Monday, November 29, 2010

Stuff - ing

I love stuffing.

I know. Thanksgiving is over. I know.

I am going there. I am going to rave about stuffing.

We didn't have stuffing on T-day and were craving a fix. It seems that we reserve the savory bread pudding for this time of year. Absurd. The weather is cold. Some people are dreaming of lots of time in the local mountains. Other of us can't get enough yoga and this other silly workout. We need stuffing.

I am really trying to increase the amount of veggies I eat. It is called "less-meat-atarian"
A rather healthy stuffing that is.

I am about to share with you the best stuffing I have ever had.

There are some people out there who know me and my eating habits all too well that are thinking that this is BS. But I do, I love stuffing.

I had three helpings. The proof is in the pudding! (sorry)

My love was not around for the holiday, but we all make sacrifices, I ate stuffing for the warmth. I believe that some times we are put in situations for some greater good, I needed to make the perfect stuffing and I needed to hang out with my brother even more. My brother was here from the west side, my sweets was across the country. Things change. I learned that brother has grown up. We have arrived. We are pals. He made us breakfast every day. He brought us a truck load of fire wood.

Tonight was the first time that I had made my own stuffing. I am converted. I love the stuff-ing.

There is a secret to not making it a heart attack disguised as a casserole. Lots of soft vegtables.

Artichoke stuffing. There were vegetables everywhere, some bread, an egg, seasoning, beef broth. I will live another day after way too much of the stuff - ing.

Here is what we came up with.

Perfect!


Parmesan Artichoke Stuffing

Serves 4 as a light side

2 cups sourdough bread, cubed and toasted
1 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
salt and pepper to taste
1 can of artichoke hearts, drained
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion finely, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced celery, diced
1 cup diced mushrooms, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups beef broth

1. Toast 2 cups bread. We used sourdough which gave the finished dish a bit of tang. Use what you have on hand and be really excited if it is sourdough. To crisp up the bread, it is okay if it is stale, 300 degrees for about 20 minutes. Don't worry, this is not an exact science, just dry the bread out. That is all.

2. Saute the onions, mushrooms, celery, and garlic in the butter. Cook them down until nice and soft, playing together well.

3. In a nice sized mixing bowl, toss the crutons,  1 cup of cheese, salt and pepper together. Add the vegtables, mix. Add the broth and the beaten egg, mix it all together.

4. In a lightly greased baking dish, pour the batter evenly across the pan. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese.

5. Bake at 400 degrees for about an hour, the top should be nice and brown.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Last Minute Prep - Mood!

I can't but help to share this with you on the eve of the biggest cooking day of the year. I mean this is a day devoted to food, not material gifts, just the presence of food.

I often fret over dinner - even breakfast can be a bit overwhelming - for me - add my sweetie (who eats anything) and  still I worry.

Thanksgiving - wowzers, stress test!

Read up - the most you can do for your company is be a fun host, either chill out - or crack another bottle of wine....

Enjoy - Mark Bittman - One of the finest food writers in my book - At his finest 

Bread - Part II


I decided that it would be better to share the second step of baking the no knead bread before Thanksgiving. You could even make this the day after the big feast - to make little sammies or a vehicle to plow through all the leftovers.











Follow through with this little recipe and I almost guarantee that you can make your own loaf of crusty bread.

I made some little rolls to have cheese steaks al la Juan. Dee - lish!















Have a blessed holiday


Enjoy your day - weekend

Travel safe


Love your company - friends & family


Love the food & the people who prepare it


Cheers!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Winter

I told everyone that it did not snow in the Tri Cities. This place is dry, the desert for crying out loud! Oh wait, wait a moment, we may have moved but this little princess is still in Washington none the less.

There are three inches of snow on the ground - it is only 6am and still snowing.



Good thing for me I still have no where pressing to be, just the hot pursuit for a job. Although I am really settling into a good unemployed routine.

A routine that starts by building a fire, making hot cocoa, baileys, finishing a book and of course a date with Mad Men.... my day is complete.

Our apartment has a wood burning stove, I should have known that it was going to snow. I just built a "fire" yeah I ready for the ski town that J dreams about.... HAH!

