Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Strawberry Almond Tarts


A little while back I was contacted by Donsuemor to see if I wanted to participate in their Dessert-a-Day challenge in the month of October.  Now, being a newbie blogger, who is only blogging for fun and not trying to make money at it, this was pretty exciting!  Plus, I had already tried their Madeleines, and knew they were delicious........a win-win for me.

I was so excited when I get a box a couple of days later filled with Madeleines and Financiers (French Almond Cakes).  I'm guessing most people have tried Madeleines at one point or another (and if you haven't you are missing out), but have you ever tried a Financier?

No?  Then let me introduce you........

They are delightfully moist and tender almond cakes (in cute little tart shape).  These little bit size treats might surprise you at their intense almond-ness, but they are crazy delicious!  When I was initially figuring out what I was going to do with these I had plans on completely obliterating these to crumbs, then toasting the crumbs and using it as a pie or tart base.  I still will have to try that in the future, but once I tasted the cake-y moistness of these , I couldn't get myself to take that away from them.

Instead I decided to make a little bit-size (ok, maybe two or three bites) Strawberry Almond Tarts.  I have made full-size Strawberry Almond Tarts in the past, and I love that flavor combination.

For my pastry cream, I used a recipe from Dorie Greenspan.  To amp up the vanilla bean flavor I used my Nielsen-Massey vanilla bean paste, which gives the pastry cream all the beautiful little flecks of vanilla bean.  This pastry cream is a delicious base to use for so many different desserts....it's a great one to have in your arsenal.

I had some amazing strawberries to put on top, but any in-season fruit would be great...peaches, raspberries, blackberries.....

Strawberry Almond Tarts
makes 12 bite-sized tarts

12 financiers (french almond cakes)
pastry cream (recipe below)
strawberries

Cut stems off of strawberries.  With the cut side down, cut a deep 'x' into the tip of the strawberry, being careful not to cut all the way through the strawberry.  Spread the end slightly.

Using a pastry bag with any type of medium sized start tip, pipe pastry cream around the top of the financier in a circle.  Place a strawberry on top of the pastry cream, then place the tip of the pastry bag inside of the strawberry and fill with pastry cream.

For best appearance, serve these as soon as they are prepared, but they can be stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve them.

Enjoy!

Pastry Cream
adapted from Dorie Greenspan, Baking from My Home to Yours

2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (I used the same amount of vanilla bean paste instead)
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

In a medium sized saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until it is well combined and thick.  Continue to whisk while you pour in 1/4 cup of the hot milk (you are tempering the eggs).  Pour in the remainder of the milk while constantly whisking.  Place the pan over medium heat, and continue to whisk while the mixture comes to a boil.  Continue at a boil while still whisking for another 1 to 2 minutes and then remove from heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract or paste and let the cream sit for about 5 minutes before whisking in the bits of butter.  Stir until the butter bits are fully incorporated and the cream is shiny and smooth.  Transfer the cream to a bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming.  Place in refrigerator until the cream has completely cooled.

This post is linked to:
Tuesday Talent Show
Tasty Tuesday
Tuesday Tea Party
Crazy Sweet Tuesdays
These Chicks Cooked
Cast Party Wednesday
Bake with Bizzy
Full Plate Thursday
Turning the Table Thursday
Sweet Treats Thursday
Show Off Your Stuff
Friday Favorites
I'm Lovin' It
Fresh Food Friday
Sweet Tooth Friday
Friday Food
Sweets for a Saturday
Sweet Indulgences Sunday
Monday, Mmmmm.....Dessert

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Chocolate Caramel Bars

This is one of those desserts that I was sure was going to be great, but for one reason or another, kind of missed the mark.  I mean chocolate, caramel, and a cookie crust.....sounds great, right?

My main problem with these was really my fault.  I had tried putting these together while my boys were busy playing.  Trying to keep an eye on them and an eye on the temperature of my caramel caused me to overcook the caramel by a couple of degrees.  Rather than ending up with a yummy, chewy caramel layer....I had some spots that were rather crunchy and biting into it kind of caused the whole bar to start falling apart.

The hubby was not a huge fan of the chocolate layer (although I loved it)......he thought it was a bit too chocolate-y (which is what a non-chocolate lover would say!!).

