Category Archives: Baking

Red Cherry Jam with Kumquats & Bay

You’d think I’d be sick of them by now, but I’m just not. All this week, I’ve been giving cherries away so a lot of other folks have been able to enjoy them, which makes me happy. I still have plans for them, so keep your eyes peeled…

Red Cherry Jam with Kumquats & Bay
+ Barely, shamelessly, adapted from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook’s recipe of the same name.
++ I easily doubled this recipe (and I probably should’ve tripled it). Makes 14 half-pint (8 ounce) jars.
+++ Having a canning kit makes this process much easier, but for this specific recipe and the method I used, a funnel is the most important tool you need.

I grew up with a Mama that could make preserves in her sleep. Fig preserves were my favorite, and even now when I go home I can eat jars of it. I do eat jars of it. There’s the figs and the salsa and the pickled okra and the beans and………….you name it, she’s soaked it in vinegar or bathed it in sugar and put it up. You’d think that skill would just pass on down, like brown eyes or freckles. Not so. For the life of me, making any kind of preserves has always made me a little nervous. Glass jars, boiling water, sharp lids. You know, all of those things can possibly kill you.

Not really. (But maybe.)

But I decided to just get over it, for the sake of the two boxes of cherries staring me in the face. And the husband staring me in the face. And the friends asking me what I was going to do with 48.6 pounds of cherries – and then staring me in the face while I figured out my response. Luckily, my Mama had so graciously gone in halvsies with me on the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, so I had a good place to start. Last year, she’d made the Early Girl Tomato Marmalade (in her sleep probably), and it was amazing. I figured I couldn’t go wrong, and I was right.

Ingredients.
6 pounds of unpitted sweet red cherries (I used a combination of Bing and Champagne, and to be honest, I have no idea if they’re considered “sweet”)
1 1/4 pounds seeded kumquats, sliced crosswise into very thin rounds
4 pounds of cane sugar
7 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 large bay leaves
________________________________________________
Prepare: Sterilizing the jars.
When making preserves, you’ll need to sterilize your jars and lids (unless you plan to eat it right away). There are many ways to do this, including the hot water method, the oven method or even putting them in a sterilizing dishwasher. For my jam, I chose the oven method (directions below). This was the first time I’d used this method, and I really feel like it was much easier than dealing with a huge pot of boiling water.

  1. First, be sure to clean your jars and lids thoroughly.
  2. Place the clean jars (upright) and lids on a baking sheet in a preheated 250 degree oven.
  3. Keep the jars and lids in the oven until you’re ready to use them, but at a minimum, they must sterilize for 30 minutes.
  4. See below for filling and sealing the jars.

Directions.

  1. Place a saucer with 5 metal teaspoons in a flat place in your freezer.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cherries, kumquat rounds, sugar and lemon juice, stirring well to combine. Let the mixture macerate at room temperature for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Note – I left the mixture to sit overnight without any issues.
  3. After you’ve completed step 2, transfer the mixture to a large preserving pan/pot (I used a large Le Crueset heavy-bottomed pot).
  4. Add the bay leaves.
  5. Place the pot over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula. Once the mixture begins foaming, gradually raise the heat to high, stirring often.
  6. Boil vigorously, gently scraping the bottom of the pot to be sure the jam isn’t sticking. If it does begin to stick, lower the heat slightly, being sure the jam remains at a rapid boil.
  7. Continue to cook, stirring and scraping frequently, until the mixture acquires a darker, shinier look (about 15-20 minutes).
  8. Don’t freak out. One thing the Blue Chair Jam cookbook did not stress enough was that this jam produces a pink foam. And by pink foam, I mean it looks like a 4 year old girl dumped her bubble bath in the pot. Don’t freak out. Take a large metal spoon and scoop it out. You’ll need to do this throughout the cooking process.
  9. Once the mixture acquires the darker, shinier look, remove the jam from the heat and let it rest for 2 minutes.
  10. Return the jam back to the high heat and cook for 2 more minutes.
  11. Test it for doneness. This is the fun part! To test the jam, transfer a half-spoonful of jam from your pot to one of the teaspoons you placed in your freezer. Place the spoon back in the freezer (make sure it’s laying flat) and hang tight for 4 minutes. After 4 minutes, carefully remove the spoon and feel the bottom. If it’s still warm, return it to the freezer for another half minute or so. Once it’s no longer warm on the bottom, tilt the spoon vertically to see how quickly the jam runs; if it’s runs slowly or not at all, and if it’s a gloppy consistency, you’ve got a finished jam on your hands. If it runs very quickly or appears watery, cook it for another 3-4 minutes and retest as needed.
  12. When the jam is ready, stir one last time to make sure the mix is evenly distributed.

