Thanks for checking out our personal blog. Here, we write about what we're cooking, crafting, and otherwise doing with our lives. We hope you like it. If you're interested in learning more about our business, Crafty Broads, please visit www.craftybroads.com.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

We ate AND we crafted. Seriously.

Happy Birthday, Greta!

It was Greta's birthday this week, and birthdays equal cake. Really, I'll use just about anything as an excuse to make cake. [See next week, where I make cake because someone's facebook status was a wish for cupcakes, and Julia said "Cindy will make you cake, come over." And I said, "How's Sunday?" I kid you not.]

But, in what seems to be a first, we managed to actually eat and craft on craft night. I attribute this to the fact that we crafted first, and THEN had cake. And - amazingly - went back to crafting after we ate. Certainly, the fact that we all had projects we really wanted to work on might have contributed as well.

Triple Chocolate Cake with Pumpkin Ice Cream

Greta requested chocolate, so I whipped up a Devil's Food cake, layered with Dark Chocolate Mousse and Mocha Whipped Cream. The cake recipe came from my baking bible - Baking Illustrated from the folks at America's Test Kitchen. If you've never watched the show or visited their website, you should. Especially if you like science. When I got this book (because the idiot lawyer I used to work for didn't want it and was giving it away!) I literally read it cover to cover. Because in the page or two before each recipe, it details all the variations they tried (different amounts of butter, chilled vs. room temperature ingredients, baking powder vs. soda, etc.) and what results they produced. So... you get a scientific paper with methods and results, followed by a seriously kickass recipe. What could be better? I love it. And if you've been following this blog - it's where my pizza crust came from too. Also - my wedding cake. Yep. And I will stop extolling the virtues of this book now, and get on with the post.

The mousse is the dark chocolate variation in this Martha Stewart recipe, and it is really good - with or without the cake.

We had also been wanting to try out some more interesting ice cream flavors, so we went with pumpkin. I glanced at a recipe for sweet potato ice cream in The Perfect Scoop (another great cookbook), and modified it for pumpkin. Here's what I ended up with:

1 cup whole milk
1 15oz can pumpkin
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon or so freshly grated ginger
Healthy sprinkles of cinnamon and nutmeg
Splash of cream (not necessary, but I had a smidge left from the mousse that needed to be used up)

Whisk ingredients together and chill in the refrigerator for several hours, then process in your ice cream maker according to directions.

When you eat it, it tastes just like pumpkin pie. Delicious!

And now for the inside joke portion of this post:

"Tastes like geology!"

"Mmm, geology."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I want to talk about Bread.

I don't think I can adequately tell you in writing how much I love bread. I like just about any kind of bread, be it in loaf, bagel, biscuit, or roll form. (Um, except sourdough. I have always, always hated that.) When I was a kid, my sister and I used to make this whole wheat bread from a kids cookbook on a fairly regular basis, and the entire loaf would often be consumed before it had finished cooling. Maybe the bread love is genetic.

Anyway... I've been wanting to start making bread again lately (especially after that pizza last month), so I set out with a recipe for Four-hour French baguettes. That's a measly four hours, including all the rising time.

Loaves proofing.

It was very simple to make. After mixing flour, salt, yeast, and water (seriously, that's ALL the ingredients... think about that next time you read the label on your bread from the store) together, kneading, and letting it rise for a bit, I shaped it into baguettes (above) and let them rise a little longer.

Bread baking.

During this last rise, I preheated the oven with a baking stone for the bread, and a pan of water on the rack underneath. The water is supposed to create steam which is supposed to help make your crust nice and, well, crusty. I don't feel like I did a great job with the first batch on the steam part.

Finished Baguettes

But they tasted amazing anyway. I ate a whole baguette in about 5 minutes. Granted, they were not that big, but I was hoping they'd last for at least a few days...

But, as I mentioned earlier, I LOVE bread. So... I had to make a second batch the same day. I decided they didn't look as nice and golden as they do in the store, so to fix that problem I added a simple egg white wash before putting them in the oven, and then a second coat about halfway through the baking time.

Bread with Egg Wash

Now that looks like a bakery-worthy crust! (Though I clearly still need to work on the scoring.)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What a Vegan, Gluten-Free Dinner Party Looks Like

Just the right number of (smokin' hot) cooks in the kitchen.
(I swear we were all in the kitchen until it was time to eat...)

