Friday, September 30, 2011

Foto Friday {25}

Saturday September 24: Happy Days!
Sunday September 25: Petit Fours
Monday September 26: Late Summer Blooms
Tuesday September 27: Lunch Bag
Wednesday September 28: Resolving Pedigrees
Thursday September 29: Night at the Museum
Friday September 30: Fabric Box Construction

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Feeding Friendship: Happy Days Petit Fours

Thank you Sarah for providing me the opportunity to finally buy whole vanilla beans!  Somehow that is something I have always felt was too decadent and not worth the pay-off.  I have to say I was wrong - they really make a difference.  Since I missed last month's baking challenge (don't act like you didn't notice, I know you all are keeping track), I decided to make this Feeding Friendship into a bonus baking challenge by tackling petit fours.

I started by baking this "ultimate" fluffy vanilla cake (flying in the face of recommendations to use a dense cake for petite fours) from Sweetapolita.  Instead of two 8-inch cakes, I baked a single layer in my half-sheet pan (both hold about 15 cups according to this handy conversion chart).  I cooked it at the same temperature, but started checking it after 10 minutes.  It took about 15 minutes to bake.

I only made a half recipe of Sweetapolita's whipped vanilla bean frosting but I still used two whole vanilla beans and left out the vanilla extract.  I added the spent vanilla pods to some brown sugar and I'm looking forward to using it on oatmeal in a few weeks.  I cut the 9"x17" cake in half and then topped one with a thick layer of frosting and inverted the other half on top. I wrapped it up and put this sandwich in the freezer for about an hour to make it easier to slice into 2 inch squares without smooshing out all the frosting.

For the topping, I used King Arthur Flour's white chocolate poured fondant recipe, because real poured fondant tastes like, well, fondant.  Which is to say, kind of gross.  This version didn't cover perfectly (see below), but it was really tasty!

Veronica just finished staring in a production of Happy Day's the Musical (she was awesome!) and her family was down to see the show.  I decided to make these petit fours 50's themed in her honor.

I found some simple clip art I liked and then traced an outline in sharpie onto a sheet of waxed paper.  I flipped the waxed paper over and and then filled in the shapes with royal icing in white, black, and pink.  Left to dry overnight, they came right off the waxed paper relatively easily (although I made two more of each than I really needed and was glad when a few broke).  The petit fours were a huge hit!

p.s.  Did you know you can make your own vanilla extract?

Monday, September 26, 2011


Okonomiyaki is a dish I've tried before with mediocre results.  Previous versions have been heavy with lots of moisture-laden vegetables and a thick batter that resulted in dense pancake.  This version from Midge at Food 52 won the "Best Street Food" competition and  I couldn't agree more.  You could certainly add some more veggies - pretty much whatever is in your fridge.  We had it straight up with just cabbage and green onion, a lot more like a potato latke than a zucchini fritter.  The best part was the Sriracha mayo that I made with homemade mayo because I had some leftover egg yolks floating around my fridge.  Even if you think you don't like cabbage, give this a try.  It stays a bit crunchy in the middle while the cabbage on the edges become tender and sweet.  Not to mention, it takes about 20 minutes from fridge to table.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Foto Friday {24}

Saturday September 17: Knit DNA

Sunday September 18: Stop Staring at Me, Hank
Monday September 19: So excited!!!

Tuesday September 20: Body Pump (Sore for days!)

Wednesday September 21: Pinterest - my newest obsession

Thursday September 22: Drinks on the Holtzes' New Screened in Porch

Friday September 23: Gourds' Record Release Party in Austin

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chicken Tinga

I recently came across a dish called Tinga at our new favorite Mexican restaurant here in San Antonio.  A little research (okay, a chance encounter with the Homesick Texan blog) revealed that this is a traditional dish of Puebla, Mexico.  I love chipotles and I find they add a smokiness that makes everything taste like it has been cooking for hours.  The version I had at La Fonda on Main was a delicious slow-cooked pork dish, but I decided to lighten it up a bit (and cut down the cooking time) by using chicken thighs and turkey chorizo.  The result is a spicy, thick stew that would delicious over rice or sopped up with freshly cooked tortillas.  I love this ready-to-cook variety:

Chicken Tinga
Serves 6

6 chicken thighs
1 lb turkey chorizo
1 small yellow onion
4 roma tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
4 chipotle peppers in adobo
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. salt
12 tortillas
avocado and/or queso fresco

1. Remove skin and excess fat from chicken thighs.
2. Cook turkey chorizo in a deep pot for a few minutes until cooked through.  If you can't find turkey chorizo, you may want to remove some of the rendered fat.
3. In a blender, combine onions, tomatoes, garlic, peppers, herbs, and salt with 1/2 cup of water.
4. Stir tomato mixture into chorizo and add chicken thighs.  Simmer 30 minutes uncovered or until thighs are cooked through.
5. Remove chicken thighs and turn up the heat on the sauce to reduce.
6. Taste sauce for seasoning.  Shred the chicken and return to sauce.
7. Serve on warm tortillas with avocado, lime and cilantro.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

DNA to Cuddle

Yesterday we went to a first birthday party for my boss's daughter.  Since her mom is a geneticist, I thought it was high time she start learning about DNA.  Thankfully, I have had my eye on this knit DNA model for quite a while and was just waiting for the opportunity to make it. It took a couple hours each night over the course of several evenings, but was a pretty easy.

Knitting Nerd info: The coolest thing about this pattern is that you actually knit the tube into a spiral using a series of increases and decreases.  I used an M1 increase instead of the YO called for because it mean't that I didn't have to deal with the holes created by the increase.  To make sure that the nucleotides were evenly spaced, I shoved a DPN through each nucleotide and positioned it on the sugar-phosphate backbones.

The birthday girl thought it was neat and colorful, but it was really the biggest hit with the adults!  Now everyone wants one.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Real Value Meal

Today, Slow Foods USA is sponsoring a $5 challenge to prove that real, wholesome food can be as inexpensive as fast food.  As you might have guessed by the volume of food-related posts, we eat at home a lot.  I'm by no means saying that we don't eat out, or even at fast food restaurants, but cooking my own food is better, healthier, AND cheaper than the vast majority of fast food.  It really bugs me when I spend a lot of money for food that I could make better.  So here are a few of the things we ate for dinner this week with the per serving cost and calories.

Pinto Beans and Cornbread
I actually made these a few weeks ago when I had about 20 leftover roasted hatch chiles which I added into the crock pot.  A pound of dried pinto beans costs 89 cents and makes 6 very large bowls of yummy beans which can be frozen for later.

  • Calories: 490
  • Cost per serving: $2.00

Falafel w/ Tzatziki and Greek Salad
We're big fans of falafel around here.  I usually use canned chickpeas, which requires a bit more flour to get the consistency right.
  • Calories: 600
  • Cost per serving: $3.50

Zucchini Carbonara
I love carbonara, but it isn't exactly a healthy dish.  The roasted zucchini is a delicious, nutritious, and inexpensive addition.  I've been making it all summer with double the zucchini.
  • Calories: 500
  • Cost per serving: $2.75

Veggie Chili w/ Baked Chips, Light Sour Cream, Cheddar Cheese
We make this frequently in the winter, but since football season has started, I figure chili pies are seasonally appropriate. This recipe makes a LOT of chili, but it freezes well.
  • Calories: 600
  • Cost per serving: $3.75

Italian-Style Jucy Lucy, Caesar Salad
You guys, these are so good!  The onion and Worcestershire keep the turkey burger plenty moist and having the cheese on the inside means it is still nice and gooey (it does that fun string from your food to your mouth thing like in a pizza ad).  I can imagine all sorts of variations on this.  The classic beef burger with cheddar, bison and blue cheese, lamb with feta...mix and match to your heart's content.
  • Calories: 500
  • Cost per serving: $3.50
Seves 4

1/3 cup grated onion
1 lb. ground turkey
1 tsbp. of Worcestershire sauce 
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried oregano
pinch of red pepper flakes, optional
6 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced into 4 pieces
1 red bell pepper
4 rolls

1. Roast the bell pepper over an open flame or under the broiler.  Place in a closed container until cool, then peel.
2. Combine onion, turkey, Worcestershire sauce, dried herbs, and red pepper flakes.  Divide into 8 balls.
3. Press each patty so it is slightly larger than mozzarella round on a piece of plastic wrap.
4. Layer 1/4 of the roasted pepper and a slice of mozzarella on four of the patties.
5. Cover with a second patty and press to seal.
6. Grill over medium heat for about 5 minutes per side.  Allow to cool a few minutes so the cheese inside isn't still molten!
7. Toast buns and smear on a light layer of pesto.  Add the burgers and devour.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Foto Friday {23}

Saturday September 10: Dinner (w/ whisky)
Sunday September 11: Homemade Bagels
Monday September 12: Peach Butter
Tuesday September 13: My office
Wednesday September 14: Project Statuses 
Thursday September 15: Knit Mustache
Friday September 16: Fall's Coming!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Feeding Friendship: Pizza Bianca with Balsamic Caramelized Onions

This is the second recipe that I made with balsamic vinegar.  The first was a fig frozen yogurt with a balsamic vinegar syrup based on a method and a combo of frozen yogurt and fig ice cream recipes from David Lebovitz.  It was deemed a little too unusual for a Labor Day dinner, but it did lead to some interesting commentary:

"It's like a bad joke, not because it doesn't taste good, but because no one get's it."
"I feel like it should have a monocle and a top hat."
"It's like the ice cream is looking down on doesn't care if I like it or not."

...and my favorite...

