Not the triumph I expected

These homemade spring rolls were not my triumphant foray into Vietnamese cuisine. In the past, my rule of thumb for most asian foods has always been, just go out and buy it from someone else. This holds especially true for steamed pork buns (any dim sum really), lo mein (because I like it too greasy to stomach making it for myself–ignorance is bliss), and fresh spring rolls. I was hoping to change that last one, but I am sad to report that I have not. I can get these faster, cheaper, and worlds better in a matter of 15 minutes or a connection or two on public transport.


I really honestly thought I was going to nail this one. I went to Whole Foods and bought pretty much every fresh herb they sell, got some rice paper and sprouts and carrots and was like, this is going to HAPPEN. 

But so quickly it just became another food-metaphor for my life: poorly-planned, slipshod, and jury-rigged to the point of absurdity. Like: I wanted a peanut-y dipping sauce and remembered (excitedly) that I had some peanuts in a bag way back in my cupboard. But those peanuts had the freshness leeched from them long ago, so instead I used an on-the-go single serving packet of maple-flavored almond butter. In hindsight, what. was. i. thinking. Maple-flavored? But, you know, it was close enough for me, like it always is, and didn’t work out, like it never does.

I am also apparently a terrible spring roll wrapper, despite having an (apparently unwarranted) awesome sense of hand-self-esteem. I just kept breaking the wrapper or it stuck to me or the carrots tumbled out. I have to say, there was a glimmer of promise in there somewhere. I’m not done with this, I don’t think. Maybe next time I’ll go for shrimp or tofu (for more flavor) or actually spend some time on the sauce or buy Thai basil instead of Italian. I’ll be back, like I always am, seeking acceptance from things that don’t have the capacity to ever accept me, like I always do. 

Fresh Spring Rolls
adapted from ones I had in restaurants and thought I could reproduce

serves 1 (alllllll byyyy myyyyy seeeeeeeeeeeeelf)

2 rice paper rounds
about a quarter-diameter bunch of rice vermicelli
6 or 7 dried shiitakes, rehydrated in some boiled water for 5 minutes, then sliced
1 carrot, matchsticked
bean sprouts
fresh basil, chopped
fresh cilantro, chopped
fresh mint, chopped
green onion, chopped

hoisin sauce
soy sauce
peanut butter (chunky)

Boil a small pot of water and cook the vermicelli for about 3 minutes. Shock with cold water and then drain. 

In a large, wide bowl full of warm-hot water, submerge the rice paper round until soft (about 30 sec). Lay on a plate and mound on your ingredients in the center in the proportions you see fit.

Mix a few tablespoons of hoisin sauce, about a tablespoon of soy sauce, and a tablespoon of peanut butter. (I bet you could add garlic and some brown sugar to great success, but what the hell do I know?)




My Job Is Somehow Not the Worst And I Made A Cake To That Effect

I like the company that employs me. (For their sake, I won’t mention the name. Stock value being dragged down and such.) I like the people with whom I work. We sit in the lunch/conference room together a lot and talk alternately about Battlestar Galactica and coding (when dev controls the conversation), and nail polish and hot men . I work with a bunch of weirdos, but I spend all of my weekdays with them and they actually keep me happy during the majority of my waking hours (thanks for nothing, family, friends, and boyfriends).


I like my company enough to make a branded 5-layer cake for a fellow employee’s birthday. That is 5 hours of prime Sunday night time that I devoted to adding food coloring drop-by-drop until the oranges were just so. It feels WEIRD to like my company this much. It feels wrong. I’m a lifetime job hater. I had big dreams of playing the 1-to-2 year game at every employment, looking deep into their eyes during the interview process and saying, well I’m getting older and I’d really like to settle down at one place and make a career for myself, you know? And be lying! Lying through my teeth because I’m a free spirit and no company can hold me! Maybe I’ll move to Europe! I don’t have a mortgage! The world is my oyster!


