Thursday, December 31, 2009

Its Official

As I anxiously stood at the window waiting for the mailman to show up, I remember that last year hanging out by the Space Needle for New Years fireworks a radio reporter asked me what my resolution for 2009 was. I responded to join the Peace Corps. And when the mailman finally came at five o clock (!), and handed me (because of course I opened the door to rush out and meet him) my packet it looks like that has officially come true. I have been invited to serve in the Kyrgyz Republic (also known as Kyrgyzstan), leaving for my staging (this part is in a US city, though I don’t know which yet) is on March 26th, 2010, and three days later I’ll be chilling (literally, also as an English teacher I should probably practice less vernacular based vocabulary) in the Kyrgyz republic. I come back May 28th, 2012.

As my friend Sarah eloquently put it: “Didn’t we know that eight months ago?” While I was pretty confident, I got more and more nervous when my invite didn’t come. Three and a half weeks ago I received an e-mail saying 400 positions had been cut and all the invites for the program I had been nominated would get invites in the next three weeks. By the time Christmas rolled around and I was invite free my slight anxiety had built up to pretty high levels. Now though, all I have to stress about is packing. It should be noted (in case you haven’t figured it out) this is going to be my Peace Corps blog, so when I’m gone I’ll be able to post updates on this.

Thoughts about Kyrgyzstan: Bordered by China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; the type of government is a republic; 75% Muslim, 20% Russian orthodox, and 5% other; 64.7% speak Kyrgyz and 12.5% Russian; Slightly smaller than South Dakota; temperate in Northern foothills, subtropical in Southwest, dry continental to polar in Mountains; it is referred to as the “Switzerland of Central Asia” sadly not because of chocolate or world peace, but Mountains; the international airport in the major city of Bishek serves London, Moscow, Istanbul, Delhi, and Beijing; I’ll be there.

A roundtrip flight in late June costs 1359, so start saving your money so you can come visit me. And also, happy New Years! PS All pictures are lifted from Wikipedia who probably lifted them from someone else.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Let it Snow

Last night there was fire. The cousins have been clamoring for a fire for quite a while and we got a pretty good one going, sitting super close and drinking hot chocolate. A few renditions of ‘Let it Snow’ were even sung.
Oops. Because it did snow, as I was getting ready to leave work, and it is still snowing. Snow used to be something that I loved and wished for every year without fail. My parents and other adults would complain, but me? A half inch and school was canceled, streets were blanketed in a much prettier way than asphalt, and hot chocolate was almost always guaranteed. Then last year, when I was stuck in Vegas for several days (mind you I’m not even old enough to gamble) and the only place to stay was in Newf Rescue. Mind you, more eventful than the entire tour bus confined trip I was just coming back from.This year though not even the long walk with flats that clearly are not waterproof could bring me down. Part of that, I imagine is snow in its all its cliché white goodness falling in what seems to be slow motion.

The other part is that my invitation is in the mail! That’s right, I’ve been invited to the Peace Corps! For those of you that have been following along, I got nominated to serve almost a year ago, medically cleared several months ago, and have been waiting on edge the rest. In a few days (my guess is Saturday) I will know when and where I am going 100% sure.

As I’ve been freaking out about not getting an invitation this is extremely exciting. I’ll post an update once I get the packet in the mail!

PS Getting back with sopping wet shoes is made better when you find a note like this on your bedstand)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pasta Addict has moved!

An outcome of Apollo and Daphne if Apollo hadn't been a pyscho rapist



Not domains or anything, I have officially lived in Portland for a grand total of three days now, and the first was spent mostly driving the car. I’ve been to Powells, the best place on Earth, I’ve been to Vodoo Donuts, and I’ve walked the 20 odd blocks from my new place to the electronics store to buy a charger. Besides that, mostly just work and back.
Which is nice, my commute is about forty minutes but half that is walking slowly. In the neighborhood side I pass by everything stereotypically Portland, bikers, dogs, children, etc. Once I’m over the bridge though everyone seems to be smoking. Maybe I’m just in the sketch part of town (the first day my boss explained to never come too early since we’re a hotspot for the homeless), but either way it seems sort of odd. Even on the Ave it wasn’t this prevalent.
My first few days have been smooth other than the absence of my phone charger. It was a lovely walk to radio shack though (that’s where these pictures are from). I could have driven but I was looking for a photo walk and this one took me by the post office too. Plus it was the first dry day, and not even too cold.
Why, you may ask, is this post not about food? The answer is that my Aunt whom I’m living with is such a good cook and doesn’t want any help in the kitchen. So this will be getting a little more personal, though hopefully still as photogenic.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Turnip Souffle

