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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Great Bechamel Disaster of 2012

Hey there y'all!  I am writing from the thrilling locale of Fort Worth, Texas.  It's actually been a great trip, and my co-workers and I have had a great time bonding (and working too, obviously... :) ).  Today we had a 2 hour drive, and stopped for lunch at Rudy's BBQ.  It was AWESOME - some of the best BBQ I've ever had, and the three-bean salad is quite excellent as well.

However...the giant helping of BBQ Turkey + 2 hours in the car is not sitting so well in my stomach right now...bleh.  Also it turns out that my initial instinct to pack my own tea was spot-on, because there is NO TEA in this hotel.  Not only is there none to be found in the room, but even at breakfast they only serve coffee.  I love coffee in the morning, but right now my tummy really wants a damn cup of tea.  Oh and learn :(  At least I can heat up some water in my room.  And the fresh fruit I packed has definitely come in handy.

View from my roooooooooooooooom
 I'd never worked in corporate before this summer, so this whole "business travel" thing is quite new to me.  Like, I know I'm here for work but it just blows my mind that someone else is paying for my plane ticket and hotel.  And I feel so guilty putting things on my company card.  Even though I know we're supposed to use it for meals, inside my head I'm like, "but I would have eaten food today anyway..."  But, when I hear stories (from other companies) of the things that people's boss's boss's boss's bosses have supposedly expensed, I no longer feel guilty at ALL.

The last time I visited our client down here, I wore full-on business attire because I was all "hey we're going to visit a cusomter, I should look AWESOME."  Well, it turns out they are super casual and I stuck out like a sore thumb. So this time I toned it down a bit with mostly jeans, flats and nice tops.  Still not, you know, sweatpants, but just not as intimidating as suits and heels.  Making sure that the way you dress doesn't make others feel put off or uncomfortable is more important than looking uber-professional sometimes.  If people feel like they can't relate to you because you're wearing a suit and look like an investment banker, it's hard to build a relationship.

Workin it.

In a related story except not at all, Ben and I went to an Italian cooking class last week!  It was super fun and we learned a lot...and I am also pretty sure I ate all of the butter on the planet (or at least most of it was - the rest was in my pizza last night, or in the ridiculous dessert that followed).  One of the dishes we made was a crespelle lasagna, which is basically a lasagna made with crepes instead of noodles. The crepes were layered with bechamel, parmasean cheese and prosciutto - so essentially we were eating butter and eggs, layered with butter and cream, cheese, and meat, repeat several times and bake.

Practicing for when I become a famous chef

...and competetive eater (JK.  Never.)

There was, however, one unfortunate thing that happened during this cooking class.  That unfortuate thing was my attempt at Bechamel.  I will say right off the bat that I do not believe this was my fault!!  Trust me - if it was, I would own it, but here is the sad tale of last Thursday's Bechamel.

I've only made bechamel once in my life, and it did NOT turn out well.  But, this was back in college when my cooking skills were pretty minimal.  Now that I can at least make a decent roux, I was pretty confident I could master the Bechamel.  Plus, no one else in my group had EVER made one before. 

If you've never made bechamel, you probably know that this is not something you should just dive into with no instruction.  But that's exactly what happened - they just handed us the recipe and were like "OK go for it."  No demo, no detailed instructions, nothing.  It's a little intimidating to make something like that on the spot if you've never done it before, and sauces can be kind of touchy and time-sensitive.

Still somewhat confident, I added my butter and flour to the pan and started whisking away.  The next step, obviously, was to add the milk and cream - the only problem with this was that the teacher was in the process of heating up everyone's milk and cream over the stove, so we all had to wait until it was ready and then receive our milk and cream individually.  My roux wasn't quite ready yet, so I just kept whisking and stirring until I got it to what I thought was the proper color.  I asked the teacher if she thought it looked ready and she responded that it needed to be a little darker.  I didn't think it did, but whatever lady you're the I returned it to the heat.

