Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Birds of a Feather Run Together

The weekend before last, Geoff and I ran our first race together - the Birds of a Feather 5K.  This race was unusual because you run as a pair and your combined time is what counts.  Unfortunately, the rain that had been hammering us all week kept up until just a few minutes before the race began.

But it was only three miles, so we embraced the rain and splashed whole-heartedly through the puddles on the course.  Geoff finished about six minutes before me, but we were both fairly pleased with our times.  We spent the rest of the rainy Saturday in sweat pants on the couch, having knocked out our work out for the day before we would normally get out of bed.

Veronica took these pictures of us and then she and Mike ran their first marathon the next day - so inspirational!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Foto Friday {46}

Saturday February 18: Birds of a Feather 5K

Sunday February 19: Chicken Sitting Sitting Chickens

Monday February 20: Market Bag
Tuesday February 21: Geoff Found the Baby in the King Cake

Wednesday February 22: Hank 
Thursday February 23: Silly Putty Reins in my ADD

Friday February 24: There is no Such Thing as Too Many Post-Its

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Laissez les bons temps rouler

As a great lover of pancakes, I like the Lutheran tradition of a tall stack of flapjacks for Shrove Tuesday.  But imported Louisiana gumbo, zydaco music, and a Tuesday evening spent with friends is even better.

Even though I knew there was another king cake coming, I couldn't resist making these king cake cupcakes.  I think they should have been baked at a lower temperature and for less time, but the end result tasted a lot like the store-bought version.  I remembered for the third or fourth time that I don't really like most king cakes that much.  But don't worry, I have a plan for next year...

Geoff found the baby in the (store-bought) king cake which means he has to bring one next year.  I'm hoping he'll let me make it - I'm already plotting a king cake based on a cinnamon-roll with a cream cheese filling.  Perhaps not the most traditional version; but as long as it has plenty of butter, I figure it remains Fat Tuesday appropriate.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Delicious Danishes

I can't believe that I forgot to post about these - they were sooooooo good!  And not *quite* as difficult as I expected.  Definitely time consuming, but so buttery and so flaky and so worth it.

Danishes - like their filling-less cousins croissants - are based on a dough enriched with eggs and sugar.  I used the recipe from Make Bread, Buy Butter which also includes lemon zest.  The dough was pretty amazing raw, but there was still a full pound of butter to be added.

After the dough rises, you roll it out into a rectangle and add two sticks of butter.  But don't stop there.  

Fold over one flap of dough and add another two sticks of butter.  Breathe.  Remind yourself that you are making three dozen pastries.  Fold the other flap over and seal it up.  

After 30 minutes in the fridge, roll the dough out into a large rectangle and fold in thirds.  Refrigerate, roll, and fold again.  And a again.  Then leave it in the fridge overnight.

Now, I'm pretty good at math, but I can't figure out how folding it over 12 times turned into 10,000 layers.  This is when I knew they were going to be amazingly flaky.

Making 36 little envelopes of dough was the most tedious part of the process, but still not that bad.  Especially since I knew the end was near.  Each envelope got a tablespoon of blood orange curd (which froze and defrosted perfectly), before going in the oven.

Two dozen went straight to the freezer, which was good, because otherwise I would have eaten all 36 straight out of the oven.  All that butter made the outer edge of the pastries crisp and the inner layers soft and tender.  After a day, they lose the crisp edge but keep all their flaky goodness.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Foto Friday {45}

Saturday February 11: I love a full pantry


Monday February 13: Sparkly Valentine's Magic

Tuesday February 14: Valentine's Show at the Woodlawn Theater

Wednesday February 15: Am I the only one who thinks blood oranges look like bruises?

Thursday February 16: Someone loves Steinbeck

Friday Febraury 17: Treated myself to a manicure - ruined it 20 minutes later.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

His and Hers Valentine's Desserts

...or how wrecked macarons turned into brandied-cherry filled truffles.  When we decided on this special edition of Valentine's Day treats for Feeding Friendship, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to tackle one of my baking challenges - macarons.  My friend Katy lent me a book full of recipes and I selected a dark chocolate and cherry version - a blend of my love of all things dark chocolate and Geoff's fondness for tempering chocolate with some other flavor.

I'll be honest, I got a little cocky.  I've had a lot of baking successes in the last year and so I ignored the fact that I have read many blog posts about how finicky macarons can be and plunged into the recipe around 10pm on Monday night after Zumba and the KU basketball game and knowing that there is an hour-long rest before they go in the oven.

