Monday, June 30, 2008

TWD: Apple Cheddar Scones

We were pretty excited at my house when Karina of The Floured Apron chose these scones.  First off, I really enjoy a good scone.  I make them occasionally, but now I have even more reason to make them more often.  My husband is a New England boy.  He tells me whenever I have apple pie that I should add a nice slice of cheddar to it.  I've seen him order an apple and cheddar omelette.  I knew this was right up his alley.

These came together incredibly easily.  I actually had all the ingredients on hand.  That included buttermilk and dried apples.  I chose to make the drop version because, quite frankly, it was easy.  I would say my only mistake was using a pre-grated cheddar cheese.  I have some eight year old cheddar that I thought about grating up.  But then I thought again.  It's too good for cooking.  Next go round, though, I'll use a stronger flavored cheddar.  And believe me, there will be a next go round.

The apples on the surface did brown a little quickly, but I liked the toasty taste.  They are best eaten the day they are made, but they were still pretty respectable two days later out of the toaster oven.  

Here it is just out of the oven.  Mmmmmm.


Here it is plated and seemingly upside down.  I can't get the Image Browser to cooperate with me.

Well, from any angle, it was delicious!  (See how I worked that in.  Made my mistake seem clever)

Next week is perfect for this weekend's festivities.  We'll be making and serving up Double Crusted Blueberry Pie.  Thanks Amy from South in Your Mouth for the choice.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

What to do with the big bag 'o veggies and other random thoughts

Friday's big bag was another BIG bag.  Lots of leafy greens again this week.  We have collards.  Almost every recipe I've seen contains bacon.  I think it's a law that you must cook collards with bacon.  Who am I to break the law?  Garlic scapes look like curly ribbon without the ridges.  Not sure what to do with those.  Maybe I'll cook them with the collards and bacon.  We have more lettuce and curly kale this week.  I'm not sure how curly kale is different from regular kale.  I'm pretty sure that one won't get eaten, however.  More cilantro!  That's a big yum for me.  I think I'll make more pesto and freeze it in an ice cube tray.  Since I'm the only one who really liked it, I'll make individual servings.  Last in our big bag were beautiful strawberries.  We've just been rinsing those and eating them out of hand.

I haven't done too much cooking in the past week.  Lots of nights out (tennis, t-ball, dinner with the girls, my anniversary --10 years, woo hoo!)  With the holiday weekend coming, there won't be a whole lot of cooking coming up.  The bag 'o veggies was to be delivered on Tuesday instead of Friday, so this week we cancelled.  It'll give me a chance to catch up.

A friend of ours made Alton Brown's smoker.  (Can't find the link.  Sorry!)  Every year, he makes pulled pork from a pork shoulder.  I made a deal with him this week.  I'll go to Costco and get the pork if he'll smoke it for a BBQ in the 4th.  Mmmmmm.  Smoked pork.  Mmmmm.

I made some strawberry rhubarb ginger ice cream the other day.  It was pretty tasty.  If I was to make it again, I'd make a few changes to the recipe.  But isn't that how things work?  We've figured out a rotation for choosing ice cream flavors to make.  Since I'm the cook, I chose first.  The girl gets the next choice.  Hers is chocolate ice cream with crumbled ginger snaps in it.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

Monsoon/hurricane season is back in Chicago.  To celebrate our anniversary, the husband and I stayed at the hotel where we were married in Evanston.  There was an art fair there this weekend.  A freak storm blew in and injured six people and destroyed lots and lots of art.  At least one of the potters lost everything.  Ouch.

I'll be back on Tuesday for my TWD post.  Until then.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

One (of the many) reasons I could never host a cooking show

I am a scraper.  I scrape every last bit off the beaters, spoon, and bowl.  Every.  Last.  Bit.  It pains me when I watch a cooking show, and they pour the batter into the pan (or whatever) and just put the spoon in the bowl and dump it in the sink.  They are leaving so much deliciousness behind!

This is also why I like deglazing pans.  Nothing goes to waste!  And then, of course, I scrape out all the saucy goodness onto whatever I cooked.

I'm pretty sure I own at least a half dozen rubber spatulas.  You can never have too many!  I even have a special rigid plastic scraper for the ice cream maker.

John, Martha Stewart's baking guy;  he's a scraper, too.  Maybe I could bake with him.  

Monday, June 23, 2008

TWD: Mixed Berry Cobbler

Beth of Our Sweet Life chose Dorie's Mixed Berry Cobbler.  I love me a good berry dessert.  I was a little apprehensive because of some of the comments from the other bakers.  I had heard that the topping was bland and too thick among other things.  I used some of that information and was able to turn out a pretty good product.

Dorie's original recipe calls for frozen berries.  I had some frozen and some fresh, so I did a mix.  I added ginger and cinnamon to the crust.  I sprinkled coarse sugar on the crust before baking.  It was thumbs up all around.  I made a half recipe and baked it in two little loaf pans.

It's hard to tell, but that's a 4 x 6 pan.  The crust looks golden brown and it smelled wonderful.   While it was a little thick, it was tasty enough that it didn't bother us.  The berries cooked up nicely, and the juice was thick and syrupy.  It was nice to be able to swish the crust around and pick up more of the berry juices.

We did enjoy it.  I'm not sure that I'm rushing out to make it again, though.  I have another recipe that I like better for for frozen berries.  Though, in the middle of winter, this might be a welcome touch of summer.

Up next week:  Apple Cheddar Scones chosen by Karina of The Floured Apron

Using up some stuff

Yesterday I decided to use up some of my veggies and a few other things I had hanging around the house.

Remember the ice cream with the six egg yolks?  (Which, on a side note was devoured by my husband's friends.  Thank you for saving my hips!)  That left me with six egg whites.  And did I mention that I have a pound of vanilla?  Naturally, that led to meringues.  I did a search.  Thank you internet!  I found a recipe for vanilla bean meringues.  I made those.  They were yummy.  (Another side note: I just realized that I forgot to add the liquid vanilla.  Hmmmm.)  They taste just like a crunchy toasted marshmallow.  Considering I'll be making more ice cream, I'm sure there will be more meringues as well.  They didn't puff up a whole lot, but that could be due to the oil content in the vanilla beans.   The link for this recipe is in the previous post.

Next up is the kale ragout.  The husband liked it.  The kids and I felt it was a little too bitter.  I'm glad to have tried it, but I don't think I'll be making it again.  Also from our big bag:  asparagus on the grill.  There's not much better.

The final effort is homemade vanilla extract.  I have an abundance of vanilla beans.  And I had a bottle of Absolut Citron that has been in my freezer for an inordinately long time.  It's never been opened.  Can you tell I'm not much of a drinker?  You just pour it in a jar, split open some beans and drop them in.  Keep it in a cool dry place, and in six or eight weeks I should have some interesting orange vanilla.  Here it is on day two.  I'll keep letting it steep and post pictures every once in a while.

Next post:  Tomorrow is a TWD!  I have reports, photos, and next week's treat!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

And here's another big bag 'o veggies

Here we have another Friday and another big bag 'o veggies.  And this week it really was big.  The last of the asparagus was delivered.  There was some more salad mix and a little bit of spinach.  New for this week were peas, pea vines, and kale.  Kale is huge!

The pea vines and kale threw me a little.  Unfortunately, the pea vines were a little slimy, so even had I known what to do with them, they were mostly unusable.  The kale is a little tricky.  Almost every recipe I've seen calls for a soup, stew, or pesto.  None of these are especially summery dishes.  The pesto would not make it past the lips of the boy or girl.  I know I'd get a "I like it, but it's not my favorite" at best.  I found this recipe that I thought might work.  I'm planning on serving it with a little grilled chicken.  We'll start with salad greens and I'll use the asparagus as well.  Woo hoo!  Three items in one meal.  I'll just snack on the peas.  Yum!

I'm using some of my vanilla beans and those six egg whites left over from the ice cream to make these.  I'll let you know how that turns out as well.

Oooh, and I used some of last week's chives to make Chive Cheddar Scones.  I found this recipe, and used chives instead of scallions.  I also cut it in half, because six scones was plenty.  They were eaten fairly voraciously.  I'll be making them again.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Some meals and musings

We're working our way through the bag 'o veggies.  On Monday night, I made a favorite side dish with a little twist.  It's a warm caramelized onion and lentil salad.  (recipe below)  I  got the recipe from Trader Joe's.  It's delicious and actually good for us.  And, at least the girl will eat it.  This time, I added some of the spinach.  I really liked it!  We also ate some of the salad greens as, you know, salad.

Tonight's dinner contained more salad greens and the turnips.  I never would have believed that I would eat turnips.  I roasted them with green beans, oil, salt and pepper in high heat.  They were great!  I'm pleased that we're discovering new foods (for us) and actually enjoying them.  Again, the girl ate them.  The boy not so much.

What they both discovered that they'll eat is coffee ice cream.  I bit the bullet and went whole hog.  And the whole nine yards and any other cliche I can think of.  I used six egg yolks, one cup of heavy cream, and two cups of whole milk to make this recipe.  Yes, there is certainly a difference in texture.  It was so smooth and silky and wonderful and I could have eaten the whole thing.  I limited us all to one small scoop.  Too much more would not have been good for our hearts.  

I used the strawberries from the big bag for the pound cake last night.  I must say I was a little disappointed texture-wise.  The taste of the cake was wonderful.  It was just a little drier than I would have liked.  It was at the short end of the baking time, and I know my oven temp was right on.  Anyway, with the strawberries and juice and Cool Whip (yes, Cool Whip), it was a wonderful treat.  I have a "go-to" pound cake recipe that I think I'll stick with.

Caramelized Onion and Lentil Salad

8 ounces lentils cooked according to directions (T J's sells this already cooked)
2 large onions, sliced
2 T. butter
1 T. oil
2 T. tomato paste
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
dash cayenne (I usually omit this.  Too spicy for the kids)
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onions low and slow in the butter and oil until they are a beautiful caramel color.  Add the tomato paste and chicken broth. (and in this past recipe, one pound or so of cleaned spinach leaves)  Let the broth cook down at a medium simmer until it is slightly syrupy.  Add the lentils back in.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot or warm.


Monday, June 16, 2008

TWD: You just need a little imagination

Well, I did end up baking, but I went back to the archives.  I need a dessert for tomorrow, but I really only wanted one step.  Don't get me wrong, the Peppermint Cream Puff Ring will be on my table one day.  Just not this one.

Instead, I made the Perfection Pound Cake.  Here it is just after it came out of the oven:  

Mmmm.  It's golden brown on the outside and it smells heavenly.  Here it is all wrapped up so it can "ripen" as Dorie recommends.

Now, tonight it will be sliced into slabs and covered with fresh strawberries macerated in a little sugar and an alcohol to be named later.  I will also put just a dollop of whipped cream on top.  I will not, however, have pictures.  It might be a little hard to explain to our hosts why it is I'm whipping out my camera and stopping everyone from enjoying the goodness.  

Never fear, though.  Next week I will be right back in the saddle.  The chosen recipe is Mixed Berry Cobbler.  YUM!  Thank you to Beth of Our Sweet Life for choosing the yummyness.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A new big bag 'o veggies and some other stuff

Whew!  I made it through the weekend.  It was a great one with lots of family and food, but I'm exhausted.  Friday night was a Shabbat service and family dinner of delicious Middle Eastern food.  Saturday started early with photos, and then my nephew's Bar Mitzvah.  He was fabulous, by the way.  A wonderful luncheon followed with some amazing desserts.  Another family dinner Saturday night with Italian food.  This morning was a brunch with some of the best bacon I have ever eaten.  Being Father's Day, dinner tonight was more meat.  I'm not sure that I need to eat for the next few days.  I'm pretty sure I consumed enough calories for the next week or so.