"It tastes.......picaresque."

So not wanting to present you with a condescending dish, I bring you my take on Il Vicino's Pizza Bianca.  The reviews on this one?  "Holy crap, this is good."  It's no Mr. Peanut, but I'll take it.

I've played a bit with the ratios and added balsamic to enhance the sweetness of the caramelized onions.  The sweetness is balanced out by the spicy cappacola, the earthy mushrooms, fragrant rosemary, and the funk of the gorgonzola.  This would be fantastic with the slight fruitiness of fig balsamic vinegar.  The temperature has been dropping here in south Texas, but it is still in the 90s and I didn't want to heat up my kitchen.  So I cooked these pizzas on the grill.  The intense heat makes great crust.

I generally prefer to make my own pizza dough because I think that the flavor is better.  It is extremely simple to make, particularly if you have a mixer with a dough hook, but you do have to plan ahead about 2 hours. Alternately, you can make it the night before, put it in the fridge and then pull out the dough 1-2 hours before you are ready to cook.  A final note on balsamic vinegar - I frequently toss it with vegetables that I am roasting.  You use less oil and the flavor is great.

Pizza Bianca 
Makes: 4 8" pizzas


2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. instant yeast
3 tbsp. olive oil
3/4 c. warm water
1 tbs. honey

10 crimini mushrooms, sliced thinly
6 slices spicy capicola, cut into strips
2 yellow onions
1 tbsp. oil
3 tbsp. basalmic vinegar, fig if available
2 tsp. finely minced rosemary
1 tsp. crushed fennel seeds, optional
1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
6 oz. gorgonzola
8 oz fresh mozzarella, shredded

1. To make the dough: Stir honey into the warm water and sprinkle yeast over water.  Wait about 5 minutes until the yeast foams.
2. Combine flour and salt in the bowl of the mixer and stir to combine.  With the dough hook on low speed, stir in the oil.  Slowly stream in the water.  Once fully combined, up the speed slightly and knead 6 minutes.
3. The dough should form a ball.  If it doesn't, add another 1-2 tbsp. of flour.  If the dough is dry and extra flour remains at the bottom of the bowl, sprinkle in a few drops of water.
4. Remove dough hook and cover with plastic wrap.  Let sit 2-3 hours at room temperature or until approximately doubled in size.
5. Thinly slice the yellow onion and cook over medium heat in 1 tbsp. oil with the rosemary, fennel, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. When the onions are light brown, add the balsamic vinegar (be careful, it will let off a puff of acrid steam).  Continue cooking until the onions are dark brown and all the vinegar has reduced completely.
6. Heat grill on high for about 10 minutes, then turn down to medium-high.
7. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll out to approximately 1/4 inch thick rounds.  Lightly oil one side of the crust.
8. Prepare all of the toppings before starting to grill. These go fast once you start.  I like to render some of the fat out of the capicola in a hot skillet before using.
9. Place two crusts, oiled side down, on the grill and close.  Check the dough after 1 minutes to make sure it isn't starting to burn, cook 1 minute more.
10. Remove the crust and brush the top with olive oil, flip.
11. Spread 1/4 of the caramelized onions on each pizza and top with 1/4 of each of the remaining ingredients.
12. Turn the grill down as far as it will go and return the pizzas to the grill for 3-5 more minutes.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bronx-Style Bagels

I can't attest to the Bronx-ness of the bagels myself, but I certainly think that these have a delicous chewy outside and soft inside that makes for a great bagel.  I didn't have high-gluten bread flour (just regular bread flour) and this made them slightly less chewy than they could have been.  I also totally forgot about trying to find the malt syrup called for in the Smitten Kitchen Recipe.

The bagels are pretty easy to make and shaping them was simpler than I was expecting.  The dough is quite stiff, much more so than a bread loaf so I ended up kneading by hand for the last several minutes because my mixer was really straining.  The biggest challenge with this recipe is that you have to plan ahead.  One to two days before you want bagels, the sponge takes about 2 hours to rise, then the dough is made, allowed to rise, transformed to bagel shapes, and proofed before being refrigerated overnight.  So don't start these at 10pm is what I am saying (I was up until 2am).  The next day, however, they are quick and easy to finish, just what I like in a breakfast recipe.

I haven't found a good bagel place in San Antonio, yet, so I think I will try these again with the malt syrup to see if I can get a crispier crust.  Does it seem like bagel shops are less popular than they used to be?  I still love bagels - so much so that I had one for breakfast.  And another for lunch.  Having these for breakfast all week almost makes me want to go to work!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Foto Friday {22}

Saturday September 3: Tilapia Milanese
Sunday September 4: Hank at Attention
Monday September 5: Scrapbooking with Veronica
Tuesday September 6: Back to Work

Wednesday September 7: Gnome Chompsky
Thursday September 8: Needed the Trenta
Friday September 9: Wildfires getting closer
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