Sunday, January 31, 2010

BB: Shrimp Bisque


This weeks recipe (slightly late) for the Barefoot Bloggers, was chosen by  Jennifer of The Blessed Home

 I found this to be a pretty challenging (translation: frustrating) recipe only because of my difficulty in  trying to track down seafood stock. I mean, I live in Chicago, I figured it would be one of those items that wouldn't be too terribly hard to find. I am now educated that this is not the case after trying Jewel, Whole Foods and Trader Joes and finding nothing like it. Finally the fishmonger over at Jewel took pity on me and recommend using clam juice as the basis to make the stock. 

My stock consisted of a bottle of clam juice, one 12 oz can of chicken stock and a 12 oz can of vegetable stock. After simmering the shrimp in it for about 20 minutes, I followed the rest of the recipe somewhat closely (amazing for me), except for substituting regular onions for the leeks which I had forgotten to pick up at the store and was too lazy to go out again as I figured it would give me an excuse to say I'd run out of time for making the recipe. That, and subsituting Ancho Chili Powder for Cayenne pepper for the same laziness excuse. 

Apart from finding my food processor would not work after I poured the shrimp mix in and breaking my glass measuring cup when the chaos in the kitchen got to be too much for my counter, the actual cooking process wasn't too bad. Although, this is not the kind of recipe that I would make on a weekday. And I think I would puree the soup after final assembly as I found there to be just a few too many chewy bits for my liking.


  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved
  • 4 cups seafood stock
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (3 leeks)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic (3 cloves)
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup Cognac or brandy
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Place the shrimp shells and seafood stock in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and reserve the stock. Add enough water to make 3 3/4 cups.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the leeks and cook them for 10 minutes over medium-low heat, or until the leeks are tender but not browned. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add the cayenne pepper and shrimp and cook over medium to low heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Cognac and cook for 1 minute, then the sherry and cook for 3 minutes longer. Transfer the shrimp and leeks to a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until coarsely pureed.

In the same pot, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium-low heat for 1 minute, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the half-and-half and cook, stirring with a whisk, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pureed shrimp, the stock, tomato paste, salt, and pepper and heat gently until hot but not boiling. Season, to taste, and serve hot.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mondays with Katie: The Evil Elevator

I do not like being thwarted.

The elevator has been taunting me since I moved to my forever home. People coming. People going. And I'm not there enough to keep an eye on things. Sure, when Mom comes in or goes out, I can make it out into the hallway and patrol things to make sure that there's nothing particularly interesting that I shouldn't be missing. At least until she chases me down the hallway and gets me back into the apartment. But  Mom has been home sick today  there's been no opportunity for me to get out there OR  to practice picking the lock to the front door with my claws so I can give that elevator a piece of my mind..

So since she's congested and resting on the couch watching TV, I offered to write her blog post today. And as I happen to think I am a particularly talented feline, I'm thinking about giving her those great big winkies that turn her into pudding and getting a regular Monday blog spot.

I mean, there are millions of cats out there secretly logging onto their humans computers. Where else are they supposed to go? My regular spot would keep them from using their humans credit cards up at Fosters and Smith buying toys and catnip. 
I'll have to work on her while she's not feeling well. I mean, if she agrees while she's sleeping, that still counts. Right?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

CI: Shrimp with Tomatoes and Chili Pepper

Finally, at last, things have settled down a bit in life and I can start getting more involved with some of my favorite baking blogs. Today's recipe is from my fellow Cooking Italy bloggers who are cooking their way through Marcella Hazan's book "Essentials of  Classic Italian Cooking." 

Marcella Hazan has some seriously amazing recipes out there. This one I thought I would like more than I did. I love shrimp. And I've not been done wrong with the sauces I've made before from her book. I just wasn't too thrilled with the combination of the two in this case. Although I seriously loved the sauce and ate half a loaf of mozarella garlic bread with it. Seriously yummy.

Of course, I cheated a little bit as I usually do with a lot of recipes. Instead of using Red Hot Chili Pepper, I went instead with Ancho Chili Powder which was milder but still gave it a nicely zesty kick. And having tolerated this fairly well, I'm thinking that some year, I might be able to gradually move my way up the chili path to something spicier. Also, I went with cooked shrimp from the fishmonger at Jewel instead of trying to devein and peel the shrimp.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp chopped onion
2 tsp chopped garlic
Red Hot Chili Pepper to taste
3 tbsp chopped parsley
1 2/3 cups canned plum tomatoes, cut up with juice
1 1/2 to 2 lbs unshelled medium shrimp
Mozarella Garlic Bread (or any other crusty oven browned bread)

Cook onion in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and chili pepper. When garlic becomes golden, add parsley and tomatoes. Stir thoroughly and cook for approx 20 minutes or until  oil separates from tomatoes. Stir in prepared shrimp and let cook for 2-3 minutes or until coated. Serve with crusty bread to dip in sauce. Serves 4-6. 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Introducing Katie - My First Feline Daughter

I'd like everyone to meet my new feline daughter, Katie.

