Pear And Cranberry Crisp

Ingredients for pear & cranberry crisp 2016 carolinaelena.com

 

YUM   YUM   YUM

Are you ready for something really yummy? As some of you (who follow me on Instagram) already know, I have been using my art supplies and working on pears lately. Pears are such a good subject to try and paint because they teach you the basics of form (i.e.. value.) The way light, whether natural or from a lightbulb, caresses those pears, lets you work on your painting skills at your own pace. Going at your own pace is critical to getting your head wrapped around the crazy thing you are doing - which is using mark making tools to fool your eye into believing that your two dimensional surface contains real three dimensional objects.

Well, the very same thing holds true when you are learning how to cook; you need to start with something foolproof. I chose pears, to work on for my progress in art for a reason - I have an AWESOME recipe for pear and cranberry crisp that will knock your socks off. Not only is it over-the-top delicious, but it could not be an easier recipe to pull off even if your cooking skills are at the absolute beginner stage. If you cook already, your kids could make this for you as long as they can handle working with a knife to peel the pears with.

Gather your ingredients and let the show begin! This recipe is so easy, and fast. Perfect for a chilly evening treat, and great timing in the fall or wintertime when both pears and cranberries are cheap and plentiful. You will need a package of cranberries. In the US, they come in a 12 oz. package at the supermarket; and one package is all you will need to make this dish. This time of year, you don't have to look far for them as most folks are busy making cranberry sauce for the holidays with them, but, soon, the cranberries that the market does not sell, will go into their freezer (look for them there if the fresh ones are gone from the produce section.) Once they are gone, that's it until next October or November. I buy a few bags and put them in my freezer until I need them. For this recipe, I don't thaw them. They go into the baking dish frozen rock solid... and the recipe works great. 

You are going to need 3 or 4 pears - get the bartlett pears. In the photo, below, they are the greenish yellow ones. The brown (Bosc) pears, in the back of the photo, are great for eating sliced with a good stilton cheese, but aren't the ones for this recipe. When you buy the pears, buy them green... they will turn a beautiful golden yellow in a few days time. If you want them to ripen faster, put them next to bananas on your counter. The bananas will cut the ripening time by a day or so.

Bartlett pears at the market 2016 carolinaelena.com

Don't wait too long before you use them. Once the skin begins to feel leathery to the touch, the pear will be mealy and not good for eating. Your pears will be perfect when they are golden. As you can see from the very first photo in this post, a few of mine had a bit of blushing red going on. This just makes them worth painting, don't you think?

Once you have peeled your pears, slice them, avoiding the core which gets tossed out. These cut pieces of pear don't have to be all the same, or even bite-sized, as after baking they will give easily to the slightest pressure from your spoon. The roasting pan I used is roughly 8 x 13 inches. A cookie sheet won't do, as you need higher sides to hold it all in there in a good 2 inch layer. If you only have a bigger baking pan, you need to adjust the recipe to fill your larger pan. Mix the pears with the cranberries, and also add the juice of a lemon and the maple syrup. give it a slight mix with a spoon.

Mixing the cranberries with the pears for the crisp 2016 carolinaelena.com

Then mix the oats and brown sugar with the the melted butter with a couple of tablespoons of all purpose flour:

Mixing the rest of the crisp ingredients 2016 carolinaelena.com

Pile this oatmeal mixture on top of the pears and cranberries. You are almost done. The hardest part of cooking this recipe is remembering the next step: that is to put in a preheated oven set to bake at 400° fahrenheit for 10 minutes, THEN lower your oven to 350° and continue to bake for another 25 minutes. That is it. I have made this exact recipe at sea level, at 7000' above sea level, and several altitudes inbetween. It works... deliciously. If your having guests over, your biggest dilemma will be not dipping your spoon into it before they arrive.

Pear & cranberry crisp 2016 carolinaelena.com

To print a copy of my recipe for this delicious dish, click on:

Download Pear & Cranberry Crisp

you are going to L-O-V-E it. I wish I could be in your kitchen to hear you swoon when you put a spoonful of the crisp into your mouth. YUM!

Here is my latest little painting:

Four Pears 2016 gouache on board, 8 x 10 Carolina Elena carolinaelena.com

Four Pears. 2016, 8 x 10 gouache on board

I painted it using gouache - an opaque water based paint that, like watercolor reactivates if, after drying, it gets touched with water. Acrylic paint, which is a water-based paint does not reactivate after it dries because it has so much plastic in it. I am new to gouache, but I am trying to figure it out. My hope is that I figure out how to layer colors well enough so that I can go out and paint en plain air with a minimum of stuff to schlep, yet still be opaque. The trick is getting your gouache to look luminous. Practice, practice, practice.

Let me know if you make the crisp... and if you shared it with anyone else!!

Until next time,

Carolina Elena

 


A House For My Banana Bread

Just a quick post today with a thought I had.

I made our Banana & Oatmeal loaf over the weekend because the temperature had dropped and it just felt like the thing to do. Our recipe has rolled oats in it, making it a bit more dense and a little less "banana-ee". It is a bit drier than what I normally find in bakeries, and we like that about this recipe. Everybody in our house, though, likes it a bit differently. Some like it with walnuts, some without, and I happen to like it with walnuts and a layer of cranberries on top.

3x banana & oatmeal loaf

Either way you like it, all the loaves disappear within a couple of days. My girls take it to school as an after school snack, my husband eats it after dinner while watching TV, and I ... well ... lets just say it is a good thing I have my own loaf.

When I take a piece to the studio, I do it up right and serve it on my favorite tray.

Banana & oatmeal loaf on tea tray

I really like this tray because of the image on it - totally not the way my actual house is but soooo totally easy to imagine myself living in it and eating my banana bread in it, sitting by a cozy fire while looking out at the ocean beyond my window.

Tea tray, Vineyard House

The house is typical of houses on Martha's Vineyard Island, were my folks live. I know these next sentences are going to sound horrible, but I have to share it. Somewhere in my brain there is a place where "what if total doom happened, then I would..." kind of thoughts reside. Well if there was such a day, when reality as I know it ceased, then I would move myself into a place like this - cedar shingled, with a dutch door to open so that the ocean breezes could make the curtains billow, tiny, completely able to be cleaned in a morning, with overflowing flower boxes, electric blue hydrangeas at the front, rambling roses everywhere, good books stacked to the rafters, and a large table, with all my painting, sewing, and knitting supplies, abutting the windows that face the ocean. As I worked on my projects I could watch the ferry taking tourists back and forth to the mainland in summer, and us islanders to "the United States" in winter. The kitchen would be just big enough to make a few scrumptious treats including this banana bread recipe. I would eek out a living on the island with a little store called "Sweater Weather". The sign for the store wood be outlined in gold. Beneath it would be a second sign that would read "a place for wool and a cup of tea". Perhaps the store would be in town, or perhaps it would be adjacent to my little home. I don't know, for sure, but it is nice having a little place in my brain for that dream. I blame having that little space in my brain, where I squirrel away these kind of visions, squarely on my upbringing in the 70s. Back then, you see, we had the Sear's Wishbook, a catalog of Christmas gift ideas put out by Sears. We used to get everything from Sears back then - from our washing machine to my red plaid bell-bottom Toughskin jeans. Even our fake Christmas tree came from Sears. I remember how dog-eared the catalog would be by the time Christmas finally arrived. On Christmas day, we would rush to open our presents, forgetting all those things we had wished for and so very appreciative for whatever we got. Still. Dog-earing the pages with the country styled guitars and the pogo sticks created a pastime for me that I still depend on for relief. Hence the little vision of this house for the banana bread. 

Back to reality and my version of banana bread:

Banana & oatmeal loaf recipe card

Can you see the recipe well enough? The collection of watercolored recipes is growing.

Hope so.

Carolina

I feel like I may as well right it out for you. I wrote the recipe out on the watercolor paper, the same way as here, with the exact order I do my steps and with the minimum amount of utensils. It erks me when recipe writers tell you you need to spray a pan almost at the end of a recipe, blend dry ingredients first in separate bowls, then get another bowl out like you have the time to wash them all. I know my girls (& myself), if we are going to cook, we are going to do it the easiest way possible and that is why I wrote the recipe in this order. 

Banana & Oatmeal Bread

  • Preheat oven to 350°F  (180°C)
  • Coat 4 small loaf pans (4"x8") with cooking spray
  • In medium size mixing bowl, use fork to:

                -mash 4 large,old bananas

                -mix in 4 eggs

                -add 2/3 cup buttermilk

                -1/2 cup vegetable oil (canola)

                - 2 tsp. vanilla extract

  • Stir well to combine with spoon or spatula then add

              - 3 cups all purpose flour

               -1 cup sugar

               -3 tsp. baking powder

               -1/2 tsp. baking soda

               - 1/2 tsp. salt

  • Combine well, then add:

                -1 1/2 cup regular rolled oats

Divide into loaf pans and bake at 350° for 40 minutes

  • to loaf pans getting walnuts, mix walnuts into batter before filling pans
  • top with frozen cranberries, if desired, after loaf pans are filled then bake the same way :
  • 350°F (180°C) for 40 minutes
  • check for "doneness" with a baking straw

Good luck with it. I think you will like it.

 

 


Ultra Lazy And Ultra Local

I am lazy, I like to buy "local", and I like to eat really good bread. That is a perfect combination if you live in the city. As you know, I live in the boonies - and it really feels like the boonies if you are in my town looking for a good espresso or a good loaf of bread.

I now buy my bread in one of the two cities that I am living in between. When I drive the hour and 20 minutes to the city I make sure I have my huge cooler with me. It is a 150 quart cooler and it can hold 248 cans of coke with ice (just in case). I pack it with ice packs before I leave the house, that way anything I buy will still be cold whenever I get home, even if it is eight, or even, ten, hours since I left my house. When I am in the city, I run all my errands and then swing by the grocery stores and "fill 'er up". I can often be found swooning in their produce department. I swear I feel healthier just from standing in there next to all the bins overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables. It is really too bad, though, that I don't come out any thinner. If that could happen, I probably would be driving down to their produce department on a daily basis.

If I have been smart and planned my errand route well, right before I get to the market, I will swing by the arts district, and make a pit stop at the museum. A few minutes in there and my brain will be filled with enough visual stimulation to get me through the long drive home. I must admit, though, part of the reason I go to the arts district is to stop by the Bluff View Bakery. This is where I get real bread:

French bread at the bakery

After making sure I have an adequate amount of baguettes and ciabattas, I make sure to add to my purchase their "healthy" bread. Figuring out their recipe is next on my list to conquer.

 %22Healthy%22 bread at the bakery

When I finally get home from my shopping it is a mad dash to put the refrigerated groceries into the fridge and make a decent meal. I often feel like I have a plethora of ingredients when I have finally made it home, but just about enough energy to pour myself a glass of wine and put my feet up. It takes EVERYTHING I have got to finish up with dinner and go onto the task of slicing all the bread up and storing it in the freezer before it has had a chance to start getting stale. City girls don't have to worry about that. It is what I must do to have bread in the house. Life, though, does get in the way, sometimes making it difficult to get down to the city exactly at the time we have run out of bread in the house.

That is when I make my own bread, TBOG (The Bread Of Gods):

 Finished bread

I dare say ... it is even better than the "city bread". Way better.

It is not my recipe; I use Jim Lahey's basic bread recipe from his book, My Bread. You need to get it if you want to feel like your are "chillin' with the Gods". That is how you will feel when you eat the bread you will bake from the recipes in this book.

Jim Lahey's book

 I have to add an extra 1/2 cup of water to my dough and give it a whole teaspoon of yeast (it may be the altitude), but either way, his recipe is as straightforward as it gets:

Jim Lahey's bread recipe

I use regular King Arthur bread flour because that is what my local market carries. Whatever I can get here, in my town, from flour to toilet paper, I do. Any funky, out of the ordinary flours I still have to get in the city. Here is a little tip, if you are starting to amass a variety of flours and have a hard time remembering which kind is in which bin:

Bread flour bin

I cut a piece of the bag the flour came in, obviously the part with the bag brand name and type, and leave it in the bin so that at a glance, I can see what is in which bin. I do this even with small bags of specialty flours that I keep in the storage room fridge.

On with the recipe. You don't need your brain, here, but what you do need is to begin this process the day before you want to actually eat it. That is the hardest part to remember - start it the day before. Take the ingredients listed in the photo of the recipe, above, and put it all in a container. Mix it with a spoon, I use a plastic spoon as it is easier to clean than using my hands. Note that the recipe calls for cool water, and that you don't have to proof the yeast first. Just put all the ingredients into a container that is not made of metal and stir it up.  The dough will look super wet. The whole process: measuring, stiring, & washing your spoon when you are done, shouldn't take longer than five minutes. Cover it with a tea towel and let the dough sit on the counter overnight. I let mine sit for around 18 hours, I make it in the morning and bake it the next day in the afternoon. After that long rest period you should be able to see little pockets of air like this:

Dough in rising bin

Don't fret if the top looks like it is aquiring a slight crust; that will all take care of itself. When you tilt the bin, you should see long gluey strands of dough:

Dough %22crust%22

I use a dough scraper to get the dough out of the bin and on to my counter, you can use your hands or a spoon. Regardless of how you get the dough out of the bin, you want to see those strands:

  Dough stretch in rising bin

These strands are the developed gluten.

Place the glob of dough on a floured surface. It should still look really wet:

Wet dough

Be gentle here, you don't want to undo 18 patient hours of gluten development. You don't want to kneed the dough, just scoop the undersides of the dough to the top of the dough almost folding it on itself, then flip the entire dough, gently, onto a WELL floured linen towel seam side down. Use a lint free towel, like linen, so you don't end up with bits of terry cloth attaching to the dough. If you have used enough flour on the towel, the wet dough won't stick to it when you go turning the dough out into the pot. Any extra flour that remains on the dough can be tapped off after it is done baking and cooling.

Sprinkle a bit more flour on top of the mass of dough and fold the towel over it all to cover it while it sits another couple of hours.

Dough ready for final rest

A half hour before this last rise ends, turn your oven on to bake at 475° F. At the same time you turn the oven on, put your dutch oven in there with the lid flipped upside down. The flipping of the lid and the placing of the pot (and lid) in the oven to come to temperature is so that the vessel will be as hot as possible when the dough goes in there. This will give it a beautiful crust.

A note about the pot: you don't have to have an expensive one, my husband has a condition whereby he cannot get rid of iron in his system and therefore we have to do our best not to use cast iron when cooking. Walmart sells a great cast iron dutch oven, at a fraction of the cost, that will give you equally fantastic results with this recipe.

Black bread pot dutch oven

Add flour (my preferance) or cornmeal to the extremely hot pot and place the dough in the pot by kind of rolling it from the towel, letting it land in the pot seam side up. Cover the pot and let it bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake another 15 to 30 more minutes until it looks irresistable but not burnt. I use these wooden spatulas to remove it out of the hot pot, only because I happened to have them in my kitchen. Use whatever you have other than your hands - this is REALLY HOT. Let it cool on a rack. If you quiet yourself down (this IS exciting), you will hear a crackling sound. This crackling, or singing as bakers call it, is evidence of the final phase of baking which occurs outside of the oven. The temperature of the inside of the loaf is equalizing itself with the temperature on the crust. Let it cool completely. If you don't, the interior will remain a dense, wet mass. Let the steam escape through the cracks in the crust, that is what is making the crackling sound, and be patient. You will be hanging out with the Gods soon.

Light colored crust

My bread looks a little different each time I bake. Adding the extra water as made the biggest difference (see photo below) in how it looks. I can not emphasize, here, enough, that if you plan on having dinner at the same time this bread is just about cooled, you had better have the table set and dinner served, otherwise you will all just gather around the loaf and tear at it like vultures. That is what we do. Who wants to make dinner after you have just feasted on The Bread of Gods?

Last bread

So yes, I am ultra lazy. I buy bread when I am near my favorite bakery in the city. I make bread when we have run out of it at home. I make the EASIEST bread on earth because I am super lazy. I have to say, though, making my own bread is ULTRA good, and now that I think of it, ULTRA local.

If you make it, I think you will agree that it was ULTRA good of me to post this recipe.

Good luck with it,

Carolina


A Little Black Magic And Three Wooden Spoons

Sunday, a lazy day, sometimes needs a little black magic - the kind of magic that turns average days into wonderful memories. I have been perfecting my bread making skills using the cookbook, My Bread, by Jim Lahey.

My Bread book

The hardest part of making his bread is remembering to start the dough a day ahead. After that, it really is like magic. Find the link to the book here and look in the "In The Kitchen" section page 3. If there is any real interest from you guys on how to make it, let me know and I will post the recipe.

I pulled out my bit of little black magic - my Emile Henry dutch oven, flipped the lid upside down and stuck it in the oven to come to temperature with the rest of the oven.

Black Emile Henry dutch oven

Once up to temp., I added the dough and let the magic begin. About an hour later, I pulled this out.

Bread in the black pot

Good bread does not, on it's own, make lazy day Sunday memories. For that you need to add a little something more.

Perhaps some greek olives, a few cheeses, a delicious apple wood smoked salami, and a game of Canoe.

Canoe game and a bite

Good, but can we do better?

How about testing out three new bottles of olive oil?

3 olive oils

That's better.

I poured a little of each bottle into three separate bowls. I had taped a bit of Scotch tape under each bowl, and labeled them #1, #2, and #3 - and poured according to which bottle the olive oil came from: the least expensive, the middle range expensive, and the OMG-can't-believe-I-am-forking-out-this-much-$$$-for-olive-oil expensive.

Olive oil and wooden spoons

The wooden spoons are necessary so that all you taste is olive oil - no metal in your mouth. This was going to be a blind taste test, but to make it completely unbiased, we wanted a third opinion ... hence the third spoon.

Olive oil bowls and bread

And the third glass of wine.  We invited our good friend, Rhett, to come over to "help" us out.

