29 December 2008

Quick Thoughts

1) I know, I know. So much for catching up over the break. I got called in to pet-sit and I just cannot concentrate with the animals running around.

2) Nature hates me today. I planned quad shot espresso brownie cupcakes à la Gretchen on the 25th to use up some heavy cream, but realised I needed eggs. Planned to come back to apartment to make them today, the day before cream expires. Go to CVS, they're out of eggs, so I can't make the bus. Get eggs elsewhere, get home, cream has gone bad. F** it.

3) Is anyone else bugged by people calling things "adult" food. "Adult" mac n cheese, "adult" candy. Do adults not eat mac n cheese and candy? Am I delusional?

4) Food Network is far too addicting. This is why I don't have a TV. This is also why I'm getting no work done. And I was tickled pink to find that not only is there now an American version of Iron Chef but Pim was a guest judge. It's so weird to see a person you read all the time, who feels almost like a friend despite your total lack of commenting ability, on television. Bloggers represent!

22 December 2008

Holiday Desserts

Since I'm highly unlikely to get to this year's holiday desserts before the holidays are over (though I am all about the mint chocolate creme brulee I just had for breakfast, mm mm) I thought I'd go the route of some other bloggers and post a list of links to previous recipes that would make good holiday desserts. All of these are desserts I enjoyed, though check the posts for specific tips on how to make them turn out right. Credit is given on individual posts for non-original recipes.

Black and White Truffles
Chocolate Chess Pie
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Figs Baked in Muscat
Fig-Whisky Jam
Ginger-Ginger Cake
Mint Chocolate Chip Chocolate Cookies
Mooless Chocolate Pie
Red Velvet Cake
Ridiculously Amazing Pumpkin Pie Thing
Spice Cake
Vegan Oatmeal Toffee Cookies
Whisky-Peanut Fudge
World Peace Cookies

20 December 2008

Well You're Just Plum Crazy!

This particular dessert wasn't really a success, nor a failure. I got the recipe from Meeta, who served them with a sabayon (or zabaglione). The big difference is that I used the red plums, which are bigger, and so there wasn't much reduction/losing of shape/etc. The brandy did improve the flavour of the plums, though, and they were a tasty snack to have around. I think next time I will try David Tanis's White Wine Peaches and see if I have better luck.

18 December 2008

Blog Party Traditions: Eggnog and Grapefruit

Okay, so my traditions may seem a little bit weird, but everyone pull up a chair, grab a grapefruit half and a glass of eggnog, and I'll explain. Two of my aunts have places in Key West, Florida, and so every Christmas for the past few years one of my mom's presents has been a big box of grapefruits and tangelos, which means that December and January are pretty much citrus months for us. Even before that, we'd always get a tangerine or two in the stockings, though I always gave mine to mom because I don't like oranges. I still don't like oranges, but I love grapefruit. My tradition is to dump a million pounds of sugar on top, but I'm learning to go without. I also loved eggnog when I was a kid, and was happy to drink it from November to January if I could. I still usually drink it plain, though occasionally add a drop of brandy or bourbon. I tried to make it from scratch once for an Australian roommate who'd never heard of it, but our house in Ireland didn't have an electric mixer so even after an hour of whisking it tasted a bit eggy. I still remember sending our other roommate Jen for supplies, though. "Get eggs. And nutmeg. And alcohol! I don't know, any alcohol!" Happy holidays, everyone! Stay safe, and thanks as always to Stephanie for hosting us.

Judith's Tips for Eating Healthy and Losing Weight

I was thinking today about how easy it is, really, for me to lose weight when I put my mind to it, but also about how difficult it is for me to actually eat healthy - balanced diet, not too much sugar, fat, or sodium, enough vitamins, etc. I figured I'd share some things I've learned over the years with you. These tips can be applied to pretty much any diet, or to a healthy lifestyle change in general.

Me 1-1/2 years ago, at close to my skinniest, enjoying some strawberries, brie, chocolate, and wine: proving point #1

1. Don't give up your favorite foods. Yes, eat in moderation, but there is really no point in giving up what you love the most, or even what you're badly craving at the moment. If you're miserable, you'll probably give up on your diet. Sit down, though, and think hard about what foods you really, really love, what foods you're so-so on, and what foods you don't like. For example, I like potato chips, but I've not had them for months without noticing anything missing. On the other hand, cutting chocolate cold turkey might kill me. If something you kind of like but aren't in love with is incredibly bad for you, then it'll probably pretty easy not to eat it - not necessarily giving up entirely, but just don't eat it once a week.

2. Keep a record of what you eat. It seems time consuming, but then you get into the habit and it's no big deal. Keeping a record, even if you're not on any diet, will make you eat healthier, just because you're paying attention. When I'm not writing it down, I'm given to random binges where I just keep eating and eating, but if I write it down, I don't do that. It's also a good way to find out, if you use a program or website that can give you a fairly detailed nutrition analysis, if you're eating way too much of something or way too little of something else. It helps you balance because you're seeing on the screen just how much bread and potatoes you're eating (or whatever).

3. Ease into smart shopping habits. Throwing out all the tasty food in the house won't put you in a very good mood, but once you've done the analysis in step one, you can stop buying the junk you don't honestly love all that much and phase in some healthier choices. Vegetables and fruits can be surprisingly filling, and make good snacks. An apple with a moderate amount of peanut butter keeps me going in the afternoon and doesn't have that many calories at all. Frozen veggies are similarly my lifesavers. As you start shopping healthier, decide whether you want to buy things fat-free or sugar free or reduced or lite or whatever. I recommend buying a single unit of whatever it is in a reduced version and seeing whether you like it or not first. For example, I can't tell the difference between reduced fat and regular cheese, but after years of never touching real butter, I learned that it really is superior for some baking products. Also, I don't mind diet soda, but using splenda in tea or coffee makes me ill. Figure out your preferences and replace things when you can't tell. Keep butter around for when you need it, but don't use it on your veggies or toast if you like margarine just as well.

4. Don't go long periods without eating. Once again, being miserable about your diet is a bad idea. Being hungry is miserable. Space your meals according to when you get hungry. It's amazing how much weight you'll lose if you normally overeat and then start eating only when hungry - but always eat when you're actually hungry. For example, I eat a medium-sized breakfast like a bowl of cereal or a bagel, and if I got up early, need a morning snack, but if not I won't get hungry till around 11:30 and I'll have lunch. I may need a couple of afternoon snacks to make it till 6:30 or 7 for dinner, but I don't need anything after dinner most nights. Figure out what works for you. Similarly, eat moderate portions and stop before you feel full. Wait twenty minutes, and if you feel hungry still, have another portion, but usually, if you're eating a moderate amount, you won't be hungry later. This is especially true if you take your mind off the food by clearing away the dishes right away and doing something else.

5. Drink plenty of water. Like vegetables, water is really good at keeping you from being hungry all the time and is healthy besides. Obviously, water is not going to keep away a major hunger pang, but if you drink it regularly you'll go longer between periods of feeling hungry.

13 December 2008

Help, help, I'm drowning!

Not in water, nor in work, but in an addiction. I'm addicted to recipes. Recipes, you say? But recipes are good! I like recipes! Yeah, me too, but this is getting out of hand. I very reluctantly hit the "delete" button on FoodGawker in my Google Reader today, and I had to keep saying to myself "this is the right thing to do, this is good." Because let's face it. The point of copying all these recipes diligently into my database is supposedly that I can have a lot of great things to cook. But I don't have time to cook, I certainly don't have time to plan meals, and lately I haven't had time to blog or leave comments or enjoy this community that I'm in because I've been so busy diligently going through my reader, bookmarking recipes, and then importing them one-by-one into YummySoup. This seriously has to stop. In the interest of catching up a little, I've trimmed back so that I'm only using Tastespotting and the individual blogs I like, and I'm only copying recipes that are actually unique or really something I want, and I'm using this post to dump some of the photos that I'd like to blog about but let's be honest - I don't even remember how I made these things from September or October! So it's not quite cold turkey, but it's a start, and maybe I'll even dig into some of the wonderful cookbooks I own and sit down and plan some meals, instead of getting swept so heavily into the hurricane force winds that are the internet.

This was a sort of middle eastern-style toss up I made with roasted eggplant, yoghurt, lemon, onion, parsley, and dill. I'm becoming very attached to plain yoghurt, and I tried to have some vanilla the other day for breakfast and it was just painfully sweet. Maybe that's good news for my sugar addiction.

In case you ever wondered how I normally start my day, this is it. I'm still addicted to Adagio, though I'll admit that Mighty Leaf ginger twist and rainforest maté are tasty enough that I considered going back to them just for those two at the Christmas sale. The multigrain cheerios are my normal starter, except in the dead of winter, and I have six boxes in my closet from a sale at the grocery store.

I never did give you a final verdict on the Sachertorte. I liked it, though next time more apricot jam. It was predictably dry, as European cakes are, but the Schlag always fixes that. The Austrian professor was happy that I'd remembered it, though he did mention that he has Sachertorte for breakfast every morning. Psh. How was I to know?

Before cutting back on sugar, I went on a bit of a Choxie binge. Their chocolate isn't cheap, but I do highly recommend this key lime thing, which has bits of graham cracker in it, as well as all their various espresso/coffee flavours and the cake flavoured truffles. You can get Choxie at Target.

Rita and I had a seminar together this semester, and she came over one day to work on our research together and put together this lovely little spinach salad.

I meant to take my camera with me when my friend Matt and I finally got a chance to try out Seoul Grille, but I didn't, so behold leftovers. It was actually quite good, though I had to do some bargaining since there wasn't anything vegetarian on the menu. Fortunately, they could do this dish with tofu and without the egg, which I didn't really want. There were lovely bits of marianated seitan (or maybe it was tempeh) and all sorts of vegetables to throw in (or eat alone).

This tasted better than it looks, but you have to admit that the combination of blue cheese and caramelized onions is a good one.

03 December 2008

A New Favourite Standby

Admission: I'm still posting recipes from October. Yes, I know, I know. School has been kicking my arse lately, so please forgive me. But the good news is that I'm cooking lots and still have plenty to post, probably more quickly after December 19th.

Can I just say how much I love this macaroni? No, love is not a strong enough word. Worship. Am infatuated with. It's simple, actually, very simple, but three good experiences with it is enough to call it a winter. The first taste was back in May, when my friend Audra brought it cooked in a crockpot and shared the recipe (warning me not to freak out because she didn't use any meat). I kept meaning to make it, but finally got around to it early in October. I used white wine instead of broth, which I highly, highly recommend. It gives it a very sophisticated taste. I used Pinot Grigio, and as you can see I like a glass with my macaroni. I also only used 1/2 a cup each mozzarella and (freshly grated) parmesan and rounded it out with 1/2 a cup each havarti and fontina. I didn't do the extra cheese on top, and I used a 13 x 9 glass pan. This is the result.

The second time, a couple of weeks later, I repeated the recipe but used the fantastic Sortie Sara cheese I told you about receiving for Blogging by Mail. Oh. My. God. This blew me away, quite seriously. I can conjure the taste up in my mouth perfectly now, two weeks later, and wish I had a plateful. You have to like strong cheeses, but if you do, it's perfect. I did put the extra cheese on top, which was a good move. Well, you can clearly see that. Would you like a little macaroni with your cheese, sir? Yes, this macaroni does involve a teeny tiny bit of work in terms of grating cheese and making a sauce on the stove, but not too much. With the Sortie Sara, I just diced it, and you could do that with any soft cheese. Play around with cheeses and combinations, and don't be afraid of the strong stuff. Bon appetit!

(Oh, and speaking of that - do you know how happy I am that Bon Appetit has budget recipes this month? I haven't looked at them yet, but I've been disappointed with Bon Appetit since I ordered it a few months ago and hopefully this will change my mind.)

27 November 2008

A Roast Event and a Diet

Greetings again!

I've decided to go ahead and post the nutloaf I made the other day that I'm entering in Waiter, There's Something in My Roast, hosted by Johanna at The Passionate Cook. It seems like a festive thing for a festive day. Now you may be asking, what does a nutloaf have to do with roast? Personally, I always called it a nut roast, but I got the recipe from Green Gourmet Giraffe, and she says loaf. Either way, I think it's about the closest vegetarian alternative to a roast, so here it is. This is so fabulously easy, and so incredibly tasty, that I may actually make it again, and that's rare for me. I don't know why, but I hardly ever make the same thing twice.

It's lovely and moist inside, but cripsy and browned outside, with plenty of spicy flavour from the pepper and the mustard. The only slight changes I made were seasoned breadcrumbs and coarsely ground pepper instead of peppercorns. I just blitzed the nuts in the food processor, threw it all in a bowl, into the pan, and done! Perfect for a very busy working holiday week. Speaking of the holiday, you're all going to think that I'm crazy (and maybe I am), but I've chosen today of all days to go on a diet again. Well, maybe not really a diet. The thing is, I'm happy with how I look, but I recognize that my diet is not at all balanced and that my weight is on an incline. I don't care that much, but I also don't want it to reach unhealthy, so I'm using Calorie Count to track my food intake (by the way, if anyone knows of a better site or program that tracks all nutrients including vitamins, allows you to input foods to create a recipe and analyze its nutritional value, and does a decent report of your nutritional intake over time, please let me know!) I'm basically trying to follow the food pyramid, and keep my vitamins high enough and my fats and sugars low enough. I want to live a long time, and at this rate I'll be dead at forty. I did pretty well today, though. I'm doing a 1600 calorie target, and I'm a little over 1300 now with room for another mini pain au chocolat for dessert! I haven't felt hungry much today, for which I have sweet peas to thank. Thank you, peas. Really, for me it's just a matter of eating something like a vegetable when the craving hits, but it does take a conscious effort to get in the recommended fruit and veg. Today I pretty much made the target, though my sugar was four times the recommendation. Oops? Maybe not so much with that pain au chocolat. I'll let you know how it goes.

Blogs for which to be thankful

Since I'm not actually making or eating anything special this Thanksgiving (deadlines, what can I say?) I'm going to continue with the tradition of last Thanksgiving and post instead about some of the foodblogs for which I am thankful. My reading patterns have changed a lot in the past year - I've gone from painstakingly clicking every link in a del.icio.us category every few weeks to having a Google Reader that I can easily trawl through every day - and so have the blogs I read. Though I still read almost all of the blogs I featured last year (and you should go to that post to see the praises previously sung), my priorities have changed a bit and there are some new favourites to introduce. These are the blogs that I "can't put down," so to speak, the ones that I find myself constantly coming back to. Not necessarily my blogging friends - I find you guys here, and you know I love you! - but blogs that are just objectively right for my purposes. These days, I look for great photos, pleasant narrative, and recipes that I, well, like. I also tend to be a fan of recipes that I can copy into YummySoup, so sometimes a blog that I would otherwise be a big fan of isn't a favourite just because it's so time-consuming to use any of the recipes. That's not to say they aren't great blogs, but for a person who moves as quickly as I am, I admittedly have limited time to sit with a leisurely cup of tea and read all the content and comment. Hopefully this time next year, I will be a much more conscientious reader. As it stands, I still enjoy blogs that are less recipe focused like C&Z or Cooking with Amy, but just never get around to reading them as frequently as I would like. Anyway, without further ado, on to the blogs...


Almost Turkish Recipes

Though I still love Cafe Fernando, I must say this is the Turkish blog that's been getting most of my attention lately. It's very sort of no-muss, no-fuss, with lots of authentic Turkish recipes and many of them vegetarian. I'm hoping to try ispanaklı tepsi böreği soon, as you really can't go wrong with the combination of spinach and phyllo dough.

Baking & Books

I've been reading Ariella's blog for a while, but only recently really started to appreciate it. Granted, the monthly book giveaways did get my attention, but more generally I love all the book recommendations because I'm a big reader as well as a big eater. I like the layout, and the balance between narrative, discussing the food, and instructions. The very most recent post is actually the one I most want to share with you, because I'm a huge fan of spices with chocolate - chocolate chipotle brownies.

The Boastful Baker

Melissa's posts are short and to the point, and her photos are gorgeous. It's not all baking, but a lot of it is, and I'm not complaining. Recipes aren't always posted, but are frequently linked, and this is a blog where the focus is on the food and the beautiful photography. I'm intrigued by the sweet & spicy walnuts; they look a lot like something you could buy for quite a lot of money at home.

Chez Loulou

Chez Loulou is a favourite blog of mine in large part for nostalgic reasons, and hopeful ones as well. See, Loulou lives in my absolute favourite part of France, where I lived briefly myself, and I really want to live there myself one day. She emigrated, so it gives me hope, and I also love looking at her many photos of the region and its fabulous cheeses. I really want to jump through the screen and taste this cabretou, par exemple.

Chocolat et Caetera

This is another fantastic French dessert blog. I found it through a trail of bloggers that had made the cream cheese swirl brownies I tried once last year, and now I'm completely hooked. Almost all chocolate, all the time, and I can't resist. The dessert ideas are creative and tempting, and often the instructions are fairly simple. For example, take a look at this bittersweet chocolate and fig tart.

Coconut & Lime

This quick and to the point recipe blog features 100% original recipes, and I can't figure out how Rachel keeps coming up with these things time and time again. I appreciate the recipe-centric focus, though I also have a personal point of connection as Rachel lives in Baltimore, where I went to school and may shortly return. There are a lot of meat dishes, but also vegetarian plates and plenty of desserts. One very interesting idea is this ginger lime spiked cranberry sauce, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Cook (Almost) Anything Once

I like this blog for two reasons. One, the photos are beautiful, and two, the recipes are very easy. It's not uncommon to find a recipe with two or three ingredients. The downside is that Haalo tends to come across a lot of interesting, hard to find ingredients and so these recipes aren't always possible to replicate, but they're fun to read about in the way that people who don't cook read Gourmet. I liked the super-simple recipe for gözemle that went up recently. I've been trying to do more Turkish food, and though I don't eat meat, I could definitely go for spinach, cheese, and onion.


Fanny is fun and bubbling and her recipes are to die for. She's currently doing an apprenticeship with Pâtisserie Lac, which is pretty amazing, and she's been sharing her experience with us. She mostly (only?) does desserts, and her blog is in English, though Fanny is French. I love her go at Nigella's famous chocolate loaf; it looks amazingly moist and delicious.

Joy the Baker

Joy is lovely and delightful, and her entries are full of life. This is a blog with a personality, and it's good enough that I can forgive the lack of recipes from time to time. I recently used her sit and stay a while apple crisp as inspiration for a sage-apple crisp with an eggnog "creme anglaise" (coming soon). It was very tasty and just as comforting as the blog.

Pete Bakes

Whether by coincidence or just the gender ratio in the blogging world, Pete is one of the few male foodbloggers I like to read (along with David Lebowitz and Cenk of Cafe Fernando). I stumbled upon his blog very recently, and I can't get enough. Superb photos, but most importantly he's got the same talent that Deb of Smitten Kitchen does when it comes to being a real instructor on his blog. For example, see this recent post about baking stones. Pete knows his stuff, and I'm thrilled he's chosen to share it with us.

Smitten Kitchen

At the moment, this is my number one favourite blog. Why? Well you have the beautiful photos, the fantastically helpful tutorials, the easy-to-prepare and well annotated recipes, the convergence of tastes between Deb and myself... but really I think it comes down to the blogger. Deb is someone with whom I know I'd love to be friends. Me and three thousand other people, I know, which is why food blogs are great - you have an opportunity to peek into someone's house, listen to them talk, and feel like you're just another gal in the room, even with the most popular kid in the class. It's easy to see from Deb's posts that she's very genuine, and she wants people to succeed. Most of her recipes aren't original, but she really provides the extra help the cookbook authors don't by tweaking recipes, pointing out problems her readers have had, and responding in the comments when readers have trouble. I recently went through all her archives and copied a bunch of recipes - two hours well spent! Also a sort of personal plus for me is the abundance of Jewish recipes. At passover, you have to start thanking the lord when someone compiles 17 passover safe desserts for your baking pleasure! As for recent posts, I strongly recommend her updated pie crust tutorial if you've ever had trouble with dough.

Spicy Ice Cream

Posts here are often simple and brief, the photos are beautiful, and the recipes are lovely and do-able. I drooled a little over this blueberry and vanilla frangipane tart, but I'm a huge sucker for frangipane. Lisa hails from Australia, and she does a lot of desserts but also sometimes posts about eating out or trips with a photo montage.

Stephanie's Kitchen

Stephanie's kitchen is another great place to get simple food, with a bit of commentary but focusing on the recipes. She does a lot of desserts, and lately a lot of fruits, but some savory dishes as well. The very most recent post, chocolate lava cookies, makes me wish I could have one right now. She also posts a lot of original recipes.

Use Real Butter

Jen is an amazing photographer, and along with her food she shows us pictures of her amazing natural habitat. As a skiier, I admit to being very jealous of her circumstances - living in Colorado is pretty much ski paradise - but at the same time I don't envy having to always adapt recipes for high altitudes. Jen posts a lot of meat dishes, but she also does her share of desserts and veg-friendly items, always with plenty of "process" photos. I'd love to try these simple and comforting potatoes au gratin.

