Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes

I decided to incorporate this weeks TWD recipe with a commitment that I made to provide a dessert for an animal shelter fundraiser at work. Because this Friday is Halloween, I decided to decorate the cupcakes instead of just frosting them.

I think that they turned out super cute, and I am really proud of how they came out.

Thanks to Clara for choosing this recipe!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Potage Crecy (French Carrot Soup)

Across the street from my office building is a little hole in the wall french cafe named La Bonne Soupe. The owner, a transplanted frenchmen named Daniel, crafts every item from scratch all by himself. The cafe is located in a run down building and from the outside doesn't look like much at all. And entering the premises doesn't do much to convey the culinary delights that are created there.

There is no kitchen in the back, no hired help, no pre-made food and no walk in fridge. Just one man who cares very deeply about french food.

Daniel takes an incredible amount of care assembling each and every order, much to the frustration of the newcomers to his shop. His specialty sandwiches can make me drool at the very thought of them...Brie and apple...braised pork...fresh fig and feta...yum!

So when I saw that Daniel had been interviewed by the local paper this past week and his recipe for Potage Crecy had been published I was thrilled. This soup is perfect for the winter time. Warm, soothing and wanting for nothing when paired with a loaf of fresh baked bread.

Potage Crecy (French Carrot Soup)

2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 pounds carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
8 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons of heavy cream
Salt and pepper
Chervil or parsley leaves for garnish

Heat butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add onion and cook until tender but not colored. Add carrots and stir to coat with butter.

Add water or stock, and add a pinch of salt. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook until very tender.
Purée in a food mill and return to the saucepan. Add cream and stir until mixed.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with chervil or parsley and serve hot.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The most terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad meal ever

I spent an hour and a half making dinner last night, ate approximately three bites, threw the entire meal out and made myself a peanut butter sandwich. Meals like that suck.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pumpkin Muffins

I have never been so happy that I decided to join Tuesdays with Dorie. I just ate a little piece of pumpkin heaven. Every fall I am reminded of just how much I like pumpkin. And in case you were wondering, I like it an awful lot.

So many thanks to Kelly from Sounding my Barbaric Gulp for choosing this recipe!

I made the muffins mostly according to the recipe with only a few adjustments to better suit my tastes. Instead of the raisins and nuts, I made half of the batch with mini semi-sweet chocolate chips. I added dried cranberries into the other half of the batter and sprinkled raw sugar on top (just like when they come from the bakery!).

The only downside to these delicious muffins was that they were slightly overcooked, even though they were in the oven for less than the 25 minutes that Dorie recommends. Next time I’ll start checking on them earlier, because I already can’t wait to make them again!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Whisky Drenched Carrots

I bought my very first cast iron skillet a year ago and I was so excited. During my recipe scanning I had often encountered delicious sounding dishes that began cooking on the stove and finished it in the oven. So when the opportunity arose last year, I delightedly decided to purchase a skillet.

And I just have one thing to say: Man do these things rust easily. But that is neither here nor there.

On several occasions I had relished in the experience of cooking with my new skillet (watch out, the handle gets hot!), I had not yet used the functionality for which I had purchased it; cooking in the oven. So when I stumbled across a recipe for skillet cornbread, I knew I had to make it. Immediately.

And thus I proceeded to plan that evening’s meal around the cornbread. I easily decided on a pot roast as the protein portion of the dinner, because its almost (but not quite) cool in Sacramento at this time of year and I felt that it was time to break out the winter recipes.

Because my BF is such a good sport and eats anything that I cook up (except for that horrible meal that immediately found its way into the trash), I try to incorporate dishes that appeal to his personal tastes. So when I stumbled upon this recipe for Whisky Glazed Carrots I was stoked. While not something that I ever would have picked out for myself, it included his favorite veggie and his favorite drink, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with the side dish.

To my surprise, the corn bread was ok, the roast was ok, and the carrots were spectacular. Their taste was explosive (Literally. I accidentally set them on fire.), and they easily outshined the rest of the meal, even the joy I got from baking in my skillet.

