Monthly Archives: June 2011

Grabbers

I am a girl who goes through schools like other girls go through boys. (And to be honest, I think I have been with more schools than I have boys…)

I had a rocky start in my relationship with post-secondary education. My first year of college was spent at Washington State University. Let’s just say that WSU and I weren’t a good match. At the time I thought that is what I wanted (back in the day when I dreamed of being an architect) and when I was in high school it was the only college I applied to. Surprisingly, it turns out you don’t really know what you want when you are 18 years old. It liked to party and I was a wallflower. It was big into the Greek system and I was (and continue to be) fiercely independent. It was into school spirit, sports and activities and I am more of the theater rat sort. I wanted to stretch my brain further and in new directions and wasn’t interested in having a typical “college experience.” WSU just couldn’t give me what I needed. So we split after a year.

But that year of my life left a permanent scar on my psyche.

(It also brought amazing ice cream sandwiches, but I’ll get to that later)

South Puget Sound Community College was my rebound school. I was there for a year, going to school full time, working part time at the dental office and dancing with the local ballet company, Ballet Northwest. And while it was not true love, it was a solid sort and got me back on my feet again. It was there that I learned how to write, speak in public and articulately form arguments against religion. I fulfilled all the requirements for an Associate’s of Arts and was on my way.

I fell in love hard with Evergreen and while I was there, with science and the prospect of a life in research. A quirky, independent, non-traditional learning experience. My first true love. It was there I felt a sense of academic and social community and a staunch motivation to learn. I stayed with Evergreen even after I fulfilled all of the “requirements” for a Bachelor’s of Science and got a second Bachelor’s degree just because I wasn’t ready to part ways just yet.

But I eventually outgrew Evergreen and moved all the way across the country to Duke and its Ph.D. program. The longest and most serious relationship in my academic life. I mean, I was invested and completely absorbed into Duke and what it had to offer. In some ways my time at Duke has completely defined me. Exactly like how some girls are defined by the guy that they are with. And now that I am no longer with Duke, I’ve been trying to parse out my own feelings from the feelings at Duke about what it means to be in science and have a life in academics (and possibly a life outside of academics).

Now I am at the University of Minnesota. I don’t have that much to say about it. By the very nature of a post-doc, it’s not going to be a long-term relationship. I am kind of biding my time until something better comes along. Heaven forbid that I not be at some sort of academic institution. I am that girl who constantly has had a “boyfriend” (and by boyfriend, I mean school). It is what it is. But it is not going to last long, especially when I have an actual significant other at the University of Florida.

Will I find my life-long companion in an academic institution (a tenure-track position)? Or will I continue to flit through universities in a non-committal sort of way? Possibly this story will end in divorce and I’ll leave academics. At this point, it could go either way.

It’s been a long time since I was that lonely freshman at WSU, hating my life. But I was brave enough then to change my course and make my life what I wanted. There was however, one other bright, shiny light during my time at WSU – grabbers. Grabbers are ice cream sandwiches with oatmeal cookies, loaded with homemade ice cream and are sold at Ferdinand’s, the school creamery. Strawberry ice cream with oatmeal cookies? Talk about a fantastic combination.

I’ve been thinking a lot about grabbers and feeling like a freshman again as I try to decide what to do with my life. I’ve recently acquired an ice cream maker and for my maiden voyage I whipped up a batch of rhubarb ice cream (because that infatuation is going strong). Then I sandwiched it between two oatmeal cookies.

Dare I say it’s even better than Ferdinand’s?

I think I do.

Rhubarb Ice Cream Oatmeal Cookie Grabbers

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Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from The Essential New York Times cookbook
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups oats (not quick cooking)
 
Rhubarb Ice Cream
4 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup sugar, divided
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 egg yolks
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For the cookies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking soda cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

Beat the shortening and sugars in a large bowl just enough to blend well. Add the egg and vanilla. Continue to beat until thoroughly mixed.

