Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Marmalady the Tart

I LOVE using my springform pan for things that don't really require a springform pan. Such as layered quesadillas. This time, however, it was a legitimate swap.

Easy Jam Tart
borrowed from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg, whole
1 large egg, separated
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/3 to 1 3/4 cups jam or marmalade
2 tablespoons sugar

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or in a food processor, mix the butter and 1/2 cup sugar together until smooth. Add the egg, egg yolk (keep the egg white from the second egg on hand for later) and almond extract and beat until combined. Gradually add the flour mixture and mix until the dough just comes together.

Transfer about one-third of the dough to a lightly floured counter and shape it into a log about 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it until needed.

Transfer the remaining dough to a buttered 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Using your hands, press the dough evenly into the bottom. If using a tart pan, press the dough up the sides to the rim of the pan and set the tart pan on a baking sheet. If using a springform pan, press the dough about 3/4-inch up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate the dough-lined pan until firm, at least one hour. (Again, I used the freezer and it was firm in 30 minutes. I am impatient.)
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread the jam or marmalade evenly over the dough in the pan. Cut the chilled dough into very thin discs with a sharp paring knife. Arrange them slightly overlapped in concentric circles over the jam to form a top crust. Whisk the remaining egg white with a teaspoon of water until frothy; brush evenly over the tart lid and then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons coarse sugar. Bake until the top crust is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely.

I quickly scribbled this recipe onto a piece of scratch paper and ran it upstairs to bake while some rice was on the stove. I conveniently forgot to write down the "Refrigerate the dough-lined pan until firm" part, and it still turned out! I used the reserved 1 1/2 cups of homemade marmalade for the filling. (I know, it's almost like I had a plan. Weird.) Twenty-five minutes wasn't quite long enough bake time in my oven, so I left it in for a few extra minutes.... then a few extra more because I forgot about it. I took it out of the oven after probably just over 30 minutes and it was a beautiful golden brown across the top. BEAUTIFUL!

The cornmeal makes the dough turn out more like a cookie than a dough. The sweet, slightly cinnamon-y marmalade perfectly complimented the crust. I could eat a quarter of the thing in one sitting! Lucky for the next several unexpected visitors, I won't.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Raised Bed

All in all I had a very productive weekend. Saturday morning we went to Home Depot (one of my favorite places to surprise old men with my random knowledge) and came home with one 2x10 and two 2x12 eight foot long boards and 8 cubic feet of soil. Three hours later we had moved about 3 cubic feet of rocks, made a raised planter, and filled it with soil.

The final planting area looks a little bit better than this because we cleaned out the leaves, moved the landlord's piles of crap and put stone tiles down for the walkway. The best part is that its right outside my bedroom window, so I'll always be able to check on my plants progress, even when it's pouring out! The worst part, I realized on sunny Sunday afternoon, is that right now it doesn't get direct sunlight until about 330-4pm. It's bright over there, but I wouldn't call it "full sun." I'm really hoping that the sun will move a bit for me later this summer.

Planting plan:
Red Pepper

I already have carrots, radishes, turnips, onions and peas planted in my plastic containers and they're sprouting up quite nicely. Can't wait to put my tomatoes in the ground.


Made some focaccia bread to put my marmalade on. It's the only bread I make because it's so easy and delicious.

Classic Focaccia Bread
from my Betty Crocker cookbook

2 1/2to 3 cups  all-purpose flour
2tablespoons herbs (if desired)
1tablespoon sugar
1teaspoon salt
1package regular or fast-acting dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1cup water
3tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

Cooking spray to grease bowl and cookie sheets
2tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1/4cup grated or finely shredded Parmesan cheese

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In a large bowl, stir 1 cup of the flour, the herbs, sugar, salt and yeast with a wooden spoon until well mixed. In a 1-quart saucepan, heat the water over medium heat until very warm and an instant-read thermometer reads 120°F to 130°F. Add the water and 3 tablespoons oil to the flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed 3 minutes, stopping frequently to scrape batter from side and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula. With a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until dough is soft, leaves side of bowl and is easy to handle (the dough maybe slightly sticky).
Sprinkle flour lightly on a countertop or large cutting board. Place dough on floured surface. Knead by folding dough toward you, then with the heels of your hands, pushing dough away from you with a short rocking motion. Move dough a quarter turn and repeat. Continue kneading 5 to 8 minutes, sprinkling surface with more flour if dough starts to stick, until dough is smooth and springy. Spray a large bowl with the cooking spray. Place dough in bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place 30 minutes or until dough has almost doubled in size. Dough is ready if an indentation remains when you press your fingertips about 1/2 inch into the dough.
Spray 2 cookie sheets or 12-inch pizza pans with the cooking spray. Gently push your fist into the dough to deflate it. Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a flattened 10-inch round on a cookie sheet. Lightly spray 2 sheets of plastic wrap with cooking spray; cover the dough loosely with the plastic wrap, sprayed side down. Let rise in a warm place about 30 minutes or until dough has doubled in size. Remove plastic wrap.
Heat the oven to 400°F. Using your fingers, gently make 1/2-inch-deep depressions about 2 inches apart in dough. Carefully brush with 2 tablespoons oil, using a pastry brush; sprinkle with cheese. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm or cooled.
I like to play around with the "extras" in this recipe. The original calls for rosemary, but I like thyme and a wee bit of oregano better. Another favorite is roasted garlic. Yum. Turns out perfect every time.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I decided last week that I needed to do something adventurous with a handful of oranges I had in the fridge that were about to go bad. At Heather's suggestion, I decided on Orange Marmalade. I've never made jam before, so I scoured the internet for a good recipe that wouldn't be too hard or call for any crazy ingredients. My first thought was Alton Brown (oh how I love Good Eats) because I think I saw an orange show he did. Somehow on the Food Network website I stumbled upon the Barefoot Contessa's recipe and decided it was the one.

Anna's Orange Marmalade
from the Barefoot Contessa

4 large seedless oranges
2 lemons
8 cups sugar

Cut the oranges and lemons in half crosswise, then into very thin half-moon slices. Discard any seeds. Place the sliced fruit and their juices into a stainless-steel pot. Add 8 cups of water and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Cover and allow to stand overnight at room temperature.

The next day, bring the mixture back to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 2 hours. Turn the heat up to medium and boil gently, stirring often, for another 30 minutes. Skim off any foam that forms on teh top. Cook the marmalde until it reaches 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer. If you want to be doubly sure it's ready, place a small amount on a plate and refrigerate it until it's cool but not cold.  If it's firm - neither runny nor too hard - it's done. It will be a golden orange color. (If the marmalade is runny, continue cooking it and if it's too hard, add more water.)

Pour the marmalade into clean, hot Mason jars; wipe the rims thoroughly with a clean damp paper towel and seal with lids. Store in the pantry for up to a year.

Holy crap, what a production this was. I think every time Leda came home last week it was to me, standing in the kitchen, yelling at some oranges in a pot.

I modified this recipe a little bit after I read all of the comments on the website. I used three oranges - one whole, one peeled, and one zested (sliced into matchsticks) and peeled. Then I added two mandarins because it didn't seem like enough chunks in the water. I added two cinnamon sticks to the boiling water, and only added 5 cups of sugar.

The second day of cooking took forever. I was using a pot that was the appropriate size, but doesn't exactly have the flattest bottom, so getting to the boiling point took a lot longer than usual. I let the sauce simmer for about 2.5 hours before bringing it back to a boil. At this point I got a little worried because I don't have a candy thermometer. I boiled it for a good 40 minutes or so without noticing it hardening too much. After another 10-15 I got scared and decided it would be better to have syrup than brick and canned it. The whole time I was melting the wax for the top of the jars I was thinking, "This is a bad idea, this is a bad idea."

After sitting in the fridge overnight, all of the jars were still liquid. So I slaved over a hot stove for the third day in a row. Finally, FINALLY, it started to harden. I set aside a cup and a half to use in another recipe, and canned only three jars (probably 2.5 cups).

It's delicious. But is delicious really worth three full evenings in front of the stove when its sunny out?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bright Green.

My brain has moved into spring time mode. I can't get any knitting done and all I think about are flowers, plants, and the outside. Even in the rain, which is currently pouring down, I just want to be outside with my hands in the dirt. I have big plans to install a 2ft by 8 ft raised bed on the side of my house this weekend. I'm still in the planning stages, but am imagining a thriving row of tomatoes, peppers, squash, green beans, cucumber an onions all right outside my window. Until it's built, I've been focusing my energy on the greenery inside the house.

