Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sticky Teff-Kissed Spice Loaves

I can honestly say that never in my entire life have I pulled out the beaters and whipped up some cream, simply so that I might have a healthy dollop of the delicious stuff -- all by myself, in the middle of the afternoon.  But that officially changed as of roughly five minutes ago, because I decided to have a slice of the gingerbread I made, and was certainly not going to do it without some cream on top.  I'm so glad I did, too.  Because this is my favorite time of day to sit down with tea and something quite yummy to go with it.

We actually had this gingerbread a few nights ago after dinner.  And, to be perfectly honest, I liked it, but I immediately began to worry about what I was going to do with two loaves of the stuff.  (In case you were wondering, as per usual, I froze one.)  However, to be fair, it seems I've turned into a no-dessert-after-dinner sort of person.  On second thought, I am more of a if-I'm-going-to-eat-dessert-after-dinner-it-sure-as-hell-shouldn't-be-even-remotely-good-for-me sort of person.  But even then, I only like it sparingly.  (I can just see my mother right now.  If she knew this, there would certainly be a look given, probably even a few short words said.  But I can't help it.  I prefer my sweet in the middle of the afternoon.)

Anyway, that is neither here nor there.  What I am actually supposed to be talking about right now is this recipe for gingerbread.  It is from Heidi Swanson's cookbook, which is filled with whole foods -- not the grocery store chain, mind you, but actual whole foods.  You know, grains, vegetables, beans, butter.  That sort of thing.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hey, That's My Brioche!

Whenever Emilia and I go to the library, which is a lot these days, we often walk across the street and go to The French Bakery before heading home.  We both love it in there.  It is small and cheery, and a great way to avoid eating lunch at home.  Emilia usually opts for a ham and cheese croissant and perrier, while her mama is usually content with the best cappuccino that $2.50 can buy.

Anyway, a month or so ago I broke down and decided to try one of their brioches.  It was so pretty to look at -- all golden and puffed up.  But right after we got to the table, Emilia decided that it looked quite yummy and nearly ate the whole thing.  And then she sat, laughing and laughing, as I told her, 'Hey!  That's my brioche!'  Every now and then she would proudly (or was it menacingly, I can't recall) chime in with, 'I ate it!  I ate mama's brioche!'

And so now, every time we go in to The French Bakery, Emilia thinks that mama should get a brioche for her to eat.  However, while the brioche that they sell is quite good -- pardon me while I toot my own horn here -- mine is better.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that brioche is really best when eaten warm -- with a nice schmear of butter, and an even bigger schmear of homemade strawberry jam.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Big-Girl-Underwear Are in Effect! (And Really Rather Wet)

'Oh my goodness!  Oh my goodness!  You got Big-Girl-Underwear!  Should we put them on?  Should we put them on!'  Emilia nearly shouted this at me yesterday as I opened up the Mini Boden package that had just come in the mail.  She was so excited, she looked like she was going to burst.

Emilia has been eyeing the underwear in the Mini Boden catalog for quite some time now.  'As soon as you go potty in the toilet you get those!', she would say over and over again.  And, lo and behold, last week she did just that -- the girl went potty in the toilet.  Mama and dada were shocked.  (If you don't believe me, just ask Emilia, she'll tell you, 'Mama and dada were shocked!')  So, being true to my word, we ordered a set of Big-Girl-Underwear right up.  And wouldn't you know, she has not had any interest in returning to the potty ever since.  Well, until yesterday that is.

Once those little floral beauties graced her backside, we couldn't get her off the pot.  She tried to go four times in ten minutes -- but nothing doing.  I suppose that when you don't have to go, you don't have to go.  So instead she ran around the house in a tee-shirt, her new undies, and her wellies, feeling pretty slick.  And she did not think it was funny when I suggested that maybe we put her skirt back on -- on account of the fact that then we would no longer be able to see her cute little undies with her cute little bum in them.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gougères et Kir

Oh my goodness, I love Dorie Greenspan.  Actually, I adore her.  Her new cookbook, Around My French Table, just came in the mail last week, and I've been poring over it.  I kept saying her name over and over to myself, and wondering why it sounded so blasted familiar.  Finally I put my finger on it: she wrote Baking with Julia, of course!  If Emilia had been sitting with me then, she would have said, 'A-doi, mama!'  (Yes, it is true that our Little Tomato could point out Julia Child in a line-up.  We are civilized, after all.)

Anyway, as I was saying, I've been reading this new cookbook and marveling all the while.  Dorie Greenspan is a great food writer.  She is so very readable -- and likeable -- that her new book makes me want to cook everything in it.  I actually laughed out loud (that would be LOL for the younger generations) when I read her introduction.  She writes: 'I returned home to New York City, assured my mother that I loved her even though she'd made the mistake of having me in Brooklyn instead of Paris, and proceeded to devote the rest of my life to remedying her lapse in judgement.'  Ha!  I remember accusing my mother of the same thing ages ago, yet not quite so eloquently, I can assure you.

Another thing that caught my eye in the introduction was the picture of Dorie in her kitchen.  She is standing, in a pair of rather pretty shoes, in what appears to be a one-butt-kitchen**.  That's right -- her kitchen is not some huge expanse.  Instead it is small, well-appointed, and only meant to fit one butt at a time.  I'm guessing this doesn't bother her as I'm assuming said kitchen is in the heart of Paris.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pollo con Pomodoro in Tecia (Or, Chicken in Tomato)

I realize this may not, in fact, be the best picture I've ever taken.  However, this Pollo con Pomodoro in Tecia is so good that I can't help myself and am putting it up anyway.  Eating this is the perfect way to make one exhale (or sigh contentedly, whichever you prefer).  It is immediately homey and rustic, yet I would not cry if it was served to me in a fancy restaurant.      

The recipe comes from Tessa Kiros's Venezia: Food & Dreams -- a beautiful cookbook that is loaded with seafood recipes.  Admittedly, I've not done many of the seafood recipes as of yet.  And, oddly enough, I'm not sure why I'm waiting.  Because everything I've done from this cookbook has been quite memorable.  The sauce alone in this chicken recipe is not to be balked at.  Michael was raving about it, and Emilia kept asking for more -- just the sauce though, as she claims not to have much love for polenta.  (She was trying to make a well out of her polenta so she could fill it up with sauce, and then eat it like a bowl of soup or something.)  They are both right, though, because simmering meat in tomato sauce is mouthwatering good.  Not to mention the fact that it is also the most perfect form of comfort food.  And as an added bonus, it yielded enough leftovers (for us anyway) to have the next night.  Mmmm.

The recipe calls for a whole chicken cut into eight pieces.  Because PCC (the little store I happened to be at for the necessary ingredients) did not have anyone there to cut up a chicken for me (and because that is a job I have no intention of ever doing myself), I bought two pre-wrapped packages of already cut-up chicken -- three breasts and three thighs.  I was more than happy with the result. 

Also, you are meant to serve this chicken over polenta.  Usually I make polenta using the forty minute route.  However, I have all of this fast cooking polenta that I bought to make a bread that didn't bowl me over enough to be bothered making it again, so I decided to use it here.  It cooked in literally two or three minutes.  I then stirred in some butter and grated parmesan.  (How could Emilia not like that?)  Whichever route you go, make sure you time it accordingly -- because polenta does not like to wait.  It needs to be eaten right after it is made.           

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Feeling of Taking Away

For some reason I have been incredibly tired, quite distraught, and completely uninspired this week.  And rather than do anything productive during naptime, all I've managed to do is drink cup after cup of tea, read my new French cookbook, eat slice after slice of my favorite carrot cake, and pine after the new toddler line from Mini Boden.  (It delights me that they have just extended the baby line up to size 3-4!  That way your little one can actually dress like a little one, instead of like a big kid in skinny jeans and such.)

Anyway, a few nights ago as Michael and I lay in bed trying to fall asleep, he says to me: 'Alright, you've got to stop thinking so much!'  Yeesh.  I wasn't exactly causing a racket or anything.  In fact, I was completely minding my own business -- but apparently emanating something that was making it difficult for him sleep.  I immediately tried to stop, but it is hard to shut my mind down sometimes.  (I think this is because I must be border-line genius.  Border-line something, anyway.)  Anyway, I'll admit I've had a lot on my mind these days.  But what can I say, other than remind myself that all things are passing.

I must also remind myself that two tubes of my favorite lipsticks getting smashed up and broken (courtesy Miss Milia) are not the end of the world.  Neither is pulling out Michael's new shirt from the dryer only to find it covered with stains. (Seriously, no idea how that happened.  I really liked that shirt, too.  And apparently so did Emilia, because for some reason she started to cry when she saw it.)  And I suppose it is not the end of the world when our little girl comes barreling through the house wearing her wellies that are covered in dog poop.  All this within an hour or so, mind you.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Because It Made Me Laugh

Father Nagel gave us all copies of the Bible at mass a few weeks ago in an effort to get us to read them, cover to cover.  Because let's face it -- when it comes to reading the Bible, Catholics suck.  I find this particularly odd since Catholics (quite literally) invented the Bible.  I have several theories on why this non-reading phenomenon persists today, of which I will not bore you.  However, I think it may have something to do with the fact that Catholics were once forbidden from reading the Bible on their own -- lest we interpret it all wrong and get any sort of crazy notions in our heads. 

Anyway, because I refuse to be lumped into the 'non-reading' category, I've been trying to read a chapter of it every day out loud to Emilia -- sort of in the manner of the mother in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  (Aha!  See, not all Catholics shun Bible reading!  That book is about an Irish Catholic family.  Wow, I feel better already.)

And so, there we were -- Emilia and I sitting in the living room, reading all about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  She played with her dollhouse periodically, but mostly came and stood by the arm of the sofa and listened.  I was quite impressed, to say the least.  Later that evening as we were all at the dinner table, Michael asked Emilia about it.  'So Emilia, what is a serpent?'  And without missing a beat, the girl replies, 'It a bigbigbig snake!  It make me the willies!'

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Miss Dahl's Tawny Granola; Or, How to Chanel Your Inner Hippie

I was standing in the kitchen last week making dinner and talking to Michael about his day at work, when Emilia comes running in, slams her doll on the floor with a bang, and declares, 'Her need her legs waxed!  She do!'

I found this to be perfect timing, because just a few short hours earlier I had been in the kitchen making granola, and was dangerously beginning to feel like a hippie.  When I first pulled out Sophie Dahl's cookbook and was looking at the list of ingredients to make her Tawny Granola, I was feeling quite pleased with myself and rather smug.  That's because we had literally every single ingredient that she calls for -- quite impressive, I say.  Because, really, how many kitchens are fully stocked with agave, pumpkin seeds, coconut, etc?  Maybe I should clarify that a bit.  What I actually mean is: how many 'non-hippie' kitchens are stocked with such items?  And that is when it started to hit me -- and, unfortunately, it wasn't good news: I had officially morphed into a hippie.  Ah, crap.  Don't get me wrong, I've nothing against hippies or anything, but I'll be damned if I want to be one.

The glamorous Miss Dahl says she feels like a 1950s housewife while making granola.  (I feel like that on a daily basis, only without the glamour.)  But my head kept getting filled with images of hairy legs and VW buses as I stirred all the ingredients together.  And I am very sorry to report that I was the proud owner of both at the moment.  On the bright side though, our VW is not actually a bus.  It's just a boring old car.  And we do not have any fringe curtains hanging in it.