Thursday, March 31, 2011

Buckwheat Pasta

I had a dream that I was eating buckwheat pasta, so when I awoke, I had no choice but to make it. My initial attempt at buckwheat pasta was a little protein heavy. Since buckwheat lacks gluten, I compensated by using bread flour and vital wheat gluten in the dough. The result? One ball of rubber that needed about an hour to relax after it was formed.

After I researched the use of vital wheat gluten, I discovered my mistake. The recommended amount of vital wheat gluten that should be added to a cup of gluten-weak flour is 1 teaspoon per cup. Er, I added 1/4 a cup. Regardless, I did manage to turn the dough into pasta sheets. Really rubbery pasta sheets.

Since I feared that making fettuccine noodles would be a little too much like a eating rubber bands, I opted to cut my pasta into pretty triangles.

And to add another protein punch, I made a quick pasta dish out of tuna packed in olive oil, dried chili flakes, salted capers, arugula, and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. The result? Good, surprisingly good. The texture did have a bit too much chew, but due to all the protein (the pasta dough also has eggs), a small amount kept me full for hours. That never happens with regular pasta! I'll have to try making this again soon, this time being a little more stingy with the gluten additive.

Bakesale for Japan

Bakesale for Japan is a national bakesale whose proceeds will go to Peace Winds Japan. Check out the website to see if there is bakesale going on in your area. I'm going to be making my mother's famous sour cream cookies! What will you be baking?

They are also looking for origami paper donations and people to fold paper cranes, so if any of you crafters have the time and/or supplies, let's get to it!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Last 96 Hours

Friday started off with drizzly skies and wackiness. The boy participated in 24 Hours of LeMons.  Per the website: "Endurance racing for $500 cars. It's not just an oxymoron; it's a breeding ground for morons." That sums it up perfectly. I volunteered to snap photos on track day, the day where all the participants dress up and put on a little show for the judges as they're getting their cars inspected. The boy's team decided to go with their Volvo's Swedish vibe - they were the Swedish Bobsled Team. They started out ringing cowbells in their tracksuits, then they stripped down to spandex for the judges.

The boy stenciled the Swedish flag theme on the spandex, and he also modified the suits with his sewing machine. Creepily, those spandex suits originally covered the whole body: fingers, head (no mouth or eye holes), and feet. I am dreading the types of advertisements that are going to be coming our way now that he had these shipped to our house. He cut the head part off so they could see, a plus for someone driving really fast on a race track.

The cats and dogs stayed home, much to the annoyance of Mingus. You can see his thin, black mustache in this picture. I think it makes him look French.

After reading The Art of Eating In, I have begun to cook more dinners at home. Although I do love going out to eat, so many times the stuff I'm eating is stuff I can make myself, is made from meat and produce from who knows where, and doesn't blow me away. When I do eat at a restaurant that fits my personal food philosophy, that place tends to be more of a special occasion place where dinner should last at least a couple of hours, and it's hard to spare a couple of hours during a weekday.

The boy thought the premise of the book was totally stupid since there are a fair number of Americans who have to eat in daily because they have no other choice if they wish to eat at all. (I should back up a step and say that the book is about a twenty-something woman in NYC who gives up eating restaurant food, including take-out, for 2 years.) But, that book wasn't about that. The author does know that she's coming from a privileged perspective, and her reasons for not eating out were more from an environmental standpoint. The point that stuck with me, though, was that it takes a different rhythm to cook dinner each and every night, but that rhythm can be relaxing once it is internalized. When I thought about our eating out habit, the time it takes us to decide where we are going, drive to said restaurant, wait for the meal, and come back home is really more time than whipping something together and cleaning up.

So, since I had a bit of time this weekend and I had home cooked meals on my mind, I made yet another breakfast custard, this time with leftover bacon grease, green onions, 3 types of mushrooms (crimini, king oyster, and blue oyster mushrooms), and magic cheese. I'll spare you a picture since all the custards look the same. I also made a 4 bean (chickpeas, black lentils, split green peas, split yellow peas) and kale soup, a loaf of bread, and for dessert and future snacking, some coconut mochi cake with a spiked whipped cream. This time, I made the whipped cream with Makers Mark. As I bake more, I'm becoming less dependent on recipes, which in turn means I bake even more. This can become dangerous!

Oh, one more thing for those of you who are part of the Knitted Furmiliation forum on Ravelry. Are you interested in a KAL or CAL? If so, pipe in! So far, I think only 1 person has read the thread because the forum hasn't been active in quite some time. I was also toying with the idea of a mystery cat hat KAL...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Savory Mushroom Cheddar Custard Recipe

Although I've tried to be a quick and simple breakfast person (a cup of yogurt, a bowl of cereal,  a slice of toast, a protein shake),  a rushed breakfast is never a good one for me. I'm also not a fan of sweet foods first thing in the morning, which rules out most cereals, and I want my food hot and my coffee black. This is a dilemma when my work schedule has early starts, but I've found a  way to quickly get a good, hot breakfast: make a large quantity of something ahead of time and reheat it. OK, this is not rocket science, but for some reason it just didn't connect in my head until recently, so my breakfast would be leftover dinner. Yes, I'll eat spicy Sichuan food, chard and chorizo soup, whatever necessary to keep me from becoming a low blood sugar monster by 10 AM.

Tarts have been my breakfast of choice since Pi Day, but I found myself one egg short of making a tart the other day. So, I opted to make a savory custard using ingredients I already had in the house. It turned out so good I had to share! A note on the cheddar: I used Trader Joe's English Cheddar with Caramelized Onions, and it made my custard sing. Amongst my friends, we reverently call it Magic Cheese because it has just the right blend of savory, salty, and a heavy dose of umami.

Savory Mushroom and Cheddar Custard


4 cups of sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 T butter
1 cup grated cheddar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp fresh chopped thyme
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 375 °F. Grease a 10" tart pan with oil or butter (if you use butter, the paper that butter is wrapped in is great for spreading it around the pan).

Over medium heat, melt butter in a large saute pan. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt, if desired.

 These are cremini, blue oyster, and king oyster mushrooms

As the mushrooms cook, they will start releasing their liquid. Add the chopped garlic after the liquid has evaporated. Continue to saute for a few more minutes. Set aside mushroom mixture to cool.

Beat the eggs and milk together. Add the cheddar, cooled mushroom mixture, thyme, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

Pour the custard into a tart pan and place it in the oven. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the custard is set in the middle and golden on the top.

This custard is great for any meal of the day, but I'm particularly fond of it for breakfast.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Done! I finished weaving in the ends this morning, and then immediately put it on and took some pictures (hence, the bad lighting). I followed the pattern exactly for a size xs, partially due to the rareness of me knitting a sweater in pieces. I didn't want to mess up!

It felt like I was knitting forever, yet my Rav page says I started on 2/14 and ended on 3/22. I think this is mostly due to the blocked pieces sitting on our dining room table, mocking me for about a week.

The yarn is Cascade Ecological Wool in colorway 8016, and it is delightfully springy to knit, and delightfully warm to wear. This is so much softer than Cascade 220, but every bit as economical. I'm tempted to go out and buy another 2 skeins for another cardigan!

I have one more cardigan on the needles, my own design, and another cardigan that I need to finish writing up all the pattern sizes and get test knit. Cardigans, it seems, are on my brain.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Books, food, bread

A rainy weekend meant that I had the luxury of standing still and reading a couple of library books. First, I inhaled The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love. It's one woman's memoir her bumpy transformation from Manhattanite to farmer over the course of a couple years. I highly recommend it, especially if you want to learn more about what it takes to roll up your sleeves and run a farm the old-fashioned way.

