Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Pi Day!

Today's adventure was making pie for "Pi Day." For the uninitiated, it's Pi Day because March 14th = 3/14 = 3.14. Yes, har har. It's a dumb joke, but you might have guessed by now those are my favorite kind. ;) I hadn't planned on baking anything when I woke up today (nor did I realize it was 3/14 until I saw someone post about it on Facebook), but after some discussion and crowdsourcing for filling ideas, I went out and bought pie supplies.

This was actually my first time ever making a cherry pie. I've made a few apple pies, cobblers, dozens of cheesecakes, some fruit tarts, pecan pies, even a french toast pie... but for some reason never cherry. So I looked at a couple recipes online to get the jist of it. 99% of the time I use an all-butter pastry dough like this one, which tastes good, but the one thing I'd do differently next time is make slightly more dough and roll it out thicker. As for the filling, I've always thought the bourbon-cherry combo works well in mixed drinks, so I decided to add a splash. Here's exactly what I did:

Cherry Pi Filling

  • approx. 2 1/2 lbs. cherries (w/o stems or pits)
  • 1 1/2 cups turbinado sugar
  • 4-6 tbsp corn starch
  • a shot of bourbon

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Notes: 1. Prepare and chill the dough first. 2. I used frozen cherries because fresh ones won't be available until May, but definitely use fresh tart cherries if you can.

To start the filling, put the cherries in a pot over low heat to get the juice out. This took me about 8 minutes, but your stove top's mileage may vary. Remove from heat, then add the sugar and stir to combine. In a separate small bowl, combine the corn starch with a few tbsp of water (this helps it to evenly combine), then stir into the cherries. Place back on the stove over medium heat and add the splash of bourbon (I honestly didn't measure, but I think I added about a shot- if you're not sure it's best to taste it!). Simmer on medium heat until the filling thickens up, then remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes.

I let my dough chill for an hour while I was preparing and cooling the filling, then rolled it out on a floured countertop. The first half I laid in the glass pie tray, added the cooled cherry filling, then rolled out the top dough layer and cut a pi symbol into the center. To fit that on top of the pie, I rolled up the dough around my rolling pin and rolled it back out over the top of the pie like the instructor in this video.

Bake the pie for 45 minutes, and cool for an hour before cutting and serving.

Overall, really tasty for a first attempt. The filling is really good, and the crust tastes buttery and wonderful, I only wish it was a little thicker to balance out the filling. Enjoy. :)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

New Food Category Labels

Time for a quick spot of housekeeping. I'm quickly approaching my 50th recipe, so I thought it was time to add some new labels to keep all these recipes organized and make them easier to search for. I've added five new categories based on types of foods/dishes, so in addition to being able to search by "vegetarian" or "vegan" etc., you can now search the following criteria as well:

1. Baking & Bread
I think this one's pretty self explanatory. It covers bread, and other baked dishes like pizza and savory pies (sweet pies will still be under Sweets and Treats as always).

2. Rice & Pasta
If it's served with rice or pasta, it'll be here. This includes some dishes that might overlap the Baking category, like lasagna or stuffed peppers with rice.

3. Sandwiches
The label for all things sandwich-related, including burgers, wraps, and pita pockets.

4. Soups & Stews
Weirdly, I think this might be my new favorite category. I hadn't realized that I'd been making more soups recently until I created the label.

5. Veggie Dishes
And finally, veggie dishes. These are recipes where one or more vegetables or plant-based foods is the star, as well as salads. There's a lot of overlap between this category and the Vegan label.

All the other labels will remain the same for now. Happy browsing, and I hope everyone's been well.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Spaghetti Squash with Chickpeas

Well, it's Valentine's Day. I'm steeling myself against the sappy climate of the internet in general today, and trying to sink back into my (disjointed) art work groove.

The past few weeks have involved a lot of heavy foods (pizza and cookies on my worst days). I guess that's normal when you're strapped for time or going through big emotional changes, but I don't feel very good about it. So I've been wanting to prepare something lighter. I'm snowed in for the time being, but I thought ahead and got a spaghetti squash to experiment with a couple days before the storm.

Spaghetti Squash with Chickpeas

  • 4 cups cooked spaghetti squash
  • 1/2 cup (dry) chickpeas
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • a squeeze of fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 tsp)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • lemon wedge (garnish)
  • dash of oregano (garnish)

Preparation Part One:
I prepared my spaghetti squash in advance, and divided it into two 2-cup portions for later. You can make it using a microwave, but I did mine in the oven, since I was actually trying to kill time, and I wanted to simultaneously roast the seeds. To bake your squash, cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and stringy bits, then place each half face down on a parchment-coated baking sheet. Bake for 45-60 minutes depending on the size of your squash. It's ready to be shredded into spaghetti-like strands when a knife can easily penetrate the outer skin. Here's the video I originally watched to learn how to roast my own.

I also cooked my chickpeas in advance. To cook from dried, soak the chickpeas for at least an hour (preferably overnight). Replace the soaking water with fresh water, and boil the chickpeas for about 45 minutes or until tender, and drain.

Preparation Part Two:
To your (reheated) spaghetti squash, add 1 tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

To your cooked and drained chickpeas, squeeze in about 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice, then stir in cumin and minced garlic. Top the spaghetti squash with your chickpeas and garnish with dried oregano and a lemon wedge.

It's a little bit like a chickpea salad with some familiar flavors borrowed from traditional hummus. The recipe listed above uses one whole squash, and makes about four servings. If you're preparing it for two on a date night, you can store the other half of the squash in the fridge for another night.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Fried Eggs on a Snow Day

It's an official snow day here in Northern Virginia, with 12+ inches that accumulated overnight. Thankfully we had plenty of advance warning, and I stocked up on groceries and got a full tank of gas (even though I'm not planning on driving anywhere).

I like to treat myself to a hearty breakfast on snow days, so today I fixed myself a big mug of dark roast coffee, some fried eggs and vegetarian sausage patties.

I think fried eggs were top of mind because my friend Matt and I have been discussing them. He's into trying different egg cooking techniques (today, in fact as I type this, we're discussing Spanish style fried eggs). There seem to be hundreds of ways to fry an egg, and I definitely haven't tried them all, but this is the way that's been working for me lately:

I start by melting a pat of unsalted butter in a skillet on medium-low heat (the whole process involves slow cooking on a lower heat). Crack the eggs directly into the skillet, being careful not to break the yolks, of course. Let the whites start to cook while sort of corralling them gently with a spatula... when the whites are about halfway cooked, use the spatula to fold them around the yolks. Continue to cook for another minute or so, then season with salt & cracked pepper. I actually filmed myself breaking the first yolk to show the consistency:

My youtube channel= in-depth painting tutorials, and random food videos.

Just out of curiosity (and to pass the time so we don't all get cabin fever), what's your favorite way to make eggs?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Valentine's Day Cookies

Today I broke in the new oven for the first time, and I think we're going to be great friends.

I used the same sugar cookie recipe that I used for my last batch from over the holidays, with one change: I used an extra tsp of baking soda to make them fluffier and soft, and it worked exactly as I hoped.

I also rolled them out a bit thicker than last time, closer to 1/4 inch. Baking them for exactly 7 minutes each they came out just right.

I also used the same kind of icing for both the base and decorative scrolly stuff this time. The basic confectioners-sugar-and-milk recipe is a little easier to control than royal icing, but gets unwieldy as you keep using it because your hand warms it up in the piping bag. I'm also still waiting to get my hands on a #2 or smaller icing tip- still using the larger #3 here.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Shelves, At Last!

Ok, this is not a post about food or crafts. This is a post about VICTORY.

Today, I installed the last of my shelves. I can't believe these never fell down before, given how poorly they were secured to the walls in my old studio. Not this time. I'm like... the wall anchor champion today. The real victory is getting these installed despite having metal studs throughout the whole apartment. I already ran into issues with them when I put up the curtains and a small spice ledge in the kitchen, but thankfully the classic knocking-on-the-wall to find the hollow parts did the trick this time. I was also prompted to download a bubble level app for my phone, which will come in handy again, I'm sure.

Now I just need to re-stock those shelves with art supplies and knick knacks, hang a bit more art and add plant life, and I will be able to get back to drawing/painting/relaxing in a space that feels like home.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Meditation and Grilled Cheese

The past few days have been really hard. Lots of crying about the divorce. As much as my logical side tells me to calm down, that things are the way they are for good reasons, I can't help but start thinking horrible things like "no man will ever love me," and "I failed." One way I keep my emotions stable is meditating, sometimes on my own, and sometimes with a guided meditation video like this one.

The other way to center myself is, of course, cooking. Not to be confused with stress eating, I find it healthier to deeply involve myself in the nuances of food-making instead of acting on my despair in self-destructive ways. Today, instead of drinking alone or being woeful at my decreasingly-patient friends, I made a sandwich. The idea to make said sandwich followed this tongue-in-cheek post from yesterday, called 31 Grilled Cheeses That Are Better Than a Boyfriend. Looking at those pictures, I was inspired to drive to the grocery store immediately, with 50% visibility while it was raining tiny ice pellets, because I felt I needed to make a grilled cheese as soon as possible.

Darn it, Buzzfeed, look what you made me do.

Anyway, here's the story of my grilled cheese. It's sort of a combination of #12 and #13 from that list- I feel that despite minor differences, the spirit of my sandwich is the same.

Cyn's 'No More Tears' Grilled Cheese with Avocados & Peppers

  • 8 slices of bread (I used Pain de campagne)
  • 6-8 oz monterey jack cheese, sliced
  • 2 ripe avocados, sliced
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped w/seeds removed to taste
  • 1 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp olive oil (divided between cooking and the bread)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • salt & pepper to taste

Put about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat, and add the red pepper. Cook for about 2 1/2 minutes, occasionally stirring, then add the chopped jalapeño and cumin, and continue cooking for another 3 minutes, or until the peppers are fragrant. Season with salt, and pepper, stir, and remove from heat.

I made a conscious decision to use finely chopped peppers (like a salsa) instead of roasting halved jalapeños. Why? Because the skin of the jalapenos I bought were kind of tough, and it gets messy biting into a sandwich and having some of the bite stay attached.

Drizzle or brush the remaining olive oil on the outside surfaces of the bread slices to help them grill to perfection. Assemble the ingredients as follows: cheese slices first, then the peppers, then top with avocado slices. Add another dash of salt and pepper on top of the avocado to season. You can easily grill the sandwiches the traditional way in a skillet or grill pan, but I wanted to try out a new kitchen gadget in my arsenal that a friend of the family gave me for Christmas- a sandwich press:

Impressive... Most impressive.

Press (or grill in a pan) for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, or until the cheese is melted, and the bread is fried to your desired color. The ingredients as I listed them would make 4 (really filling) sandwiches.

"I will stop the flow of your tears, and your arteries."

This is one of those recipes where it doesn't matter if you follow it to the letter. It's near impossible to mess up anything involving cheese and avocados, and you can take massive liberties adding or switching out ingredients. If you make a grilled cheese of your own, leave me a comment!