Sunday, May 31, 2009

80 Years Deserves a Cake Baked with Love

So here was the cake for my Dad's 80th birthday celebration. It was sort of a Dad's side of the family reunion. We had people here from Knoxville TN, Tucson AZ, Chilicothe OH, Columbus OH, and Haymarket VA. It was incredibly wonderful to see everybody. It has been a couple years. We played lots of games, drank sangria, laughed, ate, and ate and ate.

The cake is a culmination of a bunch of recipes. It woreked pretty well together. It disappeared that day and the cake was 18 x 24. We had 40 people there so I would have to say it was a hit.

Double Chocolate Layer Cake

Adapted from Gourmet, March 1999
*** I saw this at Smitten Kitchen
Printable here.
For cake layers
3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
Special equipment: two 10- by 2-inch round cake pans

Make cake layers: Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper.
Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.
Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

The Filling:

Chocolate Pastry Cream

3 tablespoons sugar (or confectioner's sugar)
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon butter

2 ounces baking chocolate, grated

Place sugar, egg yolks flour, lemon rind (if using it), and vanilla in a sauce pan and mix together well.In a separate sauce pan, scald milk. Very slowly pour milk over egg yolk mixture, in a thin stream, beating constantly with rotary beater. Continue cooking on low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until mixture reaches the boiling point. Cook 4 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat, add butter and grated chocolate and mix well. Pour into bowl and let cool, stir occasionally to prevent skin from forming over the top. If using as a cake/pastry filling, chill (with plastic wrap pressed onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming) until very thick at least 3-4 hours.

The Icing:

Hazelnut Swiss Meringue Buttercream

8 oz egg whites
16 oz sugar
1 pound butter
2 oz praline paste
1 tablespoon Nutella
1 tablespoon Frangelico
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine egg whties and sugar in a KA mixing bowl. Whisk constantly over a pot of boiling water until the mixture reaches 140F. Remove from heat. Place mixer bowl in machine and whip on low speed until cooled. Touch the bottom of the bowl to feel temperature. When mixture is cool change from whisk attachment to beater attachment and turn up the mixer. Start adding in the butter by small chunks. Once all the butter is added put in remaining ingredients, starting with praline.

The Decorative Icing:

Chocolate Icing
*** this is a real sturdy icing that you can decorate with easily. It has great flavor without being sickeningly sweet.

2 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons Dutch Cocoa Powder
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Cream the butter and cream cheese at room temperature. Temper in the melted chocolate. Sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa and combine with butter mixture at low speed. Add the vanilla and mix until fully combined.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


After a brief hiatus, I am back. There was much preparation, the actual party/reunion for my Dad's birthday and recovery and cleanup. I HAD SO MUCH FUN. My Sister-in-law, "M", was here and she said in her family they talk about their "party anxiety". I have that a lot. Any party I have ever had, I usually get all hyper about, at least at some point. This party I was much more relaxed, matter of fact I wasn't anxious at all. I think it may have had something to do with the amazing sangria I drank several nights in a row. Really, I don't think there is a drink I like more than a sangria. You can make it ahead of time and it is actually preferable, so you dont have to stand there at the blender or spend anytime mixing drinks. But this post is not about Sangria (tune in a few days from now for that post), it's about mochi.

Mochi, in my opinion is pretty close in taste to pound cake. The texture of this cake was nice. A great accompaniment to coffee.


16 oz. mochiko rice flour (or can substitute for any brand of glutinous rice flour) 1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 (12 ounce) can evaported milk
4 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon orange extract
2/3 cup fresh strawberries, cut into small cubes Instructions
2/3 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
2/3 cup mango, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time until incorporated. Mix in the evaporated milk to the butter/sugar mixture. Mix in the rice flour, baking powder, orange extract and vanilla. Stir in the mango, strawberries and blueberries. Pour mixture into small tart molds or a 9 x 13 pan. Bake for approximately 1 hour at 350 degrees if using the 9 x 13. Check after 30 minutes if using the tarts. Let cake(s) completely cool, allowing the mochi to set, before cutting and serving. If using the tarts, let sit for ten minutes then remove them from the molds.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

I have always wondered if I could make phyllo dough. I secretly hoped that we would have to make it for Daring Bakers. This danish dough comes pretty close. I don't know about the exact ingredients in phyllo but the rolling of the dough and getting it paper thin is pretty phyllo-ish.

The book, Kaffeehaus says it is a matter of practice, practice, practice in getting it right. I believe that! It's something I wouldn't really mind trying to learn. There are so many things you could do with the dough. You could go savory as other DB'ers did. Check them out at the Daring Blogroll.

I know that I really could have tried any number of fillings but I really wanted an apple filling. Something very appealing about apple danish. I used a different recipe for the filling.

Strudel dough

from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.
Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

That's pretty paper thin.

My version of the apple filling:
Apple Filling

3 pounds of hard apple, I used Pink Lady
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
one vanilla bean split and seeded (use pod to make vanilla sugar)
juice of half a lemon
zest of a lemon

Peel, core and slice apples into 1/4 inch size and place in large bowl. Sprinkle zest and lemon juice over top about half way through the coring process. This will minimize oxidation/browning of the apple. Continue slicing, stirring mixture as you go. Add in spices, vanilla and sugar. Stir completely and cover. Let sit for 30 minutes or more. You want the apple to be somewhat juiced.

When you lay it into your strudel use a slotted spoon. Cook remaining juice down to make a syrup.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


A joined the Bread Bakers Apprentice Challenge Group. Pinch My Salt started it and it already has an overwhelming response. I guess a lot of people are like me, they want some people to bake that book with. I have made a few things from it over the years but not nearly as many as I want to. The book is chalk full of baking information. Everything you want to know about the science of bread with helpful hints and tips and of course "formulas" (as Reinhart calls it).

I started my bread baking journey years ago... 1985 was the first attempt. My heavy, brick laden bread discouraged me for a number of years. Finally, I made pizza dough in 1995 with great success. Haven't stopped yet.

I see a lot of people on these blogs say that they have yeast phobias which got me thinking and I came up with this,


Stage 1 Interest. This is when you see that others are successfully making bread and achieving wonderful results. You see bread everywhere you go and think, "man, bread is too expensive, I have to make this. If everybody else can do it, so can I."

Stage 2 Yeast Phobia. You feel a certain amount of fear or trepidation however small or large, and that fear, looms over you. The fear that threatens to make your bread into a brick rather than a moist and tender crumb that melts butter all over it. But you say, hey, it is possible, I know it is...

Stage 3 Overcoming Yeast Phobia and making your first bread. You say to yourself, I could do pizza, maybe that is not so hard or some other bread you perceive as "easier".