Directions: Filling your jars and sealing.

  1. Remove your jars and lids from the oven.
  2. Before placing the jam in the jars, test your jars to make sure they’re not too hot. If they are, they’ll continue cooking – or even burn! – your jam. Just take a small spoonful of jam and drop it into one of your jars. If it bubbles or boils, wait a few minutes before filling.
  3. If you have one, use a funnel to fill your jars, leaving ¼” at the top of the jars.
  4. Wipe the rims with a clean, damp cloth.
  5. Put the lids on, being careful to screw them on just until they’re snug.
  6. Replace the jars on the baking sheet and place them back in the oven for 15 minutes.
  7. Remove the jars from the oven and place them 1” apart on a cooling rack to set overnight at room temperature. It’s important not to move the jars during this time, to make sure they’re able to set evenly.
  8. As they cool and seal, you’ll hear a little pop. Before you store your jam, or give it away, check all of your jars to make sure they’re sealed. If it’s sealed, the lid should curve in very slightly in the middle. If any jars have not sealed, put them in the refrigerator.

Try not to eat it all in one sitting. It’s amazing. Tangy and sweet and just plain yummy. Enjoy!

Leave a comment

Filed under Appetizers, Baking, Cooking, Dessert, Ideas, Kitchen, Recipes

Chocolate Cakes with Port Cherries + Dried Orange Peel and Sea Salt.

As promised, the first of the four cherry recipes from my 48.6 Pound Cherry Master Plan: Chocolate Cakes with Port Cherries + Dried Orange Peel and Sea Salt. It’s really good to know that after making this recipe, I’m down a whole 12 OUNCES in cherries. I mean, sigh. of. relief VOMIT.

Chocolate Cakes with Port Cherries + Dried Orange Peel and Sea Salt
+
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Chocolate-Prune Cake.
++ I doubled this recipe without a problem. Doubled, makes about 2 1/2 dozen individual cakes/muffins (this is how the recipe is listed below).

320 g / 12 ounces pitted cherries, diced in small pieces
160 ml / 123 c port
2 TB sugar
1 TB dried orange peel
___________________________________________
680 g / 24 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used half bittersweet, half semisweet)
340 g / 12 ounces (24 TB) unsalted butter, cubed
12 large eggs, separated
2 large pinches of salt
6 tablespoons sugar
___________________________________________
Flour or cocoa for dusting
___________________________________________
1 TB dried orange peel
1 TB sea salt

Directions

1. Simmer the cherries, sugar and orange peel with the port in a small saucepan for a few minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand until cool.

2. Heat the oven to 325ºF (165ºC).

3. In a large bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the cherries and any liquid left in the pan.

5. Stir the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture.

6. In a separate bowl, or using a stand mixer, whip the egg whites with the salt until they begin to hold soft peaks. Continue whipping, adding the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until the whites hold their shape when you lift the whip.

7. Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture thoroughly, then fold in the remaining egg whites just until no streaks of whites are visible. Don’t overfold.

8. For the cakes, I used a large muffin pan and cut 5” squares of parchment paper for the liners. I just like the way this looks, like they come from a real live bakery. (You can use a regular muffin tin and regular liners, and I’m sure it’ll work just fine.) Using the bottom of a glass, I pushed the parchment paper into the muffin tin.

9. Spray the paper with cooking spray and dust lightly with cocoa or flour.

10. I used a 2 ounce ice cream scoop to pour the batter into the cups. This helps to maintain consistency for even cooking.

11. Mix the salt and dried orange peel together. Sprinkle as little or as much as you’d like on top of each cake.

12. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cakes feel set close to the edges of the pan but the center is still rather soft to the touch and moist-looking. Let cool.

Storage
These cakes can be made up to three days in advance, and stored at room temperature. They can also be frozen for up to two months.

 Enjoy!

