Monthly Archives: January 2012

Hot and sour soup

Man. Just when I thought I’d licked this cold, it bounced back up for another round.

Last time I tried to tame the ickiness with a kiss of citrus. This time, I’m bringing out the big guns: capsaicin, and lots of it. I wanted to save this recipe for Christmas, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

It’s hot and sour soup time.

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Egg-lemon soup

Oh, hello, cold and flu season.  I was wondering when you might show up.

My coworker has a hellacious sniffle.  Several of my friends are feverish.  The woman standing next to me on the train this morning kept wiping her nose with her hand and then grabbing hold of the handrail.  So when I caught myself feeling a little woozy at work and desperate for sleep, I knew exactly what I needed to do.

Bring on the soup!

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Skillet cornbread

And now…from diabetes to cornbread. (How’s that for a segue?)

After a chilly, dry winter, the rain has finally arrived in Northern California. This is the kind of weather that fleece blankets were made for. Sam has been begging me for weeks to make chili, and it finally felt like the weather gods were giving me a directive.

But with chili this good, we needed something to mop the bowl. And my trusty cast-iron skillet felt due for a baking workout. Helllllooooo, cornbread.

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Digression: Paula Deen and the war of healthy vs. good

So.  Paula Deen has Type II diabetes.

I was talking about this last night with Kate, who’s always my voice of food-related reason.  I told her I was tempted to blog about it.  She made a face.  “Really?  Are you sure you want to go there?”

I wasn’t sure.  At all.

But I’ve had some time to stew about it, and I realized that, yeah, I do want to go there.  Because I think there are some very good reasons to be concerned and indignant about Paula Deen’s announcement.  Just not the reasons a lot of people are giving.

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Garlic broth, and a simple broccoli soup

Chalk up today’s post to “experiments in high-altitude cooking.”

I spent the weekend with friends at a vacation home in Mammoth Lakes, California. At nearly 8,000 feet above sea level, it’s a ski and snowboard haven. We neither skied nor snowboarded–the winter’s been so dry that the resorts are resorting (heh) to exclusively man-made snow. Plus, the only winter sport I’m really interested in is sipping wine in a hot tub.

So we mostly stayed indoors, away from the punishing bone-dry winter winds. We cooked big communal meals. I improvised a cozy broccoli soup–quite literally, out of thin air–that somehow got lots of compliments. Not bad, given that we had trouble getting water to boil hot enough to cook pasta.

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Russian salads

When I went to St. Petersburg for a summer abroad during college, I was fully expecting to love it–the canals, the palaces, the riotiously colored onion-domed cathedrals, the museums, the music, the cafes with storied literary names, the languid blue dusk of the White Nights.

What I didn’t expect to fall in love with was the food.

Russian food, at least as my friends made it out, was bland. Heavy. Unimaginative. Potatoes, sour cream and beets for weeks on end. I don’t know why I was surprised when my friends turned out to be wrong.

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Red(dish) velvet cake

And the cakes just keep on coming.  Don’t judge; it was my birthday this weekend.

I had a conundrum when planning my birthday cake this year.  I was throwing a Communist Party–vodka drinks, red paper plates, Russian snacks and a 1960’s Cold War movie–and wanted to make a red velvet cake.  (Get it? Get it?) But the red in red velvet cake almost always comes from food coloring, and the quantity of red food coloring used tends to make cake taste metallic and sharp, like licking the side of a flagpole.  At least, it does to me.

So I wanted to try a dye-free cake.  I poked around for an alternative, and found a recipe for a cake infused with red wine.  Yum.

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Sour cream pound cake, and Bloggers Unplugged

I promised you cake, and I keep my promises.  Today, the cake is not a lie.

I got the recipe for today’s cake from Daisy, who blogs over at Daisy’s World.  Daisy has a culinary degree and a prolific garden; much of the food she writes about is inspired by her freshest pickings.  (As a young apartment-dweller, this makes me green with envy.)  But on top of that, she’s also a fabulous photographer, who makes everything she posts look vibrant and bursting with flavor.  For a taste of her mad skillz (yes, with a z), check out her year-end post and see what she has to say about her Santa hat brownies.  It’s impressive, to say the least.

So when Sam asked me to make him a pound cake for Christmas, I knew just where to look.

(Stay tuned for a little rockstar interview goodness after the jump!)

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Digression: “The Fat Trap”

Welcome to January. It’s resolution-making time. Holiday-excess-detoxing time. Vegetables-whole-grains-and-water time. The time when “turning over a new leaf” seems very often to involve bringing down the number on the bathroom scale.

I don’t know if it’s true that losing weight is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions–as I’ve heard cited, oh, every year around this time–but it seems entirely believable. I’ve been there: one of the seeming millions, wrestling year in and year out with excess heft, alarmed about the potential consequences for my long-term health, putting my fist down on the table and resolving that this year I’ll finally shake off those pounds.

So when I read this week’s New York Times Magazine cover story, “The Fat Trap,” I thought it was brilliantly, perhaps cynically on-the-nose for this time of year. I also knew I had to write about it here.

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