Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Apple Season!

Golden Delicious!

The apples are ripening and it was time to take a trip to Tehachapi to the apple sheds to get some early season varieties. It is still very warm here so a trip to this mountain community sounded like a great idea!




The available varieties included Johnathan, Melrose, Empire, Golden Delicious, and Jonagold. Take a look....

Jonagold

Jonathan


Golden Delicious


Melrose


Empire

And now, what am I going to make? I loved the idea of Apple Maple Butter that was shared on the Big Black Dog by Michelle. I also thought that an Apple Upside Down cake like was featured in Cook's Illustrated sounded good. Then, Grace at A Southern Grace shares not one but two apple cakes to choose from! What is a girl to do? Well, off to the kitchen to make a decision!


It is Outdoor Wednesday hosted by Susan at A Southern Dreamer! Stop by and take a look at all of the wonderful outdoor experiences that folks are sharing!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Spicy Eggplant Tomato Sauce


Our produce box has had eggplant and red peppers in it. So I was on the lookout for a new recipe. I didn't have enough eggplant to make Eggplant Parmesan. I know that the Kitchen Gnome was hopeful that I would make it this week end, but I didn't want to make the drive to town so I had to make something that would match what was in the pantry and frig!

I was in luck. SMS Bradley at The Luna Cafe had just posted Spicy Eggplant Tomato Sauce. As I sit here typing this post, I can still smell the wonderful vegetables and spices in this dish! Besides eggplant and peppers there are onions, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, green olives as well as kalamata olives, wine and stock. The sauce can be served over pasta, polenta or cauliflower, per Bradley. It makes two quarts and is a wonderfully flavorful blend that can even be frozen. You can get the recipe here.

We served it over pasta with a few shrimp along the side. It was deliciously spicy and packed with flavor!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Carne Asada Tacos aka Street Tacos

Recently, I arrived home from work totally exhausted. When I opened the door the smell of fresh cilantro greeted me! With a smile I rounded the corner to see what the Kitchen Gnome was making for dinner. Street tacos for dinner. What are street tacos? Those little tacos that you get at a corner taco stand. He was recreating the tacos we first had in Rosarito, Mexico and then recently, he saw them prepared at a party we had attended.

He went to the Mexican market and got some carne para asada and fixin's! Bless him. My daughter called from another room that she was going to her favorite restaurant to get some of their salsa....this was sounding better with each moment!

We had the most wonderful carne asada tacos and beans for dinner.

Carne Asada Tacos aka Street Tacos

Simple. Tasty. Great.

It is too simple. There isn't really a recipe. Brown the meat in a skillet. (Carne asada is trimmed and thinly sliced beef...skirt steak, seasoned.) Warm the cute little tortillas. Serve with cilantro, onions, and salsa.

It was nice to come home from work and have a simple, tasty dinner waiting!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Curried Yogurt Dipping Sauce


As I was searching through some of my piles of recipes last week. You know the kind of pile...those recipes one clips from here and there or that one prints off and stacks beside the computer. As I sorted through, I came across a recipe with a combination of flavors that sounded super. I love sweet potatoes and I love anything with curry! I was hooked and I was not disappointed. I just wish I had made extra extras! I used yams for this as sweet potatoes are not available here this time of year.

Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Curried Dipping Sauce
Sweet Potato Oven Fries
2 large sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/8 wedges
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, washed, dried, and chopped fine
Fleur de sel

Curried Yogurt Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise (non-fat will not work!)
1/2 cup plain yogurt (non-fat no!)
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp honey
1 1/2 Tbsp curry powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Sweet Potato Oven Fries

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and place in hot oven for at least 5 minutes.

Using clean hands, toss sweet potato wedges with
extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper until all surfaces are coated evenly.

Remove hot sheet pan from oven, and arrange coated sweet potato wedges in a single layer. Place sheet pan back in the oven and roast for about 25-30 minutes. About half-way through roasting time, flip the wedges onto the other side so that they brown evenly. Sweet potato wedges are ready when all sides are evenly browned and slightly crispy on the outside.

