Thursday, July 30, 2009

Coffee Fail

I knew my morning was going to be a crapfest when I failed at making coffee...twice.

First, Nic calls me at like 4 in the morning from Egypt to remind me to wire him money since he lost his ATM card. I briefly consider letting him starve as retribution for calling me at that hour. Instead I wake up at 7, put on the coffee pot, and try to use Western Union's website. The stupid thing is loading so slow you would think I had dial-up and AOL and it was 1998.

While I wait for a page to load, I go to get my coffee, throw in some stevia (my attempt at using less artificial sweetener, because stevia is supposedly an herb, and obviously all herbs are good for you), and some milk. And the milk curdles. I throw out the coffee and the carton of milk, and put the coffee pot back on for take two.

I go back to the computer to continue with the Western Union website. I get all the way to Step 5 Receipt, but there is no receipt. So then I have to call Western Union, at which point they tell me the system cancelled my money order because I entered something wrong, and I need to start over. Obviously this is going to be a morning with a lot of take twos.

I go back for my coffee. I have another carton of milk in the fridge, so I grab that and the stevia. The milk curdles AGAIN. Seriously. I throw the chunky coffee down the sink. Whatever. I'm having a Diet Coke, so much for cutting back on those artificial sweetners.

Anyway, long story short, it took three tries to wire the money and one more phone call. It took me three tries to leave my building because I forgot stuff/dropped my rent check in the hallway somewhere. And it took my 20 minutes to get my bagel with cream cheese at Dunkin Donuts (vehicle for delivering the remainder of my smoked salmon to my belly, I didn't want it to go bad while in Chicago).

Really too much to handle without my coffee.

P.S. I Just realized this is my second post about coffee on this blog.

Accidentally Pickled Onions

I tried this recipe for the first time when I was attempting to make something entirely different. I was trying to make this red onion salad-type thing that is served with grilled meats at my favorite Lebanese restaurant. The onion taste is tempered, but I couldn't figure out how they got that effect. I thought maybe it was slightly pickled.

That's why I made pickled red onions. These are nothing like the red onion salad at the Lebanese restaurant, but they are delicious. And they are delicious with grilled meats. (I served them with yogurt marinated chicken thighs.) They are also awesome chopped up and added to coleslaw and potato salad.

I never pickled anything before, but I was amazed at how easy it is, at least when you're not canning it. I have plans for many more pickles in the near future.

Quick post today, because I'm trying to get everything together for a business trip to Chicago. Amazingly, this will be the first time I have ever been to the Midwest. I'm excited, mainly for the hot dogs. Less so for the business. Supposedly I will be converted to Chicago deep dish pizza, according to my Midwestern friends. I highly doubt it.

Quick Pickled Onions
From David Lebovitz

3/4 cup white vinegar
3 tbs. sugar
pinch of salt
1 bay leaf
5 allspice berries
5 whole cloves
a small, dried chile pepper
1 large red onion, peeled, and thinly sliced into rings

-In a small saucepan heat the vinegar, sugar, salt, seasonings and chile until boiling.
-Add the onion slices and lower heat. Simmer gently for 30 seconds.
-Remove from heat and cool completely.
-Transfer the onions and the pickling liquid into a clean jar and refrigerate. The onions will keep in the fridge for well over a month, but I ate most of them the day after they were made.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Quiche isn't my favorite brunch food (that would be home fries). It's not even in my top three favorite egg dishes (poached eggs, egg salad, egg sandwich). But it is a really handy recipe to have in the repertoire. 1) It's French, so you look fancy. 2) You can serve it for any meal. 3) You can empty the contents of your veggie drawer.

You can make a quiche in an hour, and most of that time the little egg pie is just hanging out in the oven. The hardest part is making your own crust, but as my mom says "Why would you make your own crust?" (I did this time, but I've bought them premade in the past.)

This recipe is infinitely adaptable, so I wrote a few of my favorite combinations below. This pretty little piece here is tomato, basil, mozzarella, which couldn't be more perfect at this time of year.

And even though quiche isn't my favorite, me and two friends managed to take down almost the whole thing for lunch yesterday. We left a little in the pan, for good measure.

