Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Moving Day.

I have made the decision to move over to WordPress. I know this may seem abrupt, but it's a move I've been pondering for a while now. Please follow the link below and tell your friends.

See you there!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Headbands- the herald of spring?

It's not too often that I post a photo of myself up here, but in this instance I do so to enhance the product of my labors today.

It's spring, and I've been feeling the urge to add a splash of color to my self-perceived drab wardrobe. The sun seems to be getting stronger and I think about wearing a skirt quite often. These thought are then shattered as I curse my optimism about the weather and have to walk home in a snow flurry.

There's a cycle that I get into that I know I am not alone in- I see something that I want, but not wanting to shell out hard earned cash, I think to myself, 'I'm crafty, I could make that!' Usually that is the end of the story, I either forget about whatever lovely thing I saw, or I think about it occasionally but don't do anything about it. Well, not this time!

I've seen cute headbands about town, and took the initiative this lazy Sunday afternoon (after I made 2 sets of curtains, sewed in a zipper and made a fabric flower, just for kicks).  I modified a pattern that I found online, but I did not have any elastic, but I had recently purchased a whole package of hair elastics. I sacrificed three of them for a greater purpose. I am quite pleased with the end product of these headbands.

Oh yes, did I mention they're reversible!?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Grown-up Spaghetti.

Nothing has quite the positive impact on my disposition than spending an afternoon in the kitchen. Scratch that- Nothing has quite the positive impact on my disposition than finding fresh rhubarb at the grocery store (thanks Pacific NW!) and spending an afternoon in the kitchen with Garth Brooks and a beer.

I baked the rhubarb pie that I love so dearly- and remembered to take a photo this time!

After I was done preparing dessert, I thought it would be a good idea to tackle dinner, and settled on a decidedly adult spaghetti dish. I don’t do much spaghetti these days- I suppose I’m a little burnt out on the marinara sauce. However, I used to eat my noodles exclusively with shredded cheddar cheese and butter with my pasta sauce on the side. I wasn’t much of a picky eater as a kid, but that was definitely my preference- cheesy, butter noodles. I suppose that I’m trying to say that I’ve eaten enough bland spaghetti in my life that I always think there are more interesting things I could be eating.

Saveur magazine did a bit on Roman food this month and I happened to come across a spaghetti recipe that spoke to me- Spaghetti alla carbonara. This dish involves pancetta, a whole lot of crushed black pepper, and raw eggs. I’m a huge fan of raw eggs- their whites in cocktails, their yolks in salad dressing, and now in pasta sauce! There’s a certain silky texture that raw eggs bring to the party that is able to trump any competitor. I strongly encourage the use of fresh farm eggs if you have access to them.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara- From Saveur Magazine

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz pancetta cut into ½ inch pieces
2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 ¾ cups finely grated Parmesan
1 egg plus 3 yolks
1 lb spaghetti

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned (6-8 minutes). Add pepper (either crushed with a mortar and pestle or ground with pepper mil on its coarsest setting) and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Transfer pancetta mixture into a medium bowl and let cool slightly. Stir in 1 ½ cups parmesan and egg and yolks. Stir to combine and set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente (8-10 minutes for sea level, more like 10-12 for folks at 5,000 feet). Reserve about 1 cup of pasta water, then drain pasta. Turn off heat on element and return pot to the stovetop. Add drained pasta and toss with pancetta mixture. Add pasta water a little at a time to make a creamy sauce. Season with salt (if needed) and pepper. Serve with remaining Parmesan.

I’m usually a one-dish dinner kind of gal, but for such a deceptively anemic looking main dish, I highly recommend pairing with a zippy arugula salad with toasted walnuts, sliced pear and chevre cheese.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Best Pizza Ever.

I am a pizza snob. I know that many people claim that, but how many of those people can also claim that they used to work in the pizza industry? Hmmm? I have been privileged with a couple of awesome summer jobs when I was in college- not in the preparing-to-be-a-constructive-member-of-society kind of way (I never had an internship), but in the have-a-really-fun-summer job in which you learn about some great bands from the too-tall hipster that left all of his mixed tapes in the pizza shop and where you learned that if you put the industrial fan just so you blow the onion fumes away so that you are barely affected by them.

Ahh, yes those were good times at Burlingame Pizza, which I learned after a quick internet search yesterday, is no more. In memoriam of some of the best damned pizza, I bring you one of their specialties. I don't even remember what the name of this pizza was on the menu, I do remember that it was genius. The combination of caramelized onions, roasted garlic, capers, mushrooms and pesto make the perfect combination of sweet and savory (and vegetarian friendly!). The real secret of this pie (besides a good crust) is the drizzle of honey over the crust- really, you can trust me, I'm an expert.

The Best Pizza Ever:

I recommend making your own pizza crust, it makes it that much more special, and with a little planning-ahead is both cheaper and tastier.

Pizza dough (adapted from Pioneer Woman)

* 1 teaspoon Instant Or Active Dry Yeast
* 1 ½ cup Warm Water
* 4 cups All-purpose Flour
* 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
* ⅓ cups Olive Oil
* Fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary)

Sprinkle yeast over 1 1/2 cups warm (not lukewarm) water.
In a mixer, combine flour and salt. With the mixer running on low speed (with hook attachment), drizzle in olive oil until combined with flour. Next, pour in yeast/water mixture and mix on low until all ingredients are combined. Ratchet the speed up to medium and let the dough hook do its work for about 4 minutes

Coat a separate mixing bowl with a light drizzle of olive oil, and form the dough into a ball. Toss to coat dough in olive oil, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise for about 2 hours. Divide the dough in two. Coat a baking sheet with flour, shape dough into disks and place on sheet. Cover with plastic and place in the fridge until you need it.

Pizza Toppings:

* Pesto
* 1 onions worth of caramelized onions
* 2-3 handfuls of spinach
* Mozzarella cheese
* 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
* 1-2 tbs capers
* 7 cloves of roasted garlic
* Honey

A bit of prep-work is needed for this pizza- namely caramelizing onions and roasting garlic. Caramelizing onions doesn't necessarily need constant attention, but requires periodic tending-to. Slice onions into half-rings. Heat a pan over medium-low heat. Heat oil or butter in pan and add onions. If you like your onions slightly sweeter, add a spoonful of honey. Stir occasionally until onions are dark and caramelize-y (40 minutes to one hour). While the onions are doing their thing, peel the garlic cloves. Pre-heat oven (or toaster oven) to 375. In a small oven-proof dish pour a couple of good glugs of olive oil. Add cloves and toss to coat completely. Roast garlic, stirring frequently, until very fragrant and caramelized.

Now you're ready to make pizza!

Preheat oven to 500.
Roll out pizza dough to fit your largest pan (if you have a pizza stone, lucky you). Slather a generous amount of pesto onto the dough, covering all but an inch border from the edge. Throw down the spinach. Distribute mozzarella evenly. Add mushrooms. Add garlic- break cloves up in your fingers and distribute evenly over pizza. Add capers. Dip a fork into a honey pot and drizzle all over the pizza- paying special attention to the crust.

Bake for 15 minutes or until crust is a light golden brown.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Few New Old Things.

I scored a vintage portable Royal typewriter at Garage-O-Rama this morning for $10. Garage-O-Rama is an indoor garage sale and individual sellers rent booths to sell their goods. It *might* be the kick-off to the garage sale season (spring? are you there?). Garage-O-Rama opened at 8am, I got there a bit before 9 and it was packed with people looking to score some sweet deals. I'm convinced that I got the best deal. Other great buys that I brought home included some cigar boxes, vintage cards (to type on), a garden bench and Filson hunting cap.

The typewriter needs a new ribbon, but aside from that seems to work fine. This is my second typewriter, the other one being a bulky Sears.

This is my spinning wheel- it seemed like a nice fit to place it in the same post as the typewriter. I seem to have too many hobbies at the moment to take up spinning, but I hear it is quite meditative once you get the hang of it. I think it's downright beautiful, and it makes a nice conversation piece.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pheasent Hunting

Even though I grew up in the country, I did not grow up in a household that hunted. In sixth grade when my classmates signed up for hunter-safety, I flatly refused even though I don’t think I was ever adamantly anti-hunting- that would have immediately rendered me a hypocrite due to my fondness for venison, biscuits and gravy. Killing was a part of my childhood- we raised cattle and sheep for the purpose of filling freezers (and the bank account). I fondly referred to market-day as ‘killing time’. I wasn’t completely desensitized though, I cried so hard when my spring lamb was sent away to meet its fate, I vowed never to do 4-H again due to its cruel, cruel nature (little did I know that you could still do 4-H and nothing had to die- e.g. chickens).

There was one point in college where for a consecutive 3 visits home there was something that had very recently been killed. Thanksgiving coincided with elk hunting season, and I distinctly remember the men-folk rallying to a fresh kill to haul a cow out of the forest to the barn to be hung, skinned and beheaded. I went out to spectate the cleaning process and watched with intrigue as a bonesaw was employed to do its job. Bonesaw easily became one of my favorite words for the next few months and I almost used it as part of my roller derby name.

Even though I grew up with the reality of death-to-animals-that-you-can-eat, I was wary around guns, and had never fired anything bigger than a bb gun until I was in college. I suppose you could say it’s been a downhill slide from there. Last summer I did some target shooting, and last weekend I made my first hunting trip to Wyoming to see if I couldn’t bag me a pheasant. I fully intended to firing my gun at a bird- even though it took me a couple of hours to warm up to the idea. I was mostly giddy about the fact that I was given a loaded gun to carry around.

My hunting party included Nic’s mom, Becky, and Cedar the vizsla. Nic was hunting with Mike and Stone the retriever. Walkie-Talkies were used to communicate position as well as to heckle the other hunting party after they fired and reported 0 birds down. By the afternoon, Nic had the only bird of all of us, and Cedar had only flushed about 3 birds. It was then that I realized that I might not get to shoot at anything and became a little irritated with myself and the dog- mostly on account of my competitive personality- but I quickly got over it.

Here’s something I learned about myself- I quite enjoy hunting. I now understand that hunting is a really good excuse to go for a walk, to hang out with your dog and to do some bushwhacking. Bringing home dinner is merely a bonus.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Round Food Pt. 2- Sourdough Pancakes

I guess it's already been established that I have a bubbly sourdough sponge that demands being fed at least once a week. I've taken to baking two loaves of bread on the weekends, eating one immediately, and freezing the other for later in the week (a routine that I look forward to every weekend). You might be surprised at how quickly a loaf of bread can be devoured when it does not come pre-sliced (or not at all).

While I love the sourdough bread I've been baking, I knew that there was more one could do with sourdough. A co-worker lent me a book of Montana recipes. Included in the pages of this book were recipes for just about every mammal and bird that calls Montana home. It was a book for the climate-hardy residents of the state that is apparently under snow for half of the year.

Much like the residents of Alaska, Montanans also had their sourdough, and they made pancakes as well as loaves of bread. This recipe was taken from this book. I love my weekend mornings, and I especially enjoy having company on weekends, when I can turn on the stove and flip pancakes happily while drinking coffee and engaging in morning banter.

I've made several varieties of pancakes in my day, but they usually have whole wheat flour in them as well as other cereal grains that are good for you. These pancakes are Plain. Delicious. Pancakes. They are started the night before to give the batter a little more umph and turn out a bit chewier than other types of pancakes. They also don't taste all that sour to me- which may be less prominent after you drizzle maple syrup all over them.

Sourdough Pancakes

2 c sourdough starter
1 c flour
2 eggs
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbs oil
1 tbs baking soda

Mix the sourdough starter and flour and enough water to create a medium thick batter. Cover and let sit overnight.

In the morning, add 2 eggs, sugar, salt and oil. Mix. When griddle is hot add baking soda. Cook as any other pancake (with a buttered skillet).

Makes enough for 4. If serving 2 people, I recommend halving the recipe.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Round Food, Part 1

I want to talk today about round food. This, being in the midst of citrus season, is fitting. But I don't want to talk too much about citrus, and not because I don't love it- quite to opposite. I have been eating as much grapefruit as is socially acceptable... and only a little bit more.

I want to talk about recreating foods (or attempting to) that you love. I once worked as a lunch and coffee slinger back in Portland. It was, in fact, the first job I had post college. I do not use the word 'sling' lightly. The lunches were prepared at a different location and by the time it got to the cafe we threw it on a plate and slung it at the customers. Really. The different location at which the food was prepared at was actually a catering kitchen, and food was usually well prepared and quite tasty. I suppose one doesn't 'sling' tasty food and that that verb is usually reserved for gruel or food of a similar consistency. But I digress.

I haven't worked there for almost 4 years, but there is one lunch item that has persistently been on my mind. Alas, I was unable to get a recipe before I left and have never attempted to duplicate it... until recently.

Gorgonzola and caramelized onion polenta gratin.

Yum? I think so. The key flavors and textures are pretty self-explanatory, though I still have some tweaking to do- As I remember it, it was much cheesier. I do recommend keeping caramelized onions in your fridge at all times- they do a great job of enhancing everything from polenta to pizza to scrambled eggs.

The other round thing that was made recently was supposed to be a pie. Nic bought some home-canned cherries and requested a pie. I personally don't deal too well with cherries other than to eat them fresh- they're a littl fussy to mess with, what with all those pits and not a lot of fruit to show for it, compared to other stone fruits. So the jars sat in our pantry for about 6 months. A few weekends ago Nic cooked them down in their syrup and created a nice thick cherry pie filling. However, the filling was less than an adequate amount for a full pie, and Nic only made a single pie crust, and so we made a cherry galette.