When oven fries are hot, sprinkle with a few flakes of fleur de sel and the chopped cilantro. Transfer to a serving dish.

Curried Yogurt Dipping Sauce
In a bowl, mix together mayonnaise, yogurt, lemon juice, homey and curry powder with a fork. Make sure there are no lumps and everything is incorporated evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper, transfer to a serving bowl, and serve alongside the sweet potato oven fries.

PRINTABLE RECIPE



These fries will become a regular around our house. They were delicious!


I am thinking that I should sort through my recipes more often. I know I will find more treasures.







Today, I am participating in Foodie Friday hosted at Designs by Gollum. Stop by and take a look at all of the fantastic dishes being prepared today!




Delicious!

Beatty's Chocolate Cake


I made a concave cake today. Good thing it is a layer cake. Good thing that frosting can cover a multitude of issues. I am meticulous about following directions so I have no idea what happened. I baked them in the convection oven. They raised beautifully. When I checked on them before it was time to take them out I saw that the centers had collapsed. I was a just a tad disappointed.


I checked ChowHound and found others who have had the problem but none had an answer. In searching further I found some reasons why a cake may sink in the center while baking.

Since I hadn't opened the oven. I didn't have too much liquid, and the amount of fat/sugar and/or leavening wasn't incorrect. I guess it has to be that I over mixed the batter or that I baked it in the convection oven as that temperature is automatically reduced by 25 degrees and too low of a temperature is listed as a reason. (I doubt it was using a convection oven.)

Regardless of the collapsed center, this cake is delicious! It is very, very moist and almost melts in your mouth! This I knew from the crumbs I was eating! You can get the recipe for both the cake and the frosting here or you can get the recipes from Barefoot Contessa at Home.

I made the frosting as directed. The chocolate melted nicely.

The frosting spread smoothly.

My daughter came in to lick the spatula and paddle. She frowned and asked what I put in the frosting. "Just coffee"..."Yuck," she responded. I was thinking that it must be really bad if she wouldn't finish licking the paddle and the spatula!

I licked the paddle. I found the coffee flavor rather strong for my taste, too. I decided that a spoonful of Kahlua just might help. It didn't really, but it made me feel better to have tried. There was just enough frosting to make it around the cake. The recipe certainly doesn't yield an abundance. Personally, I didn't really like the frosting. I think the ratio of butter to powdered sugar is off. There is 1/2 pound of butter in the frosting!! The consistency when you take a bite is like you are biting into a stick of butter. (Could be just me.) Of course, I was only sampling from the bowl!

The proof is in the final taste test. Maybe the cake and the frosting together will make me smile broadly.

It is beautiful!

You can see that it is moist!

Two thumbs up for the cake! One thumb for the frosting!

The Barefoot Bloggers are making Beatty's Chocolate Cake. The recipe was selected by Mary at Passionate Perseverance. I was really excited about this cake. I read some of the reviews earlier this month and everybody was excited except for those who had pan issues....I used a regular 8 inch cake pan. Nothing over-flowed, my oven survived...but I am not doing a "cake dance" as I am a perfectionist and my layers are concave. Hummm, I said that. And, the frosting is ho-hum to me. Grandma Opal's chocolate fudge frosting is definitely the answer. Grandma Opal's frosting will make this cake rock!

It is a beautiful cake!

Stop the presses!!!

The Kitchen Gnome just had a piece...he says he really likes the cake! ....and the frosting? Yep, he likes it. Who would have known?!

I took some to work. Everybody loved it. I must be the only one who has issues with the frosting. Based on the response from everybody this cake fits the bill. Wonderful chocolate, moist crumb, smooth frosting that is not too sweet....where's my fork, let me try again!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Poulet au Vinaigre


We had a fabulous chicken dish for dinner! This meal definitely should be repeated!

I am always on a quest for a new recipe. I read cookbooks as novels, I highlight recipes and tab pages I want to revisit. I believe I have over 100 cookbooks at the moment! Has anybody checked the mailbox? There may be another cookbook in the mailbox! Sure enough there was a brand spanking new cookbook waiting for me...number 101! I ordered Simple Soirees: Seasonal Menus for Sensational Dinner Parties by Peggy Knickerbocker from Amazon. Amazon makes it way too easy, you know...they must have had me in mind when they designed the "one click"! It is addictive.

