Archive for the ‘good things to eat & drink’ Category

My baking turned into the slightly obsessive zone with crackers.  I’m not exaggerating even a little.  I love making crackers.  I have made crackers almost every day for the past couple of weeks.  I love making them partly for the ease and speed with which a batch of baked deliciousness can be whipped up.  It’s also very satisfying to note how much money I’m saving by not buying the fancy packaged crackers that I lean toward.  But mostly, they are just so AMAZINGLY GOOD!  I love to make them, yes.  But really, I love to eat them.  And so does everyone else in my house.  And all of Eli’s friends.  Making crackers is a good, good thing.

It started with our King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book and the innocent little recipe for Wheat Thins.  They do warn in the book that you will not be able to stop eating these crackers and I can now fully appreciate the weight of this warning.  These are highly addictive crackers.  The dough is easy to roll out very, very thin which yields the crispiest and tastiest of crackers.  They bake up quickly (and disappear almost as quickly).  A very good recipe!

Next came sesame crackers.  Nuttier and heavier and harder to roll out thinly, but yielding a good, substantial cracker.  Not as popular with the kid sector around here, but this mama doesn’t mind when she gets a few extra crackers to herself.

Back to the wheat thins recipe and now it was time to play around.  I fooled around with the sugar in different batches (none in some, a little bit extra in others).  I added poppy seeds.  Good.  And pretty.  (Mama quite likes that combo).

And then Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger Cracker from Simply Ming.  The cracker dough is seasoned with minced garlic and a whole array of spices.  This recipe takes a little longer as the dough is yeasted, but it results in a very sophisticated, grown-up cracker.  Although given the dwindling pile, it’s clearly not just the grown ups who are eating them….

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The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook has been kicking around our kitchen for some time now.  It’s one of those cookbooks whose pages are splattered and creased.  The kind of cookbook where you can open automatically to the recipe you want because the pages are so used to falling open just so.  A cookbook whose cover has developed quite the patina from heavy handling by greased and floured fingers.  How refreshing then, to take the same well-used book off the shelf and dive into an entirely new recipe! Thus began my slightly obsessive baking streak with cinnamon bread.

I have a little baking friend.  An 8-year-old girl who lives down the street.  She comes over to play with Eli, but always seems to wind up in the kitchen with me, her hands covered in flour.  The Cinnamon Bread recipe (really Cinnamon Raisin Bread) yields a hefty 3 loaves.  And, knowing that Eli wouldn’t dream of touching a raisin, I knew only one loaf would actually contain my favorite sun-dried treats.  I planned on keeping the other two plain in courtesy of the non-raisin-lovers among us.

We used the roll-up method, since it’s fun and pretty and what doesn’t taste better with butter and cinnamon swirled up inside it?  We rolled up the raisin loaf and one plain loaf and with her hands on the rolling pin readying for the third, my little baking friend implored me to stuff it full of chocolate chips.  No way, I said at first.  I want to eat this for breakfast.  She was insistent though, and I finally relented.  (Okay fine, it’s not that hard to convince me to stuff something full of chocolate).

All three variations have proved to be delicious.  But while we’re still enjoying  our cinnamon breads as breakfast toast (particularly good smothered with my friend Renee’s Blackberry-Crab apple Jelly), the Chocolate Swirl Bread is long gone.   Sometimes it really pays to listen to an 8-year-old.

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This was the best little salad to come through my kitchen as of late (and with all of the greens abounding out there, there sure have been a lot of salads). It’s a nice creative take on taboulleh.  Yum.  It happened the way so many good recipes happen.  You take a bunch of random stuff out of the fridge, the pantry and the garden and you let inspiration dictate the rest.

Here’s a very rough recipe for my most happy accident:

Make up a cup or two of bulgur (I like to toast it in the pan a tiny bit before adding the water).  Chop up a head or two of baby bok choy, mince some red onion and roughly chop up a good handful of kalamata olives.  Throw in a can of garbanzo beans.  Add a few tablespoons of chopped mint and basil.  Mix all veggies and herbs together with the cooked bulgur.  Add a couple of tablespoons of dressing (I made mine with olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and a splash of champagne vinegar),  season with salt & pepper and dig in.

