Personal Chef - Too Indulgent?

comfort food, musing Comments Off on Personal Chef – Too Indulgent?
Jun 142011

On a recent flight, I had way too much time to myself to think. The first thought – the seed thought, if you will – was that I really wanted fresh guacamole. Knowing I could not get this on the plane, I began thinking about how I’d get my hands on some at home. As kind of a food snob, I ruled out stopping at taco bell or baja fresh and began thinking about some of the local eateries and whether they would do carry out, but this would be kind of a pain in the ass and also expensive. I also ruled out making my own because I was tired and because selecting fresh avocados from our crappy local grocery stores would be a challenge. So, I began thinking, “Boy, I wish I had a personal chef whose job it was to buy the ingredients and prepare me fresh guacamole at my beck and call.” I then laughed at myself, at the outrageousness of paying someone to make my food, and put the thought out of my head.

But today I was having a conversation with my lovely friend Carrie about the demands of work and life and extracurriculars and we were both complaining about how difficult it is to work a full eight (often more) hours, sit through traffic, and then prepare a fresh, healthy, nutritious meal that is ready to be eaten at a reasonable hour. I personally fail at this frequently, often ending up either going out or making the easiest and carbiest possible choice. Even if I did get home with enough time to put together a great dinner, I’m usually too tired to do much more than drop on the couch.

So why shouldn’t I consider hiring a professional to do the hard stuff for me. Sure, I love to cook (well, really I LOVE to bake, and just like cooking), but I hate prep work and enjoy clean-up even less. What if I had an employee whose job it was to buy my food – carefully selecting only the best meat and produce – prep it all,  cook it up, and clean up? How much would my quality of life improve? I think it would be great.

I have not done any research, and probably won’t because my whims are exactly that. But just noodling the idea, I imagine I could reach out to the Art Institute’s culinary program to see if there’s a young, talented aspiring food network star who wants to work cheap and maybe get some internship credit as well as experience preparing some domestic cuisine. This delightful young entrepreneur can build some specialties, working within my specific limitations (no mushrooms, mayo, or bananas – weird, right?) and probably collect delightful vignettes about his/her quirky employer. I think it’s genius.

I don’t pay a cleaning service, or a gardener (yet), so why not allow myself this one strange indulgence?

Brownies

Chocolate, comfort food Comments Off on Brownies
Jan 292011

I told my husband I would make him a treat this weekend – whatever he wanted. He requested brownies. I asked, “cream cheese brownies?” He said, “nope, plain brownies.” Alas, he likes to keep things simple. So I tried to make him plain simple brownies. But couldn’t help myself from dressing them up a bit. He consented to letting me frost them, and I threw in some chocolate chips without asking. Either way, these were easy to whip up and taste good still warm or cooled.

You will need:

1 cup butter
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 0z bittersweet chocolate
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt

Making it:

Heat oven to 350. Grease bottom and sides of 13×9 inch pan.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat. Stir until melted and remove from heat immediately – let cool for 5 minutes.

In stand mixer bowl, beat chocolate mixture, sugars, vanilla, and eggs on medium speed until well combined (about a minute). Scrape sides of bowl well (it gets sticky). Start mixer back on low and gradually add the flour and salt. Scrape sides again and then mix on medium until smooth, about another minute.

Spread batter in prepared pan (sprinkle with chocolate chips, if you like) and bake for 40-45 minutes.

What’s that you say? You want to frost it like I did? Well, here’s how you do it.

You will need:

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter (softened, but not melty)
2 tsp vanilla
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
3 to 4 tbsp milk

Making it:

In electric  mixer bowl, beat powdered sugar and butter until blended. Beat in vanilla and chocolate. Gradually beat in milk until frosting is smooth. I prefer a thinner frosting, so I use a lot of milk, but for thicker frosting, use less.

Most people suggest letting the brownies cool before frosting them, but I am impatient and went ahead and frosted immediately. This melted the frosting into the brownie, making the top all warm and chewy, plus, it gave the top a nifty swirly, almost marbled look that is kinda pretty. Do as you wish, though.

This is the same recipe I use for my cream cheese brownies, but without the frosting and with a little cream cheese dessert mixture blended in. I’ll share that recipe another day.

Also, just asked my husband for the verdict on the brownies, he said, “f@!*ing delicious!” Nuff said.

So I’ve pretty much been sick with a horrible cough and cold since my last post and have not been able to muster up the energy to cook or bake anything. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been able to eat. No, I’ve pretty much been taking a soup tour of the town and you, dear reader, can benefit from my expert analysis of quality:

Chicken Noodle Soup:
Sabatinos Italian Restaurant, Baltimore MD – This is the best chicken noodle soup in the world. Seriously. No vegetables to detract from the tastiness, just delicious broth, chunks of white meat chicken, and little bow-tie noodles.

Corner Bakery – Yummy. Especially in the bread bowl.

Panera Bread – Pretty classic bowl of soup from that type of place. However, if you’re at Panera, you might as well just order the mac&cheese, which is much better.

Healthy Choice  – So it’s microwave soup, and altogether not that interesting, but it gets the job done, especially for work lunches.

Chicken Tortilla Soup:
Coyote Grill, Fairfax, VA – Spicy and savory, this has chunks of great vegetables and chicken. They do the right thing and serve it with sour cream, but it’s worth asking for some shredded cheese, too.

Red Robin – Served perfectly with lots of sour cream, tortilla strips, and melty cheese. And they’ll usually bring you fries, even though soup’s not supposed to come with them.

Safeway Signature – By itself, not so great, but dump a big scoop of sour cream and another of guacamole into it and you’re in business. You can also crumble tortilla chips and add shredded cheese. Definitely good for a dinner in.

Rio Grande/Uncle Julios – Gross. Yucky chunky vegetables that haven’t been cooked enough and broth with no real flavor.

Guapos, NoVa locations – Seriously gross! And also no actual chicken in the soup. Such a colossal disappointment.

Tomato Bisque:
Zoe’s Kitchen, NoVa locations – Rich and flavorful with just a bit of queso fresco, and it’s from the healthy place, so it must be good for you.

Corner Bakery – Totally serviceable, but doesn’t feel like enough of a meal.

Chicken Pot Pie:
Jason’s Deli – Ok, technically not a soup, but close enough and so tasty (the soup and the eye candy behind the counter).

Stay tuned for actual recipes coming soon.

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