Friday, January 29, 2010

365 Photo Friday

Sitting in mud... Throw the ball!

At the vet, watching the door

Brussels Sprouts

These birds were crazy loud!

Mac, on Gretel, on me - a veritable fuzzy fest

Shaggy mushroom family

Chocolate Hazelnut Affogato - I was underwhelmed by it, unfortunately

Thursday, January 28, 2010

C is for Cookie

I was thinking of making these muffins, but then a craving for oatmeal cookies hit and I couldn't say no. These cookies are cakey and moist, and taste a lot like muffins. The lemon glaze gives just a hint of zingy tartness (and seems to have absorbed nearly completely into my cookies!). Be gentle when folding the blueberries into the cookie dough - the purple color bleeds into the dough and turns it grayish if you're too rough, but they'll still taste great and a thicker glaze would cover the color right up.

Blueberry Oat Cookies with Meyer Lemon Glaze

Makes about 30 cookies

2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 c. golden brown sugar, packed
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. Meyer lemon zest
2 large eggs
2 c. old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. frozen blueberries

1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. Meyer lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Meyer lemon zest
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 c. water (if needed)

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy (about a minute). Add the lemon zest and eggs and beat until combined. Add the oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and mix on low until blended. With a wooden spoon, gently fold in the frozen blueberries until distributed.

Drop by heaping tablespoons (I use my trusty cookie scoop) onto greased cookie sheets, 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for about 15 minutes, turning sheets half way through, until the cookies start to turn golden brown. They will be soft, but firm up as they cool. Let rest on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool.

While the cookies cool, whisk together the powdered sugar, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla extract. If the glaze is too thick add the water; if its too thin add more powdered sugar. When the cookies are completely cool use a fork to drizzle the glaze over the tops.

Related recipes:
Cherry, Almond, and White Chocolate Biscotti
Harvest Cookies
Marbled Biscotti
Choclate Chip Banana Cookies

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Boozy Mushrooms and Fresh Pasta

I bought myself a pasta machine. I've made fresh pasta once before, using a rolling pin and a pizza cutter, and didn't make it thin enough. Now I can make it extremely thin, and I can't wait to make a truly homemade lasagna.

The dough recipe I used this time comes from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, which is a great compendium of all sorts of useful information. Its basically the same as the previous recipe, but I used fresh thyme and his food processor option to make it even easier: Put 2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon minced thyme, and a teaspoon of salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add 3 eggs and process until a ball begins to form. Add some water or flour, if your dough is too dry or too wet. Sprinkle with flour, cover with plastic, and let rest 30 minutes. Then roll, roll, roll, and cut with the pasta machine.

The rolling was a very cool process. You start on the largest setting and run a chunk of dough through, twice on each setting and sprinkling with flour if its sticky, until you get to the smallest (only once then). A few things I learned: Use a small chunk of dough, because it will get very long in the thinner stages, and difficult to deal with if you're doing this by yourself. And the thinnest setting, 9 on my machine, was too thin for me. The noodles came out soggy even after less than two minutes of cooking the first time. The second time I stopped at 7 or 8 and was much happier with the result.

Once you have your dough to the thickness you want, run it through the cutters, et voila! Fresh pasta. My machine has tagliatelle and angel hair, and you can use the uncut sheets for lasagna. You can then let it dry and store it, or cook it right away in boiling salted water.

I topped mine with Jaden of Steamy Kitchen's Whiskey Mushroom Cream Sauce. And oh my goodness, is this ever good! She uses it atop a steak (and manages to take a mouthwatering picture of it to boot!). I used regular button mushrooms and a ton more garlic, 'cause that's how I roll. This stuff is magic, and it is imperative that you go make this and pour it over whatever you want. Just get it in your pie-hole pronto! And go on over and say hi to Jaden while you're at it; she has a fantastic blog.

Related recipes:
Wine Sauteed Mushrooms
Stuffed Mushrooms

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Have you tried SoyRizo? If you haven't, and you like chorizo, you definitely should. It is much healthier and doesn't contain all of the fun random piggie parts, such as lymph nodes and cheeks if I remember correctly, that chorizo has. And it tastes nearly the same!

You should be able to find it at most supermarkets, and I believe Trader Joe's carries its own brand. It cooks up just like chorizo, and while I often put it in veggie tacos I also love having soyrizo and eggs on a lazy weekend morning.

This time I fried up some diced red onion and a diced potato, then added the soyrizo and let it cook down a bit. The I added four eggs with a dash of milk, lightly beaten, and scrambled them as usual. By the way, I found it very difficult to take pretty pictures of scrambling eggs and soyrizo... not really a beauty food, is it?

Serve topped with shredded extra sharp cheddar and fresh salsa.

