Sunday, October 24, 2010


Finally - I managed to try a biscotti recipe!  
It wasn't that it was difficult and/or time consuming... I just kept getting distracted.  
However, Scott's step-sister was in town for a few days on a whirlwind visit, and she just LOOOOOVES pumpkin, so I thought I would try - what else? - a pumpkin biscotti to take her when we met for breakfast.
Now, I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin anything, so I wanted to find a recipe that I might fancy as well, in the hopes that I found it so toothsome I would have a reason to use the rest of the pumpkin (yes, I bought a can of pumpkin instead of buying one to use for such purposes; I have a 23-month-old, so that would be too lofty of a goal this year) for anything other than an additive in the dog's dinner bowl (pumpkin and sweet potatoes are very good for dogs).
Enter pumpkin-chocolate conjoined biscotti.  This side by side recipe had such a pretty look, and, c'mon - the other half is chocolate!
I made only few modifications to this recipe; I added cinnamon and nutmeg to the pumpkin half, as I feel that one needs to have these two spices in order to have a "proper" pumpkin taste in the mouth.  Additionally, I used dark cocoa powder instead of.... "regular."
It was insanely easy to mix, although I had to add far more than a "drop" of milk to the chocolate batter in order for it to be wet enough (I'd wager that it was about 1/4 cup, although you know I hate to measure anything unless I am trying to follow a recipe).
As easy as it was, once the "log" was lined up on the baking sheet and popped into the oven, I fretted for the first round of baking - what if I made the "log" too flat?  what if it wasn't sweet enough? what if, what if, what if?
However, after the timer went off, I was pleased with how things had gone so far:

Biscotti has to be baked twice (just in case you didn't know).  Thus, I duly followed the directions, waiting a half hour before slicing and placing "cut side down" (if you slice the "log," aren't BOTH sides, then, the "cut side"?) on the baking sheets to go another - and, fortunately for my patience, quicker - round in the oven.
Yet my fears had not been quelled.  I tried one of the end pieces, and while deemed OK and edible, they weren't sweet enough to my liking.
Thank goodness for Google, right?
I found a good pumpkin glaze recipe that I was able to whip up very quickly as soon as cookie sheet #1 came out of the oven.  While still cooling, the biscottis were slathered, pumpkin end only, in the glaze, in order to sweeten up and add to the pumpkin-ness of the treat.

End result - not bad.  I think adding THAT much dark cocoa powder requires a little more sugar, as it was a touch bitter.  But the texture was quite nice; the biscottis were still soft enough, having come from the oven only shortly before being set on the table.  Tomorrow, they will likely be harder and more akin to the whole "cookie to be dunked in morning coffee/tea" idea that is a true biscotti.  But I gave them all away, so I guess I'll never know.  Unless I make them again.

Friday, October 22, 2010

No Leftover Left Behind

I'm really trying not to have leftovers.  I am the only one in the house who likes them, but after a day or so, even I get sick of them.  I hate the notion of throwing something out.  ESPECIALLY when I have paid good money for it.
Thus, tonight we had "What the Heck Can I Put Together Fast and Still Make it Taste Kinda Good, and How Many Veggies Can I Possible Fit Into It?" Night.
First problem: the radishes.  What do I do with them?  They weren't very good in that salad last night, and I don't really want to go that whole "throw on top of something or next to something" route.  
Hold on a sec - they are root vegetables.  I can roast them, can't I?
Yes, yes I can.  
What else can I roast?
Yum.  OK, what else?
There are onions and apple in the fridge (partly used and/or eaten on).
Toss with a little olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper - pop in the oven at 350 or so.  Great!  What's next.

Ummmm....well, there are a few mushrooms left, and we really need to use up that bag of arugula.
Good idea!
(rustling around in the crisper)
Oh crud - these green black eyed peas are just about done.
OK, boil them, drain, and then saute in a little oil (OK, OK - I used bacon drippings this time, but I should have used olive oil again).
I'll start with a little more onion, some garlic.... those mushrooms... throw in the green black eyed peas.... turn off the heat... wilt the arugula... done!

