Archive for the 'Food and Drink' Category

Northeast Minneapolis Art-a-Whirl 2014

Monday, May 12th, 2014

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Did you know Northeast Minneapolis’ Art-a-Whirl is the biggest artist open-studio event in the US? And it’s this upcoming weekend, from Friday May 16 to Sunday May 18. Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about Whirling with little ones, which I wrote about for Minnesota Monthly’s TC Taste blog here. But it’s a good set of links even if you don’t have little ones. And even if you don’t live in the Twin Cities, you can check out the art online.

And, please do. Because in writing that post, I put all the links in my draft, and they didn’t copy over to the final, so I had to enter them all again. Which was a giant pain. So go, read, and click the links, to justify all that hard, hard work, if you would, kind readers!

[Insert Adjectives] Banana Muffins

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

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Technically, these are Espresso Chocolate Chip Toasted Walnut Whole Wheat Banana Muffins.

A$$load of Adjectives Banana Muffins? Bada$$ Banana Muffins?

I still have this brain-eating virus, so I’m cursing a lot. Not sure I’m very far off from Flowers for Algernon, here. Sorry if the cursing offends.

Call them what you will. They turned out good. I’m sure I’ve shared something like them before, but this was today’s iteration.

Banana Muffins With a Bunch of Stuff in Them, a mashup of recipes from Baked, Super Natural Cooking and an index card recipe ca. 1998 that came either from the Philadelphia Inquirer or The Star Tribune.

makes 12

1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, melted then cooled (or unsalted butter and add 1 tsp. salt to dry ingredients. I was out of unsalted butter)
3 mashed very ripe bananas
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup creme fraiche (see recipe from yesterday, or use sour cream, milk, yogurt, whatever)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (you can also just use 1 1/2 cup AP flour)
1 Tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup toasted, cooled then chopped walnuts

1. Oven 350. Spray 12-cup muffin tin.
2. Stir together butter, bananas, sugars, dairy item and egg in a medium-small bowl.
3. Whisk together flour, espresso, soda in a medium-big bowl.
4. Put wet ingredients into dry. Stir till just mixed, then fold in chips/nuts.
5. Using ice-cream scoop fill muffin cups 3/4 or so full. Bake 20 minutes till tester comes clean.
6. Cool pan on rack 15 minutes. Remove muffins, cool rest of the way on rack.

Muffins can be stored in an airtight container for a few days. Like they’ll last that long.

The recipe calls for one eggs, but I took pictures of three because I thought they were pretty:

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Scotchy Scotch Scotch. Mmmm…

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Mmmm. There it goes down, down in my belly.

Fear not, friends who know I’m a teetotaller. I’m not talking about Ron Burgundy’s scotch. Or Ron Swanson’s, for that matter. I’m talking butterscotch.

It started with the strawberry cake that about-to-be 7yo Guppy requested for his birthday. After making the cake, I had eight egg yolks. What to do?

Butterscotch pudding with whipped cream

Butterscotch pudding with whipped cream

Make pudding! Jennifer Reese of Tipsy Baker’s recipe for Butterscotch Pudding from her book Make the Bread, Buy the Butter calls for 4 egg yolks. Four is exactly half of eight. (Who said fractions aren’t important?) It was a sign from the Kitchen Goddess (who I’ve tentatively identified as Hestia; what do you think?) I could make a double batch!

And so I did; the recipe is below. Butterscotch pudding has become a comfort-food dessert at many restaurants around the Twin Cities. Now I can satisfy my craving for it on a whim. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing. But perhaps that’s because I made a double batch, which seemed excessive after a while, even for me. I suggest that you make a single batch. Unless you have 8 egg yolks. Then, what else are you supposed to do?

Reese advises 1. adding a teaspoon of Scotch or bourbon with the butter and vanilla, 2. straining the pudding before putting it in containers, and 3. using small ramekins or teacups for individual servings. But I was impatient for pudding and serving it to small children, so I skipped the Scotch, straining and separate cups. The pudding was still delicious.

Alas, what I couldn’t skip was my conviction that the pudding should be topped by whipped cream.

Reese’s recipe for whipped cream is simple; it’s below. Now, the dead-simplest is to get some cold heavy cream and whip it, which can be arduous if you do it by hand, but goes fast with a hand-held mixer. But adding a little sugar and vanilla does make it even better.

But, the trouble with home-made whipped cream is that it doesn’t keep, it weeps. One way to combat this is to store it in a metal sieve over a bowl, but this tends to dry out the cream. I found another idea in the Genius Recipes archive at Food 52. Nancy Silverton adds creme fraiche to the whipping cream to stabilize it; recipe below. So back I went to Reese’s book, as she has a ridiculously simple recipe for Creme Fraiche though it takes 24 hours; recipe also below.

Ah, so then, was I satisfied? Oh, no. I’d gotten a taste for butterscotch, so my mind turned to my favorite cookie from childhood, the oatmeal scotchie. I tweaked the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, which was in turn a tweak of the back-of-the-box recipe I’d made going up. I upped the amount of salt a titch, and can testify that it only makes these more crave-able.

