Friday, September 9, 2011

Blueberry "Fold Over"



Blueberries are a tough little nugget for me. I really don't ever know what to do with them when I buy them. Sometimes, I toss them into some oatmeal or I might even make muffins. That's about all I could come up with. When it comes time to change things up I am at a complete and total loss.

I love that puff pastry is a blank canvas (a fattening one, but delicious). I asked myself if blueberries and puff pastry were a good combination... Why wouldn't they be, right? At first, I wanted to just throw the berries on the pastry and see what would happen. I was too afraid of a plain and boring outcome that I decided to go another route. I cooked the blueberries with sugar, lemon juice, and zest. The blueberry sauce was so tart and delicious. I just wanted to eat it straight out of the pan, or maybe on some vanilla icecream. I had to restrain myself from repeated "test tasting" in order to leave some for the pastry.

As soon as it was out of the oven I wanted to dig in, but didn't want to risk damaging my tastebuds and not be able to enjoy it once it had thoroughly cooled. Sometimes I think it takes a lot of discipline to be a baker or else you learn the hard way. I won't lie that I have taken a bite out of things directly out of the oven just because I couldnt restrain myself- big mistake. Now, I know that I have to wait.. so that's what I did. Once it was cooled there really was no holding me back. I did share though and those who got a piece of it really enjoyed it.

Blueberry "Fold Over"
Ingredients:
- 1 pint Blueberries
- 1/2 cup sugar
- juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tbsp water

In a small sauce pan add the blueberries, sugar, zest and juice. Stir to combine the ingredients and place over a medium heat. The berries will begin to burst and release beautiful blue/purple juices. Once the sauce comes to a low boil stir occasionally. Let the sauce simmer for 7-10 minutes, until it is thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Once it has reached this consistency allow it to cool at room temperature, roughly 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the puff pastry sheet. Pour the cooled blueberry sauce down the middle of the rolled out sheet leaving 3-4 inch margins on two sides that will be used as flaps. Spread the sauce out to make a thin even layer. Fold over the flaps, they shouldn't meet this way you will be able to see the blueberry sauce on top. With a fork, lightly poke the pastry flaps. Move the pastry to a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Lightly whisk the egg and water to create an egg wash. Using a pastry brush, lightly spread egg wash over the pastry. Bake in the oven for 18-22 minutes, until the puff pastry is golden brown. Allow to reach room temperature before serving.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Busy Girl and Danishes

Last time I was here I posted about the boring emptiness that is was my house. Since then I have decided to really step up to the plate and start fixing up the place. I have a huge list of things to do, but I've been taking it one day at a time and so far I haven't been burned out. One piece of bad news is that I badly hurt my back yesterday. I can't recall lifting anything really heavy or when it might have happened, but it did. Now, I am in so much pain. Today, I had planned out to prime my dining room chairs and a small coffee table that I am going to use as shelves(possibly a bench). I really don't see how I can get anything done today.. I just want to lay down all day with a nice cup of tea. Musn't give up. I don't want to fall behind because I really won't have anytime for the next two weeks! I am catering a party on Saturday, so I gotta start cooking on Friday. THEN, next week I have a huge dessert table and that is gonna be all week prep thing. To top it all off my mother in law gets here next Thursday.

With all this going on I still haven't forgotten about the puff pastry. Today, I am going to share with you a super simple recipe for danishes. It is a cheater's recipe, sort of like the crostatas, and that is exactly what I love about it. So go on over to Pink Stitches and check out the method I taught my sister.



Here are just a few of the projects I am working on at home...



I made these shelves out of pallets like 3 months back and NEVER finished painting them. Now, I don't like the yellow- they need to be repainted.



My unfinished dining room set. I just sealed the table yesterday and was hoping to finally prime the chairs today..



My enemy- these chairs were so annoying to strip of the varnish. I literally just did the last chair yesterday, 2 or 3 months after the others because I was in no mood for it. I am re-upholstering the seats because well.. look at them! The fabric I ordered should be arriving today or tomorrow.



This project was originally my husbands, but of course he didn't get around to finishing it, so I just gotta throw some texture on it and paint it.



My love-Morgane.. she has been the best little trooper this week. She has helped me out and kept busy playing in her kitchen when I was really occuppied.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Extreme Home Makeover

I woke up really late today, close to 11. Luckily, my baby girl was just as tired as I was and slept in with me. Then I had the great privelege of being read The Princess and the Pea (by Janet Stevens) in bed. I love mornings like this. I don't have much planned for today, except for a little home clean up- which was a perfect excuse to lay in bed for about an hour cuddling with Morgane and catching up on global news via the internet (on my phone).

Then stomach started asking for food and Morgane wanted to go play in her kitchen downstairs, so I forced myself out of bed. Still feeling great, I went down the stairs only to be totally taken back! I realized just how boring my house looks. I have tried to spice it up in the past, but I really don't have the passion for it to go all out. Frankly, I'd rather spend the money on a new kitchen gadget. With that horrible realization my relaxed mood flew out the window! I hate when that happens. Something suddenly comes over me and I can't get it out of my head... it's called anxiety. (I've been diagnosed...)

I've spent the last thirty minutes online browsing amazing blogs. I really wanna get my butt into action and do something, but I have no clue where to start. Perhaps decluttering... but I honestly do this like once a month and the clutter keeps coming! Anyone have any suggestions?

OMY and I've just remembered that my mother in law is coming from Martinique in two weeks! My house needs to be in better shape.. more added stress anxiety. I am gonna spend the next few hours browsing the net for some inexpensive ideas. Don't hesitate to post up links or ideas for me to check out.

Have a great day!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cheese Straws

So my hunnie bunnie is back to work and I guess this means I'm back to blogging. For this week I chose a really tempting and decadent ingredient... PUFF PASTRY. I just love all things puff pastry and I definitely love that I don't always have to make it from scratch!



The other day my hubby was fixing a leak in our A/C unit and my little Morgane was playing with her dolls. I had nothing to do- I headed for the kitchen. This is usually always what I turn to when I have nothing to do. I opened up the freezer and found a lonely box of puff pastry that needed to be used up. I didn't feel like having anything sweet, so I had to think for a minute what I could do. Then I remembered seeing an episode or special where Ina Garten goes to London and buys cheese straws at a farmer's market. It was so simple to make and they looked really tasty. I didn't even need a recipe- you don't either, just some basic instructions.

They turned out to be a great little snack and only lasted a few minutes fresh out of the oven. I am lucky I got to snap a few pictures!

Cheese Straws
Ingredients:
- Thawed puff pastry (one sheet)
- 1 cup of shredded cheese (anything you'd like, I used cheddar)
- flour (for dusting)
- 1 egg
- 1 tbs water

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

When the puff pastry sheet is thawed, unfold and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll out so the the seams of the folds are no longer visible and is roughly a 10" x 10" square.

Whisk together the egg and water to create an egg wash. Brush the puff pastry pretty liberally with the egg wash so that the cheese will stick. Then sprinkle the cheese over the pastry and slightly press down with your fingers just to make sure the cheese will stick.

Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter cut strips from top to bottom of the pastry, about an inch apart. Then move the strips onto your parchment lined baking sheet and pop in the oven for 18-20 minutes, just until golden brown.



Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fruity Black Bean Salad

It's finally Thursday! My husband will be home in a couple of hours and I'm totally excited. I promised him I'd make him a good home-cooked meal... but I got so caught up with cleaning that I really don't have a lot of time to make something spectacular. So I've got a simple casserole in the oven, which I will post about later. Right now I've a got a fresh recipe that lightens up some black beans.

It has been really hot here in south Texas. Apparently, a few days ago was the 90th day in a row this year to reach or be above 100 F! Can you believe that? My poor yard looks awful, even though we have a sprinkler system. It seems pointless to be wasting excessive amounts of water to have green grass when it hasn't rained here in months. But, summer is almost over. I am definitely looking forward to the refreshing cooler temps. In the mean time, I will continue to make this little salad!



I originally wanted to make the old lime-corn bean salad standby, but it's time to go get groceries so my fridge and pantry are looking pretty meek. Instead of using red onion I added an apple and the sweetness was perfect! Almost like they were the onions... but nicer. Then I added a few clementine wedges... and it was perfect. Morgane and I enjoyed this salad over a grilled portabella the first night and just by itself the second. Either way, I really liked it.

Fruity Black Bean Salad
Ingredients:
- 2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
- juice of 4 limes
- 2 tbsp. grapeseed oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tomato
- 1 small red apple
- 1 clementine
- 2 tbsp. chopped cilantro

In a large bowl combine the grapeseed oil, lime, salt and pepper. Whisk.

Dice the tomato and red apple, then place in the bowl. Peel the clemetine and seperate the wedges. You can remove the skin from each individual wedge, but not necessary. Add to the bowl, along with the beans and cilantro. Combine all the ingredients gently with a spoon and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Then ENJOY!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Poblano Packages



I must admit that at this very moment I am sitting here completely stuffed and ready to nap! I have been running 3 miles daily and this morning I skipped breakfast before my run. So, when I got home from my run and workout I was starving! I was so happy to have had leftovers so I could make a quick and tasty meal. I didn't eat a lot, but I inhaled it... you know how that goes. I thought of making 3 seperate posts for this recipe... but they seemed simple enough to where one post would suffice.

At the beginning of the week I made a big big batch of black beans. Really simple. I just followed the directions on the package, except instead of only cooking them for 2 hours, I cooked them for 3. Why- you might ask. Truth is I am used to eating those squishy black beans from the can. So, when I tasted the beans at 2 hours I really felt like they were raw! At 3 hours, they were still firmer than the canned ones, but I could deal with it. I can only imagine how long they cook canned beans for. I poured the cooled beans into a really big airtight plastic container and put them in the fridge to use for the rest of the week.

So, today when I got home I made my version of Cristianos y Moros. This is a tasty vegetarian Cuban dish that is basically just black beans and white rice with all sorts of great flavors. While that was cooking I remembered I had poblano peppers. Then all of a sudden I had a hanckering for Chiles Rellenos! I decided to make chile relleno with panela and the rice dish. I don't think I've ever had a better idea than this.

I almost decided not to try it because I don't have a gas stove. Usually, I'll go to my grandmas house to roast the peppers over her stove-top flame. This keeps the peppers nice and firm and you're still able to remove the peel. Too much effort required. I remembered always seeing Bobby Flay do this under the broiler and thought I'd try my hand it. My mom has advised me against this before, saying that the peppers are way to flimsy afterwards. But- I was HUNGRY. So, I broiled them anyways. Sure enough! They were so much more flimsy than when we do it stove top. I peeled them, but they were so hard to keep closed with a toothpick. The flesh would tear apart and just spill all the contents. I wrapped them in twine and voila! poblano packages. I swapped the usual coating of foamy eggs for a simple cornmeal- because I was HUNGRY! The end result was- WOW. I had to add a little indulgence so I poured over a hefty spoonful of Mexican cream. It was heaven...

I must say that being a vegetarian makes cooking so much faster. I have been okay so far, but Morgane looked at her plate of rice and beans, with a slice of panela cheese... looked at me... back at her plate... and says "where's the carnita?" (where's the meat?) Promptly after her question she dug in and finished her entire dish! I guess she didn't really miss it. :)

Enough... here are the recipes!

Cristianos y Moros
Ingredients:
- 1 cup long grain rice (uncooked)
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 roma tomato
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 2 cups of water
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups of cooked black beans (not drained)

Pour vegetable oil into a warm skillet and add the rice. While the rice is toasting, dice the tomato then add to the skillet. Once the rice has a beige color to it, add the water, salt, bay leaf, and cumin. Cover loosely with foil and allow the rice to absorb the water. When most of the water has been absorbed add in the beans and stir. Cover again and let the beans heat through. Remove the bay leaf when dish is finished.

You can eat this dish alone, as a side dish, or a stuffing... used in the following recipe.

Poblano Packages
Ingredients:
- 4 poblano peppers
- 1 1/2 cup Cristianos y Moros
- 5 oz Panela Cheese or Queso Fresco
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1 tsb cumin
- cooking twine
- vegetable oil

Turn the broiler on High. Place the washed peppers on a cookie sheet and put under the broiler. Keep an eye on them and turn them to make sure the skin it blistered and darkened on the whole pepper. It should take no more than 8 minutes in total. Remove the peppers from the pan and wrap loosely in foil paper for 5 minutes. Rub the peppers soflty with your fingers to remove the outer skin that has been blistered. Using your fingers open one side of the pepper to open it like a book. Removed the seeds, stem, and rinse under warm water. Pat dry.

Place the peppers on a baking sheet, opened, so you may stuff them. Place a slice of cheese in each pepper and add 1/3 cup of rice dish. Fold the pepper over and use twine to tie it closed. I made three seperate ties on each pepper. Once the peppers are closed, place a skillet on medium high heat and add some vegetable oil.

In a wide plate combine the cornmeal, flour and cumin. Dredge the peppers in the mixture and then transfer to the skillet. Cook the peppers for 2 minutes on each side, just to get a crunchy crust. Then remove excess oil by placing them on a baking sheet or plate with napkins.

Serve the peppers over a plate of Cristianos y Morros. *optional* Pour a tablespoon of Mexican cream over the peppers.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What is New.

It seems everytime I step away from my blog it takes me longer to return. I have not been in the mood to cook lately (or at least take the time to photograph and then blog about what I've cooked). I've felt so scatter brained lately and I feel like things are barely going back to normal. My husband recently got a promotion at work and has been gone for a whole month! This, of course, has left me totally unmotivated to do anything other miss him. (Is that lame?) Well, I can't help it.. I missed him more than ever from day 1, maybe because I knew he'd be gone for so long. Now he is returning home this Thursday and I finally feel like life is being restored to me. I figured I should really take advantage of this and start up a great idea I got for my blog.

First off, you should know that I have decided to change my eating habits. I recently read an article (sorry! forgot where) that had all these interesting facts about meat that I kind off just turned me off. I am making an effort to become a vegetarian, not only because of what I learned, but because I've always wondered how you can be satisfied with eating only vegetables and no meat? I've tried this out before, only to learn new recipes, and it was so much fun. I am excited to take it on as a lifestyle change. I only hope that my old-habits don't come around asking for a big juicy steak.

