Friday, March 26, 2010

WELLLLL HOWDY

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Well man, a lot has been going on in the last few days and the vast majority of it is awesome stuff, like transitioning out of a job that stressed me out into a job that rules, putting my son into a preschool/daycare type of situation that he really loves for 2 days a week, and the beginning of my kitchen remodel. This is pretty Big Stuff for us, but I'm fighting as hard as I can against my doomsday nature and trying to just roll with how awesome it is, and enjoy myself, instead of stressing out about everything going wrong at the last minute (BECAUSE IT ALWAYS DOES!!!! PICTURE ME ALL CLENCHED UP! THIS IS HOW I FEEL!!!)

But, the other day I was visiting my dear friend Alia, you remember Alia, from Darling Press? And she handed me a homemade graham cracker, and it was tasty. And then she said, "It has whole wheat flour! I'll email you the recipe!" And then she did. Pretty cool story, right?

Here is the recipe as she emailed it to me (I like imagining that the name of the recipe is "Makes About 3 Dozen 3-inch Crackers):

"makes about 3 dozen 3-inch crackers"
Time commitment: about 1 hour
From "jam it, pickle it, cure it and other cooking projects" by Karen Solomon

Ing:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup honey
1/4 blackstrap molasses
1/3 cup plus 4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Inst.
In a bowl or food processor (food processor worked like magic for me), mix or pulse the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in the butter or, if using a food processor, add the butter and pulse until the dough is the consistency of course crumbs. Add the honey, molasses, and the 1/3 cup sugar and combine. Then add the milk and vanilla, bringing it all together into a stiff dough

Lightly oil 2 baking sheets. On a work surface, cut the dough in half. Shape the first half into a rectangle and place in the center of a sheet of parchment paper. Lay another sheet of parchment paper over the dough. Roll, trying to keep the dough as rectangular as possible. The dough should be 1/4 inch thick, and about 12 by 15 inches. Lightly prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork. Sprinkle evenly with 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and roll the sugar gently onto the top of the dough with a floured pin. Using a knife or a fluted pastry cutter (for the cute wavy edges), trim the edges of the dough rectangle to yield neat crackers (next time I make these, I'm going to use cookie cutters). Cut into approximately 3-inch squares. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the crackers to the prepared baking sheets, leaving a little space between them. Repeat the process with the second half of the dough. Freeze the crackers for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F.

Bake the chilled dough for 18 to 22 minutes, until just a little browned at the edges. Coll completely and enjoy.

Storing: Store an an airtight container, up to 2 weeks. You can also freeze the crackers for 2 months, allowing 2 hours to thaw before eating.
Variation: Add 2 teaspoons cinnamon to the 4 tablespoons sugar, and sprinkle evenly over the dough before cutting the crackers.



WOO HOO!

These were REALLY GOOD, by the way- hence the bite taken BEFORE I managed to get a good picture.

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Drawing by Alia Hoffman

Anyway, after you make these crackers (well, cookies, let's be honest) you should seriously check out Alia and her husband's blog, where I will occasionally be writing posts. I spend a lot of time at her house, where we work together on different art projects (we met in art school, actually!)- me for my 10 Dollar Drawings blog (which you should go check out to see details about my upcoming art show, opening Friday April 2nd, at Skeleton Key tattoo here in Portland!) and her for her burgeoning letterpress company, Darling Press. Our kids play trains and dolls and whatever else they feel like doing, and we hang out and draw, and sometimes cook. I showed her how to make no-knead bread, chicken stock from scratch, and she's giving me lessons on how to raise chickens and grow plants. It's a pretty good arrangement.

OH! And, so- since we are beginning our kitchen remodel, we're about to live without an oven for, well, just about as long as it takes for us to get the new oven installed. Considering we have to rip up the old floors and remove some water-damaged drywall (mmm, mold. and lead paint. wish us luck with that.) and replace those before we can even put in the new stove, not to mention moving some plumbing for a new sink- it's probably going to be a month or two. It's not a huge deal in the scheme of things, but we cook almost every meal at home, so we're planning to use our crock pot and we might even break down and buy a cheap microwave at the goodwill. I'll keep you updated on the progress and hopefully soon I'll get to unveil a lovely new kitchen. And yes, we are on a super limited budget, so it's basically going to be an Ikea model kitchen. Don't make fun of us.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A preview.

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sugar pumpkins

green zebra

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Pardon me while I use this space to show off my little seedlings. I can't help it, we're proud of ourselves! We have no idea what we're doing, and based solely on the advice on the back of the seed packets and some lazy google research, we're planting our first garden. I grew up with a huge garden patch and I remember being sent out to weed or pick things, but it's been such a long time since I lived in a house where I could plant things. I've certainly never had my OWN garden.

Even before I had my son, I knew that if/when I had kids, I'd want to have a garden. I'd do anything to make it happen. I remember pulling carrots out of the ground, rinsing them off with the hose, and gnawing on them with the tops still on, doing my best (which was pretty lousy) Bugs Bunny. I remember how much I loved eating fresh green beans. I remember pulling huge ugly weeds and tossing them in a giant pile off to the side. It was awesome. We weren't a total prairie family or anything, but there were 4 kids so my mom was all about free or cheap food, so she grew as much as she could. Even though my yard is a lot smaller than the one I grew up in, even though my son's not surrounded by siblings, I still want to give him that experience and I can't believe how lucky I am that I get to make it happen.

Anyway, here are some of the sprouts that will soon become my garden. Nothing special- some tomatoes, some sugar pumpkins (for pie! and curry!) and my over-winter garlic and shallots actually seem like they're doing okay despite the fact that I stuck them in the ground and then COMPLETELY LEFT THEM ALONE for the last 6 months. Apparently I'm just supposed to wait until the tops die and then dig them up?

Anyway. Busy times. We're also about to redo our kitchen, so things are going to get a little hairy around here. We knew we'd have to redo the kitchen when we moved in, and taxes are done so it's time to start ripping everything out. Wish us luck.

Friday, March 12, 2010

false spring.

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I've lived in Portland pretty much my whole life. I know, I don't count as a "native" I guess, because I was born in Ohio, but we moved here when I was still a baby and if you don't count the few weeks I lived in San Jose when I was pregnant (Homesickness + hormones, that move didn't last long), I've been here all along. That's why listening to people alternately complain/marvel about the weather here kind of drives me CRAZY. It's always like this, you guys- every year. It always hails in the spring time. The weather is always erratic and weird during the changing of seasons, so early spring and fall are always punctuated with bursts of cold rain between lazy sun breaks. Some days it will go from dreary to cheery and back again in 10 minute intervals. It always pays to wear layers, and umbrellas are for pussies. Get with the program, y'all. Welcome to Portland.

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Yesterday was cold and bleak, lots of rain. I know it annoys people to say things like, "Oh, I love the rain!" but whatever, I do. I like the way it smells, I like wrapping myself up in thick swaths of fabric before I leave the house, I love hot tea. I mean sure, I love hot weather too. But being raised in the Pacific NW, I tend to feel really at home when I'm holed up in my house, watching rain splatter outside. So, yesterday was a, "we need to use this chicken broth" day, and I made a big pot of soup. Using whole, bone-in legs in my chicken soups has changed the way I look at soup FOREVER. I'm never going to stop doing this. This was a really simple soup- diced carrots, red bell pepper, onion, shallot, and zucchini. I sauteed all the veggies (except the zucchini, I sauteed that separately just before the soup was ready and added at the end to prevent mushiness), dumped in some broth (I don't know how much, I think I only had 4 cups or so), and then added 2 whole chicken legs with the skin mostly removed. I added some more water until the chicken legs were covered and simmered the whole thing until the meat was cooked, then I removed the legs, shredded the meat, and returned it to the pot. After salt & pepper was added, it really didn't need any seasoning at all. Lemon zest would have been nice, but neither of us felt like running to the store for a lemon.

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I had started a loaf of no-knead bread that morning, and for the first time ever, it occurred to me to throw a head of garlic (in foil, with olive oil) into the oven while I baked the bread. Kind of a no-brainer, right? I don't usually bother roasting garlic because it seems so stupid- HUGE OVEN! TINY HEAD OF GARLIC! But since I already had the bread in the oven it was like the natural progression of things. After the garlic cooled a little, I squeezed it into a bowl and mashed it up with some butter for slathering all over the bread.

So, yes- I am a little over it as far as the weather goes- I bought some really cute dresses that I want to wear and I want to go berry picking and we finally have a backyard so lets do some damn grilling already- but I still have it in me to enjoy a cool evening. And at least this way I don't have to water my garden.

Monday, March 8, 2010

chx/starch/veg

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Oh, and while I'm sitting here, I will update with my dinner, too. When we do our meal plan every week, we try not to go too crazy on meat. We don't eat much meat to begin with, because it's expensive (or rather, because we choose to buy expensive meat for a variety of reasons.) but we get tired of chicken so we try not to get one more than once or twice a month. (More during soup season, though.) When we get a chicken we break it down into breasts & whole legs, then use the carcass for stock.

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Because the breasts are boneless and can't stand up to long cooking as well, we almost always use them as just a grilled or baked protein, with a side of vegetables and some kind of grain. I am fine with straight up brown rice, but my husband gets really bored with that (and I know that he misses fluffy white jasmine, but whatever dude- it's for the greater good) so this week our meal labeled "CHX/VEG/WHATEVER" became CHX/VEG/POLENTA.

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Because I'm lazy and also because it's DELICIOUS, the vegetable is usually just something roasted in a pan in the oven. I can start it before I start all the other stuff, it's low maintenance, and DUDE HAVE YOU EVER HAD OVEN ROASTED BROCCOLI? Olive oil, salt & pepper, 425ยบ til it's done. Do it right now. Let the edges get crispy. CRISPY BROCCOLI.

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You'll notice that my chicken breast looks sad and skinless. This is not because I am restricting my calories, which I am- this is because chicken skin is DELICIOUS and I ate it immediately after it came out from under the broiler, while it was still really crispy. It was awesome. Chicken skin only adds something dumb like 50 calories, you guys- and you're eating DINNER so just eat the extra 50 calories. It tastes good. And it keeps the chicken moist.

When I make chicken breasts I just salt & pepper it, pan fry it on my cast iron on either side until it's nicely browned, then I pop it into the oven (which is already hot because I roasted some vegetables, remember?) skin side up until it's done, usually 10 or 15 minutes, I think? I just keep an eye on it and I also use a meat thermometer because I'm a little weird about cooking meat. Right before it's ready to come out, I turn the broiler on high to crisp the skin back up. Then I immediately gobble the skin because that's the part that tastes good.

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Tonight's polenta might have been my favorite I've ever made. We like our polenta on the soft side, not molded or whatever. I got it started before I started the chicken, actually. I sauteed finely chopped celery, carrot, and garlic in some butter and bacon fat until they were very soft, and then I dumped in a cup of polenta and mixed it in until it coated all the veggies. I toasted it in the pan for a minute or two and then dumped in 3 cups of heated chicken stock and turned the heat down to low and stirred it often until it was just barely stiff.

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I love dinner like this. And I love that it's light out long enough to take natural light photos of my dinner. Time changes in a week or so, right? AWESOME. The more daylight, the merrier, please.

honey tangerines.

I am kind of a sucker for the word "honey." I think that's kind of obvious. You know, I didn't like honey at all for most of my life. I was raised on high fructose corn syrup and citric acid, basically- so getting used to things that are mildly sweet was a process for me. I think my turning point with honey was the time a friend of mine presented me with some amazing local honey- actually, it came from his next door neighbor's backyard. It was mild and a little spicy, and it had a depth of flavor that I never even realized was possible.

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ANYWAY. I saw these not-very-attractive tangerines at the store (Fred Meyer) recently with a tag that said "Honey Tangerines!" They're kind of expensive, I can't remember how much per pound, but I do recall the checkout lady clucking at me and saying, "Ninety-five cents for a tangerine?" and I wanted to be like "LADY, PLEASE. I know you're not judging my produce choices right now." I only bought ONE of them. Some people spend 95 cents on candy bars, I spent 95 cents on a tangerine. Get over it.

