Saturday, November 26, 2011

Breakfast of Champions

Saturday Morning Breakfast*

Aaaahhhh, the best part of Thanksgiving: leftover pumpkin pie for breakfast.  Of course I had whipped cream on it because dairy is a very important food group.  I'm all about good nutrition.

*Note: whipped cream topping not to scale.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Humble Pie

The pie crust recipe I have came from my mom with about a hundred disclaimers about how difficult it is and that she rarely gets it just right and not to blame her if I end up eating custard on a brick on Thanksgiving instead of pumpkin pie.  I was certain, however, that I could create the perfect, flaky crust without much ado.  Maiden aunts are born to bake, I told myself.  It's what we do.  It's how we bribe people to be our friends. 

But by the time rolling attempt #3 resulted in a hockey puck, my confidence began to waver.  I abandoned that batch of dough and mixed up a fresh one.  I was beginning to get a feel for the texture, and for how much water I needed to add at the end to bring it all together.  I decided that my mom forgot to mention when she gave me the recipe that it makes two crusts if you know what you're doing

After it rested for a while in the fridge, I rolled the whole ball of dough out into a big circle, transferred it to the pie plate, hacked off what I didn't need, and crimped the edges.  Some filling and an hour in the oven later, I had a pie.  Fear not, Gentle Readers.  I did not throw away all that extra dough; I made pinwheels.  Melted butter, sugar, and cinnamon can solve a lot of problems.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Say Cheese

Ladies, have you ever noticed that men have a listening problem?  It doesn't matter if he's a co-worker, husband, friend, boyfriend, or whatever, a man listens selectively.  The Army Dude is no exception to this rule.

It's like this:

What I say: "A careful analysis of the process of observation in atomic physics has shown that the subatomic particles have no meaning as isolated entities, but can only be understood as interconnections between the preparation of an experiment and the subsequent measurement."

What he hears: "Blah, blah, blah, blah..."

But there is a foolproof way to capture his attention.  Like this:

What I say: "I've been thinking we might want a snack while our Thanksgiving dinner is cooking."


Army Dude: "Snack?  Like what?"

What I say: "Maybe some port wine cheese on crackers..."


Army Dude: "Good idea!"

I've decided to start referencing snack foods and baked goods in everything I say now.  Just to mess with him.

(The physics quote comes from  I have no idea what it means.)


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance

It's mobilization weekend here at Old Maid HQ.  Cranberries are steeping in apple cider vinegar and will be a ready-to-drink shrub by Wednesday.  I've spent some time planning both Thanksgiving and Christmas baking so that grocery shopping can be done strategically and with the smallest loss of marbles possible.  I am, after all, an auntie who hates crowds.  And noise.  And obnoxious Christmas songs.  And who doesn't have a whole lot of marbles to spare.

My niece Katie gave me a new cookie cookbook last year, so I spent some time this morning browsing through it.  I like to try at least one new recipe each Christmas, but it's always tricky with a new cookbook because I never know if the finished product wil be what I expect.  This is where some R&D will come in over the next couple of weeks.  Fortunately, it's never difficult to find people willing to taste-test cookies.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dept. of Home Economics: Broccoli Stems

In an email, one of my Gentle Readers said "Up till now I have been throwing the stalks away but now I know what to do with them."  She was referring to the Cream of Broccoli Soup recipe I posted last week, but don't throw those stems away if you aren't a broccoli soup fan.  There are other things you can do with your broccoli stems.

Lightly peel the outside and then cut the stems in matchsrick pieces (also called "julienne;" click here for a turtorial).  When I julienne broccoli, I prefer to slice the stem in  about 1/8-inch circles, then stack two or three circles and slice them into matchsticks.  You get shorter matchsticks that are not all perfectly the same size, but this technique has its advantages.  The first cut (into circles) goes across the grain of the stem and cuts the tough lengthwise fibers into shorter lengths, resulting in a more tender, less fibrous finished product.  They still look like cute little matchsticks, they are just not all perfectly alike.

I'm not bothered by the lack of perfection, my friends.  We do not seek to emulate Martha Stewart here at Old Maid HQ.  Firstly, like my fellow spinster Jane Austen, "pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked."  Secondly, my food actually tastes good.

