Cro-Nutting: The Privilege of a Great Houseguest

cronuts trader joe's frozen croissants dessert

Cro-Nutted Croissants

Cro-Nutting, v. The Art of Frying That Which Should Not Be Fried.

Truth – I don’t like to fry, deep fry, stuff in my apartment. A few good reasons…

  1. cronuts kitchen frying

    Coffee Tin

    It’s a bit messy and the hot oil can escape the cauldron and dirty surrounding cabinets and counters.

  2. When the frying is over and after you’ve overindulged in a good fried treat, you’re left with a large vat of used oil and no where to dispose of it…OK, you’re supposed to put in into an empty coffee tin and freeze it before throwing away…But, I think you have to go back to 1985 to find an empty coffee tin.
  3. The frying leaves a certain odor – note, not really aroma, but odor – in your tiny living space and on your furniture, walls, carpets, floors and towels.
  4. OH, yeah….and technically frying anything is super fattening.

So, I only fry during away games. Listen, I’m a great house guest. Someone even recently named me guest of the decade. I mean, I keep a clean room, cook, entertain people’s kids, run errands and always wash my sheets and towels before my departure. So, letting me do a little frying in your kitchen seems like a small price to pay.

On a recent visit to the middle – that space between New York City and LA where my brother and his people live – I decided to entertain my two favorite teenagers with a frying bonanza.

Prior to my arrival, I emailed the kids with some culinary options that we could deep fry in their large suburban kitchen.

But the only thing they wanted was….Cronuts, the croissant/donut hybrid that is all the rage in NYC right now, a treat that is not yet available in Cincy.

The attention span of any teenager is similar to that of an ant – even my incredibly intellectually advanced niece and nephew. So, I knew that creating cronuts from scratch wouldn’t be an option. I did some research and decided the best way to go would be to cronut frozen croissants from Trader Joe’s.

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  1. Don’t deep fry in your apartment for reasons already outlined above
  2. Do be the best guest to earn the privilege to deep fry when guesting outside of the city

Cro-Nutted TJ’s Croissnts (servings…really, no one should eat any of these, so at a serving size of one bite, this’ll make about 24)

Ingredients:

  • trader joe's frozen croissants cronuts

    NOT mini

    1 Box Trader Joe’s frozen croissants – they come  8 to a box – AND the box says ‘Mini’…but, they are not mini

  • 1 Large Cauldron of vegetable oil – about 1 1/2 – 2 inches deep
  • 1 Candy Thermometer – I’ve been trying to find the one that has the temp taker attached to a long cord vs the glass one that clips to the side of the cauldron…but, haven’t found it yet. LMK if you have any ideas
  • 1 Fry Spider kitchen tool – readily available everywhere and a kitchen must
  • 1 Tub of Dolci Frutti Chocolate hard chocolate shell OR A Jar of Nutella Hazelnut Spread

1. The night before you want to make these ridiculously caloric and fat heavy treats…You have to take the frozen Trader Joe’s Croissants out of the package, separate, set on a plate and let sit out overnight. The frozen croissants magically rise while you’re sleeping and double in size – again, not mini

2. Pour 1 1/2 inches of vegetable oil into a large, deep cauldron….Or big pot

3. Heat the oil to 350 degrees. OK, maintaining 350 degrees is tricky – so, heat the oil higher, then turn it way down. Oil must be between 325 – 350, so keep checking that now dangerously hot glass candy thermometer that’s clipped to the side of the cauldron and adjust the stove as needed

4. Using a tiny (1 inch) biscuit cutter (remember, buy the full set of biscuit cutters that nest) cut the croissants into little bite-sized pieces

sur la table biscuit cutters

Space Saving Biscuit Cutters

5. Gently…very gently….using a spider or other good frying tool…lower the croissant cut-outs into the scalding oil

croissant cronuts trader joe's frying with kids

Gently frying away

6. Fry each side for about a minute – you’ll know when to flip cuz they brown up nicely

7. Remove the friedness from the oil and transfer to a paper towel to blot the excess oil – this is a step that just makes you feel better…but really, these are fried, so get over it.

