Wednesday, April 28, 2010
This is, of course, Meatless Monday, and also our first day back from our LA vacation, so we will be having stir fry using whatever vegetables I have leftover in the fridge, which is quite a lot at this point. Broccoli, peppers, spinach, and snap peas are definitely in order, served in a soy-ginger sauce over brown rice. Dessert will be the best of the season, strawberry rhubarb crisp, with fresh, sun-ripened strawberries from the stand on Jefferson Boulevard.
I’ve actually been trying to go mostly meatless lately. Tonight I want to try a Japanese dish called Otsu, which is basically soba noodles with cucumbers and fried tofu, tossed with a soy sauce and sesame oil dressing. Got the recipe from 101 Cookbooks, a hugely popular blog focusing mostly on healthy whole foods.
Cinco de Mayo, which means I’ll be heading to Whole Foods to get a cut of pork (they only ell humanely raised pork, which is a must) for Carnitas! I’m gonna cook it in the slow cooker all day, then have a fiesta that night!
I’m tired by Thursday, so I’ll be going with something simple. I know I have leftover Chicken Sausage in the freezer, so I’ll saute that up with some bell peppers and olive oil and serve over whole wheat pasta with a mixed greens salad.
Friday: I’m completely exhausted by Friday, so we usually do our date night here, often opting for Thai food.
Saturday: Usually it's spontaneous and somewhat laid-back. We’re attending a Yelp ball at the Sterling Hotel (a perk of being an Elite Yelper) with food served from various local restaurants (for free! Yay!).
Sunday: Dinner with my family, who live 10 minutes away. This usually means comfort food prepared by my mom and dessert brought by me. However, this Sunday will be Mother’s Day, so I will supervise my little brother and sister as they attempt to make spaghetti with meat sauce, green salad and a crusty loaf of warmed and buttered bread.
I’m thinking I might get a pie from the infamous, elusive Real Pie Company for dessert, as I’m now on the owner Kira’s exclusive underground e-mail list. Since she’s a stay-at-home mom now, she offers one type of pie each week and alerts fans by e-mail. Then, you have to order your pie and pick it up at the Corti Brothers the next Friday. This week’s offering was an apple, quince and wild bluberry galette. Can you say delish?!
Sunday, April 25, 2010
My aunt bought me this cake tester (also OXO) and it is wonderful. No more knives or toothpicks when I'm testing cakes, brownies, breads, etc. It is so thin that it doesn't even leave a mark.
Again from OXO (did I mention I love that brand?), this cookie spatula is my favorite spatula to use because of its thinness and flexibility. It's great not just for cookies but also for eggs and just about anything that you don't want to break with a thicker, clumsy spatula.
This is one purchase that I haven't made yet, but I know my next indulgence will definitely be a quality pepper grinder. There is no substitute for freshly ground pepper in recipes, and these are my favorite, from Williams-Sonoma. You can see the peppercorns inside, effortlessly grind them with a twist of the wrist, and on the bottom, you can choose how fine or large you want the pepper to be.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Lemon-Poppyseed Tea Cake
2 large lemons
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and flour two 9- x 5- x 3-inch metal loaf pans, knocking out any excess flour.
Finely grate enough zest from lemons to measure 2 teaspoons and squeeze enough juice to measure about 1/2 cup. Into a bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter, 2 cups sugar, and zest until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. With mixer on low speed add flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating just until batter is combined well. Beat in poppy seeds and 1 tablespoon lemon juice and divide batter between loaf pans, smoothing tops. Bake loaves in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean, about 1 hour.
While loaves are baking, in a small bowl stir together remaining lemon juice and remaining 1/2 cup sugar until sugar is dissolved.
Cool loaves in pans on a rack 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert loaves onto rack. Turn loaves right side up and pierce tops all over with a thin skewer. Repeatedly brush lemon glaze over tops of loaves until all of glaze is absorbed.
Cool loaves completely. Tea bread keeps, wrapped in wax paper, in an airtight container at room temperature 4 days or, wrapped in foil and frozen, 1 month.
Friday, April 23, 2010
When I was a young girl, my father’s birthday meant Esther Stinchfield’s German Chocolate Cake. At that time, my dad was a bishop in our church and watched over the elderly widows as part of his duties. One sweet, energetic woman called Esther Stinchfield, then in her late 80's, never tired of expressing her appreciation for his help by making his favorite concoction for him each year for his birthday.
