Sunday, May 30, 2010

I heart cooking clubs- Garlic Breath

For this weeks IHCC recipe I made braised potatoes. He has several (10) variations of the recipe and I made Braised potatoes and Garlic. I love garlic and I actually think this could have easily accommodated more garlic but I try to be sensitive to the rest of my family. This was a really easy recipe and if you are having freaky weather for May (like we are) you might enjoy soup.


2 pounds all-purpose or waxy potatoes
3 Tblsp. olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
1-2 heads of garlic, peeled
2 cups stock or water
1/4 cup parsley, for garnish (I didn't have any so I skipped this)
Parmesan, if desired

-Peel potatoes and cut them into chunks.
-Put the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. When hot add the potatoes and garlic, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook stirring occasionally until coated in oil and beginning to turn golden.
-Add the stock and enough water so that the potatoes are barely covered. Bring to a boil, stirring once in a while to make sure the potatoes aren't sticking, then turn the heat to medium-low so that the mixture bubbles gently.
-Cook, stirring occasionally until the potatoes get tender, 20-25 minutes. Add more liquid if they start to stick.
-The potatoes are done when a skewer or sharp knife inserted into one meets almost no resistance. Adjust seasoning, garnish with Parmesan and serve.

After tasting the recipe the way it is, I did puree about half of the soup just to give it a more creamy texture. My whole family loved this. Everyone had seconds and my two year old had fourths (although I was giving him much smaller servings).

SMS: Coconut Custard Pie

Ahh, I am getting this out so late but technically it is still Sunday where I live (for another 45 minutes). I made the pie earlier in the week and then kind of forgot about it until a little while ago. Incidentally, I also made last weeks pecan pralines this week (they were good but SUPER sweet, like tooth ache sweet). Anyway back to the coconut custard pie. It was very easy to make and pretty quick too. Overall I liked it and the fam seemed to enjoy it but I was a little disappointed in the texture or flavor. I was expecting it to be more creamy, like pudding and it was a little more eggy. It wasn't bad, I was just looking forward to something a little different. I followed the recipe pretty exactly but it could have been user error.
I must admit I did not make my own crust. Just didn't feel like messing with it this time.
Also making a brief appearance, here are my pralines for last weeks SMS. They are pretty good with ice cream. They weren't anything I would crave but they are pretty quick and really easy. I could see making them to give to a neighbor as a gift. I think if/when I make these again I will add more nuts. You really need the nuts to help break up the sweet.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: Piece Montée or Croquembouche

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

It was definitely a challenge, to say the least! This project took me a little ways out of my comfort zone. I get nervous to make layer cakes, let alone something like this. But that being said it was a very fun learning experience and I am so glad I got to try it! My dad and my stepmom are both French, were married in France and had a croquembouche for their wedding cake. I didn't make it to the wedding but I have seen the picture and been very curious about this dessert ever since. I am sure theirs looked and tasted much better than the one I made (at least I REALLY hope so). Still I don't think I did too bad a job for my first try :) If I make one again, don't think I would use the caramelized sugar. It was a pain, literally! I ended up burning the tip of one of my fingers, which kind of ruined some of the fun. Were I to try this again, I think I would try the chocolate. Much more user friendly and who doesn't love cream puffs and chocolate. So not sure if I will ever make the whole thing again but I can definitely say I will make cream puffs again and I am excited to make other things with the pate a choux.

I followed the recipes and used the vanilla cream filling. Yummy! To finish off my croquembouche, I made my favorite sugar cookies and used a basic royal icing to decorate them.
Making the pate a choux was actually pretty quick and easy. The piping was a little more difficult for me to get right. For some reason when I tried to pipe it at first, it seemed a little too liquidy (spell check tells me this is not a real word but c'est la vie) but after sitting for a minute the flour seemed to absorb more of the egg and it worked out fine.
Some of the puffs were not quite as puffy as they should have been but they still tasted yummy and worked out okay.
Here are the sugar cookies. They were pretty fun and easy to make.

Following are the recipes used in making the piece montée, including the sugar cookie recipe.

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide. Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top. Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool. Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.

When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip (I actually used a squeeze bottle as per the recommendation of Martha Stewart), pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla

Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.

Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.

Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

Here is the recipe for the glaze I used and following is the chocolate glaze I wish I had used.

Hard Caramel Glaze:
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.

Chocolate Glaze:
8 ounces/200 g. finely chopped chocolate (use the finest quality you can afford as the taste will be quite pronounced; I recommend semi-sweet)

Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford. Use immediately.

Finally here is the recipe for the sugar cookies. I found them on this wonderful blog.


1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp good quality vanilla
1 cup sour cream
4.5- 5 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
4 tsp. baking powder

Cream butter and sugar. Mix in eggs. Add sour cream and vanilla. Blend well. Sift dry ingredients together. Add to cream mixture a little at a time. Roll dough on floured board and cut into desired shapes. Bake on parchment lined sheets at 350 F for about 10 minutes.

Seriously these are amazing cookies and I usually use the frosting that goes with them (which you can find on the same blog) and it is even better!

Here is the link to the Daring Bakers challenge. There is some awesome information along with some extra recipes that I didn't use. Also you can use the blog roll to check out how the other, very talented, Daring Bakers did with this challenge.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

No SMS today :(

No yummy butterscotch pralines here. I just didn't find the time this week to do any baking or cooking. My husband loves butterscotch so I will still be making these (hopefully sometime this week). Anyway they look really wonderful on everyone blogs. Tessa over at The Cookin' Chemist hosted this week and she has a great tutorial on how to make these butterscotch pralines and be sure to check out how the other sms bakers did.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I heart cooking clubs- Potluck

It is that time again! POTLUCK. This week I went super-duper easy for my potluck recipe. I made Five Minute Drizzle Sauce, which can be found at the beginning (page 22) of How to cook Everything. This is such a simple recipe and I really loved it plus I just love all of Bittman's variations.
Here is the recipe-

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or butter
1 tablespoon minced onion, garlic, ginger, shallot, scallion or lemongrass
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice or mild vinegar, like balsamic
salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Put the oil or butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is warm or the butter is melted, add the onion and cook stirring occasionally, until it softens (turn the heat down if it starts to color), a minute or two.
2. Stir in 2 tablespoons water and the lemon juice and sprinkle with some salt and pepper; maintain the heat so it bubbles gently for a minute or two. Taste, adjust the seasoning and serve.

I used the onion and drizzled this over warm pasta. Then I topped it with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese. What a comfort food! I can't wait to try some of the other variations and to try it on more than just pasta. Mark Bittman suggests it be used on pasta, rice, fish or chicken. I think it would also make a yummy vinaigrette for a salad.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

SMS: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel-Rum Raisin Sauce

YUMMY! I really love bread pudding, any kind, at pretty much any time of the day! Bread pudding, is not just for dessert as far as I am concerned. If I didn't love bread pudding so much, I probably would have given this week a miss because my little sister got married Friday, which made for a crazy, busy week.

I am so glad I made this because it was delicious. Here are the few changes I made to the recipe: I didn't have brioche so I grabbed a loaf of bread from a local grocery store that was described as rich, golden and buttery. I also did not have rum so I substituted 1 tsp. rum flavoring and enough water to make 1/4 cup in total. The rum flavoring was a little strong for me so next time I think I would just use 1/2 tsp. rum flavoring. This will be a recipe I definitely use again, especially in the fall and winter, although we are pumpkin lovers year round here!
I still have some leftover sauce that I plan to try with vanilla ice cream tomorrow, yum!
To give the recipe a try, zip on over to our wonderful host this week, Carmen of Baking is my Zen; she has the original recipe plus some variations and some great information as well. Also enjoy taking a look at the other SMS bakers.

Daring Cooks: Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchiladas

Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on and written by Robb Walsh.
Okay, so I am posting this a couple days late but I have a pretty good excuse. My little sister got married on Friday and it ended up being a (good) crazy day! Anyway, all of a sudden, today I remembered that I still haven't posted this. Oops!

My family and I really enjoyed this recipe. In fact looking at the pictures makes me really wish I had some leftovers sitting around somewhere! I am so glad I made these because we have a new family favorite. I have never made enchiladas before, stacked or otherwise, so it was exciting to try something completely new. Also I am really intimidated by chili peppers. Just some weird quirk of mine, I get nervous messing with foods that you should wear gloves to cut into. But I overcame my fear, and I found the chilies really non-intimidating once I started cooking. I originally planned to make my own corn tortillas, but alas that will have to be a project for a future date. These had a lot of steps to follow but each of the steps was dead easy. I did make a different filling than the chicken filling. As I have mentioned on here before, the hubby is not a big meat eater, so I threw together a very simple, non-meat filling.
The recipe for my easy filling is-

1 can of black beans
1 can of sweet corn
1/2 a red onion, diced
1 cup queso fresco, crumbled
cilantro to taste

Mix them all together and add them to the enchiladas.
Here is the link to the rest of the recipe on the Daring Kitchen or they can also be found on here. Special thanks to our hosts, Barbara and Bunee! These were great!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

SMS: Orange Blueberry Muffins with Pecan Crumble and Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there who work so hard! And a special wish for happiness to my own sweet Mother. Being a mom is a really tough job and some days there seem to be few if any rewards. On a related note, I have two pretty cute little boys here that I might be willing to part with for the right price (i.e. if you pick them up they are yours). I am just kidding (mostly)! But if anyone has any ideas how to get kids to stop fighting, I am all ears.
Okay on to the recipe. These muffins were so yummy! I loved them and, in my opinion, the pecan crumble really is what separates these muffins from any other blueberry muffins. I could have eaten the whole bowl of that pecan crumble plain (or maybe with a bowl of ice cream) . Luckily I resisted, and I am so glad I did because the synergy of the crumble with the muffin was better. These were really pretty easy to make and I was able to get a dozen regular sized muffins as well as a dozen mini muffins. The only problem I had was the amount of liquid in the batter. Melissa mentions in the recipe that you will need to adjust the amount of liquid in the batter depending on the moisture of the fruit you use. Well blueberries are not as moist as, say, peaches, so I guess I should have used more liquid, but she doesn't specify how much more. Anyway, after I had everything mixed together, I realized it was more the consistency of bread dough than muffin batter, so I added more liquid and because of that I think the muffins were slightly over mixed. Ah well, I will know better next time and this time they still tasted pretty great. Find out how the other SMS bakers did and be sure to check out the wonderful blog of this week's host, Chaya of Sweet and Savory.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I heart cooking clubs-(and I heart) breakfast in bed

I really love making (and eating) breakfast! It is my favorite meal of the day and I think breakfast foods are a completely viable option for any meal of the day. I missed last weeks IHCC theme because I had a house full of sickos and just never found the time to devote to cooking what I had planned to make, so maybe for potluck this month... Anyway, because of that I had a real hankering to make something for this weeks IHCC theme. When I woke up this morning I was so excited because I already had been eying a breakfast recipe, Swedish Pancakes, and knew I even had all of the ingredients, mostly because they are really basic ingredients.
So here it is, hope you enjoy, I know we really did! They were really rich but my kids still managed to eat an unholy amount of these. My littlest guy ate them plain (I am not a fan of sticky) but the two older ones had powdered sugar at first and then tried them with maple syrup. Both ways were great but I will have to pick up some lingonberry preserves to try them with next time. My middle guy told me these were so much better than regular pancakes because they were yummy and cute and tiny (who doesn't love mini). Anyway these were so fluffy and light, from the egg white, and they were really sweet enough to eat plain. I got the recipe from the NY Times.

Mr Bittman offers some advice:

Don’t stir the batter any more than is necessary to combine the ingredients; it will make the pancakes tough. Cook them, over fairly high heat, in a lot of butter. These are so rich and delicious they can be served with nothing more than a dusting of confectioners\' sugar. But they are sweet enough so that you can serve them with lingonberry or other tart preserves or even a little lemon juice. Yogurt or sour cream also complement the pancakes nicely.

3 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 cup milk
3/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons melted butter, more for cooking
confectioner's sugar for dusting

  • 1. Separate eggs, and beat yolks in a medium bowl with sugar and salt. Add milk and flour alternately, stirring gently after each addition, to form a thin, smooth batter. Stir in melted butter. (Batter can be covered and refrigerated at this point for up to a day.)
  • 2. Beat egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Gently stir them into batter; do not worry about fully incorporating them.
  • 3. Heat a cast iron or nonstick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat; when a drop of water skips across it before evaporating, it\'s ready. Melt some butter in pan, and, using a tablespoon, scoop up a bit of batter and put it in pan. Cook as many pancakes at once as will fit comfortably, turning them when they are brown. Total cooking time is less than 5 minutes per pancake.
  • 4. Serve immediately, sprinkled with confectioners\' sugar.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

SMS: Peanut Butter Truffles

This week for Sweet Melissa Sunday we made Peanut Butter Truffles. I have never made truffles before so I was a little worried that they would be really difficult. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they were dead easy! It was a really fun project and I even had some help rolling the chocolate. My oldest son thought it looked like playing with play dough. It was, only a little messier. Anyway the general consensus, after making these, was that there was little to no peanut butter flavor and my kids and hubby didn't really like the bittersweet chocolate. So next time (and yes there will be a next time) I am going to try doubling the chocolate and I will try using semi-sweet, maybe I will even try some white chocolate since I have a son who is on an "I only like white chocolate" kick.
One of my very favorite things about this recipe is how easy they are to make, yet they look and taste impressive. My other favorite thing was how customizable they are. All I had was peanuts and the powdered sugar, but you could really coat them with anything. Afterward I spent the rest of the day thinking of different toppings I could try next time (crushed nutter butter cookies, chopped Reese's pieces, drizzled chocolate, drizzled peanut butter, pretzels, etc). Seriously the possibilities are endless. Anyway this was a really fun recipe to try! Great pick to Mara of Love Your Mother Earth. Check out her blog to see the full recipe and to see how she customized hers and make sure to take a look at the other SMS bloggers. Everyone had really fun ideas! By the way these would make a great Mother's Day gift!
I love how glossy and pretty the melted chocolate mix looks!