Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Distractions -- Random Links & Recipes Bookmarked

Ready for the weekend? I always am... To help you pass your Friday here are the highlights of what distracted me this week online, what I bookmarked that I hope to one day eat and a picture.

Between a summer cold and starting an intensive 8-week Microbiology course and a farm internship this week, I'm feeling a bit all over the place. All that fun has led to my using the internet less this week than some, which was probably a healthy change. I am still seeking balance and restored health but I swear a true food post will arrive next week as expected (by me!).

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and remember to honor our soldiers who have fallen in service (to the US or your country wherever you may be).

I don't have a digital SLR but hope to one day. Either way this tool looks like a great way to learn about how your camera settings affect your shots. (via How About Orange)

This full gathered skirt makes me wish I followed through on the half-baked attempt to learn how to sew. Gertie appears to have great tips for making vintage-style clothing. I know I was mesmerized for a bit with her blog. I bookmarked this Fashion District Guide, A Fabric Place in Baltimore and this video on doing the Victory Roll hairstyle. (via How About Orange)

If you are a visual person and haven't seen Pinterest, check it out. It enables users to make visual collages  based on topics of their choosing and to follow other people's collages. You can request an invite or I can invite you if you give me your e-mail address. I think I have 4 more invites...unlike Gmail they don't seem to provide users with infinity invitations.

iMuscle looks like a neat iPad app for those into working out. It allows user to search for exercises by exercise and individual muscles.

Recipes Bookmarked
Artichoke Hummus (a good use for the GALLON of artichokes in the basement?) at Pinch My Salt
Beef Jerky (Carrie makes it sounds so simple and irresistible.) at Deliciously Organic
Chinese Barbeque Pork at Momofuku for 2
Cole Slaw with Wasabi Dressing at David Lebovitz
Egg Nests at Simply Recipes
Fruit and Oat Snack Bars (The White House version) at  Yahoo News! Weekend Edition
Honey Almond Mini Cheesecakes (No refined sugar!) at Pinch My Salt

Yellowstone National Park, August 2008

Find more artists like Britney Spears at Myspace Music

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Distractions -- Random Links & Recipes Bookmarked

Ready for the weekend? I always am... To help you pass your Friday here are the highlights of what distracted me this week online, what I bookmarked that I hope to one day eat and a picture.

Grocery trucks are a clever way to help relieve food desserts (areas without access to fresh foods/groceries). Michael Pollan highlighted New Mexico's recently started MoGro on his twitter feed but here in Richmond, Virginia we have Farm to Family, which began in 2009. We're ahead of the curve. ;)

Am I Wearing Pants? Blair Waldorf would approve of this infographic. (via Kimberly)

This d-i-y shipping pallet vertical garden looks amazing. I liked the woolly pocket outdoor wall planter at CB2 but this is better.

A post on body image at Keiko Lynn, who has great style and fun make-up tutorials. I added her blog to my reader almost instantly after finding it. (via From Me To You)

Bcycle, a bicycle sharing program, has launched in several US cities. Check it out -- you can even vote to get it in your city! I read about bike sharing while I lived in NYC and thought it would be an awesome thing to have available. (via Jay Parkinson + MD + MPH)

Social Flights, a flight sharing program where regular people can organize and fly on private planes. (via Courtney)

Recipes Bookmarked
Cuban Flank Steak at Kayln's Kitchen
Gumbo Z'Herbes (Green Gumbo) and a wealth of other gumbo info at Audax Artifex
Teriyaki Noodles with Asparagus and Edamame at Mark Bittman

Mom's bunny, Cuddles, has finally acclimated to his new home and now gives bunny kisses.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gumbo, Revisited

Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh. Last June I made Paula Deen's Gumbo with my friend, Meg, and really enjoyed the final product so I was happy to revisit it. Thank you for the reminder, Denise!

For the challenge, I made a half portion of Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo without the file powder as I couldn't find it locally. I chose to use the full amount of okra since I love its slippery texture and felt like the extra bright green pretties up the gumbo. I reduced the oil at the start a bit more than half and didn't find the texture of the final product to be adversely affected.

I have two tips for you when you make gumbo:
1. When you add the onions to the roux have a snack ready as the mixture smells just like hush puppies and the gumbo won't be ready to eat for quite a while.
2. Don't start gumbo at 7 p.m., especially if you are leaving town at 12:30 a.m. and planning to say hello to the grandparents across town before you leave. Gumbo will win, the grandparents will be sad and you will feel guilty. However, you won't resent the gumbo too much as its savory, smoky flavor is irresistible. Its only drawbacks are the cooking time and the expense of multiple meats. Save it for the weekend and budget wisely but definitely make it.

Since I enjoy the flavor so much I think I'll try a vegetarian version next to see how it compares. I'll let you know.

Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo
Minimally adapted from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh
Serves 5-6

1/3 cup Canola Oil
1/2 cup Flour
1 Large Onion, Diced
1/2 Chicken (1 1/2 to 2 lbs), cut into 5 pieces (I removed whatever skin came off easily but leaving it on is fine.)
1 tablespoon Basic Creole Spices (recipe follows), or store-bought Creole spice blend
1 pound Spicy Smoked Sausage, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 stalk Celery, diced
1 Green Bell Pepper, seeded and diced
1 small Tomato, seeded and chopped
1 Cloves Garlic, minced
Leaves from 1 sprig of fresh Thyme
1.5 quarts (6 cups) Chicken Stock (I used defatted homemade stock mixed with veggie broth since that is what I had on hand.)
1 Bay Leaf
3 ounces Andouille Sausage, chopped
2 cups (11 ounces) sliced frozen okra (fresh would work too but it isn’t the time for it in Va.)
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt, Pepper, Filé powder and Tabasco, to taste (I didn’t add any of these items!)
4-6 cups Rice or Grain of your Choice

1. Prepare homemade chicken stock, if using.
2. Prepare homemade Basic Creole Spices. (Recipe below.)
3. Season the chicken pieces with about 1 tablespoon of the Creole.
4. Cut, dice, chop and mince all of your vegetables.
5. In a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan, heat the canola oil over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil – it will start to sizzle. Reduce the heat to moderate, and continue whisking until the roux becomes deep brown in color, about 15 minutes. Don’t step away as it will burn!
6. Add the onions. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir the onions into the roux. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue stirring until the roux becomes dark brown, about 10 minutes. 
7. Add the chicken to the pot; raise the heat to moderate, and cook, turning the pieces until slightly browned, about 10 minutes. 
8. Add the sliced smoked sausage and stir for about a minute.
9. Add the celery, bell peppers, tomato, and garlic, and continue stirring for about 3 minutes.
10. Add the thyme, chicken stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally.
11. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, skimming off the fat from the surface of the gumbo every so often.
12. Add the chopped andouille, okra, and Worcestershire. If desired, season with salt and pepper, several dashes of filé powder, and Tabasco, all to taste.
13. Simmer for another 45 minutes, continuing to skim the fat from the surface of the gumbo. Remove the bay leaves and serve in bowls over rice. Pass more filé powder at the table if desired.

Basic Creole Spice
From My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh
Makes 1/4 cup. Can be stored for up to 6 months.

1 tablespoon Celery Salt
1/2 tablespoon Sweet Paprika
1/2 tablespoon Coarse Sea Salt
1/2 tablespoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/2 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) onion powder
1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Ground Allspice

1. Mix together all spices in a bowl.
2. Transfer the spices to a clean container with a tight-fitting lid.


I chose this song in honor of Gossip Girls' Season Finale tonight. I can't imagine what new drama they will have cooked up this week...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Distractions -- Random Links & Recipes Bookmarked

Ready for the weekend? I always am... To help you pass your Friday here are the highlights of what distracted me this week online, what I bookmarked that I hope to one day eat and a picture.

Apologies for this being late... The blogger snafu combined with spending time in NYC prevented me from prompt publishing. I'm waiting for my next engagement now! It is so nice to be visiting.

An urn that will turn you into a tree and a comic from XKCD on Marie Curie (via Courtney).

Leslie pointed out this blog to me and I loved it, of course.

These shoes on this dress look like a party to me.

As a(n admittedly lax) member of the Presbyterian Church (USA) I was excited to see that the church voted this week to permit the ordination of people in same-sex relationships.

Recipes Bookmarked
5 Northern Thai Recipes at NPR's Kitchen Window (I would go for the Basil Chicken and Spicy Papaya Salad)
Easy Key-Lime Pie Push Pops at The Cupcake Project
French Macaroons with Nutella at Dessert for Two (via Baking Bites)
Tandoori Mushrooms and Naan at NY Times
The related article has interesting facts about Tandoors -- the oven traditionally used to cook these foods.

Peñón de Ifac, Calpe, Spain September 2009

Monday, May 9, 2011

Delicious Imperfection: Mother's Day Cupcakes

Mom loves yellow cake with chocolate frosting so I tried making a small batch of cupcakes for Mother's Day. Things did not go as planned but the results were still pretty delicious. To demonstrate how my cooking and baking are a work in progress and as part of my ongoing effort to embrace imperfection, I thought I'd tell you about the cupcakes anyway.

Initially I couldn't find a yellow cake recipe in my bookmarks, then I realized yellow cake is the same as any basic cake. Its name just refers to the whole eggs being used. Once that was resolved, I printed Cupcake Project's 3 Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Sea Salt with the intention of halving the recipe and using one vanilla. I set out the egg and 3/4 cup of butter to come to room temperature and started dinner. If only I also had taken the time to note the halved portions on the recipe...

Because guess who added the full portion of vanilla sugar to the halved butter? This shouldn't have been a problem as I'm not one to cry over double the cupcakes but it turns out I was short an egg and lacked the quantity of milk needed to make even the halved portion. I improvised and made up the difference with a flax egg and buttermilk. Somehow, God only knows, the batter still was lovely, light and delicious going into the oven.

