Thursday, December 18, 2008

First Day of Christmas Break

I am all finished with finals, so today was my first day of Christmas vacation. I couldn't be happier to have some downtime. Plus, I'll only be a part-time student next semester, so I hope I won't be so stressed out! I'm looking forward to getting more reading done, as well. Recently I finished The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan and The Black Dudley Murder by Margery Allingham. I recommend The Omnivore's Dilemma to absolutely everyone. It is fascinating and it will make you see the need for change in the way we produce food. The Black Dudley Murder was my fun reading (1930s, British, right up my alley).

I've also been watching The First Churchills (from Masterpiece Theatre) from Netflix. One of the reviewers on Netflix called it "creaky" (it was taped, not filmed, in 1969) and said they must have spent the majority of the budget on wigs. I have to admit it's true, but I had a good time anyway. You'd probably have to have a prior interest in the period (the courts of Charles II, James II, William & Mary, and Anne) to sit through all twelve episodes, though. I watched all of them (are you surprised?). I also did a little internet research and found out that John Churchill's post of Master of the Rolls was previously held by your old friend and mine, Sir Harbottle Grimston. Also interesting to note, the actor who played John Churchill, John Neville, had a small part in The Fifth Element (which Paul and I watched last night) and the actor who played Charles II (James Villiers) was Baron de Batz in The Scarlet Pimpernel (which I watch very often!).
John Churchill 1st Duke of Marlborough and Sarah Duchess of Marlborough with Their Children by Johann Closterman
John Churchill 1st Duke of Marlborough and Sarah Duchess of Marlborough with Their Children

Also on the Restoration front, I listened to In Our Time this afternoon while cleaning the living room (my life is so glamorous). The topic was The Great Fire of London and the link to listen is here.

Let's remain in the realm of the costume drama for a moment longer while I discuss another film I've seen recently, Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. I'm still trying to figure out what I think about it. I can, without any hesitation, say that it is one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. The cinematography is amazing, it's all filmed on location (at places like Castle Howard and Sanssouci, no less), the costumes are awesome, and I loved the score. However, some of the acting is sub-par and the film is three hours long. I'll leave you to decide for yourselves. Here's the trailer:

I lack a cute transition, so here's the bit about cooking. I spent much of Sunday making three quiches from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I made two Quiche aux lardons (Quiche lorraine in the book but I don't parboil the bacon because I love its smoky taste) and one Quiche aux champignons (Mushroom quiche). I subsequently wrapped up all the slices and froze them so I have lunch or dinner available for a looong time (18 slices of quiche!).
Also in the easy-to-freeze department:

Blueberry Muffin-Scones (taste mostly like a scone baked in a muffin tin)

(I adapted this from James Beard's Blueberry Muffins in The Fireside Cookbook)

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder (preferably without aluminum)
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup blueberries (if using frozen, don't defrost)
Sanding sugar, for a finishing touch

Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Put small saucepan over medium-low heat and put butter in to melt (be careful not to burn it). In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Aerate with a wisk. In a small bowl, beat the egg then mix the milk into it; mix with dry ingredients (a wooden spoon works best). Add melted butter to mixture and combine. Mixture will resemble cookie batter. Then, fold in blueberries. Use the wrapper from the butter to grease the 12-muffin tin and use an ice cream scoop to fill the tins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (22 in my oven). When muffin-scones come out of the oven, sprinkle them with the sanding sugar and let cool. Enjoy!

Yield: 12 muffins


Note: I usually double this recipe, wrap the muffins in tin foil (it's reusable!), place them in a freezer bag (also reusable!) and put them into the freezer. I get out muffins for breakfast the night before to defrost on the counter. This works really well.

Here are a couple photos of The Fireside Cookbook, which I bought the last time we were at Watermark Books. We actually ate dinner there tonight, as well. Yummy! And then when we got home, Paul knocked a bottle of port onto the kitchen tile. I was really glad I wasn't the one who did it this time! I think we're going to have to wear shoes in the kitchen for a while... Oh, and don't feel bad about the port. It was crappy port anyway.