<em/>Oatmeal Scotchie cookies” title=”img_3407″ width=”300″ height=”225″ class=”size-medium wp-image-5110″ /><p class=Oatmeal Scotchie cookies

But, perhaps you are not a butterscotch person. My friend Becca has a theory, which is that people either like it or not, they’re not indifferent, and those who do like butterscotch tend to also like coconut, and not liking butterscotch usually means not liking coconut, too. (What math property is this? Transitive? Commutative?) Feel free to add evidence either way in the comments. So if you don’t like butterscotch, use chocolate chips. Do not use raisins. I have coined a term: RAISIN-TMENT, which is the bitterness I feel and taste when I bite into a cookie expecting chocolate chips, and get raisins instead. Then I give the cookie away, appearing generous, but really being self serving. Or not, as the case may be.

Guppy verifies that the pudding is delicious with the 11th Doctor's sonic screwdriver

Guppy verifies that the pudding is delicious with the 11th Doctor's sonic screwdriver

Also, remember, pudding can be deadly. Be careful out there.

***

All the recipes from this post:

Butterscotch Pudding, adapted from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter (also, buy the book)

2 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Remove from the heat.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the cream, egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt until well blended.
3. Pour a splash of hot milk into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in the remainder of the milk.
4. Pour the mixture back into the pot and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it begins to thicken, 3 or 4 minutes. Do not let it boil.
5. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla.
6. Transfer to glass container, cover and chill for at least 4 hours until firm and cold.

Makes 3 1/2 cups, to serve 7

***

Whipped Cream
, from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter

1 cup very cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional

Pour the cream and sugar into a large bowl* and beat until soft peaks form. If you want to use vanilla, add it after peaks have formed. Serve immediately. Makes 1 3/4 cups.

*Cold bowl and beaters = faster whipped cream. I keep my beaters in the freezer, and chill the metal bowl by filling it with ice water for one minute, draining and drying it, then adding the cold cream and beating with the chilled beaters. Probably a toss up of time chilling bowl vs. time saved on whipping, now that I write it out here. –GD

***

Creme Fraiche, from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter (see what a useful book it is?)

1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon buttermilk (real, not powdered or soured milk)

Pour the cream and buttermilk into a jar, cap, and shake. Leave in a warmish place–like beside the stove–for 24 hours, until thick. Refrigerate. It will keep for up to a week. Makes 1 cup.

***

Nancy Silverton’s Whipped Cream from Food 52

Makes 2 cups

1 cup whipping cream
4 tablespoons crème fraîche (or sour cream), to taste

To whip by hand, you need a very large bowl and a large, balloon-style whisk. The large bowl is necessary to be able to whip the cream vigorously without making a mess, and the style of whisk is very important: If you whisk is too small or has too few wires, it will take much more effort to whip the cream. Whisking vigorously, it should take about 3 to 5 minutes to bring the liquid cream to the proper consistency.

By machine, start on low speed until the cream thickens enough not to spatter. Increase the speed to medium high and continue to whip, stopping the machine before the cream will hold soft peaks. Remove the bowl from the electric mixer and finish whipping the cream by hand with a whisk. Fold or gently whisk in creme fraiche.

Note: Salvaging extremely overwhipped cream can be done. You must add up to 1/4 cup of cold whipping cream and work it in, stirring with a rubber spatula to restore the proper consistency.

***

Oatmeal Scotchies, adapted from America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated.

Makes 16 to 20 large cookies

Do not overbake these cookies. The edges should be brown but the rest of the cookie should still be very light in color. Parchment makes for easy cookie removal and cleanup, but it’s not a necessity. If you don’t use parchment, let the cookies cool directly on the baking sheet for two minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (or 1 cup AP flour and 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour)
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks unsalted butter (1/2 pound), softened but still firm
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup butterscotch or chocolate chips

Instructions

1. Adjust oven racks to low and middle positions; heat oven to 350 degrees. In bowl of electric mixer or by hand, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars; beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time.

2. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg together, then stir them into butter-sugar mixture with wooden spoon or large rubber spatula. Stir in oats and chips. Reminder: do not use raisins. No one wants them.

3. With ice-cream scoop, make sixteen to twenty 2-inch balls, placing each dough round onto one of two parchment paper–covered, large cookie sheets. Bake until cookie edges turn golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes. (Halfway during baking, turn cookie sheets from front to back and also switch them from top to bottom.) Slide cookies on parchment onto cooling rack. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

I Am Going to Kick This Cold

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Good news: my swollen finger joint is better.

Bad news: After over a week, my on-again/off-again cold has dug in to stay. I have a small colony of frogs living at the base of my throat and they get really active at night. I am determined to kick this thing to the curb. I’m going to throw so much $h1t at it that it will have to bow down.

I am still in pajamas and convinced my 9yo to make his own lunch (his dad helped) and my husband worked from home today, and took the kids to the bus stop so I didn’t have to. I don’t plan on leaving the house for the foreseeable future. Laundry and cleaning can damn well wait till I’m solidly better. Like, next week, maybe. Also the Tournament of Books started today, so I better get reading.

