Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

My Halloween recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Above & Beyond Parsley. Above & Beyond Parsley is a Junior League of Kansas City cookbook. I've had this cookbook since it's first publishing in 1992 and have been making these muffins almost every year since.

These muffins are delicious! The butterscotch chips add a nice sweetness to the pumpkin. They travel well and were treats on Friday for my office.

Butterscotch Pumpkin Muffins

1 3/4 cup flour, sifted
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugars, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Create a well in the middle of the mixture.

In another bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin and butter. Stir in the butterscotch chips. Pour into the well of the dry ingredients. Fold together just until dry ingredients are moistened. Do not overmix.

Spoon batter into greased muffin tins. (I use cupcake liners) Spoon batter evenly into muffin tins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Place on a rack to cool.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Chocolate Creme Brulee - Chocolate With Francois (CWF)

What recipe to choose for my new baking group, Chocolate With Francois? There are so many great recipes in this book, it was hard to pick just one. Afterall, what doesn't sound good when made with chocolate???!!! Since Creme Brulee is one of my favorite desserts and I love, love, love chocolate, it seemed perfect to choose Chocolate Creme Brulee.

I am normally a Creme Brulee purist. I like the white Creme Brulee. For home baking, I have used the same recipe for years. It has the perfect creamy texture and the flavor doesn't taste too much like egg.

I was excited to try my first Chocolate Creme Brulee. Since it's only the two of us, I decided to make a half recipe. I ended up with three 6-ounce ramekins. I think I could have filled them a little less full and had enough for four. The recipe calls for extra bittersweet chocolate. Francois defines extra bittersweet as 72 percent chocolate. I couldn't find 72%, so I used Ghiradelli 70%.I think a good chocolate is one of the keys to this recipe.

I always use white sugar for the carmelized top of the Creme Brulee. Francois suggests using brown sugar. Brown sugar, however, contains too much moisture, so he recommends drying it. To dry it you spread the brown sugar on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 200 degree oven for an hour. When you take it out, if the sugar is lumpy, use the paddle attachment of your mixer to break up the lumps.

I am sad to say, I didn't love, love, love this recipe. I wasn't happy with the appearance of the carmelized top. I tried one with brown sugar and one with white sugar. I think the reason is the darkness of the chocolate causes the carmelized sugar to look very dark. One of my favorite things about white creme brulee is the beautiful golden brown carmelized top. The flavor didn't wow me. Although I am a dark chocolate fan, to me this wasn't sweet enough and the texture wasn't as creamy as I would have liked.

I am proud to be creating along side a very talented group of ladies. You can find the links to their blogs over at Chocolate With Francois.

Chocolate Creme Brulees
From Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard

6 ounces 72% chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup sugar
8 large egg yolks
3 cups plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream

1 cup sugar

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 300.
Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Combine the sugar and egg yolks in a medium bowl and whisk until well combined.
Bring the cream to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Remove from the heat, and stir in the chocolate until it is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Slowly pour a fourth of the cholcate cream into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep the yolks from curdling. Pour all of the yolk mixture into the chocolate cream and whisk until everything is combined.
Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a pitcher or a bowl. (The custard will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 days.) Pour the custard into eight 6-ounce ramekins. Place the ramekins in a rimmed baking sheet or a shallow baking dish and pour about 1/4 inch of water into the bottom of the pan. Bake for about 1 hour, until the custard is just set. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate the ramekins until the custard is completely set and chilled, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

Finish the dessert: Place a rack as high as you can in the oven and preheat the oven to 500. With the ramekins on a baking sheet, spread the top of each custard with an even layer of about 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place them in the oven as close as possible to the heat source. Broil until the sugar melts completely and forms a crisp, caramel colored crust, about 2 minutes. Keep a close eye on the oven, as the sugar can burn very quickly. Serve immediately.

You can also use a small blowtorch to carmelize the sugar. It allows you to control the heat better as you run the blowtorch over the sugar. I always carmelize using this method. I have never had much success carmelizing in the oven.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Indoor Gardening Week Four

Week Four is the first time to feed the AeroGarden. The seed kits come with nutrients to feed the plants. The nutrients are added to the water and at the same time you make sure the water reservoir is full. The AeroGarden has a red light that flashes when it is time to feed and water the garden. How easy is that?

