The one thing I would take over dessert...

George Clooney counts as edible, right?

I'm adding this to the list of reasons why I love my job... ;) Just about every single woman in my building ran down to meet him (camera phones in hand). Even Oprah's Best Friend Gayle came down! He waved and smiled and chatted with us. We squealed and sighed and flashed our Treos at him. Ahhh... ::swoon::

Mexican Lime Soup (Sopa de Lima)

So the plan today was to wake up early and head down to Union Square to see what's available at the green market. Things didn't quite work out the way they were supposed to though, and the day slipped by rather suddenly. I soon found myself sitting in a darkened living room as the sun slowly disappeared, a low growl in my stomach serving as a reminder that I hadn't eaten all day.

I wandered into the kitchen to make something, but opening the fridge proved disheartening; it's been a while since I've done any proper shopping. An odd mishmash of condiments, a few limes, a head of garlic, and one pack of spinach was about all I had inside. I toyed with the idea of ordering something in, but then I took another look. Though it didn't seem like much, I realized that I had more than enough for a delicious and filling soup.

What I made is a quick variation of the Yucatan soup known as Sopa de Lima, traditionally made with chicken parts and served with tortillas. I started with a wonderfully flavored chicken stock that I had frozen in cubes in the freezer, however in a pinch some canned stock or bouillon will also work. If I'd had fresh cilantro, I would have added that too, but I found that the dried coriander worked just as well, lending the soup another layer of citrusy aroma. The brightness of the limes pairs unexpectedly well with the earthy bitterness of the spinach. A few dried chilis, plus a drop of chili oil, added just enough heat, and some smoky cumin rounded out the flavors.

Ladeled into my favorite (and slightly chipped) terracotta bowl, it was a perfect light supper. The only thing missing was some fresh avocado and a sprinkle of cotija cheese. Next time, definitely!
Here's the recipe, just in time for Cinco de Mayo!

Mexican Lime Soup (with Spinach)

6 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
1 tablespoon of olive oil
12 oz spinach (preferably fresh, but frozen will do!)
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3 dried chilis
A dash of chili oil (optional)

1.) Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the dried chilis, cumin, and coriander, and let cook in the oil for a minute to release the aromas of the spices.

2.) Pour in the 6 cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil.

3.) Add the spinach and cook for about two minutes.

4.) Add the lime juice, salt, pepper, and chili oil (if desired). Adjust the seasoning to your taste.

Serve with additional lime slices or fresh cotija cheese and cilantro, if desired.

Cravings: Multi-Grain Bagels

My coworkers all seem to think that I'm a bit of a masochist. They don't really understand how I manage to bake as much as I do without ever giving in to the temptation to gobble it all up. Ever since I launched my virtual bakery, I've had to up my weekly baking to about 4 or 5 times a week, depending on how many orders I have. My apartment has taken on a perpetual aroma of almonds and vanilla that has seeped into just about everything I own. Walking home from dinner with a friend the other night, I laughed when he leaned in to sniff my shoulder.

"You know," he said completely matter-of-factly, "you always seem to smell like marzipan."

I admit that it can be a bit difficult sometimes. The rainbow cookies are, after all, my favorite. This is why I first started making them, and why I still enjoy baking batch after batch, but it can also make it very hard to resist sneaking a bite every now and then. Fortunately I've gotten my measurements exactly to the point where I can't afford to sneak a cookie when preparing my orders. No extras equals no nibbling, which works just fine for me.

I do, however, occasionally crave a bite of something chewy and just a little bit sweet. I'm not really satisfied with the "low-carb" treats found in the grocery store and so I make my own. Pannacotta is my favorite no-guilt treat, but I've also developed quite a few flourless recipes too. One thing that I've really been missing is bagels. I'm a Jersey girl, which means every Sunday we would stop at the bagel store on the way home from church and pick up a giant paper bag full of them (plus assorted schmears and fillings--lox & cream cheese being my favorite.) My dad and brother ate them as a side along with eggs and bacon, but I was happy with just a bagel loaded up with creamy spread, red onions, lettuce, and salty pieces of lox. It's my favorite breakfast and I've been missing it big-time, so I decided to do something about it. I set out to create my own healthy (and hearty) bagel recipe using whole grains. I admit that it's not exactly a low carb bagel recipe (ok, it's not low carb at all), but the high fiber and slowly digesting whole grains make it a much healthier option than the the regular refined flour bagels that spike my blood sugar and send me dizzy and sleepy to bed.

