Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Getting Fired Up for Thanksgiving.

The day before Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year . . . a day for venturing out into the world to shop for some last-minute brainstorms, finalizing cooking plans, and starting things in motion well before the guests arrive and, as host, the social part of the program begins.

On this year's menu:

Grilled/Smoked Turkey. This year I'm going to test out the Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) in lieu of the Big Green Egg (BGE). I'll let you know how it goes. I still love the BGE for turkey and those looking for tips should check our past posts and make their way to the Naked Whiz site and the BGE Form. Hopefully, the users in the WSM community are just as inspiring.

Oven Turkey. We're contemplating using Michael Ruhlman's Roast/Braise Method, which looks like it may help us crack the code on perfectly cooking the white and dark meat while maximizing moistness.

Mashed Potatoes, aka DezMo's Holiday Potatoes.

Gravy. Already got a jump on this by preparing our turkey stock earlier this week. Again, thanks for the tip from Ruhlman.

My Grandma's Cranberry Relish.

Cranberry Gelatin in turkey shaped tins.

Butternut Squash Soup in shot glasses, got the idea to serve in shot form last night celebrating Lauren's birthday at Va de Vi Bistro and Wine Bar.

Pear Cranberry Pie.

Pumpkin Blondies.

Cheese Assortment for early arriving guests.

And that's what we're making! Our unstoppable guests will be bringing the dressing, shrimp salad, antipasto, sweet potatoes, green beans, and cheesecakes (one pumpkin)!

Just writing this I feel almost full, but there's that shopping to do . . . Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Baking at 6AM: Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake

We haven't had a post in a while and it's not because we aren't cooking, in fact since we've had our baby, we've been cooking at home more than ever. But baking, my favorite part of cooking, has been on the backburner. And blogging, well, it's been a busy month but we're hoping to use holiday cooking as a reason to get back on the blog!

With a full time job, a long commute, and a little one in the mix, my evenings are now full of family time and work catch-up. But I think I've come up with a way to get a little bit of baking back into the mix- ok, it's actually starting with a mix. I've never been one for mixes but at this point, a good quality baking mix is a great shortcut. And it's either a shortcut or no baking.

This shortcut is especially helpful at 6AM on a Saturday or Sunday morning, which is when I made this cinnamon crumb coffee cake- a mix from Trader Joe's. My little peanut doesn't have a snooze button and he's up at 6AM. I've figured out that I have a little window of time in the morning with him in the pack and play to whip out a simple recipe or baking mix.

What I really liked about this mix was the flexibility in the recipe to add butter or oil ( butter, of course), and to put the crumb in between the batter or only on top. I actually put it on top and drew a knife through it to add some swirl. I also went for whole milk- why not? The result was quite delicious and filled the house with the smell of coffee cake first thing in the morning. The cake was actually best when it had cooled and the sugar in the crumb had recrystallized for a crunchy texture in the swirl.

So, I'm going to keep exploring what a busy mom can bake at 6AM. My requirements:

1) a mix with quality ingredients similar to what I would bake from scratch. I love to add my own eggs, milk, butter etc. so I am not looking for a "just add water" kind of thing

2) simple recipes that use one bowl (or pretty close). Part of the key is not to have a bunch of bowls to clean up

3) recipes that can be baked in one step- I don't have time for recipes with multiple cookie sheets

4) things that taste great

5) I'm also considering making my own mixes the night before or in advance.

Do you have a favorite mix I should try? Or a simple one bowl - one pan recipe? I'd love to try it!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls with A Secret--Potatoes!

There's nothing like the taste of a homemade cinnamon roll and if there was a queen of them, it would be my grandma. Growing up, they were a special treat for me when we would visit. The soft, yeast-leavened dough with the sweet and spicy mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon was an inspiration to me and fostered my love of baking to this day. I was younger, I would sometimes spend a week in the summer with my grandma making deliciously leavened things like doughnuts, bread, and rolls.

So you can imagine how excited I was to spend a day with my grandma making her cinnamon rolls together and to share it on our blog. With Justin taking some photos along the way and baby P in good hands with his grandparents and godparents in the other room, we proceeded to fill the house with the amazing smell of leavened dough and make five and a half dozen rolls.

