Saturday, January 10, 2009

movin' on

To all those who actually read this blog, I would like to apologize for my severe lack of attention in the past month. I will now attempt to recap the events of the pre/post holidays in a succinct fashion. 
1) pre- holidays = anxiety due to lack of hours, money, and friends in the current position, debate of whether I should stick out my contract date of March 10th.
2) Christmas= tons of people at the hotel, parents+ Kurt come to visit (so much fun, skiing everyday), full-time hours, everyone in good spirits because of the holidays, loved it. 
3) New Years Eve= still a lot of people, fireworks, free alcohol in the bar, also a good time. 
4) New Years Day= trains cancelled because of derailments/avalanches/mudslides (meaning people canceling their trips to the Inn), our first power outage. 
5) post-holidays= at least one power outage in the dorm every single day until January 7th. The longest was 22 hours. After the power came back on, the pump to our well broke. Was broken for more than two days (I left and went to Whitefish). 

Yes, it has been a roller coaster of power outages, meaning that we could neither cook food, sleep warmly, or use the toilet in the dorm. In fact, it seemed as though every time I wanted to cook, the power went out. Then, just as I was leaving for work, it would come back on! Ohhh the irony! When the well pump didn't work, I gave up. I went to visit Amanda and Nicole in Whitefish, for a hot shower, warm place to stay, and friends. While there, I realized that I need friends! There is no one here!! I love the skiing, it is a beautiful location, but in order to keep Essex as a good place in my mind, I realized that I have to leave. And honestly, I'm not making any money, so I may as well be unemployed for a while. 

So, I'm moving to Whitefish! I am so excited. I don't know what made me think I would be fine being alone all winter... but I have changed my mind. I've been here three months, and I've given it a shot. Perhaps it is my inner city-child, but I am excited for things like: a coffee shop, a grocery store that is not 60 miles away, bars, learning to snowboard, a library, and friends! And, though I don't have a job yet, there are a few leads that sound promising, and if they don't work out, I can always work at Super1. Not like I'm trying to climb any corporate ladders. 

And, in other news, I am going to Costa Rica for a month come March! Ahhh, warmth and beaches. More on this when I figure out more than a plane ticket. 

I know this is a cooking blog, so I should probably put up some recipes. This week's recipes: Cardamom Bread and Gorgonzola Yam Pie. The Cardamom Bread recipe is actually Emily Peterson's, and it is the most fabulous one I have ever used. All others that I have tried turn out much too dry. It's so much better than the Swedish Bakery's (in Chicago). The recipe makes so much that I had a loaf for everyone at Christmas! The Gorgonzola Yam Pie was an experiment that I wanted to make when going to Whitefish for the UTexas/Ohio game/ hot shower last week. I thought it wouldn't work 1) because I made it up, and 2) because the power went out two minutes into baking it. But it did work, and was quite good at that. Nice as a side dish. 

Swedish Cardamom Bread
(makes approx. 4 loaves)
2pkg yeast
1/2 c. warm water
1 tsp sugar

2 c. whole milk
1/2 lb. butter

3/4 c. sugar
 1 tsp salt
20 cardamom seeds (crushed) or 1 1/2 tsp powder
1 egg
8 c. flour (or 3c wheat, 5 white, 2-3 tbsp extra sugar)
pearl sugar for topping

- Scald and melt sticks of butter in milk, cool to lukewarm
-Dissolve yeast in warm water with 1 tsp sugar, add to lukewarm butter and milk
- Add sugar, egg, salt, cardamom, and 4 c. flour- mix
-Add 3-4 c. more flour and knead for 8-10 minutes. Be very careful when adding final flour, you don't want the dough to be dry! This is the disaster that happens to a lot of cardamom breads! Leave it very elasticy, sticky, but not too sticky. I don't really know how else to explain it. 
- Let rise for 40 min, or until doubled. 
- Knead again, cut dough into 4 pieces, and each piece into 3. Using your hands, roll each piece into a log about the length of a bread pan. Braid three pieces together so that you have 4 braids altogether. You can either put the braids in bread pans to rise, or let them rise on baking sheets. I lined up 4 braids in a 3 in deep baking pan and the loaves were perfect. 
- Let braids rise 2 hours. 
- Bake 35-40 min at 350
(i'll try to put a picture up when my internet connection is better)

Gorgonzola Yam Pie
(side dish for about 6?)

3 yams, peeled and cut into 1/4" rounds
1/4 c. flour
7 tbs butter
1/2 c. gorgonzola (or more, if you like)
1 granny smith apple, peeled and cut into 1/4" slices
1/2 c. walnuts (or more, if you like)

- In a large mixing bowl, coat yams in flour
- Melt 6 tbs butter, toss with yams
- Grease a 9" round baking pan/ pie pan
- Layer half of the yam slices, covering the entire bottom of the pan (about 3 layers). Add a layer of half of the gorgonzola, a layer of all of the apple slices, another layer of gorgonzola (remaining amount), layer the remaining yam slices, and top with walnuts. 
- Melt remaining 1 tbs butter and drizzle over the top. 
-Cover in foil, bake at 400 for about an hour, or until tender. 

Monday, December 15, 2008


So, it's been the usual two weeks since my last post. I think I have started a trend. It's not that I don't have recipes, I just get really lazy. Props to Ron and Jessie for doing this every day. Holy crap, I do not have that kind of commitment. Anyway, things here have gotten colder (-20 to be exact), and then warm (0 degrees today) enough to ski! Hallelujah! I got skis about 5 days ago, but it's been so freakishly cold that I have not gone out. This homebodiness, accompanied with the fact that I do not have enough work hours, I am making close to no money, and I miss my friends makes this a hard time. I'm debating what will become of the winter. I then remind myself that whenever I start something new, two months in I feel like I'm going crazy. Guess what? It's the two month mark! So, I'm pulling through the holidays, and if things don't get better, change may be necessary! I am also a little bit P-Oed by the fact that I have to share a kitchen with 6 other, dirty people. It not only makes creating things more difficult (it's like a ballet in the kitchen area when there are more than 2 people in it), but it makes them less sanitary. Gross. 

This week has heralded the opening of the fabulous Italian cookbook that we have in this godforsaken dorm. It's called 'The Italian Cooking Encyclopedia' and it is fabulous. I m
ade gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce (fabulous), made up a recipe for ravioli with butternut squash filling (alright), and pizza this week. It's been like a trip to Italy! Minus the warmer weather and generally beautiful people. I also have...drumroll first ever posted recipe from a friend! Laura is making butternut squash soup with sundried tomato puree, which after going to the grocery store in a few days, I am definitely trying. 

I have wanted to make homemade gnocchi ever since watching Lydia's Kitchen last year. It's one of my favorite Italian dishes, and it is really easy. Like, for serious. 

Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Sauce

1 lb baking potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1" cubes
1 large egg
1 cup flour
salt and pepper

4 oz Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup cream or milk
1 tbsp thyme
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped

To make gnocchi: 
Cook potatoes in boiling salted water for about 15-20 minutes. Drain and cool. Force the potatoes through a sieve/colander by pressing them with your hands (or, if you have a ricer, use that). Collect in a mixing bowl, and add plenty of seasoning and egg until completely incorporated. Add the flour a little at a time, stirring well with a wooden spoon after each addition. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead for 3 minutes. Until it is soft and smooth and not sticky (add more flour if necessary). 

Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces, and gently roll each piece into a log about 1" around, 6-8" long. Cut each log into 6-8 pieces, so each gnocch (gnocchi?) is 1" by 1". To cook, drop in boiling water and cook until the float + 4 more minutes. 

To make Gorgonzola sauce: 
Place Gorgonzola, cream/milk, thyme and tomato in frying pan until cheese melts to make a creamy consistency. Add gnocchi and toss! 

Butternut Squash Soup with Sundried Tomato Puree a la Laura

2 tbs olive oil
1 1/4 cups chopped onions
4 garlic cloves
2 1/2 lbs butternut squash, peeled and seeded, chopped into 1" pieces (or 1/2 sweet potatoes)
5 1/2 cups veggie broth
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp orange peel

Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat, saute onions until tender, about 10 min. Add garlic, stir for 1 min. Add squash, sweet potatoes and broth, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 40 minutes or until squash gets soft. Puree in blender until smooth (probably have to do it in batches). Return to pot, add thyme and orange peel. Simmer for a few more minutes to get it hot again and to blend flavors. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, top with a spoonful of sundried tomato puree (which was made from 1/2 jar of sundried tomatoes, bunch of olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, a generous sprinkle of cayenne pepper, all pureed in blender). 