Finally, we are coming to the end of this long-winded blog post. Here's the only decent photo (Tyrone is not a very good photographer but we love him anyway) from our courthouse nuptials that some of you (you know who you are) have been asking for. Paul and I promise we will get professional photos taken. Sometime.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Style and Substance

I doubt it's a surprise to you, dear reader, that I enjoy the work of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. This piece was on Radio Kansas last week: Cello Concerto in B-Flat WQ 171. Besides being a cello concerto, it also has some nice harpsichord passages. I've wanted a harpsichord for a long time (as well as an organ, but Paul bought me one of those), but they are very very expensive and don't show up very often at estate sales like organs do. I really like this one from Robertson Harpsichords:

It should also be no surprise that I have a certain fondness for china and a tendency toward Anglophilia. Prince Charles just turned 60, so naturally I want this commemorative plate from Caverswall China. There is a video on their website which you will like if you (a) loved the Mr. Rogers factory visits and (b) are a total snob. Needless to say, I was riveted.

Sustenance, rather, I should say. Below is a photo of yummy Pork Chops with Horseradish Apples from the November issue of Gourmet. The recipe is available here. I served them with roasted sweet potatoes (60-70 minutes in 350-degree oven). I love sweet potatoes, but I am not a fan of marshmallows unless they are in Rice Krispie Treats, so I'll be picking the marshmallows off at Thanksgiving.

I've also made bread for the first time ever and I have to say I'm rather proud of myself. It turned out really well! I even enjoyed the kneading though I'm too short for my kitchen counter and had to stand en demi-pointe. Next time, I'll just channel June Cleaver and wear high heels. I have to admit, though, that many of my endeavors end in mess and chaos so I should probably revise it to say I will be channeling Lucy Ricardo. The bread recipe is online here.
Occasionally, I eat healthfully at lunch and it gives me a chance to show off my baking and yogurt-making skills.

Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Blog Smorgasbord

I had ballet class this morning (which means I actually wanted to get out of bed this morning because I didn't have to go to the worst class I've ever taken in my entire life, which I skipped all this week) and we're working on our recital piece. I haven't been in a dance recital in over a decade, but I am so ridiculously excited about it because I am a line-leader, which is great because I am such a show-off. Right now, I am avoiding working on an English paper about the changes in public morality as evidenced in George Etheredge's Man of Mode and Sheridan's School for Scandal. First, it was "I'll eat lunch and then I'll work on it," then "I'll take a shower first," then "I'll make some tea first," and now I'm to updating my blog first. Someone will have to restrain me before I start cleaning. Unfortunately for him, the task of making me do my homework has fallen to Paul recently. I am really really really looking forward to next semester when I'll only be taking two classes: Ballet 2 and Jazz 1 and cooking, cleaning, reading, knitting, luncheoning, volunteering and not feeling guilty about doing what makes me happy.

To accompany on my journey to housewifery, I will employ Barbara Cartland novels. I've never read one, but these were only $1 each in a nasty little used bookstore on South Oliver. I say that lovingly.
Another thing housewives do (or maybe not, considering we live in a world of processed, industrial foods made of God-knows-what) is make yogurt. No I have not joined a hippie commune and it is not pointless. Do you have any idea what is in commercial yogurt? Plus, I really like the cute glass jars and the lid even has a dial to set the expiration date.

Moving from bacterial culture to human culture...

I was pleased to find Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938) in its entirety on YouTube. It's another train movie and is pretty fun. I love the clothes!

Below are some selections of music I've heard recently on Radio Kansas. You're probably discovering from this and other posts that I like concertos and trumpets.

Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A

Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor (3rd movement: Rondo)

Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in c Op 68

Tartini: Trumpet Concerto in D

I leave you with a photo Paul took when we were in OKC a couple weekends ago:

Rather poetic for graffiti, isn't it?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Warning: Long Post!

I know it's been absolutely forever since I've posted anything. I had to get settled into life and school and not feel like blogging was just another chore to get through. Hopefully, I'm back on a regular basis now! Here's a sampling of what I've been up to since I last wrote:


I found Wichita's classical station (90.1-- just like OKC) which also plays NPR news in the mornings, so I have my dial locked to it in the car. I don't know why all the regular music stations only play ten songs. It's really aggravating! Anyway, driving home from class last week, Radio Kansas was playing instrumental selections from The Fairy Queen by Henry Purcell, of whom I am a fan. I thought it was funny that we had just read Spencer's The Faerie Queene in my Major British Writers class, but it turns out that Purcell's opera is based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream instead. Oh, well. Here's a clip from YouTube:

Physical Activity
My most important physical activity this semester is my ballet class. I absolutely love it. I'm so much more mentally attuned to it than when I was a child. It requires an awful lot of thinking! I also think that it's much more elegant than other forms of exercise (even though I don't always look particularly graceful...) Speaking of other forms of exercise, Paul and I have started playing golf and tennis. I'm not abysmal at the driving range, but my tennis needs a lot of work! Yes, we do only participate in country club sports (only not at the country club).


Some of the books I've been reading since my last post (from top): The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Agatha Christie), Tous les matins du monde (Pascal Quignard), Le Chef-d'oeuvre inconnu (Honore de Balzac), Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen), Carmina (Catullus), Thyestes (Seneca), The Moneypenny Diaries (Kate Westbrook), Arthur Gordon Pym and Benito Cereno (Edgar Allan Poe and Herman Melville, respecively), and The Old Curiosity Shop (Charles Dickens)

I've just decided to provide a chart of my recent (finished) reading, including books I've had to take back to the library:

  • Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles
  • Taste: The Story of Britain Through its Cooking by Kate Colquhoun

Good Enough:
  • Le Chef-d'oeuvre inconnu
  • Looking for Anne of Green Gables by Irene Gammel
  • Murder of a Medici Princess by Caroline P. Murphy
  • Northanger Abbey
  • Pierre et Jean by Guy de Maupassant
  • Thyestes

Eh... :
  • Kim by Rudyard Kipling
  • L'Amant de la Chine du Nord by Marguerite Duras (Her L'Amant is slightly better.)
  • Tous les matins du monde
I got really lucky and found a copy of A Stitch in Time from Alibris for $2.95. The book is a collection of knitting patterns from the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. I want to make the sweater below as my first A Stitch in Time project:

In other knitting news, I've done all but weaving in the ends for my shrug from Big City Knits:

I haven't done much original cooking (or cooking at all, for that matter) since school has started. However, I did buy a yogurt maker and have made two (moderately) successful batches of yogurt. I'm trying to clone my beloved Fage Total which, at $1.79 per carton, is an obscene expenditure. I also made red beans and rice (here in its Pyrex ready to go into the fridge):
These snickerdoodles from How to Be a Domestic Goddess went with Paul to his office (after we ate a few ourselves):
That's all the news that's fit to print. I hope you are all having a great October!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I finished my gloves! I'm so glad they're done so I have them for the winter. However, making fingers is a huge pain! I don't want to make any more for a long long time...

Here's a peek at a new project--a hedgehog! Paul wanted to get a real hedgehog as a pet, but this one will have to do. I've finished the head/body and an ear so far.

I don't have a lot of knitting to show because I've been working on knitting Paul's birthday present. Shhh!

I've also started learning Italian because I'd like to go to Venice, Florence, and Rome and possibly Pompeii and Herculaneum (if I can get over my fear of Mount Vesuvius--the scientists on Secrets of the Dead said that it could very likely erupt again just as catastrophically*). I also need to start reviewing my German because I'm going to lose it. Thankfully, I'm not in danger of losing my French because Watermark Books (a local Wichita bookstore with a yummy cafe, too) has a monthly French book club (reading and discussing in French). I'm about half-way through the book for July, Marguerite Duras' L'Amant de la Chine du Nord.** I've read both and La Douleur and L'Amant by Duras and have seen Hiroshima mon amour (she wrote the screen play) but I'm still not sure that I like anything she's written and L'Amant de la Chine du Nord is not very different from L'Amant. Of course, I do like my French novels to be set in France. I wanted to study French because of Paris, not because of the language itself. To be fair, I like my English novels to be set in England as well and thankfully, being a native speaker has eliminated a desperate desire to learn the language.

