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F & W: The roasted garlic & Bitch edition. (Read it, you’ll see.)

Have you ever roasted garlic? I highly recommend it. It’s so delicious, and it gives oldie but goodie recipe from Cooking Light – Roasted Garlic Potato Soup a rich flavor. It’s so good that you do not in fact, miss the fat that is left out of this recipe, and traditionally found in most potato soups.

Well, the fat that is left out unless you end up topping your soup with sharp cheddar cheese and bacon, like we did….but um…it really didn’t need that, we just really like any excuse to add cheese and bacon to something.

And, I have a huge announcement: the fiance who doesn’t  like potatoes, unless they are fried and dipped in ketchup even ate some of the soup and said it was good! Honestly, the garlic changes everything.

I’m not going to lie. I was scared.

FIVE heads of garlic? That seemed a bit over the top, even for a garlic lover. I read some of the reviews and it seemed that most people said it didn’t need five. I decided to cut it down to three.  I was really just looking after DD Girl, Roomie and the fiance, but then they were all, “oh, you could have totally used five and it would have been great.”

Le sigh. You can’t please these folks, you just can’t. (Geez, I’m such a bitch! — that’s foreshadowing, folks.)

The recipe seems like it might take all night  what with the hour of roasting time for the garlic and all, but don’t let that scare you. Here’s how it all timed out:

[Roasted Garlic-Potato Soup Recipe from Cooking Light, May 1995]

You’ll need

  • 5  whole garlic heads – like I said, I used three, but don’t be chicken. Use five. Do it. Do it. You know you want to.
  • 2  bacon slices, diced – um, ok, so here’s my confession- I cut up five slices so that we could have bacon bits to crumble over the top of the soup.
  • 1  cup  diced onion
  • 1  cup  diced carrot
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced – I know what you are saying – what? MORE garlic? But the thing is that roasted garlic and minced garlic have different flavors. So just go with it. This recipe has been around longer than my 1996 Maxima, which is like totally ancient. Trust it. It’s probably more reliable than my car.
  • 6  cups  diced baking potato (about 2 pounds)
  • 4  cups  low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  pepper
  • 1  bay leaf
  • 1  cup  2% low-fat milk
  • 1/4  cup  chopped fresh parsley – I used Italian b/c it’s what I had on hand.

Here are my modified instructions with timing. Because really, isn’t timing like the hardest part of cooking? I think so. Thank you for agreeing with me.

Preheat the oven to 350. Then, while it’s heating, take your knife and cut the point off the top of the garlic heads and peel the papery outsides off as much as you can. Wrap each one in foil and place on a cookie sheet and stick in the oven. Set a timer for 60 minutes, or else you’ll totally loose track of how long they have been roasting.

Dice the onion, carrots, parsley and garlic. Then, peel and chop the potatoes. If you are as slow as me, this has burned at least 20 minutes of the hour. Then, chop the bacon up.

You are about 25 minutes into the hour now, so go ahead and put your large saucepan on medium heat and add your bacon. If you make this the QoQ Fire & Wine night way, remove about 70% of the bacon once it’s cooked and set aside in a bowl with a paper towel to soak up grease. Then remove most of the bacon grease from the pan and add your onion, carrots and minced garlic and saute for five minutes.

Ok, now it’s been at least 35 minutes. Add the potatoes, broth, salt, pepper and bay leaf and bring everything to a boil. This took about 8 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. At some point while this is simmering, you’ll pull the garlic out and set it aside to cool. [I think I simmered for a little longer than 20 minutes, because we were outside on the porch talking for a while and I jumped up at one point and said, gotta go blend!]

Take the roasted garlic out of the foil and start squeezing it into your blender (which thanks to DD Girl, who brought hers, I actually had one for this!)

Fair warning: this might really gross you out because it looks like popping a giant zit. And the warm garlic goo comes out looking a bit grody. Just remember, it’s still garlic and you still love it even if it’s having a bad-looking day.

Take two cups of the potato mixture out of the pot and add it to the garlic goo in the blender. Then blend it and add it back into the soup.

