Monday, January 25, 2010

Alton Brown is obviously my best friend (Chicken Noodle & Lentil Soups, and cupcakes for good measure)

Today is my half birthday. I don't think anyone other than Leos keep track of their half birthdays past the age of 11 or so, but here we are. I am old. Today was also my first day of classes for the semester, since all my classes are on Monday and classes began on Tuesday last week out of reverence for Dr. King. It was a miserable day, and not only because this officially means the craziness has begun anew. I woke up sick on Sunday morning, again. I don't know what it is about this city, but apparently it is intent on me being sick for weeks on end this winter. It probably has something to do with me spending 2 hours a day in a metal tube with dozens (and dozens) of strangers, but hey. So, I leave my afternoon class and have a text message waiting for me from E, alerting me to the fact that dinner is waiting for me at home. Score! I love cooking, but when I'm sick, I love whining more.

I get home, and there's a big pot of homemade chicken noodle soup simmering on the stove! Someone took some Awesome Juice this morning and whipped up some culinary magic. Okay, for the record, a big pot of soup on the stove is likely to make me grin no matter what the weather, and what the state of my health, but there is something so exciting about hot soup when you're sick and it's a miserably rainy day, isn't there?

E grabbed Alton Brown's recipe for chicken noodle soup off the web. We didn't have an onion, but I think the important flavor factor in chicken noodle soup is actually the celery, so it's all good. The recipe doesn't call for any actual chicken (and could therefore easily be made vegetarian using vegetable stock instead of chicken), so E added a little as well. It came out great and reminds me a lot of my mom's -- it would just need some dumplings. Mmmm, dumplings. So yes, good job (and thanks!) E!

While we're on the subject, one of my favorite kinds of soup is lentil soup. Easy, cheap and savory, lentil soup is one of those foods that just seems to taste better after a couple days in the fridge, with all the flavors melding. Unfortunately, this pot of soup didn't last that long. I threw together Alton Brown's lentil soup for a total of about 3 bucks, and it was amazing and fed 2 people for 3 very satisfying meals. I didn't use the spices he recommended (and, truth be told, I don't even know what grains of paradise are) and instead minced an entire bulb of fresh garlic and threw in some dried cilantro and dried basil. When in doubt, go with garlic, am I right? I seriously cannot rave about this soup enough. Since I ate the last bowl of it, I've been craving it, and I might make it this week just to have one portion, and freeze the rest. So, so good.

In a completely unrelated note, I was hungry after dinner the other night, and I finally decided to use the year-old box of carrot cake mix my mom gave me (now I know where I get the urge to foist junk I don't want anymore onto my friends and family) and made cupcakes. I was going to leave them unfrosted and pretend they were muffins so we could just eat them for breakfast, but E wanted frosting, so I followed this recipe for Honey Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting. It came out great -- fluffy and sweet -- but I added a bit more cinnamon to tone the sweetness down a bit.

The frosting attempt was much more successful than my last attempt at buttercream. I won't even link to the recipe, but I will say that the Hershey's perfectly chocolate cupcakes I made the other day came out, well, perfect. The recipe was easy to throw together and tasted better than boxed mix (dark and moist and dense and just the right amount of chocolatey), and the minimal use of dairy is great for people with delicate constitutions. Just a warning, though: I halved the recipe posted there and still ended up with 12 cupcakes (6 more than I wanted). I'm not even going to pretend I didn't eat the extras, though.

I need a hobby other than baking, ha.

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