Monday, November 30, 2009

Green Bean Casserole

Well hello there! I am back from foggy Londontown, and here in a surprisingly not-so-foggy SFtown. I'll share some of my experiences in a near-future post, but right now, more important matters are at hand. Let's talk leftovers.

With the massive quantities of Thanksgiving dishes cooked, devoured, and preserved in tupperware (thanks, Mom!!), you would think that I would have leftovers for days. But Saturday rolled around, and I disappointedly looked in my fridge and saw my favorite dish already gone! I only get this green bean casserole once a year, and it only lasted 2 days?! This got me thinking: why do we only make certain dishes at Thanksgiving? Yams, stuffing, turkey...all are so delicious, why do we limit ourselves to one day (plus leftovers) of enjoyment? And the leftovers don't even last!

I need to break this habit of classifying foods as Thanksgiving-only. This green bean casserole is ridiculously good. If I had any proper sense, I'd be making it at least once a week. So as I stood in front of my open fridge (oops, did I, the energy consultant, admit that I was wasting electricity like this?!) I decided: I want more green bean casserole, and I want it now!

So now, think of your favorite Thanksgiving food. Got it? No, don't think about how unhealthy it is, and that maybe it's a good thing that you only eat it once a year (this could not possibly be a good thing). Think about how delicious it is and how you have so much anticipation each year just to eat it. Ok, now, repeat after me: I will make this food at least one more time before 2010.

See, aren't you excited already?

I made mine only two days later. And I am SO glad that I did! Now, do yourself a favor and get to the kitchen and make this green bean casserole. You won't regret it.

Green Bean Casserole
recipe from my Mom
  • 4 cans French style green beans, drained
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 lb. cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 roll of Ritz crackers, crushed finely
  • 1/2 c. melted butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350 deg F.
  2. Mix soup, sour cream, salt and garlic powder together in a large bowl.
  3. Add green beans and fold in to blend.
  4. Put green bean mixture into 2 quart casserole dish.
  5. Spread layer of cheese on top.
  6. In a medium bowl, mix melted butter and cracker crumbs.
  7. Spread crumb mixture on top of cheese layer.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes.
Happy Thanksgiving, the sequel!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving from Pacific Thyme!

We hope your day was full of delicious food, family and love.

-Erin and Linda

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

devils food cake how to

Hello faithful reader!

So, I've been doing interviews for grad schools. Erin's traipsing around Europe. It's no wonder NaBloPoMo has been harder than anticipated.

Today I was explaining the concept of NaBloPoMo. When I go on interviews, sometimes they ask for an interesting fact as an 'ice breaker.' I usually say 'I do a food blog with a friend.' Sometimes I tell people this even when it's not asked, and they think I'm weird. (Muscle memory?) Anyways, as I was explaining, I realized I sounded like a complete idiot saying 'Na - blow - poe - moe' out loud. It was the first time it had come up vocally! Ok, try it. Right now. It's kind of awkward.

Back to food: here's some info on that cake I mentioned earlier. It was a four layer devil's food cake filled with fresh raspberry sauce and frosted with chocolate swiss meringue buttercream. Seems Erin and I both have a thing for making fruit fillings. Once you get the idea down, it's incredibly easy to do with any soft fruit, and is divine all summer long with peaches, berries, apricots. This week, Safeway had a special on raspberries for some greenhouse/global trade blessed reason unbeknownst to me but I jumped on it. And, raspberry is great with chocolate, which I had in mind anyways.

Secondly, this is the debutante ball of swiss meringue buttercream on this blog, although it made a slight appearance at the brunch last month. Basically, it's a wonderful frosting you can use with cakes, cupcakes, spoon-to-mouth, etc. It's light, smooth, and glossy, and much more tenable than the usual 'american buttercream' that you've probably seen on grocery store cakes. You can set that stuff out and use it for drywall, mostly because it's just butter mixed with a few pounds of powdered sugar. Swiss meringue buttercream, on the other hand, is made from a base of slightly cooked and heavily whipped egg whites, which gives it the light, glossy texture. It sits cool and simply on your tongue, and it can be adapted to a wide variety of flavors: lemon, chocolate, fruits, caramel, camel. You name it. If you're curious, 'swiss meringue' refers to the temperature the egg whites are heated to. This gives the frosting some stability. Another version is 'italian meringue,' which is cooked even more and is thus, you guessed it, more stable.

For swiss meringue, you start by putting the egg whites and sugar in a mixer bowl, and heat the mixture to 140 degrees while beating. Here's my simple version of this: I have a small metal mixing bowl, a saucepan and a hand mixer. The boil water in the saucepan on medium heat and set the mixing bowl over the water and mix with the hand mixer. You should have a candy thermometer to measure the temperature here, and I actually have one, but I was too lazy to get it out so I winged it. Basically, beat the eggs until they are extremely frothy, like a foam latte. Also, be aware that the temp gets up to 140 pretty quick. Also, if you're a complete beginner, here's a tip that got me a few times. If you are whipping egg whites, make sure there is NO EGG YOLK or any kind of fat/grease in your bowl (stray butter). For some reason, this will prevent the whites from getting all whippy. If you are mixing and mixing and nothing happens, assume this is it, and you may need to start over.

Anyways, after you reach foam latte-ville, remove the bowl and keep mixing for about 5 more minutes until the whites are really thick and hold firm peaks, as shown below. I really love this part, because it looksl like raw mashmallow.

Next, beat the meringue and butter together. Start with 1/3 meringue and 1/2 of the butter, then add the meringue dollop by dollop, then the butter tablespoon by tablespoon. By the end, the mixture will look extremely curdled, and you will panic. Keep going. Eventually it gets glossy like this:

Then you pour in whatever flavor mixture you like, here it's melted semi-sweet chocolate:

And voila! Grab a spoon. Or, set aside for the cake.

Here's the general idea of the fruit filling. Honestly, there's no recipe even needed. You simply put the fruit in a saucepan, add some water to cover and about 3/4 cup sugar, and boil for 15 minutes. Then, add about 1 tablespoon of cornstarch slurried in water and mix vigorously, and continue boiling to desired thickness.

I did two things with this sauce. I strained it and used the smooth liquid part for a drizzle sauce on top of the cake, and the remaining solid (still pretty liquidy, since i didn't press it) to fill the cake layers.

Ok, cake assembly tutorial! I baked a martha recipe that makes two layers. Usually, this makes a two layer cake. You are supposed to cut off the round top of the cake to the layers sit flat. I've learned that you don't need to be too perfect at this, since you can adjust a lot with frosting and still come out with a perfectly shaped cake. See below!

And voila!

So. I realize this post took me forever to put up. In the meantime, I actually made other things, that I felt too lazy to take pictures of. I think I'm getting SAD, which in addition to be :( is also Seasonal Affective Disorder. It has been kind of cloudy lately.

I got good feed back on this cake though. The raspberry filling is involved but this devils' food cake is quite easy.

Happy baking!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Southwestern Squash Soup

[Guest Post]
My coworker, Claire, is a great chef too. She cooks with lots of veggies and organic things, and loves to make soups. She is awesome enough to share this soup with us!

This is a great soup for summer and fall. The depth and complexity of flavors and the pairing of squashes with hearty beans make for a soup that is as light and refreshing as it is warm and comforting. Although the ingredients are an unabashed celebration of summer’s abundance, many remain available at farmer’s markets as late as November or can be found in frozen form for the rest of the year. I do not advocate buying from the produce aisle out of season since the quality is typically low while the prices are high. However, if you have a hankering for this soup and can’t find the ingredients in their fresh form, or are simply low on time or budget, the frozen aisle is your friend.

Southwestern Squash Soup
Adapted from The Spiced Life
makes 4-6 servings

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium-large onion, chopped
  • Garlic, minced and as much as you want but no fewer than 2 cloves
  • ¾ tsp oregano (Mexican is ideal but regular oregano works great too)
  • 0.5-1 tbsp ground cumin
  • ½ t ancho chile powder, to taste
  • 32 oz chicken stock or 32 oz water with high quality bouillon cubes
  • 4-6 medium summer squash, sliced into small rounds or cubed. For a tastier and more colorful soup, mix up regular zucchini with crooknecks, yellow squashes, patty pans, cousas… you get the idea.
  • 1 sweet bell pepper, diced. Frozen works well too!
  • Corn from 2 cobs, or frozen equivalent
  • 1 14 oz can fire roasted tomatoes, you can roast them yourself but only do this if you have tons to use up or are feeling masochistic. If in season, I like to use sun gold cherry tomatoes along with the fire roasted tomatoes.
  • 4 oz can green chile peppers
  • 1 or 2 14 oz cans of beans, black or pinto or one of each
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Red pepper flakes to taste
To serve:
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Chopped cilantro
  1. Chop onion, squash and other vegetables, and mince garlic. Keep onion and garlic separate.
  2. Add oil to soup pot and sauté onion until tender.
  3. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
  4. Add squash, corn and bell pepper and cook 1-2 minutes. Do not add corn or pepper at this point if you are using frozen versions of these items.
  5. Add stock, broth or bouillon cubes/water, tomatoes, and green chiles. Add oregano, cumin, and chile powder once there is liquid in the pot. Bring to a boil.
  6. Once boiling, add beans and any frozen vegetables you are using (if you want to add sun golds, now is the time!). Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes or until squash is barely tender.
  7. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.
  8. Serve with fresh cilantro and grated cheddar cheese (mild or sharp, both work well).

  1. You can drain the beans or add their liquid. In the case of black beans, their juice will simply add a rich darkness to the red of the tomato juice.
  2. If using sun gold tomatoes, they can be halved or added whole, depending on size or preference.
  3. Add cheese to individual bowls to make clean up easier.
  4. Add cilantro to individual bowls to keep its pretty green color.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cheers from London

Hi. I made it! A 10 hour flight, no sleep, and lots of plane trivia later, I am here in London. Sadly, I have no internet where I am staying, so all hopes of keeping up with NaBloPoMo have flown across the Atlantic (oh wait, I did that). So unless Linda is insane, (she is superwoman, but this is just too much to ask of one person), NaBloPoMo might be on hiatus.

I know. It saddens me too.

But, just so you don't feel totally abandoned while I'm frolicking in Rainy Londontown, here are some things that I am eating:

Pubfood: Meat pie, mash, and veg. Really they call it mash and veg. Short, sweet, and yummy :)

This pie is made of lamb and a mushroom sauce. The pastry outside was really good, too. Pubs are great places to find cheap, filling food.

Is anyone else a Harry Potter fan? This pub (Heather's favorite, Blackfriars) served Treacle Tart! (Though sadly, I was too full from that meat pie to try it.)

And of course, I'm getting my fill of as much tea as possible. I love tea! This tea is from "Pure Waffle" which had not only delicious tea (this is assam tea), but also delicious waffles. If you are near Bond street, you should go!

Until next time I have internet...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

devil's food cake with raspberry sauce and chocolate swiss meringue buttercream

I have made this cake. It was huge. But as I sit here typing several hours post-cake, I can report the best news possible to cake bakers: it is all gone. All that remains are these photos. And a few more photos. And the recipe of course.

This is definitely a weekend cake. It was a lot of fun to put together, and I want to come back to give you all the details. I mean just look at the title. I had to take a break after typing it.

And as they say, suspense only makes the recipe reading sweeter. Or something like that.


Friday, November 13, 2009

weeknight meatloaf with veggies

I usually make a lot of cutesy things that involves swirled frosting. Frosting does indeed comprise the bottom of any balanced food pyramid, but one cannot live on frosting alone.

Meatloaf is not something I grew up eating. Actually most things I cook are not. But it really is an easy, delicious weeknight meal that can be spun in creative ways, much like my beloved risotto. This whole thing takes me about 10 minutes to put together and then it's really just a matter of letting it cook in the oven while I whip up a salad. What could be easier?

As an aside: meatloaf is usually made with worcestshire sauce. I thought I had some, but I didn't. Great story, I know. I compensated by using a combination of brown sugar and soy sauce, which I think tasted great. That's the good thing about simple cooking, substitute with abandon! Does not translate in baking though.

Easiest Meatloaf

1 lb lean ground beef
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs
1 tsp basil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon fennel
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add oil to pan, saute onions, garlic, peppers and mushrooms several minutes until tender.
2. In a large bowl, mix together ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, veggies, and seasonings. It's really that easy, just mix everything together.
3. Spoon mixture into bread pan. Cover top with ketchup.
4. Bake 35-40 minutes. Slice and serve.

I happen to have a lot of spices, and I happen to love cumin and fennel. Don't be intimidated if you don't have these. To be honest, just put whatever you have into it. Then let me know how it was. It was probably good.

11:53. Just made it. And I already miss Erin. Treat her well, England, you hear me?


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Holy Guacamole

Hi. I'm going to make this quick. I'm packing for my trip and barely have time to think about food. But excuses, excuses. This is NaBloPoMo and time waits for no man.

What is a fast and delicious and filling food? Guacamole. Isn't that the easiest thing ever, you ask? Maybe so, but I JUST learned how to make it, so for all of you guac experts - please, no scoffing.

Quick Guacamole
as taught by my roommate Havah
  • 4 avocados
  • 1/4 c. cilantro chopped
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • onion powder -1/2 tsp
  • garlic powder -1/2 tsp
  • salt - 1/4 tsp
Mash the avocados with a fork, then add the chopped cilantro, lime juice and spices. Then add more to taste. Yum!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dark Chocolate Tart

I have been pretty distracted lately. I am jet-setting to London in 2 days, and I haven't started packing AT ALL. I did some laundry, which is a start, and I set out my suitcase, but nothing is inside it yet. You want to know what I've been doing instead? you even have to ask?

I sat at work yesterday afternoon (distracted I tell you) daydreaming about using my new tart pan. I bought it right before I went to Seattle, but I still haven't found an excuse to use it. And I sat there thinking, to heck with having an excuse, I want some tart!

I had never made a tart before. I had no idea how to use a tart pan (a removable bottom? why?). So after peppering Linda with questions (how does the pan work? will my crust break? do I need to grease the pan?)...turns out she'd never used a tart pan before either...I resorted to some online forums to quell my fear. I had nothing to worry about. You just push the tart through the bottom and the tart comes easily out of the pan. I think I could handle that...

I picked a tart with an easy crust for my first go. Boy, am I glad I did! And not just because it was easy, but because this tart is seriously DELICIOUS. Like, immediate chocolate heaven delicious. Like so rich you can only have a tiny piece but you want so much more delicious. Like, I wish these photos were scratch-n-sniff just because it is so unfair that you can't be smelling and tasting this tart right now. So please. Do yourself a favor and make this incredibly simple tart. It took me literally 1 hour from start to finish, and oh my, it was so easy I almost feel like I cheated. Make this. You will NOT regret it.

Dark Chocolate Tart with Gingersnap Crust
from (who else) The Smitten Kitchen

8 oz. gingersnap cookies (about 32 cookies), coarsely broken
1/4 c. salted butter, melted

12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Godiva 60% chocolate chips)
1 c. heavy whipping cream
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp flour
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon

For crust:
  1. Preheat oven to 325 deg F.
  2. Finely grind gingersnap cookies in processor.
  3. Add melted butter and process until moistened.
  4. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom.
For filling:
  1. Combine finely chopped bittersweet chocolate and heavy whipping cream in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk over low heat until chocolate is melted and smooth.
  2. Remove saucepan from heat.
  3. Whisk egg yolks, egg, sugar, flour, ground black pepper, salt and cinnamon in medium bowl to blend.
  4. Very gradually whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture until smooth and blended.
  5. Pour chocolate filling into crust.
  6. Bake chocolate tart until filling puffs slightly at edges and center is softly set, about 30 minutes.
  7. Transfer to rack. Cool tart in pan 20 minutes.
  8. Gently remove tart pan sides and cool tart completely.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

pumpkin brown butter cupcakes

I'm sorry if you're tired of pumpkin already. Actually I'm not. Because you'd be wrong. Pumpkin is awesome. You might think you're awesome, but pumpkin wins. So you have no right to be tired of it.

The story of this cupcake is a bit roundabout. It actually started off as a madeleine, which failed in shape but not in taste. So I decided to adapt it into a mini-cupcake, which was quite successful, and it made an appearance at brunch. For the brunch, I did it with two different frostings: regular cream cheese and caramel swiss meringue buttercream. The latter was a hit and inspired likenings to "crack". These are the minis:

So then, I had the can of pumpkin from the pumpkin pancakes. And it was a friend's birthday. It's a little like the book "If you give a mouse a cookie..." I decided to make the pumpkin cupcakes again. For some reason, I thought I'd be cool and tweak the recipe by adding more flour. I though the original one didn't have enough structure or something. Then, unintentionally, I measured my tablespoons of pumpkin with 1/2 tablespoons instead. So, the full-size pumpkin version turned out a little dry. They were only slightly saved by the innovation of a cinnamon brown sugar cream cheese frosting.

So here are my tips for this recipe:
1. Don't get too creative. It's already really awesome.
2. Don't mess up when you're doing it.

If you must break 1, at least do so while following 2. Here's the slightly dry crumb:

Pumpkin Brown Butter Cupcakes
makes about 15 mini cupcakes or 6 regular sized cupcakes

Note: I'm of the Martha Stewart cake baking camp. This means that cake to me is 1. cream butter and suger 2. add eggs 3. add flour and milk, alternating 4. bake. This recipe is completely different, and every time I worry it won't come together, which partly spurred my genius idea to add more flour. Don't. Don't be a hero. Just follow directions. It works, and it's beautifully simple. I'm at the front lines, taking the bullets for you. You're welcome.

1/4 cup butter, plus more for toasting pecans and greasing madeleine tin
2 large eggs
pinch of salt
1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1/3 cup + 1Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp cinammon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1 tsp. baking powder
4 Tbsp. pumpkin puree

1. Brown your butter by melting in a light colored saucepan. Butter will first melt, then froth, then go clear and slowly brown. Pour into a bowl to cool.
2. Sift flour, spices and baking powder. Set aside.
3. Beat eggs with a pinch of salt on high until pale and syrupy. If you have doubts, keep going. Slowly add the brown sugar. The mixture will have gained a lot of volume.
4. Slowly stir in flour. Then mix in pumpkin and brown butter.
5. Spoon into cupcake liners. Bake 10 minutes for minis, 15 minutes for regular sized cupcakes.

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

So, if you don't feel like baking today, no big deal. Just make this frosting and eat it with a spoon. You might want to have the prenup signed first though.

1 package cream cheese (8 oz), at room temperature
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar (or to taste)

1. Beat cream cheese alone until fluffly. Add butter, beat to combine.
2. With the mixer on low, add brown sugar and vanilla, beat to incorporate.
3. Continue beating while adding powdered sugar. Taste frosting to gauge desired sweetness. ("to gauge...")

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Candy Corn Disaster

Well, I guess there's really no hiding it. Sometimes (read: all the time...) we foodbloggers fail. But you don't usually get to see that. We'd like you to believe that if you just ring our doorbells, you'll be greeted with a big smile and a plate of hot cookies (or cupcakes, if you're paying any attention at all). Don't we all wish.

Something else I wish for is to make everything perfectly the first time. This, dear readers, is not one of those times.

