Just for a little bit, while I recuperate. I'm not sure when exactly I'll be back in this space, but for now, I'll leave you with a little last piece of summer. Enjoy.



I realized Sunday night that I had no idea what to write for today - I didn't do a whole lot of cooking this past week. I did, however, get the first results of my Holga 110 experiments back, maybe a post on that? I know, I know, I pretty much just declared this solely a food blog, and yet...

That won't do.

So, Monday evening, I looked through my kitchen and found a lot of disparate ingredients leftover from other cooking endeavors. I thought, ah, maybe I'll try and do some sort of salsa with the jalapenos I have - but alas! they are no good. My next idea: well, I'll just make dinner. Peanut sauce and rice noodles, snapped some pictures, ate my dinner, and kept looking at the cake recipe sitting in one of my firefox tabs. Oh, boy.

Last Tuesday, after yoga, I was determined to make a cake. Molly's winning-hearts-and-minds cake, to be precise. There were a whole slew birthdays coming up, and I decided this cake would be perfect for these events. The only problem is, I get back from yoga at eleven at night, which doesn't exactly make for a prime baking situation, as it turns out. It was nearing one when I let the cake cool and discovered - while turning it out of the pan to freeze - it was still a little too gooey in the middle. I sighed, wrapped it in tin foil, and threw it in my freezer anyway. It's still there.

But a cake called to me. I knew I wanted to make a cake - maybe to prove to myself that I could. I knew I wouldn't be satisfied unless I made the cake. Even though I failed before, even though I had no need for a cake in my apartment, what with the batch of cookies I had made on Sunday. Still. Cake. So I trucked over to the Safeway, picked up butter, and set to making a cake, thinking how much my feminism has changed over the years. I used to think that domesticity was the antithesis of feminism - and even though I (thankfully) grew out of that mindset, even a year ago I would have told you Cooking Is Not For Me.

Clearly, a lot has changed.

There's no recipe here, because I pretty much followed this one to the tee. The only adaptation I made was using a pinch or two of cinnamon instead of nutmeg, because that's what I had in my cupboard. I also, uh, hand-mixed with a wooden spoon. Definitely a shoulder workout, definitely therapeutic. (More and more I am choosing the old ways. More than ever I understand that feminism is about choice.)


birthday special: chemistry-art

(A special Thursday post, for a special birthday.)

A few weekends ago, walking home well past midnight, C.T. said to me, "We should make pretzels!" So when we got back, we pulled out Joy of Cooking and checked the ingredients. We had all of them except yeast, so the project was set aside without another thought. (Did I mention it was well past midnight? Yeah.) Until this weekend - I suggested, why don't we make pretzels, because what is better than a fresh hot soft pretzel? (Answer: nothing.) So we stopped by the market, grabbed some yeast and beer and cheese for a dip, and headed back to the kitchen.

C.T. has had most of the food that I have posted about here foisted upon him, but this was the first time we had ever made something together and it turned out brilliantly. We talked about how fun cooking is, especially with yeast and baking powder and what seems like, well, science. I say, yeah, it's like chemistry, and C.T. one-ups me by replying, "It's like chemistry-art." Which is pretty much it, when you think about it. It was also the first time I'd made anything with yeast, so it was a relief to find that everything worked out. The only thing we didn't count on was how much time it would take to make these - hours, between all the times the dough needed to rise. So we watched some episodes of 30 Rock, jumping up every so often to check on the rising dough.

So we didn't wind up eating until around midnight, a fabulous dinner of homemade pretzels and beer cheese dip, because we are Grown Ups and can Do What We Please. I also took a lot of pictures of the process because, well, it'd be silly to have both of us kneading and also because, as C.T. noted, "you should put this in your blog." Oh, what a time to be alive! Anyway, instead of trying to cram all the pictures in this post, I'm just going to link key parts to the flickr pages.

Adapted from Joy of Cooking

Remember, these take hours to make, so you've got to be dedicated to the process. That said, the process is so totally worth it. These pretzels are magnificent. You'll probably feel that way, too, after you've made and eaten them. I know we did.