cronut recipe trader joe's croissants

Fried Goodness – light, flaky and….FRIED

8. While frying, in the microwave melt up some of those Dolci Frutti chocolate shell chocolate chips

dolci frutti chocolate dip cronuts trader joe's

Find in Produce Section

9. Once the Cro-Nutted Croissants are quasi cooled – hand them along with the melty chocolate to your niece and nephew who can then spoon chocolate-y goodness over the deep fried delight

10. Eat….But eat only one, seriously

I always gain about 500lbs when I go to the middle…Or does just the fat go to the middle, whatever. But, you can’t put a price on entertaining kids with the art of deep frying. And, if you want to feel a little better, Cro-Nutted Croissants are technically vegetarian. Just remember to be a good guest and clean up. You don’t want to lose your fry-privileges.

Place Invaders: NYC Creepy Crawler Protection

I hate bugs. All bugs…yes, even butterflies and lady bugs. When it comes to bugs, I do not discriminate.

lady bug kitchen solutions nyc kitchens

This bug is no lady

Part of the hate I have stems from my innate fear of all things crawly. It’s genetic. No escaping it.

For example…I was having dinner once at an outdoor restaurant in Florida and a giant bug flew onto the table. I probably leapt about 30 feet into the air and screamed. (Divide that 30 feet by my propensity to exaggerate…but, I jumped nonetheless). The lovely waitress rushed over and realizing it was just a bug, looked at me, exasperated and said…’It’s just a palmetto bug’.

Yeah, uhm, I’m from New York…that, my dear waitress, is a cockroach. AND, I checked with the bug experts at Orkin who told me: ‘There is no difference between a cockroach and a palmetto bug. The cockroach is also known as the waterbug, Croton bug and palmetto bug.’

kitchen protection from bugs nyc

You say Palmetto, I say…

I also lived in a pretty big one bedroom in a rent stabilized building for a while in the 90’s. Finding a good sized, one bedroom in a rent stabilized, full service building, on the upper west side is pretty much the coup of coups. But, the low low rent came with its own price…a mouse or two here or there. Not good for the crawly-ophobe.  And, I may have spent a night or two locked in my bedroom with towels shoved under the door to keep my ‘guest’ from coming in while I slept. (Note…have the super, friend etc, plug all gaps around your plumbing with steel wool. The mice can’t chew through it and will find another home to visit.)

mouse in the house nyc kitchens solutions

Not this cute in real life

Recently, a friend who had relocated from Los Angeles told me she spied a mouse running across her living room floor last week. Her attitude: ‘Thank God it wasn’t a cockroach.’ After only five months in our fair city, she’s already a true New Yorker through and through.

I know what you’re thinking, reader(s)…where is she going with this? And, is she really going to talk food after talking bugs and rodents?

No. No, I’m not.

I am going to take you through a list of perhaps insane precautions I take in my own tiny NYC kitchen to avoid the occasional creepy crawler. Because even in the swankiest of buildings, a bug or two will fall.

Tiny Kitchen Tips:

  1. progresso spaghetti ny ktichens

    Bag in a Box

    All bread products – bread, cereal, crackers – go in the microwave. The microwave is airtight…so, not only will it protect your breads safe the crawlers, it will also help to keep them fresh longer

  2. Once a package of anything is opened…its contents are put into a ZipLoc bag before being put back into the box. This means cereal, pasta, sugar, brown sugar, Bisquick, panko bread crumbs, rice…anything you are keeping in your pantry (read, kitchen cabinet assigned to food)
  3. coffee container canister flour bed bath and beyond

    Sealed

    Flour is allowed on the counter…BUT only because I keep it in a glass, airtight canister sealed at all times.

