Not to overstate the obvious, but this doctorate sure takes up ALL of my time! I miss this space, though.
I realize that part of why I don't post more often is that I feel badly about the quality of my pictures. Since I usually find myself cooking late at night my lighting is the pits. Not to mention that the form and composition of my photos leave a bit to be desired. But that won't get better without practice, right?
Anyway, Fred and I just had new headshots taken by our most awesome friend, Rachel. This woman is seriously amazing. I love that we have engagement pics, wedding pics, and now these headshots marking every October for the past three years. Quality photos are key, and finding Rachel was such a blessing. So here's the evidence that we are, indeed, alive and well. Till next time.
Not to overstate the obvious, but this doctorate sure takes up ALL of my time! I miss this space, though.
at 1:08 AM
Did you know that peaches grow well in New England? I seriously didn't. I always associated them with the south. But I've been researching pick-your-own apple farms in the area, and everyone has peaches right now. Peaches, and late season raspberries. Craziness! Naturally, I had to go see for myself what this was all about.
Fred and I picked a rainy morning to head down and try out a farm. Well, we didn't pick the rain, it's been raining non-stop and we're running out of free mornings, so we went anyway. I won't say much about the farm, because it honestly wasn't that great. But indeed, they did have peach trees and we snagged an awesome ton of little peaches.
These guys were all on the small side, and the pits weren't proportionately smaller. Some of them were freestone, but a lot of them weren't. So we spent an awful long time slicing the peaches off their pits. But oh, the smell! Man, I don't know what grocery stores are hawking these days, but they sure don't smell like peaches quite like these did. And the taste! Every sweet juicy bite had us grinning like fools.
And then we made more peach jam than I can shake a stick at. Vanilla bourbon peach jam, to be precise, because with a name like that I couldn't resist. I adjusted this recipe a bit, and while mine didn't come out all beautiful and bright orange like the original, it still tastes like joy.
Here's my recipe. I used Pomona's Universal Pectin, which allows for double batches and way less sugar. This is a rough amalgamation of the suggested recipe inside the box and my inspiration. Note that other pectins will have you add the sugar and the pectin at different stages in the process. Be sure to scale the recipe and follow the instructions from your pectin of choice!
Vanilla Bourbon Peach Jam
(makes about 11 cups)
8 c. chopped peaches (yield from that basket up there)
6 T lime juice
1/2 vanilla bean pod, halved and scraped
pectin as per the instruction in the box
3 c. sugar
1/4 c. bourbon (Jim Beam Black)
2 t. almond extract
Prepare your peaches as you'd like. (We didn't peel ours, and just chopped them roughly as we pitted them. One batch we blended into submission with a hand blender. The other batch we smashed with a potato masher, and later decided to blend partially. Do whatever works for you.) Mix in a giant pot with the lime juice, seeds from your vanilla bean pod, and the calcium water if required by your pectin. Bring this mess to a boil, stirring quickly enough to not get splattered. Next, as per Pomona's instructions, add the sugar and pectin and return to a boil, still stirring carefully. Remove from heat and pour in the bourbon and almond extract. Contemplate as to whether this delicious boozy stew might just be the cure for the common cold. Pour into sterilized jars and set into a hot water bath to boil for 10 minutes. Remove the jars, and listen for that tell-tale ping of sweet success :)
at 8:58 PM
I realize this looks like a big pile of potatoes and mush with tomato sauce on top. It's scrambled tortillas from Moskowitz's Vegan Brunch, and even she says it's hard to photograph. Any picture of it at all is conspicuously missing from the cookbook. (Side note - I just found this recipe and about 20 pages of Vegan Brunch on Google Books!)
Scrambled tortillas are basically a pile of sauteed onions, jalapenos and corn tortillas that you cook with blended tofu till it turns awesome, mix with steamed potatoes, and top with a spiced tomato sauce. Yum. As Fred said, it's like getting all wrapped up inside a warm enchilada and then eating it. I could totally see a person making this with a few eggs instead of the tofu, adding other veggies, or topping with guacamole. Although unphotogenic, it's way tasty.
at 5:33 PM
Oh hi! How's your summer been? I just got back from a month teaching and coaching and performing and recording at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute with Bala Brass. Man, that was a whirlwind of a time! It was pretty fantastic, but I'm glad to be back in my own home again. Seriously, I missed my kitchen.
