Mushroom Adventures : They are growing!

IMG_3763 It’s working!! This simple box of soil and “mold” is doing what it promised to do:     grow mushrooms!

I did my part. I religiously came home from work and misted this mysterious box of soil, not really sure if this was just a well thought out plan to scam people into buying boxes of dirt or if something would actually come of it.  I came home tonight, picked up my mister bottle and found MUSHROOMS GROWING!!!

Very exciting.  While there are only a couple, little tiny mushrooms, they are proof that good things, bigger mushrooms and delicious mushroom recipes to are come.

IMG_3764 Keep growing little ones!


Simple French Bread


When I say “simple” French bread you have to understand that bread is not hard, per se, to make.  Continuing along the easy-but-time-consuming road I’ve been cooking along lately, bread is easy, but takes a good day to make.  Cold grey Saturdays in February are pretty much perfect for this. 

My grandfather used to make bread on a regular basis.  Not being a morning person, I never understood why he wanted to get up at 5:30 AM to start making bread.  I get it now.  It’s fun and so rewarding. (Not to mention the warm yeasty smell makes your house/apartment smell cozy and delicious.) While I did not get up before dawn to start this bread it did take me most of the day. 

I had researched for a few days reading multiple food blogs and cookbooks trying to find a relatively easy bread recipe to try.  No sense in picking a complicated recipe with a high risk of failure.  I really want to get into bread making so I needed this to be a positive experience.  After much clicking and page turning I decided on a recipe from Thibeault’s Table.  The quote on his blog says “recipes are meant to be shared” so I figured he wouldn’t mind, and would actually be flattered, if I used his recipe.  Only after I started the bread did I realize it was a Julia Child recipe he had used.  I clearly know how to recognize quality!

Here it goes!

French Bread

As found on Thibeault’s Table – Adapted from Julia Child’s recipe


1 package dry active yeast
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups cold water plus 1/3 or so additional water (in case you need it… I didn’t)

What I liked about this recipe is that I could use a food processor to initially mix the ingredients. I don’t have a standing mixer so it facilitated things a bit.



Put the flour, yeast and salt into your food processor and pulse it until it looks combined.  (Make sure to put the lid on or flour will go everywhere.  Trust me.) 

Through the hole at the top of your lid add the 1 1/3 cups of water and mix until it forms a ball.  This happens relatively quickly.  Mix for about 60 seconds and then let the ball rest for about 5 minutes in the mixer’s bowl. 

Turn the mixer back on and let the ball rotate around your machine about 30 times.  I realized this was hard to count so I just let it got for a couple minutes and then turned the machine off.

Let the dough rest for about 2 minutes (or about as long as you can stand it) and then take it out of the mixer bowl and knead it “vigorously”.  I can just see Julia Child saying this.


This dough will not be sticky.  It should have a nice elasticity to it.  If this is the case when you are trying, well done!  I at least, was excited.


1st rise: 

Place the dough in a clean, un-oiled bowl (some recipes call for oiling a bowl but this one doesn’t) and cover it with plastic wrap. 

IMG_3721 Let it rise for about 40-60 minutes at around 75 degrees.  You know the dough has risen enough with it is about twice its original size.  My grandfather used to place his dough on top of the stove.  He would turn on the oven so the stove would stay nice and warm.  Worked for him so I gave it a try.

 Deflating: (this sounded fun to me)

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it out into a 14 inch rectangle.  Take one long side and fold it into the middle.  Take the other long side and fold it onto the first side to make 3 layers of dough.  Repeat this process a few times.  This apparently re-distributes the yeast. 

IMG_37242nd rise: 

Return the dough to your bowl, smooth side down, and let it rise another hour to 2 hours until it has rise 2-3 times its original size.  This step took much longer than 2 hours for me.  More like 3.5 hours. I’m sure it will be different each time you make it.  Patience.  It’s worth it.


At this point in the recipe is where I want to disagree Thibeault or gasp Julia Child.  The recipe calls for taking the dough out of the bowl and shaping it into two rectangles.  I followed the recipe, which gave me two smaller loafs of bread, but I question if this is really necessary.  What if I just want one large loaf?  Next time I might skip the “cutting” step and just shape the bread. 

Shaping and last rising:

Cut the dough in half.  Cover one half with a towel while you work with the other half.  Just like the previous step, pat the dough into a 14 inch rectangle.  Fold your rectangle in half lengthwise.  Seal the edges firmly with the palm of your hand.  Repeat with the second half.

Cover both little loaves with a towel and let it rise until it doubles in size, again.  What did I tell you about this being a time consuming project?

IMG_3728I can’t say my little loafs look all that glamorous but they ended up looking “rustic” and when it comes to bread that is just fine!

While these little ones are rising for the last time, place a baking stone, or cookie sheet in my case, in the oven and pre-heat it to 450 degrees.

Slash 3 long cuts into your bread and place them in the oven.  You are almost done!!

Bake for about 30 minutes or until the internal temperature is 200 degrees and your bread is golden brown.  FINISHED! 

IMG_3734 This bread was great as a snack with butter and honey, or with the fool proof Nutella or for breakfast as toast!  I have to say it was really fun to take my very own bread out of the refrigerator for breakfast every morning. (Yes, don’t forget to refrigerate this bread. This is not bread from the store that can sit out because it is full of preservatives.  This is home made, preservative free, delicious bread.  Please refrigerate or it will get moldy.)



Man-Catcher Brownies

IMG_3738 I was sitting at my desk telling my co-worker how much I was craving brownies and she mentioned having made a brownie recipe she found in the Washington Post a few years ago. 
_“You should make them!” she said.  “Put them outside your door and see what you catch”. 
Why not give it a try!  In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here are my “man-catcher” brownies.
Man-Catcher Brownies
Originally found in the Washington Post on February 7, 2007
12 ounces (3 sticks) of butter – I never said this was a low-fat recipe!
2 cups of cocoa powder, sifted
6 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups packed light brown suger ( I used dark brown sugar)
2 tbs vanilla extra
1 tps salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper and butter the bottom of the pan/parchment paper. (I wouldn't skip this step.  I have a feeling my brownies would not have come out of the pan otherwise.)
Melt your butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and add the cocoa powder and stir it until it becomes a beautiful dark chocolate sauce.  Let it cool a bit.IMG_3701 In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, then add the sugars and vanilla extract. Add your butter/chocolate mixture, then fold in the flour and salt until just combined.
IMG_3704  Spread the batter evenly in the pan, making sure the corners are filled. This is a THICK batter (no kidding.. with all those eggs and butter!) Really work it into those corners!
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes.  Do the old toothpick test just to make sure they are done.
Not sure if they will catch any men but these sure are some serious brownies!
IMG_3716 IMG_3736
Happy Valentine’s Day !


Mushroom adventures begin!

My mushroom adventures have begun!  I’m a few days late posting this because I’ve been distracted by the ridiculous winter weather we’ve been having these past few days.

I waited until February 7th to open my mushroom box, as instructed.  I’ll update all you readers (or my family and few friends who actually read this) and let you know how this “adventure” goes!

IMG_3661 Box of moldy soil: Yes

Bag of more soil: Yes

Instructions to turn box and bag into mushrooms: Yes!

Here we go!

Take the bag of soil and pour water into it.  Mix it up and pour it over the moldy soil.

IMG_3665IMG_3666I look a little confused.  We’ll see if this actually works!

Next: gently pat the wet soil down and “scrape” the top to create little microclimates for the mushrooms to grown in.

Mist the soil daily to keep it moist. 


All I have to do is wait now!  Updates to come once a week.


Light Winter Dinner

IMG_3710 When you think snowy winter night you usually think of pasta dishes or risotto, roasted vegetables or soup.  The last thing I wanted for dinner last night was a heavy meal.  I had leftover kale from the kale chips Anne and I made for the SuperBowl.  I haven’t been grocery shopping in a while due to the massive amounts of snow DC has gotten in the last week.  I do have the basics though: Eggs and onions!

Poached Eggs over Kale


One small bunch of Kale (I used 3 large leaves)

Half a small onion, chopped finely

Eggs (I used two because I was hungry!)

1/4 cup of chicken broth (optional but it adds flavor)



Wash the kale and tear it up a little bit (the leaves are pretty big).  Chop up your onion and sauté it in a little olive oil.  Once the onions are almost translucent add the kale and the chicken broth and cover to let the leaves steam.  This won’t take very long, about 5 minutes.  Check the pan occasionally to make sure all the chicken broth hasn’t evaporated or the kale and onions will burn!  The kale will turn a beautiful deep green and the onions will caramelize a bit.

