Saturday, May 26, 2012

What's Baking? May: Bake With Spring Produce

This month's theme is Bake with Spring Produce, hosted by Ammie of Adventures in my Kitchen. I get excited for spring produce, because it finally means that one of my favorite vegetables, asparagus, is around again. Unfortunately for this bake along, I always steam it and gobble it up (plain) too fast to ever put it in any baked good. My new favorite spring veggie is fiddleheads. I finally tracked down some last year at the Coop in Lebanon, NH and we sauteed them with balsamic vinegar. They were... just ok. Not great. This year I prepared them much more simply and they were amazing. New favorite veggie! I parboiled them  for 5-6 minutes, while sauteing some minced garlic in butter with salt in a pan, and then drained the fiddleheads and tossed them in, stirred around for a few minutes, and that was it. Amazing. They suck up all the buttery garlic flavor the way mushrooms do. It's just too bad we can only get fiddleheads for a couple weeks a year! I may start growing ferns just to have some fiddleheads...

Anyway, enough with steaming and sauteing, let's bake something.

My area is a little tricky for spring produce. The grocery store will carry it if it's available, but I don't think they put much effort into obtaining local stuff. We've again opted out of the CSA (sigh! hopefully next summer), which doesn't start til June anyway. We have a farmer's market at the end of our street, but none of the farmer's markets around here start until the 3rd week of June. My mom mentioned going to the one across from her office this week and I was instantly jealous. :-/ So where to get the produce?

Here. Friends, this is my garden. Further to the left is my giant patch of pachysandra, and in the picture you can see my weeds, my little garlic plant and my beautiful chives. These are all things that require no effort on my part, because I'm a terrible gardener. Although the other day Clint and I were checking out the big empty area where our arbor vitae used to be and we kind of got the idea to put a box garden in there... ideas are not actions though, so we'll see. Fortunately, I have many gardener friends to turn to for advice. So maybe one day, my chives won't be the pride of my garden- although honestly, I grew a mean crop of hostas. Seriously. And we have some nice Lily of the Valley, and our mulberry tree seems to be in good form this year.

So I turned to my local, fresh, spring produce chives to help me out. I used them in one of my new favorite recipes, Dorie Greenspan's Cheese and Chive bread. The first time I made this, I used Penzey's sage, because it was during the winter. But now I have all these chives at my disposal! (as well as 2 other chive plants in pots on the porch).

Savory Cheese and Chive Bread
recipe from Dorie Greenspan, in Around My French Table

1 and 3/4 cups flour
1T baking powder
1/2-1t salt (depending on what kind of cheese you're using, and this time, I only used a pinch- the people I baked this for are all trying to cut down on salt in their diet)
1/4t white pepper (couldn't find it in the baggies-of-spices bowl (I need more spice jars! I buy all my spices in bulk), so I used freshly ground black pepper)
3 eggs
1/3 cup milk (Dorie says whole, I use skim)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 heaping cup grated cheese (gruyere, cheddar, etc)
1/3 to 1/2 cup of cheese chunks (gruyere, cheddar, etc)
1/2 cup minced chives (or other herbs)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional, I omitted- I'm funny about nuts, I only like them in sweet things)

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Beat the eggs together until frothy, about a minute. Whisk in the milk and olive oil and beat til combined, then gently stir in the dry ingredient mixture and stir until just barely combined. Be gentle! Fold in the cheeses and herbs and nuts.

Bake in a greased 9x5 loaf pan at 350F fo 35-45 minutes, until it's just beginning to brown and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Wait until cooled to slice! I learned the hard way that this'll fall apart if you're not patient in your slicing.

For this loaf, I used half sharp cheddar and half chipotle cheddar (both Cabot). Normally I get the Cabot sharp cheddar in the 3lb block and keep it on hand- it's the favorite hor d'ouerve for when my parents visit! But this time I was running low so I added in some of the 8oz block of chipotle cheddar Clint and I bought when we went cheese and wine tasting in Quechee, VT. The bread doesn't really have any of the spice of the chipotle cheddar, but it has the smokiness. I have to remember this cheese combination! The chive flavor isn't a star in this bread, but it's a nice compliment to the cheeses, and it makes it look more appetizing than when I used dried sage.

This is my favorite recipe now for when I need to bring a room temperature savory appetizer- for DAR meetings, our choir's Wine Tasting fundraiser, for picnics. It's lovely and cheesy and really easy! 

Oh here's Clint's idea of how best to eat this bread- with my delicious turkey burgers. I might need to make this recipe into a scone-like bun recipe next!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Spring, part 3 (leftovers)

so 2 weeks ago I went to the store... I'm a little behind on blogging. I'll blame it on my poor health. My health issues don't actually stop me from doing anything, but they freak me out so I can't really sit still to do anything because I'm too busy worrying and fretting. Anything in short bursts I can do (facebook, clean), but anything requiring thought for more than 5 minutes (emailing, blogging, deciding what to make for dinner) isn't so easy.

Anyway, I've been on about 1 full week of good health. Today's not so great but it's one of those days that I say, "if it could always be like this, no worse, no better, I can live like that." and pray it doesn't get worse.

But I can still try on clothes.

The day I went shopping was the Friday following the Monday/Tuesday 2 day sale. Of course, the Lilly store I frequent is on the route for the Boston Marathon, which happened on Monday. I would have gone to their sale, but I come from the other side and I didn't think I could cross the marathon route. (when I said that to the saleslady, she looked at me like I had 3 heads. Hey lady, not everyone lives in the rich surburbs, some of us have to come from the other direction!) And on Tuesday I was too busy. Boo! But my wallet thanked me, especially when I saw what I believe was the sale section: Taytays, Stefe shifts, lots of tops and skirts, and a Dark 'n Stormy Worth shift. On their facebook page, they advertised "30-70% off", but I don't know what was marked down to what in that section. But I can tell you, I'm pretty sure I would have walked off with that Worth. Check it out.

 I take a size smaller in Worth than everything else in this post, but it's still comfortable roomy. I looove this dress. It was really hard to leave it behind. But you know why I did? A couple reasons: first, it's like 2 years old. Or 1 year? Either way, really not current, and I don't see why it's still full price. This particular one has been there since August so it's like not they're so popular they have no reason to mark them down. But the second, and more important reason, is that the salespeople were pretty rude to me, and I was insulted. Normally I try to buy at least one thing, something within my budget, just to make up for all the time I've hogged the dressing room. But this time I was first insulted for being so long in the store (seriously? Don't you think you'd want customers to try on a zillion things and increase their chances of buying a lot? Maybe they're onto me and know I'm not going to buy all that I try) and another salesperson came over and started complaining about the person who'd been in the dressing room (hi, that was me) while the first saleslady was helping me. Then I stood at the register for literally 5 minutes, holding the above dress, all 5 salespeople walked by me at some point, but no one helped me. Yes, 2 were with other customers, but the rest were not. I take that as karma telling me not to buy it. So now I'm on the hunt for this in a 10. Or any Worth shift for a good price, but I'll pay slightly more for this one.

I'm also not going to name the store I was in because all my other experiences there have been pleasant. I do hope they're not annoyed that I try stuff on there, I have dropped a significant amount of money there over the past year, just not on each visit, so it's not like I'm completely wasting their time. Stores are weird. I would think they wouldn't want to turn any customer away in this economy... I guess we'll see how it is next time I go in. Plus once I'm employed again I actually will buy something each time I visit. You'd think a store wouldn't want to risk alienating someone with that intention!

Anyway, rant over. I was pretty mad when I left, though.

So here's some more spring. I'm not going to link to everything and tell you prices, I just don't have the time or energy for that. Sorry!

Delia, size 12: a little snug, love the embroidery and the low back (sorry, not shown!), iffy on the exposed zipper, not thrilled about the length. I'm 5'6, btw.

Ha. Felicity, because everyone's talking about this. Someone said it was hard to get on. I tried my normal size and it was super easy to get on, about the same as a really stretchy strapless top. It was big, I probably would need to size down (in strapless?! unheard of!) but it looks ridiculous on me so why bother? I knew it would look like this. I call this look "hourglass in a funhouse mirror".

Clare, size L. This is actually the first Clare I've ever tried on! I don't love it. It's flattering but I don't care for the flutter sleeves, I have enough shoulder without adding to it. But the rest of the dress is very slimming.

Peggy, size 12. Another one people were talking about. Yeahhhh not in love. It's ok. People have said it's short, but I thought the length was fine. It fit true to size, though.
Adeline, size comparison. First is size 14. Looks fine, maybe a little big in the belly.

Now size 12. .....looks fine.
The bust was the same in both, but 14 had a slightly bigger belly. I think I'll go with the 12.

A little skirt comparison! This is the Hallie skirt, which was on recently with a little price typo- $48 instead of $78. ha oops! I was tempted to get it, but it seemed short. Well, it's quite short, and I'm glad I didn't get it. Fits more snugly than a Roslyn, too.
 Tate skirt, also way too short, and fits a little snugly.

Wynne top, size L. I do like the ruffle on the top, but I wasn't thrilled by it overall. It looks fine in the picture, but when I had it on it was awfully long. I might hunt for this on sale. Once upon a time it was such an ordeal to find a cute shirt that wasn't inappropriately low-cut, so years ago I would have bought this immediately, but lately it's easier. I don't do crew neck, and anything else showed too much! I don't know what happened to tops so that I don't have this problem anymore, but I really like it.

Clementine top. I first tried a M, assuming Elsa sizing. Not quite! It pulled at the bust too much. 

 Here's a L, which isn't significantly bigger in the belly, but is perfect in the bust. I'm not madly in love with this print (although I do love this shade of pink!), otherwise I would have taken this home. I was really hoping it would pop up in the summer line, but alas. So I think I'll get this when it's on sale. It's also available in Valley Girl, which isn't a good shade of yellow for my complexion.
Telyn, size M- Elsa sizing! Really love this, but I think I may have to wear a tank under it. that's ok! It's so cute and summery, it makes me want to wear it on the beach. I'm hoping this appears on my birthday, my mom was raving about it one day when she called me from a shopping trip. ;)

Krista polo, L. Ick. Just, ick. I feel like this shirt has stolen all of the shoulder pads used in the 80s and is using them all at once.  If you have more sloping shoulders, or perhaps a longer neck, I'm sure it's lovely. The color's fab, but I couldn't wait to take this off.

Ricci, size 10. A little short, not bad, and I like the neckline even better than my Look Lady one from last summer! I felt this was a little tighter than Ricci should be, but I think 12 would have been too large. So I'm not sure what size I'd get, if I got this dress. My Look Lady Ricci is a 12 and it's lovely and roomy, but I can't wear any pins on it because pulls the dress down so much- so maybe I should have sized down last summer!

Ok now let's talk about Elsas. I feel like I need to have a whole post dedicated solely to Elsa. Let's start by saying that I have 2. I almost had 3, I got a silk one on sale but I couldn't stand the print- it was one I'm not a huge fan of anyway but I thought having a half price Elsa in it would make me like it enough. I was wrong.

I have 2 cotton Elsas. Here they are:
 In starfruit yellow's picture, I was doing a sleeve comparison to a dress. But you'll note that the sleeves are different lengths between hotty pink and starfruit yellow. Both are size M. They might be different seasons, though. Both were Rue La La purchases, but pink was in January, yellow in April.
This is from fall, size L- a little roomy but not enormous.

 Here's one from resort, size L. This is Elsa Pintucks. It's huge.

And here's the same in M, much better.

More Elsas from fall, but not pintucks. I didn't like them, they seemed huge and blousy and ready to swallow me whole. Both size M. I think it was mostly that the sleeves were quite big, not so much the body.

So with that in mind, here's the spring Embroidered Elsa. Very pretty. It's a woven cotton, a nice, airy fabric.
And it's a little tight in the bust. Interesting. And note the enormous sleeves. I have relatively long arms, and generally sleeves are too short for me (one of the reasons I can't wear button-down shirts, the arms are never long enough). This Elsa isn't necessarily on my "no" list, but it was surprising.

Now I'm eager to check out summer! I haven't seen anything in person yet- part of my reason for this trip to the Lilly store was because I'd emailed about when they'd have summer in, and was told it'd be on the floor the next day. Yeah, what the guy meant was actually the last shipment of spring, they had a couple boxes still being unpacked when I was there, and I saw a stack of Leilas in Lavish Lillys. Not the same as summer! But I am patient. I'm also not loving the summer styles overly much. I fully approve of Ugotta Regatta, Sailor's Valentine, and Summer Classics, but I really have no idea what I'd buy in each print. A murfee and/or bag in Summer Classics, maybe the Whitney pants in Sailor's Valentine, but I have no clue about Ugotta Regatta. I may hope the Camie dress is as cute as the Carolyn on me, but I'm worried it'll be more like Cassie, i.e. no thanks. Maybe Treena, the long dress, but I'm not holding my breath on that one! Now, if they had a Worth in Ugotta Regatta, I'd be all over that! Full price, even!