Sunday, December 27, 2009

Comfort and Joy

We noticed this chair, looking out over the birds and seals in Bolinas Lagoon, on our walk around the lagoon while spending a few days with our family at Stinson Beach, our regular holiday ritual. In the car ride home, my sons were talking about their grandparents, how interesting and funny and kind they were. I loved hearing how much spending time with their grandparents means to them.
Of course there was also good eating, another holiday ritual. We had Steven's luxurious barbecued prime rib with roasted vegetables for Christmas dinner. I made fresh ginger cake and Meyer lemon ice cream for dessert.
My favorite concoction was my brother-in-law Mark's lunch plate with leftovers the next day.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Baker Guy

My younger son produced these yesterday, with minimal input from me. He has been wanting to bake these since we got our Christmas tree last week. I think gingerbread people are part of his Christmas ritual, so I'm glad he knows how to bake them now.
I told my boys that this vacation I want some more participation in meal preparation, ideally for them to choose a dish they like and cook it for dinner (with me as helper if they want). To my surprise they agreed with no complaints. The older one said he wants to cook Pinchos Morunos, a favorite from Spain that we recently found a recipe for. It's chunks of pork loin marinated in paprika and spices and broiled. The younger one wanted to know if baking TWO batches of gingerbread people would count as a meal. I said no.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

More Procrastination, I Confess...

Actually, I'm in pretty good shape. I wrote out all my responses to the essay questions for Second Language Acquisition and now I just have to pull out key phrases, reduce them to 6 pt. type and print them out on the 3x5 index card I'm allowed for the final on Monday. This trick is new trick to me. When I was in college, I had to hand write my index card notes, since I didn't use a computer while in college. That really dates me. As for my Chinese final, well...there seems to be a finite number of Chinese characters I can keep in my memory at any given time. Or maybe it's about access...I know the ones I learned a month ago are in there somewhere but dredging them up is the problem. Anyway, these madeleines seemed the perfect antidote to a gray, rainy day.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Since I'm Procrastinating, I Might As Well Bake!

I'm supposed to be studying for my Chinese and Second Language Acquisition finals, but I was suddenly seized with a longing to bake bread. I know at least one other person who does this form of procrastination (and she managed to finish a PhD, so it can't be all bad!). My baked good of choice was whole wheat bread, specifically King Arthur Flour's No-Knead 100% Whole Wheat Bread. This is a nice website with lots of recipes; I've made their pizza dough and now this bread. The bread is very very easy to make and the only kneading you do is 3 minutes in the mixer. (I don't have a stand mixer so I used my electric mixer and it really put it to the limit. Next time I will try the food processor with the dough blade.) I love sites like this with user comments, so I can see what worked for other people and what didn't or whether to even bother. Thanks to the comments I let the dough rise a lot longer than recommended. I let it rise for 1 hour at room temperature, then 6 hours in the fridge, then another hour at room temperature. Next time I will try overnight in the fridge, which several bakers said gave it a richer flavor. I had to bake it for a total of 55 minutes, which is 10 minutes longer than recommended (since it was still cool from the fridge).
The flavor: Excellent toasted with cheese, divine toasted with butter and honey. We ate the whole loaf in less than 24 hours. My youngest son--the one who likes to cook--came into my office that night and wanted to bake another loaf right then and there! He doesn't really know about yeast bread and rising, so now's the time to teach him. We were out of white whole wheat flour (this gives the bread a lighter texture than regular whole wheat flour) so I managed to stave him off till later this week. Now I've procrastinated some more by writing my blog. Back to studying.
(Addition, Thursday Dec. 10: My son baked this bread, and we left it overnight in the fridge for about 14 hours and then 1 hour at room temp. before baking. The texture was better this time and the mixing went better with the food processor. We like the molasses sweetener best.)

I just had to add this photo of the BLT sandwich I made from our second loaf of this bread. It was really really good.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Green Soup with Ginger

I got the idea for this soup from Heidi Swanson's great cooking blog, 101 Cookbooks, featuring vegetarian recipes using whole foods. I have cooked several recipes from her blog, all great! She has also written a cookbook, Super Natural Cooking, that I think I'm going to have to buy even though my cookbook shelf has already overflowed to the shelf below. I made a number of changes in her soup, which was originally from a cookbook called Love Soup by Anna Thomas. (I love how recipes travel through kitchens and mutate.) The version on her blog has sweet potato and chard, which also sounds wonderful; I just was trying to maybe please my teenagers, who interrogate me about the ingredients of any new dish and would mostly rather I cooked the same recipes the same way every time. So I made it more like a leek and potato soup, which they love, except with spinach and ginger. I loved the green spinach and fresh ginger flavor and so did my husband and one of our teens. The older one prefers my usual leek and potato soup (no surprise). Here's the soup:

Green Soup with Ginger
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1-1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 lb. yellow potatoes (about 3 med.), peeled and diced
1 leek, washed and sliced (white and light green parts only)
1 bunch spinach, washed and chopped
3 Tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 cups vegetable broth, made with Rapunzel bouillon cube (see Note)
2-4 tsp. fresh lemon juice
ground pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. heavy cream (optional)

Saute the onion in the olive oil on low heat, sprinkling with a little salt, until it is soft and starting to brown, approx. half an hour. Meanwhile, put the potato in 4 cups of cold water in a soup pot and add 1 teaspoon salt. Add leek and ginger to the pot, and bring to a boil. Add sauteed onions when they are ready. Simmer for approx. 20 minutes, then add the spinach and simmer until vegetables are tender (another 5-10 minutes). Let soup cool for a few minutes, then puree in a food processor or blender. (Can also leave chunky.) Return to the pot and add lemon juice, pepper, and more salt to taste. Reheat slowly and swirl in the cream, if desired.

Note: Usually I make soup with chicken broth, homemade when possible. But it seemed like the charm of this soup would be in the vegetable flavors, so I honored Heidi's version and used vegetable broth made with the Rapunzel cube that Heidi recommended. I have to say, the broth made from the cube was very good.