Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wishlist Wednesday - Moosewood Restaurant New Classics

Do you know what I love about the library? I love that you can take a cookbook you're interested in owning home with you and give it a spin. I hate buying a cookbook only to find that it's not really as great as I hoped it would be, don't you?

While at my local library, Moosewood Restaurant New Classics caught my eye, so I invited it into my kitchen for a little while. In short order, I had marked upwards of fifty recipes I am dying to try!

What's so great about it?

Well, the Moosewood Restaurant is a highly influential restaurant in Ithica, NY, serving delicious, local, seasonal vegetarian fare. And while I'm not a vegetarian, the recipes in this book are completely accessible to vegetarian and omnivore alike. A great many types of cuisine are represented here, but in such a way that even a novice would feel comfortable giving it a try. Yes, there's tofu in there, but there's also an abundance of hearty breakfasts, fresh sandwiches, smoothies and drinks, and decadent desserts.

Lots of recipes bookmarked. I'm just itching to try them!

On my hit list:
Peach Oats Brûlée
Asparagus with Red Pepper Sauce
Orrechiette with Butter Beans
Black Bean & Sweet Potato Hash
French Chocolate Almond Cake
Thai Black Rice Pudding

And that's just a small percentage of what I have bookmarked! Vegetarian or not, this cookbook is worth your attention.

What cookbooks are you eyeing? Is this one of your favorites, too? Leave a comment!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Brown Sugar Angel Food Cake

Here it is, Thursday night. This post is scheduled to go up tomorrow morning, and the easy part is done; The cake is baked (and tasted) and photographed. Often, these are the hard parts, but today the hard part is coming up with something to say.

If it hadn't been such a colossal failure, this post would have been about a Grapefruit Poppyseed Cake with Creme Fraiche Frosting. I wanted to come up with something fun and different and exotic to celebrate my mom's birthday this month, but alas.... it was not to be. My attempt to make it a reality came out extremely dense and completely wrong. (My husband liked it, but he's ridiculously easy to please, so that's not high praise.) I still want to eat the promise of that cake. Someone successfully make what I had in my head and send me a piece, okay? I hate it when a recipe flops -- so depressing.


About what we're here to talk about: Brown Sugar Angel Food Cake. (Or, as I like to think of it, angel food cake's delightful, witty, brunette sister.)
It's precisely what you think it is, which is to say that it's angel food cake made with brown sugar instead of white sugar. And, at the same time, it's not at all what you think it is, because even though it looks and acts like regular angel food cake, the taste bears very little resemblance. The caramel notes of brown sugar provide a richness which removes all "diet dessert" thoughts from your mind, and you forget that it has not one gram of fat. (Well, except for the requisite heaping mounds -- yes, plural -- of whipped cream piled on top.)

Happily, I love this Brown Sugar Angel Food Cake, so all's well that ends well and my previous flop is all but forgotten. Happy Birthday, bestest mom!

I think I'll go have another slice of this beauty right now.

Brown Sugar Angel Food Cake
adapted from The Martha Stewart Cookbook

14 large egg whites, room temp.
1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/2 c. light-brown sugar
1 1/4 c. sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees and have your tube pan at the ready. Sift together sugar, flour, and salt over a square of parchment or waxed paper. Then sift them again. Set aside

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium speed until foamy; add cream of tartar and vanilla. Increase speed to high; beat egg whites until tripled in volume, stiff, and glossy. Transfer egg white mixture to a large bowl; fold in flour mixture in three additions.

Spoon batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom. Run a knife through batter to pop air pockets. Bake until cake is golden in color and springs back when gently pressed, about 40 - 45 minutes.

Invert pan onto a cooling rack or the neck of a bottle and allow cake to cool, at least 1 hour. To remove cake from pan, run a knife around sides and center tube of pan. Release cake from sides, and run a long knife along the bottom of the cake, freeing it from the tube.

Top with lots of vanilla bean whipped cream and fresh berries.

Monday, March 19, 2012

One Hour, Two Loaves

So, let's talk about bread.

I don't know many people (in fact, none come readily to mind) who don't like bread. Fresh. Baked. Bread. Mmmmm....
Sorry, just having a moment there.

Would you like to make bread for your family? What's stopping you?

Is it the time commitment?

Yeah, that can be a deal breaker for me, too.

A couple of years ago, I shared this very recipe with you, but I don't think you heard me. So I'm putting it out there again.

I often make bread for our family. (Note that I said often and not always.) I like doing it. It's fun! But it can be both labor-intensive and time-consuming. This bread, however, can be made from the mixing bowl to the cooling rack in the space of one hour.

