Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Did I tell you My Husband is an Awesome COOK ?

Oh yes, he sure is ! And he kept it hidden !
I cleaned the grill... and he cooked the most Wonderful and Delicious lick-your-fingers burgers you have ever tasted !
I took a peek at what he was doing when he was preparing the meat.
Sure he has plenty of secrets "up his sleeve" , but I tell you - Worcestershire sauce is one of his secrets and one other is LIQUID SMOKE. Oh Yea !
You can read some about making YOUR OWN liquid smoke here. I am not kidding.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Light Lunch - Baked Potatoes with Olives and Ranch Dressing

I was so in the mood for some baked potatoes and for some olives, therefore the maybe not so usual lunch choice.
The potatoes are baked like here and the Ranch dressing is purely sour cream mixed with smashed garlic, chopped parsley and salt and pepper.
Is it just me or the olives resemble grapes? LOL

Black Beans Salad

This is so light an refreshing and goes with a lot of things !
The ingredients needed are as follows:
1 small can of black beans
1/2 cup chopped celery stalks
1/4 cup red bell peppers chopped
1/4 cup carrots chopped
1/2 cup corn
1/4 cup chopped onion
4 TBSP lemon juice
4 TBSP olive oil

Toss and enjoy !

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Baker's Pizza

Even though I made as many pizzas that I lost count, I felt I needed to improve on a detail.
On the crust.
And OK, maybe on the looks of it too, I mean the general aspect of the pizza itself.
So I ventured into trying a new recipe for pizza dough, although I did bring some additions to it.
You can't stop me from doing that, can You ?
1 package instant yest or 7 gr
1 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 heaping TBSP honey
1 teaspoon powder milk
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 TBSP olive oil plus some more for coating the bowl
3 cups flour, plus more if necessary

Make a dough from the above ingredients.
Knead about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic and not sticky, then oil a bowl and let it rise for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 500 F and place your oven rack on the lower third part.
Divide the dough in 2 or 3 pieces and form into balls.
Let them rise for 15 minutes.
Now transfer to a lightly floured surface, shape as you wish and roll it out to achieve a 1/8 inch thickness.
Now sprinkle some flour and corn meal on your baking sheet and transfer the dough onto it.
Add the toppings considering the rule : the fewer the better - and pop it in the oven.
I did not use any sauce as i did not want the dough to become soft or soggy after absorbing the liquid.
I just used lots of grated cheese, some drained mushrooms and pepperoni slices.
Important !!
You need to let the edge uncovered with toppings, for approx. 1 inch.
Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until the crust looks golden brown and the cheese is nicely melted.

Gum Paste.....or should I call it Play Dough ?

Sometimes you feel confident trying a new thing....just like I felt about gum paste.
Here we go:
1 teaspoon honey
powder milk as much as you need to make a hard, but still pliable dough.
So I did that, but something just did not go well. Beats me what.
I placed a teaspoon of honey into a ceramic bowl and started adding powder milk, a little at a time.
I swear I just could not make it stiff. It's like it would just melt in my hands.
While the freezer trick works for hardening the rose I made, you cannot rely on it if you want to decorate a cake for example.
The food coloring I used is a paste and some green sugar sprinkles.
Here are some pictures, but I will have to return with a post about the new and improved recipe.

Cold Brewed Ice Coffee - ummm.....what ?!?

Oh yes, home made. Cold Brewed. And with ice.
So easy to make, and the so tasteful, you'll get hooked.
Basically you need a heaping 1/2 cup ground coffee(the type you use for your morning hot brewed coffee) and 1 and 1/2 cups water.
Pick a jar with a fitting lid, place the ground coffee inside and then add the water.
Stir a bit, put the lid on and let it sit on your kitchen counter for at least 12 hours, or overnight.
Then use a sieve, cheese cloth, coffee filter or anything else you can think of to to strain the liquid.
You will probably end up with about 1 cup of coffee concentrate.
To prepare the ice coffee, mix equal parts of the concentrate and the water, sweeten it and add as much ice as you like.
I also added cream (liquid cream).
Enjoy !

Phyllo Dumplings

Yes, of course you can use phyllo dough for apple dumplings....and here is the proof.
Normally you need to use crescent rolls or puff pastry dough, but I just HAD to try this variation too. Does it hurt? :P
So I used 1 bag or half of the phyllo package and cut it in 4 and then in 4 again so I would get 8 triangles.
I cut a Granny Smith apple (which I peeled and cored) into 8 wedges and wrapped/rolled the wedges into the dough triangles.
I also added some extra pieces of apple just because I like extra apples in there.
So you butter your 9 inch pan, you lay the dumplings nicely and you pour a mixture of 1/2 cup sugar with almost 1 stick of butter and 1 TBSP cinnamon over the dumplings.
On the edges right after you will need to pour a full can of mountain dew. Yes, a whole can.
Bake for 55 minutes at 350 F.
Delicious !

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


It seems that the word itself has derived from combining "egg" and "grog"(rum) therefore resulting egg'n'grog...and later egg nog or eggnog.
Even though it may be considered a Christmas beverage, I decided I had to make some. Jeff loves it, so why not ? :)

So here is what I used:
1 cup whipping cream, whipped with 2 teaspoons of sugar
2 cups of milk
2 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 TBSP sugar, 2 for the whites and 2 for the yolks
2 scant TBSP nutmeg
1 scant TBSP cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Beat the whipping cream with the sugar and set aside.
Beat the egg whites with the sugar and the cream of tartar until stiff peaks form and set aside..
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until double in volume and they turn light soft yellow, almost white in color.
Now prepare a bottle or any other container you will be keeping the eggnog in - have it handy.
Fold some milk gently into the egg yolks mixture, about 1/3rd of the milk.
Another 1/3 rd of the milk needs to be folded into the egg whites and finally the rest of the milk will need to be slowly and gently folded into the whipping cream.
Now when all the milk has been mixed with the other ingredients, try to mix all the bowls contents.
You will need another larger bowl for that and a whisk.
When everything is mixed, add the cinnamon and the nutmeg and taste for sweetness.
At this stage you will need to chill your beverage and then you can serve it after at least 5 hours of chilling.
Enjoy !
PS: This is a recipe I came up with myself.
If you are afraid of raw eggs, don't attempt to do it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Today's Production at the Bakery : Bagels

With whole wheat flour in them, you can be sure they are good for you, so you will not only like them for their marvelous taste, but also for the fact that they are healthful.
Unlike other bakery items, they are boiled briefly before being baked and that gives them a shiny yummy crust.

1 cup warm water
1 pack instant dry yeast or 7 gr
2 TBSP sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
prepare more flour to have handy in case you will need more
kosher salt
sesame seeds
poppy seeds

In a medium size bowl pour the water and the yeast and sugar and let sit for 3 to 5 minutes, for the yeast to soften.
Add the salt and the whole wheat flour and stir.
Now you can either do this by hand or employ an electric mixer.
Either stir by hand or by mixer for 5 minutes.
Now turn add more flour to gradually make a stiffer dough until you have incorporated the whole 3 cups.
In the meantime you may need to turn the dough onto a floured surface and keep kneading till you reach a smooth and elastic dough. At least 10 minutes of kneading, sorry. :(
You need to make sure you obtain a firmer dough than for the usual bread dough.
Now place in a greased bowl and let rise for 2 hours.
Punch dough down, divide in thirds and each third in 3 pieces.
I weighed my dough ball before dividing and dividing by 9 i got an exact weight of 80 gr for each ball.
So now you have 9 balls.
To shape each one into a bagel, poke thumb through center and slightly stretch and roll the dough to resemble a donut, making sure the hole in the middle is at least 1 and 1/2 inch wide.
Let them rest on a cutting board or on your work surface for 30 minutes.
Now bring to a boil a big pot of water to which you need to add at least 2 TBSP sugar.
Preheat your oven to 400 F and lightly grease a baking sheet and sprinkle with corn meal.
Place 3 bagels in at a time and let them boil slowly for 30 seconds for each side.
Lift and drain briefly and let rest on plates.
When you are done boiling them, arrange the bagels neatly in the baking pan and glaze each one with a mixture of an egg yolk beaten with 1 TBSP water or milk.
Sprinkle salt, sesame seeds and / or poppy seeds on each, as you desire.
What i do is place the bagels in the pan, glaze with egg one at a time, and quickly add salt then the sesame or poppy seeds. And after that I pass on to work on the next.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until they are rich brown and delicious.
Enjoy !

Torrone aka Nougat.....with Almonds and More

As you well know, torrone is a gooey or brick solid spanish dessert. It is a mixture of corn syrup, honey and sugar brought to high temperature folded into a fluffy meringue, and then mixed with fruit and nuts. I personally like the more chewy stuff so I went for that one.
2 and 1/2 cup powder sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup water
2 egg whites
vanilla and almond extract
orange zest
1/2 cup almonds, roasted
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
a few dried apricots, diced
1/3 cup dried cranberries
more almonds and pine nuts for topping

Choose a nice square small baking dish and spray it with oil and set aside.
Now combine the water with the sugar and the corn syrup in a sauce pan and cook on medium heat until the mixture will reach the temp. of 260 F.
Beat the egg whites till they form stiff peaks and when syrup has reached 260 F pour it slowly into the egg whites.
All this time you need to have your hand or stand mixer running.
Add the extracts and the zest and mix for 10 more minutes.
At the end fold in the fruit and nuts and pour into the prepared dish.
Ornate nicely with the almonds and pine nuts and keep in the fridge overnight.
Cut the next day into small squares.
Enjoy !

Smash Me Potatoes

Remember what you taste when you bite into a soft pretzel that has a nice browned crust and lots of kosher salt sprinkled on top....and of course, poppy seeds ?
Well, I needed to reproduce that specific taste in a different dish, therefor here is what I cooked:
2 medium size pink potatoes that I boiled then smashed and baked.
The secret trick is to sprinkle kosher salt and pepper and drizzle just enough olive oil to make them taste delicious.
Of course, you will need to also oil the pan before placing the potato in.
I baked them at 435 for 25 minutes.
They will come out somewhat baked and the flavor will be just to die for.
Now use them as a side or eat them as they are.
You could also sprinkle cheese on top.
Delicious !

Pepperoni Cheese Bread

Really you can't make it more easier than this.
Now you have 2 options: You either make your own bread dough (I used baguette dough) or you use the store bough version of refrigerated bread dough.

bread dough, enough for a loaf
cheese, 1 cup
pepperoni, 1/2 cup to 1 cup, slices cut in half for easier rolling of the loaf
egg wash (1 eggs beaten with 1 TBSP milk or water)

Preheat your oven to 350 F.
Prepare your sheet pan or loaf pan by lightly greasing it and sprinkling some corn meal.
Spread the dough on a lightly floured surface and sprinkle the cheese.
Layer the pepperoni neatly over and then sprinkle more cheese.
Roll slowly making sure you don't tear the dough.
Now place the loaf in the prepared pan and let it rise for at least 30 minutes.
Can also sit there for 1 hour.
Now brush the egg on top and cut the top in 3 to 5 spots for the steam to escape.
Bake for approx 20 minutes, keeping an eye on the stove.
Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.
Enjoy !

Cream Puffs and some Vanilla Filling

I use these for profiteroles, eclaires, or just for themselves as they are. They can be filled with just about anything. My fav filling though is a vanilla filling, for which I will post the recipe below.
Ok, now let's get to work:
What we will need is:
1/3 to 1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 TBSP sugar
3 TBSP butter
1/2 cup to 2/3 cup flour, all purpose
2 eggs, preferably brought to room temp.

And now, what we will need to do is:
Place the water, salt, sugar, butter in a medium size sauce pan and stir until you see the butter melt.
With the sauce pan removed from he heat, add all the flour and mix hard and fast until a ball that pulls away from margins has formed.
Now let the mixture cool for at least 10 minutes and then add the eggs, one at a time, making sure they are very well blended in.
Place the mix in a ziplock bag, cut a 1/2 inch tip and pipe mounds the size of a teaspoon.
Better smaller than too big.
Make sure you leave at least 2 inch wide spaces in between mounds.
Bake the puffs at 425 for 22 to 30 minutes or until they look golden-brown and delicious.
Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks.
Cut almost in half and put the filling in or cut in half all the way and use it as a mini sandwich.
Delicious !

Now for the vanilla filling.....
This is somewhat a variation of a vanilla filling that I already had, but inspired myself a bit from Laura Adamache as well.
So here we go:
2 eggs
40 gr all purpose flour
10 gr corn starch
vanilla and almond extract
100 gr sugar
330 ml milk
another 30 ml milk (cold)

Put the 330 ml milk in a sauce pan on the heat to almost boil.
Separate the eggs into 2 medium size bowls.
Now mix the egg yolks with half of the sugar and when it has doubled in size and the color is a very light yellow, add the extracts, then the 30 ml of cold milk.
Mix and add to this bowl half of the almost boiling milk.
Mix again and add over the milk in the sauce pan.
Keep on medium-low heat until it thickens, stirring continuously with a spoon or spatula.
After you are done with that, remove from the heat and let it rest.
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, add the sugar that you have left and fold the foam/meringue into the hot mixture waiting for you.
Keep on medium heat for 5 more minutes stirring slowly or better yet folding slowly.
Cool and use as you wish.

Salmon Cakes with Veggies

Y.U.M. There is a wonderful taste to veggies, there is a wonderful taste to meat balls and there is a wonderful taste to salmon. What does this get us to ? Pairing all the above, you can end up with a variation of crab cakes, which I personally do not like. Therefore, I thought I would make my own, just as I like them.
Ok, here are the ingredients you need :
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, minced or sliced finely
half of a green bell pepper, finely diced
half of a carrot, tiny cubed/diced
some celery leaves, finely chopped
1 egg
salmon, a piece as big as your palm, finely cubed
oh, and some bread crumbs, like 2 TBSP
and lots of love ! (yes, it's mandatory)

Place half of the diced ingredients in a food processor and mix until a paste has formed.
Pour over the rest of the ingredients and mix either by hand or with a fork.
For like 2 minutes.
Now in a non stick skillet place 2 TBSP of oil and spoon some of the mixture in one of your palms and make a ball which you need to flatten and then place in the heated oil.
Cook on medium heat for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side, making sure it does not burn.
Serve warm over bread or pair with pasta.
Enjoy !

Pork Steak Pasta and Salmon Cakes Pasta

Ok, I just posted about the process of making your own pasta at home, and here it is what I paired it with:
Pork Steak for Jeff, my husband and Salmon cakes for me. And of course, with freshly grated cheese sprinkled on top. I like mozzarella.
For the pork, you just fry it on medium high in a non stick skillet, with some oil drizzled on top, and then with some kosher salt and freshly ground pepper sprinkled.
Fry it for about 3 minutes on each side.
Now how easy is that ?
And for me, I made some salmon cakes......because I was thinking of crab cakes and I don't like the crab. Yuck. Do love salmon though. YUM
I will write the recipe for them cakes in my next post.

Fresh Tagliatelle

Either with a pasta machine or without, with just a rolling pin, you can make at home the best tasting pasta.
And the ingredients:
Very minimal, 1 egg, 1/2 teaspoon salt and as much flour to make a nice firm dough.
Start by choosing a medium size ceramic/plastic/glass bowl in which you crack the egg.
Add the salt and start whisking with a fork.
Gradually add all purpose flour and stir with the fork until the dough is firm.
At this point you should remove the dough ball from the bowl and place it on your counter/table and add some flour.
Knead the dough until it feels soft, smooth, and pliable enough.
Now if you have a pasta machine, you need to roll it multiple times until you reach the desired consistency, cut it and boil it in salted water for 6 to 8 minutes, or until you like how it feels when you bite into it.
Drain and use as any other pasta.
Ok, if you DON'T have a pasta machine, you will need a floured rolling pin.
Roll slowly but firmly the dough on your work surface, starting at the middle and working your way towards the edges.
Flip it over and roll until it is as thin as you want it to be.
Sprinkle little flour on top and roll it loosely and with a sharp knife, cut 1/4 inch wide strips.
Fluff and boil in salted water for 6 to 8 minutes, or until you like how it feels when you bite into it.
Drain and use as any other pasta.
Give it a try !