Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween thus far

The rest of Halloween

Kris was ashamed of his awesome costume at first

But he got over it. Here he is with Random-Picture-Taking-Stranger

Did I mention it rained?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

PB&J Thumbprints

I wish Martha had featured these in her September issue- as these delicious Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprints would be a perfect way to start off a new school year (not that I'm in school anymore...)

Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprints
From Martha Stewart Living October 2009
Make 40

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350 degree
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat peanut butter with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add sugars, and beat until pale and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and beat until incorporated. Reduce speed to low. Add dry ingredients, and mix until combined.

Scoop level tablespoons of dough, and form into balls. Roll each ball into granulated sugar, and transfer to parchment lined baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart.

Bake until cookies are puffy, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and make indentations in centers by pressing with the handle of a wooden spoon. Return to oven and bake until edges are golden, 6 to 7 minutes more. Transfer sheets to wire racks. and let cool completely.

Heat jam in a small saucepan, stirring until loosened, about 30 seconds. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon into each indentation. Cookies can be stored in a single layer up to 1 week.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ham in Coke with Cabbage

The boyfriend isn't a very religious man, but he is a firm believer in pork products. More specifically ham. I'm pretty sure he would have ham everyday if he could. For several Christmases now I've had the privilege of sampling the yearly Smithfield Ham while visiting the BF's family near Smithfield, VA. While this Ham in Coke might not be as festive or revered, it's easy enough to make on the weekend and you won't have to wait until Christmas either.

Ham with some halved shallots as we were out of onions.

Then add some coke!
Just about a whole bottle of coke and then let it simmer on the stove top for about 2 hours or until your ham reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. Any more, and you'll be left with some dry ham.


Then you want to cut the fat in a diamond pattern and stud each diamond with a clove.

Pat on the rub made of molasses, brown sugar and ground mustard.

The left over ham stock is real tasty for making cabbage. So shred up about 1 head of red cabbage.

Add 2 tbls of red wine vinegar to the stock and bring it to the boil.

Add in the shredded cabbage and cook until tender.

After 15 minutes in the oven, your ham is ready for slicing!

So slice away
And enjoy it with some of the cabbage


Ham in Coke with Cabbage
Adapted from Nigella Lawson's Feast: Food to Celebrate

  • 5-6lb boneless mild cure ham
  • approx 6 12oz can Coke
  • 1 onion
  • approx. 16 whole cloves
  • 3-4 tblsp molasses
  • 3 tblsp brown sugar
  • 1 tblsp ground mustard
  • 1 head red cabbage
  • 2 tblsp red wine vinegar
Put the ham into a large pot. Add the Coke and the onion, halved, to the ham and if the liquid doesn't cover it then add some water. Put on the heat and bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and partially cover the pan. Cook for approx. 2-21/4 hours.

When you are ready to glaze the ham, preheat the oven to 45o degrees F. Remove the ham from the liquid, reserving the liquid for later, and sit the ham on a board. Strip off the rind, and a little of the fat layer if it it's very thick and cut a diamond pattern into the remaining fat with a knife in lines about 3/4 inch apart. Stud each diamond with a clove.

Smear the molasses over the ham and cake on the brown sugar and ground mustard. Sit the ham in a roasting pan on a layer of alumina foil , as the sugar will burn in the oven as it drips off. Put the ham in the oven for about 15 minutes. Take the ham out of the oven and return it to the carving board to rest before your carve it.

To make the cabbage, bring the ham stock back to the boil, add 2 tblsp red wine vinegar and 1 head red cabbage, shredded. Cook for about 30 minutes at a simmer until the cabbage is just soft.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My First Omelet

My dad says that as a kid, my mom fed us omelets and scrambled eggs so often that my brother and I developed an aversion to eggs in any form (well except in cakes, ice cream, custards ect....). I vaguely remember this typical dinner of a simple omelet with a piece of toast cut in triangles, slathered in jam and placed on either side of the plate.

I'd like to think that since my stay in India, I've been pretty open to all kinds of food and have re-discovered many. Eggs are certainly one of them. While staying with a Tibetan family, I was offered scrambled eggs with some kind of processed cheese every morning. Not wanting to offend anyone or be difficult, I ate it up and gradually learned to like it.

Back in the states, Egg in the Hole was my first baby step towards bringing eggs back into my life. A disgusting Fritatta set me back a bit, but I think I've finally come full circle. I made my first omelet successfully and liked it quite a bit. Here's how it went down:

Melt down some butter in oil. You must wait for the pan to be hot enough.

You'll know once the butter stops foaming

Kinda like that.

Then poor in the blended eggs

And let them sit for a few seconds. Shake them loose until most of the egg has set.
Shake the omelet to the edge of the pan and add in the fixings- here we have some caramelized onions and blue cheese.

Then flip the pan over while sliding the omelet onto the plate.


Kris got me that Autumn-ey apron :)
I just had to add some walnuts.

Julia Child's Rolled Omelet
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol I
  • 2 eggs blended in a bowl
  • 2 tbl butter
  • 1 tbl oil
  • caramelized onions
  • blue cheese
  • walnuts

No real instructions are required here, just watch this clip and absorb what Julia is doing. It's all in the wrist!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Beetroot Brownies

This time last year, I was still living in London which is definitely one of the nicest places in which to enjoy autumn. Between the amazing colors of the trees in Kensington gardens to city-dwellers seemingly dressed for a foxhunt to enjoying a cream tea at a small shop in the Cotswolds; I very much enjoyed my last few weeks in England.

The TV wasn't bad either. The Brits are funny about their 'telly'. It is completely normal for a gardening show to come on a 9pm on a Friday night. And I kid you not, they had a show that came on at 7pm every weeknight for about a month called "Spring Watch" and "Autumn Watch" which was a live nature show. "Autumn Watch" must have been tricky to film since it was already dark by the time they started broadcasting live from some pond outdoors. One of the re-occurring pieces was about a beaver who spent the entire season chewing through a fallen tree. I'm pretty sure he made it trough for their season finally.

And although I'm back in the land of 300+ channels of anything you could ever want to watch on TV (not that I have cable...) I do miss their basic network TV. The BBC's various nature shows definitely win out against ABC's Dancing with the Stars or NBC's Deal or No Deal. One of the shows I particularly miss this season is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage. As he explains in the opening credits each episode, "ever since he left the city and came here to the country he's been producing his own food. Raising livestock and growing vegetables. And the longer he's been here the more he's felt in tune with the seasons."

Although I could do with a little less of Hugh's semi condescending message of "everyone should grow their own food and not shop at tesco because they do bad things to their chickens" I do very much admire what he has achieved at River Cottage. It is something to aspire to, but not something readily available to most people. But damn- I can't wait to one day make my own Elderflower Champagne from the wild elderflowers growing in the surrounding fields!

The BF very sweetly procured last year's River Cottage Autumn and I've been re-watching them all. Episode 1 has the cooks battling it out for best beet pudding (as in desert, not specifically pudding). I can only hope that they had an over-abundance of beets that year, because I can't figure out why else they would think to put beetroot into a brownie. Then again, I can't think of why I was compelled to make them either.

But I'm glad I did. I only wish I had pureed the beets and not grated them, because that was really the only slightly-off putting part of the brownie: the texture. Besides that, they were fluffy yet dense, sweet and chocolatey but also earthy from the beets.

If you're feeling up for something different, do try these- I brought them into the office (almost against my own will- too embarrassed to admit that I made beetroot brownies for the fun of it, but then I'm not about to share a full pan of brownies with the BF) and people actually liked them! Some new what the "secret ingredient" was and other didn't but all in all, these quickly disappeared.

Beetroot Brownies
From this recipe on River Cottage Autumn

  • 250g/10oz good, dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
  • 250g/10oz unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus more for greasing
  • 250g/10oz caster sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 150g self-raising flour (we used wholemeal self-raising)
  • 250g beetroot, boiled until tender, peeled and pureed

1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Grease a baking tin of approximately 20 x 30 x 3cm and line the bottom with baking parchment.

2. Break up the chocolate into pieces, cut the butter into cubes then mix them up a bit in a heatproof bowl. As the oven begins to warm up, put the bowl onto one of the shelves for a few minutes until the chocolate and butter starts to melt. Stir, and put back into the oven for a few more minutes to melt completely.

3. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until combined, then beat in the melted chocolate and butter until smooth. Gently fold in the flour then the beetroot – be careful not to overmix or it will make the brownies tough.

4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth over the top with a spatula. Bake for about 20 minutes. A knife or skewer pushed into the middle should come out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Don't be tempted to overcook them! Remove the tin from the oven and leave on wire rack to cool before cutting into squares.