Thursday, July 25, 2013

Helpful Tip: Washing Berries

Ever feel like berries just don't last that long when you bring them home, especially those just-picked from the farm? You're not alone. Berries have little germies on them that cause mold to form at an alarming rate (here's a more sciencey explanation).

To extend the fridge life of your berries, here's a simple trick. As soon as you bring them home, fill a clean sink basin (or a big bowl, if you must) with several inches of cool to lukewarm water. Add a half-cup of distilled white vinegar to the water. Then add in your berries. Gently swish them around with your hands and let them sit for a few minutes. Strain the berries and dry them (for firm berries like blueberries, strawberries, or blackberries, you can send them through a salad spinner. More delicate berries, like currants and raspberries, should be left on a towel to air dry). Place them in an airtight container and store in the fridge.

Or freeze them.

The vinegar disinfects the berries naturally and keeps bacteria from eating the soft flesh of the berries too quickly.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sangria Sauce

Oof. It's too hot to cook or bake.

Well, that is to say it was too hot. Thankfully the heatwave that plagued my little corner of the world has passed, and more temperature weather is here.

I recently picked up a copy of She Cooks, She Scores: The Steamy Stories Behind the Recipes by Chicago-based Chef Jennifer F. Stoker. Besides offering a sometimes-hilarious peek into one woman's romantic interludes and the meals inspired by them, there were a lot of handy recipes perfect for, "I'm hungry but it's too hot/humid to cook" moments.

One recipe in particular that grabbed me was Grilled Fruit Over Angel Food Cake with Sangria Sauce. Sounds like the perfect antidote to steamy sun-drenched days. The recipe is below. I'm looking forward to trying my hand at some of Chef Stoker's other dishes, like Asparagus Guacamole (wut?), Sweet Potato and Sausage Gratin with Savory Maple Glaze, Watermelon and Jicama Coleslaw (oh twist my arm why don'tcha - she serves it with fried coconut shrimp), and Thai Coconut Chicken Soup.

If it's too humid or hot to make angel food cake, don't feel too guilty about buying one from a local bakery.

Grilled Fruit Over Angel Food Cake with Sangria Sauce
From She Cooks, She Scores by Jennifer F. Stoker
Makes Six Servings

1 pineapple, top and bottom removed, skin removed, cut lengthwise into strips, 1/2-inch wide.
2 peaches, halved and pitted
1 mango, peeled, cut lengthwise, 1/2-inch wide
1/3 cup olive oil
1 lemon
1 cup red seedless grapes, halved
1/2 cup chopped kiwi
1/2 cup blueberries
1 angel food cake, whole

Sangia Sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup peach schnapps
1/2 cup champagne or white wine*
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1 cup grape juice
1 lime, squeezed

Preheat grill to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, add olive oil and squeeze lemon into oil. Mix together until incorporated. Brush mango, pineapple, and peaches with lemon oil and set aside.

To make sangria sauce: heat water and sugar in a medium saucepan on medium-high. Dissolve sugar and add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a medium simmer until sauce reduces to 1 cup. Cool completely; sauce will thicken as it cools.

Grill or saute fruit until golden brown on all sides. Let cool. Cut up in bite-size pieces and put in bowl along with rest of fruit. Mix together.

Cut angel food cake into individual pieces. Sprinkle fruit mixture over each piece of angel food cake and drizzle sangria sauce over top.

*I used Thirsty Owl's Snow Owl wine, just like I would for regular ol' Sangria. Because the sauce gets cooked, I wouldn't open a new bottle of sparkling wine for this, but a split/mini bottle would do the trick!

Angel Food Cake
(Deanna's Recipe!)
Makes one cake

1 1/2 cups egg whites (from about 10-12 large eggs)
1 1/2 cups sifted Confectioners sugar
1 cup sifted flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup granulated sugar

In an extra-large mixing bowl, allow the egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Whisk together Confectioners sugar and flour in a separate bowl, being sure to remove all lumps.

Adjust the baking rack to the lowest position in the oven, and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Add the cream of tartar and vanilla to egg whites. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add in granulated sugar, about two tablespoons at a time, beating until soft peaks form.

Add about one-fourth of the flour mixture over beaten egg whites, fold in gently. Repeat, folding in remaining flour mixture by fourths. Pour into an ungreased 10-inch tube or bundt pan. Gently cut through batter with a butter knife to remove any large air pockets.