It all started out nicely with perfectly piped pink hearts, cherry-brandy soaked tart cherries and 70% cacao ganache.  But then things went wrong.  I suspect that my first mistake was using my almond meal without grinding it down any further.  My second mistake was trying an unusual shape on my first time out.  And my third mistake, was forgetting to turn over the parchment paper after I drew the hearts on with marker.

So not only did the macarons fail to rise as they should, I had to throw out three-quarters of the "macarons" (let's just call them wafers from now on) because I wasn't sure how toxic that blue marker was.  I nearly gave up then and there, but I had brandy-soaked cherries and ganache made with $16/pound chocolate and there was no reason to toss those out.

When life hands you lemons, make curd.  But when life hands you a bowl of ganache, then my friend, you should make truffles.  The wonderful thing about truffles is that they are meant to be rough and rustic so I just took a spoonful of ganache, stuck a brandy-soaked cherry in the middle, and made it into a vaguely spherical shape before tossing it in cocoa powder.

I chopped the remaining cherries and folded them into a half-cup of cream which I whipped to stiff peaks.  Before we left to see Rent, the cream was sandwiched between the eight unmarred wafers and left in the fridge for the wafers to soften slightly.

They weren't anything like macarons, but who can argue with whipped cream, brandy, and wonderful company?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Mandarin ducks have been used for centuries as the most traditional symbol of love in Feng Shui practice, so for Valentine's Day dinner, we ate duck.  It's like Feng Shui for your tummy, right?  Seriously, though, I've been wanting to make this crispy-skinned duck with Sichuan peppercorns and star anise since I saw it on the Cooking Chanel months ago.  It was the perfect special but week-night friendly dinner.

This was my first time cooking duck and I was surprised by how simple it was.  I scored the skin and then let it stand in the marinade for about half an hour.  Next time, I'd leave it for longer.  I seared the skin in a hot skillet and then finished it in the oven, leaving the duck a nice medium.  While it was in the oven, I mixed equal parts hoisin and orange juice with just a shot of soy sauce as a quick sauce instead of the fruitier version called for in the recipe.  It was delicious and quicker than cooking a chicken breast.  I don't know why I haven't made duck before!  As simple sides, I mashed some sweet potatoes with Chinese five spice powder and stir-fried green beans in sesame oil.

Although Geoff and I agreed to take a trip this year instead of exchanging gifts, I did make a small, sort of romantic present...mostly because I wanted something to put on the wall in our bedroom.  (So what I'm saying is I made a present for myself.)  Following these directions from See Kate Sew, I made a patchwork map of the U.S. with fabric scraps.  Rather than filling in all of the states, I only filled in the states we have visited together.  Over the coming years, we can work on filling in the rest.  I'm regretting not getting to Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Delaware while we lived in Pennsylvania.

After dinner, we had planned a quiet night in.  However, we ended up getting free tickets to see a local production of Rent at the Woodlawn Theater.  Although an rock opera about people dying from AIDS is not your typical Valentine's Day fare, the show was amazing with some really talented actors.  Having these sorts of shows is definitely one of the major benefits of having moved to San Antonio (75 degree days in the middle of February is another).  Now I'm ending my day listening to Geoff play guitar, something I never get tired of.  I hope you all had a Valentine's Day filled with love in every form it takes.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Birthday, Geoff!!

Sunday was Geoff's birthday so we had a whole weekend of celebration beginning with a birthday dinner with the Holtzes on Saturday night.  Several years ago, Geoff mentioned the stuffed grape leaves (dolma) that his grandma made when he was younger.  I decided to surprise him for his birthday that year with the dolma, but I got it very wrong - his grandma's recipe was all rice and I added ground beef and raisins.  It was good, but not the food of his childhood.  Over the past several years, I have refined my recipe (very similar to this one) and added a second dish - mititei - a super-garlicky sausage that I made with all local lamb this year and formed into meatballs.

I rounded out Geoff's traditional birthday dinner with some home-made ginger ale-based cocktails (way easier to make than you would think) and a pumpkin cake with whiskey-caramel sauce.  The cake was good, but I'm never going to beat the three foot long guitar cake I made when he turned 30 (there was also less arm-wrestling than at that party).  Wanting some sort of festive decoration for the birthday boy, I also made bunting from craft felt.  Colorful and imminently reusable.

We had big plans on Sunday to go hiking in the Hill Country, but woke up to a rainy day with highs in the 30s and decided to watch movies on the couch instead.  An easy, relaxing birthday.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Foto Friday {44}

Saturday February 4: Thanks, you too!

Sunday February 5: Super Bowl Cupcakes

Monday February 6: Pumpkin and Gingerbread Gelato

Tuesday February 7: Presenting to Visiting High School Students

Wednesday February 8: Getting Organized

Thursday February 9: Bunting

Friday February 10: Homemade Valentine's Day Cards <3

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Feeding Friendship: Teff Injera, Doro Wat, and Yataklete Kilkil

When Sarah selected "ancient grains" as our star ingredient for this round of Feeding Friendship, she mentioned a Bill Bryson quote:

Out of the thirty thousand types of edible plants thought to exist on Earth, just eleven — corn, rice, wheat, potatoes, cassava, sorghum, millet, beans, barley, rye, and oats — account for 93 percent of all that humans eat.

I took this as a challenge to avoid these plants and focus on some of the more obscure, ancient grains.  Perhaps some I've used before like farro or bulgur.  Unfortunately, these - along with kamut and spelt - are just types of wheat!  So I decided I should go with quinoa, amaranth, or tef.  Googling (that's a legit gerund, I swear) around for uses of tef led me to injera, the spongy bread used as tablecloth and utensil in Ethiopian cuisine.  At once, I had a plan. 

The first time I ever tried Ethiopian food was in Minneapolis with my parents and some of their college friends.  It was spring break of my junior year and we were there visiting Carleton College (which I decided at the last minute not to attend).  My parents' friends had boasted that you could find every type of food in Minneapolis and my challenge of "well, then, I want Ethiopian" was met.

I used whole grain tef, but I suspect that most of the Ethiopian restaurants that I have been to were using either refined tef or a tef-wheat flour blend.  The whole grain tef makes a dark bread with a slightly gritty texture and the overnight fermentation gives it a slightly sour flavor.  Tef has become popular again recently because it is gluten-free.  Unfortunately, a thin, gluten-free pancake doesn't have much structural integrity so it had a tendency to fall apart when you used it to grab the food (the traditional way to eat Ethiopian food).  A bit messy - but tasty!

Traditionally, an Ethiopian meal, like that of much of the Middle East and into India is composed of several dishes, each of which (to me) could be a stand-along meal.  While I wasn't up to making six or eight dishes, I did make two - doro wat (wat means food) and Yataklete Kilkil.  Wat is a stew that can be made with any meat (doro wat is chicken).  Thanks to a long stewing time, I ended up with shredded chicken, but what sets this apart from your standard crock-pot chicken is that you begin by cooking onions until quite dark in a dry skillet.  This caramelizes them, but also drives out a lot of the moisture.  Once the onions are cooked, you add some oil and berbere - a very hot spice blend.  I adapted a recipe based on several I found.  For me, the result was a perfect blend of spiciness and rich flavors from all the other spices.  The Yetakelt W'et is a gingery vegetable stew that I found was a nice complement to the 

This is a recipe I found several places online (including here).

1 lb whole grain tef
3 cups lukewarm water
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp kosher salt

1. Twenty-four hours prior to cooking, mix together tef, water, and yeast in a large bowl.  Cover with a tea towel and place on a sheet pan (just in case it rises out of the bowl).
2. Leave a room temperature to ferment/rise.
3. When ready to cook, stir in salt.
4. If you have a gigantic skillet, heat that up.  Otherwise, a normal-size, low-sided cast iron skillet over medium heat will do.
5. Lightly oil the pan before making each pancake.  Add just enough batter to cover the pan and cook until it looks dry on top.  Remove and let cool.

Doro Wat
Adapted from several sources.

3 cups onions, chopped
1 tbsp canola oil
1 rotisserie chicken, cooked and chopped into 1 inch cubes.
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground fenugreek
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. allspice
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)

1. In a heavy dutch oven, cook the onions until very dark.  Stir frequently to prevent burning or sticking.
2. Add oil and all spices. and cook for 30 seconds.  Add 1/2 cup water and scrape fond from bottom of pan.
3. Add chicken and simmer about 30 minutes.  Add water as needed to keep moist but not soupy.
4. Serve on top of injera with yogurt on the side.

Yataklete Kilkil
Adapted from here

1 medium russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 cups baby carrots, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups green beans, roughly chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
3 inches of ginger, chopped
1-2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. canola oil
salt, to taste

1. Place potatoes, carrots, and green beans in a pot and just cover with water.  Simmer over medium heat about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
2.  While vegetables are cooking, place onions, garlic, ginger, cayenne, cardamom, and flour in the blender.  Puree until smooth.
3.  Heat oil in skillet and add onion mixture.  Cook until the onions lose their raw taste and add to the vegetables.  Simmer an additional 10 minutes.

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