Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas Tish!

Hi Tish, 
Ok, so, as I said in my note in your present, this blog post is part of my Christmas present to you.
You have NO IDEA how long I've spent researching nail art stuff so I could get you things I thought you could use to make great nail art.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

When the only Protein in the house is Eggs...

Make a delicious dinner with them!

I know eggs aren't much of a traditional dinner selection, but they can be pretty good! I'm having to do a bit of creative cooking because we're moving soon and I don't want to buy too much food.
Today I made Open Faced Raviolli with Poached Egg and Wilted Greens. I added some red peppers, green onion, and mushrooms to the greens and added some fresh grated parmesan on top.
It was a very simple and very good dinner.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Summer Food: Avocado Egg Salad in a Cucumber Boat

I love summer cooking.
There are suddenly many more vegetables to choose from, they go down in price, and up in quality at the same time.
One thing that can be bothersome, though, is cooking when you don't want to heat the house up. This recipe manages to use very little heat and is both filling and refreshing - the perfect summer lunch.
This recipe also happens to be vegetarian and could be a gluten/grain free alternative to an egg salad sandwich for those who can't eat bread.
The recipe makes enough to feed one person.

1 cucumber
2 eggs
1 small very ripe avocado
lime juice to taste
salt to taste
diced cilantro and cayenne (optional)

Peel the cucumber and cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop the seeds out with a spoon, then lightly salt the cucumber boats all over and place face-down on the cutting board. Set aside.
Place the eggs in a small lidded pot with cold water. Place over medium heat until the water comes to a full boil, then turn the heat off and let the eggs sit in the hot water (with the lid on) for 10 minutes.
While the eggs sit, cut the small avocado in half and scoop the inside into a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lime juice and smash with a fork to make it smooth.
When the eggs are done, rinse them under cold running water and peel them. When they are cool, toss them into the bowl with the mashed avocado and smash them with the fork to your desired consistency. Taste the egg salad, and add more salt and lime until it tastes awesome.
Place the cucumber boats on a plate and scoop the egg salad into them, with half the egg salad per boat.
Sprinkle with finely diced cilantro and/or cayenne pepper, and enjoy!
(it may be easier to eat the cucumber boats if you cut each boat into 3-4 pieces)


Shared on The Nourishing Gourmet's Pennywise Platter

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lengthy Tempeh Ramblings

Sometimes, I make tempeh.
Fresh Chickpea Tempeh
 Now, for those who don't know what tempeh is, it's an Indonesian protein source made of moldy beans!
...which I know doesn't sound all that appealing, but it is delicious. The beans are lightly cooked, then inoculated with mold spores and incubated for 24 hours. The mold grows and holds the beans in a tightly-woven mycelium mat that smells lightly of mushrooms.
Store-bought tempeh, in my experience, is expensive and tends to have a bitter aftertaste. Homemade tempeh has a mild mushroomy flavor... and let's face it: you can't get much cheaper than dried beans!
I got my tempeh inoculant from GEM cultures (the soy section). They send instructions on how to make tempeh with the culture, but the internet is also full of different methods. A good tempeh making resource is actually available free online from google books The Book Of Tempeh, chapter 6 is where you should go for tempeh making instructions.
I decided I wanted to make tempeh months ago, so I made myself an incubator out of an old cooler, with an old lamp I disassembled and a water heater thermostat (like these egg incubators, but less fancy because tempeh is less finicky than chicken embryos)
The outside of the incubator
The inside lid of the incubator

I have made about 3 batches of soy tempeh and one of chickpea, and I think I like the chickpea tempeh better. The soy tempeh is kind of chewy and tends to crumble more, while the chickpea tempeh has a soft smooth texture and a lighter flavor... but that could just be this one batch. It might turn out differently next time... ah, the joys of unpredictable cultured foods!
So... I have noticed that most tempeh recipes online are designed for bitter-tasting store bought tempeh, and so call for simmering the tempeh in water first, then draining the water and continuing with the recipe, but since homemade tempeh doesn't taste bitter (that I have made so far), and since boiling the tempeh makes it more crumbly, I would just as soon leave that whole step out.
Here are my two favorite ways of cooking tempeh

Tempeh steamed over vegetables
Dice up some vegetables, what vegetables you use are up to you, but I would recommend always starting with onions and garlic. Add a dash of olive oil to a pan over medium-low heat, add the vegetables, and lay the tempeh over top. Add a few tablespoons of water, and put a tight lid on the pan. Let steam until most of the liquid is gone and the veggies are beginning to caramelize, then, using a spatula, flip the tempeh and vegetables so the caramelized veggies are on top and the tempeh is on the bottom. add a few tablespoons of soy sauce and cover again until the tempeh is browned on the bottom.
Serve over rice, with soy sauce to the side.
Soy tempeh with veggies
Chickpea tempeh with veggies

Chickpea Tempeh with veggies over orzo with a side of seaweed
Tempeh with BBQ sauce
Put your tempeh pieces in a pan and cover with your favorite BBQ sauce (my homemade sauce contains tomato, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and molasses... all pretty much to taste)
Let the pieces marinate for a little while if possible. (while your rice cooks)
When the rice is mostly done, turn the tempeh pan on to medium low and let the tempeh simmer (if your sauce is really thick, you might want to add a little water), occasionally flip the tempeh pieces over so they cook evenly. Once the tempeh has simmered a few minutes on each side and seems to be cooked through, remove the tempeh from the BBQ sauce and put the sauce in a serving dish, rinse out the pan and add a little olive oil to it. sear the tempeh on both sides, then serve over rice (or in a hamburger bun) with bbq sauce over it. 
Searing the tempeh
BBQ tempeh over rice with a side of salad

I realize that this is a pretty long and rambling post. I am sorry for that... but I hope it inspires at least one person to try tempeh... it's really fun!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Pretty Soup

I was sick to my stomach this evening, so I decided that my soup had to be pretty... just to coax myself to actually eat anything. This is a chicken/miso soup with rice noodles and mushrooms, topped with cilantro and carrot flowers.
It was pretty good, for being thrown together.
I like adding carrot flowers to my food now and then. It's not so hard to make them. I think it's easier if you soften the carrot a little first. I tossed it into the pot of broth until it came to a full boil, then fished it out, rinsed it in cold water, and made the flowers. I have also used a similar method to make carrot hearts and stars.
My attempts at other shapes have failed.
Up next, I think I'm going to share how I make homemade Tempeh. It's like ALCHEMY!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Goat-Cheese Danish

I don't think I could be more pleased with the cheese danish I have been eating for breakfast this morning. 

The pastry is flaky and layered, but hearty and satisfying. The filling is sweet and creamy, but with a depth of flavor that you're never going to find in a store-bought danish. I feel safe in saying that I think this recipe will be sticking with me for years.

Ok, now as some of you know, I like to make a fancy breakfast/brunch at least once a week. For a while, this was crepes with all the fixings... but after a few years of having crepes every weekend they stopped feeling fancy and special. They had become routine... so the search was on for a new fancy breakfast.
One of the first things I tried was cheese danish... but despite hours and hours of effort on homemade puff pastry the result was somehow both dense and flimsy and utterly unsatisfying... so I moved on to other things. I tried Pretzels, which were yummy, but I have a massive sweet tooth and prefer sweet foods in the morning. Waffles with all the same toppings as I would normally have put on crepes were too similar to crepes... so I slowly worked my way back around to cheese danish, but with a few ideas on how to make the filling a little better.
One of the first things I had found in my search for fancy brunch recipes was this Goat Cheese Cake... so I decided to use it as inspiration for the filling, and I used this Danish Dough recipe as a base (which I used to use when I worked at a nice restaurant) instead of a "quick" and "easy" puff pastry dough that was a lot more work and turned out terrible anyway.
So... without further ado... the recipe!

Danish Dough

3/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp yeast
1/4 cup honey
1 egg yolk
1 tsp salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour
1/2 tsp cardamom (optional)

1 cup butter (2 sticks), about 60-65* (that's room temp in my house)
1 handful flour

Making this danish dough is very similar to making Croissants.
In a large mixing bowl mix together the wet ingredients and the yeast, let sit a few minutes to let the yeast hydrate, then add the flour, salt, and cardamom and knead until the dough is smooth. Do not overknead. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile smash the sticks of butter with the handful of flour, kneading and forming them into roughly an 8"square. The butter should be pliable but not melty.
Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to roughly a 16" square. Place the butter on the center and fold the dough over it to make a package. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle. (if it feels like the butter is too soft and melty at any point, put the dough back in the fridge for a few minutes)
Fold the dough like a book - fold the two edges into the center, and then fold again. (minute 5:25 of this video shows how... I'm bad at describing. Also this dough is way easier to work than her dough is.)
Refrigerate the dough for half an hour, then roll and fold again. Repeat twice more, then wrap the dough very carefully in plastic wrap and let chill half an hour or overnight.
Prepare your desired fillings, then roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick, and a rectangle either 8" by 24" or 12" by 16" (use a ruler!) and cut into twelve 4" squares.
For the pinwheels like I made, the directions made no sense to me until I just went ahead and followed them, at which point they made perfect sense. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of filling onto the center of the square. Cut diagonally from each corner to within 3/4" of the center. Fold the alternate corners into the center, pinching them together firmly to hold them in place.
Place them on a cookie sheet and let them rise about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375*.
Bake the pastries for about 15 to 20 minutes, until well-browned. Remove immediately to racks to cool.
Let cool at least a little before eating, or else you'll burn your mouth on molten goat cheese. (ask me how I know). These are also very good made up the night before.

Goat Cheese Filling
4oz fresh goat cheese (chevre)
4oz cream cheese (half a package)
1/4 cup honey or agave
pinch salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg yolk

Soften the goat cheese and cream cheese and beat together with a fork until homogenous. Add the honey or agave, salt, and vanilla. Taste, and adjust seasonings to your liking. Add the egg yolk and beat until homogenous again.
Use to fill Danish Pastries.

And here are some more pictures! The pinwheels how they were pre-baking, and post. Most of them sort of un-pinwheeled in the oven. I guess I just didn't press them together firmly enough.
I hope you all enjoy!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Birthday Cake (and leftover-cake bread pudding)

Earlier this week it was my birthday! My Partner decided to make me a birthday cake - the first cake he has ever made. I wrote up detailed instructions, came down into the kitchen a couple times to say "No, you didn't ruin it, it's supposed to look like that.", and generally fretted. He spent most of the cooking time in one sort of panic or another, but the result was fantastic!
 It was a very 'birthday cake' flavored birthday cake, if that makes any sense. A yellow cake with cream cheese icing - simple but classic.
He is working clearing out storm ponds, and has pulled a few cool items out of them. This cute plate is one of them. (I put it through the dishwasher first, don't worry)
And here he is decorating the cake. He was a little upset that it wasn't perfectly smooth, but it's pretty impressive for a first attempt!
We ate the cake for two days, and still had a quarter of the cake left on the third morning... so I made bread pudding out of it!
(I forgot to take a picture before we served ourselves)
Making bread pudding out of leftover cake is super easy. I used my bread pudding recipe, but left out the sweeteners.

Leftover-Cake Pudding
1/4 of a two layer cake, cut into cubes (frosting and all)
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon

(if you use a frosting that is more sugary than my cream cheese frosting, you might want to scrape most of it off of the cake before you begin.)
Preheat the oven to 350*
Place the cubed cake into an 8" square cake pan.
Whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon together in a small bowl.
Pour the egg mixture over the cake and press down with the back of a spoon so the cake is all moistened.
Bake in the preheated oven for 35 - 45 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and the center is set.
Spoon onto plates and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Birthday Cake for Non-cookers

My birthday is coming up in late April.
My Partner wants to do something for me for my birthday.
So I was thinking it would be nice to have someone make a cake for me, instead of the other way around.
...except the Partner does not cook. The simplest kitchen things that seem completely obvious and intuitive to me are completely foreign and strange to him.
The challenge, then, is to write up a recipe for cake that I can eat, that is detailed and simple enough that he doesn't have to bring me into the kitchen to help him make it...
...because once I'm in the kitchen, I'll just take over and then he won't have made me a cake for my birthday.