Returning from Last Year:

Beau à la Louche

Okay, so I might still have a teeny tiny crush on Loukoum, but who could blame me? Her blog is fantastic, her desserts are always something I want to munch right off the screen, and her commentary never fails to brighten my day (in French, I'm afraid). She has a thing for cheesecake, and who on earth could blame her? One dessert that nearly made my mouth drop open recently was a chocolate, cassis, and balsamic vinegar dessert. Luscious, creamy, and starring some of my favourite flavours, what's not to like?


Though her layout isn't quite as fancy as La Tartine Gourmande or Tartelette, I put Nicisme of Cherrapeno in a similar category. She makes a wide variety of reliably tasty recipes, and is also one of the few bloggers on this list who also comment here (thanks, Nic!) I'm all about the chocolate & pistachio wedges - the dessert recipes featured on this blog look tasty and fulfilling, but rarely the kind of thing you're going to have to scratch your head and gather tremendous courage to prepare.

Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

This blog, and Peabody's other amazingly tempting one, Northwest Noshings, are a standby great choice for desserts, comfort food, and the like. I enjoy reading Peabody's commentary, but this one is also all about the food. She often features things that look like I could make them, which is a plus, and the ingredients tend to be more or less seasonal. Also as a Pacific Northwest resident-wannabe, the second blog makes me want to move, pronto. Take a look at these butterscotch tarts the next time your sweet tooth is. They're nearing the top of my list.


What dessert lover can get enough of this blog? I sure can't. Granted, these are the kind of recipes you really have to steal yourself to prepare, but they look so gorgeous and are perfect for a special occasion. One recipe that intrigued me recently, partly because it only has six ingredients but also because they look so light and delicious, is raspberry parfait lollipops. Helen's desserts are often "cute," and these are no exception, but I think we all need some cute in our lives from time to time.

La Tartine Gourmande

Bilingual, gorgeous photography, and plenty of charm. Bea is a gorgeous mother to be with a penchant for both cooking and taking professional photos, and her recounting of franglais conversations always makes me smile and occasionally miss France. Most of the time it's a light and sometimes humorous blog, and the recipes focus heavily on dessert, though there are plenty of vegetarian savory dishes as well. The most appealing recipe of late for me was leek, tomato, and blue cheese quiches - some of my favourite flavours! Bea's blog was one that was a bit harder to navigate before RSS, but now it's a breeze.

So thank you to these bloggers, but also to all the hundreds of foodbloggers I read, and especially to those of you who read this blog and comment time and time again, even when I'm being scattered and frazzled and infrequently posting and infrequently replying to your comments. I read each and every one of them, and I greatly appreciate the time you take to hang out in my kitchen. Happy Thanksgiving, if you're celebrating, and if not, a very happy Thursday to you.

13 November 2008

Blog Party Holiday Party: Indulging in a Little Holiday Nostalgia

The holidays for me, as they are for most people, are a time when memories start to loom large. They're a time for missing those that are gone or far away, and missing things as they were. When you're a kid, you want things to be bigger and more impressive, and you have ambitious dreams. For the most part, I'm fulfilling those dreams, and I'm happy doing it, but at the same time I do badly miss the holidays at my Grandpa's house with my entire family lingering around, and the big extended family gatherings in Boone or Winston Salem with their typically Southern cuisine. I got the recipe for these parmesan shortbreads from a book I've had for a while - I saw it at my friend B's house at New Year's and was so impressed that I bought my own copy this past spring, but this is my first chance to make something from it. The minute I bit into one, the taste brought me back to my Grandpa's kitchen (with him it was cheese straws, not shortbread, but it doesn't matter).

There are a few foods that will do that to me - that trail mix with the wasabi peas and the spicy orange crackers, mince pie, parker house rolls, lemon curd. I lived in my mother's house my whole life, but it doesn't really bring back a nostalgic feeling because I forget that I don't actually live there anymore. When I visit, I wake up in my bed without any sense of surprise, and I drive around Raleigh forgetting that I ever moved. Grandpa's house, though, symbolizes my childhood in a different way. Last year at this time, I made chess and pecan pie, and mulled wine. This year I'm struck by an intense desire for caramel cake. I don't plan on doing any sort of Thanksgiving or Christmas meal, but I probably will throw together a few things throughout the season.

Anyway, the shortbreads were tiny, but quite tasty. I kept having to add water to the dough, which isn't called for - my dough skills really could use some work. The above picture demonstrates my fabulous mess-free grating technique. Using paper towels on a cutting board, you can make it easy to grate, scoop it into the measuring cup, and set the measured portion aside in batches, and then gather up the paper towel and pour all the cheese into the food processor. The drink I'm providing for the Blog Party is also a childhood reminiscence. I remember when Arbor Mist came out and I badly wanted it from the commercials, but of course it was alcohol and I was probably about fifteen at the time. I finally got around to trying it, and as you can see by the embarrassingly empty bottle it was a hit. Any kind of white wine would go great with these shortbreads, though.

Parmesan & Rosemary Shortbreads
adapted slightly from Hors D'Oeuvres by Eric Treuille & Victoria Blashford-Snell
makes 40 very small shortbreads

1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
cayenne pepper
3 T cold butter, diced
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp dried rosemary

Grate the parmesan as described above to make it easy on yourself and dump in the food processor. Sift in 1/2 cup flour (I suppose you should sift before measuring but I don't bother). Throw in a dash each salt and cayenne, plus the rosemary. Dice and add the cold butter. The instructions say pulse to form a smooth dough, but that didn't happen for me. I pulsed until it was basically coming together, dumped on my flour cutting board, then worked it together with my hands, adding some water a little at a time. Adding water while in the food processor would probably work well. Roll out a quarter of an inch thick. I did thinner but it was fine. They puff up a bit. You can cut out 40 rounds with a 1-1/2 inch fluted pastry cutter, but if you think that sounds ridiculous, use a shot glass. You'll probably only get twenty with the rim, but I used the bottom as a guide and cut them out with a knife instead. Put on the baking sheet with just a little bit of space in between the shortbreads and chill half an hour. Bake at 350 for about eight minutes or until golden brown. Cool.

12 November 2008

Left Over But Not Forgotten

One thing I've never been particularly inventive with is leftovers. I don't have the aversion that some do to eating the same thing for dinner five nights a week, or more commonly for me the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for forty-eight hours. Granted, if the meal is bad, I might try to drown it in cheese or sugar to make up for the pain, but I don't like wasting food. Still, I recognize that some need to do something new with a dish to make it look like something else the next day, whether for kids or their own piece of mind. That's why those little balls of fried risotto keep showing up on my RSS feed, I suspect. I will admit that the latkes Molly came up with New Year's morning by taking the mashed sweet potatoes, adding salt, and frying them up worked very well. This pasta dish was thrown together with fettucine, the fabulous tomato sauce I posted about recently, and the addition of eggplant, onion, red wine, and tomato all simmered up in a pan to make the tomato sauce go a little further. Something tells me as this economic situation continues to unravel, we're all going to be coming up with ideas like this to make every meal stretch just a little bit more.

