Monday, October 18, 2010

Sweet Potato Soup

If you recently started reading my blog you might think that I just post soup recipes.  That is not true.  But it is fall and I am a soup lover so I have been making lots of soups, but they are all delicious and I love to share them with you. 

Once in a while I end up with a bunch of vegetables in my refrigerator that I have not used and they might go bad so I take them all out put them on the counter and wonder what I can make with them, 99% of the time I make stock.  But this time I had a bunch of sweet potatoes.  I was browsing online and found this great little Thanksgiving recipe on Simply Recipes.  My family is not going to want soup during Thanksgiving since they need to leave space for ribs and turkey, so I decided to try the soup out. 

I was a little surprised but this soup was delicious. It is creamy, little sweet and hint of cinnamon.  It is a perfect dish to server for the fall, Thanksgiving or the holidays. 

Sweet Potato Soup

Prep time: 20 minutes | Serves: 6-8

2 Tbsp (1/4 stick) butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 small celery stalks, chopped
1 medium leek, sliced (white and pale green parts only)
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 1/2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 5 cups)
4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 Tbsp honey

Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add chopped celery stalks and leek, sauté about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes.

Add sweet potatoes, chicken stock, cinnamon stick, and nutmeg; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Remove cinnamon stick and discard. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return to pot.

Add half and half and honey and stir over medium-low heat to heat through. Season soup

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Salted Caramel Brownies

Salted Caramel is everywhere these days. I wasn’t convinced first time I tried salted caramel chocolates but I realized afterwards that it was the quality of the chocolate.  Since then I have really started to enjoy salted caramel ice cream, salted caramels, salted caramel chocolates and now salted caramel brownies.

I have also found my favorite place for these products that I just have to share with you.   The only place I get my salted caramel chocolates is Fran’s Chocolates here in Seattle.  When I send chocolates I always send them from Fran’s Chocolates.  I have also heard that it is Obama’s favorite chocolates as well.  But if you have not tried their chocolates, you are missing out. 

Then my favorite just plain salted caramels come from Jon Boy.  I was introduced to Jon Boy a few weeks ago when my good friend Monika from Splendid Willow came over for dinner and gave me a little box of these caramels.  I put them on the side not reading the box and realizing the next day what they were.  And wow, what a surprise.  These are amazing. These Seattle made caramels are amazing. They are made with local cream, organic sugar, fleur de sel and organic brown-rice syrup by former local Whole Foods employee Jonathan Sue and business partner Jason Alm, these little boxes of 15 or so caramels pack in a whole lot of happiness. Today they are only selling these locally in Seattle, but you can get them online, and let me tell you, you will not be disappointed.

I am still looking for the best salted caramel ice cream. I have tried a few including Molly Moons locally made ice cream and I was a little disappointed, it tasted like they put table salt in the ice cream.  The best salted caramel gelato is at Vios Restaurant in Seattle. But my next experiment is to try to make it myself. Anyone have any good recipes for salted caramel ice cream?

Then when I saw a recipe on Salted Caramel Brownies I realized I had to try these.  I have seen a few people do salted Caramel brownies, The Pioneer Woman does one but she uses gelatin to make the caramel and I did not want that. Then I found this recipe from Brown Eyed Baker when she did “What’s Cooking in Your Kitchen” a few months back.  I have since then done this recipe a few times and always a big hit, the brownie is chewy, creamy, sweet and salty.  Just the way I like it.  It took me a few tries to master the caramel sauce but I finally figured it out. 

Here are some of my notes and changes that i did to the original recipe. Make sure your heat is on medium heat and use a sauté pan to make the caramel not a pot, every time I used a pot the caramel would harden and get lumpy, even on medium or low heat.

Secondly the brownie should only be in the oven for 25 minutes, for me it was overcooked once it hit 30 minutes.  I also used more than required salted caramel and the left over salted caramel I served as a sauce on top of the brownie which everyone enjoyed.

Do you have any favorite salted caramel recipes?

Salted Caramel Brownies

Prep Time: 15 minutes | Bake Time: 25 | Yield: 16 brownies

5 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into quarters
3 tbsp cocoa powder
3 eggs
1¼ cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp sea salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe below)
Fine sea salt

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of almost-simmering water, melt the chocolates and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. (Or, melt in the microwave on 50% power for 30-second increments, stirring after each, until melted and smooth.) Whisk in the cocoa until smooth. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture; then stir in the flour until just combined. Pour about half of the brownie mixture into the prepared pan and spread into the corners. Spoon 1/4 of Salted Caramel Sauce on top of the brownie batter. Top with the remaining brownie mixture, spread into the corners and level the surface with a spatula. Again,  spoon 1/4 dollops of the Salted Caramel Sauce on top of the brownie batter. With a dull butter knife, gently run it through the batter to swirl the batter just a bit (don’t do it too much or it will all mix together).

Bake until slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs, 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours. (If you can wait that long). Cut the brownies into squares and remove them from the pan. Serve with some extra caramel sauce.

Salted Caramel Sauce

Cook Time: 15 minutes

1 cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp fine sea salt
2/3 cup heavy cream, at room temperature 

In a sauté pan, heat the sugar over medium heat, whisking as the sugar begins to melt, this takes about 5 minutes. Some of the sugar will harden into clumps, that is ok just keep whisking. Continue to cook the sugar until it reaches a dark amber color. At that point, whisk in the salt, and then add the butter all at once and whisk until it is completely incorporated into the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and pour in the heavy cream (it will foam up when first added). Continue to whisk until it forms a smooth sauce. (If your sauce is lumpy and hard something went wrong.) 

Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before using in the brownies.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thai Curry Squash Soup

Last weekend I had a “girl’s night get together.”  I always think that when I have just women over I can do some interesting menus.  One time I did a salad bar which was a hug hit but this time I decided to do a “soup night” I served 3 different soups and it was a huge hit.  Also during the night I always have Chocolate Tasting which everyone enjoys.  So for this soup night I was looking for different recipes and I came across this similar recipe on 101 Cookbooks.  The original recipe calls for water but I think chicken stock makes is a more tasty soup.  This soup is a great combination of sweet creamy with a little bit of spicy curry.  Love it and it is very easy to make too.

Thai Curry Squash Soup

Prep Time: 90 minutes | Yields: 6 servings

2 acorn squash
3 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 tsp (or more) red Thai curry paste. Depends on your paste.  Start with 1 tsp and add more if you need more spice.
1 cup chicken stock
2 tsp sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place the oven racks in the middle.

Carefully cut each squash into halves. Slather each piece of squash with butter, sprinkle generously with salt, place on a baking sheet skin sides down, and place in the oven. Roast for about an hour or until the squash is tender throughout. 

In a large pot add the curry paste so the flavor come out. You never want to add curry paste to liquid always sauté it before.  Then scoop the squash  into the pot. Then add the chicken stock and coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and puree with a hand blender, if you feel your consistency is too thick add more chicken stock

Bring up to a simmer again and add the salt (and more curry paste if you like, I used just 3 tsp but I like mine spicy)

Enjoy!

Note:  If you are in a hurry and do not have the time to wait for the pumpkin to roast in the oven you can just boil it for about 15 minutes in the stock and coconut.  It tastes almost as good but the squash is a little harder to peal the skin off.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Asparagus Soup with Bacon “Sparrissoppa”

A very popular soup in Sweden is Asparagus Soup “Sparrissoppa” I have no idea why it is not very popular in the US but you don’t see it very often.  I recently made it for a dinner party where I served 3 different soups and the Asparagus Soup was the favorite soup of the night.  And yes, I only had women over for dinner, I don’t know why but men usually like a little more than soup for dinner.

Asparagus season is usually around April but Whole Foods had some really nice looking ones so I had to get them. Also I didn’t want just asparagus so I decided to put some bacon in it. 

Officially known as asparagus officinalis, asparagus is a member of the lily family. It’s native to East Central Europe, yet grows wild in many parts of the world today.

Asparagus was actually a medicine long before it was considered a food. Galen, a Greek Physician, described it as “heating and cleansing. It relieves inflammation of the stomach, relaxes the bowels, makes urine, and helps the weak. It removes obstruction of the liver and kidneys.” A variety of medicinal concoctions were produced from the sprouts, stems, roots and seeds of asparagus. Although today few hold to any real medicinal value associated with asparagus, it is nevertheless rich in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.

Asparagus Soup with Bacon

Prep Time: 30 minutes | Yields: 4-6 people

¾ lbs of asparagus (about 1 bunch from the store or little less than 2 cups)
1 tsp butter
3 shallots
8 oz Bacon
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup cream
1 tsp Salt
Salt and Pepper to taste

Start with cleaning the asparagus and then cut into ½ inch pieces.  (Save a few pieces for presentation). Put the asparagus into a pot of water with 1 tsp salt and let boil for 2 minutes. Then remove the asparagus and set aside and dispose of the water.

Cut the bacon in ½ pieces and put into a frying pan.  Let the bacon cook until the desired crispy state.  I usually like mine just slightly browned not very crispy.

On the side finely chop the 3 shallots and put that in a deep bottomed pot with 1 tsp of butter and sauté the shallots for 2-3 minutes. Then add the chicken stockand let it boil.  Then add the cream and the cooked asparagus. Let it simmer for 10 minutes.  After that puree the soup in a mixer to the desired state and put it back into the pot.

Add the bacon, salt and pepper to taste.

Another alternative could be to add fried mushrooms to the soup.

Serve soup and add a few asparagus piece for presentation.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Seattle Restaurant Week October 2010

Picture from Seattle Restaurant Week Website

Here is another great opportunity for folks to take advantage of the great restaurants Seattle has to offer.       

Seattle Restaurant week is back, from October 17-28 with over 100 restaurants that will offer $25 three course dinners or $15 lunches.      