Mmmmm creamy. Pour in the milk, add parsley and stir it up.

I served this with sourdough bread. I meant to have butter on hand for the bread but I guess I didn’t need it because we all just started dipping our bread into the soup. Fire & Wine night really isn’t a classy affair.

Now, I usually don’t talk about the wine we have at Fire & Wine night because it’s usually nothing special. We’re all on a budget these days and rarely do we splurge on good wine for Fire & Wine night. We know that whatever it is, it’s going to be consumed in mass quantities, anyhow.

But on Monday when I was out browsing, I found this bottle of wine that just seemed to say Fire & Wine night:

[Image from K&L Wine Merchants.]

Bitch

Bitch wine. Awesome.

Cute gimicky name, right?

But it’s actually a really nice Grenache from South Africa made by R Wines. It had an almost blackberry finish  and went surprisingly well with the creamy garlic soup.

I expect both the wine and the soup will become regular fixtures in my kitchen. (Which still kind of smells like garlic.)

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Staples

I used to think cooking cost more than some out-to-dinner meals.  And when I first started cooking regularly, it did.

And that sucked.

But as my cooking became more habitual, my ongoing supply of staples began to pay off.  Soon, recipes became less and less costly as I already had flour, chicken broth, onions, garlic, parmesan, pasta, brown rice, black beans, crushed tomatoes …. on hand.

I’m still not really good at finding that balance of having fresh veggies stocked up. Although, you’ll rarely find me with out a few mushrooms lying around. (This being one of those times, as I recently had to toss a sad baggyof them…)

I’m really curious to hear from foodies what items of food they absolutely must have at all times. What foods do you feel naked without in your pantry?

Last night, DD Girl came by for an impromptu girls’ night. She recently dropped out of the fiance’s D&D group to free up some of her weeknight time. I found it slightly comical that despite her decision, she landed right back at our house, where the boys were about to start their weekly game.

Before the boys arrived, I was rummaging through my pantry to find something to whip up. I had kind of planned on re-heating the amazing Smoky Chiopotle Chicken Tortilla soup I made on Monday night, but DD Girl does not do spicy so I just threw that baby in the freezer for a later day.

“Well, I got starch, starch and more starch.” I told DD Girl.

Lots of pastas, sauces and breads, but very little protein or veggies. Secretly I was angsting over my lack of black beans. I never let my black bean supply dwindle!

Black beans are my super secret single food. You know, that food item you like to make and devour in mass quantities when no one is looking…I simmer them with onions, cumin and crushed red pepper and then douse them with cheese and sour cream. Sometimes I skip a spoon and use tortilla chips to scoop them into my mouth.

Wow, I just shared that. Moving on.

I opened up my freezer and found a bag of frozen spinach.

hmmmm….

Onion, garlic, olive oil, white wine,  risotto,  chicken broth spinach and parm…sounded like the makings of a delicious dinner to me.

A Queen of Quirky staple special.

I’m so glad I have conquered my risotto-phobia. Because it’s really easy. And so tasty. It’s amazing how creamy risotto gets even before you add any cheese. Should I ever develop a dairy allergy, I’m going to drown in risotto.

After we gobbled our spinach risotto down, we moved upstairs so the boys could play downstairs. It was so silly to be sitting on my bed, watching TV with a friend. It felt like high school or an elementary school slumber party. (Sans wine.)

It didn’t seem right to leave Gertie on the floor. So up she went.

And she made herself quite at home.

And I might have had a mini twit pic frenzy. 

Just a little over the top.

I stopped there because the doorbell rang (and Gertie had to go check it out.) We were  joined by Roomie who just stopped by to fill us in on her sister’s wedding (Ok, she also brought me her share of the rent check, but I like to think she would have come by anyway to see me.)

 So there we were, all four of us on the bed, (Gertie eventually jumped ship. It got a little crowded.) wine and great conversation.

Later, after everyone left, I thought to myself, it’s really nice to have staples in my life.

But I really need to get some more black beans.

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F &W: Goat Cheese & Spinach Pizza on Whole Wheat Crust

IMG_1033Sometimes a mistake turns out to be a really, really good thing.

