Friday, September 10, 2010

.boston cream cupcakes.

Earlier last month, the girls and I surprised my husband with a trip to Boston for his birthday. It's only a 3 hour drive from here and while I've been once, I didn't get to do any sightseeing because I was there for work. We had the greatest time seeing all the sites. We went to the New England Aquarium, walked the Freedom Trail, shopped at the Farmer's Market, saw street performers, and ate lots of lobster. It was a fabulous vacation!

Since taking that trip, I have had a hankering for Boston Cream Pie, but I wanted to change it up a bit and make it a cupcake instead of a cake (it really is a cake even though they call it a pie). Boston Cream Pie is really a yellow butter cake filled with pastry cream, then topped with chocolate ganache. So delicious. So decadent. So fattening (but it's okay to indulge every now and then!).

You want to start by making your pastry cream.

2 cups Milk
1 tsp vanilla
5 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 Tbsp butter
pinch of salt

In a saucepan put 1 3/4 cups milk and sugar. Bring to boiling point but do not let boil; set aside. In a bowl, mix together the yolks, the remaining milk, and the flour and salt; mix well. While whisking, temper the yolks by slowly pouring the hot milk into the egg/flour/milk mixture. You don't need to add all the hot milk. About 3/4 cup.

Pour the tempered yolks/milk back into the saucepan and put over medium high heat.
Whisk constantly until the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat and add
the butter and vanilla.

Put the saucepan in a ice bath to cool down the pastry cream. Make sure you stir this occasionally as it cools so it doesn't form a skin on the surface.
**NOTE: Pastry Cream can be made a day or two ahead of time and kept in the fridge in an airtight container.

How we want to make the cupcakes. If you're in a hurry, you can use a boxed yellow cake mix. I prefer cake from scratch. Here's the recipe I used:

1/2 c. butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating well between each addition. Mix in the vanilla, salt, and baking powder.
Alternating, add the milk and flour until well mixed.

Fill each cupcake mold 3/4 the way up. Put in a preheated 350* F oven for about 20 minutes.

The tops should be slightly domed and lightly golden. Remove from the oven when a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from the muffin pan and cool on a wire rack.

When the cupcakes are cooled, use a knife and cut out the center top of each cupcake. Spoon in a small dollop of pastry cream (I used a mounded teaspoonful).

Top with chocolate ganache (recipe) and put in the fridge to set.
This recipe made 1 1/2 dozen cupcakes.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Grilling Class

The past few months, I've been teaching cooking classes here in my home to a dozen or so ladies from church and their friends. It has been so much fun doing these classes and I think everyone that have attended has learned at least one thing they could take home and make for their own families. So rewarding.

Last week, I had a grilling class and thought I would share with you, dear readers, what we did.

First, I went over grill maintenance and how to work both a gas grill and charcoal grill. If you have no idea what you're doing or if you're afraid of the grill, DON'T BE!!!! It's such a wonderful way to cook your food!

Some important tips!

  • Never use your grill against the house. Pull the grill away from the wall because in the extremely rare case that it blows up (LOL!) or you get a fireball, you won't burn your house down. Gosh.. if you were afraid to use your grill before, I bet you just wet your pants. Seriously... I don't think I've ever heard of a BBQ grill blowing up before so let's not worry about that.
  • Never use your grill inside your home. It's dangerous. Don't ever do it.
  • Always keep your propane tank (if you use a gas grill) turned OFF when it's not in use. Do this for a couple reasons: 1) If you have kids they could fiddle with the knobs and drain your tank; and 2) they could fiddle with the tank and some poor sucker goes outside to have a cigarette and it's Uncle Lewis from Christmas Vacation all over again. Kaboom. No bueno people.. no bueno.
  • If you've got food crud stuck to the grates that won't come off with a grill brush, remove them and place on the grass. Spray with oven cleaner, let sit for an hour or so and then wipe with paper towels. Wash well and voila.. they'll look brand new!
  • If you need to GREASE your grates to keep food from sticking, NEVER EVER apply that to your grill when it's on and hot. Spray before you start the BBQ and please people.. don't ever spray PAM directly into a hot, burning bbq grill.
  • If you use a charcoal grill, never spray charcoal fluid directly onto flame. It's not a smart idea and you might wind up in the burn ward of your local hospital if you do. In fact, use the Match Light briquettes by Kingsford. They've already been soaked in fluid and they're awesome. Just stack, light, and forget!

