Archive | June, 2013

Pancakes

30 Jun

I am very surprised I’ve never posted a pancake recipe here.  Especially considering I eat them constantly (except for this week when I had crêpes three days in a row… that will come later).  I used to use a recipe from Joy the Baker (which is divine), but I found one that takes fewer ingredients.  It’s supposed to be a coffee pancake recipe from A Cozy Kitchen, but the coffee part comes from instant coffee crystals which I obviously refuse to have in my apartment.  Her notes said that she tried throwing in brewed espresso and it was too watery, so I just forewent the coffee altogether.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • chocolate chips (optional)

Recipe:

Do you see how simple that is?  How little you need?  I love this recipe.  It’s so dangerous.

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Heat the oven up to the lowest temperature you can (mine only goes as low as 200).  In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients.  In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk.  Combine the two and whisk until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips if you have them.

In a large, buttered skillet over medium-high heat, cook the pancakes for a couple of minutes on each side, transferring them to the oven to stay warm.  Serve with whatever.  I usually stack mine with layers of fruit and/or chocolate sauce because I’m too cheap to buy good syrup and too snobby to eat cheap syrup.

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I finished Absolution yesterday and am casting about for something to read next, so I’m afraid I have nothing for you.  Although I did read a book called Bad Marie, by Marcy Dermansky, that was pretty good, so maybe check that out.

Baked Tofu and Kimchi Sandwiches

28 Jun

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This is what summer looks like.  Ideally.  It’s what my summer looks like.

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It’s an amazing summer so far.  And it’s only been 2 weeks!  Literally two weeks and two days ago I was in school.  Now I’ve been all up and down the coast of Chicago, way out into the suburbs, around more neighborhoods than I can remember right now, and have shot so much video it pains me to think of editing it all.  I’m off to NY soon, then upstate, then RI, then NY, then China…  These months just get crazier and crazier.

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We’ve also been having the most stunning weather in Chicago.  Constant back and forth between storms and hot sunlight.  Yesterday at the beach we got rained on and sat on the rocks through the whole storm, jumping into the lake when it got too cold.  And afterwards, a double rainbow and the most stunning sky.

Now, these sandwiches.

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I got the idea from Appetite for China, which is also where I got the instruction for baking tofu.  Other than that, I used none of the same ingredients as her, so this is quite a different recipe.  Also, this makes enough for about 2 servings, but it’s easily increasable.

Ingredients:

  • One demi-baguette
  • 8 oz tofu (1/2 block)
  • 1/3 cup kimchi, chopped
  • some sliced cucumber

Recipe:

You may want to add sauce of some kind.  I don’t know.  I don’t really do sauce on my sandwiches.

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So, preheat the oven to 350 and slice the tofu in half and then into strips (about 1 in x 1 1/2 in).  They should fit comfortable in a sandwich.  Oil a baking pan (I really do not recommend using Pam here) and turn the tofu pieces until coated.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, chop the kimchi and heat it up over medium-high heat until warmed through.  Slice the cucumbers.

DSC_0007Slice the baguette open and put down a layer of tofu topped with kimchi.  Then add another layer of tofu and then the cucumbers (or whatever; you can layer how you like).

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I’m really excited about this recipe.  I have to pick up another baguette tomorrow because I went grocery shopping too late today and they were out.

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So I’m actually just going to re-iterate my recommendation from last time since I’ve gotten further into Absolution.  I really highly recommend this book.  It’s amazing.  It’s so complex and it pulls you in so slowly and gently.  It doesn’t make you tear through the pages like Gone Girl or 1Q84, but you sit down to read it and when you next look up the sun’s in a completely different place and your coffee is cold and you feel like you’re slowly surfacing from the bottom of a lake.  It doesn’t even matter what it’s about.  I have no idea.  I didn’t read the jacket, I just picked it up.  As should you.

Pasta with Spinach, Feta, and Mushrooms

26 Jun

I always feel vaguely lazy/guilty for writing up posts like this involving simple pasta dishes because… do you really need a recipe for this?  I literally just threw things into a bowl of pasta.  And then drowned it in feta cheese.

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And yet, I go looking for recipes when I want to make pasta, so I suppose there’s some merit to this?  I think the problem is that I’ve been running this thing as a baking blog for so long.

