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.