Sunday, June 22, 2008


I broke my camera. That's right, deja vu -- this time, my pretty pretty camera that I've had for all of a month.

I didn't drop it this time -- noooo, I committed the cardinal sin of keeping it in a case in my purse at all times. Well, I guess my offense was actually in assuming that the case would keep it safe. Now, as I stare in despair at a fractured LCD, I realize that my purse regularly smacks into things, and I would really need a case made of titanium to protect fragile electronic equipment. Needless to say, my case was not made of titanium

I'm fairly positive the warranty won't cover it, but I'm still waiting to hear how much a fix will cost me.

This is so sad. I suck at owning cameras.


Friday, June 13, 2008

No more tastespotting!!

It's gone!!

But... but... but it can't be gone! That was my daily food porn!

Whatever will I do now?


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

An ode to cornbread

A paean to the pinnacle of provisionary perfection; a commendation of the culinary culmination of corn's cultivation!

I really, really, really like cornbread.

Things I like about cornbread:
-The crunch! The firm, snappy crust! "Cornbread" with a soft, spongy top and sides? AN ABOMINATION! Not cornbread at all! And cornbread recipes that call for a cake pan? Please, no! Cornbread is cooked in a cast-iron skillet, just the way my mother always does, thanksverymuch, and it CRUNCHES. Don't give me any of this northern-cornbread cakey nonsense.
-The texture! Delightfully rustic, simple, coarse, moist-centered, generally fabulous.
-The sweetness! Even traditionally-unsweetened cornbread is sweet, because it's made out of, you know, corn. Which is sweet. But if you're crazy like me, you'll break tradition and add a few tablespoons of sugar. Because it is FABULOUS.
-Do you see that I am so excited I am YELLING?
-The flavor! It has... bite, somehow. I also love cornbread batter, straight out of the bowl, and it is even more defined there -- a hint of something sharp amid all the soft, mild, sweet flavors of the bread. Like the gentle crumb inside versus the crunchy crust. Cornbread has depth, people. Cornbread has character.
-The versatility! You can put all KINDS of things in cornbread and have it still be fabulous. I don't, but, you know, you could. And that's cool.
-Its simplicity! It's not hard to make cornbread. In fact, it's downright easy! And the ingredients aren't fancy -- flour, cornmeal, butter, buttermilk, baking powder, baking soda, salt, an egg. Sugar if you're crazy. Easy! Cheap! Simple! AND SO FREAKING GOOD!

I absolutely adore cornbread. And sometimes, I get these cravings... this overwhelming need to have cornbread. (The same thing happens with biscuits.)

And you can't just slap cornbread down beside stir-fry, or curry, or any other standard dinner I make. You just can't. So I make beans and rice, and greens, and maybe a cobbler for dessert, and I don't make sweet tea because -- although I did at last develop a taste for it -- seeing just how much sugar is involved makes me want to cry -- but overall I think I'd make my grandmama's family proud.

I'm no Southerner, not really. I'm a quarter-blood transplant at best, and that's debatable. And I know the cornbread I make is hardly traditional -- sugar aside, there's also no bacon grease, and I fake my buttermilk with milk and lemonjuice. I know. I really have no room to talk. And I didn't really mean to badmouth Yankee cornbread.

But a girl has needs, you know? I happen to need regular doses of hot, crunchy, Southern-style cornbread deliciousness. I might be a bit of an evangelical cornbread lover.

I must spread the word!


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Chocolate-covered chocolate chip cookies

Say it. "Chocolate-covered chocolate chip cookies."

"Chocolate-covered chocolate chip cookies." It has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? The sweet, sweet sound of genius. That's what it is.

"Chocolate-covered chocolate chip cookies." Oh yeah. Why have I never experienced this joy before? Why haven't more than 8 people had this idea? "Chocolate-covered chocolate chip cookies." That, my friends, is bliss in five words.

So these aren't technically chocolate chip cookies, even though I followed this recipe. They're more pulverized-chocolate-chunk cookies. They were going to be plain old chocolate chunk, but I had bought a bunch of bags of Dove chocolate on sale, and I was going to cut those up... but that's a lot of work! So back when I made this dough, I threw the chocolate in the food processor, and wound up with a few lovely chunks and lots of little shards.

I was sorely disappointed, and while William insisted that they're perfectly fine, I cannot help but feel as if the dispersed chocolate just doesn't have the same delightfully chocolatey effect. So, obviously, this time I had to cover them in chocolate.

The magic happens!

It was crazy easy. I had frozen some of the dough from when I made these cookies before, and all I had to do was thaw it in the fridge, slice it up and bake the cookies for 10 minutes. I melted the chocolate (more dark Dove -- this post should be an ad for Dove chocolate, it really should) in my beloved double boiler, dipped in the cookies, and popped them in the fridge.

I did not temper the chocolate. Truth be told, it didn't even occur to me. You know why? Because I wanted chocolate-covered chocolate chip cookies (say it again!) and I wanted them right away, and tempering would have taken lots more time and effort than I was willing to expend. That's why. So yes, they had to go in the fridge, and they have to stay in the fridge, and as you eat them the chocolate gets all over your fingers. That's the best part! Licking dark chocolate off your fingertips after devouring a deliciously delectable chocolate-covered chocolate chip cookie? Man, that's the sort of thing I live for.

Moral of the story: You need more chocolate-covered chocolate chip cookies in your life right about now.

Oh yes.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008


I baked baguettes yesterday! I know what you're probably thinking. Maybe it's a little like what I'm thinking, which is, "Why is Camila on such a French kick? First a souffle, now baguettes... before you know it she'll be parlez-vousing the french!"

Sometimes I think about myself in the third person. Inaccurately, apparently, as odds of me speaking french are zilch to none. The whole hrrrrrr thing in the back of the throat? Doesn't seem to work for me!

At any rate, I did make baguettes... but QUICK baguettes. Not fancy-schmancy, triple-rise, intimidating French bread. It was actually really, really simple. Daniel Leader said he didn't include it in his previous books because it just seemed too darn simple... but it did seem to work!

It's miraculous, really. Flour, water, yeast and salt -- that's it! Not fancy flour -- all-purpose flour, which is apparently pretty close to French type-55. (I finally go out and buy bread flour, and the next bread recipe I bake calls for all-purpose... figures.) Not fancy water. Not fancy yeast or fancy salt, no prefermentation or difficult steps or anything crazy at all. Flour, water, yeast, salt and four hours of time, and you end up with this.

And these aren't even good baguettes! The shaping of them was a bit difficult, and it was my first time, so yeah, they are distinctly uneven. The crumb is obviously pretty dense -- probably a result of the shorter fermentation time, but maybe also my lack of skill. And I listened -- they didn't crackle while they cooled. :(

But they were distinctly baguettes. The crusts were crisp, the interiors soft, they tore with a satisfying sound and cut neatly into circles, and they tasted -- baguettey! I made baguettes. All by myself, with some help from Daniel Leader! Man, what a great day.

So what could we possibly have for lunch, except for this?

We ate right on the floor, butter and honey and gruyere and still-warm baguette and grapes. William laughed and said he felt very bohemian. I just felt very, very proud. Proud and happy.

And delightfully full.

Food = love.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Cheese souffle

I made a souffle! All by myself, I made a souffle! I feel like I just climbed Everest, except a lot less exhausted.

First of all, souffles are french. French cooking is a category that scares me entirely. Crepes are about all I can handle, and that's only because I try to convince myself that they're just really skinny pancakes. Everything else just seems impossibly complicated or difficult.

And souffles aren't just french -- they're souffles. Magical cooking. They deflate if you so much as think a doubtful thought towards them. The slightest whiff of air causes them to collapse. They actively resist your best efforts to bring them into this world!

Okay. So maybe none of that is true. But it sure felt like it... and I managed to make one anyway!

Now, I don't believe that I've ever in my life eaten a souffle. If I have, I've forgotten. So I don't really know what they're supposed to look or taste like... frankly, I didn't even know what they were, except prone to collapsing. All the same, mine tasted good and had lots of air in it. That's the goal, right?


I followed a recipe from Orangette in her column in Bon Appetit. Unfortunately, in the online version you don't get the rest of her column, which in a very comforting tone told me that it really would be okay. Souffles are easy to make! They won't collapse unless you're mean to them! Just don't open the oven door and everything will be okay.

So I took a deep breath and put my faith in Orangette. And even though I have no souffle dish, and even though I had no whole milk, and even though the recipe involved folding egg whites and I'm kind of rotten at that, I gave it a shot.

And I think it turned out okay. It was a little gooey in the center, but not omg-we're-gonna-die-of-salmonella gooey. Okay, so it was too gooey in the middle. I think. I don't know. I think it should have been less gooey -- but no matter. It was a souffle! I was so proud of myself. I'm still really proud of myself. I'm embarrassed that I'm this proud of myself.

In case you can't tell, I baked my souffle in a straight-sided saucepan with the handle broken off. I didn't break off the handle just for the souffle, though. The handle broke ALL BY ITSELF while I was holding it a month or two ago. As I put the pot away, I thought to myself, "Why am I saving this? I should just throw it out! A handle-less saucepan is no good to me!"

And the packrat in me wins again!


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Stocking up

We've been living out of our pantry this week, which made me think about emergency food supplies. The Red Cross recommends everybody have at least 3 days worth of food in their house in case of emergency, and that's certainly not hard to do. I obviously had more than a week's supply of food in the house last weekend. On the other hand, most of the food that I have requires preparation -- all my bags of rice and beans won't do us any good if the electricity is out and I can't boil water.

So how about a real emergency supply, with foods that can be eaten straight out of the box/bag/can? Of course, a lot of canned, ready-to-eat meals are super processed and not really the sort of thing I like to eat anyway. The exception? Tasty Bite! Ready-to-eat delicious, spicy, vegetarian food in space-agey silver packets... pretty much amazing.

I'm not really sure why I'm thinking about emergency food supplies. Certainly I'm not going to build one here, when we're about to leave in a couple of months. I suppose it is born out of a basic sense of insecurity -- right now, when there's not much food in the house at all, I feel sort of nervous. No onions? No potatoes? No black beans, eggs, or butter? A well-stocked pantry is a comfort, one less thing to worry about.

The weather has been strange lately, too, and natural disasters and food shortages are all over the news. I remember back when I was a little girl and a hurricane was about to sweep through our town. I heard a neighbor talking about the risk of the water mains breaking, and ran home in a panic to fill every sink and tub. My parents had to persuade me that it probably wouldn't be necessary, but it took a lot of comforting. I just wanted to be prepared, and I guess that I still do. I hate being caught off-guard... and I hate being without food even more!

I know that the LDS church believes its members should keep a large supply of food -- I think they recommend a full year. As I understand it, this is protection against the second coming, when the crops of the world are destroyed, but also good for general self-sufficiency. I poked around on the internet and found a few people saying that their food supply had come in handy in the absence of a natural disaster -- when parents got laid off, for instance, the food reserves kept the cost of living down until there was a source of income again.

A year sounds a little excessive to me, but having a few months' supply of food on hand just seems like a good idea. If some of it doesn't require any preparation, all the better, right? If you only store foods you eat anyway, and slowly rotate that food out, then it won't even get a chance to spoil, and you know your money won't be wasted. If nothing goes wrong, all you've used up is a little storage space -- and in the event of earthquake, economic collapse or end of the world, you'll be the most popular kid on the block.

Maybe I'm just warning you that someday you'll walk into my basement and face a mountain of wheat berries, a wall of dried beans, and all the Tasty Bites in the world. Just to be on the safe side!