Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lost Knitting

At some point during our WPPI trip, probably in cab ride to the hotel, I lost my knitting bag containing a half knit sock, addi circular needles and a tapestry needle. It wouldn't have been so bad if I didn't already have the other sock finished. It's been sitting all alone waiting for it's mate.

The hardest part has been trying to find the yarn. I originally got it on clearance at Ben Franklin and they no longer carry it. I found a list of stores where Skacel yarn is sold in WA and called 23 different yarn stores in the area but none of them had what I was looking for. Some even thought the Fortissima Socka yarn was discontinued. Things were not looking good.

3 of the 23 offered to call Skacel and special order it if they still carried it. After calling every store listed in a 30 mile radius of Redmond I decided to attempt a special order. I gave two of the stores my number and the first to call back was Cultured Pearls in Issaquah. They said they called Skacel and they had a couple of bags of the yarn left so they will be ordering it for me. yay!

I still need to order another set of Addi circular needles and a knitting bag. I should have another tapestry needle somewhere. I probably won't be able to get another bag with the same pattern since they are basically made to order and it doesn't appear that particular fabric is available anymore. Looking forward to getting this sock finally finished.

Knitting BagKnitting bag that was lost in Vegas
Fortissima Socka 100The hard to find sock yarn.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"U" is for Udon

There aren't too many foods that start with U. Udon noodles seemed to be the best choice. I found a good looking recipe for Udon Peanut Butter Noodles on allrecipes.com that I decided to give a try.

The only alteration I made to the recipe was adding a bit of Sriracha sauce to give it a little more spice, cuz I like spicy!

* 1 (9 ounce) package dried udon noodles
* 1/2 cup chicken broth
* 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
* 3 tablespoons soy sauce
* 3 tablespoons peanut butter
* 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
* 2 teaspoons chili oil
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 whole rotisserie chicken, shredded
* 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
* 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
* 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

The most time consuming part of this recipe is preparing all the vegetables and shredding the chicken. It doesn't take long once all the prep work is done.

Bring a large pot with lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Drop the udon in a few noodles at a time and return to a boil. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta has cooked through, but is still firm to the bite, 10 minutes. Drain; return to the pot.

While the udon noodles are cooking, whisk the chicken broth, ginger, soy sauce, peanut butter, honey, chile oil, and garlic in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, whisking until the peanut butter has melted. Pour the sauce over the noodles. Add the chicken and red bell pepper; toss until the noodles are evenly coated in the sauce. Sprinkle with green onions, chopped peanuts, and cilantro to serve.

This was my first time making udon noodles. The sauce was a great mix of sweet and spice.
Peanut Sauce
U is for Udon

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chipotle Pork Tamales

This week was the letter "T" for the Food: A-Z project. Can't believe the project is almost over! I decided to make tamales this week. I grew up helping my mom make tamales when I was a kid but never actually made them myself until now. This project is turning out to be a "food I always wanted to make" project. Mom still sends me some when she makes a batch. When she makes them, she makes a lot, like probably at least 100, maybe 200 and freezes them. If you don't feel like making dinner/lunch, just pop them in the microwave for a minute or two and you're good to go. My batch ended up making 22 tamales. I will probably put most of them in the freezer too.

I pretty much made up my own recipe. I took a look at a couple online and got some general ideas of what spices to use which is pretty much what I had in mind to use already. I did find one recipe on cooking-mexican-recipes.com that had some Ibarra chocolate in it which I just happened to have so I threw some of that in there. I don't think mom ever used that in her tamales. Here's the recipe I threw together.

Soaking HusksPreparing Corn husks:
Soak corn husks in hot water for at least 1 hour up to overnight. Put something on top of them so they submerge in the water and don't float. I used a pyrex measuring cup. Gently separate the husks. I make two piles, one with short small husks and another pile for the larger husks. If some are torn you can use one of the smaller husks to fill the gap and over lap them before putting masa on them. Pat dry with a towel just before filling or masa will not stick to husk very easily.

Pork Filling:Tamale Pork Filling
* 4lb pork shoulder roast, cubed
* 70 oz. chicken broth
* 1/3 cup chili powder
* 1 Tbs. cumin
* 2 Tbs. Garlic powder
* 1 tsp. salt
* 5 dried chipotle peppers
* 2 Tbs. red pepper flakes
* 2 triangles of Ibarra chocolate
* 6 Tbs. flour
* 3/4 cup cold water

Soak chipotle peppers in hot water for about 30 minutes to soften.

While peppers are soaking, fill a large pot with chicken broth (I used water + 8 chicken bouillon cubes). Add chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, red pepper flakes and chocolate and bring to a boil. Simmer on low while you cut the pork into 1/2-1 inch cubes, or larger pieces if you want shredded pork.

Drain water from chipotle peppers and remove stems. Put softened chilies in a food processor and add about a half cup of the liquid that is simmering to make a paste.

Add the pork and chipotle paste to the simmering pot of water and stir to mix. Partially cover and simmer on low for 2-3 hours until pork is very tender.

Combine the cold water with the flour and whisk until there are no clumps. Turn the heat up until boiling and slowly add flour mixture while stirring for 3-5 minutes to avoid clumps then turn off heat.

Masa Batter:
* 2/3 cup solid shortening or lard
* 4 cups Quaker Masa Harina de Maíz
* 1 tsp. salt
* 2 cups reserved chicken broth
* 1/3 cup shortening or lard, melted

In large bowl, beat 2/3 cup shortening until fluffy. In medium bowl, combine masa and 1 teaspoon salt. Alternately add masa and broth to shortening, mixing well after each addition. Gradually beat in 1/3 cup melted shortening, mixing to consistency of thick cake batter. Add additional water or masa mix if needed.

Spread approximately 2 Tbsp masa batter in center of each husk. Spoon 1 Tbsp meat filling lengthwise down center of masa. Fold husk over filling, allowing plain part of husk to wrap around tamale. Fold bottom end up over enclosed filling.
Tamale Assembly

Steaming: In steamer or 4-qt. Dutch oven, place rack 2 inches above gently boiling water. Arrange tamales upright in steamer basket. Do not pack tightly as tamales will expand during steaming. Fill in spaces with extra corn husks to keep upright. Cover top of tamales with additional husks; cover, steam 2-1/2 to 3 hours or until tamales are firm and fall away from husk.
Tamales ready to cook
T is for Tamale
Chipotle Pork Tamales on Foodista

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sweet Tartelette Workshops

I found out about Helen Dujardin of mytartelette.com's workshops from Seattle BonVivant. She tweeted about them a couple of months ago. There were two workshops with limited availability so I quickly signed up for both. One was a Photography workshop and the other a macaron making workshop.

Photography Workshop:
The Friday before the workshop and the day we were heading to Vegas for WPPI, I found out we were to bring our own food to shoot for the workshop, not something I had planned on needing to do and to be honest, I'm not sure I would have signed up had I known that. The workshop was on the following Tuesday and we didn't get back from Vegas until about 2 am on Tuesday. Luckily the workshop wasn't until 10:00 AM so I was able to sleep in a bit. I decided to go to Bakery Nouveau for my food shooting items. I've heard great things about this bakery, except for the fact that they don't allow photography in their bakery. I looked for the prettiest pastry they had and decided on the Phoenix and also picked up another not as pretty pasty and a latte. The workshop was in downtown Seattle so on top of that I also paid for parking at Pacific Place.

There was a bit of technical difficulties with the presentation, but eventually things got rolling and helen gave a nice presentation and showed us some of her work that has been in magazines and cookbooks. She's a fan of back lighting, something I rarely, if ever use. I'm a front/side lighter myself. She got some great results from back lighting though so I may try working with that more often. She stressed how you don't need a fancy pro-level camera to get good shots. What is most important is lighting. She showed several great shots she had taken with an entry level Canon XTI that were in magazines to prove her point. She also encouraged using a tripod if there's not enough light to allow you to hand-hold the camera. I don't think anyone had brought a tripod.

The area we were in had huge windows with some great light. It was a cloudy day so the light wasn't too harsh and if it were, there were light curtains that could be closed to diffuse the light if needed. There was plenty of space for people to spread out and take pictures near the windows. I shared a space with two other people around the corner from everyone else. There was a long marble table near the window that I thought was the perfect space to set up. I forgot to bring a reflector, but Brenda was happy to share hers. I really need to get myself some small reflectors for shooting food.

Helen shows some magazines that she has photos published in.
Helen Dujardin
This is the Phoenix (triple layer mousse) from Bakery Nouveau
Phoenix from Bakery Nouveau
Valentina, who I shared a photo workspace with
Work Space Valentina Shoots on the Floor
I used the flowers that were on the table for styling a couple of shots.
Do Si Dos Bundt Cake

Macaron Workshop:
The following day was the macaron making workshop at the same location. We were asked to bring a few items to share like mixers, bowls, scales, aprons, etc which I didn't mind. We were also provided with a few items to keep. We each were handed a paper bag that contained a small container of powdered food coloring (I got green), a plastic piping bag, an 807 tip for our pastry bags and a nice little cardboard box for our finished macarons.

I've never made macarons before and I'm actually not sure I've ever even had one. I thought I had at least once a long time ago but I may have been thinking about something else because they weren't the texture or taste that I had remembered.

