What’s been cooking…

September 18, 2010 § 2 Comments

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Without the use of Alex’s beloved camera (it has an error message that we need to get checked out), it has been harder to think it worthwhile to document our weekly cooking. However, I have been having a lot of fun experimenting with cooking recently, so, pictures or not, you are going to get a record of these experiments:

Picnic sandwich on ciabatta loaf with bologna, salami, pesto, artichoke hearts and havarti cheese
Lemon Crumb Bars

The above two items I made for Alex and my anniversary date to see Planet Earth: live! at the Hollywood Bowl.  The sandwich was made by improvisation, the lemon crumb bar recipe can be found here. It was quite easy, and they were delicious.

We had our friends over for dinner one night, and I had fun with the following recipes:
Goat Cheese Empanadas. For their July issue, Real Simple had a section featuring three-ingredient recipes. These had goat cheese, placed into store bought pie crust, baked and served with store bought salsa. Some things need to be simple. Alex actually made these while I worked on the main course.
Chicken with Olives. Thank you, Pioneer Woman. This was delicious (If I do say so myself). The chicken was quite moist and the olives complimented the flavors nicely. I served it over brown rice.
Blueberry Ice cream. What I love about homemade ice cream is that it is easy to make and loved by many.  Often ice cream recipes are only 3-4 ingredients, mixed together and placed in the ice cream maker which does its thing while you get on to more pressing chores. I also added chocolate chunks to this ice cream — what can I say, I tend to think things only get better when you add chocolate.

Random experiments:
Strawberry and Chocolate Gelato. Supposed to be Cherry-Chocolate Gelato. Fresh & Easy’s jam selections are limited. The flavor of this was not.

Moussaka. Greek dish. Eggplant, ground beef, cinnamon, Parmesan, bechamel sauce. It might sound strange, but it was quite good. Alex and I made a real supper of it with salad, french bread, and some red wine.

No-bake lasagna. Being the first time I made lasagna, I decided to do an entirely nontraditional version that was also less time intensive. This lasagna alternated layers of typical lasagna noodles with cooked zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes and ricotta. I also threw in a few pieces of salami to add some flavor (for me) and “meat” (for my husband). As the title indicates, this lasagna does not need to be “popped in the oven.” Fresh and yummy.

Spinach Quiche with whole wheat crust. This was made on a Saturday night, out of a need to use up extra milk, cheese, eggs and spinach. I had pepper-jack cheese on hand, so there was a nice spicy kick to it. The simple, laid-back, yet strong flavors of a hot quiche really hit the spot, especially since the weather had become cooler that evening.

Pork Chops with Gruyere Polenta and cherry tomatoes. This was dinner for this week, or for at least two of the nights. In recent years I have come to really enjoy polenta, particularly the fine-grain version cooked fresh on the stove top (rather than the pre-cooked, shaped version). I still am not the biggest fan of pork chops, though I continue to try them when they are a part of recipes whose other parts look delicious. I love cherry tomatoes and eat them by the dozen.

Finally, Alex’s parents gave us a hefty supply of apples and plums from their fruit trees in Fresno. Even if each of us ate one apple and one plum per day, we might not have made it through them in a month’s time. Hence, the three recipes listed below:
Plum and Apple Sangria
Peach and Plum Shortbread
Plum-Apple Butter

Next-up…
Preparing for the Supper Club meal we will be hosting on October 23rd. In case you aren’t aware of the fun involved in this group gathering, the Supper Club requires a minimum five-course meal prepared for 8 people and themed around the book chosen by the couple who hosted previously. Alex and I will be experimenting with and choosing dishes centered around Wendell Berry’s Nathan Coulter. Tonight we are going to go out to a southern restaurant in Los Angeles called Tart (for inspiration) and then to Barnes and Noble to peruse the cookbooks. Wish us luck.

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A picnic, indeed.

March 18, 2010 § 3 Comments

Image Credit: kirstinhanssen.wordpress.com/2009/04/

In the past two or so weeks, I have had the following phrase go through my head multiple times :

“I could eat this every day for the rest of my life.”

Anyone who knows me knows that this kind of contentment spoken about food is rare.  I never want to eat the same thing twice in a weeks period.  I get bored quickly, and sometimes would rather be hungry then eat that plain sandwich that stares me in the face day in and day out when I take my lunch out of the fridge at work. (This became true enough that I switched to salads, which more easily offer opportunity for variety and creativity).  When I make dinner I rarely like making the exact same thing twice – always throw in a couple different spices, a different type of pasta, dice up some onion or garlic or pepper, etc.  To me the fun in food is the discovery of some new mixture of flavors and variations of texture that make a dish yummy.

Anyways, the funny thing is that each of these dishes (that I vowed I could eat every day for the rest of my life) were sort-of simple.  They called for no recipes and no extra spices. None of them were fancy dinner dishes, either, all breakfast or lunch. Also, none of them were desserts which is surprising considering my giddiness over all things sugar. They included:

-peanut butter granola with plain yogurt

-oatmeal with raisins and bananas and walnuts

-a Ciabatta grilled sandwich wit prosciutto, pesto, havarti and ham

-an egg with salt and pepper, buttered toast

-Mango

What about you guys? Any foods you think you could eat (or do eat) every day (for the rest of your lives)??

It’s not that hard to cook…

January 28, 2010 § 3 Comments

Alex and I have been going on quite the food adventure lately.  While I’m sorry to say that I have no pictures to prove it (camera malfunction), I do have words to describe these dishes. So I will use them. Bear with me, if you’d care to.

#1:  Bagels

On Saturday, we made bagels.  Basic how-to — Mix yeast, warm milk and a bit of bread flour in a bowl. Let sit. Add more bread flour, egg yolk, oil, sugar, salt. Let sit for longer, preferably somewhere warm. Roll dough into balls and poke out center. Let sit. Poach bagels (place in simmering water for 3 minutes each side). Brush with egg white and whatever flavor you want it to have.

Alex and I made 16 small(er) bagels in 8 flavors:

thyme, dill, oregano, cinnamon/sugar, salt, garlic salt, raisin, & cumin/oregano.  They are delicious. Warm with butter.

#2:  Slow-cooking. Simple instructions and few ingredients –   mix together dijon mustard and orange marmalade and pour it over pork-chops with thyme, salt, pepper, and a little bit of water.   Cook it on low for 6-7 hours. (Because our work days are more like 10 hours, I made this the night before and let it cook while we slept. Discovery: Cooking pork is NOT the first thing you want to smell at 6 in the morning).

#3:  Weeknight dinner by myself. Cooking just for myself allows me a little more freedom, as I don’t have to worry about accidentally feeding Alex things he might not like.  I can…experiment more.  So tonight for dinner I decide to try my luck at poaching an egg.  I had decided this before randomly coming across an article in a food magazine on how to poach an egg.  I knew it was fate.

For all the hype (see “julie & julia), it really wasn’t that hard.  I think the secret is (which my cooking magazine let me in on) to break the egg into a ramekin before you slip it into the boiling water.  Then, as you are placing it in, be careful to let water into the ramekin as the egg slides out.  Makes for a smoother transition, I think.  Once you have it in there, you just have to control the whites so they don’t spread out all over the pan. The only thing I would adjust next time is the length of time I leave it cooking.  I probably left it for about 3 minutes, but the yolk was very runny. Please imagine the rest of the dinner with a firmer set yolk. Please do not interpret that last sentence in any way but that which I intended.

The rest of the dish? Polenta fried in olive oil with tomato sauce, edamame, and cooked cabbage.  Seasoned with – dill and garlic salt (really, I use dill and garlic salt way too often for seasoning. But we like it. and it was good for the polenta/veggie mix). Oh, and just regular salt and pepper for the egg. Can’t be too creative the first time you poach an egg.

It’s health food, people, and it’s good. and economical. and not that hard to cook.

Weekend Getaway (with a focus on food)

January 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

This weekend Alex and I had the chance to get away to Cayucos, a small, sleepy beachtown just up the coast from Pismo and just south of Cambria.

How nice it is to leave town, even for a couple of days.  Alex and I spent Friday afternoon driving, and arrived Friday night with just enough time to peruse the tiny grocery store and pick up a few essentials (essentials, for us, were tortilla chips, corn tortillas, hummus, apples, bacon, milk, eggs, cheese (gouda and cheddar) and butter. Oh, and two pints of icecream. we also brought popcorn and candy. Not the most well-rounded diet. so what.)

Saturday we perused antique shops and went wine-tasting. And then we went out for dinner. And oh my, was it delicious.  And affordable.

Every January, the upscale restaurants in the wine country area participate in something called restaurant month.  In this, the restaurants offer three course meals with wine pairings for only $30.  This is a good deal, people.

My meal consisted of (sorry for the absence of wine pairings, I can’t remember any of them):

1st course: baby greens tossed in a citrus vinaigrette, with a warm goat cheese round, tomatoes, cooked onions, and HALF A BULB OF ROASTED GARLIC (with a miniature fork to remove the cloves).

2nd course: salmon with wasabi mashed potatoes (probably my favorite part of the meal), green beans, and cooked spinach

3rd course: ginger creme brulee. with fresh berries. and orangey spicy jelly stuff.

There you have it. A memorable meal.

Alex and I thoroughly enjoyed a relaxing weekend away. And after a drive back on wet roads, with rainfall and traffic, we are safely home.

Rescue. (with orange-yogurt muffins)

November 25, 2009 § 2 Comments

So it’s amazing what a real photographer can do for food photos.  Two Saturdays ago, I went to my friend Shannon‘s cute apartment in Pasadena.  She photographed our wedding, and did our engagement photos, and recently graduated from Biola with an art degree…and maybe should go into teaching.

Aperture. Shutter Speed. ISO. Good lighting. Voila. I can (sort-of, almost) take pictures now! These are all from her apartment, and the orange muffins just shine! I took all of them! (except, maybe the first one….I can’t remember).

How much better do these look then my oatmeal-hazelnut three-kinds-of-chocolate chip cookies mushed onto a plate and photographed at 9 p.m.?

So hopefully, now, my blog posts can only go uphill. Now if I could only find the energy to bake on Saturdays when the sun is up….

(There is a copy of the recipe for these muffins here.)

Cooking Cookies

October 24, 2009 § 2 Comments

I have discovered at least one thing I really like about working a 7:30-4:30 job.  If I have a spontaneous urge to bake at night, I

1. Have the money to buy the ingredients

2. Likely already have them stocked, since I have my own kitchen

and 3. Have nothing stopping me (like reading Ecclesiology books, studying Greek, writing essays on Modernism, or wedding planning, all of which kept me very busy the last couple of falls).

So, one night I decided to bake these:

PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY THUMBPRINTS (Martha Stewart Living, Oct. 09)

With the help of my kitchen aid mixer, oven mitts,

new baking sheets,

and a chair —

I made these! They were delicious. Perfect with a glass of milk and your favorite knit *rabbit pillow.

*limited availability at Savers.

A Chicago Wedding

October 21, 2009 § 1 Comment

A couple of weeks ago, Alex and I flew out to Chicago for my brother’s wedding.  It was a happy time for sure, as I got to witness my brother and his sweet new wife say their vows and celebrate – yet this trip also had its moments of “excitement”.
the family

the family

Besides the many adventures involved in navigating the city and wedding activities, I had decided to help my brother and his wife by baking their wedding cakes! Since this was a first time deal for me, and across the country, and per the bride’s wishes, I decided to keep it simple — three smaller cakes, no tiers, and 6 dozen cupcakes which local friends will bake and I will only frost.

kitchen

the kitchen

the frosting
the frosting

My family stayed in a condo, and the kitchen was actually quite nice. Once I arrived I quickly set to work to make:

the cakes

the cakes (or some of them)

-two double-layered mocha spice cakes

-one quadruple layered pistachio-hazelnut cake

-3 giant vats of frosting: chocolate ganache, buttercream, and pistachio buttercream.

There was also a third kind of cake present in the cupcakes – an Applesauce cake. (Pretty much all the recipes are Martha Stewart)

Anyways, apart from a few nervous moments (1. the GIANT tub of chocolate ganache, when needed for spreading, was rather…frozen…I think it took about 2 hours of constant stirring in a dangerously constructed double-boiler (thanks Mom and Rachel), at which point it was just melty….great, 2. Shakily trying to frost all 72 cupcakes while waiting til 5 p.m. for lunch because the loyal boys run to the local hot dog joint was upset by a flat tire, a blown tire, an hour long line, and a late-spotted sign that read “cash only”, and 3. Transporting all 72 cupcakes and cakes across city streets in the rain as we rushed to rehearsal dinner, ), all went well, and the cakes seemed to turn out:

See —

cakes

cakes

the lovely bride and groom

the lovely bride and groom

— and now, it is my turn to eat cake. Alex and I are in the process of eating the top tier of our wedding cake (come on, who can wait a year?)

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