1 pkg active dry yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp baking powder

Combine the yeast with 1/2 cup warm water and let sit for about five minutes, until the yeast has dissolved. When it has, add the flour, butter, sugar and salt and mix while slowly adding another 1/2 cup of warm water. Mix for about a minute - the dough should be moist but not sticky. You may have to add some more flour or water (we had to add a couple dashes of flour). Knead the dough for about ten minutes until it smoothes out. Transfer to an oiled bowl and make sure to turn it to completely coat the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit and rise for about an hour, or until it's doubled in volume.

Punch down the dough (this was one of our favorite parts) and separate it into twelve dough balls. Cover these with plastic wrap (lightly oiled) and let them rise for ten minutes. While they're doing that, grease two baking sheets. Now comes the fun part: make each ball into a rope, like you may have done in art class with clay as a kid, and make the pretzels. Don't forget to twist the middles! Put the newly-made pretzels on the baking sheets and let them rise again for about 35 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine 8 cups of water with the baking powder in a pot and bring to a boil. Don't worry if it seems like a chemistry experiment. Reduce the heat to a simmer. When the pretzels have finished rising, slide a few at a time (we did four) into the pot. Leave them for 30 seconds, then flip and let them simmer until they puff up. Sometimes this happens right away, sometimes it takes 30 seconds. Place them back on the baking sheets.

Sprinkle with some course sea salt, if you'd like, and put them in the oven. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until they are golden brown.

Makes 12 pretzels. Store in an airtight container.


tradition & cheating

For a long time, I didn't like tomatoes because of their texture. I've since come around, but I'm still not ready to cook with them, I think. So my offering for the last week of SummerFest 09 is a little bit of a cheat. I know, I know, again. The recipe calls for salsa, but I think a less chunky version goes best and without some sort of food processor it seems hard to accomplish. Excuses, excuses, yeah. But enough of my cheating - here are salsa recipes from epicurious, or check out the other SummerFest entries - and let's move on to my own recipe.

When I was younger, my mother would make a dip for New Year's Eve every year, eaten somewhere between dinner time and the ball dropping. It was the only time of year she made it, and so we - or at least I - looked forward to it every year. Somewhere along the line, though, that changed - I think it was when I went off to college, and when my mom asked what sorts of foods I might want on my return visits, I started requesting taco dip.

And then I moved off-campus and finally had a kitchen of my own. So I asked my mom to send the recipe and got that index card shown above in the mail. I made it and probably foisted it upon my friends a few times. At my old job, I brought it for lunch a few times and one especially colorful coworker insisted on trying it. I told her it was my momma's recipe and she said, "Well, tell your momma you did a fantastic job! It's delicious!"

Taco Dip

This recipe started off - as far as my history with it goes, I'm not sure where my mom got it - as something my mom would make for office parties, always a smash hit. It also halves wonderfully for a smaller serving (which is great when you're cooking for one).

8 oz. cream cheese
16 oz. sour cream
1 pkt. taco seasoning (or about 4 tsp. Mexican seasoning)

Combine all of the ingredients, making sure to mix thoroughly. Place in the refrigerator overnight to set. Using the dip as the first layer, add as many layers as desired of salsa, lettuce, and/or cheese! Serve with tortilla chips.



I was chatting with my momma the other day, browsing for oats in the Whole Foods, and I mentioned that I was planning to make my own granola (because yes, apparently I am that much of a hippie). She said, "oh, really? Do you have a recipe? You know, I used to make my own granola." She's been looking through old recipes from a recipe box that she recently sent me (sans recipes, which I then requested) and remembering things like that. Which is what I love about this cooking thing - it is a way to connect to people on so many different levels.

More and more this is becoming solely a food blog, because more and more I'm realizing that making food makes me happier than I ever thought it would. It's a little shocking, in a way, though I suppose I should have expected it. I am, after all, more of a Luddite than this blog and Twitter and a general presence on the internet would have you believe. I believe the quality of life goes up with the less screens you have in your life. This blog will still be about the ways I take care of myself, it's just that the way I'm doing that is through home-making.

Take this weekend, for example: up early-for-the-weekend on Saturday to the farmer's market, my only goal being flowers (a bunch of zinnias for $3!) and to buy one other thing (which wound up being those three lovely peppers). Sunday I made breakfast, watched some Arrested Development, and then decided to make cookies until one of my friends called me back. They did, and seconds later showed up, just in time for fresh cookies. It's extremely satisfying to be able to offer that, and to have other people enjoy it.

But it's that breakfast I want to talk about (I've mentioned the cookies before, they're blissfully simple). I have an embarrasing confession to make: I'm not good at breakfast. I've gotten better - in high school breakfast was usually a can of Coke - especially when I make a batch of scones to have for the rest of the week. And like I mentioned earlier, I'm planning on making my own granola. Other than that, though, I've never really ventured into breakfast food. Here's the actual confession: up until Sunday morning, I had never attempted making eggs. Eggs! Everyone can make eggs, right? So, with C.T. (my usual egg-maker) gone for the weekend, a whole lot of spinach to use up, and this week's SummerFest challenge (beans/greens), I decided to try a recipe that's been kicking around my hard drive for years.

Scrambled Omelette with Spinach and Feta

This probably isn't something most people need a recipe for, but I was sure glad I had a jumping off point from which to start. I also topped this off with a splash of this vinaigrette from A Homemade Life. This is the sort of dish where you can throw in whatever you happen to have lying around your fridge, which in my case was baby spinach and feta.

2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
baby spinach
feta cheese (I used crumbles)

Prepare whatever will go "in" the dish - in this case, tear up the spinach into small pieces. Mix the eggs and the milk. Coat the pan in whatever oil you'd like (I used canola oil) and pour the egg mixture in. Let that sit for a few seconds while you gather the spinach and feta. Throw the spinach in and begin stirring with a spatula. Throw the feta in as the eggs begin to resemble scrambled eggs. Stir for a few seconds, then serve! Easy as, well, eggs!


fruits & failures

I've never tried to recreate a food I've had in a restaurant before - something about it seemed out of reach, like that was something I could never even attempt. There is a little cafe at the entrance (such as it is) to Georgetown, called Cafe Tu-Oh-Tu. Mostly they do salads and sandwiches, and I have fallen pretty hard for their pasta salad. It's simple enough: penne pasta, baby spinach, dill, feta, and dressing. As I've eaten there more and more, and gotten more into cooking, I decided one day to work up the courage. "Excuse me," I asked the cashier (a little nervously), "what's in the dressing?"

The list - which I quickly jotted down in my planner outside while C.T. patiently waited - consisted of olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, salt, and pepper. My Friday afternoon stretched in front of me and of course I thought to fill it with cooking. I got a little distracted with the need to clean my kitchen a little beforehand and then settled down into attempting this dressing. I glugged out the remainders of my olive oil into a mixing bowl, gathered spices, cut and juiced lemons. I only had ingredients, but I figured that was fine, the rest was probably to taste anyway. So I poured the lemon juice into the oil and poured spices in willy-nilly.

It sort of came together, but mostly it tasted lemon-y (which, sure, might be because I used two lemons). I thought, well, maybe I'll let it sit in the refrigerator and give the flavors a chance to mesh. And before I knew it, the weekend had come and gone and all of a sudden it was Sunday afternoon. I checked in on my little mixing bowl and found that it had separated. Fine, that seems normal - unfortunately it also tasted not-so-great.

Which is fine, actually - because what this means is that I'm getting more comfortable in the kitchen, more at ease with experimenting. I may need to use recipes for a while longer, but I'm fine with playing around until something clicks and I have something wonderful to eat. This is definitely something I'm excited about, but I had another goal in mind for today's post: Summer Fest 2009. I was already cheating a little, since lemons aren't stone fruits, but a dud recipe (or lack thereof) just won't do. So what I have to offer instead are links to old posts: using this recipe, I made scones with farmer's market blueberries (instead of cheese and chives, just add as many blueberries as you'd like) Sunday morning; and I've been making quesadillas with guacamole a lot lately. I just can't get enough avocado in my life. (Yes, I realize that neither of these are stone fruits, either, though I did learn that blueberries aren't true berries, while avocados are technically large berries. The things the internet can teach you, huh?)