The Most Dangerous Chocolate Cake Recipe

My mama e-emailed this recipe to me, and I'm not sure whether she did it because she loves me, or she wants me to die of dessert overdose.

It's a chocolate cake in a mug!! HELLO! I ate it for lunch today, because I decided that it would take less time to make than a turkey sandwich.

Maybe that's not true, and I ate it today because it's chocolate cake in a mug, but you get the point.

5 Minute Chocolate Cake Recipe

4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
A small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well.
Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the vanilla extract, and mix again.

Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts (high). The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed! Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired. Enjoy!

SOS Please Someone Help Me: Cookie Cake Recipes

Now that I have Rhianna's song stuck in your head, I thought I'd put out an APB (SOS, APB? Am I an air traffic controller?) for recipes, ideas, or advice. It's time for me to start planning and practicing for this year's Holiday Dessert Contest. This year I wanted to make something a little less...architectural than my last year's winning entry. My current idea, inspired by my office breakfasts of late, is to make several GIANT Girl Scout Cookies. For presentation points, I'll probably also make a giant cookie box in some bright primary color, and I'll paste my co-workers' heads onto Girl Scout bodies for that signature look. I'm going to update this post with any progress I make on developing recipes, but here's what I'm looking for:

Thin Mint Cookie Cake: I'm thinking of a sort of crunchy, cookie brownie for this. Any tips or recipes for that sort of thing? What about the best way to incorporate mint flavor into a baked item? I'd also like to make it sort of dimpled and chocolate-covered, like a thin mint, but that may just take some practice.

Samoa Cookie Cake: I want that chocolate-covered vanilla cookie bottom, with a really chewy, dense coconut caramel top. This may be difficult, because I'll need a 4 inch "chewy" layer. Maybe the secret is to make the coconut element more to scale? Like, instead of flakes, I make coconut bars, and toss that in caramel? Any ideas?

Tagalong or Do-Si-Do Cookie Cake: The final challenge. I don't want to make a Tagalong, because it'll just be a flattened chocolate-covered peanut butter dome on a chocolate base. I already have a chocolate-covered cookie in the Thin Mint, and I want to have some fun. The alternative is to make two giant crunchy peanut butter cookies, and layer them with a peanut butter cream. Is it possible to make a giant peanut butter cookie that's cooked long enough to make it crispy w/out burning it? Ideas

The Cavalcade of Marinade I: Broiled Soy Garlic Flank Steak Recipe

It is nowhere near grilling time in D.C. (even though they promised 60 degree weather today...liars) but this week I really, really wanted a large cut of red meat on some veggies after our trip to NOLA. Maybe I failed to mention this, but besides the Holy Trinity (see below) and the jalapeno-pickled green beans (or, jala-beanos) in my bloody marys, I ate nary a veggie while we were there.

I went to the grocery store, and picked out a nice flank steak and a boatload of produce. I happen to love flank steak, though most people find it difficult to prepare. Maybe it's the thin cut, but it always absorbs the flavor of marinades so well, and tastes aged and therefore more like a restaurant steak than a grocery store steak to me.

The process known as "wet aging" allows the muscle tissue to relax, and the cuts are therefore more tender. It also does away with that twangy, metallic taste that steaks sometimes have, so all you get is sweet beef flavor. You can see why this is desirable...

There are a few tricks to preparing a great flank steak, but the three primary ones are: 1. Marinade overnight in the proper marinade 2. Do not overcook it--because it is so lean, flank steak is best served medium rare to medium. 3. Cut across the grain for tender slices.

It's important to find the proper marinade for your cut of meat. A marinade that's too acidic or salty will leave the meat mushy and unable to retain its juices upon cooking. A marinade with too much oil will be bland. Here's one of my favorite marinades, featuring a few of my favorite ingredients. The agave adds a rich sweetness that is pretty complex without being almost adds a sweet buttermilk flavor to the more forward and sharp Asian flavors.

