Unseasonably hot soup

Thanks to the sudden influx of bills, statements and other financial obligations, I still haven’t gone grocery shopping and added a single thing to my pantry. This is no matter of starvation – there’s enough ramen in my pantry to keep my alive for a good while – but I don’t see much of anything desirable when I gaze inside.

Temperatures have topped 90 here every day, but that’s no big deal – that’s every summer in the south. I still don’t understand why I got a wild hair and decided to make soup last night.

I didn’t use a recipe or a plan. I don’t know what sizes my cans were, unless approximations such as “large” and “small” count. I assembled these things and cooked them on the stovetop (I started by boiling the pasta in the beef broth until it was halfway done) until the pasta was soft and the flavors had mingled appropriately:

  • 1 carton beef broth (or a couple of cans)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 can sliced new potatoes, drained
  • 1 cup small shell pasta
  • Half cup diced fresh banana peppers
  • Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, garlic powder, onion powder and cumin to taste

I’ll toss in any other vegetables I have nearby next time I make something like this.

The boyfriend asked me to try a recipe for hot water cornbread his dad, so I made this recipe I found on Allrecipes.com. I used locally grown and ground cornmeal that I purchased at the farmer’s market awhile back, and I wasn’t disappointed. The pieces of cornbread were crispy on the outside and moist on the inside – with the coarsely ground cornmeal, the insides tasted a lot like grits, and not in a bad way.

It’s kind of fun making random stuff from slim pickings.

Tuna burgers!

My pantry is almost empty. My refrigerator is peppered with condiments and an economy package of eggs. I’m broke, I don’t want Totino’s pizza, and Casey doesn’t love ramen quite as much as I do.

My solution? Tuna burgers. I normally eat tuna mixed with mayo, but Casey finds mayo particularly disgusting, so I threw all of this into a bowl:

  • 1 can of tuna, drained (6 oz., whatever brand/packing method you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup Stovetop Chicken Stuffing, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Ground red pepper, salt and onion powder to taste
  • 1 tablespoon spicy mustard

It’s one of those recipes that isn’t really a recipe – it’s a loose set of guidelines you can use to come up with something you really like. If I’d had fresh veggies at my disposal, I would have sauteed some in olive oil and used them. It’s very tentative – I ran back and forth from bowl to pantry to fridge, adding things as I saw fit. Which means that if you decide to make something like this, do it your own way. If it’s dry, add some liquid. Too wet? Add something substantive. Like mayo? Toss some in.

I made 3 patties from the mixture and pan-fried them in olive oil over medium heat until the outsides were a deep golden brown in color. Then, we topped each with a slice of American cheese and ate them on hamburger buns – I had mine with mayo, Casey had his with mustard and ketchup.

Simplicity is key… sometimes.

I’ll admit it – I like to experiment. Sometimes my experimentations go very, very badly – usually the ones where I think, “Oh, this can of chickpeas would go well in this dish… And these bell peppers… And a couple other things from my pantry.”

Sometimes when I go grocery shopping I’ll get a few cans of refrigerated croissant dough or biscuits, and when my boyfriend, Casey, decides he wants biscuits with breakfast, I wag my fingers and gently inform him that I’m planning to create some crazy concoction with them. I’d rather wrap the dough around a ham and cheese filling or sprinkle it with garlic powder and olive oil or make miniature pizzas or ANYTHING other than its intended use.

“Why can’t we just have normal tacos,” Casey will ask. “Can we just have plain croissants? Hamburgers without crazy seasoning?” He’s a fan of simplicity, and I like to complicate things tremendously.

But sometimes his commitment to simplicity is nice. He spent his formative years watching his grandmother cook breakfast, and now he does the same for me, usually on Sunday mornings. Today, I came home for lunch and he had a plate of sausage, eggs and hash browns waiting. Fried eggs over medium. Round sausage patties. Hash browns dotted with plenty of black and cayenne pepper. Nothing fancy, nothing dramatic – just simple, well-prepared food. If I had sausage, eggs and hash browns sitting on the counter before me, I’d end up making some kind of breakfast bake or Super Omelet, but isn’t it nice to go back to the basics sometimes?

So here’s a toast to simplicity, and a thanks to Casey’s grandma, who also happens to make a mean pecan pie and a pretty mayhew jelly, even though she made fun of me for not knowing how to pronounce “mayhew.”

I’ll see you at the farmers market!

Would you believe that until Saturday, I’d never been to a farmers market? When I lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas, I heard many tales about its awesome farmers market, but I never got to go – I was a weekend manager at a bakery, meaning I worked through the farmers market hours each weekend. Now that I’m back in Texarkana and have normal 8-5 working hours, my Saturday mornings are free to peruse new potatoes at the farmers market. And so I did.

Casey and I left the house before 8 a.m. and started with a couple of garage sales. I got a knife set for $3 (I finally have good knives! Oh joy, oh joy!) and we found Casey an old La-Z-Boy recliner. It’s orange. Bright, garish orange. We’ll have to do something about that pretty soon.

Anyway, I spent $16 at the farmers market and came back with: banana peppers, habanero peppers, 3 lbs. new potatoes, a jar of local honey, culinary lavender, green beans and a free cookbook. I am in love. I also got to eat the following things: a peanut butter/cornflake cookie, new potatoes with parmesan and rosemary, and a lavender cinnamon cookie. Awesome.

I can’t wait to get more locally grown fruits and veggies as the season changes. I just had to share my excitement. Adios.

Toffifay!

I’ve been talking a lot about reviewing candy lately, and my coworker Kevin surprised me with a box of Toffifay when he returned from his lunch break today. Now, after some research, I learned that Toffifay has been around since 1973, when it was first sold in Germany. Somehow I’ve gone my entire life without trying Toffifay… until today.

Though you’ve likely tried this candy before, I’m going to analyze it anyway. It’s new to me – why not?

These candies are cute. Ridiculously cute, even. The package describes the Toffifay-making process like this: “We spin chewy caramel into a little cup, drop in a whole hazelnut, cover it with chocolate hazelnut filling and top it with a drop of delicious chocolate.” Little hazelnut baskets! It couldn’t be more adorable!

When I opened the package, I smelled caramel, and for good reason – it makes up 41 percent of each piece (according to Wikipedia, at least). Kevin bought the 15-piece box (4.3 oz), and Toffifay makes you feel a little more special than normal – the candies are each cradled in their own space in a gold-colored plastic liner, much like a fancy box of chocolates. The caramel is firm and cool to the touch, and the spot of chocolate on top melts when I touch it. It’s slightly greasy, but when it stands alone, it has a pretty nice flavor that isn’t too sweet.

The combination of caramel, chocolate and hazelnut feels right. It feels classic. Everything about it is decadent and chewy, except for the delicate crunch of the hazelnut hidden inside. The chew-factor is just about right, too – it won’t pull out your fillings, but it’ll give you a minute to chew and ponder the awesomeness of its hazelnut essence. I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’m a sucker for Nutella and pretty much every hazelnut-related candy I’ve tried.

I’m certainly a fan of Toffifay now, though. Thanks, Kevin!

ma, where’s my toof?

I have a fridge, freezer and pantry full of groceries. They’re falling out of the cabinets. There’s more food than I could eat during a lifetime in a bunker if a nuclear war hit.

So tell me why I’m having Ramen for dinner?

Probably because Monday night, when I chomped down on some rice and chicken, I felt a crack. The crack of my nightmares. My tooth broke.

Luckily, it’s on the side. I had an emergency trip to see the dentist, who couldn’t salvage the tooh. He removed it.

Nothing like a missing tooth can kill your appetite for a few days. Note to self: go to the dentist regularly, even though you can’t afford it!

Tutku, a bunny, and a puppy

I had to abandon my journalistic tendencies to leave out the serial comma in the title, because “Tutku, a bunny and a puppy” just looks a bit silly. First, the Tutku.

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The Eti Web site has this to say about Tutku: “Latest from Eti, Tutku is a candidate to be the best sale of all times. Produced with the latest technology this product is unique in the entire world. The soft real chocolate filling is an irresistable real delight.”

They’re right! I found these cookies at Big Lots, of all places. Scary, huh? They’re an interesting swirled shortbread pattern, and they’re filled with what tastes like thinner Nutella. They are delicious, slightly decadent, and it is advisable that you try them as soon as possible.

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(apologies for the dirty thumb nail)

Other than trying these crazy Tutku cookies, I’ve also been up to other things. First, I’ve been taking pictures at the new apartment, but mostly of the animals.

Swat

Blue Bunny!

Nap time

And finally… THE NEW PUPPY!
Her name is Scout, and she’s a straight-up mutt. My boyfriend works at an animal hospital, and a coworker brought them in after she found them in a cemetary while attending a funeral. So Scout is a ghost puppy, maybe?

Puppy!

Scout

Cute attack

Ridiculously wonderful – Ben & Jerry’s Cinnamon Bun and my new favorite Rice Krispies treats

Imagine the worst day you’ll ever have in your entire life. Your hair will look awful. Your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/lover will say goodbye, leaving you for a younger/prettier/skinnier/fatter/taller version of yourself. If you have children, their principals will call you at work to tell you they’ve been horribly awful. You look bad. You feel bad. Shitty day.

This is where Ben & Jerry’s Cinnamon Bun comes in. The boyfriend and I like to get ourselves a couple of pints of Ben & Jerry’s whenever we go grocery shopping, and last time we went, I saw it and had to have it (the boy got the Stephen Colbert flavor, which I already knew was awesome). Now, I was in a pretty awesome mood when I tried the first spoonful. This ice cream is ridiculously decadent. The ice cream itself is cinnamon-flavored, which is neat, and there are cookie-dough-like bits of cinnamon bun scattered throughout. If you think it doesn’t get more ridiculously decadent than that, you’re wrong – it also boasts a cinnamon-carmel streusel swirl. Jesus H. Christ.

That’s why I recommend Ben & Jerry’s Cinnamon Bun for those days when absolutely nothing is going right, the days you just want to go home, apply ass to couch and watch reruns. It will almost make your day a little better. I promise. It’s too awesome for everyday use. Use sparingly, or hips will inflate.

Also, I made Rice Krispies treats to take to the sister’s house for Easter, but these were no ordinary Rice Krispies treats. I like to make them on the stovetop (microwave? marshmallows? Never!), so I melted somewhere between a fourth and a half cup of butter, dumped a bag of marshmallows in, and then I also added a bag of butterscotch chips. Continue with recipe as normal, and when done, awesomeness. They’re crunchy and chewy and gorgeous.

Still working on the at-home Internet situation. I will proudly display animal and food and new apartment photos when the situation is resolved.

Unlikely combinations

Sometimes, you just get the munchies. You get creative. You scour your pantry for edibles but you can’t find anything that seems particularly appealing.

When this happens, I like to mix and match and create. My pal Leonard was over the other day when we were confronted with the munchie problem, so we made this creation:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket + Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket + Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Some happy news: I may be about to inherit a digital camera when my mother upgrades, and I’ll be getting Internet access at the new apartment (you know, the one with the kitchen that’s ready for action) soon enough, and hopefully I’ll be able to create treats more interesting than m&ms and Chex Mix.

Until then, cook a little extra for me.

Falafel!

Well, I found an apartment (with a cute little kitchen that will be the center of my food experimentation for at least the next six months), but I still have not been cooking. However, I took a nice little weekend road trip to Little Rock and got to FINALLY experience some real Greek food! Excuse the blurry photos, please. I commandeered my dad’s digital cam, and it isn’t known for its beautiful closeups of beautiful food.

Leo's Greek Castle
Leo’s Greek Castle is in West Little Rock and is a teeny tiny little building that’s, well, almost triangle-shaped. The dining room is also tiny – I think they had about five or six tables.

Leo's Greek Castle
I’ve got no basis for comparison, so I’ll just tell you how yummy the food was. I’ve never eaten real Greek food before. The only hummus I’ve had is from Wal-Mart. Sad, huh?

Hummus at Leo's Greek Castle
This hummus, though… Oh man. Could taste the freshness of it. The fresh olive oil… It was creamy and delicious and perfect.

Falafel at Leo's Greek Castle
I’ve never had falafel before, though I love saying that word out loud, and I drive everybody crazy when I get on an “I want to try falafel, dammit!” kick. I finally had some. And it was good. It was good. That’s all I can say. Well, I can also say that the soft pita, cucumber salsa and creamy hummus also tasted good with the falafel. And I can also say that I’m drooling right now. Damn.

Flan at Leo's Greek Castle
I’m not one to pass up dessert. Here, flan. Flan! It was not remarkable, but it was enjoyable.