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Thanks for visiting Sauce du Jour. Feel free to share a great recipe, leave a comment, or make me dinner. I'll bring hors d' oeuvres and the wine! To visit my website go to www.tamaralittrell.com Thanks for visiting the Sauce ~Tammi

Apr 1, 2017

Bake a Baby a Booze Cake ~ BUSTED!



Today is Daughter #2's (aka Hates Everything) birthday...her 30th. And 10,220 days ago (give or take) I baked her a Kahlua cheesecake for her second birthday. About 1825 days ago she saw the picture of the smiling baby (her) with said cake. Since then she has been holding a grudge against me because I "baked a baby a Kahlua cake." She likes to bring it up and rub my face in that cake, as if it says something about my parenting skills. Jeez...twenty-eight years ago nobody was busting my chops over this, but now...honey let me tell you...times they have a changed.

For starters, don't even think about baking your little darlin' a booze laced birthday cake, let alone let them have a little red beer for breakfast. And God forbid, don't get caught slipping them a baby Ambien. I'm here to tell you, shit WILL hit the fan and you will not get to babysit your granddaughter unsupervised.

This is that story. I'm re-posting it ~ because one, I find it to be hilarious and now at age 30 The Big Guy and I still can't get it right. Need proof? Yesterday I told him to got to town and buy her a birthday cake.
     "She only likes white cake with white frosting. No chocolate," I told him. (Now you understand why we refer to her as Hates Everything.)
     "Maybe I'll get her red velvet," said the guy who can't hear a bomb go off.
      Me: "Didn't you hear me....she likes white. Red velvet is just chocolate with red food coloring. So no."
      The guy who can't hear came home with the worst specimen of a red velvet cake I've ever seen. Her name was even spelled wrong, by what looks like to have been a first grader. (Thanks Albertsons-looks like you put the "h" on and then changed your mind because it didn't fit and/or because you wanted to make me look like a lousy mother. I'm so on to you!) 
     I should have just went ahead and made the damn Kahlua cake again and let her hold that grudge for another twenty-eight years.



Happy Birthday Savannah! 
Love you more than cake...even Kahlua Cake...nevermind.
(See original post below.)
      

Guilty As Charged
Paisley’s mom (who I will refer to as “The Prosecutor” in this piece) was grilling me like she was suspicious about whether or not I was her biological mother. 
     “How old was I when I rolled over? What was my first word? At what age did I crawl? What about when I got my first tooth?"
The Prosecutor and my next victum
     Ok, here’s the truth: I don’t’ remember what size pants I wear without looking at the tag and suddenly I’m supposed to remember little details from 23 years go. Not happening—I think I may have slept since then. 
     “Just go get your baby book and look in there,” I told her. “I’m sure I wrote it all down.”  All was going well as we looked back over that first year. Milestones were duly noted, snippets of hair displayed and the tooth chart was appropriately numbered in order, complete with date.
     Then we came to the page marked 1st  Birthday.  Smiling baby…check. Cake…check. One candle, party hat and presents…check, check and check.  I’m sure my Mother of the Year award was just out of camera range. So far, so good.
     Then we flipped the page to her 2nd Birthday.
     “What the hell is that?” The Prosecutor demanded, pointing at a photo. I leaned in to take a closer look and to read what I had so thoughtfully written, which said something about the fact that I had baked her a Kahlua cheesecake and that we had had a…ahem, “private party” (read; no guests).  Court was now in session. 
     “You baked me a Kahlua cheesecake?” The Prosecutor said, like it was a crime. 
     “What’s wrong with that?” I asked her, "Kahlua cheesecake is good." 
     “I was two Mom,” she snarled, pointing the peace sign at me like she was picking me out of a lineup. “Why would you bake a two year old a cake with booze in it?” 
     “Hey, it’s not like it had rat poison in it,” I said. “And at least I put your picture in the book,” I pointed out, dodging her question which was shaped like a bullet. She leaned in and upon closer examination of Exhibit A, noticed that there was only about two-thirds of a Kahlua cheesecake with 2 mismatched candles, which caused her to cross examine me even further. 
     “And look at that cake, where is the rest of it?  It looks like some cake that was baked a few days before and then at the last minute had a couple of candles stuck in it,” she said, accusing me of the unthinkable. 