Although I screwed these up, I would definitely try them again......Kierste from Brown Paper Packages raved about them....so I think I just missed the mark.

Check out Brown Paper Packages for the recipe.....and Enjoy!!

Friday, August 26, 2011

End of Summer Chili Pot


What do you do when your veggie bin is totally full but it's about 100 degrees outside?  During the fall and winter I would jump at the chance to make some yummy soup, but during the summer, no way!  For some reason, though, chili is not off limits to me when it's hot out.....is it because it's spicy?  I don't know, but I do know I love chili!  This recipe, from Abundant Harvest Organics (our CSA), uses all of those great veggies you get at the end of summer (corn, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers).  Add some ground turkey, and you've got a healthy pot of yumminess!

End of Summer Chili Pot

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil                                    
  • 1 lb ground beef, pork or turkey
  • 1 red onion, chopped                         
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped                            
  • 1 bell pepper (red or green), chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped    
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 ears corn, kernels scraped off        
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp sweet smoked paprika           
  • 12 ounces chicken or beef broth
  • 2-2 ½ cups diced tomatoes                
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp fresh thyme                             
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack or cheddar cheese


In a large heavy pot heat the olive oil.  Add the meat of choice, stirring to break up, until browned.  Stir in onion, garlic, zucchini, bell pepper and chilies; season with salt & pepper.  Stir in corn kernels, chili powder and paprika.  Cook until the veggies are softened, 6-7 min.  Stir in broth and cook until slightly reduced.  Stir in tomatoes, thyme and lime juice, cook another 5-8 min.  Cook until veggies are slightly tender, not mushy.  Serve with grated cheese.

Enjoy!!

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sprinkles Strawberry Cupcakes


Are you a Sprinkles Cupcakes fan?  I really love their Red Velvet mix you can get at Williams-Sonoma (ok, and their Pumpkin mix is pretty good too).....but the couple of times I have gone to an actual Sprinkles location, I've kind of been underwhelmed.  Please don't throw things at me now!!

That being said, when I saw this recipe for their Strawberry Cupcakes with Fresh Strawberry Frosting, I had to give it a try for two reasons.  One, I had a ridiculous amount of strawberries at home that we weren't eating fast enough, and two, I've never had a strawberry cupcake that really tasted like a real strawberry cupcake (I can't stand the artificial extracts some places use).

The recipe for the cupcakes is pretty straightforward.....the only additional step being that you'll have to puree your fresh (or thawed frozen) strawberries to use in the cupcake batter (you'll also need to do this for the frosting).  The frosting comes out a beautiful rose-y pink color......a perfect time to try out the rose frosting technique I keep seeing everywhere (although mainly on cakes).  It couldn't be simpler!  Check out i am baker for a great tutorial on how to do create the roses (using a 1M frosting tip, or any large open star tip).

The verdict on these beauties?  Definitely the best strawberry cupcake I've had!  It absolutely tasted of fresh strawberries!  The frosting was a little on the sweet side for me, but the hubby said it was great....and that's all I need.

Check out Oprah.com for the cupcake and the frosting recipes.....and Enjoy!!

Strawberry Cupcakes and Tres Leches Cupcakes
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Magic of Biscoff


Have you heard of Biscoff cookies?  They're a brand name of a speculaas cookie that is served on Delta airlines.  They are kind of a cross between a cinnamon graham cracker and a gingersnap.  For several years when I started working out of college, I was a consultant in the software industry, and travelled a lot!  Let me just say that I may have had one or two Biscoff cookies during that time (and may have stuck some in my bags to have later).  

Fast forward to the last couple of months, and all of a sudden I keep seeing mentions of these cookies.......people using the cookies in recipes for other cookies......recipes for the cookie itself....and then Biscoff spread (with ground up cookies in it!).  I couldn't find either the cookies or the spread in any of the grocery stores by me, so I ended up buying some of both online.  First up, the spread......

Holy guacamole.....is this stuff tasty!!  