Turnips are a stranger to my family. As we sat reviewing what we would get in our CSA box this week, we debated for a while wether to change them out or not, before deciding to keep them in and try them. They’re strange looking things, tinted with purple but mostly white, and when I searched for recipes a soufflé caught my eye. It sounded bizarre, but so was this vegetable to me and so I tried it. Overall, positive response. Not ‘I want to eat this every day’ but ‘I’d have this again.’ I even cut up the greens and added them to a salad, its awesome when you can use all of the vegetable. And while I should be working on my last final (ever!) I’m writing this instead.

Turnip Souffle
Adapted from Back to Bakas
Serves 4

3 medium turnips
2 cups of chicken stock
2 TBSP butter
1 TBSP brown sugarpinch of salt, pepper
1 TSP baking powder
2 eggs
3 TBSP butter
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs

Peel turnips, cut into ½ inch chunks. Boil in chicken stock like making mashed potatoes. Drain chicken stock (I turned mine into gravy), and mash turnips. Saute bread crumbs with butter in separate pan, and add all other ingredients but egg whites (beaten till fluffy). Fold in the egg whites and spoon into soufflé dishes, put bread crumbs on top. Bake for 25 minutes at 350, and enjoy!

I mixed my bread crumbs in instead of puting them on top and it worked just fine.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pickled Carrot Sticks

I don’t really like carrots. I’m still getting over my childhood aversion to anything that seems like it might be remotely healthy to me (the last time I ate a carrot it had more ranch on it than carrot), but these make my Mom ridiculously happy and are also ridiculously easy to make. A win win situation for everyone.
This is the third time making them, and my first with baby carrots (which apparently are grown less healthy?), for an appetizer to my pre-Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. Since I didn’t have to peel the carrots it took me about one minute of prep time and however long it takes liquid to boil to make this. It really doesn’t get much easier.

Pickled Carrot Sticks
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup cider vinegar (or ½ cup normal vinegar and cider each)
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ tablespoon dill weed
1 ½ tablespoon salt
2 garlic cloves slightly crushed
1 ¼ cup water
1 pound carrots

Peel and then quarter carrots, if using baby carrots simply halve them to make thinner sticks. Place in Tupperware container that will fit in your fridge. Boil remaining ingredients, then bring to simmer for two minutes. Pour over carrots, let cool, stick in fridge. Eat after 24 hours, keeps for a month.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Chili, Coffee, and Steak; oh my!

This steak was a huge hit. It had a little too much of a kick for me, but I also fail at eating spicy food. It was however, delicious, and for the second time of using coffee I once again did not taste it. This is also a blog I haven’t tried anything from before and it got raves. I used it on steak, but originally it was used on pork. I think serving it with sweet potatoes would be great, because with the cauliflower it was a little much.
Coffee-Chili Steak
Adapted from Tasty Eats at Home

1 T canola oil
1 1/2 T finely ground espresso powder
1 1/2 T ground chile powder, such as ancho or cascabel
1/2 T dark brown sugar
1/4 T dry mustard
1/4 T ground coriander
½ T garlic salt
1/4 T freshly ground black pepper
1 ¼ lb steak

Combine all spices and oil in a small bowl. This will create a coarse mixture, which you then spread on the steak. Refrigerate for 3 hours. Heat up the grill, it should take about 8 minutes to cook, but because the rub is so dark is a little hard to tell. Serve and enjoy.

As you can tell this is a fast and easy rub, and you an even skip the marination process.