Secondly (is this a word?) I want to choose one ingredient for the week and see what I can come up with. This will definitely help with saving money and also using up all the left overs. Which I am notorious for just letting waste away (I know, I should be ashamed). This week I have decided to make black beans. I love these little suckers and up until yesterday, I didn't know how to change them up other than just the usual refried bean. Stay tuned for an intersting adventure!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Instant Gratification

I have MIA for a while, I know, but life around here has been so incredibly busy. Usually, when my husband is home from work I don't blog much because we have a really busy schedule. These last days off he had were completely jam packed with out of town trips and friends visiting from France. It was fun and I am still feeling a little jet-lagged (wait, I'm not the one who took a flight). Anyway, I don't know what you call it when you're feeling a little... burned out? Yea that sounds right. Aside from all that, I became completely engrossed in reading The Hunger Games series. When I read a book(s) I really don't go anywhere or do anything until I'm finished (if it's good). So, that's where I've been and what I've been doing.



Yesterday morning, while I was having breakfast I was browsing through the new Ina Garten cookbook (How easy is that?) and I came across a chocolate cream pie. It looked so delicious, but I was in no mood for making things from scratch! Have you ever seen that show on Food Network- umm, semi-homemade or something? Well, I never really liked this show. I always thought, "Why does this woman have a show? Everything she makes comes out of a jar or a box!" I didn't understand back then... Now, that I have an extremely energetic daughter and a house to keep up I know why that show was on. It really does make your life easier, when you don't have to be in the kitchen all day. And every once in a while I want things- and I want them NOW. NO WAITING. So I headed out to the grocery store to get the things I needed to make my quick version of Ina's chocolate pie. I bought: a premade graham cracker crust, big package of INSTANT chocolate pudding, and some heavy whipping cream. The whole thing came out to $4.50. Not bad, huh?

I made the instant pudding, which is done in 2 minutes! Then poured it into the crust... popped that in the fridge while I whipped up the cream with a little sugar and a little khalua (yum!). Piped the cream onto the pie and then back to the fridge while I made lunch. The whole thing took me 5 minutes! No lie.

After lunch, I had myself a big (extra big) slice of pie. If that's not instant gratification, I don't know what is. The only complaint I had was that my crust was a little broken when I got home from the store, but it still tasted great! Sorry Ina, but I don't think I'll be going through all the trouble of making your pie, when I can just have mine!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pizza Cravings



This past weekend was so much fun. I got a chance to go to Austin, TX and watch the Davis Cup of USA vs. Spain. I also got to spend time with one of my greatests friends and of course got to eat some really good food. One place in particular really inspired me. It is called Roppolo's and it's right off the famous 6th street. The pizza was so fresh and delicious. The crust was whole wheat- soft, chewy, and sometimes a little crispy. After eating there I was continually craving pizza. So, when we got home I knew I'd have to have my go at making some really good pizza.

The pictures aren't as great as I'd have liked them to be, but I made the pizzas at night and I knew they wouldn't make it until morning. As it was, my poor husband had to wait until all the pizzas were photographed before he could dig in! The end result was everything I had imagined it to be. I made the crust extra thin and cooked all three pizzas for different amounts of time, to see how the crust would come out. I'll give you the deets on that later on in the recipe. I even recreated a pizza I had in Toulouse, France last year called a "Provencal Pizza" and it's not pissaladiere. It consists of tuna (I know, weird, but soooo good. I PROMISE), tomatoes, black olives, mozzerella, and watercress. For me, this pizza was my favorite because it brought back so many memories and I have never seen or tasted a pizza like that in the states. My husband loved the pesto, mozzerella, and tomato topped one. And we both, weren't too fond of the ricotta one. I love ricotta and tomato pizza, usually, but this poor pizza was the one cooked the longest and because I used fat-free ricotta, it ended up drying up the smooth creamy cheese and the tomato sauce also was dehydrated. Next time I make that I won't use fat-free and I will cook it for much less time.



Here's the recipe, you guys should definitely make this and top the pizza's any way you'd like or can come up with! It is so much fun watch your home made pizza bake in the oven.

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
Ingredients:
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (105-110 degrees F)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 cup all purpose flour

In a bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water. Let this sit for 10-12 minutes. Stir in the salt and oil. Using clean hands or a wooden spoon, mix in the whole wheat flour and 1 cup of the all purpose flour. Turn the dough out onto a clean and floured surface. Gradually knead in the remaining flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Kneading should continue for 5-8 minutes. Form the dough into a tight ball and place in a well oiled bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow it to sit until it doubles in size, roughly one hour. Punch the dough down and form a tight ball. Allow the dough to relax for a few minutes before cutting it to make several crusts. This should make 3 medium pizzas, 2 large, and a lot of small ones depending how you small you cut the dough. Form each piece into a ball and allow it to sit for 5 minutes before rolling it out.

Oven should be preheated to 450 degrees F. If you are cooking the pizza on a baking sheet or pizza stone, you can top your pizza before it goes into the oven to cook. However if you are using a pan and are opting for a thicker crust, allow the dough to rise for 20 minutes before topping and baking.

The pizzas should cook for 15 minutes for a tender, slightly crispy crust; 17 minutes for a crisp crust, and if you decide you want a really crispy crust then you can cook it for 20 minutes. ANYTHING over 20 minutes will dry out your topping and pretty much leave you a rock of a crust... that's what happened to my ricotta pizza.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Yogurt and Crepes



Crepes are the versatile little creation the French use for savory and sweet dishes. I enjoy making a large batch every now and then to see what I can come up with. I admit, that I rarely make anything savory with them- probably because I like all things sweet. My absolute favorite breakfast crepe has to be a thickened yogurt, banana, and honey filled one. MMmmmm, Makes my mouth water.

I always eat this crepe. Even more than nutella and fruit, if you can believe that. So, when my crepes were all done and my yogurt was thickened, everything was ready for eating... I realized- NO BANANAS, NO HONEY! What the heck kind of a kitchen am I running here? It was late and I was in no mood to go to the store. I noticed a few lonely apples in my fruit bowl and attempted to make an apple pie inspired filling. The tangyness of the yogurt worked really well with the apples and cinnamon.



The next day, I made my trip to the grocery store for bananas and honey. Had my favorite little crepe and was happy, happy for the rest of the day.



Crepes
Ingredients:
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 cup cold milk
- 4 eggs
- 1 tbsp sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 cups flour (I used whole wheat)
- 4 tbsp melted butter

Place the ingredients in a blender, cover, and blend at a high speed for a full minute. Then place the batter in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

The batter should have the consistensy of heavy cream.

Heat a non-stick skillet and rub lightly with butter, or use cooking spray. Pour a ladle of batter into the center of the skillet while you tilt the pan in a circular motion so the batter thinly covers the bottom of the skillet. Allow this side to cook for about a minute, then loosen the edges of the crepe with a wooden spoon and flip it to the uncooked side. It shouldn't take more than a minute for it to brown and it is ready. Continue to process for the remaining batter.

