recipe links

What do I Eat When it's 100 Degrees Farenheit?

It doesn't feel like I've eaten much this past week, certainly not enough to warrant writing about. The last actual meal I made was on Tuesday: beef stew alongside a new loaf of bread - and a whole quart of it is still tucked into the fridge. The thought of it re-heating on the stove makes me sweat a little. And it was good too - worth the heating of the kitchen to reduce sinewy stew meat (nearly two years old, from the deep freeze) to soft, silky beefiness. Finally I made good use of the pontack sauce, judiciously adding a few tablespoons after the beef browned and the heat evaporated the accumulated juices. I was happy to note that beef and elderberries get along extremely well together, and secretly, I patted myself on the back at the deliciousness that occurred with next to no help from me.


Yesterday was the 4th of July, historically one of my favorite holidays in part because there are no expectations for it other than to eat (and make cool desserts). Just 8 days at the start of July separate the birthdays of my Husband and Kiddo, and in-between these cake-events, I made a pan of lime bars. Part of my melancholy today has to be due to the sugar consumption I have made every excuse for indulging in lately. I returned to my old ways (gone since last year!) completely today when instead of greeting the morning gently with a glass of water and then a relatively nutritious fruit smoothie, I welcomed it voraciously with a fat slice of chocolate layer cake eaten like a madman over the sink. I only wish I were exaggerating.

Sugar is a demon for me, the more I eat it the more I feel like a total addict - licking the bowls of frosting clean with a spatula and depositing it directly into my mouth. To my defense, I made the frosting from powdered sugar I had made in my Vitamix. I'd challenge anyone to stop eating chocolate frosting that has a slight crunch to it; it's like frosting made with malted milk powder without the too sweet, malty aftertaste. It makes your teeth hurt, but not so much that you can stop yourself from shoveling it in. It's frosting that makes you know you have a problem.

4th of July breakfast.

Yesterday I made waffles with white flour, blueberries and ample amount of maple syrup adorning them. They weren't even sourdough, just plain, quick, all-American waffles. I guess I really am making every excuse to eat sweets these first days of July, and the least of them is that it is just too dang hot to eat much more than mouthfuls of sugar. After breakfast, I didn't eat again until we grilled out late in the afternoon.

I have also made a few batches of ice cream this week, using Jeni's Splendid method I first read about last year when she was profiled in Saveur. Recently I found her aptly splendid ice creams book at the library, and I really have never had finer vanilla ice cream. July's heat has me oogling the salted caramel, the goat cheese with sour roasted cherries, the olive oil with salted pumpkin seed... Oh, how easy it is for me to give in to sugar addiction! So many I'd love to try, and so few days left in my sugar binge. I just keep telling myself that it's only a few days until the next birthday, and then I will have no more excuse to make and eat desserts. I will go back to my austere dining habits and behave myself. But I will keep Jeni's website in my browser so I can visually indulge.

mushroom pate

But there were actually meals of a non-sugar nature. They consisted of a few bites of my potato salad, augmented with red pepper and plenty of hard cooked egg. (When it's hot, not much tastes better than a little bowl of potato salad for supper. I do believe that's my Gram talking right there.) There were several meals of thick slices of bread, spread with curried mushroom "pate". I got that recipe idea from the back of one of my co-op newsletters, and I don't think there is much I could do to ruin it no matter the substitutions I make. It isn't really very pretty, but my, it sure is tasty. Especially when it's cold from the fridge after a day or two of lingering. (Click the photo above for the recipe.)


I ate taco(s) today courtesy of my best friend, but ate too many of the accompanying salsas with chips and could only manage to eat one of the two after driving around in my a/c-less car for the morning. It was a lunch I will remember always, because we are both budget minded right now, and this 10$ spent may have well as been 75$ to me especially. But I have the most gracious friends who look out for me and pick me up when I need it the most. I could seriously cry thinking about this taco, but instead I blinked it back and remembered this peanut-arbol chile salsa I've made a couple of times. Also from Saveur a while back, that salsa will be made as repayment, a garnish for my own tacos that I'll invite my friends to eat. And it makes my own tacos every bit as good as eating out tacos, but sometimes it's the eating out that you need for inspiration and encouragement.

So maybe the heat is getting to me. I am so thankful for the air conditioning in my house, that its 1970's shell is still pounding away and hasn't decided to give up the ghost. For all of my Mexican roots, I must be northern in my blood much deeper since I wilt fast in heat and grow grumpy, unhungry, and solemn. I have to work hard right now to look for the happy things, though they are most definitely there. I hear all over town that the heat should break tomorrow by 10 p.m., and then I will bake cupcakes with pirate flags, altering my favorite Dorie Greenspan chocolate cake with billowy, marshmallowy frosting to please some 6-year-olds as much as to please myself, a day or two left in my sugary early July. And then, after I recover from all the sugar, I'll venture back outside and enjoy some more hospitably warm days, hopefully back in the double digits.


sliced beet gratin

It's early beet season here in Wisconsin, and I ate this ridiculously good gratin made with both the beetroot and healthy green tops yesterday (and today) with particular delight. You can read more about it on the Becky-Home-Ecky blog I write on Milwaukee Magazine.

My enthusiasm for all things beety had me thinking about some beet heavy recipes from my past. Bright pink beet pasta, tender Indian spiced beet "chops", whole beet risotto... so much good stuff I've made - and new stuff that I've found to make soon - that I thought a short link list of beetific recipes would certainly in order!

Here are some past favorites:

Beet Pasta (with a shockingly simple Blue Cheese Sauce to eat it with)
Beet Chops
Beet and Beet Green Risotto
Beet Gnocchi
Vegan Beet Stacks with Cashew Ricotta Cheese
Chocolate Beet Cake

chocolate beet cake
I definitely need to make this cake again...

Whenever I see something made with beets, I mentally warehouse it. Here are just a few recent perusals that I should get around to making this year:

Whole Beet and Lemon Galette (Three Clever Sisters)
Maple Horseradish Glazed Beets (LeFort Urban Homestead)
Ginger Spiked Pickled Beets (Food in Jars - the Cookbook)
Beet Ice Cream with Orange Zest and Poppyseeds (CosmoCookie)
Jamie Oliver's Smoked Beets (via Food52)

casa rcakewalk beet escabeche taco
beet escabeche tacos: concocted with roasted beet, leftover rice, canned escabeche...

Regardless of actual recipes, I will remember a favorite technique my friend Elisa was doing a couple Summers ago: roasting beets, then marinating them in a canning jar with a little feta, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, olive oil, salt and pepper. They were ready for salads (or just to pop in my mouth plain from the jar) for up to a week, if I could keep them around my fridge for that long. This Summer, I'm making this a fridge staple once again.

I hardly need inspiration for beets, but sometimes it's good to have a reminder of good, beety things. And sometimes, it's good to share beety ideas with people who actually love beets as much as I do. Do you have a good recipe for me to try? Leave me a link in the comments, and I'll add it to my Summer Beet List!

April 2010 Daring Baker Challenge: British Pudding

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

Suet. I read through the challenge this month a little more lackluster than most... wondering if I could possibly justify making something that for me was more of an experimentation and not of the "I want to devour this right now" variety of dessert. Suet is beef or mutton fat that is found around the kidneys and loins, and has a lower melting point than most fats. Since British puddings are sometimes steamed, this easily melting fat is a good choice for these baked goods... but all this talk about kidneys and fat and savory puddings did not really serve to whet my appetite. Granted, if I were dining out I could probably give it a go, but in my home I knew I was going to have to change it up to fit my dessert eating audience.

Since I did not go with any type of suet crust and found my own British-style pudding recipe to use, I actually opted out of the challenge this month. I believe than in spirit, I did fulfill the requirements of the Daring Baker credo: to learn more about processes and cultural foods that otherwise I wouldn't have probably given a second thought to making myself.

I chose to do a Sticky Toffee Pudding, based on this recipe. I actually did not really modify it at all, and chose it because I figured I could use the excuse to make English toffee! That, and it did have dates in it, and I know I can use any excuse I can get to add dried fruit to a dessert - it creates the guise of healthfulness that makes any amount of labor or butter worthwhile.

I made the English toffee recipe from Cooking For Engineers. I love this no-frills website; it is a reliable and concise resource. I had no trouble making this butter toffee, excepting that I may have needed to let the mixture get just a little higher in temperature. My candy thermometer said that I hit the 310-315 degree mark, but I suspect my candy would have had more of the traditional "crack" if I had let it go just a minute longer. A more accurate thermometer is certainly on my list. My toffee looks and tastes great, but was just a touch on the "caramel" side of toffee. Since I was going to chop up the portion for the pudding, I suspected correctly it would be just fine. Even the almonds were a good addition to the finished cake.

In January, I came across copper pudding molds in Williams-Sonoma. I love going there in January to see what resides on their clearance table that I just can not live without. This year, it was these two molds, made in France. The smaller is a 4 cup and the larger a 12 cup capacity. Since my base recipe for pudding was a bit on the obscure side as far as yield was concerned, I wasn't sure until the last second what size I was going to use. I do not have a proper pudding basin, but could have as easily used a Pyrex bowl if my amount of batter warranted.

In the end I decided to use the 12 cup mold, even though the batter was shy of the mark:

The only thing I would do differently when I make this again (WHEN I make this again!) is to run the dates through a blender, or my little manual food mill that I used for the Boy-O when he was younger and not picky. I don't think my tasters detected the date fragments, but I did, and their pulpy, fibrous bits would have done well to be more emulsified. I did use weights for this one and you can find a good conversion resource here if you need it.

Sticky Toffee Pudding (from this source, I could not find a name of the author)
  • 4 oz. stoned dates, chopped
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 oz. butter
  • 4 oz. castor sugar (sugar taken for a spin in the food pro or spice mill)
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 oz. self rising flour (1 c. AP flour, with 1 1/2 t. baking powder and 1/4 t. salt added)
  • 1 T. cocoa powder
  • 3 oz. plain melted chocolate (I used unsweetened chocolate)
  • 4 oz. chopped toffee
Combine dates, baking soda and 1 cup of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil (the soda will cause it to rise, so use a medium sized pan). Turn off the heat and let stand for 10 minutes to soften the dates. (This is where I would have then emulsified the dates, keeping the liquid as well.) Fill a roasting tin with water (I used a Pyrex bowl, larger than my pudding mold), place in the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together butter and eggs. Sift flour and cocoa powder and fold into egg/butter mixture. Fold in remaining ingredients, including butter. (I added the sugar first, and the batter kind of reminded me of a pate a choux until I added the water. It is a stiff batter.)

Pour the batter into a well greased mold (I think 8 cup would probably be perfect). Bake for 45 minutes - 1 hour, depending on the depth of your mold, and your preference of done-ness. I let mine go just shy of an hour, and until the toothpick came out nearly clean.

It wouldn't be far off to compare this pudding to a luxorious brownie. It is deep, rich and nearly black, a good thing in the dessert world if you ask me. It is so tender and moist in the center, you can feel yourself already needing to start the coffee as soon as you slice into it. It seems the British protocol to douse puddings with a cream or sauce, and this original recipe called for melting Mars (Snicker's) bars together with heavy cream. I briefly considered making some homemade equivalent, but discarded that notion rather quickly. I have to draw the lines of health somewhere! Instead, Maeckel brought some vanilla frozen custard - which was a good, thick and creamy counterpart to the moist cake, and not to mention it adds a decidedly Wisconsin touch.

Of course, that is until the Schaum Torte Ice Cream was made... I froze half of the cake last week, and since my Mom is coming to visit (and she could be the reason I have the sweet tooth I do) I will pull it out after supper tonight to serve with the ice cream. I have a feeling if I let it melt over the top, it will be the best combination in The Whole World.

Onion Jam: The stuff obsessions are made of.

It really is no surprise that the onion is one of the oldest vegetables in the world. It is a vital base of so many different foods, and can be found in almost every culture's foodstuffs. Every time I saute them, I think of a study I read a long time ago that ranked them as the smell that most reminded men of being at home. Of course Googling such a subject topic to see where I may have read it revealed some interesting data, none of which I feel is appropriate to share here...

Sometimes, inspiration strikes in the strangest ways. I had some previously made flatbread dough and a small bowl of already sliced onions in the refrigerator last night, both from unfinished projects earlier in the week. The flatbreads were actually supposed to be made last Tuesday, and although the recipe said it would hold for 2 days in the fridge, I didn't know if it was going to make acceptable flatbread by Friday night, so I figured I would turn it into a skillet pizza - a trick I first saw Alex Guarnaschelli do a couple years ago on Food Network. The oven is preheated, 400 in my case, and you heat the skillet on the stove top with olive oil and sear both sides of a dough before topping it and finishing it in the oven. Since I had a bowl of sliced onions to use up (I don't even remember what I was going to use them for), I thought I would caramelize them for the pizza. While trying to be patient and stirring them, I was chatting away with Sasa, and we started talking about onion jam.

Pizza onions: higher heat, darker color.

I knew that the ones I was working on were going on a pizza, so I was not looking for the gently moderated heat that renders onions magically gelatinous. I got them done, finished up the pizza, and began plotting about onion jam. First thing this morning I starting my perusal for onion jam recipes. Some looked too sweet and some were more on the pickled side, but I finally found this one on Panini Happy, and knew it was more on par with what I was after. I am still looking for a recipe that would be able to be canned, if anyone can help me out - but meanwhile, I adapted the Panini Happy recipe to what I had on hand and my own personal taste.

I used 1 1/2 pounds of regular Wisconsin storage onions (about 6 medium/small ones), they were fairly strong. After cooking down, they yielded 10 1/2 oz. of jam. I also made a batch of granola in the interim, since most of the cooking time is largely unattended (and my oven was hot from roasting the garlic). It's always good to have a second project, so you don't go batty while waiting for the onions to soften. Your patience will be rewarded! I did set a timer for each of the caramelizing steps, which is much nicer than trying to rely solely on color, especially if you get interruptions. The original recipe said that it will last a week under refrigeration, but I suspect it could last longer. If you don't polish it off right away, that is.

Onion Jam
  • 1 1/2 lbs. onions, frenched (sliced)
  • 1 head of garlic, roasted
  • 1 T. granulated sugar
  • 2 T. dark brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 T. balsamic vinegar (I used 2, and then 2 of red wine vinegar, since it appears that I need to add balsamic vinegar to my shopping list)
  • water
Heat a lidded saute pan over medium heat, and saute onions in a t. of olive oil until softened and translucent, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes. If they start to stick at all, cover the pan, and turn your heat down a bit.

Add sugars, cover the pan, and continue cooking and stirring occasionally for another 20-30 minutes until the onions are golden brown.

Add 1/4 c. water, cover the pan, and continue cooking and stirring occasionally for another 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, mash up the roasted garlic cloves with a fork, and mix with the vinegar.

Then add the mashed garlic/vinegar mixture and an additional 1/4 c. of water and cook and stir until nicely thickened, another 10 minutes or so.

Lean towards the 30 minute mark if you want a darker jam, I stuck closer to the 20 minute marks, and mine was a beautiful, butterscotch color.

After having some of those great grilled cheese combinations on Thursday, I know I'll have at least one foray into the sandwich realm with this jam. The funny thing is, I ate a spoonful, and immediately wanted some with eggs. Weird! So, I will let you know if some onion-y eggs appear anywhere around my home this week. I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll be doing a lot with this humble condiment...

Of Wonder and Eggs.

On this Easter Eve, I find myself looking back over nearly a year of posts. My blog will be a year old on April 8th, and I can hardly believe that a year has gone so quickly. I was recently asked what made me start blogging. I've been doing what you faithful readers have been seeing here for the past 12 months, for a much longer time than I've been writing about it. I may not have been quite as prolific when I was working a job or multiple jobs, but I was still making my own noodles and chicken stock, and stockpiling quick homemade meals in my freezer, and reading as much (usually in the way of cookbooks or magazines back then) as I was able.

But what made me decide to start writing about the food I make was the sudden passing of my uncle a year ago. It really affected me. It made me stop and realize just how precious our day to day lives are, and on a grander scheme how the things I love are important to others. While food blogging could seem frivolous and lighthearted at times, I often draw so many correlations to the bigger picture, especially during this Easter season which is very important to me.

One of my favorite food ruminations is that of milk and honey. Nearly all life on our planet must be sustained by eating foods that first must die. This goes for people of all dining preference: vegetarian, carnivore, vegan. All diets contain that element of the brevity of life, be it a lamb or cow, or a stalk of wheat or a lowly legume. When God promised the Israelites the land of Milk and Honey, it confirms to me the amazing knowledge of life everlasting. Milk and honey are two of the only foods that are nutritionally valid and contain no death to produce. (I think an argument for maple syrup could be made, but to my knowledge, there were no maple trees in the desert...)

Food blogging has been a series of personal kitchen adventures for sure, but it has also changed the way I see this basic necessity for life. I've heard it said that there are two types of people, those that live to eat (*raising hand*) and those who eat to live. No matter your category, you can't escape the fact that everyone, everywhere, needs to eat to live. In this incredible era of computing, I can immediately have access to hundreds of thousands of ethnic recipes from cultures around the world. If it is edible, I'd wager it has been written about somewhere. And it's all because we have the amazing privilege, I believe by design, to eat.

Not only does eating sustain us physically, but it does mentally as well. Conversation that can be had over mealtime is often among the most memorable. And what you ate on a first date, or an anniversary, what kind of cake you dreamed of for your birthday, what foods are served after a funeral of a loved family member, these are all very powerful things that we carry around with us, intrinsic parts of especially our childhood memories. They are the things that unite food bloggers of all types, regardless of all the external things that hang up all of us humans in endless debate and argument.

I think the egg is an important part of Easter for me personally. Though I wrote a very inarticulate essay by comparison, in his book The Elements of Cooking, Michael Ruhlman's discussion of the egg is alone worth the cover price. I read this book for the first time a couple of months ago, and I really find myself thinking about it often. A sample of his passage on the egg:
My reverence for the egg borders on religious devotion. It is the perfect food - an inexpensive package, dense with nutrients and exquisitely flavored, that's both easily and simply prepared but that's also capable of unmatched capability in the kitchen. Yes, an egg is just an egg, but it is also ingredient, tool, and object, a natural construction of near mystical proportions..... Eggs are appropriate to serve at any time of day for any meal. They can be the main item or the garnish, they can be served simply in rustic preparations, but they are equally suited to four star cuisine. No other ingredient has so many uses and effects. The egg is a wonder.
Easter in particular holds a special place for eggs. We dye and hunt for them. We make them out of chocolate. We fill plastic ones full of jelly beans. As I type, I'm waiting patiently for my Chocolate Schaum Torte (courtesy of Burp! Where Food Happens) to bake; it is full of the wonderful levity that egg whites produce. I'm glad I decided to make it, since this is my first ever Easter dinner at my house - with just my little family. A dessert appropriate for Easter in my 33rd year...

One night this past week, we had eggs for supper. My Husband: two fried, with runny yolks. I decided at the last minute that I had to have a soft boiled egg. I have never had one! I've eaten eggs all sorts of ways, including raw, but never have I soft boiled one. I remember Sasa telling me how she loved them as a child, and called her to ask how many minutes to boil them. She said 5 minutes without hesitation, and then Googled to be sure. Bring water to a boil, carefully lower eggs into water, and boil 5 minutes. That's it. Without a doubt, the best way I have ever eaten an egg - even if I had to improvise an egg cup by using my 1/8 cup measure and the 2 ounce side of a bar jigger. I am not sure I could eat two of these every day as Nigella Lawson does, but I can tell you I will be eating many more of them in the future.

As CakeWalk bravely enters year two, I have no idea what will be in store. I am frequently surprised even at the direction my thoughts take me as I type away, let alone what will be on the docket of food adventures. I do know that I am thankful for this opportunity to share what is important to me, and that I live in a place where I can sit here and type whatever comes to mind without fear. (I just recently read of a blogger who was visiting China, and had to post her food adventures when she returned because they do not allow blogging!) I enjoy being a small part in other people's lives, and in some cases discovering what that little part is. It's also quite contenting to know that I may never know some people who read about my little life, just as some others don't know that I read about theirs. A great mystery in this wonderful life.