I saw a recipe for Biscoff Oatmeal Cookies on Two Peas and their Pod and figured this was a good starting off point for my adventures with Biscoff.  Super easy to make......but soooo dangerous!  These cookies are good!!!  I had to start giving them away so I wouldn't eat them all......that was a real possibility with these.  Everyone I handed them out to agreed that these were great......really tasty and really chewy.  I can't wait to try some other recipes with this stuff!

In case you were wondering.....I ended up buying the spread here.

Check out Two Peas and their Pod for the recipe......and Enjoy!!

P.S. - Tonight is the last episode of Ludo Bites America on the Sundance Channel.....if you haven't seen it, check it out!!  I love me some Ludo!!  And tomorrow is the premiere of Season 2 of Top Chef: Just Desserts.......woo-hoo!!!!

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Plum Crumb Cake


Try to say that 5 times really fast.....Plum Crumb Cake....Plum Crumb Cake....nope....I can't do it!

In the last couple of weeks we have been getting beautiful red plums, green plums, and pluots in our weekly CSA box.  They are great to snack on, but the boys haven't discovered how yummy they are yet....so there was no way I was going to get through them all.

I found a recipe for an Apricot Crumb Cake from Nick Maglieri's book, How to Bake (a great all-around baking book!), which had a variation for making a Plum Crumb Cake.  The recipe sounded a lot like some of the Pflaumenkuchens we used to have at our house when I was growing up.  My mom is from Berlin, and growing up we always had a lot of German family friends....some of whom were great bakers.  Pflaumenkuchen seemed to be a common thing for them to bring over.....and I never appreciated how yummy it is when I was growing up (it always seemed like a grown-up dessert to me).  In fact, I never really liked any fruit-y desserts growing up....was much more of a chocolate kid.

Now, I'm still a chocolate person.....but I appreciate a good fruit dessert too!  This cake calls for about 12 plums (I used a few less because my plums were pretty large), cut in half.  Just place the plums, cut side up, on top of the cake batter.....sprinkle with the crumb topping....and bake.  The plums get soft and juicy, and turn a beautiful ruby color.  This would be a perfect afternoon dessert with coffee, although we had it for an evening dessert with ice cream.....no complaints here!

Check out Nick Maglieri for the recipe......and Enjoy!!

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Is It Fall Yet?


Is it Fall yet?  

Now that the kids are back in school I am more than done with the almost 100 degree weather that we are currently having.  I'm not much of a summer person anyways (at the least the summer heat)......but I LOVE Fall......it's definitely my favorite season.  

Whenever I need a little Fall fix, I think pumpkin.  Pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin cookies....it doesn't matter......the hubby and I love them all!

I found the recipe for these pumpkin cookies last year, and they have a little bit of everything yummy....pumpkin, cranberry, oatmeal, chocolate, and nuts.  Even though they are cookies, you can feel good about them because they are chock full of stuff that's good for you.  I've made these a couple of times, and they have been a hit every time!  This time around I switched out the walnuts for some sunflower seeds (since that's what I had), and they came out fantastic as well.  So go ahead and substitute whatever you want in these cookies.....play with your food!

Check out All Things Heart and Home for the recipe.....and Enjoy!!

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

We Did It!

We did it!  We survived our first day of Kindergarten!  And by "we" I really mean our 5 year old (ok, and maybe Mommy too).  It was a great day.....absolutely no tears by any of us this morning (a huge fear of mine that had me not sleeping last night).....and when I picked him up he was all smiles and said he had a great day.  What a huge relief!  Maybe now I can try to catch up on my sleep tonight?

Because I was feeling a little stressed out last night, I figured it was the perfect time to try this recipe for Juicy Peach Margaritas from How Sweet It Is.  I had a pile of peaches from my weekly CSA box, and they were going fast from just perfect to too ripe.....just right for these drinks.

The hardest part of making these is the time it takes to peel and chop the peaches.......and trying not to eat them all.  You'll also need to make some simple syrup (equal parts of water and sugar heated until the sugar dissolves) and add some booze (tequila and Grand Marnier or Cointreau), lime juice, and ice (if you want blended, which is what I like).

Then sit back, and soak in the taste of summer......now I want to try these with strawberries......or watermelon........or mango.....hmmm....the possibilities are endless!!

Check out How Sweet It Is for this recipe (and of ton of other delicious stuff)......and Enjoy!!

