Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sugar Cookies - SMS

This week's Sweet Melissa Sunday's recipe was chosen by the talented Nina of Nina's Cupcakes. You make a sugar dough that can be used for pie crust or cookies. I thought it was very interesting this recipe didn't give the time or temperature to bake the cookies. Several of the SMS baker's felt this recipe was lacking in flavor. I followed their advice and tried to add some more flavor. I added lemon juice and a little extra sugar.

This sugar cookie dough is chilled and then rolled for cutouts. I have a plastic storage container filled with cookie cutters. As I was going through it trying to find a cutter to use, I found lots of Halloween, Easter, Valentines Day and Christmas cookie cutters. Guess I need to get a few any occasion cutters. I used my medium sized round biscuit cutter. I should have rolled this dough a little thicker, the cookies are too thin.

I baked them at 350 for about 10 minutes. I gave one to Tim to taste. "Kind of blah? What are these?" I decided to turn these into an easy version of black and white cookies by dipping them in chocolate. Doesn't chocolate make everything taste better?!! The chocolate did add some much needed flavor but still I don't think I will make this recipe again.

Shame on Me! No Chocolate With Francois.

Okay you know how you belong to a baking group and you're allowed to opt out of posting a couple of times? Well...this is it for me! To make it worse, I am the leader of this group, not much of a leader, am I?

This reminds me of when my son Justin was in middle school, maybe 7th grade. He had a HUGE school project, Language Arts is Colorful. Amazing how I remember the name, 20 some years later. The night before the project was due, he tells me about it. Had he started it? Nope! We spent hours that evening working on this project. I don't remember what all I did but I am sure it was more than I should have. I still have the project in a drawer and smile everytime I see it.

Well you see this is what I did with the Chocolate Paris Brest, this month's recipe chosen by my blogging pal, Susan of Baking With Susan . I've known about this recipe for months. Why did I save it to the last minute? Shame on me!

Do I have any good reason for saving this to the last minute? (I think I must have asked Justin that, too.) Well...I don't own a pastry bag, it's on my list to buy but haven't gotten it done. I've been sick this week with a horrible sinus infection. Not great reasons but the best ones I have!

You can find the links to my dedicated and better planning CWF blogger buddies here.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Carrot Soup with Ginger and Lemon

I've started buying vegetables in bulk at Costco. The prices are so reasonable. The challenge with buying in bulk is making sure you use them up. Otherwise, your good deal is no longer a good deal.

I love soups! I am always looking for new soup recipes. I found this recipe on epicurious and it got rave reviews. Tim came into the kitchen and asked what I was making. Carrot Soup??, turning up his nose. I knew I'd get this reaction, as I've mentioned many times on my blog, Tim's a meat man!

Instead of chicken stock, I used homemade vegetable stock. I love the beautiful color of this soup. This is a hearty soup with a nice mild carrot flavor. The addition of the lemon juice and zest gives it a nice kick.

Carrot Soup with Ginger and Lemon
Recipe courtesy of Epicurious
Yield: Makes 4 Servings

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/4 pounds medium carrots, peeled, chopped (about 3 cups)
2 tomatoes, seeded, chopped (about 1 1/3 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
3 cups (or more) chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons sour cream

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes. Add ginger and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add chopped carrots, tomatoes and lemon peel; sauté 1 minute. Add 3 cups stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly.

Puree soup in batches in blender. Return soup to pot. Mix in lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)

Bring soup to simmer, thinning with more stock, if desired. Ladle into bowls. Top each with sour cream and grated carrot.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Best Presents

Last week I celebrated my birthday. We took a weekend trip to see our friends Karen and Larry in Kansas City. We hadn't seen them since October. The snowy December weather kept up from making a trip to Kansas City at Christmas. This picture was taking during our Saturday brunch at Lidia's, Lidia Bastianch's wonderful Italian restaurant. The gnocci is the best I've ever eaten and such an inspiration.