In this case: goat cheese.

When I was considering what to fix for Fire & Wine night (because. ahem. I still haven’t had any suggestions from you people yet.) I was trying to stay on the lighter side of things.

After all, some of us have Halloween costumes to squeeze into in a few weeks.

So, I found this recipe for Spinach & Ricotta pizza on Cooking Light’ssite. Later that night, I sent a text to DD Girl and Roomie, but I SWEAR I thought the recipe was for Spinach & Goat Cheese pizza. So that’s what I wrote in my text, only to realize my mistake the next day.

It was too late.

Once you put goat cheese out there, you can’t take it back.

You have to deliver the goods.

So after reading the recipe, I decided goat cheese might add more fat and calories, but it would make it very tasty. Besides, I had more pressing issues at hand….

A bit of a  rising problem.

Pizza crust.

Remember the whole baking ban?

It seems I have unleashed a wild side because now we are two for two on doughy baked creations.

I began perusing the Web for pizza crust recipes.

Easy. No fail recipes.

With the help of my twitter friends I decided that pizza crust could in fact be made without the help of a mixer. No heavy machinery, folks.

So I took a recipe for quick and easy pizza crust and switched out half of the all purpose flour for whole wheat flour ala Two Peas and their Pod’s Whole Wheat Veggie Pizza. I also used the quick yeast.

In case you are confused with all this mixing and meshing, the recipe was:

1 packet of quick rising yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup warm water

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/4 cups of whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

I added the yeast to the warm water with the sugar and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then I added the rest of the ingredients and stirred really hard until it made dough. I mixed it a little more to make sure it was all smooth. Then, I let it sit for 10 minutes.

I pulled the dough out of the bowl and added a little flour to it and on the parchment paper. I rolled it out into a sort-of -round -and -even 12-inch pie. I slapped it on my cheap Wal-Mart pizza pan and fixed a few holes, trying to make it as even as possible. (DD Girl held the pan steady. Gotta give credit where it’s due.)

IMG_1023Then I brushed it with olive oil and smothered it with  1/4 cup (maybe a tad bit more than that) of this New York-Style Pizza Sauce (which I only changed to add a teaspoon more sugar after I tasted it and thought it needed it. Perfection.)

I sprinkled fresh spinach on top of the sauce, topped the spinach with some light mozzarella cheese and parm.

Now it was time for the good stuff.

I sliced little slivers of the goat cheese and strategically placed them on the pizza. (there are no pictures of this step  because we were very busy making it perfect and um. eating little bits of the cheese in the process.)

Then, I topped it with some fresh sliced tomatoes and a little more parm.

I baked the entire thing (actually, I should confess that there were two pizzas going on at once. I mean, who are we kidding? Four of us sharing one 12-inch pizza with goat cheese? No way. Reality check, folks.) at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

It’s hard to say exactly how long because I reset the timer for “two more minutes” a few times. I kept whimpering that the crust might be too doughy until DD Girl threw an intervention on me and said, it’s going to be fine. Take them out now.

IMG_1034She was right.

See, here is DD Girl and the fiance chowing down on the pizza with Gertie hoping to catch a few nibbles.

You can’t see Roomie, but she was there too.

I served the pizza with tomato and mozzarella salad with that fresh basil I had for the pizza sauce. You know the drill – drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar with fresh cracked salt and pepper.

So easy.IMG_1029

Not at all like pizza crust.

Which takes measuring and waiting and all the things I’m so bad at.

But hey, that’s the point of Fire & Wine night. Try something new.

Push my limits.

And hold my breath and hope it turns out.

With a little encouragement from my friends.

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F&W Night: Comfort food Italian Style

There was a lovely chill in the air last night which was great because it totally justified my rustic Italian comfort food menu for Fire & Wine night.

As always, it was a chance for me to push myself to try something new – in this case, something baked. (gasp!)  I’ve said it before (#52 in things about me) I don’t bake. I think most of that stems from the fact that baking requires you to actually measure, oh and it’s usually sweet stuff, right?

