Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Heat Wave

It has been super-hot here since last Friday. It's so unusual to have anything over 80 degrees in San Diego, especially at the coast. Or at least we have usually only felt it in the middle of summer, and even then, it's usually only for a week or so. We've already had a couple of these days this year, and it has been so surprising, occurring in March and April. Now, I know all you Arizona people are rolling your eyes and thinking, "Poor babies!" But keep in mind that we don't have air conditioning.... and we couldn't go into the water this weekend because of the shark attack. It's so sad and shocking that there was a shark attack here- you just never hear about that kind of thing happening. I talked with some friends about it on Sunday night, and I think we were all just so surprised and disturbed that it happened. The victim was a man in great physical shape, just sounds like it was totally random and unlucky. So I just wanted to say that I was thinking about him and his family over the past few days and wishing them well.

On a more positive note, since it feels like summer, it got me thinking about summery things. Vacations, iced lattes, shorts... So I thought I'd ask you a question. What are you thinking about doing this summer that you are looking forward to. It can be anything- there are no wrong answers. I would love to hear what you are getting excited about. Please leave a comment if you have a minute or two!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Chocolate Shortbread

You can't begin to imagine how good this is. Sooooo simple. And yet... fantastic. I really like shortbread plain. I have been wanting to try it topped with melted chocolate, but I was worried about the textures. The chocolate is hard once it chills and the shortbread is crumbly. I thought that I would just end up with little pieces of shortbread stuck to the chocolate sheets. And it's not perfect. Oh, it's pretty here in these pictures, but once you cut into it, it is going to crumble a little bit. So it's not a party cookie, unless you are cool with asymetrical cookies that might be all different sizes. But for a weekend treat that you will enjoy all week it's great. I used the shortbread recipe in the Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking and just covered it with melted chocolate. It probably took less than 1 cup of chocolate chips... I didn't want it too thick. I used the leftover melted chocolate to cover strawberries. Also super simple and divine. Seriously- they are so easy, so good, and not that bad for you. I wonder why I don't make them more. They didn't make it to the picture-taking stage... we ate them! ;) I will post the recipe for the shortbread when I do the Chocolate and Zucchini cake... sorry, I know I am behind! Happy Wednesday- we are more than halfway there my friends!

Classic Shortbread
1 & 1/2 Cups of all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups of unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl, beat on medium until smooth and light in color, about 3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and beat on a low speed until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Using an offset spatula, spread the dough evenly into a 9 & 1/2 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Prick lightly over the top with a fork. Bake at 300 degrees F for 55-65 minutes. Remove from the oven and cut the warm shortbread into 12 wedges. Let the shortbread cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Once cool, melt the chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave. Pour over the top of the shortbread, and place the shortbread in the freezer to set. Once set, place the pan on top of an inverted bowl. Gently ease the sides of the pan away from the bottom. Cut into wedges and enjoy.

Williams-Sonoma The Essentials of Baking

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wedding Flowers

This lovely centerpiece adorned our table at the Brown wedding. On April 12, Julie Hanley and Mike Brown were married in Poway. It was a beautiful wedding with all sorts of shades of green spiked with pink and magenta flowers. I didn't take my camera, so I'm hoping that she will share a link to the photos when she is back from her honeymoon. We actually got to take home this centerpiece- it looked so pretty on our table for a few days.
We had a great time with a lot of Chris' co-workers. He works with so many wonderful people, we are lucky to know them.
Hope you are having a wonderful start to your Tuesday!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Would you like some Zucchini with your Chocolate?

I think I might have mentioned to a few of you that I made the Chocolate and Zucchini cake from the cookbook by the same name a couple weeks ago. It turned out great, and of course, I have some adjustments that I will try the next time, but I just thought that some of these photo were too good to pass by without sharing!

I will post the recipe, I don't have it with me at the moment. But it includes 2 cups of grated, unpeeled zucchini:

Unsweetened dutch-process cocoa powder- I haven't been able to find this anywhere lately! I used to buy Droste at my happy neighborhood VONS, but they haven't been carrying it. It's pretty pricey- about $10 per small box, but oh-so-fabulous. I am having a tough time living without it. As a result, I have been substituting unsweetened chocolate baking squares, but I totally made this cake on a whim and didn't even have any more of those on hand. So, I pulled out the stops and just used melted 60% cocoa ghiradelli chocolate chips. Does this picture make you want to lick this bowl or what?
The final step before putting the cake in a springform pan (or in my case, a cake pan lined with parchment paper) is to fold the zucchini and chocolate chips into the cake batter. Well, let's just say that is no easy task. This batter is THICK. I think a lot of the cake's moisture comes from the zucchini, so you don't want a real wet batter. However, that makes incorporating anything evenly a chore. Probably made more difficult by my addition of melted chocolate when the recipe didn't call for it. However, the green is gorgeous with the brown.
The Grand Finale: Clothide recommends trying olive oil instead of the butter, and I am totally going to do that next time. I think it will yield a cushionier cake- this was heavenly and densely chocolately, but I think the butter makes things puff up more and get a little drier. Not bad, just different. More cakey than brownie-y and I think brownie-y would be better. I doubt that it will take me long to try it again. YUM.

Recipe to come! I promise. Hope you are having a great Monday!
Gateau Chocolate& Courgette
1/2 Cup butter at room temperature or 1/2 Cup Olive Oil, plus 1 pat for greasing
2 cups of all-purpose flour (I recommend King Arthur's unbleached)
1/2 cup of unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules (I used a shot of espresso)
3 large eggs
2 cups unpeeled grated zucchini (about 1 & 1/2 medium zucchinis)
1 cup bitersweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 10-inch springform pan. (Or line it with parchment paper)
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a food processor, process the sugar and butter until creamy (or do it by hand with a sturdy spatula (I added the espresso here). Add the vanilla coffee granules, and eggs, mixing well between each addition. Add the zucchini and chocolate chips, fold into the batter and bblend with a wooden spoon. Don't overmix. Pour into the prepared cake pan and level the surface with a spatula. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool for 10 minutes, run a knife around the pan to loosen the cake and unclasp the sides of the pan. Enjoy.
Clotilde Dusoulier Chocolate and Zucchini

Friday, April 18, 2008

Celebrate the everyday

I am so sorry that I haven't been posting. I hope that you haven't been looking back too often only to realize there is nothing new here. It's funny, I read Ali's blog quickly today, and realized, as I often do when I think about scrapbooking/life art/journaling/etc.- It is the everyday stuff, the seemingly mundane details that we will not remember from our lives. I think we remember bits and pieces, but unless you are writing some of this down, you won't really appreciate it when you look back upon it.

I have been very busy with work the last couple weeks, and I have used that as an excuse to not write. What I have been going through isn't interesting... I haven't made anything interesting to eat, nor have I gone anywhere interesting, why should I write about it. Then this morning I thought about something from U of A, so I grabbed a photo album to flip through it while I ate breakfast. I literally looked at it for maybe 10 minutes, max. But I realized... the everyday stories were almost lost. I have the photos, and I know that a picture is worth a lot of words, but honestly, don't you wonder what your thoughts were? What were you doing from 8am to 9pm most days? What stressed you out? What did you get excited about? Who did you see daily? Who did you see only occasionally? What restaurants did you go to often? What did you cook at home? What tv shows did you watch? What movies did you see that year? etc, etc. And wouldn't you be interested to know now? I know that I would, and I wish that I had written more. So, I guess all you can do is stop wishing and start writing. Keep records for yourself first and for all the other people who might wonder about your life later, second. You'll be surprised how much they will probably mean in the future to both of you.

This is mostly a lecture to me, but click on over to Ali's blog and you will probably be inspired, like I am (yet again). So as a start... this week I have spent from 8:30am until as late as 10:00pm or as early as 7:30pm at work. But I had dinner with Chris at Fidel's last night, I saw some of American Idol on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I am excited to have a weekend. I am going to watch the finale of John Adams (which, we only know most of the things we do because John and Abigail Adams wrote extensive letters to each other) on Sunday, we're going to have BBQ one day this weekend, and try to see the ocean at least once. And I might scrapbook. Or not. But if not, I am going to try to write down what I did. 'Cause I am going to want to know someday. And maybe someone else will want to know too.

Happy Friday.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I've missed you too!

Wow. It has been a whirlwind of a week. And last week. And the weekend! I have been going non-stop since last Tuesday, which I took off because I was sick. And I worked until 11pm last night. Which was not a super-marathon of years past, but I was feeling it this morning. And today was busy, and the rest of the week will be too, but I can see light at the end of the tunnel. It may just be a glimmer, but it's there!

Well, I hope that you have been busy too and not checking back here too often since I seriously lagged in my plogging lately. I don't know if you are like me, but when you are slammed, do you sometimes wish with all your heart to be able to do something so opposite of what you have been doing? I peeked at Smitten today and my heart just fills up at the thought of locking myself in my kitchen for a couple days. Not sure when that will happen next, I don't think I will have that kind of time until Thanksgiving... but you never know! I am dying to cook. I miss my kitchen things and I miss making my food. I know that all I need is a basic, great, 'sum of the parts is so much less than the completed product' kind of meal. I am too tired to go all out, but sometimes that's the only thing I want. I have also been starving all day despite letting myself snack quite a bit. I think there is a lot of logic behind the whole eating is more than physical thing. I think we tend to eat more when we aren't full emotionally. WOW. Deep. I might be a little sleep deprived! Haha, well, before I get too prophetic, and completely lose you, take a gander at the beautiful recipes at smitten. Since I haven't cooked for a while, and miss it so, I will leave you with some photos of the last 'real' meal that I made. Funny that those gorgeous purple potatoes weren't just tempting me! :)

Butternut squash pieces ready for roasting:

Purple potatoes with rosemary ready for roasting:

Nicoise salad (with chicken since I am not a fan of tuna and neither is Chris. Is it still okay to call it nicoise??)

Finished buttnernut squash soup with yougurt drizzle:

Hope your day is filled with color, Enjoy, happy eating!