Thursday, January 31, 2013

Rosemary-Sea Salt Peasant Bread

Oh goodness.  Make this bread.  Just make it.  I even screwed it up a little and didn't add enough sugar, and it is still one of the most delightful things I have ever made.

I got the recipe from alexandra's kitchen, which is for the just plain Peasant Bread.  I had a couple stalks of rosemary that the lovely, nice man from the produce stand gave to me, so I added a huge amount of fresh rosemary to the recipe; is there such a thing as too much rosemary?

To start, boil about a cup of water.  Once its boiling, measure out 1.5 cups cold water, and combine it with half a cup of the boiling water in a small bowl.  Add 1 tbsp. of sugar, and 1 packet of yeast, but do not stir.  Let that sit for about 10 minutes, until it gets foamy.  While the yeast is sitting, measure out 4 scant cups of all-purpose flour, and mix that up with 2 tsp. kosher salt.  Stir the yeast mixture, then add it to the flour mixture.

Use a wooden spoon or spatula to mix it together.  The dough will be quite wet and maybe a little slimy; don't worry about that, because you don't have to knead it!  At all!!  Cover the bowl with a moistened tea towel, and allow it to rise for between 1 to 2 hours.  (I usually just moisten the tea towel with hot hot hot water, cover the bowl with it, and put it in the oven to rise.  Obviously, I do not turn the oven on for this step.)

While that is rising, you should butter your bowls.  Yes, this bread bakes up in any oven-safe bowl.  I used one bowl, and 1 loaf pan, because this is enough to make two loaves.  Really butter whatever bowls you are using.  When you think you've used enough butter, add more butter.  The butter makes the bottom of the loaf crispy and golden, and makes sure that the loaf will slide right out.  

Now, once your dough has risen, add the rosemary (if you'd like).  

Scrape down the sides of the bowl with two forks, and kind of pull the outside of the dough over onto the middle of itself, to incorporate the rosemary.  Then, use the forks to separate the dough into two parts.  Like I said, the dough it a little slimy, so be quick when you transfer the dough into its baking bowl.  Cover these bowls again, and let the dough rise for about another hour.  It should be level with the rim of its bowl.  

*This is where I discovered my mistake.  This stuff just wouldn't rise to the rim of the bowl!  Turns out, I had only added 1/2 tbsp. of sugar to the yeast mixture, when I should have added 1 whole tbsp.  And doesn't yeast kind of feed off of sugar to puff up the bread?  I'm pretty sure that's the scientific explanation.*

Once your bread has risen properly (because you read instructions and measure carefully, unlike your ditzy pal), preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Pop your dough in there, and bake for 10 minutes.  Lower the temperature to 375 degrees, and cook for about 22 - 25 minutes more.  Remove them from the oven, and turn them out onto a cooling rack.  

This is the bread upside-down.  See all that golden crispiness?  That's your butter working for you.  

Turn the bread over, and run just a little bit more butter of the top, then sprinkle with coarse sea salt (if you want to).  

I am not kidding when I say that this is some of the best bread I have ever tasted.  It's crispy and buttery on the outside, and chewy and soft on the inside.  Just make it.  I'm begging you.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ratatouille Sub

Y'all, I owe you a massive apology for being absent on Monday.  I was down in Atlanta, scoping out our new digs and peppering my conversations with southern-isms like 'Y'all,' 'Aren't you sweet?,' and 'Waffle House.'  Yes, I did help myself to a pecan waffle at the fancy breakfast/lunch/late-night establishment, and yes, I did find myself liking monograms an awful lot while browsing through some shops in downtown Roswell.  I think I'll be happy down there, especially once my southern accent comes back into play.
But that's beside the point.  I missed my recipe Monday!  And I have such a wonderful recipe to share with you!  The prep work for this dish is a bit exhaustive unless you have a mandoline slicer (which I don't), but don't let that stop you from cooking this for a decadent sandwich. 
In the original recipe, this calls for eggplant, peppers, squash and zucchini.  Well, it's definitely winter up here in DC, so we only have eggplant and peppers.  It's still delish!  We made the subs one night with a butterflied, grilled sausage on each, and I tossed it with some couscous for lunch the next day.  So easy, healthy, and colorful, my favorite type of meal.

Ratatouille Sub (from Smitten Kitchen)
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 c. tomato puree (we took a jar of skinned plum tomatoes and just pureed it in the container)
2 Tbps. olive oil, divided
1 eggplant
3 or 4 bell peppers of whatever color suits your fancy
Few sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Few Tbsp. soft goat cheese, for serving
Couple of tsp. balsamic vinegar, for serving
1 baguette, sliced and grilled for serving

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Pour tomato puree into bottom of an oval baking dish (or a rimmed baking sheet), approximately 10 inches across the long way. Drop the sliced garlic cloves into the sauce, stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil and season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.
3. Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. As carefully as you can, trim the ends off the bell peppers and remove the core, leaving the edges intact, like a tube.
4. On a mandoline, adjustable-blade slicer or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant and bell peppers into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.
5. Atop the tomato sauce, arrange slices of prepared vegetables (including the onions!) concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. You may have a handful leftover that do not fit.
6. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs with your fingertips, running them down the stem. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish.
7. Cover dish with a piece of aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes at 375.
8. Remove foil, raise heat to 425, and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the veggies have a little color on top. 
9. Remove from oven and let cool for a minute or two.  Place on top of halved bread, top with goat cheese, a bit of balsamic vinegar if desired, and some sausage if you're feeling fancy. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How to Cheer Up

Disclaimer: This is how I cheer up.  Maybe you have a completely different way of cheering up, but perhaps this could help you on the path to cheerfulness!  All I know is, when I am in a funk, this always does the trick!

When I studied in Ireland, our friends used to make us cups of tea when us poor Americans were too cold and rained-upon to stand the weather any longer.  Very strong tea with milk and copious amounts of sugar.  They called it a mug of skald, which is slang for "tea".  We would drink it while eating biscuits (cookies), and watching "Home and Away", an Australian soap opera that everyone was crazy about, especially the boys.

Ok, reminiscing time is over!  Sorry for the trip down memory lane!  So, when I need to cheer up now, I make a mug of skald.

I brew some very very strong tea (usually Irish Breakfast by Twinings).  Really really squeeze the tea bag before removing it from the tea, so you get that strong flavor.

Add about 1.5 tablespoons of sugar, or more!  This is not one of the healthiest things that I make, but it's definitely one of the tastiest!

Add enough milk to cool the tea down to a reasonable drinking temperature, and stir it all up!  

Once you have your mug of skald made, get on, and search for Dean Martin videos, particularly from the Dean Martin Show.  I recommend starting with Foster Brooks as a drunk airline pilot.  I promise, it is impossible to be downcast or depressed while watching Dean Martin videos.  Try it.  

How do you cheer up??  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Haley's Week in Photos

Last Thursday was Matt's birthday!  Now he is 27, and so so old.  Believe it or not, this is the only picture that I took of his birthday celebration, where he is wearing his new slippers.  I am seriously slacking on documenting our lives...

And then it was Megan's birthday on Friday!  We went to a really fun Irish pub (where they had some of the best bangers and mash that I've had since I left the Emerald Isle), and celebrated with a lot of friends.  Doesn't she look cute?

Matt and Layla had a moment before bed the other night.  He is so crazy in love with this dog, it's ridiculous.

Layla and I walk over this bridge once a day, usually, and sometimes she smells something that she must investigate.  She is definitely curious, and still getting used to all of the new things in our neighborhood.  

We have a little half-bathroom downstairs, and the people here before us had done this faux-panting thing on the walls.  It may not have been so bad if they had done a good job, but it just looked wretched, so I re-painted it!  Matt was gone for two nights this week, and I got it done! 

