Friday, December 26, 2008

Daring Bakers - December ~ French Yule Log

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.
They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand

This was such a fun challenge. I have to admit I almost didn't participate when I saw the 18 page recipe!! Holy cow! But once I sat down to read through it I knew I could make this delicious dessert.

Here are some of the instructions we Daring Bakers given:

So, to the business of our Yule log:
#1 DO NOT PANIC when you see that this document is 18 pages long. The actual recipe is not 12 pages long, it’s more on the order of 3-4 pages once you choose your flavors. Marion and I believe in Culinary Freedom and wanted to make this as fun and accessible as possible for everyone around the world.
#2 THE CHALLENGE RULE is that you MUST MAKE ALL 6 of these elements for the log:
1) Dacquoise Biscuit
2) Mousse
3) Ganache Insert
4) Praline (Crisp) Insert
5) Creme Brulee Insert
6) Icing
The assembly will essentially be a Dacquoise Biscuit at the bottom, and the inserts inter-layered with mousse, with an icing finish.

I broke the recipe down into three days. The first day I made the creme brulee, mousse, and praline crisp. The praline crisp is really, really good. It's like super fancy rice krispie treats.

Agnes ate almost all the leftovers!

On day two I made the dacquoise biscuit, ganache insert, and icing. Since I don't own a yule log mold I used a standard size loaf pan. It worked perfectly.

Here the whole thing is ready to go into the freezer for 24 hours. The bottom layer in the picture is the chocolate mousee right before I put the chocolate ganache insert and biscuit on.

The Log taken out of the mold. The yellow is the creme brulee. That was my favorite layer. YUM!!

This was taken right after I put the icing on. The icing is super easy to make but I should have made a double batch. It would have gone on smoother and more evenly.

After icing The Log I put it back into the freezer until we were ready to eat it.

And, finally THE LOG!

While it was a daunting recipe The Log will be made again. Done in steps it is a really easy dessert to make. The Log has become a new holiday tradition for my family. When the berries come in this year I will be making a new log. It would be delicious with a berry mousse, creme brulee (because you have to have this layer!!), and drizzled with white chocolate icing.

If anyone would like the recipe let me know and I will email it to you. It is too long to post here.

Please visit this month's hosts blogs.
Saffron and Blueberry
Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Baby, it's cold outside!

I have never seen so many people freak out about snow. Portland is so completely different than Denver. This city has been pretty much shut down and in a panic since Sunday. Chains were required for driving in the city!! In all my years of living in Colorado I have never used chains. Not driving through the mountains and most definitely not in the city limits. It has been an amusing day of watching ARCTIC BLAST 2008 on my local news all day. It makes for some good tv viewing.

Now, I am not saying the roads haven't been bad but it is the complete panic that makes me giggle. Here is a video that will give you an idea of how bad some of the roads are. This was taken from a condo down on the waterfront about two blocks from my doctor's office. I was suppose to have an appt. yesterday but I cancelled. Thank goodness or I could have been one of these cars!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Avoid any diet that discourages the use of hot fudge. ~ Don Kardong

It has been awhile since I have chatted about my weight loss adventure. I was getting frustrated for while and decided not to worry about it so much. Then I discovered...This may actually BE my year to get skinny. I have lost a wee bit over 40 pounds the last few months!!

I haven't really been watching what I eat. I am a cook, a baker, and a mommy so personalized green salads aren't happening everyday. :) I still enjoy deliciously, bad for you food but one thing has changed. I have been swimming. I try to go 3-4 times a week for at least an hour. I found a great pool that isn't very crowded so I can do my chubby girl laps. Yeah, there won't be any gold medals for this mama anytime soon. Perhaps swimming is what my body needs right now.

It is weird losing weight. I haven't really been able to see it. When I look in the mirror I notice my face is a bit thinner but my body looks the same. But today at physical therapy while I was doing strength training I saw it. I actually stopped what I was doing to stare at my body. Wow. It was amazing. My legs look thinner, my hips look thinner I couldn't believe it. So, I turned to look at myself sideways. My stomach looks thinner!!! Now, I am still a chubby mama with a long way to go but this has given me some serious incentive.

Speaking of incentives, I have decided when I lose 10 more pounds I can buy some new pants. All of my pants can be slipped on and off without having to unbutton or unzip them. Including the pair I used to refer to as my "skinny jeans"!! Now, that is a good feeling!! I showed this trick to Sean and offered up his ski suspenders! :)

Just to give you an idea of how far I have come here are a few pictures from when I was my heaviest to now. Not too bad! I think I am doing a pretty good job!

This was taken in Tulum, Mexico 2006 - It is strange to think I had gotten so big. Sure, It hadn't even been a year since I had had Agnes but come on! Never again will this happen to me. It makes me sad.

These were taken at a tree farm down the road from our house.

I think I look like a completely different person. I look so much happier.

Well, that is my fat girl update. Pretty exciting wouldn't you say?!?!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My Kitchen, My World - Thanksgiving

This week for My Kitchen, My World we are celebrating Thanksgiving. Each member is posting their favorite Thanksgiving recipe.

My favorite recipe is Curried Cauliflower. My mom and aunt have been making this since I was a kid. This is the holiday dish in my family. Now, don't get too excited. It isn't fancy, gourmet, or Indian. It has cream of mushroom soup in it. It can't be the holidays without one cream of mushroom soup dish!

Curried Cauliflower

2 big heads of cauliflower
2 can cream of mushroom soup 10.5 ounce can
2/3 cup mayo
2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tbsp curry powder (I always put way more in because I love curry powder)

cook cauliflower for 10 minutes, boiling, drain.
combine rest of ingredients and then pour on top cauliflower
Bake for 30 minutes at 350.

It is very simple, definitely not fancy, but extremely delish!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Daring Bakers - November ~ Caramel Cake with Caramel Butter Frosting

This months Daring Bakers challenge was a Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting by Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater. Hosted by Delores of Culinary Curiosity co-hosts this month are co-hosts - Alex of blondieandbrownie, Jenny of Foray into Food. And Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go).

Although the cake, icing, and caramels were easy to make I don't think I would make the cake again unless it was for a client. It is way too sweet for my liking. I loved the caramels! I couldn't stop eating so they ended up going to work with Sean and the cake.

I wanted to make a layer cake so I made two batches of frosting.


10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Notes from Natalie for those of you baking gluten-free:

So the GF changes to the cake would be:

2 cups of gluten free flour blend (w/xanthan gum) or 2 cups of gf flour blend + 1 1/2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1/2 - 1 tsp baking powder (this would be the recipe amount to the amount it might need to be raised to & I'm going to check)

I'll let you when I get the cake finished, how it turns out and if the baking powder amount needs to be raised.

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder.

Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.


12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)

- makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels -

1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

A 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer


Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.

When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm.

Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.


Fleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane.

Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it.

Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.

Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer.
(recipe from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert)

I am thinking of making a few batches of the caramels to give as holiday gifts. They are truly divine.

Friday, November 21, 2008

My Kitchen, My World - Iran

This week for My Kitchen, My World we traveled to Iran courtesy of Elra of Elra's Cooking.

We have been eating seafood all week (Agnes LOVES seafood) so I made a Persian bistro shrimp dish. It was heavenly. Sean asked if we could have this every couple of weeks.

I served it over saffron rice. Delish!

Ginger-Apricot Shrimp

12 dried apricot halves
12 pitted dried plums (prunes)
2/3 cup (or more) low-salt chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mango chutney, large pieces chopped
2 teaspoons tamarind concentrate*
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/4 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/4 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced white onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
1/2 cup matchstick-size strips peeled carrot
16 uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined
1 green onion, chopped


Place apricots and plums in small heatproof bowl. Add enough boiling water to cover. Let stand 15 minutes to soften. Drain and quarter all fruit.

Meanwhile, mix 2/3 cup broth with soy sauce, mango chutney, tamarind concentrate, and sugar in small bowl. Whisk cumin, curry powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper in another small bowl. DO AHEAD: Fruit, broth mixture, and spice blend can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand separately at room temperature.

Heat vegetable oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saut until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and saut 30 seconds. Add apricots, plums, and carrot; saut until onion begins to brown, about 1 minute. Add shrimp and spice blend, stirring to coat. Cook until shrimp are pink on both sides but still uncooked in center, about 2 minutes. Add broth mixture; cover and cook until shrimp are just opaque in center, about 1 minute, adding more broth by tablespoonfuls if sauce is too thick. Transfer to serving bowl. Sprinkle with green onion and serve

I've been tagged!

Jody over at Where's My Damn Answer tagged me to list 6 random things about myself. So, here ya go!

1. I hate plain raw tomatoes. I hate them with every ounce of my soul. I hate when people tell me I can pick them off things. Yeah, you can pick them off but there is still residual tomato left. Here comes the weird part, I love salsa, pico de gallo, any kind of tomato based sauce, I will eat them in Nasi Goreng, but I will not eat plain raw. Seriously, just nasty.

2. Cheeseburgers are my most favorite food on the face of the planet. When I travel internationally I have to try the local cheeseburger. I'm not talking about McDonalds or fast food but a real cheeseburger at a real restaurant. The best cheeseburger outside of the U.S is at Poppies in Bali, Indonesia. It almost like a meatloaf patty. Jody and I had a couple of these with many Bintang! The worst cheeseburger outside of the U.S. was in Paris, France at some hamburger joint. It was horrible. You would think the French could cook anything, um, NO! The cucumbers on top were all wilty and I remember thinking "Why, couldn't they just make a pickle?"

3. I prefer to drive other peoples cars. It doesn't matter if they are nicer than my car or not. I get a thrill out it.

4. When I was a baby I didn't start to walk until I was 2 1/2. My parents took me to the doctor because they thought something was wrong with me. The doctor asked if they carried me every where. They said yes. The doctor told them to stop carrying me and I would start to walk. I started walking within 4 days of the appointment.

5. My dad died 3 weeks before my 4th birthday. Not that him dying is weird it is what happened afterward. When I was 4 years old I was almost kidnapped. My mom had taken my sister to her Girl's Scout meeting and I was staying with a babysitter. A man came to the door and said he was there to pick up the baby for Mrs. Marks. She thought this was really odd and told him no. He pushed his way into the house and tried to grab me. A neighbor heard what was going on and called the police. The suspect said he had read my dad's obituary and figured since he worked for Shell Oil we were rich. He figured he could get a lot of money for ransom. The other weird thing that happened to me after my dad died is that NO ONE can sing Happy Birthday to me. NO ONE! Every since my 4th birthday (yes, my mom still had my birthday. She was trying to keep things as normal as possible) it will bring me to tears. I guess when my family tried to sing at my 4th bday I kept yelling "we have to wait for daddy!!". Jody and Sean have always known this. Jody has stopped people from singing to me more times than I can count (wait, I'm not that old!). Thanks Maggs!

6. I collect perfume from a company called Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. I am addicted to their perfume. It is the most amazing perfume ever! It is pure perfume oil. No alcohol or additives. Every time they have a new update I must buy a few bottles or imps. I have been collecting from them for about 4 1/2 years. My two favorite blends are called Selkie - The chill waters of the Orkney coast, tea-leaved willow, honey-touched Grass-of-Parnassus, sea aster, and Scottish Primrose. I have 4 bottles of it. I am hoarding it because it is longer offered by the company can only be found on auction sites. Anactoria - Golden amber, white honey, red currant, daemonorops, kush, and Arabian musk. It is heavenly! Check out their website. You will spend hours looking at all the descriptions.

This has rules, too:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag a few people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Dale of mole, Elra of Elra's Cooking, Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies, Anne-Marie of A Mama's Rant

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Our Tradition

Ever since Agnes' first Christmas in 2005 I have taken her to see Santa. I like to take her by myself. Just my daughter and me. I always take her as soon as Santa is at the mall. Neither of us like standing in line and it gives her more time to chat with him.

Since she is in pre-preschool everyday I miss hanging out with her so she took today off to see Santa. She was so excited to talk with him. Last night she was practicing what she would say to him. She didn't want to forget what she wanted him to bring her.

When we got to the mall she was practically running to Santa Land. We were the only ones their so the staff really took their time and let her hang-out for a bit. She sat and chatted with Santa for about 15 minutes. She had to explain every single thing (drum kit, dinosaurs, volcano, gummi bears, care bears, rocketships, big girl bed, piano, princess presents, it was a never ending list!) she wants from him. By the time we left Santa was trying his hardest not to start laughing at loud. All the elves were losing it. She is definitely a girl who knows what she wants! Afterward we went to the Nordstrom cafe for coffee (hot chocolate for Miss Thing) and cookies.

Each year our Santa day gets better. I am already looking forward to Santa day next year!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I'm on a seafood diet. I see food and eat it. HA!

Agnes wanted to have fish for dinner tonight. She loves fish. I am not talking about breaded fish sticks (well, who doesn't like those) but really fish. She will eat halibut, salmon, tilapia, cod, basa, and all sorts of other seafood. The other night she ate a plate of squid and razor clams. She is such a cool kid!!

Our Safeway here is having a sale on fresh tilapia for 3.99 a pound. Yeah, it doesn't get any cheaper than that. In Denver we were lucky to get it for 10.00 or so. The seafood here is so CHEAP! So, Agnes and I decided to make:

Tilapia with Balsamic Butter Sauce, Thyme Mashed Potatoes, and Sugar Snap Peas

Thyme mashed potatoes
3 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, quartered
4 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
6 tablespoons (or more) warm whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme

Balsamic butter sauce
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups sugar snap peas, strings removed

2 tablespoons olive oil
6 4- to 5-ounce tilapia fillets

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

For thyme mashed potatoes:
Boil potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain; return to pot. Add butter, 6 tablespoons cream, and thyme; mash. Season with salt and pepper. Do ahead Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm over medium heat, stirring often and adding more cream by tablespoonfuls if dry.

For balsamic butter sauce:
Simmer vinegar and garlic in small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to thick syrup, about 5 minutes. Set aside.Cook snap peas in boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Drain. Return to same pan; set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in each of 2 large skillets over high heat. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Sauté fish until golden, about 2 minutes per side.
Rewarm balsamic syrup over medium-low heat. Whisk in 3/4 cup butter 1 piece at a time.
Divide potatoes, tilapia, and peas among plates; drizzle with sauce.

I put the mashers on the plate, a piece of tilapia on top, drizzled the sauce on top and served the sugar snap peas on the side .

OMG! It was so good. The sauce is freaking awesome! I wanted to lick my plate clean. Agnes cleaned her plate. She kept moaning "mmmmm, fish good, mmmm".

The masher took the most time. If you grabbed some premade mashers from your deli or even the ones in the refrigerator cases at your grocery store this meal would take 10 minutes from start to finish. I sprinkled our sugar snap peas with some sea salt and tossed them in a Ziploc zip & steam bags (I can't live without these things) for about 3 minutes and they were perfect.

You must try this dinner!

Friday, November 14, 2008

My Kitchen, My World - Puerto Rico

This week we travel to Puerto Rico for My Kitchen, My World. Agnes decided we were having fish for dinner. So we made Grilled Fish with Sofrito Sauce and Plátanos Asados.It was extremely easy and quick to put together. This will definitely go into our dinner rotation.

Grilled Fish with Sofrito Sauce and Plátanos Asados

Olive oil-flavored cooking spray
1 underripe plantain
1/8 teaspoon salt, divided
2 (6-ounce) grouper fillets (about 1/2 inch thick) (I couldn't find grouper anywhere here in Portland so I used halibut instead)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
½ cup Sofrito Sauce
2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
Chopped cilantro (optional)
1 green plantain

Sofrito Sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup diced onion
½ cup seeded & diced green bell pepper
7 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Blend everything in a blender or food processors.

Cut plantain in half lengthwise; cut each half crosswise into 2 pieces. Spray plantain pieces with cooking spray; grill 4 minutes on each side or until golden and slightly soft. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt.

Drizzle fish with lime juice; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt and minced cilantro. Grill 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Top fish and plantains with sofrito sauce and sour cream, and serve with plantain pieces. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

**I had to borrow a picture from I took pictures of dinner tonight but when I went to download them I realized I hadn't put the memory card back in the camera. Whoops! It was still sitting in memory card reader from when I downloaded pictures of my Dachshund cupcakes. LOL

Pink, Girlie Cupcakes

Here are some pink, girlie cupcakes. The customers only request was there be pink and purple Dachshunds. They are Devil's Food cake with cream cheese icing. The decorations are made from fondant that has been brushed with luster dust. The cuppies have been sprinkled with loads of purple (you can see purple specs) and white glitter but you can hardly see it in the pics. They are so sparkly!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

My Kitchen, My World - Ireland

I was so excited to be chosen to pick our country this week for My Kitchen, My World. With the weather getting cold and rainy here in the Pacific Northwest I wanted comfort food so I chose Ireland.

Sean and I traveled through Ireland a few years ago. It was a fantastic holiday! We met new friends, ran into some old friends, saw some amazing history, had some horrible food (does everything have to be fried lol), and had one of the best meals of my life.

We were fortunate to stay at Ballynahinch Castle for one night. We had a beautiful suite that faced the river. I never wanted to leave. I felt like a princess. The night we had dinner in the restaurants is one of my favorite travel memories. The food was spectacular. The service perfect. I had always wanted to drink champagne in a castle so Sean made sure there was a bottle for us. Yeah, he is a good guy.

Not far from the castle is Kylemore Abbey This beautiful castle has been the home to an order of Benedictine nuns since the 1920's.

In honor of Sister Ita who was in her 90's when she died I have made her sultana scone recipe. Can you say yum? Agnes has eating almost 4 of them! Smear them with some double cream, black currant jam, and a cuppa. It is the perfect way to start the day.

4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp sugar
2/3 cup sultanas
1/2 oz mixed candied citrus peel (optional)
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk

Sieve the flour, baking soda, and the salt into a bowl, and rub in the butter. Add the sugar, fruit, and peel, if using. Mix well. Beat the eggs and mix with the milk, reserving a little to brush over the scones. Make a well in the centre of the flour, add the eggs and milk and mix to a soft dough. Turn out on to a floured board and roll out to about 1 inch thick. Cut into rounds, using a 2 1/2 inch fluted cutter. Brush over with some beaten egg. Put on to a greased baking sheet and bake in a preheated hot oven (400°F) for 15-20 minutes. Turn out on to a wire tray to cool.

Here are a few words about Sister Ita from the Kylemore Abbey cookbook~ From the days of the Abbey Guest House of the 1950's to the tour buses of the 1990's and right up to her retirement a few years ago at the age of 90, Sister Ita's scones were legendary in Connemara. She is sadly missed by visitors, drivers, and guides who fondly recall her friendship and warm hospitality.

For dinner last night I made a family favorite Shepherd's Pie. This recipe comes from my favorite pub back The Wynkoop. The Wynkoop holds a very special place in my heart. I met Sean the for the first time 17 years ago at the Wynkoop! I loved working at the pub. I am still friends with people I worked with so long ago and since moving to Vancouver I crave the food. I had a friend get in touch with the original chef to get the recipe for me. The first bite brought back so many memories. Now, if I could only get a pint of Railyard!

Wynkoop Brewing Company's Shepherd's Pie

For the pie crust:
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (or lard)
2 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup ice cold water

For the vegetables:
1 1/2 cups carrots, diced
1 1/2 cups celery, diced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground
1 teaspoon paprika (sweet is best)

For the lamb and sauce:
1/4 cup canola oil
2 pounds lamb stew meat (use good-quality lamb for best flavor)
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons shallots, minced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 1/2 quarts beef stock or bouillon
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
4 bay leaves

For shepherd's pie:
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 bunch green onions, chopped
4 to 6 cups mashed potatoes (recipe of your choice)

To make pie crust: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cut the shortening into the sifted flour with a pastry cutter or by using two butter knives. Add the salt and cold water and mix with your hands until mixture comes together. If too dry, add a bit more cold water. Do not over mix. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for 1/2 hour or until you are ready to use it.

For the vegetables: In a large heavy skillet or saut?© pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add vegetables and spices and cook until vegetables just turn tender, about 10 minutes. They should still have some "bite" to them. Place in bowl and set aside.

Prepare mashed potatoes, using your own recipe; set aside.

For the lamb and sauce: Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or saucepan until hot.

Season meat with salt and pepper, and then carefully add lamb to oil in pan and brown meat on all sides. Do not crowd meat in pan. Cook in batches if necessary.

When meat is browned, return all meat to pan, reduce heat to medium and add shallots and garlic.

Sprinkle flour slowly over meat while stirring continually to avoid lumps. Once flour is incorporated, cook for 5 minutes, stirring continually and scraping the bottom of the pan to avoid burning.

Slowly add red wine, then stock, stirring and scraping pan sides and bottom. Add tomato paste, rosemary and bay leaves and turn up the heat to bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to one hour or until meat is tender.

Strain meat from sauce and set meat aside to cool. Remove bay leaves. Pour the sauce in a medium saucepan and cover; set aside on a low burner to keep warm. Stir occasionally to keep skin from forming.

To assemble the pie: Spray a 9-by-13-by-2 glass or metal casserole dish with nonstick spray. Spread pastry dough over bottom of dish and up the sides, pressing to make the dough thin and even. Cut off any excess dough at top of dish.

Spread 2 cups of the mashed potatoes evenly across the pie crust. Place half of the lamb meat on top of the potatoes.

Top the lamb meat with all of the vegetable mixture and then add the remaining lamb meat.

Cover the dish with enough mashed potatoes to fill the casserole.

Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours or until casserole has an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

When cooked, remove pie from oven and top with Parmesan cheese and return to oven until cheese is lightly browned.

To serve: Ladle hot lamb sauce into a wide serving bowl and place a serving of pie on top, or place pie on a plate and spoon sauce on top.

Garnish with some chopped green onions, if desired.

This recipe makes a huge amount of food. We will be having Shepherd's Pie for a few nights!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.”~ Jim Davis

Last week so cake crazy! I made a birthday cake for Sean, birthday cupcakes for him to take to work, a birthday cake for my adorable niece Elly, and a batch of vegan cupcakes for Sean's birthday party. I have never made so much chocolate cake in my entire life. The batter was flying! LOL

Sean's birthday is on Halloween so we had a small cocktail party after trick or treating. It was a blast. We have made some great friends here.

