June 26, 2012

Lunchy-time

Have I ever told you how much I dislike cold sandwiches? No? Well…… I can’t stand them. I’m odd, I know. But plain bread? Cold meats and cheeses? Dry and chewy? Blech! I should also mention that I refuse mayo and mustard. I will put up with them if they are deeply hidden in a recipe but on a sandwich? Huh-uh.

This makes lunchtime difficult for me. I don’t always have access to a stovetop to grill some toasty buttery bread up with melty cheeses. However, the weekend means eating lunch at home and THAT means all the warm sandwiches we can handle. We do the standard grilled cheese and sometimes we step up our game and make a grilled gruyere and ham or maybe prosciutto? Swiss? Gouda? Brie and fig spread? It just keeps getting girlier doesn’t it? Recently the man of the house served me up a grilled peanut butter and jelly…. WHAT? If you have not tried this you need to drop everything, stop reading this blog and go make one. Just remember to come back because I haven’t told you about the sandwich I made this weekend.

All better? Good because I served up an amazingly delicious sandwich on Sunday to my family and my sisters family. I love BLT’s…. minus the mayo and tomato, but ignore that. This BLT was elevated to a new level by adding swiss cheese and avocado spread. I know, you’re thinking “Dude, tell me something my 5 year old couldn’t think of.” Get ready….. because the bread will blow your mind. Thick sliced french bread, butter one side, and then smoosh grated parmesan onto the buttered side. Toss into a hot skillet and toast that bad boy till it’s golden brown and crispy!

I die…. I mean, you don’t even need a recipe right? Parmesan toast will boost any warm sandwich to new heights and leave your friends and family oohing and ahhing. And maybe you will too…

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(I barely snapped a picture with my iPhone before I devoured it)

June 22, 2012

Farmer’s Market Saturdays

Summer starts late in Oregon, just last week we had massive downpours and I found myself putting on a sweater. Some people can’t handle it but for me it helps me appreciate the summer sunshine even more.

In our little community, 15 minutes outside of Portland, summer means the start of the Farmer’s Market season. Not only is this a great place to get local, fresh, and organic fruits and veggies but it’s also great for people watching, lemonade drinking, pastry eating, and running into friends.

On a recent trip I couldn’t ignore the beautifully ripe flats of Oregon strawberries… they were practically calling my name! I knew I could probably find some kind of baked good to use them in. And that is exactly what I did my friends! Instead of picking something that would tap into the crazy perfectionist side of me I decided to go rustic. Enter, the rustic strawberry galette. I grabbed bits and pieces of recipes online and created this crazy little thing. Sure, sweet strawberries and a delicious shortbread-like crust would probably be enough but what if we mixed a nutty delicious flavor? So I whipped a homemade almond paste to spread under the strawberries before baking. I’ll wait for you to stop drooling before I go on……. you good now?

This dessert got yum’s, and mmmmm’s, and oh man’s, and wow’s from everyone that tried it. Oh, and if you don’t have a powerful food processor I would go ahead and buy the pre-made almond paste from the grocery store in the baking section.

A few notes while making this stuff:

  • My crust was a little too soft, when I folded it over the strawberries it stretched a bit too much and in parts it leaked juices while baking. I believe that I used a bit too much water during mixing, I was slightly impatient and got ahead of myself. Don’t do that.
  • The almond paste was not quite sweet enough for me. Maybe adding more powdered sugar would help? Maybe adding less sugar to the strawberries? Either way, something to keep in mind. On second thought, maybe a delicious almond pastry cream would be a nice additional layer? That is a thought for another day though.
  • And last but not least, 3/4 of the way through baking I slid a baking sheet under to catch the juices that spilled out. Cause I’m smart like that… except it was just that I saw it leaking all over the bottom of my oven.


Strawberry Galette

Crust (ingredients and directions courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3 tablespoons ice water (I used one more because I was impatient… restrain yourself!)

