Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TWD: Sadly -- not this week

This cake looks delicious, and I really wanted to give it a try. I was enthusiastic despite my shaky relationship with butter cream. I've yet to master it and the thought of trying again gives me nightmares (I'll temper eggs any day rather than try butter cream frosting).

This week the spirit was willing but the schedule was not. I'll eventually get to it, but this week it just isn't in the cards. I look forward to seeing what everyone else does (I'll probably need to wear a bib while visiting y'alls blogs so I don't drool on myself).

My apologies to Carol at mix mix....stir, stir for not baking along this week. She had quite an adventure with her cake and the results look yummy. I look forward to having my own adventure with this cake soon.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

CEiMB: Vegetable and Cheese Strata

First of all, let me thank any of you who cooked along with me this week. I was kind of surprised when my turn to pick came up so quickly. I won't be picking for Tuesdays with Dorie until sometime in 2011 or 2012 by my calculation. I spent a bunch of time looking at all the choices and tried to find something different yet tasty.

While putting this together I thought of those old Night of a Thousand Stars TV shows because this seemed like a Recipe of a Thousand Ingredients. A love all of the ingredients in the strata, which is why I picked it, but sheesh, there were a lot of them once it came time to do the prep.

I also thought about my Dad, since I picked this recipe thinking it would be good for Father's Day. This is the 5th Father's Day that has come and gone since my Dad died in 2004, and I can't say I miss him any less than I did on the first one. He was one of those quiet guys who everyone considered "just a NICE guy!" I said at his funeral that he'd give you the shirt off his back and then come back the next day saying he just happened to be in the neighborhood with these three other shirts and thought you might like them. Ridiculously smart despite little formal education, he had life smarts galore, and I sure do miss his insights on people and situations. He was almost never wrong when he sized up someone.

His last days made me understand the importance of food in nourishing the body and the soul - both of the person who eats the food AND the person who makes it. One of the very last things my Dad ate was a grits casserole I made for him. I fed it to him the day I brought it over. It was funny, I got talking to my Mom or someone and he'd tap my finger to let me know I was falling down on the job feeding him. He ate it later that week as well, and I can't tell you how special it is to me that I made something he like and it was the last real food he had. I've found a surprising amount of comfort in that these last 5 years.

Happily time does help you remember the good times, not just the bad ones, and between all the parental June holidays we have in my family (both my parent's were born in June - yes, two Gemini parents - I joke that I didn't have 2 parents growing up, I had 4 - plus their anniversary, plus Father's day) plus the photo project I just did for my Mom's 80th party I have a lot floating around in my memory banks. So although this recipe took a lot of prep time, it gave me a chance to do some sorting of those memories, which was nice. In the end, all you have is your memories of the people you love, whether they are in the great beyond or in the next state. That means you can spend time with them whenever you wish. I find that comforting as well.

As for the recipe itself, it came together pretty well. I think I've finally figured out the problem I've been having with cook times in my oven -- the clock in my kitchen is 10 minutes behind the clock in the living room. Since I usually have a sit in the living room after making something, this might explain my temporal confusion.

I made half the recipe, and thought it wasn't bad. It did need a little something, so I spent the day trying to sort out what it was. I figured I might have missed something in the process of dividing everything by two (I know - sad, isn't it?). Finally, I called on my Southern California Culinary roots and came up with the perfect solution.

Everything, especially eggs, taste better with a dollop of sour cream and some avocado. Heaven!

Thanks again for cooking with me, especially since I've been MIA lately. I hope you enjoyed this recipe, and that if you served it for Father's Day that the Dads at the table enjoyed it too.
For the recipe (I've run out of time to post it -- must dash off to work) click here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

TWD: Coconut-Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise

Sometimes there is such a thing as too small. Especially when it comes to desserts. Sometimes you get to "too small" while trying to avoid "too big." Thus is my story with this fabulous dessert, picked this week by Andrea from Andrea in the Kitchen.

All the parts of the recipe looked doable, but I did not want 12 servings. I sensed before I started that this wasn't something I wanted to transport to work, and I certainly do not need 12 servings all to myself. Using my oh-so-bad math skills, I figured I'd divide by 4. Easy enough for the most part, a little tricky with some ingredients. But rather ridiculous when it came to making the outlines on the parchment paper. The 12x6 dessert calculated into 3 x 1.5 to me, which just seemed too small.

Once I assembled the ingredients for the meringue, it was obvious my outline was quite right. So I improvised (always, always a bad idea!). Still got it all on one pan. Now the question became, how long do I cook this for.

For the last few recipes my bake times have been much longer than suggested. One would think it was the oven, but for everything else it works fine. Oh the dilemma - do I cook it the 3 hours figuring it would all even out? Do I cook it for a shorter time knowing the pieces are smaller? Ugh - I hate this kind of math.

I put it in for 1 hour, turned it and left it in for another hour, turned again and took it out 45 minutes later.

All other parts were easy enough to do. I looked and looked (meaning I went to three stores) to find white chocolate. As it turns out, I found the chocolate I used at an Italian restaurant and deli (go figure!). Another good reason to decrease this recipe since the chocolate was hard to find. I had a bad feeling about my math here, but plunged forward.

Pineapple was fine - it was good to use my pineapple cutting skills learned in culinary classes. However, can you spot the problem on the pineapple's first trip to the oven?

The ganache did not turn out quite right - it was more of a "pour" onto the meringue rather than "spread." If that wasn't enough of a sign, here's another --when your pineapple slices start sliding OFF the dacquoise, then you know something has gone terribly wrong.

I must confess I almost didn't make this dessert. I wasn't sure I would like it. But I thought the challenge might be fun and it wa
s. As my dad used to say "win some, lose some, some you call on account of rain." I think this was a bit of all of those -- I won with the experience, I lost in the presentation, and the rain, well, if you count "raining" pineapple, then I've got all three.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A little housekeeping, part 2

I'm changing names on you, now that you know who I am. The blogger formerly known as Tour Guide Jenn will be masquerading as Jenn H (formerly Tour Guide Jenn) for the next month or so. Since that's a bit cumbersome, I'll be dropping the last part sometime this summer. I just want to make sure when I visit y'all you're not wondering who the heck I am, and how many Jenns are there anyway. I'll keep my little orange flower picture, since I'm a visual learner and perhaps you are too.

Once the official Tour Guide Jenn blog is up and running I'll point you in that direction (but not vice versa). I'm hoping to use it for business and some fun. For instance, in less than two weeks this will be me. And the other blog will be a good place to share the details.

Thanks for visiting and trying to keep track of my identity. I do appreciate it!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

CEiMB: Nope, not this week...

With most sincere apologies to Anonymous New York I did not make the Jambalaya this week. I intended to, really I did. I also intended to be recovered from the big party by now. Everything up to Saturday I estimated spot on. I just didn't even think about the "aftermath."

I'd post pictures from the party, either the 100 people having a great time or the great food I made with lots of help that was delish. Sadly, I took no pictures, so I have none to share. I'll try to solve that problem in the near future with another post. But for today, I'm still getting my life, and my kitchen, back to normal.

I'll be back with you all soon -- promise!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

TWD: Honey-Peach Ice Cream

I come from a long line of ice cream eaters, so this recipe is the perfect end to a 5 day family fest. Mom's 80th party was a big success and everyone had a good time (more details later). That said it's nice to get back into the swing of things, and ice cream seems to be a nice end to the first "normal" day in weeks.

I made the custard this morning before work. That came together easy enough. My only real problem was not enough ripe peaches despite a weekend in a dark place. I put the two truly ripe peaches into the sauce pan and added honey.

It always surprises me when the tempering process works the way it is supposed to. I always expect to scramble my eggs so I tend to be super careful. As I was working on it this morning, I wondered who was the first to figure out this process works. The same person who figured out those spiny, bug-looking bottom feeders taste yummy boiled and dipped in butter?

