Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sweet little holiday nibbles. . .

Lemon Curd Tartlets

Ginger Cookies

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Truffles
(rolled in candy cane)

Pecan Bars

[These are served alongside cream puffs filled with pumpkin mousse (not pictured) ]

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My chihuahua has a first name it's O-S-C-A-R. . .

A very hawt Hot Dog!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Trick or Treat

Some ghoulish Halloween treats for big and little monsters alike.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Plum Almond Crumble

The flavor of Italian prune plums is enhanced with the addition of brown sugar, amarretto, cassis, and a pinch of nutmeg, and topped with a delicious oatmeal-almond crumble.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Classic Tiramisù

Espresso and rum soaked Savoiardi layered together with a Kahlua and rum scented mascarpone cream, topped off with cocoa powder and shaved dark chocolate.

Friday, August 28, 2009

the UNfair results are in: Oh the shame. . .

So the results of the 2009 Oregon State Fair are in. . .

This year I entered/placed:

Blueberry Jam- 1st place

Lemon Pound Cake - 1st Place

Ginger Cookies - 2nd Place

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti - 2nd Place

Blueberry Lemon Scones - 3rd place (WTF???)

Buttermilk Biscuits - 3rd Place (WTF??? are you kidding me???)

Toasted Coconut Marshmallows - 3rd Place

Pecan Pie - 3rd Place (the crust was all messed up, so I feel lucky to have placed at all)

Mixed Nut Bars - Didn't Place at all (bwah?)

Banana Nut Muffins - Didn't Place at all (seriously, am I being punked???)

So, naturally, I feel embarrassed and humiliated, and just want to go spend the rest of the afternoon in bed. But I will be fine. What do they know anyway??? Ultimately I do wish some of them would have placed higher (namely the SCONES, biscuits, and mixed nut bars), but with the nearly ten thousand entries that the home arts division received this year, I guess it is still pretty flattering to have placed eight out of my ten entries.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pecan Pie

A homemade cream cheese pie crust filled with all of the flavors of my delicious Pecan Bars morphed into a pie. Now if only I could eat pecans. . .

Plum Cake Tatin

Yesterday we picked some Italian prune plums, and this morning I was inspired to whip up a little something with them. I decided on this simple upside down plum cake, a take on the classic apple tarte Tatin (named after the Tatin sisters who originally created the dish at their hotel in Lamotte-Beuvron, France in the late nineteenth century).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Total Nut Job

A variation of my classic (blue ribbon winning) Pecan Bars
with Hazelnuts, Pecans, Almonds, and Macadamia Nuts

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thyme for an Update!!!

Well, after 12 short weeks coming all the way from seeds, our small attempt at gardening this year has turned out quite well. I am a proud papa. The chives have flourished, and we snip off hand fulls at a time to use several times a week. The dill, unfortunately, has come and gone to seed already but it came up plentifully, and lived a good life. And my little babies (the thyme and sage) have been nursed along from tiny seedlings. . . and while we were all melting in the recent heat wave, they could not have been happier.

You'll remember the sage/thyme seven weeks ago:

And look at them now...all grown up (wipes tear from eye):

Monday, August 3, 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Blueberry-Ginger-Lemon Scones

Fresh blueberries and crystallized ginger set these scones apart. Moist, cakey, spicy and sweet, with a lovely contrasting tartness from the lemon glaze. Delicious!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pasta alla Carbonara

On those nights when we need dinner in a flash, and it seems that we have no food in the house, I can always turn to this simple, rich, delicious stand by (as I typically always have these ingredients on hand, whether in the pantry, fridge, or freezer). It cooks up in a matter of minutes, and, while delicious on its own, it can be made a million different ways. Throw in some mushrooms, or chicken, or shrimp... whatever you have on hand, and dinner is on the table in no time.

6 slices of bacon, cut into 1/4 inch strips
1 pound of pasta (spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine, vermicelli, and bucatini are all good choices, but really any pasta will work)
8 eggs
Heavy cream (or half 'n half, or whole milk...whatever you have on hand)
1 cup grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
Dash of chipotle powder
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Chopped fresh Parsley (optional)

Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil over medium heat.

Add about 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until it starts to color and become crisp. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Drop the pasta into the salted boiling water and cook it 1 minute less than whatever it says on the package. Bite the pasta to check the consistency.

While the pasta is cooking, crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Add the Parmesan, a splash of cream, the garlic, nutmeg, chipotle powder, and season with salt (keeping in mind that the cheese and bacon are both salty). Whisk vigorously until it becomes a homogeneous mixture. Season generously with black pepper (like a lot... as black pepper is a key flavor in classic carbonara) .

When the pasta is just about done, return the pan with the bacon to medium heat. Strain the pasta (reserving a cup of the coking water). Toss or stir the pasta into the bacon to coat the pasta with the remaining fat in the skillet. Vigorously stir the egg mixture into the pasta. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly until the egg mixture thickens and looks like a cream sauce, adding some of the cooking liquid if it becomes too thick. Toss in a handful of chopped parsley, and serve with a little extra sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Oh hot damn! This is my jam. . ."

