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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Date with My Inner Baker

Who's been paying attention enough to know how late this blog post is- by a show of hands? Oh, what's that? No one? good then I don't have to feel guilty about it! I saved it thinking I would do all these wonderful editing things to it to make it amazing...but I didn't. So here you go! Enjoy!

Okay I have finally decided to do it. Bake my first and hopefully not my last loaf of bread! This mixer, flour, yeast and etc? Yeah. We went on a date today. It all started several months ago, really. I was searching recipes for various things through all-encompassing Google, when I kept coming across all these amazing food blogs. Just one such blog was A Year In Bread- amazing stuff really. I had been toying around with the idea of making my own bread and cheese (heavily influenced by my recent readings of "Animal Vegetable Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver, and Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Being somewhat of a flower child that grew up in the northwest it was like a refresher for things I was better versed at in middle/high school. What I loved most, though was the idea of making EVERYTHING from scratch. Cheese, Bread, Pasta Sauce. Am I showing how much the city has influenced me over the years? I feel like I'm not supposed to be so amazed at this concept, but I blame the supermarket and those behind it all pulling the strings- let me just cut myself off from this tangent- Anywho, I was on A Year in Bread,  (and Wild Yeast, The Yumarama Bread Blog and etc subsequently) and I got the yearning to be in my kitchen making sandwiches from scratch with fresh loaves and just pulled cheese.... Yes I am very domestic. 

So while at the grocery store picking up eggs this week I saw the yeast just sitting there calling my name. And I answered! I threw it and the Red Mill's Unbromated Organic Unbleached Flour (perfect for baking bread by hand or machine!) along with some sugar and left feeling very satisfied with myself. Then the panic set in. What am I thinking? I don't even have the perfect Chicago pans that are recommended? I don't own any tea towels! ETC ETC OMG! 

But I already had it all arranged so neatly on my I woke up this morning and popped right over to AYIB and saw Susan's Farmhouse White, perfect for beginner's. "It was meant to be!" I gasped to myself.

Here's the basic Recipe lifted but edited to include my commentary from AYIB: her pictures are omitted in place of my notes and adjustments and also my own pics. To see Susan's pics and helpful background history/info etc click the link above!

Making the Pasta into a Meal

This is just a picture I found  when I googled "simple meals."

The title of this blog sucks. I'm tired and full.

So Chaley is always asking me to make simple meals. For instance, she will have a craving for-whatever- and will ask me to make it. And I will- but with additions. Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo you say? But let’s turn it up a notch! Roasted Garlic! Cajun Chicken! Sun Dried Tomatoes! Steamed Broccoli in a little chicken broth and lemon! Tomato Paste!

This is sadly never what she really wants (simple classic chicken and broccoli alfredo) but rather, my version of a better more improved meal. I love to look through several recipes seeing what people have done to improve on classic dishes that we grew up on and combine a little of the old with a little of the new. Something even better that she didn't even know she wanted! Only- usually it’s just not what she wanted (hanging my head). But not tonight! Tonight, I resolved to make a simple Alfredo. (But I kept the roasted garlic-I mean come on! Roasted Garlic??? Anyway-) I combined Tyler Florence’s Fettucine Alfredo and an Alfredo Sauce from Really, I mainly stuck with Tyler Florence’s recipe and added the nutmeg from the allrecipes version.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hand Rolled Pasta, Anyone?

So you know how I got that amazing book last week? (Yes you do, the Urban Pantry book I splurged on!) Well I have been absolutely obsessed with this book. There's a section stocking the pantry that goes over making your own bread, pasta and pie/tart shells etc. So this past Sunday, when we were out spending too much on groceries at Garden of Eden which I love but which is way too expensive and just a bit too gourmet (as in not a lot of real life options when you need them and where is the white bread?-) due to the oncoming blizzard that was dropping heaps of snow into our chilly little faces, I picked up some semolina. Why not right? At that point we were already paying $100 for NOTHING -excuse my bitterness, ahem, so I went ahead and splurged on the smallish Bob's Red Mill semolina flour they had.

And today, while sitting around looking for writing jobs and generally feeling sorry for myself -(Chaley went back to work today, boo!) I decided to make pasta! My mommie got me this super cute french rolling pin for Christmas and I was dying to try it out!

Literally all I needed was 2 cups of A/P flour, (I used Bob Mill's Unbleached White Flour because I am obsessed with it? And him possibly?) 1 Cup of the semolina flour and 5 eggs. I mean, how could I not make this pasta?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Busting the Budget- Spas Out Splurge!

Okay. Okay! I know I am supposed to be budgeting- I know! Yes, all of my credit cards are almost maxed out, and yes I spent all afternoon perfecting the $50 food budget I made for the week. But then I saw the perfect book (some of you know how often this happens to me). And I mean come on! This title? "Urban Pantry: Tips and Recipes for a Thrifty Sustainable and Seasonal Kitchen"? Amy Pennington was speaking my life in that cramped aisle. I had to have this book. And the enabler totally agreed. And then there were the perfect Christmas cards...Sigh. So anyway. The budget went out of the window- but it's okay! Because I was still able to have enough money between cash and credit card to get  the books, (the other one was just two dollars--stop judging me!) cards, and ingredients for one of the recipes in the book to try it out.

