Monday, November 30, 2009

Award ....

Few weeks ago Anula of Anula's Kitchen gave me this wonderful award. I love her blog and often look up to her for advice on Polish dishes and food scoop in general. She is an excellent source of information and has a lot of great recipes. Her blog has the ability to take me home to my childhood and often makes me home sick for good ol Polish meal. With this being said, better late than never: THANK YOU SO MUCH ANULA!!! I appreciate this more than you know.

I will be passing this award very soon.

Pierogi making...

Few weeks ago my friend Debbie & I embarked on pierogi making...For those of you who do not know what Pierogi (plural) are, they are a dish consisting of boiled or baked dumplings of unleavened dough stuffed with varying ingredients. They are usually moon shaped. Pierogi are served in a variety of forms and tastes (ranging from sweet to salty to spicy) in Polish cuisine. Polish pierogi are often filled with fresh white cheese (farmers cheese), potatoes, and fried onions; in this form, they are called pierogi ruskie (russian) don't ask me why...Pierogi are usually served with melted butter or bacon bits. Traditionally serve two types of pierogi for Christmas Eve supper. One kind is filled with sauerkraut and dried mushrooms, another – small uszka (ears-very small pierogi) filled only with dried wild mushrooms – are served in clear borscht (beet soup)

I love pierogi but they are time consuming to make. If you attempt these, make sure that you have a buddy. Debbie and I had a great time making these, and even better time eating it.

Pierogi Dough
makes 24 pierogi

* 2 cups flour
* 1 egg
* 1/2 cup warm water
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 tablespoons oil

Mix all ingredients together lightly in bowl. Knead until smooth. Let rest, covered, 30 minutes. Using half of the dough at a time, roll out to 1/8 inch thickness.Cut circles with biscuit cutter or floured glass.

SaurKraut & Mushroom Filling:

* 1 lb sauerkraut, finely chopped
* 150 g butter, divided
* 1 onion, chopped
* 1/4 lb fresh mushrooms, diced
* pepper
* salt

Saute the sauerkraut in 1/3 of the butter. Fry the onion in 1/6 of the butter; fry the mushrooms in the remaining butter. Combine these ingredients, season with salt & pepper, and refrigerate until ready to assemble pierogi.

Potato & cheese filling:

* 2 large potatoes, cooked & mashed (1/2 cup instant or leftover mashed potatoes is fine too)
* 8 oz of cream cheese
* 1 onion, minced & sauteed in butter
* 1 tablespoon butter, melted
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* pepper, to taste

I use Vegeta seasoning in place of salt. You can find it in a supermarket in Ethnic section.

Combine all of the ingredients listed under filling and refrigerate until ready to assemble pierogi.


Thursday, November 26, 2009


Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you have a safe, delicious holiday! Enjoy your turkey and fixings. I think the best part of the any holiday is desert. I'll post some recipes for my holiday feast but in the meantime, I wanted to share some laughs with all of you. My friend Debbie emailed this to me the other day... Hope you'll have a good laugh. Apparently this is the way the pumpkin pie is really made. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cranberry-Pomegranate Sauce and POM Wonderful

I was recently approached by Molly at POM Wonderful. I was so excited to see Molly's email offering me some Pomegranate juice. POM Wonderful is a global brand committed to innovation and wellness. They grow and market pomegranates and pomegranate-based products that have amazing health benefits. A 2005 study published in the American Journal of Cardiology showed improved blood flow to the heart in patients drinking 8oz daily of POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice for 3 months.
Researchers studied a total of 45 patients with coronary heart disease who had reduced blood flow to the heart.Patients drinking POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice experienced a 17% improvement in blood flow, compared to an 18% worsening in patients drinking a placebo. THANK YOU SO MUCH MOLLY FOR YOUR DELICIOUS CONTRIBUTION TO OUR THANKSGIVING CELEBRATION.

I generally drink it or put it in my cocktail, but this time around wanted to make something different with POM. With Thanksgiving around the corner, what can be better than Pomegranate cranberry sauce.

Cranberry-Pomegranate Sauce

1 1/2 pounds fresh or frozen cranberries (6 cups)
2 cups sugar
1 cup pomegranate juice
2 cups fresh pomegranate seeds
1 Granny Smith apple
1 cup of fresh pineapple
1 cinnamon stick

In a medium saucepan, combine the cranberries with the sugar, chopped apple, cinnamon stick and chopped pineapple and pomegranate juice. Bring to a simmer and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the cranberries have burst, about 10 minutes. Scrape the cranberry sauce into a medium bowl and let stand until cool, about 2 hours. Fold in the pomegranate seeds and serve the sauce chilled or at room temperature.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fondue Night

I've wanted to do this for a while. My sister lives in Switzerland and when we went to visit few years back I fell in love with fondue... Few days back we decided to get together for a fondue night in my house. I've made cheese and vegetable fondue as well as a chocolate version. It was so much fun!!! I will post some pictures and recipes for both fondues.

Veggie-Cheese Fondue:

* 1/4 cup milk
* 1/4 cup white wine
* 1 (8 ounce) package shredded Cheddar cheese
* 1 (8 ounce) package shredded Monterey Jack cheese
* 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
* 1/4 cup chopped green onions
* 1/4 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
* 1 teaspoon ground dry mustard
* 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
* 1 teaspoon garlic powder
* 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, mix together milk, white wine, Cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack cheese and cream cheese. Cook, stirring frequently, until melted, about 10 minutes.
2. Stir in green onions, spinach, dry mustard, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and black pepper. Continue cooking until all ingredients are well blended, about 10 minutes.
3. Transfer mixture to a double boiler or fondue pot to keep warm while serving.

Chocolate Fondue:

16 ounces semi sweet chocolate, grated
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate grated
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/3 cup hot water

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the chocolate with the heavy cream. Mix in the instant coffee, vanilla extract, sugar, and hot water. Continue to heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is smooth.

Caponata and GREAT friends

I can't seem to catch a breath these days...I've been trying to update my blog in the past few days and every time I seat down to do that, something else needs my attention...Ohhh, the joys of parenthood :) I'm sure those of you who have children can relate to that very well... I am fortunate enough to have a group of friends, who help elevate some of the pain that comes with working full time, raising children, balancing marriage and family. We get together as often as we can to catch up, enjoy glass or two of wine and just get away I often wonder how I've ever done it without them. They are such a GREAT support system!!!

This is one of the recipes I often make when we get together. It is very easy to make, delicious and healthy. This recipe comes from Gourmet, September 2006 issue.

