Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fairy Godmother Xmas Cookies

Dear Mouse, 


(deep breath)

Christmas Eve in Princeton NJ, just before community carol singing. 

What a good time! I once again spent a dreamy Xmas Eve with the BFF Fam in NJ and then hightailed it back to NYC for  Maybe one of the Best Xmas Day Feasts Yet. This one deserves special mention because it was the first Mouse House-Hosted one and went swimmingly. I was very happy to be one of three Supporting Player Apartment Kitchens contributing to the We-All-Live-In-The-Same-Building Yellow-Submarine-Style Holiday meal. I would say Honorable Mentions go to Your Husband's intoxicating and fragrant three-days-in-the-making Pernil and to the Mother's wonderfully juicy despite-broken-oven-and-emergency-relocation-while-cooking Turkey. 

But since we both agree that maybe we're kind of maxed out on the Full-Meal-Photo-Recap of Big Holiday Meals, I'll stop there and focus in, as you requested, on one particular treat. 

No, not that. 

(My Xmas Present from the BFF's 3-year old, approved by Mama and requested from shopkeeper as "for my fairy godmother (!!) who is very sparkly". (OMG))

No, not that either. 
( But isn't that cool? This was in my tip jar at the "Christmas Eve Eve" gig. A good omen!)

Getting Closer...
(BFF child in question. Now, imagine a dessert version of this image...)

 ... you got it!
("Peppermint Cream Squares", courtesy of, a first-time recipe Chez Boo.)

Yes, Mouse, if I learned anything in 2012 it's that I know an exciting dessert when I read one. If a recipe leaps off the page at me, inspiring curiosity and wonder and demanding special mail-order ingredients, well then Amazon here I come and I probably won't regret it. 

Everyone liked these, skeptics and sweet tooths alike. They are a perfect xmas confection: cool with peppermint, festively colored pink and white, rich with shortbread crust and a salty-creamy-sweet cream cheese-powdered sugar-crushed mint filling. It's basically 'The Nutcracker' in a baking pan.

The recipe says that for those who like "a strong mint flavor", peppermint extract may be added to taste, 1/4 tsp at a time. I am happy to say that I resisted this temptation (I'm often a "strong flavor" girl), and  followed Ina Garten's advice to always make a recipe strictly to the letter the very first time. Having tasted these I now think that to add more mint would take it from delicious white-christmas treat to something more along the lines of Crest White Strips. Not as tasty.

I used Bob's Sweet Stripes Soft Mint Candies, as the recipe suggests. One bag made two batches of cookies with some mints left over. I did run them through the cuisinart, though I also tested out the hammer method and that's pretty fun.  I recommend doing this the day before, or maybe just first to get it out of the way.

I also do have parchment paper on hand for these occasions and this recipe needs it.

You make a shortbread crust which is super easy as it involves no kneading or rolling out, just mushing it into a pan with your hands. I didn't have an 8X8 pan so I just used my 9x13 pyrex and pressed the dough into a square leaving some empty pan space. It worked - the dough held its shape and the filling didn't run over much. You chill 1/2 C of the dough while the rest goes in the oven.

While it's baking, you whisk the filling:

                                Powdered mints, confectioner's sugar, cream cheese, and milk.

 The shortbread comes out when it's half done and cools for 10 min. Then you pour the filling on and spread it around. Some reserved, chilled dough is grated over the top with a cheese grater (or just crumble it, but it looks nice this way.)

It bakes again, cools again, and you finish it with more peppermint/sugar powder while it's still warm. Cool it comPLETEly before lifting out and cutting into squares. 

Perhaps a new holiday staple, and I thought we had those down. Just goes to show, plus ca change, plus cookie recipes to be discovered. I'm pasting the recipe below and will bring some by later. God Bless Us, Every One!


The Boo

The Kitchn's "Peppermint Cream Squares"

For the shortbread:
1 C butter, softened (I used kerrygold unsalted and cut it into pieces for faster softening)
1/2 C powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 C all-purpose flour

For the filling:

30 soft mint * candies  
1 C powdered sugar, divided
1/4 C cream cheese (i'd let this soften a bit too)
2 tbsp whole milk
Peppermint extract (optional) (but try without)

* must be SOFT not the hard peppermints you're thinking of, or they will wreck your food processor. Think the mints from old-fashioned restaurants that kind of dissolve in your mouth. Or just order Bob's.

Heat oven to 350.
Line 8x8 baking dish w parchment paper so that ends hang over sides (see link above for picture). Coat parchment and exposed parts of pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Make shortbread: beat butter until creamy. Scrape down sides of bowl and add sugar. Beat again til light and fluffy like frosting. On low speed beat in flour and salt until dough comes together/no more flour visible. 

Scoop out 1/2 C of the dough and refrigerate in covered container.

Scrape remaining dough into baking dish. Press the dough flat with buttered hands, pushing into corners and smoothing the top. Bake 20-25 min until dough is turning golden at edges. Remove from oven and cool for 10 min.

While dough bakes,make the filling. Put soft mint candies in the food processor and pulse until they have broken down into powder with pieces no larger than rock salt. (again, I recommend doing this ahead). This "will make an enormous racket". (Alternatively, you can put them in a sealed bag and smash with a hammer, which is fun.)

Mix powdered candies with 1/2C of powdered sugar and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and milk. Add the remaining 1/2 C powdered sugar and 3/4C of powdered candy mixture to the cream cheese. Whisk to form a thick paste. Taste and add extract in increments if you'd like a stronger flavor. (Like I said, don't do this.)

When shortbread is cooled but still warm, pour peppermint cream mixture over it and smooth into corners. Remove reserved shortbread dough from fridge and grate or crumble it over the peppermint cream layer.

Bake for another 10-13 minutes until edges are just starting to bubble. The crumbled dough on top will remain pretty light-colored. 

