Friday, March 30, 2012

Testing, Testing

Thanks to Jillian Michaels and her promotions with, I've splurged ($2!) on an actual domain name. Check out the new blog!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

No Ordinary Joe

In a (perhaps futile) quest to health things up a bit, I made the drastic decision to give up lazy Sunday brunches, delicious trips to lively restaurants, and the beckoning glow of ice cream shops for the month of March. However, even though I can't eat out for a couple of more weeks, my cravings for certain dishes are still managing to get the best of me.

Having made pasta fagioli to go with my Irish soda bread, I was left with a container of fresh sage begging to be employed in my kitchen. One of our favorite places to eat is Longman & Eagle, a Michelin star restaurant conveniently a ten minute drive from our apartment doorstep. If it's after brunch hours, the significant other has the tendency to order their Wild Boar Sloppy Joe. With the right amount of heat and sweetness, this dish knocks it out of the park. The official description of the dish includes crispy sage and onion and pickled jalapeno.

As is the case with sloppy joes, this recipe involved a lot of "a little of this" and "a little of that." I began by crisping up some leftover pancetta (also from the pasta fagioli) for 10 minutes and using the leftover fat to crisp up some sage which we dipped in a flour mixture to replicate tempura as best we could. Next up was carmelizing some onions, browning some bison and then putting the mean, onions, and a made-up sloppy joe sauce together to simmer. We used ketchup, mustard, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce with no real rhyme or reason. With some pickled jalapenos added at the last second and crisp sage thrown on the top, we were left with a perfectly suitable substitute of one of L&E's best dishes. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bread and Butter

There are few places that I've traveled to that are more magical than Ireland. My first visit was in 2001 while studying abroad in Cambridge, England. As much as I loved living in the UK, my roommates had to physically drag me onto the plane to leave my beloved Eire.

10 years later, I found myself touching down in Shannon, Ireland again. This time with my parents and the required age (*sigh*) to be able to rent a car and drive through the countryside on narrow, winding roads. The difference between my original visit and my visit last year? Rather than staying in budget hostels, my parents and I spent our chilly evenings among the comfort of bed and breakfasts. Besides the fluffy beds and occasional family pet, the best part of these stays were often the second part of their names... the breakfast.

Thanks to the magic of tripadvisor, we knew the specialties of each house prior to arrival and after having some pretty delicious Irish brown bread at Daly's House in Doolin, it remained to be seen whether our stay at Milestone House in Dingle could compare. Apparently proprietors, Michael and Barbara, know how to churn out some legendary brown bread. As we sipped on our coffee and enjoyed fresh rhubarb chutney, Michael carried out the bread with much pomp and circumstance. After a few bites, we soon devised plans for smuggling the bread out for our mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks later that day. Thank goodness for disposable napkins!

With St. Patrick's Day on the horizon and realizing that almost a full year has passed since my journey to Ireland, I decided that today was the day to test out a soda bread recipe. Although Michael and Barbara did email me their famous recipe and give pointers, my parents had a massive fail with the recipe. Rather than facing frustration, I turned to my trusty Cook's Illustrated cookbook. Because my cupboards are already full of too many one-dimensional ingredients and didn't need wheat germ added this week, I opted to go for white soda bread rather than brown. Who needs health when it's a holiday?

The results? A giant, pillowy buttermilk biscuit in the form of bread. Ah-mazing. Irish eyes must have been smiling.

Classic Irish Soda Bread
From The Cooks Illustrated Cookbook

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon melted for brushing loaf
1 3/4 cups buttermilk

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. Whisk together all-purpose flour, cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt together in large bowl.
  3. Add softened butter and use fingers to rub it into flour until incorporated completely.
  4. Make well in center of flour and add 1 1/2 cups buttermilk.
  5. Work buttermilk into flour mixture using fork until dough comes together in large clumps and there is no dry flour in bottom of bowl, adding 1/4 cup more buttermilk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until all loose flour is just moistened. 
  6. Turn dough onto lightly floured counter and pat together to form 6-inch round; dough will be scrappy and uneven.
  7. Place dough in 12-inch cast-iron skillet (I put on cookie sheet). Score deep cross, about 5 inches long and 3/4 inch deep, on top of loaf and place in oven.
  8. Bake until nicely browned and knife inserted in center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. 
  9. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter.
  10. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving. 

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Shaking in My Shoes

The last few months have been spent visiting a chiropractor and becoming increasingly lazy thanks to a recurring back injury. After plenty (!) of rest and surviving another Sydney orientation, it's time to find my motivation and challenge myself again. Besides cracking every single vertebrae, my chiropractor gave me some words of advice and the all clear to get back to the gym.

How will I celebrate?

By punishing myself with my first Bar Method experience. Who wouldn't want to go to classes that lead to quotes such as these?
Wow, the Bar Method is intense. It works every major muscle group and you're going to be shakin' so bad that you're going to feel like a total a$$.
The bar method is very expensive torture that you actually convince yourself is FUN! HOWEVER.... it will make any exercise bearable for the rest of your life! 
You know that feeling when you are working out and your muscles start to shake because they are about to fail?  This is about 60 minutes of that.
What can I say? It was January. There was a special on. I enjoy muscle failure.

The good news is that you have to book classes online so I bit the bullet today and scheduled my first classes. I have six weeks to reap the rewards of these classes because after that, I would need to be in a different tax bracket to be able to continue at the studio.