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My six-year-old has this word delishum.  It’s his little hybrid of delicious and yum that he reserves as the highest form of food praise.  He’d hardly touch radish pâté with a ten foot pole let alone use the holiest of words to describe it,  but this springy mix of fresh chives, carrots and radishes is where it’s at for me right now.My little garden is bursting forth with tender shoots of chives, so naturally they’ve been making their way into our springtime meals.  A simple dice of carrots and radishes mixed up with some chopped chives, a touch of mayo, Dijon mustard and salt and pepper and you’ve got an easy little pâté to put on anything your heart desires.  Or to eat right out of the bowl which I am so fond of doing.Radish pâté makes a great little filling for sandwiches and a tasty addition to quesadillas.  It’s spunky and fresh and way easier than pie.  It’s totally delishum.

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birthday cookies 001One of my secret thrills is being the drive-by birthday faerie.  My brother-in-law had a birthday yesterday and so donning my wings (okay fine, they’re imaginary) and a cute little package of homemade oatmeal cherry chocolate-chip cookies (those were quite real and quite delicious), I sneakily planted the treats from the car window and peeled off in a shrieking cloud of exhaust.  Well, part of that is true anyway.birthday cookies 002 Technically, the drive-by birthday faerie broke a federal law by opening up someone else’s mailbox, although doubtful that the birthday boy will press charges.  The mailman; however, may give me a serious talking to.  Not to worry though, I have extra cookies on hand.

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bread 1bread 2I mentioned to my mother-in-law recently that I have been making lots of bread these days.  Oh, you have a bread machine? she inquired.  No, you see, I am the bread machine...

And really I have been a kind of bread making machine.  Every week now, for the past month or two, I whip out a couple loaves of bread.  The first time it came more out of necessity.  I wanted some nice warm dinner rolls to go with the radish butter I’m so obsessed with making this season.  But then, I really came to love the whole experience of making bread.  I love kneading the dough into a soft, pliable mound.  I love nurturing the dough as it rises several times throughout the afternoon.  The aroma of the baking loaves is so delicious and well, obviously, there’s the eating it part.

Baking bread on rainy days feels especially right (and we’ve had our fair share of rainy days this month) and I learned that the low barometric pressure aids the bread in rising more quickly.  I guess the air is not as dense so there is less for the dough to push against.  Good to know.

The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook is a bible in our kitchen and I love all the bread baking tips in it.  And, if you’re in the mood for some radish butter (I always am), here’s  roughly what I do:

  1. Finely chop up five or six radishes
  2. Finely chop up a few of the radish greens (if they are tender enough and not too big or prickly)
  3. Mix 1/2 stick of softened butter with some sea salt and a little lemon zest.  Maybe some chopped up chives too.
  4. Stir in the radishes and greens and spread on slices of bread.

The essence of this recipe (and lots of other wonderful ones) came from Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors.

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chive vinegar 4chive vinegar 1chive vinegar 5chive vinegar 7chive vinegar 2Pungent, but so pretty, these vinegars were  a delight to make.  I gathered up chive blossoms in abundance along with bits of purple and varigated sage for the first batch.  I cooked up the vinegar to near boiling and then poured it into  jars stuffed with the beautiful blossoms and herbs.  The next batch became nasturtium-thyme.  My nasturtiums this year are the heirloom variety ‘Alaska’.  The plants bubble over their pretty varigated foliage with red, orange and yellow blooms.  I love how the different colors of the blossoms infuse the vinegar with varying levels of peach, orange and red.  Together the bottles all look like the most gorgeous sunset.

I made up some tags, tied them on with ribbon, and now these dashing vinegars are ready to give as hostess gifts at this party or that bbq throughout the summer.

Oh, and they taste really good.  As far as vinegars go, you know.  They’ll make  worthy and punchy contributions to plenty of marinades and dressings.

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