Monday, January 11, 2010

On Hiatus...

Hi all. I'm going to be taking a hiatus...for an undertermined amount of time. I'm sorry that I haven't been around lately. Life took an unexpected turn, but I hope to be back soon. Don't forget me :)


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Need Organization?

I am a list person. I make a list at the beginning of the day of what needs to be done and check it off as I go. I do this at home...and at work. To do lists. Shopping lists. Blog lists. Wish lists. You get the point. If I don't write something down, more than likely I will forget. Soooooo, when Jenny from lobotoME asked me if I'd be interested in checking out some of their products and writing a review, I checked out the site, said heck yeah and added it to my list. I think I've mentioned this in the past, but if I do something that wasn't on my list, I add it to my list...just so I can cross it out. These products are really, really cool! lobotoME products are made from recycled paper and soy-based inks...and if that's not awesome enough, they partner with a local, enviro-friendly printing house to produce their products...and their offices are wind powered. That was enough to convince me. That, and the fact that I love paper and notepads and making lists. Wanna check of their notepads out? I thought you might! Let me start with a kitchen-related pad, Feed Me... A good-sized pad (~5 1/2" x 8 1/2") with the left column listing days of the week for your day/meal plan and a right column for your corresponding grocery list. Handy! Not to mention the fun little space at the bottom ...if all else fails, takeout #'s. Ha! I have scattered lists as is, so this is a no-brainer for me...everything for the week together on one pad. Nice.Okay, how 'bout you out there with kids? The kind that need babysitting now and again. Do you leave a long list of numbers and instructions? I do. Sit Me... is a great pad for just that purpose. Or there is Fit Me... for weekly health and sanity planning. It has a place for planned exercise and actual axercise...healthy eating accomplishments and fitness goas for the week. And yes, writing things down definitely helps you gain perspective.Two of my favorite pads are the List Me.../Doodle Me... (yes, I'm a doodler, too) and Save Me... The first is divided into 2 columns, left brain side (lists) and right brain side (doodles) all in one pad! Pretty sure I was the inspiration for this pad. The second is simply a weekly to do list. A space for day/date and an extra space to look ahead to next week...again, made for me. Does anybody else buy planners and use them pretty religiously for a few months? You know, penciling things in, writing down appointments...all in preparation for the times you get to say let me check my calendar? And by the time December rolls around and it's time to buy a new one, you look back and wonder what happened in your life for the last 8 months or so? Because the pages are blank. Crisp, like new...but not reuseable because they're dated. Anybody else do this? That's why I like this. I take it one week at a time. Plan it out. Plus, I can just rip off the sheet and stick it in my purse or my pocket and not have to carry around the whole planner. There is also Check Me... a pre-made shopping list (with space for add-ons...and blank on back for even more add-ons) with the goal of getting "you in and out of the store with healthy foods and your mind intact." That's a good goal. Positive thinking can work wonders.Something else fun, each pad has a fun quote at the bottom. I don't wanna give 'em all away, but I LOVE the one at the bottom of the Check Me... pad. "The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread & coming out with only a loaf of bread are 3 billion to one." ~Erma Bombeck I like these lobotoME products so much that I've joined up with them, so I can help them promote and grow...I suppose I should alert you that this is my disclaimer. It is. Simply click on this logo:
Note Pads & Planners Or the one on my sidebar to check out their whole line of products and see what they are all about!


Monday, January 4, 2010

I'll have the Tarte Tatin~ two ways...and drizzle it with Créme Fraîche, won't you dahling?

So...lately I've been thinking a lot about writing. My writing to be exact. About my writing on here. I can always locate the times I've felt overwhelmed, I sometimes have found it hard to think...therefore write. Or maybe I'm thinking too much and my brain is just too crowded to let anything out. Everything keeps swimming around in circle eights and curly q's trying to get to the right sector. I don't know. Sometimes after a post that's felt rushed, I would feel something like guilt...or just disappointment in the post of certain parts of the post. I enjoy writing and I want to continue to enjoy writing. But in the times when my mind does draw an actual void...because it does...I think it's okay just to let the food talk. Because sometimes there was no reason for making what I made. I just felt like making it. Reason may not be the right word. No meaning, maybe? This wasn't a long, long family recipe that I finally tracked down through my master detective skills. I didn't read a book that wouldn't let me get fried alligator balls off the brain until I tried them myself. I'm not starting a strict orange food only diet. No meaning. On the other hand, reason could argue that I was in the mood to use the little cast iron pans I have that haven't seen the light of day since we moved into this house 9 months ago. Or that the cupboards are a bit bare, but I do have a decent amount of apples I picked up from the Farmer's Market the other day...and still plenty of cranberries in the freezer. Or perhaps the best reason, that I needed something to eat with the créme fraîche that would surely go to waste soon if I didn't do something about it. So, it was just the food. I got lost in it and walked away with a sense of accomplishment. Maybe...just maybe...that was enough. And maybe I shouldn't expect myself to write anymore than that. Not every time. Wow, I sure used an over? abundance of italicized words trying convey my thoughts.
Tarte Tatin~ two ways
from my kitchen
I used one 6" and one 7" cast iron skillet for each of these tarte tatins. Amounts used will work interchangeably with either size...but using an amount slightly less for the smaller pan is what I did.

