Daily walks

Something I have been trying to do lately is walk on my lunch hour. I work in a college campus with plenty of hills, hidden treasures, and neighborhoods on all sides with colorful characters and sights.

As a consummate picture taker (can’t say photographer, I feel like that assumes some level of skill… And though I have a nice camera it doesn’t come on my walks with me) I like to pick out little things as I walk.

So I thought I would share some things I have seen.

Tuesday 2/5/13

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How to save a botched bread baking experiment (recipe: Croutons)

I’ve wanted to try to bake bread for some time now. We had friends coming for dinner and I was roasting Cornish hens, so it seemed the perfect opportunity. I rather absurdly like to try new recipes whenever we have guests. Sometimes it works splendidly. Other times I wish we just ordered pizza. Though I have yet to actually resort to ordering pizza. Though I do not doubt someday it may come to that.

The dinner went quite well if I do say so myself, Cornish hens, beet salad, roasted asparagus and a whole wheat raspberry tart to finish.

Notice the lack of bread in that list? It was left out. Because it looked like an overcooked football. And when we tasted it the next day it kinda tasted like a wheat-y overcooked football. So all in all I was glad I didn’t try to serve it. However, I was determined to make some use of my efforts and patience watching it rise and cooking it in the oven for over an hour on a hot day.

So… what do we do then? Croutons to the rescue!


Home-made Croutons

Ingredients:
One loaf day old bread, it should be a little dried out for the best effect.
3-4 Tablespoons butter

Cut bread into even size one inch cubes.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in saucepan, add a handful or two of croutons (enough to cover surface of pan). Toss with butter to lightly coat. Let sit until bottom side browns. Flip to another side and continue until at least 3-4 sides are browned.

Set aside first batch to cool and repeat process until all bread cubes are cooked. Store in sealed container for up to a week.

I found that they needed to re-crisped each day, I just repeated the process with little to no butter in the pan to re-crisp the croutons, just before tossing with salad.

Add a handful to any salad to add a crunch and extra tasty element!

Photography (recipe: Bloody Mary)

One of my goals for this year is to take a photography class. I find myself every once in a while taking those pictures I see in arty food blogs of butter and eggshells and cute little signs. Evidence below. But being unsure even as I am taking them as to whether it is my eye that sees something photo worthy or if it the memory of someone else’s pretty images that are coming to mind. I’d like to think I have the eye, but that is almost beyond the point, first I think I need to focus on light and aperture and such, then when I see something lovely I will actually be able to capture it.

My other goal is to figure out how to feed two full time working individuals (that is if I get a job)… breakfast lunch and dinner without going insane. Lunch is the hardest part for me. I’ll let you know what I come up with. In the meantime I make my hardworking husband sandwiches in the morning and I scrounge in the fridge when I get tired of staring at my cover letters and teaching philosophy statements (which are a first for me!).

Bloody Mary (with snacks!)
Tools:
Shaker
Juicer (or a strong grip)

Ingredients:
Good quality vodka
Tomato juice
Worchestershire sauce
Cayenne pepper or hot sauce
Fresh lime
Fresh lemon
Freshly ground pepper and salt
Celery stalk
Pickled veggies, shrimp, olives, peppers (note at end)
Ice

Action:
Fill shaker with ice
Crack pepper, approx. 4-6 turns
Add splash of Worchestershire
Sprinkle a little cayenne pepper (or hot sauce) into shaker
Squeeze up to half a fresh lime and a half a fresh lemon
Add 1 1/2 parts vodka
Add 2 parts tomato juice
Shake well
Pour with ice into glass, top with a little salt and pepper

Garnish with anything you like really… I used olives and pepperoncinis because that is what I had on hand but feel free to put mini gherkins, shrimp, olives of multiple varieties and so on. Pretty much anything pickled works! It makes the drink look nice and you get snacks!

Add a stalk of celery and serve.

Simple veggie pizza pt 2

Though, TJs wheat crust and store bought sauce are simple to the extreme, homemade isn’t really so hard either.

I may have gone to the extreme on this one, but not on purpose and it still was quick and easy.

This all started because I have a basil plant in my kitchen window (I have a kitchen window now!!) which was getting a little bushy so I decided to make some pesto. SimplyRecipes is always a good choice for staples. Her pesto recipe was exactly what I was looking for… pretty much what I remember my Mom’s being. The only thing I do differently than most is use walnuts instead of pine nuts as they are more readily available, cheaper and when growing up we had a tree so that’s what we always put in pesto. Then I had to do something with the pesto… Pizza!

So I decided to make the dough, and since I’m a slacker I couldn’t make 101Cookbooks overnight wheat thin crust pizza dough (though that is next on my cooking to do list) so I found a quick version, not wheat, but I am contemplating ways to make it whole wheat. The quick version is from thekitchn and is super simple. I’ll include in this post or you can check it out on their site.

As if crust, pesto, homemade basil cocktails and my planned bourbon nectarine dessert weren’t enough… I figured I may as well try at least one 101Cookbooks recipe since it is super quick and sounded much better than opening a jar of store bought pasta sauce. I decided to make her Five Minute Tomato Sauce recipe. Which is spicy and tangy and delicious, on pizza on pasta, on the spoon.

This may sound excessive, but in reality, each recipe takes less than 10 minutes apiece. So even if you are crunched for time, you can have homemade pizza in a matter of minutes with no waiting time for rising, or stewing fancy sauces on the stove, and if you are like me and you made pesto last week and stuck in the freezer, you can even make two kinds of pizza!

So let’s get started!

Pesto

Adapted from SimplyRecipes and my Mom

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup  walnuts (Chopped or halves)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt

If nuts are not chopped, start by placing nuts in food processor to chop

Add basil pulse a few times to chop, add garlic and pulse a few more times.

Continuing pulsing while pouring olive oil in. Stop to scrape down sides occasionally. Do not pour all oil in at once, drizzle it in continuously until pesto reaches desired consistency.

Add cheese, pulse until combined.Add salt to taste.

Use within 3-4 days or freeze for future use (pasta, toast, pizza, mixed into a vinaigrette, possibilities are endless)

I also seem to remember when we made it in my youth, we would toss everything in except the oil pulse a few times add oil and voila -pesto! So if you want to just break the cheese into chunks and not pre-grate or if your walnuts are odd shapes, no worries! It all works out in the end.

Five Minute Tomato Sauce

borrowed from 101Cookbooks (Thanks Heidi for so many great recipes!!)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed red tomatoes
zest of one lemon

Combine the olive oil, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and garlic in a cold saucepan. Stir while you heat the saucepan over medium-high heat, saute just 45 seconds or so until everything is fragrant – you don’t want the garlic to brown. Stir in the tomatoes and heat to a gentle simmer, this takes just a couple minutes. Remove from heat and carefully take a taste (you don’t want to burn your tongue)…If the sauce needs more salt add it now. Stir in the lemon zest reserving a bit to sprinkle on top of your pasta.

**This is her exact recipe, I just wanted you to have access to it here, so you don’t have to switch between pages. I might put a smidge less oil in next time I make it, it felt a little oily at times. But ooh it is tasty! I put it on my pizza, then on my pasta, I even slathered some on toast and made another pizza! In other words its tasty and it makes plenty. ps- I tried to halve the recipe but I couldn’t find crushed tomatoes in a smaller size than 28oz. And you need the crushed kind. Highly important for the consistency of the recipe.

Ok last but not least: Pizza dough!

Thin crust pizza dough

from theKitchn

3/4 cups (6 ounces) of water – warm-hot (not too hot)
1/2 teaspoon of active-dry yeast (if using instant yeast, you don’t need to dissolve it during the first step)
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 500F, this takes a good 45 minutes depending on your oven up to an hour.

In a liquid measuring cup, add hot water, not too hot or it will kill yeast. Add the yeast, stir with fork until the yeast dissolves. Let sit for a few minutes while you mix the other ingredients.

In a bowl mix flour and salt together with your hands.

Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the water-yeast mixture. Use your hands to combine.

When it comes together, but still has bits in the bowl, turn out ball of dough and  the bits onto cutting board or counter.
Knead the dough until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic to the touch.

Divide the dough in two.

Tear off two pieces of parchment paper. One ball of dough at a time, work in hands into a small disk, set on parchment paper.

Using a rolling pin or the heel of your hand work dough from the middle outward until it is about a 1/4″ thick.

Repeat with the second piece of dough.

Ok! Now that we have dough, sauces and I’m sure a rumbling tummy lets put some toppings together! I have learned the very difficult lesson that less is more when it comes to pizza toppings. I prefer olives and mushrooms or just fresh mozzarella and fresh basil leaves. But you can do whatever floats your boat. Last night we added artichoke hearts which were deelish.

So once you have the dough rolled out spoon a small amount of sauce or pesto over entire pizza, top with veggies of choice (mushrooms, olives, zucchini, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, peppers, onion, etc. I say choose 2-3 so as not to overcrowd).

You can add the cheese right away or you can wait until the pizza bakes for the first 5 minutes, depends on how melty you like it. One way or the other for the first pizza once it is topped, slide it onto the back of a cookie sheet.

Put in the lower middle rack of the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Rotate and cook for 2-3 more minutes until crispy around the edges.

Let rest for 3-5 minutes, slice and devour!

Pleasant surprises

I’d apologize for disappearing for so long and not posting, but as I haven’t published this publicly, I have no one to be accountable too. Phew. That’s a relief.

Someday I hope to unveil my masterpiece of a blog (note the sarcasm), but not until I feel I can be somewhat consistent. Currently I am applying for jobs, taking finals, unintentionally catering events at my internship and well, graduating and moving. I know it’s not the end of the world, but I feel rather busy, and blogging at that point is a luxury. So. I am supposed to be studying and what better excuse to post!

So, we have had presentations in my (last ever!) class, one of which had us fill in sheets about our career paths or something, anyway there were stickers involved so it was great. Then at the end I had a few leftover, so I put them in my purse. And promptly forgot about them.


A few days later I went looking for my camera and found it. Slightly more decorated than previously. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least. For some reason it was exactly what I needed at that moment.

I proceeded to pull out my ankle strap ( I bike to work) and it was likewise decorated. I think this should be a regular occurrence. I shall start putting inspirational stickers in all my bags, just to be surprised by shiny happy stickers whenever I might need one. Besides those unexpected moments of shiny-ness, I’ve enjoyed all the Spring flowers popping up everywhere I go! Especially California Poppies, which are so dainty and beautiful!

The recipes for the first picture came from my friend Juliane’s collection of Bon Appetit magazines. We couldn’t decide between the two… so we just made both. Oh the joys of cooking with friends!

I found the recipes online for your convenience:

Grilled Chicken Salad with radishes, cucumbers and tarragon pesto

Tagliatelle (fettuccine) with baby vegetables and lemon parmesan sauce

Simple veggie pizza

One of my favorite easy dinners is pizza. I have made my own dough, I have tried a variety of store bought doughs, I have definitely ordered in. The easiest and tastiest so far is, simply put, Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat pizza dough. They have a simple dough that you can throw any assortment of veggies on and make a simple quick homemade masterpiece.

And if there are picky eaters you can each make your own! (Just divide the dough, one package can make 2 good size and up to 4 mini pizzas.)

Next time I might try this instant pizza dough which sounds easy enough and doesn’t require hours to rise. But in the meantime– my ‘go to’ worked wonders.

Simple and easy veggie pizza

1 whole wheat pizza dough from Trader Joe’s
1 1/2 cups pizza sauce (pasta sauce or pesto works too, alfredo could if you want  to go creamy!)
3 small tomatoes
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 small can sliced olives
1/2- 1 cup sliced or shredded fresh mozarella

Obviously any veggies will do, as will most sauces and cheeses  or variety of cheeses, be creative you can’t lose!

Preheat oven to 450F

Simply put: Slice up veggies, roll out dough, assemble.

Slightly more complicated-ly put: Roll dough to desired thinness.

Place dough on baking apparatus. (If you have a pizza stone use that, if not any baking sheet will do.)

Spread sauce around dough, add veg, sprinkle with cheese. Add fresh herbs or freshly ground pepper on top.

Bake 18-25 minutes depending on how juicy your ingredients are and how crisp you like your crust.

Enjoy with a nice bottle of red wine or some microbrew!

We’ve made this so many times I’ve lost count, look for your favorite recipes or make it up as you go along. (These are made with a wheat dough from Turntable Kitchen formerly eating/sf and some inspiration from Deb as usual though mine turned out significantly fluffier than TK’s.)

Green beer? Green foods? (Recipe: Broccoli Pesto Pasta)

My St.Patty’s day this year was pretty calm, though that is my preference really. In most of my recent memories I haven’t celebrated with too much debaucherousness, at least not since our rockin’ soccer playing/dance party/ festival of joy at the Laurel House a few years back.

Which I might add had little to do with the drinking (though we admittedly partook in our fair share, college days are worth living) and so much more to do with the dancing. And the joy of friends and being silly. Very very silly. They were ridiculously fun times.

But this year did include green foods! Though completely on accident. I made broccoli pesto with chard and whole wheat pasta, from our CSA no less. How much greener can you get? Oh yeah the pasta was organic too. Greener.

I spent this St. Patrick’s day with my husband and one of my best friends. We had some good laughs, some good Guiness and were sufficiently pleased sipping on Jameson and eating green dinner. Though we move, and tastes change, and sadly dance parties become fewer and far between, we keep our close friends close and we proceed with being silly and having fun times.

Broccoli Pesto Pasta with Chard and Black Olives
from 101 Cookbooks
Serves 4

1  head of broccoli broken into very small florets
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1/3 cup Parmesan, freshly grated
1 clove of garlic
juice of 1/2 a lemon (start with less and add to taste)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound (8 ounces) dried whole wheat pasta
3 handfuls of spinach or chard, torn or chopped into bite size pieces
handful of pitted black olives (preferably the olive bar type rather than the canned type)
additional Parmesan for serving

Bring two pots of water to boil, one medium, one large.

At this point, if your walnuts aren’t already toasted you can use one of two methods to do so: Cook walnuts in a skillet at medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. OR Bake walnuts on a cookie sheet, in a single layer, at 350F for 8 to 10 minutes, checking frequently.

Salt both pots of water well. Once boiling add the broccoli to the medium pot and boil for 15 seconds. Remove immediately and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside a few pieces to garnish with later.

Put broccoli in food processor along with walnuts, parmesan, garlic,  lemon juice and salt. Drizzle in olive oil while processing until  pureed. Taste, add more lemon or salt if desired.

Add pasta to boiling water in large pot, cook according to your preference. Drain and add to a large bowl with chard which will wilt with the heat of the pasta. Stir in about half the pesto or more to taste.

Top with olives, broccoli florets and parmesan.

Serve with a healthy amount of Guiness and Irish whiskey.

And my coworker made these adorable cookies to celebrate the occasion as well. Chocolate cookies with mint frosting, and sprinkles!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!