Tartfeasor

Greetings, friends!  I’m enjoying the long weekend and trying to rest my brain, because next week my studying for the bar exam begins in earnest.  Our review class is starting with Torts.  Torts has always been a difficult subject for me, because…well…it makes me think about tarts and then I tend to lose focus.

As I mentioned at the end of the last post, I just picked up some tartlet pans with a gift card I had at Williams-Sonoma.  (A tartlet is like a tart, but without proximate cause.  No, I’m sorry, that was a legal joke and I’m ashamed of myself.  Actually a tartlet is just a miniature tart.)  I was so excited about these new pans that it was even harder than usual for me to not shriek like a 12-year-old with Bieber fever while inside Williams-Sonoma.  Last night I used them for the first time.  Taste-wise, the reviews were mixed and I will definitely be doing some more recipe research….but they were pretty much too cute for words.

I was perfectly happy with the crust—I used this Post Punk Kitchen recipe for that part of the project.  My only alterations: Earth Balance instead of olive oil,  and I mixed the dough in my food processor instead of by hand as the recipe suggests.

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When the tartlet shells were baked and cooled, I filled them with a vegan custard (adapted from this recipe on Oh She Glows) and berries.  Honestly, I thought it was good, but my tastes have been moving away from stuff that’s very heavy on dairy and eggs lately, so I don’t think I’m the most reliable reporter.  My family all agreed that they liked a tart I made last summer using this more traditional pastry cream recipe better.  But, if you’re feeling adventurous, or if you’d like something a little lighter (or, if you happen to be a vegan), here’s what I did for the filling:

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Vanilla Vegan Custard Filling (for 6 4-inch tartlet pans)

  • 1 c. almond milk
  • 4 tbsp agave nectar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1.5 tbsp confectioners sugar

Whisk the cornstarch and confectioners sugar together to break up lumps.  Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until well combined.  Microwave on high, stopping every 60 seconds (or whenever it looks like it might bubble over—watch closely!) to whisk out any lumps.  Repeat until thickened, and keep in mind that the custard will thicken up even more when chilled.  Refrigerate until cooled off, then whisk again to make sure it’s smooth, and you’re ready to assemble!

Decorating these made me so very happy.

Baby Neph and his family were over for dinner, and he gradually picked every single blueberry off the leftover tartlet (prompting my brother’s remark: “I’m not changing his diaper tomorrow”).  He has always been a fan of blueberry-themed snacks.

It has been a weekend of my favorite pastimes and my favorite people…

…so I guess I might be ready to learn about torts tomorrow.  Have a great week, everybody!

P.S. Next weekend is going to be very exciting—my dad is entering a barbecue contest and there will be MEAT on my blog.  This may never happen again, so be sure to tune in!  I’m also running (or maybe jogging and walking/crawling) a 20K, so…we’ll see how that goes.

Rice paper wrappers full of (r)awesome

Just a very quick installment today…

My friend Katie (she also happens to be my sister-in-law’s brother’s wife, but “friend” is simpler) has a holistic health coaching business and sends out a newsletter full of info about happy, healthy food and tasty recipes.  The business is called Rooted Wellbeing and you should really check out the website, mmmkay? It will inspire you when you feel like eating Doritos for dinner.

I tried her recipe for a raw Thai “peanut” sauce yesterday and I can already tell it is destined to become a staple in my fridge.  It would be great on a pasta salad, as a dip, in a wrap, etc.  Tonight I used it as a dipping sauce for some spring rolls.

Spring roll components: broiled tofu (using this recipe from Peas and Thank You), cooked rice noodles with a bit of the peanut sauce stirred in, veggies, and the rice paper wrappers.

These are very fun to make.  You need to soak the rice paper in a shallow dish of warm-ish water for about 20 seconds to make it pliable.  This reminded me of the scene in Grease when Sandy sings “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and wistfully floats a sheet of stationery in the pool in Frenchie’s backyard.  Anybody?  No?  OK, never mind.

Then you can fill them with whatever suits your fancy and you have a pretty little appetizer or light supper.  I didn’t follow any particular recipe for these rolls, but here’s one that looks good if you want a little food for thought.  My finished product:

These were pretty decent, but the star of the meal was definitely the dipping sauce—here’s the link with the recipe.  Make it, love it…..try to resist the temptation to just eat it straight with a spoon.

Have a happy Memorial Day weekend!  (I’ll be back with another post soon, because I bought tartlet pans today.  TARTLET PANS!  I can barely contain my excitement….)

Treasures from times gone by…

It has been a little over a week since I moved into my parents’ basement, and I have made some spectacular discoveries.  For example, feast your eyes on the dress I wore to Jefferson-Scranton High School’s junior-senior prom, circa 2003:

Yes, it totally still fits, thank you for asking.  It just doesn’t zip, which is a minor detail.  A strategically-draped shawl, a few safety pins, and BAM, I could be ready for my very own royal wedding in ten minutes, tops.

(Oh, by the way, isn’t my mirror charming?  My sister-in-law painted it for me many, many years ago.  She’s all kinds of brilliant and artsy!)

I also found……drumroll…….

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My very first cookbooks!  Do you remember the American Girl dolls?  I swear, everybody I knew when I was a tiny little Darcy had one of those dolls, and about fifty outfits for it.  I was not into the dolls, but I was really into the cookbooks.  They came in a set of five: Molly (World War II era), Kirsten (pioneer girl), Addy (escaped from slavery on the Underground Railroad), Felicity (daughter of the Revolution), and Samantha (hoity-toity turn-of-the-century girl with a butler).

They’re full of historical information and easy recipes one could make with adult supervision, AND in the back of each one there are detailed instructions for throwing a theme party.  Molly’s book, which was my favorite, was set in 1944 and had instructions for throwing a “patriotic slumber party.”  Here’s a tip:

Uhhh, sure.  Or, how about you just don’t invite fun-haters to your patriotic slumber party?

Here are two of my favorite recipes from Molly’s book.  They’re both really easy, but the first requires a knife and the second requires a hot oven, so if you are not an adult, please find one to supervise you.  I definitely waited until my mom was home for the hard parts.

Frozen Fruit Cups (adapted—barely—from “American Girls Pastimes: Molly’s Cookbook”)

Makes 8-12 small cups (I used 8 oz. cups and made 9)

  • 1 c. orange juice
  • 15 oz. can of crushed pineapple in its own juice
  • 1 small (about 11 oz.) can of mandarin oranges, drained and coarsely chopped
  • about 3 cups sliced strawberries
  • 2-3 bananas, sliced
  • 1 1/2 c. club soda

These are not rocket science, obviously, as the recipe came from a cookbook for elementary school-aged children.  But they are delicious, and a great refreshing snack for summer.  I used to make them all the time and eat them while swaying in my mom’s hammock with a Babysitter’s Club book.  Feel free to substitute whatever fruit you like, your favorite juice, and 1 1/2 cups of something fizzy (the original recipe calls for ginger ale, which is good, and I’ve also used 7-Up).  Stir everything up in a large mixing bowl, ladle the mixture into small cups, and freeze.

Raisin Bread in a Can (adapted from “American Girls Pastimes: Molly’s Cookbook”)

This recipe didn’t have a lot of fat in it (because, as explained in the front of the book, Molly and her mom were conserving for the war effort).  It also only had one egg, so I went ahead and made a few adjustments to vegan-ize it.  To bake, you need a clean, empty coffee or juice can—about 45 ounces.  You could use a loaf pan, I suppose, but where’s the fun in that?

  • 3/4 c. white flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 c. chopped nuts (I used walnuts, leftover from my rapture cupcakes)
  • 1/3 c. raisins
  • 1 flax egg (Mix 1 tbsp ground flax with 3 tbsp water in a small bowl, and allow the mixture to thicken for 5-10 minutes)
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 1/4 c. almond milk
  • 1/4 c. molasses

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the white flour, wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, nuts, and raisins.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the thickened flax egg, canola oil, almond milk, and molasses.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until well-combined.  Grease a large, clean tin can (about 45 ounces), and pour in the batter.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour.  After an hour, place the can on a rack to cool.  When it’s cool enough to handle, loosen the bread from the sides of the can with a butter knife and try to shimmy the bread out of the can.  If you’re having trouble, use a can opener to open the bottom of the can and carefully push the bread out.

Housekeeping: the address for the blog is now http://shesingsatthetable.com, not http://shesingsatthetable.wordpress.com.  Update your Google readers (or whatever you kids use to read your blogs these days) accordingly, pretty please.

Also, thanks to my web designer/13-year-old niece, you can now “like” She Sings at the Table on facebook—see the link on the right side of the page.  That’s all for now—have a marvelous week!

Judgment Day Carrot Cupcakes

So, I was running some errands with my mom today, feeling pretty good about life, when I saw this:

Umm, I know I’ve been a little busy with finals and graduation, but…..SWEET.  FANCY.  MOSES.  Somebody could have let me in on this a little earlier!  I’m a bit fuzzy on the judgment day ground rules, but I’m guessing I broke a few of them in the course of my post-finals celebration week.  Also, I’ve been known to use what I once heard a Sunday school teacher refer to as “worldly language,” and I really like Lady Gaga.  So, I guess this might be goodbye.

If it is goodbye, I decided I would like to end on cupcakes.  Always, always cupcakes.  I wanted to bake them in my parents’ kitchen while watching Barefoot Contessa, and then frost them while singing along to my baking playlist.  As luck would have it, some fantastic relatives gave me two new cookbooks for graduation, and one of them has a carrot cake recipe in it I was dying to try.  Bonus: vegetables + no refined sugar in the recipe = me looking and feeling my very best as I march off to meet my cosmic fate.  Here’s the cookbook:

It looks fabulous and I would probably highly recommend it after trying more recipes, but, alas, we may never know.  Anyway, I gathered up my ingredients to start.  Note: I hate to be bossy, but maple syrup is an important ingredient here and you need the real stuff (no Aunt Jemima/Mrs. Butterworth).

I filled the pans with cupcake liners, made the batter, spooned it in, and baked.

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Let them cool completely.  I thought this step was taking an eternity, which really illustrates how unprepared I am for this rapture business.  Once they’re cool, you can mix up the frosting.  In an effort to dazzle the henchmen of the apocalypse with my pastry skills, I piped the frosting onto the cupcakes using a large ziploc bag like so:

Finally, I sprinkled them with coarsely chopped walnuts and sat down to enjoy one while reflecting on these past 25 years.  I’ve had a good run, I guess.  The recipe is below.  If I make it, dear readers, I’ll see you again soon.  If not, I want to leave you with these final words of wisdom: It’s always better to under-bake than over-bake.  Always.

Carrot Cupcakes (adapted from the Spring Carrot Teacakes in “Green Market Baking Book” by Laura Martin)

Makes about 20 cupcakes

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c. maple syrup
  • 1 c. oil (The original recipe calls for 1 1/4 c. light olive oil.  I only had extra virgin, so I used 1/2 cup of that and 1/2 cup canola.)
  • 1/2 c. Greek yogurt (The original recipe calls for sour cream here.)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour (The original recipe calls for 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup spelt flour.)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 c. grated carrots (The original recipe calls for 3 cups, but I hate grating stuff.)
  • 3/4 c. chopped nuts (I used walnuts.)

Frosting:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 c. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk the eggs until frothy, and then add the remaining wet ingredients and whisk for another minute or so.  Combine the dry ingredients in another bowl, pour in the egg mixture, and mix everything until just combined.  Stir in the grated carrots and chopped nuts.  Spoon the batter into muffin tins filled with cupcake liners, and bake at 325 for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the center of one comes out clean.  (I think I took mine out after 18 minutes.)

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely.  For the frosting, mix the cream cheese, butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract until smooth.  If you want to pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes, spoon it into a large ziploc bag, work it down into one corner, cut a small hole in that corner with scissors, and squeeze the frosting out with one hand as you hold the cupcake with the other.  Sprinkle the top of each cupcake with chopped walnuts or more grated carrots if you like.

Note: I ended up about 4 cupcakes short on frosting.  But—if you frost with a knife instead of piping, I bet you’ll use a bit less on each cupcake and it would work out perfectly.

Commencement, merriment, and avocados

Hey look—we got our law degrees!

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Somehow, in between all the cookie baking and general tomfoolery that made these past three years so wonderful, I got the job done.  And so did all of my brilliant, wonderful, hilarious classmates that I already miss like crazy now that I am moved out of my apartment and back in Des Moines, where I’ll be for the summer while studying for the bar exam.

I am excited about whatever will come next…..but I’m also a little sad.  I have always loved being a student, and law school was just so much fun.  Fortunately, we had all kinds of family over to my parents’ house tonight for a graduation barbecue, so I couldn’t spend too much time being nostalgic.  There was food prep to be done!  My brother who lives in Colorado is here, as is my cousin who lives in Florida, so it was an extra-special family fiesta.

