Friday, July 23, 2010

Braided Lemon Bread

I saw the recipe on smitten kitchen and it just looked so pretty I had to make it. Braided lemon bread isn't difficult, only labor intensive. But trust me, it's worth it!

Typically, I tweaked the recipe a little:
Above is the sponge (6 tbs warm water, 1 tsp sugar, 1.5 tsp yeast, 1/4 c AP flour, let set 10 minutes), 3 cups of flour, and wet ingredients - which is where most of the tweaking came in.
For the wet ingredients, I put about 6 heaping tablespoons of full fat greek yogurt, 1/4 c of unsalted butter, 1 egg, 1/3 cup of sugar, 1.5 tsp salt, and 2 tsp vanilla.

Mixing the dough was simple enough, I just steadily added flour to the mixed wet ingredients, and kept the hook around 5/6 on the machine for a good 9-10 minutes. I was worried that mixing it so much longer than the recipe time would make it tough, but in the end it was absolutely fine! And yes that is a fire extinguisher behind my mixer.

The complete dough was unbelievably sticky, which is how the recommended 2.5 cups of flour became 3. I seriously couldn't get my fingers out of it, and then I came to the realization that other than the butter for the lemon curd, the only fat I had in the house was olive oil, which was not acceptable for greasing the bowl.
So instead I dusted the dough with even more flour, put it in an un-greased bowl, and let it rest and rise for a good hour and a half.

Once the dough was rising in its un-greased bowl, I had to face up to one of my worst enemies. Things-that-are-supposed-to-thicken-on-the-stove. It may not sound like a villain, but it is and I hate all those things. I have yet to succeed in properly thickening something in a saucepan - at least until today. Bechemel sauces have been thin, gravies have been lumpy, stews have been gritty. In short, I wasn't looking forward to making a lemon curd. But I manned up and did it - and it worked!! I had to whisk for a good 7 or 8 minutes, and eventually moved on up to medium low heat, but it actually thickened :)!
In the lemon curd: 1 tsp lemon zest, 1 egg, 4 tbs lemon juice, and 2.5 tbs sugar. Basically, you heat everything but the butter up to low heat, whisk and add butter and whisk and add butter and say a little prayer. I changed the lemon-sugar ratio a lot, because I was afraid it would be too sweet, and if I hadn't changed it it definitely would have been - if that makes any sense.

The cream cheese spread was super easy....if you have cream cheese in your house that is. I had gone through floured bowls, thickening curds, only to find out the only cream cheese in my house is...fat free. After an hour and a half, I wasn't going to let anything ruin this braided bread, so I ran out to the grocery store. It was completely worth it :)
The spread, my tweaking at least, is:
1/2 cup of cream cheese, 1.5 tbsp sugar, 3 tbsp sour cream, 2 tsp fresh lemon juice, and 2 tbsp flour.

Braiding was super fun, as I suspected it would be. I marked it into thirds with my hands, cut the sides with a pizza cutter, then just spread on the cream cheese and the lemon curd. To braid you just pull strips on alternating from side to side.

For the final step, I brushed on some egg wash and dusted on some sugar, all the time wishing I had pearl sugar like smitten kitchen :).

It's awesome. I had this feeling all along it was going to be one of those desserts that looks gorgeous but tastes, meh, okay - but it's delicious! The whole thing vaguely reminds of me a cheese croissant, and right now I want more :).
Even though it took three and a half hours and two trips to the grocery store, I would definitely do it again. That should say something :))

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hungry Morning

I woke up hungry.
This usually doesn't happen, but I convinced myself until I fell asleep around two a.m. that I was not hungry and would not go downstairs and eat.

So I woke up around eleven starving.
I ended up making this amazing omelet, which kept me full until late at night. It may not look terribly pretty, but that can be blamed on my photography skills and flipping egg skills :))

In the omelet are sautéed onions, mushrooms, and pan-fried potatoes (the one time my pan fried potatoes actually cooked! I cut them really small this time, and I think that's the trick. An unbelievably sophisticated solution to my uncooked potatoes, I know), and muenster cheese. In short, this omelet was terribly light and airy, and not at all a high calorie food.