Anyway, I got the custard to a temperature that would be happy in the fridge, and chilled all day. When I got home I whipped out the ice cream maker (love it!) and the bowl from the freezer (it lives there all the time, but, sadly, is rarely used). This process made me realize that I could do this more often - custard making in the AM, a trip to the maker in the PM, and a yummy midnight snack to top off the day.

Since so many people did not like how the frozen peaches felt/tasted in the ice cream I only put one peach when the ice cream was almost done. Otherwise I followed the recipe as written. I think it's a very tasty choice. If you want to see the recipe head over to Tommi's blog at Brown Interior for all the info, plus a cute limerick.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

TWD: Parisian Apple Tartlet

Jessica at My Baking Heart is my new hero and best friend, though she doesn't know it. Anything with baked apples is at the top of my culinary loves. One day remind me to wax poetic about the Tarte Tartin I had during my 48 hours trip to Paris. It was long before I knew anything about food, but the trip gave me an inkling of what I was missing. So I was totally on board with any pick that has apples and sugar in it. Then add to the fact that on the busiest week of my year Jessica picks a recipe with no need for a mixer, a bowl, a sauce pan or most any other kitchen tools, well, I almost fell to my knees in gratitude!

I had some puff pastry from our friends at Trader Joe's in the freezer. Only needed to pick up some apples from the store, and I was ready to go. This couldn't be easier to make. But just like the last few recipes I've tried, it took longer to bake than stated in the recipe. And even then my apples weren't completely cooked. I was worried about the puff pastry being a little too done, so I made do.

It was yummy for dessert last night and yummy for breakfast this morning. I love the fact that I could whip this up at basically a moment's notice. We've had other desserts that were prettier, more decadent and/or sinful, but this wins in the "easy to make but with bang for your buck" category (don't worry if you didn't know that was a category until now. Neither did I).

This will be it for me until sometime next week. Plans for Mom's party are in full swing with relatives landing on Thursday AM and being drafted into work upon arrival. Shopping on Thursday, food prep on Friday, panic on Friday night into Saturday morning, then "too late to change anything now" mode at noon on Saturday. Wish me luck. I'll report on how it all turns out next week (I'd say after I've recovered, but it would be nice to make an appearance here sometime before 2010).

Will miss you while I'm gone. Have a nice week and see you soon!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

TWD: Cinnamon Squares

You know how sometimes you just sit and stew about things? Or wash dishes and stew about things? Or bake and stew about things? Well, that's where I was at when I made this very yummy dessert picked by Tracey at Tracy's Culinary Adventures. Plans continue for Mom's party, and those are going great. The trouble comes when relatives try to throw monkey wrenches into the plans. But that's why we love relatives, right???

Good thing this recipe was easy with all the stewing going on, in addition to the fact that half of my tiny kitchen (I mean TINY) has turned into a photo lab. I use my kitchen table for a variety of tasks, and really need the space when it comes to baking day. But with the photo scanner, little laptop, and pictures and slides o'plenty being cleaned and prepped for a presentation at Mom's party, space is at a minimum. Happily this recipe didn't need a lot of bowls or fuss, so the photo lab remained undisturbed.

How embarrassing!

Lucky for me I find stirring and mixing to be very therapeutic, so before long I was done stewing and enjoying the baking. Everything worked out great in putting this together. It took a little longer than stated to bake (almost an hour), but other than a very golden top, the cake turned out great.

Had a little trouble with the frosting when I put that together -- it got a little runny, so the frosting spent a few minutes in the fridge, and the frosted cake took a quick trip to the freezer to set before cutting this up and bringing it to work for my boss' birthday. My co-workers made quick work of it, and I must admit I was over getting a square or two throughout the day. Very yummy indeed.

Another tasty and easy pick to put in the repertoire. I would definitely make these again.