It's whole wheat, but light and fluffy, without being flimsy. It makes fantastic sandwich bread, and great toast. Yum!

Oh yes, and did I mention that it makes two loaves? Two loves, one hour -- this is my kind of ratio!

Here's how you make it:

One Hour Sandwich Bread

via Caroline's Bake Shop

5 c. whole wheat flour, divided
1/3 c. vital wheat gluten (Bob's Red Mill is a good brand, which you can usually find in the natural foods section of your local grocery store)
1 1/4 Tbsp. "quick-rise" or highly "active" yeast
2 1/2 c. steaming hot water (120-130° F)
1 Tbsp. salt
1/3 c. oil
1/3 c. honey or molasses (I prefer molasses, myself)
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice


* I do all of this in my stand mixer with the paddle attachment.

Mix together 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour, vital wheat gluten and yeast. Add steaming water all at once and mix for 1 minute. Cover mixer with a dishtowel and let rest for 10 minutes (this is called sponging, but let's not get too technical).

Add salt, oil, honey, and lemon juice and beat for 1 minute.

Add remaining flour 1 cup at a time, beating between each cup. Once the flour is incorporated, beat for about 6-10 minutes until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. This makes a very soft dough.

Pre-heat oven for 1 minute to lukewarm and then turn off. Turn dough onto oiled counter top or pastry mat (I just spray the counter with cooking spray); divide, shape into 2 loaves, and place in greased bread pans. Squish the dough gently into the corners of your loaf pans to ensure even baking.

Let rise in warm oven for 10-15 minutes, or until dough reaches the top of the pan. Without removing pans from the oven, heat to 350F and bake for 30 minutes. (This is 30 minutes total, not 30 minutes after your oven comes to temperature.) Remove loaves from pans immediately and let cool on wire racks.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Unexpected Uses for Your Wafflemaker

When my husband and I were first married, I really, really wanted a waffle maker. In fact, it was my Valentine's Day gift that first year. I just wanted to make me some waffles! Little did I know it was such a multi-tasker!

So get ready to rummage through your small-appliance storage; Stay tuned for 4 unexpected uses for your waffle iron.

Press Some Panini

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Why buy another appliance when you can press a panino (that's the singular form of panini, which is already a plural word in Italian -- which means that "paninis" isn't a word, just sayin') right in the waffle iron you already have? You could do grilled cheese, or a monte cristo. The possibilities are really endless. And why limit yourself to sandwiches, quesadillas would work, too!

Fry Up Some Bacon
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Trust Alton Brown to think up an even better way to make bacon. Check out the video from an episode of Good Eats via Serious Eats for the finer details of technique and such.

Crisp Some Hashbrowns
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I love this idea! Think about how crispy hashbrowns could get with all those nooks and crannies making contact with them while they cook. Mmmmmm... And just imagine that you cooked the bacon in your waffle maker first, and then did the hashbrowns in the bacon drippings! I know we shouldn't be thinking about such things, but... I really can't help myself. Don't hate me.

 5 Minute Brownie
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Okay, so the actual time it will take depends on your waffle maker, but whatever amount of time it takes it will be faster than baking a pan of brownies in the oven. Just make your favorite recipe or use a mix, and scoop about 1/2 cup of batter per square into your waffle maker. Let it cook 5 to 10 minutes. This is a particularly great idea for those of you who love the edges. (Which isn't me so much, but a brownie is a brownie!) Not a brownie person (is there such a person in this crazy world)? Try it with a cake batter for "cupcake" waffles.

Do you have any new uses for your kitchen appliances?
Leave a comment!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Spring Pea Soup

My family comes from hardy English and Scottish stock, and my husband's heritage is also English with a good bit of Swedish in the mix. But on March 17th everyone is Irish for the day!

Back in the day, my mom would serve us green pancakes on St. Patrick's Day; just regular Bisquick pancakes with green food coloring. She had these fantastic little leprechaun-topped toothpicks that she would set on top. I loved them. My mom always found a way to make holidays fun for us. So that has always been my go-to St. Patty's Day supper.

Then, two summers ago, my husband did an internship in Cork, Ireland (I stayed home and took summer classes, PS, but I'm not bitter...). We would Skype every chance we could get, and he would go on and on about "mushy peas", which were served with fish & chips.  Have you ever had them? They are exactly what they sound like they would be: Peas all mushed up with butter, cream, salt and pepper. And they really are delicious!

But when I saw Ina Garten make this Pea Soup, I knew it would blow mushy peas out of the water, and likely replace green pancakes at our St. Patty's Day table -- at least this year. (Don't mess with me and traditions, man.)

