Home - is where I want to be / But I guess I'm already there /I come home -
she lifted up her wings /
Guess that this must be the place...
- Talking Heads, "Naive Melody"

Monday, April 20, 2009

Easter Saturday Menu

It was a celebration that almost didn't happen. Thursday night while D was at church, I called L to the table for her bedtime snack. "My tummy hurts," she informed me. "I need medicine." I was skeptical, gave her some gas drops, and ten minutes later, she barfed. It was a long night. By the end of the day Friday, however, she was doing better, so we decided to go ahead and have our Easter gathering--nothing big, just D's parents.

Since I didn't know until the day before that we were actually going to be having company, I cast about for inspiration and fortunately found some sitting on my desk, in the form of the not-yet-read issue of Bon Appetit. I've spent a lot of time lately trash-talking them, so I should put in a good word here; their recent issues seem to have resolved the layout and photography problems that just about had me ready to cancel my subscription, so I have hope that the overly-precious tone will follow. At the very least, they saved my behind for this holiday, since I was able to lift almost the entire menu.

Since we were planning to eat around 3 p.m., I made the menu's two appetizers as a sort of light lunch:

Mini Crab-Cakes -- Yummy, but I halved the recipe and didn't have quite as much crab as I really should have in the mix. I would make these again, with more attention to the proportions.
Asparagus and Mushroom Tarts -- Fabulous. Will definitely repeat these next time I have a good excuse, and guests who like mushrooms.

Instead of the lamb they suggested--I've never made it, and as it turned out my mother-in-law isn't really fond of it--I made a ham, but did serve the two sides they provided:

Garland of Spring Vegetables--Considering how simple this was, it was really, really good.
Saffon-Scented Couscous with Pine Nuts--Another easy standout.

For dessert, I once again went my own way. I had been thinking about this raspberry tiramisu-sort of thing, as a break after relatively heavy meal, but I had also been hankering after cheesecake lately, and I wanted to make something that would really stand out. So Double-Decker Raspberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake it was.

It was a wonderful meal, I think--one of the best I've done in a long time. We colored Easter eggs, the kids ran around a lot and got baskets of toys from their grandparents, and I managed not to stress myself out over anything at all for a change.

Sunday morning, L got out of bed and threw up again. But at least we had Saturday.

Oat and (not) Walnut Buttermilk Braid

It's been a kind of crummy month. One illness after another in the family, and on Friday our cat Amber died unexpectedly (she was 14, so it was not untimely, but as far as we knew she wasn't sick, so it came as a bit of a shock). I still owe this blog an Easter post. Will get to it soon, I hope--there were some good recipes that day.

Anyway. Yesterday I was in a bit of a funk, and attempted to combat it with a new bread recipe. I have no idea where I got this one--must get better about that when I copy things down.
1/2 cup warm water (105°F. to 115°F.)
1/4 cup honey
1 envelope dry yeast
2 cups buttermilk
4 1/3 cups (about) bread flour
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt

1 cup chopped walnuts (I left them out because L won't eat 'em)

1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
Additional old-fashioned oats

Stir warm water and honey in large bowl to blend. Sprinkle yeast over. Let stand until foamy, about 8 minutes. Heat buttermilk in small saucepan to lukewarm (about 100°F.). Stir into yeast mixture. Add 2 cups bread flour, 2 cups oats, wheat flour, oil and salt and stir until smooth. Gradually mix in enough remaining bread flour to form dough. Cover and let dough rest 15 minutes.

Turn out dough onto floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, Adding more bread flour if sticky, about 10 minutes. Knead in nuts. Oil large bowl. Add dough; turn to coat. Cover bowl with clean towel; let rise in warm area until doubled, about 50 minutes.

Oil large baking sheet. Punch down dough. Turn out onto oiled surface; knead briefly. Divide dough into 3 pieces. Roll each piece into 16-inch-long rope. Braid ropes together; tuck ends under and pinch to seal. Transfer to prepared sheet. Cover with clean towel. Let rise in warm area until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk egg and milk in bowl. Brush loaf generously with some of egg mixture. Sprinkle with additional oats. Bake until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly; store at room temperature.)

Makes 1 Loaf.

One really, really big loaf. Next time I will divide it and make two smaller ones, unless I'm making a harvest table centerpiece or something. Keep an eye on it during the last ten minutes or so; I think mine overbaked slightly. 375 is slightly higher than most bread recipes I have. The finished bread has a relatively strong flavor, as it should with all of these whole grains, but I think it would take very well to many sandwich ingredients or just some sweet butter. Would probably be even better with the nuts.

And it did indeed help with my mood. Mission accomplished!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

April Supper Club: In Memory

OK, so I am way behind on my blogging. The kids have been passing a cold and a stomach bug around, which cut into the time I had hoped to use for catching up over the weekend.

The first overdue entry has to be our most recent supper club meeting. There was (and is) uncertainty about whether the group will keep meeting, but we all made it to Framingham at least one more time for a dinner in memory of our departed friend Pam, who organized the group and whose laughter and forthright manner added so much joy to our meetings. We made some of her favorite foods. Her daughter and mother joined us, and after dinner passed along a few of Pam's cookbooks. It was a good meal and a good way to remember her, but we are all still very sad.

I made an angel food cake--my first one ever.

It turned out perfectly, but I wish I hadn't had to make it for this occasion.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Fool Moon

I am happy to report that the second of the Dresden Files is considerably better than the first. Mainly because, after a few rather painful chapters of setup (dialog still sucks), the book is almost entirely action, which as I mentioned before he seems to be decent at.

However, I'm starting to wonder if Butcher (I do hope that's a pseudonym) learned to plot from watching action films. That is literally the only reason I can think of for the inclusion of a sex scene about three quarters of the way through the book. I have to admit that I skipped past it, shaking my head the while. I mean... seriously? Our Hero has spent the past several days being bounced from one bruising experience to another, including being shot, his only moments of respite the result of being knocked unconscious, not to mention having recently witnessed a scene of slaughter that would have most people in therapy for the rest of their lives, and he's going to have sex with his girlfriend? Now?

Later on, he jumps out of a moving car. Mr. Butcher, it seems, has not yet settled on what degree of realism these books are going to support, which is kind of a problem when you a) set those books in a real-life city and b) have your main character going on and on about real-world problems, including how much it hurts to get shot, punched, kicked, and so forth. Dresden still needs to shut up and stop whining so much.

The next one is called Grave Peril. If it turns out to be about zombies, I'm going to have to give him another heavy ding for ripping off Tanya Huff's Blood series as well as for the bad puns. I'm getting a little curious about the understory he's developing, though; we'll see if he gives it proper attention. You just can't have an entire police precinct slaughtered by werewolves and still have a city--and more importantly a police force--that entirely refuses to believe in the supernatural. It's just not going to fly.

Chipotle Sloppy Joes

I could not tell you the last time I had a sloppy joe--probably the last church supper I attended, which puts it back, oh, about twenty years--and I have never made one before in my life. So I have no idea what possessed me to make this recipe. I guess I wanted to make something different?

Chipotle Sloppy Joes

I'll definitely be making these again. The chipotle adds just enough punch--they'd be kind of dull without it. I used red pepper instead of green, because all the green peppers at my store looked about two weeks old (ugh). Caramelize the onions a bit, and the result, while maybe not fit for a dinner party, is something I wouldn't be shy about serving friends.

L didn't want any meat, but she did put her sliced peppers and cucumbers between the bun halves and ate it like a sandwich; I don't think she's ever done that before. We're always greatly encouraged when she tries a new dinner behavior.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Goal Roundup - March

Here we go again....
  • Buy a house. Next to no action in the listings after the first week of the month. Hoping for more with the warmer weather in April. C, since it's not our fault IMO.
  • Decluttering. Unsubscribed from Freecycle after a second annoying experience with someone who was supposed to pick something up. Might give it another try, or find a new way to declutter. D
  • Finance. New system is working to keep grocery expenses down, and we got some tax money back, so we are well above target. A
  • Health/Fitness. Lifted weights once, made it to yoga twice, and am planning to give the office gym a try. B for improvement.
  • Food-Related. Back into a rhythm with trying new recipes, and have been more conscientious about tracking them. A
  • Wish List Control. I am going to drop this goal, since we are trying to save for the house and all.
Average: B