New Segment: What’s For Dinner

January 4, 2010

Below is a post from my other blog, but I thought it would be cruel to not include it on the actual food blog.

So many of you know that I started out my blogging career by writing a food blog. Shortly before Alex deployed, the food blog went the way of cassette players {if you don’t get my metaphor, that means I abandoned it}.

I had intentions of picking it back up after the dreaded deployment date, but then I found myself eating things like cereal or Easy Mac for dinner every night. Not exactly blogable stuff there, ya know what I mean? I was somewhat baffled by how I could go from LOVING to cook to debating whether it was even worth it to get out the skillet to fry an egg for dinner. How does this happen?

Pretty much the moment my husband set foot back on American soil, my desire to cook shot back up again. That’s when I realized that my love for cooking is 100% tied to him. Cooking for me isn’t fun unless you have someone to share it with.

Perhaps it’s sad and somewhat pathetic that I can’t find the joy in it on my own. I’m sure feminists the world over are rolling in their graves right now, but I like serving my man. :::Gasp!:::

So to make a long story short, the food blogging urge has hit me again like a mack truck. Not to mention, I have this super cool new camera that takes amaaaaaaaazing pictures, even when the lighting is bad. It’s a picture perfect scenario to start blogging about food again, I tell you!

Therefore, I’m going to start featuring a new segment called “What’s For Dinner?” {Creative, huh? That’s why I’m in marketing….the creativity just oozes out of me.}

I love reading about what people eat. It just fascinates me. I can’t really explain it, but it inspires me to read what other people eat for dinner every night. I recently read a book called The Gastronomy of Marriage in which Michelle Maisto writes about what she and her husband ate for dinner during their engagement, and how food affected their relationship. Sounds boring, right? But it’s not, at least not to me! I highly recommend the book if you’re A) newly married or about to be married or B) if you’re a foodie.

But now we’re getting off topic. {I ramble too much…SUM IT UP, ASHLEY} I’m starting a new segment in which I will attempt to blog about what we eat each night in our house. The good, the bad and the ugly. Even if it’s Easy Mac….or Taco Bell. I can’t promise that I will be able to commit to blogging every day, but if I have to skip days I will at least try to mention what we had on the days that I missed. {This may be a very bad idea}

So below is my first official “What’s For Dinner?” post. I hope you enjoy it. And please leave a comment to let me know what you think!

What’s For Dinner? 1/3/2009
Chicken Cordon Blue w/ Ranch Roasted Potatoes

This was what I like to call an Oh-Crap-Meal where you have nothing planned and no time to grocery shop. So I scrounged around and came up with this meal, which actually turned out really nicely!

No real recipe here, but I’ll try to walk you through it: Pound out chicken breasts to thin them out a bit. Spread some Laughing Cow Light Swiss Cheese on the chicken (I used one wedge per breast). Then place two slices of deli ham on each breast. Roll the chicken up and then secure with toothpicks. Roll the chicken around in Egg Beaters (or a beaten egg or two) and then coat in Panko (or regular) breadcrumbs (I did this shake ‘n bake style in a Ziploc bag). Place the coated chicken rolls on a rack placed on top of a baking sheet and then bake at 400 degrees until done (I think mine took about 20-25 minutes).

For the Ranch Roasted Potatoes, cut up some red potatoes into bite size pieces and place in a large bowl. Drizzle some oil over the potatoes (about 1 tablespoon?) and then sprinkle Ranch Dressing Mix (out of a packet) and s&p on them to taste. Toss the potatoes around in the bowl to evenly distribute the flavoring. Spray a baking sheet with Pam and then put the potatoes on it. Spread out in a single layer on the sheet and then bake at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, flipping them once during cooking.

Voila! That’s all it takes for a cheesy, crispy, ranchy dinner. Yum!

Deployment Carbonara

November 21, 2009

This is a post from my new general blog Home for the Holladays. Enjoy!

 

I’ve eaten a lot of pasta during this deployment. It’s easy, it’s filling, and you can make it in small portions. At first I mostly just ate pasta with olive oil, salt & pepper & parmesan cheese but after a while I started experimenting with other simple options.

