Sunday, January 31, 2010

Back from Vacation - No Sweet Melissa Sunday's

Well we're back from our cruise. I'd hoped to be able to post pictures of some of the wonderful foods we ate while cruising. Unfortunately both my husband and I were bitten by the awful (and I mean awful) Norovirus. Tim got sick on Tuesday night, just before dinner. Eventhough I sprayed Lysol constantly, I still got the bug, Thursday afternoon for me. We spent the last two days of the cruise in our cabins. Fortunately, we did have a balcony, so we were able to step out for some fresh air and sunshine.

We ended up going to the medical center on the ship, which I must say is quite impressive. My questionaire asked where I thought I had contracted my illness. I filled in the blank with MY HUSBAND. :) Tim said sounds like there will be another cruise in our future.

No Sweet Melissa Sunday's for me this week. Jennifer of Maple n' Cornbread chose Butterscotch Pudding for this week's recipe. Maybe this will be a rewind post for me in the future.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chocolate Pets De Nonne

Traveling home from our cruise today so my Chocolate With Francois post will be delayed!!

Pets De Nonne means nuns farts. Check out the blog of this month's hostess Maggie at The Other Side of 50, I am sure she has a hilarious story for us about her choice. You can find the links to the other Chocolate With Francois bloggers here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Flourless Chocolate Mint Cake

As you read this we are enjoying a sea day aboard the Crown Princess. Sailing towards the Princess Cays, the ships private island in the Bahamas.

I love flourless chocolate cakes. They're so rich and decadent. And of course, they just scream chocolate! In keeping with my Use it Up theme, I had mint chips in the freezer. I checked out the Andes website and found this recipe.

The recipe says don't bake past 12 minutes. At the end of 12 minutes this cake was what I would call soup. I couldn't bring myself to take it out, fearing it wouldn't turn out. I left it in another 5 minutes. At the end of the 17 minutes, it was still very liquid in the center. I let it cool at room temp and it still was somewhat soft in the center. I was concerned if I removed the sides of the pan at this time it would crack and break, so I put it in the refrigerator. After three hours, I removed the sides. It did crack just a little and it was a little hard to get it off the bottom. I'd love to make this for a party but before I do I want to perfect getting it out of the pan.

We loved this cake, so rich and chocolately with a nice mint flavor. I can't wait to try this recipe with some different flavors, maybe peanut butter?

Flourless Chocolate Mint Cake

12 oz. dark chocolate (60% cocoa recommended)
2 cups (10 oz.) Andes Crème de Menthe Baking Chips
3 1/2 sticks of butter
5 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup sugar

Pre-heat oven to 325° degrees. Prepare a removable-bottomed cake pan, 9 inches in diameter, lined with parchment or wax paper and buttered.

In a 2-quart saucepan, over very low heat, gently melt butter, Andes Baking Chips and chocolate broken into small pieces. Stir occasionally until completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat and let cool.

Mix eggs, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until mixture becomes three times the original volume (about 3-5 minutes). Through a strainer, add 1/4 of the chocolate mixture into the bowl. Using a spatula, mix gently until thoroughly incorporated. Add remaining melted chocolate through strainer to catch any solid pieces and fold in gently until well mixed.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 12 minutes. The cake will be slightly soft to the touch, not firm. Don't be tempted to bake it for any longer than this. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan. When cool, cover pan and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Remove pan sides, invert cake onto large plate and remove pan bottom and peel away parchment paper. Invert cake again on another plate or serving platter. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar or cocoa powder immediately before serving.

Serves 16 -24

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Kitchen Aid French Bread

As you read this post, we're in Roatan, Honduras. Tim's looking forward to snorkeling the world's second largest barrier reef.

In keeping with my 2010 resolutions, I made another batch of homemade bread. I am encouraged about my bread baking skills. My biggest challenge in making homemade bread is the kneading, so I am trying to make recipes using my Kitchen Aid to do the kneading for me. I really want to start making whole wheat breads, since we all know the story about white flour but I didn't have any whole wheat flour in the house, so it's white bread again this time.

Kitchen Aid French Bread

2 packages active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups water (105F to 115 F)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon melted margarine or butter
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 egg white
1 tablespoon cold water

Dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed mixer bowl. Add salt, butter, and flour.
Attach bowl & dough hook to mixer, turn to Speed 2 and mix about 1 minute or until well blended. Knead on Speed 2 about 2 minutes longer. Dough will be really sticky.
Put dough in large greased bowl, turning to coat.

Cover and let rise in warm place, free from draft, about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk. Punch dough down and divide in half. Roll each half into 12" x 15" rectangle. Roll dough tightly, from longest side, tapering ends, if needed/wanted. Place loaves on greased baking sheets, dusted with cornmeal.

Cover and let rise in warm place, free from draft, about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk. With sharp knife, make 4 diagonal cuts on top of each loaf.

Bake at 450F for 25 minutes. Place 3 -4 ice cubes in the bottom of the oven. Remove from the oven. Beat egg white and water together and brush each loaf with this mix. Return to the oven and bake 5 minutes longer. Immediately remove from baking sheets and cool on wire racks.

My notes on this recipe: This dough is really, really sticky. Next time I make it, I am going to try kneading a little longer and seeing if that helps. My loaf turned out pretty flat. I think I didn't roll the dough tightly enough. I didn't use the egg wash and the crust was beautiful. The color of the finished bread was a golden color, not the typical white you think of with French Bread. The bread was denser than I would have liked but the flavor was still very good. After learning some things about this bread recipe, I will try it again.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Black Bottom Brownies - SMS

As you're reading this post, we're enjoying the sunshine of a Caribbean cruise. We're enroute from Fort Lauderdale to the Cayman Islands aboard the Crown Princess.

Brownies are one of those desserts that can so easily overbake. I have the hardest time telling whether or not they are done. These were no exception. The cream cheese filling began to brown, so I pulled them out a few minutes early. The texture and flavor were perfect. Not sure what I did but my cream cheese seemed a little too soft and as a result my chocolate chips sank down on top of the chocolate layer. Everyone at my house loved these, they were gone in no time!!!

Thanks to Cynthia of Bakingtherapist for choosing a yummy recipe. Check out the other baker's creations here!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bon Voyage!! Pomegranate Infused Vodka

A cocktail post seemed appropriate on our departure day for the cruise!! We fly to Ft. Lauderdale today. We're leaving a couple of days early, just in case we encounter any midwest weather. We set sail for the Caribbean on Saturday. To all of my blogging friends, I will catch up on all of your great posts when I return on the 30th.

Hubby's camera was packed, so sorry no photo on this one!

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to purchase quite a few pomegranates at a really good price. What an interesting fruit! You cut the end off and break the fruit open and scrape out the ariels. Don't do this unless you have some time, it takes a while to get all of the ariels out of the fruit.

Now that I had all of these ariels, what am I going to do with them. I did some reading and saw the suggestion you can eat them. I tried them and while I didn't dislike them, I didn't find them particularly delicious. Maybe on top of salads or something like that but not just to eat alone.

When we owned our lake house, I used to make infused vodka. It made beautiful summer drinks or incredibly strong shots. Either way, it was an often requested item during the summers at the lake. Pomegranate drinks seem to be all the rage these days, so how about pomegranate infused vodka? I did some reading and based on several recipes, created my own version.

Pomegranate Infused Vodka

750 ml bottle of Vodka
2 cups ariels
Peel of two medium limes
Cinnamon Stick

Pour all of the ingredients into a large glass jar with a lid. Using a potato masher, smash the ariels. Secure the lid. Shake to mix all ingredients. Place jar into a cool, dark place for two weeks. Strain and pour into a clean vodka jar. Use immediately or allow to age further.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Grapefruit Granita

I love fresh citrus fruit. Grapefruits are so beautiful and a wonderful breakfast treat. Since we're getting ready to leave town, I am following my "Use It Up" philosophy and trying to make sure I use as much as I can before we leave town. I was trying to think of something fun to make with grapefruits. I've never made a granita. They are so pretty and easy to make.

Grapefruit Granita

Juice of 2 ruby red grapefruits
1 cup water
1/2 cup honey

Bring water to a simmer, remove from heat and pour in the honey. Allow to cool and stir in grapefruit juice. Pour into 9 x 13 glass pan. Freeze for at least six hours. Scrape with the tines of a fork and place into a pretty glass for serving.

There's so many possibilities for a granita...add a splash of vodka or tequilla, citrus fruits, coffee, herbs. I can't wait to experiement and create some new combinations.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lemon Walnut Sour Cream Pound Cake - SMS

This week's Sweet Melissa Sunday's recipe was chosen by Raeann of Basically Baby Boots . Great choice, Raeann!!! I love pound cake!! I couldn't wait to try this recipe. Sour cream pound cakes are my favorite!!! This cake batter had the most beautiful lemony color and fragrance.

I have a habit of not always reading a recipe thoroughly and missing a ingredient or a step. Not this one, this recipe came together perfectly. Somehow I messed up the timer and went to check how long left and what? it wasn't counting down. I had to estimate how long it had been in the oven, so I began checking it way before it was done. I believe it took close to 1 hour and 30 minutes to bake. I did feel that some of the edges were getting too brown before the center was done. I covered it with foil for the last 10 minutes.

The end pieces of the pound cake were a little dry. Once you made it to the middle, those pieces had a nice moist texture and the best flavor. This recipe is a keeper!!!

Next Sunday's recipe, Black Bottom Brownies.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Please Donate!

I don't know about you but sometimes I take all we have for granted. Clothes, food and shelter! I pause to be thankful for my family and my friends but too often forget to say thanks for those everyday pleasures that I know I take for granted.

I was traveling on business this week and watched quite a bit of the coverage on the earthquake in Haiti. Words cannot describe the tragedy in Haiti. As a food blogger, I'd like ask all the food bloggers to donate to the relief efforts in Haiti. Skip a post and donate the money you would have spent on the food for that particular post.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Use It Up!

Sandy Gluck does a great segment on Everyday Food on Martha Stewart Living Radio called "Use It Up". She takes the ingredient(s) you have in your refrigerator and comes up with a dish to make with them.

My Use It Up for this week is Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Pomegranate Soup. I had butternut squash leftover from the risotto, sweet potatoes in the pantry and pomegranates on the counter. I was actually looking for something to do with my pomegranates and ran across this recipe on the POM website.

This is such an interesting combination of flavors. Would I like it or would it be a failed recipe? I loved this soup. It has the wonderful butternut squash soup flavors with sweetness added from the sweet potatoes and pomegranates. The texture is beautifully creamy and smooth. This one's a keeper!!!

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Pomegranate Soup
Adapted from POM Wonderful
Serves 6

1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup arils from 1 large pomegranate
1 1/2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons green chiles, chopped
3 cups chicken broth (or water)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons white pepper
1/2 cup dry sherry or other white wine
1 cup milk (nonfat or low fat)
1 cup crispy corn tortilla chips
1/2 cup sunflower seeds

Score 1 fresh pomegranate and place in a bowl of water. Break open the pomegranate underwater to free the arils (seed sacs). The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float to the top. Sieve and put the arils in a separate bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup of the arils from fruit and set aside. (Refrigerate or freeze remaining arils for another use.).

To make pomegrante juice, place arils in the blender, pulse until juiced. Strain, reserving juice.

Place butternut squash and sweet potato on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Roast at 400 for 30 minutes.

In a stockpot, add butternut squash, sweet potato, green chiles, chicken broth and pomegranate juice. Cook over medium heat until hot and flavors are well combined. Add salt, pepper and sherry or white wine. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Process soup in a blender or food processor until smooth.Return soup to the stockpot, add 1/2 - 1 cup of milk and reheat. Serve in bowls with crisp corn chips, pomegranate arils and sunflower seeds.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

French Toast

Alton Brown is one of my favorite Food Network chefs. French Toast is a weekend breakfast favorite at our house. Imagine my delight when looking for a new French Toast recipe to try, I found Alton's recipe. I have lots of french toast recipes that require soaking overnight, baking in the oven and consquently take quite a bit of time. I was looking to spice up a quicker version of French Toast.

I added vanilla and cinnamon to the recipe. Vanilla and cinnamon are two of my favorite flavors, especially in French Toast. Alton's recipe browns the French Toast on the stove top and then finishes it in the oven. I decided to just make it in my electric griddle and it turned out fine.

This French Toast is amazingly delicious! The addition of the honey gives it a nice sweet flavor and the half and half adds a bit of extra richness. Okay after all the holiday goodies we have eaten, did we need this richness. No, but it sure tasted good!

French Toast
Adapted from Alton Brown

1 cup half-and-half
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons honey, warmed in microwave for 20 seconds
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 (1/2-inch) slices day-old or stale country loaf, brioche or challah bread
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. You may do this the night before. When ready to cook, pour custard mixture into a pie pan and set aside.

Preheat a stove top or electric griddle to medium heat/350 degrees. Melt the butter.

Dip bread into mixture, allow to soak for 30 seconds on each side, and then remove to a cooling rack that is sitting in a sheet pan, and allow to sit for 1 to 2 minutes.

Place slices of bread into the pan and cook until golden brown, approximately 5 minutes per side. Serve immediately with maple syrup, whipped cream or fruit.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chocolate Pie Crust - SMS

Why doesn't pie crust like me? Maybe it's like an animal and smells my fear. Santa brought me pie weights and a pastry blender for Christmas. Like a kid on their first day of school, I was excited about making this pie dough. I didn't feel like the dough came together like it should, it seemed a little too crumbly. I added a little more water. Concerned about overworking the dough, I formed the ball and put it in the frig. After the alloted time, I cut my circle of parchment formed my crust. I sprinkled on the shiny new pie weights and in the oven it went.

Tim's favorite pie is pecan. I needed a pie for Christmas Eve dinner and Sweet Melissa's Chocolate Pecan seemed like a natural. I didn't have any maple syrup or dark corn syrup so I substituted honey and light corn syrup with a little molasses.

Unfortuntely, my crust was like all of the other pie crusts I've made over the years, hard and not flaky. The color on the pie crust was too brown and the flavor rather bland. The filling was okay but not as good as other pecan pies. All in all is was really disappointed in these recipes. I will keep trying, pie crust is one of those cooking challenges that I want to conquer.

Donna of L’Amour de Tarte chose this week's Sweet Melissa Sunday's, Chocolate Pie Crust. We could choose whatever filling we liked. Stop over to Sweet Melissa Sunday's and see some of the other baker's beautiful flaky pies.

Next week, Lemon Walnut Sour Cream Pound Cake!!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

35" and Counting!!

Breaking a record can be a good thing. Not these records!! We have had 38 inches of snow so far this season and most of it is still on the ground. Our seasonal average is 30 inches.

The other record we're going to either break or tie tomorrow night is temperature. The forecast low is 24 below zero. The record is 24 below set in the 1800's.

This could be a long winter!!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Kitchen Aid Sixty Minute Dinner Rolls

Okay this is good, I am following through with one of my 2010 blogging goals, baking bread. Kitchen Aid 60 Minute Dinner Rolls, homemade bread in 60 minutes, it doesn't get much better than that! I followed the recipe I found on Erin Cooks.

KitchenAid Sixty-Minute Dinner Rolls
Makes: 24 Dinner Rolls

1/2 cup low-fat milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons butter
3 packages of dry active yeast or 6 3/4 teaspoons
1 1/2 cups warm water (105F – 115F)
5 – 6 cups all-purpose flour

In a small saucepan, stir milk, sugar, salt and butter together. Heat over low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cool until lukewarm.

Dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed mixer bowl. Add lukewarm milk mixture and 4 1/2 cups flour to yeast mixture, and using a dough hook, mix on low speed for about 1 minute. With the mixer still going, add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix about 1 1/2 minutes, or until dough starts to clean the sides of the bowl. Knead on low speed for about 2 more minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic – the dough will still be slightly sticky to the touch.

Place dough in a greased bowl, turning it to grease the top. Cover the dough with a clean, dry dish towel, and let it rise in a warm place, free from draft, for about 15minutes.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into 24 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball, and place in a greased muffin pan. Using kitchen shears or a pizza cutter (a knife will also work), cut each ball in half, then in quarters, and place in the muffin pan. Cover the muffin pan with the dish towel, and let the dough rise for about 15 minutes.

Bake at 425ºF for 12 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown. Remove from pans immediately, and cool on wire racks.

My notes on this recipe: I thought they could have used a little more flavor, maybe some herbs? Rosemary next time? Still this recipe makes beautiful dinner rolls in an hour.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Butternut Squash Risotto

It's a cold winter night in Nebraska. We received another 3 1/2 inches of snow overnight, making our grand total around 20 inches. Cold winter nights just beg for comfort food. Risotto is a delicious comfort food. Many people are intimidated by risotto. I took a risotto class years ago and have always had good results.

I think the most challenging thing about this risotto was chopping up the butternut squash. When is that knife skills class anyway? I thought I would never finish chopping this squash. AFTER, I finished chopping up the squash, I searched for helpful hints. There's a great post over at Simply Recipes. If only, I had read it BEFORE I chopped the squash.

I found this recipe at Bay Area Bites. The only change I made was to use shallots instead of onion. This risotto has a beautiful creamy texture and a wonderful slight cinnamon flavor. It went well with our Bourbon Apple Pork Loin.

