Pages

30 March 2013

ladies night

(via imgur)
Spring Break woooooo! My parents must have done something right because both me and my kid sister went into the field of education and now we get pretty awesome vacations. The week after my school's Spring Break, my sister was on her break. Since she had no plans to get wild and crazy in Cancun, she headed down to Baltimore to hang out with me for a couple of days and check out my new digs. Get the two of us together and of course some fun was going to happen in the kitchen.

We spent Thursday night quietly indulging in wine and cheese, gossiping while we ignored crummy tv shows, sorting through clothes, rearranging furniture, discussing Pinterest projects, and just generally catching up with one another. Typical sister stuff. It reminds me how much I've missed having another lady around the house to do this kind of stuff with! Living with a boy can be such a drag sometimes. Oh, brother no thank you; sometimes you need oh, sister. Despite our evening of girly good times, we are getting old and decided to hit the hay kind of early so that we could have a full and fabulous Friday.

And it was Friday that saw the real fun and excitement - after early morning errands and some back and forth texting, we decided that something needed to be baked in honor of the Easter holiday. There's a recipe that I've been dying to try out ever since I moved back to Baltimore so I roped her into helping me out with it. After struggling with my new split box spring (finally, Honey and I have a real bed!) we strapped on some windbreakers. A lovely stroll through the neighborhood on a breezy and sunny morning brought us to my favorite place, the grocery store! Along with about a million eggs, we picked up the rest of the ingredients for a Lady Baltimore cake.

how many more minutes?
Had I been aware of the complicated life of Lady Baltimore (Anne Arundell or Charlotte Lee?, married as a child, sooo many babies, separations and scandal,) I might have guessed that the cake that bears her name would be equally difficult. Full of whipping and meringue and marshmallow with fruit, this sticky concoction may be beautiful, but it is not a simple task to create. The batter was easy enough to make, even with the slow folding in of egg whites. Unfortunately, the suggested three layer cake required another tablespoon or so of batter than the recipe yielded and our top layer was pretty puny! Really, it was the icing that was a pain in the butt. When I think of meringue, I think of the whipped up egg whites baked for just long enough to create a crisp and light little kiss of food colored sweetness, just like my grandma used to make. Well, either we whipped it up wrong or the pre-baked version of meringue is an awful lot like marshmallows, and I know a thing or two about the horrific sticky situation that comes from working with marshmallows. I also neglected to read the recipe ahead of time (a mistake I'm guilty of far too often,) and my recipe read-alouder/sous chef didn't tell me ahead of time that I'd be whipping for nearly 15 minutes so I ended up using the hand mixer rather than the simpler and less physically tiring stand mixer. While I did all the whipping, Tricia was put to work cutting up all the teeny tiny dried fruits - cherries, figs, plums, and raisins - into even smaller pieces. The recipe called for candied fruits, you know the kind that you'd put in fruit cake. But I think those are gross, so we used dried fruits instead. Because of that lame third layer, the one that was practically a pancake, we nearly ran out of sticky, messy frosting. And because neither of us are that great at decorating cakes, it wasn't a beautiful endeavor.  But once it was finished and afternoon tea was served (yeah that's right, we celebrated high tea,) we discovered that the sticky, messy, overly-complicated cake was quite the delicious confection. Light, fluffy and with just the right amount of sweetness, we even decided that it made a pretty perfect Easter cake.

can you even tell that this is tiered?
lady baltimore cake (inspired by what's cooking america)
ingredients
2 1/2 c sifted cake flour (with baking powder and salt premixed in)
1 c milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 c vegetable shortening
1/4 c unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
4 egg whites
fruit & nut filling (recipe as follows)
meringue fristing (recipe as follows)
directions
1. Preheat oven to 350; prepare 2-3 8" or 9" pans with butter and flour. In a bowl, combine milk and vanilla, set aside. In the bowl of you mixer cream together shortening, butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
2. With the mixer on low, alternately add flour and milk, mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl, beginning and ending with the flour.
3. In a clean bowl, using a clean beater, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Slowly and gently fold the egg whites into the batter in quarters to lighten the mix. Evenly spoon the batter into the pans and bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool before icing.

does it count as child labor when it's you kid sister?

fruit & nut filling
1/4 c raisins, finely chopped
1/4 c figs, cut in strips
1/4 c dried cherries, chopped
1/2 c walnuts, finely chopped

meringue icing
ingredients
2 eggs whites
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
2/3 c water
1 tsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
directions
1. With a clean mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, set aside.
2. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine sugar, corn syrup and water, stirring frequently. Increasing heat to high stop stirring and allow mixture to reach a steady boil. When a candy thermometer reads 248 degrees, remove from heat. 
3. With the mixer at a medium-high speed, slowly pour the hot mixture over the already beaten egg whites. Add vanilla and continue to beat until the mixture is cool, thick and shiny. Mix about 1/3 - 1/2 of the icing with the fruit and nut mix to spread between the layers.

we suggest indulging in this cake whilst wearing your most fabulous easter bonnet!