I absolutely LOVE Spaghetti Carbonara….to me it’s basically like an adult macaroni & cheese. What’s not to love?!? When I feel like a traditional Carbonara I make this recipe that I featured on my old food blog. But one day I was craving Carbonara and didn’t have any bacon or parmesan cheese. What I did have was goat cheese so I experimented and ended up loving the result!

In this case I used Lemon Goat Cheese, which gives the pasta a great lemony flavor but you could use any flavor of goat cheese! Or, if you just have plain goat cheese and still want lemon flavor you could add a squeeze of lemon juice to the pasta.

Lemony Spaghetti Carbonara {aka Deployment Carbonara}
Source: me

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. spaghetti, half a package {I use whole wheat}
  • 1 egg
  • 2 oz. lemon goat cheese, half a package {or any flavor goat cheese you prefer}
  • Salt to taste
  • Lots of freshly ground black pepper

Procedure:

Boil water and cook spaghetti noodles according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking, crack the egg into a small bowl and beat well with a whisk. Crumble the goat cheese into the beaten egg and then mix well with the whisk. It’s okay if there are still lumps of goat cheese…just get them incorporated together. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to the egg mixture. Set aside.

Once pasta is al dente, drain water and then IMMEDIATELY place pasta back in the hot cooking pot. Quickly pour the egg & cheese mixture into the hot pasta and immediately stir to combine. Timeliness is key here because this is the only way you are “cooking” the eggs. If you don’t do this quickly you will be dealing with raw eggs in your pasta…not good.

Add more salt & pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Makes 3-4 servings…depending on how big your servings are. :)

Libby wanted some Carbonara too.

30 Minute (Venison) Shepherd’s Pie

November 16, 2008

I thought when I married a boy from Kansas that I had dodged the whole hunting obsession thing. But I should have known that my Texan father would suck him in to the cult. So, before we had even used up all the venison in our small freezer from last year, he had brought home another whole deer worth of venison meat! Time to get to using that stuff up!

Shepherd’s Pie is a perfect way to incorporate ground venison, but you could easily use the more typical beef or lamb too. This is a Rachael Ray recipe but don’t hold that against it. :-) It was very satisfying on a cool night. And the best part is, I now have a little bit more space in my freezer.

Sorry about the picture...its not very photogenic and I forgot to take one before we ate.

Sorry about the picture...it's not very photogenic and I forgot to take one before we ate.

30-Minute (Venison) Shepherd’s Pie

*  2 pounds potatoes, such as russet, peeled and cubed
* 2 tablespoons sour cream or softened cream cheese
* 1 large egg yolk
* 1/2 cup cream, for a lighter version substitute vegetable or chicken broth
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
* 1 3/4 pounds ground beef or ground lamb
* 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
* 1 onion, chopped
* 2 tablespoons butter
* 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 1 cup beef stock or broth
* 2 teaspoons Worcestershire, eyeball it
* 1/2 cup frozen peas, a couple of handfuls
* 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions

Boil potatoes in salted water until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain potatoes and pour them into a bowl. Combine sour cream, egg yolk and cream. Add the cream mixture into potatoes and mash until potatoes are almost smooth.

While potatoes boil, preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil to hot pan with beef or lamb. Season meat with salt and pepper. Brown and crumble meat for 3 or 4 minutes. If you are using lamb and the pan is fatty, spoon away some of the drippings. Add chopped carrot and onion to the meat. Cook veggies with meat 5 minutes, stirring frequently. In a second small skillet over medium heat cook butter and flour together 2 minutes. Whisk in broth and Worcestershire sauce. Thicken gravy 1 minute. Add gravy to meat and vegetables. Stir in peas.

Preheat broiler to high. Fill a small rectangular casserole with meat and vegetable mixture. Spoon potatoes over meat evenly. Top potatoes with paprika and broil 6 to 8 inches from the heat until potatoes are evenly browned. Top casserole dish with chopped parsley and serve.

Well, hello there!!!

November 16, 2008

So it’s been a REALLY long time since I’ve posted a blog update. A really really long time. The blog got put on the back burner because I started a new full-time Marketing and Advertising job that keeps me very busy. But I’m back! And I plan on trying to update on a more regular basis again. I missed food blogging!

When I was walking through the grocery store this week I saw the fresh cranberries had been put out. Yay!! I LOVE fresh cranberries! They are so tart and also have a lot of health benefits. They’re packed full of antioxidants. I had planned to bake White Chocolate Cranberry Scones with them but then I decided to find a recipe that was more of a dessert than a breakfast. I ended up coming across a recipe for White Chocolate Cranberry Bars on Katie’s blog, Good Things Catered. Thanks, Katie, for another great recipe!

The pictures I took aren’t great (I’ve got to get back in the food photography swing of things) but OH BOY are they good! The tart cranberries pair so well with the white chocolate. I even decided to drizzle melted white chocolate on top but this was really not a necessary step. They were just perfect without the extra chocolate/calories.

Cranberry White Chocolate Bars
Source: Good Things Catered

Ingredients
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
zest of 1/2 orange (I omitted)
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (I omitted)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 c. dried or fresh cranberries
1/2 c. white chocolate chips

Directions:
-Preheat to 350 degrees and line an 11 x 7 pan with foil, coating with cooking spray.
-In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, zest, nutmeg and set aside.
-In bowl of stand mixer, beat butter and sugar on high until soft and light in color, about 3 minutes.
-Turn mixer to low and beat in eggs, one at a time, and then vanilla until thoroughly combined.
-Slowly incorporate flour mixture.
-Remove from stand mixer and stir in cranberries and white chocolate.
-Spread batter in pan (it’s thick so use a spatula and be sure to remove all air bubbles).
-Bake 25 – 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
-Cool on rack for 1 hours.
-Remove from pan and cut into bars.

Daring Bakers: Lavash

September 28, 2008

I decided to come out of blogging hiding to write about this month’s Daring Bakers challenge. When I saw that the challenge was making Lavash, an Armenian cracker, I was not so excited because I’m not a big cracker person. I was even less excited when I read that we had to make a vegan dip or spread to go with the crackers. VEGAN?!? I’m the furthest thing from a vegan you will ever find! I can’t live without my meat and I DEFINITELY can’t live with cheese or eggs!!!

Despite my reservations, I decided to suck it up and give it a shot. After all, being a Daring Baker is all about being challenged right? Well, I’m glad I didn’t pass on this month because it actually turned out to be a great experience! I really enjoyed the Lavash and I never would have thought it could be so easy to make your own crackers. Plus, I love the rustic look of the broken apart shards that you get. These would be great for a party!

I made my Lavash with whole wheat flour and I sprinkled Kosher salt, dried rosemary, and sesame or poppy seeds on top. I really loved this combination of toppings! The first batch of Lavash didn’t turn out as crispy as I wanted (parts of it were more like pita bread) so I learned my lesson with the second batch and rolled it out even thinner. The second batch turned out perfectly!

For the vegan spread I decided to improvise and make a very simple Sun Dried Tomato and Artichoke Spread. Basically it’s just a can of artichokes, a few sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, a splash of the sun dried tomato oil, juice from half a lemon, salt to taste, and about a tablespoon of olive oil. I just threw everything in a food processor and ground it up until it was pretty smooth. It turned out suprisingly good for being so simple and not have any dairy products in it!

Thanks to Natalie from Gluten A Go Go, and co-host Shel, of Musings From the Fishbowl for challenging me to step outside my non-vegan box!

Lavash

RECIPE – Recipe Reference:  The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA.  Copyright 2001.  ISBN-10: 1-58008-268-8, ISBN-13: 978-158008-268-6.

Here’s a simple formula for making snappy Armenian-style crackers, perfect for breadbaskets, company and kids…It is similar to the many other Middle Eastern and Northern African flatbreads known by different names, such as mankoush or mannaeesh (Lebanese), barbari (Iranian), khoubiz or khobz (Arabian), aiysh (Egyptian), kesret and mella (Tunisian), pide or pita (Turkish), and pideh (Armenian).  The main difference between these breads is either how thick or thin the dough is rolled out, or the type of oven in which they are baked (or on which they are baked, as many of these breads are cooked on stones or red-hot pans with a convex surface)…

The key to a crisp lavash,…is to roll out the dough paper-thin.  The sheet can be cut into crackers in advance or snapped into shards after baking.  The shards make a nice presentation when arranged in baskets.