As I continued to whisk, the teacher (who seemed *really* frazzled and was finally starting to pass out milk...but not to me yet...) walked by, looked at my roux, and declared that it needed more flour.  One of the obliging assistants came by with extra flour and proceeded to add some.  At this point, I was sweating and my arm was getting tired, and Ben was over by the teacher's stove waiting to pounce on the next batch of milk/cream that came available, so I was basically defenseless against the coming onslaught of flour.

At first it was fairly harmless - just a couple of tablespoons.  I thought at this point that it looked fine, but the assistant would shake his head, go "hmm...maybe a little more," until he had added probably half a cup of extra flour.  That is a LOT of flour in this context.  Finally he declared it ready, just as Ben returned with the milk, and the roux was looking awfully dark.

I tried to incorporate the milk as Ben added it, one cup at a time...but after he had added all of the milk, it was clear that something was not right.  My bechamel hardened into a strange, smooth dough blob, and no matter how much I whisked it, it stayed solid.  I sent Ben back for more milk.  We added another cup, but it still looked like a weird blob, and was definitely too dark.

Our helpful assistant walked by again...and informed us that wow, we need more milk.
Yes.  We know.  Thanks.

We added another cup of milk...and then another...each time being told by the assistant that we needed MORE MILK.  At a certain point, the sauce finally started to come together a bit, but the consistency was still really weird, so I asked the assistant if he thought it was headed in the right direction.  Keep in mind, I have never made a successful bechamel.

His response?

"Oh, I have no idea, I've never done this before."

WHAT?!  You added about a bazillion cups of flour to my pot with an air of complete and total authority and now you're telling me you have NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE????!???  I was PISSED.  But I didn't say anything, I just finished my sad, rubbery, tannish Bechamel and layered my damn lasagna.  And then later the teacher told me in a very kind voice that the trick to the crespselle was "mastering the bechamel." 

Well.  Maybe I could have mastered the bechamel, had I not been the victim of a disastrous flour-bombing.  I'll try it again soon.  Maybe I'll make pastitsio.  Weeeeeeeee.

So, that's my story for the day.  Off for some yoga glo with Elena Brower and then out to dinner!  Catch y'all later!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Helloooo there!!

Well hi!  Long time no chat, so to speak.  It's been pretty busy around here for the last week or so what with Valentine's day and all the birthdays, and the british soap operas which required my undivided attention.  To quickly summarize:

What I have not been up to:
- Blogging
- Reading nearly enough
- Following the Republican primaries

What I have been up to:- A lot of yoga
- A LOT of work...
- Celebrating my mom's birthday
- Celebrating my dad's birthday
- Celebrating my birthday
- Wasting time on facebook
- Baking cake
- Eating cake
- Watching squintillions of hours of Downton Abbey while consuming said cake

Internet time suck strikes again

And oh yeah... last Thursday was my 29th birthday!  It was totally not a big deal, but some of my work friends were mad that I didn't say anything, so we're going to celebrate together next week when we travel to the thrilling locale of north Texas.  

After work, I hit up a hot yoga class, and came home to find a freshly-baked batch of cookies and a home cooked meal courtesy of my wonderful husband :)  Mini decided to help with some chores, and even Sidney somehow found the time to make me a card, despite his lack of language skills and opposable thumbs.

I help u.

Happy B-Day!  I didn't pee on the floor today!

Pasta Carbonara

On Friday, we went out to dinner with my parents and my mom's friend Pat, who was visiting from Portland.  Pat and my mom have been friends since before I was born - she was like an aunt to me growing up, and is definitely an honorary member of our family.  It was really a joint Birthday celebration - my parents and I all have birthdays in the first half of February, and over the years we've moved towards more of a joint celebration than celebrating them all separately.

We went to Blackbird, which was fantastic as usual.  I had the celery root and mushroom risotto, which was amaaaazing.  Ben got the Walleye Po Boy, my parents both ordered Orichette, and Pat had the Cassoulet - definitely my favorite dish at the table besides my own :)  After dinner we walked back to our place for coffee and cake.

