Saturday, April 19, 2008

Fig Cookies


One of these days I will learn that baking when you have imminent plans is not such a great idea, unless that aforementioned baking relates to those plans.

Today, it did not. Have anything to do with my plans that is. Cookies are in no way a prerequisite to the movies.
I've had Sherry Yard's Fig Bars via Luisa at the Wednesday Chef bookmarked for a couple months now, and finally had to make them. When I spotted dried Black Mission figs at the store last week I was so ecstatic that I bought a handful to test out, and then went back the next day, after my semi-successful granola bars (and pleased with the figs - I learned the hard way after hating some dried cherries) and bought 1 1/2 pounds of them. That was probably a bit excessive, but I can't always seem to find dried figs.

I thought about making them Friday night, but I had plans at 6:30 and didn't have the 3 hours minimum that I knew I needed. So Saturday morning I took out a stick of butter, went out for breakfast, and started on them once I got home around nine...
And then had issues with the fig jam. I couldn't decide whether to cover and simmer or leave uncovered. I covered it half the time, and uncovered it half the time, because it seemed too runny. But I also had it on the stovetop for close to two hours! So at 11:30, the time I needed to be leaving for the movies to meet my friends, I was, stupidly, putting a second tray of cookies into the oven instead of putting them in the fridge to bake when I returned home from the movies.

I made it to the movies on time, thanks to something called a generous mommy with a car, and only missed half of a preview. Though my friends and I have now decided to see Made of Honor when it comes out.

Oh, and the fig bar cookies. They're really good. But the jury's still out on whether they're worth the effort for someone who hates rolling things out. They aren't complicated or hard to make - I just have issues with rolling dough. But the filling - just spread it on a cracker with some greek yogurt or cream cheese and...
Well, it's delicious. The spread isn't much effort, and the hint of orange makes it worthwhile. Or I suppose you could just stir orange zest into storebought preserves and enjoy that instead.

I didn't change anything at all from the recipe Luisa posted:
The Wednesday Chef: Sherry Yard's Fig Bars

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

30 Hour Trip: Super Long Summary of a Super Short Trip


Please, ignore the frivolity of that. After I returned home from Denver, I realized that the entire trip from the time I left home on Saturday until I returned home on Sunday spanned the same amount of time as the return trip for Tehran. However, quickly exploring Boulder and Denver was much more fun, and a lot less tiring than traveling home was.

Also, this isn't all about food, so maybe it doesn't need saying, but I had fun over the weekend, which did involve two meals, so I suppose that justifies it.

From the Denver International Airport we drove to Boulder. Apparently it was the same distance as our hotel in Denver, just the other way. We drove near CU-Boulder because Mom couldn't remember where in Boulder she remembered the cute shops were. We drove through by the Greek homes, and since the weather was nice, it was a bit amusing people-watching from the car. I saw a large (maybe forty people?) group doing what appeared to be some sort of dance on one of the lawns. Once we parked we walked around the practically deserted campus, the streets with the bars and stopped for some banana fudge gelato at Glacier Ice Cream.

After looking around a record store, being offered some free chocolate cake where the air smelled sweetly of smoke, and Mom being sure that there was a downtown mall that she remembered from thirty years ago, we headed back to the car to look for the sign we'd seen earlier before we turned towards the campus. But on the way I had to stop into Stellar because it looked too cute. The tags on the clothes had the cutest descriptions, the dress I bought said "girl next door vintage lanz." How could you not be seduced by cute tags like that?


We found Pearl Street Mall, but at that point it was after six o'clock and most places had closed. Some were open, such as Lighthouse Bookstore which smelled too strongly of incense for me to even get past the doorway, Goldmine Vintage with its selection of new and old clothing including an adorable blue dress that I couldn't resist trying on and getting, a store with a Princess dress in the window that I don't know the name of, and Boulder Arts and Crafts Cooperative Gallery. It was light out when we went in and dark when we emerged from the gallery. We were getting hungry, and started looking for a place to eat. We first stopped at a place with an hour and a half wait, and then when Mom found a place with a fifteen minute wait she put her name down. I wanted to keep walking, and next door I found The Kitchen, which looked like the kind of place that I would have seeked out with weeks of planning. I walked in and they could seat the two of us at the community table. I had a hunch that I'd read about the place before, and after we'd sat down and I saw the chalkboards, I was fairly sure. It turned out that I've read two or three articles about the restaurant that I saw in the hallway leading to the bathroom.

We started with the spicy greens salad with a mild chevre and deliciously candied pecans; also, the calamari and sausage ragu with polenta which was tastier and more delicate than we'd imagined. I'm not even a big sausage fan and I liked it because it was more calamari. We were tempted by their pastas, but wanted to save room for dessert. After a long debate we chose to split the pan roasted steel head trout. It was served next to braised lentils with pancetta and a lemony sauce. The lentils weren't too heady for the fish either. (The other entree we'd been considering was the lamb shank with onions and polenta verde (there are greens pureed into it). For dessert we had the Pot au Chocolat which was amazingly decadent with cream. The only bad part was it was late when we got back to the hotel. But early starts on Sundays aren't usually an option anyways.

Sunday morning we drove over by Civic Center Park. It was pretty deserted and a bit scary at 8:30 in the morning. And nothing really opens before ten. But we took a stroll in the brisk weather around the area, walked over to 16th Street Mall where everything was closed, figured out where Bump & Grind was, and then entertained ourselves walking until 9:45. When we got back to Bump&Grind, a small cafe at 17th and Peninsula in Denver, there was a line of about twenty people. I freaked out a bit and got in line. I guess men in drag serving breakfast really was worth it and appealing. Breakfast was large and satisfying, with amusing names that I wish I could remember. Though I saw a bit more than I would have liked to of some of the waiters -er, waitresses.

We walked over to the Denver Art Museum and waited for it to open, and gazed up at the library. I could move to Denver - it has a gorgeous library that looks like a painting.

After the museum though, it was a quick stroll to 16th Street Mall which was bustling and not all that interesting, and then the airport. I guess 24 hours in the area really wasn't that long.

Glacier Homemade Ice Cream
1350 College Ave. and other locations
Boulder, CO

Stellar Clothing Co.
1203 Thirteenth
Boulder, Co 80302

Powell's Sweet Shoppe
Have a candy you haven't seen in years? They probably have it. We picked up a Hello Kitty marshmallow pop for my cousin here.
1200 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO

Goldmine Vintage
1123 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO

The Kitchen
If your in Boulder, I'd stop here. It's open for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner and is simple and unpretentious.
1039 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302

Bump & Grind Cafe
I was only there for their brunch, served by waiter in drag, which is quite a popular event and on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 10. I'm not sure about the rest of the week. Sorry that I don't have a more precise address, but the place is hard to miss.
17th and Pennsylvania
Denver, CO

Denver Art Museum
Didn't have quite enough time to spend in it. But how can you not like a place with lots of art AND interactive stations where you can make your own postcard. Elsewhere I grabbed a card that said INSPIRED on one side and on the other was a quote from Ansel Adams in the 1930s.
"A strange thing happened to me today. I saw a big thundercloud move down over Half Dome, and it was so big and clear and brilliant that it made me see many things that were drifting around inside me."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Oh no, I'm becoming a cookie monster!


The night before the child-killing test on the Russian Revolution, what was I doing?

I know I should say studying, but I could only study for so long, and even though I was leaving for Iran in 48 hours and was planning on making shortbread to take with me, I couldn't help but find a cookie to use up the super-ripe bananas in the fruit bowl and some of the eggs. Of course, muffins probably would have been more effective, but I remembered the time I made muffins that SHOULD have been cookies and unable to find my recipe, I decided to look online for a banana cookie recipe. I found one at Bakingsheet (now Baking Bites). Though the recipe was terrific unaltered, I woke up early the next morning and changed them up a bit and they seemed even more banana-y when I took out the chocolate and added some chopped nuts. Oh, and to answer the rhetorical question simply: baking cookies.

Out of fear of overbaking these, I keep undercooking them and they turn into mush. But the one cookie sheet that I managed to leave in the oven long enough turned out deliciously crispy cookies that were browned and nice and soft on the inside. I'm still struggling with that balance of baking time - though I will admit the other batches were definitely undercooked.

Now, three weeks later, I had to make another batch. And they disappeared (and its dark out and I'm too lazy to take a picture - what's wrong with me?) before I got a new, better picture.

Banana Oatmeal Bread Cookies
adapted from Bakingsheet
makes a few dozen

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (or all purpose)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 small/medium banana (about 1/4 cup), mashed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350F and line two baking sheets with a Silpat or parchment paper.

In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar. Beat in egg and banana, and then vanilla extract. Either on slow speed or by hand, gradually stir in the flour mixture. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, and pecans.

Drop by tablespoonfulls 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes.