Sunday, May 1, 2011

Granola, Rick Bayless, and Wine Country

Maybe it's the new spring weather that has inspired me...or maybe it sounds better to me to blog than do work...or perhaps I don't feel like tackling what is perhaps the largest laundry pile in Gaebler history.  Regardless of the reason, I'm finally finding the time for a new post after quite a hiatus!  Lots of winey-glittery-cheesy things have happened in the last few months, but here are a couple of highlights:

Phil and I went to a chocolate gala event (one of his volleyball teammates scored us a discount ticket) this winter.  As if a night devoted to gourmet food, chocolaty goodness, and unlimited cocktails wasn't exciting enough...I also got to meet Rick Bayless!  THE Rick Bayless!  Ok, so I know that it is extremely geeky that I am that excited about meeting a PBS cooking show celebrity, but it's true.  Here's me stealing a quick photo before he ran out the door:

I also have a great granola recipe that I have been tweaking for the last few months. Cherry almond, but honestly, you could make any kind.  Or if you're in the mood for a sweet granola that is particularly good on vanilla ice cream, this Martha recipe turned out great.  It was in the April 2011 Everyday Food, but this blogger posted it: Banana hazelnut granola.  I added some semi-sweet Belgian chocolate chips that we received in our chocolate gala goodie bag and they really made it fantastic. I usually poo poo Martha recipes because they generally require some extremely expensive imported essence of something or other, but this was an easy, tasty dessert granola.  However, I think "my" cherry almond granola recipe (adapted from a recipe I found online somewhere a million years ago) is pretty rad with Greek yogurt, fruit, and honey:

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup chopped dried cherries
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 Tbsp flavorless oil (I use canola)
1 Tbsp water

Heat oven to 275 degrees.  Coat a 9x13 pan with cooking spray (or just use parchment paper or a Silpat instead).  Mix all of the dry ingredients except the fruit in a bowl.  Then add the wet ingredients and combine (I just pour them right in rather than mixing them together first in a separate bowl and it seems to work out fine).  Stir to combine (still leave out those cherries!).  Pour the whole pile onto the pan and spread evenly.  Then, working across the pan, make small little clumps of mixture (just pinch it together- this is not an exact science, it just makes it so that you have big clumps at the end instead of individual bits of oats).  Bake for 30 minutes.  Then sprinkle the dried cherries on top (and kind of mix them in if you can without burning yourself- I'm usually not very successful at mixing them in and it turns out fine) and bake for another 15 minutes.  Cool completely and store in an airtight container- it stays tasty for 2 weeks.

Other highlights:  Phil and I took a vegetarian French cooking class (affordable thanks to Groupon).  This pic shows the over sized, super-powered immersion blender they use (makes ours look downright wimpy!):

Went to wine country, visited several wineries, and joined a wine club at Peterson (we should be getting our May shipment soon!)

Ate at Chez Panisse (and yes, it lived up to the hype).  Here we are:

And this was the menu that evening.  I don't think I'll be eating cardoon and miner's lettuce again soon, but it was interesting to try:

And found the best winter salad recipe on Earth (Giada DeLaurentis).  Basically arugula, roasted beets, avocado, goat cheese, walnuts, and dried cherries. Tossed with a shallot balsamic vinaigrette.  It has made several appearances at dinners this season.   Most notably, out in San Francisco at our friend Kat's house:

Coming up...morel hunting (hopefully!), leopard print toenails, and a recycled spoon cup holder from this month's issue of ReadyMade.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Waffles, carrot cake, and a not-ugly car trash bag

What a wonderfully lazy Sunday so far.  We started the day off with some tasty breakfast, including a gorgeous bloody mary (compliments of Phil, who of course managed to make even a vegetable-based drink involve sausage):

Breakfast itself was good, but not as fabulous as yesterday's, so I'm posting our Saturday morning waffles with blueberry compote and ice cream instead.  Drool away:

I decided to get over my crafting slump today and take on one of the projects in my One Yard Wonders book that I purchased a few months ago.  I am definitely inexperienced when it comes to sewing, but it's a skill that I have been interested in developing for awhile now.  So today I took a stab at the "Not-Ugly Car Trash Bag" and I'd say that it actually turned out pretty awesome.  Not very showy, but I think it will do the trick for taking care of the inevitable car clutter.  And I'm just proud of myself for completing a craft project.  I can definitely use a little more practice in the sewing skills area, but I feel like I learned a fair amount from this project, including how to make bias tape (not as hard as I thought), finish corners (so that they actually look like corners and not disfigured round messes), and sorta how to sew a box stitch (still working on that one...good thing this is supposed to be a garbage bag anyway):

Finally, I wanted to post the carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (from The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook) that I made for Halloween.  Sadly, I don't have a picture, so you'll just have to make it yourself to see what it looks like!

