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Don’t look now, because things are about to get really ugly while I set up automatic forwarding to the new blog, but Kate F, Girl Reporter is moving! I’ve set up my new site, which includes my professional info as well as the Straw into Gold page and the blog, all at http://kateflaim.com/. I’m still working out some kinks (oversized photos on the blog; I’ve re-sized everything from 2009 but don’t have the strength to do the rest just yet), but I’m feeling pretty good. I’m sure within a week I will be messing around with the layout, etc.

If you use a feedreader, please update the RSS feed: http://kateflaim.com/feed/atom/

Otherwise I hope I’ll see you soon at http://kateflaim.com/blog/!

It must be spring in the air—Over the last couple weeks I’ve been wanting to launch all sorts of new ventures and start really trying to make a go at doing the things I love.


Venture 1: Straw into Gold

I love decorating, especially when I get to be super creative on a tight budget. I think a lot of people in the post-post-college phase of life are ready to move on from the futons and hand-me-downs but aren’t yet able to plunk down a ton of cash. I can help make spaces pretty, livable and reflective of their occupants, even on a shoestring budget.
(Ben gets credit for the name: We were talking about goals and things we wanted to do a few weeks ago, and he said “What you’re really good at is spinning straw into gold.” I like that.)

Venture 2: Custom paintings

I have painted custom art for friends’ babies for a while now, and I finally got around to listing my services on Etsy. The Herbert boys are recent recipients, and I used the photos from their triptychs for the listing.

bee

giraffe

Maybe one of those something that could be helpful to you? Let me know if you’re interested!

Feeling nervous,
Kate

Do any of you get the Zingerman’s mail order catalog? When I was in preschool we lived in Ann Arbor while my Dad was in grad school, and my parents were big fans of the then-new Zingerman’s Deli. They now have an amazing mail order service, and my mom always ordered stuff from them as gifts. I do the same—few things are a more surefire hit than a coffee cake in a wooden hatbox, especially when the coffee cake is a really, really good one. They also have exceptional customer service, with real people on the phone who want to help you. HOWEVER. The prices are a bit steep for personal consumption, which is why I’m grateful for this recipe, which my mom has been making for as long as I can remember. It’s a heavy, dense cake, extremely moist and long-lasting (if you don’t eat it all up!).

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Batter:
1 C. butter
2 C. sugar
2 eggs
1 C. sour cream
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 C. flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Streusel:
½ C. brown sugar
½ C. pecans or walnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon

* Preheat oven to 350
* Grease and flour a bundt pan; set aside
* Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy
* Add eggs one-at-a-time and mix
* Add sour cream and vanilla and mix
* Sift together the dry ingredients and add, mixing just until incorporated
* Pour half the batter into the prepared pan
* Strew streusel over batter
* Top with rest of batter
* Bake about 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean

One thing I’ve noticed (I made the cake twice so far): It might be a bit too much streusel topping. Try to make sure there is cake batter exposed around the edges, or at least not a thick layer of the streusel, so the cake doesn’t end up with top and bottom halves, unconnected to each other.

The tricky bit it adding the second half of the thick, sticky batter, on top of the streusel. Careful dabbing with a spatula seems to work:

I have had some trouble with my oven ever since we bought the Viking. It’s not noticeable when I’m cooking meat, but when baking I sometimes find that nothing is happening after I’ve put the pan in. As in, the temperature has dropped to 150 and the baked goods are just sitting there, flabby and pale and sad. I was on the phone with Mom the first time I made this, so I popped it in the oven and kind of ignored it until about 45 minutes in, when I saw that the batter had set a bit but definitely not baked. It took an additional HOUR to cook. Anyway, that’s my oven’s problem, not the recipe’s. But does anyone else with a gas oven have that happen?

Not the best distribution of streudel on that outing, but still a great cake. I baked the first one for a girl’s weekend a couple months ago, and Bridge declared it the best coffee cake ever! But really, how can you go wrong with 2 sticks of butter, a cup of sour cream, and all that sugar? Soooo healthy.

(By the way, I went back and added some photos to my last post, including a teensy tiny baby hand, aw!)

If you read Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn, you may have seen a complete rave review of a Jamie Oliver recipe for chicken braised in milk, with lemon, sage and cinnamon. I have been burned several times by classic italian pork-in-milk recipes, but for some reason I had to go out and make the chicken version immediately. The writer, Faith, accidentally misread the recipe and covered the chicken for 2/3 of the cooking time, then tested it uncovered and preferred the covered version, so I followed her lead.

Here’s the recipe, from Jamie.

I think the ingredients look like a still-life–maybe I should paint them!

Though things aren’t as scenic if you zoom out:

The recipe is seriously easy. I hate hate hate cooking chicken, especially whole chickens, but the braising aspect made me more comfortable. The most annoying part is browning the chicken in the butter and oil, since it’s awkward to flip it around in the pan.

