Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wedding Lemon Squares

I've been hired to bake!

The recipes is from the maternal grandmother of the bride, so I share it with you in her honor:

Lemon Squares/Bars

Preheat the oven to 350F. You will need a 9x9 baking pan.

1 Cup Flour
1/2 C Butter (if unsalted, add a bit of salt)
1/4 C Powdered Sugar

Lemon curd:
2 Eggs
1 Cup White Sugar
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice
1 T Lemon Zest
2 T Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt

Using your hands or a pastry blender, mix the flour, sugar and butter thoroughly.

Press into the baking pan and bake for 20 minutes until light brown on the top.

Meanwhile, gently mix the eggs and sugar with a whisk until thoroughly mixed, but try not to create too much foam. Add remaining ingredients and mix again until smooth. Let sit for a few minutes if there is foam.

Once the shortbread is done, pour lemon mixture over top and bake for 30 minutes or until beginning to brown.

Allow to cool, cut into squares or bars and enjoy!

For making it in large batches here is the recipe for a half-sheet pan:

4 1/2 C Flour
2 1/4 C Butter (if unsalted, add a bit of salt)
1 1/4 C Powdered Sugar

Lemon curd:
9 Eggs
4 1/2 C White Sugar
2 C Lemon Juice
4 1/2 T Lemon Zest
9 T Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt

Tips - when you pour the lemon mixture on top, make sure you stir it in the pan to get the lemon juice thoroughly incorporated with the egg, etc.
The larger pan will take longer to bake (20-25 minutes for shortbread, 30-40 minutes for the top)
Once the lemon mixture is on, bake covered with tin foil for the first 30 minutes. You'll know it is done because it will not be liquidy when you shake the pan a little.
Make sure to rotate the pan half way through baking time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Dinner with the Roommies

Our household likes to get together now and again for a meal... but we're all so darn busy it doesn't happen very often. We decided to do Kris Kringle and a meal to celebrate the holidays.

Apparently I'm the only one in the house who loves cauliflower, so my repeated ordering of it in our farm basket was, unbeknownst to me, not making everyone's day. I decided to show them a recipe that wasn't just cauliflower and wasn't indian food. Growing up we used to eat a lot of soup and it tended to be whatever we had on hand, potato leek, cauliflower, broccoli, you name it!

So I contributed Cauliflower Soup, artichokes and a Berry Betty.

Cauliflower Soup

1 small onion, diced
1 head cauliflower chopped
2-3 small yukon potatoes diced
1-2 pints, quarts, liters veggie broth (I like the no-chicken myself)
some oil
salt and pepper

In a medium heavy bottomed sauce pan sautee the diced onion until translucent. Add cauliflower and let cook for about 5 minutes over low heat. Add potatoes and stock. Let simmer until the vegetables are tender enough to blend.
Using a hand blender or traditional one, blend until smooth. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Serve with a dash of nutmeg on top!

Artichokes are also a favorite from growing up - steam them over low heat for a loooooong time until you can easily pull out the leaves. Just don't burn yourself. Dip them in mayo, melted butter, whatever you think tastes good!

The rest of the meal was brown rice pasta with pesto and veggies, polenta sticks and a salad:

Brown Betty
A betty is something somewhere between a crisp and a cobbler, no oatmeal but less caky that a cobbler. Growing up my sisters and I would throw these together for a quick dessert. I always like to keep a bag of frozen berries in the fridge in case I need a quick and easy dessert!

1 bag (1lb?) frozen berries - I like TJ's berry cherry (cherries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries) It could also be apples, peaches, etc.
1/2 C brown sugar
1/3 C cup flour (in this recipe I used mostly almond flour with a bit of Bob's Redmill Gluten Free Flour)
3-4 T butter or margerine

Pour fruit into a casserole dish or baking pan. Using your fingers mix the butter, sugar and flour together and sprinkle over top. This time I added an extra kick:

1 C pecan pieces
1/4 C brown sugar
1 T lemon juice

In a cast iron pan, brown pecan bits until warm and fragrant. Add brown sugar and let heat up. Add lemon juice and stir until pecans are fully coated in goodness.
Sprinkly this on top of the crust and bake for 10-15 minutes until the berries are bubbling!

Erica made some amazing chocolates that she shared with us:

Roommates having fun with gifts:
Grace and Erica

Jess trying on her new hat


I'm trying to do lots of baking for the holidays - seems fitting, doesn't it?

Tonight I made my first batch - Double chocolate oatmeal with walnuts. Yumyumyum!

Here's the recipe:

Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Preheat oven to 350F.

