happenings, part 4

  • Excited about all of these campsites. There are just not enough weekends in my year anymore!
  • If Chris ever gives in to a hot air balloon ride, this is where I’d want it to be.
  • My newest album excitement. Can’t wait to see them in the flesh next weekend!
  • Fun with corks. I kinda like the backsplash idea, but trivets seem much easier.
  • We are heading to Hilton Head Island, SC this weekend for fun with family. There will hopefully be some beach lounging in between the kiddo time, and I’m looking forward to dinner here one night. YUM.
  • Speaking of restaurants, I’m hitting this up next week for San Francisco’s Dine About Town. Finally, I get to take advantage of SF’s version of Restaurant Week.
  • Need some berry-pickin’ suggestions in the Bay Area? Try this link.
  • Love the idea of a walnut-date smoothie. Now I just need a morning to make them!
  • Turntable Kitchen likes the new Fiona Apple album so far. I am ultra curious about it myself.
  • Tara reminded me how much I adore romesco sauce. And since it’s zucchini time, I can get this recipe for zucchini fries + romesco sauce outta the vault.
  • If I ever get my hands on a bunch o’ strawberries, you best believe these biscuits will be made in a flash.
  • I did this thing to my hair the other day, to get “beach waves” and it was kinda cool. Oh, and have you followed me on Pinterest yet?

That’s all for today, folks. Have a safe and freakishly awesome weekend. And wish me safe travels to the other side!

ps: the top picture are flowers my favorite husband got me last weekend for our 6 year anniversary. isn’t he a doll? they are still alive and kickin’ today, which never happens around here! and the bottom picture is from our bike ride to the beach. we went through Golden Gate Park and back. Both were taken with and uploaded to Instagram. If you use it, you can find me there at @chiknpastry. And if you use it, share your ‘handle’ below – I’d love to follow you, too!

Advertisements

Happenings, Part 2

Another installment of random stuff. This is actually sorta fun. And it gives me a good excuse to post pictures that have nothing to do with food, like the above one at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre on Monday night.

Without further adieu ado, here’s this week’s roundup:

  • I bought 2 dresses in less than 5 minutes of being on this site. Whoopsie-daisy.
  • Can’t wait to head back to this winery THIS WEEKEND! Hootie hoo!
  • OMG. Yes, I heart cold brew coffee, now that I tried this. Watered down hot coffee will never taste the same.
  • Who got to see Radiohead at the Sharks‘ stadium while seated in THE owner’s box? Yes, that would be us.
  • We just “invested” in one of these last week, and I think I have two handfuls of sodas I want to make. We’ve also already made tonic water. Maybe I’ll share that recipe?
  • Speaking of making things, I tried out my beer-brewing kit, and in a month I should have some tasty Chocolate Maple Porter. Watch out! Oh, and have I mentioned how my husband is the best gift-giver?
  • Excited about reading this in the near future. This chik is f-ing hilarious.
  • A lovely interview from one of my favorite bloggers.
  • Also, I changed shampoo and I am diggin’ this one. It’s not even expensive, and my hair smells like the beach. Dreamy.
  • I have some soba noodles at home that will be just perfect with all of this. (thanks, Heidi, for the link. not that you read my blog, but thanks, anyway!)
  • Oh, and my best friend had a baby! A baby, for cryin’ out loud! Which is probably what that baby is doing right now. Anyhoo, I’m so excited for her, and can’t wait to meet her!
  • Ate here and here this week. Both extra delish.
  • If you like music without words (that isn’t classical at all. for serious.), check these guys from Texas out. Saw them this week for the third time and after a slight struggle, I am won over.
  • I finally joined Instagram (of course, now that Facebook has acquired them!) and I gotta say – what fun!

It’s been a good, and sort of relaxing, last couple of weeks. But birthday time is upon us, and I’m finishing up my 31st year on earth by drinking wine (yes, again!).

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Judy, why is your friend crossing his arms like that? tell him thanks for the lemons AND he’s weird.

Previously: Happenings, Part 1

Enough To Make You Nuts

Since the grocery store trips were off-limits this week, the cooking has been a bit scarce. Last night, I had a bowl of cereal for dinner. The night before, Judy and I attended a GrubWithUs dinner at a weird restaurant. Tonight, I’m polishing off a hearty TV dinner, and I might dig into a couple of bites of that ice cream from way back when. Yeah, I know, I can’t believe it’s still there either – let’s just say I’m making each and every bite count. (Update – yeah, that happened. And now the ice cream is kaput.)

But when a coworker brought in a bag of zucchini, despite the scarcity of food that caused me to resort to the microwave, I had dessert on the brain instead.

It’s normal to think of dessert when you have zucchini in your hands, isn’t it? Sure, zucchini fries are great, too, and so is plain ol’ raw zucchini with cheese, but let’s be honest – dessert is never a bad idea (except with okra, as evidenced by the Iron Chef America I just watched). My buddy Jennifer makes a killer gluten-free zucchini bread, and since we’re over half a country away from her now, I don’t get to partake in it. Quite honestly, it’s almost enough to make us move back – but not quite. I’m afraid I’ve already gotten too accustomed to the warmish weather and would freak in five minutes of Chicago summer humidity, and one minute on a February day (plus, we’re seeing them again in 14 days!).

When I volunteered to take a couple of green tubers (are zucchini tubers?!) from work earlier this week, I had two potential recipes in my mind. One is a zucchini cornbread I’ve had stashed away in a pile of recipe clippings for a while now, and while I do love my cornbread (there’s a story behind that), I didn’t see the sense in making it to eat with cereal. I prefer cornbread alongside fried chicken, or something that I can dip it in, and milk just doesn’t appeal. The other recipe was a breakfast/dessert quick bread thing – what you see here. I saw it on Tara’s site a couple of weeks ago (the same site that reminded me of the chocolate ice cream – a theme, perhaps?), and that, I thought, was perfect for two reasons. One, I could take a loaf to work the next day as a payback for free zucchini, and two, it made two loaves (quick bread recipes always do, don’t they?!) which meant the other got frozen, with the thought that it’ll come in handy next weekend when our guests are in town.

The downside to making rich, chocolatey zucchini bread at 10 PM? It keeps you up at night – you smell it cooking for the almost-hour, and when it comes out, you still can’t eat it because it has to cool. And by that point, it’s bedtime and your teeth are brushed (although that usually doesn’t stop me…). Of course, there’s also the ‘I already mentioned I was making this yesterday so I can’t eat it because I’ll feel guilty at work all day’ thing too. Then, the fact that you’ve filled up your tiny house with the smell of the stuff, so much so that it wafts into your room and into your face, even when it’s buried underneath the covers and your cat is sitting on your head, is enough to make you nuts.

Of course, most of us aren’t that dramatic, are we?

ps – we’re off to Sedona for a few days. I’ll be taking a tiny blog break, and when I’m back, I’m planning to cut back to weekly posts. We’ll see how it goes, but this twice-a-week thing is getting hard. BUT! I think it’s time for a meat-heavy recipe, so I’ll work on that over the next little while too. Sound good? Thanks. Now, go eat some zucchini ;). 

 

Chocolate Olive Oil Zucchini Bread
Adapted, barely, from Seven Spoons; makes 2 loaves

time commitment: 1 hour, 15 minutes (25 minutes active, 50 minutes baking time)

this is a relatively straightforward quick bread, which means you essentially mix the wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry in another, then you combine. you don’t need a mixer or anything fancy, either. i’m guessing these would make great muffins as well, just that they’d obviously cook a lot less. as for the zucchini, since it’s a rather wet veggie, it’s not a bad idea to squeeze a little of the moisture into a towel, once shredded – don’t wring it out or anything crazy, but just a gentle squeeze or two will do ya fine.

printable version

ingredients
Softened butter or cooking spray, for pans
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c white spelt flour (or all-purpose flour)
1/2 c cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 1/2 t salt
1 c chopped walnuts, toasted
8 oz semisweet chocolate chips (it’s ok if you eat a few…)
1/2 c olive oil
1 c well-shaken buttermilk
2 eggs
1 1/2 c turbinado sugar
2 t vanilla extract
4 c shredded zucchini (2 regular zucchini measure about 3.5 c, which is what I used)

instructions
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lubricate two 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pans with softened butter or spray. Use a length of parchment to line the bottom and long sides of the pan, forming a sling, and lightly butter/spray the parchment as well. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in the chopped walnuts and chocolate. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the olive oil and buttermilk. Add the eggs, sugar and vanilla, and beat until smooth. Stir in the zucchini.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, stir until combined, taking care not over mix (you want to mix until the flour dissolves into the wet dough, but no further). Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and bake, rotating once, until a cake tester inserted into the loaf comes out almost clean, which should be around 45-50 minutes. Cool loaves in their pans on a rack for 20 minutes, then grasp the edges of the parchment to ease the bread out.

