Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gone Fishing

Gone fishing! See you soon.

Monday, May 25, 2009

No-Bake Haystack Cookies

I look forward to the blissful day when my baby's eyelids flutter shut the moment his angelic little head is laid in his crib, the soft glow of his halo serving as a nightlight. That day will come, right?

The other night he was inconsolable. Nothing I did could calm the poor kid. The diaper was dry, the tummy was full, he'd been burped, cuddled, swaddled, pacified, rocked, held as I paced around the house - and yet he cried. I know he's just tired and fighting off sleep, but this routine makes mom tired too.

He eventually he nodded off, but not before I sprouted a couple grey hairs. Afterwards I figured I earned some food blog browsing time. Then I saw Everybody Loves Sandwiches posted this no-bake cookie recipe. Cookies ready in one minute? With ingredients that I already have on hand? I couldn't get my saucepan out fast enough.


I have to admit, these are pretty darn addictive, especially considering how easy-peasy they are to make. It would be easy to make these vegan, too (Steph, I'm talking to you :) ). The original recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar - that's way too much for me, I cut it down. When my hubby got home from work, he said, "Hey, haystacks! My mom used to make these." And so they came to be called Haystacks. Amen.

No-Bake Haystack Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1 and 2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
4 Tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (regular pb works fine, too)
3 and 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 Tablespoon vanilla

In a medium sized saucepan, mix together the first five ingredients and bring to a boil. Let boil for 1 minute and then remove from heat. Add in remaining ingredients and then use a teaspoon to drop the mixture onto cookie sheets lined with waxed paper. Chill until set. Keep in refrigerator.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mediterranean Salad

Despite the labor-intensive pie post earlier this week, I really haven't been cooking much. I find it's difficult to navigate the kitchen with only one hand, the other hand holding a baby that bawls the very moment he is set down. I must admit, though, my one-handed home skills are improving. Just last night I mastered the one-handed towel fold. I know you're impressed...or maybe just sympathetic.

When I do find a moment to cook, I cook double. If we're having pasta for dinner, I no longer just cook a handful of noodles - now the whole box is boiled up. Frankly, if it weren't for dinner leftovers, we'd be subsisting on frozen pizza and Golden Grahams.

The other night I had some leftover linguini. I know you've been in this situation: leftover pasta or rice that just doesn't taste good on its own, but you're hesitant to slap Ragu on it yet again. Often these carbalicious morsels find themselves in l'garbage. However, here's an easy way to get another delish meal out of it in five minutes flat. Time me.


This recipe is based off of a favorite dish of mine as an exchange student in Spain. If I learned anything in Spain, it's that simple food is best, and any meal can be greatly improved with a healthy dose of olive oil and red wine...especially red wine. That education alone was worth the price of admission. Buen apetito!

Mediterranean Salad

2 cups leftover pasta or rice
1 can tuna, drained
1 tomato, chopped
Handful green or Kalamata olives, chopped
Handful torn basil leaves
1 Tablespoon capers, drained (optional)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, or enough to coat
Juice from half a lemon OR 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Freshly ground pepper and pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients in large bowl. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

There are many different schools of thought when it comes to pie crusts. The most popular:

1. Crust made with butter
2. Crust made with shortening
3. Crust made with lard
4. Store-bought pre-made crusts

All cellulite references aside, I don't typically have lard in the house, so cancel out that one. Despite the convenience and simplicity of the store-bought crusts, I'm stubborn and always take the long road. So that leaves butter and shortening. I typically make mine with butter, however I've had a tub of Crisco sitting in my cupboard ever since cake decorating class and I thought, hey, let's see what kind of pie crust it makes.

So I made the pie crust right off of the Crisco label for my strawberry rhubarb pie. The result? I'm torn. Butter = more flavor, but a softer cookie-like texture. Shortening = better crackly texture, but no flavor depth. Shortening gets bonus points for being easier to work with, too. However, old habits die hard, and I just can't get into the idea of factory food fat (say that five times fast). I think I'll be a butter crust gal for a long time.


What kind of pie crust do you make?
a. Butter
b. Shortening
c. Lard
d. Store-bought crust, baby
e. What? Me make pie?
Regardless of what kind of crust you use, I hope you make this. Really. It's just so so good.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

For crust:
1 and 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cold butter or Crisco shortening
1 teaspoon salt
A splash of apple cider vinegar (optional)
Cold water

For filling:
4 cups chopped rhubarb (or enough to fill the pie plate)
2 cups sliced strawberries
Sugar to coat fruit (between 1/2 and 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup flour

Prepare crust by mixing flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter/Crisco using a pastry blender or a couple of knives until the flour is crumbly in small pieces. Add splash of vinegar and a couple tablespoons cold water, mixing with fork. Continue adding water a spoonful at a time until dough comes together. Shape dough into a ball. If using butter, refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out dough between two sheets of floured wax paper and fit to pie plate, reserving some additional dough for top.

Prepare filling by mixing rhubarb and strawberries in large bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and flour and stir to coat. Spread fruit into prepared unbaked crust and top with strips of interwoven crust dough. Place a piece of foil or a thin baking sheet on the bottom rack of your oven to catch any pie juice spills. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour or until golden and bubbly in the middle.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rhubarb Crumb Cake

Gardening season has begun! We've been building raised beds, adding compost, planting seeds. However, we must wait for the bounty, as currently the only things growing right now are chives and rhubarb. But the rhubarb is glorious!


I've been eyeing Smitten Kitchen's rhubarb crumb cake for some time now, so I finally gave it a go. Although SK lauds the crumb topping as the reason to make this, I'm going to have to disagree with her there because frankly, the bottom cake layer and the rhubarb itself are what make it so dreamy. In fact, next time I make it (and I will make it again, oh yes), I'll cut the crumb mixture in half.



I guess I'm not that crumby of a gal. Ha.

Always the improvisor, I made a few changes to her recipe, but feel free to check out the original here. The pictures alone make it worth the visit. I'm going to post my half-crumb version of the recipe, so double up on the crumbs if that floats your boat.

Rhubarb Crumb Cake

For the rhubarb filling:
1 and 1/2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon and 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground ginger

For the crumbs:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 stick butter (1/2 cup), melted
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

For the cake:
2/3 cup sour cream
3 large eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
12 tablespoons softened butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 9x13" baking pan. For filling, slice rhubarb 1/2 inch thick and toss with sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.

To make crumbs, in a large bowl, whisk together sugars, spices and butter until smooth. Stir in flour with a spatula. It will look like a solid dough.

To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, and baking powder. Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about 1/2 cup batter and set aside.

Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan. Spoon rhubarb over batter. Dollop set-aside batter over rhubarb; it does not have to be even.

Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size. They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter (it might be moist from rhubarb), 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Classic Potato Salad

Hope everyone had a great Mother's Day! At Dan's Supermarket, they were passing out carnations to moms as they left the store on Sunday. I was shopping by myself, no baby in tow, but was still given a carnation with a warm "Happy Mother's Day!" greeting from the store employee. Walking out of the supermarket with my flower, my first thought was, 'Oh, what a lovely gesture.' My second thought: 'Geez, do I look like a mom already??'

This weekend my friend Reagan stopped by with her 3-month old daughter Olivia. Sometimes I think one of the main reasons to have babies is to prop them up next to each other, take cute pictures of them, and then post them on the internet for everyone to see. Am I right or am I right?


As far as food goes, after a week of posting fancy-schmancy sweets, I'm going back to basics. How is it possible that I haven't posted our potato salad recipe yet? In the summertime, we make gallons of this, but I always have to hunt for the scrap of paper the ingredients are listed on to be sure I don't miss anything. Well, enough of that noise, here's the recipe, saved forever and ever in cyberland, if only for my own reference.


I've tried other potato salad recipes, but I always come back to this. It's not the fanciest nor the prettiest salad on the block, but it tastes like the potato salad I grew up with, usually eaten on camping trips off a paper plate, accompanied by a charred hamburger.

I never really measure ingredients when I make this. Just consider this a rough guideline and adjust to your taste. Also, I don't peel the potatoes, but you are more than welcome to.

Classic Potato Salad

9 or 10 red potatoes, washed and scrubbed
6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons celery seed
10 sweet pickles, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 cup of mayonnaise (or more/less to taste)

Quarter the potatoes (halve if small) and place in large pot of water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, 15-20 minutes; drain. When cool enough to handle, cut potatoes into bite-size chunks and place in a large bowl; cool completely. Add in remaining ingredients and stir well. Best if chilled before serving.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Coconut Macaroons

I've always loved stories about food, especially when they include recipes. I'm sure you are shocked - shocked - by this confession. It all started with Stone Soup. It's a kids book and at the end, there is a rhyming recipe for Stone Soup.

Heat some water in a pot.
Add some stones you've scrubbed a lot...

I wanted to make that soup. In my kindergartener mind, by making that soup, the story would come to life, and I'd be able to eat the same soup as the little pigs and bears and rabbits in the book. What could be better? However, my mom wasn't convinced that rocks and soup made a good combination.

This fascination continued all through my childhood. When I read Little House on the Prairie and Laura and her sisters made maple syrup candy in the snow, I had to try it, running outside in the winter with Aunt Jemima in tow. I don't know what happened, but it didn't really work for me. That weekend, we ate our usual Saturday morning pancakes sans syrup, since I had dumped it all on a snowbank in the backyard.

My friend Jenny must intuitively know that I still adore books about food. To keep me entertained during late night baby feedings, she gave me the book A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg, who is best known for her blog Orangette.

I started this blog because of Orangette. I love her prose, her photography, and of course her cooking. If imitation is the best form of flattery, then Orangette should be tickled pink, since I'm sure she has inspired a lot of cooks and bloggers out there.