So now that I've completely scared you, let's talk versatility of grill cooking. You can cook ANYTHING on a grill with reason. You can grill vegetables, bread, meat, pizzas, fruit, cake! The ideas are limitless.

If you let the man in your life grill, that's fine. My husband does the majority of the bbq'ing in our house. But when he was going out to sea all the time, I learned how to do it and am pretty dang good at being the Grill Mistress (if I do say so myself). If I hadn't learned, I wouldn't have ever eaten grilled food during those long deployments.

Now we're ready to grill. For my class, I threw on a thick ribeye steak that had been seasoned with McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning. Make sure you let the meat sit out on your counter for about 30 minutes or so. You'll get the best results if the meat is room temp. Also, it's important when cooking meat on the grill to have a good hot grill. This sears the outside and keeps all that juice and flavor inside. No one likes dried out meat, right? Grill for 3-4 minutes on one side, then flip. Keep doing this until your steak is cooked to your desired doneness.

For a great steak topping, I highly suggest my Mushroom, Onion, and Blue Cheese bake.

While the steak was cooking, I put a vegetable rack on the grill to keep my veggies from falling through the grates. You can pick up these vented pieces of sheet metal at Lowes where you can find the BBQ items for about $5.00. I had vegetables all prepped to make my Grilled Italian Sausage and Veggie Panini. The ladies really loved this sandwich!

I grilled extra vegetables, including some spears of asparagus to make a grilled pasta salad. No recipe, just grill up vegetables that are in season! I used zucchini, red onion, asparagus, red bell pepper, and portabello mushroom. When they're cooked, remove from the grill and add roughly chop. Toss together with some baby spinach, some cooked ravioli (I used one of those small packages in the deli section), a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and some salt and pepper. If you want a little more flavor, grill up some garlic (leave the cloves in the husk and rub with olive oil) and add that in. The perfect summer salad and low on fat. Grilling the vegetables gives them a whole new flavor and it's amazing!

Alright.. next up was a flatbread sandwich. I grilled some fresh ears of corn (3) and cut the corn away from the cob. The flatbread sandwich was really my Santa Fe Chicken Salad with Corn and Black Bean Salsa on grilled bread. For the dough, I made up a batch of pizza dough, let rise once, then divided, rolled out, brushed with olive oil and popped on the grill. Let bake about 2-3 minutes on each side, then remove. I grilled the chicken along with the steak and when it was done, diced it up and put some pieces on the flatbread, some lettuce, the salsa, and then drizzled lightly with the Southwest Ranch dressing. Fold the bread over, slice and eat! So so delicious!

After cleaning the grill grates with a wire brush, I started on the dessert part of the class. Earlier in the day, I pre-made some Raspberry Coulis (coo-lee) and had it in a little squeezy bottle. I thawed a Sara Lee frozen pound cake and cut it into thick slices. I also had peaches sliced in half and removed the pit. Brush the peaches with 3 Tbsp melted butter mixed with 1 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar and pop on the grill. The peaches will take about 6-8 minutes to grill. Turn them every 2 minutes to grill all around. While those cook up, put the pound cake on the grill. Yep, you heard me! Put them on the grill! Let them toast on each side then remove.

To plate, drizzle some coulis on the plate, put a slice of pound cake down in the center, place a peach half on top of the cake, then repeat with another slice of pound cake and peach. Top with whipped cream or some sweetened mascarpone cheese. Drizzle with a little more coulis and add a sprig of mint for prettiness!

That was the class. Now that you know what you can do on your BBQ grill, go forth and create!

Before you leave, tell me what your favorite food on the grill is. I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, August 23, 2010

.roasted garlic hummus with fresh pita.

A few years ago, while we were stationed in Georgia, I surprised my husband to a trip to Savannah for his birthday. While we were in Savannah, we ate dinner at this little pizza place called The Mellow Mushroom and for the first time in my life, I had hummus. I had no idea what hummus was, but the waitress recommended it and we said, "Why not!" Let me just say my eyes were opened to a whole new world of food.

Since that time, I've had hummus multiple times. I've had good hummus. I've had bad hummus. I've had dill hummus. I've had roasted red pepper hummus. One thing I think we can all agree on (all you hummus lovers out there) is nothing compares to good, homemade hummus. (Did I say hummus enough times in that paragraph???)

The other night, an online friend mentioned The Mellow Mushroom and I immediately started craving a batch of roasted garlic hummus with FRESH pita. Now you could buy that store bought, I'm dry as bark, pita bread, but I'm telling you, once you have fresh, there ain't no goin' back! If you take the time to make pita yourself, you will love yourself forever and so will your family. It's easy easy easy. You can find the recipe here (you'll have to scroll past the souvlaki recipe) and if you make a double batch, you can wrap them in a freezer ziploc and have them ready anytime you want.

Now for the actual hummus recipe!

  • Begin by roasting your garlic. Take a bulb of garlic and chop off the top. Put it on a piece of foil, drizzle with a little olive oil, then wrap it up nice and tight. Pop in a 375* oven for 45 minutes. Roasted garlic is AMAZING!!! It mellows out the sharp pungency and almost makes the garlic sweet in flavor. Really delicious stuff. When it's done roasting, remove from the foil and let cool. When it's cool, just squeeze out each clove from the skin and put in a bowl. You can keep this in your fridge for up to a week. It's great in sauces and in homemade bread! For this recipe, you can use the whole shebang if you want, but I used 1 Tablespoon. Put it in a blender.
  • Add to the blender: Two 15.5 oz cans garbanzo beans, drained, the juice of 1 lemon, 2 Tbsp tahini, and a little sea salt.
  • Blitz for a minute.
  • Turn off and use a rubber spatula to move things around.
  • Turn the blender back on and slowly drizzle in some extra virgin olive oil. You'll have to keep turning the blender off and mixing by hand with the spatula. You don't want to add too much oil because the hummus will become runny. Keep doing this until the beans are completely pureed and the hummus is a smooth, yet thick, texture.
  • Transfer to a bowl and stir in a small handful of chopped cilantro. Taste and re-season with salt if it's needed.

Hummus will keep very well in the fridge for quite awhile, but I doubt it'll last that long, it's that good.

So go and eat hummus my friends! It's good for you and it's YUMMY!!!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

.apple fritters.

It's almost harvest time here in the Hudson Valley of New York. We moved to a new house in April and it's located smack dab in the middle of about a hundred apple and pear orchards, and vineyards. It's just beautiful here!

One of the bonuses of living in this location, is that we can get apples from any of our neighbors whenever we want, fresh picked from the tree. Yesterday, my daughter found some perfect apples that had fallen from the tree, so we got them for free! Can't beat that price! I thought those granny smiths would make some amazing apple fritters.

These fritters are out of this worldwhen fresh from the fryer. Maybe you should make some for your family today? (or for yourself if you don't want to share :) ) You know they'll love you for it!

I used 2 granny smith apples. Peel and dice. Try to keep the apple pieces uniform in size, otherwise you'll have overcooked and undercooked apples.

In a bowl, mix together:

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon

To the dry ingredients, add 1 egg and enough milk to form a thick batter (think thicker than pancakes). Stir in the apples. Heat some oil in a pot to 325*. We don't want to have the oil too hot because the fritters will brown too quickly and the apples won't have enough time to cook. Carefully (CAREFULLY) drop in large spoonfuls of batter into the oil. Don't overcrowd the pot. When they're nice and brown on one side, roll them over so the otherside can cook.

When they're done, carefully pull from the oil and place on paper towels to drain. Once drained, and cooled slightly, sprinkle with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.
Best served with a glass of milk, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This recipe makes about 1 1/2 dozen. Bon appetit!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Valentine's Day Dinner

A couple of weeks ago, I had a last minute opportunity to attend the US Bocuse d'Or final at The Culinary Institute of America. Twelve teams fought to be the US representative at the main Bocuse d'Or competition in Lyon, France January 2011.

Chef Thomas Keller, is the President of the US Bocuse d'Or organization and while there I was able to get him to sign my copy of The French Laundry cookbook! (Awesome!)

Anyway.... Part of my Valentine menu was inspired by a recipe in that book and the beef broth I made, *did* come from his instructions and it took all stinking day to make. That's okay though. The flavor of that stock was A-MAZING!!!

Competition floor

Chef Daniel Boulud introducting some of the judges

One of the presentation trays as it passes the judges -- (thank you zoom lens for having the capability to get these shots from my seat in the bleachers!)

At church, we can sign up to feed the missionaries who are serving full-time. Right now, we have the cutest, SWEETEST Sister Missionaries that I just love so when I saw that they didn't have plans on the calendar for Valentine's Day (except church), I put my name down and got to scheming. I like to make food they normally don't get every day and for this holiday, I wanted to make it extra special and extra delicious!

Dinner was served in 3 courses -

{Course #1}
Sweetheart Salad w/ Goat Cheese Croquette & Sweet Potato w/ Rosemary Rolls
I made my roll dough like normal but before adding the flour and salt, I stirred in 1 cup mashed sweet potatoes and 1 Tbsp rosemary. A little extra flour is necessary due to the moistness of the sweet potatoes, but if you gauge it by how the dough pulls together, you'll have just the right amount. I loved how savory these were. Delicious.

The salad was in a parmesan bowl that I made, but I didn't keep them in the oven long enough and they flattened out. They were so delicious with this salad! What I did was use my silpat and sprinkled two semi large circles on the mat (on a cookie sheet) and popped into a 400* oven. Let it melt until nice and golden brown. Remove and let sit for a few minutes so the cheese is cool enough to handle. Slowly pull the cheese up and off the Silpat and place over an upside down bowl. Allow the cheese to cool and harden completely.

My "sweetheart" salad had mini hearts cut out of a red bell pepper, I did a zigzag cut around radishes and when pulled apart, they look like little flowers, I curled green onion sprigs by slicing the chive part and then popping in a bowl of ice water for 30 minutes. Grated carrots, sliced cucumbers, and topped with a goat cheese croquette.

To make the croquette, I cut semi-thick slices off a goat cheese log. Dipped each slice in egg wash (1 egg white + 1 Tbsp water) and then into a bowl of crushed Panko breadcrumbs.
Place all the pieces on a plate and put in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes. Heat a little oil in a small saucepan and carefully put each croquette in to fry. When golden brown on both sides, remove and sit on a paper towel to drain. Put on top of the salad. This ooey, gooey warm bit of goodness is pure heaven!

{Course 2}
Parmesan Polenta Cake, Pan-seared Pork Tenderloin, & Root Vegetable Garnish
Polenta: Bring 2 cups water and 1/2 tsp salt to boil in a saucepan. Add 3/4 cup polenta and cook until thick. Add 1 Tbsp butter and a small handful of fresh grated parmesan cheese. Taste. Season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Dump out into a 9x13 pan and refrigerate. This can be made a day before hand to cut down prep time. I used a circle cutter to cut out all the cakes. This made 12 rounds. When ready to plate, heat a skillet. Melt butter and carefully place a cake for each person in the pan. Fry until both sides are golden.
Tenderloin: This part was the easiest. Cut thick slices of tenderloin. Season well with salt, pepper, and thyme (fresh is best). Heat a skillet over medium high heat. When hot, drizzle in some olive oil and carefully place each medallion in the pan. Sear for 3-4 minutes on each side. Pop into a 350* oven until the centers are no longer squishy, but still spongy. We don't want to overcook the pork!
Root Vegetable Garnish: Peel and slice celery root into batons (rectangles). Slice those little snack size carrots into quarters. Slice a beet and then cut into very very fine dice (small squares). Take 3 cloves garlic and crush with the side of your knife. Remove the dry skin.
Heat three saucepans up with water. If you don't have three, then just use one and alternate your cooking. Put the carrot and celery root in a small pot of boiling water. Cook until just slightly fork tender (do not overcook!). Strain and put the veggies into ice water immediately to stop them from cooking any further. Drain and set aside.
Boil some more water. This time, add the beet and repeat the same method as above. You want to cook the beet separately because it will bleed color everywhere and you don't want to change the color of the other vegetables.
Finally, we're going to do the exact same thing with the garlic! Boil in water until fork tender, drain, shock with ice bath, drain and set aside.
When you're ready to plate your food, put the veggies in a little saute pan to heat back up with 1 Tbsp butter. Season with salt and pepper. I think some chopped italian parsley would have been perfect for some color. I had used up the last of my parsley to make my beef stock so I wasn't able to do this.
Savory beef sauce: Heat olive oil in a skillet. Saute chopped carrot (2), 1/2 an onion, diced, 2 stalks celery, and 1 bay leaf. When the veggies are cooked through, remove from the pan. Add 1 Tbsp butter and move around the bottom of the pan. When melted, add 1 cup red wine and 3 cups beef stock. Cook over medium high heat until the sauce has reduced by half and is starting to thicken. If it doesn't thicken, stir a little beef stock and a tsp or two of cornstarch in a small bowl. Whisk until there aren't any more lumps and then carefully add to the sauce. Stir well. Once thick (not too thick!), drain through a mesh sieve to remove any particles.
When you're ready to plate, put one of the polenta cakes in the center of the plate. Carefully stack two pieces of tenderloin on top. Spoon the vegetable garnish on top, and then drizzle with the beef sauce. Be prepared for pure silence at the dinner table. Everyone will be too busy enjoying every bite of this dish! :)
{Course 3}
Bittersweet Chocolate Charlotte
I'd been eyeing this recipe for awhile and decided it would be perfect for this dinner. What says "I love you" better than chocolate? Come on now.
To improve on the recipe, I made my own chocolate lady fingers. I have to say, WAY better than store bought but with all the eggs you need to make both the Charlotte and Lady fingers, I say buy them if you can find them. (I used over a DOZEN eggs!)
I love individual desserts for special dinners so I lined the inside of my ramekins with a parchment circle on the bottom (for easy releasing) and put lady fingers around the edge. I cut my lady fingers in half so they were flush with the top of the ramekin. Once you have sides covered, spoon in some of the chocolate mousse. Top the mousse with more lady fingers and press slightly to make sure there aren't any air holes. Cover with saran and chill overnight.
When ready to plate, I simply ran a small knife around the inside of the ramekin to unstick any lady fingers then sat a plate on top. Flip them over so the Charlotte pops out (might require some shaking of the ramekin). Pull up the parchment circle if it's still attached to the Charlotte.
I piped on some whipped cream (use fresh whipped if you can. Aerosol whipped cream will melt and deflate all over and will be a huge huge mess), drizzled with a little ganache I had in my fridge, and garnished with a white chocolate heart I made the night before.
The perfect ending to a perfect night! I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's day. When you're looking for a showstopping meal for your loved one, or if you just want to impress the pants off your guests/family, I definitely suggest this meal! You'll be the talk of the town!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

New Beginnings Cake!

Last week, I got a private message from a friend at church bending my ear about the Young Women New Beginnings program that was on Sunday. They were looking for a dessert that would incorporate all of the value colors (there are 8 of them) and be a complete "showstopper" (their word, not mine). I thought about it for a minute and remembered there was a rainbow layered cake I'd been DYING to try! So I pulled up the recipe and had it made within the next few hours.

To simplify the steps, I bought 8" aluminum cake pans that I sprayed with Pam and lined the bottom with parchment circles. My oven has three racks so I was able to bake them all at the same time which was very convenient. I recommend spending $5.00 on the pans because it's worth saving your sanity and you can just toss them in the trash when you're done! Easy!

I made the frosting she has on her blog but it didn't make a ton, so I only used it as filling between each layer, then made a regular buttercream (using shortening/powdered sugar/butter extract/vanilla) to coat the whole cake. Rolled out fondant and put that on too because my big idea was to put girls all around the perimeter of the cake, each representing a value.

My original idea was to paint these little girls directly to the cake, but since I've never actually painted on a cake, I thought it's better to be safe than sorry so I mixed some fondant with gum paste and rolled out a small ball and painted on that, then cut around each girl and allow to harden on the counter. Then I used some frosting in a piping bag to glue them to the side of the cake.
All-in-all, the cake was a huge success. The girls loved it. The leaders loved it. The flavor was really delicious -- thanks to that whipped buttercream that calls for FOUR sticks of butter. WOW. I loved the rainbow layers and will definitely make this cake again!

