WIP Wednesday

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Happy Hump Day!

Here is my latest finished segment of Tradewinds. I had some extra time to stitch when I was sick, though I didn’t stitch the whole time I was sick.

Another Wipocalypse passed while I was sick… It was the first or second day of my fever, though, so I didn’t get a chance to participate. The question was about the stitches I look forward to, and frankly I love almost every specialty embroidery stitch. I love the process of learning them and seeing how prettily they turn out. There are a few button hole stitches that I haven’t mastered, though. They came up in the Around The World sampler, and it irritated me so much that I put the whole thing down, not touching it since. I’ll get back to it sometime.

Anyway, here is a full progress pic of Tradewinds. Since I had to move my q snaps, I thought I might take a whole picture! I am really excited about how well it is coming along! I am also happy to report that my new backstitch tracking with the sharpie us working out quite well. I was able to backstitch the dolphin quite quickly with that method.

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French Onion Soup

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I know what you’re thinking: “girl, you are so crazy to stand by a stove making French Onion Soup in April!”. Yes, I will tell you, but yesterday was 74 degrees, whereas today has a winter storm warning attached to it. I cook what I want, when I want it. Plus i have air conditioning. Might be a different case if it were midsummer and 120 degrees!

French Onion soup is at once luscious, bold, silky, velvety, rich, unctuous, deep, sweet, and gooey. This is why you need to forget everything you know about onions, and make it now while the season is still temperamental enough. Also, make sure you leave this for when you have a lot of time to make dinner, since caramelizing the onions takes several hours.

No stories for me on this one… It’s just something I felt like making. I never had it growing up, but I have eaten countless portions of French onion soup DIP in my life. Y’know… Lipton’s onion soup mix, with a container of sour cream, all mixed together? YUM.

You will need:

3 lbs of yellow onions, thinly sliced (now is the time to use a mandoline if you have one)
2 tbs unsalted butter
2 quarts of hot liquid – you can use all water, all beef or chicken stock, or a combination… I used half a quart of chicken stock, half a quart of beef stock, and 1 quart water)
1/2 cup of dry white wine
3 tbs cognac
A baguette
A large hunk of Gruyere cheese, grated
Kosher salt
Pepper

Thinly slice you onions into half moons. If you have a mandoline, use it to make quick work of those onions, especially if you have not ever/recently sharpened your knives.

Set a large pot – preferably an enameled pot, like Le Creuset, on to a medium flame/burner, and add the butter to the pot, melting completely.

Add all onions to the pot, and sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of kosher salt over the massive heap of onions, tossing to coat. Cover with your pot lid, and reduce the heat to low until the onions start to sweat (you will see condensation on the lid, and the onions will literally look like they are perspiring (elegantly, of course). Once the onions start to sweat, remove the lid and give it a other stir. You’ll want to watch the onions carefully right now as the onions exude most of their liquid at this point, but once this happens you can go back to check and give a stories about once an hour (leave the lid off at this point). Or if you are like me, every 15 minutes (which is really unnecessary… I’m just paranoid). You will want the onions to reach a uniform amber color before you finish the soup. At the end of their cook time there should be a significantly smaller heap of onions than before!

Once your onions have reached the stage of uniform amber-ness, you will want to add all of your hot liquid to the onions, as well as the white wine, and gently stir. Bring your soup up to a simmer at this point, for a half an hour. You can use this time to correct your seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.

You can also use this time to toast two slices of baguette per bowl at 325, until done. Brush the toasted side up with a little olive oil if you want to, flip once the top side is done to your liking, and then brush the other cut side after the flip. Rub each side with the cut side of a raw piece of garlic for extra flavor! I would say that the toasting process should take about 20-30 minutes, and could easily be moved into the earlier cook time if you prefer.

Right before serving the soup, stir three tbs of cognac into the soup. Place your soup bowls on a half sheet pan for ease of transport and broiling. Mete out the individual portions of soup (and as you are doing so, pre-heat your broiler to high), enough so that the top of the bread is flush with the top of the bowl – if not, no biggie – the food police are not going to come and arrest you! Pile on Gruyere cheese to your liking… But enough to completely cover the top of the soup and bread. Broil u til the cheese is golden, remove from the oven and carefully serve.

Enjoy!

Posted in 2015: In the Kitchen, Soup | 7 Comments

When Dorie Greenspan Meets Christina Tosi: White Chocolate Fruity Pebble Cookie Bars

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I’m back! This pesky flu is starting to unwrap it’s spindly fingers from my well-being. While I’m not 100%, I’m clearly well enough to get back to some simple baking projects for your reading/viewing/eating pleasure. Maybe 85%.

Do you remember when I made those Crispy Topped Brown Sugar Bars for Tuesdays with Dorie? Remember how I said I thought these would be really good with white chocolate and Fruity Pebbles a Milk Bar twist? Well, here you go. And they are every bit as good as I thought they would be.

Incidentally, when I was growing up, we never really had sugary cereals in the house unless it was a special occasion. We would always get the little travel boxes of cereal when we went out to Montauk every summer (for the rare mornings that we wouldn’t eat at Mr. John’s Pancake House), but otherwise it was Rice Krispies that I would douse in sugar and hope to somehow make them more palatable. THEN my dad started working for Philip Morris International. He had worked in their Manhattan office, but then transferred up to Rye Brook where they have a company store. For those not in the know, PMI not only sells cigarettes, but also owns most of the most famous household brand-name foods like Post, Oscar Mayer, Pepperidge Farms, Milka, Kool Aid, Kraft, and so many others. Some of my childhood food memories are similar to Christina Tosi’s because we got them on the cheap from my dad’s work. It was game on in our household. No bake cheesecake? Done. Marshmallow laden cereals? In the belly.

It turned out I really didn’t like the fake marshmallow-y cereal after all. But the fruity cereal? Sign me up. I always preferred to eat it with as little milk as possible, because in my opinion the milk made the cereal lose that fantastic sugary, fruity coating. With these bars we have most things that kids love: cookies, chocolate, and sugary cereal. You have the buttery goodness of the cookie base, followed by the creamy white chocolate middle, topped by the fruity cereal enrobed in a tangy glaze. Heaven. I hope you enjoy these as much as we did, and that it takes you back to a delicious moment from your childhood!

White Chocolate Fruity Pebble Cookie Bars

(adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars)

Serves 9

  • 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup packed) light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 102 grams (3/4 cup sifted, spooned, and leveled) all-purpose flour
  • 13 oz bar of Ghirardelli white chocolate, chopped
  • 60 grams (1/2 cup) confectioner’s/powdered sugar
  • juice from 1/2 small lemon
  • 1 cup Fruity Pebbles

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees F, and center a rack. Line an 8″ square pan (or round — it really doesn’t matter – whatever you have) with parchment paper or aluminum foil, making sure to leave overhang for easy removal.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment beat the butter, brown sugar, sugar, and salt on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Mix in the vanilla paste/extract. Add your flour, and then mix on slow just until the dough comes together.

Add the dough to your pan, and spread until it evenly covers the bottom of the pan. It will be sticky. I found that a quick outwardly-pushing motion was most effective, especially if you start with the dough at the center and work outward. Bake your base for about 20 minute, or until light golden brown. TURN OFF THE OVEN WHEN THEY ARE DONE BAKING.

Remove the base from the oven, add your chopped white chocolate evenly to the top of the cookie base, and replace the base in the oven that has been turned off.

Meanwhile, add your lemon juice to the confectioner’s sugar, a little at a time, until the glaze comes together at a consistency of your desire. Spread your FruityPebbles on a quarter sheet pan and drizzle the glaze over the cereal, quickly tossing together with a fork or spoon until you have small clusters of fruity pebbles enrobed in the lemon glaze. The glaze will start to dry rather quickly, so you must work with haste.

While your cereal clusters dry, remove your cookie base from the oven, and evenly spread the chocolate with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon over the cookie base. Quickly add your cereal clusters evenly on the white chocolate, and gently press down to set them into the chocolate. Refrigerate the whole thing for about 20 minutes to set the chocolate and the cereal clusters. Once cooled, remove and cut into 9 even bars.

Posted in Baking, Dessert | Tagged | 7 Comments

On Being Sick

Remember how, on Friday I was all like “I love taking a long weekend for the hell of it”? Apparently my body was thinking that I really needed even more time off. On Saturday the flu descended on me and is digging in for a stay. Apparently it likes the accommodations a bit too much. At least I have nearly 90 hours of PTO built up, which, I suppose, is how I wound up here in the first place.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about what it was like to be sick as a kid. Most times my gram was the one to care for me when I was sick. My mom was a teacher, so it wasn’t generally easy for her to get me from school or sit with me at home. My gram, on the other hand, was a paralegal, which left her with the ability to pick me up or take time off to sit with me.

Sometimes she would take me back to the law firm. On quiet days she would push together two conference chairs in the board room. There was a coffee shop two doors down where she would get me toast with butter and jam wrapped in wax paper, and a Veryfine Fruit Punch. If she had the flexibility to take me home, she would bundle me up on the sofa in the living room, in an orange and avocado crocheted blanket, and would make me Lipton’s re-hydratable noodle soup. I would drift in and out while I Love Lucy reruns played and the daily soaps began.

I was a very sensitive child though. There would be times where I would come down with psychosomatic illness… I would work myself into an emotional frenzy, with actual symptoms of illness that were caused by some level of anxiety. On those days I would be dropped (or left) at home with no supervision. I would find my mother’s chocolate stash (while I watched I Love Lucy, natch), give piano concerts for an invisible audience, and serve myself Diet Coke out of the good crystal.