Friday, January 22, 2010

365 Photo Friday

Rainy weather leads to dramatic pictures


Little flowers

A little flour

Gretel kitty

Homemade pasta with cream sauce and Parmesan

I found what's at the end of the rainbow... I think its a Ford

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Velvet Elvis

* 5 points to whomever can tell me where this is from - Googling it is cheating! *

My inner pretty pretty princess is absolutely thrilled with this bottle of Chambord. Its so round and small, cute and gilded and golden gaudy. Squee!

Chambord is a French black raspberry liqueur. Its smells like raspberry syrup, and tastes like spiked raspberry syrup. And I have found my new favorite liqueur. I came across a recipe from Jack Daniels called the Velvet Elvis, in celebration of what would have been The King's 75th birthday this year. It is sweet and bubbly, and somehow doesn't make me think of Elvis in the least. Maybe if it included peanut butter and bananas?

By the way, remove the soda and you have a Velvet Jack.

Velvet Elvis

1 oz. Jack Daniels Whiskey
1 oz. Chambord
Splash of Sweet and Sour
Splash of lemon-lime soda

In a rocks glass with ice combine all of the ingredients and stir. Enjoy (responsibly, of course)!

Now where did I leave my tiara...

Related recipes:
Rosemary Gin Fizz

Monday, January 18, 2010


All the buns are upside down, except one. Oops!

Easy weekends are for appetizers and drinks around our house. This, coupled with my love for little foods, miniature versions of regular dishes, means we had sliders today. I'm not much of a beer person, but I do enjoy a Pyramid Hefeweizen or Apricot Ale when the mood hits me.

Anyway, I made sliders the same way I'd make a regular burger, just smaller. To these I added minced garlic and chopped red onion, Red Tail Ale barbecue sauce, garlic powder and pepper. Make the patties slightly larger than you think you need to since they shrink a bit when cooking. Use dinner rolls for buns (Hawaiian rolls are really good here, but I used honey wheat this time) that have been lightly toasted, and top with your favorite burger toppings. I went for the standard cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, dill pickles, and ketchup and mustard this time.

And I easily made a vegetarian version with some Gardenburger Black Bean Chipotle burgers, cut in half. One of these days I'll post my homemade bean burger recipe too. They're fab!

Related recipes
Warm Spinach Mascarpone Dip
Stuffed Mushrooms
Artichoke Dip

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cheater's Risotto

I'm a big fan of risotto. Its so adaptable to whatever you want to put in it, and is so creamy, warming, and comforting. However, risotto can be daunting for beginners, what with all of the stirring and having to balance between too much liquid and not enough. And sometimes when I'm in the mood for comfort food I'm also feeling lazy.

Here's my recipe for Cheater's Risotto, which is made in the microwave. Its quicker and easier than traditional risotto, is just as tasty and comforting, and still lends itself to whatever additions you want to include. Here I sauteed some frozen butternut squash cubes I had leftover in the freezer from this recipe, and added it to the cooked risotto.

Cheater's Risotto with Butternut Squash
Serves 3-4

1 cup Arborio rice
3 cups vegetable stock
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced
1 cup cubed butternut squash
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese

Put the Arborio rice and vegetable stock in a large microwave-safe bowl (I used a 9-cup Tupperware container). Microwave on high for 18-20 minutes, stirring every 6 minutes or so. When done the rice will have absorbed the liquid and be creamy and tender to the bite.

While the rice is cooking, heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot and cook for a few minutes until fragrant and soft. Make sure the garlic doesn't burn or your dish will taste bitter. Add the butternut squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper (and whatever else tickles your pickle - peppery fresh basil would be a good addition here).

Add the butternut squash to the cooked rice and give it a stir. Serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese for extra creaminess.

Friday, January 15, 2010

365 Photo Friday

Mustard flowers

Scented candle

Bird or bat house on the golf course / after-hours impromptu dog park

Killer tofu

Path at sunset

I never understood lion head fountains - what's so special about vomiting plaster felines?

Ayla often tucks her nose under her forelegs when she sleeps; the schnoz gets chilly

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Foodie Blogroll

I've joined the Foodie Blogroll! Check out the widget on my sidebar, or click here to learn more. I'm looking forward to finding interesting blogs to add to my ever-expanding Google Reader list. Plus, contests and giveaways!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

I was craving a breakfast muffin. One that I could take to work with me on those days... most days... when I just cannot drag myself out of bed early enough to be able to get dressed, take care of the dogs, and actually eat a proper breakfast at home.

I adapted this recipe, adding soy flour to up the protein content for breakfast; cutting back on the sugar; increasing the pumpkin; and using almond milk in place of dairy milk. I also tossed the chopped cranberries with some granulated sugar to cut back on the tart factor.

Overall the muffins are tasty. They were gorgeous straight out of the oven, but the soy flour and additional pumpkin caused them to fall as they cooled. However, they are not too sweet, have a good pumpkin flavor, and are a nice morning treat with my usual cup of tea. And they freeze well so I can grab one on my way out the door and then give it a quick re-heat once I get to my office.