Our second fabulous dinner party was a serious group effort. Although I did the menu planning, everyone pitched in to get all the ingredients together, and then everyone just took a dish and ran with it. I tend to be somewhat controlling (ok, I'll admit it - I'm a complete control freak!) so I was mildly apprehensive about letting people help. But, as I am discovering over and over again lately, doing things together totally rocks.

It was, in a word, AWESOME, to share my kitchen with these fabulous women.

Here's what we made:

Watermelon Salad with Mint and Lime (recipe)
Cucumber "Bruschetta" (recipe)

First Course
Plum, Raspberry, and Tarragon Soup (recipe)

Second Course
Zucchini Tagliatelle with Cucumber, Mint, and Lemon (recipe)
Zucchini Pasta with Pesto (recipe)
Yellow Potatoes with Swiss Chard, Garlic, and Rosemary (recipe)

[Imagine we did not eat it so fast, and there is a picture here.]

Coconut Curry Ice Cream (recipe)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Down on the Farm: Goat Loin and Homemade Butter

Roasted Goat Loin over Kale, with Asparagus and Caramelized Onions
Last week at the farmer's market, we were at one of the meat vendors, and we decided to give goat a try. They had some loin pieces that looked good, so we took a couple of them home with us and cooked up some asparagus to go with it. Delicious!

On an unrelated note, if you're wondering what to do with that extra heavy cream you've got in your fridge, I'll give you one word: butter. Gone are the days of sitting on a stool churning for hours and hours... all you need is your mixer and a little bit of time.

Whipping up some cream. Don't be like me - use the splatter shield!
First, whip cream using whisk attachment until it breaks apart into liquid and clumps. (This is well after it looks like whipping cream.) When it starts to breakup, switch to the paddle attachment.

Butter and Buttermilk
Keep beating until it's really divided into liquid and solid. Push the solid to one side of the bowl with a spatula and drain the liquid. Keep it - it's buttermilk! Now you can make biscuits, waffles, pancakes, or various other delightful buttermilk-y things.
"Washing" the butter
Now that you've got your buttermilk set aside, we need to deal with the butter. In order to keep it from spoiling, it's essential to get every last drop of milk out of it. So, we're going to pour in some ice cold water, mix again, and then dump out the liquid. (This is not buttermilk, just milky-water, so go ahead and get rid of it.) Then repeat this until the water runs clear.

Voila - butter!

It turned out pretty well, but honestly didn't taste much different than what we buy at the store. We were hoping it would be more like the Irish butter we occasionally splurge on - rich and creamy. Perhaps we need to use cream that isn't processed, and we definitely think we'll be adding a pinch of salt if we do this again!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dinner Party: Cornish Hens & Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

We decided to throw a dinner party this weekend and it went splendidly. The food was fantastic, and the company even better. I may have gone a little bit overboard in making it fancy, but we had a great time. Honestly, the only thing stopping us from doing this on, say, a weekly basis is the cost of the food. Apologies in advance for the blurriness of some of these photos... the amount of wine I consumed may have contributed to a slightly shaky camera, and the inability to notice at the time. Without further ado, here's what we served:

Amuse Bouche
Warm Brie with Sun Gold Tomato preserves, served on water crackers.
wine Paul Masson Medeira (California)

First Course
Greek Salad with Orzo and Black-Eyed Peas
wine Winking Owl Chardonnay (California)

Second Course
Cornish Game Hens with Blackberry sauce; Sweet Potato Souffle
wine Tilia Malbec (Argentina) and Fat Bastard Shiraz (France)

Third Course
Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake
[that's chocolate cake, dark chocolate mousse, and mocha whipped cream]
wine Winking Owl Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Comfort Food: New England Clam Chowder

When we went on our legal wedding/honeymoon in Boston last month, one of the first things we did was stop in a restaurant that Julia remembered for its excellent, authentic New England Clam Chowder. It was the first time I ever tried it - in my entire life! - and it was delicious. Also, as good as Julia remembered it being. While we were savoring it, we discussed how we really should find a recipe and make it at home, since previous efforts to find one up to Julia's standards in Chicago restaurants had failed miserably. So a week or two ago, I scoured the net, and pulled a couple of recipes that seemed promising, based on Julia's knowledge of what should and should not be in clam chowder. During the grocery trip last week, I bought all the ingredients as a surprise to her.

Then, at the end of last week, I was running a low-grade fever and feeling under the weather. Historically, I'm not much of a soup eater - probably because when I was growing up, "making soup" meant microwaving a can of Campbell's and tossing in some oyster crackers - but Julia has managed to win me over with soups that consist of fresh ingredients, and simmered in a big pot for a while - no cans or microwaves allowed. What a difference real food makes. So, we decided to give the clam chowder a try, and, um AMAZING. We could not stop eating it... except that it is pretty rich, so you get to a point where you *have* to stop, even though you really, really *want* to keep eating it.

Here is the recipe, if you want to test it out on your own:
(I wish I could give credit, but it is a combo of a few recipes, an anonymous comment on a random food blog, and our addition of dill, which was specific to the restaurant in Boston, and happens to be a wonderful touch.)

1 yellow onion, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
32 ounces canned clams, chopped and/or minced (we used about half and half)
3 cups whole milk
3 cups heavy cream
3 large Yukon gold potatoes, diced
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup fresh dill, chopped

Saute onion in butter. Sprinkle in flour and cook until almost light brown. Pour in juice from clams and add bay leaf; simmer until thick. Pour in milk and cream; simmer again, adding potatoes and reserved clams. Cook until potatoes are tender but still firm. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir in dill.

Makes 8-10 servings, depending on how much you can eat in one sitting!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Craft night redux.

If you were reading last week, you remember how our craft night became an eating and drinking night, and we kinda promised that this week we'd do some actual crafting. Well - let's just say we crafted pizza and ice cream, and call that a promise kept. And another failure (success?) was that we devoured it before grabbing a camera. So, you'll have to live with a description instead.

Prior to turning the night into a food free-for-all, we had discussed just having some ice cream, and Jenni tossed out the idea of peach and bacon for the flavor. You may also recall that in not making the initial shrimp dish last week, we consequently did not consume the peaches we'd bought for it. So - this was a perfect idea. Jenni volunteered to candy some bacon and we decided to mince some ginger and add it to the peaches. Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. What about dinner, you ask?

Right, so early in the day on Tuesday, after finding out Greta couldn't make it, we decided to invite Jenni and Rebecca to head over early and join us for dinner. I had been wanting to put homemade pizza on the menu sometime during the week, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. We asked Jenni and Rebecca to bring toppings for one pizza (they brought mushrooms and Mexican cheese; we used some garlic and onion pasta sauce as well) and we had some "like gruyere" cheese and herb sausage from the farmers market, shallots, and pomegranate balsamic vinegar for the second pizza, which was a "white' (a.k.a. no red sauce) pizza. They were both delicious.

Then we made the ice cream. In order to keep it edible for everyone (Rebecca is a vegetarian) we kept the candied bacon out of it, and just sprinkled it on top. It turned out a bit more gingery than I was expecting, but not in a bad way. Everyone agreed it was yummy (though secretly Julia and I were both thinking that the strawberry basil was better.)

Next week, we're really going to craft. I swear!

Week in Review: Lots of food, not a lot of pictures.

So. We were pretty good about planning our menu and sticking to it. However, we didn't do so well with remembering to take pictures. Here's a little summary of how the week turned out, food-wise.

Thursday: The Zucchini Tagliatelle was a tasty, light, crisp salad.

Zucchini Tagliatelle with Mint, Cucumber, and Lemon (click for recipe)

Fresh, well-seasoned, and a perfect thing to eat on a hot summer night, especially as it requires no hot oven. A little bit more time-consuming than we had anticipated, but worth it.

Friday: We were going to make a Roasted Shrimp and Peach salad, but I ended up having to work until about 8:30pm, so I ordered some Thai food and Julia ate pasta. Not a day for culinary masterpieces, at least in our house.

Saturday: We were back in the game with another favorite recipe from Real Simple, Lemon-Oregano Lamb Chops with Orzo. This is an easy recipe to make, but tastes very indulgent - I think because lamb kinda always tastes indulgent, doesn't it?

Lemon-Oregano Lamb Chops with Orzo (click for recipe)

The orzo and tomato is a really nice complement to the lamb. Also - this was the first time we made it with fresh (rather than dried) oregano, and it was really, really good.

Sunday: I hit the farmers' market early in the morning hoping to score some fresh strawberries and basil for my first ice cream experiment, and hopefully something for dinner. I came out with some red rubin basil and a pint of cherry tomatoes, but no strawberries were there to be had. So I picked some up from the grocery store and headed home.

We made a Greek Salad with Orzo and Black-Eyed Peas, from this recipe. I cheated a little bit and used the leftover orzo from the lamb chops in this salad, since both recipes had it paired with tomatoes, lemon juice, and pepper. It turned out really well. One thing about this recipe is that we had to hit up a chain store (Jewel/Dominicks) to get the canned (i.e. already cooked) black-eyed peas, as our favorite neighborhood markets only carried the bags of beans that need overnight soaking and cooking and we are far too lazy for that. I personally thought this salad was delicious - another easy, light summer meal. We ate it for lunch and then again for dinner. Julia was not too keen on the black-eyed peas, so we may use a different kind of bean if we make it again, but I personally loved them. I think it was the first time for both of us tasting black-eyed peas.

Enough about healthy food though - we need to talk about ice cream. On Friday, the ice cream maker attachment for my beloved Kitchen Aid mixer arrived, and we used this recipe from Scott over at The Improvised Chef [which if you aren't reading and you enjoy food, you should be. go on, I'll wait.] It was easy to do, and I'd bet even if you never made ice cream before you'd have no trouble churning this out.

Very, very yummy finished product:

Which brings us to Monday. Now if you'll remember on Friday we didn't make the shrimp. So we had that, and some leftover orzo. (Seriously, one pound is a *lot* of orzo. This is, in fact the *third* meal we've used that one batch in.) We also had some Belgian endives that we bought for a recipe which looked like it would be yummy but probably not enough food for a whole dinner. Which led to Julia making up this delightful dish, which paired the shrimp, endives, and orzo with pine nuts, dijon mustard, and a little bit of red wine vinegar.

And that wraps up the week.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tuesday night is craft night.

Generally, this means that a handful of us get together and work on whatever sewing and/or crafty projects we are currently working on. Of late, this has been largely focused on wedding-dress-making, and with the wedding and honeymoon actually happening this month, we have had the past couple weeks off. So, despite this being the final Tuesday of July, it was our first craft night of the month.

Here's what we accomplished:

Fine Art Trifecta: Eating, Drinking, and Discussing.
That's right - pretty much nothing. At least in terms of crafting. As it turned out, I (Cindy) was not the only one interested in socializing but completely unmotivated to actually craft last night. So, when Greta showed up toting two bottles of three buck Chuck and dark-chocolate-covered-almonds-with-sea-salt just as I pulled the slightly-too-melty brie with farmers' market sun gold tomato preserves out of the oven... the mentality went from "Maybe we'll start making shit when Greta gets here" to "Fuck it, let's eat, drink, and talk." Which makes this post totally allowed on the food blog. Except, of course, that we failed to get any pictures of the actual food. But trust me when I say Brie + Sun Gold Tomato Preserves + Crushed Almonds = Delicious. [In case you're wondering about those Sun Gold tomatoes, they're orange, they look a lot like apricot, and don't really taste much like what your brain says is tomato. But they're delish nonetheless. And really, really good on baked brie.]

Tonight, we experimented with Red Snapper, which neither of us had tried before. It was a tasty piece of fish, accompanied by rice, and topped with tomatoes, shallots, kalamata olives, and thyme. We did take pictures, but they didn't turn out very well - funky lighting or something, but here's a shot anyway:

Red Snapper with Thyme, Tomato, and Olives (Click for recipe)

Guess I'll have to do some learning about photographing food. Tasted good though. Up tomorrow is a Zucchini "Tagliatelle" with mint, cucumber, and lemon which sounds pretty good. Hopefully I'll do better with the camera so we can share.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Date Night: Plums

So here's how we got to tonight's meal:
  • Right after we got married, we decided that we'll have a date night on a weekly basis, during which we will try new recipes (except for once in a while, when we'll go out to eat instead.) 
  • One of the things we've discovered in the course of our food adventures in the past few years is that we love the combination of meat and fruit together.
  • Cindy has been scouring the internet for recipes as of late (especially ice cream! but we'll get to that next week when the ice cream maker arrives...) and has found many things that sound amazing.
  • We bought grass-fed pork loin chops at the farmers' market yesterday.
When we put those things together, we get Pork Chops with Warm Plum Sauce. We could describe it, but we're currently in a food coma from it, so we'll let the pictures speak for themselves:



Plums + Pork. (Click for recipe)

Plums + Pork + Improvised salad from yesterday's leftovers = Dinner.

Thank you, goodnight.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

farmers' market inspiration

On Sunday afternoon, we made our first trip ever to the Glenwood Sunday Market, the weekly farmers' market here in Rogers Park. Yes, we've lived here for two years already, and never been. Bad us. But, give us a little credit for finally getting our butts in gear.

