Sunday, April 23, 2017

Cucumber Mint Lime Soda

What season is it where you are? It's been waffling recently, but here in Utah it's decidedly spring; the mountains are melting, I'm sneezing non-stop and the mint has returned to take over everyone's yard.

See that stuff in the bottom right threatening my neighbor's flowers? Mint.

I used to think of mint as an expensive ingredient- I made mojitos a couple times in college, and between the tiny packages and the three-minute shelf life I always felt slightly cheated. Shows what I know though, because around here it's considered a weed: my neighbors actually thank me when I steal it from their yards.

I stopped drinking when I moved to Utah, which is a little confusing because I'm not at all Mormon. A couple of times, when eating at a restaurant, I have seriously considered ordering a glass of wine and just leaving it in front of me... you know, as a signal? "I'm not drinking, but I believe in gay rights! " Utah culture shock can be a bit much. 

These days I'm used to it, and this soda was inspired by a thoroughly addictive one I had while visiting my sister in Brooklyn a few weeks back. I demanded they tell me what was in it, and voila! I'm celebrating spring in style. Since it's basically a virgin mojito, I'm sure it'd be great with light rum, or even tequila, but I can tell you for sure that it's delicious as is.

Cucumber Mint Lime Soda

Note: I made my own mint simple syrup, but I'm pretty sure they sell this stuff in stores nowadays. If you don't live in a hippie commune full of mint and lovely neighbors, I highly recommend buying it.

2 Tbsp (1oz) Mint Simple Syrup
2 Tbsp (1oz) lime juice (aka ~one lime)
1-inch chunk of cucumber, cut into pieces
seltzer water / club soda

Fill a pint glass with ice. Thoroughly muddle cucumber, mint syrup and lime juice together- I did this in a mason jar with the back of a spoon, but if you have a cocktail shaker you should use it. Strain the contents and pour over ice; fill with about a cup of seltzer and stir well. If you're feeling fancy, garnish with mint and cucumber slices.

Cucumber Mint Syrup:

Chop ~3/4 cup packed mint leaves, and add to a saucepan with 1/2 a cup each water and sugar. (As long as you stick to a 1.5:1:1 ratio, the exact amounts don't matter). Bring to a boil, then take off the heat and cover. When the syrup is cooled, strain thoroughly and enjoy.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The sum of its parts

Hello world, I'm back! I'm feeling juiced. I've got a new job, I've got new chickens... I could learn my lesson and just give up like a sane person, but instead I'm going to keep running into a brick wall. Is that a real saying? What with this being, like, the eighth time I've attempted this particular project, I'm starting small with some easy white-girl tacos I probably could have made in my dorm kitchen. 

But enough about that because LOOK AT THE CHICKEN BABIES!

Chicken babies 󠀽= not excited about being photographed.

I've finally committed to spending the foreseeable future in Utah, which has enabled me to check one chicken-related item off my life list: the yellow ones are named Click and Clack! They live under a heat lamp with some other chicken babies, where they practice the arts of huddling in a corner and not paying attention to me... even though I let them poop in a box in my living room for 24 hours. Ungrateful chickens. They don't even make eggs yet!

Luckily for me, my hippie commune also has 17 adult chickens, who are celebrating this warmer weather by laying eggs as fast as we can eat them. They're gorgeous- deep orange yolks, shells that are almost comically difficult to crack, and that distinctly emphasized taste of egginess that's hard to find in store bought eggs. 

They also make some bang-up tacos, which can be made in about 8 minutes and have been my dinner three times this week. The idea came from Food52, and is the kind of loose-form, easy recipe that seems almost silly to write about, but is often exactly what I want: inspiration for when I'm hungry, lazy, and haven't gone to the grocery store. Somehow the stupid-simple combination- egg, avocado, cheese, tortilla, hot sauce- makes something so much better than the sum of it's parts, and is effortless enough (did I mention it takes like 10 minutes) for an exhausted graduate student, overworked millennial or, in my case, a lazy-ass Utahn.

Scrambled Egg Tacos
Adapted slightly from Food52

3 small corn tortillas
2 eggs
1/2 an avocado
hot sauce (my favorite with eggs will always be Cholula)

Char the tortillas over an open flame. You really do want it to get blackened in places, which is great because I like burning things. I do this by turning on one of my burners and just dropping a tortilla on top of it, but if you're more responsible I suppose you could hold it with tongs. Cut the avocado half in thirds, and put one third on each tortilla. You could be all fancy and make slices, or be a normal person and just smash it with a fork. Scramble your eggs however you like- I do mine with salt and pepper in a little butter- and divide them between the three tacos. Sprinkle with cheese, douse in hot sauce, and enjoy.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The plum cake to rule them all

Ladies and gentlemen, I have returned! I know you've all been waiting desperately. The time without my presence must have been excruciating. Do you weep at my return?

I have perfected the arts of hyperbole and sarcasm... mostly for the purpose of my own entertainment. I have also made a plum cake. 

