Blueberry Shortcake with Ginger

This scrumptious dessert comes from Cooking Light. I have a confession to make. I almost spelled dessert, desert. I can’t think of any desert being scrumptious, unless it was a desert made of sugar. That could be good.

I’m glad I caught that, though. My grammar is abysmal at times, I know. I need an editor because grammar frustrates me. I also can’t stand grammar snobs. Proper use of grammar doesn’t always denote level intelligence, but grammar snobs swear to it as a ruler of intelligence. I should note this isn’t true about every grammar snob, some of them just worked hard on their grammar and go nuts when people like me throw it out the window. I get those grammar snobs.

So this dessert is made with sugar and ginger, which is a lovely combination. It’s also made with 4 cups of blueberries, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon of lime juice, 9 ounces of all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 6 tablespoons of chilled butter, 3 tablespoons of minced crystallized ginger, 3/4 cup of 2% milk, 1 large egg white, 1 tablespoon of water, 1 tablespoon of turbinado or granulated sugar, 1/3 cup, 1/3 cup of heavy whipping cream, and 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar.

The first step is to preheat your oven to 400 degrees and to heat the first three ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until the berries pop. Once the berries have popped, set aside.

Then get your best blender out and pour the flour, baking powder, and salt inside. Pulse that three times and then add the butter and ginger. Pulse this until the mixture is nice and coarse. Dump the mix into a bowl and then add milk. Stir until the flour is a dewy dough. Once dewy, place on a floured surface and flatten out into a 7-inch circle. Cut the dough into 8 wedges.

Now place those wedges onto a baking sheet and brush with an egg white mixture. The egg white mixture is just an egg white and 1 tablespoon of water. After you brush, you will sprinkle with sugar and then bake for about 20 minutes.

After your shortbread is baked, set it on a wire rack to cool and prepare your cream topping. For the cream, you will mix the cream in a bowl along with powdered sugar until it bubbles a bit.

To serve, you will cut the shortcake in half and place the berries on the bottom half and dress with the cream. The final step is to cover with your other cake half and eat vigorously.

I almost burned my shortcake, so do be sure to check up on your shortbread during the baking portion. Other than that, making this was smooth sailing. It turned out well too. Taste wise it was like a fresh and lighter version of the scones you can buy at major coffee shops. The ginger was an interesting add of taste as well. It was slightly bitter with a hint of sweetness. I haven’t had much experience with crystallized ginger and was pleasantly surprised by the taste.

I’m not a big baker, as some of you might remember reading, but this is something I would make again for the right crowd. I’m not sure what the right crowd would be, but I’m sure I’ll know when I see it.

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Open faced shortcake

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Shortcake scone of blueberry

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Aubergines en Vinaigre AKA Pickled Eggplant

I haven’t posted in a good while. I was busy putting up scenes in my acting class like a mad Max Furiosa and once I was done with that I booked an extra gig for an independent film that lasted a couple of days. I don’t normally do extra work, but I’m still looking for a day job and needed the money. I did meet a fellow actress who was in a similar boat though. She was from England and could only do work related to the entertainment field because of her visa.

She was not happy to be doing extra work at all! I liked her though. We bonded over our mutual hatred for feeling the pressure to promote ourselves on social media, The Kardashians and how they are promoting that behavior, selfies, butt selfies, and actors who just want to be pretty and not artists. I found a fellow snob, basically.

Not that I disliked the other extras. I overheard some real funny stuff actually. That’s the best part of doing background work, meeting kooky characters. One woman, who had to have been at least my parent’s age, but seemed older to me, (my parents are in their mid 60s) claimed to have a 22 year old friend with benefits. I know it’s terrible of me and I kept my mouth shut, but if I had no filter I would have asked what this kid saw in her. She wasn’t an ugly woman, but I still couldn’t wrap my head around it. As I was pondering this a woman who was probably in her 40s, who did seem like someone who could attract 22 year olds said, “You gotta be careful with the young ones, they get attached!”

My mind was blown and at the same time it kind of made me feel better at getting older and being single. I mean these women are still dating and seem to have an active sex life. It makes me feel like there’s hope for me. My last three boyfriends were all younger than me, so I like to joke that I am a cougar-in-training. I swear I don’t do it on purpose though. It just keeps happening.

It seems I’ve digressed enough, so let’s move on to the recipe at hand. This recipe is from French Farmhouse and is another easy, simple recipe that is more about waiting than actual doing, which funny enough, is a lot like doing background work on a film. I swear I didn’t even intend to make that distinction, but there it is wrapped in a pink bow for you.

I still have some waiting to do in fact and will update this entry once the eggplant is ready. The reason I have to wait is because it’s a pickled recipe, which basically means putting a bunch of ingredients in a jar and waiting two weeks or so.

