Tuesday, July 31, 2007

It's what was in the fridge...

Sometimes you luck out, and the odds and ends lurking in your kitchen turn out to hit the spot perfectly. This was one of those times. I sauteed frozen spinach with random herbs, then scrambled in an egg at the last minute. Then I chopped a cucumber with cherry tomatoes, and added Greek yogurt and feta cheese to it. All of the above turned out to make a very nice filling wrapped in the toasted flat bread. Yum. Now I have time to do my homework for my drawing class, and my kitchen is still clean to boot.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Riding to West Seattle

If you ride from downtown Seattle, through here:

across this:

over this bridge:

you will suddenly find yourself here, feeling like you are a million miles away from Seattle:

Here is the view, looking back towards downtown:

And if you go just a few more miles you find yourself on the back-side of the peninsula, with no view of the city at all - just islands and mountains and water.

This is a super-quick, short bike ride from downtown, and I had never been there until a few weeks ago (and I have been biking in Seattle for over a decade!) You want to make sure to do it on a weekday though - apparently it becomes quite the place to go "cruising" on weekends in the summer (I didn't know people actually "cruised" anymore, but I guess they do if you are in West Seattle.)

Roasted Chickpeas with Cherry Couscous and Cucumber-Lime Raita

Nina Roux sent me this kick-ass cookbook for my birthday,The Flexitarian Table. The raita and chickpeas are the first things I have made from it, and they are both to be repeated soon. This is probably the best way I have ever eaten chickpeas - they are very nutty tasting. And the onions get nice and sweet during the roasting. I ended up altering the recipes a bit. For one thing, I didn't have some of the ingredients called for in the book (for example, I only had ground cumin - no cumin seeds.) I also have a very difficult time following recipes when I am cooking (baking is a different story), so there were no measuring spoons out when I made these.

Cucumber Lime Raita

- cucumber, seeded, peeled, and chopped
- dash of olive oil
- lime juice
- cumin
- coriander
- salt
- Greek yogurt (I had fat-free Greek yogurt, and honestly couldn't tell)
- black pepper

Combine all of the above ingredients, seasoning to taste.

Cherry Couscous

- couscous (I used Israeli-style)
- dried tart cherries
- salt
- butter

Cook couscous according to package instructions, but add cherries, salt, and butter to the water before it comes to a boil.

Roasted Chickpeas

- 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- olive oil
- lemon juice
- 2 bay leaves, broken in half
- cumin
- turmeric
- sweet paprika
- cayenne pepper
- fresh flat leaf parsley

Oven to 400 degrees. In an oven-proof skillet, place chickpeas, onion, oil, lemon juice, bay leaves, cumin, turmeric, paprika, cayenne, and a dash of salt. Stir over medium heat until sizzling, then transfer to oven for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Lemon Blueberry Bread

There has been a lot less baking going on around here lately because the weather was actually acting like summer. As a result I was spending way more time on my bike , and way less time in my kitchen. But last week, after the seventh straight day of rain, I found myself pulling out the butter, sugar, flour, and eggs again, and this bread is the result. (Luckily the sun returned today, and I just got back from a nice ride by the lake.)

Lemon Blueberry Bread

- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- zest of about 2 lemons
- 2 eggs
- 8 ounces yogurt (I happened to have fat-free Greek style at home and used that; it worked great)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups blueberries; I used frozen

Oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Mix first four ingredients together in medium bowl. In bowl of mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add lemon zest, then the eggs one at a time, and vanilla. Alternately add flour and yogurt, beginning and ending with flour. Mix in blueberries. Batter will be thick. Pour into pan and bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Cover in foil part way through if cake appears to be browning too quickly. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on wire rack.

This bread (cake) is nice and lemony, slightly tart from the yogurt, and with the texture that I always hope for in a blueberry muffin. I used frozen wild blueberries, and they did the trick nicely. It keeps well for a day or two, but loses the slightly crunchy crust (my favorite part) that it has coming out of the oven.