10 November 2008

Fête du Fromage: Port Salut and a Tart

My November entry to Chez Loulou's Fête du Fromage event is a fabulous Port Salut cheese - soft, mild yet distinct, and a great melter. This is my first experience with Port Salut and it couldn't be more fabulous. I tried a bit plain but I wanted to do a recipe as well, so I tried this tart from BBC Food, specifically James Tanner. The crust is a bit simple and a bit less than fabulous, but the topping is very tasty. The Port Salut matches quite well with the sweet onions and the red pepper, and the basil is a nice touch. I recommend going heavy on the olive oil because the crust is quite dry. The edges of the tart were almost inedible, but the center was great. Next time I would spread the filling nearly to the edges. Also it looks small, but I got four servings out of it.

07 November 2008

Grapefruit Yoghurt Cake: A Fabulous Success from Smitten Kitchen

So I mentioned a while ago that I had been longing to try something from Smitten Kitchen, and that I tried that one squash and potato torte and this was the other thing. Boy, what an other thing it was. This cake is amazing - it has a beautiful dense, moist golden crumb, and especially if you do what I did for the second of two cakes I made in a single week (best breakfast, morning snack, and dessert I've had in a ten-day period) and poke all over with a fork to really let the syrup soak in, the grapefruit flavour is fantastic. I let the bottoms get pretty dark, but that was all right. It needed that much time to cook and turned out perfect. You can find the recipe (adapted from Ina Garten) here, but I'll let the photos speak for themselves this time.

31 October 2008

Waiter, There's Something in My Winter Squash!

I'm submitting two entries to round twenty of Waiter, There's Something in My... The theme this round is gourds, and I decided to showcase a couple of my standby squashes for winter. First, the lovely orange butternut, pictured here in an adaptation of this recipe from Epicurious. The original is a noodle dish with a very thai feel. I had no coconut milk, but I did a version of it with a little less of a Thai flare, served over quinoa for a fall feel. I actually didn't have any regular milk onhand either, so I used powdered milk made with water and a little bit more broth, and added just a little bit of vanilla. I didn't use the chili or red curry paste, but I sprinkled some red pepper flakes in for my slightly less spice-friendly palette. It was pretty tasty! I would caution you though, use regular milk if you have it because this dish isn't very conducive to stirring so the powdered version tends to separate.

Second is my old standby, acorn squash baked with fall spices and butter. It's very simple, just take an acorn squash (this one was small enough to be just two servings, and I don't eat much) and cut it in half using a sharp knife. Put the halves in a dish with a little bit of water and stick a pat of butter and some brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in the hollows. Bake it at about 400 F or so until tender, an hour more or less. You really can't go wrong.

27 October 2008

BBM Package Received!

This round I got a fabulous Blogging By Mail package from Sweden! Lexi sent me all kinds of fun treats, and it was great fun to sort through them and see how much of the labels I could read (I've studied a little bit of Danish). I also found the package really amusing when it arrived at my door. So many stamps! I've never tried to send something internationally with stamps before, but it's a pretty neat idea. So anyway, in the non-food category I got a fun necklace and some lip balm that's really nice. She says it can serve as lotion as well, but my chapped lips need all the balm they can get for our dry (and yet somehow still snowy) winters. Then, of course, a load of food. Yum!

One of the best things for me about these exchanges is that I sometimes end up with a sender from a country I know very little about, and so I get to discover a bit of their culture (or cuisine) as I go along. Last winter I got a package from Finland, for example, with photos, and I had no idea how beautiful it is there. This time I got some really interesting tastes to try - for example, salty licorice, which I've never heard of but is actually pretty tasty. I'm a huge licorice fan, and I just love these candies called Kick. They're much softer than our licorice and easier to chew, and so tasty. I also got some other typical Swedish candies to sample, and a huge chocolate bar. Milk chocolate with little bits of peppermint candy in it. Yum! I'm a huge fan of the mint/chocolate combo. I got a couple different types of biscuit, which I haven't tried yet, and also some little ones that Lexi suggests I sprinkle over the rosehip soup and serve with ice cream. I'm really curious about that one, but I'm going to save it for later so I have something new to try as the month wears on. Also a box of a grain that's kind of like couscous. You can probably tell from this blog that I'm a fan of new grains, haha. And finally, best for last, cheese! Sorte Sara, a Danish cheese, which is really tasty. Since I don't usually keep sandwich bread around, I decided to use it for a batch of macaroni and cheese. Maybe the Danes would frown on that, but it was sooo good. I love the strong taste, and it's a great melting cheese. Thanks, Lexi! You did really well.

26 October 2008

SHF: Spice Cake

It's been a long time since I did an SHF, and I keep wanting to but timing fails me. This month, though, the fates aligned, because I had been wanting to bake a spice cake and lo and behold, the theme is spices! The host, Dessert First, is a blog I've recently discovered and love. I found it through Tastespotting (or maybe it was Food Gawker), which has been a great way to find new blogs lately. Speaking of which, if anyone knows a good-quality free online image resize site, or a good-quality free image resize program for Mac, please share the love. I want to get on those sites but my pictures always get rejected, probably because they're resizing funny.

Anyway, back to the spice cake. I remember having one of these once as a kid, probably ten or eleven, at my friend's mom's house. I helped her frost the cake and kept thinking "no way something made of SPICES is going to be any good." I assumed that a cake had to have fruit, or chocolate, or something along those lines to be tasty, but I was wrong. I love spice cake, and I'd been craving one. The recipe comes from here, and it's delicious. Perfectly moist and flavourful - the only problem is that you need to either not flour the pan (just grease) or maybe let it cool longer than instructed. About half the cake came out of the pan and the other half didn't, so I had a cake covered in cake bits. Still good, but I'm glad I wasn't bringing it to anything. Also, the cake is huge, so find some friends.

24 October 2008

A Dish from the Vegetarian Cooking Bible

A while back, I managed to get enough LexisNexis points to redeem them for Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. This made me a very happy camper, as I'd looked over the book in the library and found it impossible to pick just one recipe to copy down. It had been sitting in my bookshelf for a few months, though, before I decided to try a recipe for a cheesy eggplant with red wine tomato sauce. The verdict? Fantastic as expected. Like most of Madison's recipes, it isn't terribly complicated - roast some eggplant in the oven, make the tomato sauce, assemble with goat and mozzarella cheese, heat until cheese melts, top with sauce - but the tastes are fantastic and go perfectly together. The sauce especially is a hit - though I'm not a huge fan of tomato sauces generally, the red wine is really the star in this one. I made it separately and refrigerated until I made the dish a few days later, which worked fine.

Eggplant Rounds with Cheese and Red Wine Tomato Sauce
Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

2 eggplant rounds per person (I suggest using enough to fill up the final pan you're using)
3/4 cup grated or sliced mozzarella
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola, goat cheese, grated Fontina, or a mixture (I used goat and it was fabulous)
Chopped parsley or basil

Red Wine Tomato Sauce:

2 T olive oil
2 small onions, finely minced or grated
2 small bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs or 1/2 tsp dried
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried savory (I omitted this)
pinch red pepper flakes
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry red wine (I used cabernet)
28 oz crushed tomatoes in puree (I used diced with a bit of the juice)
Salt and pepper

Grill, broil, or fry your eggplant slices. I just roasted them in the oven, and I used a single layer in the small roasting pan I later used to do the cheese part. I think next time I would use about twice as much eggplant and just do them on separate pans before throwing all in the same pan for the cheese.

