Thursday, December 13, 2012

leftover night; homemade pho with duck

gotta love leftover night.  all those containers of stuff-do you even know what that is, or was?  after being out of town for a week, my husband roasted a duck out on the grill for our first dinner together after his return.  the smallest one i could find weighed 5 pounds so there was quite a bit left over.  he saved the bones for who knows what but i had ideas of my own.

while searching on the internet, i came across this great pho recipe for leftover turkey. a quick substitution of duck and a trip to the garden for some fresh greens, an hour later-dinner was born!  give it a try, it was worth every slurp...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

gingerbread baby bundt cake; twd

when did they turn on the holiday season?  i could swear that it was summer yesterday and now, it is december.  wow...well, since it is tuesday, it must be time to bake with julia.  this week, our hostess, karen of karen's kitchen stories is proud to bring us gingerbread baby cakes.  luckily, it is a simple recipe that did not require much work.  since i have so much going on this month-pr event, a daughter graduating, a trip to san francisco for said graduation and oh yeah, the guy in the red suit comes this month too, doesn't he?  anyway, no time to spare and i will most likely be absent for the next roundup.  did i mention that i am trying to put together not 1 but 2 books???

so here it goes.  let's start with the obvious.  baby cakes are small cakes; these are supposed to be 4" rounds.  the husband is out of town for the week and i did not need a group of 4" cakes for just me.  i made half the recipe and baked it in a fluted pan.  the recipe calls for dark brown sugar, i only had light.  the recipe also called for espresso powder.  i only use whole beans to make espresso, i opted to add more cocoa powder and keep moving.  then i realized that i was out of molasses.  what the hell kind of baker is out of molasses in december????  apparently, this one right here.  i used beet sugar syrup.

okay, it is interesting in a strange, chocolatey, fruity kind of way.  and moving right along, visit karen's blog page for the recipe and all that.  visit the tuesdays with dorie page to see the hijinks of all the other bakers-most of whom probably had the proper ingredients and what not.  me, i'm pouring another glass of wine and plopping down on the couch with the cat.  i've had enough baking for today...

 (actually, it looks so chocolatey because i cut the recipe in half on everything but the cocoa powder-rrrrgggg!!!  but i think it works well)

Friday, November 30, 2012

foodie pen pals

it is reveal day for the foodie pen pals!  my box came to me from geneva, a california participant.  she sent me a wonderful mix of treats, homemade goodies and fresh fruit!  along with the box came a beautiful handmade card and a recipe from geneva's grandmother.

look at all of those goodies!  kiwis and pomegranates too!

cookies, sweets and chocolates galore!

homemade kahlua and almond bark

chili-lemon flavored dried mango slices and a rub for grilling. 

the flower details were hand tatted by an elderly woman 

the recipe was for an upside down cake.  it called for pineapples but i had an abundance of pears and apples and used them instead.

all ready to go for my garden meeting-my lucky co-workers at the demo garden were treated to quite the spread!

the cake was wonderful and it got it's lovely yellow color from the cornflour that geneva also sent to me!  thank you geneva for such a thoughtful box of goodies.

to see what i sent my partner, check out my partner, janna's blog.  to see what the other participants sent or to join in the fun, be sure to check out lindsay's blog, the lean green bean

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

best ever brownies; tuesdays with dorie

once again, it's tuesday so that means it is time to bake with julia.  this week's adventure is brought to you by monica of a beautiful mess.   if you read the title of this post, then you know we made the "best ever brownies."  that is one opinion, just not mine.

first off, i did not care for the way the instructions were written.  it is always a challenge when a recipe is split onto more than one page but if those to pages do not face each other, it is even harder to prevent confusion or mishaps.  the instructions called for splitting the eggs and sugar, whipping some and incorporating the others and then finally, incorporating the whipped eggs into the batter.  that paragraph was written in such a way that i had to read it multiple times.  it would have flowed better if the exact  amounts of eggs and sugar  for each addition in that step were listed as they were to be added rather than just instructing you to add "half" of them.

while the baking times seemed to present more issues for many of the other bakers, i did not have any problems and they baked within the suggested time frame.  the results were more like a flourless chocolate cake and i really didn't enjoy them.  honestly, i like brownies but i like mine to have more than just a fudge like texture; i like them a little cakey and these were no where near that.

be sure to visit monica's page for the recipe but an even better idea would be to buy the book.  be sure to visit the tuesdays with dorie page to find the links of all the participants.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

buttermilk crumb muffins

what a week it has been!  hopefully, everyone is recovering from the monster storm that ate the jersey shore.  for those of you affected by the flooding-i feel your pain.  it has been 2 years since the big nashville flood of may 2010 but the memory is still with us.  the power of water is like none other.

since i live in nashville and was not affected by the storm, i was not only able to bake the muffins but also serve as hostess with the mostest this week's tuesdays with dorie/baking with julia challenge.  how about a big happy birthday to me?  yup, it's my birthday, but there will be no crying at this party, just muffins!

as hostess, it is my job to post the complete recipe.  for those of you with the book, it can be found on page 207.  for those of you without the book, let me suggest that you buy a copy; it is worthy of the space on your bookshelf!

special note to vegan bakers; the recipe can easily be converted to yield vegan muffins.  scroll through the recipe to the bottom of the post to see a photo and the conversion notes.

buttermilk crumb muffins
from the book, baking with julia, by dorie greenspan
published by william morrow
makes 14-16 muffins

a few notes before we begin.  first of all, i do not like to use hydrogenated shortening, it adds no flavor and isn't a good idea for someone with high cholesterol, like me.  that said, i used virgin coconut oil in place of the shortening.  not only is it non-hydrogenated, it adds wonderful flavor to the muffins.  second, i do this sort of thing for a living and have a hard time adapting to typical home kitchen methods.  what that means is that i use portion scoops whenever i make muffins or cookies.  for this recipe, i used a #16 (blue handled) scoop.  in my fancy ikea muffin pan, this made them mushroom out a bit.  since the yield is more than 12, i baked the rest in a little heart muffin pan.  if you do this, do not put more than a flat #16 scoop in each heart or you will lose the heart shape like mine did.  the last note, my muffins baked up quickly-25 minutes and they were done.

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup solid vegetable shortening
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, well beaten

position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.  Spray or grease two 12-cup muffin tins, or if you have them, use a 12-cup and a 6-cup tin.

mixing the batter and topping

put the flour and brown sugar into a large bowl and stir with your fingers or a fork to mix well.  break the shortening into a few pieces, drop them into the flour mixture, and, using your fingertips, lightly rip the shortening and flour together.  when the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs, you've mixed enough-don't worry about any little lumps.  measure out 1/2 cup of the mixture and set it aside to use later as the crumb topping.

add the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt to the flour mixture and stir with a fork to mix well.  add the buttermilk and beaten eggs and, using a large spoon, mix until the ingredients are well blended and the batter is thick and shiny.

spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling each cup at least two-thirds full.  sprinkle the top of each muffin with a rounded teaspoon of the reserved crumb mixture and pat it gently onto the batter.  half-fill any empty muffin molds with water-this will help the muffins bake evenly.

baking the muffins
bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  serve warm.

the muffins are best the day they are made, but will keep in a plastic bag or closed container for a day; reheat for 5 to 8 minutes in a 350F oven.
contributing baker, marion cunningham

vegan muffins with cocoa nibs
to make a vegan version of the muffins, use the following substitutions:
1.  for the 2/3 cup shortening, use virgin coconut oil not only for the fact that it is a much healthier plant fat that is not hydrogenated but also because it is full of flavor and will give the muffins a nice coconut aroma.
2.  for the 2 eggs i used ener-g brand egg replacer according to the recipe on the box which is 2 ounces warm water and 1 tablespoon of the mix.
3.  for the 1 cup buttermilk, i used 1 cup of unsweetened, plain soy milk.  this is an acceptable substitution but it would be a good idea to reduce the amount by a tablespoon or two since it is thinner than buttermilk; the higher moisture content makes a thinner batter and moister muffins that sink slightly in the center.
4.  i added 3 tablespoons cocoa nibs but you can add nuts or other crunchy items, but i would avoid fresh fruit unless you reduce the milk as suggested.
5.  using the blue handled #16 scoop and paper muffin cups yielded 18 muffins that baked off in 20-23 minutes.

