So my roommate was taking care of a co-workers dog for a week and we got really used to having her in the house. She is a pug, and ridiculously cute if a bit ornery. But we adored her, and her strange habits, and her monster toy which she felt the need to shake and chase across the living room and run into the walls cause her paws slid on the hardwood floors. I am so sad we could not keep her forever. But I will comfort myself with this photo of her intense adorability.
I was feeling the need for some comfort food after a draggingly long day at work, and for me comfort food always seems to translate into 'layered in a casserole dish'. Noting the impressive variety of cheeses in the fridge I could come to only one conclusion; experimental baked macaroni and cheese. So I melted some butter in my wok (everything sauce-like seems to get bigger than I initially plan so I have take to starting in my larges pan to avoid having to transfer it later) and caramelized some chopped onions before whisking in some cream, a little bit of flour, powdered mustard and lots of salt and pepper. Then while the pasta (elbows, I am a traditionalist) was cooking, I shredded the cheese (extra sharp New Zealand cheddar and mozzarella plus some shredded 'Mexican blend' I discovered-leftover from nachos?) and added it a little at a time to the sauce until it was so thick and creamy that every time I lifted the spoon out great thick tendrils of cheese oozed off it like ribbons. Clearly it was done, so dumped the cooked pasta into the pan and shook it about until it was thoroughly coated in sauce and then transferred the whole kit and caboodle to my deepest glass casserole dish and then turned my attention to the bread crumbs I was attempting to toast in butter in another pan that I had forgotten to turn the heat on underneath. With the bread crumbs attended to and dispersed over the top of the macaroni and the oven heated and ready, and a little more grated cheese on top (there is never too much cheese) I bid farewell to my monstrous creation. Until it was sufficiently bubbling on the sides to be considered 'done' (20 minutes later?) and I removed it from the oven, served it up with broccoli (last minute addition) and salad to a hungry crowd (a.k.a. my roommate and visiting mum) and promptly burnt my tongue on hot cheese. A good reminder to wait for it to cool, but I never seem to heed the warnings. It was devoured. And delicious. Long live cheese (and by association, cows). Yum.
It seemed like a good way to start, especially as holidays are such a perfect time to go all out, so I will use this inaugural blog post to detail how totally mad my kitchen got leading up to this heart-shaped and sugar-laden holiday.
I started my v-day preparations by making a batch of sugar cookies so I could use my new heart shaped cookie cutter, and because I was planning to bring them into work I made my normal recipe times four (that's eight dozen cookies-give or take) and frosted them all with a basic chocolate buttercream with hot pink accents I piped on out of a zip-lock bag I cut a corner off of. I also made a double batch of chocolate cupcakes which I frosted with gold spirals. I brought them to work the following day and tried to distribute them fairly but a few of my co-workers seem to consume baked goods at an alarming rate, they descend like locusts, and so it became difficult for me to be diplomatic about it.
Saturday I was distracted from my single-minded baking mission by some desperately necissary organizing, though I did make a pear tart which turned out, well I will say passable, but not up to my steep personal standards. I also cut out and stamped hundreds of hot pink hearts from some colored printer paper I found while I was cleaning my supplies and then sewed them together in long rows like a miniature banner.
The following morning I woke up early, feeling immensely motivated. I needed some cheering up and so did everyone else it seemed. So I began my day with some cocoa into which I grated nutmeg, and then got down to work hanging heart pennants all over the house (even the bathroom was unable to escape some holiday decoration) and heating up the oven for yet more seasonal baking. This time it was an experiment I had been dying to try for a while, something I made up and then wondered after if I could make in reality. I made chocolate cupcakes as per usual (well I did feel the need to jazz them up a bit by beating the egg whites seperately and adding some melted baking chocolate) and after I had filled each cup halfway I dropped in a strawberry I had cooked down a bit on the stove right before. And then covered the whole thing with more batter and put it in the oven. And then while that was baking, well I had so much extra strawberry all over the place I decided it wouldn't be too crazy to make some small tarts, since I did have some mini tart pans I've been meaning to use, so I made a quick simple crust, and filled the shells and put them in next to the cupcakes.
At this point everything was baking so I had some time to tidy the house (company-must look it's best) and make a tiny chalkboard into a key-hanger as a valentine for my roomate, more on that later, and even paint my desk chair red. The cupcakes and tarts came out of the oven, when they were ready, and I of course had to test one of the cupcakes, as they were experimental, and it would be irresponsible to feed them to guests without first checking that they were, in fact as delicious as they sound like they should be from the ingredients list, and they worked! Victory indeed.
After removing and testing the afternoons baking, I went out to pick up my friend from bart, and a few things from the store (cucumber, salad dressing, a few pounds of butter-I go through it alarmingly fast) and come back to the apartment to make what should have been a simple dinner (sweet potato risotto etc.) but which seemed to take forever (no problemo- we had a lot to talk about) and even though it was later than intended (a reacurring theme in my kitchen) it was very good, and I made chocolate ganache afterwards to pour over the cupcakes as I felt they were not sufficiently chocolate-tastic and we at them while it was still slightly warm and messy and were much comforted and revived. The healing powers of chocolate never cease to amaze me. Yum.