Baking is a science, you know?  Of course you do, because a) duh, and b) I make science posts sometimes. It’s pretty exact and you need to follow the damn instructions if you want to make something really good.

Cooking definitely requires the same level of love and care, but it’s more of an art, less of an exact science like baking.  Depending on the dish, of course.  Cooking is more forgiving.  So I always feel like I don’t really need to write up a cooking recipe because hey, you can figure it out.

But that’s a stupid viewpoint because I run a blog dedicated to recipes.  So get on with it, right?  I would say that this is so different that it’s not even adapted anymore, but I went to the grocery store intending to get things for this recipe at The Kitchn, so credit where credit is due.

Ingredients:

  • some olive oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 5 large handfuls of spinach (or more if you really like spinach)
  • 6 oz white button mushrooms
  • 1 lb short pasta
  • 1/2 lb/a fuck ton of feta cheese

Recipe:

Boil water for the pasta.  Slice the mushrooms and onion while you wait.  Once you’ve started cooking the pasta, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet until simmering and cook the onions until starting to brown.  Then, add the mushrooms and cook until they also brown a little and begin to smell awesome.

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Throw in the spinach.  Cook until wilted.

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In a large bowl, toss together all the cooked ingredients with the pasta.  If you’re serving it all at once, sprinkle the feta on top just before serving (unless you like your feta a bit more melted, in which case… ew).  If not, add the feta to the individual portion you’re about to eat.

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Ta-da!

 

So I am reading this novel about South Africa that was mentioned on the Sinica podcast… sometime in the past year, maybe.  It’s called Absolution, by Patrick Flanery, and it comes very highly recommended.  I’m not too far in, but I’m enjoying it and will make that my book recommendation of the day!

Spinach and Cheddar Quiche

24 Jun

I don’t know if you head, but this weekend there was a super moon.  Of course, I saw some news about it during the week and started planning and getting excited to go and take pictures and then I completely forgot about it until last night when I was driving with a friend back into the city and happened to see it in all its ginormous glory floating over the highway.

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By the time I got to it it was looking less super, but whatever, I had a lovely night by the lake admiring the city and the moon.

Speaking of lovely, this quiche?  Tremendously so.

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(And that was definitely a smooth transition…)

I combined two recipes, taking the crust and substance from one and the flavor from another.  So the crust and the egg-milk mixture came from Mehan’s Kitchen because her recipe didn’t call for a dozen damn dairy products (dairy is expensive!) while the flavoring and the whole idea for making quiche came from the really lovely blog, A Cozy Kitchen.  Don’t ask me why I used two recipes when I could have just tweaked one.  I wasn’t employing basic reasoning at the time.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 stick of butter, cold and cubed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • a few teaspoons of olive oil
  • 3 handfuls (or more) of spinach
  • 1/2 cup cubed cheese (I used cheddar because it was cheap, but gruyère melts better; you could use any sharp cheese though)
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk

Recipe:

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the butter and flour, mashing them together with your fingers until small crumbs form.

Pour in the water and knead until everything comes together.  I had to dump a couple of extra tablespoons of flour so the dough wasn’t too wet.  It should be tacky but shouldn’t stick to everything and get scummy.  Form the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil until simmering and throw in the spinach, cooking until wilted.

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Is anyone else amazed by how much spinach shrinks when you cook it?  I kept adding spinach because I didn’t think I would have enough…

Drain and set aside.

Roll out the dough until it’s a bit bigger than your pie tin and lay it in, pressing it into the pan so it’s snug.

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Throw in the spinach…

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and the cheese.

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Then, whisk together the milk and eggs and pour that in, too.

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Bake at 350 for 40 minutes to an hour, or until the top is golden-brown and crispy and a tester comes out clean.

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I don’t why I ended up with a giant blob of egg white.  Oh well.  This thing is so, so delicious that I don’t even care.  Also, this keeps for at least a week if you wrap it in tin foil and refrigerate it, and it tastes just as good microwaved as hot out of the oven.

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Cardamom Custard and Brown Sugar Meringue

22 Jun

Hello dear friends of the internet.