Happy Thanksgiving week to ya'll! I hope more than anything that it brings you closer to friends and family and some really fine cooking.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The view, my view

A view from my favorite run. A quote I heard in yoga this morning.

Anyone can slay a dragon, he told me, but try waking up every morning and loving the world all over again. That's what takes a real hero.

— Brian Andreas

For people snowed in

Okay......

Thanksgiving.....

I am a little out of the loop this year. I love to spend Thanksgiving in Bellingham, part of the day with family and part of the day with friends, or sometimes the friends would just come to our family's dinner.

My perfect world.... sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts and pie.... after a cold and muddy mountain bike ride with J and friends.

Um, yeah, not this year. I hate to admit this but as far as activities go, we may be in the arm pit of Washington. How is that for giving thanks... We are grateful that this opportunity has been made possible and are even more grateful that we get to pick someplace new when this one expires (voice your opinion now! the list is being made!).

This will be the first Thanksgiving that J and I will be apart, he is going to Nashville to be with his family and I am staying here with our kids (the animals - geez!) and my brother and his lady friend are making the trek across the pass to visit.

So I am cooking. I think we are going to eat steaks. Eat a ton of my favorite seasonal veggies. Drink wine. Play games. Hopefully enjoy a dusting snow.

Check out the newest addition to my kitchen. We are already really goo friends. Christmas came early - or a Thanksgiving gift!

And will be eating home made bread! I figure since it is home made I can eat as much white bread as I want. Crusty white bread, warm and soft on the inside.

Now I dare you, try it. If I can get one thing across to you in my ramblings, it is that everyone can make a loaf of bread in minimal effort.

Here is my hand scribbled recipe.

Look - I don't see any rocket science scribbles!

This is a bread that takes less than 5 minutes to whip up and the counter doesn't even get dirty. No joke.

Lets try!

Just grab the ingredients that are most likely on hand.

Flour
Water
Yeast
Salt
Dump them in a large bowl - no order, just dump.
Mix until really sticky and combined.That is it. No kidding! Just mix...
Then you just cover it, leave it o the counter for 2 to 4 hours.
Ok so this recipe is not fool proof. Here is my blunder. Leave it in the big mixing bowl. It rises and rises a lot.

Crisis adverted!

You could bake it at this point or put it in the fridge for up to a week.

Mine is in the fridge.


In order to have a flavorful loaf, mix it today and tuck it away into the fridge and bake on Thanksgiving day.

Now you have the step by step guide, the recipe follows.

Get to it!

All you friends and family snowed in in Bellingham, now is your chance, if you are now out skiing!

It will work - I promise! And I promise to show you the next steps of baking the bread right around the big day, but the recipe gets into it, so you really don't need me!

 
 
I found the first recipe on King Arthur's blog (see step by step photos on their blog)  I still go to this recipe each time. It is just that easy!
 
Read their blog about all kinds of bread, at Bakers' Banter.
  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour*
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast

Directions

*The flour/liquid ratio is important in this recipe. If you measure flour by sprinkling it into your measuring cup, then gently sweeping off the excess, use 7 1/2 cups. If you measure flour by dipping your cup into the canister, then sweeping off the excess, use 6 1/2 cups. Most accurate of all, and guaranteed to give you the best results, if you measure flour by weight, use 32 ounces.
1) Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, or a large (6-quart), food-safe plastic bucket. For first-timers, "lukewarm" means about 105°F, but don't stress over getting the temperatures exact here. Comfortably warm is fine; "OUCH, that's hot!" is not. Yeast is a living thing; treat it nicely.
2) Mix and stir everything together to make a very sticky, rough dough. If you have a stand mixer, beat at medium speed with the beater blade for 30 to 60 seconds. If you don't have a mixer, just stir-stir-stir with a big spoon or dough whisk till everything is combined.
3) Next, you're going to let the dough rise. If you've made the dough in a plastic bucket, you're all set — just let it stay there, covering the bucket with a lid or plastic wrap; a shower cap actually works well here. If you've made the dough in a bowl that's not at least 6-quart capacity, transfer it to a large bowl; it's going to rise a lot. There's no need to grease the bowl, though you can if you like; it makes it a bit easier to get the dough out when it's time to bake bread.
4) Cover the bowl or bucket, and let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours. Then refrigerate it for at least 2 hours, or for up to about 7 days. (If you're pressed for time, skip the room-temperature rise, and stick it right into the fridge). The longer you keep it in the fridge, the tangier it'll get; if you chill it for 7 days, it will taste like sourdough. Over the course of the first day or so, it'll rise, then fall. That's OK; that's what it's supposed to do.
5) When you're ready to make bread, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour; this will make it easier to grab a hunk. Grease your hands, and pull off about 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough — a 14-ounce to 19-ounce piece, if you have a scale. It'll be about the size of a softball, or a large grapefruit.
6) Plop the sticky dough onto a floured work surface, and round it into a ball, or a longer log. Don't fuss around trying to make it perfect; just do the best you can.
7) Place the dough on a piece of parchment (if you're going to use a baking stone); or onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sift a light coating of flour over the top; this will help keep the dough moist as it rests before baking.
8) Let the dough rise for about 45 to 60 minutes. It won't appear to rise upwards that much; rather, it'll seem to settle and expand. Preheat your oven (and baking stone, if you're using one) to 450°F while the dough rests. Place a shallow pan on the lowest oven rack, and have 1 cup of hot water ready to go.
9) When you're ready to bake, take a sharp knife and slash the bread 2 or 3 times, making a cut about 1/2" deep. The bread may deflate a bit; that's OK, it'll pick right up in the hot oven.
10) Place the bread in the oven, and carefully pour the 1 cup hot water into the shallow pan on the rack beneath. It'll bubble and steam; close the oven door quickly.
11) Bake the bread for 25 to 35 minutes, until it's a deep, golden brown.
12) Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. Store leftover bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.
13) Yield: 3 or 4 loaves, depending on size.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Blissing out in Bellingham

It is such a nice day out - SUN - just breaking sixty degrees - blue skies. I have my running pants and wind shirt on, trying to summon some motivation to go out and play, or at least walk the dog around the island. I know the weather is about to change, change for a long winter. Instead, I am finding every excuses not to step foot outside (sorry Natasha) and the biggest excuses is that Bellingham and all its great parties gave me a cold and my body aches awfully bad.

When I was a child I never lost my appetite when I got sick, and still to this day I get sick and try to eat it away. I sit here today and just tried to vanish a cold through some comfort food. Today the choices have been less than productive to a compromised immune system (what - a bag of Sun Chips can't be that bad - I am just saying - garden salsa in a compostable bag).

Yesterday I had company in trying to win over the cold by feeding it sweets and creamy spicy tea in a fancy new little bakery/coffee bar/wine/beer/port cute and cuddly space.  My sweet friend and Bellingham hostess for the weekend ventured down to Pure Bliss Desserts, a friends' newest addition to the core of Bellingham's downtown. 

Pure Bliss is the cute, hip, fancy, and welcoming intimate gathering spot that Bellingham can use. Open in the evenings, we can now venture out for a slice of cake (chocolate of course) and a glass of port, pure bliss (that is if I was still in the frumpy town). I can't forget, one of the best parts of this experience is that the dear writer of One Hungry Soul (she is a gem) a local, here in Bellingham by choice (it seems) is the cuttie pie behind the counter along with her darling younger sister. Do I have your attention now!?!

The colors are cohesive, crisp and cheerful while creating a warm space dotted with glittering chandeliers and pulled together with fresh flowers. The selection of dessert ranges from bars, a handful of cakes, a few cupcakes and several choices of cookies. I had a molasses cookie that was a texture that I enjoyed, not too sweet, buttery, or heavy. It was gone in just a few minutes, I approve. I brought John home three different varieties of short bread (the verdict is yet to come in).

Next time you happen to be wandering the streets of Bellingham, pop in and give the ladies a warm smile, they are sweet as the treats and cute as can be.

Cookies couldn't make me feel better, savory chips didn't do the trick, I needed to bake something myself. I needed something out of my (temporary) kitchen. I needed banana bread. I made banana bread. I put flax in it because I needed crunch and it makes the dough pretty.