A couple of weeks months ago, before my computer decided to poop out on me, I picked too many plums. My roommate had emailed me because the community plum tree was overloading, and I jumped at the opportunity to appear helpful while acquiring free food. Since individual plums don't really fit into my everything-in-tupperware lifestyle, I decided to make dessert. I'm not much of a baker, but since every other food blogger on the internet is, I was sure that if I googled "plum cake", I would find directions to something edible.

Turns out there exists a the plum cake... a seminal plum cake. A plum cake whose recipe has been printed at least a hundred times. The one plum cake. What is happening with these people?

As it turns out, the hype was well deserved. I've since made it six or seven times- most recently for my community potluck two weeks ago. I actually ended up missing the potluck, because a visiting friend and I went hiking and got stuck behind a moose. Hey there Sunray! Sometimes Utah is exactly what you expect it to be.

I've been struggling to write about why the cake's so good, mostly because half the internet and a lot of professional food writers have said it better. What I will add is that using slightly sour plums to start with makes a difference- the plums in the above photo baked down into pockets of sweetsour perfection. When I made it two weeks ago we used sweeter plums and the results were slightly sub-par. Not that it mattered- between the two of us it was gone in less than three days. Lessons learned: use sour plums, and share with friends.

The one true plum cake 
stolen quite directly from the New York Times, where they call it as 'Marian Burros' plum torte'

1 cup granulated  sugar (you can use less if you'd like- 3/4 cup works fine)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
big pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
~12 plums, pitted and cut in half
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. With an electric mixer- or a whisk if you're me- cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, then the flour mixture, whisking as you go.

If you have a 9-inch springform pan, use it! Otherwise butter whatever dish you're going to be playing with, then pour in the batter. It will be quite thick- I always need to use a rubber spatula to even out the surface. Arrange the plums, skin side up. Use as many as will possibly fit! You don't want to see batter when you look down at the surface. Sprinkle to top with lemon juice and cinnamon.

Bake until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean, somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour. Let cool, then devour.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Asparagus pickles

Last Friday, I had an unexpected day off, and I celebrated by making asparagus pickles and freezer-berry pie. Also some strawberry rhubarb syrup, preserved lemons, and something with eggplant and roasted red peppers that wasn't nearly as good as I'd expected it would be. All in all, I may have gone a bit overboard... but Sunday was my birthday, and I ate cold pie, homemade soda and a full jar of asparagus for lunch.

Hello, 25.

I made my first jar of asparagus pickles in college, courtesy of my good friend Dan. I may have been raised ten minutes from Berkeley (and currently live in a hippie commune) but I'm just an imposter. As much as I'd like to pretend otherwise, I'm a hippie-flavored WASP. Dan, on the other hand... Dan's the genuine article. When we lived together, he would come down to breakfast in the most wonderfully absurd striped pajamas, and all of his mugs were the heavy, clay variety. He also made granola, and yogurt, and our junior year he took me to a fermentation workshop put on by people who actually grew things in the ground.

That's where I met the pickles.

To be honest, I only agreed to go because someone promised I'd get to make ginger beer (which turned out terribly). I was confused by the idea of pickling a non-cucumber, and even more confused by how fast I ate them once I opened the jar. I've since learned to make better ginger beer, but I'd never attempted the pickles.

More's the pity, because I've now made them twice in the last month. If you'll excuse me... I'm going to go eat another jar.

Asparagus Pickles
note: the quantities below are kind of relative

3 12oz mason jars
2lbs asparagus (about 2 bundles)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
~1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 cups distilled white vinegar
2 cups water
2 Tbsp kosher salt

Trim the ends off the asparagus, then cut the remaining stalk in half. Measure against your jars- you want the asparagus pieces to fit into the jar with a little headspace, and you want the jars tightly packed.

At this point, you should have a good idea how many jars you're going to need. Put 1/8-1/4 tsp of mustard seeds and a clove of garlic in each jar, and set aside.

In a sauce pot, bring the vinegar, water  and salt to a boil. Make sure the salt is dissolved, then keep hot while you cook the asparagus.

Boil more water! Working in batches if necessarily, blanch the asparagus pieces for three minutes, then drain and stuff into jars. Fill the jars with vinegar/water mix, cap and refrigerate.

Pickles are phenomenal after a week... but if you're impatient, they're edible in a couple days.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Overnight Oats (and my commenting request is still at large)

I was up at six this morning. No, it's not because I've suddenly become a morning person (note to universe: please make me a morning person). I'm just so out of whack that I slept most of Sunday and not at all last night. Six am was when I declared defeat. I know other people have control over their sleep cycles, but most of the time mine is a puppet master.

Also, it was too hot- inside and out- at 6am. Utah!

On the bright side, I already had breakfast made. These last two weeks, what with having to be far away from home at 8am (with my brain functioning, no less), oatmeal in mason jars has been my salvation. It's official... I have a mason jar problem. I can't help it- I can fill them with liquid, put them in my purse and not have them leak! Why haven't regular travel cups/tupperware figured this out yet?

[Answer: because regular travel cups are designed for easy access drinking, which eliminates the whole 'seal cap and then screw down' thing that makes mason jars work. I hate it when I'm smart enough to answer my own questions.]

Also I'm guessing that for most people, carrying several meals and coffee in a purse is not a high priority. Maybe I should get a lunchbox.

Back to the point- did you know you could make oatmeal overnight? Fancy oatmeal, the kind that usually takes ~40 minutes to cook?The last two Saturday nights, I've put a whole bunch of steel cut oats in a pot with water, left it overnight, and the next morning I had fully cooked oatmeal, just ready to be jarred up and topped. This is exactly my kind of food- planning+laziness = delicious. Even nutritious! It allows me to do the work when I'm feeling most productive (not morning) and reap the rewards when I'm running late and hungry (every morning). WIN. So good that last night, even though I don't have to be in class at 8am, I soaked some oats. This morning? I even ate them from a bowl.

And yes. I did put cocoa powder in my oatmeal. You're welcome.

Overnight oats
I'm pretty sure this was just common knowledge

Note: the ratios below are a good guideline, but I generally make bigger batches because I can eat almost two cups of oatmeal in one go.

For the oatmeal:
1Tbsp butter
1 cup steel cut oats
3 cups water
pinch salt

This morning's toppings/mix-ins:
1 tsp cocoa powder
1.5 tsp maple syrup
couple spoonfuls of yogurt
toasted coconut

In a pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add oats and cook, stirring frequently, until the whole mess starts to smell toasty. Add the water and a good pinch of salt, cover and bring to a boil. When you've hit boiling, take the pot off the heat and leave covered overnight.

The next morning, divide oats up among tupperware/mason jars/bowls and add deliciousness! I suggest nuts, fruit if you're fancy enough to have it, and yogurt. I know the last thing sounds weird, but I love how the sour tastes against the whole mess. Since it can't be heated, it's often a last minute addition.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

New commenting setup (and a favor?)

Well good morning! I'm house-sitting for a friend, so I was woken up around six am by two hungry greyhounds. Two! Also there's currently a cat digging in my purse. On the bright side, I'll definitely be on time for class.

On a less adorable note, I'm trying to figure out a workable commenting system for this blog. As most of you know, I am absolutely horrendous with technology, so coding my own was clearly not an option. I added some weird, third-party commenting system the internet recommended and (here comes the favor!) I could use some help testing it. So! If you've got a minute, I'd love it if you tried to post something- what I'd like is for you to a) be able to comment b) without having to create a separate login but c) be required to input some sort of name/identifier so everyone doesn't just show up as 'anonymous'. Also, I may have accidentally erased all previous comments. I'm working on that one.

Feedback both requested and greatly appreciated :D

Love and radishes,

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Udon Pantry Soup

Since I still haven't finished my undergraduate degree, I'm currently taking a two-week intensive stable isotope course. (25 and still working on a bachelor's anyone? Just me? Ok then!). Starting Monday I've been in class at least 8 hours a day, and since campus isn't all that close to home, I've been leaving in the morning carrying two meals in my purse, and returning 13 hours later with my brain completely fried. Last night, in a stress-induced fit of bad decision making, I bought three packs of sour punch straws at a gas station on my way home and ate all of them while avoiding my dishes. This morning my teeth hurt, which is perhaps unsurprising. I hate getting older. Am I going to have to actually start flossing now? Adulthood sucks.

On Thursday, I took advantage of an unexpected afternoon break to go home and catch up on several hours of sign language homework and eating something that hadn't come out of my freezer stash. Unfortunately I haven't gone to the grocery store in a while, so my refrigerator contents consisted of a couple green onions, some seriously wilted beet greens and a carton of eggs. Enter: udon noodles.

Did you know you could buy udon noodles fresh? I found them individually wrapped in 6oz packages at the asian grocery near my old apartment. In Utah!! Take that, culturally diverse cities all my friends live in!

So yes, here is my recipe for white-girl pantry udon noodle soup. This came together in 20 minutes while I was doing some laundry, and it's still good a couple days later. I even used the turnip greens! And a good day to you.

Udon noodle soup with greens and eggs
adapted from thekitchn

12oz udon noodles
6 cups vegetable broth (I use better than bouillon veggie base!)
2 star anise
~1 inch of ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch chunks
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled and gently smashed
a big handful of greens, roughly chopped (I used beet greens, but I'm sure kale, spinach or what have you would also work well)
3 Tbs soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
3 green onions, thinly sliced
3 eggs

Hard boil eggs however you choose- I bring a pot of water to a boil, add the eggs then turn off the heat, cover, and wait 12 minutes. Starting with cold broth, bring broth, anise, ginger and garlic to a simmer over low heat. When it's simmering, add the noodles and greens and cook for about five minutes, until noodles are warm all the way through and greens are wilted. Remove from heat and fish out garlic, ginger and anise. Stir in soy sauce, rice vinegar and green onions, and eat with hard boiled eggs.