Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Turn that ow upside...dow.


The sun made its highly anticipated return to our area on Saturday, even though it was still butt-cold that morning.  Mike and I decided to start the weekend on a proactive note with a trail run at a nearby park.  Five minutes into our run, a root decided to rear its stupid, camouflaged face and I felt my ankle roll as I tripped over it and fell dramatically to the ground. 

My first reaction wasn't, "Did I just sprain my ankle?" (the way any normal human being in extreme physical pain would react) but instead "Holy crap, I hope nobody saw that..."  Mike was kind enough to stifle his laughter as he helped me up. 

I spent the remainder of the weekend hobbling around, dragging my foot behind me.  I make a fabulously convincing Igor.

Since I'm currently out of commission, I figured I might as well live vicariously through this post and make something light.  Delicate.  Not clumsy.

Lemon Mousse!
Source:  Emeril Lagasse

Here's what you'll need:


1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 egg
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
3/4 heavy cream, whipped (sorry, it's unwhipped in the pic)

Let's get started, shall we?

Combine the lemon juice, sugar, yolks, egg and butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking constantly.


Do you see how monstrous this whisk is?  I really need a smaller coated whisk.

This one would be better suited for housing a small bird.


Once the mixture is smooth and slightly thickened, remove from heat.

Strain that liquid sunshine through a mesh colander into a bowl set over ice.


Gently fold in the whipped cream.


Pour the mousse into ramekins, champagne flutes...whatever fits your mood.


Cover with plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge for a few hours.  If you can wait that long.

Oh yeah.  I dig this stuff.

Creamy, smooth and pleasantly tart.  It's lighter than a pudding but heavier than a traditional mousse.


You can see little bits of lemon pulp in there.  I love that.  And did I mention that my ankle suddenly feels a LOT better?

I call this my "Casablanca" shot. 


Palm fronds swaying, the faint sound of ice cubes clinking in a rocks glass, an ornately beaded lantern hanging over a piano.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Malted Cinema: Funny Farm


We came to Redbud filled with hopes and dreams of a better life. And basically, we've seen those hopes and dreams crushed and battered before our very eyes. 

Do you love Chevy Chase?  I love Chevy Chase.

Funny Farm ranks in the Top 10 Films I've Seen 25+ Times.  It's just one of those movies that will randomly air on a Sunday afternoon while I'm folding/cursing laundry.  And I'll keep it on.  Every time.

While they're no Clark and Ellen, Andy and Elizabeth Farmer are humorous to watch as they unsuccessfully attempt to live a life in the country.

Lamb fries, anyone?

Since I've been neglecting the "three sheets" side of the blog as of late (plus, my mixer would appreciate the day off), today's post is dedicated to a fine, well-crafted beer.

Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere, a farmhouse ale.

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales brews out of Dexter, Michigan. I bought this bottle when I was in San Diego last September for Mike's birthday brewstravaganza. Unfortunately, they don't distribute Jolly Pumpkin in the DC area so I had  a few mementos shipped with us on the flight home.


What's a farmhouse ale, you ask?

10 second history lesson (15 if you're a slow reader):

Also commonly known as a "saison" (for those of you who opted for Spanish in high school, that's French for "season"), farmhouse ales originated in the French-speaking Wallonia region of Belgium.  They were brewed in the winter so that when the warmer months rolled around, farmers could refresh themselves after a hard day's work.

Farmhouse ales are typically pale in color, rich in spices, moderately tart and have a yeasty, almost earthy quality to them. 

Complex.  Like a ball of Christmas lights.


A little story behind the cute pup on the label.


Alright, let's open this sucker.


We have only two rules in our home:

1.  No shoes in the dojo.
2.  If you open a beer, you have to sink the cap.


I missed, as usual.


Pour until you get two-fingers worth of  frothy, creamy head.

That's what I'm talking about.


Hazy with bits of yeast sediment.  Notes of lemon and apple, crisp, mild tartness with no lingering sourness on the tongue.  Clean, dry finish.  Perfect for a Summer day.

Apparently, reviewing beer makes me lose the ability to form complete sentences.

If you're interested in trying out the style, I recommend Ommegang Hennepin, The Bruery Saison Rue and (perhaps the most well-known) Saison Dupont.

Pick one out, bring it home and enjoy it on your patio. 

There is so much good beer out there...seek it out.

And don't forget your fresh 'maters.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Memories.



My grandma was the sweetest, little Japanese woman from Kauai.  She was a huge fan of Days of Our Lives and Press Your Luck, was an outstanding baker and had a green thumb that could easily rival those over at Miracle-Gro.  Her yard was a tropical paradise:  gardenias, orchids, tuberose, mangoes, star fruit, lemons, lychee, sugar cane...it was incredible.

This past weekend, I was browsing through a copy of the Kalaheo Missionary cookbook that my Mom gave me and came across some really interesting recipes.  Stuff you would only find in a Hawaiian church cookbook.



No way.


Way!
Heroes in a half shell...chili power.

Then, I found it. 


My grandma's oatmeal cookies!

The best part about this recipe?  The no-frills directions.  Four steps.  That's all there is to it.  No mention of greasing the pan or how big to roll the cookies or how long to bake them.  That's completely up to you.

And that, my friends, is the beauty of simplicity.

This is in memory of a simpler time, long, breezy summer vacations in Kauai but most of all, an amazing woman.

Ingredients:

 

 1.  Beat together margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.

 

 2.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  
 

3.  Flour, baking soda and chopped nuts all go in together.

(I added the oats here, too.)





4.  Bake at 350 degrees.

And that's that :)

I was tempted to add some salt and a handful of chocolate chips (Me? Add more chocolate to every recipe imaginable?) but I wanted to stay true to the original recipe.  The result is similar to a sugar cookie with some added texture from the oatmeal.

Yum.


The best memories are the ones that can be recreated in your own kitchen.


I love reminiscing.











Friday, March 19, 2010

Sugared Cinema: Sex and the City


And there, in the same city where they met as girls, four New York women entered the next phase of their lives dressed head to toe in love. And that's the one label that never goes out of style.

I live for those sappy one-liners.

I had so many questions going into this movie.  Can Samantha stay faithful to Smith?  Has Big finally overcome his inability to commit?  And more importantly...what will Carrie be wearing?!

Coming from a family of four daughters, there's room for only one fashionista.  My sister Michele claimed that title back in her Robert Palmer Girl days.

For me, "dressing up" means trading my slip-on sneakers for a pair of flats and dabbing on some Neutrogena lip gloss over a layer of my old faithful, Carmex.

I'm okay with my low style quotient - I have the Sex and the City girls to live vicariously through.  Manolos aside, they're hilarious, witty and inspire me to make the most of my own fashion sense.  I won't be strutting down any runways soon but I might have a little extra swing in my hips when I walk to the mailbox in my faded Old Navy pj capris.

I also have a big, squishy, soft spot reserved for Carrie Bradshaw because of her expertly timed pun usage.

Today's recipe is from the book "Chocolate: A Love Story" by the renowned chocolatiers at Max Brenner.  A hip, sexy movie needs a hip, sexy sweet treat.

Lipstick Banana Chocolate Cake Bonbons Enrobed in Well-Behaved White Chocolate and a Nutmeg Lady's Coat.

How fantastic is that title?

Oh, behave.

  

 Yes, I resorted to using a tired movie quote.

Let's get started.

 

Banana Cake
4 ripe bananas
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sour cream or creme fraiche, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
3 Tablespoons aged brown rum (I used spiced)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 ounces chocolate chips


White Chocolate Glaze
1 envelope granulated gelatin
2 teaspoons cold water
1 cup heavy cream
pinch ground nutmeg
15 ounces white chocolate, chopped (I used chips)
dried banana chips

Preheat the oven to a balmy 400 degrees.

Butter and flour an 8-inch nonstick loaf pan.  I used a square pan because I don't own a loaf pan and had to use the next best option.

No loaf pan?  And I call myself a baker.  Geeeeeez.

In a bowl, smash the nanners.

  

  

Mix in the butter and cream until smooth.

  

Gradually add the sugar, egg and rum.

  

  "Gradual" kinda goes out the window when you're taking pics.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  

Add to the banana mixture until just smooth. 

  

Stir in the chocolate chips.

  

  I love the look of chocolate chips when photographed.  They have such a raw, almost rock-like quality.  Like you could pave a cobblestone road in Old Town Montreal with them.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

  

Place in the oven and reduce the heat to 325 degrees.  Bake until puffy and golden brown, about 40 minutes.

Let them cool then cut into 1-inch cubes.

  

While the scrumptious little banana pillows cool, make the glaze.

In a small bowl, combine the gelatin and water and let sit until absorbed, about 3 minutes.

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer then whisk in the gelatin, stirring until completely dissolved.  Pour the hot cream over the white chocolate in a heat-proof bowl.

 

Let it sit for a minute then stir until smooth.

Add the nutmeg and give it another swirl.


Dip the cake squares into the glaze and set aside to let the chocolate cool.  Dip one more time then place a dried banana chip on top.

Can you think of a more decadent combination than bananas and chocolate?  I dare you to try.


Mmm.  These are sweeter than Aidan and Harry Goldenblatt put together.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Have your beer and eat it, too.


Happy St. Patty's Day!

I consider myself a pretty festive person but I always have a hard time figuring out how to celebrate this particular holiday.

I don't have any green clothing to wear to work.  Microwaving corned beef and cabbage in the breakroom will automatically deem me "The Smelly Lunch Girl".  And I think adding food coloring to a perfectly good beer should be outlawed.

The solution?  Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes with Whiskey Buttercream!  This is a slightly modified version of a recipe I saw on Smitten Kitchen.  Less ganache, more liquor. 

These cupcakes are rich, chocolate-y and topped with whiskey-infused frosting.  Just enough booze to make you feel like you're bending company policy when you share them with your coworkers.

Such a rebel.  Billy Idol would be proud.

Here's what you'll need:


Cupcakes
1 cup Guinness (or other stout)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream


Whiskey Buttercream
3-4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 shot of whiskey (3-4 Tablespoons)

Let's make some Patty cakes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line two cupcake tins with liners (24 cups total.)

In a large saucepan, bring 1 cup of stout and 1 cup butter to a simmer over medium heat.


Pour the remainder of the stout into a pint glass.  Sip.


Add cocoa powder and whisk until the mixture is smooth.  


 Take off heat and allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.


Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream in another large bowl.

I substituted Greek yogurt for the sour cream.  I could eat this Oikos stuff using a garden shovel.  It's so darn good.

  
 I used the caramel flavor to give it a little extra sass.

Add the stout-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat until just combined. 


 Add the flour mixture and beat briefly on low speed. 

Use a rubber spatula to fold batter until completely combined.

You gotta know when to fold 'em.


You gotta know when and when not to use poker references.

Fill each cup 2/3 to 3/4 full with cupcake batter.


Bake the cupcakes for 15-17 minutes, or until the test toothpick comes out almost clean.  

Transfer to a wire rack to cool while you work on the whiskey buttercream.

See this?


This is what happens when you forget to make a list before going to the grocery store.  More than once.  More than twice, even.

In a large bowl, whip the butter using an electric mixer for several minutes, until fluffy.  Gradually add the confectioner's sugar until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

Pour in the shot of whiskey and whip the buttercream until combined.


 Jameson, Bushmills or, if you're feeling really brave, heavy cream.

If the frosting is too thin (or if it's too boozy for your tastes), add in a little more confectioner's sugar to thicken.

Buttercream is my culinary savior.  Quick, easy and this time, spiked.  Never lets me down.

Frost your cupcakes, share and enjoy.  SlĂ inte!