Dispensing Happiness

A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.-Elsa Schiapirelli

That's me, the magical good cook.

Borrowing from my friend Dexygus, I've created my own food blog.

Read of my exploits in the kitchen! Salivate over the descriptions of fabulous desserts and savory meals I've concocted!

No, seriously...go ahead. It'll make my day.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

How Romantic!


Saturday was 'date night', and Matt and I had dinner, followed by a night at the theater (Arsenic & Old Lace). But we had a big block of time before the show started, so we headed to one of our favorite places...Edward McKay's Used Books and CD's.

McKay's recently moved from their old location to a much, much bigger building...and more importantly, with lots of parking!

Matt's been there since the move, but this was my first visit.


Seriously; wow. The place is huge. You really could get lost in there...which is more dangerous than it sounds!

Unleashing either one of us upon a book store is akin to setting free an ant colony next to a chocolate cake.

We went there with the intention of just picking up a few books. Really, just a few.

But then I found the cooking aisle.

Thirteen books later, I forced myself to find Matt, who was absorbed in the anthropology section. I caught him before he did much damage; stopping at three.

That brought our total to sixteen books. Throw in a couple of CDs, and we were done. Total? Exactly $70.00. Not bad...those .50 Time/Life books really helped!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

My Quest for the Perfect Fried Chicken


I was going to use this for my IMBB? entry, but as I only found out about it two days before the deadline...it just wasn't worth the effort.

I don't exactly know why, but I am determined to find just the right fried chicken.

We never had fried chicken when I was young; my mom sent us down the straight-and-healthy path from the very beginning. No fried foods in our house.

But my friends? And grandparents? Fried was the word. I come from a town where funnel cakes are expected at all festivals and fairs...

Being a Catholic town (founded by German settlers seeking freedom from religious persecution), you can't throw a stick without hitting some bar or restaurant selling fish fries (and my devout grandmother who insists on having fish fries outside of Lent, as well. Each and every Friday.).

We even had a fried chicken place; Crispy Chicken. Being stuck in my 'eat an apple if you're hungry' family, I only once had a chance to try their fried chicken. I remember liking it, though...

And we don't fry a lot here, either. Not that I shun all fried foods; that's not the case. It's just such a hassle to do it. And I really hate the clean-up!

That said, I really am on the hunt for the perfect fried chicken. A week or so ago, I caught an episode of Tyler's Ultimate where he searched for the best fried chicken...and came up with three.

I copied all three, and started with this, the easiest. With all the raving Tyler did, you'd think would be the most incredible chicken experience of all time; guess again.

Boring. Not much flavor. I mean, you fry the chicken with onions...that should impact the flavor, right?


So, this one down; two more to go.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Miniature Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins


Tiny muffins bursting with chocolate and peanut butter. 'Nuff said.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Comfort Food


I've had a craving...for comfort foods.

So, Matt picked up a Now & Zen Complete Unturkey Feast on his way home from work. Add to this a big pot of mashed potatoes, more gravy (because they don't provide enough), and my own stuffing (their's is ok, but mine is better!), and I am sated...

(Unturkey, with yuba 'skin' and stuffing, about to enter the oven)

Friday, August 26, 2005

DIY Vanilla


A couple of months ago, after watching a Martha Stewart re-run, I decided to make my own vanilla.

As simple as sticking vanilla beans in vodka-filled jars (old spice bottles), and letting them sit in the back of the cupboard for a couple of months.

It was finally time to drag one of the two bottles out this week, and you can see how wonderful it looks!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Light and Easy


A quick, healthy and very tasty dinner. Southwestern Chopped Salad, a repeat from Vegetarian Times; grape tomatoes, avocado, hard-boiled egg, red bell and jalapeno peppers, pinto beans, corn, and lime tortilla chips tossed with a little bit of olive oil, lime juice, chili powder and sugar.


I love this salad. It's so fresh and filling, and packed with flavor. Love, love, love.

A light garlic soup,created by cooking tons of chopped garlic in olive oil, then adding the garlic to broth; dressed up with avocado, garlic croutons and queso fresco. Perfect. Recipe comes from Rick Bayless.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Do Not Disturb


Some days, Alex's nap goes on and on. Matt likes to get him up, or at the very least, check in on him.

I keep telling him "don't wake him!" See, I know what Alex is like when he wakes up before he wants.


Which is what happened here. Lots of "no" and "don't" and "go away". How sweet; he takes after his Daddy!

And a total bed-head, to boot.

Chicken in Pumpkin Seed Mole and Black Bean Nachos


Monday's dinner: a recipe we had late last year, Chicken Braised in Pumpkin Seed Mole and our attempt at re-creating the Black Bean Nachos we'd had for this month's Dine & Dish.

Check it out! That's an early stage of the mole; tomatillos, radish greens, lettuce, jalapenos, and ground & toasted pumpkin seeds create that gorgeous green.

This mole is amazing. I can't get over the flavor...it's hard to describe, but it's one of my favorite dishes.

The nachos turned out well; not exactly the same as Tomato Head's but still pretty good. And Matt was right; it was jalapeno, and not banana, pepper slices in the nachos.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Brown Sugar Coffee Cake


Sunday's breakfast: a slightly sweet 'cake', hugging a brown sugar and cinnamon center. Fantastic.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Miniature Lemon Meringue Tartlets


This tiny dessert ended one of the meals I prepared for Grammy during her stay at Chez Stephanie.

Along with a Paper Wrapped Salmon (from Donna Hay), a salad of mixed greens, and wild rice, there were individual lemon tarts. Prepared pie crust, cut to fit a muffin tin, topped with a strongly lemon-flavored custard, and baked till set. Top with meringue and set under the broiler until browned.

Perfect size, and intensely lemon. Served with vanilla ice cream, Grammy loved it...which is appropriate, as all grandmother's seem to love lemon.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Dine & Dish #4: Rachel Ray for a Day


It's Dine & Dish time with guest host Becks & Posh, and today I get to show you how to eat tasty, and not-too expensive, food in Knoxville, TN!

Because for one day, I am Rachel Ray...

Knoxville is a college town, home to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. And the great thing about college towns? Cheap eats!

A popular place to hang out in Knoxville, and a Southern institution, is Waffle House. Waffle Houses are housed in small, diner-esque buildings; instantly recognizable for their yellow-blocked signs. And while there are Waffle Houses throughout the country, they are predominantly found in the South.

Waffle House is a great place to fill up while not spending a lot of cash. Their menu is made up of mostly of breakfast items...and because they're open 24/7, they do a pretty good business, serving both bored and/or hung-over students, as well travelers and truckers.

As I mentioned, the Waffle House menu is packed with breakfast items, so that's where I began my day. Eggs, waffles, combo plates, and of course...their famous hash browns! Hash browns at Waffle House come 'six ways', including 'smothered' (onions), and 'topped' (chili).

And the service is what you'd expect from a greasy spoon in the South: a waitress who calls you 'honey', 'sugah', and 'darlin'. She was friendly and attentive.

I placed my order of Cheese & Egg Sandwich, Hash Browns, and a large Orange Juice.

Egg and Cheese Sandwich, Hash Browns, and Large OJ

My drink was brought to the booth almost immediately, with my food coming mere minutes later.

The breakfast sandwich, also available with meats, was nicely toasted. The cheese was perfectly melted, and the egg fried exactly the way I like them. The hash browns, which are good enough to eat plain, were crispy on the outside and tender in.

A quick, but filling meal; and all I spent, with tax, was $6.35.

Next, I tried a new (to me) restaurant: Tomato Head, a nicer-than-it-sounds pizza and sandwich place, located at Market Square.

What a fantastic place! Although the skies were threatening (making me feel sorry for that night's performance of Shakespeare on the Market), we (Matt was along for the meal) choose a table on the patio in front of the restaurant. Large, metal grill, tables, a view of the market, and a cute string of party lights around the window...through which we could watch the chef tossing the pizza dough!

I ordered a sweet tea (very Southern), and an appetizer of Black Bean Nachos, while I waited for my No sauce, Gorgonzola, Roma tomato, Walnut & Ricotta cheese Pizza.

Black Bean Nachos

The nachos were amazing...gorgeous black nacho chips, surrounding melted cheddar cheese, corn, red onion, black beans, crema, and either banana or jalapeno slices (we've been unable to come to an agreement on this one!). Crunchy, full of flavor, and just the right size. I was afraid it would be so filling I wouldn't have room for the pizza, but the nachos were the perfect proportion. I liked them so much, I'm attempting to replicate the recipe at home!

Then, the pizza arrived...

Gorgonzola, Walnut, Ricotta and Tomato Pizza

A nine-inch pizza, with one of the best crusts we've ever tasted; melted gorgonzola and ricotta. Tomatoes which were exactly as they should be...not over-cooked, not mushy. And the walnuts? Not a typical pizza topping, but they go so well with gorgonzola. Absolutely wonderful pizza.

Our waitress was a little flustered, but very friendly, very helpful. Tomato Head is a place we plan to visit again.

For a drink, appetizer and pizza (price split as I shared half with Matt), plus tip: just $13.00.

(weather and improper camera setting lead to over-exposed pictures)

And finally, for dinner: Kashmir Indian Restaurant.

For this trip, we brought the whole family. Which meant lots and lots of fabulous foods...

Kashmir is actually one of our favorite restaurants in Knoxville. One of the reasons I like this place so much, their menu has more than a dozen vegetarian options, not to mention the great vegetarian appetizers!

Don't expect the staff to bend over backwards for you; they seem to keep customer interaction to a minimum. But their food tends to make up for it.

I started my meal with a Mango Lassi

Alex and Mango Lassi

and the Vegetarian Platter.

Soup and Vegetarian Appetizer Plate.

The lassi? Just slightly sweet, and fruity. As you can see, Alex liked his quite a bit.

The appetizer platter consisted of a samosa, an aloo tikki, a cheese pakora, and several vegetable pakoras, served with a tamarind chutney. Spicy, and delicious.

And for my dinner: Vegetarian Thali, the Indian version of a full course meal. A cup of lentil soup, and small servings of matter paneer, channa masala, dal makhni, and raita, served with rice and a poori.

Vegetarian Thali

I order my dishes 'mild', because while I don't mind spice and a little heat, their food tends to run a bit hotter than I like!

The matter paneer and dal makhni are my favorites; creamy and packed with flavor. And I love, love, love their pooris.

I ate lots of food, took some home with me, and shared a good meal with my family.

And the cost? $18.29, including tax.

Total cost for three meals: just $37.64! That's a lot of hearty food for the price.

There's definitely some good, cheap eats in Knoxville!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Blog Party #1


Welcome to the very first Blog Party! Step in out of the (oh, gawd...will it never end?) heat and let's get the party started.

To get us in the mood, I'll put on some tunes...Ultralounge's Cocktail Capers should do the trick. Les Baxter, Nelson Riddle, April Stevens and the New Classic Singers...good stuff there.

And since this is a low-key, get-to-know-one-another event; we're going laid-back on the decorations and accessories. Martinis and More is a good place to pick up a couple of fun cocktail-themed serving plates and such.

And now...on to the food and drinks!

First up; Niki at Esurientes knows these gorgeous Hot Cheese and Bacon Puffs are the perfect thing to have at a cocktail party...personally, I'm a fan of anything consisting of bread and cheese! Thanks, Niki.

Stephen at Stephen Cooks.com really came through; preparing (in an almost OCD-like way...just kidding), a series of tasty bites; Impromptu Cuban Canapes, a couple of goodies from the sea in Crab Cakes Canapes and Fresh Crab Canapes, as well as Carries's Spicy Sugared Cocktail Almonds. He even managed to do a little research into the perfect cocktail; check out his Martini 101. Excellent job, Stephen; I know I can't wait to try out one of those Cubans (with vegetarian sausage, of course).

Sweetnicks brings us Cheesy Beer and Spinach Dip as well as a delicious-sounding Strawberry Sangria. Sweetnicks; that dip sounds fantastic...who has the crackers and bread? And I know your Strawberry Sangria is going to be popular. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Nupur of One Hot Stove pops in with a trio of appetizers...Beer Battered Squash, a Stuffed Tomato (Mmm...feta), and some intriguing-sounding Parsnip Fritters. I don't think parsnips get used often enough...I know I want to try one. Nupur, I'm so glad you could come!

Mika of The Green Jackfruit (how are things in the 'Burgh, anyway?) joins us with Fried Halloumi Bites...what a great way to use that salty cheese! Cheese...fried. Fried cheese. Life is good. Sounds great...thank you, Mika!

New to Dispensing Happiness, Alanna of Kitchen Parade brought some fabulous-sounding Jealous Marys to the party. Thanks, Alanna...I was worried we wouldn't have enough to drink! So happy you dropped by.

Zarah Maria of Food & Thoughts showed up with some gorgeous Gazpacho, served in shot glasses...squeezing in our party around Wagner! Thanks for coming, Zarah.

