Weekend Recipes

These are the dishes we made over the weekend, but I’m sure they’ll taste just as good any day of the week. :)

2013-04-06-pumpkin-mushroom-soup

First up, Saturday night, was this very simple pumpkin soup recipe, adapted from Epicurious. We used fresh pumpkin instead of canned, fresh ginger instead of powdered, and a small, almost whole piece of star anise. The rye bread, pictured, was also freshly homemade.

  • 2 15-ounce cans pure pumpkin (we used a small pumpkin, about 3 pounds)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder*
  • 4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, sliced

Since we used fresh pumpkin, there were these added steps:

Cut skin off outside of pumpkin and discard. Cut pumpkin into approx. 1-1/2 inch chunks, making sure to cut away any of the stringy bits and seeds. Place pumpkin in boiling water and boil, covered, for about 3 minutes, until pumpkin is just about cooked through. You don’t want the pumpkin too soft since it will cook a little more in with the rest of the ingredients in the soup. Puree the cooked pumpkin chunks with just enough water to make it easier for the pumpkin to move around the food processor or blender. Puree until it looks like baby food—small pieces are okay.

Bring first 4 ingredients to simmer in large saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking often. Whisk in syrup, 2 tablespoons butter, and five-spice powder. Simmer soup 10 minutes, whisking often. Season with salt and pepper. (Soup can be made 1 day ahead. Chill until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Bring to simmer before serving.) Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Divide soup among 6 bowls. Sprinkle soup with mushrooms, dividing equally; serve.

* A blend of ground anise, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and ginger available in the spice section of most supermarkets. We used fresh ginger instead of ground; since we were making our own spice blend. We chopped the ginger finely and then sauteed it with the mushrooms and put into the soup at the end.

2013-04-07-pita

Next, I made some pita, recipe slightly adapted from smitten kitchen. I made only 1/2 the recipe and used active dry yeast that I dissolved in the water for about five minutes before adding to the dough instead of the instant yeast.We like to eat pita, warm, with (homemade) hummus and possibly some restaurant-made felafel.

2013-04-07-asparagus

Dinner, Sunday night, polenta and mackerel and asparagus. We simply steamed the asparagus. Broiled the mackerel with this marinade and sauteed onions and mushrooms and added them to the polenta. We are still working on just exactly how to cook polenta correctly so that it comes out the the right consistency, so I’ll get back to you on that. Anyone have any polenta-cooking tips?
What did you cook/eat over the weekend? I’d love to hear about it in the comments, or you can share with me on my Facebook page!

What I’m Liking Wednesday {Recipe}

Balance. It can be a hard thing to do. It takes practice and concentration. When you are trying to balance everything in your life, you need to figure out what is most important to you and put everything into perspective. It might even mean changing some things around to make it all work. I am still concentrating on making it work for me.

I try to just go with the flow and make the system work, but sometimes I need to take a step back and realize that something needs to change to make the balancing work. I have a tendency to need to plan ahead and follow the rules and not break away from that system. Other times, I feel like I need to balance planning and going with the flow so that it works.

Most people say that they are afraid of baking because they cannot just add “a pinch of this or that” and cannot stray from the recipe. While this is somewhat true, this is part of why I like baking. Yes, you need to follow the ratio of flour, sugar, and butter to make a cookie dough work. (See my 1-2-3 Cookie Dough) However, there are some variations you can have with a recipe while baking. For example, I recently made these Slice & Bake Oatmeal cookies, but I altered the recipe to what I had on hand. I used cocoa powder instead of the whole wheat flour and I added ground ginger. I did not use any raisins because I don’t like them, but also because I didn’t think that these cookies needed them with all of the other flavors going on. This is a perfect example of balancing flavors to make it work. I would not have thought that this was going to work as well as it did had I not practiced and made other types of cookies previously.

These cookies were tempting to make as is, because I like the idea of having cookie cough on hand so that I can make only one or two at a time. I think the chocolate makes them even more tempting. I mean, who can resist chocolate? :) I believe these cookies, as modified, have the perfect balance of flavors, but also the right balance of textures. They are soft in the middle and have a chewy edge, sort of like a brownie. The oats give the cookies the typical oatmeal cookie chewiness also. The recipe does still need to be tweaked some, it was a little sticky, and probably does not need as much oatmeal as the recipe calls for. I need to work on balancing the ingredients to make them just that much more perfect. Like I said, balancing can be hard and take a lot of work, but it can be done. When balance is achieved, life (and recipes) is good! :)

Tell me, what do you do to keep things in your life balanced?

 

Original recipe found on Shutterbean. Modified/added ingredients/instructions in Italics.

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats

Whisk  flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. (I sifted all ingredients into the bowl.) Using an electric mixer, beat butter and both sugars on high speed until light and creamy, 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend and scraping down bowl between additions. Beat in vanilla.

Reduce speed to low. Gradually add dry ingredients; mix just to combine. Fold in oats.

Divide dough between 2 large sheets of parchment paper. Using paper as an aid, roll up each piece of dough into a 1 1/2-inch diameter log. Wrap in plastic; freeze for at least 4 hours and up to 3 weeks.

Preheat oven to 350°. Unwrap dough and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds (return unused dough to freezer); place 2-inch apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake cookies until edges are golden brown, 15-18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool. I baked mine for about 11 minutes, on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Easy Dinners {Recipe}

I have always been a fan of easy dinners, especially since I am sometimes eating dinner alone. It is always more exciting and better making/sharing dinner with someone else! For me, easy dinners are defined as having few and/or on hand ingredients, and take little time to make.

Here are some examples of easy dinners I’ve made that don’t necessarily require a recipe:

  • roasted vegetables & a grain: it is easy to just get out a large (casserole-sized) baking dish, toss veggies in oil, salt and pepper, and then throw the whole thing in a preheated (400-425ish) oven for just a few (15-20) minutes. I like serving the veggies over pasta, and to make it healthier, and for more protein, you could serve it over brown rice or quinoa. Play around with the veggie combos: squash, peppers, carrots, onion, garlic, broccoli, etc. Make it with a different grain: pasta, rice, quinoa, farro, etc.

roasted_squash

  • salads: basic components of a salad are just as simple as the above-mentioned roasted veggies & a grain. just swap out roasted veggies for fresh, replace the grain with a lettuce (although some grains, such as qunioa make for a good texture addition). Again, play around with the basics to make this meal exciting every time! Want more protein? Add tuna, chopped or shredded chicken or beef. A simple splash of oil & vinegar make for a fresh salad dressing.
  • Related recipe I’ve made (and liked): Tacos with Roasted Vegetables and Red Cabbage Slaw

Other recipes I’ve made recently that are easy and result in some awesome leftovers:

pasta

Basically, I am a fan of “set it and forget it” recipes that make a lot of portions so as to not have to worry about lunch the next day! ;)

What are your favorite easy dinners? Share with me in the comments!

What I’m Liking Wednesday

As I’ve mentioned before, I like listening to The Moth podcast. At the end of every podcast they say, “we hope you have a story-worthy week”. Lately, I’ve really been paying attention to what I spend my time doing and the interactions I’ve had and really try to have a “story-worthy” week. This past week was filled with a lot:

  • Saturday, we got together to buy beer for the tasting party, made sure we had all of the ingredients ready for making pretzels, and then Saturday night we went to the RAWdance Concept series, where we saw a handful of talented dancers share their latest ideas. We then went to Public Works, where we met up with some more artists, this time of the painting/photography/etc. type, enjoyed some drinks and even witnessed a friend’s artwork get sold!
  • Sunday, as I mentioned, we had the beer tasting, and made some pretzels. It was a huge success! Everyone enjoyed the day of beer (or fresh basil lemonade) drinking, pretzel (and felafel, humus, cheese, and pita) eating and basically a large gathering of friends.
  • Monday was a bit of a recovery day. We slept in and then I rode my bike home (through Golden Gate park) and then enjoyed the warm (almost 70!) day in the park near my house. Then, I was, surprisingly, called by a long-time friend that I haven’t connected with (but will hopefully be better connected with in the near future) in a long time! It was the highlight of my day!
  • Tuesday was also a relaxing and warm day. I spent some time catching up on podcasts and reading since the Internet in our house has been down (I am currently typing this in the library).

I have also been enjoying something new: I have been meditating on a semi-regular basis since the beginning of this month. Since it is new to me, I have not been meditating for more than 15 minutes so far, but I hope to maintain my “schedule” of increasing my sitting time (by increasing the time 1 minute per day, but repeating the time if I miss a day or two) to 20 minutes by the end of the month. Any tips & tricks are definitely welcome, please share in the comments!

Tomorrow is Pi Day (3.14 aka March 14) so we are planning on making a mushroom-onion tart. This will be the first savory tart I’ve made since the chicken pot pie I made almost a year ago. Do you have anything planned for Pi Day? What about St. Patrick’s Day? Any green in your future? Let me know what you have planned and/or what made your week “story-worthy”!

Photo Friday! {Portland Recap}

I know this should have been posted last week, but I honestly forgot all about it.

Portland-bike_sign

We saw this sign and a lot (but not all of them had that koala sticker on the head). I think they should post these signs in San Francisco, too.

Portland-moonstruck_chocolate_company

One of the first places we went to was Moonstruck Chocolate Company. Their chocolates were good, but some were just too sweet to want more.

Portland-Stumptown_coffee

Speaking of chocolate, we went to Stumptown Coffee, where we tried this hot chocolate, and of course, their coffee. It was as good as the small local (in SF) coffee shops such as Blue Bottle or Four Barrel.

Portland-Roscoes

We also went to Roscoe’s, and tried the stouts they had on tap that week. Mike got the taster pictured, and I got the double chocolate. (Yes, more chocolate. Note: this was not all in one day.)

Portland-Kenny&Zukes It was Purim while we were in Portland, so eating a hamentashen was required. (Though we probably would’ve gotten one anyway.) This was from Kenny and Zuke’s Deli. We also ate their matzo ball soup and latkes; all was good.Portland-songbird_cafeIf you are following my Facebook feed, you might have seen this picture already. It is of the tea I got at breakfast at Songbird Cafe one day. I liked the way the tea bag was floating in the mug; so pretty! Other Portland places of note that we went to: (a list can be found on my Foursquare)

And…that’s all for my Portland recap! It was really a fun trip and I can’t wait to go back!

What I’m Liking Wednesday

What I’m liking this week…

  1. I’ve pretty much been into this for awhile now, but brown butter. It’s easy to make, and once you have some on hand, you might find yourself putting it in/on everything. Have some plain, boring pasta? Add brown butter. Roasted veggies? Add brown butter. Seriously, you can replace the butter in any dessert recipe and it would make it better. On that note, I’ve also found that doubling the salt in almost any dessert recipe gives you good results as well. Some recipes that I’ve made recently that have brown butter in them:
  2. Taste What You’re Missing, by Barb Stuckey. I am not done reading it yet, but so far, I have learned (and relearned) how you taste things and thinking about the food I eat in a different way. For example, the first few chapters are broken down by the different senses, and she explains and gives examples of how you can experience these sensations through different taste tests at the end of each chapter, and one that I am a big fan of is the “Separating Taste from Smell” test, which includes pinching your nose while eating something (the typical subject of this test is jellybeans) and then, once the item is in your mouth and have started chewing, note how it tastes. Then, still chewing, unplug your nose and note the difference. This one was relearned for me as we did this test in culinary school, but I hadn’t done it again since then, and it still fascinates me. I like trying it with fresh fruit instead of jellybeans, since it has the strongest, best flavor difference.
  3. NPR: Ask Me Another podcast and The Moth podcast. Two very different podcasts, but both funny and entertaining in their own way. The first, Ask Me Another, is a trivia game show of a few different rounds played by contestants from the audience at their show in Brooklyn, NY as well as a round of questions (and an interview) with a celebrity guest. The Moth is a storytelling podcast, where they broadcast people’s stories about random topics. Most are funny, some are serious, and all are entertaining. This show is even coming to San Francisco, and I’ll be listening live!

Those are the highlights of what I’ve been into lately.

What about you? Any repeat flavors you’ve been into? How about a book you’re reading, a movie you’ve seen, or blog or podcast you’ve found enjoyable? Any recommendations? 

 

What I Am Liking Wednesday

I’ve decided to broaden the “What I’m Reading Wednesday” posts to just things that I am into right now, rather than limiting myself to articles or other things I’ve read that I have found interesting.
Since it is a New Year, I’d like to start this post off with things that I’ve learned or have “improved my intelligence on” over the most recent past:

  1. Good food starts with good ingredients and takes time. By this I mean the literal, that you need to start with ingredients that are, well, quality. Whether this means that they are fresh, or locally grown (in your backyard or in another’s), sustainable, seasonal, or a combination of those, I believe that the ingredients you cook with need to be, for lack of a better term, real. They need to be something that was generally not altered in anyway; no added sugar or other additives, “unpronounceables”, etc. The “takes time” part of the statement, to me, means that either it took time to grow the ingredients (perhaps you grew your own basil and tomatoes for sauce) or that you took the time to make an ingredient from scratch or even that you took the time to cook at all, rather than buying take-out. That is not to say that I do not enjoy take-out or even having someone else do the cooking for me (either in a house or in restaurant) every once in a while, but just that the general idea of good food taking time and starting with good, quality ingredients. Here are a few recipes that are good examples of this that I have made (and might go into more detail about later on): Crumpets (aka English muffins), Brussels Sprouts salad, Corn and Tomato salad (may not have followed this exact recipe, but did make something similar), and Grilled Swordfish
  2. Practice does not necessarily make perfect, but it can get you pretty close.  I have learned this in several different ways, over many years, and through many experiences, but most recently, I have realized this in the “things I do for fun” category. Take biking, for example; I recently learned how to ride a bike and have only been riding for a few months. However, I know most of you out there probably learned a young age and/or know that this is something that is taught at a young age (and that learning it as an adult can be harder than learning it as a kid). This is where the practice comes in. If I did not ride and put my mind on thinking about how to ride a bike, I would’ve never learned how or have gotten better. The same goes for many other skills that I have acquired lately. I would’ve never gotten better at climbing, or cooking, or baking for that matter. If I did not study and practice these skills, I would never learn how and I would never improve. The main thing that I learned recently though, is that no matter how much you practice, no matter how much you study, you will never be perfect at whatever it is and you can never know everything there is to know about the subject you are studying. You can come close, and certainly people have come so close that they are considered experts in their fields. But, as a chef/professor once said, “if you think that you have nothing else to learn, you might as well just quit”. So while you may call yourself a “perfectionist”, you might want to change your way of thinking just slightly because even though you might strive for perfection, you might not ever get there, and you have to be okay with that.
  3. Looking at something through a different perspective is important. Whether this means simply, taking a different approach to doing something, or more deeply, taking a walk in someone else’s shoes, it is important to examine the potential in any given situation. On the first, more simple understanding of this idea, of taking a different approach to something, I have learned this by way of learning how to (rock) climb. When I first started out, I took the approach of “just do it, don’t think about it”. I think that I mainly took this approach at first because of my fear of heights and I needed to just be comfortable climbing to these heights and being secure if I should fall. This was just in the very beginning. Now that I have gotten over that stage, I have started to take a different approach to learning how to climb. I have more of a strategy and more of an understanding of how to create a strategy of where to go next. I think about what I am doing more and look around for the best option that will help get me in climbing up the wall. (You could also take these lessons in climbing as a figurative way of approaching some other things in life, but that’s a another story for another time, perhaps.) As far as the more complex and deeper, more intimate way of looking at something from a different perspective, I have, and am still learning, to look at the way others might view the situation at hand. I have taken into consideration how my boyfriend might think of a situation, or how he might learn something, or even his approach on learning the same thing that I am trying to learn. (I’m not trying to be vague here, and if you want more information, let me know; I am just trying to keep this post relatively short.) I have learned that seeing things from another’s perspective is important in learning and connecting with the other person. If you want to have a better relationship with someone, whether we are talking romantically, professionally, or whatever, you need to have a basic understanding of their ideas on the subject(s) and see things from their perspective because then you can communicate with them a bit better and have better, more meaningful connections with them.

I think, if you made it this far through the post, you can see that I’ve learned a lot in the past year or so and still have a lot of learning to do. I hope you will join me on my journey and you will learn with me and that we can learn from each other. Also, a little something that might make you smile.

Reader question: What have you learned lately?