Cooking Club: Bagels

Cooking Club- Session 5 consisted of bagels, laughter, drinks, sunshine and euchre.

Nancy hosted this month and settled on making bagels. She opted to try two types, one tried and true recipe and one new one. The tried and true came closest to turning out a typical bagel, the second method was more of non-bagel. More like some sort of sweet bread in my opinion.

Yumi made a vegetable terrine, Kate made a salsa with beans, corn and cilantro (which I couldn't eat since cilantro tastes like soap), Val made a delicious salad with asparagus and I made a chocolate lime cheesecake.

The cheesecake turned out well, except by the time we got around to it it had been out of the fridge for 4 hours. Much longer than it should have been, so it was a bit soft in the middle. Next time I would immediately put it into the fridge, but time escaped from us and I totally forgot about it.

I will post the recipe for the tried and true bagels once I get it from Nancy, for now here is the vegetable terrine:

Roasted Vegatable and Goat Cheese Terrine:

1/2 cup olive oil, plus extra for oiling pans
1 (1-pound) globe eggplant, stem and bottom ends trimmed, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
1 pound zucchini, stem and bottom ends trimmed, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
1 1/2 pounds yellow squash, stem and bottom ends trimmed, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 ounces soft, mild goat cheese (herbed)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large red bell peppers (about 1 pound), roasted, cored, seeds and skins removed, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
16 ounces fresh spinach, washed, stems removed, then blanched, squeezed dry, and coarsely chopped
2 large yellow bell peppers (about 1 pound), roasted, cored, seeds and skins removed, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Line 2 large baking sheets with aluminum foil and lightly grease with olive oil. Arrange some of the eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash slices in a single layer on the sheets, slightly overlapping them. Brush with olive oil and lightly season with salt and pepper. Bake until soft and just golden around the edges, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a plate to cool. Repeat with the remaining vegetable slices.

In a large bowl, combine the goat cheese with the basil, parsley, and extra-virgin olive oil. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper and mix well.

In a 6-cup terrine (12 by 3 by 3 inches), arrange the eggplant slices crosswise over the bottom and up the sides, overlapping the slices to completely cover the terrine. The ends of the slices should overhang the sides of the terrine. Top the eggplant with thin layers of red bell pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, spinach, and yellow bell pepper.

Crumble a layer of the goat cheese mixture on top of the yellow bell pepper, and repeat the layering with the remaining vegetable slices. Bring the overhanging eggplant slices up over the terrine. Wrap the terrine loosely in plastic wrap. Top with an equal-size terrine or a piece of cardboard wrapped in aluminum foil. Place a brick or heavy pot on top of the terrine and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or for up to 24 hours.

Remove the terrine from the refrigerator. Remove the weight and unwrap. Slice with a very sharp knife.

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The essential.

Last night at the gym it was all I could not to start singing the lyrics to Eye of the Tiger and start doing punching moves while on the eliptical when it started playing on my ipod.

I'm sure it was hilarious enough that I was smiling like a fool and occassionally mouthing the lyrics. I think the guy on the treadmill across from me was laughing at me, then again I think that I mystified him when before I started working out I shoved the cord to my headphones down my shirt and out my sleeve into my ipod.

And I must tell you that Eye of the Tiger is not the only deliciously cheesy song I purchased this week (clearly, if you've read the post about En Vogue), but wait! I also bought Footloose by Kenny Loggins.

Did you know that there is an album called 'The Essential Kenny Loggins." As if I would want anything to do with the unessential Kenny Logins, I only want the essential please.

In slightly less embarrassing musical purchases, Paolo Nutini's These Streets is awesome. I find myself bouncing about on my ball (it's my desk chair- perv) and wanting to flail wildly about.

Damn, I must have some sort of musical tourettes with the way music makes me act.

If only.

Last night I had a dream that included every man I've been interested sexually, including Skeet Ulrich.

Entirely too bad that it wasn't one of [i]those[/i] dreams.

Although I'm completely convinced that things would never work out between Skeet and I since "Skeet and Skeez" sound entirely too cutesy together. Yes, and that is the only reason things wouldn't work out between us.

Kickin' it like its 1992.

Free Your Mind- En Vogue, purchased through iTunes for my workout mix #1 million.

Giving Him Something He Can Feel- En Vogue, purchased for my Saucy Trollop mix. A collection of music which I will play the next time I try to seduce someone, because that's how I roll.

