Sunday, December 21, 2008


The following is a guest post from D. I helped stir the recipe for about two minutes. D refused to use the kitchen aid and I got the kitchen aid because I hate mixing. I held the bowl while he stirred with both hands and then he sat on the floor and held the bowl between his legs while stirring with both hands. I would recommend using a standing mixer...

Ok, I think using a mixer would be problematic, and I'll explain why later, but it's true that this basic fudge recipe is ludicrously labor intensive. The final step calls for you to beat the fudge with a wooden spoon until it begins to lose its gloss, which can take 10 or 15 or more minutes. If you're working with a less-than-accurate candy thermometer the fudge may never lose its gloss, and you'll get uncongealed, though still delicious, fudge. Despite the simple ingredients a lot can go wrong. My younger sister and I used to make this recipe when we were kids and we'd crack each other up falsely claiming that "it's losing its gloss! it's losing its gloss!" Then one day the fudge actually did lose its gloss and everything happened so fast that before we could transfer it to the pan it was hard as a rock stuck to the bottom of the kettle. This, I suspect, is why you're supposed to beat it with a wooden spoon rather than an electric mixer.

There are a lot of easier fudge recipes out there--usually they call for evaporated milk and semi-sweet chocolate--but they pale in comparison to the real thing.

3 c. sugar
2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa
1/8 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 stick butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix together the sugar, cocoa, and salt in a kettle. Add the milk and cook over medium heat stirring constantly. When it comes to a boil stop stirring and take its temperature. Let it boil without stirring until it reaches 234 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from heat and add the butter and vanilla. Let it cool at room temperature, still without stirring, until it returns to 110 degrees. While it's cooling, line an 8 or 9 inch square pan with foil, and butter the foil. When the mixture has cooled, beat it with a wooden spoon until it loses its gloss. This is a lot of work and it's much easier if you have a helper and can take turns. Eventually (hopefully) it will thicken and you'll notice that its shine is fading--either that or you'll tire and decide that it's just not worth it. Whichever comes first, the next step is to transfer the fudge to the the pan. If the transition from glossy to matte was quick, you should also be quick about the transfer because the fudge can harden in no time. If you quit from exhaustion or you think the fudge is maybe losing its gloss but you're not really sure then you can be more leisurely about it. Let it cool completely and enjoy. If it hardens sufficiently, you can turn it over, peel off the foil, and cut it into squares. Store at room temp.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cranberry Christmas Cake

This is my favorite baked good of my mother's around the holidays.

Christmas Cake

1 cup sugar
2 cup flour
3 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 c cranberries, whole and fresh


Mix dry ingredients together first. Mix milk, melted butter, and vanilla together in a separate bowl. Stir dry and wet ingredients together. Gently stir in cranberries and make sure they do not break. Grease a 8 x 8 pan and pour the mixture in. Bake at 350 until it is golden brown on the top. You should be able to put a fork through the middle cleanly, but make sure the cake is not too done. This will take approximately 25 minutes.

1 c sugar
1/2 c cream
1/4 lb butter
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt

While the cake is baking, the sauce should be made. Stir all ingredients together. Over medium heat, stir the mixture until the sugar disintegrates and it is clear.

Final Directions

Cut each piece individually and then spoon frosting on top. Should be served warm. The "frosting" will seep into the top layer of the cake and create a nice contrast between the cake and the tart cranberries.

The frosting can be stored in the fridge separately from the cake and reheated for future consumption.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Marshmallows are my favorite candy. I loooove them. My favorite are Kraft Jet Puffed. The texture, the vanilla, the memories of childhood. So imagine my surprise when I made them and they were even better. The recipe is copied exactly from the Barefoot Contessa website. Here is the recipe...

Homemade Marshmallows:

  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to sit while you make the syrup.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Using an 8 by 12-inch nonmetal pan, cover the bottom with confectioner's sugar using a swifter. Pour in the marshmallow batter and smooth the top of the mixture with damp hands if needed. Allow to dry uncovered at room temperature overnight.

Remove the marshmallows from the pan and cut into squares. Roll the sides of each piece carefully in confectioners' sugar. Store uncovered at room temperature (I would recommend storing them covered).

Thoughts: I have never tried it with the coconut but that is what the original recipe calls for. I am sure it is delicious.
When heating the sugar, it rapidly heats to 225 degrees or so. Then it will gradually creep up to 240. A thermometer is a must. I use a digital thermometer that is great for cooking meat, making yogurt, etc.
I also dust the bottom of the pan with powdered sugar before putting the marshmallows in the pan and then the top once they have sat out over night. After I cut them out, I like to dust the sides as well. Excess powdered sugar can be brushed off.
A friend recommended that you should run the knife under hot water before cutting them.
I have used Knox gelatin and it works well although my friend's mom said that the high grade gelatin has a better initial smell and is worth spending the extra money.
The vanilla you use will greatly impact the taste. I made the first batch with some vanilla extract that my mom bought very cheaply at Safeway and added over a tablespoon plus one teaspoon vanilla. It was just the right amount. The next time I used some fancy, higher-end vanilla and put in the same amount. It was overpowering. Next time, I would probably put a tablespoon or a little less of the higher-end. If you use fancy vanilla put a little less than a tablespoon, and if it is lower end, add a little more.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Kelly's Marinated Salad

This salad is amazing and real. Unlike the following salad. I mean the following salad is amazing. Just in a very different way. I highly recommend this salad.

