Archive for November, 2006

Plans get complex

Or so All-Time-Quarterback says (if you don’t know who ATQ is, think the same folks from Death Cab for Cutie and the Postal Service).

Hell has frozen over. Ok, just kidding. But today, winter finally came to Texarkana. Last night, my boyfriend and I sat on a couch (don’t ask) on the porch and watched the last autumn evening wind down.

Sometime during this workday the sky darkened, the wind started biting and a relentless drizzle began. The temperature is dropping, ice is coming and I’m cold. The workday isn’t even over yet. Oh boy!

So, I have a problem with meat.

More specifically, raw meat. Last night my guy and I made a big boneless chicken breast and split it. The entire time we dealt with the chicken (and it wasn’t that long – we just thawed it in the microwave, dumped some spices on it and baked it), I freaked out. Now, tell me how someone who can eat cookie dough containing raw eggs BY THE GALLON without fear can be so afraid of raw meat? I was afraid to touch anything, even after I washed my hands. This, my friends, is why I bake so much crap – the thought of dealing with meat scares the holy hell out of me.

I’m going to work on that. I have a food blog now, so I really have no excuse whatsoever. For the next few weeks/months I’m going to gather a nice collection of recipes – meat dishes included – to try once I have the money to go on a huge, awesome grocery shopping trip.

In the meantime, I’m going to see if my dad can help me conjure up some persimmons, and I’m going to acquire some dried cherries and other various goodies for free from a friend of my grandma’s. After this weekend, I’ll likely have more cooking exploits – and pictures – to blog about.

Do you want to know a secret?

It’s unseasonably warm here in the good old Arklatex. It’s a muggy, breezy, partially cloudy spring day. In November.

I’m dreading Thursday in a way. Apparently sometime during the day tomorrow the temperature is going to begin dropping drastically, leading to some ice and/or sleet in the evening. The online weather gurus say it won’t stick, but I really believe they just make shit up every now and then. I still don’t have the big, warm pea-coat I’ve been wanting. I don’t have gloves or a scarf. C’est la vie.

Oh, that wasn’t the secret. We’ll get to that later. And it isn’t really that great of a secret or anything. So don’t drool in anticipation.

Last night I retrieved my Extra Awesome Super Cool Donut Making Kit (I altered the name to reflect my feelings on the prodcut) from my parents’ house and decided almost immediately that I would wait to make donuts until after I can go grocery shopping and purchase tons of neat things to use in them. I had my specialty – oriental ramen with peanut butter – for dinner, watched some TV, and then the food crisis began.

My roommate wanted sweet stuff. Her boyfriend wanted sweet stuff. Hell, even I was starting to want some sweet stuff. So Jennifer and I mixed up indiscriminate amounts of flour, sugar, milk, vanilla, etc. and made an interesting batter. We baked it in the donut cups and made a “glaze” of melted chocolate chips, butter and powdered sugar, and we slathered it on the perfectly formed circles. On some we sprinkled coconut on top; on others, Heath bits. I didn’t have enough room in the regular-sized donut pan for all of the donuts, so I made two in the filled donut pan and tested out the FILLING INJECTOR! RARRR! I used the frosting to inject them. It was an experiment – what can I say?

Well, the “donut” part was interesting, and it wasn’t awful, especially considering there was not even an iota of recipe involved. The frosting was oh-so-yummy. If I had photographs, I could show you – they were prettier than they tasted. Fun times.

On to my secrets.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingDuring my short stint in Fayetteville, Arkansas, I worked doggedly at the local Atlanta Bread Company to make ends meet. As you can imagine, this made school pretty hard – I attended class from 8 a.m. to about 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I worked every other day of the week, usually from 5:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. My afternoons were free, but what good is a free afternoon if you’re worn out and want to go to bed at 7 p.m.?

Still, my coworkers were awesome, my managers were generally pretty awesome, and eventually I moved from the bakery to the sandwich line, prep position and then the weekend opening manager position.

When I did prep, I was only slightly amazed that ABC’s “gourmet” food was damn simple. You probably already know about most of these, but here are a few sauces/salads/sandwiches we made at ABC that would be ridiculously easy to replicate at home without the price tag. I don’t have photos for these things; apologies. Use your imagination. And if at some point while I’m writing this post I find some, I’ll include them. Yes!

SAUCES

  • Dill sauce – Use a whisk to combine equal parts mayonnaise and sour cream. Add dill to taste. I loved this condiment when I first started at ABC – it was featured on the California Avocado sandwich, and I’d put it on everything I ate. Unfortunately, stirring a bus tub of mayo and sour cream together to create this sauce kind of ruined it for me.
  • Pesto sauce – This is an obvious one. Take mayonnaise. Add pesto and stir. If it isn’t green enough for your taste, add more pesto. Keep going until it’s perfect. I still like this one on almost any sandwich. There’s nothing better than asiago cheese foccaccia, pesto sauce, turkey and veggies.

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SALAD

  • Greek salad – No brainer. Chopped romaine + tomato wedges + red onions + pepperoncinis + feta cheese + kalamata olives. And, of course, “greek dressing.” Pictured!
  • Chicken or tuna salad – It made me so angry when I heard people marveling over how wonderful our chicken salad and tuna salad are. Uh, all we did was take cubed chicken (or huge cans of tuna) and add some arbitrary amount of mayo, then we added a packet of spices. Voila. Ugh.

SANDWICHES!

  • California Avocado – Sundried tomato foccaccia + dill sauce + lettuce/tomato/onions + as much sliced (or smushed) avocado as you damn well please + provolone cheese
  • Chicken Pesto Panini – Split panini bread and put 1.5 slices Havarti cheddar on each side. Put 2 tomato slices on one side. Stir however much pesto sauce into fajita-style chicken strips, and put chicken on the other side. Put sides together. Grill. Yum.

I’ve revealed enough trade secrets for now, and unfortunately I’m starting to crave one of the creations I used to make for myself. I liked the turkey/pesto/Asiago creation, and I also loved making a sandwich with rye bread, hummus, spicy mustard, ham, cheddar and provolone. Oh lordy.

Ever been to an ABC? Want to know how anything’s made? Ask away.

And now for something completely different…

I have so so so so so so so so so got to try this recipe. It sounds so interesting yet wonderful. By the way, the link goes to Lex Culinaria’s Cheddar and Cranberry Cookies. Do yourself a favor and take a look.

Cheese on a Stick

How did my blog come to be named Cheese on a Stick, you may ask?

Well, when I was younger – probably around the 6th grade, as a matter of fact – my friends and I formed the elite(l33t!) squad called the Buffmonkey Mafia.

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As you can see, this mafia was very elite and important. Our battle cry was BUFFMONKEY MAFIA UNITE! (UNTIE for our dyslexic members, of which there were none).

Though we were definitely a mafia, we didn’t do much of anything. We went to the skating rink a lot. I do not condone rollerblading of any sort. Rollerskating is the way to go. Just ask those cool-as-hell chicas in the Mafia picture above.
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Of course, my mafia name was Cheese on a Stick. Have you ever had cheese on a stick? Please, if you have, let me know in a comment. I’m dreadfully curious. For those of you who haven’t had it, it’s wonderful. It’s basically a corn dog, but instead of a weiner, you get CHEESE in the middle. Wonderful, gooey fried cheese. Now, do NOT confuse these with cheese sticks. Cheese on a stick and cheese sticks are two very different foods. Cheese sticks tend to have mozzarella inside, and we often dip them in marinara sauce. Cheese on a stick, however, is full of gooey American cheese food (or every one I’ve ever had, anyway), and god only knows what all you could possibly dip this delicacy in.

The last cheese on a stick I had was when our mall had a Corn Dog 7. I used to ride to the mall with my sister (well before I could drive myself), and I vividly remember eating cheese on a stick on one of those ventures. Better than Christmas.

Ok, not really.

Anyway, my mafia name stuck with me.

According to UrbanDictionary.com, this is the definition of cheese on a stick:

Someone who is too cheesy to describe; anything and everything they do is pure cheese.

Will Smith in anything.

by CheeZy BeanZ

String Cheese is now my roommate. She enjoys decorating the house at random, watching season sets of tv shows obsessively, drinking beer, buying stuff from ebay and smoking Marlboro Lights. Sometimes she tries my food creations with gusto.

Holy Cheese is now married to a guy from South Africa and works at a bank close to my office. Sometimes she brings me coffee mugs full of candy when I’m at work, and we email one another obsessively on slow days. Holy Cheese enjoys steamed vegetables, The Biggest Loser, African-themed decor and her husband.

Maple Shortbread Bars

When I went grocery shopping before Thanksgiving, I bought all the fixins for the maple shortbread bars featured on The Sour Dough. I like that they’re from a 1968 cookbook and the recipe is so ridiculously simple… Just make flour, sugar and butter into a shortbread crust, bake it awhile, cook some coconut and maple syrup together on the stovetop for awhile, pour it over the shortbread, then bake it some more.

I like the crumbly shortbread (though I prefer something chewy, this was yummy too), and the maple syrup/coconut stuff is… mmmm. In need of second thru eighteenth opinions, I shared with my roommate (who banged on my door and proclaimed that I did well) and my coworkers. My boyfriend isn’t a big fan of flaked coconut, but he ate one anyway (I didn’t force him, I promise). Probably because they look nice.

