Monday, December 12, 2011

Fish en papillote

If you're at a loss as to how to cook your fish without losing a lot of moisture, try this method. Wash lightly pat dry the fish fillets with a paper towel. Lay it in the middle of a piece of parchment paper, and add washed and chopped vegetables (like asparagus, green beans, or diced squash). Drizzle with olive oil and/or a few bits of butter, salt and pepper, and bake at 400 for 25 minutes. Et voila!

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sweet labels

As part of my advent calendar this year (handmade by my mom), there was an envelope of baking labels that she printed onto sticker backing. When I opened the package, I only saw the top label, but now that I'm ready to bake today, I untied the little bundle and -surprise- they are all different! How fun!

Some of the labels say "Something special just for from Ri's kitchen", and "sweet treats just for you, from Ri", and even "Dutch treats, made just for you by Marie".

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Would you like eggs with that?

While in Paris last month (ooh la la!), I was reminded of Europeans' proclivity to stick an egg on nearly everything, from sandwiches to pizza to salads. I didn't take the opportunity to try it for myself while I was there because there were far more interesting things to be had on those menus -oh yes!- but I was still curious about it. What's a single girl supposed to make for dinner in 15 minutes? I think the French might have an answer for that...

P.S. Hot milk with a dash of vanilla really quells those ice cream cravings when it's 30 degrees out!

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On a cold and rainy day...

Nothing like a steaming hot bowl of homemade Vietnamese beef pho!

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Instant tomato salad

With fresh basil and balsamic vinegar.

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Some fun stuff in the veggie box today!

Heirloom tomatoes and Bartlett pears.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Finally got it...

After several birthday and Christmas-list attempts, I finally just went ahead and bought the cake lifter I've been wanting! I may have to get back to you with a full report after this weekend...

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Today's Bounty

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Still cookin'

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Fried Deviled Eggs

How do you make this...

turn into this?

I'm so glad you asked!

Fried Deviled Eggs with Parsley
6 large eggs
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Tb chopped parsley
1 Tb minced onion or scallion
5 Tb olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp white wine vinegar

1) Put cold eggs in a saucepan and fill with cold water, until the eggs are submerged by about an inch.  Set over high heat, and just as the water comes to a full boil, remove from heat and cover for 15 minutes.  Drain the hot water, fill the pan with cold water and rinse several times, then fill with cold water and let the eggs cool while you get the rest of the ingredients ready.
2) Peel the eggs and slice in half lengthwise.  Remove the yolk into a separate bowl and place the whites on a plate. (It's surprisingly easy to just pop the yolks out, provided they have been cooked properly.)
3) Add the garlic, parsley, onion, s&p, and 2 Tb olive oil to the yolks. Mix thoroughly with a fork and use a spoon (I used a very small dough scoop) to refill the egg halves.  Don't overfill them (you will have some filling left over, which you will use for the dressing in just a minute); press down slightly to set the filling in the egg half.
4) Heat 1 Tb olive oil in a large nonstick pan.  Place the egg halves face down in the pan and saute for 2-4 minutes, until they are beginning to brown and become slightly crispy. Remove from heat.
5) In the meantime, make the dressing: in the bowl with the leftover filling, add 2 Tb olive oil, the mustard, vinegar, and s&p.
6) Arrange salad on plates.  Top with a few egg halves and drizzle dressing over top.

Eat well!


Elk burger with swiss chard, zucchini, bacon, and garlic. Yum!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

First Blueberries!

What's your favorite thing to do with Blueberries? Besides eating them plain, that is...

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Joy the Baker's Peanut Butter Blondies with Chocolate Frosting

Note to self: do not buy baking pans at Rite Aid.  Your coworkers will thank you later.

I used to have a beautiful nonstick 9x13 baking pan.  With a lid.  You know, the kind that you buy just in case you need it, but then end up using all the time.  I would take Mr. Pan-with-Lid to work at least once a week.  He helped me gain the popularity I so desperately coveted in grade school.... junior high.... high school... coll- umm... for a long time.  Everyone loves a good brownie, or a piece of shortbread, or some apple crisp.  And everyone loves the person who brought them too.

Unfortunately, my coworkers loved them a little too much.  A slice there, a scrape here, and pretty soon my nice nonstick pan was.... sticking.  And letting off shavings of... non-stick-stuff.  (oh yeah, it's called Teflon.  Thank you.)  Finally one day I had to face the facts: Mr. Pan-with-Lid was done.  He was at the end of his days and there was no going back.  I gave him a ceremonial burial in the round file and figured his lid, though unscathed, should go with him.  Why deny him companionship in the Baking Pan Afterlife, right? 

Now I was in need of a new covered pan.  As good as the old pan was, I've changed my mind about Teflon... I don't ever want anyone to end up with little bits of plastic in their Cranberry Shortbread Bars or Plum Clafoutis.  That may incite revulsion on the part of the eater... which would result in unpopularity on the part of the baker, which would just be bad all around.  A plain metal pan it is.  But it can't be too expensive (I'm looking at you, Williams-Sonoma) and I need it fast (no leisurely antique store browsing).

A few short days later, I found myself in Rite Aid, for self-tanner, nail polish, and, apparently, a baking pan.  It was cheap, I was there, and it was aluminum (I think?).  Awesome. 

However, I made its inaugural batch of bars, brought it to work, took it home, washed it, and dried it.  I then placed it in the cupboard.  Where it rusted.  Not awesome.

Some day I will find a good metal 9x13 baking pan.  With a lid.  Until then, there's always glass.

Hey, have you met Joy?  She's my new favorite baker.  We both love to bake, but the big difference is that she gets to do it 24/7, whereas I only get to do it... uh... 3/7?  Does that work?  3 hours a day?  Something like that.

The texture of this batter is like toffee... thick, heavy, buttery toffee.  You guys, I was really, really tempted to just eat half the batter right there out of the bowl, it was so good.  Oh wait....

Joy used milk chocolate for the frosting, but I only had semi-sweet. Which I like better.  And I also used half smooth and half chunky (ugh... hate that word) peanut butter, because that's what I had, and I actually really like the peanut pieces in there.  I might even add a handful of chopped peanuts next time.  But hey!  Use whatever floats your boat.  These are now your peanut butter blondies, so... own them!  This is my version.

Joy the Baker's Peanut Butter Blondies with Chocolate Frosting
10 Tb. unsalted butter
2 c. brown sugar
1 c. smooth peanut butter (natural if you have it, if you don't, be sure to cut down on the brown sugar)
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 c. flour

Preheat oven to 325. Grease your 9x13 (your.... uh... glass 9x13) and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then add the brown sugar.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.  Add the peanut butter and let cool for another 5 minutes.  Whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Resist the urge to create even more dirty dishes, namely, tasting spoons.

Sprinkle the salt and baking powder over everything, add the flour, and stir until incorporated. Smooth the batter into the pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Cool to room temp before frosting.

Chocolate Frosting
6 Tb. unsalted butter, softened
3 Tb. cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 - 2 c. powdered sugar
3 Tb. milk
3/4 c. chocolate chips, melted and slightly cooled

Beat butter, cocoa*, and salt in a large bowl.  Add 1/2 c. powdered sugar, then 1 Tb. milk.  Add 1 c. powdered sugar and 2 Tb. milk.  Add chocolate and beat until fully incorporated.  Add more powdered sugar if you like your frosting thicker, and spread over the peanut butter blondies.

Bask in the glory of your coworkers' "mmmm"s. 

*A little tip about using cocoa powder, which tends to poof up into the air when you so much as look at it.  If you don't mind using one more little bowl (and I clearly have no issue getting many dishes dirty), mix your cocoa with a little bit of milk or water before adding it to your mixing bowl.

~Eat well!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I never knew carrot had addictive qualities

This is probably the fourth carrot cake I've made for a co-worker who has become a customer.  It's the same recipe each time (lots of ginger and orange), and he and his wife just love it! 

And I'm loving the way they subsidize my baking habit.

Already packed up and on its way to work.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Strawberry-Almond Smoothie

Tonight at 5pm I did my same little 5 o'clock routine.  Turned off computer? Check.  Turned on the volume on my phone? Check.  Packed up the backpack? Check.