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If you’re on vacation for the summer, I hope it’s awesome.  If you’re not… dude, I’m sorry.  I’ve never had such a relaxed vacation.  I’m finally realizing the potential of biking (especially in the Midwest where it’s so flat!).  I can cross state lines.  By bicycle!  A friend of mine also figured out that if you take public transport to the end of the line, you can bike to the Mississippi without much hassle, so that might be happening.

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Also camping.  As in, biking some tens of miles to some lovely state park on Lake Michigan.

What I really love about this whole vacation (what I’m trying to say, that is), is that I’m finally taking advantage of the autonomy of biking.  I’m so enamored with how self-powered biking is.  What is more awesome than propelling yourself through your own ability 50+ miles?

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You come here for baking, though, so let’s get down to it.  I was searching for recipes for cardamom custard when I was in my art history class a couple of weeks ago.  It feels like such a long time ago…

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I lazily adapted a recipe from The Kitchn and then used the brown sugar meringue recipe from Short and Sweets.

Ingredients:

For the custard:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp sugar (the recipe calls for granulated but I used brown)
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch

For the meringue:

  • 3 egg whites
  • a scant cup of brown sugar
  • pinch of salt

Recipe:

In a saucepan, heat milk and cardamom together on medium-low heat until simmering but NOT boiling.

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In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until frothy.  Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in.  Add a cup of the milk to the mixing bowl to temper the eggs (which gets them used to the heat so they don’t flip out and start cooking).

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Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan.  Reduce heat to low/medium-low and stir frequently until thickened.  It should take about 15-20 minutes, but if it doesn’t seem thick enough, take it off the heat and just trust it.  It’ll thicken on its own off the stove.

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You can eat it warm, but I prefer it refrigerated.

Now, for the meringue.  In a REALLY clean bowl and with REALLY clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Preheat the oven until 250 degrees.  Then, add the brown sugar one tablespoon (ish) at a time, beating on high until the peaks go from soft to stiff and glossy.

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Spoon them onto a baking sheet or pipe through a ziplock bag and bake for 70 minutes, or until the outsides aren’t sticky.  You may need to go longer (I went much longer).  Then, turn off the oven and prop open the door, letting them dry out for another hour or so.  Serve with the custard or eat them out of the oven like an impatient motherfucker until you mysteriously pull out half the amount you put in…

Anyway.  It’s time for some shameless self-promotion: since I have a new camera that shoots video and since I’ve been biking so much, I’ve been making a ton of short videos of my trips.  They’re on my Vimeo account, so check that shit out.

Coconut Rice

21 Jun

So I have a confession about this recipe, and it’s sort of awful.

It’s a great recipe.  It’s adapted from Joy the Baker, so of course it’s great.  The woman can do no wrong.

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(These pictures have nothing to do with anything, I’m just quite proud of them.)

This rice is just too rich for me.  The first bowl I had was awesome and now the thought of it makes me nauseous.  I know objectively that it’s really delicious, but I think the coconut milk is too much for me.  So, lesson learned.  But I still recommend this recipe!  Hence this post.

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I’ve been trying to eat all of this rice (it makes a lot!) by frying it with a fuck ton of soy sauce and kimchi, but you shouldn’t need to do that because it is actually quite delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped finely
  • 1/4 tsp chili pepper powder (or a chili pepper, finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 6 cups rice, cooked (I used brown jasmine)
  • 1 cup toasted coconut (I used those coconut chips you can get at TJ’s)
  • 1/2 cup bok choy, chopped
  • zest and juice from a lime

Recipe:

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In a large-ish saucepan, heat the oil until simmering and then toss in the onions.  Cook them until they begin to brown.  Add the spices and cook for another 2 minutes.  Pour in the coconut milk and stir until everything’s well-coated.

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Reduce heat and stir in the rice, mixing until everything comes together.  Add the bok choy, lime zest and juice, and toasted coconut.

DSC_0087Toss together and cook until the coconut milk is absorbed.

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So the original recipe is actually for coconut crab rice, but I can’t afford crab, so this particular incarnation would work well as a side or with some fried tofu or steamed broccoli on top.

