Rhymes with “Starbucks”

On the heels of news this morning that Starbucks is closing 61 stores in Oz, in addition to the 600 here in the States, comes this amusing conversation I overheard at Einstein Bagels this morning.

Side note: I love Einstein’s coffee, probably a little too much.  Their house vanilla blend is addictive.  I’ve got the worst sweet tooth.  Also, the Einstein I go to every morning for my coffee fix is run by the most hilariously foul-mouthed crew of bagel slicers on the west side.

Shakawniya (yes, that’s her name; it’s on her badge, so shut up):  Guuurl, didju hear about Starbucks?

LaNita:  Naw, what now?

Shakawniya:  They closin’ a bunch mo’ stores.

LaNita:  I know that, heifer.

Shakawniya:  Naw, more!

LaNita:  Where more?

ShakawniyaAustralia, girl.  They can’t get they shit straight up here, down unda, over here, over there, innywhere!

Chorus of laughter from all Einstein workers.

Shakawniya:  Sheeeeeeet.  F*ck Starbucks, man!

LaNita:  That’s right!  F*ck ’em!  Who’s next?  Whatchoo want on yo’ bagel, baby?  We gotcha bagels right here!  And yo coffee!

Nothing like a little healthy competition, eh?

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Breakfast Strata and Buttermilk Apple Cake

I suppose it’s a good sign when the food you make for your coworkers is eaten far too quickly for you to even take one picture.  In the words of our (far younger) temp: “Yo, K, they tore that shit up!

So you see how sticking my face in there even for one picture would have been dangerously similar to sticking your arm in a piranha tank.  I should have just taken a few before I left the house this morning…

Since the food was such a smash, I figured I could at least post the recipes here, if not the pictures.

The breakfast strata is a straightforward recipe that we’ve all seen a million times, but I tweaked this one based on the ingredients I had on hand and my coworkers’ predictable tastes.  It ended up a million times better than any other strata I’ve made before, and will now be my go-to breakfast casserole.  Hope you enjoy!

Sausage and Cheese Breakfast Strata
Serves: 8 to 10

1lb. ground sausage
8 slices white bread, cubed
2 c. potatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 c. shredded cheese
8 eggs
3 c. whole milk (none of this skim milk crap!)
2 Tbsp Worcester sauce
2 tsp Potlatch seasoning (if you don’t have this, just use seasoned salt)
4 to 5 big pinches of koshering salt
several good grinds of black pepper

Don’t preheat your oven!  This strata — like all others — needs to be refrigerated overnight to set.  You’ll bake it tomorrow…

Cook your ground sausage in a pan over medium heat.  I prefer hot Jimmy Dean sausage, but my weenie coworkers don’t.  While it’s cooking, dice that onion.  After the sausage is cooked, remove it from the pan to drain on some paper towels but leave the drippings in the pan.  Saute the onion in the sausage drippings until translucent.  When done, combine the onion and sausage in a bowl and set aside.

Add the vegetable oil to the sausage/onion pan (see? all cooked in one pan!) and heat over medium.  Once the oil is hot, add the diced potatoes and cook until slightly browned, turning often.  When finished, remove the potatoes from the pan and drain on paper towels.

Cut the bread into cubes.  Take half of the cubed bread and toss into a greased 13x9x2 casserole dish.  Toss in half the cooked potatoes and half the shredded cheddar cheese on top of the bread.  Spread the sausage and onion mixture evenly across the top of the bread/potato/cheese mixture.  Then take the rest of the bread, potatoes and cheese and toss on top.  Basically, you’re making three layers here (I’m seriously terrible at writing recipes…).

In a separate bowl, beat the eight eggs together well.  Add the three cups of milk, Worcester sauce and Potlatch seasoning.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour egg and milk mixture evenly over the three layers in the casserole dish.  Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, remove the casserole dish from the fridge and let stand for 30 minutes.  During this time, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  After 30 minutes has passed, put casserole dish into oven and bake for one hour (60 minutes) or until set and cooked in the center.  Enjoy!

Buttermilk Apple Cake
Serves: 6 to 8 

This recipe would normally be used to make muffins.  However, upon remembering last night that I loaned out my muffin tins, I made this into a coffee cake-style recipe at the last minute.  Although still delicious as muffins, I rather liked the cake instead.  It was a unique twist on what everyone initially thought was coffee cake until they got to the sweet little nuggets of apple inside…

1 large Granny Smith apple, diced
1 c. brown sugar, divided into 1/4 c. and 3/4 c.
3/4 c. walnuts
1 tsp. cinnamon, divided into 1/2 tsps. (please use real cinnamon here, not cassia!)
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/3 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325 and grease a square baking dish.  Combine 1/4 c. brown sugar, walnuts and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and remaining cinnamon (I added just a smidge more cinnamon here than 1/2 tsp.).  In a separate bowl, combine remaining brown sugar, buttermilk, vegetable oil, beaten egg and vanilla.  Add dry mixture to wet mixture a little bit at a time until just barely blended.  Add the diced apple and mix well.

Pour batter into baking dish and top evenly with brown sugar/walnut/cinnamon mixture.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  If desired, sprinkle top with confectioner’s sugar after it has cooled off.  Enjoy!

