Chimichurri sauce

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:13 pm

Chimichurri sauce

This sauce from Argentina is great on beef, chicken, fish, or even grilled vegetables.  I got some on my corn-on-the-cob tonight and it was delicious.  It gives you pretty strong breath, though.

  • 1/2 cup Italian flatleaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • 1/2 of a medium shallot
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • a shake of crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste
  • about 1/4 cup olive oil

Combine all except oil in a food processor and process until well-chopped but not a paste.  Drizzle in olive oil until it’s about the consistency of pesto sauce.  Enjoy.



Multi-berry Pie with Almond Crumb Topping

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:55 pm

I made this yesterday and it was a hit.  I hope to make it again next year with the early summer berry bounty.

Adapted from this recipe.

  • 1 pie crust (I used a half recipe of my favorite crust)
  • About 5 cups assorted berries—I used about 3 cups blueberries and 1 cup each of blackberries and raspberries
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • About 3/4 cup sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • 1 (7-ounce) container almond paste
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
  • a generous pinch of kosher salt

Gently wash berries and set aside, reserving 1 cup blueberries.

In a large, heavy saucepan, whisk together cornstarch and sugar.  Add berries (except reserved blueberries) and cook over medium heat until thick and saucy, about 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and stir in reserved blueberries, lemon juice, and vanilla.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.

To make topping, break almond paste into smallish (1/2 inch) pieces.  Add to the bowl of a food processor, along with flour, butter, and salt.  Process until clumps begin to form.  Refrigerate for at least half an hour.

Preheat oven to 400F.  While the oven is preheating, put a rimmed metal baking sheet in the oven.  Roll out pie crust and line an 8- or 9-inch glass pie dish with the crust.  Pour cooled berry mixture into crust and sprinkle crumb topping on top.  Put pie dish directly on rimmed baking sheet and bake for 40-50 minutes, until topping is nicely browned.  You may need to cover the outer rim of the pie to keep it from over-browning.

Cool thoroughly unless you want to eat it like a gooey crumble, which wouldn’t be the worst thing.  Serve with vanilla ice cream.



Summer project #3: Pineapple popsicles

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:58 pm

I read a recipe online for pineapple popsicles, and the kids were interested in trying to make them.  The recipe I found included coconut milk, which I’m sure would be delicious if you’re a coconut fan.  I am only lukewarm on coconut—I like it in curries but not a whole lot else. I guess there’s that multi-syllabic Canadian dessert bar.  What’s that called again?

Anyway, I saw pineapples on sale two for a dollar at my grocery store.  Two for a dollar, for real.  We eat a lot of fresh pineapple, but I usually spring for the pre-skinned and pre-cored kind.  This time I decided to provide the kids a little culinary education and bought the whole deals.

This is what a pineapple looks like, in case you didn’t know.  We ended up using 3/4 of a pineapple for one batch of 5 popsicles.  I think we could have gotten 6 popsicles out of the 3/4 pineapple, but I couldn’t find one of our popsicle molds, so we made 5.  I ate the unfrozen pineapple sludge with a spoon and I’m not even sorry.

Tobin helped me whiz the chunks around in the food processor.

We had about half a cup of French vanilla ice cream hogging up space in the freezer, so I nuked that for ten seconds and threw it in the food processor.  We whizzed that some more, then poured it into our popsicle molds.

And into the freezer they went.

This is how they turned out.  They were good.  The kids ate them for breakfast this morning.





Salted caramel sauce

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:23 pm

There is nothing better over ice cream.  Keep in mind I’m not an out-of-her-mind chocolate fan.  I like chocolate and all, but if there’s a vanilla or fruit or caramel or nut alternative, I’ll take that.

This salted caramel sauce is so, so good.  I made it to go on a turtle pie, and I’ve been consuming the leftovers steadily.  For those of you who must have chocolate, I bet this would be good alongside hot fudge sauce for a kind of one-two punch situation.

Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 5 tablespoons butter, in pieces
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • generous pinch kosher salt

In a heavy-duty saucepan that’s bigger than what you’d think you’d need (seriously, err on the side of large), dissolve the sugar in the water over medium-high heat.  Once it’s dissolved, stop stirring.  Just let it boil, swirling the pan occasionally, and brushing down the sides now and then with a water-moistened brush.

Once the sugar is a nice medium amber, remove it from the heat.  Add the butter and stir until it’s fully melted.  Pour in the cream, watch it bubble up like crazy, and stir with a whisk until it’s smooth and uniform.  Add the kosher salt and stir some more.  Don’t lick any utensils, no matter how much you want to, because this stuff is HOT and you will regret it so deeply.

