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?

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee! {Recipe}

First off, let me apologize for not writing anything for a long(ish) time. I have been busy with school and work and, well, have used my time to focus on other things (such as playing a certain game on Facebook) when I should have been editing photos and posting on here. So so sorry. Really. I love writing blog posts and everything, and sharing fun things with you. AND I am sorry I have not posted a recipe on here in an even longer time. So here’s just a few to get things rolling.

As you may already know, I like doing things in more than one way. This time around, I used coffee in three different recipes. For starters, I tried making coffee ice cream, but that turned out to be less than desirable.

The next recipe I tried was this Hot Fudge Pudding Cake, from Delish. Instead of making one large cake, I made cupcakes, which were good, but a bit sticky. I called them muddy cupcakes because they were so moist and soaked through with coffee.

The third recipe I tried was a version of rice krispies that involved chocolate and coffee, among other things. It had been years since I made anything in the rice krispie treat realm.

Anyway, my treats do not look as dark/chocolatey as the pictures shown on Shutterbean, but are just as tasty. Also, I did not add dried cherries or extra ‘mallows, as the recipe calls for. I figured it was chock-full of stuff as it was. Feel free to change up the mix-ins as desired.

Coffee Chocolate Marshmallow Krispies

from Shutterbean!

makes 12

recipe adapted slightly from Christina Tosi of Milk Bar via Rachael Ray Magazine

  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 2 bags (10 oz. each) mini marshmallows
  • 5 cups crispied rice cereal
  • 2 cups salted roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cherries, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground coffee (not instant)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • cooking spray

Line a 9 inch square baking dish with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. In a 10-12 quart pot, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add 10 cups mini marshmallows and cook, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes; remove the pot from the heat.

Using a wet spoon or spatula, fold in the rice cereal. Sprinkle in the almonds, cherries, ground coffee & salt; fold quickly to distribute. Sprinkle in the chocolate chips and remaining mini marshmallows; fold gently to distribute.

Spoon mixture into the prepared baking dish. Using slightly damp hands or a wet spatula, press into an even layer. Let cool completely and cut into square to serve.

What I’m Reading Wednesday

Today is my blogger friend, Annelies’ Food Poetry Party, in honor of her new website, The Food Poet. For the party, foodies are to share their favorite poems/poets and poets and writers are to share their favorite recipes or chef that inspires them.

So, this week, I have been reading a bit of poetry. For starters, I read the poems that were already shared on the Facebook page for the event. And I will share them with you:

I love
The Guest House by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Valentine
by Carol Ann Duffy

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

Here.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Lethal.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

and now my favorite poem/poet:

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

What is your favorite poem/poet that inspires you? Do you have a favorite recipe or chef that inspires you? Join the party and share in the comments!

[insert CORN-y title here] {Blueberry Corn Muffins Recipe}

If you’ve been around the food blogs this summer, you may have noticed it’s been the summer of corn and blueberries. Between the corn, cucumber, herb and tomato salad that’s become a staple at dinner and the various corn bread and corn muffins, I’ve definitely had my share of corn this year. As for blueberries, I added them to the aforementioned muffins, and eaten them right out of the basket from the store, but have not added them to much else this year, but many other bloggers have.

Here are some of my favorite recipes from other bloggers that use corn or blueberries that I would’ve loved to fit in this summer:

From Joy the Baker: Sweet Corn Biscuits

How Sweet It Is: Hot Blueberry Cheddar Dip

White On Rice Couple: Fizzy Blueberry and Meyer Lemonade

Shutterbean: Blueberry Pudding Cake

Smitten Kitchen: Bacon Corn Hash

and the Blueberry Corn Muffins I made from Two Peas and Their Pod:

Blueberry Corn Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

These tender corn muffins are bursting with blueberries. They are great for breakfast, a snack, or served as a side dish to any meal.

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose Gold Medal flour
1 cup course ground yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup blueberries

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Fill a regular-size muffin pan with paper muffin cups or spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, canola oil, vanilla, and eggs until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula until combined. The batter will be lumpy. Gently fold in the blueberries. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

4. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from pan and serve.

Photo Friday!

The past week has been filled with:

  1. A free San Francisco Symphony concert in Dolores park:
  2. Using this recipe for what I am re-naming “Muddy Cupcakes”:

and, yes, I will, eventually tell you more about those.

3. I am dreaming about making these, since I still have a lot of coffee to use up.

4. We made these blueberry-corn muffins; I found the recipe on Two Peas And Their Pod:

5. and if you are new around here, you might not already know that I am a part of foodie pen pals. This month, I received this:

Box of Delicious! {Foodie Pen Pal June & Coffee Brownie Recipe}

This month, as a part of the Foodie Pen Pals, I received a box from Heather and sent a box to Dustin.

A few weeks ago, I gave you a peek inside the box I got from Heather. Now it is finally time for the reveal!

Here’s what I got:

In case you can’t read all the labels, it’s Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Bar-Caramel with Black Sea Salt, Dark Chocolate Almond Toffee, Dark Chocolate (filled with) Speculoos Cookie Spread, Justin’s Organic Peanut Butter Cups, Artisana Pecan Butter, Jessica’s Vanilla Maple Granola, Artisana Coconut Butter, and Trader Joe (Jaques) Fleur Del Sel Caramels. (Heather did say she loves Trader Joe’s in her note, which, by the way, is the card with the cherries on it in the background.)

Thanks, Heather for the yumminess and for making me want to visit my local TJ’s! :)

For Dustin, I used some of the coffee from last month’s box to make brownies. I really like the idea of using something from the last box to forward on to the next one. Just a fair warning for the other foodie pen pals reading this right now.

I forgot to include the recipe in Dustin’s box, so I am putting it here:

Adapted from Epicurious: (original recipe)

Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 15 tablespoons (2 sticks minus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons finely ground coffee beans
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9x2-inch metal pan with nonstick spray. Combine sugar, butter, cocoa, ground coffee, and salt in large metal bowl. Place bowl over saucepan of simmering water and whisk until butter melts and ingredients are blended (texture will be grainy). Remove bowl from over water; cool mixture to lukewarm if necessary. Whisk in eggs and vanilla. Sift flour over and fold in.

Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake brownies until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool brownies in pan.

Note: the original recipe includes pecans in the brownies and a mocha frosting, but I thought the brownies were good as is.

Popovers. {recipe}

I realized I haven’t shared a recipe on this site in a long time. So, here you go. Popovers. They are really quite simple. No fancy equipment. No special ingredients. Just a bowl, whisk, muffin tin, and a HOT oven. Just flour, eggs, butter, milk, and salt.

I love using old kitchen tools and things. Like these egg beaters and muffin tins. The egg beaters are new to me, but old to someone else, and the muffin tin is my mother’s from many years ago.

This is what they look like in the oven. I was proud that they kinda looked like the picture on The Kitchn, where I got the recipe from. Please excuse the reflection of me in the oven door. Or not. I think it’s artsy, but what do I know?

I squished them a little when taking them out of the pan. I’m blaming it on the oldness of the pan and that they stuck a lot. It’s probably just that I was not being that careful. But whatever. They tasted good, and that’s what counts, right? Right.

There you have it. Popovers. Oh, right, at the top of this post I said I would post the recipe. Okay, here it is, as seen on The Kitchn:

 

How to Make Popovers

Makes 6 large or 12 small popovers
Recipe adapted from the Joy of Cooking

What You Need

Ingredients

1 cup (8 ounces) whole or 2% milk
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and divided
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Equipment

Blender or food processor
OR
Whisk and a bowl

Popover pan
OR
Muffin tin

Instructions

1. Make the Popover Batter: In a food process or blender, or with a whisk and a bowl, blend the milk, eggs, and one tablespoon melted butter until completely combined. Add the flour and the salt. Blend until frothy and bubbly.

2. Heat the Oven: Heat the oven to 450°F. Let the popover batter rest while the oven heats. This gives the flour time to absorb the liquid and gives the popovers a better texture.

3. Pour the Batter into the Pans: Put the popover tin or muffin pan in the oven for 2 minutes to warm. Remove from the oven and divide the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter between the cups. Whiz (or whisk) the batter one more time to froth it up again and then fill each cup halfway.

4. Bake the Popovers for 15 Minutes: Place the pan back into the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Do not open the oven door during baking (this causes the popovers to deflate).

5. Reduce the Heat and Continue Baking: Still without opening the oven, reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for another 15 minutes. Now you can open the oven door and check the popovers. Finished popovers will be golden-brown, feel dry to the touch, and sound hollow when tapped.

6. Prick with a Knife, Cool, and Eat!: Turn the popovers out onto a drying rack. Pierce the bottoms with a knife to allow steam to escape. Cool just enough so they can be handled and then eat immediately.

Additional Notes:

Making Popovers Ahead: Popovers are the best when they’re fresh from the oven. But if you need to make them ahead, just warm them in a 350°F oven until warm and crispy again, about 5 minutes.

Freezing Popovers: Freeze baked popovers in an airtight bag or container for up to three months. To re-heat, place the popovers directly from the freezer into a 350° oven and bake until warm and crispy, about 8 minutes.

Other Ways to Make Popovers: While you should keep the ratio of milk, eggs, and flour about the same, you can add other flavoring ingredients to the batter. Try a few tablespoons of sugar for sweet popovers or a few teaspoons of herbs and spices for savory ones. Or you can really treat yourself and make cheesy popovers.