That cayenne pepper and orange peel make squash soup sound fabulous....yummmm. I am also attempting a second batch of Cardamom Bread tonight. We'll see how this one turns out. I found an old scrap of paper with a recipe on it. Could be a winner!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

bread pudding.

I think there are probably a lot of people out there who hate bread pudding. Something about the texture, or so I've heard. I am not one of them. Chelsea's mom makes amazing bread pudding, and I would love it if she gave me the recipe. It has explosions of rum and chocolate that are surreal. However, back on track, I started this past week with loads of baking. However, none of it turned out that well. Until tonight!! I was severely lacking on ingredients, and though pancakes made with yogurt instead of milk are QUITE delicious (I would suggest this for anyone making pancakes from scratch any time soon), banana muffins do not quite have a muffin consistency when made with yogurt. In fact, they were more like banana bricks. Then I tried to make cardamom bread, the quintessential holiday bread in any Scando household... but I did not have Emily Peterson's recipe and thus the recipe I used sucked. Actually, the recipe may have been alright, but my oven is always too hot and the bread was dry. In addition to dry bread and dense muffins, I made some pretty decent herbed bread (recipe to come later after I perfect it), cranberry sauce that was a bit of alright, and tonight- BREAD PUDDING. I completely made up the recipe using what I had in the house and if I had ice cream right now I would probably eat the whole pan. Well, maybe not the whole pan. But if you are lacking on ingredients and you have some stale bread- you should def try this. The pudding is probably more delicious than usual because it uses my dry cardamom bread, but I'm thinking if you just use stale white/wheat bread and add cardamom or cinnamon, it might have the same effect. 

Cheap Loner's Bread Pudding

6 tbs butter
1 c brown sugar
1 1/2 c buttermilk (this was all I had, but you can use 1/2 and 1/2, milk, or whipping cream, 
depending on your desired creaminess)
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
6-7 cups dry/stale bread cut into 1" cubes (cardamom/wheat/white...don't use something tangy
like sourdough)

*If you are not using cardamom bread, I would suggest you add 1 tsp cinnamon or 1/2 tsp cardamom depending on your preference of spice (or both for a real whammy)

Preheat oven to 325
Melt butter in saucepan, add brown sugar and cook on medium/low until it becomes carmel-y in color and sugar appears to be melted. Take off heat and whisk in milk and vanilla. Let cool a bit (10 minutes). Whisk eggs in a separate bowl, add caramel milk mixture to eggs and stir. Add dry bread and stir until bread appears to be soaked (I like to smush it all down and really make sure it's soaked). Let sit for about 20 minutes so that bread becomes soft and soaked through. 
Bake in your desired baking dish, I used a circular cake pan. I think anything would work, as long as it's not too tall, like a square 10"x10", 2 loaf pans, pie tin, etc. Cook until fork inserted in middle comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes. 

And then my cranberry sauce....because I am the only person in my family who really likes it, it is the only thing I actually made and ate for Thanksgiving. The remainder of the afternoon was spent tending tables and scraping the sticky remains of mashedpotatosweetpotatogravy off of hundreds of plates and opening wine bottles with said sticky hands. 

Orange you a Cranberry? 

1 12-oz bag cranberries
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup orange juice
1-2 asian pears, peeled and chopped
1 tsp cinnamon

In a small pan/wok, heat sugar and orange juice until sugar is melted. Add cranberries, cinnamon, and pears and stir occasionally over medium heat until cranberries have popped and sauce becomes thick. Let cool to room temperature and chill. 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

cookie monster

if ever there was a character to describe my general being, i think the cookie monster would be it. crumbs flying out of my mouth, gobbling three at a time, i can identify with the poor, grubby blue monster. i mentioned in the previous post that i made dough last week, only entirely consume it in the course of three days. only one actual cookie was made from the batch. well, after three hours of raking the leaves around the hotel, i decided it was about time to try it again. yes, raking leaves. the job these days tend to lend itself more towards hard manual labor than waiting tables, as there aren't any tables to be waited upon. so i volunteered to add more hours to my schedule, and leaves were today's chore. i think i surpassed all of the times i have raked in my entire life combined (which isn't really that hard to do when you have brothers). but i took it in good spirits, dancing away on  the front lawn to devotchka as engines rolled by. later, when my nose wouldn't stop running and my back had a definite crick, i got my free cup of soup for the day and went back home to make some cookies. nothin' better to warm you up on a cold day! well, maybe a snuggle under a down comforter, but that's besides the point. i have for you, delicious oatmeal cookies: 