For this pickled eggplant, you will need 2 medium eggplants cut into 1/2 inch cubes, 2 teaspoons of sea salt, 1 1/2 cups of red wine vinegar, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 peeled, 10 black peppercorns, 15 sprigs of fresh thyme, 3 imported bay leaves, and olive oil.

The first step is to place the eggplant cubes in a colander. You will then sprinkle the eggplant with the salt and allow it to drain for about an hour to an hour and a half. Once drained, pat the eggplant dry and place in a large soup pan along with the vinegar, 2 unpeeled garlic cloves, 5 peppercorns, a handful of thyme, and 2 bay leaves. Bring this to a boil, then reduce and simmer for 20 minutes.

Once that’s over with, you will drain the liquid, cool the eggplant and then place it in jars with the remaining ingredients. The final step is to fill your jar with olive oil until everything is covered.

Refrigerate this jar for about 3 to 4 weeks. I have a couple of weeks to go myself, but once it’s ready I plan to use my eggplant in an udon noodle stirfry of some sort. The author of French Farmhouse recommends using it on pizza or as an appetizer paired with Sourdough bread. I have to say those sound like good options as well.

For now, though, here is a lovely picture of my jarred eggplant.

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So here is the update on the pickled eggplant. I ended up making a pizza with jalapenos, onion, manchango cheese, and Parmesan. I also added them to some ramen noodles for a stir-fry. The stir-fry also had jalapenos and onions, but I added to chicken as well.

The stir-fry was ok. The vinegar in the eggplant didn’t really mesh well with the sauces I used for the noodles. The pizza, was delicious though! See the results below.

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Eggplant pizza

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Eggplant ramen

Mashed Potato Gnocchi

This is another recipe from my hometown cookbook, Little Italy Festival Town. In the book this is called Instant Gnocchi, because it’s a variation of a gnocchi recipe made with instant mashed potatoes and was written by a woman named Virginia Harris.

I spoke with my mother to see if she had any stories behind the woman who wrote this recipe and she actually did which excited me. Virginia Harris, whose maiden name was Devan, grew up near my mother. I mean it is a small town, so that’s not shocking or anything, but my mother and I grew up on our family land which is on the outskirts of town. Basically Virginia was not a townie kid. My mother told me that when she was growing up there was some animosity between the townies and the kids who lived in the country. Before my mother’s generation the animosity of Clinton, Indiana was against the Italians and the townies. Now we have a whole festival dedicated to our Italian ancestry. So take that Clinton townies!

Besides being the country kid gang of Clinton, the other thing my mother and Virginia had in common was a love for horses. My mother and her sisters adore horses. They had some of their own growing up, but Virginia had a Palomino horse. I like horses but I do not share an adoration for them like my mother. I do know how to ride and I took a class in college even, but my mother and my aunts have a particular love that I can not match up to. This is my long-winded way of saying that I was not aware that a Palomino horse is a big deal in horse world.

The reason it’s a big deal is because Palomino horses are like golden horse gods. They are movie star beautiful. In fact they were commonly used in the 50s and 60s for movies. Don’t take my word for it though. Check this out.

This horse is so god-like, it floats in the air.

Naturally my mother and her sisters thought Virginia was the cats pajamas. Her cool status among my mother was elevated even higher because she would take her god horse to shows which is something she always wanted to do, but was not allowed because of the tyranny of her parents.

That’s a joke, by the way, in case anyone takes me seriously.

What this all boils down to is that Virginia was a cool lady who came up with a clever way to make gnocchi’s from scratch. So how do we make these wonderful gnocchi’s? I’ll tell you.

You will need, 1 envelope of instant mashed potatoes, 3 beaten eggs, 5 cups of flour, 1/4 cup of milk, 2/3 cup of water, and 1 teaspoon of salt.

The first step is to make your instant mashed potatoes. Just follow the package instructions and you are good to go. Then add the eggs to your mashed potatoes. Once the eggs have meshed with the potatoes you add the remaining ingredients and mix. After mixing, there is kneading. Knead with passion and then roll your dough out until it is about as thick as a finger. Cut the dough into bite sized squares and indent with a fork.

I totally forgot to indent mine with a fork. Actually I got real frustrated when I made this because I didn’t have enough all-purpose flour and substituted with some Bisquick which resulted in my dough being very sticky. I ended up just cutting random shapes and plopping them into boiling water. They still tasted fine, but they were not pretty. Virginia is probably disappointed in me. I’m sorry Virginia. If I had know how cool you were I would have made a better effort.

As you might have guessed, once you cut your dough up, (hopefully better than I did) you will drop that gnocchi into boiling water. You will know the gnocchi is cooked and ready when it rises to the top. When this happens remove your gnocchi with a slotted utensil until each one has been cooked.

