Monthly Archives: March 2012

Einstein’s Dreams

“Each time is true, but not all truths are the same.” – Alan Lightman

This quote from Einstein’s Dreams probably sums up the book better than I can, although that won’t stop me from trying. I enjoyed this book so thoroughly and I could genuinely recommend it to anyone, particularly those with a particular interest in the concept, or concepts, of time.

The beauty of this novel, as with life, is in the details. The man who “sits at his bedside table, listens to the sounds of his running bath” is someone I can relate to, he’s someone who I know, he’s someone I’ve been. The descriptions Lightman paints with his words are transportive. When this man wonders, “whether anything exists outside of his mind,” I, too, am wondering.

With each ultra-brief chapter, this book introduces the reader to a new world with a conception of time all its own. Interspersed with this is the story of a young Einstein developing his theory of time. Both Einstein’s journey and the journeys of those in each world are revealed in the most delicate of manners. We first lean what plagues the inhabitants of the new world, and from these clues we must determine which world this is. Is it the world where time runs backwards? Or the one where with no future? Or no past?

Each world seems to be tragic in its own way. In one instance there are certain people who cannot perceive time at all. Called “time deaf,” these individuals are considered great minds and are studied by scholars all over the world. “But they are unable to speak what they know, for speech needs a sequence of words, spoken in time.” Every chapter ends abruptly, and then a new conception of time emerges, with new people, in a new place.

One of these places, in particular, stands out for me:

In this world, time is not measured. All watches and clocks are outlawed except for one. This super clock becomes a place of pilgrimage that every person in the world must travel to at some point in their lives. At any given point, there is a line of 10,000 people waiting silently in line to see the clock, but “secretly they seethe with anger. For they must watch measured that which should not be. They have been trapped by their own inventiveness and audacity.”

Yes, we have.

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Comfort Food in Queens, Ya’ll

Watching people attempt to use this as a door is endless entertainment. Yes, perhaps I was one of those people.

Right down the block on 30th Avenue sits a special little slice of the south called Queens Comfort. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a heavy-on-the-cream-and-butter little piece of heaven right in my own backyard. We’ve been here before, more than once, but only for brunch never for dinner. So you can imagine my delight when the boys (both of them magical) wanted to do that last Friday night instead of our usual bar. It’s BYOB, so we brought our own B and ordered a variety of snacks and shared them. The beer we purchased was a pale ale in a can, something with a pig on it… anyone familiar with this particular can of beer?

Grilled Corn on the Cob.

This was grilled corn, covered in parmesan cheese and then drizzled with sriracha. We did not share this. This was for me only.

Meatloaf Mac and Cheese

This is meatloaf Mac and Cheese, which is exactly what is sounds like. And it tastes like heaven. They also had a gouda mac and cheese, if you are a non-carnivorous being, I would recommend it.

Disco Tots.

These are disco tots, which were requested by the boys (both of them Jersey) which is where I think this type of tot must have originated because I’ve never heard of them. Please let me know if you are familiar with the actual origin of disco tots, I am curious.

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Wings.

I’ve saved the best for last. Because while the corn, the mac and cheese and the tots were simply incredible, these sweet and spicy wings were a revelation. I am a huge wing fan, I used to work in a wing bar and these are a huge head and broad shoulders above the rest. They were spicy and crunchy and yet somehow still tasted like dessert. They resembled, in fact, the only other dish I’ve ever had at Queens Comfort: the fried chicken and waffles (which is served with tabasco and maple butter… I’ll wait while you wipe the saliva from your lips.)

If you’re from the south, having a bad day or just don’t give two shakes about calories this is the only place you need. The service takes time, so don’t come here in a hurry and don’t try to order off the menu. It changes daily for a reason. Enjoy 🙂

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Got leftovers? Time to get creative!

If you’ll remember, at the end of my post about the chicken enchiladas (once again, New York, you’re welcome), I promised I had a plan for the leftover enchilada filling. If you’re anything like me, the thought of having to throw out food doesn’t exactly appeal to you. If you’re a lot like me, the idea makes you downright nauseous. In any event, that meal left me with half a pack of corn tortillas and a ton of leftover filling. Sure, I could have just made enchiladas again, but where’s the fun in that?