This is a great time for Seattle restaurants to show what they can do for a reasonable price and get customers they would usually not get, but also this is a great time for us foodies to go to our favorite places and get a good 3-course meal for only $25.      

Since it is only from October 17-28, Sunday through Thursday, with over 100 restaurants to choose from that is a hard task to narrow down to the place one should go to.  If you would go out every night of the week during that time you would only have time for 10 restaurants.  So I have narrowed it down to 10 of my favorites and which ones I would go to.  On top of that I am telling you what I would order on the menu.       

You can view the full list of restaurant on the Seattle Restaurant week website but below is my top 10 list.      

If you did my top list from Seattle Restaurant Week April 2010 then you will enjoy this new top 10 list.   

Don’t miss this opportunity!      

Here is my top 10 restaurant list that I would go to between October 17-28:      

ART Restaurant & Lounge – Here is my original review for Art Restaurant, but I would go back for three courses for $25.  Here I would order the Curried Kabocha squash soup with pumpkinseed gnocchi and date puree for appetizer. Then for entrée I would get the Pan roasted black cod with purple potato crab brandade, sage chestnuts, and cranberry beans. Then for dessert I would get Gingerbread roulade oatmeal raisin ice cream, candied butternut squash.  One of the best things at Art was their dessert so I am sure this one will be amazing too.   

ART Restaurant & Lounge
99 Union Street
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 749-7070   
ART (Four Seasons) on Urbanspoon

Bastille Café & Bar – A great little French casual place in Ballard. Here I would order the Carlton Farms pork cheek terrine with Pommery mustard and pickled radish for appetizer. Then for Entrée I would get the Pork pot au feu with Nantaise carrots and dijon mustard crôute.  For Dessert I would get the apple Apple pavé with Maple fromage a la crème and apple butter.   

Picture from Bastille Cafe & Bar

Bastille Café & Bar
5307 Ballard Ave.
Seattle, WA 98117
(206) 453-5014   
Bastille Café & Bar on Urbanspoon

Chez Shea – This is one of my favorite restaurants in Seattle.  This place is intimate and very romantic.  The food, which is French cuisine, is amazing.  I highly recommend going here if you have not been yet. For Appetizer I would go with the Escargot.  Then for the Entrée I would get the Bacon Wrapped Veal Tenderloin and for dessert I would just go with a very good Vanilla Bean Cream Brulee.   

Chez Shea
94 Pike Street
Suite 34
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 467-9990
Chez Shea / Shea's Lounge on Urbanspoon

Crush – The only time I would recommend crush is during Seattle Restaurant Week.  The reason is that I think the food in Crush is overpriced.  It is good but not worth the money you spend there.  Therefore I always tell people go to Crush during a promotional event.  Also to me some of the décor at crush is a little cold with the white plastic chairs but that is my personal opinion.  For Appetizer I would get the Cider Glazed Berkshire Pork Belly with White Corn Grits, Pickled Apples & Arugula. Then for Entrée I would get the Roasted Anderson Valley Leg of Lamb Curry with Braised Beans & Mustarda.  And for dessert I would get the Vahlrona Chocolate & Hazelnut Feullietine “PB & J” Gelee of Raspberry “Jam” with Smoked Alaskan Salt Caramel.   

Crush
2319 E. Madison St.
Seattle, WA 98112
(206)-30-CRUSH   
Crush on Urbanspoon

Lola – Lola is one of Tom Douglas’ restaurants and probably my second favorite of his creations after Serious Pie.  Lola is his Greek Inspirational restaurant.  For Appetizer I would get Jackie’s Greek salad, barrel aged feta. Then for Entrée I would get the slow roasted leg of lamb with fennel and for dessert I would get the Caramel pudding pot with chocolate cinnamon cookies and brittle.   

Lola
2000-B Fourth Ave.
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 441-1430
Lola on Urbanspoon  

Olivar – This little Capital Hill restaurant is awesome. This is not just any other Spanish tapas place in Seattle.  This is the best tapas place in Seattle in my opinion.  If you do not get a chance to go here during Seattle Restaurant week you have to come back and try it out.  I highly recommend this place. For Appetizer I would get the Beet Salad but that is because I am a huge beet lover.  For Entrée I would get the Stuffed Anaheim with Braised Pork & Fried Egg. Then for dessert I would get the Profiteroles and house made Ice Cream.   

Picture from Olivar

 

  

Olivar
806 E. Roy Street
Seattle, WA 98102
(206) 322-0409   
Olivar on Urbanspoon

Pair – Pair is another great little quaint restaurant that serves small plates.  Very casual place with great food.  I highly recommend going here. If you don’t get a chance to go during this event I would definitely try this place during regular times.  I am a huge fan of French Onion soup so I would start with that.  Then I would go with the Lamb Tagine Almond Cous Couse, Dates and Preserved Lemon for the entrée. And for Dessert I would get the Tart Tatin Caramel Sauce and Crème Fraiche.   