Here is the internal IM dialogue with one of my coworkers:

Josh says:
I think you should add crushed pecans!
Traci says:
oh, that would be good.
Traci says:
Or slivered toasted almonds.
Josh says:
mmmmmm

Josh also suggested that I

  1. cover them in chocolate
  2. drizzle syrup on them
  3. Make them into an omelet

Kevin, however, wrote a poem about the maple shortbread bars.

Traci’s Maple bars and DP to drink,
That is the finest of breakfasts I think;
When I’m grown up and can have what I please
I think I shall always insist upon these.
What do YOU choose when you’re offered a treat?
When Mother says, “What would you like best to eat?”
Is it waffles and syrup, or cinnamon toast?
It’s Traci’s good maple bars I love the most!
–KEVIN

All in all, I’d seriously think about using these bars for the holidays in some manner. I do think almonds would be great – and/or heath toffee chunks. And the recipe is so ridiculously simple – I absolutely adore its simplicity.

I’ve also been experimenting with making no-bake oatmeal cookies (not chocolate, though). Last night I finally got the right consistency, but I think they’re entirely too sweet. I melted sugar and cinnamon in a little water, then mixed in toffee bits, coconut and oatmeal. Sweet overload.

Check out the Christmas present I bought for myself on eBay…..Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I had it shipped to my parents’ house, and I’m going over there after work to retrieve it and check out this donut creation process. I’m unnaturally excited about this!

Thanksgiving!

I love Thanksgiving. It involves eating tons of food and then sprawling about, moaning and feeling absolutely massive – beautiful. This Thanksgiving I decided to make a chai cake. I simply dumped chai drink mix into a boxed white cake mix until I thought it tasted strong enough. I also bought a can of frosting, which I heated and subsequently flavored with more chai powder. I baked the cake in my new bundt pan, envisioning drizzling the frosting in a lovely manner… but it was too hot, too thin. It tasted great, but it was ugly as sin.

Anyway, I didn’t want to give up, so I cut the cake into chunks, threw it into a baking dish, poured a mixture of milk, eggs and brown sugar on top, made a brown sugar topping, and baked it into a chai cake pudding. There was also some oatmeal involved, though I can’t remember
exactly where.

It kind of looked like excrement:
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However, I assure you it did not taste like excrement. It was wonderful and eggy and cinnamony and chai-ey and crunchy brown sugary. I had plenty to take home, and my roommate helped me get rid of it.

Disaster almost struck when my mother’s rolls didn’t turn out quite right. She always makes the softest, most delicious rolls for holidays, and after a good bit of time in the bread machine the dough was still looking ridiculously soft. My mum wanted to give up, but me and my sister volunteered to fix them. We poured the wet dough into a baking sheet lined with foil, spread it out and sprinkled garlic powder, parmesan and dill (I had to fight Randi – my sis – for the dill. She thought it was horribly inappropriate).

What we ended up making looked a bit like a foccaccia. We cut it into strips, like so. They were definitely yummy.

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One thing that’s great about my family’s Thanksgiving is that we all bring tons of dessert. Actually, that’s not so great when I really think about it… This is but a portion of the dessert selection.
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My sister’s dog Bella, a Yorkie, is in heat. We had a diapered Yorkie under our feet while we were creating things in the kitchen.
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And – this is exciting – we found a pie my mom had forgotten to take once we got home. It’s a peanut butter freezer pie thing – one of those involving some mixture of cream cheese, whipped cream and various flavors, then frozen. It was yummy, though.
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It was a lovely day.

A tribute to Shorty’s

PIC_0006, originally uploaded by sincub.

If you’re ever in Texarkana, Texas and suddenly have the urge to go eat an awesome donut between 5 a.m. and 3 p.m., head on over to Oaklawn Village and check out Shorty’s!

I think I’m related loosely and probably by marriage to the guy who runs the place, but that doesn’t skew my review of their donuts.

This morning I got out of the house early, and because the guys at work have been bringing random things to share (like bags full of sausage biscuits or a platter of ham and some bread), I decided to bring some donuts to work. Shorty’s can be on my way to work if I make the right turns, so it was a no-brainer.

The picture you see is what’s left in the box now, at 10:14 a.m. The tiny chocolate donut is a farce. My coworker ate one of the real, wonderful chocolate donuts and attempted to replace it with one of the Hostess variety – and we all know Hostess donuts don’t even come close to the real thing.

What’s left is a maple nut donut (left, obviously) and a cinnamon roll.