Festival of Maple

Ah, The Maple Festival- that glorious time of year when it a-ok to gorge yourself on delicious maple goodness.

I really wish I could express to the legions of non-locals how wonderful the Maple Festival is. But really it should be self explanatory, because people- it is a Festival. Of. Maple.

Maple candy, maple syrup, maple cocktails, maple stirs, pancakes, maple cotton candy, etc.

Maple stirs are heated maple syrup that you stir until it becomes a smooth and creamy consistency. So delicious:

And of course Maple cotton candy is pretty self explanatory. This is Chet, my best friend's son. I usually hate messy kid (really, really hate them) pictures but this one is hilarious to me because he looks like he could kick someone's ass for touching his cotton candy.

I totally bought three bags of the maple cotton candy and have been slowly feasting on it for the last couple of days. Yesterday I convinced my coworker to join me in the maple cotton candy eating at 9am since technically maple is a breakfast food.

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Whiny and weekend plans

I feel like a big fucking baby because I'm all whiny and pouty.

I've thrown up twice this week, for no apparent reason. And because of said retching I've seemed to pulled a muscle in my neck. So now it hurts to move my head in any direction.

Oh, and I may be getting a UTI.

See, I'm a medical fucking disaster. I should be taken over by FEMA but they would only serve to screw me up more since we all know they still have their heads in the asses.

I'm totally and completely wiped out by all of it. I'm exhausted and yet I'm supposed to drive home to Cleveland tomorrow and do all sorts of busy stuff with family this weekend.

The main reason I'm not canceling is because this weekend is the Maple Festival.

A festival of maple!

I know that may sound odd to outsiders but really it is fantastic. There are these things called maple stirs, which is hot maple syrup that you stir with a tongue depressor until it becomes a creamy candy. In the past I've subsisted entirely on these for the duration of the festival.

But lets not forget the maple cotton candy. Really cotton candy doesn't need improvement but the maple version of it is pure spun sugar heaven.

Plus there will be all sorts of other delicious "fair food" goodies- elephant ears, gyros, sausage sandwiches, caramel apples, etc.

I do believe I might be feeling a wee bit better just thinking about all of it. The power of Maple, don't underestimate it.

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Biga and Rosemary Potato Bread

I've been in quite the bread making mode, every weekend I just feel compelled to make loaves of bread. Maybe I'm comforted by the very act of kneading the dough, there is something so deeply elemental about the whole act.

It reminds me of when I was into ceramics, there you also knead the clay much like you knead dough. The turning and pushing of the clay/dough till it is the perfect malleability, I'll admit I lose myself a bit. I can perform the action almost as if in a trance, turn, push, turn, push. I lose myself in the repetitive motion, my mind wanders and drift while my body settles into the rhythm.  

Perhaps I am failing completely at describing why bread making appeals to me so deeply.

My coworkers have been enjoying the fruits of my obsession, nearly every week I bring in a new loaf of bread on Monday morning. I would love to keep it in the house but I don't think I could finish an entire loaf by myself.

Well, I could, but that would mean that I would have that thick doughy feeling about myself and thus force myself to spend extra hours in the gym working it off.

This weekend I was inspired by Deb over at Smitten Kitchen so try my hand at biga and then the potato rosemary bread .

This potato rosemary bread was tender and rich, with a decent crust. I'll admit I was a bit disappointed because I was hoping for something with a heartier crust and lighter crumb simply because that is what I was in the mood for on Sunday, but really the crust and crumb on this is perfect.

My only edits to the recipe would be this, I made my mashed potatoes by boiling them in some water till tender, riced them and them stirred in a bit of cream. It really made for the most deliciously fluffy and delicate potatoes, I'm glad I made a wee bit extra because they turned out to be the cook's treat. Also in the future I would probably add the roasted garlic to the potatoes and thus skip the step of adding it seperately. I feel it would be better incorporated into the bread that way.

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Hold on to your hats...

Two posts in one day, and this one is a doozy.

I'm going to rant about health insurance for a moment, cocksucker motherfucking goddamn no good shithead crap bullshit.

So our insurance rates are going up, again. No surprise really, and yet here we are with no one real answer to this problem. Congress is too busy being embroiled in calling each other names to really tackle the problem head on. Or even discuss it really.

Why? Because health insurance companies and other medical groups (hospitals/drug companies/etc) are massive campaigne contributers.

That may sound all conspiracy theory to you, but really it is part of the problem. And really, the Republican answer is to limit medical liability cases. Sure some of those numbers sound deliriously inflated in some cases but when you think about it any money they get from their settlement must last them a lifetime of care. And really how long is that money going to hold out when costs are rising 20% every year?

