Entry Level Kitchen

No Experience Necessary

Willow:The Kitten Sous Chef November 6, 2011

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our daily cooking routine



Fugly Food

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It snowed in DC last weekend. Like real real snow and real sleet, crazy right? That kind of stuff doesn’t happen often down here and especially not in October. Rachel and I have decided these crazy weather things keep happening because the end of the world is coming, obviously. To deal with this revelation we ate a TON of Halloween candy and some ugly looking soup.

I have decided that some of the best food I have eaten has also been some of the messy and ugly looking food. The Italian lentil soup we ate last weekend is definitely  one of  the most unattractive  looking soups I’ve eaten or cooked before. It was downright beastly looking. It also happened to be the tastiest lentil soups I’ve had to date.

So all when it’s cold outside or and you find yourself wearing a green snuggie, that somehow ended up in your apartment, make yourself some fugly looking soup and enjoy.

Italian Lentil Soup

(Serves 4-6)

1/4 cup butter (unsalted)
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/3 cup dried pastina or ditalini (any tiny shape) — I used Ditalini
4 tbsp finely chopped, fresh parsley
14oz of cooked brown lentils
6 1/2 cups vegetable broth
salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve
Melt butter in a large saucepan and saute the garlic for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the pasta, chopped parsley, garlic and stir. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes, then add the lentils and stock, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the pasta is cooked   Serve with a little freshly grated Parmesan cheese and some crusty garlic bread.

A Chocolate Cake Cure All October 26, 2011

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You ever have one of those days, weeks, even months when nothing seems to go right and you can’t seem to catch a break? Well, that’s the week I’ve been having. Nothing life threatening to report (unless you count breaking your cell phone).

When I get stressed or down I like to bake, drink hard cider or read. Sometimes I try to combine all three. That’s fun to watch.

Writing this post has even become stressful….

kitten attack while blogging sneak attack by a kitten while blogging.

So before I loose an eye, I am going to go eat this spiced double chocolate cake, drink some hard cider and attempt to read A Clash of Kings.


Helen’s Beef Brisket: An Epic Cooking Venture October 24, 2011

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Alana and I have decided that we cook way too much. Since moving in about two months ago, we have already had to buy olive oil (we moved in with three bottles), salt and pepper. Seriously?! In my last apartment a bottle of olive oil would last for three months–but to be fair, I had a tiny kitchen and ate more Trader Joe’s frozen Indian meals than home cooked dinners.


Anyway, we cook too much. We decided this while making tonight’s dinner, a roasted chicken with sweet potatoes and braised red cabbage.


Yeah. We cook too much.


Whatever. Here’s a kitten.



My coworkers and I have started having Friday potlucks, where everyone brings a part of the meal and we have lunch together. The theme of the last potluck was Jewish food, which was inspired when my boss pulled some smoked salmon out of her fridge and saying, “I really need to use this up.”


Her idle comment inspired the following feast: bagels with smoked salmon, spinach and cheese kugel, matzo ball soup, potato latkes, spinach burekas, and my mom’s beef brisket.


When I brought the tray in on that Friday morning, I explained to my non-Jewish coworkers, “This is a big deal. This is like my first Thanksgiving turkey.”


It’s not that I’m all that connected to my Jewish heritage, but this brisket is really good. I remember being SO excited every time my mom made it. We would eat the leftovers for days, and like a turkey, it was always better the next day.


Needless to say, as someone who is incapable of following a recipe and almost never cooks meat, this was a process.


I called my mom maybe six or seven times in the days before cooking it to get her advice. I went to three groceries stores to get the right cut of meat. I even watched this Youtube video, at my mom’s insistence.


I’m pretty sure it was a success, although I gave clear instructions to everyone that I would only accept positive feedback. I mean, it’s my first brisket. Cut me a break. But I thought it was pretty good. I invited friends over on Friday night to help me finish the rest of it, and by the time it was done heating up in the oven the second time, the meat was perfectly tender and falling apart. Like I said, I am not usually a meat person, but damn that was good.


Here it is. The recipe. I am now maxed out on Jewishness for the rest of the year, thank you very much.


(Look at my artistic food stylings. It’s ironic, or something, okay?)

Mom’s Beef Brisket

Servings: 1 million

Prep time: 4 days of deep discussion with your Jewish mother


  • First-cut beef brisket. I bought 5 pounds which was insane. Most recipes said to buy 3 but I was really letting my inner Jew out, so I bought 5
  • 4 cups of ketchup (just go with it)
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 jar of green olives
  • 1 jar of capers
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot

First you have to sear the beef. Don’t worry, this is not scary. Make sure to put salt and pepper on both sides and then all you have to do it put it in a frying pan with a little bit of oil. Just get it brown but don’t cook it all the way through. This is going to smell REALLY good, and you’re going to be all, “Man, vegetables never smell like this. Why don’t I ever eat steak?”

Then you mix together all of the above ingredients except for the carrots and onions. You’re going to chop those up and put them in the pan with the meat. After both sides of the meat are browned, put it in the pan and cover it with carrots and onions. I even put some on the bottom before I put the meat in. Then cover EVERYTHING with sauce. The more the better.

Cook it in the oven for three and a half hours. Go watch a movie or something. Do NOT fall asleep. You will be so sad if you do.

Final step: feast!


