Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cookie Bake '08, Day Three

Overall, Cookie Bake '08 was a great success. Almost all the cookies were well received and they all got out of our house before we left on one of the best vacations in a long time. Here are all the recipes used and reactions to them.

Pecan Snowballs - First attempt at vegan baking a complete success. These taste exactly like pecan sandies and I even had someone think that I bought them instead of made them.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies - aka Breakfast Cookies. These were by far the biggest hit at my office. I think they would have been absolutely perfect with mini chocolate chips, but the big ones worked just fine. A co-worker took them home to his kids and they flipped out. Cookies and chocolate for breakfast?!? I am currently their favorite person. These were very moist and stayed that way for at least four days.

Cinnamon-Sugar Pinwheels - The second biggest hit in the office. These are also Matt's favorites. Super easy and quick.

Off to Bed Butter Cookies - Aside from a really lame name, and being a pain to get into a roll, these came out nicely. They took much longer in the oven than the recipe called for, but didn't dry out at all.

Hazelnut Shortbread Sticks - I really liked these, but I think the cookies should have been slightly smaller. I made them roughly the size of my pointer finger, and they probably should have been pinky sized instead. I also used semi sweet chocolate for dipping them in, and I would definitely use milk chocolate next time.

Earl Grey Madelines - I really liked these, but they weren't the biggest hit in my office. Based on some comments left in the recipe I doubled the amount of tea used for infusing the butter (which is something I would definitely do for another recipe) and it wasn't nearly as strong as I anticipated. I made this in a mini cupcake pan because I don't have a madeline pan. Make sure to use good honey and fresh lemon because you taste that quite a bit in the final cookie.

Chocolate Chip Cookies - I use the Barefoot Contessa recipe (which apparently has now been made into a mix you can buy). Classic, easy, but shouldn't be doubled in an Artisan stand mixer without a word of caution. Ideally I like to rest the cookie dough over night (it really does make a better tasting cookie and they keep their shape better) but I didn't have time this time around. Still got rave reviews on them.

Tip of the day - if you want browner cookies use a darker cookie sheet. It actually does make a difference, even if Matt thought I was full of it.

Hope everyone had a happy holiday season and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Off Topic Once Again

Tomorrow is the funeral of my step-father's mother Isabel. She was a very sweet lady with more inner strength than I can imagine. She lived 88 of her 91 years in the same house in Santa Cruz, which is also where she passed away in her sleep two weeks ago. Isabel had a avocado tree in her back yard and made guacamole frequently for family gatherings. In her honor, here's my guacamole recipe.

2 ripe Haas avocados (the black ones - they're ripe when you can press on them and they give without leaving a mark)
1 plum tomato, seeded and diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
2 TB finely chopped red onion
Juice of 1 lime
1 TB chopped cilantro
1 tsp salt (seems like a lot, but it really brings out the flavor)
1/4 tsp pepper

Slice avocado into 1/2 chunks and place in medium sized bowl. (If you're going to hold half an avocado in your hand and whack a knife into the pit PLEASE do yourself a favor and hold the avocado in a dishtowel. If you miss you'll be doing yourself a huge favor. Trust me.) Mash the chunks with a fork till they're a little less mashed than what you want the end product to look like. (They'll get a little more mashed as you mix in the other ingredients.) Combine remaining ingredients with avocado and mix till well combined. Taste for salt and adjust as necessary. Depending on the size of the lime, you may need a second one for additional juice. You want to taste a little of the lime, and lime flavored tortilla chips aren't going to cut it.

Out of my four parents, I now have only two living grandparents - my step-mother's father and mother are both still alive and driving themselves all over the Western US to visit family and friends. Here are their favorite food items.
Wendy's (Frostys especially)
See's Candy (Grandma likes the toffee, but I prefer Scotch Kisses)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cookie Bake '08, Day Two

Otherwise know as the day I realized I was in a little over my head. I had the following mini disasters last night/this morning. Thankfully the only thing left to do tonight is cook off one batch of cookies already set to go in the pan and waiting in the fridge. Because I don't think I could deal with anymore sugar tonight.

1) Stopped at Crate and Barrel outlet to buy Madeline pan. Wandered around for 20 minutes and could not find any bake ware. About to leave and realize that they're right in front, but on the opposite side of the store from the cookware. Because that makes sense.
2) Got home from work and decided to move a chair so my lovely assistant (aka sucker I somehow bribed with Chinese food) would have someplace to work. However that chair was apparently the only thing keeping my dining room table from leaning over and pitching it's contents on my feet. Did you know expensive French bottles of wine bounce? Which is good because I would have been seriously pissed if that had broken. It's a gift for Matt's boss. Thankfully my laptop had just returned from getting all the data off the hard drive, so it didn't matter when that bounced too. It's took about 20 minutes of moving around magazines, mail, and tools (WHY IS THERE A HAMMER ON MY DINING ROOM TABLE?!?) to get the table back on balance and clear enough to use.
3) Realized I did not have enough chocolate chips. Make Matt stop on his way home.
4) Are banana cookies supposed to smell like that? Because it's a little nasty.
5) Started making Earl Grey Madelines, manage to misread the recipe and add ingredients in incorrect order, then realize that the batter is supposed to rest for at least three hours before baking. Get lovely assistant to wrap for resting in the fridge for baking tonight.
6) Start last recipe of the night. Realize I do not have oatmeal needed. Decide to utilize now unnecessary chocolate chips Matt bought to make regular chocolate chip cookies. Decide to do double batch, because why not? Note - don't double the Barefoot Contessa chocolate chip cookie recipe in a Kitchenaid mixer. There's only barely enough room, but could have easily been giant disaster.
7) Entire night was not vigilant about not letting dog lick the floor. Teddy repaid me by vomiting on the bed, WITH ME IN IT, at 5:45 this morning. Comforter, sheets, and mattress cover all needed to be removed and thrown in the wash. Third time dog has puked on the bed in last six months, second time while I was in it. Thankfully the time she puked on my pillow was the time I wasn't in bed. She has yet to vomit while Matt is in bed.
8) Forget to grab banana chocolate chip cookie that was supposed to be my breakfast this morning. What? It's got fruit so it's a completely legit breakfast. Settle on a little leftover vegan chili at work.

Tomorrow I will post the last of the recipes and office reactions to them. Right now I need a nap and vegetables because if I even see sugar today I might gag.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cookie Bake '08, Day One

Alas, no pictures because my computer died. Last night was the first night of Cookie Bake '08. I baked two cookies off and have two more doughs in the fridge. Tonight is baking off the two doughs and making 3 more. Hopefully Cookie Bake '08 will only be two nights, but a third is a possibility.

Last night's cookies.

Hazelnut Shortbread Sticks
I've baked these off and are ready for dipping in chocolate tonight. I'm not going to dip them in crushed hazelnuts, because I like the cleaner look. Without the chocolate, they're good but could use a little more sugar. We'll see how they are once finished. An easy recipe to make, it just took a long time to shape all the dough into cookies. This was the first time, in my entire life, that I portioned the cookies so perfectly that the last cookie was just the right size with no leftover dough. I did a little dance in commemoration of my awesomeness.

Cinnamon-Sugar Pinwheels
This recipe is something that I usually just do with leftover pie dough to make Matt happy. Generally I make the cookies in the shape of rugelach, but this time I did half the batch in the pinwheel method they describe and half as rugelach. The pinwheels I put on the pan standing up. Even though most of the cookies fell over onto their sides, I would still recommend that because they seemed to cook better that way. Or maybe that's just my oven. Either way, these are excellent and supper easy, especially with pre purchased pie dough.

Off-To-Bed Butter Cookies
I tasted the dough, and it seems like these are going to be good, but I'm reserving judgement. The dough was a massive pain in my bum to get to hold together into a log for cutting tonight. I ended up using a bunch of plastic wrap to manhandle it so we'll see how it ends up (Seriously - buy yourself a $40 thing of plastic wrap at Costco. It's the best cling wrap without sticking to itself and you can use tons of it without feeling guilty. I've had mine for 5 years and it's showing no signs of being anywhere near finished.)

Pecan Snowballs
This is my first attempt at vegan baking. I liked this recipe because it only called for one ingredient I didn't already keep around. The dough is fantastic and I'm looking forward to trying these when they come out of the oven tonight.

I'll update tomorrow with the results of tonight's extravaganza.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Beating the Flu 101

Grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato, a bag of chips, and ginger ale have restored my color. With a little bit of help from drugs.

Which is good because I have to make a bunch of cookies for work next week, including some vegan cookies. I'm a little tired of standard chocolate chip and sugar, so I'm thinking about going a little wild. Pistachio and Dried Cherry Mexican wedding cookies anyone? Maybe Peanut Butter Kisses? Pineapple coconut cookies are a definite, if just to tick off Matt.

Any other suggestions?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Favorites from 2008

I'm trying hard not to just write all of 2008 off, so here's a list of my favorite food related items from the last year. What have your favorites been?

Cheestique's new wine and food bar - A Del Ray classic and the street cleaner sandwich is fantastic.

Let's Meat on the Avenue - an old fashioned butcher within walking distance. Bonus for selling dog bones that Teddy adores.

Grape and Bean - coffee and wine shop in Old Town Alexandria. They have the Clover coffee machine, and while I'm not sure how it works, it makes a great cup of coffee.

PX - swanky cocktail lounge that requires a secret password and flies a pirate flag.

Proof - wine bar in Chinatown. While they didn't have any wines from Argentina, they still had a great wine list and fantastic food.

Matchbox - while not new, it just opened a location on Capital Hill. Great infused vodkas and rums. Just try not to mix them.

Billy Goat Tavern - a Chicago institution and the inspiration for a John Bulushi SNL skit. One of the few times in my life I've been the only female in a restaurant.

Lusso Restaurant - a Toronto restaurant on the waterfront. Felt comfortable eating by myself and just enjoying the view.

St. Lawrence Market - old school market with vendors selling everything from produce to t-shirts.

nine one five - wine bar in Key West with bacon wrapped dates. Amazing and a nice alternative to the rest of Duval Street.

Herbs in a tube - I always have basil and ginger in my fridge without worrying about them going bad. Actually I keep the ginger in the freezer because I use that one less.

Smoked Turkey - my uncle grilled the turkey for Thanksgiving this year. I had imagined it cut up and grilled in parts, but his was done whole. And it was one of the best I've ever had.

And last, but certainly not least, Del Merei Grille. I honestly haven't had a bad meal there, and I'm there a lot. I could live off their spinach salads and mac and cheese. Oh, and the grilled donut. Because it's the best thing ever.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The one where Alicia goes bananas

I read something that I shouldn’t have. I read the comments section of last Sunday’s New York Times magazine piece. And now I’m pissed.

The article was about a New York socialite, and apparent former plastic surgery addict, and her decision to use a surrogate and what that experience was like. The pictures that accompany the article change the framework of the story and should not have been published. The one that seems to be drawing the most criticism is of the author on her lawn, with her son in her arms and her baby nurse in the background. The house is plantation-looking place in the Hamptons and the baby nurse is African-American. Yeah, someone messed that one up. There’s also a picture of the surrogate mom on the porch of her house, which is a little run down. Bad combo of images. I freely admit that someone looking to get sympathy about her struggle with infertility probably shouldn’t be posing with baby nurse in the background, but I don’t have any problem with her having one. Unfortunately the pictures changed the story from one woman’s struggle over 5 years, 11(!) IVF cycles, and 4 miscarriages, to one about a wealthy woman paying someone she considers poor to have her child. That’s not what the article is about, but that’s what it came across as.

And now to the rage.

I have been dealing with infertility for 2 ½ years and I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy. It is a heart breaking experience that you live with every single day. It’s not just something that you deal with at holidays, baby showers, and being around other people’s kids. You hear it in the quiet of your house, you see it in the absence of baby pictures on your walls, and you feel it in the aching of your arms to hold your child. You are reminded of it not only when you get your period, but every time you go to the bathroom because you check to see if you’re bleeding. While I hope being infertile will not be the defining characteristic of my life, it is the defining characteristic of my life right now and will be till it comes to whatever resolution there will be. And since I have lived this particular horror, I can say with authority that no one should ever judge how someone else creates their family. You don’t know what steps someone else should take to create their version of happiness. What you would endure, or finance, to create you family is a decision that each person arrives to on their own. You’re lucky enough if your partner agrees with you. Everyone else should keep their damn mouth shut.

Would you be willing to endure weeks of shots and hormonal mood swings? Would you be willing to be poked and prodded in the most intimate areas? Are you willing to give up your sex life? Would you give up your chance at seeing your smile on your baby if it could still have daddy’s eyes? When do you think life begins? What does your God think? How many embryos are you willing to take a risk on? Could your body handle 4 babies at once? Could you live with yourself if you had to selectively abort after everything you’ve gone through to get pregnant? What if there are no reasons why but there’s still no baby? How many miscarriages can you handle? How much grief is too much? Don’t you dare judge someone else and the decisions they make. So far I have taken drugs, had surgery, and lived through the nightmare of miscarriage. I don’t know how much more I’m willing to do, and the ultimate answer might not even be one I get to make. How many years of my life will I devote to this? Is 6 too many? Is 3 too few? There are no right answers here, only making the best of a horrible situation.

The answer isn’t that God thinks I would be a bad mother and that’s why I can’t have kids. If God thought that about me I wouldn’t be the oldest of 7 kids. The answer isn’t that I should just adopt. The choices for adoption are varied, but it’s not an option for everyone. I honestly don’t know if I could adopt, but that doesn’t mean I’m against adoption. I have friends in the midst of adopting and I could not be happier for them. Happiness, like family, is not one size fits all.

