Friday, October 31, 2008
I made them in the mini size, partly because they're easier to share, and partly because I find the ratio of cream cheese frosting to cupcake to be ideal.
Anyone dressing up this year? What costumes did you find?
Also, I know I'm mean with the Friday teasers, but I just can't help it. I'll be back on Monday with a very special (and kind of long!) post.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Applesauce is comforting because it simmers away on the stove without much work and it makes the house smell heavenly.
I decided to make the simplest applesauce possible - apples (unpeeled, because I hate to get rid of the nutrients and fiber in the skin), a little bit of water (approximately 1/4 cup per 4 large apples), and a couple tablespoons of lemon juice for acidity. Cook on low for 25 minutes and then use an immersion blender to make it smooth.
I made such a large batch that it's obvious I'll have to freeze some for later use, which is fine by me.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
This is why. Growing up, quiche was one of the ultimate treat meals in our house. Few things beat a flaky crust and a rich, eggy, cheesy filling. Traditionally, my mom makes quiche with swiss cheese and a layer of asparagus. I've branched out and starting tossing in whatever combination of fillings I have on hand.
This time it was thinly sliced, caramelized onions, a scattering of sundried tomatoes, and some fresh basil. I used Pyranno rather than Swiss, for a little more flavor.
Classic quiche (makes 4 - 6 servings)
Place in a 9" pie crust:
Whatever filling you desire
Beat in a medium bowl:
1 cup milk
Add to milk mixture, then pour over filling:
1 small onion, minced (if you don't already have onion in your filling)
1/2 lb shredded cheese
1 tsp salt (adjust if you are using a salty cheese)
1/8 tsp pepper
Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.
Go ahead and try to resist a second slice.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Unfortunately, it turns out that sewing together a square corner with multiple pieces of fabric sucks. There's also the small problem of my complete lack of ability to mentally picture how large something is going to be. Turns out 18 wide x 15 tall x 8 deep is absolutely massive - more suited to a beach tote. Sigh. I showed the results to my mom and the first thing she said was "You should have done gussets," which meant nothing to me.
So I ended up doing what I should have done in the first place. I googled it, and found an amazing tutorial online (here!) that is about a million times simpler than my attempt.
Result - a perfect little bag to carry a change of clothes for when I go to the gym.
I lined it with some super soft pink material from some vintage sheets.
Lesson learned - other people are smarter than me and I should at least see what they have to say before I go haring off on my own.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I love, love, love latkes. Who doesn't? They are fried potatoes. There is nothing to dislike. I eat my latkes with both applesauce and sour cream. So I started thinking about adding the apples directly into the latkes. This is probably latke heresy, so hopefully I'm not horrifying anyone right now.
I started with a latke recipe from Deb's site, Smitten Kitchen. For my first try, all I did was add a couple of peeled apples to the food processor after I shredded the potatoes and onions. Unfortunately, the apple flavor was so faint as to be undetectable. Next I tried shredding and cooking the apples before adding them to the potato mixture (and adding an additional egg). This gave the latkes a distinct, but not overpowering, apple flavor. I still love plain latkes, but I'm glad to have something a little different to mix it up.
Potato Latkes (with apples!)
Adapted from Food & Wine
Dab of butter
Dash of cinnamon (optional)
1 large baking potato (1 pound), peeled
1 small onion (4 ounces), peeled
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon matzo meal
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Peanut oil, for frying
In a food processor or on a box grater, coarsely shred the apples. Add a little bit of butter to a small skillet and cook the apples on medium low heat for about 15 minutes. Add cinnamon, if desired. When finished, turn off the heat and set aside.
Next, shred the potato and onion. Transfer to a colander and squeeze dry. Let stand for 2 minutes, then squeeze dry again. Transfer the potato mixture to a large bowl and stir in the cooked apples. Add the flour, matzo meal, egg, salt and pepper and stir to combine.
In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil until shimmering. Drop packed teaspoons of the potato mixture into the skillet and flatten them with the back of a spoon. Cook the latkes over moderately high heat until the edges are golden, about 1 1/2 minutes; flip and cook until golden on the bottom, about 1 minute. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture, adding more oil to the skillet as needed.
The apples make the latkes just slightly sweet and a bit tart. D still needed applesauce, so they didn't exactly supply all the apple flavor he needed. I am a fan but I will probably continue to make plain latkes as well.
You should definitely try Deb's latke recipe, even if you leave my apple experiment out of it completely. They are delicious and not nearly as intimidating as I expected.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
This recipe is the one I grew up with and I have it memorized (don't be too impressed - you'll see how easy it is). I think it's from Joy of Cooking, but I'm not sure. It makes enough for a double crust, but you could split it in half if you wanted. I always make two crusts and just store one in the freezer to have on hand.
