Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year, New Kitchen

This isn't the big Christmas goodies post (though it's coming!), but more a year-end round up of some of my thoughts on cooking and eating from this year.

I started this blog to try my hand at a little food writing - which I'm finding isn't coming all that naturally. I have a slightly disheveled style to cooking (as I rarely follow recipes, and tend to measure things in handfuls), which translates into non-sensical rambling when I try to write it out.

But, I'm finding that it's helpful to read a ton of other blogs -- I've recently started reading Amateur Gourmet, The Recipe Girl, The Pioneer Woman and A Tiger in the Kitchen, in addition to some great friend blogs.

I also just like to keep a record of this time -- stumbling through recipes and new techniques, building up my repetoire, and of course, stocking my first "real" kitchen.

So, here's a quick list of things that stick out in my mind from cooking in 2009:
* pâte-à-choux became a game changer for me. The New York Times did a major post on how easy it is to make in summer 2008, but it took me until last year to really start using it. I started easy, with some cream puffs last winter, and ended the year with some beautiful cheese gougeres.

* Soups and stews
were new territory, when I branched out beyond the world of chili. I came up with a great chicken tortilla soup (after moving from Washington and missing Eddington's for lunch!), tried seafood stew to go over quinoa, and am really excited to try this Potato Leek soup in 2010. I'm debating whether or not an immersion blender is a worthwhile purchase.

* Pitas (and bread in general) became almost a hobby during the stay in Washington. From my grandmother's Irish Soda Bread, to my old standby (half-wheat artisan loaf) to green onion flatbread, Thanksgiving rolls, and of course, pitas. I'm still amazed at how easy it is to make bread from scratch -- even if you don't have a stand-mixer with a dough hook, or even a loaf pan.

* Ethnic grocery stores really changed the way I shop and cook -- for the better. Rather than relying on pasta (because it's 10 for $10), I was able to get a lot more creative with fresh meat and produce, since I wasn't over-paying for it at the "traditional" market. I'm excited to be even closer to an H-Mart in our new apartment!

Dreaming? of a great year for cooking - 2010. A new kitchen, a knife technique class (amazing xmas gift!) and I'm also taking part in a 10-week shape up hosted by The Recipe Girl.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snowed in

So, for those who haven't heard, the entire East Coast got hammered with a snowstorm this weekend. In hindsight, it made me wish I had done a full grocery shopping this week. Could have done some very serious baking.

Instead, two things came of the weekend: delicious onion flatbread and homemade pasta sauce.

Green onions are one of those great things to keep in the house, and they are 5 for $1 at the Korean market I shop at, so I always have a ton around. This bread is the cheapest, easiest way I have found to put those onions to good use (ham and leek quiche, subbing the onions for leeks is the other).

Recipe: green onion flat bread (2)
3 c. all purpose flour
2 c hot water
pinch of salt
olive oil
2-4 bunches of green onions cut into tiny pieces (I use scissors), divided

Combine flour, salt and water in mixing bowl until a dough forms. It shouldn't be too sticky, add more flour if needed. Cover with a towel, or invert bowl over dough for 30-45 mins. Knead gently on a floured surface and roll into 2 large circles (or round-ish shapes).

Press your fingers into the dough to make tiny wells. Drizzle or brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and half the green onions on each. Fold the ends in (to make 3 layers), brush top with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake at 350 for 20 mins or until golden brown.

Snowed in Pasta Sauce -- I didn't have everything I wanted for this, but it turned out REALLY well.

1 can diced tomatoes (wish I had had 2 cans or a big can)
1/2 can plain tomato sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
6-8 cloves garlic, rough chop
salt and pepper
splash of white wine
drizzle of olive oil
meatballs or italian sausage

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan and simmer for 3-4 hours. I also added 1 small can of tomato paste, 1 can full of water (the small can) and 1 can of white wine when I added the meatballs, since it didn't look like enough sauce.

The result was awesome, full bodied sauce (the wine, meat and chili flakes REALLY developed over the afternoon) that was super easy to make, and helped clear down my pantry a little. :)

Sadly no photos, since we scarfed it down pretty quickly!