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(gratuitous pictures of my vacation thus far; you should probably be jealous)

I haven’t read anything for days (it feels like weeks; I’ve only been out of school for one week) and am not really feeling any of the books I picked up, so I’m just going to go ahead and recommend the TV show Suits.  It’s on network TV (when did network TV start doing amazing shows??  Seriously, I am impressed.)  Suits is a lawyer show, but it’s less about legal drama than about the characters.  The dynamic between all the characters is really well done, and the whole show is very well written in a subtle kind of way.  It’s not flashy and suave and impressive like Sherlock, Hannibal or Game of Thrones, but it’s just damn good.  Also, hello, it’s called Suits, so at least half the reason to watch it is the eyecandy.  Also also, one of the main characters is smoking hot and his characters owns it.  (I care about the plot.  I do.  I love lawyer shows.)  There is, in summation, no reason you should not watch this.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

17 Jun

This is the final recipe in the sour cream fest that this blog has become, don’t worry.  Or, if this has been helping you get rid of sour cream: you’re welcome.

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I am officially finished with my second year at university, which is weird and definitely scary, but mostly kind of sad.  I had a tremendous year, and an especially excellent last quarter.  I’ll miss everyone and everything from this year when I’m in China more than I can say.

But it is definitely nice to be on break.  I’ve decided to take a break from intense brain-work for once and get physical this summer.  I took a 9 1/2 mile walk the other night and biked 51 miles yesterday (and ended up wayyyy outside of Chicago in the process, which was cool because I missed seeing forest).  I’ve got plans for tomorrow morning involving pre-dawn biking to the University of Chicago and watching the sun rise on the city from afar.  It’s going to be a good summer.

Fun fact: I had no idea where I got this recipe and swore it was from Magnolia, but couldn’t find it in the book.  Luckily I have not cleared my browser history recently…  The recipe is from TorontoJo on ChowHound.  Scroll down until you get to their entry around the middle of the thread.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Recipe:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  The recipe says to use an 8 x 8 pan, but I strangely enough don’t have one, so I used a loaf pan and ended up layering the coffee cake (a layer of cake, a layer of topping, a layer of cake, a layer of topping).  This significantly alters baking times, so keep that in mind if you do choose to use an 8 x 8.

Stir together the sour cream and baking soda and set it aside.  It puffs up!  It’s so cool.

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Check it.

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs and mix to combine.  In a small bowl, whisk the baking powder with the flour.  In alternating parts, add the sour cream and flour mixtures to the butter + sugar + egg bowl.

Whisk together the topping ingredients in a small bowl.

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Spoon a layer of cake into the pan, then a layer of topping, etc. until everything’s gone.

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Aw yeah.

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Bake that for 40+ minutes, or until a knife inserted comes out clean.  I think mine took an hour or so to bake, actually, possibly more (it was a month ago, sorry).  If you’re using an 8 x 8, bake for 30-40 minutes.

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Enjoy in the company of bros/slash invite people over and push baked goods on them so your veins don’t start pumping butter/sour cream.

It’s a real fear for me, okay.  You know how much I bake.

The book I’m longing to recommend is another Banana Yoshimoto, because I’ve finally read all of her books that my library has, but let’s diversify things a bit, shall we?  I was actually going to recommend yet another book about China, but then I went on Tumblr a minute ago and saw that all of Bill Nye the Science Guy is online, so I’m recommending that instead.

If you don’t know who Bill Nye is then you seriously need to drop what you’re doing and get thee hence (to that link up there), because goddamn, this man is the greatest.  Every child who took science in middle school a) knows Bill Nye and b) knows the theme song to the show (guaranteed).  But this show is more than an educational kids program.  It shows how fun science is and how beyond cool the universe and its inner workings can be, which is something that I think people need to be reminded of on a daily basis.  If you have lost the sense of wonderment at the universe that you surely had as a kid, then sorry, but you are doing life all wrong.

If I had any capacity for math and wasn’t deeply in love with political science, I would absolutely be pursuing astrophysics right now.  I actually didn’t take a lot of science classes in high school and that probably helped my love of science more than anything.  Nothing kills the excitement of science than standardized tests and memorizing formulae (unless you’re into that kind of thing).  Textbooks are, sadly, not written to instill a deep and abiding love of chemistry or a fascination with the mystery of QED or an admiration for badass scientists like Rosalind Franklin and Richard Feynman.  Bill Nye the Science Guy is.  Do yourself a favor and watch at least one episode.  Go, for the love of science!