Leave a comment

Filed under Baking, Cake, Chocolate, Cooking, Cupcakes, Kitchen, Recipes

48.6 Pounds of Cherries.

My eyes were open at 5:26 this morning, and even though I’ve never taken drugs, I somehow had the sensation of…this is what it must feel like to be on coke. I could not stop thinking about cherries. To be exact, the 48.6 pounds of cherries we picked yesterday at Maggiore Cherry Ranch and that were currently sitting in two very large boxes in my refrigerator.  

We didn’t mean for it to happen. The cherry picking, yes. The total disregard for reality, no.

It all started with me reading a sign that said: Approximately 2-3 pounds cherries per bucket, then telling Brandon about the weight per bucket, and then both of us grabbing one and going off on our merry way to fill said buckets with beautiful red cherries. And they were beautiful. So beautiful, I was tempted to fill a third bucket. I mean, 2-3 pounds? It would be almost crazy not to have a third bucket. Right? Right.  Fast forward 30 minutes, B is telling me okay, okay, we’re done, get off the ladder. That was followed by:

I really think this is more than 2 to 3 pounds.

What? Maybe 5?

Maybe.

Get to the weighing station.

No, it isn’t 10 pounds total. IT’S NOT 10 POUNDS. It’s 48.6 pounds *hysterical laughter*, because the dummy sign reader left off a really important number: zero – 20-23 pounds. $2.50 a pound. You do the math. They don’t take debit or credit cards, but by some stroke of luck because I’d procrastinated on something else I was supposed to do two weeks ago, I had our checkbook.

So anyway. Cherries were on my mind at 5:26 this morning. B asked what he could do to help. I said: Don’t ask me what I’m going to do with nearly 50 pounds of cherries. Don’t. Ask.

So here I am, it’s the end of the day, and I’ve got a master plan that consists of:
Individual Chocolate Cakes with Cherries Soaked in Port, Dried Orange Rind and Sea Salt (already done)
Greek Yogurt Ice Cream with Cherries and Crushed Chocolate Wafers
Canned Cherries in Heavy Honey Syrup
Red Cherry Jam with Kumquats and Bay (on it’s way!)

That’s at least 20 pounds. So what if I haven’t figured out the other 28.6? I’m making headway.

Until I can get those recipes to you, I wanted to leave you with something special – a recipe from my Baton Rouge Junior Service League Cookbook, circa 1945. When I first bought the cookbook, I found a letter that had been returned to sender. The writer, Helen, included her Date Balls recipe to another Helen.

Helen’s Date Ball
+Written exactly as it is shown in Helen’s handwriting.

Those date balls, the students and children used to like. I just throw in buttered pan:
1 cup coconut
1 cup dates (pitted)
1 cup pecans
½ cup sugar
2 egg whites or 1 egg
Stir – bake in slow oven until coconut is browned. Take out mixture and rolls in balls, roll in granulated sugar. (A slow oven was defined in the cookbook – thankfully – as 250-325 degrees.)

Enjoy!

 

 

9 Comments

Filed under Baking, Cooking, Kitchen, Recipes

Just Roll With It Cookies.

Whenever I go home, it never fails to amaze me how my mother still has all of her fingers. Every one. It would amaze you, too, if you ever watched her cut an onion. In her hand.

I think she’s showing off. Or. She’s waiting for me to one-up her and cut my own fingers off in some horrible kitchen accident so that I’m forced to extend my home stay under her care. Oh mama, don’t think I don’t know the plan. I’ve got my eye on you.

The thing I realized today, though, is that that’s what she’s comfortable with. Hands-on -(pun intended)-onion-cutting (she cuts apples like that, too). Cutting boards are for chumps. What I’m comfortable with is my set of gourmet knives, sharp as…well, knives, and a solid cutting board. This level of comfort can make all the difference between trying something new, and wishing you could try something new. I read recipes sometimes and feel like what the author/baker/cook is recommending is so beyond my scope and ability (you want me to stick my hand where?) – I just close the book/browser and move on. But today, I found someone saying this:

It’s not about technique; it’s about getting it done.

Now, don’t go all – I disagree with you – on me.  This one liner is for me, to help me see things differently. To help me try new things without talking myself out of it before I even begin. What I’m comfortable with may not exactly be what’s called for, but I can probably figure it out. I don’t have all the right kitchen gadgets or fancy tools. I don’t have all the exact ingredients. I don’t have the stomach to crack that chicken’s spine (I mean, that makes me want to throw up just typing it). But I can figure it out. It’s not about the technique; it’s about getting it done in a way that is comfortable – and feels right – for me.

