Python and pumpkin. But not together.

Let’s start with pumpkin, the food we’re all probably more familiar with.

Last fall I went through the canned pumpkin shortage crisis. I couldn’t find it anywhere. I started reading online that the pumpkin crops had been bad and I panicked. One of my favorite parts about fall involved all things pumpkin. Pumpkin bread, pie, cookies, ice cream, waffles, you name it I could eat it pumpkin-ized.

This winter Shaun and I found ourselves in the discount aisle at Kroger. Do all Kroger stores have that? Random stuff on a shelf marked down for no apparent reason other than some man with a price gun decided to run it down? I mean, bags of powdered sugar identical to the powdered sugar in the baking aisle for like $1.40 less. Anyway, we found cans of organic pumpkin for something like $.49. We bought probably 10. I have a sick pumpkin obsession. Kind of like jelly beans. Oh my gosh if I could find pumpkin flavored jelly beans I’d die. Do those exist? Find them for me. Please.

So yesterday I thought maybe I’d finally do something with one of these cans of pumpkin in the cupboard. I found a recipe here for pumpkin cheddar muffins and decided to play around with it a bit. I used up some jalapeño peppadew cheddar cheese and canned pumpkin to make sort of a spicy, cheesy muffin. It wasn’t an epic success, but it wasn’t an epic fail either. They were tasty. Sort of sweet, sort of spicy. I replaced some of the brown sugar in the original recipe with honey and used applesauce as my butter replacement.

Next time I’d probably try corn meal and even adding corn to the muffins to make sort of a cornbread out of it. I continue to love and obsess over pumpkin.

Wanna know something that I have never loved and obsessed over? Snakes. I hate snakes. They’re gross. One time when I was 6 years old and adorable (which feels like 40 million years ago) there was a snake wrapped around my bedroom window. My mom was vacuuming the living room while I pretended to dust and clean my room to be just like her. I ran into the living room screaming/shrieking/crying out in agony over the gianormous snake outside. Mom, of course being well aware of the extreme drama queen that I was still am, brushed it off telling me I was probably imagining things and that surely it was just a tiny worm. It wasn’t until she finally came in to see the beastly anaconda black snake for herself that she believed me.

When my parents first bought our house in the country and began to fix it up my dad lived there through the construction while mom, baby brother and I spent many nights in a motel. One day we stood on the porch (dad inside the front door, mom and I outside it) while a black snake wrapped the length of the door frame. I, the ever dramatic, pestering child, pulled on my mom’s coat repeating “mom, mom, mommy, mommy” until she finally justified me by asking what I wanted. I pointed at the snake, she screamed, dad slammed the door on us knocking the snake to the ground at our feet. It’s a wonder mom didn’t divorce dad right then and there. So very chivalrous of him to leave a screaming woman and child on the doorstep.

I’ve got several snake stories piled up like that. But I’ll stop boring you. You get the picture. Not a snake lover. Period.

Shaun and I have been obsessing over the Giant Eagle Market District they opened in Upper Arlington. We are in complete awe over the meat counter. There are so many things to choose from. We always stare at the $29.99/lb rattlesnake and python and talk about how crazy it would be to try them. I thought I was safe. Surely we’d never buy any. At that price, might as well buy lobster or some fancy cut of beef.

But I’m not that lucky. When we went wine tasting on Friday, we stood in awe once again at the meat counter. And then someone behind the counter spoke up making a joke about “Can I interest you in some rattlesnake or python?” We laughed and Shaun told him our predicament. Sounds neat and cool to try, but at nearly $30 a pound? It could taste terrible or we could really screw it up. The man told Shaun to pick one and I nearly died.

Long story short we ended up with 1.1 pounds of python in our shopping basket and not a single idea of what we were going to do with it.

Yesterday we finally broke into the package. Vietnamese python.

We armed ourselves with spices.

We pan fried it.

We grilled the sucker.

We even braised the slimy guy in some beer. Of course we had to sear him in some butter first… Butter and beer. They make everything better.

The verdict? It takes on whatever flavor you try to impart on it. The pan fried one? Tasted like the curry powder we rubbed it in. The beer braised? Tasted like beer. The one we grilled tasted like grilled chicken. No fishy taste and contrary to what one of the meat guys we met at the Market District informed us, it does NOT taste or smell like buttered popcorn.

It’s a lean piece of muscle. Not a shred of fatty meat to it. It was rubbery. The internet tried to warn us. We thought we could do better. Shaun thought we could make rubber snake into deliciousness. I thought, “wouldn’t it be cool to eat meat that tasted like buttered popcorn?!?!”

-Kimberly

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Spicy Is the New Sweet

So I had the day off yesterday. Rare but wonderful none the less.

