Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Life Happens . . . A Lot

I know.  I've been cheating you with blog posts.  I have not posted every day.  I promise, I will do some double posts, and make sure that there are 31.  Yes, I'm going to count this one.  Sorry.  But look forward to an Acorn Squash Risotto, a Founding Fathers restaurant review, a rant from The Physicist about organic food, or what your great grandparents just called "Food", and my "Ode to a Kitchen Aid Mixer".  I have the pictures for all these already, so I just need to find the time to write them.  Ah, life.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Picadilla - Spanish for Awesomeness

I have a problem with salad dressing. My problem is that salad dressing comes in large bottles. I like a variety of salad dressings, but I don't use large amounts, so I end up with a graveyard of expired, half filled bottles of dressing in my fridge door. My solution is to make my own, and Picadilla is one of my favorites. I first had it at Thanksgiving, when my godmother's daughter brought it. Creamy, garlicky, with the nuttiness of almonds, it was amazing. When I got married, I received the recipe as a shower gift, probably because I had been licking my salad plate at the last several Thanksgivings. Now, I share a version of that recipe with you.

Here's what you'll need:

1/4 cup Blanched Almonds

2 cloves Garlic

1/2 cup Olive Oil

2 tsp. Vinegar

2 tsp. Lemon Juice

Pinch of Salt and Pepper

This is going to be super easy to make. Just watch. Throw the almonds and garlic into a food processor.

Pulse until finely ground. Pour the olive oil in, in three or four parts, pulsing in between pours until fully incorporated.

Add the rest of the ingredients, and pulse until smooth.

That's it. It shouldn't have taken you more than 5 minutes. You now have a Spanish salad dressing that is pure deliciousness. You can put it in an airtight container and store it in the fridge for at least a couple weeks. When using it from the fridge, make sure you leave time for it to reach room temp, because the olive oil sometimes solidifies when chilled. And it's totally okay to lick the plate.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Seven Years of Love (and Food)

Seven years ago today, this Girl married her Physicist. When planning our wedding, the food and cake took precedence over a lot of other details (I may have shocked the florist by saying "It's a fall theme, you're a professional, I'm sure whatever you do will be fine."). And, when deciding on the food and cake, The Physicist was an active participant.

A reception is the first dinner party you ever throw as a married couple, and it has practically everyone you know and care about at it. We went to a tasting at our venue, and were overjoyed that everything we had was amazing. But this led to other problems: If everything is good, what do you serve? I think we were up to 2am, agonizing over the possibilities when it hit us what we had to serve. Our guests joined us in a traditional Thanksgiving meal, turkey and all the trimmings, a month and a half early. I think the sensory memory associated with Thanksgiving, really helped us set the tone for the day.

But, I think the aspect we were most excited about was The Cake. We had set up several appointments for cake tastings . . . and cancelled them after the first one. After that first forkful of Konditor Meister cake, we knew we had found our bakery. Each layer was a different flavor: chocolate with raspberry filling, pumpkin with pumpkin apricot mousse, apple spice with maple mousse, and the top was tiramisu. When we decided to add a fourth layer of cake, The Physicist even wrangled a second cake tasting, "to help decide on the flavor" (which we had already picked).

We have wonderful memories of that day, and we believe the food and the cake played a big part in making that day a success. I think that theme has spilled over from our wedding and into our marriage. Food and cake play a big part in our lives, and sometimes the food is great, and sometimes it's a disaster. But, as the years have gone by, our menus have become more complex, a little more sophisticated, we've learned what works and what doesn't. And overall, things just get better and better.

P.S. I know I missed a couple days, but we were celebrating our anniversary in DC, and the hotel wanted $10 a day for internet. I'll do double posts Monday and Tuesday to make it up to you. :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Like Pie? Your New Favorite Word is: Galette

You're thinking, "I'm pretty sure my favorite word is still 'swizzle stick'.", but trust me, "galette" is going to be at least in the top ten. I've previously posted my apple pie recipe, which, though delicious, makes a lot of pie, takes a lot of time, and really isn't practical for a weeknight. "Galette" is a word that the French use to describe a lot of flat desserts, but this recipe is for a flat, one crust sorta pie. And if you use ready made pie crusts, it's ridiculously easy to throw together.

You'll need:
2-3 Tart Baking Apples, like Granny Smith

1 Ready Made Pie Crust

2 Tbsp. Sugar

1/4 tsp. Cinnamon

1/4 tsp. Ground Ginger

Pinch Clove

1 Tbsp. Butter

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with some parchment paper. Yes, you have to. You can find some in the baking aisle of your grocery store. Then unroll your ready made pie crust. Yup. It's that easy. You didn't even need a pie plate!

Now, peel, core, and slice your apples. In this one, the apples show, so it helps if you're careful and make nice even slices, while keeping the apple half together, as pictured to the left. You'll see in a second why.


Try to place them artfully, kinda curling them around each other, on top of the pie crust, keeping a 1 and a half margin around the edge. This step doesn't require perfection, just do your best, and at the end of the day, remind yourself that this is a "rustic" dessert. I only ended up fitting two and a half apples on there, so how much apple you use depends on the crust size and size of your apples.

Okay, mix your sugar and spices together, and sprinkle them evenly over the apples. Then dot the top with butter.

Now, fold over the edge of the crust. To keep the fold secure during baking, and protect the crust, fold some strips of aluminum foil around the edge, just covering the crust, not the apples.

Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, then remove the foil and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.

And, voila! It's smaller than pie and only makes about 6 servings, so it's perfect for couples or small families. It takes about 20-30 minutes to put together (depending on how fast you peel and cut apples), and bakes in less than an hour. And, like my pie, it tastes like apples. :D

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Roast Chicken: Or How I Learned To Get Past My Fears and Touch Raw Poultry

The Physicist and I have been enjoying roast chicken since the early years of our relationship. But my secret shame was that I was not the one making it. I could cook a mean boneless, skinless chicken breast, but when it came to roasting a whole bird, that was his territory. The thought of wrangling a whole bird, removing giblets, washing it out, patting it dry . . . *shudder*. Just not something I thought I could handle. So, at almost 7 years of marriage, I decided it was time for me to get over this fear. I'd learned to grill, why not this? The Physicist did assist me with the prepping of the bird, and I do wear food grade vinyl gloves the whole time, but I have hope that one day, I will be able to reach into that bird and pull out the giblets myself. Just not today. But here's how to roast a chicken.

You'll need:

3-4 lbs. Whole Chicken, giblets removed, rinsed out and off, patted dry

Salt and Pepper, in a small bowl

1 Lemon, halved

1 Head Garlic, cut in half crosswise

1 Bunch Fresh Herbs; Sage, Rosemary, Thyme

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil, in a small bowl

1 Onion, cut into wedges like an apple

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Place the chicken, breast side up, into a roasting pan, or oven safe pot big enough to hold it. Tuck it's tiny little arms under it. (The Physicist: "They're wings! Jeez!") Salt and pepper the cavity, then shove both halves of the lemon, both halves of the garlic, and the bunch of herbs in. Cram it all in there, you can do it. Close the little skin flaps over it, and secure 'em with toothpicks. Brush the whole bird with the olive oil.

Then massage the salt and pepper all over, into the skin and squeeze all the onion wedges around the bird.

The whole thing should look like the picture to the left. ("You can take off the gloves now.")

At this point, you can put it in the oven, and set a timer for about an hour and fifteen minutes. It might need more time than that, but a food thermometer into the thigh should read 160 degrees when it's done.

And it should look like this! This skin should be crisp and all golden, and the smell should be mouthwatering and slightly herbaceous. Fluid, when it's pierced with a fork, should run clear.

We did it! We roasted a chicken! We can do anything! (Except remove the giblets.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Breakfast of Champions

I am about to tout the virtues of a health food, so if you find that sort of thing offensive, avert your eyes.

About a year ago, I was looking into ways to try and eat healthier and came across a whole bunch of articles waxing poetic about Wheat Grass. I looked further into it, and though not a lot is scientifically proven about it, it's definitely not bad for you. The only thing is that it cannot be heated, or whatever good it does you is lost.

So I picked up a single serving package of Berry flavored GREENSuper Food at Whole Foods and decided to experiment. While checking out, the cashier asked if I had had wheat grass before. I told her I hadn't, and asked what I should stir the powder into. "I like mine mixed with water. You can really taste the swampiness." THE WHAT?!?! The look of mortification must have been clear on my face, because the girl who was bagging our groceries held up my chocolate soy milk, emphatically pointing to it, while mouthing the words "Use this."

For the last year, 4-5 days a week, pictured above is what I have for breakfast. Does it taste a bit like lawn clippings in chocolate milk? Yes. Do I feel better on days when I have that for breakfast rather than something like delicious banana pancakes? *sigh* YES. There is a notable difference in my energy levels, I feel healthier, and my digestion is more, shall we say, "regular".

Now, using soy milk cuts down on how thick the smoothie tastes, as soy milk has a thinner consistency than milk. Chocolate DEFINITELY masks a LOT of the grass flavor. The powder does have to be whisked into the soy milk, or it clumps, and it should be consumed quickly after it's been whisked. I usually get it down in three gulps. I know, this has not been the most glowing recommendation, but I do suggest you pick up some packets and some soy milk, and give it a try for a week. You might think it's worth it.

Monday, October 3, 2011

BAH-nana NUT! Pancakes For Breakfast

When I was little, I could usually bribe my father into making pancakes on Saturday or Sunday morning. (I usually did this by bringing him and my mother coffee in bed. I was the only second grader who knew how to brew coffee.) If there were some old, black bananas in the house, my father would sing "BAH-nana NUT Pancakes for breakfast - BAH-nana NUT pancakes today!" to the tune of Mahna Mahna from the Muppet Show. The pancakes never had nuts, but it fit the song better. And the banana pancakes were always delicious!

The Physicist does not like the typical bananas you find in the store, which are the Cavendish variety. He thinks they taste "too banana-y" (that's a technical term). But, my fears of never being able to enjoy banana pancakes with him were averted when we found baby (or mini) bananas. The Physicist absolutely *loves* to snack on these, and by the end of the week, usually some have turned the overripe black color that means it's time to mash them into the bottom of a mixing bowl and heat up the griddle.

I am not going to give you a recipe for pancakes. I make mine from a mix (Jiffy!), and have found that most people already have a favorite pancake batter. I'm not here to mess with your pancakes.
I will give you a few tips though.

1) Pancakes are for anytime. These were our dinner. :)

2) Mix-ins are your friend. Adding fruits, nuts, chocolate chips, or even bacon can liven up your pancakes. We had some chocolate chips in our banana pancakes.

3) Don't pour the batter on your griddle until it's hot enough that water drops dance (not just sizzle, not evaporate, but a skittering dance) on the surface.

4) Don't flip the pancake until bubbles form in the middle (see picture above). They don't have to be fully formed bubbles if you like your pancakes a lighter color, but they do have to at least be forming.