who's the ECL?

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Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm not BAD evil, more like devil's food cake evil.

Monday, December 20, 2010

a block from the epicenter

I'm down here in the Bay Area for the holidays, and we had a little pre-Christmas celebration Sunday morning. My sister and her family are spending Christmas with her in-laws in Florida this year, so we exchanged our gifts and stockings with them early.

There we were, still in our PJs, wrapping paper in tatters, the nephew more excited about the box than the gift (isn't that how it always is with kids). I was sitting on the couch next to Mom, when I heard a low rumbling sound. I thought it was a plane flying low overhead, but then with a loud BANG the house threw itself suddenly to the right, and then the low rumble moved on.

An earthquake! How California. It was a wierd earthquake, because instead of a little shaking and rumbling it was just one loud jerk. But then again, it was kind of cool. You can say that about an earthquake when it is only 3.1 on the richter scale. Those big ones....not so much.

Later on, the news mentioned our little earthquake and pinpointed the epicenter to a street not too far from our house. In fact, one block away! So glad it was a teeny earthquake, considering.

3.1 magnitude quake in Los Altos

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

(Not So) Fit to Curl

women's round robin curling Last night Cookie and I were at the local ice rink, inside of a shopping mall, after hours with ten other people. We all had funny black grippers over our shoes and were clutching brooms. The chatty gentlemen standing at the head of our semi circle were talking about safety on the ice, how to get yourself in the hack, and how to glide off down the ice pushing a big granite rock.

Yes my friends, we were learning to curl.

I tell you, the sport looks funny when you are just watching it, especially if you are new. Even admitting that I am a bit of a curling fan, watching the local league finish up their games before we ambled onto the ice made Cookie and I giggle. It all just looks so dorky.

Aha, and then we started participating, and dorky it wasn't any longer. It was fun! It was difficult! It was a cardio workout! Those stones can go down the ice faster than you think, and when sweeping, you've got to run/hobble sideways while scrubbing with a lot of pressure on the ice, without bumping into the other sweeper's broom or the stone. (I failed at all of those tasks.)

Throwing a stone is complicated, too. There's the fact that on your lead foot, there's a piece of slick teflon that will let you glide/slide/careen down the ice. That foot with the teflon doesn't feel stable at all. The other foot is resting in the hack, and one hand is holding a balancer thingy while the other hand (opposite side from your slippy foot) is the stone. The stone needs to be held in a certain way, and rotated gently in a certain way as you let go of it. There's a lot to think about.

It kind of went like this:
Okay, foot in the hack. crouch down.
Okay, holding the stone.
Okay, holding the stabilizer.
Okay, put your foot on the glider. WOAH.
Okay, sort of stand up and draw back your glidey foot WOAH
and then push off and keep your balance and hey i'm gliding! and ohyeah letgoofthestone heydidiremembertoturnit ithinkidid wow it is going slow i can't believe i just curled! wow it did not go more than ten feet this is HARD.
can i go again?

It was pretty fun. There were four instructors to the 12 of us learners, so they split us into two teams of six each and we played a game. Which basically meant that of the 12 rocks thrown, maybe four traveled far enough down the ice to make it into play.

I would like to thank Cookie and Scott for sweeping my stone past the line to make it into play, even though it was nowhere near the target. Good sweeping blue team!

I am sore today. I was breathing hard last night. I see why John Mosley wrote a book about conditioning for the sport. I can see why they call it a sport. Cookie and I were really excited afterwards. The league is starting up again in January, will we join up? Stay tuned to find out, folks.

Living in Portland and want to curl? Check out The Evergreen Curling Club.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

FFWD: Speculoos

I don't think I've ever had proper Speculoos, or Speculaas, or Belgian/Dutch Spice Cookies. I've made them before but since I have no idea how they are supposed to taste I don't know if what I've made is a good Speculoos. But at any rate, I enjoy them but I think I like a spicy Swedish gingersnap better.

FFWD: Speculoos

I also have discovered that when I bake cookies, which isn't very often, I like something easy and yummy, like a good ol' drop cookie. All the fancy cookies which require rolling into logs and chilling or rolling out into sheets for cut-outs is too much for my lazy brain.

FFWD: Speculoos

I have sandwiched caramel between spicy Swedish gingersnaps to great success, so I decided to do so with these.

FFWD: Speculoos

The caramel was too soft so it gooped out, but I think that just makes them more delicious. I also tried nutella (good), and homemade strawberry jam (not my favorite).

FFWD: Speculoos

All in all, a good cookie; I like the brown sugar and spices, but I would prefer something as spicy as a Swedish gingersnap.

Friday, December 03, 2010

FFWD: Leek and Potato Soup

I love a good potato-leek soup, in fact my mom served one as a first course to our Thanksgiving meal last Thursday. Mom uses almost equal amounts of potatoes and leeks, where Dorie's recipe is 3:1 in favor of leeks. So I was curious how this soup would turn out.

FFWD: leek and potato soup

This soup was really easy and pretty quick to put together, which seems to be the recurring theme with Dorie's dishes. Maybe it is just the recipes we've chosen for these two months, considering how busy this time of year is, or maybe all of the book is quick and easy. Which would be awesome, but once in awhile I might like a challenging 7-page recipe a la Rose's Heavenly Cakes, but I may be shooting myself in the foot for saying that. I am terrified of dealing with live lobsters, and I think there's a recipe or two where that will be necessary. Quick and easy--that's fine. Just fine.

FFWD: leek and potato soup

Back to the recipe. One onion and a few cloves of garlic are softened in butter, then everything else is added and brought to a boil. "Everything else" includes the leeks and potato, fresh thyme, chicken stock and milk. I thought the fresh thyme was a nice touch. All this is simmered for about 20 minutes and then you've got some choices ahead of you.

You can leave the soup chunky or puree it to whatever degree suits your fancy, then you can serve it hot or chill it, which brings it closer to Vichyssoise. Considering I was just finishing a cold and was really hungry to boot, I pureed just enough for one bowl and slurped up my soup.

Mmmm.  Quick and easy is wonderful!  

FFWD: leek and potato soup

Sunday, November 28, 2010

FFWD: Caramel Topped Semolina Cake

This month's French Fridays with Dorie selections have all been quick and easy to prepare, and in most cases delicious. It is always wonderful to have such memorable food in the arsenal for weeknight dinners, or when having over friends. This week's selection, the Caramel Topped Semolina Cake, was no exception.

caramel topped semolina cake

When I hear semolina I think about pasta, but in this case the cake is made from farina, which most Americans know as Cream of Wheat. It is kind of a flan-type cake, a little custardy with a thin caramel top, and also a bit rustic and simple and comforting. As written the cake is very simple and plain in looks and taste, and a snap to prepare.

caramel topped semolina cake caramel topped semolina cake

It starts with making a batch of Cream of Wheat, using whole milk instead of water for a richer, thicker cereal. While that cools, the caramel is made and poured into the cake pan. Dorie has this great trick of warming the pan in the preheating oven so that the caramel will spread and cover the bottom of the pan evenly.

caramel topped semolina cake caramel topped semolina cake

The recipe calls for plump golden raisins, but I am not much of a raisin fan. I fired them and used plump dried sour cherries--a wonderful substitution regardless of how you feel about raisins. I plumped up the cherries by simmering them in a bit of water for a couple of mniutes, then letting them steam dry in a colander while I made the rest of the cake.

caramel topped semolina cake

So to the cooked and cooled farina, a couple of eggs are stirred in as well as some vanilla and the sour cherries. No spices are called for, but next time I would want to add a little fresh nutmeg or cardamom. Cinnamon would be an obvious add-in, but I think something a little more aromatic would offset all that creaminess really nicely.

caramel topped semolina cake

The farina custard is poured into the pan atop the caramel, and baked for about 20 minutes. The cake is unmolded right away and left to cool. I overbaked my cake a tad, as the edges looked a little too set compared to the middle.

caramel topped semolina cake

This was a delicious cake, and a wonderful springboard to what could be even more interesting with the addition of some spices. This was so simple, and so comforting that it would be a perfect weekend treat in front of the fire with friends.

caramel topped semolina cake

Friday, November 19, 2010

FFwD: Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flans

And so, French Fridays with Dorie continues with the free-ish month, where we can choose to post in any order the four recipes chosen this month. This week I chose the Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flans.