But oysters are slimy and stinky. As much as I love to eat them (because I love gross things), I don’t want to live on one. So, I found this little niche of the universe where I feel like I belong, and I’m clinging to it like a hand-mixer duct-taped to a mixing bowl (I miss my Kitchenaid). And I know it won’t last. Nothing good ever does, everyone is the worst ever, and change is a harsh mistress. Every skeptic and bitter almost-30-something year old knows these phrases by heart.


But for right now, in this moment, I don’t hate my job.


Now, I know what I’ve just done. I do this a lot, because I am stubborn. I say something like, I really like _____. And then ______ goes away. Like I got to a new restaurant and am really happy with it and I wait a while and then express my love for it and walk by and it’s closed. The other week at work I said I was bored and 2 hours later I got slammed with work and remained deluged for about 2 weeks. EVERY SINGLE TIME I say “things are going well” with a guy, he immediately dumps me with no reason (except for that one guy who was super honest and was like “I just don’t want to marry you” and I was like, whoa, that is honest, but also, damn! can’t a girl just bone a guy for a while without him thinking about marriage??). But I keep doing it. Maybe I secretly want to sabotage my job and move to New York and start over like those sassy Girls characters. Or maybe I am hoping one day the universe will lob me a softball.

Rainbow Cake
from The Whisk Kid

2 sticks (226 g) butter, room temp
2 1/3 c (466 g) sugar
5 egg whites, room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 c (375 g) flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 1/2 c (355 g) milk, warmed for 30 sec in microwave to bring to room temp
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple GEL food coloring. Liquid will not be vibrant enough!

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Oil and line how ever many 9” cake pans you have (I have three and I just reused them).

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Cream the sugar and butter, then add the egg whites (I cracked them all into one bowl) and add them a little at a time. Add the vanilla and mix until fully incorporated. Then, alternating between wet and dry, add the milk and flour mixture in two parts.

Divide the batter amongst 6 bowls (I did it by weight. Weigh your mixing bowl before you begin adding ingredients and then subtract the weight of the bowl from the final measurement after the batter is completed. Divide that number by six and add that weight of batter to each bowl), and then whisk a fair amount of the appropriate food color into each bowl. Keep in mind that the color of the unbaked batter will be the color of the baked batter. Pour into the pans and bake for 15 minutes each.

When you remove them from the oven, let them rest on the cooling rack, in the pan, for ten minutes. Then flip, cover, and stash them in the fridge to cool quickly.

Lemony Swiss Meringue Buttercream
To fill and crumb coat:
9 egg whites
1 ¾ c (350 g) sugar
4 sticks (532 g) of butter, room temp
2 tsp lemon extract

To frost:
5 egg whites
1 c (200 g) sugar
2 sticks (226 g) butter, room temp
1 tsp lemon extract

Cook the egg whites and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved (test by rubbing some between your fingers. If it’s completely smooth, it’s done). Pour into another bowl (a stand mixer is preferable) and whip on high speed until room temp. Then, on a medium-slow speed, add the butter, waiting until each piece is completely incorporated before adding the next. After all the butter has been added, turn the mixer back to high speed and whip until it has come together, about five minutes. Add the extract, beat briefly and then use.

If the buttercream seems soupy after all of the butter is added and does not come together after whipping, refrigerate for 5 to 7 minutes and continue whipping until it becomes fluffy and workable.

Stack the layers in your preferred order and fill and frost as you would any other cake.

Once frosted, the cake can be left on the counter without any problems, but feel free to refrigerate it. Just be sure that the cake is at room temperature when serving or the frosting will be hard, not smooth.

Oh the things you can pickle

Guys, I have so many completed recipes on deck and in the hole and climbing up the mast and sitting in the crow’s nest, waiting to be posted about. I just gotta find the WORDS. Like, a 5-layer cake and some pre-redeye ginger-peach jam and some egg dishes and possibly something else that I can’t remember right now on account of having flown into NY this morning on said redeye and not so much “slept” as “threw my neck into awkward positions for 5 hours.” 


