Peaches & Rainbows

Over the last three weeks, I’ve made it a point to limit the purchasing of edible items to almost nothing, aside from what’s needed for simple, quick cooking and things that move easily. Also, I’m not buying items I already have in storage. That said, things like soy sauce and sriracha made the cut, but things like flour and butter didn’t.

Of course, all of my 10+ flours might very well be rancid by the time I get to them next weekend, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take in hopes of avoiding starting completely from scratch in the kitchen.

I think that’s why I forced nudged Chris to make a candy bar run earlier this week; I was craving something sweet some kinda fiercely, and even though I hadn’t eaten a Whatchamacallit in years, it seemed like the only appropriate solution. You see, I’m used to having immediate access to things like blenders, mixers, muffin tins, baking sheets, etc. This little temporary ‘kitchen’ has none of the above (I think I’ve already mentioned that about 10 times before, right?!). To that, add the fact that I was already living without my personal belongings for a month, and that equals exactly 2 months of this crap. What can I say; I caved, and I’m sayin’ it loud and proud. (That was a damn good Whatchamacallit.)

But let’s put things in perspective here; while these 2 months haven’t been peaches and rainbows per se, they haven’t been storm clouds and gremlins either. I mean for reals, we’ve had multiple bouts of amazing get-togethers, dinners, drinks, and the like as a result of this move. I didn’t even pay for most of them (lesson: if you want free drinks and dinners, move outta state ;)).

We even threw ourselves a going-away party a couple of months ago, where I decided to whip out a few treats, including these cookies I also started thinking about this week. Hard to believe it’s been that long since I baked cookies, or used my own cutting board, or had access to those dried blueberries that are waiting in storage, but it has.

When I find all of those items I’ve been sorely missing, a few of the first things I’m going to do include buying some butter along with a few other essential items, taking a nap on my long-lost couch, maybe unpacking a few boxes (the one with the flour and dried blueberries, for example), and then high-tailing it into the kitchen and making some cookies.

There will not be leftovers, either.

Cornmeal Blueberry Cookies
adapted from Good to the Grain; makes about 3 dozen

I am a huge lover of cookies of all shapes, flavors, and sizes, but non-traditional cookies hold a very special place in my heart, or belly. these aren’t your average cookies; they are sweet and chewy, but not overpowering on the dessert scale. in fact, you could probably eat a couple for breakfast without feeling too bad about it. dried blueberries are somewhat pricey (i get mine from Costco), but they are so perfect in this recipe. i’m sure you could use other dried fruits, but if they’re larger than blueberries (pea-sized), you’ll want to give ’em a rough chopping.

oh, and these cookies are definitely best eaten the day they’re prepared. they have a tendency to harden quickly, so either eat them the day of or store in an airtight container. i’m guessing you could halve the recipe if you don’t want this many, or even freeze pre-baked, rolled and coated dough, adding a couple of minutes to the baking time and baking straight from the freezer.

time commitment: about 1 hour, half of which is active and half of which involves smelling these things bake.

printable version

ingredients
2 c corn flour
2 c all-purpose flour
1 c finely ground cornmeal
1 1/2 t baking soda
2 t cream of tartar
2 t kosher salt
8 oz (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c milk
1 c dried blueberries (see above)
1/2 c sugar, for finishing

instructions
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat, or spray with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (corn flour through salt) and whisk for a couple of minutes to break up any chunks (Boyce’s recipe says to sift these ingredients together, but I can’t seem to get behind sifting ingredients, although who knows, maybe it does really impact the recipe…).

Add the butter and the brown sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a large bowl and a hand mixer). Turn the mixer to low speed and mix until the butter and sugar are combined, then increase the mixer speed to medium and cream for 2 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is barely combined, about 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the milk and the blueberries. Slowly mix until the dough is evenly combined.

Pour the finishing sugar into a bowl. Scoop mounds of dough, each about 3 tablespoons in size, form them into balls and set them on a plate. Dip each ball into the sugar, coating it lightly. Arrange the balls on the baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches between them. Chill any remaining dough until ready to use.

Bake the cookies for 20 to 22 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. The cookies will puff up and crack at the tops and are ready to come out when the sugar crust is golden brown and the cracks are still a light yellow. They will appear soft, but will harden and cook more when removed from the oven.

Repeat with the remaining dough.