Kelly's Marinated Salad

4 nectarines, chopped
1/2 lb mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup black olives, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 c green onion, chopped
6 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained

1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp tarragon
1/2 tsp thyme

Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Mix marinade in a separate bowl and whisk together. Pour over salad ingredients. Let salad sit for two hours in the fridge. Stir occasionally.

50s Winter Fruit Salad

This is a traditional Easter salad from my family. I am pretty sure it was written when only canned fruit and bananas were available in the winter. When was cool whip invented? That was probably my mom's addition. She loooves cool whip. A warning: it is a very inexact recipe and I eat it once a year.

"Green" Salad

1 can pineapple tidbits
1 can fruit cocktail
1 can mandarins
2 bananas, chopped
Three cups marshmallows
1/2 to 1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 to 1 cup cool whip
1/4 cup sour cream
1 box pistachio instant pudding

Drain all the canned fruit of their liquid. Place in a large bowl with bananas and rest of ingredients. The pistachio instant pudding should create a pudding like consistency around the fruit. Adjust wet ingredients accordingly.

Lois' Enchiladas

So I visited home recently and started going through the family recipes. Here is the first.

Lois' Chicken Enchiladas
2 skinless chicken breasts, chopped
2 tbls cooking oil
1 med. chopped onion
1 4 oz can green chilies, chopped
1 4 1/2 oz can sliced black olives
1/2 cup sour cream, lowfat ok
1 clove garlic mixed
8-10 white corn tortillas
3/4 pound Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1-2 10 oz can enchilada sauce
1/2 c grated cheddar cheese
1/4 c chopped green onions
2 tbsp. cilantro

Cook chopped chicken in oil until no pink is left. Put aside. Cook onions in oil and cook 3 minutes on medium heat. Add 1/2 the chilies, 1/2 the olives, minced garlic, and sour cream. Heat through. Stir in chicken and set aside.

Wrap tortillas in foil and heat them in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove. Fill each with 2 tbls of onion mixture and 2 tbs grated Jack cheese. Roll up the tortillas and place seam side down in a buttered 9 by 13 baking dish. Pour enchilada sauce over each tortilla. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese, green onoins, cilantro, and remaining olives and green chilies.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes.

Variations: You could roast enough mild green chilies to make 1/2 cup instead of using the canned ones. Or make the tortillas by hand and the enchilada sauce from scratch. Haha.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pizza Dough

A basic recipe.

Pizza Dough

1 tbls yeast
1 c. warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 tbls olive oil (optional)
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 c wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp salt

Combine yeast, warm water and sugar. Wait until yeast is activated. Stir salt into first cup of flour. Slowly add flour until it is no longer sticky and can be kneaded. Knead the dough for five to 10 mintes. Let rise while preheating the oven. Preheat the over to 425 degrees. Roll out, add toppings and bake for 15 to 20 minutes depending on how crisp you want it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bike Rack

D made me a bike rack for my I came out of the womb day. All it took was five 2 x 4's, four hooks, two sawhorse brackets, and one 2 x 10. Oh yeah, some nails as well. He forgot the fifth 2 x 4 to run length wise neat the bottom to act as a brace/wall protector so eventually we will have to take a trip back to a store whose contents and layout mystify me. My brain just cannot wrap itself around Home Depot.

Here are the measurements or ingredients:
Four 2 x 4's cut 83" long
Two 2 x 4's cut 80' long or however long you want the bike rack to be
2 horsesaw brackets
1 1/2 inch nails
2 1/2 inch nails
4 hooks or enough to space them about 18 inches to 22 inches apart.
2 2 x 10s 48 inches long

Directions: Make it look like the above picture...but with one more 2 x 4 nailed across from one end to the other at tire height to prevent the tires from hitting the back wall. Also, you can add smaller hooks to the side beams so you can hang bike locks, tools, tool basket, helmets, etc.

Length of wood may need to be adjusted depending on the angle of the sawhorse brackets. I found this website useful.


This recipe is a modified version of the granola recipe from the Horn of the Moon Cookbook. Good granola. Not too sweet. I experimented for a long time with sweetness and at one point was adding 1/2 cup or more of honey or brown sugar. I quickly realized I liked it less sweet, because you can really taste the toasted oats. Plus dried fruit and coconut shavings add a nice sweetness.

Basic Granola

4 cups Oats (anything but instant oats)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 honey (or maple syrup)
1/3 cup sunflower oil
2 tbls. Water
1/4 cup untoasted wheat germ (optional)
1/4 cup untoasted wheat bran (optional)
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup shredded coconut (big flakes the best)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix all ingredients together except for the raisins and coconut. Place on cookie sheet with raised edges. Place in oven. Bake 35 to 40 minutes and stir every five to ten minutes. Usually, I tend to stir it more often as the end of the cooking time nears to avoid burning the oats. Remove from oven. Let cool before breaking it into pieces. Add dried fruit and coconut.

