Wednesday, October 31, 2012

After the Hurricane...Happy Halloween!

So, Hurricane Sandy blew through our state, and plenty of surrounding others.  Despite some damage around campus:

One of the graduate apartments on campus.

Our apartments survived safe and sound.  Our power went out for a mere half hour (thanks to the small power plant on campus), the hospital's generators are working fine, and I'm incredibly lucky to have stocked up on groceries last Sunday.  About 90% of Long Island is currently without power, the subways are flooded and many schools (including ours) wound up being closed for a week while crews are hard at work clearing roads, patching up power lines and restoring networks.  I wish everyone affected by the storm a speedy and full recovery!

Still, it's Halloween today, so I leave you all with this: Caramel Corn.  Quick, requiring few ingredients and less fuel, it cheered us all up in less time than it took to cool :)

Oddly addictive.  I think this is one of the best party treats ever.  
Now, if I only ever went to parties...

Caramel Corn straight from the flames of It's on Fire!!!
Makes about 2 quarts of popcorn

3 tablespoons unpopped popcorn kernels or 2 quarts of fresh microwave popcorn
2 tablespoons oil or butter
cup granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons salted butter
¾ teaspoon salt

2 medium pots (1 to pop the corn, 1 to make the caramel)
1 light baking sheet or pot cover with steam holes
1 large cookie sheet or 2 medium ones (to hold to popcorn)
Parchment paper to line the cookie sheet
1 rubber spatula
¼ teaspoon measure
1 tablespoon measure 
⅓ cup dry measure


1. Lay a piece of parchment paper on the cookie sheet.  You will put the popcorn here.

2. Pop the popcorn.  If on the stove, heat up the oil in the pot until it bubbles around a single corn kernel.  Add the rest of the corn, cover and shake lightly, until the corn begins to pop.  Leave it on the stove until the popping slows down substantially, then take it off the stove.  By now, the pot will be full or almost full of popped corn!  Pour it out onto the prepared cookie sheet.

2. In the second pot, add the sugar in an even layer.  Turn the fire to medium and cook, stirring as little as possible, until lightly caramelized.  David Lebovitz has a wonderfully helpful tutorial here.

3. Once the sugar has melted and caramelized, take it off the heat and add the butter.  Be very careful, because it will begin to splutter.  Stir it or swirl it gently, until completely melted.  Add the salt and stir until it dissolves.

5. Add as much of the popcorn as will fit in the pan, and gently stir to coat.  Pour out most of the popcorn from the top onto the parchment paper, leaving some of the leftover caramel in the bottom.  Pour in the rest of the popcorn, and stir again to coat, until all the popcorn is coated.  Allow the popcorn to cool until crisp, then enjoy! 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thankful Thursday - My Weekly Bread

I'd like to brag a little here.  Now, I realize that having a blog featuring items I make seems a lot like bragging already, but please work with me here.  I figured this out because class that starts at 1:00pm is not as late in the day as it sounds, especially if you've spent the morning chipping away at a difficult problem set, dense article or research paper.  I figured this out because packing your own lunch requires planning, and sometimes, last night's dinner didn't have leftovers.  I figured this out because I ran out of eggs, and made it anyway.  Guess what?

I can make a bread dough in 15 minutes!  Can you?  Want to?  Fully assembled, rising, dishes washed and back to your homework in 15 minutes?  Here's how:

Gather about 3 cups of flour, at least one of which is bread flour.  I like 2 cups whole wheat and 1 cup bread flour.  Dump it into a big bowl and toss in a teaspoon and a half of salt, a teaspoon of active dry yeast and a third cup of olive oil.  Don't fret about the oil amount, something like what would comfortably fit in your cupped hands will do.  Maybe a little bit less, especially if you have large hands.  Yes, that's good.  Add about a cup of water.  For this bread, throw out your notions of baking requiring precise measurements, and toss it in.  You'll adjust it as you go, anyway.  Now grab a wooden spoon and mix it all up.  Add a little water or flour if it seems too dry or wet.  See how it's starting to resist your spoon?  Let it sit and go do the dishes that have piled up in your sink from you and your apartment mates cooking and also being exhausted.  