The Prosecutor and her Kahlua Cheesecake on her 2nd Birthday
(Notice the missing chunk?)

    “Well you look happy and you are smiling,” I pointed out. 
     “You forgot my birthday didn’t you?" she said, demanding the truth. “And where are my friends and my party hat?” The Prosecutor asked, cross-examining me.   
     “You didn’t have any friends and I’m pretty sure the cake wasn’t leftover. I think we cut it before we took the picture.” I said, perjuring myself even further.
      “Aha! You forgot my birthday and you fed me a leftover Kahlua cheesecake," she said, like Child Protective Services should have been notified.
      "Oh my God, it wasn’t like it was your first one,” I said, before I had thought to plead the 5th. "And give me a break—it was a Kahlua cheesecake not a vodka cheesecake." I said in a last ditch attempt to save my aforementioned Mother of the Year award.
      She wasn't buying it.  She demanded to know what kind of cake I had made for her 3rd birthday.
    "I don’t remember," I told her, "probably Baileys."  I heard the gavel fall as she rested her case.
     Jeez, never mind that I had managed to number all her teeth on the dental chart or that I had her immunizations up to the minute.  Noooo, bake a baby a Kahlua cheesecake and you could wind up in the electric chair.
     "Let me make it up to you," I said. "I’ll make Paisley her 1st Birthday cake."
     "You do and I'm seeking the death penalty," The Prosecutor said.
The Prosecutor on her 2nd Birthday.
Do you think she looks happy, or is just me?
Of course I am posting the recipe for Kahlua cheesecake (which by the way came from her Aunt Valli more than 20 years ago.) which is the one pictured above. If you decide to make it for your kids/grandkids birthday have an alibi and an attorney ready.  Go to the "Desserts" tab at the top of this page to find the recipe. 

Dec 11, 2016

Scallops 101

I came up with this easy recipe the other night for two reasons: 1. I had scallops that I needed to use up and 2. I wanted to do something quick and easy. What resulted was a delicious dish that will not only end up on my keeper list but will likely be an entree in one of the SdJ Cooking Classes. 

Brown Butter Scallops with Tomato Puree and Pancetta
It also occurred to me that almost everyone I know (except for Hates Everything) love scallops but not many of those people actually ever make them. For that reason I've decided to post a step by step fail proof method. Scallops for Dummies, if you will! 
     Scallops are one of the most challenging seafoods for many home cooks to perfect, but once you get the hang of it they are quite simple. While fast and easy, they are equally as easy to overcook. But fear not...once you get the method down you'll make perfectly seared scallops every time. Are you up for it?  If so read on...If not, crawl back under your Velveeta covered fish sticks.



First off, here's what you need to know: 
Wet, dry or diver:  What's the diff, you ask?



• Wet scallops are shucked right on the boat shortly after being harvested. They are put directly into a container of cold water, which preserves them for a longer period. A preservative called sodium tripolyphosphate is added to the water to help preserve them and keep them from spoiling. The scallops will absorb water and plump up, which also means when you buy them you are paying for that extra water weight ~ up to 30%. The solution will dilute their natural pure flavor, giving them a soapy taste and a tougher texture. They also tend to be very white in color, which is another clue that they are wet. You've been in a restaurant and had those rubbery-chewy-disappointing scallops right? Now you know why. Plus, these scallops tend to be older by the time they get to the seller. My advise: ask the grocer/fish monger if they are "wet". If so, keep moving, nothing to see here folks.

 Dry scallops are also shucked on the boat and immediately after they go into a dry container with no water or preservatives, which means that their flavor is more pure and concentrated (read: sweet and natural) and their color will have a slight pink or beige hue to it. The downside to this method is that they have a shorter shelf-life and cost a bit more. But, in buying dry scallops you are getting what you pay for because you aren't paying for water weight. Another bonus is that dry scallops are always going to be fresher when you buy them and with all seafood, fresher is ALWAYS better and dry scallops are ALWAYS better than wet scallops. Got it? Good!
Wet Scallops on the left / Dry Scallops on the right.
Notice the liquid, plumped up look and color difference. (web photo)
• Diver scallops refers to a method, not a type of scallop. They sound fancy, and they kind of are when you understand the way in which they are harvested. While most scallops are collected by dredging (dragging nets on) the ocean floor, diver scallops are harvested by hand by actual divers. This process is incredibly labor intensive, but it's far less damaging to the ocean environment. For this reason diver scallops are the most expensive scallops and you will likely only find them on a menu at a swanky restaurant. That being said, if you are dining at the Dead Red Lobster or a chain restaurant or some restaurant in a state that is not within 1000 miles of the coast, and the menu says, "Diver Scallops",or "Day Boat Scallops" feel free to turn your nose up because it's *coughbullshitcough*. 

• Bay scallops are just small scallops harvested in the shallow waters. Because of their size they are best prepared sauteed and are usually served in soups, salads or pastas.
An opened scallop. The adductor muscle - the one that
opens and closes the shell, is the "meat" (web photo)
No matter what you've heard, size does matter. You want the biggest, which are U-10s, meaning there will be "under 10" scallops per pound. This is the plump, perfect size for a seared scallop. They brown beautifully while the inside stays rare to medium rare, keeping them melt-in-your-mouth tender. Smaller ones will likely be overcooked (rubbery-chewy) in the middle by the time the outside is seared, so it's U-10's all the way! Two can easily be an appetizer serving, three a first coarse, and four an entree. With scallops it definitely go big or go home.


U-10's - these four scallop equal about a half pound
So now to prep and cook them. If you've planned ahead, thaw them overnight in the refrigerator. If you're like me and come home and rummage through the freezer looking for dinner to magically appear, then put them in a baggie and put the baggie in a bowl to thaw under cool tap water. I know it seems crazy, but scallops are sensitive to water, so don't put them directly under running water to thaw. Not only will you wash away that natural yummy-ness, but you will cause them to soak up some water. When thawed, place them on paper towels to soak up any liquid (changing the towels often, as necessary) and pat dry. 

My "dry" scallops - notice the pinkish-beige color, 
especially noticeable against the white plate.
"Wet" scallops would be bright white.
These are patted dry and ready for the pan.
Keep it simple with such beautiful scallops. A little olive oil and salt and pepper is all you need.


The secret to a beautifully caramelized scallop is a smokin' hot pan. Add a small amount of oil and when you see it shimmering you'll know the pan is ready. If cooking them in butter (which we are for this recipe) I don't add the butter until the pan is already hot, or the butter will burn, so adjust when to add the oil by the smoking point of whatever oil you are using. (Grapeseed, avocado, palm, canola have high smoking points and can be add at the beginning because they won't burn. Coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil have medium smoking points, and butter, safflower oil, sunflower oil all have a low smoking point, so will burn more easily).  For a great chart click here.


As with all seafoods (and meats) you want the scallops to be room temp when they hit the pan so that the interiors aren't cold when you serve them. Brush the scallops with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. When the  the pan is screaming hot, add the butter to melt. When it gets bubbly add the scallops and then DON'T TOUCH THEM!!! Ma'am, put your hands up in the air and step away from the pan!!! When they are ready to be flipped over they will tell you and release themselves from the pan; about 1 to 1-1/2 minutes in. 


Using tongs turn them over and cook the other side. If you have enough butter in the pan, use it to baste while the second side cooks. If not don't worry about it...take this two minute to drink that bottle glass of wine that's been breathing. The top of the scallop will start to split a little and you can see the inside glisten. Again, it will release, so remove it from the pan, even if you don't think they are quite done, and hold on a warm plate (tented with foil) while cooking the remaining and making the brown butter sauce. You should have about 3-4 minutes max cooking time. 


Remember they will finish cooking even after pulled from the heat, so error on the underdone side because if you over cook them you will have a tough scallop. Note: If using wet scallops you won't be able to get that nice sear because when they hit the pan the water and preservatives will release and you will be poaching them instead of searing them. Go ahead and pop some popcorn for dinner because you aren't going to want to eat the rubbery gumball that resembles a rocky mountain oyster, that's in your pan.

The brown butter ~ getting all rich, foamy, brown and nutty
I recommend doing the brown butter in a separate pan. The first time I made these I did it in the same pan that I had cooked the scallops in and by that time, the butter was more black than brown, from all the heat. Also the scallops had more time to cool off (and continue to cook) while the butter was browning. By doing it in a separate pan I could do it while they cooked so it all came together at about the same time. 

OH MY GAWD! Just look at that bubbly brown butter.
When this marries with the tomato puree and bacon,
the decadence is like fireworks in your mouth
Fry up the pancetta or bacon ahead of time or while making the tomato puree. The puree can be made in about 30 minutes or can be made a day or two ahead and rewarmed. It's super easy and most of the time is for the simmer, so all in all this dinner can be made in less time then it takes for your wine to breathe. 

To serve: Either put smear or a circular dollop of tomato puree on the plate, top with scallops and drizzle a spoonful of brown butter directly over the scallop. Add the pancetta or bacon and some fresh basil. Serve immediately.



You can find the recipe under the "Recipe Index" or the "Seafood" tab or just click on the link below.

Sep 12, 2016

Josie's Journey: From Hell to Home

You know how sometimes you just know? You know it; you feel it in your bones and you know it's right. The universe is throwing it down and you just gotta pick it up. That's how it was with Josie.

I first saw her face...this face,on December 23, 2015, when the feed from the National Mill Dog Rescue came up on my Facebook page.

I hit the “like” button and commented, “I'll take that baby,” and it was pretty much in that instant that I knew she was mine. Or maybe I was hers. I'm not sure which, but I knew we would be together. I was in love with that little face.

She's mine...she just doesn't know it yet.
Less than 2 weeks later, on January 6, 2016 (over 8 months ago!) I was approved for adoption, so you know I was all over it. But then the proverbial shoe dropped. I didn't have a dog proof fenced yard and Josie was a flight risk, as are most of the mill dogs. Looking at my 2 acres of fenced-un-dog-proof yard I didn't really see how I could make that happen, short of putting in an ugly chain link kennel.

I have to admit, thoughts of having to leash a dog to take it out to pee at 2 or 4 or whatever AM, in the snow, gave me pause. An un-potty trained adult dog who wanted to run away from me in the dark on a minus zero degree night gave me a severe panic attack. Especially since now that I just open the door and Elvis and Gracie run out, take care of biz and run back in. On a really cold night, if nature calls, Elvis will just pee in the shower (it's a guy thing) and Gracie will just hold it until a kidney ruptures (girl thing).

Gracie and Elvis
So last January and February and March, I tried to put Josie out of mind and accept the fact that I really wasn't the perfect person to be adopting a dog, especially one with needs that I couldn't meet. But I couldn't stop thinking about her and looking at pictures of her and calling and e-mailing the people at NMDR, to the point that a restraining order against me wouldn't have been out of the question.
     Was she more socialized? Still a flight risk? Was a fence really that big of a deal? No. Yes. And yes. Could I sleep at night thinking that I may never be able to adopt her? Could I just give up on her? Could we build a fence? No. No. And yes. Do they issue restraining orders for dog stalkers? Ummmm????


The Big Guy knew the thought of not being able to adopt her was making me crazy(ier). I constantly talked about her and showed friends pictures of her, as if she had already joined our pack. After 38 years he knows me well; and he knows when I get something in my head that it's gonna happen and he knew I was prepared to go to the ends of the earth to get her. 
     He knew it; even when he said, “we don't really need another dog,” that I was already planning the dog proof fence and that he would be the poor sucker building said fence. (He's got that whole "happy wife, happy life" thing nailed!) In June, bless his chihuahua loving heart, the fence went up and I went to Colorado to get Josie.

The new "Chihuahua" fence
The meet and greet was not like I had envisioned. She didn't love me; she didn't run into my open arms and lick my face and thank me for rescuing her. Instead, she was terrified and wanted nothing to do with me. She wouldn't even let me touch her, let alone pick her up.      

This is the face of a dog that doesn't want to come home with me. 
As Claire, her foster mom, put her in my car for the drive home, I was thinking that I had made a grave mistake and was only adding more misery to the already horrible life she had endured. During the six hour drive home she settled in next to Elvis but kept herself pressed against the car door, as far away as possible from me, recoiling at my touch. My heart was breaking for her and I cried most of the drive home.

Elvis and Jo...the long ride home. I'm thinking they both hate me. 
For the first week she had to drag a leash everywhere, just so I could catch her. She jumped and flinched when I touched her; she didn't make eye contact with me, but instead kept a watchful, distrusting eye on me. Yeah...she pretty much made me feel like shit for taking her out of her foster home.

