Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Monkey Bread and Tradition   Leave a comment

So it’s our first holiday season really together-together. Which is weird to say, because James and I have known each other since October 17, 2009 (we saw a movie, walked around Tyson’s Corner, and then visited a fish store, where I bought some lovely aquatic plants, in case you are curious).

The audio is annoying due to the noise of the filter


Anyway, the reason why we are saying that this is our first Christmas together is because:

December 2009: we weren’t dating yet
December 2010: we didn’t live together
December 2011: we weren’t in the same state
December 2012: we didn’t even see each other
December 2013: I was going to be leaving in two weeks, it doesn’t count (says James)

So anyway this is our first Christmas really together. All other years will be compared to this year. So we got a real tree (three feet tall and sitting on an end table). We bought new ornaments to complement the few we actually liked from the ornaments James’ mother gave us. We got a mantle and hung stockings from it.


The question now is, what to do about Christmas Morning. My family makes a big deal about Christmas Morning. We have bagel and lox and we don’t open any presents until everyone’s awake. Every year we say we won’t look in our stockings, either, but the first few people to get up always get impatient and take everything out and peruse them until the last stragglers are awake. James, coming from a smaller, quieter family, would have quiet coffee cake and open presents quietly, I guess.

James comes from a very quiet family. They don’t get loud until there’s, like, 40 of them.

Anyway, setting up this entry has taken way longer than I intended. The reason why I bring this up is that I — I mean, we — have to decide on our own version of Christmas Morning. So I thought I would make Monkey Bread.

Most breads you eat are meant to be eaten in loaf form, sliced accordingly. Monkey Bread is made of little pieces of rolled-up dough that you stick together and bake so that it looks like a loaf. But really, you just tear little pieces off and eat it like that. I’ve only had it once but it was amazing.

Oh, hey, now I see what James meant when he asked if he should grab his mother’s bundt pan. It’s made in a bundt pan. Oh. Huh.

I was perusing Buzzfeed and found a list of “incredible” slow-cook dessert recipes. Most of them were chocolate, but I saved the three that weren’t. One of them was slow-cook Monkey Bread. I was excited to read it. Most recipe blogs these days have about six pages worth of lead-up talking about how delicious the recipe is and why the decided to make it, along with tons of pictures of the actual food. I skim/scroll right past all that before getting to the recipe, the reason why I’m visiting the page. I did the same thing for this recipe, and then a sentence caught my eye.

Last week I bought two cans of Pillsbury Grands! Cinnamon Rolls because (1) I’m addicted to those suckers (and, yes I do work for them but no this is not sponsored

Wait a second

I decided…why not make monkey bread? With Cinnamon Rolls? In the SLOW COOKER???

Oh no.

You can make a traditional monkey bread this way, using Grands! biscuits, but I went one step further and used cinnamon rolls because, well, why not?

This can’t be.

Plus? Cinnamon Rolls come with icing.

Please tell me it’s not.

The prep for this recipe is less than 20 minutes. You open your two cans of cinnamon rolls (5 rolls per can) and cut each into 6 pieces.

That is not a real recipe! That. Is not. A real. Recipe. Recipes aren’t “take pre-made food and then chop it up some”. Recipes are “take a whole bunch of uncooked ingredients, prepare them, and then cook them”. I even made a facebook post about it.

*sigh* If a recipe’s first ingredient is premade something-or-other, I immediately reject it. Case in point: a recipe for monkey bread that called for 2 cans of Pillsbury Grands. The blurb at the beginning of the recipe even bragged that the cinnamon rolls “even come with the cinnamon already on them!” No.

Well now wait a minute, I said to myself as I lay in bed waiting desperately to fall asleep for the first time in three days (I have a difficult relationship with sleep). Aren’t you still cooking it? Just because of the first steps are done for you, you’re still producing the final product. It’s still possible to ruin pre-made food. Look at Jose, who couldn’t beat a ball of pre-made pizza dough into a flat pizza. And yet I could, in less time than it took for him to ruin a ball of dough.

Yet I remembered when I mentioned to my manager at Petsmart that I was being trained as a baker for Harris Teeter. He got all excited. “So you’ll be kneading the dough and stuff?” No, I said. I just took the pre-made dough from the cooler and put it in the oven. He looked disappointed.

I brought up my concerns to James, who was laying next to me.

First of all, James agreed with my initial assessment: using pre-made ingredients was lazy and not real cooking.

But wasn’t taking the cinnamon roll dough and turning it into something else…that takes skill, doesn’t it? Cooking skill? Creativity? An understanding of how cooking works? In order to create a recipe, you had to understand how dough works and what a slow cooker would do to it. Just because you saved several steps by using pre-made dough, it still takes skill to turn that dough into something edible.

“Look at it this way,” James said. “Who is going to be more respected on Food network — someone who uses Pillsbury dough, or someone who takes the time to make everything from scratch?”

“Why are we using Food Network as our measuring stick?” I asked.