Next up? Giant gougeres, a la Serious Eats, once I get home for Christmas!!

Dreaming? of my new kitchen! Moving in January.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas cookies

Jake and I had our third annual christmas cookie baking this weekend, with some mixed results.

Being that we're still in my "temporary" kitchen from the summer internship situation, we didn't have any cookie cutters.

Also, because of my big love for red velvet cakes and cupcakes, I had a ton of blue, green and yellow food coloring, but no red. So, mostly, we've just been icing them white or green as we get hungry.

 So, some of our cookies are holiday-festive shapes, such as the attempted freehand gingerbread men, the gift boxes, and some are just kind of weird odd shapes. Oh well.

We also had a great pasta dinner tonight, recipe below. Sadly, I forgot to grab a picture of it before we boxed up the leftovers for lunches!

This made a TON. Very excited about the left overs!!

Creamy ham and spinach pasta
1 box gemeli or rotini -- something with grooves to catch the sauce
1 box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of all liquid
3 cloves garlic, minced (or about 2 heaping tsp)
1/3-1/2 c onion, minced (to your liking)
3/4 c sliced ham (I used deli ham, cut into ribbons - you could use pancetta if you wanted to get fancy)
black pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
splash of white wine (optional)
olive oil
3 TBS butter
3-5 TBS flour
1 pint half and half, plus a few TBS milk (opt)
1/3-1/2 c shredded or grated parmesan
2-3 TBS mozzarella (optional) for melting

Boil pasta to al dente (don't over cook) in salted water

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute garlic, onion and ham in the olive oil. Season with pepper, chilli flakes and nutmeg. Mix in white wine and allow to reduce.

Melt butter into the mix, and flour lightly. Combine until thickens slightly. Mix in spinach, half and half and cheese. Add more flour if needed.

Reduce heat and simmer until thickened. Toss pasta directly into the sauce and stir to coat. Mix in shredded mozzarella if using. Serve with fresh cracked pepper and parsley to garnish.

Dreaming? of Kitchenaid mixers - so many of which can be found on major christmas sales, $100 or more off the list price. Alas, it would not radically change the way I cook, I do not have $200 for a mixer, nor have I any where to store it. Maybe next year. :)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Weekend fun

Took my first swing at holiday baking this weekend after seeing a great post by a friend on caramel making.

I used her recipe exactly, but my candy thermometer appears to have lied to me. Hers turned out soft and chewy, from what I can tell. But mine came out a bit like those old fashioned Sugar Daddy candies (which my mother always swore would crack your teeth in two).

But, the hard candy product did save me the challenge of attempting to wrap the little buggers. It also created the challenge of how to best break them down (as when I turned out the caramel, it was a solid, un-cuttable brick).

Best kitchen tool I own is my ice cream scooper:

Which I used as a hammer and chiseled with a kitchen knife until the aforementioned bite sized pieces were born.

Tonight, pitas were up again. Jake and I stopped for some late night shwarma the other night and ended up with far too much hummus.

The best solution, of course, being to bake lots and lots of pitas! These were fried up in skillets over medium heat (rather than the faux-grilling method used in the past). The resulting pita has a harder bottom (nice though, not unlike a large cracker) and still a soft top.

Still using my wine bottle ($6, Target) as a rolling pin for these guys

Mmm pitas. Tasty

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving with the fam

OK, so ever since my parents moved our family away from New Jersey, it's always just been the four of us at Thanksgiving -- not very exciting.

But since I now live in Washington, a (usually) 4-hr drive up the coast back to NJ, I came up here for Thanksgiving and had the big holiday with my mom's family for the first time in, probably 15 or so years.

Last night we did a bunch of the prep work, made my aunt's soup, and started a bunch of the side dishes. Lots of fun, but I also learned that I am allergic to potato peels (I usually only make the skin-on red potatoes) -- as my palms swelled up to double their size, itched, burned and were bright red after we peeled the 10 lbs!!

Butternut squash soup

Sweet potatoes (SOOOOO good)

Brussels sprouts (same recipe as from intern thanksgiving!) - these were a HUGE hit with my family. I was really surprised!