Today was still a workday for me, and still busy, but I worked from home and the kitchen was all……….wassup? to me. Yes, just like that. So I gave in and made these…

Just Roll With It Cookies
+ Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Roasted Chestnut Cookies
++Makes about 4 dozen cookies (40 to be exact)

So here’s the deal. I was planning on making the Roasted Chestnut Cookies just as they were. I’d made something with chestnuts over the holidays, and had some left over – but I just don’t like the way they taste. I figured if I buried them in some cookie dough, it would be a win-win. But then – did you know chestnuts actually have a shelf life? I thought they were like raisins, which have a shelf life of Forever. But no. I opened the bag of chestnuts, took one look, and thought: The butter is already at room temperature. Then: Shit. Then: Ugh. So I moved to Plan B.

Plan B was…Well lord, just roll with it.

You know what makes me happy? When I finish the last tidbit of something that’s been opened and forgotten about. This recipe was just the thing for that. I was finally able to get through the last of a few dates, four dried apricots, golden raisins, two prunes, a handful of crystallized ginger, some pecans and pinenuts. The trick to the cookies was finding something that would blend the same way that roasted chestnuts would, and I think this was a good compromise.  The final verdict: something pretty tasty.

1 cup of…dates, raisins, crystallized ginger, prunes, apricots
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup…whatever nuts you’ve got on hand. I used a mix of pinenuts and pecans
________________________________________________________
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract – Oops! Forgot this.
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups all purpose flour
________________________________________________________
1 ½ c powdered sugar
Ground cinnamon

Prep
Line two cookies sheets with parchment paper.

Directions

  1. Dump your date mixture in the bowl of a food processor. Process it until it starts to form a thick paste, about 45 seconds. Add your butter and 1 cup of nuts. Process for 30 seconds, wipe down the sides of your bowl with a spatula, and process for another 30 seconds.
  2. Sift: ½ c of powdered sugar, vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and flour. Add to the date/butter mixture and pulse until an even dough is formed. I counted 45 quick pulses.
  3. Divide dough and wrap each half in plastic, chilling for one hour or until firm.
  4. Once chilled, heat the oven to 350°F.
  5. Whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and a few pinches of cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
  6. Working with one half of the chilled dough at a time, roll it into 2 teaspoon-sized balls (I used my scale and measured out 20g/.7 ounces) in the palm of your hand. Arrange on parchment-lined baking sheet but no need to leave more than 1/2 inch between the cookies; they won’t spread.
  7. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, 15 minutes. Cool cookies 10 minutes on baking sheet. Gently toss warm cookies in cinnamon-sugar mix to coat completely.
  8. Transfer coated cookies to rack and cool completely.
  9. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough.

Dough can be chilled in the fridge for a day or two, longer in the freezer. Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a week.

8 Comments

Filed under Baking, Cookies, Cooking, Kitchen, Recipes

Raspberry Coconut Macaroons.

Three days in a row in my kitchen has to be some sort of record. (Correction: Three days in a row cooking in my kitchen has to be some sort of record.) This record setting might come as a shock to some folks, because I think there’s an idea out there that I cook all the time. Like I’m just baking and cooking and sewing over here at the homestead like Ma Ingalls in the flesh. Not so. I love being in the kitchen, but I also love running, reading, walks with my husband, drinking coffee, shopping, watching Friday Night Lights……in general, things that don’t require cleaning up. All that said, at the end of the day, there is an irresistable urge to create something that people will enjoy.

And so day three came, and I was over at Smitten Kitchen…salivating. I mean, good lord, I just wanted to head for the grocery store and make everything I saw. Things like this (WTF), this (INSANE) and this (CRAZY TOWN). I knew I had to make a choice, and I had to make it fast, so I kept it *simple* and landed on the Raspberry Coconut Macaroons. I won’t include the recipe below just to force you over to SK, where you can find your own destiny……..I mean, recipe.

Just so you know, the macaroons were so easy to make, I might just give it another round and try them with cherries. Or strawberries. Bananas? Just maybe.

Enjoy.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Baking, Cookies, Cooking, Kitchen, Recipes

The master of my domesticity.

Here’s the sad truth about my blog: sometimes, I forget it exists. And then some nice friend of mine, who has a better memory than me, will say – hey, when are you going to update your blog? And then I’m all……ohhhhhhh yeahhhhh, the blog. And then I feel kind of like a dummy, because quite frankly, I really enjoy writing and putting my life and humor out there in the universe. What idiot forgets there is something like that in their life?