James didn’t know. I thought it was weird, anyway, that he would take this tact. Just the other day, he had been talking about some famous chef who said that the only deciding factor in whether or not food was good was whether or not it tastes good. This Monkey Bread probably tasted good. I probably wasn’t going to use the recipe, but it clearly made the writer, Dorothy, happy. At the end of the day, that was good enough, wasn’t it?

Dorothy writes:

I find that, when I make monkey bread in the oven the outside gets so hard and crunchy and done in order for the center to get fully cooked. I prefer my monkey bread to be soft, not hard, so this creates a problem. It’s like a fight to the death: who will get to the center of the monkey bread first?

By making the monkey bread in the crockpot, the bread steams as it cooks, keeping it soft and doughy but actually baked all over. It’ll get a little browned around the edges, as you can see, but even the browned parts stay soft.

That’s the perfect monkey bread, if you ask me!

I might take those words of wisdom and stick with a slow-cooker as my ultimate cooking tool. But I will probably make my own dough. Everyone has something to add to this world.

Posted December 21, 2014 by agentksilver in Food

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Stellapecunia and the start of carrot soup   Leave a comment

So the Starbucks at the Harris Teeter still hasn’t opened yet. They haven’t even broken ground. I’m going in every few days to a different Starbucks over in Durham. When I was given the store location, the store manager said, “But don’t worry. It’s near the border of Durham. It’s closer to Chapel Hill.”

I replied that I was new to the area and didn’t really know the geography of the area.

“It’s not in the Durham you’ve heard about,” he said. “It’s near the border. It’s practically Chapel Hill.”

I hadn’t heard anything about Durham at all. Apparently my confusion reached my face, because he said, “You don’t have to be nervous. It’s not really Durham at all.”

I hadn’t been nervous until he had said something.

I’ve only been once to this Starbucks at Harris Teeter. I worked an opening shift. The morning was extraordinarily slow — they usually get rushes of eight people at a time, but this time, there was just one rush, of four people. People came in ones and twos and there were long stretches of no one at all. We got to stand around and shoot the breeze a lot. The lead barista, Steve, has announced that he will completely retrain me in my espresso-machine-operating skills. I was trained to squirt the syrups into the cup, start the espresso, and then steam milk. Apparently he starts with the milk. I’m not sure what the difference is, but if that is the Harris Teeter way then I suppose I will learn it.

I don’t really mind taking my time with this training. They haven’t even broken ground yet on my Starbucks. A lot of my coworkers are getting assigned as cashiers just to get their hours. I suppose I should be more worried, about, like, my money, and stuff, but it still hasn’t really fizzled into my conscience that I make money to pay bills. Besides, I have a bit more time off, so I get to rest and focus on other things.

Like make new recipes! I’ve spent some time reading through various recipes on carrot curry soup, so I think I’ll head to the grocery store to get some ingredients. Last time I just made up a soup recipe after doing some consultation it worked out alright, so I’ll do it this way:

4 cups chicken broth
1 bag carrots (grated? baby? I’ll decide later!)
1 cup milk or sour cream or coconut milk or something
1 tbsp curry powder
Seasonings (I’ve seen ginger, cinnamon, and garlic all suggested)

I also felt sick this morning, and it just got worse and worse as the morning progressed, so I took an early lunch and stopped by Target to buy lunch and pain meds. I chatted it up with all my former coworkers, like Levy, Hunter, and Matt. Cheryl stopped me as I was leaving. She shops at the Harris Teeter where I’ll be working, and had talked with Angel, the hiring manager, about the Starbucks. She had found out from Angel that I’ll be working at the Starbucks there.

“Yeah, I didn’t want to tell anyone at Target that,” I said. “It seemed inappropriate to say, ‘Hey, Starbucks, I’m going to a different Starbucks.'”

“I’m glad you finished out your two weeks,” Cheryl said. Referencing a comment I had made about Ashley dropping Petsmart like a ton of bricks, she said, “We’ve had a lot of people just quit with no notice, and we had to scramble to cover their shifts, which you can’t really do, because no one here is trained in Starbucks.” She said it showed a lot of my character, and I got embarrassed and tried push the conversation on a different path. She said stuff like that a few more times, but I think her statements had more to do with her frustrations over the past several months. Lots of people have been quitting the Starbucks at Target; Manny, the lead, openly loathes his job, and Cheryl can tell his higher-ups all she wants about her frustrations with the job, but nothing gets done. I wasn’t the first person to quit Starbucks after just a short while, but at least I had the courtesy to treat my coworkers like human beings. I got the sense that Cheryl had talked to Angel because Cheryl wanted to get hired by Harris Teeter. Like me, she wants to try the same job with a different company.

People are more complicated than they appear on the surface. Manny appears to be a chill boss during the interview process; he avoids doing work. Cheryl openly rants about employee performance; she cares about your work and wants you to do better, and also she’s frustrated and needs to get it out.

Posted October 23, 2014 by agentksilver in Food, Personal

Tagged with , , ,

Life is short, eat dessert first   2 comments

So Buzzfeed published a video describing the best microwave desserts. I watched the video, but I wasn’t a fan of any of the recipes. I can’t eat chocolate and I didn’t feel like going to the store and buying cake mix. Weren’t there cakes that I could make in the microwave without buying a mix? One that I could make from ingredients I already had at home? Or even better, could I make cinnamon rolls in the microwave?

My initial results weren’t strong. I found this microwave recipe that turned out to be “take a premade cinnamon roll out of the can and cook it for a minute”, boring and costs money. Blech. Finally I found this recipe of my dreams.

2 tbsp applesauce
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp buttermilk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 tbsp cinnamon
1 dash ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 dash salt

First step: gather all of your ingredients.


In the background there you can see my mother, hard at work making a dinner that is simultaneously delicious, filling, and healthy. Meanwhile, I was making a cake in a microwave.

Next step, and this is a super complicated step: combine all of those above ingredients into a bowl and then stir until uniformly smooth.



You may have noticed that in the picture above there is some vinegar, which is not included in the recipe. I don’t actually keep buttermilk on-hand, so I had to make my own.


1 tbsp whatever milk you have on hand
1 drop of vinegar



Stir a bit if you want, let it sit for about five minutes, then add the rest of your ingredients on top of that. (I did not fill that 1/8 tsp all the way, and even then I only poured about half of that into the milk, so it was probably more than a drop. Still, it was a tiny amount of vinegar and I still managed to just use ingredients I already have)


Anyway, once your dough is consistently smooth, microwave your mug o’ delish for about a minute on full power. Keep adding fifteen-second increments until your cake is cooked. My cake took a minute and a half altogether.

Obviously this recipe would not be complete without icing. The recipe the website recommended had cream cheese (which we don’t keep on-hand, oddly). However, that microwave-canned-cinnamon-rolls had a simple solution for the lazy cheap people among us.

1/2 cup or so of powdered sugar
1 tbsp regular tap water

Combine until it looks like icing.




So I put the icing on the cake like the recipe said, but honestly? Just cut a portion with your fork and dip it into the icing. Every bite gets the right amount of icing, every time.


So it was one of the best things I had ever eaten in my entire life ever. Also it was 659 calories. But who’s counting?


Not me, my friends. Not me.

Facciamo spese   Leave a comment

It’s not all just goofing off and trying to figure out what “cernitur” means (was Lamia Cicero’s buddy? Like, super buddy?). Last night, for instance, my roommates and I all put on nice clothing and went to the German bar two blocks away. We would live there if we could, I think. Sarah would, at least.

The roommates tried to eat bread with oil and vinegar without having any plates. So Nicole just drew on the placemat with balsalmic vinegar instead.

This being our last weekend in Rome, we also hit up the outdoor market that’s right outside our door every Sunday. We all found something to like! For example, these moustache scarves:

Just me? Okay, how about hats.

Hey, boys. *winkwink*

Like what you see, huh? I think I look pretty fly. In a female sense?

Yeah, you know this is hot.

Oh also I took a picture of Nicole in a pope t-shirt and her bikini, because we are all classy, classy people in Building 34 Floor 4.

Also I have the most coordinated outfit ever now the end.

Easy couple of days   Leave a comment

Two nights ago, I decided to stay up late reading Suetonius in bed. Around midnight, I couldn’t keep my eyes open, so I set my alarm and went to bed.

Yesterday, I woke up at 6:11 and was unable to go back to sleep for the 20 minutes I had left for sleeping. So I laid in bed reading the rest of Suetonius. I was up at 7:10 and out of the house at 8:15. I was ten minutes early for my drawing class in the Jewish Ghetto, overlooking the Portico d’Ottavia and the Teatro di Marcello. I had my mid-term exam for the class; she flipped through my sketchbook and declared my work to be somewhere between a B+ and an A-. We also took a class field trip up the street to visit the famous Burnt Pastry shop.

Fantastic buns. I was surprised that the burnt part didn’t even matter.

I went home after class and ate some gnocchi before heading to school. I showed up at Rome to Augustus on time. In class, I drew a comic based on what the professor was teaching us.

After class I went home, and Deanna, Sarah, and I made a pizza from scratch.

We don’t have measuring cups and so we had to improvise the recipe.


300-400 grams of flour
A pile of parmesan cheese, hand-shredded until Kelsey got bored
Two dashes of olive oil
3.5 mugs of boiling water


6-7 tomatoes, flash-boiled, peeled, and mashed
Dash of all the spices in your cabinet. All of them. And then a little more basil.

Cheese: 2.5 buffalo balls of mozzarella, sliced
Toppings: Garlic, more basil, and prosciutto

Bake at the highest temperature you can manage for 20 minutes.

Results will be difficult to slice, because Sarah likes her dough crispy. But anyway it will be super delicious.

I fell asleep while reading around 11:30. For some reason I was exhausted.