This post is linked to:
These Chicks Cooked
Cast Party Wednesday
Turning the Table Thursday
Show Off Your Stuff
Fresh Food Friday
Friday Food
This Week's Cravings

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Say It With Flowers


My oldest starts Kindergarten tomorrow.  What!!?!!  How did that happen?  How in the world did he go from adorable little (ok giant, at 9 lbs. 9 ozs.) baby to a 5 year old ready to start school?  I keep telling myself I'm ok, he's ok, we're all going to be ok.....then I start thinking too hard about it, and I want to start hyperventilating......

As a Thank You to his awesome teachers at his preschool, I decided to make these adorable flower cupcakes.  They're covered in miniature marshmallows that have been cut in half and dipped in sanding sugar....could you tell?  When they're all put together it looks like you got really fancy with your frosting......when in reality decorating with the marshmallows couldn't have been any easier!!!  Seriously, that's all there is.....just give your cupcakes a light layer of frosting, cut a bunch of mini marshmallows in half diagonally, then dip the cut halves in sanding sugar and arrange on the cupcake.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy!  I did have some mini-Oreos on hand (since we always have Oreos in the house), so I used those with some yellow sanding sugar to make little sunflowers.  But I think the pink and purple flowers are my favorite since the colors stand out so much.

Because this project involved cupcakes, marshmallows, and sprinkles......my 5 year old even got involved!  This is a novelty for me, because he usually wants nothing to do with what's going on in the kitchen.


He even decided that he wanted to make one of these for Daddy, so I give you, his creation:


I had these large plastic cupcake holders, so I decided these would work great to take to school to give these to the teachers individually.  They actually looked like little corsages once they were all packed up:


Check out iVillage to see where this idea came from.....and check out Glorious Treats for the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe.......Enjoy!!

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Club: Baked - Sunday Night (Cup)Cake

This round of baking for Club: Baked was selected by Julie at A Little Bit of Everything.  She's chosen the Sunday Night Cake, which is a recipe from Eric Wolitzky (their awesome pastry chef that was on Top Chef: Just Desserts). Please tell me that you watched Top Chef: Just Desserts.......Eric was absolutely lovable, and made some truly yummy looking desserts!  Season 2 will be starting soon.....if you're into reality TV at all, and you love baking.....you'll love it!!

This time around I decided to make cupcakes instead of the 9-inch cake that the recipe will make.  For me it's just easier to hand the dessert out (if we're not having a get together that day) when it's in cupcake form as opposed to slices of cake.  Since this is a simple one layer cake with frosting, it was a perfect choice to bake in cupcake form.  This recipe made 18 cupcakes.

The cake itself is really lovely.......tangy from the sour cream, with just a hint of spice from the cinnamon.  Top that with a frosting that is essentially a dark chocolate pudding.  Yum!  I threw on some sprinkles, because honestly, who doesn't like sprinkles?  And my two little guys are like moths to a flame when it comes to sprinkles.....they've been known to just ask for a bowl of sprinkles (have I already brought that up?).

Give this recipe a try when you want to have some delicious, but not fancy schmancy.

Check out A Little Bit of Everything for the recipe, and check out Club: Baked for the other bakers' results.....Enjoy!!

Oh, and P.S......I know I've mentioned my serious love of all things Baked.....but I thought I'd share this seriously dorky picture of myself from our recent trip to Charleston.  The Baked guys have a bakery in Charleston, their only bakery outside of the original in Brooklyn.  As soon as we made plans to go to Charleston, that was one of my top must-do's on our agenda when we got to the city.  It was delicious (cannot wait to try making the Grasshopper Bars)!!  I know I looked so silly being so excited for being there, but my awesome hubby totally indulged me and took a pic of me with all my yummies!  Can't wait to make it to NYC and hit up the original!


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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Daring Cooks: Appam and Curry


I decided to join up with Daring Cooks (and Daring Bakers) to keep challenging myself with things in the kitchen that I wouldn't normally try making.  This month was my first Daring Cooks challenge.  

Mary, who writes the delicious blog, Mary Mary Culinary was our August Daring Cooks’ host. Mary chose to show us how delicious South Indian cuisine is! She challenged us to make Appam and another South Indian/Sri Lankan dish to go with the warm flat bread.

