Thursday, September 24, 2009

CEiMB: Sweet and Spicy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

This week's recipe was chosen by Leslie over at Lethally Delicious who is one of the bloggers that got me interested in CEiMB to start off with, and is an all around great gal who is a hoot! And now she can add "great picker of recipes" to the list of her positive traits, as I thought this sandwich was super good.

Sadly, my pictures are not super good, so I'm only submitting the best one (sad that picture up there is the best one). This was a "night time shoot" and the photographer (um...that would be me) was very hungry, and didn't have the patience to set up a decent shot. So imagine these as beautiful albeit slightly blackened sandwiches.

I really liked how all the flavors worked together -- the spiciness of the cheese was cooled by the tomatoes, which were made more savory by the caramelized onions. I made two sandwiches and heated up the second for dinner tonight. It was as yummy as the first one.

Head on over to Leslie's blog for the recipe, and then head on over to CEiMB to join the fun.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TWD: Cottage Cheese Pufflets

It is kind of funny how things work out, especially in a baking group like Tuesdays with Dorie. Some weeks I read the P&Q and think "hey, this will be a breeze." Then I make whatever the week's pick is, and I have a terrible time. Then other times, like this week, I read the P&Q and think "Oy! This isn't going to be pretty." But then, for some weird reason, everything turns out fine. Not sure how this ended up an "everything turns out fine" week, but I'm darn happy!

I was intrigued with this recipe, and was glad that Jacque at Daisy Lane Cakes choose it, because frankly, I would have gone right past it. The name doesn't scream "yummy" (more like "cottage cheese what??"), and I've never made dough/pastry/cake-like things with cottage cheese. So from a curiosity factor alone, I was in.

It would seem that the consistency of the cottage cheese was the key to success in this venture. I used Trader Joe's Low-Fat Cottage cheese which isn't runny at all. I made the dough this morning and it had little trouble. Since I made half of the recipe all the ingredients fit nicely into my mini-food processor.

I spent the day at work thinking about the baking ahead. So many TWDers had trouble with the dough. But with a "what's the worst that could happen??" mentality, I unwrapped the dough and found it quite usable. Definitely moist, but not unbearably sticky. I rolled it out on a cutting board with some flour and used a pasta cutter to make squares (and frankly, some rectangles - a little harder to fold, fyi). My choice of filling was apricot preserves.

I baked them for about 15 minutes (checking at 8, 10 and 12 minutes in) and let them cool. I had NO idea what they would be like, which was kind of fun! You have a preconceived notion of brownies, or chocolate chip cookies, but who knew what a "cottage cheese pufflet" would taste like?

The answer -- a little slice of heaven. The pufflet actually "puffed" to make the dough nice and airy. The preserves gave it a sweetness that was just right. The over all flavor was very good. A little too good, frankly. I'm supposed to bring them in to work tomorrow for a department event but I'm not sure I have enough -- I'm hoping some of my co-workers call in sick.

To those who did not have luck with these, please give them another chance. They were light and fluffy, and for me, for whatever reason, not at all hard to make. Don't hate me though -- there will soon be the recipe that makes me pull out my hair and use a few swear words. Frankly, I think it's all part of the fun of Tuesdays with Dorie!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

CEiMB: Black Bean Mexican-Style Pizza

I was plenty happy when I saw that Joanne over at Apple Crumbles chose this recipe for this week's Craving Ellie in my Belly (where, for reasons I can't explain, I can't leave comments - bummer!). I was happy because it was a non-chicken recipe (yay!) and because this looked like a tasty, healthy, EASY recipe to put together.

The bean dip was pretty easy. I recently had a bad experience with a jalapeno pepper (burning, I mean sizzling pain, that slowly worked its way from one finger to the next. Had to throw out the sponge so I wouldn't reinfect myself), so I added hot sauce rather than a pepper. The dip was definitely a winner - mine turned out a little too limey, so much so that I double checked the recipe to make sure I didn't get my "tablespoons" and "teaspoons" confused. But after the first night that flavor mellowed out, and I've really enjoyed the dip after that.

The pizzas came together quickly and easily. I made one as written, and one I added just a little bit of cheese. After a trip to the oven I cooled it off and ate it. Very tasty - even the one without the cheese was flavorful and complete.

This is definitely going into the keeper pile. The recipe is here, and over at Apple Crumbles.

An attempt at artful plating - not so successful!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

TWD: Flaky Apple Turnovers

Despite mistakes, confusion, and a few swear words, this was a very unattractive but tasty choice for this week. Thanks to Julie of Someone's in the Kitchen for picking a challenging and delicious treat!

Things started out rough when the dough wasn't broken down into small enough parts.

My butter was too cold, so it didn't "make friends" as much with the rest of the dough as it should have.

After a trip to the fridge, out came the crumbly dough -- all over the floor.

A little more sour cream and a little more mixing, and back into the fridge the divided dough went.

Out for a roll -- not exactly 9x18. Both of mine looked like small European countries.

Back into the fridge (where one still lives) for more rest, while apples were cut and mixed.

A trip to the oven, took about 23 minutes for them to become the right color and doneness.

Too many apples, too small of dough, too ugly to serve to others. But oh so tasty, flaky and flavorful once cooled.

