Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cookie Carnival: Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Just under the wire for August!  Whew!

The recipe was for hazelnut biscotti originally, but I can't stand hazelnuts, and it is all about me.  So almond it is!

This recipe came together very easily.  The boy and I made the dough pretty quickly.  I shaped the logs using my favorite trick of putting plastic bags on my hands.  It works well.  He measured with our food safe ruler.  (Yes, I am that anal.  I measure)  We used two baking sheets, which was a really good thing.  Our 2 1/2" wide logs of dough turned into about 8" of biscotti.

I liked them after the first bake.  You know, you have to taste.  I really liked them after the second bake.  I cut the big logs in half.  That way I got more cookies, and really, smaller cookies have fewer calories.  Unless you eat more of them.  Which I would never do.  Really.

I'd certainly make this again.  This is one of the cookies I'm sending off as a Baking Gal.  My items are ready to go.  Now if the post office would just get me those boxes....

Here is the whole rack of them cooling.  I love the way the chocolate chips and almonds show up against the cookie.

And a close up of sorts.  I really need to get a better camera.  Or better photography skills.  It could go either way.

I'm excited to see what the Cookie Carnival will bring next month.  Woo hoo!

Monday, August 25, 2008

TWD: Move along. Nothing to see here

Sorry, folks.  I just couldn't get my act together to make the wonderful Chocolate Banded Ice Cream Torte chosen by Amy of Food, Family, and Fun.  

I'm two weeks behind on big bags 'o veggies.  I have two batches of cookies to make for my Baking Gals soldiers.  School started for my two children this past Thursday.  (You sensing a theme here?  Too bad I can't say I've only gained two pounds)

Ok, enough whining and moaning.  I'll be back in the baking saddle next Tuesday.  We're making Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters chosen by Stefany of Proceed with Caution.  I think I've made these before, but I really can't remember.  I hope that's just because I'm getting old and not because they weren't memorable.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The best thing I've made lately

I made some caramel ice cream earlier this summer.  It called for a can of dulce de leche.  I bought a can from the grocery store (in the Hispanic Kosher section).  It was lovely, but I thought to myself, "Hey, I could probably make this!"  And then the research started.

I discovered ways to make it where you put a can in a pot of water, cover it with water, and let it simmer for three hours.  Of course, you have to top it off and make sure that the can doesn't explode.  Too much effort.

Here's a pretty labor intensive recipe that requires a lot of stirring.

David Lebovitz makes his in the oven with a number of pans and hot water.

And then, there was this recipe.  Seriously, it was a no-brainer.  I'll put it in a nutshell for you:  Take the label off of a can of sweetened condensed milk.  Put in in your empty slow cooker.  Fill the slow cooker with water making sure to completely cover the pan.  Put the lid on the slow cooker.  Turn it on low.  Walk away for 10 hours.  Turn off the slow cooker.  Let the water and can cool.  Gorge yourself on amazing, sweet, caramely dulce de leche.

Seriously, I had to stop myself from just eating it with a spoon.  At least when people were watching.

I have no photo because most of it went into caramel ice cream.  And the rest mysteriously disappeared.  I'm still looking into it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

TWD: Granola Grabbers

I love cookies.  I love cookies of all kinds.  I have been baking cookies for at least 30 years.  (I started REALLY young)  It's very possible I have a new cookie to add to my top five.  It's not quite my favorite, but it's close.  Michelle, from Bad Girl Baking, I cannot thank you enough for choosing this recipe.

One thing that put it at the top of my list.... I actually had all of the necessary ingredients.  And the list, I might add, was extensive.  Wheat germ, raisins, peanuts (I had honey roasted.  Mmmmm),toasted almonds, coconut*, granola (I used Trader Joe's Low Fat Almond), and, did anyone else notice one ingredient that was missing?  Of course!  Chocolate chips!  How could these cookies not have chocolate chips?  I'm sure it was just an oversight.

It came together very easily in just two bowls!  For Dorie, that's a light recipe.  They needed a bit of coaxing to stay in a ball-like shape.  They baked up golden brown and yummy looking.  We did discover that if you tried to eat one before it cooled, it did tend to fall apart a little.  Lesson learned.

Look at these lovely lovely cooling cookies.

These cookies were so good!  The granola gave it this wonderful crunch.  The sweet and salty of the fruits and nuts blended amazingly well.  These cookies did not last long in my house.  I don't think that the kids would be able to eat them as after-school snacks because I think I would eat them long before then.

Here is a close up of a now cooled, just about to be eaten cookie.  Mmmmm.