All of us at Blackbird
On Saturday, I had some friends over for drinks and more cake.  Amanda brought a delicious chocolate mocha torte, and the makings for Blood Orange Gin Sparklers, which were fan-tastic.  And gin-tastic.  Amanda was quite generous when she poured mine.

A few friends brought beer and various snacks, and I baked a second cake - Dorie Greenspan's French Apple Cake (via David Liebowitz's blog).  It was a lovely night and we had a great time just hanging out and chatting.

In other news, it finally snowed!!  And I am obsessed with Downton Abbey and wish I could be BFF's with Dowager Countess Violet.  And that I had all of Mary Crawley's dresses.  And this week's episode of How I Met Your Mother almost made me cry.  WHAT?!?

Also the most exciting part of my day was re-entering some numbers into a spreadsheet.  They were cost-related numbers and they were much lower than expected.  It blew my mind.

My life is super exciting.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

Happy Tuesday!  The worst part of the week is over!!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Our First Valentine's Day

Totally meant to post this yesterday, but then got distracted by more important things. Oh well!

This could go one of two ways, really.  Today is Ben and my first Valentine's as a married couple so in that sense it's a first....but the reason this time of year is really special to me is because it reminds me of our first Valentine's Day together.

Ben and I started dating right before Valentine's Day - and by "right before" I actually mean right before.  Like a couple of days before.  And by "started dating" I actually mean, we finally admitted that we were totally in love with each other after several months of skirting around the issue and pretending like it was no big deal and we were just super close friends (which we were, and still are).

Basically, for those of you who don't know us IRL, Ben and I have been friends since we were 18.  We met in our freshman dorm and had a few classes together.  In addition to being part the same close-knit group of friends, we were good friends independently.  We watched baseball together, exchanged young adult lit books, analyzed Harry Potter, and left ridiculous things in each other's on-campus mailboxes.  Giving Ben a hug and saying goodbye was what finally made me cry on Graduation/moving out day.  In college, the idea that Ben might like me as more than a friend never even occurred to me.  Because I am an idiot.

Just friendz!!
After graduation I moved to the bay area for a few months.  Shortly after I returned to Minneapolis, Ben took off for a two-year teaching stint at a boarding school in north India.  We kept in touch the whole time over the phone, email and g-chat, and had long and often hilarious conversations.  He and I both went through some personal rough patches during those three years, but despite being many thousands of miles apart we always had each other to lean on.

At some point while all of this was going on, I had dinner with my friend Rachel.  Well, I probably had dinner with Rachel multiple times, but one particular dinner stands out in the context of this story.  We were just chatting away, enjoying our meals when out of nowhere Rachel goes "BTW how come you and Ben never dated?"  It was honestly the first time this had occurred to me, but I couldn't think of a good answer.  I started reading back through our emails and letters, wondering if I'd missed some obvious hints of his feelings towards me (I had), and thinking that maybe there was really something there.

When Ben moved back to Minneapolis in June 2008, we started spending a LOT of time together.  We had regular viewings of LOST and Ken Burns' Baseball, both of which usually involved freshly-baked cookies and long conversations.  The more we hung out just the two of us, the more I began to realize just what an amazing guy he was.  By October I knew I was falling in love with him, but wasn't sure what to do about it.  There were several complicating factors, including the fact that he was my best friend.  If I made a move and turned out to be wrong about his feelings towards me, I risked losing him completely.

Finally, around the first week of February 2009 (yes, it actually took us that long.  I realize this is ridiculous), I became pretty convinced that my feelings were reciprocated.  Ben was dog-sitting for his aunt and uncle and invited me over for dinner and a LOST/movie marathon.  He cooked an amazing dinner for me, poured a ton of wine, and we stayed up into the wee hours watching movies, and then talking after the movie supply ran out.  Eventually I decided that it was probably late, and I should be getting home.  I thought it was maybe 2 or 3am, but quickly realized that it was actually 6am.

As I was leaving, we shared a hug that turned into a longer hug....and then it just started to linger wayyyy too long, and it really seemed like one of us should say something. Instead I eloquently blurted out: "umkgottagobye!" and ran to my car.  Classy.

I still remember that as one of the best nights of my life.

We had another Ken Burns night planned a few days later.  At this point I figured we had reached the point of no return and the whole "I'm in love with you" thing just needed to be addressed.  We had stayed up all night talking.  He wined and dined me, and looked into my eyes several times in a way that went far beyond friendship.  We had an awkward lingering hug.  To not say something at this point would have been just silly.

Waiting for Ben to come over that night was one of the most nerve-wracking hours of my life.  I made a batch of cookies, and then another batch.  I paced around the apartment, probably talking to myself.  I had a scotch.  I ate a few cookies.  I debated having another scotc, but decided on more cookies instead. I paced some more.

When he finally showed up, the scotch had at least taken the edge off and I was able to converse in a somewhat normal manner.  We talked about our days, ate a few more cookies and poured some wine, and then sat down to watch Ken Burns.

This next part, I'm not sure whether I should be to embarrased to post...but here goes.  If you needed more proof that I am a ridiculous sap, look no further.

I was just watching the documentary, drinking my wine and loving life until we reached the point where Ty Cobb passes away.  If you're not familiar with Ty Cobb, he was a shortstop for the Tigers in the early 20th century.  He was an amazing and hugely influential ball player, but he was also kind of a racist asshat.  Shortly before his death, Cobb said (in front of a backdrop of sepia-toned photos and old-timey nostalgic music that only Ken Burns can provide) that if he could do it all over again, he wished he would have had more friends.

I was GONE.  I started tearing up almost immediately, and Ben quickly leaned over to give me a hug.  It was another longgggg hug...and then we pulled apart and looked at each other.  And then he kissed me. 

And that is how Ben and I started dating.  Because I felt bad for racist, friendless Ty Cobb. 
True story.

Valentine's day was a few days after that, and surprisingly neither of us felt awkward about immediately planning to spend the day together.  It just seemed obvious.  Ben had a part-time bartending gig at the time, and he Valentine's.  So, he made me lunch in the afternoon, and then came back later (around 11pm) for ice cream and a movie night.  I remember how nervous he was as he threw beer-marinated chicken on the grill for our lunch, and how sweet it seemed to me.  I remember waiting anxiously for him to come over that night, not even caring that I had to get up early the next morning for choir - I just wanted to see him.

So, this was supposed to be a story about our first Valentine's, but it ended up being basically the whole story of how we started dating.  Oops!

Hope you all have (had) a lovely day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

I am the worst Valentine ever

I was going to make you guys cupcakes.  Honestly, I was, but as soon as I stepped out of the office I realized that this cupcake thing was not happening.  For one thing it was snowing.  Also I was missing several key cupcake ingredients, and I was really, really hungry and just wanted dinner. And it's Monday.  So no cupcakes.  Sorry, not sorry.  I already made you a cake, what more do you want from me??

Today was just one of those days.  I waltzed into the office well before 8am, took a look at my calendar and thought "Oh, this doesn't look that bad."  Wrong.  It was that bad.

You know when you have a million tiny tasks that seem insignificant by themselves, but when all smooshed together are like the Everest of task lists.  Out of all the 8,000 things I should have accomplished today, I managed to finish maybe 7,000 of them.  But it was a battle. If I was me, and my projects were Mini, then this was my day:


Don't worry, I'll still give you cupcakes.

Yeah, I know it will be after Valentine's.  And you won't be able to impress your girlfriend with them on special hearts and rainbow-pony-unicorns-day.  But you know what?  Suck it.  