What the commenters don’t see is that maybe the constant activity and outings were the only thing she could do to keep her going. When you’re so far into grief , pain, and panic, sometimes you just keep moving because the moment you stop it all becomes too much. Granted, my way of dealing with my miscarriage grief was to make pizza dough three times a week and drink copious amount of wine, but that’s no less valid than her river rafting trip, yoga classes, and bourbon. The idea that because of what she was doing she wasn’t hurting is absurd. Money doesn’t buy happiness, it just gets your nicer shoes and a better brand of scotch.

Beyond the infertility bone headedness, the comments section displayed a massive amount of hatred towards the author because she had a baby nurse. The feeling expressed was how could she go through this entire thing and then hand the baby off to someone else, therefore she clearly doesn’t really want the child. That makes my blood boil. There is more than one way to raise a child and how dare you tell someone that they don’t love theirs because they have help. Doing it on your own or with help is a decision that’s generally dictated by finances, but if a person can afford help they are not a lesser parent for it. Being a full time stay at home parent is not for everyone (Jess and Cat – you’re saints) and children are best served with happy parents however they work out the feeding schedule. In my lifetime I have been cared for by nannies, au pairs, and babysitters and I still know my parents love me. I may think that my father could use a lesson in tact and my mother has brain damage, but I have never doubted that they love me. Ever. Having help allowed my father and step mother to work in jobs they love. By going to work and being a success my step mother taught me that being smart and in charge didn’t mean that you couldn’t also be funny and sexy. Because of his work my father has shown me parts of the world I probably never would have seen on my own. Money doesn’t solve every problem, but it also doesn’t make someone less of a parent.

I will get off my soap box and go back to work now. But I quickly want to say thank you to the friends and family who have helped us get through these past 2 1/2 years. Your support means more than I'll ever be able to tell you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cranberry Sauce for Thanksgiving

As much as both my parents love to cook, Thanksgiving was never a holiday we celebrated at home. Generally we went to a cousin's house and she did most of the cooking. Thanksgiving was memorable mainly because it was the day my Dad and step-mom tried to take the annual family photo, so matching outfits were required. My sisters and I were always in Laura Ashley floral dresses with lace collars and my brothers in navy blue Brooks Brothers blazers with khakis. Eventually we were too old for the matching outfits, so my step-mother tried to get us all to wear berets. I didn't understand it then and I still don't.

The only food related Thanksgiving memories I have are from the year my Dad decided to make the turkey from Gourmet the day after Thanksgiving so we could have leftovers. All I remember is that it involved deboning the turkey and my Dad muttering about trying to remember things from his time in surgery. There was a lot of swearing, and a pathetic looking turkey at the end. We never did it again.

A few years ago I started to host Thanksgiving for friends who weren't making the trip home. The largest group we ever had was 7, but it's been fun every time I've done it. Over the years I've made sweet potato gnocchi, stuffed mushrooms for vegetarians, pumpkin whoopie pies, and steak for a person who doesn't eat turkey (he's a communist), along with all the more traditional Thanksgiving items. However my favorite item is still cranberry sauce. I think it's the color or that it's the one thing I could eat the year I wasn't supposed to be eating dairy. It's the only thing that absolutely has to be on the table. This is my favorite cranberry sauce recipe that I've found. It is tart, but that's how I like it. You can add a 1/2 c. of sugar if you like yours a little sweeter.

1 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries
1 orange
zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 granny smith apple, peeled and diced into small pieces
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 c. water

Zest and juice orange into a medium pot. Combine remaining ingredients with juice and zest over medium heat for 15 minutes until liquid is thickened and most cranberries have split. Cool and store for up to 5 days.

If you have a non stick pot, not pan, use that. Cranberry sauce is like making jelly and you'll want to soak the pot right after you pour out the sauce otherwise you'll have a sticky, nasty mess on your hands.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Holiday Season

When I was growing up my mother used to make Apricot Macadamia Nut Bread bread for everyone she knew as a holiday gift. At her peak she would make over 100 loaves of it, in batches of 3, all while listening to Handel's Messiah on a record from the 60's. I've asked her for the recipe a number of times, but she can't seem to find it anymore. Today I think I finally found it on the internet. Yes, my precious internet does know everything. This recipe calls for a bundt pan, but my mother used to make it in standard size loaf pans, but for three loaves of bread I would double this recipe. I distinctly remember 1 stick of butter per loaf of bread.

My mother stopped making the bread about 12 years ago (which coincides with me no longer being in the house to torture with the same record for 2 solid months). She claimed that it was to much work. Instead she now makes over 200 jars of apricot jam. Because that makes sense.

Apricot Macadamia Nut Fruit Cake
3/4 Cup butter (1 1/2 stick)
1 Cup sugar
3 Eggs (separated)
1/2 Cup milk
2 Tablespoons apricot brandy
1/2 Teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 Cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 Cup chopped dried, chopped, apricots
1 Cup golden raisins
1 Cup chopped, roasted, salted macadamia nuts
1/4 Teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 275 degree. Grease and flour 6 cup Bundt pan. Cream butter and sugar in large bowl. Beat yolks to blend in small bowl and add to butter mixture. Combine milk, brandy and vanilla in another small bowl. Add to butter alternately with flour in 4 batches, mixing well after each addition. Stir in apricots, raisins and nuts. Beat whites until soft peaks form. Add cream of tartar and continuing beating until stiff but not dry. Gently fold whites into batter. Spoon into prepared pans, spreading evenly. Bake until tester inserted in center comes out clean. About 2 1/4 hours. Cool completely in pan on rack. Slice and serve, or wrap with plastic and store.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Red drinks, blue drinks, and Obama cupcakes

We had a small election night party, and I had no energy to make anything other than drinks, so I ended up buying everything. Now, I love to cook, but there are days that it's just not going to happen, and somehow those days are always the ones I end up having people over. In that vein, here are my rules for buying food.

1) Don't buy anything you haven't tried before, unless they're VERY good friends. Like the kind of friends who wouldn't have any problem spitting something out and telling you it nasty. I feel like there are a number of people in my life who would do that. I'm very lucky like that.
2) Don't get more than one or two things that need to go in the oven. Room temperature food is just fine and gets you out of the kitchen and doing important things, like watching returns from Ohio.
3) Veggie or fruit trays are not necessary at any party, but it's always nice to have something a little lighter. I tend to go with fruit on a cheese tray or veggies with hummus, but don't go too overboard. It's good to have them, but they're generally the least popular thing at the party.
4) Always something salty (nuts or olives) and something sweet (mini cookies or brownies) makes it a little more rounded.
5) Making a big batch of a theme drink is very simple and makes you look more organized than you really are. (Side note - when pureeing watermelon for flavored lemonade do not use a food processor. I'm still finding pink spots in my kitchen from this summer.) For example, I made a big batch of cosmopolitans and a rum/lemonade/blue Curacao drink for election night. Party appropriate, and makes for easy serving for a long night of returns.