  4. Coffee is also allowed on the counter…But, only because it too is in an airtight container sealed at all times.
  5. Chef’s salt and pepper are allowed on the counter…in these cute little Cuisinart prep bowls and covered with Saran Wrap at all times

    salt and pepper prep bowls cuisinart

    S & P – in Cuisinart Prep bowls and covered

  6. The only foods allowed out, uncovered on counters are:

Unripened avocados (no getting around this)

Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes

Garlic/Leeks

Onions/Shallots etc

Tomatos – these do not go in the fridge

Listen, I live in a very nice, maybe even, swanky, building. But, you can’t know what happens outside of the building in which you live, or even in the hallway for that matter. You just can’t prevent the stray bug from crawling out of a delivery and then making its way to your apartment. Maybe it’s a roach on the bottom of a grocery bag, maybe it’s a wheat bug living in your cereal box. You can, however, ask your super to put a sweep at the bottom of your door to minimize the chances of that happening. I need to do that now that I think of it.

nyc tiny kitchen pantry bug prevention

NYC Pantry Protection

Every place has its invaders. When I lived in CT, there were these nasty, prehistoric, thousand-leggered things in the house….way worse than a stray cockroach, I think.

And, don’t even get me started on when I was lucky enough to visit my peeps in Cincy during the 17-year Cicada infestation…really apocalyptically disgusting.

Is my tiny NYC kitchen protection strategy a bit OTT? Maybe…Aaaaaand, I’ve never seen a bug or a crawly critter here. Never.  So, having my very crowded and ZipLoc bagged and boxed pantry look like this…Is well,…well worth it.

If you have other tiny kitchen place invader protection tips, please tweet to me @anniesdishlist.

Lifting the Curse of ‘Annie’: Sweet Potato Soup

Annie the musical Andrea McArdle

Annie The Musical

In 1978 for my something-something birthday (I was pretty young, so it was really more like my something birthday), my parents gave me tickets to see Annie. Are you serious!!! Amazing! I loved and still love a good broadway show. And, this particular one had my name. Brilliant.

andrea mcardle as annie daddy warbucks sweet potato soup

The Amazing Andrea McArdle

Kristy Mcnichol little darlings sweet potato soup

After ‘Family’ KM was in this teen flick

The show had debuted earlier that year and it’s tiny red-headed lead, Andrea McArdle, had rapidly become the toast of the great white way. I idolized her. She was really incredible. Eight shows a week, talk and morning show appearances. She was on Johnny Carson a bunch of times (too late for me to see) and sang a duet with my other hero, Kristy McNichol (who doesn’t love ‘Little Darlings’?), on The Mike Douglas Show.

So, you can imagine that when my parents told me we were going to see Annie on Broadway in the big city with Andrea McArdle, I was so so so excited….

The day of the show, I put on my best going to broadway frock and sat on the stairs waiting to get in the car and go. My mother drove into the city as my friend and I belted out the words to every song (except Easy Street, which I never really liked) in the back seat.

We enter the theatre and are ushered to our seats. I’m so excited at this point, I can barely contain myself. I open the program in hopes of learning everything I can about my broadway icon, Andrea McArdle…Then, it happened… An evil slip of white paper fell from the program….what? I read slowly as my dreams and hopes were shattered to pieces.

shelley bruce as annie sweet potato soup

NOT Andrea McArdle

In today’s performance‘ it read…

the role of Annie usually played by Andrea McArdle‘….

NO…

will be played by Shelley Bruce‘.

WHAT?!?!?!? Who the …is Shelley Bruce????

Shattered. And, I’ve been shattered ever since. Sure, I enjoyed the show (I mean, they sing a whole song about how great Annie is, duh) – but, certainly not as much.

You know I’m a little (read a lot) superstitious. So when a friend offered to give me tickets to Annie (now back on Broadway 35 years later), I wanted to do everything I could to send good ju-ju to the show. I mean, I couldn’t bear to experience the same disappointment again. So to honor Annie, Andrea McArdle, Lilla Crawford (current Annie) and red-headed orphans everywhere, I decided to eat only red, orange and orphan-affordable foods the entire day of the show.

Sweet Potato Soup (Serves 6)

Tiny Apartment Tip: Get a hand held immersion blender. It’s changed my life.

