Archive for November, 2008

30
Nov
08

Fusilli with Creamy Leek Sauce

fusilli

Fusilli with Creamy Leek Sauce

This is a quick and easy recipe from Food and Wine.  The lemon and parsley give it a fresh, bright taste.  Despite the “creamy leek sauce” name, this recipe really isn’t all that creamy, but it is flavorful and satisfying.  The Parmigiano Reggiano gives it some kick.  I considered sauteeing some chopped pancetta and adding that, but thought better of it because I didn’t know how it would work with the lemon.  I’m glad I left the recipe as-is — this turned out well.

leeks

30
Nov
08

Homemade Bread

breadsliced

As I mentioned in my previous post, it’s snowy and 25 degrees in Minneapolis this morning and I didn’t want to go to the store.  We just got back from a week-long trip, so there’s basically no food in our house.  Decided to make some homemade bread instead of braving the elements.  This also solves the problem of ending up with stale bread every time I buy it at the store.

breadrising

I found this step-by-step recipe on how to make homemade bread at The Simple Dollar.  The process and directions were good except for one small issue I noticed with the part about the yeast.  The Simple Dollar directions say “Mix up the yeast according to the directions on the packet. Usually, it will say something along the lines of ‘add a cup of warm water to the yeast and stir.'”  The yeast package says use 1/4 cup warm water. This is not enough.  You should use 1 cup.  On my first batch of dough, I only used 1/4 cup and ended up having to add water while mixing the dough.  It ruined the consistency and made the dough a little tough.  I ended up baking that batch anyway, but it didn’t turn out quite as well as the second batch I made using 1 cup of water. In the photo below, the loaf on the left had the correct amount of water to start with (1 cup) and the one on the right had too little.

breadbakedpans

Other than the water, I followed the recipe exactly.  The bread was ready in 25 minutes instead of the 30 called for.  We cut into the better-looking loaf first and it tasted great.  No more stale storebought bread for us!

breadcooling

For lunch we heated up some bowls of Dad’s Quick Chile con Carne I had frozen the last time I made it.  Great food for a cold day!

breadchileconcarne

30
Nov
08

Don’t Forget Your Booties ‘Cause It’s COLD Outside!

And bake some homemade bread while you’re at it.  It’s 25 degrees and snowy today in Minneapolis… here are some shots of what it looks like outside.  Fred, our Boston terrier, was wishing he had some booties when he went out onto the balcony to check out the snow.  He dove into the blanket on the couch when we got back in –don’t think he appreciated that little field trip too much.  Anyway, it’s a great day for some baking and I decided to make homemade bread.  Pics and recipe forthcoming shortly…

snowfrombalcony

fredbalcony

fredcouch

29
Nov
08

Anti-Snob Wine Appreciation from The 4-Hour Workweek

Four-Hour Workweek author Timothy Ferriss recently wrote a fun blog post called Anti-Snob Wine Appreciation: 7 Tips from Sonoma. This is something I can appreciate, as someone who loves wine but doesn’t like to spend a ton of money on bottles to drink with dinner.  To me, “good wine” is all about the experience, not the price tag.  Did it taste good?  Did it complement the food?  Was it a pleasure to drink on its own?  Was it an interesting varietal I’d never tried before?  Did it teach me something about a region?  These are the things I care about when I pick out a wine.  So without further ado, here’s a quick rundown of Ferris’s “anti-snob” methods of wine appreciation (and be sure to read the full article):

1.  Don’t worry if you can’t pick out the “hints of coriander, cauliflower, and cat fur” in your wine — you don’t have to be a supertaster.

2.  Move from the elbow instead of the wrist to swirl like you were born with a wineglass in your hand.

3.  Remember that tasting is smell-dependent.

4.  Try using a wine aerator.

5.  Try wines at different temperatures and don’t over-chill the whites.

6.  Go for varietals that are out of style.

7.  It’s all about you.

PS — If you haven’t read The 4-Hour Workweek, check it out. It will change your life.

28
Nov
08

Wonky Vegetables?

wonkypurpleveg

Do You Buy Wonky Vegetables?