Today there was a lot less to do, so I made some quick rolls - VERY easy recipe (see below), which were also a big hit

I also got put in charge of the mashed potatoes... and got to play with my aunt's Kitchen aid!! :-)

MMMM so many potatoes!

Thanksgiving feast.

In short, everything was DELICIOUS, and I had a blast with my family.
OK, here's the recipe for the rolls:

In a bowl, mix 1 package rapid action yeast, 2 TBS sugar, 1 c milk mixed with 1 c water heated to luke warm (about 120 degrees -- not too hot, do not kill yeast). Mix well, set aside in a warm place for 8-10 mins until foam appears.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together 5 c. flour (you can use whatever kind you like, I used good old All Purpose White), a tsp of salt, and a tsp season salt (if you like). Make a well, and pour the warm yeast mixture in. If the yeast doesn't foam, it's dead or you killed it. Start this step over.

Mix together until a shaggy dough starts to form. Drizzle up to 4 TBS olive oil into the mix, until all flour is combined. Turn out onto a well floured surface and knead for 10 mins. Return to well oiled bowl and over with damp tea towel.

Allow to proof for up to an hour (longer, if you are using slow yeast, or in a cold kitchen). Dough should be roughly double in size. Punch down (exactly what it sounds like), knead again briefly, then pull small sections (roughly the size of a golfball, I guess), and form a smooth, rectangle or finger shape (try to have as few seams as possible).

Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sea salt. 

Bake 12-15 mins at 350 degrees

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Irish Soda Bread

In celebration of finally being employed (and in an attempt to use up the rest of a HUGE bottle of buttermilk) I made my grandmother's Irish soda bread (no raisins) last night and brought it to work, where it was (not surprisingly -- they love food at work) a huge hit.

This is a REALLY good recipe for using up the rest of the bottle of buttermilk (my two other recipes require less than 1 c), and it really shines through in the flavor. This bread has an amazing flavor and is very dense.

I'm not entirely certain what "makes" Soda bread soda bread -- probably the fact that it's leavened with baking soda, rather than yeast. We also noted, at work, it's incredibly density -- either good for surviving those Irish famines or soaking up the large quantities of beer on St. Pat's (one of my favorite holidays).

Nan's Irish Soda Bread:
4 c white flour
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp baking powder
1/4 stick  butter broken into tiny pieces
optional: 1 c soaked raisins (I never use these -- always had to pick them out as a kid)

1 2/3 c buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda

Mix the first 5 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix the wet ingredients separately and add slowly to the flour mixture. Knead gently and shape into a large round loaf.

Bake on an oiled cookie sheet, cut a 4" X on the top, and brush with beaten egg.

Bake 60-70 mins at 350 F

Serve with butter and enjoy!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pudding pie update

So, unfortunately there are no photos, as I ate the evidence, but I'm officially throwing in the towel on chocolate pudding pie.

I had some leftover pudding yesterday (and really needed to use the bowl for other things) so I threw the rest of the graham cracker crumbs into a container with the pudding and topped with the the leftover whipped cream (again, needed the container) and popped it back into the fridge.

HELLO chocolate pudding-graham-whip-yummy parfait of delight. Insanely easier to make. More graham crumbs than the crust meant an added crunch.

I'm in love with this alternative route to pudding-pie goodness.

Dreaming? of a world where whipped cream + chocolate pudding = 0 calories

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Intern Thanksgiving

Wow... been gone a while (out of town last week on a business trip)

Last night, I gathered with some friends from a summer 08 internship in Minneapolis, and we had our own version of Thanksgiving. It was an entirely delicious ordeal, with enough food to feed all six of us twice and then some, and we're already planning for Christmas.

I volunteered to make a chocolate pudding pie - not fancy in the slightest, but one of my childhood favorites, brussel sprouts and garlic mashed potatoes.

 Proof I smashed my own graham crackers to make the graham cracker crust.

The homemade, and extremely crumbly crust

Whisk the pudding like crazy!!

The finished product cooling. We stuck it in the freezer during dinner when we got to the hostess' place. It was perfect by the time we pulled it out later, and topped with homemade whipped cream.