She came into my life sooner than I had expected and planned. After Mr. Data crossed over to the Rainbow bridge last month and I was without a kitty for the first time in 21 years, I missed him so dearly that whenever I thought of bringing home a new cat, it was always no -  because what I wanted was Mr. Data.

But I had found a pet loss grief support group over at Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago when I was making a donation in Mr. Data's name so I signed up for that. And when I walked by the window on the day of the support group, I noticed a cat staring at me. So I stopped and we just stared at each other for quite some time. As anybody who has a cat knows, cats usually do not do this. Either they get irritated or bored and look away. But this one did not. And after that I found myself walking by ACS every morning and every morning this same cat would stare at me.

It was only a matter of time before I went in to meet her, was smitten with her and bought her home.

I should explain that with all of my fur kids, they were all known for one thing.  Hobbes was fascinated by the bedroom closet mirror when he first moved in and would run from the bedroom to the kitchen trying to find the cat  in the mirror (the other two weren't fazed at all). Brandy would always hang around the front door, waiting for it to open, and then tear off down the hallway with his tail held high, meowing happily all the way (the other two usually watched or just peeked their heads around the door). And Mr. Data loved to sleep on the side of the loveseat and always always took the long way around by going under the computer desk, behind the couch and out on the other side (again, uniquely him).

Katie's first 48 hours included being fascinated by the bedroom mirror and trying to find the cat, tearing off down the hallway with her tail held high meowing happily all the way, and sleeping on the side of the loveseat and taking the long way around.

With an endorsement like that from all my boys, I have a feeling life is going to be an lovely adventure with Katie.

Monday, January 18, 2010

BB: Indonesian Ginger Chicken Recipe

This month's recipe for the Barefoot Bloggers was Indonesian Ginger Chicken  picked by Todd of A Cooking Dad.

Now I was pretty happy with the recipe from the get go as I have got to love one of Ina's recipes that only has 5 ingredients and that's including the chicken. Honey, soy sauce, grated ginger, garlic and chicken. Sounds simple. And for the most part it was except for the part of peeling and grating the fresh ginger which smelled wonderful but was annoying to peel for me. But then again, I didn't have a peeler and was therefore peeling with one of my graters which contributed to the whole mess. By the end of trying to grate half a cup of ginger (if there's another time with this recipe, I'm picking up ginger chunks at Penzys) I had given up on grating the ginger and finished it off by dicing it into pieces and throwing it into the pot.

I also went with boneless chicken breasts as I already had that in the freezer so assembly was fairly easy.However, I had to guess a bit at cooking times as the recipe called for quartered boned chicken. So I went with 50 minutes which was just a few minutes too much for the was still moist but not as juicy as if I had shaved probably 5 minutes off the total.

Some of the other BB Bloggers had reported that they found the recipe too sweet. I did not see it that way, but then I took some liberties with measuring. I didn't have garlic cloves so I went with some minced garlic and tossed in what I thought was right. So between the grated ginger/ginger chunks and garlic, I found this to be just right for me with a little hint of ginger and saltiness from the soy sauce.

Considering how nice it turned out visually, I think I would make this for dinner again with guests and leave it pretty much as is..or as it turned out with my generous measuring estimates.


  • 1 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic (8 to 12 cloves)
  • 1/2 cup peeled and grated fresh ginger root
  • 2 (3 1/2 pound) chickens, quartered, with backs removed


Cook the honey, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger root in a small saucepan over low heat until the honey is melted. Arrange the chicken in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan, skin side down, and pour on the sauce. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the pan, turn the chicken skin side up, and raise the temperature to 375 degrees F. Continue baking for 30 minutes or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh and the sauce is a rich, dark brown.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

MSC: Coconut Cupcakes (Just a Wee Bit Late)

This month's selection over at MSC (Martha Stewart Cupcakes Club) was Coconut Cupcakes which can be found on page 29 of Martha's delectable but dangerous (for the waistline) Cupcakes Book.

And I'm late. But these cupcakes are so worth the wait. I knew I was in for a good time when I was humming and yumming over tasting the batter. It was a good sign of good things to come, despite deciding at the last minute to go with mini cupcakes which I did not have liners for so I was lucky to get two good ones out of the pan.

That said, even a pan full semi ruined mini cupcakes is still a very good thing. This was a very moist cake and since I am a fan of coconut this was a little bit of culinary joy for me. I thought the cake was perfect on it's own. To me, a regular frosting, would have been too much. And I was slightly intimidated by making the cooked 7 minute  frosting which was helped by not having a candy thermometer. So I did a little baking cheating and took some powdered sugar, coconut milk and a splash of rum which I poured over the cupcakes before sprinkling them with grated coconut.

I would definitely make this again. Except with liners the next time so as to not waste a  single cupcake.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The 45 Life Lessons I Need to Know

I found this over at someones blog and have to share it...

Regina Brett, 50 years old, from the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio wrote 45 lessons life taught her. It was her most requested column ever written. I can see why!

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will.. Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.
8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck…
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.
12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.
18. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood, but the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’tsave it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words ‘In five years, will
this matter?’
27. Always choose life…
28. Forgive everyone for everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change..
32. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you
did or didn’t do.
35. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative — dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our  problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come.
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield.
45. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.

Monday, January 4, 2010

I Love a Quest

  In between trying to catch up on a project for work, I was flipping through blog posts and came across one by"The Novice Chef" . Now I love photography. And you know I love cats. So when I saw the word camera and a picture of a kitty I had to go check it out. And having read it, I confess, I'm inspired to try the same project she is . Which is really to capture one day of our life for an entire year.

And it's a fantastic concept for me during this time. Because it's going to challenge me. It will keep me active and help me to stay in the present Plus  it should teach me some discipline as I have a tendency to lose interest in my projects after a few months typically. It's called Project 365 (or in my case since I'm starting late, maybe project 362?).

So please feel free to check out my new blog, Capturing My Corner of the World, and let me know what you think.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Butterscotch Gingerbread Cookies

Sometime in December, before Christmas, I'd come across a wonderful recipe for Gingerbread Butterscotch cookies on someone's blog. Unfortunately, I could not find it again. Which is a shame because their cookies looked awesome. Fortunately, Google saved the day as I came across this recipe over at Nestle's Very Best Baking Site.

I go totally gonzo for anything butterscotch. And I have a peculiar fondness for gingerbread despite the fact that the smell of molasses makes me feel ill. There's just something funky about the smell and texture of it. But when I'd seen the original recipe in December I still actually thought it was an interesting combination. Sometimes, when a particular thought takes root in your brain, you know you have to try it even if it turns out to be revolting.

This turned out to be soooo good. Seriously. You have to try it. First bite is sweet. Then about a few chews into the mouthful, the spiciness kicks in. The two flavors definitely balance each other out. Only shame was that I did not have any milk in the house to go with the cookies and considering it's about 4 degrees out there with the windchill and I'm in the mood to whine about the weather I wasn't about to go walk up to the grocery store.

I found the  dough to be very thick when I mixed it so for once, I did not dump the morsels in the mixer anyway and stirred them instead by hand. And despite the recommendations to let the cookies cool for 15, I started chowing down on them about halfway to that and they were perfectly fine. It's a pretty simple, easy to assemble yummy recipe, with only a few dishes to wash afterwards and to me that is the sign of a perfect recipe.

Butterscotch Gingerbread Cookies

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/3 cup mild molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 2/3 cups/11 oz pkg Butterscotch Morsels

PREHEAT oven to 350° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt in small bowl.

BEAT sugar, butter, molasses and egg in large mixer bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in flour mixture until well blended. Stir in morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Baby Steps

I never thought I would say this, but I am almost glad to be going back to work on Monday.

Things are starting to get a little better at home after having to say goodbye to Mr. Data on Christmas Day. But it was a very long week without him at home this week. I should explain that  I'm the kind of person that looks at a pet as being a much loved part of the family. It's a way of life that's been passed down for a few generations.  Back when I was younger, the pets used to "give" and "get" Christmas gifts of their own under the tree.And I know of a few people, friends and family (myself included), who decorate their houses based on what's comfortable for the cats.So, life without a cat in the house just doesn't seem natural at all.

I think it's hardest to get used to the quiet whenever I walk into the kitchen, There's no Mr. Data following me into the kitchen, convinced I'm finally finally going to give him that something yummy that I had given him years before that he's been waiting for to repeat ever since. I don't wake up hours early to a kitty batting me around the head with his paws and my carpet is really really clean for the first time in a long time.

I'd trade sleepless nights and a yodeling kitty who left surprises around the house in a heartbeat for what I have now though. Still, there's a part of me that feels he will always be a part of my heart, so in a way, I will always have him with me. And in the past week I've found two good pet loss support groups to help with this transition that I think will do me some good.

I've started to miss the kitchen a little bit (this past week everything has been junk food or takeout) so I'm hoping to get into the kitchen and make some cookies tomorrow. Hopefully I should be able to post some yummy pictures soon. 

Thank you to everyone who left their very kind messages of condolence or kept us in your thoughts and prayers. Your thoughtful words really did mean a lot. I have really been blessed with the people who have been a part of my life online this year.