Month: September 2009

Welcome Fall

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Everywhere you go, everything screams FALL IS HERE!  I didn’t think I’d be excited as I loved all Summer-ry foods.  But as soon as the first wind of fall came in, I was taken over by the cold spiced air.

Fall reminds me of light jackets, pumpkins, soups, and comfort food.  I’m not a fan of eating soups, because it’s kind of like grown-up baby food.  But I always want to make them for some reason.  I had read some good reviews on Julia Child’s Potato and Leek Soup and decided to give it a try.  It was superbly simple.  Chop, dump, and wait. 

Potato and Leek Soup (by Julia Child)

3-4 cups diced potatoes

3 cups thinly sliced leeks

2 quarts water

1 tbs salt

6 tbs heavy cream or 3 tbs butter

3 tbs minced chives or parsley

After chopping all your vegetables, add it to the water and salt in a 4 qt pot and simmer for 40-50 min partially cover.  Take off heat. You can mash the veges with a fork or run it through a food mill or hand blender.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in cream or butter and top with chives or parsley. And Serve!  Makes about 6-8 servings.

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Cheesecake Experiment

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It’s been a week since we celebrated Eid, I can’t believe all of Ramadan has gone and went by right before my eyes.  It’s like any other exciting event in my life.  I’ll sit there for weeks waiting in anticipation and when it finally comes, I turn my head and everything just breezes right by in fast forward.  What was once anticipated become memories of the past.  I’m still waiting on someone to invent a remote control for Life…

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For Eid, our close family friends always get together in the evening for dinner.  And when I mean close, I mean around 60 people.  We take turns hosting the dinner and this time it was my place of residence.  Dessert and drinks were the only things left to take care of.  I decided to make my Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake which I hadn’t made in a reallly long time. 

My problem was, one pie wasn’t going to be enough for everyone, maybe not even two.  I played around with the idea for a while and I actually didn’t know what I was going to do until I had to pour the batter somewhere. 

What I finally decided was to make individual cheesecake in a muffin pan.  I just didn’t know if it would work the way I would want as I had to keep in mind several factors.  I made up things as I went and popped the tray into the oven after the whole dozen was layered and swirled and waited.  I didn’t have room for mess ups or screw ups.

I sat there in anticipation and just when cheesecake looked baked, I took them out and let them cool for a few minutes.  I carefully popped one out (SUCCESS!!)and put it in the fridge so I could taste it.  Once it became cold, I gave it a taste and it was absolutely scrumptious!  I was elated and happily went on completing 3 dozen. 

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Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake (by Great American Home Baking)

CrustOreo Dough recipe

Filling

3 packages (8 0z) cream cheese, at room temp (I used 2, 1/3 less fat cream cheese and 1 regular)

1 cup sugar

5 large eggs

2 oz semisweet chocolate, melted

 Prepare Oreo crust according to directions.  Preheat oven to 300 F.  Cream together the sugar and cream cheese.  Add in the eggs.  Take 1/3 of the batter and pour it into another bowl, mixing in the melted chocolate till uniform in color. 

Press the cookie dough into each slot, not too thin or thick.  Spoon in 1.5 tbs plain batter in each slot.  Add to each 1 tsp chocolate batter and swirl with a think knife.  Bake for about 15 min till the cheesecake is set.   Take out of the oven and cool for 2-3 min.  With a plastic knife, run the knife around each cheesecake and carefully pop out.  Refrigerate before serving. 

For drinks, my mum bought some Soda.  I was furious.  But apparently it doesn’t matter that I don’t drink soda, other people do and its totally okay to support these diabetic inducing foods.  I took what I had to work with.  And decided to serve some in my cool new flask that I had gotten from Garden Ridge. 

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In some Sprite, I mixed in some Grenadine Syrup, OJ, Cranberry Juice, and Lime, Raspberry, and Grape Popsicle.  I don’t have exact measurements since I just eyeballed everything.  Punches are great like that.

Happy (belated)Eid All!

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Ramadan has ended and we celebrated Eid this past Sunday.  It was nice to have it on a non-school/work day so that everyone could enjoy it properly.  I wanted to give someone Candied Lemon Slices as a gift since they looked delectable.  I never made them before so I thought it’d be nice to try it, but I didn’t think to have a back-up.  The instructions looked easy enough.  But somehow mine went wrong somewhere.  I let them out to dry for 24-hrs and the longer they sat out, the more uneatably bitter they got.  Kind of like biting right into the rind of the lemon.  Yeckh.  The directions said that blanching the lemons would take care of it.  But I guess it didn’t.  However, they did look very pretty. 

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I was searching for other unique gifts and one of them called for dried lavender.  I didn’t think it’d be difficult to find but I ended up searching high and low for it.  Michael’s sells the craft kind but I needed the culinary one (I’ve been wanting to use lavender in baking too).  Some store I called suggested to check out Penzey’s.  I had never had heard of this place but was willing to try it out.  I called them and yes! they carried it.  They were located in the Heights.  I had heard of the area, but never knew where it was.  Up for an excursion?  Definitely!  I love exploring. 

I headed down there Monday morning and was astonished to see the Heights tucked away in a corner.  I easily found Penzey’s and they had all these different spices, rubs, mixes.  They had jars out so you smell each thing.  All of it smelled fresh and intense.  The cinnamon smelled like REAL cinnamon.  The lavender, oh how I love lavender, was exactly how it should of smelled.  I ended up buying more items than I had expected. 

penzeys

I was curious to see more of the Heights and I fell in love right away.  It was kind of like Rice Village and Upper Kirby but with a different aura.  They had mom and pop shops, family owned restaurants, and several small town-esque shops.  I plan on visiting soon again. 

minuti

As I was heading home, I wanted to stop off at Minuti Coffee, a fairly new Italian coffee shop that I’ve been meaning to check out. I’ve been putting it off because last time I tried a new small coffee shop, they charged me $4 for a drink in which they merely blended store bought juice and ice.  This time  I read the reviews online and allll of them had nothing but praise.  The prices were similar to Starbucks but they had free Wi-fi and a hip interior.  It was kind of funny though when I walked in.  Everyone was entranced in their work.  No one was chilling or hanging out which made it a little awkward.  I ordered a Mocha ‘regularti’ and was not disappointed.  I like to support small business so I’ll be visiting Minuti for my coffee runs from now on.  Oh, they also had this cool snack thing from Italy that looked like Swiss Rolls but it was actually Tiramasu which I learned that it means ‘pick me up’ in Italian. 

Anyho, this post is getting way too long.  To be continued….

Russian and French Visit for Dinner

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I’ve been focusing a little bit more on making what is on my List of things I’ve been wanting to make.  What’s the point of a list if you don’t follow it?   I wanted to cook so badly since I really hadn’t made anything during Ramadan.  I came across a beef stroganoff recipe that seemed pretty simple and wouldn’t take up too much time. 

Now making something that you’ve never had before while fasting is a shot in the dark.  I wouldn’t know what it would taste like, or if that’s how its suppose to taste anyways.  I use to freak out if something didn’t turn out right (okay I do still a little bit) but now I can tell myself it’s okay and that is simply how you learn and try again.  You might say I’m a little Julie obsessed but I actually learned a lot reading her book.  And this is one of things I learned, that it is okay to mess up.  Not everything is going to be perfect.  It doesn’t have to be.  I use to beat myself up over failed dishes but now I’m glad to say I’ve got less bruises. 

Not many people have heard of beef stroganoff, and by God, I don’t know why.  It’s so incredibly easy and yummy.  It’s like mac and cheese but with a beef Russian twist.  I’m determined to make this the next new food trend.  Something so easy and good shouldn’t be left in the dark.  

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Beef Stroganoff

1 lb ground beef (I used lean meat, although traditionally it’s made from shredded beef)

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp fresh black pepper

1/8 tsp paprika

a dash of onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, cayenne pepper, and thyme

1 tsp minced garlic

1/2 onion, chopped

1 cup sliced white mushrooms

1/2 cup sour cream

2 cups beef broth

1/2 lb (or 2 cups) elbow macaroni or wide egg noodles

1 tbs oil, olive or vegetable

White Cheddar cheese (optional)

Start by bringing a big pot of water to boil.  Season with salt and add in macaroni.  Cook till al dente.  Reserve cooking water. 

While the macaroni is cooking, wash your meat and season with salt, pepper, paprika, and dash of each, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, oregano, thyme.  In a deep skillet, heat the oil on medium heat and brown your meat until no longer pink.  Add in your onions and let them sweat for a couple minutes.  Next, put in your mushrooms and sautee the mixture till juices are released. 

