Tuesday, March 31, 2009

TWD: Coconut Butter Thins

Another busy week, another last minute baking frenzy for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie pick. I was super excited about this one, as I love, I mean LOVE coconut. It's one of those things that people either love or hate. I'm a lover! So a big "thank you!" goes out to Jayne from The Barefoot Kitchen Witch who picked this week's recipe (check out her great pictures and cute kids!)

Since I'm all about the last minute often times I find the hardest thing about a recipe is getting the butter to room temperature. But other than that wait, this was super easy. I've really been loving the last few weeks where we've rubbed the zest of lemon/lime into the sugar. It's like a little aroma therapy/stress reduction treatment. And the idea of putting the dough into the zip top bag and rolling it out is genius - pure genius.

The only down side of this recipe is having left over macadamia nuts. I think I ate my daily -- or was it weekly -- amount of calories just snacking on them tonight. They are pure evil (Oh. So. Good. EVIL!).

Since it is late, and I only have one rack in my oven I'm baking two sheets worth of butter thins and I put the rest into the fridge and will bake those off later. I had a little bit of a math problem when cutting the dough into pieces (curse math!) so I have many more pieces, in a much smaller size than they should be. (Can I just take a moment to curse the bird outside my window singing. I'm all for birds singing. I truly love hearing them throughout the day. But it's 11:30pm and this guy is just warming up for his big solo. All last night I kept waking up to him singing. When the alarm went off this morning -- nothing! He must be desperate or an insomniac or something! Sorry, I feel better now).

I've been doing this TWD thing long enough to know that however the dessert tastes coming out of the oven isn't necessarily how it will taste when it cools. Usually it will taste better. Since these butter thins are unbelievably delicious (heaven I tell you!) out of the oven, I can only imagine how fantastic they will be in an hour. I was planning on going to bed. I may have to stay up a little longer than I planned (with my little birdy friend outside, this may not be a problem).

PS - I have to ask........was I the only one singing "put the lime with the coconut and shake it all up" while mixing ingredients? Honestly -- I wasn't alone, was I???

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

TWD: Blueberry Crumb Cake

Let me just start off by saying this was a winner. A quickly devoured treat at work, one that merited a call from the big big boss (I like to keep him well fed, especially as we get closer to bonus time.)! Overall, quite a success.

I must confess, I'm not a big blueberry fan. In all the wonderful ways blueberries come packaged - in muffins, bagels, yogurt et. al - I generally choose a different flavor. It's nothing personal with the blueberry. It is, after all, a super food. But for whatever reason, I'm much more fond of just about every other berry out there. Sad little blueberry!

My trip to the store to get the mighty little berry created a moral dilemma right there in the frozen food section. The fresh berries were from Chile. That seems like a mighty long way for a little berry to travel, and although I'm not an avid follower of the slow food movement, I did think about how much energy it took to get the little pint of berries there. So I decided to check out the frozen berries (Trader Joe's is so great about having a really nice variety of frozen fruit - they have plenty to choose from). They had some wild little berries grown in a forest for less money, and that sounded nice and natural. But they came from Canada - yes, closer than Chile, but still, keeping them frozen from there to California had to use a bunch of energy as well. Who knew such a little berry could create such a dilemma! I did what most people do -- I voted with my pocketbook. The frozen berries were cheaper, and I'd get more for my money. Problem solved.

This recipe came together quickly, and other than the dreaded blue batter (the frozen berries got a little defrosted when I wasn't looking!), and the pools of butter that many others had (I had to bake mine for 80 or so minutes) this was easy to do. And the results were de-lish. I think my boss said it best -- there were hints of so many wonderful things that played off each other -- I taste lemon! I taste blueberry! I taste butter! I taste sugar! Yum!

Thanks to Sihan at Befuddlement for picking this recipe. I can truly say I never would have made it otherwise, and it was a sweet and wonderful surprise.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

TWD: French Yogurt Cake with Marmalade Glaze

Welcome to another "how many minutes 'til midnight?!?!?" TWD posting. Once again I'm starting this near the end of a Tuesday. The lateness of the post has nothing to do with my enthusiasm for this week's pick (thanks to Liliana at My Cookbook Addiction for choosing another non-chocolate, lemon (yay!) dessert). I was really looking forward to it, but made a critical error - I used the last of my oil for dinner Saturday night, didn't realize my error until Monday night (oops!), prompting an emergency after-work stop at the store and the last minute rush for cakey-goodness.

