Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cooking Lesson......Lost count: Mac 'n' cheese

When I think Mac and cheese, I think Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It is what I grew up with. A fresh out of the oven cheesey goodness was not something I got until I was in high school and by that point I hated anything not out of the Kraft box.
My freshman year of college I ate a lot of Kraft mac 'n' cheese. I ate so much I got sick of it. I haven't eaten it since.
But now 2 years older and growing foodie with a boyfriend who likes to say that his food tastes "can go from eating McDonald's to commenting on wine like an enthusiast." A man who loves mac 'n' cheese. So two months ago at a party, I gave the guests a recipe that I thought they would like. I gave my boyfriend cheesemonger's mac 'n' cheese with brie, gruyere, and cheddar. I never thought he would actually make it. But he insisted last week that he wanted to make it for me before I left. Who was I to complain?
First we went and picked out the cheeses. Now the recipe calls for sharp cheddar, but do you go with block cheese, fresh cheese, already shredded cheese. We went with fresh cut cheese, but my boyfriend's question was what kinda of sharp cheddar. I shrugged. It depends on what you like I told him, so we choose just a sharp cheddar. Then was the decision of the brie. How to choose that, I don't know. We just choose one, I'm no cheese expert. I just really like it and so does my boyfriend.
After the grocery store and a 2 day wait, we began to cook the recipe. It wasn't that hard and it is always fun to teach him something new. Our only problem is we didn't get the roux brown enough so it wasn't a thick mac 'n' cheese. I cut out the nutmeg and I believe with the cheeses we choose that it would over power it all. However, the mixture of the three cheese was excellent. It was so delicious that I don't know how to describe it, but my boyfriend describes it as rich. But it was so good, I went back for seconds and probably could have eaten the whole thing.

Paul's 3 cheese mac 'n' cheese
(adapted from Gourmet magazine Cheesemonger's mac and cheese)

1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)
1 1/2 cups diced rindless Brie (cut from 1-pound wedge)
5 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
4 cups whole milk
1 3/4 cups breadcrumbs
1 pound penne pasta or rigatoni

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender but firm to bite. Drain. Transfer to large bowl.

Mix all cheeses. Set aside 1 cup for topping; cover and chill. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir until mixture turns golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add thyme and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in milk. Simmer until thickened and smooth, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add cheeses from large bowl. Stir until melted and smooth.

Pour cheese sauce over pasta; toss. Place in square glass pan or anything that can hold the pasta. (We used an 8" pyrex dish and it fit) Sprinkle breadcrumbs. Bake pasta until beginning to bubble and tops are golden, about 20 minutes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

10 minute freak fest


I spent 10 minutes walking back and forth staring at the form in the bag. I was waiting for it to flop around and jump of the cutting board, but it just stayed there. I cringed, I repeated "I can't," I said eww several times. Then I took a breath, I walked over to the bag and very hastily started cutting the bag with a small knife. I really thought it was going to twitch and I'd scream and runaway. Some sick horror movie, but it never happened. 
No, the red snapper laid on the cutting board, staring at the ceiling, dead. Very much dead. It had no fins, no heart, no guts, nothing to keep it alive. So why was I so scared. Because it stared at me. Just like I didn't like my stuffed animals staring at me while I slept. I don't like my food to either. It took me the same amount of time to decide to eat the whole crab staring at me in D.C. in August. I'm a wimp, I know. 
There are some that don't hesitate. But there are only a handful of times you see something alive before you eat. Unless you are a rancher or work at a slaughterhouse. And I am a person who rarely ever sees the "meat" before eating. So the act of cooking it and seeing it scared me. 
But after the initial shock , the fish staring at me. I got over. At some point you forget that it still has eyes and a head. 
Only problem, no recipe. What to do? Clip rosemary from a neighbor, mince some garlic , drizzle olive oil, and slice lemons. Place on fish and cook. So simple after the initial shock, and he wasn't going to jump off the pan now. 
And the boyfriend approved so it had to be good. Now what to cook?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Goin' French!

Oh how long has it been since I've posted! Almost a month! It's not that I haven't cooked or made new recipes, trust me I've destroyed many of a kitchen. 
What have I made?
Cupcakes, cookies, weekly banana bread, lamb, buffalo burgers, fish 'n' chips, just to name the few. So why do I come back to you today?
I'm done with school. I'm done with college. Not just for the semester. No, tomorrow I graduate. I will have taken 3 and 1/2 years of my life and get some piece of paper for my hard work. And in a month I'll be in Alabama at Southern Living magazine. Life's crazy, but the kitchen slows me down. You have to take your time there. You have to watch things, sometimes you have to be even extra careful. 
Maybe that's why I like cooking and baking because it takes that time and dedication. Yeah sometimes you screw up like the chocolate souffles I made for my boyfriend. Bad doesn't begin to describe the mistake I made with them. Did he say it? No. Was I? Heavens, No! It happens about once a week, but he never complains. 
So today for lunch I sit here typing to you with  a steaming bowl of French Onion Soup, my version that I've created. My boyfriend had never had it. A tragedy, so last week I made some, really good too without slaving 48 hours making beef stock. I went out on a whim and combined two recipes. The risk was worth the reward. 

French Onion Soup

2.5 Tbsp butter
3 large sweet onions
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups beef stock
1 cup chicken stock
thyme
bay leaf
salt 
pepper

Melt butter in stock pot. Cook onions until carmalized about 10 minutes. Add wine and deglaze. Add both stocks cook for at least 20 minutes. Add spices at end. Taste and respice if needed. 
*It is always better to make soup a day ahead and season it the day after. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Ratatouille

Oh its out! The one movie that embodies all of our food bloggers passion, but if only we were a rat!
And what better to way to celebrate than with French food. A genre of dishes that I rarely ever decide to make. I have adopted an Italian heritage and try to avoid cream and butter. I respect Julia Child for her great knowledge and life, but besides her desserts, I've never made anything from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
So with the release of Ratatouille, I decided what better to celebrate than with the famous dish and croque madam from Gourmet with all my girlfriends just like I had in theaters.
I looked in to my Joy of Cooking and found Ratatouille, a vegetable dish. I started with the eggplant and zucchini, which almost over filled the saute pan. The suggestion of a dutch oven seemed accurate, but I don't have one. Then I go through the list, onions, red bell peppers, garlic, tomatoes, I cook them all. I add the thyme and let the vegetables cook down.
At the same time I'm making the gravy like sauce for the croque madame. The milk didn't boil and explode, which was my only worry. Oh and it tasted good, the nutmeg really added to it. Plus the gruyere cheese, so wonderful, especially paired with the dijon mustard.
It was all devoured and we gladly watch the movie, laughing and smiling.
Croque Madame can be found on epicurious.com. My only suggestion is to serve them individually to people, like it says. You can't make a batch and then serve them.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Make-up Cake


I think I sold my soul. Making a devilish deal of cake. Let me expand.
I'm graduating college in 5 weeks; I don't have a job lined up; I'm more than likely moving away from Austin, leaving a new relationship to possibly blow-up; I have tons of school work that I have no motivation to do; I'm been getting sick like crazy; I want to spend my days baking and experimenting, etc.
Yeah lifes hectic and I haven't exactly made it easy on myself. Of course my mom would say that I'm being melodramatic and I probably am, but it doesn't stop the fact that I'm freaking out. Daily, weekly. Sometimes its alone. Sometimes I freak out infront of others.
The person I'm most likely to freak out in from of is my boyfriend. My beau and I are serious about this relationship and I have my doubts with my upcoming stepping stone. This has led me into hysterics, heartbreak, and many tears. Not exactly me. Not exactly the image I'd like to exude as a friend or as a girlfriend.
I could blame my hormones, or the doctors. They haven't exactly diagnosed the extreme pain I had two weeks ago. But honestly, I'm just scared. Everyone knows this. I'm surprised that I'm not in tears more often. It happened with high school graduation. It is going to happen again. However, my boyfriend, bless his soul, has been very patient and supportive. He's supported me more than anyone in the past 2 months. He's comforted me through the tears and has reassured me more than I can count. Causing me to sell my soul. How?
So I've made a promise, a chocolate cake everytime I go into hysterics and he calmly walks me through it. I'm thinking I'm going to be going through a lot of cakes between now and January. But we'll make it through and I'll probably come out with a really great recipe. So here's my first Make-up Cake.