I love this Star's Garlic Olive Oil--making your own garlic olive oil is fun, but it goes bad quickly and you run the risk of bacteria ruining a wonderful meal. Why not pick some of this lovely brew up at your grocery store, and flavor everything from salad dressing, to marinade, to chicken soup with it?

Soy Garlic Flank Steak
1 flank steak, trimmed
1/2 cup Star's Garlic Olive Oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tbs. agave sweetener (trust me on this one)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
black pepper
1 small bunch green onions, sliced

Mix everything but steak together in a small bowl. Place steak in a plastic, resealable bag and pour marinade over the top. Marinate overnight on the bottom shelf of your fridge, turning occasionally.
Bring flank steak in marinade to room temperature. This step is very important for cooking the steak evenly. Remove from marinade, and place on broiler pan. Broil for 4 minutes on one side, 3 minutes on another. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice across the grain, and serve.

The Gumbo Shop's Chicken Andouille Sausage Gumbo Recipe

The Gumbo Shop is one of my family's favorite places to visit in New Orleans. On one of our first trips to the city, we just stopped in for dinner, and we were ushered through the courtyard to a small carriage house that sat a few tables. I think we all fell in love with our waiter, Michael, and his "dahlin"s and "sugar"s, and his genuine love for New Orleans. We also fell in love with the Gumbo Shop's food. Here's their signature recipe for Chicken Andouille Sausage Gumbo, with a few tweaks and tricks thrown in for added flavor. (Click here for their entire cookbook.  You'll want to have it on hand, trust me.) This recipe has been voted the "Best Gumbo in New Orleans" in the New Orleans Gambit for something like 10 years running, so I'm happy to share it with you. Enjoy!

2 1/2 lbs chicken thighs/legs
8 cups chicken broth
1 lb frozen okra (cut)
½ cup plus 2 Tbls. cooking oil
½ cup all purpose flour
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped green pepper
½ cup chopped celery
1 16 ounce can chopped tomatoes with green chilies
¾ lb Andouille sausage or Smoked Sausage, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. basil
½ tsp. sage
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp white pepper
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. salt

Remove the skin from the chicken. Cover chicken with water and simmer for about one hour until chicken is tender and easily removed from the bones. Allow chicken to cool, remove from bones and set aside.

As the chicken is cooking, chop the onion, pepper, and celery (aka, the Holy Trinity), and set aside.
Slice the sausage into 1/2 inch rounds, and set aside.

Thaw the okra, and saute in 2 tbs. of oil. You want to cook the okra until most of the ropiness is gone, and has caramelized a little on the bottom of the pot. I find that a thin-bottomed pot is best for this, because you really want some color and fancy cookery just doesn't allow you to burn things like your grandma's hand-me-down cast iron stock pot.

Once the okra is cooked, stir in the can of tomatoes. This will deglaze all of the caramelized okra, and incorporate it into your gumbo. Stir until all of the caramelized okra is released.
Next step: Making the roux! Heat 1/2 cup oil in a heavy bottomed pot. You want to use a metal spatula to stir the roux. Plastic spoons WILL melt, and wooden spoons often do not cover enough surface area. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, stir in 1/2 cup flour a little at a time until it is all incorporated. To make a roux, you have to stir constantly for up to 45 minutes. (Trust me, it's worth it! Just make yourself a bloody mary and enjoy the simplicity of your life at this exact moment...just you, your bloody mary, and your roux.) Place the spatula flush on the bottom of the pot, and stir. And stir. And stir. And sip your drink. And stir.

I like a "chocolate roux," so called because of it's resemblance to chocolate. My mom likes what she calls a "peanut butter roux." The peanut butter roux takes probably 20 minutes less than the chocolate, and still tastes yummy. If you're not a seasoned roux-maker, and you have to jump ship early, at least stick with your stirring until it looks and smells like peanut butter.

As soon as the roux is finished, dump in the veggies and saute in the roux until soft. Feel free to let the veggies stick to the bottom of the pan a little. (Also, please note that this is the second thing I've told you to burn. Love, love, love making gumbo.)

When the veggies are done, add the sausage, and tomato and okra mixture. Cook for approx. 10 minutes. Add the spices, broth, and the chicken and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat, simmer for 1 1/5 hour with the lid off. Taste and adjust should be herby and a little spicy. Serve over a small portion of rice, with hot sauce. And maybe another bloody mary, for good measure. You deserve it.
Tips and tricks:
  • This recipe freezes well, with our without rice, but the pepper seems to leech out so you'll want to add more when you reheat.
  • You can use canned chicken to save time.

The Turkey Burger Recipe "Mamma Mia!" Style

Mr. Luz would hate that I called this the "Mamma Mia!" Turkey Burger, because 1. He loved, loved, loved this recipe and 2. He loathes a warbling Meryl Streep more than is healthy (and sometimes I feel like calling a shrink, because, something must be seriously wrong with you if you do not love her in that movie).

Thanks, Liza Jane, for passing this along to me and Mama. The photo and recipe are compliments of Cooking Light, and of course I add some twists and a WW count because...I'm a workaholic? The turkey burger is stuffed full of red onions, feta cheese, dill, and mint, and then served in a pita with red bell peppers and a cucumber yogurt sauce. Yurme! The pita is so tasty, less messy then a bun, and is better for you.

You get a big burger for 10 Weight Watchers points, and for 2 more points you can add some couscous mixed with tomato and lemon juice as a side.

Yogurt Cucumber Sauce

1 cup plain low fat yogurt
3/4 cup cucumbers
1 large clove garlic, minced
dash hot sauce
2 tablespoons mint, minced

Greek Turkey Burgers

1 large egg white
3/4 cup chopped red onion
3/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 pound ground turkey

Cooking spray
1 package Pita bread
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin


Mix ingredients for yogurt sauce in a small bowl, refrigerate until use.

Place egg white in a large bowl; lightly beat with a whisk. Add onion and next 6 ingredients (through turkey); stir well to combine. Divide turkey mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a patty.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add patties to pan; cook 8 minutes on each side or until done. You may have to cover the pan to cook the burgers through. The burgers may stick a little, since there is almost no fat in turkey meat, so it’s important to use the non-stick pan and only turn once the burgers have released from the bottom.

Wrap pitas in a damp paper towel and microwave until warm. Fill with burger, 2-3 tbs. yogurt sauce, and the thin sliced bell peppers. Oh, and for you cheese gluttons out there, throw in some more feta, for good measure.

Where's a Second Line When You Need One? It's Mardi Gras!

Happy Mardi Gras!

If I were in NOLA, I'd be sitting on the porch of the Columns Hotel right now. I'd be enjoying a brief moment of lazy sunshine between a morning full of parades, and the costumes and craziness of Bourbon Street. And I'd (hopefully) be with some of my best friends.

As it is, here in D.C., I'm debating on wearing my Coors Light outfit + cowboy hat out to Dupont Circle tonight, modeled after the artistry of these fine gents. Ok, just kidding. But I would be awesome if I could pull it off.

In honor of my friends and lazy-sunshine-memories, I give you just a few of my favorite (mostly anonymous) pics from Mardi Gras past. Click on the photo itself for a larger view, as blogger hates me and I can't figure out how to make it do my bidding just yet.

House Gutting in Mid-City in February...
it was hard work, but now I know how to tear down lathe and drywall.

Gathering for the parades on St. Charles Avenue. I love the kiddos on ladders.

Floats, floats, floats. "Throw me something, Mister!"

Pat O'Brien's famous courtyard patio...the perfect place to enjoy your Mardi Gras Hurricane.

Beignets: The Official State Doughnut of Louisiana

How can I not love a state that has an official doughnut? (And what a wonderful, puffy, powdered-sugar mounded doughnut it is!) Actually, to be fair, Louisiana and I often get in fights, and sometimes we break up. But New Orleans is enough to keep bringing me back, so LA, in the name of Mardi Gras, let's call a truce.

You cannot go to New Orleans and skip a trip to Cafe Du Monde....the real one, NOT the one in the mall, and I say this fully understanding that the mall sells and encourages you to shop with a strawberry daiquiri in hand. Trust me, the daiquiri cannot compete with the bustle of Jackson Square and the artists painting wild yellow brushstrokes or blowing "Oh When the Saints Go Marching In" into their trumpets as you sip your cafe au lait and await your beignets. The open air coffee shop is a gathering place for tourists, old friends, locals in need of a chicory fix, and street performers. When you're there, life is good.

Even Cafe du Monde dresses up for Mardi Gras

Cafe du Monde serves its lovely little take on the French choux puff doughnut by leaving it unfilled, but covering it with about a cup and a half of powdered sugar. I mean, this dougnut is heavy with powdered sugar and served hot out of the fryer. Cafe du Monde's spicy chicory coffee tones down the sweet snack and is perfect for doughnut-dipping.

And if you're worried about ordering the right thing when your highly-efficient and speedy server stops by your table with an armful of beignets for your neighbors, don't be. You can only order your beignets in threes and your coffee black, au lait, or frozen. Enjoy!

Oyster Po'boy, How I love You....

In life, it's important to have things you can rely on. Sometimes, you go through your week, and it seems like you experience one disappointment after another.
I know I've felt like that, and when I do, it's wonderful to know that New Orleans never changes (category 5 hurricanes, I'm talking to you!):

1. There will always be impromptu concerts, where you're sitting at dinner, contemplating the turtle soup on the menu(the answer is always "Yes," by the way), when in strolls 6 or 7 people who are solely there to do what they music for perfect strangers.
2. Impromptu concerts will always make you grateful to be exactly where you are...something that doesn't happen enough, if you ask me.
3. True NOLA locals will always understand the significance of the "to-go cup."
4. There are few things in this world that have the restorative powers of an oyster/catfish/blackened shrimp/pork debris po'boy.

Don't you feel better already??

Who Doesn't Love 25 cent Martinis?

Well, it's back to the grind, ya'll. Mr. Luz and I just spent 4 days in New Orleans for a wonderful homecoming. Every once in awhile, it was unsettling to be enjoying NOLA as a tourist, and for such a short time. It was like having the perfect dream after you hit the snooze button--you intuit that it's fleeting, and have a difficult time accepting that.

Luckily, I get to relive some of the debauchery here. I decided not to review every meal, but I will post pictures that I hope will illustrate the unique beauty that keeps N'awlins on the hearts and minds of those who have enjoyed her decadent ways.

Our first full day in NOLA, we celebrated 25 cent Martini Lunch at Commander's Palace. In addition to beautiful dining rooms and flawless service, Commander's offers a diverse menu and four different martinis for 25 cents each during Martini Lunches.

(And before I forget, this Top Chef's season finale was filmed there! I can't wait to check it out, even if the German dude wins.) From the minute that you walk into the restaurant, every one greets you warmly and treats you like a VIP guest. We sat in their downstairs dining room, and enjoyed the easy pace as we sipped our first martinis and waited for our menus.

I ordered their gulf shrimp with melted onions and Abita beer BBQ sauce on grits, and Mr. Luz chose their Black Angus short ribs on creole cream cheese smashed potatoes. My shrimp were spicy and rich, and the citrus in my (25 cent!) cosmopolitan made every bite new and tasty. The fact that Commander's uses Certified Black Angus beef meant that Mr. Luz's short ribs were perfectly marbled and tender.
Mama and Pappa each had the smoked pork loin, which was cooked perfectly and tasted DIVINE, and Mama opted for the crab boil winter vegetables as a healthier option to the molasses sweet potato prep on the menu.
Of course, you can't go all out for Martini Lunch and not linger over dessert. These are trying economic times! We shared the fresh baked strawberry shortcake and the brioche bread pudding, and enjoyed our last martini(s) while basking in the glow of a quintessentially New Orleans experience.