Image courtesy of Flickr user StarbuckGuy, who does awesome nature photography.

Dog Burglars

Our dogs are becoming criminal masterminds when it comes to food.

Court Docket # 101D 

Defendant:  Daisy

daisy.jpg

Crime:  Sneaking the poached eggs off of her male human’s plate when the humans weren’t looking, and then messily devouring them on the female human’s nice kitchen rug

Sentence:  Fifteen minutes in her room, loud voices yelling at her and no pig’s ear treat that morning before the humans left for the day

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Court Docket # 101S

Defendent:  Sammy

sammy.jpg

Crime:  Eating an entire bowl of dark chocolate-covered cranberries that a female human unwittingly left out on the coffee table while the humans were away for the evening

Sentence:  A very bad stomach and three, elaborate wretching sessions which produced three, gigantic piles of sick

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And Mayor White says that our city’s crime rate is down…

59 Diner

59 Diner (Town & Country location), Houston, Texas
January 1, 2008

I hope you all had a fun, relaxing and — for some — quiet, Advil – and – bottled – water – filled New Year’s Day!

For my part, I spent a good hour and a half parked in front of a mouthwatering Texas Grilled Cheese sandwich and a butterscotch malt at 59 Diner. I was in comfort-food heaven.

It was initially a tough debate between the meatloaf with sides of baked squash casserole and mustard greens and the Grilled Cheese, but here’s what ultimately swayed me: two kinds of cheese, with tomatoes (!!!), all grilled together on thick slices of jalapeño-cheese bread. Oh, you sweet, sweet cheese. You’ve got me by the heartstrings.

The 59 Diner at Town & Country took the place of a Macaroni Grill that — thankfully — vacated a strip center which was once anchored by a Best Buy and a large pet store, up until about four years ago. The entire Town & Country/west Memorial landscape has changed so much in just the last five years that I’m sure someone returning to their childhood home would hardly recognize the place for all of the freeway expansions, demolitions and stucco monuments to conspicuous consumption.

While I certainly don’t miss Macaroni Grill, it was heartening to see 59 Diner take its place after it was eminent domained out of its prior west Houston location further up I-10. Nothing will ever replace the original 59 Diner of my childhood and adolescence — one of the few warhorses still left around Greenbriar — and its funky charm. I have many fond memories of devouring Rings of Fire (am I the only one who remembers those? they were like an Awesome Blossom, but incredibly spicymmm…) along with my ubiquitous butterscotch shakes, crammed into a booth with friends at ungodly hours of the night, laughing and people-spotting and scarfing down plate after plate of greasy, onion-based diner food. Continue reading 59 Diner

G/M Steakhouse

G/M Steakhouse, San Antonio, TX
December 16, 2007

Having barely slept the night before (due to a combination of very bad stomach cramps and being stuck in a room right next to the elevator shafts on one side and some aggressively loud French people on the other), Richard and I blearily stumbled out of the St. Anthony Hotel on Sunday morning in search of a cheap yet hearty breakfast.  He was insistent on going to the McDonald’s next to the Rivercenter Mall, but my stomach and the dimly-lit parts of my brain protested.  I simply couldn’t tolerate the insipidness or the grease of an Egg McMuffin after the night that I’d had.  Besides, eating at McDonald’s just feels like giving up. I needed real food.

We walked, semi-aimlessly, towards the Alamo.  And within five minutes, we stumbled across this, directly across from the Alamo itself:

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Richard was sold on the $3.50 breakfast special; I was sold simply on the word “breakfast.” Continue reading G/M Steakhouse

On Scones

One of my favorite things to do on weekend mornings (and one of Richard’s favorite things for me to do) is to bake scones.

Growing up, my mother made fresh buttermilk biscuits on the weekends and sometimes even during the week if we were lucky.  Her biscuits have layer upon delicate layer of melt-in-your-mouth goodness.  They are little, delicious dollops of true Southern comfort food baked upon a seasoned iron skillet.  And I remain unconvinced that I’ll ever be able to make anything as perfect.

What I can make, however, are scones.  Richard, being English, prefers this — his own little nook of food-induced comfort on the weekends — so I revel in preparing them on Saturday mornings, before anyone else has gotten up, when I can open the windows and hear nothing but the soft sounds of wind through the pine trees and the chirping of sparrows.

I’ve tried many different scone recipes in the pursuit of something that I’m truly proud to present in the mornings.  Some recipes turn out scones that are too hard; others are too light and crumbly; still others are too cake-like.  One day I found a recipe that called for strawberry yogurt in lieu of milk or eggs, in an attempt to make the scones fruit-based without using any actual fruit.

That sounded rather disgusting to me, and I didn’t have any strawberry yogurt anyway.  But I did (and always do) have a large tub of vanilla yogurt on hand and decided to give it a try with a few modifications.  What emerged from the oven after ten minutes were the best scones that I’ve ever tasted.  What’s better, they were the best scones that Richard had ever tasted.  And if that isn’t a seal of approval, I don’t know what is.

Here’s the recipe:

Continue reading On Scones