Now add in your macaroni, sour cream, and beef broth.  (For my beef broth I used a cube that I dissolved in the pasta water).  At this time, you can add in cheese if you want to.  Cook till the sauce thickens.  Serve with some cheese or parsley for garnish. 

 

That is all this dish takes.  So simple. 

I had bought some corn to make Cream of Corn as I had left over cream.  Corn is just about out of season so it was now or next year.  I wasn’t going to make it with the stroganoff as I was super tired and it didn’t really go with the dish.  As I was waiting for the onions and mushrooms sweat, I was like whatever, JUST MAKE IT. 

Home Grown Basil
Home Grown Basil

I shucked my corn and cut off the kernels with a knife right into a pot.  After that it was just throwing ingredients into the pot and letting it sit to cook.  I had some fresh basil that someone brought over to top it which gave it a magnificent flavor.  Another simple, simple dish. 

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Cream of Corn

3 ears of corn

1/2 tsp minced garlic

1/2 cup cream

salt and pepper to taste

basil

Shuck corn and remove kernels by cutting against the bone of the corn into a pot.  Add in the garlic, cream, salt and pepper.  Let the mixture reduce for about 10 min.  Take off heat.  Pulse immersion blender (optional).  Top with a of bit chopped basil. 

 

 And ofcourse, I had to make dessert.  I’ve been wanting to make Plum Clafoutis and since they’re in season, it was the perfect time.  This is yet another simple simple dessert.  I would say the stroganoff, cream of corn, and dessert was all done in an hour.  Maybe less.  It’s a French dessert that is absolutely delicious.  The heat sweetens the fruit even more, and the combo of fruit and custard….just yummm!  You can use different fruit aside from plums like cherries.  Maybe I’ll try that next.

I wasn’t raving about this dessert when it came out of oven.  (Note:don’t use a spring-form pan to make this, the batter will leak out)  It looked like yucky mush and I didn’t even put it on the table to attempt to serve it.  I had my Bavarian cream as back-up.  A took it off the counter and brought it to the table and with much bravery tried it.  Next thing you know, A and A Lil Nibble were devouring it.  I took a bite.  And surely, it wasn’t my last bite. 

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Plum Clafoutis (adapted from here)

3 large plums, pitted and sliced into eight wedges each
½ cup plus one tablespoon sugar
4 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Butter a nine inch cake pan.  Spread the plums in the pan and sprinkle with the tablespoon of sugar.  Next, combine the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl till smooth and poor over plums.  Cook for 45 min or until the edges are cooked and the center is set like custard, not runny.  Let cool for 10 min and serve. 

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I made some fruit salad and a traditional drink to break our fast.  For the fruit salad, I usually cut up whatever fruit we have on hand like bananas, apples, pear, pomegranate, strawberries, raspberries, pears, guava.  Basically whatever. 

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The drink is called Roohufsa.  The drink is usually made with a rose essence syrup and mixed into milk or water.  I added some flare to it with basil seeds (thukmariya) and some china grass. 

 

Rhoohafsa

Jug of milk

couple tablespoons of Rhooshfsa (add as much as to you liking, add more if you want it to sweeter)

2 tbs basil seeds aka thukmariya dissolved in water till they bloom (clear bubble around the seed)

1 tbs china grass aka agar agar

food coloring (optional)

Bring a cup of water to boil and add in the china grass and dissolve.  Take off heat and pour into a shallow dish.  You can color it with food coloring if you want.  Let it cool till it sets and cut into cubes. 

Teal Color China Grass
Teal Color China Grass

In a large jug, add the milk, rhoohafsa, basil seeds, and china grass and stir.  Serve cold for a refreshing drink.

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Bavrian Cream

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Bavarian Cream.  It just sounds like some exotic, gourmet food.  I had never heard of it until I saw Julie & Julia.  When I decided I’d make it, A Lil Nibble asked what it was.  I shrugged and just said we’ll see.  I knew it was some sort of custardy-ish dessert but didn’t know the exacts of it.  I just love the way ‘bavarian’ sounds.  But here is what MFAC says, “Bavarian cream is a mold of crème anglaise (custard sauce) with gelatin, beaten egg whites and flavoring. It is un-molded after it has been chilled, and makes a dessert as beautiful to see as it is to eat.”

There’s a lot of whipping involved.  But it’s not that complicated.  I just wish I knew when to use which size bowls so I could have had less of a mess. 

I made raspberry Bavarian cream (you can do different flavors) as they were on sale for 99 cents!  The recipe called for orange juice to bloom the gelatin in which I believed over-powered the raspberry flavor.  It had raspberry juice as an option but where do you get raspberry juice from??  Well I learned you can get raspberry juice from sieving raspberries.  Which was a total pain and took forever.  I took me a good 30 min to sieve the raspberries.  Next time I’m going to try to run the berries in my immersion blender and then sieve and hopefully the seeds won’t come through. 

I’m not sure if it came out to be 100% the way it was suppose to be, but there were two layers after it set.  It’s meant to be unmolded but I just put it in my dessert cups.  The bottom layer was like a jello consistency and the top was a light velvety cream texture.  I’m not sure if I’ll make this soon.  Maybe when I decide to give it another chance, not that it was bad, but it was just okay. 

Look out for this weekend: Beef Stroganoff, Plum Clafouti, Creamed Corn, and a special drink to cool you off. 

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Raspberry Bavarian Cream (from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child)

1/2 cup orange juice (or raspberry juice)

1 1/2 tablespoons gelatin powder

5 egg yolks

1 cup granulated white sugar  

1 1/2 cups boiling milk

5 egg whites

pinch of salt

1 tablespoon granulated white sugar

a tray of ice cubes

1/2 cup chilled whipping cream

1 pint fresh raspberries (and extra for decoration)

In a bowl, mix together the gelatin and orange juice and set aside.  Bring milk to a boil.  While the milk is heating up, mix together the egg yolks with the one cup of sugar till pale yellow.  Slowly pour in the milk into the egg yolks while still mixing.  Make sure you don’t cook the eggs.  Transfer this mixture to a saucepan and cook till the mixture is thick enough to coat the spoon, while constantly stirring.  Take off heat. 

In another bowl, whip the sugar, salt, and egg whites together till stiff peaks.  Fold this into the custard mixture.  Set this over a bowl with ice water.  In another bowl, whip up the whipping cream till double in size.  Fold this into the custard. 

Sieve enough raspberries to make 3/4-1 cup.  Fold this into the mixture.  Pour into a mold or individual serving cups.  Chill for 3 hours or till its set.  Top with fresh raspberries. 

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Mousse vs Creme de Pots?

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While I was on foodgawker, I saw a really easy recipe for chocolate creme de pots.  I wanted to try it but I didn’t have any whole milk on hand.  Instead I found a recipe for chocolate mousse (I don’t know what the difference between creme de pots or mousse is….anyone know?). 

When I added in my first egg yolk, I thought I had burned my chocolate as it clumped together, even though the recipe said it would get thick.  I just didn’t think it would get that thick.  I was going to start a new batch but I just kept going.  As I was folding in the egg whites, I was praying it wouldn’t leak out and make a nasty puddle of whites later on.  I just checked the fridge and the mousse has successfully set!  I can’t wait to dive in with some fresh strawberries.  Yummm.  One more thing to cross off from my List!

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Classic Chocolate Mousse (from here)

8-oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or use chips)
1 tbsp sugar
4 large egg yolks
4 large egg whites, divided

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate while whisking as to not burn the chocolate.  Once melted, add in the sugar.  One by one, whisk in the egg yolks, making sure its thoroughly combined. Mixture will get thick. Remove from heat.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites till stiff peaks.  Add in 1/3 of the egg whites to the chocolate mixture with a hand mixer, smoothing out any chocolate clumps that may have formed.  Now fold in the next 1/3 of whites.  Fold in vanilla if you wish to add some.  Fold in the remaining 1/3 of whites until uniform in color.  Pour into either tea cups or dessert cups and chill for 1 1/2 hrs before you serve.  Makes about 6 servings.

If you’re not a fan of dark chocolate, I would opt to use milk chocolate or a combination of milk and semi sweet.  I did a 3:1 of semi to bittersweet.

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I bought some raspberries last night and I was thinking about doing a raspberry coulis or raspberry gelatin layer on top next time.  This time I just had them on them on the side, nice and fresh. 

