Friday, December 30, 2011

cauliflower-bacon gratin - French Fridays w/ Dorie

This week's dish was very simple to make and the first time I had to make a vegetable dish for French Friday's with produce from the market. I did splurge and get an organic cauliflower and it didn't cost that much more than the conventionally grown one.I won't be able to tell if it made a difference or not, but I thought this dish was very good. My mother told me about this recipe a while ago. She made it twice and loved it so much, she ended up eating to much and hasn't trusted herself to make it again.

Well, I ate real ice cream today so couldn't go the full-fat route. The market only had 2% milk the other day so I had that available as well as 1/2 & 1/2. I decided to use a full head of cauliflower but cut down the egg mixture by two-thirds. I used 3 eggs, and poured 2/3 of a cup of 1/2 & 1/2, thought about it some more (looked at the calories) and poured it back in the carton and got out the milk. I ended up using 1 cup of 2% milk and 1/4 cup flour. I added probably more bacon than 1/4 lb. and 1/4 lb. cheese (sorry, low-fat again).

I'd say we all enjoyed it. I told my daughter she wouldn't even taste the cauliflower, just the cheese and bacon. She said, "yuck, I can taste it." I asked what she could taste and she said, "broccoli". She thought the cauliflower tasted just like broccoli. She did, however, eat all of what I gave her and I don't think it was just because she wanted the pop-rocks for dessert.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

crème brûlée - French Fridays w/ Dorie

I'm embarrassed to post about this one. Should have been fairly easy. In fact I managed to squeeze it in with my 1/2 day at work and finishing up some other holiday tasks, but that appeared to be the problem. As not yet learned from Julia Child, don't put something in the oven and then run off to play tennis. I didn't play tennis, but I did get impatient when the custard wasn't set after close to an hour and consulted another cookbook for baking times. The other book said one hour at 350, so I thought, "let me bump up the temp a bit and get this over with, I have other things to do." So I did, and then forgot to really keep an eye on it and it got a tad overdone. I took them out of the oven as they boiled away, not looking much like crème brûlée but more like something you'd find in a lab. So we went from this:

To this:

See how nicely it separated?

I did wonder about the jam being disturbed when I poured in the custard, but then I wondered if that was the intent. Without seeing a photo, I had no idea, so I'm curious to see what other FFWD followers look like. I actually liked the flavor of the custard but maybe got too sweet from the jam? I'm not a huge fan of sweet, but burnt marshmallow is a different story. So, on with the torch.

Just so happens that we gave our dessert blow torch away recently. I was already to go to the broiler when I realized Alan must have one, and he also doesn't have a problem using it. I do. Ever since I blew up that lighter in 3-d class years ago, I've shied away from them. Alan had read up on the proper way to carmelize creme and learned that you should apply the torch for a few seconds then pull it off, let it cool and do some more. He did great, but the first one didn't officially make caramel but did a nice burn and turned the experimental maple sugar into what tasted like toasted marshmallow.

The good kind that you set on fire and use to melt your chocolate bar. So we all tried it and it was our favorite. You could taste the maple too! The second one was just brown sugar, as the recipe recommended. That one caramelized as it should have, but didn't taste as good. Again, too sweet. I have two more left without any topping. I'm going to try one plain and see how sweet that one tastes and then do the maple again on the last one. Not sure when we'll get to eat it, as well be out of the house again today and tomorrow. Maybe have to try it for breakfast again!


Decorated yesterday with Shara. She was very impressive with the pastry bag! We had a very nice time with these.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Cookie Madness!

Over a week ago the baking of the cookies began. This is an annual tradition for many households and ours is no exception. I told Shara & Alan we'd have a meeting after the holidays and see if they were ok with being a cookie widow and cookie orphan. I actually think this year I'm not being as obsessive as in the past.

Caramel filled chocolate cookies
So far, this is the list:

fruit/nut flavored
Date pinwheels

  • Date-Nut Pinwheels - from: Betty Crocker's Cooky Book - brought it back from my mothers a few months ago. Loved this book since I was a kid, mostly for the great pictures. Now I realized that the recipes are rather vague and don't go much into technique. I do know enough now to figure out how much to beat the butter, but for a beginner baker, this wouldn't be a good title, unless it's been updated.
    As for the cookies, these taste great but I need more practice on getting them round.

spicy / minty

  • Minty Chocolate Slices - variation on "Red-Hot Chocolate Slices" - think I should have stuck with the original but wanted to keep it more natural.
  • Big Soft Ginger Cookies - added in some drained, crushed pineapple and left out the cloves.

sugar / shortbread



  • Black pepper biscuits - be generous with the flour right at the beginning. Takes at least a cup more than called for.

Interesting scrap scape

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Potato chip tortilla- french fridays w/dorie

Talk about low expectations. Another discounted recipe due to my ignorance and small mindedness. That's rather harsh. More of a lack of imagination and something to do with my not eating potato chips. Anyhow, I was very excited to have such a simple dinner to make and especially during a busy time of year. Thank you to those ffwd participants who voted for this one because it certainly wasn't me.

I had some Terra chips in the house. The original mix with "A seasonal mix of root vegetables (sweet potato, parsnip, batata, taro, yuca)". So I crushed them up in the bag really good. Sorry but I don't like to get my fingers greasy! Then I decided to go with my gut and saute the chopped onion and add it to some cubed, frozen basil and frozen garlic cube. I seasoned the eggs well with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and ancho chili.

I read again about the size of the pan and at first didn't believe it would all fit in my small omelette pan, but didn't want to have it be too thin, so tried it. It worked great and wow, I think it was the onions. It was really sweet, salty from the chips and my forgetting about that added salt source, and surprise, potatoey. All of this together tasted so good and as Alan said, "this tastes bad for you". What a nice compliment!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

kale-stuffed pork roast - French Fridays w/ Dorie

One other FFWD member commented that this got her daughter to eat her vegetables. I had the same experience. I think if I can put meat into all meals, the vegetables would be easily eaten. This was a terrific dinner to make on a work day. It helped that I got home early today, but even if I didn't, it took no more time than any other dinner and really seemed like a much more elegant meal that could be served at a dinner party.

I didn't have any swiss chard available at my local farm stand, but they had a gorgeous bunch of kale. We decided that super-fresh kale trumped the chard called for in the recipe. So I cooked the filling a bit longer than chard would have taken, but all else remained the same. I wasn't sure if all the filling would fit, but it did!
I really don't like working with meat, but I did and it tasted great. My roast didn't have hardly any fat on it, so I didn't get that nice, crispy top that others had. One thing I needed to do differently was position the thermometer closer to the middle of the roast. I didn't want to hit the stuffing and throw off the reading, but it was in too close to the surface and I had to throw the slices into the microwave for a few seconds. Fortunately it didn't change anything, other than making it a little safer, I assume.
This was a keeper. I served it with a grainy mustard, as suggested, but think it would be good with a brandy sauce too.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Liebster Blog Award

Pamela from Feral Homemaking was sweet enough to nominate me for the Liebster Blog Award. Thank you, Pam! I met Pam at the farm stand I frequent and I always enjoy when I'm able to spend some time talking to her. Check out her site, she has a lot of good ideas and she's got a great sense of humor.

The Liebster Blog Award is a great way to get traffic to blogs you like but that aren't widely known.  The rules are simple:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them.
  2. List your top five picks (who have less than 200 followers) and link to them, telling a bit about each one.  Leave a comment on their blogs to let them know you've nominated them.
  3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
  4. Have faith that your followers will do the same to other bloggers.
  5. Have fun!
So for my top 5 blogs...
To be honest, most of the blogs I frequent are the usual biggies - allrecipes, epicurious, myrecipes,

The first one has to be EatingPlaces. Let's give a shout out to nepotism! Yes, this is my niece, Liz. She's an optimistic, energetic young woman who's inherited a love of good food - good in every sense of the word - for your mind, body, and the Earth. I love hearing about her experiences and learning about what's happening in the Boston foodie world.

Each week I have to check out my fellow French Fridays folks and I always take the time to find out what's happening in Cher's life on her blog, "The not so exciting adventures of a dabbler..." She's honest, humorous, and caring. She's also a top-rate writer.

Ok, another FF person - Adriana at lives in Puerto Rico, and I often learn some interesting tidbit from her.

A great local resource for what to do with local, New England, vegetables can be found at Stillman's Farm blog. They post recipes as well as other issue of importance. I actually found their link through another FF member, Betsy, who also lives fairly close to me. I find I can relate well to what she writes on her blog, "A Plateful of Happiness".  

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

No Knead Bread

Tastes great. Really need to know how different it would taste when still warm. I may heat a couple pieces up. It's actually moist inside, and cold. Yes, needs to go into the oven for a few.

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Monday, December 05, 2011

No Knead Bread

Ok, I haven't tasted it yet, but it smells and looks so good I had to write about it now. I read about this book through my nieces' blog and thought I had to give it a try. I got a copy from the library before deciding if I'd buy it or not. If it tastes as good as it's smelling, I will certainly make a purchase.

Jim Lahey wanted to create a rustic, chewy, holey bread like what he experienced in Tuscany. He researched and figured out if you do a very long rise, you don't have to knead because the fermentation time creates the structure and gluten just as well as kneading does. There's very little yeast because he didn't want a yeasty taste to the bread. It's very simple and hopefully it will taste great because I'd love to have this be my weeknight go-to loaf of bread.

I happened to not make the basic bread but went on to the next version which used 1 part wheat flour and 2 parts white flour. Assuming it does taste good, I have to change when I start the process. I began reading the book last night and ran up and got the dough together so I could bake it tonight. It takes 12-18 hours of rising, then another 1-2 hours for the second rise, then about 45 minutes to bake, and another hour to cool. So that's about 21 hours total. If I want to serve it at dinnertime, say around 6 PM, it has to go in the oven no later than 4 PM. That won't work on days I have to go to work, but I could bake it in the morning, before work. To do that, I'd need to only do a 12 hour rise, which is what's on Jim Lahey's Sullivan Street Bakery site, so that should be enough. Then I would start it at 5 PM, have the 2nd rise at 5:30 AM and bake at 7 AM. That would still get us to the bus stop on time and let the bread cool for the day.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

matafan (fluffy mashed potato pancakes) - French Friday's w/ Dorie

Got an early start on this one. I had some beautiful potatoes left over from the CSA that didn't get mashed last week. They weren't Russets, but Yukon Gold. They were cleaned and set on their salty bed this morning, waiting for the oven to turn on at 4:30 PM. The potatoes weren't that big, so I didn't think the'd take the full hour and a half to make. Turns out they did bake for that long since I didn't get home to rescue them until after 6 PM. I had visions of our house burning down. Fortunately it didn't but I was nervous until I turned the corner and didn't see any flames.

So I got them out of the oven and the skins were nice and crispy. I split them in 1/2 and scooped out the flesh. The skins looked so good, I couldn't throw them away so I sprinkled them with some shredded cheddar and put them in the oven. I didn't have time to put the potatoes through a strainer so just used the spoon and did a basic mash. All looked very good and I seasoned with salt and pepper before frying in a little butter. They looked beautiful. I even took some cheddar and sprinkled it on top of it before flipping, so the cheese got nice and crispy. These reminded me of my mother making mashed potato pancakes with leftover potatoes. She'd mix in an egg, cheese and sauteed onions. I think that was the key, the onions. These were very bland and I thought I added in enough salt. We tried them with maple syrup and of course they were good, but I think they should have been able to stand up on their own. I loved the texture and think I'll keep the process but add in the onions like mom used to make!
crispy potatoes

topped with cheese

pancakes paired with crisp potato skins