27 January 2009

Get in the car. It's a BENTO.

I finally have a packed lunch, one that includes actual food, somewhat "arranged" in a bento box. It's nothing to write home about (...but apparently it's enough to blog about?): an end from a white roll with brie and almonds (in the pink silicone heart) and honey (packet there with the bluish spreader), accompanied by snow peas, carrots, dried plums, and panda cookies.This was enough for lunch, but a meeting I was having ran long (...by about 2 hours), so I did cheat and get a Snickers bar to avoid having to murder anyone on the drive home. Here's hoping I can get back on the bento bus, now that school's started and I might have a stable schedule again.

26 January 2009

Mm, foods.

But first, knitting content! (I KNOW, RIGHT?)
After a great deal of fighting with camera and the photo itself, I have this picture that almost captures the gorgeous saturation of the yarn, Claudia's Hand-Painted merino sock yarn, in Ocean Depths, which is amazing. These socks are all for me. The pattern is Nutkin, and as the inimitable YarnHarlot has said, it really is a fast pattern. It's taking me forever and a day because I'm knitting a shawl, a pair of gloves, and trying to resist casting on for a tote bag project all at the same time.

I've also done a wee bit of cooking:

Delmonico steaks (new cast-iron grill pan proves its worth--and fills my house with smoke, but that's okay because these were damn tasty) with Boursin and feta twice-baked potato and roasted broccoli, which is my new "this is real food" food love.

The broccoli (when I get more broccoli) may appear in bentos, as it tastes quite nice at room temperature and cooks in the same amount of time that rice does.

12 January 2009

Cause for Celebration

UPS smiled upon me today. So there's a camera again! And also a delightful wealth of baking books that are just making me to squee a bit.

My wonderful brother-in-law and his wife gifted me with Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking and I am wicked thrilled. Domestic goddessness isn't exactly tres moi, but I adore Nigella Lawson and everything in this book looks amazing. But you'll hear me say that a lot, I'm thinking.

Then, using the gift card gifted me by my husband's delightful (and perceptive) co-workers who occasionally enjoy the fruits of my culinary labor (bribes will, in fact, get you everywhere), I purchased Dorrie Greenspan's Baking: From my home to yours and Debby Maugans Nakos's Small-Batch Baking.

To celebrate the whole camera thing, I'm also trying out two new recipes tonight--one new to me because someone else created it, one new to me because I made it up.

First was Use Real Butter's Boursin Chicken, made the way the recipe instructed (egad!) with the exception of halving it, as I only wanted to make two chicken breasts. You can see it below paired with tonight's experiment: Oven-Roasted Butternut Squash with Bacon.


The recipe (modestly portioned side dish for two).

1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed (inch-ish)
2 slices bacon, cut into one-inch bits
1/3 sweet onion (Spanish or Vidalia) cut into 1/2 inch pieces
one clove of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary
generous grind of black pepper
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 375F. Put olive oil in an 8x8 baking dish and toss squash, onion, garlic, and seasonings together. Tuck the bacon pieces between the squash cubes at roughly even intervals. Roast for about an hour, stirring gently at the halfway point. Enjoy with anything.

Really, I might make this tomorrow just for lunch for myself (as an experiment, I didn't do the whole squash at once, and so there were no leftovers). I adored this--the sweetness of the squash, prepared this way, astounded me, and the edges of the squash caramelized a bit, giving almost a hint of crispness over the soft interior, and the smoky flavor of the bacon was amazing.

It's not a pretty dish, but it's delicious.

Where was butternut squash when I was ten and refusing to eat my vegetables?

*nota bene: When taking pictures of food, do not do it while ravenous. You just end up stealing bites of the subject and mucking up the plate.

09 January 2009

Rice and other disasters

I am apparently personally incapable of cooking more than 1/2 cup of rice at a time. Frequently, it's not a problem, as most of the time, I am making rice for the current day's bento and that's it. However, that is largely due to the fact that on the occasion that I might like to make more rice (to create bento freezer stash or with dinner), my rice goes utterly wonky. Usually to the tune of hard in the center and mushy/chalky on the outside. I'm not sure how. I follow the same procedure of rinsing, I add the appropriate amount of water as instructed, and, on the advice of a friend after several failures just letting it cook, fluff the larger quantities of rice (like, a cup or two--not trying to make five cups of rice on the stovetop or anything crazy) to prevent the water from being trapped on the bottom. I have tried different sizes of pots (in case depth is an issue)--all to very little avail.