Looks like a blob, doesn't it?

Stir it some more.  You'll see that it's become a nice, stretchy, smooth ball of dough already, just from your stirring.  Tired?  That was your arm workout for the week.  Cover the bowl and let it sit for 8 hours.  8 hours, you say?  When do I have 8 hours?!  Oh, well, do you sleep?  No?  Go to school or work?  No?  Clean the house, look for a job, etc.?  No?  Oh, boy.  Go play your video games, then.  Come back in 8 hours.

I let it rise too much by accident, which explains the wrinkles on the sides.  I tried to shape it more into
what it should look like if your apartment isn't oddly warm because the school finally turned on the heat...
The dough will have doubled nicely.  Dig out your 9"x5" loaf pan, or something similarly-sized.  Grease it with a little butter, turn the bowl upside down over it, and wrangle the dough into shape in the pan.  Now let it sit for a couple more hours.  

From plop to puffy!

Also, I am constantly experimenting with this bread, although I am satisfied with
the version I offer you today.  In this case, I was trying to get a taller loaf, and tried
adding a half cup of whole wheat flour, adding water to adjust for the extra flour.

When you come back and it's approximately the size of the pan, preheat the oven to 400°F.  Bake the thing for 30 minutes.  Check that out, you made bread!

I repeat this procedure about once a week and basically live off it for quick breakfasts, lunches, snacks, etc.  This loaf has a nice wheat flavor and marvelous texture, with a thin, crisp crust and a slightly chewy, bouncy crumb.  I bet it'd take additions marvelously, like cheese, apples, beer, or all three :)

My Weekly Bread adapted rather heavily from tasteofhome
(You might notice that it no longer resembles the recipe much!)
Makes about 1.5 lb loaf 


2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast (although I probably use instant, and just don't notice) 
cup oil
1 cup water


1 large mixing bowl with a lid or a clean, damp towel
1 wooden spoon
1 cup dry measure
1 teaspoon measure (eyeball the salt, it's only a flavoring here)
2-cup liquid measure (optional; I eyeball the oil and water, too!)
1 rubber spatula (optional)
9"x5" loaf pan (or pan of your choice, but adjust the baking time)
Butter to grease the pan


1. Toss everything in the bowl and knead/stir to make a smooth, stretchy, pliable dough.  If it becomes tough to stir, let it sit for a few minutes and come back.  Cover and leave to rise for 8 hours, or until doubled in size.  If your place is warm, check back in 6.

2. Lightly grease your loaf or other pan.  Form a ball or oval blob of dough and fit it into the pan.  This is when your rubber spatula will come in handy.  Allow to rise another 2 hours, or until it almost fills the pan.

3. Preheat the oven to 400°F and bake at 400
°F for 30 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before slicing, so the texture does not become odd and sticky.  Enjoy! 

Very few things are not improved with the addition of butter.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thankful Thursday - Barley

I've fallen in love with a new grain, or an old one, I guess.  Typically brewed into beer or fed to cows or horses, it is sometimes malted to mix with milkshakes for an old-fashioned flavor.  I love it best cooked, though, a handful tossed into my soup or boiled to mix into an eggplant dish.  

And speaking of such things... I made soup!  From scratch, simmered for a half hour, vegetarian (of course), even vegan soup, if I felt like olive oil rather than butter that day.  I've made three pots so far, each better than the last, and a joyous eggplant baked thing with barley, inspired by various sources and particularly, Smitten Kitchen.  Hers is much more luxurious, with cheese and pasta instead of my plain barley, but I will humbly submit mine into the running.  

I never took pictures of my soup, mostly because I didn't expect to be blogging again anytime soon.  My research has ramped up exponentially, my homework load doubled and with three midterms expected in the next three weeks, I had vowed earlier this semester to take a break from blogging.  This was mostly influenced by my failure to keep up my Korea blog (which still harbors ambitions to be caught up one day) and even this one.  I had meant to continuously document my meals in Korea, but I became overwhelmed by the sheer number, variety and quality.  