We headed over intending to buy some produce for a nice, meatless dinner. However, as we arrived fairly late in the day, most of the veggies and all of the fruits had already been purchased. Which was sad. But - we did get a nice little bunch of garlic scapes. And we discovered a few different vendors selling local, grass-fed meat. We have some ideas in the works for later this week with that stuff, but tonight we bring you our inspired, veggie dish:

Seasoning and Grilling the Tomatoes

Dinner is served: Pan-Grilled Tomato and Feta Salad with Lemon-Parsley-Garlic Scape Dressing and Green Beans... (Click for recipe)

...accompanied by Fried Chickpea Patties - which, for the record, were much tastier than they appear. (Cindy's creation)

We also plotted a quick and delicious dessert - some fresh strawberries and homemade whipped cream!

Whipped Cream  - Cindy's recipe, everything is approximate/to taste: Whip 2 cups heavy cream, 2 tablespoons sugar (your choice granulated or powdered; I prefer granulated), and 1-2 teaspoons vanilla in a standing mixer with whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Swipe a fingerful and make sure it's good before feeding to others!

(How to eat fresh strawberries and whipped cream - straight from the bowl.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

home sweet home

After a whirlwind three days in Boston, we got home, exhausted. We both had to work first thing in the morning, so we pulled out this standby favorite from Real Simple. Julia hit the market on her way home, and shortly after Cindy returned from work, we enjoyed Steak with Crispy Potatoes, Broccoli Rabe, and Pistachio Pesto. Julia added some mushrooms to her plate (Cindy hates mushrooms.)

(Click for recipe)

This isn't a quick meal, but it is a yummy one. The pistachio pesto is particularly time consuming - more so this time because shelled pistachios were not available at the market, so Julia spent a while removing shells before she could do anything else. We like the pistachio pesto, as opposed to a traditional basil pesto, because good basil can be tricky to find, and the flat leaf parsley in this recipe is abundant and cheap!

So, we made a big batch of the pesto, and used it again the following night on a simple whole wheat pasta with shallots and some fava beans leftover from our most recent farmers' market trip. (Julia's creation)

Paired with the Crane Lake Malbec that happened to be buy one, get one free, this made a nice, quick and easy weeknight meal.

Monday, July 19, 2010

here come the brides

First, we got married. In Chicago. [July 5, 2010]

And held our simple, but lovely reception at RoPa Restaurant, where they served our guests a 3-course family-style meal, with plenty of wine to share...

Fried Calamari, RoPa Salad, Chicken "Chops" with roasted potatoes, Baked Tilapia with roasted tomatoes and seasonal vegetables, Penne with artichokes, olives, and feta in a creamy tomato sauce

...and where we also ate this magnificent cake (made and accidentally squished by Cindy)

Top tier: vanilla almond cake with fresh summer berries and pastry cream
Middle tier: devil's food cake with dark chocolate-espresso whipped cream
Bottom tier: pumpkin cake with ginger buttercream

Then we got married again. Legally. In Boston. [July 19, 2010]

Naturally, we ate again!

This time, we chose to splurge on a little French restaurant, Bistro du Midi, where for the first time we ate somewhere where professional chefs and true "foodies" would love the food just as much as we did.  We started out with a bottle of champagne (compliments of the restaurant - we did just get married, after all!), then had some appetizers of mussels, foie gras, and salad.  After much deliberation on the choice of wine, we were finally on to our main courses...

Seared Duck Breast, Swiss Chard, Gnocchi, Black Olives

Grilled Rack of Lamb, Panisse Croquette, Green Olives and Fava Beans

And our friend Rosita had a Ribeye special with Cremini, Chantarelle, and Portobello Mushrooms

...and also some desserts, which we scarfed down so fast we completely failed to photograph them. Cindy had Rhubarb Rose Crumble with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, and Julia had a Lemon Tart with Fresh Berries and Basil Ice Cream. Both were amazing. (Hence, the lack of pictures due to complete focus on eating.)

But this blog is just as much about our cooking adventures as our eating-out adventures.  In fact, so far this year we have eaten out more rarely than ever before, since our tastes have made us much more discriminating.  Plus, we love to cook, and have become pretty good at it, too.

So now that our wedding and mini-honeymoon are over, there are daily occasions to cook and eat great food.

And so begins our journey.