Now I am bundled up on the sofa in a different blanket. I still have that afghan – it is in my closet. My husband is taking excellent care of me. Lots of movies, TV, and fluids. Hopefully this thing will pack its bags and leave soon. Maybe it will leave the moment I stop worrying about work… Which I think is more to the point.

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Happy Day Off Friday!

I love taking a day off just for the hell of it. I am curled up on the sofa watching Julie and Julia, with a cup of tea and dreaming up my next kitchen conquest. This weekend’s baking project is likely to be Dorie’s Limoncello Cupcakes (or some variation on it). In the meanwhile, here is another completed stitching project from the archives for your viewing pleasure: Mirabilia’s “The Stargazer”, stitched on a Picture This Plus fabric that I can’t remember the name of and is not on their website, but is perfectly suited to it, don’t you think?

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Also, a little food poetry:

Cafe Paradiso

My chicken soup thickened with pounded young almonds 
My blend of winter greens. 
Dearest tagliatelle with mushrooms, fennel, anchovies, Tomatoes and vermouth sauce. 
Beloved monkfish braised with onions, capers 
And green olives. 
Give me your tongue tasting of white beans and garlic, 
Sexy little assortment of formaggi and frutta! 
I want to drown with you in red wine like a pear, 
Then sleep in a macédoine of wild berries with cream.

– Charles Simic

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WIP Wednesday

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Not a ton of work done since last week, but all of the stitching is done in this corner. All that’s left is the backstitching, which should be quite easy. Then it is onto my first dolphin panel! I feel especially prepared since I now have a method for the backstitching to avoid being overwhelmed. 🎊🎉🎆🎇

On Friday I am taking the day off just because. I’m pretty psyched since the last few weekends have been so busy and intense. I definitely plan to just chill out and get a lot of stitching and other general relaxation in! Hopefully I will have lots to show you next week! And actually I am just recalling that I got the next Clouds Factory Zodiac Sampler installment this morning, so I guess I will work on that. Maybe. Such hardships to decide!

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Momofuku Milk Bar: Chocolate Chip Layer Cake

DSC_0137[1]So I wound up taking off from work on Friday because my husband had one of his worst panic attacks in a long time, and we wound up in the ER. He has been having some horrible sinusitis paired with ear infections that have left him with constant high pitched ringing in his ears. Of course that leads to sleepless nights + vice-like pressure in his head + non-stop ringing in his ears = panic attacks. They said it’s because he has a severely deviated septum which causes all host of issues: ear infections, dizziness, ringing, pressure. While he has had anxiety issues in the past, he’s been able to push past them. This time, though, he just couldn’t get through it. One of those things alone would be enough to deal with, let along both of these things paired with little sleep. The ER doctor was so supportive with everything he had been going through, wondering how he made it as long as he had.

Ironically, after spending 5 hours in the ER I came home jazzed up to make a cake. Not just any cake, but the Milk Bar Chocolate Chip Layer Cake. There is something so very therapeutic about baking when things are very stressful. I decided to make all of the components of the cake so that on Saturday I would just have to assemble it and throw it into the freezer.

A few notes about the baking.

In the book, Christina Tosi mentions making a half-sheet pan of the chocolate chip cake. My advice to you, if you only live with one other person, is DON’T. Not because it is not good… on the contrary, it’s entirely addictive. Despite my batter being thoroughly homogenous and incorporated at all steps, it still spilled over a little in baking. Every time I walked past the cooling cake, I would eat more of the pieces that hung over the pan. Some for me, some ferried over to my husband. I carefully bagged up the bits that weren’t used in the cake and we definitely snacked on them throughout the weekend. I’ll admit to feeling a bit gluttonous in doing so.

As for the passion fruit layered throughout, I definitely have a bunch of ideas for using it after using it in this cake. I was thinking about using the curd in a meringue-like tart. It would be so refreshing and delicious, especially during hot summer months.

And that coffee frosting! I was a little concerned about it being too strong, but it worked out quite well as a component of the overall cake. It reminded me quite a bit of the espresso frosting on this cake that Hard Rock Cafe used to serve. I will say that the directions said to keep the mixture on low to force the coffee milk into the butter and sugar, but I had to crank my Kitchen aid to a 6 to get the incorporation to a light, thoroughly incorporated, and fluffy consistency.

So we had cake this weekend. An amazing cake (the balance in flavors is perfect)! And walks. And lots of hugs. And lots of hot compresses. And even some medicinal support from the doctor. Hubs is doing a bit better today after an overall rough weekend, which is promising. And a little chocolate chip layer cake goes a long way to making everyone feel a little better.

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