Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cool it

Oh Em Gee it's hot, hot, hot here! In the past month we've only had a couple of days that have dipped below 30, and we've hit 40+ twice in the past few days. Aieeeeee.

I'm not normally one to complain about the heat, but damn. It sort of sucks when it's this hot for this long, because there is no break. It doesn't cool down in the evenings. It's hot first thing in the morning. There is no escape.

We are trying to stay away from using the stove/oven to try to keep the house and us as cool as possible. Here's some cooking free stuff we've enjoyed lately:

Cucumber Salad

This is the quickest and healthiest of the recipes I'm sharing today. Ready in minutes and very very yummy. Also, cucumbers are low in calories and a good source of Vitamin C and Fiber.

2 TB rice vinegar
1 TB agave nectar
1 TB soy sauce
1 TB vegetable oil
1 cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and cut into thin half moons
salt and pepper

Whisk together the vinegar, agave, soy sauce and oil. Toss with the cucumber and season with salt and pepper if desired.

Gazpacho

Is there anything that screams SUMMER more than gazpacho? Fast, easy and super fresh. This recipe is from Ina Garten and it makes a ton. We made a half recipe and ate gazpacho for days and days. Not that I'm complaining.


from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

2 hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled
3 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
8 plum tomatoes
2 red onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
46 ounces tomato juice
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess!

After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.

Triple C Milkshake

This is the most decadent of the recipes and my favorite. Yum, yum, YUM. Cocoa powder contains antioxidants and flavonoids, which are very good for you. Cinnamon is also high in antioxidants. And chocolate ice cream is just plain good.


I like milkshakes a little on the thin side. You might want to decrease the milk a little, or add an extra spoon of ice cream if you like thicker milkshakes.

2 cups chocolate ice cream
1 1/3 cups skim milk
1 tb cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until incorporated and smooth. Add more milk for a thinner milkshake or more ice cream for a thicker one if needed.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Two hits and a miss from Rachel Ray

Have I mentioned that I am struggling with food? Well not with food, exactly, but the cooking of food. I have little interest in spending time in the kitchen cooking, and even less interest in looking through cookbooks, magazines or online for interesting things to make. Looking at food and/or reading about food? Blah. That word describes many things in my life. If I'm not in my pajamas, eating fruit and watching What Not To Wear and/or re-reading a Harry Potter book, then it's Blah. Oh my, that looks sort of sad, what I just wrote.

Anyway! From time to time I have short spurts of food related energy, when I say to myself, stop making boring sandwiches and pasta and the same zucchini-onion-pepper stirfry! Grab a cookbook and find something new and exciting! One day I even got myself so worked up that I'd decided to do one of those cook thru the book things (like I failed at last year!), but once I discarded the recipes containing booze, uncooked eggs, peanuts, certain cheeses and everything else I shouldn't eat, plus the ones I wouldn't eat (salmon, veal), there were like 4 recipe left, and what's the point.

So I've been reading a lot of Rachel Ray magazines. My Dad and I have an arrangement - he buys the magazine, reads it and cooks whatever out of it, then he passes them to me. I do the same thing and then store them so should either of us want to revisit an old issue, there it is. I like the magazine quite a lot and almost everything we've tried in the past has been a success. I'm trying to strike a balance between finding recipes that appeal to me and recipes that I have some or all ingredients on had for, like today's first recipe,

Pretzel Crusted Chicken and Zucchini Strips.

We had company at the end of last month and in preparation I bought a jumbo container of pretzels for snacking. No one touched them but me and although pretzels have been my friend and constant companion the past few months I was more than willing to sacrifice some of them for the recipe. I also had some chicken in the freezer, so all I needed to buy was zucchini. I am a huge, huge zucchini fan, and I love me some zucchini sticks. This dinner was easy to put together and tasted very nice. The zuke sticks were my favorite part and I will make them (and most likely the chicken) again.


Up next is a BLT Salad, also something I love. The one in the magazine is made with arugula and nuts, but I had spinach and no nuts so I went with that. I also had bacon in the freezer and tomatos on the counter so I had to buy nothing to make this dinner. I love when that happens. In the magazine this was served in endive leaves, but we just used bowls and a sprinkle of parmesan. I loved the mustard in the dressing - this salad is a real winner - easy and good. I was about to type that you don't have to turn on any appliances to make it but that's not true. Unless you buy pre-cooked bacon. But you could always microwave the bacon, avoiding the stove on hot hot days.



The last one is a miss that was pretty spectacular - Plantain Hush Puppies. I've been wanting to try a plantain for a long time but never knew what to do with them. I figured this recipe would be an easy introduction, paired with corn, and the dipping sauces sounded pretty yummy. Well the mixture came together fast, we dolloped it into the oil and...yikes. They just disintegrated into mush. There was no saving the first batch. Checked the oil temperature....it was good....second batch, same as the first. I was getting ready to switch gears and pan fry the rest of them, but when Scott tasted a little of the batter and immediately spat it into the sink....we turned to sandwiches and salad for dinner. And tried our best to ignore the pan full of oily yellow goo on the stove.