I brought some of these in to work not long ago and my coworkers remarked that they were good and "tasted healthy." "It's like I'm doing something good," one of the editors noted as she chomped away.

If you don't plan on eating all of these at once, I suggest slicing in half and freezing in individual sealed freezer bags. You can then defrost them in the toaster or the oven. Whatever you do, DON'T microwave them. That is NO way to treat a bagel... ;)

Multi-Grain Bagel Recipe

3 cups of warm water
3 tbsps of honey
2 packages of yeast
1 teaspoon of salt
5.5 cups of whole wheat bread flour
1.5 cup regular bread flour (I used King Arthur European-Style Artisan)
.5 cups grain blend (such as King Arthur's Harvest Grain Blend)

For optional toppings:
1 egg
1/4 cup unprocessed bran (also known as "miller's bran")
kosher salt

1.) Mix the warm water, honey, and yeast in the bowl of your mixer. Let sit for about 10 minutes until the yeast is frothy.

2.) In a separate bowl, mix the flours and grain blend (not the bran). Add the salt.

3.) Slowly add the flour to the yeast mixture and process with the dough hook attachment. Let knead for about 10 minutes.

4.) Remove from mixer and turn over onto a floured surface. Knead by hand for an additional minute or two until well combined.

5.) Place in a greased bowl (I used olive oil), turning to make sure the entire ball of dough is covered in oil. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and a clean damp towel. Set aside for one hour to rise.

6.) Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar to the water. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees

7.) Punch down the dough and divide into about 18 equal-sized pieces. Shape into a bagel shape by either rolling into a snake and connecting at ends OR (my preferred method) rolling into a ball and then using your fingers to poke through a hole.

8.) Lay the shaped bagels out on a greased cookie sheet and let rise again for about 20 minutes until the bagels are plump.

9.) GENTLY lift each bagel and drop into the water two or three at a time

10.) Boil for no more than two minutes each and then remove with a slotted spoon to a new greased cookie sheet

11.) Once all the bagels have been boiled, you have the option to top if desired. I brushed them with an egg wash made of the egg and a few tablespoons of warm water, then sprinkled with kosher salt and unprocessed bran.

12.) Bake in pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.


Night of the Living Dead Camera

Jaden at Steamy Kitchen recently wrote a clever post about her so-called "ghetto photography studio." She invited the rest of us food bloggers to post photos of our own "studios" to show where our magic happens. I don't really have a studio. I usually just set up camp near the kitchen or living room window and snap away. At night I go into my library which has oddly good lighting, probably due to the bright yellow walls.

I think it's a good time, however, to share with you the truth behind my mediocre food photos. That, of course, would be my camera. A Canon PowerShot SD400. This is not your average camera, mind you. Oh no, this is the most ridiculous camera ever! Seriously, it defies all the laws of nature.

Basically, my camera is a zombie. It died months ago and yet continues to roam the earth (or my kitchen). The LCD is shattered internally (that exciting explosion image is not an image--it's my screen). This happened months ago for reasons I've yet to determine. The camera was safely tucked in the case inside my purse so I'm still not quite sure how it happened. This means that not only can I not see what I'm shooting, I also can't adjust anything.

So how do I take such fabulously mediocre shots with such a brokedown camera?'s all in the wrist, my friends. I've developed a highly scientific method for shooting my food. It consists of me (food blogger & cook extraordinaire) pointing my zombie camera in the general direction of the nicely arranged plate and doing something that I like to call "randomly pressing all the buttons." I basically just push the setting buttons randomly and alternate with taking shots.

Some come out with flash, some without, some are bright pink, some are blurry, some are macro, some completely miss the plate. I'll take about 40 to 60 shots for everything I make and cross my fingers that one or two will come out. A tweak or two in Photoshop and voila! Wonderfully mediocre photography for you all to enjoy!

I do plan on buying another camera soon, but I don't want to get another point & shoot. I want a proper slr, but am going to have to wait until I can afford to spend a bundle on the one that I want. Until then, zombie camera it is!

(Unless a generous soul among you has slightly less pathetic used camera you'd like to donate or sell to your favorite food blogger? I'm willing to pay you back with endless batches of homebaked treats... ;)
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