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Makes 12 regular muffins plus 6 mini muffins

1-2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup soy flour
2/3 cup demerara can sugar (I used Florida Crystals brand)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 15oz. can pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (you could use regular, soy, or dairy too)
1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped and tossed with a teaspoon of sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F and coat a muffin pan with cooking spray or use muffin cups.

In a large bowl combine the flours, sugar, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a smaller bowl combine the pumpkin puree, egg, oil, and milk. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the pumpkin mixture. Gently stir until just combined; over-mixing will make your muffins tough. Fold in the cranberries. Fill muffin cups; an ice cream scoop makes this easy, but I unfortunately don't remember where I recently read this tip. Sprinkle tops with a little more demerara sugar and bake for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester or skewer comes out clean.

Don't you just want to climb right in there?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Vegetables

Have you ever had wheat berries?

They are the entire wheat kernel, minus the hull. They are chewy yet tender when cooked and great in salads in breads, as well as a good source of dietary fiber. And who couldn't use more fiber in their diet?

I made this recipe from David Lebovitz, with a few changes since I can never leave well enough alone... or more likely forgot to pick something up at the market.

First you cook the wheat berries...

Meanwhile, roast up some winter veggies...

And cook some whole cranberries to take away their bitter taste...

Then combine the wheat berries and cranberries, with some olive oil...

And add in the rest.

I'll list my slightly altered and scaled down version of Lebovitz's recipe below. I used his method of cooking the wheat berries, but I think I'd do it differently in the future. The bin at Whole Foods suggested soaking them overnight in water, like you would with dry beans, then draining, rinsing, adding more water, and simmering for a hour. Lebovitz's recipe didn't call for soaking, and mine turned out a little more chewy than I would have preferred after an hour of cooking. I think the soaking would aid in the texture. He also has some good suggestions for other additions to the salad.

Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Vegetables

Adapted from David Lebovitz

Two to three servings

3/4 cup wheat berries
1 bay leaf
1 lb. root vegetables (I used carrots, a parsnip, and half a butternut
squash), peeled if necessary and cut into 1" cubes
1/2 of a large red onion, diced
4 Tbsp. olive oil
5 springs of fresh thyme
1 cup fresh cranberries
Salt and pepper
Lemon juice

Brie or Parmesan cheese for topping
Snipped chives for topping

Bring 5 cups of salted water to a boil and add the wheat berries and bay leaf. Cook until tender yet chewy, about 60 minutes.

Combine the cubed vegetables, onion, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and thyme on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, and toss well. Roast in a 425ºF oven until cooked and browned on the outside, 20 to 30 minutes.

While the wheat berries are cooking and the vegetables are roasting, bring 2 cups of water to boil in a small pot. Add the cranberries and cook until they pop, about 10 minutes. Drain and chop.

Once the wheat berries are done drain them and remove the bay leaf. Combine in a bowl with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and the cranberries. Remove the thyme from the roasted vegetables and add the veggies to the wheat berries, along with a good squeeze of lemon juice. Combine well.

Top with some brie cheese and snipped chives, as I did above, and serve warm or room temperature. I imagine Parmesan would be quite good too and would balance the sweetness of the cranberries and roasted veggies.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Creating Again

What a nice day:

- Slept in late this morning; its so hard to get up early again during the week when I've been on vacation for two weeks.
- Leisurely sipped coffee while watching TV with Chris.
- Took Mac with me on a few errands to drop off an old computer at the e-waste recycling point and stop by Radio Shack for a cable to hook my laptop up to my bedroom TV so I can watch Netflix in there when Chris is occupying the main TV.
- Took Mac and Ayla on a 3-mile walk up a neighboring hill and let them run their fool heads off while snapping some pictures of my hooligans.
- Cooked up a fantastic dish that I will share with you tomorrow featuring a new-to-me grain, wheatberries.

Here's a slideshow from our walk today:

* * * * *

And here's a few knitting projects I started over the holiday.

This one is the Minimalist Cardigan from Interweave Knits Fall 2007.

I'm using Bernat Satin in Crimson. Its a deeper red than you see here.

And I'm really digging the moss stitch, though its going to take a good while to finish it switching between knit and purl every stitch. This project is now on hold until I get more yarn though.

I also started the Silk Cocoon Cardigan from Interweave Knits Spring 2009.

I'm using Naturally Caron Spa - a bamboo blend - in Misty Taupe. This is going fairly fast, despite the number of knots I'm finding in the skein (3 so far). The yarn has a neat silky and soft texture, and all of the stockinette makes this great for knitting while watching movies or TV.

Anyone else feeling creative?

Friday, January 8, 2010

365 Photo Friday

Garlic-rosemary pizza dough, based on Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian"

Brave little sunflower, reaching skyward in the middle of winter

Teapot, one of my new favorite things since I mostly stopped drinking coffee


Foggy night - we've had a lot of fog lately, and I love it... cozy

View from my office yesterday - dramatic clouds