To serve, just place on a plate and pour some marinara sauce on top with your choice of grated cheese. I like mine with cheese and crushed red pepper, but do with it what you will.

Despite my frustration with the dough, my gnocchi did turn out well. I had a huge mess to clean up though. So I do recommend covering your kitchen with saran wrap like Dexter Morgan would before a kill.

Other than that, this is easy to make and a great alternative to the traditional way of making potato gnocchi.

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Naked gnocchi

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Presentable gnocchi

Cranberry Punch that you Can Spike and Give a Kick To

This recipe comes from Tastes of Monroe County aka the cookbook of Bloomington, Indiana and surrounding areas.

I brought this punch to two events, because the recipe is a whopping serving of 50 people. The first event was just a hangout at my friend Megumi’s and the other was a Prom Theme party a friend of mine invited me to. I made so much punch. Megumi, her husband, and I drank a fair amount of it, but I still had a ton left. I was going to throw it out when I remembered this prom party and realized that spiked punch is kind of thing with proms. At least that’s what Back to the Future and various other movies have taught me.

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I was a little less discreet then these kids

So I brought my punch to this party where it blended very well with vodka and helped me mix with a slew of people I didn’t know. Thankfully I was able to converse with a handful of people. This is good news for me, because I tend to be that girl who stands in a corner and doesn’t talk to anyone at parties. In fact, eons ago a friend of mine took me to a party where he was the only person I knew. I sat on a couch and didn’t talk to anyone. I just sat and observed everyone. At one point this guy, who was probably intoxicated, just blurted out, “You’re one of those creepy girls who just sits there and stares at everyone, aren’t you?”

I didn’t know what else to do but laugh, which just made things worse. Then my friend got pissed off and kind of yelled at the guy. It was real awkward, but it did make me feel good that my friend stuck up for me.

Now that I’m older and slightly more comfortable with myself, I’ve found a way to handle my social inadequacy. Whenever I’m at a party and not talking to anyone, I try to find the other quiet person in the room. You kill two birds with one stone that way and more often than not, you find a kindred spirit.

Enough about parties and how I’m awkward at them. Let me tell you how to make this punch.

You will need, 1 12oz can of frozen orange juice concentrate, 1 6oz can frozen lemonade, 3 qt. of Cranberry Juice, 1 20 oz can of pineapple juice, and 1 1/2 qt. of water.

I recommend reducing this recipe in half by the way, unless you have a huge party coming up. Whatever you decide to do, the steps to making this are not difficult. Obviously, you’re going to add all these things together in a giant bowl. The only note I have is that the frozen juices do have instructions to add water and that should be followed. The additional water that is added doesn’t need to be exact. I didn’t add a quart of water and my punch turned out great.

I say just use your judgment as far as the additional water goes.

Other than that, this punch is tasty. It’s not too sweet nor tart. It’s flavor is blended nicely. It’s great as a mixer, but it’s just as good on its own as well. I’m not surprised by this, though. Punch is a Midwestern specialty afterall.

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I served mine in my sweet new glass from Roswell!

Scallops and Gravy

There are four foods that almost everyone (excluding dietary restrictions naturally) universally seems to like, ice cream, pizza, bacon, and gravy.

I like three of those things. I even like two of those things together. I have never ever liked gravy though. My brother, on the other hand loves gravy. He would sometimes pour it on my mashed potatoes just to watch my eyes turn red. Then he’d laugh and ask me if he could eat mine. I’d like to think my brother was trying to teach me at an early age that all men are bastards, but something tells me he just wanted more mashed potatoes and gravy.

This recipe, which I got from Weeknight Menus, made it seem like this was a non gravy like sauce. They presented it so well. They called it Seared Scallops with Ginger-Thyme Pan Sauce. Doesn’t that sound lovely?

What they should have called it was, Ginger Gravy, because that’s what it tasted like to me. I kind of wish my brother was around to try this meal, because he might have liked it. Despite this disappointment though, it was still an edible meal for me. I didn’t enjoy myself, but I didn’t want to spit it out either. So there’s a saving grace.

If you enjoy gravy and want to try this out, here’s what you’ll need. 8 large scallops, 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 minced shallots, 1 tablespoon of minced ginger, 1 cup of thinly sliced carrots, 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme, 1/3 cup of white wine, 1 cup chicken stock, salt, pepper, and canola oil.

The first step is to pre-heat your pan with the canola oil under medium heat. Season your scallops with some salt and pepper and then heat them in the pan for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Once brown and golden, you will remove the scallops and replace them with one teaspoon of butter. Cook the shallots, ginger, and carrots with this butter until it melts. Once melted, you will add the wine and thyme until the wine reduces. After that add your stock.

