Tuesday, October 27, 2009

TWD: Cherry Fudge Brownie Torte

I actually planned for this TWD...and wasn't scurrying on Tuesday to complete it. Thank goodness, because this one needs cooling time AND setting time.

I read the recipe several times, and even doing that....I accidentally melted ALL the chocolate so I just added more chunks in the end. More chocolate never hurt anyone? I also added the mascarpone too soon to the mousse, however I don't think it really affected it. I left out the Kirsch because...don't throw anything at me but...I don't really know what it is? I know its an alcohol but do you go to the liquor counter and say "Yea, I want a bottle of your Kirsch". I'm not the liquor buyer of the house--I'm more of the beer/wine girl. But now that I'm expecting--I figured it might be best to leave out the booze? I just added more preserves to compensate. I also halved this recipe since my husband is still working off a cold and no one wants to come over!

I really enjoyed this recipe. I like fudge brownies and tortes so this was right up my ally. This, in essence, IS a brownie--a very fudgy one. I think the best part was the fact that it had cherries in it. While reading--I wasn't quite sure I would want/like the cherries (as did many of the other bakers) but I really did not find the cherry flavor to be over powering at all. In fact it was a nice change. My favorite part was the mascarpone mousse on top! Truly heavenly and added richness to the dessert.

I would definitely make this again!

Thank you to April from Short+Rose for hosting this week! For the recipe, be sure to head over to her page. You can also check out the other bakers from TWD's blogroll!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

TWD: Sweet Potato Biscuits

Yes, I am late late late for this one. I wanted to make these early, but I was going out of town. Then when I returned from town, I of course didn't have the sweet potato I needed plus I had a sick husband on the loose and we all know how sick husbands are. So better late than never...

So Sunday morning, I decided was great time to make these. Plus, I wanted to make them with some gravy and eggs. I know, probably not what Dorie had in mind for these 'tea' biscuits, but I will tell you...they were an amazing alternative.

I REALLY enjoyed these biscuits. They were easy to put together and the flavor was so sweet and different from a regular biscuit. I will definitely make these again--in fact I saved half the biscuits to freeze so that I could eat them at a later time.

I did make a few changes. Im notorious for 'skimming' a recipe. Which is never a good thing. I saw that the recipe called for 'canned' sweet potato--I bought pureed sweet potato. The recipe called for TWO 15oz. cans. I only had ONE. The good news--the pureed sweet potato actually yields more just because it doesn't have the syrup that needs to be poured out. In fact, I needed to add more flour because my dough was too sticky. I also used half shortening, half butter because my grandma always told me to use shortening in biscuits.

I ended up letting these biscuits sit at room temp for about 30 minutes before throwing them in the oven because I was monkeying around trying to season my cast iron skillet. I think letting these sit was key for me---because my biscuits were not too flat like some of the other bakers complained about. Either mine rose because they had time to sit--OR I just rolled mine out thicker. One of the two. These are definitely a 'denser' biscuit.

These paired well with bacon gravy and eggs this morning--I think the salt / sweet combo was amazing. I will have to try these a bit later with some honey and some tea. We all loved them--including 'baby M' who has been kicking me like crazy ever since.

Thanks to Erin of Prudence Pennywise for hosting this week! For the recipe, head over to her page!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Spaghetti Made with Spaghetti Squash

If anything about pregnancy that changed me, it has been my taste buds. I always had this inclination that pregnant woman craved meat. This theory has been proved so wrong in my case. If anything, I have reverted back to what I knew and loved as a child. And that is carbs. Carbs ALL the way.

But since becoming an adult, I became more mindful of my carb intake, and so these last few months have been heaven on a stick for me because if I feel like eating carbs...I'm eating the carbs.

I found this recipe in Fine Cooking Magazines (a fabulous magazine by the way) and I was pretty intrigued by the fact that you could substitute spaghetti squash for spaghetti noodles. I figured this was some dirty trick--somewhat like the trick whole wheat pasta plays on you. Its all fine and good--until the grit from the whole wheat kinda ruins it for you. At least, that is how it is for me unless I can find a strong sauce to stand up to the whole wheat. (Don't get me wrong--I don't want to get down on whole wheat pasta--its really not a bad thing. It's loaded with protein so I try to choke it down on the general occasion).

But spaghetti squash? This is no bait and switch. I swear. It's quite pleasant actually and it's a great way to get in some extra vegetables while cutting the carbs! I will so make this again and again.

For the recipe-check out Fine Cooking's website!
(I didn't make too many changes except cut down on the onion--and as you can see in the photo--I have to keep the onion pieces large so my husband can pull them out since he can't eat them. )

Friday, October 16, 2009

Guy Fieri Roadshow opens November 17th!

I don’t normally ‘promote’ events on my blog but I was asked very nicely so here we go!

My husband and I are huge fans of Guy Fieri from Guy’s Big Bite on the Food Network. I like him because he has great recipes while my husband likes him because he’s no ‘foo foo’ chef PLUS he’s super fun to watch. Lets face it...Guy is a “guy’s guy”.

In fact, ever since his “Diner’s Drive-in’s and Dives” show aired, we have been avid watchers (although I will say do NOT watch this show on an empty stomach!). Now, whenever we travel, we make a point to Google his show and the city we visit just to see if there were any restaurants he had featured on his show. So far, we have made it to three of the restaurants! All have been a hit.

Our most recent visit--Bette's Oceanview Diner in Berkley, California

I ordered the pancakes, my husband ordered their version of eggs benedict

On top of Guys’ three TV shows, he has now ventured out doing live cooking/rock n’ roll style events called ‘The Guy Fieri Roadshow’! Each show will feature Hayden “Woody” Wood, an Australian Bartender de jour, a local chef from each city, and then Guy himself will cook and entertain you for the main event.

The tour starts November 17, and ticket sales are through Ticketmaster now. If you are from the Detroit area--our show is December 4 at the Masonic Temple where ticket prices start at $28.

Check out the site for a show near you, I bet it will be a ton of fun--most certainly so for all my foodie friends! www.guyfieri.com

I’m crossing my fingers for a press pass--so that I can give you the full detailed review of the event!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cinnamon Banana Nutella Crepes

One of my favorite Sunday past times during the months of May-October is the Farmer's Market. First off, I love supporting our locals. Secondly, I absolutely love fresh fresh fruits and vegetables (I plant my own vegetable garden but growing in 'tubs' just isn't working out so well).

A few Sunday's ago while browsing the market, I was dealing with some serious hunger management issues and made a b-line for the crepe station. I quickly ran down the list of possibilities and settled on Nutella Banana Crepes. I love crepes, but I never in a million years would have thought to put Nutella in them. And this is coming from a girl who polished off an entire jar of Nutella upon returning from Italy this past May in about a week.

Now to be fair, I changed the recipe to make it my own. I make crepes at home quite a bit because they are so simple to make and I just love throwing fruit in them. I literally had breakfast on the table in less than 20 minutes. That includes prep time and half the clean up. I'm mighty slow--so you may be able to get it there in less time.


**Tip: Don’t get discouraged if your first crepe is a flop, that is pretty common. Discard (or eat it with your fingers at the stove) and start again.

Cinnamon Banana Nutella Crepes

Crepes Recipe:
Recipe derived from Allrecipes.com

1 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs
¾ cup milk
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Filling Recipe:
2 oz. Cream Cheese
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese (you can just use cream cheese if that is all you have)
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 Bananas sliced lengthwise
1 tablespoon Nutella hazelnut spread for each crepe


For the Crepes:
In a medium sized bowl, lightly beat the eggs with milk and water. Add flour, salt and butter and mix until combined (just until all the lumps are out). The batter will be thin.

Heat a small non-stick skillet on medium high heat (about 8in. in diameter). You need this to be small because the crepe batter is VERY thin and will spread to the end of the pan. Spray with cooking spray. Pour about ¼ cup of batter into the skillet. Spread the batter around in a circular motion. The crepe should pull away from the sides but you can help it a bit with a flexible spatula. Flip once it begins to brown. Brown the other side, and plate the crepe with filling.

For the Filling:
In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients until well combined.

For Assembly:
Top each crepe with the Nutella first (the warmth will help this spread a bit easier), then spoon on the creme mixture, then the bananas and fold each side up and over. Serve with warmed maple syrup and an extra sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

TWD: Allspice Crumb Muffins

I saw this on the baking roster for TWD and knew I wanted to make them. But for some reason, my brain doesn't turn on until late Monday or Tuesday to remind me that...um...Tuesday with Dorie is due...and you have done nothing! Thank heavens that the latest recipes have been simple and I can make them last minute! Like these muffins!

I've actually been on a muffin kick lately, maybe its because I am pregnant and look forward to breakfast and this breaks me out of my cereal routine. Plus, skipping any type of meal/snack is no longer an option. (Not that I would ever skip a meal anyway!)

These come together in literally minutes (I made them while I was in the middle of making homemade rolls so they take little effort, and time). I was a bit concerned with the butter content. There is a TON of butter. And for a muffin, I would like to see something a bit on the lighter side. I heard about a few of the other bakers using yogurt as a substitute--and I am thinking I may have to adopt that for next time. I stuck to the exact recipe for this one, minus the lemon zest because someone must have stolen all my lemons!

BUT- these muffins are over the top GOOD! I took one bite and was in heaven. Moist cake, crunchy caramelized top. This is a true treat and I bet would taste wonderful with tea.

A big thank you to Kayte from Grandma's Kitchen Table for hosting this week. You can visit her page for the recipe. Don't forget to check out all the other bakers from TWD that bake every Tuesday from Dorie Greenspan's book: "Baking From My Home to Yours"--they are always creative and changing up the recipe which is nice for a variation or two. It also looks like Ms. Dorie herself even baked with us this week--what a treat!

Next weeks TWD: Sweet Potato Biscuits!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sweet Potato Sage Gnocchi with Roasted Chesnuts

I think my problem lately is that I am categorizing cooking as a 'chore'. What I realized is that, I haven't been using my creativity....I've just been going through the motions of getting dinner on the table.

Sometimes it's just easy to make my 'go-to' recipes, because I don't even have to think. And since I seem to share a brain with the baby occupying my womb--sometimes it is totally necessary not to have to think if it means getting dinner on the table, period.

But yesterday was different. I grabbed a stack of neglected Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines and flipped through them. I was immediately drawn to the sweet potato gnocchi. I bit my lip, looked at the clock, and started calculating 'time'. How much time do I have...and how much time does this stuff take? And ......am I INSANE?

Rewind a few years ago when I attempted to make gnocchi. Me: so naive and excited to do it. I spent 2 hours preparing it....only to end the night crying on my kitchen floor like a baby when the little gnocchi's completely dissolved in the pot while cooking into a wet mashed potato mess. (I know this seen may seem familiar to MANY of you, especially if you saw "Julie and Julia". I was in tears of laughter during the seen where Julia was crying on her kitchen floor after dropping a chicken...because that has been me. Several times.)
I am not oblivious to mishaps in the kitchen. But, I can't live in fear of trying things that I have failed. And I certainly cannot live in fear of making homemade pasta forever. To be honest, I have been telling myself for months to try it again. Ever since we were in Italy this past May I've been craving homemade gnocchi. (Its basically what I ordered at every restaurant in every flavor, shape, size)

Sweet potato gnocchi, Lake Maggiore, Italy

So I reasoned with myself. SOMEONE knows how to make gnocchi. Not EVERY recipe is going to be a bust or it wouldn't get published. Besides what did I really have to lose, if its a total disaster, I would just order a pizza.

The reality of gnocchi:
1. It's very cheap to make--potatoes, flour, and egg...'nuff said.
2. It's very much like playing with play-dough. Who doesn't like to play with their food?
3. Surprisingly it doesn't make a huge mess--it can be contained to a sheet pan.
4. Once rolled, uncooked gnocchi can be frozen for later use--for a SUPER quick dinner.

The gnocchi verdict:
The end result was a perfectly moist tender gnocchi. The hint of sage and nutmeg was the perfect fall flavor. And chestnut? Wonderful. Its something I have never tried and amazed I have waited this long. (Although I did have 3 people at my local market hunting them down for me).

My personal tips:
1. Keep an eye on the boiling pot of gnocchi. Mine didn't need 3 minutes to cook, it probably took half that time. Just wait for them to float to the top. Then scoop them out.

2. Use a good quality unsalted butter. If you can find an unsalted European butter such as Plugura, Irish butter etc, the taste will be so much better. The butter sauce is the star of the show--so be sure to use a good quality ingredient. (Always buy unsalted butter--salted butter as a general rule is a lesser quality product. Companies use the salt to mask impurities in the butter and taste. You can always add salt later).

3. I added a tablespoon of cream...just for added flavor.

Check out this fool proof recipe from Gourmet. I am so sad to see the magazine close!

Process of gnocchi:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mum Flowers and Snickerdoodle Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I've had a real Martha Stewart kind of day, literally.

Last month my fellow cake decorating friend Shannon, bought me Martha's Cupcakes book as a birthday gift. While I only drooled over the photos when I leafed through it, I just knew that when we got together at our next 'decorating practice' session that I would certainly have to try at least one of the recipes.

Fast forward to last night.

As nature would have it, I looked through the book the night before she was to come over. Which would be fine if all I had to do was look at the book--but I was supposed to make the icing and the cupcakes before she would arrive at my house at 12 noon the next day. oops!

I quickly tried to narrow down a recipe that wouldn't require me to make a trip to the store. I typically have a fully stocked pantry but since I have been lax in the cooking department lately, there were a few items I was out of--like cake flour. Cake flour just happens to be what all Martha's cupcakes have in common.

Honestly, there is a conversion for cake flour for all purpose flour, but at 8pm last night, I couldn't be bothered. I just used all-purpose flour for these cakes but I am thinking next time--I may want to follow the recipe for that because I think the cakes turned out a bit too dense. I used buttermilk instead of the milk and if you really are looking for flavor, my advice is add more cinnamon and possibly some other spices (cloves, nutmeg?)

These cupcakes weren't bad. Not my favorite and definitely something I could make improvements on. BUT the concept of a snickerdoodle cupcake? Divine! Especially for fall!

To top it off, I used Martha's Swiss meringue buttercream. Normally, I will ONLY make my 'go to' Italian meringue buttercream, but I really wanted to just see how Martha's was. Afterall, this was just for a practice round of decorating cupcakes anyway.

I must say, BOTH of us were pleasantly surprised over the taste of the Swiss meringue. It seemed more flavorful than the Italian meringue....more buttery. What's even better? It's a great frosting for piping out mums! (forget the Wilton buttercream I had prepared--that was getting us nowhere!!)

I so wish I got a picture of us--eating leftover frosting with a spoon.

As Martha would say "It's a good thing".

For the recipe: