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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Some things I like, and other things I don't.

Here are some things I like right now.

1. Huge cats
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2. Green tea ice cream
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3. 90's board games

4. Chunky cowls
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5. Dirtbiker Malcolm Smith, as seen in On Any Sunday
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6. The Memoirs of a Geisha soundtrack
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Here are some things I don't like very much.

1. Those robot tests on blogs. I swear I'm not a robot, but I don't know what it says.
Using a fraction in these also doesn't seem fair.

2. Barbecue potato chips
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3. Forgetting to switch the laundry over
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4. Still never being able to get the dairy carton open
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5. Silverfish
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

It was an accident.

Have you ever hurt a loved one on accident? I don't mean telling them they look weird in their favorite sweater and hurting their feelings, I mean really hurting them. My mom banged my Dad's head with a frying pan once. My sister April hit her husband in the face and knocked his glasses off while they were playing tennis. April swears I broke her nose with my head when we were kids. (I still don't believe that one.)

I had a pretty clean record regarding Colton, until yesterday.

Do you see the yellow line? That's the Ulnar Nerve, commonly known as the "funny bone". It's the largest nerve in the body unprotected by muscle or bone. When I was in school, I would routinely bonk my elbow on the metal bar of my desk, and shoo-ey. It really hurts. It feels crazy.

When I wash the dishes, I like to have music going in the kitchen. I usually drag a chair from the dining room and set my laptop on it so I can get my groove on while I scrub.

Yesterday, just after I finished with the pots and pans, Colton came in the kitchen to set his plate in the sink. I decided that was an ideal time to move my computer back to the dining room. I picked up the chair and Kablooey!!!

I slammed the corner of the top rail right into his funny bone. Poor thing, he had no clue what was happening. He dropped the plate, yelled "FUUUOOOOOOWWW!!!", (what amazing self control, right?) and stumbled into the living room to hold his elbow. He couldn't feel his fingers for a good five minutes. Later he said he thought his elbow was exploding.

I'm so sorry, sweet husband. It was an accident. Please don't retaliate in like manner :)

Monday, August 20, 2012

New Blog!

Hello, dear friends!

In order to help me stay inspired and dedicated to growing my handmade jewelry business, I've created a new blog! Please become a follower if you're interested - I'll be posting things that inspire me, ranging from fashion and jewelry to movies and music. I'll also give occasional updates about the progress of Whisperwill. I'll keep updating this blog, however, with recipes and personal stories.

(Note the blog design. I spent hours this afternoon trying to figure it out! I'm very proud of myself. It even has a nav bar at the top! Getting fancy over here.)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Lobster Adventures

I was shopping at Ralphs the other day, and in the seafood section I spied a pile of raw lobster tails.

I knew I had to have them.

This was a bit of a risky move, seeing as how they're pretty expensive and I've only had lobster once. I had heard it's very easy to overcook these guys, and I didn't have any clue how to get them open.

But... when I had it that one time, with my husbands family, I knew that lobster and I would probably be lifelong friends.

As it turns out, the tails aren't hard to prepare!

Here's how I did it, if you're feeling risky too.

I decided to serve them with a simple pasta dish and an arugula salad.

I used Giada's recipe for "Lobster Tails with Clarified Butter". I trust her :)

If there's a dish I feel a little uncomfortable with, I like to get everything else ready so I can focus on the tricky one near the end. I started by putting my pasta water on to boil with a small hand of kosher salt.

Then I got out to bowls for my lemon vinaigrette and the clarified butter for the lobster.

In one bowl I zested the lemons, into which I would pour the clarified butter. In the other, I juiced the lemons for the salad dressing.

I melted two sticks of unsalted butter over low heat, then let the butter sit for five minutes in a glass measuring cup and scraped off the foam on the surface. I poured the clarified butter over the lemon zest. (If you do this, make sure not to pour off the solids in the bottom of the measuring cup. You only want the clear, golden stuff! I got a little too crazy with my pouring and ended up with a little bit of solids in our butter. Whoops!)

While I was waiting for the butter to melt, I whisked about a tablespoon of dijon mustard with the lemon juice.

Then I slowly whisked in olive oil until it made an emulsion, and added salt, pepper, and honey for flavor. I stuck it in the fridge to chill until needed.

Time for the tails! I was excited that they came wrapped in paper. (If we're being honest here - I usually just buy pre-packaged meat instead of getting the butcher to cut it.)

The tops are pretty, but I don't like to look underneath. It freaks me out a little. Plus, the bottoms have little pokey things along the edge. Ouch!

 To prepare them for cooking, I cut a line through the middle of the top shell and pried it open. The cutting was definitely the hardest part of preparation. I did a better job with the one on the left. Then I stuck skewers through the meat near the bottom so the tails wouldn't curl while cooking.

I drizzled them with the clarified butter and wrapped them up in foil, cooking them at 400 degrees. I checked them every few minutes, waiting for the shells to begin to redden and the meat to become more opaque. Once the looked almost done, I unwrapped them and stuck them under the broiler for just a minute or two. I set the remainder of the butter on the table for dipping.

While the lobsters were cooking, I made a quick alfredo sauce and threw the pasta in to boil. 

Here's the whole spread!

I meant to take a closeup of my lobster tail, but I accidentally ate it all first. Sorry :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lime-Coconut Pound Cake


(That means I really like pound cake)

I actually don't bake as much as I mean to. I cook all the time, so you would think that I would have a dessert prepared for every meal, or at least a couple of times a week. Heaven knows I've never turned down a sweet treat. I like cookies, I like cake, I like pie, I like ice cream, I like pastry, I like marshmallows, I like chocolate, I like candy... you get the picture. Anything with sugar. 

The thing about baking, though, is that it requires alot more precision than cooking. My cooking style, as I'm sure you've gathered, is a little free-spirited. I don't like having to be glued to a recipe. I want to make things in whatever way sounds good to me.

With cakes and other things, I can't exactly do that, because I'm not well enough acquainted  with the chemistry of baking. Certain proportions work, others don't. Once you get it down, it seems easy to make up your own recipes, but at this point, I need a little boost from someone knowledgeable. 

Enter Thomas Keller.

(Sometimes, a bunch of coincidences surround me and seem to point me in the direction of something. That's happening right now. My mom sent me a book entitled "Service Included"; I made the Grapefruit Cake recipe found on Tracey's Culinary Adventures; and I heard of the famous Napa Valley restaurant French Laundry. What do they all have in common? Thomas Keller.)

I made a very successful loaf cake from Thomas Keller's recipe originally printed in Ad Hoc At Home. (Note to any family members or friends - this would make an excellent Birthday, Christmas, St Patrick's Day, Labor Day, 4th of July, or Easter gift.) I was a little suspicious about the glaring lack of butter in the recipe, but it ended up being fabulous in both taste and texture. 

So I decided to make another cake, combining Thomas Keller's genius and experience with my tropical cravings. And Voila! The Lime-Coconut Pound Cake was born. It's a pretty standard loaf cake with a yummy syrup soaked in the top and is finally crowned with a sugar glaze. I love the syrup and highly recommend making it, but some may find the texture to be a bit soggy near the crust. It doesn't bother me at all - I love cakes soaked in sweet liquids (think Tres Leches), and the outer crust stays crisp.

(Sorry there's only a picture of one slice. I may or may not have already eaten over half of the cake before I finally drug out the camera)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
The zest of 1 lime
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature (I find that 2% works fine too)
3/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon Coconut Rum, such as Malibu

1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup Coconut Rum
1/2 cup water
 2/3 cup granulated sugar

A few teaspoons of leftover syrup
A few teaspoons of milk or water
Confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9.25×5.25 inch loaf pan (or similar size).

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

In a large mixing bowl, rub the sugar and zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the eggs to the bowl with the sugar mixture and beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and the whisk leaves a trail. With the mixer running, add the milk, then the oil and finally the rum. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients, beating just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Spray a small paring knife with nonstick cooking spray, then run the knife lengthwise down the center of the batter, about 1/2-inch deep. (This helps the cake develop an even crack down the center as it bakes.) Bake for 30 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. My oven is the worst, so I ended up baking for at least an hour and a half, but I doubt that most ovens would require that much time. You're looking for a very crunchy brown edge so it'll hold together once you add the syrup on top.

While the cake is baking, make the syrup: Combine the lime juice, rum, and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then continue to simmer for 1 minute. *See note at bottom.

When you remove the cake from the oven, transfer to a wire rack (still in the loaf pan). Immediately use a skewer or toothpick to poke deep holes into the top of the cake. Spoon the syrup on slowly until it looks quite saturated. (I usually use about half of the syrup. The other half is great for making spritzers or cocktails!)