Stage 4 Confidence. You succeeded and patting yourself on the back you proceed to the next "yeasty" recipe!

Stage 5 Experimentation. You have made countless bread and you learn that there is pretty much not a lot you can do to "ruin" a loaf. So you mix in a little of this and a little of that. You try different rising times or different ways of raising your bread, cutting your bread or shaping it, different tools and pans...! You are a pro you can make pizza dough with your eyes closed.

Stage 6 Setbacks. Some things happened. Your bread caves (ie. picture above), or doesn't rise like it should, the crumb isn't right. You learn though because you just have to know why it happened. You move on, it really doesn't set you back.

Stage 7 Sourdough or wild yeast. You try sourdough. It's a challenge that a lot of bread bakers want to know about and grow. It's a "pet" they need or should I say knead to have!

Stage 8 Mastery of bread and sourdough. You have pretty much mastered the domain of bread making. Cheers!
*I just realized what I did wrong. I never added the molasses, duh! Tastes great anyway!

Friday, May 22, 2009


My friends and I use to go to Eaton Center in Toronto on occassion. Toronto is about a three hour drive from here. It's wonderful to have a beautiful city such as Toronto so close. The city is clean and has lots of things to do. We would always go to Chinatown when we went. How often can you get a more authentic Chinese food? Years ago on one of our visits, around 1982 we went to Eaton Center and I found this chocolate shaped like an orange, complete with chocolate segments. I was totally intrigued and just had to buy it. There was nothing like that in the States yet, I don't think, or at least I wasn't seeing it yet. We loved it, promptly devouring the whole thing. How can you not, delicious orange chocolate? See pic below.

These amazing orange chocolate chip muffins from Susan at Food Blogga tastes a lot like those chocolates. Albeit, it's not a chocolate but hey it's a muffin and a darn good one at that! She has a lot of great food there, go on now, go check it out if you haven't already.

recipe from Food Blogga

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup orange juice, preferably fresh squeezed
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips (2 tablespoons reserved for tops of muffins)
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (2 tablespoons reserved for tops of muffins)

Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Spray a regular size muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together melted butter, egg, buttermilk, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla. Add wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir quickly until well combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin pan. Sprinkle with reserved 2 tablespoons each of chocolate chips and walnuts.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 5 minutes before removing each muffin and placing on a wire rack to cool.

OMG. Love these muffins.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Edamame Walnut Salad and Baby Robins

If you have not tried edamamae, run, do not walk to you nearest grocer and get some, please. Amazing little beans that they are. They are supremely tastey and satisfying. Here's a few interesting points about soybeans.

"The first domestication of soybean has been traced to the eastern half of North China in the eleventh century B.C. or perhaps a bit earlier. Soybean has been one of the five main plant foods of China along with rice, soybeans, wheat, barley and millet...

Early Uses. Soybeans were grown for centuries in Asia mainly for their seeds. These were used in preparing a large variety of fresh, fer­mented and dried food products that were con­sidered indispensable to oriental diets. Soybeans were not used to any great extent for forage in Asia.

Early use of soybeans in the United States was for forage and to some extent, green manure. It was not until 1941 that the acreage of' soybeans grown for grain first exceeded that grown for forage and other purposes in the United States.

Present Uses. Soybeans are the United States' second largest crop in cash sales and the number one export crop. In 2003, the export value of soybeans was more than 9.7 billion dollars, or about one-sixth of all agricultural exports. Normally, more than half of the total value of the U.S. soybean crop comes from exports as whole soybeans, soybean meal, and soybean oil. About 40 percent of the world's soybean trade originates from the U.S.

China has become the largest single country customer for U.S. soybeans with purchases totaling nearly $3 billion. Mexico, the European Union, and Japan are the second, third, and fourth largest international markets, respectively. Major export markets for soybean meal are the Philippines and Canada. Mexico and Korea are large customers of U.S. soybean oil." Iowa State University.

Here is a little update on the chicks. If you hadn't heard the first part of this story, here it is. Yesterday my husband got a little concerned that they might be roasting in the grill as it was such a hot day. So we opened it up to check on the chicks, they were fine. They had their little mouths open waiting for some food, then they kind of melted into the pile you see below. Ughhhh, what did we do?
They're not dead just good little actors/actesses.

After we had closed the grill back up we heard their little peeps again. Whew (wiping brow). So today I am off to find some kind of shelter to put over the grill to protect it from the sun.

But while I am here telling you about the chicks I'll also give you the "recipe" for what I did here.

Walnut and Edamame Salad

1 small onion, minced
1 package or 2 cups shelled edamame
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
salt to taste
2 tablespoons walnut oil, divided
juice of a lemon
1 clove garlic, minced

Saute the onion in a tablespoon of oil until soft. Add garlic and remove from heat. Combine with edamame, remainder of walnut oil, salt, lemon juice and sprinkle walnuts over top.Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Just before I met my husband I resigned myself to a life of singleness. I was 36 years old and pretty doubtful that I would meet someone. In the time I was single though I never let the time pass by while pining for a suitor. I did quite a bit of traveling and moving to different cities much to my Mother's chagrin. (Now that I am a Mother, I completely understand). My motto was always, live and do things while you can. Looking back I am so grateful for that. One place I wanted to go to was Italy. I was actually in the beginning stages of planning a trip there. My idea was to go with my parents and brother (who was divorced at the time). I started the inquiry process but that is about as far as it got. In walked Italy to my life.

A strappingly handsome dude who is a little over seven years younger than I. The first time I looked at him and saw his eyes, I was sold. The first time he ate my pumpkin muffins he was sold. Just kidding. It helped the process, the muffins, but he fell for me that first night too.

I continue to be intrigued by Italy. Dont get me wrong there are a hundred other places I want to go to: Greece, Spain, Japan, France, Argentina... just to name a few.

All this to say that I wanted to make my dear husband a birthday treat that was very Italian. What is more Italian than the classic hazelnut/chocolate combo? Gianduja. Yum. On my to do list.

So around his birthday I had asked if anyone knew of a great dessert that combined chocolate and hazelnut. I have made cakes before but I wanted something unique. Shelly of This Old Farm to my rescue. She emailed me a recipe for chocolate hazelnut tart. I was sold. I know it has been some time but I am finally getting around to posting it. I did not do the glaze or the vanilla sauce because I felt it was just what I wanted with the mousse and the pastry. Besides I just plum ran out of time. It was delicious Shelly. Thank you for taking the time to type it all and send it. I fully appreciate the effort. There was a lot of moaning around the table that night as we treasured each and every bite.