Remove from oven and let bars cool in pan 15 minutes. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of peppermint powder/sugar over the top while bars are still warm. 

Let bars cool completely,  then lift from the pan (by edges of parchment) and cut into squares. 


Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Chicken at the End of the World

Dear Mouse, 

Happy Winter!

Xmas Tree on the porch of The Porches Inn, North Adams, MA

 It's 12:01 AM on 12/22/12, which means the Winter Solstice has passed, and we are all still alive, praise {Insert Mayan Deity Here}. You, A-Mac and MD have just left my place after our annual Solstice Dinner, which means I have been consuming wine since early 12/21/12. As such, I'll try to keep this short, sweet, and coherent.

I've been back in NYC for twelve days now since A-Mac and I returned from a two-week gig up in the Berkshires that was, on several levels, the stuff that dreams are made on. 

                                      Even though we had to wear our own faces all the time. 

(My) first snow of the year!! glimpsed from hotel window

Just another day at the office

                               Sabine, the Porches Inn Cat, stares at the fire. (There's a fireplace.)

I'm well aware that a lot is going on in our world at the moment. Certainly there's been enough new things to blog about in the time since I returned from AvantShangriLuminatiCamp. And I'm aware that if I AM going to yammer on about My Winter Vacation in the hills I could at least talk about the incredible Museum where we worked, the beautiful and challenging piece we were there to rehearse, the Dream Team Playwright/Director/Composer triumverate I have only dreamed of, or at least the memorable acoustic gig I played in a local sports bar/restaurant, singing in front of a popcorn machine between two flat screen TVs. These are all important.

But all I really want to talk about ...

... is breakfast.

So, you fill out the little card and hang it on your door at night...

... and in the morning, this happens.

(L to R (basically): chocolate croissant, juice glass, adorable silver 'lunchbox', black mug, grapefruit juice, half-and-half, coffee thermos, NY Times.)

Yes, the Porches Inn in North Adams, where we were housed for this gig, is a pretty stellar joint. It has a lot going for it : rural charm, proximity to famous museum, fireplace, 24-hour outdoor hot tub. But the feature which has ruined me for all Actor Housing going forward is

 - three words -

 Complimentary. In-room. Breakfast. 

Let's see it again, shall we?

I mean, if you can imagine a more Boo-Friendly amenity I'd like to hear it. 
You choose coffee or tea, type of juice, type of pastry, type of milk!!, and either local news or NY Times. Oh, and when I requested fruit instead of pastry? I got it. Apple & orange. I mean I still can't get over this . I really can't. 

I figured, well, I'll do that for the first few mornings. You know, until I get sick of it. 

(I never got sick of it. Oh, yeah, and all our meals were catered. And ... scene.)

But nothing gold can stay, and so it was that we finished the project with tears, laughter, harmony, weight gain, and good memories. I found myself back in NYC, forlorn, bleary-eyed, and - gasp! - having to fix my own breakfast.  Oh, the hardships of re-entry. 

Fortunately, we do have The Commons downstairs, and so far no one there has noticed when I'm wearing pajamas.  Also fortunately, the five-pound bag of The Roasterie 'Kansas City Blend' coffee I ordered (from, yes, Kansas City) arrived while I was gone. And most fortunately of all, I remembered that I like to cook

And when you find yourself in the kitchen feeling, for whatever reason, just a little out of practice (read: lazy/whiny), it's good to have a reaally simple, shall we say Foolproof recipe to which you can turn.

Chicken with Shallots, from Ina Garten's new cookbook, "Foolproof", which The Mother gave us both for Hanukkah. Good timing. 

This is the chicken I made for you guys tonight and I think I can say it was a hit. I recommend it for a busy winter week like this because it is FAST, Easy, and yet also somehow Fancy-Seeming and special. 

Happy Winter and Room Service for All!


The Boo

The Boo's Room Service Recovery Chicken, or Ina Garten's 'Chicken With Shallots' from 'Foolproof'

*I do not own an ovenproof skillet, so I browned the chicken in a pan on the stove and then transferred it to a roasting pan for the oven part. Also, Ina calls for "boneless, skin-on" chicken breasts which I couldn't find. My breasts had bones (you know what I mean) and it was just fine. *


4 skin-on chicken breasts
1/4 C minced shallot (1 large)
1/3 C fresh lemon juice  
3 tbsp heavy cream
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter, diced, room temp
1/2 C white wine
3 tbsp canola or veg oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 425. 
Heat oil in skillet over med high heat for 2 min until it starts to smoke. 
Place chicken breasts, skin down, in oil and leave them for 4 - 5 min.
With tongs, turn them over and put the skillet in the oven for 12-15 min. (or, like me, transfer to roasting pan, and put in oven.)
Meanwhile, on stove, mix shallots, lemon juice, and wine in a saucepan over med-high heat. Cook until reduced to about 2 tbsp.  
Add cream, salt, pepper and bring to a boil. 
Turn off heat and add the diced butter. Swirl the pan to melt the butter.  (Don't reheat, says Ina, or sauce will "break", something that the Mouse explained to me and I still don't understand what it is.)
Take out the chicken and pour the sauce over it. Serve. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pork Chops ala Wednesday Chef

Dear Boo,

I know it's the holiday season and our heads should be full of sugarplums dancing and mulled cider and candy canes and chestnuts roasting on an open fire. But today I'm thinking about pork chops. Specifically, these pork chops, which are so deceptively simple its almost silly and so delicious you will find yourself doing even sillier things like swiping your finger across the clean plate to get one last salty slick of meaty juice. Actually, for this task fingers are nice, but a fingerling potato is nicer. Take note.