I realize my last 3 posts have been at least somewhat about food. This year I've discovered that my love for cooking is way stronger than I ever imagined. It's kind of over the top. Fred says that if I keep it up he's going to die fat and happy. Nothing is quite as rewarding as playing my horn, thank goodness, but cooking is quickly becoming my other first love. There's only one tricky detail. We're dietary vegans. Now this poses no problems as far as I'm concerned, but I realize that "vegan foodie" might come across as an oxymoron. So I thought I would spend some time on the subject.
Fred and I were vegetarians before we met each other, and decided to go vegan between Thanskgiving and Christmas of 2005. We like to say that we eat things that come from the earth rather than listing the things we don't eat. But that being said, we avoid meats, fish, eggs, and dairy products. We eat this way for purely selfish reasons, just because we feel good when we do. It's not an animal rights thing for us so we still wear wool and leather. For that matter, we still eat honey. We try not to proselytize and we certainly aren't offended by others cooking or eating meat around us. When we aren't in control of our cooking we're flexible as necessary, and we're extra flexible when desert is involved. As much as being vegan makes me feel good, sometimes a treat from the coffee shop feels good too!
Eating vegan doesn't feel hugely limiting to us. A lot of foods in this world happen to fall under the vegan heading. Heck, even Oreos are vegan! It means a lot of label reading and a lot of cooking, but it feels good so it's worth it to us. It's also pushed me to be creative in the kitchen, something that might not have happened without the "limitations" of our diet. But we eat some awesome and tasty foods, so I thought I would start to share that here.
Tonight I made my first attempts at a galette. Two galettes, actually. Deb over at Smitten Kitchen made this beautiful zucchini galette a while back, and I haven't been able to get it out of my mind. I wanted so badly to make one at Tanglewood. We even lived next to a farmer who sold his vegetables from a stand in his front yard. He always had such a pile of zucchinis. But of all things, our kitchen wasn't stocked with measuring cups. Cheap as I am, I spent the entire month cooking what I could without measuring cups. Ugh. Then when we got home the zucchinis at the grocery store looked pathetic in comparison and I couldn't bring myself to get a single one. But yesterday we were out visiting family in Western Mass, and they were trying to get rid of the extra zucchinis from their garden! Score on the zucchinis.
Then there's the matter of the crust. I'm habitually wary of pie crusts. My mom didn't make a ton of pies while I was growing up, and I've botched a few since then, so I just don't have a great working relationship with pie crusts. But yesterday I was flipping through one of my mom's old Cooking Light cookbooks and I found a recipe for greek baking-powder piecrust. It uses olive oil so it's accidentally vegan, and the book describes it as easy-to-make and convenient. Awesome.
I used the tofu basil ricotta recipe from Veganomicon, added some sliced tomatoes and my zucchini, and here's what we've got. I can't wait to dig into this guy. And the pie crust recipe makes two crusts, so I tossed some leftover farm stand peaches we had lying around into the other one. Instant desert.
So there you have it, the first installation of "what we eat." I'm hoping my posts come more frequently these days, but I'm guessing they'll come with more pictures and fewer words as school starts. I'm going to cook up a storm while I still can!
at 11:10 PM
We devoted yesterday to staycation. First there was a quick shopping trip, then a picnic and swimming at Walden Pond, finishing the first half of a pair of socks, and my first experience with the tennis courts across the street from our new apartment. Let's just say, I'm not a natural at tennis. But cookies afterwards, that I'm good at.
I did go ahead and order the cookbooks I've been hankering after. Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero are my heros, and their Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar is worth every cent. I was skeptical at first; I'm a decent cook and I can handle cookies. But every recipe so far has been unlike anything I could conjure up on my own. These are their Chocolate Fudgy Oatmeal Cookies, complete with dried cherries, and they're phenomenal. We've also made the Peanut Butter Chocolate Pillows, Citrus Glitters, and Blueberry Spice Crumb Bars. I think blondies or biscotti are up next. Mmm, cookies.
at 10:58 PM
I like asparagus only barely as well as the next person, so when I read the enthusiasm on smitten kitchen over a shaved asparagus pizza I was skeptical. How could asparagus, or ass-pra-gas as we call it at our house, somehow be improved by shaving it? And no, I can't fathom a raw shaved asparagus salad being tasty. Nevertheless, I found myself at Whole Foods the other day, hungry and without a shopping list, and the asparagus called to me. It's hard to go wrong with a pizza, so I tried it.
