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Vacation Recipe #8

Today I final conquered the Yeast Beast and made bread! Specifically, I made the chocolate orange bread from Smitten Kitchen, and let me tell you something, that bread is delicious. It makes the perfect piece of toast, and if you know me at all, you know that I do love me a good piece of toast. The only thing: if I had to make it again, I would add a half cup or so of raisins.

I also consulted the By Bread Alone: Baking the Perfect Loaf page on marthastewart.com for tips on kneading and shaping.

Eventually, I would love to make these cinnamon swirl buns. Yum.

Edit: Oh, I forgot. In addition to the 2 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour the recipe called for, I added 2 tablespoon of Bob's Red Mill Gluten Flour, which I found out about at Smitten Kitchen. Deb there recommended adding one tablespoon per cup of flour, but I erred on the side of less gluten, and it turned out great.

Vacation Recipe #7

Today I finally took that leap of faith and made something with yeast in it. I didn't make just any ol' thing yeasty thing, though, I made smitten kitchen's recipe for honey-wine pizza dough. I also had ambitions of making caramelized shallots and slow-roasted tomatoes to put on the pizza (along with some chicken-apple sausage we had in the fridge), but today I lazied out and just put raw tomatoes and shallots on the sucker. I also bought some canned tomato sauce (from the organic brand O, which always makes me think of Oprah when I see it on the shelf), instead of trying to make my own. Verdict: the dough is tasty, but it was a little salty for my tastes. The combination of toppings was good, even though everything is better caramelized and slow-roasted... but oh well, I'm only one woman, I can't caramelize and slow-roast everything, all the time.

And now, here are some lessons I learned about at-home pizza-making:
  • Don't pile toppings too high! Yes, it looks delicious when it goes in the oven, but when it comes out, the dough in the middle isn't cooked... which makes me sad.
  • Toppings should be cut into the smallest pieces possible for maximum eatability.
  • It's really fun to grate cheese onto a pizza, put the toppings on, and then grate more cheese over that.

Vacation Recipe #6

I have a problem. Life just feels wrong if I'm not in the kitchen, cooking a new recipe.

For your sanity (and my own), I'll keep this short: for dessert tonight, I made this recipe for bread pudding (which, incidentally, is the first link when you Google "bread pudding"). Gina and Cj had brought over a loaf of French bread the day before, and we had everything else already in the pantry, so it was really simple to make. However, I made the mistake of baking it in a really tall dish, with the result that the first two inches of pudding were awesome and the bottom half turned into sludge. Be ye warned, sailors: unless you're looking for some serious pudding, it would probably be best to bake this in a shallower dish.

Also, doesn't Tina Fey's hair look FABULOUS on 30 Rock? I'm watching the episode from season one where Kenneth the Page has to seduce Will Arnett to help Alec Baldwin, and Liz Lemon is pretending to be in AA in order to hang out with Jason Sudeikis.

Vacation Recipe #5

For lunch today, I made the smittenkitchen recipe for pearl couscous with olives and roasted tomatoes. I had to alter it slightly, since we:

a. only had regular couscous, not the pearl stuff.
b. had no olives.

Also, I didn't do any of the cooling down steps (I gather that the recipe is supposed to be served at room temperature).

Man, roasted cherry tomatoes are delicious. I ate several of them right after I took them out of the oven, and could have gone on eating the whole pan; thankfully, I do have some small amount of self-control. These were definitely the best part of the whole recipe; otherwise, I think I added too many spices - there was a whole lot of parsley in there - and the dish could have used a little more salt, perhaps. Otherwise, though, it was pretty satisfying. I can totally imagine cooking up some chicken and adding it into the mix, and maybe some other roasted veggies (carrots or onions would be good).

Vacation Recipe #4

Tonight I made shortcakes, for strawberries and shortcake, and... well... it was kinda disgusting. The recipe called for two hardboiled egg yolks, which I thought was kind of strange; I think this might have caused the horribly bitter aftertaste the cakes had. Also, they were a little undercooked... but luckily, the eggs had been cooked already, so it was alright.

On the bright side, the strawberries and whipped cream that we ate with the shortcake were delicious.

Vacation Recipe #3

As it turned out, I didn't make bread today; this was partially because we just bought some from the store (challah makes excellent toast!), but mostly because I was feeling lazy. Instead, I made myself Smitten Kitten's recipe for lemon risotto. This knocked an item off my personal Life To-Do List, as I have never made risotto, which I've always wanted to do to honor my Italian-American heritage. So, that's fun.

Since we only had one lemon to zest, I decided to make a half recipe. Either it takes a butt-load of lemons to get 4 teaspoons, or I'm a terrible zester.

Unfortunately, the rice was a little undercooked because I was feeling particularly impatient tonight; also, it probably could have been cheesier. Nonetheless, it turned out delicious. I wish I had had the motivation to make some chicken to put on top, and maybe make a nice salad with frisee and sliced apple, and then maybe have a glass of white wine... like I said, though, I was feeling lazy.

I have no idea what I'll be making tomorrow. This weekend, though, I really want to try making pizza!

Vacation Recipe #2

Tonight I tried the homemade oreos recipe from Smitten Kitchen (thanks for the tip-off, Allison!).

The cookies turned out really well. I decided to try using whole wheat flour which was also on the older side, so that definitly came through in the cookie; however, it was still very tasty.

The filling, on the other hand, didn't turn out that great. The recipe called for vegetable shortening, and unfortunately the only vegetable shortening available at the store was made of soy (to which I have recently developed an allergy, boo). I briefly considered using lard (oh, the mistake that would have been) until my mom suggested that butter might be a good substitute. Well, the result was basically a bunch of sugary butter, and eating it kinda made my heart hurt. So that's too bad.

Silver lining: since I put the full amount of sugar in the cookies (rather than cut out a half cup, as Debbie at Smitten Kitchen suggests), they taste great on their own. Would probably be really great for ice cream sandwiches, especially with the Five Ingredients Haagen Daaz.

Tomorrow I try to make bread. This will probably be hilarious, but end disastrously.

My Vacation Plans

I'm finally on summer break (finally!), and as such, I've been in extreme pampering mode. This involves a lot of sweatpants-wearing and Hulu-watching, but most of all, it involves recipe-trying. I find that this is a great way to relax while still feeling engaged and intellectually stimulated; it also gives me a chance to feel creative while I give my arms a break from piano. Also, it just so happens that I have just read Julie & Julia, and as such I feel inspired to embark on a similar, albeit much smaller, less structured project of my own:

Operation Emily Trys A Bunch Of New Recipes While At Her Parents' House, Where The Ingredients Are Free And The Cooking Implements Are Diverse And Abundant

My current recipe repertoire only includes mustard chicken and chicken caccitore for entrees, and chocolate chip cookies and jam-thumbprint cookies for dessert. I'm looking forward to adding in a few more recipes; you know, to break out for dinner parties (yes, I am the coolest 21-year-old I know, too).

I tried my first new recipe today, Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies from MarthaStewart.com. The name is slightly misleading, because the cookies have a pleasingly subtle lemon taste.

The low-down: these cookies were pretty simple to make. My favorite parts of the recipe were:
1. Scooping the cookie dough onto the cookie sheet with an ice cream scooper. Not only was this very satisfying for me as a baker, but the cookies came out looking great.
2. Sprinkling and patting fine sugar onto the top of the cookie. This made a really nice sugar crust.

Although I baked both cookie sheets at the same time, one came out looking sugar-cookie-normal, while the other one came out with a lovely crackle pattern on top. Not sure why.

Overall, I'd say these cookies probably looked better than they tasted, but they still taste pretty good, so hey.

Thank you Allison for suggesting I check out smittenkitchen.com, I think I will break away from the Martha Stewart Mold and try something from there next!

Update on Banana Bread

Tonight I tried out the Banana Bread Recipe that nimoy posted here a while back.

Some tweaks:

I used whole wheat white flour instead of normal bleached white flour, and I used half white baker's sugar and half brown sugar. I put cinnamon and raisins in mine because I didn't have any walnuts. I also made a double batch.

It turned out very tasty... bet it would have been to die for if my oven hadn't acted up again. It only took 45 minutes for the bread to bake all the way through, instead of the normal hour and a half the recipe says. Also, the corners were a little burned :/ But still good.

Strawberry Jam

I've come to the realization that I HAVE to have strawberry jam in the house for toast. It's one of those things that I find truly comforting (tea and toast), and I'm just not happy unless I have it. I tried having just blackberry jam recently, and I made it only a few days before I had to go out and buy some Strawberry.

My favorite brand is Bonne Maman (which I can't afford right now, but c'est la vie). Eventually I hope to make my own.

What's your indispensable foodstuff? Doesn't have to be completely necessary, should be something you just can't live without.