This morning I also managed to wake up on time and get out of the house on time. Even better, I navigated the bus system all by myself! I hadn’t done that yet. I was so proud.

The class sat on the steps outside the Piramide metro station and waited for the other drawing professor to show up (we have one on Mondays and Wednesdays and another one on Tuesdays and Thursdays). While waiting, some old guy walked up to us and started ranting in Italian.

Despite our shouts of “No parlo Italiano!” “Sono di Americana!” “Non capisco!” and “Go away!” he kept going, eventually focusing most of his rant on Chelsea, who was particularly noisy. Eventually he realized she couldn’t understand him, so he did the only logical thing and wrote down what he was trying to express.

He wrote, roughly, ROMA CAPITALE MUNDI E CENTRO NAZIONE, or something like that. It means “Rome is the capital of the world and the center of all nations”. “Roma Capitale Mundi” seems to be some sort of common phrase among all the old people in Rome. Whenever I meet an old person they always tell me “Roma Capitale Mundi.” Well, not that little old lady I helped across the street one day. All the other old people have said that though.

Chelsea was inexplicably popular with Italians this morning. We got kicked off our steps by some street-cleaners. This guy immediately walked up to us and, no lie, the first thing he said was, “I am single! I am single!” Then he gave us more relevant information re: his status. He is a singer. He then gave us an off-key rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”.

Sadly we had to go to the Protestant Cemetary and draw rather than continue to be mobbed by all the random denizens of Fermata Piramide.

This guy is Devereux Plantagenet Cockburn. I called him Lord Cockburn. He kept me company while I drew the graves next to him. I feel bad that I didn’t draw his gravestone, because clearly it is the best gravestone.

This is what I tried to draw (I haven’t grabbed the picture I drew yet, sorry).

For a long time we were mostly left on our own to draw. The professor came by and checked our sketchbooks. I definitely have a B+ or an A- as my midterm grade. I “show enthusiasm”, I just need to “show progress” now. I dunno. Anyway, after several hours of sitting on my butt in the mud and the bugs I got tired and walked around and took pictures of interesting graves.

After class I successfully managed to use some Italian. I asked the ticket guys at the station where a bank was (Dov’é uno banco?). I ordered lunch almost entirely in Italian (I slipped up when I asked what the Italian word for “green beans” is, they then proceded to just speak in English to me the rest of the time). After lunch I went down to the meeting point for my next class. I sat on the steps and read and fell asleep. Then I woke up and read some more. Then, because life is rough, I fell asleep again. When I woke up, I worried I had missed class, so I stopped a passing woman and asked, “Che cosa ora?”

Due e diece,” she replied.

Grazie,” I said.

I was pleased. We had understood each other and it was still forty minutes until my next class.

Two girls stopped at my stoop and asked me a question. I could tell by their gestures and a few words I grabbed that they were looking for the Piramide metro stop. I waved them in the right direction.

Two good days. Due bene giorni.

And now we’re all caught up with what I’ve been doing in Italy   Leave a comment

Yesterday was a much slower day in comparison to the last few days. I got up slowly, ate breakfast, read some more of the webcomic Freefall, and then went out and did homework.

What I tried to draw:

What I drew:

Ugh, that is terrible. I’m going to go out and find a naked statue and draw that instead. Guh.

On my way back I went grocery shopping. The roommates had all stopped at the store at some point to get groceries for themselves, but for some reason once they came back from the store they were all like “Oh by the way Kelsey we need saran wrap”. So I went shopping for saran wrap, because none of my roommates are capable of buying saran wrap for themselves. I also bought toilet paper because my bathroom is out of toilet paper. And now I can’t find the toilet paper I bought just yesterday, what the heck.

Sarah and I went out and got Mexican food. It was amazing. Italians know even less than we do about Mexico and Mexican food. The cheese was sitting outside of the burrito. All the decorations were Peruvian and Aztec(ian?). The chicken was cooked in gentle but flavorful Italian spices rather than hot Mexican spices, and it was dry (but good). It was just amazing.

Sarah and I were sitting at the end of a table for six. At one point a couple sat down at the other end of the table from us. The woman in the couple was having a rough time of it. She was crying for the first part of their meal. He was obviously trying to make her feel better, trying to say positive things, and kept leaving across the table to kiss her noisily and murmur in her ear. It was really sweet.

We ordered Coppa gelato con frutta fresca, which I translated into “a cup of ice cream with fresh fruit.” Which turned out to be accurate, but the ice cream turned out to be chocolate. So I took out the strawberries and offered my ice cream to the couple sitting next to us. They turned it down.

They left before we did. They made sure to say goodbye to us as they left. I watched them go (I was facing the same way they were going, what else was I going to do). Like half a block away he got down on one knee and said something. I wondered if he was proposing or what the heck was going on, why was he stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to get down on one knee like that. But why would he propose if she was obviously upset? None of my business, but still.

