Cocktail Creativity

I think about work and food most of the time when I’m working out. Lately, I’ve been thinking about ice cream recipes, dessert ideas, and ideas for cocktails while listening to a book and running a few miles. No surprise then, when on Thursday, while working up a serious sweat on the treadmill, I had this idea for a cocktail—something with gin, vermouth, and the arancello rosso from Letterpress. So, once I got home, after starting some dinner prep, I tested it out, just as Skip came in the door. I told him my idea and we both realized that he’d had the same idea a week or so ago. His proportions were different than mine and I’d added a squeeze of lemon juice. My version was good but we both thought it could be better and more interesting. And, with that, our Friday night cocktail and pizza turned into cocktail development (complete with blind tasting) while the dough did its thing. Continue reading

Cocoa protein bites

Over the last year, I’ve been making a more conscious effort to be aware of what and how much I eat; I also realized that it was time to put my own well being closer to the top of my priority list. Now, it wasn’t that I was eating junk and not exercising–I’m mostly a vegetarian and, I thought, pretty active. I eat, and was eating, mostly meals cooked at home and little to no pre-packaged mystery food. But, I was eating more than I should and, worse, not really realizing it. I also had a bad habit of letting my exercise routine be the one thing I’d sacrifice if my schedule was too busy; the gym was the thing that always got cut first. Continue reading

Sourdough Crackers

I recently took the leap into making sourdough bread; I took a 2-day class at The Pantry, a community kitchen just behind one of our favorite pizza places in Seattle, Delancey. The class taught us how to start a sourdough starter and care for it, then how to make and shape bread. I’ve been making bread every weekend since and tweaking what I do each time, trying to learn and optimize the process. I will let you know how the bread making is going in a future post, along with the trial and error of the adventure, but, today, it’s about all the starter that is tossed in the compost bin as part of taking care of your sourdough-baby. People have sourdough starters that they received (or started) years ago—they’ve moved them all over the world and cared for them for decades. The starter contributes yeast and lactobacilli (the rise and the sour, respectively) when you make bread, replacing commercial yeast. I have two starters bubbling away on my counter: the regular sourdough starter from the class at the Pantry and a rye starter that I made from scratch out of curiosity. They’re both 100% hydration, meaning that the amount of water equals the amount of flour. I use a 50/50 blend of organic bread flour and whole wheat flour for the regular starter with 150 g warm water; the rye starter is 100 g sprouted rye flour and 50 g bread flour with 150 g warm water. Each day (or two!) I feed the microbe monsters, keeping only 20 g or so of the 320 g starter each time and replace the discarded starter with fresh flour and water. I know it’s only flour, water, and microbes but, still, it feels so wasteful to toss all of that in the compost bin. So, I started transferring at least some of the discarded starter to jars in my fridge. Feeding these babies everyday uses up a decent amount of flour and generates more than I can realistically keep stored away in my fridge. I built up quite a stock of starter pretty quickly. Now, I have to figure out what to do with it! I did some research and found a few ideas that I’m testing out.

I’ve had great success making sourdough crackers; they’re delicious, easy, and taste a lot like Cheez-its—guess that’s science, kids! The bacteria, along with the natural yeast, just farting and puking away to make a fermented concoction that imparts a flavor that is mildly sour in the bread but amplified in the crackers when you’re using equal parts starter to flour.

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The crafty side

My mother, grandmother, and aunt crocheted; I remember them making beautiful delicate things with a hooked needle and some thread when I was kid. Watching their hands move while they held actual conversations amazed me—still does because I’m not a talk-and-knit kind of person just yet. My mom started crocheting again in the last year or so; she makes hats and scarves for my niece, and baby blankets and hats for the children’s hospital in Baton Rouge. After we went to Louisiana for Christmas and I watched my mom crocheting again, a little crafty spark caught fire in my head, highlighting my a desire to create things with my hands fueled also by a need to find ways to focus and be present.

So, I decided a couple of months ago that I wanted to learn to knit and crochet. I’m far from a skilled knitter, I’m kind of clumsy and still figuring out the whole idea of tension. Rigimageht now, it’s a whole lot of knit-pearl-repeat and figuring out how to hold the yarn, the needles, and focusing on the pattern. My stitches are not the prettiest but I’m okay with that.
It forces me to focus on the present and not let my mind wander to all the other things to be done or dealt with. So far, I’ve officially knitted a blanket for a squirrel and it’s only taken about a month and a half. It will eventually be a scarf—hopefully by the time winter comes back around. But for now, back to the knit-pearl-repeat!

Fior di latte gelato

Summer has arrived in Seattle, my friends! The last few days have been pretty darn warm; we hit 97 °C Sunday and 87 °C today. Since so few of us in the Seattle area have air conditioning, the heat can be tough. My latest kitchen experiment has come in handy in this weather: homemade fior di latte gelato (flower of milk, aka tasty, sweet frozen treat!). Continue reading

Kale Love (& some lentils, too)

I’m the meal planner in the family. So, at the start of every week, I put each night’s dinner on our Google calendar with recipe information. The first person home usually starts dinner based on what the calendar says is the plan. I can’t take credit for that idea—our friend and neighbor, Heather, suggested it and I thought it was brilliant! And, now I do it just about every week! For the meal planning, we have some standards but I like to peruse one of the many cookbooks we have, search the internet, and flip through magazines for new recipes. Honestly, though, I rarely ever follow a recipe verbatim. I think cooking should be personal, something that’s a reflection of your taste and preferences, what looks best at the market as well as what’s in season. I plan vegetarian meals most days, so the weekly shopping comprises mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, with beans, tofu, dairy, and eggs as our protein sources. I buy organic, local produce when available, we’re fortunate enough to be able to do this and live an area of the country that promotes and supports a farm-to-table culture.

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Browned Butter Granola

There are some things that are so very simple to make yet, for convenience, we buy them—and usually spend more than if we’d just made it ourselves. One of those things is granola. I’ll admit that I’ve bought my share of granola in the bulk section or a small box of the stuff in the cereal isle and paid more than I should have. Side note, one thing I have never bought and will not ever do so—and please don’t buy this either—is simple syrup. SIMPLE SYRUP, seriously. And, it’s like $4.00 for a small bottle and all you need to do is mix a cup of sugar with a cup of water, stir to dissolve the sugar, and boil it. Do you know how much you could make for $4.00? I don’t understand how there’s a market for SIMPLE SYRUP. But I’m getting off topic, back to granola. I rarely follow a recipe for granola unless you consider a little bit of this, some that, and that, too, a recipe. Because of that, each batch is a little different and some are much better than others.image

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Oatmeal

Oatmeal…man, when I was a kid, it was this gross, wallpaper paste-ish goo that I did not want to eat. It was an awfully boring color and the texture was just yuck. Yet, as I got older, this ‘stuff old people eat’ sort of grew on me (well, that’s a mental image I’ll apologize for!). I decided it wasn’t so bad and it was pretty cheap and, with the instant stuff, super fast–important when you’re in graduate school and are on the tightest of budgets both financially and time-wise. Over the years, I’ve upgraded my oatmeal game, no more instant oatmeal packets (’cause, really, those are a rip off & still pretty gross), and I prefer steel-cut oats or Scottish oatmeal when it’s oatmeal for breakfast. Now, I can whole heartedly say, ‘I love oatmeal!’–deep inside, a little girl is stomping her feet and crying–and I’m officially an adult.

 

 

Friday Tradition

I love Fridays—best day of the week, hands down! Not just because it’s the start of the weekend, but in our house, it’s also cocktails and pizza. There are few things better than ending the week with a quiet night at home with Skip, Roux (our crazy pup), and Milo (the cat that rules the house). Now, when I say ‘quiet’, that is truly a relative term. It is much quieter than it was only 6 months ago, when we still had our sweet border collie keeping the cat safely up on the table while he circled it non-stop. These days, Milo and Roux wrestle and chase each other, or Roux keeps up a constant watch for dangerous squirrels while Milo watches birds (or eats paper bags) and believes he’ll catch the birds one day—he’s strictly an indoor cat, with no real chance of catching anything but bugs and spiders. Continue reading