Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blackberry Crostata

I really enjoyed this months Daring Baker's Challenge.  So much so that I decided to make it the theme for this week.  I've also been really busy, and crostatas are super easy to make!  For todays installment of the crostata, I decided to bring back summer.  How am I going to do this you ask? 

I'm going to pull out some of my freezer jam.  Blackberry-lemon jam that I canned and put in the freezer back at the peak of blackberry season.  The weather around here is starting to turn cold and I needed a little warming up.  The best part about making summertime jam is enjoying it in these darks days of the fall and winter.  After tasting this crostata, a friend remarked on how bright it was.  A strange, yet appropriate, description of this dessert.

If you didn't preserve any berries this summer don't worry.  Store-bought jam will still fill this crostata perfectly.  I only made minor modifications to the first pasta frolla recipe, omitting the lemon zest.  The blackberry-lemon jam was lemony enough and didn't need back-up in the crust.  If you use plain blackberry jam then you should definitely include the tsp of lemon zest, you'll get a great tang.

So no recipe for today, just refer yourself back to the Pasta Frolla and the Blackberry-lemon jam!  Instead of a lattice top I decided to decorate with cut-out stars, because it was fun!  This one only took 30 minutes in the oven until it was golden.  You can see how it pulled away from the pan, this is what you want.  Eat up and don't forget to vote for your favorite holiday cookie!

Monday, November 29, 2010

White Chocolate Pastry Cream Crostata

I’m back on the coast! Who knew that not baking or cooking for five days could be so hard? Luckily I have come back with some delicious recipes for you! First we’ll get started with this months Daring Baker’s challenge! I actually tried a couple variations of the challenge, so get set for a week of crostatas!

What is a crostata you ask? Why it is an Italian dessert with a sweet pastry crust, filled with any number of fantastic mixtures. The crust is a pasta frolla, made from flour, sugar, butter and eggs. So simple the dough can be made in five minutes and you can have a crostata an hour later! A little information about our Daring Bakers challenger…

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of Briciole. She chose to challenge the Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating well.

The first crostata that I will tantalize your taste buds with is a traditional crust with a dash of lemon zest, filled with a white chocolate pastry cream. I have to say, of the three that I made, it was my favorite. Although they were all pretty amazing. This would make a perfect dessert for the holidays, so get yourself some white chocolate and get ready to be Italian.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Empty Kitchen

So I'm officially on vacation! I flew out of Connecticut last night an returned to my old stomping grounds of Amherst, New York. I had some major plans to make you (and boyfriend) a lovely dinner tonight. I am faced with one major problem as I enter boygriends kitchen, no pots, pans or cooking utensils! Boyfriend is in the process of selling his house and therefore lots of things have been packed in preparation for the move East. I have also been thwarted in my posting plans since his home computer is currenty out of commision. So I am writing this little post from my phone!

So I hope that all of your cooking plans this week go a lot smoother than mine! Things should look up tomorrow, when I am cooking in my moms kitchen.

Happy November to all! Here's hoping that wherever you are, it's sunny.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

I have to say, sometimes I am disappointed by a recipe. It holds all that promise, sitting there on the glossy pages of a new cookbook. I have all the ingredients in the fridge and pantry. It seems as though everything is coming together perfectly. Then that first taste, disappointment. That is what happened with these muffins. Look at the pictures, they aren’t even that spectacular to look at. Plain, simple, boring, lemon poppy seed muffins.

The lemon flavor was too mild, the poppy seeds gave nothing to enhance the muffins. I was so sad. Although I did eat each and every one of them. It’s amazing what a little butter can do to spruce up a less than successful muffin recipe. So if you are in the mood for kinda boring muffins, here’s a recipe. I might suggest sprinkling the tops with sugar before baking. You know the kind. The HUGE sugar crystals? What are they called? Anyways, that might pump up these muffins from their current BORING status. So sad. Sad sad muffins.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Macarons

There are some things that I have not been able to succeed at. Roller blading without looking like a starfish. Maintaining a sleek hairstyle while living on the East coast. Avoid meeting the other people that live in my building. Try as I might I just cannot manage to accomplish any of these tasks. I mean, I go rollerblading with boyfriend and he skates circles around me. Literally. He takes great joy in circling me like a shark as I stumble and try to maintain an upright posture. Is it so bad to use the trees as methods to stop? Why else are there trees on the bike path?

