Thursday, August 12, 2010

A perfect breakfast for a rainy day

Instead of waking up to my alarm this morning, I woke up to a nice big thunderstorm! While I love thunderstorms, my favorite way to experience them is when I have a nice long day off to stay in and watch the rain...which was not the case today. Like every weekday, I accompany Noah into town when he goes to work, hang out at the college library for a few hours, go to my own job, and then hang out at the public library for a while until Noah picks me up (such is the life of a couple with only one car, and I haven't fully learned to ride my new bike yet, so I can't get around that way, unfortunately). I didn't feel like having breakfast at home this morning because I was a bit slow and didn't want to rush through breakfast, so I decided to eat in Westminster.

My favorite place to eat breakfast in Westminster (possibly my favorite place to eat in general, except for this place), is the Heinz Bakery. I've been there 3 times so far, usually just to pick up a cinnamon doughnut for a snack. I have a serious love for cinnamon doughnuts, and Heinz makes a great one. Today, I decided to get one of their breakfast sandwiches as well. I got a bacon and egg sandwich, and paid extra to have tomato on it as well. It was delicious--the sunflower bread I chose to have it on was extremely tasty, different from your regular white or wheat options but not too jarring. The bacon and egg were nicely cooked, and I was glad I got tomato on it because it complemented everything really well. This place is clearly where most people in town go to meet and talk and have breakfast, and the people running the place seemed to know almost everyone, as well as what they usually got. The staff was warm and friendly, and the place has a nice atmosphere--sparsely decorated, but the emphasis is on good food and good people. I foresee many more breakfasts at Heinz in the years that I live here. :-D

PS-Did I mention that the whole sandwich (with tomato as an extra), cinnamon doughnut, and glass of water came out to $4.25 total? That might be the best part. :-)

Heinz Bakery
42 West Main Street,
Westminster, MD 21157-4816

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

things I didn't know about garlic

Garlic, I'm sure most of us will agree, is a pretty awesome food. Not only is it delicious, but it has some pretty spectacular health benefits, so much so that it can be used medicinally as well as being eaten. Like regular medicines, though, it can have side effects, which still occur when you're just eating it as part of a delicious meal, particularly when you eat it raw.

Such was the case with the seemingly innocuous pasta salad that Noah and I made a few days ago. It was your standard pasta salad, with farfalle and fresh tomatoes and fresh, raw garlic. Not aware of the potential side effects of eating raw garlic, I was completely unsuspecting. I ate for a little while, munching through some raw garlic, and then all of a sudden I was hit with an instantaneous wave of nausea. Like, "wow, I'm going to throw up in approximately 30 seconds"-type nausea. So I waited (near the bathroom, just in case) and after a couple minutes it just disappeared. This confused me, but Noah was coming down with a cold at that point, and my body acts pretty weird when it's getting sick, so I thought maybe I was getting it too. Also I remember being pretty ravenous when I was eating, so I thought it was possible that I had eaten too fast.

Then, a few minutes ago, we settled down to have some leftovers for dinner, and I immediately decided to finish the pasta salad. I didn't think I would have any problems, but soon after I started eating it, boom--unhappy tummies. Since I had the sense to stop eating right when I noticed it, it just went away a few seconds later, which is when I decided to search "garlic nausea" on Google. Turns out feeling nauseous after eating raw garlic is totally something that happens! I never knew. At least it's not garlic in general--I don't know if I could get by without using garlic in my cooking. ;-)

Have you guys ever had problems with eating garlic? Do you know of any other foods that have "side effects"?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Pride goeth before a fall

Everyone has to fail in the kitchen sometimes. Even the most experienced cooks and bakers, and especially the novice ones, should expect to make a lot of mistakes and have results that end up pretty much inedible. I am an extremely novice cook, so I should have expected that my first try at a pie dough would not go over so well. But I'd been thinking about making Celery and Onion Pies, from a baking book we got at Goodwill, for days. I'd spent much more time imagining the perfect result that was going to come out of the oven than I spent actually making sure I knew how to make pie dough. I entered the kitchen this morning with a feeling I can only describe as "hubris". And at first things went really well. The filling, which was a super-easy mixture of celery, onion, garlic, salt, and a little milk and flour, went spectacularly. I had remembered to put my dough ingredients in the fridge so they would be nice and cold when I made the dough. I sifted the flour and salt, rubbed the butter in with my fingers, and mixed it until it looked approximately like dough is supposed to when the butter is mixed in. Then the recipe didn't call for nearly enough water to make a dough, so I had to put some more water in, and a little more flour to balance it out. I slapped it onto one of our counters to roll it out, and here's where I ran into problems.

At the same time as my dough got progressively warmer because our kitchen does not circulate air at all, I used too much flour to roll out the dough. The addition of the water made the dough just slightly sticky, so to ease it in rolling out I added a little bit of flour. I started rolling out the dough, but after just a little while the steadily warming dough started to tear and get too thin. I added more flour. I rolled it out. Every now and then, more flour found its way onto the counter and the dough. By the time I'd managed to roll out a sufficient quantity of dough, everything was probably pretty heavily floured. Did I mention that I used an empty bottle of Arrogant Bastard ale in lieu of a rolling pin? Because I totally did.

Then it was time for Mistake #2. I neglected to check to see if the muffin tin I was going to use to bake these pies in was actually the right size for the job. Turns out it was way too big. In the pretty pictures that accompany the recipe in the cookbook, the pies come up to the top of the pan, but mine only made it about halfway. Next time I make this I'll definitely just make bigger and fewer pies. Determined not to accept complete and total failure, I managed to slap the pies together and throw them in the oven.

The recipe calls for 15-20 minutes in the oven, but after that time they just weren't looking right. I left them in for a little while longer, and then called my mom, who was currently helping my sister pack up her stuff for her imminent move. "Mom," I said, "I have these pies in the oven that turned out really badly, and here's my question: I know what the pies are supposed to look like when you do them right, but how do I know whether I should leave these in the oven for longer or whether they're as done as they're going to get?" I described them to her (as "the dough looks about like it did when I rolled it out, except drier", and she counseled me to admit defeat and take them out.

Talking to my sister on the phone later, I told her I was disappointed that the pies hadn't turned out well, but that I'd had a lot of fun making them. I love getting messy (I'm secretly a five-year-old), and this allowed me to get flour all over myself and the kitchen, including the countertops, sink, floor, table, dishes, and refrigerator door handle. Plus, since the filling actually did turn out to be delicious, I was just going to scrape it out and use it over pasta or rice as a delicious snack.

"Well," she told me, "I think you can call that a win."