I think part of what I love about this soup is that it is so perfectly early spring. It's fresh and light, yet substantial and flavorful. I also love that practically every ingredient in it is green. Green peas, green leeks, green mint and chives... It's perfect for St. Patrick's Day!

Another thing I love about this soup is the creme fraiche. If you haven't had it before, it can best be described as if sour cream took a trip to Paris and came back smoother and creamier. (See also Sabrina, starring Audrey Hepburn, but I digress) It's simple to make yourself using heavy cream and buttermilk (just google it -- it won't be hard to find), or you can easily substitute regular sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.

So this St. Patrick's Day, go listen to some Young Dubliners and slip into something green, then make this soup!

Fresh Pea Soup
from Ina Garten

2 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
2 c. chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1 c. chopped yellow onion
4 c. chicken or vegetable stock
2, 10 oz. packages frozen peas
2/3 c. chopped fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. creme fraiche
1/2 c. chopped chives
Garlic croutons

Heat the butter or oil over medium-low heat, add the leeks and onion and saute for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the stock, increasing the heat to high, and bring it to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add the mint, salt, and pepper.

If you have an immersion/stick blender, stick it right in the pot and carefully puree until it's as smooth as you like it. Otherwise, puree the soup in batches in a regular blender or food processor. Once pureed, whisk in the creme fraiche and chives, taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot with a dollop of creme fraiche and some garlic croutons.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Windowsill Herb Garden in 10 Simple Steps

This may be the blind leading the blind (or rather the black-thumbed leading the black-thumbed) but here goes.

I've always wanted to have fresh herbs at the ready in my kitchen window, and we're lucky enough to have a little kitchen window box in our house here in Portland, so I'm taking the plunge this spring. So far, so good! I've started them from seed, and they seem happy.

Here's how I did it:

Step 1: Determine which herbs you would like to try your hand at growing and will use in the kitchen. Get seeds.

Step 2: Pick up some potting soil. I got Miracle Grow Moisture Control so I could stress less about over/under watering. I would NOT recommend nabbing soil from your backyard, as that soil may have critters and pests in it that you won't want to bring indoors. Nobody likes uninvited houseguests.

Step 3: Save an empty egg carton. Cut into individual sections and label one for each of your different herbs. Once your plants are sprouted tall enough you can plant the egg carton section directly in your vessel or choice (or the ground, if you like). The plant will easily grow down through them.

Step 4: Take a skewer or your scissors and poke a drainage hole in the bottom of each section -- give the water somewhere to go if you overdo it.

Step 5: Fill 'em up and sow the seeds.
Grab a spray bottle  and moisten the soil, then follow the instructions on the back of the seed packet regarding how deep to pant your seeds. I sowed several seeds in each egg carton section to ensure that SOMETHING sprouted. If you do the same, be sure to thin your seedlings later to ensure that they aren't overcrowded.

Step 6: Water thoroughly. And set them aside.

Step 7: Keep them moist. I took my spray bottle and gave them a spritz every day. I also created a makeshift terrarium for them using my cake stand and dome. (Which was also pretty cute!) Sunlight isn't as important at this stage in the game, since the seeds are covered by soil, but you'll want a sunny spot for them once they've sprouted, so you might as well put them where you'll want them to grow.

Step 8: Watch them grow! Mine sprouted through the soil in about a week, and I was so happy to meet my darling little sproutlings!

Step 9: Transplant them to their final home. Once your seedlings reach a couple of inches high, you can set them in a larger vessel with plenty of soil for them to grow in. A good indicator that your seedlings are ready is that they begin to sprout real leaves. (The sprouts will look different from regular leaves, so watch for leaves to grow that really look like parsley or dill, etc.)

Step 10: Set them in a sunny spot, water and love them! You might even make markers for them using this tutorial.

Enjoy your herbs!

A couple of things to consider:
*Some herbs, like mint and thyme, can be "aggressive", meaning that they creep and spread into the space of other plants, sometimes taking over. Plant them separately.
*If your kitchen window isn't an ideal spot, try your bedroom window or another sunny spot in the house.
*Seeds are inexpensive, and one packet comes with a great many more seeds than you will probably use. If your happen to meet with disaster, use some of the extras to try again. If your herbs are happy, put together a seedling kit for a friend: give them some soil, your extra seeds, and an empty egg carton to get them started!

Are you planning to try your hand at kitchen herbs for your windowsill? What will you plant? Any tips to share?
Leave a comment!

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Sunday, March 4, 2012