for each pan use:
1/4 stick butter
1/3 c. sugar
1 Tbs. water
3 apples, peel, core & slice into 1/8ths OR 1 1/2 c. cranberries
1 Tbs. sugar
1/2 of a single pie crust

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In each pan, over medium heat, melt butter, 1/3 c. sugar and water until it forms caramel, ~7-9 minutes. Shake pan occasionally. Add fruit to pan, reduce heat to low and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Cook another 3-5minutes, shaking to coat fruit with caramel, then remove from heat. Roll out 1/2 pie crust to fit over pan w/ ~1/4 - 1/2" overhang. Tuck the edges of the dough under itself. Cut a few slit in top. Bake for ~20-25 minutes, or until crust is golden and juices are bubbling through. Let sit for ~15-20 to set up a bit, then cover with a plate and carefully flip upside down so that crust is now on the bottom and fruit is on top. If any fruit sticks in the pan, simply scrape it out and back onto the crust. Looking at that picture, I'm pretty sure somebody was lucky recipient of caramelized cat hair cranberry. This was so great served with créme fraîche. The créme fraîche added a cool tang to the sweetness of the caramel and the apple in the first...and the tartness of the cranberry in the second.

Créme Fraîche
from the Home Creamery by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley
2 Tbs. cultured buttermilk
2 c. heavy cream
Combine buttermilk and cream in a medium saucepan and heat only to tepid(no more than 85 degrees F). Pour into a clean pint jar. Cover partially and let stand at room temperature for 8-24 hours or until thickened. Stir and refrigerate at least 24 hours before using. The cream will continue to thicken and develop in fridge. Will keep ~2 weeks.


So, this didn't seem to thicken up enough for me. It was just like the thickness of buttermilk after the wait, actually. So I left it out longer. I bet it was because I don't have access to raw cream right now...and the only kind available everywhere I looked was ultra pasteurized. Ewww. So I cheated. I stirred in a bit of sour cream. It was good. So sue me.


This was our December assignment over at Forging Fromage...hence, made it, needed to use it so I could blog it...not that I didn't want to...just got pushed to the back burner.

forgingfromagebutton2


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Tamales!

Tamales are a celebration food! They are typical fiesta fare. Simply the tamale making process is an event in and of itself. In Mexican culture, tamales are made for any number of celebrations, Christmas probably the biggest time of year for gathering in the kitchen and putting a huge batch together. But I decided that I was going to make it a New Year ritual at Casa González. I mean, I'm not gonna deny anybody tamales if they want them for, saaaaaaay, Secretary's Day...but...you know. So along with my molé, I made tamales using said molé to ring in 2010. We just made a small batch, ~3 dozen...just mexi & I in the kitchen. But it is a load of fun to gather ingredients...family members, friends, neighbors, strangers walking their dogs...and make a tamalada (tamale making ritual...party before the party) of it!

Tamales 
...just the process, not an actual recipe

Gather:
Corn husks (or banana leaves)
Prepared Masa (recipe to come, sometime in the future)
Filling (this time I used chicken w/ molé)
Tamale pot/steamer (either one made for it or a big pot fitted w/ raised rack)

Process:
Pick through and soak your corn husks (in hot water) until pliable, ~4 hours. Cover with a plate to keep them submerged.

Put your prepared masa in one large bowl.
 Put your prepared filling in another large bowl.



Give yourself a good amount of space. Divide the tasks into stations if you're doing it tamalada style. Oh yeah, and while you're getting everything prepared, take a few of the corn husks and rip them right down the grain into thin ribbons for tying your tamales. 

Now, arrange your drained corn husks first, masa second, filling third and tying station last. Lay one husk flat, tapered end closest to you. Put ~1/4 c. of masa onto husk and spread it into a fairly thin layer, ~1/4" thickness. Be sure to leave a good amount of space (~1 1/2")at the bottom for "sealing" and ~1/2 - 3/4" on the other sides. Spoon a good heaping Tbs. of filling down the center. Fold one side over and then fold the other side over that. Fold up the bottom and tie gently with strip of husk or string.Arrange the tamales, open side up, on the rack inside the pot. Oh yeah, don't forget to fill the bottom of the pot with water first. Repeat, passing down the line, if it applies, until you are out of ingredients. 




If there is still space inside the pot, just wad up a bit of tin foil and stick it in this space. This will keep the tamales from falling over (a tip I learned from the Master...you all know who that is by now. Right!?).Turn on the water until it begins to boil. Turn down and let it steam, with the lid on, for ~45 minutes.
 You will be able to tell they are done when the husk pulls away from the masa easily. Let cool and refrigerate to hold. 
 Reheat by steaming or microwaving...or fry some up on the comal...that'll give 'em crisp outsides...YUM! I love them that way. Course, I like 'em any way!  I am in the tamale making mood...so get ready for more tamales in the hopefully near future!

**UPDATE: I am submitting this to Joan at Foodalogue who is starting her 2010 Culinary Tour South of the Border....in Mexico! Be sure to check out all of the wonderful foods brought to her round-up as she posts it!**