Make-up Cake (adapted from Barefoot Contessa)

Cake
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
  1. MAKE THE CAKE: Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment paper; butter the paper. Dust the pans with flour, tapping out any excess.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour with the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt at low speed. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the oil, eggs and vanilla. Slowly beat the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients until just incorporated, then slowly beat in the hot coffee until fully incorporated.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off the parchment paper.
Frosting
  • 6 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  1. In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar and continue to beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla, beat 30 seconds. Add cooled chocolate and and beat 1-2 minutes. Icing should look glossy and smooth.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cooking Lesson #2: Roasted Pork Tenderloin


I was suppose to make dinner and a cake. That was thrown out the window, when the pain started. I didn't want to say it then, but I knew I wasn't going to be able to make a birthday dinner.
So I spent most of the day on th couch with my boyfriend, mostly napping or watching Bizarre Foods. When I mentioned dinner, he said he'd make it. This coming from the man who two weeks ago wasn't cooking and didn't know how to mince. I looked at him and he was genuinely wanting to cook me dinner. So I sent him to the kitchen to find what he wanted to make.
What he found was the pork tenderloin originally planned for dinner. Well, I know a bacon-wrapped tenderloin might be a little too, much without my help. So with google in hand I found a roasted pork tenderloin with sage and garlic.
He immediately went to work. I laid on the couch watching in amusement, only to see him perfectly mincing garlic cloves. I was in shock, when did his knife skills get better than mine? But then he started whacking again, I warned against it and complimented his technique. "I got skills," was the comment made.
It was so hilarious, I fell off the couch and onto the floor. After I was able to breathe again, I watched him measure everything. He worries about venturing away from the recipe, explaining that he may screw it up. Haven't we all done that? I know I've thrown out a couple dinners before.
After measuring, I answered the simple questions. What do I do with the herbed olive oil? Rub it on the meat. How do I know when its done? I don't have thermometer, I'll do it by touch. What about a salad? Make the pecans.
Thirty minutes later, the tenderloin comes out of the oven, once again moist like the chicken parmesan. It was delicious. He confessed that he had added more garlic and a little more olive oil, he's starting to get the adaptation of recipes for your own taste. It was moist and it was seasoned well.
While enjoying the meal, he commented on how it needed a sauce and I agreed. What it needed was a red wine sauce. It would have paired well with the meat, but nevertheless I was impressed. He's learning quickly, next thing I know he'll be making better dishes than me.

I Got Skills Pork Tenderloin
(adapted from Rachael Ray)

3 cloves of garlic, minced
1.5 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sage
.5 teaspoon coarse salt
1.5 tablespoons olive oil
1 pork tenderloin

Position rack near bottom and preheat oven to 500 degrees. Mix herbs, garlic, and oil in a bowl, then rub on pork tenderloin. Place tenderloin in baking dish, roast 10 minutes, flip cook another 10 minutes. Check temperature to see if it registers 155 degrees or feel by touch. Let rest 10 minutes, then slice.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bar-b-Que Road Trip



As a Texan, it is a trip that all who love bar-b-que should make. You hear about the fights in Tennessee and Kentucky about wet versus dry, but you don’t hear in Texas. It does exist, however. At the Salt Lick, you’ll receive two different kinds of bar-b-que sauce: regular and habanero. At Kruetz, the giant sign on the wall says no bar-b-que sauce served or allowed in. It is like this several towns across the state. Like football, rivalries run deep.
I grew up with a grilling father, steaks, brisket, ribs, chicken, you name it, he can grill. But even better is he does bar-b-que. His brisket is my standard to every joint in Texas and no one has ever come close to it. Now I’ve never had his ribs because I started with Salt Lick ribs. Then again, I know they are spectacular because my dad is a great cook.
So I planned the destination, the small towns, the food that is renowned to see if it lives up to my standards as a foodie and bar-b-que connoisseur.
I warned my boyfriend and my colleague that we would be leaving early Saturday morning. Both were unhappy to hear this information because I’m an early riser and it breaks my Saturday routine for my boyfriend and I. Despite this I was very adamant about the time. Six thirty sharp or I leave without you. Of course I ran late.
First stop was Round Rock for donuts at where else but Round Rock Donuts. I remember watching Food Network one morning and seeing a spot on the donut establishment, knowing I should go. And after living in Austin three and half years, I got lost finding it. I followed 79 to the H-E-B and figured out I was lost. So we went back west and down what looked to be a main street called Mays street. Down the street we saw no Round Rock Donuts sign. I was becoming frustrated. I was hungry and defiantly craving donuts.
What else could I do, but ask for directions. With two men in the car, I decide to scrap my pride and go into the 7-11. I asked the dirty, balding manager where the building was. He told me I past it, “Go back up the street and when you see the Papa John’s take a left, its right after.” With these directions I found it easily. A friend warned me of a thirty minute wait she endured once, so I was awaiting that. However, there were open spots in the parking lot and the carline only had about 6 cars long. Where was everyone?
The woman informed me that usually by now the line is out the door, but at the time it was still within the building. Can you blame the OU/UT game? Maybe.
But there we were, a girl and two guys. Me with my three donuts, them with there three and 2 dozen donut holes. The first bite of my regular Round Rock Donut was so soft and delicate. You didn’t have to tear the donut for a bite, it just gently floated to your tongue, as my colleague, Chris put it, “It’s a little angel flying on my tongue.”
With our stomachs full, and murmurs of naps, we were back on the road. Back on to 79 to Taylor, for a walk and lunch. However, through Hutto, I saw the sign for Debbie’s Pies. Nothing special, but months ago, my Grandfather, who I also, take on bar-b-que trips with me, mentioned going to Hutto for pie and Taylor for bar-b-que. And here it was the pie place. But they didn’t open until 11 and it was only 9. So we skipped the pie.
We headed back on the road to Taylor, only to find it slightly deserted and empty. It wasn't a complete ghost town, but it sure wasn't Fredericksburg either. With time to kill we explored the town, discovering the cotton gin and warehouses, plus we met three guys taking pictures of the train. They recommended 2 bar-b-que joints besides the one we were going to visit. But we had come for Louie Mueller's and we stuck to it, although we probably should had listen to our new friends.Louie's is known for the brisket. It is suppose to be smoky, tender, and juicy. However, we found it dry and lacking any taste. There seemed to be a lack of rub. I found the same with the ribs. Dry. The only redeeming menu item was the pork butt that had the right rub, and perfectly tender. But still I didn't find a reason for a repeat visit.

