Saturday, December 31, 2005

Notes on the trip to India

I'm going to try to buckle down to share with you some of the happenings on my India trip, not least because I would love to have a record of this once-in-a-lifetime trip for myself!

While in India, I posted once very early in the trip. That posting was done to Hope's blog; you can read it here. I've since decided that this record really belongs on my own blog, so henceforth any entries made with be made herein, but not heretofore. Ahem.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Maple feta artichoke puffs

After making the onion dip, I had the uneasy feeling I might not be living up to my "rep" by bringing something so simple, so I decided to dig around the house to see what else I have on hand to bring to the party tonight. I found one sheet of puff pastry, feta, canned artichokes, frozen spinach, and a variety of add-ins. What I came up with was these puff pastry squares, which turned out to be tres yummy!

I find it really hard to make just a tiny bit of anything; I always overestimate how much is needed. One sheet of puff pasty won't make a lot of puffs. So, when it comes time to stuff the pastry squares, we'll see how I did with my estimating.

The ingredients reminded me of everyone's old favorite, the hot artichoke dip. Using those ingredients as my starting point, I crumbled about 2 ounces of feta, and sprinkled on some parmesan cheese, perhaps a tablespoon or a bit less. I used my favorite chopper from Pampered Chef to finely chop a few artichoke hearts and perhaps 1/3 cup of the frozen chopped spinach. I cut the defrosted puff pastry into 16 squares using a fluted pizza cutter, and melted about 1 teaspoon of butter.

Next I added the melted butter to the cheeses and mixed thoroughly.

I tasted the mixture at this point and found it pretty harsh. After some thought, I decided to add some balsamic vinegar, about 1 tablespoon. It was better, but it still needed something. (I wondered whether all this tasting was using up too much filling!) So --- what the heck --- let's try some real maple syrup. About a tablespoon went in and rounded out the flavors very nicely! (I wouldn't try this with the fake maple syrup. If you don't have the real stuff on hand, try adding little bits of honey till you like the taste.)

Now it's time to assemble the puffs. I wet the four edges of a square of puff pastry with a brush dipped in water, put a tiny spoonful of filling on a square ...

... then folded the four corners toward the middle, pinched the open edges together and brushed the top with egg wash (1 egg with about 1 tablespoon water, whisked with a fork).

Repeat for all the others ...

... and, to my surprise, I had exactly the right amount of filling for 17 squares, which meant I got to have a tiny spoonful as a treat! Now that's a happy ending! :o)

I put the squares on a baking sheet lined with unbleached parchment paper, covered them with plastic wrap that I had sprayed with PAM to keep it from sticking, and put it in the refrigerator until time to bake. A couple of hours later, I popped the sheet into a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. The puffs opened slightly at the top, turned golden brown, and didn't last long at the party. And that's a second happy ending. (Sorry, had to rush to the party so I didn't have time to take a picture. You'll have to use your imagination!)

Recipe in printable form

Can I come in?

When he's done patrolling the back yard, saving us all from squirrels and ensuring that no interlopers have interloped, Simba comes to the back door and waits quietly to be let in. The expectant look on his face tells you that he knows he will get a tiny dog biscuit (suitable size for a tiny dog) each time he comes in. Sometimes I catch him licking his chops as he waits.

He used to bark when he wanted to come in, bark when he was let in, and bark while I was getting the biscuit for him. I've trained him to bark less, but the one bark I wish he would not have discarded is the one telling me he's ready to come in. All too often he sits there silently for some minutes before I realize he's there.

What a good dog!!

See a previous picture of Simba

Check out the weekend dog blogging at Sweetnicks this Sunday night for pictures of Simba and other dog cuties!

New Year's Eve-Eve appetizers

We've been invited for a small party at friends' tonight, and I'm bringing an appetizer. My first choice --- always! --- is the Barefoot Contessa's Pan Fried Onion Dip. This is french onion dip like you've never tasted before, folks. I usually tinker with recipes till I get them the way I like them, but this recipe requires zero tinkering. Vary the amount of cayenne pepper to taste, and get ready for a sweet, smooth, delicious dip, excellent for baguette slices, chips, crackers, or, yes, just a quick spoonful all by itself! Delish!!

It's such a pleasure to make this dish. When time permits, caramelizing onions is one of my favorite things to do. It's easy, requires very little attention, and if you keep the heat low enough, you really can't overcook them. The onions smell so great while gently sauteeing, and it's such a delight to check in on them occasionally, giving them a stir, and watch them slowly, slowly acquiring the golden color that means they're sweet as sugar. When I'm a little shy on veggies, I'll make them as a side dish, eaten warm out of the pan, just butter & onions & a blissful smile.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A raffle that does good!

If you've been wanting to do something for the victims of the earthquake in Kashmir/Pakistan, here's a great idea: a raffle! Check out the Menu for Hope II list of prizes, choose the ones you like, and then make a Visa or Mastercard donation (which goes directly to Unicef, earmarked for the earthquake victims) specifying which items you're joining the raffle for. The last time I looked, some of the raffle items had NO entries for them, which means your odds of winning are excellent! (Check out the Cooking with Amy Very Maple Syrup cookbook plus granola!) Hurry, the raffle ends this Friday!

Monday, December 19, 2005

We're baaack!!

Happy Hope

I absolutely love India! Had a wonderful time, met great people, bought some nice stuff, and spent a week watching Hope blossom from a listless, undernourished baby to a contented, intelligent, and sometimes mischievous toddler in just one week! If time and jetlag permits, I will blog more about the trip, with lots of pics, at Hearts Full of Hope. Please check there in a day or two!

P.S. This pic is a little blurry because it was taken from the mirror that Hope was so gleefully admiring herself in. But what joy! Just had to share it.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Sorry I haven't posted in a while, but we learned a couple of days ago that we would be leaving tomorrow for India, and life has been a bit of a whirlwhind since! We depart from Boston at 8:30 pm tomorrow, Monday, arriving in Mumbai in the wee hours of Wednesday. Two nights there, then off to Pune Friday, picking up Hope Saturday, then leaving for New Delhi Monday (I think). Doing the obligatory paperwork there to get her a visa for the U.S. Leaving in the wee hours Saturday morning, arriving in Boston Saturday night, staying one night there and then home!

Our hotel in Pune sounds great: the President Hotel. I can't really draw a bead on the one in Mumbai; it's the Kohinoor Continental, and it could be very nice or it could be so-so. In New Delhi, it's the Diplomat. Definitely an average hotel there.

Poor Simba ... we were gone a week for Thanksgiving, so he stayed with "Uncle Pete." I dropped him off there again tonight, for two weeks. Returning for just 5 days and then back to Uncle Pete's for the Christmas holiday. He's going to start to wonder where "home" is!

It's so nice to have the prayers of friends, for safe travel and health and a happy transition for Hope. My time at church was spent responding to "we'll be praying" comments from all sides. People are so thoughtful, to share in my excitement and to care to pray. And God is good to motivate them to do so.

Anyway, there's packing to be done and dreams to be dreamt. I'm hoping I'll be able to post from the road, but can't be sure. If not, you can expect lots of pictures and thoughts upon our return!