Pair
5501 30th Ave. N.E.
Seattle, WA 98105
(206) 526-7655   
Pair on Urbanspoon

Spring Hill Restaurant & Bar – The only bad thing about this place is that it is in West Seattle.  So depending on where you live it might be a far drive.  If you are in West Seattle you are lucky but I am sure you have already been here. If you do not live in West Seattle do the drive, it is worth it. For appetizer I would get the Sockeye salmon mousse cured salmon with pumpernickel and herbed cream cheese. Then for entrée I would get the wood grilled beef bavette caramelized cauliflower, buttered russets, horseradish. For the dessert option I would get the Valrhona chocolate milk and Snickerdoodle cookies.   

Spring Hill Restaurant & Bar
4437 California Ave. S.W.
Seattle, WA 98116
(206) 935-1075   
Spring Hill on Urbanspoon

Spur Gastropub – If there is only ONE place you could go to during this week this is the place I would go to.  I recently tried this place for the first time and was really blown away.  The flavor combinations on the plates are amazing these guys are really doing the molecular gastronomy thing.  Every plate I tried was delicious and I would go back here in a heart beat.  I think this place is on my top must try list of Seattle restaurants. For appetizer I would get the Pork Rillette watercress with shallot jam and Dijon mustard. Then for entrée I would get the Braised Short ribs with potato puree, collard greens and red wine. For dessert I would get the Rhubarb Gallette with vanilla ice cream.   

Spur Gastropub
113 Blanchard St.
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 728-6706   
Spur Gastropub on Urbanspoon

Staple & Fancy Mercantile – This is the new Ethen Stowell restaurant that recently just opened.  If you have not been to his restaurants before you are missing out.  Another one of my favorites of his is Anchovies and Olives. I find his menu’s sometime intimidating so it is not always for everyone but I think his food is great. For appetizer I would get the Smoked Bluefish Crostini and then for Entrée the Gnocchi with Beef Ragu, Mint and Oregano.  Finally for dessert I would end with the Apple Bread Pudding and Cinnamon Gelato.   

Staple & Fancy Mercantile
4739 Ballard Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98107
(206) 789-1200 
Staple & Fancy Mercantile on Urbanspoon

Enjoy and let me know which places you are going to.    

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What’s Cooking in your Kitchen – Vanilla Sugar Blog

         

         

Today I will be going into the kitchen of Dawn from the Vanilla Sugar Blog. I discovered Dawn’s blog a few months back and got hooked right away.  Her blog is simple; the photography is amazing and the recipes are delicious. Dawn is born and raised in California but living in Cape Cod, MA these days, and creates some amazing recipes. But most of all she was part of the 55 Knives, where 55 bloggers contributed to create this amazing Cookbook.          

         

How long have you been cooking and who was the person who encouraged you to come into the kitchen and learn about food?           

As a child I loved watching Julia Child over Sesame Street any day.  There was something more appealing about Julia Child and how casual she was with food that drew me right in.  This was the time when canned foods, frozen meals were making a huge debut and impression on most of America.  I always hated them as a kid and was drawn to how Julia used whole foods.  Watching Julia on TV you could instantly tell she was real, she was messy, and she was loud—I loved that.           

Banana Custard Tartlettes and Julia & Me

 Why did you decide to start a food blog? And why do you love it?          

Good question! I even want to ask every new exciting food blog I come across why did you start a food blog?  I know, there are hundreds if not thousands of other foodies out there, like me, that love to kick things up a notch and who have a passion of combining the sweet with the savory.  I love food blogging because I have found such people who speak my language!  Ha ha!         

I used to live in Boston and go to the cape every summer, I love it. How did you end up in Cape Cod, MA?         

I’m a California girl but love cape cod just as much.  I used too, many moons ago, run my family business here on cape cod.  I haven’t left, but have plans to move back to California in the next couple of years; I miss the constant sunshine and no snow.         

What is your favorite restaurant in Cape Cod and why?          

There is this wonderful little family owned restaurant called Lindsey’s Restaurant in Buzzards Bay that serves up the best seafood dishes around.  Family style seafood dishes, huge portions, freshest seafood, infamous bisques and still in this economy reasonable prices.  I love that they are still family owned after all these years. Plus they are not ever going to scale down their foods to save a buck.  They know that in order to keep your customers happy and coming back you need to keep serving the best.  Smart and hard, but it’s working for them.         

Do you have a signature dish? What is it and how did you come up with it?          

 

Asian Meatballs in garlic-black bean sauce with peanut fried rice

 
The most comments I get about a certain dish have to be the Asian meatballs with garlic-black bean sauce. I love meatballs, little tiny morsels of kicked up beef, all in a nice bitesize piece. Oh what’s not to love?  I make a good Italian meatball but have always wanted to make an Asian one.  And I think I found it with these, so flavorful and with a hint of twang. How did I create it?  As with most of my dishes I see something I like on TV or on a friends blog and think how to ‘kick that recipe up a notch or two’.  It’s like I study a recipe or see a dish and think what is that dish missing?  What does it need?  Did they forget something?  That’s how my foodie brain works.     