Not very fucking long.

Not that I've seen a whole lot of genius ideas from the Dems either (except my man- John Edwards at least he is really talking about it).

Ok, so what brought me around to this train of thought- I got a call from the company that handles the health insurance shit for the company I work for. Because I refused to fill out again for the 3rd time in the 4 years I've worked here all of my medical information so they can get ANOTHER quote to see if someone can offer us a lower price.

And I mean ALL of my medical information was asked for. My social security number, my date of birth, my height, my weight, all the medications I take, any surgeries I've had, any medical conditions I've currently being treated for and on and on.

GODDAMNIT, I don't want all of that information about me floating out there for whomever to see. It is private. My personal information that no one except my doctor and I should really be concerned about.

I felt bad for arguing with the woman since it really is just her job but I have a valid concern- this information is being stored somewhere and people are fucking looking at it.

YOU are looking at it for fucks sake, clearly because you called me about. Don't tell me that no one else is going to see it, ok, because we both know that is a total crock of shit.

I've already had all of my personal information stolen last year from the fucking university I graduated from 5 years ago. Oh, and then my credit card number was stolen from the "secure" servers at TJ Maxxx.

Lets not pretend that isn't going to continue to happen.

That 5 years from now someone isn't going to be able to access all the deeply personal information I've had to hand out time and time again just so that I can go to the bloody doctor a couple times a year.

For the time being I'll have to conceed because I need the healthcare, I'm not happy about it. I told her to mail the forms back to me because I AM NOT discussing this on the phone with you while 3 of my coworkers can't help but listen in. I AM NOT.

Allow me to get all Triathlon nerdy on you

Who knew that training for a triathlon would incite such spending lust in me. I could drop whole paychecks on stuff that I want, but I can't do that since I have to pay bills and shit.

But for the sake of discussion here are the things that I want:

Cannondale Padded Ride Shorts ($30), because I only have one pair of shorts that could qualify right now as ride shorts and that is going to be an issue with the weather getting warmer. So realistically I'm going to need several pairs of these:

Louis Garneau Women's Triathlon Suit, which is awesome because it will allow me to compete in all three events (swimming, biking and running) without having to change for each event. Which means faster transition times that will cut down on my overall time. I'll definitely be buying this ($120) closer to the race in July:

Clipless bike pedals, I'm not sure what I want or what will be best for me but I bet I'm going to spend about $100 on them.

Forte T2 Areobar ($50), because it just feels better to bend at the waist for distance rides and causes less wind resistance.

Oh, and this- which has absolutely no training or competitive purpose. Rather I love the pattern and color. Plus this company, Athleta, rocks my world. Their stuff is expensive but good (I own a pair of yoga pants that are heaven on my legs), not only that but their models are actual sports people who look healthy and alive and fit and toned.

Athleta Suit (bottoms and tops sold separately but together it will run me about $111):

Also, I bought this waterbottle on Tuesday and I LURVE it. It is Camelbak and has a bite/suck straw thing which is awesome. I'd had a regular squeeze/suck waterbottle but I found I was having to suck too hard to get the water and thus filling my stomach with air and that was no good.

And lastly, because I've lusted after it so long I bought myself this jewelry box last weekend. Now it is about a million times bigger than I thought it would be, but it is pretty and everyone keeps telling me I'll grow into it. Pttthhhh.


Memo to the recently re-committed gym goers:
Listen up buddy, we both know you'll give up after a week so why don't you just quit now. Because it really pisses off us regular gym goers when we get to the gym and there are 45 new people hogging all the cardio equipment.

There seriously wasn't a single machine available yesterday, which is total bullshit. My workout suffered because you made an Easter/New Years/Whatever resolution.

Memo to the overly tanned young ladies at the gym:
You look like a leather handbag, it's not attractive. A bald leather handbag if you keep bleaching your hair like that. I can see your scalp and you are what, 20?

Your stupid giggling presence in the gym infuriates me because you take forever on the equipment while using it all wrong. Get a trainer and stop wearing full on makeup and the skimpiest short shorts with see through tank tops.

Memo to the people I live with:
Turn off the motherfucking radio after 10pm. Especially if I go upstairs and there is no one there and the radio is just blaring away. This is a rule of the house and you damn well know it.

Memo to my bosses:
You still suck it. The end.

Memo to my body:
This bullshit fainting crap you've been pulling lately is not cool. I started taking an iron and B12 supplement last night so you better knock it the hell off.

What is with the huffing and puffing during your run this morning? Lungs, you need to straighten up and fly right- I give you 2 days off and now you act like you've got emphysema.

Memo to self:
It is ok if you have a couple of bad workouts. Stop being so hard on yourself, clearly you've not been well lately so stop thinking you are superwoman or something.

Also, I know you love your thighs but really everyone is tired of hearing about them.

One more thing, stop with the candy. You hate candy, really you do. So why have you been compelled to eat a metric ton of kitkats and starbursts in the last week?

Memo to my latte:
How are you so good? I would like to drink you all the days.

Easter Dinner

As easter approached and I had no real plans since I opted out of going to my parent's house for the weekend I was waffling about what to make for dinner. I'm not a fan of ham, and lamb seemed a bit too tedious for me this particular weekend.

I settled on the super easy supper of roasted chicken and lazy mash. I, of course, turned to my food goddess, Nigella, for direction. See, up until yesterday afternoon I've never roasted my own chicken. Partly because one of the local grocers makes the most fantastic rotisserie chicken I've ever tasted and it is a real treat to pop over there after work and pick up one (you must call in advance and reserve one if you want it- otherwise you are most likely not going to find one available). I usually go home and devour it, completely looking like some sort of chicken crazed beast covered in chicken juice and fiercely guarding the carcass for soup stock.

So yesterday I popped half a lemon into the cavity of the bird, and set it into the oven to roast. Oh my god, it was fantastic.

But what was even better was the delicious reduction that Nigella instructed me to make out of drippings. I'm usually a traditional gravy type girl so I was skeptical that I would love a reduction of juices that much, but I honestly was tempted to lick my plate clean.

I paired the chicken with fresh, lightly roasted asparagus and purple Peruvian mashed potatoes, which made for a very easter-pastel-perfection plate. The purple mash was fantastically creamy (a natural attribute of the potatoes) which was enhanced by the addition of real cream and butter.

Nigella's Roasted Chicken:

1 whole chicken (about 4lbs)
2 tablespoons butter
Olive oil
One lemon

Bring the chicken to room temperature, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Rub the butter onto the chicken, it is best if the butter is at room temperature when you try to do this. Drizzle the bird with olive oil and put half of the lemon into the cavity.

Roast for 1 hour 15 minutes at 425, remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes before carving. Squeeze the last half of the lemon over top and add a bit more salt. Deglaze the roasting tin with a bit of water and heat through till you have a delicious thick syrup-like dressing.

Carve up the bird and spoon over the dressing.

Suzanne's take on Nigella's Lazy Mash:

10 small purple peruvian potatoes

I roasted these for about 30 minutes next to the chicken and then roughly mashed them up and added to taste some cream, butter and salt. Really, you just need to keep tasting them and you'll know when they are right.

Perfectly roasted asparagus:

Bundle of asparagus
olive oil

Now it may seem silly to hand out a recipe for roasted asparagus but really I think people tend to over-cook this lovely veg.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and on a cookie sheet arrange the asparagus so that they are not overlapping each other. Drizzle on the oil and jumble them about a bit so they are well coated, lightly salt and then pop into the oven for 8 minutes.

Remove from the oven an squeeze over half the lemon and serve. So simply dressed but perfectly cooked. I could eat whole plates of them for dinner and nothing else (and have.)

Soft, marshmallow-y center

I'll let you all in a on a secret. Underneath my sarcastic candy coated shell beats the heart of a romantic.

I secretly want the romance, yet I shun it publicly and openly simply because it is easier to pretend not to be disappointed if you've never expressed interest in something in the first place- right?

Completely fucked up logic, I know.

And really, I don't want completely over the top romantic gestures. I don't need to be swept off to Paris for a mini-break, but I wouldn't mind having something less grand.

Like a guy to make me a funny card. Or even slow dance with me for no apparent reason other than it is a Tuesday and he's in love with me.

I guess what brings this to mind is that last month I teased a guy I know about his love for Message in a Bottle. Now first you must understand that I hate Nicholas Spark's and the trite, repetitive crap he writes. So that itself got me rolling.

But I do feel a bit remorseful for teasing him, turns out he is a bit more tenderhearted that I would have guessed and I really do feel bad about it. Unfortunately I've not seen him in a while and I've not had a chance to apologize- and maybe really I'm reading into the situation because I've put myself in his shoes. Probably he doesn't remember the conversation at all and it has fallen away from his mind entirely, but it has stuck with me.