Bittersweet Chocolate Terrine with Vanilla Custard Sauce
Bon Appetit, October 1989

A rich chocolate mousse with a hazelnut pastry bottom, all encased in a bittersweet chocolate glaze.
12 servings


12 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter
6 large egg yolks

8 large egg whites, room temp
3 tablespoons sugar


2/3 cup toasted hazelnuts (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk
3 teaspoons (about) whipping cream


6 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate , chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2/3 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup Cognac

12 toasted hazelnuts

Vanilla Custard Sauce (see recipe)

For mousse:
Line 9x5-inch rectangular loaf pan with 2 pieces of parchment extending 1 inch over long and short sides. Melt chocolate with butter in top of double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from over water. Cool 5 minutes. Whisk in yolks 1 at a time.

Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in large bowl until soft peaks begin to form. Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold half of whites into cooled chocolate to lighten. Gently fold in remaining whites. Pour mousse into prepared pan. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

For pastry:
Finely grind hazelnuts in processor. Blend in flour and sugar. Add butter and cut in using on/off turns until mixture has a sandy texture. Blend in yolk and enough cream to form dough that just begins to come together. Gather dough into square; flatten into rectangle. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350. Roll dough out between sheets of parchment to 9x5-inch rectangle. Peel off top sheet of parchment. Transfer dough on parchment to cookie sheet. Bake until pastry is firm and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Cool pastry on sheet. Refrigerate 1 hour.

For glaze:
Melt chocolate and butter with corn syrup in heavy medium saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Scald cream with Cognac in heavy small saucepan.
Pour into chocolate; mix well. Cool slightly.

Carefull place pastry atop mousse. Place cake rack over terrine. Invert terrine onto rack. Peel off parchment. Using serrated knife, carefully cut away any excess pastry around base of terrine. Place terrine on rack over cookie sheet. Pour lukewarm glaze over terine, spreading gently to coat top and sides. Arrange nuts down center of terrine. Chill until glaze sets, about 1 hour. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead.)

Run small sharp knife around base of terrine to loosen. Transfer terrine to serving plate. Cut into slices using warm knife. Transfer to plates. Spoon custard around each piece and serve.

Vanilla Custard Sauce

Makes about 3 cups

2 cups half and half
2/3 cup milk (do not use lowfat or nonfat)
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

5 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt

Combine half and half and milk in heavy medium saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add pod. Bring mixture to simmer. Remove from heat.
Cover and let steep 40 minutes.

Whisk yolks, sugar and salt in medium bowl to blend. Bring half and half mixute
to boil again. Gradually whisk some into yolks. Return mixture to saucepan and
stir over medium-low heat until custardthickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 8 minutes; do not boil. Strain into bowl. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled.(Sauce can be prepared up to 3 days ahead.)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Strawberry Tiramisu

I know, tiramisu is kind of a cliche. But a very pleasant cliche. Did you know that tiramisu means "pick me up". As in, lift my energy. Classically made, I guess it would do just that - with all the espresso. Here, however, for the sake of my childrens already soaring high energy level, I made it caffeine free. Strawberry and Grand Marnier go together pretty well.


16 oz mascarpone, room temp.
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
2 pints of strawberries
1/2 cup orange simple syrup
1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
lady fingers, about 36 for 9 x 13

To make the orange simple syrup: In a saucepan combine 1/2 cup orange juice and a 1/2 cup sugar. Bring to a boil, making sure the sugar has disolved. Remove from heat. When mixture is cool add 2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier.

In a bain marie or double boiler whisk egg whites and sugar together. Heat until egg whites are hot to the touch. Place egg whites in mixer and whip on low speed with beater attachment until it is cool. Once cooled increase speed to increase the volume of the egg whites. In another bowl whip mascarpone. Fold in a third of the egg whites. Then fold the mascarpone mixture to the egg whites until combined. Place in refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the mascarpone.

Slice strawberries in half or in thirds lengthwise if really large.

In a 13 x 9 pan lay a layer of lady fingers down. Drizzle a half of a cup of the orange syrup mixture on top of the lady fingers. Spread half of the mascarpone mixture evenly on top. Arrange a layer of strawberries over the mascarpone. Add another layer of lady fingers over the strawberries. Drizzle with remaining syrup. Spread mascarpone ovewr that. Lay strawberries on top in a decorative pattern. Chill for at least two hours, preferrably overnight for the flavors to marry.


16 oz mascarpone, room temp.
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
2 pints of strawberries
1/2 cup orange simple syrup
1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
lady fingers, about 36 for 9 x 13

To make the orange simple syrup: In a saucepan combine 1/2 cup orange juice and a 1/2 cup sugar. Bring to a boil, making sure the sugar has disolved. Remove from heat. When mixture is cool add 2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier.

In a bain marie whisk egg whites and sugar together. Heat until egg whites are hot to the touch. Place egg whites in mixer and whip on low speed with beater attachment until it is cool. Once cooled increase speed to increase the volume of the egg whites. In another bowl whip mascarpone. Fold in a third of the egg whites. Then fold the mascarpone mixture to the egg whites until combined. Place in refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the mascarpone.

Slice strawberries in half or in thirds lengthwise if really large.

In a 13 x 9 pan lay a layer of lady fingers down. Drizzle a half of a cup of the orange syrup mixture on top of the lady fingers. Spread half of the mascarpone mixture evenly on top. Arrange a layer of strawberries over the mascarpone. Add another layer of lady fingers over the strawberries. Drizzle with remaining syrup. Spread mascarpone ovewr that. Lay strawberries on top in a decorative pattern. Chill for at least two hours, preferrably overnight for the flavors to marry.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

An Inspired Banh Mi

I love when a recipe just reaches out and grabs my collar and says make me! You need to make me! This was one such recipe. I saw it over at Kat and Matt's A Good Appetite. I love to visit their blog to see what they are up to. Lots of yummy food and clever ideas. It's a regular stop for me.

This tastey little mouthful of a treat has lots of great things going for it. It has tastey little pickled carrots and radishes, jalapeno (amazing) mayonnaise, and marinated pork. We had it two days in a row. The first day I had defrosted the pork and did not have time to marinate it. I also used store bought rolls. The second day it had marinated over night and it was on some fresh rolls that I made from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day. You know, it was delicious both days! Even if you skip the marinade it still tastes amazing. The flavor really comes from the mayo and the pickled veggies.

Vietnamese-Style Grilled Pork Po'Boys

from Emeril at the Grill via A Good Appetite

Grilled Pork

3 green onion, minced
1 tablespoon jalapeño, seeded & minced
3 clove garlic, minced
1 T sugar
pinch of pepper
1 T Vietnamese fish sauce
juice of one lime
4 pork chops

In a resealable bag mix the onion, jalapeño, garlic, sugar, pepper, fish sauce & lime juice. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the pork & seal removing as much air as possible. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours up to overnight, turning occasionally. Remove the pork from the bag & let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a skillet and let it get really hot. Place ppork on frying pan and sear it. Turn the heat down. If the slices are thick cover to let cook completely. Remove when internal temp reaches 160F. Let rest & slice into 1/4-inch slices.

Pickled Carrots & Radishes

1 c rice vinegar
3 T sugar
1/4 t crushed red pepper
1/2 t salt
1 carrot, thinnly sliced on the diagonal
1 1/2 c thinly sliced radishes

In a small saucepan bring the vinegar, sugar, red pepper & salt to a boil. Stir until the sugar & salt are dissolved. Plae veggies in a jar and pour in marinade. Refrigerate covered for at least a day or up to two weeks.

Makes about 2 cups.

Jalapeño Mayo
Matt's expert mayo! delicious!

1 jalapeno, seeded
1 green onion
1 clove garlic
1/3 c mayo

Put jalapeno, green onion & garlic into a small food processor & chop. Add the mayo & process until smooth.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

White Chocolate Macadamia Bars

I have a question for anyone who is listening. I frequent garage sales quite often. I love turning old stuff into new stuff and I also love a bargain. Every once in a while I head over to the best neighborhoods to garage sale. Sometimes you can really find something nice for a good price. Anyway I don't know the area all that well, good enough to get around a little. I went with my Mom and my three year old (who has been potty trained, oh, for about 5 months). Your probably know where this is going to. We stopped at a garage sale and it was towards the end of our excursion. My daughter announces loudly that she has to go to the bathroom. Ok, I know I can accept some responsibility here on my part. I asked the woman of the house/garage sale, who has two young daughters if my daughter can use her bathroom. She says no. I say you can take her in, she can go by herself, I don't have to go. She says no, we do not allow anyone to use our bathrooms. Ok, I am not happy but I can accept this, it's her house after all and she owes me nothing. Anyone with recently potty trained children knows that when they say they have to go, its not a whisper, its a glaring screaming call because they always wait to the last minute. She's crying because she has to go so bad. So, my Mother and I take her to the side of the car and were going to stand around her while she pees in the street, blocked of course by us. Well, the Garage Sale woman comes walking down the driveway and states, "Oh my God, you have got to be kidding me, you cant go there, go on the grass."

My head is swirling because all I can think of is my poor baby needs to relieve herself. There is no bathroom in sight even if we could make it there in time. I think okay lady you want me to kill your grass. you coo coo. The street IS public property. She says, "that's very disrespectful to me."

To which I say , "you are being disrespectful to my daughter. She has to go, she is 3, I thought maybe you would understand as a Mom of young children. (geesh not even letting her go on the road)" Well my daughter couldnt go anyway. So we whizzed out of there (pun intended). And, luckily, because I do not know the area, found a restaurant to use their bathroom. My daughter sure was telling the truth. Poor little thing. I won't be doing that again but I am just curious what you all think of this dilemma. What could I have done differently (okay besides thinking ahead and getting her to a bathroom before it got critical)? Was I in the wrong? Was she? What's your thoughts about this, if any?

Back to the food. One more bar for the party! I bought some macadamia nuts this past week because I had a coupon and they were a decent price. So I had to put them to good use. I love the quickness of this recipe. I am not into spending a ton of time these day smaking individual cookies. So why not make one big cookie, hence the bar!

These are delicious cookies, well worth the price of macadamia's (within reason of course).

Bonus- all done in a pot and transferred to the baking pan.
3/4 cup butter or margarine
1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts or slivered almonds
1 cup white baking chips

Heat oven to 375 F. Spray a 13x9x2 inch pan with cooking spray.

In a 4 quart sauce pan melt butter and brown sugar over low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted; remove from heat.

Beat vanilla and eggs into sugar mixture with electric mixer on medium speed. Beat in flour and baking powder on low speed. Stir in half of the nuts and 1/2 cup of the baking chips.

Smooth out into pan. Sprinkle with remaining nuts and 1/2 cup of the baking chips.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until top is golden brown and center is set. Cool about 30 minutes. Cut into bars.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Marinated Italian Vegetables

At all of our family reunions in the past my Mom would make this vegetable marinade. Everyone seemed to enjoy it so much as it disappeared fairly quickly. It's quite the Italian thing, at least around these parts. I decided that we should make it for our upcoming shindig. We changed the flavor a bit. I really like this Greek salad dressing I made a couple weeks ago so we used it. It didnt quite fill the containers even though we made 8 cups of it. So we filled the containers about 1/2 full and added a mixture of oil, red wine vinegar and water with oregano and garlic powder, onion powder and salt. I think it came out pretty good. I am so looking forward to tasting it in a couple days when the flavors marry a little.


*large quantity marinade:

2 cups lemon juice, fresh squeezed
2 cups red wine vinegar
4 cups canola oil * don't use Olive oil as it will gel in the fridge.
6 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
if you want a smaller version click here for the recipe.


2 pounds carrots
8 - 10 oz packages mushrooms
2 regular sized heads of cauliflower
1 onion
6 cloves of garlic, sliced lengthwise
1 entire bunch of celery
3 cups pepperoncini
3 red bell pepper
2 green bell pepper
2 yellow bell pepper

Boil the cauliflower until it is crisp tender. Set aside.
Boil the carrots until they are crisp tender. Set aside.
Cut peppers into 1 inch square chunks.
Cut celery into 1 inch chunks.
Cut onion into 1 inch chunks or slivers.
Drain pepperoncini and place in a very large bowl.

Combine all in a very large bowl or pot. Mix in marinade. Scoop into large jars and refrigerate. Flavors intensify with the passage of time. You want to wait at least four days and up to two weeks.

7/15/2010  Update:
* For the amount of vegetables in this recipe- you will want to double the marinade.
* Add a tablespoon of sugar and a cup of water to the marinade to reduce the acidity. 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Daring Cooks, yup, I'm a Daring Cook indeed.

I love being a part of the Daring Bakers, I know, I sing their praises all the time but it is the truth. It's the camaraderie, the challenge, the learning, the togetherness, that I enjoy so much. So I joined the Daring Cooks. I was rewarded with a recipe that I wanted to try anyway. I had seen a video of this on Epicurious and have wanted to make it since. I didnt have the nerve. Enter the Daring Cooks and voila, courage abounds.

Courage does not mean success as you can see. While they were a bit mushy they did hold together. I blame my failure on not draining the ricotta long enough. I did about seven hours. Next time I will go for the 24 hours. Even though they don't look stellar, they sure taste stellar. Light, despite the thousands of calories within.

Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi

Source: From The Zuni Café Cookbook.

Yield: Makes 40 to 48 gnocchi (serves 4 to 6)

Prep time: Step 1 will take 24 hours. Steps 2 through 4 will take approximately 1 hour.


- If you can find it, use fresh ricotta. As Judy Rodgers advises in her recipe, there is no substitute for fresh ricotta. It may be a bit more expensive, but it's worth it.
- Do not skip the draining step. Even if the fresh ricotta doesn't look very wet, it is. Draining the ricotta will help your gnocchi tremendously.
- When shaping your gnocchi, resist the urge to over handle them. It's okay if they look a bit wrinkled or if they're not perfectly smooth.
- If you're not freezing the gnocchi for later, cook them as soon as you can. If you let them sit around too long they may become a bit sticky.

For the gnocchi:

1 pound (454 grams/16 ounces) fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, or a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg, or a few pinches of chopped lemon zest (all optional)
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed)
about ¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt)
all-purpose flour for forming the gnocchi

For the gnocchi sauce:

8 tablespoons (227 grams/1/4 pound/4 ounces) butter, sliced
2 teaspoons water

Step 1 (the day before you make the gnocchi): Preparing the ricotta.

If the ricotta is too wet, your gnocchi will not form properly. In her cookbook, Judy Rodgers recommends checking the ricotta’s wetness. To test the ricotta, take a teaspoon or so and place it on a paper towel. If you notice a very large ring of dampness forming around the ricotta after a minute or so, then the ricotta is too wet. To remove some of the moisture, line a sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels and place the ricotta in the sieve. Cover it and let it drain for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can wrap the ricotta carefully in cheesecloth (2 layers) and suspend it in your refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours with a bowl underneath to catch the water that’s released. Either way, it’s recommended that you do this step the day before you plan on making the gnocchi.

Step 2 (the day you plan on eating the gnocchi): Making the gnocchi dough.

To make great gnocchi, the ricotta has to be fairly smooth. Place the drained ricotta in a large bowl and mash it as best as you can with a rubber spatula or a large spoon (it’s best to use a utensil with some flexibility here). As you mash the ricotta, if you noticed that you can still see curds, then press the ricotta through a strainer to smooth it out as much as possible.

Add the lightly beaten eggs to the mashed ricotta.

Melt the tablespoon of butter. As it melts, add in the sage if you’re using it. If not, just melt the butter and add it to the ricotta mixture.

Add in any flavouring that you’re using (i.e., nutmeg, lemon zest, etc.). If you’re not using any particular flavouring, that’s fine.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the salt.

Beat all the ingredients together very well. You should end up with a soft and fluffy batter with no streaks (everything should be mixed in very well).

Step 3: Forming the gnocchi.

Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. When it boils, salt the water generously and keep it at a simmer. You will use this water to test the first gnocchi that you make to ensure that it holds together and that your gnocchi batter isn’t too damp.

In a large, shallow baking dish or on a sheet pan, make a bed of all-purpose flour that’s ½ an inch deep.

With a spatula, scrape the ricotta mixture away from the sides of the bowl and form a large mass in the centre of your bowl.

Using a tablespoon, scoop up about 2 to 3 teaspoons of batter and then holding the spoon at an angle, use your finger tip to gently push the ball of dough from the spoon into the bed of flour.

At this point you can either shake the dish or pan gently to ensure that the flour covers the gnocchi or use your fingers to very gently dust the gnocchi with flour. Gently pick up the gnocchi and cradle it in your hand rolling it to form it in an oval as best as you can, at no point should you squeeze it. What you’re looking for is an oval lump of sorts that’s dusted in flour and plump.

Gently place your gnocchi in the simmering water. It will sink and then bob to the top. From the time that it bobs to the surface, you want to cook the gnocchi until it’s just firm. This could take 3 to 5 minutes.

If your gnocchi begins to fall apart, this means that the ricotta cheese was probably still too wet. You can remedy this by beating a teaspoon of egg white into your gnocchi batter. If your gnocchi batter was fluffy but the sample comes out heavy, add a teaspoon of beaten egg to the batter and beat that in. Test a second gnocchi to ensure success.

Form the rest of your gnocchi. You can put 4 to 6 gnocchi in the bed of flour at a time. But don’t overcrowd your bed of flour or you may damage your gnocchi as you coat them.

Have a sheet pan ready to rest the formed gnocchi on. Line the sheet pan with wax or parchment paper and dust it with flour.

You can cook the gnocchi right away, however, Judy Rodgers recommends storing them in the refrigerator for an hour prior to cooking to allow them to firm up.

Step 4: Cooking the gnocchi.

Have a large skillet ready to go. Place the butter and water for the sauce in the skillet and set aside.

In the largest pan or pot that you have (make sure it’s wide), bring at least 2 quarts of water to a boil (you can use as much as 3 quarts of water if your pot permits). You need a wide pot or pan so that your gnocchi won’t bump into each other and damage each other.

Once the water is boiling, salt it generously.

Drop the gnocchi into the water one by one. Once they float to the top, cook them for 3 to 5 minutes (as in the case with the test gnocchi).

When the gnocchi float to the top, you can start your sauce while you wait for them to finish cooking.

Place the skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Swirl it gently a few times as it melts. As soon as it melts and is incorporated with the water, turn off the heat. Your gnocchi should be cooked by now.

With a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi from the boiling water and gently drop into the butter sauce. Carefully roll in the sauce until coated. Serve immediately.

Freezing the gnocchi: If you don’t want to cook your gnocchi right away or if you don’t want to cook all of them, you can make them and freeze them. Once they are formed and resting on the flour-dusted, lined tray, place them uncovered in the freezer. Leave them for several hours to freeze. Once frozen, place them in a plastic bag. Remove the air and seal the bag. Return to the freezer. To cook frozen gnocchi, remove them from the bag and place individually on a plate or on a tray. Place in the refrigerator to thaw completely. Cook as directed for fresh gnocchi.

Here's what I made for the sauce.

Lemon Wine Sauce

juice of half of a lemon
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup ap flour

Saute onions in butter over medium high heat until onions begin to turn golden. Whisk in flour and let cook until it becomes golden. Whisk in broth and wine. Add salt to taste. Add lemon. Let mixture boil for a few minutes to thicken.

I spooned the sauce over the gnocchi and then sprinkled with chopped fresh tarragon, oregano and chives.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

This girls gone corny!

The other day when I wrote about cornbread, I said that I had found a stellar recipe in the book, The Cornbread Gospels. Indeed I did. I made it up the other day. It was SO easy and SO tastey. I liked it so much that it will be a regular in our house.

One of the best qualities of this "fritter" or "pancake" is that it cooks up with relatively little grease. All I used was cooking spray. AND you can add any left overs or things you want to use up to the batter. Top with sour cream and you are good to go. Or cheese, as Crescent Dragonwagon suggests. Unbelievably delicious.

recipe courtesy of the author, Crescent Dragonwagon
The Cornbread Gospels, Workman Publishing, NY

1 cup unbleached flour
1/2 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal (or 1/4 cup each stone-ground yellow cornmeal and masa harina)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3 scallions trimmed, white and green portions thinly sliced
kernels cut from 3 ears of fresh corn (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 to 1 green chile, finely minced (with seeds for heat, without for mildness)
vegetable cooking spray

1. Combine the flour, cornmeal or conrmeal and masa harina, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, stirring well. Set aside.

2. Combine the buttermilk, egg, and sugar in a second, smaller bowl, whisking together. Set aside.

3. Combine the onion, scallion, corn, and chile in a third bowl. Set aside.

4. Using as few strokes as possible, stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture until the two are barely smoothed out. Then stir in all the vegetables.

5. Spray a heavy nonstick skillet with oil, then place over medium-high heat. When it is hot, ladle on the batter; using a 1/4 cup ladle will yield about 12 good size pancakes, which will make 4 Mexi-stacks, see below (a slightly smaller size is good for these when you're using them as a side dish). Flip the cakes when the tops have plenty of bubbles and the sides look done, 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 minutes. The second side takes 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

6. Serve hot from the griddle.

Make the masa variation of the cakes. Open a can (15 ounces) of black beans and pour the contents, juice and all, into a small saucepan. Heat the beans through while you assemble the following on a tray.

* 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar or monterey Jack cheese
* 2-3 ripe Haas avocadoes, peeled, pitted and coarsely mashed in a small bowl with the juice of 1/2 of a lemon and a little salt
* homemade or bottled salsa
* dairy or tofu sour cream (optional)
* chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Have 4 heated plates ready. As the cakes come off the skillet, lay 1 in the center of each plate. Spoon the black beans over them equally. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the beans and top with a second cake. Quickly spread the mashed avocado over the second cake layers, and top with a third cake. Spoon the salsa on top, add a dab of sour cream and a snowfall of cilantro, if using, and serve immediately - to many wows.

* I didn't exactly do the Mexi stacks but I so liked the idea. Since I did not have fresh corn, I used ramps, yellow, red and green pepper, minced. I also used purple onion. I chopped enough so that I would have a little over 1 1/2 cups to add to the pancakes.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Yum - Mammo Nanaimo Bars

Although I did eat two of these bars, the rest are safely hiding in the freezer. You may be wondering about my weight loss adventure. I am still at 25 pound loss. I am holding steady here, while I read a book called "I Can Make You Thin". I know it sounds a little hokey but it could be quite possibly the most logical, helpful weight loss book I have ever read. It's about mindful eating. You know that feeling when you sit down to watch a movie with a bowl of popcorn and suddenly you are sitting with an empty popcorn bowl. Well, that is the kind of thing I aim to stop and this book has some real pointers.

Okay back to the fattening stuff because thats more fun. See, now that's a bad attitude.

I have been making some dessert bars for upcoming shindig and these Nanaiamo bars are something I have been wanting to make for a while. Glad I did because they are delicious. They will be great for the party.

1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2/3 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cocoa powder
1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon mint extract
3 cups confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons vanilla instant pudding (no custard powder here)
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup butter
green food coloring

8 oz. semi sweet chocolate, chips or chopped small
2 tablespoons butter

In a bowl stir together crumbs, coconut and almonds. In a sauce pan stir together butter sugar and cocoa until butter melts. Remove from heat and whisk in egg quickly. Press into a 8 inch square pan and refrigerate while doing the next layer.

Beat together icing sugar, butter, vanilla pudding powder and mint extract. When mixture is combined, spread over the base evenly. Chill in the refrigerator until chocolate layer is ready.

Topping: In a double boiler or bain marie, stir together butter and chocolate until smooth. Spread over mint layer.



1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2/3 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cocoa powder
1 egg beaten

Grand Marnier Layer:

2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
1 tablespoon orange zest

4 oz. semi sweet chocolate, chopped or chips
1 tablespoon butter

In a bowl stir together crumbs, coconut and almonds. In a sauce pan stir together butter sugar and cocoa until butter melts. Remove from heat and whisk in egg quickly. Press into a 9 inch square pan and bake at 350F for about ten minutes. Let cool.

Grand Marnier Layer: Beat together icing sugar, butter and orange rind. When mixture is combined, spread over the base evenly. Chill in the refrigerator until chocolate layer is ready.

Topping: In a double boiler or bain marie, stir together butter and chocolate until smooth. Spread over Grand Marnier layer.

*I actually liked the texture of the unbaked one better. But they were both good. The Grand Marnier one is a bit strong. I imagine you could just substitute orange juice instead of alcohol if you prefer.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I came down the stairs today and saw a pile of dishes to put away in the drainboard. We were at a party last night, a wedding party and I was just too tired to put them away. I was hoping they would magically disappear this morning. Ahem, oh hubbie... They were there, in the drainboard, waiting patiently for me to put them away. I was a little disappointed that my DH did not help me out here. But then I took a step back as I put them away and thought to myself. Geez, I am really being silly here. So what? They are dishes. I resolved that today no matter what my jobs are I will, am grateful to have a loving and devoted husband and two beautiful children.

I am almost too embarassed to post that little blurb because it sounds so childish and selfish. I will post it for humilities sake.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you mothering, nurturing and kind women out there! To all of you who toil and recieve little thanks. To those of you who are single and do not have anyone by your side to help. To those of you who work from sun up to sun down. To those of you who sacrifice yourself for others. To those of you who nurture others selflessly. To those of you who bite your lip when you want to scream. To those of you who aren't even mothers but always manage to spread love, kindness and nurturing to others... Celebrate yourself today!

Do not underestimate the amazing qualities of this simplistic pie. Use the right cheese and fresh ingredients and you will be rewarded with deliciousness.

1 lb of spaghetti, cooked and drained
1/2 of a pound of gruyere or a really sharp cheddar
1 cup of roasted red peppers, chopped
1 1/2 cups of onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup carrots, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup milk
4 eggs, whole
2 egg whites
s and p to taste
lots 'o' fresh basil... like a half of a cup, chiffonade
1/4 cup parsely
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil

Cook spaghetti until al dente, drain and set aside.

In a large pot melt butter and add olive oil. Add carrots and onions and saute until soft. Add minced garlic and cook one minute more. Set aside.

Finely chop parsley and add to vegetable mixture. Add basil, paprika salt and pepper, green onion. roasted peppers. Mix in spaghetti to the vegetables. Combine thoroughly. Pour into two prepared, nine inch pie plates or a large tube pan. (The tube pan helps the mixture cook thoroughly. If you do not have a tube pan, pour into pie plates.)

In a bowl, whisk eggs. Add milk. Whisk. Pour evenly over the mixture in the pans. Place grated cheese over top and mix in a little with your fingers or a fork.

Place the uncovered pans in the oven and turn on the oven to 400F. Bake until golden about thirty minutes. Remove from oven and let set up for about ten minutes. Slice into wedges and serve.

Friday, May 8, 2009


One of the best cookbooks I have is Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home To Yours. The amazing thing about her book, at least when I was with Tuesdays with Dorie is I thought I had looked through it all and then someone would pick a recipe and I would think, hey I didn't see that and it sounds amazing. Well, The Cornbread Gospels is just like that.

I made some regular cornbread yesterday from the book because I was craving it and then I saw another amazing recipe that I need to try. By the way this cornbread recipe BLOWS Jiffy out of the water. Sorry Jiffy, but this one is lighter and more moist. We loved it. I can see why it was a frequently requested recipe at the Bed and Breakfast that Crescent Dragonwagon ran.

The Cornbread Gospels, by Crescent Dragonwagon; Workman Publishing, NY

1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup stone ground corn meal
1 tablespoon baking pwder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter or mild vegetable oil

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Spray a 10 inch cast iron skillet with oil and set aside.

2. Sift together the flour, cornmeal and baking powder and salt into a medium bowl.

3. In a smaller bowl, stir the baking soda into the buttermilk. Whisk in the sugar, egg, and the 1/4 cup of oil.

4. Put the prepared skillet over medium heat, add the butter, and heat until the butter melts and is just starting to sizzle. Tilt the pan to coat the sides and the bottom.

5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine them quickly, using as few strokes as possible. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cornbread until it is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool for a few moments and slice into wedges and serve.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


I know, I know it's a fund raiser but for this Mom who doesn't get out much it was a fun raiser. My friend is a social worker at a local hospital. They had a fund raiser and my "four corner" friends and I went to it. They had hors d'oeuvres, wine tasting and of course dessert. The food was pretty good. They had an antipasti area that had roasted red peppers in balsamic, marinated mushrooms, kalamata olives with orange zest and a little hot pepper in it. It was all delicious. Besides the salmon they had I think it was the best part of the food. In an another area there were the classics, bacon wrapped scallops, crab cakes, mini spanakopitas, breaded artichokes with cheese, and the best one, mini beef wellingtons. Dessert was mini cups of mousse, chocolate with a raspberry on top and a white mousse (who knows if it was white chocolate) with a black raspberry on top, chocolate covered strawberries, lemon bars, chocolate cake, magic bars... The best was the mousse.

And because I just can't write a note without a recipe... for some reason I feel it would be just wrong... I will leave you with a recipe that I have been wanting to try.

Food Network

* 8 (1 1/2-inch-thick, 6 ounce) center-cut filets mignons or tenderloin
* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 8 large mushrooms (about 1/2 pound total)
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
* 2 tablespoons minced garlic
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 2 large eggs
* 2 puff pastry sheets (from a 17 1/4-ounce package frozen puff pastry), thawed
* 1/2 cup Gorgonzola (about 5 ounces)


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Pat filets mignons dry and season with salt and pepper. Sear on both sides in saute pan with heated oil. Chill filets, covered, until cold, about 1 hour.

Thinly slice mushrooms and in a heavy skillet cook in butter with shallot, garlic, and salt and pepper, to taste, over moderate heat, stirring, until mushrooms are lightly browned. Transfer mushroom mixture to a bowl to cool completely. In a small bowl lightly beat eggs to make an egg wash.

On a lightly floured surface roll out puff pastry sheets into 2 (14-inch) squares. Trim edges to form 2 (13-inch) squares and cut each square into 4 (6 1/2-inch) squares.

Put 1 tablespoon Gorgonzola in center of 1 square and top with 1/8 of the mushroom mixture. Top mushroom mixture with a filet mignon, pressing it down gently, and wrap 2 opposite corners of puff pastry over filet, overlapping them. Seal seam with egg wash. Wrap remaining 2 corners of pastry over filet and seal in same manner. Seal any gaps with egg wash and press pastry around filet to enclose completely. Arrange beef Wellington, seam side down, in a non-stick-baking pan. Make 7 more beef Wellingtons in same manner. Chill remaining egg wash for brushing on pastry just before baking. Chill beef Wellingtons, loosely covered, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Brush top and sides of each beef Wellington with some remaining egg wash and bake 20 to 30 minutes, or until pastry is golden and the meat temperature is 117 degrees F.

* 2 cup veal or beef demi-glace
* 4 tablespoons Sercial Madeira

Make sauce while beef Wellingtons are baking. In a saucepan, boil demi-glace and Madeira 1 minute and keep sauce warm.

Serve beef Wellingtons with sauce.

Yield: 8 servings

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Mangoes are an amazing fruit. They are high in vitamin A and have good amounts of vitamins B and C as well as Potassium, Calcium and Iron. But all that doesnt matter to me as I am sipping this Lassi. All I know is it tastes amazing and the kids are loving it.

Speaking of kids. Never leave a 3 year old alone with a marker, even if you just have your back turned for a minute because they could develop marker-atitis. This condition is temporary but rather unsightly. It is characterized by strange and unusal drawings occuring anywhere in the body. Not excluding the scalp. Oh yes, we personally have seen it on the scalp. Guess who has a time out from markers. (maybe she has a future in pointilism).


3 cup plain yogurt
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1 cup mango pulp
1/2 cup sugar
1 oz pistachios, ground

Whirl the first five ingredients in a blender. If you want it really cold, go ahead, add a few ice cubes. Sprinkle a little of the pistachios on top of each glass. This makes about 4 servings.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dips and Eggs

An unsuspecting observer would never know what lurks under the lid of this grill (this very, dirty grill). My husband went to show our neighbor how our grill recently broke from a wind storm and was a bit surprised to find a whole tray of twigs and two little robins eggs in the center. How sweet is that? We will not be using our gas grill for a while.

*UPDATE May 6th: There are three more eggs in there. My daughter had opened up the grill. Thankfully the little eggs were unharmed. I looked in there, since it was open and I saw 5 eggs. Interesting... Cant wait to see what happens...

Have you ever had champagne mango salsa? Champagne mangoes are small but don't let their size fool you. They have quite a bit of meat on them and a little pit. They are smooth and silkier than regular mangoes, at least I think so. I chopped them up and added a jalapeno, red onion, lemon juice and salt. Yum.
When my husband and I were first married I had planted some tomatillos in the garden. I grew them up from seed. Tempered them to the outdoors and planted my precious little babies in my new garden. I was so excited because back then it wasn't very often you would find tomatillos. To have my own fresh ones was really exciting. My husband, decided to weed the garden one day. I know, you already know what I am going to say, dont you? Yeah, he thought they were weeds and plucked their precious little limbs right out of the garden. Oh, I was so upset and disappointed. Honestly though, our growing season might be too short for these or I needed to learn a little more because what I did have left didn't yield very much or very big fruit either. They were about the size of a quarter.

I usually boil the tomatillos to prepare the salsa but this time I roasted them. I didn't really see a big taste difference.

Salsa Verde

1 1/2 pound tomatillos, skins removed
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup cilantro
salt to taste
juice of a lime
jalapeno to taste
red onion, minced

Boil tomatillos in water until tender. Mince red onion, set aside. In a processor or blender, process garlic and cilantro. Add tomatillos and salt and lime. Process until quite pureed. Remove and place in bowl with red onion.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Gobi by any other name...

As I venture into the land of Indian cuisine, I feel as if I have my chefs hat on, a wooden spoon in my back pocket and an apron on, in a dark room, fumbling around in a state of disorientation. I have made one or two things before but I am such a newbie. If there was an Indian Cooking Club I would join it just for the sheer adventure. And the amazing learning curve that I would be on. I have ventured into other cuisines in similar fashion emerging somewhat triumphant. At the very least able to eat my meals with others and enjoy it. I call that success. Like my venture into Mexican at the hands of friends and boyfriends. Or the venture into Mediterannean with the help of an Egyptian boss and Lebanese coworkers... and restaurants.

After a while I learned that Mexican was not so very different from Italian, a few spices different and maybe a few techniques but tomatoes dominate both cuisines. You start to see similarities after a while. Mediterranean that also has its similarities but there were a whole bunch of spices I didn't know about, like za'tar and dukkah. Of course I continue to learn but at least there is light in the room.

Now, here I am, with some asofatida (hing) in my pantry and some curry leaves in my freezer and thats about as far as I got. Well, beside the garam masala and curry of course but they have become quite a bit more mainstream than they were before. (and try as I might I will never like fenugreek. Maybe but right now, not so much).

All this to say that I name this dish unsure of how accurate I am here. I think I know gobi is cauliflower, right? So if you know more than I about Indian food, which really is not a far stretch, given my newbie-ness, let me know if my title is inaccurate.

Gobi Masala
a newbie take

1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cardamon
1/2 teaspoon paprika
pinch of asofatida
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups tomatoes, I used grape tomaotes as that is what I had on hand
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup water
3/4 cup peas
1 head cauliflower roasted

Chop a head of cauliflower into small pieces. Lay on cookie sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Roast in the oven at 450 until golden. Remove and set aside.

In a dry saute pan, place spices and let them dry roast until they become fragrant. Add tomatoes and water. Let the tomatoes cook down a bit until they begin to fall apart. Add peas and finally cauliflower. Remove from heat and enjoy.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Tenderloin with Espresso Bourbon Sauce

I was going through my blog, looking at my recipes as I have been putting them all on a different site so that recieps are easier to find. In the process I looked at who wrote me comments in the beginning and saw, Amy of Dinner for a Year and Beyond. I went to her site and saw she was having a giveaway. I thought it must be fate and left a comment. This has happened before where I stumble on a giveaway but I never win. This time however, I won! My first ever giveaway win. Yeah! Thank you. I am grateful and have put the book to good use. I know you did the same recipe too, it looked so good I had to make it. I just found tenderloin for a great price so what the heck. I made it. The picture did not come out too stellar because my husband was in a hurry to eat. It's not very often that we have beef.

Tenderloin Steaks with Espresso-Bourbon Sauce

from The Healthy Beef Cookbook, written by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the Amercian Dietetic Association, published by, John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

4 beef tenderloin steaks, cut 1 inch thick (about 4 ounces each)
2 to 4 teaspoons coarsely cracked black pepper

Espresso-Bourbon Sauce:
1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all sauce ingredients, except pepper, in small saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered 12 to 15 minutes or until sauce is thickened and reduced by about half, stirring occasionally. Stir in pepper. Keep warm.

Meanwhile press coarsely cracked pepper on both sides of beef steak. Place steaks on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, uncovered, 13 to 15 minutes for medium rare, turning once.

Evenly divide sauce onto 4 plates. Place steak on top of sauce.

Alternately, the steaks can be broiled for 13 - 16 minutes for medium-rare to medium, turning once.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Mexican Memories

I think I have talked about my friend in AZ that is Mexican. She was my friend, Mexican culture guide, matchmaker, coworker and mamita. She knew everyone. Through her, I began to know so many people. A good thing when you have just moved to a new location. We would go dancing at a bar called Los Olivos. There, dancing was so different than in the North East. Here, to go dancing, means to pick up people. There I guess it could mean the same thing as well but everyone would dance with everyone and guys were not afraid to dance and it usually meant, "hey, I just wanna dance." So in a typical night I might dance with five guys. All shapes and sizes. Some spoke English, some not. It was so much fun just to enjoy the music and get out and dance.

I always think fondly of Sandra whenever I make a dish that she taught me or when Cinco de Mayo approaches. While she never taught me this dish, I still very much enjoy it as a light meal packed with lots of vegetables.
Loaded Tortilla Soup with Shrimp or maybe I should say
Sopa de Tortillas and Camarones
What you use as your ingredients strongly determines the flavor of the soup. Especially the salsa part. Choose a salsa with lots of flavor, prefereably some type of smoked salsa.

1 lb medium shrimp, shelled or unshelled
5 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 red pepper, chopped
1 cup corn
1 teaspoon cumin
juice of one lime
1 cup fire roasted salsa or chipotle salsa
Garnish with:
green onions chopped
avocado, sliced
cilantro, chopped
tortillas, salted and baked

Saute onion in and chopped pepper in olive oil until softened. Add minced garlic and cook one minute more. Add broth, cumin and salsa. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Add corn and lime and finally the shrimp and cook until its pink. Add s and p to taste. Spoon into bowls and garnish with vegetables of your choice.