Monday, December 31, 2007

It's Happy New Years Eve. . .Yes!

Sizzle Sprinkled with Flavor
Don't you just love to hear sizzling in the morning when you know that breakfast is close behind? Don't you just hate it when you have a mental block on what you want to make for breakfast? I am in my crocheting phase (picture below). . .and I want to get somemore of my aphgan done this morning but I also am hungry and nothing is really calling to me. . .and then it hits me. . .fast, easy and comfort food from my childhood. . .yeppers. . .an egg sandwich. I know, I am not inspiring this morning and I hardly see anyone dashing to their kitchen to whip this up but if you like messy, simple and tastey along with *fast*. . .this is the breakfast of champions:

Average - 2 eggs, 2 slices bread (whole wheat/Sourdough/etc.) , 2 slices cheese per person
For 4 people =
8 eggs
8 slices sourdough or whatever bread you personally love
8 slices of medium cheddar cheese, Havarti, PepperJack or whatever suits your fancy =)
Squirt of Horseradish
salt to taste
pepper to taste

Put a little Pam no-stick spray on your skillet while cold and set it on stove. Put burner on medium and get ready to cook your eggs over easy. This means that your eggs will be a little runny on the inside. Want less mess when eating? Cook eggs a little longer. Add salt and pepper to taste.

While eggs are cooking on the stove, toast two slices of bread at a time. Put about 2 T. mayonnaise on each slice of toast. Best to make one egg sandwich at a time. Don't worry, it goes fast.

When eggs are almost done, set 2 slices of cheddar cheese over the two eggs and allow to melt slightly.

Put your eggs and cheese on one slice of toast and top with the other. Taaadaaah! Egg Sandwich. Messy but Delish!

**I have made sausage links and split them in half and added them to the top of the egg and cheese BUT it does make the egg ooze out a little bit more when eating.

Here is my new crocheting endeavor. . .or at least the border of the aphgan =D

The body of the aphgan will be crocheted to look like minature fans. I am mad crocheting to get this done in the next couple of weeks but I also am dying to get some baking done so we will see what wins out. Happy New Years everyone! and HUGS!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Daring Baker Challenge. . .A New Christmas Tradition!!!

HO. . .HO. . .HO. . .
New Christmas Tradition. . .The Yule LOG =D

Well, I have to say that Ivonne and Lisa are wonderful and both deserve a *huge* hug for picking this wonderful recipe as our daring baker challenge! I have been working 10 hour days, seven days a week for the last month and I needed a pick-me-up for being totally bummed because I have had no time for blogging. . .baking my favorite cookies OR deciding what I wanted for dinners! I am all done with the work schedule and the baking is ON! baby. This was the perfect start to my families holiday celebrating so here is a big THANK YOU!!!

We put the water on the stove and I had two teenage helpers. . .my daughter and step-son. . .Ashley and Dustin. We took our time and I had everyone (including me =D) read the recipe twice to make sure we understood it and we had all the ingredients. I was worried because we had just the one day (Sunday the 23rd) to make this delicious dessert so we jumped in and had a blast. Dustin put on the hot water to boil and simmer and Ashley whisked the Genoise to get the mixture to luke warm. The batter whipped up fluffy and we were high-fiving each other when we got to the point of spreading the batter into the jellyroll pan! =D

We had to reread the recipe twice to make sure we understood that the baking time was only 10 minutes because that seemed pretty fast but sure enough. . .after 10 minutes the Genoise looked perfect. . .Now, the frosting and filling. . .we stuck to the recipe because none of us had a problem with the coffee flavor and we all decided that we would make the recipe per letter the first time and if we wanted to change it when we made it the second time. . .then we would decide then. So, here we are with the espresso and rum flavoring and whipping up the creamy frosting =0D

The kids took turns stirring the egg whites and the sugar over simmering water to get the egg whites hot before whipping them up. There was some complaints of arm aches but if this was a video game. . .well, they would have been all over it for several hours (making sure there were refreshments of course =) ) So far, looking great. . .but we didn't want to get ahead of ourselves because there was still time for us to have some catastrophe happen.
We fill the cake with frosting and I rolled it tightly and set it into the refrigerator while we whipped up the meringue for the mushrooms. We took turns piping mushroom stems and caps and then I sprinkled Cocoa powder on the caps before setting them into the oven. Now frosting the log and making bark markings was in order.

