Stuff I’ve made recently, January 2012

Grapefruit

  • Beer bread (Alton Brown): The ultimate weeknight bread recipe, for when you want something starchy/tasty to go with soup, etc. Super easy and super quick. My changes: used dried dill instead of fresh, subbed in part skim mozzarella cheese for cheddar, omitted the sunflower seeds. I also used Lagunitas IPA, with great results.
  • Carrot soup with miso and sesame (Smitten Kitchen): I have a long-standing hatred of carrots. So much so that it’s become a default joke with my loved ones. Something about the texture and the underlying sweetness just doesn’t work for me, despite my best efforts to overcome the distaste. I want to like them! Really! They’re so good for you! Despite all this, something about this recipe called to me, so I just ran with it. And you know what? It was pretty darn good, even for me. The miso helps offset the carrots’ sweetness, and the toasted sesame oil is just perfect. The texture still bothered me at times, but I ate three servings of it over the course of three days, so there you go.
  • Chicken lima bean soup (Taste of Home): I made this because I was dying to use my bag of Rancho Gordo Christmas lima beans, the recipe looked easy, and I wanted a nice sturdy soup after a whole holiday vacation of splurging on baked goods. It’s a very good soup, although I think the chicken may have been a tad overcooked. My changes: used Christmas limas, used kale instead of spinach, used dried parsley and other random seasonings instead of fresh.
  • Cottage cheese muffins (101 Cookbooks): Like every 101 Cookbooks recipe ever, these were really good. I made them for an office holiday potluck, but when I make them again, I’ll have them for breakfast instead.
  • Grapefruit yogurt cake (Smitten Kitchen): I had extra grapefruits, I had leftover yogurt that was threatening to go bad, I had everything else needed for this simple loaf cake. So I made it. And I’m really glad I did. It’s very, very good, and very, very easy. Next time, I’ll try the Ina Garten original lemon version, or a lime version with coconut milk yogurt and coconut oil. My changes: I used nonfat plain yogurt instead of whole milk.
  • Macaroni and cheese pizza (Food Network): For Jeffrey‘s birthday dinner! We used the Quick Beer Crust from King Arthur Flour, which is quickly becoming my favorite go-to pizza crust recipe. This is one of the more indulgent things I’ve ever made. Wow. We sort of winged it with this recipe – I don’t remember most of the changes that we made, however. The main thing is just stovetop mac and cheese, put on a pizza crust, and baked. Yum.
  • Meyer lemon fresh cranberry scones (Smitten Kitchen): I made these for my Bay Bridged comrades to enjoy while we set up for the Bay Brewed. They were a big hit. My changes: used regular lemons instead of Meyer.
  • Rustic lentil soup (Soup Addict): Delicious, hearty stew. That’s really all you need to know. Really, really good. My changes: I didn’t have any pancetta so I used more bacon instead, omitted the fish sauce, used 3 small leeks instead of celery, and used dried rosemary instead of fresh thyme.
  • And of course, I’ve made several more 30 before 30 items. Just need to actually sit down and write them all out!

Christmas lima bean soup with kale

Macaroni and cheese pizza

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

I like making cookies, and I like eating cookies, so I decided it would be fun to participate in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011

Here’s the schedule:

Sign Up Deadline: Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Receive Your Matches: Monday, November 21, 2011
Shipment Deadline: Monday, December 5, 2011
Blog Post Date: Monday, December 12, 2011

If you or someone you know wants to participate, check out additional information by clicking the above image.

Cookies!

Doing what I can: Peanut butter cream pie, for Mikey Perillo

Peanut butter cream pie

I do not know Jennifer Perillo. I do, however, read her blog. Her story, as of just a few days ago, is heartbreaking.

There is little anyone can do when a loved one suddenly dies, so Jennifer asked that her friends and readers, if they so desired, make a dish that was one of her late husband’s favorites: peanut butter cream pie.

Peanut butter cream pie

I wasn’t planning on making the pie. I’m not really a part of this massive food blogging community – this blog is just a fun little outlet for me. But I watched today as my Google Reader exploded with posts featuring gorgeous variations of peanut butter pie – all for Mikey, and for Jennifer, even if the blogger had never met either of them. I followed the #apieformikey trending topic on Twitter. I was blown away at the giant wave of support within this online community.

I found myself reading Jennifer’s story and holding back tears. I couldn’t help but wonder how I would feel if any of my loved ones – my boyfriend, my mother, my father, my sister, my friends – just disappeared from my life at the drop of a hat, with no warning. I can’t even fathom it.

Peanut butter cream pie

So I came home from work today and I made the pie. It’s chilling in the fridge as we speak. Maybe we’ll dig in when we get home later tonight; maybe we’ll wait and bring it to a friend’s BBQ tomorrow. Either way, the pie will be consumed with people I care about – we will enjoy  the pie and each other’s company, and that is the whole point.

Peanut butter cream pie

Peanut butter cream pie, for Mikey. You can read more about Jennifer and see more peanut butter pie blog posts over at the Tomato Tart.

30 before 30: The List

As I mentioned previously, I am embarking on a 30 before 30 cooking project. Some general guidelines about this project:

  • I chose the items based almost entirely on my own personal curiosity to try said dishes – dishes I basically have not attempted before, and haven’t done so because I either didn’t have the proper excuse, or because I thought the projects seemed too complicated/intimidating.
  • There are plenty of classically complicated recipes out there that I didn’t include, and I’m okay with that. I don’t really have a desire to make beef wellington, so that didn’t make it on the list.
  • Some recipes on the list are probably not all that complicated. I’m okay with that as well. Like I said, this has to do more with my own desires and curiosities, and at the end of the day, it’s about having fun in the kitchen and enjoying the end result.
  • I didn’t want to include recipes that would result in an enormous amount of food, because that just seems wasteful. Example: turducken.
  • I will also avoid having to purchase too much special equipment. I already have access to a propane torch (thankfully), I already own a stand mixer (also full of thanks on that one), and I may consider buying a dutch oven and/or cast-iron skillet. But I do not plan on buying a pasta maker or novelty bakeware, as an example.

Here is my final list of projects, all of which I plan to tackle before August 2012. I will blog about each experience, and link the items to their corresponding posts once they’re completed. I won’t be going in the exact order listed below, and I aim to cross at least one item off the list every two weeks or so.

  1. Macarons
  2. Roast chicken and bread salad (Zuni Cafe recipe)
  3. Lattice cherry pie
  4. Cassoulet
  5. Pho
  6. Naan + other Indian dish (completed on 6/19/11)
  7. Baguettes
  8. Hamburgers + homemade buns + learn to grill
  9. Boeuf bourguignon
  10. Creme brûlée
  11. Lemon merengue pie
  12. Roast duck
  13. Chicken nuggets (Local Lemons’ recipe)
  14. Mole
  15. Croissants
  16. Sourdough bread
  17. Tiramisu
  18. B’stilla
  19. Ravioli
  20. Injera + ethiopian dish
  21. Souffle
  22. Carnitas + tortillas
  23. Princess cake
  24. Curry paste
  25. Tamales
  26. Thin Mints
  27. Oreos
  28. Bagels
  29. Gnocchi
  30. Baked alaska

Here goes nothing . . .

30 before 30 cooking project

I turn 30 in August 2012 (1 year and two months from now). I’m considering a “30 before 30” cooking project, where I identify and make 30 dishes that I’ve never tried and have been curious to try, but haven’t yet because a) I didn’t necessarily see a reason to, and/or b) thought the recipe seemed too complicated. Here are the ideas I’ve come up with thus far (haven’t come up with 30 ideas just yet – I just started this last night):

  1. French macarons
  2. Whole chicken (Zuni Cafe recipe?)
  3. Lattice-topped cherry pie
  4. Layer cake
  5. Cassoulet
  6. Pho
  7. Naan + other Indian dish
  8. Baguettes
  9. Hamburgers + homemade buns + learn to grill
  10. Boeuf bourguignon
  11. Creme brûlée
  12. Lemon merengue pie
  13. Roast duck
  14. Chicken nuggets (Local Lemons’ recipe)
  15. Mole
  16. Croissants
  17. Sourdough bread
  18. Tiramisu
  19. B’stilla
  20. Ravioli
  21. Injera + ethiopian dish
  22. New York Times’ chocolate chip cookies
  23. Souffle (cheese or chocolate)

Note: some of these may not actually be that “complicated,” technically speaking, but may still be considered outside the standard everyday-type recipes.

Any thoughts from the masses? What recipe/dish would you put on this list? I’m open to any/all suggestions.

iPhone theft and staying vigilant

I considered writing about this the other day. Then I decided not to. What’s the big deal, right? It happens all the time, and the outcome is much worse for many people. Then I thought more about it again. The truth is, what happened a few days ago keeps running through my head, and perhaps it’s best to just let it out.

I was robbed the other day, publicly and in broad daylight. As I do every work day, I left my apartment around 7:30 am and walked to the corner of Potrero and 24th to cross the street and head towards BART. I had my headphones in and was listening to music on my iPhone, holding the phone at my side as I walked. As I walked by the bus stop on the corner, I noticed that there was an above-average number of people waiting for either the 9, 9L, 33 or 48 to come by.

I started to cross the street. Then I felt a sharp tug on my right arm and on the string of my headphones, and I immediately turned around. A young guy (perhaps 18? 20? Or younger? I’m terrible at guessing ages) was crouched behind me and had managed to force me to drop my phone so he could grab it.

