I'm Laura. I am female, 31, a gamer, a bookworm, a knitter, a spinner, a tatter, pierced, tattooed, musical, vehemently geeky and occasionally ineptly artistic.


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My favorite recipes

Posted at 17 Sep 2008 09:47:43 AM

This post is inspired by Jaden of Steamy Kitchen, who is giving away a big bag of szechuan peppercorns for use in making one's own seasoning salt and thus is almost too nifty for words. As specified in the contest rules this is one of my favorite dinners of all time.

Anything which is in my book an all-time favorite is probably something with a good deal of emotional attachment to it, and this is no exception: it's one of those meals which cannot fail to remind me of home, along with dutch-oven-chicken and dumplings and real* mac & cheese with peas and ham. Mom's dutch oven got a good deal of use in our family, which I never thought was anything special until I moved out and realized pityingly that most people have no idea what one is. Over the years, dutch oven cooking has progressed in my thinking from being normal and nothing special to being downright awesome. I privately yearn for a Le Creuset, but somehow I doubt that I'd ever use it as much as my blackened, seasoned cast iron.

I have, I confess, meddled with this recipe quite a bit. When made at home, it involves pork chops with bound breading, seared on both sides in a hot cast iron dutch oven and then braised in hot water until tender. The breading and the drippings and the water makes a tasty gravy which melts down over hot buttered egg noodles, and with a baked potato on the side I honestly can't think of anything better.

I am a fiend for herbs and spices, so my way has gradually come to involve they as well as aromatics, balsamic vinegar and white wine. If you're lucky it also involves a potato recipe which I picked up years ago from The Surreal Gourmet, which I Googled as I was writing this, and with which I have apparently meddled beyond recognition. Greens on the side are nice, be they a salad, vegetables or what have you. I personally prefer peas or broccoli, but I'm sure that some people love asparagus, green beans and brussles sprouts. Have at it!

I wish I had pictures (sorry, Jaden!), but with my inability to use up leftovers and the difficulties inherent in adapting this to a one-person recipe, it was not to be. I'll make it again I'm sure, and if you're lucky I'll remember to update this post.

Enough of the stories- on to the recipes!

( Click for the rest )

*Bonus recipe: Real Macaroni and Cheese. Make a bechamel sauce and stir in a lot of grated cheddar cheese, and it doesn't count unless you get to eat the hunk of cheese left over that's too small to grate without also grating your fingers. Make some elbow macaroni and pour the sauce over it. Get some ham, in thick slices- they sell it packaged that way in stores now- and cut it up in little cubes. Cook some peas. Stir the peas and ham into the mac & cheese and serve that dinner in all its creamy goodness immediately, and if you feel that you must have ketchup in it, by all means go for it. Don't you dare so much as gesture toward that oven door. Thou Shalt Not Bake the Mac & Cheese. QED, amen, good night and good luck.

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How to make a perfect afternoon

Posted at 08 Jun 2007 04:42:25 PM

How to make a perfect afternoon:

1. Leave work.
2. Procure the following: Frozen whole strawberries, frozen whole pineapple, 6oz cans of pineapple juice, blender, 500gb hard drive, DVD containing Jeeves and Wooster.
3. mv 1_cup_pineapple, 1_cup_strawberries, 1_can_juice, 3_ice cubes blender
4. Release frustrations accumulated prior to step 1 upon the poor defenseless frozen berries.
5. Pour the resulting mixture into a pretty purple insultated mug (exact color is not necessary, but do give it a try if you can). Add a bendy straw.
6. Enjoy the closest thing to ambrosia this poor benighted world will ever see. Best while installing a new hard drive and watching Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry capering around after porcelain cow creamers.


ETA: This is the reason that I love Nigella Lawson so. The woman can cook, no doubt about it, and on top of it all she's just so darned human and normal that one can't help but admire her.

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I win at evenings

Posted at 17 Sep 2008 09:47:35 AM

Perfectly miserable day outside - rainy and as dismal as they come. Had my annual performance review this morning, though, and that went fairly well. Nobody's complained about me, and that's always something good to hear :)

I was browsing through the food blogs of Kitchen Wench, La Mia Cucina, and Cream Puffs in Venice during the last few hours at work while I was waiting for one of our vendors to acknowledge that their product rather spectacularly fails to correctly interpret JavaScript's string.length attribute (it thinks it's a function... sometimes). The moral of the story is that I came across Lucullian Delights, on the front page of which I saw a picture of a gorgeous penne pasta with red pepper pesto.

And I had to have it.

I went by Wegman's after work and picked up 3 beautiful red bell peppers and some fresh basil. Came home and ... well, here, have a recipe (such as mine are :) )

Penne Pasta with Red Bell Pepper Pesto
3 large red bell peppers
4 cloves of garlic
large handful of fresh basil
pine nuts
lemon juice
concentrated tomato paste
olive oil

Cut up the bell peppers into smallish pieces. Roughly chop the garlic. Add the peppers and garlic to a skillet, add some fresh-ground salt, pepper and red chili peppers, and sweat/saute in some olive oil until they are soft and just barely caramelized.