Best Damn Chewy Oatmeal Cookies I've Ever Had

3 cups oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla

optional add ins: 
1/4 shredded coconut
bag of chocolate chips/chunks
1 cup crystallized ginger (this sounds DELICIOUS, but I don't have any)

- In a bowl, mix butter and sugar. Add egg, honey and vanilla. When mixed thoroughly, add dry ingredients. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes. However, for chewier cookies, watch them closely after 10 minutes. This makes A TON of cookies, so I cut the recipe in half. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

squashingly delicious soup, thai thirsty soup, and ameri-mex pie

Okay, so I didn't write for a few days, and now the things are just piling up!! In addition to these random creations, I also made some whole wheat cinnamon rolls (that did not end up that fabulous, I just really wanted some cinnamon rolls) and some oatmeal cookie dough (of which I ate as dough consistently for three days and then finally decided to make the last bit into a cookie...and it was actually really good! Damn myself for getting sick on dough.)

Not to waste any time: 

This first recipe was
 featured in the Interlake (aka Flathead Valley newspaper that usually features such mi
nd-altering cover stories as "Black bear spotted near Whitefish Lake, later could not be found"). However, and this will be a trend in all of my creations, I did not have all the necessary ingredients. So I compromised. And I liked my result! So I'm just going to include mine. If anyone is interested in the real one, lemme know~

Squashingly Delicious Soup

3 tbs butter
3 cups butternut squash (cubed)
1 1/2 cups onion (chopped)
3 large carrots (chopped)
2 medium red potatoes (chopped)
1 medium Granny Smith apple (chopped)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp sage
3-4 cups chicken broth
 (or 4 cups water and 3 bullion cubes)
1/2 cup apple cider/juice
1/2 cup whipping cream

Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat, add vegetables and saute for about 10 minutes. Add apple and spices, mix. Add broth/water+bullion and cider, bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 30-45 minutes, or you know, however long you want. For a more pureed soup, stick in the blender for a minute. As I have no such luxuries here, I just used a potato masher until everything was all blendy. Before you want to serve, add whipping cream and bring back to a simmer. Add more spices if you feel like it!

So this is probably a more Vietnamese soup than Thai...but I'm calling it Thai because it uses this spice I found in Missoula at this fabulous spice/tea store called "Thai Spice". I wasn't sure what it would taste like, but it's delicio
us! Unfortunately, I can't relate to you what exactly it's components are to this spice besides ground hot when I inhaled it I choked for a good 10 minutes. 
Thai Thirsty Soup 
(so titled because if you leave it over night, the noodles drink up all the broth)

2 tbs vegetable oil
1 small red potato (cubed)
1/2 small yam (cubed)
1 egg
4 leaves bok choi (chopped or however you like 'em)
3 teaspoons Thai seasoning
1 teaspoon curry powder
3 cups water
 4 tbs whipping cream
dash of red pepper flakes
salt to taste
rice noodles (about 2-3 servings)

Saute oil and potatoes about 10 minutes in a wok, add egg until cooked through. Add bok choi, seasonings, stir. Add water and let simmer for a good 30 minutes, then add whipping cream and pepper flakes + salt to your liking. Finally, add rice noodles and cook for about 7 minutes (don't want them in there too long, or they'll steal all the broth!) 

Last, and probably least, we have tonight's creation. I was craving something Mexican, but definitely did NOT have the adequate supplies. So this is what I came up with. It is extremely easy. Painfully easy, actually. It wasn't super flavorful, but that's what you get for using ingredients from Target. If I did it again I would want to include some cumin, guacamole on top, and some cilantro. That would make it even tastier. 

Ameri-Mex Pie 
(because let's face it, the only real Mexican food you'll ever get is in Mexico. Or Chicago.)

In a saucepan, saute the following: 

1 can pinto beans (drained and rinsed, it grosses me out when canned beans froth)
1 Roma tomato (chopped)
1/4 large onion (chopped)
1/2 green pepper (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1/2 jalepeno pepper (minced)
1 serrano (or other chili pepper) (minced)
What was left in my jar of salsa (but you could very well use up to a half jar, if you have it)

Then, in a pie or other circular pan, layer: 

Corn tortillas
Bean mixture
Blend of pepper jack and sharp cheddar cheeses (about 3/4 cup per layer)

You should be able to repeat this layering twice, with a final layer of corn tortillas on top. Slice another Roma tomato on top and cover with cheese. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes. 


Sunday, November 16, 2008

thailicious in weirdland

Last week I had the pleasure of having two days off in a row, so I planned to make an excursion. Not a huge excursion really, but more of a "hey i should go to town and not waste gas driving home" type of excursion. Unfortunately, my plans to go to town did not stay hidden long, as I was soon harassed (well, maybe that's an exaggeration, I was asked nicely) if I could take Nomad to town. Now, Nomad is another dorm mate. And actually, until this week, he was my only other dorm mate. I've known his presence for some three years now, as he seems to flop around the park much as I do. However, as his name implies, he has been doing so for approximately the last 30 or 40 years. Pendragon, his last name, is only slowly revealing itself to me. I'm thinking it has something to do with PC gaming, as "that is really all I do" (direct quote).I have been told that if asked how he is doing, he will often respond with, "I am sorry, but I must ask you not to intrude on my personal life." I have tried a number of times to evoke this response, but have been ignored. I will persevere! 

Weirdness aside, we actually had quite a nice drive to town. We both grew up in big cities and have somewhat similar liberal ideals, so we could talk about something (though he grew up in the 1960's in Harlem). Though by the time I got to town, I realized how annoying it is to have someone else to attend to. I managed to drop him at the library for a while and go get some necessary items- and discovered a Thai grocery store!! In Columbia Falls! I was ecstatic. So was the shop owner, actually. Upon entering she shrilled a welcome greeting from the back of the store and didn't stop talking to me the entire time I was in there. I bought quite a few items, produce and spices, and even picked up some lunch from the little cafe she has going on there (delicious). 

The most immediate delicacy that I wanted to dive into was my Ma
saman Curry Paste. Though you CAN make Masaman curry completely from scratch, lets face it... it's easier when there is a pre-made paste. HOWEVER, you can make Masaman curry with any type of curry paste (red, green, specialty) it just depends what you add to it. Masaman curry is usually a sweeter curry, but I (of course) like to make it very spicy as well. Here is what I came up with: 

Veggie Masaman Curry with Fake Crab (because it's cheaper)

3 tbs curry paste (masaman if available)
3 tbs vegetable oil

7-10 oz fake crab (or real, if you like)
1 small head bok choi (leaves separated and cut down) 
1 medium head broccoli (chopped)
1 medium onion (chopped)
1-2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 can coconut milk
1 1/2 cups water
4 tbs fish sauce
3 tbs brown sugar
3 tbs garlic paste or other such garlic-y sauce/spice
red pepper flakes for spicyness

rice noodles

This is super easy: 
- Saute curry paste and oil about 1 1/2 minutes
-Add crab, saute about 3 minutes more
-Add all veggies, saute about 3 minutes more
-Add coconut milk, water, sugar, garlic
-Let simmer for at least 30 minutes, until sauce starts to thicken. If it gets too thick, add more water. Add chili flakes whenever you like to increase spiciness. The longer you let it simmer...the tastier it will be! 
-Pour curry over rice noodles! 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

the decision.

I have decided, after little trial and tribulation, to create another winter blog. Though I am sorry to say that I will not be in the far away land of Nepal, to many friends and family it probably seems like I am just as far. Living in the town of Essex, Montana (pop. 30) for the past three weeks has proven to be the most self-reflective and creativity-inducing time I have experienced since forcing myself to work on my senior show during the midnight hours in the St. Olaf Art Department three years ago. I have started so many projects this month I can't even keep track. Hopefully I can finish one. 

While working on one such project last week, I had the sudden urge to bake butter biscuits. Not one to dismiss such an impulse, I immediately dropped what I was doing and made some. And then I thought... hm. What if I kept track of what I ate this winter? Not like one of those creepy food diaries, but more of an interactive-multimedia-cookbook. I'm not sure if anyone will read this besides my mother and perhaps Rebecca or Emily or Chelsea, but if it were only for those few people and myself I would do it. 

Let's face it. I love to cook. Mostly because I love to eat. But I only like to eat good food (and who doesn't). And I think there might be some really interesting things that happen in the world of food in Essex come January. When the roads have two feet of blowing snow and I must resort to the random supplies that The Halfway House (no, not that kind of halfway house, it's a cafe down the road) can provide me with. I'm excited. There might even be some tales of other meals or happenings. And I would love it if others would provide as well. Good and bad, palate-pleasing/cleansing/horrifying. I want to hear it.