While living in Colorado I enjoyed month after month of humidity-free days. My hair never looked to good. In fact, in the two years that I lived in Colorado I never once got a haircut. It was so well behaved I was able to wash and wear. Run out the door without being concerned about the craziness that would take over my head later in the day. The East coast hates me, or at least my hair. I step outside of my apartment building and the little frizzies start to creep in. Just this morning a gentle mist in the air destroyed my perfectly straightened hair. Just the right amount of curl at the end. Then BAM! Humidity, blast.

But one thing was not going to beat me. I would succeed at the French Macaron! These cookies are the talk of the culinary world. Adorable little cookies, filled with decadent frostings, ganaches and jams. Walk by a shop that sells them and you encounter a rainbow of cookies. Do a Google search and you’ll find so many different suggestions and recipes. There are cookbooks about macarons being published every month (I have three!). Yet with all this information, there is nothing to do but throw yourself in the deep end and give them a go.

My first attempt was less than successful. The macarons rose like cookies. They were feet-less monsters. Yet I still filled them with peanutbutter and ate every single one of them. Yes, the texture was off, but they still tasted delicious.

My second attempt, armed with a new cookbook, was much better. Weighing out the ingredients and following the directions perfectly I was rewarded with cute little chocolate cookies. Shiny tops with a high foot (or pied, as the French would call them), my macarons were beautiful. And since I’m a sucker for the chocolate peanut butter combo (and I was too lazy to whip up a ganache at ten o’clock at night) I sandwiched them with Jif. Fantastic. Even better after sitting in the fridge for a few days.

Give these cookies a try. All you need in patience, and a good recipe to use up all those leftover egg yolks. I recommend making pie (more to come!)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A lofty goal

One day I'd like to be able to make fancy pastries.  Until then I'll settle for buying them!  Like this tasty apple streudel from Innsbruck, Austria.  I highly recommend getting streudel when in Central Europe!

Mmmm, Streudel!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 - Stuffing Cupcakes

I saved the best, and my favorite, for last. Stuffing may not be the most healthy thing in the world, but it is what reminds me of thanksgiving the most. It’s not the smell of roasted turkey or the pumpkin pie, it’s the stuffing. Although I don’t know if you call this stuffing, since it’s not stuffed inside a turkey. Does that make this dressing? Whatever, it’s delicious.

This year I’ve taken my traditional stuffing and portioned it out in handy cupcake form! It’s a Cupcake 24-7/Thanksgiving 2010 post! Don’t fall out of your chair. Also, I want you to get some more nutrients, so this stuffing is packed with fruits and whole grains. And a half a stick of butter. What? It was necessary! Just eat it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 - Sage Oven Fries

Okay, I’ve said it before. Potatoes at Thanksgiving time should be mashed. However, this year, for our healthy goals, we are having them baked. I know, I know. Sacrilege. When I read this recipe I just knew that it would fit in so well with our health conscious goals, plus these potatoes are so pretty! Roasted potatoes with crispy sage leaves, yum. Enjoy.

Sage Oven Fries

This recipe is said to serve four people (three slices a piece).  If you are having more people simply scale!  The sage leaves get all crispy and the potatos get this amazing crust on the edges.  You won't miss mashed potatos one bit!  Okay, maybe a little.  If you want to splurge then feel free to use this recipe!

2 baking potatoes
Olive oil
Kosher salt
12 sage leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Wash your potatoes and slice each potato into 6 slices. Place in a bowl and coat with olive oil and a dash of salt. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes.

Coat sage leaves with a little olive oil. Take baking sheet out of the oven. Place one sage leaf on top of each potato slice, then flip over. Cook for 10 more minutes. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 - Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls

Now I know making your own rolls sounds like a lot of work, but they are completely worth it. Buying rolls leaves a big question mark on your plate. Unless you buy your rolls from a bakery, it is likely that they have been plumped up the preservatives. Being a chemist, I will be the last person to tell you not to eat chemicals, I just think fresh tastes better! The rule of “Don’t eat anything you can pronounce” doesn’t really apply to someone who got their PhD in organic chemistry. Not only can I pronounce it, I can also draw you a picture of it.

