Creativity

December 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

These weeks dividing Christmas and Thanksgiving may be my most creative time of the year.  Between card making, recipe experimenting, and gift searching I have come across some beautiful and resourceful ideas for sharing with loved ones.  Take a look.

Chocolate Sausages?  I think, yes.  
Homemade Mustard.  I would not mind finding this in my stocking. 
A beautiful tree.  We have a live tree.  This may just have to go in my bedroom. 
Handmade Everything.   
The Gift of Scents.  I made these last year.  Simple.   

Hello, Austin

November 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

With Love From, Austin

There are a whole slew of things to get used to when living in a new city.  The roads, the neighborhoods, the restaurants, the markets.  It’s all very exciting, this time of discovery.  And it makes me think that part of the reason that I love moving around is to remind myself of my priorities, and hopefully provoke something new from them.

In Austin I am loving the modest and sincere attitude of nearly everyone.  Albiet, there is a certain kitschy overtone to much of the city and it’s inhabitants which allows me to fly my humble little freak flag with no shame.  It reminds me of Madrid with its defined neighborhoods and their relative populace, spattering of bites to eat at any hour, and seemingly slow as molasses pace of life.  I am drawn to places that have a unique mix of taste, grunge, and reason, and this place has got it.

One of my favorite things to do right now is visit trailer parks.  Ones that serve food.  All day.  Often with a Tex-Mex (one of my least favorite words, along with healthy and sustainable… but that’s a long tangent to get into) theme, but there is this crepe cart that I have been drooling over, and another with beet chips that have been rumored to be fantastic.  Closest to me though, is a the Hill Country Pierogi which offeres sweet and savory pockets at the most random hours.  I walk by this place on the way to yoga classes.  Everyday.  Help me.

Another ritual of mine which I have carried over to my new home is my weekly visit to the farmers market.  And to my delight the Hope Farmers Market is within walking  distance from my house.  It is a great little market where I am greeted by Wunder- Pils Kombucha on draft to the left and handmade tamales on the right.  But what I really seek out in a market is the produce.  Hope’s market is well stocked by four farms bringing their freshest harvest.  I am most excited about the itsy purple and red potatoes,  purple streaked daikon radishes, and über crisp pears.  But the baby cabbages and lovely sweet potatoes will be perfect for our Friendsgving table this week.

My View

Eat Happily

Healing Food / Oatmeal Arugula Biscuits / Chocolate Chili Cake

March 23, 2011 § 1 Comment

 

Sometimes, a Biscuit Cures All.

These past few weeks have been brutal with the change of seasons, the yearning for warmth, and the congestion of faces.  All of these things have left me incapable of exerting any extra effort outside of my daily routine.  Luckily, my routine involves sifting flour, roasting garlic, and supremeing oranges.  Unfortunately, my energy levels have been so low that writing about any recent adventures would have been overkill.   So now that spring has sprung, the temperatures have risen, and everything surrounding my sinuses has cleared I can share what I have been eating.

Blood Oranges are good for the Immune System

Orange Zest

Before I got sick, my body knew I needed an extra boost of vitamin C.  Therefore my mind decided to make a blood orange olive oil cake which Deb from Smitten Kitchen just so happened to post around the same time.  It was fate.  I really wanted to make the flaky blood orange tart but had neither the 10 blood oranges accessible nor the energy to acquire them.

Even a Gorgeous Cake Could not Save Me.

But Four Cloves of Garlic Could.

In retrospect I should have gotten the additional oranges for the tart because the cake, even with though it was packed with 4 nourishing oranges, did not prevent my body from aching and my face from congesting.  When preventative baking doesn’t work, its time for a healing soup.  And I can not think of anything better to ward off illness than garlic.  So I concocted a roasted garlic, teff, and lentil soup.  Unfortunately I can not report back about the actual taste, but here I am finally healed, so something must have worked.

Warding off Vampires and Congestion.

Now that I have been able to breathe, smell, taste, and move without cringing I have been craving some thing really decadent to make up for all of the meals lost to lack of taste and/or appetite.  Namely, a chocolate chili cake.  I wanted to experience something rich, yet not too sweet, and bursting with flavor.  So after a good amount of chocolate cake research Scharffen Berger’s chocolate chili cake  won my heart.  Although I did make quite a few tweaks to suit my liking.

The Chili Powder is Tasty, not Scary.

Chili Paste Complements Chocolate Beautifully

Thankfully, I could taste this cake in all of its glory.  And it may just be my new favorite way to get my chocolate fix.  Once it is baked it is moist, and stays moist for a couple of days.  It has the texture of an airy fudge brownie thanks to the buttermilk and leaves a striking remnant of spice on your palate without needing a fire extinguisher.

Chocolate Chili Cake
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup +  2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/3 cups turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder +1 cup water
1 additional cup water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 cup chopped walnuts- optional
2 tablespoons cocoa powder + 1/2 cup confectioners sugar for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine the dry ingredients into a stand mixer.
3. Make a chili paste by heating the chili and water just to a simmer.  Then remove from the heat and add the vanilla.
4. Add the softened butter to the dry ingredients and stir on a slow speed until it looks sandy.  Now raise the speed and add the additional water and buttermilk once the mixture is uniformly wet add the eggs one at a time.
5. Pour the batter into a thoroughly buttered cake pan and place in the center of the oven.  It will take about 50 minutes to bake through.  After 20 minutes sprinkle the walnuts onto the top of the cake- this will create a nice nutty layer.
6. When a toothpick or knife inserted in the center come out clean the cake is ready.
7. Let it cool for 15 minutes.  Remove the sides if you used a spring foam pan or simply turn the cake out onto a plate to allow to cool completely.
8. Dust with cocoa sugar.

Making up for Lost Meals

After an indulgence, one should do something healthy like adding extra greens onto the plate.  In my case these greens made their way into a tender biscuit founded by homemade oat flour mixed with a nutty white whole wheat flour.  I discovered how easy it is to make oat flour thanks to Heidi Swanson’s oat soda bread which, slathered with a generous coat of Baily’s butter, comforted me during the height of my illness.

DIY Oat Flour

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread: Grated Butter

The way to a Flaky Biscuit/ My Heart

 

 

Oatmeal Arugula Biscuits
Eat these when they come out of the oven.  Their succulence decreases with time.  I froze half of them after they were shaped and on the cookie sheet then threw them into a plastic bag for an easy warm breakfast in 12 minutes.

1 cup rolled oats or oat flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled or frozen unsalted butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons honey
1 packed cup arugula

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Add the rolled oats to a food processor and whirl them around for about 3 minutes until the oats look like flour, similarly, just get your oat flour out.
3. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
4. Chop the arugula by hand or in a food processor and incorporate into the dry mixture.
5. Use a cheese grater to grate the butter into the dry ingredients and gently stir.  If the butter is not frozen, chill the mixture for 10 minutes.
6. Stir together the honey and buttermilk and slowly add to the oat and butter mixture.
7.  Turn out onto a floured surface and gently knead a couple of times.  Using as much flour as necessary.
8.  Roll the dough into a 9 x 5 rectangle, which should be about 1/2 inch thick.
9.  Fold the short sides of the rectangle in thirds like a letter and re-roll the dough into another 9 x 5 rectangle.  Repeat this two more times.
10.  Roll or pat the dough into a 3/4 inch rectangle and use biscuit cutters to shape the biscuits.
11.  Place the biscuits on a lined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until the top is golden.
12. Consume with butter and honey.

 

Eat Happily.

Love is a Hazelnut Butter Scone

February 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

 

Happy Valentine's Day

It seems that I am baking through Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain in a similar manner to which Julie Powell cooked through Julia Child’s Master the Art of French Cooking.  In the past month I have looked to Kim’s book on a daily basis for baking inspiration.  So while, my venture requires no guidelines, time tables, or boeuf bourguignon to stress me out all I need to worry about is browning loads of butter, stocking up on exciting flours, and whipping out heart shaped cookie cutters.

 

Scone Batter

Most recent attack on Kim’s book was a combination of two recipes using teff flour.  As I found out yesterday, teff is a deep, rich, and dark flour which makes a beautiful match for two of my favorite ingredients:  hazelnuts and brown butter.  The outcome of toasting the hazelnuts in the butter as it begins to brown is quite intoxicating, and leaves the entire kitchen smelling of sultry golden love perfect for Valentine’s Day.

 

 

Baily's Dairy Unsalted Butter Ready to be Browned

Hazelnuts to be Toasted

Browning the Hazelnut Butter

Hazelnut Butter Scone
Love child of Kim Boyce’s Hazelnut Muffins and Brown Butter Scone from Good to the Grain.

4 oz unsalted butter
1/2 cup hazelnuts chopped in half

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup oats or a mix of rolled grains
1/2 cup teff flour
1/2 cup palm sugar or 1/4 c white and 1/4 c brown *next time I want to use honey
1 teaspoon baking powder
dash of salt

1/2 cup cream
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Hazelnut Butter
Over medium heat, begin to melt the best butter you can get your hands on. Once the butter has turned into liquid and starts to bubble add the chopped hazelnuts.  Let the butter foam.  The hazelnuts will become a lovely golden color.  Once there are brown bits forming on the bottom of the pan, remove the butter and hazelnuts from the pan and pour into a shallow freezable container.  This should take about 7 minutes.  Let the hazelnut butter freeze.   Do this a day before or wait impatiently while preparing everything else.

Frozen Hazelnut Butter

Scones
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all of the dry ingredients together in a food processor.  Chop the frozen butter into pieces and add to the dry ingredients.  Pulse the flours and butter until the mix is a sandy texture.  Whisk the cream, egg, and vanilla together in a separate bowl.  When both the wet and dry ingredients are both individually combined, pour the cream and egg mixture into the sandy flour and stir to combine.

Flour a work surface and dump the batter out.  Use your hands to press the batter into a circle.  Now either slice the circle into 8 slices like a pizza, or use your seasonal cookie cutters and give the scones some character and transfer the scones to a prepared baking sheet.

Brush the uncooked scones with a nice blanket of cream and sprinkle with some sugar; the coarser the better.  These babys will be nice and bronzed after about 22 minutes if they are small cookie cutter types, or 26 minutes if they are large slices.

 

Eat Happily.

Snow Day Crêpe Day: Buckwheat Galettes, Fig Butter, Onion Jam.

February 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Snow Day Crepe

There are some things in life which never change.  Like snow days. Who doesn’t get a cozy nostalgic feeling with the thought of a day off from the real world?  As a kid, this meant an escape from sitting at a desk all day listening to someone talk to at you from the front of a packed room (for many adults this may still be the case).  For me, a snow day means that my kitchen gets my full attention.

Onion Jam Crepe

These past few weeks I have been slightly obsessed with the mere thought of a delicate crêpe wrapped pleasantly around a oozy gooey filling of nirvana.  Oddly, in these past weeks I have had more opportunities to indulge in a simple fruit filled crêpe since living in France.  But I found myself resisting, unconsiously holding out for what would be the perfect crêpe day.

Crepes, Fig Butter, Onion Jam

By noon on this exceptionally wintery day I had a table full of steaming buckwheat crêpes, warm fig butter, lustrous onion jam and a perfect way to spend my snow day.  I made two batches of batter, one made from solely buckwheat flour, which is completely nontraditional.  But I had no warning, and authentic batter should really rest over night and I unwilling to compromise.  I want to have my crêpes and eat them too.  Consequentially we will be finding all sorts of fillers for the endless stacks of toasty savory galettes which will be gracing our plates for the next couple of days as I could not resist the urge to mix up some more traditional batter, courtesy of David Lebovitz and fry them up tomorrow for dinner.

The filling for my crêpes today are from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain, and are unbelievable delicious.  She has this ingenious section of her book dedicated to fruit and vegetable jams and spreads to accompany all of her treats.  My favorite: fig butter.  I was first introduced to the idea of her fig butter when Heidi Swanson unveiled Kim’s Figgy Buckwheat scones on 101cookbooks.  Since then have been looking for the perfect time to bring the heavenly butter into my life.  I must confess my disappointment; the time which I let pass without consuming this butter is completely unacceptable.  I could, no lie, eat this everyday.  Possibly at every meal.  It has a velvety, rich, deep flavor from the figs, wine, and butter but doesn’t leave a feeling of piggishness behind.  It requires little hands on work aside from chopping off stems, boiling sugar, and getting out the food processor, and yields a sufficient amount to last (an insatiable girl) just about two weeks.

Almost Fig Butter

Perfection.  The second filling was even more simple and just as ingenious.  Onion jam will be finding its way into nearly all of my sandwiches from here on out.  When onions cook down they turn into a heap of savory caramelized luxury ready to make any meal a feast.  There is a reason that they make you cry, and it is happiness for what is about to come.  It is as if they are forcing us to pay for the magnificence which if hidden behind their bite.

Slicing Onions

(Nontraditional) Buckwheat Crêpe
This recipe is actually gluten free as buckwheat has no relation to wheat.   It also requires only a 15 minute rest which was the appeal for me.  These are also a bit thicker than I am used to but delicious nonetheless.  I used a 7 inch cast iron pan for the crêpe cooking, if you desire larger crêpes simply use a larger pan.  I found the recipe here and followed it pretty precisely but I used salted (Baily’s Dairy!) butter  and less salt.

1 cup buckwheat flour
2 tablespoons arrowroot (a thickening agent)
dash of salt
2 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 3/4 cups water

Almost Ready to Flip

To make the batter simply sift the dry ingredients together into a medium sized bowl.  Now whisk the eggs with the water and add the butter.  When the wet ingredients are well mixed pour half into the buckwheat flour and stir until incorporated and smooth.  Then pour the rest of the egg mixture and finish stirring.  The mixture will be a pretty dark purple color and quite runny.  Let it sit for 15 minutes.  Just enough time to prepare the pan and finish up the fillings.   Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat and coat it with butter.  Add just under 1/4 cup of the batter to the hot pan and swirl it around so that it fills the entire bottom.  When the crêpe batter has started to dry out on top, after 2 or 3 minutes, flip it over to briefly cook the other side.  I used my fingers to do this.  A spatula is safer but less effective.   The first crêpe is always, always, always, a disaster.  Keep the crêpes warm in a 200 degree oven.  This recipe will make 10-12 crêpes.  I am planning on freezing some leftovers by wrapping them individually in plastic wrap then sealing in a freezer bag.

A perfect day for crepes

Kim Boyce’s Fig Butter
These recipes are not published on the internet and I technically have no right to publish them. Consequentially I am going to HIGHLY recommend you make the decision to own your own copy of Good to the Grain if this looks good to you.  I will leave a basic description of the recipe.

A little bit of sugar and water are boiled with cloves and star anise for about 10 minutes.  Then lots of red wine and port and black mission figs and cinnamon are added to to the syrup.  This mixture simmers for about 3o minutes and becomes a beautiful viscous maroon liquid.  The concoction needs to come to room temperature for another 30 minutes or so before removing the cloves and star anise.  Then the figs and their syrup are pureed with some soft butter.  It is possibly the most indecent thing I have ever eaten.

Fig Butter

Almost Onion Jam

Kim Boyce’s Onion Jam
See the notes above regarding Kim’s book.  You can figure this one out on your own without a recipe.  This onion jam with some sauteed mushrooms, horseradish, and hearty slices of bread could hardly make me happier.  Although slathered inside a hot crêpe with butter I was quite delighted all day.

Slice a lot of onions.  I think I used about 10 yellow cooking onions from Barnard’s Orchards.  In a medium dutch oven heat some olive oil on medium high heat for a minute or two.  Add the sliced onions and salt and coat them in the oil.  Cook them on high until they just begin to brown.  Turn down the heat and cover until they get a nice consistent golden.  Remove the lid and let them look until they break down into a mass of jam like consistency.   This all take about two hours and makes about a cup of savory jam.

Eat Happily

Recent Attacks

February 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

As the cold weather has left me unmotivated to fix this pesky USB situation which has been hindering my ability to share all of the glorious things recently gracing my plate I will instead share some of the sites which have been gracing my browser’s tabs.  There are so many amazing people on this Earth with so many different talents and insights and tastes, I can spend hours simply gawking at beautiful creations.

I have always wondered how to convert traditional baked goods into vegan goodies. Now I know. Because there are simply times when I want to feel really good when I eat things which are really good.

The Chinese New Year is quickly approaching, and I have been busy conjuring dreaming up plates full of these things:
Lucky Sushi
Nutty Dumplings
Pickles

Similarly, the dreadfully anticipated Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, so my mind has been stuck on heart shaped scones made with browned butter, hazelnuts, and teff flour (USB, please work in time!).

David Lebovitz made something for World Nutella Day, and I happily altered it to my liking.

My newest fascination is here with insanely beautiful pictures of culinary and cloth creations.