* 2 lb small Italian eggplants (about 4)
* 1 tablespoon kosher salt or 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
* 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
* 4 medium celery ribs, cut crosswise into very thin
* 1/3 cup large green Sicilian olives (1 3/4 oz), pitted and coarsely chopped
* 1 3/4 oz Italian capers packed in salt (1/3 cup), rinsed well
* 2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
* 1/3 cup white-wine vinegar
* 1 (14- to 15-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice, drained and chopped (1 cup)

Peel eggplants, leaving some strips of peel, then cut into 1-inch cubes and spread on half of a kitchen towel. Sprinkle eggplant with salt, then cover with other half of towel and weight with a baking sheet topped with 2 or 3 large cans for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1/2 cup oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook onion, stirring, until pale golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Add celery and cook, stirring, until onion and celery are deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add olives, capers, and 2 tablespoons sugar and cook, stirring, 2 minutes, then stir in vinegar and tomatoes.

Reduce heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. If sauce is very acidic, add 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar (to taste). Transfer to a bowl and keep warm, covered.

Rinse eggplant in a colander under running water, then squeeze dry in small handfuls.

Heat remaining cup oil in cleaned skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then fry eggplant in 2 batches, turning occasionally with tongs, until tender and browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Transfer as cooked to paper towels to drain, then transfer to a large shallow serving dish in an even layer. Spoon sauce on top, spreading evenly, and let stand, covered with a kitchen towel, at room temperature, at least 8 hours (for flavors to develop). Stir before serving.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Pumpkin Pancakes

I haven't blogged or cooked as much as I wanted lately... Things have been crazy with family and school change... Normally this is a favorite time for me to cook and bake. I love the pumpkin season and you would never know that by looking at my blog. I did not explore pumpkin as much as I would have wanted this fall. I hope I can squeeze few more recipes using pumpkin in the next few weeks to satisfy my cravings.

These are a fabulous weekend breakfast! You can also get away with serving them for dessert if you want to. Theses taste great just with a dusting of powdered sugar or with your favorite syrup. I love black currant syrup, but my husband and daughter love the maple. Whatever your choice, they are supper delicious! I hope you'll enjoy them.

Pumpkin Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vinegar

In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vinegar.

Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and salt, stir into the pumpkin mixture just enough to combine.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake.

Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Monday, November 2, 2009

BBQ Pulled Pork

This is a great recipe that practically makes itself. I found pork loin on sale last weekend and was searching for a recipe to make something delicious that my 4 year old would like to eat. It is made in a crock pot and only has 4 ingredients. I have to admit, I was sceptical about it but the finished product exceeded my expectations. Olivia had a pulled pork sandwich for dinner tonight and she cleaned her plate, which almost never happens...She came to me after dinner and said:" Mommy, thank you for dinner! You really know how to make the yummiest food" This is a ringing endorsement from 4 year old if I've ever heard one. Give it a try if you're looking for hands off dinner.

* 1 (4-5 pound) pork loin
* 1 (12 fluid ounce) bottle root beer
* 1 bottle favorite barbecue sauce ( I used Bulls Eye Original)
* Hamburger buns, split and lightly toasted

Place the pork loin in a crock pot and pour the root beer over the meat. Cover and cook on low until well cooked and the pork shreds easily, 8 hours. Drain well. Stir in barbecue sauce. Serve over hamburger buns.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Great Weekend and an Award!

Kitty of Fahrenheit350 gave me the: Honest Scrap Award! This award is gifted to blogs that are encouraging, inspiring, or brilliant. THANK YOU SO MUCH KITTY!!! When I first started blogging, I've never thought that I will be a part of such great community! In the past few months since I've started, I've made lots of friends and learn so much from all of you. This award means a lot to me especially coming from Kitty. I adore her blog and visit often for inspiration, baking advice and lots of laughs.

Now, lets move on to my favorite part, which is passing the award to my favorite bloggers... First and foremost, I'd like to give this to Bea,who is hands down my favorite Polish Blog. Bea's blog inspires me daily and every time I visit I want to run to my kitchen and start cooking.

I also would like to take this opportunity and give this award to few more of my favorite bloggers who teach and inspire me. Thank you all!

Heather is at home.

Cooking Gallery.

The English

Sweet & Savory Somethings.

Food for a Hungry Soul.

Valerie's Attempt at Pondering.

Once again, a BIG THANK YOU to Kitty for this fantastic award. You've made my day!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers- Blue Cheese Souffle

The second October's recipe for Barefoot Bloggers was chosen by Summer of Sexy Appartment. She choose the Blue Cheese Souffle. My first attempt in souffle making was a success. It was a great hit! I will definitely try it again.

* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the dish
* 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling
* 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 1 cup scalded milk
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
* Pinch cayenne pepper
* Pinch nutmeg
* 4 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
* 3 ounces good Roquefort cheese, chopped
* 5 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
* 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Butter the inside of an 8-cup souffle dish (7 1/2 inches in diameter and 3 1/4 inches deep) and sprinkle evenly with Parmesan.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the hot milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, the cayenne, and nutmeg. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, until smooth and thick.

Off the heat, while still hot, whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time. Stir in the Roquefort and the 1/4 cup of Parmesan and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Put the egg whites, cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low speed for 1 minute, on medium speed for 1 minute, then finally on high speed until they form firm, glossy peaks.

Whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the cheese sauce to lighten and then fold in the rest. Pour into the souffle dish, then smooth the top. Draw a large circle on top with the spatula to help the souffle rise evenly, and place in the middle of the oven. Turn the temperature down to 375 degrees F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (don't peek!) until puffed and brown. Serve immediately.

Short Rib Chili

George and I went to Chili Cook off recently and sampled great chili creations but there was a clear winner among them for us. Short Rib Chili. I've never heard of short rib chili before but knew I had to try to make it. I did not have a recipe for this but I've adapted several different recipes to make it come together. If you'd like beans in your chili you can certainly add it, but this chili does not need it in my opinion.

* 2 heads of garlic
* 4 1/2 pounds beef short ribs
* 3 quarts water
* 1 white onion, quartered

* 3 tomatoes (about 12 ounces), halved
* 1/2 large white onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
* 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

* 16 dried guajillo chilies* (about 2 ounces), stemmed, halved, seeded
* 3 large dried ancho chilies* (about 2 ounces), stemmed, halved, seeded

* 2 teaspoons ground cumin
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
* Pinch of ground cloves
* 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar

Cut 1 head of garlic crosswise in half. Place in large pot with ribs, 3 quarts water, and quartered onion. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered until meat is cooked through, about 50 minutes. Strain, reserving 6 cups meat broth (discard onions and garlic). Reserve ribs. You can pull the meat of the bone into small pieces or cut it into small dice.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Wrap remaining head of garlic tightly in foil and place directly on oven rack. Place tomatoes and sliced onion on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast garlic, tomatoes, and onion until tender, about 1 hour. Transfer tomatoes and onion to processor. Using fingers, squeeze garlic from papery skin into processor. Blend until smooth. Set tomato sauce aside.

Place guajillo and ancho chilies in medium bowl. Add 4 cups reserved meat broth. Let stand 30 minutes. Transfer mixture to processor and blend until smooth. Strain chili sauce into medium bowl, pressing on solids in strainer with rubber spatula to extract as much liquid as possible.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add chili sauce; simmer 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, cumin, oregano, and cloves. Simmer 5 minutes. Add ribs, vinegar, and remaining 2 cups meat broth. Add meat. Bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until sauce is thick, about 50 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium-high heat until hot.)

Monkey Bread

Next on the agenda is Monkey Bread! It is a crowd pleaser and children's favorite! This recipe is from SW Steakhouse @ Wynn Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. The recipe calls for bundt pan but I've decided to give it a shot and bake it in a loaf pan. It is semi-homemade recipe as it calls for refridgerator biscuits.

* Flour, for pan
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 30 buttermilk canned refrigerator biscuits
* 1 stick butter, plus more for pan
* 1/2 cup brown sugar
* 1 cup walnuts


Butter and flour a bundt pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine sugar and cinnamon. Cut refrigerator biscuits in half and toss in cinnamon and sugar mixture. Melt the 1 stick of butter in a saucepan and add brown sugar and bring to a boil; then add nuts. Line the bundt pan with biscuits and pour butter mixture over them.

Bake for about 30 minutes. Remove from the pan when it's still hot to avoid sticking. It might take longer to bake depending on your oven.

Banana Bread

For the past few weeks I cooked, taken pictures and enjoyed all kinds of amazing dishes, but I did not have time to do any posting...So, here it is: few weeks back Kim of Stirring the Pot who has a great blog, posted a recipe for banana bread with cream cheese glaze I thought sounded delicious! Since I've had some bananas lying around I thought it would be a great opportunity to give it a try! I was not sorry. The bread was great and cream cheese glaze made it extra special! If you are a fan of banana bread definitely give this recipe a try. This recipe is from Flour Bakery & Cafe in Boston, MA.

* 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 4 large eggs at room temperature for 30 minutes
* 2 1/3 cups sugar
* 1 cup vegetable oil
* 3 cups coarsely mashed very ripe bananas (6 large)
* 1/4 cup crème fraîche
* 2 teaspoons vanilla
* 1 1/3 cups walnuts (4 ounces), toasted and chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 (9- by 5- by 3-inch) metal loaf pans, then dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Sift together 3 1/4 cups flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a bowl.

Beat together eggs and sugar in bowl of electric mixer at medium-high speed until very thick and pale and mixture forms a ribbon when beater is lifted, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add oil in a slow stream, mixing, then mix in bananas, crème fraîche, and vanilla. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in flour mixture and walnuts gently but thoroughly.

Divide batter between loaf pans, spreading evenly, and bake in middle of oven until golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Cool loaves in pans on a rack 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack. Turn loaves right side up and cool completely.

Cream cheese glaze recipe you can find @ Stirring the Pot

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pumpkin Ribbon Bread with dried cranberries and walnuts

I've been doing some fall baking lately and since it is a pumpkin season, I had to make a my very favorite Pumpkin Ribbon Bread with dried cranberries and walnuts. It is a very easy and quick recipe that produces amazing results. The bread is very moist and delicious. The cream cheese and cranberries provide a little tang to balance the sweetness of the pumpkin...very yummy.


6 oz of softened cream cheese
1/3 cup of sugar
1 TBSP of flour
1 egg
2 tsp. of grated orange peel

Beat cream cheese, sugar and flour in a bowl. Add egg and orange peel and mix together. Set aside.


1 cup of canned pumpkin
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of cloves
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1 2/3 cup of flour
1 tsp of baking soda
1 cup of chopped walnuts
1 cup of dried cranberries

Prepare two medium loaf pans by spraying it with non stick spray. Combine pumpkin, oil and eggs in a bowl. Add sugar, spices, flour and baking soda. Mix till combine. Add walnuts and cranberries. Mix to blend. Pour 1/4 of the bread batter into each loaf pan. Carefully add cream cheese batter and follow it with the reminder of the bread batter. Bake @ 325'F for 1 1/2 hours or until the tooth pick comes out clean.


Grilled Eggplant Parmigiana & Picky Eater

Are your children picky eaters? If they are, you know what you have to go through every day to feed them. You learn to become creative with what you serve them and how you present it. I have to admit, it is exhausting to have to do it day in and day out. My lovely daughter Olivia is one of those kids who is very difficult to feed nutritious meals. She adores everything with tomato sauce on it, so I am trying to come up with all the things that I can add and disguise in the sauce. One of the things she really enjoys is eggplant Parmesan. I've been making it for a long time now and have several great recipes but this one is my favorite. It's healthy, easy to prepare and delicious. It does not require breading or frying, the eggplant is simply grilled and served with easy tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. If you have a picky eater in your household, give it a try, you might want to cut grilled eggplant in smaller pieces to disguise it, if your child does not like it. I hope you'll give it a try and enjoy it as much as we do!

Here is the recipe:

* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
* 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
* 1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
* 1/2 ounce finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/4 cup)
* 4 small Italian eggplants (1/2 pound each)
* 16 thin slices whole-milk mozzarella (from a 1-lb block; not fresh)

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook garlic and red-pepper flakes, stirring, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and salt and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in basil and parmesan.

Prepare a gas grill for direct-heat cooking over moderate heat.

Trim 1/4 inch off 2 opposite long sides of each eggplant. Cut each eggplant lengthwise (in same direction as trimmed sides so each slice has skin just around edge) into 4 slices. Brush slices with remaining 2 tablespoons oil.

Grill eggplant, covered, turning over once, until tender, about 6 minutes total. Transfer to a work surface.

Spread top of each slice with about 1 tablespoon tomato sauce and top with a slice of mozzarella, then restack each eggplant. Transfer stacks to a shallow baking pan and grill, covered, just until cheese is melted, about 4 minutes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Daring Cooks Challenge-Vietnamese Chicken Pho

This month's DC challenge is hosted by Jaden from Steamy Kitchen. She choose the Vietnamese Chicken Pho and another additional recipe of Sweet Wontons. I didn't get a chance to make sweet wontons.

The soup is fabulous! There is something very comforting about it. My husband and daughter loved it and requested I make it again. It is a keeper in my kitchen!!!

For the Chicken Pho Broth:

- 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
- 4 whole cloves
- 2 whole star anise
- 2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
- 1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
- 1/2 onion
- 7.5 cm chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 500 grams dried rice noodles (about 6 mm wide)


- 2 cups (200 grams) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
- fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
- 1/2 cup (50 grams) shaved red onions
- 1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges
- Sriracha chili sauce
- Hoisin sauce
- Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice

To make the Chicken Pho Broth: heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning. In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.
Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts. Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.
Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl. Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients.

Note: Use same spices as listed in the chicken Pho recipe for pork, seafood and vegetarian/vegan variations. The beef variation lists it’s unique spices in the recipe.

As I did only part of this month's challenge I encourage you to check blogs of my fellow Daring Cooks and see what they've made. You can find them here.

Bon appétit!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Blue Cheese Dressing

Do you buy salad dressing? I don't... I know what you're thinking, what??? She does not buy a salad dressing??? No, I don't...There is something about a bottle of dressing that has been seating in your fridge for weeks or months and still appears to be good... I often wonder what's in it that keeps it fresh for so just can't be good for you. Instead, I prefer to make my own, if I feel like having a salad, I just whip up a batch of my favorite and voila! One of my all time favorite is Buttermilk-chive dressing ( I'll post recipe one day) and blue cheese is close second. If you are looking for healthy/low calorie recipe, this is not one of them, although it can be made healthier but substituting most of the mayo with Greek yogurt.

I was wondering what is your favorite homemade dressing/vinaigrette? If you prefer store bought one, is there one brand that you can't live without?

Here it the recipe:

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise ( used 1 cup of Greek Yogurt and 1/2 cup of mayo)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 cup coarsely crumbled blue cheese
Buttermilk (optional)

Mix first 4 ingredients in medium bowl. Add blue cheese and stir until well blended. If too thick, thin with buttermilk by tablespoonfuls to desired consistency. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)

Shrimp Scampi

Few months ago, my foodie buddy Heather from Heather is at home had a garage sale and was selling whole bunch of her cookbooks...She was kind enough to send me some. This recipe is from one of the books, I've gotten from Heather. "Stirring the Pot" by Tyler Florence. We love shrimp scampi and addition of tomatoes to the classic recipe, was absolutely the right way to go. It is a keeper for us!

* 1 pound linguini
* 4 tablespoons butter
* 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
* 1 large shallot, finely diced
* 5 cloves garlic, sliced
* Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
* 20 large shrimp, about 1 pound, peeled and deveined, tail on
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1/2 cup dry white wine
* 1 28 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes
* 1 lemon, juiced
* 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves


For the pasta, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. When it has come to the boil, add a couple of tablespoons of salt and the linguini. Stir to make sure the pasta separates; cover. When the water returns to a boil, cook for about 6 to 8 minutes or until the pasta is not quite done. Drain the pasta reserving 1 cup of water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes (if using) until the shallots are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper; add them to the pan and cook until they have turned pink, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan; set aside and keep warm. Add wine,tomatoes and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil. When the butter has melted, return the shrimp to the pan along with the parsley and cooked pasta and reserved pasta water. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over a bit more olive oil and serve immediately.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers- Cheddar Corn Chowder

This week's Barefoot Blogger selection is Cheddar Corn Chowder and was chosen by Jill Of My Next Life

Jill chose Ina's Corn Chowder recipe. I think it's a perfect Fall soup and I've made it often through the years. I love the combination of the corn, potatoes, sharp cheddar and bacon! It is one of my go to recipes on a cold fall or winter nights.

Here it is:

Cheddar Corn Chowder
Copyright, 1999, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, All rights reserved


8 ounces bacon, chopped
1/4 cup good olive oil
6 cups chopped yellow onions (4 large onions)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
12 cups chicken stock
6 cups medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (2 pounds)
10 cups corn kernels, fresh (10 ears) or frozen (3 pounds)
2 cups half-and-half
8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated


In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.) Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Griled Brie and Tomato on a crusty bread...

I first saw this recipe on Heather's Blog and had to try it. Heather has a great way of describing food in a way that makes my mouth water.I was not dissapointed. I ended up making basil pesto instead of Arugula, but other than that pretty much followed the directions as posted. Original recipe was from Tyler Florence. You should check out Heather's Blog if you need some inspiration.

Pesto (Gourmet, September 1996)

* 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves, washed well
* 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted until golden, cooled, and chopped fine
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 1 1/2 ounces)
* 2 large garlic cloves, minced
* 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Have ready a bowl of ice and cold water. In a saucepan of boiling salted water blanch basil, a handful at a time, 2 seconds, transferring with a slotted spoon to bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain basil in a sieve and pat dry.

In a food processor purée basil with remaining ingredients until smooth and season with salt and pepper. Pesto may be made 2 days ahead and chilled, its surface covered with plastic wrap.

1 baguette, thick bias-cut slices
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 ripe tomatoes, sliced
1/2 pound Brie, sliced thin

Preheat grill to medium. Drizzle the bread slices with oil, then grill about 1 minute per side. Remove bread from grill. Spread each slice with some of the pesto. Add a layer of sliced tomato and a piece of Brie. Grill about 1 minute more, until cheese melts and the bread is nicely toasted.

Tres Leches Cupcakes

Last weekend I embarked on a cupcake baking adventure...I decided to make Tres Leches Cupcakes. I really like the traditional tres leches cake and was excited to try the cupcake version. I used the recipe from Food Network and it sounded very good and the final product tasted fantastic, but didn't look great. I think it had something to do with my oven not heating properly because they did not rise much. They instead spread out all over. I ended up having to trim the tops before I ice them. All and all It was a very yummy cupcake but I wish it looked better.

# 1/4 cup shortening
# 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
# 1 cup sugar
# 3 eggs, separated
# 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
# 1 cup all-purpose flour
# 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
# 1/2 teaspoon salt
# 3/4 cup buttermilk
# 1/2 cup evaporated milk
# 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
# 1/2 cup coconut milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening, butter, and sugar until light and fluffy on medium speed; add egg yolks 1 at a time, beating until all the yellow disappears. Add the vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add alternately with the buttermilk to the creamed mixture beginning and ending with the flour.

In a small bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold into cake batter.

Fill standard paper-lined muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to wire rack that has been placed over a baking sheet to cool.

While cupcakes are still warm, stir together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and the coconut milk. Using a meat injector needle, inject each cupcake in several different spots with about 1/2 to 3/4-ounce of the mixture. Or, poke several holes in the top of each of the cupcakes with a 1/4-inch wooden skewer. Pour the milk mixture over each cupcake while they are still warm, filling each hole. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight before icing.

Whipped cream Frosting

2 cups of whipped cream
1/4 cup of powdered sugar

Beat the cream and sugar until the stiff peaks appear.


I'm officially a blogging slacker! I can't believe that I didn't post anything for a week, it's not like I wasn't cooking! Well, enough procrastinating... As I mentioned in previous post, I love fall. I am so excited to be able to cook more soups and casseroles. One of my favorites is Greek Moussaka. Moussaka is a casserole of eggplant and ground lamb with onion and tomatoes bound with white sauce and beaten eggs. I've made some changes to the classic recipe, first I left out the white sauce and second I did not use lamb. Leaving out the white sauce made it much lighter and since we are not lamb eaters I've used ground beef. The base recipe is by Tyler Florence.

* 3 large eggplants
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
* Extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1/2 lemon, sliced in thin circles
* 1 handful fresh oregano leaves, chopped
* 2 handfuls fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
* 2 pounds ground lamb (I used ground beef)
* 1 cinnamon stick
* 3 tablespoons tomato paste
* 1 (16-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed
* 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
* 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
* 1 cup fresh bread crumbs


To prepare the eggplants: Cut off the stems, remove the skin with a vegetable peeler, and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Season all the pieces of eggplant with salt and pepper on both sides. Coat a large skillet with oil and heat over medium flame. Fry the eggplant in a single layer, turning once, until brown on both sides- you will need to do this in batches, adding more oil, as necessary. Drain the eggplant as they cook on a paper towel-lined platter.

Add a little more oil to the pan and toss in the onion, garlic, lemon slices, oregano, and parsley. Cook and stir until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the ground lamb, stirring to break up the meat; season with salt and pepper, and toss in the cinnamon stick. Stir in the tomato paste and hand-crushed tomatoes. Simmer until the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with 1/3 of the eggplant slices; they should completely cover the bottom with no gaps. Spread 1/2 of the meat sauce over the eggplant, evening it out with a spatula. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the feta and Parmesan. Repeat the layers again, ending with a final layer of eggplant. Cover the top with a nice even layer of bread crumbs. Bake the moussaka for 30 to 40 minutes or until the top is golden. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge-Vols-au-Vent Puff Pastry

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' Challenge has been chosen by Steph of a whisk and a spoon. Steph chose Vols-au-Vent. Puff pastry (aka pâte feuilletée) is something most of us usually buy at the grocery store, but in order to be really daring, we should make our own at least once in awhile, right? Kitchens should be getting cooler in the northern hemisphere, and are hopefully still cool-ish in the sourthern hempisphere, so I’m hoping you will all join me in making homemade puff pastry from Michel Richard’s recipe, as it appears in the book Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. With our homemade puff we’ll be forming vols-au-vent cases to fill with anything we chose.

So, this one was a HUGE challenge for me! I've done it couple of times (two weekends ago) and neither was a great success. I had couple of issues in my kitchen that might have contributed to it not working out so well. First, my food processor bowl in broken so I had to make my dough by hand, second, temperatures in Nevada are still in the 100'F, so I had issues with the pastry staying cold. I love puff pastry and was glad to be able to try it, but I have to stick to making it in the winter time, when the temperatures are much cooler. I've made chocolate mousse to fill my puff pastry, and topped it with whipped cream.

Chocolate Mousse

* 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
* 1 tablespoon cornstarch
* 1/2 cup water
* 1 large egg
* 3 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
* 1 tablespoon eau-de-vie-de framboise or raspberry liqueur
* 1/4 cup well-chilled heavy cream

In a small saucepan whisk together granulated sugar and cornstarch and add water and egg, whisking until smooth. Bring mixture to a boil over moderate heat, whisking and simmer, whisking vigorously, 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate and eau-de-vie or liqueur, stirring until chocolate is melted. Transfer mixture to a metal bowl set in a bowl of ice and cold water and beat until cold and lightened in color. In a bowl, beat cream until it just holds stiff peaks and fold into chocolate mixture gently, but thoroughly. Chill mousse, covered, at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days.

Puff pastry is in the ‘laminated dough” family, along with Danish dough and croissant dough. (In fact, if you participated in the Danish Braid challenge back in June 2008, then you already know the general procedure for working with laminated dough.) A laminated dough consists of a large block of butter (called the “beurrage”) that is enclosed in dough (called the “détrempe”). This dough/butter packet is called a “paton,” and is rolled and folded repeatedly (a process known as “turning”) to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layers you see when baked. Unlike Danish or croissant however, puff pastry dough contains no yeast in the détrempe, and relies solely aeration to achieve its high rise. The turning process creates hundreds of layers of butter and dough, with air trapped between each one. In the hot oven, water in the dough and the melting butter creates steam, which expands in the trapped air pockets, forcing the pastry to rise.

Once we have our puff pastry dough made and chilled, we are going to roll and form a portion of it into vols-au-vent, which are little puff pastry cases designed to hold a filling. I chose vols-au-vent specifically because I think they do a beautiful job of showing off the hundreds of flaky layers in the homemade puff. They can be made large enough for a full meal, or made small for little one-bite canapés, the choice is yours. Vols-au-vent are typically served hot and filled with a creamy savory filling (often poultry or seafood-based), but cold fillings, such as chicken or tuna salad, work, too. Whipped cream or pastry cream with fresh or stewed fruit often goes into sweet versions. If you are stumped for ideas for your filling(s), a quick on-line search or a glance at a traditional French cookbook will give you plenty of things to consider. I have photos of the ones I made near the bottom of this post.

Mandatory parts of the challenge: You must make Michel Richard’s recipe for puff pastry (as seen below), and form at least part of it into vols-au-vent (instructions below).

Optional parts of the challenge: You may make your vols-au-vent large or small, and may fill them with whatever you choose (savory or sweet).

-food processor (will make mixing dough easy, but I imagine this can be done by hand as well)
-rolling pin
-pastry brush
-metal bench scraper (optional, but recommended)
-plastic wrap
-baking sheet
-parchment paper
-silicone baking mat (optional, but recommended)
-set of round cutters (optional, but recommended)
-sharp chef’s knife
-cooling rack

Prep Times:
-about 4-5 hours to prepare the puff pastry dough (much of this time is inactive, while you wait for the dough to chill between turns…it can be stretched out over an even longer period of time if that better suits your schedule)
-about 1.5 hours to shape, chill and bake the vols-au-vent after your puff pastry dough is complete
Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent

Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent

In addition to the equipment listed above, you will need:
-well-chilled puff pastry dough (recipe below)
-egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water)
-your filling of choice

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.

(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d'oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)

Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.

Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.

Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)

Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.

Fill and serve.

*For additional rise on the larger-sized vols-au-vents, you can stack one or two additional ring layers on top of each other (using egg wash to "glue"). This will give higher sides to larger vols-au-vents, but is not advisable for the smaller ones, whose bases may not be large enough to support the extra weight.

*Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vols-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.

*Shaped, unbaked vols-au-vent can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from frozen, egg-washing them first).
Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

Steph’s note: This recipe makes more than you will need for the quantity of vols-au-vent stated above. While I encourage you to make the full recipe of puff pastry, as extra dough freezes well, you can halve it successfully if you’d rather not have much leftover.

There is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). They do seem to give slightly different ingredient measurements verbally than the ones in the book…I listed the recipe as it appears printed in the book.

2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter

plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.
Steph’s extra tips:

-While this is not included in the original recipe we are using (and I did not do this in my own trials), many puff pastry recipes use a teaspoon or two of white vinegar or lemon juice, added to the ice water, in the détrempe dough. This adds acidity, which relaxes the gluten in the dough by breaking down the proteins, making rolling easier. You are welcome to try this if you wish.

-Keep things cool by using the refrigerator as your friend! If you see any butter starting to leak through the dough during the turning process, rub a little flour on the exposed dough and chill straight away. Although you should certainly chill the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, if you feel the dough getting to soft or hard to work with at any point, pop in the fridge for a rest.

-Not to sound contradictory, but if you chill your paton longer than the recommended time between turns, the butter can firm up too much. If this seems to be the case, I advise letting it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to give it a chance to soften before proceeding to roll. You don't want the hard butter to separate into chuncks or break through the want it to roll evenly, in a continuous layer.

-Roll the puff pastry gently but firmly, and don’t roll your pin over the edges, which will prevent them from rising properly. Don't roll your puff thinner than about about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick, or you will not get the rise you are looking for.

-Try to keep “neat” edges and corners during the rolling and turning process, so the layers are properly aligned. Give the edges of the paton a scooch with your rolling pin or a bench scraper to keep straight edges and 90-degree corners.

-Brush off excess flour before turning dough and after rolling.

-Make clean cuts. Don’t drag your knife through the puff or twist your cutters too much, which can inhibit rise.

-When egg washing puff pastry, try not to let extra egg wash drip down the cut edges, which can also inhibit rise.

-Extra puff pastry dough freezes beautifully. It’s best to roll it into a sheet about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (similar to store-bought puff) and freeze firm on a lined baking sheet. Then you can easily wrap the sheet in plastic, then foil (and if you have a sealable plastic bag big enough, place the wrapped dough inside) and return to the freezer for up to a few months. Defrost in the refrigerator when ready to use.

-You can also freeze well-wrapped, unbaked cut and shaped puff pastry (i.e., unbaked vols-au-vent shells). Bake from frozen, without thawing first.

-Homemade puff pastry is precious stuff, so save any clean scraps. Stack or overlap them, rather than balling them up, to help keep the integrity of the layers. Then give them a singe “turn” and gently re-roll. Scrap puff can be used for applications where a super-high rise is not necessary (such as palmiers, cheese straws, napoleons, or even the bottom bases for your vols-au-vent).

Friday, September 25, 2009

Greek Yogurt Obsession-Part 2

Continuing with the Greek Yogurt recipes... I present to you a great snack recipe. It is not only delicious but good for you! I'm posting an original recipe, which I doctored up a bit. I used strawberries instead of apples, almonds instead of walnuts and dried cranberries instead of raisins and skipped the cinnamon...I guess I changed it completely...LOL I hope you enjoy it!

16 oz of Plain Greek Yogurt
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 tsp of honey
1 medium, diced apple
1/4 cup of chopped walnuts
1/4 cup of raisins

Mix all the ingredients and enjoy.

Greek Yogurt Obsession-Part 1

I admit...I'm guilty!!! I am OBSESSED with Greek yogurt! I've been using it in most all recipes that call for sour cream, I baked with it, cooked with it, ate it plain, with fruit, honey etc. I've always liked yogurt and for many years have been a fan of Yoplait, that is until I found out how much sugar it contains. I was never into plain yogurt, especially the non fat variety, so when I saw a recipe for a dessert that was made entirely from Greek yogurt I was intrigued at first, but still sceptical... I ended up making Vanilla Cream Terrine with Raspberries and Blackcurrant Coulis and was amazed how great it tasted. I used Fage 0% Greek strained yogurt. I know, I know, I said that I was not a fan of non fat yogurt, but somehow, I don't mind the taste of this one. It still is very rich & smooth without the extra calories...which makes it a winner in my book!

I've gotten this recipe from Rona. We met in London couple of years ago... We were on vacation with friends and were invited to Rona & Malcolm's house for a fabulous dinner party. She served this for dessert and I fell in love... It was delicious, light and fresh- PERFECT for a summer evening! Needless to say, I left London not only with great memories but also with one of Rona's cookbooks and to this day it is one of my very favorite resources for baking and cooking in general.

For the terrine:

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
15 fl oz whipping cream
1½ x 0.4 oz sachets gelatin powder
3 oz caster sugar
15 fl oz Greek yogurt

For the blackcurrant coulis:

8 oz blackcurrants
3 oz caster sugar

To garnish:

6 oz raspberries
fresh mint leaves

You will also need a plastic box measuring 4 x 4 x 4 inches (10 x 10 x 10cm).

Begin by placing the gelatin in a cup, together with 3 tablespoons of the cream, and leave it to soak for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place the rest of the cream in a saucepan with the sugar and heat gently till the sugar has dissolved (it's important not to overheat the cream). Next, add the soaked gelatin to the warm cream and whisk everything over the heat for a few seconds. Now remove the cream mixture from the heat.

In a mixing bowl, stir the yogurt and vanilla together, then pour in the gelatin cream mixture through a sieve. Mix very thoroughly and pour the whole lot into the plastic box, allow to cool, then cover and chill in the fridge for at least 4-6 hours or preferably overnight until it's set.

Meanwhile, make the blackcurrant coulis by sprinkling them with the sugar in a bowl. Leave to soak for 30 minutes, and then you can either sieve them directly back into the bowl or, to make the sieving easier, whiz them first in a food processor then sieve into the bowl. Taste to check that you have added enough sugar, then pour into a jug and chill until you're ready to serve the terrine.

To serve, turn the terrine out on to a board, first sliding a palette knife around the edges to loosen it, then giving it a hefty shake. Then cut into six slices. Arrange each slice on a serving plate, spoon a little blackcurrant coulis over opposite corners of each one and decorate with the fresh raspberries and mint leaves.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

For the love of cheesecake

We are big cheesecake lovers in our house...Every celebration is a great excuse to make a cheesecake. My husband loves all different variation of it, from original to chocolate to any other imaginable combination...that being said, we always end up with leftovers and most of the time we end up throwing it away or worse...I end up having a desert everyday for couple of weeks. Neither one of these options is great, so I decided to take matters in my own hands and find a way to still satisfy the cravings for cheesecake but not having tons of leftovers.

Few months ago, Williams-Sonoma had their semi-annual sale, and of course I went a little crazy. One thing that I was very excited to find was mini cheesecake pans. I thought if I can make a bite size pieces of cheesecake, I can freeze them, so we can have it whenever we feel like it. The pan by the way is a BRILLIANT invention! You can use it not only for cheesecakes, but tea cakes, even individual potato gratins.

So, after months of anticipation I decided to take a plunge and make a batch of those tasty little morsels. I've made an original recipe cheesecake but dressed it up by covering one is chocolate ganache, another by adding some strawberries and adding sugar topping to the next, my take on creme brulee cheesecake. The recipe is very simple and easy to prepare, they also bake very fast because of their size.

For the crust:

1 cup of cookie crumbs
2 TBSP of sugar
Pinch of salt
2 TBSP of butter, melted

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix till combined. Divided the crust mixture among the 12 cups and press it to the bottom of the mold. Bake @ 300'F for 10 minutes.

For the filling:

16 oz of cream cheese soften
2 Eggs
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/2 of sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp of vanilla extract

In the bowl of electric mixer, beat together cream cheese and sugar and cream until smooth, add eggs one at the time, followed by heavy cream and salt and vanilla. Pour the batter into the crust, dividing it evenly among the cups. Bake until the cheesecakes are just set, about 20 minutes. Let it cool completely before un-molding and then cool in a fridge for 2 hours more.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Apple Cider Caramel Cake

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE fall! Now, that weather is cooling off I can't wait to do some baking. Katy of Food for a Hungry Soul made this incredible German Apple cake recently that got me thinking about one of my favorite recipes. I've been making this cake for at least 10 years now and it is a HIT every time I serve it. It is a moist pound cake-like concoction filled with apples cooked in apple cider....just perfection. I can't wait for fall every year to be able to make this cake. I;m not sure why they call it caramel cake as there is really no caramel in it. This time it looks more pale than usual due to my oven acting up but still delicious! I hope you love it as much as I do and THANK YOU KATY for inspiration.

* 2 1/4 cups apple cider, divided
* 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
* 1 tablespoon stick margarine or butter
* 3 cups sliced peeled cooking apple (such as Braeburn, Rome, or McIntosh)
* Cooking spray
* 2 1/2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
* 1/2 cup stick margarine or butter, softened
* 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
* 1 (8-ounce) block fat-free cream cheese
* 3 large eggs
* 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
* 3 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Bring 2 cups cider to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan over high heat. Cook until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 20 minutes). Reduce heat to medium-high; stir in 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Cook 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves and cider is thick and dark-colored, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cool 1 minute. Stir in 1 tablespoon margarine. Stir in apple; cook 15 minutes over medium-high heat or until the liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; cool. (If apple mixture hardens, place it over low heat until softened).

Preheat oven to 325°.

Coat a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; dust with breadcrumbs.

Combine 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1/2 cup margarine, lemon rind, and cream cheese in a large bowl; beat at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold in apple mixture. Pour into prepared pan; bake at 325° for 1 1/2 hours or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Combine 1/4 cup cider, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and vanilla; let stand until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Cool cake in pan 5 minutes, and pierce with a wooden skewer in several places. Pour cider mixture over cake in pan, and let stand 10 minutes. Remove from pan, and cool completely on a wire rack. Sift powdered sugar over top of cake.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Accident, TLC & Broccoli, Red Pepper, and Cheddar Chowder

This soup is my week's contribution to Soup Sundays-- Deb at Kahaka Kitchen's weekly blog group where you can submit your posting for a soup, soup-like meal, salad and sandwiches. Click here for more information.

On Tuesday afternoon I got a call from my daughter's school and was told that she was hurt... She apparently was pushed by one of her classmates and fell on her face...For a moment my heart stopped because when she was 19 months old she fell in the same manner and knocked out her front tooth and the other 6 were loose. Thankfully we were able to save the loose teeth back then and not having to do a root canals on all of them. When I was told that she fell and hit her face I feared that she lost more teeth, but I was assured that only ONE of her teeth was loose and her lip was badly cut. I understand that they do not want me to panic but what's with: " She is OK now, she has a badly cut & bruised lip and one tooth is loose but you do not have to pick her up now" What the #$@@$$%? Let me tell you, when I went to get her (right after I got a call) she looked like she was in a head on collision with a wall, her tooth was the least of my worries...her lips looked so bad I thought she will need stitches for sure. I immediately took her to see a doctor, who couldn't tell if we will be able to save the tooth, her lip did not need stitches but she was put on antibiotic to prevent infection. I have to take her to see the dentist after her lip will heal enough so they can take x-rays and determine if the front tooth can be saved. The only cancellation is that she is 4 years old and those are baby teeth. Here is a picture of Olivia missing one tooth already.

Since this incident she of course can't eat all the things that she normally would, so I have to be creative with what I serve her...It seems that soup is a good solution. Olivia loves cheddar-broccoli soup so I decided to make a variation of it for her. This recipe comes from Gourmet Magazine, December 2001 issue. It was a nice variation of the classic flavors. I liked the addition of red pepper and potato. It was a truly delightful soup! You will really love it if you are a fan of cheddar-broccoli.

