.)

Combine all that deliciousness in a big saucepan and cook over medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring and tasting all the while. Too tart? More sugar. Too sweet? Try some lime juice! Got a vanilla pod? Cardamom? Other fruit? Try it out. Just let the jam simmer until all the fruit is broken down. If you’d put in any whole spices while it simmers, take them out now.

Have an immersion blender? FABULOUS. (I have since decided I need one.) Otherwise blend this in batches in a food processor until you don’t have any big blobs of fruit. Transfer to sterilized jars and let it cool on the counter until it has reached room temp or so. Don’t eat it all yet, if you can help yourself. Give it a few hours in the fridge to set and you have got a whole heckuva lot of jam. I filled six half-pint jars to the brim, so I guess the neighbors are getting jam.

Unless I can come up with a large number of things that you can put rhubarb jam on. A really large number. 🙂

Red Onion and Rosemary Focaccia
June 18, 2009, 8:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized



I love bread. Okay, well that’s a bit of an understatement, I am obsessed with bread. And since the day I discovered I indeed had the ability to make this wonderful foodstuff myself my house has been filled with that wonderful warm, yeasty smell at least once a week. (More if I have an “oops!”, one must have at least one good loaf of bread in this house at all times.)

It’s been a bad bread month in my house. I’ve failed miserably at a French loaf, even my normally lovely challah has been awful. But this? Oh it was Good. Capital G good. And barely more complex than pizza dough. A perfect way to regain my bread-confidence and a really fabulous first bread for a new baker.

Adapted from How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman

Red Onion and Rosemary Focaccia

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (Keep a little extra close by, you might just find you need it!)
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt (Again, keep it nearby for sprinkling later.)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary leaves (Fresh is best, but if you only have dry-go for it!)
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/8 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

First off: I have no mixer, so I do all this by hand. If you have one and are familiar with how it should be used to mix dough, go right ahead! I won’t fault you one bit, the only reason I don’t have one is my kitchen is packed to the gills as it is. 

In a large mixing bowl, toss in your flour, yeast, salt and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add a cup of warm water and begin mixing. Keep adding water a bit at a time until you’ve got a big sticky ball in your bowl. (I think I ended up with about a cup and a half of water in there all told, but this can really vary.) Keep adding water until you get the right texture, and if you’ve gone too far just add a couple tablespoons of flour to try and get it back to that sticky ball I keep mentioning.

Dust a small area of your countertop with flour and turn your dough out onto it. Knead until you’ve got a smooth ball, toss it in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Sit it in a warm corner of your kitchen and forget about it for an hour or two, or until that bad boy has doubled in size.

Use that last full tablespoon of olive oil to grease the bottom of your pan. I used one that was about 9×13 and would really use a slightly larger one next time, I like it a little thinner than this batch turned out. Place your dough in the center of the pan and begin pressing it outward to the edges. Don’t force it, don’t break it: Be gentle! If it won’t go all the way this time, kiss it on the cheek and come back a little later. Just remember to cover it and come back in a few minutes. Once you’ve coaxed it to the edges, cover again and let it sit for another half hour or so.

Heat your oven to 375. Uncover your dough and poke at it repeatedly. Make it angry! Dimple the entire surface with your fingertips and then gently drizzle olive oil over the top. Arrange your red onion slices over it, sprinkle your cheese and liberally salt it. Stick that gorgeous thing in the oven for about a half an hour or until it is golden and just begging to be eaten. Let it cool on a wire rack at least long enough you won’t burn your tongue while you’re shoving it in your mouth.

