Attention! Attention!

No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake

“No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake” From Cooking Channel (There are How-To pictures to go with the recipe)

As I’m sure most of you know (if you live in America), today is Mother’s Day. This means that I am not actually writing this post today but instead I am anticipating that I will be very busy making the Mother’s Day luncheon on my Gma’s back porch. And one of the featured items on this illustrious menu just happens to be this cheesecake! And a lovely Mummy’s Day it will be… unless it’s raining. Then we will have to make plan B arrangements.

It’s a Yummy Day in the Neighborhood

Hummus with Hen of the Woods Mushrooms

“Hummus with Hen of the Woods Mushrooms” from Saveur

It’s days like today that I love having a corner office with nice big windows that allow me to enjoy the blue sky and well kept grass. I’m always so confused as to why my office mate keeps her blinds shut tight all the time. It’s like she hates the outdoors or something. And she’s always either turning on a fan or a heather and it’s very weird. But I’ve got one little Strawberry plant sprouted in my window, being kept company by a plant I’m taking care of for someone indefinitely. It’s an Aralia “Galaxy”. It’s cute and I like that it can survive not being watered all the time.

I don’t know why but today seems like a good day for hummus. And this one looks fantastic. My mom has been making it rather a lot at home for snacking purposes and we’ve tested and altered the recipe she uses to it’s happy place and now I’m like… Mmmm more hummus please! But this looks like another good version to try out.

On Throwing a Grazing Party and Staying Sexy

From Monica Eisenman

So, as some of you might have remembered, I had a party this weekend. And yes there were some road blocks in the plan (like the fact that it was supposed to be last week but we had to push it back a week because of a funeral) but since when are good parties supposed to be easy and peaceful? If someone in your family hasn’t yelled at you needlessly while helping you prepare crusts for mini quiches than your party is going to suck. Because stress breeds good food ON TIME.

The menu, inspired by this month’s Gastroporn Menu, was labeled as a “Tea Party” but with most of my parties turned into an extended grazing affair that was really more like three or four smaller parties all strung together throughout the afternoon and evening. I also made something new that I surprisingly enjoyed eating about an hour or two after all the guests had left because eating them in front of people just isn’t sexy and a hostess should always be sexy: Blue velvet Cupcakes.

Blue Velvet Cupcakes

“Blue Velvet Cupcakes” from Sprinkle Bakes

Now… I like making cupcakes. I don’t always like eating cupcakes but I do like making them. Why? Easy dispersal. Try giving away cake at the end of the party and tell me you didn’t wish you’d made cupcakes. And if you aren’t giving away cake at the end of a party then don’t complain to me about your expanding waistline. Take that cake to work and give it away. It will make you more friends and fewer pounds.

Note: Don’t use a tablespoon of blue dye for the cupcakes. That’s too much and cupcakes that turn tongues a funny color…not sexy.

But you know what is sexy? Eating chocolate mousse from a tiny cup with a mini spoon. The recipe I used  can be found in “The Great Disappointment (of 2012)” post. A friend gave me the recipe and I have no idea where it came from but probably the Internet.

Note: I also piped some fresh whipped cream (made with a little sugar and a splash of vanilla) on top and put my brother to work with a piece of 100% chocolate and a vegetable peeler to garnish the tops.

There were also things I really don’t have a recipe for but if you’ve played around in a kitchen long enough you’ll just know what to do. Like stuffed mushrooms and mini-quiches. Watching my caveman-neanderthal dad trying to press rounds of pie crust dough into a mini-muffin tin was absolutely priceless.

And, of course, there were the scones we always make (the recipe is in the “Tea Time, Nap Time, Fun Times” post from many moons ago) served with the remaining fresh cream from above and berries. I love me some berries. I brought the rest to work with me today along with the remaining 3 scones (to give away). Everybody is always asking for that recipe and it’s ridiculously easy so there is no reason NOT to try it. Unless you’ve got allergies, in which case I am so sorry.

Anyone who knows anything about me and my party style also knows that I like complicated. I like the idea of doing everything from scratch and if I had the ability to gather and make all the ingredients by hand on my mini plot of land out back I so would.

But beware of making things complicated to your guests. Try to make things they can just pass by, pick up with a couple fingers, and just put in their mouths (which is where your party food SHOULD be going). Otherwise they will pass by the stuff with a dip or the thing that goes on top of that other thing and go straight for that stuff that just ends up in their mouths.

Here’s a recipe that looks good:

tartelettes chèvre et confiture d'oignons

“Tartelettes Chèvre et Confiture D’oignons (Onion Tartelettes with Goat Cheese)” from Vaniglia

There’s often at least a couple people at a party known as “grazers”. These are the folks that don’t take a heaping plateful and then start denying food while patting their bellies. These are those smart party goers that pace themselves. A min-quiche here, a cupcake there, caprese salad on a stick? Why not! Oh and then maybe another deviled egg. So set things up nicely for these folks. They know what they’re about. And, as always, stay sexy, Foodie Nation!