Quiche, Several Ways
Serves 6...or 3 hungry

I use 2% milk most of the time in this recipe, and I think it gives the quiche a lighter texture. You can use whole milk or even cream if you prefer, for a richer more decadent quiche. I would not recommend skim milk. For the crust, I usually parbake my homemade crusts for 15 minutes on 350. With a store bought crust I usually don't.

one pie crust
6 eggs
1/2 cup milk or cream
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
vegetables and/or meat
1/2 cup cheese*

-Preheat oven to 450.
-Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper.
-Stir in the cheese.
-You can either stir the vegetables and/or meat into the egg mixture and pour the mixture into the pie crust, or you can layer them in the crust and pour the egg mixture over them. It all goes to the same place in the end.
-Bake on 450 for 10 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350 and continue to bake for about 30 minutes or until done. (The quiche will be set in the center and golden brown on the top.)
-Cool for 15 minutes and serve.
-1/2 cup mozzarella, 2 tbs. fresh basil, one medium tomato sliced or chopped.
-1/2 cup gruyere, 2 tsp. fresh thyme, 1 cup mushrooms lightly sauteed.
-1/2 cup sharp chedder, 4 pieces cooked bacon, 1/4 cup chopped green onion.
-1/2 cup feta, 1/2 to 1 cup lightly sauteed spinach, 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes (optional).

*This makes a lightly cheesey quiche. For more ooey gooey cheesiness, up the cheese to 3/4 cup or 1 cup, but be careful. I wouldn't recommend increasing the cheese for certain strong flavored types, like feta.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Chocolate-Cherry Crumb Cake Muffins

Hey you guys! How have you been?


O, there's no one left? That's too bad. I guess I'll just have to eat these muffins all by myself. I can't say I mind. They're pretty ridiculously scrumptious. Not too sweet, but just decadent enough to straddle the line between a tame desert and a generous breakfast.

I recently decided that muffins are my favorite thing to bake. They're super quick, and they're in individual portions, which is perfect for taking to work, or my running group, or just to prevent myself from eating an obscene amount in one sitting.

They're also extremely versatile. My "regular" muffins lately have been a blueberry bran muffin. I make half a batch every week and have them for breakfast. Those ones are a tad healthier, but I'll tell you about them later. You can't come back from such a long absence with a bran muffin. If I did that, the one soul out there still reading would head for the exit.

No you need a peace offering, which obviously means chocolate. Then some fresh fruit, since summer is in full force. And how about a little nutty, brown sugar topping, just for good measure.

Cherry season is almost over, so go and make these soon! Or it will be another 12 months....

Chocolate-Cherry Crumb Cake Muffins
Makes 12

You don't have to have a cherry pitter to make these. I don't. Just carefully use a paring knife. It will take about 5 to 10 minutes to de-pit and quarter a cup. Also, I grind my almonds in food process, until they're somewhere between oatmeal and flour in consistency. Feel free to use a rougher chop, and bigger pieces, if you prefer.

2 cups all purpose flour (I used cake flour when I was out of AP)*
1/3 cup sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 egg
3 tbs. melted butter or oil
1 cup milk (2% works well)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup quartered cherries
1/3 cup chocolate chips

Crumb Topping
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbs. melted butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup ground almonds (rough chopped, if you prefer)

-Preheat oven to 375 degrees and prepare a 12 cup muffin tin with liners or cooking spray.
-In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
-In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, melted butter, and vanilla.
-Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gentle fold together. The batter does not have to be smooth, so mix only until combined.
-Stir in the cherries and the chocolate chips.
-Combine the crumb topping ingredients in a small bowl.
-Divide the batter in the muffin cups, sprinkle the tops with the crumb topping.
-Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire wrack.

*Remember that engagement cake I made monttttths ago? I was a little overzealous buying cake flour for that, and since I bake like one cake a year, I still have several boxes left.

In case you want to know, although you might not, I calculated the total calories for the ingredients, and I came up with about 230 calories per muffin. This is not scientific by any means, but it's a rough estimate. Fat? Protein? Fiber? I don't have that much time on my hands. I'm sorry.