I used a very cool grey-blue paint, which matches our fish picture in there perfectly.  I did have to ask Uncle Rob to come over and help re-grout some parts of the vanity, and then I actually did some myself after he had left!  I am becoming quite handy.  

I finally got to visit one of my best friends, Carolyn, who lives down here.  The weather was just beautiful, and we sat outside by her pool for a bit--I am trying to get just a slight bit of color, so I look like I actually do LIVE in South Florida.  It's a process.

I went to Aunt Nesi's for dinner and Downton Abbey.  She served mashed potatoes and Chicken Garibaldi, which was delicioso!  Downton Abbey, as usual, was perfect--I can't wait to watch the next episode!  

I leave you with a view of the sunset from the same bridge I mentioned before.  I am so lucky to live somewhere where all of this beauty is reflected in the water everywhere I go!  

Abbi's Last (Two!) Weeks

Takorean!!  Caramelized tofu tacos topped with kimchi, sriracha, cojita cheese, and a bit of lettuce.  Best when served with Cheerwine.  If you live in DC, you have to go to Union Market to grab some of this!

Yo, my shirt has a skateboarding T.Rex holding a drink.  He's rolling.  We should all be rolling.

During the unseasonably warm weekend we experienced in January, we hit up the driving range and practiced our putting, too.  JP got a hole-in-one on the first try!  We should have just called it a day after that...what could be better?

I've already taken to borrowing JP's chunky sweaters and belting them around the waist to define what girlish figure I have left.  Comfy and cozy! (Zara sweater, Old Navy cargos, Clarks boots)

We took Mia on a walk around Roosevelt Island last Sunday, and she found a ton of mud (her paws should be white).  How could we stay mad at her; look at that happy face!

Seeing as how it is our last January in DC, we braved the cold and crowds for the inauguration on Monday.  Very, very cool to be there!  And we got free flags.  Win win.

 Summer and Luke were our terrific double dates.  So glad we could experience it together!

 A sneak peek of next week's recipe...(ratatouille sub with sausage!)

 The other morning it was 16 degrees outside (without wind chill!), and Mia did not want to go for a walk.  Too cozy and warm in bed.

Finally!  Some snow in the district!  Taken at 3:30am Friday (this whole pregnancy bladder thing is no joke).  We got an inch, so nothing to brag about, but better than nothing!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lemon-Herb Chicken (and Salad)

I am very lucky that this man of mine loves (loves) salads.  On any given day, I could throw some lettuce on a plate, add some oil and vinegar, and maybe a hunk of baguette, and he is a happy camper.  Most times, though, I try to get a little fancier than just lettuce and bread (though, it's definitely not difficult to improve on such meager offerings).  

This Lemon-Herb rub is from Everyday Food's Great Food Fast, and is lovely and light, with a little bite of acidity from the lemon, and earthiness from the bay leaves.  For this particular salad, I also roasted up some potatoes (fun little purple ones that I found!), and green beans, then made the salad dressing by deglazing the pan after I cooked the chicken.  I'll get to all that.

If you want to make this exact salad, preheat your oven to 350, and place potatoes and green beans on a rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper; place in the oven.  Cook these while you do the rest of the stuff for the salad.

To make the lemon-herb rub, you'll need 1 tbsp. tarragon, 1 tbsp. grated lemon zest, 4 crumbled bay leaves, 3 minced cloves of garlic, 1.5 tsp. coarse salt, ground pepper to taste, and 3 tsp. olive oil.  Mix it all up!

Rub the mixture onto some chicken breasts, then let them sit for a couple minutes to soak in all the juicy goodness.  

While the chicken breasts are sitting, heat some olive oil (or coconut oil, if you prefer) in a skillet over medium-high heat.  You'll want the pan good and hot before you add the chicken, so that it gets lovely and brown.  Cook the chicken for a couple minutes on each side, to get that brown goodness, then lower the temperature and cover the pan to continue cooking.  

While the chicken finishes up cooking, cut up your lettuce.  Remove the chicken from the pan, and get excited about all that good fond left at the bottom of the pan. (Bet you didn't know that the little brown bits of food left in the pan after cooking were called "fond".  This is a very educational post.)  Remove the pan from heat.  I added a bit of extra olive oil, some vinegar, lemon juice, and a smidge of Dijon mustard to the pan and swirled it all around.  Let that just sit.  

Slice up the chicken, remove the roasted veggies from the oven, and pile it all up on the lettuce.  Add the dressing from the pan, and you are all set!  

Now, the Lemon-Herb Rub can be used for a lot of other meats, too; Everyday Food recommends "leaner foods such as turkey...and flaky white fish (such as halibut, cod, or snapper)".  Let me know if you try it/have tried it on something else--I would love to hear about it!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Graveyard Book

What a fun audiobook!  JP and I listened to this juvenile/YA fiction story on our way to Illinois from Georgia, and it was more than entertaining while driving through a snowstorm.  Bonus: Neil Gaiman narrates for the audio version, and he has a great British accent. 
Nobody ('Bod' for short) is orphaned one night as a 18-month-old toddler.  A mysterious man sneaks into his house and kills the other three members of his family; Bod makes it out of the house by climbing out of his crib and crawling to a nearby graveyard, where he is taken in by a ghostly couple who never managed to have children in their lives.  Bod is given the 'Freedom of the Graveyard,' and can see its inhabitants and pass through crypts supernaturally.  That being said, he is not immune to needs like food, water, and clothing; for that, his guardian, Silas, goes into the human world and brings back what Bod needs to survive.  Each chapter in the novel describes encounters in Bod's life: the day of the 'Danse Macabre' (one of my favorite chapters of the story), his discovery of the centuries-old Sleer that guards a treasure hidden deep in a hill, his young friendship with another human girl named Scarlett.  Gaiman does a great job of imbuing the stories with a sense of the supernatural that never feels over-the-top, but rather humane and just out of our reach of understanding and reality. 
The man who murdered Bod's family is still searching for the toddler who escaped him, and this story line threads throughout the novel.  The man, named Jack, will not stop until the body has been discovered and 'taken care of.'  Keep your guard up toward the end of the book, as not everything is as it appears...
Now, I can't comment on the illustrations, as we only listened to the book.  I can reassure you that this is an excellent audiobook for a long roadtrip, or even broken up into chapters during long walks or runs with an iPod or the like.  It feels more wintery than anything, so you may want to check it out before the days get longer and hot!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How to Roll Up Your Sleeves

Here is confession time: I own only one button-down shirt.  I have this problem, I think, where my shoulders are more broad than the average woman's, and so button-down shirt sleeves are always, always too short on me.  So I never bought them.  I would see those cute shirts with crazy patterns on the inside of the cuffs and think Yes, but I will just be rolling the cuffs up to my elbows anyways, because it will be too dang short, and no one will see that cute cuff detailing.

Well, not anymore!  I found this awesome new way to roll up shirtsleeves, in which you can totally still see the cute cuff detailing!  As soon as I learned about it, it was blatantly obvious to me, and I feel a little silly that I had not thought of it before...

First, obviously, start with a shirt with long sleeves.  This is also a good example of how short long-sleeved shirts usually are on me. 
Pull the cuff all the way up over your elbow.

Now, fold the rest of the sleeve up like normal to meet the cute cuff!  Pull the cuff out a little, if you want it to sort of stick out and be a little wild, or just leave it setting right up against your arm for a more put-together look.   

You may recognize this outfit from an earlier post that I did, but the camera angle is a little better to see the cuff of this shirt.  

Have any of you ever rolled your sleeves this way, and I'm just way behind the curve?  Did this blow your mind the way it blew mine??