Fall Cauliflower

It’s fall. And in Seattle this means two things, one being that the rain is coming down in droves, and the second that it is unbelievably beautiful out. This recipe just seemed so fall like that I had to try it, and it was good. I’ve never had cauliflower not with cheese, but this topping was delightful. The one thing I wasn’t in love with was the texture of the cauliflower, I don’t like it baked so much.

Cauliflower with Raisins
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 3 servings

1 head cauliflower, trimmed of leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons fresh soft bread crumbs
1 tablespoon plus
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons whole almonds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons raisins
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped tarragon
1 teaspoon finely sliced chives.

Sauté bread crumbs in 1 tablespoon butter for three minutes until toasted and golden brown. Set aside, and put in almonds and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Toss until lightly browned and then remove from pan. Roughly chopped (we pulled out the wooden bowl and chopped used to make charoses), and then also set outside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wipe out pan and add remaining olive oil, cut cauliflower into slices (which I was less successful at) and sauté until lightly browned on each side. Since I don’t have an oven proof skillet, I transferred everything onto a pan and baked that for 12 minutes which worked well.

So I busted the pan back out, poured the vinegar and remaining butter and raisins, and cooked until plump, about five minutes. Then add the drained raisins, almonds, capers, and spices together. Once the cauliflower is cooked pour this on top, and then spread over the bread crumbs. Serve immediately!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Milk made from butter

My Dad recently had his birthday (although out of town without me) and I can never turn down an excuse for cake making, so I decided to embark on this recipe. I was nervous about the amount of coffee considering what a bad Seattlelite I am (hot chocolate any day), but this cake was so good and so moist and so did not taste like coffee that it was clearly worth it. So instead of doing the mountains of homework I have, I adapted this cake recipe. It originally called for a ganche frosting, but I decided to go head over heels with chocolate and pair it with fresh whipped cream instead.

Fun anecdote of the day: When I was shopping for buttermilk (which I did not find as the recipe below reveals) I asked for the help of a friendly Safeway employee. His reply, verbatim: Is that milk made from butter?
Also, it turns out that I suck at cake decorating. This is so structurally unsound and the first cake came out of the pan more in crumbs than a cake form. And by the time the cake had been frosted for half an hour three serious cracks had appeared. So I would follow Smitten’s advice on the parchment/wax paper because she clearly had a point.

Double Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Filling
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Cake Layers
3 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Brew coffee and cover chocolate chips with it, stirring until all melted and smooth. This takes a little while. In the meantime, beat the three eggs into a consistent mixture. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Add in all other ingredients. Grease three round pans (I had enough batter to fill two eight inch and one ten inch which was the best I could with available cookware) and line with wax/parchment paper then fill with batter. Bake at 300 for 50 minutes to an hour and ten minutes.

Raspberry Filling
12 oz frozen raspberries
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Thaw the raspberries and then blend (I had to add about a fourth cup of hot water to get a more liquidy mixture), push through a sieve (or whatever mesh you can improvise) into a pot to get rid of seeds. I found the back of a spoon pretty helpful. Add in the sugar and cornstarch and bring to a boil, letting thicken. Wait to completely cool to spread between layers.

1 carton heavy whipping cream
Sugar to taste

Combine and mix until fluffy. Use to frost outside of the cake (I used as filling for the second layer to mix things up and put more raspberry on top).

This is really good. Like, maybe the chocolate cake I've ever had even if it is super ugly. Seriously, go make this, right now.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Yummy to the extreme

Things that are not photogenic with my not so awesome camera: things that are white, which mostly today includes tzatziki sauce and the pita bread. So I’ll provide the links for both of those, but only talk about the kebabs here.