A couple of weeks, okay, months ago, a reader made a comment on our blog with regard to whether or not there was such a thing as a spicy cupcake. At first we were shocked by two things 1) someone actually read and was interested in our random cooking/baking/life ramblings and 2) they were compelled enough to write back. So, thank you!

After milling over the question of whether or not spicy cupcakes could work we came to the conclusion of…why not? I mean we put bacon with bananas and cheese and that was good so why not make some delicious spicy cupcakes? So Nicole, this one is for you.

What you see above is in fact a spicy cupcake. I mean we are talking guajillo chili powder, paprika and some white pepper. As for the icing its a spicy honey buttercream. The cupcake still has its sweet side but after you swallow a bite you get that warm back of the throat feeling you get when you eat a pepper. Delicious!!! Don’t get me wrong this thing isn’t for everyone but if you keep an open mind, I bet you’ll like it.

I’m all for breaking the rules and stepping outside of the lines when you can. That’s what is fun about cooking and baking. I mean you can totally go against the grain and do something crazy, original and different and the worst thing that happens is it tastes terrible and you scrape it into the trash and move on. Where else in life can you do that?

Moral of the story, be bold and different, try new things and get a little crazy sometime… you’ll most definitely like what happens.

Oh, and if there are any other readers out there, which I hope there are, give us a challenge. PLEASE!!!

-Shaun

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Love your inner dork.

I’m obsessed with jelly beans. All kinds, I don’t discriminate. I love Easter because the abundance of jelly beans and jelly bean flavors is absurd. I love Skittles and Starburst and Nerd flavored jelly beans. I don’t really care for the cheap off brand stuff though. They taste like plastic. Okay, so I guess I do discriminate. I’m a jelly bean snob.

Today Shaun and I sat on the couch with a new found bag of jelly beans from Trader Joe’s. 18 different flavors with natural colors. 18 flavors!!! Do you understand how exciting that is?
Insert comment about my nerdy-ness.

Eighteen Fluffin Flavors!!!

 

After picking out all of the licorice flavored beans (if you eat those, I’m sorry for you and your taste buds), we successfully sampled each jelly bean by corresponding the color to the picture on the bag. Jelly bean obsession is just one of my many quirky nerdy weird qualities.

We always talk about how we’re so nerdy about something or another. I’m nerdy about languages and linguistics and baking. Shaun’s got his paramedic/photoboy/cooking nerdisms (can that be a word?). We both get hyped about things like sample Saturday and going to the dog park. We plan trips to see where Fiestaware is made and our ultimate trip would involve some sort of a brewery or vineyard tour.

Today we walked around Trader Joe’s with a cookbook.

Unusual? No. Lots of people walk around grocery stores carrying cookbooks. Okay, maybe not lots but it happens.

Did I mention that cookbook was for puppies? Unusual? Yeah, probably. Embrace it. We have. It’s one of our nerdisms.

A friend of mine bought me a doggy treat cookbook a few years back for my birthday. Today we put that book to good use and cooked up some apple carrot dumpling something or anothers for our pooch (ya know, the one that lived through that fiasco of a chocolate cake?).

And we may have eaten a couple 6 to try them out. Ya know what? They’re pretty people friendly too.

Apple Carrot Doggy Dumplings

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 apple
  • about a cup spelt flour
  • about a cup rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 eggs

I whirled the diced carrot and apple around in Shaun’s food processor Magic Bullet and then mixed it thoroughly with the other ingredients.

I had to add a little more flour to bulk up the batter and make it stick together.

Bake those little guys in whatever size you want (we went with teaspoon drops because we like to give little treats for good behavior) for 30 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees F. Turn the oven off and let them dry out in the oven a bit to achieve a doggy biscuit-like texture.

The moral of the story: bake treats for your dog. Embrace your nerd inside. We don’t judge.

-Kimberly

Posted in baking, ramblings, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The $400 chocolate cake.

That’s about how much the chocolate cake (that we will NEVER be blogging about) that Shaun made two nights ago ended up costing us.

Okay. Okay. Now I have to blog about it because I have to tell you what’s so special about this cake that made it cost about 400 big ones.

Well, let’s just say that about 1/3 of that cake ended up in the belly of a very new doggy we may have adopted a week ago.

It's a good thing I'm cute.

And that dog may have escaped from her cage in a frantic anxiety attack that caused her to set off the house alarm, dispatch the police and interrupt her mommy and daddy from a dinner date night.

No big deal. I mean, she only set of the alarm alerting ADT at about 8:30PM. And ya know, managed to consume a chocolate cake while she was running wildly through the house.

Did you know that pure cocoa powder is the worst kind of chocolate a dog can consume? Apparently if you’re going to feed your dog chocolate it should be white or some other phony baloney crap. We like dark chocolate and cocoa powder. The two worst things you can feed your dog.