Good thing I have my veggie bag to counteract some of the cholesterol.  This week's offerings:  strawberries, salad mix, lettuce, salad turnips, chives, and spinach.  The salad mix and spinach will be part of dinner tomorrow.  I'm grilling lamb chops, so we'll try the mint honey that I made a few weeks back.  I'm percolating ideas for the rest of the veggies.

The strawberries will be used to top Dorie's poundcake.  It's how it will be a TWD this week.  We're out for dinner on Tuesday, and I can bake it on Monday.  Apparently, it gets better with age.  I'll post more about that on Tuesday.

A report on the banana ice cream -- first of all, there was a huge amount of the mix.  I didn't use it all, and it almost overflowed my ice cream maker.  I used the half and half from the last ice cream attempt also in place of heavy cream.  Again, we could taste the iciness.  I may have to bite the bullet and use the real stuff.

Hope all the dads out there had a nice day.  I'm missing mine something fierce.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Where I reach into my big bag 'o veggies

In our last two dinners, I used every last ingredient from my big bag 'o veggies!  Yes, I did!  Woo hoo!  I think it's the first time I've used everything.  We don't need to talk about the parsnips that are still in my vegetable drawer.  

Dinner last night was a big thumbs up from me, an "I'd eat it again" from the husband, and two "I like it, but it's not my favorite" votes from the kids.  I went a little Asian.  I made a cilantro and peanut pesto.  I tossed the cilantro, some sesame oil, a little olive oil, some peanuts, a little lime juice, and some ginger into the blender.  Pressed a button, and, bingo! we have pesto.  I really liked it, but I live cilantro.  I diced the tempeh and marinated it in a little soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil.  I sauteed it in some vegetable oil.  I really liked the crispy outside and the nutty taste.  (thanks for the really helpful suggestions Jayne and Barbara A!)  I served it over spaghetti.  The saute greens were the salad.  Overall, I really enjoyed the taste.  I liked experimenting a little and trying out the new flavors.  I might make it again, but only for me apparently.

Tonight was grilled asparagus, green garlic and creamed spinach, drop biscuits, and grilled steak.  The asparagus was wonderful as always.  I just toss it in olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss it on the grill.  The green garlic was new for me.  I modified my creamed spinach recipe a little.  I used the bulb of the garlic in place of the onions.  I cut up the leaves to add to the spinach leaves.  I thought it came out really well.  Nice garlic flavor without being overpowering.  The drop biscuits came from the web.  Simple simple recipe.  And they were warm and tasty.  

I have a plug for a local spice vendor.  The Spice House in Evanston, IL is amazing.  That's where I got the rub for the steak.  Tonight we used Ukrainian Village seasoning.  It's a great blend for so many foods.  Alas, there are no freebies for my plug.  It's just a great place with wonderful fresh spices and herbs.

I'll be a little MIA this weekend.  Big family goings on.  I'll tell you about the veggies when I can.  And probably use them the very same way.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Mmm mmmm mmm mmm mmmm

This week's TWD recipe was chosen by Marie of A Year in Oak Cottage.  She chose La Palette's Strawberry Tart.  It was certainly a good choice.

It's essentially a rich, buttery, short dough that is pressed into a tart pan and baked until it's slightly caramely and brown.  It's sliced and then topped.  This keeps the crust wonderfully crunchy.  Although the recipe is written for strawberries, the family and I sat around thinking up wonderful combinations for the crust.

This is the first time I changed up the recipe a little.  I had read about a few problems that people were having with crumbling when they were trying to slice the crust.  I decided to make individual servings using a muffin tin.  It was perfect.  We each had a wonderful little tart that we could dress as we chose.  The tarts were a little thicker than if I had used a larger pan, but it was so tasty that I didn't mind.  At all.  My photography still needs work, or maybe I just need a camera that does better close-ups.  Or both.

I will definitely use this recipe again.  It's great for slightly last minute because the butter needs to be cold.  Plus, since the dough has to be frozen for a bit before baking, I think it lends itself well to do-ahead crust making.  Then you just pop it in the oven when you're ready.  Remember the four pounds of rhubarb?  I see another tart in my future!

Next week won't be a TWD for me.  It's my nephew's bar mitzvah this weekend, and I have volunteered to bake.  I think that by Tuesday I will be baked out.  Caroline of A Consuming Passion has chosen a Peppermint Creme Puff Ring.  I have made cream puffs before, so I don't feel that I'm totally missing out.  Plus, the idea of the peppermint just doesn't sound so good.  Oh well.  There's always the Tuesday after that!

Some musings and some photos

Apparently we have a new season here in Chicago.  It's monsoon season.  It has rained every day for the past five days.  And it's not just little drizzles, it's RAIN.  And wind, hail, and all the accompanying mayhem.  We planted three little tomato plants and one strawberry plant that have been bruised and battered.  We'll see how they turn out.  This also means that we haven't been able to really play outside in almost a week.  The girl met some friends on Saturday for an ice cream and park play date, and we were barely there a half hour before it started raining.  The new Wii is a blessing and a curse.  It's keeping them occupied, but it keeps them yelling at each other as well.  Last week's t-ball game was rained out and the make-up game was subsequently canceled.  I'm not all that optimistic about tonight's game.

The vanilla ice cream was delicious.  Though, to be honest, it was a little grainy and icy.  I'm sure that's because of the lack of three egg yolks and the half and half substitution for the heavy cream.  The photos don't do it justice.  It's my uneaten bowl (orange) and the bowls of the boy and girl.  They didn't seem to mind the iciness at all.  It is served with some strawberry rhubarb sauce.

My next experiment is Alton Brown's Banana Ice Cream.  It calls for corn syrup, which I think helps with the consistency.  I may substitute some maple syrup for some of the corn syrup.  I think it will be tasty.

I found a local vendor, similar to my delivery vendor, who sells organic fruits and veggies.  And meats and cheese and loads of other stuff, but I went for one reason only.  Rhubarb.  As posted before, I love rhubarb.  He had it on sale this week.  I bought four pounds.  Yup, four.  I'll use one this week and dice and then freeze the other three.  Good thing I have a second freezer.

I'm all ready for my TWD post tomorrow.  And I can't wait to see what the new choice is.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Another big bag 'o veggies with a head scratcher

Ok, this bag has asparagus, cilantro, and spinach.  Three things that I love.  I can cook wonderful things with these ingredients.

It also came with those saute greens that you are supposed to eat raw.  I'm still working on something for those.  Perhaps I'll go out on a limb and saute them.  I'll let you know.

A new ingredient to me is green garlic.  I'm pretty excited about it.  It seems pretty ramp-like.  You use the bulb and the stem.  Maybe I'll cream the green garlic and spinach together.  Mmmmm.

And then, throwing me a total curve ball, there was a package of I don't know what.  I refer back to my sheet of information.  It's tempeh.  Mushroom flavored tempeh.  What the heck is tempeh?  Here is an explanation.  It's some odd looking stuff.  I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do with it.  Most recipes I've seen call for frying it.  I feel like that slightly defeats the purpose of "healthy.  Then again, the healthy label might be all in my head.  When (if) I decide to cook with it, I'm sure I'll post all about it.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Homemade ice cream rocks

In a wonderful convergence, the planets aligned, and I had all the stuff I needed to make vanilla ice cream.

There was finally space in the freezer for the icy bowl for the machine.  I had vanilla beans.  (more on those in a minute).  I was able to go to Trader Joe's and get the dairy ingredients.  Last night I made the custard.  This morning we assembled the machine, poured in the custard, and let it do its magic.  Mmmmmm.  The kids and I would have eaten the whole thing if I hadn't come to my senses.  It's in the freezer hardening up now.  We'll have it for dessert tonight with some more of the strawberry rhubarb compote that I made.  Mmmmmm.

The recipe was adapted from Cook's Illustrated.  I just don't have the courage to use six egg yolks, two cups of heavy cream, and two cups of whole milk.  I just couldn't do it.  It hurt my heart thinking about it.  Instead, I used three yolks and half and half.  By the way, this is from a 1993 edition of the magazine.  Chris Kimball had a lot more hair.


Now, about those vanilla beans.  I found a website that sold beans by the pound.  For a ridiculously low price.  I received the beans the other day.  They aren't the plumpest things around, but they'll do.  I'm going to give half to my sister in law, because I don't think I can use 100 or so beans on my own.  Any suggestions as to what else I can make?  I'll let you know what else I come up with.  Photos with the ice cream and sauce to be edited in later.

Monday, June 02, 2008

TWD: French Chocolate Brownies.

Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook chose the recipe this week.  They are French Chocolate Brownies.  Apparently, this started out as a cake recipe that didn't quite work.  Dorie calls for rum soaked and flambeed raisins.  The comments were fast and furious on the board.  It seems to be a love 'em or hate 'em situation with the fruit.  I gave them a try this past weekend.

Now, truth be told, I'm not the biggest fan of baking brownies.  I like them just as much as the next guy.  But if I'm baking, it's not something I usually make.  There are just too many other dessert recipes that I love.  In fact, brownies are the one food item for which I will actually use a mix.  I doctor up the Ghirardelli mix, and it's quite tasty.  

Having said that, I was all for a recipe for which I had all the ingredients.  I had some dried fruit left over from the granola bars the other day, so I decided to use that.  It's a mix of cherries, raisins, blueberries, and cranberries.  It was my first try at flambeing something.  It was fun!  Dork that I am, I actually turned out the light to see the flame better.  Dork.  The brownies came together easily.  I had read about people having lots of trouble with the top crust, but mine came out just fine.  I kind of liked the addition of the fruit.  The touch of cinnamon added an extra flavor note without being too overpowering.  The brownies were moist without being too fudgy.  The top was nice and shiny.

I enjoyed them.  The kids and the husband liked them as well.  I'm not sure I'm rushing out to make them again soon, but I'm glad to have tried them.

Up next week:  La Palette's Strawberry Tart chosen by Marie of A Year in Oak Cottage.  We're all pretty excited about this one.  Fresh strawberries are a favorite around here.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The last big bag 'o veggies for May

This week was a strange combination of things.  We have:  arugula, sunchokes, saute mix, radishes, sweet potato, and crimini mushrooms.

You may notice that I said sweet potato.  As in one.  One sweet potato.  Hmmmm.  And the saute mix?  It's "baby cooking greens that have a wonderful flavor raw."  That's from the newsletter.  Does anyone else see the irony in cooking greens that are wonderful raw?  Good.  It's not just me.  

I actually used five, count 'em, five things from my bag today.  I made radish pickles from a recipe in the newsletter.  I'll tell you how they turn out tomorrow.  They're supposed to sit for 24 hours before eating.  The vinegar did turn a lovely shade of pink already, though.  (Updated to add a photo and the decision that radish pickles are good!  Tangy and crunchy and yum!)

Dinner tonight was a salad made of the saute mix.  And they were pretty good raw.  I made a saute of the criminis and some onions.  Served that over flank steak.  I made a mash of the sweet potato and the sunchokes.  Normally, I love mashed sweet potatoes.  I microwave them until they are soft, mash up the insides in a bowl, add salt, pepper, butter, and maple sugar.  And then eat until I am full.  The sunchokes didn't really add much.  They contributed an earthy flavor that didn't compliment the sweet potato.  Oh well.  Live and learn.

I made, for the first time, homemade biscuits tonight.  I was surprised at how easily they came together.  They were very good tasting as well.  They were, perhaps, a little heavy.  I think with experience, I'll be able to use a lighter hand with them.

My TWD baking is complete.  I'll have full details tomorrow!