But first few things you should know about this recipe:

1. Cinnamon rolls are a labor of love. They have two proofs and therefore require some patience to let the yeast work its magic. Not to mention that you have to spread the brown sugar and butter and cinnamon and roll up and slice multiple times. It's not a 30 minute recipe!

2. This is a huge batch size. The original recipe is from my great-aunt Dorothy who lived in Nebraska and it's enough to feed everyone on the farm. This batch made about six dozen rolls. I once made this in college and underestimated what"double in size " really meant and I ended up with what looked like a dough explosion all over the oven and heating element. Whoops. Note to self- this requires a giant bowl to proof as shown in the above photo.

3. The secret ingredient is...mashed potatoes and potato water. Yes, that's right and it's delicious. what is the potato doing? Adding a fair amount of starch to the dough and giving a nice and tender texture.

4. We didn't follow it exactly. Grandma could make this with her eyes closed and I watched in awe as she adjusted the yeast, water and flour all from experience. As a scientist who measures everything, this was such a leap of faith for me but her experience reigned supreme as everything turned out as planned. She had a lot of good advice as I rolled the dough and spread the filling.

5. Cinnamon roll dough is wonderfully tactile. Not only do you touch it, you knead it, you develop it, you must know how it feels in order to make it. So many other foods are stirred with utensils, gingerly poked and prodded for doneness but cinnamon rolls are so much more hands-on.

The Recipe as Written

1 cup hot mashed potatoes

1 cup of lard/shortening

1 cup of sugar

2 cups of potato water ( leftover from boiling the potatoes)

4 eggs, well beaten

3 teaspoons of salt

2 packages of yeast

1/4 cup of warm water

7-8 cups of flour

cinnamon, sugar and butter for filling

powdered sugar and milk for icing

Mix potatoes with lard, cream well. Add sugar and potato water. Add eggs. Dissolve the yeast in warm water and add to mixture along with some of the flour. Let set until bubbly. Add remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead.

Let rise until double (we put it into a warm oven- turned on the lowest setting and then extinguished).

Punch down then roll out into sheets. Generously spread with butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar evenly.

Then roll into a log and slice. Place on greased cookie sheet (we like a cookie sheet for individual rolls. you can put them into a greased glass pyrex where they will touch and bake together). Let rise. Bake at 350 deg F for about 15 minutes- take a look and bake longer if necessary.

Let cool. Mix powdered sugar and milk to an icing consistency and drizzle on cooled rolls.

And there you have it, enough for 5 to 6 dozen cinnamon rolls- plenty to share! Special thanks to my grandma for spending the whole day making these with me!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Remembering Lunch

I was scanning through some pictures and found this one from a year ago to the day . . . the memorable part of the meal wasn't the food, but because it was our last before being discharged from hospital with our new baby boy. Roast turkey, gravy, dressing, spinach, a cup of ice cream and we were on our way!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Birthday, Justin!

Happy Birthday, Justin!

We celebrated with a carrot cake made with pecans and cream cheese frosting. The cake was not too sweet and actually a bit savory- a nice contrast with the cream cheese frosting. Click here to see Martha's recipe and the generous amount of butter that went into this cake.

In case you missed last year's birthday treat for Justin, here's a link to the homemade hostess cupcakes. You can see the difference in complexity now that there's a little one in the picture!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cookies I Wish I Had Made: San Francisco Sugar Cookies

I want to start this post with a disclaimer: I had no role whatsoever in these cookies. I didn't bake them or design them or even eat them. But, I admired them so much that I asked my neighbor if I could share them- and they said yes!

My neighbors are the queen of events- bridal showers, baby shower, weddings, you name it. And Lindsey created these sweet San Francisco-themed sugar cookies for a wedding shower. A quick note about Lindsey- she's an amazing hair and makeup stylist ( who also makes super cute cupcakes and cookies as well.

So how did they do these? A combination of edible markers for the bridge and different piping tips for everything else. How smart was it to draw the bridge and then also use it as template for the piping. So clever. I also really loved the texture of the waves. Thanks, Lindsey for letting me share.

If you were to make a cookie for your city, what would it look like?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cute As A Button Cupcakes: An Improvisation

There's a few lessons I've learned recently about baking after you've had a baby:

1. It doesn't happen as much.

2. When it does, you really really really want it to turn out right.

3. It's easy to lose count while measuring multiple cups as you are trying to multi-task with a baby.

I've had these button molds for months now and I imagined making these cupcakes with a white frosting background. So, how did we end up with pink and green?

My mother's helper came to help me make these cupcakes. I mixed the cupcakes while she made most of the buttons. And even though this has happened to me before, I used organic powdered sugar...which turns out to be brown instead of white. Seriously, brown and not pretty brown. Argh. We had made blue, yellow and white buttons which did not look good with the brownish frosting. So, we improvised.

and made light green...

hot pink...

and bright green. Reminded me of Super Mario Brothers mushrooms from a distance!

And my two resolutions going forward: regular powdered sugar for white frosting and picking more tried and true recipes. I've debated sharing a big brownie fail story that happened over last Christmas. It was a ton of work- from a blog- and of course- to share with all of my family. Disastrous. Should I share it?

Have you had a baking experience where you successfully improvised?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Jeni's Ice Cream: Two Summer Splurges

Well, it's ice cream weather and I had to write a post about two summer splurges that I indulged in- one this summer and one last summer from Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream.

Mini- Splurge 2011- You may remember that we wrote a post a few years ago about my very favorite ice cream shop ever, Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream in Columbus, Ohio. I've tried quite a few - and for me, this is hands-down the very best ice cream I have ever had- even better than Bi-Rite and Humphry Slocombe. The carefully crafted flavor combinations, the use of seasonal ingredients and that fact that Jeni artfully creates surprising and delightful flavors without crossing the line into bizarre flavor, are what sets it apart from the rest. So, you can imagine my enthusiasm when her cookbook was released. It has recipes for my favorite flavors and ones that I can't wait to try. I ordered it immediately!

Big Splurge 2010- Ever since we went to Jeni's several years ago, I vowed to have her ice cream again, even if I had to ship it. And last summer, when I was very very pregnant and it was very very hot, I did just that. I shipped five flavors that I wanted to try or had tried before and held an ice cream tasting party with our neighbors. It was fantastic. So, what did I choose?

• Cherry Lambic Sorbet- one of my very favorites
• Gravel Road- mmm a salty caramel ice cream with almonds
• Sweet Corn and Black Raspberries- unusual but lovely with a discernible sweet corn flavor
• Goat Cheese with Roasted Red Cherries- unbelievable! Also a huge favorite of mine.
• The Buckeye State- classic peanut butter and chocolate

By far the cherry lambic and the goat cheese with red cherries were the best of the bunch but you can't really go wrong. Now the only question is, will I be able to make any of her recipes as well as she does or do I have to wait until we are pregnant again to ship out some flavors?

So, you might be wondering, why we haven't posted in a while. Well, we had a baby and I went back to work. But we are still doing all sorts of foodspiration: I'm making baby food, Justin attended a bbq class and bought an amazing smoker and I made 5 dozen cinnamon rolls with my grandma that I have to tell you about. It's all coming and hopefully at a more regular, albeit it less frequent pace. Hope you will keep checking in with us!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Campfire Cooking

This week we went to stay at a cabin by the lake in Minnesota of course had to have a few treats over the campfire. As you can see in the photo, we have three campfire favorites going on: s'mores, toasted fruit pies made with two slices of bread and pie filling in a pie iron, and Jiffy Pop, which is not intended to be popped over the fire but a few folks had well practiced techniques. Mmm, it was all delicious!

Do you have any campfire favorites?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Guess What We Made with This?

Check out this vintage grinder that my grandma owns. We spend the weekend with her and learned a thing or two about home cooking. This vintage Dazey grinder has three interchangeable blades and a suction cup to anchor it to a surface. It reminded me of our juice-o-mat and after using it, I kind of want one of these too. My grandma made a special breakfast food for us- any guesses what it was?

Hint: This was the blade we used. I'm embarrassed to say I've never made this food from scratch.

You're right! Hashbrowns! That is just something that we always eat in a restaurant and this was my first time making them from scratch.

And they were crispy on the outside! Thanks, Gram!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cincinnati Eats Part 2: Graeter's Ice Cream

I haven't spent enough time in Ohio to know if this should be surprising, but the Buckeye State has a large share of delicious ice cream. In our past travels we stumbled across Jeni's in Columbus and raved about their creative flavors in this blog post. Where the people of Cincinnati are split on the virtues of their chili, everyone is behind their hometown ice cream favorite: Graeter's. As I was leaving for my trip a business associate who had previously lived in Cincinnati said, "get anything with chips!" (as in chocolate chips!).

Where Jeni's greatest strength may be in their edgy signature and seasonal formulations, Graeter's may be in their "french pot" process. In this process the small spinning pot receives the ice cream mix that freezes against the sidewall as it slowly scraped away. For ice cream with "chips" the chocolate is drizzled in at the end and the operator manually breaks it into pieces before each pint or gallon container is hand-packed. While this may all seem quaint and appropriate for a super-premium ice cream, for this Food Scientist it is amazing to think about this happening on the industrial scale with each 20 minute batch only yielding two gallons of finished product. Graeter's (a company with $35MM in revenue) not only sells out of their 47 stores, but also through retail grocery through Kroger, Meijer, and Giant Eagle stores.

Our Cincinnati hosts picked up five flavors to try . . . my favorite was the Black Raspberry Chip. My coworker was right about the chips, they are astounding in their individuality . . . one that wound up in my bowl must have been a half ounce of pure chocolatey goodness. The Black Raspberry was not to be under-shadowed with a bright tartness that helped cut the creaminess from the high level of butterfat.

Can we agree to love both Jeni's and Graeter's?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cincinnati Eats Part 1: Cincinnati Chili

On a recent trip to Cincinnati I asked one native about it as a food town and she framed her answer with the idea that "Cincinnati doesn't know if it is in the North, South, East or West" (the local airport is in Kentucky) so their cuisine pulls a little from all these directions. It seems that the residents are equally conflicted about a local staple -- Cincinnati Chili. You hate it or love it . . . if you love it then you likely have an opinion about if it is served better at Skyline or Gold Star.

Urged on by some and warned by others we ventured out to the local Skyline. If you are from anywhere else then this dish will likely bend your definition of chili. The meat is simmered in a spice blend containing cinnamon, chocolate, cumin, allspice (among other things) and served in a watery sauce over a pile of spaghetti and topped with a huge mound of shredded cheddar cheese. If you stop there you've got what is called the "three-way." Adding onions will get you a "four-way" and the addition of beans is a chili "five-way." Nixing the onions, but adding the beans is a "four-way bean" -- got it?

My overall impression of our lunch time meal was of flavorful, seated fast food. You can't effectively eat the dish in your car, but since they key components hot and ready there is little lag time from order to assembly to your table. I had a small order of the chili five-way and chased it down with a coney dog and a diet Dr. Pepper. It's hard to tell but there is a chili dog under that giant pile of cheese, making me wonder if these foods were really vehicles for shredded cheese consumption? This thought was further fueled by the same shredded cheddar appearing in the hotel breakfast buffet near the egg station.

Have you tried Cincinnati chili? What did you think?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Signs of Spring!

Thank goodness- spring is coming and with it, lots of deliciousness. We couldn't resist buying the first cherries of the season at our farmer's market. We also bought fava beans, asparagus, lettuce with edible flowers and farm fresh eggs.

What are you eating in season?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Shaker Citrus Pie

Ok, I need another cookbook like a hole in the head, but I had to buy Martha Stewart's new Pie and Tart book. And since I recently tasted a Shaker lemon pie from Natalie at Bike Basket Pies, I really wanted to make one. Three cheers for Martha for putting the exact recipe from the book online here.

What makes this pie unusual is that it uses whole lemons and oranges- including the peel! They are thinly sliced and macerated with sugar overnight. This recipe only had a bottom crust with the gorgeous open top.The first time I made this I used a knife which made the slices too thick. The second time I used a mandoline but it kind of shredded my slices or made them so paper thin that they broke when tossed with sugar. This was fine for the interior but I wanted the intact ones for the top so I went back to the knife for those slices. Sadly, I wasted a few lemons and oranges figuring this out!

And the result was a beautiful pie with a custardy center that had terrific citrus flavor and unusual texture.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Cocktail by the Lake- Yes, Please!

It was a date by the lake! One cheerful Sunday afternoon, we ventured out to Lake Chalet on Lake Merritt in Oakland for happy hour. This charming restaurant faces the lake and it's original core structure was a pumping station built in 1909.
I enjoyed a ginger cosmopolitan, a refreshing twist on one of my favorite cocktails, and we shared a few items from the happy hour list, most notably, the ahi tuna poke ceviche and the beer battered onion rings. Because of the clear blue sky and sunshine, we forgot our jackets and therefore sat at the marble bar with a view of the lake. We'll be back for another happy hour-perhaps outside on the water on a warmer day.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Fresh Pizza For Lenten Friday- It's Vegetarian!

It's the Lenten season and on Fridays as Catholics we are not eating any meat. This quick and easy pizza is full of flavor and you won't miss the meat. You will also notice that it is sans sauce...which I think let's the ingredients shine. We made this pizza for a Friday meal and using Trader Joe's whole wheat dough from the refrigerated section, it was not only flavorful and homemade but really fast.

We piled it high with our favorite toppings:
• fresh mozzarella ( although dried might make the pizza less soggy)
• sliced heirloom tomatoes
• fresh basil
• goat cheese
• olives

With a little polenta dusted on the bottom, it went into the oven on the pizza stone at 425F.

The results...fresh flavors, gooey cheese and a delicious crust you won't leave behind.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Introducing the PBC Shake...the Peanut Butter Cookie Shake

If only you could reach through the screen and take a sip of this milkshake! Filled with chewy cookie bits, the photos just don't do it justice. We had never heard of a peanut butter cookie shake...until we created it!

On this fine rainy afternoon, Anita came over with a bag of chunky, chewy peanut butter cookies purchased at Whole Foods. "They looked chunky, chewy and nutty" is her exact quote. You could see those peanuts. And we wanted to do something different with them and decided-why not try a cookie milkshake?

How do you make this lovely concoction? We added chocolate and vanilla ice cream, a sliced ripe banana, chocolate syrup, milk and the cookie! Don't over blend as the chunky cookie bits are the best part.

And you get a shake that is creamy but with a pleasantly chewy texture- the cookie! The ripe banana combined with the chocolate and the peanut butter goodness was the perfect combination for this sip of comfort food. We ate ours with a spoon!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bacon, Gruyere and Egg Breakfast Tart Repeat

I love when we cook from our own blog. And this bacon, gruyere and egg breakfast tart was even more delicious when we made it again for a last minute brunch with friends. It uses just a few ingredients: puff pastry, eggs, gruyere cheese, bacon, creme fraiche and chives but it tastes spectacular. We served it with a side of fresh fruit and mimosas.

The recipe is here but our original savory breakfast tart post with step by step photos is pretty helpful too.

So visit the links, make the recipe and treat yourself and a friend to slice of this for breakfast!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How many Ph.D.s does it take to make baby food?

Apparently two. We've just opened the box on our BabyCook- a lovely gift that we received that steams and purees fruits and vegetables all in one. The size is perfect for small batches. And today I made our first batch of sweet potato puree for our little guy. Unfortunately, I had the hardest time understanding the instructions! It took a second pair of eyes- Justin- to point out the obvious sentence that explained how much water to add to the machine. It was the first sentence. Oh well. I'm blaming it on "mommy-brain."

The little guy loved the sweet potatoes. So far he's had brown rice cereal, oatmeal cereal and now sweet potatoes. It's exciting to see him try food for the first time and he's definitely interested when we eat. We can wait to see him eat more fruit and vegetables.

I know we've been a little quiet on the blog front but hoping to have more posts soon. I confess that I miss some of my late night baking projects.

If you have kids, what were the first foods you gave them?