Lucky us. Emergency trip to the vet + injection to make puppy puke chocolate cake + charcoal (I still don’t understand what the fluff that was for) + fluids overnight (which she never actually received since she chewed through the line immediately after it was put in) + overnight vet stay + anxiety meds (yes, our dog is medicated, something that I will probably need to be shortly) = $400

I didn't do a thing mom and dad, I swear.

 

This dog better live forever after that.

Oh well. She didn’t eat my MacBook or my Converse. And she lived for us to tell the tale.

Phew.

Priorities people, priorities.

Now that we’ve not blogged about the chocolate cake, on to more important things.

Kala namak salt. Fondly known as fart salt round this house. Ya know that eggy, sulfury smell you get when hard boiled eggs are fragrant or you drive by some sort of a factory that reeks of sulfur? That’s what this stuff smells like. Sulfur in pellet form. Who wouldn’t want to eat that? I know it’s something I should cook with or garnish a beautiful meal with, but let’s be real people, I like to bake.

We were told by our friend Ben down at North Market Spices that this stuff is awesome in a bloody mary. I had every intention of trying to make a bloody mary cupcake with it. I’ll be honest though, this cupcake isn’t exactly reminiscent of a bloody mary, but the idea is there.

I busted out the new sun dried tomato powder we purchased from, you guessed it, North Market Spices and mixed it up in a traditional white cake mix. Added the crushed fart kala namak salt to a standard butter cream and drizzled the whole thing with some white chocolate ganache infused with vodka.

Weird?

Yes.

Delicious?

We think so.

Oddly delicious

Go pick up some fart salt at North Market Spices. Trust me. They’ll know what you’re talking about.

-Kimberly

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Ice-pocalypse 2011

We’re not going to get snowed in. We’ve accepted it. We want a snow day, but we also would like a million dollars. Neither are going to happen. We’re both teachers/ educators/ instructors of the world. The likelihood of either of us being fortunate enough to have a snow day tomorrow is pretty much zero.

So we’re over it.

But we prepared nonetheless. While others were out buying necessities like candles, batteries and milk, we were buying $25 worth of cheese in addition to extra powdered sugar and baking powder.

Priorities people, priorities.

Since we aren’t getting snowed in and we’ve clearly still got our electricity (and a lovely gas stove), we’re making things. Delicious things.

Like bananas wrapped in bacon covered in greek yogurt and assorted cheeses.

We’re telling you people, delicious things.

We’re avid fans of the Food Network (in case that wasn’t apparent before). The other night the Iron Chef battle was gruyere. Love us some cheese. Right now we’ve got about 6 kinds ranging from bleu to goat to apricot stilton in the fridge.

Anyway, back to gruyere. We were so entranced by the Iron Chef’s challenger and his dishes that we knew were going to be buying some cheese in the near future. Okay, so that was a given before we watched the show.

The dish that most intrigued us was his take on a classic french dish with ham and cheese that also included endives. He made a comment about hating endives and so his mom would substitute bananas. Whether or not that is true, the combination of ham and banana topped with cheese and a little creme fraiche was enough to make us go “hm” and stare blankly at each other.

We can’t go to the store without forgetting something and this time it was creme fraiche, so we used what we had: greek yogurt. Yum. The first time we tried this recipe we used ham, a nice deli sliced ham from Trader Joe’s. The second time we amped it up. We used thick sliced bacon. Because bacon makes the world go round. Especially if it’s fried and dipped in chocolate.

We also used half “normal” bananas (you know the yellow kind) and half red bananas (the cute itty bitty bananas that are a brownish red in color).

We also may have put a different cheese on each banana. We used gruyere, apricot stilton, provolone, a soft goat cheese, an Ohio soft cheddar and a jalapeño white cheddar. Honestly, picking a favorite cheese is like picking a favorite baking or frying pan. They’re all good for something different. In this recipe, they were all delicious. It depends if you want to up the sweet or savory factor of the dish (or in some cases incorporate a little spicy).

Bacon wrapped bananas (serves 2, or 1 if you’re hungry)

  • 1 banana, halved and cut lengthwise
  • 2 small red bananas (or you could use 2 normal yellow bananas)
  • 6 slices of bacon or ham
  • 1/4-1/3 cup of creme fraiche (or greek yogurt, heck you could probably try cream cheese)
  • assorted cheeses (something melt-able)

Wrap each banana piece in bacon so that the entire banana is covered. Lay each piece side by side in a baking dish. Cover with a thin layer of greek yogurt and then sprinkle with your cheeses. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F until the bacon is fully cooked and the cheese is melted. Optional: turn on your broiler and cook just long enough for the cheese to get brown and bubbly.

We loved this. It’s such an odd combination but it works. The salty/sweet/creamy combo is to die for.

We tend to like our bacon a little crispy so next time I think we’d cook the bananas and bacon a bit before adding the cheese. The cheese melts quickly in some cases and the bacon was just a little chewier than we like it (but still fully cooked).

Next time we’re going to add seasoning and spices.

Because we can’t leave well enough alone.

-Shaun and Kimberly

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How do you define normal?

Most people in their mid-20s spend their Friday evenings out drinking, dancing, enjoying the company of other 20-somethings.

I spent last night at the grocery store. Then I watched some Food Network. Then I went to the grocery store again. Guess what I did when I came home? I watched some more Food Network.

I’m diseased.

Shaun spent his Friday evening with those 20-somethings who had been drinking and celebrating life. Granted, he was working in a hospital. I guess we could say he was experiencing the aftermath of their Friday night life decisions. But that’s a whole other story.

Back to me; I am the important one after all.

I bought lots of fresh herbs last night. We use a lot of dried herbs and spices. I have to have a purpose, a reason to buy things fresh.

We’ve also been eating a lot of chili in preparation for a chili competition in February. My body was craving something besides chili. Something with eggs. And baked yummy-ness. Maybe sausage. I’m a big fan of brunch; can you tell?

I came home armed with dill, parsley, thyme and these red chard things that thoroughly intrigued me. I also realized that I have three kinds of onion like things in my apartment at this moment. Is that weird?

Now that we’ve thoroughly established that we’re not like “normal” 20-somethings, we’ll just drive the point home.

We were awake by 8 this morning. Someone forgot his gym shoes at his place, so we skipped the workout this morning. (I didn’t really want to go anyway, but shhhhh, don’t tell him. I want him to think I’m upset about it.) By 8:30 we were in the kitchen. We weren’t pouring cereal or eating cold pizza. We made coffee with a french press (which we could stand on a soapbox about) and we started warming the oven and doing things like boiling water for grits.

Christmas in a pan!

Mostly I just wanted to saute that neat looking red chard I bought. Did you see how cool that stuff looks?!? You should scroll back up and look again. Tell me that’s not one of the prettiest leafy green veggies ever.

So we cooked up some grits (yeah, we’re 90 years old and kind of country), sauteed the chard with garlic (duh, what else would you have sauteed it with) and prepared for an epic Saturday brunch. Okay, it wasn’t that epic. It was delicious though.

Those pretty little cups up there are filled with cooked grits, a few tablespoons of marinara sauce, topped with the sauteed chard, some cheese and an egg. All you have to do is slide that little uncooked egg on top of the whole mixture and throw it in the oven. We didn’t measure anything (because we’re too discombobulated in the mornings to measure anything; we’re too discombobulated at all times of the day to really measure anything) but we did bake them at 400 degrees F for about 15 minutes until those eggs were set. Top ‘em off with some green onions, dill and thyme and you’ve got breakfast in a cup.

There may have been some sun-dried tomato chicken sausages involved. And some banana bread pudding that we threw together with the banana bread I made the other day. It looks like a big pile of slop. Sorry. We promise it tastes prettier than it looks.

And now we’re off to do other normal things. Like buy cake pans and Minnie Mouse themed baking items. We’ve got a birthday cake to build. Big stuff.

What about you? What’s normal on a Saturday morning?

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And The Award Goes Too….

It’s awards season. You know the time of year that you are forced to sit and stare at the television and look at all the famous people with too much money, that spend more money on a single outfit, that they are only going to wear once, than I make in a year. Lets celebrate!!!!!! I assure you the timing of this culinary creation was pure coincidence. I swear, I got on Facebook and read in my news feed that the Academy Award nominations were released this morning. Anyway on to the rest of the story.

Kimberly and I had a little bet that you couldn’t bake popcorn into a cupcake. Well, she was right…..kinda. Okay I am a guy; it’s hard to admit when I am wrong not in the right. You cannot get a kernel to pop inside a cupcake. Well, I couldn’t at least. But I am persistent so after failing, having difficulty, I had to continue this idea and decided to approach this from a different angle. After a little bit okay a lot of brainstorming I came up with a kind of crazy, definitely unique, one of a kind cupcake flavor. I now present to you…..The Oscar! (Okay, the name is not coincidence)

This cupcake features a sweet butter cupcake topped with a salty butter cream topped with real popcorn drizzled with dulce de leche.

It is a unique blend of salty and sweet. I know your probably thinking two things 1) Shaun, you’re crazy you can’t put popcorn on a cupcake and 2) you should probably leave the baking to Kimberly. To respond to the first part… you can and I did put popcorn on it. And to respond to the second part I say…you’re right and I usually do, but we had a bet!

I’ll admit that this cake isn’t for everyone. Once you get past the concept of popcorn and salty butter cream it’s actually pretty tasty. Even better than that is the texture. Kimberly is a huge texture person so I am hoping she’s gonna like this thing. The cake is soft and moist and the popcorn adds a nice crunch to it. So we shall see what she says when I see her tonight.

-Shaun

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