To Fill: You can use anything you'd like. Nutella and banana is a crowd favorite. Jams, fruit, yogurt- it all works!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Test Kitchen Week

I am dedicating this whole week to trying out new flavors and recipes for a project that I've got going on. I am so excited, I want to make and prepare everything all at the same time! It's disappointing that the day only has 24 hours.. and we need to sleep.. and I can really only be on my feet for 10 hours before I have to sit down and relax. But, that's what I've been dealt and gotta work with it.

Today was a really hectic day in the kitchen for me. I decided to go macaron crazy (again). I have gone through this phase before, at least twice. Once when I couldn't master the little boogers and a second time when I finally did. After about 30 batches of macarons that Morgane and I had to eat all by ourselves, I decided I should stop. It was an addiction- always hoping to get those little feet and jumping around celebrating once they were established. Eventually, the almonds became expensive...



Now, it's been a few months since I last made some and I needed to make sure I could still make them. Turns out I can. I made one batch and split it to make two different flavors. Coffee and Chocolate. I have a few pics that were taken on my phone because I was too lazy/busy to take the time to bust out my camera. The coffee ones tasted fabulously, but I carelessly piped them out... then carelessly peeled them off the silmat, so they didn't look too hot. I guess I forgot how sensitive and picky they are. For the chocolate half, I was a little more careful and they were so pretty and yummy.

I don't know about you but when I cook something that takes a lot of effort to make, I just don't feel like eating it when it's done. So, that's ultimately what happened. I had a few solo cookies, but sent off the sandwiched ones to my mom, who was feeling sick, and my sister.

After all that work and confusion from todays macarons, I decided to prepare ahead of time for tomorrow. So I have already sifted and seperated the almond/sugar mixture and made some lemon curd. Tomorrow should flow a lot smoother. That's what happens when you stop practicing. Moral of the story- I don't know, I forgot, I'm too tired to think.

**P.S. I want to thank Amanda from The Sweet Details for featuring me on her Savory Sunday. Greatly appreciated! :)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Crostata Madness



I love crostatas.

There really couldn't be anything more simple in the world to make. Especially because I also love the Pillsbury Pie Crusts from the biscuit section! I know, it's cheating.. but we don't always have to make everything from scratch. This little method/recipe is intended to make your life easier and that delicious crostata more attainable because it eliminates having to make a pie crust from scratch. Also, those pre-made pie crusts are just as good (maybe better, on a bad day) as the ones I make at home, so why not take a short cut? In addition, there is no need for a pie pan- less cleaning!

I used nectarines and apples to make two very very tasty crostatas, but you can use berries, cherries, peaches, or anything else you fill a fruit pie with. Here's what you have to do to get these on the table!



Nectarine Crostata
Ingredients:
- 1 premade pie crust, from the bicuit section, not freezer
- 3 ripe nectarines
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- juice of one lemon
- 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
- 1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

If you want to peel the nectarines, first boil a pot of water. Drop the nectarines for about 30 seconds, then remove and place in cold water. The skin should pull away from the flesh and make it easier to remove.

I was too lazy to do this and I really like the skin, so I didn't bother with peeling them.

Cut the nectarines into thin wedges and put them in a bowl. Add the sugar, cinnamon, and lemon. Then sift in the cornstarch, so you don't have any chunks. Using a wooden spoon or clean hands combine the ingredients.

On a sheet pan, lined with parchment paper or silicone mat, roll out the pie crust. Then pour the nectarine mixture in the middle of the crust, making sure you leave about an inch to an inch and a half of free crust all the way around. Spread out the fruit to make a nice even layer. Fold over the crust, working your way around. It should look very rustic. Brush the crust over with some of the egg wash and place in the oven to cook for 25-30 minutes.



Apple Crostata
Ingredients:
- 1 premade pie crust, from the bicuit section, not freezer
- 2 Granny Smith Apples
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- juice of one lemon
- 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
- 1 egg, lightly beaten

Follow the same directions used for the Nectarine Crostata, except of course for having to boil the apples to peel them.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Around the World on Wednesday- #2

So, things are slowly settling down here at home. I am ALMOST done with my projects and it seems like they really took over my life. All this week has left me feeling like I need to enjoy something rich and decadent. That's why I decided to cook something Italian inspired for this weeks Around the World Wednesday.



I must admit that I avoid Italian food a lot. I feel like it's over done and I am not a big fan of pasta. Anyone who knows me will vouch for me that I really never like to eat it. Even if I am forced to go out to an Italian restaurant I won't order pasta. At home, I rarely have pasta around and if I do it's because my husband put it in the cart at the grocery store. I am more of a rice girl. How lucky am I that the Italians have perfected the delicous creaminess of risotto? This recipe is so yummy... Even though it's fried, the rice inside stays moist and creamy.

I served these Risotto Balls for a baby shower I catered last year and they were a great hit. They are the perfect make ahead appetizer because you can serve them warm or at room temp. Also, a great way to use up that left over risotto.

Hope you guys eat this up!



Risotto Balls
Ingredients:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 4 oz fresh button mushrooms, chopped
- 1 medium onion
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 cup uncooked arborio rice
- 28 oz reduced sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (shredded)
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- pepper to taste
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

For the Risotto: In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and 1 tbsp butter. Add the mushrooms, onion, and garlic once the butter is melted. Cook until they are tender and there is no liquid in the pan. Add the rice and cook for about 3 minutes until it begins to brown.

In a seperate saucepan, bring the broth to boil and let it simmer. Slowly add 1 cup of the broth to the browned rice and stir constantly. Continue stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Then add an additional 1/2 cup of broth to the rice, still stirring continuously. When the liquid is absorbed add another 1/2 cup of broth. Continue adding the rest of the broth 1/2 cup at a time, continually stirring and allowing the liquid to evaporate in between. This should take about 15 minutes. Once the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed add in the remaining butter, the cheese, parsley, and pepper.

Lighlty grease a sheet pan that can fit into your refrigerator. Pour the risotto onto the sheet pan and make a thin layer. Cover and chill for an hour in the refrigerator.

Once chilled, use a small ice cream/ cookie scoop to shape 1-inch balls out of the risotto. Place the balls on a baking sheet. When all the balls are formed, cover and chill for 2 hours so they will firm up.

Heat the 1 cup of oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Roll the balls in the egg, then bread crumbs to coat, and place in the oil. You should not add more than 5 or 6 balls into the oil at once or the temperature will drop and you will have a soggy mess. It should take only 2 or 3 minutes until they are golden brown and should be turned over. Using a slotted spoon, remove the risotto balls and drain on paper towels. You can place them on a baking sheet in a 200 degrees F oven to keep them warm while you continue cooking the rest of the balls.



These are awesome by themselves, but if your a dipper, then I suggest serving up a small bowl of your favorite marinara.

Here are a few Fun Facts about Italy:
From Life in Italy
-The colors of the Italian flag represent three virtues: hope (green), faith (white), and charity (red).

-The automobile is one of Italy's greatest products. In addition to the Fiat brand, Fiat owns the Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo and Chrysler brands.

-The ice cream cone is an Italian invention.

BUON APPETITO!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Green Guacamole

I've finally managed to escape my home improvement projects to write a post. Actually, my bookshelves and some walls are drying a fresh coat of paint. I can't wait to be done with all this crap I started at once. I should have started off small, but I guess that goes against the whole "go big or go home" bit. Once, I finish this I seriously doubt I will take anything else on for a while. I'll just stick to cooking, thank you!



Last week, we went to Corpus Christi to enjoy the fabulous weather and the beach. It was so much fun. I got to see my cousins, aunt, and uncle, who are really like second sisters, mother and father to me. We spent a whole day at the beach. Swimming, making sand castles, eating, and drinking. No better way to spend a random Friday afternoon. My aunt always goes to beach packed with everything you might ever need. Volleyball courts, tents, sunblock, towels, beer, a grill, and guacamole! This guacamole is unlike anything I've ever tasted. And let me just say, I've tasted a lot of guacamole! She told me she got the recipe from my uncle and what was in it. I was amazed.. and knew I'd be trying it when I got home. So, I did and it was just as fabulous and I think it should be your go-to guac recipe, because it has become mine for so many reasons!

#1: it is super tasty
#2: extremely easy
#3: stays green FOREVER (hence the name)
#4: affordable

I don't know about avocado prices else where, but they are expensive here. One avocado can range from $1.50 to $2.75 each one! We all know that a good guacamole goes fast and we'd need at least 3 of those little suckers. So, the fact that you only need 1 avocado for this made me super giddy! If you are making the dip for more than 5 people, you might need to double the recipe. You do use other ingredients, but they are so inexpensive that it doesn't even really count.

Green Guacamole
Ingredients:
- 1 large Haas Avocado
- 2 tomatillo
- 1 serrano pepper
- 1/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro
- juice of 3 or 4 limes (depending on the juiciness)
- 2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
- 1/4 cup of water

Remove the skin and seed from the avocado. Cut into chunks and place in the blender. Remove the outter leaves of the tomatillos and cut into four pieces, into the blender. Remove the stem from the pepper and place in the blender with the remaining ingredients. If you like a chunky guacamole you can use less water or add more for a more liquid consistency. I like it to be a little smooth, but not liquidy. It can be kept in the refrigerator for about a week.

Serve alongside broken up tostadas, chips, or in sandwiches.

Thanks for the recipe and inspiration Tia Pat!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Playing Catch-up

I have to admit that I have been such a bad blogger this past week! I haven't been able to sneak in a few minutes to write. My husband is taking online classes and has been hogging up the computer all week! That's not the only reason I haven't blogged though. I actually decided to take on the project of refinishing my dinining room set. After being inspired by the work of Katie and her ghost buster green desk. Let me just say that furniture refinishing and stuff like that is so much harder than cooking. I love browsing crafting blogs just to see all the cool things you can do. Sometimes I even attempt these crafts and often times leave them unfinished because it gets too hard and I'd rather spend my time cooking.

Check out Bonnie's Five Feature Friday and there is no way you won't be inspired to try something! I actually made those bookshelves on the list, I just haven't gotten around to paint them. (Another unfinished project!) So, that's what I've been up to- a bunch of unfinished business that I am really trying to get done before I go back to cooking.There's been a lot of frozen foods at home this past week. I promise I'll be back within the next few days. I actually got to go shopping at a specialty food store and got some great ingredients to try out. That's why I am in a hurry to finish all these things I started. I'll post pics of it all soon!

Miss you guys!

OH! forgot to mention that my Chocolate French Toast was featured on Miz Helen's Country Cottage last week. Another boost of confidence, Thanks for the support everyone, and take some time to check out her blog.

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Ultimate Summer Salad

After a week off the South Beach Diet I have started again today. I really think that this diet is great. I am never starving and it is quite healthy. Todays recipe is a great salad to use on the diet and it's a must have for a summer cook out. It's light and fresh- perfect for those hot 108(F) degree afternoons we've been having for the last month or so. It feels like spring didn't even last a week here! It has been so hot and dry. I feel like Rango everytime I go outside... drying up and my skin bursting off. It's a horrible feeling, but it makes great weather for enjoying a cold beer!



I just made this salad, not even 20 minutes ago. Generally, I don't automatically jump on to my computer to post, but my husband is taking a nap and Morgane is watching TV... So I thought I'd squeeze this in. Afterall, the weekend is coming up and it would be a shame for you guys not to have this recipe on hand in case you decide to grill or entertain.

The Ultimate Summer Salad
Ingredients:
- 1/4 cup grapeseed oil (you can also use extra-virgin olive)
- 1 lemon
- 1 lime
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 3 cucumbers
- 6 roma tomatoes or 3 medium slicing tomatoes
- 1/2 small purple onion
- 6 oz reduced-fat block feta

In a large bowl combine the oil, juice of the lemon and lime, salt, pepper, and oregano. Whisk until the vinaigrette becomes opaque and taste for seasonings. Set aside while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

Peel the cucumbers. I like to leave a little peel to add some splash of dark green color and also some fiber. Cut the cucumber in half, lengthwise, and remove the seeds with a spoon. Cut each half in half again, lengthwise, and then cut the long pieces into 1/4 inch cubes. Repeat for all the cucumbers and then place them in the same bowl as the vinaigrette.

Cut the tomoatoes to a similar size as the cucumbers and put them in the bowl. Slice the onion into thin half moons and add to the bowl. The feta should also be cut into small cubes about 1/4 inch. If you'd like bigger chunks of feta, you will probably need more than 6 oz so the salad looks of equal proportions. With a large spoon toss the ingredients so they are all coated with the vinaigrette. That's it!

The salad can be eaten straight away, but tastes better after all the flavors have a had a chance to incorporate, about 30 minutes. It can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days, but I'm sure it will be finished much sooner than that. HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Chocolate French Toast

Last night I found myself unable to sleep. I had promised Morgane I'd make her a special breakfast and I kept wondering what I should make. It's a silly reason to be awake and stressing, but I seriously had like a million thoughts running through my head. I was going to go with the old chocolate chip pancake standby, but then I felt like it was overdone. So, I decided to try a chocolate french toast.

It made me so hungry. I was tempted to get up and make myself a little midnight snack, but knew I'd regret it in the morning. So, I kept tossing and turning until I finally dozed off. This morning, I was so excited to get started on breakfast because I knew my little 'french fry' would love it.



The final product was so yummy. I only regret not having a nicer bread to work with. I had to use whole wheat bread, which wasn't bad, but I think a thick brioche would have worked better. It was a great way to start off the day and I think that the chocolate lovers out there will appreciate this.

Chocolate French Toast
Ingredients:
- 1/2 cup milk chocolate (melted)
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup of milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- pinch of salt
- bread slices
- butter for cooking

Warm the milk and cream together in a small pot. Do not bring to boil, just warm it enough to remove the chill so the melted chocolate won't set when combined with it. Pour the warmed milk/cream mixture into a blender along with 1/4 cup of the melted chocolate, cocoa powder, eggs and salt. Blend for 30 seconds to 1 minute, so the ingredients are fully combined. If you are worried about possibly having cooked the eggs because your milk was too hot, then run the mixture through a seive to remove any bits.

Pour the mixture into a shallow plate or baking dish, where you can soak your bread. Allow the bread to soak for 1 or 2 minutes, more if the bread slices are thicker. Add some butter to your heated non-stick pan and place the soaked slices of bread on the pan to cook. Turn the bread over after 2 minutes and allow the other side to cook for an additional 2 minutes. Repeat the process with the remaining bread.