Can you help me, internets? (My favorite solution involves a sweet fuzzy-logic cooker, but that's a wee bit pricetastic right now.)

...camera is in Ohio. *impatient!*

08 January 2009

Still camera-less

Apparently, just because you check the UPS tracking information for your package every eleven seconds doesn't mean it changes. But come on! Camera, according to data, has been sitting on its duff in Nevada since the fifth! And I actually made a passably cute lunch today, but couldn't play the photog for it.

Because I'm a little desperate to have something useful to say, let me tell you about it, and you can visualize something far prettier than what I actually ended up with. Well. Have the highlights, anyway, one of which was the fact that I had a jicama giraffe. With carrot spots. My mother-in-law got me a boatload of adorable wee cookie/aspic cutters for Christmas, and so I had to try them out. I also had some gjetost triangles. This stuff is like heaven to me, and I would dearly love to try making it some day.

As a by-product of making gyoza for New Year's Eve (because I always have more filling than wrappers), I also had some wee chicken mini-burgers (a la Just Bento) to make, so they got sauced with some teriyaki and plunked in beside my rice, too.

But the thing that makes me super-excited, and the thing that will probably lead to my financial downfall, are Meiji Panda Cookies. My mother-in-law got me a box (before I had been blissfully ignorant of them) while she was visiting with her other son in Portland, and they're delicious. Small and crispy and full of rich chocolate creme that is so simply good it's probably made of pandas and bits of rainforest and unicorn horn (even though the ingredients list isn't too traumatizing, actually). I ate one this morning to make sure I wanted to put it in my lunch as my "dessert," and then I packed two, and then I shoved the box in the cupboard while threatening my hands with the rolling pin if they touched the cupboard again today.

...it's not really that I have any real problems with eating a whole (admittedly very small) box of cookies. It's more the fact that they are kind of a precious commodity--in the grocery stores around here (the Asian specialty stores and Wegmania), they clock in at about $4-5 a package. That's a wee bit too bloody much, really. ...however, a quick Googling just found me AsianFoodGrocer.com which promises them at slightly less than a dollar. I might be doomed.

Right, then. None of this is very much fun without anything to look at, is it? That will change soon, I hope. Unless someone eats my camera en route. I would be terribly cross. (Especially since it's bringing me a Dorrie Greenspan cookbook, too!)

03 January 2009

Where'd it go, the time that I had?

School, that's where.

Also, blogging isn't much fun without a functioning camera, and that's also where I've been. The old Canon A80 gave up the ghost (or displayed the ghost, depending--there were a lot of mysterious lines and blurs and inexplicable Dark Spots on all pictures for the last few months), so I'm waiting for a Canon Powershot A590IS to arrive from the good folks at Amazon.

The holidays brought with them a great deal of cooking and knitting, of which there are no photos. Thrilling, no?

But the short list of important milestones, blogwise-speaking:

Knitting:
Finished Cookie A.'s Monkey Socks for my mother and knit Easy Drop-Stitch Scarf for my sister-in-law from the most delicious yarn I've ever worked with, a 50/50 merino/silk from Steam Valley Fibers (purchased at Rhinebeck). It was a variegated red and black (which I'd never really seen in a yarn), and so soft and silky...well. Let's just say I liked it a lot. And would sell my firstborn for a chance to work with it again.

Also, as y'do when you get a little bit of leisure, I started the Pacific Waves shawl that I am knitting for a friend, and the Nutkin socks, because I finally got my paws on some Claudia's handpainted sock yarn, and it is glorious.

Cooking:
Made a vast array of things. Did a whole turkey for Thanksgiving, as I had my parents to feed that day, and I made my butternut squash soup (which I love to bits and pieces) for them. I also made Cranberry Dinner Rolls from Baking Bites (one of my absolute favorites, food-blogwise-speaking), and a molassess and ginger pumpkin tart from Epicurious.

For Christmas gifting, I made chocolate truffles and the best fleur-de-sel caramels I've ever had. There were also three batches of marshmallows (two vanilla, one mint), four kinds of spiced nuts, cookies, and a tiramisu-inspired birthday cake for a friend.

And if only there were photos of any of it. Alas.

I shouldn't be anywhere near food right now, either, as I rather have the plague at the moment. But I do so want to make some ice cream in my new ice cream maker attachment for ye olde Kitchenaid mixer. I'm working on deciding what kind. ...and if I eat it all myself, I won't get anyone else sick, right?