But it was still cake and since we indulged in it both batter and baked, we needed to walk off the bellies. So we walked through Fells Point... straight to the movie theater for popcorn, cheesy crab pretzels, and a dose of giggles from my fave funny lady and my first crush in Admission. It was super cute and we both kind of wish our mom was there because Lizzie B would have totally loved it. A lovely walk home along the sunset painted harbor led us straight to the bar. I'll dish more on my neighborhood bar, Bad Decisions, another time because for now all you need to know is that they make a killer cocktail. Fruity pants, Tricia got some brightly colored concoction that tasted like pineapple (yuck!) while I stuck with a classic old man cocktail like I normally do. We tipsily strolled home to complete our holiday weekend festivities - time to dye Easter eggs! We tried to do the marbled egg trick with oil, but it didn't quite work. I couldn't find any crayons to wax draw on the eggs either. Let's just say that the Faberge family we aren't. They weren't anything fancy until I broke out the glitter and sequins. Easter is a solemnly celebratory holiday made all the more fun with a little razzle dazzle!


can you tell which one I decorated?

All in all I had an absolutely wonderful couple of days with my kid sister. She truly is the best sister I've ever had... well, the only sister I've ever had. Hey, Tricia! I love you a ton, even when you're being cranky because Mom put an embarrassing outgoing message on the answering machine while our teenaged selves are vacationing at the beach (our teeny tiny selves singing "Here Comes Peter Cottontail" in honor of Easter!) Thanks for being one of first house guests, xoxo.

hoppy easter from these cute little bunnies!

28 March 2013

holi moly

Reminiscing about my amazing vacation to Budapest the other night (I haven't unpacked everything just yet, at least not enough to compose a post, but I promise I'll get one out soon,) brought about a strong feeling of wanderlust. I've been a pretty lucky gal and have had quite a few opportunities to stamp my passport. But it's been quite some time since my last exotic adventure and I'd like to go overseas again pretty soon. I'm getting that antsy feeling that can only be quelled by immersing myself into an entirely different culture.

One of the locales on my dream travel list is India and it turns out that Honey wants to go to there, too! Our shared desire to travel to the Near East started a tailspin of talking about how amazing a trip to India would be and these images from the Spring festival of Holi made me yearn to have those colors and experiences in my life. Have any of you darlings ever been to India? What are your dream travel destinations?







(images via Time)

27 March 2013

hungary/hungry like the wolfs

Last night I shared my dinner party menu with you; the theme was March: in like a lamb, out like a lion/in like a lion, out like a lamb. And though I certainly found inspiration in the seasonal uncertainty us Baltimore folks have seen over the past few weeks, the dishes I prepared were not brand new to me. They come from one of my all-time favorite vacations, shown in the picture I shared. A few years ago I went to Budapest in search of something and came home with a full stomach and no awesome new Hungarian words for my foreign vocabulary. I tried so many amazing foods while I was there but there was one flavor that really stood out and stuck with me as one that I wanted to incorporate into my cooking - hot Hungarian paprika! Based on my March menu, you can see that the Eastern European cuisine has stuck with me and now I think it's about time I shared the flavors with you, darlings. (Also, please don't mind the photos, I had to capture shots of my leftovers because I was afraid I'd scare away the folks by having my camera out to capture their every deliciously satisfied nibble.)

this light and crisp Spring salad represents the lamb of March
To start, or finish depending on your preference, I prepared a simple Spring salad with frisee, mache rosettes, and sliced radishes. I originally planned on using watercress because I like the bitter creaminess of it, but then I saw the mache rosettes and they just looked so pretty. I'd never had this green before but it looked pretty similar to watercress so I gave it a shot; it was kind of the same but maybe a little sweeter. I topped the salad off with a tasty mustard vinaigrette that was super simple to make. In a small jar shake/stir together 1/3 c garlic infused olive oil, 1/8 c red wine vinegar, 1/8 c white vinegar, 1 bulb diced shallot, a pinch of sugar, dash of salt, and a few (or many, knowing me) turns of the pepper grinder, and 1 heaping tbsp whole grain mustard (my favorite is Tin Mustard for its mild flavor; I used the last of it for this recipe and don't know when I'll make it back to Bk to get some more, egads!) Refrigerate the dressing before serving. I like to serve the salad naked and let guests spoon their own dressing because everyone likes a different green to vinaigrette ratio. Ooo I also got to use my new salad plates! I found the whole set of four for only $9.99 at Home Goods! After all what's a dinner party without proper salad plates? What are we, animals?