Drizzle the remaining melted chocolate over the French toast to serve and if you'd like dust with cocoa powder or powdered sugar.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Around the World on Wednesday- #1

I love exploring food from different cultures and regions of the world. As a child, I wasn't exposed to anything other than Mexican food, except the occasional Chinese buffet, if you can really call that Chinese food. It wasn't that my family wasn't interested in other cultures, but up until recently, Laredo was about 99% Mexican American, which means there really wasn't a market for anything other than Mexican ingredients. Now that things have changed there are more ingredients readily available (even though they may be really expensive). I thought that having a weekly international dish would be a great way to expand my international palate and help others out in trying foods from all over the world! So, for my first Around the World Wednesday Entry- FRANCE! (After all, I love all things French.)




Beautiful tree lined country roads in southern France.


French food can seem daunting mostly because of their name. At least, it was that way for me. To tell you the truth, I never even attempted making anything French until I met my husband. I wanted him to be able to enjoy things from home and that's how my love of French food all began. I don't know what there isn't to love. So many cheeses, breads, sauces, wine, champagne, and techniques than can be used a variety of ways.



The recipe I have chosen for today is Clafouti. It is an super simple, beautiful looking tart that has a similar texture to flan. This a traditional peasant dish from the Limousin region of France. It can be made with cherries, plums, apples, blackberries, blueberries, and you can add almonds to the mixture. With all the beautiful cherries at the grocery store, I couldn't resist making them with cherries! The end result was beautiful and the sweetness/ tartness from the cherries was delicious.



Clafouti
adapted from Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 1
Ingredients:
- 2 cups pitted and halved fresh cherries
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup flour
- powdered sugar
- a baking dish that holds 7 to 8 cups, or 6- 4 in. tart pans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the milk, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, and flour in the order with they are listed in your blender. Cover and blend at top speed for 1 minute. During this time butter your baking dish. (I used canola oil cooking spray.)

Pour a 1/4 in. layer of batter in the baking dish or tart pans. Set over moderate heat for a minute or two until a film of batter has set in the bottom of the dish. If, you are using the smaller tart pans you can place them into the oven for 3-5 minutes until the film has set. Remove from the heat and arrage the cherries over the batter. Sprinkle the remaining granulated sugar over the cherries. Pour on the rest of the batter and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.

Place in the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for about an hour for a baking dish or 40 minutes for the small tart pans. The clafouti is done when it has puffed and browned, and a needle or knife plunged into its center comes out clean. Dust with the powdered sugar just before serving. It can be eaten warm or cooled.


Here are a few Fun Facts about France:
From French Affair
-The Languedoc-Rousillon city of Nîmes is the birthplace of jeans. The distinctive fabric was imported to California by Levi Strauss in order to make tough work trousers for gold diggers. Denim is short for “de Nîmes”.

-Under laws that no-one has ever got round to removing from the statute book, it is illegal to call a pig Napoleon.

-As a warm up, English typists use "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs." as it contains every letter of the alphabet..

The French use "Allez porter ce vieux whisky au juge blond qui fume un havane." It means .. Take this whisky to the blond judge who is smoking a cigar.

Monday, June 6, 2011

All-Purpose Mustard Sauce



There are quite a few things that make me really happy when I'm cooking and trying out new recipes. The obvious is when I accomplish something that seems intimidating on the first attempt. Then there is the rare occasion of finding a recipe that you can adopt methods from and continue using for other dishes. When this happens you expand your cooking ability by so much because instead of just mastering one dish, you can create many more!

Some of my favorites that I use for so many, many things include vinaigrettes and traditional French sauces. By just changing one ingredient or the other, you have a whole new flavor that can be used for absolutely anything! For instance, vinaigrettes are great on salads of course, but also work wonders on changing up that left over rice or flavoring up some couscous. And sauces! What can you not do with sauces? It makes everything look fancy and you can even use it as a base for vinaigrettes!

So, today I decided to share this mustard sauce recipe because it is so super simple and it can be used on anything: steak, pork, chicken, fish, potatoes, and vegetables.

All-Purpose Mustard Sauce
Ingredients:
- 1 cup chicken/vegetable broth or water
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
- 2 tbsp creme fraiche/sour cream/ marscapone/ or heavy whipping cream
- 1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste

Sauces are best made after the meat portion has been cooked and in the same pan. The reason for this is that the broth/ water releases all the little bits left behind in the pan and the sauce gets all that delicious flavor. This process is known as deglazing. Add the broth, wine, and mustards and stir the liquids until everything is distributed evenly. Allow the liquid to simmer for about 2 to 3 minutes, then stir in the dairy component you are using. Continue simmering until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. To check this, dip a spoon into the sauce and check the back of the spoon to see if the liquid has clung to the spoon or dripped off. If the back of the spoon is coated, then proceed to run your finger on it to make a line on the spoon. If the line remains, then your sauce is ready and all you have to do is add in the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. If the liquid runs off the spoon then the sauce needs to simmer longer. The whole process should take no more than 10 minutes.

All that's left to do is serve a generous amount over your dish! Bon Appetite!


Check out the barley recipe I used!


**On a side note, I just wanted to announce my second feature! This is so exciting. Thanks to everyone who has been checking out my blog and has suscribed, you guys are awesome! (I feel like I just won an award.. :-P)**


Check it out by clicking the button.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

An Apricot Recipe, Finally



I can't believe how long those little apricots had survived in my fridge. I had not planned on actually cooking with them because of me being on the diet, but then I stumbled upon the idea of giving it away. Groundbreaking- I know. I really don't know why I hadn't thought about this sooner! I searched endlessly for tempting apricot recipes, but nothing really caught my eye. It all seemed so familiar. Then, as I was watching recorded shows on my DVR I came across Laura Calder, from the Cooking Channel, who hosts French Food at Home. I must admit that when I first saw this show I wasn't sure I liked it. She was no Julia Child. That is true, but I have definitely made up my mind about her. I love the show- so much so, that I have every single episode recorded on my DVR. So, she has this amazing recipe for an Almond Meringue Cake with Peaches. I really wanted to try this recipe and I figured I'd just switch out the peaches for apricots.

There are many reasons why I first thought this dessert might be a little tough, but the main thing was that it was a meringue. As I have mentioned before I have such bad luck with meringues.. or rather any recipe that needs a meringue. I am not one of the lucky few that was able to master the macaron on the first try- not even the 6 th, 7 th, or 8 th try! I finally was able to master it on the 9 th attempt, but it left me traumatized. They are just too tricky and even after making a few good batches, the French method was not reliable for me. So, my husband was nice enough to surprize me with a macaron course in Toulouse for Christmas last year. There I learned the Italian method, using heated sugar to cook the whites and make them more stable and I'd say 100% fool - proof. I thought, yay! I have mastered the meringues. Then, I came across this wonderful and tempting recipe that closely resembles the French method/macaron recipe. *GASP*

In the end, it all turned out okay and I was so proud of myself. The cake was beautiful after it was assembled and a tear silently rolled down my cheek as I handed over the cake plate to my sister for her enjoyment. OK, OK, I can't lie! I snuck a piece... and maybe a little more. I had to in order to give a proper review! And it was delicious- everything I had imagined it to be.