The other day, the site where I work had a special delivery of free vegetables from the CSA which normally has their pick-up at our building. I stuffed a bag with all the tiny yams and sweet potatoes, carrots covered in dirt, radishes, parsnips, sunchokes, bunches of bok choy, and yes, fingerling potatoes, I could carry. I mean, I really stocked up. Free fresh from the farm veggies! It was almost as good as a christmas bonus. For days we ate roasted roots, sauteed and mashed, and stir-fried. And one night, too bored by chicken, pasta feeling too heavy, my wallet too thin for steak, I remembered seeing this recipe which had made me drool (and not just from jealousy) and thought it would be the perfect pairing with the last veggies rolling around in the crisper. I was skeptical at first, what with the minimal ingredients and the copious amounts of salt, and let's face it, its fairly easy to dry out a pork chop, but it really does work. Before we drown in a sea of christmas cookies and rum punch (and don't forget the latkes), make yourself a porkchop. Simple and unadorned, its the perfect antidote to the holiday season overdose.

Look here for the recipe from the Wednesday Chef and try not to die of jealousy. 

The Mouse

Just like that:

and then that:

and then this:

and then yum. Trust me. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

MouseBouche Gets Published!

Dear Mouse,

It's Election Day, we survived Hurricane Sandy and three days in the dark, we had midnight Halloween snacks by candlelight, your theatre company raised a ton of money, you saved some clients' lives, and I opened a show ...

all of which deserves discussion. But for now I think I'll just limit this post to the Really Big News...

...Someone paid us to write about food!!!

A hearty electionsandyweenblackoutlifesavingtechweekopening round of applause to the good people at for commissioning two articles from us about the intersection between LOVE and FOOD for their "Breakfast Love and Dinner" series. (A personal shout out to them also for providing the titles, as I've never been any good at that.)

 Without further ado, here's "9 Ways to Celebrate a Special Occasion On the Cheap", from The Mouse


" 4 Incredible Love Lessons We Can All Learn From Cooking", from The Boo.

My original assignment was "How Writing a Food Blog With My Sister Has Helped my Love Life". I volunteered for that one just to find out what I'd say. :))

More soon.  Hope all of our readers are safe, warm, AND VOTING!


The Boo

Friday, October 26, 2012

I am Meatloaf, and So Can You!

Dear Boo,

I am writing this to you from the jury holding room at New York's criminal courts. What could be more American than bearing witness to a centuries old justice system, stepping into a pillared court house, and grousing about doing your civic duty? In that spirit, I'd like to share with you another pillar of American culture, the meatloaf.

Have you ever asked yourself the question: why don't I make meatloaf more often? Probably not. And yet, this is exactly what I said to myself the minute I made this recipe for the first time. It's high in protein, not terrible for you, easy to make, makes amazing leftovers (for what is better than a meatloaf sandwich?), and, I've found, in these days of visiting friends with newborns, when it is practically criminal to arrive without a meal, highly portable. And did I mention it's freaking delicious, especially when you add my little secret twist?

Okay, so it's turkey meatloaf. Which maybe some true patriots will disagree is actually meatloaf, but I have to say I prefer it. Our mother always used to season turkey meat for burgers or meat sauce with a dash (or more) of worcestershire sauce. What I didn't know then, was that worcestershire is made partially from anchovies, which contains umami, that depth of flavor and extra oomph that hits you in the back of the mouth in that place just under your tongue that gets all worked up when something tasty is coming its way, and which is noticeably lacking in bland meat like ground turkey. I just thought it made it taste more like beef, which was a good thing. This recipe uses a copious amount of worcestershire as well as other umami-packed ingredients like tomato paste and ketchup, which is, I think, what makes it so dang tasty.

As mentioned, I added a little twist, which may make some other patriots question the Americanness of this particular meatloaf, (patriots, perhaps, like those whose grandparents immigrated here but who think if you get stopped for a traffic violation and you look kind of brown and kind of illegal, you should be asked for your papers. but I digress), but which I think makes it that much more American for its melting-pot nature, and what's more American than progress and improvement? We know I love the picadillo, another meat-centric comfort food dish that the Husband grew up eating, which involves olives and raisins--an odd-sounding combo if you're not used to it, but totally transformative. The sweet and sour and salty seemed just right for punching up a turkey meatloaf, so I threw some raisins and olives in when I made this a few weeks ago. It was a good move, and one which I've continued to replicate when I've made it since. Take it or leave it (I know our Auntie will recoil in disgust when she reads this), or try something else that's more to your liking--sauteed mushrooms, chopped walnuts, apple pie, whatever.

The photo I received while at work, from the Husband who was very pleased
with his lunch.
Note : the meatloaf sandwich above is not to scale. It is very, very large. 
Whether you're nervously stress eating as we lead up to the most American of days on November 6th, you need some comfort food to get you through the last gasps of this neverending campaign season, or you're planning a results-watching party with a group of friends, I'm telling you, for the love of this country--Make this.
Or show me the long form of your birth certificate.

Thank you. God bless you. And may God Bless these United States of America.


The Mouse

Turkey Meatloaf ala Ina Garten, by way of the Mouse House

3 cups chopped yellow onions (2 large onions) 
2 tablespoons good olive oil 
2 teaspoons kosher salt 
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried) 
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce 
3/4 cup chicken stock 
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste 
5 pounds ground turkey breast (this is a LOT, so i used a little less, and adjusted)
1 1/2 cups plain dry bread crumbs 
3 extra-large eggs, beaten 
3/4 cup ketchup 
Optional: 1/2 cup or more green olives, 1/2 cup or more raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a medium saute pan, over medium-low heat, cook the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme until translucent, but not browned, approximately 15 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste and mix well. Allow to cool to room temperature. Combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, eggs, onion mixture, olives and raisins in a large bowl. Mix well and shape into a rectangular loaf on an ungreased sheet pan. Spread the ketchup evenly on top. Bake for 1 1/2 hours until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F. and the meatloaf is cooked through. Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold in a sandwich.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dear Mouse,

Do you think I can post a recipe if I ate it before I could take a picture because I did not foresee it as being blogworthy in any way?