Chocolate pudding pie with graham cracker crust and whipped cream:

1 large packet (or 2 small) chocolate pudding - the kind you have to cook
3 cups milk or half and half
* cook pudding according to directions on the package, cool

2 c of crumbled graham crackers (plus more if needed -- I used about 1 1/2 packets of grahams, or half the box)
4-6 TBS of butter (I ran out of butter, and subbed in a little water and Pam spray)
1/4 c. sugar
pinch of cinnamon

*grease or spray a pie plate or cake tin
*pour in the measured graham cracker crumbs, mix with the sugar and butter
*use your fingers to press down, and build up the sides of the crust. You may need to add up to half a cup more crumbs/butter mix
*bake in a preheated oven at 300F for about 5 mins (check to ensure it isn't burning), but up to 8-10 mins.
*Cool, then fill with pudding
*allow to sit 2-4 hours until pudding is firm. In the event you have to dash out the door, pop it in the freezer during dinner (about 1 hr to 90 mins)

Top with homemade whipped cream (1 pint cream, 3 TBS sugar -- beat or whisk in a cold bowl until fluffy and forms stiff peaks)

OK onto the sides -- Brussel Sprouts

I grossly over estimated how much of a side dish would be needed for 6 individuals, but here's the general idea of proportions:

Combine the following in  greased/sprayed 9x13 roasting dish
5 handfuls large brussel sprouts, trimmed of stems and sliced (I halved them, then chopped each half into 3 parts) -- it was enough to more than fill a 9x13 pan - - but keep in mind they shrink down quite a lot when roasted
1 c chopped walnuts
about 1 scant cup (or a good sized handful) thinly sliced and halved onions
(about 4-5 pieces of bacon or pancetta chopped is a nice addition to this dish - but we had vegetarians/non-pork eaters, so I omitted it, and it tasted delicious)
Salt and Pepper generously

sprinkle about 3-4 TBS brown sugar over the dish and drizzle with balsamic vinegar to your tasting.

Roast at 325 F for 20-30 mins, checking around the 20 min mark. You want some parts to be crispy, but the largest pieces to be soft. In the last 5 mins, mix in about 1/3 c water

And finally, the mashed potatoes:

Again, we made WAY too many of these - so this would probably serve about 10 people or more.

Boil (about 15-20 mins)
about 15 red potatoes, cut into chunks, skin still on in a pot with salted water. mix in about 2 tsp garlic powder

Drain the potatoes and return to pot, allow to sit over medium heat, stirring occasionally, to allow the steam and moisture to leave the potatoes.

Allow 3/4 stick of butter to melt into the potatoes, then mash gently with a large spoon or ricer, mix in 2 TBS garlic salt, about 1/3 c buttermilk, and 3 TBS parm cheese (optional). You may need to add up to half a cup of buttermilk, depending on your potatoes.

I finish mine with a few minutes being blended with an electric mixer, so they are light and fluffy.

In addition to the above,  our intern dinner featured cranberry honey wheat rolls (watch for an attempted re-make of these soon), vegetarian chili, brie-stuff mushroom caps, chicken piccata, macaroni and cheese, and was followed by peppermint ice cream pie, apple dessert on more ice cream, and the aforementioned chocolate pudding pie. It was intense. :-)

Dreaming? of Intern Christmas.... hopefully we'll be a little more sane about the number of dishes we all bring! :-)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Inspired by a fellow blogger

After reading a post by a friend of mine about her cooking marathon, I was definitely in the mood for chili.

I've never really followed a chili recipe - I just kind of keep adding stuff to the pot until it all simmers together and is tasty.

MMM, ground beef, onions and garlic. Korean labels on the ground beef, and my lack of ability to estimate the weight of a package of meat, meant this ended up being a much larger batch of chili than I intended. This got seasoned with lots of chili powder, paprika and cumin. I also tossed in some yellow curry powder and three seeded, diced jalapenos.

Lotsa lotsa green peppers!!

Oh, enter the canned goods.

A chili is born!

Finally the end product.

Usually, I serve chili with tortilla chips, but I also am a huge fan of cornbread. Not having any cornbread or mixes in the house, I tried some polenta -- using the leftover buttermilk from the yummy red velvet cake on Saturday night. 