I have not yet been able to master making candy. Sure, I can melt some caramel and dip things in chocolate, but that doesn't really count as candy. Heck, I don't even own a candy thermometer! So why I thought it would be a good idea to make my own candy corn is a mystery. I think I was attracted to the glamor of candy making. Baking some bread is one thing, but making candy? This might even be out of my league.

It all seemed to be going fine. I boiled the corn syrup and sugar and butter. I added the dry ingredients to make it into a dough. Let it cool until I could handle it, then tried to color the dough orange, yellow and white (for full effect, of course!). But let me tell you...this dough was not pliable AT. ALL. My friend Tony was over helping me make the candy, and the dough was so hard that as he was kneading it, he got a huge blister!! I'm going to have to make people sign waivers to help me in the kitchen!! So after kneading for a good 20 minutes, and Tony talking me out of completely giving up, we made a few candy corns. Tada!

Kneading the dough should have been a warning sign for eating these suckers. They were so hard that they almost took out our teeth! Blisters, near broken teeth, and zero desire to complete the project: I deemed these a total, epic failure. The rest of the dough went promptly into the trash.

I won't bother reproducing the recipe with my adaptations...because clearly, I failed. But if you are curious and want to try and one-up me (go ahead, I happily dare you) then the recipe can be found here.

Next time (once our hands heal) I might try this recipe. The marshmallow makes it look a bit easier....

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Piggyback Pumpkin Pancakes

A confession: Linda told me on Friday night that she was going to make pumpkin pancakes. Saturday morning rolled around, and as I looked into my fridge to decide what to make for breakfast, I spied a can of pumpkin. It was just sitting there, calling to me.

So yes, I too made pumpkin pancakes. And as if a double post isn't a big enough faux pas, I forgot to take pictures.

I know, I know! But let me explain. I don't take pictures of EVERYTHING that I make, because really, that would be so time consuming, not to mention unnecessary. I usually decide what I want to post about, then make it and take pictures. So Saturday morning, when I made these pancakes, I didn't even think about posting them because Linda already planned to do it, and did an amazing job!

But after serving these pancakes, I knew that they were something special. In the words of my breakfast guest: "They are like pancakes, but they don't taste like nothing! Wow!" And then we spent the rest of the morning planning how to sell this recipe to McDonalds and make a billion dollars. *Sigh wishful thinking... But really, these were a BIG hit!

So, instead of keeping this great pumpkin pancake recipe for myself, I have to piggyback on Linda's post and share it with you. I hope you're not pumpkin-ed out.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes
Adapted from The Novice Chef
makes about 16 pancakes
  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 c. vanilla soymilk (the original recipe calls for regular milk, but this is what I had on worked out great!)
  • 3/4 c. canned pumpkin
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 c. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (I omitted this because I used vanilla soymilk...)
  • Maple syrup and powdered sugar to serve with
  1. Whisk dry ingredients in large bowl to blend.
  2. In another bowl, whisk milk, pumpkin, egg yolks, melted butter and vanilla to blend well.
  3. Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients; whisk just until smooth (batter will be thick).
  4. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in another medium bowl until soft peaks form.
  5. Fold whites into batter in 2 additions.
  6. Brush large nonstick skillet with oil; heat over medium heat.
  7. Working in batches, pour batter by 1/3 cupfuls into skillet. Cook until bubbles form on surface of pancakes and bottoms are brown, about 1 1/2 minutes per side.
  8. Repeat for all of your pancakes
  9. Serve with maple syrup and dusted with powdered sugar

Saturday, November 7, 2009

pumpkin brown butter buttermilk pancakes, and the theory of fluffiness

Why thank you Erin, I do make some awesome breakfasts. :)

I want you all to know how committed I am to NaBloPoMo. Right now, I'm in my living room, surrounded by stacks of boxes. I'm on the ground because the desk has been disassembled. There is no food in my apartment except pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin cupcakes (to come later). I'm moving.