Instead I decided to cook the filling down with some tomato paste and black beans, creating a sort of chicken chili if you will, which I then layered between corn tortillas for a sort of Mexican lasagna. My mom called it enchilada casserole, so I am too. Honestly, and not to toot my own horn, but you could call it a casserole of crap and it wouldn’t change the fact that this dish was delicious and essentially free based on the fact that I would have otherwise had to throw out everything I used.

Click here for the original filling recipe, to which I added a can of tomato paste and a can of black beans. Then I let it simmer for two hours.

I then took one of my super expensive and classy foil dishes and put down a layer of corn tortillas, which I softened in the microwave for 30 seconds. I tore them so they’d fit, it certainly doesn’t need to be perfect.

I started slopping in my chili mix, I did two layers, so half and then half, but whatever makes your heart sing!

After the 1st layer of chili and before the 2nd layer of tortillas, I threw in some fresh onions and peppers for a little crunch!

Once you’ve made your layers, top with whatever type of cheese you like and then into a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.

I like it a little burnt around the edges, but you can always take it out earlier 🙂

Served here with a box of Spanish-style rice and (as always) guacamole -- Click for recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The box of rice — not my idea. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but these things called “relationships” they often take compromise, and my man wanted the rice, which I did not care about (I’m more of a double beans, hold the rice, type of gal). But like I said, he wanted the rice, he picked out the box, I followed the directions on the back and you can, too!

Leftovers? What leftovers… What I meant to say was: POP POP.

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Jeanie’s Banana Nut Bread

For as long as I can remember, whenever the bananas in the house would start to speckle, my mother would threaten us with something that was really no threat at all. She’d say that if we didn’t eat the bananas, she would be forced to bake banana nut bread. As you can see, I had it pretty tough growing up 🙂

Fast forward to this week. I’m all grown up and have now allowed my own bananas to turn brown in my own apartment, but that voice in my head is thankfully still there. “I guess you’ll just have to bake banana nut bread then,” it said. And since I wasn’t brought up to disobey, I had received my next challenge. I could think of no more fitting a recipe to use as my first foray into the baking world than my mother’s banana nut bread recipe.

And we’re off!

In here we have 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/14 tsp baking powder, 3/4 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp cinnamon, 3/4 tsp salt, a pinch of nutmeg and cloves.

In this bowl we have 1/4 cup buttermilk, 1 1/2 cups bananas (I used 3 bananas) and 1 tsp vanilla.

And in this big bowl, we have 1/2 cup butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup white sugar. Mix all this together, then add 3 room temperature eggs one at a time.

Once smooth, add half of the banana mixture and half the dry ingredients, mix-eems in, and then repeat.

Once everything is mixed smoothly, fold in the nuts. I'm from Texas, so yeah, these are pecans.

Into a loaf pan and then into a 350 degree oven for an hour to seventy minutes (just keep an eye on it after an hour).

Take it out when it has reached your personal level of done. As for me (and my Momma!) we likes it crunchy 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I don’t know that it was just like hers…  you see, there’s an extra special ingredient that it seems only mothers know how to use properly, but someday I’ll get that one too. As for now, I know she’s looking down saying, “Now that looks like some pretty damn good banana nut bread!” 🙂 And it was. Thanks, Mom.

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A Taste of Home

This is the longest I’ve spent away from Austin at one time in more than two years, which means one thing: I’ve spent far too long away from good Tex-Mex. In a swift move to quench this thirst, I decided I would make chicken enchiladas with a queso sauce, two things I’ve never done before. I’ve made Texas style queso, Velveeta-and-Rotel-style, but that was a little too heavy for a topping on this dish, so I attempted to make a lighter cheese sauce to top off my enchiladas, which began like this:

You can make this with any type of meat or no meat at all!

You can do this is a regular pot if you have one big enough.