I would also like to commend a friend for bringing Obama themed cupcakes. They were chocolate/vanilla marbled with blue frosting. A perfect munchie for the historic night.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Revenge of the Squirrels

I came home today to find this. Note the lack of pumpkin.
There were seeds on the walkway and no pumpkin in sight.
Then I looked in the lawn and found this.
Now all the pumpkins in Del Ray have been eaten.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

When Squirrels Attack

The squirrels in our neighborhood are on a rampage. They are taking out all of the pumpkins one at a time. Apparently they are not fans of the seeds.
I actually saw a squirrel crawl in this pumpkin, but because Teddy was with me it ran away before I could get a shot. This pumpkin was in tact and on our neighbor's porch this morning. This evening it was halfway to the street and partially eaten.
These just look so sad.
This one was the worst. The owner had even given up and put it out next to the street.

The only pumpkin in Del Ray still intact. It's on our front porch and I think it will be totally destroyed by the end of the day tomorrow.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Comfort Food

I generally think of comfort foods as the foods that I turn to at the end of the day when I just want to feel better. My personal favorites include mashed potatoes, pasta, garlic bread, guacamole, and raspberry sorbet. Oh and cheese. Almost any kind of cheese. What makes comfort food tough is when you feel the need to make it for someone else. When someone is sick, or just needs cheering up, it's much harder to know what to cook for them. For example, Matt loves fish sticks but after 8 years if living together (OMFG, there's been a boy in my house forever!) I have never made them for him or bought them for him to make while I was not around. I am currently thinking about cooking for someone else, who's tastes I don't know that well, and I feel stumped. The ability for the meal to be frozen and served later would also be nice. I was thinking soup (Black Bean or Clam Chowder are my best) or baked pasta (see Baked Penne), but I don't have any idea if those would work. Maybe chili? I'm thinking a chicken chili that's not too spicy would be perfect. Now I just need to find a recipe and get moving on it before something else falls out of the sky and throws me off my plans.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Baked Penne

This started out as the filling for stuffed mushrooms, but I loved it so much that I added it to baked penne. Generally I do not like ricotta, even in lasagna, so this was a great option for a baked pasta. It also freezes really well, but the cooking time doubles for cooking from frozen.

Baked Penne
3 large hot sausages
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 lb penne
1 jar of tomato sauce
1 8oz. package of cream cheese (lowfat works), softened
2 cups (or 1 package) of shredded mozzarella cheese (again lowfat works just fine)
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the sausage out of the casings and saute till no longer pink. Make sure to break the sausage into smaller crumbles. Spoon cooked sausage onto a plate lined with paper towels.
Cook pasta for half the time indicated on the box. Drain the pasta and place the pasta back in the warm pot. Pour 3/4 of the pasta sauce over the pasta and mix well. Add 3/4 of the mozzarella and stir until the cheese has just melted.
In a separate bowl, mix warm sausage, cream cheese, oregano, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix until well combined.
Looks creepy, but trust me it's awesome.

In the bottom of a greased (spray with a shot of Pam or something similar works very well) 9x13 glass pan spread 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce. Layer half of the pasta mixture in the pan. Add the sausage mixture in one layer across the entire pan. Layer in the rest of the pasta, spoon on the remaining sauce, and then top with the mozzarella and then Parmesan.

Spray the shiny side of a piece of foil with non-stick spray and cover the pasta. Bake covered for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 15-30 minutes till bubbly and golden.
To clean let the the dog lick the floor.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Best Damn Food I Ever Ate

This past weekend I attended my Grandfather's funeral. My Grandfather was a wonderful man and I will miss him greatly. While he didn't do it much in his later years, and he was definitely more know for his photography, but he was an amazing cook. He used to sit in a chair just off the kitchen and talk about anything and everything. I especially enjoyed the stories where he made himself laugh so hard that his eyes watered. Both he and my Grandmother (who I never saw cook, but you really couldn't with the fake eyelashes and the jewels) always described good food as "The best damn food I ever ate." I never got to cook for them, but I always wanted them to describe something I made that way. Goodbye Grandfather. I love you very much.

And I promise never to splash the window.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

San Diego

My helpful hint of the day is if you ever need a caterer in San Diego, El Indio does awesome Mexican food and French Gourmet does good finger food.

I didn't think it was possible to get sick of Mexican food, but I had it for dinner three nights in a row and I think I'm done for a little while.

While I haven't been cooking, I did manage to teach my 13 year old sister to make margaritas (2 parts mix, 1 part tequila, ice, splash of lime juice, and blend. Lime wedge run around the edge before dipping in salt if desired.) I have a feeling this will become useful to her in the next few years. She also knew that they sell hard liquor in the grocery store.

While in San Diego it rained. It might only be the third time I remember that ever happening. It really poured and no one knew how to handle it. There also was a grocery store that was split in two sections by an open air patio. While a cool idea, I don't want to run back and forth across the patio when I forget something in the other store.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

2 posts in one day!!

More random snippets from the little bit of cooking and a whole lot of eating I've been doing the past month.

-A little bit of lime juice in my teriyaki-ish sauce is fantastic.
-I seriously considered bringing back a loaf of sourdough shaped liked a teddy bear. Then I realized that I would have probably have to carry it on my lap like a small child. That would look weird, especially when I started nibbling on the ears somewhere over Nebraska.
-Multiple restaurants in San Francisco had containers in the bathrooms for used needles. When I pointed it out to my mom her response was she didn't realize there were that many diabetics. Funny, my thought was I didn't realize there were that many heroin addicts.
-My all time favorite sandwich has to be turkey, romaine, tomato, avocado, provolone, and honey mustard on sourdough. It even keeps for a few hours so you can have a plane picnic. Not nearly as fun as a train picnic.
-I still don't know if the chocolate malt is as good as I remember. But the food at The Oasis is exactly the same. I did have the disturbing realization that The Oasis is to my Dad what Nanny's or The Malt Shop was to me. Except I wouldn't take 4 year olds to either, but that's how old I was the first time I went to The Oasis.
-I did some incredibly incorrect math while halving a recipe, but I still think the whole wheat pizza dough needs more honey.
-Cranberry vinaigrette is so much better than it sounds, but the salad should have pecans instead of walnuts.

End of CSA

Since I'm still eating more than 70% of my meals somewhere other than my house, the cooking has slowed way down. We've also finished the CSA for this season. While I enjoyed the experience, I don't think I would do it again. Here are the pluses and minuses I found.

+The vegetables are wonderfully fresh and last much longer than anything I get at the grocery store.
-I don't care how long that kale sits in my fridge I'm still not going to eat it.
+Pretty, pretty eggs.
-Why are there 8 dozen eggs in my fridge? We didn't take them some weeks and we still didn't even make a dent in them. Matt didn't like the taste of them in scrambled eggs, so that cut way down on our egg consumption. Thanks to the people you took some off my hands so I could fit Diet Coke in my fridge.
+Garlic chives are awesome.
-I really didn't like the basil they grew. And it went bad much faster than anything else.
+The squash from them was great. Not nearly as bitter as other squash I've had.
-Their cucumbers were bitter, but that wasn't too big a problem because my plant is still giving us cucumbers. It even appeared in my dreams the other night. Creepy.
+Mini eggplants are the cutest things ever.
-Seriously, enough with the kale/chard/mustard greens. They're nasty.
+Lots of garlic and onions. The small onions were perfect when cooking for two.
+Unexpected melons and apples.
+Lots of peppers, some hot and some not too hot. I took the hot ones to work.
+Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes.
-We both grew really tired of tomatoes, which I didn't think was possible.