Don't Drink and Blog

Mr. Luz and I woke up at 3:45 this morning to begin the much anticipated trek to NOLA. (Thank you United Airlines, for rescheduling us to a 6am flight to Chicago.) Right now we're about to fly out of O'Hare airport for our final destination, but we've already had a taste of NOLA-in more ways than one. Mr. Luz and I are already two bloody marys into the trip, and it's only 9 am. Also, the bar at the airport? Full of our fellow New Orleans passengers with their beverage of choice. We saw a lot of bloody marys, a table full of guys double fisting Coronas (how do you say 'Good Morning' in Mexico?), and even a vodka-red bull. It feels good to be back in the midst of Our People. Lassiez les bon temps rouler!

I <3's Quick Meals

Put down your cookbooks and ignore all those Tastespotting and Epicurious recipes you've added to the Favorites folder on your computer for a moment...I may have hit the easy-tasty-authentic* recipe jackpot.

*By authentic, I mean, risotto is made by stirring in a few cups of broth at a time, pans are deglazed, and gumbos are not thickened with cornstarch., a website by and for Chefs, has the most amazing recipe database I've seen. For $20 a year, you get a monthly newsletter and access to their database of Quick Meals created by celebrity chefs. According to the blog of one Chef Chris DeBarr, participating chefs are supposed to submit recipes that they have created for themselves and their families at home. The average prep and cook time, from what I can tell, is under 40 minutes, and the recipes range from stuffed, roasted chicken breast to more obscure quail preparation techniques. I can't wait to get started.

StarChef's Quick Meal Recipe of the Day: Skillet Pork Chops with San Marzano Tomatoes
By Linton Hopkins

4 bone-in pork chops
Freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 10-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, chopped and juices reserved
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 bay leaves
¼ cup chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large iron skillet over medium-high heat and add the pork chops, being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook until golden-brown on both sides and almost cooked through. Remove chops from the pan and set aside. Add the onions to the pan and cook for 2 minutes until lightly browned. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice and the bay leaves. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil; simmer for 5 minutes. Lay the pork chops on the tomatoes and place the pan in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

Adapted by

Yield: 4 Servings

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Kid Friendly:This is kid friendly!

Round out the Meal:With sautéed spinach and an arugula salad.

Wine Pairing:Serve with a Vino Nobile di

Healthy Chicken Enchilada Recipe

Hey, Mom....mooooommmmmmmmmmm! Hi! It's your daughter. I write a food blog, which is sort of like Facebook, but it has a thin veneer of "anonymity" and RECIPES! You're on FB now, hopefully stalking your youngest child so you, too, can ask if she's too poor to afford shirts, or if there's another reason she wears nothing but a bathing suit in public.

It's time to graduate to another questionably-healthy internet obsession-culling your list of "favorite blogs." I welcome you to the blogosphere with healthy recipes, complete with WW points already calculated. Surely, you must understand that this is a sacrifice on my part. I have a reputation to uphold. This blog isn't called "Smoked Meat Flavored, Textured Soy Protein Concentrate," it's called Bacon Concentrate. But I love you, so here goes.

Mama, 3 enchiladas is 9 WW points. Add a side of corn with onion and chili powder for 1 point per cup. Everyone else, triple the cheese and spoon on the sour cream--fat calories be damned!

The recipe looks lengthy, but it's not much work and the homemade tomatillo sauce is well worth the trouble--wonderfully tangy with perfect enchilada-sauce texture. Also, you can make the sauce and the chicken ahead and store it in the fridge.

Cooking Light Enchiladas Verdes

Salsa Verde:
1 lb. tomatillos (about 15)
1 1/4 cups fat-free chicken broth
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
Salt to Taste

Filling & Construction
1 package corn tortillas
1 package chicken breasts
1 tablespoon dried oregano, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 fresh basil leaves
2/3 cup shredded asadero cheese or Asiago cheese
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/3 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup fat-free sour cream
Juice from half a lime
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and Pepper to taste

For Salsa Verde: Discard husks and stems from tomatillos; cut into quarters. Combine ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until tomatillos are tender. Blend salsa verde until smooth, pour back into the saucepan, and simmer until reduced to approx. 3 cups.

For Filling: Preheat oven to 400°. Place chicken breasts on a broiler pan and cover with garlic and herbs. Lightly drizzle chicken with olive oil, and bake until the chicken is done. Cool and shred.

Mix chicken with all the remaining ingredients. Warm tortillas in the microwave or in a skillet on medium heat, no oil. (Non-healthy people, remember what I said about the cheese and sour cream? Well, you can also lightly pan fry the tortillas...Yum! I mean--ick, yuck, Mom. I love health.)

Spread a thin layer of salsa verde in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Assemble and arrange enchiladas in the pan. Pour salsa verde evenly over enchiladas, reserving some. Sprinkle with a small amount of cheese. (Or alot, you shameful calorie-whores.) Bake at 400° for 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve with the extra tomatillo sauce and sliced jalapeno peppers.

I've Found the Love of My Life, Just In Time for Valentine's Day

In recognition of the fact that I'm about to post some healthy recipes, I give you...BaconMan.

100 Things You Should Eat Before You Die

Today while I was supposed to be learning about Accumulated Deferred Income Taxes (yeah), I was reading this instead.

I've eaten 64 of the 100 dishes, which means I have some work to do.* And I can tick off currywurst (mmmmBerlindrunkfood), kobe beef, and absinthe but I've never had a Big Mac.

Out of all of my life experiences, working in fine dining at Annie Gunn's Restaurant has afforded me the best culinary opportunities--Chef Lou Rook made it possible for me to check 13 items off of my "100 Things to Eat Before You Die" list. Eight of them are on their menu right now.

Maybe I need to forget this lawyer thing and head back to the restaurant biz...

*I edited this because I missed the Blue Mountain Coffee, pursuant to Mr. Luz's comment below. Adding anything else would require speculation on my part, so I'll keep the rest "as is."

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O shot
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Single malt whisky
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant (someday--French Laundry, here I come!)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse (not that I know of....)
90. Criollo
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee

NOLA Countdown 2009

In six days, Mr. Luz and I will be back on New Orleans for Carnivale, and I couldn't be happier. The weather forecast promises highs of 70 degrees, and we already have plans to hit up the lovely dining establishments listed below:

Irene's Cuisine. Irene's is so New Orleans that it doesn't even have a website. Mr. Luz took me there once for Valentine's Day, and we loved it so much that we celebrated my birthday and law school graduation there, too. Though, to be fair, we celebrated graduation at approx. 10 restaurants and countless bars. I'm most looking forward to: their creole cream cheesecake, and the tiny piano bar where you wait for your table.

Commander's Palace. The best word to describe Commander's is simply "legendary." And unlike most of the legendary New Orleans establishments, Commander's lives up to its reputation. Post-Katrina, the owners took their time renovating this gorgeous restaurant, and it was worth the wait. The new look? Take the Palace of Versailles and replace one wall in each room with floor to ceiling glass, so that you're looking directly into the canopy of lush, old live oaks. I'm serious. I'm most looking forward to: 25 cent martinis, and their creole bread pudding souffle--a giant brioche puff pastry, cracked on top with a spoon and ladled with whiskey cream sauce.

The Columns. The Columns is a historic Uptown hotel on the St. Charles Avenue street car line. It's giant, breezy patio can seat 50 during their famous happy hour. It's where Mr. Luz and I had our first kiss, and where my family members made at least 20 champagne toasts to me, Mr. Luz, each other, and the glorious city of NOLA the night before our graduation. I'm most looking forward to: happy hour champagne, and reveling in all the good memories.

Muriel's. My parents and I discovered Muriel's when they first opened in 2001. The restaurant is situated on Jackson's Square in a building that's been around since at least 1762. Ok, so it wasn't difficult to physically find the building, but in an industry saturated with family-owned dynasties pimping their "Classics" (read: we haven't updated the menu since 1976, and we're going to pretend that's a virtue), it's often hard to see through the hype and find the alternatives. Muriel's seams the rich history of its building with a fun and modern decadence. I'm most looking forward to: a bloody mary in their opulent and spooky Seance Room, and their turtle soup au sherry.