A need for a Coke float propelled us toward our next destination. Brenham, Texas. Home of Blue Bell Ice Cream, but we some how missed it and we drove straight into the town square. Unlike Taylor, there were people shopping and enjoying their Saturday. We hit the Ice Cream parlor first, to satisfy the need for a Coke float, which I didn't get. I went my classic Mint Chocolate Chip milkshake, cause you can never go wrong there.
The sugar rush carried overto the rest of the afternoon until we hit Elgin. Then our stomachs rumbled. Last menu item, Southside Market sausage, the sausage that put Elgin on the map. Now Homesick Texan recommended that I go visit and eat there in June and I finally made it. And it wasn't disappointing. The sausage was mixed with the right amount of spices, not to peppery, just a hint. It wasn't burned, it was the way sausage should be. It was perfect.
So where to next, I don't know. Any suggestions for the next trip?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Cooking Lesson #1: Chicken Parmesan


So my relationship is new, brand spanking new. 5 weeks old and you can't tear us apart. I mean if you saw us, you'd gag, really honestly, I don't know why I don't. But until a week ago, the boy had no cookware. Look at me foodie extravaganza. Two polar opposites, but I bought him cookware and Sunday began the start of cooking lessons.
Now last week I asked him what he wanted to learn how to cook first. Chicken parmesan was his response. Well, can the boy choose well. Or I guess for me, not so well. It's something I've never made, practiced, and I usually don't eat it. But it is what he wanted to cook, and I said fine, let's do it.
So Sunday we go tothe grocery store, and I'm bombarded with questions. What is a good potato? What is good garlic? I need olive oil, salt, pepper, when we are only on aisle number 1. Now I am very OCD at the grocery store. A little chaotic yes, I have a tendency to forget things, but when I have a list, I'm very good about things. And I go in order. Nevertheless, I laughed off the questions and he looked at me like I was crazy, but we survived.
Four hours later, and after 100s of "I'm hungry," coming from my mouth did we finally start cooking. First came the tomato sauce, and all I could hear was the very sharp whacking of the knife, needless to say I taught him how to dice. Of course, I also, learned a lesson, don't leave the TV on, or it will suck out the concentration out of the room.
With the sauce simmering, he began on breading the chicken. I told him to read the recipe. "What does whisk mean?"
Startled from what I was doing, I looked over at him. He was genuinely asking me what whisking meant. Well, I'm not a chef, I don't know proper terminology. Then came, "What about the egg?"
"You've never cracked an egg?" squeaked out.
No was the reply. I cracked open the egg, shoved a fork in his hand, and said "Whisk."
"You mean break the yolk."
I nodded and went off to watch the sauce. An hour later, the chicken parmesan was on the table. And I couldn't have been prouder. The only thing burned was the garlic toast I made. His dish sat proud on each of our plates. And all I could do was smile.
He waited for me to cut into the chicken. It was perfectly moist and tender. A joy to bite into and a great dish. I couldn't stop smiling and can't wait to see what next Sunday's lesson might bring.
Chicken Parmesan (adapted from Everday Food)

2 chicken breasts
1 egg
1/4 cup parmesan
1/4 cup bread crumbs (fresh or premade)
2 cups tomato sauce (homemade or jarred)
mozzerella

Preheat oven to 450. Whisk egg in one bowl. Mix parmesan and breadcrumbs together. Salt and pepper chicken. Dip chicken in egg then parmesan mixture. Place on baking sheet. Broil for 2-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Spread one cup tomato sauce in glass baking pan, add chicken breasts, top with more tomato sauce and cheese. Bake in oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

*Note: I add extra parmesan to top of chicken though recipe didn't call for it. After 15 minutes the chicken was moist and white.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Bakery


I grew up with Saturday mornings being one of baked goods. Muffins, pancakes, waffles, and cinnamon rolls. True at this young age it was either from a canister or a box that these things were made, but it was still a treat.
Now after being out of the house for three years, I still like making a special breakfast some Saturday mornings, especially now that I have a boyfriend. And it still keeps in theme from when I was younger.
When I read this month's Daring Bakers recipe, I jumped up and down and giggled. Cinnamon Rolls. One of the recipes, I've been dying to try. My mouth was zipped, when my friends and boyfriend asked what is was.

Cinnamon rolls not only have special meaning with my younger self, but also, with my trips to Crested Butte. We first started going when I was 6 or 7, and before hikes, fishing, and rafting, we often visited The Bakery. And it had the hugest and best cinnamon rolls. They were almost as big as my head. I could finish them then, I'm not so sure that I could now.
So when I started baking that morning, I was hoping to make them as good as I had then. I started with the dough. Actually running to the store for yeast, while the shortening and sugar was creaming. I made 2 batches, the first batch was not as sticky as the second.
It didn't really rise during the 2 hour rest period. I began to worry, but went with it. Rolled out the dough, spread cinnamon sugar with raisins and walnuts, before wrapping tightly up. I then did one patch sticky buns and one batch regularn rolls. The rolls when into my pyrex lasagna pan into the refridgerator as I worked on the sticky buns.
I went back and forth from the fridge. Then the next thing I now I hear shattering, I look into the fridge and what do I see?
I see my lasagna pan shattered on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Glass everywhere, and I'm cussing. Two recipes in a row where things aren'tin my favor. I move the rolls to anor pan making sure there is no glass in them, then clean up the fridge. Of course, I cut myself.
Thankfully, nothing else breaks. In the morning the rolls rise in the oven beforre baking. My friends come over complaining about the time. Its only 8:00 am, but that's college students for you. It stops the moments there tongues taste the rolls.
I think this may come a monthly tradition. Cheers ladies!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cake Therapy

Bad days come down to three therapies- running, yoga, and baking.
After a weird dream, getting attacked by a bat, seeing a nude bicyclist, running into a raccoon, losing my ID, and other events. I decided to bake. I had already ran for the day and I needed to destroy and create something.
I searched for recipes, finding nothing I liked. I could make a Upsidedown Butterscotch Apple Cake, a spice cake, or a carrot cake.
Recently I had visited an Austin restaurant called Chez-Zee. They are known for their excellent desserts and they are remarkable. Often my boyfriend reminds me of it and repeats that we must go back. I guess he doesn't trust my baking skills, but that's a side note. When I looked at the menu, I was shocked to find that they didn't have carrot cake. One of my favorite cakes and the one I requested for my birthday.
So yesterday, I looked in my fridge and found cream cheese and what did pop in my head but carrot cake. Not just any carrot cake, but the one Ruth Reichl swears by.
I told my boyfriend I was going to destroy my kitchen, before running to the grocery store to pick up supplies. I told the cashier my goal, and she asked me if I had carrots. I looked at my groceries, cussing. I had almost forgot the most important ingredient. Carrots.
Of course, I went back and got them, coming home to work on the destruction of my kitchen. The batter of course was addicting and it was hard to keep my fingers out. The layers didn't come out even, and they never do. But in front of me was finally my birthday cake. After 8 months, I finally had my birthday cake.
And yes I had a birthday cake in January, but it was a dry, store-bought carrot cake. It didn't suffice and I've craved a carrot cake ever since. Then my friend promised me one, but it has been a month and a girl can only wait so long. So in all its glory was a lopsided carrot cake.
So what did I do with my birthday cake? I shared it with girlfriends, and then my boyfriend got to it with a fork. With his fork attack, I decided to spare people his germs and just allow him to keep it. He's also, the reason, why I have no pictures of the cake. What are you going to do?
Make another of course.

Carrot cake

(taking from Ulterior Epicurean , who used Gourmet's recipe. )

The Cake:
About 3/4 pound carrots
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2/3 cup raisins (optional)

For Frosting:
2 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese, softened
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Special Equipment: two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans

Make the Cake: Put a rack in middle of oven and prheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour cake pans, knocking out excess flour.
1. Shred enough carrots on smallest teardrop holes of box grater or with fine shredding disk ina food processor to measure 2 cups.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl. Stir in sugar, oil, eggs, carrots, pineapple, coconut, walnuts and raisins (if using).
3. Divide batter between cake pans and bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool layers in pans on a rack for 5 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of each pan and invert layers onto rack to cool completely.

*Note in my oven I actually cooked it for 50 minutes. And I got 2 layers and 6 cupcakes, so I'm sure it could have made 3 layers.

Make the Frosting: Beat together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until fluffy about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, add confectioners’ sugar, and beat until frosting is smooth.
Place 1 cake layer bottom side up on a cake plate and spread with some of frosting. Place remaining cake layer right side up on top and spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.

*Note if you want thick icing, double the recipe. If your not into icing, hell you don't even need it.

Decortations: Pecans, frosting, walnuts, and coconut

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Daring Bakers become known


:Dancing:
I love Gormet, I love Bon Appetit. I read them religiously, I salivate with each issue. The editors give me sooooo many ideas. And today they recognized me!
In class today, I was on the internet during Print Design, surfing the web (Sorry Mom and Dad). Since, my parents are coming into town, I thought I’d make a cake. Where to go to get it?
Why epicurious.com of course!
So, I enter it into Firefox. And see the epi-log had something on Daring Bakers. So immediately, I had to read. (For those of you who don’t know the Daring Bakers is an online baking club, where ladies and gentlemen, get one recipe a month that one other member has deemed difficult or always wanted to try. He or she posts it. Last month was Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart.)
I start reading. Then I saw Food and Photo, my mouth dropped! I wanted to scream, jump up and down, dance in my seat. Here I am 21, and one of the most embarrassing baking experiences I’ve had is now posted on epicurious.com. I should be blushing, but I’m honored.
I’m a humble person. I don’t like celebrating my successes, but everything has been going so well for me lately. Then this happens! Makes me want to skip the next 3 months of my graduating semester and bake and cook and be daring!
Thank you to Ivonne, and Lis to allow me to have the experience. Thanks to all the other daring bakers, you all deserve to be posted on their as well. Actually it should be ya’ll and not me.
In celebration tonight, I’ve made dinner for my boyfriend and I. I’ve also done dessert. Nothing fancy really. I’ll save that for when I have more time.
So thank you to all of you. Every reader. Every person who has ever touched me. Friends. Family. I hope I’ve touched you in the same way you’ve touched me.

Strawberry Shortcake Sandwhich
1 cup flour
½ sugar
1 stick butter
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 pint strawberries
sugar
whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl combine first 6 ingredients with your hand or pastry cutter. It will be done when all the butter is combined with the other dry ingredients and when it clumps together. Bake in oven for about 15 minutes or until done.

Mix strawberries and sugar.

Place one cookie on bottom, cover with strawberries and whipped cream, and top with another cookie. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Soft Goey Goodness

Favorite cookie?
Chocolate chip, soft
Well that was specific. I mean not just chocolate chip, but soft. Personally I like crunchy, crisp. I like the snap, the crunch of the cookie breaking. The sound! But not this time, no, soft cookies were in order because I'm that type of girl.
The moment the IM came through my Mac, Alton Brown came to mind because he did a whole episode on different types of chocolate chip cookies. I started to search foodtv.com for the recipe. However, I found none for Alton Brown, but thank god for Google because it found it right away.
I looked at it, remembering the episode and how he switched to each variety. Of course I rarely ever deviate from the Tollhouse version so this was new and exciting.
I could defiantly tell the difference between the batters. This was a lot fluffier or maybe its because I creamed the butter before adding the sugar, who knows.
Of course, I deviated from Alton's recipe. Adding dark chocolate chips, milk chocolate chuncks, and pecans because just chips did not sound like a good cookie. It at least needs nuts (specifically pecans) to be American.
He calls for 14 minutes of baking time. I found that, that time lended itself to burnt crunchy cookies. Not what I was going for right?
I tried 10 mins. Not burned seemed a little softer, but hardened during cooling.
I tried 8 mins. Now they weren't completely soft. No. They were soft when warm, and slightly soft when cooled, but it was the closest I was going to get. So that was the designated time alloted.
Now will the person enjoy these cookies? Defiantly, but was it what they wanted? Was it soft to there liking? I don't know. I guess I'll find out soon enough.
Oh and my favorite...... Oatmeal Raisin preferably with dark chocolate chips.

PA Chocolate Chip
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 milk chocolate chunks or something to your liking

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
Cream butter in the mixer's work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 8 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 4 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Beginning of the End

The past week, I've been busy. School has started. I've entered into some great new relationships. And I've have slept less than ever. So baking and cooking has been on the back burner. Looking at my schedule over the past 4 months that may continue to be the case.
And it's my last semester. 15 hours and on December 8th I'll graduate. I'll be a girl with a diploma and nothing more. I have no clue where I'll be, who I'll be with, hell I don't know if I'll even be alive. But this semester will be the best with everything that I have started.
And with the knowledge of all of this, Monday, I made ribs, grilled asparagus and portobellos, and ice cream. It took all day and thankfully nothing was burned or cut this time. I started at noon, realizing I had forgotten materials and had to go back to the grocery store.
This time I successfully managed ice cream and bar-b-que sauce at the same time. I just splattered the counters with both, of which I think they are still splattered with.
As usual the ribs cooked quickly and the veggies were quickly thrown on the grill pan to cook. 3 people turned into 5. And the table was full of chatter, of laughter, of smiles, and of friendship.
It is something I hope will continue because I don't think they know the impact they've had on me. And how much I value their friendship.
So I raise a glass to them, "Thanks guys for the memories!"

Grilled Asparagus

1 lb asparagus
Olive oil
salt
pepper

Heat up gril pan or start the grill. Rub the asparagus with oil and sprinkle on salt and pepper. Cook in grill until bright green and slightly charred or to your liking.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Burning down the House for the sake of Daring Bakers


I'm a klutz. I have a tendency to cut myself, bruise myself, and burn myself. It happens cooking and it happens just walking.
When I began this month's recipe, the pastry dough came together perfectly and I let it rest overnight. The next day I brought it out, rock solid. So I had to defrost it, which was no easy task because it was going to take a couple of hours and I really needed to start on the tart. So I put it in the oven and every few minutes took the defrosted pastry off. This took about 15 mins.
Of course at the same times, I was boiling potatoes for my party. So I was making 2 recipes at once.
This turned out to be a very bad idea because some how they were ready at the same time, making cuss words fly out of my mouth.
At the same time the potatoes were about to be done, I started making the caramel. Let me just recap, I've never made caramel until yesterday, so I was confused by the dry method. The first time I did it and added the cream, the caramel came immediately to a hard boil, splattering hot boiling cream over my entire outfit. That is when the cuss words began to fly.
I breathed and then washed out the pot and began again. This time watching very closely to see what was happening. It started to turn the amber color and I began the milk. This time it didn't come to a hard boil as quickly, but it did began to clump up.
My solution was to add the butter and the cream, then boil the mixture. This cause little sugar chunks, but I just dished those out and threw them away. I then dealt with my potato salad, allowing the caramel mixture to cool. When I added the eggs, I was worried that they would scramble and I would have to do it all over again. Which I might say wasn't going to happen because time was coming to a close.
But it came together. It wowed my friends. We all enjoyed it. I especially loved the chocolate mousse.
And what have I learned. Do the Daring Bakers recipe at a different time than a dinner party or do it the day ahead and you won't almost cut of your foot or boil you skin.
Happy Baking Ladies!

Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart

Preparation time: 40 minutes
Baking Time: 30 minutes
Refrigeration time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

* ½ lb (250 g) chocolate shortbread pastry (see recipe above)
* 1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
* 1 cup (250 g) heavy cream (30-40 percent butterfat) or crème fraiche
* ¼ cup (50 g) butter
* 2 whole eggs
* 1 egg yolk
* 2 ½ tablespoons (15 g) flour
* 1 ¼ cups (300 g) whipping cream
* ½ lb (250 g) milk chocolate

1. Preheat oven to 325 °F (160 °C).

2. Line the baking pan with the chocolate shortbread pastry and bake blind for 15 minutes.

3. In a saucepan, caramelize 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar using the dry method until it turns a golden caramel color. Incorporate the heavy cream or crème fraiche and then add butter. Mix thoroughly. Set aside to cool.

4. In a mixing bowl, beat the whole eggs with the extra egg yolk, then incorporate the flour.

5. Pour this into the cream-caramel mixture and mix thoroughly.

6. Spread it out in the tart shell and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

7. Prepare the milk chocolate mousse: beat the whipping cream until stiff. Melt the milk chocolate in the microwave or in a bain-marie, and fold it gently into the whipped cream.

8. Pour the chocolate mousse over the cooled caramel mixture, smoothing it with a spatula. Chill for one hour in the refrigerator.

Alternate Caramel Method:

If you have problems with the dry method, you may use this method.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon corn syrup

Set mixture in a pot over medium-high heat and stir slowly. When the mixture comes to a boil, stop stirring and leave it alone. Wait till desired color is attained .

Proceed with the rest of the recipe.


Caramel Fragments:

Melt ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar in a saucepan until it reaches an amber color. Pour it onto waxed paper laid out on a flat surface. Leave to cool. Break it into small fragments and stick them lightly into the top of the tart.

Chocolate Shortbread Pastry
Note: The Chocolate Shortbread pastry can make 3 tart shells. So, if you want to cut that recipe into thirds then do so but Veron and Patricia are not promising it will scale down properly.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Refrigeration: overnight
To make 3 tart shells: 9 ½ inches (24 cm) square
or 10 inches (26 cm round)

Ingredients:

* 1 cup (250g ) unsalted butter, softened
* 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 g) confectioners’ sugar
* ½ cup (50 g) ground hazelnuts
* 2 level teaspoons (5 g) ground cinnamon
* 2 eggs
* 4 ½ cups (400 g) cake flour
* 2 ½ teaspoons (10 g) baking powder
* 1 ½ tablespoons (10 g) cocoa powder

A day ahead
1. In a mixing bowl of a food processor, cream the butter.

2. Add the confectioners’ sugar, the ground hazelnuts, and the cinnamon, and mix together

3. Add the eggs, one by one, mixing constantly

4. Sift in the flour, the baking powder, and the cocoa powder, and mix well.

5. Form a ball with the dough, cover in plastic wrap, and chill overnight.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Taking on the Brownie


What does it take to be a Brownie Babe?
Does it take brains?
Does it take bronze?
Does it take skill?
Or does it take heart?
Does it take passion?
Does it take friendship?
I believe it takes the last three. Baking takes love, compassion, and everything in between. You place your soul into something for just the sight of watching someone eat it. I never take the first bite of something I make if I have a friend over. I wait for them to take it, watching, awaiting their response. And I've never gotten a bad one. Why? Well either its always good or people just say is good. Now I did have one bad mishap and that was with stuffed squash blossoms that weren't fried and I can't live it down. But everything I bake has never missed the spot. I love baking. I love the steps, the messes, the looks of joy when they get a neat little bundle. I do it because it brings happiness. It's my random act of kindness about once a week. Myriam, I wish I could send my brownie to you, but I don't think customs would send it. However, I can post the recipe. I hope you find joy and love in them like I have.

Tropical Brownie Pie
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup semi-sweet morsels or 8 oz fine-quality milk chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch pie pan. Melt butter and chocolate in a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring, until smooth. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm. Stir in brown sugar and vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, until mixture is glossy and smooth.Whisk together remaining ingredients, then stir into chocolate mixture. Stir in nuts and white chocolate. Spread batter in pan and bake until a wooden pick or skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs adhering, 25 to 30 minutes.
*Currently out of town so can't post pictures. Will as soon as I'm home.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

HHDD#14 gives me an excuse for Gnocchi experimentation


My first experience of gnocchi was at Buenos Aires Cafe in downtown Austin. The Le Cordon Blue Chef made 3 different kinds of potato dumplings- a chive, paprika, and traditional. It was in a cream sauce and spectacular. I fell in love with every bite. I promised to make it, but I put it off. I placed it on my summer cooking list, during my time off. It started coming down to my last 3 weeks of freedom before school. As much as I love cooking, summer causes me to want quick meals. Plus, its already hot outside, no reason to heat the apartment, too. But then Hay, Hay It's Donna Day, said it was gnocchi month. There came my excuse. But what kind of gnocchi? Ironstef did a hot pink beet gnocchi, but the thought of eating beets for the first time through gnocchi, didn't seem appealing. There's always traditional potato gnocchi, but I'm not one for tradition. Then I remembered Heidi Swanson's recipe. Gnocchi alla Romano. Friday night I read over the recipe. Doing so caused me to reread it. Heidi called for semolina flour not potato. I became confused. I thought gnocchi was always potato, then I found the beet recipe, then Heidi's. What? So I made Heidi's recipe, of course, taking it into my own hands. My friend came over and enjoyed his first taste of gnocchi. He was impressed, especially after I told him what I had to do. It destroyed my kitchen a lot of worse than pizza or pasta. But that's the fun in it, of course until you have to clean it. So here's my take on Heidi's recipe. And if you like good tasty vegetarian food, then check out Heidi's- Super Natural Cooking.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

End of a Season


"Today's the last Saturday market," he said.
I was astonished, the last. The End. Fin.
No more peaches for the summer. Its not even mid August and no more?
I was upset to say the least. I've been eating peaches daily, counting up to 4-5 sweet treats within 24 hours. There have been pies, muffins, salsa, and no more. I'm sorry for the repetition, but when you become so dependent on a food, it is hard to know the season is ending.
As you know, I believe in farmers markets. I support my farmers because well I hope someone would have the same compassion for the farmer, tending my dad's land. I know that farming isn't really a profitable business, but it is rewarding. A farmer sees his progress each day and in the eyes of customers. What I view as the payoff is the farmer watching someone enjoying and experiencing the freshest produce possible.
To start this peach season, I decided to PYO- pick your own. So I googled and found farms that allow it. My friends and I drove out to Fredericksburg to pick peaches. It was the first weekend of opening. It was a comfortable day, partly sun, cool. My friends and I went to Psencik Farms outside of the town.
The farm was on a backroad, where you crossed a low bridge to get across, this beautiful stone house stood where we would pick. Ms. Psencik greeted us warmly, asking whether we wanted to pick blackberries and peaches. Our answer was both.
My two friends and I picked our boxes, went to the field, and picked. I picked a large box. A pie was what I intended. I would need a lot, plus more for eating. I ate 5 that day, I believe. Juicy running down my chin, no napkin, no paper towel, just the way you should eat a Fredericksburg peach with a BIG BITE!

We then scrambled to pick blackberries that were nice, black, and tart. The vines had been plucked over. However, I insisted on blackberries. My best friend complained of the thorns, but I got what I wanted and more. Enough to last me a week and keep my lips puckered.
I traveled a second time to pick peaches. The second time, I couldn't pick because of flooding. However, I still bought enough peaches to survive on and of course another pie. I branched out to B's peaches, which were just as good as Psenciks. And this time I was even able to buy Texas plums, which were delicious.
Psenciks even sold peaches at my farmers market until mid-July, so I didn't even have to go to Fredericksburg. I always chatted up the owner, talking about how all the rained had helped and hindered the crop. It was nice to have a daily farmer to visit.
So what do I do now that peaches are over? I don't know. Asian pears are in season, but don't quench my palate like peaches. Maybe I'll move to Washington. There I would have berries, cherries, and currants. Anybody need a baker and chef?
Alas, I must say so long to what some are calling the best peach crop ever. I hope next year is just as good and that I get to savor it, again!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Celebrating Birthdays


A chocolate cake with white icing and a ninja turtle on top. A chocolate cake with a blue whale. Chocolate Coke Cake. Carrot Cake. And every year in between.
These are the cakes I remember. Not necessarily memorable birthdays. I don't have many of those. None really stick out in my mind. Of course there are pictures and smiles, but no details stick out.
I think this lack of memorability is why I like making big deals of others' birthdays. I want them to experience something special, unique and memorable. I guess making up for what I lack.

This week was no different. Danielle is an amazing woman with a big heart. She has only experienced a few cultural foods. I plan on changing that and I already begun.
So for her birthday, I decided to celebrate her birthday and Julia Child's. I checked out Julia's baking book from the library and began flipping through it. It was jaw-dropping how many different recipes I wanted to try. All seemed to leave me salivating.
However, milk in my fridge limited my scope. So I found Julia's Vanilla Pound Cake. It sounded delicious. I exchanged one major ingredient for another. However, the cake was still moist and scrumptious. It even made 2 cakes, when Julia said it would make one.
Danielle enjoyed it and she had her first taste of fig, which I think accompanies it nicely. Justneeds a little whipped cream, but thats just a suggestion.
So Danielle, Happy Birthday! I hope we can experience more new foods together!



Vanilla Pound Cake adapted from Baking with Julia
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salk
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large egss, at room temperature, beaten together
  • 1 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift dry ingredients together. Begin beating butter with mixer. After creaming butter, beat in sugar until light and fluffy. Occasionally scrapping down bowl. Begin beating eggs into batter at medium speed, after incorporting alternate milk and dry ingredients together. Propperly combined ingredients will be white and fluffy. Scrap vanilla bean and at to mixture, slowly beating in. It makes 2 loaves or at least thats what I found. Cook for between 55 to 65 minutes. Stick in a toothpick to make sure middle is down. Let cool 10 minutes before turning out.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Raspberry Twist


Saturday or Sunday mornings during my childhood were always a sweet breakfast- muffins, pancakes, or cinnamon rolls. More often than not it was muffins or cinnamon rolls. I don't remember what started this, but it was an exciting way to start the weekend.
Now I must admit that these treats usually came out of a box or container. My favorite was Duncan Hines Blueberry Streusel Muffins or the Cinnamon Crumble. At least once a month I was making a batch and eating them before a soccer game.

So when I saw the recipe for Blueberry Muffins in Food and Wine this year, I was automatically intrigue. Like my Duncan Hines box it had sweet topping of sugar. Where could you go wrong?
However, I didn't make the recipe for months. It always lingered in the back of my head. Of course, the craving for muffins hit me and I knew where I would go. Blueberry Muffins.
Then a bright idea popped into my head, raspberry/lime muffins. Sweet and Tart. A combination that I love dearly.

The batch I made wasn't perfect. It wasn't tart enough for me, but I know what to fix next time. More lime zest.

Raspberry Twist

CRUMB TOPPING

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

MUFFINS

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups raspberries split on half
  • lime zest
directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Line 18 muffin cups with paper or foil liners or spray 2 muffin tins with cooking spray.
  2. MAKE THE CRUMB TOPPING: In a medium bowl, combine the flour with the brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the melted butter, then pinch the mixture until it forms pea-size clumps.
  3. MAKE THE MUFFINS: In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, eggs and canola oil and beat with a handheld electric mixer at low speed until combined. Beat in the whole milk and vanilla. Add the flour mixture all at once and beat at low speed until the batter is smooth. Stir in the blueberries.
  4. Spoon the batter into 18 of the cups, filling them about three-quarters full. Sprinkle the crumb topping on top of each one and bake for about 30 minutes or until the muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let the blueberry muffins cool in the pan for 10 minutes before serving.
Can be frozen.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Saturday Pizzeria



What is the heart of Italy? Pasta, pizza, risotto? Or is it the fresh produce, fish, and meat available?
I personally can only make an assumption. Italy is a country I have never been, but visit every Saturday in my supper.
As a runner, Sunday is my long running day. 7+ miles, if I'm lucky maybe less. So Saturday is carb loading night. Pasta or Pizza.
One would think I would get sick of it and I often do, but I don't find myself changing my routine. Every Saturday its the same trip to Italy. I change it up of course. Usually pasta one night, the next week pizza. Or in this weeks case, pizza back to back.
Which I have a love for. Pizza is heaven. I wish I could have a wood-burning stove. However, a college girl has no place for one. Despite that I have found a great pizza dough recipe. It is by Ms. De Laurentiis in Bon Appetit. I of course, change it up a little bit. I let it rise twice. If you like thin, crispy dough, it is perfect.
Here is my suggestion for toppings:
  • spinach, pancetta, black olives, and goat cheese (I heard it was a good combo and didn't disappoint)
  • pepperoni and mozzarella (Classic, you can never go wrong)
  • pesto, artichoke, basil, tomato, mozzarella, olives, and goat cheese (It is a take on my pizza joints best pizza the #7)
  • Any suggestions?

Pizza Dough adapted
3/4 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
1 envelope active dry yeast

2 cups (or more) bread flour
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil


Pour 3/4 cup warm water into small bowl; stir in yeast. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Brush large bowl lightly with olive oil. Mix 2 cups flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add yeast mixture and 3 tablespoons oil; process until dough forms a sticky ball. Transfer to lightly floured surface. KNEAD dough until smooth, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is very sticky, about 1 minute. Transfer to prepared bowl; turn dough in bowl to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. PUNCH down dough. (I let it rise for about another 30-45 minutes, punch down, again) DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Store in airtight container in refrigerator. ROLL out dough according to recipe instructions. (Start in center of dough, working outward toward edges but not rolling over them.)


*It makes 2 "medium" pizzas or one large. I split the dough, and freeze one half. To unfreeze it let it rise room temperature. I usually take it out the night before and let it rise until I get home.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Summer Flavor

Ah summer! My favorite season. That's why I decided to do the Summer Flavor Challenge. Below are the bloggers who decided to join in. They kept to the rules and did local fruits.

Elle's Plum Coffee Cake- I'm a sucker for coffee cakes and this looks delicious. It's not a standard coffee cake because it uses yeast and biscuit mix, but I bet it tastes divine!


Lynn's Blueberry Ice Cream
- Lynn can stray from ice cream and who can blame her with "Perfect Scoop" in her collection. So when it comes to her blueberry ice cream, I will just tell myself its good for my heart!


Nicole's Banana Fritters- I love bananas and what a better way to eat them than to fry them. And to live in a place where you can do them without having to ship them is even better.


Julie's Boysenberry cobbler- Who can go wrong with berries? Especially a berry that I've never tried except in yogurt. It looks like a blackberry, but really it is its own berry and Julie does it justice!


And the winner is (drum-roll please.......) Ms. Julie, going on a whim to buy boysenberries. Thank you to all participants. I want to eat everyone of ya'lls glorious entries.

