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Archive for the ‘Splurge’ Category

 

Crispy, peppery, and deliciously salty homemade potato chips

Crispy, peppery, and deliciously salty homemade potato chips

 

I am not one of those people that is capable of restraining themselves in all areas of their life at once. I never could, and wouldn’t expect myself to, pinch my pennies, watch what I eat, hit the gym every day, log in extra hours at the office, and be kind to strangers, all at the same time. It simply can not happen.

 

With the recession in full-swing, and having imposed a temporary ban on shopping at Barney’s, I feel fully justified… nee, compelled to assuage my spirit with a little culinary over-indulgence.

 

Potato chips are one of my greatest weaknesses. I may wax poetic about farm-fresh eggs, local butchers, and in-season produce, but put a bag of Doritos or Lays in front of me, and all of that Organivore/Localvore dogma goes right out the window, and I get downright gluttonous.

 

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It's ironic.... this may be the worst picture I've taken, yet it's of one of the most delicious desserts.

It's ironic.... this may be the worst picture I've taken, yet it's of one of the most delicious desserts.

 

Each culture has its ‘thing’ that it does far better than the rest. Jews? We save money better than most. The Swiss? Nobody dots their i’s and crosses their t’s like the fastidious Swiss. The French? They have an uncanny knack for self-preservation when it comes to international conflicts. The Italians? Nobody does simple, rustic food as spectacularly as the Italians.

 

While I would most likely tip my hat to the French for overall cuisine, Italian food wins the award for turning a handful of plain, every day ingredients into something drool-worthy. The culture that brought us thin-crust pizza, Linguine alla Carbonara & Cannolis must be applauded for its prowess in turning the simple into something sublime.

 

While Italy has many popular culinary claims to fame, one of my favorite Italian dishes is the little-known Affogato.

 

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Real, REAL Whipped Cream

 

Whipped cream makes your everyday coffee or cocoa after dinner special.

Whipped cream makes your everyday coffee or cocoa a special treat.

 

 

There is a relatively new commercial airing from Reddi Whip in which a diner customer is given the option between whipped cream made with hydrogenated oils or real cream. Guffawing, she, not surprisingly opts for the whipped cream made with real cream. This may not seem like satire to anyone else, but I find it darkly comedic that a pre-packaged confection, sprayed from a can with the use of nitrous oxide is being promoted as more “real” or “like homemade”.

 

It irks me to no end, the measures that the processed food industry has taken to convince us that desserts are not worth the time and effort to be made from scratch, which is, to put it mildly, a complete farce. The only thing even more bothersome than the deception is the success that they’ve had in convincing us that baking from scratch is laborious and antiquated, when in reality, it is anything but.

 

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I am an unabashed cheese-lover. It makes me happy in a way that few inanimate objects can. The moment that I feel the creamy texture on my tongue and the penetrating flavors swirl in my mouth, I am transported; my worries wash away, I feel pampered, sated, and, of course, besotted. I really love cheese.

 

So when I saw a sign in my neighborhood Whole Foods market that they had lowered cheese prices, I nearly fell over in ecstasy; while I couldn’t care less about the affects on my bikini-body, at $25/pound and a notoriously short shelf-life, indulging has to be well-planned.

 

I am a huge proponent of incorporating a cheese plate into a dinner menu. It fits perfectly into the “Buy, Arrange, Cook Trinity” and is generally a crowd pleaser. But now, thanks to lower fuel and commodity prices, as well as the dollar’s more favorable position against the euro, cheese lovers can guiltlessly spring for the more majestic cheeses.

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These are marvelously lush and exceedingly easy to prepare individual cakes

These are marvelously lush and exceedingly easy to prepare individual cakes

 

Every once in awhile, you come upon a recipe so perfect, so simply and consistently outstanding, that it is virtually un-tweakable.

 

This recipe from Nigella Lawson’s acclaimed How to Be a Domestic Goddess is just such a recipe; I’ve made it countless times to stunning effect. The only reason I would have tweaked it would be for my own ego’s satisfaction and not because it would have improved it, which is why it comes to you essentially unaltered.

 

These little cakes are simple to make and splendid to present. The dense cake cracks open to reveal a cascade of luscious, oozing melted chocolate. Don’t worry, they are fully baked – the recipe calls for a heavier egg and fat to flour ratio than your typical cake, which keeps the center pudding-like, despite adequate time in the oven.

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Smitten Cocktail on White

 

The first time I sampled the unparalleled combination of orange & chocolate was on a date with my hot, HOT high school boyfriend at a new cafe in town, Starbucks. The first sip of my Valencia Mocha had me spellbound, and the combination of its heavenly taste and staring across a white and green cup into those smokey, eighteen-year-old eyes has left me weak in the knees at that particular flavor fusion ever since.

 

For a Valentine’s Day libation, I wanted something dark, smooth, glassy, and sensuous which meant no confection-colored, creamy concoctions. This is an adult drink meant for two to savor, not twelve to toast.

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Valentine's Day Dinner... There's nothing like a rare tenderloin to spark the flames of romance.

 

Recessions seems to come at the most inconvenient times, don’t they?

 

While we all feign contempt for this, the most unapologetically commercial of holidays, there is no ignoring Valentine’s Day… not when your darling has been obsessively forwarding you links to his or her latest desire.

 

While the idea of going out for a romantic (read: budget-busting) dinner á deux seems rather ill-advised in these economic times, an at-home version can easily meet, or even exceed, the experience at a gorgeous restaurant.

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