My crust came from the focaccia recipe in Veganomicon. If you don't have Veganomicon and you're halfway interested in vegan recipes, or any good recipes for that matter, I beg of you to get it. Everything I've made from this cookbook has landed somewhere on the scale between good and amazing. The same could be said for Vegan Brunch and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by the same authors. I'm dying to get my hands on their other two cookbooks, but I haven't figured out a good excuse before Christmas. Those cookbooks have changed my life. All that aside, my crust was as tasty as I had expected.
On top of that I layered olive oil, thinly sliced potatoes and tomatoes, my shaved asparagus, a little more sprayed olive oil, and sea salt. I would have added an avocado if I had one, but I honestly think that might have been too much. Coming from the girl who eats avocados straight out of the peel with a spoon, that's saying something. The combination of the asparagus and potatoes somehow turned out buttery, creamy, salty, and delicious. I don't know how it happened, but this pizza was awesome. Now I'm glad that I still have some asparagus left over to try raw, and more pizza dough if all else fails. Yum.
at 9:16 PM
Do you like food? Have you ever browsed the pages upon pages of deliciousness at smitten kitchen? Far too often I find myself transfixed by her photos, and wishing her recipes could all happen to be vegan. No such luck on that vegan detail; curse the miraculous wonders of eggs and butter. Most recently I've been inspired by her everyday cakes, so I'm taking it upon myself to find, modify, or invent some decent vegan recipes.
This recipe turned out quite nicely. I only used 2 tbsps vegan butter, and added 2 tbsps applesauce and 2 tbsps vegan yogurt. She also doesn't say how much sugar to put in the cake batter, so I guesstimated and went with 1/2 cup. I baked it in a 9" cake pan, and the thing totally overflowed and smoked up my poor oven. That was the only pitfall, though. Despite my sub-par photography skills, this cake was bright and beautiful when it popped out of the pan, and the taste and texture were awesome. I'll definitely be making this guy again.
I'm going to take just a couple of lines here and sum up my 6 months of absence. Here goes:
- Some time in January I decided I needed a doctorate, picked a school and found an awesome teacher, applied and prepared an audition, bombed said audition, cried giant tears over my crushed dreams, and then got accepted.
- During the middle of that process, Fred and I were informed that our landlords wanted to sell our apartment as a condo and would not extend our lease. The clock was ticking, so we found a place within a week and moved within a month, all during the busy season.
- Despite my aforementioned love of cake, I've managed to drop a decent chunk of weight in the past few months. Yay for taking charge of my life! I'll say more about it some day if I ever reach "goal," whatever that turns out to be.
- My sister had her baby!
- My Dad and step-mom drove up from Texas to visit with us and then to meet the new baby! They were on the road for a 28 day round trip, and it was so good to host them at our new apartment.
- Base miles have been logged and marathon training has begun so that I might conquer that elusive first marathon.
- We went to see Fred's brother in Minneapolis. I had never been, and now I want to move. We'll see what happens in 3 years, after I finish this doctorate.
- The quintet landed a new tuba player. He landed a job in China 2 months later.
- The quintet landed a new new tuba player. He rocks.
- The quintet's trombone player landed a job in Japan. He leaves in September. We're hugely excited for he and his wife, and hugely sad for our loss.
- The quintet landed a gig as an Ensemble in Residence at Tanglewood this summer, coaching for their Young Artists Wind Ensemble!
- The year has nearly ended, I've wrapped up a significant amount of my teaching and playing to focus on school, and summer is nearly upon us. Thank goodness!
I think that's the most of it, in a nutshell. I'm looking forward to finding center again this summer, remembering how to relax, and exploring new projects. This year has been a doozy, that's for sure. It's a goal to be here more often too. Probably with cake :)
at 11:43 PM