We have a plant predator in our house. He's large, white, and hairy, and been known to gnaw plants to death. Evidence:
 Even despite the plant eater, this guy is trying to thrive. Notice the new growth in the center. This happened after I moved it from the coffee table to the kitchen counter, and from the counter to on top of the 6 ft tall bookcase.

To deter this behavior, I've planted some wheat grass, known to be tasty to the guys who eat your plants. Hopefully if he eats HIS stuff he'll leave MY plants alone.
It's already growing after only two days in (or on) the soil!

My other plants are doing quite well and managing to resist attack. I propagated a jade cutting from an old plant in the office and it's enjoying it's new home in the basement.

I put some root hormone on three leaves from the original plant and they are all growing teeny tiny roots. Someday, ten years from now, I'll have new jade plants! I knocked a leaf (or are they petals?) off of this guy when I was planting him. It was the best thing I could have done. Now he is sprouting a new branch from the leaf node.

Last fall I broke up my snake plant and put the new pup into a pot by itself. I had heard that you could start a new plant from a cutting of an old leaf. It's taken about six months, but I finally have some starts!

My office used to have a 10 ft tall coffee tree in our office. Three years ago they planted some of the coffee beans and now we have 12 or so plants around the office. We had a pretty good harvest again this year and I decided to plant some beans of my own. I have four small pots in the office window that are starting to come up, and about eight beans planted in a pot in my kitchen window at home. 

So far no luck on the guys at home. I think there isn't enough heat for them? Hope the still come up, even if it takes them a lot longer.

Notice the two spider plants, also from the office plant, loving the predator-free windowsill.

A prize to whoever can identify the next plant I propagated. I was given a 4 ft stalk by my coworker. It came from a plant that lives in the corner of his office, without sunlight, that had grown to 6 ft tall. I chopped it into five sections and have two of them rooting in soil, two in water, and one outside that I shoved into a planter leftover from last years tomatoes.

(Isn't that plant predator huge? He can pack a whole lot of wheat grass in those fat sacks.)

Cookies, focaccia bread, or muffins to the winning guess. Or a jar of homemade marmalade, if it sets up. But that's another post.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Excited for Leftovers.

When was the last time you were really excited to go home and eat leftovers?

Yesterday was a beautiful Sunday, perfect for spring cleaning. I conned a friend into helping me with some yard work in exchange for a home-cooked dinner. We toiled away outside, planting white onions, carrots, radishes turnips and peas. I'm really excited about the peas. They're new to my gardening repertoire, so I hope I don't kill them. Then we transplanted some strawberries from a pot with no drainage holes, filled with what was basically swamp water, to a well draining pot. I have no idea why, but they looked like some happy little buggers in their swimming pool. One start even grew around the corner of the deck and planted itself in the cracks between the stepping stones on the side of the house!

After filling our yard waste container with weeds and leaves, we set up to make dinner. I have been tearing recipes out of Cooking Light and Healthy Cooking ever since I started getting them and I rarely think to use them. I realized the sheer mass of clippings I have and have set out to make at least one recipe a week in order to weed out the bad ones. After much deliberation and consulting with our stomachs, we decided to cook Mushroom-Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Spinach Orzo Salad, and a side of sauteed asparagus.

Mushroom-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

From Cooking Light

2 (1-ounce) slices white bread, torn
Cooking Spray
1/4 cup chopped green onions
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup (2 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Prehead oven to 350.
2. Pulse bread in a food processor to form fine crumbs. Place in a dish.
3. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onions and mushrooms; sauté 10 minutes. Stir in thyme and garlic. Cool mixture 10 m inutes; stir in cheese, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
4. Cut a slit through thickest portion of each breast half to form a pocket. Stuff each with ¼ cup mushroom mixture. Sprinkle chicken with remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish. Place eggs in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour. Dip in eggs; dredge in breadcrumbs.
5. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Place pan in oven. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165. Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 stuffed breast half).

Spinach Orzo Salad
From Healthy Cooking

1 pkg. (16 oz) orzo pasta
1 pkg. (6 oz) fresh baby spinach, finely chopped
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
3/4 cup reduced-fat balsamic vinaigrette
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

1. Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water.
2. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, cheese, onion and orzo. In a small bowl, combine the vinaigrette, basil and pepper. Pour over orzo; toss to coat. Chill until serving. Just before serving, stir in pine nuts.

