Thursday, October 7, 2010

Go Bananas

What do you do when you are faced with this?

Why, make banana bread, of course!!

Banana bread is one of those staples that I am nearly able to concoct in my sleep. Although, I like to keep it evolving. Sometimes I'm in the mood for fancy-schmancy complete with walnuts and coconut, other times simple-and-sweet, studded with a few spare banana slices is my desire.

I found my equilibrium in this loaf, however. Needing a tasty treat for dessert to bring along for a dinner party with girlfriends, it was a perfect balance of sweetness with those well-ripened bananas and heartiness with the oat bran and touch of whole wheat flour. It doubled as breakfast the next morning....
Sweet, Wholesome Banana Bread
1 lemon, juiced
3 very ripe bananas (and an extra for slicing on top)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour (or all 1 1/2 c. whole wheat)
1/2 c. oat bran
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mash bananas in a large bowl. Mix in lemon juice. Cream butter and sugar together, and add to banana mixture.
Mix dry ingredients together. Stir into banana mixture. It should be thick and lumpy.
Grease a loaf pan. Place batter into loaf pan. Bake 35-45 minutes, or until inserted knife comes out clean.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Soup's On!

I have been patiently waiting for the arrival of Autumn. The aromas, the flavors, the warmth of Fall foods produce a great sense of comfort I look forward to as the days cool and shorten.

It's been slow arriving this year. We've been 'enjoying' an Indian summer here with several days in the triple digits last week. (Spare the air days at the end of September?!) We've been taunted by cooler evenings, but the days have remained warm.

I've been flipping through my cookbooks over the past few weeks, dog-earing delicious soup recipes. Waiting, waiting, waiting.....

Yesterday, it arrived. Between the clouds and my cold, the time had finally come for some good, ol' fashioned soup-making.

Although this recipe is enough to feed a family of 12, this is not a problem if this does not fit your family profile. Just freeze the remainder or host a dinner party. Your friends will thank you, I promise.

This soup is very easy to cook, although preparation time is about 30 minutes. A sharp knife will ease the process.

Vegetable Soup

adapted from French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano

2 potatoes

1 onion, peeled and quartered

2 garlic cloves, peeled

salt and pepper, to taste

4 leeks

1/2 small cabbage

3 celery ribs

2 turnips

4 carrots

4 T. butter

2 c. canned whole or chopped tomatoes

2 sprigs of parsley

basil (fresh is best, but I used dried)

2 bay leaves

Peel, wash, and chop potatoes. Place in small pot with onions, garlic and salt and pepper. Cover with water and boil until tender. Drain and set aside.

Wash other vegetables and chop them. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in an 8 or 15 qt. pot. Add vegetables and 'sweat' them for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add tomatoes, potatoes, onion and garlic, and cover with water. Place parsley, basil and bay leaves in pot, stirring in. Cook until all vegetables are tender (about 20 minutes). Remove the bay leaves. Drain and reserve the liquid.

Puree the cooked vegetables in a food processor. (I used a blender which caused the soup to be a bit thicker in the final analysis.) Use the reserved liquid to thin out your soup. (I didn't use much because I like a thicker soup.)

Adjust the seasonings to your taste.

Before serving, add a dollop of creme fraiche. Can be enjoyed hot or cold.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lost in Translation

It is always a risk baking first thing upon rising in the morning as your brain might not be firing on all cylinders quite yet. But what is even more dangerous is attempting to bake with a recipe not written in your first language at the crack of dawn.

Having had several successes and failures with beating egg whites, I felt pretty confident translating -- battre le 3 blancs d'oeufs en neige -- to: beat them until they look like the soft, fluffy snow on mountain peaks. Not that dry, powdery stuff that makes it impossible to create snowballs... Then you've gone too far.

But with the beaten egg whites still standing ready on the mixer podium, I quickly took incorporer le melange avec blancs d'oeufs the wrong way and dumped the melange of mascarpone, sugar and egg yolks into the egg whites and whipped on the mixer. Flat. Splat. Runny whipped topping for my tiramisu. Something was wrong.

Oh yes, you're supposed to carefully, by hand, INCORPORATE -- this shouldn't have been so difficult since we do have a similar word in English, but for some reason I was thinking MIX, the first word I learned to translate from the French word incorporer.....aaaand probably because I do love to use my mixer so -- le melange avec blancs d'oeufs. Not to mention, I had messed up this process before and knew the quick-mix method with egg whites destroyed their foamy peaks.

But, never fear, I was saved by the leftover coffee from soaking les biscuits I had been drinking.

After a split second of panic when I realized that was the only mascarpone I had, I grabbed three more egg whites and beat them en neige, carefully incorporating the two mixtures together.

So I apologize if the tiramisu is a bit eggy and there are no eggs left in the carton for breakfast. I knew there was good reason for taking advantage of that 'buy one, get one free' sale on eggs at the grocery last week....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pumpkin Protein Bars

A huge fan of granola bars, my only beef with them is the quantity of sugar and the lack of protein they provide. I discovered these tasty bars in a quest for a cheaper and healthier replacement. They keep you satisfied for a long time and the recipe is quite versatile if you want to change up your flavors. I've been making them with pumpkin, but feel free to replace that with plain yogurt, adding also either 1/4 c. canola oil or peanut butter to your batter. You can add dried fruit instead of chocolate (but who wants to do that!), or nuts of any variety. Whatever suits your fancy.

Okay, not the prettiest...but I promise they're tasty! ;)

Pumpkin Protein Bars
Adapted from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe
1 c. soy or whey protein powder (I used vanilla flavored whey)

1/2 c. all-purpose flour

2 c. rolled oats

1/2 c. oat bran

1/2 - 3/4 t. cinnamon

3/4 t. salt

1 c. sweetened coconut

1/2 c. brown sugar (to taste)

1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

1 c. pumpkin

3/4 c. plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)

2 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a glass 9x13 dish.

Place all dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix together. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients. Add to dry and blend together well. The dough will be thick so use those muscles! :)

Spoon into baking dish and distribute evenly. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from oven and cut into bars. Place on baking sheet and bake another 15 minutes or until browned around the edges.

These are hearty bars so lil' ones go a long way. I like to freeze them in Ziplocs and snack on them cold straight from the freezer. They serve excellent as an afternoon snack or pre/post-workout fuel.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Duchess Grey Tea

The latest acquisiton for my tea cabinet is a delightfully citrusy black tea. In need of a refill on my breakfast tea to get my mind and body movin' in the mornin', I happily stumbled across the Duchess Grey Tea on my weekly shopping trip to Trader Joe's. They are notorious for their fresh, new items - I always find something deliciously novel to try when I stop in.
A big fan of Earl Grey -- especially that bergamot flavor -- the "Grey" label hollered to me from the shelf. I threw it into my basket without a second thought. When I first pulled the box out of the cupboard in the morning, the scent that hit me was the citrus notes of lemon and orange. Not normally a huge fan of strongly citrusy teas, I was nearly hesitant to taste a cup. But with my regular added splash of milk, the harmony of bergamot, lemon, and orange sang a beautiful chorus on my breakfast table. Definitely a keeper.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Swedish Pancakes

I love versatile foods. Ones that you can eat any time of day and that can be paired with just about anything. These also tend to be your comfort foods - ones that warm the belly as well as the soul.

Pancakes fall into this category for many people, but this will take you above and beyond this staple of any American diet. Swedish pancakes are a gourmet version of the favorite and, fortunately, they don't take any more time to prepare than your basic pancake. They are cross between a crepe and buttermilk pancake; heavier than a crepe, but thicker than a buttermilk. Their inside is slightly gooey with a warm, milky flavor. I topped one of mine with agave syrup, the other with powdered sugar. Truly, they would be fine with just about any sweet (or savory) topping your heart may desire.

Swedes may not have many a claim to fame, but these definitely put them on the radar for me.

