Tuesday, September 29, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Crunch Tart

This weeks TWD is hosted by Carla of Chocolate Moosey. Be sure to check out her page for the recipe!
I am suffering from sever pregnancy brain--its just not working! I made the TWD recipe for next week (stay tuned for the split level pudding) and while I was dealing with my mis-haps from that--I slowly realized that I had made the wrong recipe! OOPS! So today while juggling about 100 other tasks, I somehow made pastry dough, homemade caramel, and ganache.
Believe it or not, this tart was rather simple and straight forward to make. I've made Dorie's sweet tart dough many times and its very easy and always good. The caramel directions scared me--Dorie says that it will splatter but mine didnt seem to do that. Here I was, armed to my neck in pot holders, long sleeves, and a splatter guard--just to be sure I wasn't struck with 3rd degree burns. Luckily, I came out unscathed and it came together in minutes.
The ganache--well what could be easier to make than ganache? I know some of the other bakers were left with a lot of left over ganache, but I had just enough to fill my tart (to the brim of course).

The final verdict: It was rich, smooth and delicious. I really enjoyed the salty sweet taste of this and will definately make this again.

TWD on its WAY!

Can I claim Preg-o brain this week????

I made NEXT weeks TWD, that didnt go off without a hitch. So while I am mending that...I am in the process of making the chocolate crunch tart (plus dinner...plus clearing out the baby's room). Stay tuned...it will be here....I swear...


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TWD: Cottage Cheese Pufflets

While recovering from my red eye flight from Napa I still had yet to make this weeks TWD. I saw these on the roster at the beginning of the month and made a mental note that I would 'for sure' be making them. Well, it ended up that I made these literally last minute--not taking into account I needed to chill the dough for 3 hours. Hence, the horrible lighting in the photos and late post.

Regardless, these were delicious! I was so happy I participated. I cut the recipe in half because the recipe yielded 48 cookies! For a pregnant woman with no self control when it comes to sweets, I figured it would be best. I'm not quite sure how this would have yielded 48 cookies--because even cut in half I was only at best able to produce 12. Its possible I didn't roll my dough out thin enough, but any thinner and I wasn't able to pull the dough off the wax. I decided to make the 6 tonight and freeze the other 6 for later. (Because even 12 cookies for one night is WAY too many and Dorie says that these are best eaten the day of baking).

My father in law ended up stopping by to quiz me about baby names (his new favorite task) and all 6 cookies dissapeared out of the oven, barely making a photo op (and I'm sorry but I had hands reaching for these immediately and these were the best I could do in the poor dark lighting).

My point: these are great cookies and fairly easy to make despite the dough being a bit tricky to work with due to the 'stick' factor. I used wax paper to roll the dough out, but still found myself rolling out, then sticking back into the fridge to cool and then cutting and transferring to the sheet pan. I used fresh cherry preserves from a wonderful market in Traverse City, MI. The flavor is unexpected, and nothing what I would expect from cottage cheese! These really taste like pastry dough to me--and more of a turnover and not a cookie. I just happen to love turnovers!

I would definitely make these again and I am interested to try these maybe in a savory fashion!

Thanks so much to Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes for hosting this week! Be sure to stop by her page for the recipe and also don't forget to check out Tuesday with Dorie's (TWD) blog roll to see what all the other lovely bakers were up to.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cafe Coco in Napa Valley

So as soon as I get back in my groove--I'm heading out again!

Each anniversary (this is our second) we head back to Napa Valley where we were married. We stay in the same resort, and eat at our favorite restaurants!

This year may be a bit different because we won't be doing any wine tours since that is just a cruel thing to do to a pregnanct woman.

I'll be back soon! Hopefully with many food stories to share!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Citrus Cornish Hens with Baby Vegetables and Baby Mashed Potatoes

Before I was even able to confirm my pregnancy, I started to research ways that I could tell my husband we were expecting. I just didn’t want to tear out of the bathroom with a pregnancy test in hand. I wanted to surprise him.

I remembered an episode of "Full House" when Rebecca told Uncle Jesse they were having a baby. She made him dinner with ‘baby’ everything. Baby vegetables…(and I think baby potatoes and something else I don’t quite remember. Give me a break I was like 7 and didn’t pick up on ALL the details!). So after browsing the net for awhile, I settled on making a meal with mini cornish hens, baby potatoes, and baby vegetables. And if that didn’t spark any interest, I had a backup plan. (A pregnancy test shoved into a gift bag).

So after 3 negative pregnancy tests over the duration of two weeks, I knew something was not quite right. I knew I was. Certainly I wasn’t crazy. So early one morning while my husband was in the shower getting ready for work, I locked myself in the guest bath. Two minutes later, my fate sat in front of me. Two lines. All I could say was “Oh god, now I have to figure out how to birth this thing.” All I ever wanted was to become a mother, and suddenly the reality sunk in that I would someday have to birth this baby.

How I composed myself to send my husband off to work was a miracle. I certainly couldn’t send him off to work with that news—he is always in a hurry to get out the door and what if all the excitement caused him to get into a car accident. I couldn’t live with myself. I would have to stick to my plan. Send him off to work. And make the dinner.

So off I went to the grocery store, pushing my cart, singing “I’m making a dinner to tell my husband we are having a baby”. (Silently of course).

Fast forward, 8+ hours. I’m laboring in the kitchen (no pun intended) getting dinner ready and my husband calls.
“Hi buddy (he calls me buddy), I am going to be a little late. Maybe an hour.”
I nearly fell over. He picks TODAY to be late? Does he KNOW I’ve been alone all day stewing this information ALL BY MYSELF???

Fifteen minutes before my husband is about to arrive, I get a phone call from my brother in law’s girlfriend. She needs to come over to borrow a cooler. I’m beginning to sweat.

Seven o’clock rolls around, and my husband finally pulls in the driveway. I suddenly get nervous and I think my knees might buckle.

Ten minutes later, we are eating. He finishes in about 10 minutes, not noticing anything except that he really likes it. He doesn’t take notice of the baby hens. He doesn’t notice the baby vegetables.

The backup plan, thank goodness I have another plan. I suddenly tell him I have a gift for him. I grab the gift bag and say, “It’s a gift. I got it for you in Italy.” He looks at me strangely, because one: we had been home for nearly 15 days, and two: we were never even separated in Italy, not once. He opens the bag, pulls out the pregnancy test with a clutched fist and examines it. For a looong time.

I prod, “Do you know what that is?”

He is still examining the stick. Confused. Then his head turns to actually read it to see that is says “Pregnant.”

He looks up and says, “NO WAY! SERIOUS?” “I thought you got me a nose hair trimmer!”

So that is how I told him—over dinner—well after dinner. I suppose in the end, running out the bathroom probably would have suited just fine…but what could be more fabulous than telling him over a great meal.

I found the recipe for the Cornish hens on the Food Network, by Giada De Laurentiis. Then I sautéed the vegetables in a skillet with a few tablespoons of olive oil until soft. The potatoes were boiled until soft, drained and then mashed with a fork. You can leave them whole, but I ended up having gravy from the hens that I wanted to use.

The hens were amazing. I had never made them before and I am not sure why. They are super easy to make and very flavorful. You could even prep these early in the day, and have your roasting pan waiting for you after work.
The gravy for this is like nothing I have ever had. For those who have never ventured into making their own gravy, it's simply the pan drippings and a few other ingredients (I most often use flour and water). I really loved the cranberry bits in this recipe and the citrus undertones from the lemon and orange zest, it really makes this over the top good. I would definitely make this again; maybe sans an announcement.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Simple Spicy Tomato Pesto and a Cafe Coco Announcement

I’ve been living my life outside my normal gourmet cooking routine.

In fact I’ve been keeping what I made this summer to be simple. Real Simple. I’m almost too embarrassed to say how simple. Certainly so much so, you wouldn’t think I was a person who wrote a ‘food blog’!

Remember when I told you I have reasons for not blogging, and I would tell you when the time was right? Well, Café Coco is expecting a baby Coco—well we aren’t sure boy or girl just yet but it’s a mini-me just the same. The due date: February 16th. My family is convinced it will be a Valentine’s baby.

My adoring husband has been so sweet and understanding these last few months, but even he sometimes couldn’t understand the depths of my ever changing appetite. One night he came home and literally life changed—His because he no longer had dinner on the table; mine because I was carrying a baby and no longer could put dinner on the table.

So to show his support, he helps with running to the local Coney Island to get my lemon rice soup or whatever I felt I could ‘handle’ that day. I could tell he was getting restless because one Friday he came home saying he was taking me out to a special dinner.

He was so proud to take his wife of nearly 2 years (and carrying his baby of nearly 8 weeks) out for a great meal so that I didn’t have to worry about what to do for dinner.

We ordered our food, he sipped on wine, I guzzled on water nearly capsizing because of all the lemons I put in it. When our food came, he didn’t speak, all he could do was eat. I took one look at my food, stabbed it with my fork. Suddenly, my eyes were as wide as saucers. I looked up at him, while pushing my plate as far away from me as I could get it and said, “I can’t do it. I can’t eat this.” I could tell he was a bit deflated.

He tried. I was embarrassed.

I was embarrassed because I wasn’t that girl. Not anymore at least. Suddenly I had reverted back to being 5 years old and hating everything put in front of me unless it was a peanut butter and Jelly sandwich or Macaroni and cheese.

I couldn’t just return the meal. The chef would be hurt. Instead, my husband ate both pricey meals while I went home and feasted on a bowl of cereal.

So this is how I have spent my last few months. Eating whatever sounded good at the moment. Luckily, fruits have never been on the aversion list! Despite the food aversion, I never actually had morning sickness, or vomited. Did I just say vomit on a food blog? Why yes. Yes I did. But a food aversion, to me at least, was just as bad. Food is my lively hood. It makes me who I am. Suddenly I had an alien take over my body and everything I knew had changed. How I ate, what I did, how I thought, how I felt, how much I needed to sleep. Everything. Suddenly I had lost my cooking mojo. Poof. Gone.

I felt like it was a message of putting me back in my place. Sometimes I get high and mighty about cooking from scratch. Because I think it’s so important and vital to living a healthy lifestyle. And it is. But I now empathize with those who don’t have the cooking gene; the creative gene to create something amazing in the kitchen. I get it. I literally had to re-build myself into learning to cook again. While some things remain like ‘riding a bike’. . It’s almost like I had forgotten many things. I was truly out of practice.

So this is for those who like to keep it simple. It comes together in less than 20 minutes. Sometimes 10 if you can get your ducks in a row to hustle. It’s one of my favorite go to meals, perfect for summer, and just the thing I needed to get jump started in the kitchen.

The bonus is the sauce for this is bold. Real bold. So this is your chance to use whole wheat pasta, because this sauce can totally stand up to it.

For the recipe, check it out, I actually discovered it from Women’s Health and its fabulous!


Stay tuned....I'm going to share the meal I made for my husband when I told him the 'news'.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Souffle

Please be patient...I have photos--blogger is giving me a hard time at the moment.
**Update--You will not be getting photos after all. My brand new Mac took a dump and now is in the repair shop. I'm crossing my fingers my photos aren't all extinct, but for now you will have to take my word for it that I did indeed make these!

It's TWD again, and I am still trying to squeeze in the last of the summer (well--what we had here in Michigan anyway). So I promise to be back to some normalcy in posting very soon.

I almost skipped out this week because I had spent some time outside and at my parent cottage in Northern Michigan. So this was a last minute decision to make and I am so glad that I did. Not only was this good, it was super easy to make. In fact, when I was very naive and new to cooking, I managed to tackle a turkey souffle--no problem. This was no different...thank goodness because I needed something to work for my ego's sake.

I wish I had the time to make the creme anglaise like I saw some of the other bakers do because I think something creamy over the top would have put this over the Oh.My.God. edge but its fine by itself. I worried it may be a bit egg-y but it was certainly ALL chocolate. A true treat.

I would compare this to warm cake, maybe lava cake without the lava. (I never was one for the lava in the lava cake anyway).

I cut the recipe in half since it must be eaten right away and there are only two of us here to eat them. I put them in sugar coated coffee cups since I dont have 'straight' sided ramikens. I was a bit leary using the coffee cups since I had no idea if they were oven safe--I was totally expecting an explosion in my oven but these worked perfectly.

So this is definitely a winner and I will definitely make this if I need to whip up a dessert in a pinch.

Thanks again for our host this week: Susan of She's Becoming a DoughMessTic. If you would like the recipe for this fabulous dessert, head over to her page. Don't forget to check out the other bakers this week for all the yummy variations of this fabulous desert!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

TWD: Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

Brownie's anyone? I know, I've been absent. Way absent. I plan on giving you an explanation for all of it, when the time is right.

For now, its TWD, and its Espresso Cheesecake Swirl Brownies, in my case, Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Swirl Brownies!

These were quite easy to whip up. When I think cheesecake anything, I think 'complicated'. But these really werent. In fact, I didnt make them until Tuesday. Yes, Tuesday.

The brownie part was uneventful, easy typical brownie mix. I did take notice that there was not as much butter, chocolate, and sugar I am used to. When I let the batter sit while I made the cheesecake portion, it thickened up quite a bit.

While I am not a huge fan of cheesecake, watching this mixture puff up with its creaminess made me want to eat the batter right out of the bowl. Somehow, I restrained myself. I did make some alterations from the original recipe: I added 1/2 of a vanilla bean, and 1 tablespoon of vanilla instead of the espresso.

Overall, these were easy, and looked absolutely amazing. Taste wise, I can't say I was blown away. The brownie part was a bit dry. However, I must say the cheesecake portion was rather tasty! I may have to try these with a different brownie mixture next time!

I've got some things coming so stay tuned, including more brownies. 'Ta-die-for-brownies" to be exact.