The second book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, got a lot of press a few months ago from an unfairly edited article that ran in the Wall Street Journal titled "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior." My poor mom got calls and emails days after that article ran from concerned friends asking if she raised my brother and I like Amy Chua, the tiger mom. Ha ha! I'm halfway through the book, and every few pages I start laughing out loud because some of her observations and beliefs are so funny and familiar to me. And for the record, Chua's book shows humility that was lacking from the WSJ article; she doesn't always think that her way of parenting was the best way now. Hoopla aside, it's a funny book and an easy read.

I made another paella this weekend, this time with asparagus, chorizo, chicken, and some lamb stock I made in the pressure cooker. (Meat stocks in the pressure cooker are a beautiful thing! If you haven't tried it yet, it's a huge time saver. You can actually make a stock after work that tastes as if you simmered it all day long.)

I haven't made a slow rise bread in ages, so I warmed back into it with a recipe for Cheddar-Stuffed Crusty Loaves from King Arthur Flour. This recipe is similar to the one found on the back of the bread flour bag. It's not that much work, but it does take a long time since the starter is made the night before, and then there are two risings about 2 hours apiece. Rolling up the cheese bread was fun!

Next time, I think I'll cut the loaves crosswise into smaller loaves.

I think making smaller, cross-cut loaves would have prevented this cheese barf from happening. Funny how I call it cheese barf, yet I scraped it all off and ate it... I guess having 4 pets makes me used to barf.

Regardless, this was fantastic; cheesy and crusty as promised. It went well with the simple chard, potato, and farro soup I made for dinner.

I finished my Aidez, save for a few ends to weave in. Hopefully, I can get a good picture of it before the sky opens up again.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


I awoke yesterday to this:

The boy had already left for work, and I was snoozing for an extra hour. When I first woke up, I spied Fifty on the boy's pillow, then as my bleary vision sharpened, I noticed Vespa, then Mingus, and finally Greaseball. It's funny how they can all get along when the reward is the forbidden bed. Well, forbidden to the dogs, at least. I have no idea how to prevent cats from getting on a bed.

Vespa and Fifty decided to shine their laser beam eyes at me since they knew that I'd soon shoo them all off the place of supreme coziness.

Their evil plot didn't work. I still shoo'ed them off the bed.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Guinness Ice Cream Recipe

For St. Patrick's Day, the boy and I were invited to a friend's house for corned beef and cabbage, and of course, beer. Since the main courses were already taken care of, I decided to make an Irish Car Bombs for dessert, meaning that I made Guinness ice cream and served it with Irish whiskey whipped cream. I'm quite pleased with how it turned out! The ice cream had lots of Guinness flavor, thanks to the boy who knew to buy Guinness Extra Stout instead of the canned stuff I would have surely picked up.

Roula, the resident dog, even agreed that the Guinness Extra Stout was key.

There was some discussion at the dinner table on Irish Car Bomb ingredients. The person whom first made me one has always dropped a shot glass of Irish whiskey into a pint of Guinness and he insisted that it was the authentic recipe, but when I was reading up on it, many recipes included Irish cream. If you are one of those people who believes Irish cream is essential to a Car Bomb, pour a shot of Irish cream over the top. I personally prefer just the Guinness and whiskey.

Guinness Ice Cream Recipe with Irish Whiskey Whipped Cream (aka Irish Car Bomb)


Ice Cream Batter
1 12 fl. oz bottle of Guinness Extra Stout
2 T dark unsulfered molasses
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar (I used vanilla sugar)

Whiskey Whipped Cream
1/2 cup of whipping cream
1 T plus 1 tsp Irish Whiskey
1 T sugar


Pour a bottle of Guinness Extra Stout into a small pan. Add the molasses.

Boil on high until only 1/2 a cup of liquid remains. This step not only gets rid of the alcohol that will make the ice cream harder to freeze, but it also concentrates the flavor.

Decrease the heat to low. In the same pan, pour in the cream and milk, and occasionally stir. As the mixture is heating up, mix the egg yolks and the sugar together in a small bowl. When the mixture is warm, temper the egg yolks by adding a ladle full of the warm mixture to the bowl and quickly whisking it together.  Repeat this step until roughly half of the mixture is whisked with the egg yolks and sugar. Pour the egg yolks into the pan and frequently stir the mixture.