Next month is August Heat
August is always one of the hottest months of the year. You can never get away from it. So the theme for this month is a cool and refreshing dish. It is up to you. But remember it has to be LOCAL!
1) One must be centered around some local fruit or veggie from your farmers market or own garden.
2) It can be a main dish, dessert, drink, side dish. I'm open to anything.
3) Must be posted by August 19 and there will be a round up on August 20 on this here website. Send me information with name, blog, and dish. And don't for get pictures!
Good Luck and I'll be picking a winner and sending a goodie!
Send all entries to fallenphotoangel {at} msn {dot} com

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Heartfelt Balance


Summer means a lot of things-- berries, cherries, peaches, cantaloupe, tomatoes, and the list goes on. Mother Nature never ceases to amaze me with her bounty. I thank her daily through my yoga practice.
Lately, I've been asking her for guidance. And each day she helps me through another. My yoga flow has renewed me and made me realize a lot of things. It keeps me going through the job I hate, it reminds me how strong I am, and how beautiful I am, too.
Being a woman, who has struggled against so much. Realizing your roots makes you grounded and loving. What I have struggled with lately is a balance between my passion of food and my health. I let my passion take over, causing me to over eat, and what woman hasn't. However, I've been at the other end many times, not eating, causing severe health problems, weighing 112 lbs and wanting to lose more not gain. Where's the balance?
Being a runner, makes this a challenge. I have to eat enough protein to sustain my activity. As well as the fact that I need to lose what I gained overeating. Since my marathon, I've been struggling with this. And being in a job you loathe does not help things.
So I back to where I was last summer, but with a new twist. I will eat what I want in moderation. I will watch what I eat and when I'm not hungry, I don't eat. Sweets are down to twice a week. I will not be a vegetarian like I was last summer. Protein in quantities that I need. Oh and eat all the fruit and veggies I want.
I realize that this is a food blog, but there are times, when things have to be spoken or written. I always find it easier in writing. So to everyone hanging in the balance, meditate and eat chocolate. What do you have to lose?

P.S. Summer Flavor Challenge has been extended to Thurs.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Seven Spices

Miss Lynn got tagged by the Cooking Ninja and I got tagged by Lynn! So I have write down 7 random things about me. So here is some glances in my memory.

1- I am a journalism student, who wants more than ever to work for the specialized food magazines. I have way to many ideas and feel constricted by not being out in the field.

2- My dad was/is the cook of the family. As I often blog about my dad's bar-b-que, he doesn't just do brisket. No, he can do almost everything I ask for, which is great because the last thing I want to do on a visit is cook.

3- I've run 2 marathons, and I'm not going to stop. My knees don't hurt and running is one of my releases. I don't know what I would do without it.

4- When I go clothing shopping, I usually end up buying shoes. Why? Cause that's the size that is always constant. Sales are the only enemy.

5- I've had my food photography published in a local magazine. I'm working on making it. Why do you think I have a blog and a website?!

6- I like everything homemade, as much as possible. Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker have made tons of money off of there boxed and bagged mixes. But isn't it just as easy to make your own? I mean when you have a time limit they are great, but when you have time to kill, making a cake is so much fun.

7- I have set rice aflame in the microwave and I WAS following instructions. The bagged recipe said 35 minutes on high, halway through it there was smoke. Whoops!

Here's my tags!

Elle - She is so wonderful and always leaving lovely comments.
JenJen - I don't know why she doesn't own a bakery.
Kristen- A stay at home mom that makes me want to move in!
Desert Candy- A reason to move to the Middle East.
Bake and Shake- A woman who can create wonderful baked goods and make me salivate everytime!
Homesick Texan- She is wonderful, and brings Texas to the Big Apple.
Tamami- She is a lovely baker in London with her own table at the farmer's market. How cool is that?!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Blueberry Dreams


As a boy an event was a blueberry cream pie, but one day the recipe was lost. His mother had loaned it to someone, and later would never receive it back. However, a red recipe book would find its way into his daughter's hands by chance and she would recreate the pie. The blueberry cream pie would be savoured, complimented, and devoured by all.
My father was this boy. For the past 5 years, I have heard constant, whining and proding at my grandmother for a blueberry cream pie. She looked and looked and looked, but never found the recipe. I was then given an old Military wives cookbook from my other grandmother. I flipped through it that night and found the blueberry cream pie recipe. I knew that I had to make it.
And oh did I fall in love. Vanilla pudding folded into whipped cream. Licking my plate never tasted so good.

Blueberry Cream Pie

1 pkg vanilla pudding (don't use instant)
1.5 cups milk (I used whole)
1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped (I used regular cream, not heavy, but the recipe called for heavy)
2.5 pints blueberries
4 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp lemon juic
2 tsp lemon rind
1 baked pie shell, cooled

Mix the pudding together as directed by the box, chill. After pudding is chilled, fold in whipping cream, and place in pie shell. Add 2 cups blueberries and the rest of ingredients into a saucepan, cook into thicken. After thickening, add rest of blueberries, and chill. Once blueberries are chilled add to pie. Chill.

*I suggest maybe doing it overnight. I did it all in one day and it is very time consuming, but well worth it. The pie needed to set more, before we cut into it, but it didn' take away from the taste. It just made a finger-licking mess.
*This not only was made for my father but for Weekend Cookbook Challenge #18!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Taking on Mountain



For several months I've debated whether or not to host a challenge. I mean there are tons out there and I'm one meager college student with lots going on, but how would I know if I could handle it, if I didn't try. So here it goes ladies and gentlemen. If all goes well this might become a monthly thing.

Summer Flavor
As HOT days come upon us, markets open and bring in fresh produce. Nothing is better than a peach from the farm or a watermelon from the garden. There is no limit to your imagination from ice-cream to cupcakes to grilled fruit. Whatever makes you salivate you can post. However, it must be local and it must be fresh produce. Here's general guidelines.
1) One must be centered around some local fruit (veggie if you really like) from your farmers market or own garden.
2) It must be a dessert!
3) Must be posted by July 21st and there will be a round up on July 22nd on this here website. Send me information with name, blog, and dish. And don't for get pictures!
Good Luck and I'll be picking a winner and sending a goodie!

Send all entries to fallenphotoangel {at} msn {dot} com

Saturday, June 30, 2007

"Anyone Can Cook."


Can they? Well, yes, but will it taste good? Will it be edible?
I don't know. I just know that I'm told to cook, bake more often than I do. Which is strange because I cook almost every night and I bake at least 2 a week. Shouldn't they be cooking more? Was that the message of Ratatouille?
I planned all week for this. Well, not really. I found a recipe yesterday for French Toast and adapted it to my tastes, and local produce. But still, I've been psyched for weeks- no monthes- about Ratatouille- the new Pixar film. (Of course, if you are reading this you've already seen it.) So I planned a French Brunch and an outing to the movie with a group of friends.
With the adapted recipe in my head, (still needs a little tweaking), I began this morning letting the bread absorb the custard. Going out to my usual errands like there was no party planned. Spent way too much money at the Farmer's Market, as usual. Came back made lemonade and waited for the guests to arrive.

My girlfriends showed, and we waited for the boy but to no avail, he did not show. We were hungry, so I made the Toast and the syrup, which was delicious. It does need tweaking. I mean really how can you taste French Toast to see what you need to add until after?
So with France in our stomachs, we went to the movie. Just wish we had some gondolas.
The movie was great! Remy gave a good performance. His passion for food was incredible. The way he smelled the produce, tasted things, and produced food was amazing. Pixar really did their homework and of course hired Thomas Keller. Oh and the brutally honest Bourdain. Did anyone else see his credit in the film?
So what did Ratatouille do for me?
Well, it made me want to cook. It made me want to open a restaurant. It made me hope that kids watching it would want to cook.
We all may not be chefs, but as long as we make good food for ourselves then I think everything will be alright. And I think that's what's Ratatouille is about. It's about passion.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I'm Late, I'm Late, Oh Wait!