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1.5 tsp salt
6 T cocoa powder

1 Cup Butter
1 Cup White Sugar
1 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
2 tsp Vanilla

2 Cups Rolled Oats (NOT quick oats)
1 Cup Chocolate Chips
1 Cup Chopped Walnuts

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.
Cream together butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Slowly mix in flour mixture until smooth:

Add oats, chips and walnuts:

Drop teaspoons of cookie dough onto a buttered cookies sheet:

Bake for 8 minutes. Take out and let rest on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes:

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Next mission: peppermint bark and lemon squares (the lemon squares are for a wedding!)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New Favorite Breakfast

I struggle with breakfast. I can't do cold things in the morning and I'm trying to avoid wheat... doesn't leave me a ton of options.

Lately I've been experimenting with oatmeal. Healthy, nutrious, what's not to like? Well, it can be poorly cooked or bland...

I put 1/3 c rolled oats and a pinch of salt into a bowl and cover with water. Microwave for a minute or two, stirring so it doesn't overflow.

I like to add - raisins and a bit of butter
- cranberries and almond slivers
- chopped walnuts and candied ginger
- brown sugar (or maple syrup) and butter

Then splash some milk on and enjoy!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving feast!

I really enjoy making much of the typical Thanksgiving fare, and when I go to family meals, usually only get to contribute one or two dishes... This year I decided to invite friends over to continue the tradition. luckily I was able to sneak in some family too since my dad's family was doing it on Friday and only live an hour away.

So, I had 2 Americans, a Canadian and 3 Swede's over for Thanksgiving. Everyone brought something to share - names in italics - and our menu ended up being:

Stuffed Mushrooms (Dustin)

Turkey (only a little guy) w/gravy
Quorn "turkey" roast
Cranberries (Jocelyn)
Roasted Yams (Jocelyn)
Mashed Acorn Squash with Walnuts and Maple Syrup (Jocelyn)
Jansson's frestelse (Jonas and Frida)
Endive, Parsley, Radicchio and Pear Salad with Roasted Walnuts (Matthew)

Caramel Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream

Hot Winter Pimms Punch
Limeade (Dennis)
Watermelonade (Dennis)

I forgot to take pictures :-( Bolded items have recipes to follow.

Cube one loaf of bread of choice, spread on a cookie sheet and bake on low temperature until stale, or leave out for a few days if you have time.
Saute diced onions, celery and mushrooms over low heat in some olive oil until translucent and tender. Mix with bread pieces in a bowl. Add diced fuyu persimmon pieces. Pour in enough stock to just get moist, unless you like mushier stuffing. Pour all into a greased casserole dish and bake until hot!

1 bag fresh cranberries
1 cup water (or enough to cover the cranberries)
1/2 cup sweetener (white sugar works well)
juice of one mandarin orange
Place all in a pan and simmer until thick. Sweeten to taste...

Cube yams. Toss in olive oil, thyme, garlic and salt. Roast at 350 until tender

Acorn Squash
Cut squash in half, place face down in a pan and bake until soft. Scoop out the meat and mash until smooth. Add maple syrup, toasted walnuts and salt.

Pumpkin pie filling
1.5 cups pumpkin puree
1.5 cups evaporated milk
3 eggs
2 tsp cinnamon, ginger,
1 tsp nutmeg, allspice
Or a bunch of pumpkin pie spice...

Mix all together and pour into a partially baked pie shell at 350 for 20 minutes with the crust covered, 15 minutes uncovered. Insert a toothpick, if it comes out clean, it's done.

Caramel Apple Pie Filling
5-6 Granny Smith apples cored and cut up
20 caramel candies, cut in half (I recommend Werther's brand)
Taffy (1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup butter, 1/4 cup butter, melted)
add into bottom shell in layers. Cover with top layer, poke a few air holes, brush crust with milk. Make sure to bake on a junky cookie sheet or over tin foil since it has a tendency to overflow.
Bake at 350, covered for 20 minutes, 20 minutes uncovered.

Hot Winter Pimm's Punch
1 part pimms
2 parts ginger ale
cinnamon sticks
cardamon or cloves
Heat in a pan and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Biscuit Variations

Biscuits are a family staple of both sides of my family. Every time the family gets together at the G&G Evans' house we have them for breakfast. On the other side, my mom often makes them for dinner to go with soup. Since mom's girlfriend is vegan and Grandma Luna is wheatless, I've included both versions.