be sure to check the tuesdays with dorie page to view the links to all of the participants.  thanks for the party!  now to have cake and watch the election results!!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

foodie pen pals

The Lean Green Bean

while using my time productively...let's not go there.  when i was a kid, i had a pen pal.  the unknown stranger from across the country who would exchange letters with me.  it didn't last long but it did leave an impression on me.  so recently, when i happened upon a monthly event known as the foodie pen pals, not only was i reminded of my long lost "friend" i was compelled to sign up.  it seemed like fun, send a box of edible goodies to a person and receive a box of goodies from a different person.

the whole idea was put together by lindsay of the lean green bean in september of 2011.  it started with 30 participants and now has more than a thousand in the u.s., canada and the u.k..  the participants are paired by country; u.s. residents to u.s. residents, canadians to canadians and finally, u.k. residents to u.k. residents.  we send/receive our boxes and then we post them.  

 my box came from my partner mindy of just a one girl revolution.  the requirements include something written and mindy met that by writing a note and drawing flowers on the bag.  it was a lovely touch when i opened the box.

 she must have been spying on me because she sent some things that i love to snack on!  yogurt dipped pretzels, nuts and chocolate...darry has his eye on the flavored coffee.  it was hard to keep myself from digging in right then and there but i needed to take a photo first!

the hardest part about sending a package of food to a stranger-because we are all strangers at first, is that you never know what they might like.  we must be mindful of the obvious such as allergies, aversions or religious requirements and are required to ask that before we shop for goodies.  luckily for me, theresa of a spoonful of sunshine, my partner who would be receiving the box had no issues and i was able to send here what ever i wanted.
off to the international market i went.  i sent her some chinese 5 spice powder because it is wonderful to bake with-try it in any recipe calling for cinnamon.  japanese pepper, nanami togarashi is a red pepper blend that i love to sprinkle on stir fries.  thai green curry is a favorite dish of mine too so not only did i send her a can of paste, i met the written requirement by writing up my favorite curry sauce recipe so that she could try it out.  takis, guacamole flavored chips are the bomb!  one of my guilty pleasures.  and to round it out, seeds for herbs and flowers because i think everybody should try and grow their own food!

this was such fun that i will do it again!  join the fun, if you can.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

onion-poppy seed bagels; twd/bwj

there is a bit of excitement and suspense for those of us who participate in the tuesdays with dorie/baking with julia challenges.  each month, we nominate possible recipes from the book and then we wait to see what our challenges will be.  for me, this weeks challenge of bagels, hosted by heather of heather's bytes was one i looked forward to.  as a jersey girl(originally), i have a certain fondness for true new york bagels.  then i read the many steps, so much to coordinate, so many factors to alter the outcome of said bagels.

to say that the recipe was a little daunting is an understatement.  mix the dough, let it rise, deflate it, refrigerate it for a few hours or a couple of days and then move on to the shaping/baking process.  all the steps to coordinate along with floured towels and extra pans and boiling water and an oven at 500 degrees while shaping the dough and boiling the dough and glazing the dough...definitely not a recipe for an impatient or inattentive baker-there are too many things to do.  

first thing i did, cut the recipe in half.  with just two of us in the house, i didn't need much less want 10 large bagels.  for the sugar called for in the dough, i simply used malt syrup.  then i added a generous tablespoon of dried onions.  since my favorite bagels are ones with seeds, i chose to add poppy seeds to the outside since they blend so well with onions.  

 the dough is easy to mix and next time(if there is a next time-the jury is still out on this one), i will add two tablespoons of the onions and a little extra salt.  i used my scale to weigh out 8 (3)ounce pieces of dough and began the shaping process.  it was a sticky process and i used very small amounts of flour on my fingers and the table to make it manageable.

 they do look like big rings while they are shaped but as soon as you set them onto the floured towel, they contract and fatten up a bit.  i did them 4 at a time so that they would fit in the pot with room to spare.

 they boiled up easily and i did not pay enough attention to the time on the first batch so i was sure to set the timer for the second batch.

 out of the water bath and onto the prepared peel for the glaze and seeds.  the cornmeal did nothing to stop them from sticking; i had to lift each one and place it on my stone in the oven.

 my oven needs to be calibrated.  the setting of 500 ended up at nearly 600 and the bagels came out a little crispy.  the process of baking for 25 minutes, oven off with door closed for 5 minutes and then door open for 5 minutes was enough to make that first batch really crispy-artisan bread crispy!  for the second batch, the shaped bagels rested in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and i skipped the 5 minutes with the door closed and 5 minutes with the door open.  i simply baked them for 25 minutes and pulled them out.  the reduced size should have triggered a response in me-they needed less time, but i was so caught up in all of the steps that it did not occur to me until just now...

they baked up an interesting ivory almost beige shade on the inside and had just a hint of onion flavor.

many thanks to heather for hosting this weeks bakefest!  to try this at home, visit heather's bytes for the complete recipe or better yet, buy a copy of baking with julia.  and if you want to watch the process, look it up on you tube-the video is split into 2 parts and full of hints and tips, look for it under baking with julia, bagels-lauren groveman parts 1 and 2.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

persimmon bread with cranberries

this recipe came up just in time for one of the best persimmon crops we've ever had.  last year was such a disappointment because there just wasn't any fruit on our tree or any of the other trees nearby.  when we started finding the ripe fruits on the ground last week, we were surprised; our first frost is still several weeks away.  we can only assume that the early spring and the month long drought had something to do with them ripening so early.

lucky for me, this weeks baking challenge for tuesdays with dorie/baking with julia is a loaf of bread that calls for pumpkin puree.  with all of these persimmons just begging to be run through the food mill, i couldn't help but substitute the persimmon pulp for the pumpkin puree called for in the recipe!

native persimmons are small, about the size of a walnut in its shell or smaller.  they are also full of large seeds.  they can only be eaten if they are dark orange and squishy soft otherwise, they are so astringent you will literally feel the insides of your cheeks seal onto the surface of your teeth.  the best thing to do with them is to wash the fruit you find on the ground under the tree-those will be so ripe that they have fallen from the branches.  drain the fruit and run it through a food mill, it will take a lot to get any kind of volume.  i collect them through the season, puree the fruit and store it in sandwich bags in the freezer.  then i can take it out and thaw it as i need to.

as with any heavy, sweet dough, this one took a long time-easily double the time called for in the directions.  it took at least 8 hours to come to 64 degrees and about 3 hours for the loaves to rise in the pans.  honestly, they didn't do much in the oven.  it seems to me that there is just too much in there to make it light and rise quickly.

 i didn't have any small pans so i used two 8x5x3 loaves.  they baked up in about 45-50 minutes, i used a thermometer and waited until the internal temp came up to 200 degrees.

this cheery loaf of bread brightened up a dark and dreary, rainy monday.  it was so dark that i couldn't get a nice color balance in the photo, my bread isn't nearly that orange!

special thanks to our hostess with the mostess, rebecca of this bountiful backyard!  bake on, may the force be with you...

Monday, September 24, 2012

feeding the monster: chocolate chip cookies

life is getting a little complicated for me.  it seems that i am reaching that age many women dread; you know, that age where you reluctantly reveal the ages of your children.  that age where your joints will ache when you simply think about doing something strenuous or catch the part of the forecast that calls for a drop in temperature.   yup, that's the one, the one leading to the change, yes, that change.  

what does that mean, you ask.  it means that i can gain weight through osmosis and that you better think twice about cutting off my chocolate supply.   to add the proverbial insult to injury, i also feel a cold coming on, lucky me.  needless to say, i spent the day in the house not venturing any further than the recycling bin in the carport.  a call for comfort food led me to chocolate chip cookies-they were easier to make than a pot of matzoh ball soup.

in my quest for healthier eating habits, i have amassed a small collection of vegan cookbooks by isa chandra moskowitz.  my need of a chocolate fix had me perusing the index of vegan with a vengeance in search of a chocolate chip cookie recipe.  it seems that they have been on my mind for weeks and i needed to get them out of my system.  what better way to do this than to simply eat way too many warm from the oven cookies.  

as a cookbook author, i love reading isa's books.  she lets her personality show and she doesn't hold back.  the first sentence of the head note for her chocolate chip cookies reads:  "there's nothing healthy about these."  her motivation for this recipe was to simply prove that a vegan version could be as tasty as a traditional non-vegan version.  it worked, she proved her point, and now i needed to prove to myself that i could make some that might be a little less unhealthy for me in my quest to keep the cholesterol level in check.

my first step was to convert the recipe over to coconut oil.  while it wouldn't have been a bad thing to use a nonhydrogenated margarine, i didn't have any and had to use what was in my closet-a new, unopened jar of virgin coconut oil i picked up on my last trip to trader joe's. 

 the recipe calls for regular granulated sugar and the addition of molasses.  well, that sounds easy enough if you happen to have some which i somehow do not at the moment.  even my supply of sorghum seemed to have dried up.  in the closet, i found (from left to right) brown rice syrup, barley malt syrup, sugar beet syrup and honey from our bees.  i went with the honey-a non vegan ingredient.

 the coconut oil will not whip up the way margarine does-it will actually get a little runny if you over mix it.  so take care with the length of time you cream it with the sugar.

the recipe also calls for all purpose flour.  i was a little surprised by that.  i decided that if i was going to eat these cookies, they definitely needed some whole grain.  in place of the 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour,  i used a combination of all purpose flour, whole wheat flour and ground flax seeds.

i didn't have vegan chocolate chips, and honestly, i don't know that i would keep them on hand since i do not follow a strict vegan diet.  to keep them tasting a little more like the traditional toll house recipe, i added some chopped walnuts.  unfortunately, the dough came out really dry and crumbly most likely as a result of the whole wheat flour and the flax seeds.  the last minute addition of some soy milk saved the day.
 pressing the tops of the cookies to make more of a thick disk before baking improved their appearance.

 honestly, you can't tell by looking at them that they are (almost completely) vegan cookies.  the whole wheat flour and the ground flax seeds are barely visible.  i certainly didn't taste it and i am a little nauseated now having eaten at least 3 of them while they were still warm from the oven...

almost completely vegan chocolate chip cookies
makes 3 dozen cookies

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup coconut oil-preferably virgin coconut oil and solid at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon molasses or sorghum(for the vegan version-honey, for the non-vegan)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips-vegan or non vegan
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped small
1/4 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk

preheat the oven to 350.  in a small bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, flax seeds and the baking soda and set it aside.  in a large mixing bowl, cream the coconut oil with the sugar, molasses, vanilla and salt for 2-3 minutes taking care not to let it get to warm.  add the whisked dry ingredients and mix on low speed to combine.  add the chocolate chips, walnuts and soy milk and mix to form a slightly crumbly dough.  using a #40 scoop or a fully filled and rounded teaspoon of dough, form the cookies by gently pressing the top of the dough to flatten it into an even disk.  bake for 9 minutes (if you are using a convection fan, you may have to adjust the time) or until they are slightly browned around the edges.  allow the cookies to cool on the pans for 5 minutes and then remove them to a rack to finish cooling.

and now, it is time for me to step away from the rack...i may never go back to the traditional version; thanks isa!!!