Sunday, December 13, 2009

Third Beautiful [Rainbow] Fall Walk

We all remember ROYGBIV, right? Well, I got about half of the spectrum here...Red... (10th St, to where I will be moving in a week!)

Orange... (looking at Catholic Charities building I believe)

Yellow... (a gingko on New Hampshire)

Ok, I cheated: white... (Capitol Hill neighborhood)

And all together now, just for show! Actually, this last photo was of the same plant as the white one above, hanging over a Capitol Hill fence- wonder what it is... you're welcome to hazard guesses!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Turtles at work

Turtle Bars!

This is another one of the recipes from Real Simple's holiday cookie calendar, and a quick, easy path to scrumptiousness! And I don't know why they are called turtle bars, but maybe someone will be inspired to get to the bottom of that mystery and let me know... I fudged and futzed with the recipe, mainly because I didn't want to pay the price for all the Heath bar pieces. It still came out well, and it was drop-dead easy: crust, sweetened condensed milk (that was leftover from the sweet potato pie whirligig), and candy goodness!

(what was left an hour after I brought them into work...)

Sunday, December 6, 2009


"It isn't the big pleasures that count the most; it's making a great deal out of the little ones."

-Jean Webster

Book Swap, Friend Meet

This was a great idea, if I do say so myself.I invited a few friends over for a book swap. I contained my grandiose tendencies to do a book AND clothing swap, on top of the dishes to be cooked, etc. This is progress in Margaret-land. :-)
So, the dishes:
pasta with butternut squash parmesan sauce
curry parsnip soup (a standby, but somehow something lacked this time... maybe because I didn't reheat it thoroughly enough?)
curry roasted cauliflower (another yummy standby)
black bean chicken chili

And for dessert-type things, we had apple and pear cider, fruit salad, beautiful, iced chocolate cake (see photo!), homemade cookies, and my banana bread with chocolate and ginger (actually Molly Wizenberg's via the Wednesday Chef via The Leftoverist- whew!), which I can't believe I've never posted here before. I've made it several times now- a winner.
The upshot is that we all went home happily full, with several interesting books under our arm, and happy thoughts of new conversations explored.
Also, visions of sugarplums of swaps in the future- anyone up for a clothes AND book swap in late January??
I had a lovely time. :-)

Earl Grey Tea Cookies

Now we get into the good stuff! I decided to tackle Real Simple's calendar of cookies this year. Their idea, and it is a fun one if you've got the time and some mouths to feed, is to present a different recipe each day during the holidays (Nov-Dec). I decided I would subscribe to the cookie emails and try out the ones that appealed to me (halving the recipe, of course). So far, I've done: Chocolate Chunk and Almond Cookies, Earl Grey Tea Cookies, and Turtle Bars. There are 4 or 5 more I've seen and would like to try but haven't yet, so maybe I'll get up to those as a break from packing.
Yes! I'm moving! 2 blocks away, to be precise. End of December. That may disrupt the baking project a little bit...
As I said, I halved the recipe, but other than that, made no changes. It was ridiculously easy. I used the food processor, as it says. It took a little time to cut up the cold butter into manageable pieces, but then the dough was an easy consistency to stick in plastic and stick in the fridge overnight to chill. (Not like some batters/ pastries I've known!) Then I baked them the next morning and brought them to work warm. They have a delightfully light flavor, come out somewhere between underdone and overdry, and have a very different essence to them from most cookies. Yes, delightfully different.
Here's Real Simple's cute photo if you need more urging...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Orange Oat Scones - incredible texture!

I have caught up to November 18- these scones. I definitely haven't gotten the hang of the timing of cooking and posting enough to keep current, but I guess I'm getting there. Thank goodness the camera registers the date the picture was taken; too bad it can't take notes on what you did differently from the recipe, like a good little editorial assistant!
I saw these over at 101 Cookbooks, and it wasn't tempeh or bok choy, so I was excited to be able try a recipes of hers. She, Heidi, sounds like a great person, just more interested in more far-out ingredients than I am. But these were in my realm of possibility.
I am borrowing her finished picture, since what happened with mine was that I whisked them into several containers and brought them straight to work, warm. They really don't know what a bargain they're getting with me.
What did I do differently from the recipe on Heidi's site? Let's see:
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour --> 2 c a-p flour, 1 c whole wheat locally sourced flour
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 cups rolled oats
zest of 1 orange --> zest of 1 unripe orange, zest of 1 ripe tangerine
1 cup buttermilk (made with vinegar)
1/4 cup coarse turbinado or Demerara sugar, for sprinkling (forgot for one of the two batches, but was still gorgeous)
2/3 cup dried currants --> raisins

And funny story about the zest. As a California girl, I was being kind of a snob about the oranges available here in DC. Didn't make the cut. But maybe that's also because I don't particularly like eating oranges. Yes, I know, shocker, something I don't like eating. My having never had strong fingernails may give you a clue as to why. At any rate, I didn't want to pay for an orange, or heaven forbid, a bag of them, that I wouldn't eat. So I cannily spied a coworker who'd brought in an orange for lunch the day before, and I asked if I could have her peel for the same item that day. Waste not, want not! Except that it was a tangerine that day, and I had no idea how that would affect the process. So the call went out, and another coworker donated her orange peel. However, back to my earlier point, it was yellow-greenish... so I used both. I think I discovered that tangerine peels have more oil than orange peels. In'erestin'.

After all that, I was richly rewarded by both the taste and the expression on my coworkers' faces- rapture! I think it's because I undercooked them by 1-2 minutes, so they were still a little mushy inside instead of dried out totally. GREAT recipe!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Black Bean Chicken Chili

Well, I went home and had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday. Food, feasting, family, and fun. And frolicking too.
But now I'm back at work, it is definitely winter, and my heat is definitely wimping out on me. No matter. I am going to stay out here and post! Maybe thinking about that black bean chile will warm me up... although it's not likely, since it was MY kind of chile, and not the kind to blow your top off in the least.
I found this warm, flavorful recipe base in Daily Soup, the very same cookbook that delivered me up to the horrors of the Mushroom Barley Soup only the week before. Well, I'm glad I gave it another try. And notice I said recipe base; as you will see, I departed from it quite liberally, being in a 'make-do' situation.
It is called Chicken Black Bean Chili, and it is categorized under "Meat," "Spicy," and "Lowfat" in the cookbook. Well, I'll try to collapse all my substitutions into a list so you can get an idea:

  • Halved the recipe
  • Used pre-roasted chicken from Giant rather than "1 whole chicken, cut up" (although I did make my own broth)
From this: this!
  • Used 3/4 c kalamata olives rather than 2 red bell peppers
  • Used olive oil rather than peanut oil
  • Used spices (chili powder, cumin, coriander, bay leaves, and regular oregano, not Mexican) very approximately
  • Used sea salt rather than kosher salt
  • Used a mango Jamaican sauce rather than habanero pepper sauce
  • Used parsley rather than cilantro (and this was the bad parsley decision, not the earlier one with the mushroom soup; I got them confused)

And I didn't use pickled jalapenos or a habanero chile pepper. I know, it was really sacrilege. But anyway, it smelled very good simmering, but it was a little watery for what I thought of as chili. It did better as a stew. Oh, and it did a whole lot better after a day or two in the fridge. Great leftovers!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happily At Home

Hey all, how was your Big Thursday?
Mine was great.
I made 2 kinds of stuffing, Cathy made 2 pumpkin pies and the cranberry sauce, Michelle mashed the potatoes, and Heather even helped stuff the bird! But Mom was still the anchor- cooking the turkey, coaxing the gravy, throwing together the salad. And Dad too- he carved and then got through the lengthy task of deboning afterwards. So many tasks, so much food, so much cheerfulness! No wonder we can only do this a few times a year!
Oh, and I am taking a break from the regularly scheduled updating of cooking processes to fool around with Google Wave- a bit confusing, but I really want to have some fun with it. :-)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Another Argh

(My oh-so-proper cookbookstand)

So, quite a while ago now, I went to the home of some friends for dinner, and they served this amazing mushroom soup. I think it has since starred in some of my dreams. It was delicious, rich, simmery, tasting full of flavor while not being chunky. So I thought I'd try my hand at a mushroom soup.
I knew I wasn't following following a similar recipe, but I thought I'd break myself in easy to the mushroom: start stew-style, with a combination chicken-barley-mushroom, and get a feel for the ingredient. Well.
I had bought a large container of dried mushrooms a few days before from Costco, while the plan was already simmering in my head, and thought I had just to follow the directions to rehydrate them and incorporate them into the Daily Soup recipe I had (also the first time I'd used one from their book). Unfortunately, I needed to dash to the Giant across the street to get the parsley (an inconsequential and unwanted flavor here anyway, it turned out), and due to the less-than-fabulous service there, the mushrooms ended up sitting in the water for 30 minutes instead of 20. Perhaps that was the fatal flaw. Or maybe they were just bad mushrooms. Or maybe, as my mother confessed to me when I told her of the ordeal, the cooks in my family just can't do dried mushrooms.

(doesn't it look good?? ah, the agony!)

Whatever the problem, I didn't realize it until I got to the very end and sat down with a chunk of warm, crusty bread on top of the stew, and took the first shocking bite, which lasted longer than it should, needing as I did to chew, and chew, and chew. So before the next bite, I picked out all the mushrooms from my mushroom-chicken-barley soup. Argh.

Gingered Sweet Potato Pie

I can happily say that I am returning home to California for Thanksgiving, which will be awesome. In view of this, and my status now as an actual adult in the family, I volunteered to take care of stuffing/ vegetable for the day. I very clearly said No Gizzards, because I am a No Gizzards type of gal, at least for now.
So I was gleefully planning to test some of Bon Appetit's cornucopia of stuffings, but instead got completely sidetracked, and wonderfully so, by this Gingered Sweet Potato Pie recipe by Rachel over at Coconut & Lime. I was helped in this also by finally having tasted the sweet potato pie of my neighborhood baker, Ms. Debra Chatman. I think it won the Best Of DC award in 2007, and I had never made it to the bakery while they still had it in the case until a few weeks ago- it went fast, I guess!
So I made one myself, albeit in a storebought crust, so I could concentrate on the filling: boiling the sweet potatoes, then skinning, then mashing. It's a nice, productive, yet not too taxing pastime. Kind of like all the preparations that go into butternut squash sauce (post to come). If you want to experiment and taste what the recipes are talking about, you have to cut, slice, peel, roast or boil, cool, chop, &c, &c. And you just accept it and keep going, instead of railing against "Why, oh why me???" as we are sometimes wont to do in other cases. It is refreshing.
(Rachel did her pecans in the shape of the mathematical symbol of pi, so I had to do something similarly creative- Behold, 'Tree':-)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Picturesque Newark, NJ

October 27, I traveled to Newark, NJ by train at another ungodly early hour for work. But this time, I traveled by train. I liked it better. As a whole however, I wouldn't consider the trip a success, since it rained, I became sick during the course of the meeting, my coworker and I had to wait over an hour for our train because the meeting ended early, and I didn't go out to see anything in Newark, but stayed in the mini-mall above and below the train station platforms, which seemed to have been designed to offer as little seating as possible in covered areas.

So it seems as though New Jersey is living up to its reputation.

(Top Left: View from the state government building where the meeting was held, to the train station where we arrived; Right: Old-style, Quaker-like Meetin' Seatin')

Friday, November 20, 2009

Like fuschia?