 

Drug Dazed Haze Causes Foodie To Watch Ina Garten Without Her “Eyesight”

At the end of my office hours on Monday (around 9pm) my headaches had gotten to the point where staying, or even becoming, upright was just a herculean task. I don’t often cry from my many aches and pains but when I do you know something is broken inside.  So yesterday I stayed home to try and give my poor brain a chance to heal. I’m still having migraines but now I’m on a bunch of drugs and in-taking St. John’s Wort  (in tea form: Yogi’s St. John’s Wort, Blues Away to be exact) and I’ve brought my Super Booster vial that I got in Boston last week (which you would be all caught up on if you were following the adventure on Gastrogasms’ Facebook Page).

Hotel Chocolat Purist Super Boosters

Hotel Chocolat Purist Super Boosters, link goes to a review of the nibs and a couple more images.

Why the emotional balancing tea? Well because pain makes you weak and when you cry because you’re in pain you might as well cry about everything else while you’re at it. Plus, it’s caffeine free (which is good because the cocoa nibs and migraine drugs both have caffeine and that’s enough for me now, thanks) and tastes sweet on it’s own. I do add a little honey because the taste of honey is nice too but it doesn’t really need it. But let’s be brutally honest. When life sucks, sometimes you just gotta eat what you gotta eat. I may feel like the thought of food will making me throw up but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to admit that I could really use some super dense chocolate cake to make all the emotional pain go away so I’ll only have to deal with the feeling like my eyeballs are going to pop out of my head while my brain is being eaten by fire ants.

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar

At some point while draped all over the living room sofa yesterday I was listening to the Food Network on TV and heard this recipe: Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar. Personally, I think Ina Garten is a weirdo and watching her cook (even without a migraine) makes me want to rip all my hair out and scream. But I didn’t have enough energy to get up and get the remote to change the channel so I watched the blurry images (I wasn’t wearing my glasses, i.e. “my eyesight”) of strawberries do their little dance on our 40″ screen. This was like the only recipe she made that didn’t involve an ass-butt’s portion of butter (at some point I was dreaming about Supernatural so I was referring to a lot of things as “ass-butts”) or meat. And after watching “Vegucated” last week for work I was reminded how much I don’t like buying, cooking, or eating meat very often so now every time I see chicken being prepared (and I never really cared for chicken anyways), I see cute baby chicks freshly hatched getting crunched up while they’re trying to escape an industrial sized grinder. Horrified? Yeah, I was sniffling at my desk at work and crying “Nooooo!”. My office mate things I’m insane. And she wore pink jeans to an honors induction ceremony last weekend where the speaker was a representative from the White House and everyone else was either wearing a suit or some other fairly equivalent form of attire. Even I wore a dress. And that’s saying something. But there’s nothing like that connected with this recipe (as far as I’m aware) so I think it looks pretty good.

 

Crêpes Are For…

Crêpes with Strawberries and Muscat-Yogurt Sauce

“Crêpes with Strawberries and Muscat-Yogurt Sauce” from Food & Wine

Way, way, back at the turn of the century when I still had brightly colored hair and wore a little too much (all) black, I used to follow my mother around the world dutifully slacking off in my school work and listening to music that we simply will not bring up because it really wasn’t worth all those hours and made a horrifying soundtrack to driving through the Dalmatian coast in the fall…

Back in 200o I was temporarily living in a lovely flat in Baku, Azerbaijan, while my mom was doing work there. My dad had returned to his actual full time job of professoring to students he would still be teaching several years later when I started college and a couple of whom I beat to graduation a few years after that. After our time in Azerbaijan, and many caviar breakfasts later, my mom decided to take me to Paris for a week to get as much art and culture into me as possible. While in Paris we did several things right: Fresh pastries like croissants for breakfast, lunch at a cafe or restaurant somewhere in the city in between our tourist bits, and crepes for dinner.

There was this man who stood in this little box on the corner of some street near our hotel. He probably had a stool in there too but the stand was so small it looked like he just stood there for hours. He had a few shelves with basic ingredients and then a large container with his batter and his round pan in front of him. My mom would always order (in French) and she usually got the classic with a little lemon and powdered sugar.

Basic Crepes

“Basic Crepes” from Leite’s Culinaria

I on the other hand noticed the Nutella jar on his shelf. Sometimes I’d mix it up and get Nutella with strawberries but there was no way anything else could compare to a fresh, hot, crepe slathered in Nutella and eaten on the way to to the Eiffel Tower on a November evening.

Chocolate Crepes

Chocolate Crepes from Kwestia Smaku (This picture also happens to be the background on my phone)

The first time I had ever had crepes was a few years earlier when my mom was still having to spend 2 weeks a month in Haiti and I would usually go with her.  Sometimes we would be in a guest house provided by the office or staying in the house of friends who worked there too but occasionally we would end up in a hotel. Now, most of the hotels we stayed at sustained some damage in the last earthquake but they were high-end enough that they have since done some recovering and last time my mom was there they were housing way too many aid workers than is good for any country. Back then, I’d had crepes for brunch or lunch and it was filled with asparagus and a sort of hollandaise-like sauce that I absolutely loved. I have no idea how to recreate that but I’ve just now decided that I really need to be more purposeful in my trying to.