Baked Eggs with Kale & Crusty Bread
2 to 3 strips of cooked Bacon (I used 4)
Olive Oil
Half an Onion thinly sliced
2 cloves of Garlic, crushed
1 bunch of Kale cut into ribbons crosswise starting at the stem end
Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes ( I used cayenne)
3 Eggs
Toasted Baguette, rubbed with raw garlic clove

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mismatched Ingredients and other "creating on a budget" disasters

Ok so you know how you will have one or two (or if you are lucky and amazingly more organized dedicated and awesome than I am several) weeks maybe where you responsibly and diligently stock your fridge with the perfect ingredients to make wholesome healthy and satisfying meals, leaving you satisfied, happy and proud of yourself? Where you pat yourself on the back for not eating out because you planned ahead so well you never had an "Oh, Crap what are we going to eat for dinner/breakfast/snacks/ the weekend," moment? Which is always inevitably followed by the week/s where you open your fridge and there is nothing- NOTHING to make a meal with? Why is that?

For some reason this happens to me a lot.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bread Baking and Bootcamp

So I made bread. And it was awesome and I took a lot of pictures so I could share my experience step by step. And then I sat down on Saturday night for 3 hours writing and picking from the 80 or so pictures I took. Whoa. Way more that I expected! So I am still editing and trying to cut where I can. But I hope to post it tomorrow at the latest! Bear with me :)

In other news I started my second week of bootcamp today. And I ALMOST DIED!!!! Seriously. SERIOUSLY! It was all chest work and leg work. Not easy for someone as out of shape as I am. Also, it was 19 degrees out with wind chill which means stiff muscles! So even though I struggled the most there was not one person who wasn't struggling today. So there's that. You know misery loves company. I felt really disappointed in myself this morning. My calves were tight, my arches were killing me and I felt like I was in an exhaustive fog the whole workout.

At the end,  Laura and one of my fellow bootcampers told me I did a good job today, and that I never give up. It made me feel really good because today was my hardest bootcamp day. I made it! Let's hope Wednesday's a better day :)

Okay I'll see you tomorrow, with two new blogs, the bread and what I ate on it.
Radish, Scallion and Egg Salad Sandwiches

Friday, December 3, 2010

4:00 AM Already?

So you know that feeling you get when you realize you are approaching 30 and you're whole life has been passing you by while you fret over bills and what you're going to make for dinner? Well I had that feeling times ten this fall when I realized- I am turning 27! Seriously? Like, how did that happen? So I did what any sane person would do.

I signed up for a bootcamp. I mean, really I can blame this ALL on they had a special being advertised and at 80% a girl like me with a budget like mine can't get fit for a better price. So I signed up for the one that started this past Monday because that was my 27th birthday and what better way to start off 27 right? Well, let me tell you at 4:00 Monday morning I was definitely kicking myself. But I got out of bed anyway and at 5:20 I was...lost.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Looking in the Fridge

So of course after thanksgiving the fridge slowly begins to empty of all the yummy thanksgiving leftovers. All the prep and beauty just disappears day by day. (6 large onions people! 2 lbs of mushrooms! All the celery!!)

So now I can see all of the neglected items I bought before thanksgiving- the fresh leeks that were thick and hearty at the farmers market, the baby rainbow carrots that were just so cute, the bright happy little radishes and the still crisp scallions. But one thing that thanksgiving does give me an appetite for is sweets. I fill up on savory my taste of choice and so begin my rare and few but oh so intense sugar cravings. Needless to say, none of those yummy veggies made it out of the fridge the other day. I bypassed them straight away for the still full Nutella and half full mascarpone sitting in my fridge.

Okay, so what I am about to say is going to sound like blasphemy. But please bear with me! I have had these two items in my fridge for FOREVER!! I didn't even know Nutella wasn't supposed to be refrigerated until I took it out of the fridge. Here's why: I don't like it! I bought it on the recommendation of a friend and scooped it out to make some banana dish (classic right? ri-ight??) and hated it. I thought it was way too sweet. I'm more of a dark chocolate girl and I am iffy when it comes to hazelnut. So why did I buy it?? Right? Well I happen to find a good sale (2/$5) really hard to resist and at that price why not give it a try, right? So it was sitting in my fridge looking forlorn next to the mascarpone that I also had in my fridge because I hadn't found the taste of mascarpone to be that awesome either to be honest.

But dear reader don't despair! I was ready to give them another go! So I searched and searched for a Nutella/Mascarpone recipe. Took me forever to find on that sounded good enough to adapt without me having to run out to the store (budgeting, hello?) I happened upon a mascarpone Nutella mousse, and as I had some leftover pecans from thanksgiving along with a few walnuts and almonds hanging out in a cupboard decided to make a nut pie crust. Healthier right? Eh, not so much what with the melted butter. It was a combination of these two recipes I found on Pecan Nut Crust and Walnut Pie Crust.

I had about two cups of nuts once I pulsed it in the food processor, so I modified accordingly, using four tbsp of butter, and also adding 1/3 cup of flour. I kept the ground cinnamon from the pecan version and it added such a holiday feel to this pie. I refrigerated it for 2 hours then took it out and added a thin layer of Nutella to the top of the crust before baking it. While it baked I made my whipped mousse and refrigerated it, to keep it cool while waiting for my crust to come out and cool. Then i just spooned it onto the top and smoothed it down. I wish it had one more layer to fill the deep dish pie pan, but man oh man was it good!
It may not look like much but this little humble pie totally sold me on Nutella and Mascarpone.