I used to chew a raw clove of garlic, but the last time I tried it I vomited it right back up (it’s that gross), so, lesson learned, no more of that. I may make myself grape Jello water instead.

I have finished all my Cold Calm, which is really just homeopathic sugar pills and makes my husband G. Grod crazy that I buy them, but aren’t placebos supposed to be effective, too? I’m taking a packet of EmergenC, 1000 iu of Vitamin D, a multivitamin, fish oil, some herbal sinus pill (Sinus Take Care; what a terrible name), Yogi’s Cold Care tea, honey, Sambucol, and a new twist on my favorite cold tonic:

Moxie’s Cold Cure-all, from Bon Appetit January 2013
A warming drink with echinacea, plus a kick of ginger and cayenne to clear the sinuses? We’re in.

Makes 1. Recipe by Moxie Rx in Portland, OR.

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey or light agave syrup (nectar)*
1 teaspoon finely grated peeled ginger**
1/4 teaspoon super echinacea extract***
Pinch of cayenne pepper

*Screw agave. It’s a fad. Sugar is sugar, except when it’s local honey, which is better for you. Use local honey.
**Use your Microplane grater. If you do not have one, fix that.
***Super echinacea extract can be found at natural foods stores.

Combine all ingredients in a mug with 1 cup boiling water, stirring until honey is dissolved. Let sit for 1 minute before serving.

It Started with a Pink Cake

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Guppy told me he wanted a strawberry cake for his 7th birthday, so I showed him a picture of The Pink Lady Cake at Smitten Kitchen.

I didn’t call it the Pink Lady, because he’s a seven year old boy. I’m all for gender boundaries coming down and boys embracing pink, but really, it’s called the Pink Lady, and that sounds like a cocktail cougars would drink at a male strip club, not a little boy’s birthday cake. Instead, it got the somewhat unwieldy handle Strawberry Cake with Cream-Cheese Frosting.

But in my head, I gave it a tough name, since it was such a girly cake. I decided to call it the Bada$$ Motherf!@#er cake in my head, which amused me because I’m immature that way.

Anyhoo, the BAMF cake nearly broke my trusty 20+ yo Kitchenaid mixer (the only good thing I’ve ever bought from Kitchenaid. Made in USA back then. Go figure.) My 4.5-quart mixer was too small for the three-layer cake recipe, and adding pureed frozen strawberries to the batter made the melted butter freeze up. I thought the motor was going to quit on me, but I stopped, did math, cut everything by 1/3, warmed the batter in the microwave to defrost the strawberries, filled two cake pans, then made the last 1/3 batter separately to fill the last pan, and voila: Macgyver Mom + Math = Success.

<em/>Here is when I stopped the mixer to reduce the batter by 1/3. Hooray fractions! Also, to taste the batter to make sure it was good. It was. ” title=”img_3341″ width=”300″ height=”225″ class=”size-medium wp-image-5097″ /><p class=Here is when I stopped the mixer to reduce the batter by 1/3. Hooray fractions! Also, to taste the batter to make sure it was good. It was.

<em/>I weighed the layers to make sure they were even. Because sometimes I'm a dork like that. Also, because I own a kitchen scale, so why not?” title=”cake_wt” width=”225″ height=”300″ class=”size-medium wp-image-5100″ /><p class=I weighed the layers to make sure they were even. Because sometimes I'm a dork like that. Also, because I own a kitchen scale, so why not?

Then there was the requisite assembling and frosting and when finished, it looked like this:

<em/>I like how the perspective makes Guppy's head look like a decoration on his own cake. I didn't have time to make it look fancy, so it looks like a big white puck” title=”cake_uncut” width=”225″ height=”300″ class=”size-medium wp-image-5099″ /><p class=I like how the perspective makes Guppy's head look like a decoration on his own cake. I didn't have time to make it look fancy, so it looks like a big white puck

Two-Layer Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Filling (or, if you wish, The Bada$$ Motherf&*^er Cake)
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Sky High. For the strawberries, take about half of a 10-ounce bag of frozen berries, defrost them at room temperature or in the microwave, then puree to get one cup. If you have leftover cream cheese frosting, get graham crackers, put a tablespoon between 2 squares, repeat until you run out of frosting, then freeze. You’re welcome.

For the cake
3 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup pureed thawed frozen strawberries*
6 egg whites
scant 1/2 cup milk

For the cream cheese frosting
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract

Make the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350»F. Butter two 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pans. Line with parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the electric mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and strawberry puree and mix to blend the ingredients. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes; the batter will resemble strawberry ice cream at this point.

3. In another large bowl, whisk together the egg whites and milk to blend. Add the whites to the batter in two or three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and mixing only to incorporate after each addition. Divide the batter among the two prepared pans.

4. Bake the cakes for 30 to 34 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool in the pans for 10 to 15 minutes. Invert and turn out onto wire racks and peel off the paper liners. Let stand until completely cooled before assembling the cake, at least an hour.

Make the cream cheese frosting
5. In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.

Frost and assemble the cake

6. Place one cake layer on a cake board or platter. Tuck scraps of waxed paper under the edges of the cake to protect the board or plate from any mess created while frosting the cake. Spread about 2/3 cup frosting over the layer, spreading it to the edge. Add the second layer then frost the top and sides of cake with remaining frosting. You can decorate the cake top with thinly-sliced strawberries. What you should not do is take some of the strawberry puree in a pastry bag and try to decorate the cake with that because it will look like strawberry vomit. Remove the waxed strips to reveal a clean cake board.

The not-too-pink cake

The not-too-pink cake

Once cut, you can see it was a perfectly respectable 3-layer pink-ish cake. I did not add red food coloring to increase the pink. Even so, a handful of 7yo boys at the party refused it, saying they didn’t like strawberry. I don’t know if this was code for “I’m not going to eat that girly cake.” So, nice, I work really hard on this cake, and then little boys REFUSE CAKE. Happily, Guppy enjoyed it, so that’s all that matters.

But, you may notice that this recipe calls for 6 egg whites, so, doing math, the 3 layer cake called for 8. I had 8 egg yolks left over. What was I going to do?

It was there my troubles began. TO BE CONTINUED.

Holiday Baking

Monday, November 19th, 2012

I have had a crazy-town banana-pants week, with all three book groups meeting and four articles to turn in. Thus, no posts last week. I am emerging from under my rock, though.

One of the articles is up at Simple Good and Tasty, on L.C. Finn’s flavor extracts, which I used to make Pumpkin Spice Muffins and Anise Biscotti.

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I will use this excuse to repost the easiest Pumpkin Pie recipe which I will be making tomorrow:

Impossible Pumpkin Pie–no crust needed!

1 15-oz. can pumpkin
1 1/2 c. milk, or 1 13-oz. can evaporated milk
1/2 c. biscuit/pancake mix or 1/2 c. flour plus 3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 c. sugar
2 Tbl. butter, melted then cooled
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp. cinnamon or 1/2 tsp. cinnamon extract
1 tsp. ground ginger or 1/2 tsp. ginger extract
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom, or 1/8 tsp. cardamom extract
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch glass or Pyrex pie plate.

Place all ingredients in blender; blend for 2 minutes. Pour mixture into pie plate and bake for about an hour, or till center is set and tester comes out clean. Cool. Serve with vanilla or ginger or cinnamon or cardamom or maple whipped cream.

More Candy! Woo!

Monday, October 29th, 2012

From my article “Tremendous Treats: Finding the Fun in Halloween” at Simple Good and Tasty, in which I defend candy:

Yet most of us also harbor happy childhood memories of coming home from a night of trick-or-treating with a pillowcase or plastic pumpkin full of goodies. The enjoyment was extended by sorting candy, trading it, and slowly (or not-so-slowly) consuming it over the next several days. It’s good to remember that there is joy in this candy-centric holiday that can easily get stifled by well-meaning adults.

In my last post, I linked to the other piece I wrote on candy. I thought I was done buying Halloween candy. Then I biked past Lund’s the other day and went in to check things out. Here’s what I found (and, if it’s not obvious, brought home with me):

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Yes, those are Halloween-sized Pearson’s Salted Nutrolls and Mint Patties!

And, if that weren’t enough, which is OBVIOUSLY wasn’t, I bought these because the packages are so FREAKING ADORABLE:

dots

Bat-black dots that are BLOOD-orange flavored–how clever is that?

In case you’re wondering, both Drake and Guppy declared that the bat dots were better than the ghost dots. Also, 2 our of 3 of us declared Pearson’s mint patties better than York. And, Drake is wrong, so it is really unanimous.

This is the end of Halloween candy buying. Really. I mean it.

Obsessing Nerdishly over Halloween Candy

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

I’ve been writing about Halloween Candy, and detailed my tops picks at Minnesota Monthly’s TC Taste Blog.

But in “researching” that article and another I just turned in, I may have gotten a little carried away procuring this year’s treats to hand out next week:

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Every year we run out. This year might be different.

What’s your favorite Halloween candy? I did a poll of the bus stop moms and was surprised to find two of my most-hated candies were picked as most loved by others: candy corn and Three Musketeers (nougat=blerg). To each her own; vive la difference!

Crackly Banana Bread

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

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“That doesn’t look like banana bread,” my husband G. Grod remarked. My normal banana bread recipe has maraschino cherries in it, which makes it fairly easy to identify.

“New recipe. Smitten Kitchen,” was all I had to say.

G. and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary last week, which I unintentionally made a big deal of by putting a couple things on facebook and now here, so forgive me if I seem to be going on about it, but I have to say it’s one of those nice things about being married to someone for so long that I can just say “Smitten Kitchen” and he knows what I’m talking about.

Then again, there are probably at least half a dozen friends who would get that, too. So maybe I am just flagrantly boasting about our anniversary. Sorry. Anyhoo.

I’ve been making Marvelous Metropolitan Millet Muffins for a while, so I am a fan of millet and was eager to try the new combination. I took it to a sukkot party this weekend, and people really liked it. I’m not going to give up my normal banana bread recipe. And after mentioning to G. Grod, I may also try SK’s Jacked-Up banana bread. It’s good to switch things up once in a while.