Spoon them into a food processor, add a few tbsp of pine nuts, a couple of tsp lemon juice, a tbsp or so of concentrated tomato paste and some more olive oil if needed for consistency. Add the fresh basil leaves, and process until the pesto is smooth.

Makes about 2 cups. Whatever you don't use immediately may be frozen for later.


To cap off my now-perfect evening, I stopped by Barnes & Noble on the way home and FINALLY picked up the Jeeves and Wooster DVDs. I am now sitting happily on the couch enjoying a fabulous dinner and british comedy enough to make me chortle with delight. :D

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Recipe: Raisin cookies

Posted at 23 Apr 2007 10:16:41 PM

I posted a question earlier today asking whether anyone knew what cookies I was describing, and elitenobody wins at life for somehow immediately recognizing what I was talking about :D

These cookies are incredibly nostalgic for me, as my mom and my grandma also made them, and it's one of those recipes which is handwritten in a box on a shelf at my parents' house. These were 2am cookies; the kind for which you sneak out of bed and tiptoe downstairs in the middle of the night, hoping that you could find your way to the cookie tin in the dark, and that Mom hadn't used the squeeky lid (rearranging the cookies in the tin after sneaking one - maybe two! - in hopes that your snacking wouldn't be noticed in the morning). They're light and fluffy and full of plump raisin-y goodness - so simple and delicious, and very addicting.

Raisin Cookies

Plump raisins:
1 cup raisins (I would use smaller ones next time, for more even distribution)
1 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cookie dough:
1 cup shortening (I used 1/3 cup shortening, 2/3 cup butter)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
3 1/2 cups AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract

More white sugar, for rolling

Add the water, vanilla and raisins to a small saucepan and gently bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, and allow the raisins to soak while you make the rest of the dough.

Cream the butter/shortening and sugar together. When evenly creamed, beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the vanilla. Sift in the flour, soda and salt. Drain the raisins, and gently fold them in until evenly mixed.

Form largeish walnut-sized balls, being sure there's enough dough to hold the cookie together around the raisins. Roll in sugar to lightly coat the whole thing in sugar, and bake 2 inches apart on a [parchment paper-covered] cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Cookies should be firm, and just starting to brown. Makes between 30 and 35, depending on how big you make 'em.

And the final look before devouring --

Those plump raisins are also a part of one of my favorite breakfasts - oatmeal with plump raisins (and LOTS of brown sugar!). It's absolutely divine on a chilly morning :)

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Posted at 26 Sep 2007 10:27:02 PM

I am a cookie-baking maniac lately! Though nowhere near Aunt Dorothy's OLOB (Our Lady of Baking) status, I have nevertheless over the last 5 days inclusive made two gingerbread loaves, two giant batches of gingerbread cookies, and have one more of snickerdoodles baking merrily away in the oven as we speak (or rather more accurately, as I type).

Yum :D

Just got done frosting the 2nd batch of gingerbread, too - the first one I wasn't entirely happy with. I think I rolled the dough just slightly too thin, and although these are still on the crunchy side of the cookie line, they're just chewy enough to be good :)

And frosted cookies look so pretty! I just did the old standard milk & confectioner's sugar & food coloring, which is pretty much heaven as far as I'm concerned. Easy, yummy, colorful and isn't like eating packing styrofoam like some other frostings are.

There was nearly a crisis with the snickerdoodles. I'd just creamed the butter and sugar (got to love doing that, by the way. Fantastic arm exercise, but I'm exhausted for hours afterwards >_>) and was rooting around in my cupboard for the dry ingredients when I realized that there is no chance in the world of me posessing such a never-used ingredient as Cream of Tartar. None. Midnight Wegman's trip, here I come.

And then I remembered the box of spices that mom had brought up from Aunt Betty when she cleaned out her cupboards - I still had them all in a mini box in my cupboard. And serendipitously enough, there was some Cream of Tartar! I did a small jig of joy and then went back to sifting before my butter melted. And there were snickerdoodles, and there was happiness. Amen.

The gingerbread recipes are here for the actual bread; here for the cookies (but remember what I said - roll it a bit thicker than the paltry 1/4" they suggest!), and in the Joy of Cooking for the Snickerdoodles. I really wanted to try this recipe for Chewy Molasses Cookies from ghostmommylady over on LiveJournal had I the time and available cookie tins, but I'm thinking that's not going to happen this year. And honestly, even if I did, I've no idea where I'd put them once I ate the one or two that I'm really jonesing for - aside from giving them to the staff of the office en masse (and I really don't like anyone there well enough to expend the energy of actually baking for them), loading down Aunt Kathy's christmas dinner more than it already will be, or spontaneously making friends with my neighbors, they would probably just go to waste.

So anyway, enjoy! (Pictures will be up on LJ's Cooking and/or my diary here whenever I get them off of my camera, and also probably after tins being mailed have arrived at their destinations.)