Let the cake cool for 10 minutes after you’ve added the syrup, then turn it out onto the cooling rack. (I always lose a little bit of the top of the cake during this process - it sticks to the wire! Let me know if you have any genius solutions to this.) Allow to cool to room temperature.

To make the glaze: In a small bowl, stir the confectioners’ sugar, syrup, and milk together until the glaze is smooth – it should be thick but with a pourable consistency. Drizzle it on, baby. The directions say to let the glaze set before serving, but I never can wait that long :)

Serve with ice cold milk! As Colton says, there's nothing like milk when you want milk.

Well wrapped, the cake will keep for a few days. I keep mine in the fridge - I like my cakes cold enough to give me a headache :)

*The only coconut-y thing I had in the pantry was rum. It really did turn out yummy! Next time I make it, I'm going to try soaking the cake in a mixture of cream of coconut and lime juice - I think it'll be a little more like a tropical Tres Leches. And in either case, it'd be great to have some flaked or shredded coconut on top! I'll let you know if it turns out well whenever I try that :)

Bon Appetit!


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Good Eats: My favorite splurge

 Here's the thing. Every once in awhile, you just need to eat something expensive. We have a weekly grocery budget, so I can't buy beautiful juicy steaks all the time, but every once in awhile I'll try and make cost effective meals for most of the week so I can afford to buy a beautiful marbled filet for that one special dinner. Here's my favorite splurge! Filets with mustard cream sauce, served with mashed golden potatoes and wilted greens. It's inspired by this recipe by the pioneer woman.

You'll need:
-Greens of your choice (I use a mix of chard, spinach, arugula, and something else I forget. It's called the supergreen mix by organic girl, or something like that!
-Salt and Pepper
-A few shallots
-Dijon and Grainy mustard
-Brandy, dry white wine, or whiskey
-Chicken broth
-Heavy Cream
-Topping for the potatoes (you know - butter, sour cream, milk, etc.)

Let's start with some yummy golden potatoes! I prefer golden potatoes if I'm going to mash them, because I find them to be a little more creamy and have a natural buttery taste :)

I chop them to make the boiling time quicker!

I usually stick the lid until the water boils, again, to speed things up a bit. I want these babies to be done when everything else is!

Next I start prepping the steak ingredients. If you're not familiar with shallots, I highly recommend them. I use them all the time - in pan sauces, in pad thai, on pizza - they really add a punch of flavor.

Finely chop one large or two small shallots.

 Get the best quality beef you can afford on your budget, and season on both sides generously with salt and pepper. (This recipe is also great with chicken and pork, if you're not a steak person!)

Heat up a pan with a little oil on medium high. Once it's hot, add about a tablespoon of butter. It should bubble like crazy - if it doesn't, let the pan get a little hotter before adding the steaks.

 Sear them on both sides, not moving them until time to flip.

You're looking for a nice brown crust. Remove to a plate once they're seared on both sides. (It's okay if they're not all the way done yet - you'll add them back to the pan later.)

Once the steaks are removed, add the shallots to the pan.

 Stir until they're fragrant and golden.

Add about a tablespoon each of dijon mustard and grainy mustard. Whisk or stir until smooth.

 Once the mustard is incorporated add about equal parts of pretty much any alcohol and chicken broth.

I used the last of our brandy in this instance, but I've also had great success with dry white wine,  whiskey, and cognac. So really, anything in your cabinet will probably do, as long as it's pretty dry. I wouldn't use a red, though, or anything with a cooler flavor like gin.

I think it's usually best to add more liquid than you think you need. This stuff is like gold. I always like extra so I can dunk my mashed potatoes in it! Let it simmer and reduce a little, stirring frequently.

Lower the heat a tad and add a good dose of cream.

Return the steaks to the pan along with any of their juices that may have seeped onto the plate. Allow the sauce to thicken and the steaks to finish cooking as you desire. (Don't overcook these babies, though! I like mine medium to medium rare, and I've found that if I take them out when they still look a little too raw, they turn out perfect, as they tend to cook a little more once they're removed to a plate.)

While the steaks are finishing up, strain and mash the potatoes with the yummy stuff! I use a little butter, a ton of sour cream, milk or cream for thinning, and salt and pepper for flavor. (Oops - I accidentally spilled the pepper into the pot. Don't be like me. Our potatoes were very peppery.)

Once done, plate the steaks and drizzle with the sauce, leaving a little in the pan for the greens. Add a ton of greens, because they really wilt up.

Stir until evenly wilted.

Plate up, and you're done!


Just look at that.