### back in the game

all this pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum stuff left me in what *i* would consider a cooking slump. fortunately, last saturday i had a reason to get back in the game. some friends hosted an oktoberfest potluck and i took the opportunity to try my hand at making apple strudel. not to toot my own horn, but omg, it was yummy! some other amazing things in our feast were some traditional german brats, homemade sourkraut, german potato salad, pretzels, spetzel, and two micro-brews. woah. there were even a few folks in leiderhozen. so much fun!

anyhow, here's a few photos of strudel making that sparked my recent dive back into cooking.

some other recent kitchen endeavors have been homemade chicken pot pie (complete with pie crust from scratch),

beet and goat cheese ravioli (recipe below),

bbq chicken pizza on whole-wheat crust, arugula & watermelon salad, and an indian veggie curry with cilantro mint chutney. my mouth is wattering a little thinking about that chutney :) perhaps i'm meant to own a beachfront cafe someday......

Beet Ravioli with Poppy Seed Butter (adapted from epicurious)

2 large red or golden beets
1/2 cup chevre (aka goat cheese)
*lemon zest (optional)
*fresh thyme (optional)

premade won-ton wrappers (or if you have no kids and lots of time, make your own pasta)

1/2 c. butter
1 T. poppy seeds
freshly grated parmesean cheese

roast the beets at 375 for about an hour or until tender when pierced with a knife. allow to cool and then peel & finely grate into a medium bowl. add chevre and breadcrumbs (zest & thyme if using) & season with salt & pepper.

spoon heaping teaspoon onto the half of each pasta square, dampen the edge and fold dough over filling, pressing the edges together. transfer prepared ravioli to a floured surface while you assemble remaining ravioli.

melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat & stir in poppy seeds. keep warm. cook ravioli (about a dozen at a time) in a boiling, salted water for about 2 min (or until they float to the top). transfer cooked ravioli to skillet with butter & toss to coat. serve topped with parmesean.

blissful_e said…
Awesome! Let me know when you open your cafe and I am THERE! :)

Would love your recipe for whole-wheat pizza crust (especially if you have any tips!). Right now I'm blaming my pizza crust failures on Egyptian ingredients, but soon I won't have that excuse anymore...
karinms said…
This all sounds delicious! Was the apple strudel hard to make?
Anonymous said…
did the strudel turn out like the one aunt margaret always brought to stuff?
erinjohn said…
elisa,
i modify the whole pizza crust from one of my favorite books by Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:

http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/Pizza.pdf

I typically don't have refrigerated yeast on hand (the little granules), so i generally use one packet of instant yeast. I also knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes - either by hand or in a standing mixer before allowing it to rise. The key is that this crust gets crispy. Depending on the toppings, I often lower the heat after 15 min and continue to cook a little longer until the crust in the middle has gotten crispy too. Good luck!
erinjohn said…
The strudel was actually fairly easy. I had the recipe from Uncle Ed's mom that Aunt Margaret used to bring to things... BUT i didn't have the time for making the pastry from scratch. Cooks Illustrated has a Quick Apple Strudel recipe that uses Phyllo dough - so I made that one. However, the selection of apples is always pretty limited out here, so I used granny smiths (like Ed's mom)and just pre-cooked them in some apple cider. YUM! I'm planning to make it when we're home in Houston for the holidays :)
JohnJohn said…
I married Erin before I knew she is an amazing chef and a SuperMom. Talk about bonus!
Anonymous said…
YUMMM!! One more reason to get excited about Xmas in Houston.
blissful_e said…
Thanks, Erin, I'll give it a whirl.

BTW, you've been tagged!
mama mia said…
Wow! We will really have to exercise a lot, if both Dad and Erin are cooking in December!
Analyze A said…
Just vouching that the Cooks Illustrated Easy Apple Strudel recipe is delicious! Your filo dough work looks a lot neater than mine - lol. Actually, I've made it five times now! We were in Germany and tried apple strudel three times, but couldn't find one we liked, so I was surprised when my husband asked for it for his birthday. I was definitely not thinking that it would turn out good, but was grateful to at least have found this recipe at www.cooksillustrated.com. Turns out he loved it!!!!!!! It's a big hit in our house, and certainly the easiest filo recipe that I have tried. Just had it for breakfast this morning :)

### On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

### The Force is strong with this one...

Last night we were reviewing multiplication tables with Owen. The family fired off doublets of numbers and Owen confidently multiplied away. In the middle of the review Owen stopped and said, "I noticed something. 2 times 2 is 4. If you subtract 1 it's 3. That's equal to taking 2 and adding 1, and then taking 2 and subtracting 1, and multiplying. So 1 times 3 is 2 times 2 minus 1."

I have to admit, that I didn't quite get it at first. I asked him to repeat with another number and he did with six: "6 times 6 is 36. 36 minus 1 is 35. That's the same as 6-1 times 6+1, which is 35."

Ummmmm....wait. Huh? Lemme see...oh. OH! WOW! Owen figured out

x^2 - 1 = (x - 1) (x +1)

So $6 \times 8 = 7 \times 7 - 1 = (7-1) (7+1) = 48$. That's actually pretty handy!

You can see it in the image above. Look at the elements perpendicular to the diagonal. There's 48 bracketing 49, 35 bracketing 36, etc... After a bit more thought we…

### The Long Con

Hiding in Plain Sight

ESPN has a series of sports documentaries called 30 For 30. One of my favorites is called Broke which is about how professional athletes often make tens of millions of dollars in their careers yet retire with nothing. One of the major "leaks" turns out to be con artists, who lure athletes into elaborate real estate schemes or business ventures. This naturally raises the question: In a tightly-knit social structure that is a sports team, how can con artists operate so effectively and extensively? The answer is quite simple: very few people taken in by con artists ever tell anyone what happened. Thus, con artists can operate out in the open with little fear of consequences because they are shielded by the collective silence of their victims.
I can empathize with this. I've lost money in two different con schemes. One was when I was in college, and I received a phone call that I had won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas. All I needed to do was p…