Well, I absolutely couldn’t resist this savory  Crisp Rosemary Flatbread as posted by uber food blogger, Smitten Kitchen who got the recipe out of an issue of Gourmet. It looked just good enough to lift my baking ban and go for it. I’m so glad I did. They were wonderful. I actually made two batches – I left a little bit of salt out on the second batch. (Also, I managed to get flour all over my cute black button-up shirt, yet another reason why baking is so not me.)

IMG_0954I served the bread with baby arugula dressed with a simple mix of olive oil and juice from 1.5 lemons (next time, I’d just use one.) And of course, salt and pepper. (No pepper for DD Girl. She’s strange and doesn’t like it. While it pains me, I keep pepper out of her food.)

The pasta carbonara was from Giada’s Everyday Pasta. It was pretty simple:

 6 ounces of pancetta

2 ounces of bacon

1/4 tsp of cinnamon

18 ounces of fresh linguine

2 cups of cream

1.5 cups of parm

6 egg yolks

salt and pepper

I just chopped all the meat and put it in a pan and let it cook until crispy. Then I added the cinnamon(ok, I told DD girl to do that b/c I was fussing with my lemon dressing.) Then I whisked together the cream, eggs and parm. Only, I didn’t have enough cream (just a little more than a cup), so I added some pasta water to it and it seemed to work fine and poured all of that in the same pan as the bacon. Once the fresh linguine was finished (so fast!  3 minutes.), I tossed it into the sauce.

IMG_0955Voilà!

 Giada said to top it with chives, but I didn’t have any, so I used fresh basil. 

Also, the cinnamon added a whole new complexity to this dish. I highly recommend it. DD Girl and Roomie both really enjoyed it. The fiance (who amused me by sitting by himself in the dining room while the three of us girls sat on the couch) liked it too, but not so much the overly lemoned arugula salad.

C‘est la vie.

Wait. Why am I accesorizing this post with French? It was an Italian meal.  Oh crap.

Saluto!

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No title

This post has no title. Why? Because I still do not have a car title.

You may remember my fiasco from last year. Well part of the red tape I spoke of was  trying to get a North Carolina title transferred to a KS title and somehow the KS DMV lost my North Carolina title. I discovered this yesterday when I went to the DMV to get a copy of my title so I could take it over to Missouri to register my car.

I did try to stay calm and collected because I had learned my lesson before. But the following slipped out of my mouth:

“You may think I’m a crazy woman. And I am a crazy woman. But it’s really only because the DMV turns me into a crazy woman.”

They are investigating it today.

tums

Which means I’m only slightly stressed out.

<crunch, crunch, crunch.>

In the meanwhile, I recieved the agenda for Blogher Food in San Fransisco next weekend and I’m beyond excited. 

The problem is, I don’t have enough time to read all these great food bloggers who will be speaking.

I would read some tonight, but I’m going to be too busy trying to cook this recipe tonight for Fire & Wine night with Roomie and DD Girl, using the fiance’s George Foreman grill. 

Ha! Won’t that be a trip.

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Together but still his & hers (a little)

In our house, we kind of have a bit of a his and hers theme going on. I mean, the whole house is ours but when it came to setting up furniture, hanging pictures etc… you can tell who’s is who’s.

Take the sitting room. This is the first room you walk into from the front door. It has my old couches, my wardrobe, a leather ottoman that doubles as a coffee table (or bed for certain people who pass out at birthday parties. Cough. Chris. Cough.) It also has the fiance’s coat rack and one of those tables you put by your door for your keys and mail and stuff.  I hung my French liquor label posters to brighten up the room, since my couches are moss-green. This is clearly a room designed to catch up with girlfriends over wine.

Or as the fiance says, the room where you put people you don’t want to stay very long. Of course, he mentioned that when Roomie and I were visiting in the sitting room upon her first visit to our new home. She took it in stride. She knows I’m not trying to get rid of her. Ok, well I did move out, but still…

Move into the next room and you’ll see the fiance’s T.V., brightly colored rug, rock band instruments and all the stuff you can turn on with a remote control – a special remote control that turns everything on at once.  Clearly a room designed for entertainment.  And also a room I had to have special training to operate. (No, I’m not even kidding.)