Whisky Drenched Carrots
2 - 3 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into thick circles
1 stick (1/2 cup…1/4 lb) butter
1/2 cup Jack Daniels or other whiskey
1/2 to 3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper

Melt 1 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over high heat.

When skillet is extremly hot, add carrots in two batches, cooking for 60 to 90 seconds each batch or until carrots have been lightly browned.

Remove from carrots from the skillet. Pour in whiskey and allow to cook off for 30 seconds.

Reduce heat to medium and add remaining butter. When butter melts, sprinkle brown sugar over the top. Stir together, then add carrots to the skillet.

Cover, and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Remove lid and add salt and pepper. Continue cooking until carrots are done and glaze has thickened, about 5 more minutes. Pour onto a platter and serve immediately. Sprinkle with chopped chives if desired.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Souffled Macaroni and Cheese

I found this recipe in a recent issues of Gourmet magazine and I instantly knew that I HAD to try it. I made some substitutions to the ingredients based on what I had on hand, and I could not have been happier with the result.

I was nervous about folding in the egg whites, as I have never made any kind of souffle before and I didn't want to over mix the egg whites. I folded them in gently until they were about three quarters incorporated, with only random clumps of the whites remaining.

I was worried that I had under mixed because of my nerves, but the finished product came out light, fluffy and scrumptious. It was delicious straight out of the oven and I was inordinately pleased with the result. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Souffled Macaroni and Cheese

1 1/2 c. scalded milk
2 T heavy cream
1 c. soft bread crumbs (about 3 slices of bread)
1 1/2 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 c. diced pepper jack cheese
1 c. cooked macaroni
3 large eggs, separated
1 T chopped parsley
1 T grated onion
3/4 tsp salt
3 T melted butter

Preheat oven to 350°. Place bread slices in food processor and pulse until the slices become a fine crumb.

Pour milk and cream over bread crumbs in a medium bowl, add cheeses. Cover and let stand until cheese melts. Add in macaroni.

Combine and add beaten egg yolks, parsley, onion, salt and melted butter. Gently mix.

Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry and fold into mixture until just combined.

Pour into a buttered 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Bake until puffed and golden, about 35 minutes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lenox Almond Biscotti

Making the Almond Biscotti for this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe was a lot of fun. It had never even occurred to me to make biscotti from scratch before, and there is nothing that I enjoy more than cooking something brand new. Thank you Gretchen for forcing me out of my comfort zone! (the recipe has been posted on Gretchen's blog here.)

I decided to make half of the batch as the recipe directed, and the other half I made with vanilla extract and macadamia nuts.

Forming the logs ended up being a lot harder than I thought it would be. The dough was extremely sticky, and I didn't manage to get them as skinny as the recipe called for. They ended up being about 3 inches wide, instead of an inch and a half.

One of the things that really surprised me was how much the dough spread out on the cookie sheet while baking. The logs ended up almost doubling in size during the initial baking.

After the second baking, I decided to melt some semi-sweet chocolate to go with the macadamia nut biscotti. I dipped one side of them in the chocolate once they had cooled down. These ended up looking really cute and tasting delicious.

I liked the macadamia nut ones, but I didn't really care for the almond biscotti. The almond extract was a little overwhelming in the final product. In the future I will definitely try these with other kinds of nuts and ingredients (dried cranberries maybe?).

Yum! My mouth is watering already!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Urban Farming at its Best

It is amazing in this day and age how big of a problem food scarcity is.

No, I'm not suggesting that the local market has run out of cheetos or any of your other favorites. But the fact is that too many people who live in this country are unable to acquire the healthy foods that they need. Ironically, this contributes to a secondary, but not unrelated problem: obesity.

The problem lies in that it is often cheaper to buy fast, greasy food than it is to buy healthy food. As strange as it may initially sounds, food scarcity and obesity are interrelated problems.

This weekend I came upon a news story about a former NBA player, Will Allen (view it here). He has recieved a MacArthur Genius grant for his work with an urban garden in Milwaukee. Will's non-profit organization, Growing Power, not only grows food, but concetrates on developing food distribution networks to distribute the food to community members that truly need it.

On top of all of that, the work Growing Power is doing is eco-friendly as well. They are using compost piles to heat their greenhouses, and have developed multitiered planting systems that have plants on the top and aquaculture fish tanks on the bottom. The water from the tanks flows up to the plants which filter the impurities out of the water before it flows back into the tank.

I am a big supporter of community agriculture projects, and this is one of the most innovative that I have seen. Hopefully Will's examples will encourage others to start similar programs.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Caramel Peanut Topped Brownie Cake

My first week of baking with Tuesdays with Dorie gave me the opportunity to make the scrumptious Caramel Peanut Topped Brownie Cake. The recipe was chosen this week by Tammy and can be found on her site. Despite my earlier hesitations, I ended up making this recipe exactly to the letter and I have to say I was pleasently suprised.

I didn't have any of the problems that some of the other bakers had (needing to cook the cake longer, having sinking problems in the middle of the cake, it being dry instead of moist) and it turned out really well.

I used a 9 inch springform pan instead of an 8 inch pan because I thought that the batter might rise too much, but I was wrong. Due to the change, the cake ended up slightly larger, but thinner than it might have been otherwise. Though the cake and the caramel ended up being so rich that it almost worked out better that the cake was on the thin side.

The peanuts ended up being ok on the cake, and I almost enjoyed the crunch, though not the taste. I would definintly make this cake again, but I doubt I would redo the peanut topping.

I have to say that the thing that pleased me the most about this cake was the caramel that I made. Never before have I made caramel so perfectly.

I didn't burn it. I didn't undercook it. It wasn't too thin or too thick. It was caramally perfection.

Dorie states in the recipe that you will end up with more caramel than you need, which I was thrilled about. Once the caramal had cooled to be slightly under the temperature of lava (and yes, you can still burn a perfect little hole in your toe if it drips on you at this temperature), I proceeded to eat myself sick on my yummy creation.

I don't know if it was the addition of the corn syrup to the sugar and water, or maybe if it was just that I've finally gotten my caramel making technique down, but the caramal topping was creamy and perfect. Just the thing to pull the cake together.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Peanut Dilemma

After being completely overwhelmed by my recent addiction to food blogs, I have decided that for better or for worse, I would start my own. The straw that broke this camel’s back was the discovery of Tuesdays with Dorie.

I had seen references to this group on several different websites, but I have a short attention span, and I figured that Dorie was the blogger and she liked Tuesdays. Wrong and wrong.

Turns out Tuesdays with Dorie is an online baking group that chooses and makes one recipe a week out of Dorie Greenspan's book Baking: From My Home to Yours.

The first recipe that have the opportunity to bake along with is Carmel-Peanut Topped Brownie Cake. Right off the bat I had food a dilemma.

I don’t like peanuts.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE peanut butter (creamy, not crunchy), it’s just the raw peanuts that I can’t stand. I have never understood people who go to baseball games, get a bag a of peanuts, and munch away as the shells pileup around their feet. The majority of the time I am wearing flip flops and the sensation of slippery shells underfoot is just unpleasant. In fact, I recently went to a BBQ restaurant in my neighborhood where they hand out peanuts, as opposed to the traditional bread, as an appetizer. They even encourage you to throw the shells on the ground. I watched the patrons toss their peanut shells around willy-nilly while a lone waitress futilely swept up the joint. Huh?? But I digress.

Upon seeing the recipe I lost some of my enthusiasm. Really? A cake topped with peanuts? My mind raced with possibly peanut substitutions. Crushed oreos? Pecans? Leaving the topping as plain caramel?

But none of those options seemed to embody the reasons that I chose to participate in this group. I want to become a better baker and cook. I want to try recipes that are outside of my comfort zone.

So I decided to be a sport and follow the recipe as written.

Besides, I'm pretty sure I can pawn-off any dessert on my coworkers. With or without nuts.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...