20 February 2010

Sweethearts Meal

First of all, thanks for visiting the blog!! Since its inception last May, you've been coming and checking in on the idiosyncrasies of my kitchen life--hopefully finding some inspiration and camaraderie along the way. This evening I noticed that you've tipped the scales to over a thousand site visits! Keep coming back--it feels good to know that I'm not posting to an empty void. =)

So, "Sweethearts Meal". In lieu of Valentine's Day, since we were celebrating sister-in-law's wedding in PA that weekend. I did give my love a bar of chili chocolate on the day of, and he gave me a great back massage, but I didn't get to cook anything for him. And that's one of my primary love languages (if you couldn't tell). When we came home and I heard about some of your great Valentine's celebrations, I was inspired to do something more for my sweet.

Now think of the most romantic food you can imagine . . .

C'mon, try harder.

Got it in mind?

I'd be willing to bet money what you're thinking of isn't this:

Turnip soup.


Maybe not what most foodies would fix for their Valentine, but it was good. A little sweet, a little spicy, just like any good romance. See? You know you want to make it for your sweetheart next year. So, I'm adding this link to the recipe. Just because I'm that kind of person. I probably didn't follow the recipe exactly (I added frozen basil cubes, cayenne pepper, and freshly ground black pepper, for instance), but it was pretty close. And I wasn't kidding when I said it was good. We had it for a first and a last course!

When he came home, the table was set, love songs were playing, and the house was lit with candles. I served dinner course by course, all dolled up in my Hanover Beans apron (turned inside out--it's red) and silver flip-flops.

Creamy Turnip Soup

Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese and Almonds
& Baked Mushrooms

Baked Potato
& Lemon-Rosemary Baked Fish

Creamy Turnip Soup

He had to go to choir practice at 7:30, so we had our grand finale dessert when he got home:

Awwwwww. My own "Perfect" Carrot Cake (a half recipe with 2 cups mashed, cooked carrots) with cream cheese frosting and cinnamon-dust heart stencil. Just because I love him.

18 February 2010

Learning Sushi

My taste-tester doesn't want to go out for sushi because it's too expensive and he's not all that crazy about it. But I like sushi, and I want to eat it sometimes (sure, it would be great if I didn't have to pay an arm and a leg!). I had some friends in Israel who made sushi at home. I looked online. Only about a thousand articles on making sushi at home. Okay, it definitely seems doable.

The Ingredient Round-up was the most challenging part. Not because I don't have easy access to everything I need--just, well, I didn't make the time to go to the Oriental grocery and get it. It's, like, two miles away, you know? I'm not by there every day. Honestly, the biggest set-back was the sushi rice. I didn't want to pay out for five pounds of sushi rice that I might or might not use. So when a friend offered me some of his sushi rice, I jumped at it. We amiably swapped brown rice (we get it in a 25-lb. bag) for sushi rice. Yes! And then it was (finally) off to the Oriental grocery for the rest of the stuff: seaweed sheets (called "nori"), wasabi paste, rice vinegar, a bamboo sushi-rolling mat, and a few vegetables for fillings. I also got some noodles, cilantro, and lime to make a soup to go along with our sushi meal.

Things we already had on hand: chopsticks, fish (we cooked it for our sushi), tons of soy sauce, and a few other fillings (sesame seed, cream cheese, green onion).

Now that everything was assembled, I had no excuse. So, we made sushi! And it was good! Not the best sushi I'd ever had, but a lot cheaper and more fun to make it ourselves. We ran out of rice at three rolls, which was good because I could have made a LOT more and would have overeaten, I'm sure.

A few things: the nori were kinda chewy rather than soft or crunchy. Not sure what the deal was there. And we weren't sure if we were rolling them correctly. I had to do more research. I found out that there is a shiny and a rough side, and you're supposed to roll it with one specific side in. Hmmmm . . . totally missed that! I also discovered that most of the rolls were made with 1/2 a sheet of nori. This is great because with the same amount of rice we could experiment more and our rolls wouldn't curve around themselves as much. I read, too, that one make-your-own-sushi-at-home-er suggested wetting the roll when it was finished so that the nori wouldn't be chewy. This sounded like a good idea to me, but some commenters derided him for it, so I'm not sure.

Sushi is one of those intimidating foods because it has this whole set of rules and customs surrounding its making and eating. But I guess since we're not experts and not eating it in public (another advantage to making it at home) we can DO WHAT WE PLEASE! When we've figured out how we like it best, I'll post a how-to. In the meantime, scour the web and let me know what hints you might have for us.