Ingredients:

  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 2 Carrots, peeled and diced small
  • 2 Celery Stalks, peeled and diced small
  • 1 large Sweet Potato, peeled and diced small
  • 1 Sweet Onion, diced smallish
  • 3/4 or so Cup Diced Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1 TBSP all purpose flour
  • 1/4 Cup Parsley chopped
  • 1 TSP freshly grated ginger – remember, you have some in the freezer
  • 1/4 TSP Ground Nutmeg
  • 4 Cups of Chicken Stock – I actually for the first time used 2 Knorr Chicken Bouillon cubes and it was AOK
  • 1/4 Cup of heavy cream (optional….)
  • Salt and Pepper

1. Bring 4 Cups of water to a boil and dissolve 2 Knorr’s Chicken Bouillon Cubes

sweet potato soup chicken bouillon cubes for stock

Just as good as stock in a box

2. In a separate pot, heat 2 TBSP of butter over med/low

3. Add the onions, carrots and celery and saute until very soft – about :15mins depending upon how small you diced

saute vegetables sweet potato soup

Saute Veggies

4. Add the tomatoes stir for about a minute

vegetarian soup dinner sweet potatoes annie musical

Add tomatoes, red like Annie’s Hair

5. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook :02 mins

sweet potato soup flour as thickener

Adding flour to help thicken soup

6. Sprinkle the Nutmeg and Ginger over the vegetables and stir

7. Add the diced sweet potatoes and stir just to combine

super food sweet potato soup

Super Sweet Potatoes – same color as Annie’s hair

8. Pour in the chicken stock and the parsley and BTB, RTS (bring to boil, reduce to simmer)

vegetarian sweet potato soup simmer

Soup A-Simmer

9. Simmer covered for :35 minutes – until the sweet potatoes are super soft

10. Remove from heat and using your brand new Cuisinart hand held immersion blender, blend the soup until very smooth….this takes a while because the tomatoes are pesky and escape the blades. Can’t blame ’em.

sweet potato soup puree hand held immersion blender

Pretty Pink Immersion Blender. Thank you Cuisinart!

11. Optional: Stir in the cream

sweet potato soup dinner recipe

Pureed and creamed and ready to serve

12. Serve with a garnish of parsley and a lovely dollop of sour cream

sweet potato soup vegetarian dinner recipe

Love a little dollop of sour cream…

Annie the musical sweet potato soup

The Exceptional Lilla Crawford

It may have been a silly and superstitious exercise, but I do think making the auburn colored soup helped.

Last night. 6:45pm.

I arrive at the theatre, wind my way through 45,000 or so 8-10 year old girls seeing their first show. I’m greeted by the first usher, she is holding the program, but doesn’t give us one. Instead, she directs us to a second usher….I’m anxious fearing the worst. I finally receive the program and in an attempt to delay the potential despair, hold onto it, clutched in my hand, closed until I reach my seat.

Then….I don’t open the program. Instead, I just flip it over and shake it, hoping no evil paper falls…..AND NONE DID!

The role of Annie would, indeed, be played by the exceptional Lilla Crawford!

OK, I can’t be sure that the soup had anything to do with it…but, 35 Years later….The sun DID come out and the curse of an understudy Annie is lifted!

Pan Abuse: And the Schtick on Non-Stick

non stick fry pan care

Not so sticky

So….I’ve been guest cooking a bunch lately. (Read, cleverly escaping the cold and inviting myself to friends’ homes located in warmer climates – trading off home cooked meals and kitchen tips as currency).

On one such recent stay, I was at the home of a friend who had lost pretty much everything in a dryer fire – v dangerous those dryer fires, fyi. She and her husband had culled through their belongings and tossed what they deemed ‘unsalvagable’. Sux.

711 slurpees dinner fast food

Dinner

They don’t cook with any regularity. OK, they don’t cook at all. Not their thing. They both work full time, they have three kids (fab boys), 4,500 baseball games per week and then more on the weekends….yada yada yada. There’s a lot of pizza, pasta, mac & cheese, take out, slurpees, bagel bites (huh?), refrying, reheating, microwaving. You get it.

When it came time to assess their kitchen stuff post fire…well, most of what they had in their culinary arsenal, was as old as their marriage…but, had not fared as well, I’m afraid.

Some of the damage everything in their kitchen suffered was due to the fire. But, maybe more of it was due to years of use and abuse.

chicken milanese teflon pans

8-yr old sous chef!

Which brings me to their current frying pan situation. I was gearing up to make chicken milanese for them and their brood of boys  – 8, 12 and 14, so grown up…seems like just yesterday I was teaching them the diarrhea song.

Anyway…When I asked for a large fry pan, my choices were limited. If there were larger fry pans at one point in their world, those have long since been tossed or lost. My hostess with the mostest handed me two options:

  1.  a 10-inch non-coated fry pan
  2. a 10-inch coated fry pan…whose coating was tattered, flaking and torn
Teflon flaking pan

Abused Pan: So So Sad

So, I got to thinking about the care and feeding of non-stick pans and did some research on the Internets.

My my! People are passionate about Teflon. Seriously, very emotionally heated debates online. I found one woman who wrote an entire article about how the fumes emmitted from her teflon pans had killed her canaries. OK, if she says so.

Others cited sources from Wikipedia to NASA and research studies from Harvard to Stanford. There are usage guidelines, recommendations on what temperatures to cook at or below, how to store, how to recycle, which tools are OK to use on teflon pans, which are not, how to clean. There are literally thousands of blogposts, studies and articles with millions of tips, tirades and touts.

All that and still, I couldn’t really figure out if Teflon in and of itself kills canaries…

Here’s the Schtick on caring for Non-Stick.

  • Throw out your coated teflon pans that have suffered scuffs and scrapes from years of abuse. We don’t really know if you (or your canaries) will DIE if you accidentally injest a flake or two of teflon. But, do you really want to find out?

More importantly, once the teflon coating is compromised, the non-stick aspect of the pan is ruined. RUINED, I say. So, pitch the pan for this reason alone.

  • Do not use a metal spatula, but rather a rubber or silicone one – OK, I’ve used my fish spatula with a non-stick pan, but very very gently!
  • Do not put coated pans under the broiler or on a stove top set higher than medium..especially if you own small birds or other tiny pets that might inhale air contaminated with teflon particles – this is cited as the danger in exposing teflon to extreme heat
  • Do not put coated pans in the dishwasher…apparently, that too is bad bad bad for them
  • Put some paper towel or cloth between your pans if you stack and store like I do…it will keep them from scraping AND from making that clanking noise when you put them away or take them out.
  • Bear in mind that everything has a shelf life – sadly, even your pots and pans. So, evaluate the condition of the pots, pans, Santa Christmas lawn ornaments, giant salt and pepper shakers and whatever else you might have received as a gift from your first wedding. It may be time to toss these.

Toss and replace…but how?

macy's home goods one day sale

The 4-day 1-day sale is upon us!

Today I spent some time in Macy’s home section. It’s the preview to the preview of the 1-day sale that starts Friday and ends Sunday night. Plus, I had a 20% discount card and a $20 off card. AND, I went to the ‘closeouts’ room…a lovely woman told me about this secret and fabulous place.

williams sonoma silicone spatulas

Gentle Spatulas

Inside the secret ‘closeout’ room, I found a two-frying pan, 10″ and 12″, non-stick, oven safe set. As a thank you for last weekend and a pre-thanks for this coming weekend…I’ll be hand delivering these to my pan abusing pals tomorrow. And, to be sure that these shiny new non-stick pans don’t meet the same tragic abuse as their predecessors, I’m also bringing my hosts a silicone spatula and the schtick on caring for non-stick.

Emergency Go-Soup: Cream of Tomato

amore tomato paste cream of tomato soup

Creamy and Delicious

My friends who live in LA sleep at night with an Earthquake Go-Bag under their beds. This includes heavy bottomed shoes (I think because LA gals sleep in stilettos), water, cash, canned food, flashlight etc. Everything they might need to evacuate quickly and survive for a few days following a devastating quake.

henri bendel emergency kit

Henri Bendel-Prepared for the NYC Emergency

Over the holidays at Henri Bendel they were selling NYC emergency kits. Similar to the California quake kit…only very different. Instead of canned beans and a flashlight, it includes a metro card, hair bands, breath freshener, bandages, deodorant towelettes, pain relievers and some other girl stuff…

I’m not really sure what our emergency kit vs the CA one says. Maybe in New York waking up smelly, gently wounded and needing to take the subway constitutes an ’emergency’. It might. It’s no earthquake, but it is an emergency and Henri Bendel has the solution.

