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Archive for October, 2011

Candied Apples

Candy Apple

So Shiney!

Halloween has always been a bit of mixed bag for me.  As a child I wa easily startled (still am).  At the time, nothing was worse than a  scary costumes. . . especially on a 5th grader.  It was so bad, I begged my mom not to send me to school for the costume parade.  She very sweetly called the office, told them I was sick, and took me to the Jelly Belly factory instead.

Directly after I added the cinamon

Now scary 5th graders are pint-sized and more  adorable than scary.  So, although the holiday is still a bit frightening, I can focus on the things I enjoy about Halloween; nostalgic sweets and kooky costumes.

These candied apples are lovely and tasty.  I bought the apples at our local Farmer’s Market so I got to try each one to a find a variety that tasted exactly right.  I also made some mini apples which were super cute and made good filler for the Halloween gift baskets.

I came across this recipe which was an awesome jumping off point for the apples I ultimately made.  I couldn’t find black food die in time so I just made the traditional red.  I substituted cinnamon spice for cinnamon oil.  It caused my boiling sugar to bubble up with enthusiasm but led to a nice light cinnamon flavor.

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Eco-Friendly Pumpkin Seeds

Today, I got an e-mail from th company newsletter asking me to contribute a sustainable, vegetarian, or otherwise “green” recipe.  What do I know about being green?  Very little.  I recycle, I enjoy nature, and I take public transit to work (I live in Portland, OR.  I would be a fool not to.)  Most of the green things I do because I am cheap rather than because of a sense of environmentalism.

So when asked for a green recipe, this weekend’s pumpkin seed project came to mind.  I like reusing.  I like using all the parts of something.  I like cleaning out my pantry.  The shell on seeds were recovered from carving Halloween pumpkins.  The shelled seeds have been sitting in the pantry since a Mexican sauce experiment several month ago.  The sage came from our CSA.  Eco-Friendly. . . right?

I really liked the way these pumpkin seeds turned out.  The sage was a really nice flavor that really evokes fall for me.  Also, I loved the inclusion of the shelled seeds.  I like roasted shelled seeds but I get frustrated for having the shell them all.  Including some pre-shelled allowed me to enjoy more of the flavor with less of the work.

Sage Pumpkin Seeds

Unshelled pumpkin seeds from 2 large pumpkins

1 cup shelled pumpkin seeds

1 egg white

1/3 cup chopped sage

 

 

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 375.

2. Mix egg white, sage, and seeds.

3. Spread one layer of seed mixture on a baking tray.

4.  Sprinkle with salt.

5. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

6. Double check the flavor of your first batch, modify as desired, and then repeat steps 3-5 to cook the rest.

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Pizza Sauce

*Sigh*  I had an awesome post prepared.  It was eloquent, it was funny, it praised Brett for his rocking pizza crust skills.  Unfortunately, my computer crashed before I had the opportunity to save.  It is late at night (which is to say 9:30pm) and I all I want to do is crawl into bed for the next episode of Top Chef: Just Desserts.   So here are the pics and the recipe.

Pizza Sauce

5 large tomatoes

5 cloves of garlic

1 Tbsp oregano

1/2 onion

2 stalks of basil

Enough oil to coat the bottom of your saucepan

Salt, sugar, and apple cider vinegar to taste

Directions:

Mince the garlic.  Let it soak in a small bowl with the oil.

Chop the onion into small pieces.

In a saucepan over low heat, drain the oil but reserve the garlic.  Cook the onions.

Chop the tomatoes.  Add to the onion.  Cook over medium heat.

Mince the basil

Add the garlic, basil, and oregano to the tomatoes.

Cook for an hour checking regularly to avoid overcooking and the resulting bitter flavor that I experienced.

Don’t stress it too much because after you are done cooking, you can still add the salt, sugar, and apple cider vinegar to taste.  In my attempt, this combination of ingredients banished the bitterness.

Blend until smooth.