Josie and her buddy Ginger, at the kennel at NMDR. They were rescued together.
Now I lose sleep thinking about Ginger...Does Josie miss her? Should I adopt her too?
Do I need therapy? Yes. Yes. And yes.
But this isn't just about me. It's about Josie. It's about the thousands, yes THOUSANDS of mill dogs that are living an unimaginable existence. Locked in cages, no human contact, no petting, no belly rubs, no warm beds, no treats. 
     Josie spent SEVEN years in a cage barely bigger than her, having litter after litter of puppies, only to have them taken away from her as early as possible so they could be sold in pet stores.
     Imagine...the only joy in your life—the thing you live for, being swiped away from you shortly after you experience the only happiness you have ever known. Over. And. Over. Again.
That first week, on our bed, still dragging the leash and keeping a watchful eye on me.
My Josie came from a commercial breeder in Kansas; a breeder who has been on the “Horrible Hundred” list year after year. There are approximately 10,000 puppy mills in the US and Jo-jo lived in the dregs of Hell for seven years. After umpteen litters, a hernia was her likely death sentence until the incredible people from the National Mill Dog Rescue swooped in and rescued her and hundreds of other dogs like her, that were no longer profitable for these despicable breeders. For the first time in her life she received vet care, which included hernia surgery and having a mouthful of rotten teeth pulled. 

I wish I knew more of her back story but I don't, other than that she came in to the shelter terrified and was a biter and a climber. She then went through months of rehab before finally being fostered by the wonderful, loving Claire. 
     Enter me...the clueless-chihuahua-loving-know-nothing-about-mill-dogs-certified-double-stamped-crazy-dog-lady. How hard could it be? Right? Just pet them, love them, feed them, give them treats, right? NOT. Not even. Be prepared to change to your life and your thinking. Be prepared to have your life changed. Be prepared to feel. Be prepare to cry and be prepare to be REWARDED.



Every time I look at her face my heart breaks, knowing what she has lived through. But now I see her look me in the eyes with love and gratitude and my heart smiles back at her. She no longer fears me and she knows that I'm her safe place. She sleeps, wrapped in my arms, head on my pillow; breathing on my neck. The Big Guy, who has sacrificed his spooning spot for her, tries to convince her that he loves her too but she ain't buying it just yet...It took me much less time to fall in love with him but Josie is definitely working a case of much harder-to-get. 

This is the face of a happy, relaxed dog!

So now it's been three months and she is finally learning to be a dog, thanks to Elvis and Gracie. She runs out the door in the morning and up the stairs for bed at night.  She is no longer afraid of the grass, but instead runs and rolls in it. She likes to chase deer and roll in their poop; or maybe she just likes the bath that follows. She can be off the leash when she is in her “space” (read: at home on walks and at the office). A swift and calculating treat thief, she can snatch one out of the mouths of the other dogs before they even get a whiff of it. 


At dog school. Nap time.
As with most mill dogs, she comes with some weird habits: She will dig and scratch at a rug, for several minutes at a furious pace; like she's burying a body. On the upside, my rugs are "fluffy" and  at least she doesn't eat her own poop, like many do.
     Even though she may love me, she has still never licked me, which in the grand scheme of things is really not a bad thing. After all, she is a dog and I have seen her lick her butt. 
    On the upside she knows her name and comes to me when I call her and best of all: She raises her left paw to greet me as I approach her. I know she still has a long way to go with learning to trust people and a few months of love can't erase all those years of abuse. 
     Most importantly though, I no longer see the doubt and fear in her eyes. She sleeps peacefully; her pink tongue sometimes poking out between all her missing teeth and she rarely freaks out anymore in the middle of the night by the sound of the wind or the screams of a wild animal. She knows she's safe and she knows she's loved. She knows this is her forever home and everyday I say to her, "Josie...welcome to your new life!” She just smiles back at me, wags her tail, and gives me her paw.
 

To learn more about adopting a mill rescue dog click on the link. NATIONAL MILL DOG RESCUE

ADOPT DON'T SHOP!

$1 from the sale of my book goes to the 

NMDR!