I'm disappointed it didn't turn out. Did I do something wrong - was it my corn? My plantain? I don't know. Anyone out there tried this one? I hate kitchen failures.

Coming soon - juice!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bread Baking Babes - Sukkar bi Tahin

This month's Bread Baking Babe recipe was chosen by fellow Canadian Babe Natashya from Living in the Kitchen with Puppies.

She's chosen a very unique bread for us to make this month - Sukkar bi Tahin, Beirut Tahini Swirls.

These breads are deceptively simple to make. After the dough has risen, the pieces are rolled into a rectangle and spread with a paste of tahini and sugar.

Roll the dough up like a snake, then coil the bread into a circle, then roll out again.

Bake until golden and flaky.

The flavor of these is interesting - the tahini and sugar taste similar to peanut butter. The dough was lovely and flaky, this would be fun to play around with different filling combinations as well as the tahini. I'm thinking something with jelly would be fun...but messy.

Check out Natashya's site for the recipe and instructions, and don't forget to visit all the other Babes, they are listed over on the right.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Misc

Thank you all very much for your comments and emails about our really big news. It was hard to keep quiet about the baby, the reason I wasn't posting much or visiting your websites hardly at all. I hope I replied to all of those who asked but in case I didn't, or if anyone else is wondering, my due date is December 5, and we are not finding out if it's a boy or a girl.

I have been supremely uninterested in food 90% of the time. Planning, cooking and eating meals have mostly been a struggle. Anything beyond toast, eggos, cheese slices and fruit is largely unappetizing, even now, at 5 months gone. We had some family come to town to visit and meal planning, which normally would have taken me an hour, took a solid week. I could not think of a single thing that I wanted to eat that would appeal to anyone else. Reading cookbooks or websites devoted to food is almost always out of the question.

But because it's just me and you here, I can tell you that there are the days when all I do is eat. EAT. On work days I'll have something for breakfast at home; toast or an eggo. Then I'll take my food to work - my "second breakfast" of cereal or yogurt or fruit, my lunch, and then some more fruit for the afternoon. Some days that's good enough. But then there are the days when I've eaten my second breakfast by 8:30 and by 10 I'm eating my lunch. And then someone walks in my office and I scramble to shove my bowl of stir fry in a drawer, and their all "Why does it smell like meat in here at 10 am?" and I'm all "It doesn't! Get out! What do you want!" and then by noon I'm in the grocery store forlornly wandering the aisles, looking for something that doesn't gross me out.

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I'll wrap it up with a picture from my ultrasound on Friday. Now it's possible I'm a little biased, but I think you'll agree that this might be the most beautiful baby IN THE WORLD.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Three more breads

I bought my first brand new, all about bread cookbook a couple of months ago. The Easy Way to Artisan Breads and Pastries. I'd borrowed this book from the library and once I sat down and started reading it I knew I had to have my own copy, there were just too many wonderful sounding recipes to try.

I ordered it from Amazon.ca and before it came but while we still had the library copy Scott flipped thru it looking for what would be our first bread out of the book. He chose, but unfortunately neither of us looked too closely at the recipe. When the weekend morning came to bake I realized that the recipe required a sourdough starter, something I didn't have. Scott was disappointed - he'd been looking forward to making Bacon Bread, but I said hey, we'll just find another basic loaf recipe and add bacon. Why not?

We cooked up some bacon and while the dough was mixing Scott grabbed some of the chopped red onion I had on the counter for another dish and threw it in. We were now making Bacon Onion Bread, people! My biggest loaf pan was smaller than the recipe called for and the bread rose like a son of a gun.


Thank goodness Mary was online that morning for advice - my bread was browning way too fast and I was afraid it would be burned on the outside before it was done on the inside. She had me lower the oven temperature and told me to take the breads temperature close to the end of cooking time which I'd never done before.


The bread came out huge, mushroom shaped and lovely. The smell was amazing - like bacon shoved up your nose, but in a good way. We've got some more ideas for the ultimate Bacon Onion Bread and will be working on them soon.

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Another recent bread we baked was King Arthur Flour's Onion Buns. These were fun to make - you roll the dough into a rectangle, sprinkle it with dried minced onion (we did half with the minced onion and half with fresh sauteed onion), roll them up into a log, then cut into rolls.


The onion flavor wasn't very strong, however these buns are the nicest buns I've ever made. Their taste and texture were fabulous. They were a family favorite, I think my Mom's favorite bread I've made them so far.


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I can't get enough of King Arthur Flours blog, and here's another bread I made from their archives, Vermont Maple Oatmeal bread. Scott and I are total condiment/spice junkies, have WAY too many of both in the kitchen, so I normally try to stay away from recipes that require me to buy even more seasonings. But this bread....it called to me. So I bought the maple sugar and the maple extract and they now happily live in my spice cupboard with eleventy jillion other bottles.



It was totally worth it though. So nice and flavorful and hearty.
Vermont Maple Oatmeal Bread