Monday, February 27, 2017

Tucson, 2017

Presidents weekend saw me back in Tucson for another visit, and while the weather didn't quite cooperate (50* and rain for two days), it was still a great get-away.

Day One:  Tucson Art Museum, lunch at the Cafe ala C'Art by the art museum, then U of AZ Mirror Lab.

Tucson Art Museum with a guided tour (free) is worth it.  Tour was an hour, we bumped around for about 45 min on our own, and called it good.   We didn't see everything - missed maybe two floors?  Something for another trip, plus they rotate exhibits so definitely an option.   Highly recommend the cafe/bistro that's attached.  Very good.



U of AZ Mirror Lab.  GEEK OUT MOMENT!  I got to see the mirrors that are being installed in the Giant Magellan telescope!!  COOOL!  Yes.  Yes, that was way cool.   Good presentation.

One lens in the foreground, one in the background

Day Two: Biosphere 2
This complex is HUGE.  Was privately built and owned for that two year isolation study back in the early nineties, was sold to U of Connecticut (I think?), then the U of AZ took it over in 2007.  They are now running various earth-based landscape experiments in there and turning the "ocean" into the Sea of Cortex.   Yes, they have a small "ocean" in there along with a rain forest, coastal desert, mangrove swamp and one other biome.  Definitely worth a tour.  

My one observation is, I was hoping for more on the early 90's experiments, and they only briefly touched on those.  Their main focus was on what they are currently doing, which I suppose makes sense.  So I may have to do some reading on the 90's stuff.



Day Three: Tombstone and Boothill Graveyard.
Cheesy fun.  In hindsight, I should have asked a few questions about activities, then switched things around - we arrived, we wandered, we ate, we watched the reenactment then went in quest of stuff we found out about so basically more wandering (in the rain).   Would have been better to go straight to reenactment, then eat, and find the stuff/wander at the same time. 

The Earps and Doc Holiday

Boothill Graveyard and the Dragoon Mtns in the background


Day Four:  Saguaro National Park.
Took a walk in the desert and had a picnic lunch.  Supper was at El Charro's in downtown Tucson.  Highly recommend. 

Rincon Mtns in the background


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben

Fool Me OnceFool Me Once by Harlan Coben

My rating: 3 of 5 stars






Jacket Blurb: 
In the course of eight consecutive #1 New York Times bestsellers, millions of readers have discovered Harlan Coben’s page-turning thrillers, filled with his trademark edge-of-your-seat suspense and gut-wrenching emotion. In Fool Me Once, Coben once again outdoes himself.

Former special ops pilot Maya, home from the war, sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work: her two-year-old daughter playing with Maya’s husband, Joe—who had been brutally murdered two weeks earlier. The provocative question at the heart of the mystery: Can you believe everything you see with your own eyes, even when you desperately want to? To find the answer, Maya must finally come to terms with deep secrets and deceit in her own past before she can face the unbelievable truth about her husband—and herself.


Read as an audio book.

I've mentioned before, a narrator can make or break an audio book. I'm on the fence about Ms. LaVoy. She has good intonation, is very expressive emotionally, guys voices are decent, and the childs voice wasn't grating. Flip side of that is, perhaps a bit too much emoting - as the book moved along, Maya became more grating, demanding and whining than I cared for. I'm not sure if this is how the book was written, or the narrators interpretation.

Oh, I am so conflicted about this book...

On one hand the set up made no sense at all, it was overly convoluted, it was implausible, it was...bizzare.

On the other hand, I admit I didn't really see the end coming. Mostly. About 2/3 of the way through I began to pick up on some not so subtle hints that I shan't say here.

Some of my issues with the plot:

Confronting the nanny with the video, but not making a back-up first and THEN telling the nanny which devise was recording. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Then, later, the nanny claiming she knew it was a nanny cam because of how quickly it appeared after the funeral. Maybe plausible, maybe not - because it was, bottom line, a gift.

Over use of "I don't understand". I really wish I had a way to figure out how many times that phrase was used, because it was a lot.

Maya's self flagellation became irritating. Everything was Maya's fault, right back to the video that caused her sister to run to the books equivalent of "wikileaks", it was her fault her sister was spying on the Brickettes, it was her fault her husband was dead (because of the video which caused the sister to run to wikileaks...). You get the idea.

