Saturday, December 20, 2008

Chestnut Roasting

Long, long ago (a couple of weeks) we were invited to a chestnut roasting party. I only had a few hours notice, so I threw together something easy (lentils) and something I had been wanting to make (ginger bread muffins).

The party was a huge success with children and adults alike! Sorry, Christina, for taking so long to post these recipes. The lentil recipe is adapted from the Veganomicon (an excellent book I gave my sister in law for christmas last year, after hastily copying a few recipes out of it), and the ginger bread muffins were from one of my favorite food bloggers. My inability to use an entire stick of butter lead me to sub half the butter with applesauce with no ill effects.

Lentil/Quinoa/Cauliflower Curry
adapted from the Veganomicon

2 onions, chopped
1/2 inch ginger, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1 & 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup red lentils
1 cup quinoa
4 cups water (add more if needed)
1 cauliflower chopped into bites
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
juice of one lime

Saute onion, garlic, and ginger to soften, then add the spices and cook a few minutes more. Add the lentil, quinoa, and water and simmer for 15 minutes. Add cauliflower, cover and cook 30 minutes more (until tender). Add more water as needed. Remove from heat, and stir in the cilantro and lime juice.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dessert, there's always time for you

I'm busy, as usual, ergo the past two weeks have wrought a lot of left-over creations to our household. Luckily for me, I managed to snag a wonderful husband who will eat ANYTHING I make (even stuff I won't touch).

(leftover surprise: four types of rice mixed up and reheated with
leftover vegetables soup, topped with sauteed rainbow chard...yum!)

Also, our microwave went on the fritz a few weeks ago, so recently I have been relearning how to cook some things on the stove top. It's actually kind of a fun experience, and the extra counter space where the behemoth microwave used to sit has been repopulated with other appliances. I wrestled with the idea of buying a new one, or maybe getting a toaster oven instead. I think for now we'll go without, and learn to appreciate the extra minutes it takes to re-heat something on the stove top. I've found the extra time it takes are well spent tidying up the kitchen.

One thing I'm trying not to neglect with my busy school time is the ever-present need for dessert. I recently baked a apple tart for a dinner with friends, complete with 5 types of local apples. Also, I picked up a few local pie pumpkins and tried my hand at pumpkin pie from scratch. I'm not sure if it's worth all the work, but it is nice to avoid the cans and end up with a free savory snack of pumpkin seeds!

(photos of completed pumpkin pie to follow...if the sun ever comes back)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

I'm still here, I promise

I've been busy

(or lazy - however you want to call it), full of excuses for a messy house, and neglecting the things I enjoy the most: friends, family, and food. I've started a new portion of my schoolwork which essentially required me to work a full time job instead of attending classes. I feel like I am learning more these past few months than I did in the previous 7 years of college combined. This is the first time I've had to put in these kind of hours (yes, I've been spoiled by school) and it has given me a healthy respect for the women who work full time and then come home and attempt to cook a healthy meal for their family.

Honestly, I don't know how they do it, I just want to come home and put my feet up at the end of the day. I can see why fast food becomes an easy way to satisfy the hungry children. Luckily for me, I've been able to spend the past few year building up my culinary knowledge. I can generally throw together a meal with foodstuffs found in the pantry when I need to, and I've learned the value of a good crock pot. I can honestly say we have not resorted to fast food (yet), although we do still order the rare pizza now and again (but only from reputable sources).

We are still eating, I promise. Just not documenting it for the world to see. I want to try to continue some sort of blog, even when "school" is filling my days. I think I'm going to attempt some sort of regular post, albeit brief, of what we're eating around here.

So here's a sample of what we had this week...

with a tomato based sauce, topped with fresh mozzarella shallots, black olives,
artichoke hearts,and lots of fresh basil and oregano from the garden.

simmered all day in the crock pot with soy sauce and other flavors,
plus sauteed collard greens and mixed white and brown rice

Singapore Noodles
Inspired by this great blog that I have enjoyed for years. My noodles were thrown
together with leftover odds and ends (noodles and eggs are the lazy grocery
shoppers friend) such as celery, carrots, rib-bits, and green onions.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

For Christmas I got a pasta maker...

I had been wanting a pasta maker for quite some time, and for Christmas I got one.

Since Christmas it's been neatly folded into it's box, and stored on the shelf.

Until NOW..!