But ever since Haiti I’ve only ever had crepes savory once. It was after some really awkwardly weird production on “Women Beware Women” at a small theater neat U St. at a crepe shop with a lovely menu. I forget everything that was in it but I do remember goat cheese and eggplant because I know that I saw that option on the menu and I know me so I know that I ordered whatever that was. But other than that it’s usually been sweet crepes like these:

Maryam's Chocolate Crepes

“Maryam’s Chocolate Crepes” from Sips and Spoonfuls

Another thing, is that except for every single time I’ve eaten a crepe “out” it’s been for a meal that started at least around noon while at home, I’ve always had it for breakfast. I think that the only explanation is that crepes are good for every meal at any time of day and that they can be sweet or savory which I think is verging on the perfect food… Yeah I think it’s just about perfect. We’re gonna go with perfect.

A Green $pring

I may not even need to say it but I spent way too much money last month. Between my friends wedding and all the parties that go along with that, to the birthdays (there are about 5 in my family in March and I’m only counting the ones we celebrated), to the endless stream of house guests and the going out to eat and shopping and oh my gosh there goes an entire paycheck! On top of that, my tithe check finally got cashed and boy was in a heart attack to randomly see $1000 just *POOF!* out of one of my checking accounts. Once I realized it was my tithe check I calmed down but my mom hadn’t told me she had turned it in (finally) and so I wasn’t expected that notification when I got it.

For those of you who weren’t aware: I pay my tithe. It may not be on a regular basis but once a year (if I’ve had any income), I write a check made out to the Middle East Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

“But, Oci,” you might be wondering, “Aren’t you one of those weird free-agent types that disregards and often sarcastically attacks the idea of organized religion?”

Yes. I do. But just because you don’t agree with they governing system doesn’t mean you don’t do your part. God asks for 10%, God gets 10%. That’s how I roll. And, since I was baptized in the Nile in Khartoum, I like sending my tithe to my home church where I feel it can do the most good rather than some of these fancy behemoths with too much money and not “enough” stained glass in their sanctuaries. I used to go to church on a sand dune in the dessert. Who cares about stained glass windows?

But back to my story.

I spent way to much money last month and now I’m really trying to cut down and maybe refocus some energy into my sproutlings. I’ve got a nice little set of garden babies getting their vitamin D in front of my bedroom window. There are several different varieties of tomato, some red peppers, a selection of lettuce, a myriad of herbage, my new lemon tree(!), and several starter pots of Morning Glories. I’ve got some plans to redo the front bit of yard we have and that might involve pulling up some shrubs that have been there since the house was built. I’m gonna miss them but I need space for my herb garden. Including the back yard, we have maybe 150 sq ft to work with and the

Also, I want to buy a house. I have enough to buy a run-down foreclosure in unknown gang-territory in Baltimore and still have several thousand left over to add walls and maybe plumbing but not enough to make it completely habitable so I’d really like to get that in order. I’ve looked closer to DC and it’s like no bang of all your bucks. My mother is really not okay with this plan and tells me to stop browsing slum-houses on the foreclosure apps I downloaded the other day.

Regardless of where I end up or how mugged and raped I get, I know I want to do more gardening. Last summer I had the worst crop of tomatoes ever so I’ve diversified the selection for this year. I found some hybrid-100 seeds in our basement. WARNING: Do no use Hybrid-100. Lousiest tomatoes ever and they came and went like there was nothing to live for. Which, in their case, there wasn’t.

What I’m most excited about is the herbs. I may have mentioned before that I had attempted growing several basil plants indoors over the winter but while I was gone someone who will remain unmentioned decided to try and have the heat on in the house while the rest of us were away and forgot to water the plants for me and they all gave up and are now happily decomposing in our compost heap out back. But I’ve started another round of herbs since then. I’ve got English Thyme, Basil, Lavender (not always considered an herb but it’s my garden so I can call it what I want), Chammomile, and Lemon Verbena. I also have an older Rosemary growing in the back that I want to try and transplant part of in the front if possible. Mint has also spread from our next door neighbor’s garden area and has covered nearly 3/4’s of our back yard and that needs to be reigned in significantly before anything else can be properly planted.

If you’ve checked out my general Pinterest Profile you’ll know that I pin more than just Gastrogasms materials but I also do stuff for a potential slum house or property whenever I manage to get my hands on one as well as gardening stuffs. Here are some of the things I actually plan on trying out in my garden this spring. If I weren’t working this upcoming Sunday I would have tried to do some work on it but we’ll just have to see when things get done.

Herbs

This photo comes from “Art & Appetite” and I absolutely love the boxes. I like things to be neat and orderly just like this garden. I highly suggest looking at the rest of the photos on this blog.

Lettuce

If I get my lettuce to grow properly I hope to do something like this in one of the beds in front of my house where we successful grew lettuce last year. There are still a few leftover from last summer that I’m not sure what to do with…

 

Vertical Garden

I live in a townhouse and our space is incredibly limited. So using the back fence of the back of the house (which gets almost continuous sunlight during the day) for vertical gardening would be great. I’m not sure how my little strawberry seeds are doing after this past week but if they make it I’m also thinking of attaching gutters around the top of our back fence and growing strawberries there.