I first heard of the cookbook while reading Peggy's blog, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. She found quite a deal and guess what? She didn't pass up the new cookbook either! Check out Peggy's blog she made a wonderful roasted chicken from the cookbook called Alice B. Toklas Chicken!

Poulet at Vinaigre

12 chicken thighs (about 3-4 pounds), bones in
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 shallots, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup apple vinegar
1 1/2 cups white wine
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper to taste. In a large, deep skillet (big enough to hold all chicken fairly close together; or use two skillets) melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken for about 8 minutes, turning so both sides get nicely browned. Transfer the chicken to a deep, broad, ovenproof casserole that can go from the oven to the table. Remove the skillet from the heat and pour off most of the fat.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the skillet back over medium heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for about 1 minute, or until they become translucent. Add the vinegar and wine, and stir up the crispy bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Allow the liquids to cook down a bit, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes. Whisk in the tomato paste and let the sauce simmer and condense, about 5 minutes more. Then add the chicken stock, a little at a time. Keep stirring to mix well.

Pour the sauce over the chicken. Bake for 35-45 minutes until the chicken is very tender, turning the chicken pieces midway through, so that both sides are infused with the sauce. Remove one thigh and cut into it to make sure it is done and no red juices flow from the cut.

Remove the casserole from the oven, sprinkle the parsley on top, and serve.

PRINTABLE RECIPE

Scrumptious!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Abundant Harvest Organics - Fruits and Vegetables


I am fortunate to live in an area where there are plenty of fruits and vegetables. The Central Valley of California has an abundance of orchards, farms and vineyards all yielding wonderful food and wine. The Valley actually produces many of the fruits and vegetables consumed in America!

A friend told me about Abundant Harvest Organics. She raved about the fact that she got fresh organic fruits and vegetables each week. She talked about getting vegetables that she had never seen or tried in the past. I was intrigued and decided that I would try it out.


It is now a year later and we still get up early every Saturday morning to go to the designated pick-up spot for our "box"! We have never regretted the decision to participate. I too, have had to learn to prepare vegetables that I had never before eaten! It has been our Saturday adventure. Weekly menus are planned around "what's in the box!"

Take a look at some of what is inside....

Can you believe the variety?

On another week, fresh basil!

A platter of fresh vegetables!

We are very fortunate to always have fresh fruit and vegetables! As the seasons change, the variety of fruits and vegetables changes. It is always exciting to see just what is hidden inside each week! Some things are familiar and others not! If you have a chard or kale recipe that you would like to share, I am looking for some and eager to try them!


Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Carrot-ful Meal


I think my mom, Kate, might be stressed out this week, don't you? I'll give her the day off and post a few recipes that Kevin and I made this past weekend. We never thinned out the carrots in our garden and so we are swimming in a sea of orange roots right now. I wanted to use up a lot of our carrots, but in an interesting way. Carrot soup seemed too plain, and carrot cake needs those little
carrot jockeys in order to be fun, so I scoured our cookbooks and the internet for other recipes.

The first recipe we made is Padma Lakshmi's Mahi Mahi Coconut Curry with Fennel and Carrots. It includes a few ingredients that aren't normal for a Western kitchen (mainly kaffir lime leaves and curry leaves) but I found them quite easily at the Asain grocery store and I definitely wouldn't leave them out since they imparted a wonderful, bright flavor to the coconut milk. The resulting curry was amazingly flavorful (but not very spicy). As Kevin proclaimed, "this is on the rotation!" We both loved it.

