Spring, Summer, and Social Distancing

Over the past several months of being stuck at home, time has really been blurring together. I only sometimes know what day of the week it is. I haven’t worn hard pants since B.C. (before Covid). I haven’t spoken to friends in forever. I’m just here, floating through life in a haze. And so I was shocked when I actually thought about it for a second and realized that this quarantine has been going on for nearly six months (possibly longer by the time I actually post this). Whaaaaaat. Crazy.

So what exactly have I been up to since March in this time of strife and social distancing? For that, we’ll have to consult my camera roll! Turns out, I’ve been taking quite a few pictures and going on quite a few walks. So let’s take a look.

Here’s some flowers, some from the sidewalk and some from a grocery store in a vase on the kitchen island. Pretty!

It’s been extremely hot for the past few weeks, but for a while there, the weather in Michigan was absolutely lovely. So there have been a lot of walks. And the thing about walks is, I see a lot of deer. I have a problem, you see – if I see a deer, I must take a picture. Also a chipmunk. And frogs.

Aside from pictures of small animals, I’ve been doing a lot of cooking. Lots of bread, of course – have I mentioned that my starter’s name is Jane Dough because my friends didn’t think Rye of Sour-on was funny? – but also coconut milk pasta, rice bowls, pizza, pesto (from the basil growing on the deck), and a lot more. Here are pictures of some of that:

Oooh, here’s something new and exciting – for the first time in forever a few days ago, I picked up my camera! And took pictures with not my phone! That’s nice. I think they came out pretty well!

These past few months have been a lot. Every day feels like it’s had about ten insane news stories at once, and March simultaneously feels like five minutes ago and ten years ago. I barely know what’s happening anymore. I was supposed to be moving to Texas about now, but that’s been delayed for obvious reasons. But hey – I have food, fresh air, pretty places around me, and a very comfortable bed, so I can’t complain at all.

Tiramisu And Rescuing Messed Up Desserts

I came to the sad conclusion a while back that I just…don’t really enjoy chocolate as much as I think I do. Many things sound better in theory than they taste – mozzarella sticks, most pizza, fried foods. gooey chocolate desserts. Heavy chocolate dishes just don’t do it for me, and if I’m going to have one, it needs something like vanilla ice cream to cut through the richness.

This tiramisu, though, that I made a couple months ago now? Oh, yeah. That hit the spot. It was creamy and satisfying, while also being light enough to not coat the tongue unpleasantly. This was despite the couple blunders I made in the process. I used this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction, and from the beginning, I was a little off. The store didn’t have ladyfingers, and I was in no mood to make them, so I used Nilla wafers. Not for the purist, perhaps, but it worked just fine, so I wouldn’t be opposed to using them again. Still, not the most auspicious start!

The next issue was that I misread the instructions. Instead of beating the mascarpone with the rum and the cream with the vanilla extract, I beat the mascarpone with the cream. I only realized what I’d done when I tried to move on to the next instruction. I ultimately shrugged and stirred in the rum and vanilla extract, hoping that the lack of “medium peaks” wouldn’t make all that big a difference (spoiler alert: it didn’t. Yay!).

After that, I had to cook the egg yolks and some sugar over a double boiler. My makeshift double boiler, as I didn’t have bowls of the right sizes, was to hold up the top bowl, containing the egg yolks, using a thing that I don’t know the English word for (tongs doesn’t quite describe it, I don’t think, but similar. I think it’s called a pakkad in Hindi?), and whisk the yolks and some sugar with my other hand. Using a salad fork. Because I only used two egg yolks. And given the bowl I used, that wasn’t enough to make a whisk practical.

As I do not own a sifter – seriously, do I look like the kind of person that would own a sifter? I’m twenty two, a giant geek, and I just admitted to a ridiculous makeshift double boiler – I just sprinkled cocoa powder on top using a spoon. It was very uneven. But who cares! Because dessert!

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After that, I left it in the fridge for a few hours, as the recipe commanded. Then when I pulled it out to serve, voila!

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You know something? It was damn delicious. So turns out, you can mess up on multiple stages of making tiramisu and it will still be awesome because it is cream, coffee, and rum, and with that, it’s almost impossible to make something not tasty.

Garlic and Cheese Stuffed Bread

Yeah, yeah, I know, you’re all sick of bread and if you’re not, you definitely hate rambling blog posts filled with pictures of mostly irrelevant stuff before you can get to the recipe. This will not help with the first one, but for the second…here is a link to skip right to the recipe.

I…barely ate bread before quarantine. I mean, I’ve always loved bread, but I started cutting back on it quite a while ago, and for a long time, had mostly cut it out of my daily routine – the occasional crusty loaf with soup, or a sandwich once every couple of weeks, but not as a daily part of breakfast. Buuuuuuut then quarantine happened and I started baking constantly. It was like a siren’s song – all those lovely pictures of bread on the Internet, how could I resist the urge to make some?

Also, I started a sourdough starter, so I’ll probably be posting about my first attempts at that pretty soon. I’m still settling on a name – I thought the Rye of Sour-on was cute, but my friends seem to be in favour of Jane Dough (or Grain Dough) or Beauty and the Yeast. Here it is:

But I digress. With most of the bread I’ve been making, I followed existing recipes pretty closely, so I didn’t really think it worth posting about. But this one, I messed with a fair bit, so here goes.

The dough was pretty standard – two and a quarter teaspoons of active dry yeast, three quarters of a cup of warm water, a tablespoon of sugar, one and a half teaspoons of salt, about two cups of flour (I was out of bread flour, so I used all purpose. It worked fine), a drizzle of olive oil. I added a little bit of onion powder, too. I let that rise for about an hour, and chopped about five large cloves of garlic. Once the dough was done rising, I stretched it out until it was pretty flat and spread out the garlic and cheese on top. Then I folded the dough over the layer of garlic and cheese so that it was it was sealed in and shaped it into a loaf. On top, I put some butter, more garlic (…I got annoyed and used jarred minced garlic here. Yeah, yeah, don’t judge me. But if you’re going to do the same, I’d probably swap where you put the jarred garlic inside and the chopped garlic on top), and more cheese. Then I baked it at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes.

Ta-da!

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Garlic and Cheese Stuffed Bread

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • Chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • Shredded cheese
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Butter

Method

  1. Add the sugar, yeast, and water to a bowl and stir to combine. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes until the mixture foams up.
  2. Add salt, onion powder, olive oil, and 1 cup of flour to the yeast mixture. Stir until smooth. Continue adding flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until a soft dough forms.
  3. Knead the dough until smooth and no longer sticky.
  4. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let rest to rise for an hour, or until doubled in size.
  5. Deflate the risen dough and stretch it flat.
  6. Spread the chopped garlic across half the dough, reserving some for the top of the loaf. Do the same with the cheese.
  7. Fold the dough over the layer of garlic and cheese, pinching the dough closed around it and forming a loaf.
  8. Transfer the loaf into a greased pan.
  9. Gently spread butter over the loaf, then spread the reserved garlic and cheese on top.*
  10. Let rest for about half an hour.
  11. Bake at 375°F for 35 minutes.

*If you would like the garlic and cheese to adhere better, replace the butter with an egg wash – beat one egg with a tablespoon of water and lightly brush it over the surface of the loaf before adding the cheese and garlic.

Quarantine Quaffing: The Good Old Fashioned Art Of Cooking To Escape Boredom

What’s a girl to do in a time when everyone’s supposed to be self isolating as much as possible, and after that, when there’s a stay a home order? It seems…food. Here are some of the many things I’ve been making in the past month or so.

We begin at the very beginning of self isolation, when the staying at home was a little bit more casual – you know, before it became mandatory and everywhere started running out of paper products. At this point, food hadn’t really been very appealing to me for a while, so I was at the point of needing things that were easy to eat and boldly flavoured. So I made some pseudo-shakshuka. I did not have the patience to poach the egg, at all, so I fried it and put it on top of the tomato sauce and tossed some goat cheese into the mix. I cheated a bit by using tomato paste instead of just cooking down the tomatoes for however long it took, but I think it still tuned out pretty well!

You know when you finish most of a box of pasta, then have tiny quantities left of several different ones that aren’t enough individually to make an entire meal? I used the remainder of a couple boxes to make pasta salad! Some celery, red onion, half a tomato, and a whole lot of pesto and balsamic vinegar! Does it look good? Not even remotely. Was it delicious? Hell yeah it was.

You know what else is delicious? Chocolate chip cookies.

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These cookies were awesome. I put them in a box and they stayed soft and chewy for the whole week and a half it took to finish them. You can’t go wrong with cookies! I mean, next time I make them, I’ll add a bit more salt, and maybe a little more maple syrup. But they were still great.

Confession: I put ridiculous quantities of garlic into absolutely everything I make. Because of this, when I came across the phrase “roasted garlic soup” in something I was reading…I immediately had to try it.IMG_3250

An enormous quantity of roasted garlic, some fried minced garlic, vegetable broth, herbs, a splash of cream, and bam! Soup! It was awesome. (I can’t remember if I included chopped onion or not. I don’t think I did? But I put onion in almost everything, so it’s hard to be sure.)