3 Decades, & Cake

I have a secret. Don’t tell anyone, but 30 years ago today at exactly 8:02 AM, I was thrust into the world, eyes wide open, crying incessantly; I was loud and proud from the start. At that moment, a look of horror spread across my dad’s face. Apparently, he was a bit unprepared for the site of baby delivery, or so my gramma once told me. It could have been all that black hair on my head, which agreeably would have been a bit unexpected, indeed a surprise to a light-haired guy married to a light-haired girl. Luckily, he came around and decided I was cute after all, and that I was definitely his :). Shew!

Thirty years later, it’s hard to tell what color my hair will be from one week to the next, but that’s a discussion for another day. This week, it’s red, baby.

With the cat out of the bag, I have to admit I have mixed emotions about today. I’m not sure if I’m ready to begin another decade; my 20’s started off somewhat crappily but improved consistently. I like the upward trend, minus the early trough, but I plan to instead start this 4th decade off at a high point, despite my reluctance to enter my 30’s. I enjoyed being a “twenty something”, but I think I’ll start to adhere to the “age is just a number” belief and move forward. So with that, Happy Birthday to me!

I was informed that I didn’t need to make myself a cake this year (and who knows what else Hubs has up his sleeve), so instead, I made one for somebody else. Our pals Jennifer & Jon moved (again! but we moved a lot too before we broke the bank and bought this place) this past weekend. Over their past 5 years of living in Chicago, they’ve slowly moved closer and closer to us and this time – they are 4 blocks away! Woot! Of course, I’m sure that wasn’t their intention, but nevertheless, I likey. So I thought I’d spend an evening making them a special housewarming treat since I had a hankerin’ for baking and I can’t, or rather, don’t need to, bake my own self a cake :).

The beauty of making cake for other people is that you still enjoy the aroma, and in this case, the smell of tangerines dancing into each and every nook and cranny of your place. Tangerines smell like springtime to me, even though you eat them more in winter; they smell sweet and fruity and smelling them makes me want to eat marmalade on toast while sitting in a big field of dandelions, underneath a gingham blanket with sweet wine and my my friend’s puppy running about.

In absence of those fields (and the puppy), let’s eat cake instead. Whether you’re celebrating gracefully leaving your 3rd decade behind, or perhaps a move or an anniversary, or maybe just because you want to and you do what you want when you want, eat cake. Eat tangerine cake, at that.

Happy Weekend!

Tangerine Almond Cake w/ Blueberry-Basil Sauce
Adapted from Seven Spoons who adapted from Nigella Lawson

You’ll question this recipe at first, I know you will, and you should. First, there’s no flour – eek! Second, whole tangerines go into it – double eek! But hold it together, and give this inherently gluten-free novelty a try. It’s an adaptation from Nigella Lawson, mind you. If clementines are available, start there, but probably any thin-skinned citrus will do. This cake is amazingly easy and so moist and soft you’ll question the doneness of it – I certainly did. The texture – different, but in a good way. But trust me; rather, trust Nigella and all the hundreds who’ve made this cake, including Tara at Seven Spoons.

printable version

ingredients
cake
1 lb tangerines (or clementines, nothing with too many seeds…)
9 oz whole, unshelled almonds
6 eggs
8 oz sugar
1/2 of a vanilla bean pod
1 1/2 t baking powder
pinch of salt

sauce (optional)
1 1/2 c frozen blueberries (or fresh, if in season, but with less water added)
3-4 T powdered sugar
3 basil leaves

instructions
put tangerines in large pot and cover with water (they will float like crazy, but use enough water to theoretically cover them). toss in vanilla bean (do not slice open). bring to boil, reduce heat to medium and cook whole tangerines for about 2 hours until they’re extra tender (i.e., soft when you squeeze gently with tongs). remove from pot and let cool. scrape vanilla bean and set seeds aside.

preheat oven to 375 F. over a large bowl, cut tangerines and remove any seeds and sit aside; squeeze to release any excess water (which will help on the “moistness factor”). spray an 8-inch springform pan, then line with parchment paper on the bottom and sides and spray again.

in a food processor, grind almonds until a coarse, powdery substance develops. add tangerines (skin too) and grind until a smooth, thick paste forms. it will still have some pieces of almond/tangerine visible.

in a large bowl, beat eggs until blended. add sugar and vanilla bean seeds, then baking powder and salt. whisk in tangerine/almond mixture. at this point it will actually look like cake batter, but more coarse.

pour batter into parchment-lined pan and place atop baking sheet. bake for ~60-70 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean, rotating once halfway through baking. cool completely on a wire rack.

meanwhile, make blueberry-basil sauce. mix blueberries with powdered sugar and basil leaves in a small saucepan over medium heat. add about 2 T water and cook until juices form. sweeten with more sugar to taste. puree or keep clumpy but remove basil leaves. serve over cooled cake.