Once you have your matchstick pieces, you can:
  • Toss them in a stir-fry.
  • Use them in place of celery in soup.  (Make sure it's a strong-flavored soup such as a nice garlicky lentil or a flavorful minestrone.  Broccoli has a strong taste that can overwhelm more delicate flavors.  Experiment!)
  • Saute them with julienned carrots and use as a side dish.  Season with salt and pepper, or finish with a splash of soy sauce or a splash of vinaigrette toward the end of the cooking process.
  • Make the side dish above, adding a few julienned radishes.  They add a nice peppery bite.
  • Freeze the julienned broccoli stems for quick addition later to soups and stir fries.  They go right into the pan frozen.
  • Lightly steam the stems, chill them, and they are ready to be added with other veggies to pocket or wrap sandwiches.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I Heart This Kid

Is this cute or what?  It's a card by Emma Seckington, from her Many Moods of Pie series.

I read about Emma in MaryJane's Farm magazine.  She's a 10-year-old after my own heart -- she loves to bake and she draws cute food.  Emma even has her own Etsy shop!  You can purchase sets of her adorable handmade cards (including the pie series and holiday cards) here.
Image copyright: Emma Seckington

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cucumber Shrub

I'm not much of a soda drinker, but I tried Mr. Q. Cumber soda when I had lunch at Keenwah last week.  It was pricey -- two bucks for seven ounces -- but it was also delicious.

My friend took a sip and said "We could make that."  We discussed things like using a juicer and simple syrup.  When I got home it occurred to me that I could try making a cucumber shrub.  I added one peeled, diced cucumber to 2 cups of distilled white vinegar, then proceeded according to the recipe found here

It came out great.  Like summer in a glass.  YUM!

P.S. I just found out that cucumber beverages are trendy.  Of course they are.  I'm hip like that.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Broccoli, Explained -- With Recipe!

Peel and rough chop broccoli stems, then store them in the freezer.  When you've got 4 cups, you're ready to make this soup.  The frozen pieces go right into the pot.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
1/4 tsp. pepper (plus more to taste)
Generous pinch of dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chopped broccoli stems
2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups milk (whatever fat content you have is fine)
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

1. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat.  When oil is hot, add onion, bay leaf, basil, and thyme to pan.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt and  1/4 tsp. pepper, then saute the onion for 5-7 minutes or until onion is translucent.  Add garlic and saute for about a minute more.

2. Add broccoli pieces and broth.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.  Cook about 10 minutes, or until broccoli is very tender.  (If you're lazy like me and your "rough chop" is very rough and some pieces are biggish, it might need 15 minutes.)

3. Remove the bayleaf, then puree the soup in batches in a blender.  (Please be careful!  Only fill the blender halfway at most.)

4. Return the soup to the pot, then whisk in milk and sour cream or yogurt while heating gently over medium heat.   Do not allow the mixture to boil.  Whisk the soup occasionally while it heats to fully incorporate the sour cream or yogurt.  Taste and adjust seasonings and serve hot.

Variation 1: Sour cream or yogurt can be omitted if you don't have any on hand.  Soup will be thinner but still delicious.
Variation 2: Omit the sour cream or yogurt and replace half a cup of the milk with heavy cream or half and half if you have some on hand.
Variation 3: Omit the sour cream or yogurt and whisk in 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese.  Heat through until cheese melts and soup is hot.
Variation 4: Thinly slice and  lightly steam some broccoli florets as a garnish.  I never do this, but it does make a nice presentation.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lunch at Keenwah

I had heard good things about Keenwah, the newish restaurant on Broadway, but I hadn't tried it until I went there for lunch on Friday with a friend.

My Edamame Hummus Wrap was delicious.  The hummus had a garlicky, pesto-y quality that I really enjoyed.  The wrap also included grilled sweet potato and red peppers, crispy lettuce, and the surprise of crunchy edamame nuts.  It came with a small side salad that was dressed with a simple (and yummy) balsamic vinaigrette.  Delish.

The sandwich was a little pricey at $8, but everything was organic and I imagine it costs a few bucks to grow organic soybeans with TLC and then propitiate their tiny spirits before they get picked.  (Or at least, that's what organic farmers do in my mind.)  It was worth it.  I've been craving that hummus ever since.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


This commercial has been airing for a few months and it still cracks me up every time.

"Seaweed, Jeffrey?" 

It's not just OvenGold.  It's comedy gold.