Bake on the lowest rack for 40 to 45 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert the cake and allow to cook through inverted pan. Loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and remove from the pan completely. Allow to cook and dust with Confectioners sugar.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer Playlist

There's just something about summer that's inexplicable. Maybe it's the reckless potential of all that it contains. The days are long, the nights are hot, and the restlessness that they bring makes us all feel young, even if for a bit.

Barnside Movie at Silly Goose Farm
From Summer 2011 Barnside Movie Party

When I think of summer, I think of swimming with my high school boyfriend ('sup Brian) with a crank radio on the dock broadcasting the Yankees game; I think of throwing bocce in the backyard with a good drink in hand while laughing with friends as the sun goes down and the fireflies come out; I reminisce of hot, sweaty days pitching hay into the barn and the smell of tractor oil.

In all of those situations, certain songs that are intrinsically summer come to mind. There are those tunes that are mandatory listening as the temperature rises; they make you want to put an extra cuff in your cut-offs, slather on sunscreen, and dance in the most fun, seductive manner with your best friends and lovers. Songs by The Beach Boys, Sam Cooke, John Mellencamp, Snoop... Sure, they're good any time of year, but even better when the windows are down and the wind whips through your hair, pulling tiny little beads of sweat off your skin. They beg of lazy adventures, limited clothing, and getting lost in a moment seemingly suspended in time.

I've asked some of my favorite people to help me compile a quintessential summer playlist, complete with songs of nostalgia, novelty, obscurity, and apropos seasonal mentions. It seems for each person, there is a song that just can't be heard without flashbacks to a summer memory (for me, it's driving my first car, my Mustang, at unreasonably high speeds with Bowie on repeat, headbobbing harder than an over-zealous hooker). Read on (and listen) below - there's about 50 songs, so scroll through. Did we miss your favorite summer song? Got a memory to accompany? Share in the comments and I'll work to update the list!

Jenny Witte, impeccably stylish editor-in-chief and my gadabout soul sister: Although not technically ABOUT summer, "Waiting on a Friend," by The Rolling Stones always reminds me of summertime. Mick is hanging out on that front stoop in the video, just sort of wasting the day away the way summer days can sometimes go, where it starts getting dark and you realize you've just been hanging out all day. It's so relaxed and laid back, it makes you want to just sit around and wait too. And of course Mick is just at his most louche, tight pants best in this video. I love it.

Tom Makovitch, Artist Extraordinaire: I couldn't decide on just one song, so two it is. The first is "Origins" by Tennis. Whenever I listen to music I never hear the lyrics separately from the instruments. I hear them as one digesting the song as a whole piece. My second is "Naked Kids" by Grouplove and it overwhelms me with nostalgic happiness.

Kelly Kramer, Resident BFF and music festival champion: Long days filled with sunshine, road trips to the beach, outdoor brunches that last until nightfall, and baseball games - thinking about summer yet? For me, nothing can bring about these feelings of summer better than music. The music of summer should automatically make you dance, put you in a good mood, or at least make you think about all the things that make you cherish the summer. The scenario that epitomizes what summer means to me is sitting on a mountain at a music festival listening to my favorite jams. And what song will you ALWAYS hear at a festival? "The Weight," by The Band. Imagine day drinking with all your best friends when you heat the first few chords of "The Weight." You automatically know that for the next four and a half minutes, everyone will be engrossed in the song. Whether you know all the lyrics of have made up your own, it's a hell of a good time singing at the top of your lungs to the ultimate story song. There will be lots of smiles, cheers with beverages, and lighters in the air. You just can't be in a bad mood once those chords are played, and for me that's the best part of the summer - getting lost in the feeling that the season, these friendships, and the beer supply will never end.

Jillian Kalonick, everyone's favorite red-headed librarian: I used to date a guy who liked any song that had "ooh ooh oohs" in it. I know he would dig "White Wave" by Portastatic. I love the nostalgia for teenage rebellion, the stinging sunburn, and "Yelloe Brick Road" on the jukebox. It's the perfect thing to blast with the windows down on the way to the shore.

