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Friday, June 3, 2011

FFwD Warm Weather Vegetable Pot Au Feu

My hubby, Mr. Hobby, and I decided to try out the slow carb diet for two weeks. We only made it four days, it was making us cranky because we were hungry all the time and we started snapping at each other. As Tim Ferris points out, you can eat a lot of spinach, and not come close to the calories in eating the same portion size of rice. I adjusted this week's FFwD recipe to be slow carb friendly by leaving out the potatoes (white foods are a no-no) and putting sugar snap peas in their place.

I don't own a wok, so I used my dutch oven. It seemed fitting, since that is what I make my winter soups in, and this was soup like.

I was about to poach my egg whites (the only white food allowed) and I realized I had no vinegar. I figured that since it was just the two of us, it wouldn't matter if my poached eggs weren't pretty. Not pretty is an understatement. They really didn't stay together well, as you can see from what stayed in my skillet when I pulled the poached egg whites out.

The finished product was yummy! I was able to use my homegrown cilantro for the first time, and that was exciting! Too see what everyone else did, be sure to check out FFwD!

Friday, May 27, 2011

FFwD Cardamon Rice Pilaf and Egg and Asparagus Salad

The caradmon rice pilaf made my whole house smell delicious! Dorie said you could cook this rice with chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water. I chose to use a 14.5 ounce Swanson's chicken broth can, and then added 1.5 ounces of water. I'm sure this rice will show up again on my table. The only part I didn't like was the texture of biting into a cardamon seed. I used caradamon seeds, already out of pod, instead of peeling them out of the pods myself. I'm not sure if that made these harder or not, but I thought the seeds were hard to bite into.

I had the egg, asparagus, and bacon salad ready for last Friday, but was so busy working at college graduation activities, I forgot to post! I made the salad without the eggs. I don't like the taste of egg yolks, so an egg with a runny yolk was not appealing. So I made the salad using just bacon and asparagus. It was delicious, and a beautiful spring salad!

All this week, my heart has gone out to the people of Joplin, Mo as they've faced the aftermath of the devastating tornado. It has been a week of severe weather here in the Midwest. For those of you who like weather photos, I thought I'd post a few shots of our hail in St. Louis on 5/25/11.

A dollar bill gives perspective on the size.

Check out the rest of the bloggers at frenchfridayswithdorie.com. Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

FFwD Spinach and Bacon Quiche

Note: This post was meant to be posted 5/13/11. Due to the outage of blogger in the morning of 5/13, it is just now being posted.

This dish for this week is one I only made because of French Fridays with Dorie. I don't like egg dishes, so I've never liked quiche. I went into this dish knowing that I might not like it, but I figured Mr. Hobby would enjoy the quiche.

I'd planned to make this for dinner one night this week. I had shopped for the ingredients the day before. As I was ready to start, I realized I'd made a mistake, I hadn't made the tart crust ahead of time. I didn't feel like eating dinner at 11 pm, so I improvised. Hello, Pillsbury ready made pie crust. I also don't own a tart pan so I used my pie pan. I rolled the pie crust into my pie pan, and moved on to the other prep work. I didn't partially bake it, because I use these Pillsbury pie crusts often, and they'll bake quickly if they're at room temperature. I used my rice cooker to steam the spinach, and my presto powercrisp bacon cooker to cook the bacon in the microwave. While they cooked, I was able to shop the onion and garlic. As soon as I had enough bacon grease accumulated at the bottom of the powercrisp, I put a tablespoon in a pan, and sauteed the onions and garlic. While they were cooking, I was able to tend to the spinach, and chop up the bacon. I think if I made this a few times, this could really be a dish that comes together in a snap. I love dishes like that for weeknight meals when I'm tired from working all day. I know Mr. Hobby loved this, he ate about half of it for dinner, and then polished off another 1/4 the next day. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either. I think because there is more cream than egg, it isn't really eggy like some dishes. I'm planning to make this again, and I'm thinking it might taste good with a few tomatoes mixed in too. We'll see.

I'm betting some of the other bloggers played around with the ingredients for this week's Spinach and Bacon quiche. Check them out here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

FFwD Tourteau de Chevre

I made this Tourteau de Chevre Thursday night, after Zumba. After making the tart dough Wednesday night, but not the complete cake, I was pretty much cramming the recipe in for this week's FFwD.

I was also cramming in a phone call to my Grandma, to wish her a happy 89th birthday. So while Grandma and I chatted, I prepped my ingredients, and did everything I could that didn't involve my handmixer. Normally calls with Grandma last about 10 minutes, but she was feeling talkative tonight. We rambled from one topic to another in conversation. Then she mentioned casually that she'd recently attended the 90th birthday for her milkman, and that he had picked up their milk for them all the years. The conversation caught in my brain. "Grandma, how many years did you have cows?" I asked. "Oh, well, from the time we got married until 1978, so a long time." Wow. "That was normal back then, right? For people to farm lots of different things?" "Oh yeah, everyone had cows then. Not like now. Now most people don't have cows." My grandparents had retired from cows, pigs, and plants by the time I was born, leaving only a few chickens. It is so hard for me to think about that nowadays, because my point of reference is that people have a dairy farm, or a chicken farm, but not everything all together on a small scale the way it used to be. And I said to my grandma "Things sure have changed, huh?" My original intention with the comment was that now milk comes from dairy farms with hundreds of cows, and nothing but cows. But the minute the words left my mouth, I realized they took on a larger meaning, about how farming hasn't just changed, but life has changed across generations. My mother moved from the farm to the suburbs, with its manicured lawns and perfectly spaced plots of land. I moved from the suburbs to the city, with its quirky and independent thinkers. There are a decent number of families in my area who do some urban cultivating: honey, chickens, gardens that take up the whole yard. But no matter how many chickens my neighbors have, my life will never circle back to the life my grandma lived. I doubt my grandma ever imagined the life her daughter would lead in the suburbs, just as my mom sometimes struggles to understand the life I've chosen. But no matter how far we've come, how different our lives are, we have lots of love for each other.

So a few days early, I'll say Happy Mother's Day to all the moms and grandmas out there. I'll be celebrating with mine on Sunday. And to my grandma, happy birthday. On your birthday, a few hours after our phone call, I toasted you in my kitchen, with my Tourteau de Chevre. It tasted like what would happen if cheesecake and angel food cake had a baby. And the main ingredient was honey chevre (from Trader Joes!), a product from bees and goats, two things you never had to care for on your farm.

Please check out the other bloggers on FFwD, and again Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, April 29, 2011

FFwD Michel Rostang’s double chocolate mousse cake

If you're looking for a Bistrot Paul Bert pepper steak, you won't find one here, best check FFwD. I don't eat beef, and I still have plenty of FFwD recipes to make up from before I joined the fun.

I chose to make the mousse cake, originally completed January 21, 2011. It is funny, because back in January I owned Around My French Table but I had only completed one FFwD. I could have participated in this one at the time, but chose not to because Mr. Hobby doesn't eat chocolate, and I'm not a "chocolate lover." Since then, I've learned that FFwD challenges me to make recipes that I normally would pass by, but end up loving. The mousse cake seemed like a great choice, because it is GF, and I knew I could take it to Easter for my sister.
I read all the P&Qs for this cake, and many of the blog posts. So I baked it with the bottom of the springform pan, used good chocolate (a mix of Ghirardelli and Scharffen Berger) and I was prepared for it to be thin. I baked it twice, because I didn't want my sister or any of the kids to be exposed to the risks of raw eggs from the mousse. I had intended to serve it cold, but when I got to my parent's house for Easter, there was no room in the fridge. It ended up being served at room temperature, and I think that worked just fine. This cake was a hit with my gf sister, as well as many of the other family members. For me, it was too rich, but c'est la vie.

I don't think I'll be repeating this cake. I didn't find the process of making it enjoyable. Keeping the chocolate from hardening up was a challenge. Here is a picture of me melting the chocolate like Dorie describes. Once it was silky, I pulled it away, and as I started to mix in my butter it must've been too cold, because it began to turn hard. I had to put it back on the pot of water, and combine it over the heat. But, I don't regret the experience of making this cake. Lucky me, next week is also a dessert week!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day 2011

I’m struggling this year to do something special for Earth Day. My original intention for contributing to Earth Day was to walk to and from work. It is about 4.5 miles each way. Unfortunately, we’re having some terrible thunderstorms here right now. Reducing my carbon footprint isn’t worth getting struck by lightning or catching pneumonia. I haven’t tabled this idea though, I’ll try to make it up one day soon when the weather isn’t terrible. My breakfast was a day old bagel from St. Louis Bread Co. Not too bad for food distance, but not fabulous either. Lunch is going to be a frozen entrĂ©e, not exactly earth friendly, frozen food has a big carbon footprint. Dinner hasn’t been planned yet, I think Mr. Hobby may cook tonight. I always recycle as much as I can, everywhere I am. I’ve been known to stuff recyclable material (paper, plastic cups, you name it) in my purse and carry it home to recycle. What are you doing different for Earth Day?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

FFwD Mustard Batons

This weeks recipe was mustard batons. I prepared these as part of a birthday celebration for Mr. Hobby. Inspired by the picture from the Around My French Table cookbook that you can see posted on the FFwD lyl I decided to recreate the apertifs tray Dorie put together. I prepared mustard batons, an olive fougasse, set out bowls of olives and manchego cheese, and served white wine. It was a great start to our celebration of his birthday. Our next stop was a local French restaurant, Vin de Set. The food at Vin de Set was excellent. It was chilly, so we didn't sit out on the patio this time. However, their rooftop patio has an amazing view of the St. Louis Arch. Located in the French Victorian styled neighborhood of Lafayette Square, I'd recommend this as a fancy dinner stop for those who may find themselves in St. Louis.

These mustard batons are a very simple party food to prepare. They remind me a lot of palmiers, but they're even easier to make than a palmier. Dorie has us use a high grade mustard, but I imagine that most paste-like sauces and condiments would work for these. A curry baton might be lovely.

For the olive fougasse I used a recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking Thanks to my favorite baking supply company, King Arthur Flour, I learned about the no-knead bread, and this amazing book. When I want to make bread, I prepare the dough in a large bucket, and the entire loaf requires only a little work. If you'd like to try this technique yourself, I recommend this KAF blog post, it was what kicked off my original interest in no-knead breads, and I haven't looked back!

So for the fougasse I chopped up some high quality kalamata olives. The olives were mixed into the dough after it had been prepared. When I got to the part where I needed to roll the dough out and then cut it like the fougasse I found it easier to follow Dorie's directions from AMFT, so I did!

The fougasse was amazing, and I recommend it as a future FFwD recipe. The couple we had join us to celebrate Mr. Hobby's birthday enjoyed it so much, they asked me to make them sandwich bread that tasted like the olive fougasse. I had dough in the fridge, and with the Artisan Bread in 5 book, it wasn't too hard to figure out how to adapt it into a loaf of bread. I hope to make a sun-dried tomato fougasse this weekend for Easter.

Be sure to take a look at the other FFwD Mustard Batons.

Friday, April 15, 2011

FFwD Eclairs!

I experienced trepidation at the thought of making the eclairs. But I was determined to make them, after all, they are a quintessential French dessert. If I was going to learn french cooking and baking from Around My French Table, I couldn't skip the eclairs. So when the monthly schedule came out, I marked last Saturday on my calendar as eclair day. Saturday morning I went to the grocery store for my ingredients, and then did what I do with any project I'm nervous about - I procrastinated. There was a featured recipe for risotto at the grocery store, complete with a sampling of the wine they wanted you to use in the dish. I'd never made risotto before, but knew what it entailed. Nothing says quick Saturday lunch before baking like risotto, right? ;)

So after my risotto was finished, I had no more excuses and started the eclairs. This was more like 3 recipes in one. First I made the cream puff filling recipe so that it could chill in the fridge.
Six egg yolks later (6!) I was whisking away, under heat, and suddenly noticed a clump in my pot. "Oh no! I must have cooked part of the egg when I was tempering the eggs," was my thought. So I turned around to grab a spatula to pull it out, and when I turned back around, my entire pot had solidified. I took a taste, and it tasted like custard - success! I was really surprised that this was when it solidified though, because Dorie didn't say anything about it solidifying while whisking over heat, and she is normally so detailed in her directions.

