Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Northeast Vacay: Part I (aka: why I don't eat lobster)

Chelllloooo folks-
As you may or may not know we had a LotC meet up in the Northeast last week. From Beantown to Maine, we vacationed, and ate hard. It was fabulous, but I seemed to catch Ms. Ellen's stomach flu from somewhere...I blame it on the screaming baby sitting in front of us on the plane. Instead of Powerade, I am clutching a bowl of jello and watching Anthony Bourdain eat tons of great Indian food that I can only dream about. I digress...
First stop in our great NE adventure was Maine. One of the first activities we were treated to was the rehearsal dinner at our B&B: The Bear Mountain Inn.
Daniel was very excited about all the good eats. We were then informed that in the NE, lobsters are called bugs. Gross. In short, this is why I pass on Lobster...though I do love me a crab cake!
P.S. Chelo: School of Rock reference.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ellen's Guide to Whole Wheat Baking

I'm going to be honest with you guys. I am suffering from a major bout of stomach flu today. I have been in my pajamas all day, curled in a fetal position in my bed clutching blindly to this:
Yep, tastes disgusting.
So it is hard to write about food today, but I must persevere. Inspired by Laura's recent struggles with whole wheat pizza dough as well as my recent success making an apple pie with whole wheat crust I thought I would share what I have learned through trial and error with you all.

Worth the price!
1. Use a high quality flour. In almost every case I am supportive of choosing the cheaper option, or the store brand. It wasn't until I purchased fancy whole wheat flour - it was on sale - that I realized all flour was not created equal. I really think that when it comes to whole wheat the brand makes a difference. Splurge on the good stuff (it is still pretty cheap) and stock up when it is on sale.  I use King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour. I used to use Trader Joe's brand, but found their grind was too course. King Arthur's is extremely fine - basically feels like regular AP flour.

You will notice I recommend white whole wheat. Traditional whole wheat bread is milled from red wheat. White whole wheat comes from - you guessed it - white wheat! It has a milder flavor than red wheat due to a lack of phenolic compounds as well as a lighter color. Translation: you can trick people into eating whole wheat baked goods! The best part? It is nutritionally equivalent to traditional whole wheat flour.

Apple pie with 75% whole wheat crust
2. Don't be too ambitious if you are adapting a recipe. When "whole wheating" a recipe for the first time I usually replace 50% of AP flour with whole wheat. Go a 100% replacement and you are likely to have a mess on your hands. If 50% works well increase the ration the next time.

3. Wait. I read somewhere that because of the coarser grain whole wheat flour absorbs liquids at a slower rate than traditional flour. I have no idea if this is actually true, but I have taken to waiting a few minutes before mixing/kneeding. Can't hurt, right?

4. Pick your battles. Some things just aren't going to work. I'm not going to try to make a fluffy 3 layer cake with 100% whole wheat flour. I think baked goods tend to work better when there is a lot of other stuff at play. I have had success with carrot cake, oatmeal cookies, banana cake, zucchini bread,  etc. Sugar cookies were a big fail.

I will leave you with my pizza crust recipe, which I think is pretty good. Erik said he could eat the crust plain he liked it so much!

Quick Pizza Crust (makes one pizza crust the size of a cookie sheet)
1/2 cup AP flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (plus more for kneeding)
1 envelope yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup very warm H2O
3 Tablespoons oil

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Combine flours yeast, and salt in large bowl. Add water and oil and mix together. Gradually add up to 1 more cup of whole wheat flour, kneeding until elastic (3 or 4 minutes.) The dough will be sticky, but try not to add too much extra flour. Press dough onto greased cookie sheet. Add your toppings and sauce and cook for 12 - 15 minutes.

I haven't tried Leanne's trick of par baking the crust but I will be trying it for sure next time!
Erik wanted me to note that he chopped all of the veggies!
Do you guys think there are some things not worth trying to healthify? Something like cinnamon rolls comes to mind for me. Or spritz!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The perfect end to an unperfect day

What a week it has been! If you are a teacher, you know what the last week of school can be like... 44 report cards to finish, cumulative files to complete, oh... and you still have to keep those kids safe (notice I didn't say "teach"). So at the end of a long day (usually 10 hour days the last week of school), what could be better than some homemade pizza and a big glass of wine?

