Sunday, December 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge – Gingerbread House

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

All I can say about this challenge is I did it. I did it on a very small scale as I was short on time and as always, short on patience. I enjoyed making the dough and my tiny gingerbread house templates. I made a one-fourth recipe of dough as I was sure 9 cups of flour was more than I needed, and far more than my stand mixer could hold!

None of my house (bungalow) pieces were more than three inches.

Once cut, they baked for a few minutes.

The challenge was to build a house and get it to stand on its own. That much I accomplished. My frosting was quite stiff and gave me so much trouble as I was applying it to the walls. I did the best I could, summoning all my patience to hold the pieces until they became glued together. I bought a few different types of the typical gingerbread house decorations, and voila. Here you can see that my little house is smaller than a bottle of candy sprinkles.

Like I said, I didn’t create a masterpiece, but I did it.

You don’t have to leave a comment; I’m just posting cuz I gotta. I’m technically still on vacation a few more days, then I’ll be back with a vengeance showing off the new camera I got for Christmas!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Treats

I’ve been doing lots of Christmas baking lately and want to share a couple of recipes. The first recipe is for some most excellent Ginger Cookies. The recipe I found was almost vegan, except for the eggs, so it was easily adaptable. The recipe includes a little cocoa powder, and the method is different from any other cookies I’ve made in the past. They are rolled in coarse sugar, so they turn it out crispy on the outside and remain chewy in the middle. They are spiced just right. I think they’re the best I’ve ever made.

Ginger Cookies
(adapted from Once Upon a Tart)

Yield: 5 dozen cookies

2 cups sugar
2 eggs (I used EnerG egg replacer)
½ cup molasses
1-1/2 cups vegetable shortening, melted and cooled to room temperature
4 cups AP flour
1 T. cocoa powder
2 t. ground ginger
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. cloves
½ t. allspice
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
coarse sugar for rolling

Heat oven to 350ยบ and position rack in center of oven. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar and eggs together, using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer on high speed until light and well incorporated. Turn mixer to low, beat in the molasses, then the shortening.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, spices, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add to wet ingredients using the paddle attachment of your mixer on low speed until no flour is visible. (My mixture needed about 3 T. of water at this point to get the dough to come together. If you make the nonvegan version with 2 eggs, this won’t be necessary.)

Pour a handful of coarse sugar onto a plate. Scoop up heaping teaspoons of dough and roll between your hands to form cookie balls (about 1-1/2 inches in diameter). Roll each cookie ball into the sugar, then place onto the baking sheet. (No need to flatten.) Bake for about 11 minutes or until almost set.

Cool the cookies on a wire rack briefly, then transfer off the baking sheet to cool completely.

The next recipe is Cherry Pecan Bread. It’s my favorite bread to bake for Christmas because it’s pink! It’s really a cake baked in a loaf pan. It’s soft and light and perfect for Christmas morning. I made mini loaves to give as gifts (and had one left over for me!).

Cherry Pecan Bread

2 cups AP flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
¼ cup margarine, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 egg replacer
1 t. vanilla
1-1/4 cup cherry juice + nondairy milk
1 8-ounce jar maraschino cherries, juice drained and reserved
½ cup chopped pecans, preferably toasted

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan.

Drain the cherry juice into a 2-cup measure, then add enough milk to make 1-1/4 cups. Coarsely chop the cherries.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the margarine, sugar, egg replacer, and vanilla until light and well incorporated. Stir in dry ingredients alternately with cherry juice mixture, stirring just until combined after each addition. Stir in cherries and pecans.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until tester comes out clean. (Bake mini loaves for about 35 minutes.) Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Daring Cooks Challenge – Vegetable En Croute

The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.

This month’s challenge was super easy – bake something in puff pastry. My en croute was filled with a seared Portobello mushroom, pureed white beans seasoned with garlic and balsamic vinegar, and sundried tomatoes.

I wrapped it up…

… and baked it at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. It puffed up beautifully.

Here’s the inside shot. You’ll notice my upside down wrapping. The beans and tomatoes were on the bottom instead of the top!

It was a nice combination of flavors and a delicious dinner. My favorite en croute preparation is whole cauliflower, which I made for Thanksgiving dinner last year.

Puff pastry wrapped things are so festive and would be beautiful on any holiday table. It looks so fancy but couldn’t be easier. Roll out some dough and wrap something up!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

More Greens!

I’m sorry I’ve been such a lazy blogger. Guess I’ve also been a lazy cook. I’m just enjoying the greens that come in my CSA box. This past weekend I got a beautiful bunch of greens, including Romaine lettuce, mustard greens, Red Russian kale, Swiss chard, cilantro, and turnips with tops.

I also got this….

… which I think is a Black Spanish radish. It’s the biggest radish I’ve ever seen! I haven’t cut into yet. It’s still sitting in my kitchen waiting for me to decide when and how to use it.
This particular dinner of greens was cooked with fresh onions and tomatoes and seasoned with a mustard sauce. Alongside is some lentils and rice.

I’m sure you are all as busy as I am these days. I have a party and a cookie swap to bake for, and another Challenge coming up, so I will be posting some yummy treats soon!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Fresh Fall Food

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been eating rather simply lately, just enjoying the plain fresh taste of the season’s harvest. My past 2 farm boxes were most excellent.

Two things I adore this time of year are all the greens, and romano beans. If you’re not familiar with romanos, they are giant, flat green beans. In my last CSA box I got a 2 pound bag! I simply steam the beans about 5 minutes, then eat them like french fries. Sometimes just with sea salt.

Sometimes with nooch.

And sometimes I dip them in marinara sauce.

With all the peppers and onions I’ve gotten, they make a tasty addition to whatever greens I cook. Plus they really add nice color.

My favorite way to eat greens is with onions and mushrooms. I’ve just been crazy for mushrooms lately!

I splurged on a spaghetti squash and must say it turned out to be a fantastic purchase. I don’t know if my oven karma was just right or if I’ve finally learned to pick out good winter squashes, but this was hands down the sweetest, best spaghetti squash ever. I could have eaten it straight out of the shell. But I made it into a meal topped with spaghetti sauce and sides of greens and broccoli. Heavenly!

I want to compliment all of you who prepared Thanksgiving dinners. No matter how elaborate or cozy, you all made some amazing meals - bravo!

PS – Try some romano beans!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge – Cannoli

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

As you know cannoli are fried, tube-shaped pastry shells filled with sweetened ricotta cheese, pastry cream, mousse, whipped cream, ice cream, etc. Fortunately, we were given great latitude in this challenge. I have never eaten cannoli and have never wanted to. I don’t own cannoli forms, I don’t fry, and I don’t eat soy cheese or creams. But I do love these challenges! So you won’t see beautiful little pastries in this post. No, I went with a baked, savory, stacked variation with the clever name (and so fun to say) Cannolipolean.

The only required element of this challenge was the dough. I love to make dough and this dough was fun to make. It had wine in it! I loved the smell of the wine as I was rolling out the dough and as it was baking. I made a one-fourth portion of the recipe, yielding a tiny little dough ball.

It rested overnight, then I rolled out four 5-inch rounds.

I popped them into mini tart pans to bake – they just happened to be the perfect size.

A baked version is not as crispy as the fried, but these little discs browned nicely and were very crispy.

For my Cannolipolean filling, I chose two of my favorite ingredients – mushrooms and broccoli. I sauteed them with onions, garlic, wine and lots of herbs.

This turned out to be a very nice dinner. It was tasty and just the right size. And so I’ve still never eaten a traditional cannoli pastry, but that’s okay. I have a new favorite word, “Cannolipolean”!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I won’t be cooking a feast this year. Chase is away and I will be dining out with my mom and brother.

I hope you all have a fantastic holiday. Enjoy your family, food, and fellowship, and remember to take a moment to be thankful for the blessings you have received.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Look Closely

I’ve been eating very simply lately, so this post is brought to you by my very talented and creative aunt. I believe she made these tricky treats for Halloween.

TV Dinner for Two?

These mashed potatoes, peas and carrots, and fried chicken are really cupcakes! Aren’t they the cutest things ever?!! The mashed potato cupcakes are topped with yellow starburst candy and caramel, the peas and carrots are m&m’s and starburst, and the fried chicken breading is crushed cornflakes. I think they are quite impressive. Her inspiration came from this recipe.

Anyone motivated to make a cupcake Thanksgiving buffet?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Daring Cooks Challenge - Sushi!

The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge.

Hooray for a fun vegan challenge!

The challenge was in four parts:-

Part 1: Making proper sushi rice – wash, rinse, drain, soak, cook, dress, and cool short grain rice until each grain is sticky enough to hold toppings or bind ingredients. Then use the cooked rice to form three types of sushi.
Part 2: Dragon sushi roll – an avocado covered inside-out rice roll with a tasty surprise filling.
Part 3: Decorative sushi – a nori-coated rice roll which reveals a decorative pattern when cut.
Part 4: Nigiri sushi – hand-shaped rice rolls with toppings.

I’ve mentioned many times how poor my rice making skills are. Part 1 was obviously my biggest challenge. I prepared the rice exactly as per the instructions. After all the rinsing and soaking, I put the rice in a big pot along with a piece of kombu.

I am thrilled to report that my sushi rice turned out perfectly! Quite unlike my usual attempts at making a proper rice. Look at all those individual grains.

For the rest of the challenge I made a small batch of each type of roll. The inside out roll took me a couple of tries, but surprisingly I had a rather easy and fun time making all the sushi.

TexMex sushi is quite popular here, so that was the inspiration for Part 2. My Inside-Out Dragon Roll was filled with spicy sweet potatoes and black beans.
I topped him with avocado and then plated him with cilantro and sriracha legs, and a green onion tongue and head decoration. He was deeeeelicious!

Part 3, the Spiral Roll, was simply filled with colorful veggies – cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, and red bell peppers.

Nothing fancy, but quite pretty and so fresh tasting.

Finally, Part 4, the super easy Nigiri Rolls. Simply topped with a smear of wasabi paste and shitake mushrooms.

Chase and I ate as much as we could for a fabulous late lunch. Thanks again to the hosts for providing such great instructions. Click here for recipes, including the perfect sushi rice.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Beer Food

Not food you EAT with beer; food you MAKE with beer! Beer was the theme for our October Food Bloggers potluck. Now it may not seem like the season for cole slaw, but it’s still warm in Texas. I can even remember making a Christmas cole slaw one year with green cabbage and red peppers. Anyway, I brought Cole Slaw with Beer Dressing to our potluck and got plenty of compliments on it. I admit I know nothing about beer and I don’t even drink beer, but I do keep Budweiser in my fridge for guests, so that’s what I used in this recipe. I would think whatever you have in your fridge would work just fine.

Cole Slaw with Beer Dressing

This recipe serves 12. I also made a tester half batch using exactly half of all ingredients.

1 pound red cabbage, finely shredded
1 pound green cabbage, finely shredded
1 pound carrots, shredded (I used a preshredded package)
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/3 cup white sugar
1 t. celery seeds
1 – 12 ounce can beer
1/3 cup canola oil
¼ cup cider vinegar
3 t. prepared mustard
1 t. agave nectar
2 t. salt
½ t. black pepper
½ t. red pepper

In a very large bowl, toss together the cabbage, carrots, onion, and pepper. Sprinkle the sugar and celery seeds over the mixture and toss again.

Pour beer into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Let boil for 5 minutes. Whisk in the oil, vinegar, mustard, agave nectar, and spices. Remove from heat and pour over slaw. Stir until well coated. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to serve, drain in a colander. Taste for seasoning, toss again, and put into a serving bowl.

Our potluck was held at the 512 Brewery. Can you believe I had never been to a brewery before? 512 is a small business, more like a hobby for the proprietors. They had several beers available for sample and of course the head man was available to answer our questions.

As always, the bloggers brought some very creative dishes to share. Some food I could eat:

Beer Battered Fried Avocado

Beer Braised Brussels Sprouts

My slaw and my cousin’s beer braised black bean salad and homemade tortillas (My cousin makes what she calls *hybrid* tortillas, made with half white flour and half corn meal – corn flavored tortillas that don’t break!)

Some rice that went with a meaty stew!

Nonvegan foods that were a hit:

Beer Crust Pizza

Kabocha Squash Pumpkin Ale Cakes; Roasted Cauliflower and Rice

Pumpkin Ale Cheesecake

And the crowd favorites – Beer-a-misu and Beer Caramels.

Kind of a small crowd this month, but the weather was great and 512 was a great host. I look forward to the next event!