Appams are kind of like an Asian style crepe that is made out of a rice/yeast/coconut milk batter.  The batter needs to sit for about 8-12 hours, so you'll need to plan ahead on this one.  Nothing to tricky about it, except for the time.  I decided to make with these some Shrimp with Coconut Milk....and boy and I glad I tried that recipe!  

I had to get some ingredients that I didn't have on hand....fresh curry leaves, green chiles, whole fenugreek seeds, and whole black mustard seeds.  A couple of minutes into starting the dish the hubby walked in and said "that smells delicious!".  Not too spicy, which I was worried about (because I'm a wuss in that department), but the base of the sauce made for a super flavorful dish that tasted absolutely authentic!  It definitely wasn't too hard to throw together and together with the appams (which were great at sopping up the yummy sauce of the shrimp), it was a delicious dinner that I will be trying again!  

Check out Daring Cooks for the recipe, and thanks to Mary for choosing this......Enjoy!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Comfort Food


I've had a bit of a summer cold these last couple of days, so I decided to make one of my favorite dinners last night.....the Chopped Salad (aka Leon Salad) from La Scala, which was created in the late 50's.  I was introduced to La Scala in the early 90's by a friend of mine while I was at UCLA.  She was an LA native, and had been going there for years.  We usually visited the Brentwood location (the original is in Beverly Hills), and in all the times that we went, I don't know that I ever ordered anything other than the chopped salad.  At the restaurant you can add all sorts of things to your salad.....chopped turkey, grilled chicken, tuna, bacon, cucumbers.....etc......  But I always stuck with the original, with tomatoes.

When I met the hubby a little later (he was at UCLA too), I quickly introduced him to the chopped salad. In fact, there was a point where I think he was about to go crazy due to the number of times in one week I would request that we go get chopped salads!  Luckily, he stuck with me.....and when we moved out of the westside of LA, I started trying to recreate the salad at home.  I finally found a cookbook from the LA Times that had the recipe printed, including the dressing (the one part I couldn't figure out at home).

The salad will get you to practice your knife skills......I find it a lot of fun chopping up stuff......but if you're not big on that, then just do the non-chopped version....it'll still taste great!  When you go to the restaurant you'll see the salad chefs at work.....they throwdown a ton of lettuce on a chopping board and got at it with two knives at the same time.  It's quite a thing to watch.  It's what really made me want to practice my knife skills at home.

Well, the salad did make me feel better......give it a try!

Leon Salad
Yield: 6 servings (but the hubby and I can usually devour this by ourselves)

Salad:
1 head iceberg lettuce, finely chopped
1 head romaine, finely chopped
4 ounces Italian salami, julienned
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 can (15 1/2 ounces) garbanzo beans, drained
3 roma tomatoes, chopped

Leon Dressing:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salad:
Combine lettuces, salami, cheese and beans in salad bowl.  Toss with Leon Dressing.

Leon Dressing:
Combine oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper and Parmesan and whisk to blend well.  Makes about 1/2 cup.

Enjoy!!

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Hello Kitty!


I'm kind of a closet Hello Kitty lover.  Aside from the Hello Kitty Vans I just got myself, even the hubby didn't realize how obsessed I am with it.  When I saw these Hello Kitty cookie cutters I just had to get them!!  While I was making the Captain America cookies a couple of days back, I decided that I should balance out the testosterone with something girly.  Hello Kitty to the rescue!!

I used a #2 tip to do the outline of her head and bow in black.  I let that dry for several hours before adding the white and red flood consistency icing.  I had a little bubble problem with the white flood icing, but a toothpick managed to take care of those.  After letting that dry overnight I came back with the #2 tip to add the whiskers, eyes, and nose.   I came back a little while later to add the dab of yellow to her nose.  I was pretty happy with these.....still not perfect, but who can say no to that cuteness?

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Grown Up Food

How great are date nights?  Before we had kids I totally took for granted how easy it was to have a lovely dinner out.  Now that we've got kids.......it's a whole different story!  We rarely go out to dinner (since our kiddos are in bed by 7:30)........and when we do, they had better have chicken nuggets and french fries on the menu, or our 5 year old will not eat.

