Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Everyday Conundrum

On a day to day basis, I think it's safe to say that I do most of our grocery shopping and cooking. It's not that M doesn't like cooking (the shopping is another matter), it's just that me making dinner is what makes sense. I get off earlier from school and work, so I don't have to suffer the post-traumatic stress it is to go to the store after 5 o'clock and generally, I say I like cooking us dinner. Only problem: what to make?

I usually ask M in the morning what he may feel like having for dinner, but being the man that he is, knowing what he'd like to eat anywhere further away than 20 minutes from the present is a question along the lines of "What is the meaning of life?" He hardly EVER has a clue. So much for inspiration, I'm telling you.

We've tried a lot of things: picking out recipes from randomly selected cookbooks that looks or sounds good; I've had M go over my delicious bookmarks, so he could find things he'd like eating; I've taken "what we had for dinner" notes for an entire month, to have that as inspiration for forthcoming months; we've scoured both Danish and American magazines to find drool-worthy (and everyday-cooking managable) recipes. I've tried to do week-to-week food plans, but something always pops up and wrecks my best attentions and the chicken ends up spoiling in the fridge. Just buying what looks good at the market on Saturday invariably leaves me with something that doesn't look nearly as good on the following Thursday. Which is also a terrible, terrible waste.

All I want is recipes that are easy, managable, not using crazy expensive ingredients, or things I have to go to specialist stores to get, or that requires hours and hours of prep work or marinating or. That lives up to my - self-prescribed - requirement of protein and two veg. This last one is probably what gives me the most problems. If I was to make dinner for myself alone, I'd live happily ever after on brown rice and avocado, but when I'm cooking for the man, I feel like there should be both protein, starch and carbs on the plate. Don't ask why, it makes no sense, and I'm trying to shed myself of it.

Making nice, nutritious food on an everyday basis is just not as easy as I would like it to be, and fast becomes a chore. A dud. An energy- and life-draining one at that. And I want my time in the kitchen to be pleasurable.

But then, then, it happens that I stumble upon keepers. Like the chicken meatballs up there. I was, once again, at the end of a day of work and trying to figure out what to eat that night, and ended up on the Gourmet website. Ta-dah! Dinner solved!

I've always passed on the minced chicken in the cooler at the market. Why, I have no idea, minced chicken just seemed a little odd to me - considering the amount of other types of minced meat we eat, it really makes no sense, but I guess I just never really knew what to do with it. Now, I make this. I've served them with a chopped salad (with this dressing) and the peperonata suggested, but I think they'd be the bomb in a sandwich, too. They even freeze well, so make a double portion and you won't have to think about what to make next Wednesday for dinner. What do you do to make sure you don't live of pasta and jarred tomato sauce every day?

I followed the recipe on the Gourmet site almost to a T, but forgot to put in the parsley, hence the scattered greens in the photo.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cupcakes for Grown-ups

A story my Mom and older sister like to tell other people from time to time is back from when I was little. It's the one about the red robin. We lived in a big house with large windows, and one day, a red robin flew, head first, into one of those glass panes. I'm pretty sure it died on impact, and it's tiny body fell to the pavement below. Mom got out the biggest shovel we had and scooped the dead bird into the outside bin, thinking not much of it. Until I asked her: 'when I die, will you put me in the bin, too?'

I was a deep, deep, kid. Or a weird, weird kid, depending on how you see it. It wasn't because I was afraid to die, I think. I was just wondering what would happen.

Another story is the one where I, not much older than 6 or 7, crawled up onto my Mom's lap and burst into tears. My Mom sat there for a second or two, wondering what might have happened, before she asked me what was wrong. 'I don't want to grow old. I don't wanna be an adult!' I hiccuped through tears.

I don't remember the stories as such, but I remember the feeling. Of not wanting to grow up.

Throughout my teenage years and my twenties, I used to joke that you weren't a real grown-up until you had your own home. Then it wasn't until you had a car. I eventually got both of those things, so the natural progression was: you're not an adult until you have kids. When my friends, even the close ones, started having them, I kept the mantra going: YOU may be a grown-up, but me? Noooo.

Now look at the mess I've gotten myself into.

I guess I just have to grow up then, don't I?

For the record: I'm due late October. The ultrasound says it's a boy and if you can judge anything from the kicking and frolicking and jumping and pushing and general energy-level going on in there, they sure could be right! No, I can't really blame pregnancy for the lack of posts here. Yes, there has been, is and most certainly will be a lot more of that thing called life getting in the way of blogging, but borrowing the words of a wise woman I happen to know: I just can't bring myself to put an end to Food & Thoughts either. Scattered and sporadic posting is what I'm all about. Hope you'll still feel like keeping up.

Cupcakes for Grown-Ups - or, as they're called in The Essence of Chocolate: Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes.

I should at least have something to make up for the whole going adult thing, shouldn't I? In the book it says that these would be ideal for a child's birthday - I think that would very much depend on the kid. These aren't sugary, fluffy cupcakes with a tooth-achingly and gritty sweet topping - these are not-to-dense, almost chocolate-y bitter cupcakes with a lush, heavy frosting. A bit more suited for the grown-up palate, but maybe that's just my opinion.

For the cupcakes:
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
10 tablespoons unslated butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3/4 cup whole milk

For the frosting:
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. 62% semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

For the cupcakes:
Turn your oven to 350 F and position a rack in the middle. Line 12 muffin cups (3/4 cup capacity) with liners.
In a small bowl, stir together flour and cocoa. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment fitted, combine butter, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt - beat on medium speed for 5 minutes or until pale, light and fluffy. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl as necessary.
Add the egg, beat until incorporated. Alternately add flour/cocoa mixture and milk, again scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Fill muffin tins to about 2/3 full. Bake for 15-20 mminutes.
Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a cooling rack, then turn out and allow to cool completely on the rack.

Meanwhile, make the frosting:
Heat the cream in a small saucepan - it should just begin to simmer. Add the chocolate, whisking until it has melted completely, the take of the heat and transfer to a small bowl. Let cool for about two hours or until the ganache is thick enough to constitute a frosting. You can speed up this last part by putting the ganache in the fridge, then stirring it every five minutes or so.

Once the frosting is thick enough and your cupcakes cool, invert the cupcakes into the ganache-frosting, using a twisting motion of the wrist to load as much frosting as possible onto the cupcake. Be careful - they are delicate little creatures, and break easily into the ganache (but then I guess there's something for the baker as well ;))

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dinning with The Bloggers - May 26th. 2009.

Allow me to ease myself back into blogging mode (one needs to, every now and again, don't one?) I've actually been cooking quite a lot from my fellow blogging friends these last couple of months - they're not half bad at it, the food bloggers out there, I must admit. Here are some highly recommendable try-it-yourselves:

Spring Slaw from Tea & Cookies

Let's start with a beauty - I was this close to calling the round-up "The Ugly (but tasty!) Edition" this time, because - well, you'll soon learn why. Tea's spring slaw didn't quite fit into the ugly category, au contraire, it is both very spring-pretty and ladylike in it's colors. That it was also very tasty didn't hurt, either. We had it with potato salad and frikadeller (a Danish meatball I will have to tell you about at a later time) and I had it the next day for lunch as well. Very yummy, and you feel so wonderfully healthy eating all that cabbage and radish and whatnot :)

Love Dip from The Homesick Texan

Okay, here we go with the not so flattering pictures. My fault, 'cause really, you can't put a finger on taste or texture of this fine, fine dip. I made it for my 30th. birthday back in February and was so smitten with the tangy cream cheese taste I made it again a week later for another birthday party, It's a keeper. I didn't have salsa at the ready, but found a jar of chipotle paste that I used instead, of course cutting back on the amount. I liked that, but am sure salsa would make for an interesting version, too. I served the Love Dip with:

Spelt Crackers from Smitten Kitchen

You need to spend a little time making these, but they are worth it - trust me. I used a little chili on some, sesame on others, and just plain flaky salt on a batch as well. Feel free to use whatever you like, and if you're the coordinating kind, you could choose something that matches whatever you're serving them with. Point is, they take well to almost anything you can throw at them, and are sturdy enough for you to be able to scoop a decent amount of dip onto them - and all-essentiel quality in a cracker, if you ask me. You can even make them well in advance - they keep (almost) indefinitely.

Chicken Liver Pâté from Sassy Radish

Oh this, I loved. Don't let the looks decieve you, 'cause it is good. In fact, this was made twice in a couple of weeks (as well) and served with caramelized red onions on toasted bread. Forgive me here, but YUMM-O! Smooth and creamy, with enough taste of the liver for you to know that it is there, but discreet enough for kids to like it as well. That, and the fact that it's a breeze to make has given it a permanent place in my kitchen notebook.

Giant Chipotle White Beans from 101 Cookbooks

I'm still working on my private stock of beans, and lo and behold, when I came upon this recipe, I knew I had to dig in there and find some of my big white beans and make it (and make room for another bag of something at the same time - what an oppurtunist I am!) I like beans, I'm realizing that more and more - especially when they're used in proper dishes and not just mashed and used as a spread. I actually went more along the lines of the original recipe (It's linked at the post), but whichever one you'd go for, I say remember to do the pesto-thingy for drizzling on top - it makes a world of a difference.

Have you tried any of your fellow blogger's recipes lately that you think are worth a repeat?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Being spoiled is...

