Friday, August 14, 2009

The gallery is open for business!

I'm happy to declare my photographs for sale at my new store at! It's a small step towards making use of my photography degree, but it's a start!

My first two pieces that I've put up are both 8 x 12 prints, mounted on foamcore for easy hanging or framing.

Both are up for $20 each. Check out my Etsy shop for more details!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tofooled You! Vanilla "Cream" Pie for Father's Day

After a week of fun and relaxin' at Lake Powell, I return to the cadence of the everyday. O' that I were able to run away again! That doesn't sound like a bad idea,

But I digress...

We returned from Lake Powell late Saturday, and I luckily had Sunday off from work, which allowed me to turn my attention to Father's Day, and what to make. I wanted something a bit on the light side, considering the week-long snacking fest on the houseboat. I thought about a cream pie, but wanted to lighten it up a bit. I then remembered (with a laugh) a few years back, fooling everyone at an Independence Day barbecue, by serving a chocolate cream pie that was no usual cream pie, in that it contained no cream...but instead used a base of tofu. ^_^ So I went back to that recipe (Alton Brown's Moo-Less Chocolate Pie), and did some modification to use what I had on hand. (I was still recovering from the long drive and unpacking and cleaning that accompanies one's return from vacation.)

I thus give you the Vanilla "Cream" Pie with a Gingersnap Crust!

As is, it makes a light, sweet treat for warm weather, though I think that next time I make it, I'll probably add some cardamom to the filling. I think it would accent the gingersnap crust perfectly! This recipe is also a good starting point for further modification. How does a mint cream pie with chocolate crust sound?

Vanilla "Cream" Pie with Gingersnap Crust

For Crust
1 2/3 cups Gingersnaps, finely ground
1/4 cup Butter, melted
1/4 cup Sugar

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, then press into a 9-inch pie pan.

Bake at 350° F for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

For Vanilla "Cream" Filling
2 cups Vanilla (White Chocolate) Chips
1/3 cup Milk
1 block Silken Tofu (I used Mori-Nu)
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 tbsp. Honey

Using a double boiler, melt the vanilla chips and milk, stirring until smooth. Add vanilla and honey.

In a blender, combine the tofu and white chocolate mixture. Liquefy until smooth.

Pour filling into the gingersnap crust. Chill in the fridge until cooled and filling begins to set, then transfer to the freezer until the pie is set solid. This not only makes the pie all the more refreshing to east, but it also makes it much easier to cut and serve.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Galactic Cookies and Crappy Photoshopping...YAY!

Just a quick post today and a really crappy Photoshop of one of the Galactic Spiral Shortbread Cookies I baked a few days ago. (Cut me some slack, I'm pressed for time this week, what with vacation prep and all!)

I've seen photos of these kinds of swirl cookies floating about Tastespotting and other food blogs and decided to add my own spin to them when I noticed their galactic nature. I settled on a recipe I found on, but decided to top them with those chocolate buttons that are covered with those candy dots. I think the buttons add an accent of sweetness to an otherwise not-so-sweet cookie.

They are mighty tasty, though, if not a bit labour intensive. Give them a go if you're looking for a cookie with some visual punch for your next cookie swap!

Galactic Swirl Cookies
modified by Tom

Vanilla Dough:

1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 large egg
1 to 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks), room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour

Chocolate Dough:

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup natural cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks) room temperature
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

About six dozen chocolate buttons


For the vanilla dough: Mix the 2 sugars and the salt together in a medium bowl. In another small bowl, whisk the egg and mint extract and set aside. With a hand held mixer beat the butter until smooth in a large bowl. While mixing, gradually add the sugar mixture, and continue beating until lightly colored and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stop mixing and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg mixture and beat until smooth. Gradually add the flour, mixing slowly until blended.

Turn the dough out of the bowl, divide in half. Place the halves between 2 pieces of lightly floured parchment or waxed paper. Roll into a 10 by 12 by 1/4 inch rectangle. Slide the sheets of dough/parchment sheets onto a baking sheet, and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

For the chocolate dough: Whisk the sugar, cocoa, salt in a medium bowl. With a hand held mixer beat the butter until smooth in a large bowl. While mixing, add the cocoa mixture, and continue beating until lightly colored and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Stop mixing and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and beat until smooth. Gradually add the flour, mixing slowly until blended.

Turn the dough out of the bowl, divide in half. Place the halves between 2 pieces of lightly floured parchment or waxed paper. Roll into a 10 by 12 by 1/4 inch rectangle. Slide the sheets of dough/parchment sheets onto a baking sheet, and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

For a spiral cookie: Put 1 of the chocolate doughs on the workspace and remove the top sheet of parchment. Brush dough lightly with cold water. Place a sheet of vanilla dough on the workspace, and remove top sheet of paper. Using the bottom piece of the paper to lift the dough, place the vanilla dough on top of the chocolate dough. Take care to line up the edges of the 2 doughs and trim as needed. Lightly press to smooth and seal the doughs together. Remove the top piece of paper. Brush the surface of the dough lightly with cold water. Position the sandwiched doughs with the long edge facing you. Using the edge of the paper as a guide, roll the doughs into a tight cylinder, 2 inches wide. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour. Repeat with remaining 2 sheets of dough.

Evenly position racks in the oven, and preheat to 325 degrees F.

Slice the dough crosswise into 1/4-inch thick cookies. Lay about 1/2-inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until just golden - not too dark you'll lose the definition of the spiral, about 14 to 16 minutes. After removing from oven, place one chocolate button in the center of each cookie. Allow cookies to cool until chocolate re-solidifies. I put mine in the fridge to expidite this process.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Strawberry Kiwi Oatmeal: Simple, Seasonal, and Slow

Whew, it's been a while, hasn't it? Why have I not posted any new entries? Where I been? What have I been doing? Well, nowhere and not much; I just haven't been super inspired lately, nor have I really cooked anything of much interest (I'm not one to blog about every darn thing I eat, y'know). Excuses aside, I come to you this morning to break my blog fasting and to present you with a bowl of strawberry kiwi oatmeal.

I have had this love of oats for the past few years now, and I never seem to grow tired of them, especially Irish oats (a.k.a. pin-head oats or steel-cut oats). Sure, they take twenty minutes to cook, but they're well worth the effort. They're chewy and just more satisfying to eat than rolled oats. I don't really follow a recipe per se, when I make oats, I just go with the flow of what I have on hand. The only "recipe" is for the base oats...

1/4 cup Irish Oats
1 1/4 cups Hot Water
~ 1/4 cup Soy Milk, Buttermilk, and/or Plain Fat-Free Yogurt
Pinch of Salt

Throw the oats, salt, and water into a small sauce pan and boil on low until thick. Pour in your dairy, return to boil, simmer until thickened to your liking.

From here I add in whatever piques my palette. This morning I had strawberries and a kiwi on hand, so I took one big berry and diced it fine and did the same with half of the kiwi. These I added in about half way through the cooking process. Adding some of your ingredients while the oats boil allows them to cook into the oats and give you an overall background flavor. When the oats got to my desired creaminess, I sliced another strawberry and the other half of the kiwi and used them to top the oatmeal. I also took the liberty of adding a few drops of stevia extract to boost the sweetness factor, a bit.

Simple, seasonal, and slow.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Elderberry Liqueur

I've been toying with the idea of making my own liqueurs again. I had some good success with steeping a bag of Good Earth's Tropical Peach Black Tea in a cup vodka for a about three hours and sweetening to taste with some stevia extract. It's just sweet enough, and nice enjoyed straight or as a part of a tea martini I have yet to attempt (I refuse to call it a "tea-tini." Have some dignity, people!). I therefor decided to make use of some of the frozen elderberries I picked last October. I sware I have twelve cups of the stuff and have yet to do anything with them. I found a simple and promissing recipe from Pattie Vargas and Rich Gulling's Cordials from Your Kitchen.