He fumbled it a little. I grabbed onto his arms to stop him from taking it. He yelled at me to let go and shoved me off. I yelled at him to give me back my phone. My own voice sounded foreign. Maybe I managed to grab him again, and he shoved me off again? The exact details are fuzzy now.

We’d moved into the street at this point, in front of the bus stop with all the people waiting. Many cars were waiting at the stoplight. He started to run across the street, through traffic. Someone honked at him. A guy waiting at the bus stop made a half-hearted attempt to run and yell at the guy, then stopped.

I chased him across the street. He was too far ahead of me at this point, and sprinted down Potrero, past 23rd. It’s done. I’m defeated, humiliated, shocked and shaking.

A car pulled over and the driver stepped out to ask me what happened. Another guy met me at the corner and asked if I needed to use his phone to call someone. I didn’t really need anyone’s help at this point, however, since I live across the street. I returned home, cancelled my AT&T service, changed some passwords, and cried on my boyfriend’s shoulder.

Why was I so upset? It’s not about the phone. It was certainly a nice phone (an iPhone 4), and a good portion of my daily life revolved around using it (listening to music, utilizing the GPS, surfing the internet, etc.). But material items are easily replaceable, and this phone is easily replaceable. I’m in the fortunate position where I can afford to buy a new phone (although I’ll end up buying the cheaper model, which is also fine – I only had the new model due to some random happenstance anyway). I spent two days without a phone after it was stolen, and aside from not getting my music fix while riding BART to get to work, I didn’t especially miss it.

It’s the act of being robbed, I think, that’s sticking with me. I can still feel the guy tugging hard and fast on my arm, the feel of his sweatshirt as I grabbed at him to try to stop him, the feel of 50+ people idly watching as this all went down.

And it’s also a feeling of disbelief. I thought of myself as someone who maintains a good sense of vigilance, especially when I’m on public transit and when it’s later at night, and fewer people are around. Since I first upgraded to an iPhone, I’ve always kept in mind the huge numbers of Muni thefts, reported mugging attempts and successes, etc. I try not to get so lost in my little device that I forget my surroundings.

I guess I never, ever imagined that something like this would happen in such a public, open space, with so many people around, under a bright shining sun with nowhere to hide. So I walked across the street holding my phone at my side, when it should have been tucked away in my bag instead. This was my daily routine, and I thought it was a safe one. Lesson learned.

The silver lining? Apparently while this was all going down, someone did call the police (as I found out later that same day). The police arrived a few minutes after I’d returned to my home, and at least one or two people gave witness reports. The police drove around looking for both me and the thief (witnesses apparently saw him jump into a car and drive off). So, I can’t claim that no one tried to help – although I can’t help but wonder how this story would have been different if someone, anyone, had stepped in to help while this was happening, had tried to pull the guy away like I did. Maybe he wouldn’t have gotten away with this, and the volume of these types of robberies would decrease. Additionally, what if I’d tried to kick him or push him away with more force? Am I not tough enough?

But I can’t know what could have happened, because it’s a done deal. Plus, it could have been worse – what if he’d had a weapon, for example? And, like I said, it’s just a phone. It’s not a rare bicycle, nor was anyone kidnapped or injured. So, it’s fine. I’m fine. From now on, it’s all about keeping my valuables hidden safely away, not ever letting my guard down and keeping a sharp eye out for both myself and my fellow city dwellers. Let’s all be safe, strong and vigilant.

The final puzzle party . . . and the food that helped solve it

Unfinished puzzle

Jeffrey bought a puzzle last year. Actually, it’s not a puzzle. It is a giant beautiful beast of confusion and headache parading around in the form of a puzzle. It is Baffler #1000, also known as “The Test,” created by an artist known as Chris Yates.

We started throwing Puzzle Parties at my house after Jeffrey first bought the puzzle, since we knew it would be much more fun to have lots of people attacking the puzzle versus just one or two. (More like one – I wasn’t particularly helpful in the beginning after looking at the giant pile of 1200+ puzzle pieces with no easily discernible pattern staring back at me).

We held a total of five puzzle parties. The above photo is from Puzzle Party #4, where we almost (almost!) finished it. We threw the final Puzzle Party this past Saturday, where we finally finished “The Test” (and celebrated with champagne!) and enjoyed some tasty food along the way.

And so I present: the menu for Puzzle Party #5, THE FINAL!

Continue reading

Roommate dinner night, January 2011 + Mom’s sangria

I live with three fabulous roommates on the edge of the Mission, near Potrero Hill. We decided that we don’t see enough of each other (we all have boyfriends and hobbies and other things that keep us out of the house), so it was time to schedule an all-hands-on-deck roomie dinner night. This month: Mexican themed.

Lisa made a bread-pudding-like dessert (I can’t remember the name, sadly), with mango and guava paste on top:

Roommate dinner night - Lisa's dessert

Kristen made empanadas, all from scratch, with a mushroom/seitan filling:

Roommate dinner night - Kristen's empanadas

Katherine made a veggie paella with quinoa instead of rice . . . of which I forgot to take a photo (sorry Katherine!).

And I made sangria, using my mother’s tried and true recipe.

Roommate dinner night - Mom's sangria

It was a great night, and everything was delicious. And bonus: everything was vegan! Next month: PIES. Yep.

Mom’s Sangria
(Serves 4-6 people)

2 bottles red wine (I used pinot noir after finding some on sale at Whole Foods)
1 cup fruit juice (orange, apple, grape, grapefruit, whatever you’d like – I used fresh grapefruit juice)
2/3 cup triple sec
2 oranges, cut into 8 pieces
1 lemon, cut into 8 pieces
1 lime, cut into 8 pieces
1-2 extra limes for garnish (optional)
Sugar (optional)

Pour all the liquids together into a big pitcher or pot. Add the sliced fruit. If you’re going to add sugar, add some now and stir it all together (I added a little less than 1/5 of a cup).

[Disclaimer: my mother never adds sugar to her sangria – I added some because I knew at least one of my roommates prefers a sweeter sangria. It’s great, either way.]

Refrigerate for as long as possible – around 8 hours is apparently ideal, although I only refrigerated last night’s batch for about 2-3 hours before serving.

If you’re using sugar, take a test sip (or two) to measure sweetness before serving. If it’s not sweet enough for your liking, add a little more sugar and stir around and test again.

If using, slice up the remaining limes and add to glasses.

Serve and enjoy!

Birthday brunch 2010

Lemon blueberry bundt cake

As a preemptive birthday celebration (my actual birthday is the 18th), I threw myself a birthday brunch this past Saturday. With the invaluable help from my boyfriend and roommates, an amazing feast was put together and thoroughly enjoyed by all. And I do mean thoroughly – my good friend Curt, a bit of an amateur chef, had to go home and take a nap before going to work because he stuffed himself silly. I was quite proud of that.

Here’s the menu from Saturday:

Lemon-blueberry crumb bundt cake: One of the best things I’ve ever made. So so good. My roommate put together real whipping cream (that she whipped herself, no electric beaters involved), which was a perfect accomplice in the indulgent brunch dessert mayhem.

Asparagus frittata: Frittata in a bundt pan made with really good cheese! I neglected to include the melted cheese/scallion topping, but it was great nonetheless.

Caramelized bacon twists: I’ll leave it at that.

Cheese-scallion drop biscuits: I used cheddar instead of blue cheese. I snuck one of these before the guests arrived because the smell was so irresistible.

Make-ahead muffin melts: Easy, popular, and we had leftover filling to enjoy the next day.

“Overnight” cinnamon rolls: It was tough to really tell, but these seemed like the biggest hit of the party. People were practically fighting over the scraps.

Spinach-cheese strata: Wow yum oh my goodness so good.

Maple-olive oil granola: My all-time favorite granola.

Fresh pineapple poached in cinnamon syrup: Oddly, these were the least popular – not because the pineapple wasn’t tasty (because it was), but because people didn’t necessarily know what to do with it, perhaps.

Almost every dish was made the night before, or whipped up quickly in the morning. It took a little bit of planning and a whole lot of dish washing, but it was entirely worth it. We also had Dynamo donuts, fruit salad, various food items and drinks that people brought (thank you!!) and enough mimosas and Bloody Marys to sink a ship, or make a ship happily drunk, or however you want to describe it.

It was a really great party. Thanks again to everyone involved.

Goodbye 2009

I feel like I’ve been bombarded with the usual onslaught of “Best of 2009” and “Goodbye 2009” lists over the past month. Not that I mind; I just don’t normally feel the need to make similar lists and blog entries (aside from the standard “Best Albums” of that particular year).

However, I feel differently for 2009. This year deserves a particular kind of tribute, of recognition, of retrospect, and of appreciation.

I lost both of my grandmothers in 2009. Babcia (Gazdowicz) passed in January, Grandma passed six months later in early July (Higgins). It was simply time for both of them, and they each died peacefully, with family at their sides. They were responsible for raising some of the most warm, loving, and generous people – people I am proud to call family each and every day. I find it extremely inspiring and humbling to come from women who worked hard their entire lives with integrity and grace, full of love for their family and friends. Through death, I was reminded in 2009 that family is extraordinary, family is the focal point of life – no matter where you find it. Rest in peace to my beloved grandmothers.

But also in 2009, amongst societal and economic stress and turmoil, I found happiness in so many places: a new home with wonderful people, inspirational hobbies, fulfilling employment, in friends both new and old, and in love. There was constant reminder of being alive, of appreciating and understanding surroundings, and therein finding a new lust for life.

Here’s to 2010, whatever it may bring.