Well so anyway, I’ll tell you about the beets, which were too pretty at the farmer’s market to be ignored. I pickled them in tarragon vinegar, which was amazing because I had a full bottle of tarragon vinegar that I bought in a Whole Foods moment of poshness, thinking I was going to “whip up some tarragon vinaigrette,” only to discover I hated the taste of tarragon vinegar on my salads. And using up something you’re not crazy about seems like some extra feat of fortitude. Sometimes I get that feeling when I buy a face lotion and end up not liking it but I soldier on because I’m so very brave and I reach the end of it and I’m like, THAT IS RIGHT, I did not throw that lotion out, that is not how I was raised, I USED IT, and now I get to buy the lotion that I LIKE. That’s how it was with this vinegar.

It works here with the beets though, and I’m not sure why. The only thing I can point to is that Alton Brown told me to, so I did it, and he was right.


Also, yeah, I downloaded Instagram, which you will all have to deal with. I know, I can’t even stand myself. It’s just that I am a self-proclaimed shitty photographer, and instagram softens the holy mess that I sometimes capture with my iphone. Plus I don’t have to open Photoshop ever, which is such a relief to my poor, overworked Macbook (this post brought to you by apple. just kidding, I would never sell out! [yes i would, apple]). Is it communism for photography? Sure. But I am no Harrison Bergeron, and this is no art gallery. I’m trying to be utilitarian-ish about this, because then I don’t have to fuss with f-stops and lighting. Like, god help me if I have to organize my food in a light box before taking a picture. I’m covered in flour/vinegar/tomato sauce/rice/salt/water/butter over here! Come on! Though, check out my vase of flowers that cannot be killed. Nice touch, right? All class over here.


I brought an entire jar of these to work and have been slowly making my way through them with the help of my coworkers. The other day I made a killer (humbly, as it were) panzanella and added some to the mix. Basically, having picked beets on hand is really really really really really nice. It is life-improving. You can just sprinkle them on whatever-what-have-you you’re eating. And it takes a very short amount of actual work-time to do it. I did this in between episodes of Frozen Planet. Pickled beets and Frozen Planet dvds and that clip of that mini pig walking down those stairs and jumping into a bowl of oatmeal are probably the best things ever for this very moment as I type.

Pickled Beets
adapted from Alton Brown 

Roasted Beets, recipe follows
1 large red onion, frenched
1 cup tarragon wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water

Remove the skin from the Roasted Beets and slice thinly (I made mine into large matchsticks). Arrange in 1-quart jars alternating layers with the onion (I omitted the onion and missed it not). In a small pot boil the rest of the ingredients and pour over the beets. Tightly lid the jars and place in the refrigerator for 3 to 7 days before serving.

Roasted Beets:

6 medium beets, cleaned with 1-inch stem remaining
2 large shallots, peeled
2 sprigs rosemary
2 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl toss all of the ingredients (I omitted the shallots and rosemary, whatever). Place into a foil pouch and roast in the oven for 40 minutes.

I will not make a s’mores pun

I won’t make a s’mores pun because I read so many blog entries looking for this recipe wherein all these (probably perfectly nice and I’m sorry for being so fucking bitter, seriously) ladies said this one million times: “I wanted……..wait for it…..s’more of this pie!!!!!”


And that’s totally cool, but every time it happened a little of my soul died, and after you’ve read about 8 blog posts about s’mores pie and you don’t have all that much soul to begin with, all you want is for ladies to not make obvious puns when they’re making obvious pies. I suppose that was the other issue. Everyone kept acting like s’mores pie was some sort of revelation. Oh my god, chocolate pie in a graham cracker crust with marshmallows on top!! WHAT GENIUS THOUGHT OF THIS? Etc etc. I hate to burst bubbles, but, this s’mores pie is an obvious pie. There is no genius here, except that it takes the s’mores recipe and blows it up to pie-proportions (I WILL NOT SAY PIE-PORTIONS).


I bought the graham cracker crust because I had no more soul after all the lady-food-blogs-oh-my-gawd-s’mores-piiiiie-thing. Also, I didn’t have TIME. I was at book club and I was so full of frustration at the book we read that I was antsy to talk about how much I hated the main character (and in hating her, hate myself, or something, right? where is my therapist?). Also it was cheaper to buy the pre-made crust because we live in post-industrial America and the value of crushing Barbara’s graham bunnies in a plastic bag with a hammer, though thoroughly enjoyable, was not negative 40 cents. You dig?


You: Kat, you are hating a lot tonight. Me: I know, and there’s no real reason!! I just had a lovely dinner and am listening to music on my couch. I had to work overtime tonight, but I didn’t even care because I love my job!! And I get to fly home tomorrow and there might be a thunderstorm!!! Sometimes I just get carried away with what it means to have a food blog that isn’t written by some sweet and honest young mom so I feel this intense pressure to be sassy and talk about sex and act like I don’t give a fuck about handmade jam labels. It’s exhausting!!! Because I love labels!


And this pie was great, really. Perhaps it helped that I bought organic high class not-too-sweet marshmallows, the jet-puffed variety of which I find incredibly cloying. Perhaps also lending a hand was the not-too-sweet chocolate pie base. It was pretty spectacular on its own, beyond the whole MIND-BLOWING concept of turning s’mores into a pie (THE SMARTEST THING ANY DOMESTIC LADY HAS EVER THOUGHT OF LET’S WRITE A TWEE COOKBOOK ABOUT ALL THE THINGS S’MORES CAN TURN INTO).


The last thing I’ll say, and a reason I find this pie so successful, is that the only reason s’mores are not delicious is when one hasn’t properly melted the chocolate, which is not an issue here with this lovely chocolate pot-de-creme-y pie. People erroneously think the heat from the marshmallow will adequately melt the chocolate on the cracker, but that shit ain’t RIGHT. You have to melt it separately, on a rock or a macguyvered-grill-type-situation, or you’ll have hard chocolate with a slightly slippery surface where it touches the marshmallow. I have made so many s’mores, friends.


Man, you guys don’t care about my s’mores philosophy. You just want this genius pie recipe. Well. I won’t leave you waiting any…..s’more.


S’mores Pie
slightly adapted from How Sweet It Is 

for crust
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 1/4 sticks butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325.

Add melted butter and graham cracker crumbs together until a crust forms. Press in to a 9 inch pie plate.

for chocolate filling (from Tyler Florence)

3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 tbsp unsalted butter

1 bag of large marshmallows

Combine milk and heavy cream in a saucepan and heat over low heat. Watch carefully and once it begins to simmer, remove from heat and add in chocolate. Stir with a spatula until chocolate is melted, then whisk in sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the 2 eggs. Slowly add eggs to chocolate mixture while whisking.

Pour chocolate filling in to graham crust. Tyler’s directions call for the filling to be baked for 15-20 minutes, but mine needed about 30-35. Pay attention and check every 5-10 minutes after 20 minutes pass. One the chocolate is no longer liquid, remove the tart and top with as many large marshmallows as you can fit. I heated my broiled on low, and stuck the pie back in for 2 minutes so the top could get golden. The other option is to just place it back in the oven for a few minutes until they melt or use a kitchen torch.

Let cool then refrigerate for 1-2 hours before cutting.


Because it was my birthday this Friday, and because I saw some “mediterranean cucumbers” in Whole Foods, and because it was my birthday, and because I love pickles, and because it was my birthday, I made some quick pickles. Did I mention it was my birthday? I have to admit, I used to be one of those people who tried to pretend I don’t like to make a big deal out of my birthday. It’s just one of many defense mechanisms I’ve built up from bad relationships wherein the boy I was dating straight up FORGOT about my birthday, which is a thing that happened to me 3 times with 2 different boys. So anyway, obviously, at the time, because I wanted so badly to be “the cool girlfriend” I was like, whatever, doesn’t matter, those are not the things that I care about.