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You will need:

Dough ingredients:

  • 16 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for peel and rolling
  • 1 envelope instant or rapid rise yeast
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 10 ounces warm tap water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon malted barley syrup (or sugar)

(Adapted from Good Eats: Flat is Beautiful V. Makes 3 12-16 inch pizzas, depending on your desired dough thickness)

Toppings! I went with: 2 cups tomato sauce, 2 cups Italian cheese blend, and 1 cup fresh basil

Note: This pizza is made using the broiler function of my oven. I’m sure you can emulate it using a 400 degree oven, but I haven’t tried it, so your mileage my vary.

Step 1 Make Dough:

Put all of your ingredients into a bowl, and mix to combine.

Everyone has a favorite way to mix and knead dough. I won’t go into detail, but chances are Google or your local library (remember those?) has instructions if you need it.

Your dough is kneaded enough when it feels silky and passes the windowpane test. This took about 15 minutes in my mixer.

Fold the dough onto itself and form it into a smooth ball. Oil a bowl with about 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Put the dough in the bowl and roll it around to coat with the oil. Cover with a wet tea towel (dry dough is bad dough) or plastic wrap and leave at room temperature to double in size, approximately 1 hour.

To test for doneness at this point, wet your finger and press it a knuckle deep into the middle of the dough. When you remove your finger, if the dough quickly fills the hole you left, it needs more time. If the dough maintains its shape, it’s done. If the dough sags, it’s been done for a while! Where were you?

Empty the dough onto the table, and split it into 3 equal parts using a knife or dough scraper. Flatten each piece into a disk on the countertop. Form each piece into a ball. Roll each ball on the counter until they tighten into rounds. Cover the balls with a tea towel and rest for another 45 minutes, or until you can leave a solid depression in the ball with your finger.  If you’re only making one pizza, you can refrigerate the other balls for about a week (wrap them tightly in plastic wrap so they don’t dry out).

Step 2 Bake your crust:

Start your broiler. Take one of your dough balls and flatten it onto a well floured surface. Using a rolling pin, your hands, or your mad pizza throwing skills, stretch the dough into a 12 to 16 inch round. Slide that onto a pizza stone (or upside down baking tray) and lightly cover the top in olive oil. Slide this under your broiler.

In a couple of minutes, or when the top of your crust is golden brown, remove it from the oven. Flip it over on the stone/tray, add olive oil, and put it back in the oven. When that side is golden brown, remove the crust from the oven; it’s time for toppings.

Step 3 Toppings:

Really, this step is up to you. Go freaking wild. It’s pizza. Alison made some awesome tomato sauce that we used on this round of pizza. A basic rule of thumb is to work in layers. For each layer, if you can still see the layer underneath, your pizza isn’t decadent enough. Try harder.

Step 4 Cook it!:

Put it back under the broiler until your pizza toppings are cooked to your specifications. A few minutes at most.

Step 5 Cut and eat:

Do it. You know you want to.

Finished Pizza

Crispy and delicious

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For me, meatloaf evokes the 1950’s television housewife.  I imagine some nice woman pulling out a recipe, following it dutifully, and producing something delicious.  My mother (a very nice woman indeed) does not fit the model of a 1950’s housewife.  She is good to her husband, raised her kids lovingly, and attends church regularly.  My mother is also a feminist, a professional fiduciary  who does not, under any circumstances, dutifully follow recipes.  EDIT: except for meatloaf apparently!

Sometimes, my mother’s style leads to pure genius. . . which she can’t replicate because she doesn’t write down her new recipe.  Even if she had, she wouldn’t have follow her own recipe the next time.  However, sometimes, it led to mystery casserole.  As you might imagine, I began my time in the kitchen as a dutiful recipe follower.

My grandmother was a teacher who supported her stay at home husband (way ahead of their time!), and now supports herself with her art.  My mother entered the male dominated world of finance despite the discrimination and odds.  I am directly descended from two examples of the many feminists who fought to create the world I live in.  My life and cooking both reflect the joys of being a modern young woman.

And yet, I am domestic to a degree that surprises both of them.  I love to cook, I enjoy cleaning, and I revel in the hosting parties more than attending them.  At times, I wonder if my domesticity is a betrayal of their hard work and sacrifice.  My hope is that, instead, the joy I take in being domestic is part of what they were fighting for.  My hope is that the fact that I get to choose to be domestic is part of what they were fighting for.