Filling

1 lb ripe strawberries, washed, hulled, and cut into halves or quarters (I had a 1/2 flat so I weighed them in a Ziploc on the bathroom scale. Sometimes you have to improvise)

1/4 scant cup of sugar, depending on the sweetness of the berries, plus 1 T. for sprinkling

1 T. flour

juice from a clementine or half a small orange or tangerine

Homemade Almond Paste (recipe & directions below)

To make the crust: Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a processor. Add the butter. Pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the ice water and pulse until moist clumps form. Gather the dough into a ball; flatten into a disk. (If the dough still crumbles and does not form into a ball, add another tablespoon of ice water.) Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

For the filling: Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the strawberries, sugar, flour, and juice in large bowl; toss gently to blend. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, dust a large sheet of parchment paper with flour and, working quickly so that the dough does not get warm, roll out the dough on the paper to an 11-inch round. Transfer the dough on the parchment paper to a heavy large baking sheet. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the berry mixture over the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the dough border over the filling to form an 8-inch round, leaving the berries exposed in the center. Pleat loosely and pinch the dough to seal any cracks. Brush the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Bake the galette until the crust is golden and the berries are bubbling but not disintegrated about 35-40 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack; cool for 10 minutes. Slide a metal spatula under the crust to free the galette from the baking sheet. Giada says to serve lukewarm but ours was totally cool when we ate it and it was delicious. I also whipped up some heavy cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar to plop on top. Yum!!

Homemade Almond Paste (from Two Tarts)

3 cups raw almonds (not roasted, or the blanching step will not work correctly)

3 cups powdered sugar

2 egg whites

Heat a big pot of water to boiling. Dump a scant 3 cups of almonds into the boiling water and boil for one minute. Drain immediately and let cool for a few minutes before peeling their loose brown skins off…. and by peel I mean squeeze and they will pop out, sometimes flying across the room. Super fun to do with kids! Discard skins.

Re-measure the 3 cups of blanched almonds to make sure you have exactly 3 cups – you may have a few extra because they expand in hot water. Add the 3 cups of blanched almonds to a food processor with a 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, this will ensure that your almonds don’t turn into almond butter if you accidentally go too long. You want to let it run until the almonds are broken down into very very tiny pieces – 1-2 minutes.

Next add the remaining cups of powdered sugar and let run for another 1-2 minutes. Take your time on this step – you want to get the mixture as finely ground as possible. Once you add the egg whites, the whole mixture will ball up into a very firm and sticky mass and unless you have a really powerful food processor you will not be able to process it much past this point!

Last step – add the 2 eggs white and process until they’re fully incorporated. Store tightly sealed in airtight containers, after I used what I wanted I stuck it in the freezer…. currently taking suggestions as to how to use it next!

Alright, start baking and let me know how you like it!

February 24, 2012

When you need a treat….

Happy Friday! Today is a full blown TGIF for me. I need some sweat pants. And a sweatshirt. And a ponytail. And maybe some wool socks. Occasionally you have a week that requires you to treat yourself at the end of each day as if to say: “Congratulations self, you got through today and you’re still alive.”

I said alive, I didn’t say without bumps, bruises, and mascara streaks running down your face.

I think we should all celebrate that we get through our week…. whether it was good, bad, hectic, slow, boring, or exciting.

This little treat made its way into my kitchen and will now be a super quick – go-to – everyone will love them – dessert. Crispy wonton outside, warm melty Nutella inside. Drool. I believe that you could put anything in a wonton and it would be good. I think tonight I might chop up some banana and sauté it with brown sugar and butter and put THAT inside the wonton. You could make a strawberry balsamic reduction to go inside. Or delicious apple chunks with cinnamon. The choice is yours my friend. When it’s all fried and crispy you will have a sweet beautiful little pillow on which to lay your head.

Did I just go too far?

Instead of a recipe I will just tell you to go buy a package of wonton wrappers and fill them with amazingness. You can cut out a shape with a cookie cutter, you could fold each square corner to corner, or you could make a giant wonton by sealing 2 sheets together. Use your finger and some water to “glue” the sheets. Meanwhile you’ll want to heat up one to two inches of canola oil a deep skillet. I don’t use a thermometer but if you flick some drops of water into it and it splatters all over your stove making a decent sized mess, you’re good to go. I would cook 2-3 at a time depending on how big your skillet is. Cook each side until it is a nice golden brown then drain on a paper towel (I mean, who needs those calories?) before serving.

Seriously, treat yourself to something delicious this weekend. You deserve it!

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February 17, 2012

You say it’s your birthday?!

You deserve a special breakfast! You deserve some cake! You deserve sprinkles! You deserve all of it put together! What!?!?! From all my exclamation points you’d think I’d already had my sugar intake for the day…. But birthdays are something to get excited about (!!!!). I don’t care how old you are, you are never too old for sprinkles. Or glitter. But that is a different story.

My little man-child turned 8 last week. He is a big huge lovey dovey sweetie pie. I hope he reads this when he’s 30. To give him an idea of just how much I love him I decided to make him a special birthday breakfast. Bacon? Been there. Waffles? Done that. This year it was time to bust out the Cake Batter Pancakes.

 

This is a pancake from scratch with a few twists to it. The most interesting twist? No maple syrup on top… it’s an icing drizzle! Did you know that when you need a sweet fix you can just eat icing drizzle? You didn’t?? Obviously you’ve never met my cousin. I remember going to find a snack in the kitchen only to discover him eating icing drizzle from a bowl. Milk, powdered sugar, and vanilla. How was that even allowed? I have no idea where our parents were! This memory totally stuck with me. And I hope this birthday breakfast memory sticks with my little dude.

 

Birthday Cake Pancakes (adapted from How Sweet It Is – you should absolutely check out Jessica’s blog, I do daily!)

makes about 12 pancakes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2/3 cup yellow cake mix (I used Betty Crocker Golden Vanilla)

3 tablespoons sugar*

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-2 cups milk (I started with a cup and used more the thin the batter out)*

assorted sprinkles

Combine flour, cake mix, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl and mix. Add 1 cup of milk, egg and vanilla extract and stir until smooth.  Add milk if needed, the kind of cake mix you use causes the consistency to vary.

Preheat a skillet on medium heat. Fold desired amount of sprinkles into batter. Use a 1/4 cup to pour batter onto the skillet. Cook until bubbles form on top, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook for 1 minute more. Serve with icing drizzle.

*Jessica’s recipe called for almond milk and 1 tablespoon of sugar. I didn’t have almond milk and opted for regular which is why the batter needed more than a tablespoon of sugar. Make sure you taste your batter always, it is a life rule!

 
Icing Drizzle

1 cup powdered sugar

1 – 2 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

assorted sprinkles

Mix milk, extract and powdered sugar until glaze forms. You may need to add a little more milk to reach desired consistency. Drizzle onto pancakes and top with additional sprinkles!

February 14, 2012

The Pie of Love

And we’re back to the man and his stomach. Mostly around birthdays and Valentine’s day I get this urge to recreate his favorite desserts from years past. I’m moving onto the Sour Cream Cherry Pie. What the heck is that? Let’s just say that ‘sour’ and ‘cream’ are practically curse words to me. And they really should never be used with ‘cherry’ and ‘pie’! BUT, we all do things we don’t really actually like for those that we love. This is why I wash my sons clothes, clean the toilet, and clip toenails (!!!).

I feel as though I’ve gotten off track…… ah yes. PIE. I very recently recreated the perfect pie crust, either by amazing unfathomable skill or by dumb luck (jury is still out), that my grandma Ginnie gave me. She is amazing. Seriously y’all. All I need is the filling and topping recipe.

I played 21 questions about the pie with he whom I love.

Where did you have this pie? Plush Pippin, my girl friend in high school used to work there and I’d sit at the counter and eat a slice everyday.

Uh… awesome. Does this place exist? No they all closed down.

Are you sure there is sour cream in the pie? Yes.

Did it look like this? (picture from Google) Eew no.

Was the sour cream on top? Yes, like a meringue.

Ah-ha! So a meringue made of sour cream? Yes.

And it wasn’t fluffy? No.

It had a slight crunchy crust to the topping?

Yes. Ok now I know where to start.

12 hours later I’m all over the place looking at recipes and pictures and nothing seems right! There is no record of a sour cream meringue recipe! There’s some with cream cheese… maybe he meant cream cheese?? I’m searching for Plush Pippin all over the place… turns out it was purchased by another company in 1995 and that company had a website with a ‘contact us’ form. Well, why not? Enter awkward email to company asking for a recipe so I can bake a pie for my boyfriend. The e-mail remains unanswered.

And then the light bulb dings. Preeeeetty sure the sour cream is IN the filling and it’s just a regular meringue. How did I figure this out? Y’all, I have my GED, that’s how smart I am. I kid. Kind of. But from the sour cream cherry pie recipes I’m finding they all show the sour cream in the filling. My powers of reasoning are astounding.

And so, the testing begins. I found a recipe for filling that sounds just like my grandma’s cherry pie but with sour cream mixed in. I called my amazing Grandma to get her trusty meringue recipe and you know what she uses? Betty Crocker. Of course. Then she talked about “weeping” for 20 minutes and how I better not ruin the pie with the “weeping.” Believe me, I might be weeping before this pie is complete.

Last night in a frantic state I made the pie in record time… all before he got home from work. Thanks to the super awesome Ariel for helping me bust it out. Here is where I would normally insert the recipe and picture but I think I’ll wait on that until he’s tasted it and given it the thumbs up or thumbs down. If it’s a thumbs up I’ll post it tomorrow! If not? I’ll take constructive criticism and make a better one!

Happy Valentine’s Day Friends!!!!

February 5, 2012

Are you ready for some football??

I love special occasions. Special Occasions = fancy baking! I rarely make a cake or a pie unless I know other people will be around to eat it. So when the Super Bowl comes along not only do I get excited for the commercials, the friends, the eggrolls made with love by Chan, and the grid thing that I buy a square on even though I don’t know what it all means…….. I also get to bake!

This year the teams playing just HAD to have the same color schemes so I tried to get creative. I had grand plans of Giants cupcakes with white icing and dark blue logos on top and Patriots  cupcakes with dark blue icing and white fondant stars on top.  However, I learn by trial and error and this is no exception.

Did you know that when using candy melts you need to use an oil based food coloring and not water based?  I sure didn’t until yesterday! Now I know for next time. I decided that I would make a template that I could use under parchment paper to create the NY Giants logo.  I planned to use a pastry bag and small round tip but I discovered at the last minute I didn’t have the right size coupler (I mean, don’t we ALL go through that at least once in our lives?). I got inventive and found an empty squeeze bottle that was used at a party a couple years ago for soy sauce in the buffet line.  It totally worked. So I just traced the logo template I had made and let them dry and harden.

For the Patriots topper I had planned to cut white stars out of fondant and then put a small red star in the center with a red food coloring pen. That didn’t really work so it’s just white stars on blue icing.

Despite my awesome ideas, they pretty much failed but I put my thinking cap on and made the best of it. And really? No one is paying attention to the toppers during the game anyway!

January 31, 2012

Snack Attack!

Now here is a snack I can get behind. It’s not pumped full of sugar…. Like that bag of banana only Runts I ate the other day. Sure the salt content might be slightly high for some but let’s face it, I’ve always been a salt fanatic and I don’t know if it will ever change. One time a doctor of kinesiology told me that my body has a hard time absorbing water which causes my body to crave salt so I will drink more water. I prefer to believe this reasoning when I’m starting to feel guilty for my salt intake.

Saturday I went to help my amazing, beautiful, hilarious, and slightly overwhelmed pregnant sister with reorganizing the kids rooms before baby number 3 comes. I got snacky because, whoops I forgot to eat…. Like, at all. While raiding her fridge I saw this jar of artichoke spread and we promptly started eating it with tortilla chips. I kept thinking that it was good but it could be better and really how hard could this be to just whip up myself? So I did.

You guys… this could be trouble. Not only is it so versatile that you could pretty much add anything to it, you could also put it on everything! The basics of this recipe are artichoke hearts, green olives, kalamata olives, lime juice, fresh parm, and a little olive oil. Do you know what else you could put in it? Black Olives. Green Onions. Feta. Cucumber. Sun Dried Tomatoes (unless you’re me). Pistachios! Ariel suggested bacon. She’s the brains in the family. I mixed it all up in my food processor but you could totally give everything a rough chop for a chunkier dip. By using the food processor you could use this in place of mayo on a sandwich, in place of pesto on pasta, and in place of ice cream for dessert…. I’m kidding…. kind of. So let’s get to it. This will take you less than ten minutes I promise.

Artichoke Spread

One jar of artichoke hearts in water (the jar I got was 9.9 oz and was purchased at New Seasons)

15 Kalamata Olives

4 oz Green Olives (mine had pimento in them)

¼ cup freshly grated parmesan

½ fresh squeezed lime

drizzle of olive oil (optional)

Process all ingredients in a food processor, drizzle in olive oil if needed while it’s processing.