As that was chilling, I approached the pate a choux. Since I joined FFwD late, I've never made the gougeres, the first recipe, so I'm behind some of the other bloggers in this experience. The dough came together without problems, and soon I was filling a ziploc with the dough, cutting off the tip, and piping out my eclairs.
Next came baking, and boy did my kitchen heat up when I stuck the wooden spoon in the door for the final baking.

My eclair shells came out just fine! I found that when I flipped them over, they had the natural seam that Dorie mentioned. I tried cutting them open as Dorie described, but it didn't work well for me. I ended up just peeling them open by hand, sort of like opening a hotdog button.
I ended up not glazing the top - I thought they were sweet enough. Also, the ganache glaze was the one that appealed to me, but I try to avoid chocolate because Mr. Hobby won't touch it if I use chocolate.

They were really good! I took most of them into work on Monday, and now my co-workers think I'm some sort of weekend pastry chef. Ha! If only they knew about FFwD where they could see what all the bloggers did this week for the eclairs.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

FFwD Garlicky crumb-coated broccoli

I got home from work an hour late last night, and was gobbling down a quick salad for dinner when I started thinking about what I would write in my French Fridays for Dorie post. And then I realized I hadn't made the recipe yet! I had planned on making it on Tuesday, and we had so many leftovers from the weekend, that I didn't end up having to cook anything all week! So I had to make this dish after Zumba on Thursday night, or this was going to be a late post!

I'm not good with determining weight, so I'm not really sure how much broccoli I made. I used two small crowns, the amount that would fit in the steam tray of my rice cooker. I love steaming vegetables in my rice cooker, I just put in the water, hit the steam button, and set a timer. Since I wasn't exactly prepared to make this recipe, I did some tweaking. I cut back the butter by 1 tablespoon, I don't like using so much butter. I didn't have 3 small garlic cloves, but I did have one large clove and one small clove. And I didn't have a lemon to zest, so I just squeezed a little lemon juice in after the butter and garlic cooked. FYI, in case you ever make the same sub I did, the lemon juice made this really start to sizzle, it may have burned if I hadn't been watching it closely after I put it in. I also didn't have any fresh parsley or mint, so I just added the crumbs, salt, and pepper next. And after toasting I turned the broccoli into the dish.

I snapped a quick picture, then called Mr. Hobby into the kitchen to try the late night snack. It was delicious! Tasted just like fried vegetables. I plan to do this with zucchini this summer. I think it is healthier than frying, but these things can be tricky. Which is worse, three tablespoons of butter and breadcrumbs, or breadcrumbs (with an egg white adhesive) then dipped in oil? So my question, for those in the nutrition know, is this better or worse than frying?

Maybe someone else will have the answer on their FFwD post. Check out what the other FFwD bloggers were up to this week.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

FFwD Quinoa, Fruit and Nut Salad

Another Friday, another French Friday with Dorie, and this week we made quinoa. I didn’t know what quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wha) was until a few years ago. For the first few years after that, I thought it was pronounced Ke-NO-Ah. Quinoa is a wonderful, healthy grain to make part of your regular diet. But the problem is that if you don’t know what it is, or how to pronounce it, you probably aren’t ordering it off the menu. At the university where I work, quinoa is available every day at one of the eateries on campus. In fact, dining services does a wonderful job producing plenty of healthy options, I go crazy for their roasted beet and goat cheese salad – it is amazing. But the number one order by students on campus isn’t any of these healthy treats, it is a half and half. A half and half means your plate is half full with fries, and the other half with chicken fingers. The students order it because it is quick (they always have it ready in the fryer) affordable, and plentiful. One of the issues that has been discussed on campus this year is that it is one thing to have healthy food available to students, and another thing to have healthy food easily approachable to students. Grains like quinoa and barley are a great option to pack in nutrition in a variety of ways. I’m glad this was part of our French Fridays with Dorie recipe today, because I want to do my part to make quinoa a “regular” food in my region. This is my first time making quinoa from scratch, so I’m once again grateful for FFwD for pushing me outside my limits.

I purchased Bob Red's Mill Quinoa, and it states that it is rinsed and dried, so that the consumer doesn't have to rinse it before cooking. That was good news to me, because my sieve would have let the quinoa slip right through, they're so tiny uncooked. Cooking the quinoa was very simple, and similar to cooking couscous.

For the salad Dorie has us mix in dried fruits, and our choice of a nut and seed assortment. For the dried fruit I used a bag that contained dried cherries, cranberries, apricots, apples, raisins and golden raisins. For the nuts and seeds, I made a mix of pepitas, sunflower seeds, almonds, and a little flax seed (milled flax seed because I grabbed the wrong package, oops!). In the future, I'll skip the sunflower seeds, I felt like they stood out, where the rest of my nuts and seeds blended in well. There was a simple dressing to this that came together quickly.

I chose to skip the optional bed of greens. I was hesitant with the yogurt topping at first, but dolloped more on later. This was good the night of, and worked great for lunch the next day. The dried fruit rehydrated some, and tasted even better on day two. I think this would make a great lunch, or picnic side. But for a Tuesday night dinner after a long day of work, when the cold of winter had returned to the Midwest, it left me craving something warm and comforting instead of a cool grain salad. At that moment I understood why our students go for the chicken fingers over the quinoa.

This was one of those dishes that opens itself up to lots of adaptations, I can't wait to see what everyone did on the LYL for French Fridays with Dorie!

Friday, March 25, 2011

FFwD: Scallops with caramel-orange sauce and Spiced butter-glazed carrots

When looking over this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, I was a bit nervous. Before this meal, I'd only had scallops when eating a mixed seafood dish, and they were always chewy or rubbery. I consulted with Mr. Hobby, and he encouraged me to try making the scallops, but not the whole pound. Fair enough. I went to the local grocer and purchased 1/2 pound of fresh sea scallops at $14.99 a pound (ouch! Midwest seafood prices) and 1/2 pound peeled and deveined wild gulf shrimp. This was my first wild gulf shrimp purchase since the unfortunate Gulf Oil spill last April.

Doire recommends the spiced butter-glazed carrots as a side dish for the scallops. Since I missed making this recipe in December, I decided to do double-Dorie for the dinner. The carrots presented me with the challenge of purchasing cardamon from the local international grocery store. The clerk was so funny, after she told me my total was $7 for the small spice bag she exclaimed "Oh! Cardamon expensive." I agreed with her, as this was shaping up to be an expensive dinner.

Unfortunately, when I started to make the dinner I realized that my camera battery was about to die. I decided to save the strength for the finished products, so I don't have any other pictures. In fact, I snapped the plated food shot, and then the camera died before I could even see how it turned out, it reminded me of taking a picture with film cameras. I crossed my fingers that the shot had turned out, and dug into dinner.

My first bite of scallop was to die for! I loved every bite after that. The scallops and shrimp went together wonderfully. The sauce was absolutely amazing. My sauce color was a little light, and it may not have been as think either, but the taste was amazing. The leftover sauce was poured on biscuits, what a treat! The carrots were pretty good, but I wouldn't have paired them with this dish. They had their own destinct flavor, and I think the dish would've been better served with a sauceless vegetable. I would've loved some asparagus (like in the Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours photo) to run through the wonderful sauce.

Once again, FFwD challenged me to step out of my comfort zone, try new foods and new techniques. The result was a dish that we both loved, and can't wait to enjoy again!

I hope the other bloggers at FFwD enjoyed this as well. You can find out about their experiences at French Fridays with Dorie!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

FFwD Salted Butter Break Ups

Dorie's suggestion for today's cookie is to make it as one large cookie, and serve it at the table, letting everyone break pieces off to enjoy. I took these cookies to my family's St. Patrick's Day corn beef and cabbage dinner on March 17th, and didn't think anyone would want to be breaking off cookie pieces after the little ones got their hands on a large cookie. So I decided to make them into smaller cookies.

I didn't want to make actual cut-out cookies, because I wanted these to retain a rustic look. So I used a pizza cutter, and just cut up the rolled out and chilled dough into rectangles.

I used the fork to make the pattern, and thought I had gone deep enough, but a lot of it dissapeared after baking. Dorie must really press the fork in to get the lines like in the book photo.

A note about dying the cookies green. I like the color they turned out, they're a bit swirled, and not too bright green. I achieved this by adding the food coloring to the food processor after the water had been added and the dough pulsed a few times. I think I would've had a more consistent green color if I'd added the food coloring to the water, and pulsed them both in at the same time. I also could have added the food coloring to the egg white, and had a "painted" green top on the cookie. I'm happy with the swirled look, but if you wanted to dye these cookies and wanted a more consistent look, I'd try one of the other options.

Overall, nobody in my family was a huge fan of these. They were slightly salty, but not really that sweet. And I don't think I'll make them again, because I couldn't help feeling like I was making homemade play-dough when I was rolling out the dough.

Happy Irish/French Friday with Dorie! You can see how the cookie crumbled for the other bloggers at frenchfridayswithdorie.com!

Edit: I used 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt, and thought these were more salty than sweet. It seems that others used a different kind of salt (sel gris was what we were told to use) and maybe had a different result.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

FFwD Beggar's Linguine

I LOVED this dish. I think it was the first FFwD dish I made that I would call "quick" so that was a huge plus. This dish will find its place into my work night dinner rotation, because it can be on the table in less than 30 minutes.
I really made this recipe something that I thought we would both love, and we did! That meant leaving out the dates and the raisins. To substitute in, I added macadamia nuts which are delicious and were on sale this week, and kept the portion of pistachios and almonds the same.

The butter bubbles and browns with the nuts.

Dorie directs you to zest in orange at the end, and zest in Parmesan. I zested most of this naval orange, and it gave a great flavor pop to the dish. For the Parmesan, I pulled out another of my favorite cheese brands - Hautly aged Parmesan. This Parmesan is nice and strong, so just a little of the cheese grated on gives great flavor, with only a little cheese.

In the future I would use a less butter than Dorie calls for, and just add whatever nuts I have on hand. While we normally don't share the recipes from FFwD to encourage support of printed cookbooks, Dorie has posted the recipe on her blog, you can see it here: http://doriegreenspan.com/2011/01/there-was-a-time-in.html

I'm betting there will be lots of fun variations to check out with the other FFwD bloggers.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

40 bags of stuff

This is a very personal post for me, somewhat out of the ordinary, and not about a hobby, but about how I live my life, or the life I want to live. Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the religious season of Lent. As a Catholic, I consider the period from Ash Wednesday to Easter to be a very important time of year. I try to spend Lent as a time for reflection, for betterment of myself and the world around me, and for spiritual growth. One tradition of Lent is to "give something up." In the not so olden days, people used to give up "rich" food for Lent, hence Fat Tuesday, the day when people would eat all the sweets and yummy foods from their house, so they wouldn't be there during Lent. It makes me think of the movie Chocolat. As a child I would give up things like cookies or TV time, but for the last ten years or so, I've really tried to focus on something that causes growth, and an overall change in my life - rather than chomping down on candy for breakfast on Easter morning after 40 days without. When I first started thinking about Lent a few weeks ago, I had focused in on giving up corn syrup. Corn syrup hides in so many things, and I've been fairly laissez faire about checking the ingrediants and removing it from my home. Giving up corn syrup would force me to focuse more on the processed foods I bring into our house was my rationale. But on Sunday, three days before Ash Wednesday, I realized I was going to give something else up for Lent, my stuff.

