Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Shrove Tuesday

Prior to today, I had never heard of Shrove Tuesday. According to the ever-popular Wikipedia, "The festival is widely associated with the eating of foods such as pancakes and often known simply as Pancake Day, originally because these used up ingredients such as fat and eggs, the consumption of which was traditionally restricted during Lent."

My original plan to honor this "new to me" holiday was going to be to take advantage of the free short stack IHOP (the International House of Pancakes, of course) was offering up at all of their locations. There's one a few miles from my house, and while I didn't know exactly where it was, I thought free pancakes was reason enough to find it. But I got an opportunity to play squash tonight, so that went by the wayside.

I thought about it and wanted to stick to my plan of having pancakes for Shrove Tuesday (any excuse to have pancakes for dinner). I then remembered seeing a box of buckwheat pancake mix in my pantry. It came to me. I was going to have dark chocolate chip buckwheat pancakes. I still had chips left over from making my chocolate sauce for Valentine's strawberries. I knew that was going to be tasty. And then another epiphany. Craisins.

So in celebration of Shrove Tuesday, I made and ate a small batch of dark chocolate chip craisins buckwheat pancakes. YUM.

Food Stories

Recently, I was alerted to a writing contest here in Austin. It's run by the Writers' League of Texas and it's their 2009 Manuscript Contest. The skinny is that you submit a one-page synopsis and the first 10 pages of your manuscript. There are a variety of subjects that are judged separately, and the prize is a meeting with an agent/editor.

I've decided I'm going to try to submit. I say "try to" because I honestly don't know if I can get the first 10 pages written and edited up to the standards I'd like by March 6th. Basically, I need to get the whole thing written by this weekend to allow my family and friends time to read it, give feedback, tweak it, etc. And, it only costs $50, but right now, that's a nice chunk of money. So, the plan is to work hard this week to write as much as possible, and if I make it in time, I'll pay the $50 and submit it.

What is the "it" you might ask....IT is my cookbook. It falls under their "Narrative Nonfiction" category, so Lord only knows what other types of books I'd be going up against. But the distinguishing feature of this cookbook is the funny, poignant, universal stories that go along with the recipes. Yes, the food is great, but the stories are even better (and are sometimes accompanied by hilarious photos).

Just as a teaser, some of the story titles are:

  • Conflagration Popovers
  • Mistake Meatballs
  • Brooklyn BBQ Sauce
  • Statler Salad

Understandably, for the contest, I'm not putting the recipes or the pictures in the manuscript. My contact at the WLT suggested that I might want to focus my 10-page real estate on the actual stories, b/c it's not like they're going to test the recipes anyway. I guess if I have a really funny way to describe an ingredient or something, I might leave that recipe in there, but that's still up in the air.

So....cross your fingers, send me good writing vibes and thoughts of efficiency. And if you'd like to be one of the people to help me edit the 10 pages, definitely let me know....I can use as many opinions as possible.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My Valentine's Party

I'm still eating leftovers from my Valentine's Night Party.

This year, since Valentine's fell on a Saturday (and since a few of my friends were bummed they didn't have dates for the evening), I figured I'd have some of my single girlfriends over and we'd just have a good time on our own. Truth be told, even when I'm in a relationship with someone, this holiday doesn't excite me so much. It just seems a bit silly, but I'll take any excuse to cook for some willing guinea pigs, so I invited them over.

I did what I do when I have people over for food....I made WAY too much. I had two kinds of dip (a salmon dill dip and a spicy spinach dip), two baguettes and four kinds of veggies to do the dipping (snap peas, broccoli, celery, and carrots), spicy cheese straws, lemon cake with blackberry sauce, and strawberries dipped in chocolate. (I think I'm forgetting something too.)

The salmon dip didn't go over so well, but I think that was for two distinct reasons. The first is that I didn't really tell anyone what it was b/c I was so busy welcoming people into the house that I never really went oer what I had laid out for them. The second, I believe, is because even if they had known, the concept of lox isn't one that is too familiar (or appealing) to them. I love lox. Every time I go home to Brooklyn, I MUST have a toasted pumpernickle bagel with tofu scallion spread (oddly creamier than cream cheese, go figure) and lox. Lots of it. Pile it on. In fact, while making my dip, I took out a piece of lox, put it in the cuisinart. The next piece of lox went in my mouth. And so on. There was a point there where I was concerned there might not be enough lox in the actual dip. But as it turned out, I got all of the leftovers, and man they were good!

The spinach dip was a raving success. But the problem is, I can't recreate it. For me, so much of cooking is experimentation. But I was never much of a scientist....I don't keep track of my amounts. I now cannot properly recreate the spinach dip! I made it again for a work potluck this week, but it just didn't have the personality that it did the first time I made it. Part of that might have been that I only had cooked garlic in there when the original had both cooked and raw garlic. As I told some people at work, it didn't matter if the Valentine's night dip was super pungent b/c we were all going home alone to our cats. :-) But the dip also had red pepper flakes....maybe I didn't put enough of them for the redo? Either way, I've realized that my first estimations were a bit off, so this will take a bit of tweaking, but when I rediscover the magic that was the spinach dip, it will be called "Single Girl Spinach Dip."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'm published! Ok...not really...

Today, Mark Bittman had a column in the NY Times about "non-traditional" breakfast foods. He made mention of Migas, but they were a completely different from the Migas I know in Austin. So I posted a reply. I realize that a blog comment on nytimes.com is not even remotely in the same sphere as actually being published in the Times, but hey, we all have to start somewhere, don't we? :-)

The article link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/18/dining/18mini.html?_r=1&ref=dining

The blog link: http://bitten.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/18/what-i-had-for-breakfast-this-morning/#comments

My comment:

I was confused by your definition of Migas. That’s not how we define them here in Texas. In Austin, “Migas” essentially means (and I’m oversimplifying) a western scramble with pieces of tortillas mixed in. They’re one of the best breakfast options around aside from maybe the breakfast burritos you get from the little holes in the wall where no one speaks English. (I realize they’re egg based and not really on point with the theme of your article, but all the same, they’re mighty tasty.)
In any event, I have since looked up the Migas you referenced and found they are typically prepared that way in Spain. Thank you very much for continuing to pique my interest in food through your blog entries, recipes, and articles. Keep it up.
— Liz Craft

A new goal...food and fundraising.

In an effort to raise money for the not-for-profit At the Crossroads, I have joined their "I Think I Can" set of campaigns. Set of campaigns, you might say...yes. Each individual creates their own goal with the fundraising efforts all going to benefit At the Crossroads. What is At the Crossroads? It is a not-for-profit serving homeless youth in San Francisco that was started by a childhood friend of mine, Rob Gitin. These fundraising efforts raise money for blankets, food, hygiene items, etc. for those kids. They can be as silly as you want (Rob's campaign is to convince comedienne Sarah Silverman to go on a date with him) or as serious as you want (losing weight, quitting smoking, spending time with your family without the cell phone, etc.). You can learn more about At the Crossroads at http://www.atthecrossroads.org/.

As for my fundraising goal, well, it's to post on this blog at least three times a week for the next 8 weeks. With a bonus post, I'm committing to 25 posts before April 13th. It's going to be tight, and if you look at my last post, I've made promises before. But this time it's not all about me. So keep your fingers crossed for me, read my blog, and donate to the cause: http://atthecrossroads.org/campaign/lizcraft.

With that, I'm off to have a glass of wine and draft my next post. One down. Phew!