A Southern Grace: January 2008

January 31, 2008

"you double-dipped the chip!"


George: "Double-dipped"? What are you talking about?

Timmy: You dipped the chip. You took a bite. And you dipped again.

George: So...?

Timmy: That's like putting your whole mouth right in the dip! From now on, when you take a chip, just take one dip and end it!

George: Well, I'm sorry, Timmy, but I don't dip that way.

(Best. Picture. Ever.)

Oh, how I love Seinfeld!

If you've ever wondered if, in fact, double-dipping is really such a party foul, you should read this article from the NY Times. You might be surprised.

That is all.

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January 30, 2008

the maiden voyage


I developed my first product today! Hurrah, hurrah!

Clearly, I can't tell you all about it (lest I get canned), but I will say that it involves blueberries (oh, how I love the blueberry) and it is positively delicious. I envy the babies who'll get to eat this one. In fact, I'm sneaking some of it home with me.

What is this vaguely familiar feeling niggling at me?

Ah, yes, a sense of accomplishment and pride. I remember now.

That's nice.

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january is fiber focus month, and you know what that means...



Oh, how I love beans. I've never placed a bean into my mouth that I did not enjoy. [Disclaimer: This does not include retail green beans, as they cannot truly be considered beans.]

Unfortunately, I am not immune to the gastronomic side effects of beans.

It's true, there's no sense in denying it.

I want to take this opportunity to educate you on a few of the different varieties of beans (and there are many more). Some of these are completely new to me, and some are just downright beautiful. Yes, beans can be beautiful.

Here they are, in order of fiber content (per 1/2 cup) (you might learn a thing or two):
anasazi beans (12.0 g):

This attractive purple-red and white bean has a sweet, mild, full flavor and a mealy texture. Compared to other beans, it contains only 25% of the specific complex carbohydrates sometimes responsible for the gastric distress associated with dry beans. Yeah, I'll believe that when I see it.

navy beans (9.5 g):

Also known as the yankee bean, it's a smaller, denser, milder-tasting version of the great northern bean. These always bring to mind Adam Sandler's song Lunchlady Land. "Hoagies & grinders, hoagies & grinders. Navy beans, navy beans. Meatloaf sandwich. Sloppy joe, slop, sloppy joe..."

kidney beans (8.2 g):

Beware--red kidney beans contain a toxin called phytohaemagglutinin that causes severe gastric distress, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Under-cooked beans can be more toxic than raw and it only takes 4 to 6 beans to bring on symptoms. Duly noted.

lentils (7.8 g):

Lentils are one of the oldest known cultivated crops. I like 'em because they're meaty, quick-cooking, and make a mean veggie burger.

pinto beans (7.7 g):

Medium in size, they lose their mottling when cooked, turning a uniform pinkish-brown with a delicious creamy texture that makes them ideal for refrying. Mmm...refried beans.

black beans (7.5 g )(a personal fave):

My source states that the low-fat high-fiber profile of black beans makes them relatively friendly to the digestive system. I'm here to tell you that that's a bald-faced lie.

lima beans (6.6 g):

Lima beans are large, creamy white, and disk-shaped with a buttery flavor and starchy texture. I like 'em big, thick, and juicy; those little ones are useless to me.

chickpeas (6.2 g):

Chickpeas have a mild yet hearty flavor and keep their unique round shape when cooked. In addition to being a good source of protein and calcium, they are especially high in iron. Hummus rules.

great northern beans (6.2 g):

The largest of the commonly available white beans, great northerns have a mild, delicate flavor that makes them perfect for baked bean recipes. I should probably eat more of these since I am now a resident of the great north...

soybeans (5.2 g):

Soybeans are higher in protein than any other legume and the only vegetable protein that is complete. The complex proteins in soybeans are hard to digest, which is why many of the traditional products derived from soybeans are fermented, a process that breaks down these proteins for easier digestion. I've had edamame, which are immature soybeans, and they're good. Real good.

adzuki beans (5.0 g):

A small, dark red bean that holds its color well when cooked, the adzuki is sweet and easier to digest than most other beans. I've never heard of it before, but I'd eat it.

appaloosa beans:

A hybrid bean from the American Southwest, its brownish-black and white markings resemble those of an Appaloosa pony. Their flavor is similar to the black bean, only more intense and earthy. That's a good-looking bean, and I need to try it immediately.

trout beans:

This heirloom bean is attributed to a man named Jacob Trout who ostensibly bred this bean in colonial Virginia (hooray!). An attractive bean with maroon markings on white, it's renowned for its baking qualities and rich, meaty texture. It's purdy.

lupini beans:

Technically a member of the pea family, these flat, coin-shaped, dull yellow seeds are second only to soybeans in plant protein content. They look fun, kinda like oyster crackers.

mung beans:

They can range in color from greenish-brown to yellow to black and have a delicate sweet flavor. They need no pre-soaking, cook quickly, and are easier to digest than most other beans because they contain very low levels of oligosaccharides, the substance in beans that causes flatulence. Again, I require proof. And I have to say, what an unenticing name for a food.

fava beans:

Favas are large oval beans, light brown in color, with a creamy texture and a strong earthy flavor. They can be eaten fresh as well as dried, with or without liver and a nice chianti.

calypso beans:

Similar in flavor but milder than the black bean, calypso beans are a hybrid with dramatic black and white coloring that resembles a yin yang symbol, complete with black dot. How cool is that? I need to hunt some of these down.

flageolet beans:

These small, pale green beans are actually immature kidney beans. And it's pronounced flah-JOH-lay.

So, beans I need to find and sample: anasazi, adzuki, appaloosa, trout, lupini, mung, fava, calypso, flageolet. Until I have done this, I can hardly call myself a bean connoisseur.

Lesson complete. Consider yourself educated.

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January 29, 2008

Raindancer Steak Parlour


My boss invited me to join him, his wife, and his brother for dinner last night. My first thought was, "Oh Lordy, I hope this isn't a set-up."

[Sidenote: That makes me think of my dear grandma, who's endlessly trying to find me a husband, whether he's 60 or 10. Love her anyway.]

Turns out my boss was just being kind, as his brother is 55 and married. Whew.
We went to the Raindancer Steak Parlour ("Parlour," eh? How hoity-toity is that?) in Amsterdam, the nicest place in town as far as I know (and by nicest, I mean most expensive). Apparently, they're big on steak and fish, two sources of protein that don't really do it for me. I can be flexible though (contrary to popular belief, I'm not always a Goldilocks), and I felt confident that there would be something on the menu that I could devour.

Plus, you know, life isn't always all about food. Seriously, folks. This was clearly more about getting to know my boss better and being social. The nice meal was just an added bonus...

Anyway, my initial impression of the restaurant was not that it would serve expensive dishes. In fact, it wasn't very impressive at all--Applebee's has a better decor. But I reminded myself that one musn't judge a book by its cover.

We were seated promptly since we had reservations (which were completely unnecessary--there were only about 10 other tables occupied), and I checked out the menu. Cha-ching--it was indeed expensive. And almost entirely unappealing. Lots of fishies, lots of steaks, some veal (just can't do it), very little chicken, and no vegetarian. Boo.

I ended up picking an herb-roasted chicken salad, replete with sun-dried tomatoes (one of my favorite foods of all time), pine nuts, and roasted red peppers.

Anytime I see sun-dried tomatoes in a dish's description, that dish immediately moves to the top of my list of potentials. Unfortunately, I've found that the tart little slivers of love are often paired with mushrooms, which I abhor.

Not this time, hooray! It was a terrific salad, and I was pleased. I thought $11.50 was pretty steep, but what are you gonna do?

My boss got a petite sirloin and deemed it satisfactory. His wifey got a rack of ribs and said they were good. The brother got broiled scallops and never really remarked on them. So, all in all, there was clearly nothing to rave about.

Our waitress was nice enough, but we didn't see much of her. Is it normal for a dinner to stretch out for two hours? I didn't think so. I guess I really need to learn how to sit still for longer than an hour, especially when there's food involved...

Food: A
Atmosphere: C
Service: B

Final verdict: I'd only eat at the Raindancer Steak Parlour if someone else was paying.

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January 27, 2008

studly chocolate bread


Yep, you read right—my bread is studly.

It was time to feed Ebenezer again (he's so demanding!), so I set out to find a fun and exciting sourdough recipe to test. Ideally, the end product would be worthy of TasteSpotting, but that wasn’t my main goal.

Yeah, I'm lying. That was my main goal.

I found oodles of recipes, but finally decided on this one. After all, it's National Chocolate Cake Day, and this is kinda cake-ish...

Anyway, I had all the ingredients on hand:

Yes, I used regular pepper. Gasp, shudder, cringe. I was afraid that fresh-cracked would be too much, plus I hate to waste things. Even cheap-o boring pepper.

The very first step was to feed Ebie, as I did here. He was a hungry beast once again, but who wouldn't be after two weeks of fasting?

Next I had to rehydrate some cranberries, which I did by boiling some water in the microwave, pouring it over them, and letting them plump up for about 15 minutes:

In the meantime, I chopped up the luscious chocolate…

…and combined the dry ingredients in my big bowl:

That’s only 3 ½ cups of flour, which is what the original recipe called for. I can understand when bread recipes go a little light with the flour amounts to allow for additions here and there, but come on! I ended up putting in about twice that! It wasn’t even close! Ay-yi-yi.

Anyway, when the cranberries were satisfied, I kept their wonderfully-infused water and added more water to hit 1 ½ cups. This went into the dry ingredients, as did ol' Eb.

The original recipe commanded that the dough be kneaded (in a mixer) for 10 to 12 minutes. As we know, I currently do not have a mixer, much less a kneading hook, so I got quite a workout…

Poor, poor hand.

Finally, after much adding of flour and laborious stirring, I had a satisfactory dough:

I turned it out on the floured counter, kneaded it a bit more, and stretched it out. I dumped the cranberries on one end…

…and folded the dough over:

I stretched it again and added the chocolate…

…and kneaded and rolled and stretched and folded until everything was evenly distributed:

See the studs? Hence the name.

Hunks of chocolate. Mmm. Hunka hunka burnin’ love...

Where was I? Ah, yes, my studly dough was now ready to rise, so I placed it in a greased bowl, rolled it around, covered it, and set it aside to grow.

Ebenezie didn’t let me down:

After the dough had doubled (I ended up letting mine rest for about 6 hours), I gave it a good punch, split it in two, kneaded each half a bit, and placed them into greased loaf pans:

It was time to rise once again, so I went ahead and stuck them in the oven and left them alone for another 3 hours.

With my oven at 425 degrees, I baked the bread for about 40 minutes and let it cool on a rack:

Looks good from here.

This angle’s not too shabby, either.

What does one eat on a piece of chocolate bread studded with cranberries and more chocolate, you ask? I had blueberry preserves, and it was deeeeeeeelightful:

Sigh. I don't have a lot of confidence in this one, folks. I guess I need to accept the fact that bread is just not photogenic. It had to be done, though--Ebenezer must be fed regularly or he'll kick the bucket.

But come on, TasteSpotting, give a girl a chance!!

Studly Chocolate Bread
1 c dried cranberries (I used orange-flavored craisins)
½ c water

1 ½ c Ebenezer
1 ½ c lukewarm cranberry water and water

5 c bread flour (probably more)
¾ c cocoa powder
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 c dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

Bring water to a boil, add cranberries, and leave to cool for about 15 minutes. Drain the cranberries, reserving the liquid. Add enough water to bring the volume up to 1 ½ cups.
Place Ebenezer, water, and dry ingredients into a bowl and stir to combine. Knead for 10 to 12 minutes, adding flour as needed, until the dough is smooth, silky, and elastic.
Add the drained cranberries and chocolate to the dough, and continue kneading until the cranberries are evenly distributed. This may take some hand kneading to complete.
Put the dough into an oiled bowl, and turn the dough to cover it. Cover and allow to rise in warm place until approximately doubled.
Punch down and turn out onto lightly floured work area. Gently pull and stretch the dough into two small loaves and place in sprayed loaf pans.
Cover and allow to rise until approximately doubled.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Bake the bread 40 to 45 minutes and cool on a rack.

Disclaimer: Do not eat immediately, as this may result in burnt fingers, tongue, or roof of the mouth.

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