So please don’t be fooled into thinking that I have only been sipping tea for the past couple of weeks (although that is exactly what I have been doing; on top of stuffing my face).   I simply don’t have the images I would like to share uploaded yet.   Shortly you will know all about the crepes, fig butter, onion jam, chocolate spread, hazelnut soup and much much more which has been filling my tummy.

A Perfect Cup of Tea

January 13, 2011 § 2 Comments

There may be nothing like a cup of something warm after a trek through the snow.  And if you spend more than an hour with me you will surely discover my affection for hot drinks.  Namely the species of steeped bliss we call tea.  A luxurious cup of Earl Grey is my current love as it is silky and rich while still leaving a refreshingly caffeinated murmur.  Although I have had a little affair and just reveled in a lovely cup of white vanilla grapefruit.  I would like to share some secrets of infusing a simple cup of hot water with some dried out ground up powder into a ritual of bringing a daily dose of delight into your life.

For starters, it is best to get out of the habit of relying on supermarket ‘Lipton’ teas shake.  These are the lowest grade tea possible and are hardly passable as a blissful tea.  Once you expose yourself to the glory of a real cup of tea, steeped with whole leaves, you may find yourself wondering how so many people are able to drink their stale, flat, and bland daily spot of tea.

There are many, quite convenient ways to find real tea.  Most shopping malls will have a tea shop; Teavana for example has a nice collection and their staff is always helpful.  Another option is Wegmans.  They actually have a large stash hidden between the cheese counter and the organic bulk nuts.  Although, surprise, surprise, I choose to acquire my blends from local vendors.  Pure Blend shows up at my farmers markets doling out their hand blended teas and spices.  I was quite infatuated with the pumpkin chai for a while, and the homemade komucha, a fermented tea containing everything which is good for you, is something sent straight from the Gods.  Similarly, Mrs. Robinsons Tea Shop in Kennett Square has an immense collection of teas; herbal, caffeinated, decaffeinated, fruity blends, and all the tea paraphernalia you could desire.  I could spend entirely too long sticking my nose into cups of the samples.  Enough about the vendors.

 

Making tea is an ancient art form.  I have discovered that the process should not be rushed.  If you are going to rush through the procedure as you would making a cup of coffee, you might as well drink Lipton, or coffee (clearly I am biased).  Take the 10 minutes and enjoy the simplicity of rewarding yourself with a cup of ecstasy.

Fun Fact:  All true tea leaves comes from the same plant.  True teas are black, oolong, green and white.  The difference is when the tea leaves are harvested.  As the tea is harvested younger it brews lighter i.e. black vs white.  Consequentially black tea is rich and heavily caffeinated, while white tea is airy and contains almost no caffeine.  In the morning I like to wake up to a cup of something bright and radient so I opt for lighter white or green teas. When afternoon rolls around and my mind is beginning to lag I steep some gorgeous and awakening Earl Grey spiked with notes of bergamot and citrus.

A Perfect Cup of Tea.
This will steep enough for two small cups of tea, enough for one to linger with a book or two friends to share over laughs.

Warm up a 16 oz teapot simply by filling it with hot water from the tap and allow to sit while you prepare everything else.  This ensure that the pot is hot and won’t cool the water off when you steep the tea.

Heat 16 oz (2 cups) of water.  Different teas require different water temperatures:

Green Tea 160 degrees F 1 – 3 minutes
White Tea 180 degrees F 4 – 8 minutes
Oolong Tea 190 degrees F 1 – 8 minutes
Black Tea Rolling Boil 3 – 5 minutes
Herbal (tisanes) Rolling Boil 5 – 8 minutes

Add 2 teaspoons of beautiful tea leaves to the filter or diffuser.  Similarly, you can use a loose tea bag found at any well stocked tea shop, with 1 teaspoon of loose leaves.

When the water is at the right temperature pour it over the leaves.

Cover the teapot and allow it to steep for the correct time.  Refer to the chart above.

While the tea is steeping add a sweetener or cream or nut milk (for black teas only) of your choice to your tea cup(s).  I always choose honey.  Nothing else.

After 1- 8 minutes remove the filter but save the leaves.  They can be steeped again, up to 3 times.

Pour your gorgeous brew into the prepared cup.

Sit. Sip. And enjoy.

Drink Happily.

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