Thursday, April 28, 2011

Yoda Cookies!

In case you didn't know, Mr. Barefoot and I are pretty big Star Wars fans.  Maybe the name Darth Mixer tipped you off.  Star Wars is actually how we got together, so it holds great relationship significance for us as well.  Also, whenever it's cold out, I ask if we can watch my favorite cold weather movie, which is ESB.

So, I think, it is entirely possible that I will spend the next few months collecting all of these, whether I need them or not.

(yes, you could buy 4 reasonably priced aprons for this price but they are NOT AS COOL)
(Darth Mixer needs a friend!)
(What kind of mom will I be if I can't make yoda cookies for my kids?)
Tragically, the Barefoots are trying to save right now for our awesome summer trip to Wales, so I'm going to have to hold off on purchasing the entire WS Star Wars line.  But you don't have to!  Go forth and shop, my friends, and then send me pictures of your children eating yoda cookies!  

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cookbook Project: The Betty Crocker Cooky Book

I love this book.  This recipe is for Lemon Crinkles.  The book notes:
From Mrs. Alfred T. Neilson of Council Bluffs, Iowa, who prefers simple and easy recipes that leave her time for her hobby of making hats.

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 tbsp grated lemon rind
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp. cream of tarter
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp ginger 

Heat oven to 350.  Mix shortening, sugar, and eggs; blend in lemon rind.  Blend dry ingredients and add to sugar mixture.  Roll int 1" balls, dip tops in granulated sugar (I skipped this step.) Bake on an ungreased baking sheat for 10-12 minutes.  

Enjoy.  These were really good.  They taste more like regular sugar cookies, but they're really good.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You. Must. Make. This.

Tonight we had our annual passover dinner, my friend Boston and I.  I feel the need to explain to my newer readers that I'm not Jewish, but I grew up in a community where I have a lot of Jewish friends, and I have many family members who are Jewish via conversion and marriage.  So, every year, we get together for Passover.  Boston makes traditional Jewish Passover foods, and I embrace the challenge of cooking dinner without using anything leavened.  Or any kind of legume.

This year, my old roommate Sam came along as well, and we had a lovely unleavened meal together, although not a traditional seder, as I did not clear a chair for Elijah or hide any matzoh.  I learned the hard way today that downtown Baltimore is a hard place to find matzoh or kosher for Passover chocolate chips.  Fortunately, Sister Barefoot (one of the aforementioned family members married to a Jewish person) had recently stocked up on matzoh, and Boston said that the regular chocolate chips would be okay, so I just used semisweet store brand.

I used this recipe, but reduced the amount of butter and sugar by a little bit.  I would say that I used 4.5 sheets of  matzoh (unsalted), 1/2 cup plus two tablespoons butter, and 3/4 cup brown sugar.  I did not use the vanilla, since my vanilla was kosher but not for passover.  I'm going to repost the recipe here, which is the creation of David Liebovitz, for posterity.

Because if I lose this recipe, my life will become sad and empty.

4 to 6 sheets unsalted matzohs
1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup (215g) firmly-packed light brown sugar
big pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (160g) semisweet chocolate chips (or chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate)
1. Line a rimmed baking sheet (approximately 11 x 17″, 28 x 42cm) completely with foil, making sure the foil goes up and over the edges. Cover the foil with a sheet of parchment paper.
Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).
2. Line the bottom of the sheet with matzoh, breaking extra pieces as necessary to fill in any spaces.
3. In a 3-4 quart (3-4l) heavy duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter is melted and the mixture is beginning to boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add the salt and vanilla, and pour over matzoh, spreading with a heatproof spatula.
4. Put the pan in the oven and reduce the heat to 350F (175C) degrees. Bake for 15 minutes. As it bakes, it will bubble up but make sure it’s not burning every once in a while. If it is in spots, remove from oven and reduce the heat to 325F (160C), then replace the pan.
5. Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips. Let stand 5 minutes, then spread with an offset spatula.  Allow to cool (preferably in the fridge) and then crack matzoh into pieces by essentially folding the parchment paper into sections to break off pieces.  

Salted caramel is really in lately - sea salt & caramel brownies, etc. are popular in cities that are not slow to food trends, so this is a great recipe to use to impress your friends. (Baltimore now has cupcakes, and we're starting to get fro-yo.  Sadly, not near me.)

What is neat about this recipe is that you actually make caramel. I've been terrified of making caramel for a long time now, but it turns out that, like fudge, or salad dressing, it's pretty easy to do.  The biggest tip I can give you is that if you turn the back burner on, but then move the pot to the front burner, don't wonder why the brown sugar and butter aren't properly melting.  It's because you took the pot off the heat.

So everybody is going to head to their nearest grocery store, grab a box of matzoh, and make this tonight, right?  Don't wait until next year!  I think I'm bringing this to Easter even.  I may actually grab a box of matzoh to keep until Christmas, because my mother in law makes this with saltines, but I think the matzoh gives the brittle a bit more heft.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Salt and Me

I made two delicious loaves of bread this evening, and as they came out of the oven, I cut off a few slices for Mr. Barefoot and me.  As soon as I bit into my slice, a realization hit me.  I forgot the salt.

This wasn't the first time.  It wasn't even the second.  It wasn't even the second time I forgot it in this particular type of bread.  It was, in fact, probably more like the fifth.  Usually I remember before the bread actually goes into the oven, and hastily add it.  This time, no such luck.  Which is a shame, because this time I used bread flour and the loaves were unusually light and fluffy.  (Maybe it was worth the extra $4?)

But I don't add salt to things.  Not to most recipes, especially not before tasting them and thinking, "something is missing".  Often not before my husband tastes them and says, "honey, you forgot salt again."

Why my fear of salt?  My father.  You know how my unhealthy fear of butter came mostly from my mother?  My fear of salt comes directly from Papa Barefoot, who has high blood pressure and is incredibly sensitive to sodium in foods.  My Dad can swell up and gain something like 5-10lbs from eating high-sodium meals alone.  So he doesn't salt his food.  And remember that Papa Barefoot does all the cooking.  So I grew up without eating a lot of salt, putting salt in pasta as it cooked, or generally adding salt to food.

Unlike butter though, as a grownup, I know that salt is delicious, and that it's not that bad for us.  What is bad is processed food.  So as long as we continue to make most of our food ourselves, and not salt it too much, we're okay.  My swim coach also recommended salting my food to reduce foot cramps, but I think she meant iodized salt, which we don't keep in the house.  It's on the grocery list though, because I started getting bad foot cramps again recently, and I'm not drinking pickle juice like my mother-in-law tells me to.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Things to do with chard and arugala

Our biggest hesitation with signing up for the CSA share was the amount of greens that we knew would be coming our way in June.  Sister Barefoot, our CSA partner, does not care for arugula, so I know we're getting a lot of that, and we also know we're getting more than enough (read: any) chard.  So when we go through cookbooks now and look for recipes, we tag ones that have arugula and chard, and look forward to making them this summer.
Here are a few I've tagged -

Black Eyed Peas with Chard and Soba Noodles - p. 140, Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker
Arugala Pesto - p. 32, Dishing up Maryland
Shepherd's Pie with Chard-Lentil Filling - p. 171, Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook
Cherry Tomato, and Black Bean Salad with Spicy Lime Vinaigrette - p. 201, Big Green Cookbook
Whole Wheat Pasta with Arugula - p. 176 Cooking from the Garden

We'll also be following the Baltimore Sun's Dining at Large blog, which features guests posts about Living in the CSA, and this local farm's blog which includes recipes about vegetables that are currently in-season.  The farm we are getting our CSA through has some recipes, but a relatively unappetizing selection considering how popular their CSA is.  I'm just saying, I think a forum which allows people to ask, "WTF do I do with the sh*tton of beets I got this week?"  would be helpful.

Any more resources for me?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cookbook Project: Vegetables on the Side

This week's cookbook is Vegetables on the Side, one of a pile that my aunt gave me for my bridal shower.  This one, I had very high hopes for, since it's one of those that you buy a weird vegetable, turn to a page in the book, and find a good recipe.  I can see it coming in handy with our CSA share this summer.

Carrot, Potato, and Onion Gratin

  • 1/2 stick butter 
  • 2 large russet potatoes, unpeeled, thinly sliced
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut on the diagonal and long thin slices
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup well-flavored chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a "gratin dish" (I would use an 8x8 pan)
  2. Layer 1/3 of potato slices in the bottom of the greased dish.  Add a layer of half the onions, and then half the carrots.  
  3. Add 2 tbsp of butter on top of the carrots.  
  4. Pile on more potato slices, half the onions, and then the rest of the carrots.  Add more butter, than the last of the potatoes.  Add the last of the butter.  
  5. Pour in the stock.  Cover with foil.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes; then uncover and add cheese and bake for another 15 minutes.  

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Registry Reviews: Pampered Chef

We registered with Pampered Chef, and I'm SO GLAD we did.  A lot of the items we got from there are the items we use every day in our kitchen.  Since a lot of people who like to cook get invited to Pampered Chef parties, I thought I'd say which items I like the most and why, so you know what you might like for yourself.

Pizza Stones - We have the large and small rectangle one and the round one.  These are phenomenal.  They cook so evenly and crisply.

Garlic Press - Hello, lover.  I love this thing.  Even more than the press, I love the tool that cleans out the garlic press.  It's amazing.

Batter Bowls - these are fantastic.  I love the 4 cup for small things, like assembling the liquids for bread.  Their lids fit really well, and the big one is great for bread rising.

Coating Trays & Tool - I wish I could explain exactly why these are so great, but we've been using trays and pie pans and tupperware to marinate and coat things like fish and mushrooms, and they just don't work well.  There is a lot of wasted breadcrumbs or sauce in a pie pan, and in the tupperware it gets stuck in the ridges.  These coating trays seem so simple and silly, but they're amazing.  Also easy to clean.

The rest of the products we got are awesome too, but we don't use the double boiler or the mandoline or the pie pan every day, and they're not necessarily the products I would recommend starting your pampered chef collection with.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Book Reviews: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I love Barbara Kingsolver.  I've read most of her books, and I've been meaning to check out Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for awhile.  I got it from the library recently and I'm pleased to say that it is, in fact, as good as I had hoped.  If you've read Prodigal Summer, you'll recognize some of the same science and some of the same characteristics of a small Appalachian town.

There is one major downside of this book, which is that it will make you want a garden, or better yet, a farm.  I've never before wanted chickens, but after reading about having chickens, I suddenly want chickens and fresh eggs of my own.  (We have two fish I never feed, so don't worry Dad, I'm not getting chickens.)  I want a garden that grows an excessive amount of summer squash and I want to plant and harvest my own garlic and keep it in a root cellar.  I want tomatoes at the ready, for easy salads and bruschetta and so I can make panzella!

I was in fact, on such a kick, that I investigated community gardens in Baltimore.  All but the furthest from us are full for the season, so we'll try again next year, especially after our CSA (yes, we signed up for it) tells us what is excess and what we will want to grow more of for ourselves.

There are a few overarching themes in the book - one of them is a wee bit offensive, a sort of self-righteousness that can be expected from somebody who raises backyard chickens.  There is a chapter that talks about dairy laws without any acknowledgement of why the laws were put in place initially (although her point that we regulate the milk industry much more than the meat industry is well taken.)  There are moments where you want to scream out, "I have a job! I can't make my own cheese!" There are times where she makes things seem so simple and easy that you wonder why you haven't been canning your own tomatoes for ages.

The book doesn't focus that much on the major problems with factory farming, instead focusing more on the positives of buying locally grown, sustainable, or organic.  It talks about the problems with labeling things "free range" or "cage free".  And I think these are things that are worth thinking about, even if you don't want to think about how your food is treated before it gets to your table.

I have not reached the end yet, but already, this book is changing the way I think and feel about food, and I highly recommend it to anyone who a) likes vegetables b) likes to know more about their food, or c) likes Barbara Kingsolver.

I'll probably be on the lookout for more books about food, but I find non-fiction books that are really heavy on the science to be unenjoyable reading.  (I spend my days reading non-fiction, why would I do it at home?) So I'm on the hunt for good, light, enjoyable books about food.  Not books that will make me feel sick to my stomach about how I've been eating, but books that make me want to make positive changes in the way my family eats.  Any recommendations?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Six Months

Six months ago, Mr. Barefoot and I did this:
But we also did something else.  We stopped buying bread.  We have not purchased a loaf of bread off the shelf in the store since October, probably the week before the wedding when I frantically stocked the fridge so that we would have food for guests and ourselves.  

Our companions for this journey have been Darth Mixer and The New Best Recipe Cookbook.  Every week or two, I whip up another loaf of delicious homemade bread.  We're still eating mostly white bread, and I would like to make the changeover to wheat, but we haven't yet.  

There are pros and cons to making your own homemade bread:
1. Homemade bread is so delicious, you can have it as a snack.
2. No weird preservatives.
3. Homemade bread doesn't make the best sandwiches, so it lasts longer.  
4. No sugar, since the recipe uses honey.  
5. Locally made :).  
6. Cheap.

1. Homemade bread is so delicious, you can have it as a snack.
2. It doesn't make great sandwiches (except grilled cheese)
3. Still using all-purpose flour, which has weird preservatives.
4. If you make too much of it, you gain weight and go through flour really fast.  
5. It can be a pain to make, let rise, and cook.  

Friday, April 1, 2011

Cookbook Project: The Stinking Rose

So the Stinking Rose Cookbook's Pasta with Butternut Squash, Fried Sage, & Garlic Chips (p. 55) was a big ol' disappointment.  It's also two recipes in one, because you top the pasta with deep fried garlic, which is a separate recipe (p. 152).

1 1lb butternut squash
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper
2 tablespoons butter (I had to substitute Earth Balance since we are out of butter)
1 bunch sage, stemmed
1 pound pasta
Garlic Chips (recipe follows)

I'm not going to repost the whole recipe, but basically, peel and cut the squash into little pieces (1/2 inch cubes), toss it with the olive oil and salt and pepper, then roast it in the oven at 400 for 30 minutes, turning twice.  My advice is then you skip the remainder of the recipe and eat the butternut squash with a fork.  Because that actually turned out excellent, and I was surprised that only a tablespoon of olive oil was enough to keep the squash from getting dry and crunchy.

Then you melt the butter, and add the sage until it is crisp and the butter is golden brown.  I think I cooked the sage too long, because it definitely tasted burnt.  I would pull the sage when it becomes aromatic, rather than crispy.

Cook the pasta, mix everything together, and then top with garlic chips.

Garlic Chips
4-5 large bulbs elephant garlic (I used regular, and I used the better part of one bulb)
3 cups whole milk (I used 2% and skim)
Vegetable oil, for deep frying.


Boil a pot of water.  Take the garlic cloves with the crunchy bottom part chopped off and toss them all in the boiling water.  Let boil for thirty seconds, fish out, and peel.

Slice the garlic into tiny "chips".

Bring slivers & one cup of milk to a boil.  Immediately remove from heat, pour through a colander/sieve.  Repeat with the remaining two cups of milk.  I used less than a cup.  Drain well on a paper towel.

Heat oil to 375 in skillet or deep fryer.  Add cloves and fry them until golden.

Note: do NOT put the lid on the deep fryer.  Somehow the garlic chips will burn and explode.  It will get ugly.  Also add cloves in small batches after blotting them with a towel.

Bad chips

Good chips