And another one.  Just look at all that chunky goodness.

I let the wheat germ and raisins fool me into thinking these were healthy and perhaps ate a few more than I should have.  Ah well.  That just means I'll have to make them again!

*Just a side note.  I HATE coconut.  Hate hate hate it.  You know the scene in the movie, "Big" when he's eating caviar and spits it out?  That's me and coconut.  In this cookie, I didn't mind the coconut.  That's how much I like this cookie.

I think I'm taking a pass on next week's recipe.  Amy of Food, Family, and Fun chose the Chocolate Banded Ice Cream Torte, which looks amazing.  School will just be starting, I'm being a Baking Gal, and my hips are ever widening.  Something has to give.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Everything deserves adoration

I was skimming my local newspaper today when an ad caught my eye.  It was for the Holy Comforter Church.  The first time I read it, I saw Holey.

I wondered what their services were like.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A big bag 'o veggies and the husband's ice cream pick

More veggies!  It's like they keep bringing them every week or something.  This week's bag:  a giant tomato (salad tonight), green beans (roasted with olive oil and onions), blueberries, basil, and sweet corn (sauteed with zucchini).

Apparently, I stored the basil incorrectly, because it got all wilty.  Good thing I'm growing my own.  I've really enjoyed this experiment.  I'll admit that there were times that I just pitched stuff after letting it sit and moulder for a couple of weeks.  But we've tried and even liked some new veggies.

I'd never taken the corn off of a cob before.  It was amazingly easy.  I sauteed it in a little olive oil and butter and tossed in a zucchini from the previous week's bag.  A dash of salt and pepper and even the kids ate it!  The onions from tonight's dinner were from last week as well.  They added a nice flavor component to the beans.

We made the husband's ice cream today.  Honey with Toasted Sesame Seeds.  It was very creamy and I liked the sesame taste.  The honey was a bit much for me, but I'm not particularly a fan of honey.

I've already made next week's TWD.  I may have to make them again.  And again.  And again.

Monday, August 11, 2008

TWD: Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream

Yeah ice cream!  We love ice cream!  As a matter of fact, this has been quite the ice cream summer for us.  We broke out the Cuisinart, and each of us, in rotation, has chosen a "flavor of the week."  The husband was amenable and "chose" this flavor for one of his weeks.  Thanks!

This was another Dorie recipe that I really wanted to like.  I think the blueberry world conspired against me a little.  The sweetness and sheer blueberryness of the berries plays a huge factor in the finished product.  While mine was a lovely blue/purple color, it had a decidedly sour flavor.  The lemon zest and juice and sour cream were stronger flavors than the berries.  Bummer.  Mind you, we still ate it.  We're not that foolish.

As far as many Dorie recipes go, this one was pretty simple. There was minimal cooking, mixing, and dishes.  I made the mix the night before I churned it.  Just a plug here for the Cuisinart ice cream maker.  We've used it over and over this summer.  It's been great fun and it's amazingly easy to use.  All for under $50, too!

I may try this recipe again and cut down on the lemon portion.  I've also seen some successes with frozen berries.  If at first you don't succeed....

Here's a blurry shot of the ice cream with some whole berries that I popped in at the end.  Note the lovely purple color.

Here's a much less blurry shot of the scooped ice cream.  

Thanks to Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity  for choosing this week's recipe.  Next up:  Granola Grabbers courtesy of Michelle of Bad Girl Baking.  

Thursday, August 07, 2008

My Favorite banana cake recipe

I was talking smack about Dorie's banana cake.  I said mine was superior.  Here's your opportunity to try it for yourself.  I've been making this cake since I was about 15.  I'm not even going to let you do the math to figure out how long ago that was.  It was the recipe that my brother's then girlfriend used.  It has become a staple.  I'm pretty sure that it's similar to any number of other banana cakes.  This one is just the one that works well for me.  Here it is:

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

1/2 c. shortening (I use butter)
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
3 bananas  (you can mash ahead of mixing if you'd like)
1 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
3/4 t. salt
1/2 c. buttermilk (or sour milk -- just add 1/2 t. vinegar to milk and let it sit)
12 oz of chips (I'll sometimes use a combo of chocolate, peanut butter, butterscotch or toffee)

Cream the butter and shortening in ONE bowl.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Beat well after each addition.  Add the bananas to the bowl.  (I rarely mash them first.  I let the mixer do it for me)  Add the vanilla.  I add 2/3 c. flour, the salt and soda and blend.  Then half the milk.  Then 2/3 c. flour, and then the rest of the milk.  Then I add the last bit of flour.  ONE bowl.  I throw in any combination of chips.  To keep them from sinking, you can add them when you add the last bit of flour.  It coats them a little.

