Sunday, December 31, 2006

Well, everything turned out good EXCEPT the french toast. It was kind of dry on top and kind of slimy on the bottom. All the men SAID they liked it, but I think they must have been lying - it was kind of gross to me. The grits were good but plain (more cheese! more cayenne!) The hit for me was the bread pudding with the leeks and gruyere/fontina mix - YUM. And also the coffeecake was fabulous. The grapefruit curd was really good but too sweet - I'd cut the sugar some next time. (Maybe by 1/4 or 1/3?) And the challah was a fine base for the bread pudding, but it's a little cottony and sweet and one-dimensional for my taste. The one from the Silver Palate cookbook is way better.

The babies were SO CUTE together - Oliver got into A's doorway jumper and entertained himself (and us) for about 30 minutes - and when he first got here he reached out and grabbed at A, trying to touch him and hug him. It was ADORABLE. (I'm too old school for all this bold and italic bullshit - I use caps, y'all.)

Anyway, don't make the french toast, but make everything else. And do me a favor - make some fruit salad or something. I realized this morning that EVERY THING I MADE was bready or baked in some way!!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

I forgot to say that Trader Joe's has finally come to Cary (about a 35 minute drive from here) and it KICKS ASS. We spent $200 in the blink of an eye there, and I didn't get but about 3/4 of what I had my eye on!

Also, Justin Timberlake has jumped over to my "approved" list - that "Dick in a Box" video on YouTube is just too funny. I love it when you think some celebrity is maybe annoying, and then it turns out that they can laugh at themselves.

That brunch stuff yesterday was GOOD, by the way.

Having 8 people over tomorrow for brunch (in our tiny house!) and I'm prepping lots ahead tonight. (8 people, 11 am, 4 month old baby? You bet your ass I'm doing as much ahead as I can!)

I have the challah in the oven now to use in the Creme Brulee French Toast casserole (2 of the guests are non-pig-atarians, so this is for them.) I'm going to get that soaking once the loaves cool. I've already cooked the leeks and sliced the ham for the Bread Pudding with Ham, Gruyere, and Leeks. I've made Grapefruit Curd (yum!) for spreading on scones - I'm trying to decide if I should do plain ones or maybe ginger ones? Weigh in if you're reading. I also made a Sour Cream-Cinnamon Coffee Cake and a pitcher of Bloody Marys (2 of the other couples are bringing the fixin's for mimosas.) And tomorrow morning, I'll bake off the stuff and prep a simple baked cheese grits casserole along with the other stuff. So hopefully all I'll have to do in the AM is slide some things in the oven, mix up the scones, and clean the bathroom. :)

I found the recipe for the bread pudding on the Cooking Light bulletin boards - the author of the post credits it to Martha Stewart, but I can't find it anywhere but there. So here it is for your delectation:

Bread Pudding with Ham, Leeks, and Cheese – Martha Stewart
Serves 6-8

Using both Gruyere and fontina gives this savory dish complex flavor-and they melt beautifully. If you use only Gruyere, just double the amount. You can assemble most of this dish up to one day ahead and refrigerate, covered; then add the batter, and bake.

2 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for dish
1 bunch leeks (4-6), white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, cut into 1/4 inch thick half-moons, and rinsed well (about 3 heaping cups)
1 tsp course salt, plus more for seasoning
8 large eggs
1 quart milk
8 slices challah or brioche (1/2 inch thick)
6 ounces thinly sliced ham
2 tbsp thyme leaves
1 cup grated gruyere cheese (4 oz)
1 cup grated fontina cheese (4 oz)

1. Preheat oven to 325. Butter a 9x13 inch casserole dish. Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook leeks, covered, until softened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and transfer to a small bowl.

2. Whisk together eggs and milk. Whisk in the salt and pepper. Set batter aside.

3. Layer the bread, ham, reserved leeks, thyme, and cheeses shingle-style in the buttered dish. Pour batter over top; press gently so bread absorbs liquid.

4. Bake until puffed and golden brown (tent with foil if edges brown too much before center is set), about 1 hour.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Here's what I'm making for breakfast tomorrow (none of us has to work - not even the three-month-old!)

Sara Foster's Creamy Cheesy Corn Grits Topped with Sweet Potato, Bacon, Blue Cheese, and Rosemary

RECIPE: Creamy Grits Topped with Sweet Potatoes, Bacon, and Blue Cheese

SOURCE: Sara Foster's Fresh Every Day (dude, I'm so lucky that I live about 4 blocks from her store, Foster's Market - both her cookbooks are FABULOUS.)
CATEGORIES: Breakfast/Brunch

2 teasp sea salt
1 cup stone-ground yellow grits
1 cup milk
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
3 tbs unsalted butter
1 cup grated parmesan
1 tsp fresh ground pepper

1 med sweet potato
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs melted butter
fresh rosemary
crumbled cooked bacon
crumbled blue cheese


Peel and chop (1-inch dice) the sweet potato; toss with the oil, butter, and rosemary and roast at 400 for about 20-30 minutes. (I'm doing this step tonight and will just warm them up in the morning.)

Bring 3 cups of water to boil in large saucepan; add salt. Add the grits in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to med-low and cook grits, stirring frequently, for about 45 minutes. (Until they are thick-soupy and tender.) Stir in the milk and corn kernels and cook about 2 minutes longer.

Remove from heat; add butter, Parmesan, and pepper and stir until butter and Parmesan are melted.

Serve the sweet potato cubes over the grits and top with crumbled bacon and blue cheese.

Tonight I made Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Curried Apples, baguette toasts broiled with goat cheese and caramelized onions, and a green salad with walnuts and dried cranberries. (I was feeling a little fussy and small-things-making-ish.) I got the soup recipe off the Cooking Light bulletin boards, and it's apparently from the December 2006 Bon Appetit; it was pretty good, but I think next time I'll make this epicurious one.

Here's the recipe for the one I made; it's good, but next time I'd do some curry with the sauteed aromatics, and more cayenne:
6 tbs butter, divided
1 head cauliflower cut into florets (why bother separating it into florets when you're going to blend it? I sliced the whole head thin and then very very coarsely chopped the slices.)
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 cup coarsely chopped leek
1 leaf bay
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cup veg broth
1 cup cream
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 large unpeeled apple
1/2 tsp curry powder


(Soup portion can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)
Melt 4 Tbsp butter in large pot over medium-low heat. Add cauliflower, onion, leek, and bay leaf; saute until onion is translucent, about 8 minutes.
Add wine; simmer until almost all liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes.
Add broth and cream. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until cauliflower is tender, stirring often, about 20 minutes.
Remove bay leaf from soup. Working in batches, puree soup in blender. Return soup to pot.
Mix in lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper.
Cut apple into matchstick-size strips. Melt remaining 2 Tbsp butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add apple and curry powder; saute until apple is tender, about 2 minutes.
Bring soup to simmer; ladle into bowls. Spoon warm apple mixture over. Sprinkle with additional curry powder.

"Bon Appetit, December 2006"

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Oh yeah, I almost forgot - I got Dorie Greenspan's new baking book, the Good Home Cookbook, Donna Hay's Modern Classics, and Sara Foster's Fresh Every Day.

Too bad I won't have any time to cook, cause I'm all set.

Christmas recap

Christmas was good, but tiring, especially for Mr. Smallpants. EVERYBODY wanted to hold him and talk to him and tickle him and dangle toys in front of him, and frankly he got fucking sick of it. But we're all home now and all is good, and the resolution is made not to pack more than 1/3 the amount of stuff we took this time. The grandparents need to get on the stick and buy some shit to keep at their houses so we don't have to lug EVERYTHING.

The food came out pretty good, though not as fabu as if I was allowed to plan it all myself. But mom was paying, so whatever - it certainly wouldn't have been standing rib roast if I'd been buying, so no complaints. But somehow we got "standing rib roast" mixed up with "prime rib" (they're NOT the same thing, are they?) and cooked it...wrong. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't $150 good. (It was for 17 people, so it was a 7 rib roast, I think.) So, the recipe (for PRIME RIB, now) had us rub it with a garlic paste (why do they do this before telling you to put it in a 500 degree oven, or sear it? The garlic ALWAYS burns!) and then sear at 500, then cut it down to 350. Accounts varied on whether to roast it 8 min/pound or 18 min/pound, so we went with 8 minutes with lots of extra time to spare in case it took longer. Came out at exactly 140 degrees, rested for a while (30 minutes) - and was bland, boring, and on the tough side. Why is that, you who are so wise in the ways of meat?

Most of the other stuff was good though (but my creme anglaise didn't even thicken enough for THAT, much less for normal custard - but it tasted good, and it was meant to be poured over cake, so no harm no foul.)

Also, I might have been a little drunk by the end of the preparations, so....maybe that was the problem. (But I did the anglaise EARLY in the day! BEFORE the first glass of wine!)

Got totally awesome presents - aforementioned mixer (!!), pasta attachment - and a cappucino foamer (the one on our espresso machine is missing a key part, so this is welcome) and a kitchen blowtorch (! Eggnog creme brulee for ALL!) And some Knifty Knitters for those long "winter" evenings at home (the ones that are 60 degrees - thanks a lot for ruining the North Carolina White Christmas, global warming!) I'll be knitting everyone scarves, hats, and blankets. For the increasingly warm weather. Makes perfect sense.

Now I have to go and actually get to work - I was so anxious last night about classes starting and having to redesign the course I'm teaching this semester because of my own stupid mistake (I don't want to talk about it) that I woke up like every hour worrying, so I ended up just sitting up and working on it in bed at 4 am beside the snoring (yes, he snores) baby. But I at least got some ideas.

But don't expect a lot of beautifully crafted and picture-ful (grr - still can't figure out how to upload pictures!!) posts on fabulous, slow-cooked food (unless it's slow-cooked in a crockpot) since I'll be busy as shit this semester.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Oh my GOD, y'all. It's a work of art. (The mixer, not the dinner.)

I got my MIXER today!!!! My Christmas mixer! And it's the most beautiful thing ever, except for the baby, in the whole world!! (I'm currently waiting for onions to caramelize for ravioli filling, or I'd be in there using it RIGHT NOW - dough to be made in there for SURE, and I got the pasta roller attachment too!!)

I'm going to try to put in a picture. (This new beta Blogger seems to make everything easier - screw the second party blog clients for the Mac that I can't fucking figure out - how un-Mac-like is THAT? Blogger is now all I need. IF I can figure out how to load the images, which apparently I can't. Seriously, what good is a food blog without pictures? And I wanted you to drool over my new baby. Hell, here's the link to the page - go look at it your own self, then come back and tell me how faboo it is.) (Fabu?)

ANYWAY, I also got a 13 1/2 inch preseasoned Lodge skillet. (My husband is the best - he was all worried that they would be "chauvinistic" gifts, but they're what I wanted!!) I have about 7 onions caramelizing in that bad boy right now. Here's what's for dinner (and pictures will have to come later, after I wrestle with the angel a little bit.)

Fettucine (whoa, that cutter is good. They were perfect!)

With a kind of weird but delicious stroganoff-type sauce: (LOTS of umami!)

8 (!) cloves garlic
olive oil
a bunch (double handful) mushrooms (I used all domestic, b/c I had some to use up, but it would kick ass with some reconstituted dried fancy ones, or fresh ones if you're rich.)
a couple tablespoons butter
a couple tablespoons flour
salt and pepper
red wine to deglaze
white truffle oil
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 - 1/2 cup milk

Gently saute the garlic in the oil. Add sliced mushrooms, the butter, and let soften up (~ 5 mins.) Add the flour and cook till it loses its raw taste. Season with salt and pepper; if it starts to stick (and it will) splash in a little wine (white would have been better but red is what I had) to deglaze the pan. Stir in the sour cream and the milk (enough to thin to sauce consistency); drizzle in about 1/2 - 1 tsp of white truffle oil.

Meanwhile, boil the fettucine that you made using your fabulous new pearly green KitchenAid mixer and pasta roller attachment for about 6-7 minutes in salted boiling water . Put sauce over. Drink a bottle of Toad Hollow chardonnay (with ice in it b/c you sent your sweet sweet husband out to get it at the last minute and it's not chilled yet.) Enjoy while baby sleeps. :)

Yum. Now go watch Elf, if you totally want to have my exact night.