Well, that's the color that red cabbage turns when you cook it like this! I felt like reaching for my heretofore-usually-silent German roots for some cabbage and sausage a few weeks back- something sauerkraut-y without the canned shortcut. So I bought the red cabbage at the farmers' market and set out to create. I added a tart apple, onions of course, rice vinegar (since this wasn't an excuse to get yet another type of vinegar; I was trying to make do), and cloves- a little dab'll do ya (I only used 2, as per the recipe, but man did they add some verve!).

It came out nice and sweet-tart, and very homey-tasting. I made mine the first couple times with a cut-up beer bratwurst sausage from Trader Joe's and a dollup of dijon mustard, since my French roots were most likely from the east close to Germany anyway... ok, ok, I'm twisting it up a bit. It suffices to say that it paired well. However, it didn't keep very long, which surprised me, so: ye are forewarned-- scarf it down!

Second Beautiful Fall Walk

Near the Tidal Basin, beautiful colors everywhere

Red light, green light!


House of Usher trees???


Thursday, November 19, 2009

She discovers okra

Much as I am loathe to post about things that I didn't like or that didn't go well (after all, I'm so POSITIVE!), I promised to put up my effort with okra. I tangled with it, and lost. After passing it up many times at the farmers' market, I decided to just give it a whirl and fry it up. However, I only learned afterward that okra secretes a mucilaginous fluid when broken down; in other words, it made everything look and feel ('mouth-feel') a snotty mess. Flavor was ok, but I will have to try again with more and better advice in hand. But at least I did try! :-) I combined it with some peppers and spices, thinking that might be its natural habitat, but it didn't help
**Note the wholesome evening activity background: a puzzle! Ah, recessions.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Almost one month ago- last of the galettes!

Well, maybe not the last, but definitely the last that will use summer fruit for a good long while. This was with the last of the yellow peaches, my favorite. I used this crust recipe, as 'usual' (if you can say usual when I've made it 3 times), which I was directed to by the Leftoverist. She has a more 'usual' pie crust recipe, made with cornmeal and sour cream-- which I bought last weekend to specifically try!-- and which I hope gets made before the s.c. goes bad...
But anyway, this was yummy. Good fare. So the edges were a little singed. That's the peaches' wild streak, is all.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Abandon all order, ye who...

"And so, abandoning all semblance of order, she decided to throw things up, wil-he, nil-he."

I made these. Some time ago. Here was my result:
Pretty good, right? Well, they do kind of look like dried fish hopping about, but still. I was just watching Mark Bittman video clips, which I find truly funny, because silly, and thought to myself: "He really does do things that are dead easy, but require some knowledge to put together." I would not have thought of this as a way to dispose of the 16 sheets of plain, dried nori I got with my Teaism Afternoon Tea had I not seen him do it online! Bravo, I got to enjoy these succulent morsels instead of assigning them the dustbin because they were tasteless. :-)

Sunday, November 15, 2009


As a confirmed tea drinker, this quote from The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery, jumped out at me:

"Tea and mangas instead of coffee and newspapers: something elegant and enchanting, instead of adult power struggles and their sad aggressiveness."

I like her.

Oh, and I will try to get motivated to catch up on my backlog of posts, truly. They include a few about cookies and a failed mushroom soup endeavor. Expensive mistake. :-(

Monday, October 26, 2009

Remix 1

Sometimes, even when you have good ingredients, you feel the need to switch it up. Riff on old, good tunes, as it were. And here, I can't even take credit for the old, good tune! I really like the fresh ravioli made by Smith Meadows, I just purchased their green garlic pesto (WOW, garlicky), and topped it off with local Blue Ridge Dairy whole-milk ricotta- it was a meal made in Farmer's Market heaven.
Then a couple days later, knowing that the fresh pasta lasts only so long, I tried something that took a little more thought, but still used what I had: 3/4 of a tomato that was still good, and... see, this is what happens when you wait too long and don't take notes. I think I added a little bit of the pesto, warmed the tomato pieces on the stove, and then combined with the ravioli. No fresh herbs. Hmm. I do remember it tasted good though!

