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!

Family influences...Goat cheese & tuna Crostini

Life has a funny way of working out...when I moved to the states more than a decade ago I've never dreamed that I would make my permanent home here. I'm the oldest of 3 girls. Both of my sisters are significantly younger than I am and not shy about reminding me about it :) As many of you know I grew up in Poland. At the time of my move to USA, both my sisters were in elementary and getting ready to go to High School (we do not have junior high)They've since grown up and moved away from home...I mean AWAY, AWAY, one lives in Geneva, Switzerland and the other in London, England. We don't get a chance to see each other as often as we'd like but thanks to "Skype" we get to talk when we want and my daughter gets the chance to keep in touch with her favorite aunts and grandparents. It's been more than 10 years since we've spent holidays together (my parents and siblings) and I can't tell how ecstatic I am to be able to be with all of them this coming Christmas and New Years. We were laughing that we all have our own American-Swiss-British holiday traditions that we've picked up along the way and should celebrate international Christmas! I am so excited to see how this will turn out....I am looking forward to a fabulous celebration. It will be so good to see everybody again!!!

As with everything else, we've picked up new culinary traditions as well, and have regional favorite dishes. My sister Ala had shared with me her recipe for Goat cheese crostini. I have to say, I was a little sceptical about it at first, but I am a crostini junkie and had to try it before I made up my mind about it. The recipe calls for goat cheese and tuna, yes, I said tuna...I would never put the two together and did not expect to love this recipe...

Goat cheese crostini:

4 oz of soft goat cheese
1 3 oz can of tuna packed in oil ( you can use water packed tuna but will have to add 1 TBSP of olive oil)
1 green onion chopped
1 clove of garlic minced
salt and pepper to taste
Baguette bread or your favorite bread

Slice bread and toast it or grill it till crispy. In the meantime, mix all the other ingredients together and season to taste. Spread on the crostini and broil for couple of minutes.

I have to say that this recipe was a HUGE HIT! I love the tuna and goat cheese together! Ala, I'll be making it again for sure! Thanks sis!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Steak with mushrooms & pesto roasted potatoes...

Let me start by saying that I would be a vegetarian if it wouldn't be for great juicy steak.. I LOVE a well cooked, flavorful piece of beef. We do not eat a lot of beef in general but every now and again we indulge! I try to change things around every time I cook steak, from different marinades to side dishes. This being said if you'll ask my husband, mushrooms are always a must, so I always try to incorporate it in some way. There is something in the beef-mushroom combination that he LOVES. I served steak with rice, couscous, bread, mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, baked potatoes etc. My favorite are roasted potatoes, but they can be a little boring, so I try different variations of roasted potatoes. Here is the menu: marinated rib eye steak with pesto roasted potatoes and roasted red wine mushrooms.


Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2002 issue.

* 2/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
* 1/3 cup coarse salt
* 1/4 cup chili powder
* 1/4 cup coarsely ground black pepper
* 1 tablespoon ground cumin
* 2 teaspoons ground coriander
* 1 teaspoon ground cloves
* 9 garlic cloves, pressed
* boneless rib-eye steaks
* 3/4 cup vegetable oil

There is enough spice mixture for 8 16 oz steaks, you can cut the recipe in half if you are making fewer steaks.

Mix first 7 ingredients in medium bowl. Using fork, mash in garlic. Using 3 tablespoons spice mixture for each steak, rub spices onto both sides of steaks. Whisk corn oil into remaining spice mixture; set oil rub aside. Place steaks in two 13x9x2-inch glass dishes. Cover; chill steaks and oil rub at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush steaks with some of oil rub. Grill steaks to desired doneness, brushing occasionally with oil rub, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare; let stand 5 minutes.

Pesto-roasted potatoes:

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, June of 2002 issue.

* 8 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
* 2 large shallots
* 4 garlic cloves

* Nonstick vegetable oil spray
* 2 lbs of your favorite potatoes
* 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Blend 4 tablespoons olive oil, basil, shallots, and garlic in processor until smooth. Season basil sauce to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray large baking sheet with nonstick spray. Toss all potatoes with 4 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper in large bowl to coat. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Roast potatoes until almost tender, about 35 minutes. Pour basil sauce over potatoes and toss to coat. Continue roasting potatoes until golden brown and tender when pierced with skewer, about 20 minutes longer.

Transfer potatoes to serving bowl. Add cheese and toss to coat.

Roasted mushrooms:

# 3 lb fresh porcini mushrooms
# 6 garlic cloves, minced
# 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
# 1/4 cup dry Marsala wine
# 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
# 1 teaspoon salt
# Handful of chopped parsley

Halve or quarter larger mushrooms, keeping smaller ones whole, and transfer all to a baking pan. Toss all mushrooms with, garlic, thyme, wine, 3 tablespoons oil, salt, and pepper to taste.

Roast mushroom mixture, covered with foil, in upper third of oven are tender and golden brown, about 45 minutes total. Season mushrooms to taste with salt and pepper. Add chopped parsley and serve.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers- Sheet Cake

I am a day late with my first Barefoot Bloggers. What a crazy week I seems that every time we have a holiday weekend we pay for it by having to jam 5 days worth of work into 4 days. Thank God, the weekend is here!!! Going back to Barefoot Bloggers again...The first September recipe was chosen by Susy of Everyday Gourmet. She chose Birthday Sheet Cake. For the record, I LOVE Ina and every single recipe I've ever made of hers (and I made LOTS) I was very happy with...with this being said, I was somewhat disappointed with this one... The cake flavor was good but the ganache frosting was kind of runny and didn't quite set the way it should... I also thought that is was a boring recipe. There was nothing special about it. Essentially, it was a yellow cake with very blahhh chocolate frosting. I can't believe that I just wrote Ina and blahh in the same post but this cake didn't do anything for me. To be fair, I am not a huge cake fan, so it was a hard sale to begin with. The bottom line is that if you like yellow cake with chocolate frosting you probably will like this cake. I mentioned earlier that it was a sheet cake, but I do not like sheet cakes, so I decided to stack my cakes and make 3 layer cake covered in frosting. Here is what I've ended up with:

For the cake:

* 18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
* 3 cups sugar
* 6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
* 8 ounces (about 1 cup) sour cream, at room temperature
* 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
* 1 lemon, zested
* 3 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/3 cup cornstarch
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda

For the frosting:

* 24 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
* 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
* 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
* 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 12 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.

To make the cake, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then the sour cream, vanilla, and lemon zest, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix well. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir just until smooth. Finish mixing by hand to be sure the batter is well mixed. Pour evenly into the pan, smooth the top with a spatula, and bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan to room temperature.

For the frosting, place the chocolate chips and heavy cream in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chips are completely melted. Off the heat, add the corn syrup and vanilla and allow the chocolate mixture to cool to room temperature. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the chocolate mixture and softened butter on medium speed for a few minutes, until it's thickened.

Spread the frosting evenly on the cake. Have the children decorate the cake with chocolate candies.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Biscuits and Gravy...

Do you see the pattern here? I have been making breakfast dishes for the past few days. This morning while I was enjoying my first cup of coffee, I peeked through some of my favorite blogs... One that caught my eye was about great biscuit fraud Kate is HILARIOUS, she had me laughing out laud before I finished my coffee, which is pretty difficult to do given that I was only half awake at that time. I've never contemplated the biscuit greatness before, but thought that my recipe is pretty good, but again I am biased here. I decided to make biscuits and gravy for dinner tonight. I needed a quick recipe so I chose the cream biscuits. They are very quick and easy, and of course mighty tasty. Now, this is my variation on biscuits and gravy.


2 cups of AP Flour
2 tsp. of baking powder
1/2 tsp. of salt
2 tsp of sugar
1 1/2 cup of heavy cream

Sift the dry ingredients together, add cream and stir till just combined. Turn it out on the floured surface and knead for 30 seconds. Pat it into 1 1/2 inch thick disc and cut the biscits out, making sure not to twist the cutter. Bake in 450'F for 15-17 minutes.


1/2 medium onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 lb of sausage out of casings ( I used mild italian sausage)
2 TBSP of flour
2 cups of milk
saly & pepper to taste
couple of shakes of hot sauce

Brown sausage in the skillet, add onion and garlic and sautee till translucent. Sprinkle with flour and cook for couple of minutes, add milk and bring it to boil. Season to taste with salt, pepper and hot sauce. Gravy is ready when it thickens.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Corned Beef Hash

Corn beef hash is a one of my husband's favorites, yet I rarely make it at home. I came across the recipe in Food Network Magazine from Crooked Creek Saloon & Eatery, Fraser, CO as I was searching for some breakfast inspiration yesterday. The dish was very easy to make and used ingredients that most of us have on hand. Anytime I don't have to make an emergency supermarket run to make something, works for me :) I served it with fried egg on top.

* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 8 ounces cooked corned beef, diced ( you can use canned corned beef)
* 1 white onion, finely chopped
* 1 bell pepper, finely chopped
* 2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and shredded (about 2 cups)
* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 4 large eggs
* Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
* 4 slices cheddar cheese (about 2 ounces)


Heat the oil in a medium skillet over high heat. Add the corned beef and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it releases some fat and browns slightly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the onion, bell pepper and potatoes and cook, undisturbed, until brown and crisp on the bottom, about 6 minutes. Continue cooking, turning the hash as it browns evenly, about 15 more minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the eggs sunny-side up or over easy; season with salt and pepper.

Place the cheese slices on top of the hash, reduce the heat and let sit until the cheese melts, about 1 minute. To serve, top each portion of hash with a fried egg.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Barefoot Contessa Coffee Cake

There is nothing better than hot, steamy cup of coffee in the morning! If you are a coffee drinker you know what I mean...It does generally get the job done for me, but we had company this morning so I decided we need something to go with it! What would be better than coffee cake? Now, I love a good slice of coffee cake with my morning brew, but find that a lot of coffee cakes are bland and dry...that is not the case with this one. Ina has done it again! This cake is moist and delicious, nuts in the streusel topping add a little crunchiness which provides lovely contrast. I also added 1/2 cup of raisins to streusel.

Coffee Cake

* 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
* 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar ( I used 1 cup)
* 3 extra-large eggs at room temperature
* 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
* 1 1/4 cups sour cream ( I used Greek yogurt)
* 2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the streusel:

* 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
* 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
* 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional

For the glaze:

* 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
* 2 tablespoons real maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the walnuts, if desired.

Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake, streusel side up, onto a serving plate. Whisk the confectioners' sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water if necessary, to make the glaze runny. Drizzle as much as you like over the cake with a fork or spoon.

Breakfast Pasta-Take Two

So, I mentioned in my previous post that you can bake the leftovers of my breakfast pasta and make a casserole. I happen to have some pasta left from last night and decided to make it for breakfast. I just added 1/4 of heavy cream, mixed it together, put in a dish and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Baked it in the oven till heated through and brown on top. All the ingredients are already cooked so you are only re-heating it. It took about 25 minutes in 375'F. Take two was even better than the original. I love the variety of different textures, with soft pasta in the middle and crispy top...sooo delicious!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Breakfast Pasta

How about breakfast for dinner tonight? I decided to make a pasta dish with traditional breakfast flavors...eggs, bacon, cheese. It was a great meal and you can bake the leftovers in a casserole with some heavy cream or half and half for breakfast the next morning,so you can have two meals in one(that is, if you will have any leftovers) :) I hope you enjoy it!

1 lb spaghetti pasta
1/2 lb of bacon
2 TBSP of olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
1 cloves of garlic minced
4 eggs beaten
1 cup of Parmesan cheese (or more to taste)
Handful of chopped cilantro

Saute chopped onions and minced garlic in olive oil till translucent, remove from skillet. Cut bacon in thin strips, and render it in the skillet, transfer to paper towel to drain.

Boil and drain pasta, return to the pot it was cooked in and turn heat on high, add beaten eggs and stir till eggs are scrambled. Add onion mixture, bacon and Parmesan cheese, mix it together. Stir in cilantro leaves and serve immediately.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Electric Knife...

Anncoo from Anncoo's Hobby asked about my electric knife. I had a couple in my lifetime and definitely have a preference. My first one was a budget choice-Hamilton was a good knife and got the job done but I eventually broke it. I was carving something hard and the blade broke off the base. When the time came to replace it, I was not comfortable with getting the same knife because of safety issues.

My most recent purchase in the electric knife department was a deluxe Cuisinart model. I love that it comes with the stand and it has 2 interchangeable blades: carving blade and serrated bread blade. It is almost double the price of the Hamilton Beach one but in my book well worth the money.

I think they are both good knives, which one you'll choose for your kitchen, will depend on what you will use it for and how much money you want to invest in it.

Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Quick Avocado and Tomato Salad

I bought some avocado on sale last weekend and wanted to find a new way to use it. Generally my go to dish would be a guacamole, but I've been doing it time and time again...I found this recipe online and decided to try it, I've adjusted the seasoning a bit to our taste but it was a great combination of flavors and textures. I also added chopped cilantro, because I like the combination. Overall it was very nice weekday side dish, although the balsamic makes the avocado look "muddy".

2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and toss together.
2. Let stand for about 5-10 minutes before serving.

Jack Daniels Beef Brisket

I've had beef brisket a while ago at the BBQ and was inspired to make my own version. I've made this dish on Sunday and refrigerated it. When it was cold I used an electric knife to slice it. I ended up with much neater looking dish...You have an option here to serve it with pan drippings, or use your favorite BBQ sauce. If you are a BBQ fan, you will like this dish a lot!

1 (4 to 6 pound) beef brisket
1 medium onion, finely chopped
¼ cup Jack Daniel's Whiskey
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon liquid smoke, optional
Black pepper, to taste

Heat the oven to 300°F. Put brisket fat-side up in a roasting pan and sprinkle with the onion. Combine all the remaining ingredients in a large measuring cup. Pour over the brisket. Cover tightly with heavy duty aluminum foil. Bake about 4 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 190°F and meat is tender. Let the meat rest at least 10 minutes before carving across the grain into thin slices with a sharp knife. Serve with pan drippings.
Even better, cook the brisket a day before serving. Remove the cooked brisket from the drippings. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate overnight. Refrigerate the drippings and skim off the hardened fat the next day. Before serving, slice the brisket while it's cold for a much neater cut. Combine the meat with the pan drippings in a baking dish. Cover and reheat at 325°F for about 30 minutes or until thoroughly warm. Makes 10 servings.