Advertisements

Straight from Bombay

My good friend, Cheryl, used to have a boyfriend. He was (still is) of Indian descent, and he was one pretty cool guy. He liked hip-hop music and Escalades (neither of those necessarily made him cool, and I’m not sure why I keep saying these things in the past-tense, because I’m sure he still likes hip-hop and Escalades). What was my favorite thing about him, you might ask? I’d be hard-pressed to decide between his dance skillz and his ability to make a killer masala chai.

Oh, Lordy-me-oh-my, that stuff was good enough to make you consider selling your first-born child for a lifetime supply of it. Though he’s not around anymore, I’m willing to bet he could be found through a simple Facebook search, and if I do find him, I might ask him if he’d like to have an “ultra-white” blue-eyed, blonde-haired raggamuffin. But then, if he said yes, I’d have to give up wine for 9 months, and I’m not sure if I’m ready for that, especially with a trip to the west coast in my near future (!!), and a hopeful excursion to “the boot” next year (!!!).

Now before I go on waxing poetic about this guy (actually, I was finished), let me say that Cheryl’s new (if you consider new to mean almost 3 years old) squeeze is way more awesome, and I’m not just saying that just because he reads my blog. I’m saying that because he has a motorcyle. And a boat. And, he let Hubs borrow his “De-troits” when we visited them a couple of weeks ago. Also, he has mad photo skillz (to make up for what I would assume to be lackluster dance skillz, although I can’t say I’ve ever seen him cut a rug, or try to, even – it’s just a hunch) and he can make a Mediterranean pizza that might just make me consider trading in my second-born for a constant supply of that. I get the impression that I’d have to up the ante though, cause I doubt Cheryl wants a lil’ Wetzel running around her house, and quite frankly, I’d prefer our bedroom there to be free of mobiles, onesies, and poo.

Back to this chai business. I seem to be losing focus today, don’t I? I’m gonna try to push through, because I do want to talk about this lovely concoction you see here. My breakfast rotation was starting to become a bit stale, if you will, and let me tell ya – I heart the granola bar, I do. But I was in need of a change, actually just a slight variation, you see. I wanted something a little less chewy, but not lacking in flavor or texture otherwise. I wanted to make it myself, because I do adore homemade breakfasts. I wanted there to be oats, and fruit, and nuts (oh, my!), and distinct flavors that wake me up in the morning, sans caffeine.

So quite clearly, what I wanted was granola spiced with all those Indian flavors that you find in a masala chai, those flavors that remind me of those few times the ex-boyfriend-of-my-friend-and-still-Indian-guy-with-the-dance-skillz made when he was visiting.

And since, at some point during the process of contemplating this recipe, I’ve decided that I would probably like to keep my first- (and possibly second-) born children, when and if I have them, I figured it best to make my own spice mix, and that I did. I’m guessing, no I’m quite certain, that you can buy what they call “chai spice” mix from your local spice store, but making it really is just as easy if you’ve got a few seconds. You can do like I did and use ground spices as a short-cut, or you can really keep it real by using whole spices.

Either way, when you do make it, and when you get your hands into that bowl of fresh-made chai-spiced granola, thank those folks from South Asia for their lovely spices. Or me, really – the one phrase I learned during my one German class was, ironically, “Ich komme aus Bombay“.

ps – Happy Birthday Cheryl – this one’s for you!

Vanilla-Chai Spiced Granola
makes ~20 servings (1/2 c each)

okay, this probably seems like a lot of granola – you wouldn’t be wrong in saying that. but here’s the thing: it keeps for weeks, so why not make a boat-load of it?! store in the fridge for weeks, give to friends, or eat it by the handful over a weekend. Your choice. and if you choose to not make this much, it easily halves.

by the way, this granola is awesome with plain yogurt, or with a little milk poured over it. or by the handful, as previously suggested.

printable version

ingredients
6 c rolled oats*
2 c coarsely chopped nuts (I used pecans and hazelnuts)
1/2 c unsweetened shredded coconut
5 T packed brown sugar
1/2 t kosher salt
1 T ‘chai’ spice blend (recipe below)
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/3 c agave nectar
1/3 c blackstrap molasses
4 T vegetable oil
1 c dried fruit (I used blueberries and golden raisins)

instructions
Preheat oven to 300 F. Line two standard-sized baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix oats through vanilla. Combine oil, agave nectar, and molasses in a small saucepan and heat until mixed thorougly and just-boiling. Remove from heat and pour over granola mixture.

Spread 1/2 of mixture on one baking sheet and the remaining half on the other. Bake for ~ 40 minutes, stirring mixture and rotating pans every 10 minutes. Remove and cool granola in the baking sheets on a wire rack. When cooled, mix in dried fruit.

*gluten-free oats if needed.

Chai Spice Mixture
makes ~3 tablespoons

there are dozens of similar recipes out there, so use this or use whatever you find. or buy it, if you don’t have all the spices on hand and don’t want to buy all of them!

printable version (spice only)

ingredients
1 T g. ginger
1/2 T g. cinnamon
1 t g. cloves
1 t g. cardamom
1 t g. nutmeg
1 t g. allspice
1/2 t g. pepper

instructions
isn’t this obvious? mix them together!

Barley is Gnarly

butternut squash and barley risotto with cheese

Oh how the tables have turned. It wasn’t long ago that Chris was sitting at home playing his video games while I was busy crafting pies or pasta in the kitchens at school. We’ve since traded places – me chillin’ at home, him – well, not learning to make pasta – but learning whatever it is he’s learning en route to his MBA. Either way, he’s mad busy these days – if not in class he’s working on something for class. Which leaves me time for – you guessed it – cooking for numero uno. Yes, me!


Which reminds me, in addition to free time for cooking, I’ve also finally had enough spare time to move my blog to another host. Please forgive the organized chaos. I’ve ironed out a lot of the tweaks, but still have a few to go. In the meantime though, let’s talk about some food now, shall we?


barleydiced onions


We all love risotto, right? I know I do. I mean really, what’s not to like? Rice slow-cooked to a rich, creamy but still somewhat firm consistency – with additions of almost anything you could conjure up. And why stop with changing around the vegetables and proteins? I figured, why not shake it up a bit more and try a different grain – maybe it’s not your traditional risotto, but it sure tastes good.


Besides, why stop at beer when it comes to barley? In granular form, it may not offer that malted flavor we brewsky drinkers fervently enjoy, but it does have some other admirable qualities. For one, eating barley can help to regulate blood sugar for up to 10 hours post-consumption. Rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber (both soluble and insoluble), it wins against plain old rice any day of the week. What does it taste like? Chewy and crunchy, nutty and earthy – similar to brown rice but even more satisfying.


apricots,currants,parsleybarley risotto


I know – I’m not the first person to make barley risotto – and I hope not the last. If you haven’t tried barley, or any of these other fancy grains – I challenge you to give them a try. Give that arborio and that box of Uncle Ben’s a break, will ya? Pretty please, and thank you.


Need a little more guidance? Some more inspiration perchance? Check here for a recipe using farro (lovely, just like barley but gluten-free as barley is not), and check here for a quinoa salad. Have you made something with any other grains? Kamut? Wheat berries? Amaranth? Leave a link or two (or even three, if you please) in the comments section and share away!


butternut squash and risottobutternut squash barley risotto plated



Barley & Butternut Squash Risotto
Original from chiknpastry.com; serves 4

 printable version


ingredients
3 c chicken or vegetable broth
2 c water
1 lb butternut squash, cubed into 1/2-inch pieces
olive oil, for drizzling over squash
1 t 5 spice powder
1 t cinnamon
1 t cayenne pepper
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, small dice
1 c pearled barley
1 t garlic, minced
1/2 c dried fruit (I used 1/4 currants, 1/4 apricots)
salt & pepper
1/4 c pecorino-romano cheese, shredded
1 T basil, chopped
2 T pine nuts, toasted


 instructions
Preheat oven to 375 F


Mix broth and water together, heat in medium saucepan; keep warm

Mixed cubed squash with ~2T olive oil and spices (5 spice, cinnamon, cayenne). Spread on baking sheet and bake about 30 minutes, turning halfway through.

Meanwhile, heat 1 T oil in medium-sized Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Throw in onion and cook for ~5 minutes; add garlic and cook ~1 minute. Add barley and let cook 1-2 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high, and begin adding 1 ladle-full (1/2-1 c) of broth/water mixture at a time, stirring (almost) constantly until liquid is almost dissolved. Continue until barley is cooked, about 30 minutes. (There may be some broth mix leftover)

Remove risotto from heat, add in roasted squash & dried fruit. Top with cheese, herbs, nuts and season with salt and pepper.

 

Farrolicious



I think I got a little spoiled with being on break from school. We had good, homecooked dinners most weeknights and some days on the weekend. I had time to catch up (rather stay up to date as I had too much time to get behind) on my Food Network shows and not get too behind on my magazine reads. We had free weekends, although I welcome the busy weekends because they’re spent with family and friends. But now school is back in session and already five weeks in.

farrovinaigrette



Matter of fact, school is almost over. Hard to believe, but I’m 5 weeks away from a culinary ‘degree’. I think, after having graduated from 3 colleges, that I’ll call it quits with the schooling. Oh, and the loanage.

With only one weeknight of cooking, and the fact that it’s officially well into summer (finally), I’ve been more inclined to whip up some somewhat simple meals. You know, like panzanella salad. And this here, made with a new delicious friend of mine, farro.

marjoramgreen beans



I’m sure many of you may have never cooked with farro. But you should. It is a great addition to salads or even grilled veggies. A small bag’ll cost you about 8 buckaroonies but you’ll get many uses out of it.

It’s a rich, nutty grain (from Italy – don’t you just love those Italians?!) with many admirable qualities: higher in protein and fiber than many grains, a great source of complex carbohydrates, and supposedly a type of carbohydrate that can aid the body’s immune system. Farro is definitely a keeper and one you can assuredly take home to meet your parents. In fact, when you try it, you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life.

salad



I’m sharing a great starter recipe that utilizes a seasonal favorite, green beans. My mom will be so proud to know I eat more than a no thank you serving of beans. This dish reminds me of the panzanella salad – entirely flexible. You’ll notice I used those shredded carrots again. And definitely use marjoram rather than skipping this seldom-used herb. It has a lovely piney perfumey citrus taste and pairs well with the goat cheese. But if you insist, substitute oregano and use a bit less.

farro and veggie salad



Farro & Veggie Salad w/ Goat Cheese
Adapted from Bon Appetit, August 2009; Serves 4

printable recipe

This is a great weeknight meal. You can even prepare the salad in advance since it’s served cold. And in a pinch, I’m sure a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken would be just fine 🙂

ingredients
1/2 cup semi-pearled farro
3 T EVOO, divided
8 oz boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
12 oz green beans, trimmed and cut to 1 1/2″ pieces
2 cups fresh yellow corn kernels (~2 ears corn)
3 green onions, thinly sliced (~3/4 c)
1/2 c carrot, thinly sliced
1 T minced fresh marjoram
1/2 t kosher salt
2 T white wine vinegar
2 T minced shallot
1 t Dijon mustard
2 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled

instructions
Cook farro in medium saucepan of boiling water until just tender, 20-25 minutes. Drain; cool.

Meanwhile, heat 1 T oil in medium skillet over med-hi. Add chicken and cook until golden brown, about 8 minutes. You can also grill the chicken, which is what I did for extra flavor. Cool and cut into 1/2″ to 3/4″ cubes. Cook green beans in saucepan of boiling salted water about 4 minutes and drain, rinsing with cold water. Pat dry.

Mix farro, chicken, and green beans in large bowl. Add corn, green onions, carrot.

Combine remaining 2 T oil, marjoram, 1/2 t salt in small bowl. Press w/ back of spoon to release flavor from marjoram. Whisk in vinegar, shallot, mustard. Pour over salad in bowl and toss to coat. Season w/ s&p.

Culverization + Fried Walleye = Quinoa Salad

quinoa arugula salad

Remember how I talked about a busy couple of months? Yeah, they’re here, and so far it’s been a bushel-load of fun. It started with the weekend in Madison, then the in-laws’ visit, and most recently a trip to the hustle and bustle of Rochester, Minnesota. You may wonder, besides the Mayo Clinic, what in tarnation is in Rochester? I’ll tell you. Two of my favorite people, that’s what (or rather, who).

quinoa grains


I know I don’t talk much about my ‘professional’ life here, but there’s good reason behind it. This is a food blog. Plus, I spend 40 hours a week at work and feel that that’s enough work talk. There is a point here. One of those two favorite people I visited is a fellow genetic counselor (though she too is very into the work-is-work-and-that’s-it mentality) and grad school classmate. If you read my recently posted bio, you’ll find her in the third picture down with the dark purple wig. Yeah, next to me in the light purple one. People may have called us odd, but we really were (and still are, of course) way rad. She has a name, and that’s Cheryl. I usually pronounce it with a strong Ch so that it sounds like CHuryl. And her studmuffin is Luke. He’s wearing an Iron Man shirt in the picture below, but he really only does a few triathalons. Yeah… only.


So yes, we visited Cheryl & Luke this weekend. We started a trend once she left me in Chicago and moved to Minnesota: we both visit each other once a year (although this weekend we decided we will increase that because we are both so awesome). She spends Thanksgiving with us (and Luke too, for the last 2 years. Before that she brought some weird Indian guy. He was nice, and made a mean Chai tea. She used to bring her parents too, but last time her dad committed a major party foul and he isn’t invited anymore – jk, of course. he’s the king of class!). We visit them in the summer. Last year, they also used us for our condo and attended the Chicago Boat Show in January. But that was a’ight, because it recently paid off and they scored an awesome sailboat that’s docked 40 minutes from their house.
ingredients in bowl
Our trip to MN started in traffic, which is practically unavoidable on a Friday in Chicago. Seemed like we weren’t the only ones skippin’ out of work early. But three hours later we were in Wisconsin and rewarded ourselves with Culvers. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this burger mecca (if you are from the Midwest, then shame on you!!), it’s the “Home of the Butter Burger” and without a doubt, the best fast food burger joint on Earth. They have a new shake flavor every day to boot. We ordered, and moments later I’d scarfed down my double Butter Burger and we proceeded to purchase our Shake of the Day and hit the road. Already, I’d more than tripled my caloric needs for the day. Oh shux.
quinoa arugula salad
As is customary, Cheryl & Luke greeted us with (well first, big hugs) some super tasty Sangria. The next day we sailed along Lake Pepin – Luke may not be an Iron Man, but he can damn sure sail. I think we picked the windiest day of them all too, so he had his work cut out for him. We docked in the early evening and shared a bottle of Port (the bottle we bought in Napa) and Shiraz-Cab, then headed to dinner. I chuckled at our ability to walk into a restaurant at 8 and get a table for 4 on the lake. Remind me why I live in Chicago and not Minnesota? Anyway, I had a fried Walleye sandwich that was the size of my head. And awesome fried cheese curds. We then proceeded to ruin the night by stopping at Dairy Queen, which did us all in. Big mistake.
cheryl and i
So yes, you should not be surprised to find that, after arriving home from our super duper fun journey to MN, I only had room in my belly for a salad. If you can believe it, we did not stop at Culver’s on the way home. Although in all honesty, my eyes lit up at every sign for one. Had I known the flavor of the day there may have been another ending to this story. I’ll have to start following them on twitter, and “tweeting” them… or whatever you call that.
cheryl luke chris me
Quinoa-Arugula Salad w/ Apricots & Pistachios
Adapted loosely from Cooking Light, June 1999; Serves 4

printable recipe

Quinoa is awesome. The first time I made it, it was nasty though b/c I overcooked it. Don’t do that because if cooked correctly, it is fantastic. Did I mention healthy? It’s loaded with protein and is light & fluffy, and slightly nutty when cooked. Use it in recipes instead of white rice or cous cous. Oh, and it’s gluten-free. For this recipe, play around and swap out whatever. The original recipe used romaine lettuce and green onions, but I liked the peppery-ness of the arugula.

ingredients
salad
2 c water
1 c uncooked quinoa, rinsed
4 c chopped baby arugula
1/3 c dried apricots (~10), halved
1/3 c golden raisins
1/3 c shelled dry-roasted pistachios
1/4 c diced red onion
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
2 T chopped fresh basil

vinaigrette
zest from 1 lime
juice from 1 lime
2 T mirin
1 T olive oil
3 T reserved water from quinoa
1/2 large jalapeno, minced (or 1 small)
salt & pepper
1/4 t g cumin
1/4 t g coriander
1/4 t sweet paprika

instructions
Cook quinoa in small saucepan (2:1 ratio), simmer uncovered for ~10 minutes. Remove, strain, and save 3 T water for vinaigrette.

Combine arugula, quinoa, and remaining salad ingredients in large bowl and set aside.

Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in small bowl and whisk. Pour over quinoa/salad mixture. Season to taste w/ s&p.