Since I have another dough in the fridge, I can give this another try. I probably didn't have the dough rolled out thin enough, and I can't imagine how TWO tablespoons full of the apple mixture would EVER fit in the dough round. Like I said, it wasn't pretty, there was some swearing, but gosh these things are good. Definitely a challenge, and one I'll likely try again!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

CEiMB: Substitution Thursday

"Substitution Thursday" is what I'm calling this week, since I can't eat the Pulled BBQ Sandwiches chosen by the fabulous Pamela at Cookies with Boys (those boys sure are cute!). I love barbecue, I love rotisserie chicken. But unfortunately, chicken does not like me. And since the last few weeks have featured chicken recipes, I'm woefully behind in my CEiMB participation.

I am still working with "The Food You Crave" and have made more out of this book than any other recently. I'm still obsessed with Ellie's Nutty Granola though I'm naughty and add sweetened coconut to the mix. How can I resist when it adds such a nice flavor?

I've also tried her Turkey Meatballs with Quick and Spicy Tomato Sauce which is the recipe that lead me to join the CEiMB group. Every blog I visited the week it was the recipe raved about how good they were and the pictures all looked fabulous. The meatballs are unbelievably flavorful, and I really do like the sauce. My only complaint is that there isn't enough sauce to pasta ratio. I like really saucy pasta dishes as it's a way to eat less carbs and more "good stuff". I was so intent making this - both times - that I only got a quick snap. Love the splash of sauce on the side - classy, no?

I'm looking forward to next week when I can get back into full participation mode. The Black Bean Mexican Style Pizza looks yummy, so I'll meet you back here next week with a full report.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tivo Alert! "What Would Brian Boitano Make?"

Picture courtesy of the Food Network

If you have not seen this TV show already, can I urge you to set your Tivo/DVR to record it. "What Would Brian Boitano Make?" is the most original show the Food Network has put on the air in a long time (the last one probably being anything that Alton Brown has done). If you like campy and funny, then you will like this! When was the last time a cooking show made you laugh out loud? Plus, he uses the South Park song - well, part of it. Definitely left out the "questionable" parts. But still - how can you not love that!?

The first episode I saw was "Derby Girls" (as in roller derby, as in Brian Boitano skating with them), and all the recipes had bacon in them. The second one was "The Handyman" which was equally cute. Mr. Boitano does on camera narration that is very clever. But the great thing is that although neither Mr. Boitano nor the show takes anything too seriously, the food looks good and the information is there. The man knows how to cook.

I talked to several food folks at work today urging them to watch this, but they all beat me to the punch and loved it. I don't get this enthusiastic about much I see on TV, so please give it a try. It may not be your cup of tea, but as I said, if you like campy, you'll like this. Enjoy!

TWD: Chocolate Souffle

First of all, I must tell you I was stunned when the little blogger dashboard said I had not posted since August 18th. I knew it had been awhile, but 3 weeks -- really?!?! YIKES! I have no "good" excuses ("good" as in really bad, as in some calamity struck me making my absence obvious and forgivable). August just hasn't been my best month for a couple of years now - I am beset with allergies, and end of summer blahs, plus it has been hotter than you-know-what. So hot my thermostat on the heater just went to the far right and let me guess how hot it was. So hot that I was pretty sure my candy thermometer would be able to give me an idea of the temperature in my house. Happily we're now living in post-heat wave when all is well and August is over. Pre-heat wave I did some stuff that I'll post later, but today, I want to focus on the souffle at hand.

I feel pretty confident tempering eggs, but when it comes to whipping egg whites I'm a mess. I've never gotten the hang of it, even in my baking class, so I approached this with a wee bit of trepidation. Ironically, I have an incredible soft spot in my heart for chocolate souffle. It is at the heart of one of my favorite work moments - not a triumph that one should be proud of, mind you, but one that to this day fills me with a certain amount of satisfaction.

I wasn't sure how the results would look, so I went for really nice mise en place!

Ten years ago I had just worked for a decade in a variety of places and fields where the best of times were behind the organization. Ten years of "do you remember when (insert something really awesome here) happened?" Which I didn't remember because it was before my time. I only experienced the crummy times that followed. Well this was my opportunity to spoil it for someone else!

I didn't plan on spoiling it for someone else. I was just going to a Christmas luncheon. At the time I worked on the outskirts of the entertainment industry. By outskirts I mean the last farm on the end of a long dirt road that had no other houses and no lights. But there was a lunch at a restaurant in LA that was famous for their chocolate souffle, so everyone ordered that early (as the kitchen needed time to prepare). Since the "big wigs" were sitting at a table together, that left us "little wigs" alone with an open menu. I totally succumbed (willingly) to the peer pressure of the mail room guys to order the crab cakes as the appetizer, the fillet for the main, and the aforementioned souffle for dessert. I don't even want to think what the tab for drinks was at my table. And by drinks, I mean drinks! As you might imagine, it was the most wonderful lunch I ever, EVER had.

The following year, after I moved on to another job in another industry, there was a pre-set menu at the Christmas luncheon.

I know I shouldn't feel proud. But after all the living in a world spoiled by someone else, it was a nice change.

Fast forward to this week -- this was my first post-heat wave project. I'm still a little dodgy about egg whites, but this seemed to come together okay. Although I knew better, I probably under buttered the ramekins, so I didn't have that nice "straight up" puff. What it lacked in beauty, it totally made up in flavor. These babies were awesome!

So thanks to Susan, at She's Becoming DoughMessTic for picking an awesome recipe and allowing me to stroll down memory lane. Both are greatly appreciated. Head over to Susan's blog for the recipe -- it appears that she has fond memories about souffles as well!