Monday, January 30, 2012

Conquering Chocolate Mousse

One of last week's new recipes was a variation on Julia Child’s Perfect Chocolate Mousse. I adapted David Lebovitz's adaptation (I'm just not a fan of rum in anything but tiramisu) and I have to say, I'm a convert. I've always like the idea of chocolate mousse, but I've just never been crazy for it the way I get for ice cream or brownies (or tiramisu). This mousse might just have changed my mind, though.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

To Go or Not to Pastry School

I've been thinking about going back to school to study baking and pastry. I've devoted more than a few weekends to trying out new recipes and tweaking old ones. There were some awesome successes and a few complete failures, and while it was frustrating, it didn't make me want to give up baking (well it did, but only for about half an hour). A lot of my free time is spent cooking, baking, jotting down ideas for recipes and flavor combinations, and reading through cookbooks. I don't lack for ideas, what I'm missing is the knowledge to make those ideas into something tangible (and edible). A lot of people are happy to just follow recipes, and that's great, but I want to understand why breads rise and pastry crust doesn't (it's partly because bread flour has more protein than pastry flour) so I can really do whatever I want to instead of always being tethered to recipes. Don't get me wrong, I love recipes, but for me cooking is a form of expression; I'll never be an artist with a paintbrush (believe me, I've tried), but perhaps I can be with a pastry brush.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Tasting Menu of Fish

It seems that I'm really getting into Asian flavors this month. Jake recently said that he sometimes envies me because I like so many more foods than he does, so I decided to make a tasting menu for him on Saturday night. (Just when I said I was done taking on too many things at one time...) I made 2 different types of fish (salmon and grouper) 3 different ways. Five of the six varieties were Asian or Asian inspired and it turns out, he likes some flavor combinations he didn't know he did.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Broken Glass, Blood and Pickles

It seems some higher power decided that one day last week was to be broken glass day in our house. My husband came home from a trip to the store to find that the light fixture cover in our bedroom closet had shattered (or fallen and shattered? we're still not sure) into several hundred pieces. It was everywhere. I'm still finding random shards over a week later and I'll need to be very careful the next time I put on my Uggs, just in case I missed any.

When I got home later, Jake was craving the chocolate-covered cherries from Sprouts that my mother had put in his Christmas stocking so off we went to get them...and about $60 worth of random stuff that we apparently just had to have. Isn't that always how it works? One of the impulse purchases was a large jar of Nathan's kosher pickles (I've been thinking about kosher pickles for about a week so perhaps it wasn't that impulsive.) and when I tried to open them, the lid just would not budge, so I did what I always do and reached for a butter knife and proceeded to hit the top of the lid in various places to loosen the seal.

But the lid still wouldn't budge. Even Jake (who has a near perfect track record with husbandly duties like opening stubborn jars and retrieving objects out of my reach) was unsuccessfull in attempting to liberate the pickles. So I picked up the knife and hit it a bit harder.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Taking a Step Back from the Chaos

When I decided that I wanted to really try to incorporate new things into my life and my kitchen I jumped into it head-first, and a couple of weeks later I'm feeling more than a little overwhelmed. In the span of 2 days I tried to make a couple of flatbread pizzas, try out 2 new pie/tart doughs, create a hazelnut chocolate ganache filling for the tarts, whip up a batch of salsa, bake shortbread cookies, make another batch of udon noodles with almond sauce and try out a new fried rice recipe. The pizza was great but the tart dough was dry, the ganache wasn't as thick or smooth as I wanted it to be and only about 1/3 of the cookie dough got baked (the rest is in my fridge). While I love spending time in my kitchen experimenting with doughs and trying new recipes, trying to do too many things at once isn't working for me.

With that in mind, I'm going to take a deep breath and a step back. Instead of trying to do 6 things a day, I'll keep it to maybe 2, and do one thing at a time. Hopefully this will let me enjoy what I'm doing, and make a tart shell that isn't so dry.

Monday, January 16, 2012


I love butter. When I was a child, I used to eat sticks of it, until my mom replaced the butter in the fridge with margarine and then I ate spoonfuls of that. Considering all the odd and raw food I ate, the fact that I didn't come down with some awful food-borne bacteria as a kid is a miracle.

While plain butter was the love of my childhood, compound butter is definitely the love of my adulthood. I keep it in the fridge at all times now. My favorite is roasted garlic butter with herbs. Traditional, I know, but a classic for a reason.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A New French Press From World Market

 Let me start by saying that I love World Market. I love all the moroccan-themed candles and japanese figurines and french-style art. But what I love most is the food and kitchen sections. Yesterday I went in to see if I could find French salted butter caramels; they don't have any, but they did have several things that ended up coming home with me.

Miso Ramen? Yes please. Miso Hoison sauce? Sounds like a wonderful marinade for fish. Dry udon noodles? What a great alternative to the ramen-like packages that are all I can find anywhere else. And who doesn't need a couple of containers that only hold a few tablespoons of miscellaneous items that I'm constantly transporting in Ziploc bags? I also purchased a mini 6" whisk (yes, you read that right) but I had just used it so I didn't want to photograph it with Greek yogurt dripping from the wire. My reasoning was that it could come in handy for making caramel sauce, which I've already done twice this week; I could pretend the second batch was for a higher purpose, like a tarte or something, but it wasn't.

And there's the beautiful green french press. I've been through a few electric coffee makers since college, the last of which was given to Goodwill when we moved year before last; in general I find that I don't use one enough to justify the space it takes up on my countertop. But for a while now I've been thinking (and reading) about french presses. While I love my instant iced vanilla latte in a premeasured package for the mornings, I'm too sensitive to caffeine to drink more than 1 cup per day, which downright sucks for someone who loves the taste of coffee. So I thought I could use a french press to make decaf in the evenings to sip on after dinner. I also have fond memories of my brother-in-law making us coffee in his brand new Frieling french press during one of the days that Dallas completely iced over and life as we know it screetched to a halt last winter.
Is my brothers-in laws' dog not the cutest thing ever, romping out there in the snow?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Evernote to My Rescue

It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that I can be a bit behind the times. It takes a while for trends to grow on me. (I'm still not sure how I feel about wedge heels.) I'll find something and get so excited about it...only to be reminded by my husband that it's been around for a while and it's no longer exciting to anyone but me (although he still thinks it's cute when I get excited over these sorts of things). Evernote would be a perfect example of this.

The week before Thanksgiving I lost my iPhone at a club in Las Vegas. At the time this was annoying, but not much more. A true cell phone geek, Jake was more concerned about the data I'd lost in the weeks since I'd backed up (it's not my fault that my computer doesn't like iTunes) than the phone itself or the cost to replace it. As the weeks have gone on, though, I'm just realizing what I've lost in my irretrievable data. Notes detailing when I last got my hair cut or had my tires rotated, and of course, my recipes.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Udon Noodles and Breakfast

Breakfast is unquestionably my favorite meal of the day. For months now I've been stuck (in a good way) on the same breakfast--even on weekends when I have more time--but today I changed it up from my usual sandwich thin with almond butter and strawberries.

my typical breakfast
Yesterday I tried out FitMama's udon noodle recipe (which uses almond butter in the sauce) and I brought leftovers for lunch so I figured one serving of nut butter today is enough. Instead I made a quick meal of thin french toast (french toast made with sandwich thins--think instant portion control) and it was nice to start my morning with an old favorite.

The udon noodle recipe, however, definitely counts as a new experience. I don't cook much Asian food and I've never in my life used fresh ginger or udon noodles, but that's what this blog is all about--trying new things. I had to look at the ginger root for a minute before some long-forgotten memory (or possibly common sense?) kicked in and I pulled out my vegetable peeler to peel off the skin before taking the microplane grater to it. There was a ton of ginger root left over so I Googled how to store it and burst out laughing when I came across this tip from a woman who "used to tightly wrap it in plastic wrap, but then one day while pregnant with [her son] and HIGHLY emotional...felt sorry for the ginger suffocating in the wrap and started crying." Too funny.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Chocolate Bar with Shortbread and Salted Caramel & Kale Chips

My chocolate bar with shortbread and salted caramel experiment didn't go exactly as planned. It turned out pretty much as I wanted it to composition and texture-wise, but Jake didn't like the caramel. It seems he only likes cheap caramel, not really good caramel (which he says is what I made). He did say that he sees why I like salted caramel, how it really brings out the flavor of the caramel, so I guess that's something.

I didn't much care for the dark chocolate. Maybe it should have been darker? Smearing the extra shortbread with the salted caramel, however, was delicious. It's a really good thing we don't have any vanilla ice cream in the house to pour it over or I would have eaten all the leftovers. We do have popcorn, though, so I might give that a try.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Too Many Ideas

A good deal of this week for me has been spent cruising food and nutrition blogs and finding new recipes, so as the weekend approaches I'm slightly overwhelmed by all the amazing food I'm dying to try to make. Usually by Thursday morning I have all of the next week's meals roughly planned out and my grocery list set but here it is Friday evening and I'm still undecided. Of course, not all of the food I'm planning to try out is of the nutritious meal variety--unless your meals consist of chocolate, cookies and caramel.
My biggest goal for 2012 is to try out at least 1 new recipe each week and right now that seems perfectly do-able, if only I can decide what I want to try first.
Udon Noodles?
Homemade vegetable soup?
A vegetarian version of beef in a leaf?
Sweet potato salmon cakes?
Something to go with a new broccoli recipe?
Light fried rice?
So many choices. It might be fun to make this an Asian-themed food week. We don't currently eat a lot of Asian food so that could either be a really great change or just plain overkill.

I was reading through some of David Lebovitz's blog archives earlier today and he mentioned a chocolate bar he gets in a chocolate shop in France called a l'Atlantique; it's a dark chocolate bar with shortbread and salted caramel in the middle. As overly sweet as Christmas was for me and as much as I'm trying to stay away from all processed sugar, I can't help but want to make my own version of it this weekend. Jake loves dark chocolate and shortbread and I recently fell in love with salted caramel so this could be a really bad idea for both of us.

New Year, New Things

I’m not what you would call an adventurous person by nature. I’ve been called intense, passionate, even goofy on occasion, but not adventurous. Trying new things can be difficult for me because I don’t like to look ridiculous, so starting this blog is taking some courage on my part.

I’ve been a writer my entire life, and it’s something that’s so ingrained in my nature that my everyday thoughts actually flow in a writer’s voice, but I also haven’t actually written anything in a long time. Writing is deeply personal to me so the idea of putting myself out there is a little intimidating; why would anyone be interested in anything I have to say, anyway? I’m still working on the answer to that one actually, but I firmly believe that in life we regret the things we didn’t do more than the things we did, so onward I go.

My vision for this blog is mostly centered around food, health, fitness and trying new things, but it could evolve into something completely surprising over time. Right now I’m just glad to be writing again, even if it’s a blog that no one ever reads.