Laura, I'm sorry for your "fail" with the ww pizza crust. My pizza crust is NOT homemade--it's the pre-made stuff from Trader Joe's. You get points for making your own.

BBQ chicken pizza & with caramelized onions and smoked Gouda:
A few tips for this pizza:
Roll out the pizza dough fairly thin. Place it on your pizza stone (I have one from Pampered Chef). Brush it with olive oil, and let the crust par bake for about 7-9 minutes before putting any toppings on.

Toppings: BBQ chicken (my hubby did a good job of grilling the chicken), caramelized onions (took me 2 hours--the night before--to get them good and caramelized**see note below), mini herloom tomatoes, & smoked Gouda. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Add a sprinkle of cilantro on at the end.

To top it off, Matt & I enjoyed a nice big glass of:
Rideau Estate Syrah. YUM!

** I have been trying my hand at caramelizing onions for quite some time now. It seems that to caramelize onions properly you need to have lots of time on your hands. I have read many cookbooks on how to do this properly and most say it takes around an hour. After cooking the onions on low for close to an hour, I usually get impatient and turn up the heat a little. Come back 10 minutes later, and whadda ya know? They're burned already. The key to caramelizing the onions is time. You have to wait until the onions are good and translucent. Cookbooks can be deceiving--this can take longer than 1 hour!!! After about 90 minutes of cooking on low, I finally turned the heat up to "2" on my burner. 30 minutes later, I had beautiful caramelized onions :) Totally worth the time!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I am on a streak of failed meals. I can't get my cooking chi together, maybe I need to paint my door red or something.This week, I experienced my first two days of summer vacation and they were joyous. What could be better than a fine homemade pizza to cap off a nice summer day? In effort to make the meal "healthier" I decided to make a whole wheat (ww) crust.
It should be noted that while I am a big fan of whole grains, many ww products are gummy and disgusting (ww pasta is the WORST!). Daniel, however, claims that he does not mind the off putting texture and consistently is pushing me to try more ww products.
I make a yummy regular pizza crust, so I figured that it couldn't be too different to make a ww crust. Turns out that while it is not difficult, it was fairly gross. So gross, in fact, that I will not bother to include a recipe.
What is this??? It looks like the top of a cobbler. I tried to spread it out but it was almost like cookie dough, it had no elasticity.
It turned out lumpy, gummy and not crispy at all. Daniel said he did not mind it, and polished up the leftovers for lunch today. At least the toppings were good (tomatoes, mushrooms, olives).
Does anyone have a better recipe? Suggestions? Mine was from the Better Homes & Garden cook book. Wish me good luck on my next cooking adventure...I need it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rabbit Burgers

If you're a vegetarian for long enough you become a sort of connoisseur of veggie burgers. I can't tell you how many bland, tasteless hockey pucks of soy I have eaten over the years. Now there is a time and a place for veggie burgers - I am not denying that - but is it too much to ask for them not to be made out of textured vegetable protein? Even that name sounds unappetizing.

Of course there are as many opinions on veggie burgers as I imagine there are on the right way to make a beef burger. The two main varieties are the "meat" burgers (e.g. morningstar patties that try to imitate real meat) and what I call rabbit burgers. Rabbit burgers have visible vegetables/beans/grains and aren't trying to fool anyone. In my book veggie burgers should taste like they have vegetables in them. Might as well embrace the vegetable and try to create something that showcases them in their best light. A few weeks ago Erik and I ate dinner at 5 Napkin Burger where we both took the veggie burger. (Sidebar: they call it 5 napkin burger but they only give you one napkin??) It was sort of amazing. Probably the best veggie burger I have had at a restaurant...ever? One thing I took note of was the bright pink color of the burger. My spidey sense took perked up - beets were there! Now I love beets - I love them so much I want to marry them. I knew then that I would take this idea and make a beet burger of my own. Oh yes I would.

Memorial day seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out my new beet burger scheme. What is more American than burgers made of beets? Well besides pretty much everything...