Tuck this away. It soothes colds, with butter it can comfort a hangover. Tuck it away. 


Banana Bread
Makes one 9-inch loaf

Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
If you don't own this book yet, get it, thank me later. 
The key to great banana bread is ripe bananas. If your naners are yellow, which are too starchy to cook with, you can give them a 15 minute sunbath to really bring out the sugars that have develop in brown, ripened bananas. When you start to preheat the oven, plop the unpeeled bananas on a baking sheet in the oven and let them roast for 15 to 20 minutes, remove, cool slightly and peel. Sweetness!

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 ripe bananas, 1 1/2 cups mashed
6 tablespoons butter slightly melted
2 large eggs
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup whole flax seed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan.

2. Whisk flour sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk the mashed bananas, melted butter, eggs, yogurt, and vanilla together in a separate bowl. Gently fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture with a spatula don't forget the flax. Do not over mix, just let it be bumpy and frumpy.

3. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Bake until golden brown and the tooth pick inserted into the center comes out close to clean, about 50 - 55 minutes.

4. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes then remove to a wire rack for an hour.

Enjoy!

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Within a couple days of each other I have had some very profound advice shared to me by two people I respect immensely (who both I wished I lived closer to and hope to maintain a close relationship).

**Here comes the soapbox! Don't think you were not warned!**

I like to believe that I live in a little fairy tale world where I fell head over heels into a magical relationship - ummmmm..... from what I understand of my husband and my realationship and most of the the other couples that are within our circle of friends..... these rarley exsist. Sad I know - I am the queen of ideal, happy go lucky scenarios, truth be told, I am just going to hold on to that ideal, it is truely worth it and set out to make the happiest and most fulfilling relationship I can.

What I want to share (besides the fact that we are not all perfect) are these few nuggets of advice that were shared with me. These ladies are on to something and since it was gifted to me it is now time for me to pass it on.

I am not going to get  into the details of my relationship - this is not the place. I am going to get into the lessons I learn while sharing my life with someone, someone I love and care deeply about. I feel that some things are very personal and should be kept that way but other things need to be shared and expressed so others can relate and people can communicate these experiences that we all share. As lonely and distant as some of these experiences and feelings can be, we are in this together and often are going through the same sort of ordeal.  As much as I dislike to admit, we are not that unique.

A bit of motherly advice and 20 mores years of experience put the words to a feeling that I  know many of use face and deal with on a day to day basis.   We are all raised in very unique situations. We are the products of very distinct situations. Some people can be raised next door to each other and have an extremely different experiences or just the opposite, they could live on the the other side of the country from one another and share very similar experiences. I was raised in a very different household than my husband, different parts of the country, cultures and climates but have other upbringings that are rather similar, this is what makes us individuals and unique but also challenging to live with from day to day.

The mastery of understanding that each person is a product of their eviroment, embracing the situation from which we were created and then developed and understanding that each one of us are very differnt. We will never understand what is happening, the true thoughts and feelings that race through anothers being, this is a mistystery and is completly beautiful and enchanting in the same breath. Being able to share these distinct worlds together may be the greatest gift and the hardest challenge that people who choose to spend their lives with someone else may ever face.

I choose to embrace these challenges, as hard as they often are and as rewarding as it can be imaginable.

Moving on... to the second nugget...

Now understanding that we come from very different backgrounds, we come together and choose to move on through this this world as a couple. Yeah, the fun begins. Day to day - the most intimate of situations, every day (almost) the good and the bad, let us not forget the farts and the roses (for the record there are more farts than roses in my relationship). We can do the day to day, but can we do the day to day for the rest of our days? 

Moving, moving in the same direction, together. Yes, we may be two very different people but what matters is that these two lives are moving in the same direction, parallel paths. Our paths may be very different, involve different logic, different people and events, but they are pointed in the same direction. In the end, these two people choose to be at the same place at the end of the day, decade and helped one another get there.

We are different but both are going to the same place, my path is a bit foggy, wondering and often a bit confusing, where his is very linear, straight forward and planned out. We are taking care of each other and at the end of the day that is what is real.