WOW the orzo salad is delicious. I will definitely be keeping this recipe. I've been thinking about putting in some raised beds on the side of my house that would be perfect for growing spinach. This would be a good recipe to showcase my homegrown produce.

I have to say I think this is one of the best home cooked meals I've had in a long time. Congratulations, cooking magazines, you got me to continue my subscriptions for another year.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hoarder Status Confirmed.

I found several bags of unread books under my bed and beside my nightstand.

Nothing to be too concerned about, until I realized that I haven't read any of these:
(Except the Henson book. I read that on a weekly basis.)

Have only read a couple of these:

And maybe half of these:

The worst part is this doesn't even include the bag of books I have set aside to go back to Goodwill.

I think they take up more space than my yarn collection.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Humble Hummus

Gather the party together:

Garlic, Garbanzo Beans, Olive Oil, Tahini, Lemon Juice, Salt, Pepper, Cumin.

Other supplies:
Food processor or blender, can opener, spoon.

Clean two small cloves garlic and pulse in the food processor.

Open can of garbanzo beans and drain, reserving liquid.  Add beans to garlic and process until even consistency.  Add bean liquid on an as needed basis (usually 1/4 cup or so) to allow beans to process.

Stir tahini until you achieve an even amount of oil and "chunk" in a spoonful. Add two heaping tablespoons to bean mixture.

Add juice of one lemon. Fresh is, of course, better, but not necessary.  Add 1 Tablespoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Process, adding olive oil as necessary, until desired consistency.

All quantities are, well, fictional. The only measure I use when I make hummus is my hand, and then I add seasonings according to how I'm feeling that day.

 Today I needed a little extra salt and a wee bit more lemon.

Other spices/flavors that work well in the base hummus: red pepper flakes, thyme, rosemary, balsamic vinegar, roasted red pepper, sun dried tomato, feta, and kalamata olive. The list is endless and the results are always delicious!

Cavity: pit. A sizeable hole.

I have "a sizeable hole" in my tooth! Dang drat and blast! My first one ever! The hygienist said that I have been taking good care of my teeth and gums and the cavity was probably caused by a little chip in the tooth.

Apparently "good care" includes not going to the dentist and/or flossing for three years.

Heh heh heh. Jokes on you, FaceMask.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Poisoning.

It has been a while since blogging, due to lack of knitting, lack of things exciting to report about, and due to things to risque to blog about! I completed (finally) Ang's Christmas legwarmers and delivered Ryan's birthday hat. Don't have a picture of either, unfortunately. The hat was too big to look decent on my head for a picture and I didn't get a photo after he opened it.  Attempted to knit some slippers. Completed the first one and realized it was hideous. Don't know if I'll end up starting the mate or if I'll just write it off as a loss. Made a toddler hat with an owl on it for fun because I wanted a short project. I still need to finish the top, but will post pictures when I'm done. I feel like I'm slacking in the knitting department because I have a giant box of yarn sitting on my bedroom floor that's just waiting to be knit into something fabulous. If only I had the time.

Can't post about last weekend. Too many shenanigans that cannot be spoken of without vows of silence. Let's just say Bachelorette Party, limo ride, wine tasting, hot tub time machine, meerkat, and 17 hours of drinking. You can't even imagine the ridiculous that ensued.

Had a friend visiting on Thursday night. He apparently can't find good Japanese food where he is, so we went out to a tiny little restaurant on Capitol Hill (I think it was called Ayoki? Right next to the Deluxe). I ordered the chef's sushi platter, which consisted of a cucumber roll and six pieces of the chef's choice nigiri. At 3am, and every 20 minutes or so thereafter, I decided the sushi was a poor choice.  After going in to work for two hours and making three trips to the bathroom, followed by one stop at the bathroom garbage can, I decided I was not able to function at work and took the rest of the day off.

Still not sure if it's food poisoning or the stomach flu, but it's Tuesday and my stomach still feels like the edges are waving around like Barney's lips when he burps on the Simpsons. I may have lost six pounds on Friday, but let me tell you, this is NOT a diet I would recommend.