I devoured the book in three days, mostly read in the middle of the night by the light of my son's snail-shaped lamp. In the book, Molly makes coconut macaroons. I'm on a big coconut kick right now, and after making the tiramisu with all those egg whites leftover, and knowing that an egg-white omelet just didn't sound nearly as appetizing, it didn't take long to decide on whipping these babies up.


They are what every Mounds bar aspires to be, and a big step up from my days of eating maple syrup snow, if I do say so myself.

This recipe makes about 12-16 macaroons, depending on how large you make them.

Coconut Macaroons with Chocolate Ganache

3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup sugar
5 or 6 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 oz finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream

Place coconut, sugar, and egg whites in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, 10-15 minutes. The mixture will start looking very creamy as it heats, and then slowly look a bit drier with individual flakes of coconut becoming discernable. Stop cooking when mixture no longer looks creamy but is still sticky and moist. Remove mixture from heat, stir in vanilla. Spread mixture out into a pie plate to allow to cool quickly, and refrigerate until cold (30 minutes).

Using your hands or a small ice cream scoop, scoop and firmly pack the coconut mixture into small balls. Space them evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 300 degree until evenly golden, about 30 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack. Set the rack over the baking sheet to catch chocolate ganache drips.

Put chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in small saucepan over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until hot and steaming (do not boil). Pour hot cream over chocolate and let sit for one minute, then stir until smooth. Spoon warm ganache generously over macaroons.

Refrigerate macaroons on the rack until ganache sets, at least 2 hours. Place in airtight container and refrigerate or freeze. Macaroons will keep in the refrigerator for a week, in the freezer for a month.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tiramisu

Apparently you can't go anywhere in London nowadays without encountering spontaneous corporate-sponsored choreographed group dancing. There are the en masse wannabe Beyonce dancers at Picadilly Circus, kids on the Tube who spend waaaay too much time watching the Thriller video, and scenes like this at a London train station (the little old lady at 1:55 in the clip in my fav):



For the record, this wouldn't happen in North Dakota. It's a little too silly, a little too outside the social norm, and a helluva lot of work to put on this production for our sparsely populated region. Our dancing is limited to the polka, the bouncy country two-step, and the Chicken Dance, and that's good enough for us, thankyouverymuch.

My freshman year of college I went to London for spring break with my friend Hannah. I did not encounter spontaneous street dancing like this, by the way. Like typical American teenagers, we spent a large portion of our time there wandering the streets in search of pop culture icons: the red telephone booth, Abbey Road, the royal family.

Along the way we stopped at Troubador Cafe, supposedly one of Bob Dylan's first venues in the city before he went Big Time. This little hole-in-the-wall cafe makes a couple bucks off of that claim to fame, however I will always remember the Troubador Cafe for one thing: tiramisu.


I know, only I would go to London to try a famous Italian dessert, but I'd never had tiramisu before that meal, and it was a revelation. I was hooked. I still am. Almost anytime I see tiramisu on a restaurant menu, I'll order it. However, I never made it myself. It seemed too complicated, too lusty, too dangerous to have an ENTIRE PAN of it available to me for my own personal consumption.

But what the heck, let's live dangerously. First, a few words of warning:

1. I didn't measure the booze when I made it and the bottom layer ended up tasting like a frat party. I blame my heavy hand on my alcohol abstinance for the past nine months - my subconscious self made me do it.

2. Sorry about all the special ingredients, but it is possible to find these things at the supermarket, I tried to give hints. Happy hunting.

3. Don't even ask about fat and calorie content. Seriously.

My chronic addiction to all things Michael Cera will not let me end without adding the great Superbad home ec scene. "When am I going to need to cook tiramisu? Am I going to be a chef? No."



Tiramisu

6 egg yolks
3/4 cup white sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
16 oz. mascarpone cheese (look in specialty cheese section of supermarket)
1/2 cup strong coffee, room temperature
3 Tablespoons rum (can substitute part with amaretto, Kahlua, creme de cacao, etc)
14 oz. package ladyfinger cookies (look in Italian section of supermarket)
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Whisk in milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Boil gently for 1 minute, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Mixture will be thick and creamy. Cover tightly and chill in refrigerator 1 hour. When cooled, whisk mascarpone into yolk mixture until smooth.

In a medium bowl, beat cream with vanilla until stiff peaks form to make whipped cream.

In a small bowl, combine coffee and liquor. Drizzle over ladyfingers. Arrange half of soaked ladyfingers in bottom of a 7 x 11 inch dish. Spread half of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers, then half of whipped cream over that. Repeat layers. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 to 6 hours, until set. Best when served 24-48 hours after prep. Sprinkle top with cocoa just before serving.

PS - Save the egg whites! I'll post a recipe using those next (two words: Coconut. Macaroons.)