Monday, January 31, 2011


A series of cravings kept me in the kitchen for several hours last weekend. First, I wanted a burger. I have had quite a few burger cravings recently, and I satisfy them by sending Josh to Red Mill. Last time, however, there was too much cardamom in the secret sauce, so I decided to make my own burgers this time around. We still have meat from our 1/4-steer! I ordered it in October of 2009. I suppose that, in order to truly enjoy the beef in a timely fashion, I should have thought of it more like an Argentinian would. As in: Hm. I have this high-quality, grass-fed beef that is high in the right kinds of omegas and that does not have all that heart-stopping garbage that corn-fed beef has. I should eat it every day! I was taking more of a moderation sort of tack. As in: One serving of beef per week, thank you. There is some that I have no idea what to do with. Forgive me if I mentioned this before, but what the hell is a cube steak?

Anyway, my burger was fabulous. As per usual I was too shy on the salt, but once I added a bit divinity was definitely present. I mixed chimichurri into the burgers themselves. Oh, you don't make that? You must. It's good with everything! I'll put the recipe at the bottom. Mix some with burger meat, dump it on meatloaf, dress roasted veggies with it ... salmon, chicken, pizza sauce, savory crepe filling with mushrooms ... I could go on. The best way to have it with the burger is to make sure that you toast some buttered bread as your bun.
Naturally, fries were part of the craving. I make a mean oven fry. The trick to great texture is soaking the potatoes in hot water for 20 minutes. That pulls out just the right amount of starch. Red Mill has good fries, too. They are pretty thick and not greasy. My oven fries are much better, of course.
The final craving was for nutella. I know, I know. That is easy - just buy some! But I really want to cut back on how much my family contributes to King GMO Corn and the petro-chemical industry who, together with heir apparent GMO soy, have taken over the US agricultural landscape. And there is corn in everything! Homemade nutella is good, not as smooth and not as spreadable as the jarred stuff, but definitely the real deal. I'll give you the recipe to that, too.

When I lived in Spain I was told how kids have nutella as a snack on bread when they come home from school, or in the late afternoon, or whatever. I thought it indulgent and silly. Then I pondered the peanut butter that I had for lunch often. It dawned on me that Nutella merely combines a nut butter with chocolate. If you get the right kind of chocolate, it's good for you. I've come around, is what I'm saying. I no longer think those Nutella-loving Spaniards, Italians, and French so bizarre and gluttonous.

1 cup cilantro
1/4 cup parsley
6 scallions
1 T oregano (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 head roasted garlic (roast 30 minutes at 375)
2 T red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper and a little cayenne to taste
Whir it all in a food processor. You can drizzle in the oil, if you like.

1/3 cup toasted hazelnuts
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 oz. high-quality dark or bittersweet chocolate (I use Ghirardelli bittersweet chips)
3 T brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt

If you have to toast your own hazelnuts, go for 350 and check them after 8 minutes. Total 10-15 minutes. They are really easy to burn and taste awful when they get that far. Take the hazelnuts and process them until you make nut butter - 5 minutes, maybe more! It's hard to get it truly smooth. Warm the cream until little bubbles form on the edges - don't boil. Then add the sugar, vanilla and salt to dissolve all that. Take it off the heat and pour in the chocolate bits to melt. Dump that concoction in with the nut butter and puree until you get nutella!

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Sam does like his morning breakfast pastries. Plenty of toddlers may suggest "cookies" for breakfast. My son knows that cookies are for after dinner and that croissants are for breakfast. I suppose I could make my own - there is plenty of frozen puff pastry for the working lasses who want to make puffy pastries, but don't have the four hours to roll their own dough. I just like going to cafes so much that I steer clear of going down that slippery slope of making croissants and pains au chocolate myself.
But scones! a lady can get behind those.

I had my doubts about these scones. I mentioned previously that I don't know what is wrong with the cafes around here, selling things called "scones" that are blobby, cloying messes. I make lovely, flaky beauties sans frosting, sans chocolate chips, sans all that gross "filling." Do scones have filling? NO. So I got a nifty new cookbook for Xmas, a child-focused cookbook. It has a scone recipe that calls for cream, not butter! I decided that, even if they were not true scones, Sam might like them, and that's who I was making them for anyway.

They were delicious! Even with cream instead of butter, they had the "correct" texture. Well, maybe they weren't as flaky as they could have been, but they were not blobby. I put sprinkles on for Sam. You can't really tell, but the scones are in the shapes of hearts, moons, and houses.

I put a heart in Sam's lunch and it came back uneaten! What? I tried again the next day with the same result. Ingrate. This was the kid who tried to grab the freshly baked ones right off the tray.

So I start eating them as after-work snacks. Well, of course, Sam spots mine with butter and jam and wants a bite ... and another ... and he eats the whole thing. Fine. Scones for dinner.

Josh and I tried family dinner one Sunday. The kid just doesn't eat. I think he eats at school - all his lunch and snacks, then fasts at home. He also fasts on the weekends. This is my curse. I can't stand picky eaters, and I've got one. I continually tell myself (pray?) that he will grow out of it - that three is a magical year when we will have family dinners and Sam will adroitly use utensils and actually eat all those vegetables that he merely names now.

To dream ....

Monday, January 10, 2011

This is the time of year when we (amateur, at-home) bakers learn - or relearn, in some cases - baking techniques and rules. For example, if the recipe says to let sugar and butter boil for two minutes without touching it, don't touch it. I know it looks like it really wants to be stirred. I know you wish that the cookbook would just say,because you will ruin it if you touch it, so that you know why you are not supposed to touch it. But don't experiment when you don't have another pound of butter waiting in the wings just in case.
Another thing is that, when grinding your own nuts, once you see that they are ground, stop. Just one more pulse spells the difference between ground nuts and nut butter.

I did this to my hazelnuts, which I was using for pfeffernuesse, which did not come out spicy and earthy like I wanted them to. I need another recipe. Preferably, one that does not use hazelnuts because ... this time of year, I also remember how much I hate hazelnuts. They are easy to over bake and hard to peel. You do all this work for bitter, nastiness that you throw out to the squirrels. Harrumph.

I do love baking cookies, though. A couple recipes got me really mad this year - and that is part of the fun. I forget how much work it is and how much my feet hurt and how ticked off I get when a dough sticks as I roll it, or doesn't look right, or what-have-you. But you forget all that stuff so that you bake again next year, of course. Because the best part about making cookies is handing them out.

I gave away seven or so plates, mostly to neighbors. I was invited in to three out of the five houses I visited. My husband dropped off one more plate, and I am sure I would have been invited in there as well. One house in particular - the gruff old man next door, who I absolutely love - did not invite me in, and barely opened the door wide enough. But his face when he saw that plate of cookies! 82 years old and he lit up like a toddler on Christmas morning. Then he thanked me and closed the door in my face. Ah, gruff old men.

I want to give people plates of Valentine's cookies this year. Wouldn't that be fun? Winter is lonely in Seattle, as we all hole up with our space heaters and humidifiers and fleece. I think people would be happy to get a little pink plate with heart-shaped cookies. Yes!

Monday, January 3, 2011


I know. A little late, right? I had a long hiatus ... I forget why.

So, I neglected to take ... uh ... any photos during the event at the Walkers' abode this year. Too bad because we had quite the eclectic Thanksgiving spread.
I made my cornbread-sausage-squash stuffing. It came out really sweet, like the butternut squash swallowed a bunch of maple syrup. Eating a small portion with turkey and gravy made it work, but I might use a Danish squash or something not so cloying next time.
Then there was the cauliflower puree. One of the attendees at our Thanksgiving fete detests mashed potatoes. But Josh and I were discussing the fact that we simply must have something to pour gravy on. So this is cauliflower boiled in chicken broth until very tender, then pureed with some broth until smooth, and finished with salt, butter, and creme fraiche. So good. It worked with or without gravy.

I think that segues into the eclectic nature of the feast itself. The usual suspects that were missing: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry, and green beans. What we did have was pancit, a Filipino dish of noodles and various meats, and a cauliflower-apple curry, yes curry, soup. Both were lovely, and the dinner was excellent - moist turkey, rich gravy, fabulous overall. Josh and I did have a funny feeling afterwards because of all the missing elements, however. Funny how you are just locked, psychologically, into certain items.

You simply must hear the potato story - the reason G won't go near a pile of mashed potatoes, ever. So, his older brother turned 10, or something, and was not interested in cake. Their mother, being accommodating and clever, created a smashing, colorful birthday cake molded from smoothly whipped mashed potatoes. Unfortunately, little G was not apprised of his mother's dastardly plan, and took a scoop of what his brain was calling cake and frosting, shoving it greedily into his mouth. The brain's expectation of sweetness clashed violently with the information from his tongue: cold, savory, blue and red ... mashed potatoes? The only solution for an 8-year-old? Vomit.

Never again will the mashed tuber pass his lips.

Oh! I forgot to take a photo of my pie. It was gorgeous and awesome! I made a pear tart with a syrup infused with star anise, cloves, and vanilla. It was my first time scraping the vanilla goop out of a real pod. Good times.