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!