What eatables do you have in your backyard?           

Is it bad that I don’t even know how to garden?  You’d think most cooks have these elaborate, organized gardens brimming with vegetables and multiple arrays of exotic herbs.  Not me.  I wish I had a green thumb. Maybe someday….         

If you could sit down and have a dinner with a celebrity chef, who would it be, why and where would you take them to eat?          

Picture from NY Daily News

If I could go back in time and make the infamous restaurant in Boston “Maison Robert” come back to life I would go there with Julia Child.  This was the place in Boston to go to back in the 80’s for the ultimate in French food:  Classic French food with perfect ambience.  They were also known for their spacious, private seating, making it as though each table was the only one in the restaurant—it was very private, very warming atmosphere.  I know Julia used to dine there and whenever she was there the chefs would be all over her—it was fascinating to witness. It might also be nice to have Emeril join us as I would love to know what kind of questions he would ask her?           

What are three things people don’t know about you?      

Picture from Cheez_It.com


  

Ha ha I have a bad addiction to Cheez-It.  I do not like goat cheese—I have tried to like it but just cannot.  When I eat a cupcake I take the bottom half of the cupcake off and put on the top to make a cupcake sandwich.  It’s really good.        

What is your favorite kitchen gadget? 

Picture from Huset-shop.com

 

I love and collect spatulas.  As soon as I walk into a kitchen gadget store I go to the spatulas first and grab whatever colors and size I don’t need!  I must have over 25 spatulas…so far…         

Tell us about 55 Knives.         

55 Knives Cookbook


 

55 Knives is an ecookbook comprised of 55 other chefs/cooks who share some of their best recipe.  But the best part is these chefs also share who and why these recipes came about; a little story to go along with the recipe.  When you think about it, it’s really genius.  I wish more cookbooks would adapt this same theory. The best part? You can order it online and be reading in a matter of minutes.  No waiting for it to be delivered to your house.  Open now and devour!         

Order Now!         

Describe your death menu. (Last meal before you die)?         

Picture from NYTimes.com

One of those grilled cheese hamburgers that you see on all the famous food trucks.  You know the ones that have two grilled sandwiches as the bun to the hamburger?  Man those are crazy, but I love it.         

What advice would you give to other food bloggers?         

Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

 

 Be creative.  Don’t ever be afraid to step away from the recipe and create your own recipe.  You’d be surprised at how easy it is to take something so simple like a vanilla cupcake and add a layer of salty to it, then a texture to it and then a simple Ganache.  If you step outside your comfort zone and watch what the pro’s do and why—you’ll learn a lot, I do.         

I wanted to thank Dawn for letting me in her kitchen! Thank you!           

 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

Pumpkin Muffin

Happy October!  Can you believe it is October?

This week my co-worker walked into my office with a photo copy of a recipe and says, “You have to make these.”   Of course i had to try this recipe. WOW!  If it wasn’t for my co-worker i would have never made them.  They were delicious.   As you know i am not a pumpkin pie fan so i have been looking for other pumpkin recipes and this is a keeper.  This recipe is from House Beautiful Magazine and originally a Ina Gartner Recipe.  I guess Ina feels the same way as I do and not a big fan of pumpkin pie so she looks for alternatives.  Here is another great pumpkin alternative to pie.  If you didn’t see my pumpkin bread that is another recipe that was delicious.

Can you believe this picture was taken with my iphone 4? I guess the phone takes better pictures than i thought.  How is your phone camera?

Also, i am still looking for other good pumpkin alternatives.  Anyone have any they want to share?  What about pumpkin soup?

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

Yields: Makes 10 cupcakes | Prep Time: 20 minutes| Bake Time: 25 minutes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup canned pumpkin purée (8 ounces), not pie filling
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush or spray the top of 10 muffin tins with vegetable oil and line them with 10 paper liners.

Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin purée, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.

Divide the batter among the prepared tins (I use a level 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.

Maple Frosting

6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 tsp Boyajian Natural Maple Flavor
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped Heath bars, for serving (2 1.4-ounce bars)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter on low speed until smooth. Stir in the maple flavoring and vanilla extract. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.

Spread the cupcakes with the Maple Frosting and sprinkle with the chopped toffee bits.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Honey Ice Cream

I was having a dinner party and needed to find a simple, good and quick dessert recipe.  And what not better than just homemade ice cream that has 4 simple ingredients.  Everybody loves home made ice cream and this one sounded fantastic. I came across 101 Cookbooks and there was a recipe in there that I wanted to try.  The original recipe calls for Heather Honey but I couldn’t find that.  I just had simple Clover Honey that I used instead. This recipe was so simple.  Heat all your ingredients and let them steep for an hour. Chill the mixture, and then pour it into your ice cream maker and let it run until your ice cream is the consistency you want.  Serve with your favorite simple cookies.

This ice cream is rich and sweet! One of my favorites! I highly recommend trying it out! Delishhh!

