Coffee, Fruit Loops and Axe Murderers

So I Married An Axe Murderer begins with a quintessential aerial shot of San Francisco by night, the camera floating through the streets of North Beach, into a hipster (long before the term was used to describe millennials) Cafe Roads, through its crowded corridors, into the kitchen where a gigantic coffee cup (or “bowl” as Tony calls it) is quickly washed and refilled with copious amounts of espresso and steamed milk, and delivered to the waiting hands of Charlie, who jokingly responds “Excuse me, miss? There seems to be a mistake. I believe I ordered the *large* cappuccino. Hel-lo!”  And so begins our introduction to the world of “beat poet” Charlie Mackenzie, who’s failed relationships and emotional angst are fodder for his art.  While his friend Tony argues that his romantic misfires are really all in his head, Charlie insists he has very good reasons for ending all his relationships–one girl “smelled like beef vegetable soup,” another, he swears was part of the mafia because she never told him where she worked (though Tony points out she was just unemployed), and the latest, the subject of his poem “Woman… woe-man… whoah, man!,” Charlie claims was a klepto who stole his cat.  To capture Charlie’s paranoia and abject fear of commitment, as well as his love of coffee, I came up with a dessert which I’m calling Grande Cappuccino Panic Cotta. It’s a rich and creamy espresso-flavored panna cotta, topped with a layer of white chocolate creme, garnished with a sprinkling of espresso powder and something extra…

Woe man!
Whoah, man!

Grande Cappuccino Panic Cotta

Yields:  4 normal size cappuccino cups…or 1 gigantic cappuccino bowl

3/4 cup Whole Milk

1-1/2 tsp. Unflavored Gelatin Powder

1 cup Heavy Cream

1/4 cup Sugar

pinch of Sea or Kosher Salt

1/4 Vanilla Bean, scraped

2-1/4 tsp. Espresso Powder (or Instant Coffee)

1-1/2 oz. White Chocolate, chopped into small pieces

*edible screaming face decal, optional

In a bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the milk, then whisk together and set aside.  Combine the cream, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean in a pot and bring to a boil.  Strain the hot liquid into the milk, then whisk to combine.  Pour about 1/2 cup hot mixture into a small bowl with the white chocolate, then stir to melt the white chocolate completely.  Whisk 2 tsp. espresso powder into the remaining hot mixture (reserve the last 1/4 tsp. for garnish), then carefully pour the liquid into four 4oz. cups.  Chill the panna cotta until just set, about 2 hrs.  Gently warm up the white chocolate creme so that it’s pourable, then ladle it on top of the panna cotta.  Return the cups to the refrigerator and continue chilling for another 2-3 hours to set completely.  Garnish with a sprinkling of espresso powder.

Now Charlie isn’t completely wrong to be paranoid, because although the butcher cleaver-weaving Harriet isn’t a murderer, her crazy sister Rose is!

He should’ve know there was something off about Rose (played to perfection by Amanda Plummer) from their first encounter.  There was more than one box of fruit loops at the breakfast table!  So in honor of that whack job, I’ve come up with a ghoulish version of another favorite breakfast treat–Screaming Axe Murderer Pop Tarts–buttery flaky pastry rounds, filled with a raspberry-apple compote, glazed with sour cream icing, topped with spooky screaming ghosts (edible decal), and garnished with bloody (raspberry) mini axes and cleavers.  They’re screamin’ good!

Screaming Axe Murderer Pop Tarts

Yields 8-10, 3″ rounds

Dough:

1 cup All-Purpose Flour

2 tsp. Sugar

1/2 tsp. Sea or Kosher Salt

9 Tbsp. Cold Unsalted Butter, cut into small pieces

1 Large Egg Yolk

2-3 Tbsp. Cold Whole Milk

1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor; pulse a few times to blend.  Distribute the butter over the dry mix and pulse at 5 second intervals until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.  Whisk together the yolk, vanilla and 2 Tbsp. milk (reserve the last tablespoon in case you need it), then add it the flour/butter mixture.  Pulse at 5 second intervals again until the dough comes together.  Drizzle in the remaining milk if the mixture seems dry and isn’t coming together.  Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into a 1″ thick disk.  Chill the dough for at least 30 mins. before rolling out.  Roll out the dough to 1/8″ thickness and punch out rounds with a 3″ cutter.

For the filling I basically precooked some apple filling, similar to the one I made for the apple strudel in the Sound of Music post, adding a little more cornstarch to ensure a thicker consistency, then folded in 1/2 cup of frozen raspberries to 1 cup of cooled apple filling.

To assemble, just place a heaping teaspoon of filling at the center of one pastry round, brush a little bit of egg white (reserved from the yolk) around the perimeter, then lay another pastry round on top of it, pressing down on the edges to create a tight seal around the filling, and crimping the edges with a fork.  Pierce the top with fork to create little holes to allow steam to escape.  Bake the pop tarts at 400°F for about 15-18 mins., or until they are golden brown.

For the icing, I simply whisked together about 3/4 cup powdered sugar with 2 tsp. sour cream, and 1/2 tsp. raspberry eau de vie (or water will do) until smooth.

And now for the finishing touch….Happy Halloween!

Small Dice Challenge: Pumpkin Curry Soup and Ribs

This week, we (pumpkin) spiced things up by going with a Halloween theme.  I let my daughter go grocery shopping with me, so she could pick out her “spooky” ingredients.  She promised me she wouldn’t get “watermelon brains” like we had watched on Chopped recently.  She, instead chose:

 

The day before cooking, we decided to carve our jack-o-lantern.  This would be my son’s first interaction with a pumpkin, so I was excited to see how he would like it.

My official pumpkin taste tester
My official pumpkin taster

While my daughter wanted nothing to do with scooping out the seeds, she made it clear that she was ready to eat them. At that moment, I wasn’t exactly clear on what I was going to do with the innards, but decided to keep the meat I scraped just in case I needed them.  On the day of cooking, I dressed up my little muses to ignite some inspiration for my Halloween menu.

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and Queen Elsa
Stay Puff Marshmallow Man and Queen Elsa

I had decided to make pumpkin curry soup. I’m sure I have heard of that somewhere as being a real thing.  First, I salted the pumpkin seeds, then placed them in a 350°F oven, keeping a close watch on them. Then, I thought about what I was going to do with the cookies.  They weren’t that sweet, so I figured they would be a thickener for the soup since they were probably made of just flour, butter, and sugar.  Of course, I’m not entirely sure, I’ve never made shortbread cookies before, but it sounded okay.  I started by heating some milk, then dropped the first cookie in there.

Bat soup, anyone?
Bat soup, anyone?

I was a little worried that it wouldn’t dissolve, and I would be left with clumps, but it actually did quite nicely.  So I put in another cookie for good measure and kept it on simmer.  I checked the seeds in the oven, and they looked crisp, so I took them out and put them aside.  I decided to roast the pumpkin meat to bring out the flavor (doesn’t it sound like I know what I’m talking about?), but, first, I salted, peppered, and curried it.

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After putting the pumpkin meat in the oven, I checked on my cookie milk, and it looked like potato soup. Which is always a good sign.

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I asked Vivi what we should do with the “Boo” chips, and she told me, “Put it in the soup, they’re made from potatoes, and you can put potatoes in soup.”  It was sound logic to me.  I let her do the honors. She pretended she was a witch boiling her potion and crumbled the ghosts into the simmering milk and cookies, then stirred it up.

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After they dissolved, we turned it off the heat and waited for the pumpkin to finish cooking in the oven.  While we waited, I ground up the pumpkin seeds and used them as a rub with dried onions for the ribs.

The pumpkin meat took about 15 minutes and was a nice golden color.  I took it out of the oven and put the ribs in its place. While the ribs were cooking, we combined the milky mush of cookies and chips with the pumpkin and pureed it until it was smooth.

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I then put it back into the pot on low.  The ribs took about 25 min. We entertained ourselves in the meantime by putting Frozen on, which inspired Vivi to change her character–“Hey, Mama, pretend now that I’m a dog named Elsa!” The ribs came out perfectly.  They were beautifully brown on the outside and a little pink on the inside.  We were ready to eat our festive meal.

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We tried the soup first.  Viviana wasn’t sure how she felt.  “It’s not TOO bad…,” she said. “It’s a little weird.”  I tried it and I definitely had the pumpkin flavor down.  I’ve never been a huge pumpkin person, and, apparently, my daughter is following in my footsteps.  I have never cooked pumpkin meat before so I wanted to try it.  I gave some of the soup to Rina the next day, and she described it as being very “rich, but, overall, really good.” I didn’t tell her what I had put in it, otherwise she would have cringed, so it ended up being the perfect crime! I could’ve used one less cookie or less chips to tone it down though. Incidentally, if you want a fall-flavored dish, I would recommend Mimi’s recipe here for butternut squash soup.  The ribs were really good though.  Vivi ate them up, but it’s because she said she thinks she likes pumpkin seeds, just not pumpkin. I could’ve made the seeds a little finer, because some got stuck in our teeth, but it didn’t really matter since the rib meat did, too.  Either way, there was going to be some flossing.

Great Scots!

All hail the Clan Mackenzie, those beer-swilling, conspiracy-obsessed, tabloid-reading, Rod Stewart-loving, bagpipe aficionados!  The plot line of So I Married An Axe Murderer may ostensibly center around the romance between commitment-phobic Charlie and the thrice married Harriet, but the best scenes in the movie revolve around Charlie and his family.  Stuart (Mike Myers) and May (Brenda Fricker), in particular, steal every moment of screen time.

Of course the obvious choice for a Mackenzie tribute dish would be haggis.  Now, being Chinese, I’ve eaten and enjoyed my fair share of organ meats, but I’m not about to take on haggis.  Oh. Hell. No.  I might, however, just might, try eating it again if say Fergus Henderson cooked it…which would involve a trip to London…and that alone would be enough to tempt me.

My culinary salute to the Mackenzie family will, instead, be in the form of Scotch Quail Eggs.  After my duck egg purchase gone wrong (see previous post), I did manage to procure some perfectly fine quail eggs (from the same Asian market no less) and set about creating my version of this classic dish.  I wanted to play on Stuart’s passionate loathing of Colonel Sanders so I wrapped the soft-cooked quail eggs in raw chicken breakfast sausage and coated them in a breadcrumb/corn flake mixture seasoned with my favorite “fried chicken spice” or Old Bay Seasoning.   After a few of these wee scotched quail eggs, you’ll find yourself addicted…and quite possibly craving it fortnightly…maybe even dancing a Scottish jig to Rod Stewart on bagpipes!

Scotch Quail Eggs

6-8 Quail Eggs

6 Raw Chicken Breakfast Sausage Links, casing removed

1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour

1 cup Breadcrumbs/Ground Corn Flakes

1 Egg, beaten

1/2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning

1/4 tsp. Sea or Kosher Salt

1/8 tsp. Ground Black Pepper

Canola Oil, for frying

Bring a small pot of water to boil, then carefully lower in the quail eggs.  Reduce the heat to a gentle boil, then cover the pot and cook the eggs for 2 mins.  Immediately shock the eggs in cold water to stop the cooking process, then carefully peel off the shell.  Lightly coat the eggs in flour (this will keep the sausage from slipping off the egg).  For each egg, flatten out about a tablespoon of sausage in your hand, then place the egg in the center and form the meat around it, gently rolling it between your palms.  Roll the sausage-encased eggs one at time in the flour, shaking off the excess, then dip them in the beaten egg, then roll them in the breadcrumb mixture (seasoned with salt, pepper and Old Bay).  Heat the oil, about 2″ deep in a heavy bottom pot, to 350°F.  Fry the coated eggs, 2-3 at a time, until golden brown.

 

Everyone here calls me Vicky

There are plenty of stand-out performances in So I Married An Axe Murderer.  Without a doubt, one of our favorites is Phil Hartman’s Alcatraz tour guide/former prison guard John Johnson, whom everyone calls “Vicky.”

Despite his droll delivery, you can see the obvious glee in his eyes as Vicky gives his tour group the inside scoop on the murderous escapades of Alcatraz’s more notorious inmate, regaling them with all the gory details.

So what to make in tribute to Vicky?  Well the first thing that came to mind was pizza.  Why pizza you may ask?  Laura’s been trying to get me to make one my famous pizzas (famous because I often post pictures of them on Facebook) for the blog—an “Escape from Alcatraz” pizza, playing upon the Escape from New York Pizza chain.  I was totally on board with that idea.  We initially thought of loading the pizza with all kinds of sausage because of all the sausage-making scenes involving Charlie and Harriet at the butcher shop.  But I wanted to create a pizza that really paid homage to Vicky’s twisted sense of humor, so I decided to embrace my own twisted sense of humor and came up with Vicky’s (No) Escape from Alcatraz Pizza, which I would describe as a macabre version of “green eggs and ham” pizza (incidentally an indirect nod to Mike Myers in Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat).

At the base is my tried and true pizza dough, topped with a layer of homemade pesto sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, and halved cherry tomatoes.

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Looks like a perfectly innocent pizza, right?  Well, hold on to your knickers!  About 3/4 of the way into the baking, I cracked two organic brown eggs into the center of the pizza and fired up the broiler to cook the eggs to a lovely sunny side up, with the yolk still soft.  To finish off the pizza, I arranged slices of prosciutto di Parma around the eggs and artfully drizzled streaks of marinara sauce around the yolks to make them look like “bloody” eyeballs (a la Machine Gun Kelly).

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On a side note, I had intended to use duck eggs for this pizza, but my plans got derailed by an unfortunate trip to the Asian market–it involved lousy parking, my friend Karen being recruited to procure said duck eggs, language issues, and a clueless sales staff–which resulted in me getting the wrong kind of duck eggs…the fertilized kind…as in BALUT!!  For those of you unfamiliar with balut, let’s just say it’s like finding a bloody mini alien in an egg shell–good thing I cracked it into a bowl first!  Suffice it to say, I dispatched the nasty looking little bugger to the compost bin.  After all, it’s a comedy thriller, not a horror flick.  Next time, I’ll try the Farmer’s Market or Whole Foods for duck eggs.

Vicky’s (No ) Escape from Alcatraz Pizza

Pizza Dough:

1 cup Bread Flour

1-1/4 cup 00 Flour (for Pasta/Pizza)

1 tsp. Instant or Rapid Rise Yeast

3/4 tsp. Sea or Kosher Salt

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

3/4 cup Warm Water (110°F)

Combine the flours, salt, and yeast in a food processor fitted with a dough blade (plastic).  Pulse a few times to blend.  Combine the olive oil and water.  With the food processor going, slowly add the liquid and process until a rough ball of dough forms.  Pulse a few times at 5 second intervals until the dough is sticky and clings to the blade.  The dough should be smooth and elastic.  Turn the dough out into a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise to double its size in a warm, draft-free space.  Punch down the dough and stretch it out onto an oiled sheet pan to desire thickness.  *You can also put the dough into a greased Ziploc freezer bag at this point and freeze it for later use.  Just let it thaw in the refrigerator.

Toppings:

1/2 cup Pesto Sauce (homemade or store-bought)

1 cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

6-8 Cherry Tomatoes (halved)

2 Large Eggs (or Duck Eggs if you can find them)

4 Slices Proscuitto di Parma

1/4 cup Marinara Sauce

*sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Spread the pesto onto the stretched pizza dough, then layer on the mozzarella.  Arrange the cherry tomatoes around the perimeter.  Bake the pizza for about 10-11 mins. in a preheated 495°F oven.  Take the pizza out of the oven and crack the two eggs in the center.  Fire up the broiler and continue baking the pizza until the egg whites are just set but the yolks are still soft.  Arrange the prosciutto slices around the eggs and drizzle streaks of marinara around the yolks.  Sprinkle with a little grated Parmesan.