This has got to be the easiest and most simple dessert recipe I’ve done.  All you need is chocolate and eggs.  It’ easy on your waistline as well.  I know I’m definitely going to be using this recipe more often.

Swirrlll

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After my cheesecake-brownie happening, I was determined to find something better to my liking and so I looked to Dorie.  As I was flipping through the pages, I came upon Raisin Swirl Bread, which I’ve been meaning to make for a while for the kids.  The kids love raisin bread but it comes from Pepperidge Farm, containing corn syrup and tons of other not-good-stuff for young’uns (or anyone at that).  I would take out a slice for myself and sit down, following with running steps that would come snatch some bits from me and run off again.  I don’t think I’ve had a full slice in their presence!

I never got around to it and I was reading the directions and procedures.  Calculating all the time for rising, baking, and making, it didn’t seem like I would have enough time that day.  I looked through the cookie section and wasn’t feeling it.  I went back to the bread, and thought, “Julie would find time to do this” so I started re-arranging my schedule and decided to stay up at night making it.  It’s not like I had been sleeping before 2 am for the past couple weeks. 

I stayed up till about 3 am that night, taking quick short naps between rising.  I loved making it and the house smelled absolutely wonddderful.  As for the end results, I wish there had been more swirl instead of just one swirl.  And the bread is so much more better toasted. 

bread

Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread (by Dorie Greenspan)

For the Bread

1 packet active dry yeast

1/4 c sugar, + a pinch

1 1/4 c whole milk, luke warm

1/2 stick (4tbs) unsalted butter

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

grated zest of 1/2 orange (optional)

pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

3 3/4 to 4 c all-purpose flour

For the Swirl

1 tbs sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup moist, plump raisins, dark or golden

3 tbs unsalted butter, softened to spreadable consistency

Making the Bread:

In a small bowl, mix together the yeast, pinch of sugar, and 1/4 cup milk.  Let it rest for 3 min and then stir.  All of the yeast probably hasn’t dissolved or bubbled but should be soft. 

In a large bowl, combine the remaining 1 cup milk, butter and sugar with an electrical mixer for 1-2 min.  Add the salt, egg, vanilla, zest and nutmeg.  The mixture will look curdled and unpleasant but it’s okay.  Mix in the yeast mixture. 

With the mixer off, add in 2 3/4 cup flour.  Mix on low speed until the flour has absorbed the liquid.  The mixture will be sticky.  If you have a dough hook, switch to it now.  Otherwise you can work with your hands is it’s not to hot that day.  Add in 1 cup of flour and mix until the sides come clean.  If not, add in 1/4 cup flour in 1 tbs at a time.  If your doing this by hand, you will have to kneed the dough for about 5 min to come to the same consistency.  Butter the bowl and cover the dough in it with plastic wrap.  Store in a warm area and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours. 

Once the size has doubled, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and store in the freezer for 30 min until the dough is firm enough to work with.  If you’re going to use the dough for a later time, you can refrigerate in overnight instead. 

To Make the Swirl and Shape of the Bread

Butter a 9X5 in bread pan. 

Whisk together the sugar, cocoa and cinnamon.  If the raisins aren’t moist and plump, steam them for a min and pat the dry.  (I used Sun-maid raisins so they were already plump)

Remove the dough from the freezer and place on a lightly floured surface and roll out to 12X8 rectangle.  Smear 2 tbs of butter on the surface.  Sprinkle the sugar-cinnamon-cocoa mixture over it (I used a sifter/tea strainer to evenly distribute this).  Scatter over the raisin.  Now starting from the short side of the dough, roll the dough jelly-roll style snugly.  Tuck in the sides and place the dough seam-side down in the pan.  Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for 45 min. 

Preheat the over to 375.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Spread the remaining tablespoon of butter on the top of the dough.  Put the bread pan on the baking sheet and put in the oven to bake for 20 min.  Make a foil tent and cover the bread lightly and bake for about another 25 min, until golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom of the bread.  When the bread is done, let it cool for 5 min and then unmold and invert the bread onto a cooling rack, right side up. 

 

bread

It seems like a long complicated process but it’s pretty simple but just long because you have to wait for the bread to rise and all but that’s how yeast breads are.  Just keep busy in the times between.