Unfortunately after baking my cupcakes had concave midsections. Oops! Since the cake was still moist, buttery, vanilla goodness I need another solution. Cue filling their bellies with glossy chocolate ganache. The end product looked decent, tasted good and could be eaten with a spoon. Mom was happy and I was placated. Where there is a will there is a way... But next time I bake I'll try to remember the notes below.

1. Check ingredients prior to starting a project
2. If you plan to halve a recipe, take the time to write out the reduced proportions.
3. Pay full attention when baking (and cooking) for best results.
4. Baking is a science! Improvised baked goods are best left to professionals (or at least left for occasions where there isn't time-sensitivity.)

Find more songs like A Better Son/Daughter at Myspace Music

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Distractions -- Random Links & Recipes Bookmarked

Ready for the weekend? I always am... To help you pass your Friday here are the highlights of what distracted me this week online, what I bookmarked that I hope to one day eat and a picture.  

Vaccines Save Lives at the Cost of Everyday Splurges, an infographic with a good point. (via Jay Parkinson + MD + MPH )

While a Semolina-Crusted Soft-Shell Crab BKT Sandwich isn't me, I love Alejandra at Always Order Desserts posts' description of the joy of eating locally and seasonally. I miss doing this. One of the hardest aspects of moving home has been eating differently as I am no longer cooking for one. Then again, I also have more freedom to test ideas as I no longer am the only one eating the leftovers if I fail.

Gorgeous Spring photos that make me miss NYC! I can't wait to be there next weekend.

Vika and Damaris, are launching an online fashion business: Pattern Rebellion. Check out their blog for the fashion news and tips!

Melanie letterpresses lovely things. I especially enjoy her modern etiquette series - check out these coasters.

This quote sums up my feelings about Osama Bin Laden's death: "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." --Martin Luther King, Jr. It isn't entirely accurate (more on that here too) but what can you do? (via Joe De La Cruz, Rebecca Buck, etc.)

Lunch was served on the L-train in Brooklyn, of course. My favorite line from the article is "Other riders gawked or — this is New York, after all — continued staring ahead and listening to their iPods." So true.

Recipes Bookmarked
Coconut Margarita with Toasted and Salted Coconut Flakes at Eat Make Read
Plantain Fudge at Zesty South Indian Kitchen
White House "Purely Chocolate" Chocolate Mousse (via Svelte Gourmand)

Belle Isle in Richmond, VA May 2011

The Improvised Life put this out as a Monday jump-start but I'm reposing it as a weekend kick-off. I challenge you to watch the energy and athleticism of the dancers and to listen to the music and not tap your toes.

Should you ever be in New York City and like this type of music, seek out Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra. Their Governor's Island Jazz Age Festival will be June 18 and 19 and August 20 and 21st. I will be making at least one day of the four happen as it is a great excuse to visit the city (or escape from it if you live there).

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Garam Masala Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

Inspired by Julie at One-Wall Kitchen's decision to include maple mousse as a ripple in homemade apple cinnamon ice cream I decided to freeze my leftover mousse and make "ice cream" sandwiches. Cinnamon and maple sounded great, so I wanted to use oatmeal raisin cookies. Needless to say when I spotted the Garam Masala Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies Monica Bhide adapted it was all over.

I halved the original recipe and then going by taste reduced the garam masala by an additional 1/4 teaspoon since my spice tolerance isn't the highest. The remaining garam masala and raisins still provided plenty of flavor to mask my other change -- switching out the white flour for whole wheat as whole grains are good. The resulting cookies are chewy inside with a crisp exterior and a slightly spicy flavor that builds as you eat them.

Making these cookies was so easy I am wondering why I don't make cookies more often...we'll see what happens there. Ha! As for the maple mousse, it was tasty cold but a little chewy once frozen. That won't be happening again.

Garam Masala Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies
Slightly adapted from these Garam Masala Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies Monica Bhide adapted at NPR's Kitchen Window
Yields 2 dozen cookies

3/4 cup Regular or Quick-Cooking Oats
3/4 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 tsp Garam Masala (I used store-bought.)
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) Unsalted Butter, room temperature
1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup packed Dark Brown Sugar
1 Large Egg, room temperature
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup Raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two cookie sheets or place Sil-pats on them.
2. Combine the oats, flour, garam masala, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. Mix the butter and sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy.
4. Add the egg and fully incorporate it into the dough. Add the vanilla.
5. Add the flour mixture one third at a time and mixing until just combined after each addition.
6. Mix in the raisins.
7. Using a half tablespoon measuring spoon, place balls of dough onto cookie sheets. Flatten slighty.
8. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden (my oven took 12 minutes). Cool on wire racks.

This song is still catchy and the video is still great, even if I'm not bitter about anyone I used to date at this point.