Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Can You Feel Spring Coming?

I woke up this morning and there was frost on the lawn and ice on the windshield! It is April 30th for Pete Sakes. I just planted a couple of flowers, finally, in some of my window boxes and now the little flowers have a droop to them. So, what happens to the little hummingbirds when the weather behaves badly? I have always wondered where they sleep. I can not believe how much those cute little birds can eat. Ravenous at times. Definitely not scared of me anymore. Then there are the squirrels. I found one in the glass bird feeder, balancing with his big ol' wide load behind hanging off the edge of the dish. . .eating like he has never seen food before. One of the biggest squirrels I've seen yet!

To day was a long day so I thought I would come home and try working some more on my little sewing project. . .the ever awaited APRON! Isn't it cute? Bright and cheery with lots of little flowers. Do you know how many bolts of material I laid out all over JoAnn's Fabric store to find this material? There was many eyes a twitching until I reassured everyone that I was going to put all 40 or 50 bolts back when I was done. I had WAY to much fun! Anyways, I didn't get to sew tonight. Bummer. There were strawberries calling out to me that needed to be made into something quickly so that I didn't lose them. All 4 cups worth. Since they were not absolutely, perfectly fresh, I decided to make a custard and add pureed strawberries (I left a few strawberry chunks) to be made later into ice cream. That and dinner. Where do you go for a great ice cream recipe? I figured I would get a great one from Food Network and Emeril Lagasse. Yep and Nope! Found a recipe and the recipe was not even close to being correct and this was noticed BEFORE I even started. Can you imagine a recipe telling you that a custard will thickened within 4 to 6 minutes on simmer? What super custard ingredients was he using? Oh yes, and the recipe asks for 1/2 of a vanilla bean in the ingredients but says nothing about it in the directions. I thought that the overall recipe was a good base to go off of and that is just what I did. I have the custard chilling with Saran wrap on the surface so there will be no skin. Tomorrow I will process it. I have to admit that the custard turned out great and the pureed strawberries with 1/2 c. of sugar tasted fresh and delicious. All together, the flavor is wonderful!

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream (Kind of From Emeril Lagasse)
1 quart fresh strawberries, washed, stemmed and quartered
1/2 c. granulated sugar
(His recipe called for 1 1/2 cups, which I thought was way to much)
4 c. half-n-half
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split in half and scraped
(I scraped the seeds out and then added the bean itself)
6 egg yolks

In a food processor or blender, combine the strawberries and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Process until smooth. In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the half-n-half, vanilla bean seeds, pod, and sugar. Bring to a simmer. In a small mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Add 1 cup of the hot liquid to the egg yolks and whisk until smooth. Add the yolk mixture to the saucepan of liquid and whisk until incorporated. Bring the liquid back to simmer and continue to cook for 18 to 20 minutes or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Remove the Vanilla Bean from the custard. Remove from the heat and stir in the strawberries. Whisk until smooth. Pour the mixture into a glass bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the mixture. This will prevent a skin from forming while cooking. Cool the mixture completely. Process the mixture according to the ice cream machine instructions.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Spiced Yogurt Poundcake

My friend makes "the" most rich, moist, and delicious spiced yogurt poundcake EVER! This cake does not need any frosting even though I did mix a cup of powdered sugar with a little milk and 1/4 t. almond extract to drizzle over the surface. I just love the flavor of almond extract, especially when I am making my favorite peach crisp. Delicious! There is nothing fancy about this cake and I wish I had gussied up the picture before putting it into the blog but I just had to share. I make this cake about once a month, it is that good. I like using Greek yogurt instead of plain yogurt but I think the taste is phenomenal no matter which one you use. The spices really come through but are not overpowering. 3 days later, if the cake lasts that long, this piece of heaven will still be moist.

Spiced Yogurt Poundcake


2 c. white sugar

1 c. butter, softened

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. plain yogurt or Greek yogurt

3 eggs

1 t. vanilla extract

1 t. ground cinnamon

1 t. allspice

1/2 t. ground nutmeg

1/4 t. ground cloves

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. baking soda


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour one 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the flour, yogurt, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ground cloves, salt, and baking soda. Mix until combined then beat at high speed for 2 minutes.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daring Baker Challenge: Cheesecake Balls. . .YUM!

Elle from Feeding My Enthusiam and Deborah from Taste and Tell picked our Daring Baker Challenge for the month of April: Cheesecake Pops! Cheesecake is one of those showstoppers that is easy to make AND gives that WOW! factor. This Daring Baker Challenge definitely added several extra layers to the WOW! The batter itself was delicious. The leftover batter in the mixer bowl had finger marks from licking the bowl clean. I had already bought 10-inch cake pans for my 4-layer carrot cake so I was set for baking. When the cake came out of the oven, I was shocked that there was not even a HINT of a crack in the top. The one time that it doesn't matter if I had a crater in the top and the cheesecake comes out perfect. I started this project 2 days in advance so I just took my time and had fun. The problem was with everyone else trying to take (little) tastes out of my cheesecake. . .before I could get the balls made and into the freezer. I was scared about the tempering of chocolate so I wanted to get everything else done right away. That way I could take my time with the melting and decorating. Previously, I had these grand ideas of learning to temper chocolate and bought 10 pound slabs of callebaut chocolate in different flavors out of the Chocolatier Magazine. The sheer size of the slab intimidated the hell out of me! So there it sat, air sealed in plastic, waiting for me to get my nerve up. The funny part is that my hands were shaking when I started melting the chocolate over simmering water. I had no idea how long it would take the chocolate to start to harden on the cheesecake balls before I could put sprinkles on the outside without them falling off. I knew with the balls of cheesecake being frozen that my window would probably be small. It was! At first, my sprinkles either fell off in clumps of melted chocolate or I had beautiful sprinkles on one side and hard, cold chocolate coating on the other with me individually pressing sprinkles softly into the side, hoping they would stay. My other problem is that after I had finished about 10 cheesecake balls, my melted chocolate started looking grainy. Several Daring Bakers suggested that I was keeping my chocolate to warm. I think they were right because I didn't think to take the chocolate off the simmering water after it was melted. I thought the chocolate would harden again. I'm still not quite sure how I should be handling this melted chocolate. Any input would really be appreciated =).

Because this cheesecake recipe makes so many cute little balls, my daughter and I decided to share some of them with our Bethel Animal Hospital. Our family took in this cute little kitten, now called Fluffy, and the wonderful people at this vet wouldn't let us pay for Fluffy staying the night when she was getting spayed and her return visits were the cost of the shots only. The atmosphere at this vetinarian place is so warm and caring that all I have been think ing about lately is taking them something baked out of our kitchen to show how much we appreciate their concern. When we took Fluffy in, she was abandoned and starving. Just a baby. Now, she has the cutest, roly pink tummy. These little cheesecake balls were the perfect way of saying thank you!

Deb and Elle, thank you both, too! You widened my horizons in the kitchen and now I can't wait to start on my next new project that involves melted chocolate. I actually thought that this might be something out of my league, and I learned that cooking is all a state of mind. . .a "can do" state of mind. Huge hugs to both of you and what a fantastic challenge! =D

Cheesecake Pops
Makes 30 – 40 Pops
5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream
Boiling water as needed
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks
1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)
Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.
In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.
Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.
Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.
When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.
Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.
Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.
Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.
Elle – Feeding my Enthusiams– and Deborah at Taste and Tell