I'm a bit conflicted about her demanding bitch side - in a guy it would be considered direct - unless it's the Harry Bosch character, then just annoying. But more often than not I wondered if her character would have been better using honey to get what she wanted, rather than the bull in a china shop approach.

I didn't understand her need to "protect" Shane - she trusted him with her life, but, not. It didn't make sense. There was the perfect person to bounce all the crazy shit off of, to talk theories over with, who wasn't emotionally involved but she didn't.

So I had really mixed thoughts on this book. It's pretty standard Coben, similar to Tell No One, more of a psychological thriller and about as far from a police/FBI/detective procedural as a person can get. Which is a refreshing change. And I thought ending was...different.

I just don't do "stupid" well, and there was a lot of "stupid".



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Monday, February 20, 2017

Recipe Review from 2/13/2017

Last week I forgot to post about our newest adventures: homemade sauerkraut! Husband initiated this (being our household fermenting expert) and picked up a couple cabbages. I don't know which recipe he used, but they are all pretty similar. A salt water solution made with pickling salt, cabbage finely shredded, and in this case, caraway seeds. Cabbage was shredded by yours truly, he layered the cabbage and salt/caraway seeds, then he smooshed everything into the jar and covered with water. Now we wait.





The Meal Plan from week of 2/13
Sun (L) Leftover meatball stew  (S)  Vegetarian Chili
Mon (Yoga)  leftovers
Tues (Valentines Day!)  mac and cheese
Wed - leftovers
Thurs - Tues = Adventures! Stay tuned. 



Vegetarian Chili (modified from America's Test Kitchen, Slow Cook Revolution)  gluten free, vegetarian
This was one of the simpler ATK slow cooker dishes to assemble - onions, peppers, garlic and spices are sauted, pan deglazed and everything poured over the beans and mushrooms in the slow cooker.  Cover and cook.  Tomatoes added at the end.  

The one thing I did outside of the recipe was I brined my beans (I subbed pinto for the black), taking a cue from the New England Style baked beans from Super Bowl weekend.  I think I'm on to something here because this is two dishes where I've used dried beans, brined, and have had excellent results.

This is a very good chili.  It's flavorful, the texture is perfect, the mushrooms were a nice touch (not sure what you could sub for a non-mushroom person...), and hearty without being heavy.  I would make this again without hesitation.  

2 onions minced
2 red bell peppers, cored and chopped
2 jalepeno chiles, cored and minced
9 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp chili powder
4 tsp mustard seed
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth (I used chicken - had some on hand)
2 1/2 cups water
1 lb dried black beans (I used pinto)
10 oz white mushrooms, trimmed and quartered (I used 2 8oz pkg brown  mushrooms, stemmed and quartered)
1 tbsp minced canned chipolte chile in adobo sauce
2 bay leaves
1 (28oz) can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

1.  Heat oil in a 12" skillet over medium high heat until shimmering.  Add onions, bell peppers, jalapenos, garlic, chili powder, mustard seeds, cumin and oregano and cook until vegetables are soft, about 8-10 minutes (mine usually takes closer to 5 minutes).  Stir in 1 cup broth to loosen browned bits, transfer to slow cookers.

2. Stir water, beans, mushrooms, remaining 1 1/2 cup broth, chipoltes and bay leaves into slow cooker.  Cover and cook until beans are tender, 9-11 hours on low or 5-7 hours on high.

3. Discard bay leaves.  Transfer 1 cup beans to bowl and smoosh with a potato masher (I just did this in the slow cooker, making sure not to stir).  Stir mashed beans and tomatoes into chili and let sit until heated through.  Stir in cilanto and season to taste.  Serve.


Ultra-Gooey Stove-top Mac and Cheese (The Food Lab blog/book by J. Kenji Lopez Alt)  vegetarian
I made this for Valentine's Day dinner.  O. M. G.  This was heaven in a bowl!   Cheesy, warm, gooey, tasty...and EASY. 

Cooking the pasta as directed below was a new technique for me, and I will say I over cooked the noodles despite following the directions.  Actually, that's what got me in trouble - I followed his time recommendations rather than checking and tasting. 

I used cheddar and colby jack for my cheeses so it was a very mellow flavor.  This does reheat nicely with the addition of some milk.   I added peas to the leftovers.  YUM!   Don't be afraid of adding the hot sauce - this is in no way hot or even spicy. 

Not much more I can gush about.  Truly awesome. 
photo from seriouseats.com
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • Kosher salt
  • One 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Frank’s RedHot or other hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 pound extra-sharp cheddar, grated (see note above)
  • 8 ounces American cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (see note above)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 chunks
1. Place the macaroni in a large saucepan and cover it with salted water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking. Cover the pan, remove from the heat, and let stand until the pasta is barely al dente, about 8 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together the evaporated milk, eggs, hot sauce, and mustard in a bowl until homogeneous. Toss the cheeses with the cornstarch in a large bowl until thoroughly combined.

3. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and return it to the saucepan. Place over low heat, add the butter, and stir until melted. Add the milk mixture and cheese mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the cheese is completely melted and the mixture is hot and creamy. Season to taste with salt and more hot sauce. Serve immediately, topping with toasted bread crumbs if desired.


Light and Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes  (The Food Lab blog/book by J. Kenji Lopez Alt)   vegetarian
Why this works - read his blog or book.  AMAZING.  I enjoy the science behind the food, but I'm a bit geeky that way. 

Yes, recipe definitely makes light, fluffy pancakes IF you follow the recipe.  Which I did.  I didn't even add any vanilla extract, almond extract, or bananas.   I had one substitution and that was vanilla greek yogurt for the sour cream because I didn't read the recipe closely enough and forgot to buy a tub.  He does note that you can also just use more buttermilk. 

My one complaint - this takes three bowls to make.  Bowl for egg whites, bowl for dry, bowl for wet so extra dishes for me to wash (I don't have a dishwasher). 

I would make these again tho.  Tasty!
photo from seriouseats.com
  • Basic Dry Pancake Mix:
  • 10 ounces (about 2 cups) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • For Each Batch of Pancakes
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 12 ounces) buttermilk
  • 1 cup (about 8 ounces) sour cream (see note above)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for serving
  • Warm maple syrup

For the Dry Pancake Mix: Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until homogenous.Transfer to an airtight container.The mix will stay good for 3 months. (See note above.)


For each Batch of Pancakes: Place one batch of dry mix in a large bowl. In a medium clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, buttermilk, and sour cream until homogenous. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter while whisking. Carefully fold in the egg whites with a rubber spatula until just combined. Pour the mixture over the dry mix and fold until just combined (there should still be plenty of lumps).


Heat a large heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes (or use an electric griddle). Add a small amount of butter or oil to the griddle and spread with a paper towel until no visible butter or oil remains. Use a 1⁄4-cup dry measure to place 4 pancakes in the skillet and cook until bubbles start to appear on top and the bottoms are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip the pancakes and cook on the second side until golden brown and completely set, about 2 minutes longer. Serve the pancakes immediately, or keep warm on a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet in a warm oven while you cook the remaining 3 batches. Serve with warm maple syrup and butter.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Dead Watch by John Sandford

Dead WatchDead Watch by John Sandford

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Jacket Blurb: Early morning, Virginia, and a woman is on the run. Her husband, a former U.S. Senator, has been missing for days. Kidnapped? Murdered? She doesn't know, but she thinks she knows who's involved, and why. And that she's next.

Hours later in Washington, D.C., a cell phone rings. The White House chief of staff needs Jacob Winter now. His chief investigator and an Army Intelligence veteran, Winter knows how to move quickly and decisively, but he's never faced a problem like this. The disappearances are bad, but when the blackened body shows up barbed-wired to a tree, Winter knows there is much worse to come. And soon enough, there is. Large forces are at work, determined to do whatever it takes to achieve their ends. Winter will have to use all his resources not only to prevail but also to survive. And so will the nation. . . .


Read as an audio book.

This melds Washington DC politics and a murder mystery into an interesting but light political thriller. Nothing should be surprising, as everything is set out from the start - the political players, the protagonists, the antagonists, the players in the middle, and the event that set everything into motion.

Jacob Winter is tasked into looking at the disappearance of a well known politician. Lincoln Bowe was last seen getting into a car with three men and hasn't been seen since. His wife, Madeline Bowe, feels there is something sinister going on. The more Jacob probes, the more agitated the hornet's nest becomes, and the bodies are starting to pile up as everyone searches for "the package" that started it all.

The jacket blurb is rather misleading, which is not unusual in books like this.

There are so many twists and turns in this one that I would be shocked if Sandford didn't have a flow chart on the wall of his office to keep the plots straight.
•Jacob Winter and Madeline Bowe - yup. There will be romance tonight!
•Madeline Bowe and Howard, her husbands very close friend.
•Lincoln Bowe and Howard
•The Governor of Virginia (my apologies if I got the state wrong - read as an audio book), his overly zealous brother and the Watchmen.
•The FBI, CIA, President

Yup. Twisty turny, but the astute Sandford reader knows where this road is leading and, just like the map Sandford sets out, it takes the reader to the somewhat implausible ending.

So while not Sandford's best work (which would be Virgil Flower's series in my humble opinion), I still found this to be an entertaining and engaging read. I liked the character Jacob - a "forensic bureaucrat" was a nice change of pace from all the police and detective mysteries out there, I could have done without the romance but that too worked in this case, and it wasn't a gruesome serial killer but a political thriller.

Recommended as a light read.



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Monday, February 13, 2017

Recipe Review from 2/6/17

Weather has been giving us a bit of mental whiplash up here -
Monday - started the week with 30*F,
Tuesday - 12" of snow
Wednesday -  followed by -10*F with windchills
Thurs - more of same
Friday - 40* and sun (not kidding, I think it actually hit 44* mid-afternoon).
Saturday - 32* with drizzle, mist and fog.

My entryway is deluged with winter boots, wet weather boots, medium jackets, heavy jackets, etc because I just don't know what I will need next.

But, it's still winter and that means SOUP! 

Meal Plan for week of 2/7 was a bit all over the place: 
Sun (L)  soup and grilled cheese   (Superbowl!)  Brats, homemade baked beans, chips and dip
Mon (Yoga/Andy Vet)  leftover brats
Tues - Meatball, butnut and tomato stew   Tortellini stew
Wed (work Souper Bowl - STUFFED!)  grilled cheese
Thurs (yoga)  leftover brats
Fri (yoga) leftover tortellini stew.
Sat (L)   Meatball, butnut, and tomato stew  (S)  leftover tortellini stew
lunches  (Me) tortellini soup   (D) sandwiches
New England Style Baked Beans (modified slightly from America's Test Kitchen, Jan/Feb 2017)  gluten free
A-maze-ing!  I almost forgot to brine my beans and hit 8 hours exactly, though I could have done the "quick soak" but I forgot about that bit.  Assembly is fairly quick: chop and plop, bring to a boil, then bake three hours.  That's where this becomes time consuming - check on the hour, stir, add liquid if necessary and put back in.   In a way, perfect for Super Bowl weekend. 

End result was perfectly baked, perfectly seasoned, baked beans.  My beans didn't explode, they were tender, and the sauce saucy.   Recipe called to remove the onion, but mine just melted and there wasn't anything to fish out. This could be made vegetarian by omitting the pork and either adding some smoke flavor OR some bourbon or similar; I think that could impart some nice flavors. 
ATK notes - You'll get fewer blowouts if you soak the beans overnight, but if your pressed for time, you can quick soak your beans by combining the salt, water and beans in a large Dutch oven and bring them to a boil over high heat.  Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let stand for one hour.  Drain and rinse and continue with recipe.

Salt
1 lb (2 1/2 cups) dried navy beans, picked over and rinsed.
6 oz salt pork, rinsed, cut into 3 pieces
1 onion, halved
1/2 cup molasses
2 tbsp dk brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp pepper
1 bay leaf

1. (See ATK note above)  Dissolve 1 1/2 tbsp salt in 2 quarts cold water in a large container.  Add beans and let soak at room temperature for at least 8 hour or up to 24 hours.  Drain and rinse well.

2.  Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300*.  Combine beans, salt pork, onion, molasses, sugar, soy sauce, mustard, pepper, bay leaf, and 1/4 tsp salt and 4 cups water in a large Dutch oven.  Liquid should cover the beans - add more water if necessary.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Cover pot, transfer to oven and cook until bears are softened, about 2 hours.