"I'm late, I'm late for a very important date!" rang in my head during my lunch walk. Had I missed the bagel post? Was I a bad Daring Baker in my first month of becoming one? Would I shamelessly apologize like crazy to post late? Would my nervous breakdown finally come to tears flowing down my face?
Of course I came back to my cube and found that today was the post. A sigh echoed through my lips. Safe, but my pictures were at home. Well, you can't win them all can you. (They'll be up tonight I swear.)
Thankfully when I was making bagels, I wasn't in my current mood because I'm sure I would have cried.
To me bagels = Breakfast, or snack.
They are the one thing that I miss about NYC on a weekly basis because honestly Einstein Bagels are a poor substitute for real bagels.
In January, I was able to get NYC bagels in Phoenix, and I so wanted to take a bag home. Especially there Sun-Dried Tomato bagel. My ultimate favorite.
When I first read the challenge of the month, I was saddened that we couldn't do flavored bagels. That is because Sun-dried Tomato is inside the bagel and not outside. Of course my 2nd favorite is Cinnamon Raisin, so that was out, too. However, I was not going to be persuaded not to bake.

I began with a brainstorm. Savory bagels, savory bagels. Well, I could try an Italian bagel, a garlic, a plain, sun-dried tomato on top. So after the trip to the store I came and begun my quest for a bagels. An adventure into yeast and back.
The recipe recommends using your hands to mix the ingredients I did. Which honestly was fun, but a little gross. It was sticky! And took several minutes to get off my hands. I let them rise. Then took batches, poking holes in them. I found with this that they had a tendency to close the whole. I tried reshaping, but like chocolate and peanut butter, the sides came together.
Like many other of us Daring Bakers, my bagels floated like a little boat on the water. I wasn't worried about it at the time, but I should have been.
Afterwards I dressed them with parmesan, garlic, cheddar, or left them alone. I left them bake in the oven. Of course this was done in batches. Small kitchen doesn't lend well to eighteen bagels. My pot could only hold three at a time.
Oh and some didn't boil properly. I don't even know went on there. I also, learned that the shelf life on them was short as well. However, I enjoyed destroying my kitchen and thankfully there were no fires or smoke filled rooms with this adventure.
To see the recipe please visit http://www.jewish-food.org/recipes/brea0007.htm


Monday, June 25, 2007

Desires and Cravings in Hiding


For the past 2 weeks, I've been trying to figure out my craving, my muse, my desire. I found nothing. I flipped through old food magazines, my cookbooks, online blogs, and I found no inspiration, nothing that I said to myself I had to have. I could have cried, bitched, done damage to my kitchen. If I could crave Indian food, couldn't I crave something sweet?
So Sunday, I sat down again with my Nigella books, telling myself to find something. I discovered a strawberry ice cream recipe. I didn't have a pint of strawberries, but I had blackberries. Blackberry Ice Cream it was. I had my vintage ice cream maker. Surely it had to work. I followed the recipe. Got it into the machine, whirl, silence. Unplug, next outlet, whirl, silence. Maybe its the outlet. Unplug, move, plug, whirl, silence. Words surely came to mind. So I poured the cream mixture into a bowl and stirred every hour. I found that every hour, it tasted more like vanilla ice cream and not blackberry.
After having a glass of wine, I found myself craving a cookie- a chocolate chip cookie, then a peanut butter cookie. Well, I had already started making chocolate chip, when I started having the peanut butter craving. So I had to save those for another day. So I mixed the batter, did some quality control. A lot of quality control. Burned myself in the oven. And allowed my apartment to get the nostalgic smell of cookies permeating through my small apartment.
For the first time in a long time, the cookies came out chewy, puffy and delicious. The kind that go perfect with a glass of milk. The kind where you eat all the cookie dough before actually making the cookies. I could have eaten many, but I ate three.
And by the time I was done dunking my cookies in milk, my ice cream was still a soupy mess. I shrugged it off, saying "So much for cravings."

Original Nestlé Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Of course, I wouldn't go with any other cookie recipe. When it comes to chocolate chip, you don't stray from Toll House.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) chocolate chips (semi-sweet, preferred)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (I used almonds)
Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Gold Standard


"You'd walk in and see the pit and you had dirt on the floor. The meat would be on butcher paper and you had a choice of bread or crackers, but you were probably to small to remember. I don't think you were even eating meat then."
A memory into something I don't remember, as my dad described it to me. I wish I had in me, but I didn't. I didn't remember the place at all. Despite the fact that I had been there. What I can only imagine was around the age of 4, when we were living in San Antonio.
But yesterday made my own memory of a place that will become a place to visit if I ever move away from Texas.
Yesterday created my own memorization of the market, of what I was told was "gold standard of Bar-B-Que." Kreuz (Krits) Market.
A couple of weeks ago, I told my grandfather of my plans to eat through central Texas Bar-B-Que. He told me that I have to go to Kreuz, me not knowing that I had actually been there. So he told me he would talk to his friend and we could plan a trip out there. I thought O.K., it won't be anytime soon that I actually go. Boy was I wrong, within a week, I got an invitation about going. The guys were psyched, any reason to go out to Lockhart was a reason for Bar-B-Que.
So yesterday the three of us got in an Avalon and took the scenic drive to Lockhart, Texas. Along the drive, I got asked, "Do you know the story of Kreuz?"
"No," I replied, thinking theres a story to this place.
One of my companions, began the tale. "A couple of years ago, people were worried about what would happen to the market after the father died. This is because in his will, the father left the Bar-B-Que coals and other equipment and the original building to the daughter. Supposedly this is because the two didn't get along very well, so the father knowing this gave the son control of the meat. The daughter and son fought over the will, with the son then deciding to move to a different building down the street. When the restaurant was about to open, the brother walked down the main street with the coals."

I laughed. Of course. Brother and sister not getting along. So I got to see the original building that was built in 1900, which is now a meat market ran by the sister named Smitty's Market. It was an old brick building. With Market on a smokestack. We then turned around and went to the newer building up the road about a half of a mile. It looked like a barn, read with brick smokestack in the middle. Upon entering, I thought I was in a different time. It had old relics from the early 1900s. There's two entrances, one for meat eaters and one for vegetarians. Thankfully, I'm no longer a veggie.
Above me was the menu. Of course there was the usual-brisket, spare ribs, and sausage. Then other meats I'd never seen on a menu- pork chops, ham, beef shoulder. There was no chicken or turkey. And turkey is only there in the fall, when its in season. It was a difficult decision-brisket or ribs. Then I smiled, knowingly. "Ribs and jalapeno and cheese sausage," I said, when the lady asked what I wanted.

The vegetarian room was were there were the "veggies and sides." I do use the term loosely. Kreuz has no coleslaw or potato salad. There's German potatoes, onions, pickles, sauerkraut, tomatoes, avocados, cheese, beans, and chips. I was stunned.
Then of course is the sign. "No Bar-B-Que sauce." Nope, none, zero, nada. Oh and you don't bring your own either. This is dry Bar-B-Que. And honestly there is no reason for it. The seasoning was enough to make you crave more. My ribs were peppery and spicy, the meat from them was juicy and tender. The first bite and I was in heaven. The sausage was spicy, but not too hot that you constantly needed water.
After our bellies were full, we took the 30 minute drive back, where pie was awaitin'. A peach pie. It was tasty with a scoop of Blue Bell. A fabulous way to end a great trip in the name of Bar-B-Que.