My wonderful husband has subtly been reminding me of said unused pasta maker ever since. For whatever reason (fear) I'm been reluctant to actually try to make pasta. People always emphasize the importance of not letting the dough stick to the machine - so I've always been afraid that there's very little chance of preventing this failure. Thus I had already resigned myself to pasta-maker fear and avoidance. (I think laziness might have played a factor in not opening the box too, but...)

The motivation to finally try the pasta maker was given when some good friend's mentioned wanting to borrow the pasta maker to try their hand at it. Embarrassed at never trying it myself, I decided it was now or never.

Much to my surprise, pasta making was easy! Basically two ingredients: flour + eggs, turns into a delicious feast! And, much to my surprise, sticking never became a problem.

For this first try, I used the recommended pasta from the manual, and served it with a little bit of olive oil, cheese, basil, and cherry tomatoes from the garden.

500 g flour
4 eggs

Place the flour in a large bowl (or on a flat surface), make a well and break the eggs into it. Mix this into a big dough ball, and then let it rest 30 minutes covered with a damp towel. Put the pasta through the machine one fist-full at a time, slowly making it thinner until it is your desired thickness (I stopped at 2), and then put it through the attachment to cut to your pasta size.

Note to self: don't be so afraid of trying new things, don't knock it till you've tried it!

Photography provided by my wonderful husband

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Spicy Potatoes

The night I usually see my brother is Tuesday, or as some call it, Wing Night. He supplies the wings, I supply the homemade spicy potatoes.

Baked potato coins were one of the first things I learned to cook, and they've been a wing night staple ever since. This side dish comes together in a snap, and there are an infinite number of versions. The usual method is to sprinkle with cajun seasoning (hence the spicy potato name), but for this batch I used some rosemary and oregano fresh from the garden.

These potatoes end up being a cross between french fries and potato chips. Perfect to sooth the flame of wing night heat.

Spicy Potatoes

1-2 pounds red potatoes
Sea salt for sprinkling
Fresh herbs
1-2 TBS olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Slice potatoes (the thinner, the faster they cook), and place in a large bowl. Coat and mix potatoes with olive oil and herbs. Spread potatoes on cookie sheet one slice deep, and sprinkle with salt.

Bake 20-30 minutes until lightly browned.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: blueberry pie

I didn’t want to have a whole blueberry pie on hand, since we were traveling over the weekend, so I decided to pull out the mini Le Creuset’s and do individual pies!

These turned out pretty good, and just the right size for a little treat. I also used plenty of chopped lemon verbena from one of the plants on my patio.

I spent all last summer searching for verbena, the best I could do was lemon balm (which is now growing out of control). This spring I lucked out and found a great nursery with lots of interesting herbs. Now my patio is full of (among other things) stevia, verbena, 4 different types of basil. So far, everything has been doing well, we’ll see how they fare in late summer heat. My cherry tomato plants in pots are already starting to protest!

This is my part of the weekly Tuesdays With Dorie blog where fellow cooks produce the same recipe every week. Check there to find all the great entries.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Apple Cheddar Scones

This week's recipe was an easy sell, we are a scone- loving household. I've tried making scones a few times, but in my laziness, I've never given them a fair shot, and the results have generally been less than spectacular.

This scone, however, made everybody happy.

My husband has a weekly male bonding time at a local coffee shop, I sent these along and have been receiving rave reviews ever since.

This was one of the first Dorie recipes that I followed nearly to the letter (subbing yogurt for buttermilk), and the results were amazing. Maybe I should just let Dorie do the work in the future, and stop trying to tweak every recipe. There's a reason she has us all blogging her recipes every week!

I would encourage everyone to try out this recipe, it's simple and delicious. Be sure to check out all the other fabulous blogs who take part in the weekly Tuesdays with Dorie posting. This event is hosted by Laurie of Quirky Cupcake, and this week's recipe was chosen by Karina of The Floured Apron.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Cookie Carnival: Snickerdoodles

Choosing this month's cookie carnival recipe was a group effort. We were given three recipes to vote for, and the humble snickerdoodle won out. My guess is, everybody just wanted to have the fun of typing the word Snickerdoodle this month - I know I did.

Snickerdoodles are a great cookies to share. They are easy to make, no special ingredients are required, and everybody likes them! I made a half batch and took them in to work. I changed up the recipe a bit (we're a butter only household), but the end results were still fabulous.

This is my June entry for the Cookie Carnival hosted by Kate of the Clean Plate Club. Check there to find the round up, and join in on the fun!