For the sauce, start by heating the oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, herbs, and pepper flakes and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for fifteen minutes. Add garlic during last few minutes. Raise the heat, add the wine and half a cup of water, and simmer until reduced by half, 12-15 minutes. Add the tomatoes and 1/2 tsp salt. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 35 minutes. Keep an eye on this. In my experience, everything was pretty dark thick after twenty minutes, but I think that has to do with my tomato substitution. Next time if I'm using diced tomatoes (which I like), I'll add all of the juice from the can. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

Put the eggplant slices on a sheet pan (or roasting pan) and cover with the cheeses. Bake at 375 until the cheese melts. Serve with 2-3 spoonfuls of sauce per serving and garnish with the herb.

18 October 2008

Cornbread: Another Recipe Semi-Flop

This is another recipe that I can't find in my bookmarks now that I'm posting it, but it wouldn't really be worth sharing, anyway. It wasn't horrible, but as you can see it was a very, very floury cornbread. I was looking for something that used fresh corn, and I found a very simple recipe for cornbread. I was sceptical from the get-go, to be honest - very little liquid, lots of flour, not much holding it together. When I put it in the pan there was a lot of loose flour and no real way to incorporate. The end result was a moist bread, surprisingly, but dusted with large amounts of flour. I was able to shake some of it off, and the fresh corn was delicious and sweet. It was also much better warmed in the microwave and served with generous amounts of butter. But next time, I'm going to look for a less suspicious recipe.

17 October 2008

Not On, Cookies, Not On

So I tried Gretchen's fabulous chocolate chip cookies again for a bake sale a couple of weeks ago, and for some reason they didn't turn out anything like they did the first time. Instead of being gorgeous and flat and crispy/gooey, they were puffy, cakey, and had a weird almost sponge-like consistency. They also didn't taste all that great. The changes? Well I had enough flour this time; last time I had to skimp and use 1/4 cup less than the recipe. I used raspberry chocolate chips (though I can't imagine that making any difference) and I ran out of brown sugar so part of the brown sugar amount was natural cane sugar instead (the coarse, light brown kind). I hope I can make them turn out the right way again!

15 October 2008

It's That Comfort Food Time of Year

I'm embarrassed to say that I'm so far behind in posting to this blog after all the actual cooking I've been doing (gleefully, as the weather has become cold enough to enjoy it) that I'm at a point where I can't even remember what recipe I used for the casserole I'm showing you today. I do know that it was quite simple, and I thought fairly tasty, though I could imagine some improvements (creamier, cheesier, more packed into the dish). I used some very tasty yellow squash from the farmers' market, which had an unusual shape but was fairly easy to slice nonetheless. As you can see, this particular casserole has a crumb topping. I believe the one my grandmother used to make, which to me is the emblem of comfort food, had either cheese or maybe some crackers on top. It's been a while, so I don't quite remember, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't bread crumbs and parmesan. In any event, I'm thrilled that comfort food days have rolled back around and am already eagerly anticipating my menu for the Thanksgiving holidays. Though I'm not actually making a Thanksgiving dinner for anyone, the three days off of classes mean that I probably will be using the time to prepare a few fall dishes. Yum, yum.

ps - If you didn't get the message on Twitter and want to share a favourite pumpkin bread recipe or spice cake recipe, please pass it on! I have some good ideas but more never hurts.

12 October 2008

Another cheesy post

It's time again for La Fête du Fromage, and this time I have something more exciting than grilled cheese for you. I'm showcasing two fruity cheeses, both of which appeared here previously in my wine & cheese tasting post:

These are both made by Ilchester, and you can see them a bit better here - like I said before, the Stilton with Blueberries is a little firmer and smoother than the Wensleydale with Cranberries, which is a crumbly, sharper cheese. I personally prefer the Stilton, which is sweet and mild and frankly unlike any plain stilton I've tasted, though I used to eat something similar with apricots in Ireland. I think the key is that it's a white stilton, as opposed to a blue. Anyway, both are lovely, especially with wine, but equally on their own.

08 October 2008

Still here!

Just a quick little "hello" to let you know that I have plenty of stuff to post and will soon. I was out of town for the weekend in South Dakota, and then I hurt my neck/shoulder so that it's painful to sit at the computer, and tonight/tomorrow is Yom Kippur so I don't want to look at pretty pictures of food while I'm fasting, haha. Oh, and the dog ate my homework. :-)

01 October 2008

Say Cheese! Port Salut

When I saw that Cook (Almost) Anything Once was doing another Say Cheese event, and that we were instructed to try something new, I decided to open up this block of Port Salut and have a taste. Port Salut is a mild, soft French cheese with a lovely bright orange rind. It's apparently a good melting cheese, and I'm going to use most of it in a tart early next week, but this time I just tasted a few pieces on crackers. I found it mild but distinctive, with a flavor I could recognize if I tried it again. It's very soft and quite tempting to eat more! Thanks to Haalo for hosting this event.

29 September 2008

Around the World in 26 Letters: Sachertorte!

When I saw that the first challenge for the letter "A" was Austria, I knew I wanted to participate. Austrian baked goods are, quite frankly, yummy, and what's more I was planning on doing this on a Sunday and I have a Monday class with an Austrian professor from 5-7 where we're all complaining that we're starving. So I decided to make a Sachertorte and bring it to class. Since it is only 2:43 on Monday as I write this, I haven't tasted it, but I can tell you about the process. I followed the recipe more or less religiously, and it went pretty well for the most part.

It looked complicated, but the cake part took only an hour from start to in the oven, and baked up quite nicely. I didn't bother "spackling" the little holes, because I'm not that anal. The apricot glaze was also fairly easy, though I was somewhat limited by a grocery store that only had one apricot option, called "fruit spread." I didn't bother straining either, because bits of apricot are tasty. The hard part came with the chocolate glaze. I used the small saucepan as recommended, and I'm glad the chocolate didn't burn, but it was impossible to keep it from boiling over! I couldn't stir very effectively with the candy thermometer in, and if I tried to stir and then stick it back in, it wouldn't get all the way up to the temperature before it had started boiling over again. So I estimate that it was probably only about 220 degrees max, and definitely too thin.

My kitchen was quite a mess after it had run all over the place, and though I kept doing a scrape-and-retry job, it never really set enough to keep there from being thin spots where you could see through. You can see the dripping in progress here, which continued onto my floor. I decided it didn't really matter, though, and a thin glaze is still a glaze.. So I'm about to go whip up some Sahne and head to class. I can tell you that the cake itself is tasty, and the top that you have to cut off tastes great with jam! I don't know if I'd do it other than for a special occasion, because the jam and chocolate are pretty expensive, but it's an impressive treat. Check out Prettybaking in Israel in October for the roundup!

28 September 2008

How to Get Judith to Drink Milk

So I have quite a few recipes backlogged for you, but I thought I would go ahead and share my beverage from Friday night. Proving that I am a complete nerd, I had absolutely zero interest in getting smashed Saturday morning for the football game like the rest of Iowa City (I didn't even realise until Saturday night that it had been homecoming and that's why there were so many people in my way when I went to the law school in the afternoon) but I did want a cocktail for debate-watching on Friday. Good old Rachel Maddow proposed a drinking game on her Air America radio show, so I decided to be a good little lesbian and play along. Trouble is, I needed a drink, and something weak enough that I wouldn't get drunk by taking a sip every time John McCain said "prison, chair, or table" and everytime Obama mentioned Main Street or Wall Street. So this is what I came up with. A white chocolate cherry... glass of alcoholic milk.

Judith's Calcium-Fortified Debate Cocktail

About half a shot of Smirnoff black cherry vodka (I didn't measure)
About twice that of white chocolate Irish cream

Pour the liquors in, fill the rest of the glass with milk, and stir. Everything should be well-chilled and I hear if you mix creamy things with cheap vodka, it might curdle, so use the good stuff.

26 September 2008

First Attempt at a Smitten Kitchen Recipe: Squash/Potato Torte

I have long been a fan of Deb at Smitten Kitchen. Her photos always look like something I would want to eat, she gives a lot of helpful tips, and I feel like I can trust her on recipes. If something wasn't all that great, she'll be honest about it. If she says something is spectacular, I think she's probably right. For some reason, however, I hadn't gotten around to making anything from her blog. Recently, I changed that with two recipes. One pretty decent, and the other out of the park. This is the first - herbed summer squash and potato torte, recipe from June 2001 Bon Appetit. Was it good? Yes. But as you can see, not nearly as pretty as Deb's. I didn't have green onions, and my parmesan didn't melt nearly as prettily. Probably should've used a block instead of pre-grated. I also didn't use thyme - mint and basil instead. It was well-seasoned, though, and I love fresh summer squash.

18 September 2008

Blog Party Birthday Bash Part Two: A Cheese and Wine Tasting

As I said before, the Blog Party theme for September is our host's birthday, and I cheated just a little by making a cake. In order to pretend to follow the rules, I also provided a drink and appetizer. This is one of my favourites - wine and cheese. There's nothing more decadent than a little pre-dinner wine and cheese tasting. I'll admit that the wine wasn't so much of a tasting as a glass of cheap cabernet (Lindeman's), but another dish I was making called for dry wine and so I had to open that instead of the fancier but less dry Merlot. It was still pretty good. The cheeses are sort of a spectrum of crumbly. We start with the firmest, a Wensleydale studded with cranberries, tasty with a definite bite to contrast with the fruit. The Stilton with blueberries is milder and sweeter, and the texture is smoother, though it still crumbles. Finally, my classic crumbly cheese, a Chevrion goat cheese. Perfectly mild and creamy, I get this every time I go to the cheese shop. So happy birthday, Stephanie! I raise my glass to you.

12 September 2008

That Time of the Year

It's the very brief period of the year, my absolute favourite time, when the bounty at the farmer's market is incredible, it's cool enough to use the stove and oven, AND I can sleep without six layers of clothing. I've been taking advantage by making a number of casserole-like things. As you can see, I found these strange summer squash that are round and have fewer seeds as a consequence of size. They taste the same but are less watery. I also got some skinny (Japanese, maybe?) eggplants, some new potatoes, roma tomatoes, a bunch of fresh herbs, and plenty of corn. Last night, I spent an hour making Deborah Madison's fantastic red wine tomato sauce and planned to come home and do the eggplant dish it goes on after lesbian reading group, along with some wine and cheese tasting, but I got a bit distracted and went out instead. Ah, well. The good thing about tomato sauce is, it keeps quite happily.

10 September 2008

They say it's your birthday...

This is part one of two for Blog Party this month. We're celebrating Stephanie's birthday this month, and what better way to do so than with cake? Okay, okay, it's not an appetizer or a drink. But I knew I was coming, so I baked a cake. Deal with it. Tomorrow I'll be having a little wine and cheese tasting for the "official" part of my blog party entry. Out of order, you say? I don't know. I think Stephanie is a dessert first kind of person.

I'm thrilled to be able to celebrate her birthday at Blog Party because (1) Stephanie is one of the small group of bloggers who have really welcomed me and kept me feeling like a part of this great big foodie community and (2) I think I've done more blog parties than any other foodie event. It's always a good time. I chose a coconut angel food cake, which is Alton Brown's recipe plus, well, coconut extract. I thought about adding shredded coconut, but after twenty minutes to get the stupid egg whites to soft peaks, I didn't want to do anything that would risk deflation. In fact, it turned out perfectly! I've sliced it into pieces for all y'all, and I hope you enjoy.

07 September 2008

Brunch at Red Avocado

I was annoyed at myself for forgetting to bring my camera to appropriately document this meal, but Rita and I had brunch today at the Red Avocado, Iowa City's only vegetarian restaurant, and I thought I'd at least tell you what I thought. Taste-wise? Fantastic. I had a tisane that was very good and a bowl of coconut corn soup that was well-seasoned and quite coconutty, as well as a portobello crepe. The crepe tasted very nice, but was small and came with a lot of plain old lettuce. We also split a slice of cardamom cake with orange icing that was again, amazing, but too small. This is generally my beef with vegetarian restaurants. Things tend to taste fantastic, use fresh ingredients, etc etc, but the portions are too small, the food isn't very filling, and it's incredibly expensive. $21 plus tip isn't that bad, but I didn't walk away feeling very full and I didn't have anything leftover. If I were to open a vegetarian restaurant, I'd definitely have some very hearty options. I don't mind splurging, but if I'm going to splurge I don't want to go home hungry.

06 September 2008

Anyone want to join my band?

I've decided that today's hair day makes it imperative that I form a new Beatles. Who's with me?

Anyway. It's been a good week in food. I bought an ungodly amount of cheese, and then lots of produce to go with it, so expect cheese and Farmer's Market posts coming up. I may save some of the cheese posts for la fête du fromage, and perhaps carry one with my wine and cheese tasting idea, only one wine and cheese at a time so I don't forget what I tasted two months ago.

Today I wanted to share some thoughts I've had recently about blogs. As I've been trying to make my blogging more manageable, I've been thinking about what makes a foodblog one of my favourites. I'll admit, some of the reasons are picky things that have to do with the way my recipe program works (if people don't list ingredients separately, for example, or use in-text bullet points or strange abbreviations or weird formatting that doesn't copy well, I tend to get annoyed quickly, but that's no fault of the blogger). The things I've included here are more generally applicable, and possibly good tips for new bloggers. I'll freely admit that my own blog does not follow all these things, partly due to time and budget, but they're good to aspire to.

Foodblogging pros:

1. Attractive, clean, simple layout. (Bonus points for the layout, and especially photos, appearing in your RSS feed).
2. Attractive, clean, simple photography. Of course the professional photographers have beautiful blogs, but even people who are about at my own standard with a point-and-click are just fine. It's mostly about lighting and composition - if it's hard to see the food, or it doesn't look appetizing, I'll be less interested.
3. Simple, appealing recipes OR complicated recipes that look fantastic. My favourite blogs deviate between the two. I have some blogs, like Smitten Kitchen, Coconut & Lime, and Cook (Almost) Anything Once that tend to do a lot of simple things with few ingredients and few dishes to wash. Other blogs I love, like Tartelette, have very complicated baking recipes, but I save them because the instructions are clear, the food looks amazing, and they're perfect for special occasions.
4. Tips on the food, opinions about the food, stories about the food. Though some of my favourite blogs are written by great storytellers who can talk about pretty much anything and interest me, in general I like knowing about the recipe someone's posting. Is there something I should know about the ingredients? Is this a fantastic recipe? One of the best things about blogs is that, unlike a cookbook, people are honest about how easy the recipe was to make and how good it was. I especially love it when people mention that a recipe was particularly low on dish-use or particularly inexpensive.