I used to be afraid of moldy cheese, of which gorgonzola is one, but now I love it. To confess most of the time I buy Rogue Creamery's Oregonzola which is a bit milder than other gorgonzolas out there. Plus, it's local! Go Oregon!

Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flan

My friend Cookie and I were pretty excited about these flans, mainly because we fell in love with Dorie's stuffed pumpkin as posted on her blog in 2008 (a more complete version of the recipe is in AMFT). We stuffed the pumpkin with a good deal of gorgonzola and it was AMAZING. Pumpkin and blue cheese go together like salt and caramel.

Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flan

So this flan was eagerly anticipated, and like everything else we've cooked so far, simple to make. Canned pumpkin, cream, eggs are blended together in the food processor (or blender--I wished my immersion blender wasn't broken because it would have been perfect). Dorie advises to season at this point, and I would like to emphasize that you really should season sort of aggressively, as pumpkin on its own is fairly bland. I didn't season enough.

The custard is then split between ramekins, topped with crumbled gorgonzola and lightly toasted and chopped walnuts, and baked in a water bath.

Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Fan

I gotta say, these weren't as delicious as I had expected. I think more (or a stronger) gorgonzola, no walnuts, and more salt would have helped. I am SO SAD I don't like these, and like the Barefoot Kitchen Witch I am DETERMINED to like this flan. It's gotta be good--I WILL MAKE IT GOOD.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Beginning of the End

Can you guys feel it?  It is almost here, and thus it is almost over.  The world of pop culture is buzzing madly as if struck by lightning.

Harry Potter time!

I am almost envious of the kids who grew up with the Harry Potter books and movies.  I didn't read the first book until right before the first movie was released in the fall of 2001 (I was 27, and just graduated from acupuncture school).  I devoured Sorcerer's Stone overnight and read as quickly as I could up to Goblet of Fire, when I had to wait with the rest of the world until Order of the Phoenix was published. (In the meantime, I started listening to the audiobooks. Jim Dale, you are my hero.) The last ten years of my life, Harry Potter has been a part of it.

It was wonderful and bittersweet to read Deathly Hallows, and now here it comes, the first part of the last movie.  I am not seeing it until Saturday morning, so I am on complete media blackout until then.  I don't want to read or hear any reviews, or opinions, or thoughts on the movie until I have some of my own.  I don't want to see any more trailers, behind the scenes exclusives, or anything else that will ruin my experience of the movie.  It won't be nearly anywhere as good as the book, and I will probably spend my time viewing the movie with the same commentary running through my head as it has done with every other movie in the franchise: "that's not how it goes in the book, why did they have to change it!"  But I am committed to seeing it and hopefully finding it satisfactory.

In the meantime, EW.com has been running some fun look-backs at each of the previous movies.  Plus, they linked to this very funny junket with the cast learning how to speak American (sorry about the damn ad):

Pretty funny, huh.  That Tom Felton is unusually tan, and good at the improv!  Go Tom!

Read EW's look back at:
The Sorcerer's Stone
Chamber of Secrets
Prisoner of Azkaban
Goblet of Fire
Order of the Phoenix
Half Blood Prince

And don't talk to me about the movie until it is Saturday evening, Pacific Standard Time. Thanks in advance!

Friday, November 12, 2010

FFwD: Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux

There is nothing not good about this chicken, from the simplicity of the recipe to the head of roasted garlic, the juicy chicken and of course THE BREAD. I wish I had got a photo of the bread but the light was bad and in any case I was too busy eating it. I felt like my cat Violet when she steals a bone from the counter and joyfully sneaks off to chew on her treasure. I pried my bread from the bottom of my Le Creuset and joyfully ran off to enjoy my treat. I left the chicken in the kitchen, and didn't come back for it for a couple of hours; I swear I almost forgot about it the bread was so good. And yet, when I did go back, the chicken was juicy with a crisp skin and a lovely herby note. I loved this chicken, and the roasted garlic made for a nice breakfast on toast with gryuere and a runny egg. Le Paresseux means "the lazy people," and I will choose the lazy method/delicious bird any day of the week.

roast chicken for les paresseaux
from this...

roast chicken for les paresseaux
...to this.  Hello, lovely bird.