My parents made lots and lots of delicious food, but my favorite was a new dish that I have dubbed “Avocados de los Abogados.”  (Two semesters of Spanish, thankyouverymuch.)  This is essentially a zippy little corn salad that you can throw together the day before, stuffed inside half of a lightly grilled avocado.  Yesterday, my dad grilled two ears of corn.  It was not grilling weather, but we’re brave.

Then he sliced the corn off the ears and mixed up the salad, while I took photos and offered moral support.

Tonight, while grilling various meat-stuffs for the carnivorous family members, he grilled the avocados for just long enough to soften them a bit and get those sexy grill marks.  Then I filled them with the corn salad, drizzled a little lime juice over the whole situation, and took this glamour shot:

We used 6 avocados, and the following ingredients for the corn salad (all measurements except the corn approximate):

  • 2 ears of grilled sweet corn
  • 1 c. quartered grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • pinch of cayenne pepper or chipotle powder
  • lime juice, squeezed over the filled avocado halves before serving

Tomorrow I am checking out of my cozy little Iowa City apartment.  It was a happy home for three years and I will miss it…..but I comfort myself with the thought that wherever I move next will have more counter space (to accommodate the KitchenAid stand mixer I dream of buying when someone actually hires me to do some lawyering).

Have a good week, everybody!  And—if you happen to be a member of the IA Law class of 2011…..CONGRATS!

Dreamy Strawberry J.D. Jello Shots

(That “J.D.” is for Juris Doctor because I am now officially a doctor of the law!  In an upcoming post, I will get all nostalgic about how much I loved law school, perhaps post some pictures of graduation festivities, and share a recipe that has….you know….vegetables or something in it.  But…..first things first.  Read on.)

I got my hair cut the other day, and the stylist was just the most delightful fellow.  We talked about judicial retention elections, curl-enhancing hair products, and the Pioneer Woman.  He also did a really bitchin’ job on my hair, and when I left he proclaimed that it looked “super hot” and I would probably meet the man of my dreams that very day and reel him in with my tousled waves.  (That didn’t happen, FYI.  I did go out for lunch after and have a really good salad, but I wouldn’t say it was the salad “of my dreams.”)

Stylist Man also dropped the following culinary knowledge bomb on me: You can make Jello shots in hollowed-out strawberries.  WHOA.  Just let that sink it.  It’s a good thing I don’t have a lot to do this week, because, well, I sort of feel like it’s my calling to test this sort of thing out and report my findings to you good folks.

You need the following:

1) One .30-ounce box of Jello.  Choose your favorite flavor—I went with strawberry for obvious reasons.

2) As many strawberries as you want to fill.  I did about 2 pints and still had some leftover Jello that I just poured into a baking dish.

3) Vodka.  I recommend whatever variety is on sale.  I used lemon-flavored vodka, which added a little zing.

4) Some sort of small, sharp kitchen instrument for hollowing out the strawberries.  I used an apple corer.  I would think you could also use a paring knife, a teensy melon baller, or a grapefruit spoon.

5) Some friends that also don’t have a lot to do this week.

Put the vodka in the freezer, and then deal with your strawberries first, so your vessels are ready and waiting.  Cut a slice off the bottom, so they’ll stand up, and then slice off a bit of the top and hollow them out as much as you can without breaking them.

You’re not going to get a huge cavity here, but that’s OK.  Smaller Jello shots are more dignified.  (Or you could just eat more of them, I suppose.  I’m not here to dictate your life choices.)  Line the strawberries up in a pan so you can fill them and refrigerate them later.

Prepare the Jello according to the package instructions, but instead of the cup of cold water you’re supposed to add at the end, add a cup of vodka.  Pour a little bit of the Jello mixture into each strawberry (a liquid measuring cup works well here), and then refrigerate until set.

Hot tip: you don’t want the strawberries all falling over when you move the pan to the fridge—that would be quite sad—so try setting the pan in the fridge first and carefully pouring the mixture into them that way.  If you have some extra after filling the berries, just pour it into a baking dish or those tiny little plastic cups, in the grand tradition of undergraduates everywhere.

About 2 hours later, the verdict: they are attractive, refreshing, whimsical, and just the tiniest bit dangerous.  In fact, I would even say they are the Jello shots of my dreams.