Monday, February 8, 2010

.curried carrot soup.

Back in November, my mom and sister were here from Seattle. Their visit coincided with a cooking class I was having here at the house. The topic for the class was "Soups, Stews, and Sauces". Nothing fancy, mind you, but I wanted to teach the ladies how to make a proper roux which is the root knowledge for making things like clam chowder, gravy, and alfredo!

I always try to offer a vegetarian dish too because I usually have a couple non-meat-eaters in the group. So I made a roasted carrot soup and added a dash of curry to it for a middle eastern taste and it was delicious! So delicious, that I decided to make it again for a church function yesterday.
**Note: Not only is this soup delicious and meat-free, it's VEGAN!

1. Begin by making vegetable broth. In a small soup pot, put water, carrots, celery, bay leaf, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat. Leave uncovered so the liquid can reduce. After it simmers on the cooktop for 1 hour, strain and reserve the liquid.

This stock can be made ahead of time and held in the fridge, or even put in the freezer!

2. Peel about 10 carrots and cutting them into 2-3 pieces. I use only organic carrots when I make this soup, but I can only imagine how delicious it would be with carrots grown from your own garden. I'm sure it would be so sweet!

3. Put the carrots on a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Pop carrots into a 350* oven and roast until they're fork tender (approximately 30 minutes). emove from the oven and put into a blender with 1 can coconut milk, 1/2 tsp curry powder and 1 tsp ground coriander seed toasted.

4. To toast the coriander seed, spoon into a small saute pan and put over medium high heat. Swirl the pan around so the seeds don't burn. The heat will draw out the oil and fragrance from the coriander and it smells slightly lemony. Remove from the pan after toasting 2 minutes and put in a spice grinder and pulse until fine.

5. I pulsed the blender for a minute, but found it too thick to really puree adequately, so I spooned in ladles full of the vegetable broth to thin it down. Once you get the desired consistency, taste and re-season with salt and pepper.

Serve hot or cold. I topped each bowl with some pine nuts and chopped cilantro.

Makes 6-8 servings

Monday, February 1, 2010

.almondine sugar cookies.

I'm constantly getting email asking about my sugar cookie recipe. I've always been hesitant to share because I sell the cookies online, but I've decided to pull it out from hiding and let you in on my sweet little secret.

There are a couple key things you need to do to make the perfect sugar cookie.

  1. Do not overbake. When the cookies start lightly browning around the edges, remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack immediately to keep them from baking any more.
  2. CHILL YOUR DOUGH!!!! This is probably the most important thing to remember so that your cookie holds it's shape. It will also keep you from having to use too much flour while rolling the dough out, leaving you with a "too-much-flour" taste in your mouth. I usually make my dough the day before I need it and let it chill overnight.

So those are my two tips... on to the recipe!

Suzanne's Almondine Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp milk
6 cups all-purpose flour

  • Cream the butter and shortening in a mixing bowl until smooth.
  • Add the sugar and cream until fluffy.
  • Add one egg at a time, beating between each addition.
  • Add the baking powder, extract, salt and milk all at once. Mix well.
  • Add the flour, one cup at a time. You don't need any more flour than this. Too much flour, and your dough will be too tough. Too little, and your dough will be too sticky. So unless you live in a strange place, this is all you need. I've made these cookies in very humid conditions (southeast Georgia) and very dry conditions and have never had to alter my recipe.
  • Chill overnight.
  • When rolling out your dough, do not roll too thinly. Use as little flour as possible when rolling.
  • Do not overcrowd your cookie sheet. Give these cookies room to expand a little without fear of bumping into a neighbor.
  • Preheat your oven to 375*. Make sure it's been heated through (about 30 minutes).
  • Make sure you rotate your cookie sheets when they're in the oven. Swap to a different shelf so you get even baking. I've even tried baking these on convection and have had uneven baking, so keep a watchful eye on these babies.
  • Cookies will be done baking between 7-10 minutes. Pull from the oven just when the edge start looking slightly brown. Don't be afraid if they look too blond. That means they'll be perfectly soft!
  • Allow to cool completely on a cooling rack. Can be held in an air-tight container for 3-4 days (unfrosted), and up to 3 months in the freezer.
  • Frost. I use a buttercream frosting vs. royal icing. Use whichever you prefer.

Buttercream frosting

1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp butter extract
4-5 Tbsp half and half or cream (cream is preferred)

Cream butter and shortening until smooth. Add the extracts, mix. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, alternating with cream until it pulls together. If the frosting is too thick, add more cream. Tint with coloring paste and use a spatula or piping bag to decorate your cookies.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

.honey cider glazed pork.

My husband and I got sucked into another reality tv cooking show on Bravo called "Chef Academy". It is run by Chef Jean Christophe Novelli from France. Difficult to understand what he's saying half the time, but for me.. it's all about the food.

Each week he'd focus on different areas of cooking - bread, meat, seafood, desserts. The week he taught how to cook meat, he made a honey cider glazed pork that looked to.die.for. He used pork belly and let it slow cook for 4 hours in the oven. Heaven help me! *swoon*

I wasn't able to find pork belly so I used a Boston pork butt roast and it was amazing. I can only imagine how much better the belly portion would be. This was super super easy to make. If you're looking for something you can pop into the oven and forget about, this is the dish for you!

Take your piece of pork and, with the fat side up, rub liberally with cumin, kosher salt, and fresh cracked black pepper. Chef Novelli put 2 star anise on top, but I didn't have whole, so I sprinkled on anise seed. Don't use too much because it can be overpowering. Place on top of the roast 3 bay leaves, 5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme and 2 crushed cloves of garlic.

Put the roast into a pan and drizzle with a cup of honey and 1 1/2 cups apple cider. Slice up two onions and scatter those around the sides of the pork.

Pop into a 300* F oven and let it cook. Make sure you check on it every 30 minutes or so and baste with the juices in the bottom of the pan. The honey and cider will caramelize all over the skin of the pork. If it's looking too black, cover it with a piece of foil.

When it's done, remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Slice or shred and serve with your favorite side item. The flavors are a lot like a bbq sauce. So tender and juicy and aromatic. Enjoy!

Printable version:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Year's Eve Madness

Since I last posted back in October, a lot has been happening. We were in the process of buying a house closer to campus but that fell through, so we started looking again and found a beautiful new home only 25 minutes from the school. We're expected to close mid February and while I'm not looking forward to moving AGAIN, I'm excited to have a new place and start decorating.

This year, I catered and planned a wedding, catered and planned a birthday bash, catered and planned the Christmas party for church, *and* on top of it all, decided to throw a New Year's Eve party! I am completely insane. I'm just grateful my husband is so willing to go along with my plans and still keep a smile on his face. I just *LOVE* him! <3 id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5425885664440924354" style="DISPLAY: block; MARGIN: 0px auto 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 266px; TEXT-ALIGN: center" alt="" src="" border="0">Here's what my dining table looked like that night. When throwing a party, it's always a great idea to make the food and table the focal point. Putting food trays at various heights and angles is a great way to do that. If I removed that white tablecloth, you'd see how I did it. I used books, boxes, pots and pans upside down and towels. If I'm putting a basket at an angle, or want a salad tipped, towels are AWESOME because you can get the achieved look and it will keep the bowl/basket from moving too much. Once I put everything in the right spot, I drape it with tablecloths or fabric. I put a strand of white icicle lights on the table to give it extra lumination. A hurricane candle put on a tier and a vase of branches spray-painted white, help bring visual interest as well.

From this angle, let me tell you what I made. (left to right) Rosettes, Crab Rangoon, Meat and Cheese tray (I had a small tray of crackers on the other side), Lemon Tarts, Baked Santa Fe Dip, and Chocolate Cake.

From this side (right to left) I made a Parmesan-Artichoke dip (recipe below), Stuffed Mushrooms, Hot Wings, and on the far far end, you can't see but I had a tray of Soutwest Eggrolls.

The next time you decide to have a party, try out some of these recipes. Happy New Year!

Parmesan-Artichoke Dip

1 can (the size of a can of beans) artichokes, drained and roughly chopped
1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
8oz goat cheese
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cups fresh grated parmesan cheese
4 Tbsp basil (fresh), roughly chopped
3/4 c. panko bread crumbs (japanese bread crumbs)

Mix all the ingredients together and put in a baking crock. Put in a 375* oven for about 20 minutes or until the dip is bubbling and golden on top. Serve with crostini (toasted baguette chip).

*To make the crostini, slide a french baguette on the diagonal. Lay on a cookie sheet and brush the tops with olive oil. Put in a 400* oven for about 5 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Store in a large ziploc to keep fresh.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

.beef stew.

Happy New Year! I'm embarrassed that I haven't updated in so long but truth be told, I have been so busy the past few months. I'm hoping for a reprieve once we get settled into our new house next month.

I trust you all had a good holiday season? Ours was wonderful. During the time my husband had off work, we watched the movie Julie & Julia. Have you seen it? It's such a great movie and it helped to inspire me all over again! One of the recipes the main character makes is Boeuf Bourguignon and it had me craving (craving!) a rich beefy stock with cooked vegetables.

Growing up, my mom would make stew quite a lot trying to use up the odds and ends of vegetables in the freezer (She can make a mean soup!) and I would have used her method, but I was looking to do something richer... something better (sorry mom!).

I remembered back to when I made Shepherd's Pie. The rich sauce from that dish was exactly what I wanted so I took a little from that recipe and a little from my mom's and went from there.

Something about stew, is you can't rush it. The beef needs to be seared and then braised in liquid until it's so fork tender it literally melts in your mouth. This pot sat on the stove to simmer for at least 2 hours. Trust me... if you give it the proper time it needs, the results will be well worth it!

Begin by taking a package of beef stew chunks, found in any grocery meat department and cutting off as much fat and sinew as possible. Sinew is that muscle layer that sticks to the meat and makes it tough and chewy.

Stew meat is perfect for this. It's rather cheap since it's pieces of meat that are remaining once all the big, regular cuts are made. Since the butcher can't actually sell it as a steak, they sell it for occasions when you need small, bite-sized pieces of meat. The downside is you have to cut off all the undesireable stuff.

Put the cut up stew meat in a bowl or in a large ziploc and sprinkle with flour and salt and pepper. In my case, I used Lawry's seasoned salt. Coat well.

Prep your vegetables. I used one onion (sliced into quarters), 4 carrots (left in their round shape), and 3 white or gold potatoes. You want about 1 1/2 cups of all your vegetables. I also quartered mushrooms to add in later.

Slice up approximately 1/2 cup pancetta. You could use bacon, but the smoky flavor of the bacon is not what we want and will probably overpower the soup. Pancetta is usually found in the deli area of your grocer.

Make your bouquet garni. We want to add a lot of flavor to the stew and this is a great way to do it. In my bouquet, I put thyme, bay leaf, and some flat leaf parsley. In addition to the garni, I minced 1 clove garlic and set it aside.

Heat a soup pot and drizzle in some olive oil. Add a third to half the stew meat. Don't overcrowd the pan. Sear the beef as best you can on all sides. My meat tends to stick together because of the flour so it's difficult browning on all sides. Don't worry about that. Just make sure you get as many sides browned. This will lock in the juices, resulting in tender tender steak! When one half is done, remove from the pan and set aside. Repeat until all meat is seared.

Add the vegetables to the pot with the pancetta and garlic. Saute for a 4-5 minutes. When the onions are nearly translucent, add 2 cups red wine, 4 cups beef stock, and 4 cups chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring the soup to a boil and scrape along the bottom of the pan to bring up those baked on bits of delicious goodness. When the liquid begins to boil, add the bouquet garni and mushrooms, and reduce the heat down to low. Cover the top part way with a lid.

There will be a lot of broth, and we want to reduce it down a little so it leaves you with a rich sauce that has a lot of flavor. If you put the lid on all the way, the evaporated moisture won't have a way to escape and your sauce can't reduce down.

After it simmers on the cooktop for 2 hours, it's time for the last step. Remove the bouquet garni and discard. In a bowl, mix together 1 cup milk with 1/4 cup flour. Whisk well to remove all lumps. To ensure I don't have any, I strain with a sieve. While stirring, add the milk/flour mixture to the pot. Turn the heat to high and keep stirring until the sauce thickens a little. Taste and re-season if necessary.

This stew is the perfect dish on a cold winter night. Serve with salad and rolls, if you like. As Julia Child would say.... Bon Appetit!

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