Since I've been been piling my plates with veggies lately, the side salad was only the tip of the green iceberg. Uborkasalata is a mild Hungarian cucumber salad that kind of tastes like pickles and reminds me of the cucumber salad at M Shanghai. Using a mandolin, slice two large, peeled cucumbers, sprinkle with about 1tsp salt, and squeeze out all the water by putting the slices in between two sheets of paper towel, two plates and putting about 3-5 lbs of weight on them. Drain the water from the cucumbers every few minutes for an hour, changing the towels as necessary. In a medium sized bowl whisk together 1/4-1/2 c water (depending on how dry you were able to get the cucumbers,) 1/4 c white vinegar, pinch of sugar, and dash of garlic powder. Soak the cucumber slices in the liquid mix for a few hours in the fridge (at least 3 hours) until you're ready to serve. This dish should be served chilled. Make sure you serve it with a slotted serving spoon so that the vinegary juices don't get all over the hot dishes on your plate!

My third and final veggie dish was a quick and easy sauteed kale. Double or triple rinse 5-6 cups torn kale leaves, (they're usually pretty sandy when you get them fresh) but don't completely dry them. In a large skillet, heat up about 1-2 tbsp hazelnut oil with 1/2 tsp minced garlic, 1 tbsp diced shallots, and a handful of chopped hazelnuts. Add the damp kale leaves to the skillet and let cook down until it's wilted and tender. Season with course salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

And now for the main course! The spaetzle can be made a couple of hours ahead of time which is probably a good time saving idea, especially since it will heat back up when you toss it with the brown butter. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a large bowl mix 3/4 c scant cold whole milk, 3 eggs, 1tsp salt, 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, and 1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg. Add 1 c whole wheat flour and 1 c all-purpose flour in half cup batches and stir furiously, the batter will be pretty goopy. Using a colander, a slotted spoon or a bachshaufel, push the batter through in stringy, squiggly batches into the boiling water. Let simmer for about two minutes while the strands float to the top. Set cooked spaetzle aside in a covered, buttered bowl. Prior to serving, heat up about 1/4 c unsalted butter in a hot skillet until it starts to brown, toss the spaetzle in the butter until warm and serve immediately alongside the creamy paprika chicken which is also quite easy to make -

creamy paprika chicken
ingredients
5 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into large chunks
2 1/2 tbsp paprika - equal parts smoked paprika mixed with hot Hungarian paprika (like Szeged)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
5-6 ripe plum tomatoes, chopped
1-2 c sliced mushrooms (optional)
2/3 c sour cream
course salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
directions
1. Toss cubed chicken in half the paprika mix with a little salt and pepper and set aside while you heat one tbsp butter in a large pan over a medium high flame. Cook the chicken, tossing occasionally until it is cooked through but not overcooked. Remove chicken to the bowl but keep the juices in the pan and slightly lower the heat.
2. Add the second tbsp butter to the pan adding the onion and cooking until softened, making sure to scrape up all the browning bits in the pan. Add the rest of the paprika and continue to cook, stirring and scraping for a couple minutes. Add in the tomatoes and 1/2-3/4 c water (depending on how much juice you've already got in the pan) and stir until the tomatoes are softened and the liquid is saucy. Add the mushrooms, if desired, and allow to cook through.
3. Dump the chicken and juices back in the pan to reheat and finish cooking, about five minutes. Stir in the sour cream and bring the mix to a simmer. Season with extra paprika, salt and pepper before serving  on top of or next to the spaetzle. YUM!

they might be leftovers, but they're still delicious!
                                                                                                                                                           
All of this tasty goodness was served up with two Austrian wines, a red and a white (I went to Austria on that trip, too!) They were both bold a dry and perfectly complimented the whole meal. Thanks to the folks at Chesapeake Wine Co. for the recommendations! This is truly one of my favorite meals and it turns out that the Wolf folks love it, too! I think I did a darn good job and genuinely impressed and satisfied our guests. How could a meal this filling and flavorful not put a smile on your face and some warmth in your belly! It's absolutely perfect for cool or chilly nights or just when you need something comforting. Something you'd want to enjoy while sitting around the kitchen table with your family.