Upstairs we have my bedroom furniture and old hope chest set up as the guest room. I threw a homemade quilt on the bed. It’s the kind of room that says, welcome. Take your shoes off. Get comfortable. Until you realize that my closet is in the corner and all my clothes are in the drawers of the dresser, so I’m probably going to be barging in on you to get stuff.

 Then, there is our bedroom with modern blonde furniture and pin-up & fantasy art that belonged to the fiance.  Gertie’s bed is on the floor. And she’s not allowed back in our bed until all the fleas are gone and have been gone for at least two weeks. Poor dog.

Finally, there is the office/man cave. I’m kind of allowed in there. Sometimes. There are loads of book shelves. Soon, the action figures will be on display. And no man cave is complete without a beer fridge.

It’s our perfect little Quirkyville.

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Cheating

Things are crazy around here, but I owe you an update from Quirkyville.

We moved! It was a nuts-o weekend, but ultimately, I love our house. Yes, OUR house. Gertie’s, the fiance’s and mine (possibly in that order.) This is totally cheating, because the rest of this post is from an e-mail update I sent the Lunch Bunch yesterday, but who has time to blog these days? Apparently not me.

Here are some promises I can break keep: Coming soon — QoQ has makes her Scottish debut, updates on the wedding at quirkywedding.wordpress.com, the fiance turns 30 and we celebrate, wine & fire night returns and I know exactly where the fire extinguisher is and the battle continues – QoQ v. the fleas. Who will win? It better be me, darn it! (Read on to get the back story.)

Here is how the move went down:

Friday – took off work (because I was out of town all week, and not nearly packed.) But still had to participate in a conference call at 9 a.m. At 10 a.m. Roomie and I went to have a last coffee together as roomies down on then Plaza. We were walking back and waiting at a crosswalk when BAM!

 A car slammed on it’s breaks for us, only to get rear ended. Erg. I stuck around to report as a witness, but after 45 minutes, the cops weren’t even there yet, so I left my number and walked back home. At 11:30 a.m., I loaded up my car to take a trip over to the house. Dropped off tons of stuff and then stopped at QT to get gas and pick up some much needed paper towels. Tried to start my car and nada.

It was dead.

Spent two hours having anxiety attack on the phone with A, calling auto shop and arranging the tow. Took a minute to report to the Lunch Bunch my situation. Received call at 4:30 p.m., it was my starter and could be fixed to the tune of $449. (including tow) Drank that night.

 Saturday – Up early, waiting for someone to come get me to start taking stuff.  Managed a freaked out dog in spare time.  Back and forth to apartment several times before A and  the fabulous crew came with U-Haul to load me up. Carried many heavy things down two flights of stairs. Carried more heavy things up into the house.

Snarfed down a few slices of Papa John’s pizza and it was the best thing I had ever tasted. Drank a few beers.

Watched guys try to assemble our beds. Unpacked kitchen. Drank a few more beers. Moved boxes around. Stood and looked at the mess for a while. Drank a few more beers.

Ordered Chinese food. Ate like it was the best thing ever. Looked at blank T.V. because we had no cable. Fell into bed by 10 p.m.

 Sunday – Woke up at 10 a.m. Wanted coffee but had none. Cuddled with stressed out doggy only to find FLEAS!

Freaked out. Kicked dog off bed.

Called vet and was told to bathe her in Dawn soap and spray house. Sent A  to the store and unpacked closet while I waited. Then decided that a walk wouldn’t hurt, so checked out the new ‘hood. Returned and gave poor stressed doggy a bath in our new Jacuzzi bathtub. She was not happy. Fleas went down the drain. Sprayed all furniture. Washed tub. 

Hit up Jimmy John’s for sammies. Ate them like they were the best thing ever. Unpacked the closet some more and made up guest bed. Drank a few beers. Finished up the kitchen. Drank a few more beers.

A’s parents and brother and wife stopped by. Visited with them. Ate leftover Chinese food and konked out.

The end.

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