July 26, 2016

Tomato Soup

Tomatoes, pictured here in a rare mating display
The tomato gets a rough deal. Traditionally, it's the thing we throw at people to tell them they're terrible at life, and should get off the stage. Or, alternatively, we'll mash it up with about 1,000 other things into a sauce so you can barely even tell it's there, and then combine that sauce with the things we really want to eat, like pasta, or chicken, or the still-beating hearts of our enemies, or fries (Though some tomato sauces do rise to the occasion). Rarely do we let the tomato be the star of the show. Tomato soup is no exception. It's pretty much used as a condiment for grilled cheese sandwiches. Which is reasonable. Grilled cheese is delicious, and can help make anything taste awesome. But if you make it right, the tomato doesn't necessarily need a crutch. It may suck, but it will not get off the stage. Just like me at my 5th grade talent show.


28 oz. can of Crushed Tomatoes
3 standard-issue Tomatoes
1 standard-issue Onion
3 Carrots
2 cups Vegetable Stock
1 cup Water
2 cloves Garlic
2 TBSP Olive Oil
1 TBSP chopped Rosemary 
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper 
An unspecified amount of Salt

The first thing you're gonna need to do is chop up your onion and carrots. You don't need to worry about getting them into tiny uniform bits, because we're gonna blend the crap out of the thing later, but if the demons in your head tell you otherwise, go nuts. Heat up your oil in a pot, and sauté your chopped up onion and carrots along with a gentlemen's pinch of salt. While that's cooking, it's a good time to get to know your tomatoes way better than you want to. You're gonna cut out the core and the seeds. Those of you who have seen the inside of a tomato before might be wondering "how?" The answer is "messily." Because tomatoes are goopy nonsense on the inside, and at the slightest pressure they'll squirt their insides all over the place. Kind of like people. Once you're done, and you can't un-see the things you've seen, chop what's left of your tomatoes into chunks. For those of you who read this before starting to cook, let your onions and carrots cook for about 6 minutes over medium heat before adding in your tomatoes along with another pinch of salt. For those of you cooking along as you read it, you probably should have added in your tomatoes a long time ago. Also, your kitchen, and other important parts of your household, may be on fire
The rosemary sprig is optional, unless you happen to be
classy as hell, like me. 

Let that whole mess cook down for another 3 minutes before adding in your rosemary, along with the garlic which you've taken the time to chop into itty bits. Cook for another minute before adding in the rest of your ingredients. Bring the whole thing up to a boil, cover it so it can't escape, and then simmer it for 1/2 an hour. Now it's time to blend it. I prefer lightly blending it so you've got a slightly chunky texture. But if you decide you know better than me, go nuts and follow your heart. I'm sure you won't regret this decision forever. And that's all there is to it! Delicious, mildly spicy tomato soup. So the next time you feel like throwing tomatoes at some hack comedian, make a pot of this soup, and throw that at him instead. 

July 19, 2016


Artist's rendition: Me at every party
Brownies hold a special place in my heart, and several other major organs. They're the perfect combination between a cookie, a cake, and licking delicious raw batter off of a mixing spoon, FDA-be-damned. You can eat them plain, or add various toppings like fruit, whipped cream, or caramel sauce. And yes, your mouth just watered when you read that, yet again confirming Pavlov's famous experiment where he annoyed the crap out of his neighbors. But let's be honest. Your mouth started watering back when you first read the word "brownies." Because brownies are special. They're exciting, and awesome, and if you're lucky enough to have some in your life don't let them go. If you have to stab other partygoers with a fork, so be it.


1.75 Cups Sugar
1 Cup standard-issue Flour
2/3 Cup Vegetable or Canola Oil
2/3 Cup Cocoa Powder (It's important to note that Cocoa Powder straddles the fine line between "powder" and "gas." It will get everywhere if you're not carfeful with it. It probably will regardless, but at least this way you have the sweet illusion of control.)
4 Eggs
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Peppermint Extract
1/2 tsp Salt

Before we get started, it's important to note that this is part of a number of recipes I got from my mom and then gussied up (from the latin GUH, to blatantly steal, and SEED, to alter very slightly to assuage guilt). Why is it important to note this? Mostly so that I don't get sardonic phone calls all this week. The point is...well, I don't remember what the point is, which makes this a good time to start the actual cooking part of the recipe. Whisk or sift together your flour, baking powder, and cocoa powder. Allow 3-5 minutes to adequately curse at your cocoa powder, and at the stylish cocoa powder stains covering everything you're wearing. In another bowl, because we're high class snobs like that, whisk together your eggs, and beat them until they're light and a little fluffy, so you know they're no longer a threat. Then add in your sugar and beat it for about a minute, just to show it who's boss and keep it from getting ideas.

Words fail me. All I can say is: you're welcome.
Add the rest of your ingredients, including your cocoa mixture, into your egg/sugar ooze. It's gonna get pretty hard to stir. It's gonna be a thick gloppy mess. That's how you know it's good. Take a pan and oil it up, or cooking-spray it up, or whatever. How large of a pan should you get? That's really up to you. The larger the pan, the more spread out the brownies will be, which means they'll be crispier, and cook faster. Which is great if you hate joy and liberty, and love things like kicking puppies and siphoning gas out of the school-buses at the orphanage. The rest of us know that brownies are supposed to be gooey and thick and delicious. So we're all gonna take a 9x13 pan, lube it up, load it up with our brownie sludge, and bake that sucker at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. We might even say that this time we're not gonna eat the leftover batter off the spoon and/or bowl. But we are lying.

July 12, 2016

Chilled Avocado Soup

Psychic's depiction: seconds before my death
Well, it's official. Summer is back. You can tell from the longer days, the watermelons in the supermarket, and the sticky parentless children running around everywhere. Oh, and the sun is trying to kill us again. Last year I was living in LA, so the sun attacking me was annoying but manageable. But I made the dumb mistake of moving to Chicago, which was originally swampland that some idiots built huts on. Not much has changed. So nowadays when I say that the sun is trying to kill me,  it's more like the sun, along with his homicidal buddies the lake and the air, are all conspiring to kill me so they can live in my apartment and throw parties. The point is, we're gonna need refreshment. Which usually means something fruity and sweet. But you can only do so much fruity and sweet on a hot day before you start to feel all of that sugar melting into a caramel inside your stomach, and that's not as much fun as it sounds. The answer is avocados. Granted, I've lived in southern California for years, so, legally, I'm required to solve every problem with avocados, but this time it actually makes things better.


2 Avocados
1 Lime
1/2 a Red Onion
1/3 cup Milk (Thanks to hipsters and their ilk, there are WAY too many options of weird nonsense milks to choose from. So don't. Just get actual milk. The kind that comes from a cow, and has some fat in it. You know, milk.)
1/4 cup Vegetable Stock
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp Cumin
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
An unspecified amount of Sour Cream and Cilantro

The first thing you're gonna need to do is chastise your avocados. Because once you cut them, avocados turn brown and gross. Surprisingly fast, too. It's pretty much their national pastime to wreck your day. So let your avocados know in a firm, but caring tone of voice, that you're not gonna be putting up with their crap today. Keep lecturing until you feel like you've really gotten through to your avocados and made a difference in their lives. Then, like any good parent, start preparing for when they inevitably try to betray you. Once you've gotten that taken care of, choppity chop chop your red onion into tiny bits until no one can identify its remains. Add in the cumin and cayenne, and set it aside. Peel and slice your avocados, and throw them in a bowl along with your kosher salt, and mash them with a fork. The large grains of salt you get with the kosher stuff will help punch through the avocado and break it down into a delicious goop. This is where your avocados will stab you in the back, despite all of the progress we made together. So add in the juice from your lime to keep things in check. Avocados may love turning brown, but citrus is having none of that nonsense. Citrus doesn't deal well with change. This party started off green, and as far as citrus is concerned, it's gonna end up green.

That's good enough to almost make up for the heat. Almost.
Now it's time to add your spiced onions in with the avocado mixture, along with your milk and vegetable stock. Stir that nonsense together, cover it, and throw it in the fridge to think about what it's done. Let it sit there for at least a couple hours, but overnight would be even better. Then, whenever the sun is pulling that "95 degrees with 80% humidity" nonsense, go to your fridge and pull out your avocado sludge. Throw it in a bowl and top it with a tablespoon of sour cream, and some chopped cilantro. Or don't, because it's super hot and you don't even have the energy to produce fully fledged thoughts, let alone add crap on top of your soup. Either way. The point is, even though the air around you is hot and sticky, that doesn't mean you have to be. Well, maybe it does, but you don't have to feel like it. Instead you can feel cool, and refreshed, and full of avocados. Like a conquistador, minus all of the rape and murder!

July 5, 2016

When the music's over

As the more observant among you may have noticed, I've been on a road trip for the past 3 weeks. There are a lot of good reasons for this trip. 3 main reasons are that it's the summer time, I had the opportunity, and I'm a crazy person. Other ancillary reasons for this trip include my desire to see parts of America that I never had before, my love of watching roadkill pass by me at high speeds, and the lingering concern that I didn't have enough debt. But eventually, all things must come to an end, and you're left with nothing but the memories, maybe a couple of good pictures, and a steaming pile of bills from which the only escape is faking your own death. 
As a side note, the US National Parks are kind of awesome. Granted, I only went to like 4 of them on this trip, but each one felt very distinct from the others, was a lot of fun to explore, and didn't bother much with enforcing their "no sleeping in your car overnight in our parking lot" rules. And they almost definitely haven't paid off a large chunk of my debt in exchange for my endorsement! Seriously though, if you want to get an appreciation for how geographically diverse the US really is, go to a bunch of national parks. If you just want to have a good time, go to New Orleans (The Paris of the Louisiana swampland). Go to Frenchmen street, and listen to awesome music at fun an exciting bars. Finally give in to your nagging suspicion that you should at least try a more touristy area like Bourbon street. Immediately regret your decision, and wander the streets desperately wondering what to do now that the music's all gone. 

Somewhere along the road you took a wrong path, and made a wrong decision (Bourbon street), and now what's left for you? What will give your life meaning now that the merriment and good times have started to fade? Beignets. All the beignets.