Mahi Mahi Coconut Curry with Fennel and Carrots

Ingredients

  1. Eight 6-ounce skinless mahimahi fillets (or other white fish that doesn't flake too easily)
  2. 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  3. Salt
  4. 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  5. 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  6. 3 large shallots, thinly sliced (1 cup)
  7. 8 small dried red chiles
  8. 12 fresh curry leaves
  9. 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  10. 8 kaffir lime leaves
  11. 1 large fennel bulb—halved, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces (4 cups)
  12. 4 cups carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
  13. 1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
  14. Two 15-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk (we used light coconut milk and it turned out perfectly)
  15. 1 cup cilantro leaves, for garnish


Instructions:
1. Put the mahimahi fillets in a large, shallow dish. Pour the lemon juice over the fish and season
lightly with salt. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. In a very large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Add the garlic cloves and cook over moderately high heat until sizzling, about 2 minutes. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat, stirring until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the chiles and curry leaves and cook for 2 minutes. Add the ginger and lime leaves and cook for 2 minutes. Add the fennel, carrots and curry powder and season lightly with salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring a few times, until the carrots are tender, about 10 minutes longer.

3. Add the mahimahi and any accumulated juices to the casserole, nestling the fish into the stew. Cover and simmer over low heat, shifting the fish a few times, until it is just cooked, about 15 minutes. Transfer the fillets to a large, deep platter. Pour the sauce over and around the fish. Garnish with the cilantro and serve.

PRINTABLE RECIPE
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But wait, we needed something for dessert! After looking through Food and Wine for for carrot-related desserts, I found this Almond and Carrot Cake that looked like it would be a nice finish to our meal. I didn't get a good photo of the cake, but trust me, it turned out to be a wonderful cake, not too sweet, with a flavor of almonds, lemon, and just a hint of carrots. And it was perfect with my afternoon tea the next day! We didn't have the appropriate pan, so we used an angel food cake pan and adjusted the cooking time, but it all turned out in the end!

Almond and Carrot Cake

Ingredients:


  1. 2 cups whole blanched almonds (10 ounces) (we used almond flour we already had on hand)
  2. 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  3. 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  4. 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  5. Salt
  6. 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  7. 3 large carrots (10 ounces),
  8. coarsely chopped
  9. 4 large eggs, separated
  10. Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Instructions


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Generously butter and flour a 10-inch springform or fluted cake pan. Toast the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet for about 8 minutes, or until lightly browned. Transfer the almonds to a large plate to cool to room temperature. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, using a fork, blend the flour with the baking powder, lemon zest and a pinch of salt. In a food processor, grind the toasted almonds with the sugar to a fine powder; do not let the nuts turn into a paste. Add the almond powder to the flour mixture in the bowl. Add the carrots to the processor and whir until very finely chopped; add them to the bowl. Add the egg yolks to the bowl and stir until blended.
  3. In a large stainless steel bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold firm peaks. Using a rubber spatula, stir one-third of the egg whites into the carrot mixture to loosen it, then gently fold in the remaining whites until the batter is just blended.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cake is just set. Transfer the cake to a rack and let it cool slightly in the pan. Unmold the cake onto a serving dish. Just before serving, sift confectioners' sugar over the top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
5. We put the remains of the cake in the fridge and it was perfect the next day.

PRINTABLE RECIPE

It's Foodie Friday again! Be sure to visit Designs by Gollum to see this week's participants. Thank you Michael for hosting Foodie Friday each week!



Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dark Chocolate and It's Only Tuesday

and it's only Tuesday.....Dark chocolate has never been on my favorites list. I can easily pass over all of the dark chocolate in the See's Candy box. I can pass over dark chocolate candy bars, dark chocolate frosting, dark chocolate anything. I have just never been a fan.

Everybody has been back to work for at least four weeks so the candy dish has been filled and the energy is flowing in the office. I am fortunate that the candy dish at work is usually filled with dark chocolate. I whine a little but the group really favors it so I watch everybody else eat it! The up side is that I don't end up wearing another form of the calories somewhere on my body! The downside is that I don't get to share a Dove Chocolate fortune or "happy thought" with everybody.


It didn't take long for the entire bag of Dove Chocolate to disappear this week....and did I mention it is only Tuesday? I have to admit that I couldn't stand being left out and I did eat one chocolate....too bad there was no port, just maybe I would have enjoyed it.....I ate it just to get to read my message when the group shared.

Friendship is a gift in itself.
Shut out the world for just a moment.
Close your eyes and relax.
Enjoy everyday as though it was a spa day.
Laugh, laugh, laugh and laugh some more.

Test your own limits and keep going.

Give yourself a break, you deserve it!
Dove + friends + shopping = happiness!


I am ready for the shopping. I am ready for the weekend...and it is only Tuesday! I can leave the dark chocolate behind. Make mine milk chocolate and caramel filled!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Three Bean Chili

My daughter was getting ready to go to a barbecue and waited until the last minute to ask for a suggestion on what to take. According to her she could not possibly take the pasta salad she usually prepares. She thought chili sounded good. I had beans in the pantry but she nixed that..."Couldn't I just dump some cans together? I don't have time to really cook...."

Okay, let's see what we can do without a trip to the store! We searched and came up with a recipe that we adjusted and could easily put together.


Three Bean Chili

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno, minced (seeds and membrane removed from one)
1 to1 1/2 pound lean ground beef
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp chopped chipotle in adobo sauce
2 tsp cumin
2-3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 bottle beer
2 cans (14.5 0z. each) diced tomatoes with chilis
1 can water
1 small can tomato paste
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn, drained
2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste

Garnish with any or all:
Cilantro, chopped
Sour Cream
Shredded cheddar cheese

In a large dutch oven cook onion in olive oil until softened, about five minutes. Add garlic and jalapeno. Cook, stirring, for another minute. Add ground beef. Cook, breaking up the meat, until no longer pink. Drain any fat from the pan and return to heat.

Add the chili powder, chipotle, and cumin. Cook spices and meat together, stirring for another minute or two. Add the beer, stir, simmer. Add drained, rinsed beans. Add tomatoes and can of water. Stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, partially covered, for an hour. If additional liquid is needed, add 1/2 to 1 cup chicken broth.

Add drained corn. As the chili simmers, stir occasionally. Taste, adjust seasoning as needed.

We transferred the chili to a crock pot and she was on her way!

PRINTABLE RECIPE

Great chili and even better the next day!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Contessa's Birthday Sheet Cake


In the Walt Disney film, Alice in Wonderland, (1951) there is a scene where Alice is sitting on the riverbank and a funny little rabbit rushes through saying...

"I'm late, I'm late for a very important date
No Time to say "Hello", "Goodbye"
I'm late, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late. . ."

That has been the story of my life the last few weeks! I am late. Time slipped by so quickly that I didn't even think about the Barefoot Blogger recipe that was to be posted on September 10th! When I got home that evening, I was determined to get it made and posted. Great plans. While I got it made, it didn't get posted that evening.

Debby at A Feast of the Eyes told me to read the reviews before I did anything. Good advice, thank you, Debby!

It was late in the evening and I had to get moving or I would have been baking at midnight! The Barefoot Blogger recipe was Birthday Sheet Cake from Barefoot Contessa Family Style Cookbook. It was selected by Susy at Everyday Gourmet. If you haven't visited her blog you may wish to stop by to see what she is cooking.

One of the reviews commented on the pan depth....nope, my pan was too shallow. Great, a sheet cake without a pan. Somebody else used a 9 X 13. Too much batter for that...my only remaining choice was my lasagna pan! How about a cake without a straight side?

The recipe can be found here. I adjusted the soda to 3/4 teaspoon as was recommended. I also increased the vanilla to 2 teaspoons and omitted the lemon. I was happy with the results.


I sprinkled some Chocolate Covered CaCao Nibs on top. I decided that an adult sprinkle was called for....I didn't have any M & Ms in the house.

I took the cake to work the next day. This was too much cake to leave at home for three people! One of the guys stopped by to rave about the cake. He even asked for the recipe. So, there are those who like this type of cake.

The reviews seemed to be polarized. You either liked it or you hated it! I followed the directions explicitly. As with many things, expectations cloud one's opinion of the result. I would have expected a "light and airy" sheet cake. That has been my experience. The batter was light and airy...a good sign. The cake was more dense than most but it wasn't dry. In a nutshell, it was an okay cake but nothing spectacular.

Ummm....cake!