Yesterday we went blueberry picking (I mean "$1.00 you-pick blueberries" are there any more beautiful words in the English language?) and came home with a little over twenty pounds. It really is the most charming activity. It just seems so wholesome, and is also somehow kind of zen. Whenever we go, however, I always find myself humming the Gummie Bears theme song which gets stuck in my head (as the bushes and the activity itself just conjure images of gummie berry bushes in my mind... lord knows why) So there I am happily picking away singing to myself as my fellow pickers look on in amusement ("Dashing and daring, Courageous and caring, Faithful and friendly, With stories to share. All through the forest, They sing out in chorus, Marching along, As their song fills the air...").

We intend on going back next week, right around the peak of the season to hand pluck some more with which to fill up our freezer. I braved the heat today, and stood over the stove stirring my cauldron of bubbling blueberry sugar, and was able to get through several batches of Blueberry Jam (my first batch of jam this year). So it officially feels like summer.

Hooray for jam!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cream Puffs

Pate Choux is one of the best, fabulous food fake outs. It is kind of elegant, but deceptively simple to make (so don't be intimidated), and once you master it, variations of this same basic recipe can be used to make cream puffs, cheese puffs, profiteroles, and éclairs. Super simple, and a very affordable way to wow your guests.

Pate Choux:
1 cup milk
1/4 pound butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs

Cream Filling:
1 cup cold heavy cream
1/4 cup whipped cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and the seeds from half of a vanilla bean)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Heat the milk and butter over medium heat until scalded. When the butter is melted, add the flour all at once and beat it with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and forms a dough (it will look essentially like mashed potatoes). Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 2-3 minutes, until the flour begins to coat the bottom of the pan. Dump the hot mixture into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the eggs and pulse until the eggs are incorporated into the dough and the mixture is thick.

Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip. Pipe one inch mounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You should have about 35 puffs. With a wet finger, lightly press down the swirl at the top of each puff (so it won't burn during baking). Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned, then turn off the oven and allow them to sit for another 10 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Make a small slit in the bottom of each puff to allow the steam to escape, and cool upside down on a cooling rack.

Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on high speed until soft peaks form, add the sugar and vanilla, and continue beating on high until the mixture is stiff, but not dry. Spoon the cream mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a small star tip, and fill the cooled puffs, using the steam vent you created on the bottom. Refrigerate the puffs until you are ready to serve. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar, and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Easy Barbecued Ribs

Here is my simple and fool proof method for cooking delicious, tender, fall off the bone ribs at home. Smoky, spicy, sticky, and sweet, these mahogany beauties will be sure to wow all of your guests at your next back yard barbecue. The recipe is very simple (in a very semi-homemade sort of way) with lots of help from the store, for which I offer no apologies.

4 racks of Pork Spareribs
3 packets of a BBQ Marinade (I use McCormick Grill Mate Mesquite)
2 cans/bottles of beer
1 cup apple juice
2 Tablespoons minced fresh garlic
Your favorite bottled BBQ Sauce
Dijon Mustard
1 Tablespoon Pure Maple Syrup
1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
1 Tablespoon Pimenton (Spanish, smoked Paprika)
a healthy dash of Chipotle Chili Powder
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
Liquid Smoke

In a large roasting pan with the rack removed, combine the beer, apple juice, marinade packets, garlic, and 1/3 cup bbq sauce. Add the ribs, turning to coat each rack in the liquid. Cover with aluminum foil, and marinate in the refrigerator over night or for up to three days, turning periodically to ensure even marination.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Remove ribs from the roasting pan, replace the roasting rack (leaving the marinating liquid in the bottom of the pan), and arrange the ribs on the rack in an even layer. Tent with aluminum foil, and bake for 10 to 12 hours, removing the foil half way through cooking, and basting with the pan juices every hour or so.

Meanwhile, combine 2-3 cups of bbq sauce, a splash of liquid smoke, a dollop of dijon mustard, the vinegar, maple syrup, chili powder, pimenton, and chipotle powder, and set aside.

Preheat your outside grill to medium-low heat (whether using gas or charcoal). Place baked rib racks onto the heated grill and slather with the doctored bbq sauce on both sides repeatedly, turning three or four times, for about 25-30 minutes, or until the ribs are nicely caramelized, and the sauce is thick and sticky. Remove from the grill, allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes, slice, and enjoy!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Beat the Heat: Frozen Key Lime Pie

10 graham crackers (usually about one package)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds
6 tablespoons butter, melted

6 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons grated lime zest
3/4 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice (or you can substitute regular lime juice if you cannot find key limes)

1 cup cold heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Thin lime slices/wedges

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and almonds in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until you have fine crumbs. Drizzle in the melted butter, and process until it comes together. Press into a 9-inch pie pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is fragrant and golden brown. Set aside, and allow to cool completely.

For the filling, beat the egg yolks and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for 5 minutes, until very thick. With the mixer on medium speed, add the condensed milk, lime zest, and lime juice. Pour into the baked pie shell and freeze.

For the decoration, beat the heavy cream on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until firm. Spoon or pipe decoratively onto the pie and decorate with lime. Freeze for several hours or overnight.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Ultimate Ginger Cookies

Crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, the spices in these cookies kind of hit you in waves, none overpowering the others, with a distinct, almost smoky hit of molasses, and then it finishes off with the slightest heat from the chunks of crystallized ginger. And the way the house smells when they are baking. . .sigh. . .I am telling you, they will make you sass yo mama!

[Long ago in a land far far away, a dear (and beautiful) friend of mine and I used to make tea and socialize every week. All these many years later, how I long to return to that simpler time, there with her, sipping tea on the couch. I took this picture today as my "Tea for Tuesday" cyber shout out tribute to her. Cheers!]

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday, Sunday. . .So good to me

After sleeping in, and waking up without an alarm, Bentley and I spent the morning in our pjs leisurely reading the Sunday paper, and luxuriating over a delicious breakfast of banana pancakes. After a short but decadent nap (to sleep off our pancake induced coma), we spent the afternoon at Bed Bath and Beyond buying new Calphalon non-stick skillets (10, 12, and 14 inch), which I have been wanting/needing to do for quite some time (as all non-stick pans really should be replaced semi annually with heavy use, for a number of good reasons).

We picked (which is to say stole) rainier cherries from an industrial complex, and took a languid stroll down by the train tracks collecting bouquets of wild daisies, California poppies, and the ubiquitous sweet pea, and checking on some wild Italian prune plums, which are not quite ripe yet. It was perfectly charming, very little house on the prairie (you know, if they were to have had an urban agricultural crime special).

We topped off our day, with a delicious dinner of spicy panang and massaman Thai curry, and by watching Revolutionary Road. Toward the end of the movie we started smelling smoke, and looked out our back windows to see huge plumes of smoke, and realized with equal parts horror and fascination that a house just around the corner was on fire. We gathered with the rest of our neighborhood onlookers, and commiserated over the tragedy of the situation. Fire is scary. Period. It was good to know, however, that there was swift response from both our little community and the emergency personnel. It is nice to see that even in this disconnected world that we live in, that neighbors, whom you may not even know, are still looking out for one another. And in that strange kind of boy are we thankful for all that we have sort of way it was the perfect end to an essentially perfect Sunday.

Banana Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
Sliced Bananas

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a large bowl.

Lightly beat the eggs with the buttermilk, milk and melted butter.

Just before you are ready to make the pancakes, add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once, stirring just long enough to blend (the batter should be slightly lumpy).

Pour 1/3-1/2 cup of the batter onto a hot buttered griddle (over medium heat, or heated to 375 degrees if using an electric griddle), and sprinkle with sliced bananas.

When bubbles appear on the surface of the pancakes, they just begin to burst, and the undersides are lightly browned, turn and cook for about 2 minutes longer, until lightly browned on the bottom.

Serve immediately with extra sliced bananas, a sprinkling of powdered sugar, and pure maple syrup (grade A dark or medium amber).


Friday, June 26, 2009

Jacob's Simple Citrus Sangria

2 bottles red wine (two buck chuck is perfectly acceptable)
1 cup sugar (or to taste)
approximately 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
the juice of one lemon
the juice of two oranges
one lemon sliced
one lime sliced
one orange sliced
approximately 4 cups of Squirt, chilled

Combine the wine, sugar, and citrus juices in a pitcher, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the sliced fruit, and chill. Add the Squirt right before serving, to add a little bit of fizz.

(You can kick up the party even further by adding a healthy splash of brandy, Cointreau, or lemon flavored vodka)


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Biding my thyme. . .

About a month ago, we decided to plant a little herb garden in planters on our back deck (small enough to be taken indoors for winter, but large enough to yield a nice crop). We planted basil, chives, dill, mint, rosemary, sage, and thyme. We started them all from seeds, which was probably our first mistake (I knew it even at the time, I am not going to lie), and they have been taking their precious time in growing, and I have never been one for patience. Granted, it is mostly my own fault. I have never had what might be described as a green thumb. I usually either accidentally neglect plants entirely until they inevitably just commit suicide and whither in the sun, or, on the flip side, I end up loving them too much, investing all of my hopes and dreams into them, which translates into over watering, as I drown whatever life is left inside of them with my affection. It's a difficult balance, especially here in Oregon, where it will inevitably rain just after I have watered. This last week, I think precisely because we have cut back on our Chinese water torture (er...watering), the plants are finally beginning to show some small will to live. So I am biting my lip, and going against all of my loving instincts, in the hope that they will slowly begin to thrive despite me. And with any luck, we will soon be hacking them to bits and eating them. (So, I guess, as it turns out, the moral is, at my house, as far as herbs go, all roads lead to death.)

happy little chives

mmm... lookin' dill-icious

just give it some thyme

sad little sage

Jacob's CakeCups

I threw together some cupcakes for the lovely Darbie, who is hosting a wedding shower for a friend of hers. I tried to stay in the color theme (which is to say, the brides chosen colors...see below), and think that, while I am clearly not a Benjamin Moore paint matching, color expert, I think it still reads as her palette. They are not super fancy, but I think they look kind of sweet.