Which is why I'm a bit hard shelled on the outside, because of assholes like myself.  

Needed a bit of sprucing up.

I've done a re-design, and while I mostly happy with it- I've still got a few tweeks left to make. I'm not happy with the way the photos are appearing, I think I'm going to have to have them start flushing left since I think they look all odd floating in the middle of the column.

But for now, I've spent entirely too much time getting it to the point it is at now.


Snakes and Challah: not so biblical as it sounds

Last night I decided to ride the bike path, and the weather was perfect. It was sunny but not overly warm, the quintessential spring day. The wind was brutal, and with this path it doesn't matter which way you are heading you are usually riding into the wind. It was so bad it was knocking 4 mph off my pace.

But with in the first few feet of getting onto the path I encountered this:

Yes, I had my camera and I took a picture of the pissed off snake that was on the side of the footbridge. The rest of the ride was spent scanning constantly for snakes in the path. I also could not stop thinking about that Six Feet Under where the hiker gets killed by the mountain lion that leaps off the ridge onto the path, I really think that could happen on this bike path or at least in my freaked out head it can.

And then a major douchbag riding one of those crazy small bikes (can someone explain those to me please?) had one pit bull on a leash and three off (so he clearly didn't have control of them). One started running along side of me growling and nipping at me. I pulled my legs up and yelled to the guy and he said the dog wouldn't bite but it didn't make me feel any better since I'd already had some of the dog's slobber on my leg (he didn't use teeth but it did freak me out a bit).

Goddamn motherfucking asshole.

Also since it is passover and I although I'm not a jew (I just play one on TV) I felt the need to make some Challah the other night. This is just the millionth loaf of bread in the baking bonanza that has been now been going on for several months.

It was buttery and delicious, but I think I'll try a different recipe next time. The one I found on CNN yesterday sounds much more traditional because I really felt odd about the lack of milk and only 2 eggs in this recipe. Also the recipe was specific to a bread machine, which I've never understood the purpose of. I love to knead bread and proof it in a bowl- why do I need a bulky machine to do it for me? WHY?

But still, it produced a golden loaf that was devoured by everyone.

1 cup water
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)

Proof the yeast in a bowl with the honey and 1/4 cup of the water at about 105 degrees for 10 minutes until foamy and frothy. Do not overheat your water otherwise it will kill the yeast and you will have flat bread.

Place remaining water, salt, honey, eggs, melted butter, flour and proofed yeast into a bowl and mix well. Make sure the butter again isn't boiling because yeast death can still occur.

Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it develops that firm elasticity that properly worked dough attains. The skin should be firm and smooth.

Place the dough in greased bowl and cover. Let the dough rise for about 1 hour or until it has doubled in size. Roughly punch it down (this is my favorite part), and divide into three equal sized balls. Roll these balls into long snake-like tubes, sort of hold them together at one end and braid them. At the end of the braid tuck the ends under so it looks pretty, now go back up to the top of the braid and braid it upwards and tuck those ends under. You don't have to do this last bit but it makes the loaf look more finished, and I love nothing better than a perfect presentation.

Place the dough on a cookie sheet that has a greased parchment on it. Cover and let rise again (about another hour, or until doubled in size). Mix one egg with a tablespoon of water and brush over the risen surface, be generous with the egg wash since this is what gives the loaf it's lovely shiny, brown exterior.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 35 to 45 minutes. Bread is done when the crust is golden brown. This time my oven hit it spot on at 40 minutes.


Yeah, it is one of those days.

Both jobs are pisser and that is enough to ruin my day apparently.

Fresh start to the month

I've found myself increasingly annoyed with all the gossip websites. I don't know, they just aren't doing it for me anymore, in fact I have to say that I feel dirty after visiting them.

Maybe it was watching the spectacular, awful flameout of Britney Spears, someone clearly suffering from major personal problems who just can't get a moments peace from the incessant public's need for information about her.

I'm not saying that she didn't court their attention in the beginning and there is a loss of some privacy that comes with celebrity but at this point I just find myself thinking that we should leave the poor girl alone.

And it isn't only her, the near constant bitchy commentary on the personal lives and habits of people is just too much for me lately. I can only imagine how I would crack and fall to bits if I had a camera crew in my face for a good portion of my week. And it isn't just a polite camera crew, rather one that yells at you and calls you names.

So I'm done, no more for me now.