I just don't get Valentine's day.  I don't hate love, I'm an extremely sentimental person and my husband and I are ridiculously sappy together (sorry to all of our friends and family that you have to put up with this).  But...I just don't get Valentine's day.  We do special things for each other on a regular basis.  He buys me flowers for no reason all the time.  I bake him cakes for no reason all the time.  I've got news for you, February 14th: you are just not that special.

So you'll have cupcakes, just not today.  Or tomorrow probably.  But someday, you will get cupcakes.  And they'll have wine in them, because that is how we roll.

Well this has been an incredible waste of your time.  I have no idea why I'm being so belligerent, I apologize.  Happy Valentine's day.

Hold me.

The end.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I made a cake

It's pink.  I'm quite proud of it.


It would be easy to think I only decided to make this cake after seeing other certain bloggers post similar blood-orange glazed cakes in recent days (differently shaped, but still), but in reality I've been planning on baking this for over a week and hadn't gotten around to it yet.  Just ask Ben, who has somehow been restraining himself from eating the blood oranges sitting on our kitchen counter, because he knew I was saving them for a cake.  What a guy.

I have a lot of valentine-y dessert ideas floating around in my head, but this one sort of snuck up on me as I was perusing the Smitten Kitchen archives.  I'd been wondering for a while if I could use blood oranges to make a pink valentines cake, and when I came across Deb's recipe for a grapefruit yogurt cake I was inspired to try it.

I have a mild obsession with blood oranges.  I know they're everywhere now, but somehow they still feel like a novelty to me.  My first attempt at making curd from scratch was during a kitchen adventure with my friend Amanda involving a blood orange tart.  It was delicious but for some reason the curd never set properly - someday I'll re-make that tart and show blood orange curd who's boss, but until then...there will be cake.


I made some small tweaks to the Smitten Kitchen recipe (other than the obvious swap of blood orange for grapefruit) but I'll give her credit for this cake's amazing texture.  It is incredibly moist with a fantastic crumb.  And when you add to that the jammy, almost berry-like flavor of the glaze....  OK now I need another piece of cake.


By the by, I'm pretty sure Sweetheart candies are sounding the death knell of romance in our modern age.  "Time 2 Dance"?  "Text Me"?? "High Five"???  This was the most romantic one I could find.  Whatever happened to "Be Mine?  It's just sad.  Plus they got rid of the white ones which were my favorite, and replaced them with some nasty blue fake raspberry thing.  I am officially done with you, Sweetheart candies.

Also, I'm in the middle of an epic Downton Abbey Season 2 marathon, so I'll leave you to your cake baking while I go and see what's up with Matthew and Lady Mary.  Happy weekend!
"There better be cake at this dinner."


For the cake:
- 1.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 4 teaspoons grated orange zest
- 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice

For the glaze:
- Juice of one small blood orange
- Enough powdered sugar to make a glaze consistency

Preheat your oven to 350.  Grease and flour a 9 inch round cake pan.

Sift the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.  In a larger bowl, whisk the yogurt, sugar, eggs, orange zest, vanilla extract and coconut oil together to combine.  Add the dry ingredients in three batches, stirring to combine each time with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.  When all ingredients are incorporated, pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean (but just barely!  don't overbake).

When the cake is cooled, remove it from the pan and onto a plate or serving platter.  Combine the juice and powdered sugar to make a glaze, and pour over the cake, until the whole thing is covered with a thin layer (you'll probably want to use something easy to pour from, like a liquid measuring cup).

This is seriously delicious.  Enjoy! :)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Diaries of a Cat Lady

Both of my parents are out of town this week, and with my sister in Australia I've been given sole responsibility for keeping their cat Maggie alive while they are gone.  Since my parents live about 40 minutes from both my work and my home, it's just not realistic to drive up there and back every night, so I am staying there for a few days.  Living alone with cat is a great opportunity for me to hone my cat-lady skills, such as watching TV late into the night, being afraid of the dark, and baking brownies and eating them all myself.

Mini is with me too.  I hoped she would keep Maggie company and that they would form a deep and beautiful friendship, but those hopes are quickly waning.  There is probably a 10-inch radius outside of which Mini's presence is perfectly tolerable to Maggie.  But, as soon as that boundary is breached the gloves come off.

Their interactions go pretty much like this:  Mini wants to play.  Maggie is nearby and therefore a potential best friend.  Perky and hopeful, Mini approaches Maggie all "hey let's play a gaaaaaaaaaaame you're my new BFF and I luv youuuu!!"  In response Maggie hisses and chases her for a good 20 feet before slinking off to sit atop her scraching post perch. 

Plez for 2 cuddle?

Bitch, please
 Mini lives in a special world of rainbows and does not understand the concept of rejection, so tries to follow Maggie and the whole cycle repeats itself.  Sometimes a sparkly fuzzy ball is involved in their disputes.

I would have thought Maggie would be a little more understanding, since she spent most of her youth being rejected by our old cat Sierra.  Sierra clearly wanted nothing to do with Maggie, but Maggie was young and naive and idolized her.  Sometimes Sierra would cave in and cuddle with Maggie, but mostly she treated her like an annoyance and avoided her at all costs.

It's like at the school Ben taught at in India, where the seniors had a tradition of hazing the freshmen by making them dress up in ridiculous costumes for an entire day.  The freshman would hated it, and would solemnly vow that when it was their turn as seniors they would be nice to the new freshman and end the cycle.  But they wouldn't, and everything would continue as normal.

Since I anthropromorphize my pets to a ridiculous degree (Sidney occasionally has a British accent FYI) I've decided that this is what happened with Maggie.  However, Sierra was old and sick and crabby, and Maggie has no such excuse.  Shame on you, Maggie.  I expected more.

Wee Maggie and Sierra, in a rare cuddle moment


The last couple of nights, I've made the mistake of trying to let the cats sleep with me.  This has resulted in the following:
      - Mini snuggling with me while purring loudly in my face and forming a big puddle
        of drool on my t-shirt.
      - Maggie howling like she was dying, prompting me to wake up in concern.  She
        was not dying, as it turns out.  She just wanted attention and couldn't find me.
      - Waking up to find Maggie standing on my stomach and staring down at me while I
      - Maggie suddenly deciding she didn't want Mini in the room anymore, and that the
        best solution was to chase her out, then hide behind the half-open door and stealth
        pounce her every time she tried to enter.
Eventually, I just locked them both out in frustration.  I'm not sure what it is about my kitties that makes me want to snuggle with them every night, even though I know sleeping will be impossible and I will deeply regret my decision in the morning.

Speaking of sleep, it is my bedtime, because cat ladies go to bed at 10:30.  well, ideally this cat lady would have gone to bed by 10 but then she decide to write a blog.  About cats.  OK I'll quit while I'm ahead.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Chana Masala

This weekend was just what I needed - unfortunately it still was still way too short for my liking.  The whole thing went by in a blur of music, wine, food, and Jane Austen movies and before I knew it my alarm was going off and it was Monday.  Boooo...

The product of a fun-filled weekend

On Friday, we sat in front of the TV with some wine and Pizza and it was amazing.  I have to post a photo of the pizza because it came out of the oven with the most ginormous cheese bubble I have ever seen.  Like, literally half the pizza was inflated.  It had already deflated a little bit by the time I whipped my camera out, but you can at least get some idea of the insanity:

There's probably an alien in there

Hello again, Meiomi.  Still delicious.

Our pizza and wine combo paired perfectly with a viewing of Dexter, followed by Pride and Prejudice because I needed something to clear the palatte before bed.  We're on Season 4 which is definitely the creepiest so far... I mean the whole series is about serial killers, but John Lithgow in this role just gives me the serious heebie-jeebies.  Luckily a hot Mr. Darcy traipsing about the countryside was just the thing to make me forget about repeated images of blood-filled bathtubs.  Hooray!

On Saturday, we lounged around for most of the day, I zipped up to my parents for some cat-related duties (they are both out of town for a few days), and in the afternoon I skyped Julianna in Australia!  In the evening, we went to dinner and the opera with our friends Mark and Tessie.  The show was Massenet's Werther, based on Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther - the music was incredible but we all agreed the set was not quite right.  It just seemed like a lot of disjointed pieces that didn't work togetherIn a related story, Werther was definitely the original emo kid.  Everything old becomes new again (in 2002). 

Yesterday I had a little more time to be liesurely, which was really nice.  Ben and I took an early-morning walk down to Patisserie 46 for coffee and pastries. 

I managed to convince myself that chocolate-raspberry brioche is totally a breakfast food
 Before going to yoga and then heading up to my parents for more cat duties, I decided to search the internet for the perfect chana masala recipe.  As Smitten Kitchen has thoroughly documented, chana masala is really damn hard to make.  Not hard as in complicated culinary techniques, it's just really difficult to get the flavor right.  Like Strauss's art song Morgen - easy to do, hard to do well. Smitten Kitchen's recipe is pretty good, but for some reason mine always turns out a little too watery, and other versions just end up tasting like tomatoes.  I was really intrigued by Orangette's recipe, but I do love some elements of the Smitten Kitchen version and the Orangette recipe looked a little underspiced to me.  So, what I ended up with is sort of a combination of the two.  I think I found a winner.  It still isn't perfectly authentic but it's definitely the best version I've made at home. 

Chana Masala, much like pizza, also pairs well with pinot noir and Jane Austen.  Last night we watched Sense and Sensibility with bellies full of chickpeas, while drinking wine and breaking off pieces of dark sea-salt studded chocolate.  Just about perfect.

Speaking of perfect...Alan Rickman can read poetry to me any day
 Hem.  Sorry.  Apparently I'm married or something? 

(Totally joking....I love my husband and he is way more handsome than Colonel Brandon or Severus Snape or any other Alan Rickman character...the end!)


Much of the genius of this recipe comes from Orangette (or rather, Molly's husband Brandon).  Cooking the onions until they are almost charred really adds to the flavor, as does repeatedly adding water and cooking it off towards the end.  Both of these techniques help get to that really rich, concentrated flavor you want in chana masala.  Or at least I assume you want it.  I do. 

OK without further ado, the recipe:

- 1 tablespoon ghee
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced or smashed in a garlic press
- 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 1.5 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon tumeric powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon amchoor powder*
- 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (CHECK THE INGREDIENTS to make sure they don't have basil... it might not say it directly on the label)
- salt to taste
- 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas
- 4 tablespoons water
- 5 tablespoons plain yogurt

In a medium/large soup pot or dutch oven (I used my 4 qt le cruset and it worked perfectly), heat the ghee until melted, then add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until deeply caramelized.  Mine were brown and starting to charr in some places, and definitely leaving residue on the bottom of the pan - it takes a while so have patience :)

Reduce heat to low, adding a little extra ghee if the pot seems too dry, and add the garlic, ginger and all spices (except the chili powder).  Stirr for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the spices are fragrant.  Add 1/3 cup water and stir, using a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape any bits off the bottom of the pan. 

When the water has either absorbed or evaporated, add the can of tomatoes.  You'll want to crush the tomatoes into smallish chunks with your hands before you add them, so that they incorporate into the sauce.  Add salt to taste.

Bring the sauce to a boil and add the chili powder.  Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the sauce begins to thicken.  Add the chickpeas, stir in and cook for about five minutes.  Add 2 tablespoons of water and cook for another five minutes; repeat with the last two tablespoons of water.  Taste and adjust the seasoning as you like.

Stir in the yogurt, and serve with basmati rice or naan.

Friday, February 3, 2012


In terms of my organizational skill level, today started off just below sea-level and went atrociously downhill from there.