Swedish Pancakes
3 eggs
1 c. flour
pinch of salt
2 T. sugar
2 c. milk
2 T. cooking oil
Mix together ingredients with a whisk in a large bowl. Heat skillet at medium-high heat and melt a dab of butter in the bottom. Pour enough batter to cover the bottom of the skillet. Allow to cook until browned on one side, then flip sides in and place on plate to cool.
Serve with yummy toppings.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Joy of Peanut Butter Cookies

Fathers deserve lots of love. Especially tummy love, since there is no better way to a man's heart than through his stomach -- true for young and old alike. :) When I want to show my daddy how much I love him, I know just the cookie to go to.

My father and grandfather are infatuated with good, old-fashioned peanut butter cookies. The more peanut butter, the better, they tell me.

Another man in my life, who has never steered me wrong when it comes to baked goods, led me to this fanastic cookbook with the best cookie recipes hands-down. (Perhaps there are other good recipes in there too, I just can't seem to make my way out of the cookie section....) If you haven't tried the oatmeal cookies yet, you must. But make sure you double the batch, for you will eat all the batter of the first batch. And, by the way, there is no subsitute for butter...I reluctantly substituted margarine once and it tasted awful.

Oh yes, the peanut butter cookies. (Heh, distractions.) When I was in search of a peanut butter cookie recipe the other day, I knew just where to go. I believe half the dough contains peanut butter so you better be prepared for the peanut explosion in your mouth. Personally, I can't get enough of peanut butter. I mean, they are called peanut butter cookies for a reason, right? These are so good that, although the first round I stuck in the oven got burned, they still tasted good. (Although maybe not as good as the ones correctly cooked....) The plate of them disappeared before dinner even began. Perhaps these need a double batch as well.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cherry Cobbler

Nothing makes my heart sing quite like beautiful fruit.
My housemates and I can't get enough of this delicious, summery dessert. I've made it several times with fresh Rainiers from the farmers' market.
A cherry pitter can make your job quick and easy, but I prefer the drawn-out method. Sitting on the floor, leaning against the cupboard, carefully coaxing the pits out of each cherry, dropping them into a is so very human and relaxing.

2 1/2 c. cherries
1/4 c. sugar (less if you have sweeter cherries)

1 1/4 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 egg
1/2 c. buttermilk
3 T. butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Mix pitted cherries in a bowl with 1/4 c. or less of sugar. Spread in the bottom of a pie dish of 9x9 square pan.
Mix together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In a small bowl, mix together egg, buttermilk, and melted butter. Incorporate into dry ingredients until just combined. Spoon by tablespoonfuls onto the cherries.
Bake 25-30 minutes, until browned on top.

Enjoy with a glass of cold milk.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Baby S'mores

What do you do when you are without a good ol' campfire to roast s'mores? Make s'mores mix full of baby s'mores, of course!
S'mores Mix
1 bag Golden Graham cereal
1 bag of mini marshmallows
1 bag of chocolate chips

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Teriyaki Chicken with Bok Choy

If you aren't one for frequenting the Saturday morning markets, you're missing out on some of the finest produce this time of year. I purchased some Rainier cherries at the grocery a bit ago, and then another bunch at the market a few days later. There was a significant difference in sweetness between the grocery pick and the market pick, as well as in price. My market find was by far the better deal and was keener in satisfying the sweet tooth.

One of the finest vegetable stands at the one I visit carries a variety of Asian produce. I chose to be a bit adventurous last week and purchased baby bok choy, a vegetable I've never cooked with before. I remembered encountering previously it in stir-fry dishes, but was certain there were other ways to enjoy its leafy green goodness. Here's an option. :)

Teriyaki Chicken with Boy Choy

4 heads of baby bok choy
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T. olive oil
1/4 c. water
pinch of sliced almonds

1 chicken breast
salt and pepper, to season
1 T. olive oil

1 clove of garlic, minced
1 shallot (or other onion substitute)
4 T. soy sauce
2 T. vinegar

Slice ends off of bok choy and rinse thoroughly. Separate stalks.
Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in sauce pan. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add bok choy and cook about 1 minutes, stirring. Add water and turn heat down to low. Cover and simmer about 5 minutes, until bok choy is softened.
Rinse pan. Add 1 T. olive oil. Heat at medium-low. Slice chicken in strips. Season with salt and pepper.
Add garlic and shallots to the pan, cook about 2-3 minutes until softened. Add chicken to pan and turn, browning on all sides.
Mix together vinegar and soy sauce. Pour over chicken and cover pan, turning down heat to simmer. Let cook about 10 minutes.
Place cooked bok choy in a bowl. Sprinkle with sliced almonds. Place chicken atop bed of bok choy. Enjoy with or without chopsticks. :)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Let's Hear it for the Red, White and Blue

Summer camp at the school where I work is always an adventure. But this year we've taken it one step further and have made it a BIG adventure shooting back and forth between different places in time. (Eerily reminiscent of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure perhaps.... :-p) Our first few weeks started out with a time machine to take us there. Unfortunately, some punk kids from the neighborhood thought it appropriate to creep by in the middle of the night and walk off with our black box of adventure. It's okay. We can still access the time contiuum portal without it. You can take our machine but you can't take our imaginations....

This week was supposed to be a jump back to the colonial period. I stopped by the first grade classroom to catch the kids inventing a machine -- a la Ben Franklin -- with their bodies. It was the noisiest, craziest machine I'd ever seen....loved it!! :)

Red, white and blue permeated the week in true patriotic style. The counselors-in-training challenged all to a cake baking contest Friday with the only requirement being that is was patriotic. My co-teacher of the day in the 3rd-4th grade classroom is a Disney fanatic. Do you know of anyone who spends every vacation at the happiest place on earth and explains nearly every project according to an analogy based on a scene from a Disney film?? :) He announced that we would be making a Mickey Mouse cake, no questions asked, explaining that Mickey was certainly one of the most patriotic things around. Hey, when you love something that much, you can make it fit into any category you desire. Don't judge.
Wild West Mickey? Dress him up like a cowboy. Star Wars Mickey? Darth Vadar-style. Wii Mickey? Just make that round face a little chubbier and cut off his arms. San Francisco Mickey? Put some flowers in his hair.

Patriotic Mickey? Let's hear it for the red, white and blue.
And don't forget the fireworks.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Twice as Good Carrot Cake

It must be good if it was worth making twice within a week.

My father's birthday happened to fall on Good Friday this year. Thus, we were compelled to wait for the celebration on Easter Sunday. Celebrating your birthday in conjunction with the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord couldn't be a bad thing, though. And it just so happens that his favorite kind of dessert is carrot cake. Providential, perhaps?

As much as I like to bake, my experience with cakes has been limited. The prospect of prettily frosting the cake has much to do with it. (I watched a friend of mine frost a wedding cake for hours on end and it has scarred me for life...jk. ;)) Fortunately, carrot cake is frosted in a rather slap-dash, haphazard manner so I didn't have to worry too much about a smooth finish (or the random appearance of crumbs...don't have a coronary, Emma!).

Then, another birthday Easter Friday of a friend who actually received 3 cakes from the dessert crew (more about that in another post). Easy-peasy the second time around. It was necessary to make a purchase of cake pans as I had borrowed my mother's for my father's cake. But, I figured if I was going to be making cakes this frequently, I should probably invest in some of my own. Or, at the very least, it would be incentive to try my hand at them more often. And I'm always excited to add another kitchen utensil to my steadily-growing collection.

Speaking of new kitchen equipment...I used my new KitchenAid mixer for the first time mixing up the cakes. Works like a dream! Much easier than a hand-held whisk, let me tell ya....

The fire-engine red beauty.

One thing I've learned about cakes is that it is all about beating those eggs. Let your mixer run for the allotted amount of time. Those eggs need a good beating to help the cake rise properly in the oven.

This is a very simple, yet delectable, carrot cake recipe. I had a few people who tasted it say they don't normally like carrot cake, but this one changed their mind. It doesn't include all the added pineapple and coconut which I think makes the flavor too tropical.


adapted from Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2010


1 c. walnuts

2 c. all-purpose flour

2 t. baking powder

2 t. baking soda

1 t. cinnamon

1 t. salt

1 c. canola oil

1/2 c. buttermilk

1 1/2 t. vanilla extract

4 large eggs

2 c. sugar

1 lb. carrots, coarsely grated


2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 lb. cream cheese, softened

1 T. vanilla extract

2 c. powdered sugar

To make cake:

Preheat oven to 325.

