Friday, December 24, 2010
My week of extremes continued. I dealt with emails from a student who isn't particularly happy with the grade that student earned, all while questioning my partiality. Grrrr Doesn't put me in a good mood. So, when I woke up this morning and was scrambling to get the last important necessities for tomorrow's dinner, I wasn't too thrilled. (People were pouring into the streets and a trip that normally takes about 10 minutes, took over 45.) But, then something happened. A guy in an SUV signaled to get over into my lane. Since I figured that one car length wasn't going to make my 45 minutes go any faster, I slowed and let him in. Then the best thing happened. He did the wave. And not just a quick throwing of the hand, but a long (about 10 seconds), deliberate wave. All of a sudden, I had a smile on my face. Don't know why something so small and simple completely changed my mood, but it did. It also reminded me how the very little things we do can do wonders for someone else. On the same token, it can have quite a negative effect. So, we may feel like we really don't make a difference and our day-to-day lives aren't as significant as the grand gestures, but really, a wave is all it takes.
On to the food!!! I have saved my most favorite cookie for last. Venetians, or "Italian Rainbow Cookies we affectionately called them as kids, are so addicting. Every Christmas, my dad and I would make them. I would get to put in the red food coloring and mix away, one brother would get to mix in the green food coloring (red, green, and white for the colors of the Italian flag), and another brother would be in charge of licking the spoon. Tough job. I know. These are not exactly the kind of cookie that you can dump from a box and 8-10 minutes later, you had a dozen warm cookies. Once you baked the layers, then you had to assemble them, which required overnight smooshing before pouring the chocolate. Then of course waiting for that part to be cooled. Talk about a lesson in patience. To this day, I still have issues waiting for the proper cooling time. Shhhh don't tell my dad, but I've been known to cool it down in the freezer. So, don't let all the steps deter you from trying these. They are completely worth it! For those of you who know me and want to try them out, let me know! I'll be happy to be your baking buddy. (Yes, the alliteration was on purpose.)
8 ounces almond paste
1 cup softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs, separated (save all parts!)
2 cups all-purpose flour
8 drops red food coloring
8 drops green food coloring
1/4 cup seedless red raspberry jam
1/4 apricot jam
1 cup semisweet chocolate, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line three 9x13 inch baking pans with wax paper.
In a large bowl, break apart the almond paste with a fork into very small pieces. Add the butter, sugar, and egg yolks and cream until fluffy and smooth. Stir in the flour to form the dough.
In a small bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the dough.
Then divide the dough into 3 separate bowls equally. Mix one bowl with green food coloring and another with red.
Spread each portion into one of the prepared baking pans. It will be thick and a little difficult. Don't spread it too thin.
Bake for about 10 minutes until the edges just begin to lightly brown. Warning, for some reason, there may be a bunch of smoke. Something about the wax paper and the dough. Just keep a window open so you smoke alarm doesn't go off (like mine did. Twice.). Cool completely.
Spread the green layer with raspberry jam and top with the uncolored layer. Then top that with the apricot jam. Top with the red layer. Place a piece of wax paper on the top and compress with heavy books. Chill in the refrigerator overnight (or 8 hours).
Remove the books and wax paper. Pour the melted chocolate on top. Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm (about 20 minutes). Then cut into small squares. Refrigerate for another 40 minutes to continue to harden (helps to cut early on so it doesn't break and crack so easily).
Posted by Lauren at 6:06 PM
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
This has been quite a bipolar week. I've been going a thousand miles a minute and then crashing. Work even has been constantly super busy then super slow. But in true holiday style, once I got home, I started baking away (cookies are fantastic for dinner by the way). But, as one of my co-workers pointed out, I play a modern woman by day and a 50s housewife by night. Okay, so 50s housewife minus the actual house (live in an apartment) and wife minus the whole being single thing. So, here's a cookie sandwich thingie that was quite the hit at the office. Goes really well with green tea for breakfast (oh, yeah, cookies for breakfast are good too).
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a large bowl, beat the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and butter together. Add the flour mixture and mix well. Form into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a couple of hours. (Since I'm completely impatient, I did threw in it the freezer for about 45 minutes.)
While it is "freezing", in a bowl, combine the 8 tablespoons butter, softened, 2 cup confectioners sugar, and 5 tablespoons maple syrup. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Taking the dough, roll out in about half an inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut out the dough and place a greased cookie sheet. (They spread slightly.) Cook for about 8 minutes until lightly browned.
Cool completely on a rack. The spread the cream mixture on one side of a cookie and make a sandwich. (This was an awkward sentence trying to figure out how to explain how to make a sandwich. I suddenly feel like I am back in French class and I have to describe how to make a PB&J sandwich. Seriously. I got a B+.)
Posted by Lauren at 4:52 PM
Monday, December 20, 2010
A couple of months ago, I decided to make vanilla extract (http://vitaepane.blogspot.com/2010/09/vanilla-extract.html). I am happy to provide you with an update. I have now baked a few things with it. Wow, the stuff is potent and can actually cut down how much the recipe calls for versus how much I can actually use. So, all in all, it was a success!!! Just in time for holiday baking. Stay tuned for holiday recipes....
Posted by Lauren at 10:11 AM
Thursday, December 16, 2010
This week needs to end soon. Meeting after meeting after meeting. Then on top of it, it is finals week. Nothing like emails from students before the testing has even finished wanted to know what they got in the class and if there's anyway to bring up their grade. Yeah. Little late for that. Flings my sympathy and patience out the door. Grrrrr I'll be very happy to have a break from teaching, even for just a few weeks. Students don't realize just how much teachers also look forward to have time off too! For me, it means to work three jobs instead of four for just a bit. Doesn't sound like I'm shaving much off my week, but I don't have to commute out to campus a couple of times a week. Yay!! Little things people, little things.
Whole wheat pasta
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried Greek oregano
1 large tomato, chopped (with juices)
Portobella mushrooms, sliced (as many as you want...I like a lot)
1 cup vegetable broth
3-4 ounces goat cheese
Salt and Pepper
Bring water to boil in large pot and cook pasta until al dente.
Meanwhile, heat large pan to medium high heat and add olive oil and garlic. Cook for about two minutes, then add tomatoes, mushrooms, basil, and oregano. Cook for about 1-2 minutes and then add the broth. Heat until lightly simmering. Stir in the goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until some of the broth is evaporated and the right thickness (to your taste) is accomplished.
Toss the sauce with the pasta and serve.
Posted by Lauren at 4:50 AM
Monday, December 13, 2010
It's been just about two weeks of not eating meat. It hasn't really been an issue for me until last night. Strangely, I had a dream that I was working in a fast food restaurant (disturbing even on that level) and I grabbed a burger and started chowing down. It wasn't until I was about halfway through when I realized I was eating meat. I couldn't decide what to do at that point. Do I try to make it come back up, do I confess to people what I did? It was very icky. So when I woke up, I felt guilty about it. Given, the burger I ate in my dream was pretty nasty (my subconscious totally made it look unappetizing), but still, I didn't actually eat it in reality. Have other vegetarians ever had 'nightmares' about eating meat? And feeling betrayed when you woke up? Or am I just very odd. (Quite possibly.)
Posted by Lauren at 8:26 AM
Friday, December 10, 2010
2/3 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
In a small bowl, mix the water, oil, and yeast together until the yeast dissolves. Let stand for about ten minutes. Then in a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour and salt. Make well in the center and add the yeast mixture. Knead well. Place in a greased bowl and cover in a warm place for about 1 - 1 1/2 hour until doubled in size. Then break off pieces of the dough and make little balls. Roll them out using a rolling pin (for the pieces, make them as large or as small as you'd like). Place them on a floured cookied sheet. Cover and let rise for another 25 minutes. During the second rise, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. When the oven is hot, then add the pita to the oven and cook five minutes, until the pita puffs up and is lightly browned. So yummy with hummus or other dips!
Posted by Lauren at 5:45 AM
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 cup orzo
1 small zucchini, peeled and sliced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 large tomato, largely chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons herbs de provence
Salt and pepper (to taste)
In a large saute pan, heat the oil and garlic together for about 2 minutes. Add in the dry orzo and saute for about 5 minutes until the orzo is golden brown (continue to stir). Add in the zucchini, carrot, tomato, and onion. Cook about 2 minutes before adding the broth, lime juice, lemon juice and spices. Cover the pan and cook until the broth is almost all absorbed (keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn). If needed, add more salt and pepper to taste.
Posted by Lauren at 4:24 PM
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Yesterday, I went to the mid-atlantic asana championships. I am completely inspired! I will be competing next year. I'm determined. It was the kick I needed to stop being such a slacker sometimes. Sometimes it's easier at the end of the day to kick off my shoes and go to bed early rather than going to work out. That's the only thing about bikram. If class starts at 6, then I have to leave at about 5:10 to get there in time and with plenty of time to warm up. Then class ends at 7:30, and I don't get home until 8:15 after showering. It makes for very long days. But, the euphoria that follows class can't be beat. Anyway, enough about me complaining about long days. With my new found inspiration, I was up bright and early for class this morning. One thing about practicing first thing in the morning is that your metabolism is going full force for the rest of the day. I made this eggplant dish and I was practically dying while it was baking. Seriously, drooling.
1 large eggplant
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons herbs de provence
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 large tomatoes, sliced
Grated parmesan cheese
Peel and cube the eggplant. Place in large sauce-pan of boiling water (about two inches) and cook for 5-7 minutes (until soft). Drain and place in a food processor. Chop loosely, but do not puree. Place in a large mixing bowl.
Add bread crumbs, onion, garlic, herbs and spices, and mix well. Add the eggs and incorporate well.
Spoon the mixture into a small casserole dish and spread to all the corners. Top with the sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and the tomatoes are softened.
Posted by Lauren at 2:36 PM