Friday, November 05, 2010

FFwD: Potato Gratin

This month, the French Fridays with Dorie group is a little more free-flowing than usual. Because of Thanksgiving, we can post any one of four dishes each Friday of the month. That's pretty cool, but it did make it hard to decide what to cook and post first.

Potato Gratin with Broccoli Rabe

I decided to go with the delicious potato gratin, which is a casserole of thinly sliced potatoes baked in heavy cream and garlic, and topped with gruyere that turns golden and lovely.

Potato Gratin with Broccoli Rabe

Then I spotted Dorie's Bonne Idee off to the side, where she mentions adding a little steamed chopped spinach to the mix. I had a bunch of broccoli rabe and decided to layer it in. I steamed and chopped the greens, but I failed to press out the extra liquid. In hindsight that would have been nice, as the gratin didn't have a lovely creamy sauce but a watery sauce. Alas.

Potato Gratin with Broccoli Rabe

Despite the lack of the creamy sauce, the gratin is delicious; garlicky, a little bitter, and soft. You gotta love bitter greens to love this particular gratin (which I do), but as it is so easy to make, a gratin re-do may happen as soon as this weekend!

Potato Gratin with Broccoli Rabe

Friday, October 29, 2010

FFwD: Marie-Helene's Apple Cake

Marie-Helene's Apple Cake is a cake which is as delicious as it is easy, which makes it a winner in every sense. Brimming with apples, buttery and custardy, not too sweet and perfect on its own or with a dollop of whipped cream, this cake would be prefect for tea as well as after dinner.

Marie-Helene's Apple Cake

Dorie encourages using a variety of apples; I chose a honeycrisp, fuji, gala, and I think an empire.

Marie-Helene's Apple Cake

These are peeled, cored, and cut into cubes. This was the hardest part of the recipe.

Butter is melted and cooled to room temperature. Flour, salt, and baking powder are mixed together and set aside. Two eggs are whisked, sugar is mixed in, the butter is alternated with the flour, and the apples folded in.

It looks a little concerning, as there are more apples than batter. But not to worry.

Marie-Helene's Apple Cake

Oh, did I mention that this cake has 3 tablespoons of dark rum? That was exciting. I used the rum in which I have been stashing my used vanilla bean pods.

Marie-Helene's Apple Cake

The cake bakes for almost an hour.

Marie-Helene's Apple Cake

Marie-Helene's Apple Cake

Marie-Helene's Apple Cake

I had some leftover heavy cream so I whipped that up with a little sugar and some more of that rum. I brought this to work, where I shared it with a couple of friends. It didn't even last 12 hours, we loved this cake so much!

And omigosh! How could I forget? Cookie and I met Dorie when she was in Portland last week promoting her book! She signed my books and was kind enough to let Cookie snap this photo of us. Look how fabulous Dorie is!

me and dorie greenspan!

Friday, October 15, 2010

FFWD: Vietnamese Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup

When Cookie, my best friend and official taster, heard French Fridays with Dorie was cooking something Vietnamese, she sat up and started grilling me. She is Vietnamese, by the way. She was intrigued when I told her it was pho, which Cookie introduced to me after she and Cabbage had returned to Portland after two years in Vietnam. (There's a lot of pho restaurants in Portland.) She shrieked in horror when I broke the news that Dorie added coconut milk to it, and thus began the two week rant about coconut milk in pho. She told her mother, who was shocked and confused. Why would you put coconut milk in pho?

faux pho

The next time Cookie came over she demanded to see Dorie's recipe. Coconut milk. Harumph. When she found out Dorie doesn't even call for making your own chicken broth and only called for chicken breasts, Cookie wailed. "But the dark meat is the best part! Whyyyyyyyyy?"