Once the cream and milk mixture passes the spoon test (a clean stripe can be wiped across a dipped spoon), quickly cool the batter by pouring it through a fine sieve into bowl in an ice bath. Stir frequently to cool the mixture.

Once the mixture has cooled, pour it into your ice cream maker and follow your machine's instructions. Freeze the ice cream at least 2 hours before serving.

Before serving the ice cream, make the Irish Whiskey whipped cream

Combine the chilled whipping cream, whiskey, and sugar into a mixing bowl and whip away until the cream forms soft or stiff peaks, whatever you prefer.  If you have a stand mixer, mix it on the highest setting. If you are whipping the cream by hand, it helps to have the cream extra cold, and you can even chill the bowl. Personally, I never have to worry about cream temperature when I use my stand mixer.

Serve the ice cream with a generous dollop of whipped cream, and if you wish, a shot of Bailey's Irish Cream poured over the top. It can also be served with a sprinkling of chopped, toasted hazelnuts - I think that hazelnuts compliment Guinness well.

Kaboom! You now have an Irish Car Bomb.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pi Day Pie

For Pi Day (3/14), I made a chard and saffron tart, otherwise known as an egg pie according to my friend, Steph. The dough was a yeasted tart dough that was a snap to make - no kneading required! I made this tart loosely based Deborah Madison's Saffron and Egg Tart from The Greens Cookbook. Not surprisingly, the resulting crust was more like white bread than the buttery, flaky crusts I associate with tarts. Next time, I'll have to substitute a sourdough starter or different flours to give the crust a little more personality.

My version of the tart had one bunch of chard, garlic, leeks, saffron, nutmeg, Parmesan, and a healthy sprinkling of toasted hazelnuts.And eggs. 6 eggs.

This was a "use what I have" dinner, made mostly because I did not feel like venturing out unnecessarily in the rain. The pickings in the refrigerator are getting lean, as tonight's dinner illustrated: homemade macaroni (tube wormy looking, but good!), chopped leg of lamb (leftover from a rotisserie lamb the boy made over the weekend), roasted sweet potatoes, parsnips, and multicolored carrots. I can no longer play chicken with the grocery store - tomorrow we're either eating out at a new (to me) Korean restaurant I've been dying to try or hitting the produce market on the way back from work.

Saint Patrick's Day is coming up, and since we're invited to a friend's house for dinner, if my schedule cooperates, I'm planning on making an Irish car bomb dessert: Guinness ice cream topped with Irish whiskey whipped cream!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Muffin Liner Tragedy

I'm in mourning over the death of one silicone cupcake liner. Apparently, the yam corn muffins I made pushed Mingus to do this. Having only 11 cupcake liners has quelled my desire to make more quick breads, and the boy finds this very sad. I've looked around for a way to purchase just one liner, but apparently I am the only person who has a dog that murders cupcake liners. Either that, or other people who find that they are short 1 or 2 liners just get on with it and order another 6 or 12. Sad, sad, sad. So, here's my plea: if you have one silicone muffin liner to spare either because you hate them or your dog destroyed 11 of them, let's chat. I can swap you a ninja nugget tawashi and a free copy of my Tilden Park Scarf. (BTW, you no longer need a Paypal account to buy the pattern - I can now accept credit cards!)

This is the muffin that pushed Mingus over the edge.

This muffin was made from 3 eggs, buttermilk, corn oil, mashed yams, and some coarsely ground cornmeal, so light it was not. However, they were good straight from the oven. Because I was trying, until the muffin liner murder, to incorporate quick breads into every meal, they were served with homemade gnocchi and margaritas. That may have been one of the stranger meals we've put together, and we even had people over to share it with us.