Meatloaf was the inspiration for this post but it seems a lousy food with which to express gratitude.  Instead, let me raise a glass to the hard work and determination of the many feminists (men and women alike)  who created a world that allows for domestic joy that goes into this blog

With regard to this meatloaf, I am so glad I followed in my mother’s footsteps and disregarded the recipe completely.  It started as a really pretty picture of Turkey Meatloaf in a healthy cooking magazine.  But really, who wants to eat healthy meatloaf?  So, inspired by the picture and guided by the basic proportions and cook times in the recipe.  I made this.

Which then turned into this.

Like my mother, I forgot to write down what I was doing while I did it.  So, here is another  post without a recipe connected to it.  Hand to heart, I will get better at writing down my recipes as I am creating them.

Also, Brett got into it before I could take any pictures!  Bad Brett!

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Welcome to Portland

In March, I ate my way through the United States, from San Francisco to New Orleans and back to Portland, OR.  I am unpacked, employed, and happily nesting with Brett.  The biggest adjustment so far is the weather.  When it is cold and wet out, I want nothing so badly as my fuzzy sweatshirt, a cup of tea, and something delicious on the stove.

For my birthday, my Dad sent me a frosting pipe and asked me what I wanted from this year.  Belatedly, my response is this: I want to cook and I want to share what I make with the people I love.  So project number one: use my toys to make cupcakes!  Although some of y’all are close enough to enjoy a cupcake, the people I love are all over the place now and cupcakes probably melt in the mail.  That said, pictures of food make me almost as warm and happy as does the food itself.  So to those of you who are too far away to eat my food anymore, thank you for inspiring me to finally try to create the food photography that I have been drooling over for years.

Confession 1: I deeply believe that I cannot bake without the help of my little sister, Christi.  She is my good luck charm and has prevented many a measuring or math error.  So it was with great trepidation that I decided to make these cupcakes.

I measured

I mixed

I debated, paper liners or flour and grease. Christi, what do you think?

Then I realized, not only does this recipe require baking it requires a candy thermometer.  Confession 2: a friend gave me a candy thermometer and a rocking doughnut recipe 4 and half years ago.   This is my first time using it.  Four and half years!  When a recipe states “insert candy thermometer” I read “turn page and pick a different recipe.”

Unfortunately, at this point, there was no going back but there was procrastination.  Rather than boiling the sugar, I started on the meringue portion of my Merengue Buttercream recipe.  Whip until glossy peaks form.  What does that mean?  Okay . . . eggs whites in, turn on mixer, scrunch eyes closed in case something goes wrong.  Wait!  My eyes need to be open to see if the peaks are glossy.  But look at that:         

Look at those glossy peaks!

Glossy peaks achieved, it was sugar boiling time.  More confessions: I don’t have any pictures.  I realize that this blog is on the internet where the law of the land is “pics or it didn’t happen”, and I know that as far as the internet is concerned, it clearly didn’t.  But it did, I promise!  I boiled the sugar, I brushed water down the sides of the pan, and I did not give myself a massive sugar burn.  I drizzled the boiling sugar into the meringue, careful not to get any on the bowl or the balloon whisk.  It tasted like meringue! 

For me, food can be a great many things beyond sustenance.  Today, food was an adventure.  I tried something I had never attempted and was rewarded with the absolute jump-up-and-down rush of success in the face of fear.  Food is an exploration.  Food is a passion.  Food is comfort.  Food is an expression of love.  Food is an expression of welcome, in my home and on this blog.

For you.

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Hello world!

Welcome to Half Juice!

I hope that you, noble reader, will reap the rewards of your (and our) investment into our little corner of the internet.  I am led to believe that Alison has an initial post about her foray into the exciting, exotic land of cupcakes that she will be uploading shortly.

At an undisclosed future date, I have pizza to talk about.  After that, only time will tell where this humble Oregonian kitchen will travel next.

Join us, won’t you?

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