The merigue turned out really well, and I think that our advanced preparation along with three sets of eyes really helped this recipe run smoothly!

We took turns piping mushroom stems and caps and I sprinkled the caps with cocoa powder be setting them into the oven. Now frosting the log and making the bark markings was in order! I had to admit that this was allot of fun for me and the kids let me do this part since I must have seemed like I was really enjoying myself. . .by the way. . .I was! =D

I must say this was a proud moment for all of us! We made a log that looked like a log. . .YES!

Now for assembling the mushrooms and setting them onto the log. . .well, we seemed to have more mushrooms then log space so we snuck a few. . .you know. . .the cooks reaaallllyyyy need to taste test along the way.

Pictures were taken and we actually made it to dinner. . .since we were have steamed dungeness crab and ribeye steaks. . .before we cut the Yule log. It was a beautiful thing and almost to pretty to eat. . .ALMOST! =D

HUGS to Ivonne and Lisa again. . .you have started something that brought great joy and a happy memory to those closest to me. . .Thank you.

Plain Genoise:
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
¼ cup cornstarch

one (1) 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again

1.Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

2.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

3.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).

4.Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.

5.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.

6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

7.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

8.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.

9.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.10.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Coffee Buttercream:

4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy

1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

Meringue Mushrooms:

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

1.Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.

2.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.

3.Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.

Marzipan Mushrooms:

8 ounces almond paste
2 cups icing sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
Cocoa powder

1.To make the marzipan combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed.

2.Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

3.Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary: the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly.

4.Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.

5.Roll one-third of the marzipan into a 6 inches long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths.

6.Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms.

7.Smudge with cocoa powder

Assembling the Yule Log:

1.Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.

2.Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.

3.Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.

4.Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).

5.Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.

6.Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.

7.Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.

8.Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.

9.Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.

10.Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.

11.Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Red Velvet Cake

I have always loved the idea of baking a red velvet cake. The cake is cheerful looking and decadent all at the same time. Not only that but it does not require that much work to put together and bake. What is absolutely shocking is the amount of red food coloring that goes into making this cake red! I couldn't believe it and actually cut the amount in half the second time I made this cake. Yes, I am guilty of baking it twice within 2 weeks. I loved the moistedness, flavor, holiday color and the beautiful white frosting. This is the princess of red velvet cakes and I received the recipe from my friend Shirleyoma.

Red Velvet Cake
* 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
* 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
* 2 large eggs
* 1 cup buttermilk
* 4 ounces red food coloring
* 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, softened
* 1 pound box confectioners’ sugar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour 2 (9-inch) cake pans. In a medium bowl or on a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter. Beat in eggs one at a time. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk. Beat in food coloring and vinegar, then add vanilla. Spread the batter evenly in the pans.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Turn out onto a rack to cool.
In a large bowl, cream the cream cheese and butter. Beat in confectioners' sugar until fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Stir in pecans. Use frosting to fill and ice cake.
Slice and serve on individual plates.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Smoked Salmon Salad With Raspberry Vinaigrette

Living in the state of Washington, along the coast, I have an abundance of choices for seafood and, unforetunately, I do not always cook fresh seafood as often as I would like. Keeping things simple as possible and enjoying the individual flavors of a dish is important. The problem with this last statement is that I also *love* trying new recipes that can be quite complicated at times and I am fine with this because I love a new adventure. Desserts fit into this category along with gumbos, homemade chilis, etc.

I think that mixing fresh fruit with seafood for taste and color is an outstanding color palette for any lunch or dinner table. I thought the combination of raspberries, mandarin oranges and smoked salmon over a bed of tender salad greens with a little raspberry viniagrette drizzled over the top sounded tempting so I gave it a try and now I am making a little more to take with me tomorrow to share with a friend over lunch. =D


Mixed Salad Greens - your choice
1/3 fresh sliced mushrooms
1 avocado cubed
1/4 c. smoked salmon cut into small chunks
1/2 c. raspberries
1/2 c. drained mandarin oranges

1/4 c. olive oil
2 T. raspberry vinegar
1 T. honey
1 T. water
1/2 t. dried basil leaves
1/8 t. garlic salt
Dash of coarsely ground pepper


Mix salad greens with the mushrooms, avocado and smoked salmon chunks. Arrange raspberries and mandarin oranges on salad greens.

Vinaigrette: Combine all ingredients in jar with a tight-fitting lid; shake well. Serve over fresh greens.

Awesome flavor! =D

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

I am so dusting off my treadmill tomorrow. I have been baking for several days again and now I am on the pasta kick. I love homemade pasta sauce but I don't always have the time to simmer a really good sauce for hours. On top of that, we have had horrible wind and snow and rain storms today with periodic power outages. I didn't want to chance ruining a good thing so here is what I came up with and may I say that I loved it? The sauce turned out delicious but I also add a jar of my own canned Italian tomatoes with herbs and diced onions already mixed together. You can get the same effect from a can of Italian tomatoes from the grocery store but I would suggest adding more oregano and other herbs that you really enjoy in your sauce. I *always* add diced, fresh garlic. . .a must have in my kitchen =).
Spaghetti and Homemade Meat Sauce
1 pound of ground beef (I like to have at least 15% fat for flavor)
1 pound bulk spicy Italian sausage
8 ounces chopped fresh mushrooms, I used chantrelles - they are in season here and Yum.
1 large onion, chopped
1 t. Italian seasoning
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 t. seasoned salt
1 (28 ounce can) Italian tomatoes
1 cup of tomato sauce
1/2 t. granulated sugar. . .to cut the taste of acidity in the tomatoes
1 (6 ounce can) tomatoe paste
1 Bay leaf
1 pound of spaghetti

In dutch oven or heavy saucepan, cook beef, sausage, onion and garlic. Drain most of grease. Cut tomatoes up and add to pot along with the liquid. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the spaghetti. . .=D. Simmer for 1 hour or until your sauce is thick enough to your liking.

Prepare your spaghetti and serve with sauce, fresh parmesan cheese, sharp cheddar cheese, a sprinkling of granulated garlic and seasoning according to taste. =D

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Chocolate Pecan Pie with Caramel Sauce and Powdered Sugar

I absolutely love pecan pie and I know that it is a generalization that women naturally love chocolate. . .but this is not always true. . .I know, a scary thought. =D I happen to fit into the generalization and Love milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, white chocolate (I am still trying to perfect a white chocolate cheesecake that tastes like biting into a bar of creamy, white chocolate) and bittersweet chocolate. Has anyone ever opened a Chocolatier Magazine and found that ad where you can order 10 or 11 pound slabs of different chocolate such as Callebaut Chocolate or Nestle Chocolate? I have done this several times and I have never been disappointed. . .as of yet. It is funny though. I only bake with it and I end up sharing most of what I bake with friends and people I work with so it sounds like a lot of chocolate but it doesn't hang around for long. =D
Well, I made this pie for Thanksgiving and it was so good that I made it again. Since I love it so much. . .I just have to share so here it is:
Rich Chocolate Pecan Pie with Caramel Sauce and Powdered Sugar

1 1/2 Cups Pecans
1 Cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell (I used my shell recipe for my deep dish pecan pie. . .you will find the recipe there)
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup light brown sugar
1/2 Cup corn syrup
1/2 t. vanilla extract
Pinch of Salt
Caramel Sauce, for garnish, recipe follows
Confectioners sugar, for garnish
Caramel Sauce:
3/4 Cup sugar
2 T. water
1/2 t. fresh lemon juice
1/2 Cup heavy Cream
2 T. to 1/4 Cup Whole Milk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Spread the pecan pieces and the chocolate chip pieces evenly on the bottom of the pie shell.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients together. Pour the filling over the pecans. Bake until the filling sets, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes before slicing. Cut into individual servings and serve with a drizzle of caramel sauce and sprinkle with confectioners sugar.
Caramel Sauce:
Combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a medium heavy saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Let boil without stirring until the mixture becomes a deep amber color, 2 to 3 minutes, watching closely so it doesn't burn. Add the cream (be careful; it will bubble up), whisk to combine, and remove from the heat.
Add 2 Tablespoons of the milk, then add up to 2 more tablespoons, until the desired consistency is reached. Let cool until just warm before serving. (The sauce will thicken as it cools.)