The last thing I do before leaving the office... the frigid, oh-you-of-few-windows office... is take a glance out the one window available to me (in my boss' office) and see what's going on outside. Of course, it's just like packing in January for the Bahamas (not that I have any personal experience of that): it's extremely difficult to make yourself pick out warm-weather clothes when your toes are numb.

So, seeing the waving trees and somewhat dimly lit exterior of the building, I concluded that it was cold and windy outside (the weather-man says rain!) and therefore my fancy new black trench coat belonged on my shoulders, around my waist, and up against my neck.

Walking down the hallway: cold.  Elevator ride down a floor: cold.  Stepping out into the cement cavern of a basement parking garage: cold.

I could only ride my bike one block before I had to stop.  Woah!  What's this?  The sun exists?  It was 75 degrees.

A brand new freezer in my apartment meant that those first-of-the-season strawberries I stashed earlier were solidly frozen by now... I think it's time to put them to use.  By the way, does anybody have the troublesome problem of going slightly batty when strawberries first appear at the market for less than an arm and a leg?  Anybody else out there who pounces on them, snapping up 3 packages for a household of 1?  Hence the freezer.

Strawberry-Almond Smoothie
handful of fresh mint leaves
1 c. frozen strawberry slices
1/2 c. almond milk (if using unsweetened, you might want to add honey to this)
1/3 c. plain Greek yogurt

Place the mint in the blender, followed by the strawberries.   Pour almond milk over and give it a few good whirls at high speed.  Add the yogurt to thicken as desired. 

Drink in the sunshine with a straw.

Reason #492 to grow your own herbs

An easy weeknight dinner.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An All-Day Bake-a-thon

My friend Alyssa and I had a spare Saturday last weekend, and we decided to spend that precious free time by baking (naturally).  It was all going towards a good cause (our church's youth group), so we went all out. 

Early in the morning (Alyssa's a morning person, and I'm... always running late, so I wanted to get a head start), we visited two different restaurant supply shops and the grocery store.  First up: Lemon-Glazed Cheesecake. While that cooled over in the corner, we spread out our supplies and got started on the Peanut Butter BonBons.

Alyssa, the chief chocolatier for the day

Our third project was an individual version of the Chocolate Coconut Tart I had experimented with the week before.  I just love the little tart pans I've had for about 10 years now.  In fact, I don't have a regular-sized tart pan, just those.  If I need a tart pan, I usually make do with a springform.  It's not as pretty since it doesn't have fluted edges, but it works.

Sadly, I misjudged the oil to almond flour ratio and the crusts crumbled badly.  Oh well, once they were placed in display boxes, it was hard to tell anyway!  The filling was still delicious - we know, because we got to make little ramekin-sized tarts for ourselves!  It was a great Sunday afternoon treat the next day.

As we wrapped up the cheesecake, the bonbons, and the chocolate tarts, I kept wondering aloud if we should go ahead with our fourth item, Palmiers.  They are very easy and fairly quick to make, but very messy.  And we were running out of time.  Alyssa prepped the ingredients while I made the lemon glaze for the cheesecake.  I rolled out the dough, sliced it in scroll shapes, and we got the Palmiers in the oven just in time.  Some of them were still warm as we made our way out the door!  We took full advantage of any we deemed "damaged goods" while we were in the car on the way to the event.

All's well that ends well, and every item sold at our little bake auction.  I heard rave reviews of the cheesecake the next day, and the Palmiers even got passed around the tables that same night, thanks to the bidder's generosity.  Looks like these recipes are keepers!

From left: Palmiers, chocolate tarts, lemon cheesecake, and our two little pots of chocolate for ourselves.  Bakers' treat!

 The Lemon Cheesecake was exactly the same recipe as this one, but we made use of the lemons I had instead of oranges.  

Peanut Butter BonBons
1/2 c. smooth peanut butter (I used natural)
3 Tbs. butter, softened
(add a little salt if neither the butter nor peanut butter already has some)
1 c. powdered sugar
8 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 Tbs. vegetable shortening

In a medium mixing bowl, combine peanut butter and butter.  Gradually add powdered sugar.

Shape into 1-inch balls and place on a rack set in a rimmed cookie sheet.  Place in the fridge while you make the coating.

Melt chocolate and shortening over low heat in a small saucepan, stirring constantly.  Use a spoon to cover the peanut butter balls with chocolate, or dip them right in the chocolate.

