Sunday, September 14, 2008

Far far away...

My closest college friend is in D.C. and although it is only 4 hour drive from my current residence, work prevents me from visiting often. The rest of my friends live in Texas, far far away. I find myself missing them more often now that I am away, keeping in touch more and sending more goodies than ever.
I guess its the distance. I can no longer cook or bake for them so I send packages of brownies, cookies, books and other things. They do the same. There is no hesitation from any one of us and often there is no message of the package until it shows up on the doorstep of the receivee. It's better that way; it's a surprise.
With Ike and Gustav hitting places where I have friends currently, I've been constantly making sure everyone is alright by twittering and text messages. I guess its the maternal instinct that I have.
Then again, I made several e-mails and phone calls when Hanna hit last week, so I've been in the same spot. Though some may say they have to worry about me more because sometimes I don't fully think things through before doing something, which is true.
So this morning I decided to put together packages my friends know so well. (My friend's dad patiently waits to see what I send her every month, which means she sometimes only gets one piece.) Since I love chocolate and coffee, I put together an espresso brownie recipe.
It is deliciously soft, chewy and chocolatey the perfect thing for all my girlfriends.

Espresso brownies
(adapted from Everyday Food)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon coffee grinds
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, with rack in center. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan, and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper. Coat paper with butter. Set aside.
In a large heatproof bowl, combine the butter and unsweetened chocolate, and place over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until completely melted. Let cool slightly. Whisk in sugar, espresso powder, vanilla, and eggs.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add to the chocolate mixture, and stir until just combined . Fold in chocolate chips.
Pour into pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out slightly wet, 30 to 35 minutes. Using a damp, warm knife, cut into 16 squares, wiping knife blade after each cut.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Black only.

I never drank coffee as a teenager. I tasted it a few times out of my Dad's cup and always made a sour face, saying, "Bluck!" However, tastes change and you pick up a real job, naturally you pick up coffee, too.
Or like me, you knew it could become an addiction, so tried to avoid the haunting black liquid as long as you could. Really, since trying coffee more than a year ago, I felt an addiction comin' on. Weird I know, but my first sip caused a flutter with my taste buds and a began Saturday ritual of breakfast tacos and iced mochas. Routine seemed innocence enough until friends and I began meeting up at coffee joints at 11 p.m. One latte later and I was up all night. Thus began my relationship with coffee- a reoccurring romance that I avidly denied and avoid. Little did I know that coffee had already won.
Of course being journalist, hours are strange and sleep always is lacking, what becomes once a week eventually turns into 3 times a week into at least one cup a day. This happened to me over a span of a few weeks. I know drink at least one cup a day, depending whether I'm at work or with friends. It is my 3 p.m. jolt during my 10 hour day that lasts often until midnight.
Within this span of about 2 months, I've gone from cream and sugar coffee to black. Now I don't mind the cream and sugar, but I find that I don't need the additions to drink my cup. I don't know why. I like the bitter often woody taste of my coffee. I don't need to sweeten it.
Now I just need to learn to make espresso.

My Black French Press Coffee

1.5-2 Tbsp of coffee
1-2 cups boiled water

Boil the coffee in microwave or like me on the stove because I lack a microwave. Place coffee in press, pour boiling water over. Let water and coffee steep for at least 4 minutes, I let it steep for long anywhere between 5-10. Press the metal press down, pour into cup. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Comfort me with food

I claim mental insanity, when I decided to start studying for the GRE because today my prep book arrived. I immediately started to skim through it and discovered that it seemed just like the SAT, but all the words I once knew failed me. I mean, who actually uses the words-assuage, cacophony, ephemeral- in daily life? I know of no one.
Of course this comes after helping a friend's daughter with a percentage of a percentage problem today, which I couldn't understand. Did going to college make me dumb? Or is it that I haven't had math since high school?
Personally, I'll go with the latter, but all this education talk made me hungry and what better way to easy a hurting head than with food. Plus, it was one of my nights off, so I could cook a decent meal in my kitchen without having a time limit or forgetting to defrost dinner.
I knew I had zucchini, which was on its last leg and googled a recipe. For meat, I felt like chicken. But what I was really feelin' like was biscuits. Nothing is better than a golden fluffy biscuit. O.K. so that statement is a stretch, but I'd prefer a homemade biscuit to Pillsbury any day.
Sure the can is fun to pop open, but making them is just as fun.
(Note: I've been craving fried chicken, but I put it off until I had some guinea pigs to try it out on. Plus, grease still scares me. It is the one hospital visit I do not want to make.)
So I made the biscuits which puffed and became golden brown, zucchini hash and chicken. It was so nice to have a home cooked meal again. I forget sometimes with late night work shifts, how comforting a meal can be.
Now I've promised myself that I would begin preparing meals before I go to work, so on my lunch I can just pop them in the oven. Well, see how long it lasts. Or if it even starts.

Zucchini Hash
(adapted from Cookin' for Real)
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tablespoon butter
1/2 pound zucchini, cubed
1/4 onion, diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large skillet, heat oil and butter over high heat. Add zucchini, squash and onion. Cook until softened and golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.