Braden Russom, cookbook author, brother-in-the-bonds, and business confidante:  I know it's a bit cheesy, but I guess I'd say "Boys of Summer," by Don Henley. It's kinda got everything. It's a summer love/lust story, and the repeated, driving drums and guitar have a relentlessness that's almost oppressive, like a long, hot, summer. I think my attachment to it comes from being about 12 and seeing it on VH1. The sepia-toned video and the not-so-subtle sexiness really grabbed me. I felt a bit like I was getting a glimpse into what the older, more popular kids were doing during their summers.

Julie White Eklund, my cocktail co-conspirator and touchstone of what's cool in the best esoteric ways: Despite my penchant for thoughtful, lyric-driving music, there is just something about humid weather that calls out for crunk. I find that "Get Low," by Lil Jon is perfect for cooking and dancing around in the kitchen on one of those muggy thunderstorm nights when the sweat is dripping down your neck in little rivulets that are either gross or the sexiest thing ever. It's just a matter of where your head is at. (editor's note: Julie has here own list right here.)

Shannon McGill, tempting songstress with hair one could lost in for days: "Green Garden," by Laura Mvula is infectious, ebullient, beautiful, and lust like its title. Mvula's voice is warm and inviting and the backing vocals... woah! The thing is just perfection, it just envelops you in beauty. Swallows you right up and makes you a devotee instantly! Like the refrain says, "I'll go wherever you go, wherever you take me, I'll go." I'd follow this woman anywhere! This song just knocks me out and oozes summer. It's what summer sounds like. "Birmingham" is a winding, stomping, snaking story of two musicians in love. After I first heard it, I listened to it for 4 days straight, just this one song. It's all my ears wanted. Here is the wanderlust and restlessness that's inherent in summer. Forever this song will represent summer of 2013 for me. 

Taya Matthews, operatic crooner and master of brevity: "Breathe," by Telepopmusik. Gosh is this ever the song...

Share your songs below!

Monday, June 10, 2013

What I'm Listening To: June

I've fallen behind on my Weekend Listening posts (like most other posts on here... blimey!). I'll try to get back on that. In the meantime, I thought I'd share with you what I'm listening to for the month of June. My best friend Kelly started sending me her monthly playlists many moons ago, and since then we've be exchanging playlists each turn of the calendar. Braden has gotten in on the action a little bit, too. So I thought I'd share my June list with you! I hope you enjoy it.

What are you listening to this month? Any favorite musicians or bands you can't stop listening to? I'd love your recommendations!

PS - Some more tunes if you're in the mood to boogie.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Texas Dolly

People tell me all the time that they know exactly how I'm feeling by just looking at me; that my emotions are all over my face. It's so true. As much as I try to play it cool, my face gives it away every time.

These are my tells.

This is why I am bad at poker.

I really wish I was good at poker, though. I think I'd be excellent at it, save for all the tells. Kind of like how I think I'd be excellent at being a concert pianist save for that one small detail of not knowing how to play the piano.

I've been thinking about having friends over for a poker night (especially the ladies), and while I'm no good at poker, I'm exceptionally talented at drinking. And so the Texas Dolly was born, as it would be a good drink to serve during the game. "Texas Dolly" is the nickname of Doyle Brunson, a behemoth in the poker world. Not only is the name apropos, it sounds like something my girlfriends would want to drink (plus, if I get my friends stinking drunk, I might have a better shot at winning!).

Texas Dolly
Serve One

3 ounces grapefruit juice
2 ounces whiskey (I used Buffalo Trace... use what you like)
1 ounce simple syrup
Club soda
Candied grapefruit peel and grapefruit slices (optional)
Sugar (optional)

1. If choosing to sugar the rim of the glass, dip the rim of the glass into water, then roll in sugar. Set aside.

2. Shake grapefruit juice, whiskey, and simple syrup in a Boston shaker with ice for 10 seconds. Strain into the prepared glass. Top with club soda and garnish with candied grapefuit peel and grapefruit slices.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Chocolate Pudding

I remember the first time I made chocolate pudding. I was about 11 years old, and my great grandparents were at my house. My Gramma Shirley brought me over to the stove with my copy of The Boxcar Children Cookbook (anyone else remember those books? I loved 'em), and helped me make chocolate pudding. It is one of m most distinct cooking memories.

I don't remember that specific recipe, but I do have an equally-excellent key for chocolate pudding. It's nearly identical to the Vanilla Pudding recipe from earlier this week. If you're still hankering for pudding, don't forget to check out the Tapioca recipe. This chocolate pudding serves as a great base for chocolate cream pie.

Chocolate Pudding
Makes four servings

2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups milk
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Place a fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl; set aside. In a medium saucepan, off heat, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, and salt. Very gradually (a few tablespoons at a time) whisk in milk, taking care to dissolve cornstarch. Whisk in egg yolks.

2. Whisking constantly, cook over medium heat until the first large bubble forms and the mixture begins to thicken. Reduce heat to low, continue to whisk for one minute. Remove from heat and immediately pour through the sieve and into a bowl. Stir in butter and vanilla.

3. Serve warm (with whipped cream, if desired!), or place plastic wrap directly on the pudding (to prevent a skin from forming). Chill at least three hours and up to three days. Before serving, whisk pudding until smooth.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Vanilla Pudding

The pudding binge continues. (Tapioca has already been discussed.) Today, vanilla's on the docket. Eat this stuff straight-up, or use in other desserts, such as the filling of a Boston Cream Pie or donuts, or in a parfait or trifle.

Vanilla Pudding
Makes four servings

2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups milk
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Place a fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl; set aside. In a medium saucepan, off heat, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Very gradually (a few tablespoons at a time) whisk in milk, taking care to dissolve cornstarch. Whisk in egg yolks.

2. Whisking constantly, cook over medium heat until the first large bubble forms and the mixture begins to thicken. Reduce heat to low, continue to whisk for one minute. Remove from heat and immediately pour through the sieve and into a bowl. Stir in butter and vanilla.

3. Serve warm (with whipped cream, if desired, or my favorite way - with mini marshmallows mixed in!), or place plastic wrap directly on the pudding (to prevent a skin from forming). Chill at least three hours and up to three days. Before serving, whisk pudding until smooth.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tapioca Pudding

I've been on a pudding kick. For whatever reason, I've just been craving pudding. I must be getting old. Isn't pudding an old person thing? Or maybe I'm regressing. (Puddiiiiing POPS!).

The sad thing is at the particular intersection of food craving dilemma, it wasn't delightfully creamy chocolate pudding that I wanted, it was... tapioca. Oh tapioca (le sigh). It's so weirdly delicious. I'm slightly ashamed to say I really enjoy it; however, I'll risk public embarrassment in order to bring you this recipe, which I gently borrowed from Alton Brown with a few tweaks.

I'm sorry... I had to.
Tapioca Pudding
Makes six servings

3 1/2 ounces large pearl tapioca (approximately 1/2 cup)
2 cups cold water
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
Pinch of kosher salt

1. Place tapioca in a medium mixing bowl along with the water. Cover and allow to stand overnight.

2. Drain water from the tapioca. Place the tapioca into a slow cooker along with the milk, heavy cream, vanilla bean (or 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract) and salt. Cook on high for two hours, stirring occasionally.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and sugar. Temper small amounts of the tapioca into the egg mixture until you have at least one cup. Add this mixture back into the remaining tapioca in the slow cooker. Cook for an additional 15 minutes, stirring at least once.

4. Transfer the pudding to a bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap. Allow to cool at room temperature for one hour and then place in the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Soft, Chewy Pretzels

I like having staple recipes that I can turn to over and over again to fit a variety of eating needs. Soft, chewy pretzels are one of those staples. Quick lunch option for kids? Check. Late night movie snack? Check. Friends coming over for board games? Check.

Make a batch of these pretzels ahead of time, they freeze well, like biscuits (just let them cool completely, then stick in a zip-top bag). Reheat in a brown paper bag at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes and serve with tangy mustard or cheese sauce.

Soft, Chewy Pretzels
Makes 8 large pretzels or 16 smaller pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all purpose flour
Vegetable oil, to coat bowl
3 quarts water
2/3 cups baking soda
1 egg (mixed with 1 tablespoon of water to make an egg wash)
Course sea salt

1. Combine 1 1/2 cups water, sugar, yeast, and butter in a bowl and mix until combined (if using a stand mixer, use a dough hook). Let sit for five minutes.

2. Add the salt and flour to the mixture and mix until combined. Continue to mix/knead in the bowl until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough appears to wet, add additional flour, one tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands.

3. Coat a large bowl with vegetable oil; add the dough and turn to coat. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size (about one hour).

4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring the 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.

5. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into eight equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope. To shape into pretzels, take the right side and cross over to the left. Cross right to left again and flip up.