Now for the memories. I grew up in this town, and since I’m loosely related to the owner, we attended the same little Presbyterian church. I’m not a big fan of church or organized religion, but I will say this – nothing motivates a kid to go to Sunday school without complaining like free Shorty’s donuts.

When I was in high school, I was vice-president of the National Honor Society, and one of our fundraisers was to sell Shorty’s butter rolls and cinnamon rolls for 50 cents apiece to folks before school in the mornings. There were always plenty left over, and I would go grab one during lunch. For some reason, the butter rolls are even more fun once they’ve cooled down and become even more gooey.

And the last memory – my sister and I used to go garage saling every Saturday, weather permitting. This was when my now 5-year-old niece Cheyenne was just a baby. We’d get up early, grab a newspaper, and get breakfast at Shorty’s – we might get donuts one week and sausage and scrambled eggs the next. While we ate, we’d circle the sales we wanted to check out that day. Good stuff.

I never realized how many memories I had of Shorty’s until I started writing this blog. Anyway, check it out if you’re ever in the area. It’s tiny, friendly and smells like donuts. What more could you want?

Shorty’s Southernmaid Donuts
(903) 832-6686
98 Oaklawn Vlg
Texarkana, TX 75501

Here are some more photos of my most recent Shorty’s experience.

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These are the poor, leftover donuts from a top view. They look so lonely. And the maple nut one looks like a pretzel – whaddya know?

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This is how donuts make me feel. Can you tell that they make me feel happy?

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This is Kevin, the coworker who stealthily tried to replace a Shorty’s chocolate-covered donut with a Hostess. For shame, Kevo, for shame.

Pretzels and cheese and chai – oh my!

I did go grocery shopping yesterday, and though I spent a good bit of time preparing for the brutal shopping scene that usually occurs in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, it really wasn’t that bad. For the first time ever I stocked up on my own basics – flour, sugar, etc. – instead of buying the extras and heading to my mom’s house.

Thus, last night I decided to attempt to make pretzels. In my own kitchen, at that. Now, I am somewhat of a novice cook. I’ve never tried to make anything involving yeast and/or kneading. Keep that in mind, and cut me some slack!

I have great memories of big, soft, salty pretzels. When I was a kid, we didn’t go to the mall very often, but when we did, I could usually con my parents into treating me to a big soft pretzel and a little cup of nacho cheese to dip it in. A well-made soft pretzel almost always brings me to instant foodgasm. I buy them whenever I get the chance now that I’m an “adult” – at the college football games I used to attend randomly (even though I hate football – I had friends in the band, you know the drill), at the Target food court, wherever. What could be better than making them myself?

I followed the recipe quite diligently (I would tell you where I got the recipe, but I copied it from a blog at some point yesterday and printed it on my work computer without making note of where I found it) and left my gooey pretzel dough to rise for an hour while my boyfriend and I goofed off and watched crappy television.

An hour later, the dough hadn’t risen.

I didn’t feel like giving up, though. I rolled out the unrisen dough and shaped it, then dipped it in the sugar/butter/water mixture, then sprinkled kosher salt on the measly little pretzels, then baked them anyway. I ended up with 6 decent-sized pretzels, and by the time they were done, my guy and I were so hungry we didn’t care that they weren’t going to be light and fluffy.

And they weren’t light and fluffy. They were quite dense and chewy, as you might expect. Except the dense chewiness is what I love about big pretzels, so I ate 3 of them. My guy ate the other 3.

“You know,” he said, “these are kind of like old cowboy food. Chewy bread made out of flour, some salt and some water, for long trips-”

“Quit making fun of my pretzels,” I said.

As an ode to the cheesy pretzels of my past, I microwaved some Velveeta (auuugh! cheese-food of the devil!), some prepared yellow mustard and a dash of cajun seasoning to make a spicy cheese sauce. Oh boy, I love cheese sauce. And all cheese. It was good with the overly chewy pretzels.

I’m going to try the recipe until I get it right. And once I master the simple pretzel, I’ll do something yummy, like top them with asiago cheese and garlic, or sugar and cinnamon.

My aunt is cooking most of our Thanksgiving dinner, but I like to contribute, so I’m thinking about doctoring a white cake mix and some fluffy white frosting with something wonderful. I have the black currant jam, and I’ve been wanting to cook with my spiced chai latte drink mix (though I do enjoy a simple spiced chai latte – even though I have to microwave my milk rather than using a steaming wand, oh how I miss working at a coffee shop). I’m thinking a white cake with some sort of pudding and a few tablespoons of chai mix, topped with a glaze flavored with – you guessed it – chai. We’ll see.

Boy, I wish I had a way to take some photos of my deflated pretzels. I shall photograph some creations this weekend, though.