Monday, January 21, 2013

M&Ms and Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats

Happy Monday, y'all!  Welcome back to the wonderful middle of winter.  Haley is living it up in sunny south Florida, spending her days by the grill and wearing tank tops.  Meanwhile, Inauguration 2013 fever is at an all-time high up here in DC (are you watching it today?), meaning I can't fight the crowds in Georgetown or muster the energy to bundle up in my down coat for my favorite Baked and Wired rice krispie treats.  Thus, the desire to make my own treats at home was born!
These bars are more than enough to lift you out of those winter doldrums.  No baking required, so the effort is minimal.  You can mix everything in the Dutch oven, meaning less dishes to wash.  And feel free to just use peanut butter with no candy, or add your own favorite: butterscotch chips, chopped up Snickers...the only thing that might not work great is gummy bears.  But, hey, I'm happy to be proven wrong.

M&Ms and Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats (very slightly adapted from Kellogg's website)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 c. mini marshmallows
1/2 c. smooth peanut butter
1/2 c. M&Ms (regular, but peanut butter version would be soo good!)
6 c. rice krispie cereal

1. In a Dutch oven, melt butter over low heat.  Add marshmallows and stir until melted.
2. Turn off heat and mix in peanut butter.
3. Add candy and cereal; stir to combine.
4. Press into a greased 9''x13'' pan, stick in fridge to cool, then slice into your desired bar size.  Don't be  stingy here.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Haley's Life in Photos

First of all, I am over the moon about Abbi and John Paul's exciting news!  I just know that The Churro is going to have the best parents a little baby could ask for, and I am so excited to be Auntie Haley to a human baby (rather than all of my cousin's dogs)!
I know that my post will not be NEARLY as exciting as Abbi's earlier today, but I will give it the good ol' college try!  I haven't uploaded pictures for quite a while, so get ready to go back in time to Christmas!

One of the major perks of being in Florida for Christmas is that you get to go out on the boat on Christmas day.  We went on a little river cruise with Matt's family on his brother's boat, and it was absolutely beautiful!

Layla loved spending time with her Grandpa Dave, and was COMPLETELY exhausted after checking out every single bush and plant in his yard.  He sure knows how to show a dog a good time!

This was the last cute winter outfit that I wore while we were living in Pensacola; the only bad thing about us moving back to South Florida is that I can't wear that adorable coat nearly as often.

We spent New Year's Eve with some friends at our favorite bar/restaurant in Pensacola, Maguires.  They brew their own beer, age their own (delicious) steaks, and their specialty drink is an Irish Wake (3 types of rum with fresh-squeezed orange juice and green food coloring).  We will definitely miss it!

Here is a small portion of our moving crew in our new place--it has been so nice to have friends and family around to help us get settled and to help Matt with the heavy lifting projects :)  We are so lucky to have so many people who care about us.

We got grown-up bedroom furniture!  We still have the same old mattress that we always did, but I swear I'm sleeping twice as good as I ever did.  I must be getting worn out from going up and down the stairs so much...

We had Megs over for dinner one night...

...and some of Matt's friends from high school over another night!  Matt's parents got him a grill for an early birthday present, so we went a little crazy and just grilled tons of food.

Sometimes Layla gets tired of following Matt and me up and down the stairs, so she just parks about halfway up the staircase, with her butt on one stair, and the paws on the next one down.  Gah, she is so cute!

I've taken to having breakfast out on our back porch.  Can you blame me?

Oh my goodness.  There is a cupcake shop here in Jupiter, called dd's cupcake shoppe, and they have  a Holy Cannoli! cupcake.  All of their other flavors sound delicious, and it is probably dangerous that its so close to our place, because it is now my goal to try each one.  I reach for the stars.

And, lest you think we have it too together down here in Sunny South Florida, here is a little snapshot of our guest room.  I try to make a little progress every day, and then just shut the door and don't think about it.  It doesn't seem to phase Layla, though; in fact, I think she enjoys finding the most inconvenient spot to lay in while I'm trying to move boxes around.  Dogs.