Bacon and Eggs Pie

I am in shock! We are still getting freezing temperatures and it was just a little over a week ago that we were still getting Snow! Our poor fruit trees =(. I have two hummingbird feeders in front of my kitchen window and there is an ornamental cherry tree also out in view. If you look closely, you will see one of my visiting hummingbirds sitting on the top branch. The sun was out all day today and this has been the first time that I have been able to even think about digging in my dirt and planting a few flowers in my window boxes. Usually by now I have already started my veggie garden. I get no veggie garden this year. I am a little sad but I think I am going to spend this season doing an overhaul. . .since my garden is raised. I think red and black swirled cottage stone around the one side and capped off with black 1 x 2 caps will look great. I ordered two pallets to be delivered in the next week. I just love new projects!
Breakfast this morning was a breeze thanks to 80 Breakfasts! She posted a Bacon and Eggs Pie that originally came from Donna Hay's Modern Classics I, page 158. I just had to try it!
Her version looked so much more inviting. My dish was a little on the small side and the bacon just wasn't going to cooperate. The Puff Pastry was trimmed to fit with kitchen scissors but I over trimmed. At the base, under the eggs and bacon is a coating of wholegrain mustard and Parmesan cheese. After frying the bacon seperately, the overall baking of this easy breakfast took 16 minutes and the flavor was delicious! I will make this again, if not just to use tame bacon and better fitting puff pastry so that I can get a better picture. Did I mention that this breakfast tastes delicious?
Thank you 80 Breakfasts for inspiring a new breakfast treat to be tried and loved!
Bacon and Egg Pies(adapted from Donna Hay's Modern Classics I, page 158)
1 sheet ready-made puff pastry (mine is 9.5 x 9.5 inches, you will have some scraps left over…so use this!)
6 strips of bacon (Donna rationed 2 rashers per person, but I felt we deserved 3 each)
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (Donna used cheddar)
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
4 eggs
- Preheat the oven to 200C (400F).- Place bacon on a baking sheet and place in the pre-heated oven for about 8-10 minutes. You just want to get the edges a bit crisp. Remember you are going to be baking it again with the tart! When done, drain on paper towels.- Thaw pastry (in my kitchen this takes two seconds so I make sure everything is ready before taking it out of the freezer) and cut to fit two 1-cup capacity pie dishes (I just used whatever I thought would fit).- Spread mustard on the pastry bases and sprinkle with the cheese.- Top this with three pieces of bacon for each pie. I like to curve them around so they will cradle the eggs.- Break two eggs over each pie.- Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the eggs have set to your liking. Serve immediately.- Serves two.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Crab Tacos

My family loves crab meat for crab cakes, tacos, seafood lasagna, cocktail appetizers, stuffed in mushrooms, and so many other varieties of dishes. I decided to try a new crab taco with ready-made shells. The salsa and the crab meat has a little bit of kick with the addition of jalapenos but once put together, you can not taste the heat unless you literally bury the food in salsa. I was perusing the Sunset Magazine for garden ideas and ran across this recipe. The only piece of advice that I can give you is to make sure that you use fresh crab meat because you will be able to taste the difference. I love the addition of avocado slices and wish that I had thought of this a long time ago.

Crab Tacos
4 Toma tomatoes
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 large jalapeno chiles, halved, seeded, and sliced, divided
1/2 c. fresh cilantro leaves, divided
3 T. fresh lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 t. olive oil
1/2 c. chopped onion
8 oz. shelled cooked crab
8 taco shells or soft tortillas
1 c. Iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced
1 c. shredded Jack or Cheddar cheese
1 avocado, thinly sliced
1/4 c. chopped green onion

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put tomatoes, garlic, half of the jalapeno, 1/4 c. cilantro, and the lime juice in a food processor and pulse a few times to chop. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set salsa aside.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onion and remaining jalapeno until soft, 4 minutes. Add crab and cook just until crab is warm, about 2 minutes.
Put taco shells or tortillas on a baking pan and warm in oven, about 3 minutes. Arrange on a platter and fill with crab mixture, dividing evenly. Top crab with lettuce, cheese, and avocado. Sprinkle tacos with green onion and remaining 1/4 c. cilantro. Serve immediately, with salsa on the side or on top.

Monday, April 21, 2008

White Lightening Sangria

I thought I would share a sangria that is not too strong and can be adapted to any white wine of choice. I thought I was being clever and invited my daughter's boyfriend over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to see if they spent too much time together. . .well, that they may get on each other's nerves and nobody would be as hurt if things didn't mutually continue? How is that for politcally correct? It didn't work. I thought I would have Ashley and Devin cook lunch (spaghetti and meatsauce with garlic bread) and they did great. I am bumming because Ashley is not quite 17 (1 1/2 months to go) and Devin is 21. I am not sure how there meeting happened but Ashley goes no where without me either being in the vicinity or knowing exactly what is going on and for how long they will be at this specific place. Anotherwords, I am scared out of my skin. Devin has been respectful, thoughtful, and has not tried being overly mushy with Ashley. This does not mean that I am not running up the stairs everytime the house gets overly quiet ~ for longer then 5 minutes =). I can't even concentrate to blog and I miss blogging but now I have college finals again and my eye is twitching. I actually ended up thinking that Devin has a few positive points in his favor by the time this weekend was over. . .begrudgingly. . .and that was NOT the intension at all. I also felt bad because he does seem to feel comfortable and happy when he is over at our house, which makes me wonder about his own home life. I now know that he absolutely adores peanut butter cookies and rootbeer floats. The fact that he also likes to cook isn't bad either since Ashley likes top ramen out of the package (uhmmm, not cooked) and bagel bites, FF's, pot stickers, and chocolate milk. Of course, nothing homemade. . .that would be just terrible. Okay, I may have shown a few of those traits growing up since I came from the same background of everything homemade and next-to-nothing store bought. . .including bread. I just wish the age difference wasn't so HUGE. When they are this young, the age does make a big difference. Okay, I am going to stop this whole conversation but this is how the white lightening sangria came into my kitchen this weekend. . .stress. I wanted something to relax me and this sangria was fun, fruity, and delicious. Because I made this twice this weekend, I would also like to state that the second time I doubled the recipe and for some reason the sangria was WAY TO STRONG! Add more juice and the full amount of sugar or just make as stated in the recipe. Having fruit in the wine glass, okay. . .I love mandarin oranges, pineapple, and grapes. . .was a nice touch that added color. I will make this again when I think I need to destress a little =D.
White Lightening Sangria
1 bottle (750) white wine what ever you like Riesling, Chablis, ect
1/2 cup Vodka
1/2 cup white grage juice
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cupsliced white grapes (seedless)
1 tangerine sliced
1/2 pineapple sliced
1 cup club soda or citrus soda