We spread this deliciousness onto slices of baguette and baked at 400 for about 6-7 minutes. Then we switched to broiling on high for a minute or two. Yum! In case you’re wondering how addictive this is…. I had 4 of those little breads. But I totally did my 30Day Shred DVD afterwards so it’s ok…. right?

January 23, 2012

Football and Lemon Bars

Did you know that during the winter months in Oregon there is a severe lack of daylight? This seasonal lull makes you want to stay inside, curl up with a book, and sit next to the men folk while they watch football. And if you’re me….. it makes you want to bake.

While I was baking yesterday some kicker missed a kick in the final seconds of the game but I was a little distracted by sifting flour and powdered sugar together for the most delicious of all crusts. Do I lose awesome girlfriend points for that?

Yesterdays foray into baking consists of lemon bars. I am not a huge fan of lemon. They are sour. The lemon juice burns tiny little cuts in your cuticles, which reminds me of my childhood when I was a terrible nail biter. I’ve never had a lemon meringue pie. I’ve never liked lemon scones. It took being an adult for me to enjoy lemonade that didn’t have strawberries in it and it took a friend who was superb at baking for me to try a lemon bar. Well, I’ve been hooked since then. I’m so particular in fact, that I won’t actually eat a lemon bar anywhere else. We all have our issues OK?

If you are against lemons bars make it anyway, even if you don’t like them someone will praise you for them. If you love lemon bars, watch out, you might want to make this recipe your new go-to.

Lemon Bars (adapted from a recipe by Mindi Forrest)

Crust
3 C Flour
1 C Powdered Sugar
1 ½ C cold butter (three sticks, cubed)
2 Tbsp Lemon Zest

Filling
6 Eggs
3 C sugar
Zest of 3 lemons (Um, I totally didn’t do this)
1 C plus 2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice (I juiced 3 lemons and got just under 1 cup of juice and topped it off with bottled lemon juice)
½ C Flour
Additional powdered sugar for cooked bars

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Sift flour and powdered sugar together. Cut in butter and lemon zest. You can do this with a pastry mixer or use a food processor, like I did. Press dough into 9×13 pan (but only after you have sampled the dough, you know, for quality assurance). Bake crust for 15 minutes (or 21 if you’re me) until golden.

Beat eggs, sugar, zest, and lemon juice. Then beat in the flour. Pour filling over hot crust and bake for 40 minutes or until set. (This took 40 minutes exactly)

Sift powdered sugar over bars after they have cooled for about 15 minutes. Let the bars set up before cutting into them, otherwise they will be gooey like in my picture. I was impatient and losing natural light.

January 20, 2012

Can anyone hear me?

Sometimes eating together just isn’t meant to be. I had grand plans of a family meal the other night and sitting down to a delicious dinner that I’d never made for them before. We would talk about our days at work and school and the possibility of WinterStorm2012 coming our way the next day.

However, one child was at the other parents house, one is super popular and out with friends, one just wants cereal and my adult counterpart was hooked to catching up on Grimm in his office. I decided I would get caught up with the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills while I ate. See? We all win.

I made the entrée anyway. I pretty much gave up on side dishes because us adults are on leans and greens during the dinner hour. With no kids, I didn’t have to find a suitable starchy side. How did it turn out? Well he didn’t quite pause the episode of Grimm to come tell me it was delicious… but he did clean his whole plate…. I’ll take it.

Salmon with Honey Balsamic Glaze (adapted from Michael Chiarello)

Slab of salmon (yeah I said slab, I just used a third of my enormous Costco salmon)
Sea Salt
Pepper
½ C Honey
¼ C Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard (I had Jack Daniel’s brand on hand)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Sprinkle both sides of salmon with salt and pepper. Coat the baking dish you are using with olive oil or cooking spray and place the salmon in it.

In a small glass bowl, microwave the honey for 30 seconds to make it easier to mix. Add balsamic and mustard and whisk until well blended.

Pour half of the glaze on the salmon and bake for 15-17 minutes (depending on the thickness and desired rare/medium/well status). Halfway through baking pour on the rest of the glaze. Make sure to spoon some on top of the finished product!

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