People who know me well know of my obsession with old things. Our home (which is quite old itself, built back in 1904) is filled with little pieces that date from the twenties to the eighties. I have an obvious taste for sweet vintage childlike items and who would have guessed it, kitchen antiquities. More than any other room in our household, our kitchen contains the highest amount of the small things I have collected from constant trips to thrift stores and estate sales (I generally refuse to pay more than $10 for one item, though most are closer to the $1 range). Favorite things to collect include old cake tins, ceramic bakeware, aprons, and of course, cookbooks. My ever-growing vintage cookbook collection is a very special thing to me. I completely adore ones with cursive handwritten notes written in the margins, cut-out recipes tucked inside the pages, and typed family recipes bound in rings. I cannot help but fondly think of grandmothers and housewives back in the forties and fifties baking these beautiful home-cooked creations, back in the time when baking and cooking full meals was a part of normal daily life. There is just something sweet about it.
At an estate sale down the street a couple weeks ago, I purchased a tiny stack of cookbooks for a mere 25 cents each. I was happy to find a bread cookbook by Better Homes and Gardens that had been stuffed with personal bread recipes from the owner. I came across a Betty Crocker one that seemed to be torn from a pamphlet, a recipe for a Country Crust Bread that seemed rather simple. I put it all together yesterday afternoon, threw it in my Kitchenaid mixer, folded it, and had a lovely loaf to go with a creamy vegetable soup for dinner. I admit, my folding skills weren't amazing so the loaves weren't very beautiful, but baby, it was tasty.
Country Crust Bread
2 packages active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup oil
6 to 6 1/2 cups bread flour
soft butter or margarine
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in sugar, salt, eggs, oil, and 3 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Mix in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle. Turn dough onto lightly floured board; knead until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl; turn greased side up. (At this point, dough can be refrigerated for 3 to 4 days.) Cover; let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour (Dough is ready if impression remains.)
Punch down dough; divide in half. Roll each half into a rectangle, 18x9 inches. Roll up, beginning at short side. With side of hand, press each end to seal. Fold ends under loaf. Place seam side down in greased loaf pan. Brush loaves with a little oil. Let rise until doubled, about another hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place loaves on lower oven rack so that the tops of the pans are in the center of the oven. Pans should not touch each other or sides of oven. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until deep golden brown and loaves sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pans. Brush loaves with butter; cool on wire rack.
Makes two loaves.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
It has been a tough few days here in my household. I won't go into the details of the accident, but over the weekend, my three-year old managed to get his thumb completely crushed, resulting in fractured bones and hand surgery. He has been a real trooper when dealing with the pain, but he has still been quite scared and emotional at various points throughout the day. The good part for him, though, is that he is getting spoiled like crazy, which means new toys, tons of hugs and snuggling, and you guessed it, sweets.
This morning when he woke up, I told him that I was going to bake him whatever he wanted. After pulling out his cookbooks and sitting on my lap while I peered through recipes online, he decided on some Oreo-like chocolate sandwich cookies. We filled them with bright orange vanilla cream, perfect for Halloween. I think I have been enjoying them even more than he has- they are just so good when dunked in a tall glass of soy milk.
Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with Vanilla-Cream Filling: from Retro Desserts
For Cookie Dough:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large egg
For Vanilla-Cream Filling:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a food processor or the bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar. While pulsing or on low speed, add the butter, then the egg. Process or beat until the dough is thoroughly blended and massed together. Drop rounded teaspoons of batter onto nonstick or parchment-lined cookie sheets at 2-inch intervals. With moistened fingers, round out the cookies and flatten them a little. Bake for 9 minutes, turning the pans once for even baking, until the cookies are set. Set the cookie sheets on a rack to cool.
To make the filling: Put the butter and shortening in a mixing bowl and, at low speed, gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar and vanilla, until blended. Turn the mixer up to high and beat for 2 or 3 minutes more, until fluffy.
With a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch tip, pipe teaspoon size blobs of filling onto the tops of half the cookies. Keeping the smooth bottoms of the cookies facing up, flip the remaining cookies on top of the filling and lightly press to form sandwiches.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
A large number of our current readers are getting here via this post, which has been featured all over the internet in the last week and a half or so. A few days ago, I emailed the company- Small Planet Foods, and asked them if they'd like to comment on, or offer an interview about the tiny broccoli faces. I received, unsurprisingly, (they are owned by General Mills, after all) a pretty canned response:
"Dear Mrs. Carrier:
Thank you for contacting us concerning Cascadian Farm. We appreciate the opportunity to address this matter. Unfortunately, there is no one available for you to interview. However, I have included some information about the history behind the faces.
The tradition of hiding names or faces on Cascadian Farm packaging began over a dozen years ago. It was unspoken tribute by the package design department to the friends & family of Cascadian Farm. The faces won’t be included on our redesigned packaging.
If you have any further questions or concerns, please let us know.
So, that's about it. I'm pretty bummed to hear that they're phasing it out, but I'm not surprised. In fact, Summer and I recently took a field trip to the grocery store so I could pick up my own box of broccoli (Just to hang onto for fun. I'll save the box.) and we did some snooping to see what we could find.
One of the first things we noticed was that they were nearly sold out of the packaged broccoli containing the faces? Coincidence? WHO KNOWS.
I don't think I noted in the original post that the BOXED broccoli was the one with faces- the bags don't have it. In fact, we poked around all over the store, gazing at frozen vegetables, boxed cereal, juice concentrate- all from Cascadian Farm, and the only place we found more faces was the place we expected to. Reader Tim Bennett tipped us off in an email that the Cascadian Farm jam packages also had faces- and sure enough, there they were. MORE CREEPY-ASS BABIES, STARING US DOWN.
Further inspection showed DIFFERENT FACES hiding out in different flavors of jam, but we only ended up buying grape.
Jane Wells, of cnbc.com, insinuated here that Summer and I might have staged the whole thing, photoshopping tiny faces into the images ourselves. While that certainly wouldn't have been too difficult (well, maybe it would be, I'm no photoshop champ), I can assure you that I'm far too lazy to go to that much trouble for a laugh on my blog. All I can offer by way of proof is digital photographs, which I know don't hold much weight these days. Consider this very close-up shot of one of the creepy baby faces, which links to a high-res version on flickr that you can examine to your heart's delight:
Anyway, I'd like to take this opportunity to once again say hello to our new readers, and hope that everyone sticks around for recipes and fun pictures. Speaking of pictures- on a technical note, I took these photographs with my Canon 20D, but since I don't have any fancy macro lenses, I simply stacked my two cheap lenses together to get the close-ups. It's a pretty easy trick and it takes very close-up images. That's where the weird vignetting comes from in some of the pictures, too- the lenses weren't taped together at all or anything, so you can sort of see the shadow of the other lens.
So, there you have it. An "unspoken tribute" (what is that even supposed to mean?) to friends and family of Cascadian Farm, as many commenters have already verified. And that's the last you'll hear from our frozen broccoli packages (I hope.)
Monday, October 27, 2008
Yes, here I go again with another apple recipe, but hey, it's fall, right? Here in Portland the leaves have almost all changed to vibrant colors, the air is crisp and windy, and folks all over are dressed in sweaters and bright scarves. If that's not enough to inspire frequent traditional Autumn baking then I don't know what is.
I really do not have much to say about this recipe. It's simple, fragrant, and mighty tasty, just like any apple/pear dessert should be. Go ahead, eat it with friends using spoons right out of the baking dish, with fall foliage in view. Or share it in bed with your honey under a warm blanket, with vanilla bean ice cream piled on top. Or even cut the recipe down, make yourself a single serving, and enjoy some alone time out on the porch with a good book and a thick scarf. It's better that way.
Spiced Apple and Pear Crumble
3 baking apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
3 ripe but firm red pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, diced, plus more for buttering the dish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss apples and pears with lemon juice and granulated sugar in a large bowl. Stir in cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and toss well to combine. Spread fruit evenly in a buttered baking dish and set aside.
Combine flour, oats, brown sugar and salt in a food processor. Add butter to flour mixture, then pulse several times to incorporate butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal. Evenly spread the topping over the fruit, pressing down slightly with your fingers. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until fruit is tender, juices are bubbly and topping is crisp.
Friday, October 24, 2008
As much as I have faith in myself as being a good baker, I have never prided myself on being the most amazing cook. People have frequently complimented my dinners, but if I didn't follow recipes exactly, I would be completely lost. I am not one to quickly throw amazing meals together with just a few ingredients and I am not very inventive when it comes to "real food" (as opposed to food that has a high percentage of sugar). That being said, there are two things I can generally always make well without a recipe: lasagna and chili. I think this is mainly due to the fact that I have made both of them more times than I can possibly count so I know the processes like the back of my hand.
Today was one of those days when the morning seemed to so quickly turn into the afternoon. Alice and I were meeting to discuss future plans for this site (food groups, side pages, features, ads, etc.) and time seemed to be passing by at a fast speed. Suddenly our stomachs were growling, but since the children were well-behaved and occupied, we wanted to continue to get our "work" done (I put work in parenthesis because some might argue using that term to discuss the process of blogging). So, I hurried through the kitchen and decided to throw together a pot of chili, something that generally only takes me a few minutes. It was done and on the table within thirty minutes, making our mouths happy and our bellies warm.
Please keep in mind, this is a very loose recipe. Chili is quite forgiving and can be made many different ways, so feel free to throw in whatever you would like (real meat, faux meat, sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers, grains, etc.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large can (28 ounces) crushed or diced tomatoes
2 cans (15 ounces each) of beans, drained - black, garbanzos, kidney, and/or pinto
1 can (15 ounces) corn, drained or 1 cup frozen or fresh
2-3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional- depends on how spicy you like it)
1/2-1 teaspoon salt
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1-2 cups water or stock, depending on how liquidy/thick you like it
Heat olive oil over medium-high in a large pot or saucepan. Add onions and garlic and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, beans, and corn. Bring to a boil and add chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, if using, salt, and pepper, and water or stock. Stir well. Turn heat down and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Serve topped with your favorite chili toppings. My favorites are leeks or onions, grated cheese, sour cream, toasted pumpkin seeds, and, surprise, chocolate chips.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Alice: "Do you want to bake something and come meet us at the park?"
Me: "Sure. I can probably have something ready within a half hour."
Alice: "What would be good on this cold and blustery day?"
Me: "Warm muffins."
Alice: "Oh, yes. Something muffiny would be great."
Me: "Pumpkin? Apple? Banana-Nut?"
Me: "Or I could make muffins that taste just like donuts with sugar on top."
Alice: "YES. THOSE."
I am quite sure that the idea of a muffin that doubles as a donut is an idea that appeals to almost everybody. Few people don't enjoy the special sweet taste that a donut has and the unarguable comfort of a warm homemade muffin. I was first introduced to this idea quite a few years ago. I was vegan back then and had a couple failed attempts at making my own, resulting in muffins that were terribly heavy and quite un-donutlike. It wasn't until today that I decided to try again, using a recipe from Molly of Orangette. And this time, as I was slathering the right-outta-the-oven warm muffins in butter and dipping them in powdered sugar, I knew, damn, these are going to be good.
And so we sat on the steps of Piccolo Park, happily enjoying our donut muffins while trying to keep our sugar-loving kids from eating the entire batch. We were aware of the yearning looks of onlookers, mainly children, who wished that they too could be sporting the powdered sugar moustaches that we had so deliciously acquired.
Donut Muffins: adapted from Orangette
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2-2 cups powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a standard-size muffin tin with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg, and whisk to mix them thoroughly. Set aside.
Combine the milk and the vinegar in a measuring cup, and set aside.
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or, alternatively, in a large mixing bowl with electric beaters nearby), and beat on medium speed for a few seconds, until the butter is soft and creamy. With the motor running, add the sugar in a steady stream. Continue beating, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice, until the mixture increases in volume and lightens to pale yellow. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until they are just combined.
With a wooden spoon, mix 1/4 of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Add 1/3 of the milk mixture. Continue to add the dry and wet ingredients alternately, ending with the dries. Mix until the dough is smooth and well combined, but do not overmix.
Divide the batter between the cups of the muffin tin. Bake until the muffins are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-32 minutes.
When the muffins are cool enough to handle, prepare the topping: melt the butter in the microwave or on the stovetop, and pour the powdered sugar into a deep bowl. Using a pastry brush and working one muffin at a time, lightly brush the entire outside of the muffin with butter, and then roll it in the powdered sugar. Shake off any excess, and place the finished muffins on a rack or serving platter. Serve.