So I made you some rolls, which I suppose could classify under the Cupcake 24-7 project. Although I can’t take credit for these rolls being in the shape of cupcakes, the recipe made the suggestion. I digress! You’ll see I’ve prepared you some traditional pull-apart rolls as well as the clover-leaf rolls. Rolls are really my favorite part of the meal. I think that everything on the plate marries well with rolls. Dunk them in gravy, use them to corral some cranberries, even use them to clean your plate. Rolls are multi-purpose food entities!

By making your rolls, you control the health quotient. I’ve modified a classic dinner roll recipe to be higher in fiber and lower in fat. Except the butter, you can’t replace the butter in the babies. They just wouldn’t be the same! Now you can prepare the dough in the morning and stop before the second rise. Cover your rolls and put them in the oven to hold them until baking. Just be sure to bring them out about two hours before dinnertime. You need to give them time to warm to room temperature and complete their second rise before baking.

Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls

1 pkg active dry yeast (2 ½ tsp)
¼ c warm water
1 c milk (I went with skim, but use whatever you have on hand)
2 tbsp sugar
2 eggs
6 tbsp butter
2 c Whole wheat flour
2 ½ c all-purpose flour (plus extra as needed)
2 tsp salt

Combine warm water and yeast in a small bowl and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Once the yeast is awake and foamy, add remaining ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a mass. Dump out onto a floured surface and knead for 5-7 minutes. Your dough with be soft and tacky, but not sticky.

Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Turn to coat the dough in oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm spot for 1 ½-2 hours, or until doubled in size (It took me about 1h 45m).

While you are waiting, spray a 9-inch round cake pan and a 12-cup muffin pan generously with spray oil.

Punch down the dough and turn out onto the counter. Cut dough in half. For the clover-leaf rolls cut dough into 12 equal portions. Then cut each piece into 3 pieces. Roll these small pieces into little balls. Place 3 balls into each muffin cup. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside.

For the pull-apart rolls, cut dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll the dough into balls. Place 7 pieces around the edge of the cake pan and one in the middle. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise for about 30-45 minutes. They should be puffy!

If you would like shiny rolls, take one egg. Beat said egg. Brush tops of the rolls with beaten egg. Heat your oven to 400 F and bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes. They should be golden brown and delicious looking. Serve as soon as you can!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 - Nutty Green Beans

Let’s keep this one simple! What else do you need for thanksgiving dinner? Sides! A friend of mine posted, just today, how she hates thanksgiving food. Can you believe it? But some things I have to agree with her about. Green bean casserole? I have never had this side dish in all my years of celebrating thanksgiving. And thanksgiving was well celebrated when I was little.

All of my aunts and uncles (my dad’s siblings to be exact), and all of my cousins, would gather in the tiny house with my tiny gram and eat lots of food. Everyone would bring something to share. My Aunt Nancy would bring squash, grown from her own garden. My mom and I would spend the morning making a very fancy jell-o dessert (it’s awesome, I’ll share some day). My Uncle Mike would bring a big pasta dish, full of cheese and deliciousness. Tiny Gram and Aunt Aileen would spend the day roasting the turkey. And some lamb. Gram didn’t like turkey.

Yet no one thought to bring a green bean casserole. I’ve seen the French’s commercials around this time of year but I had to google it to find out exactly what it entailed. And Jolene, I have to agree. Cream of mushroom soup with green beans and cheddar French fried onions? I cannot think of anything else you could do to lovely green beans to make them less healthy! Maybe mix in some cheese? So toss the fried onions and condensed soup. Get ready for some real flavor and all for only 45 calories a serving!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 - Cranberry Bars

Okay everyone, it’s time to get ready for Thanksgiving! Even if you don’t enjoy our tradition of football and food, I think you will enjoy my week of dishes. In honor of my other job, being a fitness instructor, I have decided to offer some healthier options. Monday thru Friday, enjoy a twist on the usual tradition. I’m not really a tradition kinda girl anyways. Last year I celebrated Christmas with two dogs and three cats after spending dinner with friends. The past two thanksgivings I have enjoyed a casino buffet and take-out pizza. I think the only holiday that deserves major pomp and circumstance is my birthday! No, really, Halloween. And maybe the 4th of July. I do like fireworks!

Let’s get started with the end. Dessert is the easiest to prep ahead of time. Enjoy the bounty of the fall season by incorporating cranberries into dessert. Add some pop with white chocolate and you’ve got one sweet finale to dinner. If you have the time, why not whip up some homemade ice cream to go with these treats?

But don’t be fooled by the decadent look of these cranberry bars. They are made with a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flour. The fresh cranberries (or frozen if you need!) are packed with vitamins. The walnuts add some healthy fats and these bars come in at around 150 calories a piece. Enjoy without guilt, just have someone there to hold you back from eating the whole pan-full!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Silent Sunday

Where can you find some tasty Indian food, lots of delicious pastries and hot coffee?

Maybe I should clarify...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wish List Saturday

This is a mushroom ravioli that I shared with boyfriend one evening in Venice.  It was delicious. It was high in calories.  I want to eat plates and plates of this pasta.  I will determine the secret to the rich sauce, I think it has a lot to do with heavy cream.  And butter.  And more cream.  Yum.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Apple Cider Pork chops

Dinner dinner dinner! Ring ring ring! Come and get it! Okay, that’s enough. You get the gist of it, we’re not making cookies today. We’re making Pork Chops! This came out of a moment of hunger and desperation. You know those moments. You find yourself staring into a near empty fridge, trying to decide what to make for dinner. What? All I have is a package of pork chops and a gallon of apple cider? BAH!

Luckily it all turned out okay. Apple cider makes me happy. This is why I am such a happy person in the fall. Okay, maybe it also has to do with the tons of Halloween candy I eat or the fact that I’m a fall baby and I get birthday cake. I am also that one person that orders a Caramel Apple Cider from Starbucks, in July. Reducing the apple cider deepens all the tangy, apply flavors. If you happened to make some of my cranberry chutney earlier in the week, then that would also be amazing paired with this reduction.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

Okay, so I might be doing the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge a little out of order. Can you blame me though? Once you flip through a bread book, and see a perfect loaf of cinnamon bread, you have to try it. I know, the Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread is number nine on the list of breads, but I LOVE cinnamon bread! I can even pinpoint the reason for my love of cinnamon bread.

When we were little, my brother and I never had a babysitter. While some other kids were watched by neighbors or teenage daughters of their parents friends, we got to go to the tiny house. I loved the tiny house, because in the tiny house was my tiny Gram. At Gram’s house we would spend hours in the garden, eating grapes off of the back fence. I would sit in the kitchen, organizing the cabinets. And when we were hungry, we would get toast. Toasted cinnamon raisin bread, yum.

So baking my own loaf of cinnamon raisin bread brought back so many memories from that tiny house. More of a free form loaf bread, this doesn’t have to be perfect. This recipe made for a wonderful day, filling the house with a sweet, cinnamon aroma. So this post is in honor of that tiny house and my tiny Gram who lived inside.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cupcake 24-7 - The Spaghetti & Meatball Cupcake

Are you ready for something a little crazy? We enter our second week of “Cupcake 24-7” with dinner! I know, cupcakes for dinner is wacky. I like a little protein for dinner. I like something not made of sugar and piled high with frosting. Well, you’re in luck. We at Cupcake 24-7 are not only bakers, we are also chefs. Fine dining chefs who make perfectly portioned dinners, in cupcake form. I present to you, my hungry diners, The Spaghetti & Meatball Cupcake.

Have one, maybe even two. You’ve had a long day and deserve some dinner. This is truly a savory cupcake. Although I’m not sure when cupcake ends and muffin begins, but I’m pretty sure it’s not with the spaghetti cupcake. A little bit ridiculous, a lot of tastiness, the spaghetti & meatball cupcake is a lot of fun. It’s like tapas, have one. Share a plateful of them. Laugh at how ridiculous the concept is. Just be sure to sprinkle them with parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

More birthday treats! And nothing says delicious to me more than chocolate and peanut butter. I think that I am at least 15% peanut butter. Seriously, if you present me with anything containing chocolate and peanut butter it will be gone in moments. NOM! At all times I have a supply of Reese’s mini peanut butter cups in my freezer. If there is no peanut butter in the house it is a national emergency. And yes, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a good dinner.

That means that no cookie is better than a peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie. That perfect combination of salty and sweet. I’m even known to sprinkle a little salt on top of my peanut butter cookies (I’ve been known to sprinkle salt on everything, so I guess this isn’t a stretch). With a busy week ahead of me, I decided to take fifteen minutes tonight to make myself some cookies. Plus it’s my birthday week, so it’s all good.

Monday, November 8, 2010

New England Cranberry Chutney

I’m heading to Boston this week for work and I’m reminded of the first time I went there. It was a few years ago and I was headed to a conference. Rather than just fly in for the conference and fly out once it was over, boyfriend and I decided to make a vacation out of it. Since this was during grad school we were living apart, miles apart. Boyfriend was living in Miami, Florida and I was in Madison, Wisconsin. Worlds apart!

I remember flying in, seeing all the seaside houses. “How New Englandy!” I thought. After landing, and finding boyfriend, we were ready to hit the city. I find Boston to be one of the easiest cities to get around. From the airport, you can get to the city via bus, taxi or subway. Once you get to the city it is surprisingly small. I once described Boston as a “small city” to someone from Montana. They laughed at me. But Boston really is a small city, totally walkable. This is a good thing, because boyfriend loves to walk.

Our trip to Boston was no different than any of our other vacations. We walk eighteen miles a day, eat maybe one and a half meals, and come home having lost weight. We would walk from our hotel on the southern waterfront to the North End (for cupcakes) then all of the way to Fenway. We walked from Cambridge down the length of the Charles River. I love the walking, but sometimes it gets a little out of hand (stay tuned for the Death March in St Kitts).

I remember all of the walking in Boston (have you walked the entire freedom trail? I have), I remember going to Johnny Cupcakes and being terribly disappointed, but most of all, I remember the food. In honor of the food, I brought home a cookbook from New England. This is something that I like to do, whenever I go on vacation. I have cookbooks from all over the world, in several different languages. The recipes remind me of the great times that I had in each place. Since it is fall and we are nearing thanksgiving, we’re cooking some New England Cranberry Chutney. And since it’s my birthday week, I’m pouring it on some vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Silent Sunday - Lobstre Hello

Hello!  I'm Lobstre!

Lobstre is mad at me because I'm going to Boston (his hometown) and he doesn't get to come along.  Sorry Lobstre!  His job is to watch the house (and hopefully do some dishes) while I'm away in the Bo.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


My next project...

Macarons are a hot little topic on the food blogs these days and I am sad to say I have not been able to produce a true macaron.  I've followed the recipe.  I've let them sit.  I've baked them off.  Only to be treated to foot-less, puffy, shine-less cookies.  While still delicious, I cannot properly call them macarons.

So I've been studying, buying books and eating lots of macarons!  While in Europe recently I purchased a few books about macarons.  I even got to meet chef and author, Gerard Mulot, while in Paris.  Hopefully all of this information and inspiration will soon result in shiny and delicious macarons.  Here is my first attempt, I don't feel confident enough to write out a recipe yet, so just enjoy my sad looking chocolate and peanut butter macarons...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mint Brownies

Is it Christmas yet? I’m pretty sure that it was July about a week ago and all of a sudden Halloween has gone by! And what did I do on Halloween? Perhaps I went to some crazy costume party. Or maybe I enjoyed an evening of pumpkin carving with friends. No, that’s all lies. I spent my Halloween on a train. A five hour train ride getting home from Washington, D.C. The only Halloween festivities that I saw Sunday night were the crazy people in Newark train station. I must mention that I was not out amongst the lunatics, I watched from my little train window as they reveled.

This time of year is rife with holidays, which means that the time seems to pass all that much quicker. No sooner is one holiday upon us that we are looking forward to the next. I like to go buy Halloween candy (for me to eat, not give out to cute kids), but I am confronted with chocolate Santa’s and peppermint nougats. We spend thanksgiving reading the ads for the next day’s black Friday sales. Christmas is spent deciding what you are taking back tomorrow (those pants are totally going back).

So in the spirit of enjoying every moment, I am going to spend the next several days celebrating me! Did you know that it’s my birthday next week? I will be entering into my final year as a twenty-something. So let’s spend the week celebrating with sweets! I’ll throw in something healthy every few days, but I want to celebrate with sugar! And today we start with mint and chocolate, mmm. Happy Birthday me.

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