looking over the Danube to Buda from Pest 
P.S. Earlier in the post I mentioned my trip to Budapest and that my reason for going there was a little bit of a search. What exactly was I searching for? Well, it's a little corny and embarrassing but I was out to find my soulmate. You see, my adorably, madly in love, amazing parents who have been married for about a billion years met at a bar in New Brunswick when they were teenagers (you could drink at 18 back in the day.) The bar was called the Budapest. So in my silly, dreamy mind I thought that if I went to the actual city of Budapest I might have a chance of meeting my soulmate. I didn't find my soulmate on that trip but, along with some great culinary inspiration, I was able to do a bit of self discovery. Hungary was the most foreign place I had ever been to but I still managed to get by (with the help of the amazing folks at Carpe Noctem Hostel) and explore one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen. Hmm, maybe I'll have to go back through my photo albums (yeah, I think this was before I even owned a digital camera) and share a photoblog of my Budapest memories with you, darlings. Something to look forward to soon!

26 March 2013

avocado-yeah!

Ever since I won(!) my KitchenAid I've been blabbering on about how I wanted to get the ice cream maker attachment and make homemade ice cream all the time. And there was one ice cream flavor that I was particularly fascinated with whipping up - avocado. Before you say gross, hear me out. Avocados are a fruit, pretty much my favorite fruit because they are creamy, sweet, full of nutrients and good for you stuff, and the color is gorgeous. Sounds like I'm describing ice cream, doesn't it? (Yes ice cream is good for you! Remember? It healed my broken leg.) They're perfect year round and can be used for every meal, in an omelette or spread on toast for breakfast, adorning a turkey club for lunch, blended into guacamole for a mid-afternoon snack, mixed into a soup, topping a salad or sliced on grilled chicken breast with tomatoes for supper. Why not take advantage of their versatility and flavor by creating something sweet with them? What's sweeter, creamier, and more adaptable than ice cream? I'm sure you're in agreement with me by now because plenty of other people have had the same idea. Seriously, just start typing in 'avocado ice cream' into a search bar and you'll see dozens of delicious results!

you've got to be crazy if you think that doesn't look delicious!
The first recipe to be listed was from Alton Brown. I've never prepared any of his recipes before, but I like him. He's kind of goofy, a bit loud, finds the science of food fascinating, and he was a Boy Scout, so he's a decent guy in my book. He's also friendly with my boy, Bourdain and let's face it, that doesn't hurt his cause. I followed his recipe exactly and it turned out to be delicious and the lovely pale green was very appropriate for St Patrick's Day (I made this a couple weeks ago.) The only problem I had? this recipe makes a banana boatload of ice cream! So much ice cream, I had to put it in two jumbo containers in my freezer AND eat a big bowl as soon as it was finished and still had some left in the mixer bowl. This is not a complaint, but I would have thrown a sundae party had I known I would have this much frozen goodness to consume. Thankfully I had Honey to help me out with quite a bit of it through the weekends but I'm still chipping away at my avocado iceberg!

The other day I was inspired, yet again, by my avocado ice cream dream. Honey and I were on our way home from running errands (we're such grownups now,) and we drove past a Stewart's. Apparently they don't have Stewart's in Connecticut because Honey had no idea what it was. No clue that the delicious root beer was served on draft over vanilla ice cream alongside all-American classics like burgers and fries and hotdogs and gyros! And that you can have it all served on a tray that attaches to your car door! And that back in the day it may or may not have been served by girls on skates! We didn't stop because I insist on only partaking in a place like that in the summertime, but the simple thought of a warm day's tasty treats left me craving a float! But checking off all the tasks on our honey-do list left me lazy, so much so that I didn't want to take a stroll to my favorite place, Safeway, for vanilla ice cream and root beer. So I was stuck with a craving all weekend long... until Honey gave me the idea of using what I had in the house: avocado ice cream and ginger beer. The crisp, spicy fizz from the ginger beer paired perfectly with the cool, fresh flavor of the avocado ice cream. Mmm a pair made in paradise! Trust me, if you have an ice cream maker, get it out, buy some avocados, freeze dessert, and pour some crisp, cold ginger beer over it in a frosty glass! Enjoy and keep preparing yourself for the warmer weather... this snow will be gone before we know it!

ready for a twister of goodness

maybe the wicked witch had such great, green skin
from all the avocados she ate!