Inside of bread

After the olive oil winner was unanimously declared, we continued on by dunking the bread in the olive oil and consuming everything I had put out. Unfortunately, for my wallet, it was a hands down, across the board, no brainer win for Olio Santo - the most expensive one of the lot.

So here is the recipe for lazy Sunday memory making:

Good bread

Good olive oil

Good wine

Good outdoor fire

and a great friend.

Bread by the fire

In my mind, that is a pretty good recipe.

Until next time,

Carolina

 


The Last Drop of Lemon Syrup

OK, so what to do with the leftover syrup from making candied lemon peel from the last post is on the agenda for today. Below you see the jar I had leftover after making the batch the other day. I happened to have a little bit more in another jar, as well, I just didn't photograph that bit in this picture. There are many things you can use the lemon syrup for: lemon drop martinis, simple syrup for margaritas, a sweetener for your cup of tea, add water and lemon juice ice cubes to make lemonade, add it to yogurt, drizzle it over fresh fruit, etc., but I am going to show you what I did with it.

After your first time making the candied lemon peel your syrup will look like this:

Leftover lemon sryup #1

A pale lemon yellow color, reminiscent (to me) of the color of Lemoncello, the spirit made from mixing vodka with lemon zest. I have yet to try making my own, and I am sure it is easy to do, I just haven't gotten around to it since I only occasionally will drink a glass of wine, I find it to be extra work to make some liquor thing - and who needs extra work? I must add here, though, if I DID make it , and it was AWESOME, perhaps I wouldn't consider it extra work at all. Will have to see what time brings to that issue. Anyways, my point is that it is a very light lemon color. If you take a batch of lemons (California Meyer being the first choice), thinly slice them and put them to boil in the lemon syrup,

Lemon slices in the pot

leave them in the boiling syrup for 10-15 minutes until the rinds are really soft,

When lemon slice is ready

and then store the left over syrup from that batch of cooking. The next time you go to use it, you will see that your lemon syrup will now be a deep golden, almost honey colored hue:

Lemon syrup #2

I actually was able to make two batches of the lemon slices with the leftovers of the initial sryup. The slices don't have to boil as long as lemon peel because you are not looking for the "chew" consistency to be the same. You want it softer. Leave the syrupy lemon slices to dry directly on parchment paper. After just a few hours on the counter, long enough so they are nice and cooled, you can stick them in a jar to use later. I would keep that jar in the fridge, just in case. WARNING  WARNING: if you eat ONE slice now, you may not have any slices left for any further cooking adventures. This happened on my first batch of lemon slices. After just one try, the girls and I ate ALL of them. We had to wait for another day to buy more lemons and continue with the dessert plan.

Lemon slices drying

The leftover syrup from the third time using it (lemon peels, then two batches of lemon slices) turned this beautiful amber color. It is hard to believe, isn't it? None of the pictures in this post have been Photoshopped so you can get an exact feeling of what things were looking like in my kitchen. Talk about mesmerising. Of course, by the third go around, my jar size had gotten considerably smaller as most of the sugar syrup stayed on the lemon slices. Also, I must add here, the third jar of syrup is not as sugary sweet as the first jar because it has been made with the pith on the lemon. I actually liked it more, it had a sweetness with bitter undertones to it. I thought about making grown up lollipops with this third jar, but the syrup didn't last that long in our house.

Lemon syrup #3

 

Get ready. The next photo is the stuff my lemon dreams are made of.

 

Lemon slice cake

Lemon Ricotta Cake coated with lemon syrup (I skewered holes into the cake layer when it came out of the oven and drizzled, and redrizzled, lemon syrup all over it. I then, delicately placed the soft syrupy lemon slices over the cake. Being so soft, the lemon slices were not a problem to cut through with a small sharp knife. My husband, whom I do love, wasn't keen on eating whole lemon slices, he is kind of funny that way. Oh well, we have a fix for that. When trying out this ricotta cake thing I doubled the recipe so I could try it two different ways. He got his own separate little cake.

With or Without Lemon Ricotta Cake

I must say that even though I still prefer the one with the lemon slices, both visually and for eating, I gave his a try and ... yes ... it too qualifies as a lemon dream.

Lemon ricotta cake with lemon syrup

 Hope you get to make some lemon dreams of your own.

Carolina 


Lots of Lemon Love

It is citrus season in California. That means it is time to make candied lemon peel in my house.

Little jar of candied lemon peel

Even though I live in the boonies, I can hop in the car and "find me" some perfect meyer lemons this time of year. I don't buy just 2 or 3 lemons. I buy loads of them.

Lemons in a bag

The first thing I do, after recuperating from my drive to get them is I admire them, smell them, pierce their golden skins with my thumb nail and find myself lost in the intoxicating aroma. It is better than a kiss.

Washed lemons

Then I get to work.

Washing lemons

I wash them with luke warm water, rubbing the lemons as I go, making sure each one is nice and clean. While I am at it, I wash all of the ice cube trays that I keep in the storage pantry. Since I have an automatic ice maker in my fridge, I don't use these that often. A quick rinse is called for in case a little dust has collected.

Next, I cut them in half

Lemons cut in half

... again I take in their aroma. I used to have a prolific meyer lemon tree in my garden when I lived in Florida. The sweet scent it gave off was totally magical, but the flavor was simply not as pronounced as these little meyer lemons that we get from California. I am envious of all those with California residency. On occasion, in the hire end markets I travel to, I will find equally good meyer lemons from New Zealand, yum. This year I even saw a batch come from Chile. When California, though, goes into citrus mode, we have a plethora available to us and I fill the produce bags with as many as I can afford.

Next up, I juice them.

Juicing lemons

I pour all the juice into the ice cube trays and put them in the freezer. When they are all frozen I pop out the cubes into a bag that I keep in the freezer. When I am cooking or need lemon juice for lemonade, I just grab from that bag. When we lived on the boat, I had to prepare lemons like this because there were areas that didn't have good lemons, or any lemons at all for that matter. We used to have a locker type freezer under the bunk in the pilot house. Whenever the weather was bad, and we both had to be on watch, one of us would catnap on that bunk. Every time I lay on that bunk, I used to think of the treasure trove of goodies that were in the freezer beneath me. Let's get on with it.

When you juice the lemons, juice them "hard", meaning go as far as you can towards the peel. The less of the white stuff, the sweeter your candied lemon peel will turn out.

Next. Put the peels in a big pot of cold water and bring the whole thing to a boil. Once it is boiling, turn your heat source down to a simmer, you want to simmer the lemon peel (or any other citrus peel) until it is nice and tender ... gushy almost ... to were you can easily pierce the peel with the tip of a sharp knife.

Lemons in the pot

Once your lemon peels have reached that stage, drain them in a colander and run them under cool water. Once they are cool enough to handle take a spoon and scrape out any of the white pith that remains and has come loose from the peel.

Scooped lemon peel

You will have a lot of pith scooped out by the time you are done with all the lemon peels. I am always surprised by how much comes out. Don't worry if your lemon peel begins to tear, or even if it tears completely. It will all be good in the end.

Once you have scooped them all, cut the lemon peels into strips. How long, and how wide, is irrelevant. Put them in a pot with a two to one ratio of sugar to water. For all these lemons I used 4 cups of sugar, to 2 cups of water. Bring it all to a boil on medium heat.

Citrus peels boiling

Once the peel starts to look see-through, raise the heat to high, making the sugar syrup reach 230°, also called thread stage (when you pull the spoon from the pot, it creates a thread that doesn't fall off the spoon.) I don't get too hung up on the actual temperature, but I put this photo in for those of you who HAVE to be precise. Basically, what you want to see is a whole lot of bubbling going on.

Thread stage for sugar

Once you get the sugar to that stage, it means the sugar will adhere to the little pieces of lemon peel and give it a nice "chew". Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the hot sugar and place them on a cooling rack that is placed over a piece of parchment paper. The paper will catch the drips so it doesn't make a huge mess on your counter. When I do a huge batch, I place the parchment (and rack) on a cookie sheet (tray), that way I can move all the trays around my kitchen, making room for more trays, or making room to make the next meal that my family needs.

Cooling candied lemon peels

They might stick together as they cool. Don't fret. Mine always do. I just pick them apart once they have cooled down.

Once they cool you have a decision to make.

Gently toss them in a bowl of sugar or not. Supposedly this helps keep the little pieces from sticking to each other. I think the extra sugar is over-kill.

Sugar bowl with lemon peel

 

Place the sugar syrup you have left into a mason jar. Keep it in the fridge. This post is getting a little photo heavy, but on my next post I will show you what to do with that syrup. Stay tuned.

Sugar syrup in jar #1

Ok - I gotta go get the girls from school. One last photo before I go.

Large jar lemon peel

Trust me, these are well worth the effort.

Carolina

 


Learning To Eat, Starting With Breakfast

Late last night I started reading a new book called Women, Food, and God. I also finished it. 

Book cover women, Food, & God

I found out about it during my recent bout with the-cold-from-hell and was forced to never ending days of bed rest and internet hopping via my iPad. Last night, while I was reading the book, I kept underlining sentences that jumped out at me, when it got to the point that I had more than 5 sentences underlined, I started listing the pages that I need to go back to and reread.

Pg. notes

Things were getting out of hand. I put my pen down and devoured the rest of the book. Now I am here telling you about it. In a nutshell it is a book for all people who struggle with eating issues. Some suffer with bulimia, others with anorexia. I suffer from neither. Some folks diet hop from one ridiculous encarcerating diet to another making bird food look like a gourmet feast. That is not me either - too much suffering going on there. Some eat without stopping, completely out of control. Not me. So why was this book so awesome for me if I have none of those food issues? I fall into the "and-then-some" category, if there is such a category. I eat, out of pleasure and nutrition, fantastic, healthy food ... and then some. The "and-then-some" has gotten me into trouble so much so that I see that there needs to be a change because it is taking a toll on more than just my continuosly upclimbing size in Levi's. Who am I kidding. I don't even wear Levi's anymore, thank the Lord for Chicos. My problem is that I eat even when I am not hungry. I eat out of boredom (my days aren't my own anymore as I have become a human taxi), frustration (remember I am the parent of two teenage girls), desperation (the economy did a number on us that we are still trying to recover from), lack of a consistent schedule (like most parents driving their children from here to kingdom come with their varied activities), desperation (I feel woefully underutilized in my current mind-numbing role), and I also eat because I have a serious case of "I-just-spent-two-hours-cooking-a-massive-healthy-meal-for-my-entire-family-and-it-is-dinner-time-and-that-is-what-you-are-supposed-to-do: eat-it, plus my blog is about food. Wow. Craziness. It is obvious that all the food that goes in and can be listed on the "and-then-some" side has zero to do with hunger, or rather with hunger for food.

Deep breath. Having begun my other blog, getting an injury and not following through, has me feeling like a loser. You can not imagine how much I have been beating myself up over this. The extra ten lbs. I have gained since my last post there, is solid (my fat is solid at room temperature) proof that I turn to food to sooth whatever ails me ... and I must say my lack of coming through on that blog is definetly ailing me. How to juggle writing about food here, on The Muse of The Day, dealing with not hitting the mark in other areas of my life, and in general the nearing onslaught of menopause and what that means to my weight, has kept me from writing anything near resembling your standard New Year's blog post. Don't feel sorry for me. I don't need sympathy. I need to figure my way out of this damn hole. And so in comes this book, Women, Food, and God. I feel a great sense of relief, now that I can see the path.

Deep breath number two. And so I begin, again, with the brain fog beginning to clear. I know now what I have to do and how to go about it. I won't go into the details of the how-to that are in the book. Suffice it to say, if you need it, the path, buy the book. Read it. Those of you who don't need the help can focus on the second part of this post: a recipe for breakfast granola.

My original post was going to be about Heidi Swanson, of the blog 101 Cookbooks. It wasn't until I started tackling her second book, Super Natural Everyday, that it dawned on me that her cooking is vegetarian. I don't know why it never occured to me. I guess I just didn't miss it, the meat stuff I mean. Her food is good. Really good. Basic and simple. 

Heidi's books

I recently made her granola. Like all her recipes, it turned out just the way she said it would.

Heid's granola recipe

I tweaked the ingredients a bit by using a variety of dried fruits and I skipped the salt. Not a big enough difference to say I reinvented the recipe, and besides - it's granola. Granola has been around for a long time, there are plenty of recipes out there that are nothing more than variations on the theme.

Granola ingredients

What I like about Heidi's recipe is that it is not too sweet. Although I have a healthy sweet tooth, I don't want all that sugar in my breakfast. Yuck. Not first thing in the morning.

Granola in jars

The recipe makes enough for me to have 2 weeks of breakfast and share a bit too with the rest of the family, although the girls prefer something else.

The thing I like about granola, is actually the fresh fruit I put on top. Try as I may to "go local" I can't resist the blueberries coming from Chile this time of year, or the strawberries that Florida is sending our way.

Granola & blueberries

Granola is not the only thing I like for breakfast, but I liked it enough to paint a recipe card out of it. I tried to make it visually easy to "see" the recipe, so I wouldn't have to "read" the recipe, but rather, at a glance could see what I needed to do with the ingredients. I actually prefer having my recipes on these cards instead of being written out to then n'th degree of precision.

Watercolor granola recipe

So, I will be here, trucking along, thanking the heavens for aligning the stars for me so that can I relearn how to eat.

Loving all of you,

Carolina


Did She Really Say "Let Them Eat Cake"?

If you read my last post about the special drink, I urge you to try it. It really does taste refreshing and nothing like what you would imagine those ingredients to taste like. Yesterday, somehow or another, for 45 minutes I actually managed to feel a bit better. I mustered up the stamina to make my girls an after school snack - a cream cake in my new Bundt cake pan I received from my mother for Christmas (thanks Mami). As head chef in this household, I must try everything first. When it was out of the oven and "somewhat" cooled, I sat down with a slice of it and a cup of tea.

 

Cream cake and a cup of tea

It amazes me how something so simple can taste so satisfying. Being that it used the special Nordic Ware Bundt cake pan , and everything went in all at once and came out looking ready to be eaten, no frosting involved, the whole thing was a snap to make - good thing because I didn't have much energy to begin with.

 

Slice of cream cake

Although I am sharing with you my "cake making event", what I really want you to know about involves the link below. I have never (OK maybe not "never", but at least in the last ten years) have been sick for this long. Frankly, it is really boring being sick. I am used to doing so much in a day that to just sit there and do nothing was driving me crazy. Regular TV seemed pointless and annoying. I somehow, in my ipad hopping found out about this british food show that, in a very funny way, combines food and history. This show,The Supersizers, goes through, and the hosts eat their way through, different periods of history with the main emphasis being on the unique foods, mannerisms, and traditions related to food, that the people of the era ate. I started with the Shakespearean (Elizabethan) era and have been working my way to more current times. I must tell you that I am fascinated by this program series. If you are sick, in bed, with the flu, it is a must see if you are in a foodie mood. Below is the link for the one about Maria Antoinette.

 

After being home-schooled for most of their lives, my girls finally experienced the sensation of having to go back to school after Christmas break. Neither one of them was that thrilled to go back, even though they love their school. Their vacation simply wasn't long enough. I remember that feeling. I hated going back too. I tried to make it better for them by having this cake ready to great them when they came through the door. It felt good to just do a "Mommy" kind of thing.

Here is the recipe for the cream cake. I hope you can click on it and see it big enough on your screen if you are going to try and make the cake. If you have difficulty seeing it well enough, let me know.

Watercolor cream cake recipe

In the midst of writing this post I felt a rush to "paint" the recipe and add it to my watercolor recipe box.

Watercolor recipe box

Ok. Now I am exhausted and I am going back to bed.

Carolina

 


Mama Needs A Drink

Although 2011 was a good year, I have to say I am glad it is over. This post will be super brief as I am dealing with the worst case of the flu I have ever had. I have been dragging around now for 4 days, with a box of tissues under my arm. I feel lousy. I had hoped to start the year off with a big post on New Year's resolutions and all ... but it just ain't gonna happen. I am sick as a dog.

I made myself this drink in hopes of feeling better. The ingredients go in the blender in the following order:

grapes, 1/2 banana, 1/2 green apple, handful of kale, handful of wheat grass, small handful of watercress, 2 teaspoons Agave, large handful of Spinach, slice of lime (peel & all), a cup of frozen pineapple, a cup of ice.

New Year Drink Ingredients

I am not sure why, but it tastes really good.

New Year Drink

I should have this regularly.

I hope none of you get this flu.

Happy New Year.

I miss you.

Carolina


In The Beginning, There Was Garlic

I can say with quite certainty that if I ever were to write a food bible, I would begin it just like any other foodie would ... with the words: "In the beginning, there was garlic". I suppose if I had to name one ingredient that I could not live without, it really would have to be salt. Salt, alone, though would not be enough to "float my boat". There would have to be garlic involved.

Whenever I am shopping in the city, the smell of garlic cooking can make me stop dead in my tracks to scan the horizon for the source of the heavenly scent. I love it when garlic heads are roasted whole and I insert one of my wooden pallet knives and the garlic is buttery soft. Roasted garlic on a good baguette equals happiness to me.

Lately, in an attempt to really get down to the nitty gritty of kitchen basics, I have been trying out a few new cookbooks.

How To Roast A Lamb cover

The above book, How To Roast A Lamb, is one of seven new cookbooks I recently listed on "My Favorite Books" link. They are all fantastic resources if you are learning how to cook, or if, like me, you are starting all over even though you have been cooking for years. I cannot recommend them enough. This book, How To Roast A Lamb,  is filled with recipes that are Greek in origin. I have been trying several of the recipes in this cookbook and have had great success. As I get better at them, I will share them, here, on The Muse.