Also I can walk now, in regular shoes   Leave a comment

Whew. I can take a moment to kick my feet back and relax.

The roommates went on a school-sponsored field trip to the beach today. I was planning on visiting Vatican City today, but it turns out the Pope is in Milan and you have to get your ticket (which exists) three days ahead of time (the ticket is free, you just have to get it way in advance). So I relaxed a bit, ate some cereal, read some more Cassius Dio, then decided to go find an open market to explore.

It wasn’t far; I just had to turn right out of my building, and there it was. It had taken over the car-parts street that blocks me from having direct access to the Tiber.


I didn’t buy this stuff, I just saw all of it sitting on a car. It was such an interesting ecletic bunch of stuff.



Actually I had trouble deciding what I wanted to buy, if anything. I know Mom asked me to buy a refrigerator magnet, but I didn’t want to get one at the market. A fridge magnet should be bought on-site. For example, a Colosseum magnet should be bought at the Colosseum. I also examined some nice-looking paintings and prints, but no one acknowledged my existence except for some obvious immigrant salesmen who knew, before I even opened my mouth, that I’m not Italian. And they were selling scarves. I looked at some scarves, but they all said ROME on them. Not even ROMA. Come on guys. At least a little effort.

Actually I did buy some towels, because my roommates and I all hate the school-issued towels. They are too small for our needs. Also not very absorbent. The new ones aren’t, either, but at least they’re big. I didn’t know that I would miss decent towels most of all in Italy.


I took this picture on the walk home, more because it made me laugh more than anything. It means “vote left for Rome” (Rome is in the middle of election season), but as an English speaker, it looks like it says “vote sinister for Rome”

Vote Dr Sinister for Mayor!

Vote Dr Sinister for Mayor!

I went home and looked up markets in Rome that specifically sell food, because today was my turn to cook dinner. I was going to make steak and a spinach orzo salad (bistecca e orzo spinaci). Unfortunately, the kosher butcher shop and the supermarket were both closed. Oh well, I wanted to visit a market anyway. I got directions to the only one open on Sundays, in Piazza di San Teodoro. It was just across the bridge, but then I went straight instead of turning left towards the ruins. I tried to stay close to the river, but then that meant I wasn’t finding anything useful. Finally I found a supermarket that was, somehow, open on a Sunday. It wasn’t as big as my supermarket (which is about 1/3 the size of a supermarket in the States), but it had food and it was open so whatever.

There weren’t any meats for sale. The only fresh meat they could cut was prosciutto. Which is good (it’s Italian bacon), but it’s no steak. Also, there was no orzo. I actually found that to be more weird than the lack of steak. Also, there was no spinach.


So I bought food, but I bought food based on half-remembering recipes that I had read three days ago. I bought milk, cheese, potatoes, chicken, and cream cheese. I was going to make gnocchi with alfredo sauce and chicken.

You can read the recipes I kinda-sorta followed here and here, but as I read through the recipe, I realized two things:

1) these was made to be cooked in an American kitchen
2) our apartment doesn’t have measuring cups

So the recipes I cooked ended up looking more like this:


5 small-medium potatos that look approximately like they could be the same amount of potato as two large potatoes
1/3 a bag of 1 Kilo of flour
1 egg

Alfredo Sauce
Admittedly I also tried to recreate the magic of Nicole’s “alfredo” sauce, which didn’t overwhelm your tastebuds with creaminess. This concoction ended up being the best of both words: thick like a traditional alfredo, but dry and complementary to other tastes

3 and some-odd notches of butter
150 grams of cream cheese (the entire box of the biggest cream cheese you could find, really)
A bunch of dashes of garlic powder
1/3 a liter of milk (approximately)
3/4s of a mozzarella ball
Dash of black pepper


The first step of gnocchi is surprisingly easy. You make mashed potatoes. Just boil them suckers until they are very tender, then mash them (I would recommend mashing them better than I did — I still had chunks of potato in the gnocchi even after they were noodles)


Now combine the rest of the ingredients. You gotta moosh up together. Just stick your hands in there and squeeze ’em until it’s all one big consistent dough (this goes a lot faster if you don’t have to keep stopping to smash chunks of potato).

Do try to resist suddenly lifting your hands up, looking to the sky, and cackling madly. It’s really unbecoming and immature and you should know better.


Then you take ALL THAT DOUGH and twist it into a whole bunch of snakes (you will end up with more than what I showed here, I just wanted to get the picture before my hands got covered in dough again). Then you chop them suckers up and toss them in boiling hot water.

COOL TRICK: if you toss the dough-chunks into the water from far away, boiling hot water splashes EVERYWHERE. Fun for everyone, including your plastic garbage bag and your exposed arms and feet! Only boring people who care about “safety” (blech) will drop their dough-chunks carefully from an inch above the water, thus allowing for as few splashes as possible.


After a few minutes, take the pot off the stove and drain the water. Congratulations! You have made gnocchi di patati. I recommend it with a sweet tomato sauce, but it’s also really good with a white sauce like alfredo as well. Green sauces like pesto are probably not very good with it.