Crackly Banana Bread, adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen
makes 1 9-in loaf, or 3 mini loaves

My grocery co-op sells uncooked millet in the bulk aisle. Whole Foods and their ilk would likely have it, too.

1/4 cup uncooked millet
3 large ripe bananas
1 large egg
1/3 cup virgin coconut oil, warmed until it liquefies, or olive oil
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup cane sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
Salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place millet on rimmed baking sheet and toast for ten minutes, shaking once or twice, while oven warms.

Butter and flour 9×5-inch loaf pan or 3 mini loaf pans.

In the bottom of a large bowl, mash bananas with a potato masher (smoother) or a fork (more toothsome/lumpier). Whisk in egg, then oil, sugars and vanilla extract.

In medium bowl, whisk together soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and flour, then millet. Sprinkle over wet ingredients and stir till just combined with no streaks of flour.

Pour mixture into prepared pan(s) and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes for a large loaf, about 30 for mini loaves. Cool loaf in pan on rack for five minutes, then remove from pan and let cool on rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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My Drink of the Summer

Monday, August 27th, 2012

coffee_sodaSummer is kind of over–9yo Drake and 6yo Guppy boarded the school bus this morning, and I’ve spent the day reading, writing, staking floppy tomato plants, weeding, and doing laundry while through it all revelling in the peace and quiet.

I never knew how much I disliked noise and mess until I had a child. Then another. Both boys.

But anyway. I had a lightbulb moment earlier this summer and added a splash of cold-brewed coffee to a glass of fizzy water, and I’ve been drinking it ever since. Twelve ounces fizzy water (I favor La Croix plain) with an ounce or two of cold-press coffee are two great things that go great together. So even though the kids are back to school, leaves are falling and the squirrels are leaving walnut casings on the sidewalk, I think I’ve still got a few more weeks of warm weather to keep enjoying this.

Sriracha Deviled Eggs for Spring

Monday, April 9th, 2012

I grew up in a family that made deviled eggs for special occasions. There was never a recipe. What I remember is a series of steps: boil eggs, peel eggs, halve eggs, put whites on fancy deviled-egg dish, put yolks in bowl, add mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper and horseradish as a matter of course, then possibly experiment with things like vinegar, hot sauce, and, one unfortunate time, wasabi. Make sure everyone in the house tastes it to offer input, then put into plastic bag, pipe into egg-white halves, and put leftover yolk mix on crackers, usually Triscuits.

As an adult on my own, I don’t make deviled eggs as often as my family does. My kids don’t (yet) like them. But yesterday on Easter, I felt the pull of tradition. I unearthed the Harvest Gold Tupperware egg transporter (I have three other egg serving dishes) and got down to the serious business of making eggs.

I was motivated by three recent articles–one from the Genius Recipes series at Food 52, and two from my husband G. Grod, one on baking eggs rather than boiling them, and another on using Sriracha sauce in the filling.

Baking versus boiling? A success. I put a cookie sheet below the baking eggs in case they ’sploded, but no eggs were harmed in the process. Were they easy to peel, you ask? More than half of them were, but easy-to-peel is more a function of egg age than of cooking method. I’ve tried poking a hole with a push pin, storing eggs on their sides, and pretty much all the methods, but the best thing is old eggs, where the inside membrane is drying out. Peeling under a thin stream of running water at the sink helps a bit by making a little space between the shell’s membrane and the egg.

Next up was making the filling. I only had a few eggs to work with, as I’d made the Hell’s Kitchen 9-egg lemon-ricotta hotcakes for breakfast, so I had to do some fiddly math to get proportions right, but they tasted good, with a nice slow burn at the finish. And they looked pretty and orange-y. Until they fell off G Grod’s cargo bike on the way to a friend’s house. We were able to rescue most of them, and I cleaned them up a bit for the below photo. In spite of their looks, they went fast. I’m going to make a lot more, next time. And not drop them.

Sriracha deviled eggs

Sriracha deviled eggs

Sriracha Deviled Eggs

1 dozen eggs, preferably about a week old

To cook the eggs: Put oven racks in middle of oven. In cold oven, place eggs directly on rack. (You can put a cookie sheet on the oven floor if you’re worried they’ll explode; mine didn’t.) Set oven to 325F. Set timer for 30 minutes. Prepare ice bath. When 30 minutes have passed, remove eggs with oven mitts or tongs and put them in ice bath for 5 minutes. When pouring out cold water, jostle eggs to crack the shells. Peel. Halve. Place egg whites on plate or tray.

For the filling:

12 egg yolks
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons Sriracha hot sauce
2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Put yolks in mesh sieve over large bowl. With rubber spatula, press through mesh. Add mayonnaise, butter, mustard, Sriracha, lime juice and salt. Taste, and adjust as needed.

2. Transfer mixture to plastic bag. Snip off corner. Squeeze filling into egg whites on tray.

3. Eat the ugliest egg to make sure they’re good. Repeat as needed to reassure yourself. Share with friends. If you want to.

My Own Personal Banana Bread

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Over at Tipsy Baker, Jennifer Reese has been writing about making banana bread here and here. She describes her ideal bread as having a custard-y texture. I like a heavy, moist banana bread, but a custard-y texture is going too far for me. Why not just make bread pudding out of banana bread rather than pudding-y bread? But to each her own banana bread, and it got me thinking about my own.

Melted Hope Creamery butter Melted butter. I put a stick of butter in the microwave for 30 seconds, which leaves bergs of butter then stir with a fork till the warm butter melts the bergs.

My carb addiction began pretty young, and I’ve been baking since middle school. So I’ve probably been baking banana bread for over thirty years. When it comes out right, which I’ll discuss further, it’s dark, heavy, moist, rich with banana flavor and studded with bright, sweet maraschino cherries. This is the recipe imprinted on me whose pull is so strong that I have to make an extra stop for maraschino cherries; my grocery co-op doesn’t carry such a thing. (And after reading Reese’s Make the Bread Buy the Butter, I know better than to attempt to make them myself.)

cherriesI used the chemically colored/flavored/sweetened cherries but not the organic vanilla in deference to the original recipe.

That said, I haven’t been wholly faithful to the recipe over the years. A note that says to add the “juice” of the cherries to the recipe, which already has a cup of sugar, made a wet mess that took two hours to bake with a crust that had to be swathed in plastic wrap to soften it. (I put juice in quotes because the liquid the cherries are in is an unholy combination of chemicals that I only wish I could pretend was merely sugar water.) And the most curious instruction, to me, was to dissolve a teaspoon of baking soda in a tablespoon of warm water. I’ve never seen this instruction in any other recipe, and it makes me wonder if somewhere back in the old days there was a problem with clumpy soda.

img_1648Black-enough bananas. If your bananas aren’t this gross, you can roast them in the pre-heating oven.

But as I considered banana bread and looked at the tweaks I’d made to the recipe over time (a hybrid of my family’s recipe with one from Cook’s Illustrated) I realized what I had was really no longer my great-grandmother’s recipe. So I called my grandmother and aunt to answer a few questions, and learned that while it is the recipe our family has been making for generations, it is not my great-grandmother’s, but instead someone named Henrietta.

img_1650Eggs from happy chickens. Really–they have names and their owner pets them.

My 97yo grandmother wasn’t clear on the exact relation to Henrietta, but I think she was a cousin, so I feel perfectly justified in continuing to refer to this as our family’s banana bread.

img_1651Buttered, floured sides give the bread something to cling to as it rises.

After this consult, where we checked the recipe against the one written on a flyleaf of my grandmother’s Joy of Cooking, I decided to make the original recipe again, without the Cook’s Illustrated tweaks to the ingredients. But I couldn’t help but add some whole wheat flour, skip the dissolving of the soda, plus melt rather than cream the butter, which makes for a very easy, two-bowl, mix-by-hand batter. I was quite torn about vanilla, which the original recipe doesn’t have but I usually add. But I steeled myself to omit it in the interest of science. Or historical accuracy. Or whatever.

img_1653Why yes, I _do_ use a Play-doh knife to take the loaves out so I don’t scratch the non-stick pans.

Alas, I was a little too clever. I divided the batter into four mini pans so they’d bake faster and the crust wouldn’t grow too thick. But I let them overbake a bit. The results were good, but a bit dry. I’m going to have to try again before I declare the original recipe a winner.

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How about you; what’s your ideal banana bread, or your family recipe?


Mostly The Family Banana Bread

makes 1 standard loaf or 4 mini loaves

1/2 cup butter (1 stick) melted then cooled
2 eggs
3 mashed black bananas (about 1 1/2 cup)

4/3 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 small jar maraschino cherries, stems removed, rinsed and torn in halves.

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour loaf pan(s).

In medium small bowl, stir butter, eggs and bananas together. In medium large bowl, whisk dry ingredients together. Lightly fold banana mixture and cherries into dry ingredients with rubber spatula until just combined. Batter will be thick and chunky but there should be no flour streaks. Scrape batter into pan(s) and bake till golden brown, about 55 minutes for a large loaf, or 40 minutes for small ones. Tester should come out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then on wire rack.

A Bodacious Birthday Cake

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Guppy turned 6 this week! I showed him the cake section of Joanne Chang’s Flour, which I received for Christmas but had not yet worked up the gumption to cook from. Guppy, who knows his own mind, passed by the chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, the chocolate cupcakes with magic frosting, and said he wanted the lemon-raspberry cake. The recipe is in small type over three pages. I asked, “Are you sure?” and showed him the picture of the cupcakes again. He was sure.

The day before Guppy’s birthday, I made a trip to our grocery co-op, since I did not have on hand the requisite: cake flour, nearly 2 pounds of butter, 14 eggs (for 14 whites but only 12 egg yolks), bag of lemons, nearly 5 cups of sugar, and 2 boxes of very lovely, organic, USA, on-sale raspberries.

Day one. On Guppy’s birthday, his older brother Drake vomited for the second morning in a row. Dealing with that left me less than energized to start a major baking project, but I rallied in the late morning and made the three cake layers and the homemade lemon curd. The cakes involved whipping egg whites then folding them into a very thick batter. The lemon curd used up my bag of lemons and I needed more to make the lemon syrup, so I asked Guppy if I could finish his cake the next day if we got dessert out that night. He graciously agreed, and I was able to procure more lemons.

Day two. The recipe says to make the buttercream frosting before the lemon syrup, but since I read the recipe beforehand, and the syrup needs to cool to room temp, I did it in reverse order.

Here is lemon syrup cooling in back and sugar syrup in front. Buttercream frosting involves making a sugar syrup heated to a certain temperature, then taking the warm syrup and adding it very slowly to an egg mixture, and then adding a $hit-ton of butter and whipping for a long time. Note candy thermometer, one of those kitchen tools that denotes this recipe as hard core, IMO. It’s a kitchen gadget I use about once a year, if that, but I always feel competent that I have it when it’s called for. Also, my neighbors know that I have one, so they borrow mine when needed.

Syrups

This is the egg/syrup mixture, before I added butter and whipped it to a total end volume of about six cups. I nearly forgot to put in a pound of butter, as putting in half a pound made me think I was finished. Silly me.

Buttercream frosting

To assemble the cake, each layer needed to be brushed with about 1/3 cup of the lemon syrup, then topped with a cup of buttercream, to which a flood barrier of frosting was adding around the edge to prevent the subsequent raspberries and lemon curd from oozing out. Which they did anyway in a few spots, so I should have been more aggressive in my frosting flood barriers.

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So then, lemon curd inside barrier, topped with raspberries, next layer, soaked with syrup, frosting, flood barrier, lemon curd, raspberries, and that got me here:

img_1483

I topped that with the third layer, brushed it with lemon syrup, then the whole thing needed to refrigerate for at least an hour to firm up. I took a nap.

Now firm, the cake needed a crumb coat–a thin layer of all-over frosting to make sure the crumbs stay under the outer layer of frosting. This took another cup of frosting, then had to refrigerate for 30 minutes, during which I washed some of the eight zillion dishes and tried to wipe up some of the butter, which seemed to coat every kitchen surface now.

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Next up was the all-over frosting, about a cup and a half, and then the remaining lemon curd, spread on the top. By this time, the boys were home from school, and big brother Drake said he wanted to put the raspberries on top of the cake. I asked that he test his design on the bottom of a cake pan before transferring it.

Cake and boys

He wanted a ring around the cake, and I suggested using the few remaining berries to make a 6, which conveniently also looked like a “G.”

Top of Cake

Here is what it looked like once we cut into it

interior, cake

And on the plate

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Throughout the two days of making this cake, I was fearful that it would not be good, that it would be too sugary, soggy from the syrup, etc. I knew as I was doing it that it was way too much work unless the end result was going to be delicious. But it was. So: giant pain in the butt, yes. Worth it for a special someone on a special occasion, like my very happy six-year-old boy? You bet.

If you were reading to the end of this hoping for the recipe, sorry. It’s three pages of tiny type. No way am I transcribing it. I spent 2 days on the cake (and probably more hours making it than I did laboring to have Guppy himself), and all morning uploading the photos for this entry.

Daily Delicious has the recipe with European amounts here. But I suggest you borrow the book from the library, or just buy it. I think it’s worth it for the photos alone, but it’s full of other recipes I want to try too, like home-made Oreos

“Momofuku Milk Bar” by Christina Tosi

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

I waited a while on the reserve list at the library to get the Momofuku Milk Bar baking book by the chef at the famous NYC bakery. I was excited to try some of the recipes.

Till I read them. I paged through the entire book, and think I found two that didn’t include glucose, or other odd ingredients like corn powder. This is a book that doesn’t translate well for this home chef, who doesn’t want to go anywhere special or online for special ingredients, or use corn syrup or glucose rather than cane sugar.

Next time I’m in NYC, though, I’m totally visiting. The stories, photos, and baked goods are stunning.

“Make the Bread, Buy the Butter” by Jennifer Reese

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

I was a fan of Jennifer Reese’s when she was books editor at Entertainment Weekly. When they downsized books, though, they let her go. I did some searching, and was happy to find her blogging online at Tipsy Baker. She’s recently taken many of her home-economics-gone-mad escapades and written them up, along with recipes, in Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, which I reviewed earlier this week at Simple Good and Tasty, one of the other sites I write for.

For each food, Reese advises whether to make it or buy it. Granola? Make. Grape nuts? Buy. Hot dog buns? Make. Hamburger buns? Buy. Mayonnaise? Both. Like most modern food lovers, Reese values seasonal, local, sustainably produced foods. But she’s not a harsh ideologue. She acknowledges that sometimes you’re up for making things from scratch and sometimes you’re not.

It’s a cookbook as well as a charming food memoir. Highly recommended.

Have Bike. Am Hungry. Will Travel.

Monday, October 17th, 2011

As I wrote before, I thought once my younger son started kindergarten, I’d spend the time writing and keeping house. This hasn’t happened. Instead I’ve been biking and eating.

I had every intention of staying in today and doing Useful Things. Then I saw a photo my friend Amy shared on Facebook of duck soup. The sun was shining. My bike’s tires were filled with air. It was time to go.

Ten-plus miles later, I got the second to last bowl of rich broth filled with squiggly noodles, bok choy, broccoli, a poached eggs, and local duck. I sat in the sun and slurped it down.