 

 

3 Very Dangerous Cocktails to Die For

When debating options for our Halloween-themed movie, such classics as Ghostbusters, The Shining, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Evil Dead, and An American Werewolf in London were thrown into the mix, along with other favorites like The Lost Boys and Shaun of the Dead.  In the end, however, we decided to pick something unconventional and quirky (because let’s face it,  we just like being different)–So I Married An Axe Murderer.

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Though not exactly a box office or critical success when it was released in 1993, this Mike Myers vehicle is littered with nuggets of comic gold that has made it a kind of cult classic, from  Stuart Mackenzie (Myers) ranting about Colonel Sanders’ “wee beady eyes” and how he “puts an addictive chemical in his chicken that makes ya crave it fortnightly,” to May Mackenzie (Brenda Fricker) planting a big wet one on her son’s best friend Tony (Anthony LaPaglia), whom she’s proclaims has become “a right sexy wee bastard.”  And let’s not forget the late great Phil Hartman’s genius deadpan turn as former Alcatraz prison guard turned park ranger/tour guide John Johnson, aka “Vicky.”

Contrary to the movie’s title, there are no bloody corpses (just a lot of butcher shop humor), though there are at least three murder victims, which we learn about from a sensational tabloid article in the Weekly World News (“it has the eighth highest circulation in the whole wide world”) or as May calls it “The Paper” –a lounge singer from Atlantic City, a Russian martial art expert from Miami, and a plumber from Dallas, all dispatched by the mysterious “Mrs. X.”  To start off our week-long tribute to So I Married An Axe Murderer, each of us has created a signature cocktail in honor of our respective murder victims.

For my tribute to the Russian martial art expert, I naturally chose to make a vodka-based cocktail, which I’ve dubbed The Dead White Russian.  It’s a riff on the traditional White Russian, which is basically vodka and Kahlua with cream.  For the vodka, I opted for a local artisan brand, Hangar 1, as a nod to the movie’s San Francisco setting.  In my interpretation, I used clear Creme de Cacao and Cointreau instead of the Kahlua because I wanted to keep the drink stark white in order to create a dramatic contrast to the blood red streaks of thickened raspberry puree along the sides of the martini glass and the bloody axe hanging off the rim.  The drink definitely has a ghoulish quality about it, perfect for Halloween…and bloody delicious!

 

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  • 2 oz. Vodka (Hangar 1)
  • 1 oz. Clear Creme de Cacao
  • 1/2 oz. Cointreau
  • 4 oz. Half & Half
  • 1 Tbsp. Raspberry Puree
  • 1 tsp. Seedless Raspberry Jam

*candy axe dipped in raspberry blood for garnish

Mix together the raspberry puree and jam.  Using a small pastry brush, paint bloody streaks along the sides of the martini glass.  Combine the vodka, creme de cacao, cointreau and half & half in a cocktail shaker, then shake vigorously with 3-4 ice cubes for a few seconds.  Pour the chilled drink into the prepared glass and garnish with a mini bloody candy axe.

 

The Black Widow’s Victim (Laura)

The Black Widow stalks her prey by mating with it, then slaying it.  This is the case with “the infamous Ms. X.”  I used blackberries to represent the blackness of the horrific spider which releases its venom into a pool of blood.  This mixture is then combined with Laird’s Apple Jack which represents the state of New Jersey home to Atlantic City and the Lounge Singer whose claim to fame is singing “Only You” in six different languages.  Sadly, this talent wasn’t enough to save him from his fate.  “Only you and you alone” will DIE!  Though not alone, two more husbands are killed…

 

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  • 3 Blackberries
  • 3 Basil Leaves
  • 1.5 oz Tequila
  • 1 oz Lime Juice
  • 1 tsp Agave Nectar
  • 1 oz Laird’s Applejack

Smash the the basil and blackberries in a shaker.  Add the rest of the ingredients with ice and shake.  Strain into a martini glass.  Garnish with a blackberry and basil on a toothpick.