Store in an airtight container, chilled.

1 box frozen puff pastry, slightly thawed
2 c. sugar
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix the sugar and salt in a small bowl.  Clear a large workspace and spread half the sugar on the counter.

Unfold the puff pastry onto the sugar.  If the pastry came in two sections, handle one section at a time.  Spread the other half of the sugar on the pastry and use your rolling pin to firmly embed the sugar in the dough.  Go ahead and roll it out a bit until most of the sugar has been rolled in.

Roll up each long end of the puff pastry towards the middle, like a scroll.  Slice 1/2 inch sections and lay on their sides on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Leave room around each, about 2 inches.

Bake for about 10 minutes, watching carefull so the sugar doesn't burn.  Let them cool for a minute or two on the baking sheet (if you can wait that long!) so the sugar can harden a bit, then transfer to a rack.  Store in an airtight container, or they will become soft.

Chocolate Coconut Tart

I never used to get cravings for chocolate.  I liked it, for sure, but I didn't crave it like so many do.  That is, until about two years ago.  Call it getting older, call it life changes, call it coming to my senses....

Now?  Now I know when I want chocolate, and only chocolate.  If you're trying to battle one of those oh-so-strong chocolate cravings today, don't bother fighting.  Just make this tart and consider it an I.V. of the good stuff headed straight for where it counts.... your belly.  It packs a whallop and it's the real deal.

Although it has "Coconut" in the title, it's a very subdued flavor.  Sort of like a supporting actor in this play starring almond and chocolate.   It's also gluten-free, and "Paleo", if you're interested in those things like I am.

Chocolate Coconut Tart
adapted from So Good and Tasty

1 1/2 c. ground almonds
1/4 c. coconut oil, melted
pinch salt
1 tsp. vanilla

1 14oz can coconut milk
10 oz good semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (or a mix of the two)
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the crust ingredients together and press into a tart pan or pie plate and bake for 10 minutes.  Let cool while you make the filling.

Chop the chocolate and pour into a large bowl.  In a medium saucepan, bring the coconut milk just to a boil, then pour over chocolate and let it set for 5 minutes.  Slowly stir the chocolate until melted and smooth. 

In a small bowl, whish the eggs, vanilla, and salt, then pour slowly into the chocolate, while whisking.  Pour filling into the crust and bake about 20-25 minutes.  Top with unsweetened coconut (toast for more flavor!) and sliced almonds.  Serve at room temp or chilled.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Spring is on the way!

Starting to see more fresh produce at the store...

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

I live in a world where...

Coconut, Peanuts, Chocolate Chips, Banana

becomes THIS...

and it is sweet indeed!

What else am I supposed to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon while I procrastinate doing my taxes?

Apparently this is an old camping trick, but I learned about it new from Joy the Baker, thanks to my friend Lori.  Enjoy!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Easy Carrot-Parsnip Soup

Wash your root vegetables and chop off the greens.

Chop in 1-inch pieces and toss with some butter & olive oil or coconut oil in a deep pot.

 Add a little stock, herbs, and salt.  Cover, and let it cook over medium heat for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

 Blend with a stick blender (handheld) right in the pot.  Add more stock, or cream, if desired.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Grape Jelly: Mission Accomplished

Remember last fall when I made grape jelly? I think I've written about that several times by now.  Just thought I'd let you know what that looked like - I found this picture on my phone a few days ago.  40 jars baby!  They all became Christmas gifts.

That picture prompted me to look for the pictures I took of the whole process... my first time making jelly, so I had to document it, you know!

The finished grape juice, after cooking down the grapes and straining.

Adding sugar... more sugar than juice by volume!

This liquid pectin was really easy.

Filling hot jars.

The last batch!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pumpkin bread in February

I wasn't that impressed with the recipe I found after a desperate Google search for "pumpkin bread" + "coconut milk", so I won't link to it, but the loaves do look homey, don't they?  Something to warm up my kitchen in the middle of winter and use the leftover coconut milk I had on hand.  Good enough.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Remember those plums?

You might remember the plethora of plums I had on my hands last fall...  Here's what I decided to do with them (besides the plum cake, that is)!

Plum Clafoutis

More Plum Cake

Plum Sauce