Friday, July 13, 2007


...this is what happens when I try to crochet a granny "square" while watching Sense and Sensibility:

I don't usually knit or crochet during the summer - my interest completely vaporizes as soon as biking weather arrives. But the other night I was suddenly inspired, and these are the results. I recently discovered one of the cooler crochet books ever - 200 Crochet Blocks for blankets, throws, and afghans by Jan Eaton. It is basically a catalog of squares that theoretically will fit together if you use the same yarn and hook on all of them. I have been flipping through it and trying out ones that look interesting. I am relatively new to crochet, so I am still getting used to reading the maddening patterns, but I haven't encountered any mistakes in this book yet. I'm also finding granny squares to be way easier than I anticipated.

I am using left-over acrylic yarn that I had laying around (takes the pressure off!). Besides, I'm not sure I will ever have the patience to do an entire blanket, so these will probably just line the bottom of my knitting bag for awhile.

For some really gorgeous squares, check out yarnstorm.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Left-Over Lime Bars

I made lime curd for the first time a few weeks ago. It was for my birthday cake. I'm not sure when I have had a harder time resisting anything - I was eating it by the spoonful and having an impossible time stopping. I ended up having left-over lime curd after the cake was assembled. I knew I had to actually DO something with it - there was no way I could let it go to waste. These lime bars are the result.

I found a recipe for lemon bars in the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (the red plaid one). I cut the crust recipe in half, put it in an 8x8 inch pan, and then swapped in my lime curd for the lemon filling. It actually worked, except that I had to bake it for quite a bit longer than the original recipe called for, and I think that left me with a harder, crunchier crust than it would have been otherwise. Whatever. It was simply a vehicle for lime curd anyways.

Crust, modified for an 8x8 inch pan (and a couple cups of lime curd?), from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 14th edition, p264

- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 6 Tbsp cold butter, in pieces

Oven to 350 degrees, line 8x8 inch pan with parchment. Mix dry ingredients together, then cut in butter and press mixture into pan. (Next time I will use my food processor.) Bake for 18 - 20 minutes until edges are golden. Pour curd over crust and bake for another 15 - 25 minutes, until center is set. Cool completely.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Woolly Coconut-Lime Birthday Cake

This was my birthday cake. I had been craving lime and coconut, I think because I associate those flavors with trips to Mexico and summer was nowhere to be seen when my birthday rolled around a few weeks ago. This cake turned out to be exactly what I wanted, and I won't change a thing the next time I have an excuse to make it. The cream cheese frosting wasn't too sweet, and it was heaven with the lime curd (I was having an impossible time not eating spoonfuls of each while waiting for the crumb coat to chill.) The cake actually tasted of coconut too (just like the recipe promised) without any annoying coconut flakes in the batter itself. The half-toasted sweetened coconut smashed on the outside was actually WAY better than I was expecting. It was chewy-crunchy, which added a great contrast to the cake, but it also added a lot more flavor than I had anticipated.

(It is warm outside, my windows are open, I have wobbly-tired legs from a fifty mile bike ride today, and I am listening to Neil Diamond while I write this. Meow.)

I had searched high and low for a recipe that used coconut milk instead of "cream of coconut" (which I find a little scary - it contains several mystery ingredients), but I wasn't having much luck. I was surprised when I saw that the Cooks' Illustrated recipe even called for the stuff, but then they explained themselves (yay Cooks' Illustrated!). Apparently when they were testing recipes with coconut milk they had wildly varied results. With a little research they discovered that from can to can, coconut milk's fat content can vary as much as 33%. Hence, the cream of coconut.

Martha's Lime Curd, (slightly modified) from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

- 8 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp lime juice
- 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp lemon juice (I actually used more lime juice - I only had 1 lemon)
- zest of 2 limes
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 1/4 sticks cold butter, cut into pieces (10 Tbsp)(I used salted)

Put yolks, juice, zest and sugar in heavy saucepan. Whisk well to combine, then cook over medium-high heat, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon until mixture coats back of spoon and is 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer (about 8-12 minutes).

Remove from heat. Stir in salt. Add butter pieces gradually, stirring until mixed well. Press through sieve into bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing onto surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate at least one hour.

Coconut Cake, (modified slightly) from Baking Illustrated.

- 2 1/4 cups (9 ounces) cake flour (I used 9 ounce AP flour)
- 1 egg
- 5 egg whites
- 3/4 cream of coconut (Coco Lopez)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tsp coconut extract
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 sticks butter (12 Tbsp), softened but cool, cut into 12 pieces
- 2 cups packed sweetened shredded coconut

Oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

In a large measuring cup, mix egg and egg whites with a fork, then mix in cream of coconut, water, and extracts.

In bowl of mixer, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add butter one piece at a time, and mix until resembles coarse meal with no pieces bigger than a pea, about 2 - 2 1/2 minutes.

With mixer running, add a cup of the liquid mixture. Beat on med-high until fluffy, about 45 seconds. With mixer still running, add remaining liquid in steady stream over about 15 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat for another 15 seconds.

Divide batter between pans. Batter will be thick - spread with spatula. Bake for about 30 minutes, until toothpick is clean. Remove cakes, and toast coconut spread on baking sheet for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until half of coconut is golden, half is still white.

Cool cakes on wire racks, remove from pans after 10 minutes to finish cooling.

Ina Garten's Cream Cheese Frosting, (slightly modified) from the Barefoot Contessa at Home

- 1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
- 2 sticks butter at room temperature (I used salted)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 pound powdered sugar

Beat together everything except the sugar. When it is well combined, add the sugar, and beat until smooth.

Assemble and eat! (I put a thin coat of frosting on the bottom layer before the lime curd.)

Reasons to ride to Redmond

1) The British Pantry is a restaurant with a little shop attached that sells British food. I have never actually eaten anything from the restaurant or pastry case because it seems to mainly consist of meat-stuffed things. But they do have yummy snacks that you can't often find elsewhere!

For example...these helped me on the 25 miles home:

2) This stretch of the Burke-Gilman Trail is probably my favorite, and is something to look forward to on a ride to Redmond:

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

A perfect day...

...for only a dollar fifty. It finally feels like summer here in Seattle, and my bike is no longer feeling neglected. I went for a ride on the Burke-Gilman Trail the other day. It heads north out of Seattle and wraps around Lake Washingon. I rode up into the suburbs, found a grocery store for my cheese and nectarines (and made the frightening discovery that there are TELEVISIONS in the check-out line at Albertson's?!?!?), then headed back home. The trail is flat and car-free, so it is a good place to ride if you are in need of zoning out (the only place I allow myself to listen to music on my bike!). You can ride about 25 miles to the suburb of Redmond without ever having to deal with cars.

A happy bike:

A lot of the trail has a view of Lake Washington:

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Birthday Cupcakes

These cupcakes were not good in my book, but they were a success for two reasons: 1) I learned how not to fill cupcakes (I will try a different technique next time.) 2) I found a recipe that worked really well for the filling (for when I try these again. Which I will.)

I used Martha Stewart's recipe for Devil's Food Cupcakes, and I will definitely NEVER use that recipe again. They were chocolate-colored, but that was about it. Blah. I couldn't find the recipe I usually use, but I will try harder to find it next time. For the filling I modified the Vanilla Cream Filling from her Baking Handbook. It is supposed to be the filling for some oreo-type cookies. I added a tiny amount of corn syrup until the consistency was right, then piped it into the cupcakes. I had read of people having luck that way. I don't think I was aggressive enough though, and wound up without enough filling for many of the cupcakes. I just can't be bothered to do the cone method - too lazy. So next time I will be more aggressive with my piping, and I also may try the straw method... But at least I found a filling I liked! And it also worked for decorating the top of the cupcakes. (You may notice my clumpy ganache - it was one of those days where I couldn't get anything to work out!)

Cupcake Filling

- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
- 1/3 cup butter, room temperature
- 1/4 - 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 1 - 3 tsp light corn syrup

Beat together all ingredients except for corn syrup until light and fluffy. Add corn syrup in small amounts until filling is to desired consistency.