I am a big sappy pile of pleasant thoughts, terribly missing J and his warm embrace, I must get outside, outside my head, and hope that I can convey to him how much he means to me as different as we are.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Lovelies

Fall is upon us, it seems to come and go in a blink of an eye or the gusts of wind that bring in winter. The leaves have been rich, vibrant, exploding with color. The desert is beautiful this time of year. The temperatures are tolerable, the days are crisp and often sunny.
  
This is the second cat I want - it lives somewhere between our house and Bateman, just where it belongs. 
Our apartment is full enough already.

My days are filled with walks with the wonderful little pup. Across the street from our apartment is Bateman Island, it is a great little nature preserve. Natasha and I walk here every weekday and where these pictures are taken.
A perfect Fall morning.

I have found beauty in the desert. I enjoy blue sky - it really isn't that hard to do, as you can tell.
I enjoy all the different stages of fall, from the first few leaves that start to change. The cringes I make when I must say good by to the summer and prepare for a long cold season.
Then to a full explosion of color. Colors that burst with fierce hues of gold, reds, yellows, oranges and browns. Contrasted by a blue sky - and here here in the Tri Cities, blue rivers.
Then the leaves fall to the ground and the same routine ensues, my bike tires rip through the sea of crunchy potential compost, I look for Natasha's poop disguised in the leaves (not my favorite adventure), I am reminded cross country practices years ago that always occupied the fall season, I enjoy the last of the fresh produce and squeeze any last outdoor adventures because I hate cold wet weather in which I retreat to the gym.
Here is to a long winter in a new place and new hobbies.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Stout Chocolate Cake

I am complete after I eat chocolate cake. I actually think - wait - I know that it is my favorite dessert. I prefer flour less chocolate cake but can be wowed by a good frosted chocolate cake. Really, it is not that hard. J introduced me into the total indulgence of chocolate cake and a glass of port. Need I say more? How could one not be totally smitten.....

 Some of our good Bellingham friends ventured down to Bend for a long weekend. We filled up a condo, the guys had epic days of skiing (J swears it was one of his best and he has had more than the average), we saw some of our old pals, Jess had a birthday, J and I had our second anniversary, and we toured the Deschutes Brewery (Bryan might be the biggest fan...). We drank lots of beer. It was great. We learn about brewing beer. We bought tee shirts and more beer.
 I love strong pungent flavors and smells. I really enjoy dark, flavorful beer.  I got to sample many of their premium beers, which often come close to a wine and that is the intention. Try the traditional seasonal Jubelale (there is a pack in our fridge right now if have to know) then once that opens the doors dive into these intense beers - which will blow your socks off - it is their Reserve Series.

I walked away with a bottle of the Black Butte Porter. One of my favorite dark beers. When I bought it I had intended to cook with it. It sat in the fridge for a long time. Today it had to go. I need some new things in the fridge to look at - ya know how it goes....

I thought.... beer bread - not today too dense. Stew, beef stew - nope. Cake, chocolate cake - how could I say no!

I just happen to find the most intense, chocolate, porter brew recipe I could find and dove in.


I apologize in advance....
















This is not going to help with the post Halloween sugar fest or the pre Thanksgiving fast. This isn't going to make those tight little pair of jeans look any better or motivate you to go for a run. This cake is for pure indulgence purposes. It is good while sitting on the couch reading a good book (I happen to be reading Lamb), drinking coffee (I picked up a pound and a half back in the 'ham), and basking with the creatures that feel no guilt.


Stout Chocolate Cake

yield: Makes 12 servings

Make Sure to use UNSALTED butter. I learned my lesson, finally I am going to always buy unsalted from now on. This is a HUGE recipe - cut it in half unless you have a small army to feed sweets to. I Made mine in two 9 inch spring form pans, perfect. Jam would be an ideal layer between the cake to cut the density a bit. Did I say unsalted butter... double check!

Ingredients

Cake
  • 2 cups stout (such as Guinness)
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups sour cream

Icing
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Preparation

For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper. Bring 2 cups stout and 2 cups butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely.
For icing:
Bring cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Refrigerate until icing is spreadable, stirring frequently, about 2 hours.
Place 1 cake layer on plate. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with second cake layer. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake.

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