Chipotle Honey Butter Shrimp Skewers with a Carrot and Cilantro Salad
June 18, 2009, 1:40 am
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Shrimpy, cilantro-y joy!
Shrimpy, cilantro-y joy!
If you’re reading this already, we probably know each other. But if, in fact, you are a stranger to my world…Let me tell you a story.
My name is Deborah, and I am a former vegetarian. I’ve never had any moral opposition to eating meat, although I do understand it. I just decided one day that meat really wasn’t worth the trouble. I caved here and there over the years and didn’t feel much guilt about it, I think I was always just too lazy to worry about meat myself. It took time and energy I didn’t want to bother putting into my food, because food was something I really didn’t enjoy thinking about. I’ve had a sorry relationship with food for most of my life, and really thought that even thinking too hard about food might end up making me fat. 
Fast forward a few years and after some begging on my husband’s part I decide to go ahead and make a real turkey for Thanksgiving. I do some serious research and decide on a recipe that sounds pretty simple and tasty: Nothing more involved than some citrus and herbs and an impressive amount of butter. And oh, it was good. I was done for from there.
But my lack of food knowledge has been crippling. I don’t think I like a great number of things, but in reality I’m ignorant. I don’t know how they should taste or how they should be enjoyed. And I’m scared! I don’t want to put a whole lot of time and effort in to find that the food doesn’t satisfy. That’s where this blog comes in, it’ll be a part of the healing process for me. I’ll try things and sometimes I’ll fail and it will always be okay. And I will indeed share my failures here as well. The intent is an update during the week and one a weekend, we’ll see if that actually works out that way. But anyway! Let’s get on to the food.


If I’m going to start this thing, I really can’t imagine any better meal to start with than this one: it got Spouse to eat zucchini and got me eating shrimp. Both of these things were thought to be portents of the apocalypse before tonite, but I think we’re all safe now. 

It’s a really great summer meal as there is almost no cooking to it, you blanch the zucchini and spend a few minutes hovering over the grill, that’s it! Most of the time is in prep, and it is well worth it.

Both recipes are modifications of some found in:
Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet by Padma Lakshmi.

Carrot and Cilantro Salad

This cooling salad is a near-perfect combination of tart and sweet, exactly what you need for the end of a hot day.

  • Vinaigrette 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (Rice vinegar would have been interesting here too!)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure orange oil


  • 2 pounds carrots, shredded coarsely
  • 2 cups cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup white sesame seeds, dry roasted  in a pan until golden brown (Use a fairly low heat and keep an eye on them! Approx. 5 min.)
  • 1 seeded jalapeño pepper, diced (Keep the seeds if you want a little more heat, I was hoping my 3 year old might just take a bite or two.)
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 teaspoon za’atar powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Combine the vinaigrette ingredients together in a salad bowl and toss with all the salad ingredients except the za’atar powder and sea salt. Save those for just before serving and sprinkle them atop the salad.

Chipotle Honey Butter

  •  8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle pepper

Toss it all in a bowl and blend by hand or with a blender until smooth. Try not to eat it all before you hit the grill with your shrimp!

Shrimp Skewers 

  • 2 pounds jumbo shrimp, cleaned and deveined
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2/3 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 large zucchini (Approx 1 pound) blanched for about five minutes in boiling water and drained
  • 1/2 cup chipotle honey butter
  • wooden skewers (Don’t forget to soak them in water for 30 minutes!)

Set your shrimp aside to marinate in the lime juice and salt, at least 20 minutes before you’re ready to grill.

Whip out your mandolin if you have one, and you know that you want any excuse to take it out if you do. Otherwise sharpen your best knife and be careful! Slice the zucchini into thin ribbons.

Melt the Chipotle honey butter on low heat.

Now onto the skewers! Pierce a zucchini slice about half an inch from the edge and fold over about an inch or so, piercing again. Keep going until you’ve got the whole thing on your skewer. Slide it on down to the end and then go for a shrimp. Alternate till you’ve got three or four slices of zucchini and three or four shrimp. Don’t crowd it!

Lay them flat on your hot grill and brush each side with the melted Chipotle honey butter. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, being careful not to overcook. Continue basting them as they cook. Once they’re cooked all the way through toss a couple of skewers on a plate with your salad, squeeze a little lime juice over it and dig in!