Thursday, December 27, 2007

Are You Hungry?

If there is anything that makes Boy happy, it's a good old ham and cheese sandwich...he's just that kind of guy. And after the crazy eating and cooking fest that has been the last few days, I was happy to be able to have this simple favorite ready and waiting for him for last nights' dinner:

And in the case of my dinner, there were a couple of lonely strips of bacon and a tomato calling to me from the fridge, begging to be turned into a nice toasty BLT:

I just hope he didn't get too full.....

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Trial Size Cooking

Back a while ago, I raved about Bombay Sliders with Garlic Curry Sauce, and ever since that first, head-over-heels-in-love taste, I've been a little bit obsessed with the idea of making them in a tiny, appetizer-sized form for party food because they pack such a darn tasty punch and are just cute as heck.

Finally, yesterday, I was able to indulge this tiny food folly of mine by bringing them to our family holiday get together:

These were roughly 1/2 scale, about two inches in diameter and just big enough for two or three bites. It took some time to assemble them all, but I think they were enough of a hit to make the labor-intensive aspect of the project absolutely worthwhile.

Now, the toughest thing about this whole deal was getting an appropriately sized bun. As written, the recipe recommends using dinner rolls for buns and that works great for a three-to-a-portion entree, but because that size seems to be about the smallest store bought kind of bun out there and is much bigger than what I had in mind, I ended up making my own buns from adventure all it's own.

I used a yeast dough recipe for hamburger buns that I found in the Gourmet cookbook, and shaped the rolls using slightly smaller than walnut-sized pieces of dough. After rising, I egg washed them and sprinkled with sesame and poppy seeds which, if you ask me, totally put them over the top on the cute meter.

Technically, although I do have a little bit of experience working with yeast doughs, this was the first time I'd made buns of any kind and I found it tricky to guess what size to make the dough balls so that I'd end up with an appropriately sized product after rising and baking. As a result, while still delicious and fun to look at, the finished product came out somewhat larger than the one big bite kind of thing that I had originally been aiming for. But now that I've got a handle on the bun-making I expect it will be more of an exact science next time and I think I'll have better luck getting a truly tiny, single bite-sized thing.
Anyway, the rest of the mini-making was fairly straightforward. Using the buns as a size guide, I portioned the burger patties using a #40 ice cream scoop (#40 means 40 scoops to a quart). A melon baller would probably work fine too.
For the topping veggies, I chose the skinniest European cucumber I could find, tomatoes that were like a jumbo cherry variety and the smallest yellow onions I could cull from a two pound bag and sliced everything thinly.
Because this is the kind of thing that's just as tasty at room temp as it is hot (another reason it's perfect party food), I cooked the burger patties off ahead of time and then just warmed them up a bit in the microwave prior to assembling.

I speared each of the finished burgers with a toothpick and piled them up pyramid-style on a cake plate for serving.

I'll take some mini fries with that, please!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Holey Fingers

Despite the fact that I decided to be just a passive observer of the holiday antics this year, time has still managed to get away from me and suddenly, the week is gone and with nary a single post.

Anyway, one of my few concessions to the holiday madness was to concoct a gift for my dear pal Knit-Whit:

Know me long enough, and you're bound to get a stocking with your name on it... it's a basic truth of my world.
This one, which I know will meet a much friendlier end than the one I once made for the toaster boyfriend that ended up ruined because he left the orange in the toe to rot for a month, is really a reflection of the materials of my moment and things I know she loves, that being felted wool, leather and happy, colorful fabrics.

I could have gone on and on with the needle felted embellishments, but a girl can only stand so many holes in her fingers from wickedly sharp, barbed objects. Note to self: embellish first, sew together second. And hopefully she can forgive my less than perfect applique. It was my first try ever, and I think I started to get the hang of it on about letter "I"

Just wait till I show you the deliciousness she gave me! You will wither with jealousy!

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Saturday, December 15, 2007


Excellent article in the NYT, Handmade 2.0 about Etsy and the whole DIY/craft revolution. I guess I'm a sleeper or something, but prior to like, well....JUST NOW, I never really associated DIY and crafting as being in the same category.

I'm also putting the finishing touches on a rather lazy Saturday and devouring Judith Jones' book The Tenth Muse: My Life In Food.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fun with Felting

I have been wanting to play around with needle felting for just about ever. Or at least ever since I became fascinated with felting which I think was about age eight, following my discovery of that amazing sweatery deliciousness that is the boiled wool jacket. And really, I think the idea of felting hand knit stuff was one of the reasons I got so into knitting, with the Fiber Trends felted clogs being one of my first ever projects.
I finally got around to picking up some felting needles and promptly tracked down my bag of roving and got to work poking my first victim. I mean project. It's this cute little turquoise felted wool MOOPocket I've had laying around. It was naked for a while, and while cute in that form, it just seemed to be begging for something else:

I went for these little colored bumps because I was trying to coordinate it with the lining fabric, but I can think of about eighty bajillion other design possibilities that would be fun for a MOOPocket-sized canvas...
If you haven't tried it, let me be the first to warn you that this is an addicting little craft, needle felting. It seems pretty easy to get the hang of and doesn't require anything expensive to have a lot of fun with. Plus it's portable which is always nice in my world.
It's sort of like being able to paint with wool, but like sculpture, too, since it can be 3D. Talk about pushing all my crafty buttons at once!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Still No Pretty

I guess I'm on an ugly food kick somehow. Blame it on the short days and my lack of exposure to sunlight up here in the north.
Anyway, you can totally blame Mariko over at Super Eggplant for this one. It's Gingerbread Pudding Cake, and it's one of the most bizarre recipes I've had the pleasure of throwing together in a long, long time. Delicious, in a soggy, broken up chewy molasses cookie kind of way, and definitely NOT pretty:

But that's OK, because it spent all of about two minutes in the dish before hitting my stomach. Even Boy, the highly predictable mushy-dessert-disliker liked it, so that's saying something. Of course the big plop of organic whipped cream on top helped, too.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More Less than Beautiful Cooking

I'm just through enjoying a delicious yet not very pretty bowl of homemade French Onion Soup

It's one of my favorite things, and today is the kind of day that just screams for a nice hot, cheesy, bready bowl full. It's simple yet hearty and deeply satisfying and if I had a lick of sense, I'd make it more often and keep a stash in my fridge or freezer, because I just can't imagine a time when I wouldn't love sitting down some.
I used what I thought was a recipe from Saveur magazine, but now that I've compared my copy to the version I found here, it's not quite the same. My recipe was without the bouquet garni and the garlic, and I caramelized my onions on the stovetop. But whatever recipe you choose, the absolute MOST IMPORTANT thing is to caramelize the bejeezes out of the onions. So put on your patience cap and strap it down tight, because you want the deep dark color of an old penny on those babies and getting there requires going low and slow and that's going to take a while. But anything lighter than that deep dark color and you'll be missing out on flavor, and there's nothing more tragic than a the promise of what may have been when it comes to onion soup.

The other major keys, IMO, are to use a great stock and good white wine and cognac. Or just a good white wine if that's all you've got on hand because you've used up all your cognac making beef stroganoff. Who, me?
Now, I'll confess that I didn't make my stock from scratch, but part of the point of this particular onion soup adventure was to try a new to me kind of stock concentrate that I picked up at the grocery store the other day. Honestly, I didn't have very high hopes since ready made stocks, and ready made beef stocks in particular are horrible more often that not. But this one, called Savory Choice, ended up to be pretty darn good...a rather happy accident, really. It came in a little box full of tubes of liquid concentrate that each made a cup of stock but I've also seen it in non-concentrate, broth form at places like Costco. I have no idea if it would be the same or not but based on this experience I'd say it's worth a try. (Under no circumstances should you attempt onion soup with Swanson broth. Trust me, the results will be inedible.) Anyway, use a stock concentrate or demiglace you can trust or make your own, because again, with such simple ingredients, there is no love for things that aren't independently delicious.
So my other confession is that I could have caramelized the onions a bit longer. I guess I didn't have my patience cap on tight enough, but I know you'll do better!

Now go make onion soup! It might even make you thankful for winter.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ugly Food

Quite possibly the ugliest thing to come out of my oven, ever, but tasty none the less:
Spinach Mushroom Calzone, with some Italian sausage thrown in just because I love it.

Recently, reader Sandi requested my recipe for one of our holiday favorites, sausage bread, and in the process of getting that typed up and emailed, I worked up a severe hankering for something in the stuffed, baked dough category. So this quick and easy dinner was inspired by her and by a blob of pizza dough that had been languishing in my freezer for what was evidently a bit too long. Hence the ugly. Not Sandi, the calzone.
Anyway, for ages and ages, deep-dish spinach mushroom pizza has been one of my house specialties but sadly it's fallen out of favor in the last decade because Boy is such a steadfast mushroom hater (blasphemy, I know) . So the whole calzone thing is a bit of a compromise, but because they're smaller, that instead of a pizza means I can make a his (pepperoni and pineapple if you must know) and a hers version and still be able to bake them all at once on one baking stone.
And I just have to say that I'm over trying to freeze home made pizza dough, frankly, and from now on I'm just going to have to throw off the lazies and force myself to make some fresh whenever I'm hungry for pizza-doughy delights because it's never as good after it's been frozen. And being the kind of girl that takes pride in her baked goods, having to show you this kind of ugliness is hard on the ego. But it's better than no bloggage and no dinner, right?

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