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1.  In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball.  You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2.  For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough:  Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter.  Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed.  The dough should pass the windowpane test (see http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Bre … ong-Enough for a discription of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled.  Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

or

2.  For Gluten Free Cracker Dough:  The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4.  For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough:  Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter.  Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour.  Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches.  You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax.  At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down.  Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes.  When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes.  Line a sheet pan with baking parchment.  Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment.  If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.

or

4.  For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper.  Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment.  Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches.  Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper.  Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf.  Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.)  Be careful with spices and salt – a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough.  You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking.  If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

5.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6.  When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.  You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Long Time No Blog

September 11, 2008

I’d like to apologize to any loyal readers that I have left out there in the blogosphere for my recent lack of posts. I have been cooking, although admittedly not on the same level as I normally do. I do have a few archived recipes that I should blog about soon but I’m not sure when that will happen. Let me take a moment to give you all my excuses for my absence so you will not think that I am simply a horrible, lazy blogger….

Excuse #1 New Job: I recently started substitute teaching to keep myself busy and make a little money. Surprisingly, I have worked everyday since the 3rd day of school and I’m totally exhausted when I get home most days. I have a new found respect for all teachers in this world. It’s hard work!

Excuse # 2 New Volunteer Position: I recently accepted a volunteer position called the Family Readiness Group Leader. Basically I am the go-to person for any questions, concerns, etc. that any of the spouses and/or parents of the soldiers in my husband’s unit have. I have to conduct monthly meetings and disseminate information to the families as it becomes available. It’s a huge time commitment and basically all of my time that I would be using for blogging is now going to this position. Hopefully things will slow down soon though and I can get back to blogging.

Excuse #3 New Dog: We recently adopted a 3 year old Terrier mix named Libby from a rescue shelter. She has brought so much joy to our house but it’s always an adjustment when you get a new dog. She’s absolutely adorable and so very well-behaved. I’m think I’m never getting another puppy again…it just feels so good to know that we “rescued” her and that we don’t have to potty train her!

Excuse #4 Absent Husband: My husband is at a month-long training session with his unit in preparation for their deployment to Iraq and it really affects my blogging because who wants to cook for themselves only?!? Plus, I will admit being at home in the evenings without him is a little depressing so even when I have intentions to cook it usually ends up not happening.

So I hope these excuses will help you understand why I’ve been so missing in action lately. I promise to start blogging again when time permits! Please stay tuned….

Daring Bakers: Chocolate Eclairs

August 31, 2008

When I found out about this month’s Daring Bakers challenge I was EXTREMELY excited. This one was right up my alley! I have always loved Chocolate Eclairs so I was pumped to attempt to make them at home.

It didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked, but in the end I felt good about what I had accomplished. The first issue I had was sinking pastries. I baked off my eclairs and they looked beautiful and puffy in the oven but pretty much as soon as I pulled them out they sunk and became flat. I have a couple theories as to why this happened. The first is that maybe my kitchen was too hot and/or humid and that caused the sinking. The second is that I may have made the eclairs too big. The recipe says I should have gotten 24 eclairs out of it but I only got 12. That’s almost double the size! Oops.

My only other gripes with this recipe are that it produced MOUNTAINS of dishes and requires you to use your stove constantly, which is not so great in the summer time. All in all, the result was delicous and highly impressive. I might even brave the mountain of dishes just so I can make them again sometime!

Thanks to Tony Tahhan and MeetaK for hosting this month and picking such an enticing recipe! To see how the other Daring Bakers fared click here.

I should also mention that I chose to photograph my two puffiest eclairs. The others were much more flat!

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with
waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.
Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.
Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff.
The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the
handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the
oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue
baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking
time should be approximately 20 minutes.

Notes:
1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the
bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40
degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of
the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the
bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms
with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream
and wriggle gently to settle them.

Notes:
1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water,
stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create
bubbles.

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the
boil.

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium
and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very
quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You
need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough
will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your
handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time,
beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do
not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you
have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it
should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

Notes:
1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking
sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the
piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil.  In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled.  Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it  remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

[bNotes:[/b]
1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1 cup or 300g)

• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

Notes:
1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104  F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly.  Then reduce the heat  to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

Notes:
1) You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or  a double boiler before using.
2) This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

Our Anniversary

August 27, 2008

Last week on August 18th (yes I’m late) Alex and I celebrated our first anniversary of marriage. Time has just flown by and I still can’t believe it has been a year already! It has been hectic at times (moving three times in one year, adjusting to Army life, etc.) but I have loved every bit of it!

I had been thinking that I would have to celebrate our anniversary by myself because Alex thought he might have to stay out in the field so I was very pleasantly suprised when he was able to come home at 4:00pm that day! We started off by exchanging gifts. Alex gave me roses and a gift card for a massage which was HEAVENLY! I gave him a cigar humidor and a bottle of Gentleman’s Jack whiskey.

Then, we went out to dinner at a nice restaurant….well, nice compared to other choices where we live. Here’s a picture of us at the restaurant.

Then we went home and each ate a piece of our wedding cake that had been frozen for a year. It was suprisingly tasty, although it didn’t look so pretty anymore.

Before:

After:

We also watched our wedding video and reminisced about what an amazing day it was. I wish I could get married again every single year (to Alex of course)! Here are some more photos from the big day one year ago.

All wedding day photos by Ashley K Photography.

Barefoot Bloggers: Panzanella

August 19, 2008

I’m late on posting for Barefoot Bloggers once again! Last Thursday was the posting date but that happened to fall on what was probably one of the hardest days of my life so far. I won’t go into details but last week was really rough. Luckily though, my wonderful husband and my parents are helping me get through this tough time and I’m feeling better everyday. I actually made this dish well in advance but completely forgot about posting it on the post date.

So now back to your regularly scheduled blogging! Melissa of Melissa’s Kitchen chose this month’s Barefoot Bloggers recipe which is Panzanella. Panzanella is basically a bread salad and the ingredients remind me a lot of gazpacho, except it is chunky and not a soup! I am a HUGE fan of gazpacho so I had always wanted to try panzanella and this was finally my chance!

Can I just say YUM!?! I really, really, REALLY enjoyed this dish. My husband was out in the field doing Army stuff last week when I made this so I was able to enjoy it as a nice, light summer dinner. The dressing is just delicious, too! I plan on using the dressing recipe for other salads as well. The only downside is that the leftovers are no good since the bread soaks up too much of the dressing and gets soggy. You will definitely want to serve this right away!

To check out the rest of the Barefoot Bloggers’ Panzanella go here. Thanks to Melissa for a great summer recipe choice!

Panzanella

Source: Ina Garten

3 Tbsp. good olive oil

1 small french bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (6 cups)

1 tsp. kosher salt

2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 cucumber, unpeeled, seeded and sliced 1/2 inch thick

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes

1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced

20 large basil leaves, coarsley chopped

3 Tbsp. capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:

1 tsp. finely minced garlic

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

3 Tbsp. Champagne vinegar

1/2 cup good olive oil

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saute pan.  Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently for 10 minutes or until nicely browned.  Add more oil as needed.

For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers.  Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.  Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

TV Night Menu

August 12, 2008

Photo from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Since moving to this new post, I have made friends with a great group of women who are all Army Wives like me. Our weekly tradition is to get together at someone’s house and watch the Lifetime TV show appropriately named “Army Wives”. Although, I think we can all admit that it’s really more about having time to gossip and vent about the lives we lead than it is about the TV show itself. Luckily most of us have DVR so we can stop the show when a “pause-worthy” topic comes up.

This week was my turn to host the Army Wives so I put together an easy snack food lineup.

TV Night Snack Menu

Drinks: Wine (red and white)

Snacks: Pesto Palmiers, Hot Artichoke Dip w/ crackers, and M&M and Nut MIx (peanuts, cashews, and M&M’s)

Desserts: Strawberry Tart and Brownies (provided by Angie…thanks!)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.