Thursday, June 13, 2013

a different take on throwback thursday

So, I've been on Instagram since December 2011, but have only used it regularly for the past nine months or so. Somehow, though, I didn't realize "Throwback Thursday" was a thing until, oh, I don't know, the past couple months. I don't often post old pictures, mostly because a) my sister threatened to disown me if I broadcast any more baby pics of us, and b) I'm one of the rare people who was pudgier in late high school/college than I am now. And while "chubby cheeks" was a cute nick name when I was pre-school aged, trust me when I tell you it wasn't a good look in my late teens/early twenties. 

Anyways, nostalgia is something I can clearly get behind, so, I'm going to indulge in a little throwback Thursday to something more recent, namely my birthday/trip home to NC.

When I was home, we had a cookout on the Sunday of Memorial Day. To go with the grilled steak, we made a smoky Spanish-style pan roast that I still daydream about. It was super easy to make, took no more than 40ish minutes total, and had this great spicy-sweet-smoky flavor to it. It was kind of like a twist on the classic shrimp boil, and I love me some shrimp boil. 

We followed the directions practically to the letter, except that I threw in a combination of regular olive oil and "smokin' chipotle" flavored (yes, that is a thing). Also, we couldn't find regular chorizo, and ended up using chicken chorizo, which was AMAZING. 

All of this has me sitting here it too early for lunch?

(photo from recipe)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

soviet safeway

Many of the Safeway grocery stores in DC have nicknames. The Senior Safeway is frequented by, you guessed it, the elderly set. The Social Safeway is full of young, attractive, chatty patrons. And the Safeway near my apartment is constantly packed with people, has minimal options, and is often out of many items, hence its nickname: the Soviet Safeway. 

The other night, SS and I trekked past police tape to the Soviet Safeway to get a few simple supplies for this flourless chocolate hazelnut truffle cake. Turns out the Soviet Safeway doesn't deem hazelnuts "simple," as they had NONE on their shelves. So, I had to adapt the recipe to include ground toasted almonds and almond liqueur instead of the hazelnut variety of each. 

I made a full and a half batch of the recipe so that I could make one 9" springform pan worth for a dinner party, and 3 baby-size pans for sampling purposes. I baked the larger pan for probably 20 minutes longer than the recommended time, but that is likely because I overfilled it. The baby pans took about 25 or 30 minutes. 

The almonds proved to be a bit of a pain, as I nearly burnt them while toasting them, and had some trouble grinding them up in to a fine powder. Turns out there's a really crucial moment at which finely ground nuts turn from powder to butter. I got the timing wrong on the first little batch, but managed to do better on the second two. By the way, the toasting step, I imagine, isn't necessary, but takes the whole confection to what I daresay is a transcendent level. The end result is a little gooey, and has a perfect hint of the Amaretto and toasted almonds. SS and I devoured one of the baby pans in record time, with nothing left behind to show for our baking efforts except some crumbs.   

photo from recipe!
ps-I imagine there are many ways to turn nuts in to powder. I used a coffee/spice grinder (and worked in batches), but also thought about using my mini-food processor. The original recipe's author used pre-milled hazelnuts from Bob's Red Mill. Options abounds.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

nostalgia wednesdays: washington

Can I be nostalgic about something that happened half a month ago? Ehh, I say yes.

Before I delve too unabashedly into Washington nostalgia, let me introduce an abbreviation you'll start to see more of: SS, short for "the totally awesome person I'm dating whose privacy I plan to respect in this forum." SS is much easier to say, no?  If we're friends on Facebook, you're probably rolling your eyes, because there are plenty of photos, status updates, etc, out there that are far from private. But, on Facebook I'm able to control who sees my life, and a blog is much more accessible to strangers.

SS off in the distance checking out Diablo Lake in Washington

 Anyways, SS and I flew to Seattle on a Thursday night, and spent about half of Friday exploring the city with my Venice friend E, and one of his friends (who lives in Seattle). Then, Friday afternoon, we piled in to a Zipcar and headed down some super winding roads to the small valley town of Winthrop, Washington, for a fellow Venice friend's wedding. 

As cool as Seattle was, Winthrop was on a completely different level. I barely had cell phone service there, because the town is so nestled between the Cascades. As an East Coast girl, I don't often see mountains like those. It was quiet, beautiful, peaceful, friendly, breath-taking...

Methow River in Winthrop, WA

E was the perfect road trip buddy, as he knew the long, curvy route from Seattle to Winthrop quite well, and could advise us on all the best places in the valley to visit, as well as all the "must eat here" shops.  And, he didn't bat an eye when I, as chief co-navigator, declared that I was dangerously close to throwing up, and had to close my eyes for the duration of the (curvy) drive.

SS and E bonding over their love of Mush Puppies (a local bakery special)

The wedding was unlike any I've ever been to, with its ranch setting, and attendees in everything from dresses to cowboy boots and jeans. Everyone, especially the bride and groom, seemed beyond happy, and the dancing lasted a solid eight hours after the ceremony. 

wedding instruments

bridal party arriving via horse-drawn carriage
I'm so happy that we made the trip, despite that little fear of flying issue! I miss the quiet, friendly town with its amazing local food, especially since the frenetic pace of DC is really wearing on me right now. In fact, today I walked, full speed ahead, in to an intersection that had the green light for cars, because I was in that much of a hurry to get to the metro. That sort of thing doesn't happen in Winthrop, and not just because they don't have traffic lights. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

good things come in threes

This year's birthday was the birthday of cupcakes. In less than one week's time, I made (and sampled) three different batches, which probably explains why my favorite black work skirt is now inappropriately tight.

For my rooftop birthday happy hour with DC friends, I tried the devil's food recipe on the side of the Pillsbury cake flour box. I cut it in half, and it made about 2 dozen cupcakes, most of which we devoured during the festivities. I think we consumed about that much champagne, too. Details. 


I really love that my building a) has a roof and b) that the aforementioned roof has a little tiki bar. It was put to great use during brunchiversary, but it was also perfect for a birthday celebration. We may or may not have ignored the "no open flame" policy to light that little candle you see. See: champagne consumed. 

Anyways, the Pillsbury recipe was super easy, and produced amazingly chocolately, rich, moist cupcakes that I would totally make again.

Which, for some reason, I did not do when Mom and I decided to make two types of cupcakes for a Memorial Day/birthday cookout at home in NC. Instead I tried Martha Stewart's recipe. Unsurprisingly, hers was more complicated. Surprisingly, it wasn't as good. They weren't inedible or anything, they just weren't nearly as rich and moist.

While home, I also made Magnolia Bakery's vanilla cupcakes (amazing how much more you can experiment when you aren't the one forking over the $$ for ingredients. Also, living in fear of under-supplying food is a family trait, and Mom definitely convinced me we needed dozens of cupcakes for 10 people).

Anyways, I think I overfilled the muffin liners when I was baking the Magnolia cupcakes, because the tops were all flat and quasi-stuck to the pan and resembled sugar cookies, not perfectly domed cupcakes. They tasted pretty amazing, though. 

We also had s'mores in the outdoor fireplace, because it was uncharacteristically chilly at night my first few days home. And, I pretty much never need a reason to eat a s'more (evidenced by the fact that I routinely toast marshmallows using the open flame of my gas stove here in DC). 

I'd like to think my baked-goods gluttony has come to an end, especially since the skirt not fitting this morning was pretty traumatizing, but, just last night, I tried a flour-less chocolate cake recipe that pretty much promises to make all my clothes fit tightly for the foreseeable future.

Worth it?