balancing the scales

Tomorrow I turn 23.

I turn 23 and all I can think about is balancing the scales. Balancing what pays the bills with what I love, balancing solitude with being social. It's the latter that really gets me. You see, I love time spent alone and doing things simply because they are what I want to do. As I've mentioned before, though, too much time spent alone drives me a little mad.

This weekend wound up being pretty well-balanced, though Saturday was the unfortunate witness to the first hangover I've had in a long while. Other than that, it broke down nicely, with a dance party celebrating my dear friend Andy's 23rd birthday - plus, uh, lots of Doctor Who beforehand and also the next day (we really can't get enough). And then Sunday was for me. I just woke up Sunday morning and it felt right to have the day stretching out in front of me with no one but myself.

I've been planning this post for a while, actually, even though I had no idea what I'd put into it. Sunday, I decided, was the day to figure it out. I had eggs to use, so I made a cake, one I've made before and liked a lot. After all, it's my birthday! And you can't have a birthday without cake. While I made the cake - literally in between mixing eggs in - I made an apron out of a t-shirt. This still left me without a recipe for you, dear reader.

Let me tell you: I couldn't get bread out of my head. I had been about to trot over to the grocery store for the second time in one day to get olive oil and yeast to make said bread, but then it was raining. I decided against it; surely I would find something else to make.

Dear reader, I did not. The weather cleared up and, unable to stop thinking about bread, I headed out. Luckily I bought two packets of yeast, because I had to throw the first batch out and start again. (I always seem to be starting again.) All my mistakes turned out auspicious - ain't that always the way - because let me tell you, this bread is just hands-down delicious. I have had to stop myself from eating all of it in less than 24 hours. Plus, it photographs quite well, don't you think?

Olive Oil Focaccia
Adapted from Joy of Cooking

If, for some reason, you do not like olive oil that much, feel free to cut the amount of olive oil down to 1 tablespoon. This is a pretty forgiving recipe - I thought I was screwing something up every step of the way and wound up with a fantastically delicious bread, so don't worry if it seems like your dough is too sticky, or not rising high enough, or any of that. I thought all of this and, again, the bread turned out great.

3/4 cup warm water
1/2 pack active-dry yeast
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp oregano

Combine the yeast and water in a large bowl. Let sit while the yeast dissolves, should be about five minutes. (If you've never watched yeast work, check this out. It's pretty neat! Chemistry-art, if you will.)

Mix in flour, olive oil, salt, and sugar for about a minute - I used a wooden spoon, but do whatever feels best to you. (If you're using a mixer, it'd be best to use low speed.) Then knead by hand (or use a dough hook) for just about 10 minutes.

Lightly oil a bowl and transfer dough, making sure the oil covers all of the dough. Cover with cloth and let rise for 1 and 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400

When the dough has risen, transfer to baking sheet, shaping it into a round. Top with oregano (or other dried herb). Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes. Enjoy!


eleventh hour

It was another one of those weekends where I had a lot of time to myself, where mostly my company were some kittens and Doctor Who (why yes, I am kind of in love with David Tennant, ok). Naturally, you would think I would be baking, right? I mean, this is what I thought, at least. After all, my hiatus is over, it is high time to get myself back in the kitchen and making things.

I didn't bake a thing all weekend.

To be fair, my meals weren't especially complicated, either. And, uh, there was a fair amount of eating out (I can never refuse Amsterdam Falafel - it really is the best, you should go eat there now, if you can). What I am saying to you is that last night I wound up nervously awaiting the ding of the kitchen timer, hoping my little experiment would turn out.

I am happy to report it did.

Which is lucky, because I need to stock up on kitchen essentials (like flour), so there wasn't really a second chance option. And heaven forbid I don't bring anything to the blog on Tuesday! Let me tell you, dear reader, in this post-collegiate world of mine, I have come to appreciate deadlines more. So even though this deadline is my own creation, it's still helpful.

And this experiment of mine? Well, let me just show you...

Lemon-Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Joy of Cooking

I tried to come up with a name for these delicately lemon-flavored cookies, but nothing came. Well, that's not entirely true, but after my brain suggested "lemon drop" I decided to just give up. Simpler is better, right?

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder (generous)
1/2 tsp salt
3 dashes ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
just under 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
lemon zest

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add in the sugar and the vegetable oil, mix to combine. Beat in the egg and add vanilla. Start with about 1/2 tbsp lemon zest. Stir in well. Add more to taste (I added a lot, but I really wanted that lemon flavor).

Shape dough into balls and roll in sugar. Place on cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Let cool. Enjoy!



Well, dear reader, I am back.

I'm not sure I would even be back now if not for my dear friend Daniel, who said to me last week, "Let's make dinner together sometime this weekend!" So we tossed around a couple ideas, like pasta with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes, except I dismissed it as not quite complicated enough. I know, I know, I haven't cooked anything more complicated than boxed macaroni in the past two weeks, and I'm complaining that making pesto isn't complicated enough. Humans are funny creatures, what can I say?

We decided on Alex and Lindsey's honey broasted tofu, with red bell pepper and onion. You should probably go make this meal right now, actually, because it is that good. We pretty much followed the recipe there, except we let it marinate for a little bit while the potatoes were baking (and we used white wine instead of sherry). And the potatoes are actually what I'm here to tell you about, but I really can't pass up an opportunity to talk about how good that tofu was. It was amazing. I was tempted to go back for thirds, which never happens.

So, anyway, the potatoes. Daniel, you may remember, was one of the reasons I even started experimenting in cooking, and has himself been cooking for quite some time now. This is pretty beneficial to me, as I get to eat a lot of this food, but it also means he's really into experimenting with different combinations of food. And so, without further ado...

Daniel's Identity Crisis Potatoes

These came entirely from Daniel's brain box, though let me tell you, the name seems pretty fitting for my mental state the past few weeks. But that's neither here nor there. These potatoes are fairly simple to make, and maybe the most delicious way to eat potatoes I've tried yet.

1 Russet potato
1 sweet potato
brown sugar
parmesan cheese
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Roll the Russet potato in olive oil and salt, and the sweet potato in olive oil and brown sugar. Bake for about an hour and fifteen minutes, or until the skins start to be crispy* and a fork passes through cleanly. Take them out of the oven and turn the heat up to 450°F.

Scoop out the insides of each potato into separate bowls, leaving the skins as intact as possible. Mash the Russet potato with garlic, parmesan, and butter (to your taste), and the sweet potato with butter and brown sugar (again, to your taste). Here is where the "identity crisis" part of these potatoes comes in: scoop the Russet potato mash into the sweet potato skin, and the sweet potato mash into the Russet skin. I know, it sounds crazy.

Put the potatoes back in the oven for about twenty minutes. Serve!

* Daniel tells me the sweet potato skin was not as crispy as he would have liked, but I can assure you this does not affect how delicious it was.