I have decided on a simple yellow cake, with a simple cream cheese frosting.  I was thumbing through my Fannie Farmer's cookbook this morning looking for a recipe, and there are so many fun ones. A princeton orange cake (orange velvet cake, yumm)? A jelly roll? Cottage pudding cake (a butter cake)? Maybe a type of sponge cake? Or a Marbled chocolate-butter cake?
Or go with the yellow cake (which makes 2 8" round layers), split the layers, and fill it with lemon filling and frost it with chocolate ganache? Or make a middle layer of orange chocolate mousse and chill it? Or bake it instead into one flat cake, cut it into three, stack it, and fill it with an apple filling for a tall narrow cake?
...and then I remember again who is going to be baking the cake... and I go with simple.
The original recipe had more egg yolks, white sugar, and milk. I replaced the sugar and milk with honey, the egg yolks with whole eggs, and changed some of the flour to whole wheat for more nutrition.  If I were baking the cake, I would separate the eggs and beat the whites for a fluffier cake... but I'm not.

Classic Gold Cake (for non-sugar eaters)

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup honey, agave, or maple syrup
1 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt (fine grain)

-Preheat the oven to 350*. Butter and lightly flour two 8-inch round cake pans. (to butter and flour a cake pan, coat the inside of the pan lightly but completely with butter, throw a handful of flour into the pan, and swirl it around until all the interior surfaces are coated, then dump out any leftover flour)
-In a large bowl, with a wire whisk, beat the butter and slowly add the honey and eggs and beat well. Add the vanilla. (this mixture may look curdled. That's ok.)
-In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, and salt.
-Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating until smooth. (this batter will be thicker than crepe or pancake batter. If it is too thick to easily work with, stir in no more than 1/3 cup milk)
-Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and spread it smooth with a rubber spatula.
-Bake for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick poked into the center of the cake comes out clean. ('toothpick coming out clean' means there is no clumpy dough sticking to it when you pull it back out of the cake)
-Let the cakes cool in the pans for 5 minutes before turning out onto racks.
-Cool completely before frosting and filling with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
(I can't believe I haven't put this recipe up on the blog yet!)

2 cups cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup

Beat the cream cheese and butter together until homogenous. Add the vanilla and honey or maple and beat until smooth. Generously frost and fill the completely cooled cake.
This frosting will not set up like a standard  powdered-sugar butter-frosting does.

To frost and fill a cake
(it occurs to me that not everyone grew up watching their mother do this.)
Look at your completely cooled cakes. If they are lopsided or peaked in the middle, gently slice off a bit of the top with a bread knife to make them more flat (they don't have to be perfectly flat). The trimmings can be discarded or eaten.
Place one of the cakes on the surface you want your completed cake to be on. (a very flat plate or a piece of stiff cardboard covered in tinfoil works well)
Using a cake spatula or a butter knife, spread a thick layer of filling on the top of the bottom cake. If your filling and your frosting are different, make sure the filling does not hang off the sides of the cake.
Gently place the second cake on top of the bottom cake and filling. Gently spread the frosting on the top and sides of the cake. Try not to press down, so the filling doesn't get squeezed out. Try to spread the frosting in only one direction to avoid lifting crumbs from the cake surface and making a messy-looking frosting.
To smooth the frosting, dip your butter knife or cake spatula into hot water, shake it dry, and run it lightly over the cake surface.

Ok Folks,
Is there anything in this recipe that could confuse a non-baker? Any instruction I have glossed over because it's common knowledge?
Tell me and I'll add it in!
I'll update with pictures and the tale of the cake's making after my birthday!

Edited to add a picture and a little more clarification to the recipe. -Z

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Well. I did promise I would post pictures of the cheesecake I made...
And there it is.
Honey lemon cheesecake with strawberries.
The recipe I made up turned out fantastic, super creamy and rich... but it wasn't quite as tall as I would have liked. I think increasing it to 1.5 lbs cream cheese (and all the other ingredients increased proportionately)  would improve it. Having a springform pan would probably also help.
Also, since regular lemons and meyer lemons were the same price, I used a meyer lemon, because I had heard good things about them. I was sorely disappointed. The flavor was too orangey for my purposes.

But, properties of lemons aside, I was very pleased with how the cheesecake turned out. It made a good Valentines day dessert topped with a strawberry rose.
For dinner my Partner and I had homemade pasta with homemade tomato sauce, and carrot salad... it was simple, but the Partner really loves homemade pasta.
For lunch I made Bao (steamed buns) I tried to make them pink... but as you can see in this picture, although the beet juice made the dough nice and pink, it all cooked out and I had plain Bao... still delicious though.

Well... I don't know when I'll update this blog again. I am quite terrible at updating.

Monday, February 13, 2012

How to convert a recipe to Honey: Cheesecake Edition

Valentines day.
Love it or hate it, it's here.
Luckily my Partner and I agree that we don't need to do anything fancy. We're making a cheesecake to share... and that's all we're doing... that and probably finishing watching Fruits Basket on netflix.

Now... some of you may know that I am a total perfectionist... and I absolutely love cheesecake.
I have very specific ideas about what a good cheesecake is and isn't.
It is: tall, creamy, rich, and dense, with a non-soggy crust. It is baked, and it is never, NEVER grainy. It is not so sweet that you can't taste the cream cheese.

For the crust bit, I plan on using my graham cracker recipe, pulverized with some butter, I think it'll make a fine crust.
Now... I need to tackle the cheesecake itself.
I am a bit worried. Any liquid in a cheesecake recipe is high in fat, which helps with the creamyness of the final product, so replacement needs to be done very carefully. Using too much honey will probably result in a cheesecake that separates into grainy curds in baking... which would be a tragedy. If I use too little honey, the final product will be too tart and that would also be very sad. This is supposed to be a dessert!

So... I am starting with my favorite cheesecake recipe, the one I used when I worked in a nice restaurant (sigh, those were the days).

Lemon Cheesecake
1 lb cream cheese
5.5 oz sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tiny pinch salt
2 oz eggs
1 oz egg yolks
2 oz heavy cream
lemon juice from 1/2 lemon

Converting this recipe is a little harder because it is measured in ounces instead of the volume measurements most home recipes are written in. This is because measuring by weight is much more accurate for a professional environment... but all is not lost. The house I am renting did come equipped with a cheapy kitchen ounce scale, so I can use it to measure some stuff.

Honey is sweeter than sugar, so I will probably go with 2.75 ounces of honey to replace the 5.5 of sugar... I will of course taste it to make sure before I add the raw eggs.
Now, the honey has to displace some of the liquid in the recipe. Since I don't want to remove anything creamy from the recipe, I will replace the egg whites... so I will use 2 oz egg yolks and no whole eggs. This gives me about one ounce... I can probably get away with taking another ounce from the cream, and the remaining .75 of an ounce... I will risk letting alone. That gives me...

Honey Lemon Cheesecake
1 lb cream cheese
2.75 oz mild tasting honey
1 Tbsp cornstarch
lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tiny pinch salt
2 oz egg yolks
1 oz heavy cream
lemon juice from 1/2 lemon.

Preheat the oven to 350*
Cream the cream cheese until smooth. Add the honey and cream until smooth. Add the cornstarch, lemon zest, vanilla, and salt and cream until smooth. Scrape down the bowl to make sure the mixture is homogenous. Add the egg yolks, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl again. Stir in the cream and lemon juice.
Pour over a prebaked graham cracker crust and return to the oven. After 10 minutes turn the temperature down to 275* and bake for several hours, turning occasionally and checking for doneness.
Cool completely before removing from pans. 

I will update this post with pictures when I have actually made the cheesecake.  
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...