Things like that.
The exception to this rule is when I'm asked what I would like to receive as a gift. "What do you want for your birthday?" "What do you want for Christmas?" These are the questions that bring my tiny brain to a screeching halt. And yes, I do think it's because I have much and want for little, and because I have a clinical aversion to clutter (which does not extend to my ability to tolerate mess). So I do understand that not being able to think of something one wants/needs is not high on the list of World's Worst Problems.
It's not a big bowl of fun for the momster, though.
But this year, I had a notion—that if I am not going to ever learn how my camera actually works, it might help to have some help. I asked for the Lowel Ego lights, a setup that can roughly approximate pretty ambientness even in the dead of night. Remember this disaster from two days ago?
That was my dinner under kitchen lights. This is my dinner on Ego:
RIGHT?! Like midday in July.
Last night's dinner was an invention of sorts, though I obviously don't take credit for the concept of the twice-baked potato. (That was Einstein's idea, clearly.) I used Alton Brown's rules for the perfect baked potato, though I usually find it takes about 15 minutes longer than he suggests to get crispy skins and fluffy, yielding insides. He recommends canola oil, which I didn't have, so I used sunflower oil, which I inexplicably did. I liked it because it does the job—making that peel cracklingly delicious—without imparting any real flavor at all. That's the job of the kosher salt, which you'll notice I sprinkled liberally.
The beef portion is a hodgepodge—the seasonings change based on what I have in the larder, the broccoli stays the same. (Because broccoli and cheese and potatoes are so very, very fond of each other.) The recipe is based on what's pictured here, but the first time I whipped these up they were altogether different. Both delicious, though, which is a testament to flexibility! and versatility! and fearless abandon! Just don't put anything weird in there, and you'll be fine. I think black pepper would have been a nice addition, but alas, my grinder is broken and I didn't have any of the ground stuff on hand. This recipe serves two, but there will be plenty of beef-and-broccoli mixture left over. Just cook up some rice the next day, et voilà! Tomorrow night's dinner.
The salad was K's Trashy Salad, minus the trashiest aspect (the bacon) because I forgot it. My guest for the evening, J, doesn't eat tomatoes, so hers was really just K's Trashy Bowl O' Lettuce. To each her own! The important thing is to keep the ingredients coldcoldcold until serving, for maximum crunchyyumminess.
I hesitate to even give a recipe for it, because it's abjectly absurd, but as this is undeniably the home of abject absurdity, I will. And because I'm just giddy with d'lights. (HAR!)
Beef-and-Broccoli Twice-Baked Potatoes
2 baking potatoes, washed and dried
1 pound lean ground beef
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons flour
1 (14.5-ounce) can fat-free, low-sodium beef broth
Hot sauce to taste
¼ cup ketchup
1 (14-ounce) bag frozen broccoli florets
½ tablespoon butter
½ cup shredded Colby Jack cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350. With a fork, poke 8 to 12 deep holes in potatoes. Place in a bowl, and lightly coat with oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Place directly on oven rack, in center of oven, and bake 1 hour, 15 minutes or until skins are crispy and insides are cooked through.
2. When potatoes have about 20 minutes left to cook, season beef with kosher salt, garlic powder, mustard, and cumin. Brown in a deep skillet over medium to medium-high heat until no longer pink. Sprinkle beef with flour, and cook 1 minute. Stir in beef broth, hot sauce, and ketchup; bring to a boil, and stir in broccoli. Reduce heat, and simmer until broccoli is heated through.
3. When cool enough to handle, cut potatoes in half lengthwise, and scoop out flesh, leaving enough of a border around sides and bottoms so that skins don't become flimsy. Transfer skins to a baking dish or baking sheet.
4. In a small bowl, mash potato flesh with butter and enough milk to get a fluffy, creamy consistency. Stir in kosher salt.
5. Spoon beef-and-broccoli mixture into potato skins, and top with mashed potatoes and shredded cheese. Bake or broil 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden. Makes 2 servings.
K's Trashy Salad
1 small head iceberg lettuce, coarsely chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
Light ranch dressing to taste
Combine first 3 ingredients, and chill. Stir in dressing just before serving. Makes 2 to 4 servings.
If you whip these up in your own kitchen, let me know how it goes!