350 degree oven.  Greased 13 x 9.  Pour it in.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Baking time really depends on the size of your bananas. Watch for the top to be a really nice golden brown.  I will occasionally frost this cake, but mostly I just eat it out of the pan.

This version has chocolate and butterscotch chips.  It's so moist that it needs to be eaten with a fork.  Or, you could just lick your fingers.  A lot.  

See the knife just waiting in the pan?  That's so I can cut off little pieces every time I walk by.  If I don't have a big piece, there are no calories.  

Here's a profile picture.  You can see the butterscotch and chocolate chips.  Mmmmm.

And another close up.  The edges get all brown and caramely.  Mmmmmm.

So give this one a whirl.  You won't regret it!  Well, maybe your hips will.....


Monday, August 04, 2008

TWD: Black and White Banana Loaf

For me, banana cake is fast, easy comfort food.  It's sort of the equivalent to Mickey and Judy saying, "Hey, I've got a barn!  Let's put on a show!"  and everything comes together quickly, easily, and everyone's happy in the end.  I say, "Hey, I have black bananas, let's make a cake!"  And then I throw it all together in a bowl, bake it, and everyone's happy in the end.  Then I eat it.  Perhaps while I'm making myself sound old while referring to movies made a very long time ago.  Anyway, my point is, banana cake is quick, accessible, and delicious.  Except when it's not.

See, black banana.  Ready for baking.

Ashlee of A Year in the Kitchen chose Dorie's Black and White Banana Loaf.  It was a good cake.  It tasted fine.  It looked good.  I didn't have the underbaking problem that lots of other bakers have.  Here's why I won't make it again, though.  It was very fussy.  In reading the recipe, Dorie calls for four separate bowls.  Four.  Plus the loaf pan, measuring spoons, rubber spatula, measuring cup, paddle attachment, and either an insulated baking sheet or two regular baking sheets.  That's just too much.  For me anyway.  And for my husband who does the dishes.  

My favorite banana cake with chocolate chips uses one bowl.  One.  (I'll post that recipe later this week)

Ok, so fine, it uses a lot of dishes.  If it was amazing, I could say, "So what if it uses a lot of dishes.  It's amazing!"  However, it wasn't.  It was good.  For me, it didn't have enough banana flavor.  I over-bananaed it as well.  It called for one and a half bananas, I used two large bananas.  The chocolate wasn't strong either.  It was a little muddied.  Mostly I just tasted sweet.

Here it is all swirly and ready to go into the oven.

Not so swirly anymore.  

The beauty shot.

Maybe I'm just used to my favorite recipe.  I don't know.  I like the moist banana cake with a hit of chocolate from the chips.  It was good that I tried another version.  Now I'm convinced I have the best recipe in my files already.

Ah well.  Upward and onward.  Next week:  Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream chosen by Dolores of Chronicles of Culinary Curiosity.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Big bag 'o veggies and other scintillating stuff

Another big bag 'o veggies was dropped off on my doorstep on Friday.  This one has arugula, beets, collards, Italian parsley, peaches, green beans, and summer squash.

Unfortunately, we're not eating at home much this week.  I'm trying to figure out some things I can do.  I used a  little of the parsley with dinner Friday (Rice and Orzo Pilaf), but I'm not cooking a real dinner again until Wednesday.  Hmmmmm.  The husband likes beets.  Maybe I'll cook some of those up so he can take them to lunch or something.  

I bought a panini press on e-bay the other day.  (Odd side note -- my spell check recognizes e-bay but not panini)  Perhaps some sandwiches with arugula?  I'm a little done with the collards.  They really require bacon to taste good, and then it's just all about picking out the bacon pieces.  Alright, maybe I'll try once more.

It's been glorious weather here.  Sunny and slightly warm.  We've try to be outside as much as possible.  As much, that is, when the kids can be lured away from our various electronics.  

My rhubarb seems to be growing.  It's still kinda short, but I see a little new growth at the base.  Anyone know what to do with it over the winter?  I'll have to research. 

I made that microwave chocolate cake for one last night for the kids.  Ok, cake for two.  It had a good taste but an odd texture that they didn't enjoy.  I'm sure it's from the microwave.  And now that I look at the recipe again, it could be from the 2 T. of vegetable oil I forgot to put in.  Ooops.

That's all the news that isn't (Thanks, Garrison!)  I'll be back on Tuesday with my Dorie recipe.