The sauce will thicken as it cools.  I suppose it will keep in the fridge for a while, though it never lasts very lost.



Filed under: — Aprille @ 10:28 am

I need to blog this, because I make it often enough that I get annoyed about having to find my favorite recipe in a cookbook.  Yet somehow I don’t make it often enough to have the exact proportions memorized.  Digitization, here we come.

This makes about half a cup, which is more than we need in a sitting, but it’s as far down as I can reduce the recipe reliably.


  • 1 egg yolk + half an egg white (just approximate)
  • a dab of dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or 1 tsp kosher salt)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (I’ve used lime too)
  • 1 large clove garlic or a couple of small ones, peeled
  • 1/4 cup olive oil mixed with 1/4 cup mild-flavored oil (canola, peanut, whatever)

Place yolk, white, mustard, salt, lemon juice, and garlic in a food processor.  Pulse until the garlic is well-minced.  With the motor running, veeeeeeery slowly drizzle in the oil blend—just the thinnest drip.  Once you’ve got a good emulsion going, you can dribble faster, but let at least half the mixture get well emulsified before you get brave.   It should get pretty thick, and it will thicken further when refrigerated.

You can refrigerate this for a day or so, but don’t let it go much longer than that.


Melted snowman cookies

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:58 am

I saw this idea somewhere, and I thought Miles would have fun doing it.  Lo, I was right.  It was really quite easy.

1.  Take your favorite sugar cookie dough (I confess we used store-bought for this quickie project) and roll it out.

2.  Use a cookie cutter or do like we did and use a drinking glass to cut out pretty big circles (maybe 3″ in diameter).

3.  Bake cookies as directed.  Cool completely.

4.  While the cookies are baking and cooling, work on the marshmallows.  Take as many big marshmallows as you have cookies and snip off part of one edge.  That will make it sit at an angle on the cookie and make it look like the snowman is looking down at his ruined body in horror.

5.  Decorate the marshmallows with decorator frosting, sprinkles, whatever you like.

6.  Take some white frosting and warm it up.  It took about 15 seconds in my microwave to get a nice liquidy (but not TOO liquidy) consistency.  Using a spoon, pour an irregular blob of frosting onto the cookie.  Place the marshmallow.

7.  Let it set for a few minutes, then add more decorations, like sprinkle buttons and stick arms.  If you have the time and patience, you could add even more things, like fallen tophats and scarves.

8.  Munch munch munch.


White chocolate and brandied cranberry cookies

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:48 pm

I make these every year, and every year I forget where I found them.  I’m finally just going to blog them so I can find them easily next Thanksgiving.  Original source.  Is that redundant?

  • 1 cup of brandy (to soak the cranberries in, then saving 1 1/4 teaspoons of it for later)
  • 1 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1 cup (two sticks) of butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup of lightly packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of white chocolate chips

1 Put the cranberries in a wide and shallow bowl, pour in a bit of brandy. Enough so they’re surrounded by it, but not drowning. Cover and place in the fridge for an hour or more. Afterwards, place a colander over a bowl and pour the cranberries and brandy through, putting the cranberries and the brandy they soaked in aside.

2 Preheat oven to 375°F. Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again until light, fluffy and well incorporated.

3 Add the eggs, vanilla extract, and add 1 1/4 teaspoons of the brandy that the cranberries soaked in (as for the rest, I suggest popping it in a glass and topping it off a bit for yourself). Beat well until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl midway through to ensure even mixing.

4 Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt, then add to the mixture a bit at a time, beating until just mixed. Fold in the brandy soaked cranberries and white chocolate chips. Let chill for 15 minutes in the fridge.

5 Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (a baker’s best friend) and place rounded spoonfuls down on the sheet. Bake at 375°F for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for a minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

*I find that adding the baking soda separately seems to form softer cookies. This is how my mom and grandmother taught me, and if there is actual science behind it, I’m not aware but it seems pretty consistent, and it won’t ruin the cookies if you try it this way.



Almond cream cheese tart

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:15 pm

I’ve made this so many times I figured I should blog it, just in case my original source (foodandwine.com) takes it down or something.

This is super-easy and very tasty.  You can adjust it to use whatever fruit is in season, though the original calls for peaches.  Today I’m using raspberries and blueberries arranged in the Obama logo, but that’s just because I’m all excited about the election.  It may well come out stupid looking, but I’m too cheerful to care.

Almond cream cheese tart

  • 5 oz vanilla wafers
  • 1/2 cup whole almonds, roasted but unsalted
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 4 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 8 oz cream cheese (reduced fat is ok)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (reduced fat is ok)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • Fruit of choice

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a food processor, combine almonds, vanilla wafers, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and salt until a coarse meal forms.  Add butter and pulse until combined.  Press crust onto the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of a springform pan or tart pan with a removable bottom.  Bake for 10 minutes to set the crust.

Meanwhile, wipe out the food processor and add cream cheese, sour cream, egg, almond extract, and 1/4 cup of sugar.  Process to combine, then pour custard into hot crust.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Chill thoroughly.  Decorate with concentric circles of fruit (toss with remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar if desired).


Zuni Café Roast Chicken

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:47 am

I just realized I’ve never blogged this recipe, and I need to, because I make it often enough that it should be recorded here.

I got this from Smitten Kitchen, which in turn got it from the Zuni Café.  I imagine some modifications have happened at various junctures, but in any case, it’s an easy and low-fuss way to make a tasty, moist chicken (as long as you have some time to spare).  I excel at things wherein the hardest part is the planning ahead, so this is the perfect recipe for me.

Zuni Café Roast Chicken

One small chicken, 2 3/4 to 3 1/2-pounds (this is important; chickens this small can be hard to find at the grocery store, but the size ensures ideal brining and roasting)
Assorted herbs (I’m using sage, rosemary, and lemon basil)
Plenty of salt (1-2 tablespoons)
3/4 to 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Season the chicken: [1 to 3 days before serving; give a 3 1/4 to 3 1/2-pound chicken at least 2 days]

Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside and out. Be thorough — a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming before it begins to turn golden brown.

Approaching from the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets. Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using your finger, shove some chopped herbs into each of the 4 pockets.  Stick any remaining herbs into the cavity.

Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper. Season the thick sections a little more heavily than the skinny ankles and wings. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity, on the backbone, but don’t otherwise worry about seasoning the inside. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Cover loosely and refrigerate.

Prepare your oven and pan: [Day of, total time is 45 minutes to 1 hour]

Preheat the oven to 475°F. Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle (I use a cast-iron pan). Preheat the pan over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle.

Roast the chicken: Place the chicken in the pan in the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce temperature by 25 degrees. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over — drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking. Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to recrisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes.

Rest the chicken: Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat. Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate.  Wait 10-15 minutes before carving and serving.

Serve with veggies, salad, couscous, rice, potatoes, whatever.



Post-Halloween Monster Cookies

Filed under: — Aprille @ 5:47 pm

I wanted to use up the chocolate from Miles’s trick-or-treat bag, since he seems to have developed a preference for Smarties and Dum-Dums and the like (whoa, weird dichotomy).

This is adapted from a recipe I found at allrecipes.com; it’s also a half-batch, so feel free to double it if you really want a lot of cookies.  The amounts here yielded about 3.5 dozen.


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 1/3 cups peanut butter
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 pinch salt
3 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup chopped-up chocolate candy (I used Snickers, Milky Way, M&Ms, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Milk Duds, and some dark chocolate I had lying around)


Preheat oven to 350F.  With a stand mixer if you have one, cream together softened butter and peanut butter.  Add sugars and beat until well-combined.  Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla and salt.

In a separate bowl, mix oats, flour, and baking soda.  Add to sugar mixture in several batches.  Stir in candy pieces by hand.  Make golf ball-sized balls and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets (important if you have any candy with caramel, as it will get pretty gooey).  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until slightly underdone-looking (they’ll finish cooking as they cool, and this will keep them chewier).  Cool and enjoy.


Caramel apples

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:49 pm

Check it out, I’m blogging about something not related to my kid.

I made caramel apples today.  I haven’t tried one yet, but they’re pretty.  My concern is that the caramel seems a little grainy (gleaned from the fact that I ate the dregs out of the pot with a spoon).  The taste is good, though.

I halved a recipe, and the recipe indicated the full version would coat 8-10 apples.  I found the half recipe to be barely enough to cover 3, which was fine since that was how many I wanted to make, but just keep this in mind.

Step 1:  toast and salt your nuts (optional)

All I keep around is kosher salt, which I knew wouldn’t stick to the nuts well, so I dissolved some in a little water, tossed the pecan pieces in it, and then toasted them up in a skillet until the water was evaporated and the nuts were kind of toasty.  I think they’re too salty to eat on their own (next time I’ll use either more nuts or less salt), but I think they’ll be a good foil for the caramel and apples.

