I need to talk about something embarrassing.  Yes, you guessed it; I want to talk about the “breathe right” nasal strip.  What, you guessed something else?  I am not exactly sure what could be more embarrassing than a “breath right” strip? 

I haven’t been feeling well.  A little stuffy and sniffly, achy, sore throat and just generally poop.  Its okay, tis the season and all that.  Last night was my office holiday party and so many things went wrong it was ridiculous.  Before I talk about the “breathe right” strip let me quickly tell you what happened.  I was planning the holiday party (yes another one of my jobs!), I needed to be there early.  Not feeling too great, I was on a go slow day.  I took myself for a mani/pedi and then came back for a shower… no hot water – in fact the hot water tank is completely kaput and a new one is needed.  I panicked and called many friends all of whom were not home.  I then called the Hotel and the manager very kindly offered me a room to get ready.  I taxied over to the hotel, did a walk around, checked on things, showered, started to get ready and realized I had no underwear and no shoes!  I called my friend who has a key to my apartment and she wasn’t going to be able to make it until much later.  So, I had to make a decision… go commando and wear Uggs with my long black dress, or get a taxi back home again.  I did the latter… took a cab home, made him wait and went back to the hotel.  $70 later on taxis, stressed and feeling horrid I made it back to the hotel and worked on my cold with some champagne.  The evening was a success, however, I knew I was going to feel awful the next day, and boy was I right. 

I got home, washed my face in freezing cold water and decided to take some NyQuil when I noticed in my bathroom cabinet, I had some samples of “Breath Right” strips.  I buy my groceries through Peapod, which for me is fantastic as I don’t own a car.  Anyway, they occasionally give me free samples of things and one of them was the strips, which I have now had in my cabinet for a few months.  So, I was struggling to breathe right, excuse the pun, when I lie down to sleep and I thought why not try one.   I know, I am so old – I would never have done this in my 20s as I would have found it so embarrassing.  Even sat in my own in my apartment with no-one looking, I still wouldn’t have done it.  Now, I just don’t care.  My “breathe right” strip, my face cream, blackhead spotter, my mouth guard, my “hot chilly” woolly socks and zit cream.  I look hot and quite frankly I don’t really care… although, between you and I and the wall, I probably wouldn’t do it in front of a boyfriend!

After inspecting the strange looking thing for a minute, I was surprised that it was quite hard and actually difficult to pull the strip off the back of it.  It was also not easy to put on my nose and it doesn’t seem to bend appropriately over my hooter.  I ended up having to cut some of it off as it was sticking out and was quite sharp.  I thought it would be soft and squidgy but it isn’t – it is actually hard plastic.  I was worried about it taking my eye out on the middle of the night!  Here’s the thing, within seconds of putting it on my nose, it totally worked and I could actually breathe right!   How does it do that?  It’s a flipping miracle I tell you.  The bad side is I couldn’t keep it on my nose as it keeps flicking off on one side and was annoying as hell.  And, it hurts taking it off!

I breathed right for a few hours and then it was  over.  It was good while it lasted! 

In order to get me through my day I decided to make Chicken Noodle Soup and Joanne Chang’s Homemade Pop Tarts.  See below for recipes…

Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul and the Cold

As any of you who have read my Blog know, I miss my friend and former roommate, Lauren.  There are of course many things I miss about her, however, one of them was that whenever I was feeling blue or had a bit of a cold, she would make me soup.  Or, if I moaned and whined enough – that is probably more like it!  One of my favorites was her Chicken Noodle Soup.  She would make a huge pot of it and we would literally eat it for the remainder of the week.  All day today I was thinking about wanting soup, and very specifically Chicken Noodle Soup.  I am not blue but I feel my soul and my cold needed it :). 

Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients

2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1lb chicken – cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
6 medium carrots, sliced about 1/8 inch think
6 celery ribs, sliced about 1/8 inch think
Thyme (I used dried as I didn’t have any fresh)
Basil (dried)
bay leaf
2 quarts chicken stock – I use Nature’s Promise Organic
5 chicken stock cubes in 1 pint of hot water
½ Cup White Cooking Wine
8 ounces dried wide egg noodlesKosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Directions

Cook the chicken in olive oil with salt, pepper and basil until there is no more pink.  Set aside.

