Before we get to that, however... I had a semi-traumatic, Halloween appropriate experience at the doctor's office the other day, Halloween actually, that I need to vent about.
The appointment itself was fine, I really like my doctor and she's always really helpful and nice. She ordered a bunch of blood work to be done for my weird medical problems (my hands have been going numb, basically). No prob. I'm an easy stick and have no issues with needles or blood, I actually like both of them. I seriously considered a profession in piercing before I realized I could go into nursing and stab people for much better pay and get praised for my kind spirit, etc. I love giving shots, doing IVs and I want to be in anesthesia eventually so I can hang out in surgery all day. So to be clear: I'm not freaked out by blood and needles.
The nurse comes in to draw my blood, has me sit up on the examination table in case I pass out and what not. Stabs me, no biggie. And then blood starts gushing out of my arm all over everything, which, you know, is generally not supposed to happen. The nurse was kind of freaking out, as I would be too if my patient started bleeding copiously, and I'm trying to be helpful and hand her the tubes she needs so she can finish up before I lose all my blood supply. I don't know if it was something wrong with me, the tools or her technique but I certainly didn't want her to try again so I figured the best plan of action was to get it over as quickly as possible.
After taking out the needle and putting pressure on my wound, I stopped bleeding and washed off my bloody arm so everything was honky dory, although the table I was on looked like somebody had just been murdered. Appropriately decorated for Halloween, I guess.
But seriously, what if I did have issues with blood? The nurse was lucky it was me and not, say, Joe’s brother who would’ve passed out even if he had taken sedating drugs before hand and there was no extra blood. I rewarded myself afterward with an overpriced caramel latte. I actually 'reward' myself with those quite a lot lately with different justifications. Calcium! Right? I need to keep my bones strong, etc etc.
After fulfilling my blood and gore requirements for Halloween, I fulfilled the costume requirement by dressing up as Alice in Wonderland and going to work. Then it was home to prep for Joe's Halloween Birthday Extravaganza Dinner, which included:
- pepitas, two ways
- pumpkin soup served in mini roasted pumpkin
- pomegranate pear salad in balsamic vinaigrette
- rosemary bread
- trifle (layered mix of whipped brown butter vanilla birthday cake, chocolate raspberry pudding and berries)
I did some of the prep last night, defrosting the berries (no fresh to be found, unfortunately), making the birthday cake for the trifle and washing preparing the pumpkins. I decided to make pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds) for snacking and topping the soup with so I wrestled with the stringy guts of the pumpkins and then boiled the pepitas in salted water. That way, the salt penetrates the seeds evenly and you don’t need to oil and salt them to death. The next day I tossed the pepitas in an egg white and seasoned them: half with garlic powder and the rest with garam masala. Then I baked them at 350 for about 20 minutes. Since I soaked them in salt before, they didn't need any extra salt at all, really. Neat trick.
Next I worked on the pudding for the trifle, which was basically chocolate pudding that I added left over berry juice and chambord, raspberry liquor, to make a chocolate-berry pudding. It has a LOT of cornstarch in it, so it's very thick. I wanted this for the trifle but if you're just making it for everyday, you may way to cut back on the cornstarch some.
INGREDIENTS:* 1/2 cup white sugar
* 3 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/4 cup cornstarch
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 2 3/4 cups milk (I used soy milk)
* 1/4 cup berry juice
* 1 or 2 Tbsp Chambord
* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1 egg yolk
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
DIRECTIONS:1. In a saucepan, stir together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Place over medium heat, and stir in milk, chambord and berry juice, if using. Bring to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat, and stir in butter and vanilla. Add some of the warm pudding to the egg yolk and and the pudding-yolk mixture to the pudding and stir for 1 minute. Let cool briefly, and serve warm, or chill in refrigerator until serving.
The whipped brown butter birthday cake recipe I got from The Sweet Life, my favorite dessert cookbook ever. I can't find the recipe online and since I'm too lazy too type it at the moment, you'll have to wait on that. Delicious though, I love brown butter in desserts, it makes anything taste like english toffee, which is totally okay in my book. I think may have over done my cake a bit, as it was a bit dry, but it was fine in the trifle, I just drizzled some more chambord and berry juice over it.
After I had most of the trifle stuff done, I worked on the bread. The bread recipe threw me off, I had to add at least a cup and a half more flour than it called for to make the dough the right texture. I haven't made much bread myself but I've seen my dad make about a billion loaves and I know that after beating the flour and liquids together, the dough shouldn't be the consistency of soup. After I added more flour it came out fine but I only had enough rosemary for the original recipe, it could've used more rosemary flavor. But oh well! Considering I've only a few loaves of bread, I was pretty happy with how this came out.
Recipe from Martha Stewart
Makes 2 loaves
INGREDIENTS:* 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
* 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
* 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary, plus 1 tablespoon whole leaves
* 1 1/2 cups plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
* 1 cup whole wheat flour
DIRECTIONS:1. Stir together yeast and the warm water in the bowl of an electric mixer. Let stand until foamy, about 7 minutes.
2. Add 3/4 cup water, the olive oil, sugar, salt, chopped rosemary, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, and the whole-wheat flour to bowl. Fit mixer with the dough hook; mix on low speed until dough comes together, about 1 minute. Raise speed to medium-high; mix until dough is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Lightly oil a large bowl. Shape dough into a ball, and transfer to oiled bowl. Loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
4. Punch down the dough; let rest, covered, 15 minutes. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, and divide in half.
5. Roll one piece into an 11-inch-long loaf. Gently twist dough to create contours, then tuck ends underneath. Transfer to a baking sheet. Press half the rosemary leaves into loaf. Repeat with remaining piece of dough.
6. Loosely cover baking sheet with plastic wrap, and let loaves rise slightly in a warm, draft-free spot 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
7. Dust loaves with remaining teaspoon all-purpose flour. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
While the bread was doing its thing, I worked on the salad. I planned on a spinach pomegranate salad but the spinach at the store looked pretty pitiful and possibly full of exotic diseases. So I just used a bag of mixed lettuce. Dark greens would've worked much better but c'est la vie. I added some thinly sliced red onion and some pears I saw at the store and couldn't resist because of my love affair with pears. They weren't quite ripe so I roasted them in the oven, which I'm totally doing to every pear I buy from now on. Roasting them hides any imperfections they have and made my slightly unripe pears soft and sweet. Drool.
I used a balsamic vinaigrette based on this recipe from the food network:
INGREDIENTS:* 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
* 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar, optional
* 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 3/4 cup olive oil
DIRECTIONS:Beat the vinegar in a bowl with the optional sugar, garlic, salt and pepper until sugar and salt dissolves. Then beat in the oil by droplets, whisking constantly. (Or place all the ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake to combine.) Taste and adjust the seasonings.
I did cut back a lot on the olive oil and used only about 1/4 cup but that's my preference, really.
Is that it? Oh, the soup! I roasted a few mini pumpkins, which I had gutted the night before, for about an hour and while they roasted I made the soup. No recipe, since soup is one thing I feel comfortable improvising. Here's what I know I did: tossed tons of garlic, onion, leek, a little red pepper in some olive oil til everything was nice and soft. Threw some rosemary, thyme and sage at the end. Added a few cups water and two small cans of pureed pumpkin. Added a bunch of vegetable bouillon. Chopped up one huge sweet potato and two small potatoes and added to soup to soften. Finished with some balsamic vinegar, garam masala, brown sugar, a touch of cream and butter. Salt and pepper and more herbs to taste. Something like that.
I originally planned on using the pumpkins as individual serving dishes but the small suckers fit tons of soup in them. Still looked cool though, which was the main function of the pumpkin vessel. I washed them out after dinner was done and may puree them. Or something.
I served the trifles in random glassware we have acquired, layering chunks of cake with pudding and berries. They looked neat.
Oh, what was that? You want a closer look because they look so delicious? If you insist.
Mmm. Overall, I made way too much food but was pleased with how everything turned out. So much so that I ate approximately 12 tons of everything and have ordered Brian to eat the remaining cake. My blood sugar, it cries. But it's Halloween so... okay, there is no excuse really, the treadmill beckons me. But it was worth it.
Nothing for a few days until I successfully beg people to eat all this food. But my mom's birthday is coming up and I promised her I would do a blog entry for her since I can't be there to bake for her in person. It's a surprise though, you'll have to check back!
Three cookies to everybody who read all that.