Available at www.whenthedustsettled.com
Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Apr 24, 2016

Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down ~ Cooking Class 130

We tore up Friday night with the "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" cooking class.
The menu looked like this: (For the recipes go all the way to the bottom.)


Bloody Mary Bar / Bacon, Eggs + Toast: SdJ Style

Maple-Dijon + Sweet 'n Sassy Pig Candy 
Wasabi Deviled Eggs – Avocado Toast

  
Maple-Dijon Pig Candy
Wasabi Deviled Eggs with Pickled Ginger and Black Sesame Seeds

Corn Cakes, Smoked Salmon + Lemon-Chive Creme



Bacon, Potato and Poblano Quesadilla

With a Fried Egg 
Smoky Poblano-Bacon-Vodka Cream Sauce + Tomato Relish



Caprese Fritatta

Eggs, Basil, Prosciutto, Mozzarella, 
Parm, Pesto + Balsamic Drizzle


Scott and Jamie
↑   Workin' the line   ↓
Vicki and Brandy



Pisces Island Pancakes

Buttermilk Cakes, Coconut Syrup, 
Macadamia Nuts, and a Squeeze of Lemon


Emily and Jamie loading up on the Bloody Mary Bar

Frozen Raspberry Mimosas

(oops, no pictures)
The beer we had for breakfast
wasn't bad so we had one more for dessert.

For the recipes, click on the links below.


Polly and Kitt, plating ...
Lisa, aka the Dishwasher...

Feb 28, 2016

Some Tasty Thai ~ Cooking 129

Thai food is not about simplicity....it's about creating a balance of flavor with an insane number of ingredients.

That pretty much describes these Thai Fish Cakes with Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce and Sriracha Aioli. A shit load of ingredients, killer delish and worth the effort, this masterpiece was our first course for the Thai Cooking Class.  


My girls, Linda and Vicki nailed the fish cakes! Tom and Kitt made the Nuoc Cham, even though they couldn't say it and Scott and Shawna made a great sesame vinaigrette (recipe courtesy of Pisces award winning chef, Nia) for the greens and when it all came together it was everything you would expect to find in great Thai cuisine. But don't get too excited just yet because I'm not posting the recipe for this dish until next time...This is just a teaser....so read on.
Kim, serving it up.
February's Thai Cooking Class was probably one of the all time favorites for the Sauce du Jour chefs. We started the night with Mango-Curry Shrimp Salad, which is a recipe I first posted here a couple of years ago. I usually serve this salad in wonton or phyllo cups but this time I served it in spoons. Using cooked shrimp and mango chutney, this appetizer comes together in minutes. Click here for the recipe, or find it under the appetizer tab.


My Coconut-Curry Soup was the big hit of the night! I made several test runs trying to perfect this soup before I came up with this winning combination. With three curries in it, plus lemongrass, shiitakes and chicken, it really is a party in your mouth. Remember what I said about an insane number of ingredients? This is what I'm talkin' about. Jaynee, Lisa and Kim tag teamed it and made their momma proud!

Jaynee, workin' the soup spoon

Almost everyone agreed it was one of, it not the BEST soup they had EVER eaten...I mean EVER!!! Don't miss out on this one and don't be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. That's typical of Thai, but it really doesn't take too long to pull it together so line up the ingredients and go for it.


My Pad Thai recipe has been up on this blog for quite awhile and it's the perfect combo of sweet, spicy, salty and sour. If possible use authentic palm sugar (it's a paste - not granular, like brown sugar) and tamarind paste. Amazon is your friend if, like me you don't live within 500 miles of an Asian grocery store. You can find the recipe here or under the Pasta Tab.

We whipped up two big batches with Connor and Cristina on one side of the stove and Brandy and June on the other side. What you see is the beautiful result of  Pad Thai SdJ style.

We wrapped up the night with a traditional Thai dessert of sticky rice and mangoes with coconut cream.


Click on the links below for the recipes for the Coconut-Curry Soup, Pad Thai and the Mango-Curry Shrimp Salad. Fish Cakes coming up later.

PRINT RECIPE:  Coconut-Curry Soup with Lemongrass, Shiitakes and Chicken

PRINT RECIPE:  Pad Thai

PRINT RECIPE:  Mango-Curry Shrimp Salad

Sticky Rice with Mango in Coconut Cream