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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Roasted Garlic Soup... Again

On the morning of Christmas Eve I did a very brave thing. I went to Whole Foods. Yes, that is right. At 10am on the morning before one of the biggest cooking and entertaining weekends of the year (and as it happens also the calm before a giant snowstorm being forecast to hit the Boston area right after Christmas; yet another reason for the hoards to trample onwards in hopes of produce, meats, last minute prepared foods and every day staples) there I was, list in hand, forging forward with the masses, trying not to hit people with my shopping cart. (I narrowly avoided hitting the same whole foods employee twice, poor guy. Of course when I apologized the second time around, I quite exaggerated and offered an apology for nearly hitting him "about 6 times now!")

Luckily I was quite successful in my undertaking: in and out of the store within half an hour, did not wait in long in line, got everything on my list. Also, I managed to find something I didn't know I was looking for, and in fact did not know existed.

Lemon Poppyseed Cake

I own 2 Best of Gourmet cookbooks (1989 and 1996 I believe, thrifted), but until this week I had never actually made something from either of them. I guess I was a tiny bit intimidated. But I offered to bring dessert for Christmas Eve dinner (as well as a soup for Christmas night) and I wanted something lighter and a bit less sweet and rich to balance out all of the chocolates and cookies and goodies that we all seem to stuff ourselves with this time of year. Don't worry, I also made my favorite uber-rich chocolate fudge tart and even added a 1/2 tsp of orange extract to give it the chocolate/orange flavor combination I loved without the orange infused whipped cream.

I decided to make the Lemon Poppyseed Cake with Fruit Compote recipe from Gourmet. First I should say this: I was mildly disappointed by the cake, not the flavors, but the texture. It came out a bit too dry and crumbly. I was unsure whether I had perhaps overcooked it, or if the recipe was at fault. That being said, people seemed to enjoy it, especially served with the fruit compote, which lends it some extra moisture. I choose to make some lemon glaze to the top off the cake, which I think was also a good addition, lemon juice and zest gave it added interest and brightness, and made the top shiny and nice. I am open to suggestions if anyone has made a lemon poppy seed cake that turned out a bit moister, perhaps I will revisit this later with a similar recipe if I find something better. I quite enjoyed the delicate flavor though, and the compote was a nice addition to both the cake and the chocolate tart.

Smells like DIY...

Look at this terrible picture of the item I rescued from the snowbank (I mean sidewalk...) last night. Yep, it's a dresser. Somewhere along the line it seems to have lost its drawers (mercy!) but that's ok. I plan to give it a new life and whole new purpose. Right now I am deciding between finishing it out as open shelving, or creating doors and making it into a server type cabinet. More to come soon!

PS- a special thank you to my friend Gabby (Gabbie? Yo Gabba Gabba?) who rushed to my rescue to help me carry this thing home at only a moment's notice, and my roommate Danielle who helped us as we struggled to get it up the stairs.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

A good friend came to me recently, after we had struggled to find time to spend together, and asked if our next get together could involve baking something for her mother. She had joined me last when I painted the chevron pattern in the kitchen, featured earlier this month, and while we worked we had been snacking on some pumpkin-chocolate chip cupcakes which we both enjoyed. We discussed, and decided to make something similar for her mother. We ended up making chocolate chip pumpkin bread, 2 loaves so my roommates and I got to enjoy the other. I dug up a basic pumpkin quick bread recipe in my trusty Betty Crocker Baking book, and all we changed was the spices, and adding the chips.

Monday, December 6, 2010

In which I go even more insane than that other time.

Remember that time crazy Hannah covered the refrigerator in patterned contact paper? Well I think I one-upped myself.

If you are thinking this looks familiar, it probably does. I posted about this project in mid-November right after its completion, but soon felt so embarrassed by the grainy dark pictures and took down the post. Anyway, want to see the crazy orange chevron wall in my kitchen? I think it is fun. And since I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen, it is definitely a place I like to have fun, so why shouldn't the space itself be fun?

Want to see a bit of the process?

First I taped out the pattern I wanted. I may have been a bit drunk when I started this. That would at least explain that weird gap of a few inches along the left wall.

The next step was painting white paint over the tape to seal any spaces where paint could bleed through with the existing wall color. My friend Gabby helped me out with this (if there is one tip I have when it comes to painting projects...invite some friends to help! We had so much fun!)

Then, up went the orange (we had ran out of the exact orange used on that rail, so we had to mix some up to match) Gabby and Sophie helped, as we hummed along to Janis Joplin and ate cupcakes and had a generally pretty awesome time.

After 2 coats of paint, the tape came down. Relatively cleanly, even. Though there were a few spots that were less than perfect.

Boo, peeling. Hopefully no one will notice!


Spiced mixed nuts

Spiced mixed nuts, yes. They are pretty sweet. And a bit spicy. And have proven to be more than a little bit addictive. A bowl of these added to the spread of appetizers at your next dinner party sounds like a great idea to me. Invite me over, I will help you put a dent in them!

This was yet another item I made in advance for my thanksgiving festivities out in great state of New Jersey. And I made a lot. Way too much. Even though I broke them out a night early and snacked with my parents, sister (this mix is peanut free, so she didn't die!) and aunt and uncle. 

So, okay, maybe you shouldn't make 10 cups of this mix and bring it out as one of many appetizers if most people are saving space for dinner because it is thanksgiving. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't make 2 or 3 cups before your awesome dinner party, does it? Or, that you shouldn't make a large batch like I did and squirrel some away for a rainy day (Bad pun? Squirel, nuts? ) or package them up in adorable jars and give as Solchamaszaali (Solstice/Channuka/Christmas/Kwanzaa/Diwali - term thanks to my very clever sister, Abbie, who as I mentioned, was NOT killed by this mix of nuts) gifts. But really, how could I resist more than quadrupling the recipe? Cumin, coriander and cayenne (great alliteration, huh?) mixed with the ware sweetness of maple syrup, sugar and salt, baked into a crisp crust on a mixture of almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts and brazil nuts? People are gonna want some of that! 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Roasted Garlic Soup

I got home just past 6 pm. I wanted something interesting to eat: warm, comforting, not one of my usual staples. I didn't want to go to the grocery store. I looked in the pantry. Not much to speak of besides several heads of garlic. In the refrigerator:  ends of a few pieces of cheese, a couple eggs, some spinach I had forgotten about which had gotten wilty and sad. Not that promising. But I kept thinking back to that garlic. I thought of a lovely and sharp soupa di ajo (spanish garlic soup) I had had at a tapas restaurant several years ago. After all this time it still stuck in my mind. I took out 2 heads of garlic and started to peel.


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