Party: bison meatballs and beer cheese soup

I only wish I’d taken better photos of the food my friends and I worked for so long to make! This stuff really tasted like a gourmet, fancy-fancy meal. It took us nearly an hour and a half to make, but it was worth every bit of time spent drinking wine in the kitchen. We laughed and made joke after handjob joke about our pal’s ability to grate a huge block of cheese like a champ.

I was so nervous to have these ladies over to my house, as I am with letting anyone in my space, but moreso because I’m just getting to know these coworkers a little bit more outside of work. I have a hard time letting people into my space and wondering what they’ll think of my house. Will they like it? Will they notice that the trim along the baseboards isn’t yet the same paint color as the baseboards? Are my floors too dirty? Will they like my dogs, or think I’m utterly feral? What if I overcook the food, or it just sucks, or I forget something integral to the meal? My anxiety kicks into high gear when I let people into my very private space. It’s an intimacy with other people that I have a hard time creating.

I didn’t do any shoving-stuff-into-the-closet-at-the-last-minute maneuvers, but I do still get the tail-end of the “I just moved three months ago” excuse. I made my bed…what more could anyone hope for?

IMG_5575

I found the recipe for these meatballs and the Greek yogurt-based sauce at the last second, thirty minutes before my pals were supposed to be at my house and I was still at the grocery store. I’m forever running late because I’m at the grocery store, now. We only made a few modifications to the recipe, as follows:

  • Instead of using cumin seeds and coriander seeds, I used the ground spices and whole fennel seeds without grinding them. It didn’t matter and the flavors blended nicely.
  • In the sauce, I used about a cup of cilantro instead of a cup and a half. I just didn’t have any more than that.
  • I used shredded-up gluten-free bread. It worked fine, but I wish I’d used a little more bread to hold the meatballs together a little better. I also used almond milk instead of cow milk, per the usual.
  • Instead of a jalapeno, I used a portion of an anaheim chile, because that’s what I had on hand.
  • I didn’t use extra cilantro or allspice in the meatballs, because there just wasn’t any.

And, of course, everything came out perfect. I’d highly recommend doubling or tripling the sauce recipe — I couldn’t get enough of it — and using it on salads, or as a dipping sauce for veggies. It was a cool, creamy, herby sauce and I can’t wait to make it again.

IMG_5576

Remember when I said I accidentally learned to make beer cheese soup from Martha Stewart? Yeah, I just made a bigger pot of the stuff. It was just so rich, creamy, and beer-y. I barely made it through my bowl, and was happy that one of my pals took the rest home to her boyfriend. There was no way I could handle that dense of a soup twice within a few days.

IMG_5590

Even my dog, Tiger Tail, got a meatball to celebrate her graduation from Pre-Agility and Performance Prep at her dog school. Isn’t she adorable? No more pinch collars for us! I feed my dogs high-quality dog food and give them mostly vegetable scraps as treats, but this time she deserved a little something special. 🙂

Advertisements

Chocolate-covered strawberries

When I drunkenly asked a coworker what I should bring to celebrate Benjamin Franklin’s birthday a week prior, I figured she’d ask for one of the store-bought cakes I usually buy, brownies, or cookies. Instead, she immediately popped out with “chocolate covered fruit!” in total excitement. I agreed, and decided I’d take up the challenge anyway. After all, I have mastered some new challenges already, and knew I’d have plenty of time to learn.

So I procrastinated until about five hours before work before even looking up a recipe. How in the world DO you make chocolate-covered strawberries, anyway? Was this going to be my first cheat at the spirit (but not the law) of restaurant abstinence, where I dip over to a local chocolaterie and beg them to expensively do it for me at the last minute? I didn’t even own a double-why-did-they-stack-the-pots(?).

Through patience, YouTube, Google, and about an hour of searching for the one double-boiler Bed Bath and Beyond does carry, I figured it out. As it turns out, dipping strawberries isn’t hard all.

2015/01/img_5455.jpg

I emptied three 10oz bags of chocolate chips into the double boiler, and set that sucker to heat up on medium-high. While the chips melted, I washed the strawberries. One blogger advised that the strawberries needed to be very dry, and suddenly I found myself with wet strawberries and melted chocolate. Unsure whether that chocolate would get too hot or change consistency, I decided to go for drying them more quickly…with my blow dryer. What? It makes my hair dry faster, too. It was a stroke of kitchen-genius.

Just as I was blow-drying strawberries, my pal Chad arrived. We’d agreed to hang out, and he sacrificed his time to taste my strawberries. While I ate my real dinner, he even dipped about half of them and didn’t roll his eyes where I could see them when I showed him my picky, perfectionistic ways of dipping. Dip, let it run, tap the extra off on the sides, and turn it upside down before putting it on the parchment paper, okay?

2015/01/img_5446.jpg

In a little less than an hour, we’d covered four pounds of strawberries in three-and-a-half pounds of chocolate. I just kept adding chocolate to the boiler until I’d finished all of the berries. Each parchment paper-covered cookie sheet sat in the fridge for about 15 minutes. For the white chocolate decorating, I bought Hershey’s vanilla chips, and heated about four ounces of them in a bowl in the microwave, stirring every 20 seconds until the stuff was molten. I used a fork to drizzle, quickly moving back and forth over the berries.

As we enjoyed tasting and talking, we popped open a bottle of wine. Despite my lack of posting about it here, I actually drink a fair amount of red wine — usually blends, merlots, cabs, and pinots. Because we’d had a terrible bottle of shitty red zinfandel aptly named “Poizon” before, I’d bought this bottle for us to drink this time:

2015/01/img_5477.jpg

So here’s to Benjamin Franklin’s 309th birthday, and more hundred dollar bills in the coming year!

Sweet potato pizza crust

After finishing those amazing tamales as my last restaurant meal until 2016, I jumped into working for the night. Rather than spending my New Year’s Eve with friends and family, I spent it with coworkers and screwing with drunk people. The DJ was too apathetic to announce when the clock struck twelve, and I broke a shoe at exactly 12:00. Still, it turned out to be a good night, and I left the building feeling like a rock star and ready to eat everything in sight.

I hit the grocery store, and couldn’t pass up getting myself two cheap, glittery “Cheerful Bouquets” for my table to start the year. I wasn’t sad buying them for myself, or longing for a mister. Cooking for one, as inconvenient as it often is, seemed a special treat, a nice time to reflect deeply on the previous year, and set my intentions for the coming year.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/353/81696145/files/2015/01/img_5138.jpg

My dining room is still a mess. And truthfully, I mostly moved the table’s contents to the floor for the picture, because I’m an actual human who was exhausted at five o’clock in the morning. I set myself up with a big glass of water, very much needing to refuel after a long night of sweating and working. I worked hard to create a new dish all my own in my head as I took the stage, without the help of Yummly, Whole30, or Google. I came up with a sweet potato pizza crust topped with ground turkey, sweet peppers, onion, fresh mozzarella, and spices. On the side, I used up some left over baby bellas by stuffing them full of ricotta and thawed summer Iowa sweet corn. Recipe below.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/353/81696145/files/2015/01/img_5141.jpg

As I quietly rang in my own 2015, happily alone and bathing in the quiet morning hours before sunrise, I became even more attached to this crazy idea that I won’t eat at a restaurant for one full year. I tried to figure out the specifics: Can I have drinks at restaurants while others eat? (Yes.) Are the authentic, beautiful, savory tamales at the Mexican grocery two blocks away considered “grocery store food” or “restaurant food?” (Restaurant food.) What will I say to people who invite me out to dinner? What about explaining this thing to people I don’t know well enough to invite over without some serious awkwardness in explaining my year off? Should I eat out when I travel? (I’ll use social dining apps first, try to find local bed and breakfast-y places on the much-loved AirBnB, stay with friends, grab some grub from the grocery store to snack on, or, yes, as a last resort, eat at a special and local restaurant.)

I started to figure out that this year will require a leap of faith. I’ll have people into my home that I don’t know as well as I normally would before inviting them over and feeding them, or asking them to do something different and explaining my own priorities this year. I’ll have to trust that I will get through the year, and not already corner myself into believing I’ll quit halfway through when hitting up a restaurant is more convenient or PMS is in full fury.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/353/81696145/files/2015/01/img_5143.jpg

All the shit you need for this:

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2tbsp olive or preferred oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2lb cooked and drained ground meat of choice
  • Pizza sauce or marinara
  • Sweet peppers and onion sauteed in butter or oil of choice
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Oregano
  • Black pepper
  • Smoked paprika
  • Baby portobello mushrooms
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Thawed summer Iowa sweet corn (or…your cooked corn of choice)

Sweet potato pizza crust:

Peel and cook one large sweet potato. I used a microwave because I’m lazy, but you could dice-and-boil, roast (yum!), or bake that bitch. Mash and let cool slightly, probably while you do other things like chop vegetables or cook ground turkey. Add two eggs, stir until it has the consistency of cake batter. If it’s too thin from the egg, add in a little pancake mix or flour to thicken.

Brown 3tbsp butter in skillet on medium heat. Drop in 1/4 – 1/3 of the batter, depending on how many and the size of mini pizzas you want. Flatten out into a 1/4″ thick patty, and cook until pancake-finished on one side. Flip, repeat. Repeat process using rest of batter.

Preheat oven to 400F degrees or so. It doesn’t really matter, but 400 always seems like a nice round number for baking things.

To cook garlic you’ll need later: 3-4 tbsp butter, in skillet on medium, until melted. Add 3 cloves of minced garlic, until garlic is soft and butter is browned.

Grease cookie sheet with olive oil or nonstick spray. Top pizza crusts with whatever pizza sauce you like, or leftover spaghetti sauce. Add ground meat of choice (I used lean turkey), sauteed sweet pepper/onion combo, fresh sliced mozzarella, and garlic from above (save the butter for later, just scoop the garlic out with a fork). Top with oregano, black pepper, and smoked paprika. Bake for about 6-8 minutes, just until toppings are hot and mozzarella is melted. Overcooking will lead to rubbery mozzarella — ew.

To make stuffed mushrooms:

Take out stems and dark brown innards of mushrooms with a spoon, being careful not to bust the sides or bottom. Gently cook mushrooms in butter just long enough to soften, top-down, over medium-low heat — about 4 minutes. Flip, cook another 2-4 minutes with the inside down. Plate, fill with ricotta, top with corn, drizzle the rest of that yummy hot garlic butter over the top, and add paprika or pepper if desired.

Pro tip: eat the mushrooms with your fingers and the pizza with a fork.