Add the oats and mix again. Drop the dough by tablespoon fulls onto the cookie sheets, 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until golden brown, 12 – 15 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool.

For the rhubarb ice cream:

Cook chopped rhubarb with 2/3 cup sugar over medium heat, until soft, about 10 minutes. Transfer to blender and puree until smooth.

Heat milk and cream in small saucepan over low heat, until steam starts to rise off the liquid. Take off heat.

Meanwhile, beat egg yolks and remaining 1/3 cup sugar together until light yellow.

Take a little bit (~1/2 cup) of the hot cream and whisk into the eggs. Whisk in the remaining cream. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and cook the custard until thick, about 5 minutes. It should coat the back of a spoon. Mix in the rhubarb puree and transfer to a spouted batter bowl. Chill completely.


Set up and turn on the ice cream maker. Slowly pour chilled custard into ice cream maker and churn for about 25 minutes.

Take about 1/3 cup of the soft-serve ice cream and scoop it onto an oatmeal cookie. Top with a second oatmeal cookie. Wrap well in plastic wrap and freeze for a couple of hours to let the ice cream ripen.

Honey Muffins with Minted Berries

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

I love weekend mornings and the foods that accompany them.

There’s really nothing like sitting down with your steaming cup of coffee with the morning light streaming in. And if you have a honey muffin with some minted berries, well, that’s even better.

It’s a small batch, as always, I am trying to adapt to cooking for one (and sometimes two), but this can easily be doubled or tripled.

Honey Muffins with Minted Berries

makes 4
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Honey Muffins

3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey, plus more for glaze
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 egg, beaten
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon orange extract

Minted berries
1/2 cup chopped strawberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup raspberries
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon mint, cut into thin strips
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Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter muffin tin and set aside.

Sift together the flour and baking soda.

Add sugar, honey, butter, egg, sour cream and orange extract. Stir until just combined.

Spoon into muffin tin. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from tin and glaze with honey.

Combine strawberries, blueberries, raspberries with the honey and mint.


Serve warm.

Lemon Curd Blueberry Tartlette

You know that phrase: “Easy as pie?”

I think it should be amended to: “Easy as tartlette.”

Okay, so maybe it doesn’t have the same ring to it. But I think this particular tartlette, with lemon curd and blueberries, is even easier than pie.

I’ve gone a little blueberry-crazy lately. I think it has to do with the buy one pint, get one pint free sale going on at the market lately. I used to be fairly blueberry- ambivalent. Not crazy about them, but not quite a hater. I could easily do without blueberry pancakes or blueberries and cream, but I certainly wouldn’t refuse to eat them either. Then I stumbled upon the lemon-blueberry combination at some point in my adulthood and I’ve been enchanted ever since.

I decided to make a tartlette because I am trying really hard to recognize the fact that I live by myself and probably shouldn’t consume an entire full-sized dessert by myself. It is swimsuit season afterall.

The tart crust is from Mark Bittman. I went ahead and made the entire recipe and then quartered the dough and stuck 3/4 of them in the freezer – to be used whenever the next tartlette whim comes upon me.

Lemon Curd Blueberry Tartlette

makes one 4 1/2 inch tartlette + 3 more tartlette crusts

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Crust
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
10 tablespoons cold butter
1 egg
3 tablespoons ice-cold water
 
1/3 cup Lemon Curd
 
1/3 cup fresh blueberries
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In a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Pulse a couple of times to mix. Add butter, pulse ~30 seconds until uniform. Add egg, pulse another ~30 seconds until uniform.

Transfer to a bowl and add water. With your hands, mix until dough forms a ball. Divide into 4 mini-balls (each one is perfect for a single 4 1/2 inch diameter tartlette pan). Wrap in plastic and store either in the freezer (for long term storage, good for a couple of weeks) or in the refrigerator (for short-term storage, good for a couple of days). Chill for at least 30 minutes.

On a floured surface, roll chilled dough out to slightly larger than your tartlette pan. Transfer to tartlette pan, making sure to press dough into all of the nooks and cranies. Pierce dough with fork and pre-bake at 425º for 10 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350° and bake for ten more minutes. Let cool before filling.

Heat lemon curd in the microwave until fluid, about 30 seconds. Spread into tartlette shell. Top with fresh blueberries.

It’s a good thing I only made a single tartlette. I could have easily eaten another one.

The beauty of this tartlette is that it isn’t limited to just blueberries. I am sure this would be just as good with strawberries or raspberries or any combination thereof.

A taste of what’s to come

I have a fairy godmother. She makes sure all of my kitchen wishes come true.

This arrived on my doorstep today.

That’s right. An ice cream maker attachment for my stand mixer.

You have no idea how excited I am.

Like. Really. Unbelievably. Excited.

Like scouring the Internet all weekend long learning about ice cream in anticipation.

Excited beyond words.

I even cleared out a spot in my tiny little freezer for it.

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Nestled in next to my Popsicle maker, whole wheat flour and this roasted butternut squash soup. It’s made itself right at home. And I couldn’t be happier.

You won’t want to miss what I have planned for it. But be patient. Ice cream making is not for the faint-hearted.

Thanks Mom Fairy Godmother!

Sweet Orange Cardamom Rolls

I love my dad. He’s my scuba diving buddy and fellow nerd. He’s good-natured and almost never gets angry. He is an adventurous eater. He is simultaneously serious and silly and will always be there to help you out of a jam. I really couldn’t ask for a better dad. So thank you Dad, for being mine.

In my family, we are pretty low-key about holidays. No extravagant gifts or giant fuss. Instead, there might be a nice meal or some family outing, like a walk through the park or an afternoon movie. One of our favorite breakfasts were these sweet orange rolls that come out of can from the refrigerator section. Hey, I wasn’t always a food snob. I think they must have put crack in that icing or something equally as addicting. I always volunteered to make them so that I could have first go at the remains of the icing container. Sweet, dough-y, orange-y weekend morning amazingness.

I can’t be with my Dad today for Father’s Day, but I have been thinking a lot about those weekend mornings – the simplicity and the joy of popping open one of those weird roll canisters and racing to be the first one to the icing container. So here’s my version … Sweet orange rolls with cardamom.

The dough is essentially the same as these Cinnamon Rolls, I’ve just modified the filling and the glaze.

Sweet Orange-Cardamom Rolls

makes 9 rolls

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Dough
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 large egg, beaten
juice from 1/2 orange
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
 
Filling
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
zest from 2 oranges
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
 
Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
juice from 1/2 orange

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Combine milk and butter in small pot. Heat over medium-low heat until butter melts and mixture is warmed to 120 – 130 degrees. Pour into stand mixer bowl, fitted with paddle attachment. Add yeast and pinch of sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 15 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup flour, rest of sugar, egg, orange juice and salt. Beat on low speed for about 3 minutes until well combined. Continue to add in remaining flour slowly, until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky.

Change out paddle attachment for dough hook and knead for about 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Form into a ball, oil lightly, cover and let rise until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

Mix brown sugar, cardamom and orange zest in a small bowl.

Punch down dough. Roll out to a 9 x 13 inch rectangle. Spread butter over dough. Sprinkle filling evenly over butter. Starting with the long edge, roll dough into log. With seam side down, cut dough crosswise into 9 equal slices, ~3/4 inch wide.


Butter a 9 inch square glass baking dish. Arrange rolls, cut side up in dish.. Cover with plastic wrap (can be place in the refrigerator at this point and left overnight and when ready continue with the second rise). Let dough rise, until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.

Bakes rolls in a preheated oven at 375 degrees, until tops are golden, about 20 minutes.

Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar and orange juice and beat until smooth. Spread glaze over rolls.

This one’s for you Dad.