(I can't believe how pretty these origami flowers are.)
(I can't believe how pretty these origami flowers are.)
A few random links for you guys today:
A book I recently enjoyed: St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.
When I was a teenager, I loved nothing more than going to the mall. Usually I was there with my friend Briea. After debating about what to spend our allowances on, surrendering to spontaneous fits of giggling, and bringing too many clothes into the dressing rooms, we'd saunter down to the food court and split a soft pretzel.
The mall and I don't see much of each other anymore, but I do still crave the occasional chewy, buttery pretzel. Lucky for me (and you), soft pretzels are easy to make. The secret to getting that lovely brown shade is to give them a brief baking soda bath.
The Mall Pretzels (makes 6)
adapted from Jeannie Yee
¾ cup warm water (110°F)
1 ¼ tsp of active dry yeast (half of a .25 ounce package)
1 tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water (110°F)
2 tbsp baking soda (for soaking)
½ tbsp butter, melted
coarse kosher salt (or pretzel salt)
mustard, for dipping (optional)
Pour ¾ cup warm water into a mixing bowl. Dissolve yeast, brown sugar, and salt into the water. Stir in flour. When mixture comes together, dump onto a floured surface. Knead dough about 8 minutes, until smooth. Pour a few drops of olive oil into mixing bowl; place dough in and turn to coat surface. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.
When dough is ready, cut into 6 pieces. Roll each into ½ inch thick ropes. Shape pretzels by forming a U, then twisting ends and flipping over onto itself, gently pressing overlapping dough to seal. Let rise for 15 minutes.
Fill a bowl with 1 cup warm water. Add baking soda and stir. Soak each pretzel for 30 seconds, flipping over halfway through if not fully submerged. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle coarse salt over top. (If you prefer sweet pretzels, use cinnamon sugar instead of salt.) Bake at 450°F for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown. For an extra buttery flavor, brush on a little more melted butter when the pretzels come out of the oven.
(...photographed by heather pauline.)
Lately, the days just haven't been long enough for all the millions of things I need/want to get done. Emails to answer, orders to fill, cats to tend to (today Rufus got stuck in a closet, and one-eyed Peaches also came by to visit), laundry to wash, books to read, dishes to scrub (the downside to all the cooking I've been doing).
Tonight I'm doing some recipe tweaking for next week's food video. I'll give you some hints: it's a snack, it's best eaten warm, and its name is also a type of stretch.
Stefan has been wanting a radio, so I figured, well, if we're going to get one, I want it to be well-designed and high quality. I bought us a Tivoli, and I absolutely love it – it's reviving my love of radio. (You can also plug an ipod into the back. The other night we listened to All the Pretty Horses on audiobook.)
(Oh, how I wish these Valentino outfits were in my closet...)
How's your weekend going? (Sometimes I feel like my life revolves around weekends, don't you?)
Today I hung out with an old friend for an afternoon. We walked all over the city and ate ice cream from Molly Moon's (I had salted caramel; she had ginger). The weather was just perfect.
(I'm in awe of the new Hetterson collection. So pretty.)
Thank you so much for all the kind comments about my food posts. A dessert post is coming up next.
As I mentioned, I'm participating in the For Japan With Love day of blog silence tomorrow (Friday).
Wishing you a calm & happy end to your week.
Yesterday I stumbled upon Working Class Foodies. Have you ever watched their videos? The asparagus risotto video in particular got me excited, because (a) I've never made risotto that wasn't out of a box, and (b) my CSA delivery this week included asparagus.
In addition to some tasty, tall asparagus, you'll also need onion, lemon zest, and parmesan.
Some of the other sources of flavor: olive oil, white wine, broth, and butter.
Oh...and you need rice! Duh. Arborio is usually the recommended type for risotto because it's high in starch, which is slowly released as you cook and makes the risotto creamy.
Wash the asparagus. Snap the ends off where the stalks naturally break. (I washed half of a bunch, but ended up putting some of it back in the fridge. I'd recommend only using a fourth or a third of a bunch.)
Toss the tough snapped-off ends into a pot with 2 cups of broth (you may end up needing more or less broth in actuality). Bring the broth to a boil, then lower the heat to keep the broth warm but not boiling. Chop up the rest of the asparagus and set aside.
Slice up 1/3 cup white onion. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil and 1/2 tablespoon butter in a saucepan, and cook the onions until translucent.
Add 1/2 cup dry rice. Stir it to coat with the oil & butter. (Don't let the rice brown.) Get used to stirring, because you're going to be doing a lot of it.