As you can see from the photo the herbs are starting to grow. The chives are still slow in getting started. The chives didn't grow well last time. I hope this isn't a sign they aren't going to do well this time.

A few more weeks and even though it's cold outside, we'll have beautiful fresh herbs.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Culinary Boot Camp Week 4

Tonight we learned poaching and braising. I braise meats, especially ribs, so I was pretty familiar with this technique.

Tim asked me what we did in class tonight. I said we learned how to poach chicken. Now remember this is the guy that last week thought we were learning how to trust our chicken. He said "Poach chicken, did someone shoot the chicken on someone else's property"?

I've never poached anything before and I am not sure it's a technique I will use. I like my chicken or fish to have some color to it. While the fish and chicken we poached in class had wonderful sauces, they were very pale and just not as appealing as a nicely browned piece of meat.

We also learned about "mother sauces". Mother sauces are the five "grand sauces" as defined by Auguste Escoffier. Escoffier was one of the most famous chefs in the early 1900's. The sauces are Bechamel, Espagnole (the base for demiglace), Tomato Sauce (creamy, not marinara),Hollandaise and Veloute. We made Veloute. It was a wonderful, creamy sauce we used on the poached chicken. Veloute also makes an excellent base for creamed soups. I think my first veloute at home will be the base for Cream of Mushroom soup.

Next week is the final class in the series.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Devils Food Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting - SMS

I can't remember the last time I made a layer cake. I was digging in the cabinet where I keep the baking pans and pulled out the round pans. Apparently I've never baked a 9" layer round pans are 7". I had enough for the two 7" rounds and 6 cupcakes.

We went to see our friends Karen and Larry in Kansas City this weekend. We had this cake for dessert last night. This recipe called for strong black coffee. I was a little concerned because Larry doesn't like coffee at all. I tried one of the cupcakes and couldn't even tell, so I knew we were good!! I made the frosting as Karen from Karen's Cookies, Cakes and More suggested. It was sooooooooo good! I can't imagine following the frosting recipe in the cookbook, seriously 6 sticks of butter???!!! I am all about rich, decadant desserts but that would have been too much, even for me!!! The cake was fabulous! This was my favorite SMS so far and you can bet I will be making this cake again...SOON!

This weeks recipe was chosen by Holly of Phe/MOM/enon. Holly you rock! This recipe was the best! Visit the SMS site to see what finishing touches all of the creative SMS bakers put on this delicious cake!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Culinary Boot Camp Week 3

Tonight was my favorite night so far! Of course, I forgot the camera! We roasted a chicken the chef had brined prior to class. We learned how to truss a chicken. I was telling my husband and he said "You learned how to trust the chicken?".

The techniques for tonight's class were dry heat methods, roasting and grilling. We grilled pork chops and served them with a delicious mustard sauce. These were the most tender pork chops I've ever eaten. They were marinated in a simple marinade of oil, worchestershire, garlic, and salt and pepper.

We made Spinach with Bacon and Pine Nuts. Bacon makes everything yummy! Our other side dish was glazed sweet potatoes. They were beautiful and delicious.

I am really enjoying these classes and it's only increasing my desire to go to cooking school. Next week poaching and braising. I've never poached anything, so I am looking forward to learning about this technique.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Roasted Delicata Squash

I've never tasted delicata squash. The nice thing about winter squash is they keep so well. I picked this one up several weeks ago at the farmer's market and it was perfectly fresh when I used it last night.

Squash is so easy to prepare. The biggest challenge is cutting it in half. The secret to making cutting it in half easier is to put in the microwave for 60 seconds prior to cutting. It softens it just enough to make it easier.
I cut the delicato squash in half and then cut the halves in half again. Drizzled them with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, pepper and a little brown sugar. Topped them with some fresh thyme. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 -40 minutes until the squash is soft when tested with a fork.
I found the delicata squash to be a milder flavor than butternut or acorn but still earthy and delicious.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pumpkin Cookie Cakes - SMS

What do you think of when you think of pumpkin? Everyone has their own special pumpkin memories. I love to remember October and pumpkins as a child, carving the jack o lantern, trick or treating. I also have a special memory of my mom's Pumpkin Bread. My mother passed away when I was 16 and her recipes are those special memories I still cherish today!

