Sunday, April 29, 2012

Book Eighty-One: Picnics and Tailgates

by Williams-Sonoma

            Grilled Vegetable Platter with Picnic Vinaigrette

The warm days and calm evenings bring us to dine outdoors and this weekend was perfect for girls-night that I was invited to where we just hung out on the back patio with a nice glass of wine, delicious food and good company.

Success meter (1-3): 3

Into a paper bag to sweat the skins off.

Naked peppers.

My sister made these delicious little pizzas.
They are made with a fennel dough and topped
with goat cheese, tomatoes, Kalamatas and
a splash of Sambuca.

For dessert I brought leftover Cranberry Hungarian Shortbread
which you can read about in my next post come Tuesday.

My plan was to take a photo of the table showing all the gourmet goodness we were about to feast on; though once we had the food on the table and settled in and conversation a brewin' that plan went out the window in lost thought.

Along with the grilled vegetables & mini pizzas we had Chicken Marbella which consisted of olives, prunes, capers and served with yellow rice and cilantro. Goat cheese seemed to be the theme of the evening for in addition to the pizzas, we had a goat cheese log covered in cranberries and cinnamon served with crackers as well as a spread made from goat cheese mixed with a blood orange marmalade which was to die for. We also had extra desserts of red velvet cupcakes and mini ├ęclairs.

There never is a shortage of food with this group.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Book Eighty: The Wellness Lowfat Cookbook

by The Wellness Cooking School and
The University of California at Berkeley

                                                                          Potato and Spinach Casserole

We have been eating a lot of meat, chicken and fish lately. Mostly chicken and I was wanting something meatless. Normally when I look for a meatless meal they seem to always include a lot of cheese, cream, and/or butter; or that is what I am drawn to (e.g. Five Cheese Pasta which is really, really good.)

If I had more time I would consider starting an on-line cooking group called Meatless Mondays. However I am already in two other groups, Tuesdays with Dorie and Wok Wednesdays which are keeping me quite busy, not to mention cooking through the numerous books on my shelves; the reason I started this blog.

As I sit here typing away, the aroma is heavenly - I can't wait to begin devouring this.

I pulled this out of the oven after fifty minutes - the time suggested in the recipe. The potatoes were not even close to being done. I changed the oven temp to 375° and at full convection. I cannot tell you exactly how long I cooked it for at that temperature for I got side tracked on the computer. I am guessing that 20 minutes passed (the amount of time I think it took hubby to run to the store and return) and checked it again. STILL not done. Grrrrr.. mind you that I dressed my salad when I pulled it out at the fifty minute mark. To say the least, my lettuce at serving time was a bit wilted. Note to self: do not dress salad until you know for sure that your main course is done. After an additional thirty minutes it was finally ready to serve. The potatoes to me were al a dente. Andy said he would like them to be cooked a bit more. They did soften up more after being re-heated for lunch the next day.

I added salt and pepper at the table. The recipe did not call for it, and as salt does, it brought out the flavor and made it taste even better. I would add it next time while assembling the layers as well as adding some of the breadcrumb/parmesan mixture in-between the layers. I would highly recommend adding fresh thyme for it added a bit of pizazz.

I served this with a simple green salad with my favorite salad dressing made up of walnut oil, cabernet vinegar, sweet/hot mustard and a dash of salt and pepper.

Success meter (1-3): 3

Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Seventy-Nine: Sunset Grill

by the Editors of Sunset Books

                      Hot Flank Steak Salad with
                    Chinese Black Bean Dressing

Last week we had thunder storms. This week mid 80's and absolutely beautiful - barbeque weather; until next week when showers are forecasted once again. Mother Nature certainly is being fickle this year.

It was warm to say the least. I wanted something quick and light and this was the perfect dish. Flank steak on the grill for a whole eight minutes if that and the dressing took no time at all to pull together. Chop up some lettuce, bell pepper and a few cilantro leaves and bam! dinner is on the table.

I could tell Andy did not care for this one so much though he said the meat was good. His bowl still had a fair amount of greens left in it. May have been the cilantro. This I'm sure would be even better if I had bought the right kind of beans. I could not find fermented black beans so I substituted canned black beans which are not at all the same. Fermented black beans are actually black soy beans that have been dried and fermented in salt and other spices. Still I thought this was a tasty salad.

 Grilled up some naan to go with our salad, opened up a bottle of wine, and life is good.

Success meter (1-3): 3

Hubby certainly knows how to grill.

You can't see the dressing, but it was there.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TWD: Lemon Loaf Cake

Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Baker: Norman Love

                             Lemon Loaf Cake

Unfortunately I have no Love for this loaf.

With a name like [Lemon] Loaf Cake, I expected a lot more lemon flavor. Citrus (mainly lemon) is one of my all-time favorite flavors for dessert; the other is chocolate.

Reviewing the recipe I was surprised there was no lemon juice, only zest added to the batter. I went on the advice of another baker and added juice of one lemon; for me this was about two tablespoons; and that of another baker, mixing the zest with the sugar before adding. I think this would work really well distributing the zest evenly if it was being creamed with other ingredients. In this case it was added to the eggs and cream which seemed futile.

Hearing that this recipe came out a bit boring and dry I wanted to make some adjustments. I had a hard time deciding which way I wanted to go, so I decided to make three mini loaves. To the master recipe I added some lemon juice as mentioned above. One loaf I left plain and made stewed berries to accompany it, another I injected with lemon curd (as I did here for the lemon cupcakes I made for a friend's birthday) and added a dusting of powdered sugar. Lastly I draped the final loaf with a lemon glaze I made of powdered sugar, lemon juice and zest.

I'm sad to say this is one I would not write home about and for me is not worth the fat and calories consumed. You may ask why I rated this a two rather than a one on the success meter. I feel this earns a two because it is an easy and quick recipe, and in general a good loaf with a very mild lemon flavor; and for some this may be what they want. Me, I need a more intense lemon flavor - one that wows.

Success meter (1-3): 2

I forgot to bring my ingredients to room temperature.
Hence soaking the eggs and cream in warm water.

I really like the idea of mixing the zest with the
sugar beforehand for most recipes, it was
unnecessary for this one.

Has the look of stained glass.

Just look at all the lemon zest!
Unfortunately it did not impart much flavor.

Need to get the lemon curd deeper into the loaf.

For the recipe see Truc of Treats and Michelle of The Beauty of Life, our hosts for the month; if you want to add to your cookbook collection (or start one !) you can buy the book at your local bookstore or on-line.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Someone Likes Me! (well, my blog)

What a wonderful surprise it was when I opened up my email and found that I received my first blogger award! This award is given by other bloggers to say "hey I read and like your blog."

I received this award from Mireia of Baking in Spain. I encourage you to check out her blog for she is an awesome, talented baker herself. I love that she started posting in Spanish as well as English when she found out that her Spanish speaking grandparents were using Google translator to read her blog. Mireia comes across as a caring and compassionate person. I enjoy following her blog and I know you will too.

Thanks Mireia!

For details on this award click on the link below (continue for recipe...)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter Break: Butternut Ravioli with Browned Butter Sage Sauce

Our daughter visited us for a few days during Easter break; as short as it was we had a good time. We went to see the Hunger Games which as usual for me, movies are never as good as the books. We took a nice walk through the neighborhood parks and down to the local grocery to pick up a few items for dinner. I love that she has gotten into the whole fitness, healthy food craze at a young age. I did not get into the fitness scene until just about four years ago. As for food, not till she was a few years old and then not always on the healthy spectrum. She is a vegetarian so we opted to make butternut squash raviolis with a browned butter sage sauce.

Success meter (1-3): 3

These were good.