The homemade gnocchi was inspired by a gnocchi streak I had 2 weeks ago. I had gnocchi 3 nights in a row for dinner at various eating establishments, and on the 4th night, instead of being sick of gnocchi, I wanted more and started to have withdrawal symptoms. So, on a Friday night, I popped a few potatoes into a 400 degree oven and invited some people over for dinner. My friends came over to help me shape and roll the gnocchi, and what we couldn't eat that night was fed to the freezer for future use.  The gnocchi pictured below is from today's lunch of gnocchi, sun-dried tomatoes, chard, and loads of garlic. I finished it off with a sprinkling of Parmesan. (Yes, I ate it all. Don't judge me.) Quick tip: broiling your cooked gnocchi is a really, really good idea.

In other random news, how lazy do you have to be to buy pre-peeled garlic? The boy came home with a bag of peeled garlic and could not stop extolling the virtues of his cheap garlic cloves that were ready to go. Apparently, when he makes his famous rotisserie leg of lamb, he hates peeling the garlic cloves that uses to season it. However, now we have a ton of mystery garlic (the mystery being where was it grown?) that needs to be used ASAP. This may be a job for kimchi.

In knitting news, Aidez is off the needles, and I'm just waiting for the blocked parts to dry so I can seam it together. It's dumping rain here, so the chances of it drying soon is pretty unlikely. Hopefully, I can get it done before next weekend.

Happy Pi Day, everyone! Go out and celebrate!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Disturbed Fifty-Fifty

The sunny spot still remains the most popular place in the house, especially when there is an old towel by the door that everybody uses to wipe their feet.


Greaseball still remains the most annoying of cats, especially when he sticks his schnoz where it is not welcome.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Everything But the Kitchen Sink Spelt Recipe

What do you do when your enthusiasm at the produce stand leaves your refrigerator packed to the brim? Inspired by the lovely grains served at Slow, I made a spelt "risotto" that was able to take on the remnants from my wild time at the produce store. Up above, there is one bunch of chard, a pound of asparagus, a cup of dried spelt, some dried persimmons, toasted almonds, leeks, and garlic. I also ended up using chickpeas and some stock made from a a turkey carcass taking up way too much space in the freezer.

Start by sauteing your leeks with a bit of olive oil and a pat of butter.

After a few minutes when the leeks have softened, add the garlic and stir a bit more. Then, add the dried spelt and stir frequently so the grains are all coated with oil and start to toast.

Now, in goes the bunch of chard.


The chard wilts quickly, leaving more room for the other ingredients.

Throw in some beans. I cooked up a batch of chickpeas in the pressure cooker, starting with one cup of dried beans. I'm playing fast and loose with the quantities, proving that it's really hard to go wrong. I tossed in the chopped asparagus after the beans. As I add in each ingredient, I also toss a bit of salt into the pan.

Now, add the cooking liquid. I started by adding 1/2 cup of white wine, deglazing the pan as I stirred. Then, I added a bit too much turkey broth, but it was fine because it just meant I had lots of broth for my spongy bread to drink up. Spelt is great in that it stays chewy even when cooked for a long time. I started to add broth a bit at a time, but ended up getting impatient and ditched my risotto style. Salt and pepper to taste.

Dinner is done! To make this a bit more decadent, you can melt in some soft cheese. Conveniently, I had some Red Hawk in the refrigerator, and OMG, I think I should always have some Red Hawk in the fridge because it has so much flavor! You can substitute brie, especially the mushroom brie, Parmesan, or even a sharp cheddar. I like the softer cheeses, though, because they melt into the broth and make a rich, creamy sauce.

Yesterday, I made more muffins out of leftover produce. This time, I made a mash from a leftover Japanese sweet potato, a mixture of rice and wheat flour, dark molasses, ground ginger, and ground cinnamon. I served these muffins with homemade pumpkin butter kindly gifted to me by a cousin - perfect for a nippy day. If I manage to use up the rest of the produce in tonight's dinner, I'll buy some cornmeal tomorrow so I can start making cornbread muffins.

I'm eying the remaining gai lan and cabbage in the refrigerator, but somehow I don't think they will make tasty muffins. I think they'll have to be chow mein ingredients instead.

Muffins are taking over my brain.


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