Interesting post on Epicurious… brief aside:  “wonky” is my new favorite word.  Whereas on Capitol Hill, being called “wonky” would be a compliment, the Brits seem to think it means “wrong” or “awry.”  Perhaps there are more similarities that one would wish to acknowlege between the two types of wonk, but that’s another post…

Back to the wonky vegetables. The Epicurious post says that “the EU is finally repealing rules that prohibit the sale of ‘substandard’ produce, whether it’s a cucumber that’s too curvy, a whimsically shaped carrot, or a kiwi that’s smaller than its cousins.”  The question is, do you care if your vegetables look a little funky as long as they are in otherwise sound shape?

wonkypickles

The answer for me is no.  In fact, I gravitate towards the more unusual looking produce, whether it’s strange colors and shapes of heirloom tomato or a crazy-looking squash that could be an interesting centerpiece. That’s why I love going to the farmer’s market — you get to see all the wonky vegetables at their best.

wonkyveg4

The problems I find are with human-induced wonkiness, such as when the tomato or apple you pick up has large bruises on its top and bottom from being squished into a pyramid-shaped display. Or when it’s just old and you can’t tell even by doing your due diligence at the store.  For example, garlic heads that look ok from the outside but have started to sprout when you cut them open.  So my conclusion is, as long and they’re fresh and good quality, bring on the wonky vegetables!

27
Nov
08

Thanks and Giving

Thanksgiving is a good time to think about people who can’t be with their families and friends on this holiday because of the sacrifices they’re making or have already made to serve our country in the military.  Don’t forget to say thanks to those who’ve served.  Here are a few links to good organizations if you’re interested in donating. 

National Veterans Legal Services Program — This organization is run by my father-in-law, so I’m partial.  They have a great program called Lawyers Serving Warriors to provide free legal representation in disability, discharge and veterans benefits cases to service members and veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).

Also, all of the following organizations get four stars, the highest rating, from Charity Navigator:

Fisher House Foundation

Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust

Army Emergency Relief

Operation Homefront

National Military Family Association

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society

Air Force Enlisted Village

Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation

Special Operations Warrior Foundation

26
Nov
08

What to take to Thanksgiving Dinner?

rrv

I’m going to make a couple things to take to my husband’s family’s Thanksgiving celebration.  My job is a side-dish and a dessert.  I picked two things already posted on this blog:  Roasted Root Vegetables and Alayne’s Pumpkin Bars.  Why these recipes?  They’re both easy to scale for a crowd, fairly simple to prepare, tried-and-true recipes (so no ugly surprises the day of the party) and I think both dishes have pretty broad appeal.  Also, I think these items will travel fairly easily in covered dishes. We’ll see how it goes!

pumpkinbars1

25
Nov
08

Setting a Beautiful Holiday Table

200811-hp-chilewich-table-run

Food and Wine’s Stylish Holiday Table Slideshow caught my eye, especially with the opening photo above.  It’s a great example of using fresh colors and mixing and matching unexpected pieces to create a festive setting.  The slideshow goes through all the individual elements of this table setting, from the blue runner to the pink and orange glassware to the leaf salt-and-pepper cellars and moorish-inspired trays.  I’m have a weakness for blue and my china pattern is Lomonosov’s Cobalt Net, so I’m always looking for new ways to use it with other colors.  I also like the idea that a holiday table doesn’t necessarily have to use the colors associated with whatever holiday you’re celebrating, as long as it’s festive.  As in Food and Wine’s photo above and the setting below I threw together for this photo, it seems like citrus is a good match for blue.

bluechina

24
Nov
08

Dog update

Great news– the owner of the little lost dogs we found yesterday called the animal shelter to claim them. Glad this story has a happy ending!

24
Nov
08

Serving Sizes for Holiday Crowds

This Food Network article provides a useful guide for figuring out how much food to prepare for your holiday soiree.   As my husband can attest, I am notorious for making way too much food, like 8-10 servings for the two of us.  Oops.  So, this list might come in handy.

Servings Sizes for a Crowd from the Food Network

In summary, the basic consumption profile for one person is three drinks, 4-6 hors d’oeuvres if it’s before a meal and 12 hors d’oeuvres if that’s the only food.  The article also gives some useful guidelines on how many servings you can expect to get out of various dishes and drinks.




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