Thursday, February 26, 2009

Flourless Torte

There has been very little 'making' going on here lately. (My mom remains in the hospital, where she is getting a little stronger each day.) The combination of take-out sandwiches and pizza I've eaten for the past 3 weeks recently had me yearning for something of more substance, and I jetted over to the newly opened The Dancing Vegan in Pittsfield. I wanted to give it a plug, as I will be going back. It seemed particularly appropriate to explore this new take-out vegan restaurant, as one of its founders beat cancer — after being told she had three months to live — by following a macrobiotic diet (learned at the Kushi Institute in Becket). I will be looking into this very soon.

Completely unrelated and un-vegan... I confess that this favorite torte of mine should have been posted in December when it was baked, but I wanted to post something. The written recipe makes this look more complicated than it is -- trust me.

unsweetened cocoa
2 8-ounce packages semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup butter
5 large eggs, separated
1 TBS vanilla
confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 250. Grease a 9" by 2 1/2" springform pan; dust with cocoa. Line pan bottom with parchment or waxed paper.

In 2-quart saucepan over low heat melt chocolate with butter.

In large bowl with wire whisk or fork beat egg yolks with vanilla. Slowly beat warm chocolate mixture into yolks until blended.

In small bowl with mixer at high speed, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in 1/4 cup confectioners until sugar dissolves and whites stand in stiff peaks. Fold beaten whites into chocolate one-third at a time.

Spoon batter into pan, spreading evenly. Bake 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Cool in pan.

When cool, remove the sides of the pan, then remove torte from pan bottom. Discard parchment.

Cut into 12 wedges. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hospital Food

Seems like I've been posting much more often since we moved back to the Berkshires, so it feels weird to have such a gap in the time that I have updated my blog. I feel compelled to explain that most of my recent time has been spent at the hospital, where my mom was admitted last week for cancer treatment.

Instead of attending the first 2009 Berkshire Relay for Life meeting on Tuesday, we ironically spent the night at the hospital. It's been a rough week, to say the least. I am glad that the hospital provides a wireless service, and I can look over my laptop screen as I type to see my mom reading the newspaper in her bed.

This hospital stay brings two things to mind. One, that we are planning to re-form our "JoAnn's Knockouts" team from last year's Relay, and two, that hospital food is truly awful.

I'm in no mood for a 'rant' right now, but the meal selections here for sick people are so unhealthy. There are no whole grains, almost no vegetables, and the amount of processed food (they can't make their own pudding in the hospital kitchen?!) that shows up on the trays is really shocking. It just seems more like hospital dietary caters more to the average American palette than it does to nutrition-packed foods. In a way, I appreciate the bacon offered at each breakfast, but...I would much rather see my mom's scrambled eggs accompanied by a side of freshly squeezed juice. I can't think of a better time to bring on the superfoods.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Pumpkin Risotto with Sage and Truffle Oil

What do you get when you combine recipes for pumpkin penne and barley risotto? Why, pumpkin risotto, of course! I followed my risotto recipe, but replaced the thyme with sage. Near the end of its cooking time, I added about 1/2 can of pumpkin puree, and just a tiny swirl of white truffle oil. Oh, the truffle oil! It really turned this meal into something extra special.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Beet and Pear Salad with Feta

A recent NY Times blog post discussed 11 foods we should all be eating more of. One of these items was raw beets.

I have added small amounts of beets while juicing, but have never really enjoyed them in their larger, solid form. In fact, a little beet goes such a long way in a juicer that I was worried that a beet-based salad would be overwhelmingly beety. It was not.

I discovered this recipe on Serious Eats only a day or so after reading the article in the Times, and we tried it right away. It's adapted from a Jaime Oliver recipe, and is typical of his simple "Jaime at Home" recipes. I used a mandoline slicer to cut the beet and pear and, based upon the trouble I had with my pears, I would recommend that you be sure to buy firm pears. (Bosch pears are pretty, but made for a mushier salad than I would have liked — note mushiness in photo below.) We also cut the amount of cheese in half...oh, and I couldn't find any mint, so we went without. Still, the salad exceeded our expectations!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Resolutions Check-up

I didn't actually begin working toward my 2009 New Year's Resolutions until January 5th. A Monday, I decided, was a much better day than a Thursday to implement such things.

Anyway, I just want to document on February 5th that I have really worked hard at my goals, and have even reached some of them!

I have not finished reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," but I've made much progress. Also, my plan to read the newspaper at work changed when my workload suddenly picked up considerably; I've ended up working (and eating) at lunchtime. So, that needs to change.

I came very close to my goal of losing 5 pounds in a month. I lost 3.4 pounds, which is pretty significant given that it was done with diet alone. Still haven't been to the gym or, you know, for a walk. Stupid snow! Helping with my diet, I have successfully brought my lunch at least 4 out of 5 days of the work week. A much larger percentage of our meals this month have been vegetarian, as I'd hoped. I have also started to become more familiar with local farm options for food. Gosh, I'm excited for Spring!

I am working steadily at learning the bass clef (years of reliance on the treble clef have made my brain so resistant!), and here is my piano-playin' proof. It ain't pretty, but it's progress! (You didn't need to see my pajama-covered arms playing this, right?)

I also started learning to knit this month. Finally! I bought some beautiful cotton yarn (I'm allergic to wool) and what was sold to me as the Ferrari of knitting needles (really, I was hoping for the Corolla version) and have been practicing casting on and off, knitting, and purling with some practice yarn before I move on to the real deal. Good thing, eh?

AND, lastly, I have designed the business cards for my freelance design work, and they are being printed as you read this!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sock It To Me!

(Couldn't help it.) We've been using a wire mesh coffee filter for years. The mesh isn't quite fine enough, and we've always been left with a little sludge in the bottom of our carafe — not to mention a sludgy build-up in the machine that causes frequent, annoying leaks.

Before we broke down and bought paper filters, we decided to give the Coffee Sock a try. It works beautifully, even if it doesn't fit perfectly in the basket. The "Sock" immediately solved our problems, retaining the tiniest fragments of our coffee. We have not had a leak in weeks, and we didn't have to make room in our cabinets for a box of paper filters. Love it!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

So, I am actually skipping this Menu Plan Monday because it's Monday and I have no plan. Logical, eh? I started to come down with a throat/chest bug on Friday, and have been running a temperature that I can't seem to shake.

Despite this, I'm starving. I took the day off from work, which allowed me to make my new 'famous' lasagna (only 4 people have ever eaten it) which just came out of the oven. I'm hoping it will provide meals for us through Wednesday. Add in an 'egg night' and a 'dumpling night' (have I mentioned how obsessed I am with frozen dumplings? So much easier than making my own!) and, well, that's my menu plan for the week!

Yesterday, we went for a short drive to get me out of the house (and out of my pajamas). I really enjoy having a destination, and so I grabbed the Garmin and plugged in the address for Cricket Creek Farm in Williamstown. Coincidentally, it was at the end of the road that we very nearly lived on when we were searching for apartments in the area. I love our little house, but I like cows, too.

I had noticed on their website that their store has long business hours, and is open 7 days a week, so we were in luck. We were greeted at the farm's gate by three curious dogs, who we s-l-o-w-l-y drove past to arrive at the store, which has a change box and operates on the honor system. (Thus, the hours!) We poked through shelves, freezers and fridges and found that we can buy eggs, milk, cheese, and several types of free-range, grass-fed meat at this farm. Though I wasn't prepared to purchase anything on Sunday, this will be a go-to place for my meat needs in the future.

And then we came home and I put my pajamas back on.