Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tomato and Beef Sauce

Spending a decent part of my childhood in Texas,  I can confirm that meat truly is a way of life. Don't get me wrong, I love my produce, but fresh greens can't beat the roadside smoke house. There is something innately human about pulling over to a cart on the side of the road for a true sloppy joe. 

Unfortunately, I do not often buy meat as it usually takes more care to cook and runs a hole in my wallet pretty fast. This sauce is a great way to eat some beef without spending more than a couple of dollars. The ingredients are all fairly cheap, especially from Trader Joe''s. Although I would recommend using a tomato paste and/or sauce, but Trader Joe's does not carry this item. 

I am starting to realize that the majority of my recipes are either adaptations from Martha Stewart or The America's Test Kitchen. Both sources are very reliable and allow for a solid base to play around with. There is nothing worse than having a momentarily brilliant idea in the kitchen only to discover 30 minutes later it was the biggest mistake of your life. Maybe someday I'll be able to fiddle from scratch. 

This recipe is a combination between The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook's bolognese sauce and basic tomato sauce. As expected, it pairs marvelously with spaghetti, but it is so rich I wanted to let it stand on its own, hence the polenta. I seem to be eating a lot of polenta these days. Fist of all, the color is amazing and it is incredibly cheap. Also it is a good gluten free base. Gluten free food isn't a necessity, but I believe everything should be taken in moderation (except dark chocolate, of course). 


Makes: roughly 4 cups
Total time: 2 1/2 hours
  • Olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup milk, preferably whole milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 28 oz can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 28 oz can of tomato sauce or paste
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • Oregano
  • Parsley 
  • Marjoram
  • Salt and Pepper

Use a large saucepan with lid or pot. Heat pan and then add olive oil and garlic. I used fresh garlic from the farmers market and I am definitely going to use it again.

Cook chopped onions in olive oil until clear, but do not burn. If you wish to add vegetable such as carrots and celery, add them with the onions. Once the vegetable have been cooked, add the ground beef, smashing it with a wooden spoon to create small pieces. Continue chopping the meat with the spoon until the pieces are small and cooked all the way through. 

Then add milk and cream. Stir and boil down the milk, cream mixture until only fat is left. Add the wine and simmer. Once the majority of the liquids have evaporated add the diced or chopped tomatoes. I would go for the chopped tomatoes with juices. If you do not have over 2 hours to spend in the kitchen, add the tomato paste at the same time. Now add all the herbs. I usually decide how much to add based off of taste. 

At this point you are supposed to let the sauce simmer until it reaches the correct consistency (I prefer my sauces on the thicker side). However, you could be waiting for hours considering how much tomato juices were added. Turning up the heat will decrease the cooking time, but you will compromise flavor. I usually turn up the heat and compromise for the loss of flavor by adding extra herbs. The longer it cooks the thicker and more homogeneous it becomes. Let the sauce cook covered for at least an hour and then based off of taste and your preferred consistency add 20 minutes or so, when necessary. 


The sauce lasted James and I four days which is the recommended storage length in the fridge. However, the sauce can be frozen in an air tight container for several months.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

This is another delayed post due to school. I do enjoy school and my internship, but together they take up to much time. I need a little time for a creative outlet or reading and right now i do not have that. It is not a necessity, but it keeps me calm and mentally healthy. It is sort of my way of staying in touch with the world around me. There will always be more responsibilities, and I am slowly learning how to manage my time so I can keep up with my responsibilities and have some productive time to myself, every once and a while. At the moment, my free time seems to collect at the end of the day and I just end up watching Avatar: the Last Airbender as I go to sleep. I am too tired to put effort into anything else, but I don't want to go straight to bed. 

Over spring break James and I made Martha Stewart's Snickerdoodle Cupcakes with Nicole and Owen. It was great seeing Nicole again, since I hadn't seen her since the beginning of winter break. Our time in the kitchen was a rather ridiculous adventure. We were all too distracted catching up to pay any attention to the food, but somehow Nicole managed to get the cupcakes out of the oven on time. 


As a chocolate person, I have a hard time committing to sweets that do not contain ridiculous amounts of dark chocolate. However, I am very grateful Nicole talked me into making these with her. They were scrumptious! They reminded me of Easter.  I had a sudden urge to decorate them with pastel colored frosting in big swirls, like soft serve ice cream. 

The cupcakes themselves were soft and fluffy, without falling into the trap of being full of air. The amount of cinnamon was just right, but almost overwhelming. When I was scoffing down the cupcakes, I felt like I was breathing in the powdered cinnamon on top of a latte. I could feel the cinnamon all over my body, but the strength was masked by the cupcake itself, which I am grateful for because inhaling straight cinnamon is actually quite painful. I would reccomend these cupcakes for any light get together. Perfect for spring, these cupcakes remind me of a fresh start. 


Unfortunately, we forgot about frosting and we didn't want to go to the store so we tried to make our own with half the ingredients. As foreseen, the icing didn't quite work out. However, with the addition of vanilla extract and cinnamon, the icing turned into a marvelous dipping sauce. James and I took half the cupcakes home, where I ended up eating them as muffins, and I believe Nicole's little brother ate the rest. 

 

Thank you Nicole for the wonderful evening! I can't believe it's been over five years since we met in P.E. at Redwood High.


And in case you were wondering, when Martha Stewart makes them this is how they turn out.


Shoreline Cafe Review

This post is actually from a restaurant I visited during Spring break, over a month ago. School has been crazy and my internship takes up all my free time. However, its been fun, somewhat (if you exclude organic chemistry). My research is tying together all my school work and I finally feel like I am truly learning something. As of tomorrow, I will have finished my research proposal outlining my current and future research for the next six months. It all feels very exciting. And to top it off, I only have three more weeks until I am officially a senior! 

The restaurant James and I visited was the Shoreline Cafe in Mill Valley. I believe they are currently under new management. However, the place looks pretty much the same, but I think they may have painted some walls. Overall, it is very colorful, which is a nice break from the fog. Don't get me wrong, I love the fog, bright colors always make me smile. The also added some local art. Personally, the art felt unfinished and made me twitch, but then again that may be intended. 

When it came to the food, the menu was simple, as usual. The simplicity is refreshing, especially since I can never decide what to get. The menu seems to have two themes, Mexican style food and basic American food. Lots of tacos and hamburgers. The breakfast menu had the usual eggs with choice of side, pancakes, french toast, and breakfast tacos. I opted for the breakfast tacos, reminiscing about Todos Santos. 


Overall, it was good. Nothing shouted out at me, but it all fit well together. There was nothing out of place. I liked the side of beans, which I don't usually have with breakfast tacos. The scrambled eggs were full of all sorts of things including peppers, tomatoes and onions. It was on the hotter side of mild and coming from me that probably means it wasn't all that spicy. However, it was perfect for me. 

James got the french toast, no surprise. His food came first and as soon as it arrived I wanted to change my order. It was so puffy and juicy. An odd way to describe french toast, but it looked completely irresistible. 

In the end, James and I had a wonderful outing. It was low key, but sweet. The restaurant feels very much like home. It is perfect for a basic breakfast or lunch at a decent price (for Marin anyway).

I miss the Mill Valley fog.
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