As a child, Pumpkin Bread and Pumpkin Pie are the two things I can remember eating. Blogging has allowed me to create new recipes made with pumpkin. I like pumpkin but I can't say I love pumpkin! This week's Sweet Melissa Sunday's recipe is Pumpkin Cookie Cakes. For me, you need to love things made with pumpkin to love this recipe. My favorite part...the cream cheese frosting. I was using leftover frosting, so I didn't have as much as I would have liked.

Thanks to Debbie of Everyday Blessings of the Five Dees for choosing this recipe. Visit the SMS site to see all of the links to the group of talented and creative SMS bakers!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Indoor Gardening - Week Two

During the first few weeks the AeroGarden needs very little care. It requires very little watering, if any. The first feeding is at the end of the second week.

A few of my herbs are starting to show signs of life. The basil was the first to peek out of the pod. The sage is showing signs of life. Nothing happening in the mint, chives or parsley pods.

If I remember right the herbs really start to grow in week three. There's so little change from last week, I didn't take a photo.

Just Like White Castle...Only Better!

We have a wonderful bakery in town, Rotella's. They have the best bread, buns and rolls and even better, they have a bread store. When I was there a couple of weeks ago, I noticed slider buns in the freezer section. How perfect! I've been going to make sliders but hadn't found the right size bun.


2 pounds hamburger (not too lean or the sliders will be dry)
1/2 cup dried onion flakes
Salt & Pepper
Shredded Cheddar or Monterrey Jack Cheese
Slider Buns

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle the onion flakes in a 9 x 13 pan. Gently press the onion on top of the ground beef forming one large patty. Season with salt and pepper. Bake 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, drain and pat with paper towels to absorb the grease. Bake for another 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and bake 5 more minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Cut into bun size squares and serve with your favorite burger toppings.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes - MSC

A quick note before we get to MSC, I am starting a new group around Francois Payard's book, Chocolate Ephipany. Looking for a few more members. We''ll create once a month and I want to keep the group small. Also, I am having a cookbook giveaway!!

When I think of Fall desserts, I think pumpkin. Pumpkin is one of those ingredients where I tend to make my favorite recipes, rather than try new ones. I created this blog to encourage me to try new recipes. This month's Martha Stewart Cupcake Club did just that. These cupcakes are delicious and a great addition to your Fall recipe collection.

I did not make any changes to the recipe. I used cream cheese frosting, yummy! The cookbook showed these topped with marzipan pumpkins. I've never made marzipan and although I would like to try it, not this particular day. I thought the candy corn made a nice addition.

This month's recipe was chosen by Kim from What the Wisk. Thanks Kim for choosing a good one!! You can find all of the other MSC bakers here! Be sure to check out their creativity with this recipe.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Culinary Boot Camp Week 2

Culinary Boot Camp Week 2 was non stop. There were 8 of us and we cooked in teams of 2. We made 3 main dishes and 3 soups. Our soups were made with the stocks we made last week. My partner and I made Potato Soup flavored with tarragon. The other soups were Shrimp Bisque and Cream of Mushroom. Our main dish was Chicken stuffed with Prosciutto and Mozarella. The other main dishes were Pork Schnitzel with Savory Tomato Sauce and Rainbow Beef. The techniques we worked on were breading, pan frying, sauces and soups.

My favorites were the mushroom soup and the chicken. The flavors in the mushroom soup were robust and earthy. The herb pan sauce for the chicken added wonderful aromatic flavors to an already delicious dish.

I had hoped to have a picture to show the dishes we made in class this week. I know I took the pictures but tonight when I went to download pictures. Next week I will have pictures for sure!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Indoor Gardening - Week One

Last year for my birthday, Tim bought me an AeroGarden. I'd been wanting one for a while but held off because they are a little spendy. After several growing seasons with this garden, the expense is so worth it!!! You can have fresh lettuce, tomatoes or herbs all year long.

I planted my newest garden on October 8th. I am going to blog through the growing season of this garden. Here's what I planted and their germination time:

Lemon Basil - 4 to 7 days
Curly Parsley - 15 to 21 days
Genovese Basil - 3 to 7 days
Mint - 6 to 10 daysS
Sage - 7 to 10 days
Chives - 5 to 10 days

I've grown the chives, mint and genovese basil before. My chives have never done very well. The basil grows beautifully and the mint grew fairly well. I am anxious to see how these herbs grow. I hope you'll follow along with me!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sticky Buns With Toasted Almonds - SMS

To bake or not to bake? That was my question for this weeks Sweet Melissa Sunday. I've never been very successful with yeast breads or kneaded doughs. However, the reason I starting blogging and joined Sweet Melissa Sundays was to try recipes that are a challenge for me. So I decided to bake and I am so glad I did. These sticky buns are so delicious.

I made a couple of changes. I used lemon zest instead of orange zest and honey instead of maple syrup. My dough came together nicely. I realized as I was rolling the dough, most of the doughs I made in the past were kneaded by hand before I owned a Kitchen Aid. With the assistance of the Kitchen Aid, I feel much more confident about my dough making skills.

I had a little trouble telling if these were done. I took them out after about 30 minutes. They did seem a little doughy on the bottom but were golden brown on the top. Maybe the honey was more liquid than the maple syrup would have been?

Thanks to Jen of Not Microwave Safe for choosing this wonderful recipe. You can find all of the creative and talented Sweet Melissa Sunday's bakers here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Asian Sweet Potato Soup

I love to shop at Whole Foods. Unfortunately Whole Foods isn't in my neighborhood. I go there a few times a year, mainly when I am looking for a special ingredient that my local store doesn't carry. Today Whole Foods was having an in store soup contest. The Asian Sweet Potato was our favorite. Since we had our first snowfall of the season today, this soup was perfect.

Asian Sweet Potato Soup
Adapted from Whole Foods

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1/2 inch of ginger, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
4 cups vegetable stock
Salt and Pepper to taste
Toasted bread croutons*

Saute onions in olive oil until transluscent, add sweet potato, garlic and ginger. Toss with onions and oil briefly, then add stock. Simmer until sweet potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Garnish with toasted bread croutons.

*Whole Foods used a pumpkin pecan bread for the croutons.

What Season Is It??

Don't you often wish you were a meterologist? You can be wrong, a lot, and still keep your job. True to form, our meterologists were wrong last night. The forecast was for snow flurries.

I woke up about 6:30 this morning and noticed a little snow on the window. I looked outside and saw more than just a little snow. The ground was totally covered and so were the the trees. Amazingly some areas of town received as much as 6" of snow. Not the earliest snowfall on record but the earliest I have ever seen snow. It was a beautiful snow and as of the end of the day most of it was melted.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chocolate With Francois

Do you love chocolate? Do you like to create new recipes? Join me in a creating the recipes in Francois Payard's book Chocolate Epiphany. We'll create one recipe a month. There's so many great recipes, some months we may create an extra recipe. I want to keep the group small, so we can all have time to read and comment on everyone's recipes!
Check out the new blogsite for details on the book giveaway and how to join!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Culinary Boot Camp Week #1

Although I have no regrets about the path my career has taken me, if I could start over I would go to culinary school. My dreams are to own a small restaurant where I would serve breakfast and lunch or to own my own bed and breakfast. Who knows maybe someday these dreams will come true? In the meantime, I am aspiring to become a more knowledgeable and proficient cook.

This week I began a series of 5 cooking classes entitiled Culinary Boot Camp. The classes are based on the book of the same name by Martha Rose Shulman. The classes are held at The Classy Gourmet. Colleen Cleek, the owner, was a contestant on Season 5 of Hells Kitchen.

Our class is small, six total students. Last night's class focused on knife skills, stocks and pan sauteing. I just want to be like a giant sponge and soak up all of the knowledge and cooking hints passed on by our instructor. Next week, I am going to remember to bring my camera.

Monday, October 5, 2009

How Many Pieces of Luggage Were Lost????

I was listening to Martha Stewart Living Radio and was amazed at the statistics the guest was citing about how many pieces of luggage were lost in 2008, 32 million. And to think that is down from 2007 when a staggering 47 million pieces were lost.

If you travel, it's one of your worst fears, will my luggage make it? Standing there watching the luggage go around and hoping you will see your bag rounding that corner soon.

A few reminders for your luggage when traveling:

* Make sure to look at the tag placed on your luggage. Is it coded with your destination? Does it have a legible barcode?

* At home, before zipping up that suitcase, take a picture of the contents. If you need to file a claim, you won't have to try and remember what all was inside.