The main things you want to remember when making a crust: work quickly to help keep it cold (warmth will make the dough greasy), don't over handle it (over mixing or trying to re-roll will make it tough).
Basic pie crust (makes 2 9" crusts)
2/3 cup cold butter (or 1/3 cup shortening plus 1/3 cup butter)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
5 - 10 tbsp ice cold water
Sift your flour with your salt.
Using a pastry blender (or the food processor) cut the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse cornmeal.
Add the ice water, a couple tablespoons at a time, gently mixing it in with a fork or a spatula, until the dough just holds together in a ball. This is the part that stresses me out a bit. The amount of water you need depends on the weather, and probably lots of other factors I don't know about. If you overmix the dough it will be a bit tough, so be careful.
Gently pat the dough into two discs, wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for 10 minutes or so.
Lightly flour your rolling surface, and place the dough disc in the center. Roll out from the center to the edges, and you should get a decently round shape. The circle needs to be an inch or two larger than you pie plate. Don't worry if the edges are uneven - it isn't a very big deal.
Transfer your dough to your pie plate and center it as best you can. Gently push it down into the plate.
Pick up the edge of the dough and start rolling it under to form a crust. Unless you are a magical creature who rolls out perfect circles, you'll find that some places have more dough overhang than others. I work around the edge, and pull off pieces of the larger overhangs and set them aside. Then, if I come to a spot with a very small overhang, I will gently insert a piece of the extra dough under it and roll the small overhang over the top as best I can. It gives you a false lift and makes the crust look more even.
The final step is crimping the edges. I just work with my fingers, gently placing my first two fingers on the outer edge of the crust and then pushing my thumb through from the inside to form the wave shape. I always freeze my crusts for at least an hour before I use them - it helps keep the shape from wilting away in the oven.
You can see the places where it isn't perfect, but no one will notice when they are distracted by the smell of fresh pie. I promise.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I've been looking forward to seeing this movie ever since I saw the preview, and I finally made it out this weekend. And I loved it. It was really emotional, everyone did a great job acting (including Anne Hathaway, who I was a little nervous about), and it somehow managed to be incredibly sad and happy at the same time. It just seemed very honest.
Also, the wedding was awesome in a crazy eclectic, do it yourself/with your friends kind of way, and the mini-dress the bride changed into for the reception was so cute that I've already wasted 40 minutes attempting to search out more information about it (no luck and I can't even find any pictures). If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.
One warning - it's shot in a home video style, which I appreciate intellectually, but I really wish they had been using a steady cam. I was a little woozy part way through, from all the jumpiness. It might be easier to watch it on the small screen.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Then I found this recipe, and I learned that Pippins are really the only apple that is tart enough for my pie tastes and things started coming together. Buying a device that peels and thinly slices apples made the whole process much less arduous.
This recipe is adapted from a little pamphlet of pie recipes that I picked up a few years ago. It's become a staple in our house. The crumb topping is my own invention and you'll probably see it popping up more as the holidays approach - it's the same one I use for sweet potato casserole.
Dutch Apple Pie
1 9-inch unbaked pie shell
6 - 8 tart apples, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp lemon zest
3/4 cup heavy cream
Pecan Crumb Topping
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup pecans
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of salt
3 tbsp butter
Place sliced apples in pie shell. Mix together the cream, spices, sugars and salt and pour over the apples. Bake in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the crumb topping. Place all ingredients except the butter in the food processor and pulse until you have a fine mixture. Add the butter and pulse several more times, until the mixture begins to come together and become crumb-like.
Remove the pie from the oven briefly and layer the crumb topping over it. Put the pie back in the oven and cook for another 15 - 20 minutes, until the topping is lightly browned. The apples should be tender, but not completely soft.
I like it best served warm with vanilla ice cream, but the leftovers are pretty good cold, eaten straight out of the dish.
Friday, October 17, 2008
This piece doesn't even count, because it was free. D has had a serious craving for an Eames rocker.
But there is no way we can currently spend close to $500 on a chair that we don't even technically need.
Then one day he came home with this...
He got it for free from school, because it had broken off the base (he fixed it). It's Eames-ish, no? The original intention was to buy a rocker base on Ebay (~ $90), but I fell for the way it looks with it's old school fold up writing surface. I'm not sure that D is totally convinced, but we're trying it out.
I put the surface area to good use last weekend - no need to precariously juggle tea, buttered toast and a book all at once. Plus, it's right by our glass sliding door, which makes it a very nice space to sit and soak up afternoon sunlight.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
My thoughts: I still love this dress, even though it is so short. Add another few inches, and I would wear this in an instant.
My words: Mmmmmm....
My thoughts: Wait, why do I feel strangely drawn to this? It's a crazy ruffle explosion. The ruffles are eating her head. It's like an Elizabethan collar. And yet, I love the deep, deep v of the neck line. I like the puffy sleeves. I really like the shape of the skirt. Scale the ruffles down a few notches, and I would buy this.
My words: Ruffles? Are those ruffles?
My thoughts: That's a lot of puffed sleeve going on there.
My words: That's a lot of puffed sleeve going on there.
My thoughts: Oh, Leanne, I love you. Mostly because you are the only one who doesn't drive me absolutely crazy. But why in the world did you take "color palette" so literally? Everything you made is the same exact color. And honestly, it's not even as though you picked a kick ass color. For a wall, yes. For clothing, I'm still not sold. Nevertheless, I love you and I think your wave idea was cool and I hope that you beat Kenley.
My words: Actually, I was so asleep at this point that I didn't even see the collection. Oh well. I have it recorded.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
It's basically a big pile of mushrooms and onions, slow cooked to perfection. You're supposed to use a mix of button mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms, but I only had button mushrooms, sadly.
Add broth and barley and bake for about an hour and what you get is almost a risotto, but without all the stirring.
It's not bad, but it also won't blow your mind. It's warm, and comforting, and surprisingly good for you, although just a little lacking in flavor. However, I ate the leftovers for lunch and it re-heats nicely - I actually think I liked it better the next day. I don't think it will make the permanent rotation, but it could be a nice little side dish for Thanksgiving.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Neither of us found the outside to be particularly striking, but that doesn't make any difference once you step into the house.
This particular house is 2800 square feet, which is palatial compared to our apartment, but relatively restrained in terms of Southern California architecture. It certainly makes the most of the square footage - it is brimming with storage. There are built in closets everywhere. It's an obsessive organizer's dream. The kitchen has open shelving (perfect for showcasing beloved pieces) but plenty of enclosed storage as well.
The detailing is lovely too. Check out this adorable bathroom, complete with mini subway tiles in a very sunny yellow.
One of my favorite parts? The amazing breezeway entertaining area, with a large table, a lounge area, and a fireplace. If I had this house, I would do nothing but throw summer evening dinner parties.
Sigh. The thing is, pre-fab isn't all that affordable yet. This house is 1.3 million, and that doesn't include the land to build it on. We're definitely apartment bound for the indefinite future.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Coconut rice pudding (makes a lot - probably 10 servings)
3 cans coconut milk, 14 oz. each (I used light)
1/2 cup sugar (increase slightly if your coconut is unsweetened)
1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened)
2/3 cup arborio rice (you can use other rice, but this one is the best)
3/4 tsp salt
Dash of vanilla extract
Combine everything except the vanilla in a large saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce the heat and then simmer gently for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. The pudding thickens up considerably and it's hard to resist licking the spoon. Once the rice is cooked and the pudding is thick, remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
Tastes equally great hot or cold, in my opinion. And especially lovely with some fresh nutmeg grated over the top.
Friday, October 10, 2008
This weekend I am going to:
*Go to the gem show. It's chock full of jewelry making supplies - I am making a list before I go and only bringing cash. I've learned my lesson the hard way, because last year I fell madly in love with a pricey stand of teeny tiny sapphires and even at a discount, that doesn't come cheap. Em, you are fully responsible for controlling my behavior.
*See Bajofondo at the Roxy! If you haven't already heard them, you must check them out.
*Take a tour of the new Marmol Radzinger house.
*Cook! The temperature is supposed to drop below 70 at some point, so I think I can make a fall-ish sort of meal and get away with it.
Anyone else have good plans for the weekend?
Thursday, October 9, 2008
What's a girl to do? Well, I made a 15 minute meal. I keep a little jar of red curry paste in the fridge at all times. As far as I know, the stuff lasts forever (if this isn't true, someone please let me know before I inadvertently poison someone) but I usually can't keep a jar around for more than a few months. Coconut milk is one of my random pantry staples, mostly for curry, but also for coconut rice pudding, which is to die for. You can use any protein you have on hand (or none at all) and I happened to have tofu. If D were home I probably would have opted for chicken, to be slightly more manly.
All you have to do is open the coconut milk, dump it into a pot over medium heat, stir in a generous amount of red curry paste and add whatever veggies (frozen, in my case) or protein you have on hand. Cook gently until the veggies are done to your liking. Serve it over rice, or eat it as a soup. I had fresh basil from my little plant, so I added it in. Curry is one of those weird foods that is good with either basil or cilantro, and I don't really understand how that's possible.
