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.

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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