Saturday, January 23, 2010

The best laid plans...

I don't know the rest of the quote, but I think it has something to do with "the best laid plans of mice and men often turn into dirt tasting pancakes......"  Ok, perhaps that's not exactly what it says, but that's the gist of it.  I tried to make Ethiopian food for this week's supper club, which is wonderful, especially injera the sourdough pancake that the stews are ladeled onto.  Traditional injera is made from Tef flour, and let to ferment for about 3-4 days.  The night before the supper club at my house I decided to try the injera that I had been fermenting (made in the traditional way).  It was an excellent thing that I did that because it tasted roughly like a dirt pancake.  Not in the least bit tasty.

So I made parmesan polenta, chicken in a wild mushroom sauce, and salad.  Which all turned out very well.  And all of it I made from scratch, with no recipe.  It helped that the parmesan I had was aged 3 years, and I also had a fresh truffle to grate on top.  Overall, an excellent meal, I think.  And much tastier than dirt pancakes.  I'll give the Ethiopian food a try again at some point.  But maybe just for myself.....

Chicken in Wild Mushroom Sauce
1 Package chicken tenders (about a half kilo)
3 Strips Bacon
2T Butter
1/2 Onion, fine dice
1/2 Kilo Wild Mushrooms
4cl White Wine (dry)
8cl Whole Milk (or half and half cream and water)
2T Flour
8cl Chicken Broth

Melt 1/2T butter in a saucier or medium sauce pan.  Add bacon and cook until half crisp.  Lightly brown the chicken tenders in butter and bacon.  Remove chicken and bacon from the pan.  Return the pan to heat, add more butter if necessary, saute mushrooms until light brown.  Add onions and continue to saute until starting to darken and release liquid.  Add white wine and cook until absorbed.  Add milk and flour stirring until a smooth sauce forms.  Add chicken and bacon back in.  Sitr over low heat for 10min.  Add chicken broth to thin sauce to desired consistency.

Serve over polenta.  Grate fresh truffle on top.

Parmesan Polenta
Recipe to come later.....  Charlotte is needing more treats from the treat truck :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Complicated vs. Flawless

I think I'm beginning to believe that complicated food done well is about equal to simple food done flawlessly.  For example, I made brioche today.  Well, actually it took me 2 days with all the rising, kneeding, chilling, kneeding, rising, shaping, rising, backing.  And it was very very good.  About 100 times more effort than regular bread based on the milk, eggs, and butter that usually aren't in bread.  I think if a loaf of french bread and a wedding cake had a love-child it would be brioche.  Soft and supple, slightly sweet, and infinitely decadent.  The rolls I made were very good.  Definitely the best rolls I've ever made.  But I still need something a little more decadent for this brioche.  I think I'm going to turn it into a loaf, with apricot jam and a touch of cinnamon rolled into the middle like cinnamon raisin bread (but no raisins to mar the silky texture, just sweet jam and hint of savory cinnamon).   Wow, now I'm really excited about it.  I think I'm going to go take a shower and put this plan into action.  That sounds way more interesting than sitting here writing to you, no offense.  I'm just kind of a hands-on person.  That's probably why I don't have many blog readers and I don't do updates very often.  Oh well, go have some more coffee, read a good book, and check back in a little while later and I'll let you know how it goes putting apricot jam on a loaf of bakers heaven.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I'm trying to lose weight.....again.  This is just residual returns from the procreation event.  See?  Doesn't that sound better than baby weight?  But whatever you want to call it, it calls for a reduced amount of the things I love the most, bread, cheese, wine, and anything fatty.  So, in an attempt to provide myself with something quick to eat so I won't reach for the really tasty bleu cheese and spicy fruit mustard on brioche toasts, I'm making soups.  I hate soups with chunks in them, usually called stews, but I even don't like the soups with small chunks in them like Minestrone and Italian Wedding Soup.  I don't know why.  It's probably because my mother loves them.  I seem to be hard-wired to dislike anything my mother likes.  Which probably isn't bad for Charlotte if she turns out the same way.  I eat pretty unhealthy stuff, so if she's like my mom, she'll be fine.  Anyway, in an effort to eat healthy I'm working on creamy soups.  The first that I tried was the butternut squash soup which was not good, the next was a carmelized leek and potato soup which was ok except that I gagged on an un-pureed piece of leek and couldn't stomach any more of it.  Hopefully I can in a while, it was a really good soup, except for the nearly choking and having to pull something half-masticated out of my throat.  But, I press on, undaunted by the first failures (or just too hard-headed to admit defeat) and I set out to make fennel potato soup and bacon and white bean soup.  I'll let you know how they turn out.