Grandpa's 4-3-2-1 Biscuits (Mom's wheatless, vegan version in italics)

4 tbls Unsalted butter (imagine's non-hydrogenated shortening or olive oil)
3 tsp Baking soda
2 C All purpose flour (use Barley Flour)
1 tsp Salt
2% or non-fat milk or plain yogurt (Use plain soy milk /yogurt or even water)

Preheat oven to 425F. Combine dry ingredients thoroughly. Cut in butter with pastry blender or two knives. Once the butter pieces are pea sized starting adding the liquid little by little until you have the desired consistency.

For drop biscuits, you'll want it to be sticky and fairly wet, so that you have to use a spoon to scoop the dough. Grease a square or round glass baking pan. Using a tablespoon, place dalops of dough into the pan so that they are all touching. Once baked, they will break apart easily, so don't worry if you have to squish them in. Bake until the tops are brown and they tear apart easily. (About 20-25 minutes)

For rolled biscuits, you'll want the dough to be fairly dry. Grease a cookie sheet. You should be able to handle it without too much sticking to your hands. Flatten onto a floured surface and roll out with a rolling pin. Use a round cookie cutter or jelly jar to cut biscuits. Don't twist the cutter - that will seal the edges of the biscuits and they won't rise as much. Just go straight in and back up. Place on the sheet and bake until golden brown and not doughy in the middle. (about 15-20 minutes)

Yummy additions:

Diced Fuyu Persimmons - I diced 1 whole Fuyu into small pieces and mixed in before baking.

Cheese and Herbs - Jack, asiago, mozzarella, cheddar, etc. I did a blend of jack and asiago with thyme and oregano. Mix into flour before adding butter. It was scrumptious!

Cinnamon and Brown Sugar - Mix together about 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4-1/2 c brown sugar and 1/4 butter and a pinch of salt. Spread mix on rolled dough. Roll up into a log and cut into slices; place them in a buttered glass baking pan so that they are touching. Bake until bubbly.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cheap Eats

So my friend Chad mentioned the unhappiness that is eating when broke and so I started scheming what I eat when I'm feeling less than flush, um, which is often...but still want to actually cook something good instead of eating instant stuff or a can of soup, you know? Trader Joe's seriously helps this list but you could probably do it just as cheaply at other stores. Most of the ingredients are pretty straight forward. I've tried to avoid

My top ten cheap eats in varied categories:


1. Homemade popcorn
Start with a heavy bottomed pan, about the volume of popcorn you want to make.
Coat the bottom of the pan with canola oil (can withstand heat better than olive oil) and place on medium heat, add enough popping corn to cover the bottom of the pan and cover. Wait until the popping sounds are a few seconds apart. It might smell like burning a little but that's just the oil... unless it's actually burning. You'll learn to time it after a few tries or you'll end up with a bunch of unpopped kernels at the bottom.
I add butter, salt and nutritional yeast (and sometimes dried oregano).
Oil ~ $3/bottle
Pop Corn ~ $2 1 lb bag

2. Apples and peanut butter/ celery and cream cheese
Okay - it's two different snacks from your childhood but it counts as one because I have more than 10 ideas.
Tart apples and salty peanut butter work best in my opinion
Celery and cream cheese is delicious (some weird people like celery and peanut butter too)
Apples ~ .50c each
Jar of Peanut butter ~ $3
Bunch of Celery ~$2
Box of Cream Cheese ~$3

3. Toast
There's nothing like toast with butter, jam, cinnamon and sugar as a late night snack.
Bread is super cheap!
Butter lasts a while
Jam lasts a while (add some of the peanut butter from #2 for a more filling snack)
Toast and tea is also my all time favorite afternoon snack.


4. Pasta con Queso
Pasta is boring. Yes, but when I lived in Sweden I was seriously broke. Living on practically nothing. yikes. I don't know how I did it. Eating lots of pasta, I guess. The thing that makes it good - cheese. Not Parmesan or asiago, which are delicious but I put the mild, melty Swedish cheese on it - lots.
1 lb Pasta ~$1 at TJs
Jar sauce ~$2 at TJs
Some cheese ~$4 at TJs (Edam, Havarti, Mozzarella)
Occasionally frozen meatballs (or veggie meatballs) can be added too for extra protein
Throw some mixed greens and a bottle of goddess dressing and you've got dinner for under $12, probably leftovers for lunch the next day too.

5. Tuna Casserole
My mom used to make this for us since her mom used to make it for her. Cute Grandma Rosamund had a dinner for each night of the week, Monday pot roast, Tuesday tuna casserole... etc. While I'm not quite down with that much regularity in my diet, it's a nice idea.
So, despite previous encounters with this infamous casserole, please try it!
1 lb pasta ~$1
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup ~$1
1 pound frozen peas, carrots, corn mix ~$3
1 can dolphin safe tuna (in water, chunked) ~$1.50
cheddar, mozza, or some kind of cheese

Cook past until al dente, mix with tuna and condensed soup, add the frozen veg last. Put in a casserole dish and throw some grated cheese on top. Bake at 350 for 20 or so minutes until hot and bubbly. Salt and pepper to taste. Yum. Seriously.

6. Pork chops and mashed potatoes
Pretty simple:
Boil red potatoes until tender. Mash with butter, milk, salt and pepper. Throw in garlic, sour cream, cheese, whatever you have/want/think would taste good if you feel like being adventurous.
Heat a pan with a little olive oil until it smokes lightly. Add salted and peppered pork chops. Cook on one side until browned then flip and cook until the insides are no longer pink and the juices run clear.
Potatoes are cheap. I don't know how much exactly but they are.
Two pork chops are ~$6
With salad still under $12 and left overs for the next day. Or green beans steamed lightly probably ~$3.

7. Tacos
Another mom staple. Somehow I don't think her mom was making them too often. Who knows, maybe GR was ahead of her time.
Corn tortillas ~$1
Refried Beans ~$2
Brown Rice ~$5 bag, but it lasts for a while!
Grated Jack ~$4
Salsa ~$2
Sour Cream ~$2
Lettuce ~$2
Seems more expensive up front but you can use the ingredients for other stuff(rice, lettuce, sour cream, salsa)
Bonus - Tortilla chips, TJs red salsa (the one with the yellow lid) and sour cream is a delightful snack too!


8. Yogurt and Fruit
Fage yogurt or TJs Greek style yogurt with a banana or other fruit of choice. For crunch add granola, even the cheap crappy kind will work and taste good. I promise. Or make your own!

9. Baked apples
Core an apple (s) and stuff with raisins/craisins, brown sugar, cinnamon and a little butter, bake at 375F until mushy.

10. "Quick" Chocolate Mousse
My friend from grade school Lillian's dad Phillipe taught us this recipe:
whip one small carton whipping cream ~$3
melt 12-16oz semi sweet chocolate chips ~$3
gently fold into whipped cream, leaving some ribbons of chocolate.
Place in freezer for at least an hour. Patience! Patience! Enjoy.
Vegan alternative:
Blend 1 package soft silken tofu until smooth. Fold in melted chocolate and refrigerate.

There you have it. Chad, I hope this brings more variety to your life! One of my favorite things about cooking with other people is that they make things I wouldn't normally since I tend to get stuck in ruts. So since we're too far apart to cook together - this'll have to do until you come visit or move.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

French Almond Macarons 2

Success! Well, for the most part. I forgot to take pictures of the finished product, so I have no true proof other than happy friends, but let's just say I got as excited as Veronica when my macarons developed their "feet". Here's the only picture I have:

This time I used the same recipe that she used that can be found here.
- 1 ¼ cups icing sugar
- 4 oz (1 cup) almond flour or finely ground almonds
- ¼ cup plus 2 tbsps egg whites at room temperature
- pinch of salt
- ¼ cup granulated sugar

Interestingly, this recipe has less almond meal and maybe less egg. Hard to say: 1/4 c + 2 T v. 3 egg whites. I guess it depends on the eggs.

I quadrupled the recipe, using almond meal from Trader Joes ($3.99 for 16oz)! Who knew? Thanks to my friend/neighbor Diego for that hot tip. It was actually finer than the meal I bought at Whole Foods made by Bob's Redmill ($9.99 for 16oz). I called Rainbow to check if they had it and they do in bulk, so that's an option too.

I let the eggs sit out (covered since we have fruit flies, ewww) for over 48 hours. They were hard to scoop and measure, so I think I had a little less than the recipe called for.

I split the finished batter in half and put pink color in one and yellow in the other. I tested the letting them sit once piped trick and it worked. At first I thought it was the fact that I was using two different pans (one double insulated and the other just your basic cookie sheet). Once I let them both rest, both pans produced equally feet-y cookies.

I used Martha's Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe.
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, (3 sticks), softened, cut into tablespoons
Whisk whites until stiff, slowly adding sugar until forms stiff peaks.
Switch to paddle and slowly add the softened butter.
At this point I divided the frosting into two and added pink food coloring gel and rose water (about 3 tsp) to one and yellow food coloing gel and some safron honey from Italy to the other. I piped the pink into the pink cookies and the yellow into the yellow.

They were so cute and so delicious! I love anything rose or violet flavored, so this little trend will likely continue.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Scones for Keenan and Jeff

My friend Keenan and his brother Jeff decided to bike over for dinner... from Alberta. ha. just kidding. I mean, they really biked but not to see me or just for dinner. They're en route to Argentina on an epic trek down the West coast of the Americas. I am serving as their pit stop for a few days in San Francisco. They have a website and a blog and a facebook group you should check out.

Anyhow - being me, I had to bake them something. I had left over lemon curd and cream cheese frosting from Matthew's cake, so I made some scones.

Basic Scones

3 C Flour
1.2 C Sugar
1 T Baking Powder
1/2 t salt
3/4 C butter
1 Egg
3/4 C Milk

Mix dry ingredients together, cut in butter until pea sized.
Combine egg and milk and add to dry ingredients. Add a little more milk if necessary. It should be stickier than pie crust, but less sticky than cookie dough.

Form into a round shape on a floured surface and cut into equal sized scone shaped pieces. Roll in sugar for a pretty finish. Bake at 400F until golden brown about 20 mins. Use tooth pick or something to test. If any dough sticks to it, bake a little longer.

Add orange zest and cranberries
Add almond extract and sliced almonds
Add poppy seeds and top with lemon icing
Add blueberries and white chocolate chips

Friday, October 10, 2008

Veggie Soul Food!

My friend Noah and his girlfriend Leah came over for dinner last night. I'd discovered left over corn meal and wanted to make corn bread. Found "the best" recipe and thought I'd try it.

Now for the rest of the meal - gingered greens, fried tofu and butternut squash.

Corn Bread from Mark Bittman of the NY Times
  • 4 tablespoons butter, olive oil, lard or bacon drippings
  • 1 1/2 cups medium-grind cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, more if needed
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put fat in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or in an 8-inch square baking pan. Place pan in oven.

2. Meanwhile, combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix eggs into milk, then stir this mixture into dry ingredients, combining with a few swift strokes. If mixture seems dry, add another tablespoon or two of milk.

3. When fat and oven are hot, remove skillet or pan from oven, pour batter into it and smooth out top. Return pan to oven. Bake about 30 minutes, until top is lightly browned and sides have pulled away from pan; a toothpick inserted into center will come out clean. Serve hot or warm.

I thought the amount of fat in the pan was a bit extreme and in the end it was a lot, but it sure made it tasty! I would say 3T would be enough. I also ended up with some eggy bits once baked, so I would say make sure you really mix the eggs before you mix it with the dry ingredients.

Gingered Greens
In a sautee pan, place roughly chopped, cleaned greens (chard, kale, collards, mustard greens) with a little water and butter. Once they cook down, add freshly grated ginger and serve hot!

Fried Tofu from the PPK
The recipes says to freeze the tofu for 2 days, but it doesn't say why. Being short on time and a skeptic, I froze it for about an hour. Worked fine. I also altered the recipe a little.

1 block of tofu defrosted and cut into triangles.
Organic White Flour
*Cayenne pepper
*Sea Salt
*Fresh ground pepper
1/4 C. Nutritional yeast
1 cup warm water
1 heaping tablespoon of miso
Olive and canola oil for frying

*All of these are according to taste*

In a separate bowl, mix the 1 cup of warm water with the miso until it dissolves.

In a larger shallow bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together.

It turns out better if you 'double dip' the tofu. Take a triangle and dip it into the flour mixture first. After that, dip in the miso mixture and then back into the flour until evenly covered. Set the battered tofu on a plate and prepare the rest of the pieces the same way. Get your oil good and hot.

Fry your battered tofu and turn regularly until brown on all sides.


Butternut Squash

Halve and bake at 400F until tender

Leah had the great idea to put cinnamon and butter on it. Delish!

Fall foods I love

My friend Geoff (sadly sans Steph, who's back in the GWN*) came for an impromptu dinner on Wednesday.

I missed the stop by the store, so I skipped it and worked with what I had:

yellow potatoes
a bit of jack cheese
a bit of parmesan cheese
cream cheese

I made a roux and mixed in about a 1/4 c. each of parmesan jack cheese and cream (could be milk or half and half too). Then I mixed in a few tablespoons of cream cheese into it and then about a cup of chicken stock.

We cut a garlic clove in half and rubbed in on the bottom of the pan (by we I mean Geoff) and then layered the potatoes and chard in the dish. I poured the sauce over it and baked it at 375 for about half an hour until the potatoes were cooked. Half way through I pushed the top potatoes down so they were in the sauce a bit more.

For an appy while we waited I popped about 1/2 c. yellow corn in a large soup pan with a bit of canola oil over low heat. Once done, I put melted butter, salt and nutritional yeast on top. YUM!

*GWN = Great White North = Canada

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Birthday Cake for Matthew

I wasn't able to attend my friend Matthew's birthday party so I promised I'd make him a cake.
These are the recipes I'm considering:

1. Blueberry Almond Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
It calls for almond paste (which I have from my sister's honeymoon in Italy)

2. Vanilla Saffron Cake with Rose Buttercream
This one calls for saffron (also from the Italian honeymoon) and rose water, which I have a bottle of in my cupboard.

He said not too sweet, so I'm thinking the first. It sounds so good, I'm just worried about getting blueberries since the season is kinda over. Maybe I'll use frozen. Egads!

I ended up making the Blueberry Almond Cake recipe above.
I didn't have enough of the almond paste, so I made some makeshift. I made 1/4 c. simple syrup, and mixed it with 1/2 c. almond meal and 1/2 c. sugar. It wasn't as sweet or smooth as the almond paste I had from Italy or as fragrant, but it did the job!

I ended up using frozen blueberries on the inside. I didn't get any shots of it cut. And I decided to put raspberries and lemon curd as decoration since the raspberries looked so good at the farmers market that morning.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Attempt 1 at French Macarons

I absolutely adore french macarons. They are so cute and delicious and girly. But also come in such a variety of flavors. How hard can they be? ha.

I did a little research and should have paid closer attention. I used Martha's recipe and for the first time was disappointed.

Next time I'll try this one and actually follow her advice.

Things I didn't do:
- beat the eggs enough. Martha's recipe said medium soft peaks. It sounds like they should be a bit more stiff.
- fold the almond/sugar in gently enough
- measure with precision (one of my weaknesses as a baker)
- let them sit for 30 minutes after piping before baking
- pay attention to what I was doing

I should know better than to bake when I'm feeling overwhelmed.

They turned out to be too flat and too dry. Probably due to over mixing and over baking. Shoot.
The good thing is that they still taste delicious but they are more like meringues in consistency.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fall means pie

My friend Dave had a dinner party tonight that had a Thanksgiving theme so I made a caramel apple pie. I was home in Sebastopol this weekend and picked some apples from my moms' apple tree. We also went on the Sonoma County Farm Trails and picked our own apples. The apples I used were from my moms' yard, what we learned are Vermont green, an heirloom variety. Delicious!

My pie crust recipe is already posted, so here's the filling:
5 c (about 6 medium tart apples diced)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 C sugar

Caramel filling
1 stick butter (1/2 C)
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 C flour

Mix the apples, cinnamon and sugar. Mix the caramel filling. Layer in the pie crust.

BONUS - add caramel candies for added deliciousness.

Friday, September 12, 2008

100 Things to Eat Before you Die

The Omnivore's Hundred is an eclectic and entirely subjective list of 100 items that Andrew Wheeler, co-author of the British food blog Very Good Taste, thinks every omnivore should try at least once in his life.

He offered this list as the starting point for a game, along the following rules:
1. Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2. Bold all the items you’ve eaten 
3. Cross out any items that you would never consider eating. (I italicized) Things I want to try have an asterisk. 
4. Optional extra: post a comment on Very Good Taste, linking to your results.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea 
3. Huevos rancheros 
4. Steak tartare*
5. Crocodile 
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Phở 
13. PB&J sandwich 
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart 

16. Epoisses*
17. Black truffle*
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes 
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries

23. Foie gras (totally unethical)
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese (gross)
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper *
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters (gross)
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda*
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl 
33. Salted lassi 
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float 

36. Cognac with a fat cigar 
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O

39. Gumbo*
40. Oxtail (maybe if i was desperate or didn't know)
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects  (ants once in a muffin - unintentionally)
43. Phaal*
44. Goat’s milk 
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/€80/$120 or more 
46. Fugu (aka puffer fish - that's just lame)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel*
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi 
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal 
56. Spaetzle

57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine 
60. Carob chips 
61. S’mores

62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin  (ummm.. the clay?)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini (I've had them seperately. I don't like caviar but i'll take the blini.)
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill 
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie (barf)
78. Snail (ditto)
79. Lapsang souchong*
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict

83. Pocky 
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant***
85. Kobe beef*
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate*
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa*
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano*
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor*
98. Polenta (only my favorite food on the planet)
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee*
100. Snake 

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Wedding Cake

Oh boy. Wedding cakes are a lot of work! But man was it fun.

Carrot Cake with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

Combine in a medium bowl:
3 C. All purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Combine in a large bowl:
2 C. sugar (I used sucanat)
2.5 C. carrots, finely grated
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 C. buttermillk
3 eggs (I used 3/4 C silken tofu that I blended until smooth)
1.5 C. canola oil

fold dry ingredients into wet, pour into two greased, parchment lined 8" rounds and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, rotating half way through. You'll know it's done when the sides easily pull away from the pan and when you lightly touch the top in bounces back up. Also, you can use a cake tester or tooth pick, stick it in the center and if any dough sticks to it, bake it longer!

Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting:

3 packs (24oz) cream cheese
4 T unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 C. powdered sugar

Monday, June 30, 2008

Gay Ol' BBQ Guacaliciousness

What was Avogadro's favorite food? Guaca - mole!
Oh so funny joke from 11th grade chemistry.

As promised:

Super-untraditional but none-the-less delicious Guacamole
5 ripe avocados
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 purple onion (or one small one), diced
1/2 c. cilantro, washed and roughly chopped
1 jalepeno, diced
Mash the avocados in a big bowl. Add diced onion, jalepeno, lime juice and cilantro; mix thoroughly. Add in 2 tsp or so cumin, 1 tsp cayenne and 1 tsp salt or there abouts to taste. Depending on how much juice you get from the limes, you may need more or less salt. Also, depending on how spicy your jalepeno is you may want more or less cayenne.

Lime is traditionally used as a preserative to keep the avo from turning brown, but I personally love the flavor, especially combined with cumin and purple onion. It should keep overnight if you need to make it in advance, but I highly suggest eating it right after you make it and not sharing it with anyone else.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Steph and Geoff go crazy for pie

Two of my favorite people were coming over for dinner, and Geoff had already challenged me to a bake off, so I knew I needed to impress. I made two pies for Thursday's feast - chicken pot pie and strawberry tart. I had a heart shaped pan that I bought for Addie's birthday, so I used that for the tart to give it a nice romantic shape.

Basic Pie Crust
2.5 C. flour
1 c. unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 tsp salt
ice water
(1 T sugar if a sweet pie)

Using a pastry blender mix flour, salt and butter (and sugar if desired) until the lumps of butter are pea sized. The colder the butter is when you start, the better. Slowly add ice water until you can form the dough into a ball. I say, add 6 T, then two more at a time,
slowly working the dough with your hands. It should be relatively dry but stick together. I suggest refrigerating at least over night but if in a pinch, through it in the freezer for an hour. Keeping the butter cold makes for a flakier crust.

* For this evening I did 1.5 times that recipe (two crusts for the chicken, one for the strawberry).

Chicken Pot Pie

1 recipe Basic Pie Dough
2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed (or equivalent amount of other chicken meat, turkey, etc.)
1 small bag frozen peas, carrots and corn
1 recipe chicken gravy

For the gravy, make a roux, equal parts flour and butter (6 T or so of each) heated on low until it bubbles lightly, slowly add chicken broth (1 quart/liter). Salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer until thickens.

Roll out the dough, pour in mixture of chicken, veg and gravy. Bake for half an hour or so at 375. I say put a baking sheet under it in case of over flow.

Let it sit for 10 minutes before cutting to allow the gravy set up. Enjoy!

Strawberry Tart
1/2 Basic Pie Crust recipe
1 recipe cream cheese filling
fresh strawberries (and blueberries for extra fun!)

Bake the crust for 10-15 minutes until golden brown (use pie weights to keep the crust from bubbling). Allow to cool while you prepare the filling.

Cream Cheese filling:
1 package cream cheese
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c flour

In a stand up mixer, blend cream cheese until smooth. Add egg, vanilla, salt and sugar. Mix until smooth. Add flour. Mix until thoroughly incorporated. Pour into cooled pie crust. Bake for 15 minutes until set. Do not over cook. It should be hot and smooth not dry.
Once cooled, cut strawberries in half and place on the pie in what ever pattern makes you happy. Coat with glaze.

Glaze (2 options)
1. Take some jam or jelly and heat until liquid. Brush onto strawberries.

2. Cut up one pint strawberries, mash, cover with water, cook until soft. Mash up some more, then let strain through a mesh strainer, a coffee filter, cheese cloth... whatever you've got.
Once you have a clear liquid, add 3/4 cup sugar per cup of liquid . Bring to a simmering boil, skimming off any build up until it coats the back of a metal spoon. Let it cool. Put it in a jar and reuse it for pancakes, glazes, ice cream...