But, it just isn’t true. I am a human, and I like it when humans that supposedly love me pay attention to me. I just like it. I like people telling me Happy Birthday. I like cupcakes and streamers and like….attention.  It makes me feel nice.

So that’s a thing that is. Ok, let’s stop talking about it because it’s already making me feel uncomfortable.

Regarding these quick refrigerator pickles though, they are lovely. As are all pickles.

But you guys already know you can’t really trust me when it comes to pickles, because I’m an equal opportunity pickle lover. So you could give me a bad pickle from some spoiled batch from some shitty factory in some state that doesn’t care about pickles, and I would still eat that pickle. I have standards. Are you a boy who is supposed to love me and you forget my birthday? Forgiven. Are you a pickle that tastes like poison? Forgiven. So basically if you’re a boy and I love you and/or you are a pickle of any sort, you are ok in my book no matter what. So I guess now you know the key to kat’s heart. Pickle or loved boy. When you really really really really really think about it, what’s the difference? I mean, one is less disappointing in the long run. But one….probably makes up for it with pickle. Bam bam bam bam bam. Porn joke. Aaaaand I’m out.

Spicy Pickles
*adapted from Lottie + Doof

about 8-10 kirby cucumbers, quartered
2 tablespoons of kosher salt
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 1/2 cups of distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons of coriander seeds
1 tsp ground mustard
4 garlic cloves peeled and sliced thin
1/2 onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup loosely packed dill sprigs

1. Pack the cucumber slices, garlic slices, onion slices and dill springs into a clean, 2-quart glass jar.
2. In a container pot, combine the salt, sugar, vinegar, coriander and mustard. Boil.
3. Add water to the mixture and pour the brine over the vegetables. Add more water to the jar to fully cover the vegetables and seal tightly. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before eating. Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Cookie cookie cookie starts with C

Hey kids. It’s 9pm, I’m watching a tv show in which James van der Beek plays himself (oh yes, I love the Beek), I’m on my 2nd glass of wine, I just did all the laundry that exists, and ate 2 slices of cold pizza and 2 “organic” peanut butter cups. Sounds like it’s TIME FOR A POST.

I was going to write about how isn’t it a shame when you’re buying plantar wart remedies at Safeway and all the cashiers are young not-unattractive dudes? But then I read this article about how being an optimist makes you live longer, and my friend Purd used to make me listen to the song “Accentuate the Positive” by NRBQ, and one of my friends had a “calming manatee” status message on gchat, so we’re going to do this all not negative, or somesuch.

Plus, last week my coworkers and I got together to eat pizza and drink wine (life theme.) and gossip and make…..

Fucking ridiculous Cookie Monster Cupcakes.

Look. Listen. I’m not a crazy young mom with a blog and my own fashion line because my husband thinks I’m a good sewer and my friends humor me by buying my hand-crafted toddler headbands or whatever. In fact, ater reading this, I feel less ready for childrearing than ever. Not to mention the fact I haven’t found a willing co-partner yet. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I could have a kid in 9 months from….tomorrow. If I really wanted to. But no one has as yet looked me in the beautiful (shh, part of the fantasy) eyes and been like “Kat I want to have babies with you because your genes are so good and also do you want a cold beer right now?” So you know, I’m not a mom and there aren’t exhausting kid birthdays to attend to or small socks to somehow put on (seriously, how do you put on baby socks?! their feet are like endives).