We do manage to go to dinner a couple of times a month (without kids!) with two other couples that are some of our dearest friends (we love you guys!).  We always have a fabulous time, and we've had a great time exploring some fantastic restaurants in LA.  Our current favorites are Craft (gotta love Tom Colicchio) and Mastro's Steakhouse (we are in no way vegetarians).

Monday night we went out to dinner for our friend's birthday to Gjelina, in Venice.  We had heard great things about this place, so we expected some great food!  And no chicken nuggets anywhere to be found on the menu!

First off we ordered drinks.  I am not a wine drinker at all (although I would love to be, it's just not my thing), but being a German, I am absolutely a beer drinker!  When we go out we love having Chimay ale (you've got to try it if you've never had it before), but at Gjelina the only Beligium ale they had was St. Feuillien.  Let me just say that as soon as I find this at the store, I will be buying some!  It comes in giant bottles, so it's good for a couple of people.

Most of the dishes are small tapas style plates......so we just ordered a ton of stuff to share as a table.  The menu changes everyday, so you'll only find stuff that is in season and at it's best.  The boys ordered some oysters (not my thing), which they almost always do.....while the girls were checking out the many dishes on the menu with burrata (one of the most divine cheeses ever invented).  We had an heirloom tomato salad with burrata, an eggplant caponata, as well as a beet salad (sorry, not my thing).  But the highlight of all of the salads for me was grilled nectarines with burrata and arugula, and speck.....so yummy....so summery....so simple!  I am so going to make this at home!


Then we started trying some of the pizzas........pomodoro (wood fired with only a tomato sauce on top.....and you place some cheese on top......great for the lactose-intolerant hubby), and a gruyere pizza with caramelized onions and arugula.  But the favorite was a mushroom toast with truffle oil.  Seriously, I think we were all dreaming of this the next day, it was that good!!


Ok, I admit that on the dark patio, using only my iphone.....the food pictures are not the best.....but you gotta believe me that this was delicious!!  Then came some meat......the boys had been waiting!  We tried three different meat dishes.......a grilled skirt steak (pretty good), some braised pork meatballs cooked in a tomato sauce (really good), and a crispy pork belly served with polenta (amazing!!).

Last but definitely not least we had a couple of desserts.  Yeah, even after all that food, we always manage to save room for dessert.....

But can you believe that none of my dessert pictures came out!!??!!  I'm the Sweet Swiper after all........I'm supposed to do dessert!  Ack!!  We had a Butterscotch Pot de Creme with Salted Caramel Sauce that was simply out of this world!!  It's amazing how great a well done pudding can be.  And anything tastes better with salted caramel sauce! (well, almost anything)  Let me just say that I've located the recipe, and as soon as I have it made at my house, that will be going up on the blog :)

Great night out......great food, great friends!  The hubby's #1 complaint.....the music was just waaaayyyyy to loud where we were sitting!  He's got very sensitive ears, and at one point resorted to stuffing paper in his ears to keep from getting a headache.  So an almost perfect night........

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Captain America


Superheroes are big in our house.  With two little guys they're at the top of the popularity list.  In particular, our guys love Iron Man and Captain America.  With all of the advertising for the Captain America movie this summer, our 5 year old has been going crazy since he thinks he should be able to see it, and doesn't understand why he can't (the hubby and I saw it, loved it, but in no way can our little guys see it).  So, to make it up to him, I told him I'd make him some Captain America cookies.  Easy enough, I thought.....

Turns out, it's really not very simple to do simple circles.  I'm still very new to decorating cookies (tried my first batch back in February).....so I guess this is something that will come with practice (I hope).  I even tried tracing a design on the cookie to help me....hmmmm.....guess I just don't have surgeon steady hands.

I outlined everything in black using a #2 tip to make it easy on me........then just made flood consistency icing in white, red, and blue.  They're not perfect by any stretch.....but my little guy loved them....and he knew instantly that they were Captain America cookies.......that's all that mattered!

And just to show you we mean business when it comes to superheroes......here's a picture of us from Halloween last year......


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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies?