Boo_licious of masak-masak stayed up late making some Thai-themed treats; Salmon Sashimi, Spicy Crab and Prawn Fritters with Chili Lime Dipping Sauce, and Iced Lemongrass Tea. Trust me, Mika...when Matt gets his hands on these treats, there won't be any left for the rest of us! And I'm a sucker for iced tea...thanks for coming.

Alice of My Adventures in the Breadbox joins us with some tasty-looking Mini Meatball Pizzas, Oregano and Prosciutto Pinwheels, and White Peach Sangria. Wow...those pizzas must have taken a lot of work! And Matt's already reaching for the prosciutto pinwheels...
Alice was right...with the heat here in the South, that peach sangria should really hit the spot! I'm so glad you could make it.

Another new (to me, at least) blogger, Jennifer of The Novato Experiment, has brought a fabulous raspberry-infused vodka drink; Jennifer's Raspberry Beret. I know this one's going to go quickly; thanks for sharing, Jennifer!

Chefdoc of A Perfect Pear swings by with a mini-meal; Soybean Soup & Oxtail Gellee Shooters with Milk Foam, Lilliputian BLT's, and Strawberries Stuffed with Tomato Jam. Wow...we're getting fancy now, with the shooters. Those lil' BLT's look great! And, mmmm...stuffed strawberries. Thanks so much for being here, Chefdoc!

A brand-new visitor to Dispensing Happiness, Rachael of Fresh Approach Cooking squeaked past the deadline with a flavorful Quince Paste and Manchego Cheese bite...yum. Rachael...do tell us what crackers you're using! I'm so happy you could be here!

And of course, as your hostess, I've made a few goodies as well!

From the Donna Hay magazine, Boccicini Bites. Mini-muffin sized bread rounds, topped with boccini and cherry tomato slices. Baked till the cheese melts, then topped with basil. So simple, and so tasty.

Petit Croque Monsieurs; small slices of proscuitto and Gruyere on sliced baguette, brushed with olive oil and grilled. (There are also vegetarian ham versions for the non-meat eaters). Oh...my. This takes the grilled ham & cheese sandwich to new levels!

Chilled Cucumber-Avocado Soup Shooters...super easy to make. Onion, cukes, avocado, yogurt, and a few other things...pureed and chilled. Cool and refreshing, which comes in handy in this weather!

For drinks, I give you Hawaiian Sunrise: Pineapple juice with both Grenadine and Torani Orange syrup; Fauxgaritas: Torani Lime syrup with Freshies Fresh Lime Margarita mix and sparkling water; and Farsi Float: Torani Vanilla Bean syrup and rose syrup, sparkling water, and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.
And I'm fairly confident you could make all three of these alcoholic, if you so desire.

Wait! Sarah of The Delicious Life just arrived, but she makes up for her lateness with a vanilla vodka Caketail and Miniature Truflle Brownie Bites. Excellent, Sarah! How could we have an event and not serve dessert? And vanilla-flavored drinks are my favorite. So glad you could make it!

Wow! That was fun! I'm thrilled with the turn-out for our first gathering, and even happier about the lack of post-party clean up (!!!). A huge thank you to everyone who joined in; we've all found some new and (if I may say) rather fabulous appetizer recipes to add to our collections.

I'm already planning for September...I'll post the theme on the 1st; be watching.

Thank you again, and now it's time to clear the table...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Happy Blog-iversary!


It was one year ago today...my very first food blogging post.

I've maintained an 'everyday' blog for just over three years now. But this food blogging thing...this was new, different.

I was turned on to this talking, photographing, living food phenomenon by Dexygus, via her original food blog.

I would visit her blog every day...she talked about the things I cared about, plus dishes, cuisines, and recipes I'd not yet heard of.

There was someone else out there who was as nuts about cooking and baking as I was.

Through Dexygus, I found other food bloggers. And more, and more...

I kept telling Matt "I need to do that...I should do this, shouldn't I?" Finally, on 18 August, 2004; Dispensing Happiness was born.

It's been a good year. Good food, good people. I've enjoyed all of it. Thanks for stopping by...and help yourself to a slice of Chocolate Fudge Truffle Cake!

It's the final day to submit Blog Party entries...I'll be watching for your links!

Blog Party is almost here!


Be sure to get your entries in for the very first Blog Party...today is the deadline!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Irish food for my Irish Grammy


My grandmother came down for a visit last week/weekend. It had been more than a year since I'd last seen her, so I was pretty happy about the visit.

I made sure to feed her well, and on the final night of her trip, I cooked up an Irish dinner.

Boille-stuffed Chicken with Creamy Red Pepper Sauce, Mixed Beans with Bacon and Almonds, Mixed Greens with Goat Cheese Fritters, and Blue Cheese Potato Smash.

Yeah, the picture's total crap. Bad camera, bad lighting in the dining room. And while that can be romantic...not so good for photographing food!

For the chicken, I pounded flat chicken breasts, then smeared a mixture of goat cheese (we couldn't find the Irish Boille), a bit of cream cheese, some herbs and lemon juice over them. Rolled them up and cooked them in a pan till just browned...then put them in the oven until done.

When it came time to serve, a sauce of roasted red peppers and cream...and other things I've already forgotten! Still; nice sauce.

For the potatoes, we just boiled them, then poured a blue cheese sauce over them...the potatoes were really soft, so we just smashed them up a bit. Not mashed, but broken up a bit. They look terrible in the photo, because they're white. And my camera hates white foods.

The salad itself wasn't a big deal, but each bowl was topped with three goat cheese fritters (yum), some almonds and dried cranberries. No photo, because...my camera is crap.

And the beans? Just beans. No big there.

But Grammy cleaned her plate, which made me happy. I think she liked it.

Don't forget: just two more days to send in your Blog Party entries: deadline is Thursday (18 August)!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Tom Petty Said it Best...


"The waiting is the hardest part"

Still waiting for the camera/computer issue to be worked out (stupid camera). I have a slew of pictures and posts, but have to wait until Matt goes back to work Tuesday (my grandmother has been in town visiting) to make things work properly.

To pass the time, head over to lovesicily and read the round-up from this month's Sugar High Friday...but do it early in the day; that's a lot of coffee!

You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

Just a few days left to send in your Blog Party entries: deadline is Thursday (18 August)!

Till then...

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Cinnamon Breakfast Ring


Another breakfast treat for Matt: a slightly sweet dough, wrapped around a cinnamon sugar mix, then shaped into a ring, sliced in places, and baked. When cooled, drizzle with a powdered sugar icing.

He really liked this, and it was beyond simple to make. It actually took a few minutes less to bake than called for, which explains the darker-than-normal color.

Don't forget to send your Blog Party entries in before next Thursday (18 August)!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream


Recipe from Cuisinart...a fantastic, eggless, dessert. The ice cream itself has a strong peanut butter flavor, and the addition of chopped up peanut butter cups made it one of the best I've tasted.

Easy to make, and packed with flavor. You're going to love it.

Don't forget to send your Blog Party entries in before next Thursday (18 August)!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Sugar High Friday #11...Coffee


It's SHF time again, hosted this month by Ronald of lovesicily (wonderful travel site, by the way...).

Our theme is coffee...this is not good! For Matt and I are most definitely not coffee people. We don't drink it, don't cook or bake with it (if we can help it), and I personally can't tolerate the smell of it. Basically, coffee makes me ill.

But I hate to miss out on a food event, so I plugged my nose and prepared a Pâté Trompé;...for the in-laws!

Lucky me; Matt's parents are big coffee lovers. My FIL roasts and grinds his own beans (well, not beans he's cultivated by hand, but some pretty fancy/pricey ones just the same).

First, I must confess the above photo is not, in fact, the dessert I created. It is the photo of the dessert in the fabulous Cocolat, from which I attempted my own coffee gelée/coffee mousse confection.

Oh, it's not that I don't have a photo showing the results; it's prevailing camera/computer issues holding me up. I won't be able to add my considerably less-professional picture until Tuesday! Bear with me...

First, make a coffee gelée, pouring a small amount into a loaf pan, and the rest into a cake pan. Allow to set. Make the chocolate-coffee mousse. Pour immediately into loaf pan and chill.

To serve, unmold loaf pan onto a platter, scatter cubed coffee gelée around the mousse, and (if you feel up to it) decorate with white chocolate and candied citrus peel.

I took the mousse to the in-law's house Wednesday night, and haven't yet had their review. But, it smelled like coffee, so I'm guessing they liked it!


Here's my attempt...not as pretty, but it took mere days for the in-laws to finish it.

Don't forget to send your Blog Party entries in before next Thursday (18 August)!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

One More Week for Blog Party Entries!


Don't forget...you have until next Thursday to submit your Blog Party posts.

You can post your cocktail/appetizer recipes any time between now and the 18th; just send your links to me in an email (thehappysorceress at gmail dot com), or leave it in the comments.

I'll put everything together on the 20th, including some cool decorating ideas and groovy music.

I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

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