Turns out Geoff isn't actually as baking saavy as he'd claimed. It was a ploy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

TJ's helped but I made the Raita!

I came home from a stressful day of playing catch up at work to find Adrian on my stoop. Now, this is a very nice thing when you've had a not very nice day. I wish I could say it was totally unexpected, but seeing how we'd had lunch together and he'd just called to tell me he was there, it wasn't unexpected, but very nice none-the-less.

I had promised him dinner. What did I have? Not much, but Trader Joe's saved the day.
Our appetizer was their classic red salsa, mixed with sour cream and dipped into by organic white corn chips. Yum. I've been snacking on that since we moved to somewhere with a TJ's, so probably about 17 years.

For our main course, I had garlic naan and veggie biryani from TJ's freezer section. While the biryani was frying up in the pan with some shallots, we threw the naan in the oven. I whipped up some raita.


1/2 c. plain yogurt
1/3 cup grated cucumber
cayenne to taste
cumin to taste (or freshly chopped coriander/cilantro or mint)
salt to taste

It was taste-e. Not to mention that we had a Madonna dance party in between courses.

Then we made pate brisee (aka pie crust) for my Thursday night dinner fest. I'll add that recipe after that meal is made!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Vegan Wheatless Dinner with J and A

I've got friends coming over for dinner tonight. The plan is to make vegan baked zitti with brown rice pasta, tofu ricotta and melty vegan cheese (made with nutritional yeast).
For dessert we're having a cobbler with coconut milk ice cream.

Update - dinner was great! Here are the recipes:

Wheatless Vegan Baked Zitti

1 recipe tofu ricotta*
1 recipe melty "cheese"*
1 bag brown rice penne
1.5 jars marinara sauce
1 onion
basil (fresh)
zuchinni or any other fresh veggies you desire
2 T olive oil
I suggest preparing the tofu ricotta and melty cheese before even beginning to boil the pasta. Preheat the oven to 375 once you start the water for the pasta. You don't want the pasta to sit around unsauced for too long, so if it's ready early mix it with the sauce, so it absorbs some of the flavor while it's still warm.
Saute onions and veggies until tender. Add pasta sauce. Throw in herbs, salt and pepper if necessary.
Boil pasta until not quite al dente (it will cook more in the oven).
In alternating layers add to a casserole or lasagna pan equal parts pasta, ricotta, cheese and sauce, slowly mixing it all together. My step mom used to make this in a deep Pyrex bowl, if you have one big enough. It probably only needs 15-20 minutes to get hot all the way through.

*Tofu ricotta:
1 package (1lb) firm tofu
2 T chopped basil
2 T diced onion
2 cloves fresh garlic
salt and pepper
Press tofu under a heavy pan or some plates for an hour or so to get out the excess water.
Using your hands squish the tofu until smooth, usually about 10 minutes.
Add basil, onion, garlic and salt and pepper to taste.

*Melty "Cheese"
1/2 C. Nutritional yeast
1/2 C. barley flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp garlic powder
2 C. Water
1/4 C. margerine
1 T. wet mustard (yellow, dijon, whatevs)
Combine the flour, yeast, salt and garlic powder in a heavy sauce pan. Stir over medium heat until toasted (about 5-10 minutes). Slowly add water, whisking it into the dry ingredients. While that comes to a simmer, mix the margerine and mustard together. Whisk into the bubbling mixture and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes, whisking occasionally.

Peach Raspberry Crumble
1 pint raspberries
1-2 C. chopped peaches
Crumble topping (these are approximate - I didn't actually measure):
1/4 C. oats
1/2 C. barley flour
1/4 C. Brown sugar (or sweetener of your choice)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 C. margarine
Preheat oven to 375. Chop peaches, rinse raspberries. Use a square baking dish or pie plate. Grease the bottom and toss in the fruit. It's better if they are mixed a little. To prepare the crumble topping mix , throw the ingredients into a bowl and work with your hands until crumbly. If too sticky, add more flour. Taste it before you bake it - since you aren't adding sweetener to the fruit, you may want the top to be sweeter than you'd expect. Bake until bubbling ~20 minutes.
Variations: depending on what type of fruit you use (peaches, blackberries, cherries, raspberries, blueberries, etc) you can add texture to the topping by throwing in sliced almonds or coconut.

I served it with coconut milk ice cream - the store only had the cherry amarretto flavor, which turned out to go quite nicely.

We had some yummy Spanish wine and a Zin with dinner and then Earl Grey and herbal tea with dessert.