Next I sliced up some chicken breast. I lined the pan with olive oil and tossed the chicken on it, then doused the whole thing with pepper. The other parts of the dish weren’t going to be very peppery, so I wanted to make the chicken stand out a bit. So I put more pepper on the chicken than I normally would have.


I did a bit of clean-up while cooking the sauce, so this picture covers a few steps:

1) Cook all the butter on low heat
2) When you realize that the butter is actually cooking, not melting, go “holy crap!”, lower the heat, then toss in the cream cheese
3) Jab pathetically at the cream cheese until it starts to separate into chunks
4) Be very generous with the garlic for some reason
5) Once the cream cheese is completely melted, add some milk to the concoction and start stirring. Absolutely none of the sauce will look like it’s together. That’s okay, it will all work out in the end.
6) Continue to add milk in batches, stirring continuously.


Honestly it all starts to come together once you put in the mozzarella and it starts melting. This is the major difference between my recipe and their recipe. They recommend Parmesan. This resulted in a drier, stronger, less creamy sauce, which helped bring out the gnocci and the peppery chicken some.


I made some more chicken because the first batch wasn’t enough. Multi-tasking!


Here is the final result! gnocchi all’alfredo e pollo. Pretty tasty!

Have some pictures of people   Leave a comment

I have fifty likes on my blog now.  I’m pretty certain most of them are from Sillyliss.  You should go check out her blog, she is very funny and a good writer (and mother) to boot.

But anyway, on to how I spent my evening. I had spent all afternoon recuperating my ankle (the walking this morning killed it). I was no longer limping and the swelling has gone down dramatically, but putting a shoe on still hurt. It looked for a moment like I would not be able to go to the Trevi with my roommates. Fortunately, I discovered that my boot didn’t put any pressure on my ankle and I could walk just fine. I’ll spend tomorrow morning with some ice on my ankle, and wear my boots when I go to the market and the butcher.

So I got to go to the Trevi with my roommates. I forgot my camera, so all these pictures are taken with my cell phone. I was surprised when I arrived — this was a spot that I had visited eight years ago with Lacey and Beth, last time I was in Rome. I was immediately on my guard. Last time I was here, we saw a con in progress. Some locals confronted a woman, yelling at her and confusing her. While she was distracted, their friend stole her wallet from her bag. Fortunately, we were only bothered by three separate guys offering to take our picture (for 5€) or centurions offering to be in our picture (for 5€) or sell us flowers or various light-making knickknacks. Yep. We had hit tourist town.


The first thing that caught our eye was that there were kids playing on the fountain. It was so cute!


Here are my roommates — Sarah, Deanna, Ayini, and Nicole. I did a really bad job on remembering their names earlier. I’ll go back through my entries and correct them.


Here is the Trevi. I have no idea why it’s so famous. It’s a very pretty fountain with lots of nice restaurants around it, in a very pretty area, so I guess it might just be famous for being a nice place for tourists to hang out. There might be a larger reason than that, I don’t know.

Me at the fountain
Nicole and Ayini at the fountain

Then we all made a wish and tossed a coin into the fountain, per tradition.


Some nice folks from Michigan saw Deanna’s sweatshirt and thought she was from Mason, Michigan. We’re not (obviously) but we all took group pictures for each other on various cameras.

After we had looked at the fountain for a bit we started to look for a place to eat. Sarah was very, very hungry and had spent the entire morning walking to the Pantheon, then around the Pantheon, then Palantine Hill, then down to what she called “the cat shelter” but we all know is the Largo di Torre Argentina, right? So she led the search for a place to eat. We ended up at a place a block or so away that had excellent prices. Most stuff was in the 8-15€ range. Very reasonable. Sarah and I got veal dinners and were very disappointed (hence our plans to go to the butcher tomorrow). We think the veal was frozen and then defrosted. Very tasteless and dry. The olive oil they put on my veal was overpowering. The rosemary potato sides were decent though. Deanna, Nicole, and Ayini got pasta dishes and were very satisfied.


Next, however, we searched for gelatos. There were gelaterria everywhere, so we walked around judging them. I kept on getting distracted and looking at people and souvenir stands. This is a lady who was painting to a large, cheering crowd. She was speed-painting with spray-paint, jabbing the loose brush into wet spray paint and then painting gorgeous scenes. I saw other American girls in the crowd and, in the darkness, assumed they were my American girls. When I realized they were not, I ran down the street, hoping I hadn’t lost them. Fortunately, they had stopped just short of the Trevi and were realizing they had lost me.

We went to the gelaterria right off of the Trevi. Two cute guys were working the gelato counter. There was a double-scoop minimum. I ended up with strawberry and caramel, although the strawberry was too tart. The caramel? So good. So, so good. As I struggled with coinage to pay (there is no difference between 20 cent and 50 cent coins, Europeans, get on that), Sarah ducked in to make sure I hadn’t gotten lost again. One of the guys at the counter lit up at the sight of her. He asked her name and where she was from and if she had a facebook. He was pressing her for contact information. She said that of course she had a facebook and then left without telling him about it.

I left with my cup of ice cream in hand and said, “That guy was hitting on you like mad.”

They all laughed.

We sat and ate gelato and chatted (Nicole informed us that her retirement plan is to open a teashop). When we were annoyed enough by the knickknack seller standing next to us, we left, but now we had a problem: Sarah had to pee and I was desperately thirsty. We quickly realized that all the small gelaterria and souvenir shops were either closing or didn’t have a public bathroom available. There was no other question. We had to go into a fancy restaurant to get water and bathroom access.

We all felt horribly guilty as the waiter rolled out lovely thick tablecloths and another set a fancy place setting for us. After they left, Sarah asked me how to ask for the bathroom. “Dov’è il bagno,” I said, “And the gn is like the ñ in Spanish.” Americans seem to understand that instruction. We’re all so used to Spanish.

We felt bad that they had made such a fuss for us, so we got a bottle of wine and some tea and I got cake, because I didn’t want tea or wine. It was my second dessert of the night. I got some sort of torte — it was kind of creamy and not the best dessert, but it was well-made and it wasn’t bad. Nicole and Sarah asked for a bottle of white Moscato, a dessert wine. The waiter recounted the orders and ended it with “A bottle of Moscato and three glasses,” pointed vaguely in the direction of Deanna and I, and left.

“Three glasses?” we asked. “Who gets the third glass?”


I had found an alcohol I like. I like it well enough to finish one glass, at least. I normally hate alcohol, so the fact that I liked this wine was reason enough to have my picture taken of me drinking alcohol, which is a pretty stupid idea normally. This wine was sweet, but it still had the bitterness to prevent the sweetness from being overpowering. It’s everything I want in alcohol, the very thing I thought I would never find. It doesn’t taste like alcohol but it doesn’t taste like medicine. It tastes like a drink.

Apparently when the wine is almost empty you’re not supposed to chug the last of it down and slam the glass down on the table.

I did not finish my second glass.

Then we headed back to the apartment.

IMG_3319 IMG_3321

We were loud and obnoxious on the subway, laughing at every little thing, probably hitting every single stereotype of American study abroad students, but we had a blast and it was a fun evening.

Posted June 1, 2013 by agentksilver in Food, Latin

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Making Italian   1 comment



I know these pictures are terrible, but here they are! My first art projects here in Rome. As with the last introductory drawing course I took, we started with blind contour drawing, I guess to build up hand-eye coordination, or to make me hate myself.

My teacher’s biggest issue was that they were too small and too light. Weird.

I bought a bus ticket! It was amazing! Actually it was probably boring for everyone except me. But I was walking along the main avenue after class, thinking about calling my bank, when I saw the tobacco shop. I went inside. You see, they sell bus tickets at tobacco shops. None of the English-speaking websites that I’ve read understand why bus tickets are sold at tobacco shops. One site guessed it’s “a public service.” At the end of the month, they sell the monthly bus tickets, but monthly bus tickets are the best deal, so they sell out fast, so you have to buy them as soon as you can.

Ciao,” said the clerk. (Hi)

Ciao,” I said. “Bigliettocrap, what’s the word for month?per guigno.” (Hi. A ticket…for June.)

Trenticinque,” he said. (Thirty-five [euro])

I was counting money and hadn’t heard him. “Scusa?” (Pardon?)

Trenticinque,” he repeated, pointing at the month-long bus ticket he had already gotten out.

I paid with a 50€. He gave me 15€ back.

Grazie,” I said.

Ciao,” he said.

Ciao,” I called as I left the store.

I was just so low-key. I was so proud of myself.

Then I called my bank, then got the email telling me that my luggage was in, so I trudged back to school, wondering why my ankle was starting to hurt. My ankle got worse and worse as I retrieved the luggage, so I took the bus, then the tram, back to my apartment. It takes longer to take public transportation; it’s a twenty-minute walk, and the busses are really inconsistent about showing up. But my ankle was killing me, so I opted to take public transportation.

Everyone on the Italian public transportation system was super nice. They saw that I was bogged down with luggage. One man helped me get my luggage off the bus. On the tram, an older gentleman offered me his seat because he saw I was struggling. After two stops on the tram, I started to look around, realizing that I might miss my bus.

The little old lady standing next to me tapped my shoulder. “Quali?” (which one?)

I told her what street I live on. It’s right off of the main thoroughfare that the tram was on, so I could use it as a landmark easily, but there’s a lot of apartments on the street, so I didn’t have to worry about someone breaking into my apartment just because they knew what street I live on.

Questi,” she said. (this one)

“Oh!” I said. “Grazie!

Italian people are so nice.

When I got home that evening, my ankle was straight-up murdering me, so I stepped into the kitchen where I had put the painkillers earlier. Nicole was cooking pasta.

“I’m making that kind of pasta,” she gestured at a bag of pasta sitting on the counter, “And alfredo sauce.”

“Are you making the alfredo from scratch?” I asked. I was genuinely curious. I’ve heard of people making alfredo from scratch, but it’s in the realm of mythology.

She laughed. “Nope! I’m a terrible cook. We bought some alfredo sauce at the supermarket.” She nodded towards the fridge and continued to stare at the water, which was refusing to boil. I swallowed the painkillers and investigated the pasta. They appeared to be just flour and water. I approved.

After a moment she complained that the water wasn’t boiling fast enough. I put a top on the pot to contain the energy and get it to boil sooner. I sat with my leg up to rest my ankle. We chatted for a bit about the day’s classes and learning Italian. She, Deanna, and Sarah are all taking an Italian language course.

Once the water was boiling and the pasta in the water, she took out two containers of alfredo sauce. We struggled to open the containers, before we finally resorted to stabbing them. It made her laugh.

“This alfredo sauce is awfully hard,” she said. “Should I cook it? Maybe just on low heat, so it melts a little?”

“Yeah, that sounds like a good idea,” I said, settling back into my chair and putting my foot back up.

After a few minutes of chatting, she said, “It looks weird. Come look.”

I looked. It looked like white rice sitting in canola oil.

“Turn the heat off and whisk it for a bit,” I said. “It should reconfigure again.”

She did. But I got curious, and checked out the containers in the trash. Crema al formaggio. I looked up the translation online.

“That’s cream cheese,” I said. “Not alfredo sauce.”

We looked at each other and laughed.

“We’ll serve it to them anyway,” Nicole said. “They won’t know the difference, right?”

“I guess not,” I said. We laughed a bit more about how obvious it should have been. It was so hard in the container, after all!

Sarah wandered into the kitchen to get some wine. “How’s it going guys?”

“Great,” said Nicole.

Then we laughed histerically. Sarah gave us a look and left.

Then after a moment I looked up cream cheese and alfredo sauce and discovered that cream cheese can actually be a base for really cheap alfredo sauce. All we needed was milk, butter, parmesan, garlic powder, and pepper. I grabbed the garlic powder and pepper that Sarah and I had bought yesterday. Nicole shook some into the cream cheese.

“Do we have milk and butter and parmesan?”

I looked. We were already out of milk. “We have mozzarella,” I said.

“Can we use that?”

“Sure,” I said, although I wasn’t sure. “It’ll just act as a thickening agent.”

I cut a slice of the mozzarella and tossed it in the pot. Nicole and I watched it boil.

The concoction was ultimately thin, but pretty tasty. Deanna made a salad as a side. It was a pretty good dinner overall.

The point is, hug your mother today.   2 comments

My mom’s name is Katt. My aunt Cindy’s favorite animal is the cat. It made sense that, for Mother’s Day, I would make cupcakes with cat faces.It’s not like I didn’t know my limitations. I knew I had to keep it simple. I had to keep it to something that I knew I could do, as a first-timer, but it would still look good. How hard could putting cat faces on cupcakes be?

What I wanted:

What I ended up with:

I don't know you tell me.

What is this?

What is this?


No, seriously, what is this? Is that a voice bubbble? A brain with a stem?


Or is that a brain with a stem? Or a spine?


A heart with an emo haircut?


An epileptic dog having a seizure?


Asian character writing?


This teen is just so embarrassed to be seen in this post omg


This is either a weird K or a horribly off-target swastika.


The world’s angriest hair clog.

I knocked on Mom and Dad’s bedroom door. Mom answered.

“Mother,” I said, “Despite all appearances, I actually love you.”

This was such a curious thing to say that Mom and Dad came downstairs to investigate the cupcakes. “They looked fine when I went upstairs,” she said. Then she saw the cupcakes, and I’m pretty sure she was trying to hold in laughter.

“It was the thing I was using to make the black lines!” I said. “I didn’t know it would come out all curly! I’m sorry!”

I recounted my struggles with the decorative icing, and Dad pointed out his favorite cupcakes. “That one looks like Japanese writing,” he said.

Mom picked up one of the little clay figurines from off of the counter. It was one of those little clay bowls they make you make in elementary school. It was bright yellow with eyes pointed in two directions and a vague attempt at a nose. “Look at this,” she said. “Do you think I would keep this around if I didn’t love it?”

“No,” I said.

She picked up another one, a light teal bowl this time, made of rings that barely lined up. “Or this one,” she said. She picked up a third object, this one with a misshapen yellow based and a green pointed head and fingerprint spots everywhere.

“I don’t even know what that is,” I said.

Mom laughed. “Neither do I.”

“It’s Britty,” Dad said.

Mom picked up a brought animal-shaped fourth object from off the microwave.

“That’s Britty,” Dad said.

“I think it’s Hobbes,” I said.

“The point is,” Mom said, “I love everything that you do, no matter what it looks like.”