It was our friend Collin's birthday this weekend, and he requested chocolate chip cookies.  Simple enough right?  Maybe for some people,  but for me it posed a dilemma........which of the million chocolate chip cookie recipes out there to use?  I really need to get around to doing a chocolate chip cookie taste test so that I can decide once and for all what my favorite cookie is!!  My favorite up to this point has been the recipe from the guys at Baked.......but this time around I decided to make the Jacques Torres (master of all things chocolate) recipe that was published in the NY Times.  You know this recipe.....it totally made it's way through the blogosphere a couple of years back....with tons of people claiming it to be the best chocolate chip cookie ever!  Ok then.....time to give it a try!

Before you start this recipe, you'll need to know that:
1 - The recipe does not use any all-purpose flour.  Instead it uses a combination of cake flour and bread flour.
2 - Once you get the dough together you're going to have to leave it alone in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  Seriously, don't touch it.....something magical happens to it when it sits.....you'll be glad you did!

So......I know you're wondering.....is it really the best chocolate chip cookie ever?  I really think I'm going to have to do a side-by-side taste test to see which one I like the best (hmmm....maybe this fall), but it definitely ranks up there.  The hubby really really liked these....and he's not much of a chocolate chip guy.  They have the crisp edges and chewy centers that you're looking for.....and you can alter the type of chocolate to suite your taste (I used a combination of semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate).  I had to give them all away to stop eating them.  So I'd have to say, they're pretty darn good!

Check out the NY Times for the recipe.......and Enjoy!!


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Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Bounty of Summer


I think I've mentioned a couple of times that I've rejoined Abundant Harvest Organics after taking a year hiatus.  What this means is that once a week I get a box of produce of whatever's in season and ready for picking (basically a CSA program).  

It's always fun opening the box and see what surprises are inside.....and during the summer it's usually all delicious, amazing stuff!  I mean, look at that picture......it's just full of summer awesome-ness.......my mind immediately starts trying to figure out stuff to do with it all.  There was a ridiculous amount of plums/pluots in this week's delivery, as well as last week's........so I'll be making some type of plum cake in the next couple of days to make sure that those go to good use.  The veggies are soooo tasty too.....it's so easy to just make a giant salad as a dinner......even my carnivore hubby is happy!

Come winter is when it gets a little tougher for me......strange veggies start appearing that force me out of my veggie comfort zone.  But I'm determined this year to give everything a try.....who knows.....I may find a new favorite!!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

What a Peach!

So what do you do when you have a ton of organic peaches from your CSA box that are only going to last a few more days, and you know you're not going to be able to eat them all?  You start scouring your cookbook stash and the web to find a peach recipe that strikes your fancy!  Peach pie?  Done that.  Peach Cobbler?  Yummy!  But too hard to pass out to friends....

Then I found this recipe on Martha's website (you know....Martha Stewart.....the goddess of all things domestic).  It's call Grandma's Peach Cake and it looked like a fun one to make since the base of the cake is actually a yeast bread that ends up being sweet because of all of the peaches and cinnamon sugar that gets poured on top.

You'll need to plan ahead a bit for this one.....it's still pretty darn easy (as long as you don't mind getting a tad bit messy kneading dough)....but you'll need to plan for 2 separate resting periods of an hour each for the dough.  And just a little helpful hint......remember to remove any rings prior to kneading dough!  I don't know what I was thinking.....but I forgot to remove one of my rings.....and it took a little bit of forever to get all of the dough gooeyness out of that sucker!

The recipe actually makes enough dough for two 13x9 inch pans....and calls for 12 peaches!  Ok, so I didn't have that many peaches on hand....so I made one 13x9 cake, and the rest of the dough I'll use for rolls or something (haven't quite figured that out yet).

This really tastes like something our grandmas would have made.....it's sweet....but not the crazy over-the-top sweet that some of desserts these days are (not that there's anything wrong with that!).  You really taste the wonderfulness (is that even a word?) that is a ripe summer peach.....one of those flavors that screams summer.

I made this in the afternoon, and found that I actually enjoyed the cake even more the next morning.....after the juices from the peaches and the cinnamon sugar had a chance to soften and sweeten the cake/bread.

Check out Martha Stewart for the recipe.....and Enjoy!!


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