Friday, April 1, 2011

Home Remedies

You know you're sick when nothing on Food Gawker looks appealing. Who would've thought that day would come? Of course, it is the flu that has caused this sudden loss of appetite and my temporary two day move to the couch - where I eat, sleep, and live now.

I've been doing the usual: drinking lots of fluids, ginger tea, lemon tea, honey, salt gargles, and even cayenne pepper gargles (the lengths I will go to just to start feeling better), but you know what has worked the absolute best: The Cosby Show. Allow me to show you just one short sample of greatness:

Thank you Huxtables for making me feel better.

Friday, March 25, 2011

My friend Pimms

Seattle, on your sunny warm clear blue skies kinda days, you make me never want to leave this glorious city.

Let me introduce you to my friend Pimms. Pimms and I meant on my trip to Zambia last year and while it was supposed to close to Winter, it was still blazing hot and nothing was as refreshing as some Pimms with Ginger Ale.

If Seattle weather does anything to you, it most of all, turns you into a sissy that can't tolerate any heat. At all. I played soccer with my preschoolers the other day in 60 degree weather and we were all complaining about how hot it was - sweating through our t-shirts and all. 60 DEGREE WEATHER? I can't imagine what 80 degree weather will do to us. But I know how to prepare for it...

Shorts. T-shirt. Flip Flops. Pimms and Gingerale. It's all you need.

Ever-Refreshing Pimms & G'Ale
Makes one tall refreshing glass

Get yourself a pint glass.
Chuck in a few ice-cubes, one...or three shots of Pimms No.1 Cup (depending on your taste) and fill the rest with some Ginger Ale. Adding some lime and some thin slices of green apple also make the drink really tasty.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Childhood Favourite: Mini-Pizzas

My favourite thing at birthday parties when I was younger, other than birthday cake of course, were mini-pizzas. Oh and of course there was that bowl of cheese curls, mini-samosas, and the little cups of Coca Cola that you could grab, drink in one gulp, and head back to playing with your friends. See, that was the beauty of all those birthday parties, all the food was bite size and I've always loved food but I've also always loved to play and having those bite-size treats just meant that in under five minutes it was very possible I could complete my meal and head back to that game of musical chairs.

I've been feeling quite nostalgic, you know...craving those mini-pizzas so alas, instead of buying the Herb Pizza Dough from Trader Joe's, I finally tried making my own. And you know what? It turned out really well! It wasn't as time consuming as I thought it would be AND it was really tasty. I also like my dough thick and bready so I doubled the recipe (as shown below). If you prefer a thinner crust, go ahead and halve the recipe.

Pizza Dough
courtesy of Smitten Kitchen
makes one large pie
for mini pizzas, it depends on how small you choose to make them (I got about 20 mini pizzas out of my dough)

3 cups flour (can replace up to half of this with whole wheat flour)
2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water (may need up to 1 or 2 tablespoons more)
2 tablespoon olive oil

Stir dry ingredients, including yeast, in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, stirring mixture into as close to a ball as you can. Dump all clumps and floury bits onto a lightly floured surface and knead everything into a homogeneous ball.

If you are finding this step difficult, one of the best tricks I picked up from my bread-making class is to simply pause. Leave the dough in a lightly-floured spot, put the empty bowl upside-down on top of it and come back in 2 to 5 minutes, at which point you will find the dough a lot more lovable.

Knead it for just a minute or two. Lightly oil the bowl (a spritz of cooking spray perfectly does the trick) where you had mixed it — one-bowl recipe! — dump the dough in, turn it over so all sides are coated, cover it in plastic wrap and leave it undisturbed for an hour or two, until it has doubled in size.

Dump it back on the floured counter (yup, I leave mine messy), and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands. Fold the piece into an approximate ball shape, and let it sit under that plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.

Sprinkle a pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal and preheat your oven to its top temperature. Roll out the pizza, toss on whatever topping and seasonings you like.

For a regular size pie, bake it for about 10 minutes at 450 degrees until it’s lightly blistered and impossible to resist.

For the mini-pizzas, bake at 450 degrees for 5 minutes. I try to use the most basic ingredients so they aren't too heavy and/or weight the pizza dough down. I used pizza sauce, sprinkled some dried oregano and red pepper flakes, and smothered the top with cheese.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cinnamon Goodness

Warm soft sugar cinnamon goodness is what this Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread is all about:
A small chunk from the loaf.

I used to be daunted by recipes that called for yeast, but I no longer am because yeast just means that while you wait for the dough to rise for an hour you can do that laundry that's been sitting in your room or send those e-mails you've been meaning to sell or watch an episode of Cake Boss. You decide.

Don't let the long method on how to make this tasty treat put you off - it's really quite easy and incredibly glorious. Especially with some chai/coffee/tea.

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
Courtesy of Joy the Baker
Makes: one 9×5x3-inch loaf

For the Dough:
2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Filling:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted until browned

In a large mixing bowl whisk together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.  Set aside. Whisk together eggs and set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt together milk and butter until butter has just melted.  Remove from the heat and add water and vanilla extract.  Let mixture stand for a minute or two, or until the mixture registers 115 to 125 degrees F.

Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula.  Add the eggs and stir the mixture until the eggs are incorporated into the batter.  The eggs will feel soupy and it’ll seem like the dough and the eggs are never going to come together.  Keep stirring.  Add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour and stir with the spatula for about 2 minutes.  The mixture will be sticky.  That’s just right.

Place the dough is a large,  greased bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel.  Place in a warm space and allow to rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour.  The dough can be risen until doubled in size, then refrigerated overnight for use in the morning.  If you’re using this method, just let the dough rest on the counter for 30 minutes before following the roll-out directions below.

While the dough rises, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for the filling.  Set aside.  Melt 2 ounces of butter until browned.  Set aside.  Grease and flour a 9×5x3-inch  loaf pan.  Set that aside too.

Deflate the risen dough and knead about 2 tablespoons of flour into the dough.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes.  On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out.  The dough should be 12-inches tall and about 20-inches long.  Use a pastry brush to spread melted butter across all of the dough.  Sprinkle with all of the sugar and cinnamon mixture.  

Slice the dough vertically, into six equal-sized strips.  Stack the strips on top of one another and slice the stack into six equal slices once again.  You’ll have six stacks of six squares.  Layer the dough squares in the loaf pan like a flip-book.  Place a kitchen towel over the loaf pan and allow in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Place loaf in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is very golden brown.  The top may be lightly browned, but the center may still be raw.  A nice, dark, golden brown will ensure that the center is cooked as well.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.   Run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the bread and invert onto  a clean board.  Place a cake stand or cake plate on top of the  upside down loaf, and carefully invert so it’s right side up.  Serve warm with coffee or tea.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Store it? Keep it? Toss it?

So how do you make that bunch of basil you just bought last longer? Store it in your pantry or refrigerate it? What herbs can you freeze? How long after the expiration date does buttermilk really last? How can you tell if your baking powder and baking soda are still good? Oh and did you know nuts will stay fresher much longer if you freeze them?

I don't have the answers to those questions but I'd like to introduce you to Still Tasty which will provide plenty of answers as well as offer quick tips. So before you chuck that half carton of unused buttermilk, you might want to think again...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chicago, I like your style.

I think of Lupe and Common when I think of Chicago.

No more, my friends, no more. I got to visit Chicago for the first time a couple of weeks ago and despite what everyone else told me I did not freeze my face off. In fact, I had a WONDERFUL time and  also got to tackle the beast that is deep dish pizza:

I like pizza. A LOT. I also like eating more than a slice or two or three when I do have pizza. I had ONE slice of this bad boy and I woke up the next morning still full. Crazy!

My food highlight from the trip was definitely the Naanwich I had from Gaztro-Wagon:

Anaheim chile, figs, leeks, and chihuahua cheese all wrapped into a delicious naan with of course plantain chips! SO incredibly fresh and delicious. Oh and of course, the meal was accompanied with delicious Chicago-made Goose Island Root Beer.

Chicago, you were wonderfully refreshing, exciting and so much fun to explore. I returned back to Seattle with this view of the mountains:

Beautiful, I know. But please let this not fool you, the rain the gray clouds and the cold have been consistent. I think it's time to put the Girl Scout Cookies on hold and put my baking pants's time to create something sweet, warm, and maybe even a little inspiring if possible - anything to contrast this weather we're having.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Food Break: Egypt

I don't feel like talking about chewy granola bars and homemade mac n cheese.

EGYPT has been on my mind. I feel sad and helpless. I'm consumed with stories of courage, brutality, perseverance, and strength. I have no eloquent words. But this woman does:

"Do not fear what has blown up. If you must, fear the unexploded."

There are a lot of women I aspire to be like. One of them is Suheir Hammad. If you haven't already read her works or youtube'd her doing some slam poetry, jump on it. Personally, ZaatarDiva is my favourite of her published works.

Egypt, you leave me feeling ashamed and strangely hopeful. Where will you go from here?