Meanwhile, heat up water to a simmer in another sauté pan.  Crack your egg (or eggs) on a plate making sure you keep the yolk whole.  Carefully slide the eggs into the water and turn up the heat so you have a slow boil.  Poach your eggs for a few minutes, until the white is no longer liquid and the top of the yolk is slightly white, but not cooked through.

Transfer the kale and onions to a plate and then carefully take your poached eggs out of the water with a slotted spoon and place over the greens. 

Break open the eggs and let the yolk ooze out.  Delicious!  Enjoy!

I made this dinner two nights in a row.  It’s so flavorful and delicious and you can make it in 10 minutes!  If you want a little extra something you can grate a little parmesan cheese on top.  Yum!

IMG_3713 IMG_3711 Poached eggs and a wine.  Perfect light dinner before “blizzard 2010 – round 2”


Snowmageddon, the aftermath: Brunch and a walk in the snow.

I woke up on Sunday to bright blue sky and a beautiful post-blizzard day and a phone call from my friend Anne who wanted to know if I wanted to go out for brunch.  Of course!
I had been wanting to try a new restaurant on 14th street for a while and luckily they also serve brunch.  Perfect!
Snow boots? Check! Big puffy snow jacket? Check!  Masa 14? Check!masa 14 logo
Masa 14 just opened up a few months ago to great reviews (at least from a few of my friends).  It’s a low key latin/asian fusion restaurant with modern decor and the longest bar I’ve ever seen!
IMG_3676I was really in the mood for fresh flavors and my wish was their command.  The plates are small and they recommend ordering a few dishes per person.  We ordered 5 and shared them!
First on deck: 2 different kinds of flatbreads.  One with avocado, peppers and mushrooms, the other with Serrano ham, cantaloupe and truffle oil.  Both delicious!
IMG_3671 The pepper and avocado flatbread had slices of fresh hot pepper on them.  I usually don’t order spicy food but this was a wonderful combination of smoothness from the avocado and freshness from the hot peppers that it worked really well.
The ham, melon and arugula flatbread was a fun take on the familiar “melon and prosciutto” dish.
Next was a seaweed and jicama salad.
IMG_3673 We then had our own “entrees”.  I had a poached egg over brioche with spinach, peppers and a hollandaise sauce. By the time I got to this dish I wasn’t as hungry and I probably should have been.  Oh brunch… eyes were bigger than the stomach once again!
After an amazing (and very filling brunch) we both thought a serious walk downtown to see the snow was in order.
Enjoy the “day after the snow” pictures!
IMG_3678 IMG_3680
Someone had some fun!
IMG_3685Photo-op with the White House snow family and Anne!
IMG_3688  IMG_3692 IMG_3695
It’s snowing again tonight.  They are predicting close to 10 inches. I guess this snow isn’t going anywhere anytime soon!


Thomas Keller’s “Grapefruit” Cake


What does one do with 6 oranges, naked, just sitting there in bowl after I peeled them for candied orange rind??  Find a recipe that uses the flesh of an orange!  I wasn’t looking very long before I found a recipe for a citrus cake.  My mother gave me Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home cookbook a few weeks ago so I went to that book first.  What luck… he has a grapefruit cake recipe.  What uses grapefruit can use orange I’m sure.  Problem solved!IMG_3579

I made a cake similar to this one a while ago but this recipe is slightly different and it’s a Thomas Keller recipe so it pretty much has to be good right?

Grapefruit Cake”

Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home


For the cake:

2 cups of all purpose flower

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 2/3 cup of granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

3/4 cups of canola oil (I used equal amounts of apple sauce.  Apple sauce is healthier and keeps the cake just as moist. Upgrade!)

1tbls grapefruit zest (I actually used grapefruit and not orange here. I’m sure you could completely substitute all things grapefruit in this recipe with orange but I thought I would mix the two and call the cake “citrus”.)

1 tsp vanilla paste ( I just used vanilla extract.  Sorry TK I didn’t make your vanilla paste ahead of time) 


For the “grapefruit” aka orange syrup:

1 cup strained fresh pink grapefruit juice (or orange juice in my case)

2/3 cup granulated sugar

“Grapefruit” Icing:

I used clementines here.  Might as well through another citrus fruit into the mix!

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 tbs plus 1tsp fresh pink grapefruit juice (or clementine juice in my case)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  The recipe calls for one 10x4 inch loaf pan but I had regular, small, loaf pans so I used two of them.  Spray you pans with oil or butter them up!

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside. 

In another bowl combine the sugar and eggs in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer.  Mix for about 3 minutes or until the mixtures is thick enough to leave a trail behind the mixing “wisks”. 

Next, beat in the milk, the oil (or the applesauce in my case), grapefruit zest and the vanilla.  Once all wet ingredients are well incorporated slowly add the dry ingredients that you mixed together in the first bowl.

Pour the mixture into both loaf pans.  Keller says to score the top of the batter with a knife and make a 3/4 inch “slice” into the batter to give the cakes a nice little crack on the top once it has baked.  I did this and didn’t really see what he was talking about but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a try!  Score away.

Bake the cakes for an hour or until your toothpick comes out clean.


While you cakes are baking make the citrus syrup to pour on top of the cake once it comes out of the oven.

Combine the citrus juice and sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat just until the sugar has dissolved.

IMG_3587As soon as you take the cakes out of the oven take a long skewer (or the candy thermometer like I did.. it was the only long, clean “stick” I could find – chopsticks would work well too) and poke the cakes with 3/4 inch deep holes.  These will help the syrup that you are gently pouring over the cakes seep in.  IMG_3589 Let the cakes cool for about 15 minutes then remove them from the pan.  Pour the icing over the cakes and you’re finished!


As a kid my mom would fix my sister and me pound cake with yogurt as a snack after we came home from school.  This is sort like pound cake, so why not try it with yogurt?!


Citrus/yogurt sandwich!  Amazing.

Candied Orange Peel

I know this is usually a Christmas tradition, at least in Europe, but I figured it's still citrus season so I can make them. 

Chocolate and Orange is a classic combination but I'll be honest and say it hasn't always been one of my favorites.  I found this recipe on yujai.blogspot.com and it looked so fresh and delicious that I had to try it.  There is something very appealing about the thought of my apartment filled with the smell of citrus peel cooking away on the stove.

"candied" anything sounds like it would be complicated to make.  As it turns out complicated is the wrong word, "time consuming" is more like it (this seems to be a trend lately with the dishes I choose to make).

Chocolate Covered Candied Orange Peel
adapted from Yujai's recipe
6 Navel Oranges (this makes a LOT of orange peel. Looking back I would have used half this number)
4 cups of sugar (don't forget to reduce the amount of sugar and water based on the number of oranges you use)
1 1/2 cups of water

All parts of this recipe are time consuming, I'm warning you.

First, peel the oranges by cutting 1/4 slices into the fruit, cutting the orange peel into quarters.  (set the flesh of the orange aside for use in another recipe.  I made a citrus cake!)  Cut the quarters of orange peel into small 1/4 inch strips.

 Put the peel in a large pot and cover it with cold water.  Bring the water to a boil, let it cook for a couple minutes and then strain the water out and do it all over again, twice.  I'm going to have to do a little research but I'm thinking this removes impurities and wax that might have been on the rind. You really do see a lot of cloudy water go down the drain.

Strain the now soft and a bit translucent peel into a bowl and set aside for a minute.

Mix the sugar and water together over medium heat and let the mixture cook.  The recipe calls for 8-9 minutes or when your candy thermometer reaches 230 degrees.  I found that it took more like 15 minutes.  I'm sure it all depends on the stove you have.  

Add the peel and lower the heat to a simmer.  Let the pot cook for 45 minutes (I left them on for an hour because I got caught up on the phone with my sister! No harm done).

Cover the underneath of a cooling rack with foil to catch sugar drips and gently lay the strips on the rack to cool and dry. They will still be pretty hot.  You have been warned!
Let the strips dry for 2-3 days.  You can either be finished now, and pack them into a container on wax paper to prevent them from sticking, or you can cover them in chocolate!

To cover in chocolate:
Melt chocolate, dip, set to dry again. Easy!