I almost always make avocado toast on fried bread. Sometimes, I include cheese or onions. This time, I had a bit more time, and I wanted something a little different, so I tried it on garlic bread instead, with crispy cheese.

I like to cook. But I’m really not often fond of recipes that take a whole lot of time or need precise measurements. I’m a fan of things that I can throw together quickly and get a tasty result. But when you’re sitting at home under a low buzz of anxiety, sometimes you need some foods that are a little more involved – so I made pierogi. They are not pretty, but they survived and they taste good.

They had a potato and cheddar filling. I boiled all of them, then fried some and froze the rest. They defrosted surprisingly well, too. I only had trouble with two of them – those two got stuck together and one tore when I tried to separate them. Luckily, they’d already been boiled, so frying them went fine.

And because we’re in quarantine…I think it’s time for the obligatory bread pictures:

The one on the left is garlic pull-apart. The one on the right is cheddar rosemary. The dough for both was your basic bread dough, plus the add ins. Like the cookies, this also needed a bit more salt. Other changes I’d make for the garlic one would be to add more butter and maybe even whole roasted cloves, instead of minced garlic. For the cheddar rosemary, I’m thinking jalapenos. I can never stay away from that flavour combo for too long.

I’ll probably post the recipes later. How’s everyone holding up in quarantine?

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Quiche

A couple things that can make nearly everything better, at least to me: mushrooms and goat cheese. So a while ago, I made this quiche with both of those things.

 

I had never actually cooked with a leek before, and I’d often seen recipes including them, so I figured this was a good a time as any to try them out. I sauteed some, along with my mushrooms and a little bit of garlic, then used the mixture to cover the bottom of a prepared pie crust.

IMG-1725I layered goat cheese on top of the leeks and mushrooms, then poured in the egg-milk-cream mixture. I made the first error of not using a deep dish crust, and the second error of not realizing the problem before I poured in all of the mixture, so it overflowed the second I picked it up. It was a mess. Luckily, through the clever combination of a plate and two, I managed to get  it into the oven. I then had to clean up the egg mess, which was gross.

I have a problem when it comes to cooking new things: inevitably, when I make something for the first time, I under season. Apparently, I’m just subconsciously that afraid of overdoing it on the salt. It wasn’t bad – in fact, I really liked it, especially when I added more salt. But I really need to get better at my first guess.

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Oh, the Glory: Cheese Puffs

IMG-1728Gougères: a savoury pastry so delicious, you just know you don’t want to know what’s in them.

Except you do. Because no nutrition facts should stop you from eating these, because they’re great, and making them whenever you want is amazing.

I made my pâte à choux – heated the butter and water together; stirred in the flour; added eggs; seasoned with salt, thyme, and a little paprika – then mixed in a lot of cheese. I used cheddar, because why not. Seeing as I don’t believe in expending extra effort to make food pretty when I’m not trying to impress anyone, and I find piping bags absurd at the best of times, I used a spoon, because dammit, it is my right as a human being to prepare food the way I please. They were delicious.

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Goat Cheese And Roasted Red Pepper Fettuccine

In a further attempt to expand my horizons when it comes to pasta, I decided to throw together a few different things.

img_1674I kept the basics the same – onions, garlic, mushrooms. I can never resist mushroom anything. I didn’t use any tomatoes, but I roasted some red peppers. I’m not much of a fan of peppers, but hey, here’s to trying new things and continuing my quest to not get scurvy.

Goat cheese is delicious in any form. I usually just chop some up and toss it in a salad, but I fried some a while back and had it as a snack with warmed tomato sauce, and I think I found God.

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Chèvre melts so well that it’s ninety percent of a sauce all on its own. Had I just added a little lemon, seasoning, and maybe a couple more ingredients to the cheese, it would have tasted delicious. But in the words of Michael from The Good Place, it’s so human to take something great and ruin it just a little so we can have more of it. (Not that this is ruining anything. It’s awesome, really.)  So I added the goat cheese and a little half and half to the red peppers, onions, garlic, and mushrooms, squeezed in a lemon, and seasoned.

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It tasted really good. Personally, I’d still go for a tomato based sauce over any other kind 364 days of the year, but this is definitely worth a try. Do it for the goat cheese, if nothing else – goat cheese everything is life.

Creamy Spinach Sauce: A Pasta You Can Pretend Is Kind Of Healthy

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I’m a student. As such, I eat a lot of pasta – if I  were honest, probably more than I should. I usually stand by tomato based sauces with tube shaped noodles, and I still maintain that that’s my favourite type of pasta dish, but somewhere along the line, I figured that I should consume some more green vegetables in my unhealthy pasta based student diet. You know, just to make sure I don’t get scurvy and die. Thus, this spinach and basil sauce with fettuccine. (Yes, I realize spinach isn’t high in vitamin C. Don’t call me out like that.)

 

I love food. But as I ranted about here, I can’t stand food elitism. Limiting food to what’s “traditional” feels ridiculous to me, and is placing unnecessary restrictions on food. It’s trying to make good food, something completely subjective, something that can be objectively measured. I’m not here for that. So I elected to ignore the so-called rules of pasta to make something I thought would taste good.

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I cooked some garlic, onions, and mushrooms, then added some cream, Parmesan, basil, and spinach. I used fresh basil, but frozen spinach, because anyone that tells you have to cook with some specific thing and that if it’s not fresh, you might as well not bother is lying to you, and I wasn’t about to go to the store to get fresh spinach when I had some perfectly good frozen in my freezer.

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I love mushrooms. I put them in everything. I chopped them up pretty roughly here so that I could taste them better in the finished sauce. I tossed it with fettuccine, and the end result was a rich, chunky sauce that clung to the noodles, and, if I say so myself, tasted delicious.

The original goal was to incorporate some more vegetables in my diet. I managed that much! Was it healthy? No, not even a little bit. But I tried something new, ate some spinach, and had a tasty meal. I even learned that I should absolutely not drop out of engineering to become a food photographer. Seems like a pretty productive experiment to me! Healthy can come later. One step at a time, right?img_1374-1

Recipes for the Student Without Enough Energy to Get Out a Chopping Board: The Egg Scramble

like to cook. But even so, as a full time student, with classes, exams, homework, and labs, a lot of the time, I can’t think of anything I want to do less than go home and make something involving any more effort than one pan, a handful of ingredients, and fifteen minutes.

There is a time and place for ambitious recipes. That time is not in the half hour you have to make and eat food when you’re exhausted and on the verge of passing out in a chair, and that place is not in your probably depressing, tiny campus kitchen. So something quick and easy, filling, and with a few vegetables so you don’t get scurvy and die.

So what do you make? An omelette? Nah, that’s far too put together and fancy for the zombie that is a college student. So the clear solution is to make what’s basically the exact same thing, except less pretty: the breakfast scramble.

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Bless the breakfast scramble, that supreme god king of foods. You’re always there for me when I need you.

Throw some stuff in a pan. Onions, mushrooms, maybe, spinach, basil. Cook them. Beat your eggs, maybe with some milk or half and half or cream or water, if you swing that way. (Don’t use milk. Don’t be that guy) Add your beaten eggs – which any self respecting college student will whisk with a fork and not an actual whisk, because who the hell has the motivation to get a whisk? – to the stuff in the pan. Add some cheese, maybe. Season. I will fight anyone that tries to tell you that thyme, salt, and pepper isn’t the perfect seasoning combination for this saviour of a meal. Cook until done. Dump onto a plate. Eat.

Has there ever been a meal so satisfying? So delicious at two in the morning when you’re finally back from the library and starving? If you add a piece of toast to it, you can even say you’ve had all your food groups! The breakfast scramble: a godsend, and the patron saint of tired students. How we love you.

Lemon Curd Layer Cake

Last week, I was really craving some cake. I don’t believe in occasions for eating cake, but I’ve been trying to eat healthier, so I jumped on the idea of celebrating the Justice League trailer and making dessert because my parents were having people over. I have no idea why, but I wanted something lemony, and I had a very specific idea in my head of the look and taste of what I wanted. It would be a light, fluffy layered cake with a lemon curd filling and an icing glaze. That’s…not what I made.

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Cake batter

I mixed up my cake batter. Pretty standard stuff, but I added a bit of lemon zest and lemon juice to it. I don’t exactly know why – not enough baking powder? Old baking powder? – but when I baked it, it came out much denser than I was anticipating.

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Cake after baking.

The cakes came out of the pans cleanly, and they held up very well, even after being cut, but consistency-wise, I was imagining something much lighter. It didn’t taste bad, but I’d have preferred something else. Next time I try it, I’ll add more baking powder.

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Making the lemon curd.

Lemon juice, lemon zest, egg yolks, butter, sugar, and a little bit of cream – this curd was delicious. Without it, the cake would have been completely unmemorable, but it was incredibly tasty – both sweet and tart, rich without being heavy. I didn’t quite let it cool long enough before using it, so it didn’t quite thicken, but I stuck it in the fridge afterwards, and it was fine.

I made too much of the curd, so instead of just using it as a filling between the layers, I covered the entire cake in it and skipped the glaze. It wasn’t what I intended to make, but I can’t complain about the results – using the lemon curd made something ridiculously indulgent and, if I do say so myself, fantastic.

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