  • recieving Molly's new book and reading it within three days (I had to go to work in between. Otherwise I'd have devoured it much faster)
  • having dinner with friends who reveals they're getting married, and squealing with delight at the thought
  • having breakfast in bed at 10.30 am - scrambled eggs, whole grain bread, cream cheese and Bayonne ham
  • making bread form scratch on a weekly basis
  • not knowing which of the recipes to attack first in your new Ottolenghi Cookbook because you want to do them all - especially the eggplant ones
  • spending Saturday night with your best friend, her husband and little girl and big slabs of beef
  • buying 2 pounds of vanilla beans and constantly swooning away from their heady scent

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Probably The Prettiest Salad on the Planet: Fattoush

Doesn't that look like spring? Just a tiny bit? And don't we NEED a little spring? I know I do. The weather has been absolutely pretty around here the last couple of days, I've dropped off my big bulky winter jacket at the cleaners (so it'll be ready for next winter) and am cautiously stepping out of the ever present jeans and yesterday, I thin pantyhose and a skirt. A SKIRT. Next up, I'm getting seeds ready for the balcony. It IS spring, yay!

The great thing about the salad up there - besides being almost girlish-ly adorable in it's colors - is that you can actually make this in the depth of winter. No, the tomatoes won't be as fantastic, but then leave them out and up the amount of sweet, musky melon (and I know, they're not really in season either, but at least they're worth paying for, as opposed to the greenhouse tomatoes from Holland that are all texture, no taste) The REAL time to make this is probably late summer, but I simply cannot wait. I want my dose of spring NOW!

Fattoush - Middle Eastern Bread Salad - a Camilla Plum inspiration
Another fantastic thing about this salad is that you can cut everything up well in advance, then toss it with the dressing just before serving.

You need:
6 medium ripe tomatoes
1 small cucumber
1 yellow and/or 1 red bell pepper
1 small bunch of radishes
1 small red onion
4 handfuls of mixed, crispy salad - I often use spinach, a bit of romaine, maybe some mizuna...
The seeds of half a pomegranate (but why not use the entire thing while you're at it?)
Half a small melon (I like honeydew melons, but cantaloup or Galias are just as fine. Definitely use watermelons when they're in season) and you're always welcome to do a mix, of course
Large bunch of flat-leaf parsley
Fresh mint
2 pita pockets

Cut everything into chunky - not too small - bite-sized pieces. I try to make sure I have some thing in slices (like the radishes) and some things in quarters (tomatoes) and other things just roughly cut (bell peppers, cucumbers). Tear the salad leaves up a bit, scatter the parsley and mint over. Toast the pitas until a tad more crispy than you'd do if you were stuffing them, then tear them up over the salad. Toss everything together with:

The dressing:
75 ml. nice olive oil
1 tablespoon elderflower vinegar (or other light vinegar)
2 cloves of garlic
maybe the juice of half a lemon (i usually don't think it needs it, but you be the judge)
salt and pepper
- whisk everything together. Start by using half, then add more to the salad if needed. Toss, toss, toss, then sprinkle everything with a pinch or three of sumac - it has a slightly tangy, citrussy kick that pulls everything together.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Turning 30.

Is what I did this month. It's two weeks ago (it was on the 15th.), but I'm still revelling in it. I love being 30.

I had a party - a FANTASTIC party, with cocktails, bubbly, dancing and finger foods. We had small glasses of butternut squash soup, shrimp cocktail in choux puffs (heavily inspired by Johanna's version - in fact, I took plenty of hints from Johanna's Canapées & Finger food section), blinis with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and chopped red onion; we had chicken liver paté and little tarts with onion and bacon, sandwiches with grilled vegetables and bruschetta with aubergine and feta spread; there was homemade lamb sausages with slaw (and more on those some other time), pork meatballs with herbs and slow roasted tomatoes - and, pictured above, the party favorite, small baked potatoes with seared, VERY rare beef and a caper-tarragon mayo. Almost like béarnaise. There was cake - carrot cupcakes and a traditional lagkage, and chocolate mousse.

Of course, I completely forgot to take pictures. I have some preparation shots, a couple blurry ones from the night, and one or two of leftovers (like the one above) I was busy. Turning 30. Sorry ;)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


nothing like a lazy weekend morning in bed, with breakfast, food magazines and a new lens (that I don't quite know how to master yet, but still already adore)

I just realized I haven't recieved Gourmet since the May 2008 issue. (I am a subscriber. I don't expect them to just send them to me at random. Although after all those cookies, they should think about it, shouldn't they?)

But seeing I didn't realize the lack of Gourmet for a full eight months - do you think that means I've gone overboard in the food magazine department? Is there really such a thing?

I also subscribe to Saveur, Bon Appetit and Gastro (Danish food magazine. For men. I still get it though, it's the best around here.) Which ones do you get?

(Real food, coming right up. Oh, and happy 2009!)