Almond Meringue Cake with Apricots
adapted from Laura Calder
Ingredients:
- 4 oz ground almonds
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 cup + 3 tbsp sugar
- 4 eggs (separated)
- 2 sticks of butter (softened)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup of almonds (sliced or slivered)
- 5-6 apricots

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

In a small bowl, combine the ground almonds, cornstarch, and 1/2 cup of sugar. In a separate bowl, beat the whites to soft peaks, and then beat in 2 tbsp of sugar to make a stiff meringue. Fold in the almond mixture in 3 batches to combine thoroughly. Using a piping bag with a large tip, pipe the meringue onto the circles on the parchment. Bake until crisp and dry, about 1 1/2 hours.

To make the buttercream: Heat the remaining sugar with 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons water to dissolve, then boil to soft-ball stage, which is just before the syrup changes color (235 to 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer). Beat the egg yolks in a stand-up mixer, then, with the beaters running, quickly add the hot syrup in a thin stream. Continue beating until the mixture is cool and forms and thick mousse, about 5 minutes. Beat in the butter, gradually, and finally add the vanilla.

To assemble the cake: Set a round of meringue on a serving plate. Spread over a quarter of the buttercream. Lay in a layer of sliced peaches. Spread the top layer with buttercream and set it on top of the first. Spread the remaining butter cream over the sides of the cake. Press the toasted almonds all around the sides. Arrange another layer of peach slices on top.


My little gremlin enjoying her little cake.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Teriyaki Tofu Kebabs

Today has been a really stressful day for me. I had such a hard time sleeping last night because I kept hearing all sorts of weird noises. Then this morning I woke up and heard my neighbor talking really loudly, from what seemed like my front yard. For a moment I thought, "I wonder if he is talking to the police?".. I really don't know why I thought that. Maybe because we have been having a few parking issues. These people are so inconsiderate when it comes to unspoken parking rules! When I first moved into my house two years ago, there was this old beat up truck parked right in front of my house ALL the time. (It was literally never moved.) I decided I was gonna call TxDOT because there's this lemon law, where they go and tow old abandoned cars. First, I wanted to be generous and see if it belonged to any of my neighbors. So, I went over to the people next to me and asked. Sure enough, it was their vehicle. I asked them to please move it because it was inconvenient for me, because it nearly blocked my drive way and because my visitors always had to park elsewhere thanks to that garbage parked out front. They were nice enough to move it and for a few weeks (maybe even a month) they didn't park out front. I mean it just seemed ridiculous that they needed that space. They had three vehicles, of which two could be parked on their driveway and the other infront of their OWN house. But no... they decided that truck didn't need to make their house look bad so they went and parked it two houses down!!!! Can you believe that? More people moved into the house with them.. don't know why, but along with them they brought 3 more vehicles! Luckily, their neighbor on the other side moved out and the house is empty. So, they use that drive way for two of the vehicles and I've had to deal with at least one of their vehicles parked directly infront of my house again! It is so annoying because they park almost halfway blocking my driveway and no one is parked in front of their house.. and during the day no one is in their driveway, but there is always someone in front of my house.

... Okay, and because of these annoying issues I have been putting my trashcan there so they can't park there. Of course they still move my trash so they can park! Anyway back to this morning. I hear the neighbor in his loud voice, "We've been having problems (fades off) trash can (fades off)." OMG, I was like what is this guy doing? So I got up out of bed and looked out the window and sure enough there was a cop! The cop wasn't there because of our parking issues, but because someone had broken into the neighbors car infront of my house. I freaked out- thought maybe they'd blame me for wanting them to move their damn car or something. THEN, I got even more freaked out because it could have been my car! I've had to deal with enough of that violation and recently too because they broke into my house while we were in Europe in December. So, all morning I have been stressing out about this. It makes me really want to sell my house! It may not seem like a big deal, but my husband works out of state so he's not always here and that makes it scary for me. I always stress about things...



Sorry about that rant, I just really need to vent to anyone and everyone who will lend an ear when I am having a stressful day. Ah, so the recipe, right!? Remember I told you I was doing the South Beach Diet? Well, it's going pretty good. I have lost 6lbs in one week and it hasn't been hell. I have been eating pretty good. The recipe I am posting today is more of a method I guess. I was watching Cooking Channel and they were showing a vegetarian cookout and these actually appealed to me. Eventhough I am not a big fan of Tofu- they turned out good! At first, I wanted to make my own teriyaki, but I knew I wasn't going to find vermouth or tamrin at the supermarket so I bought a ready made bottle. Not the sticky gooey sugar filled sauce, it's a light soysauce looking type (kikkoman brand), and I am sure this would be wonderful with any meat.

Teriyaki Tofu Kebabs
Ingredients:
- Firm Tofu
- Bell Pepper
- 1/3 cup Teriyaki Sauce/Marinade
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Skewers

Cut the Tofu into small cubes and marinade in a bowl with the teriyaki and lemon juice for 30 minutes to an hour. While it is marinating cut the bell pepper into small peices that are about the same width as the tofu cubes, so you can put them on the skewers. Then it's assembly time! Alternate tofu and bell pepper down 2/3 of the skewer. You can cook these outside on the grill, stove top grill, or in a panini grill like I did. They don't take very long, but I really liked the ones that cooked for longer because the tofu was a little crunchy. After about 5 minutes on each side you should have beautiful grill marks and they should be ready. If you are substituting the tofu for any meat, it will take longer.

After the kebabs were done, I sauteed a little kimchi to serve along side it. SO GOOD. All I needed was a little rice, but I can't eat that- darnit!

I think next time I will try it with chicken.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tiramisu

Today marks day 4 of my South Beach Diet endeavor. It hasn't really been too difficult. I am actually quite proud that I haven't cheated or snuck in a piece of toast, because that is my favorite breakfast. I have had a little hanckering for chocolate, but I decided to blog about it instead of eating it! I made tiramisu for my hubby a few days back. **I didn't invite anyone over for it because he doesn't like to share his tiramisu.**



Last post, I mentioned that I have a hard time getting Arnaud to cook, but I forgot to mention that he never turns down a chance to eat make tiramisu. Usually, we will take turns making it- always the same recipe- turns out, it was my turn. I love this recipe because it is not too sweet and doesn't have an overwhelming amount of flavors. I really love the chocolate, rum, coffee combination of it and love even more that it doesn't have vanilla. Don't get me wrong, vanilla is delicious, but when it comes to tiramisu, I just don't find it necessary. This is as basic as you can get and as simple too.

The only issue I had with this tiramisu was waiting. You have to wait 4 hours minimum for it to set. Of course, I needed to photograph it so I took it outside for some beauty shots and the 108(F) degree weather melted it like ice cream within 5 minutes! So I had to rush it inside and pop it back in the fridge before it was inedible, or a soggy mess! AND I had to wait some more! So, the pictures were a little quick and maybe not as good as I would have liked them to be. The recipe, however, is still a sure bet and should be added to your dessert reprotoire.



Tiramisu
Ingredients:
- 16 oz. room temperature marscapone
- 4 eggs (seperated)
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar (converted from metric amounts)
- 1 1/2 cup espresso or strong coffee
- 1/8 cup dark rum or armagnac
- lady fingers
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder

Seperate the eggs while they are cold to make the process easier. Combine yolks with sugar in a bowl and beat until they are fluffy and have turned a pale yellow. Then beat in the marscapone until it is smooth. If you don't use room temperature marscapone, it is likely that you will have lumps that will be very difficult to get rid of. Once these ingredients are combined, set this bowl aside.

Whisk the egg whites, along with the salt, in a clean glass, copper, or stainless steel bowl. Using plastic containers decreases the success of having light fluffy whites because it is very difficult to fully remove fat residue from plastic. If you are a mad man and have decided to whisk these by hand, using a bigger whisk will make the process faster. Once the whites reach their full potential and have attained stiff peaks they are ready. You know you have stiff peaks when you can turn your bowl upside down and they don't fall, or using the safer method of scooping some with the top of your whisk and see if it holds it's shape. My husband does the bowl upside down test, but I have had so much bad luck with meringues that I am too scared of dropping it all on the floor then having to start all over and cleaning up.

Slowly, fold the egg whites into the marscapone mixture in two batches so they don't deflate. Start by placing your spatula (rubber/silicone) into the middle of your whites and scoop/'fold' turning out to the sides of the bowl, while turning the bowl. Repeat this movement until the egg whites have all been incorporated, then add in the remaining whites and combine in the same manner. Set aside.

The espress/coffee should be cooled and combined with the rum in a bowl where you can dip the lady fingers in. You will, of course, need something to assemble the tiramisu in. I used a small oval pan for this, but using an 8" or 9" square brownie pan will work too. Dip the lady fingers into the coffee mixture soaking both stides of the cookie. **WARNING** Whether you are using the crunchy cookies or the cake like ones, they both get really soggy if left to soak for too long and end up falling apart. So, be sure to only soak them for 3 or 4 seconds on each side. Then place them on your pan, creating the base for the dessert. Continue this process until you are able to cover the bottom of the pan with cookies. Then, pour half of the marscapone mixture over the cookies and smooth the top. Moisten and place the cookies over the marscapone to create a second layer. Cover the second layer of lady fingers with the remaining marscapone and then dust the whole top of the dessert with the cocoa powder. Place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours, best left over night.



Yum. Just writing this makes me feel like I just enjoyed a big serving of this creamy goodness. :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Couple's Therapy


Spring Rolls


So, still no update on those darn apricots. I really don't know what to do about them, and the fact that I just started the South Beach Diet today doesn't exactly motivate me to work with them (since, I won't be able to taste it!) Perhaps, I should have used the apricots before starting the diet? It seemed almost impossible to fit them into my cooking schedule though. I had so many piled up projects.. and I never got around to them. I've finally decided to let the household dig in. Morgane came up to me today and said "Daddy said I can have a polka-dot. Is it okay?" and there she was with an apricot in her hand. I have no idea where she got polka-dot from, but she thoroughly enjoyed it.. in front of me. I guess, I will have to wait for another apricot sale to finally make something with them.

Back, to those projects I was talking about. On a trip to Houston, prior to the barely trip, I went to a Chinese market. It was amazing and I loved the fact that noodles, which run about $4.99 here, were only $2.00! I also found a lot of cool ingredients that I have just about finished. I was really into Asian food for a while. There was one lone ingredient that remained in the pantry untouched...rice paper rounds. I purchased these with the intention of making spring rolls. Yuuuum! But, again, lazyness crept around and fear too- buying them premade just seemed so much more convenient. Then, the strangest of all things happened... my husband offered to cook! WOW. He even wanted to make something interesting- spring rolls!

At first, I was hesitant, unsure if he was really willing to help out in the kitchen. In the end, I decided it wasn't a bad idea taking this on as a couple! Especially, when I have such a hard time getting him to cook something for the family that isn't frozen or canned. I really don't know why he doesn't ever offer to cook, he isn't half bad. I guess he just prefers me not telling him how to do things my cooking. We spent the afternoon preping and talking. It was actually really fun- and we got along! Not that we don't get along, but I always assume that in stressful situations we will constantly bicker. That wasn't the case and I am glad it wasn't because we got a delicious meal out of it and were able to enjoy our accomplishment together. We even got a few laughs from the first few burrito like rolls we made. After a few mishaps, the rolls starting looking normal. I guess it's like crepes, they get better as you go along, but don't toss the first one- it's a perfect snack while finishing the rest of them.

I really enjoyed making these and eating them was just as much fun! Here's the recipe for them.

Spring Rolls
Ingredients:
- medium sized shrimp
- bean sprouts
- carrots
- curly leaf lettuce
- vermicelli rice noodles
- cilantro
- rice paper rounds
*I haven't indicated amounts because it all depends on how many rolls you are making and how big you want them. However, average about 2-3 shrimp per roll.*

Fill a saucepan with water and set to boil on stove. Once the water is simmering, place in the raw shrimp. Once the shrimp have started to curl and changed to a pink color they are ready. This should take about 3-4 minutes. Drain the shrimp and allow them to cool until you can handle them with your hands. Once they are cooled, break off the little legs (if any) and remove the shells and tail. Using a small paring knife, cut along the back side of the shrimp to remove the black trail and rinse to remove it completely. Continue until you have finished devaining all the shrimp. If you have purchased pre-cooked shrimp, you don't need to cook them further. Just defrost them and remove shell, tail, and devaine if needed. Set aside.

Carrots should be peeled and cut into matchsticks. The lettuce and cilantro only need to be washed and hand torn into smaller pieces.

The rice noodles should be prepared according to the package instructions, but it should not take more than 5 minutes. Once they are drained set them aside to cool.

Place your ingredients in an assembly line that is accesible from within arms length to make your life easier when putting the rolls together. Moisten a clean kitchen towel and set it on the counter. This will be your work surface. The rice paper rounds should be included in the assembly line, along with a 9 in. round cake pan filled with tap water.

Place a paper round into the water and allow it to soften. The round will still look a little clear when it is ready, but it will be pliable. Place the round on the towel and allow it to sit for a few minutes, this makes it so much easier to work with. At this point, you can place another paper round into the water, but make sure to keep on eye on it.



Once the round is ready to work with, place two or three shrimp on the top 1/4 of the round. Then work your way through the assembly line- a leaf or two of cilantro, 4 carrot matchsticks, bean sprouts, enough lettuce to cover the previous layers, and a small bunch of rice noodles. I just tore these up by hand, once they are in the roll, no one will see how they were cut. Here comes the tricky part- rolling them.

If you didn't allow the round to set for a while, it will be all floppy and won't stay where you want it to. So letting it rest is important. I would say 5 minutes is ideal resting time. First, using both hands fold the top over the filling and push the filling up to the edge of the fold to make it nice and tight. Hold that down with your thumb, while you reach for the side flaps and fold inward toward the middle. That was the hardest part! Once the sides are straight, all you have to do is roll the whole thing downward on itself, like a burrito- et voila! A spring roll.

Place the completed spring rolls on a plate and cover it with a wet napkin, while you finish making the rest.



These tasted delicious by themselves, but we dipped them in soysauce with a squirt of lemon juice and they were even better! Yum,Yum,Yum,Yum- Delicioso! (too much Dora the explorer).