The Delachaise. The Delachaise is a wine bar on St. Charles Avenue that looks like an old train car, running perpendicular to the street, when you first approach. Needless to say, it does not boast a vast ballroom or even ample seating. Mr. Luz and I hope that this gem has not lost its lustre since Chef Chris DeBarr moved on to more...sizeable...pastures. I'm most looking forward to: duck fat french fries w/garlic aioli and spicy satay dipping sauce, and a big, stinky board of cheeses.

Pick me! Pick me!

I've avoided writing a blog for awhile, mainly because I've always had the impression that bloggers are narcissistic. (Not that my friends who blog are narcissistic--I'm talking about the big, wide world of people who anonymously journal on the internet in the hopes that strangers will marvel at how they are Perfect/hilariously snarky/"quirky" and knight them on the spot.) Then I realized that I'M narcissistic, so I'm over that. In the spirit of self-love, here's a post all about me.

When did you start cooking?
Though I've always had a thing for cooking meat over an open flame, I've only recently gotten into cooking. I think it all started when I shared an apartment with a person who considered herself a great cook, but she didn't use enough butter/cheese/cayenne pepper/bacon for my taste so I had to take over.

Do you have a favorite cooking memory?
I have two--one was winning a fantastic bet with my chocolate amaretto croquembouche (see below). I also loved making Mr. Luz a big ole', Guy's-style catfish po-boy, covering it in Louisiana hot sauce, and bringing it to him at the airport when he came home from being in Paris for a semester.

Share one food item that best describes the last year of your life.
Maybe a parmesean, wild mushroom risotto. Meaning, it can be exactly perfect--rich and satisfying--one day, and completely bland and unappetizing the next. (Can you tell that the move from New Orleans to D.C. has been difficult?)

What’s your favorite band or CD of all time?
Sublime and their acoustic CD. Which I'm pretty sure is just called "Sublime Acoustic." I know every drum beat and drunken live shout-outs to the crowd by heart.

Complete the statement “I recommend…” (it can be a show, movie, book, restaurant, website, activity, etc.)
Cheese and bacon. Drinking green tea and honey to get your daily recommended intake of water. Trying everything and finding out that it's you or it's not you, rather than being safe or sanctimonious.

If you knew could you try anything and not fail (and money was no object), what dream would you attempt?
Seriously? I would end global warming.

What is your favorite thing about yourself?
I can have the work ethic of a crazy person when I need to. But sometimes that backfires, because I do actually become a crazy person....maybe I need to rethink this.

What’s your favorite spice?
Does garam masala count, even though it's a blend?

It's King Cake Season in NOLA!

Twelfth Night has begun, and that means it's officially King Cake season! If you've never been to New Orleans during Carnivale (the month-long celebration up to, and including, Fat Tuesday) then you've missed out on this tasty cinnamon brioche confection. According to tradition, a small baby Jesus trinket is baked into the King Cake, and whoever gets the piece with the baby must bring the King Cake to the next gathering. Two of my favorite people on earth have been transplanted to D.C. with me, and since we can't just roll down to the Whole Foods on Magazine Street to pick up our King Cake, the Transplants decided to learn how to bake them. For some reason, there seems to be a shortage of Tiny Baby Jesus in D.C. (just ask the Evangelical Republicans), so they had to make due with some more...devious? trinkets, courtesy of a nice lady at a local wine shop. Check out the recipe here

The Trinket I: Now that I think about it, it probably wouldn't be socially acceptable to show a baby Jesus half-buried in a bowl of pecan and sugar cane filling...
Though traditional King Cakes are round, and SMOTHERED in thick icing and purple, green, and yellow sprinkles, our Yankee version came out beautifully.

Trinket II: Looks like Mr. Luz has to bring the next King Cake.