In an hour and a half of unsupervised (mostly) cooking, this unappetizing sight:

Turned into this:

I have never had crispier skin on a roast chicken; not sure why. The fat rendered out of it completely. And I’ll add my voice to those of Faith and Jamie in saying not to freak out at that curdled sauce. It tastes amazing. The first night we had shredded meat on rolls, as little sandwiches:

And the next night we had more of it (with that delicious, nasty-looking sauce) with israeli cous cous and sauteed greens:

We ate the meat for about a week, and it was scrumptious hot or cold. I’ll definitely make it again, maybe omitting the cinnamon if I want slightly more versatile leftovers, though it gave a really nice musky flavor. It hurts to use a whole stick of butter to brown the chicken and then toss it out, but I saved mine in a pyrex in the fridge, so maybe I could re-use it? It’s lovely browned butter now; I wonder if it would burn on a second use. Anyway, compared to dry-roasting a chicken, this method was way less stressful and gave really juicy, tender meat. As I said, I followed Faith’s lucky “mistake” and kept the pot covered for the first hour, opening it for the last 30 minutes to crisp up.


-Painting pictures for the newest baby of our acquaintance (welcome to the world, Charles Morrison Herbert!)

-Making a new friend
-Finishing up every scrap of freelance work I had
-Pounding the pavement for more work
-Feeling proud of my friend Jia Lynn’s cover story WITH BYLINE ON THE COVER
-Going for an accidentally really long bike ride

-Staring at another rainy day
-Reading 8 trillion library books
-Gearing up for lap swimming lessons/possibly getting hurt getting into my new swimsuit
-Listening to Berlitz Italian cds
-Not planning our spontaneous trip to Italy in May
-Avoiding cleaning my office
-Obsessively checking the trees outside for leaves
-Dreaming of chucking it all and moving to France

I definitely feel like life is on hold right now. I need a burst of energy and inspiration! Maybe I’ll start with the much-needed office organization. I do have loads of photos uploaded, dating back to late February, I just can’t seem to bother writing about anything! Merp.

Wishing french tulips were all over the house:

Ok, so. I have spoken before about my unending love for Jamie at Home, and back in February I watched the pizza episode and promptly felt the urge to make dough from scratch. Hurray! It’s so easy! (Note: I had a tremendously bad day leading up to this attempt.)

Pizza Dough
adapted from Jamie Oliver‘s Jamie at Home
7 cups strong white bread flour or 5 cups strong white bread flour plus 2 cups finely ground semolina flour (next time I want to try it w/ semolina)
1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
2 (1/4-ounce) packets active dried yeast
1 tablespoon raw sugar
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups lukewarm water

pizza ingredients

Ok. So you’re supposed to sift the flour and salt together into a mountain on the counter. No sweat! I am a brave person who will go ahead and work straight on the butcher block. No fear! Mountain, ahoy!

flour

Now, that photo does not accurately depict the towering majesty of the 7-cup flour mountain. It was tall and steep. Back to the recipe:

“In a large measuring cup, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.”

Sounds easy enough, and Jamie made it look like a cakewalk on the show. Proceed: Liquids mixed with sugar and yeast:

liquids

Commence whisking, while feeling extremely smug and craftsmanlike:

whisking flour

Here’s the important part: Get cocky and pour in too much liquid at once, collapsing the walls of the too-tall mountain and flooding yeasty-oil-water down the dishwasher and your pants. And socks. And under the baseboards. Stand stock still while it gushes over, before fitfully trying to shove flour into the liquid to stop the onslaught. Grab paper towels to make a moat, then take a photo that doesn’t come close to portraying the chaos:

mess

(Aren’t I brave, giving you the warts-and-all view into my kitchen?)

Take stock, recognizing that you have used nearly all of the flour in the house, all the yeast, and you don’t have an alternate plan for dinner. Decide to soldier on, mixing what liquid is left on the counter into the flour and then adding additional water and kneading until, miracle beyond miracles, the dough pulls together into a gorgeous, silky smooth ball.

Set it to rise while you pry off the baseboards and scrub yeasty flour paste off the inside of the cabinet doors.

Now, back to the original plan!

“Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size.

Now remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands – this is called punching down the dough. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straightaway, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas – this amount of dough is enough to make about six to eight medium pizzas. “

Fine! The dough rose, though maybe not quite as much as normal:

I froze half and made the other half into four pizzas:

dough balls

It rolled out like a dream, not sticky like store-bought dough:

I made half with flat edges and half with pinched crusts like my mom does, to see which I preferred. (Note: The Food Network version of the recipe doesn’t specify baking time or temp. I cranked my oven to around 450 and just watched the pizzas carefully; I think they took about 10 minutes but I could be wrong.)

Pinched won:

And dinner did eventually get served. Without the 45 minutes of cleaning up the kitchen, it would have been a really easy process.

(BTW I think I’m over white pies, at least with the slightly-dry cheese blend I have been using. The other half of the dough got slathered with various sauces, to be explained in a future post.)

(Also, I’m totally uninspired and haven’t been cooking much. Is it just the late-winter doldrums? Anyone else feeling it, too?)

Back soon

This has been a Hell Week, college style–I was on the road and I have three deadlines Monday, but I will be back soon. Hopefully spring will be here, too–last night I dreamed that there was a magnolia tree outside my window, and it was just starting to bloom. (The result of seeing the budding magnolias in DC this week?)

Unrelated, and found through Rebecca’s work-mandated Twitter: Overheard in the Newsroom, which really does give a very accurate peek into the lives of journalists everywhere.

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