Saturday, July 30, 2011

A giveaway from Urban Cheesecraft: Make your own cheese!

If you have been around here long enough, it should be no big shocker to you when I say that I LOVE cheese.  Duh.  But, guess what else I love?  Etsy.  

Um... You are probably wondering what those two things could possibly have in common, and I don't blame you.  Although Etsy sellers have always shared plently of homemade goods including jams, cookies, and salts, I have been noticing an increasing number of specialty goods that look simply scrumptious.  Case in point: In one of my recent Etsy newsletters (naturally I subscribe to get cool Etsy Finds delivered to my inbox) I discovered Claudia of Urban Cheesecraft through one of Etsy's amazing videos.  Claudia founded Urban Cheesecraft as a way to share an easy and accessible way to make your own cheese at home - she basically takes all the guesswork out by providing kits that have everything you need to make cheese, and all you have to do is add the milk!

Check out a video about Urban Cheesecraft here, and don't miss the baby goats.  Is anything more adorable?

I think what I love the most about these kits from Urban Cheesecraft are the fact that for first-time cheesemakers, the process is so simple.  In my opinion, lots of people would prefer to eat 'handcrafted' food that they make themselves, whether it is bread, preserves, tomato sauce, or cheese, but often taking the initial step seems like a lot of work and it can be daunting.  Here Urban Cheesecraft provides all the equipment, all the instructions, and all the ingredients in one simple, inexpensive kit so you can have homemade cheese in just an hour.  (And isn't this kit cute?  Even better, it is made from post-consumer materials.  Love that.)  You just choose your milk, and you are ready to go!  Each kit makes 10 batches of cheese, so it is actually a really stellar deal.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Guest Post: A Smarter Way to Make Brioche

Hey there!  I know by now you probably think I have fallen off the face of the earth, but the reality is that I have disappeared into the black whole known as "My Dissertation."  You think I'm kidding, but it's true.  I finally scheduled my Ph.D. defense for early September, so I am basically working day and night to get everything finished.  Right now, time is not something that I have, and my life has become completely consumed by science.  A sad story, I know.  But instead of cueing the world smallest violin playing the world's saddest song, I decided to bring in some friends to help me pick up the slack so that I can still bring you great recipes and beautiful food.  

Starting today through the middle of September, I will be featuring some guest posts from talented bloggers and wonderful friends.  I am thrilled that the first guest post today is from my good friend Marie, of Meandering Eats, a fellow San Diegian (and scientist!) whom I first met this year when we both attended a photography workshop by Todd and Diane of WORC.  We instantly hit it off, talking non-stop on the drive to and from LA, and we have been happily chatting ever since.  

I am really excited that Marie decided to share a recipe for brioche with you today, partially because I have never made brioche myself so I have something to learn too, but mostly because she brought me a loaf to try.  And it was amazing. Honestly, if it is possible to have bread-envy, I have it right now. Marie's brioche was so much better than any bread I have ever baked.  I told her she could bake four more loaves... and give them all to me. (Who says I have to share?)  But what I really love about this recipe is that Marie shares a smarter way to make brioche, by breaking down the recipe into easy steps that can be completed before and after a normal workday.  So you thought you needed to devote a whole weekend to making bread?  Think again.  And so, without further ado, I will leave you in the very capable hands of expert-bread maker Marie! 

When Amanda asked me to guest post, I jumped at the opportunity, but little did I know I’d face a case of “photographer’s block”. No matter how I photographed this brioche, it didn’t come out quite as I hoped.

Great. It was like being asked to play in the New York Philharmonic and all I could manage was a kazoo.

At the 11th hour, I finally took the images I felt would showcase this lovely brioche recipe and its incredible flexibility. That’s largely thanks to the fact that you can mold the rise times to your schedule. With a busy workweek, I was able to keep the bread rising at home, come home and bake it, then photograph.
Brioche is fantastic at any time, but it’s especially good for breakfast. Pair it with Amanda’s Summer Strawberry Preserves or splurge on a high-end brand of butter. When it begins to stale, use it for French toast. The recipe’s from Baking With Julia, one of my favorite cookbooks by Julia Child and Dorie Greenspan based on the show by the same name. There were many bakers contributing recipes to the book and this one is from Nancy Silverton of the famed La Brea Bakery and Pizzeria Mozza.

The original recipe called for a 30-45 minute rise for the sponge, a 2-hour first rise for the dough, an overnight (at least 4-6 hours) second rise after the dough was deflated from the first rise, and a final two hour rise after the nanterre (the bumpy loaf shape) was formed. And as much as I love baking bread, it can be hard to manage the timing of all of these rises. I found that the dough worked really well if, after the overnight rise, the nanterre was shaped and the loaf pan refrigerated for the day.

My game plan:

Evening: Make dough, first rise, place in the fridge overnight (needs about 3 1/2 hours, with 30 minutes of that active preparation).

Next morning: Divide dough into segments, place in loaf pan, refrigerate, go to work.

Following evening: Come home from work, take dough out, give it a final rise, and bake.

With this plan, the brioche can be made as a side for dinner or saved for breakfast the following morning.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Recipe for Rose Sangria

The best summer days begin with blue-sky mornings, carry on with sunny afternoons at the pool or the beach, and end with lazy, comfortable chit-chat among friends as the sun dips below the horizon.  Of course, summer afternoons and evenings are made inevitably better if you are relaxing with a cool, sweet drink in your hand.  So when one of my friends and readers asked on my facebook page for a sangria recipe, I was surprised to realize I had not shared one with you yet.  Naturally I could not let her question go unanswered, so put out a request on Twitter and got some great links to share from The Pioneer Woman, Eat.Drink.Smile, and Aggie's Kitchen

And then promptly got straight to work making my own batch of Rose Sangria.    

Next to lemonade, sangria is probably the most quintessential satisfying summer beverage, and I love it.  With a glass of sangria in my hand, and my friends and family by my side, I am a happy lady.  

Regardless of whether you make your sangria with white, rose, or red wine, the best part is definitely the wine-soaked fruit.  Don't you just love fishing out those boozy fruits from the bottom of the glass?  For my summer Rose Sangria, I love adding in ripe peaches and strawberries, sliced oranges, and plump raspberries.  The sliced oranges are so beautiful, but my favorite to eat are the peaches - they soak up the sugar and wine to become tender and just perfectly sweet. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Dip

Not that I think you are dense or anything, but I am just going to say it right off the bat: you need to turn on your oven to make this.  If that turns you away, so be it, but all I can do is offer my promise that turning on your oven to make this is so worth it.  

Any other time of the year, I wouldn't need to give this disclaimer, but I feel like everyone is sweltering lately.  Even living here in San Diego where we supposedly have a 'mild' climate, it is HOT.  (I finally broke down and bought my first fan!  Please don't make fun of me that I didn't have a fan before.)  You probably think I am crazy, telling you to make a Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Dip when your house is already a heat box, but I have to tell you, this is one of my favorite things to make in the summer.  

This dip tops my list of summer favorites because it is easy, healthy, and very quick and inexpensive to make.  So naturally, when my sister came to visit last weekend, we whipped up a batch to take to the beach.  She specifically asked me to show her recipes we could make together that she would be able to recreate back at home in Colorado.  My sister cooks, but isn't as passionate about it as I am and doesn't have a lot of time on her hands (and really just prefers ice cream and brownies), so easy recipes like this one are perfect for her.    

My sister also asked me the right way to cut an onion and other veggies, and I felt like a proud teacher with a star pupil as she sliced and diced like a pro.  

So here is just how easy this recipe is: You slice up the veggies...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Red, White, and Blueberry Tart

The Fourth of July weekend is finally here...

I don't know about you, but I am definitely looking forward to a little time away from work for some fun in the sun and the chance to get to eat my favorite All-American summer foods.  Plus, my sister is coming to visit, the weather will be in the mid-to-high eighties (which means lots of pool and beach time) and I capped off this week with an appearance on Channel 6, San Diego Living.  It was my first time on live TV and I had so much fun doing a live cooking demo of a Red, White, and Blueberry Tart for the Fourth of July.  Since it was right before the holiday weekend, it was the perfect time to share a classic red, white, and blue dessert recipe like this tart.  I know some people that are local to San Diego already tuned in live yesterday morning, but you can watch the clip here!  

I want to send a big thank you to the great people at San Diego Living for inviting me on the show, and if you haven't watched before, definitely visit their website.  When I was there on Friday, they also had fantastic segments from SD Bargain Mama about how to save money on summer family fun, as well as a cool makeup artist and beauty consultant with great summer looks.  All the videos are right on their homepage so you can easily scroll through and view them all!

Ok, now let me quickly tell you a little more about this fantastic Red, White, and Blueberry Tart - the crust is made from homemade sweet tart dough, which is also known by the fancy french name of 'pate sucree,' although there is really nothing fancy or complicated about making this.  I have made this dough at least 4-5 times now, and it is fool-proof - it turns out perfectly every time.  Plus it is quick to make.  With a food processor, you can have it ready and chilling in the fridge in under five minutes.  I promise.  

Once the sweet tart crust is baked, the "Red" layer comes from sliced fresh strawberries topped with sweet summer strawberry preserves.  As I mentioned in my last post, I think you get the most authentic strawberry taste when you make the preserves at home, but store-bought preserves also work great for this recipe.  The fresh berries with the preserves provide a great textural element as well as sweet taste. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

More berries! Summer Strawberry Preserves

Be it strawberries, cherries, or blueberries, I have been buying summer berries in bulk from the farmers market and eating them like there is no tomorrow.  Which, to be honest, is sort of hilarious, because there is definitely no shortage of sweet berries here in Southern California.  For us, the berry season in the summer is pretty long which means I am a lucky lady (with a belly full of sweet berries).  

At the farmer's markets and even the grocery stores, strawberries are plentiful and perfectly ripe right now, which makes it the ideal time for turning those berries into jam and preserves.  I told you a few weeks ago about my first love - cherry preserves - and a few readers were curious if the same recipe would work for other berries like strawberries or blueberries.  Naturally I couldn't let this question go unanswered (since own curiosity often gets the better of me) so I decided to cook up some strawberry preserves.