Monday, May 31, 2010

Suite Apple Pie's younger sister

~I hope you have a sunny and relaxing Memorial Day~
I'll have a food post for you later this week. I'm partaking in some of that relaxation today myself. Our grill is out of commission at the moment due to backyard renovations so we won't be barbecuing anything today. I can't decide whether to make something to suit the day indoors, or to just throw a no-cook meal together this warm evening.
For right now, I'd like to introduce you to the second blog I've been writing the past few months, the little sister to this one if you will. She's a bit gangly and awkward now, but so was this one in the beginning (and like me, continues to have her moments). A mutt-combination of different topics: part pregnancy blog, part personal experience, even part food. My hope is to evolve into something that spans Mommy and food blog someday. For now she is what she is and you may or may not have interest in the subject matter.
Waiting for Grace is there for my own memories and for other young women like me. Read, don't read, but you are welcome.
~See you later~

Friday, May 28, 2010

Pumpkin Oats swirled with Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter

Happy Friday! A little breakfast treat?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A New Favorite

Can you tell this is a crockpot dish?

Maybe I'm slow on the uptake, but I had no idea you could make so many things in them. I've always associated the crockpot with slow-cooked meats and stews, the kind of thing I would only make on special occasions for a large group with a hefty amount of animal protein. Because of this I didn't own one until last year when I was gifted with one. She's a petite red model, 4-quart capacity with a removable insert (key for cleaning), and low, high, and warm settings.
I made one of Ray's favorites, beef stroganoff, in the winter. But the pot remained in its box for the most part until recently when I came across a collection of eye-opening recipes. I realized this is what I was lacking- inspiration and the desire to try some new cooking techniques. The possibilities were tantalizing- dips, soups, fish, even dessert! The crockpot has come out of the box and has been living on my counter ever since.
This soup is one of my first dishes as I emerged from my morning sickness coma.
I've had it three times now and it has become an all-time favorite. Soups and the crockpot aren't only for cold weather! This is a wonderful springtime dinner, with light vegetables and a salty richness from the cubes of pecorino.
As easy as soup is, it's even easier in the crockpot. A bit of quick sauteeing in the beginning before adding all the ingredients to the pot- and that's it!
Set the pot on low or high depending on how much time you have, and walk away. A speedy chop of parsley and cheese at the end to finish the soup, and you have a hearty bowl paired with some toasted bread. You get protein from the healthy portion of cheese; you could add more on the side in the form of some grilled chicken or an omelette.
Pecorino romano is a wonderful cheese similar to parmesan, but stronger and more pungent. I often favor a grated parmesan-romano blend to reap the benefits of both, but you can also buy it in wedges which is what I use here. The cubes and their flavor melt into the soup. It's a salty cheese so I would recommend stirring it in before you check for seasonings.
Tomato and Barley Soup with Pecorino
taken from The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone
serves 6
1 large onion, chopped fine
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
olive oil
4 cups broth- chicken, beef, or a combination
2 cups water
1 cup barley, rinsed and picked over
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes
1 cup diced Pecorino Romano cheese
1 large handful chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
In a medium skillet, saute the onion and celery in olive oil over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes. Scrape the vegetables in the crockpot. Add the broth, water, tomatoes, and barley. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours* until the barley is tender. Stir in the cheese and parsley. Test for seasonings, and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.
*Cooking time can vary depending on the size of your crockpot. My 4 quart is smaller than many recipes use, so my cook times are quicker. This soup is forgiving, so if you notice it has cooked faster than you expected, simply turn off the machine and keep it covered. Add the cheese and parsley once you are ready to serve.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

. . . and newly discovered parents-to-be
Shortly after learning that news, Ray and I spent two days in the city as a mini-vacation. We walked the Embarcardero, visited the Ferry Building several times, and braved the crowds at the new California Academy of Sciences. We spent an evening (our second visit time) at Teatro Zinzanni, a spectacular evening of dinner theater with great food and entertainment. But my best food memory on our stay was breakfast the morning after.
This was early April, and at that time I was ill. I won't gross you out with the details, and many women have it much worse than I did. I was able to eat and avoid any unpleasant upchucking, but was kind of limited on what sounded appealing. The only time I didn't feel achingly nauseous was when I was shoveling food in my mouth. Combine that with a stomach for starchy carbs and I put on a good few pounds my first 12 weeks! No specific numbers here, since I'm hoping in years to come I will forget them. :-)
This is not to say that I didn't enjoy our trip immensely; we had a great time despite my slow pace and finicky tummy. I had been wanting to visit Tartine for a while so I had it bookmarked for breakfast. We hopped on the BART train and walked the half dozen blocks to the teeny tiny cafe. I mean teeny tiny- we were very lucky to get a table after only a few minutes.
Enough chattering, this post is really about the food porn that was our breakfast. I knew exactly what I wanted when we arrived, and I had a pretty good idea what Ray would like too. We both ordered cafe au lait of course, served in big bowls Parisian-style.
Glug glug glug :)
My suspicions about Ray were confirmed: he ordered a crispy pain au chocolat, buttery and oozing with sweet milk chocolate.

Tartine is famous for their morning buns, but as I peered through the glass cafe of pastries my second choice called to me so strongly I couldn't resist: the frangipane croissant.

Buttery and flakey with a bit of frangipane (similar to almond paste, maybe a bit creamier) in the center, dusted with toasted almonds and powdered sugar.
Normally I'm very conscientious about what I eat for breakfast- I want it to be healthy for that fact alone but also because it's the meal that sets the tone for the rest of the day. But that day, #1 I was on vacation, and more importantly #2, I was pregnant and hungry.
I ate the whole thing.

And continue to dream of my next visit to Tartine Bakery to try their morning bun.
And another frangipane croissant.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Brioche in the Oven

Hello blog world! It's so very nice to see you.

It's been more than a month since I've posted here, and the time has really flown by! It's nice to be back posting and sharing a recipe. A good recipe at that; if you like sweet breads like croissants, babka, and muffins like I do, adding brioche to your arsenal will lead you down some scrumptious paths.

I've made a few yummy things during this break that went undocumented. I don't doubt they'll make return visits to my table soon, and I take comfort in the fact that though they didn't make it on the blog, creativity and desire for delicious homecooked meals was not totally lost.

Most bloggers need a break now and then; there are a few who post daily. I've said before I take my hat off to them, it's no small feat. I don't make money on this blog, so I have no requirement there to keep chugging no matter what. There are times when I'm not feeling creative or eating anything new, but I'm decent at finding something interesting to share. There are countless personal reasons why a food blogger may not post.

~I can't speak for most of them, but this is mine~

We've got our own little brioche in the oven, rising and due to emerge in November.
I like to joke that she's a girl (won't confirm for another month or so) because she's already giving me grief- morning sickness (a powerful force!) robbed me of any desire to cook or put much thought into food for a good 6 weeks. I still ate- in fact hungry like crazy- but only what I could stomach at that moment, while feeling nauseous from getting out of bed to returning there at night.

This blog break was mandatory for me; thinking about food was impossible, let alone documenting and writing about it. I'm feeling pretty normal these days- besides my slowly expanding belly- back to thinking about food and enjoying it often. I had, and have, a few odd food and craving experiences, but I'll save those for another day.

~Meanwhile, back to my lovely brioche~

I love this buttery, dessert-like bread on a special occasion, but I'd never made it myself. Be warned, it does take some ahead planning since the dough must be refrigerated overnight. The dough itself is extremely manageable and forgiving of the poking and prodding of shaping.

Fiori di sicilia is a citrus-vanilla extract often used in panettone, the Italian bread made at Christmas with a brioche dough and lots of dried fruit and nuts. The scent pairs with brioche wonderfully so I decided to add a few drops to this dough. You can easily leave this out if you don't like it. If you can't find it, a few drops of a vanilla and a lemon or orange extract could be substituted.
Take a slice and spread it with a little strawberry jam. Skip the butter; there is plenty in the dough. Trust me. You are welcome for the suggestion.

Classic Brioche
scented with fiori di sicilia
adapted from King Arthur Flour

2 3/4 cups, plus 2 Tbs all-purpose flour
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
3 Tbs sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbs instant yeast
3 large eggs
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/2 tsp fiori di sicilia
10 Tbs cold butter, cut into pieces

Place all ingredients in a bread machine and program for the dough cycle. If you don't have a bread machine, use a stand mixer fitted with dough attachment for 15 to 20 minutes. Do not knead by hand.

Form the dough into a soft ball and place in a large greased bowl. Let rise for 1 hour, then refrigerate overnight.

Divide the chilled dough into six pieces on a floured work surface. Roll three pieces into rope and braid together, tucking the ends underneath. Repeat with the last three pieces and place in a greased baking pan. Two 8 1/2" by 4 1/2" loaf pans are ideal (I didn't have any so I used an 8x8 glass dish which worked nicely). Cover lightly and let rise for 3 hours on the counter until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 15 minutes, then tent with foil to prevent too much browning. Continue baking for 25 minutes, then remove the foil to finish for another 10, a total of 50 minutes in the oven.

Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pans to cool completely. If you used one 8x8 dish like me, the two loaves will have baked up touching each other, but come apart very easily.