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Nov 7, 2011

 
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Success! (aka: I survived!)



So maybe it was just beginner's luck, but our party went off without a hitch. I didn't cut myself, I didn't burn myself, it's like I had a guardian kitchen angel or something. Who is the patron saint of chefs, anyone know? (Googling, googling... LOL, Saint Martha)

I only have this one photo for you because the birthday boy took it - there just wasn't time to make flower arrangements AND food AND take photos. You'll just have to trust me that it all looked very pretty. That's a caramelized onion tart on puff pastry I'm holding up - the rest of the menu included:

Dips:
1. Feta Salsa: I doubled everything but the sundried tomatoes, and skipped the olive oil because the tomatoes were packed in oil. This was a HUGE hit.
2. Guacamole: nothing fancy here, just the standard Joy of Cooking recipe. I asked them how much heat they wanted and the answer was little to none, so I thought maybe people would think it was bland, but it was also a big hit.
3. White bean and roasted red pepper dip
4. Fresh spinach dip with yogurt and basil

Crostini:
1. Caramelized onion, goat cheese and fig jam
2. Fontina, red onion, watercress and grape
3. Artichoke and green olive
4. Tomato, basil and balsamic vinegar

Then we had the aforementioned onion tarts, garlic semolina crackers with ricotta, a meat and cheese tray, crudites with celery, bell pepper, cherry tomato, carrot, cucumber and radishes, and we ended the night with adorable little boxes filled with chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cranberry cookies and various candies.

Anne did an amazing job with the flowers and OMG super mcduper extra big thanks to my future sister-in-law Erin The Great who not only provided us with a very necessary extra set of hands, but totally knows her way around a kitchen, and also washed and dried and rewashed and redried (ad infinitum) every single dish, bowl, spoon, fork, cutting board, so on and so forth.

The party was Saturday and from beginning to end a 12 hour day for us. I had every intention of falling into bed when I got home and sleeping til noon, but my brain had other plans and I got up at 6:30 on Sunday. WTF, brain? Seriously, I woke up feeling like I'd just got off tour. So I did the only reasonable thing I could do - parked my ass on the couch, watched Buffy, and ate my body weight in pizza.

Tomorrow is another big day for me, but we'll get to that tomorrow...
 

Oct 28, 2011

 
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Grapes? On a Sandwich?

So as I mentioned a few weeks ago, my BFF Anne and I are catering/beautifying our friend's 50th birthday bash. The party is next Saturday, so basically the mad rush to the finish line has begun. You know what I learned this week? You can freeze cookies after you bake them. You know what else I learned? It improves the texture of a chocolate chip cookie. No joke.

Anyway, we've got a couple things on the menu I haven't made before, so this week has also been about shoving food in Anne's husband's mouth because he has the most amazing palate ever. Seriously, he can taste the subtlest of things and always knows when something needs more pepper. So, yes, yes, this all leads me to grapes on sandwiches.

The photo above comes from a VT recipe for what is basically an open faced sandwich - which we concluded yesterday would be very, very messy. I'm doing them more like a crostini (I liberally use that word to mean food on top of little toasted breads) and made a couple changes, but WOW these were good.

First up, I went with fontina cheese, because (A) I went to three grocery stores before I could find taleggio and (B) when I did I discovered it was about $6/lb more than the fontina. Next, I used the multiest-grainiest bread I could find because again, trying to track down a decent walnut bread was becoming a problem. Last, I used honey instead of agave, because, I don't know, I just have this thing with agave.

Anne's husband's mouth said: a little more honey, don't go overboard with the watercress, and (you knew this was coming): needs more pepper. Overall a big hit, and the smaller size made them way easier to shove in your mouth without getting watercress down the front of your shirt.

Now my main concern is to not stroke out before next weekend!
 

Jun 25, 2011

 
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Jun 5, 2011

 
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OMGCHOCOWTFWOOT



Last night I helped my friend Anne celebrate her 39-(for the first time)-th birthday by drinking too much wine, and eating my body weight in cheese and chocolate. So, in other words, it was the perfect evening.

Anne is awesome, I love her to death, and I wanted to make her something for her birthday. The problem is, she's super crafty, and super talented. Like, last week her husband asked for a laptop case and snap! she whips out this custom made awesome space invaders case, with little nooks and crannies for all his laptop jank, and it's totally perfect. So, what, I'm gonna come to her party and be all: Happy Birthday Annie! I made you some napkins! No. She can knit a house, so that's out. She's an Ikebana master, so no flowers. And her husband has a Dick Cheney safe for wine so it's not like I can show up with any old bottle cuz clearly, he takes that shit seriously.

Luckily, I had two things going for me. One, Anne doesn't cook. And two, she loves chocolate.

So off to the RSS reader I go, where, apparently, I've been tagging recipes since the dawn of man. DESSERT. (Loading more items...) Lots of cobblers. Seriously, why do I have so many cobbler recipes? Scroll, scroll, stop. There it is, perfection: everyday chocolate cake. You need to make this cake, if for no other reason than to lick the bowl. I subbed yogurt/milk for buttermilk and, because I was afraid it might not be chocolatey enough (snark), I added a 1/2 cup of chocolate chips that I quickly ran thru the miniprep first. The cake was dense and dark and chocolatey and fabulous, and paired well with espresso and Zin, and I know this because I tested both. (Oh, how I suffer for my art...)

Anyway, while I was perusing my seemingly endless list of cobblers, et al., something else caught my eye: Homemade Oreos. Seriously, how could that be anything but awesome?

Well, they were awesome, but holy wow I had to cut the sugar way down because otherwise I'd have sent us all into a collective hypoglycemic coma. I used 1 cup in the cookie dough and a 1/2 cup in the filling, which made it more like icing, but the taste was spot on. Oh, and a note on the cookies: to make them oreo sized (ish), use a 1 1/2 tsp cookie scoop or (nerd way) roll into balls 10 grams each. At that size I got exactly 5 dozen cookies, and thus 30 oreos (cookie math). Of those, Anne got about half (The Crandall tax).

Anyway...

The birthday was a chocolatey success, I'm not too terribly hungover, and I have a few oreos left (I think?). I call that a win.
 

May 3, 2011

 
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M?wisz po polsku?



I think that means do you speak Polish?, and the obvious answer is obviously not.

My mother is Polish and this weekend is Mother's Day. Ergo, dinner. I was going to get all tarterific, but then I remembered that she's mentioned potato pancakes the last, oh every, time I've seen her, and decided to go Polish on her instead.

So she will get her sauerkraut and pierogi, potato pancakes and polish sausage, maybe even a mushroom or two, and for dessert, plum cake and kolaczki, which are little fruity cookie things for those of you who never had a Polish friend.

Today I made the pierogi, and did a trial run on the rye bread. My grandfather used to buy the same rye bread, from the same bakery, every day after work for probably 20+ years. It was this big, brown, round, wonderful loaf, and honestly, I never thought of is as rye bread because growing up we just called it round bread.

This morning I was thisclose to calling my friend Wade and asking him to run over to Anne's Bakery on Chicago & Leavitt, home of the round bread, and fedex me a couple loaves. But then I started to think about time and shipping and how this could quickly turn into the $50 loaf of bread, so I went with this instead.

I used barley malt syrup and arrowhead mills rye flour, which wasn't designated light, medium or dark, just rye. As for changes, I used bread flour in place of AP, and added 1 TBSP of vital wheat gluten. After the initial rise, I formed the dough into one round loaf (instead of two) and let rise in a brotform for another 30 minutes. Seriously, it turned out awesome. I've already eaten like half of it. I am soooo not exaggerating.
 

Apr 2, 2011

 
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This is becoming a problem



I have just recently discovered the complete and total awesomeness of making my own yogurt. I am now obsessed with making my own yogurt. And eating it.

My current, omg I can't get enough of this, way of eating it is with honey and granola. Specifically Big Island Bees honey and 18 Rabbits granola. Understand, this is entirely an accident as both of these things were gifts. Strangely enough, I was never a huge fan of either honey OR granola; now, I am in LOVE.

I've been using 101 Cookbooks Homemade Yogurt Recipe; there's also a nice article on making your own yogurt in this month's Vegetarian Times. For the first few batches I used I don't know where the hell I got it dry milk, but I've recently switched to Organic Valley Nonfat Dry Milk and it totally makes all the difference in the world. Creamy, yummy, awesome yogurt.

I've been up for 3 hours and I've already had this for breakfast, and second breakfast. Now I'm looking forward to elevensies. I'm beginning to think I can live on this. Food obsessed much? Yeah, that tends to happen to me...
 

Feb 9, 2011

 
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These are a few of my favorite things...



I used up almost all my roasted garlic grapeseed oil making these crackers. (Twice. They were so good I made them twice. In one week.) So, no fear right, I have the interwebs at my fingertips, I'll just hop online and buy some more. But the store I buy it from doesn't carry it anymore. And Amazon was out of stock. So I had to go straight to the source. And because I don't like running out of things, and I definitely don't like not being to replace things I'm running out of, I bought like 4 gallons.

Anyway, it got me thinking, I'm almost out of my favorite balsamic too, so I might as well order that while I'm at it. I discovered these guys at some Eco-hooha when we lived in Portland. Exactly what balsamic has to do with tree hugging I have no idea, but I was glad I found them.

The two together make the most awesome (and simple) salad dressing evar. Toss your baby greens with it, top with some sliced kalamata and some crumbled goat cheese, and you're set.

On it's own the oil makes a great bread dipper, and I also use it to roast veggies. As for the balsamic, use it to finish your caramelized onions, and I promise, you'll thank me.

In other news...



I'm practicing my pretzels. I used to make these all the time, and then, like, not at all for the last year. And then my friend Sean started showing up at parties with his pretzels (which he stuffs with Nutella, that bastard) and so after some bantering we've decided to have a pretzel-off. Hence the practice. So, coming soon, Sean vs Elle, Iron Chef: Battle Pretzel.
 

Feb 4, 2011

 
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Crackers & Ciabatta



I'm having my first dinner party in our new place tomorrow, and I decided to make the cheese ravioli with homemade ricotta that Kate and I made when I was in LA a couple weeks ago. That day I had purchased some thin garlic crackers which we used to inhale the ricotta we didn't use for the ravioli, and the combination was so good I knew I wanted to serve it as an appetizer. However, I didn't know that I'd be able to find the same crackers here, and, you know, I'm a little touched, so what the hell, I decided to make my own.

A google search quickly led me to a recipe for Olive Oil Crackers at 101 Cookbooks, which is a blog I love. I've made several of Heidi's recipes and they've never failed me. This one didn't either. I used AP flour instead of whole wheat, and replaced the olive oil with a garlic infused grapeseed oil. YUM. I made a test batch a couple days ago and pretty much ate them as fast as they cooled.

I rolled the dough to 5 on my pasta machine (instead of 4) and found that when divided into 12 pieces the sheets were kind of long and sort of pain to work with. So this time around, I divided it into 36 pieces (and yes, because I'm a geek, I weighed the dough and figured out that each one was just about 20oz). Each piece rolled out to a manageable size, and from there I cut them in half with my pizza cutter and sprinkled them with a little kosher salt. I baked 3 at a time, at 450, for 6 minutes on my pizza stone.

You really, really, really need to wait for them to cool completely before eating them to get that awesome crunchy goodness. They are good by themselves, with ricotta, and they go great with other soft cheeses like Brie, or a triple cream.



Now...while I was busy rolling dough balls into crackers, my ciabatta dough was tripling in size. This recipe is by far the easiest one I've ever made because, well, it's kind of a food hack. There's no folding or turning, or any such thing, just beat the hell out of the dough, let it rise twice, flip it over, toss it in the oven. The only tip you really need when working with dough this hydrated is this: WET YOUR HANDS. Don't over flour. I did that the first time and wound up with great tasting bread with a burnt flour crust. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't awesome either. Now I don't flour at all. I oil the hell out of the bowl, oil the parchment paper I pour it out on, and only touch it with wet hands.

You know what else you can make with this dough? AWESOME PIZZA. I usually pull about a third of it right after mixing and toss it in the fridge. Then I bake two loaves of bread, and when I get around to it, pull that last piece into a roundish shape, pile on pizza goodness, and bake. I don't really worry about the triple in size part for the pizza, even in the fridge the dough will rise, and it's usually in there a couple hours at least before I get back to it. Of course, it's perfectly fine to leave it there overnight too.
 

Jan 28, 2011

 
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Kate's Kookies



I'm sure these cookies have a more formal name, like Awesome Sugar Cut Out Icebox Cookies, but I got the recipe from my best foodie friend Kate, thus they are Kate's Kookies. They are also super simple, not too sweet, and delish.

By super simple I mean:

• Cream 1 cup of butter with 1 cup of sugar
• Mix in 2 tablespoons of milk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla
• Gradually beat in 2 1/2 cups flour
• TADA

From there you just refrigerate the dough (45 min to an hour), roll it out to about 1/8 inch, and cut out adorable little shapes with adorable little cookie cutters. I don't have adorable little cookie cutters, thus I used one from my MOMA collection. This one is blob-ish; I have another one that looks like a happy sperm, but I only use that for special occasions.

Oh right, and bake @ 375 for 8-12 minutes.

As you can see, I embellished mine with chocolate chips, almond slivers (ideas I stole from Kate), and lavender sugar (which I got from Kate). So, in other words, Kate is basically awesome.

The dough is easier to roll when it's cold, ergo the refrigeration. It is NOT easier to roll when it's frozen, so don't do that. Also, if you break it up into 3 or 4 parts (wrap in wax paper or saran) before putting it in the fridge, you can work with one batch at a time.

NOTE: if you're thinking: hey idiot, you forgot the egg! I didn't! There is none!

(PS: I'm such a geek I used my sewing gauge to measure the dough thickness)
 

Dec 23, 2010

 
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Garlic Rosemary Rolls



I've been making these Garlic and Rosemary Cloverleaf Rolls for a couple years now and they have never failed me. I don't particularly think they are any more time consuming than any other bread-thing you might make, unless it somehow bums you out to spend an hour roasting garlic.

I follow the recipe almost exactly - except (this is me we're talking about) I double the garlic, and on the rare occasion I use dried rosemary, I double that too. As a result of the extra garlic I find the dough needs more flour - I'd guess I use probably 3 1/2 - 4 cups. Honestly, I don't measure beyond the first 3 cups, I just do that whole add flour by the spoonful as the Kitchen Aid mixer is doing it's thang, til the dough clears the bottom of the bowl. It's a little tacky when I pull it out, but nothing that isn't solved by the first rise.

Also, I don't know, I guess because I'm lazy, I don't baste them with butter before I bake them, instead I add about 1 1/2 teaspoons of dry milk to the dough when I'm mixing it, and that sort of makes everything evenly brown.

Apparently these freeze well, which I've never tried - but to save myself time come holiday season, I do bake them about 2 days in advance, and toss them in the fridge. Then on feast day I wrap them in aluminum foil and reheat at 375 for about 10 minutes.
 
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