Tuesday, December 27, 2011

White Chocolate & Thai Tea Fudge

The first attempt: the tea is dry, not bloomed in water or vodka.
This is not my recipe. The original recipe is surpassingly simple and elegant, and the results are beautiful. Plus, I love a thai iced tea, so much so that I don't even care how much carcinogenic food dye they use to make that radioactive orange color.

The original recipe specified white chocolate. I am just not a fan. If it's chocolate, I want it to be dark and bitter and just a little sweet. Not bland and white and cloying. Ok, two things: first, I love thai iced tea. And second? Well, just look at the darn blog. If this woman says "Cook this, it's delicious," I am simply not going to argue. I am going to cook what she says to cook the way she says to cook it. So I bought white chocolate.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pav Bhaji

No, I did not forget. There's no garlic here, no ginger.  Just this once.
If you are going to prepare a home-made Indian Ultrafeast for forty people, you are insane. If some of those people don't even like Indian food, then you are twice as insane. And you are definitely going to need some Midwest-meets-Mumbai dishes. You know, like sliders. Vegetarian sliders.

Pav bhaji is Mumbai street food: a plain dinner roll (pav) split and filled with spicy curried vegetables (bhaji). The dinner rolls can be white or wheat, your call. Or, serve the bhaji as a vegetable side dish with other Indian fare. You can adjust the vegetable combinations, you can ramp the seasoning up or down.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hearty Minestrone

Cat: very good at sleeping on the couch.
Not so good at working kitchen machines.
I did not want to go to the Kroger this morning. What I wanted was to stay in bed, and have someone serve me a tray of hot coffee with cream and flaky croissants with jam while I listened to the rain patter on the skylight and read the Sunday paper. Maybe in my next life.
Alas, there was no one but the cat to serve me breakfast in bed, and Mamie was even less inclined than I was to get up and brew a pot of coffee. Plus, she has no thumbs and a brain the size of a walnut, so kitchen tasks are extraordinarily difficult for her.
So, after making my own coffee with milk and settling for a bowl of oatmeal with honey at the kitchen table, I decided to go Krogering anyway. Sunday morning is the best time. The shelves are restocked, and there is no one else in the store to fight you for that gorgeous bag of bell peppers that has just been marked down to $0.99. Or that huge bag of banana peppers for $1.50. And no one is going to arm-wrestle those neckbones away from you, no matter what day of the week it is.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Vanilla Porter Cupcakes

11.11.11 has come and is long gone. The Canadian Chemist hosted the Nigel Tufnel Day festivities, and a good time was had by all. The Canadian Chemist also happens to be an accomplished brewer, with a brand-new batch of vanilla porter on tap. I had seen a recipe for Blue Moon cupcakes, and filed the idea away for later use...well, vanilla porter cupcakes with chocolate stout icing sounded like a good idea...

You would not think such a small number of ingredients could
wreak such havoc. You would be wrong.
These cupcakes were baked and eaten and enjoyed weeks ago. I am very late in getting this to post. I have about a million slips of paper with recipe notes, all over my house. I lost the slip with this recipe on it. I hate it when that happens. I find slips everywhere, which are unlabeled, consisting of just a list of ingredients in a mind-boggling mixture of weights and measures. What I finally found was a recipe fragment on the same slip as an unrelated recipe for pumpkin custard. A quick check of my reference recipe...yep, this is it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cinnamon Streusel Coffeecake

Assemble your ingredients.
So it's Thanksgiving, and there is no turkey in my kitchen. This is actually ok. There was an easy, lovely brunch with some very close friends. The Tall Acoustician spread newspaper all over the kitchen counter and floor and made bacon and pancakes. Turns out this was actually a necessary (and remarkably effective) prophylactic measure against bacon spatter and pancake batter (and he probably should have wrapped himself with newspaper as well). There was cheesy, mushroomy quiche. Savory bite-sized sausage balls. Sweet mimosas and bloody marys with sour okra pickles. Spicy cake. This cake. Later on, there was a small dinner with more dear friends, followed by a late-night adventure with Miss V wherein we failed an attempt at scoring me a Black Friday midnight TV at the Best Buy, then failed again at the Wal-Mart. Which is probably all to the good, since if I had a television I would probably never get out of my pajamas or leave the house.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sausage, Kale, & White Bean Rotini

Sauté the onions.
We always want what we can't have.
When it's summer and 100°, I want cool autumn weather and hearty comfort food. When it's 50° and raining for the 40th day in a row, I want summer sunshine and red ripe tomatoes.
Somehow my stars aligned, and what I actually wanted was exactly what the weather called for: peasant food on a damp and chilly day. I had a taste for beans & greens, but not the southern standard version (black-eyed peas and collards). This is not really a pasta fagioli, because of the greens, but it is a close relation. The flavors are extremely straightforward, and there's not much in the way of spices or seasoning−there's nothing to be gained here by turning to the spice rack and throwing stuff into the pot (and this is coming from someone who routinely turns to the spice rack and starts throwing stuff into the pot just for the fun of it).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Soft Semolina Dinner Rolls

I really can't remember what inspired me to buy an enormous bag of semolina flour. No, wait. Yes I can. I was going to make gnocchi. That was a year ago. I made gnocchi from scratch once before, about the time we were all worried that Y2k meant that every computer on the planet would simultaneously explode when we crossed the threshold of the 21st century. Then suddenly last fall, there was this flood of recipes on every food blog for sweet potato or butternut squash gnocchi. Coincidence? Maybe...

Anyway, I was swept up by the food fad. Only I never made the gnocchi. Shrug. It happens. Or in this case, it didn't. Eventually, I modified my favorite corn muffin recipe to include semolina, and used up some of the flour making Semolina & Honey Muffins.
Almost ready for the oven.

I made another batch of the muffins recently, and noticed this recipe for semolina dinner rolls on the bag. Now, I am not typically a fan of label recipes (I swear some of them are written by people who have heard of food, but never actually seen it, much less eaten it), but this was from King Arthur. Those good people wouldn't know how to publish a bad recipe. Well, I was making a huge batch of red lentil soup, and I wanted some fresh, hot rolls. I did not have all of the ingredients listed, so I improvised.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies

With the price of peanut butter getting ready to skyrocket, what better time to bake an enormous batch of peanut butter cookies? But, the belly wants what it wants, and what it wanted was peanut butter cookies. I am no peanut butter snob, but I can taste the difference between Skippy and Jif. I know a spoonful of Peter Pan when I taste one. I won't buy store brands because they never get it right. Ok, maybe I am a peanut butter snob. When I was a kid, choosy mothers chose Jif, but my mom inevitably picked Skippy and my grandmother always had a jar of Peter Pan.

Recently, I have been buying the Smart Balance brand. It started with a coupon, but continues because I really like the deep roasted flavor. You open the jar, and it's three shades darker than any other peanut butter, smells roasty and delicious, isn't too sweet, and has just the right amount of salt. However, my latest jar was a huge tub of Planter's. Yes, Mr. Peanut makes peanut butter. It's not quite as deep and rich as the Smart Balance, but it was pretty cheap (again, it all comes down to the coupon).

So, when you google peanut butter cookie recipes, you get endless claims that these cookies are the world's best, the ne plus ultra, the apex, the epitome, the whatever best-est synonym came up in the thesaurus. It all depends on what you like, I guess. I like these. They are not fancy, they are just easy and peanut buttery. And whole wheaty, which obviously makes them health food. You probably should eat two. Or three. But then you need to give the rest away, a dozen at a time.
Everything you need to get baking!

What You Need
  • 125g (1 cup) white whole wheat flour
  • 150g (1¼ cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 225g (2 sticks, ½ lb) butter
  • 340g (12 oz, 1¼ cups) peanut butter
  • 140g (¾ cup) granulated sugar
  • 150g (¾ cup, packed) light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla butternut extract
  • 2 TBS granulated sugar (for rolling dough balls)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fastest. Pizza. Ever.

The Canadian Chemist and his lovely wife, the Razor-Sharp Mathematician, bought me a lovely birthday present: pizza stone and peel. The new Physics Kitchen had been without a pizza stone for nine months, and they were pretty tired of hearing my neverending but utterly empty threats to steal a wooden pizza peel from our local.
Simply sausage and cheese.
But my birthday was six weeks ago, and I still have not made a pizza. I know, weird, right? Well, I guess I was just too busy making Pirate Cakes and Emergency Birthday Brownies and Pumpkin Scones and forgot entirely to cook anything which was not dessert in nature. What finally got me in gear was a recipe for crispy, thin, cracker-style crust. I know when I say "Chicago-style," you are going to visualize deep dish from Gino's or Giordano's. But the "Chicago-style" pizza I grew up with (from neighborhood joints like Romeo's, Palermo's, Phil's) was a thin pie, on a crackly-crisp crust made without yeast. For years, I tried repeatedly and failed to duplicate it, until I finally just got on with making pizza on a yeasty, bready crust (delicious enough, but not like home).

Pumpkin Crunch Bars

You should never poison your friends. This is axiomatic. But sometimes, you know, it's just really hard not to.

Today's challenge: gluten free. I am not gluten-intolerant, but these were made for a dear friend who cannot eat gluten. At all. Ever. Seriously, do you have any idea how difficult this is? I didn't and probably still don't. Gluten is everywhere. Sort of like air, only most of us can (and do) routinely inhale air without the terror of imminent death. The idea of having to carefully scrutinize every label may not be so bad (some of us are compulsive label readers already), but imagine not being able to eat at any restaurant ever again. Yeah, that's what I thought. Me neither.

I was so preoccupied with being clever with this dessert that it completely escaped my notice that, while the pumpkin bars would not kill her, the marinated sun-dried tomatoes I also fed her just might, as the Italian dressing they were soaking in was loaded with MSG. The moral of the story? Eat dessert first. That way, even if your friends are trying to poison you with the entrée, you will be too full to eat any of it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Curried Pumpkin Scones

So just recently my BFF the WX Goddess asked about pumpkin recipes. Somehow she allowed herself to be persuaded to make a trio of pumpkin desserts for a Thanksgiving celebration. We batted ideas back and forth for an afternoon, but really, all you need to do is visit the good people at King Arthur and type pumpkin into their recipe search engine.

Which I did, and if you do this you will know precisely what caught my eye first: Curried Pumpkin and Ginger Scones. Not entirely appropriate for a Thanksgiving dessert, but then, I am not the one who needs to make three different pumpkin treats for a single meal. I just need a quick breakfast.

I have mentioned before how much I detest recipe reviews wherein the reviewer hates the recipe... but did not actually follow the recipe. As in, I did not have any pumpkin, so I just used applesauce, and I hate curry so I skipped it entirely, and on and on, until they have made something, but it's not anything like the original recipe. I may have also mentioned once or twice how I'm not always good at following recipes to the letter. I always think I know better. Frequently I do (at least with respect to what'll taste good to me), and when I don't...well, those experiments just don't get posted.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Emergency Birthday Brownies

Ok, you need to tell me if it's your birthday. Seriously. Preferably a day or two in advance. You may have noticed that in the month of September, I bake cakes. If you want in on the birthday-slash-pirate fun, you have to let me know. I am not that good at cakes; I mean well, but I don't have the skills. I need advance warning. Time to plan a strategy (at the very least, I need time to hunt down and borrow a cake carrier).
New Guy, proudly displaying an
Emergency Birthday Brownie...uh...
Emergency Birthday Mudpuppy Porter.
Same difference.

Not that I won't bake you birthday brownies at 10PM, because clearly, I will. I just did. But I swear, New Guy said his birthday was in November. I distinctly heard November. But we were in a noisy bar, and I heard wrong. He said September. Three days after the Tall Acoustician, exactly a week past the Kitchen Physicist herself (oh, you just know that I am already scheming for next year's Big Birthday Week...wheels they are a-turnin'...menus they are a-plannin'...).

Anyway, it was purely an accident that I discovered New Guy's well-kept birthday secret. Ok, it was Facebook. And it doesn't really matter how I found out, just that I did. And I went into Birthday Brownie Overdrive. Because New Guy is, well, literally the new guy. He's only been here 6 weeks. Somebody has to bake him birthday brownies.