For people who cook, that go-bag or emergency kit translates to a go-meal; one that is ready to serve with very little notice…

At about 6pm on New Year’s Eve after a champagne boozy lunch, my friends decided that they would come over to my apartment for dinner. OK. I had :65 minutes to prepare for the arrival of hungry guests.

dinner party main course chicken

Chicken Milanese

I went to my go-to’s and quickly shopped for what I would need to prepare Chicken Milanese, salad, garlic bread, pasta…

And, luckily, I had a go-soup in my fridge. The day before I tweaked an Ina Garten recipe and made…

Cream of Tomato Soup (serves 6-7)

Ingredients

  • whole foods vegetables

    Chopped Veggie Mise En Place

    3 TBSP olive oil

  • 1 Red Onion Diced
  • 2 large Carrots Peeled and Diced
  • 1 Sweet Potato – peeled, diced and roasted
  • 2 Cloves Garlic Minced
  • 6-7 Medium vine-ripened tomatoes Chopped
  • 1 TSP Sugar
  • 1/2 TBSP Amore Tomato Paste
  • Ina garten tomato soup

    365 Brand Chicken Stock

    1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil Leaves

  • 3 Cups Chicken Stock – I used Whole Foods 365 Brand – I know I know, I should make my own…but didn’t
  • 1/2 TBSP Kosher Salt
  • 1 TSP Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 3/4 Cup Heavy Cream at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium/low heat. I used my Le Creuset 6 qt one – it’s just so pretty and so easy to clean!

2. Add the onions and carrots and saute until very tender – be patient, this takes a while – :15-:17 mins.

– In hindsight, I would have chopped the carrots smaller so that they might soften more quickly.

whole foods vegetables

Patiently Sauteing

3. While that’s happening…Place the diced sweet potatoes on a sheet pan lined with Reynold’s Wrap Pan Lining Paper in one layer and sprinkle with olive oil. DO NOT SALT.

sweet potatoes super food

Super Sweet Potatoes

4. Put in the oven and roast for :10mins – Toss and then roast an additional :05-:07 mins until tender. Remove from the oven and set aside.

whole foods sweet potatoes

Roasted – but not browned

5. Into the Le Creuset – Add the minced garlic to the softened onion and carrots and saute until fragrant – about 1 minute

6. Add the tomatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, chicken stock, salt and pepper and stir well.

whole foods vegetarian

And the soup becomes soupy

7. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for :40mins – until the tomatoes are very tender

cream of tomato soup

Simmering Simmering Simmering

8. Add the cream to the soup and stir

9. If you have an immersion blender…great…But since I don’t – I set up a blending station by the stove on my counter

NOTE: Ina used her food mill…but, seriously, in my apt – no room for a food mill.

cream of tomato ina garten

Soup Blending Station

10. Most importantly…LET THE SOUP COOL before blending. Cuz like if you put hot soup in a blender and turn it on, it will blow the top off and there will be quasi blended hot soup everywhere…

11. In stages, ladle some of the soup into the blender and puree until smooth.

kitchenAid blender

Pre-Puree

12. Transfer the pureed soup into a second soup pot and keep warm

cream of tomato soup ina garten

A few ladles at a time

13. Repeat until all of the soup is smooth and creamy

cream of tomato soup

Kick it up a bit…

NOTE: If you like it spicy….Add a dash or two of Gindo’s Spice of Life Fresh and Spicy Pepper Sauce.

The soup was a great intro to the Chicken Milanese. And, with my ‘stick your head out the window-view’ of the Central Park fireworks and the impromptu late night dance party…The last-minute dinner party was a success.

I don’t have much of a need for the Henri Bendel NYC Emergency Kit because – and I’m not judging – I don’t tend to wake up slightly wounded, smelly and not at home…but a good batch of emergency go-soup in the fridge does come in handy.