Variations: Lots and lots of variations exist. A few I have tried include:
1. Vanilla granola. Add two teaspoons or a little more of vanilla extract to the oil and water. Stir rapidly and pour over dry ingredients. This will help the vanilla to spread evenly. Also, some people add a vanilla bean to the granola when they store it and this will also impart a vanilla flavor.
2. Ginger and dried peaches granola: Add chopped candied ginger to the granola about 20 minutes before it is done baking. Amount varies depending on taste but a little goes a long way. Add dried peaches instead of raisins.
3. Cranberry granola: substitute cranberries for raisins.

Special note: If you are doubling or tripling the recipe, the cooking time will take a bit longer. The best way to figure out when granola is done is when the oats turn golden and you can smell them baking.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Salad Dressing

This is a recipe for a great basic dressing. I have a soft spot for Annie's Goddess Dressing but sometimes that tahini is too overpowering. Enjoy!

Basic Salad Dressing
1 garlic clove, chopped
4 tbls oil
4 tbls red wine or cider vinegar
1 - 2 tbls yogurt
dash of salt
dash of pepper

Combine ingredients and stir. Store unused dressing in the fridge. Shake well before serving.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bread Homestyle

D made the best bread last week. Better than the bread I had been attempting several months ago before I was derailed by a broken oven, school, and moving. That said I am one lucky lady. We were both sick or at least I was at that point. It was a sickness that robbed us of our sense of smell and taste. But the fresh baked bread really hit the spot. This recipe is from D’s mom.

Bread Recipe

2 tbl yeast (two packets)
Pinch sugar
1 c warm water
1 c warm milk
1/2 c honey
3 tbs butter
2 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 egg (slightly beaten)
1 tbs salt
3 1/2 to 4 c white flour

Combine 2 tbls yeast, the warm water and a pinch of sugar. Mix and let sit for about five minutes. Yeast should start to foam and bubble.

Warm the milk in a microwave or on the stovetop. Add the butter and honey and stir until the butter melts and the honey begins to dissolve. When your yeast mixture is ready, add it to the milk along with the whole wheat flour and the egg and mix with a wooden spoon. Now add the salt and some white flour and continue mixing. Add white flour one cup at a time. Continue to add flour until dough is sticky but able to be kneaded. Knead for ten to fifteen minutes by hand. A mixer, such as a kitchen aid can be used, but watch closely to ensure that you do not over knead the bread (hard to do by hand). More flour can be added during the kneading process if it becomes too sticky. Be sure to keep the dough slightly sticky. (It will rise better).

Butter a bowl and put dough inside. Flip the dough around in the bowl so the outside is lightly coated with butter. Place dry towel over the top to prevent drafts. Allow to rise for around 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. Punch down the dough and split into 2 large or 3 or 4 smaller loaves. Knead each loaf for a little while and place it in its pan. Cover with towel and allow to rise for around 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Tap the bottom of the loaves to see if they sound hollow to make sure they are done.

Notes: D used Hodgson Mill Active Dry Yeast. which has worked really well for me in the past. For some reason, I have found that it is also the cheapest yeast.

Worms, Part I

After discovering that the local municipality was out of compost bins, I decided to use worms to compost my garbage after getting this advice from J:

The advantage is that you can keep them inside (you would have to b/c they would die in the winter), they are relatively hassle free, they can compost anything (I had one friend that would feed them meat scraps) and you can make the best compost in the world with them. Plus they are fun pets!

The fun pets really got me, and although I probably won't feed them meat, I am excited to feed them other cooked food. After looking into various options, I chose to use this set-up. I bought two grey plastic bins. V is letting me stop by his work to use the power drill.

I ordered, and D wrote the check for, a pound of worms from Down to Earth Worm Farm. The woman who helped me on the phone was very friendly and excited I was not from the area. They are supposed to arrive next week.

I really wanted these lily-scented worms, but they are hard to come by and I suspect mythical.

I have started collecting garbage and newspaper for the worms. D ordered a book so we don’t kill them, at least initially. I set up a plan to get kitchen scraps from E and S every three to four days since I am not sure I will generate enough food scraps to sustain them.

IC expressed concern that I may hear them slithering around, but hopefully they will be quiet and realitively scentless like all the blog postings say. To be continued…

Cabbage Soup

I got this recipe from IC whom I work with. I was sick and needed something to cure my stuffy nose. This soup is very flavorful and was done largely on intuition. It can be adjusted to your individual palate or style of cooking. It is also a great fall farmer’s market recipe…Enjoy!

