Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Garden Update -- My friend Candace and I took a field trip up to Upper Montclair, NJ to see the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. May in Montclair is a gorgeous thing, starting with the tulips and ending with the irises. Here's a collage of some of the flowers we saw this evening.

Mom gave me this dark burgundy columbine that had volunteered in her pinetum. I stuck it in the plot by the garage in an attempt to inspire the non-blooming clematis to respond to the competition.

My newest gardening experiment, container gardens. so far, so good.

Container garden 2.

I had such a good time picking out these plants with John's aunt Lorraine. She brought me to Country Landscapes in Easton, Pa. to pick out these beauties. The lilac colored bunchy bits are fragrant as well.

Happy hanging plant. This is where the Christmas cactus used to be before it died a grizzly death in the big chill. I keep waiting for the praying mantis to show, but he hasn't yet.

I did buy three semi-dried out hanging plants, but they seem to be getting better.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

One of the most mispronounced gourmet food items is mascarpone cheese. Most people pronounce it mar scap pone. It's really closer to mass car po nay. So, I was looking for a recipe to use up the mascarpone cheese I'd bought on a whim two weeks ago when I came on this one at (gasp!) the home of the enemy of all cheese sandwiches everywhere, Food and Wine magazine online. Much as I'd like to hate them, the recipe really works. And, it really works if you cut the oil completely and use agave nectar like I did. Most importantly, it works if you makes cupcakes or cake. They were really yummy, with enough nutmeg and cinnamon to make the house smell like winter cookie baking time.

Dry ingredients.

Mmmm carrots! 1 1/2 pounds of them. A beta carotenoid-friendly dessert! If I added flaxseed oil, you'd get your omega 3 fatty acids too! Something to think about for the next go-round.

It's really wet now, but it worked out well. I was surprised, but it was so wet that I omitted the 1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil. Using the agave and the SIX eggs (!), the recipe hardly needed the oil. If I had to do it differently, I'd use fewer eggs and maybe a little oil, but it really was fine.

I'm really fond of the tiny cupcakes and should really get another one of these pans. The dippy thing is that I forgot to use cupcake liners. Luckily, they came out of the pan pretty easily. Next time, I'll remember. They came out well, very fluffy and cinnamony.

The big cupcakes fell a tiny bit, but were very moist yet fluffy.

Fantastique! These came out far better than I thought they would. Highly tasty specimens with soft, moist cake and tart, creamy frosting. I didn't have the 2 cups of mascarpone required, so I used one cup mascarpone and 1 cup of Temptee whipped cream cheese for the frosting. I just guessed on the agave nectar since the recipe called for 1/3 cup of sugar based on only mascarpone. The two lemons worth of zest really worked magic on the frosting and played very well against the carrot cake. I would definitely make these again. They also were a big hit with John's Aunt Lorraine and Uncle Jim.

Friday, May 19, 2006

In Robyn's blog, she had posted a wonderful entry about an awesome tuna melt and fries plate. I was inspired to make my own with some Trader Joe's naan, tuna and Wensleydale cheese for the topper. Here's my photo journal of how it went, starting with the yummy naan.

In my tuna, I used some organic mayo from Trader Joes, organic baby carrots minced, and some Mrs. Dash salt-free seasoning.

Tuna topped naan.

"Not even Wensleydale?" It's a quote from Wallace & Gromit's "The Wrong Trousers" movie. Since the piece John and I bought from Wegman's was getting a bit old, I thought I might employ some of it in my tempting tuna melt. It was a good decision and far superior to other cheeses I've had on melty things before. It has a nice nutty, buttery flavor, so I can understand why Wallace (and others) are such big fans.

Oven fries from Ore Ida. Not anywhere near as good as fresh diner fries, but they'll do in a pinch.

Mmmm. Melty cheese and fries.

Innards for Robyn. I think if I had eaten it right after this photo it would have been perfect. Unfortunately, we didn't time our dinners right and John's took about 10 more minutes to make, so I stuck it back in the oven to keep warm. The oven was still at 375 by the time I popped the sandwich and the fries back in and it dried the thing out a bit. Next time, it won't go back in the oven! The Wenslydale was very tasty, and I'm looking forward to another cheesy experience with it.

It is the first iris I've ever planted. It was a transplant from Mom's garden, which means that it likely may be one of the rhisomes she bought from the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens in Upper Montclair, NJ. It's raining a bit today, so I expect that the new buds should be full bloom by tomorrow.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Garden Update: Clematis

Happily, the clematis by the house are blooming. I moved them last year to this location but they only popped out one flower. Quite a change from last year.

I might run a string from the little garden arch to the drainpipe to hide it and see how high they'll climb.

The other clematis by the garage hasn't bloomed or really grown that much, and it does have a string run to a different drainpipe. It doesn't get as much sun there, but that's no excuse. hehehe.

Trial recipe from the folks at the Post Punk Kitchen, who usually don't lead me down the wrong path.

Coated in corn starch, I'm assuming so that the batter would stick. It didn't stick much the first batch, so I left a few in there for the second batch, and it worked slightly better. The batter really should be thicker, so the 1 1/2 cups of soy (I used rice) milk might be cut by 1/2 cup. Also, I would have added some kind of leavening agent and let the batter sit for 30 minutes. Finally, I pulled out the chopsticks because I'm having all this dental work done and wouldn't be eating anything off a stick anyway.

Oil heating up. I know you're supposed to cover the things in oil, but that's a lot of oil.

Pretty interplanetary looking things. I used peanut oil to fry the soy doggies, which was fine because it would stand the high heat and not impart too much flavor. I don't own a deep fryer, so this is about as deep in oil as I get. The way the drips looked, it seemed that if done correctly, funnel cakes could be made. I tried, but it was such a colossal failure I didn't even photograph it.

The final product: still tastes like a not-dog. Oh well. Even when I doused the thing in my homemade ketchup (with horseradish), it didn't improve much. The corndog part of it was OK, but I'd fiddle with this one a bit before I'd call it a success, epecially since it didn't fry up well or taste anything like the cornbread coatings I've had on corn dogs in the past.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Infinitely Amusing

I visited Tasting Menu and found that they'd spelled out their name in crackers, but included a link to this site, where you can spell out various combinations of things up to 26 characters. I find this incredibly amusing, especially since you can change the pixel size. Try it!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

I'm just crackers for cheese!

I'm just crackers for cheese, Gromit! OK. I'm crazy about the Wallace and Gromit films. Wallace mentions Wensleydale quite a bit so John and I thought we should try it. He doesn't eat cheese by itself, unlike me. I'll each cheese with other cheese.

We went to Wegman's (too crowded on a Saturday, that's for sure!) yesterday, on the way home from shopping elsewhere, to pick up some of the salsa we like (Herdez, we like mild and medium mixed together and blended with the immersion blender until it's pretty well mush). We also favor Santitas chips. Try 'em!

I decided that it was high time we tried some Wensleydale. The cheese monger (yes, they have one there) asked which kind, since they tended to come with fruit in them. I opted for plain in order to have a better idea of the flavor on its own.

I tried it this morning plain, then melted on one of the biscuits I baked yesterday. It was much better on the biscuit. I'm not sure if I'm sold on it yet. This particular chunk of cheese hails from the U.K. and has a buttery flavor, almost sour taste. So, I could see how one would want to pack it with tasty fruit. I will have to try it on a cracker. What I'd really like is to try it on a Nairn oatcake, but Wegmans didn't have them! I was very surprised since it's so upscale. Next time I'm at Whole Foods, I'll look.

It must be my fascination with all things Scotish due to reading Alexander McCall Smith's Edinburgh-set books. If you know of an inexpensive place to get the oatcakes, please leave me a link. Thanks!

Yep, another recipe from the Food Network. This one's for Alton Brown's Southern Biscuits. John said they tasted just like biscuits. I'd had some recently in Texas and these just didn't taste as rich and buttery. Not that they turned out poorly. Just the opposite. They came out tender and flaky, just as good biscuits should. Maybe I'm just not a fan of buttermilk. It smells like bad cottage cheese. But, since we had leftover buttermilk from the waffles, I'm trying to put it to good use and to be openminded about it.

Have I mentioned how much I love my silicone spatula with the happy green frogs embedded in the silicone? Well, here I am mentioning it again. It was useful when mixing the ingredients of the biscuits.

My hands have a cameo on the blog. :)

My favorite big bowl is this green Emile Henry bowl. Also at hand is my newest and probably least expensive kitchen tool, the pastry cutter. Yesterday, John and I went to the Flemington outlet stores to return some things to L.L. Bean, but there's a Le Crueset outlet there where we bought John's grill pan at a steal, so we tend to stop in when we're there. This was on sale for $2.65. I didn't even know it until the shopgirl rang it up. I never knew how useful these things were until I tried making this biscuits. I'm sure I'll use it again for other things where I don't want the fats to melt.

Sticky, buttery dough.

The recipe says to pull the sticky dough out onto a well-floured surface, sprinkle some flour on top, then fold it over on itself 4-5 times. This is my pile of folded over dough. Next, I flattened it out to 1 inch as directed.

My custom biscuit cutter. Hee hee.

Pre-baked biscuits. Alton said they should just be touching, so I followed his suggestion.

Golden, puffy biscuits!

Mmmm. Fluffy and buttery, but not perfect. There's a tang that I'm not crazy about, and more than likely, it's the buttermilk. When I spread some raspberry spread on one, it improved a bit. I have another recipe, also from the Food Network, for cornmeal buttermilk biscuits that I plan to try later.

I'm not sure I'd rate it 5 stars, maybe 3, but we decided on it based purely on the fun name. Don't believe the hype. It's a Rachel Ray pick from the $40 a day series. She's far from my favorite host on the food network, but I used to enjoy the show purely from the travel aspect. Oh well. Leftover buttermilk will be used in a later posting about Alton Brown's Southern Biscuits.

Dry ingredients.

This is the batter after it sat for more than 30 minutes, as directed.

If you don't own a Villaware waffle iron and you're thinking of buying one, definitely wait until a sale. That's what I did and bought this one at Williams-Sonoma.

Surpise! This was one of the first things I'd bought with John when we first started dating 3 years ago.

The waffle iron had been heating during the insane build-up of the Kentucky Derby. What a lot of hype over 3 minutes!

Don't you just love the "waffletone" setting? We cooked them until they were golden and crispy. We found that the more "done" they were, the less eggy they tasted. Weird since there was only one egg. I'd bet it was the buttermilk.

Crispy warm waffle up close.

Innards for Robyn. Taste -- well, they didn't live up to their name as the waffle of insane greatness, but they're a nice, easy-to-make, fluffy waffle. I had mine with agave nectar.

Garden update: The creeping phlox has once again taken over the smaller gardens. I'm so glad I did NOT plant any in the plot by the house. The red dianthus is just starting to pop out and the pink ones will bloom probably in another 10 days or so.