Watermark Books also has a Classic Book Club that is reading War and Peace for the next three months. I happen to have a copy I've never read, so I'm going to go to that book club as well. Unfortunately, the info on the book club specifies that they will be reading the new translation, but I don't think I should be expected to run out and buy another copy of the book. Besides, the individual chapters are only 5-7 pages each, so it won't be too hard for me to figure out where everything is if the group leader will just give me a book and chapter number. There were always several editions of the same book in my French classes and we all managed just fine.

In the spirit of reading War and Peace (and because it's the only dish Paul will ever suggest) I made Beef Stroganoff (even though it's summer), which, in its present incarnation, is probably not very Russian at all. I will maintain it is the thought that counts. Besides the Martha Stewart Macaroni and Cheese recipe, Beef Stroganoff is Paul's favorite dinner and I am quite proud of it if I do say so myself. It started out as a Betty Crocker recipe, but I think I've made enough changes to call it my own.

Beef Stroganoff (serves 4, but is easily doubled)
1 lb hamburger (I use 93% lean; it's ok because there is a lot of butter in this recipe)
1 medium onion, chopped
Fresh thyme sprigs, generous amount
1/4 c butter
2T flour
1t kosher salt
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 t freshly-ground pepper
4 oz. crimini mushrooms, cut in thick slices
1 can cream of mushroom soup (can use 98% fat free if you want)
Beef broth (a few tablespoons)
1 cup sour cream (you can use low-fat but not fat-free)
Cooked egg noodles

1. Melt the butter in a large skillet and then add beef, onion, and thyme leaves and cook over medium-high heat until the hamburger is no longer pink.
2. Add the flour, salt, garlic, pepper, and mushrooms and cook, stirring (almost) constantly for 5 minutes.
3. Add a few splashes of beef broth to deglaze the pan a bit.
4. Add the soup and stir while bringing to a boil.
5. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Stir in sour cream and sprinkle generously with paprika and heat through.
7. Serve over egg noodles.

I made another dish with egg noodles as well: Blanquette de veau from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The meat alone was $45, so we're lucky that the dish turned out so well. It's like a luxe combination of Beef Stroganoff (the egg noodles mostly) and chicken and dumplings (no dumplings). Since I hadn't bargained on veal stew meat being quite that expensive (how much for the whole baby cow?) and I had already special ordered it, I was determined to stretch it as far as possible. I did succeed in getting 8 servings out of the recipe instead of the suggested 6 and everything else that is in the dish is pretty cheap (onions, carrots, white mushrooms, pearl onions, chicken stock, egg noodles, parsley and thyme that I grow myself) so I did not feel bad since we can't eat for $7 per person in a restaurant and we certainly couldn't get veal for that.

*The entire episode "Herculaneum Uncovered" is online at the Secrets of the Dead website.
**Interesting Times article about the Saigon of Marguerite Duras here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another Hit from Nigella Express, Adventures in Waste Yarn, New Knitting Thingy, Italy

Chicken Schnitzel from Nigella Express

I was just talking to Erika on the phone (hi Erika!) and told her I was going to update my blog, so here goes. Unfortunately, I had to return Nigella Express to the library, but I was able to print out the recipe for Chicken Schnitzel with Bacon and White Wine here. (The photo is below.) The only change I made was instead of using garlic oil, I used olive oil and then threw in some minced garlic when I deglazed the pan at the end. I didn't want to put the garlic in with the oil at the beginning, because since the bacon fat gets so hot, the garlic would burn and get all nasty. The green beans are Haricots verts au maître d'hôtel and the wine is a 2006 Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling, which was only $8.98 at our friendly neighborhood liquor store. The chicken schnitzel is actually very very good. Besides, how could anything pan-fried in bacon fat be bad?

All I have to do for my left glove is the hand and fingers and then I'm ready for the elastic and then I am finished! Before I made the right glove, I had never done a project that required waste yarn and I had no idea what it did or anything but now I know and it is really cool.

Do you see these red stitches? (The yarn is from my socks.) This is the exact spot where the thumb will go!
Below are my new knitting gadgets. They are like little pieces of telephone cord (does anyone even have telephone cords any more?) and they wrap around my needles to keep them together and keep my project from slipping off in my bag. I was using rubber bands, but these are much easier and cuter. Plus, they don't snap off and hit me in the eye.
A (Mental) Trip to Italy
Unfortunately, I don't get to go to Italy in the near future and I've never been there, but I have gotten to spend some time in Venice and Rome thanks to the biography of Lucia Mocenigo by Andrea di Robilant and the film Artemisia. I picked up Lucia at the library last week and have really enjoyed it. It's the kind of history book I would have like to have written had I stayed in history--it has a narrative and I could actually feel the time period. Turns out, this kind of history is not written by "real" historians. I don't care because before I read this book I had not given Italy during the Napoleonic era much thought. Now I know a lot more about it and I enjoyed the trip.

Yesterday I watched Artemisia, a French film about the Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi. I took a summer art history class in 2005 and the professor suggested this film and I have just now gotten around to watching it. The things I liked the most about the film were the colors and the costumes. Almost all the colors were beautifully muted (like the Sistine ceiling before it was cleaned) but the costumes were very intricate. The movie was worth watching but I probably wouldn't watch it again and again.
Judith and Holofernes, Around 1620 by Artemisia Gentileschi
Judith and Holofernes, Around 1620

This beautiful (and, admittedly, gruesome) work played an integral part in the movie. This is the version of Judith and Holofernes that we had to memorize for our Renaissance/Baroque/Rococo test. I hope your day is better than his.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

French Food (Study in Beige and Green)

Above: Suprêmes de Volailles à Blanc and Haricots Verts au maître d’hôtel; Below: Fontina and Mushroom Omelet and Steamed Asparagus
The Suprêmes and Haricots Verts are from Mastering the Art of French Cooking (even though it's "Haricots Verts à la Maître de l'Hôtel" which is horribly incorrect and I can't bring myself to call them that). The Suprêmes (and I don't mean Diana Ross et aliae) are a favorite quick-fix meal because it takes ten minutes tops. The super-thin chicken escalopes are seasoned, sprinkled with lemon juice and then placed in a pan of hot butter and then put in the oven for 6 minutes and the sauce is a reduction of stock, vermouth, and cream. It's very yummy and goes well with Haricots Verts which are cooked in butter and lemon and a nice coupe of champagne (which I prefer over a flute and I don't care what any wine expert says).

The Fontina and mushroom omelet is my own recipe and is simply a two-egg omelet filled with 2 oz. of crimini mushrooms that have been sautéed in butter with a sprig of thyme (from my own thyme plant!) and 1/4 c. grated fontina. This was also a quick and easy dinner and, I believe, perfectly appropriate for very late spring and a glass of Riesling.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Pirates of Penzance and Magnolia Cupcakes, Part 1

After waiting twenty minutes in line at the concert hall (all the musical theater season ticket holders had to exchange their tickets) Paul and I finally got up to the window and I told the guy that we wanted the best two cheap seats they had for Pirates of Penzance. He then stated, "We don't sell opera tickets here. There should be a sign but there isn't." Well ok, silly me thinking that I could buy theater tickets at a box office. We had to wander up to the second floor to the actual opera office where one of the employees said we had to go up to the third floor to actually buy tickets and he would take us himself. As we were getting in the elevator, the company director was exiting at the second floor and, in his thick Eastern Bloc accent gestured at the guy we were with to "come come come come come." Our new friend gave the opera director a look of exasperation, gestured toward us and condescendingly said, "Tickets!" then got in the elevator with us and confided, "Sometimes life is difficult."

