Thursday, April 30, 2009

Going Retro

I remember eating cream of wheat many-a-mornin' while I was growing up. It used to be one of my favorite breakfast foods before being home schooled by my mom. By third grade we were done with home schooling and off to a regular school like everyone else. There was no more time for morning meals that took 30 minutes or more to cook, and somehow cream of wheat just got lost in the hustle and bustle of life.

I saw cream of wheat (Bob's Red Mill "Creamy Wheat" to be exact) at the store a while back and picked it up. I had completely forgot about it until the other morning, when, due to the lack of eggs and other foods being present, I decided to try it out again.

Do you guys remember how good this stuff was? It's still that good! There just something about wheat that has been refined to smithereens (did I spell that right?) and covered in butter and brown sugar...mmmm.....No, it definitely does not meet the definition of a "whole food," but at least it's all natural! And while in my world cream of wheat dates back to the 1980's, in the real world it was invented in 1893 (according to Wikipedia).

So I think I might be eating it for dessert from now on- as I so often do with sugar cereals and other sweet breakfast foods- but I'll definitely be eating it again.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Something to Blog About

This may be a sort of a Debbie downer blog, but I am going to write today about something I just realized that I really miss in my life.

We moved to Seattle almost five years ago. In those years we have made some dear, dear friends here. As much as we love every single one of them, none of them share our taste and love for food enough to devote the amount of time and income that we do to trying new places and things. So, I make the most of the circumstances I have been given, and usually I look at food times as a chance to have a date and sit across from the man I love doing something we both enjoy.

This weekend, though, I realized how much I miss sitting across the table from friends that I love. Sometimes it's good to know that people are with you because they choose to be with you, rather than because you're family and stuck together. And I've said before that nothing is more meaningful to me than doing this with food- sitting around the table, eating, and just talking to my favorite people. It's one thing that I enjoy most and get to do least.

So to those who are far away, but would love to go out and have a meal with me, know that I really miss you and I'm getting cheesily teary-eyed writing so.


Friday, April 17, 2009

My brownies

I am a brownie purist. I do not like anything in them or on them. No chocolate chips, no sprinkles, and absolutely no nuts (The exception is the brownie recipe that my grandma made last time I saw her, where it actually seemed as though she went nuts with the toppings. She put everything on there from frosting to marshmallows, caramel, and who knows what else. Those were amazing).

Anyway, a simple brownie needs to be just that. Simple. Well, simple and fudgy. I found this recipe does the trick, and even with melting the chocolate it is really quick to make. I actually pulled the brownie part from another recipe that had a fussy chocolate frosting with it. They don't need it.

Annika's Brownie Recipe

  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a 2-quart bowl in the microwave on high for 3 minutes, stirring every 20 to 30 seconds until the chocolate is completely melted. Add the eggs, sugar, and vanilla and mix well with a spatula. Add the flour and stir to combine. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I almost forgot to tell you

As if I didn't have enough reason to look forward to my trips back to California...

I have established a new and most enjoyable tradition. It's called the Euro Pane Bakery, and it's in Pasadena. I guess I should back up a lot....waaay back.... to my hair dresser, John. As far as hair dressers go, I love him. So much so that back while I was in college for four years, and in the almost five years I have lived in Seattle, I still plan getting my hair done around my trips back to California. It feels very posh, by the way, to be able to say, "Oh, yes, I fly down to LA to get my hair done." Kind of Oprah like, really. But I'm getting off topic.

You see, around the corner from the salon is the little Euro Pane Bakery. From the front it looks like it could be any of those odd, non descript mediocre cafes that simply litter southern Cal. I would have never walked in had my wonderful stylist not recommended it. My first impression was absolute shock when I saw this:

A real live bakery! One that knows how to make real live artisan breads! What I wish I had was picture of is the pastry case full of amazing looking sweets, croissants, tarts, etc...They don't look fancy or anything, just absolutely delicious like someone seriously knows what they're doing. The decor and the staff had absolutely no pretense (pretensiousness is a big problem with most good food establishments in Seattle). It was just good.

Second of all, take a look back at the menu above, if you can read it. Those are sandwiches served on their in-house made breads. Ooooh so good. And if you don't believe me, ask the twenty people that were in line in front of me.

Now every time I make the trip to Pasadena beautify myself, I swing by the bakery and get whatever I fancy at that time. Last time they had a roasted beet and goat cheese tart that was pretty much the best thing I've ever put in my mouth. They don't have a website. The best I could do for you is this page here, but it's got all the info you need.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I urge you friends

I love the food around Easter!

I would like to take this time to remind you to dip some strawberries in chocolate.

Make some deviled eggs.

Maybe have a mimosa or two ;).

And maybe a hand full of Jelly beans.

Enjoy your time with friends and family, and happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Way to Throw a Dinner Party

Something great about living in Seattle for the past four and a half years has been our "home group" that we attend every Sunday evening. From the very start of our marriage, Raj and I have been getting together with a few other families every week for dinner and Bible study. Each week we rotate houses, and everyone takes turns cooking and hosting. So basically, every few weeks I am responsible for throwing a dinner party.

Currently, there are about eight or ten people that come on a regular basis, but in the past there has been as many as sixteen people to cook for in my little kitchen. When I began hosting, it would take me all day to cook, my kitchen would be a mess, and I would spend hours cleaning after. As the years went by, though, I became a very seasoned dinner party thrower. I figured out what kinds of recipes are best for big groups (ones with lots of do ahead steps), and which are not (for example, Indian dinner is definitely not a low stress menu, nor is a salad nicoise good to make for a lot of people).

Sunday was our day, and it was quite simple and delicious. I made the mexican lasagna I told you about the other day, assembling it on Saturday so there was no cleanup the following day. I marinated some chicken strips, grilled them, and then let Trader Joe's do the rest. Sure, I could have sliced pineapple and mango myself, made my own guacamole, and washed and cut up my own salad greens, but with places like TJ's who are fresh and reasonably priced why not outsource a few chores, am I right?

So now that you know how easy it is, go throw your own dinner party!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Only my thoughts for you today

As I grew from a teenager into adulthood, I became unintentionally inclined to the domestic arts. Cooking is the obvious interest, but I also found myself drawn to sewing, decorating, child rearing, and general house keeping. Which is why I am sort of embarrassed to say outright that I know jack nothin' about gardening.

It comes as no big surprise to anyone in this city of outdoorsy tree huggers that Seattle is full of people who just luuuurve gardening- and we're talking obsessively tending to the outsides of their homes. Frankly, and maybe it's the southern Californian in me, I am not inspired to do anything that's going to force me outside when it's 45 and raining.


On those very special days like today, when for some reason we are getting a 70 degree sunny day break from our usually dreary weather, I open my drapes to view my back yard and I'm ashamed of myself. I told Raj that we are those neighbors- you know the ones- with the horridly weedy, dirty yard full of dead plants. And a fire pit full of rain water (that, I might add, we've only used once in our three years in this house). So since I have some free time today I am planning on cleaning up a bit. I'vee already thrown away our soggy remnants of what was once a doormat, a dead basil plant, old charcoal from our grill, and five or six broken flower pots.

Once everything is cleaned up, I think I might entertain the idea of growing some vegetables, which are things that I know grow fantastic here in the northwest. I sometimes feel that it's my duty as a self proclaimed food snob to know how to grow some things. From what I've heard, it's very satisfying to pick and eat your home grown food. Not to mention super healthy. And if I can get good at it, I will be one step closer to my dream of buying a rural plot of land and living like the Laura Ingalls Little House on the Prairie family except with electricity, plumbing, and heating. And the internet.

So if I start this project I will be certain to take you along with me on my journey. No promises yet, though, I'm still weighing the pros and cons.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Fast and easy...

...seems to be what my life is all about right now. Except the easy part.

Sometimes I really miss the days of pastry school, when I could go in and just get lost in learning about becoming a pastry chef. No quotas, no customers. Just 5 hours of baking and experimenting, tasting... What a wonderful time it was indeed.

But life is not pastry school, and sometimes things need to be done fast.

So to make this fast....I looove this Mexican Casserole. All the flavors are there, and it can be different depending on what salsa or beans you use. The recipe calls for pinto, but sometimes I use black. Also, I like to add some shredded chicken on occasion for protein.

Here you are:

Mexican Lasagna
Serves 4.
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 4 scallions, coarsely chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 10 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 1 (15.5 ounces) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup prepared salsa (mild or medium)
  • 8 ounces pepper Jack cheese, grated (about 2 cups)

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a food processor, combine cilantro, scallions, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper with as much spinach as will fit; pulse, adding remaining spinach in batches, until coarsely chopped.
  2. Coat an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Lay 4 tortillas in bottom of dish (they will overlap slightly). Layer with half of beans, salsa, spinach mixture, and cheese; repeat with remaining ingredients, ending with cheese and pressing in gently.
  3. Cover dish with foil; place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes; remove foil, and continue baking until golden, 15 to 20 minutes more. Cool 5 to 10 minutes.