Note - after 1 hour, stir the beans and add water if necessary.  Liquid should just cover the beans.

3.  Remove lid and continue to cook until bears are fully tender, browned and lightly crusty on top, about 1 hour longer.  Liquid will reduce slightly and drop below top layer of beans.

4.  Remove pot from oven, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.  Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, scrape any browned bits from sides of pot and stir into beans.  Discard bay leaf and any remaining onion (mine completely dissolved).  You can keep or discard the pork.

Let beans stand, uncovered, until liquid has thickened slightly and clings to beans, 10-15 minutes, stirring once halfway through.   Serve. 


Hearty Tortellini Stew  (Ckng Light, Jan/Feb 2017) 
This comes together very quickly as long as your chicken stock is thawed ahead of time.  Yeah, bit of frustration on my part there...

I also HALVED the recipe from what's written below, except I did use the entire package of pasta.  I wanted those little nuggets of yummy goodness.   I didn't need such a large amount and I didn't want to freeze half for later.  Half a recipe should make about 6 lunches, depending on how "soupy" yours turns out.   

Pretty good, a bit bland (some red pepper flakes would have been perfect, but I'm out),  hearty and perfect for these cold winter days.  If serving for supper, add some crusty bread to mop up the sauce.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 1 large)
2 cups chopped fennel bulb (about 1 large)
1/4 cup minced fresh garlic
2 (8-oz.) pkg. sliced cremini mushrooms
2 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
8 cups unsalted vegetable stock
4 cups water
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 (15-oz.) cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
2 (15-oz.) cans unsalted chickpeas, rinsed and drained
6 cups stemmed, chopped curly kale
1 1/2 (9-oz.) pkg. whole-wheat 3-cheese tortellini
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add onion, fennel, garlic, and mushrooms; cook 15 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato paste; cook 1 minute. Add stock and next 5 ingredients (through chickpeas); bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in kale. Add tortellini, or follow freezing instructions. Cook 8 minutes or until tortellini are done.Remove pan from heat; stir in vinegar. Divide soup among 12 bowls; sprinkle with parsley.
  3. From Cooking Light: HOW-TO FREEZE: Cool soup completely. Once cool, add tortellini. Freeze flat in a large ziplock freezer bag for up to 2 months. THAW: Microwave soup in bag at MEDIUM (50% power) for 8 minutes or until pliable. REHEAT: Pour soup into a large Dutch oven; bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook 25 minutes or until tortellini are done. Stir in red wine vinegar. Top with parsley.

This one grabbed my attention with the 35 min prep time and use of butnut squash (I'm down to the last 5 from 29!)  Ckng Lght....you really need to check the assembly time on this one.  Even with having the Husband prep the squash of time, this took over an hour from start to finish. 

Point - it takes 20-30 minutes alone to dice part or a whole squash (again, did this ahead of time).
Point - meatball assembly, using a 1" scoop, is still 20 minutes.
Point - cooking times for the meatballs unrealistic.
Point - cooking times for the squash is totally unrealistic (unless their squash was tiny dice?)  Mine was bite sized, what I usually do for soups/stews/chili's.

My modifications (and there are a lot of them in this one):
  •  I had to cook my meatballs in two batches because they didn't all fit in my Lodge Dutch oven (thus adding an extra 10 minutes), and they were not cooked completely through (on purpose). 
  • I KNEW the squash was not going to cook in 8 minutes, so after all sauteing was done, stock  added to mix, I put my meatballs on top, covered and;  
  • Added a drained, squished can of whole tomatoes
  • Simmered for 20 minutes until squash and meatballs were cooked through.  
  • During last five minutes, I added the diced zucchini on top. 
Whew!  After all of that, was it worth it?  Yeah, I have to say so.  Saucy, flavorful, good blend of spices in the meatballs. and perfect for a damp and chilly February afternoon.

1 1/2 whole-wheat bread slices (such as Arnold 100% Whole Wheat Bread), cubed
1/3 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1 pound ground sirloin  I used ground pork.
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, divided
5/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped butternut squash
3/4 cup chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 1/4 cups unsalted beef stock (such as Swanson)
I used 1 28oz can San Marzano tomatoes, drained.  Set drained tomato sauce aside for another use.  Squish tomatoes till chunky and add tomatoes and juicy goodness to dish.  
2 cups chopped tomatoes
3/4 cup unsalted tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups cauliflower florets  I subbed 2 small zucchini, diced. 

**SEE MY NOTES ABOVE
  1. Place bread cubes in a bowl; pour milk over bread. Let stand 5 minutes.
  2. Gently combine soaked bread cubes, beef, cumin, coriander, pepper, 1/4 cup cilantro, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Gently shape into 12 (1 1/2-inch) meatballs.
  3. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add meatballs in a single layer; cook, turning to brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer meatballs to a plate. Add squash, onion, and garlic to pan; cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add stock, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 6 minutes. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce; bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in cauliflower; cover and cook 3 minutes. Return meatballs to pan; cover and cook just until meatballs are cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cilantro.

Madeleines  (Chocolate and Zucchini Blog)
I have followed Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini fame for years - probably from the start of her first blog in fact.  I've always enjoyed her perspective on cooking, her recipes are approachable (I have her first cookbook!), and I love her sense of humor.   So when I decided I need to stop buying Madeleine from Starbucks and start making my own, I went straight to her blog.  She's French, and she would know how to make these little delectable cakes of spongy goodness.

I requested and received a Madeleine pan for Christmas, rolled up my sleeves and made my first batch.

Two downsides to this recipe - you have to prep it at least 12 hours in advance; and it makes a lot.  

The upside of this recipe, it worked (my cakes had "the bump!"), and it makes a lot.

I did follow the recipe/assembly part as instructed, using lemon as my flavoring.   She does note that you can use almond, vanilla, or other citrus, and she has a recipe for chocolate Madeleines.

Where I deviated was I put my batter in a gallon zip-loc bag instead of leaving in the bowl then transferring to a pastry bag.  This worked to a degree:  it's a lot of batter and when you start piping into the molds, the batter is cold and stiff. I did have a ziploc blow out.

My recommendationDivide the batter into THREE bags ahead of time.  Taking out what you need when ready.

There is definitely a learning curve to how much batter should go into the molds, another reason to divide the batter into multiple bags - it's easier to pipe out.  Plus, because this can be made up to three days in advance, you don't have to make it all at once, just the one bag. 

I followed her baking directions the first time, then deviated after that.  I found the whole "chill the pan for 2 hours" annoying (and I only have one pan), so I started skipping.  Seemed to work fine. 

After all was said and done, by batch number three, I was getting the hang of it.  I brought in some samples to my co-workers and they observed the flavor and texture was similar to a classic American baked cake donut.  While I would make these again, I'm not sure I will do this recipe (don't get me wrong, it is a great recipe!), but some experimenting may be needed to find just the right flavor/sponginess/bump size, etc.   

Sadly, I still have a great fondness for Starbucks chocolate dipped Madeleine's...

photo from Scifi with Paprika blog
  • 6 large eggs
  • 250 grams (1 1/4 cups) unrefined blond cane sugar 

  • Zest of one organic lemon, finely grated
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) milk
  • 375 grams (13 1/4 ounces, about 2 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 400 grams (1 3/4 cups) melted unsalted butter, hot, plus more for brushing
Instructions  (all notes below are Clotilde's)
  1. Prepare the batter the day before. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar and lemon zest, then whisk in the milk.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and stir with a clean whisk to remove any lump. Sprinkle the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, whisking all the while.
  3. Whisk in the melted butter, cover, and refrigerate until the next day. The batter will keep, tightly covered and refrigerated, for up to three days.
  4. Two hours before baking, brush a madeleine tray (preferably tin) with melted butter, making sure no excess butter pools in the ridges. Sprinkle the mold thoroughly with flour, then tap upside down over the sink to remove excess flour. (After my first batch, I forgot to flour the mold and merely buttered it, which turned out to be enough to prevent sticking.) Place the tray in the refrigerator for 2 hours.



Monday, February 6, 2017

Recipe Review from 1/31/17

The Meal Plan for week of 1/31:
Sun (L)  leftovers  (S) Pork Vindaloo
Mon (yoga) leftover vindaloo
Tues (Vet apt am)  leftover vindaloo
Wed (Oil change am) Sheet pan chicken
Thurs (yoga) leftovers
Fri - leftovers
Sat (L) more leftovers   (S) pasty with veggies and gravy
 
Lunches - Squash Soup, pita chips
 
 
Pork Vindaloo (modified from America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution)  gluten free
Time got away from me and I didn't get the recipe typed out.  This is one of ATK's simpler recipes - sauté the aromatics, add the tomatoes, put in slow cooker and add pork [lamb].  Cook long and slow.  The original recipe calls for lamb, which is not readily available here, so I subbed pork. 


Recipe suggested serving over toasted, cooked couscous, I opted for basmati rice.   This seemed to be lacking...something.  Some background flavor of some kind that I can't quite put my finger on.  Tumeric perhaps?  I also thought this could have used more zing. 
   
I would recommend this one - it makes a lot, perfect for lunches during the week, or for Indian night on the weekend.  Add some naan to round out the meal!

 
 
I admit, the concept of "sheet pan suppers" is a bit new to me.  I've definitely used sheet pans to prepare individual aspects, but never for a full and completely meal (to my recollection).  So, I thought this was worth a try. 

First thing, my modifications - I dropped the acorn squash.  Yes, it looks pretty in the picture, but I thought it was squash overkill with the butnut.   Second, my chicken was tiny.  As in 2lbs tiny - so I just cooked everything at the same time and only for 30 minutes (which was about 5 minutes to long maybe?)


My observations: picture is deceiving.  I weighed out my ingredients and if I had had the amount of chicken called for, I would have needed two pans (I was using a standard baking sheet/cookie sheet).  You still might need two pans if made as directed.


Overall - I liked this.  I think I should have used chicken breasts or thighs as called for and not one of my little homestead chickens.  I

Active time: 20 mins
Total time 1 hr
Yield Serves 6 (serving size: 4 oz. chicken and 1 cup vegetables)
 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, divided
photo from cookinglight.com

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
4 (10-oz.) bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
4 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 lb.)
3 large shallots, peeled and quartered
1/2 acorn squash, seeded and cut crosswise into slices
8 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

  1. Place a large rimmed baking sheet in oven; preheat oven to 425°F (leave pan in oven as it preheats).
  2. Combine sage, mustard, and syrup in a small bowl; brush evenly over chicken breasts. Carefully remove pan from oven. Add chicken to pan; bake at 425°F for 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Discard any juices from pan.
  3. Add butternut squash, shallots, acorn squash, and Brussels sprouts to pan with chicken. Top vegetables with butter, oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper; toss. Spread in an even layer around chicken. Sprinkle chicken with remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bake at 425°F for 20 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove bones from chicken before serving; discard.




Monday, January 30, 2017

Recipe review from 1/2317

Pretty quiet and uneventful week all the way around.  Our excitement consisted of foiling a small, persistent red squirrel from getting into the bird feeder.  One pole baffle and several trimmed branches later, we had a very perplexed squirrel.  Watching his thought process as he shimmied up the pole only to slide back down, and to run up the mountain ash, only to run back down, was pretty entertaining.

The Meal Plan for week of 1/16:
Sun (L)  leftover tagine  (S) Slow cooked chicken dumpling soup
Mon (Yoga)  leftover chicken soup
Tues - leftover chicken soup
Wed - Chicken, butnut squash and gnocchi dumplings
Thurs (Yoga) - leftovers
Fri - leftover chicken and gnocchi dumplings
Sat (L) out    (S)  leftovers

Lunches - (me)  black bean soup   (Husband) sandwiches

Old Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings Soup (modified American Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution)
I did one significant substitution in this and that was to use a whole, cut-up chicken rather than the boneless, skinless chicken thighs the recipe originally called for.   I also subbed edmame for peas, because I forgot my bag of peas at the Folks place (in the freezer) when I swung by for a visit.  Darn it!   This recipe will easily accommodate peas, edmame, green beans, or similar.

This was really good!  It's been ages since I've had a classic chicken soup with dumplings on the top.  There were almost more dumplings than soup.  Yum!  This made about 6 servings for two of us.  Recommended! 


Stew:
3 lbs chicken (I used one whole chicken, quartered)
2 onions, minced
2 celery ribs, sliced 1/4" thick
6 garlic cloves, minced or grated
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/3 cup all purpose sherry
4 1/2  cups chicken broth (plus extra if needed)
4 carrots, sliced 1/4 thick
2 bay leaves
1 cup frozen peas (I used edmame)
3 tbsp parsley, chopped

Dumplings:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk (I used goat milk)
3 tbsp butter

1. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 tbsp oil in 12" skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Brown half of chicken lightly on both sides and transfer to bowl.  Repeat with remaining chicken.

2. Add 1 tbsp oil to pan and heat until shimmering.  Add onions, celery, garlic, tomato paste, and thyme and cook until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 8-10 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in sherry, scraping up any browned bits.  Wish in 1 cup broth, smoothing out any lumps.  Transfer to a slow cooker.

3.  Stir in remaining 3 1/2 cups broth, carrots, and bay leaves into slow cooker.  Nestle chicken with accumulated juice into slow cooker.  Cover and cook until until chicken is tender, 4-6 hours on low.

4.  Transfer chicken to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-sized pieces.  Let stew settle and and remove fat from surface.

5. Strongly Recommended - Transfer mix to large dutch oven.  Stir in shredded chicken, peas and parsley (optional) and season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

6. FOR THE DUMPLINGS: Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.  Heat milk and butter over gentle heat until butter is just melted.  DO NOT OVERHEAT.  Stir milk into flour mixture until just incorporated and smooth.

7. Drop golf ball sized "dumplings" on top of simmering soup leaving about 1/4 inch between each dumpling.  Cover and cook until dumplings have doubled in size, 25 to 35 minutes.  Serve. 


Chicken and Butternut Gnocchi  (Ckng Lght, Jan/Feb 2017)
This was tasty, but I had some issues which were mostly my fault (recipe interpretation):

My co-op only sells bone-in skin on thighs, and I didn't take the time to de-bone. Cooking took a lot longer than I had anticipated and that was with adding in extra time to account for bone-in.

My squash did NOT cook in 8 minutes, and yes, it was cut into small pieces.

I don't have access to ww gnocchi, so I used the local frozen kind that I typically buy. Yum...should have maybe stuck with the vacuum sealed kind (found with the dried pasta) because the frozen turned kinda gloppy/gluey while I was trying to get the squash to finish cooking.

And after all that, I totally spaced adding the spinach...

But, flavor was still good and this could easily be made vegetarian by skipping the chicken completely.

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 (6-oz.) skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-in. pieces
photo from cookinglight.com

3 cups (1/2-in.) cubed peeled butternut squash
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 (12-oz.) pkg. whole-wheat gnocchi
3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
2 tablespoons prepared refrigerated pesto
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
5 ounces baby spinach, chopped
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup)
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add chicken; cook 5 minutes or until browned. Place chicken in a bowl.

  2. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan over medium. Add squash and onion; cook 8 minutes. Add squash mixture to chicken. Add gnocchi to pan; cook 2 minutes. Add chicken mixture, stock, pesto, sage, garlic, and spinach to pan; cook 1 minute. Top with cheese.

Slow cooked Black Bean Soup (modified American Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution)
I loved the simplicity of this recipe:  saute the onions and the spices, toss everything into the slow cooker, and walk away.  I did think this turned out a bit bland despite the chili powder, cumin, and smoked ham hock.

This made a huge batch - enough for about 8 servings.   My guilty pleasure: I served it with Frito scoops.   Recommended! 

3 onions, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin (I gotta have my cumin)
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
1 lb dried black beans (2 1/2 cups), picked over and rinsed
3 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-pieces
2 bay leaves
1 smoked ham hock, rinsed
2 tbsp cilantro, minced fresh cilantro

1.  Heat 1 tbsp oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat.  Saute onion, garlic, chili powder until softened.  Put in slow cooker.

2.  Stir broth, water, beans, celery, carrots, and bay leaves into slow cooker.  Nestle ham hock into slow cooker.  Cover and cook until beans are tender, 9-11 hours on low or 5-7 hours on high.

3.  Transfer ham hock to cutting board and let cool slightly.  Shred into bite sized pieces discarding skin and bones.

4.  Using a potato masher, mash mixture until desired consistency.  Add in shredded ham hock and let sit until heated through.  Stir in cilantro, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.