In the end, we're definitely not going to do this CSA next year. If we could find one that didn't have greens it would be a better fit for us. We ended up tossing or giving away so much that I felt bad. The other issue was remembering to go pick it up. I think we got all of them, except the very last one, but there were definitely times we almost forgot. I also think I would be able to find everything I needed at the farmer's market, which I can skip if I'm going to be out of town.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tastebuds are back!!

So the mucus fairy who has been trying to kill me for the last few months might finally be beaten. However, now I'm in a position where I won't be cooking much the next few weeks because I won't be home. In light of this here are a few things I've learned over the past month.

-Train picnics are fun and champagne out of a can is very fun. I don't recommend using the straw that comes with the can on the train unless you want to put your eye out.
-My friend makes great guacamole.
-Electrolyte enhanced water might be the greatest thing since coffee.
-Dark pubs that serve chicken sandwiches that taste like fish are a little suspect. Also, I have now seen the world's largest order of nachos.
-It is possible to go to RI and not have clam chowder. It is also possible to go to Philly and not have a cheese steak.
-Vegan pizza with whole wheat crust and veggie burger crumbles is much better than it sounds, but I'm still never going to get Matt to try it.
-I would not eat a mooseburger.
-While I don't generally like yellow squash or zucchini, if the squash has both green and yellow on it I like it.
-Cucumber plants grow into Godzilla. Also, squirrels like tomatoes but not cucumbers.
-Teddy likes all kind of cheese, pasta, and risotto, but not carrots. However she will still beg for carrots.

Questions I have for the next few weeks.
-Will the chocolate ice cream at Stanford football games be as good as I remember it being? How much better will the football game be now that I can drink?
-Is it possible to be in San Francisco and not have sourdough? Is it possible to be in San Diego and not have guacamole?
-How long will a watermelon, a cantaloupe, or a butternut squash last in the fridge?
-Why have I never put caramelized onions in mashed potatoes before?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Taste Buds Temporarily Disabled

I have been fighting a sinus infection for over three months now, and it's finally taken a toll on my taste buds. Everything I've eaten in the past few days has tasted funky to me. I'll be putting on hold all recipes until I can figure out what is going on.

I'll refrain from explaining exactly what I've been doing to try and get rid of this, but I do want to share one thing. The sign of a good marriage is when you can watch the other person use a neti pot and still find them attractive.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why you should clean out your frdige on a regular basis

As much as I love my father and step-mother, they have one really disturbing habit. They are unwilling to throw away anything in the fridge, ever. We have found ranch dressing two years past it's expiration date, four year old mustard, ten year old hot sauce, and the most disturbing find of all, a sixteen year old spice blend. Yes, the spice blend was old enough to drive. I also think they have dried herbs from the Johnson administration, but they aren't dated so it's harder to prove.

After growing up with this, I've tried very hard to make sure that there's nothing too far past it's time left in my fridge. Last night was my tossing binge. Most expired items were only two to three months old, but I did find two year old mustard. The rest of the tossed items prove that I'm a giant yuppie, in case I needed more proof. Included were a merlot-herb marinade, sun dried tomato tapenade, applewood smoked bacon, and homemade basil butter. I still have 6 dozen straight from the farm eggs if anyone needs some.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sweet Potato Fries

A certain someone (ahem..Jen) is a little obsessed with sweet potato fries. I hadn't had them for a very long time until she made them for me on Saturday.

(Side note - I was over there starting a quilt so Teddy wouldn't try and eat the fabric and/or step on stray pins. The quilt is now halfway quilted and I might actually finish it by the end of the month.)

After I had them, I began to crave them again in about three hours. Last night I was able to talk Matt into letting me make them. He couldn't remember if he liked them or not, so I gave him permission eat ice cream with dinner if he didn't. Of course he did, so they are now going to become a regular menu item at our house.

Sweet Potato Fries
Makes enough for two sides

2 sweet potatoes, peeled, and cut into 1/4" fries
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
Non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick spray. Place fries on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and toss to cover. Sprinkle garlic powder, salt, and pepper over fries and toss again until well combined. Bake for 30 - 45 minutes (check starting at 25 minutes to make sure no edges are burning) and broil for the last five minutes to make a little crisper.

Monday, August 11, 2008

In honor of the Olympics

We are searching for a new place for Chinese food. The place we used to get Chinese food from has been going down hill for the past year. Nothing is tasting as good as it used to, and the portions are getting smaller. We've tried a couple of other places but haven't found one we really like. Does anyone have a place that they like for Chinese food delivery?

In Olympic news, I heart the swim team. I've teared up at a couple of the races, especially the 4 x 100 relay last night. It was amazing and will go down as one of the greatest races I will ever see. Sort of like how the Wimbledon finals this year will always be one of the best matches I have ever seen.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pizza Dough Take 3

Or clearly Alicia gets obsessed with something and feels the need to make it three times in a week.

Last night I made pizza dough again, but this time I used whole wheat flour. While it was very good (pictures will be coming soon) there were a couple of things I noticed different with the whole wheat flour. First, for the half recipe I used almost 2 1/2 c. of w.w. flour instead of the 1 1/2 of a.p flour. Second, and this is probably because of the increase in flour, it definitely needed a little more honey in the dough.

For toppings I used a caramelized onion (see Alicia obsession above) and tomato saute from Sunday night. It was a take off on this recipe from Gourmet (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/PORTERHOUSE-STEAK-WITH-PAN-SEARED-CHERRY-TOMATOES-242859) that was on the cover two months ago. Since we messed with the original recipe so much, and didn't use make the full batch, I'll post what we did and you can also take what you like from each. At some point I will follow the original recipe, and I'll let you know how that compared to my version.

3 small onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 beefsteak tomatoes, diced
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
1/2 c. basil leaves, julienned
1 tsp. thyme leaves, chopped
2 TB olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In 1 TB of olive oil, saute onions (sprinkled with salt and pepper) over medium heat until just starting to get color. Add garlic and thyme and continue to saute until onions and garlic are golden brown. Remove from heat, and scrape into a bowl. Return pan to heat, add remaining olive oil, and add tomatoes when oil is hot but not smoking. Saute until tomatoes start to split their skins, then add back onion and garlic mixture, add basil, and season to taste. serve over sliced flank steak. (We marinated our flank steak in 1/2 bottle of pinot noir leftover from Friday night, garlic powder, touch of honey, smoked sea salt, and chipotle powder for 3 hours, then grilled it for four minutes per side.)

While I liked the flavors mine turned out almost like a chutney. Because I had used the beefsteak tomatoes they let out much more juice than the cherry tomatoes, and combined with the caramelized onions, it was really thick. Of course being so think made it a great topping for pizza.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Zucchini Bread

Or what to do when your boss hands you a zucchini the size of your head. And you already have 3 small ones at home from the CSA.

I absolutely love zucchini bread. Especially toasted and smeared with peanut butter for breakfast. When I was little it was the only way I would eat zucchini. We used to get so many from our neighbors (we never grew any vegetables) that my mother once threatened to make zucchini toothpaste. Thankfully it never came to that.

For this recipe (and I can't believe I found a Paula Deen recipe without butter or shortening) I omitted the nuts, dropped the sugar to 2 cups, and substituted 1 c. of applesauce for the vegetable oil. It's moist (almost to the point of sticky) and holds up well in the freezer. It would go in the "Freezes Beautifully" section of my cookbook.

Zucchini Bread
Recipe courtesy Paula Deen

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup water
2 cups grated zucchini
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, nutmeg, baking soda, cinnamon and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine oil, eggs, water, zucchini and lemon juice. Mix wet ingredients into dry, add nuts and fold in. Bake in 2 standard loaf pans, sprayed with nonstick spray, for 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Alternately, bake in 5 mini loaf pans for about 45 minutes.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Not food related

But this is what Teddy did when Matt went out to get bagels and coffee on Sunday morning. The picture itself is a from a couple of months ago, but you get the idea. She stared out the window watching him walk to the car and stayed there until the car drove away. It's even funnier if you see it from the street because all you can see are the tops of her ears.

I made that pizza dough my bitch

Thursday's pizza done wrong really bothered me all day on Friday, so I decided that I had to conquer it. I made the dough again on Friday night, making sure to put in only 1 1/2 cups of flour, adding 2 1/2 TB of olive oil, and baking at 450 degrees. I rolled the dough out into one large rectangular pizza (basically filling a rimmed cookie sheet), brushed the pizza with olive oil, topped with caramelized onions and garlic, Parmesan, and mozzarella. Bake for 12 minutes and it was a perfect appetizer for dinner. At least it was perfect for those people eating flour and dairy. Sorry Jen.

This is the pizza dough recipe from Barefoot Contessa that I used, but I only made a half recipe.
For the dough:
1 1/4 cups warm (100 to 110 degrees F) water
2 packages dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons good olive oil
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
2 teaspoons kosher salt

For the dough, combine the water, yeast, honey, and olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 3 cups flour, then the salt, and mix. While mixing, add 1 more cup of flour, or enough to make a soft dough. Knead the dough on low to medium speed for about 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking to the bowl.
When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured board and knead by hand a dozen times. It should be smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl and turn it several times to cover it lightly with oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into 6 equal parts and roll each one into a smooth ball. Place the balls on a baking sheet and cover them with a damp towel. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
If you've chilled the dough, take it out of the refrigerator approximately 30 minutes ahead to let it come to room temperature. Roll and stretch each ball into a rough 8-inch circle and place them all on baking sheets sprinkled with cornmeal. (You will be able to fit 2 pizzas on each 18 by 13-inch baking sheet.)

I was really happy with the outcome, and I don't know if it's the weather in my kitchen or the flour that I use (I use King Arthur Flour which has less gluten than normal flour) but I really think that I have to add the extra olive oil and cut back on the flour for it to work.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Pizza dough issues

From time to time I get a craving for pizza made from scratch. Now I am the biggest fan of Papa John's pineapple pizza, and will certainly eat it cold for breakfast the morning after we've ordered it, but there's something about homemade dough with the exact toppings you're craving that's wonderful. Except when it all goes wrong. I usually have pretty good success with the Barefoot Contessa pizza dough recipe, especially when I don't use as much flour and add an extra TB of olive oil, but last night it ended poorly. Most of that is my fault, I had a phone call interrupt my dough making for about 40 minutes and spilled in more flour than I meant to, but it was not at all forgiving. The recipe also calls for the pizzas to be cooked in a 500 degree oven for 15 minutes. I usually only turn the oven up to 450, but for some reason last night I choose to go with 500 degrees. Poor decision. The edges of the pizzas were burned before the middle had cooked and it all happened in 8 minutes. Matt's poor pizza also got a huge air bubble in the dough that took up almost half the top of his pizza. Thankfully he had opted for a white pizza so it didn't make too big of a mess, but it was a little bananas. My caramelized onion, red pepper, yellow tomato, and goat cheese pizza had a great flavor combo, but the middle was pretty raw.
Overall the evening's dinner was disappointing, but there were bright spots. I think every homemade pizza I make from now on will have to have caramelized onions. I also should make twice as much caramelized onion as I think I will need because Matt stole some to munch on and then stole half to put on his pizza. Topping thief.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sugar Cookies

Jen recently posted something about secret recipes and it got me thinking. I would consider my sugar cookies my secret recipe, but after thinking about it I don't like the idea of the a secret recipe. The idea of cooking is to share so here is my secret recipe.

Sugar Cookies
Makes about 30 cookies

1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. powered sugar
2 sticks butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine both sugars and butter. Beat until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. On low speed, add the eggs one at a time then add vanilla extract. Slowly add the salt, flour, and baking soda, stirring until just combined. Cover the bowl and chill the dough for 30 minutes. Spoon the chilled dough in tablespoon sized balls onto a dark cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. (I've found that the cookies spread out less on a darker cookie sheets.) Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the cookies from the sheet and cool on a rack. Cookies will be soft but will harden as they cool. When fully cooled, the edges will be crunchy but the centers will be soft.

Note: this recipe does not work well if you want to roll the cookies out and cut them into shapes. It also would not work well in a cookies press.

Individual Apple Crumbles

I am aware that it is the middle of the summer fruit season. I know that apricots, peaches, cherries, plums, etc are all beautiful right now. I also know that Matt greatly prefers apple desserts. I'm not about to make something sweet if I'm the only person in the house who will eat it. My waistline would not appreciate that. So apple crumbles it is. I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for, so I combined a couple of recipes and ended up with the dessert I'm making next time Matt's mom and dad come to town.

Individual Apple Crumbles
Makes 2 apple crumbles

For the filling
4 small gala apples, peeled and diced into large chunks
1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 TB all purpose flour
1 tsp lemon zest
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of salt

For the topping
1/2 c all purpose flour
2 TB granulated sugar
2 TB light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/8 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of slat
1/2 stick of cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all of the filling ingredients and mix well. Spoon into ramekins (the ones that I used were from Crate and Barrel, hold about 10 oz, and are like slightly taller creme brulee dishes). In a food processor or stand mixer (I used my mini food processor and it just barely fit) combine all of the topping ingredients. Pulse or mix until the butter is the size of peas. Loosely top the ramekins with the topping. Place ramekins on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Serve with vanilla ice cream on top. Note: the filling will overflow a little, so you really want to put the parchment paper down, otherwise cleaning the baking sheet will be a huge pain. I learned this one the hard way.

You can make the crumbles earlier and keep them in the fridge until ready to bake. Bring them to room temperature before putting in the oven.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Has potential to be the best thing ever

Last night I found myself home with no hubby to feed, so I was on my own for dinner. I usually try to take advantage of nights like these to make something that he would never eat but that I have been craving recently. Last night was no exception so black olives and goat cheese needed to be involved. I give you my dinner that has the potential to be the greatest summertime dinner, once I play around with it a little more.

You will need
3 oz. goat cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp olive oil
splash of heavy cream
1 TB chopped basil
1 green onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 black olives, pitted and chopped fine
2 ripe tomatoes, cut into slices
2 thick cut slices of toast

Combine everything but the tomatoes and toast in a small bowl and stir until well blended. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust according to taste. Spread cheese mixture thickly on each piece of toast. Top with sliced tomatoes and eat immediately.

It was so good that I almost made another two slices for myself, but actually showed some restraint. The next time I make it I will probably add a touch more cream (increase to 2 tsp), more basil (another 1/2 TB), nix the olive oil (the cream made the cheese smoother than the olive oil), and add a tsp of chopped fresh thyme. If we hadn't broken our toaster, this would be a perfect dinner because I wouldn't have to turn the oven on.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

I've seen the recipe a number of times, with minor variations, and I've always been intrigued. Yesterday I finally took to chance and attempted a meal with 3 whole heads of garlic.

Overall I was satisfied with the outcome, but it took way longer than the recipe said, and for some reason nothing in my pot last night decided to brown. Even after I turned the heat up higher and had oil spitting out (note - hot oil in your eye hurts) the chicken just refused to brown. Also, once the chicken was put back in to finish cooking, it took almost twice as long as the recipe stated. Even without these issues, I think it could have used double the amount of thyme, and probably an onion or two. But it did go really well with Pinot Noir.

In addition, I made tomato salad with some of the 85 tomatoes we had. Just sliced some tomatoes, sprinkled fresh basil, salt, and pepper, then drizzled with olive oil and balsamic. Very summery. The other side was red potatoes sauteed in olive oil, butter, and scallions. I wanted it to stay simple with the slightly heavy and complicated chicken. While not my greatest meal ever, I would certainly do it again, but with a few changes.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Summer sandwiches

This morning Matt and I went to the local farmers market. I got melons, corn, peaches, peppers, apricots, tomatoes, potatoes, romaine lettuce, salad mix, and bread. We also stopped by Cheesetique for fresh mozzarella and goat cheese. With the basil, onions, beans, tomatoes, and squash we got this week I'm going to try and cook more than the last few weeks.

The beautiful tomatoes. It may look like a bunch, but they'll all be eaten this week. The red and brown are from Graceland Farms CSA and the yellow are from the farmer's market.
For lunch today I made chicken sandwiches with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and homemade honey mustard. After cooking chicken that's been sprinkled with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried thyme I cut up a tomato and ripped up two pieces of romaine. I also toasted four pieces of bread in the oven and melted a little cheese. Mix equal parts honey from the CSA and Dijon mustard, and slather it on the toast. Assemble and you've got a great lunch.
On a different note, Matt's refusing to watch Everyday Italian because the host isn't making something he would eat, and she's not wearing a low cut top. That's unacceptable in his world.

Pictures to help

The only tomatoes that I was able to save from the squirrels. The rest were eaten or ruined by the bugs. I've already gotten tips for next year to make it more successful.
One of the last times I made Bread Salad I took a couple of pictures for reference. This is what it looks like fully dressed and ready to eat.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Bulgarian feta makes all the difference

When I used to work in the kitchen one of my co-workers taught me this summertime favorite. It also requires zero cooking if you happen to have leftover grilled corn on the cob.

1/2 c. Bulgarian feta, cut into small chunks (Bulgarian feta is much less salty than Greek. The guy I worked with also had a long story about how the Greeks stole feta. I told a Greek friend that one time and she got a little defensive.)
1/2 c. chopped tomatoes
1/2 c. peeled, seeded, and chopped cucumbers
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts
2/3 c. cooked corn, cut off the cob
1/4 c. cider vinegar
1/2 c. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, pine nuts, and corn in a bowl. In a separate bowl combine oil and vinegar. Drizzle vinaigrette over other ingredients and toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

It's really super simple. You can also add a lettuce leaf and stuff it inside a pits for a quick sandwich. I like to grill the pita first so there's a little more crunch to the sandwich.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mental Note

Do not leave your box of Splenda packets under a box of dryer sheets for five days. Your coffee will taste like clothes line clean.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Spinach Salad

This is one of my favorites in the summertime. My aunt gave it to me with a beautiful salad bowl for my bridal shower. It's apparently very popular in their neighborhood. It sounds like a strange combination of ingredients, but it works.

1 bag of prewashed baby spinach (After spending a couple months of my life cleaning lettuce, chard, and spinach for a restaurant I almost always buy prewashed.)
1/4 c. toasted pecans
1 c. sliced strawberries
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. honey
1/3 c. rice wine vinegar
1 c. vegetable oil

Combine Dijon mustard, honey, vinegar, and vegetable oil in a bowl and mix well. The dressing can be made up to 5 days in advance. In a large bowl, place spinach, pecans, strawberries, and red onion. Toss slightly, being careful not to bruise the spinach. Somehow I always manage to overdress this salad, so use the vinaigrette sparingly at first.

Depending on how strong your mustard and vinegar are, you may adjust the amounts to taste. I find that this is one of the few recipes that doesn't benefit from salt and pepper.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fact of the day

How can you tell if a hen will lay a white egg or a brown egg?

White egg layers have white ear lobes. Brown egg layers have red ear lobes.

This seems more believable than my uncle telling me that white milk came from white cows and chocolate milk came from brown cows. What can I say, I was really little and totally believed it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bread Salad, take 2

I was hoping to be able to make this a little later with some glorious tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers from my own garden, but I have been thwarted. The peppers are still flowers, the cucumbers are about the size of a toothpick with a flower on the end, and half the tomatoes have been eaten by some sort of insect. Damn the garden gods! Next year I will actually read about this before randomly sticking plants in pots and hoping for the best.

More than anything I have ever made, this is the recipe that people ask about the most. Here is my best shot of writing it down, but please note, that this is one of those things that you can change based on what you like and what you have around with no problems at all. It's really more of a guideline than a rule.

1 loaf sourdough bread cut into 1 inch cubes (I also use French or Italian based on what's available. I would not recommend using a baguette if for no other reason that it would be a huge pain to cut into pieces. You also want something with a little more middle of the loaf than a baguette would have.)
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved and salted (Just put the cut tomatoes in a bowl with a pinch of salt, stir well, and let sit for about 15 minutes. This helps bring out the tomato flavor and gets some of the water pulled out. Any type of tomato would work and using different colored tomatoes just adds to the beauty of the salad.)
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into pieces
1/2 red onion, finely diced
8-12 0z of mozzarella, cut into cubes (You can also use the mini mozzarella balls whose name is escaping me.)
1/3 c. basil, cut into thin strips
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1 c. + 1 Tb. olive oil
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
1 Tb. Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 400. Place bread cubes and all crumbs from cutting them, onto a baking sheet. Drizzle the cubes with 1 Tb. olive oil. Sprinkle dried herbs and garlic powder evenly over the bread with a big pinch of salt and pepper. Toss together until cubes are well coated. You want to make sure to use the garlic powder and dried herbs instead of fresh because the fresh will burn while baking. Bake the cubes for 7 - 15 minutes until crisp, but not rock hard. Shake the tray occasionally to ensure none burn. When fully cooked, let them cool completely.
In a small bowl, combine remainder of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, and fresh garlic. Stir until well combined and set aside.
In a large bowl place (in this order) red onion, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, mozzarella. The salad can sit for about an hour in the fridge until the cubes cool. Add the bread cubes, drizzle with dressing, and toss well. Add basil and toss again. Taste the bread cubes and adjust seasoning as necessary. Depending on the bread, you may need additional dressing. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

You can also add capers or black olives, if desired. I generally stay away from this, but it's a personal choice. You can also add pieces of cooked chicken if you'd like a bit heavier salad. This holds up really well for about two days in the fridge, but Matt will never eat it the day after. He thinks it tastes funny, but I think he's crazy.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I just got back from a great three days in Toronto. The first day I was there I got to visit St. Lawrence Market, which is a great indoor market that used to be a grain depository for the Queen. The Queen of England that is. There is no Queen of Canada. See, Americans do know something about Canada.

The main floor was mainly butchers, cheese shops, and a couple of bakeries.
I think I found my home and the new wallpaper for my computer.
Pick a color, any color.
Maybe you prefer meat on a stick? This was only one part of one case for the butcher section. Most butchers had cases almost 30 feet long. I have never seen so much meat in one place, and I've been to The Hanger Club.
They even had stuff I could have gotten for Teddy if I hadn't had to get it past customs. Note Canadian boy in the backgroud looking at me like I'm a freak.Downstairs was produce, dry goods, and souvenirs. I love the different colors of potatoes.
Really blueberry and cherry? That seems pretty nasty.
Sunflower seeds anyone?
I totally should have bought the shirt on the left for Yo-yo Seibert.
It was a great trip and I can't wait to go back. I got to have dinner at a restaurant right on the water and watch the ships go by. A loverly way to spend an evening.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

June Updates

So, I have been told that I have been slacking the in posting department. And I have. Here are some pictures from the last few weeks.
I tried to make another souffle, this one with bacon, scallions, and cheese. There was an extra yolk and 2 strips of bacon which made this one much denser than the last. I probably wouldn't make it again. The salad was great, and the company was even better.
I made chicken stir fry with snap peas, broccoli, and scallions from the CSA. I added some peppers and carrots from the fridge so I didn't end up with a green and white dinner.
I think Matt liked the veggies.
The final product.
We've been getting the most beautiful eggs.

I love the little specks on each of the eggs. And the purple carton is awesome.

After a couple of souffles, I went back to basics this evening. Scrambled eggs and hash browns, sprinkled with scallions from this week.
My mini garden is growing well. There are a number of tomatoes coming in.
And the cucumbers are trying to come in the house.
And I love our local farmer's market. I bought this at the last one I went to.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Rising eggs

This week the delivery included parsley, red leaf lettuce, romaine, snap peas, bok choy, and radishes. And more eggs.

Since I still have some eggs left from last week I decided to make a souffle. I used this recipe (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/HERBED-PARMESAN-CHEESE-SOUFFLE-4472) and it work out great.

Egg whites whipped till stiff about to be folded into the souffle base.

Finished souffle. Fully cooked, unlike the last time I made one and served at a baby shower and served undercooked eggs to pregnant women.

I also made salad with homemade vingarette. Very French and a great way to spend an evening.

Friday, May 23, 2008

First Delivery

My very first delivery was yesterday. I got lettuce, salad mix, garlic chives, mint, radishes, baby shallots, and turnip greens. And some gorgeous eggs.
The only thing I've used so far are the eggs. They are a beautiful bright yellow inside. I'm making hamburger buns for a BBQ tomorrow night and I'll post pictures of them when they're ready. They're currently on their second rise and hopefully will come out better than the packaged kind.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

It starts next week!

I got the reminder email today that our CSA delivery starts next week. I can't wait!!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Bread Salad (take one)

Last night was the first bread salad of the season. I am a little obsessed with this salad, and I make at every opportunity in the summer. It's not a traditional Panazella, but my twist on it. Once the tomatoes are coming in better, and I actually make the croutons, I will post the recipe. I haven't made it about 9 months, so I want to make sure I remember it correctly before I post it. I did use a brilliant shortcut last night, I used frozen garlic bread for to make the croutons. It worked out well, but would have been even better with a higher quality garlic bread. But I would definitely do it again.

Monday, April 28, 2008


I bought 2 small bunches of ramps this weekend. I had heard that they were good sauteed with bacon (what isn't?) and thought I would give it a shot. I forgot to ask the farmers how much of it's edible, so I tried to find a recipe in my cookbook collection to tell me. This is the first time my collection has failed me. How do two cookbooks entirely about vegetables not have anything about ramps? I decided to cut them up and saute the white parts separately from the leaves. I'm so glad I did. The whites (with a little of the pink) were fantastic. Kind of like a onion with a little bit of the bite of raw garlic. The green leaves, not so much. They were bitter and ended up in the garbage disposal.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cinnamon Bread as French Toast

This morning was French Toast with cinnamon bread that I bought at the farmer's market yesterday. I sliced the bread into 3/4 inch slices and soaked them in a combination of 4 eggs, 1 cup of milk, a pinch of salt, and a splash of vanilla extract (thanks Joy of Cooking) for about 5 minutes, turning once.

With a saute pan on medium heat, I melted 1 TB of butter and let it heat for about 2 minutes. Once the butter stopped bubbling, I put in each of the four slices (now swollen with the egg mixture) in the pan, being careful not to crowd the pan. The key to perfect French Toast? Don't move the bread! Let it brown for 4-5 minutes before flipping once. Let the second side brown for another 3-4 minutes and serve. Matt likes his with a little powered sugar (I have a shaker filled with powered sugar in my spice drawer) and maple syrup.
I like mine with strawberries left over from lunch yesterday. I'm also one of those freaks that prefer applesauce with my pancakes.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Spring is here!

This morning I woke up just about as the sun came up to go to the Alexandria Farmer's Market. Most of the stands were set up, but the there were still some of the vendors setting up as we left. Jen and I did a lap around so I could get coffee and we could see what was there. We picked up bread (a baguette, a sourdough boule, and a loaf of cinnamon bread), asparagus, lettuce, strawberries, basil, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, eggs, ramps, and flowers. I had thought I had grab too big of a bag, but ended up with almost no room left.

For lunch today, I cut up some of the strawberries and sprinkled with a tiny bit of sugar (less than 1/2 tsp for 1 c. of strawberries to help bring out the juice). I was surprised at how ripe they were for being so early in the season.

For the flowers I picked up two of my favorites, lilac and peony. They're truly a maker of spring.