It all started when I opened up the computer to check Facebook while I was eating my breakfast.  This was a huge mistake.  Instead of packing my lunch and putting on my shoes like a normal person, I wasted probably fifteen minutes looking at photos and listening to random songs on spotify.  Every song I heard made me think of another one, and pretty soon I was down the musical rabbit hole with no hope of digging my way out in a timely manner.

I'd planned on going to yoga after work today, and somehow had the presence of mind to pack my gear and mat before sitting down with my coffee and oatmeal.  However, in the rush of kenneling Sidney, grabbing my coat and lunch and running out the door, I realized I'd left my bag sitting on the dining room floor.

At that exact moment, I realized that I'd also left my house keys sitting on the kitchen counter.  For the first time in over two years, I had successfuly locked myself out of my own home.  Ben was already on the bus on his way to work, so there was nothing left to do but just drive to the office.

Today also happened to be one of those days where my meetings were all crammed into the morning, so by lunch I was pretty much done with everything that required me to actually be in the building.  Sometimes when this happens on a Friday, I'll head home and set up my office there for the afternoon.  This is great because I can drink tea and pet the dog while I finish up whatever I still need to work on.  Being locked out posed sort of a problem in this regard, so my next option was to head to Bull Run or Butter, set up there and have Ben call me when he was getting off the bus.

Nope.  Not happening  Why?  Because I also forgot my phone.  And, even more importantly, my RSA token which allows remote internet access to my work email, was conveniently sitting on top of my dresser.  AND I forgot my security badge AGAIN.

Pretty standard.

It's nights like this when I'm extra glad wine and frozen pizza exist.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A few random things

I'm really not sure what to make of the unseasonably warm weather we've been having.  It was a little chilly on Sunday, but the cold had mostly vanished by Monday, and yesterday it was 45 degrees.  I almost thought I'd misheard the weather forecast - four to five degrees?  Nope.  Forty five.  Forty plus five.  In January.

Knowing Minnesota, this is either the universe's attempt to make up for the freezing deluge of snow that was last winter, or we'll end up paying for it in the future.  I'm hoping for the former, but betting on the latter.

That reflection you see is not ice...

March?  Nope.  January.
 Since I got into the office super early yesterday I took the liberty of leaving a little early as well.  Usually Ben gets home at about 5, and I get home around 5:45-6 so by the time I'm back he has already walked and fed the dog and we start working on dinner.  Last night though, I managed to get home in time for all three of us to walk together!  I had a quick snack before we left, so that I would be reasonably close to my 2-hour pre-yoga eating window before my 7:15 Anusara class.  I find that if I try to eat even a light meal within 60-90 minutes of practicing I feel really nautious - especially if it's a hot class or if we're doing a lot of twisting or intense inversions and backbends.

Our walk was great, class was great... overall it's been a great week, with the exception of a few minor glitches that happened on (surprise surprise) Monday.  Luckily even the dumb things I've done that make me question why I'm allowed to have any adult responsibilities are usually balanced out by a few awesome things:

Things I've done this week that were kind of lame
- Forgot my security badge on my desk..on Monday.  That badge is going to get me in
  huge trouble someday.
- Forgot my wallet on my desk, also on Monday.  Luckily I had the foresight to leave it in a
  drawer rather than just out in the open...but I'm confused as to why my subconscious hid
  my wallet by putting it in a drawer rather than in my purse.  Just wondering.
- Tried to eat oranges as a snack at work.  This is a bad idea, trust me.  Oranges were not
   meant to be eaten on a white surface while also typing on a computer.

Things I've done this week that were totally awesome
Made cupcakes filled with scotch-flavored pastry cream.  Yes, that is correct.  I used single-malt
  scotch to make a cupcake filling.  Judge me.  I dare you.
- Threw a birthday party for Ben.  I didn't take photos but it was super fun.
- 11.5 hours of yoga
- Read some books

alcohol + cupcakes = magic

So overall I think the awesome list wins. 

This was very random.  Just to finish on a high note, here's a photo of Sidney looking suspiciously like tree-dwelling monkey:


Happy February?
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