What do you do with all your leftover butternut after you're burnt out on holiday foods? Not everything has to contain nutmeg and brown sugar, right? After making soup from some tasty butternut squashes, we had a couple of already-roasted pieces leftover that didn't make it into the soup. (Remember, I said it's a to-taste soup!) I asked Jason what we could do with them and he mentioned throwing it into a curry dish. I initially balked at the idea- curry with butternut squash? But I trust his judgement and he did his thing. I imagined a pureed squash being stirred into the final product, but he simply cubed up the already-roasted squash and tossed it in. It melted into the curry but left big chunks, so the end result was a thick, creamy, sweet and mild curry that held up well to the sambal chili sauce we mixed in. I don't usually add chili sauce to things because I think it can overwhelm subtle flavors, but in this case it just perfectly highlighted the mildness of the squash in comparison to the warm spice of the curry.
How we did it:
1 can of coconut milk
Some red curry paste (we always use Thai Curry brand. We got fancy homemade curry paste from the farmer's market once, and aside from being a bit spicier, Jason and I agreed that it tasted just like the Thai Curry stuff.)
Assorted vegetables of your choosing, though you can't go wrong with carrot, broccoli, celery, onion, bell pepper, etc.
Some sort of protein- we use chicken thighs in our curry, the darker leg meat goes wonderful with the rich flavors. Tofu and tempeh would work wonderfully, of course, or mock duck if you can find it, that stuff is AMAZING.
Chopped garlic & onion
A large handful of cubed, roasted butternut squash. (This can be done well in advance. It will keep fine in your fridge for a day or two.)
Splash of soy sauce
Pinch of brown sugar
Splash of fish sauce (or vegan oyster sauce if you can find it, haha)
In a large pan, saute chopped garlic and onions for a minute or two, then add chicken or mock duck, then add the rest of your vegetables. Throw in a little bit of soy sauce and a teeny tiny splash of fish sauce (I use less than 1/4 tsp.) and let it simmer for a moment. Add about half a can of coconut milk, and begin stirring in curry paste 1 tablespoon at a time until you think it tastes good. Add butternut squash and stir well. Let simmer until vegetables are cooked to your preference (and make sure meat is fully cooked). Serve with jasmine rice. (We used brown basmati rice. Brown jasmine would be even more delicious, but it's hard to find.) Top with Sambal Oelek for a little spice.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
You might remember our sweet little peach empanadas from back in August. We've been talking about making savory ones for a long time and when Summer got the itch (wait, SUMMER wanted something that wasn't sweet?), I was happy to comply.
Adapted Crisco recipe for the crusts:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. sugar (we lowered the amount since we weren't looking for sweet. Original recipe calls for 2 tbsp.)
1 tsp. salt (we decided it could have used more salt, to go with what we stuffed them with.)
3/4 cup shortening (we prefer organic)
5 tbsp. cold water
Combine flour, sugar, & salt in medium bowl. Cut in shortening using 2 knives (or a pastry cutter) until all flour is blended to form pea-sized chunks. (I imagine you could use a food processor for this purpose, also.) Sprinkle 5 tbsp. water, one tbsp. at a time. Toss lightly with a fork until dough forms. Flour rolling surface and pin lightly. Divide dough in half. Roll each half to 1/16th" thickness. Use lid from 3 lb crisco can (or a tub of butter, or a quart tub of yogurt, whatever) as a pattern. Cut 6 circles from each half. Spoon in a small amount of filling (Don't over-stuff! You'll have to live and learn on this, unfortunately.) and moisten edges with water. Fold in half and press with fork to seal. Poke air holes so they don't explode. Bonus points for a cute pattern. Bake 20 minutes at 425ºf and let cool on a rack for 10 minutes before eating. (It's hard to wait. I know.)
The fillings were simple. I threw together a large bowl of fresh salsa (tomato, onion, cilantro, lime juice, pinch of salt) and for the vegetarian filling, we just heated up some black beans, seasoned them with a little bit of cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder, and added a handful of frozen corn. For the meat ones, I cooked up some chorizo sausage that I bought in bulk at the grocery store. It was delicious and spicy! To fill the empanadas, we layered grated manchego (one of my favorite cheeses), small scoops of the filling, and a dollop of the salsa. Summer snuck tapatio into her vegetarian ones for a little extra kick.
These were tasty but the only amendment I'd make to the recipe would be to brush the tops with an egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt. The flaky pastry crust was delicious, but a little bland in comparison to the spicy chorizo and melted cheese. Needs more salt!
The best part of making these was loading them up into a little basket and walking them over to my husband's shop, a few blocks away from Summer's house. We cruise over there for coffee fairly often and I get to say hello to him a lot, which is a nice treat. We sat on the sidewalk and had a miniature picnic, gobbling down our lunch and watching our boys chase each other. It was fun to bring him something for lunch, I'm sure he appreciated the snack.
All right, all right- I know this is absolutely RIDICULOUS, but I think it says a lot about the partnership between me & Summer that when I mentioned taking a photo like this, for a post like this, rather than rolling back in her head- her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree and she exclaimed, "I was thinking the exact same thing!" We just wanted to say hello to all the new readers who have been popping in. Thanks to this post, we've been getting a crazy amount of traffic! We're really pleased to see new readers and we have a lot of awesome stuff planned in the coming months, so keep watching.
Monday, October 20, 2008
It's here! You asked for it! My very simple butternut squash soup recipe. If you're like me, and your first, mildly traumatic experiences with butternut squash soup involved the cartons of pre-made, overly sweet crap you can buy at places like Trader Joe's (not hatin' though, I still love TJ's.) you might not like the idea of butternut squash soup. I know I never did.
The other day at work, a man who comes in often with his preteen son (who is an adorable, stern young man, who always says please and thank you) thanked me for the hot chocolates I made for them, and said, "You have a secret ingredient, don't you?" I acknowledged that we put a little something extra in, and he quickly stopped me and said, "Don't tell me! I don't want to know." (It's just vanilla, dude!) The idea of a "secret ingredient" is kind of silly to me, but I understand the appeal. Something subtle that people notice, but not overwhelming enough that it's all you taste. So what's the secret ingredient here?
Nothing fancy. Just roasted poblano peppers. Don't let me take all the credit, though- this recipe is all Jason. (Of course.) It adds a smoky, spicy finish to a sweet, rich soup. The preparation is simple, but it can quickly become overwhelmingly messy, so keep tabs on your kitchen or else you'll end up with a disaster like I did tonight, ha!
This is sort of a 'to-taste' recipe- like most of our soup recipes, but I'll try to be as exact as possible. For this batch, here's what I did:
2 butternut squashes
1 poblano pepper (you can adjust the spice level by adding more or less roasted pepper, but generally speaking, poblanos are rather mild.)
1/2 a white onion
1 small white shallot
1 whole head of garlic
3 very skinny carrots (or one or two larger ones)
3-4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock. (In this case I used a vegetable stock that I made before our vacation using a large number of carrots, hoping the carrots would add to the sweetness of the soup. I think I was right.)
Preheat your oven to 375ºf.
Slice squashes lengthwise, so you can scoop out the seeds. You can cut them down a little more if you'd like, to fit on your pans and maybe cook a little faster. Drizzle with olive oil, salt lightly, and place on a baking sheet in the oven.
You know what? Do i need to describe the whole process? Everything gets drizzled in olive oil and roasted at the same time in the oven. I wrap the onions, shallot, and garlic individually in tinfoil, and leave the seeded, halved pepper on a baking sheet, along with the carrots. Keep an eye on the pepper and remove when it becomes blistery and begins to blacken.
Just peek in on everything every once in awhile and make sure nothing's burning. Pull things out as they finish (The peppers will finish first, then the carrots, then the shallot probably, then the garlic, then onion, then butternuts, probably.) Just keep poking everything until it's mushy. Let everything cool so you can handle it easily, and heat up your stock while you wait.
Bust out your blender or food processor, and put a large pot aside for the finished soup. Begin blending the ingredients (duh, don't forget to peel your butternut) in steps, adding warm stock as needed to get it smooth. Dump it all in the big pot and stir it up really well, adding more stock if necessary to thin to desired consistency. Put over heat if necessary- letting all the ingredients cool can leave you with a lukewarm soup. Serves 3-4.
Last night I happened to carve a pumpkin and I cleaned and toasted the seeds. I tossed a handful on my dinner salad and garnished my soup with them, too. All I did was wash them, let them dry overnight on a brown paper bag, and then coat them with olive oil & salt, and then toasted them for 10-15 minutes at 375º.
I can't help it, guys. It's fall! It rained half the day today, and then it got a little bit sunny. I went jogging this morning in the rain and I saw the sun painting the leaves of the trees bright gold, contrasted against a grey sky with a RAINBOW IN IT. It's beautiful out here! I'm going to drink some chamomile tea, and tomorrow afternoon I'm going to heat up the rest of my soup and eat it with a grilled cheese sandwich.
I fully admit that I have never been a fan of squash. The idea of it, especially since it is generally such a beautiful family of vegetables, has always appealed to me, but I have always been disappointed by the taste and texture (other than butternut squash soup, which just happens to be our next post). This isn't to say that I hadn't been open-minded to continuing to try it in different ways. With squash season fully upon us, I decided to start buying them to experiment with. The first one was a massive pink banana squash that I chopped up (with our rather dull kitchen knives, resulting in some wretched hand pain) and put into our crock pot with apples, spices, and sugar. Yet again, I was not impressed. That was until today.
While Alice was still at our house this afternoon after photographing the apple tart, I thought it would be fun to throw something quick together, mainly for another photo opportunity. I wanted to keep with harvest theme so I grabbed an acorn squash off our porch that was mixed in with our hand-picked pumpkins and started slicing it up into rings, an idea that came from the classic Martha Stewart Cookbook. I then followed the rest of the directions and chatted while they baked and I waited for the results. And you know what? I have discovered a brand new love of squash. This was more scrumptious than I can describe, the kind of food that has you shoveling forkful after forkful in your mouth with mutterings in-between of "Oh my God". Further proof of how good it tasted was that we had quite a few adorable little rings and flower-shaped pieces of squash meant to be photographed, but they were too quickly engulfed by Alice to make it to the camera. It is simplicity at its finest with only a small handful ingredients, but filled with so much flavor.
Baked Acorn Squash Rings: from The Martha Stewart Cookbook
1 small acorn squash
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cut the unpeeled squash crosswise into 1/2-inch slices and place them on a cutting board. Using a biscuit cutter or cookie cutter slightly larger than the seed center, cut out the seeds from each ring and discard.
Place the squash rings on a lightly buttered baking sheet. Dot each ring with butter and season to taste. Sprinkle a bit of brown sugar over each ring.
Bake the squash for 15 minutes. Turn the rings over, dot with more butter and sugar, and bake until tender, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Serve hot.
On Saturday morning, after making our weekly stop at the downtown market, my family and I headed out to one of my favorite annual events: the Apple Tasting Festival at Portland Nursery. The festival is free and consists of pumpkin painting tables, cheap apple foods (mmm, warm apple streudel with soft serve vanilla ice cream), inexpensive fresh produce, and a huge tented area with over sixty varieties of apples (and some pears) to try. What always seems to amaze me is just how different each apple tastes, varying from one another in different levels of sweetness, tartness, crispness, boldness of flavor, and juiciness. With a list of my favorites in hand, we headed off to the fruit bushels where I filled three huge bags with a combination of Gourmet Goldens, Rome Beauties, Mutsus, and Liberties.
Today I figured it was time to start on putting these baking apples to good use. I had an unopened package of puff pastry in the freezer, so I decided to go for a simple apple tart, easily made with one sheet of the pastry, thinly sliced apples, and a bit of butter and sugar. The recipe itself hails from a beautiful cookbook I recently received as a gift called Eat Drink Live by Fran Warde. It is filled with 150 colorful pages of simple, delicious-sounding recipes that I can't wait to try out.
Anyways, enjoy this scrumptious, buttery tart that is a wonderful Autumn treat. (Oh, and isn't that photograph Alice took of the slice of tart in our burning bush freaking adorable?)
Quick French Apple Tart: from Eat Drink Live
8 ounces ready-made puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten
3-4 red apples
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly butter a baking tray.
Roll out pastry to a rectangle 12 x 7 inches. Put on the baking tray and brush all over with the egg.
Cut the apples into quarters, removing the cores. Slice thinly and arrange in rows on top of the pastry, leaving a 2-inch gap around the edges. Drizzle the melted butter over the apples, sprinkle with sugar, and dust with cinnamon. Brush the edges of the pastry with the remaining egg wash, then fold inwards and gently press down.
Bake the tart in the oven for about 30 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes, until the tart is well risen, crisp, and golden all over.
Serve hot or at room temperature with whipped heavy cream, clotted cream, scoops of good-quality vanilla ice cream, or homemade custard.
Edited to add:
An update to this post can be found here.
Okay, I know this isn't a recipe, but it's food related, and it's too funny to not share.