Turns out chili smothered polenta is a hell of a lot better than polenta smothered in greens! ;-)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mmm tasty naengmyun

** disclaimer: this is NOT the naengmyun I made/ate

Discovered another HMart tonight -- finally found the one in Wheaton, and to my surprise, it's much closer than I imagined. Always a plus. No more grouchy yellow-polo wearing employees of Giant Foods and there horribly disfigured produce!!!!

Another plus: this HMart is wayyyy less crowded than the madhouse that is the Falls Church location. Way more time to browse the aisles. Which, is what led to tonight's mul naengmyun.

Naengmyun are buckwheat or arrowroot noodles that are served with iced broth in Korea. It sounds kind of weird, but on a 90+ degree day in Seoul, tucking in to a huge, nearly frozen bowl of these slurpy noodles with its tangy, spicy broth is nothing short of amazing.

I've made naengmyun at home before, but was more or less unsuccessful. Tonight's turned out surprisingly well. Sliced pickled Korean radish, cucumbers, and chopped bulgogi round out the noodles, broth and spicy seasonings. In Korea, this is served with some sweet vinegar (I used rice vinegar) and spicy mustard (which we didn't have this time).

This dish never quite tastes the same in the States -- whether it's in Korean restaurants, or in my own home, but tonight's was pretty close. Unfortunately our freezer sucks, and there wasn't a good way to ice the broth, just chilled it.

Dreaming? Of a perfect bowl of naengmyun on a hot summer's day.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Jake very wisely suggested we consume some of the leftovers from the fridge tonight for dinner.

We found some leftover pasta with the tomato basil sauce, but not quite enough sauce to cover the pasta. I also *hate* reheating pasta already mixed with sauce in the microwave, so I tossed it into a frying pan with another jar of tomatoes, a generous splash of white wine (although I usually prefer reds for pasta sauce), and seasoned with garlic, the last of the basil from my editor, and salt and pepper. Very delicious.... did not taste AT ALL like leftovers, hooray!

Friday, November 6, 2009

More great wisdom from Bitten

More reasons why Mark Bittman is really one of the best food writers out there.

He posts excerpts today from a Q&A he did with Time Out New York:

"Question: “What would you say is the most important skill to develop in the kitchen?
Answer: “The ability to go in there and start. I am the least impressive cook you will ever see. I am completely without knife skills, I screw things up all the time. When I’m in the kitchen I’m not obsessively trying to create the perfect dish; I’m trying to put dinner on the table. Comparing yourself to the people who cook on television is like comparing yourself to Andre Agassi. If you can drive you can cook.”"

I often bemoan my own distinct lack of plating skills and my lack of nice kitchen equipment. But the thing is -- I'm really more interested in how a dish tastes and how it was made. In my kitchen, soups, carbonara, and Korean barbeque are all served out of the same $1 plastic bowls from Target.

If you don't follow Bitten, you definitely should! Great food, and often great discussion on food and food philosphy.

Happy Friday!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Yes, I realize the photos on the blog are generally... mediocre

Sundays truly are for baking. We had lots of left over hummus from last week's adventure, so more pitas were firmly in order. 

And, as I recently wrapped up a major work project, I decided celebratory cookies were also in order. This concept isn't without precedent for me. In fall 07, I finished a month-long project covering young women with breast cancer and celebrated with a few dozen cupcakes with nude colored buttercream frosting, and tiny red "nipple" candies. Probably NSFW as an intern... but they went over pretty well at the college paper.
Snickerdoodles.... yum. I used the Martha Stewart recipe linked from Bakerella. They're not as puffy as I would have liked, but still chewy and sugary and delicious.

I also still had some basil leftover from a generous editor at work, so I reduced a big can of tomatoes and mixed in some homemade pesto for a really nice, thick sauce.

Tomato pesto sauce:
1 large can diced tomatoes
2 TBS olive oil
1 tsp red chilli flakes
salt/pepper to taste
1/3 c white wine

homemade pesto:
1-2 C fresh basil leaves
1-2 crushed garlic cloves - to taste
2 TBS parmesan chees
olive oil

Simmer tomatoes, spices, oil and wine and allow to reduce over med-high heat until most of the liquid is gone and tomatoes are soft. Mush them every few minutes with a large spoon.

Blend pesto ingredients and stir into the tomatoes, continue simmering until thickened.

Serve with a pasta good for chunky sauces like rotini or gemeli.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Homemade perogies, first attempt

So, last month, The Boy and I went up to New York City where a fellow food-friend recommended we go to Veselka in the East Village. Best. Perogies. Ever.

Armed with some advice from a query I posted to Serious Eats, we decided to attempt to recreate the crispy, potato-cheesy goodness.

We used the leftover garlic mashed potatoes from last week's steak dinner (they were too gluey to eat anyway!) and mashed in some shredded cheeses (we had some chedder, swiss and mozzerella in the fridge -- but it would appear that more authentic would have been farmers cheese), and fried onions chopped small.

The dough (as usual) started to get a bit melty in the poorly ventilated kitchen. And we ate them all before we got a chance to take the end result pictures, but we got a good one of filling them up:

The little bundles got wrapped up, forked tight, boiled, browned and served with some sour cream.

Not nearly as crisp and puffy as the ones at Veselka, but not a bad first attempt. Definitely a noble cause for leftover mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Monday night dinner

When I read this post, I felt as if Mark Bittman was writing directly at me.

My first attempt at polenta over the summer failed miserably... it was clumpy and didn't crisp up at all when I tried to bake it in the oven.

So, I saw a recipe on Serious Eats for broccoli raab and polenta, and decided to take Bittman's advice and attempt Polenta, Without Fear.

The greens turned out less than stellar, but the polenta was indeed creamy, salty, and delicious.

I also decided to pair the polenta/greens extravaganza with The Boy's Mother's special chicken and dumplings. I used cuts of boneless chicken breast (not having a whole roasting chicken on hand - nor the patience to roast the entire thing), and it turned out pretty good. Not having much fat, there wasn't a ton of drippings to toss the dumplings in, but there was plenty of chicken/onion infused melted butter. :-)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cupcakes I WISH I were baking

OK there are some SERIOUSLY adorable baked goods out there right now. I *wish* I had the time, supplies and expertise to create some of these delicious looking edibles.
For starters:
From Serious Eats via A Baked Creation

Then (this is an older post, but one I just discovered): Bakerella creates a Glee-style mash-up of two delicious desserts -- cupcake, meet snickerdoodle.

In short... other bakers are amazing.

Dreaming? of someday creating something so cute or delicious looking!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sunday cooking marathon

So, I'm busy enough that I like to have food already made that's easy to grab for lunches or what have you. But, I also really hate most convenience foods (ie: things that come out of a box).

Sunday I went on a major grocery run (including Giant and a smaller international market nearby). First - let me note how much I HATE shopping at Giant. Their produce generally looks like crap, if there's any in stock (eg: there were no leeks on Sunday, so I settled for sad, tiny looking green onions). It's SO busy that I refuse to use a shopping cart, and just fill up my reusable bags as I go throw the store. And the staff generally are insanely rude.

Pluses about international markets? The one in question, who's name I can't think of off-hand, is tiny, and cramped as well. And the staff may be rude, but I have no idea, since they mostly speak Spanish in the store. Once I asked for help, and the gal who helped me was great. Pricing? so much better. $1.60 for a package of 8-10 huge jalapeno peppers. Limes are 10 for $1. And the meat? I bought 1.75 lbs of chicken thighs for around $3. I also occasionally make the trek out to H Mart in Falls Church - a Korean grocery. Their produce is the best: big, plump green onions are four for $1, bell peppers are insanely cheap, and their greens always seem to hold up longer in the fridge.

Anyway, back to the cooking:
I started with the green onion and ham quiche. Perfect for breakfasts. Managed not to burn the crust quite so badly this time. Getting better every time!

From there, moved to the Indian butter chicken I've been wanting to try for a while. I consulted a number of recipes online and also bought a packet of pre-mixed sauce as a back up. I ended up making the scratch sauce (was missing a few traditional ingredients) and blending in the pre-mixed sauce for an overall result. Threw the chicken and sauce over basmati rice and made enough for 5 meals.