I'm not messy; I'm creative.
The end result - not bad!  The hot salad needed a little kosher salt, but the onions actually fried up nice and crunchy, which was a very nice textural addition.
But what about the radishes?  They were very nice!  The spiciness that I mentioned in my last post was gone, replaced with an earthiness that exposed its root vegetable-ness once and for all. It was sweeter than a potato, but not as sweet as a carrot.  Mixed with the potatoes, apples, and onion, it was definitely a hash that I would do again.  Hopefully we'll get more radishes this weekend!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Even after the stir-fry this weekend, we still had not used all of the mizuna that was in our CSA.  We also got Easter egg radishes, and I have to confess that I cannot think of ANY way to use them that does not call for making them into little roses for people to look at as they eat the other veggies on the plate.

So I was pretty excited to come across a mizuna-soba salad recipe, as it called for not only the leafy mustard green but also some radish.
Now, if you have never eaten a radish, it's a difficult taste to describe.  Texture makes a huge difference here.  They are kind of spicy, but not like a chile spicy.  The texture, to me, is like biting into a very fresh  nashi - crispy yet airy flesh.  The heat is gone almost as quickly as you realize that there is a zing to the radish.  And I have to say, they are very enjoyable to slice when using a santoku (my favorite knife).
I had hoped to make it last night, but the chaos of getting everyone to bed and trying to get a three-mile run in made it a no-go.  I had, however, already made the dressing, so while the DH made a Costco run, I thought I could have that for dinner.
The first few bites were awesome - the earthiness of the mizuna mixed really well with the slightly spicy radish, the saltiness of the soy sauce, the sweetness of the carrot, the chewiness of the soba noodles, and that hint of sesame oil.
But that was it - just the first few bites.  After that, the flavors were almost too much together and at the same time not enough.  I found myself working really hard to eat another mouthful, even though I was really, really, REALLY hungry.
Of course, that may have been the problem.  I gave blood on Saturday, and since then I have wanted very hearty items and have had a yen for beef.  I've already had it twice this week (thank goodness I live in Arizona, with great machaca), but I guess that hasn't been enough for my depleted iron stores.
Yes, I know - being a dark, leafy green, the mizuna is chock-full of iron, as well as other amazing vitamins and minerals, all working together in ways I can't fathom.  But maybe it just wasn't hearty enough for me, as I dream of a gut bomb burger.
On a more positive note, the squash apple soup turned out well, if a little too sweet.  I enjoyed it with the last little bit of my pain complet, toasted and covered in cheese.  This month's Vegetarian Times has a squash-apple-leek recipe that calls for a little crème fraiche, which I think might balance out the sweetness a bit more.  I may have to try it, especially if we get more butternut squash.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Oh, Crêpe!

Sigh.... we're out of bacon again, so this morning, the hubby made crêpes, filled with Swiss cheese, mushrooms, broccoli, and eggs.  They were super nom-worthy.  We tend to have sweet fillings more than savory, but A) I think I ate all the jam and B) the broccoli needed to be used more than the Nutella.

Our CSA delivered more mizuna this week, so I adapted a chicken and mizuna stir fry recipe that I found on the Whole Foods website (I don't shop there for various reasons, but I'll happily steal their recipes).  
I used what we had on hand - a yellow onion instead of scallions, more soy sauce instead of rice wine, etc.  It was pretty tasty and definitely tinker-worthy (definitely should have put in the chile paste, but forgot, and I think this would be good with any protein - pork, beef, tofu, even shrimp).  I thought the new tablecloth and placements (that the cat is currently trying to cover with fur) were cause for celebration, so I pulled out the chopsticks instead of slumming it, as per usual, with the forks.