Alton Brown's avocado ice cream (adapted courtesy Alton Brown, 2005 via foodnetwork.com)
ingredients
12 oz avocado meat, approx 3 medium to large avocados
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 c whole milk
1/2 c sugar
1 c heavy cream
directions
1. Put the avocado meat (peeled and pitted, of course) into a blender or food processor with lemon juice, milk and sugar; puree. Transfer to a mixing bowl and whisk in heavy cream. Chill in the fridge 4-6 hours or until it reaches 40 degrees or chillier.
2. Move mixture to your ice cream maker and mix according to directions, but take into consideration the mix may ice-cream-up quicker than other ice creams. Serve immediately if you like a soft ice cream, freeze for firmer ice cream and longevity.
3. To enjoy a super tasty float, pour spicy ginger beer (like Cock 'n Bull brand) over scoops of avocado ice cream in a tall, chilled glass with a straw and a spoon! Enjoy like it's summertime, whether or not it actually is!

a march menu

This past weekend Honey and I hosted our very first dinner party! His folks were headed home from North Carolina and decided to plan their halfway home rest stop in Baltimore so that they could see our new home. Rather than go out to dinner and have the "We'll pay" "No, we've got it" back and forth that parents and grownup kids always have when the check comes, I decided that I wanted to cook for the two of them. I wanted to impress them and let them know that their first born was being taken care of by an awesome gal... plus I love cooking for people, getting to their hearts through their stomachs.

I thought long and hard about what I would prepare. It had to be something comforting since they would be arriving after a long day of driving, but nothing too filling since they had the other leg of their trip early the next morning. It needed to be nice enough that it didn't appear thrown together, but not so nice that it looked like I was trying to show them up or be fancier than I am. Most importantly, it had to be layered - no, not like a 7 layer dip, but layered as in many complimentary flavors and tastes and textures. I decided that my theme would be March, and here is what I came up with.

spring salad - frisee, mache rosettes, radishes, mustard vinaigrette
uborkasalata (Hungarian cucumber salad)
homemade spaetzle with nutmeg tossed in brown butter
creamy paprika chicken
kale and hazelnuts sauteed with shallots and hazelnut oil
red and white wines, preferably from Hungary or Austria

You may be asking yourself how on earth this menu reflects the month of March. Let me tell you - You know that old adage 'in like a lion, out like a lamb/in like a lamb, out like a lion'? Some people prefer their light, Spring salad before their hearty, spicy entree and some prefer it the other way around. Voila! The menu is march and march is the menu. I'll be back tomorrow with more details and a few recipes for you. Until then, feel free to bask in my awesome menu cleverness and let your mouth water thinking about how tasty our supper was!

the source of my inspriation

25 March 2013

snow day, matzo balls

patterson park pagoda
I woke up extra crazypants early this morning to drive honey to the bus station so that he could go back to Brooklyn (womp womp.) I showered and got ready for work expecting to have to go straight there after leaving the man on the MegaBus but then I turned on the news and looked out the window to see - Winter Weather Advisory! By the time I dragged honey out of bed the local news was calling for a 2 hour delay. Ugh, those are the worst! Once I'm awake, I'm wide awake so there's no going back to bed, I usually just end up futzing around with nothing to do but watch the news, read the paper and be lazy - ugh, that's Sunday stuff! Since I knew it would take me forever to get to work because of the crummy road cleanup, I figured that I could just go hang out at a coffee shop and do the crossword puzzle until I had to be at work. So I kissed my sleepy honey goodbye, watched the bus pull away, and headed back towards the city - only to be greeted by the news that the inclement weather had changed our 2 hour delay to a snow day! Now that's something I can get down with.

I very slowly drove home, put on some warm and cozy non-work clothes, cuddled with the cat a bit, and then decided to get outside and enjoy the snow before it turned to the expected sleet/rain/wintry-mix that is so common in Baltimore. So I strapped on furry winter boots and wandered out into the weather. Patterson Park looked so beautiful and calm and all the little kids sledding with their moms and dads made me wish honey had missed his bus so that we could have picked up a sled and enjoyed a little springtime winter fun. It makes me so happy that we're fortunate enough to live next to a really beautiful park! After my stroll I decided that this kind of weather called for my favorite chilly weather food, soup. And 'tis the season for one of my all-time favorite soups - matzo ball! Off to the grocery store for matzo meal and an onion then back home to make a delicious pot for the first night of Passover.

