I made that!

Balls Balls Balls

Posted in I Like Salt Too, Playing With Yeast by brandi on February 11, 2009

Another night, another 90210. But last night, in celebration of a few males joining the dinner/bad TV fest we decided to serve them a meal of balls. Balls of all shapes and sizes. I just bought a cookbook for Israeli food (yes, they DO have a national food, even if it was all stolen) and I was itching to try some circular things out.

It was an ambitious meal consisting of: lamb meatballs baked in a tahini sauce, homemade falafel, fried fish falafels, fresh baked whole wheat pita pockets, hummus, salad & fried cauliflower with a lemon tahini dressing. As you can see, that’s a lot of balls.

I was cooking at my friends’ house, and things starting going awry almost immediately. I dropped the fish balls (which actually worked out well because Misha, it turns out, is very allergic to seafood).  About an hour before we planned to eat, I realized that they don’t own a food precessor, which made homemade hummus and falafel a bit…challenging. Thank you Truly Mediterranean for saving us on THAT one.

But the pitas were yum. And the fried cauliflower, perfect. Alas, that house is also where good food photography goes to die, so I am limited in documentation of our feast of the balls. But here are some pita photos!


I haven’t worked much with whole wheat yet, and this was my first time trying this recipe, so i was fairly happy with the results. They were tasty for sure.


But some of them didn’t expand to create a pocket (what’s up with that?), which meant we had to create our own pockets for stuffing. As always, I don’t think anyone cared besides me.


So we ate. And ate. And Misha REALLY ate. And then we feasted on donut balls (yes, I know how to drive a concept into the ground). And then all the guys CONVENIENTLY snuck away before 90210.

East African Fried Goodness

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Playing With Yeast by brandi on February 10, 2009

The lovely people at Party Corps are throwing a fundraiser party for International Pediatric Outreach Project & Heal Africa, to bring physical therapy practice and education to the Democratic Republic of Congo. They asked me to create a simple (and cheap) bite sized treat for the party, preferably an East African recipe. So I’m going with a sweetened up version of Mandazi, basically a spicy East African donut. Today I tested it out on some friends.

I started with a donut dough that I doctored up with some traditional mandazi spices: ginger, cardamom, allspice & cinnamon.


It’s been several hours since grinding it and my kitchen still smells like fresh ground cardamom, which is very much NOT a bad thing.

I let the dough rise and chilled it for a day (mostly because I ran out of time and needed to go to work). Then I rolled it out and stamped little discs.


I fried them up and tossed them with some sugar that was mixed with the spices.


And they were delicious! And so cutsey pie! And we ate all 50 of them! Which we weren’t supposed to do. John showed up and it was “oops” all around. But no worries, tomorrow I get to make 400 of them!


60-80 doughnut holes (depending on size)

1 ¾ tsp instant yeast
¾ cup whole milk
3 cups + 2 tbsp AP flour
7 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar
¾ tsp salt
4 oz butter, melted
1 tbsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp of each: ground ginger, ground cardamom, ground allspice, ground cinnamon

tossing sugar: 1 cup sugar mixed with 1/8 tsp of each: ground ginger, ground cardamom, ground allspice, ground cinnamon

– Mix yeast, 2 ¾ cup flour and spices.
– Mix in milk.
– In another bowl mix egg yolks, sugar, salt & vanilla extract.
– Add ½ cup flour.
– Add melted butter.
– Add egg mixture to flour/milk mixture.
– Mix on low with paddle for 1 minute.
– Add remaining 2 tbsp of flour and mix on high for 1 minute. The dough will be very sticky.
– Gather dough into a ball and place in oiled bowl.
– Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 ½ – 2 hours.
– Deflate dough and put in fridge for 1 hour to firm up.
– Roll dough on floured surface to 1/2″ thick.
– Cut out doughnut shapes.
– Let rise for 30 minutes while heating oil up to 370 degrees.
– Fry in batches of 6-10 doughnuts for 1 1/2 – 2 minutes, tossing constantly to make sure both sides fry evenly, until cooked through.
– Toss in tossing sugar.

Yay for Soup!

Posted in I Like Salt Too by brandi on February 8, 2009

This week I got 4 heads of broccoli in my CSA box, to add to the one I already had. I get veggie anxiety when there’s too much of one thing, and a soup is always a great way to use up piles of fresh (and sometimes not so fresh) veggies. Soup is one of those things that I rarely crave or think about, but when I’m eating it I always think “Soup is delicious, I should eat soup more often.”


A broccoli soup is especially easy to make, and comes out a lovely shade of green (actually my FAVORITE shade of green – as soon as I own my own house, I will paint many walls this color.)

First I threw some potatoes, leeks, carrots & good (by good I mean: not from a box, even an organic one. Unless, of course, you have to, slightly inferior soup is better than no soup…I guess) veggie stock in a pot.


I covered it up and let it simmer for 25 minutes, until the potatoes could be mashed easily with a fork. Then I added the broccoli and let it cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the broccoli was smooshy.


Then I pureed it (with my immersion blender, another favorite thing of mine) with a tiny bit of cream and flavored it with salt and pepper.


And since everyone needs just a “teeny” bit of fat, I fried up some grilled cheese sandwiches for us to eat with it.

Some measurements:

3 leeks

2 waxy potatoes

2 carrots

4 cups veggie stock

2 heads of broccoli

1 tablespoon cream

salt and pepper to taste

1 grilled cheese sandwich

Getting My Southern On

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, All Things Pork, I Like Salt Too, Southernness by brandi on February 5, 2009

It was a night of deliciousness. I was at my friends’ house for our weekly night of (don’t judge) 90210. We’re usually so excited to relive a version of high school that doesn’t even closely resemble ours that we cook a feast to eat beforehand. I was feeling especially southern, and decided to dig through my old copy of “Louisiana Kitchen” for some ideas. In the end I decided to try out the red beans and rice recipe, since I’ve yet to make one that I think is worthwhile.

Probably the most shocking thing of the night was learning that most of my friends had never even HEARD of red beans and rice! When I told them that is what I would be cooking, they imagined some boring dinner of “beans” and “rice.” How little faith they have in Cajun cuisine.


It took a few hours to cook. It was spicy. REALLY spicy. It was not pretty to gaze upon. It was filled with smoked ham hocks, Andouille sausage & bell peppers. Basically it was perfect.


And of course there was dessert.

I had been thinking about apple cake for a few months, so I decided to try one out. Also a traditional Southern dish, it is a super moist cake filled with big chunks of apple, pecans, cinnamon & nutmeg. It has so many apples in it I was concerned that it might not even turn into a cake once baked.


But it turned out just fine. Better than fine.


And since Southerners are just never happy with something simple in the dessert department, it was smothered in a caramel sauce.


90210 never tasted so good.

Here is the recipe for the Red Beans & Rice, from Paul Prudhomme’s “Louisiana Kitchen”:

1 pound dried red kidney beans
6 large ham hocks (3 1/2  pounds)
2 1/2 cups finely chopped celery
2 cups finely chopped onions
2 cups finely chopped green bell peppers
5 whole bay leaves
2 teaspoons white pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1 pound Andouille smoked sausage, cut diagonally into 3/4-inch pieces
4 1/2 cups hot cooked rice

Cover the beans with water 2 inches above beans. Let stand overnight. Drain just before using.

Place the ham hocks, 10 cups of  water, the celery, onions, bell peppers, bay leaves, and seasonings in a 5 1/2-quart saucepan or large Dutch oven; stir well. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until meat is fork tender, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove ham hocks from pan and set aside.

Add the drained beans and 4 cups of the water to the pan; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining 2 cups water and simmer 30 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the andouille and continue simmering until the beans start breaking up, about 35 minutes, scraping pan bottom fairly often.  Add the ham hocks (that you have been shredding this whole time) and cook and stir 10 minutes more. Serve immediately.

And here’s the recipe for the apple cake, from “The Gift of Southern Cooking” by Edna Lewis & Scott Peacock:

1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 large eggs
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 fresh apples, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/4 cups not-too-finely chopped pecans
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (160C).

Put the sugars and vegetable oil in a mixing bowl, and beat until very well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and gradually add to the sugar and eggs, mixing just until well blended.

Stir in the apples, pecans, and vanilla, and pour into a buttered and 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

Bake in the preheated oven until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours (begin checking after 50 minutes). Remove from the oven, and allow to cool in the pan while you prepare the caramel glaze.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, and add both the sugars and the salt. Stir until blended, and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream, and boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Use a skewer or toothpick to poke holes all over the top of the cake, and pour the warm glaze over the surface. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Carrot Pickles

Posted in I Like Salt Too, Yes We Can! by brandi on February 3, 2009

I’ve been fascinated by pickles for a while. Mostly because I don’t like them. But I feel like they’re a beautiful food craft that I appreciate, so there’s got to be a way to make pickles that I’m into. I’m not much a sour fan, so that makes it a bit tricky. I’ve been reading about a technique of “pickling” veggies with a salt brine instead of vinegar and thought I’d give that a whirl. What I learned is that pickling is extremely easy. Not that everything else I make is so terribly complicated, but seriously, anyone can make pickles.

I tried to make it more challenging by spending more time than necessary slicing perfect batons out of my carrots. Or at least as perfect as I felt I could get without wasting obscene amounts.


Then I made the brine by boiling water, salt, ginger, peppercorns & a dried chile. I wasn’t really sure if a dried chile works, but that’s what I had…


I let the brine cool to room temp and then poured it over my carrots that were waiting in some clean jars.


I let them hang out on my counter for a week and just cracked them open today.

The verdict: Meh. Kinda salty. Maybe I just don’t like pickles. except pickled pepperoncini. I LOVE pickled pepperoncini. Maybe I’ll try that next time. Anybody want some pickles?

The Crispy Date Bar – Who knew?

Posted in All Sugar All The Time by brandi on February 2, 2009

Today I decided to clean out my fridge. Deep in it’s recesses I found a bunch of Medjool dates leftover from my little muffin experiment a few weeks ago. I poked around on the web trying to find a good recipe to use them up and kept coming across “crispy date bars”. Apparently it’s a classic. I figured that nothing with THAT many versions could be too bad and settled on an Epicurious one that garnered nice reviews.

I started out by boiling up my chopped dates in water, and while they were cooling, went about making the crust. Lots of oats is always a good sign in my book.


I smashed the butter in to form the crust, which was basically the same type of crust used for a fruit crisp.


I pressed the crust mix into the pan, then poured on my cooked dates, and then topped it with the rest of the crust.


It’s like a double crusted crisp! I’m already excited for John, who I’ve caught on more than one occasion eating all of his crisp and leaving the fruit. I popped it into the oven to bake.


I baked it a bit longer than the directions called for, because I was determined to get it nice and caramelized and crispy. And I think it worked. We spent the next hour avoiding the kitchen to keep from ripping into them before they had cooled enough to be cut into cute little squares. I assure you, had I not a blog post in mind, we would have been spooning it straight out of the pan and into our mouths.


We held out as long as felt humanly possible. And then we devoured. And it was so good. I officially declare today International “Crispy Date Bar” Day. Feel free to swing by and grab one in celebration. And to keep John from eating them all while I’m at work.

Here’s a link to the Epicurious recipe: