Friday, March 19, 2010

Ree To The Rescue

Post-pregnancy I've been trying to cut down the calories by cutting down on dessert in my life. Where before I would indulge my sweet tooth on a daily basis, (you better believe I made the most of those 9 months of being pregnant!) now I have to seriously discipline myself. It's an uphill battle, to say the least. I was a good girl for a few days, but then I went ahead and bought some french vanilla gelato from my grocery store. Big. Mistake. Because then I started thinking of all kinds of sinful ways to incorporate the gelato into my every day meals. For days it was stashed at the very back of my freezer on purpose. I swear I could hear it beckoning me each time I opened the door to the freezer, enticing me in a dulcet tone ... "Come away wiz moi, mon cher". Yes, my gelato has a french accent. It's french vanilla after all. Duh.

Still, my breaking point did not come till early this morning. I was looking through PW's cookbook to see what I could make for the FFPW - Desserts round-up. And instantly I knew that her Blackberry Cobbler would be the perfect Fred Astaire to my gelato's Ginger Rogers. Not only that, but I knew I could count on Ree to make it easy and quick for me. Two extremely important factors, especially on a day when your baby has been crying all damn day without any fathomable reason (do you moms out there know what I mean? Please say 'yes' and tell me I'm not going crazy!). Oh, one other thing - I was absolutely craving raspberries, so I decided to make it a mostly raspberry cobbler, with a few blackberries thrown in for fun.
My little raspberry, I want to squeeeeeeeeze you! Oh, erm, please ignore my dry, cracked skin - I think it's a casualty of breastfeeding.

PW's Favorite Berry Cobbler (find the original recipe in her cookbook or on her website)
Serves 6

Click here for printable recipe

1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 stick of unsalted butter, melted
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries/blackberries

1. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Butter a baking dish.

2. Whisk together the flour and 1/2 cup of sugar in a bowl. Pour in the milk and whisk till combined. Then add in the melted butter and keep whisking until fully incorporated.

3. Pour batter into baking dish and sprinkle berries all over it, distributing evenly. Sprinkle 2 tbsp of sugar over the whole thing.
Oh man, look at those insane raspberries. I could eat this as is.

But I'll throw in a few blackberries too, and now it looks even better!

4. Bake in the oven for 40-45 mins, or until golden and bubbly. 10 mins before the end, take out the dish and sprinkle the last 1 tbsp of sugar over the top - this just gives it that extra crunch. Once it's done, let it cool for 15-20 mins before serving with mandatory scoop of vanilla ice-cream/gelato. Stores well in the fridge, covered in foil, for quite a few days.

Verdict: *Smacking lips* I was licking that very spoon before sitting down to write this post. The aroma as it was baking in the oven was divine - strong enough to counter B's diaper smell! *Sigh* Feels good to have my raspberry craving satisfied. And my lovely french vanilla gelato paired sublimely with it. You've got to make this, dear readers. Cobblers are now my no-fail, go-to desserts. And this one is so easy, it's ridiculous. And yet it will bring out moans of delight in even the most crotchety of people, the manliest of men, the pickiest of kids. But listen, and listen well. You must have it warm, and you must have it with vanilla ice-cream. Don't try to separate the two - it would be a tragedy. It'll make me cry.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Economic Woes

We're not out of the woods yet, folks. The US economy is still reeling from the aftermath of bad, careless decisions by greedy, ruthless businessmen. Then there's the effect of an entire generation growing up and living beyond their means, purely on debt. My little town in Connecticut is still hurting. For a girl who cooks as much as I do, the neighborhood grocery stores are a veritable treasure. So it's pretty disheartening to see two of my favorite ones shutting their doors for good.

One of them was a little Mom-n-Pop specialty Pakistani store, which was about a mile down the street from us. A healthier, more active person - who isn't still carrying around at least an extra 25 lbs of post-baby weight! - could easily have walked there and back. The people running it were lovely, the shop was spotless and clean, and of course, it was packed with all the goodies from India/Pakistan and the Middle East. I spent a lot of time there, just browsing the aisles of spices and grains of every variety. Sadly, they just couldn't keep afloat in this pathetic economy. How I miss NY, where the
desi stores were aplenty - one of them was literally across the street from us! (and yes, I did walk there, erm, sometimes)

The other recent closure was, surprisingly, a large chain grocery store. I went in there this past weekend and was shocked to see most of the shelves lying empty and, well, kinda desolate. I felt bad for the people working there. For me, it's just inconvenient changing stores, when you've gotten so used to one. I knew where everything was, so could run in and out in no time. Now when I go to a new store, I'll be one of those people who spend half their time just searching for what they need - going from corner A for the veggies to corner B for the milk, then back to A because I didn't know that's where they kept the cheese too! *sigh*

All around my neighborhood, things are slowly shutting down, and it feels that time is running out for me to enjoy the remaining stores and restaurants around here. I had the same sort of feeling when I looked through my food pics on my computer. There are a lot of photos there of recipes that I've tried just once. And there are a couple of recipes that I had better tell you about right away before winter disappears completely, and before I forget how I even felt about them! After all, I doubt you'll be making anything with pumpkin come June! So here's one that's great for your kids, and the kid in you.
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies w/ Maple Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (Erin's Food Files has the perfect recipe for these, and that's where this comes from)
Makes 8-12

Click here for printable recipe

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tbsp ground cloves
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1.5 cups pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves.

3. In another large bowl, whisk together brown sugar and oil until well combined. Mix in the pumpkin puree. Add eggs and vanilla - whisk until fully incorporated. After that, sprinkle flour mixture over pumpkin mixture and whisk again till everything comes together.

4. Using a small ice-cream scoop (I need to get me one of those - I just used a tablespoon) drop heaping tbsps of dough into prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.
5. Transfer to oven and bake 15 mins or so, until these cakey cookies are just starting to crack on top, and toothpick inserted into the center of each comes out clean. Let cool completely on pan.

1.5 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temp
4 oz cream cheese, room temp
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth. Add cream cheese and beat again. Add powdered sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla, then beat until well combined.

To assemble: Turn half the cooled cookies upside down. Pipe about a tbsp of the frosting onto that half. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that frosting spreads to the edge of the cookie. Refrigerate the whoopie pies for about 30 mins before serving.

Verdict: I'd never even eaten a whoopie pie before this, so really didn't know what to expect. All I knew was that I can't resist trying out something called "whoopie pie" because it's just too adorable, like something out of an Enid Blyton fairy-tale about a pixie feast. For those of you who have not tried these yet, I recommend that you do, but be warned - these may look like cookies, but they're nothing like 'em. The texture is more like a cake - soft, dense and chewy. Don't skimp on the frosting either. I love how it bulges out the sides as you bite down!

On a separate note, for those of you who may be wondering how my Ozzy is taking to baby B, well, I'll get into the details in another post. For now I'll just tell you that he has adjusted better than we expected, but he is still dealing with some insecurities. My own relationship with Ozzy is on the mend, as compared to what it was when I first brought B home (he was not happy with me at all!). He does stick to DH more than ever now - jumping up onto his lap every chance he gets. I'd be more jealous if I wasn't secretly relieved. At least he's getting the attention and affection he deserves from one of us - baby B monopolizes all of mine!
Ozzy my cuddly-wuddly, Mommy wuvs you!