On the side is a cut nectarine, which I think I added to the effect of lightening the meal, the same way someone ordering two big macs at mcdonalds orders a diet coke.

Yum :))

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Y's Sunny Work Bento

When telling my cousin, Y, the other day about my new bento boxing hobby, she asked if I would make a bento box of what she should bring to work for lunch :)) I immediately agreed, even though we're a couple of thousand miles apart, and made this bento for her in spirit, and gave it to my mom to eat in real life.

In this bento box:
-green box: Thai Crunch Salad (a copy of the CPK version) which includes most notably: garlic chicken, carrots, cabbage, cucumber (garden!), peanuts, and edamame. It's packed inside of a romaine lettuce cup, and garnished with some cilantro.
-red box: some cheddar cheese and apple flowers with whole wheat pita triangles.
-purple box: some home-made trial mix made of peanuts, almonds, chopped dates, and chopped dried mango.
-orange box: orange wedges and some awesome cherries.

When I made this bento I kept in mind that my cousin Y doesn't really have a singular long lunch break, but a couple of smaller breaks throughout the day, so I made a lot of small snackable boxes instead of taking out a couple of the smaller boxes as I would for a larger one-sitting lunch.

I figured this bento is pretty sunny because of all the orange - between the carrots, cheddar, orange, and mango - and it's a bit of a play on the type of weather Y is having right now.

Hope you enjoy, Y!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Boring Beach Eats

I haven't bento'd in a couple of days, but I have been eating some pretty yummy things :))
Here's actually one of my favorite things to eat. Working out of a beach pantry, a couple of my favorite foods quickly become out of reach (such as anything containing milk, flour, sugar, butter, spices other than salt and pepper...I could go on for a while).
So I turned to this staple.
Above is:
-toasted whole wheat pita
-tuna with olive oil, salt and pepper, lime, and green onion.
-domestic feta (really good feta too, not dry at all)
-awesome cantelope, with lime squeezed on top. I'm on another lime & fruit kick. I honestly believe that 99% of fruits taste better with lime squeezed on top. A great example is figs, which I've been obsessing over for..... a while now. I really want figs. I really really want figs. Big, juicy, purple-skinned figs that are so ripe the skin is splitting apart. The kind that are full of those little seeds, and unbelievably sweet, and oh my god I'm going to stop now.
Yeah, I know, pretty boring meal, but it's better than nothing!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Smiley to keep the blog going

Tired, but this is a pretty cheerful plate :))
My sister H's breakfast before her exam.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Surprise Bento!

So apparently, the museum in my city allows free entrance on Tuesdays! Me and a friend decided to go, and decided that she'd chauffeur, and I would picnic :))
The night before I had this sudden craving though. And I really had to make sushi. I had to. I'm not sure what would have happened if I didn't, but I'm glad I did. So here are the boxes, in ascending order of excitement :)))
Above is the top tier with:
-wasabi and assorted soy sauce packages
-pickled ginger and candied ginger (actually pretty yummy!)
-brownies...and I'm going to go ahead and admit, I should have ziplocked or saranwrapped those brownies because they came out tasting rather wasabi-like.

In the middle tier:
-onigiri (rice balls) with sesame. I mostly made these because I had short-grain rice around, and wanted to try out the gadget F got me. There are no triangle shapes here, because rather counter-intuitively, the triangle shape was the hardest to get out of the mold!
-cucumber separator
-some cut fuji apple, bunny and checkerboard style :) I really need to learn some new way of cutting apples.
-awesome plums - these are seriously awesome. They're so sweet that when you open them, there is crystallized sugar in the center. Not kidding.

The bottom and awesomest tier:
-two types of sushi rolls: vegetable rolls with cucumber, carrot, avocado, and cream cheese; salmon rolls (what the flower is made of) with smoked salmon, cucumber, avocado (only one of the three salmon rolls had avocado because I decided I don't like it with salmon), and cream cheese.
Yum! This box is definitely picnic size :))

Monday, July 12, 2010

Travel-Snack Bento Box & Brownies!

For my road-trip on Sunday, for a college interview, I packed some snacks for my road-hungry family in the new box F got for me!:))
-orange box: Oranges and apples with lime
-purple box: fresh almonds (the green things), homemade brownies, true north nut clusters, and really good plums
-orange box: sandwich halves of turkey, tomato, cucumber, and muenster with mayo and mustard on honeywheat.
The brownies in the purple box are pretty awesome, and my mom and brother really really like them. Bellow is the recipe - which is a weird hybrid of various recipes :))e
If you can figure out my weird abbreviations, go for it! This might one day become the rosetta stone to my unique recipe shorthand hahahaha.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

New Supplies - once more!

Some more exciting new supplies to come :)) Thanks, F!

Just remember, my dad, when eating his bento yesterday, said "I want all of my food like this"
:))) I do too!

Friday, July 9, 2010

First Egg-Mold Bento

I made a bento for my dad's lunch today, even though we weren't going anywhere :))
Mostly, and secretly, because I wanted to try out an egg mold.
-red box: more bean salad (black bean, pinto, corn) in some romaine lettuce with some cilantro on top
-yellow box: whole wheat tortilla round, a supposedly car-shaped egg (I think the problem is that I suck at peeling eggs. Next time I'll peel the egg a little more cleanly, and hopefully not use Extra Jumbo size eggs :)) and some checkered apple to prop the egg up.
-main box: carrot and cucumber (garden!) salad in purple cabbage, some labna (sour-cream-ish cheese), and some apricot and lime slices on popsicle sticks.

I'm pretty pleased, although I wish I could've found a way to fill up the egg compartment a little better :)) I kept trying to figure out what to stick in there! Next time, I think I'll squeeze the egg in the large side. And hopefully, figure out how to peel eggs :)))

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Rainy Day, Happy Cake

I made this cake on a rainy day a couple of weeks ago, to cheer up my sister H who was studying super hard for her exams.
I swear the bottom corner didn't look like that :) just some paranoid internet identity protection :))
Anyway, it was just some yellow cake mix from a box, but it was pretty yummy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

First Real Bento Box Bento

Because of the awesome new supplies I got yesterday, I decided to make a bento box for my mom's work lunch.
Above is the lunch :)
In the split box, clockwise from top left: roasted sweet potato chips, carrot stars, green grapes and a plum, salad of toppings for fajitas (lettuce, queso fresco, salsa) and radish flowers, and checkerboarded apple and apple bunny.
In the bottom tier box, clockwise from top left: sauteed vegetables and bean mix in lettuce wraps for the fajitas, whole wheat tortillas (2), guacamole, limes, and corn on the cob.
The guacamole is in the first supply I ever bought for bento - which are these stainless steel little cups from Walmart, 4 for a dollar. They fit perfectly in the new box!
I realized though, when I put the box together, that I didn't have any bands! Or even ribbon or large elastic bands, so I ripped some scrap fabric and safety-pinned it on hahahaa.
When I finished filling the box I realized just how much food it was!
I think from now on I'll only use the top tier :))
My mom's reaction was "This one is for tomorrow, and this one for the day after?"

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Vegetarian Fajitas and....NEW BENTO SUPPLIES!!!

(vegetarian fajita assembly - food addition from left to right :))

Today was awesome.
I woke up with a really weird craving for taco bell (yes I'm ashamed to say it) and decided instead to make some semi-vegetarian fajitas (not really vegetarian because I used chicken broth on the beans).
Now, I'm not one of those people who likes simplistic, pure fajitas. Nope. I want a lot of toppings, veggies, salsa, and a fajita so full that it gloops out the bottom. I succeeded in making that :))
But more excitingly (is that a word?) is what came in the mail today. A box, mysteriously addressed, that I assumed was something for my dad. It wasn't. It was......bento supplies from my awesome sister F. Yes, I now have real bento supplies! No more Tupperware and hand-cut stars, people.
Now her random request for some of the bento blogs I follow (on awesome google reader) makes sense! Above are the most awesomest bento supplies (clockwise) - my favorite box!!!, onigiri (rice ball) shapers, egg molds (car, fish, bunny, bear), and really cute little cutters.
My mom will be getting quite a few lunches to take to work in the near future :)
Best day ever!! Thanks, F!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Apple Bunnies

I first saw them on Happy Little Bento's Blog and thought they were adorable!
So they went into the testing bento :)

I couldn't get the ears to curl up quite as well, and the cutting is a little sloppy because by that point I was all tired out from the apple checkerboard - but I'm still pretty pleased!

Next time I think I'll make the ears a little bigger though, and hopefully figure out how to curl them so nicely :)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Testing Bento

My sister H's exam was 8 hours long, so I decided this was a perfect bento opportunity :)
Above is the full box - but before I updated the fruit section.
It has:
-square box: tuna sandwich on honeywheat bread with a cucumber and red bell pepper smiley, and some cucumber slices and red bell pepper stars. The cucumber comes from the massive plant in my garden :))
-a variety of Kashi TLC bars for her snacks - it was eight hours! And that rubber band was to hold shut the fruit box, which was so full it looked ready to pop :)

-fruit box: ripe plum, apple checkerboard and apple bunnies, orange slices, and some kiwi flowers. I didn't know we had kiwi until I was finding room for the box in the fridge, and decided to include it.

The best part of this bento was that it all fit perfectly inside a ziplock gallon bag! I know that doesn't sound very exciting - but it made a perfect cube!

Later, when I picked H up from the exam, I looked inside the box. Most everything except the sandwich was gone, and she hadn't even noticed the apple bunnies! But I couldn't really get annoyed, seeing how tired she looked from the exam.

I showed her the apple bunny trick later, and she really liked it :))

Saturday, July 3, 2010

That Time the Pioneer Woman Took Over My Life

(me and my sisters' pizza, with spinach, onion, and garlic)

It was definitely not gradual. First I found her website, and I think it took something like ten minutes to get obsessed with her. Somewhere between her roasted red pepper pasta recipe and herb garden, I started wanting to be her.
This obsession led to a three day cooking marathon that coincided with the whole family being home. It was awesome. It all started that Friday, when I decided to make pizza.
Now, my pizza dough is not that shabby. It's usually pretty yummy, has those nice big bubbles, and super fun to make. The Pioneer Woman's pizza dough? I'm not sure I can even come to terms with how wrong my pizza dough has been for so long, in comparison to hers. It was amazing. Because of my inability to actually do anything according to recipe, I used half wheat flour, added a couple tablespoons extra honey, and extra salt.
Now, half way through this pizza-dough making process, my sister F texts me from the airport, and asks - no demands - (really, asks) that I make whole wheat pizza dough. I sent back some snappy text, and immediately feel like not making pizza. Teenage rebellion, I guess. Nevermind her uncouth demands (hahaha) I continued, and it turned out beautimous!
Thankfully, H made me take some pictures, before it disappeared in about ten minutes. Below is my parent's pizza, which has about every vegetable we had in our fridge and some jalapenos on it.

Now, let me get to the real important part of the pizza here. Not the dough - which does make a difference - or the cheese (I like those little baby mozzarella balls!) - it's my sauce. I'm going to go ahead and say it. My sauce is boss.
I'm really hungry for pizza now :))

And this? This is only like 1/5 of the cooking I did that weekend. I'm still recovering :))

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Sort-of-First Bento

This isn't really my first bento, but the second. Unfortunately, I never took pictures of the first one, and now that absolute masterpiece is lost to society. Good riddance :)))
To start with, my main bento recipient to date is my sister, H, who for the past month was studying really really hard.

This not-technically-first bento box (tupperware) consists of:
-main box: salmon and cream cheese open-faced sandwich stars (on those awesome sandwich thins!), some naan stars, olives under the naan, and cucumbers sticks. In the two little containers (tupperware) are greek yogurt (the red is a bit of paprika, I thought it'd be pretty) and homemade hummus, for the naan and cucumbers.
-in the smaller box is a cut-and-limed apple, back in my naive youth when I didn't know how to make apple bunnies. So basically, yeah, two weeks ago.
-in the bottom right corner is a banana boat, which is a banana that has a third of its peel taken off, peanut butter spread on, and is cut into fork-able pieces. Or sporkable. Whatever floats your boat (hey it's a pun!) :))

H liked it....a lot :). Her only critique was the black pepper on the salmon-stars, which she rubbed off. But yeah, I admit, I might have gone a little overboard with my new pepper mill :))