1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1/2 stick butter (4 TBS)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 TBS cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together. In the electric mixer beat the butter and 1/2 cup sugar until fluffy. Add the egg, and beat to combine. Add the dry ingredients and combine.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Roll small cookie balls in the sugar mix and flatten onto the cookie sheet.

Bake 10 minutes. Rotating half way through.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Camp Cobbler

This past weekend we took a camping trip, and what better dessert could we come up with than cobbler? Fire roasted cobbler was a great experiment. It was easier than I imagined, and tasty too!

All you have to do, is open can of your fruit of choice (I chose blackberry and cherry - which I mixed together in the can), drain the liquid, and rip off the label. Next, open a package of refrigerated biscuits, cut them in small pieces and roll in brown sugar and cinnamon. Top the can with the biscuit dough and butter, then wrap the whole thing in foil and roast it over hot coals for about 30 minutes. (The time goes quick when you're sitting around the campfire, sharing a few beers with friends).

While this wasn't strictly the TWD recipe for this week, I followed along in spirit and adapted the recipe to fit my activities.

Tuesdays With Dorie

Sorry, no post today. I did make cobbler this week, but I think the recipe it so far from the Dorie original that I will wait to post it tomorrow. We were on a camping trip this week, so I adapted the recipe (quite a bit) to be more travel/fire friendly. Tune in tomorrow to see what delights emerged from this can...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Cream Puffs - Part 2

I hope I don't get kicked out of the club for cheating and posting the rest of my puffs today!

This is another late night post, so you'll have to (again) excuse the quality of my writing and photo-taking.

When I saw this week's recipe, I was so excited to make the cream puffs (it was supposed to be a big cream puff ring, but I'll find any excuse to make cute little individual desserts). I've been asked to prepare a few desserts for a friend's upcoming baby shower, and I think this will be one of them. I love the fact that this can be made in advance, in parts, and assembled at the last minute.

I choose to use Dorie's pastry cream recipe, instead of flavored whipped cream. I was really in the mood for something like custard, and I make whipped cream a lot. I made the cream almond flavored, which went very nicely with the chocolate and toasted almonds on top.

These week's recipe really intimidated me first, but I'm so glad I conquered my fears (and lack of time) and powered through. These were delicious, and so much easier than I thought. Thanks Dorie! Be sure to check out all the TWD participators!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Cream Puffs

Better late than never, right?

Sorry folks, I really wanted to try this recipe, but unfortunately I ran out of time to do it justice. I've never made cream puffs before, the pastry has always been too intimidating.

I waited till the last possible moment to try, and then fortified myself with plenty of beer to get my spirits up to the challenge.

The results? Better than I thought it would be! Especially for a late night cooking experience for this early riser.

I didn't make the cream yet, or the chocolate topping. But I'm pretty happy with how puffs turned out (although a puff without cream, is just a ball of flour, really). Hopefully there will be time tomorrow morning to try the cream and make these babies shine.

Sorry for the funny lighting - it's getting late, and I'm getting sleepy. I assure you, they look much better off camera.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Saturday Morning Inspiration

This morning, while leisurely browsing my favorite blogs, I came across this recipe for yogurt muffins from Catlin, at the Engineer Baker. She adapted her recipe from Clotilde's Gateau au Yaourt.

Since I make my own yogurt, I generally have quite a lot on hand (I make about a gallon at a time). Ergo, I am always on the lookout for other uses. This recipe looked perfect for a simple and satisfying Saturday morning breakfast!

This was a great way to use up some yogurt, and some of the leftover jam I made for the Tuesday's With Dorie strawberry tarts this week.

Yogurt Muffins

(adapted from Engineer Baker, and Chocolate and Zucchini)

2 eggs
1 cup yogurt
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla
blueberries, strawberry jam, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and instant coffee

Preheat the oven to 375° F. In a large mixing-bowl, gently combine the yogurt, eggs, honey, vanilla, and oil. In another bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the flour mixture into the yogurt mixture, and blend together -- don't overwork the dough.

Divide into two separate bowls, adding a couple handfuls of blueberries and a few spoonfuls of strawberry jam to one.

To the other bowl and 1-2 teaspoons of cocoa powder, a handful of chocolate chips, a handful of chopped walnuts, and 1 teaspoon of dissolved instant coffee.

Put 1/4 cupfuls of the batter into muffin tins, and bake for 20 minutes.

I baked mine in paper muffin cups, but quite a lot of muffin stuck to the cups. I think in the future I might just butter the pan well, and forget about the cups.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: La Palette's Strawberry Tart

This week's recipe couldn't have been better timed with the strawberry season here. We picked up a great little box of freshly picked local strawberry's from the coop the day I decided to put this together.

The recipe is a pretty easy one to throw together, or do ahead in pieces. Essentially the layers are just:
1) a tart crust
2) strawberry jam
3) fresh strawberries
4) cream

I have a lot of friends who are beginning bakers, and i think this would be a great recipe to start honing your culinary skills. I think a lot of people (myself included) see all the rules and regulations of baking as a huge and intimidating obstacle. The way I started learning to cook (and bake) was by using prepared products, like those rice and pasta side dishes where you just add water and microwave. Slowly I started to integrate things I learned to make from scratch. In the course of a few years, I now make just about everything from scratch. I've learned that not only do things from scratch taste better, they're generally cheaper to prepare, and not that much more difficult (albeit time consuming sometimes).

That said, this is a great recipe for someone who wants to start 'baking' but doesn't know where to start. Essentially you could just purchase a prepared crust, strawberry jam, fresh strawberries, and whipped cream and put this together in under half and hour!

Since I've moved past most pre-made products due to taste and budget reasons, I actually made the crust, jam, and cream for this recipe from scratch!

We made a last run to Costco before our membership ran out this week, and one of the impulse buys was a GIANT crate of strawberries. Unfortunately for me, I didn't notice till I got home that none of them were very fresh or attractive looking. Instead of throwing them out, I picked through the good ones and made a nice pot of fresh jam. I haven't learned to do proper canning yet, but making a fresh jam is pretty easy. My method is to chop up fruit, add some sugar, and lemon juice and cook on the stove top until it reduces down to a thick consistency.

The crust was made from Dorie's sweet tart dough recipe. I used whipped cream for the topping, which I whipped up right before serving using a bit of heavy whipping cream and sugar whipped together.

I opted to make single serving tarts since I just bought a set of 4" tart pans this week. These came out great, except the crust kind of fell apart while trying to eat it. I kept wondering if maybe you could make cookie-sized tarts using shortbread cookie dough as the crust, maybe I'll try that next time.

The recipe calls for a sprinkling of black pepper to top these tarts. Although we didn't do this last night, we might try it tonight when we have this dessert again with friends.

Black pepper (Piper nigrum) was originally used, like most herbs and spices, for both medicinal and culinary purposes. In the last few years several studies have been published which examine the use of black pepper as an insecticide (1, 2). This is especially interesting research as we, as a society, are steadily becoming more concerned about the treatment our food receives before it makes it's way to the table. The use of natural insecticides has benefits both for the health of the consumer, and also the growing environment the surrounding flora and fauna are exposed to. Everything is affected by the choices made by the farming community.

This is my weekly submission to Tuesdays with Dorie, hosted by Laurie of quirky cupcake. Be sure check out all the other creations by my fellow TWD bakers. A big thank you to Marie of A Year in Oak Cottage for picking this weeks recipe.

1. Simas NK, Lima Eda C, Kuster RM, Lage CL, de Oliveira Filho AM. Potential use of Piper nigrum ethanol extract against pyrethroid-resistant Aedes aegypti larvae. Rev Soc Bras Med Trop. 2007 Jul-Aug;40(4):405-7.

2. Park IK, Lee SG, Shin SC, Park JD, Ahn YJ. Larvicidal activity of isobutylamides identified in Piper nigrum fruits against three mosquito species. J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Mar 27;50(7):1866-70.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: French Chocolate Brownies

On our recent trip to Seattle, one of our favorite treats at the Pike Place Market was the Chukar Cherries.

We bought several bags of the cabernet chocolate cherries as souvenirs for our friends and family.

I guess I had that on the brain when I read the recipe for this week. I thought cherries would be a great replacement for the raisins (which seemed a little odd to me, although I'm sure they would have been delicious).

In going with the Chukar theme, I was hoping to switch the rum with Cabernet, but the googling I did on the subject made it sound like maybe that wasn't the best idea (due to the low alcohol content). I stuck with the rum, but the flame wasn't nearly as exciting as I was hoping for. I also made a few other changes to the recipe due to time constraints and my usual meddling to cut out a bit of the fat and sugar, which I marked in red.

Everybody has heard about the potential health benefits of drinking moderate amounts red wine, but have you ever thought about rum? One study examined two groups of elderly individuals with regards to diet, alcohol consumption (in this case corn wine and rum), and serum lipid levels. They found a correlation between alcohol consumption and increased levels of HDL-C (the good cholesterol) and decreased levels of LDL-C (the bad cholesterol) and total cholesterol.1 While more research is needed in this area to make any definitive statements, it is an interesting study.

This is my weekly submission to Tuesdays with Dorie, hosted by Laurie of quirky cupcake. Be sure check out all the other creations by my fellow TWD bakers. A big thank you to Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook for picking this weeks recipe.

French Chocolate Brownies

- makes 16 brownies -
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours.


1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/3 cup raisins, dark or golden (dried cherries)
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (combo semi-sweet and bittersweet)
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces (only 1 stick)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar (only 1/2 cup)

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you're using it.

Put the raisins/cherries in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside until needed.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It's important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you've got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it's better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.

Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you'll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won't be completely incorporated and that's fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raisins along with any liquid remaining in the pan.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes(or only 30 minutes at 350), or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.

Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.

1. Ruixing Y, Shangling P, Hong C, Hanjun Y, Hai W, Yuming C, Jinzhen W, Feng H, Meng L, Muyan L. Diet, alcohol consumption, and serum lipid levels of the middle-aged and elderly in the Guangxi Bai Ku Yao and Han populations. Alcohol. 2008 May;42(3):219-29.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Cookie Carnival: Blueberry Drop Cookies

I actually made these for an end-of- school picnic a few weeks ago, but with all the Seattle traveling I didn't get a chance to post it until today.

These turned out a bit more muffin/scone-esk than I expected but everyone agreed they were delicious. The lemon and blueberry were a really nice combination.

These cookies were a life savor with their short prep time. I had a final in the morning at 7:30, and still had plenty of time to come home and bake these before our lunch party.

I used frozen (and thawed in the fridge) blueberry's. These were a little messy. I think in the future fresh, or leaving them frozen, would be better. I also modified the recipe a bit to cut out some of the butter (also changed the fat from shortening to butter) and sugar (which was probably why the texture was funky), and didn't do the refrigeration step (due to lack of time).

Blueberry's contain many potentially beneficial, and often mentioned, compounds such as antioxidants and anthocyanins. Epidemiological studies have implicated these compounds as potential risk reducers in age-related diseases. One study suggests that dietary supplementation with fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants might be beneficial in reducing the damage the body undergoes from oxidative stress, with is a normal part of aging and can lead to age related diseases such as Alzheimers.1

This is my first submission into the cookie carnival, hosted by The Clean Plate. Check out the site to find the whole round up!



* One-half cup shortening (I used half a stick of butter)
* 1 cup sugar (I used half a cup of sugar)
* 1 egg
* One-fourth cup milk
* One-half teaspoon almond extract
* One and one-half teaspoons grated lemon zest
* 2 cups all purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* One-half teaspoon salt
* 1 cup blueberries, rinsed and picked over


1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening, sugar, egg, milk, almond extract and lemon zest, mixing well after the addition of each ingredient. Slowly add the flour, baking powder and salt. Fold in the blueberries and mix until well blended.

2. Cover and chill for 4 hours (skipped this step). Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls, one and one-half inches apart onto greased cookie sheets. Bake 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before removing them with a spatula.

Makes about 4 dozen.

1. Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B, Casadesus G. Reversing the deleterious effects of aging on neuronal communication and behavior: beneficial properties of fruit polyphenolic compounds. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jan;81(1 Suppl):313S-316S.

Friday, May 30, 2008

See Seattle: Part I - tossed salads and scrambled eggs

Sorry for the long hiatus, but I have a pretty good excuse. I was Seeing Seattle.

Seattle is one of those iconic cities that appears in films and TV shows that seems exciting and elusive to a Midwesterner. Can you imagine a place near the ocean AND mountains, a thriving metropolis with innumerable culinary temptations? We had to check it out!

First and foremost on my list was the Pike Place Market.

Apple cinnamon roll from Piroshky Piroshky, and cheese making at Beecher's Cheese,
and MarketSpice where we picked up some tea and special smoked salt.

We started our trip with a tour of the market, which I would highly recomend. It was a great way to be introduced to the market and Seattle. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and humorous. The tour was kept small (around 15 people) and we used little earpieces to listen to the guide instead of following a shouting person around for an hour.

For dinner our first night we experienced the Crab Pot restaurant, on the pier. As the picture shows, some of the meals on the menu are dumped directly on the table top, and you use a mallet to wrestle your seafood dinner into submission. While the whole thing is a bit silly, it did feel more appropriate then the time I ordered crab legs at McCormick and Schmidt (where I was bibbed and given fancier tools but faced with the same messy challenge - with the added obstacle of trying not to embarrass myself in a fancy restaurant).