Add 1/4 cup white wine, and let the rice absorb it. Keep stirring!
Start adding the broth a little at a time. (You're still stirring, right?) Once the rice absorbs it, add more.
Almost forgot. Throw that chopped-up asparagus in. Keep adding broth after the rice fully absorbs it.
Grate 1/4 cup parmesan. Grab a pinch of saffron threads and "bloom" them in hot water. Add both to the risotto when it's close to done.
After about 15-20 minutes of stirring and adding the broth in small amounts, your risotto should be nice and creamy. When the rice is done, it should still be firm (al dente) but also be tender.
To season, I added a little bit of lemon zest, shaved parmesean, salt and pepper, and truffle oil.
Remember, the rice expands as it cooks, so that 1/2 cup ends up making quite a generous single portion. (Although, I admit that I didn't have any leftovers.)
(These Woodland Papercuts wedding suites are simply gorgeous.)
My favorite thing to eat, hands down, is noodles. Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai... whatever way you make it, I like it. But mac and cheese is high up there on the list, especially baked mac and cheese. Is there anything more comforting?
First things first: cook the pasta. I always sneak a few into my mouth after draining it. (Don't you?)
Next up: the béchamel sauce. You'll need butter, flour (mixed with salt and pepper to taste)...
...and milk. Later you'll add cheese. (I like mixing sharp cheddar and mozzarella.)
So, back to the butter. Melt it on low heat, then add the flour/salt/pepper mix.
Whisk. Whisk. Keep whisking. It will look kind of gross, but just trust me on this.
Gradually pour in the milk and continue to whisk. Bring to a steady boil. (It should be getting thicker.)
Reduce the heat, add the cheese, and keep mixing that melty-yummy-goodness.
Did someone say garlic? I love garlic. I am obsessed with garlic. Add some, and keep mixing until your sauce is very thick, about 5-10 minutes, then remove from heat.
Your macaroni is probably growing impatient. Dump it into the sauce. Toss to coat.
I've been playing this trick on myself recently: substitute a portion of the pasta with veggies. It makes the dish healthier, but you still get to indulge. (Hint: just adding veggies doesn't completely count – the point is to not eat as much of the bad stuff.)
I like using individual ramekins instead of one larger casserole dish, because it allows you to add in whatever veggies and spices you like without offending anyone else. Plus, it's cuter. Left: 100% mac and cheese. Right: 50% broccoli, 50% mac and cheese, and a dash of paprika.
The last (and most important) step: breadcrumbs. I prefer panko crumbs. They're lighter and more crispy than regular breadcrumbs.
Pop the ramekins in the oven. Find something to do for twenty painstaking minutes. Then... mac and cheese time!
The first bite. Heavenly.
(Nothing more to say. I'm too busy eating.)
Baked Mac and Cheese (serves 2)
adapted from Fannie Farmer's Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese
4 oz dry macaroni (if you don't have a kitchen scale, it's about 1 cup)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded cheese (I use half cheddar, half mozzerella)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup broccoli, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1. Cook pasta until done (about 8 minutes). Drain. Set aside.
2. Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.
3. Add flour, salt, and pepper to melted butter and whisk together for a minute or two.
4. Gradually add milk, continuing to whisk.
5. Bring to a steady boil, then reduce heat.
6. Sprinkle in cheese. Keep stirring until cheese melts and sauce is very thick.
7. Add macaroni and stir to coat.
8. Transfer to ramekins (or a casserole dish). Mix in broccoli, if using.
9. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over top.
10. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes, or until top is golden brown.
Lately, I've developed a fascination with separating eggs. Is that weird? It's such a delicate act, and so important to get right if you're going to be whipping up the egg whites into a meringue. Say, for a souffle (which I've been practicing but haven't gotten quite right), or for meringue cookies. Mmmm.
After a lot of searching, I finally found a meringue cookie recipe that only called for a minimal amount of ingredients. Two, to be exact. Egg whites and powdered sugar. Here's the original recipe, but I'm including my slightly modified directions here, too.
Start with two eggs at room temperature. Separate the yolks from the whites. Toss the yolks (or save them for something else). Aren't empty egg shells pretty?
Measure out one cup of powdered sugar. In the right bowl are the 2 egg whites.
Whip the egg whites on a medium speed until foamy. This should only take a few minutes.
Slowly add in the powdered sugar a little bit at a time, while continuing to mix on a medium speed.