I used light coconut milk, but I think it would be vastly improved (although fattier) if I'd had real coconut milk in my pantry. I think this every time I use light coconut milk, but then I never follow through. Note to self: Buy real coconut milk.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
I sewed together each row first, and I was feeling pretty confident. Then I began attempting to assemble the whole thing. I immediately hit a few snags. I am making the simplest quilt possible, and I still couldn't get everything to line up correctly (how in the world do people manage triangles or off kilter shapes?!). After sewing together the first two rows, and realizing they were a little off, I contemplated ripping it out and trying to get it perfect. But I am realistic - I am stubborn but not all that patient, and obsessive attention to detail would probably derail the project entirely.
So, I put on a good music mix for company, gritted my teeth, and got down to it. After several hours, one horrible iron burn (if there is any chance of burning myself, I always manage to do it) and lots of swearing, and I had a mostly pieced together quilt.
There is still quite a bit to do - sew the border and attach it, make the bias binding, oh, and the actual quilting part. But I'm excited to have this much done.
For those of you considering quilting, I should warn you that it is mostly ironing. If you hate ironing, quilting (and sewing) might not be for you. I myself am adapting to the ironing, being a former iron hater. I frequently go out in clothes so wrinkled that (on numerous occasions) D will give me a pained look and offer/beg to iron my pants and/or shirt. For some reason, ironing during sewing isn't quite as onerous, but it's still something to bear in mind.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Souvlaki (grilled skewers) takes no time at all - you just make a simple mixture of lemon juice and olive oil, add salt, pepper and oregano. Cut up chunks of beef (or lamb, or chicken) and let it marinate for a few hours in the fridge. Take it out and put it on skewers and grill. Easy.
My tzatziki recipe is a little bastardized. You are supposed to add a generous amount of olive oil, but I've always preferred the thicker texture you get without it. All you need is a couple cloves of garlic, minced, and a cucumber, finely shredded and then pressed several times to remove as much liquid as possible. Mix in Greek yogurt (I always use Fage 2%), along with salt, pepper and dill. It's tart and thick and perfect.
Lemon potatoes are delicious wrapped in flatbread with the meat or just dipped directly in the tzatziki. It works especially well with little red potatoes, but russet was what I had around.
Chop 2 potatoes into largish pieces, toss in a bowl with the juice of two lemons and a couple tablespoons olive oil, plus minced garlic and dill. Cook in a large saucepan over medium high heat, covering the pan for the first 10 minutes or so, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove lid and continue to cook until the potatoes are done (and nicely browned on the outside).
Quick, simple, and addictive. Make sure you don't make too many potatoes, because you'll probably end up eating all of them at once.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Buying flowers, checking out new books, working on the quilt (and giving myself a massive iron burn), making a greek dinner (recipes to follow), sleeping in, waffles for breakfast (no recipe - I used TJ's multigrain baking mix), etc. etc.
I only wish the weekends would last a little longer.
Friday, October 3, 2008
On the (tentative and likely to be heavily edited) list:
- Going to the library to return books and get new ones
- Sewing (the quilt, plus a couple other projects I have kicking around in my head)
- Cooking (the weather is finally cooling off a bit!)
- Catching up on my Netflix rentals
- A possible visit to the flea market on Sunday
- Visiting this art gallery exhibit
Photo from Michael Muller, for his Lumiere exhibition now showing at the Guy Hepner Gallery. Dreamy, right? I can't get over the colors.
Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
You all are so clever, noticing that all those bits of fabric must mean a quilt is in the works. And it is. Which means I am currently eating my words.
See, back when I first started talking about getting a sewing machine my mom got excited (I think she had just about given up hope that either of her daughters would ever want to learn to sew) and I very firmly told her "NO QUILTS!" I love my mom's quilts, and they are true works of art, but work is the operative word here. I could see myself making bags, or even clothes, but not quilts.
Fast forward to the present. My mom took me to her favorite quilt store, and they had instructions out for the simplest of quilts - all squares and rectangles, very retro, done with 1930s style fabrics. I swooned. My mom offered to let me raid her gorgeous fabric collection to help get me started. And I gave in.
The quilt is going to have a white background, and the overall effect is muted rather than bold. I'm in love with my great grandmother's old handmade quilts, all worn and subdued from years of washing, and I'm hoping this looks a little bit like them.
Chain stitching saves a ton of time, because you feed lots of pieces through and then snip them apart afterwards, allowing you to work continuously.
Plus, it makes a cute little banner-like chain of pieces before you cut them apart. Fun. Now I want to make a fabric banner.
I'll continue to update on the progress. My mom would make this quilt in an afternoon, but it will undoubtedly take me several weeks.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
I was going to make cornbread and black bean soup last night, but the 98 degree wall of heat that greeted me when I left my office in the evening convinced me otherwise.
So we improvised.
I guess there is an upside to global warming - we got to eat dinner on the balcony and watch the fall light, and we didn't even need sweaters.
I'm making the most of the unexpected weather, but one more week of this and I'm breaking out the crock pot, no matter how hot it is.