1. Pour wine and vodka in the pitcher and add sliced grapes, tangerine, and pineapple. Next add sugar and stir gently. Chill mixture for at least one hour.Add club soda or citrus soda just before serving.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Individual Baked Omelets

Well, I am back! I feel terrible because I haven't had to stay away from blogging this long since I learned how to blog! I miss checking everyone's cooking/baking adventures out but you know? I have learned that this is what I really enjoy. . .my outlet for just a little while in the early evening. Taking care of family takes precedence and now the crisis seems to have subsided a little.
Well, I have been looking for an apron for the last 6 months, easy, and they are just so expensive for your basic no-frills plain apron. The cheapest I found was 20 dollars. Then I go to Sur La Table for the first time and get bowled over with just how many amazing cooking and serving toys this store has (drool marks from one end of store to the other). I found this apron that has a plain floral print, nothing fancy, and they wanted 30 dollars! I couldn't believe it! So guess what? I went to JoAnns Fabric and did some shopping. I came home with enough fabric to make 3 aprons. Oh yes, the honesty thing. . .uhmmm, I also found that JoAnns' was having a sale on all flannel fabric and they had over 100 prints at $2.00/yard so I bought 6 yards for 2 different prints. Now the clincher. . .I don't know how to sew very well but I have been practicing this weekend =). Today, I did 2 whole pockets for the apron. Lace and all. I am still admiring them. It's okay to chuckle, I understand. But people have to start somewhere, right?
For breakfast I wanted something new so I went to my faithful Pastry Queen cookbook and made Rebecca's Individual Baked Omelets. They were delicious and the options for mixing flavors up are endless! I am so trying mushrooms with the rest of the ingredients next time! I just found this Polish Deli in Seattle where they make their own aged bacon. I think they have over 20 varieties. Delicious with the most amazing aroma! I don't even know how to put into words the feeling of euphoria when walking into this wonderful place.
For the omelets I used the Texas size cupcake pan with liners for easier clean-up. Huge flavor packed in a little package!
Individual Baked Omelets
2 T. unsalted butter
1 Medium russet or red-skinned potato, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch dice
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 t. salt
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped into small pieces
1 fresh tomato, seeded and finely chopped
6 large eggs
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream or half-n-half
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
Dash of hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter 6 Texas-size muffin cups of line them with muffin wrappers. Melt the butter in a medium skillet set over medium heat. Add the potato, onion, and 1/2 t. of the salt; saute for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the red pepper and saute for 15 minutes longer, continuing to stir occasionally. Taste to make sure the potato is cooked through; if not, cook for a few minutes longer, until the potato is fully cooked but not mushy. Remove the vegetable mixture from the heat and stir in the bacon and tomato.
Whisk the eggs, cream, remaining 1/2 t. salt, the pepper, and hot sauce together in a large bowl. Stir in the vegetable mixture. Pour the egg mixture evenly into the muffin cups. (The egg mixture may almost reach the top, which is okay.) Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Lightly shake the pan; if the omelets look or feel runny in the middle, bake for 5 minutes longer, until firm. Serve warm.