Finally, I used our acorn squash and a few honeycrips from the supermarket (um, so, I did NOT know that in Arizona, when one grows apples, the harvest time is actually NOT the fall but the summer, so sadly, there are no apple orchards to peruse through right now.... total bummer to this pacific northwest girl) to make an acorn squash apple soup.  I had to do this tonight because HRH has decided that she is big enough now to eat a whole apple rather than the slices we offer her in her high chair, so when she saw the apples, I knew I had to act quickly before they were all gone.  

We're not having this until tomorrow, but I already stole a taste, and I was delighted with it, especially as one of the spices used was curry, and I tend to classify that right up there with basil.  I feel like by eating this soup, I'm growing in my gastronomic comfort zone.
Now, the recipe says that it's even better the next day, which is common in soups, so I can't wait for tomorrow's dinner already!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pain Complet Me

I have created.... BREAD.
Don't laugh; yeast is a fickle mistress, and I admit that it has reduced to me to tears more than once when things went... well, agley.
But this weekend (OK, so Monday isn't really a weekend - whatever - when the hubby has a three-day weekend, it's the weekend) I was determined to attempt a pain complet - basically, French bread.  I had looked for a recipe that utilized at least some whole wheat flour, and I am pretty happy with the way this turned out... next time, I'll use the filtered water and let the dough rise a little longer.  The tap water in AZ is perfectly fine, but it's laden with a lot of minerals, so the end result, while delicious, was a tad bit dense.

It's alive!!!!!!!

Ready to hit the heat
I glazed the top with a beaten egg; since we get our eggs from one of Scott's co-workers, the yolks are extremely yellow - hence the yellow hue here.

Just out!
Like any first time mother, I am so proud.

And... devoured
I am so pleased with the whole wheat flour; while the all purpose flour has that silky texture (I mixed and kneaded this bad boy by hand), the whole wheat flour had a lovely nuttiness that came through so nicely.   And yes, it was a touch dense, but I do like being able to bite into a bread that resists me oh so slightly, so I am looking forward to trying this again with the filtered water to see how it lightens things up - but not too much!

P.S. - The loaf is already half gone; we ate the rest for dinner.  Vive le pain!  Vive le vin!  Vive le repas!!!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Weekend at Bergie's (PUN WIN!!!!)

This was a weekend that might have been right for gluttonous moments, but I had to be strong and hold myself in check.  So far, so good, but we still haven't had dinner, so the weekend is not over yet.
On Saturday morning, I headed to Bergie's and picked up a great mix of veggies from our CSA, which included mizuna, a Japanese variety of mustard greens, as well as arugula, potatoes, an onion, garlic, okra, green black-eyed pease, some tiny little eggplants, and yet more basil.  Then, I was off to meet a friend for brunch at Wildflower Bread Company.  I love love LOVE this place, so I was so excited to go.  
One great aspect of Wildflower is that it has a company policy of giving back; each night, any un-purchased bread and bakery items to shelters throughout the state of Arizona.  It is also partnered with Share Our Strength, an organization devoted to ending childhood hunger (you may have heard about the Great American Bake Sale, one of this organization's many projects).  
This month, Wildflower featured Cupcakes for the Cure.  For each of these cupcakes sold, $1.00 is donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.  
Purchasing one of these cupcakes was actually two-fold for me.  First of all, I got to enjoy a delicious cupcake (and oh, was it delicious - I was going to take a picture of it, but I dug right in, so all you get in the pic below is what was left when the rest of our meal came - not much), but I also was better able to make a menu selection.  See, breakfast on weekends is my favorite meal - there are so many delicious options.  The tough thing is the question I've posted in the poll to the right - savory or sweet????  I know some people have their favorites, and there are a select few places that I always get the same thing for breakfast whenever I go.  But at most places it's more like the world's most difficult question.  I tend to have buyer's remorse; if I get the French toast at Chompies, I end up wishing I'd gotten the corned beef hash.  If I get the chorizo skillet at Brunchie's, I end up regretting the fact that I did not order their cinnamon French toast.
OK, so back to Wildflower.... in getting the cupcake, I was able to sit squarely in the savory corner - the feta and roasted vegetable frittata.  I do NOT regret this decision.  I had already begun to inhale it when I remembered to snap a pic before all that was left was a fork and some tomato remnants. 

The cupcakes had cute little pink breast cancer "ribbon" sprinkles.  You can't see them here because I had eaten them all at this point.
 The vegetables were perfectly cooked, and the salty feta combined with the dash of parsley made for a meal needing absolutely no seasoning.  All I had to do was pile it on that crispy buttered bread.
And the bread.... ohhhhhhh, the bread.  They make it fresh each day, and you can taste it (and if you want, you can buy a loaf or seven, which I highly recommend).
There were a few potatoes left at the end - I had to stop myself from eating them all after I got full, which I feel was on the herculean side of tasks for the day.

This little guy had his eye on our plates the whole time.  There is a sign requesting that patrons not feed the birds, but they are total opportunists; the SECOND a couple left, it was like the Hitchcock movie over at their table.
That afternoon, before we went to Chuck E. Cheese's for a toddler birthday party, Scott made some sandwiches using the aforementioned mizuna, Boca burger patties, and a spread of miso and mayonnaise.  While the spread, put on rather too thickly, was a little salty, the mizuna had a wonderful, refreshing flavor.  This would be great on a BLT, I think, but alas, we have no tomatoes to test that theory this week.

Today, after some of Scott's freshly made waffles, we were fortunate enough to meet a friend who lives in Houston for coffee.  We went to Bergie's (where we get those tasty veggies each week), and what a great day it was to sit outside (it had actually been in the 60s when Zooey and I took our morning run)!

This was, many many years ago, a place of residence that has since been turned into Bergie's with a GREAT patio area.
 As I've noted before, Bergie's has some amazing biscotti, so when Scott went inside to order our drinks, I made sure to request "a few biscotti, too."  He brought back and almond one and a lemon one.  I still think the lemon-lavender one I had a few weeks ago is my favorite, but these were tasty nibbles, too.

Lemon on the top - almond on the bottom
Biscotti is something that I don't always like - too many places make it so hard that it's like gnawing on a piece of dog rawhide.  I want to enjoy my food; I don't want to have to work at it once it's arrived in front of me.  
Not so with this biscotti.  The twice-baked nature of the cookie does mean that it's not soft and chewy like, say, a Chips Ahoy cookie (blech).  But these biscotti have a lovely give when you bite into them or break off a piece with your finger.  Once in the mouth, they have just the hint of a crunch and crumble easily on the tongue.  No matter the variety I have tried, all of the biscotti at Bergie's are flavor-filled in each bite, so there is no bite that is less satisfying than another (unless it's the last one, as you realize there are no more bites after that one... so sad).
Alas, our coffee talk was over all too soon!

Tonight, we are planning on having okra with onions sauteed with onion and an Indian spice mix (cumin, tumeric, cumin, coriander, cumin, etc...) and some of those eggplants stuffed with a wild-rice quinoa mixture that is leftover from the stuffed baked apples I made the other night.  They were good, but the rice mixture tasted like it was missing something; I can't tell what (Scott suggested bacon, but since it was a veggie recipe, that was a no-go), so perhaps tonight with the firmer eggplant as the "bowl," there may be a more satisfying response.  Or maybe I'll just put in more salt.

Tomorrow is a holiday for Scott, so we are both going to be home.  I am actually working, but I hope to try to get a bread recipe in in between taps on the computer.  I've never made bread without the machine before, but I found a recipe that (I really hope) appears to be nearly fool-proof.  I'm dreaming of taking it out of the oven, tearing it open, and slathering it with butter and jam, so hopefully this is a dream that will come true!