Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Instant Chicken Broth

It is January. The holidays have come and gone, and now all I need to do now is to wait for summer to arrive again. The days will get longer, the snow will disappear eventually and before I know I will ride my bike again and wear sandals. 

I am not sure if it’s a real trend, but in the last winters, maybe the last 5, there has been a noticeable trend towards warmer winters here in the coastal areas of Maine. It is as if the cold front band is pushed farther north from the jet stream, and we are now in some rain/sleet zone instead of a snow zone.  My friends up North still have plenty of snow this winter, but here it comes and goes: Snow, and rain, and snow again.

It has been rather frustrating because instead of crisp powder and blue skies to whisk through the forests on skis, I now see dripping gutters and soggy streets. But a new feeling starts to set in, a realization that January and February might just be normal life with normal temperatures and normal shoes, and the existential bracing for arctic survival mode is no longer necessary.

I must admit I have not been much in cooking mood lately. However, on Black Friday I snagged an Instant Pot for around $60 on Amazon (the regular price is around $100), and it has been a really good buy. It is a multifunction pot, but I bought it for the electric pressure cooker function. Now, I can make cooked beans or chickpeas from dry, unsoaked beans in about 30min. Or  deeply flavorful broth in 30min. Or cook spaghetti squash really fast

I read somewhere that chicken wings are the best starter for chicken broth, because of them being mostly bones and fat, which is essential for good stock flavor. 

The instant pot has a broil function, although it takes a while to heat up, it works rather well (and no need to clean up another pot). I sauteed the wings first, with some onions and olive oil.

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Once they were browned, I added carrots, celery and a bay leaf.

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I filled the instant pot to the max line with cold water, and set it to soup/stew, closed the lid and it is doing the rest of the magic on its own.

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I typically let the pot sit after it is done, and it keeps hot for a while and therefore, slowly simmering. There is a little vent that shows if there is still pressure in the pot or if it has dissipated and the lid can be opened.

Voila, chicken stock!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Last minute holiday gifts


It's been weeks since I've tried to avert my eyes from my email inbox with deals to make the holiday gift shopping fun, get the best gifts at a reasonable price. I already set 'straight to trash' filters to most of the retailers, because the 'unsubscribe' rarely seems to work. The emails each morning are like screaming kids, vying for attention, "look at me, look at me!".  Just a few retailers are left.... Lululemon, of course, and JCrew, UPS, to seen when the stuff actually arrives, and a few who still seem to make it around my email filters.

Yesterday I did some last minute in-store shopping and found this beautiful, just right-sized red tagine from Henry Emile. The price was as good as the best on the net, and that is with Sur la Table, around $99. So, I am sharing. In case, you are still looking for that last gift.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Christmas by the Sea

It was one of those long periods, with dark days, too short, too much work, with little motivation to go anywhere when with a late start almost guaranteed an arrival in the darkness. Instead I raked leaves and mowed the lawn one last time. The kale loves the season, more than it likes summer, it seems.

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But then, the active work period was over, the weather forecast promised a clear sunny sky, and it was the timing for Christmas by the Sea, an annual 3-day event in Camden, a wintery New England cozy Christmas extravaganza where Santa Claus arrives from the sea on a boat.

Stopping first in Belfast, where Chase’s Daily unfortunately was on fall break and my lunch fell through, I continued to empty harbor in Camden. The remaining windjammers are wrapped in white foil, and yet someone managed to attach a Christmas tree on the top mast. I can only imagine, some sailor climbing up there, not only carrying himself but a decorated tree with a long electric line, and then having to attach it. It was calm and quiet and dark, and the stores bright, white with tiny Christmas trinkets. It’s the time of the year to cozy up to each other.  No snow yet, but it cannot be long.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

All the things we do not need

It’s black Friday. My friends can be divided into 2 camps: the Black Friday averse and the Black Friday enthusiasts. I admit I love dipping in the pool of deal snatchers, fighting for parking lots, riding on the high of everything on sale, for a day. Which is not quite true, because often the deals are available the entire week. But if you don’t dip into the mass hypnosis it is just half the fun. It’s like celebrating Christmas  a week late.

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Yesterday, a friend of the said Black Friday doomers shared a link of what to do instead of giving in to the grave addiction of consumerism. Since the stores were still closed, and I had nothing better to do, I started watching one of the BBC movies on youtube, The Century of the Self. I was remotedly interested because  once in a while I look worriedly at my lululemon habit, when I push that buy button again and eagerly await the new shipment of some cherry black sweatpants (my new favorite!).