These kebabs were awesome, I was unsure about how cooking something covered in yogurt was going to go down, but that all burned off and left a slightly lemony purely delicious meat. I love lamb, as a side note. Like love, like I don’t understand why I forgot about it until this recipe and never buy it at the store. Maybe because the word lamb is so cute and makes me feel like a bad person? Something for you all to ponder.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, as well as the Pita and tzatziki
Lamb Kebabs

1 pound plain yogurt (regular or lowfat)
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing grill
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (This takes more than the lemon you bought for zest)
5 tablespoons fresh whole rosemary leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds top round lamb (I used a shoulder cut that was awesome)
1 red onion

First mix everything except for the lamb and onion together in a bowl. Stir. Cut the lamb (using scissors people! How thrilling is that?) into little kebab sized chunks about an inch and a half big. Let marinate between two days and four hours, then stick on a kebab stick as well as cut up pieces of red onion. Pop on the grill for a about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with tzatziki and homemade pita.

Now eat.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Mmmm orzo

I am cooking for two, and this recipe says it serves four. I didn’t think to halve it because leftovers never hurt, however, this recipe lied. It really serves far more than four people, and my Dad is leaving on a business trip so I scooped up some leftovers for my sister’s boyfriend, and some for two of my friends in the neighborhood. This was good, basically homemade risotto and the tomatoes were by far the best part.

I love recipes that call for cherry tomatoes, because my Dad grows a few varieties they add so much color. I just halved them for this recipe, but you could quarter or even just cook them whole. Either way, the more the merrier, because they were little bits of deliciousness in the creamy but sort of bland orzo.

Adapted from Sidewalk Shoes
Tomato with Orzo
Serves at least 6

3 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound cherry tomatoes
5 cups chicken stock
2 cups orzo
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh ricotta
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
finely grated parmesan for serving

Heat the butter in a deep frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and tomatoes and cook for about 2-3 minutes or until the tomatoes soften. Add the orzo and the stock and cook like pasta (which is to say until orzo is cooked). For me very little broth was left at the end. Stir through the basil, ricotta, and salt and pepper. You can top with the parmesan, though I didn’t and serve. This would also be good with some shredded chicken in it, and I served it with French bread I spent yesterday making.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Peel a tomato?

If the judge of the quality of a dish is how fast it disappears then this counts as a success. Considering that I made two pies, and the only people in my household who are eating it are me and my Dad, it is rapidly disappearing. The first night both me and my darling ex-roommate and my Uncle all had seconds, and the rest of it has spiced up lunch like PB&Js never did.

This says it made enough for one pie, and while the crust measures out to that I had more than enough filling for two pies, and I even forgot the cheese. So I’ve adapted the recipe for enough filling to make only one pie. I thought it tasted fine without cheese (I’m not a huge cheddar fan) but it would probably be better with it.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Tomato Pie that isn't Pizza

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 3/4 teaspoons salt, divided
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons or 3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus 2 teaspoons melted
3/4 cup 2% milk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 pound beefsteak tomatoes (about two large ones)
1 ear corn
1 tablespoons finely chopped basil,
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped chives,
1/8 teaspoon black pepper,
3.5 ounces coarsely grated sharp Cheddar (1 cup),

Crust: Have butter room temperature/slightly softened (I popped mine in the microwave for a quick ten seconds because I have no foresight). Mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Then fold in butter with your hands until it has a sort of coarse texture. Add in milk and make dough. Divide into two balls, and roll one out on a floured surface. Mine did not come out round and pie shaped, but I made it fit into the pie pan anyways.

Whisk together mayonnaise and lemon juice. This will look like icing, which is misleading.

Cut large a large ‘x’ in the bottom of each tomato and then blanch. You do this by dropping in boiling water for ten seconds and then immersing in an ice bath, this makes it easy to peel which is the next step. Which was weird for me because normally I skip the peeling step in most recipes, but what Smitten Kitchen recommends I blindly follow, and the result was nice. This is also a little soupy so the recommendation is to remove the seeds and tomato juice, but I couldn’t bring myself to follow.

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees. Chop tomatoes into slices and lay on top of crust, put corn over this (you could also just use a cup of frozen already cut corn, but I am always one for fresh ingredients) and sprinkle herbs and cheese. Pour mayonnaise over this, and then roll out second half of dough and cover. Cut four vents and brush with the melted butter. Cook for 30 to 35 minutes (32 worked well for me). The top is biscuity and the filling is delicious, and this is all super easy.