Chef Shack Duck Soup

Where I Went and What I Ate: St. Paul (about 10.5 miles each way.) Duck soup from Chef Shack food truck. $10.

Tomorrow’s weather icon looks like this:

chance_of_snow

Tomorrow I’ll stay in.

Maybe.

Brekkie!

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Another thing I’m a fierce fan of is caffeine with a carb for breakfast. Perhaps it’s my Italian heritage.

Italian Brekkie

Check out “50 of the World’s Best Breakfasts” at Hostel Bookers for 49 other delicious looking ways to break your fast. (via The Morning News)

Breakfast for Dinner

Monday, August 29th, 2011

I’m a carb monster, so breakfast for dinner is one of my favorite things, ever. Alas, my husband cries foul on the dodgy nutrition, so I took advantage of his absence last night and tried a new recipe for waffles. It’s part of a series of “genius” recipes they’re spotlighting at Food 52, and which I’m watching with interest given it included my go-to pasta sauce, Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter (I don’t even like onion!) Aretha Frankenstein’s Waffles of Insane Greatness are easy to make, smell amazing while cooking, and are utterly devourable. We didn’t have a crumb left.

For better nutrition, I did serve the waffles with sliced strawberries and cucumbers, kale roasted with olive oil and salt (yeah, the kids wanted nothing to do with this), and a Black and Blue (berry) smoothie with silken tofu.
Waffles for dinner

Aretha Frankenstein’s Waffles of Insane Greatness
by Genius Recipes at Food 52

This recipe (originally from Aretha Frankenstein’s restaurant in Chattanooga, TN) is the ideal I-just-woke-up-from-a-waffle-dream waffle, a morning-of alternative to the overnight yeasted kind. The cornstarch in the batter helps tamp down gluten formation, making these waffles silky and moist inside with a crust as thin and crisp as an eggshell.

Serves 4

* 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/4 cup cornstarch
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup whole milk or buttermilk (or a combination)
* 1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
* 1 egg
* 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
* 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
* Butter and pure maple syrup, for serving

1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; mix well. Add the milk, vegetable oil, egg, sugar and vanilla and mix well. Let the batter sit for 30 minutes.

2. Heat a waffle iron. Follow the directions on your waffle iron to cook the waffles. Serve immediately with butter and pure maple syrup or hold in a 200 degree oven, directly on the rack (don’t stack them or they’ll get soggy). These also reheat very well in the toaster.

Afternoon Snack

Friday, August 12th, 2011

As you may know, I like a little smackerel of something around 3ish. Today I dunked graham crackers into Earl Grey tea, hot, with milk and sugar. It was good.

Interestingly, graham crackers with coffee? Not good. Newman O’s (i.e., “more healthful” Oreos) with coffee? Tremendous. Newman O’s with tea? No. The beverage/cookie balance is more tricky than one might think.

Finally, a Food Post!

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Because I’ve been writing other places about food, I don’t write so much about it here. And a few people mentioned that they missed it, plus I’ve been lax about blogging, so this is me killing two birds with one stick. I think that must’ve been a combo of “killing two birds with one stone” and “getting off the stick.” I don’t even really know if that last one means what I think it does. Anyway.

Here is what may very well be my favorite recipe. It’s easy, it’s tasty, it’s healthful, and it’s useful. By now, I’d think I’d have it memorized and wouldn’t have to pull out my broken-spined Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison every time I make it. Which I do. I’ve written about this recipe before. Here on Girl Detective (hey, apparently Guppy used to say, Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Tomatoes), and at Simple Good and Tasty. What I love about it is that it can be made year ’round, it’s adaptable (today I stretched the recipe with a 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes, a half-pint of local new potatoes, 2 cups of broth rather than 1/2 cup, and bunch of absolutely beautiful carrots.) I can be precise (by peeling the carrots and potatoes and measuring) or play fast and loose, leaving skins on and throwing in whatever’s on hand. Also, I sometimes (gasp!) do not rinse the beans, but just pour in the whole can, Which goes against foodie practice, but I can’t find anything anywhere that says it’s anything other than a matter of taste/appearance, which don’t impact this stew.

chopped carrots


Chickpeas with Potatoes and Tomatoes
, adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 red potatoes, peeled and diced into cubes about the size of chickpeas
2 carrots, cut into 1/2-in. rounds
3-4 stalks celery, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 pinch dried red pepper flakes
2 plump garlic cloves mashed with 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 c. diced tomatoes
3 c. chickpeas, cooked, or 2 15-oz. cans, rinsed
salt and pepper
1/2 c. water, broth or wine
1/2 c. chopped parsley
garnish with lemon slices and kalamata olives (it really is very tasty with these) and sliced pita bread

Heat the oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it’s lightly colored, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the potatoes, carrots, chile and garlic and cook for 5 minbutes more. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas, season with 1 teaspoon salt and a few twists from the pepper mill, and add the water. Cover and simmer gently until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Taste for salt, remove from heat and stir in parsley.

(Another photo should go here, but something isn’t working, and telling the system administrator, who’s sitting next to me, hasn’t helped.)