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Five on Friday

A lot has been going on in my little world.  I could probably do 10 on Friday but that isn’t as cute and I need to get down to business!

1.  I got a new job!  And it is related to my degree!  This is great news.  I am so excited to be using my education.  Of course, it means more studying, but that is ok.  I had the pleasure of getting fingerprinted for it, which is always interesting.  I have now been fingerprinted 5 times.  One time with ink.  That was no bueno.  I was in a suit too, so I was very nervous about getting it on myself.  This time was electronic.  Much cooler.  Apparently I didn’t burn off my fingertips when I worked in restaurants.

2.  I started Crossfit again.  I am just in need of a major change with my fitness and this is a great way for me to get back on track.  The gym was amazing and I am super excited about getting back into it.  I never felt that comfortable at crossfit but maybe Tucson is the place for me to do that!  I did a lot of burpees and power snatches last night.  Weeeeeeee.  I probably look more like this than this.

3.  I am officially obsessed with the Gilmore Girls.  I play it constantly on my Kindle Fire and carry it with me from room to room while I am doing things around the house.  Lorelai annoys me slightly but also reminds me of a good friend (in a good way) and I adore Rory so much.  I have no idea why I didn’t watch the show when it was on TV but I am glad I have it now!  Now Lorelai and Luke need to get together (no spoilers, I’m on season 4).

4.  I am in a major purge of EVERYTHINGGGGGGG.  It’s a long story but my clothes have been in a storage unit far away from me for over a year.  So when we were reunited, I was motivated to junk a lot of them.  Two large trash bags later and now I am itching to be rid of more stuff.  Why is there so much stuff everywhere???  It takes time but, it feels so good when it is gone.  I am trying to replace things and not add to the clutter.  One in, one out.

5.  I am in a cooking rut.  I think I have too many options from which to choose.  I just got Homemade Decadence, by Joy Wilson and Plenty More, by Yotam Ottolenghi, but I haven’t made a single dish from either.  I keep dragging them out, paging through half the book and putting it down and doing nothing.  I was using Seriously Delish, by Jessica Merchant a ton when I first got it and love it, I think I just need to make a concerted effort to use books and not the internet.

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Croissants

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Croissants are probably one of my favorite foods.  I am really not a bread person.  I don’t really buy it and I don’t miss it.  I will make a cinnamon roll or the like, but I consider that to be a sweet.  I prefer a savory breakfast and eat eggs in some form every morning.  However, if I am having a rough time of it, a croissant is in order.  When I was working in NYC, every time I departed from the subway in the morning, I passed a bakery that had bagels, rolls, and fresh croissants.  It was so easy to dip in, get my warm, buttery, flaky croissant, and continue the route to work.  Also, my favorite place to eat in NYC is City Bakery.  They take the classic croissant and step up the game with a Pretzel Coissant.  They use a salt wash on the outside of the pretzel and it is a bit dryer (in a good way) than a classic croissant.  The croissant at Starbucks is not great, but not bad, and it will do in a pinch.  Also, it has less calories than most of the stuff in their pastry case.  So, croissants are a health food.

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I am currently in transition from one job to another and I have some extra free time.  It is just so much easier to devote your time to these lengthy project when you know you have limited distractions (like a job – hah).  I was inspired by Dominique Ansel’s Cronut recipe that has been recently published.  However, I thought if i were going to ever attempt making the cronut, I needed to make a classic croissant first, to understand the basics of a laminated dough.

I did some research and was pointed to the Cooks Illustrated method.  I read about other home baker’s errors and made a game plan to avoid them.  I loaded up on King Arthur All Purpose flour (not an ad), just recommended since it has a slightly higher gluten content than other all purpose flours.  I also loaded up on Plugra, a high fat content butter.  I scoped our house for a cool spot for the final rise.  I was concerned about this, being in the desert, but I found a closet that is nice and cool.  I watched the Cook’s Illustrated video about a million times and got to work.  The process was lengthy, but straightforward.  I was nervous at the end, just because so much work went into the pastries, but they turned out great.  When I was rolling them, I put some 60% chocolate into some of the croissants, and gruyere sticks and prosciutto in others.  I left more than half plain and wish I had filled more, but all were wonderful.  I found the process a lot less tedious than making a pie.  I think that says something about me, not sure what!

 

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Peaches with Honey, Goat Cheese, and Pine Nuts

Peaches with Honey, Goat Cheese, and Pine Nuts

Peaches with Honey, Goat Cheese, and Pine Nuts

Hi.  Ummm.  Is this thing on?  Long time no post, eh?  Well, it is certainly not because I am not cooking (double negative, gross), but sometimes you have to live life.  I have been cooking my way through a few cookbooks this year, which I would love to tell you more about. The subject at hand is peaches.  When I was little, I think I ate too many ripe and juicy Georgia peaches in one sitting [and got really itchy all over].  Later, I realized that it was hard to find those perfect peaches, hence the gorging.  When we had a CSA in NJ, it was the first time in a while that I bothered with the peaches.  It’s just so hard to find that perfect peach and the peaches sold in the grocery store were a far cry from what I envisioned.  Here in AZ, it seems to be a bit easier for them to get it straight with produce in general, so I found myself drawn to the peach display at the store.  With my grocery shopping, generally I try to stick to the list, but with fresh fruit, I just buy what is in season and looks good.

I thought I would ease myself in here with a easy one.  It’s not even a recipe.  And peaches are probably no longer in season where you are.  However, it was a pretty awesome flash of brilliance on my part, so I wanted it recorded here.

Peaches with Honey, Goat Cheese, and Pine Nuts

Ingredients:

Peaches

Honey

2 tbsp goat cheese

1 tbsp pine nuts

Directions:

Slice peaches into wedges.  Drizzle honey over peaches to taste.  Crumble goat cheese onto peaches.  Sprinkle with pine nuts.  Enjoy!

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High Five For Friday VII

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It’s Friday, its cold in Tucson (50 muhahahaha), and I’m eating steak for lunch.  Let’s get to it.

1.  Christmas!!!  I mean, is there anything else right now?  Are you all set to celebrate?  We are on a pretty lean budget this year so shopping was all set.  I mailed Christmas cards and cookies already.
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2.  We went to see Anchorman II last night.  I knew that it had somewhat mixed reviews, but I could not pass up a chance to see my favorite, Kirstin Wiig.  If you approach the movie as plotless and just entertainment, you will be just fine.  There are so many great cameos in one scene, which almost made it completely worth it in itself!

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3.  We found an amazing new (to us) taco place and we have already been twice in a week.  Oops.  If you are a southwest local, check out El Taco Tote.  They have a very extensive salsa and toppings bar with lots of little delights: radishes, cucumbers, cabbage, cilantro, pickled onions (!!!),  and  raw onions.  Plus every meal comes with a drink and they have the super fancy coke machine that has 100s (I have no idea how many, total exaggeration probs) of choices so I can have my beloved seltzer!

4.  With 2014 fast approaching, the compilations, lists and summaries of the year are popping up everywhere.  Google did a very nice job.

5.  I love the Muppets and they want to wish you a Merry Christmas!

Have a wonderful weekend and don’t forget to take a breath, enjoy a cuppa and break with the ones you love.

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Slow Cooker Tips

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Do you have a Crock Pot?  It is one of my top kitchen appliances.  It gets weekly use and we would not have eaten nearly as well as we did when I was in graduate school without it.  It is a busy cook’s best friend.  Today, I am going to give you some of my knowledge that I have gleaned of my years of use of a crock pot.  I am also going to give you some of our family favorites.

Which Slow Cooker to Purchase:

I have used the cheapest model and more expensive ones.  I am happy with the results of all of them.   Cooks Illustrated has a buyer’s guide on them, and I recommend that you use that as a guide, or just buy whatever is cheap at Target/Walmart/Amazon.

Crock Pot General Tips:

  • The crock pot doesn’t lose moisture so if at the end of the cooking time, you think it is has too much liquid, just crank the heat to high and leave the lid off for 20-30 minutes (or as needed, just make sure you are checking on it, you may want to stir it periodically).
  • On the liquid note, don’t feel weird when you are mixing a bunch of ingredients that are solid, especially if there is meat, because the meat will release a bunch of juices that mix with spices, etc.
  • Dairy is weird in the crock pot, it can separate, so it’s best to add it at the end.
  • Do not take the lid off during the cooking, it loses a lot of heat and it adds a lot of time to the cooking.  [As tempting as it is to peek.]
  • On the whole, crock pots are very forgiving.  Set it to whatever the recipe says and most cookers will automatically switch to warm at the end of the time [you need to double check your machine].  Don’t worry if you get home later than you planned.  If it is on warm, you are ok for food safety and it’s probably not overcooking.
  • Flavors mellow a lot in the slow cooker.  I have found I can put what I think is a lot of heat into the machine and at the end of a long cook time, the meal is much less strong.  With that said, I have had inedible bean soup that was way too spicy and I like to salt most dishes at the end of the cook time.

Adapting the regular recipes for the Slow Cooker

  • I have frequently used the crock pot in recipes where there is a long period of simmering on low heat.   I just do all the steps as prescribed and then throw the food in the slow cooker
  • I had a lot of success with this, especially The Pioneer Woman’s Burgundy Mushrooms.

Favorite Recipes

Other Resouces for Slow Cooker Questions
  • Real Simple has a great article on slow cooker food safety.  [The FDA used to have  a great resource on food safety and slow cookers.  I am a nerd and I read this when I first got mine.]
  • The Kitchn has a lovely little list of recipes and the comments are always full of fantastic tips from their smart readers!
  • Crock-Pot.com is a commercial website but full of reader submitted recipes and information on different uses.