Posts tagged ‘baking’

April 5, 2012

menu for a spring luncheon

ginger marinated pork tenderloin

french potato salad

sesame seed asparagus

angel food cake with strawberries

the original inspiration for this meal  fixed for a recent family dinner was from a cooking class i attended some years ago.  i particularly remember this class, sitting on a stool at a large counter feeling much like a dumpy housewife, when in swept a rail thin, beautifully dressed middle aged woman with a designer bag.  as the class progressed,  i felt so intimidated.

until she opened her mouth.

the instructor was stirring something with a simple wooden spoon.  thin lady asked: “so, this spoon, is this something all good cooks use? and are they very expensive?”  i just about fell off my stool.  she obviously thought this was basic cooking 101.  i mean really.  a wooden spoon???  it was all i could do not to holler “oh my goodness madam. yes.  we all have one.  i have six. and they each cost more than your bag.”

while the class wasn’t general cooking, the menu presented wasn’t terribly difficult either.  i make it often in the spring, and even made it once for easter dinner using chicken instead of the pork.    while the potato salad is served warm or at room temperature, it can be made a day ahead, and the pork can be marinated overnight. you then have time to finish cleaning the house, decorate, and set the table.

once the meat is put in the oven the day of the meal, all that needs to be done is the asparagus and the strawberries for the cake, which i confess, was store bought.  if you want to make an angel food cake from scratch then, yes, a bit more effort is required, and (in my honest opinion) more power to ya.

french potato salad

the red and white potatoes are optional, but they add a very nice touch. i used mini yukon golds instead of white and they were wonderful.

1 pound of small white boiling potatoes

1 pound of small red boiling potatoes

2 tablespoons good dry white wine

2 tablespoons of chicken stock

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard

2 teaspoons of kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

10 tablespoons of olive oil

1/4 cup of minced scallions; green and white parts

2 tablespoons minced fresh dill

2 tablespoons of minced fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chiffonade of fresh basil leaves

bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  add the red and white potatoes and cook for 20-30 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork.  drain in a colander, and place a towel over them to steam for an additional 1o minutes.  when cool enough to handle cut into halves or quarters (if the potatoes are large) and place in a medium bowl.  toss gently with the wine and chicken stock.  allow the liquids to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.

combine the vinegar, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper and slowly whisk in the olive oil.  add the vinaigrette to the potatoes.  add the scallions, dill, parsley, basil, and salt and pepper and toss.  serve warm or at room temperature.

serves 4-6

ginger marinated pork tenderloin

1 cup of honey

3/4 cup of soy sauce

1/4 cup of minced garlic (about 12 cloves)

1/2 cup of fresh grated ginger root

3 pounds of pork tenderloin ( i used two; 1 1/2 pounds each)

combine the honey, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger.  pour over the tenderloin and cover.

allow to marinate overnight.  remove pork to foil lined baking sheet.  if desired, pour some of the marinade over the pork and discard the remainder.   bake at  375 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until pork reaches desired internal temperature (mine is 160 degrees).  do not overbake.

serves 4-6

sesame seed asparagus

1 pound of fresh asparagus

2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds

2 teaspoons of sesame seed oil, plus more as desired

salt and pepper to taste

lightly steam asparagus; drain, and arrange on serving platter.  season with salt and pepper.  sprinkle with sesame seeds, and drizzle with the sesame seed oil.   serve immediately.

serves 4-6

angel food cake with strawberries

make the strawberries earlier in the day so the juices have time to release.

1 prepared angel food cake

8 oz. of strawberries

2 tablespoons of sugar

1 cup of whipping cream

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla

slice cake and arrange on serving dish or platter.  wash, hull, and slice strawberries.  sprinkle with sugar and set aside.  pour cream into mixing bowl.  add powdered sugar and vanilla.  whip just until stiff peaks form.  to serve, spoon berries over a slice of cake and top with the whipped cream.

April 2, 2012

my travel diary

as i have said before my husband travels extensively with his job.  i knew this when i married him.  it was part of the deal.  normally though he would just travel once or twice a month, so the time away was manageable especially since he offices from our home; so when he is home, he’s home.  lately though,  his time away has increased to every single week.  this isn’t as doable for us so every so often i  tag along in order to spend more time together.   i love tagging along.  it gives me the chance to see where he stays, where he works, and the restaurants he frequents so that when he comes home and talks about these things,  i can better visualize where he has been.

last week i tagged along.   i had the wonderful privilege of spending five days in hurst, tx with my sweetie.  hurst, in case you didn’t know (i didn’t), is a suburb of dallas. now, i’ve already done the dallas thing the last time i tagged along: neiman marcus, sixth floor museum, and all that.  so this week was a bit more, how can i say, low key.  which was lovely because, truth be told: i’m not really into shopping and sight seeing.  i hate to shop unless it is for groceries or plants; and my idea of sight-seeing is to look at restored older homes.

so without further ado: these are the hilights of my trip; i present to you my humble  travel diary:

day 1:  arrived at hotel.  i then ummmm….took a bubble bath and finished my book.   had dinner at my husband’s monday night haunt.




day 2:  ran moday night’s dinner (veal parmesan) off while on the treadmill.  decided i love the convenience of a treadmill.  began figuring out how we can have a treadmill on our farm…battled the dallas traffic to get to central market where i had lunch outside while reading up on keeping chickens.  shopped.  bought, mushroom flavored finishing salt and tea biscuits, among many other fabulous foodie things.  battled the traffic to get home, and was nearly caught in a wreck.  was so traumatized i spent the afternoon at the hotel watching tv.  we don’t own a tv, so we don’t obviously watch much.  it was the first time i’ve ever seen paula deen in action.  i was mesmerized by this woman with big eyes and a molasses thick southern accent, using prolific amounts of butter.  i still……can’t get over it.   had an absolutely beautiful candlelit dinner with my sweetie at a french bistro: complete with escargot and floating island for dessert.

day 3: ran tuesday  night’s dinner off while on the treadmill.  still want a treadmill.  still traumatized by dallas traffic.  so much so that i seriously considered skipping the dallas arboretum.  gathered my courage, and my gps, and mapquest directions, prayed hard, and went to the arboretum.  i. was. floored.  it was amazing.  took dozens of photos and decided that we will not keep chickens and plant vegetables, we will have ten acres of amazing gardens instead.  now to figure out how to assemble a staff….. purchased some texas wildflower seeds to see how they will do here in oklahoma.  had barbeque for dinner at another one of husbie’s weekly haunts.

day 4: ran wednesday night’s dinner off while on the treadmill.  come hell or high water we are getting a treadmill.  and a tv. and cable.  so i can watch the food network while burning calories.  spent the entire day “off” working on my cross stitch while watching (you guessed it) paula deen.  and occasionally ina garten whom i am coming to admire almost as much as julia child.  made a brief excursion out to a cupcake bar where i ordered nothing more than one chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream and one vanilla with chocolate buttercream.  my only adventurous ingredient was reeces pieces sprinkled on top which i regretted.  what can i say?  i’m a purist.  had a lovely dinner sitting outside where i discovered blackberry mojitos. omg ya’ll (said with a southern crack like paula deen).  i now have a new favorite cocktail.  move over pomegranate martinis….

day 5: ran thursday night’s dinner and mojitos off while on the treadmill.  contemplated where to shop for our new treadmill and where to put it in my tiny barn-cottage.   showered, packed, crammed my central market groceries into my suitcase.  decided on one final fling: lunch at the new in and out burger across the street.  in and out was closed: not to open for another eight days, so i spent an hour trying to find something else, getting lost, panicking, battling traffic, and getting lost again.  ended up very frazzled at starbucks where i settled for a “bistro box”.   met up with husbie and made our way to the airport for home.  uneventful flight where i caught up on my chicken garden book.  spent the evening on the back porch, looking at our overgrown yard,  and planning the upcoming week.

March 12, 2012

am i the only one…

who owns potholders that look like they have been through a war?

who purchases packages of chocolate chips that never quite make it into cookies?

who adds items to a list –  items already accomplished just for the sheer thrill of being able to cross them off?

who laments about her weight while shoveling that fourth cookie into her mouth?

whose library books are always overdue?

who, upon entering the house, makes a mad dash to turn off the beeping security system even though it is only 50 feet from the door, and you have a full 60 seconds to get to the key pad?

who spends the week lecturing one’s self on portion control only to purchase a package of cheese puffs without guilt simply because they are labeled “organic”?

who rinses a single dish and then feels a facebook break is well deserved?

…please tell me i am not.

February 14, 2012

hazelnut linzer hearts

when i was fifteen i got my first job.  it wasn’t a real job in the sense that i was paid for it, but it felt real to me.  i was a volunteer in the day surgery ward of a hospital.  i guess one would call it the equivalent of a candy striper.  my uniform was not a pretty pink and white  but was instead a royal blue pinafore with a “volunteen” name badge.  i worked once a week, all day, stripping beds and wheeling discharged patients to their car.  day surgery wasn’t much of a happenin’ place and i frequently had a lot of time on my hands.  one afternoon, reading through an old magazine while waiting for something to do, i came across a recipe for some beautifully photographed linzer hearts.  i wasn’t an experienced enough baker to know that this was a very traditional  cookie, but in feeling grown up, i decided i wanted to start my own recipe collection and i would start with these hearts.  i copied it out onto a paper towel of all things,  apparently the only thing available to me at the time.  i still have it, and it has a place amongst the holiday recipes in my recipe box.  the original calls for ground almonds but i had ground hazelnuts on hand and decided to use them instead.  they were wonderful.  i found my ground hazelnuts at whole foods: they were a bob’s red mill product. these pretty cookies do take some time but they are well worth the effort.

happy valentines day!

linzer hearts

1 1/2 c flour

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t ground cinnamon

1/8 t ground cloves

1/2 c butter (unsalted please!) at room temperature

1/2 c packed dark brown sugar

1/4 c granulated sugar

1 large egg

1/2 c ground hazelnuts

1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam; melted (if  you cannot find seedless raspberry jam, pour the jam through a strainer after it is melted.  this sounds like a big deal but it really isn’t a lot of trouble).

2/3 c semi-sweet chocolate chips melted, for decoration

powdered sugar for dusting

mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and cloves.  set aside.

in a large bowl, beat butter and sugars with electric mixer until fluffy.  beat in egg, fold in hazelnuts.  gradually stir in flour mixture until blended.  divide dough in half.  shape into flattened rounds, wrap, and refrigerate for one hour or until firm enough to roll out.

heat oven to 350 and have ungreased cookie sheets ready.

on a lightly floured surface, roll half the dough at a time to 1/8″ thickness.  cut out hearts with a 3″ heart shape cookie cutter.  place half the hearts 1″ apart on cookie sheet.  cut a 2″ heart from the center of remaining hearts.  place heart frames on cookie sheet.

re-roll scraps.

bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.  immediately remove to racks to cool completely.  dip the heart tips or rounded edge of the heart frames in melted chocolate.  cool on wax paper until chocolate is firm.  using wax paper to cover chocolate, dust frames with powdered sugar if desired.

brush one side of the whole hearts with the raspberry jam.  top with decorated frame to form a “sandwich”.  serve immediately.

makes 20 cookies

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January 23, 2012

tea scones

my grandfather immigrated to the united states from england when he was four.  i grew up hearing the stories of how his mother lay in the cabin, uncomfortable with motion sickness, while my grandfather played marbles on the floor – watching them roll back and forth with the rocking of the ship.  growing up in the u.s., he eventually lost his accent, but one thing his family kept were their english traditions.  a pot of tea and scones were one of them.  i have eaten these since i was a child, long before the scone became a food fad.  these are in my opinion, closer to the original intent, a far cry from the enormous sugar laden product now offered at a coffee shop.  they are most likely what would have been served for tea at downton abbey (if you are still watching) whether you were dining upstairs, or down, and would have been served with clotted cream and a jam or curd of some sort.   my wedding reception featured a high tea and a friend and i made these by the hundreds one afternoon before the wedding: they are that simple to put together.

scone by the way is pronounced to rhyme with “lawn” not “stone”.

tea scones

2 cups of flour

2 tablespoons of sugar

1 tablespoon of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/3 cup of dried currants (optional, i rarely use them as it competes too much with the jam i like to serve on the side)

6 tablespoons of butter

1 beaten egg

1/2 cup of milk

1 slightly beaten egg

in a bowl thoroughly stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  stir in the currants, if desired.  cut in butter til the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. add 1 beaten egg and milk, stirring just till the dough clings together.  knead dough gently on lightly floured surface (12-15 strokes).  cut the ough in half.  shape each half into a ball and pat or roll to a 6-inch circle, about 1/2 inch thick.  with a sharp knife, cut each circle into 6 wedges.  place wedges on ungreased baking sheet or baking stone.  do not allow the sides to touch.  brush tops with lightly beaten egg, and bake at 425 until a deep golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.  makes one dozen scones.

note: the key to having them raise nice and high is fresh baking powder and handling the dough as little as possible.

~ from better homes and gardens heritage cookbook

October 27, 2011

my pantry

one of the few things that did not get done after we reassembled our newly remodeled  kitchen was the pantry.

i’m not sure why.

i just never got around to it.

until  a few weeks ago.

the first step in my plan was to make a grand list of everything i felt a well stocked pantry (in our home) would need; purchase it, and then organize the shelves with all the goods.  because we try to eat fresh as much as possible i only access my pantry once a week or so with the exception of oatmeal which we eat nearly every morning.  in deciding what should belong on the shelves, i brainstormed all of my go-to recipes that could come together in a hurry (such as pumpkin dump cake), recipes i use for unexpected company (pasta tossed with pesto and  pine nuts), recipes i could use if i missed a trip to the store or was suddenly in the mood for comfort food (such as a tuna casserole).   i also added to the list a somewhat wide variety of dried beans that i try to use weekly on our soup night. the result was a grocery list several pages long which took considerable time to purchase and put away.

next step was to figure out storage for some of the dry goods such as beans and pasta.   now, i understand that this could have been very simple but i am a storage snob.  i like everything in my home to be pretty as well as functional; so for me, this part of the project took a bit of time.

my first consideration was modular tupperware.  i thought long and hard about this for a while, and i really liked the idea.   i noticed however,  while looking through the catalog that the lid color had changed since i last purchased tupperware.  if i wanted to be able to add to my container collection over time (which i did), or need to replace a container, i wanted to be able to do it with the same product.  i wanted everything to be uniform.  in the end, the tupperware option was voted down.

so, one afternoon while i was browsing through our new cucina italiana magazine i saw an ad for these:

and we decided that was the perfect solution.  i purchased along with them a fancy label maker capable of lots of fonts (i love fonts of all sorts) and went shopping for my pantry goods.

the result looks something like this:


grains and legumes....

canned goods...

i couldn’t be more pleased.

that done and out of the way the next step was organizing the spices.

yes, i did see that way cool idea all over pinterest of putting the spices in tiny jars and painting the lids with chalk paint.  i have to confess i was a tad bit envious of the genius of the person who thought that up.  however,  i like my labels to be read on the front and i had already purchased these from bed, bath, and beyond:

i also wanted to use my new label maker.

i didn’t need to collect any more spices like i did pantry goods.  i did need to narrow down what i had, getting rid of anything that had expired or gone stale.

i also needed to wash all the little lids and jars by hand, having learned they were not compatible with the dishwasher.

then i had to let them dry overnight and then some to ensure that the contents would not get damp.

quite a process……

the clothespins are for drying the jars. a little trick i learned from martha stewart

the fun part was loading all the contents into the cute little jars, and of course labeling them in a fancy font.

they fit perfectly on my narrow little pantry shelves and as with the canned goods,  i’ve been very happy with the result.

discussion underway about a new camera...

so far the stocked pantry has worked wonderful and helped to offset our monthly grocery budget.  we just have to remember that once something is used it is put on the list so we always have what we need. much easier said than done, believe it or not.

October 21, 2011

random thoughts for a friday morning

~this is my first and only post for this week.  i am lagging behind in several areas; we’re also going through a stressful time and some days i feel like i am furiously treading water just barely keeping my chin above the surface.  i have had posts lined up but lacked the time or energy to write them out and publish.

~i feel like socializing about as much as i feel like writing.  i have one more social obligation lined up for this  year, and then i plan to drop off the face of the earth until january at which time i will come up for air.  hopefully.

~today is my husband’s birthday.  he is younger than i am but other than that we can never remember how old we are.  birthday traditions here include a dinner of your choice usually prepared together while listening to jazz.  since my husband is in meetings all day and his dinner of choice is an all day thing, i am going to make it for him: spare ribs braised with red onion, bacon, and guiness; mashed potatoes, and boston cream cupcakes.

~our first hard frost (or last depending on how you look at it) was  yesterday morning.  my beautiful wedding white zinnias are finished for the year.

~i am in the process of deep cleaning my house.  it takes more time than one would think.  by the time i am finally finished it will be time to start all over again.

~redbook has launched a publicity campaign for infertility called “the truth about trying”.  when i discovered it, i stood on my chair and applauded.  you can see it here.

September 30, 2011

from the cookbooks on my shelf

it’s friday!  the last friday in september and a lovely fall day.  actually the fall weather is still a bit slow in coming on and i have worried about  my cool weather crops that prefer lower daytime temps.  i’ve been bitten by the fall bug this weekend however, and am tempted to set aside some time to bake something and get to making that fall wreath for the door (subject of a future post).  i’m also in the middle of a Pantry Project that really needs to be completed (also the subject of a future post) so i’m not sure yet whether that will win out over my desire for pumpkin cookies? cake? muffns? or not.

now to a cookbook review…

it is no secret that i love to cook.  i love to cook with recipes.  i’m not usually one to strike out on my own and attempt something original, i like to go by the book.  i do though have a small kitchen and i have never seen the point of owning an entire library of cookbooks that are never used, so i am very choosy about what goes on my single cookbook shelf above my sink.   i like to choose books that are a resource on one specific type of cooking (say french bistro or breads) or an excellent general resource on the basics.  neiman marcus taste  by kevin garvin is one of those great general resources.

how i came to own it: this was given to me a few years ago as a christmas gift from my sister.

why it stays on the shelf as opposed to being relegated to the “give away” pile: in addition to this being a beautiful book (it could sit on a coffee table) it is loaded with some amazing recipes.   while not exhaustive, it does contain a wide variety from appetizers, to salads, entrees, and desserts.  i have to say their cookie recipes are exceptional (orange marmalade cookies anyone?).  the majority of the recipes are taken from helen corbitt’s (the original food director of neiman marcus in the 5o’s and 60’s) files and updated by the current director kevin garvin, along with some family favorites of his own.  i had the privilege of lunching last year at the flagship neiman marcus and passed garvin in the elevator wearing his chef’s whites.  i did not have the nerve to tell him “i have your cookbook!!” but i did stare in a most pop-eyed unladylike fashion.

to whom i would recommend this book: a fellow foodie.  someone who enjoys cooking as well as presentation.  this is not for someone who counts calories, or is on a restricted diet; and while the recipes are rated according to skill level, this would not be for someone just starting out in the kitchen.

i would also add: nearly every recipe is photographed, the book contains a very interesting history about the neiman marcus restaurants.  and just for what it’s worth and just in case you were wondering:  the book does not contain the recipe for the (urban) legendary $250 neiman marcus cookie.

my rating: four spoons (out of five)

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September 26, 2011

stuff i want to do this fall….

~make chili; a different recipe once every month

~bake some yummy concoction with pumpkin, i’ve half a dozen recipes earmarked

~make halloween cards

~plant collard greens

~set out a fall wreath

~begin planning Christmas: ornaments to make, menus, cookie recipes, etc.

what is on  your fall agenda?


September 8, 2011

artisan bread in five minutes a day…

i tried it.

i don’t recall where i first heard of the book artisan bread in five minutes a day but i do recall being very skeptical.  i was reluctant because in my opinion anything that traditionally requires a good bit of time, and is shortened for the sake if convenience can’t be all that great or good for you.  this is why i don’t own a microwave.  (yes. in case you haven’t guessed by now i am a terrible food snob and not ashamed to admit it)

i ended up revisiting the book however out of necessity.  (maybe i’m not so much of a snob after all??)

we want to eat healthy.

i believe in from-scratch cooking as much as possible.

baking bread makes me feel all warm and house-wifey inside.

we recently began using more spelt.

organic spelt bread costs more than $5 a loaf.

i rarely managed to find  the time to bake.

i decided to have a look-see and checked the book out at the library first.  after looking through it and giving the master recipe a go, i’ve decided to buy it.  this really is wonderful stuff, and it really is very, very easy.  i liked the fact that one has the added bonus of soaking the grains if you are trying to do the traditional foods sort of thing.  now, i did use processed flour and for this first run through i used white flour

::ducks to avoid flying objects hurled by the healthy crowd::

i didn’t want to tweak anything until i was familiar with what i was doing.  that being said: i’m sure that using processed flour cancels out any benefit from soaking the grains but at least i feel better about eating it.

here is my dough (again i used the master recipe for a basic boule) having been in the fridge for nearly a week. as you can see, we  had already sampled one loaf.  it really did take less than fifteen minutes to mix together and rose beautifully before being stored in the fridge.  the book recommends storing the dough in a plastic lidded container which i don’t have.  my glass bowl covered with plastic wrap worked fine and i may just stick with that.

here are two loaves ready to raise on the pizza peel.  this was one of the things marked “necessary” by the authors of the book.  i don’t know that i would agree as to it being absolutely necessary.  neither was the oven thermometer. i discovered that my oven *is* off, yeah, but the bread still baked just fine and was amazing.  the baking stone and the broiler pan for the water bath however, were in my opinion, an absolute necessity.

dusted, scored, and ready for the oven…

the finished product.

for now we’ve decided to stick with the boule recipe because we like it.  but i can’t wait to try the recipe for the bagel dough or the brioche.

take 2 will be an attempt at a boule made from spelt.

i’ll keep you posted…