* Put your name, address, phone number and itinerary inside your bag.

Also, read the airlines baggage policy and make sure you aren't packing something inside your luggage that isn't covered by their policy.

Happy Travels!!!

Crock - It Cookbook

Have you noticed how cooking with slow cookers or crock pots seems to come and go? Just the other day, one of the food shows on Martha Stewart radio, had a segment on Slow Cookers. I have always loved my slow cooker regardless of whether they were in or out of cooking fashion. It's so nice to come home from work and have dinner almost finished.

This week's cookbook recipe, Refrigerator Stew, comes from the Crock-It Cookbook by Barbara M. Murray. I've had this cookbook for years and it contains several of my go to recipes for the crock pot. The winds are blowing and the weather is cooling off in the midwest. One of my favorite cold weather meals is stew. Refrigerator Stew is filled with flavor and all you need is fruit or a salad and you have a quick healthy meal.

Refrigerator Stew

2 pounds beef stew meat
1 package onion soup mix
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 1/2 cups water
1 onion
4 - 6 carrots
3 -4 potatoes
1 can green beans
1 can corn

Cut meat, onion, carrots and potatoes into bite size pieces. Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker. Stir well. Cook on low 8 - 10 hours.

My notes on this recipe: I like to brown the stew meat before I put in the slow cooker. Tonight the only potatoes in the pantry were fingerlings. I didn't cut them up and they worked great.
I was out of carrots and I do miss the color they add to the dish!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Apple Orchard Pecan Crumble - SMS

A quick note before we get to this weeks Sweet Melissa Sundays. I love chocolate and want to start a baking group around Chocolate Epiphany. I'd like to keep the group small and bake once a month. If you're interested, please leave me a comment.
When I saw this week's Sweet Melissa Sunday's recipe was Apple Orchard Pecan Crumble, the timing couldn't have been better. I have two buckets of apples from our tree and I needed a dessert to serve Saturday night. Recently I was listening to Martha Stewart Radio and the host was talking about how we tend to not use our dining rooms and our good china. As I was setting the table for last night's dinner, our friend Larry said I've never eaten in your dining room. Karen and Larry have been my best friends for more than 30 years, they're more like family. I tend to use my dining room for holiday dinners and large dinner parties but I've never used it when Karen and Larry come to visit. I immediately set the table with the good china and the candles. It was a lovely dinner and reminded me we should use the dining room more often.

Melissa Murphy suggested serving the Apple Orchard Pecan Crumble with Brown Sugar Vanilla Ice Cream or whipping cream. I decided to make the homemade ice cream and I am so glad I did. The ice cream was a wonderful compliment to the crumble.

Thanks to Christine of Cooking With Christine for choosing a recipe that was a delicious ending to our lovely evening. You can find all of the other Sweet Melissa Sunday's bakers here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sweet and Simple Bakes - St. Clements Cake

My father has an expression he often used when as a child I tried something and failed. He would say you get an E for effort. I guess in his eyes that was like an A. Well this months Sweet and Simple Bakes is one of those E for effort times.

First off the recipe is in grams and I don't have a scale. Yes, I am going to invest in one. I am actually waiting for this measuring cup to be available. I converted the recipe as best I could. Second, my butter was too soft. I was determined to make this cake, so I went ahead and made the batter. It looked and smelled great. I made the cakes in two small loaf pans. When I peeked in the oven, I noticed one was overflowing like a lava flow in the oven. Next we have the burning smell, on goes the fan and we open the doors. The good news, the smoke alarm didn't go off.

Once I had the smoke cleared from the kitchen, I needed to determine if my cake was done. The recipe said smaller pans 30 minutes and golden brown. It's been 30 minutes and it's golden brown. I used a tester and it APPEARED to come out clean. I pulled them out of the oven. I glazed them and then watched the middle sink and sink and continue to sink.

As I said it's a day where I get E for effort. The two pieces in my photograph are the two best pieces out of both cakes. This cake has a great texture and the wonderful flavor of citrus. I will make it again...after I get a scale.

The recipe can be found here. You will find the links to all of the talented and creative Sweet and Simple Bakers here.

On another note, I love all things chocolate and want to start a baking group around Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard. If you'd like to join me in this yummy baking adventure, please leave me a comment.