In Portland we had Stumptown coffee, and the Voodoo donut (raspberry filled for more authentic breakfast torture).

With all the culinary adventure taking place in my mouth, it left me pondering could Seattle someday be...

Taken from inside the Seattle Public Library.

Check back next time for the non-culinary adventures we experience in the Pacific Northwest.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Madelines

Just a quick post this week (don't kick me for not being verbose - my excuse is the same - school).

In the midst of finals I managed to whip up a batch of the Earl Grey madelines from the 'playing around' recipes.

I've always wanted to make madelines (I'm not sure why) but without the proper pan I was forced to improvise. I made a half batch with mini muffin pans, which turned out good, except only one ended up with the madeline baby bump.

I saw someone mention substituting spoons for the correct pan. I tried this as well, with less than stellar results (probably due to my over-filling with the refrigerated batter).

This is my weekly submission to Tuesdays with Dorie, hosted by Laurie of quirky cupcake. Be sure check out all the other creations by my fellow TWD bakers. A big thank you to Tara of Smells Like Home for picking this weeks recipe, check there to find the whole thing.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Florida Pie

Sorry I've been out of touch this week, with school drawing to a close, many things have gone neglected. But don't fear, I still managed to attempt this week's TWD recipe.

Unfortunately for me, this week's recipe got off to a shaky start. Being pressed for time I didn't start this until Sunday afternoon, but was intending to take it to a Sunday evening mother's day celebration.

Luckily for me, I found an old store-made graham cracker crust. I usually make my own now, but I was happy to skip that step and save a few minutes, especially since Dorie recommends this in the recipe.

After searching two stores for key limes, I gave up and went with 'regular' cheapo (12 for a dollar) limes. I also left out all of the coconut (wasn't sure if the mother's would approve). And, since we're being honest - I didn't do the cream reduction either. I just made it like the key lime pie from good old Betty Crocker (I was worried about running out of time).

But there is one thing I did according to the recipe, the meringue. I've never made it before (kind of like my unreasonable fear of raw meat, meringue seems inherently scary). But this was super simple, and super delicious.

Despite the issues, and substitutions, this pie was gobbled up and got rave reviews from the family. Thank you Dorie, for a successful mother's day dessert!

This is my weekly submission to Tuesdays with Dorie, hosted by Laurie of quirky cupcake. Be sure check out all the other creations by my fellow TWD bakers. A big thank you to Dianne of Diannes Dishes for picking this weeks recipe, check there to find the whole thing.

That's all folks, time to hit the books!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Peanut Butter Torte

I knew this week’s recipe wouldn’t be a big hit in this household. The husbot doesn’t care for peanut butter anything…or Oreos. (sad face)

Rather than eat a whole week’s dessert by myself (admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of those two things either) I decided to see how much ‘creativity’ I could get away with.

First off, I changed the peanut butter to pecan butter (with the power of the food processor, I can do ANYTHING!). Next, the Oreos got replaced with graham crackers. I realized (too late) that using pretzels for the crust would have been a perfect since I’ve been craving a Sheridan’s custard with pretzels all week. Now what I really want to make is some sort of pecan/caramel/ ganache/pretzel/cheesecake concoction!

Even without the pretzels and caramel, this was still pretty darn good.

Although I didn't include the oreos or peanut butter, I did layer on ganache aplenty. Chocolate (due to it's high cocoa content) is a rich source of polyphenols such as catechins and procyanidins. These polyphenols (usually studied from tea) have been shown (in animal models) to inhibit LDL oxidation. However, I did find one study which examined the long term effects of cocoa powder on plasma cholesterol levels. They found that "polyphenolic substances derived from cocoa powder may contribute to an elevation in HDL cholesterol", which in turn may lead to a "suppression of LDL oxidation".1 In other words, it potentially increases the "good cholesterol" which in turn decreases the "bad cholesterol".

Sounds like a good excuse for me to eat some more TWD torte!

This is my weekly submission to Tuesdays with Dorie, hosted by Laurie of quirky cupcake. Check out all the other creations by my fellow TWD bakers. A big thank you to Elizabeth of Ugg Smell Food for picking this weeks recipe.

Baba S, Osakabe N, Kato Y, Natsume M, Yasuda A, Kido T, Fukuda K, Muto Y, Kondo K. Continuous intake of polyphenolic compounds containing cocoa powder reduces LDL oxidative susceptibility and has beneficial effects on plasma HDL-cholesterol concentrations in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Mar;85(3):709-17.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Humpty Dumplings

I love dumplings. There's really no easier way to say it.

I love them steamed, I love them fried, I love them boiled. I've never met a dumpling I could say "no" to. Even the janky ones served at cheap Chinese buffets I scarf down, and then go back for more.

Last night my husband wanted Thai lettuce leaf wraps (blog post to follow). Unsure this would quench our hunger, I decided to pick up some pork, cabbage, and wrappers to whip up some easy dumplings.

My usual method of dumpling making is quite simple. I throw cabbage, pork, and soy sauce into the food processor, I cook the filling, then fill the dumplings and pan fry them in oil. Horrifically un-authentic, you say? Yes, but when you have an unreasonable fear of raw meat (as I have for most of my life) you leave nothing up to chance.

After getting home, I had a forehead smacking moment when I realized that even after going to two grocery stores to get everything required, I had forgotten to pick up the dumpling wrappers.

Not to be deterred, I put on my thinking cap, rolled up my sleeves, and discovered my new favorite website, Epicurious.

Rediscovered is more like it, I guess. Around Christmas this year I made my sister a Tastebook using a few recipes from epicurious, but I had never taken the time to explore the website. Yesterday I found a treasure trove of recipes and, even better, videos! Including this awesome step by step video and recipe guide for making 1) dumpling wrappers 2) dumpling filling 3) directions for filling and cooking the dumplings AND 4) dipping sauce.

I decided it was time to get over my unreasonable fear of cooking dumplings with raw meat. I enlisted the husbot to help with the dumpling filling. We choose to steam half and pan fry half. Both were delicious and almost all were devoured last night.

These might have been the best dumplings ever (definitely the best I've ever made). If you've got an hour to spare, and a hankering for something tasty, try these out!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake

OR, Fluted Cornmeal and Yogurt Cake (with Dates)

After scanning this recipe, and my larder, I realized I would either have to go to the store, or get creative.

I chose the latter.

After scanning the recipe and seeing sugar AND honey, AND a stick of butter (always makes me heart skip a beat), I decided to see just how much recipe alteration I could get away with.

Turns out, quite a lot!

I chose yogurt, not just because I had about a half gallon on hand, but because I make my own, and I knew the addition would be delicious, and nutritious.

Being a probiotic, yogurt has frequently been studied for it's many beneficial effects. I found an example of a published article where researchers studied the beneficial application of probiotics, where "the affects of probiotics at suppressing the growth of bacteria which convert procarcinogens into carcinogens, thereby reducing the amount of carcinogens in the intestine"1 were beneficial in colon and breast cancer.

Near to my own heart, I found a study where investigators examined the use of yogurt to treat bacterial vaginosis (a common cause of bacterial infection) during pregnancy 2. Pregnancy is a time where special precautions must be taken when using any medications, therefore the potential to use yogurt to treat a pregnant patient is very interesting.

On to the Cake!

Here's my (severely altered) recipe for Fluted Cornmeal & Yogurt Date Cake

500 g chopped dates
1 C yellow corn meal
1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 C yogurt (I make whole milk yogurt)
1/4 C water
1/2 C honey
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 large eggs
4 TBS room temperature unsalted butter

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 10 ½-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Toss dates into a small pan of boiling water and steep for a minute, then drain and pat dry. Chop dates into smaller pieces.

Whisk the corn meal, flour, baking powder, and salt together.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the yogurt and water and lemon juice together on low speed until very smooth. With the mixer at medium speed, add the honey, and lemon zest and beat until light. Beat in the melted butter, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until the mixture is smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are fully incorporated. You’ll have a sleek, smooth, pourable batter. Mix in chopped dates. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth out.

Bake for 50 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The cake should be honey brown and pulling away just a little from the sides of the pan. Transfer the cake to a rack and remove the sides of the pan after about 5 minutes. Cool to warm, or cool completely.

This is my weekly submission to Tuesdays with Dorie, hosted by Laurie of quirky cupcake. Check out all the other creations by my fellow TWD bakers. A big thank you to Catlin of Engineer Baker for picking this weeks recipe. Come back next week as we tackle Peanut Butter Torte.

1. Nova E, Wärnberg J, Gómez-Martínez S, Díaz LE, Romeo J, Marcos A. Immunomodulatory effects of probiotics in different stages of life. Br J Nutr. 2007 Oct;98 Suppl 1:S90-5.