This is the kind of thing I don't usually post about (just thrown together stuff based on what's in the fridge and what I need to use up) but...maybe somebody will be interested in it. It sure was good.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Cheese is the new cheese!

OH! Y'all, I almost forgot - cheese is back in! The Small One's gut seems to have matured enough to tolerate it!! :) AND the occasional coffee seems to not be objected to any longer, as well!

Whew. Things look a whole lot brighter now that the dark dairyless days are behind us.

Almost Christmas!!

We're ready around heah. We have the 1960s-looking LIME green tinsel tree (think the trees that Lucy wanted Charlie Brown to buy and you'll get the picture) and the delish eggnog from Seriously Good and the presents under the tree.

You foodies out there will swoon to know that I am getting a 14 inch (or bigger? Maybe 16? That mug is HUGE) cast iron skillet AND...wait for it...a KitchenAid PRO5!!! I am going to pass on the old Classic that has served me so well to someone else with small batches of aforementioned eggnog and single loaves of bread and small cakes to make and I am going to cook in quantity! And style! (Next on my list is the KA pasta roller attachment - and I can only imagine what short work that 450 watt motor will make of those sheets of egg dough!)

But I'm not sure how much cooking/posting I'm going to be getting done this coming semester (you know, I might have to back off the punishing posting pace i've been keeping up lately) since I'll be taking 2 classes and teaching one AND mom-ing a 4-5-6 month old! And indulging my neurosis about trying to keep the drifts of dog hair off the floor and the dishes and diapers washed, of course.

NO recipes! NO photos! NOT today!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Whoa, hey, I still suck!

Yeah, remember I said I was totally going to come back and post some more? I didn't! But I keep meaning to, but the baby keeps me busy (even though he's a really good little monkey.) And the LAUNDRY - my GOD, babies make a lot of laundry! (Cloth diapers, yo. I do a load every day. He's a little pooper.)

Um, so that's what I've been doing. The laundry.

I really want a good blog client for the Mac - I tried ecto (that everyone raves about) but I couldn't even get that mug to connect to my blogger account. So that's kind of a bust. And the one I was using seems to have come unsupported - they don't make it any more, and the website's gone.

I'm totally in the Christmas spirit! I'm done shopping! (Not done wrapping yet.) And the decorations are down (from the attic) but not up (on the tree and in the house.) And I'm making cookies on Saturday with some friends! (I'm trying Ivonne's rugelach recipe from Cream Puffs in Venice.) It's cold and windy here, and I'm watching The Grinch steal Christmas, and contemplating the undecorated Charlie Brown-like sad little droopy tree (it's a potted Japanese cedar or some such since we can't afford one a them $90 Fraser firs at the Christmas tree lot, so it only holds like 5 ornaments without wilting completely - but it's the thought that counts, along with the lights.) And drinking hot apple cider. The baby is asleep (he's a good sleeper!) and as usual I should be working on something else (though I essentially took the semester off - I'm RAing for a professor instead of teaching, and I'm not taking any classes) (next semester there will be hell to pay though - 2 seminars and teaching 1 class WHILE starting to study for exams!!) and I'm not. Whew. That was a lot of parentheticals. (My first drafts are ALWAYS more syntactically complicated than my final ones!)

So...that's what's up.

I'm making carbonara for dinner later, except for maybe without the cream - I think I'm going to go for the egg/bacon version, not the cream/parm/bacon version. The baby seems to have some sort of dairy intolerance, and when I eat much dairy (it used to be ANY dairy - I've been eating SOY CHEESE, y'all, and that shit is no good, and also it makes you fart like you wouldn't believe. Not that I fart, or anything. But I've heard.) ANYWAY, when I eat dairy he gets miserable and farty and screamy at 3 am (always at 3 am) so...I never thought I would say this...but it's not worth it.

I am going to eat SO MUCH CHEESE when he's weaned (or when his gut matures some, whichever.)