* 1 small head broccoli (1/2 pound)
* 1 large boiling potato (1/2 pound)
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
* l large garlic clove, finely chopped
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
* 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 3/4 cup heavy cream
* 6 oz sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated (1 1/2 cups)

Discard tough lower third of broccoli stem. Peel remaining stem and finely chop. Cut remaining broccoli into very small (1-inch) florets. Cook florets in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking, then drain. Reserve 3 cups cooking water for chowder.

Peel potato and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Cook potato, onion, bell pepper, broccoli stems, and garlic in butter in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add cumin, salt, pepper, and mustard and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add reserved cooking water and simmer (partially covered), stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in cream and cheese and cook, stirring, until cheese is melted, then season with salt and pepper.

Purée about 2 cups of chowder in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids) and return to pot. Add florets and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 2 minutes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Artichoke Toast

I just wanted to do a quick "drive by" post... I've been very busy in the past few days and didn't get a chance to do much cooking. I had this appetizer in a Spanish-Tapas restaurant called Firefly on Paradise and LOVED it. If you are ever in Las Vegas, you difinitely have to give it a try. The serve UNBELIEVABLE Sangria and hundreds of tapas, hot, cold,vegetarian, meat, seafood etc. You can check out Firefly Menu Here. You can imagine how excited I was when I found the recipe. It is a fabulous appetizer that you'll find yourself craving all the time. I hope you'll give it a try and fall in love with it as much as I did.

* 1 (12-ounce) can quartered artichokes
* 4 ounces lemon juice
* 4 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 tablespoon kosher salt
* 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
* 1-ounce whole coriander seeds
* Dash hot sauce
* 1 loaf baguette, sliced 1/2-inch thick, brushed with a mixture of olive oil, garlic, salt, black pepper, rosemary, and thyme
* Garlic Aioli, recipe follows
* Quartered, marinated artichoke hearts, for garnish
* 1 roasted red pepper, peeled, seeded, and sliced
* 1-ounce fresh basil leaves, very thinly sliced


In a large bowl, combine the artichokes, lemon juice, olive oil, pepper, salt, parsley, coriander seeds, and hot sauce; mix well. Refrigerate and marinate overnight.

Preheat the oven broiler and spread the bread slices onto a baking sheet. Broil the bread slices until they are toasted. Spread the sliced bread generously with Garlic Aioli, top with a marinated artichoke, a strip of red pepper, and then sprinkle with basil. Serve immediately.

Garlic Aioli:

2 eggs*

1 tablespoon Thai chili-garlic sauce (recommended: Sriracha)

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt
In a blender or food processor, combine the eggs, chili-garlic sauce, lemon juice, and garlic. Pulse until well mixed, and then slowly pour in the olive oil and continue processing until the mixture is thick and creamy. Season, to taste, with salt.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Daring Cooks Challenge-Indian Dosas

This month's Daring Cooks Challenge was hosted by Debyi from Healthy Vegan Kitcchen, she chose Indian Dosas. It was a great recipe and I enjoyed making it. I didn't make any changes with the exception of pureeing the sauce. I didn't like the texture of the original sauce. The flavors were excellent and I will be making it again. Thanks Debyi!!!

Here is the recipe:

Indian Dosas

This recipe comes in 3 parts, the dosas, the filling and the sauce. It does take awhile to make, but the filling and sauce can be made ahead and frozen if need be. You can serve them as a main course with rice and veggies, or as an appetizer. This does take a little planning ahead, so make sure you read the recipe through before starting (I forgot & didn't start making the rice until everything was ready, oops).

Serves 4

Equipment needed:
large bowl
griddle or skillet
ladle (or large spoon)
vegetable peeler &/or knife
large saucepan
food processor or bean masher

Dosa Pancakes

1 cup (120gm/8oz) spelt flour (or all-purpose, gluten free flour)
½ tsp (2½ gm) salt
½ tsp (2½ gm) baking powder
½ tsp (2½ gm) curry powder
½ cup (125ml/4oz) almond milk (or soy, or rice, etc.)
¾ cup (175ml/6oz) water
cooking spray, if needed

Dosa Filling
1 batch Curried Garbanzo Filling (see below), heated

Dosa Toppings

1 batch Coconut Curry Sauce (see below), heated
¼ cup (125gm) grated coconut
¼ cucumber, sliced

Dosa Pancakes

1.Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, slowly adding the almond milk and water, whisking until smooth.
2.Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray your pan with a thin layer of cooking spray, if needed.
3.Ladle 2 tablespoons of batter into the center of your pan in a circular motion until it is a thin, round pancake. When bubbles appear on the surface and it no longer looks wet, flip it over and cook for a few seconds. Remove from heat and repeat with remaining batter. Makes 8 pancakes.

Curried Garbanzo Filling

This filling works great as a rice bowl topping or as a wrap too, so don't be afraid to make a full batch.

5 cloves garlic
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced (red, yellow or orange are fine too)
2 medium hot banana chilies, minced
2 TBSP (16gm) cumin, ground
1 TBSP (8gm) oregano
1 TBSP (8gm) sea salt (coarse)
1 TBSP (8gm) turmeric
4 cups (850gm/30oz) cooked or canned chick peas (about 2 cans)
½ cup (125gm/4oz) tomato paste

1.Heat a large saucepan over medium to low heat. Add the garlic, veggies, and spices, cooking until soft, stirring occasionally.
2.Mash the chickpeas by hand, or in a food processor. Add the chickpeas and tomato paste to the saucepan, stirring until heated through.

Coconut Curry Sauce

This makes a great sauce to just pour over rice as well. This does freeze well, but the texture will be a little different. The flavor is still the same though. My picture of this sauce is one that I had made, had to freeze, then thaw to use. It tastes great, but the texture is a little runnier, not quite as thick as it was before freezing.

1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic
½ (2½ gm) tsp cumin, ground
¾ (3¾ gm) tsp sea salt (coarse)
3 TBSP (30gm) curry powder
3 TBSP (30gm) spelt flour (or all-purpose GF flour)
3 cups (750ml/24oz) vegetable broth
2 cups (500ml/24oz) coconut milk
3 large tomatoes, diced

1.Heat a saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and garlic, cooking for 5 minutes, or until soft.
2.Add the spices, cooking for 1 minutes more. Add the flour and cook for 1 additional minute.
3.Gradually stir in the vegetable broth to prevent lumps. Once the flour has been incorporated, add the coconut milk and tomatoes, stirring occasionally.
4.Let it simmer for half an hour.
Happy eating!