 

Ralph’s Toilet Brush (Rina)

For me, the best part of this ridiculous movie is Charlie’s eccentric Scottish parents played remarkably by Brenda Fricker and Mike Myers. I wanted to create a cocktail that included Scotch Whiskey to pay homage to the MacKenzie Clan, and also to get a chance to drink some Scotch because it had been a LONG work week and I deserved a STRONG drank. One of my favorite Scotch cocktails is the Rob Roy, but I also needed a way to incorporate Ralph the Plumber into the mix. I know of another cocktail called The Charmer that has scotch, vermouth AND blue curacao. Blue Curacao = Liquid Drano! Brilliant! This drink goes easily down the drain, but is still dangerously strong enough to make anyone scream “Ralph” or any other name for that matter in their sleep. Enjoy!

 

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  • 1.5 oz Blended Scotch Whiskey
  • 1 oz Blue Curacao
  • 1 oz Lemon Juice or Lemon-Flavored Sparkling Soda
  • 2 dashes Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 tsp. Sugar (optional)
  • 1 Lemon Twist or Wedge, for a garnish
  • 1 Roll of Toilet Paper, as decoration to sit right next to the drink (optional)

If you are using lemon juice, first put 1 teaspoon of sugar into a shot glass. Add 2 dashes of vermouth into the glass and muddle it until the vermouth is all mixed in. Pour the scotch, blue curacao, lemon juice and sugar/vermouth mixture into a shaker, filled with ice. (You can substitute the lemon juice mixture with lemon-flavored sparkling soda. Just make sure to add the 2 dashes of vermouth to it.)

Shake and then strain the mixture into a martini glass or just simply pour into an old-fashioned glass on the rocks. Garnish with a lemon twist or, if you are clever, cut out the pulp from a lemon segment, form into a ball and needle through a toothpick so that it resembles a toilet brush. Make sure to swish the “toilet brush” along the inside of the glass for good measure!

 

Small Dice Challenge: Thai-inspired Fish and Rice

This week we changed up our scene a little.  My daughter had expressed a few days earlier that she wanted to help me cook on Chopped night after cooking something with her Papa.  After the initial “Eek,” I agreed that it was a “great idea” and thanked my daughter for taking the initiative to blah blah blah.  Don’t get me wrong I love when children express a yearning to learn (and help for that matter), and I love to teach.  With cooking, though, I am not 100% confident in my skill set…I’m not even 50% confident–I win some, I lose some.  Okay, that is not accurate.  I, at best, get by with not producing inedible food.  My dinners are fast and efficient…and not bad.  They’re far from four stars outside of the palate of a six year old.  Anyways when outside of my comfort zone I need total concentration, or, at least, enough to not burn anything.  Oh well it would be a new experience, so I dived in.  Since my daughter would be cooking with me, I decided she could draw our ingredients from a hat, well actually a bowl, based on the foods we had in the house.

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 We ended up with:

 I immediately thought of Thai food.  We, of course, had rice, because that is a pantry staple, and I had just bought some fish that day–cod, to be exact.  First, I had my daughter help me make the rice.  It was easy enough to let her  pour one cup of rice to two cups of vegetable broth, while I cut up some carrots and broccoli.  She also added the sesame oil.  We, then, set it to boil and put a lid on it.

 Then, we prepared the fish.  Normally, I like to put a little sear on it, but my dishes were piling up, so in the oven it went.  I had my daughter throw some lemon juice, salt, and pepper on it beforehand.

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 While those two things were cooking, we created the sauce using mango juice, soy sauce, sweet & sour sauce, curry, water, and peanut butter.  It didn’t take long to melt it altogether in a pot on the burner.  My daughter’s job was to keep stirring and not touch the stove with her hand.

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 The rice finished in about 20 minutes and the fish in about 40.  My daughter couldn’t wait to eat the food she helped prepare, so she watched me plate every step of the way.

IMG_20151022_091316 We couldn’t decide whether the sauce should go on the fish or rice, so she suggested we try it on each separately.  She would try it on the rice, while I ate it on my fish.  It turned out quite good.  Nevertheless, I was chopped!  I forgot to use the lunch meat, which I had planned to put in the rice, but had returned to the fridge and forgot all about it. We made just enough food for the both of us, so the sauce was the only thing leftover, which was quite a shock to my husband when he thought he was reheating beans in the morning!  He was not ecstatic.