On my birthday, I received a big box from my son Justin. Justin created this picture from these. I am going to hang it in the bar area of our recently finished basement. What a perfect present! I love it! Thanks, Justin!!!

During our recent trip to the Caribbean, Tim talked me into purchasing a chameleon sapphire ring from one of the many jewlery stores in Cozumel. He said this can be your birthday and Valentine's Day present. :)

On my birthday, Tim brought me home these roses. As they opened, they became even more beautiful. Thanks, Tim!!!

What great birthday presents but the best presents are my friends and family! I love you all!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My 1st Blogversary and My 50!

Happy Blogversary to you! Happy Blogversary to you! Happy Blogversary dear Little Bit! Happy Blogversary to you!

Seems like just yesterday, this blog was only a wild and crazy thought in my mind. A year ago, I was looking for something to challenge my brain and a purpose for my cookbooks and recipe clippings.

Except for a short period of time last summer when my health got in the way, I've been motivated to keep up my blog. I've tried recipes I would have never tried, like this one from Sweet Melissa Sunday's . I've met a lot of great bloggers and continue to meet new friends. There's so many talented and creative food bloggers out there, my list of daily reads continues to grow.

One thing that helps me stay on course is keeping a list of upcoming posts and recipes to try. A couple of weeks ago, I started thinking about my Blogversary, what recipe to post and what to write about. One of the reasons I began blogging was to make recipes from all of my recipe clippings and cookbooks. One of my 2010 blogging goals is to make more recipes from the 100+ cookbooks I own. What do I do? I keep buying more cookbooks. Currently I have a dozen or more on the list of ones I want to buy. My Blogversary recipe is a Creme Brulee from an old issue of First magazine. You know those recipes that are like old friends? You can always count on them? This recipe is one of those old friends. If you haven't made Creme Brulee before, give this recipe a try. You won't be disappointed!

Creme Brulee
6 Servings

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 to 12 tablespoons sugar

Heat oven to 300. Heat cream and 1/2 cup sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot. Whisk egg yolks to combine. Slowly pour cream into yolks, whisking quickly so the hot cream doesn't curdle the eggs. Stir in vanilla.

Pour into 6 creme brulee dishes, custard cups or individual souffle dishes. Line the bottom of a roasting pan with paper towels and set the filled dishes on top. Set on oven shelf and pour warm water into pan to come half up the sides of the dishes.

Bake until a knife stuck in the center comes out coated with thickened custard, about 1 hour. (For souffle dishes and custard cups bake about 1 hour and 30 minutes). Let stand in water bath 10 minutes. Remove and cool completely. Chill overnight.

To glaze, sprink about 1 tablespoon evenly on top of the custard, smooth the surface. Using a kitchen torch melt the sugar to form the carmalized top.

I've been working on My 50, a list of recipes I haven't made before. There's lots of other recipes I want to make but these are those more "Julia Child like" recipes. With the exception of gnocci, I have never made anything on this list. I've made gnocci a couple of times but it's been at least 10 years ago. It wasn't all that good, certainly not that melt in your mouth gnocci you get at a good Italian restaurant. Compiling this list wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. I had a hard time coming up with 50 but in the end, I am happy with my list.

Julie's Top 50

1 Bagels
2 Baguettes
3 Brioche
4 Croissants
5 Focaccia
6 Pretzels

7 Baked Alaska
8 Baklava
9 Bananas Foster
10 Beignets
11 Carrot Cake
12 Crepes
13 Decorated Tiered Cake
14 Filled Cupcakes
15 French Macaroons
16 Lemon Curd
17 Merinque
18 Panna Cotta
19 Pie Crust
20 Pots de crème
21 Profiteroles
22 Pudding
23 Shortbread
24 Tres Leches
25 Trifle
26 Truffles
27 Bubble Tea

