Friday, March 02, 2007

"She's a maniac, maniac . . . "

. . . in the kitchen, that is!

Must tell you about my day first:

After a lengthy phone conversation with Chelsea this morning, (she was going to head on down with the girls and we were going to hang out today, but because of our recent blizzard and subsequent crummy road conditions, she decided to keep them home and safe,) Ann and I decided to take the bus Uptown and have lunch at Lucia's bakery. I had heard rumors about Lucia's . . . wonderful, wonderful rumors. I was not in the least bit disappointed. I had a carrot-ginger soup, a popover, and a salad of arugula, some kind of blue cheese, thinly sliced pear, sunflower seeds, and a delicious sort of vinaigrette. The soup was incredible -- perfectly balanced, not overly anything, just perfectly sweet-gingery-smooth-creamy deliciousness. The popover . . . well, it's a popover. Eggy, fluffy, crispy-on-the-outside heaven. And the salad . . . again, perfectly balanced. I was in food snob heaven. :)

After lunch, Ann and I headed over to my work so I could pick up a few key ingredients for this evening's cooking projects, and then hit the Wedge for some additional ingredients. (P.S. the Wedge has started carrying Laptop Lunchboxes! Many months ago, I contacted the ladies at LL and suggested they contact the Wedge as a potential retailer . . . who knows whether it was me that made it happen or not, but it's awesome that the Wedge now has the full lineup of lunchbox fabulousness!)

Then I came home, put away all of the groceries, cleaned up the kitchen, and began to cook.

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I made chai from scratch, using a recipe from Cooking Light magazine, which I altered slightly. I've made chai before, and it's always a bit of a hassle, but it tastes so incredible, it's always worth it. I always make a fairly large batch, because it is such a hassle, and well, it's just as easy to make two servings as it is to make four!
CHAI FROM SCRATCH
Combine, bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes:
3 cups water
14 cardamom pods, crushed
12 whole cloves
8 peppercorns
1 3-inch piece peeled fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
2 cinnamon sticks, broken up a bit
1 2-inch piece vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
2 star anise
1 bay leaf
6 whole allspice
(look how pretty:)
example
Then, add:
2 cups plain soy milk
2 tablespoons loose black tea
Continue to simmer your chai for 4 to 5 minutes.
Whisk in:
1/2 cup honey (or agave)
Strain through a cheesecloth lined mesh strainer, and you get:
example
Mmmmmmm. Perfect mid-afternoon snack.

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I decided to use some of the ultra high-quality Valrohna chocolate I bought and make vegan chocolate pudding pops. I can't remember which fellow blogger I got this chocolate pudding recipe from, but it's INCREDIBLE! I've never tried freezing it before, so we'll see. (I got the popsicle mold for free from Ann's sister Katie. Thanks, Katie!)
CHOCOLATE PUDDING
puree until incredibly smooth:
12 ounces firm Mori-Nu, obvious water drained off
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, melted
pour into a serving dish and chill, or popsicle molds and freeze. So cute:
example
(*** UPDATE . . . Best. Fudge. Pop. EVER. Make these! ***)

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I also made lentil soup. This soup recipe is based on Isa's French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme from Post Punk Kitchen, but with several of my own modifications.
KILLER LENTIL SOUP
Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a 6-quart soup or stock pot.
"chop and drop:"
1 cup carrot, scrubbed
1 cup celery
1 cup onion
1 cup white button mushrooms
4 cloves garlic
Saute the above for about five minutes, or until soft.
Add and bring everything to a boil:
30 ounces diced tomatoes with liquid
6 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
several cranks of black pepper
Add:
2 cups French green lentils, rinsed,
then lower the heat, cover the soup, and let it simmer for 45 minutes.
Little soup soldiers, all queued up for the freezer:
example

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The real reason I bought the Valrohna chocolate (and, well, Valrohna cocoa powder for that matter,) from work was to make these brownies. They were also from Cooking Light, and I'm not as impressed with these. Don't get me wrong -- they are an incredible, deeply chocolate, fudgy yummy pan of tastyness. They just don't taste "spicy" enough for something called "Chai Latte Brownies." I'll have to perhaps bulk up the spices next time, and then I'll post the recipe for all to see. Picture, regardless:
example

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And last, but not least, a non food photo. Dan bought me a plant!
example

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Stay tuned . . . because I'm in the middle of working on no-knead bread. SO EXCITED!!!!!!

10 comments:

Judy said...

Looks like you work at a really fun place.

What a nice sounding day you had, cooking and baking and having lunch with friends. I love days like that, and yet I have so few of them. The brownies look awesome, even if they were a little underwhelming.

KleoPatra said...

Frozen chocolate pudding?

Fresh lentil soup w/veggies?

Insanely decadent brownies?

Oh, Catherine... very nice! And hey, i like where you work!!

Stay safe - and warm! - this weekend... looks like it's 21 F. and flurries according to the AccuWeather on your blog...

Vicki said...

chai from scratch? you totally rock. and is that a jade plant? way to go, dan! best of luck finishing up your manuscript, catherine! :o)

Catherine said...

Judy, thanks! Most of the time, work is pretty fun. We've had pretty terrible weather this past week, though, so it's been SLOOOOOOOOOW. (Slow = boring! Customers are fun!) The brownies are pretty awesome, although the spice isn't present enough. I'm wondering whether the chocolate and cocoa I used is of such high quality, they completely overpowered the spices. We shall see next time!

Kleo, thanks! I had a lot of fun cooking yesterday, as you can see. :) I'm still working on no-knead bread this morning, and that's going to be the crowning achievement, I think! (And, as an aside, 21 degrees for wintertime in Minneapolis is on the warmer side, actually! I'm just glad it's not below zero any longer!)

Vicki, that IS a jade plant! It's pretty awesome. And thanks for the well-wishes on the manuscript . . . I have quite a bit of work to do, yet, but I'm plugging along!

Stephanie said...

Catherine-- is it the no-knead bread from the Taste section a couple weeks ago? I'm making my fourth loaf of it today--it's won-der-ful and soo easy! My tip is DON'T bother with the cornmeal/bran they say you can use on the outside. It makes the crust rather tough and leathery, while if you use just flour, it is light, crisp, and golden. Happy baking!

Courtney said...

Yum! Everything looks and sounds great!

Johanna3 said...

wow! a storm of good looking food Yum!

Crystal & Ryan - Café Cyan said...

I love chai from scratch. I should make it again - it's been at least a year.

That plant should last forever. I had one once. I gave it back to my mom when we moved to London and never got it back. She's a great plant caretaker and gardener, so it's probably safer in her hands :)

-Crystal

Nadine said...

Oooh-eee! Look at all that beautiful soup! I sure wish I had one like you at my house to make a bunch of that. What a wonderful way to stock your freezer!

Shannon said...

Everything looks so delicious! I made the fudge pops and they are amazing as you said...Thanks for posting this wonderful recipe!