Continue whipping until the mixture is glossy and stiff peaks form. For me, this took about 10 minutes. The mixture should stay put if you hold the mixing bowl upside down.
Preheat your oven to 200° F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue (or use a plastic baggie with a corner snipped off, like I did).
The fun part! Pipe the meringue onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.
The meringue makes about 2 dozen cookies. (That's about 20 calories per cookie – not so bad.)
My makeshift pastry bag got verrrry sticky and messy. For the last couple, I used a spoon instead.
After baking at 200° F for 90 minutes, the cookies came out a pale peachy color, crisp on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside.
I'm not sure why they pulled apart along the bottom and got kinda sugary-bubbly. But I kind of like them that way, imperfectly perfect.
So yummy. But I'm also itching to experiment with flavors. Just imagine: coffee meringue cookies! Raspberry meringue cookies! Hazelnut meringue cookies!
Again, all you need is two ingredients: 2 egg whites and 1 cup of powdered sugar. Whip, pipe, and bake, and you'll have about two dozen delicious bite-sized snacks.
This has been my lunch for the past two days in a row. And, quite honestly, I wouldn't even mind making it three days in a row. I used Jules' recipe from her blog, Stonesoup, which I recently discovered and am kinda infatuated with. Photo time!
A recent investment: a kitchen scale. It makes measuring out the flour and water a cinch.
The other two ingredients are salt and yeast. Super simple.
Mixing the dough, then kneading it for 10 long, necessary, cathartic minutes.
After all that kneading, it's ready to be covered and left alone for a bit.
While the dough rests, I slice some potatoes and trying not to also slice my fingertips.
Toss with olive oil, rosemary, and red pepper flakes.
Rolling pin, meet dough. Dough, meet rolling pin.
Spread the potato mixture on the dough, and sprinkle some mozzarella on top.
Less than 10 minutes later, lunch is ready! This pizza is even better with a little feta sprinkled on top.
(Thanks, Jules, for an amazing recipe and a happy tummy.)
(...for these bridal shower cocktails. Although, arguably, they'd be good for any occasion.)
The other week I ordered this leaving for the moon illustration for our empty bathroom wall. It arrived yesterday and I love it – the custom frame and mat I'd chosen were just what I wanted, and it even came with a hanging wire already added.
The illustration reminds me of this dreamy Camille Saint-Saëns song...
Did I ever mention that we're going the DIY route for our wedding flowers?
Scary, I know.
I don't know very much about flower arranging, but I do know that there are a lot of things to consider: what flowers are in season, their color and texture and smell, the shape and size of vases, floral foam and flower frogs and tape grids...
I figure the best way to learn is to practice. Take my Valentine's day flowers: gorgeous as is, but the inside of the vase looks kind of boring and yucky. So I pulled everything out, plucked and tossed anything brown, and cleaned up the stems:
...then I took a new, smaller vase, filled it with glass pebbles and water, and started arranging. I started with greenery first, then added in the flowers from largest to smallest. It's kind of like getting an entirely new bouquet.
I think the stems look nicer all straightened out, don't you? (Okay, good, one practice session down, many more to go...)
What do you do when you have four sad looking bananas in your fruit bowl?
You make them into happy banana muffins. And for an extra treat, add a dab of cream cheese.
(I used hannah's delicious recipe.)
(I always enjoy finding another paper supply shop... like painted fish studio papergoods.)
This is the little gift I'm giving Stefan later, topped with a paper heart with a quote by Samuel Lover: "Come live in my heart, and pay no rent."
p.s. last night I watched Frankie and Johnny – have you seen it? It was romantic and funny without being too sappy, my favorite kind of movie.
I love houseplants. But I also always kill them.
This year I want to overcome my houseplant handicap. I'm going to read up on each specific plant that I buy. I'm going to mark my calendar with a watering and fertilizing schedule. I'm going to find a way to keep Rufus from destroying them. (Be forewarned, little chew monster!)
This morning I bought an armload of plants from my local nursery. Then I photographed them for a new Flickr set I named project houseplant. It'll be a way to track progress, and also a way to remember the names of the plants after I've lost those flimsy plastic stakes. (One of my new plants is called a ZZ Plant, and another is called Song of India – aren't those cool names?)
"This cousin had a girlfriend with cheekbones to break your heart, and you knew she was the real thing when she steadfastly refused to acknowledge your presence. She possessed secrets – about islands, about horses, about French pronunciation – that you would never know."
Just started reading the novel Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney.