Saturday, April 30, 2011

Time for a Vacation

I leave you to gaze upon one of the magnificent mountains here in beautiful Oregon, Mt. Hood.  This was taken last weekend as we were driving to Bend, via the Columbia Gorge route.  It really doesn't get much better than this for scenic splendor!  I'm out of the kitchen for next couple of weekends, so no cooking for me.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Cooking with Beer

My challenge this weekend was to come up with a recipe using beer.  And not just any beer, but New Belgium Brewing Company brews.  I was recently the lucky recipient of a tidy stipend to try their products and I chose to buy some Fat Tire Amber Ale to cook with. I chose this particular beer based soley on the wonderful red bike on the six-pack. It's so darn fun!!  Tasting the beer by itself was delicious. I'm not a big beer fan, but this ale is just how I like it - a good malt flavor with the hops just ever so slightly coming through. A perfect beer by itself or served alongside you're favorite meal.

The two recipes I chose to make were a brand new creation and an old stand by. I made my never-fail and amazing no-knead bread which utilizes a small quantity of beer and I also devised a white cheddar cheese, beer, and broccoli soup.  For this soup I utilized a local cheese from the Willamette Valley Cheese Company.  I love their cheeses and try to buy them whenever I can.  They are so flavorful, particularly this Farmstead Cheddar and I like to buy locally made products whenever possible.
I'm not sure which dish accompanied which as they complimented each other so well.  The bread was so good dipped into the cheese soup. Almost like fondue only much thinner.  I garnished the soup with crisply sauteed and browned shallots which added a light carmelized onion flavor. 

Thanks so  much to the New Belgium Brewing Company for inspiring me to cook with beer. I will do it again very soon!

White Cheddar Cheese Beer Soup

1/2 c. flour
1/3 c. butter
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 tbsp. grated shallot
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. white pepper
3 c. chicken broth
1 1/2 c. half & half
1 c. beer
2 cups of broccoli flowerettes, steamed
16 oz. shredded sharp white Cheddar

In large saucepan melt butter; stir in flour. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly, until smooth and bubbly. Add garlic, onion, Worcestershire sauce, salt, mustard and pepper; blend well.

Gradually stir in chicken broth, half & half and beer; cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Add cheese, stir until melted. Add the broccoli. Heat gently, stirring frequently; do not boil. Serve with croutons and/or crusty bread. Makes seven (1 cup) servings. 

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a stipend to purchase products from the New Belgium Brewing Company.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cream Puffs

It's Spring in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. That means unsettled weather. One moment there are beautiful blue skies above and then within minutes, from the west come big, dark rain clouds that burst open in a torrent.  But there are also the white, fluffy, multishaped cumulonimbus clouds that remind me of cream puffs. (Without thick, rich chocolate sauce dripping from them.)
Cream puffs are so easy to make and when served with some whipped cream and chocolate sauce dripping down to the plate, you've got yourself an elegant end to any meal. Give them a try sometime for a special treat.

Cream Puffs

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon granulated white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Set aside.

Place the butter and water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and, with a wooden spoon or spatula, quickly add the flour mixture. Return to heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about a minute or two). Transfer the dough to your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, and beat on low speed a minute or two to release the steam from the dough. Once the dough is lukewarm start adding the lightly beaten eggs and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick paste. Spoon or pipe 6 mounds of dough onto the baking sheet, spacing them a couple of inches apart. Beat together the egg and salt for the glaze. With a pastry brush, gently brush the glaze on the tops of the dough.
Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Bake for a further 30 to 40 minutes or until the shells are a nice amber color and when split, are dry inside. Turn the oven off and, with the oven door slightly ajar, let the shells dry out for a further 10 - 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.
To serve, slice open cream puff. Spoon in some whipped cream and pour over your favorite chocolate sauce. Serve immediately.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Spring Break

I don't really get a Spring Break but I am taking a break from the kitchen this week.  Just because.  Instead, I will share some pictures I took of some boats. And the remnants of an old cannery. I like boats. I grew up in a town surrounded by water, and boats. Big huge aircraft carriers, fancy yachts, speedboats, row get the picture.  Now for some pictures from Astoria, Oregon one foggy morning a few months ago.