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
- 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.

- 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! :)