Place a large soup pot over medium heat and coat with the oil. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme and bay leaf. Cook and stir for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Pour in the chicken stock, stock cubes dissolved in hot water, white wine and bring the liquid to a boil. Add the noodles and simmer for 10 minutes until tender. Fold in the chicken, and continue to simmer for another 5-10 minutes to heat through; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.

Can be reheated many times throughout the week, which is exactly what I am going to do and it usually tasted better and better each time. 

Not quite as good as Lauren’s but really quite quite good.  Tasty, low fat and comforting!

Two bowls later my soul and my cold felt better!

 

HOMEMADE POP TARTS

After seeing Joanne Chang the other night doing a demonstration of her version of the “Homemade Pop Tart”, I thought I would try to make them.  I needed to do something in my sick state – call me crazy but cooking or baking sometimes helps me.  It takes my mind off things. 

This recipe is copied fully from her cook book with my notes.

To start I made the Pâte Brisée (translation: shortcrust or pastry)

Makes about 18 ounces dough, enough for 8 pop.

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups (245 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks / 228 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons cold milk

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer), mix together the flour, sugar, and salt for 10 to 15 seconds, or until combined. Scatter the butter over the top. Mix on low speed for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or just until the flour is no longer bright white and holds together when you clump it and lumps of butter the size of pecans are visible throughout.

I have to say I was a little freaked out by the lumps of butter.  I have never made pastry like this before.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and milk until blended. Add to the flour mixture all at once. Mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, or until the dough just barely comes together. It will look really shaggy and more like a mess than a dough.

Dump the dough out onto an unfloured work surface, then gather it together into a tight mound. Using your palm and starting on one side of the mound, smear the dough bit by bit, starting at the top of the mound and then sliding your palm down the side and along the work surface (at Flour we call this “going down the mountain”), until most of the butter chunks are smeared into the dough and the dough comes together. Do this once or twice on each part of the dough, moving through the mound until the whole mess has been smeared into a cohesive dough with streaks of butter.

I watched Joanne in person doing the “going down the mountain” so I thought I would try it.  I am still a little weirded out by the lumps, which are now streaks of pure butter.  This is going to be interesting.

Gather up the dough, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and press down to flatten into a disk about 1 inch thick. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using. The dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Simple Vanilla Glaze
1 cup (140 grams) confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons water
Rainbow sprinkles for sprinkling (optional)

To make the glaze: While the pastries are cooling, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and enough of the water to make a smooth, pourable glaze. You should have about 1/2 cup. (The glaze can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.)

I made the glaze and put it in the fridge for a few hours.

Fast forward to a few hours later…

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it in half. Press each half into a rectangle. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each half into a 14-by-11-inch rectangle. Using a paring knife, lightly score 1 rectangle into eight 3 1/2-by-5 1/2-inch rectangles (about the size of an index card).

After about 30 minutes of searching for my rolling pin I rolled the pastry out.  I have to say I was amazed how much easier it was with the cold pastry, however, I definitely should have left it in the fridge much longer!

Brush the top surface of the entire scored rectangle with the egg. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the jam in a mound in the center of each scored rectangle. Lay the second large dough rectangle directly on top of the first. Using fingertips, carefully press down all around each jam mound, so the pastry sheets adhere to each other.

Using a knife, a pizza roller (easier), or a fluted roller (easier and prettier), and following the scored lines, cut the layered dough into 8 rectangles. Place the rectangles, well spaced, on a baking sheet.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the tops of the pastries are evenly golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for about 30 minutes.

Definitely should have cooked them for 30-35 minutes – my oven might be a little too hot or quick.  They were a overcooked and the jam leaked out on most of them.

When the pastries have cooled for 30 minutes, brush the tops evenly with the glaze, then sprinkle with the rainbow sprinkles (if using). Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the glaze to set before serving.  I didn’t use sprinkles.

s you can see they look nothing like Joanne Chang’s.  I am mildly disappointed.  Trying to think what I could have done different as I did everything by the book.  My only thought is to leave the dough longer in the freezer.

What’s the verdict?

Kathleen:  Loved the frosting, maybe a little overcooked. Would have liked more jam.  Good pastry.

Me:  Being far more judgmental of myself I think they are okay.  A little overcooked and the same as Kathleen, the pastry has great potential to be really tasty.  The vanilla icing was very nice.  Definitely needed more jam. I am thinking bigger pop tarts with more jam in the middle.

 
Tracey