Step 2:  Prepare your apples

While the nuts are cooling, wash your apples thoroughly.  I used some all-natural dish soap and scrubbed them really well.  The goal is to get rid of the coating that makes them shiny, because it also keeps the caramel from adhering.  Then stick skewers up their butts.  I looked at the store for skewers, and I couldn’t find any, but these chopsticks were cheap and kind of cool.

Step 3:  Prepare your caramel

(This is for a half-batch.)

1.5 Tbsps butter
.75 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp water
2 Tbsps whipping cream
scanty pinch kosher salt

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Add the brown sugar, water, and cream; stir until smooth.  Bring slowly to a boil, then cover and reduce heat.  Let it simmer for 3 minutes (in retrospect, I think I’d let it go a little longer).  Keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t boil over.  That’s a real mess.  It will be really bubbly, but try to keep it under control.

Remove from heat and let it cool.  It’s ready when it falls from the spoon in ribbons a bit thicker than what you see in the picture.

Step 4:  Coat your apples

Coat the apples in caramel, the coat in nuts.  I did all three apples in caramel and pressed some nuts onto the sides, but you could go immediate from caramel to nuts if you want, which would improve the nut coverage (Mine won’t have any on the bottoms, obviously).  You could also get wild and use other coatings, like chocolate chips or coconut or candies or something, but I personally find the caramel sweet enough and find too many coatings to be overkill.  But hey, do what makes you happy.

The recipe suggests letting them chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours, but mine wouldn’t fit in there with the chopsticks and all.  They seem to be doing okay on the counter.


Blueberry Cucumber Bread

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:46 am

It worked out pretty well, actually.

The cucumber, without its peel or seeds, pretty much just faded into the background and left me with a dense, moist, blueberry quickbread (not sweetbread.  Different thing.)  Denny and I polished half a loaf last night.  I bet if it hadn’t occurred after Miles’s bedtime, he would have liked it too.  We’ll find out soon.


3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce
~2.5 cups shredded cucumber from a cucumber that has been peeled and seeded    (for me, this was 1 large cucumber)
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
3 cups AP flour
2 tsp kosher salt or 1 tsp regular salt
1 tsp baking powder (I will increase this next time for more lift)
1/4 tsp baking soda (again, I will increase this next time)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 pint fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons raw or turbinado sugar


Heat oven to 350F.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat eggs lightly.  Add oil, applesauce, sugars, and vanilla; beat to combine.  Gently mix in cucumber.  In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; add to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.

Stop the mixer, remove the beater, and fold in the blueberries by hand.  Pour into 2 9×5 loaf pans.  Sprinkle each loaf with 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar.  Bake at 350F for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a pick comes out clean.



Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:31 am

We thought we were so smart by not planting any zucchini this year.

I was a little sad when Denny accidentally smashed one of my two cucumber plants in its infancy.

Yeah, turns out one is plenty.

I haven’t been very good about grabbing them up when they’re little, and I’m getting kind of sick of cucumber/tomato/onion salads (they’re great, but ya know).  I’m thinking about grating them up and using them like zucchini in a zucchini bread recipe.  I’ll report back.


Romance peach pie and my new favorite pie crust

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:46 pm

I have been on a hunt for a perfect pie crust for years.  My old stand-by, the Cooks Illustrated recipe, makes a delicious-tasting crust, but the dough is so delicate that I always end up swearing a lot when I make it.  Miles is getting old enough now that he shouldn’t hear sh*t like that.  What’s more, the CI recipe results in an extremely tender crust that can’t really hold up to juicy fruit fillings.  Getting a slice out of the pie pan usually results in a glob of fruit on the plate with pie crust sprinkled over it.

It’s tasty, yes, but not perfect.  It’s also kind of a pain, because it involves shortening and butter separately diced and chilled, then it’s done in the food processor, which seems easy at the time but loses its appeal when it comes time to clean all those parts.  And forget making a double batch.

Next I tried a supposedly fool-proof all-butter crust from Smitten Kitchen.  That author eschews the food processor and recommends a pastry blender.  To be fair, I was using a butter I hadn’t used very much (Lurpak), which I thought was going to be great because it was expensive and European.  But something went wrong, and although the dough was one hundred times easier to work with than the CI recipe, it resulted in a tough, really unpleasant crust.  To this day I’m embarrassed that I served it to my Grammy.

I didn’t make any pies for a while.