Grease and flour two round cake pans.

Toast walnuts on a baking sheet for about 8 minutes.

In one bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, whisk oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar at high speed for about 5 minutes. Beat in the liquid ingredients. Beat in the dry ingredients until just moistened. Stir in carrots and walnuts. Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for about 1 hour, until springy and golden. (I inserted a knife in the center and removed them when it came out clean.) Let cakes cool on rack for 30 minutes, then unmold and let cool completely.

To make frosting:

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat butter and cream cheese at high speed until light, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then the powdered sugar. Beat at low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat the frosting until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Invert one cake layer onto cake platter and spread with about a cup of the frosting. Top with the second layer. Spread the top and side of the cake with the remaining frosting and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Slice and enjoy. :)

Makes about 10-12 servings.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Clean or Not Clean, That is the Question.

The ironic thing about hypochondriacs is sometimes they inflict the very thing they are trying to avoid. In truth, if you try too hard to protect yourself and others from all germs, you may just end up becoming ill as your body is unable to build up antibodies to ward off unwanted intruders.

Not quite the situation that ensued yesterday, but it is something that often crosses my mind when I see mothers hyper-cleaning everything their children touch. Funny, how they are always the ones with the runny noses. Now, don't get me wrong...people should attempt to keep their children out of harm's way but a little dirt never hurt anyone, did it?


I have a certain sibling who can be rather anal about germs, especially ones involving food in the kitchen. He refuses to eat off of dishes that have been handwashed by him because he does not trust himself to get them clean enough. However, he's fine if someone else does it and he doesn't see them...out of sight, out of mind??? If anything comes remotely close to raw eggs, raw meat, etc., it must all be hosed down with disinfectant.

He'd been offering to make dinner for his girlfriend (my roommate) for a few days now and she decided to take him up on the offer. The meal planned: fried chicken. Fried chicken involves raw meat and raw eggs. Two points on the hypochondriac meter. Red alert. He oh-so-carefully sliced the chicken into thin strips with a fork and knife on the cutting board, making sure not to come in contact with the contagion. Unfortunately, he was not so lucky when it came time to fry up the poultry. He was forced to dip the raw chicken by hand into raw egg before arriving at the stovetop. The poison was held precariously at arms length as he hastily transferred it from bowl to pan. He nearly lost his marbles as a drop of egg landed on the space between...."NOOO!!! Quick, clean it up before it mutates into a man-eating beast from the depths of hell!" Needless to say, he survived the experience and lives to tell the tale. But my story does not end here. Oh no.

He was also kind enough to fulfill dish duty after dinner as well. For him, that meant rinsing the dishes so well that they were nearly clean before they hit the dishwasher. Lamentably, for us, it made it rather difficult to tell whether the dishes were clean or dirty. I innocently came home last night to make a quesadilla. Opening the dishwasher, it appeared in the process of being loaded as it was not quite full. However, I decided to investigate further as perhaps some had simply been removed after washing. Peeking into coffee cups that had no stains, bowls that were bereft of their milk rings, and frying pans that had been degreased, I came to the conclusion that the dishes were clean after all. I removed the frying pan from the top rack and went to work on my quesadilla....

Flash forward about 4-5 hours and I'm heaped over on the floor at a friend's house with horrible pain in my abdomen. Sometimes I get this type of pain comes from eating greasy foods so thought it was perhaps that, but it was much worse than usual and I hadn't really eaten anything particularly greasy....

Flash forward to the next morning, I'm still not feeling so chipper and wondering why this is lingering. I'm chatting with my roommate in our kitchen about my uncomfortable night as she goes to unload the rest of the dishwasher. She opens the door, takes a look inside, and is also confused about the status of the dishes inside. We inspect again, determine they must be clean and she begins to unload, as she tells me the story of my brother's humorous, chicken-frying experience. As she goes to unload the last spoon from the dishwasher, she glances down to discover food visibly crusted on the spoon. Uh oh. You missed one, dude. Dirty. And all of the pieces come together....