Me. This idiot.

So anyway. Thank Jesus for a three day weekend and a husband that is all too happy to wash and fold clothes if he can watch episode after uninterrupted episode of whatever is currently available on Netflix. That said, I spent the first time in ages in my kitchen. Like, the entire day. Woah. At the end of the day, I felt like an Awesome Wife. Also, a total Bad Ass. And, like I’d Burned A Lot of Calories Just Standing Around and Stirring Things.

And now, to share my goodies with you…

What magic came out of the kitchen? For starters, I was inspired by a good friend to make a weekly menu. Yes, duh, I know. Saves time and money and people have been doing it for, like, ever. I get it. For my first week, on my first day, here’s what I whipped up:

  • Cilantro Buttermilk Skirt Steak (Everyday Food, June 2012)
  • Carrot Mash with Sage and Garlic (my concoction, which I will eventually give to you…)
  • Early Summer Vegetable Love (adapted, from the Gluten Free Girl blog) with Lemon-Dill Yogurt Sauce (also another homemade concoction and pictured in the Ball jar above)
  • And some crazy good cookies, which…

The main thing that I wanted to make was this batch of cookies. They’d been rolling around in my brain for months. I’d made the Momofuku Compost Cookies a few months back, and good god, they were kind of exhausting. But. The idea of making a cookie that had different textures really intrigued me, so I’d been thinking and thinking and thinking and talking to B. about my idea for a new cookie. There are a couple of recipes I’d like to try, but for the first go-round, it was Lemon Cookies with Freeze-Dried Blueberries made with Lemon Cookie Crust.

 Lemon Cookies with Freeze-Dried Blueberries
+ Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook: Blueberry and Cream Cookies recipe
++ Makes about 18 cookies

225 g / 16 TB butter, at room temperature
150 g / ¾ c granulated sugar
150 g / 2/3 c tightly packed light brown sugar
*100 g / ¼ c glucose
____________________________________________________
2 eggs
105 g / 1/3 c lemon curd
Lemon peel from one small lemon
_____________________________________________________
320 g / 2 c flour
2 g / ½ tsp baking powder
1.5 g / ¼ tsp baking soda
6 g / 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
_____________________________________________________
½ of the total recipe of Lemon Cookie Crust (recipe below)
**100 g / ¾ c freeze dried blueberries
_____________________________________________________
105 g / 1/3 c lemon curd
***Granulated honey (optional)

* Unless you’re some kind of kitchen guru, you probably don’t have glucose laying around. If needed, substitute 35 g / 2 TB light corn syrup.
** Freeze dried blueberries can be found at Amazon.com or Trader Joe’s.  You can use more or less in the recipe, and you can also try other freeze dried fruit (strawberries, raspberries).
*** Available on Amazon or at Williams Sonoma.

Directions

  1. Before you get started, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Combine the butters, sugars and glucose in the medium bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream on medium high for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs, and beat for 7-8 minutes. Eggs should be added one at a time.
  4. Reduce the speed to low and add the lemon curd and lemon peel. Mix until just incorporated.
  5. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute. Don’t over-mix the dough by walking away from the mixer during this step! Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  6. Back on low speed, add the Lemon Cookie Crust and mix until it’s incorporated, no more than 30 seconds. Add the freeze-dried blueberries, mixing for 30 seconds. Be careful not to mix the berries for   too long – otherwise, they’ll end up a powdered mess in your dough.
  7. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the final 1/3 c lemon curd and fold in gently using a spatula. Don’t mix the curd all the way into the dough – it should be like a “swirl” of curd throughout the dough.
  8. Using a 2 ¾ ounce ice cream scoop (or a 1/3 c measure), portion out the dough onto the parchment lined cookie sheet.
  9. Sprinkle the cookies with the granulated honey. Use as little or as much as you’d like. Pat the tops of the cookie domes flat.
  10. Wrap the cookie sheet in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 1 week. Do not bake your cookies from room temperature.
  11. Heat the oven to 350.
  12. Arrange the chilled dough a minimum of 4” apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet (or, use a Silpat). Bake for 18 minutes, turning once at the midway point. The cookies will puff, crackle and spread. After 18 minutes, they should be very faintly browned on the edges and still bright yellow in the center. I recommend baking one test cookie to make sure the heat and timing are right for your oven.
  13. Cool the cookies completely on the cookie sheet before transferring. At room temperature, the cookies will keep fresh for 5 days; in the freezer, they’ll keep for 1 month.

Lemon Cookie Crust
+ Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook: Graham Crust recipe
++ Doubled this recipe without a problem

190 g / 1 ½ c lemon cookies (used Trader Joe’s Meyer Lemon Wafer Cookies), crushed
20 g / ¼ c milk powder
25 g / 2 TB sugar
3 g / ¾ tsp kosher salt
*5 g granulated honey
*2.5 g dried Meyer lemon peel (you can also use fresh lemon peel)
_____________________________________________________
55 g / 4 TB melted butter
55 g / ¼ c heavy cream

* Available on Amazon or at Williams Sonoma.

 Directions

1. Toss the lemon cookie crumbs, milk powder, sugar, salt, honey and lemon peel with your hands in a medium bowl to even distribute your dry ingredients.
2. Whisk the butter and heavy cream together. Add to the dry ingredients; use a fork to incorporate the wet mixture into the dry. The mixture should be small clusters and should hold its shape if squeezed tightly in the palm of your hand. If it doesn’t hold together, melt an additional 14 to 25 g (1-1 ½ TB) butter and mix it in.
3. Enjoy! Immediately use it in your recipe, or store in an airtight container. The crust will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature or  for 1 month in the fridge or freezer.

Additional uses for the Lemon Cookie Crust
For one, just EAT IT. Or…
Crust for pies, cheesecake
Topping for yogurt or ice cream
Use in the bottom of cupcakes

Let me know if you decide to give these a go. Up next? If I can make it happen, a cookie version of my Aunt Cle’s famous banana pudding.

1 Comment

Filed under Baking, Fun Times., Ideas, Recipes

Hello darlin’, it’s been a long time.

Hello you.

My friend, Dolores, reminded me today that I have this thing, this blog, out there in the world that people are actually interested in (people = my Mom, Dolores, possibly one other person). And I have failed miserably to keep it even minimally updated. I won’t apologize, because it would just be followed by work/life/laziness excuses, which are all so tired and never sound as good when you say them out loud – or type them – as they do in your head. That said, here are my updates…

Since August.

2011.

  • The promotion I got last Spring was followed up with some pretty drastic changes at work. I always feel like, when people talk about work, no one really understands what you’re saying. No one really understands exactly what you do everyday, or what issues you deal with. But at a fundamental level, there’s a language we all understand, so I’ll keep it simple: I’m tired, I work long hours and don’t feel like I ever get ahead, but I’m a perfectionist and don’t know how to do my job any other way. 
  • B and I had our official 10th anniversary in September. Yay for decade 1! Yay for decade 2!
  • Roadtrip Number Two commenced at the beginning of October – a full 10 days driving through the Northeast and into Canada. It was wonderful. Special highlights include: discovering that Bar Harbor can be the Charming Old People Mecca of New England in October, folks really love their Dunkin’ Donuts around those parts (I, for one, do not run on Dunkin’), my husband still cannot navigate his way out of a paper bag without the help of one Trusty Navigator (and I don’t mean Tom Tom) (and I do say that with love), the Ben and Jerry’s tour isn’t that fantastic and most people just go for the free ice cream sampling, which is just plain silly, because they sell the full mother-lode at the Conoco down the street (but still go for the graveyard, giftshop and phot-ops), yes, Stowe is really that pretty, and last but not least, I’m pretty sure I could live in the Canadian rest stops between Montreal and Toronto without ever leaving. As long as I have money to spend at Tim Horton’s for fake cappuccinos.
  • November brought about a sudden, and slightly weird, fixation on making the best cheese straws ever. I can say – goal accomplished. 
  • Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s were all great, meeting new friends, spending time with old friends, and having my parent’s visit.
  • Which brings us to the saddest month of all: January. Ugh. January. My birthday month, but even still, I find it to be the least attractive month of all. It’s like we’re all high on the holiday spirit and then…January. The rehab month of sorts, where we’re all forced back to our regular lives and habits without the fun of parties, special drinks and copious amounts of Bon-Appetit-level food. *sigh*
  • Somewhere in there, I made the amazing and exciting discovery that marshmallows come in jumbo size now. It may not sound like news, but it is. Embrace it.
  • And then there’s my birthday. This year marked my 33rd anniversaire, and boy, it could not have been shittier. From watching my beloved Saints lose to the Niners (yes, I was there; yes, I had a distinct urge to throw a full-blown hissy fit and punch everyone in the face), to being sick for four days after. I will say that B, who is normally the nice, pleasant, calm one of this duo, matched my anger over the loss quite nicely. It was the best birthday gift, if one can say that.
  • Last but not least, I started a weaving class. I’m confident I’ll finish my project; I’m confident it will not be wearable, but that it might make a nice dusting rag. The thing I like about weaving is that it’s a process, and sometimes a puzzle. It’s good for me, so I’m okay with the rag application.