Now that we're settled in from our respective vacations, and enjoying the fall weather- Summer and I are getting back down to business. I was over at her place this morning photographing some tasty treats that will hopefully show up here later today, and she suddenly remembered this crazy broccoli package in her freezer she wanted to show me. She handed me the box and I studied it carefully, squinting, even allowing my eyes to blur, to try and see what I was missing. She pointed- "Do you see?" See what? I didn't see anything. Just broccoli. Her finger tapped on a certain part of the box and she urged me to look closer. "There- right there. Do you see it? I'm not going to tell you what it is if you don't see it." And then, it suddenly became clear to me. WHAT THE HELL?
It shouldn't be too hard to see here:
But if you're still not quite getting it, perhaps these macro shots will help:
LITTLE TERRIFYING ECSTATIC FACES, HIDING IN THE TEENY TINY BROCCOLI BITS.
Uh, okay guys. Lay off the reefer, all right? We honestly can't imagine why they'd sneak this in- other than for laughs, but it's pretty darn funny. In case you're wondering, the brand was Cascadian Farm frozen broccoli. But, I shouldn't be surprised- we all know those Cascadians are wacky!
On Thursday morning, I woke up with a sudden urge to make bread. Having a day ahead of me with nothing planned and a new bag of bread flour, I searched through my saved yeast bread recipes and quickly chose one from A cookie a day for gorgeous-looking honey rolls. What I wasn't aware of until later that evening was that I had woken up with this bread-making urge on what is known as World Bread Day- a fine coincidence, I must say.
And so, on the evening of a day dedicated to the staff of life, we enjoyed these delicious rolls that were a perfect compliment to our hearty dinner of mashed potatoes, gravy, veggie roast, and roasted vegetables. They tasted sweet and were quite soft, much like challah, with a lip-smacking buttery crust. So, if you have the time (and especially if you have an electric mixer with a bread hook, like I do), I urge you to try this recipe out for yourself, even if just for the intoxicating smell of baking bread that will fill your home.
Tender Honey Yeast Rolls: from A cookie a day
4 cups bread flour (Start with 3)
1 cup warm water (105° to 115°F)
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 package dry yeast (1/4-ounce)
Vegetable cooking spray
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the honey, egg and oil. Add roughly 3 cups of the flour and the salt until the dough comes together in a sticky mass. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, working in the remaining flour as necessary to keep the dough from being too sticky, until the dough is smooth and elastic, 8 minutes. Do not be tempted to add too much flour. The dough should stay soft and will become less sticky with kneading. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in bulk, about 2 hours.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead 30 seconds. Cover dough, and let rest 10 minutes. Punch dough down, and divide into 12-18 equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball, and place on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 20 minutes. Uncover and bake at 400 degrees for 13-15 minutes or until browned. About 5 minutes into baking, top rolls with 1 tablespoon of melted butter mixed with 1 tablespoon of honey. Remove rolls from pans, and serve warm or at room temperature.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
photos by me.
I apologize for the lack of posting on my end. Since Alice was out-of-town for eight days, I was left alone with my cheap digital camera and not-so-impressive food photography skills. I did, however, manage to take a few shots of this special little cake, which I will share with you this morning.
While at the farmers market a couple of weeks ago (I know I mention going there way too much, but it's really where I discover and purchase the majority of my fresh produce), I noticed bushels of these rather small red juicy grapes that tasted so sweet and delicious, I just had to buy a huge bag of them. The only problem with that was that with me being the only one in our house who really eats grapes, it was hard to get through them quickly before they started getting squishier and less-than-perfect. So I thought, why not bake something with them? I admit I had never baked anything using grapes before in my life (other than concord grape pie, I have really never heard much of grape desserts), but I came across a recipe targeted to winemakers for a cake made with whatever clusters of grapes you come across. The perfect solution to a container of extra local grapes? I think so.
Winemaker's Grape Cake: from Patricia Wells at Home in Provence
Butter and flour for preparing the cake pan
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of sea salt
Grated zest (yellow peel) of 1 lemon
Grated zest (orange peel) of 1 orange (I left this out and it still tasted quite citrusy)
10 ounces small, fresh purple grapes
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter and flour a springform pan, tapping out any excess flour. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and lemon-colored, about 3 minutes. Add the butter, oil, milk, and vanilla extract, and mix until blended.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add the lemon zest and orange zest, and toss to coat the zest with flour. Spoon the mixture into the bowl of batter and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix once more. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquids.