But, life is about priorities, and I believe in free choice. Despite many, many grumblings from the peanut gallery, I will not be battered by the winds of logic, practicality or reason. I will choose to make pumpkin pancakes with half my kitchen equipment while loading the other half in boxes. That is what this country is all about. I'm mixing my metaphors. I'm tired.

Anyways, you're not here for my rambling. You're here for food. Good food, not like the bad food I tried to foist on you all a few days ago. Well, call these pancakes pizza because they are delivering.

So... buttermilk pancakes from scratch. I know. I know you get lazy. We all do. I know there's a box of mix in your pantry that can look pretty easy and sexy first thing Saturday morning. But let me appeal to your inner love for fluffiness, which, along with laziness, lives inside all of us. It is what makes frosting so irresistible, down comforters seem like heaven, and it is what ensures the survival of mostly useless animals like baby kittens and bunnies. These pancakes are like that. Like frosting+down comforter+baby bunnies. Fluffy. Box mix can't play this game.

I tried these with pumpkin, brown butter and some spices. I have more recipes I want to share with brown butter. It's a recent love affair of mine. Here's a tip on how to use it. Melt your butter in a light colored saucepan (so you can gauge the color change easily). Wait for it to froth, then turn clear, then turn brown. Your kitchen should smell amazing by now. Pour the butter out into a bowl, and cool slightly. Add to something: risotto, batter, cookies, mouth...and eat. Yum. Hopefully I'll have a cupcake and risotto recipe up for you soon. In the meantime, try these pancakes. No, I mean, print this out, go to your kitchen, and try these pancakes.

pumpkin brown butter buttermilk pancakes
makes about 1 dozen 4 inch pancakes

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
dash of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice (come on people, don't be afraid of the uncertain)
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
6 tbsp pumpkin puree

1. Brown butter in light colored saucepan. Pour into small bowl to cool.
2. Whisk pumpkin puree and buttermilk in another bowl, set aside.
3. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar and spices together.
4. Whisk eggs (I beat mine with a mixer). Add buttermilk and butter. Whisk in flour, being careful not to overmix. Stop when the batter is still lumpy but you don't see visible flour.
5. Set non-stick pan over medium heat. Add batter in 1/4 cup additions (makes a 4 inch pancake). Wait until bubbles have mostly popped and top has set before flipping (about 4-5 minutes). Cook 1-2 minutes more and remove to covered container to keep warm.

Back to the boxes. But I think I'll have a cold pancake first.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Chewy Granola Bars

Linda makes some fabulous breakfasts. I, on the other hand, can hardly drag myself out of bed in the morning, let alone muster up the effort to make myself something to eat. I roll out of bed with exactly enough time to shower, dress and catch my carpool to work, and most times even that is a challenge.

So almost every day, I grab a granola bar from our office snack drawer to eat along with my morning cup of tea. And every day, around 11am, I am STARVING. That granola bar just doesn't cut it for me, but laziness prevails and I deal with it.

But I started thinking: all these granola bars can't really be that healthy. I checked the label, no high fructose corn syrup (yay!) but do I really want to eat large quantities of a granola bar with "natural flavor" listed as an ingredient? My body says no. So I set out to make my own.

Oats, honey, mini chocolate chips, coconut...mmm. Just one of these chewy granola bars kept me full until it was actually lunchtime! I deem these a total victory!

Chocolate Chip Chewy Granola Bars
Adapted from AllRecipes
  • 4 1/2 c. rolled oats
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 c. butter, softened
  • 2/3 c. honey
  • 2 c. miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 c. shredded coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 325 deg F. Lightly grease one 9x13 inch pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine the oats, flour, baking soda, vanilla, butter and honey. Stir in the chocolate chips and the coconut.
  3. Firmly press mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown. Halfway through baking, press bars down hard in pan. Let cool for 10 minutes then cut into bars. Let bars cool completely in pan before removing or serving.
You're going to make the Quaker Oat man proud!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

exposed: inner lives of food bloggers

Something is going around lately, and I have it. Erin has it too. We don't even live in the same city. It's a pandemic.

I was supposed to cook last night. Invitations were extended. But it didn't happen. Later, Erin and I were chatting, and it seems we both failed miserably in cooking for ourselves. That's the thing about food, at least for me. It's such a social experience. If I'm cooking for friends, then damn straight I'm going to julienne the carrots and mince the garlic myself. Left alone for an evening, when sick, tired and generally lazy, I can hardly be bothered to unscrew a jar of peanut butter.

Here's a recap of our conversation:

Erin: I just made the worst chicken soup.

Linda: Oh no.

Erin: I put some broth into a pot. I turned on the heat. I saw some white wine, and added that. Then I hunted around for some noodles. All I found were four lasagna noodles, so I broke them up and added it to the pot. Now I'm eating it.

Linda: Oh my. I just heated two packages of oatmeal with an egg.

Erin: Do two failures make a success?

So, it may be that you are also home alone, sick and lazy. If you are, I'm sorry. We can't all eat gourmet all the time, and you don't want to starve. So here are two recipes just for you.

really bad chicken soup

left over chicken broth
white wine
4 lasagna noodles, broken

1. Add broth and wine to pot over medium heat.
2. Add noodles.
3. Eat.

oatmeal with some other stuff

anything else you can scrounge up (nuts, berries, sausage)

1. Add ingredients to pot. Heat.
2. Eat.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Butternut Squash Risotto with Rosemary and Blue Cheese

Rosemary Blue Cheese Butternut Squash Risotto. That is a mouthful! (But a really tasty mouthful, believe me!) And I wish that this photo did the dish justice. But risotto isn't necessarily pretty. It's a stick-to-your-ribs, warm and filling dish of goodness. And the best part is that it can be adapted in so many ways.

My Nonna used to make the BEST risotto. It was my favorite food growing up (that, and pesto of course). It was a tomato-y risotto, beautifully red, and I remember her spending so long standing over the pot stirring the rice so it wouldn't burn. It always seemed so hard to make. When I first started cooking a lot, I asked my mom for Nonna's "secret" recipe and not only was it not hard to make...she used RAGU!!! Go figure, right? Well, I really should have known with my Nonna who added the white foam from pasta water to her pesto sauce because it made it "taste better." Since finding out that my favorite food was made with Ragu, I've been on a mission to create a really perfect risotto. And this one, dear readers, is pretty darn tasty.

It is so creamy while using only a little bit of cream. It is packed with flavor from fresh rosemary and blue cheese. And the squash cooks so nicely in the rice so that each bite is soft and warm and wonderful.

Rosemary Blue Cheese Butternut Squash Risotto
adapted from RecipeGirl
  • 7 c. chicken broth
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1¼ c. chopped onion
  • 2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 c. Arborio rice (risotto)
  • ½ cup dry white wine (i used sauvignon blanc - thanks Rachel!)
  • 4 c. (packed) baby spinach leaves
  • ½ c. whipping cream
  • 1/3 c. crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 small cooked chicken breasts, cut into small pieces (if desired)
  1. Bring 7 cups of broth to boil in a large saucepan. Cover and reduce heat to low.
  2. Melt butter in large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add squash and 1½ tsp. rosemary; sauté 4 minutes to coat with butter.
  3. Add rice and stir 2 minutes. Add wine and simmer until evaporated, about 1 minute.
  4. Add 3 cups of hot broth, bring to boil.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered (stirring often!) until rice is just tender and risotto is creamy and slightly soupy, adding more broth by 1/2 cupfuls as needed to maintain consistency, about 20 minutes.
  6. Stir in spinach and cream.
  7. Transfer risotto to large bowl. Sprinkle with blue cheese and remaining ½ tsp. rosemary and serve. (also, if using chicken breast, add now)
Maybe one day when I'm feeling nostalgic (and lazy) I'll make Nonna's risotto using Ragu...but until then, I'm full and happy from my creamy butternut squash risotto!
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