these are not snowballs... though they might make for a fun fight!

sundown supper
Like a lot of my cozy, comfort recipes, I don't have a proper recipe for my matzo ball soup. It's usually a basic chicken stock, some veggies and matzo balls, salted and peppered to taste and with the standard matzo ball mix - 2 eggs, 1/2 c matzo meal, 2 tbsp veggie oil, 2 tbsp broth, mixed, cooled, balled, boiled. Since we ate chicken all weekend and today is Meatless Monday, I wanted to make a totally veggie version of my traditional broth. I started with a little Rapunzel vegetable bouillon, diced onions, peppercorns, olive oil and thyme in about 8 cups of water and brought it to a boil before adding sliced carrots and celery, handfuls of torn kale, and baby bella mushrooms. I found whole wheat matzo meal at the store, so I picked that up to use in place of standard white flour matzo. The whole wheat matzo doesn't fluff up the way the normal matzo meal does, it kind of falls a little flat after awhile, but it's still sturdy and makes a good solid matzo ball for a heartier soup. I'm not sure what time sundown is supposed to happen tonight, it's been so grey out all day I haven't seen the sun to even make a guess for the time. But I would imagine that it's around now-ish, especially since I just ladled out a big bowl of veggie matzo ball soup for myself. I'll sip on some wine (not Manischewitz,) and celebrate a holiday that isn't my own with a bowl of soup that is probably not Kosher for Passover. But it's definitely delicious. Happy Passover, friends!

20 March 2013

happy first day of spring!

Our new house is two blocks from a Rita's. How could I not? Even though it was pretty chilly I decided to grab a freebie cup of Georgia peach (and fondly be reminded of my southern belles Isabelle and Victoria, real deal Georgia peaches who I miss terribly!) I went for a lovely late afternoon stroll through the harbor, enjoyed my indulgence, and even ran into an old friend; what a wonderful start to a new season!

oh yeah, I'm fancy enough to have instagram now! follow me @paperbackrider

Coming up this season - spring cleaning, new home cooking, decor dramatics, garden gnomes, adventures of Honey & Macaroni, and the many charms of Charm City. I have so much to say so stay tuned! I've missed this.

19 March 2013

tofu tuesday

I like to think that I am a healthy eater. True, I eat a lot of ice cream, indulge in cheese plates pretty regularly, and sample everything I bake, but in general, I'm pretty healthy. I'm a bit of a grazer these days, especially since living on my own. I go through bags of carrots and tubs of mixed greens like crazy and I'm constantly having to run out to the store to pick up more hummus and salsa and avocados. Lately, I've jumped on the Meatless Monday bandwagon. Actually, I've cut quite a bit of meat out of my diet - rarely for lunch since I usually stick to soup and salad in the cafeteria, almost never at home since I'm cooking for one, and since I haven't gone out much lately, when I almost always order meat (especially if a pork chop is on the menu) I haven't had much. The first meat I cooked in what feels like forever was this Sunday's corned beef in honor of St Patrick. Unfortunately, because of that incredibly delicious, boiled Irish feast, I couldn't stick to my meat-free menu last night because the leftovers were just too tempting to resist. How could you say no to day old corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and carrots dripping with butter, salt and pepper?

In spite of my carnivorous setback, I decided that I wanted to stick to my strict meatless day and whip up a little something for what I decided to dub Tofu Tuesday. So, a day late and zero dollars short since all of the ingredients were already in my fridge and pantry, I created a super yummy veggie meal for myself and even had enough left over that my Wednesday night supper is ready to go! What did I do exactly? Let me tell you -

In a super hot skillet I sauteed some fresh garlic and onions in sweet virgin coconut oil tossing in a spoon full of peanut butter once the onions started getting soft. Then I added some sliced carrots and water chestnuts along with heaps of Madras curry, some Sriracha, cumin, ginger, tumeric and a splash of coconut milk and let the flavors simmer into saucy goodness. Then I tossed in some shredded cabbage (leftover from St Patty's) and a handful of edamame. Finally, I added sliced mushrooms and cubed tofu until everything was simmered to spicy, curried perfection and served it over jasmine rice cooked with coconut oil, saffron and pink Himalayan salt. It was so wonderful that I almost couldn't wait to finish the rest but I want to make sure I have supper ready for tomorrow rather than get stuffed tonight. I'm so happy to be back in the kitchen, getting creative with what I've got and mastering new recipes of my very own making. Even if they are meatless!