The cake she presented him with annually was not a typical German chocolate cake that would weigh one down; instead, it seemed to float in a heavenly manner down to your stomach where it would settle with a great deal of satisfaction. Outside, the cake was smothered in creamy white whipped cream frosting; inside, the moist double-layered cake contained a thick coconut pecan filling.
For years we wondered how she made it taste so good and begged her for the recipe, but she usually just smiled in response to our requests. Finally, when I was a teenager and she was in her 90's, I struck a deal with her. She had been in poor health, so I offered to clean her cute little house if she would teach me the ways of the German Chocolate Cake- and she agreed! I enthusiastically cleaned, then we made her cake step by step, side by side.
As it turned out, she was quite the little tiger and had been using boxed cake mix and canned frosting all those years! I still say her cake is the best - maybe it’s the frosting! The silky, light whipped cream (slightly sweetened with powdered sugar) balances out the dense filling so that overall cake is not too heavy. In recent years, I have learned that if I dot the top of the cake with walnut halves and sprinkle generously with toasted coconut, it makes an extremely impressive dessert. I made this cake last week for a co-worker’s birthday and everyone loved it. It reminded me to be grateful for that wonderful, giving woman who has since passed away. Thanks, Sister Stinchfield - for the "recipe".
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
1. Buy only what you know you’ll consume in a week, to avoid throwing away stuff you don’t end up using. (Steer clear of the “stockin’ up!” Costco mentality.)
2. Don’t use the plastic bags for fruits and vegetables in grocery stores. Bring your own that you’ve saved at home from when you were less green, or don’t bag at all. Wash and reuse saran wrap—just dry it on the drying rack.
3. Think before you open the oven and fridge so you don’t waste electricity. Don’t stand in front of the open refrigerator eating jam with your fingers. (The first is green; the second is gross.)
4. Don’t ditch beet tops, turnip tops, or radish tops—sauté them and eat them! Save scraps of meat and vegetables in the freezer and make stock when you have enough.
5. Buy stuff from the bulk section to avoid packaging. (Most markets will let you bring any kind of container you want—Mason jar, gym sock, what have you—just weigh it empty first and record the weight somewhere on the container for the checker.)
6. Shop at local, independent grocery stores, bakeries, and other purveyors, as well as at farmers’ markets. Fewer goods will have traveled thousands of miles to get to the shelves.
7. Try some baking soda or coarse salt to remove caked-on food from a pan or oven before you resort to oven cleaner. That stuff is toxic.
8. No bottled water. Ever.
9. Use cold water to wash all but your greasiest of dishes. Hot water heaters use energy.
10. Learn to cook. Eat the Michael Pollan way: mostly plants. Grow your own herbs. Feed your friends—staying in is the new going out.
Monday, April 19, 2010
One of my favorite magazines, Cooking Light, did a piece on pizza this month. With it, they came out with a fantastic recipe for homemade pizza dough. Reasons to love this dough:
1) It's cheaper than store-bought pizza dough, which can run $4+.
2) The bread flour gives it an excellent, tender texture; the olive oil and kosher salt add an incredibly flavorful nuance. It rises like a dream and browns beautifully.
3) It's so versatile - you can use it on the grill or throw it in the oven on a pizza stone or even on an ordinary cookie sheet (sans ridges).
4) It's incredibly convenient - just mix up the ingredients one night, stick it in the fridge for 24 hours, and it's ready to go for dinner the next night.
We had this pizza tonight, topped with sauteed bell peppers, red onion, mushrooms, and black olives. While it was setting for about 10 minutes after I removed it from the oven, I sprinkled it with freshly torn basil leaves and a little freshly ground pepper. Fantastico!
Adapted from Cooking Light
2 c. + 2 T. bread flour
1 package dry years (about 2 1/4 tsp.)
4 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 T. yellow cornmeal
Pour 3/4 c. warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attached. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups and spoons; level with a knife. Add flour to 3/4 c. water; mix until combined. Cover and let stand 20 minutes. Combine remaining 1/4 c. water and yeast in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes or until bubbly. Add yeast mixture, oil, and 1/2 tsp. salt to flour mixture; mix 5 minutes or until a soft dough forms. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray; cover surface of dough with plastic wrap lightly coasted with cooking spray. Refrigerate 24 hrs.