Well, here we are.

(I can't believe I'm even posting this, both because of the number of other things I should be doing right now (though that is also the exact reason to post it!) and because it's -- well, really not at all an actual "recipe". It involves no cooking.  It might not even be Food, if we're going by the Pollan definition.

But for this hungry, hopped up and (suddenly) busy bee, it'll do. And I thought maybe others with limited energy and time (like yourself, the busiest Bee   - er, Mouse - I know) might appreciate.)

The Boo's May I Suggest Incredibly Fast Post-Rehearsal, Pre-Audition, Pre-Other Rehearsal, and 
Weeknight-in-Cold-Season Chicken "Stew" For One

1 can Chicken-and-Rice Soup (I used Healthy Choice)
1 large handful torn raw kale leaves (or other dark green)
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tbsp? chopped parsley (and/or whatever other herbs you have lying around)
1 squirt of Sriracha hot sauce
1 squirt lemon

Bring soup to a simmer in pot on stove. 
Add everything else. 
Taste for seasonings. Stir a few times. 
When kale is wilted/cooked, it's done. Yummy.

If you have any fresh ginger that would be great in there too. You're welcome! Take your vitamins, get your beauty sleep, and buy tickets for this foot-stompin', roof-raising, beautiful show, running November 1 - 18 at the Beckett on Theatre Row. It's good for what ails ya.


The Boo

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Magical Root

Dear Boo,

I've spent a considerable amount of time extolling the wonders of the beet, it's sweet, earthy flavor, its deep purple stain, its rough, hairy exterior hiding a smooth, silky texture that is neither potato, nor carrot, nor melon, nor radish, but is also a little bit of all of those things, its ability to pair perfectly with everything from cottage cheese to beef...

But this is not about the beet. 

Sure, the dish you see above was delicious, and got rave reviews: "the highlight of my meal!" said Cousin Sam, "The beets are fantastic!" said our very discriminating uncle, "They weren't disgusting!" said our mother the beet-hater. "I just want to cry while I hold my cookie!" said the wise and self-reflective 3 year old in attendance (also, she ate some beets). But I'd like to draw your attention to the sauce dolloped not so artfully atop this dish (I never claimed to be a food stylist). For in it is an ingredient often overlooked, unsung, or just plain mocked.

Horseradish, people.

who knew it was so beautiful? not I.

What else, praytell, enhances the flavor of both a cocktail, and a roast beef? What is strong enough to blow up your skirt, singe your nasal passages, and put hair on your chest, and yet can be trusted to encrust a delicate piece of salmon or top deviled eggs? Horseradish. 

It makes a frequent appearance at Jewish holidays, atop the oft-maligned gefilte fish or whole and unadorned on the seder plate, and at sunday dinner tables all over the UK. But did you know it is it is also "widely used in research for immunohistochemistry labelling of tissue sections, e.g. in biopsies of subjects suspected to have cancer."? Or that it can be used to treat everything from "urinary tract infections, bronchitis, sinus congestion, ingrowing toenails and coughs." (I'd have to do some more research to know whether one ingests it or rubs it on one's feet to deal with the toenail thing.) And I'm pretty sure that raw, it could be used as a biological weapon. How badass is that???

But seriously. I think it's time we paid more attention to horseradish as a condiment/flavoring/pancaea. I'm not sure hard core foodies would say horseradish actually contains umami, that magical mysterious fifth taste found in things like parmesan, tomatoes, fish sauce, and ketchup, but it comes damn close with its mix of spicy, sour, bitter, and tang (from the vinegar that gets added to the prepared stuff). I'm all for adding it to sandwiches, spreading it on cheese and crackers, stirring it into salad dressing, heaping it on hash browns, dolloping it on a bagel and lox, and introducing it to a few more drinking buddies beyond Ms. Mary. Oh, oh, and what about a take on fried chicken wings with a creamy horseradish dipping sauce!

I'm getting carried away. I just wrote an entire post on horseradish.

Make this and you'll know what I'm talking about.
If you have an ingrown toenail, let me know how that goes too.


The Mouse

Roasted Beets with Horseradish Creme Fraiche 
from Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers with Lucques 

4 bunches different-colored beets 
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
1 tablespoon diced shallot, plus 1/4 cup sliced shallots 
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar 
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 
2 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice 
1/2 cup crème fraîche 
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish 
1/4 cup heavy cream 
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

 Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut off the beet greens, leaving 1/2 inch of the stems still attached. (You can save the leaves for sauteing later—they are delicious!) Clean the beets well, and toss them with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt Place the beets in a roasting pan with a splash of water in the bottom. Cover the pan tightly with foil, and roast for about 40 minutes, until they're tender when pierced. (The roasting time will depend on the size and type of beet.) When the beets are done, carefully remove the foil. Let cool, and peel the beets by slipping off the skins with your fingers. Cut them into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. While the beets are in the oven, combine the diced shallot, both vinegars, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl, and let sit 5 minutes. Whisk in the 1/2 cup olive oil. Taste for balance and seasoning. Whisk the crème fraîche and horseradish together in a small bowl. Stir in the heavy cream, remaining 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, ⅛ teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Toss the beets and sliced shallots with the vinaigrette. (If you're using different-colored beets, dress each color in a separate bowl so the colors don't bleed.) Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper, and toss well. Taste for balance and seasoning. Arrange on a platter and dollop (more artfully than the Mouse) on the beets.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bringing It: Rosh Hashanah Plum Tart

Dear Mouse,

Happy New Year!