2. Neri A, Sabah G, Samra Z. Bacterial vaginosis in pregnancy treated with yoghurt. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 1993 Jan;72(1):17-9.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Chicken, again

One of my favorite styles of cooking is what I call (in my head, and now on this blog) 'leftover cooking'. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I can take a series of leftover-filled tupperware, add some fresh ingredients, and turn it into a completely new dish.

Last night we had friends over for dinner, and since I've been pouring over a basic culinary techniques book this weekend, I decided to roast a chicken.

Roasting a chicken is a fairly simple thing to do which turns fairly cheap ingredients into a fabulous feast. For our feast, I used a local chicken ($10), and a mixture of organic carrots, potatoes, onions, and asparagus (together around $5). I slathered the bird with a mixture of butter, salt, and pepper, and filled it with a few cloves of garlic and fresh rosemary from my herb pot.

To fancy up our humble feast I procured a series of cheeses and made a little cheese tray.

But the real star of the show came today. Using the leftover carcass I made quite a lot of chicken broth, half of which went into today's chicken and dumplings.

Into the pot of broth went last night's leftover roasted chicken and vegetable bits, and a few extra fresh carrots and potatoes that wouldn't fit into the roasting pan. I added some fresh parsley and I got my stew on.

In lieu of leftover bread from last night, I whipped up some simple parsley dumplings from my Joy of Cooking and we feasted again. Since the stew recipe is such that anything can be added I'll leave you with the roast chicken that started this whole episode.

Roasted Chicken

3-3.5 lb chicken
1-2 TBS butter + salt and pepper
5 cloves of garlic + 3 sprigs rosemary
4 Carrots, peeled and chopped
3 Potatoes peeled and chopped
7 asparagus stocks, chopped
2 medium onions, choppped
1 TBS olive oil + salt and pepper

Toss all the veggies in the oil/salt and place in the bottom of a roasting pan. Rub the chicken with the butter and salt mixture and place the garlic and rosemary inside. Place the chicken on top of the veg (no grill required), and roast for 1 hour at 425 F. Cover the breast with a bit of aluminum foil so it doesn't over cook. At the end of the cooking time, flip the chicken and broil the underside for a few minutes till it's nice and brown. Chicken is done when it is around 160 F, and the juices run clear (not pink).

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A carrot a day will keep the (eye) doctor away

Although, when your family practitioner finds out you've been filling up on cake all week (and calling it vegetables) he might have a bone to pick with you.

Among carrots many health virtues is it's amount of Vitamin A. While it can't give you super night vision, it may protect against night vision difficulties, but "it's probable that people attributing poor driving ability to their vision may be eating more carrots in the hope of reversing this decline."* Sorry, not the best bit of research, but I’ve been a bit cramped for time this week.

As you can see, I skimped on the delicious icing. Having only two cake pans, I decided to cut the recipe in half and just use the two pans, and that everything would 'be cool'. This resulted in two very skimpy cakes (ok by me) and not nearly enough of the delicious icing (probably because I insisted on icing the outside too). I decreased the cook time to 30 minutes and the cakes were a little over done.

I was serving this cake to friends who weren't fond of raisins, or walnuts. So, instead of leaving them out all together, (I'm not that nice) I chose to throw in the biggest raisins and walnuts I could find (to aid in their pick-out-ability). The result was actually kind of humorous with the cake being so shrimpy and the mix-ins to gigantic.

I also changed up the frosting a bit. Not wanting to purchase lemon extract, I simply added a bit of lemon zest to the icing to amp up the lemon flavor. Although I like carrot cake this recipe felt a little confused with all the additional flavors (coconut, raisin, walnut, lemon). But that didn’t stop us from finishing it in record time.

One of the best things about this cake are the healthy mix-ins. While cooking (or baking, or studying, know…) I usually snack on whatever I can find. In this case, I had the leftover carrot hunks that didn't get shredded in the food processor, raisins, and walnuts. A tasty AND healthy trio.

This is my weekly submission to Tuesdays with Dorie, hosted by Laurie of quirky cupcake. Check out all the other creations by my fellow TWD bakers. A big thank you to Amanda of slow like honey for picking this weeks recipe. Come back next week as we tackle Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake.

*Smith W, Mitchell P, Lazarus R. Carrots, carotene and seeing in the dark. Aust N Z J Ophthalmol. 1999 Jun-Aug;27(3-4):200-3.