Lets get on with it. In this book, there is a recipe for garlic confit. "Confit" is a method of preparing food that preserves the food by cooking and flavoring it while it is submerged in a liquid. When most people talk about "confit", they are talking about duck confit (confit de canard). The leg meat from a duck is cooked (and also stored) in the rendered fat of a duck. I haven't tried it - yet. I do hear plenty of people rave about it, though. Those people must not be eating in my town. Lucky buggers. You can "confit" just about any meat - rabbit, chicken, veal, guinea fowl, and woodcock, but more commonly you will see confit of goose, pork, and turkey. For centuries confit specialty zones have been a part of the French landscape. Someday, when it is my time to go on a confit-mecca, I will go to France. I'll rent a tiny Renault like this one:

Old_renault1

I can envision myself zipping along the back country roads of the Basque and Béarn regions of France, tasting a cassoulet here, and a cassoulet there, getting my confit fill. Today, I am sharing with you a simple, basic preparation of garlic confit - a must for you to have in your fridge. Cooking with garlic can be tricky. Because garlic has much less water than onions do (60% vs. 90%) and a much higher concentration of sugar (fructose), the chances of you burning it are much greater. There are two things that can make garlic taste bitter - one, the most obvious offender, is if you burn it. Once you burn garlic, you have to throw it out and start all over again. When cooking onions and garlic together, you will fair better if you hold off on the garlic until the onions have cooked long enough to become translucent. The other offender, not as obvious but consistently able to ruin garlics' flavor, is that little, bright green sprout lurking inside of each garlic clove.When the garlic is not super fresh, the little green sprout starts to grow inside and when left in your cooking can impart a bitterness that seems to linger on the toungue. Pick out the little sprout with the tip of a sharp knife. Although it is not as pretty to slice (lengthwise) a garlic clove in half when you really would like to see all perfectly plump, whole cloves in your confit, I belong to the group of people where flavor trumps beauty. So as far as my thoughts on what to do about that sprout : have no doubts, take it out.

To begin then: get yourself as many garlic heads as you think you have the stamina to peel. Peeling the garlic is the only "hard" part of this, and the difficulty lies not in the skills but rather in the fact that peeling that many garlic cloves is simply annoying. You must focus on the prize. Peel them all now, and you will reap the rewards for weeks. Trust me. 

Making garlic confit

My friend, Cathy, has one of those silicone garlic peelers to help speed up the process of peeling all that garlic. She swears by it. I must try that gadget. In the meantime, I found that cupping my hands around 5-10 cloves at a time and rubbing vigouresly back and forth for a bit rendered the skins from the bulbs (actually a leaf, but those are semantics, here.) To remove the raw garlic smell from your hands you can place them under running water and move your hands along a stainless steal knife, rubbing the surface will remove the odor. I am more than a bit of a clutz, therefore, I must take the necessary precautions in order to avoid going through an entire box of Hello Kitty bandaids too quickly, and I use this little gadget:

Stainless steal washer

At eight bucks, it is a great stocking stuffer for the chef on your Christmas list, and does the trick of neutralizing the odors in an instant. Although I followed the recipe as far as amount of garlic (3 cups) and amount of oil (enough to cover the cloves), I did not add the thyme, bay leaf, or peppercorns the recipe called for. I wanted the garlic cloves to stay "neutral" enough so that I could "push" the flavor I wanted in the final dish. If I only was going to prepare Greek food with it, then by all means I would have added the other ingredients the recipe called for. I put the garlic cloves in my dutch oven. You can get a very inexpensive one that works great, I just had to buy mine because one of us, in the family, can not intake iron. They both work equally well for a variety of tasks. I make my bread in it, I cook whole stews in it, you really can't go wrong adding a dutch oven to your kitchen. Just make sure it is big enough so you aren't doing all the work for itty bitty amounts of food. If your current budget only allows for the purchase of oil and garlic, then you must put whatever oven proof pan you have into the oven and cover it with tin foil while it bakes.

To the garlic cloves add oil, that is half olive oil, and half canola oil, to cover the cloves. Place the lid on the dutch oven. Put the whole pot in a preheated (300°F) oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Garlic & oil in dutch oven

Take it out of the oven and let it cool. Put the cloves and the garlic into a clean jar and place in the refrigerator until ready for use. It will keep for 3 weeks as long as the cloves remain covered with oil.

Garlic confit in fridge

What to do with it :

  • mix a few cloves and a Tblsp. or so of the garlic oil with mayo for an instant aoili.
  • mix it instead with goat cheese and chopped sundried tomatoes in oil. Spread on toast (bruschetta).
  • Use instead of plain olive oil in salads.
  • place a few of the cloves, as is, on pizza before it goes into the oven.
  • mash a few cloves and add it to a creamy soup.
  • in a blender, combine 10 cloves with 3 Tblsp. canned chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, chopped cilantro (small handful), a little salt, and the zest of a lime. Put THAT on your burger or in your taco. 

The important thing, here, is that now, in your fridge, you have a jar of "help". The more you get used to grabbing for your garlic confit, the more uses for it that you will find.

Remember that this is not the same as the preserved "fresh" garlic you see in grocery stores. When you use that garlic you have to cook it after you take it out of the jar. They sell that stuff so that you can skipp the step of peeling your garlic.

A note of caution: if you were to take a bunch of raw garlic cloves, cover them with oil and forgo the process of cooking, you are dramtically increasing your chances of ingesting the deadly botulism bacteria that thrives in the absence of air. The only way around it is to do like the factories do - bathe the garlic in acid for several hours first before placing the cloves in the oil. That is why the store bought stuff tastes "off" even after you cook it. Do like I did, here, and cook it with the oil, and then store it in the fridge. You will get all the soft, comforting, nutty flavor that comes from roasting them, and by cooking it in oil you get two products that you can use, the oil, and the cloves. As I said, it will keep for three weeks. Mine has been in there for a week. I don't think I will make it to three weeks before we run out. Next time I will peel even more garlic.

I know that, at this time of year, most people are busy making cookies to give as gifts. I think a jar of garlic confit would be quite the gift to recieve. I know that I am in love with it.

I would love to see a picture of your jar of heavenly garlic confit in your fridge. Good luck with it.

Carolina


How to Get Your Man To Love You More

Stacked tomato & mozzarella torte

"Lunch Is Ready" - don't you just love the sound of that? My husband hears it every day since he works from home via the internet. He also hears the call to the table at dinner time. Lucky guy. 

It has been a L-O-N-G time since I shared a recipe with you, so I thought I would show you how to make what we had for lunch the other day.

We had an heirloom tomato and Mozzarella di Bufala torte with a watermelon, cucumber, basil, & mint salsa, a few drips of a balsamic vinegar and honey reduction was added as well. This makes enough for 4 people. Here goes:

For the salsa, place in a bowl the following:

- a chiffonade of @ 15 spearmint leaves and 10 basil leaves

- dice half of an english cucumber (don't peel the cucumber)

- dice 1 cup of watermelon. dice it small, same size as the cucumber

To the bowl above you are going to add my favorite combination for a salsa dressing that has fruit in it. In other words this works great with mango, or pineapple, etc.

Mix in a 1 cup liquid measuring cup or small bowl the ingredients for this salsa dressing:

- 1 finely chopped shallot

- 1 Tblsp. rice vinegar

- 1 Tblsp. lime juice

- 1 tsp. honey

- 1/2 tsp. finely chopped garlic

- 2 Tblsp. good quality olive oil

mix those ingredients together and let them sit for a couple of minutes before you add it to the chopped cucumber mixture.

Next:

take a small frying pan, add  8 Tblsp. balsamic vinegar and 1 Tblsp. honey ( I don't measure this, but it is roughly an 8:1 ratio of balsamic vinegar to honey) and get it nice and hot on high heat. Let it bubble and reduce to bring out the sweetness in the vinegar. It should take no more than a couple of minutes. If you go for too long, it will caramelize into a thick goo that, although yummy, will be difficult to spoon and drip over the plate.

 

OK, now you get to play chef like they do on TV.

- take slices of heirloom tomato ( you need 2 ripe tomatoes)  and slices of mozzarella di bufula and layer them in a torte-like fashion the way I did in the photo, above.

- spoon the salsa mixture over the top and on the sides.

- now drizzle the balsamic vinegar and honey reduction over the torte, the salsa, and the plate, in a few key spots, just enough to insure that every few bites you might get a burst of that flavor. The key in the whole dish is balance. Don't let the flavors, especially the mint, overwhelm the your tongue. A little bit of this and a little bit of that should be in every bite, with the vinegar reduction getting in on the action a little less often.

So there. This is my method to getting Greg to love me more. I think it works pretty well. There are a few guys (that never comment) that read my blog via Facebook. Guys: I think this can work wonders on your special girl, too.

Let me know if it works for you.

Carolina


Don't Cook The Asparagus

The harbinger of Spring, asparagus is packed with all the healthy things you want to go into your body. Like many folks I have always cooked them. Some folks boil or steam them, or also sauté them. One of my favorite ways is to grill them with a little olive oil - what I like most about grilling them is that there aren't any pots to clean. Yay! 

First, before we talk about my sketchbook entry, I want you to erase everything you know about cooking asparagus from your brilliant minds. I have been trying to track down the location of where I saw this brainless idea for a recipe. Sorry, no go. If I find it I will include it (to this post) at a later date.

So my little painting , below, tells you everything you need to know. 

Don't Cook The Asparagus

That's it! Simple! Awesome tasting! Refreshing and crunchy! And best of all, the peeler is all you have to wash. I peeled the raw asparagus on a cutting board because I am a bit klutzy and have been known to inadvertently add bits & pieces of myself in mindless acts of self mutilation to our meals. Those that where at camp up in Maine for my husband's birthday bash will recall me hula hooping with a massive wad of paper towels around my pinky finger- all because in my haste I had decided to peel something, what now I can't recall, in the air. I obviously miscalculated my culinary skills that day.

Anyhoo,  peel the asparagus in ribbons as best you can, the pieces that don't look like part of a shoot in Gourmet magazine need to be thrown in the bowl as well. The only pieces that got thrown out were the snapped off "cut" ends, which we do anyways when we prepare them (cooked or not). For those of you new to asparagus: when you grab the asparagus stalk with two hands and bend it, it should naturally snap (break) at the point that divides the more edible, digestible part from the stalkier, "woody" part. Follow on then by adding the lemon juice, pepper, and olive oil. Good quality shaved parmesan cheese is a bonus if you have it on hand. You can eat this raw asparagus salad as a first course or a side salad. To make more of a meal out of it you can add something to it like I did (see below). I added a few melt -in-my-mouth shiitaki mushrooms that I briefly sauteed in a pan with a little butter. If you choose do the mushrooms, cook them in a pan big enough that each mushroom piece has their own space. Add them to the hot pan (med-high) only after the butter has melted and then don't touch them, resist the urge to stir. Both the not moving them & giving each piece their space will ensure that they brown nicely. 

Asparagus salad

So... check. One more "recipe card" for my girls, one more little painting for my sketchbook project, and one more recipe that can be filed in the too-tired-to cook category. Not bad.

Asparagus & supplies


One to One

Below, you will find a part of an email I wrote this morning.

 

Hi Melissa,

Well, I guess a "good morning" is in order. Last night's storm was ferocious. We have seen many fierce wind storms up here on the mountain, but last night was so fierce that I actually went to bed with my bathrobe on. My husband thought I was being silly, but my bedroom is built like a tree house, up in the air, on 4 pillars, I was certain it would be the first thing to go flying through the woods. I didn't want people to find me the next morning and my girls being embarrassed because "Mom was indecent". I can laugh about it now, but last night it sounded like a train was coming through. 

All day yesterday was ugly here. I worked on a little project yesterday with that recipe you inspired me to do, but, since there was no sun, my pictures are a little flat. I may post it anyway today. It felt REALLY good to get inspired, and not let 24 hours go by before following through on the inspiration and completing the project.

 

And this is the result of that inspiration:

This is a corner of my kitchen, it is the place I have chosen to begin learning how to draw. When we built this house, the idea was that it would be a vacation house. It has a very relaxed feel. There aren't any closed cabinets, everything is out in the open. This way, anybody who is visiting can find what they need quickly. I recently, finally, got my cutting boards on the wall.

 

Foto de mi cocina #1

I used  these magnetic strips with these hooks from The Container Store, to hang my heavy cutting boards, pizza paddles, and my "breakfast" pans for making Ebelskivers and waffled pancakes. Both were gifts from my mom - although they keep me chubby, Mami, I can't live without them. The entire hanging apparatus for both rows cost me about $50 - and I can move the hooks around at will. They hold an enormous amount of weight for how slim and inconspicuous they are.

Close up, hanging things in kitchen

I have been meaning to write all of our favorite recipes in one book for my girls as a Christmas gift. Every Christmas that goes by I think - "there goes another year & I still haven't written the recipes down for them". Most of my recipes have been jotted down in a hurry, slipped into a plastic sleeve, and then added into a big, cumbersome 3 ring binder that never seems to close properly. It never fails that all the little holes in the plastic sleeves just will not all line up perfectly as I snap the darn rings together. The recipe, below, is in one to one proportions and works perfectly EVERY time I want to make waffles, Ebelskivers, pancakes, or waffled pancakes. I put all the ingredients in one bowl, mixing as I go. Note* that is a HEAPING teaspoon of double acting baking powder - think "Mountain on a spoon"

Recipe for waffles, pancakes, etc.

I triple the recipe when I make it, cooking the entire batch and freezing any cooked leftovers, although there rarely are any. Ebelskivers are like little pancake "balls" filled with warm, oozing jam. If I didn't have a man and I "needed" to get one, I wouldn't waste my time on any other tactics; I simply would make him a plate of Ebelskivers and watch him drop to his knees asking me for my hand in marriage.

 

Ebelskivers 2:22:2011

So here I am, years later, without a cookbook of my recipes, having learned how to cook but wanting to learn how to draw. I am beginning to learn how to draw right here in my kitchen. The cutting board wall has been calling out to me, so this is where I have begun. It all seemed so easy, the simple shapes of the things I use every day so clearly visible in my mind. You can't imagine the brain squeeze this has been to actually put it all on paper.

 

Drawing #1 2:24:2011 kitchen wall

My first drawing (above) nearly had me giving up. I heard every one of the voices in my head laughing at me in unison. I did the mental equivalent of "flipping them the bird" and pulled another sheet from my drawing pad. "THIS is hard" I kept hearing the voices say. "Maybe you should work on photography". "How much time is this going to take?" "Was that thing THAT big the last time I looked up?" "Where does that pan begin?"

I don't know how all those people draw so well. All I know is that I am going to need to draw every day for several years to get even close to what they do. 

 Drawing #2 2:24:2011 kitchen walls

Below you will see what I am hoping to put together with my "One to One" recipe in the cookbook for my girls. Little by little I am going to write down and collect the recipes for them. 

Drawing 2:24:2011 for recipe book

Let me know if you try the recipe - it is a keeper. I leave you then, hoping that tonight I can sleep without my bathrobe on.   Carolina


Laela & Her Homework

I know that hearing more about homeschooling is not at the top of your list, but perhaps my youngest daughter's homework project might catch your attention.

Laela cooking Korean food

Laela has done a HUGE project on Korea. Part of the project involved cooking Korean Food. We used the cookbook, Eating Korean, by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee. 

Eating Korean Cookbook

Laela loved reading the excerpts regarding the author's childhood years in Korea. I loved the fact that the recipes were doable by Laela without much input from me.

 

Mixing green onion pancake batter

Not to mention the fact that they were YUMMY !

Below are a couple of recipes that turned out particularly well. Via Facebook, Danielle let me know she wanted to see more recipes on the blog. I L-O-V-E Danielle, or Daniela as we call her here in our house. I was lucky enough to once be her high school teacher and have her help me out when my girls were little. After everything she has done for me, who am I to disappoint her? There has been a glitch in my posting recipes, though. When I last posted my recipe for a delicious cherry tart, I realized the recipe was waaaaay too long for anyone to hand copy. I am embarrassed to say it has taken me this long to stop resembling a bump on a log and find a way to make the recipes printable. I finally got off my duff and figured it out; it's not pretty but it will have to do for now. Just click on the "PRINT ...name of recipe" at the end of the recipe and it should work. If it doesn't work let me know & I will have to do what I HATE to do with all things regarding MY blog - ask my husband for help.

Here is the SUPER TASTY  green onion pancake that Laela made:

 

Korean Green Onion Pancake

Korean Green Onion Pancakes

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup rice flour

cold water

5 green onions, cut into 1 1/2" pieces

dash of black pepper

vegetable oil for frying

 

  1. Combine the flours and about 3/4 cup cold water, adding a little at a time and mixing until the mixture is the consistency of thin pancake batter. Add the green onions & black pepper and mix.
  2. In a large skillet or on a griddle, add just enough vegetable oil to thinly cover the surface, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Turn the heat to medium high. Add 1/2 the batter onto to the frying pan in a large, flat circle. Cook on one side until golden brown. Flip and cook the other side. Lower the heat as necessary to prevent burning, adding more oil as needed. Remove the pancake. Pour the remaining batter and repeat.
  3. Enjoy by breaking off a piece and dipping into dipping sauce (Vinegar Soy Sauce) or an asian hot sauce (Siracha).

PRINT Korean Green Onion Pancake recipe

 

Don't bother to make the Korean Green Onion Pancakes if you are not going to make the dipping sauce to go with it. The two together are a marriage made in heaven- my kind of heaven.

Dipping sauce

Vinegar Soy Sauce

6 Tablespoons soy sauce

6 Tablespoons rice vinegar

3 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil

3 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

fresh cracked pepper to taste

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. For dipping, serve in individual small dishes. Store leftovers in a tightly sealed container for about a week.

PRINT Vinegar Soy Sauce recipe

Again, let me know if you had any trouble printing the recipes. I would like to know if you actually made it too. They are a perfect appetizer. If you double the recipe it would go great with a cucumber salad  on the side. You will have to wait for another day if you want the recipe for my cucumber salad because right now I am too pooped to pop after figuring out how to print the recipes. Until next time.   Carolina

 

 

 


My Cherrrrie Amour

Fresh cherries

Olga, at my farmer's market this week had fresh picked cherries. How could I resist? These were tiny little jewels, each packed with the perfect combination of tart and sweet. After one entire box was inhaled by one of my girls, I was on a quest to find the perfect tart recipe for the last box I had left. What makes a recipe a "perfect recipe"? It has to be simple  AND taste TOTALLY awesome. Of course, my latest romantic encounter, Giorgio Locatelli of Made In Italy, delivered.

Tart making 

 Note I only used half the dough for this recipe, the other half is tucked away in my freezer, now, waiting for a day when I am needing to make another tart in a hurry. The recipe said to roll out the dough, then place it in the tart pan. My dough must have been too warm, after all it has been 85° outside and we have been living with the windows open since April, so I just grabbed it all with my hands. I could almost hear Giorgio in the background tisk, tisk, tisking me at the way I brusquely grabbed that dough. I made nice with it a little more gently once it was in the tart pan.

Tart dough

The next step was pitting those teeny weeny cherries. When I first started the process my brain was saying "canned cherries", "canned cherries". But Giorgio, oh how Italian men can affect aging latinas, was saying " P-e chhhance my love" I was about half way through all the cherries when I finally started getting into it and found my "rhythm". That little bugger, the cherry pitter, actually really works. I was feeling very domestic and somehow connected with all those Tennessee ancestors whom I am not related to.

Little cherries being pitted

Did I mention just HOW teeny weeny those local cherries were?

Moving on, Ta-Da.

Baked tart

The picture is quite blurry as I was doing all the camera stuff with one hand. The other was busy holding on to a handful of ice cubes. In my haste to get it out of the oven I only used one pot holder and it all started to get wobbly on me, I am still paying for that. I was feeling much better after the charry tart had been consumed. That is when I started sing (out loud, much to the chagrin of my girls) ... My Cherrrrry Amor. They said they had never heard of that song and that it didn't really exist. What do they know?


    

I am not a great recipe writer, in fact I really wanted to just send you to his cookbook, but I have made the effort to write it for you in case you have cherries (or peaches, or blueberries) in the house, that and a ton of butter. So here is Giorgio Locatelli's recipe:

For the pastry,

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups plus 2 Tblsp. flour
In my mixer, I beat the butter until soft (it was a little soft already from the hot day). Then I added the sugar. Once it was all nicely incorporated, I added the eggs one at a time, mixed some more then added the flour.

I put it in my greased pan ( I actually sprayed it with Baker's Joy) and stuck it in the fridge while I got the rest ready. 

Foil covered tart dough with rice
 

When I took it out of the fridge I lightly covered the pan with tin foil. I filled it with uncooked rice (you can use dried beans) and then I pre-baked it in the oven for 6 minutes at 340°. I then removed the foil and all the rice and cooked it for another 20 minutes (Giorgio says to do it for 15 minutes, so check and see how your oven is doing). 

Once it is cooked you will add a layer of frangipane - this gives the cherries a delicious sweet counterpoint.

For the frangipane:

  • 7 Tblsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup ground almonds (I ground the almonds in the cuisenart, if you don't have one then you have to buy gournd almonds)
  • 2 Tblsp. flour ( his recipe calls for 3 and 1/2 teaspoons)
In the mixer, beat your butter until soft, add the eggs and beat some more. Mix the flour and the ground almonds together and add them to the butter mixture. Mix slowly to incorporate then beat on high for only 2 minutes; just long enough to add air for volume. Spread this on the pre-baked tart. I like a lot of frangipane so I used it all on one tart. (Mami, I know what you are thinking : yes, you can use only half of the frangipane and leave the other half for the dough that was left over). Spread the cherries on top and push them into the frangipane a little. Bake at 360° for 20 minutes. He called for sprinkling sugar on top during the last few minutes of baking, I didn't do that and it was just fine. More than fine actually, it was heaven and I was in love. 

And this is what is left:

What was left of the cherry tart
 

That, and my never ending romance with Giorgio Locatelli.

Come on, sing with me .... "La,la,la,la,la,la ... La, la,la,la,la,la, ... My Cherrrrie Amour... lovely as a summer's day..."

Sing it
 


Yes, it is Ugly

Yes, the journal from my last posting IS ugly and I posted it anyway. Remember the part of "...lesson will be learned", well you guessed it: lesson learned. I have had more visits to that ugly journal post than you can imagine. You all, (now say that with a good-ole-southern-top-of-a-mountain-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-Tennessee twang), you all from Russia, Germany, Ukraine, Italy, Norway, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Chile, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Florida, come back now you here?

To say I'm embarrassed is an understatement. I ran to my studio right away, in my bathrobe, and started creating a "pretty" journal. Too late. You had already been privy to "THE UGLY JOURNAL". I know better than to post something blah. 

To celebrate my "Ugly Moment", I would like to make an offering. Now, I know you are anxiously awaiting something pretty, but, alas, I am a slow learner. I offer you the UGLY VEGETABLE.

JIcama
 

The jicama, homely AND ugly - a double wammy. But in hopes you will forgive me for my ugly journal, I say we rally behind the jicama, forgive it's ugly appearance , and enjoy it for what it really is : a vegetable from heaven; refreshing, crunchy, and fat free to boot.

First lets address the basics:

  • jicama is pronounced with the "j" sounding like an "h", I am a modern, hip, latina, so I try to pronounce it like I am not related to Ricky Ricardo, my "i" sounds like the "i" in the word "it".
  • Jicama is that ugly fruit you see in the produce section of your market that all kids ask about and adults, living north of the Mason-Dixie line, respond to with a blank stare.
  • Jicama, when purchased, should look healthy, as healthy as "UGLY" can look. No blemishes, no scars, no soft spots or bruises, no mold. It will keep in your fridge for two weeks.
  • Jicama, any bigger than a softball or small cantelope lacks sweet flavor because the sugars have started to convert into starches, any smaller and you will be "cussin" me out for all the peeling you will need to do before you eat it.
  • Jicama is actually a legume that grows on a vine, hugging the ground and terminating in the tubers I so covet. 
  • Jicama thrives in warm climates, like all true latinas do.
  • Jicama is a plump girl's dream crunchy food, it is fat free and is loaded with vitamin c (who knew?)
  • Jicama is eaten raw, but unless you enjoy the flavor of raw potatoes, I would add a little something to it first.
I thought you would like 2 brainless recipes for jicama. I like brainless anything, don't you? When I see the word "brainless" before a task, I make an automatic bee line to it.

The first is not really brainless, it is more aptly described with the words "brain dead".

Lets call it a "Jicama Hot Hit"

  1. After you have peeled the jicama, which sometimes I do with a knife, cut it into small enough sticks that they can fit in your mouth in 1 or 2 bites. Toss with the juice of a couple of limes.
  2. Place the sticks on a plate with 2 little bowls. One bowl should have Siracha hot sauce, the other Turbinado sugar.
  3. Let guests dip their appetizer jicama sticks first into the sugar, and then into the hot sauce before popping them into their mouths.
  4. Last, but not least, relish in the fact that you can "produce" even when you are feeling brain dead.

Jicama Hot Hits
 The hot sauce (Siracha) is H-O-T

Siracha & Turbinado sugar
If you are a "wimp" you will need to wash it down with a glass of milk. The rest of us might prefer something that reminds us of the good things south of the border such as ...

Empty Corona bottles
Now those were full when I started the photo shoot, but the Jicama Hot Hits were sooo good that we ate it all so super fast that I didn't get to pick up my camera again until all we had left were "empties" and a bare plate with just a bit of sugar left.  

Now lets just say your feeling a bit more perky. How about my jicama salad? Not brain dead, but certainly fits in on the brainless category of culinary activities. Here is a photo of the ingredients you need to have on hand.

Ingredients for Jicama salad
 

  1. Peel and cut the jicama same as for the recipe above. Put it into a salad bowl.
  2. Add a sweet citrus fruit to it, peeled and sectioned. Blood oranges look gorgeous, seedless clementines are my kids' favorite, I like Pomelo ... that humongous grapefruit looking thing that is not near as tart as a regular grapefruit. If you have your own grapefruit tree then you are good to go with regular grapefruit as they tend to be much sweeter than what I can get at the store. The day I made this I only had Tangelos in the house.
  3. Add the juice of 2 juicy limes.
  4. Add an equal amount of extra virgin olive oil.
  5. Add as much chopped cilantro as you want, stir lovingly and gently. Sprinkle with smoked paprika.
  6. Serve at the table with grilled chicken or fish and try not to feel too smug as everybody compliments your cooking, we all know just how brainless this recipe really is.

Jicama Salad
 

If you would like, we all (again with the southern accent) can keep a secret to just how brainless these recipes really are ... that is if you can keep the thoughts about "THE UGLY JOURNAL" hush, hush.