Let it be known that I started writing this post as soon as I walked in the door  from the family dinner where I served the item to be discussed below. I think that's a first.

"... the late August abundance of italian prune plums, which i find better cooked than eaten out of hand."
                                    -Sarah Leah Chase, Nantucket Open House Cookbook

(Longtime readers will recall that the above words signify The Boo's unhealthy  obsession with said Chase cookbook, since she committed them to memory upon first reading Chase's "Purple Plum Crunch"   recipe (yes, republished by Ina) years ago. She now cannot mention, eat, or think  about prune plums without muttering this phrase inanely like some kind of fruit mantra. Oh, and lest she forget, The Mouse also likes to helpfully repeat it every time plums come up in conversation (surprisingly often). It's like that South Park when Cartman can't even think of the song "Sail Away" without having to sing the entire thing...? Anyway.)

As I mentioned in my last post and will probably repeat, I am Super Excited to greet Fall. And  I'm just going to keep it real for a second and say I'm maybe more excited than usual this year because, for me, the summer of 2012 .... sucked. Yep.  Winter/spring was great (work! love! income!). Then, come June, all of it, in the words of the great Eddie Izzard, "slowly collapsed, like a flan in a cupboard."
(He was talking about the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but that's basically the same thing as my life.)

Fortunately, I'm a big girl now and I recognize these droughts for what they are: droughts. End of career and personal life? Probably not. Hard? Yes. But there's always a choice. I could have spent all summer lying on my floor complaining to the fan.  Or,  I could do what I did: lie on the floor 60% of the time, and spend the rest in Spiritual Boot Camp. I read kind of every helpful Text I could get my hands on. I went on Yoga Retreat (Thanks Mom!) . I talked to various Advisors.  I - yes - cooked. And..

I re-enrolled in "Shouting Aerobics"!

...which is totally not what it's called but it makes me giggle every time I say it to myself.
And when you're sweating through 60 -75 minutes of cardio while also shouting positive statements like a New Age Cheerleader ("I GIVE! MY BEST! THE REST I LET GO!!"), you feel A) AMAZING, there's no way around it... and B) SO RIDICULOUS that it helps (at least the first time) to keep a little NYC snark on hand for balance. Whatever gets you through the squats.

                                                         Best Plum Tart (pre-cooking)

I think I really thought I was so out of shape that if I went back to class I might actually die. Like, I just flat-out couldn't and wouldn't make it. Then I did. And THEN, after not dying,  I had two Big Thoughts. One was "I am capable of more than I think"...  and,  right on its heels: "... and I should be acting like it more often."

Attention Must Be Paid: The Mother's showstopping version of  Beatty's Chocolate Cake (L), (so light and fluffy yet so deeply chocolatey!) and your take on Smitten Kitchen's Apple Charlotka ("more apples than batter") (R), both of which graced the Rosh Hashanah table. (Why don't I have a picture of The Aunt's cheesecake? Too busy eating.)

What if, I thought, I really, actually, did my best, in everything I do? What if I brought my best game to every task, no matter what, even if my best isn't that amazing on everything?  What would that be like? I decided I am going to spend this Fall finding out. Or, as I put it to Mr. Poet at our lunch the other day:

" I'm making a plum tart for Rosh Hashanah... 
and it is going to be the Best Damn Plum Tart I can possibly make! "  

                                                                   Here it is.

We clinked our (second round of) bloody marys together, and I went off to buy 14 italian prune plums...whichifindbettercoookedthaneatenoutofhandohmygodicantstop.

The experience was a great mix of improvisation and careful attention to detail. I went basically with Dorie Greenspan for both the filling (layer of jam, layer of plums, walnuts and sugar on top) and the crust (her Sweet Tart Dough). But I threw in a little cassis liqueur as homage to Chase. And I mistakenly bought an 11.5-inch pan when the recipe is meant for a 9-inch pan. ("Oh no don't burn it!" - alarmed Mouse Text.) But I decided I would just refrain from preheating too long, and then watched it like a hawk. It worked out great - I like a thin crust.  

Moral of the story? Success! The crust did not burn or tear. The plum juice did not ooze excessively. And it was consumed - almost entirely! - by our discerning family!  And I felt GREAT for having given my all to something and done it to the best of my ability. On one level, you could say it's just a small thing that doesn't have anything to do with Big Life Issues. On another, it makes me realize again how everything, actually, IS connected ... because the feeling of Kicking Ass in one area just makes you want to Bring It in others. A good reminder to always Give Your Best ... then, the Rest You can  Let Go. 

Happy Fall (again),

The Boo

The Boo's Best Plum Tart



Make Dorie's "Sweet Tart Dough" (scroll to bottom of page for recipe). Follow her instructions exactly except the part about the 9-inch pan. For this recipe, you want my happily wrong proportions (11.5 - in tart pan with removable bottom). Crust-making-phobics (of which I am one) will note joyfully that you don't have to roll it out -- just press it into the pan with your fingers and chill that s*t for at least 30 minutes.


12-14 italian prune plums (ok if they're large you'll use fewer, I think I had about 10 in there. If you have extra, roast them and put them on your oatmeal, your chicken, anything.)
1/4 C plum jam (I used Sarabeth's "plum and sour cherry spreadable fruit", but my tart was quite tart. If you like things sweeter, maybe use regular sugary jam)
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp chopped walnuts
A splash (2 tbsp?) of cassis liqueur if you have it
1 tbsp cornstarch

Halve and pit the plums and put them into a bowl. If they're big plums, maybe slice each half again. Toss with cassis and cornstarch and set aside.

Mix walnuts and sugar in a bowl. Set aside.

Take out chilled tart shell and set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, or a silpat, or whatever.

Spoon jam into chilled tart shell and spread across bottom. 

Arrange plum halves or slices in concentric circles on top of the jam, starting at the outer edge of the shell and working your way in.

Scatter sugar/walnut mixture over the fruit.

Cover in plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for 30 minutes. 

Now, maybe with like 5 minutes to go, preheat the oven to 425. 

Remove plastic wrap from tart! (I almost forgot to do this), and put baking sheet with tart on it in oven for 20 minutes. (at 10 minutes give it a glance and check speed crust is browning).

After 20 minutes, take it out, tent it loosely with foil (to keep the crust from getting too dark) and put it back in for another 10.  It's done when the crust is a lovely golden brown and the fruit is bubbling. 

Let cool for at least 45 min, then remove outer ring of pan and slide the rest (with bottom) onto platter, Serve warm or at room temp.    

Thursday, September 13, 2012

So Long, Summer. It's Been Real.

Dear Boo,

Have I told you about my realization that our country's school system has ruined my life?

No, not in any of those boring child left behind, teaching to the test, slipping through the cracks kind of ways. Mine is a far worse affliction.

I cannot, no matter how many years of real life I have under my belt, get past the feeling that summer = free time and fun, while fall = anxiety, anticipation, homework. As a result, I spend two months of the year feeling perpetually ROBBED as I truck myself to and fro, home to work, work to home. And then, come this time of year, I suddenly kick into overdrive, ready for something to HAPPEN. As the weather gets cooler, I find myself practically at the edge of my seat, picking out my first day of school outfit and cracking open that composition notebook. So while in some ways it's hard to say goodbye to summer (AGAIN), having as usual, not eaten enough tomatoes, not wiggled my toes in the sand enough, with three sad peaches (the first I've had this season!) languishing on my kitchen table looking a little sad and out of place, and only about a hundred freckles to my name, I'm also sort of ready for a change, you know?

But let's not be too hasty.

Below: the summer smorgasbord of loveliness that has become somewhat of a tradition...

Shrimp tossed with some fish sauce, lemon, cumin, coriander, and garlic, grilled on our lovely All-Clad grill pan, a wedding gift which is a summer savior for those of us cityfolk with ZERO outdoor space. (Again, ROBBED.)

Grilled flank steak and chorizo with a different version of my new favorite sauce

Potatoes with butter and herbs, endive, avocado and mango salad, and off to your right--don't be deceived by the terrible placement--a bowl of the most delicious, indulgent, thumb-your-nose-at-fall corn dish. 

So, our friend ED, who technically knew the Husband before he knew me, but who, as it turns out, is dating my old co-worker who I knew and loved way before I knew him, and who I wrangled into joining my theater company and who then got conned into playing the love interest in that little play I wrote and who I recently spent a weekend in the wilds of the Poconos with, reading a hundred plays in four days and cooking up a storm, and who is currently the tyrannical leader of some fantasy football nonsense  endeavor that my Husband, aka Dream Act This, is valiantly competing in, prides himself on the fact that he makes one dish very well. He is an odd eater, to say the least, with objections to perfectly harmless things like POTATOES and BEANS and TOMATOES, which makes it difficult for me to count him among my friends. But, he makes a killer Mexican corn. As he's originally from Mexico City, I feel safe in claiming this dish has some authenticity to it. At least when he makes it. 

Here's the deal:

Cut the kernels off a bunch of earns of corn. Throw them in a pot/sautee pan with a bunch of butter (like a whole stick for let's say, 6-8 ears?) and salt and let em cook. Stir in a great big blob of mayonnaise, and one of sour cream. Dump in a bunch of chili powder, "so it changes color some", and cook to your liking. Taste and adjust, taste and adjust. Throw in a generous amount of grated cheese (queso fresco or cotija or some such), and squeeze in the juice of a lime. Taste again for salt. Serve. Summer street food at its best.

Boo, I know fall is your favorite season, and I have to say after the blazing summer we just survived, I'm eagerly looking forward to the turning leaves and turned-up collars. But before we succumb completely, make a batch of this and hold onto summer just a little bit longer. Maybe we can eke out one more lazy day before it's back to school. 


The Mouse

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Back to School (Almond Flour, NYC)

Dear Mouse,

"Sorry when I go dark
It must have been I forgot about the spark
Sorry when I go lame
I got no reason I should ever complain..."
-Don Chaffer, 'Son of a Gun', coming SOON to NYC's Theatre Row (November 1-18)

It's happened. Our Auntie's Labor Day BBQ has come and gone, everyone's putting up "first day of school!" pictures of their kids on FaceBook, and I just brought home a striped burgundy cardigan from the Free People sale rack. True, the Equinox is a couple of weeks away and there are still peaches at the Greenmarket... but there's no denying that Autumn is nearly upon us.

I, for one, am thrilled. For one thing, orange-yellow-wine-colored-smoky-windy Fall has always been my favorite season, and for another I'm going into rehearsal again!!!  after a Very Quiet Summer (not my favorite).

My friend Mr. Poet has this great way of describing the phenomenon of the way creative jobs often lead to other creative jobs...

... or, as he puts it, "Gig Babies".

Actual (not Gig) Baby: Newest Addition to the Poet Family! Just had to share.

I woke up thinking about the show, and how this particular Gig Baby, like so many, came not from any conventional hiring process but from relationships:  a recommendation from another artist who knew me and thought someone else should too. And, because there's almost nothing I can't connect to food, I was also thinking about the "gig baby" phenomenon as regards recipes; how new/shared recipes naturally lead to other new discoveries. 

Also, I just met our costume designer and there's nothing like the word "lingerie" to make you get Very Interested in Lower Carb Alternatives to your favorite dishes. 

The point is, I made this chicken. 

                                  The Boo's Parmesan Chicken: A Family Staple Makeover. Read on.