Yep, I cooked my quesadilla in an unsanitary pan thanks to the hypochondriac who rinsed those dishes so well they appeared clean....but I'm still alive to tell my tale too. :)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Easter morning was a chilly 35 degrees. My father read in the paper that our California temperatures were exactly the same as Alaska's. ALASKA?!?! REALLY?!?! He was bragging about the fact he was wearing his fleece-lined jeans and winter sweater on Easter Sunday. I actually caught myself about to wish several people a 'Merry Christmas' because my body was so confused as to what season we were in. (But, by golly, I wore my Easter dress to church! Wrapped in a wool coat, of course....) ;-)

Thank you Sunshine for making a re-appearance today. Really, you shouldn't ever leave the California skyline between the hours of 6am and 9pm. That's where you belong, after all.... ;-)

In honor of its reappearance, I present to you candied orange peel. There are fewer things that make me feel warm and summery than citrus. :) It sponataneously came-to-be the other day when I was making the tians, as I couldn't bear tossing out half a dozen perfectly good orange peels. (At least if I'd had a compost pile, it would have been put to good use fertilizing.)

Very easy to make, just takes a few blanchings, a sugar bath and lay them out to dry.
In the sun, if you want....

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Chimay - Trappist Ale

When asked to bring drinks to a party, Rick usually came toting a slender, long-necked bottle uniquely corked. Being a sucker for unconventional, appealing wrappings, the bottle intrigued me, but I never had the chance to become acquainted with its contents before it disappeared down the throats of the parched gentlemen. (Somehow the guys always get to the good beer first while the ladies are cooking and chatting....) And another attractive attribute of this beer: it was made by Trappist monks in Belgium. Monks who make beer are simply awesome in my book. Tasting it probably wasn't even a necessity for me to become a fan.

After a hauntingly beautiful Holy Saturday Tenebrae service yesterday morning, we did as all good Catholics do and headed to the local British pub for a breaking of the Lenten fasts with alcoholic libations. The pub offered a generous variety of beers on tap, including the ever-elusive Chimay -- the aforementioned Trappist ale. Here, finally, was my chance! It was so wonderfully smooth, a perfect pre-brunch drink. I had come in dreaming about a mimosa, but was pleasantly satisfied (and converted) by this blond ale, the Chimay Triple. I would even venture to say it was on the sweet side, with a lovely head crowning its golden base. Oh, and did I mention that they serve it from the tap as well with the proper 'trappings'? (pun intended) The Chimay is served in a chalice glass in order to adequately experience all the delicate flavors of this fine beer.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Just in Time for Strawberry Season....

Completely in love with this new dish pattern created by Sur La Table. How I would love to sip my tea out of one of these cute cups on a summery morning! :) They also have plates, bowls, and an adorable cake platter. The cook can dress the part in her strawberry-festooned apron and remove her baked goods from the oven with a matching oven mitt.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Layers of Citrus Beauty - Orange Tian

The 2010 March Daring Baker's challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse's Cooking School in Paris.

Daring Bakers' never ceases to amaze me. Not only does it challenge me to go above and beyond recipes I would normally dare to try, but it also introduces me to new recipes I probably never would have encountered. I love adventure; I love a challenge; I love new experiences -- I love encountering these things in my travels (another great interest of mine), and now I'm able to face them in my baking endeavors as well. Hallelujah! :)

This month's challenge was an Orange Tian. Never heard of such a thing? Neither had I. Although, I'm rather embarrassed about this as it is of French origin. My Francophile tendencies apparently have a rather large gap in them. And in the culinary arena no less -- quelle horreur!

Basically, the tian is a fanfare of a dessert meant to showcase beautiful layers of flavor. And as we well know, the French are all about artistic display. Appearances are everything. They love the richness of the display.

I'm not sure if I did it justice on display, but one couldn't beat the exquisite flavor of this bombshell of a dessert. Its richness had us nearly satisfied after two bites...but, of course, my friend and I couldn't put down our forks.

In the process of forming the tian, I....

carefully segmented several oranges,

produced a delectable marmalade (which doubles as an excellent addition to morning toast),

discovered a new shortbread recipe French-style: pate sablee (perhaps the best yet!),

and melded all the flavors together with marmalade-flavored whipped cream in cute heart-shaped molds.

Thinking I should try it with strawberries next... ;-)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Adventures with Asparagus

Asparagus has always seemed rather enigmatic to me. Not always sure what to pair it with, it usually ends up on my plate sauteed and plain. I could tell, though, it had potential. Albeit, concerned with wrongly tainting its meaty flavor, I decided to through caution to the wind the other night and dive in deep.

To begin my foray into culinary adventure, I bravely sliced a few crimini mushrooms to sautee alongside the asparagus in a generous pat of butter. To brighten to the dish, I squeezed about a quarter of a lemon over the asparagus and mushrooms. This tiny addition literally brings sunshine to your palate upon first bite!

Really going out on a limb, I chose to add a couple hard-boiled eggs to the dish. Eggs never cease to amaze me with the great variety of dishes they complement. French vanilla ice cream, potato salad, macaroons, salad nicoise, heuvos rancheros... Not just for breakfast!! :)

To complete this fantastic dish, I adorned my plated asparagus with shavings of parmesan. A delightful flourish to a mission accomplished.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kiss Me, I'm Irish!

St. Patty's Day is just around the corner and it's time to break out the green in your closet. If you're brave, like my brothers, you'll go all out and don a kilt complete with sporran and tassled socks. They are mighty proud of their Irish heritage.

Personally, I'm more concerned about the yummy food I'll be enjoying tomorrow....corned beef, colcannon, Guinness, Shamrock shakes. :) Do these have to be relegated to only one day a year? They seem to only make an appearance on the day when everyone is traipsing around like leprechauns. Hmmm...perhaps these things turn people into leprechauns. I never saw the connection until now....

One of my favorite Irish recipes which, fortunately, makes an appearance at least once a month on my breakfast table is Irish soda bread. A breeze to make, it is a hearty bread that goes well with stew or smeared with jam first thing in the morning.

3 c. flour (all-purpose, whole wheat or a combo)
2 T. sugar
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 1/4 c. buttermilk
1 c. raisins (opt.)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Mix dry ingredients together. Make well in center and pour in buttermilk. Bring dough together with your hands. (Add raisins.)
Knead dough on floured surface. Form into an 8-in. round, about 1/2 in. thick. Cut an X on top. Place on baking sheet and bake 25-30 minutes.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Roasted Pepper Chicken with Mexican Rice

Working full-time lately has left me with little energy for cooking elaborate meals when I return home in the evening. Plus, I'm not big on creativity when it is just me eating. It is difficult to elicit the creative spark when you don't have another to enjoy it with, ya know? (Oh dear, this is making me sound like a loner with no friends... ;-) As a matter of fact, we enjoy meals together all the time, I've just been remiss in recording lately...and the fact I keep forgetting to visually document. :-p) Nonetheless, I don't like to skimp on zesty flavor combinations so I've been mixing and matching flavors recently that come together in a jiffy. My penchant for Mexican fare churned up this tasty meal the other evening....


2 chicken breasts

salt and pepper, to season

3-4 pieces of roasted bell peppers (Trader Joe's come in a jar with garlic)

a handful of spinach

1/2 c. cooked rice

1/2 c. black beans

1/4 c. picante salsa

Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until cooked through. Toss in bell peppers and spinach, cooking until spinach is wilted.

Heat rice, beans and salsa mixed together in a pot.

Serves 1.

Monday, February 15, 2010

C'est tres mignon....


Je voudrais un petit morceau de chocolat francais, s'il vous peut etre un garcon doux francais. ;-)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

It Isn't Easy Being Green

My friends' nearly 2-year-old son does not like green foods. (Except for guacamole, which I cannot account for as this food disgusted me when I was young.) This is not unusual for individuals in his age group....or any age group for that matter. :-p Something about sticking something green in one's mouth tends to be unappealing.

His mom has been devising ways of getting him to eat his greens. She said she was going to try adding shredded zucchini to his bran muffins. It is nearly invisible and the flavor entirely disappears. This method has been successful for me in the past with my siblings. As long as I keep it a secret as well. Because as soon as they know it is in there, they can't handle chomping down on something they know contains a substance they don't like. Even if they can't taste it. Weird.
I was eating pasta the other night at my friends' house which included in the mix some small pieces of zucchini. Their son was systematically fishing them out and setting them to the side of his plate. At least he was polite about it. ;-) She had also surrepticiously used tricolored fettucine noodles. He failed to notice the first few bites, but then became aware of the malicious color infesting his plate of food and began selecting bites around them.

Next day, when he asked for a 'nack' (snack), she served him up a plate of leftover pasta, this time run through the food processor. No luck removing the greens. Mom had outsmarted him this time around!! ;-) He was a bit frustrated at first but his hunger got the best of him....

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tainted Oatmeal Cookies

It's Sarah's fault. She made me do it.

Gathered around the piano bench (who needs a table?), engaged in a uproarious game of Apples to Apples -- Rolling Stones, Colin?....your mom! -- I was itching to whip up a batch of cookies to accompany our rollicksome party. Between placing 'Women' as a fitting word to match 'Manly' (c'mon, you must see the logic in that?) and choosing 'Julia Roberts' as an apt description of 'Annoying' (she gets on my nerves a bit, okay?), I managed to mix, stir, scoop and bake a batch of oatmeal cookies.

Well, originally, just oatmeal. The first tray made it out of the oven unscathed. I attempted to explain the goodness of a pure oatmeal cookie that Ryan had taught me -- the men were easily convinced -- but Sarah's feminine, chocolate senses were tingling.

Must. Have. Chocolate. Now.

I caved. Mine were on high alert too. ;-)

I was forced to taint the rest of the batch with chocolate and coconut. And I'm not sorry I did. They disappeared before the game was even over....

Friday, January 29, 2010

Naniamos, eh?

When I was in D.C. last week, on the side of one of their pristine buildings I spotted a countdown clock for the Winter Olympics. Just in case you were wondering, at this moment in time, we are at 14 days, 8 hours, 4 minutes and counting....

I had actually forgotten they were happening this year. Truth be told, I'm not a huge fan of the Winter Olympics. I tend to enjoy the Games held during the warmer time of year. It may have something to do with the climate I grew up in. Sunny California doesn't afford us the opportunity to enjoy wintery activities very often.

Canadian friends of mine love to discuss professional hockey. My knowledge of the game consists of players moving over ice on skates with a hockey stick, while attempting to shoot a disc the size of saucer into a goal. Oh, and I know one of the teams is the Mighty Ducks, thanks to the 90's Disney film. ;-)

I do love figure skating. I'll watch that on occasion. There was a period of time when I was girl that I dreamt of becoming a professional figure skater. I think it was in between dreams of a professional gymnast and ballet dancer. People moving with grace has always been attractive to me. The underlying strength behind it all is the real charm.

What's cookin', eh?

Kind of like these Naniamo Bars -- exquisitely presentable, yet deeply sweet.

The second part of our Daring Bakers' challenge this month, in honor of the Vancouver Olympics, I present these deliciously rich Canadian specialities.

Naniamo Bars

Bottom Layer

1/2 c. unsalted butter

1/4 c. granulated sugar

5 T. unsweetened cocoa

1 large egg, beaten

1 1/4 c. crushed graham crackers

1/2 c. almonds, finely chopped

1 c. shredded coconut

Melt butter, sugar, and cocoa in a double boiler. Add egg, mixing until cooked and thickened. Remove from heat. Mix in graham crackers, almonds and coconut. Press into the bottom of an 8X8 in. pan lined with parchment paper (or foil).

Middle Layer

1/2 c. unsalted butter

2 T. + 2 t. heavy cream

2 T. vanilla custard powder (I used instant vanilla pudding mix)

2 c. powdered sugar

Cream butter. Mix in remaining ingredients, whisking together until smooth and light in color. Spread onto first layer.

Top Layer

4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate

2 T. unsalted butter

Melt chocolate and butter over low heat in a saucepan. Cool. Spread over middle layer and place in refridgerator to cool and harden. I allowed mine to chill in the freezer for a couple hours and then cut them into squares. These treats are quite rich so small pieces go a long way. :)

The January 2010 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Naniamo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and