I was raised to be overly sentimental, and overly practical. If a piece of paper might contain a memory, I keep it - and if I'm not currently using something, but might need it some day, I keep it. I'm a keeper, and my stuff has filled our tiny house to its gills. This "full" house bothers my husband, he wants a more empty space for a more visually serene environment. I know getting rid of my stuff will make my husband happy. And when it comes down to it, isn't happiness what we're all looking for? And really, is the program from a play I attended 5 years ago making me happy, here, in this moment? No. Is an old t-shirt I might wear if I ever need an old t-shirt giving me a better homelife with my husband? No.

My lenten sacrifice is my stuff - 40 bags of stuff, one for each day. On Easter morning, I want to be able to say that 40 bags of things went to Goodwill or into the recycling bin. I want our house to feel 40 bags less full.

I think it will be a good Lent. And if Lent is part of your life, I hope it goes well for you also. And because I believe in giving credit for inspiration, I was looking at this particular blog post on Sunday when the metaphorical scale tipped and my lenten sacrifice became clear for me. http://www.rareandbeautifultreasures.com/2011/01/picture-window.html Its funny, because this post from a blog I follow is over a month old, but somehow, I never saw it until this day. It is like God led me to it, nudging my heart and my head in the right direction.

Friday, March 4, 2011

FFwd Savory Cheese and Chive Bread

Friday is here, and that means French Fridays with Dorie! I've had a re
ally hectic week (new baby in the family, sister's surgery, some other developments), but luckily I made this bread for French Fridays with Dorie on Sunday. I made it to go with a cassoulet, but the cassoulet recipe wasn't ready in time for dinner on Sunday, and ended up not being very good when finished. That was sad for me, because cassoulet is Mr. Hobby's favorite dish from France, and I really wanted to make it for him.

This bread is so pretty, I'll just show you the pictures now.

You can check out the other FFwD bloggers here!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

February 2011 Daring Bakers - Panna Cotta with Florentines

I love being part of Daring Bakers, because every month what we're making is a surprise. When I logged in Feb 1, and saw the challenge was multi-part: panna cotta with gelee and Florentine cookies it was a definite surprise to me. I didn't know what any of them were! The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

I made the vanilla panna cotta, fruit gelee, and sandwiched florentines. The directions are lengthy, so I'll just share the pdf to them here. The only change I made was in the florentine cookies, we try not to purchase corn syrup in our house, so I subbed brown sugar and water for the dark corn syrup.

I was a bit nervous about the amount of whole milk and cream in these recipes, two ingredients I try to avoid.

Making the gelee was a breeze. I used a frozen berry assortment from Trader Joe's (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries). The gelee on its own tasted excellent, and I think I'll use this technique again. It was very pretty, the raspberries broke down into a deep red liquid, and then the strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries popped out.

The panna cotta wasn't difficult to make, I was worried I would have trouble. I like baking, but whisking milk makes me nervous. It came together pretty easily though. I only struggled with getting those pretty lines of panna cotta and gelee like everyone else. I ended up with fruit on the bottom gelee, and they still sort of swirled together in places.

The florentine dough came together well. When it came time to bake the cookies, I realized I'd caught myself without enough parchment paper for all the cookies. At a holiday cookie exchange in December, one girl said you could substitute wax paper for parchment paper when baking. I was skeptical, but figured this was a good moment to try. I grabbed my worst looking baking tray, in case it ended up with wax melted to it forever. The end result was that the tray was fine, but the cookies stuck to the wax paper, and there was no removing them. I ended up trashing one sheet of cookies.

When I went to sandwich the remaining florentines, they seemed so thin to sandwich. I think next time I'd try to put the chocolate into the dough, and have it bake away with the rest of the ingredients.

Once again, Daring Bakers challenged me to step out of my comfort zone. The end tasting results: the panna cotta with fruit gelee was good, but knowing how much fat and how many calories were in it from all the cream and whole milk - it kept me from going wild with enjoyment. I'll make the fruit gelee again, but never panna cotta with whole milk and heavy cream.

The florentine cookies were good, and I think it is a recipe I'll play around with in the future. Thanks for the challenge Daring Bakers!