Remove dough from refrigerator. Let stand, covered, 1 hour or until dough comes to room temperature. Punch dough down. Press dough out to a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured baking sheet, without raised sides, sprinkled with cornmeal. crimp edges to form a 1/2-inch border. Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap.
Position an oven rack in the lowest setting. Place a pizza stone on lowest rack. Preheat oven to 550F. Preheat the pizza stone for 30 minutes before baking dough. Cover dough with sauce, cheese and toppings of your choice; bake for 11 minutes or until the crust is golden.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Grass-fed beef comes with its own unique (in my opinion, often superior) flavor. Research suggests grass-fed beef is likely to be lower in total fat, contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and have a higher level of C.L.A. (conjugated linoleic acid), which, in animal studies, reduces the risk of cancer. Perhaps most importantly, raising cattle on pasture offers a humane quality of life for them and a cleaner world for us, as the manure enriches the earth in this fashion rather than causing immense pollution as does the CAFO-style method.
Will these forms of protein cost more than a family pack of meat from Walmart? Yes. Am I rich? Certainly not. But as the author, Jonathan Safran Foer states, "If you’re not willing to pay the true price of meat, then you shouldn’t eat meat." Now that’s something to chew on!
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Asian Noodle Salad (serves 2)
1 bunch of udon noodles, cooked, rinsed, and cooled
1/4 head sliced purple or napa cabbage
1/4 bag baby spinach
1 whole red bell pepper (or can use multi-colored orange, yellow, etc.)
½ c. bean sprouts
1-2 green onions, chopped
1 carrot, sliced thinly like matchsticks
1/4 c. chopped dry roasted peanuts
chopped cilantro (optional)
For the Dressing:
½ lime, juiced
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
4 T. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 T. Sesame oil
3 T. Brown sugar
1 T. chopped ginger
1 clove garlic, chopped
A squirt of sriracha sauce for some heat!
Mix salad ingredients together. Whisk dressing ingredients together and pour over salad. Mix with tongs or hands and serve platter.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Speaking of my husband, he assisted me as an excellent sous-chef and there was something wonderful about putting together something so cool together. The menu was Thai-themed and some recipes came out better than others, but overall it was a great time with fun people and lots of laughs. I can't wait to host my next one! Here are some pictures of a few of the dishes, and a recipe for the pie, which was probably my favorite of all the new dishes I tried. To my guests, I had a blast, and hope you didn't mind being my guinea pigs!
Friday, April 9, 2010
Their Farmer’s Market is spectacular, offering everything from locally grown produce to bakery items to free-range chicken eggs, even seafood and free-range meats. One can browse the market, grab some dinner one of the many ethnic food stands, and lounge in the park while local musical groups put on free concerts (on Wednesday nights). The people-watching is fascinating and when the weather is warm and mild, it is a recipe for bliss.
One day last summer, my husband and I were doing just this, polishing off top-notch hot dogs and lemonade on a park bench while a big band played jazzy tunes and an older couple a few feet in front of us practiced their swing dancing moves together. (Adorable!) Unexpectedly, a young man (probably a student) approached us and said he was conducting research and asked each of us to write down in his notebook our definition of the word "compassion". We accommodate this request, and I continued to think about the encounter long after he had moved on to speak with other park-goers.
I wonder what the true nature of his experiment was. Was he seeking to learn the meaning of compassion? Or was his real intent to make people reflect on the meaning of compassion, thus displaying more kindness in their treatment of their fellow men?
I can't remember what I wrote at that time, but I like some of the ideas from the Charter for Compassion, where over 43,000 people have affirmed that what the world needs most at this time is (you guessed it) compassion. The charter reads, in part:
"The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect."
If you would like to add your name to the charter, feel free! You’ll be joining the likes of the Dalai Lama, Meg Ryan, and leaders from all religious traditions. As Ghandi once stated: "Be the change you want to see in the world."
Thursday, April 8, 2010
The Naked Chef: At age 16, I loved and still love everything about this show. I loved the edgy filming style, the basic, simple foods prepared, and of course, the host Jamie Oliver, with his adorable Essex accent and contagious passion for cooking. My husband recently acquired the whole season 1. Major kudos to him!
Iron Chef: In high school, my dad and I would often watch this one together. It was something that we both enjoyed, as it incorporated martial arts-like effects (which appealed to my dad) and cooking (which appealed to me). The over-the-top dramatic effects made it comical as well - I will always remember that moment in the opening credits in which the host bites into a bell pepper with just a tad too much enjoyment.
Drive Ins, Diners and Dives: This show seems to be my constant work out companion, as it airs after work when I typically hit the gym. I also feel a personal connection with host Guy Fieri, seeing as he’s from Northern California, owns the local Sacramento restaurant Tex Wasabi, and has stated that our local Squeeze Inn offers the second best burger in the US! Yes, I do feel the irony of burning calories while watching him down chili dogs and an endless parade of fried foods, but still gotta love it.
Honorable mention to Bobby Flay's Throwdown, which can be pretty entertaining too.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
For an American who had long grown accustomed to my weekly drive to the grocery store fulfilling my dietary needs, I often thought (and still think) of food in terms of dollars and cents. Last summer, however, taught me that nature has the capacity of generously providing for our needs in the most palatable way imaginable, if we will invest the time and effort to harvest and preserve this food.
I am also fascinated by the in vogue concept of foraging and bartering for food. One example of this trend are the many websites that encourage those with a surplus of fruit or veggies to share with those in need, or link up with those from the community who will are willing to share their own surplus. I love the idea of preventing waste, and providing fresh, seasonal food to as many people as possible, while promoting community unity.
Maybe I’m drawn to these ideas because they represent a romantic return to a simpler life based on agriculture, nature and tradition. Whatever the draw, I say: Let’s celebrate nature’s bounty this year, in whatever capacity we can. Also - anybody wanna trade me for some apricots?
Monday, April 5, 2010
1 cup milk
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Adjust the rack to middle position. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with 10 paper cupcake liners.
2. Dissolve the cornstarch in 1/4 cup of the milk. Set aside.
3. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade shred the coconut flakes for 30 seconds.
4. In a large mixing bowl, stir the eggs and sugar together with a wooden spoon. One by one, add the cornstarch mixture, remaining milk, coconut, melted butter and lemon extract, stirring well after each addition.
5. Ladle the custard into the paper cups, filling to 1/4 inch from the top. (Note: Make sure to stir frequently to keep the coconut well distributed.)
6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the coconut is nicely toasted. Cool completely in the tin before serving. Very nice served chilled.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Today's subject is in response to a friend of mine who enjoys growing his own food so much, he doesn't just garden but plants crops in his backyard, including corn. He asked me if it would be possible to make cornbread out of some of the corn he anticipates harvesting this year. Here is what my research indicates:
First, you must dry the corn kernels. Next, grind the corn into a fine meal with a corn mill such as this one (the reviews for this particular brand weren't glowing, but you get the idea). Also, I found a video on Youtube demonstrating how to grind corn kernels here.
Once you've got your cornmeal ground, you can use it in any cornbread recipe. My husband claims he never liked cornbread until we got married, because it was always dense and dry. The recipe I use is great - it comes out light, fluffy and moist every time! You can use store bought cornmeal if you aren't putting in your crops anytime soon. :-) Slather with a little butter and it's fantastic with beans, chili, soup, etc.
1 1/2 c. yellow or white cornmeal
1 1/2 c. flour
6 T. sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. milk (or plain rice or soy milk)
2 large eggs
1/2 c. vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 400F. Oil an 8x1182-inch baking dish. Set aside. Combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Mix together with a whisk, until blended. Whisk together the soy milk, eggs and oil in a small bowl. Pour the egg mixture into the cornmeal mixture, and stir with a large spoon until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish. Bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. Serves 6.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
This week finally I tried it out, using what I happened to have in my pantry, including a white cake mix. I know it would probably be about twice as good if I'd made it from scratch, but it was still tasty indeed.
The pineapple slices kind of slid around in the baking process and if you're wondering why I didn't add more fruit, it looked full before I added the batter! I think it would be fun to use cherries, nuts or coconut in addition to the pineapple. We just loved the thick, caramelized topping. Yum!