First, I threw two boneless, skinless chicken breasts into a skillet with butter and oil for about six minutes on each side (finish off in a 350 degree oven if necessary). Then, I sautéed chopped green and red peppers, onions, jalapeños, corn and garlic for about 10 minutes before added a can of crushed tomatoes and a can of chipotle peppers. Bring this up to a boil, then let it simmer on low for 20 minutes to give the flavor time to develop.

Not too full or they'll break!

It's a lot of food, but they keep well!

This next part can be a little tricky and a lot frustrating. To make it easier on yourself, take the corn tortillas, put them in a wet paper towel and microwave them for 30 seconds. This will help them from breaking in two while you roll up your enchiladas. After you’ve carefully rolled all of your enchiladas, sprinkle some shredded cheese over the top. Then into a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Takes about 15 minutes.

Mmm.. Cheesy Goodness.

With the enchiladas baking away, it was time to make the sauce.  First, I sautéed onions and peppers before adding milk and butter. Then I slowly added cheese until it thickened. Once thick, add tomatoes and season to taste. Then pour generously over the top of the enchiladas.

Click here for the bean and guacamole recipes.

I served them with refried black beans and we enjoyed them with a cerveza. I don’t even have to click my heels together to know that there’s no place like home.

As for the rest of the enchilada filling? Tupperware that noise up and stay tuned, cause I’ve got a plan for the leftovers 🙂

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Sake it to me! (Or sushi it, rather)

In light of this unseasonable warm day, I had to take a late afternoon stroll through Astoria. I strolled and strolled and just when I began to feel peckish, I happened upon a lovely sake bar. After a very productive day, work-wise, I decided a little treat was in order. I sat down at Yamashiro Sake Bar on Steinway street and ordered a Sapporo and some edamame while I perused the menu.

3027 STEINWAY ST -- They deliver!

Edamame+a book+a brew=Perfection

Having only recently begun my obsession with sushi, I haven’t been overly adventurous and I didn’t figure today was the day to start. I did however choose tuna, something I don’t usually do. Of course, I only chose tuna because it was smashed between salmon and avocado (the two great loves of my life). I ordered the Yamashiro Wasabi roll which, as I said, is tuna, salmon and avocado but with wasabi caviar. I’m still not sure if this is actual caviar or wasabi designed to look like caviar, but it was spicy and delicious and I’d order it again in a second.

Yamashiro Wasabi Roll -- So pretty!

I love the inside of sushi... so delicate.

Decor-wise, the restaurant was elegant with simple black furniture and really special fish tanks. The prices were decent and the service? Impeccable.  The very attentive server consistently refilled both my water and beer glass. I sat for nearly an hour reading my book and munching slowly and I didn’t feel the least bit rushed. It was the perfect compliment to this perfect day.

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Fancy Food on the Cheap

For dinner last night, I continued with the Mediterranean theme for the sake of both my tastebuds and my pocketbook. Our market has chicken breasts two to a package and I used one for the skewers on Sunday so that left me with a second one, which I cut in half long-wise to make two portions, which I then stuffed with spinach and feta cheese. Serving this with the leftover chopped salad, also from Sunday, I’d say it’s one of the least expensive dinners I’ve made (and one of the fanciest)!

This entire process took less than an hour (including cooking time) and it’s a lovely and frugal way to serve yourself or guests!

I started by sautéing the spinach in olive oil, garlic and ginger until its wilted.

Then, after cutting the chicken and spreading a bit of olive paste on it, I mixed the spinach with the feta cheese and loaded up the breasts.

Then I wrapped-eems up and pinned them with a toothpick, rolled them in breadcrumbs and poured over 1/2 cup of butter. Then into the oven at 350 for 30 minutes!

Once it's brown and crispy (and the juices run clear!) just add some salad and enjoy!

Stuffing chicken is something I thought was super hard and is, in fact, super easy. What’s more is you can stuff chicken with anything! You want spicy? Stuff with beans and jalapeños. You want fresh? Stuff with veggies and some citrus. Such a versatile recipe, make your own version and let me know what you come up with!

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