Maybe it was the last minute rush that made me feel like the Swedish chef this evening - instruments going here, flour going there (happily nothing came to life like in this example!). I think I caught myself singing the little song at some point. Regardless of which Muppet I was channeling (usually it's either Waldorf or Statler) this cake was fun. I liked how easy it was, and surprisingly, I really liked how it was mixed by hand (no KitchenAid to do the work). And the aroma - ah, the aroma. My house smelled like a little slice of heaven. After a rough week (yes, I know it's only Tuesday!) I found it all of this very therapeutic.

A small bit of trouble getting the cake out of the pan (whole, that is). I'll just blame that on spending too much time reading other blogs and not enough at reading the directions (take the cake out of the oven and put on rack, NOT put on top of oven on hot baking sheet and walk away). Since this cake isn't going anywhere there's no reason to panic over a little cake left in the pan (a little something to nibble on).

I have no lemon marmalade for the glaze (I want to find some though as it sure sounds good), and my bread pan was a little bigger than the directions, so the end result required a bit of improvising. I do love how Dorie gives some ideas, and other TWDers are so creative and share theirs too. I culled from the group and went with a little lemon curd (store bought from Trader Joe's - not the same as home made, but still very good), with some strawberries for color and variety. I decided not to "curd" the whole cake as I wanted to put some in the freezer, so I only worked with what I wanted to eat.....um.......should eat..... soon.

Since I like the look of pictures with natural light much better than the lousy lighting I have in my kitchen at night, I'll update my photos in the morning (guess what I'm having for breakfast!). This cake is easy and yummy. The only thing I would do differently is either buy almond meal or use all AP flour. The cake was a little nuttier than I liked -- not horrible or anything, just a bit too much -- and I'm sure that has to do with my shabby little grinder not making them fine enough. No worries -- just a great excuse to make this again!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

March = Ireland

The luckiest sheep anywhere - beachfront property!


This time of year my thoughts always wander to the Emerald Isle. Of course all the cable networks trot out their Irish documentaries and specials, Saint Patrick's day decorations are on display, and QVC does it's annual All Irish day (I love watching just to listen to the accents). My family isn't Irish, and I knew almost nothing about Ireland before becoming a tour guide and escorting tour groups there in 2000 - 01. It was terrifying -- 10,000 years of history, guests who were fiercely Irish American, in a new country where they "sort of" speak the same language (try figuring out what "half eight" means, or whether the "the craic is mighty" at the pub is a good thing or a bad thing!). There is nothing easy about being a tour guide.

Being in Ireland, however, couldn't be easier. The people are friendly, generous and well informed. I had the best, most interesting conversations nightly. The landscape is gorgeous, the history fascinating, and the food is very good. I learned to love many things while touring there, and decided to recreate some of the edible ones in my kitchen this month.

Poulnabrone - Portal tomb in County Clare

Ireland is a cool country (both in attitude and temperature) and a pub lunch of soup and brown bread hits the spot on a rainy day. Lunch is at 1pm there, so it's good to get ahead start on the locals. Irish pubs are wonderful places and I wish the US could embrace the idea. They aren't just about drinking -- in fact you can spend a pleasant afternoon or evening in a pub and never have any alcohol. They are places to get good food at a fair price, and to enjoy great conversation and exchange information about your community. It's the community function that is the heart of any pub.

Paddy Burkes Pub - Clarinbridge, Co. Galway

Soup in Ireland is different than in the US - most are creamy and blended (no minestrone or chicken noodle soup). I became a huge fan of Potato Leek Soup and decided that my first recipe would be along that vein. I have a cookbook called The Irish Heritage Cookbook by Margaret M. Johnson, and decided to try out the Colcannon Soup. Colcannon proper is a traditional dish served on All Hallows' Eve (many of our Halloween traditions come from Ireland), and is a dish that uses cabbage, potatoes and leeks. One of the traditions is for a gold ring, wrapped in paper, to be placed in the dish. Whoever finds the ring is likely to marry within the year.