6. Slowly add the baking soda to the boiling water. Boil the pretzels in the water solution, two at a time for 30 seconds, splashing the tops with the water with a spoon. Remove with a large, flat slotted spatula or a spider. Place pretzels on a baking sheet, leaving plenty of space between each pretzel, and brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with sea salt. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until pretzels are golden brown. Remove pretzels from baking sheet and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Homemade Twinkies

Eric turned three on April Fool's Day. My younger child is now three. Three! Where does the time go? (Oh, wait, I know... into sleepless nights, dirty diapers, potty training, cleaning up Legos and Hot Wheels and Chuggers, playing in sandboxes, endless bottles and sippy cups... but it's all worth it.) I asked him what he wanted to bring for a treat into his classroom birthday party. He chose Twinkies.

Twinkies? Really? Where the hell did that kid ever have a Twinkie? Haven't they been extinct most of his life?

Birthday Boy!

As luck would have it, I recently received a copy Classic Snacks Made From Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats, by Casey Barber, published by Ulysses Press. It's filled to the brim with delicious recipes for junk-food favorites, like Mallomars, Cheez-Its, Corn Nuts, Klondike Bars, and Jalapeno Poppers. Because the recipes are all made from scratch, I feel not quite as bad about eating the end-product.

So I made Twinkies. I was surprised how easy it was. A lot of steps and kind of "involved," but nothing hard, I would say. I didn't have a specific Twinkie-pan (Barber calls is a "canoe" pan), so I used my mini-loaf pans. A sheet pan or 13"x 9" would would find - just cut into rectangles. You can also use a muffin tin. The basics of the recipe follow, but go out and pick-up the book for full instructions and notes (believe me, this is one book you'll want to own).

Twinkies (from Classic Snacks Made From Scratch)
Makes 16

5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour

1. Preheat the over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spritz the pan(s) well with baking spray (I would suggest butter and flour, just to ensure a good release).

2. Separate the eggs whites and yolks into two large bowls.

3. Pour the sugar, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and process for 15 to 20 seconds, until finely ground. Transfer to a medium bowl.

4. Using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks on medium speed for about 20 to 30 seconds, until they start to froth, thicken, and lighten in color. Slowly add the ground sugar mixture and the vanilla, and continue to beat until the eggs are very thick and pale - almost off-white and creamy in color. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the flour. Set aside.

5. Using an electric hand mixer on high speed or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium-high, whip the egg whites into soft peaks. Stir about a quarter of the whipped egg whites into the batter to loosen it up, then gently fold in the remaining whites in two or three batches, working slowly to incorporate them without destroying their fluffiness.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan; if using a canoe pan or muffin tin, fill each well two-thirds full. Save any remaining batter for a second batch.

7. Bake until the cakes are puffy and golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Timing may vary, so watch carefully, but will be 8 to 10 minutes for canoe shapes, 13 to 15 minutes for cupcakes or mini loaf pans, and 18 to 20 minutes for 8-inch square metal baking pans or hot dog pans.

8. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack; they will shrink and pull away from the pan sides. Then line the wire rack with waxed paper and spritz the paper lightly with baking spray. Invert the pan to turn the cakes out onto the rack. Cool completely before cutting into Twinkie shapes (if using a loaf or hot dog pan) and filling.

For the Filling:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Stir the sugar, corn syrup, and water together in a small, high-sided saucepan over medium low heat just until the sugar is fully dissolved and the liquid no longer feels granular. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and bring the liquid to a boil without stirring. Continue to heat until the sugar syrup reaches 235-240 degrees Fahrenheit (soft-ball stage).

2. Meanwhile, using the stand mixer fitting with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed just until soft peaks form. Just before the sugar syrup reaches soft-ball stage, restart the mixer on low speed. When the syrup is at temperature, carefully drizzle it into the egg whites.

3. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip for five to seven minutes, until the filling is thick, shiny, and white, forming stiff peaks. Add the vanilla and stir for another 15 seconds to incorporate.

1. Fill a pastry or gallon-size zip-top bag with the filling.

2. Use a sharp paring knife to cut small holes in the cake bottoms (a single hole in the cake bottoms for cupcakes, three holes for other sizes). Insert the pastry tip into each hole and squeeze gently to fill. The cakes will swell slightly as the holes fill up.

3. Store the filled cakes in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week; as with most sponge cakes, they really do taste better after resting overnight than if eaten fresh.