Sean's birthday cake. Agnes designed the cake. She wanted her daddy to have a spooky cake!

Sugar skull cupcakes for Sean's work & his birthday cake. Agnes designed the cake. She wanted her daddy to have a spooky cake!


We also made sugar skulls for our Dia de los Muertos ofrenda. I made a sugar Virgin de Guadalupe. She turned out so beautiful. It was so much fun making these with Agnes. It was her first year to decorate some all by herself. The one thing that sucks about making these is every year I have to make at least one more. This year we had to make one for Sean's dad Jim. I think it was really good for Sean to make it.

Agnes decorating her sugar skull.

Virgin de Guadalupe. She turned out so cool.

Our oferenda

Here is the cake I made for Elly. I was so happy with how it turned out. Elly loved it!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers - October ~ Pizza!

This months challenge was awesome. I actually learned how to toss pizza dough! Sure, I made a mess but it was fun.

Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled - FOR GF: 4 ½ cups GF Flour Blend with xanthan gum or 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1 ½ cup arrowroot, potato or tapioca starch + 2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast - FOR GF use 2 tsp
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar - FOR GF use agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.


2. FOR GF: Add the oil, sugar or agave syrup and cold water, then mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.


8. FOR GF: On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the number of desired dough balls from the refrigerator. Place on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with a gluten free flour. Delicately press the dough into disks about ½ inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil. Lightly cover the dough round with a sheet of parchment paper and allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.


10. FOR GF: Press the dough into the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough).

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.


11. FOR GF: Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.


12. FOR GF: Place the garnished pizza on the parchment paper onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.


13. FOR GF: Follow the notes for this step.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

Pepperoni goodness!

Vino Formaggio Sausage

White sauce, Chicken, and Spinach

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


You would think with spending 150K on new clothes she would have picked out the right scarf!


Saturday, October 18, 2008

My Kitchen, My World - Argentina

This week Teresa of I'm Running to Eat chose Argentina. I was so tempted to grill a steak and make some chimichurri but I wanted to make something I had never had. After some research I decided on Carbonada en Zapallo (pumpkin stuffed with beef and vegetable stew). It was so much fun to make. I have never roasted an entire pumpkin! And, I have never served anything out of a big, giant pumpkin. Agnes loved it!

What's inside the pumpkin?

Pumpkin Stuffed with Beef and Vegetable Stew

1 medium pumpkin

6 tablespoons salted butter, melted

2 lbs. stew beef, cut into 1 1/2″ cubes

2 large red onions, sliced thin

2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, sliced

5 garlic cloves, chopped

3 dried red chillies, snapped in half

1 tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed or 1 teaspoon ground

1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds, crushed or 1 1/2 teaspoons ground

2 large yams, cubed

6 to 10 new potatoes, quartered

1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 cup red lentils

3/4 cup dried peaches or dried pears, halved

4 cobs of corn, quartered

1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

6 cups water, more if needed

corn or olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, F. Cut a lid off the top of the pumpkin and scoop out the insides.

2. Brush the pumpkin, inside and out, with butter and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 50 to 70 minutes. The pumpkin should be cooked through but not collapsing on itself.

1. Place a large heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat, pour in two tablespoons of oil and when it shimmers, add the beef. Brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Remove beef from pot.

3. Add onions, peppers and garlic to pot and saute until onion is translucent. Add spices and saute for 3 minutes. Add chilies and saute for half a minute. Add meat, yams, new potatoes, lentils, tomatoes, dried fruit, salt, pepper and water to pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for about half an hour until the potatoes are tender. Add more water if needed.

4. Add corn and cook for another 4 minutes. Stir half the cilantro into stew. Pour stew into pumpkin, top with remaining cilantro and bring to the table. Serve.

I will definitely be making the stew again. While the pumpkin was really fun to make I would only make again if we had company.

Friday, October 17, 2008


I am a huge fan of hypnotherapy. I truly believe that it helps people. It helped me accept and deal with the loss of our first child. It helped me get through 48 hours of labor with laughter instead of pain killers. So why am I disgusted? I am disgusted with how hypnosis is portrayed on tv and other media.

I first really noticed this when we were on our cruise last year. There was a hypnotist who had a nightly show. It was fun watching people we know make complete asses of themselves on a stage. Sean and I laughed because we knew it was all an act but it pissed me off. The hypnotist had them clucking like a chickens, dancing like idiots, etc. This is not how hypnosis works. It CAN'T make you do any of these things. Two of the people I talked with after the show told me they didn't remember anything they had done. BULLSHIT!

