Leftovers and Plyometrics…

They don’t mix.  By that I mean that you should not eat leftovers of several sublime and butter-centric Thanksgiving dishes for lunch and then later attempt to complete a workout DVD entitled INSANITY: Pure Cardio.

That said, if you’re looking for a way to undo some Thanksgiving damage, or just happen to be interested in picking up some really good workout DVDs, I would definitely recommend the Insanity program, which I got used on Amazon for much less than they sell it for on the terrifying infomercial.  I don’t do the workouts 6 days a week, as suggested on the lovely motivational wall calendar that came with my DVDs, but I do try to do one of them once or twice each week.  It’s “high intensity interval training,” and it HURTS. SO. GOOD.  There are four workouts that are about 40 minutes each, and then four longer, more difficult workouts that I have never tried because I think they might kill me.  Something to aspire to, I guess.  Below, my lovely friend Christina and I prepare to “Insanitize” in my apartment.

In the background, you can just make out the face of Shaun T, Insanity instructor and world-class hottie.  In most of the videos he takes off his shirt about halfway through the workout, and I have to say…it really gives you the will to carry on.

In food-related news, it was a wildly successful Thanksgiving back in DSM!  I chopped, I stirred, I sauteed, I ate SO MANY SWEET POTATOES, and I did not study for upcoming exams.  (There will be pleeeeenty of time for that later, after I come out of my sweet-potato coma.)  The company was great as always, and the food was excellent.  It is a true honor to sous-chef for Mr. and Mrs. Tom and Kathy Lane.

Then, I slept for a very, very long time.  I don’t understand this whole “Black Friday” thing, and would really only get myself out of bed at 3 a.m. if someone was selling deeply-discounted completed law school finals.  Although I did buy this plate at an antique stand in the afternoon (because it was cheap and it speaks the truth)…

….I generally think Black Friday should be for laziness and creativity in the realm of leftovers.  Here are a couple of ideas for your cranberries and leftover dressing:

Cranberry Salsa

My Aunt Rhena brought this to the Thanksgiving dinner and we promptly made her copy down the recipe.  It’s really unique and fresh-tasting–serve with crackers and cream cheese.  Note: it’s definitely spicy, and will get even spicier the longer it sits, so you may want to start small on the jalepenos and add more later if you want.

  • 1 12 oz. package fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3/4 c. green onions, chopped
  • 2-3 jalepenos, with seeds (or without, if you want less heat), chopped

Dressing:

  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

I had some of the salsa on Friday night on top of salad greens, and it was a welcome departure from all the mushy comfort food I housed the day before.  Next up, stuffing remix!

This was the hastily-improvised vegetarian dressing my mom and I made: wheat bread cubes, walnuts, dried cranberries, sauteed onion and celery, and vegetable stock:

The very next day, it made another appearance in the form of what we’ll call “Thanksgiving Frittata.”  This will serve 2.  First, preheat your oven to 400 and throw the leftover dressing (this was about a cup, I would say) into a frying pan with about a tablespoon of olive oil.

Using an electric mixer or a whisk, mix up 2 eggs, 2 egg whites, about 1/4 cup cottage cheese, and about 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.  Season with a little bit of salt and pepper.  Then, after the dressing has been in the pan for just a couple of minutes, pour the egg mixture over it.

Leave it on the stovetop just until the edges start to set up, and then put the pan into the oven for about 7 minutes.  When the eggs are set, sprinkle with something green (because everything looks better with a sprinkle of green), slice, and serve.

That’s it–I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

Beurre + farine + trois jours = magique

The summer before last, I spent six weeks taking classes in Arcachon, France.  I lived in this house:

This was the view from my room:

I had class until early afternoon, and then spent the rest of my time sitting on the beach, taking trains to various European cities, drinking wine, and swooning over pretty pastries.  It was, in short, the best thing ever.  Sometimes, when my life feels a little blah (which can certainly happen as the semester starts winding up toward finals), I have to do something French-y to get my spark back.  Enter: CROISSANTS.

This recipe is from “French Women Don’t Get Fat” by Mireille Guiliano.  I haven’t read the book in its entirety–I just flipped through and looked at the recipes, mostly–but I think the gist is as follows: if American women want to feel better about themselves they should stop eating so much fake, processed food, not obsess over calories, and probably drink more wine.  This is a philosophy I can support, Ms. Guiliano.

This recipe takes 3 days, and there are quite a few steps.  But come on, people–homemade croissants are worth some sacrifice and time with the rolling pin and flour all over the place.  Aaaaand now….the recipe, as it appears in the book, plus some nifty how-to photos (my camera is now a buttery mess).  Editorial comments (because I do love to editorialize when it comes to baking) are in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. milk plus 2 tablespoons to brush over croissants
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 1/4 c. plus 3 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour (I never sift, because I like to live dangerously.)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons sweet (unsalted) butter
  • 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon milk for glaze

Friday Evening (Day 1):

1. Heat 1 cup of the milk to lukewarm.  Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of the lukewarm milk.  Stir in 2 tablespoons flour (from the 2 1/4 cups) and whisk until there are no lumps.  Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until doubled in volume (this will take about 20 minutes).

2. Mix the sugar and salt into the 2 1/8 cups flour.

3. Heat the remaining milk.  Transfer the raised dough to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, add the lukewarm milk, and with the mixer at high speed, start adding the sugar, salt, and flour (from step 2), a little at a time, reducing the speed to low-medium until the dough is sticky and soft.

4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, the dough will look like this:

Saturday Morning (Day 2):

1. Bring the butter to room temperature and work it with the heel of your hand to incorporate the remaining 3 tablespoons of flour until smooth.  Shape into a square.  (This sounded a little nuts to me.  I mixed in the flour with a spoon rather than my hands, because it seemed like the civilized thing to do, and I did not “shape into a square.”)

2. Sprinkle the work surface (a marble slab is ideal) (I did not run out to purchase a marble slab, and there were no adverse effects) with flour, shape the cold dough into a 6 x 15-inch rectangle, and spread the butter square (or just spread it out of the bowl you mixed it in) on the upper 2/3 of the rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the sides and top.

(The ruler I use for baking has slang terms and harmful effects of various street drugs on the back.  It’s always good to be reminded to just say no, am I right?)

Fold the dough like a letter into thirds.

Turn the dough counterclockwise (it will look like a notebook with the open flap on your right), and then again roll out the dough into a 6 x 15-inch rectangle and fold as before.  (I turned the dough clockwise, and once again there were no adverse effects.  Also, it did not look like any notebook I’ve ever seen, but maybe French notebooks look more like dough.)

3. Transfer the dough to a baking pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 6 hours.

Saturday Afternoon (Day 2):

Roll out the dough 2 more times, wrap, and refrigerate overnight.  (All of this rolling and folding means the butter is getting in between layers of the dough, so once the croissants hit the oven they’ll puff up and be flaky.)

Sunday Morning (Day 3):

1. About 1 1/2 hours before baking time, remove the dough from the refrigerator and sprinkle flour on the work surface.  Roll the dough into a 16-inch circle, working as quickly as possible.  To make the rectangle into a circle, I suggest spiraling it up like so, and then rolling out.

Using a knife, cut the dough into quarters and then cut each quarter into 3 triangles.

2. With both hands, roll the base of each triangle toward the remaining corner.  Do not curl the ends in a croissant shape.  Transfer the croissants to a baking sheet and brush with 2 tablespoons milk.  Let stand at room temperature for about 45 minutes, or until the croissants have doubled in volume.

Helpful hint: If it’s cold in your kitchen, things won’t rise as well as they should.  Try preheating the oven to 200, and then turning it off and leaving the door ajar.  The extra heat will help the yeast do its thing.

3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.   At this point I could barely contain my pastry-related excitement and had to take a picture of myself with the future croissants…

Brush the croissants with the glaze and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.  If the croissants brown too fast, cover them loosely with foil and continue baking.  Let cool 20 minutes before serving.  (I usually lack the patience required to observe the recommended cooling time in a recipe.)

ET VOILA!

With a foamy latte:

Was it worth it?  The answer, mes amis, is a resounding OUI.  These were buttery, flaky, and pretty much perfect.  Yes, they took 3 days, but the steps themselves are simple and there’s really nothing like baking your own bread.  I am, as they say, très, très contente.

 

Maple Pecan Monday

One of my favorite food blogs, Hangry Pants, is having a little event tomorrow called “Macaroon Monday.”  The idea is to make something you’ve never made before or something that you find somewhat intimidating, and then post about it.  I love Heather’s blog because 1) her recipes are easy/healthy/delicious and 2) she went to law school and refuses to let go of her love for the Baby-sitters Club series, so we’re clearly kindred spirits.

In the spirit of this little blogger initiative, I decided to make pecan butter.  This was sort of cheating on my part, in terms of the “something you’ve never made before” angle, because I once tried to make peanut butter as a finals-studying-avoidance tactic.  But it was pretty much a disaster and I had to throw it all away and return, pouting, to my books and outlines.  Not this time, faithful readers!  This time I rose to the nut butter challenge and the results were pretty stellar.  First, I tossed the pecans with maple syrup, cinnamon, and some salt.

Then, I toasted the pecans at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, opening the oven once to stir.

The smell in my kitchen at this point was something the folks at Yankee Candle should really try to recreate.  After the toasted pecans had cooled for about 10 minutes, I scraped them all into my beloved food processor.

The processing took about five minutes, I would say.  You’ll need to stop several times throughout and scrape down the sides…and eventually you’ll have this!

Store it in the fridge…

…and prepare for weeks of delicious toast!  Here’s the recipe:

Maple Pecan Butter

  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Toss the pecan halves with the syrup, cinnamon, and salt, pour onto a sheet pan, and toast them for 10 minutes at 300 degrees, stirring once.  When the pecans are mostly cooled, scrape them into a food processor and process until smooth (about five minutes), stopping frequently to scrape the sides of the food processor bowl.

Update on last week’s curse: I think we’re out of the woods.  Although this happened a few days ago…

…I still feel pretty lucky.  I got to have a wonderful Halloween weekend with some fantastic friends…

 

…there was a wine tasting with my P.E.O. sisters…

…and my adorable little nephew turned 1!

The funfetti cake in his hair indicates a level of commitment to dessert that I can really respect, you know?

Have a lovely week!