Ellen's Rabbit Burgers
3 carrots
3 beets
1 egg
1 cup black beans
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Various spices of your choice

In a large bowl smash up your beans with a fork. You're not trying to completely pulverize them. Leave some large pieces. Grate up a big pile of your beets and carrots and add them to your beans. Throw in the egg, bread crumbs, and spices. Can I recommend garlic and italian herbs? (Sidebar: Penzeys please sponsor me!) Give it all a good mix with your hands. Form into patties. We found they worked best when the patties were on the thiner side.
We cooked ours on a george forman type grill. You could also bake them in the oven I suppose. I don't recommend putting them on a real grill since I think they would fall apart.
Add toppings of your choice! We went with sliced pickles, spinach, and sharp cheddar on sesame buns.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Finally the winner!

I have to apologize for my lack of blogging. I am almost finished with many a culmination of two years of work and many many hours of sitting in a tiny closet of an office with no windows. I am 99% back to a being human. The other 1% is still preoccupied with things I must accomplish by the end of this week (ie. eat a wrap from the SURC for the last time, finish a billion "reflections" and clean out my desk/office). My cooking/eating/living brain will be back soon, I promise.
Thank you for all the suggestions. I need to say the contest was tough. Daniel particularly enjoyed No Diggity. Boo would be perfect, but Elle is correct about it being a perfect cat name. Without further adieu-the winning name is Zorro. I found this name to be perfect for our new friend as I can whip up an iced Americano with room, in 20 seconds or less. He is a speedy devil. Props to Madame Destiny...close to winning but he was always a "he" in my mind. Congratulations to our winner and runner up! You both will receive coffee cards to the Longoria coffee shack!

Side note: the name DeAngelo was suggested by someone who shall remain anonymous. However, since the name was not posted, it was not considered as an entry. If it had been, the outcome, perhaps, would have been different.....

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Happy Sherbert's Day!

Saturday was my birthday - yahoo!

I had some good friends over for some good eats and good drinks. Everyone was a winner.

The weather that day was nice - really nice. After a large pancake breakfast at McKenna's (still no frozen lemonade) I spent a few hours digesting and then went for a run followed by the greenest smoothie of all.
Kale, spinach, kiwi, peaches, mango
Then came a knock at the door... Erik's parents very nicely sent me birthday flowers!
Lilies are my fav
Guests came over bearing many yummy treats and we retreated to the back porch to enjoy the phenomenal weather.

First course: the snacks
Watermelon feta kebabs (Erik)
Spinach artichoke dip with pita (Greg)
Sadly did not get a picture of the dip...
These kebabs are a great party treat. I made them for our Mediterranean Seder and they were a big hit once again.  I originally got the idea from Fun and Fearless in Beantown.
Cut up a watermelon into bite size pieces. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette (careful, it comes out fast). Place a piece of feta on top and skewer with a toothpick. Last time I made them with a piece of mint on top and I think they were even better that way. I bet basil would make a good flavor combo too.

Second course: the salads
Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella (Alex and Sarah)
Carrot beet apple salad (Me!)
Spinach garlic and grapefruit (Greg)

I have previously shared with you my second favorite beet salad but this one is better for warm weather.

Use a cheese grater to shred up a roughly even portions of beets and carrots. I used 3 medium beets and three large carrots. Grate in a granny smith or other tart apple. (I recommend peeling the apple first). Make the dressing. 1 Tablespoon olive oil, 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar,  1 teaspoon strong dijon mustard, agave or honey to taste, salt and pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes if you like some spice. Shake up the dressing and poor over grated carrots, beets, and apple. Let marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving. HEAVEN.

Third course: the treats

Yummy summer fruit (Alex and Sarah) - sadly not pictured
Fancy coconut raspberry birthday cake - Erik
Love, love, love coconut
All courses: large pitcher of sangria.

I was so happy to get to enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables in all of these dishes. We had a LONG, cold winter here in New England and sometimes it felt like I was going to be eating potatoes and root vegetables until they came out my nose.

What spring veggies/fruits/treats have you been enjoying? Anything people are particularly looking forward to as the farmers markets start up? I can't wait for cherry season!