Cabbage Soup

1 med onion
1-2 tbls butter
1/2 head of cabbage
2 tsp. salt
1 tbls of dry thyme
Fresh dill (to taste, a little less than 1/4 c appx)
Diced tomatoes, 28 ounce can or fresh (see directions below**)
1 to 2 med carrots, sliced (IC’s addition. Adds a sweetness, but is optional)
Pepper, to taste (my addition)
Topping: Sour Crème, Cream Fraiche or Cottage Cheese

Chop onion and place in gallon-sized dutch oven with butter on medium/medium-high heat. Stir onions occasionally so they do not burn. Cook until transparent.

Add water until pot is half full. Add thyme. While waiting for the water to boil, cut the cabbage into thin strips and massage with salt. When water boils, add cabbage and carrots. Simmer until cabbage is soft, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes. Continue simmering another 5 minutes or so. Add dill and simmer five additional minutes. Add pepper to taste and salt if you feel you need more. Serve hot.

**You may use fresh tomatoes, two or three. You may want to seed and peel them first. Mollie K recommends boiling them for 10 seconds, then peeling them and squeezing out the juice and seeds. Chop and add to soup. You may need to cook the soup a bit longer if you use this method.

Thoughts and Feelings: I had to use dry dill because for some reason my local Whole Foods does not carry dill and my dill plant is very tiny and delicate. I look forward to making it with fresh dill.
I also added cottage cheese to the soup, which IC does not endorse. I had it without too and it was delicious. Ricotta might be a little less adventurous if you want to add a simple dairy product to it. IC usually adds sour cream but thought creme fraiche sounded good, too.
I also would like to try it without carrots.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Best Dal Ever...

Or real close. Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni is an amazing cookbook. It is one of the best I have ever owned. Sometimes, I cut down on the oil a bit, but other than that it is perfection. The dishes highlight one or two ingredients. I have been in Boston pining for the cookbook and D emailed me one of my favorite recipes today. So here it is...

Lucknow Sour Lentils

Khatti Dal, a classic from the city of Lucknow in the state of Uttar Pradesh, is indeed a superbly flavored lentil dish. It is fragrant with garlic and fresh ginger root and laced with black cumin-seed-flavored oil. The characteristic feature of this dal is the tamarind jice added to perk up the flavors and provide a tang.

For 6 persons:

1 1/2 cups pink lentils
1 tablespoon finely choppped fresh ginger root
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 one-inch ball tamarind pulp, or 1 teaspoon mango powder, or 1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons Kosher salt (but I highly recommend starting with less and working up)

For tadka:
5 tablespoons Indian vegetable shortening, or light vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black cumin seeeds, or 1/2 teaspoon white cumin seeds
1 tablespoon mashed or minced garlic
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper

1. Pick clean and wash lentils following directions on page 327
2. Put the lentils in a deep saucepan along with the turmeric, ginger, and 5 cups water, and bring to the boil, stirring often, as the lentils have a tendency to settle at the bottom of the pan. Reduce ehat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes, stirring now and then.
3. While the lentils are cooking, put the tamarind pulp in a small bowl, add 1 cup of boiling water, and let soak for 15 minutes. Mash the pulp wiht the back of a spoon or using your fingers. Strain the liquid into another bowl, squeezing out as much juice as possible from the pulp. Discard the stringy fibrous residue.
4. Add the tamarind juice to the cooked lentils, and continue cooking for an additional 15 minutes (if you are using mango powder or lemon juice in place of tamarind, do not add yet). Turn off the heat, and beat the lentils with a wire whisk or wooden spoon for 1 minute to smooth the puree. Measure the puree and if necessary add enough water to make 6 cups. If you are using mango powder or lemon juice, stir it in now with the salt. (The lentil puree may be prepared ahead and refrigerated for up to 3 days. It also freezes well. Defrost thoroughly before proceeding with recipe).
5. When ready to serve, simmer the puree over low heat until piping hot. The lentil puree thickens with keeping, so check the consistency again. You may need to add 1/2 cup water to bring the puree to the right consistency. Check for salt and transfer to a serving bowl while you make the spice-perfumed butter (tadka).
6. Heat the shortening over medium-high heat in a small frying pan. When it is very hot, add cumin seeds, and fry for a moment or two (white cumin seeds will take about 10 seconds). Remove the pan from the heat, add red pepper and the mashed garlic, and stir rapidly for 10 seconds or until the garlic loses its raw smell and begins to color--do not let it brown. Pour the butter with its seasonings over the lentil puree. Stir once or twice--just enough to lace the puree with ribbons of perfumed butter. Serve immediately in small bowls.

Thoughts and feelings: I rarely pick the lentils. I think I wash them occassionally. That may be me just trying to make myself look better.
I have only used lemon and it still turns out delicious.
I usually halve the oil.
If you burn the seeds or garlic in the oil, it is really easy to redo them. It is not easy to redo the lentils. One time I ruined it, because I burned the cumin seeds and for some reason didn't realize how easy it was to just make another batch.

CORRECTION of MY CORRECTION: The original post said 2 teaspoons salt and I was pretty sure that it is supposed to be 1/2 teaspoon...but upon double checking it is 2 teaspoons (see comments).

Friday, July 25, 2008


I moved to Boston several weeks ago. I got a job writing SPSS syntax for the feds. I planned to get a CSA and find a local dairy but have been extremely lazy. Any suggestions are welcome on where to find either. Also, if you are in the area and have furniture, I only have a bed at the moment. Recipes to follow...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I have been on a yogurt making kick. L orders from a local dairy and I have started making a weekly batch of yogurt to go along with my granola (recipe coming eventually). Yogurt is suprisingly easy. This recipe comes from Nourishing Traditions. I like a couple of the recipes in the cookbook but her research methodology is a little shady and a lot of the ingredients are bizarre. I think there are better cookbooks out there, but the yogurt is good...


1/2 cup good yogurt with live cultures
1 quart milk

Gently heat the milk to 180 degrees (I found that going just below this at 175 degrees or so). Let it cool to 11o degrees. Stir in yogurt and place in shallow glass or stainless steal container. Cover and place in a warm oven with the pilot light on or pre-heated to warm. If you live somewhere, where it does not get cold at night (DC in the summer for example), I would just leave it out at night. In the morning, transfer to the refridgerator. If there is extra whey, just spoon it out.

Problems you might encounter are explained here. My yogurt curdled slightly last time and was still good. I think it was because I heated it a bit too high, the milk was not as fresh as usual, and it was over 100 degrees in the kitchen for an extended period.

Monday, June 9, 2008

New Trend Alert: Hipsters bathe at well pumps!

D and I went on our first bike camping excursion. It went fairly smoothly. We took it as a chance to test out our gear and wilderness survival skills.

Lessons Learned:

1. Hang your food even if you think there is no risk of bears eating it. I awoke to D saying, "Something is eating our food." As he pointed the flashlight towards the paneer, the animal tried to drag the paneer away with it. Neither of us ever saw the animal as we are both legally blind without contacts. We just saw the reflector slowly moving away from the other bags' reflectors. Only four peanut butter sandwiches were lost. However, all the next day, D lamented the four missing sandwiches.

2. Bring glasses if you are legally blind and need to see quickly in the middle of the night.

3. Bring a map. Like baking, even if you think it is simple and you have cooked the recipe a thousand times, it is easy to forget a step. We biked the C&O Canal, our destination Harper's Ferry. Supposedly some of my lady relatives founded it with their families. We missed it by 2 miles or so. Sounded simple, you just get on the trail and bike the whole way there. No detours. Nothing. What we didn't know was that there is a small town before Harper's Ferry, which we mistook for Harpers Ferry. This small town did have a nice ice cream shop which included kids running behind the counters and everyone chatted us up. Not getting to Harpers Ferry gives us something to look forward to next time...

4. Bathing in a water pump is amazing after a long day of biking.

5. If you are biking somewhere very humid, nothing dries at night so be prepared for moist biking clothes if you leave them out at night.

6. Items not included in the last list that should be: small bottle of contact solution; extra toilet paper; grocery sacks for dirty/wet clothes, shoes, etc; hand sanitizer.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bike Touring

I got my bike back! They put a Surly fork on my little Aurora. It looks great and it is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I cannot wait to ride my bike after the flash flood advisories end.

JB and I are planning on doing a bike tour of the Adirondacks in late June. Below is a list of all the gear I am planning on bringing. If anyone has any suggests, please let me know...

Camping Gear
1. Tent
2. Sleeping bags
3. Tarp
4. MSR Stove Kit with fuel
5. Towel
6. Metal silverware
7. Waterproof matches
8. First Aid Kit
9. Camelbacks
10. Bug spray
11. Sunscreen
17. Scrubber for pots
18. Dish for person not using MSR
19. Coffee Mug (to share)
20. Tent cord for hanging food/tying down fly
21. Strainer
22. Sleeping pad

Bike Gear
1. Bike tool (JB)
2. Tire change: bike tire levers, patch kit, extra tube, bike pump
3. Bike Lights (front and rear)
4. Bike Lock

1. Bike shorts (2)
2. Swim suit
3. Lightweight hat
4. Rain Gear
5. Wool Sweater
6. Long Underwear
7. Three pair of underwear
8. Jeans
9. Dress
10. Sandals
11. Gloves

1. Trail Mix
2. Dry Hummus
3. Granola
4. Instant Milk
5. Coffee
6. Powdered Gatoraide or Tang

Changes to bike:
1. Bike Seat
2. Pedals with clips (L)
3. Bike shoes
4. Fenders (?)
5. Front racks and bags (L)

1. Laundry detergent
2. Three pairs socks
3. Soap (dish washing/armpit washing/clothes washing)
4. Sunglasses
5. Camera
6. Cards
7. Tent cord for hanging food/tying down fly
8. Blister Kit
9. Ibuprofen
10. Toothpaste/toothbrush
11. Deodorant
12. Extra batteries

Monday, April 28, 2008

Apple Rubbarb Pie

I got hit by a car recently. The insurance company is going to fix my bike and my shoulder is healing nicely. It was a small accident but rather dramatic. It just makes my life more complicated having to deal with all the crazy stuff.
I am also trying to wrap up the Master's degree.
So in short, it may be awhile before there is another post, but here is one for the time being...

Apple Rubbarb Pie

1 1/2 sticks butter
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
Approx. 3 tablespoons ice cold water

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
Four baking apples (I used pink ladies)
Five medium rubbarb stems

Mix the salt and flour together. Cut the butter into slices and use a fork to blend the butter into the flour. Once the flour and butter form into small pieces and is thoroughly blended, add the water one tablespoon at a time. Mix the dough with your hands until the dough sticks together. Add as little water as possible. Form dough into two balls. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and make the dough hockey puck shaped (this will make it easier to roll out). Refridgerate for at least an hour.

Once the dough is about ready to be rolled out. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Peal the apples and cut into quarters. Use a food processor or thinly slice the apples and rubbarb. The filling should be half rubbarb and half apples. Mix the apples, rubbarb, flour and sugar together. Put to the side.

Remove the dough from the refridgerator. Grease a basic pie pan. Place the dough between two sheets of wax paper and roll out the dough until it is big enough to cover the pie pan. Place the dough in a greased pie pan and put the filling into the pie pan. Roll out the other ball of dough in the same manner and place on top of the pie. Seal the edges of the pie with a fork or your fingers. Cut four slices in the top of the dough. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 20 to 30 more minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Bread: Whole wheat flour, Rising in General, the Retarded Rise and More…

Bread: Whole wheat flour, Rising in General, the Retarded Rise and More…

The knowledge expounded in the following text comes from personal experience, D’s parents, friends, dad, The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion All Purpose Baking Cookbook, Laurel’s Kitchen, Martha Stewart, and others.

Rising Bread in a Cold House

When using oven because house is too cold, gently warm oven. Turn off after a minute or so. Add a 9 x 9 pan of warm water to the oven to make sure the air has the proper humidity and the bread does not dry out. Put a slightly damp cotton towel over the bowl. For optimal rising, temperature of the oven should not be about 90 degrees farenheit.

Flat Top

The first time I made the bread my bread came out of the oven with a flat top. I attributed this to the fact that I had let it rise for too long before putting it in the oven. If your bread looks unstable (hard to describe but you will know) or has stretch marks on the top, reknead the bread and let it rise again before putting it in the oven. Also, I did not have enough salt (only one teaspoon in the whole wheat bread recipe). See salt and sugar section.

Sugar and Salt: Dough Enhancer and Stabilizer*

Sugar and salt keep your bread from collapsing. Salt and organic acids, developed over a long, slow rise, help strengthen the gluten in your loaf, allowing it to hold its shape until the hot oven does its job. Without them, your loaf is likely to rise and then collapse. Salt and sugar help to slow the growth of the yeast and without it the yeast grows too fast and won’t develop the same flavor. When yeast is growing, it has three main byproducts: carbon dioxide, alcohol, and organic acids. The acids are really what gives the bread its flavor. Too much salt can rob the yeast of needed moisture and too much sugar can cause the yeast to overeat and slow the rising process in the long run. The King Arthur Cookbook recommends that a maximum of 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt and up to 1/4 cup sugar per three cups of sugar.

Retarded Rises*

Except in sweet breads, you can reduce the amount of yeast to produce a longer rising time. If the recipe calls for a packet of yeast which is a little over 2 teaspoons, you can usually just use 1/2 to 1 teaspoons of yeast. Using 1/2 a teaspoon, will lead to a rise of about 16 to 20 hours similar to the infamous New York Times no knead bread recipe. 1 teaspoon is a good amount for an overnight rise. The easiest doughs to do this with are ones containing a small amount of sugar and no dairy products.

Whole grain dough is slow rising because of the bran which interferes with gluten development. One way to slow these is to use the regular amount of yeast and slow it down in the refridgerator.

With slow rises, it will take longer for the loaf to rise in the pan as well. A rise that usually takes one to one and a half hours will take two hours or more. In general, you should just experiment and figure out what works for you.

Storing Bread*

If you can eat the bread in several days, just store it on your counter top in plastic wrap. It should keep for several days to a week. Storing bread in the fridge will cause bread to get stale more quickly. When storing bread with a crunchy crust, the best way is to store it on the counter, no plastic wrap, with the cut side down. This keeps the crust crunchy and the inside soft. Making toast, or warming the bread, reverses the stalling process because it sends all the molecules spinning back into their just out of the oven physical alignment.

Storing yeast

Can store at room temperature in vacuum sealed bag. Other than that, the best place is the freezer for maximum life. If store incorrectly, the yeast cells become inactive.

Dried Fruit*

When adding fruits that need to be chopped (dried apricots, large pieces of dried pineapple, etc.), leave the fruit in pieces as large as possible; the finer you chop the fruit, the more sugar it will release into the dough.

Random Facts*

On rainy or stormy days….when the baramoteric pressure is low, your bread will rise more quickly than it does ordinarily. This is because the dough doesn’t have as much air to push against it.

The pH of water plays an important role. Soft (alkaline) water is relatively free of minerals. Because yeast has its own characteristic mineral content, it wants a growing medium that is similar. So it doesn’t like soft water. Hard (acidic) water, on the other hand, contains lots of minerals and yeast will grow very quickly when it has access to such abundance. A small amount of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) can help correct water that it is too soft. Slightly more yeast can help overcome water that is too hard.

*=Pretty much plagarized from the King Arthur Cookbook with minor editing and additions. For full biography, please email.

Whole Wheat Bread

This bread recipe comes from the cookbook, Laurel’s Kitchen. It is kind of the Joy of Cooking for the vegetarian world. I enjoyed reading it. She talks about her journey into the world of nutrition in San Francisco when the hippie movement was just taking hold. On the whole, I have become much more sympathetic to hippies since moving out East. Most of Laurel's recipes need a tweak or two or three but this bread provides a good basis if you are just starting out.

Basic Whole Grain Bread

3 cups warm water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt
6 cups whole wheat flour (King Arthur’s).

Pour the warm water into a large bowl. Add the sugar and sprinkle the yeast on top of the water. In a few minutes, when the yeast comes bubbling to the top, stir in half of the whole wheat flour (and beat very well, until the dough ceases to be grainy and becomes smooth and stretchy. –I never do this.)

Add the salt and the remaining flour cup by cup, mixing well. Knead it in the bowl until it is no longer sticky, then turn it out onto a floured board.

As the dough gets stiffer and harder to knead, sprinkle the remaining flour a little at a time on the tabletop and knead the dough on top of it.

Knead, push and fold until the dough is soft and springy to touch and return it to the oiled bowl. Cover the bowl snugly, allowing room for the dough to double in bulk. If not doing a retarded rise (see next entry): punch the dough down and allow it to rise again until it has doubled in bulk.

Grease two loaf pans or two 46-ounce juice cans. Divided the dough in half and flatten each half into an oblong the length of the load pan. Cover the pans to protect from drafts and let the loaves rise once more, until they have doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees towards the end of the rising period. When the bread is rounded just above the rim, spread a bit of milk on the top of the loaves and bake it for about 40 minutes. When you remove it from the pan and tap it on the sides or bottom. It should sound slightly hollow. The color should be a golden brown. Allow the bread to cool, then slice and serve.

Variations: I tried just raisins but was not satisfied with this combination. So I added raisins and walnuts to the next loaf and enjoyed this a lot more. The raisin bread needs an accompaniment. I know many people do not like walnuts so another type of nut one could use might be unsalted sunflower seeds. You can add many other dried fruits, nuts, and/or herbs. Just don’t soak the dried fruit as it can leach excess sugar into the bread and add it right before the

My thoughts about this recipe: It is the only 100 percent whole wheat recipe I have found so far. Cooking with whole wheat can be more difficult, but more on that later. Also, I tried adjusting the salt. One teaspoon is far too little and negatively affects the rising process. Two teaspoons is great if you are very sensitive to salt. I ended up liking one tablespoon salt and it is the maximum you can put in the recipe without negatively affecting the rising process. Please see next entry for further ruminations on baking bread.

The dough should be relatively moist. Do not add too much flour. With whole wheat flour, it is especially important that your dough is as wet as possible, because this will allow it to rise more easily. Just remember that it should not be so wet that you cannot knead it. In DC, I usually use a little less than the recipe calls for. When I am kneading, a thin layer of dough attaches to my palms and it is almost too sticky to knead properly. Play around with it a bit and figure out what works for you.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bagels and more

So I have been busy lately. Mostly trying to perfect recipes, finish school, juggle two jobs, and find a job.
In my spare time (Thursday from 11:30 to 2:00 and sometimes Friday afternoon), I have been cooking out of Laurel's Kitchen. I am working on the bagel, bread and granola recipes. So I was wondering...what makes a bagel good?
Suggestions so far have been chewy, crisp on the outside, and no hole in the middle.
Will keep you updated on how it is going and any thoughts on the perfect bagel are always appreciated.


Gravy. Original here
1/4 cup butter (1 stick)
1/3 cup chopped onion
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons braggs
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and nutritional yeast and brown it slightly. Continuously stir it so it does not burn. Add braggs to form a smooth paste. Gradually whisk in the broth. Season with sage, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring constantly, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until thickened.

Comments: Very good with a strong flavor. Changes that were made to the orginal recipe: butter was used to replace the oil. Original recipe called for 1/2 of oil. I changed it to 1/4 cup butter, but if you are worried about your cholesterol or are vegan, oil works fine. Two tablespoons of braggs was substituted for four tablespoons of soy sauce. I upped the salt from 1/2 teaspoon to one teaspoon to make up for the fact that braggs does not have salt but you should really just season it to taste since vegetable broths all have different sodium contents.
Also, my dad taught me that the key to a good gravy was browning the flour, which I agree. Otherwise you get a lumpy ball of dough and who wants to eat that?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Chicken Curry with Sweet Potatoes

I made Chicken Curry with Sweet Potatoes with an old roomie. Actually followed the recipe this time since he read it multiple times.

Here is the recipe or you can click on the link. It was real good.

3 tablespoons curry powder, preferably Three Golden Bells brand
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 pounds skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons ground chili paste or dried chili flakes, or to taste
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 lemongrass stalks, cut into 3-inch pieces and bruised with the flat side of a knife
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled, cut into 3 slices and bruised with the flat side of a knife
1 1/2 cups fresh chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium chicken broth
3 carrots, peeled, cut on the diagonal into 2/3-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk or cow's milk
1 yellow onion, cut into wedges
1 medium sweet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 cup Asian basil leaves, cut in half
8 sprigs cilantro, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 scallions, chopped


1. Combine 2 tablespoons of the curry powder and the salt in a bowl. Add the chicken and turn to coat the meat evenly. Set aside for 30 minutes.

2. Heat the oil in a medium pot over moderate heat. Add the shallot, garlic, chili paste and the remaining 1 tablespoon curry powder, and stir until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the chicken and cook until the edges of the pieces are golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the fish sauce, sugar, lemongrass, ginger and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Add the carrots and cook for 10 minutes. Add the coconut milk, onion and sweet potato and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with Asian basil, cilantro and scallions, and serve.

Things we changed: be careful not to cook the veggies too long. Also it would be good with just breast meat. The thighs were good but it was annoying to have to take the meat off the bone.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


This is a family recipe from my mom's mom. I was going to make it twice a year but last year only made it once. The oven broke and it was impossible to bake them. This recipe makes a lot of cookies that keep for a year in air tight jar. I know it sounds freaky, but back in the day, this is how the folks did it. Also, these cookies may be misnamed in the grand scheme of things but not in the familial sense. Pfefferneuse are usually black pepper cookies but these are made with anise seed. Several words of warning: these cookies are not chewy, they are not for everyone, and they are best enjoyed two or three at a time with a cup o' tea.


3 c sugar
1 c butter (2 sticks)
2 c heavy sweet cream
3 c dark Karo syrup
5 tbls chopped anise seed
12 to 13 c flour
1 tsp baking ammonia
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp of each allspice, cloves, nutmeg, ginger

Mix ingredients well until a stiff dough
Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Roll small amounts into a long thin strip and cut into 1/4 inch thick pieces.
Bake at 375 degrees for 5 to 6 minutes.
Store in glass jars (traditionally mason jars), not in the freezer.
Makes two gallons.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Spinach-Cheddar Casserole

Did I mention I am obsessed with baked dishes as of late? The original to this recipe called for four eggs, 1 package of spinach and 50 percent more dill. There is still a lot of dill in the recipe but it wasn't too overpowering and complemented the spinach really well. One person described it as a lot like the filling for spanakopita but without the gross filo dough.

Spinach-Cheddar Casserole

3 eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
1 16-ounce container cottage cheese
4 green onions, chopped
1 cup packed grated sharp cheddar cheese + 1/2 cup for top
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 2 teaspoons dillweed

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 8x8x2-inch glass baking dish. Beat eggs, salt and pepper to blend in large bowl. Thaw and drain as much liquid from the spinach as possible. Mix in spinach. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well blended. Transfer mixture to prepared dish. Top with a little bit of cheddar cheese.

Bake casserole until center is firm and top is golden, about 50 minutes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Macaroni and Cheese

So this is my mom's macaroni. I love it. It is not overly creamy and has a golden top to it. I will give you her recipe and then my modifications. It is best served with ham...

Macaroni and Cheese the Original

1 package macaroni
1/4 c butter
1/4 c flour
1 c milk
1 c half and half
1 teas salt
1/4 teas seasoning salt
1/8 teas pepper
8 ounces cheddar cheese (two to three cups)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook macaroni as per the instructions on the package.
Melt butter gently in a sauce pan on low heat and add flour, salt and pepper. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Then slowly add milk and then half and half all the while stirring the mixture. Heat until milk begins to slightly foam. Do not bring to a boil. On low heat or with no heat, stir in shredded cheese until it is melted. Add noodles and bake in a small casserole dish until golden brown on top (30 to 40 minutes).

The recipe I made for 10 people...

Macoroni and Cheese the Collective

2 packages macaroni
1/2 c butter (1 stick)
1/2 c flour
4 c whole milk
2 teas salt
1/4 teas pepper
12 ounces cheddar cheese (three to four cups)
4 ounces smoked cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook macaroni as per the instructions on the package.
Melt butter gently in a sauce pan on low heat and add flour, salt and pepper. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Then slowly add milk all the while stirring the mixture. Heat until milk begins to slightly foam. Do not bring to a boil. On low heat or with no heat, stir in shredded cheese until it is melted. Add noodles and bake in a small casserole dish until golden brown on top (30 to 40 minutes).

Notes: I forgot to add the salt which it definitely needs. Also, I made mine with three cups of whole milk because I was nervous about adding so much liquid. Next time I will stick with all four cups.