29 August 2012

Refreshing Lemon-Limeade

Today marks the first official day of a new project, a week of physically and emotionally intensive rehearsals at a theater that has basically turned the keys over to us for a week to do as we please. Yes, they're crazy. But then again so are we - and anyone who throws themselves into something they are passionate about and just trusts the universe will provide.

I guess what I'm saying is that a certain healthy level of insanity is required to live life to the fullest. Marie Forleo - inspiring business woman living out her dreams - says in this interview that ambition is always unrealistic because it hasn't happened yet. I'm paraphrasing but it's a comforting thought because it means that if your dreams and desires are not based in "reality", then you're doing something right, you're on an adventure towards changing that reality into something else.

Of course those of us that cook know all about that.  The history of cooking is full of unrealistic ambitions from "let's eat this big round red fruit of the nightshade family in the hopes it won't actually be poisonous," to "let's break down the molecules of this food, turn it into foam and serve it in a restaurant." You start with some random ingredients, or a list of constraints, or just a wild desire for something particular and off you sail out into the waters of culinary invention perhaps with a recipe or two for guidance -- or not.

In this case, I was looking for a nice before dinner drink that was cooling and non-alcoholic. Enter Lemon-Limeade. I took what looked like a super simple recipe from Food & Wine. Don't be fooled. There are few steps and no special equipment, but unless you have a juicer (I hope you do), you're going to be squeezing lots of lemons and limes by hand. However, this delicious recipe is worth it (as long as you don't have any paper cuts).

1 cup sugar (I used raw sugar, which gave the lemonade a nice rich color)
4 3/4 cups water
3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
slices for garnish

In a saucepan on high heat, stir the sugar into 1 1/2 cups water until dissolved. Remove from heat BEFORE mixture comes to a boil. Pour into a pitcher and stir in 3 1/4 cups of cold water and lemon and lime juices. Refrigerate until cool. Serve over ice, garnished with lemon or lime slices. Good with appetizers before dinner or to cool off in the afternoon.

22 August 2012

Home from Vacation and Homemade Vanilla Extract

Unlike last year when my US Road Trip made the blog nearly every day, this year's vacation was shorter, much more family-filled (think fourteen people to organize for dinner every night) and involved much less culinary creativity. Then again, why get creative when you can grill every night to this sort of view.

Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. However, as someone who doesn't have a grill for most of the year, I always find recipes where you need one frustrating, so I will spare you the (amazingly yummy) details and head back to recipes you can make with little or no special equipment.

I had marked this recipe on the defunct blog Antics of A Cycling Cook a few years ago (yes that's how long the turnover is in my bookmarked recipes file) and finally got sick of paying lots of money for tiny tiny bottles of vanilla extract and decided to give it a try. Hands down the easiest recipe in the world, cheap in the long run, and made my baked goods so much better. I topped it off and gave it a good shake before vacation and came back to amazing vanilla extract. I highly recommend doing it yourself!

One small bottle of alcohol 
(I used a 20cl bottle of cheap Armagnac from the supermarket. Sam used cheap vodka. Anything will do - brandy, light rum, etc - but you don't want the alcohol flavor to overpower the vanilla so I would avoid dark rum and stuff like that.)
5 vanilla beans 
(This is the expensive part but worth the investment because you can use the same beans to make lots of vanilla. Sam suggests buying vanilla beans online because it's much cheaper.)

Split the vanilla beans almost all the way down lengthwise, leaving the base intact. Put them in your chosen bottle of alcohol. Shake well and let sit in a cool, dark place for 8 weeks. Shake every once in a while. 

I just top off the Armagnac every so often and give it a shake. You can replace an old bean with a fresh one every once in a while to keep the vanilla flavor strong. Et voilà!

18 August 2012

August and Psychic Cats

Hello dear readers. I am Sir Edgar Mindreader, the mastermind and psychic. I have been studying hard since our last post. Hopie took her computer with her on vacation and we've been busy playing with the human friends she left here for us, but now that she's back and sleeping off jetlag, I psychically knew you all wanted to hear from me.
And me?
They mostly want to hear from me, Marcel. All you talk about is tuna. They don't have to be psychic to know what you're going to say.
I'll talk about something else. 
Well, if you're psychic, you tell me.
Fine. You want them to pet you.
What?? Um, no. That wasn't at ALL what I was going to say.
What were you going to say?
I don't remember.

Don't mind him. Anyway...this week there's heat wave in France and we're spending most of our time lying on the kitchen floor because it's cool.
Yea, and not cuddling like we like to do in the winter:

Not that there's anything to see out the living room window these days with everyone away for the month of August. All the shops are closed and there are hardly any passers by. I psychically predict they will start coming back next week and all return at the end of August.
Um, that happens every year.
BECAUSE I psychically KNOW it will happen.

This is my I'm-not-impressed face.
Funny, it looks like your give-me-tuna-or-I'll-meow face.
Ok, you are psychic. Now somebody give me tuna. It's hot. I need sustenance!
Dear readers, I must go back to lying on a tile floor where my psychic powers tell me I will be the coolest. I recommend you give it try. I think Hopie will be posting soon, though she's not very coherent in this heat.
Ooh, but I bet I could guilt her into giving me a cuddle anyway. It's been sooooooo long! 

Thank you to D., our official photographer.
Yes, and official human-who-pets us.