Now, Mouse, I know you think you recognize this from, say, any weeknight at our house growing up, when The Mother would come in from a long day of Living Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances and have to put something on the table. That simple dish, of chicken breasts dipped in melted butter and rolled in 'Italian-Style' breadcrumbs and Kraft Parmesan from the green can, has always been one of my favorite meals of all time. It could not be easier or more comforting, and I often whip this up in my own kitchen when Circumstances have gotten just a little too Truthful.

Then, Enter my New Best Friend:

Almond Flour. It's Flour ... Made of Almonds .
I'm sure you see where this is going.

Long story short, the "gig baby" that resulted from my recent love affair with Dorie Greenspan's Isphahan Rose Cake was ... well, anything and everything that can be done with this nut flour. One night, I was making sweet potato fries in the oven and I impulsively rolled the little orange sticks in almond meal as well as olive oil. OMG. Sweet, nutty, textured, high-protein and delicious. A revamped version of The Mother's classic chicken recipe seemed inevitable.  Here it is, below. In my version, almond flour replaces the breadcrumbs, olive oil replaces the melted butter, and a layer of "Enjoy" (caramelized onion jam, which The Mother likes to call by one particular favorite brand name)  added just to liven things up.  

And now I'm off to make a peach tart with (you guessed it) almond flour crust.


Love ,

The Boo

The Boo's Almond-Crusted Parmesan Chicken With "Enjoy"
(Warning: There are no measurements in this highly forgiving and improvisational family recipe. But you kinda can't go wrong)


boneless, skinless chicken breasts (i sometimes cut in half to make them skinnier/crispier)
Kraft Parmesan Cheese from the can (this ingredient stays)
Almond Flour or Almond Meal
"Enjoy", or your favorite brand of savory onion jam
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350.  Make a pile approx half parmesan, half almond flour on a plate, enough to coat all your chicken. Add salt and pepper to this mix, to taste. Sometimes I add herbs de provence too, if I have them. Coat a chicken breast in olive oil and spoon/slap some Enjoy all over it as well (it won't all stick and it'll be messy - recipe still in progress) and press each into parmesan/almond pile. Flip and press the other side. Place in baking pan/roasting pan. Repeat with each chicken breast. Feel free to add more parm/almond coating to the breasts when they are in the pan, covering up bald spots. Bake in oven for 45 minutes. They should be golden/brown and a little sizzly, and juicy not dry (but done!! No pink! of course). ENJOY.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Getting (un) Busy...

Dear Boo,

There was this article a couple of months back that made its rounds in social media circles, all about the "Busy Trap"--the fact that being overly booked and scheduled and worked and committed has basically become a social ill, where we collectively push each other to be so busy that we hardly have room for friends, pleasure, deep breaths, a meal uninterrupted by phone calls, texts, or that nagging sense that we better hurry up and get to the next thing that needs doing. Basically, the author asserts, we've voluntarily whipped ourselves into a collective frenzy of (often purposeless) activity as a way of protecting against that ever-present anxiety that if we stopped for a second we might realize just how empty, pointless, and worthless we and our lives are.

I didn't appreciate just how many people asked me if I'd read this article, with a knowing nod of the head. No, I'd answer. I haven't. Some of us are too busy to read.

The thing is, for the most part, I love my busy life. Or I should say--I love the different things that comprise my busy life. I can't imagine giving any of them up. (Except, of course, my job, but then I know from my clients just how time consuming and tedious and life-sucking going on public assistance can be, so I'm not sure that would solve much.) I'm very, very lucky. But I also fear that if I don't find some way to slow down and make room, I will a) burn out and be of no use to anyone, b) lose all of my friends for lack of attention (I mean, there are people with babies I have not met yet!), and/or c) Eat all of my meals standing at the kitchen sink, alone, slurping cold pad thai.

So I'm working on it. Little by little. I am starting to set limits for myself. And prioritize. And take breaths. And make room. And make dinner.

Above, the perfect dinner for the cook caught in the Busy Trap. A piece of fish, seasoned with salt and pepper, slapped in a blazing hot pan for a couple of minutes on each side, squozed with lemon, served alongside this quick corn salad (if it's really good corn, which it has no excuse to not be at this time of year, cut out the cooking process entirely and serve it raw with a bunch of citrus, herbs and olive oil), and topped with a chimichurri-esque sauce which comes together in literally two seconds with a quick flip of the vitamix. It's all so laughably fast that with relative ease, I was able to find the time in my busy schedule to sit down with a glass of wine and eat this, one slow, tasty bite at a time. If I can do it, any busy-ness addict can.


The Mouse

The Mouse's Quick Chimichurri-esque Sauce for those not Quite Ready to Retire from the Busy Life. 

1 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley, or a little bit less
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup (packed) fresh cilantro, or a little bit more
2 garlic cloves, peeled
Healthy dash of dried crushed red pepper
Nice pinch of ground cumin
Salt to taste

Throw all ingredients in a blender. Puree, pulse, or blend to desired consistency. Pour over whatever protein you've grilled, seared, or pan-fried up. Taste. Breath. Taste. Take one small thing off your to-do list. Eat dessert. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

New Salad, CT (Sisters are Doing It For Themselves)

"Art/Love is the desire to narrow the space between two people
To solve the only problem there has ever been
in the world:
That you are not me." 
-Aaron Jafferis, 'How to Break' (NY Hip Hop Theatre Fest, upcoming) 

Dear Mouse,

I often blithely tell people who ask about this blog that I'm what you might call the "field reporter". "I travel a lot for work," I'll say breezily, spilling coffee down my wrist. "The Mouse is the one who is doing most of the actual inventing and, oh, cooking. I'm the one who's usually posting about A Sandwich I Ate Once in Kentucky, or Best Vending Machine Snacks in DC."  I imagine they walk away either impressed with my self-deprecation or resolved to ... not to read this blog. Why don't I maybe stop doing that.

I have been thinking a lot about collaboration lately, and how important it is both to delegate clearly AND to be able to relax the roles. Right now, I'm composing songs for a show in the NY Hip Hop Theatre Festival... (here's where I usually pause for effect and then say "I know! and THEY called ME!") Composing, to me, usually means holing up in my Songwriting Cave and then delivering my Song Babies fully formed to the world.  Here it's sometimes taking place on my feet, guitar in hand, in the presence of a director, a singer, a lyricist, a loop machine and a guy holding a microphone against his neck. It's awesome. I'm The Composer... but I don't have to come up with all the answers alone.

Oh, and also, I went to New Haven.

                               Admittedly terrible shot of Mashed Potato Pizza at Bar, New Haven
                                                                     I think I was eating with the other hand.

I spent a week up there workshopping a hilarious new play with these great people, and I was definitely looking forward to some blogworthy times. I already knew that The Have is a food lovers' town. (The Pizza! Oh my god. The adorable, competitive coffee shops! I tried four and was utterly charmed. The 'sweet cream' flavor at Ashley's Ice Cream! The menu at the bizarre, postmodern sushi joint everyone talks about! I planned to hit all of these up at least once in between rehearsals.) Oh, I'd find writing material for sure.

And I did... but not in any of those places. 

We had it all. The coffee at JoJo's  is reeeally good, though it didn't make me forget The Commons (or, for that matter, The Roasterie Kansas City... I'm just gonna have to order a case.) We had quirky rectangular pizza at Bar (tasty though it doesn't touch Modern), and Miya's Sushi ... ok, full points for creativity, but I don't want Havarti cheese anywhere near my fish. Ever. And, after we finished dinner there, my director turned to me and whispered "I ate here for lunch today too ... and I'm still hungry." Nuff said.

No, I'm proud and happy to say that the food experiences I'll really remember from this trip came from the folks around me. Proud because my 'collaboration' theme in this post is actually going to get followed through. Proud because what could be more A Mouse Bouche than artists thrown together by fate, eating with and teaching each other about food? And happy because now I know how to make this salad:

Watercress, pine nuts, red onion, clementine slices, oil, red wine vinegar, dried marjoram. Elegant, beautiful, easy, and tasting mysteriously somehow like there is bacon in it, though there is not. 

The awesome program directors took us - all - out to dinner at local haunts like Thai Taste AND brought Insomnia Cookies to our various rehearsal nights. My lovely Flatmate introduced me to 'broken-yolk' fried eggs and the concept of the Kale Smoothie (haven't tried it yet: almond milk, banana, kale, honey). But the definitive MouseBouche moment of the trip for me happened when The Dancer told me the Salad Story.  (The Dancer is not a dancer at all as far as I know, but her graceful presence and, I don't know, lithe - ness?, reminds me of a ballerina.)  We got to talking, I mentioned the blog, and somehow wound up telling her the story of your Husband making the Christmas Pork Roast for his family in Florida, a story I love because It Has Meaning On So Many Levels, blah blah blah. The Dancer totally 'got it' - "I might cry!" she said in her soft voice looking at me across the beer pitcher. And then she told me a similar story. One year around The Holidays it dawned on her that, as the Unmarried Sister in her family, there seemed to be a different set of expectations for her when it came to holiday meal prep. While her sister would get various cooking assignments, she said, "nothing was really expected of me." The Dancer didn't really consider herself a Person Who Cooks, but this didn't feel right. So she decided to get in the game. She would not wait to be asked, she would just pick a recipe, bring it, and see what happened. She chose a salad from Bon Appetit, and brought it to the party. And:  "I know it sounds silly," she said, "but my brother-in-law's mother asked me for the recipe. And it was So. Validating!" It rounded out the meal beautifully and got great reviews. Not only that, but the following year said mother-in-law's house burned down -!! - "not to be a downer here" - and she called and asked for the recipe again, having lost it in the fire. "So I know she really liked it", The Dancer said. "She told me she was only collecting the recipes she really wanted."

It's a great moment when you realize your voice counts, that you have something to offer, and that it is a valuable part of a whole. It's been said before, but we can do things in community that we can't - or won't -  do alone. For example: closing night of the workshop, the company threw a lovely party for us at a super-hip hotel in town. Beautiful nighttime views, open bar, and a TON of food. As the night wound down, we were staring at a mountain of untouched crudites, a basket of bread and crackers, another basket of prosciutto and huge chunks of cheese. One of the younger actors boldly asked for a to-go container and was denied - department of health regulations, blah blah blah. FlatMate and I locked eyes across the table. We knew what we had to do. We had napkins, bags, a guitar case, and each other. 

The next day we enjoyed a lovely picnic lunch on the Metro-North train home, which we were only too happy to share with our friends. 

Here's to collaboration, at and away from the table.  


The Boo
PS A shout-out to The Dancer for not batting an eyelash when I asked if I "could use butter instead". I thought she'd said "margarine" instead of "marjoram". She just suggested that olive oil would be better.

  • via Bon Appetit

  • 4 Servings
  • 2 bunches watercress, stemmed
  • 3 clementines, peeled and sectioned
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar (or 
  • red wine vinegar) 
  • (Note from The Boo: I used red wine, but I think it'd be better with sherry)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • Combine stemmed watercress, orange slices and 
  • sliced red onion in large bowl. Place sherry wine
  • vinegar in small bowl. Gradually mix in olive oil.
  • Add marjoram. Season dressing to taste with salt
  • and pepper. (Can be prepared 3 hours ahead. Cover
  • salad and refrigerate. Cover dressing and let stand
  • at room temperature.) Pour dressing over
  • salad and toss to coat thoroughly. Sprinkle with pine
  • nuts and serve