It is a little hard to hide a ring in some soup, but this soup is very easy to make. I under estimated my potatoes and over estimated my chicken broth, but overall I was very pleased with how the soup turned out. Served with some Irish Brown Bread (that will be the next post) it tasted just like Ireland. And with my many pleasant memories of Ireland, that was a very good thing indeed!

I used an immersion blender rather than a traditional blender (aren't immersion blenders the handiest of gadgets!?) and I left out the parsley (not a fan). Otherwise, I followed the directions below.

Colcannon Soup from The Irish Heritage Cookbook

Serves 6 as a first course

4 Tablespoons butter

2 cups shredded cabbage

1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound leeks (white and pale green parts only), washed and chopped

5 cups homemade chicken stock, or canned low-salt chicken broth

Salt and ground white pepper to taste

Pinch of ground nutmeg

1 1/4 cups half-and-half

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, or 1 tablespoon dried.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the cabbage, potatoes, and leeks, cover, and cook over medium heat until slightly tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add the stock or broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Transfer to a blender or food processor in batches and process until smooth. (To make ahead, cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours).

Return the puree to the same saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the half-and-half. Heat through over medium heat. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with the parsley.

Monday, March 9, 2009

TWD: Lemon Cup Custard

This week's Tuesday's with Dorie pick is from Bridget over at The Way the Cookie Crumbles. I must confess I got very distracted over there by all of her beautiful photography. WOW! I skimmed the Photography Tips section and will definitely go back with camera in hand to read that section more carefully.

This week's pick created a lot of conversation in the P&Q section: lots of discussion about the "eggy-ness" of the custard, questions about whether or not to participate, even Dorie left a comment about the recipe! I felt kind of bad for Bridget -- I can imagine it's a lot of pressure to pick the week's recipe (I won't be picking for another 4 years, I think) and to get such a strong reaction to your pick must be kind of tough. Despite the chatter of eggy-ness, I was determined to try this recipe. I love lemon flavored anything, there was no chocolate to chop (YAY!) and heck, I went out and bought ramekins for goodness sake! I was in!

New Ramekins in my shiny new Roasting Pan - pretty!

The recipe is quite easy (see Bridget's blog for it) and didn't take much time to put together - although at one point I wished I had a third hand (one to pour the hot liquid into the eggs, one to hold the strainer, and one to whisk so that the eggs didn't cook). I made half of the recipe, and I think I overcooked it as there was no jiggle in my custard when it came out of the oven. I didn't take into account the smaller batch, or the larger than necessary ramekins which caused the custard to be done sooner than I was counting on. As a result it didn't jiggle and it didn't look "flan-like" either.

No jiggle

That said, the taste wasn't bad. Yes, it was a bit eggy, but I did have just the right amount of lemon flavor (I added a little lemon extract). I loved the color, and with a little sprucing up it looks like a very grown up dessert. It also tastes AMAZING with the whipped cream and the strawberry, and I liked it the next day much better than the day I made it. I'd definitely make it again -- I'm always cooking with lemon, so it would be a great way to use the left over zest from other recipes (and have a themed dinner menu).

Hopefully those of you who tried it liked it, and those of you who didn't try it might in the future.
It's worth it!

** I just posted this at 12:01pm my time on Tuesday -- it has the saved draft date and time for some reason. Just don't want anyone to think I cheated!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Armagnac Cake - The Cake That Got Me Fired

Greetings all! I'm sitting this cake out this week. No offense to Lyb over at And then I do the dishes. I think this pick is a bold choice and I'll probably make it some point. But right now, as many people are, I'm trying to be miserly with my resources, and this recipe calls for ingredients I don't have on hand. Okay -- if I were really being honest, it would be that....AND the fact that I'm just a little "sweet-ed" out. I never dreamed I could reach a limit on sweets, especially chocolate. But, sadly, I have. I mentioned being tired of chopping chocolate in a previous post, and that feeling just hasn't left me yet. Happily I have Lemon Cup Custard to look forward to next week. It will force me to buy the ramekins I've been eyeing for awhile.

On a different note -- I'll be doing several posts around a theme this month. I'm pretty excited about what I've accomplished so far, so please check back for that! In the meantime I look forward to checking out what you all did this week!