28 Beef Bourguignon
29 Beef Tenderloin
30 Butter Poached Lobster Tails
31 Chili Rellenos
32 Croque Monsieur
33 Dutch Baby
34 Gnocci
35 Gumbo
36 Lobster Bisque
37 Miso Soup
38 Pad Thai
39 Paella
40 Pizza Dough
41 Puttanesca Sauce
42 Ravioli
43 Sage Brown Butter Sauce
44 Sushi
45 Vodka Sauce

46 Duchesse Potatoes
47 Caesar Salad
48 Chutney
49 Polenta
50 Rice Pilaf

Do you have a favorite or no fail recipe for any of the dishes on my list? I'd love to hear about them, let me know!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lavender-Lemon Pound Cake

Two of my favorite things are lavender and lemon. When I saw this recipe on Savoring Time in the Kitchen, I knew I had to make it.

I've been wanting a mini bundt pan. We're making Chocolate Canneles on Chocolate With Francois in March. I don't own the molds but Sarah, our host for the month says we can use muffin tins. Wouldn't mini bundt pans be perfect? Two recipes, for sure I need the mini bundt pan. I bought this pan and I just love the different shapes. I bought mine at The Kitchen Connection and only paid $19.99.

We're lucky enough to have a Pezney's in Omaha. A few months ago, I purchased culinary lavender. I made Lavender Simple Syrup, a wonderful addition to cocktails.

This pound cake is a delightful recipe. The beautiful lemony batter is lightly scented with lavender. It doesn't have a typical pound cake texture. The texture was much more like a traditional cake. This cake was great with a small scoop of the Lemon Sorbet I made last week.

Recipe Courtesy of Monica Glass, Pastry Chef
12 miniature cake molds or cupcake molds

For the cake:

2½ cups sifted all-purpose flour*
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons dried lavender, coarsely crushed or ground
¾ cup buttermilk, room temperature

For the sugar glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Generously grease two 6-cup mini Bundt pans or muffin cups with butter or non-stick cooking spray and dust lightly with flour, knocking out excess. Do not preheat oven.

Sprinkle the lavender into the buttermilk and let sit for 10 minutes. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.

Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl using a rubber spatula. Then beat in the eggs one at a time, beating only until incorporated after each addition. Mix in the zest, lemon juice and vanilla.

Mix in the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Beat the final addition only until smooth. Do not over mix.

Spoon the batter into each cup, filling it only ¾ full and distributing it evenly between the 12 Bundt or muffin cups. Tap each pan several times on the counter to eliminate air bubbles and level the tops. Place both pans in the cold oven and turn the oven to 325? F. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the tops (which will eventually become the cake bottoms) are risen and golden. Do not open the oven until at least 30 minutes into baking so your cakes will not fall.

Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 30 minutes, then run a thin knife around outer edge of each cake to loosen and unmold by inverting the pan over onto a wire rack. The cakes will be right-side-up at this point.

Prepare the glaze:

Combine the powdered sugar, heavy cream and lemon juice in a small bowl. Stir with a rubber spatula until the glaze is smooth and of drizzling consistency. Spoon the glaze over the top of each slightly cooled cake, letting some run down unevenly on the sides. Zest the lemon over the tops of the glaze and serve.

Wrapped in plastic or aluminum foil, the cakes will keep for 3-5 days at room temperature and for up to 3 months in the freezer.

*Sift the flour, then measure for accurate results.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Strawberry Lemonade - Sweet Melissa Sunday's

Today in Nebraska marks the 78th day with at least one inch of snow on the ground. Even though I have lived in the midwest all of my life, I've never experienced a winter quite like this one. Strawberry Lemonade reminds me of summer picnics. It was so nice to enjoy this reminder of summer on what is yet another snowy winter day.

The lemonade is a delicious, easy recipe and one I will make again. I had a few raspberries leftover from last weekend, so I added those to the syrup. I made the sugar syrup on the stove. I never seem to be able to "melt" the sugar without doing it on the stove.

Thanks to Jessica of My Baking Heart for choosing this recipe to give us a wonderful reminder of summer.