Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Two Year Blogiversary!!

Can it really be two years since I started this little hobby of mine?  Indeed it has!  It all began when I made some candy for our Fire Department bake sale for the local food drive. I decided to document the experiment for something different to do with the new camera I had recently acquired.  Now, 185 posts later I'm still at it.

What an interesting two years it has been trying out new recipes, some with great success and some not so much, but all great learning experiences.  I have tried to expand my horizons, work on my writing, photography, as well as food styling while cooking new dishes which sometimes pushed me beyond my comfort zone.  More than a few times I have thought to myself (or screamed aloud from the kitchen) "Why am I doing this?" yet I just keep going with no sign of letting up.

I celebrate my blogiversary by again making something for the annual food drive bake sale and I must say that this recipe certainly challenged me.  The recipe for these "Fauxtess" Cupcakes can be found all over the Internet and I have thought numerous times how fun they would be to try but have always been a little turned off by the number of steps involved.   Instead of writing out the entire recipe today I will direct you to an absolutely great food blog called Annies Eats.  Her recipes and pictures are always fantastic.  I doubled the recipe and made 18 cupcakes instead of the 9 in her recipe.
Once I got in the groove things went very well.  Step one was to make the amazingly rich and chocolately devil's food cupcakes.
Step two was the marshmallow creme filling.
Step three was to make a totally decadent chocolate ganache frosting.  Step four consisted of decorating the chilled cupcakes with the trademark squiggle using the leftover marshmallow creme.
All in all, a great baking project and a very fun way to spend Saturday morning.

Thanks to all of you who check in on my blog faithfully and leave such generous comments and thanks to The Husband who so patiently tries out my dishes and supports (particularly his computer tech skills) this blog of mine.  Here's to another year!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Whopper of an Ice Cream

Sometimes I read a recipe and it grabs me from the get go.  This malted milk ice cream is one such recipe.  What's not to go ga-ga over when an ice cream contains malted milk powder AND chopped up malted milk balls?  Mind you, this isn't for the faint of heart in the calorie counting department.  It contains two cups of heavy cream, not to mention lots of cholesterol rich egg yolks and sugar and candy.   But, we only live once so let's live it up once in awhile.
Malted Milk Ice Cream

1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup malt powder (found in your grocery section by the chocolate milk powders/coffee)
6 large egg yolks
2 cups malted milk balls, coarsely chopped in the food processor (or with a sharp knife if you don't mind malted milk balls flying all over your kitchen!)

Warm the milk with the sugar in a medium saucepan.  In a large bowl, stir together the cream, vanilla and malt powder until well combined.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.

When the milk is warm, slowly pour it into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then pour the entire mixture back in the saucepan.  Stir this mixture constantly over medium heat with a spatula, scraping as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. 
Pour this thickened mixture through a fine meshed sieve into the cream mixture.  Stir until cool over an ice bath.  Chill the mixture in the refrigerator thoroughly 3-4 hours then  put the mix in your ice cream maker and make ice cream per manufacturers instructions.  When ice cream is done, mix in the chopped up malted milk balls and freeze mixture until solid.  Top with a few more chopped up malted milk balls when serving for an extra decadent touch.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cobb Salad

What to fix for lunch for company that is special but not your typical dinner fare?  That was the question I posed to myself yesterday when I got a call from my brother that he and his lovely wife were coming through town and wanted to stop by for lunch.  A composed salad came to mind and in my opinion there is none better than the Cobb Salad.

This is definitely a meal unto itself with all the traditional components of chicken, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, avocadoes and whatever else one might choose to make it unique.  I added a bowl of bite sized roasted asparagus pieces and  another of olive slices. Put everything out on a big platter along with a large bowl of greens and let everyone mix and match toppings as they want. Along with some warm buttered French bread, Arnold Palmers (1/2  part ice tea and 1/2 part lemonade) as our beverage and delightful conversation, it was a quite a lunch.

No recipe today as one really isn't needed but I will give you my previous post for the homemade dressing that topped this magnificent salad:  Bleu Cheese dressing.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Lime Cocktail

Do you ever buy an ingredient at the store with no particular recipe in mind but it's just too good a deal to pass up?  That was the case for me with a big bag of limes that as of today have been in the fridge for two weeks now.  I knew I just had to do something with at least of few of them and the lightbulb went off - Cocktails!

Off to the trusty Playboy's Bartenders Guidebook I went and I found an old fashioned sounding drink called a vodka gimlet.  It is made with three simple components; the lime juice, the vodka and simple syrup.  Simple syrup is a mainstay in bars and it consists of 1 part sugar to 1 equal part water, heated until the sugar dissolves completely and then chilled.  This will stay in the fridge for a very long time.  

The gimlet was delightful.  Very limey with just the nicest hint of sweetness and of course, the nice neutral kick of the vodka.  Now what to do with the other limes??
Vodka Gimlet
(This recipe can be made in any quantity by just following the ratios of ingredients listed)

4 parts vodka
2 parts lime juice
1 part simple syrup

Put all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake for 30 or 40 times until well chilled and then pour into a chilled martini glass.  Garnish with a slice of lime and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fagioli E Tonno (White Bean and Tuna Salad)

My brother-in-law gave me such an unusual present for Christmas: A can of tuna fish.  He absolutely swore by it and being a Seattle native, I must assume he knows fish.   I have been waiting for just the right recipe to inspire me to use this superior product and today I found and adapted a recipe in the April edition of Saveur cooking magazine for a white bean and tuna salad.
I was so surprised when I open this can of St. Judes tuna as it was one solid hunk of fish.  None of the cat food looking stuff you get from the national brands (I won't name names but I think you know who you are Charlie!)  It was amazingly flaky and very white in color and the taste was fantastic.
This wonderful salad took all of ten minutes to put together and the results were delicious.  This would be a great luncheon meal or something to take on a picnic.  It is at its best when left to sit a couple of hours before eating so the flavors combine to their fullest.    Here is the website to St Judes products if you are interested:

Fagioli E Tonno (White Beans and Tuna Salad)

2 cans of cannelini beans, drained and rinsed well
1 5.5 oz. tuna, drained
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 Tbsp. finely slivered red onion
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. parsley or basil finely chopped

Whisk together olive oil, vinegar and garlic in a bowl.  Combine vinegar mixture with beans, tuna, onion and herbs.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Let sit for 2 hours before serving.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter

A couple pictures of calla lilies from our yard last year to share for this Easter morning.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pizza Margherita

I am on a quest for the perfect pizza crust dough.  I have tried three or four recipes, this being one of them and have yet to find THE ONE.  This  recipe was closer than any so far, so I thought I would share.

This is the Neapolitan classic from Rome, pizza margherita.  A very simple pie with a few simple, excellent ingredients: tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, olive oil and fresh basil leaves. Because tomatoes are less than optimal at our stores currently,  I used canned San Marzano tomatoes from Italy and they were delicious.  The ones I had were infused with little pieces of basil which added to their rich flavor.

I invested in a pizza stone a couple of years ago and let me tell you, it makes a huge difference in obtaining that pizza parlor, crisp, slightly charred crust.  It does take some preheating in a 500 degree oven for at least a half hour before sliding your pie onto it.  I also have a pizza peel so I don't have to risk burning myself during the transfer of the pie to the oven. 
My quest will continue for the perfect pizza pie crust and when I find it, I'll let you know.

Pizza Margherita

1 packet active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tsp salt
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cornmeal

Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water in a large bowl and set aside for 10 minutes. Combine flours and salt in a small bowl.  Add 1 cup flour mixture to yeast, stir well until combined, stir in 1/2 cup water, then another cup of flour and continue to stir.  Add remaining 1 cup flour, gradually stir in 1/4 cup water and mix well.

Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until it has a smooth, uniform texture, 10-12 minutes.  (I did this with my Kitchenaide mixer and a dough hook and it only took 5 minutes.)  Divide dough into 2 even balls.   Coat insides of 2 medium bowls with 1/2 tsp oil in each, put dough in bowls, cover with plastic wrap and set aside until dough doubles in bulk, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

1 large can of San Marzano tomatoes (or 2 lbs. very ripe fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp chili flakes (optional)
16 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Drain tomatoes well in a colander to remove juices.  Transfer tomatoes to a bowl and add oregano,chili flakes, and olive oil.  Adjust seasoning, stir and set aside.

Put pizza stone in oven and preheat oven to 500 to 550 degrees.  Sprinkle pizza peel with cornmeal.  Punch down 1 dough ball and flatten it on peel.  Stretch dough into a thin 12 inch circle with a slightly raised edge.  Spread half the topping over dough, top with mozzarella slices, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. 
Carefully slide onto the pizza stone and bake until crust is golden brown and crisp, about 12-15 minutes. Take from oven, sprinkle with fresh basil leaves and let sit for 4-5 minutes before cutting and serving.