Elderberries, sugar, lemon, water, and vodka...that's it. Allow a month to mature and I should have my own wild elderberry liqueur!

I reduced the original recipe by two-thirds, to make a trial batch before committing more of these hard-to-find treasures of the mountain. ^_^

I'd like to note that this is not a place to use spendy vodka, I just used Smirnoff. Though I did go for the 100-proof stuff because I'd be watering the vodka down in the process of making the liqueur.

Wild Elderberry Liqueur
Originally by Pattie Vargas and Rich Gulling
Modified by moi

1½ cups Wild Elderberries
½ cup Sugar
½ tsp. Lemon Zest
2 tsp. Lemon Juice
½ cup Water
1 cup Vodka (100-proof)

Crush the elderberries and sugar in a bowl and let sit one hour. Add lemon zest and juice, stir to combine. Transfer the elderberry mash into a clean, quart jar. Add the water and vodka. Age in a dark, cool place for one month, shaking once or twice a week.

Strain and filter the mixture, then transfer to a bottle. Age another month for best results.
Now the long wait begins..................

Monday, March 16, 2009

Blood Orange Marmalade

Okay, things are coming along and I'm starting to find my way back to ol' Cogito (sounds like an artisan brand of apertif or whiskey...I call dibs on the trademark!).

I decided, yesterday, to get off my keester and actually do some cooking; as I've been without much in the way culinary inspiration as of late, evidenced by my lack of posts this year, thus far. Yesterday, however, while at Harmon's I saw they had blood oranges for a reasonable $1.19/lb and was instantly hit with an idea...blood orange marmalade! I grabbed a bag of oranges and went home and looked for recipes.

I recalled having seen a recent episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown focused on the orange and even made marmalade. Alton's recipes have never let me down, so I decided his was the one. It is simple and pretty straight forward, which is what I like about Alton's recipes, he doesn't monkey around, just good food done right.

The blood oranges gave the marmalade a rich, ruby color and a slightly more tart flavor than other marmalades that I've had. It really does have a sense of being a more "grown up" marmalade. The only complaint I have is that there must be something awry in the recipe. First off, the recipe says that it should take 15 to 20 minutes for the marmalade to heat to 222°F, it took mine nearly an hour. I've never had it take so long to heat a pot of preserves. Also, now that it's set, the marmalade is very stiff, sticky and almost candy-like in texture. All the marmalades I've had in the past have a more loose consistency. I'm not sure if this is how Alton Brown intended in to be, or if there's a flaw in the recipe. I also ended up with about 60 oz. of marmalade, rather than the 80 oz. the recipe said I should have. It is good, though, and I do recommend you give it a try. Maybe we can compare notes and figure out what may or may not have gone wrong or right.

Blood Orange Marmalade
via Alton Brown's Good Eats

1 3/4 pounds blood oranges, 4 to 5
1 lemon, zest finely grated and juiced
6 cups water
3 pounds plus 12 ounces sugar
Special Equipment: 10 (8-ounce) canning jars with rings and lids, funnel, tongs, ladle, and 12-quart pot

Wash the oranges and lemon thoroughly. Cut the oranges into 1/8-inch slices using a mandoline, removing the seeds as you go. Stack the orange slices and cut them into quarters. Place the oranges into an 8-quart stainless steel pot. Add the lemon zest and juice and the water to the pot, set over high heat and bring to a boil, approximately 10 minutes. Once boiling, reduce the heat to maintain a rapid simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 40 minutes or until the fruit is very soft.

While the fruit is cooking, fill a large pot (at least 12-quart) 3/4 full with water, set over high heat and bring to a boil. Place 10 (8-ounce) jars and rings, canning funnel, ladle, and tongs into the boiling water and make sure the water covers the jars by at least an inch. Boil for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the lids and leave everything in the pot until the marmalade is ready.

Meanwhile, place a small plate in the freezer. Increase the heat under the orange mixture to return to full boil. Add the sugar and stir the mixture continually, until it reaches 222 to 223 degrees F on a deep-fry or candy thermometer, and darkens in color, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. You may need to adjust the heat in order to prevent boil over. Test the readiness of the marmalade by placing a teaspoon of the mixture onto the chilled plate and allowing it to sit for 30 seconds. Tilt the plate. The mixture should be a soft gel that moves slightly. If mixture is thin and runs easily, it is not ready.

Remove jars from the water and drain on a clean towel. Place a canning funnel onto the top of 1 of the jars and ladle in the marmalade just to below the bottom of the threads of the jar. Repeat until all of the mixture has been used. The amount of marmalade may vary by 1 to 2 jars. Wipe the rims and threads of the jars with a moist paper towel and top each with a lid. Place a ring on each jar and tighten.

Return the jars to the pot with boiling water, being certain that they don't touch the bottom of the pot or each other. (If you don't have a jar rack, try a round cake rack, or metal mesh basket. Even a folded kitchen towel on the pot bottom will do in a pinch.) Add additional water if necessary to cover the jars by at least an inch. Boil for 10 minutes. Using canning tongs, carefully remove the jars from the water, place in a cool dry place and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 24 hours before opening. Once open, store in the refrigerator. Unopened marmalade will last for up to 6 month.

I also want to note that if the canning portion of the recipe doesn't appeal to you, then you can also just freeze the marmalade. I wanted to go all out, though, so I pulled out my canning equipment and boiled away!

Epilogue: This morning I took my open jar of marmalade, popped it in the microwave at 50% power for about thirty seconds, then stirred in about one or two tablespoons of hot water. After sitting in the fridge for a couple of hours I found that it loosened up, so it's easier to scoop and has a consistency I more associate with a marmalade.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Chocolate + Cardamom + Bread = T3h Awesome!

Work and life in general have both conspired to keep me too busy to do much in the way of baking or blogging, as of late. Thus, when I had two days off in a row (something of a rarity for me) I decided to take advantage of it and get off my lazy ass and bake something!

I don't know why, but the thought of a chocolate bread popped into my mind pretty quickly. I did not, however, want to end up baking what amounted to a chocolate loaf cake...I wanted bread, the kind with yeast you get to knead in a Tai Chi-like motion, thus gaining peace and mental centrality. (I think I just made up that last bit, but it sounds good so I'm rolling with it!) I hunted about for recipes and finally found one that fit the bill!

The bread come out looking like a loaf of whole wheat bread, even though it's all just unbleached AP flour--ah, the wonders of unsweetened cocoa powder. The chocolate flavor isn't apparent at first, but it sinks in as you chew. I took a little liberty with the recipe and added in a couple of pods worth of fresh ground cardamom seed (my favorite spice), which gave it that little something of curiosity. The white you see on top of the loaf is just more flour, though I did consider powdered sugar, but wanting to keep with a non-sweet chocolate bread, I opted instead for flour.

All and all I do like the bread, and it makes for a killer peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

Chocolate Cardamom Bread
via and tweaked just slightly by moi.

4 cups Unbleached AP Flour, approx.
¼ cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 tbsp Sugar
1 tbsp Brown Sugar
2 ¼ tsp (or one packet) Active Dry Yeast
1 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 ½ cups Warm Water (about 110°F)

In large bow, mix together 2 cups bread flour, cocoa, sugar, brown sugar, yeast, salt, oil, and water. Mix in the remaining flour, about a quarter cup at a time, until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto lightly floured board and knead for 5 minutes, adding only a small sprinkle of flour each time the dough gets too sticky.

Put dough in greased bowl. Turn dough over in bowl so that the dough top is also lightly greased. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or clean kitchen cloth and let rise in warm place for 1 hour.

Punch down dough. Turn dough out onto board and knead for another 5 minutes. Shape dough into loaf. Put loaf in greased 9x5-inch loaf pan. Cover loaf and let rise for about 30 minutes or until double in size.