Foodblogging cons:

1. Layout makes it difficult to go back, or there isn't a search feature, or posts are frequently renamed so that links break.
2. Gorgeous photographs that make me want the food so badly and then don't include a recipe. There are some blogs where I want every single dish the person makes, but there's never a recipe. If it's a copyright issue, then I'd at least like the source, so I can write it down and find the cookbook in the library. Granted, I don't frequently do that, but sometimes I will at least add the cookbook to my list of books to check out, and it's better than no clues at all as to source. One of the worst things is when people post an original recipe without the recipe!
3. This is a personal thing, and admittedly a bit Ameri-centric (unusual for me), but I'm frustrated by blogs in English with exotic recipes and no clues about the ingredients. I tend to skip over recipes where five or six ingredients are unknown to me, and then see the same ingredients in a later recipe with a translation and realise that it was just the Hindu word for a familiar spice, for example. If the post is written in English, and the ingredient is something common throughout the world with an english name, a translation would be great.
4. Holier-than-thou blogs. I understand the temptation to declare oneself a great person because you're organic, local-only, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, always made-from-scratch, have an ad-free blog etc. etc. etc. I don't think there's anything wrong with personally being proud of those things, and maybe an occasional post about something like that won't bother me. But when there are frequent posts of this nature, or posts with a condescending tone towards those who aren't able to adopt a given lifestyle choice, I get frustrated. I'm not living in poverty by any stretch of the imagination, but I can't afford to buy only local or organic or whatever else. I'd love to join Daring Bakers or TWD but I can't afford to do something like that where I know I'll be required to buy certain ingredients that are out of my budget. If someone is going to discuss those choices, that's fine, I just prefer that they don't make everyone else feel like dirt.

04 September 2008


Apparently in Iowa, it's pretty much a sin not to eat corn throughout the summer, especially on the cob. A couple of weeks ago, my friends Rita and Liz and I went to Red Avocado's "birthday" party, and they featured grilled corn. I didn't necessarily think it tasted different, to be honest, but it was pretty good. I've never been to Red Avocado, even though it's all-veg, because of the cost. However, their brunch is a bit more reasonable so Rita and I are going there Sunday. I'll report back soon. As for my own corn preparation techniques, I admit that I don't buy corn frequently because I don't really want to find a worm in the husk. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I found these tiny sweet corn ears at the Farmer's Market one Saturday, already relieved of their husks! Nowhere for worms to hide, so I bought several immediately. I decided just to boil them and serve them with a bit of margarine, and they were superb. Then I went back the next week, and no more huskless corn! I had ideas for chowder, souffle, cornbread, corn pudding... but alas. Thwarted. I hope this week will be better. I miss silver queen corn, which apparently only grows in the South, but I have to say fresh Iowa corn is still pretty darn good and I'd like to be able to bake with it before the autumn's over.

03 September 2008

Amazonian Purchases

And by "Amazonian," I mean Amazon.com. It started with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind being marked down, and then I saw a Gold Box special on this lovely box of 120 Ceylon teas by Bentley's (not only is the tea itself a treat, but the box is what I'm really going for, as all my ridiculous quantities of teas have spread like an infestation throughout my cabinet. Then I need something, anything, to get Super Saver Shipping, so I decided to break down and by Clotilde's new book. I'll admit that my love affair with Clotilde only lasted a few months. I thought she was amazing, hers was the first foodblog I saw, etc etc, and I still find her very charming and informative, but I think the blog's gone a bit downhill. I don't enjoy it nearly as much as Smitten Kitchen or Tartelette or La Tartine Gourmande or Cook (Almost) Anything Once or the other dozen or so blogs that now occupy the "top" of my list. I have Chocolate & Zucchini but haven't actually made anything from it. Then again, that doesn't say much for me as I usually only make something from a recipe once every two weeks given my busy life, lack of access to a car, and unpredictable grocery habits. This book I think will come in handy next time in Paris, but it doesn't have my favourite restaurant in it. Actually, that's probably a good thing, because the masses will not descend upon "my spot" anytime soon. I do think that my strategy for foodblog management, given the "problem" mentioned in my last post, will be to try to cut down on the recipes I bookmark, so that less time is spent copying recipes I'll never make (who really needs 17 ways to make chocolate mousse?) and spend more of my "foodie time" actually reading and commenting on the dozen or so posts I do read. I'd also like to spend more time meal planning and, you know, cooking, as well as participating in more foodie events and my own foodie features on which I've been slacking. Finally, I'd like to dedicate a teeny bit more time to Yummr, Foodbuzz, and the Foodie Blogroll forum. This probably means that some of the foodblogs on my google reader will get the axe. I hate doing that, but hey, if I never comment they never know I'm there, and if I'm just scrolling by their posts, there's no reason to keep the blog hanging around because one time three months ago they posted a recipe I liked.

02 September 2008

I have a problem

If you're feeling a sense of dejà vu at the moment, no no, another problem. I think I'm addicted to foodblogs. I spend hours copying recipes into my database, and at least an hour a day bookmarking recipes to copy later. I look at so many posts a day that I almost never actually get to comment on them. If I weren't doing this, I could be reading books, or even having a social life! It's a teeny bit depressing sometimes. Anyway... I ended up bringing bulgur salad to the potluck for fear that börek would not turn out as anticipated. I'm getting somewhat frustrated that I have no idea whether my bulgur is fine, medium, or what, so here's a picture. Do people who purchase packaged and labelled bulgur have any idea?

01 September 2008

A Quandary

I have a problem.

I absolutely cannot, for the life of me, remember to put food in the fridge after it's cooled down. You're not supposed to put very hot food in the fridge for obvious reasons, so I cover it, leave it out on the table, and then promptly forget about it and go to bed. I have a horrible memory in general, and it doesn't help that the layout of my kitchen means that I don't have to walk through it to get anywhere. Normally dinnertime is the last time I'm in there at night. So what do you folks do to remember? Tie a string around your finger? Set a timer? A Google Alert? I have to admit that I stuck the instant mashed potatoes that have been out about twelve hours back in the fridge. They smell and taste all right, and I'm going to heat them up before I eat them. Yes, I know that's a fantastically stupid idea, but I'm sick of throwing away food. If I suddenly stop posting in the next few days, well, you know what happened to me.

30 August 2008

Yes, it's the chocolate again

Well first of all, I realised that there was a picture on my camera of the chocolate I mentioned last post you can see just how decadently goopy and amazing it really is. But second, I tried the Noisettes (hazelnut) flavour, and it's just as amazing. It has a soft, very dark truffle center, but solid enough so that you don't have to eat the whole thing at once (ha!) and the best part - whole hazelnuts throughout the bar. I don't really buy hazelnuts for my own baking, but I adore the combination of chocolate and hazelnut. Maybe it's a Nutella thing. Whatever it is, it's good.