16 February 2010


A new project around our house these days. We haven't had much luck with the popcorn popper we got at the thrift store, and I charred these using a borrowed coffee roaster. Unless you've roasted coffee before, you would not believe the stench/aroma that roasting produces! I was doing some roasting on the back stoop in the falling snow last week before we had to return the roaster. Looking for a better long-term solution . . . =) All advice accepted and considered.

10 February 2010

Rosemary Potato Bread

Yay! It turned out this time, and I'm ready to give you the recipe! I added some garlic powder this time and really liked the final flavor. The recipe I started from is found here.

Rosemary Potato Bread
(yield (3) 8 1/2 inch loaves
(2) 9-inch loaves and (1) small round loaf
or (3) equally-sized round loaves)

1 cup warm water*
2 TBSP active dry yeast
4 TBSP honey or sugar
6 - 8 cups flour**
1 cup warm milk
4 TBSP melted butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup mashed potatoes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 TBSP ground rosemary
1 tsp fresh-ground black pepper

Instructions: Dissolve yeast and 2 TBSP sweetener in the warm water. Stir in 1 cup flour and let rise 15 - 30 minutes. In another bowl combine milk, butter, other 2 TBSP of sweetener, mashed potatoes, eggs, salt, and spices. Stir in risen batter. Add flour until your bread holds together and is still soft and slightly sticky. Coat with a few TBSP oil, and let rise until doubled (this dough rises faster than others I've worked with!). Shape into loaves (I have done 2 9-inch loaves and one smaller round loaf--I really like the texture of the bread baked on a pizza stone). Let rise until double again. Bake at 350F for 35-45 minutes. Cool on wire racks. I dare you to resist cutting into a loaf while it's still warm!

Cook's Word
: this bread has a lovely flavor, made interesting by the occasional bite of black pepper. It makes excellent buttered toast, even five days out from baking. Experimental possibilities with other herbs/spices abound, so be creative!

* Note on water: if you mash the potatoes just for this bread the original recipe suggests saving the cooking water for dissolving the yeast in. I have been using potato flakes, so never had this chance.

** Note on flour: sorry for the inaccurate measurement. I hardly ever measure flour for bread anymore, just adding it in by cup until I get the consistency I want. The original recipe calls for 6 1/2 cups regular flour and 2 cups bread flour. I think my flour supply is bread flour. Also, I have used some whole wheat and some white flour which changes the quantities a little.

Currently eating for lunch:

pumpkin-shaped pasta with broccoli and a creamy white cheese sauce (leftover from last night's soft pretzels). It's actually surprisingly tasty--maybe because of the fresh-ground black pepper I added. Can you tell I've been obsessed with fresh-ground black pepper recently? Getting a pepper grinder really added a new dimension to my cooking. =)

04 February 2010

Flop, sorta . . .

Okay, all you Uncensored Kitchen peeps. Are you ready for a flop? Actually, it was kinda the opposite of a flop . . .

I made bread. Delicious potato bread with rosemary and black pepper. The dough was soft; it rose beautifully. The scent of it baking was simply heavenly. I cut into it when it was still hot, and slathered a slice with butter. Wow. Tender crumb, crisp, flaky crust. Double wowow. We ate that loaf all up.

And here's the one I was going to take for sister-in-law's wedding feast.

Uh, maybe not.

The texture and flavor were still there, but this was a flop (or an over-rise). Not sure if I just formed these sloppy or if I let them rise too long, but these loaves weren't quite wedding caliber (wording there supplied by my taste-tester). And that other loaf? Why the major difference? It happened to be a well-formed round loaf baked on stoneware. I'm not sure you can preserve the flakiness of a bread crust once you've cooled, sliced, frozen, and thawed a loaf, so I guess it's good we ate that one right away anyhow.

I'm going to try this again, tweak the seasonings and flour a little, and get back to you with a recipe. Before the wedding. Because I better have perfected it by then.

01 February 2010

Milkgurt Shake

Okay. Not really that much different from my smoothie, but the addition of some berry-flavored Italian ice did make it a bit more shake-like. And I love that creamy, yogurt flavor.

In order of appearance:

1/2 cup Italian ice
few frozen strawberries
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp honey or sugar
1/4 cup milk

Blend. Insert Straw. Enjoy! Taste-tester's shake is long gone, and mine is half-way there.