Then last night on CSI there was a hypnotherapist who could rob banks and the sound of her voice made a woman accidently kill herself. OH. MY. GOD. It was the dumbest thing ever. I think it was dumber than the moron on the cruise.

It makes me sad this is how people look at hypnotherapy. It is such a wonderful tool that can help many people. It can be utilized for grief, weight-loss, stop smoking, stress, and a myriad of other things.

Hypnotherapy may not be for everyone but it would be nice if people knew that clucking like a chicken isn't the only thing it is good for.

Chocolate Fixation ~ October Challenge

This months Chocolate Fixation Challenge was hosted by...ME! I chose one of my favorite brownie recipes by David Lebovitz. I love this man. He has some absolutely amazing recipes.

Dulce de Leche Brownies
12 brownies

8 tablespoons (115 g) salted or unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 ounces (170 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup (25 g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (140 g) flour
optional: 1 cup (100 g) toasted pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup Dulce de Leche (or Cajeta)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 C).
Line a 8-inch (20 cm) square pan with a long sheet of aluminum foil that covers the bottom and reaches up the sides. If it doesn't reach all the way up and over all four sides, cross another sheet of foil over it, making a large cross with edges that overhang the sides. Grease the bottom and sides of the foil with a bit of butter or non-stick spray.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the chocolate pieces and stir constantly over very low heat until the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the sugar, vanilla, then the flour. Mix in the nuts, if using.
Scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan. Here comes the fun part.
Drop one-third of the Dulce de Leche, evenly spaced, over the brownie batter, then drag a knife through to swirl it slightly. Spread the remaining brownie batter over, then drop spoonfuls of the remaining Dulce de Leche in dollops over the top of the brownie batter. Use a knife to swirl the Dulce de Leche slightly.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The brownies are done when the center feels just-slightly firm. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels

I am so excited. I wanted to lose 20 before the end of the year and I am down 23 pounds! I can't wait to weigh myself on New Years Eve to see how much I lost total. My plan is working. I have finally found my weight loss path. YAY!! I think it just took awhile to get settled into my new life here in the Pacific NW. All my pants are starting to get baggy. It is such a great feeling!

Saturday we are decorating sugar skulls for Dia de los Muertos. Agnes is having a little friend over to decorate with her. I am decorating skulls for all of my family and friends that are gone for our home altar. I am also making a sugar Our Lady of Guadalupe. I think she is going to turn out really cool. After I finish those I am decorating 24 mini sugar skulls to put on top of the cupcakes that I am sending to work with Sean on his birthday. His birthday is on Halloween so I thought they would make really cool cupcake toppers.

Tomorrow night Sean and I get to go out for happy hour. We haven't been out without Agnes since April. It is definitely time. We are meeting up with a bunch of people at OBA. Their menu looks tasty. The prawn ceviche sounds divine. That will definitely be ordered. How about roasted butternut squash enchiladas with creamy toasted walnut sauce and quinoa salad? Um, YUM!! My stomach is growling now. I just need to remember while I am there "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels!"

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My Kitchen, My World - Morocco

This week in My Kitchen, My World, Judy of Judy's Gross Eats chose Morocco.
What a fun challenge. There are so many spice combinations with Moroccan cooking. Too bad I couldn't get Sean to do a belly dance for me before dinner!!

I didn't get a chance to take photos but we had Fish Tagine with Peppers and Olives served with couscous.

Moroccan Fish Tagine With Peppers And Olives

Serves 4.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
4 6-ounce white fish fillets (such as halibut or orange roughy)
1 pound carrots, peeled, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 medium-size red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
24 brine-cured olives (such as Kalamata)
Additional Chopped fresh Italian parsley

Mix first 7 ingredients in medium bowl. Add fish and turn to coat. Refrigerate 2 hours, turning fish occasionally.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Arrange carrot slices over bottom of 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Layer half of tomatoes, half of onion and half of lemon over. Season with half of salt and pepper.
Drain marinade from fish; reserve marinade.
Arrange fish atop lemon slices. Top fish with remaining tomato, onion and lemon slices. Season with remaining salt and pepper. Top decoratively with red pepper strips and olives. Pour reserved marinade over. Cover dish with foil. Bake 40 minutes.
Increase oven temperature to 400°F.
and bake until fish flakes easily and vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Garnish with additionally parsley.

Arrange fish atop lemon slices. Top fish with remaining tomato, onion and lemon slices. Season with remaining salt and pepper. Top decoratively with red pepper strips and olives. Pour reserved marinade over. Cover dish with foil. Bake 40 minutes.
Increase oven temperature to 400°F.
and bake until fish flakes easily and vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Garnish with additionally parsley.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I am in love!!!

So, we all know that I am old. OLD! I am also kind of stuck in my New Wave/Alternative 80's ways. But as I was watching SNL last night I fell in love. I fell in love with a band called The Killers. OMG. There is something very 80's and very Echo & The Bunnymen (my favorite band of ALL time) about them. Plus, it doesn't hurt that the lead singer is H.O.T. hot!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

My Kitchen, My World - Equador

I'm back! Well, kind of. I made a couple of really easy things this week. Hopefully I should be back to myself next week and can cook something more challenging.

This week for My Kitchen, My World Shelby of The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch chose the country of Ecuador. I thought I knew what to expect but I was so wrong. I couldn't believe some of the amazing recipes I came upon. Since I am still recovery from my surgery I decided to make soup and something to go with it. This is what I found!

I made Locro (potato soup) and Pristinos (pumpkin fritters). Can you say YUM?!?! This menu reminded me a lot of my Grandma. When it is cold outside she will make potato soup and grebel. Grebel are a Germans from Russisa (Volga German) doughnut. They are one of then most favorite things my Grandma cooks.

I made this Ecuadorian dinner in honor of my Grandma. :)

Locro ~ Potato Soup

4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) butter
1 teaspoon sweet paprika (Use the best you can find. I use Penzey's Hungarian Sweet. It was perfect)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 cup each milk and light cream
1/2 pound Munster cheese, grated

In a large, heavy saucepan heat the butter and stir in the paprika. Add the onion and saute over moderate heat until the onion is softened. Pour in 4 cups water, bring to a boil, and the potatoes, and simmer over low heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally. When the potatoes are almost done, add the milk and cream and continue to cook, stirring from time to time, until the potatoes begin to disintegrate. Stir the cheese into the potatoes, season to taste with salt, and serve immediately. Avocado slices are sometimes served with the Locro, on separate plates but to be eaten at the same time.

Truly delish. I love that there are so few ingredients. It is the best potato soup I have ever had. Be sure and sprinkle paprika on top before serving. It just adds to the depth of flavors. I doubled the recipe so I could freeze the leftovers.

Pristinos ~ Pumpkin Fritters

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 pound (1/2 cup) butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup cooked, mashed West Indian pumpkin (calabaza)
oil or lard for deep frying

2 cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1-inch piece of stick cinnamon

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Add the cheese. Work the butter into the mixture with your fingers, then the pumpkin with a fork. The pumpkin should supply enough moisture to make a soft but not sticky dough. Turn the dough onto a floured board and roll out to a 1/2-inch thickness. Cut it into strips 1 inch wide and 6 inches long. Form each strip into a ring, pinching the ends lightly together. Deep fry in hot oil or lard (350 F to 365 F.) until golden brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels and serve with cinnamon syrup.
CINNAMON SYRUP: In a saucepan combine the sugar with 1 cup water and the cinnamon stick. Stir the mixture to dissolve the sugar and simmer over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick.

I McGyvered the pristinos. I wanted something kind of sweet so I substituted the cheese with sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. When I brought them out of the oil I sprinkled them with a cinnamon/sugar mix. So good. I can't wait to have more with brekkie tomorrow.

It is rainy and cold here today. We ate in the living room tonight in front of the fire place. What a perfect Autumn dinner.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Daring Bakers - September ~ Lavash Crackers & Toppings

I am late posting my Daring Bakers challenge. I swear I have a good excuse. I had surgery last Weds. and I am just now feeling up to being on the computer. Anyhoo, on to the goodness...

This months challenge was vegan lavash crackers & toppings hosted by Natalie from Gluten A Go Go. Agnes and I had a blast making these.

Agnes helped roll out the crackers and used cookie cutters to make the crackers.

Some of the shapes look better than others. But considering I had a broken arm (it has been a rough month lol) and a she has two little 3 year old ones I think we did pretty good.

We sprinkled the crackers with cinnamon and sugar. Instead of a dip (my arm was killing me so I just couldn't cook anything else) I made a glaze out of the leftover cinnamon and sugar. Agnes now has iced vegan animal crackers. YUM!

Lavash Crackers ~ the recipe includes instructions for a gluten-free version

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 … 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.


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.


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.

I am throwing a birthday party for Sean at the end of October and I will be making the crackers to serve. Only I will probably sprinkle with granulated garlic and onion to serve with hummus.

I just have to say being a Daring Baker is so cool. I love all the new recipes and techniques I am learning!

Thanks Natalie! These crackers are so easy and delish!