Stir about 3/4 of the grapes into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.
Place the pan in the center of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle the top of the cake with remaining grapes. Bake until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels quite firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 40 minutes more, for a total baking time of 55 minutes. Remove to rack to cool. After 10 minutes, run a knife along the sides of the pan. Release and remove the side of the springform pan, leaving the cake on the pan base. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Serve at room temperature, cut into thin wedges.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Well, I mentioned seeking out good coffee during our trip to the bay area (we're home, by the way! Hooray!), but I didn't go into any great detail. Of course, we had to check out the Stumptown joint in San Francisco- Four Barrel. (soon to be roasting their own beans) Four Barrel is a new shop that started as a back-alley secret, serving shots of espresso onto the curb before their shop was completely built. It's always nice to get Stumptown away from home, and the feel of the shop was very similar to the cafes up here. But that's kind of an obvious go-to, and we were in the mood for something new.
Staying in San Jose leaves our options kind of limited- it's a very spread out place. Jason usually just sucks it up and gets iced americanos at the Starbucks around the corner from his folks' house, or else we drive to San Francisco or Santa Cruz (not just for coffee, obviously, but we'll wait 'til we get there to buy any). But this time, before our trip, he heard a little bit about a place right in San Jose called Barefoot Coffee Roasters. Located in an unassuming strip mall, sandwiched between a joint called "Freedom Burrito" and a bagel shop, this place was a breath of fresh air compared to most of the crappy drive-through "expresso" kiosks you see here and there, and certainly miles above Starbucks.
Jason got a double shot and chatted up the guy on the bar, the owner- I think? It came up that we were visiting from Portland and Jason mentioned working for Stumptown and they talked coffee for awhile, but I was too busy chasing my son around to keep up with the conversation. What I did gather from hanging out in the shop and talking to Jason was that, much like Stumptown, they're a craft roaster who does small batches by hand of great beans from awesome farms all around the world. That will pretty much always sell me, but it's all a pile of gimmicky crap if the shots don't live up to the expectations. But, luckily, we weren't disappointed. Jason got a double shot that was delicious (I dipped a finger in it) and I had an iced americano because I'm a sipper. The espresso was rich, chocolate-y, without a hint of bitterness at all. Sorry, I'm not good at giving the fancy shmancy "notes of fresh fig, plum, yadda yadda," stuff. It was a beautifully pulled shot and I'll leave it at that.
We picked up a couple of pounds to bring home for the dudes at the shop, and now we have a regular coffee place to hit up whenever we're visiting the in-laws. Sweet! So once again, for anyone in San Jose (and judging from the comments on my other post, I guess that's a pretty good handful of people), here's another destination. Delicious coffee from nice people, in a cute little shop. That is basically what my life revolves around, if you can believe it.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Speaking of greasy diner food, a trip to visit the in-laws in the bay area is never complete without lunch at Falafel's Drive in. This place was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives- a show with a nice concept but the most annoying host I've ever seen. You know, that dum-dum who wears the sunglasses on the back of his head? Ugh. If you're curious, do a google image search for "Guy Fieri" but don't say I didn't warn you. He reminds me so much of one of my old bosses, maybe that's why I find him so grating.
AAAAANYWAY- This place has the best falafel on the face of the earth, sorry. It's a walk-up window where you get styrofoam plates (really? Styrofoam? Why do so many places in California do this? I thought Cali was supposed to be the leader in the environmental movement? Enough with the styrofoam, dudes.) filled with fresh, delicious falafel sandwiches, packed with lettuce, drizzled with tahini sauce, and a side of amazing chili sauce.
They also serve hamburger/fries type of stuff too, and a side of onion rings with a falafel sandwich is mighty tasty. The dude working the window was pleasantly surprised when he asked my son, "What do you want, french fries?" and he replied, "Uh... Uhhhhhh... HUMMUS." He said, "Hummus! Good boy!"
We always get a banana milkshake when we go, too. It's not the healthiest lunch on the planet, but I look forward to eating there every time I come down. It's cheap, too- a "small" sandwich is $3.50 and it's actually rather huge. You can easily do lunch for 2 and spend under 10 bucks, it's amazing. So heads up, West Coast- Falafel's Drive-in in San Jose. Go, now. There is nothing like this in Portland and I guess it's probably for the best because I'd eat nothing but fried falafel balls EVERY DAY.