Bake at 400°F for about 25 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when you tap on it.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Sorry for the lack of posts, as of late. Just haven't had a whole lot of free time to do a lot of cooking or photographing or writing. I've also been suffering from a lack of inspiration, really. I've been through this many a time before and this, too, will pass. I've actually been ruminating over the many bags of frozen elderberries, and what to do with them. Perhaps some elderberry liqueur, or elderberry jam?

Hang in there folks and satisfy your hunger by rummaging through my previous posts to hopefully find your own inspiration.

Here's a subtly HDR-ified photo of a plate of shitake, crimini, and oyster mushrooms for your visual enjoyment and gastronomic salivation. ^_^

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The five minute artisan bread that took a week to make.

It's been a couple of years since Mark Bittman and the New York Times published their first articles on various no-knead breads, which have since popped up on sites like Tastespotting and many a food blog.

And now it's my turn! Hey, it had to happen at some point I suppose.

No-knead bread is something I've actually avoided ever since I first read about it one morning in the photo lab, on campus, a couple of years ago. Personally, if I want fresh bread, I want it today...not tomorrow. Then, a couple of weeks ago, while listening to The Splendid Table, I listened intently as Lynne spoke with Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg, authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking. At first I thought their method was just another clone of the many recipes for no-knead bread which are mostly the same. The difference, and the step that really caught my attention, is that with this recipe, you actually want to let it age or ripen in the fridge for as long as two weeks. Now that had to make an interesting loaf!

Another point I like about this bread is that ou needn't bake it all at once. I have actually been using small handfulls at a time to make even a single roll, or rolling out a little bit and making flatbread on the grill, so this is a batch that you can come back to all week long. At least, that's how long I've been aging my dough! And the longer you age it, the more intense and flavorful it becomes. After a week it has an almost sourdough-like flavor to it.

This, being my first attempt, I didn't mess with the recipe much, with the exception of replacing three cups of all purpose flour with whole wheat, just to give it a bit more flavor and a more old worldliness, I suppose you could say. Next time, which will be very soon, maybe even tomorrow, I may try using bread flour cut with rye flour, or maybe barley flour.

Five-Minute Artisan Bread
From Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007). Copyright 2007 by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.

Serves 4

Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance.

1-1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (about 1-1/2 packets)
1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6-1/2 cups unbleached flour, plus extra for dusting dough

In a large plastic resealable container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm (about 100 degrees) water. Using a large spoon, stir in flour, mixing until mixture is uniformly moist with no dry patches. Do not knead. Dough will be wet and loose enough to conform to shape of plastic container. Cover, but not with an airtight lid.

Let dough rise at room temperature, until dough begins to flatten on top or collapse, at least 2 hours and up to 5 hours. (At this point, dough can be refrigerated up to 2 weeks; refrigerated dough is easier to work with than room-temperature dough, so the authors recommend that first-time bakers refrigerate dough overnight or at least 3 hours.)

When ready to bake, sprinkle cornmeal on a pizza peel. Place a broiler pan on bottom rack of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and preheat oven to 450 degrees, preheating baking stone for at least 20 minutes.

Sprinkle a little flour on dough and on your hands. Pull dough up and, using a serrated knife, cut off a grapefruit-size piece (about 1 pound). Working for 30 to 60 seconds (and adding flour as needed to prevent dough from sticking to hands; most dusting flour will fall off, it's not intended to be incorporated into dough), turn dough in hands, gently stretching surface of dough, rotating ball a quarter-turn as you go, creating a rounded top and a bunched bottom.

Place shaped dough on prepared pizza peel and let rest, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it in lidded container. (Even one day's storage improves flavor and texture of bread. Dough can also be frozen in 1-pound portions in airtight containers and defrosted overnight in refrigerator prior to baking day.) Dust dough with flour.

Using a serrated knife, slash top of dough in three parallel, 1/4-inch deep cuts (or in a tic-tac-toe pattern). Slide dough onto preheated baking stone. Pour 1 cup hot tap water into broiler pan and quickly close oven door to trap steam. Bake until crust is well-browned and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven to a wire rack and cool completely.