And so my blog becomes, as it really always was, a tiny snapshot into my life at various times when I can spare a moment.  It had dreams of becoming like Kirbie's Cravings or use real butter or even David Lebovitz, although I don't have the discipline to post everyday, nor do I have the writing talent of these amazing people.  Instead, it will simply be, a pure reflection of sometimes confused bits and pieces that I choose to share.  If you are still here, thank you, for coming.  Thank you for coming back, or just being curious and poking into my little corner of the giant, giant web.

Yes, I pack my lunch everyday.  This was an awesome lunch.

Eggplant and Barley heavily adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes enough to fill a 9" x 13" pan

2 lb. eggplant, diced into ¾" cubes
Salt for the eggplants, maybe ½ a tablespoon? 
¾ cup barley 
~¼ cup olive oil (I used a few short pours into the pot) 
½ bunch celery, finely diced
~3 oz. baby carrots or 1 medium carrot, finely diced (I cook with what I've got) 
½ onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced (I'd throw in another one, but then, I adore garlic)
½ cup of canned tomatoes, small dice (seriously, that's what it said on the can)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper (but I use the cheap stuff, so use less if you use peppercorns)
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup fresh basil leaves from your friend's garden (I got so lucky!  Thank you, A!)

1 medium (large if you have it) pot for cooking
1 large bowl for holding things
1 small/medium bowl for holding more things
1 cutting board and a knife (well... all I have is a $5 paring knife...)
1 9" x 13" baking pan
1 wooden spoon for cooking/rubber spatula for bowl scraping 
1 teaspoon measure or ordinary spoon for extremely rough guesstimations 
Paper towels (optional, I didn't have any)


1.  Chop the eggplant, if you haven't already.  Toss it with the salt until completely coated, then let sit for about 30 minutes in the large bowl.  Either chop the rest of your ingredients, or be kidnapped by your sweet boyfriend who takes you out to your favorite frozen yogurt place for a spontaneous, 20-minute date :)  But if that happens, you shouldn't do the next step just yet.  Or you should call your suitemate and have her turn off the fire, so the apartment doesn't burn down.  Anyway.

2.  Rinse the barley once, probably in the other bowl.  In the pot, cook the barley.  I cooked it like pasta, boiling water, tossing it in and letting it simmer for 20 minutes.  Otherwise, you can cook it like rice, adding about 1½ cups of water to the barley and simmering for 20 minutes.  

3.  Meanwhile, chop the celery and carrots and put them in the medium bowl.  Chop the onions and garlic, leaving them on the cutting board.  If you were prepared, and already had all this stuff chopped, hurrah!  You get some free time!  If not, well, join the rest of us...  Once the barley is cooked, turn the fire off and just let it sit.  Drain and rinse the eggplant really well, then plop it all into the 9" x 13" pan to dry for a little while.  Drain or fluff (stir) the barley, and store it all in the large bowl recently vacated by the eggplant.

4.  In the pot, heat it up and pour in a tablespoon or two of olive oil, or all of it, if your pot is large enough to hold all the eggplant in one go.  Mine wasn't, so I cooked the eggplant in batches.  Once the oil is hot and shimmery, toss in the eggplant, or half of it.  Cook for about 8 minutes.  Once all of the eggplant is cooked, scoop it out and keep it in the 9" x 13" for now.  Draining on paper towels is optional, but I didn't have any.

5.  Preheat the oven to 350F.

6.  In the oil that previously cooked the eggplant, cook the carrots and celery for a few minutes, then add the onions and garlic.  Cook the whole thing for about 5 minutes, then add the barley and tomatoes.  In between stirring, shred the basil if you have it.  I rolled it up and cut small slivers, essentially.

7.  You're almost done!  Add the salt, pepper, oregano and basil.  Dump the whole thing into the 9" x 13" pan to join the eggplant and mix it all up until sort of homogenous.  Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes, until all the flavors have a chance to mix.  Enjoy!