Monthly Archives: March 2008

Time-Pressed Culinary Feats (& a Little Bit of Lack Thereof)

Pressed for time, but longing to bake *something*, I opted for an old favorite: banana bread.

However, I could not find the family recipe my aunt painstakingly assembled in a giant collection several Christmases ago…so I opted for one from Epicurious: Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts (this had the added bonus of helping me get rid of the chips and nuts that have been sitting around and doing nothing but cluttering my pantry forever).

In all fairness, I didn’t have any lemon juice (well, tell a lie…I actually found a bottle of lemon juice tucked away in my fridge…that expired in July 2007 — oopsie) and so I made do without and that could possibly explain why it turned out so dry? I don’t know though…I’ve never had trouble with texture before…although I guess it could also be that our family recipe is overwhelmingly moist? Either way, if that recipe doesn’t turn up around here somewhere (and, again, to be fair, it’s a little chaotic around here with my master’s project due on Monday and the Great American Food Writing Job Search that just kicked off…), I will have to ask my mother for it again…because I wasn’t nuts (ooh — bad pun) about the banana bread with chocolate chips and walnuts.

Fun aside: when I told my friend from Colombia that I was making banana bread, she got all excited and said that her two favorite culinary things about America are ranked as follows:

1. Beef Jerky
2. Banana Bread

I’ve also been dying to make Chewy Chocolate Cookies…they seem easy enough and I have everything on hand (and I *do* have one heck of a sweet tooth)…but I haven’t slept in days, so priority #1 after the job fair tomorrow will be to get some shuteye…and then perhaps I’ll contemplate chewy chocolate cookies.

But…one *does* have to eat dinner, so earlier this week, I made those quesadillas (which were actually remarkably convenient — the recipe yielded 8 and so I’ve been able to just grab one out of the fridge and warm it up for 45 seconds and dinner is served at my house). I didn’t follow the recipe to a T though — I had to use kale because FreshDirect did not have mustard greens…but I don’t do a lot of stuff with kale and was a little freaked out about having huge chunks of it in there…so I ended up food-processing the whole bunch. (I also think the recipe is in dire need of cumin rather than chili powder…) But, it was fairly easy and filled me up…so definitely worth the trouble. Ooh — also: the goat cheese really makes this dish. I’d even recommend using *more* because it really does something to sort of mesh all of the flavors in there.

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The Saga Continues…

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Happy Birthday, Heidi!

…and many happy returns, Battle Maiden.

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Friday Catblogging

Aww…this is one of my favorites.

I went to a shelter this week to see about getting another Fatty…and I was immediately drawn to a 1-year-old sliver tabby named “Phil.” But, unfortunately, Phil has some digestive problems and is on medication and it could be a chronic thing…

I don’t know if I’m ready to bring an animal with a chronic medical condition into my life…but I’m going to keep an eye on him. He seemed like a really sweet boy.

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Miss Fluffy Rice…& Touchin’ Clouds

I was recently photocopying columns from a women’s magazine in the 1960s when I came across ads from the Rice Council featuring a character called “Miss Fluffy Rice.”

Miss Fluffy Rice is really too good to be true — she’s a wooden spoon with an apron and rice for hair…who has endless tips about how to incorporate more rice into your diet. She brought me great amusement at work. (I *also* enjoyed the ads for ribs in a can…and the wonderfully direct, “Why are the most tender, flaky pie crusts you ever tasted made by someone else?” [It’s because that someone else uses Armour Star Lard.]” Also interesting: everyone at the top of the masthead was a man…!)

Work, coincidentally, is where I *also* scrounged up this priceless biscuit-making tip (use it and think of me): “Finally, a light touch is essential! Handle the dough and the biscuits as little as possible. You don’t want gluten to develop and you want the fat to stay cold until the biscuits bake, so hands off! Think of handling clouds or other very delicate objects during this whole process.”

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So Much Conan!