French Onion Soup October 4, 2011

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It feels weird to be writing this post on a Friday, when I’m contemplating cheap wine and greasy Chinese take out for dinner, with the windows open and late afternoon sun pouring in. It’s a beautiful, lazy fall day (maybe the “lazy” just comes from my post-work armchair station), and it’s hard to remember how bleak it was earlier this week.

But it was. Monday was cold and rainy. I think I wore a coat to work.

It was a soup day.

On Tuesday, when I ate the French onion soup leftovers for lunch, I declared, “This is the best thing I’ve EVER made!”

On Wednesday night, when I had them again, I said the same thing.

Today, I can barely remember that I ate French onion soup this week. Weird how that can happen, right?

Pretty sure this is still the best thing I’ve ever made. Even though it burned my tongue every time I ate it, once so badly I can still feel it (I guess it WAS only two days ago, though).

Thank you, Smitten Kitchen.

I followed her recipe almost exactly, so I’m not going to copy it here. The only thing I would have changed is I would have caramelized the onions for longer. But I’m impatient and it was a weeknight, okay! Seriously, don’t make this on a weeknight. It took forever. Worth it, but man, I was HUNGRY.

To this recipe I added three garlic cloves, a bay leaf, and a sprig of fresh sage. I grated Swiss and asiago cheese on the top. It was wonderful!

And these are a few of my favorite things.


Are you there Willow? It’s me (us), Alana (and Millie) October 2, 2011

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This was a long week for me. I’m not really sure why, nothing crazy or insane happened at work or in my personal life. As I sit here on Sunday night reflecting on this past week, trying to figure what in the world made it so challenging, I think I may have finally pin-pointed it. Rachel and I moved, we adopted a kitten, she ran in a warrior dash and I started working full-time again (hi fellow teachers!)  all in the same month. Umm what were we thinking? Sometimes I think we get a little ahead of ourselves.

This week I spent a lot of time snuggling with Willow, losing Willow (yes we lost our kitten once already), searching for Willow, convincing myself that Willow is deaf (really Alana? what cat actually comes when she is called), playing with Willow, watching Millie accidentally kick Willow like a soccer ball down the hall, cooking with Willow (she makes a mean chili), showing Willow’s picture all around my school because obviously everyone is as interested in my cat as I am, keeping Willow from eating the four fancy pumpkins I picked today, and lastly fishing Willow out of the toilet bowl at 5am.

So if you, my friends, are having a crazy week I suggest you adopt a little kitten too! Even if it does make you become a crazy cat lady or display symptoms of a freaked out new parent. You’ll always have someone to watch you make chili and make you feel better when you’re having a bad day.

Willow’s Spicy Chili 

2lbs of ground beef

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 green pepper, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

12oz can of crushed tomatoes

10z can of diced tomatoes

1 can of light kidney beans or beans of your choice

1 chipotle chili + 2 tablespoons of adobo sauce

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of ground cumin

2 tablespoons of chili powder

1 tablespoon of smoked paprika

1 teaspoon of white pepper

1 tablespoon of onion powder

1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder

1 chicken or beef bullion cube

1/4 teaspoon of black pepper

salt to taste

Brown ground beef with garlic, onion and green pepper in a pot over medium-high heat. Once cooked drain out the fat. Add the crushed and diced tomatoes. Stir and add the rest of the ingredients, excluding the beans. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 1 hour.

Add drained and rinsed beans. Stir to combine, then cover and simmer for another 20-30 minutes.

Serve with sour cream, scallions, cheddar cheese and a piece of cornbread.

*Although Willow tried very hard to sneak a taste, this is not a pet friendly recipe*


A Case of the Mondays September 28, 2011

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Monday was a typical day on Park Road. We got home from work a little late and tired, only to find that Willow had peed on Alana’s bed.


Let me explain, because I don’t want to tarnish her name all over the Internet.


Today was Willow’s first full day at home by herself. She likes to walk along the banister of our front staircase, which always makes me nervous, so I decided to try to barricade the hallway to prevent her from going to that part of the apartment.




At some point during the day, Willow had scaled my defenses and made it to the other side. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get back over, where her litter box was. Lesson learned! Cat—you win. The apartment now completely belongs to you.


Then we decided this would be a perfect time to make elaborate dinners.


I decided to make lentil dal, based mostly on this recipe. I had to triple the spices because I’m going through a phase where nothing tastes good unless it burns my tongue off. I also added some cilantro and smoked paprika.


Another lesson learned. I followed this recipe to a T, and had to improve it. Following the recipe doesn’t always work, so maybe I’ve been doing this right all along!


It’s pretty ugly though.




Is it only Monday? I guess it’s going to be one of those weeks. You know, when everything that can go wrong goes terribly wrong. Like when one of of your students rubs his “itchies,” which turns out to be poison ivy, all over you. Or when you try to wash your bedding, that a sweet little kitty peed on, only to find out that your duvet doesn’t fit in your tiny city style washer and dryer. Yeah, it’s going to be that kind of week.


Knowing all of this I decided to cook not one but two dinners last night, I question my sanity sometimes.


Dinner one actually turned out quite delicious. Homemade pizza dough topped with fig jam, goat cheese, arugula, prosciutto and other Italian cheese. I had one too many slices which my bridesmaid dress probably won’t be too happy about.



Dinner two, which was supposed to be dinner/lunch for the rest of the week, became a flavorless failure. Fresh tomato soup aka tomato water.


I don’t even have a picture because I left it out over night by accident and had to dump it all down the drain.


womp womp