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Watching that movie gave me pause. According to the BBC movie, there once was a little man, called Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, who single-handedly (as far as we can  believe the movie, but it is the BBC!) engineered convincing the American man and woman to transition from a working class, practical need-based shopper to the modern day consumer. “Make yourself happy, buy this sexy car, buy one for your wife!” That happened way back in the days of 1920. To keep the economy churning, people had to be convinced to buy on a regular basis and more than they need, even if the stuff they already owned for a task, was still perfectly fine. So, they dipped into the subconscious desires of people and suggested subliminally that they would be fulfilled if they associated with (buy!) this item, smoke this cigarette, drive this car, drink some coca cola. Hey, we all saw “Mad Men”, we know how this works.

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Now, I wonder which subliminal message Lululemon is sending me that I don’t even know, but they talk  to my subconscious directly and then I cannot stop buying more hoodies. I am defenseless!

Gotta go! It’s Black Friday!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

When kale and Brussels sprouts met

Finally, life is slowing down for me for a little while, at least this week. There is not much time left until the holiday break and teas, carols and boozy parties with lebkuchen will sparkle up this period. It is a cheerful time of the year, socially, and with bubbles and lights everywhere, which makes up for the short and dark days, with no snow to brighten up the landscape yet.

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Around Thanksgiving, the farmers market winds down. There are squashes, and locally grown Brussels sprouts, radishes, beets, potatoes and kale, hardy kale that is still growing in my garden.

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Last time at the farmers market I found the two where mating, while I was not looking, the kale and the brussels sprouts, and now there are kalettes.

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A close up look:

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Cute, no? A bit confusing and surprising, but cute. But, what to make with kalettes?

To fight my increasing tendency to grow attached to the couch and fall into hibernation, I went for a long walk today. Fresh air helps to blow the cowebs out of my head. The streets were empty. Half of the houses had 8 cars in the drive way, and the other houses were dark with empty drive ways.  I made a new cat friend on my walk, a tiny black cat with a colorful ribbon as a collar. She first look alarmed when she saw me,  but then she scanned my secret cat friend badge and ran to me, head butting my hands that stroked her fur. The weather is still mild, with a slight bite of cold in the air.  Then, it was time to head home and eat with my beloveds, the turkey was ready.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Marzipan Apple Cake

The sun is pale golden, almost all the leaves have fallen to the ground by now, and it is still mild, there is no need for a fire in the woodstove yet. I raked a few bags of leaves, there are still many more to rake. Things have been so busy for the last month that I had all the cake pans and ingredients out, for this cake,  on my countertop, and yet I did not find the time to bake it.

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The marzipan apple cake from the new cookbook “Classic German Baking”. The recipe has been published on many sites and I was enamored with it before I laid my hands on the book itself. The dough includes grated sweetened almond paste (marzipan), which brings the cake into a different stratosphere. I hesitated if I would find almond paste locally but I did.

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A bushel of apples is resting in my basement. Since I like apples to be very crisp, I do my best to take them to work, slice them into lunch salads, and bake cakes (well, fail here). Once they lose the crispness they will become fresh pressed ciders or then, when I lose patience, gifted to local horses. 

Yesterday, after raking the leaves, I made myself coffee and ate the first slices --- it is a divine cake!

Apple Marzipan Cake:

I made several changes to the original recipe, so I’ll write it up with my changes. I reduced the amount of marzipan, and it was still very sweet and ‘marzipan-y’'’. I also divided the batter into 2 spring cake pans, a 8 inch diameter and a 5 inch diameter spring pan, and omitted the apricot jam.

  • 4 medium apples, (1 3/4 pounds, 800g)
  • 1 organic untreated lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 TB butter
  • 1 TB sugar
  • 100g  almond paste
  • 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 14 tablespoons (200g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup, 3 tablespoons (150g) flour
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

1. Butter a 8 inch and a 5 inch springform pan (or a single 10 inch pan) .

2. Peel and core the apples. Divide the lemon juice into two separate bowls. Slice two of the peeled and cored apples into 1/2-inch slices (3 slices per quartered apple), and toss the apple slices in one bowl of lemon juice. Dice the other two apples into 1/3-inch (1cm) cubes. Toss in the other bowl of lemon juice.

3. On the stove top, heat a larger pan with 1TB butter, and 1 TB sugar, and once melted add in the diced apples and saute for 5 minutes. Let cool.

4. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

5. Using a grater with large holes, grate the almond paste into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar and salt and mix until the almond paste is finely broken up.

6. Add the melted butter, almond extract, and lemon zest, and continue mixing until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, stopping the mixer and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

7. Whisk together the flour, cornstarch and baking powder in a small bowl. Turn the standmixer to slow, and spoon in the dry ingredients into the almond batter mixture. Once done, stop the standmixer, and fold in the warm, diced apples by hand.

8. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Place the sliced apples in concentric circles on top of the batter, pressing them in very lightly.

9. Bake the cake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour for the large spring pan, and 45-50 min for the smaller one.

9. Remove the cake from the oven. Let cool, and then run a knife around the inside of the cake pan to release the cake, and remove the sides of the cake pan.  Serve with cognac whipped cream or vanilla icecream.

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It is an important election this year --- please, go and vote!