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pho will warm your heart

Posted by aleta under ethnic cuisine

Have I gushed before about Pho? Because I love Pho. Here are some of the prettier parts of making pho.

Playing with the spices like a kindergartener.

Spice flower.

Okay little spices, you sit in your cage and wait to become delicious!

In their little cage.

Onions get to be so beautiful when charred.

Onion gets so beautiful when charred.

Just . . . bobbin along in there . . .

Swimmin in the pot.

The herbal accessories, being so patient while the noodles cook and the broth broths. That’s some purple basil there on the right if you were wondering.

All dressed up.

You can’t tell me that isn’t the most beautiful soup you’ve ever seen. That’s a double negative, meaning “You have to agree this is the prettiest ever.”

This is probably my favourite dinner. I would eat it thrice weekly if allowed.

fail cake

Posted by aleta under recipe fail

So I’d say a good 98% of my cookings are successful, but of course now and again they are not. I cite as evidence: Pesto Cheesecake.

Yes, I know it doesn’t sound all that great to begin with, but it was in the JOY and was a little unusual and I figured out how to work it into the context of my diet and I had a huge bunch of basil seeking its purpose in life. And I could make it largely fat free. The idea grew on me. I gathered ingredients.

Some ingredients.

Then a bunch of boring stuff happened, involving making pesto in my new mortar and pestle and also regular “making a cheesecake” type things.

The boring details.

One of these pictures came out amazingly well—a little mound of pesto, floating on a magical cloud of ricotta.

A wad of pesto floating upon a ricotta cloud.

And then, DISASTER. I tried making a waterbath. Now I understand what a waterbath is, and I know why we make waterbaths, I had just never actually made one. And I fucked it up. Here’s a tutorial:

A tutorial.

See? I came to put it in the oven, noticed the water seeping in, and had a serious Oh Shit moment. The worst part is that even though I gleaned my instructions from JOY, I somehow missed this very pivotal illustration.

The directions were confusing.

So my cake cracked. After it got a little bit of water in it. But I don’t think these were the culprit in the whelmingness of this cake. Nor was it the fat free sour cream nor the fat free ricotta cheese. It just plain wasn’t a very good recipe. It’s weird, which usually earns recipes big fat bonus points in my book, but this time the weirdness was not in a good way. As an attempt to salvage a whole bunch of time and ingredients, I finished the recipe, which involved frosting with sour cream and making some sundried tomatoes as a garnish. (I refuse to pay for them when I can make them in my own oven)

So I took all my tomatoes from the farm down the street and lined them up for their last few moments in the sunshine.

One last sunbath.

Then I sliced ’em up good.


Laid them out on a cookie sheet with the remaining pinch of oregano I had on hand.


And baked them at 225 for five hours.

Just. Ew.

Turns out I, like Master Shake, do not like sundried tomatoes. Even though this was a painful lesson, it was still a rather lovely one, wouldn’t you say?


cherry cordial cookie

Posted by aleta under sweets for sharing, the comfort foodie

Jose Fritz, he got a new place, so I thought I’d send off a housewarming gift. This coincided with a deep desire to bake. I had this long fantasy that began with banana bread, traversed through shortbread spiral cookies and ended with a fully-from-scratch German chocolate cake. Unfortunately none of that stuff will travel well, so I looked up an oatmeal cookie recipe. Since I didn’t have any raisins on hand, I came up with something of an unusual substitution. I modified Miss Amy Sedaris’ recipe as featured in I Like You.

Here goes!

We begin.

When you mix everything in the manner suggested below, you are left with an enticing dough.

The mix.

Now chill out for an hour.

Next, pull out this jaunty little fellow.

The jaunty little fellow.

And make some dough balls.

Ball phase.

Then you’re going to put your forefinger in the middle of those and carve out a little nest. Do this pretty deeply as it will get less shallow as it bakes. And please forgive the cheesiness of this animation, but it was too dumb an idea to resist.

Cherry madness!!!

Repeat as necessary.

Repeat as necessary.

Introduce your babies to the 375 degree oven and you get this.

Fresh from oven.

Arrange artfully on your fanciest cookie presenter.

The arrangement.

Check it out! I also made my own brand specifically for these!

Pretty Decent Cookies (brand)

Cherry Almond Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

1 stick of unsalted butter
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
3/4 c white flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp freshly grated cinnamon (my special touch–you can just use the powdered cinnamon you already have)
1/4 tsp salt
1.5 c oatmeal
1/2 can cherry pie filling

Cream butter and sugars together. Add vanilla and eggs. Mix dry ingredients together.

Marry your wet and dry ingredients in a tasteful ceremony in your mixing bowl. Chill 1 hour in fridge.

Form balls, then pinch them into little nests for your cherries. See notes above for details on this process. Then spoon a cherry with enough cherry goop to fill your hole. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375 for 10-12 minutes.


Bonjour amies et amis!

Guess what I’m making today!


Why yes, we shall be making le French Onion Soup! Hohoho!

We start with sweet white onions. Oh, Vidalia, why do you always bring me to tears? I just want to love you!

edited - french onion soup

In the pot you go!

And then you put the onions in the pot.
After about 40 minutes your onions will make their own delicious gravy.
Makes its own gravy!
Add your beef stock and it’s starting to look right!
Steamy soup action.
I used my magic [oven] to turn stale Parisian bread into croûtons. Aren’t they lovely?

My magic did it.

We are almost there. These towheaded sweeties are destined for the broiler.
Towheads ready for the broiler.
Oooo lala! Look! My creation, it is so complete and beauteous!
Viva mi creacion!
And that is all! I used the traditional JOY recipe to make these, and it came out subtle and sweet and pretty much perfect, and I usually only use JOY for a reference guide. Does anyone here love French Onion Soup too?

Hokay, lookit what I found!

Dry beans.

Organic Purple Green Beans! Cool! Perfect! Let’s make my awesome No-Can Green Bean Casserole.

The wreckipe.

First, we rinse ’em.

A beans nest.

Gather our other ingredients.


Oh check this out, they’re green on the inside!

Two-tone beans.

Now we chop the mushrooms.

Button mushrooms.

Oux! A roux to get this party started.


Aww . . . I guess they turn green when you cook them. A good way of telling when they’re cooked, though!

They green when you cook em.

My my, what a sexy casserole!


Fancy casserole shot.

One last casserole for posterity.

The thought of mushroom soup in a green bean casserole is enough to make me want to gag. Couple that with canned green beans and I am a nauseous cook. However, there is hope! Nook and Pantry found this recipe and it is fantastic (and low calorie–a serving has 129 calories, 5.2g fiber and 5g of fat). I’ll eat half a batch as a dinner rather than a side. YUM!

The Foodie’s Green Bean Casserole
Adapted from Nook and Pantry
Serves 4

1 lb green beans, ends trimmed and broken in half
8 oz button mushrooms, chopped
3 tbsp Land O’Lakes Light Butter
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tbsp flour
salt and pepper
1/2 c chicken stock (chicken broth and Better Than Bouillon also work)
1/4 c Land O’Lakes Fat Free Half and Half
1 sauteed chopped onion

Preheat the oven to 400o F.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the mushroom, garlic, some salt and pepper, and cook until the mushrooms are starting to release their liquid. When the liquid is starting to reduce, add the beans and cook until they are bright green and still a bit crunchy, about 5 minutes. You will only bake the casserole for a few minutes in the oven so cook the beans a little less than your desired tenderness.

While the beans are cooking, melt the remaining 2 tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the flour, whisk and cook until the roux is slightly golden. Slowly pour in the chicken stock, while continually whisking. Simmer the mixture for about a minute. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the half and half, and add the green bean and mushroom pieces; toss to coat.

Pour the mixture into an 8 x 8 Pyrex or a 9″ diameter pie dish. Sprinkle with sauteed onions. Bake about 10 minutes.

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