I'm also going to make brioche.  I figure that if I crave it, and I make it as opposed to just buying it, the calories are awash.  I know, not really sound rationale.  But at least it will make me realize what's in it, slave over it, and I won't feel as guilty about eating it.  I'm also going to do them in rolls so that I am forced to eat in portion amounts as opposed to cutting myself "a couple slices" and consuming a half loaf in one sitting.  I'm not exaggerating.  I really can eat a half loaf of brioche in one sitting.  Without much effort.

I'm going out to dinner tonight, so I'm hoping that will be fun.  Not sure about the restaurant, I haven't been there yet.  But Jim always picks the best restaurants, so I'm sure it will be good.  And it is a Wein Stube, so of course there will be wine which make a perfectly lovely dinner by itself :)  Actually, that is the name of my second cookbook "Dinner is Poured", the name of my first one is the name of this blog.  Ok, so they aren't really published or anything, but I'm writing them with the help of an online cookbook making company that will organize your recipes for you.  I still haven't pulled the trigger and bought the cookbook yet.  I have it waiting there for me, and I'm adding to the second one.  I guess I keep getting caught up in making the chapters even, and making sure there is the right mix of recipes in there, and going over it over and over again making minor tweaks.  What's my problem?  Am I some sort of over-zealous engineer?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Well, luckily not many people know about this blog, so I can write what I am actually doing. Right now I'm having a lovely Tuscan Bean Salad and fruity, but not too sweet Spanish rose. I wanted to have the white Chianti but it wasn't chilled yet. Oh, and its lunchtime. On a Tuesday. If I were actually in Tuscany, as opposed to just dreaming about it, I'm sure my waiter and lunch partners would just shrug and order grappa. That's one of the things I like about Europe, no stuck-up old biddies to scold me about alcohol consumption at lunch, while they down cheetos and a diet coke........because they are trying to lose some weight yet won't take a parking space any further away from the office than the second row.

Speaking of American verses European eating habits, I'm sure I shouldn't be so critical. And there is something to be said about a straight-from-the-deep-fryer Krispy Kreme dougnut, which is in fact pretty close to a religious experience. But I tend to think of those things as special events, not every-day happenings. Kind of like mind-blowing sex on the beach. You have to have a varied diet to really enjoy the mind-blowing and unique experiences when they come along....... Are we talking about sex or food? And does it matter?

Anyway, I've decided to try to make Charlotte's baby food now so that she gets used to eating real food and I get used to cooking for both of us, or three of us in about a year. The first attempts were rice pudding and butternut squash risotto. The rice pudding was ok. I'm not a fan of rice pudding, but the consistency was right and she seems to like it. Especially with fruit. The butternut squash is too sweet for my taste, but Charlotte seems to like it. And I got some more parmigiano cheese, so that should help my portion get a little more earthy. I don't think she needs anything extra.

Well sex to baby food. That was a pretty crappy transition. But like I said in my profile, I'm a terrible writer. So ignore this post if you like. I'm going for my second glass of this lovely rose and perhaps I will have a more eloquent post later. But for now I'm going to dream of something strong, of a perfect age and structure, something deep, rich, and slightly leathery, and something earthy, dark, and very expensive........ Again, are we talking about sex or food?

ps. The above three things, while they do describe someone I'd very much like to enjoy a carnal dish or two with, they also describe my impulse buys at the Markthalle today...... 3 year aged parmigiano reggiano cheese, a nicely aged Tuscan red wine, and a black truffle. Here's to doing both well........

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Too many things at once

That's kind of the refrain of my existence right now. Besides being a single mom (Trey is deployed to Iraq), of an infant (Charlotte is 8 months old and just starting solid foods), I also work full time as a program manager (meaning I have several government people and close to 40 contractors responsible to me on a daily basis), and I'm becoming more and more anal retentive as I get older and wanting the house clean and organized. Add to that the extra 5kilos I'm still carrying from being pregnant that I'm trying to lose....... and you get way too many things at once.

So, instead of cutting down, I'm trying to work smarter. Sundays are my cooking days where I'm trying to cook everything I will need for the week. I made a butternut squash soup yesterday, but I wasn't wild about it, so I turned it into butternut squash risotto. Better, but for some reason I'm just not feeling the sweetness of the butternut squash. Maybe because it reminds me of summer and there are about 5cm of snow on the ground. Maybe it just needs more cheese :) Of course I could put cheese on anything.

Since I had the rice out, I figured I'd use up the milk that was still good but going to get sour before I could drink it all. So I made rice pudding for Charlotte. She liked it last night, but wasn't so crazy about it this morning. I'll try again later to see if she likes it with pears.

I'm thinking about making mushroom turnovers. I'm finding I really need bread. And if I don't eat bread at a meal I end of gorging on it later. So I'm trying to make soups and things that will help me lose weight, but I have to have just enough carbs in there that I don't binge later. I'm hoping mushroom turn-over and potato fennel soup will be hearty enough that I won't binge later.

I did find that black bean patties are an excellent dinner for me. I'm not a fan of black beans, or any beans for that matter, whole in soups or salads. But for some reason I love them when they are mashed up. Things like hummus, patties, or creamy soups with beans are great. I know, I should be better about soups, but at least I'm starting to eat healthy. I need to really eat healthy by the time Charlotte is eating adult food. I can't expect her to eat healthy if I don't. Well, here's to trying to eat like an adult.

Black Bean Patties

1 Can Black Beans, drained
1/2 Medium Yellow Onion, small dice
1/2 Sweet Red Pepper, small dice
4 Cloves Garlic (I like a lot of garlic, adjust down if you don't love garlic as much)
1t Cumin
1/2t Chipotle Pepper (or chili pepper, but chipotle has a nice smokey taste)
1/2C Bread Crumbs
1T Oil

Mash black beans in a bowl with a big spoon. I find a large wooden spoon works well, the kind that Mom used to spank us with when we were little..... Anyway, mash the beans, then stir in onions, pepper, garlic, cumin, and chipotle. Add a couple tablespoons of bread crumbs if the bean mixture is too wet.

Heat oil in frying pan. Roll bean mixture into balls, roll balls in bread crumbs, and flatten to patties. Fry patties in the oil until crispy on each side, about 4min a side.

Serve with guacamole, salsa, cheese, lettuce, tortillas, sour cream, or any other Mexican condiment you like. I prefer just guac and salsa. The cool vs. warm is a nice contrast.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Supper Club

Well, you can't really call it a club, more like my friends Jim and Migle and myself trading off Wednesday dinners. I cooked the first one. Beef and Guinness Pie, Cheddar Guinness fondue, Oven Roasted Potatoes, and Honey Pear Napoleons (I made this last one up because I didn't have any blue cheese but I did have extra puff pastry). We figured out that we need to either start earlier or be more efficient. Dinner was great, it just took longer than we thought, especially the potatoes. I'll try to add all the recipes at some point. Below is the one I made up.

Honey Pear Napoleons

1 Package of Puff Pastry
1 Egg
3T Sugar
4 Pears
4T Butter
4T Honey

Preheat oven to 175 (Since I'm in Europe I figure I may as well start using metric......Here's your notice, from here on out all temps are in Celcius unless otherwise noted :)

Cut each puff pastry sheet into 4 squares and put onto greased or non-stick cookie tray. Wisk egg and 3T water together in a small bowl. Brush pastry squares with egg and water mixture. Sprinkle sugar on top of pastry and bake for 15min or until puffed and golden brown.

Cut pears into thin slices (2-3cm), removing seeds and core. Heat non-stick pan and add 2T butter. Put first half of pears into the pan and saute for about 3min. Flip pears and add 2T honey. Saute for another 3 min then remove from pan. Repeat with remaining pears, butter, and honey. Be careful not to overcook the pears or they will become mushy.

Assemble napoleons by placing 1 pastry square on each plate, spooning pears on top, place a 2nd pastry square on top. Drizzle any honey butter remaining in the pan over the top of the stack. Serve immediately.

This is also good with vanilla ice cream. Stacks can be made higher by cutting the puff pastry into smaller squares or rectangles and making pear slices thinner. Thinner pear slices take less time to cook. For best results, make everything and assemble just before eating. That way the puff pastry is still flaky and crisp, pears are warm, etc.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Back Again

Well, its be 16 months since I last wrote. In that time I got pregnant, had a baby, moved back to Germany, and saw my husband deployed to Iraq. Its been a pretty busy year, and I've been not so thrilled about cooking. When I was pregnant my favorite things to eat were cakes, cupcakes, cookies, mashed potatoes, and bread. I was sick for a lot of the pregnancy and had a hard time with anything that wasn't easy on my stomach. And then the busyness of a new baby definitely put cooking on the back burner.

I'm settled back in Stuttgart, Germany. T is more or less settled in Bagdad for his year tour. And our new addition, Charlotte, just slept through the night for the first time last night. So I guess you could say she is starting to settle in also. Since I'm cooking for just myself most of the time I don't have a ton to write about. I'll fill in some of the notable dinners from the past year, and as I make one or two I'll write about those too. Cooking just for me will help me with the last 8lbs. of pregnancy weight. Considering I gained 65, I think I'm doing pretty well. But this will still be a good opportunity to try to eat healthier. Plus I need to set a good example for Charlotte when she starts wanting to eat what I'm eating.

My friends and I decided to have Wednesday night cooking nights at their house. We'll alternate cooking. Jim loves to cook, I love to cook, and Migle likes to eat what we cook. So I think it will be a good set up. I did make shredded beef in adobo sauce and a flourless chocolate cake for New Years at their house. It was a Mexican theme, so I slow roasted what I think was a brisket. Trying to translate an American cut of beef through my vegetarian babysitter to the butcher was a challenge. But I got a nice cut that was pretty close to brisket. I slow cooked it for about 8 hours until it fell apart, then served it cold with the adobo sauce. I had to tone it down a little since most of the guests were Lithuanian or German, neither nationality eats things very spicy. The flourless chocolate cake was supposed to have chipotle in it, but I toned that down too so there was almost no spice. But the cake was still excellent.

So, with the New Year I'm resolving to write my blog more. If not for other people, at least for myself to keep a record of what I'm doing, cooking, thinking, and eating.

Slow Cooked Beef Brisket
2-3lbs Beef Brisket
1 Medium Onion
5 Cloves Garlic
2 Chilis, canned, in adobo sauce
2t Adobo Sauce (from canned chilis)
2T Maple Syrup
1T Lime Juice
1T Salt
1 Dark Beer

Preheat oven to 275 (roughly)

Season beef with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy skillet. Brown meat on all sides, about 5 min per side. Place beef in baking dish with lid (or can be covered with aluminum foil).

Puree Onion, Garlic, Chilis, Adobo Sauce, Maple Syrup, Lime Juice, Salt. Pour sauce over brisket. Add enough beer for sauce to come halfway up the side of the meat. Cover securely.

Bake for 6-8 hours, turning every hour. Meat will be tender at 6 hours, and will fall apart at 8 hours. When finished, take meat out and slice or pull apart. Pour all sauce into heavy sauce pan and simmer uncovered until reduced by half. Skim fat off the top as needed. Put pulled beef into serving dish and pour sauce over the top. Can be served hot or cold.

Boca Negra - Flourless Chocolate Cake with Chipotle *recipe will be added later, Charlotte just woke up from her nap, so its time to go get her*