14 March 2013

3.14159265

Though I'm not particularly fond of math (it was always my worst subject in school,) I am a lover of pie. One of my all time favorite movie quotes is from Pulp Fiction and it goes a little something like this - "Any time of the day is a good time for pie." I am a firm believer in that statement. A couple of years ago, when I was still living in Greenpoint, a lovely little shop opened up that was conveniently on my walk home from the subway. The Blue Stove was a pie shop, a beautiful, quaint, cozy little pie shop that served warm pies, both sweet and savory, steaming cups of tea and chilly cups of chocolate milk. It was wonderful. As you can imagine I was very sad to leave the neighborhood and lose my pie shop when I moved to Bushwick last summer. I was even more sad when I had to leave the borough and move to Baltimore. I thought I'd never find another pie shop like that... and I haven't. Instead I've found Dangerously Delicious, a pie shop that serves up sweet and savory pies fresh out of the oven, boasts a bit of a rockabilly Hon kind of vibe, and hosts a date night with a special on two slices and drinks for cutesy couples like me and my honey. And it's only a fifteen minute walk from our house; exactly the amount of walking one should do so as not to feel guilty about frequently eating pie.

elvis approved


Today, on this day of days devoted to one of my all-time favorite desserts, I wandered over to the shop to pick of a slice in honor of pi(e) day, the only day I will ever be ok with celebrating math (no matter how much Cady Heron likes it.) I prefer fruit pies to custard pies and just my luck, the apple crumble had just come out of the oven and was piled into a togo container of piping hot, gooey messiness. Even though I was super full from a delicious lunch feast of Kumari Indian food with my new galpal I couldn't resist a couple of bites. Could you blame me? Fresh out of the oven! But I saved the rest, reheated it and sat down with a glass of red wine to catch up on my correspondence and celebrate the holiday. It was marvelous, especially once I threw in a few Downton Abbey reruns! The perfect supper for someone who completely gorged at lunch is pie and wine.

last year's pie - imagine this in a flaky, bacony crust
But I couldn't be satisfied by just going out for a slice, no way jose! Last year I prepared the best chicken pot pie I've ever had - chunks of savory roast chicken, carrots, fresh peas, baby potatoes, onions, fresh parsley, gravy and a bacon fat crust. Yup, you read that right, bacon fat crust. It was so rich and amazing and the filling was just out of the world. But this year I didn't want to make a huge savory pie for me and my lonesome. That would be a little too gluttonous, even for me. Honey's getting home late tomorrow night from Brooklyn and I want to make sure there's something other than a fabulous cheese plate to welcome him to our house. Something warming and comforting. Something like a pie. Our new neighborhood, like my darling old Greenpoint, was at one time predominantly German and Polish. There's not much beyond a few churches left to suggest the old world presence but we were able to find a Polish sausage store just a couple of blocks away when we were out walking with my mom last weekend (my dad will be so happy!) We picked up a little bit of everything they had in the tiny shop so that Lizzie B could bring it home for Pops and I grabbed a long link of smoked kielbasa jam-packed with delicious spices and whole peppercorns. But I didn't know what to do with it... until pi(e) day popped up on the calendar. I cheated a little bit and bought already prepared pie crusts but I did doctor them up with a splash of caraway seeds. For the filling, I sauteed some red onions with a little smoked paprika, grainy mustard and kale. I tossed in slices of the smoked kielbasa and then some fresh sauerkraut. I tossed it in the oven just before I left to go pick up honey and baked it until the crust was pretty and golden brown. Honey came home to a delicious smelling house and a warm, tasty supper. And Macaroni begging for scraps! This was an absolutely perfect meal because it was quick, filling, yummy smelling and it made our bellies happy. Of course it would have taken a little longer had I made my own pie crust, but sometimes it's not the worst thing in the world to cut a few corners. Happy pi(e) day to all and to all a good night!


savory kale-basa pie
yields one small pie
ingredients
1/2 large red onion, diced
1 bushel kale, rinsed and torn
1 foot long link smoke kielbasa, sliced about 1/4" thick
1 c fresh sauerkraut, drained
1 tsp smoked parika
1 heaping tsp grainy country mustard
1 sheet pre-made pie crust rolled with 1 tbsp caraway seeds
directions
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Line a small, ungreased pie pan with the crust. There will be quite a bit of pie crust hanging over the edges of your pan; just leave it to fold over the top.
2. Heat a skillet with a splash of oil and saute the onions with paprika and mustard until soft. Toss in the kale and continue to saute until it is just wilty. 
3. Toss in the kielbasa slices to warm and soften, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in sauerkraut. Mix the filling well and spread evenly into the pie crust. Fold over the excess crust to cover the filling and seal in all the yummy goodness.
4. Bake covered with foil for 25 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake at 375 for an additional 20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Let sit for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve with a tiny mixed green salad and your favorite mustard.