Diagnosis: Mangomanic Syndrome

Yes, I finally know what to call my problem. It feels like such a relief to have a name for all the symptoms I have been feeling. I didn't know what was wrong with me. The lack of politeness, the irritability with complete strangers, the total disappearance of my motherly kids-come-first instincts, it is all a part of the daily life of someone suffering from Mangomanic Syndrome. Let me back up and explain. This is the time of year when I put all politeness aside in the supermarket. Old ladies, sweet little children, just married couples grocery shopping together, GET OUT OF MY WAY. Don't you all know it is

MANGO SEASON ???

Lots of mangoes

Finally, they have arrived. I wait all year for these precious few weeks in May when the mangoes arrive. Did I just hear you say (with your head bobbing & bouncing from side to side like one of those cocky dashboard dolls) ..."Mangoes? We got mangoes all year." No you don't, not these kind of mangoes. If I am wrong, and you do have these kind of mangoes all year, be a sweetie and prepare the guest room for me - I am moving in!

The markets I go to, whether in my little town or the ones I travel far for, carry those "other" mangoes most of the time. The ones that look so big and promising, all a-blush with red on the outside. Well all I can say is don't judge a book by it's cover. Those mangoes can be stringy. The ones I like go by the name of "Champagne mangoes", "Filipino mangoes", or as I like to call them "never-enough mangoes". I prefer these mangoes.

Mango in my hand 

They are quite a bit smaller, and will turn from greenish-yellow to a deep golden, sunny yellow when ripe. Make sure to not buy any with wrinkled skin. I learned all about these mangoes when we spent several weeks in Hanoi, Vietnam. We were there for the adoption of our youngest. We were lucky enough to stay at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi . This is no ordinary hotel and their breakfast buffet was no ordinary breakfast. There were business men ( I didn't see any business women when I was there) from all over the world. Japan, Korea, China, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, United States, France - you get the picture, and at the buffet they had it all set up by country. In one area was all japanese food, in another, all malaysian, the next french, and so on. Each country's dietary customs were abundantly represented and prepared exquisitely.From this day forward all other buffets we have partaken in are now crassly called "bufits" in our family. The first day I was there I politely put a few dim sum on my plate, next to the sushi, which was next to the croissant. As you can tell, I did this only because I didn't want to offend anybody. I am an equal-country eater. My plate was making me appear like I was a gluttonous American tourist, but obviously I wasn't feeling that badly because I went back to get some fruit before beginning my breakfast. The fresh fruit area alone was bigger than my whole dining room. There amongst all the varieties of tropical fruit was this mango. I put a few slivers of mango on my plate, some longans, some lychees, and some asian apple (another heavenly item we can talk about another day), and off I went back to our table. Between cutting up some fruit for my oldest daughter and tending to her fidgeting in an unfamiliar high chair, a piece of mango made it's way to my mouth. I stopped ... I literally could hear the angels singing Hallelujah. No sooner had we finished breakfast, we scurried our way across the dining room and asked the maitre d' if I could speak to the kitchen staff. Twenty minutes later, after much back & forth from English to French, to VIetnamese, and back again through French to English, I was well into my first lesson on how to pick and prepare a mango. They made it look easy, the trick is to first find the thin, but long pit inside and cut on either side if it, have your knife follow the curve of the pit like so

Mango pit 

I am holding the pit here in my hand. I peel the edges of peel from the pit and cut off what "meat" I can. The pieces end up looking a little messy, but they are delicious just the same. I grew up in Chile , with a Scottish mother, we don't waste anything, ever. What is left on the two remaining sides is what you can serve to guests. You start by scoring each half.

Scoring the mango
Then you invert the peel (this is my daughter's favorite part to do), it kind of "flips" on you.

Turning mango inside out
All you have left to do is glide your knife along the peel to remove the treasure. Please note my knife. I love this kind of mango so much that I even bought my knife in that color; another clear sign that I suffer from Mangomanic Syndrome.Cutting mango from peel
 All you have to do next is eat it, just like that. There are many things I have learned about mangoes. They are related to, amongst other things, cashew nuts and poison ivy. They are rich in vitamin c when green and as they ripen they become rich in vitamin A. If you want to know more look here .  Because I love all of you, I want to share one of my favorite recipes where mango gets to be the star in an entrée.  It is for mango and shrimp salad, this recipe should feed about four people. When mangoes are in season it is easy to make enough of this salad and not go broke (Walmart is selling these mangoes for 73 cents each)

I adapted this recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Cooking 101 by John Ash. His recipe calls for melon & pineapple, for which I substituted my favorite kind of mangoes. The recipe also calls for honey. I have tried it with honey and also with Agave syrup. I prefer using the Agave syrup, but the honey tastes good too. I wouldn't try using maple syrup, though, I think the flavor of that syrup would control the dish. The control of the flavor has to belong to the fruit. I hope you aren't one of those people who has to have everything exactly measured out. I only measure perfectly when I bake a cookies or cake sort of thing.

Ingredients mango shrimp salad
 

So here goes-

  • juice of 2 or 3 limes (3 if they are small)
  • equal amount of extra virgin olive oil
  • equal amount of rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. chili paste or chili garlic paste, whichever you have
  • 1 full tsp. chopped garlic
  • 2 or 3 chopped shallots or 1/2 red onion
  • 2 to 3 tsp of Agave syrup or honey to taste
  • as much chopped cilantro as you can take, I grab a bunch with my hand and chop it
  • cut up mango, for people suffering for Mangomanic Syndrome use 7 mangoes, all others can get away with 3 or 4. 
So put all of that in your prettiest bowl and stir gently. To this you will add sauteed shrimp. To make the sauteed shrimp : in a hot frying pan add 

  • 3 counts olive oil, when hot add 
  • thawed shrimp, I buy a bag of frozen size large or extra large shrimp, I thaw them out in a bowl of running water,then I peel them, then I let them sit between a couple of layers of paper towels ( you don't want wet shrimp going into your pan because when they hit the oil, the shrimp will end up getting steamed instead of sauteed. The bigger your pan, the more room each shrimp will have, the nicer the sauteed "color" you will get.
  • as much chopped garlic as you like. Add this at the very end, you only want to take the edge off the garlic, if it starts to brown it will become bitter. 
I like to serve this dish with a lightly steamed vegetable like baby bok choy drizzled with a few drops of toasted sesame oil. If you are feeding a bunch of guys put the salad on top of plain jasmine rice. Let me know what you think of the recipe. If you click on the picture it should make the image bigger. Enjoy!

Mango & shrimp salad

   

 
 



Olive Oil Saves The Day

Watercolor olive oil
 

 Where would I be without olive oil? Can anybody live without it?  Maybe the guy who invented Popeye couldn't, that is why he named Popeye's wife Olive Oil. It makes a whole lot of sense to me. If you had to marry a thing, what would it be? And would divorce EVER cross your mind? Really... perhaps I could have an affair with chocolate, perhaps whipped cream. But I would always come running back to olive oil, begging for forgiveness. Let me share with you just how it saved my day yesterday.

    It was late in the afternoon and I had to go to the local market to make something for dinner. If we were going to have family night watching American Idol, I just didn't have time to go to one of my usual markets that are about an hour away. So I headed down the hill off my mountain-in-the-middle-of nowhere-Tennessee and made a beeline to the market - fairly easy to do since there are no traffic lights and only 2 stop signs on my 20 minute trip to get there. Once I got there I new the vegetable selection would not be thrilling, but I had no vegetables - nothing back home but a few lowly carrots in the fridge from three shopping trips ago. Well, I came home, an hour after I had left, with nothing more than flour and Glad Press-n-Seal (love that stuff) -BUT NO VEGETABLES. Why, you ask? Because they had picked yesterday to do a spring cleaning to the vegetable dept. There was a plumber, I assume by the look of the back of his pants, on the floor, belly down. His upper torso disappeared down a hole where the tiles had been removed. He must have been repairing the watering lines for the lettuce section. Next to him was a sign..."Pardon the Inconvenience". The INCONVENIENCE? I am a visual girl. I can't go to see scary movies because the images stay with me for a lifetime. I believe, don't you, that it is more than an inconvenience to be left living the years that I have with the image of his plumber fashion statement permanently imbedded in my brain.

    American Idol was going to be on and I needed dinner on the table. I opened the refrigerator and again looked in as I had done before my wasted road trip. This time though, perhaps because I was truly desperate, I actually pulled out that  measly bag of carrots. What can I do with these? I swung my head up in frustration and the I saw it ... OLIVE OIL. I peeled the carrots as fast as I could without adding pinky pieces to the peelings in the sink, cut the carrots into 2 or 3 inch pieces. I peeled a couple of onions and quartered them. All of it went into a my little red roasting pan and I drizzled olive oil all over it. I threw it into the oven. In my haste I had forgotten to preheat the oven to 400 degrees. No worries. I just left the carrots in there while the oven did it's thing to warm up. About 40 minutes later I was in heaven, eating the most gourmet tasting transformation that little bag of carrots could have hoped to become.