Then she took me to my nearest asian market (right around the corner, it turns out!) and pointed out her mother's favorite fish sauce. I also bought some rice noodles, limes, star anise, and cilantro. Then we went to Whole Foods for chicken. I like my meat to have been treated somewhat nicely before it died.

faux pho

At this point Cookie threw up her hands and said, "I'm out," so I took her home before I started in on my faux pho. Cookie said she might want to taste the broth, just to see. But she wouldn't eat a whole bowl.

I gotta hand it to Dorie. She made this quick and easy. Not having to poach a chicken to make broth cuts down on your time--like A LOT--and being able to throw pretty much everything in the pot at once makes this really easy. I told Cookie, when she called me later to hear my results, that I made the soup, from first chop to in the bowl, in one hour. She was impressed. And skeptical.

faux pho

This is truly faux pho. The coconut milk adds a richness that is instantly satisfying, but pushes the soup towards another favorite of mine, Thom Kha Gai. Which isn't bad.

faux pho

(Also, I did make Gerard's Mustard Tart, I just didn't blog about it.)

gerard's mustard tart

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

october update

hello, people.

i have been busy lately, which is good! i need to work! i like my work! keep on with the work!

speaking of work, i have officially not been a doula for 11 months now AND I LOVE IT. it started out as a sabbatical but it may be the sabbatical that never ends. I LOVE NOT BEING ON CALL. i even went to a few births over the summer as just the acupuncturist who got to leave after a couple of hours and i still thought it sucked. birth work--we have a love-hate relationship and i am done with it.

i still see pregnant women for acupuncture and i love that as much as i love not being a doula. if i could just do OB care in my practice that would be super freaking awesome. although, having a handful of non-pregnant people coming in weekly for chronic stuff is good, too. not only is it steady money, but i get to develop relationships with people that last more than nine months.

there is someone i've been seeing weekly for four years now and it is wonderful. there is an ease and a flowingness to our treatments together since our practitioner-patient relationship is so long running. i like it. there is always more to learn about her but there is also such a familiar ease to treating her. it is good. and she is funny.

on another note...
i decided everybody is getting a knitted gift this year, which is putting a lot of pressure on me to knit up a shitload of stuff by december 25th. nobody is getting a sweater so at least i haven't been too unrealistic about choosing projects. people are getting accessories, except for the nephew who is getting Das Monster. he just started walking (!!) and those pants are fucking hilarious.

i can't believe my nephew is freaking walking. it is all happening so fast!! he was just a tiny little pea! i'm going to see him on thanksgiving and i can't wait to squish the crap out of him.

until then, the cats will suffice.

Friday, October 01, 2010

French Fridays with Dorie: Gougeres

FFwD Badge Welcome to French Fridays with Dorie, an internet cook-through of Dorie Greenspan's new book, Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes From My Home to Yours.  (That is one long book title, and will probably hereafter be known on this site at AMFT.) After being a part of the bake-through for Rose's Heavenly Cakes I've learned the importance of "studying" from one book over a long period of time.  What once seemed hard and insurmountable is now manageable.  What once sounded not-so-appetizing is now delicious.  So I jumped at the chance to expand my skills and palate with Dorie, who has such a lovely, non-intense way of writing recipes that I didn't have a second thought.  Plus, it is time for me to be a better and more varied cook.  And, I know pretty much nothing about French cuisine, and have only passed through Paris, so this is all very new and exciting.

Today's recipe, chosen by Dorie herself, are Gougeres. I don't even know how to properly pronounce that word, but I do know they are really quick and easy to make, and even easier to eat.  These barely lasted a day between myself and two friends.


This was my first time to make pâte à choux, something which always sounded complicated and time consuming.  I am so glad they were not, especially as I made these at the end of a complicated and time consuming Apple Caramel Charlotte.

Both the Charlotte and these cheese puffs were equally excellent, and as I said devoured rather quickly by myself and my two friends, Cookie And Cabbage Jello.  Cookie especially was very excited by gougeres as she loves a good savory choux pastry.

We didn't even bother filling them with anything.  We just ate them, as is.  I used gruyere as the cheese, and as these are so simple and quick I am thinking of trying them again with some of the other cheeses Dorie recommends.


Update: these are delicious with bacon!