We did get tickets and yes, they were cheap but we could see well. The opera was fun (of course it was it's Gilbert & Sullivan for goodness sake) and if it wasn't sold out was close to it. We saw all kinds of people: people in jeans, people in cocktail dresses and suits (like us), and one particularly interesting couple comprised of a female in a prom dress and tiara and a male in a SARS mask.

From contagious disease to baking...
I finally made the Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Cupcakes I mentioned earlier. I thought it was pretty amazing that all of them came out of the oven with such flat tops. It makes icing them so much easier. The cake itself is really very good. The recipe is here, but I made a substitution. Instead of the 1 1/2 cups of self-rising flour, I used 1 1/2 cups cake flour + 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder + 3/4 t salt. I don't see any point in buying self-rising flour when I have salt and baking powder. Seems like one more thing to clutter up my pantry!
The cake flour substitution was for the texture of the cake. I had read comments that some people thought Magnolia cupcakes were too dry or too cornbread-y. I didn't find the ones I made to be dry in the least.

I did, however, have a slight problem with the buttercream. I don't think there was enough butter in it because it just tastes like sugar. I'm really glad I only made a quarter recipe because I need to find one that has more depth of flavor. I'll let you know when I find another one to try.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Beef Carbonnade, Shirred Eggs, Knitting, Crocheting

This is Beef Carbonnade from Williams-Sonoma's Mastering Beef & Veal. The wine is a cabernet sauvignon and that strange green stuff is chard. The chard, the beef, and the dinner roll all came from Saturday's farmers' market. I spent a good chunk of time Sunday making Beef Carbonnade, which is in the Beouf Bourguignon chapter (not much success in the past with that, so I thought one of the variations would be better). Paul didn't want to spend the money for the KC Strips, so I had to make do with a "braising" cut which meant that I had to fix something that was meant more for cold weather than for tornado weather (I think we've been under a tornado watch all this week). Anyway, Beef Carbonnade is cooked in beef stock and beer (we used Guinness Extra Stout mostly because it was cheap) rather than cheap red wine like the Bourguignon.

Beef Carbonnade was dinner Sunday along with the chard I mentioned earlier. Yet another vegetable disaster to add to my list. I'd never had chard before and thought I'd be adventurous. Unfortunately, it tastes like beets. No wonder only 10% of Americans get the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables daily.

Dinner last night was 1/2 price burgers from Spangles (local burger chain, have to have burgers on Memorial Day) and Beef Carbonnade was on the menu again tonight (just without the icky chard).

Lunch today was a desperate attempt to avoid both salad and a trip to the grocery store, so I pulled off a miraculous feat and cooked what I could find: Shirred Eggs and Braised Celery.

Shirred Eggs
Oil those two ramekins and break an egg into each one. Said egg is then topped with 1 teaspoon butter, then salt and pepper, then, gloriously, 1 tablespoon heavy cream before being placed into a 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes (I say 17). When my eggs come out of the oven, I top them with the green parts of scallions (also hanging around in my fridge). Today my Shirred Eggs were paired with Braised Celery.

Now, you might be thinking "ew" but braised celery (which is basically 1/2 c beef stock and 2t dry vermouth brought to a boil, then add 2 cut-up celery stalks, salt, pepper, and assorted dried herbs and boil until liquid is totally reduced) is not all that bad. I mean, it still tastes like celery but it also tastes like beef stock and vermouth. My version is a very quick rendition of the one in Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Me looking for things to cook:

I finished the first glove last night while watching Legally Blonde with Paul who thought it was absolutely hilarious which, I, in turn, thought was absolutely hilarious since Paul's usual movie choices star Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger and occasionally Kurt Russell, Mel Gibson, or Robert DeNiro.

I wonder how long it will be before I finish the second glove...

You may remember that I started a crocheted hat a while back. I tore it out several times and yesterday went back to the website to find that there was another pattern from another blog that I decided to try instead. I hope it works out this time!
Paul and I also went to get tickets for Pirates of Penzance today. It seems to me as though the Wichita Grand Opera is the red-headed step-child of the Wichita Performing Arts Center. More on that after the show Saturday.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Farmers' Market, Steak Salad, and Strawberries and Cream

Yesterday was the long-awaited visit to the Old Town Farmers' Market. While they did have more than rhubarb, it was mostly old hippies selling ugly clothing, ugly crochet blankets, and nasty patchouli incense. I don't intend to be mean, but I was a little disappointed. On the bright side, there was one (and only one) vegetable stall selling very local produce and the next tent over was the Prayrie Ranch stall. They're from El Dorado (not the mythical golden city, unfortunately, but the quasi-suburb of Wichita) and sell free-range poultry and grass-fed beef. I couldn't believe how many stalls there were and we only bought things at three of them! Maybe it was the rain keeping the farmers away. So, here is the list of what we bought:
Eye of Round
Chicken Breasts

In other culinary news, I finally fixed the steak salad to use up some spinach and it's a good thing I didn't wait any longer because the spinach was starting to rot. That's probably not what you wanted to hear, but I'm into portraying my cooking as it really is, so be happy in knowing that the majority of the spinach was a-ok.

I basically just wilted the spinach in olive oil with some garlic and salt and topped it with blanched asparagus, lemon juice, the leftover steak, and some grated parmesan. It was ok. I think Paul liked it more than I did. He also hasn't been eating salad for lunch every day for the past week.

Dessert, on the other hand, was heavenly (and Wimbledonian). Strawberries and cream! This was just two cups of strawberries sliced, mixed with 1t sugar, and topped with 3T heavy cream. Sooo good!

I also have a serious need to bake. For some reason, I bought the special Sex and the City issue of Entertainment Weekly when I ran in to the Dillon's at 37th and Woodlawn to get organic Heinz for Paul's tater tots Friday night. I mean, I have seen every single episode of the show, but I have very mixed feelings about the movie. In the episode guide to season three, there is a little blurb about Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes, which were featured in one of the episodes. I have been fascinated for years by how they make the swirl in their icing. I have decided to attempt my own icing swirls and even bought an offset spatula yesterday. I found the Magnolia Bakery cupcake recipe at 52 Cupcakes and I'd like to know if they're worth the 20-minute wait.

Friday, May 23, 2008

More from Nigella Express

Ham Steaks with Parsley from Nigella Express and Mascarpone Peas

There were going to be two dinners with this post but what I was going to make didn't sound like what I wanted, so we went to Sonic for Grilled Cheese and Tater Tots instead. Writing that makes me wish I had cooked...

The ham steaks were tasty (they have a honey/pinot grigio vinegar sauce) although as Paul so delicately puts it, "It's hard to f--- up a ham steak." I was quite proud of the peas, though, because I made up the recipe from a Nigella suggestion. Here goes:

Mascarpone Peas
(serves 2)

1. Cover 1 cup frozen peas, 1/2 clove minced garlic and a sprinkling of kosher salt with water and bring to a boil.
2. After peas have come to a boil reduce the heat to keep peas warm until they are needed.
3. When ready to serve, drain the peas and mix 1 oz. of mascarpone, 1T parmigiano-reggiano, and freshly ground pepper with them.
4. Eat your vegetables!

I once again attempted Carottes Vichy, but they were burnt yet again. I only took my eyes off them for a minute! I blame Jacques...

In other food news, Paul and I had Knolla's Pizza for lunch (Knolla's East is just 3 miles from our apartment). Paul was craving NY-style pizza and I didn't want a salad for lunch (I've been having a balsamic vinaigrette salad for lunch this week) since we were supposed to have one for dinner. Knolla's hit the spot. Yet again, we are impressed by the quality and value of food in Wichita. We did carry-out because Paul insisted we couldn't miss today's episode of All My Children because he had to see who was going to get shot.