Admittedly the reason my sauce turned gravy like, might have been because I used these chicken stock pods instead of buying a whole can of chicken stock. I was trying to save money/ingredient use. I hate wasting food. I always feel so guilty when an ingredient goes to waste. I really wish there was a way to buy 1/4 cup of whipping cream and one cup worth of chicken stock because everytime a recipe calls for that my leftover stock and cream goes bad and into the trash.

So, the pod chicken stock did seem a little thicker then the one I’ve bought from the can. I probably needed to add water to it. I admittedly just plopped the pods in and didn’t check to see if you were supposed to add anything to it. I’m guessing water would have helped.

After you add all those things, you will simmer and reduce the liquid in half. After that’s done you whisk in another tablespoon of butter. This should complete your journey of making ginger gravy.

So as I said, I wasn’t a fan of this dish. I think if I had used actual chicken stock it would have turned out better. Looking back, it did seem like the overpowering taste was the chicken stock. Water or using actual stock would have resulted in less over-powering sensation.

If you are a gravy lover, though, this could be an interesting alternative. I dare you to try.

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Gravy scallops and rice

Potaje Tangérois aka Tangier-Style White Bean and Chard Soup

According to my The Scent of Orange Blossoms cookbook this soup is a specialty of Jewish families from Tangier. I do not know if that’s true, but this soup is most certainly delicious and therefore special to me.

I have a confession though!  I messed up my writing order! My OCD side is wigging out, but thankfully I have a chill side that’s saying, whatever man, it’s not really a big deal. Thankfully I’ve been real good at listening to my chill side these days.

I joke all the time about being OCD, but in reality I just have, maybe, slight tendencies. This girl from my past was being kind of a snarky bad word to me once about saying that whilst we were in a the bathroom. I made a joke about how I needed to put toilet paper on the seat because I’m OCD. So she make a snarky comment about how one of these days I was going to offend an actual OCD person.

So that side note is for you, snarky comment girl. Who made you the OCD police anyway? I don’t get certain people.

Let’s move on to the subject at hand. What you will need to make this soup is 6 cups of beef stock, 1 pound of beef shank meat, 1 small beef marrow bone (I omitted this), 1 1/2 cups of small navy beans, 2 bay leaves, 8 cloves of peeled garlic, 1 carrot, 2 bunches of Swiss chard, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, cayenne pepper. 5-6 tablespoons of olive oil, and harissa.

Your first step to make this is the harissa, unless you chose to just buy some. I recommend making it though. It’s not hard at all and it’s cheaper to make it then to buy it.

To make the harissa you need 8 large or 16 small dried chilies, 1 roasted red bell pepper, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of cumin.

I have a suggestion for the chilies that turned out well for me. I ended up buying a mixed dried chili mix from the Mexican aisle at Von’s and used about 4-5 tablespoons of it. It was easier to do then soaking and cutting a bunch of chilies. Also finding dry chilies is not the easiest thing to find at Von’s.

Most of this recipe is putting everything into a blender. The only exception is the bell pepper. The bell pepper will need to be roasted in the oven, skinned, and then cut into strips. The garlic also needs to be peeled, but other than that, you just throw everything in the blender until it’s nice and smooth. After doing so, you will have some tasty homemade harissa, which you will add as a topping for the soup.

For the actual soup, the first step is to combine the beef stock, beef (which needs to be cut into cubes). beans, bay leaves, 6 of the garlic cloves, and the carrot (which should be sliced and peeled). Bring to a boil and skim off the foam. Once you’ve skimmed off the foam, reduce the heat to a nice balanced medium, cover, and let cook for about two hours.

I have to note that I kept having to add water, because the beans were soaking up all the beef stock. This didn’t affect the overall taste, thankfully, but it is something to be aware of.

While all of this is cooking, you can prepare your chard. This recipe said you would need two pounds of chard. That was too much. I ended up using one and a half of two bunches I bought from Von’s. I think you could even get away with just one. For your chard, though, you will cut the leaves into ribbons and the stems into 1 inch pieces.

You can add the chard to the rest of the mix once the beans have softened and you will leave them in there for about 10-12 minutes. Once that time is up, you will add 2 cloves of garlic, cumin, paprika, salt, and cayenne. Cook that for another 10-15 minutes.

Once that’s done you can serve, but as you do, you garnish each serving with some olive oil and harissa.

I had a nice surprise when I made this soup because my good friend Megumi stopped by before a rehearsal of hers. She will be performing in a production about the creator of Astro Boy. Her rehearsals are near where I live and she lives about ten miles north of me. So it was a good excuse to hang out. I let her have some of the soup and she liked it so much I copied the recipe for her.

I don’t normally have anyone to show off my hobby to so when people actually try and like what I cook, I get very excited. So thanks to Megumi for being sweet and brave enough to try it out! Also if you live near LA you should go see her show.

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Megumi approved!