Garlic mashed potatoes for Sunday night dinner, to be paired with sirloin steak from the international mart.

While the potatoes were boiling I moved on to baking another round of pumpkin gingerbread -- which again, burnt after the first 45 minutes. My mom's recipe says bake at 350F for an hour, and yet twice, mine has burnt after 45 minutes at slightly less than 350... I think in the future I'll try it at 325 for an hour.


Lastly, while I was cleaning up after dinner, I braised arugula, spinach and broccoli raab to go with polenta later this week.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pitas and hummus!

Discovered a bag of chickpeas in the fridge on a rainy Saturday and The Boy and I decided to make pitas and hummus!

The finished product (also our first attempt at making pitas):

I adapted this recipe from Serious Eats and mashed it with one from my favorite baking cookbook (which, due to its British tendencies titled the recipe "Pitta bread") and landed on this:

1 packet of yeast
1 tsp of sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
-- combine above in a non reactive bowl, place in a warm place (I heat a cookie sheet for a minute or two in the over, then set the bowl on the warm cookie sheet) until foamy and slightly increased in volume.

3 1/2 c white flour (probably should have used bread flour, but APP seemed to work just fine)
1 1/2 tsp salt
--sift together in a large bowl, make a well in the center
-- add 1/4 c olive oil and the yeast, combine well
-- turn out onto a well flour surface, knead 10 minutes, shape into a small mound, place in oiled bowl (not a plastic one), cover and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled and does not spring back when touched (about 20 mins)

Punch down, knead briefly, then split in to 12 even pieces. Shape into a small bowl, and roll out flat rounds, 1/2 inch thick (about 5 inches wide).

I "brushed" mine with water, like the recipes called for, and then tried grilling and baking.

The baked ones went in at 500 F for 6 minutes.

The grilled ones were tougher, since I don't actually have a grill. I rigged up a wire rack (sprayed with butter spray) over the burner and "grilled" the pitas on medium high heat until they were bubbly on top and grilled on the bottom.

* Photos by Jake

Overall, they were a success. The grilled ones were slightly better -- puffier, anyway, than the baked ones, but the baking allowed for 4 to be cooked at once.

Dreaming? Not really! Today's cooking turned out great, can't wait to make them again. Maybe next time we'd save some chickpeas and make falafel to stuff in the pita.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

mm breads!

Finally found some time for bread baking this weekend, and decided to try a recipe for handmade rolls.

This is a pretty basic bread recipe, I used half white flour and half wheat flour, and seasoned the dough with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, fennel seeds, and a dash of garlic.

Learned a few things about glazing and handrolling the shapes (obviously, they're far from perfect) but they tasted delicious!

Dreaming? of a life with more time for bread baking.

Coconut milk... new uses!

I've been in the mood for a lot of Thai and Indian food lately, but didn't want to go through the mess of making a big curry for Friday night's dinner.

I adapted this recipe for coconut rice from the New York Times, using jasmine rice instead of barley, and red pepper and cucumber for the vegetables. I also mixed in a tablespoon of gochuchang (Korean pepper paste).

Yum! Will definitely be making this again. So far, the rice is holding up really well as leftovers. Seems like a good brown-bag-lunch recipe.

Dreaming? of having my wok on hand! This would have been much easier in the wok

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Baking fail

Was feeling autumn-y this past weekend and collected supplies for my mom's pumpkin gingerbread, a seasonal favorite. Not owning many spices, I had to shell out for cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice. I drew the line at cloves. They were just too damn much.

Unfortunately, my grand plans for beautifully baked loaves were foiled by my stupid oven, which fails to maintain a constant temperature. Ever.

So, the bottoms and edges were burnt (see below). Managed to shave off the burnt parts (lucky the serated bread knife is the only one of my 4-set that wasn't entirely ruined by careless college roommates) and create a slightly shortened, slightly bald looking bread (see below below).

Dreaming? Of an oven that doesn't suck. 

Monday, October 5, 2009


Sunday night quick dinner- the ever labor intensive bibimbap. Mine's pared down a bit, since we're not huge fans of zuchini or mushrooms.

Also tried out dumplings from The Boy's family chicken and dumplings recipe. Quick and easy: flour-egg-water recipe, and just plopped into a pot of boiling water. We ate them plain for a late-night snack, season with pepper and melted butter, but I have lots of ideas of things I can do with those at the last minute!

Dreaming? Of a Julia-Childs-style wall for my pots and pans

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday night dinner

tteok bogi! YUM :-) The fried rice was still a little wet coming out of the pan, and it got a little softer when mixed with the pineapple.

The real winner was the quiche I made for Saturday morning breakfast. Having never made quiche before I stuck with a store-bought pie crust out of the fridge section. Had LOTS of green onions hanging around and some deli ham I wasn't really eating, so into the pan with some Brummel&Brown, shredded Italian blend cheese, some eggs and pepper = YUM.

Dreaming? Of a tart pan with fluted edges. Also the time to make pie crust dough from scratch.

Weekend... endless cooking possibilities

Ahh weekends. Full days to cook and bake.

But where to start?

Dinner tonight: Korean tteok bogi and not-Korean pineapple fried rice. I have LOTS of green onions and need to get rid of them.

I discovered an interesting recipe for rainbow cake today, but am also craving a fall treat my mom used to make: pumpkin gingerbread. We'll see how quickly she can send me the recipe. The Boy is in the mood for classic chocolate chip cookies, and it was pay day this week, so it *might* be the weekend of new cookie sheets. We'll see.

Dreaming? of my wok, and wishing I were cooking in that tonight instead.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Caramello Koala!!

A co-worker brought these in to work today, a gift from her Australian friend. Super cute AND delicious!

Grilled kielbasa with jalapeno corn relish

Dinner last night!

2 lowfat smoked kielbasa, pieces cut in half, cooked over high heat with a dab of oil and some cajun seasoning

1 15 oz. can of corn, cooked in the run off from the sausage, garlic salt, 1 1/2 seeded, diced jalapeno peppers, 2 small handfuls of chopped onion (about 1/2 a medium onion?), toward the end (as the corn is blistering) a splash of rice wine vinegar (you could probably sub in cider vinegar) and some cracked pepper.

I served mine with some crusty white bread and it was delicious! 2 sausages made plenty for leftovers the next day!

Dreaming? of my grill pan from my parents house (or a grill) to cook the sausauges.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


OK, I'm a sucker for pizza. I would eat pizza probably once a week if I could. It's just so damn good.

So, last night, I thought it would be kind of fun to make pizza. I had a half can of tomato sauce that wasn't really doing much in the fridge, so I figured I'd give it a try. I wanted to make homemade dough, but I get home so late, I didn't really have time to let the dough proof if we wanted to eat at a reasonable hour.

Lesson of the night: never ever buy Pillsbury pizza dough. Or, I guess, maybe try pre-cooking it midway, and then putting the toppings on?

The middle of the pizza (weighed down by the sauce, cheese and pepperoni) never really rose much, and in fact didn't quite finish cooking in the middle. (most of the "slices" went back into the over for a few more minutes of damage control cooking). It may have *something* to do with my ghetto-tastic cookie sheet, but... who knows. Someday, I'll have a pizza stone!

There probably would have been pictures... but honestly, I was too mortified by the results.

Dreaming? Of a pizza stone, and enough time to make dough from scratch.

Next up? Polish kielbasa were buy one get one. I'm pairing it with a corn-and-jalapeno relish and some crusty bread.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Food blogging?

A recent college grad moves to Washington DC to join the cycle of perpetual interning.

She loves to cook and bake. But in the move across the country, she brought only the "necessities" for her kitchen, and is trying to make do in the meantime.

Writing and food seem to go together, so here it is: official thoughts on cooking and eating, all while dreaming of that perfect kitchen someday. I practically have the William Sonoma website catalog memorized; wandering in the kitchen section at Target and Homegoods cheers me up.

In addition to not having my dream kitchen gear, I'm also cooking for two on an intern's stipend, so meals occasionally get crafty. Two failed attempts at making Korean kimbap (rice, seaweed, assorted vegetables and some meat) were tossed in the skillet and rechristened as pork fried rice. Yum!