BUT, I do work with some folks who are several years younger than me. Sometimes they name bands I don’t know, and use im-speak that came about after everything I learned on AIM. For example, kids these days say things like “totes.” Well, anyway. One of my coworkers is a young lad, fresh out of college, still in the phase of his life where he eats everything he sees and none of it finds residence in his midsection. So we feed him pretty much everything, mostly for sport (but not when HR is looking). The alleged story is that he was drunk and admitted wanting these cupcakes to another fellow coworker of mine, and that’s all it took for us non-moms-whose-biological-clocks-tell-us-we-should-be-making-muppet-themed-cupcakes-by-now.

We’re all like….a bunch of late 20s, early 30s ladies who are sorta practicing for being adults, but none of us are really adults? You know? Because we’d still rather drink wine and go to drag shows and have long hair than like….touch a child’s snot.

But our young coworker, whose birthday it was, is such a young and positive person. He like, loves things still. You know? He hasn’t been ravaged by years-long-failing relationships and the realization that you can’t just eat everything you want anymore and taxes and vaccuum cleaners and the fact that men hate to do dishes and day drinking gets old. So when we gave him these cupcakes for his 24th birthday, he made this face. And he was all genuine about it, and touched that we had all gotten together to make him a birthday present, and he was so young and innocent. It was really nice.

The bottom line is, I work with some rad people. Some of you maybe haven’t figured out that this is the path to happiness. I encourage you to figure it out, pronto. I may be old and bitter and winey and a mess, but god damn I work with some amazing people, and they keep me sane.

Man, that was so much genuine feeling. I gotta go like… porn or something. Oh wait, that James van der Beek show is still on. BRB (as the young kids would say).

Cookie Monster Cupcakes
from here

Basically we made carrot cake cupcakes, cream cheese frosting, dyed some sweetened coconut blue with food coloring, and made eyes out of marzipan and “food markers” though a backward chocolate chip would also work. We used to Jacque Torres chocolate chip cookies for the…cookies, because we are fancy ladies all of us. Good luck making this for your child who will never appreciate it like our coworker did!

Oh my god, where have you been?

I’m not going to pretend that too many people care whether or not Kat in the Kitch gets updated on a weekly basis, but I was getting what I would deem a moderate amount of guff from friends who know me in Real Life for dropping off the face of the blog planet. You see,  some people rely on me to make them feel better about themselves (read: I’m a mess). Well, I’ll withhold no longer. Here is a post  about some strawberry-rhubarb crumble I made a few weeks ago, before strawberries really came into their own (I used frozen, everything was ok).

I only have 1 picture, because I have an iphone now, friends, so I never use my actual camera (sorry Canon). So check it out, this is what my crisp looked like. It tasted like rainbows and sunshine though. Delicious times infinity. Fucking strawberry rhubarb. It’s the best!

I’m not really ready to jump back into embarrassing life stories yet, internet. I don’t know, it seems like the more I talk about things being a mess, the more messy things get. So what I’m telling you is I’m not going to give you what you want. If you want to stick around, I’ll get there. You just need to be patient.

For now I’ll give you this crisp and the warming knowledge that, yes, I’m still a disaster. You’re doing ok. You’re probably married or something. Go you! How are your kids? Tow-headed and precocious? I thought so. I drank 2 liters of beer in 30 minutes the other night. Because someone bet me. That’s where I’m at, internet. I’m 2 weeks to 29 and that is where I am at. So.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
from Food&Wine (I can’t even remember if this is the right recipe)

2 pounds rhubarb stalks, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 pound strawberries, hulled and quartered
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a bowl, toss the rhubarb with 3/4 cup of the sugar and let stand for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. In another bowl, toss the strawberries with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and let stand for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the rhubarb to the strawberries; discard any rhubarb juice. Add the cornstarch, lemon juice and vanilla to the fruit and stir well. Transfer the mixture to a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish.
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, mix the ingredients together until large crumbs form.
Sprinkle the topping evenly over the filling and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325° and continue baking for about 30 minutes longer, until the fruit filling is bubbling and the topping is nicely browned. Let the crisp rest for 10 to 20 minutes before serving.