Then I found this recipe from the awesome Chez Pim.  She claims it’s perfect, suitable for sweet or savory fillings, one- or two-crust pies, tarts, even Pop-Tarts.

Her technique was one I’d never tried before.  Not only does she not recommend a food processor, she doesn’t even employ a pastry blender.  Wha?  I never realized there was alternative (except maybe two knives, but does anyone really do that?).  What she suggests is a method in which you plop unfussily-cut butter directly onto a pile of flour, then mash it with your palm.  You keep tossing flour into the mashed-butter, smashing and mooshing all the way, until it’s incorporated.  Then you throw some water on there and chill it.  That’s first step.

Next, you use a puff-pastry technique of multiple flips and folds that’s a lot easier than it sounds.  Pim’s site has a complete step-by-step with photos, and you’ll find it’s really quite simple.  It’s counter to all I’d read about pie crust prep, but having done it once now, I’m a true believer.

My crust came out crisp yet delicate, extremely flaky, and with the great flavor that can only come from good old salted butter.

I’m blogging a simplified version here, though I recommend you reference Pim’s original for your first time.  She admits to cribbing the idea from the Zuni Cafe, and they make a helluva chicken, so why not?

Fantastic Pie Crust that Makes Me Hopeful for Humanity

250 grams (~2.25 cups) AP flour
8 oz (2 sticks) salted butter
60 ml (.25 cup) cold water

Cut butter into slabs and work it into the flour with the heel of your left hand (or your right hand if you’re left-handed).  Use your other hand to scoop the loose flour into the mix with a pastry scraper.

When it’s a nice mix of big flakes of flour-coated butter and some smaller crumbs, make a well and pour in the water.  Quickly gather it all together with your fingers until it makes a cohesive ball.

Chill the ball for 30 minutes.

On a well-floured pastry board, roll the chilled dough ball into a rectangle, then fold it over into thirds (like folding a letter to put in an envelope).  Before you overlap any dough, brush off excess flour with a pastry brush (this is important, according to Pim.  I’m not going to doubt her on this.).  Rotate 90 degrees and repeat the rolling/brushing/folding.  Repeat, making a total of 3 or so operations.  The dough will become more elastic as you work.  This is what will save you from scarring your kid’s brain with profanities.

Divide into 2 balls, then chill for at least 30 minutes.

Roll one ball into a ~11-12 inch  round, then transfer to a 9-inch pie plate.  I did it on the first try, no horror at all!  Fill it with your favorite filling, then put egg wash around the outer edge.  Roll out the second ball and put it on top.  Pinch the edges decoratively.  Do an egg wash on top, and if it’s a sweet pie, sprinkle coarse sugar on top.

Romance Peach Pie filling

6-7 peaches, peeled and sliced
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice (I used white wine vinegar + Meyer lemon extract because I didn’t have a lemon around)
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 pinch salt
1 pinch cinnamon
dash cloves
dash nutmeg

Combine the above.  Be sure you’re using a glass pie pan.  Pour the filling into the lower crust and place the upper crust.  Cut vents in the upper crust.  Preheat oven to 500F with a rimmed metal baking pan in it.  When oven is ready, place pie pan directly on metal baking pan and lower heat to 425F.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Reduce heat to 375F and bake for another 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the juices bubble.  You may need to put a pie guard or aluminum foil around the edge to prevent over-browning.

Why is it Romance Peach Pie, you ask?  Well…Denny and I shared a peach on our first date, and we had peaches on our wedding cake, and peaches are always coming into season right around our anniversary.  So there you go.


Restaurant review: El Banditos

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:53 am

A newish Mexican restaurant is in Iowa City, on Market Street across from the Bluebird where Motley Cow used to be.  I heard some anecdotal good things about it, so we gave it a try last night.

Atmosphere:  it was very pleasant, small and cozy.  A lot of the Mexican places in town are just too big and loud, and that was not the case here at all.  The decor was not too kitschy.  The bar is nice, made in part from a tree that the owner rescued post-tornado.  I would have passed on the TVs playing sports, but a lot of people seem to enjoy that sort of thing.  Rating:  4/5

Service:  Our waiter was chill and friendly without being obnoxious.  He was nice to Miles.  I like that in a waiter.  Rating:  4/5

Drinks:  The drinks were the highlight of the evening for me.  I had a margarita and Denny had sangría.  My margarita was great.  It was expensive-ish ($6), but the portion was generous (pint glass) and I could tell the ingredients were high-quality.  It was very tart with a strong fresh citrus flavor, and the waiter mentioned that it’s all homemade with actual fruit juice and simple syrup, none of that bottled stuff with high fructose corn syrup.  Denny’s sangría was sweet and tasty without that harsh liquor taste that sometimes comes through in sangría.  Rating:  5/5

Chips and salsa:  The chips were obviously freshly made, hot and crisp.  We ate two baskets of them.  Miles liked them a lot.  The regular tomato salsa was okay, nothing special.  When Denny asked if it was very hot (mostly asking for Miles, I think), the waiter offered to bring out some habañero salsa if we liked it hotter.  We did, so he did.  The habañero salsa was in a tomatillo base, and it was certainly hotter than the tomato salsa, but still not blistering.  I liked it.  Rating:  3.5/5

Entrees:  I got carnitas (marinated pork) served with tortillas, rice and whole beans.  The meat was served in large chunks that were nicely seared on the outside and falling-apart tender once you poked them.  The rice and beans were bland.  Denny got a steak fajita burrito, which I didn’t try, but he said he liked.  It was a generous portion, and he brought home half.  I finished mine, but I usually do.  Rating:  3/5

We didn’t try any appetizers or desserts.

I heard that they’re expanding into the place next door, which would be nice since the space is pretty limited right now.  It would be a really fun place for after-work drinks and snacks.  The entrees, in my opinion, weren’t any better (or worse) than the existing Mexican joints in town, but the atmosphere and drinks were deciding factors for the positive.

Overall rating:  4/5

You can see the full menu and more details on their website.


Brownies. Oh yes.

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:11 pm

This recipe produces a slight variation on a batch of brownies Denny’s coworker Jay brought for us shortly after Miles was born.  They were seriously the best brownies I had ever had in my life.  Admittedly, I was sleep-deprived, starving from breastfeeding, and easily influenced.  Still, they will remain in my memory as the greatest treat in the world.

I was in the mood for a batch tonight, and I decided to make a few tweaks.  They’re still in the oven, but if the raw batter is any indication, they are fan-freaking-tastic. [Update:  the batter did not lie.]

The Best Brownies You Ever Put in Your Face

Preheat oven to 350F.

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons amaretto (original called for 1 tsp vanilla)
1/2 cup AP flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (original called for 1/4 tsp table salt)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt 1 stick the butter.  While it’s melting, mix the eggs, sugar, and amaretto in a medium bowl.  Add flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder, sifting the cocoa through a fine mesh strainer.

Brown the butter:  after it has melted, it will foam up.  Stir it frequently.  The foam will subside, then after a brief break from foam, more foam will appear.  Keep stirring often until it is a nice medium brown.  Remove from the heat.  Don’t let it get too brown, because it will continue to brown a little after it’s off the heat.

Carefully pour a little (maybe 1/4 of the saucepan’s contents) of the butter into the batter.  Stir to incorporate.  Repeat, a little at a time, until it’s all blended.  If you dump it in all at once it will separate, and that is gross.

Pour into a nonstick cooking sprayed 8×8 baking dish.  I had about half a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips lying around, so I sprinkled those on top.  You could do that too, if you wanted.  You could also use Andes mints, nuts, cut-up Snickers bars, whatever.  If I were you I wouldn’t get too crazy, though, since you don’t want to overwhelm the awesomeness of these brownies in their pure state.

Lick the bowl.  It’s your duty as an American.  When I did it, I actually said “Oh hell to the yes” out loud.

Bake for about 25 minutes.  Do not overbake—check it a little early.

“What do you mean, there are no more brownies?”


Galette des rois

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:40 am

I start thinking about my birthday cake months in advance.  Winter begins birthday season at our house—Miles’ is in January (supposed to be February, but in a way it’s kind of nice to spread out the celebrations a little), my mom’s and brother’s are in February, and Denny’s and mine are in March.  There are more as the spring continues in the extended family.  That’s a lot of cake in a short timeframe.

Making cakes is fun.  I don’t generally make a cake for people outside the “little family,” or as Miles calls it, “Mommy-Daddy-Mi.”  I’d be happy to if they asked or the opportunity arose, but it’s not part of our current set of traditions.  I look forward to making and sharing my own birthday cake and don’t find it depressing at all.  Sometimes people are shocked by this, and a while back, I mentioned making my own cake and bringing it to share with coworkers.   Someone in my sphere found the idea horrifying, and she insisted that she would bring a cake for me.

It was one of those things where I had to act like I was really appreciative—and I was appreciative of the gesture, because it obviously came from a place of generosity and kindness—but the fact is, I was psyched to make the cake.  And I couldn’t exactly say no, you know?  She asked me what my favorite kinds of cake were, and I told her, and then she brought something totally different.  It was fine.  I’m not picky at all, and I will eat just about any cake, but it was all kind of a let-down.

This year, I will not be thwarted.  I saw this recipe today, and while it’s not a cake technically speaking, I think it will be my special birthday treat.  Besides, after a cake for Miles (vanilla with orange cream filling and chocolate frosting) and Denny (carrot with cream cheese frosting), I might be ready for something else.

From Chocolate and Zucchini.

Galette des rois (Tart of Kings) — Original post has helpful photos

– 500 grams (17 2/3 ounces) all-butter puff pastry, thawed if frozen

For the crème d’amande:
– 125 grams (9 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
– 125 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar (I used a blond unrefined cane sugar)
– 110 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) almond meal (= finely ground almonds*)
– 20 grams (2 tablespoons) hazelnut flour or finely ground hazelnuts** (optional; you can also use all almond meal as in the classic galette)
– 8 grams (1 tablespoon) corn starch (in France, this is known under the brand name Maïzena)
– a good pinch sea salt
– 2 eggs
– 1 drop almond extract (optional)
– 1 tablespoon orange flower water or a liquor of your choice, such as Grand Marnier or rum

For the eggwash and glaze:
– 1 egg yolk
– 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

– 1 porcelain trinket or dried bean
– 2 paper crowns

Serves 6 to 8.

1. Prepare the crème d’amande.

Beat the butter until creamy, but avoid incorporating air into it. In a bowl, combine the sugar, almonds, hazelnuts, corn starch, and salt. Stir with a whisk to remove any lump. Add to the creamed butter and mix until smooth. Add the almond extract and orange flower water, then the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or overnight.

2. Roll out the puff pastry.

Divide the puff pastry in 2 equal pieces, and roll each one out to form a rough circle a little larger than 30 cm (12 inches) in diameter. Use a sharp knife and an upturned plate of the right dimension to cut a neat 30-cm (12-inch) circle out of one, and a slightly larger one with the other, adding, say, 6 mm (1/4 inch) all around the edge of the plate.

3. Assemble the galette.

Place the smaller of the two circles on a piece of parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk with a tablespoon water (or milk, if you have it handy) until smooth. Using a pastry brush, brush the outer rim of the dough lightly with the eggwash by a width of about 2.5 cm (1 inch). Make sure not to wet the actual edge of the dough, or it will impede its rise.

Pour the crème d’amande in the center and spread it out inside the eggwash ring with a spatula.

Place a porcelain fève, a dried bean, or the trinket of your choice in the crème d’amande — not in the center but closer to an edge, or your knife will keep running into it when you divide the galette. And if it is an elongated shape, make sure to orient it straight toward the center of the galette, again, to minimize the possibility of you hitting it with your knife (as you see in the picture below, mine was not, and sure enough, I cut right into the top of the little tower). Press it down gently to bury it.

Transfer the second round of dough precisely on top of the first, smooth it out gently over the crème d’amande to remove any air pocket, and press it down all around the sides to seal.

4. Score the galette.

Using the back of the tip of your knife (i.e. the dull side), draw a decorative pattern on top of the galette: a diamond-shaped grid, optionally with double or triple lines, a flower pattern… see examples here, here, here and here.

I chose to make a sun pattern as demonstrated in this video: you start from the center and draw an arc to reach the edge of the galette in a single, smooth gesture, exercising just enough pressure to score the dough without piercing it. You then turn the galette ever so slightly, draw a similar arc nested in the first one, and repeat until the entire galette is scored.

Holding your knife upright, blade down, and using the dull side of the blade, push the dough inward where each sun ray ends, to create a festooned pattern.

Brush the top of the galette lightly with the eggwash: again, make sure it doesn’t drip over the edges, or the eggwash will seal the layers of the puff pastry in this spot and it won’t develop as well. Let it rest a minute then brush it lightly again with the eggwash. (As you can see on the picture below, my eggwash pooled a bit around the bulge of the crème d’amande, which resulted in a darker coloring around the sides; I didn’t mind, but I’ll be more careful next time.)

Using the tip of your knife, pierce 5 holes in the top dough — one in the center, and four around the sides, piercing through the pattern you’ve drawn — to ensure an even rise.

