Friday, January 29, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Ok, so let’s get down to this dough making business. I’ve only been making pizza for about the past year or so, and in that time I’ve tried many different recipes. And I hadn’t found one that I could see myself using as my go-to dough recipe until now. The recipe comes from Bread-God Peter Reinhart’s American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza, which will tell you just about everything you need to know about pizza. For example, the book contains eleven (11!) different recipes for just the dough alone. Needless to say, this book is for serious pizza devotees and can be a bit overwhelming at first. So I made it simple and just started with the first recipe in the book, and I may not end up going any farther than that.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Frankly, I'm not a dieter. While I don't count carbs or swear off dairy, eating consciously is really important to me, and I believe in making little tweaks here and there to make my everyday meals and snacks just a little bit healthier (although all bets are off when it comes to those special occasion cakes). This recipe is a perfect example of that. White all-purpose flour is replaced with whole wheat flour, whole grain oats get added to the mix, and butter takes a day off in place of lowfat yogurt and just a bit of vegetable oil. The result is a rustic, satisfying muffin. And don't worry, the butter will still be there tomorrow.
Blueberry, meet lemon. You two should be together forever and always. These blueberries came from the Mar Vista Farmers' Market, and there was a line 15 people deep to get them. But they are ever so worth it.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
I just about fainted with joy. For the last month and half I have been living with a broken oven. That meant no baking cakes, cookies, or pies, no roasting chickens and vegetables; it was all stove-top, all the time. It meant a lot of pasta dishes, soups and stews, salads, and lots and lots of rice pudding (I have an addiction now, it can’t be stopped). It’s not like I should be complaining, those things are all delicious.
But I missed baking. Baking is what I look forward to doing in my free time; it’s my creative outlet and my relaxation technique. So there was definitely a void. A void which can now be filled; with muffins, and cakes, and breads, oh my!
It’s good to have you back oven. I missed you old friend.
Lemon Ricotta Muffins
From Giada De Laurentiis
A note on these muffins: They are absolutely delicious. The lemon and almond mix together in the perfect combination of flavor and their texture is terrific. The ricotta helps makes them moist and yet they are still light at the same time.
Cooking notes: Be careful not to over-bake these. Don’t wait for the tops to get golden brown; they can get a little dry if they stay in the oven that long. 20 minutes was just right for my oven. These muffins do not have a super-strong lemon flavor, so if that’s what you are looking for go ahead and double the amount of lemon zest and juice.
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar or more as needed for sprinkling
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup thinly sliced almonds
Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl to blend. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup sugar, butter, and lemon zest in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the ricotta. Beat in the egg, lemon juice, and almond extract. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended.
Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle the almonds and then the remaining teaspoon of sugar over the muffins. Bake until the muffins just become pale golden on top, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly and then remove from muffin tin.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Little did I know that the size of the kitchen would turn out to be the least of my problems. It seems as if nothing in the place works. For example, when we first moved in the main electrical line had fallen off it's post and was laying on the ground, the oven was broken, the hot water heater had to be replaced, the toilet leaks, the kitchen sink doesn’t drain, the wood burning stove leaked smoke and two days ago the refrigerator decided to stop keeping things cold. I guess this shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise since my landlord affectionately named the place The Chicken Shack.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Thursday, January 14, 2010
And salsa is a big part of this love.
I have a friend whose Mom makes killer salsa. Every time I visit she always has at least two different kinds of salsa and they are always amazing. She has been nice enough to teach me how to make several Mexican dishes such as tamales, chili verde, and mole, but I have yet to learn the secrets to her salsa. I have got to get on that; in fact, it may have just become my new year’s resolution.
I have been on a quest for the ultimate salsa for a while now and it seems to be neverending. Even when I find one that is delicious, I’m always trying new recipes in hopes of finding that perfect balance of heat and flavor. So far my favorite red salsa variations involve either roasting or grilling the tomatoes and most of the other ingredients until they’re blistered all over and then processing them with some cilantro and lime juice until it’s an even consistency.
It’s winter though. I have a hard time buying tomatoes in the winter. In fact, I avoid it if at all possible. There is such a huge difference between a fresh off the vine summer tomato and a watered down winter version that I just don’t prefer to go there. But as I mentioned before, I love salsa. So going too long without it is just not an option.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
I made this cranberry applesauce the other night for several reasons: 1) The lonely bag of cranberries hanging out in my fridge from all those long-forgotten Christmas desserts I had planned on making 2) The eternal craving for something sweet 3) The seemingly eternal lack of a working oven and 4) Homemade applesauce is just doggone delicious.
Seriously, if you’ve never made applesauce you should really give it a try. It’s super easy and it tastes so much better than the jarred versions. Plus you get to control what you put in it which I love because I tend to find that store-bought applesauce tastes much sweeter than I would prefer. I also like to think that decreasing the sugar makes this a healthier snack which makes me feel better about consuming a large amount of it. I love the tartness that the cranberries bring to this dish, but if you’re not a fan of tart flavors you may want to increase the amount of sugar. Make sure to taste as you go and add more sugar if necessary. One of the most important tips in cooking is to taste as you go. It’s a good idea to get in the habit of doing this with anything that you are making. If something tastes off at an early stage in the recipe, you want to fix it before you get too far along. This technique also helps develop a stronger palate as you constantly taste how a dish can be elevated by the addition of different flavors.
Ok, so the finished applesauce may photograph a bit, odd. Kind of like a bowl of something disgusting, but trust me that it’s delicious. I should mention that I’m a fan of a more rustic-style applesauce which is why you can see there are still chunks of apple in it. That’s just my personal preference though. If you like a smoother apple sauce, go ahead and either puree it in a food processer or blender, or run it through a food mill. You can also use a potato masher which will leave it a little chunky, or just mash the apples slightly with the back of a wooden spoon which is what I did.
I like to eat the sauce straight from the pan while it’s still warm, which may seem a little odd, but I think is delicious. It’s probably just because I’m an impatient eater. But I also think there is something homey and comforting, especially in the winter, about eating a big bowl of warm, spiced apples. If you have stronger willpower you can wait for it to cool. It keeps well for several days in the fridge and is a great snack to have hanging around.
Adapted from Cooking Light
2 cups fresh cranberries
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch fresh grated nutmeg
3 lbs apples*, peeled, cored and cubed
Combine cranberries and next 5 ingredients in a large pot; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil until cranberries start to pop, about 3 minutes.
Add apples to pot. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes until the apples are soft. Uncover, bring to a boil, and cook for 15 more minutes. Mash apple mixture (see above notes). Cover and chill, or eat straight from the pot.
*Any apples will work; I like to combine a few different varieties.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Javi is the real deal. We run on the same marathon team, and during my very first 8-mile run when I had to stop and pee, Javi waited for me so I wouldn't have to run alone. More importantly, Javi is on a mission. He has already raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and he's not stopping until they find a cure. To do this, he is training for the Lavaman Olympic Triathlon, and you can support his mission here.
When Javi wants chocolate cupcakes, Javi gets chocolate cupcakes. And these are some serious, gooey, hardcore chocolate cupcakes. My go-to chocolate cake recipe had always been the one on the back of the Hershey's cocoa powder box, but then my office-mate Faith brought these bad boys to our Halloween potluck and the clouds parted and the angels came down from the sky and I thought I had died and gone to heaven right then and there. This is no hyperbole, they are that good.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
This is another recipe from Martha Stewart's Cooking School, and Martha has a lot to say about stock. I'll refer you to her book for most of these tips, but here are the basics. Consider this stock a bastardized version of Martha's.
Start with your chicken bones. When I made roasted chicken last weekend, I saved the carcass (mmm carcass) in a large Ziploc bag. I also had the turkey carcass from Thanksgiving in the freezer (they last in the freezer for about three months, so it was about time to use it or lose it). If you don't happen to have chicken bones hanging around, you can buy chicken necks and backs at a poultry counter for next to nothing. Martha recommends this, since you get more flavor from raw bones than you do cooked.
But I'm not a billionaire like Martha, so I used the chicken/turkey I have. So yeah, this is more "poultry stock" I guess...
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
And my Grandpa, festive and handsome in his holiday beret...
And my mama, so serious washing those dishes... She's probably thinking about the lyrics to a John Mayer song or something. My mom loves John Mayer. We listened to Heartbreak Warfare while I made this cake and she made fudge.
But do not even get me started on this one...
Be still my ovaries.
This special occasion deserves a special cake, and the Outrageous Coconut Cream Cake is as special as it gets.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
The other night while reading this month's Food and Wine I had an urge to make something sweet, specifically the Butterscotch Sticky Rolls which so deliciously grace the cover. I began reading through the ingredient list, calculating just how long it would take to make them and then it hit me, like it has so many times over the past month, that I don't have a working oven. You see I recently moved to a new place where it appears the list of things that work is shorter than the list of things that do not and the oven is included in the "do not" list. This has caused a lot of frustration and has definitely curtailed my normal cooking habits. Looking on the bright side, the stove top does work and the oven should be fixed *fingers crossed* soon.
So after having a slight pity party over the sticky buns, I continued to read on and when I saw the recipe for Coconut Arborio Rice Pudding it was an "aha!" moment. Here was a dessert I could make without using the oven. My sweet tooth had been saved.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Here at Casa Butter we are definitely creatures of routine, but Sundays are practically a ritual. Go for a long run. Eat eggs. Menu plan. Grocery shop. Hearty dinner. Food Network. I save some of my best cooking for these hearty Sunday dinners, but I truly believe that your best cooking doesn't have to be complicated or tedious. This Sunday I made roasted chicken and a gorgeous mix of winter vegetables. Here's how it all went down.
First, preheat your oven to a roasty 475 degrees. The best thing I did all season was spend the $8 on an oven thermometer. It will tell you how hot it really is in there, which is important when roasting.
You may recall my recent trip to the farmers' market, and you may have thought I was nuts for buying so much, but roasting vegetables makes them tasty and easy to munch on throughout the week. I had these beauties...