13 March 2013

baking in baltimore

Hello? Is anyone out there? Is anyone still listening to me? Hello...

I'm sorry for the sudden disappearing act, folks. Things got pretty nutty towards the end of the year - I was working a whole heck of a lot, trying to make ends meet, interviewing for something I could call a career, spending a lot of time enjoying Brooklyn with my honey, and playing in the lukewarm winter with my pals. To be honest, I wasn't in the kitchen all that often and when I was, it was out of necessity and I wasn't really inspired to blog; a touch of writers block I suppose. Slowly but surely, however, the urge to blab to my darling readers has come over me once again and boy oh boy do I have a lot to catch y'all up on! For starters, I no longer live in Brooklyn.

I know what you're thinking - 'Wait, what?! No more Brooklyn? That makes no sense!' It's true though. You know how I mentioned my seemingly neverending search for a full-time career that put my multiple degrees to good use? Something that had pretty regular hours to replace the motley mix of jobs that I was working to pay the rent? Well, the New York rat race was bringing me down and I just couldn't stand being the runner-up for a big girl job anymore. So, I expanded my horizons and began looking outside of New York - California, Colorado, Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, Philly, any city that sounded remotely interesting and had a decent cultural scene really. And what do you know? I heard back from a job that sounded pretty cool. And after my first video chat interview (super awkward by the bye - I felt like the great and powerful Oz on a giant screen in front of my interviewers,) I was invited down for a second interview. My dad and I drove to it in the middle of the only crazy snowstorm I saw all winter and I had a full day interview with about a billion people. Then, a week later, I got a call as I was sending my honey off to work and sitting down to a breakfast of cookies and hot chocolate. They offered me the position! What's so great about it is that, with each stage of the interview process, the position sounded better and better and better. Now that I've started, I feel like I kind of landed my dream job! I'm now a School Archivist... in Baltimore.

It's been an interesting transition, Brooklyn to Baltimore. But it's been pretty nice, too. I loved this little city when I came down here for college as a wide-eyed eighteen year-old. It prepared me well for a life in the city that never sleeps. Now that I'm returning as a nearly thirty year-old lady, I welcome the slower, sort of Southern pace and the fewer partyparty distractions. I've already been down for a couple of months but I'm just now starting to get super settled. Honey and I found a perfect little house in a super cute neighborhood that we absolutely love. We moved in a couple of weeks ago and I've been spending a lot of my time getting it all set up to feel like a home for us to share. He's still up in Brooklyn, tying up all our loose ends and I relish the weekends when he takes the bus down and I get to show him all the neat little things I've done or the cute new shops and restaurants and bars I've found! It's also been super nice catching up with old friends who I haven't seen in years. Absence certainly does make the heart grow fonder and I lovelovelove how we can get together after not seeing each other for so long and just pick up exactly where we left off!

One of my favorite things about my new life in Baltimore - my fresh start. The plan that I've been brushing under the bed for so long is starting to work itself out in ways that I didn't expect, but completely welcome. I'm going to be 30 this year... finally! It's also the year of the snake so I'm shedding my old skin and starting anew, but still remembering everything I've learned. I'm reuniting with old friends, making new friends, and discovering new aspects about so many existing friendships that are now long distance. And how appropriate that all of this exciting change and growth and my return to the delirious kitchen is happening just as spring starts poking up through the frozen ground. So to honor so many new beginnings (and to feed the little cuties I got to hang out with the other day - my friends have the cutest kids!,) I made yummy springtime cupcakes! Nothing special, just a little whole wheat vanilla cake with bright yellow buttercream frosting and cutesy, colorful daisy sprinkles. Perfect to brighten up a dreary day and excite you for the warmer weather! Enjoy the tasty treat and stay tuned for more delirious stories from Charm City!

Welcome back, darlings!


springtime treat cupcakes
ingredients
1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
1 c sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 c nonfat milk, chilled
directions
1. In your mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in vanilla extract.
2. Sift dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixer.
3. Stir in the milk and mix until all ingredients are totally mixed.
4. Bake in a cupcake tin at 350 for about 20-25 minutes. Let cool and ice with a simple buttercream icing (unsalted butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract blended and colored to taste and consistency.)