Transfer to a baking sheet or a tart pan with a removable bottom, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (Alternatively, you can place the galette in the freezer at this point, on the baking sheet or pan, and bake it the next day. Although I haven’t tried it, I’m sure you could prepare it up to a week or so in advance: once the galette is thoroughly frozen, transfer it to a tightly sealed bag to avoid freezer burn.)

5. Bake the galette.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F); if the galette was in the freezer, take it out while the oven preheats. Insert the galette in the middle of the oven and bake for 30 minutes (35 if it was frozen), until puffy and golden brown.

In the final minutes of baking, combine the tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar with a tablespoon very hot water (heated until boiling in the kettle or the microwave). When the galette is done, remove it from the oven, brush it across the top with the sryup, and return it to the oven for a minute; this will give it a shiny finish.

Place on a rack to cool completely (it will settle as it cools) and serve at room temperature. (Some people prefer it slightly warm, so they reheat it slightly in a warm oven before serving.) The traditional pairing is with Champagne or hard cider.

Have one of the guests (usually the youngest) hide under the table if he’s willing, or at least cover his eyes or turn his back to the table. Cut the galette into servings and, for each serving, have the guest decide who should have it. If your guests are unfamiliar with the tradition, make sure you warn everyone that a fève may be hiding in their slice. Whoever finds it is king/queen for the day, receives a paper crown, and gets to pick his/her queen/king (or king/queen for that matter) by giving her/him the second paper crown.

* I normally mention that you can also grind your own almonds, but here it is worth seeking out almond meal (you’ll find it at natural food stores and Middle-Eastern markets): it is a lot more finely ground than what you could achieve at home, and this will make the crème d’amande incomparably smooth.

** Read more about the hazelnut flour I used. Alternatively, you can grind the hazelnuts yourself if you prefer: place 20 grams (3 tablespoons) shelled hazelnuts in a blender with 2 tablespoons of the sugar used in the crème d’amande, and pulse until finely ground.


Black bean soup

Filed under: — Aprille @ 11:59 am

Vegetarian (even vegan, I think) Black Bean Soup

1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1.5 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cumin
2 15-ounce cans black beans, undrained
hot sauce to taste
juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime

Combine first 7 ingredients in a Crock Pot, plus half a can of beans.  Cook on low for, you know, whatever (a few hours, probably even a whole workday would be okay).   Using an immersion blender if you have one, or transferring the contents into a blender if you don’t, puree the cooked contents.  It’s okay if it’s not 100% uniform.  Add remaining beans and lemon juice.  Leave in the Crock Pot until it’s all hot.  Serve with whatever toppings you like, e.g., sour cream, salsa, cilantro, cheese, corn chips.


Apple Cake

Filed under: — Aprille @ 10:52 am

When I was a little kid, I thought my name was Apple Clock.  The title of this post reminded me of that.

The apple cake with apples from yesterday’s orchard adventure turned out very well—so well, in fact, we (mostly I, although Denny and Miles did their fair share as well) managed to consume almost half of it in the first 12 hours of its existence.  I put some in the freezer where I hope to forget about it and then have a nice surprise some time in the future when I’m looking for frozen chili.

I used basically this recipe.  My only changes were that I used pecans instead of walnuts and some brown sugar in place of part of the white sugar.


Filed under: — Aprille @ 10:37 am

Man, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted.  I think between the Twitter and the Facebook and the everything else, blogging has fallen by the wayside.

I did, however, think of something I wanted to write about.

Yesterday was Denny and my anniverary (Denny’s and my?  Denny and I’s?  None sounds right).  On Wednesday night we went out for a lovely romantic dinner complete with champagne and the Mubby/Skittergramps babysitting service.  It was lots of fun.  Champagne makes me giggly.  The food was fantastic, as it always is at the Lincoln Café, and we even spent some time at the wine bar while we waited for our table, enjoying a couple of glasses and some spiced almonds.  When we got home, Miles was already asleep.

Last night, though, we were back to our normal routine.  Denny ran late at work, so Miles and I went downtown to meet him.  We had an informal dinner, then stopped by the library.  After that, Miles scrambled around on the playground right outside the library, and he made a little visit to the fountain as well.  We shared some gelato and enjoyed the beautiful evening.

And you know what?  I don’t know which of my two anniverary nights I liked more.

It also didn’t hurt that Denny had flowers sent to the house yesterday.  Miles tried to eat them, but his Beaniesitter thwarted him.

Having Denny and Miles in my life lets me enjoy so many different things in so many different ways.

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