So that’s it. To end this on a high note, I’m going to give you a recipe I’ve been dying to make (with those jumbo sized marshmallows – I bet you’re listening now): S’Mores Bars.

2 Comments

Filed under Baking, Fun Times., Recipes, Travel

Food bites.

 

I’m aware that I was supposed to write up my Roadtrip Day 2 blog post, like, three weeks ago. I’m also aware that I haven’t done that. What I’m not aware of? Where the hell the time went (scratches head). Three weeks just gone. Like that. Poof. I’ve no idea what happened. I wish I could blame the weather – but………I can’t. I live in the Bay Area, where it is shamelessly sunny. I also wish I could blame work – but………….I can’t. I’ve been busy, but not that busy. So I’ve got no reasonable explanation for not doing what I said I would. None. 

However, I’m pretty sure none of you were waiting with bated breath. 

So. In the meantime, while I figure out what I’ve been doing, exactly, for the last three weeks, here are some wonderful recipes I’ve found that I will be trying very soon (and if you happen to try them first, let me know how they turned out!):

  • Cherry Pie from Dinner: A Love Story
  • Pull Apart Lemon Coffee Cake by Clockwork Lemon. I saw this and my mouth watered. No lie.
  • Roasted Red Onions with Pomegranate, Orange and Parsley Gremolata by The Bitten Word. Note here, this blog is incredibly fun and has a ton of inspiring recipes and food stories. It’s one of my newfound favorites. As if I needed another newfound favorite.
  • Potato Gratin with Rosemary Crust (also) by The Bitten Word. This one I liked immediately, because it wasn’t asking me to roll out a pie crust. Ugh. As if I have time for that at the end of the day. But you tell me I can use a refrigerated pie crust, and I’m yours.
  • Bacon Caramels by Not Without Salt. Yes, you heard correctly my friend. The caramels actually look pretty gross – like leftover grease that’s hardened – but I say give the bacon a chance.
  • Brown Butter, Bacon and Chocolate Chip Cookies by Mouth from the South. First, I love the name of this blog, because my stepdad is always saying this at get-togethers to whichever kid is being overly rambunctious and talking too much. Second, bacon and chocolate!

1 Comment

Filed under Baking, Ideas, Recipes

Orange juice and olive oil cake with pine nuts.

Last night, we were lucky enough to spend New Year’s Eve with our good buddies, Ed and Natalie. This has been our third year in a row partying it up – and by partying it up, I mean sparklers and a nice spiral ham. We tried watching Dick Clark on television, but it was awfully heartbreaking, so Natalie ended up showing me her new Kindle instead. Yes, it was a totally wild night, and we’re just lucky things didn’t spiral out of control.

So Natalie asked me to bring dessert, which you know I’m more than happy to oblige – and to make it better, I used a recipe from the cookbook she gave me for Christmas. A beautiful book, it’s called Apples for Jam. Every recipe has a picture to go along with it, and throughout the book are scattered little drawings that her children have done and stories of how the recipes came to be. Anyway, this is the first recipe I’ve made, and it was very straightforward and didn’t have a lot of ingredients.

Orange juice and olive oil cake with pine nuts

Makes 2 8 1/2″ round cakes.

What you need:

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. superfine sugar*
  • 1/4 c.firmlypacked light brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. olive oil
  • 3 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 heaping tsp. baking powder
  • finely grated rind of 1 orange**
  • 1 c.freshly squeezed orange juice (juice of about 4 oranges)***
  • 1/2 c. pine nuts ****

* Don’t have superfine sugar on hand?  No worries. It’s not like we don’t already have enough going on that we need to remember to pick up superfine sugar on top of everytthing else. Just take your regular granulated sugar, throw it in a food processor for 15 seconds, and voila – it’s superfine!

** If you don’t have a zester, just use a smalll cheese grater.

*** I DID NOT use fresh orange juice. For me, that would just take this recipe to a place called Extra Work that  I don’t want to be. I used regular, pulp-free orange juice.

**** Pine nuts. I’m not sure if you’ve priced pine nuts lately, but when I saw them, I seriously considered scrapping this recipe altogether. But. I decided to just pay it up. However, after tasting the cake, if you want to use another mild nut I think it would be just fine.

What you need to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush 2 81/2″ springform pans with olive oil and dust with flour.
  2. Whip the egg whites in a large bowl until they are firm and snowy white. Set aside.
  3. Whip the yolks with the vanilla until they bulk up and become foamy.
  4. Whisk the superfine and brown sugars into the yolks; then add the olive oil, bit by bit, mixing well after each addition.
  5. Add the flour, baking powder, rind and orange juice. Beat until you have a smooth batter.
  6. Gently fold in the egg whites.
  7. Scrape the batter out, evenly divided between the two pans. Sprinkle each cake with pine nuts (I also added a bit more orange rind here).
  8. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the tops are golden and crusty and a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean.
  9. This will keep well in sealed container for 4-5 days.

Okay, let me just tell you right now that my initial run on this cake was a wee bit of a baking disaster. I missed step number 2, because it didn’t actually say to set aside the egg whites (and precisely why I added that direction here). And…..because I didn’t read the directions carefully enough. So. I ended up doing all of the steps until I got to the end and saw step number 6 – at which point I let out a slew of – ahem – commentary that could only be described as “Mad Sailor”. I decided I would just throw in the egg yolks and hope for the best (this is why I’m not showing you the finished cake – the picture below is right before it hit the oven). The cake was fine, albeit very dense and dry – but you could tell it had a lot of potential for goodness. I’ll be making it again – and next time? It’ll be right.

    3 Comments

    Filed under Baking, Recipes

    And life is but…ter cream.

    I have to admit I get a lot of joy out of cooking and baking for other people. Although this holiday season hasn’t felt as busy as it has in the past – no big Christmas dinner to plan or party to host  – I was still able to find myself in the kitchen, trying out new things. A few of the new recipes I’ll be adding to my permanent collection are below. Just click on the pictures for the link to the recipe.

    As for Christmas, it was nice and quiet – and our sushi was just fine, thank you. The best part? Someone else cleaned up.

    Two quick notes about these recipes…
     
    The Cream Puffs recipe – it wasn’t available online (dang you, Martha), so I had to route you to another blog that had the recipe laid out. This particular recipe has you making a fancy raspberry cream – scratch that, it’s made with cream cheese and Cool Whip for god’s sake, so I shouldn’t pretend that it’s that special. I will say that you can’t go wrong with those two ingredients, though, so if you want to make yourself a raspberry cream, go right on ahead and whip away. For me, I didn’t make this particular recipe – I decided on two other versions:
    • Cream puffs with buttercream on the inside and bittersweet melted chocolate on the outside
    • Cream puffs with whipped meringue and lemon curd on the inside and powdered sugar on the outside (Try not to eat the lemon curd before you actually use it. In fact, I suggest not opening the jar until the very last minute before you have to add it to the meringue. I’m just saying, there are some things that are really good on a spoon, and lemon curd is one of them.)

    After getting a call from my friend, Natalie, at 9:00 in the morning (hello, Natalie!) asking me why the *bleep* didn’t her cream puffs look like mine, I realize that I should give you the same reassuring news I gave her: these are cream puffs, and no matter what size they are, if they’re all the same size or not, people will eat them. It also doesn’t hurt if you have a mechanical pastry bag, which I use all the time. It really helps give you control over what you’re doing. The one from William’s Sonoma is easy to use, and it comes with everything you need to be fancy when the occasion calls for it.

    As for the Chocolate Stout Bundt Cake, it was really easy to make. To kind of tone down the chocolate-yness, I added slivered almonds and a bit of sea salt. B. said it was even better the next day, and you can take that to the bank, because his second job is the Official House Cake Taster.

    Everyday Food: Cream Puffs

    Everyday Food: Cream Puffs

    Real Simple Magazine: Chocolate Stout Bundt Cake

    Real Simple Magazine: Chocolate Stout Bundt Cake

    Leave a comment

    Filed under Baking, Holidays, Recipes, Uncategorized