It seems these are difficult to make if you've never done it before and I can see why. There are lots of little tricks and things you have to do just right or they won't come out right. A few of the tips I learned from Helen are:
- Use aged eggs (separate eggs 48 hours in advance)
- weigh your ingredients instead of using measuring cups, it's more accurate
- use powdered food coloring instead of liquid
- whipped egg whites should be VERY firm
- consistency of batter should not be too thin. If it's too thin, you've folded too much. Should drop off spoon after about 8-10 seconds.
- after piping the batter onto wax paper or Silpat, tap the cookie sheet to flatten more and let sit for about 30 minutes before baking.
- They are better after sitting in the fridge 24-48 hours.

I know that's a lot of tips but I thought they were good tips and they might help someone who has never made them before.

We paired up with someone to make our own batches of macarons. I actually had 2 people on my team. Unfortunately they both had to leave before they were done. I was happy to share them with Jackie and Charity, who were photographing the event and didn't make any of their own.

Here's the recipe from Helen that we used for the workshop.

90 gr egg whites (roughly 3 egg whites after aging)
25 gr to 50gr (2 Tb to 1/4 cup) granulated sugar
200 gr ( 1.5 cups + 2Tb) powdered sugar
110 gr almonds ( 3/4 cup) (we used almond flour)
1 tablespoon powdered food coloring (optional)

Prep the eggs: 48 hrs in advance, separate the whites from the yolks and place the whites in a super clean bowl. Leave at room temp, uncovered or loosely covered with a towel at least 24 hrs. Refrigerate after that if desired. You can use eggs that have been "aging" for up to 5 days.

Prepare the macarons:
Place the powdered sugar and almonds in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Sift a couple of time to remove bits and pieces. Regrind if necessary. You can also use a coffee grinder for the nuts. Once your nuts and powdered sugar are mixed together, add the color if using and rub the mixture in between your fingertips to break the bigger pieces. Sift if desired.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, (think bubble bath foam) gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (think shaving cream). Do not over beat your meringue or it will be too dry.

Add the nuts and powdered sugar to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit.

If using convection: preheat the oven to 280F. If using regular electric or gas, preheat the oven to 300F - 310F. When ready, bake for 18 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool.

We didn't make the filling, it was pre-made before hand for us. The recipe for the chocolate ganache we used for the filling was just 1 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate and 3/4 cup heavy cream. I think using Nutella would be a great idea for filling.

Helen Pipes Taking Notes
Piping Macarons
Filling Macarons Stacking Macarons
Stack of Macarons

More photos from these workshops can be found on my Workshops w/ Helen Flickr set.

Also check out these blog posts from other attendees:

Jackie Writes
Giovanna Strifles

Also check out this cute little video by Luuvuh Hoang:

The Green Macaron from LuuvuH on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sugar Pie Fail

I think this is my first fail post. I decided to try making a Sugar Pie for "S" week and it was an utter failure. Maybe I shouldn't have bothered after reading that Jackie Baisa herself had some failures making this. She made it sound worth it and even posted the recipe that worked for her on her blog. I always enjoy a good challenge, but it's more fun when the challenge doesn't fail. The recipe is surprisingly simple, it's only 5 ingredients plus a pie shell. How hard can it be right?

The only difference in the ingredients were that I used light brown sugar rather than dark brown sugar and Grade A syrup instead of Grade B. I'm not sure that would have made any difference. I also used a deep dish pie crust and I don't think it should be though I doubt that was the reason for the failure either.

I'm thinking it failed because I didn't let the filling cool before filling the pie crust. It doesn't really say to in the recipe, but since I used a ready made pie crust I didn't have to make one and I think Jackie may have gotten the crust ready as the filling was cooling. I read a few other recipes for sugar pie that say to let it cool before filling but I didn't read those until after I took it out of the oven. Maybe I'll try it again, maybe not. I haven't decided. Here's the recipe I used, taken from Jackie's blog and updated with the minor changes I mentioned. You probably shouldn't follow this recipe...

1/4 cup maple syrup (I used Grade B maple syrup)
2 TB butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup brown sugar (I used light brown, because that's what I had)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
8-inch pie crust

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a heavy saucepan, bring the syrup and butter to a boil, whisking constantly. Whisk in the cream and slowly add the sugar and flour, whisking constantly. Keep whisking and bring to a boil. Lower heat slightly so that the mixture does not boil over, but continues to simmer. Stir and cook until mixture thickens substantially, about 10 minutes.

I used a ready made deep dish pie crust but I don't recommend deep dish. Pour the the thickened syrup filling into the pie shell. Bake for 30 minutes or until filling develops a dark brown crust on top. Remove pie and cool to room temperature before slicing. Serve with freshly made whipped cream.

Boiling and StiringPouring
S is for Sugar Pie Fail
It actually looked much worse. There was a lot of liquid on top when I pulled it out of the oven which made it really hard to photograph. I think some of the liquid seeped back into the pie after I let it sit for a while. I will probably take a taste of it before I throw it in the garbage for real.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Rices & Risotto

RicesI knew there were a lot of different rices but had no idea how many. I might have guessed 20 or 30. I decided to google it and according to WikiAnswers there are 140! I was a little off on my guess. Of those 140 I have a whopping 4. I decided to take a photo of all 4 to show the differences. Jasmine and long grain are pretty hard to tell apart. They are the top two. Bottom left is the Arborio, used for Risotto and bottom right is Calrose.

For "R" Week in the Food A-Z project not only did I make Rice, I made Risotto. I should get bonus points for making something with two names that start with R. I used a recipe for Lemon Risotto that I found on Food Network. I followed the directions for the most part. Only substitution I made was using chicken stock instead of vegetable stock. Is stock the same thing as broth? I'm not sure. They had vegetable broth but no stock at the store so I decided to just get chicken stock. I also chopped the shallots and celery by hand rather than using the food processor.

This is only my second time making Risotto so I'm still pretty new at it. I think I liked the flavor of the first risotto I made which was a gorgonzola risotto. Gorgonzola makes anything taste better if you ask me. Both times I undercooked it a bit. I think I will need to practice making it a few more times.

* 2 shallots, chopped
* 1 rib celery, chopped
* 1/4 cup unsalted butter
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 1/3 cups risotto Arborio rice
* Approximately 1 quart chicken stock
* 1/2 unwaxed lemon, zested and juiced
* Needles from 2 small sprigs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
* 1 egg yolk
* 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus more, for garnish
* 4 tablespoons heavy cream
* Good grating black pepper, preferably white
* Maldon or other sea salt, to taste


Heat half the butter, the oil and the shallot and celery mixture in a wide saucepan, and cook to soften the mixture for about 5 minutes, making sure it doesn't stick. Mix in the rice, stirring to give it a good coating of oil and butter. Meanwhile, heat the stock in another saucepan and keep it at the simmering point.

Put a ladleful of the stock into the rice and keep stirring until the stock is absorbed. Then add another ladleful and stir again. Continue doing this until the rice is al dente. You may not need all of the stock, equally, you may need to add hot water from the kettle.

Mix the lemon zest and the rosemary into the risotto, and in a small bowl beat the egg yolk, lemon juice, Parmesan, cream and pepper.

When the risotto is ready - when the rice is no longer chalky, but still has some bite - take it off the heat and add the bowl of eggy, lemony mixture, and the remaining butter and salt, to taste. Serve with more Parmesan if you wish, check the seasoning and dive in.

Lemon and Rosemary

R is for Risotto

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Spinach QuicheAnother one of those meals I've never made but kind of always wanted to. I guess the closest thing to quiche I've made is the cheeseburger pie recipe on the back of a Bisquick box which actually isn't too bad! This week for Food A-Z project the letter was Q. If you've ever tried to find a food that starts with Q you'll know that there's really not much out there. Quesadilla was my 2nd choice.

So I searched the interwebs for a good looking quiche recipe and happened across a spinach quiche recipe on allrecipes.com. The only changes I made to the recipes were leaving out the mushrooms and I used herb feta instead of garlic and herb feta. I used an extra clove of garlic to make up for it.

* 1/2 cup butter
* 4 cloves garlic, chopped
* 1 small onion, chopped
* 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
* 1 (6 ounce) package herb feta, crumbled
* 1 (8 ounce) package shredded Cheddar cheese
* salt and pepper to taste
* 1 (9 inch) unbaked deep dish pie crust
* 4 eggs, beaten
* 1 cup milk
* salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
2. In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Saute garlic and onion in butter until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Stir in spinach, feta and 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon mixture into pie crust.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into the pastry shell, allowing egg mixture to thoroughly combine with spinach mixture.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle top with remaining Cheddar cheese, and bake an additional 35 to 40 minutes, until set in center. Allow to stand 10 minutes before serving.

I thought it turned out pretty tasty but would make a few changes if I were to make it again. I had a fair amount of cheddar cheese left over and also some of the egg/milk mixture. There was a just a bit of excess liquid in the bottom of the pan so I think decreasing the milk and butter a bit would help with that. I would definitely try this recipe again.

Quiche - Pre BakeThis was before adding the milk & egg mixture. You can see there is some excess butter that might benefit without.
Q is for QuicheYou can also see some of the excess liquid in the bottom of the pan here which I think with a little less butter and milk could have been avoided and would give a crispier bottom crust.