Carrot Sheet Cake (or cupcakes)
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch nutmeg (I added this)
1 C sugar
1/4 C grated carrot
2/3 C vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 8oz can crushed pineapple, drained

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
1/2 C butter, softened
About 1 1/2 C powdered sugar (the recipe called for 2 C, but that was too sweet in my opinion- you may need to taste a lot of this while you're making know, just to be sure it's good...)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all of the dry ingredients (I sifted the second time I made this because I found clumps of baking soda the first time- yuck!) in a large bowl.  Combine all of the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl, then add to the dry and beat a medium speed with an electric mixer for 2 minutes.  Pour into greased (or lined) cupcake pans and bake at 350 for about 15 to 18 minutes (it took 18 in my oven).  Cool on a wire rack.  While it's baking, beat the cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.   Slowly add the powdered sugar, beating at a low speed until light and fluffy.  Stir in vanilla at the end.  Frost the cupcakes when cool.  Eat until you are sick.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

If anything will inspire me to blog again, it's a fantastic meal...

So it's been ages since I've blogged and I have tons of excuses (dissertation non-procrastination, blah blah blah), but I'll spare my two readers those ramblings and cut to the chase.  I had one of the top five best meals ever this weekend at Brown Trout.  Right up there with homemade black & white pasta with clams sitting next to the ocean in Cinque Terre. Yep, it was that tasty. We started with drinks at the bar while we waited (a LONG time, despite having a reservation).  Although I usually am pretty impatient when it comes to waiting for food (Phil describes this state as "hangry"- so hungry that I get angry), my nerves were calmed with one of the most amazing mixed drinks I've ever had.  Now I'm not a mixed drink kind of girl, but the Cherry Falls (Hendrick's gin, muddled amarena cherries with sage, and a splash of soda water) was delicious- not too sweet and totally refreshing while sitting in the toasty seats by the kitchen. Once we were seated, we devoured steamed mussels cooked to perfection with white wine, garlic, and butter.  We didn't want to miss out on the truffle and wild mushroom risotto that our buddy the bartender recommended, so we went ahead and ordered some of that too while we were at it (that Cherry Falls really loosened my grip on the ol' wallet- maybe that's why they make you wait so long).  It was delicious and paired perfectly with a rather affordable wine that I plan to hunt down at Binny's, a crisp, dry white from Chateau La Freynelle that is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle.  Otherwise known as delicious and I'll kick you if you say it isn't.  For our main entrees, I had walleye cooked to perfection with a buerre blanc sauce and roasted veggies (including jerusalem artichoke, an overlooked but delicious veg!).  Phil had a smoky piece of steelhead with what he described as "the best beans ever," which I take direct offense at because I thought my beans were "the best beans ever."  But I digress. So overall...awesome food, awesome waitstaff, awesome philosophy regarding sustainable food.  Just awesome.  We'll be back.

On the home cooking front, we've made some pretty tasty stuff in the last two months. One example was tonight's feast (Braised Chicken with Dates), featured below (not the best pic, but trust me, it was awesome):

This was an Everyday Food recipe from Martha's PBS show.  Damnit, Martha, how are you always so good at everything?  This was really delicious- it's the first time I've cooked with medjool dates.  They don't specify that type of date in the written recipe, but it was recommended on the show.  Use them.  They have sort-of a slightly sweet roasted onion quality to them that adds a lot to the sauce.  Phil cooked up some fresh chard with olive oil, garlic, and lemon that paired perfectly with the chicken sauce.  We had a cheap, jammy cabernet with it that complimented it surprisingly well.  One day I'll blog about my love of Tisdale, the world's cheapest wine that for some reason I still kinda like, despite no longer being grad school poor.  Maybe it's nostalgic, or maybe I permanently ruined my taste buds during my many years of cheap wine drinking. 

As I'm sitting hear, my mind is spinning with all of the blog posts that I could have made over the last two months.  I'll try to do a little review of some of those topics this week, or at least hit the highlights- a pretty darn good carrot cake recipe I found, some tasty casual pub food in our neighborhood, and some amazing crafty pieces I found at the Renegade Craft Fair (now that it's almost time for the Holiday Renegade Craft Fair). 

Zero to report on the crafting front. I stink.  But hopefully that will change this week.  To be continued...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Late night mocha + new craft book = unlimited POWER!

Sometimes I wonder about decisions I make.  Tonight I bought a new travel mug at a local coffee shop while out at the Thursday night farmer's market in our neighborhood.  Now this was a very practical decision because 1) I like to bring my own coffee in the morning and 2) my old travel mug permanently tastes comment. However, a less than prudent decision was to say "yes, please!" to the offer of a free large mocha in my new travel mug.  At 7:45 pm. On a work night.  Despite the fact that I will likely have a rough wake-up involving more caffeine, I don't regret my delicious mocha or my new favorite craft book purchase made while still on said mocha high: One-Yard Wonders by Rebecca Yaker & Patricia Hoskins.

Among other projects, I'm particularly excited about making a cover for the hideous 2-drawer file cabinet up-for-grabs at work.  I'm not sure it will go with the semi-professional theme I was attempting for my office, but then again, neither does a shnasty file cabinet!

In other news, we found a tasty (and CHEAP!) sushi place in the neighborhood last week called Rolls 'n' Bowls.  Extremely fresh fish, nice family-run establishment, and just overall great rolls.  Plus it's BYOB with no corkage fee.  Although it lacks date-night ambiance, it's the perfect spot for weeknight sushi cravings. I'm hesitant to write a Yelp review because I don't want anyone else to find this place.

Pretty fancy presentation for the price:

And completely unrelated to anything else on this post (blame it on the mocha high)...I just couldn't resist posting a pic of Ivy in her ridiculously cute and sleepy state:

Maybe that will motivate me to put down my book and head to bed...nah.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Crafting When You Least Expect It

This past weekend we went to see Buffet at Toyota Park.  Despite the crazy heat (it didn't help that we were sitting in a parking lot), we had a great time tailgating beforehand.  Our friend Christy was nice enough to handle all of the decorating and preparation- including a kiddie pool, sand, tent, grill, food, beer, and...the essential $0.99 full-assembly-required-glow-in-the-dark lei.  There's nothing better than doing a "craft" at a Buffet concert, although I had a bit of trouble with it at first. I seemed to be missing a few connectors (go ahead...make a joke):
 While Christy had no trouble at all and got it right the first time:
After a little searching, the connectors were finally found and we had a great night.  As cheesy as Jimmy Buffet is, there's just something about him that makes you want to relax, spend time with friends, and just enjoy the little things.  Although I think I might have an easier time doing that more often if I lived in now when are we moving to Key West? Maui?  Anywhere that doesn't turn to ice in a few months?  I can dream I guess...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A brief stroll through the Enchanted Broccoli Forest

I was looking through my cookbooks the other day and happened upon an oldy but goody, Mollie Katzen's Enchanted Broccoli Forest.  I haven't made a recipe from it in ages, so I decided to choose a few to pilot this week.  Last night we had an Indian-themed menu from the book, including her Indian Pulao, Potato/Panir/Pea Curry, Raita, and Parsley-Mint Chutney. Two hours after embarking on this adventure (thankfully my brother and our friend Coors Light were on hand to keep me company), we had plates of steaming Indian-ish food.  I would definitely make the Indian Pulao again, but I think I have a better raita recipe somewhere.  Although pretty spicy, the chutney was really good.  The curry was also tasty, but let's just say that no picture was taken for aesthetic reasons (i.e., substituting tofu crumbles for panir and black sesame seeds for regular sesame seeds resulted in a less-than-appetizing color).  Nevertheless, behold the beautiful pot of Pulao:

Indian Pulao (adapted from Mollie Katzen's Enchanted Broccoli Forest)
1 to 2 Tbsp butter or canola oil                            3 to 4 Tbsp water (as needed)
1 C chopped onion                                              2 diced carrots (or sliced like I did)
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger                                  2 minced garlic cloves
3/4 tsp salt                                                           1 diced medium green bell pepper
1 tsp mustard seeds                                             1/2 C raisins
1tsp turmeric                                                         6 C cooked basmati rice (I was bad & used white)
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground fennel seed (optional- I used it)
* She also adds 1 C chopped nuts and 1 C toasted unsweetened coconut to the top at the end, but I didn't have any. But I bet it would be good...

How to Make It:
- Cook 2 cups of rice in 3 cups of water (about 15 minutes for white basmati).
- Melt butter in a large dutch oven or pot (I love my Le Creuset rip-off).  Add onion, ginger, salt, and spices and saute for a few minutes until the onions are soft.  I added a little water during this so it would not burn and turned it down to medium-low.
- Add carrots and garlic. Stir and cover for a few more minutes (about 5).  Then add the bell pepper and do the same (another 5-ish minutes).
- Add the raisins and rice, mix it up, and let it cook a little longer on very low heat until all the flavors meld together.
- Put some raita and chutney on top and eat it.  Mmmmm....

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

If you want to feel like a rockstar, buy some flowers from the farmer's market...

I started my day off with a cup of coffee and walked to the Tuesday morning farmer's market in search of some tasty additions for dinners this week and flowers to freshen up the table.  So today's creative effort was to arrange these beauties in some kind of rustic-looking fashion.  The beauty of farmer's market flowers is that, honestly, flower arranging skills aren't necessary because they are so great just on their own.  Rambler loved them so much that she shoved herself into the picture too:

Plus there were enough for an extra mini-arrangement for the living room:

So the rockstar piece comes from the walk home.  If you're feeling a bit invisible lately, go buy some flowers from the market and walk home with them.  I guarantee tons of comments.  Sure, they'll be about your flowers, but it feels good anyway. And you get the added benefit of knowing you supported a local farmer.