I am a big fan of naming things as you see fit. I once made what was supposed to be a lemon cake, but the cake turned out to be (a lot) more dense than I had hoped, and so I called a lemon torte. You can get away with a lot by remembering this little trick.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Sense of Accomplishment

I had a thought about a month ago, that I had not had a quarter-life crisis in some time. It could be because I've been busy with life and work (I mean this full-time volunteer thing that I do), or that I haven't had time to question the path my life is headed in. It also might have something to do with the fact that we have a 2 year lease on our apartment and I have a year contract with AmeriCorps. I don't know exactly why I'm less restless than even a year ago, but it may have something to do with time-intensive projects. If you're at all familiar with my penchant for projects, then read ahead, I've just finished a big one.

I've been spending an inordinate amount of time knitting in the past few months- which might also be blamed for my lack of presence here, in the inter-world. I've been quite focused on this project- a cardigan, 'Jarrett' by Kim Hargraves. This cardigan has been able to keep my interest throughout these three months (almost to the day) I've spent on it. Some motivating factors that have helped guide me to completion have included- the countdown to less frigid months (which would prevent the recipient from being able to wear it until next winter) and the lack of daylight hours (which gave me less time to spend outside and therefore more time to spend inside, on the couch, with my knitting). One great thing about knitting is that it is quite portable and can be done while enjoying a movie or podcast if you are comfortable with multitasking.

This being my first knitted garment, I am pleased as punch with how it turned out. The most important part in the completion of this project is that it fits! I gave myself bonus points for it fitting well and looking good. Only after I began knitting the sweater I began reading and paying attention to knitting horror stories- stories that do not appeal to non-knitters, and are about knitting in the wrong gauge (which I thoroughly checked but began to doubt myself), and knitting two right sides instead of a right and a left side. Luckily (or because I was extra careful), the sweater was completed without major incident.

Nic should be credited for picking out the color of the yarn (lichen) as well as the buttons (which were purchased at Bolt in Portland). Nic's mother, Becky, should be credited with helping me out with the final seaming, washing and blocking as well as encouragement and support throughout the process.

I, however, am going to take all of the credit for knitting.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bread, and an apron to bake it with.

I'm afraid that my title doesn't make sense- that you can't actually bake bread with an apron. I'm afraid that my small reading population will take me too literally. I finally got around to making an apron for myself that is the same pattern as the one I made for Audrey many months ago. I spend enough time in the kitchen, I thought it was about time that I should protect my clothing from spills, splatters, hand wipes and the like.

I splurged on the fabric (with the pattern in mind) in Portland way back when we went to Oregon for Thanksgiving. Fabric is great like that- it's the gift that keeps on giving.

In the past several months I have been honing my bread baking skills. Sourdough to be exact. We don't yet have any pets, so I have resorted to calling my fermentation projects my pets. I have a kombucha baby (or mother, depending on who you talk to) and also a sourdough sponge. Neither have names and I am currently taking suggestions.

The sourdough is not 150 years old, nor did it come from the Yukon. Nic and I made it from 'scratch' by harvesting wild yeast from the air (which I just find exceedingly cool). It gets fed at least once a week, and I have adapted a time-consuming bread baking process into one that fits into my lifestyle. I've done it enough times now I don't even need a recipe (a good thing seeing as how the bread baking book was left in Ohio). This bread is on the sour end of sourdough, which is just how I like it, keeps for several days and has a really great crumb.

the crusty crust was created by adopting the no knead bread technique of baking your bread in an already-hot dutch oven, thereby steaming the bread which in turns creates a lovely crust. And with just 4 ingredients I just think it's the most beautiful thing ever. It's almost too good to eat... almost.

Sourdough bread (my apologies if you do not have a sourdough sponge. I recommend that you procure one as soon as possible).

1 c sourdough sponge
2 c bread flour
1 tsp salt
1/3-1/2 c warm water

In a mixer with a dough hook, mix all ingredients together and continue to mix on medium speed for about 5 minutes, add more water or flour as needed to obtain a firm and elastic dough.

Turn dough out into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise for at least 4 hours (I sometimes let it rise overnight). Punch dough down and shape into desired loaf style (round). Let dough rise for at least 1 hour, ideally 2 on floured surface.

Within the last 1/2 hour of the 2nd rise, preheat the oven to 450 and place a dutch oven or other oven-save lidded casserole dish into the oven.

When dutch oven is preheated, place bread with a deep 'X' to accommodate rise in the hot dish. Cover and return to oven. When 20 minutes has passed, remove lid and continue baking for at least 10 minutes, or until bread is golden brown.

Let cool for 1 hour before devouring.