So, we were total couch potatoes and watched All My Children and then went to a 2 p.m. showing of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (I think we're both too cheap to pay the $7.75 to see a nighttime showing). It was an enjoyable popcorn-watching summer movie (although we're too cheap for popcorn and I had to settle for 40-cent bottled water from the vending machines outside the Wal-Mart). It wasn't as good (of course) as Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Last Crusade but I would definitely say it was better than that second one (see I can't even remember the name of it oh yeah Temple of Doom which was only memorable for "Anything Goes" in Chinese). Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the only Indiana Jones I've actually seen in the theater and I saw it in the Imax screening room. That was pretty cool.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Paul and I have finally moved to Wichita and I have returned to cooking dinner (every night so far!). We're still getting to know the city and trying to find places to put all of our stuff. So far, we like it here but we miss everybody back in Norman and Oklahoma City. I have spoken to my parents and grandma and Erika on the telephone, though, which has made me very happy.

Everything is pretty cheap here. I think the food at the organic market was cheaper than the SuperTarget in Norman. I'm looking forward to the big farmers' market Saturday because they supposedly not only have produce but beef and poultry as well. We tried going to the Tuesday farmers' market, but all they had was rhubarb.

I don't have a driver's license yet (the one place to get one in the entire city of Wichita is on the other side of town) but I do have a library card. (You can tell what I think is important!) Tuesday I checked out Nigella Express which I've really been wanting to check out since I've become addicted to the show which I have to watch on YouTube because we have no cable and since I absolutely adore How to Be a Domestic Goddess. I really like reading the blurbs that come before the recipes. Oh and I happen to have Nigella Lawson's Living Kitchen measuring cups and spoons. I get a kick every time I watch her show because "I have those measuring cups!"

I also really like Giada de Laurentiis (Paul- I don't care if she has too many teeth)and the pasta below happens to be covered in her Salsa All'Amatriciana (from Everyday Italian) with some asparagus roasted in olive oil and then topped with kosher salt and lemon juice.

Below is the first recipe I've tried from Nigella Express: Steak Slice with Lemon and Thyme. The side dish for this was blanched asparagus rolled around in the sauce made with the steak. We were also supposed to have Carottes Vichy from Jacques Pepin's Simple and Healthy Cooking, but they did not turn out so well (think horribly burnt matchstick carrots). At least the steak and asparagus turned out really well and we have half of it left over for steak salads.

For dessert, I chopped up some strawberries and then drizzled them with lemon juice and let them sit and then topped them with homemade whipped cream (1/2 c heavy cream, 2t sugar, vanilla). This was so wonderfully yummy, especially since I've been wanting strawberries for weeks. I'm even planning on embroidering a Strawberries and Cream apron.

Back to the subject of Nigella. I just find her wonderfully charming and amusing. Here's a clip from the Nigella Express TV show. She's making Caramel Croissant Pudding, which I can't make because croissants are never allowed to go stale at our house.

That's all for now. I am planning on getting back to my gloves. I only have to finish the pinkie on the first one and I will be finished. Then I have to start the second glove...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

My birthday was Wednesday and my grandma's was Tuesday, so we had cake Saturday. My dad made and decorated the big cake and cupcakes. I think his icing flowers are the best.

Here's the inside. White cake, white frosting--my favorite.

Paul seems to think that cheesecake is better than regular cake, but I could not disagree more. Almost every time I have cheesecake I'm disappointed. I like some homemade recipes and it helps if they have lemon. I think commercial cheesecake is too dense. Speaking of Paul, he missed my birthday celebration because he was at a school-sponsored radio-controlled plane competition. They spent $4,000 and 300 hours building and the plane broke into flames and burned to a crisp. He got to come home early, though. Next time I go anywhere, I'm taking a boat.

These two photos are the bag I (If you count "I" as standing and watching while my mom did most of the work) made for Erika using Amy Butler's Frenchy Bags pattern and "Klimt" fabric by Alexander Henry. It was supposed to be a Christmas present, but I got a little behind...