First, this: Conan O’Brien Recipe “Completely Made Up” By Good Housekeeping

Then, this (which would be so much better if it wasn’t missing the part about bubble and squeak):

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Greens for St. Patrick’s Day

It’s sort of a happy accident that these recipes were the most appealing to me…and today happens to be a day that prizes green above all others.

But…at some point in the near future, I will be making Bell Pepper, Red Onion and Goat Cheese Pizza and Potato, Greens and Goat Cheese Quesadillas.

(There’s also a recipe for Penne with Greens, Olives and Feta that I think looks good.)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Just as a side note…when I was blogging about green beer, I came across a website that talked about the green Chicago River…and I guess I always knew that they did that, but I never really thought about it before and now I’m FASCINATED by it. So…I wish I was in Chicago today. (Or I wish they dyed the East River. Or, well, now that I think about it, maybe it’s not the most environmentally sound practice? I don’t know…I like festive things. That’s all I meant.)

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Festive Towels

I put out my Easter dish towels this weekend. (Sadly, I do not have a St. Patrick’s Day towel.) Don’t get me wrong — I still love my moose dish towel from Alaska. (It’s so rugged!) But…it’s fun to shake things up every now and again. I have a lot of festive dish towels for the end of the year — Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. But then the moose comes back until Easter…and is out all summer.

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Recent Baking

This is totally old news at this point, but I came home from class the other day and had a serious compulsion to make peanut butter cookies (they are long since gone…this is how long ago I had the compulsion). But it was, like, overwhelming. I had to do it. And, luckily, there’s a quick and easy recipe on the Jif site.

One small crisis with the brown sugar though: the bag burst while I was pouring it out and so it was open at both the top and the bottom which made it sort of difficult to measure, to say the least. Luckily, I used up virtually all of it and so I didn’t have to figure out how to store anything…

Last weekend, I also wanted to try out the cinnamon roll recipe that was in Bon Appetit recently. I don’t do a lot with yeast…so that’s always a little nerve-racking. And the recipe calls for you to use the paddle attachment on your mixer (I had to look up which one that is online — I would have guessed correctly…but, you know, wanted to make sure).

And, this is embarrassing, but I ran out of counter space (it kind of turned into an all-day project with all of the rising and whatnot…not that it was labor-intensive or anything…but, you know, it meant doing a step and then waiting and finding something else to keep myself occupied before returning and doing the next step several hours later…) and so I used my pie mat to actually knead the dough on the floor. Sounds completely gross, right? But I swear the pie mat was clean and everything…and counter space in my tiny little apartment is really hard to come by…and it just seemed like the only logical thing to do. (It’s sort of like the time my roommate and I were making the pudding dish with crust but had walnuts in the shell and had to crack them, but only had hammers at our disposal…and there was a baby upstairs who we didn’t want to wake, so we ended up in my closet [on the ground floor], cracking walnuts with the hammers on phone books to further muffle the sound. I always said that an experience like that bonded us for life…[but, sadly, I was wrong].)

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Outstanding in the Field

There’s a corner of the kitchen in my “office” that is full of free stuff — mostly books, but sometimes also beauty products, plants or even clothes (I’ve seen two pairs of pants…and they went like hot cakes). I had never actually taken anything before because I’m awfully low on the totem poll (read: the very last rung) and I didn’t want to garner a rep as the intern with sticky fingers. But…I saw a cookbook and sort of kept my eye on it for a day or two. No one else took it…so *I* finally took it home with me last week. It’s Jim Denevan’s “Outstanding in the Field: A Farm to Table Cookbook.”

The topic is sort of related to my master’s project — the so-called “post-industrial food economy” (which may actually be a Michael Pollan term) and returning to the land to eat whole foods. I’ve only sort of flipped through the thing, but apparently Jim & Co. are from Santa Cruz, Calif. (go Banana Slugs!) and every summer they hop in a bus and tour the country and set up huge tables in fields and break bread with farmers and locals and the like. It seems like an interesting concept…and I’m especially intrigued by the desserts. So…as soon as I’m not crazy-busy anymore, I look forward to a leisurely read (which may actually coincide when the book actually goes on sale in June 2008).

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