Butternut Squash Risotto
Serves: 10-12

1/2 small butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
16 oz chicken broth
1 shallot, diced
1 small carrot, peeled and shredded
1 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
Olive oil for roasting and finishing

Roast the Butternut Squash
Preheat oven to 450°F with the rack in the middle.
Microwave the entire squash for 3-4 minutes so that it's easier to cut through. Halve squash lengthwise and discard seeds.
Peel and cut into 1-inch dice. Place in a baking pan, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.. Bake the squash, stirring the diced pieces occasionally, until tender and browned lightly, 20-25 minutes. Set aside.

In a saucepan bring broth to a simmer and keep at a bare simmer.
In a large pot melt the butter and add onion, carrot, garlic, and ginger. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened. Stir in rice and let it toast a bit, stirring constantly, about 1 minute.
Add wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed. Stir in the broth ¼ cup at a time, stirring constantly, until absorbed. Keep the risotto at a simmer throughout. Continue simmering, stirring, and adding broth, letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until about half of broth has been added. Stir in diced squash, honey, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and continue simmering and adding broth in same manner until rice is tender and creamy-looking but still slightly al dente, about 20-25 minutes. Stir in the grated Parmigiano and combine.
Spoon risotto into serving bowls and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a few curls of Parmigiano using a vegetable peeler.

Chocolate Creme Caramels - SMS

When I read the Sweet Melissa Sunday's recipes for January, I was thrilled. January is going to be a crazy month for me. I am traveling on business and we are going on a cruise!! I knew I needed to have these posts done in advance. I decided to make the Chocolate Creme Caramels for the holiday treat bag for my staff at work!

I was a little nervous because I'd heard how tricky caramel could be. Even as I was making these, I heard Sandy Gluck on Martha Stewart Living Radio talk about the challenges she'd had when making caramel. EEEKKKKK! I hope these turn out!!

There are two recipes in the cookbook for Carmels. The base recipe is Honey Creme Caramels and to make the Chocolate Creme Caramels, you just add...Chocolate. The carmel mixture is the most beautiful honey brown color while it is cooking.

Well turn out, they did! These are the most delicious caramels and remind me of one you might purchase at a fine candy store. Now with that said, don't make this recipe if you are in a hurry, it's not a quick one. The caramel took about an hour to get to 248 degrees. It seemed like it took forever to get from 225 to 248!!! I didn't have an 8 x 8 pan, so I'd planned to use a 7 x 7. I ended up with enough caramel for for two 7 x 7 pans.

These caramels made a wonderful addition to the treat bags for my staff. Thanks to Jeanette of The Whimsical Cupcake for choosing this fabulous recipe. You can find the recipe on her site and links to all of the other Sweet Melissa Sunday's members here!

Next up...Chocolate Pie Crust and Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cranberry, Pecan and Chocolate Cookies - SSB

This month's Sweet and Simple Bakes will be the perfect Christmas year. The flavors in this cookie are meant to go together, cranberries, chocolate and pecans. Yummy!

This recipe is easy to put together. Measuring the ingredients is a snap using my scale. I am so glad I purchased one!!! The only change I made was to use semi-sweet chips instead of white chocolate chips. White chocolate is the ONLY kind of chocolate I don't like.

Stop over to Sweet and Simple Bakes and check out the other bakers cookies.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Little Bit of Everything in 2010

Little Bit of Everything will celebrate it's 1st blogversary in February of 2010. This year has gone so fast. I feel like I learned a lot but still there's so much more I want to learn. In 2010, one of the things I am really looking forward to is partipating in Adopt a Blogger and learning from one of the many talented bloggers out on the blogsphere.

What else do I want to accomplish in 2010?

In 2009, I took a series of cooking classes, Culinary Boot Camp. I'd love to take more classes, a bread baking class and a knife skills class, as well as a cake decorating class.

I think my friends and family consider me a good cook but I want to learn to be more like a chef. I can follow a recipe and most of the time, it turns out great. I want to learn to create dishes without always following a recipe.

Create cocktails using herbs and infusions. These make for interesting and fun cocktails.

Explore the recipes from my collection of cookbooks. 100+ cookbooks, full of great recipes just waiting to be created!

Make more of the recipes from the recipe cards that belonged to my mother. These are such a special memory and should be shared.

Make more homemade bread! I love bread and nothing is better than warm homemade bread.

Let's consider these my blogging resolutions. Oh boy, resolutions!! I don't know about you but I am never very good at carrying out my resolutions. So let's just call them goals and maybe I will do better. Okay now I need a favor from everyone, help me to stay on task to achieve these goals.