Saturday, February 28, 2009

Non-Food Post - Hummingbird Nest

I normally don't post twice in one day, but this is just too good to wait.

We've always had hummingbirds buzzing around our back yard, and today Hubby noticed one was consistently flitting in and out of one of our orange trees. Closer inspection revealed:

And look, 2 little jelly bean sized eggs!

And here's mommy bird, sitting on the nest. Pic isn't that great, 'cause I was about 25 feet away, but you get the idea.

The interwebs says the eggs take from 11 to 19 days to hatch - I have no idea how long they've been there, so we'll have baby hummingbirds in about 2 weeks. I can't wait!


I picked up some wheatberries at my local market a while back, but had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with them. I poked around the interwebs, and came across a few recipes for a salad, with tomatoes and cucumbers, and a few recipes for a breakfast-type dish, with yogurt and honey. So I made both.

To cook the berries, I covered them with water, brought to a boil, lowered the heat to a gentle simmer, and cooked until done, replenishing the water when necessary to keep the berries covered. I don't know how long I cooked them for - it was somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes - I just let 'em simmer until they were done to my liking, then drained.
Wheatberry Salad

cooked wheatberries
diced cucumber
grape tomatoes
cilantro or parsley
red or green (or both) onion
black pepper
lemon juice
olive oil

Mix everything together to taste.

Wheatberry Breakfast

cooked wheatberries
dried fruit
ground ginger

Mix spices into honey. Mix everything together.

I was really pleased with both dishes. The wheatberries are crunchy-chewy, slightly reminiscent of brown rice, with a pleasant taste, but mild enough to be versatile.

A nice multi-tasking grain - tasty, healthy, and possessing the textural attributes that I appreciate (i.e. no mushy). I'd love to make wheatberries a staple in my kitchen. If you have any favorite wheatberry (or brown rice, or lentil, since it appears that they're good substitutes) recipes, please let me know!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Saveur, March 2009

The cover of March's Saveur looks soooo tasty! Ribs, ribs, and more ribs. But, the ribs aren't what caught my eye once I opened the magazine. Here's what I've bookmarked:
  • Gulyás - Real Hungarian gulyás (or goulash). I've watched my Hungarian friends* make it, and this recipe comes really close.
  • Skirt Steak with Artichoke and Potato Hash - I'm not sure I'd call this hash, as the pieces of potatoes and chokes are rather large. But it does sound tasty.
  • Greens and Artichokes Stew - The poppy seeds and sumac is what got me on this one. The serving suggestion is rather strange, however - "serve remaining broth on the side". ¿Qué?
  • Hijiki Namasu - or pickled seaweed salad. I love seaweed salads. Especially with octopus. But, erm...I guess that would be a totally different recipe than this one.
As always, if you make any of the above, let me know how it turns out!

* I've been friends with these folks for about 8 years, and my Hungarian still sucks. However, I do know that "szia" is hi, "sur" is beer, and "szalonna" is bacon. What more do you need, I guess.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Jewish Apple Cake and Dried Apples

My Youngest's birthday was not too long ago, and she specifically requested apple cake. I had made one once before, but the recipe was lost, as was everything else, when my old laptop died. I tried to find something that seemed vaguely familiar, but to no avail. I consulted my Twitter friends, and Wandering Chopsticks very emphatically encouraged me to make a Jewish Apple Cake. She's never steered me wrong before, so that's what I did.

I apologize for the terrible picture, but I was fighting off vultures with one hand and holding the camera with the other.

The outside layer got nicely caramelized, while the inside was dense and moist. The layer of apples that was on the top while baking, flipped to the bottom when removed from the tin, was slightly crispy and utterly delicious.

And yes, use the cup of veggie oil. Don't substitute with applesauce. I was tempted, but in the end said what the hell, you only turn 14 once. It was decadently delicious.

Youngest said "OMG you have to make this every day", and Hubby said "This is the best apple cake I've ever had". Ringing endorsements, if you ask me.

And with the extra apple I had purchased, I made dehydrated apple crunchies. Slice 'em thin (more than 1/8", less than 1/4"), sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and bake in a single layer at really low heat (180-200), until they're only barely flexible. Remove them (carefully, they stick) from the baking sheet, and let dry. They'll lose their last bit of softness as they cool, and turn into the "apple chips" you can buy for $2 a bag at the store.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Non-Food Post - Marriage Meme

There's this thing going around the Interwebs, I think it started on Facebook. A bunch of questions about you and your mate. Since I've been away from mine for a few days, this fits in perfectly.

What are your middle names?
Mine's Carol, Hubby's would have been William, but his mom forgot to write it in on his birth certificate.

How long have you been together?
A little over 10 years.

How long did you know each other before you started dating?
A couple months.

Who asked whom out?
He asked me to go to his cousin's wedding.

How old are each of you?
I'm 33, he's 37.

Whose siblings do you see the most?
We see his brother, who lives in LA, most often, since my bro is in Chicago, 2500 miles away. (Except, as I type, I'm currently in Chicago, just having seen my brother.)

Which situation is the hardest on you as a couple?
The kids. He lets them get away with way more than I would, but I'm step-mommy, so I don't press it too often. Even though I probably should.

Did you go to the same school?

Are you from the same home town?
Nope. I'm from the Chicago 'burbs, he's from LA.

Who is smarter?
I'm smart enough not to answer this.

Who is the most sensitive?
I'd say him, he'd say me. We're both sensitive, but to different things, in different ways.

Where do you eat out most as a couple?
Uncle Tony's Italian Cuisine in Vista. Love that place.

Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple?

Who has the craziest exes?
Him, definitely. Mine weren't crazy, just mostly lame.

Who has the worst temper?
Um...yeah...that'd be me. Oh, that hole in the wall? Yeah, sorry, that was me.

Who does the cooking?
Me. But he's the one who taught me how to make enchiladas, chile verde, fried rice, fried fish, cucumber salad, chile sauce, etc. And if we're doing barbecue for 20 people, that's all him.

Who is the neat-freak?
Both of us, in our separate ways. I can't stand things not in their proper place. (How the hell do you accumulate 3 pairs of your shoes in the living room? Why can't you wash your dishes instead of piling them next to the sink? Do you seriously need to leave half your closet on the bed when trying to figure out what to wear to work?) He can't stand the dog-shed on the floor.

Who is more stubborn?
We're both fighting for that title.

Who hogs the bed?
The 4-lb chihuahua.

Who wakes up earlier?
Me during the work-week, him on weekends.

Where was your first date?
Our first "date that's not a date" was to see Blade w/Wesley Snipes.

Who is more jealous?
Him, definitely.

How long did it take to get serious?
Not sure, really. But neither of us dated anyone else after we started dating each other. We dated a little less than a year before he moved into my apartment. He might've moved in earlier, but he waited to move in until my roommate moved out.

Who eats more?

Who does the laundry?

Who’s better with the computer?
Me. Unless it's a Mac. At which point I really don't care.

Who drives when you are together?
80% me, 20% him, because we typically take my car, and I don't particularly care for the way he drives :)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Time Out

A Work in Progress is going to be A Work on Hold for a little while. My grandmother just passed away and I'm going home for a bit.

I'll see you all soon. In the meantime, call up a loved one you haven't spoken to in a while.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Non-Food Post - BBC's Big Read

I got tagged by a friend on Facebook to do the BBC's The Big Read - Top 100 Books list. Apparently the BBC believes that the average person has read only 6 of the following 100. So here goes, I've marked the ones I've read with an X, and ones I think I've read (but don't remember for sure) with a ?. And just for fun, I've also put a ! by ones that are currently on my bookshelves.

Keep in mind that this list was compiled by a BBC poll from 2003, asking for UK residents' favorite novel. Over 750,000 people voted. (I've found other versions of this list online, but below was the first, at BBC's site, so I went with it.)

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien (X)
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling (X!)
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (X)
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne (X)
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell (X!)
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis (X!)
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë (?)
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë (?)
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger (X)
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens (X)
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott (X)
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy (X!)
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell (X)
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling (X!)
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling (X!)
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien (X)
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck (X!)
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez (X!)
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams (X)
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald (X!)
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas (X!)
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell (X)
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck (X)
53. The Stand, Stephen King (X!)
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy (X!)
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (X)
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden (X!)
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens (?)
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett (X!)
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (X!)
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett (X)
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding (X)
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett (X)
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar (X)
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (X!)
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist (X)
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac (X!)
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo (X)
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett (X!)
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho (X!)
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (X!)
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

So if you're counting along with me, I've read 38 (or possibly 41) of the 100 on the list, and currently own 20 of them. I was hoping to have read at least half, but maybe you have to be British to appreciate some of the ones on the list...

Anybody else want to join in the fun?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Yucatán Pork Stew with Ancho Chiles and Lime Juice

February's issue of Food & Wine had this recipe for Yucatán Pork Stew with Ancho Chiles and Lime Juice, and I happened to have a few pounds of random pork in my freezer. Coincidence?

The recipe calls for pork shoulder. I had some boneless ribs, and something called "boneless pork steak". I chopped it all up into 2" pieces and left it in the fridge overnight to thaw. I was in for a little surprise in the morning when I saw that the boneless pork steak wasn't one large hunk of pig like I thought, but rather four 1/4" thick slices all frozen together. But it was thawed and cut, so I went with it.

Other than the swap of piggy parts, I used the ingredients called for, except for using 2 ancho chiles and 1 mulatto chile, because that's what was in the cupboard. Additionally, I skimmed off a ton of fat - my ribs were much fattier than shoulder would've been. And I reduced the liquid (meat and veggies removed), because the broth was thinner than I wanted.

After cooking for 3 hours on low heat, the pork was falling apart, but amazingly enough, the carrots weren't. Which is good, because I hate mushy carrots. All the dried chile slices had plumped up nicely, the tomatoes had dissolved into the broth, and the lime juice added a nice zing to cut the fatty richness of the pork.

This was perfect for the crappy rainy day we had. A keeper.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Food & Wine, March 2009

Here are my picks from March 2009's issue of Food & Wine.
Did anybody else think the spread of The Twenty+ Best Healthy Recipes Ever was a little strangely colored? It went from white, to orange, to red, purple, green and finally to almost black. Interesting concept, but I thought the colors were a little too intense.

This post was sponsored and approved by Bad Kitty and Charlie. (And speaking of colors, I love the color palette of this pic! All my animals and furniture match.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Kale, Mustard Greens and Emmenthaler Panade

That's a mouthful, isn't it?

I first came across the recipe for Kale and Gruyere Panade on Desert Candy, and thought it sounded amazingly comforting. A little bit of research revealed that most Interwebs panade recipes were based on one in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook, which I don't own, but I have nothing but good things to say about it. Have you tried the Roast Chicken and Bread Salad? Yes, the recipe is pages long, and yes, it takes days, but it's also worth every minute.

But, back to the panade: It's layers of sauteed onions, stale bread cubes, wilted greens, and cheese. The whole mess is moistened with broth, then baked slowly. Sounds good, right?

I subbed Emmenthaler for Gruyere, since Gruyere was way too expensive for this experiment. I also used one bunch of kale and one bunch of mustard greens, instead of all kale. And I used a mix of onions and leeks, rather than just onions.

None of those tweaks to the recipe can, however, explain the outcome. It wasn't bad (meaning, I ate it, but won't eat the leftovers), but it wasn't all it was cracked up to be by others. What happened? I think it was the fact that the bread I used had been in my freezer for who-knows-how-long, stuffed in there by God-only-knows-who, and was slightly freezer-burned. So instead of turning into silky souffle-like pillows, I got mush. Meh.

The long-braised cheesy kale & mustard greens, though - wow. I found myself picking around the texturally unpleasant sog, in order to enjoy the fantasticness that was the greens.

So, this one isn't relegated to the recycle bin, but rather to the re-try shelf. With good stale bread, not frostbitten crumbly trash.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Non-Food Post - Flowering Fruit Trees, and a Bonus

Will somebody please talk to my fruit trees? Tell them that it's still early February.

Peach tree - almost full blossom:

Fig tree - the leaves just barely finished falling off:

Orange tree - I still have oranges ripening, for God's sake:

Bonus - wet dog:

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bon Appétit, March 2009

Here's my selection of Bon Appétit's offerings for March:
If any of you make any of the above, let me know how it turns out!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sautéed Dandelion Greens

Dandelion greens are my favorite sautéing green, aside from broccoli rabe (rapini). They're a little bitter, but they pair perfectly with rich dishes (like mac & cheese!).

For a side dish for four people:
2 bunches dandelion greens, bottom 3" trimmed
4 cloves garlic, minced
red pepper flakes
olive oil
parmesan, grated (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt, then the greens. (I read once that adding salt before the water boils can cause pitting on the bottom of the pot.) Return to a boil, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Drain and shock with cold water to stop cooking. Squeeze out excess water.

Heat olive oil in a skillet. Gently sauté the garlic. Add in the greens, some red pepper flakes, and some salt. Toss around until it's all warm. Top with grated parmesan if desired.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Macaroni & Cheese with Bacon & Tomatoes

A month or so ago, I read Kelly's post on Macaroni & Cheese with Bacon and Tomatoes over at Sass & Veracity. Pasta, cheese, tomatoes...bacon! Bookmarked immediately.

Digging through my fridge the other day, I saw some cheddar, some blue cheese, and some feta. And I knew there was bacon in the freezer and pasta in the pantry. Off to the store to get colby jack and a few (sorry-looking February) tomatoes, and I was in business.

You could use practically any combo of cheeses here, although I'd shy away from something really funky like bierkäse or raclette. The bacon (obviously) adds some deliciousness, and the tomatoes add some sweet acidity to cut the richness of the cheese sauce.

I love crunchy toppings, so of course I was digging on the idea of the panko-parsley mix spread on top of all the creamy cheesy loveliness.

Verdict? Absolutely heart-stoppingly-tasty. (Yes, stoppingly is a word, I just made it up, so there.) I deliberately didn't add any salt to the cheese sauce, and served the mac&cheese with a sprinkling of some flaky pink Australian salt, which not only supplied the required NaCl, but also enhanced the crunch factor.

Like Kelly said in her post, you could add cauliflower or spinach, and/or enhance the dish with red chili flakes. Heck, you could completely change the flavor profile and add some smoked trout. Or you could go totally porky and add some shredded carnitas or smoked pork shoulder. The world is your oyster. (Hey, maybe you could add chopped smoked oysters!)

Whatever you add or don't add, this recipe is a very good mac & cheese. So go make it already!

Monday, February 2, 2009


OK, I totally cheated. I used a box of Zatarain's Jambalaya mix. Sliced and dry-skillet-fried some (turkey) smoked sausage, spiced up with garlic powder, paprika and black pepper. Added it to the barely simmering jambalaya about halfway through the cooking time.

And then I made burritos with some shredded cheddar and MIL's chile sauce. About 5 minutes of active time, 25 minutes of simmering. Spicy, cheesy, filling.

Oh, and this:

This is what happens when Hubby forgets that he's "warming" a tortilla over the gas flame.