Stay tuned for remix 2: galette v. galette! Oh, and my not-so-success with okra. But it garnered me a new word: mucilaginous!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Harmony in Pinks and Purples

The beautiful jeweled tones of what was purchased last week: eggplants, native 'heirloom' apples, and a couple purple peppers

As usually happens, after being uninspired for a week or so, I caught a wave of enthusiasm for cooking again. This time the accelerant used was a post by Pink of Perfection on Crustless Quiche, which she declared not even really a recipe, but which I declared Awesome.
She made hers with portobello mushrooms, frozen spinach, an onion, and some cheese, and I riffed on that with beet greens, an onion, and feta, the only plausible cheese in the kitchen. It was a great use of the extra 18 eggs I'd gotten for free (!) at the farmer's market. They were 'first lay' eggs, which are rather small, but still good, by all means. And you know what else? Not refrigerated. I think once they are refrigerated, you can't leave them out, but otherwise, you're ok. But don't quote me on that. Let me know if any readers think something different.
Before: all scrambled-looking and humble...And After, cooked solidly through, easily cut, savory, and healthy (I think).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Feeling Stuffed, anyone?

Looked a little soupy, but came out ok...

It's not even Thanksgiving yet, but I thought I would tackle something stuffed. For some reason, stuffed things food-wise make me a bit uneasy- not unlike souffle, but in a different way. Stuffed peppers, stuffed mushrooms, all these little things seem to be overshooting the mark of good, plain food. But I hadn't tried it, so I decided not to knock it. And the timing was perfect for using the last of the zucchini purchased from the Farmer's Market at Dupont. For the Simply Recipes recipe I used, look here. I downsized it to the 2 large zucchini I had a bit haphazardly, and used ground pork instead of ground turkey, since that's what I had in the freezer. That may have contributed to the soupiness...
I took it to a fun friend lunch of a Saturday, and we feasted! Kim cooked up a frittata out of thin air, showed me how an asparagus salad can be done by blanching, and of course we had a dessert plate as well (but all leftovers and bits-to-hand, so no photo). Instead, you get the treat of seeing a photo of the mug into which I tried to pour the extra cooking liquid (to save it for later of course): FAIL. Ah well.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Few Late Film Entries

From the Boston trip: while not food-related, still entertaining.

A clip of the parade I landed in the middle of in the North End (for St. Anthony's festival!).

And a clip of the turndown service at the Ritz, where I stayed for one night! Chi-to-tha-chi...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009


Exciting: I made my very first buttery, flaky crust (just like they show in the magazines) pie crust from scratchy-scratch, even going to the lengths of bypassing the food processor and using a plain old FORK to mix the butter in (only took about 40 minutes). The result:
That was a week or so ago. Last night's endeavor was this: Chocolate Zucchini Cake, once again from In Praise of Leftovers. She is SO good. :-) I was working my way through that list of wannabe recipes again, and this one was great. I wanted cookies, but knew that I had no self-control to keep those in the house, so... I went for cake. Only responsible thing to do, right? I brought a third of the sheet in to work this morning. Feedback from coworker was: "not as rich as regular chocolate cake" "lighter" "can't taste the zucchini" hmm... an interesting experiment, and a pretty healthy one. Here in this photo is the point at which there was no return: had just dumped 2 cups of grated zucchini into all that chocolatey goodness. This is also proof that the zucchini was actually incorporated, for any who might doubt, due to its deliciousness. :-)
But how could this dish HELP but be delicious? Topped as it is with dark chocolate (my alteration) chips and toasted walnuts (and a pinch of espresso powder, since the directions omit when to put it in, and I forgot until the end!- don't let it happen to you!), I mean really. Finished product, with scavenger at work...