Honey Ice Cream Recipe

Yields: 2 cups

Prep Time: 10 minutes | Steep & Chill Time: 2 hours

2 vanilla beans
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup honey

Flatten the vanilla beans and cut them in half lengthwise. With a small spoon, scrape out the seeds. Place the seeds and pods in a large saucepan. Add the cream, milk, and honey. Stir to dissolve the honey. Heat over moderate heat, stirring from time to time, just until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan, 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let steep, covered, for 1 hour.

Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Decorated Sugar Cookies & Tutorial

Sugar Cookies

It is that time of the month again, here is the next Daring Bakers challenge.

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!”  Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

The rules were that you had to decorate your cookies to a “September” theme.  As you can see mine were leaves, when I think of September I think of fall and colored leaves.

I had a fun time doing this challenge but I do not like sugar cookies, I have never liked sugar cookies and I do not see the point of eating sugar cookies.  If I am going to have a cookie then I want a GOOD cookie.  Not a bland and boring sugar cookie.  Sorry, sugar cookie lovers. 

However, I do have to say I had a blast making these cookies, mixing the icing, the colors and I learned something new.  The decorating part was lots of fun and I highly recommend doing it if you have kids or want some fun.  The icing recipe is great, but next time I would do this on ginger bread cookie instead.

Decorated Sugar Cookies

Prep Time: 30 minutes | Refrigeration 1 hour | Baking 8-15 min | Yields: 36 cookies

Basic Sugar Cookies

½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose Flour
1 cup Caster Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Directions:

Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavorings you’re using. Beat until just becoming creamy in texture. Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during baking, losing their shape.

Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms. Tip: I don’t have a stand mixer so I find it easier to switch to dough hooks at this stage to avoid flour flying everywhere.

Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.  Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 1/5 inch. Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins. Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.

Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.  Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife. Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour. Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.

Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.  Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in some cookies being baked before others are done.  Rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.

Leave to cool on cooling racks.  Once completely cooled, decorate as desired. Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated cookies can last up to a month.

Royal Icing

2½ – 3 cups Icing Powdered Sugar, unsifted
2 Large Egg Whites
2 tsp Lemon Juice
1 tsp Almond Extract, optional

Directions:

Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined. Tip: It’s important that the bowls/spoons/spatulas and beaters you use are thoroughly cleaned and grease free.

Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites. Tip: listed are 2 amounts of icing sugar, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency, add very small amounts of water, a few drops at a time, until you reach the consistency you need.

Beat on low until combined and smooth. Use immediately or keep in an airtight container. Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.

Decorating Tutorial

Decorating your cookies: Flooding
“Flooding” a cookie is a technique used when covering a cookie with Royal Icing.
1. You outline the area you want to flood which helps create a dam
2. Then fill or flood inside the area you’ve outlined

Decorating your cookies: What you’ll need

  • Piping bags
  • Elastic bands
  • Piping tips (between sizes 1 & 5)
  • Couplers
  • Glasses (handy for standing your piping bags in)
  • Clean clothes, dry & damp
  • Toothpicks
  • Gel or paste food coloring

Decorating your cookies: Royal Icing
The most important thing when it comes to decorating with Royal Icing is the consistency. There are two ways of flooding your cookies. Some like to do the outline with a thicker icing and then flood with a thinner icing. Some like to use the same icing to do both which saves time and you don’t have to have two different piping bags for each color you’re using.

The Same Consistency method:
Consistency: Mix your royal icing according to the recipe/instructions. Drag a knife through the surface of the Royal Icing and count to 10. If the surface becomes smooth between 5 & 10 seconds, the icing is at the correct consistency. Tip: If your icing is too thick, thin it by adding a few drops of water. Mix, do the 10 second test, then if it’s still too thick, add a few more drops of water, repeat, etc. Tip: To thicken your icing, add small amounts of icing sugar until thick enough for the 10 second test

Two Different Consistencies method:
Consistency: Mix your royal icing according to the recipe/instructions. Separate into 2 different bowls, one lot of icing for outlining, the other for flooding. For the outlining icing, drag a knife through the surface of the Royal Icing. If the surface becomes smooth at around 10 seconds, the icing is at the correct consistency. Tip: If your icing is too thick, thin it by adding a few drops of water. Mix, count to 10 seconds, then if it’s still too thick, add a few more drops of water, repeat, etc. Tip: To thicken your icing, add small amounts of icing sugar until thick enough for the 10 second test.

For the flooding/filling icing, drag a knife through the surface of the Royal Icing. If the surface becomes smooth at around 3-4 seconds, the icing is at the correct consistency. Tip: If your icing is too thick, thin it by adding a few drops of water. Mix, count to 3-4 seconds, then if it’s still too thick, add a few more drops of water, repeat, etc.  Tip: To thicken your icing, add small amounts of icing sugar until thick enough for the 3-4 second test.