Anyway, the verdict? The mildest, sweetest tangerine I've ever tasted. If it weren't for the stinging open wound on my finger when I was picking it apart, I'd wonder if it had any citric acid at all. On the other hand, the membranes are ridiculously tough and the thing is FULL OF SEEDS, like 4 or more seeds PER SECTION, which is insane. After I spent 15 full minutes picking the thing apart, I devoured it in less than 30 seconds, but it was pretty tasty. A fancy treat for when I feel like blowing ALL MY CASH ON EXPENSIVE TANGERINES.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

ahhhhhhhhhhhhh satisfying.

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Well, my laptop is pretty much dead (we'll get it fixed eventually, but it's 6 years old and it was time for an upgrade anyway) so today I dropped a fat wad of cash (and by cash, I mean credit) on a new iMac and I feel like I'm driving some futuristic pimp car. Seriously, going without a computer for a week or so was kind of heart-wrenching, but my husband has an iPhone (shut up, shut up! he's on a work plan!) so I could still check my facebook and be a douche on the computer like normal. But using the iPhone to replace a computer is kind of like grubbing around in public ashtrays and stealing all the tiny remnants of unsmoked tobacco from cigarette butts and then rolling them up into a new cigarette- it gets you through the day, but you're not proud of it and it's kind of awful to boot. If you're cringing and shuddering at the very idea of this, you can blow me. Don't front like you've never done something disgusting to feed your habits. LEAVE ME ALONE I WAS LIKE 14 AND NOBODY WOULD BUY ME CIGARETTES. I DON'T SMOKE ANYMORE, OKAY?

Anyway, subsequently, plugging in my new iMac and watching it light up was not quite like finally getting a fresh cigarette after a week of desperately puffing old crushed out butts, but more like SHOOTING UP WITH HEROIN IN A GERMAN UNDERWATER DISCOTHEQUE WHILE GETTING A BACK MASSAGE FROM 2 SEXY MERMAIDS AND EATING BEN & JERRY'S KARAMEL SUTRA AT THE SAME TIME. In a word, the most ecstatic feeling ever. Okay, okay. I'm overdoing it. But it's a pretty cool computer. And I'm trying not to shit my pants about how much I just dropped on my credit card, but whatever- if I shoot a few weddings this summer, it's covered. So hey, if you're in Portland and you're getting married, drop me a line- I have a machine to pay for.

ALSO HEY THIS IS MY FOOD BLOG, I FORGOT. Look up there! Sometimes I loathe cooking on grocery night, because by the end of the week, we're inevitably not as excited about what's written on the list as we thought we'd be, we have a dwindling supply of wilted veggies leftover from the previous week, and we just want to eat something super quick so we can bust out shopping before we put our kid to bed. Such is life. But, sometimes I have everything I need to make something delicious at the last minute, and sometimes I feel like a bad ass if I can pull a handful of crappy veggies out of the crisper and make something tasty out of the whole deal.

I got a copy of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything from the library last week and I've been perusing it off and on. I haven't committed to making any specific recipes, but a few things caught my eye, and one of them was Pasta with butter, parmesan, and sage. FYI, that's the whole recipe. Pasta? Meet butter, parmesan, and sage. His recipe is slightly more complicated (melting the butter first? something to do with whole dried sage leaves? Whatever.) but basically I boiled noodles, put some butter on them after I drained them, sprinkled them with sage and crumbled parmesan, a little salt & pepper, and a handful of crushed walnuts. It was amazing. For a vegetable side, I just did some pan roasted vegetables, but on a whim, I made some breadcrumbs (by toasting the heels of my bread, then chopping them in my food processor with a little bit of salt and some more dried sage) and sprinkled them on top of the veggies just before they were finished, then tossed the whole thing under a broiler until the top was crispy and brown. I mean, a pan of roasted vegetables is awesome enough, but if you have a little bit of stale bread to get rid of, you should just do this- it was really good.

And god, I love technology. Holy crap.

Oh yeah also seriously, about the wedding photography- here's a portfolio.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wah wah

Duuuuuude my laptop is deaddddddddddd