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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Eating My Books

Eat Your Books

They say that admitting you have a problem is the first step in solving a problem.  Okay.  Here goes.

I have a cookbook problem.  Yes, that's right.  I just can't get enough.  And shelf space is becoming a problem.  As is keeping track of said cookbook collection.

I love cookbooks, maybe even more than I love luxury leather goods.  For those of you who know me, and who know of my vast and wide ranging shoe and handbag collection, admitting that cookbooks may be more of a problem is, well, probably quite shocking.

The truth is that I actually use my cookbooks, which sets this collection apart from my shoe collection.  I cook from a cookbook everyday.  Really.  I'm not just saying that the justify the collection.  I don't make a roasted potato without looking for a new way to make them more delicious.  Maybe a higher heat?  More garlic?  Thyme instead of rosemary?  The possibilities are endless and I am determined to try and try again until the absolute deliciousness completely overwhelms me.

My real problem isn't that I buy a lot of cookbooks.  For heaven's sake.  I could have worse vices.  I don't really drink and I don't smoke.  I don't cavort around town with unsuitable people.  Okay, maybe my shoe addiction is a little out of hand, but on a scale of one to 10 in the vice department, I'd say I'm at the low end of trouble.

My real problem is keeping track of which cookbooks I already own.  After buying my second copy of David Lebovitz's My Paris Kitchen, I knew I had to take action.  (If you don't own it, you really should consider it.  The Chicken Lady Chicken alone is worth the purchase.)

Enter Eat Your Books.  For a small fee, this website provides a fantastic indexing and management system for cookbooks, blogs, and other recipes.  It doesn't give you recipes, but instead what it does do is provide you with a listing of which recipes are in which cookbooks.  So, if I want to make Coq au Vin for dinner (oh, that does sound good, doesn't it?) Eat Your Books will give me a listing of all of my cookbooks that include recipes for Coq au Vin.  Genius.

Now, there's a catch.  I had the enter all of my cookbooks in the database, but it's so worth it.  First of all, it was kind of fun to go through all my books, and second of all, it reminded me of a lot of cookbooks I own that I used to cook from and that have somehow moved to the bottom of the pile.

It's a win-win!

Now I have a system down.  When I add a book to my collection, the first thing I do is enter it into my personal database on Eat Your Books.  It's easy.  And then I start cooking.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Joining the Rotation

My friend Lisa was coming to visit for a couple of days and I thought it would be nice to whip up a batch of muffins to serve at breakfast.  Why not?  Who doesn't love a muffin?

Right around that time, I was chatting with my sister Jill on the phone.  I mentioned that I was in the mood for an almond poppy seed muffin.  Did she have a good recipe?

Jill gave me a great recipe: "Use your favorite basic recipe and adapt".

Adapt?  I don't adapt.  I religiously follow recipes, to the letter.  I do not adapt.

Still, Jill thought I could adapt.  I thought, "Well, if Jill thinks I can be adaptable, then why not?"   I'm nothing if not adventurous.

Once I got started, I found that a favorite basic recipe really can be just a jumping off point.  I could do anything.  I could make the almond and poppy seed muffin of my dreams.  In fact, I could indulge my wildest muffin fantasies.   Wow.

So, here it is.  My own adaptation of Almond Poppy Seed muffins.  They were delicious, and I think they may just become one of my rotating muffin recipes.

It pays to be adaptable.  Stay tuned for more...

Recipe:  Almond Poppy Seed Muffins
Adapted from The Daring Gourmet


2 cups all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup white granulated sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup virgin coconut oil
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon good quality almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
Sliced almonds
Turbinado Sugar


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, coconut oil, and sugar for at least 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, almond and vanilla extract, and buttermilk and beat until combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat just until combined, being careful not to over-beat.   Add the poppy seeds and stir gently until combined.  Fill muffin cups to about 2/3 full.  Sprinkle with a few sliced almonds and a little turbinado sugar.

Bake for approximately 20 or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean but moist.  Let cool for about 10 minutes in the muffin tin, and then transfer to a wire cooling rack to finish.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Comments on Condiments

There's really nothing I like better than a good condiment.  Just ask my family.  For years they have been deriving enormous humor from my hotdog preparation at Pirates games.  I think of the hotdog and its accompanying bun as the delivery system for the condiments.  Ted and the kids think the whole things turns out to be pretty messy and gross.  I think it's perfect.  The more mustard, onions, relish, and kraut, the better.  I like it that way.  No apologies.

My love of condiments extends far beyond hotdog fixings.  I love all condiments, and that includes even the weird ones like chutney.  Is it sweet?  Is it savory?  It's a little of both.  And that suits me fine.

Generally speaking, chutneys are served with roasted meats.  They add a nice sweetness and spice -- think Major Grey's Mango Chutney.  I'm a renegade though.  I like to serve chutney in unexpected ways. This particular apple chutney is really nice on toasted  multigrain bread or cornbread.  Think of it as an interesting fruit compote.  It adds an interesting little something something to everything it touches.

This is an Ina Garten recipe so you know (1) it'll be good, and (2) it'll be fairly easy.  For the record, I was out of raisins.  (Who runs out of raisins?  Running out of raisins is like being out of milk.  It just doesn't happen.)  I used currants instead and it was still tasty as can be.  The chutney took just minutes to whip up and the leftovers kept for a week or so in the refrigerator.

So, spread your condiment wings.  Live a little.  This chutney could be your new favorite condiment.

Ina Garten's Sweet and Savory Apple Chutney
Make It Ahead, 2014


6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and half-inch diced
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (2 oranges)
3/4 cup good cider vinegar
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon whole dried mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 cup raisins


Combine the apples, onion, ginger, orange juice, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard seeds, pepper flakes and salt and in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to simmer and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Take off the heat and add the raisins.

Set aside to cool and store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.