Coloring:
Separate Royal Icing into separate bowls for each color you plan on using. Tip: Make sure to cover the bowls with cling film or a damp cloth to prevent the top from setting and then making lumps

Using a toothpick, add gel or paste coloring to each bowl and mix thoroughly until desired color is reached. Tip: You can use liquid food coloring but you might not be able to get the desired strength of color, liquid coloring will also thin out the icing so you’ll need to add more icing sugar to thicken it again.

Prepping and filling your piping bags:
Attach your icing tips to the piping bags using couplers. Tip: You don’t need to use a coupler but it makes it easier if you want to change tip sizes. Tip: A size 1 tip is best for doing intricate details. A size 2 tip is good for some details and outlining. Fill or flood with sizes 2 – 5.  Tip: You don’t need a piping bag, you can use a ziplock bag with a tiny bit snipped off the corner. I would however recommend getting a piping set if you don’t have one as it will be much easier and more precise.

Stand the piping bags in glasses with the tops of the bags folded over the top of the glass. Fill your icing bags with each colored icing. Tie the ends of the piping bags with elastic bands.

Decorating: Outlining
Fit the piping bag with a size 2 or 3 tip. Tip: Or snip a very small bit of the corner off of a Ziploc bag.  Hold the piping bag at a 45 degree angle above the cookie where you want to start the outline. Gently squeeze the piping bag and start moving in the direction you want to outline the cookie. Start lifting the piping bag away from the cookie so that the flow of icing falls onto the cookie, making it an even and neater outline. As you start to reach the beginning of the outline, bring the piping tip closer to the surface of the cookie to meet the start of the icing outline. Tip: If you’re doing an intricate cookie, like a snow flake, you won’t be able to lift the tip as far away from the cookie. f you’re doing a different color border, e.g. a black border, let the outline dry before flooding. If using the same color for the outline as you’re flooding with, begin flooding after doing the outline.

Decorating: Flooding
Fit the piping bag with a size 2-5 tip, the bigger the area being filled, the bigger the tip. Tip: Or cut slightly more off the corner of a Ziploc bag to create a slightly larger opening.

Quickly zigzag back and forth over the area you want to fill.  Tp: You need to be quick when flooding the cookie so don’t worry too much if it’s not filled in neatly. Using a toothpick or clean paintbrush, push the icing around into the gaps that are still remaining.  Either pick up the cookie and tip it from side to side to even out the filling, or lightly bang the cookie down on your kitchen counter.

Decorating: Melding colors
If you would like to add lines or dots to the base color that you flooded the cookie with so that they meld and dry as a smooth surface, you need to add the lines/dots/patterns as quickly as possible after flooding and smoothing the surface of the cookie. Tip: Make sure to have all the colors you’re planning on using ready and close by so that you can switch between colors quickly. Simply pipe other colors onto the flooded surface in patterns or lines which you can either leave as that or then drag a toothpick through to make marbling patterns.

Decorating: On top of flooding
If you’d like to do other patterns/outlines or writing on top of the flooded surface so that they are raised above the flooded background, simply allow the icing to dry, preferably over night.  Fit the piping bag with tip sizes 1-3. Pipe patterns or write on top of the dry icing. Tip: For writing, the consistency of your icing should be thicker rather than thinner, drag a knife through your icing and when the surface smoothes around 12-15 seconds, the consistency is correct.

Packaging and Storing:

Once fully decorated, allow cookies to dry for 24 hours in a cool and dry area. Stack cookies in an airtight container, from largest cookies at the bottom, to smallest and more intricate at the top, with parchment or wax free paper in between the layers. Store in a cool and dry area with the container’s lid firmly sealed. Will last for about a month if stored this way.

General Baking Tips:
When measuring by volume (cup) always shift/aerate your flour/icing sugar in the container/bag before measuring because it settles as it sits and so you end up with more flour/icing sugar in your cup. I do this by moving the ingredient around with a spoon, whisk or fork.

When measuring flour or icing sugar by volume (cup) never scoop the flour/icing sugar up with the cup otherwise you compress the contents and this can make a big difference in the amount you’re using. Rather, spoon the ingredient into the cup until level with the top.

When measuring baking powder or baking soda, always level off the top of the measuring spoon with something flat (like the back of a knife) as these ingredients need to be accurately measured.

When mixing your ingredients, always follow the recipe instructions, especially when it comes to beating in eggs and flour, so if it specifies to mix until just combined or to beat for 4 minutes, follow the instructions to get best results.

Unless otherwise specified, always have your ingredients at room temperature.

It’s always best to invest in an oven thermometer so that you know exactly the temperature you’re baking at then you can also find out if you have cold or hot spots in your oven.

If you need to rotate your trays midst baking, always allow at least half the baking time to lapse before opening your oven to move baking trays around, this allows time for your baked goods to form a good structure so that they won’t flop.

General Royal Icing Tips:
Keep a damp cloth handy while decorating your cookies so that if you’re switching between different icing bags, you can keep the tips covered with the damp cloth so that the icing doesn’t dry and clog them.

If your icing tips do clog, use a toothpick or pin to unclog them.

Always pipe a little bit of royal icing onto a board/paper towel before you begin to make sure there are no air bubbles.  

Remember to always cover bowls containing royal icing wither cling wrap, a damp cloth or sealable lid so that the surface doesn’t dry.

Don’t store anything decorated with royal icing in the fridge otherwise the royal icing will become tacky.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

FoodBuzz Project Food Blog Challenge #2 – Harira – Moroccan lamb and lentil soup

       

I am really excited to go on to part two of the FoodBuzz challenge, The Project Food Blog 2010. Thank you everyone that voted for me.           

For the second challenge in The Project Food Blog 2010, I was asked to select an ethnic classic that is outside of my comfort zone.            

Challenge number two was surprisingly difficult for me especially deciding what to cook. My challenge was finding an ethnic food that I am uncomfortable cooking. Every week, I regularly make ethnic dishes and am very comfortable cooking Swedish, Thai, Korean, Greek, Indian, Japanese, Vietnamese and Chinese food. I promised myself that the challenge had to be from a country I have never been to or cooked their food.  I really had to take out a globe and start looking.  Then I came up with a few ideas Albanian, Bolivian, etc.  But those didn’t sound very interesting, so then I went to my travel to do list. Which places are on my list for vacation that I still have not been to?  Here I found the place – Morocco.  I have never been to Morocco, I have eaten Moroccan food and I love their flavors and spices.  But I have never cooked it.  So then I started doing research on traditional Moroccan food. I was like a little kid in a candy store.     

    

        

Moroccan cuisine is extremely diverse, and has influences of Berber, Moorish, Mediterranean, and Arab spices. As a result, Moroccan cuisine is regarded as the most diverse in the world. Spices are used extensively in Moroccan food such as saffron, mint, cinnamon cumin, turmeric, ginger, anise, and coriander; spices that are strong and aromatic and just make the house smell wonderful.            

The most common Moroccan dish is couscous, something I really enjoy but it is too easy to make. As I continued down the list of traditional Moroccan dish, I found Pastilla,  Tajine, and Harira. All three dishes sounded amazing, but I ended up picking Harira since it is a soup and I am a huge soup lover, I knew it would be something I would make again for dinner.          

Harira is a chickpea and lamb soup from Morocco usually served in the evening when it’s time for Muslims to break the daily fast during Ramadan. In Morocco, it is eaten along with fresh figs, or honey sweetmeats (chabakkia with almonds and honey).            

             

I looked around for Harira recipes and there are many versions; vegetarian, beef and lamb.  Since I am also a lamb lover I opted for a Lamb Harira recipe.  Also there are many additional variations of this recipe some use saffron some do not, I do not know if this is because it’s hard to get or not.  But I opted for a recipe I found in the New York Times but I decided to add saffron to it since that is what I was reading was authentic. Also I opted to use the vermicelli pasta vs. the rice, you can add rice, vermicelli pasta or both.            

As I was cooking this dish the house smelled wonderful and I wanted to start planning my trip to Morocco.         

Picture from Moroccan Adventure Travel 

The dish was delicious, so tasty and flavorful.  It is something I will definitely make again.          

Harira – Moroccan lamb and lentil soup

Yields: 12 servings | Prep Time: 2 hour 30 minutes             

Note: If you are using dried lentils and garbanzo beans leave them in water overnight           

4 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 red onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 lbs cubed lamb meat
2 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
2 tsp of ground coriander
6 saffron threads (optional)
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 carrot, chopped
1 turnip, chopped
1/4 of fresh coriander leaves, chopped or whole or substitute with fresh parsley.
Sea salt
1 29-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tomato, chopped
1 1/2 cups green lentils
2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained
6 ounces vermicelli pasta
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Juice of 2 lemons
12 cups water           

In a large pot, warm olive oil. Add both types of onion and garlic, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. On the side heat up a skillet with oil and when hot brown the lamb about 1 minute each on each side.  Then add lamb, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne, celery, cumin, coriander, saffron and cilantro, into the pot and let cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Season with salt.           

Add canned tomatoes, reserving juice, and tomato and simmer for 15 minutes.         

Add reserved tomato juice, carrot, turnip, 12 cups water and lentils. Bring mixture to a boil, and then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 2 hours.           

Increase heat to medium-high. Add beans and pasta. Cook until pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer. Taste for seasoning.           

Beat the eggs and add some hot soup to the eggs to make sure you do not get scrambled eggs. Then pour the mixture back into the soup and , then add lemon juice.           

Add fresh coriander just before serving or substitute with fresh parsley.           

Ladle into bowls and serve with fresh figs on the side.              

Voting for Challenge #2 starts Monday at 6:00 am Pacific Time September 27th and voting closes Thursday 6:00 pm Pacific Time September 30th.             

To vote:          

1. Please go to http://www.foodbuzz.com/ and join Foodbuzz. This is only for authentication.  

2. Then go to my profile page and click VOTE!

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