Timbale TARDIS

Doctor Who is one of the greatest shows of all time.

Irma Rombauer was a genius.

Chocolate and espresso were meant to be together.

This thing that happened in my kitchen tonight was an inevitable supernova of awesome:

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The “white cake” recipe from The Joy of Cooking calls for beating the egg whites to stiff peaks. I’ve never done that before, but i’ll never not do it from now on!

No recipe here. Just a picture of unadulterated Joy

Cheers!
-Yert

(special thanks to my kid for leaving the lunch box on the table.)

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Malibu Vanilla

I ran out of my really, really good vanilla, so I decided to make some more.

two whole vanilla beans and the empty bottle...
two whole vanilla beans and the empty bottle…

Vanilla extract usually has an alcoholic base like vodka or rum. I don’t keep that stuff on hand.

Except…

Malibu is always in my cupboard.
Malibu is always in my cupboard.

In goes the rum with the vanilla pods, soaking and extracting and making glorious coconut-flavored friends… They’ll take a 6-8 week nap in a cool, dark place. I’ll only disturb the beauties once a week for a brief little rattle-round.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress. 🙂 …aren’t they lovely together?…
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Germany to Italy, Days 1-2

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We left Bavaria by train and headed south through the Alps. A word of advice: when traveling by train and you have the chance to secure a compartment for only €8, do it. I’m so very glad we did. The 4 hour ride from Innsbruck to Venice would have been brutal otherwise. The seats in the hallways were no bigger than toilet rims and anytime someone wanted past, folks had to stand up. There were people everywhere: in the gangway, in the connecting areas… kids, dogs, huge suitcases, body odors. We had a compartment with a/c, shades, and a door. I felt bad for the people in the gangway, but I was grateful that my kids could sleep.

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When we got off the train in Venice, this greeted our eyes:

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I cried. I cried the same cry when I got to mile 24 of my first marathon and knew I would finish. Exhaustion, elation, disbelief, gratitude. I’m from small town America…Vegas and Memphis were really big deals when I was a kid. Venice? Only in books. Not for me. Never gonna see it, might as well be a fairy tale. …but I did get to see it! And my husband gave me a hug and my kids chased pigeons.

Our friend Ty picked us up and we spent a relaxing evening eating and catching up. After a shower and a good night’s rest, Ty had a surprise for me: his neighbor Lidia agreed to give me a cooking lesson! The catch? …

Lidia speaks no English. I speak only Food Network Italian (malto benné!). Ty called his sister (they are Nigerian) to translate over the phone for Lidia and I so we could get things arranged. Lidia was anxious to get things going; ten minutes later, I was in her kitchen.

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I don’t know exactly what I expected…but I was very surprised when she pulled out a mini food processor to chop the onions and tomatoes. 🙂

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We stirred and she talked and I smiled. Every once in a while she would mutter something that sounded an awful lot like “I really wish you spoke Italian; You’re exhausting me.” to which I would smile and nod and say, “Butter?”

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We made a meat sauce (I learned how to speak some Italian, not spell it. I won’t insult the language by butchering the spelling), some zucchini with peppers, and beef ribs cooked over an open fire in her downstairs kitchen.

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The afternoon was amazing and there isn’t a show on the Travel Channel to compare how fantastically wonderful my day was.

Her tiny table was transformed with a plywood sheet, masking tape, and a table cloth.

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To get the table cloth, she directed me to a ladder and a cupboard which she referred to as her linen mausoleum. Holy cow, that woman has some table cloths.

The it was time to eat. And eat. And eat…

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We laughed and the kids fell in love with Lino, Lidia’s husband. He doesn’t speak English either, but it doesn’t matter. Laughter and piggy faces are universal.

After the food was coffee!

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Lidia honored us by bringing out her good coffee set.

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…Italian coffee is not something to be taken lightly. It is strong and thick and positively divinely caffeinated.

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Lidia refused to let me help with dishes. She said it would take away her hospitality; not wanting to insult her, I hugged her and told her thank you a million times. She said I can come back, anytime I want. 🙂

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Lino showed us their garden. No pesticides. All natural…

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…and then at 1400 on the dot, it was announced that it was Lino’s nap time and we were shown the gate. There are some things in Italy, he said, that are not negotiable: time to eat and time to sleep are at the top of the list.

It is 1500… I feel as though I’ve lived a month since I woke up this morning… and we haven’t even seen down town yet.

Veggie Buffalo Dip

I’ve become a Pinterest Junkie. I sit on the couch, scrolling through the “humor” and “geek” boards, cackling like a complete doofus, and saying things like, “Honey! Listen to this!” or just shoving my phone under his nose so that he, too, may appreciate the funnies. I’m on Pinterest when I should be sleeping, when I should be making dinner…you get the idea.

Anyway, you know that pin with the recipe for that dip? The Buffalo Chicken Dip that is not only better than crack, but we can all make with our eyes closed now? Yes. That pin. I tweaked it because I’m trying to reduce my meat intake while increasing my veg.

Here it is.
The recipe tweak that will change your life.
Your fridge will never be the same.
In a world of recipes, one recipe stands alone.

…oh, wait. I was thinking about that guy who does the voice-overs for previews.

Anyway, all you do is (duh-DUH-duh…)

replace the chicken with potatoes and cauliflower.

I used about two cups of cauliflower.
I used about two cups of cauliflower.

I know, right?! Somewhere, Einstein is traveling back through time to write me into his will, I just know it.

4 luv-er-ly 'taters...
4 luv-er-ly ‘taters…

Leave the skin on the ‘taters and boil them until they are just cooked, not mushy. Same for the cauliflower. Not that cauliflower has skin. I mean it might, if the GMO’s have their way. Ew. Cauliflower skin. Gross…

Give it all a rough chop, toss the veg in with your cream cheese, plain Greek yogurt, shredded cheese, and Wing Sauce. Bake for a bit, then chow down.
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Also, this means you can eat twice as much as you normally do because HELL-o! cauliflower and ‘taters are good for you and your Lenten Fridays.

Additionally, here’s a recipe for making your own crackers to go with your new and improved dip
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Please, don’t try to name your children after me, although I can understand you’d want to after eating this soul-massaging stuff. An entire generation of Yerttle’s would just be sad. …although we might actually get our names on those pens in the gift shop…

Butter, Marrow, and Sweat

Butter, Marrow, and Sweat

I had set quite a goal for myself over the weekend and I wasn’t sure if I’d make it happen at all. Monday was a complete wash; the only thing I accomplished was making a grocery list and getting a few staples from the grocery store across the street. Yesterday, though, was a smashing success! I went to “the big grocery store“, “the hippie store“, and “the good bread store” (my son’s words). I thought for sure I’d be too tired to actually cook, however, I did my cooking, got a hair cut for the first time in months, scrubbed a bathroom, and went for a run. Yay!

I’m not going to post recipes for these for a couple of reasons: 1) I don’t want to. 2) I really want you to find Thomas Keller’s cookbooks for yourself. Not only do he and his co-authors explain the recipes in an easy-to-understand way, but there are pages and pages of techniques and culinary philosophy that will help you in your every-day cooking. I’ve found his books at used bookstores and on-line, so it’s not like I want you to go out and spend your kids’ college fund; I just want you to have these books in your arsenal. I’m just a home cook, someone who enjoys food and the cooking of that food. My cook books are dusted with flour, splattered with butter, and dog-eared. …all the patina of a useful cook book.

Here are some photos from the Braised Oxtails and Oyster Mushrooms:

...the most useful unit/challenge coin ever made. My husband's Battalion Commander gave me this after last deployment.
…the most useful unit/challenge coin ever made. My husband’s Battalion Commander gave me this after last deployment.
Ronnie the Owl stands port watch.
Ronnie the Owl stands port watch.
bay leaves and peppercorns add some oomph to the braising liquids
bay leaves and peppercorns add some oomph to the braising liquids
Braised meat and veg; the parchment paper lid (back ground) is just one of the handy and life-changing tips from Mr. Keller.
Braised meat and veg; the parchment paper lid (back ground) is just one of the handy and life-changing tips from Mr. Keller.

The Pot o’Goodness started off in the fridge the night before; I wanted all the flavors and tenderization to get a groove on. In the pot: five pieces of oxtail, po-tay-toes (in the manner of Samwise Gamgee), carrots, a bottle of porter, some Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, peppercorns, and a roast. We didn’t actually eat the oxtails (although, I may get brave later and try one), but the bone marrow that comes with the oxtails are culinary and flavorful gold! I’ve got savory, coffee-colored liquids with which to make beef broth the likes of which my kitchen has never seen. Homemade broth with marrow? Yes, please!

…and here are some snaps from making the Better Nutters:

yep. that's butter on a WW scale. You're Welcome. :)
yep. that’s butter on a WW scale. You’re Welcome. 🙂
I've never made buttercream icing before...I feel so brave!
I’ve never made buttercream icing before…I feel so brave!

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...if a person needed to live off of cookies, these would be the cookies for that happy job...
…if a person needed to live off of cookies, these would be the cookies for that happy job…

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Keller, Thomas and Sebastien Rouxel. Bouchon Bakery. New York, NY: Artisan, 2012.

Keller, Thomas and David Cruz. Ad Hoc at Home. New York, NY: Artisan, 2009.

 

…aaaaaaand some stats from my two-miler before bed. 🙂

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The recipes for today include some fluffy potato-cakey things with sauteed chicken and mushrooms, and possibley lemon macarons; also, I need to vacuum the upstairs, work on some laundry (does it ever stop??) and run three miles tonight. Wish me luck! I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

Happy Early Birthday and an Idea

The Love of My Life gave me an early birthday present today!

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I’m super excited!! I really like Thomas Keller’s books and the style in which he explains his recipes.

My idea: this coming week, I’ll make a different dish of Mr Keller’s for dinner each night, accompanied by a dessert.

Also, I’ll need to run about 4,000 miles to avoid the resulting weight gain; my other idea is to run two miles every other day, three miles on the off days, and do a long trail run next weekend (we’ll be traveling…this could prove tricky).

I signed up for my very first trail race! Because I’m a reasonable girl, I made sure to make my first trail race a manageable distance: a half marathon. 🙂 (There needs to be a sarcasm font for that last sentence.) The Owl’s Roost

Here’s to a week of fun cooking and running! 🙂

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World’s Greatest Sugar Cookies, Coconut Edition

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My great-grandfather was a hoot. He could tell a story and a joke only about half-way through, because after that he was cracking himself up and had a hard time continuing. He was a small, slight man…bent with age, farm work, construction labor, and loading of the great guns of the USS Idaho during World War II. Ever present were his cane, a cigarette, and his smile. My daughter is named after him.

This is the recipe Grandpa’s daughter, my grandmother, passed along to me. These cookies were Grandpa’s favorites…however, I’ve tweaked the recipe because it’s February and I’m sick of winter. The temperature won’t behave as though Old Man Winter is going on holiday, however, so in the baking, I added coconut flavoring. Coconut makes everything better, even February.

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Grandma’s Sugar Cookies

(makes approx. 24 small-ish cookies are about 16 palm-sized cookies. I usually double this recipe.)

1) Sift together and then set aside:

2 1/2c flour , 1/2tsp baking soda, 1tsp salt

2) In the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the following on med/high:

1 egg, 2Tbsp vinegar, 1tsp vanilla extract, 1/2c softened butter, 1/2c butter-flavored baking shortening, and 1c sugar.
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3) With your mixer set on LOW, gradually add the flour mixture to the egg/butter mixture. Combine until the flour is just incorporated. Don’t over mix.

4) Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least two hours. This will allow the vinegar to work its magic. You can either refrigerate as-is and make drop cookies, or you can roll it up in wax paper and slice the dough when you’re ready to make them. (when you’re ready, sprinkle with sugar and bake at 350F for about 8 minutes a batch.)

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The ReMix:

I substituted the vanilla mentioned above for 1tsp coconut extract; also, this is the vinegar I used:

Coconut Balsamic from Green Gate Olive OIls
Coconut Balsamic from Green Gate Olive OIls

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Green Gate Olive Oils