Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Claire - One Woman Named Claire...and Paying It Forward Give Away

A Claire - One woman named Claire.
Eclair - A yummy pastry, typically filled with a custard type cream and topped with chocolate.
If a Claire came over I would share my eclairs with her, instead it was my sweet neighbor Sarah.

This months Daring Bakers challenge was fun because it only took about 2 hours instead of 12 hours or whatever the last 2 took. And I had all the ingredients already. The directions were open to interpretation which means caramel or vanilla or pistachio or almond or orange or strawberry or licorice, okay ewww. But it is fun to have room for personal addictions and preferences. Make the Pate a Choux as stated, then pastry cream and glaze, and one of the last 2 must be chocolate. Easy enough. Yeah right. Those little suckers are hard to bake...bake, switch, water, spoon, open, steam, poke, tap, bake. But, and this but is giving me a big butt, chocolate pastry cream...well all I can say is maybe a baking group is the wrong place for me. Maybe I need to join a pastry cream/custard/filling group instead. I like the baked stuff because it has creamy stuff in it.

I went with the chocolate pastry cream because I love love love chocolate, and I found really nice rasberries. You just can not beat those two together, unless you maybe added butter. I had to share. Had to. Otherwise Amber (me) would eat them all.

Yes, there is one missing, and it was worth it even if it messed up the photo.

And now for the fun part...

I was so fortunate to have been chosen by pretty Dana from Vanilla Basil for a 'Paying It Forward' prize. You can click on her link on the right in my 'Tasty Things' list. This give away seems to have come from the crafting bloggers and ended up with us lucky and happily fed food bloggers. It is based off the movie 'Pay It Forward' with Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osmet. If you haven't seen the movie...DO, and then live the attitude. It is hope and goodness, and isn't that really what life should be about among other things? Make sure and check out Danas blog also, it is one of my favorites. She is a very busy, intelligent and talented young woman.

Dana sent me a wonderful package full of lots and lots of yummy stuff. Part of the fun is trying to guess what you will recieve. It had everything I could imagine, including a new wooden spoon which thrilled me because mine are always chopped up from my blender. There were dried mushrooms and chilies, pesto and soup, candy, balsamic glaze and tom yam paste, maple popcorn and punjabi snack mix, spices, tea and zinger drink mix, smoked tomatoes and wasabiko, did I mention candy? All I could think was YUM. There was nothing that I had in my cupboards already, okay except the spoon but this one is new and pretty. I get to try lots of new food ideas in the next few weeks.

Now it is my turn to Pay It Forward to one lucky person. I will love to send a package of local and favorite foods and maybe a little surprise or two. All you need to do is to leave a comment on any of my posts during this period and I will, in a super secret decoder ring style, choose from among you. Sucking up is allowed but it will not help you to get chosen. The last day to leave a comment for entry is Sunday, September 7, 2008, and I will announce the winner on the following day. Best of luck to everyone.

There is only one requirement of you. That you happily 'Pay It Forward' in the same manner to another lucky food lover. Remember, go visit Dana and leave her a sweet comment.

Sophie was pretty excited because she likes food a lot.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Frozen Latte and 'Paying It Forward' give away link

I love a perfect cup of coffee, or a mocha or a hazelnut latte. Hot, cold, or frozen and blended, it doesn't matter. I have loved coffee ice cream for as long as I can remember. And coffee cake also. Oh wait that doesn't actually have coffee in it. Back to actual coffee. David Lebovitz wrote about Vietnamese Coffee Popsicles back in July. I made them once and since I did not know what to do with the leftover sweetened condensed milk, I upped the amounts in the basic recipe after that. Yes I have made them 3 times in a month and did some sharing too. Told you I like coffee.

3 cups of very, very strong coffee (I used 8 heaping tablespoons per batch)
1 can of sweetened condensed milk (no not evaporated)
1/2 - 1 t cinnamon

Using a whisk or a blender, add hot coffee to sweetened condensed milk and cinnamon until completely blended.
Pour into molds or cups, whatever works for you.
Freeze 45 minutes to 1 hour and add sticks if desired.

This made about 4 cups of mix. They are strong so don't make them too big or you will be up all night. I made the cone shaped ones out of extra pastry bags, cut to size, clipped onto the side of a plastic cup, 2-3 per cup or you can make wax paper cones. I think they are better when they just begin to soften. And of course dark or white chocolate shavings or Dulce de Leche bring it up to a dessert level. Sprinkle them around and on top or when the mix chills and begins to set, stir them in, chill more, then add the sticks if desired.

I also made witches tits, oops I mean hats. They are cute aren't they? Same recipe, just made in pastry bags. I am still working on photos but I can finally center things now.

Check out the link in my 'Labels' list on the right for the 'Paying It Forward' give away. You can comment on any post from August 24 thru September 7 for a chance to win.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Roasted Tomatoes With Chèvre

I grew up with my grandparents on their farm for a few years and it was wonderful. Hanging out in the garden with my Grandma Zeve who would find tomato worms, and with her bare hands, rip them in half (eww) and then throw them to the chickens who ran around all day eating any pests for her. They actually fought over those green juicy fat things. I'm so glad that I'm not a chicken. I remember running barefoot through the dirt carrying jars of water out to my Baba who was on his tractor working in the 40 acres of peaches, or sitting in the cherry tree spitting down cherry pits until I had eaten enough. It was a life every kid should know.

I think once you have had real farm ripe produce, nothing else will ever taste right particularly, when the hands that grew them also belong to the people you love. At the fruit stand yesterday they had ripe tomatoes that were ready for anything. I really never cook tomatoes because there is no need to change what is already a perfect creation. But it was time for something different, and it was well worth the change. Enjoy...

(the photo shows herbs on the tomatoes in the very beginning, it is too long of a cooking time though and I removed them before putting the tomatoes in the oven and added them back towards the end of baking , but the photo was beautiful so I wanted to show it)

4 vine ripe tomatoes
Olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves
Pepper fresh ground
Salt kosher or other
2 T fresh herb leaves (I used marjoram)
Goat cheese 1 small log of chevre

Preheat oven to 250 degrees

Wash and dry the tomatoes, cut out the stem core, cut in half.
Coat well with olive oil.
Place on parchment lined baking sheet cut side up.
Slice garlic as thin as possible and place 3-4 slices on each tomato half.
Drizzle a few drops of olive oil on top of the garlic.
Pepper and salt.

Bake for 4-5 hours

Add the chopped herbs and bake 1/2-1 hour more.

Place 1 small spoon of goat cheese on each half, a few more drops of olive oil, and a little salt and pepper and return to oven for 5 minutes.

Serves 4.

All you really need is time for this, a lot of time, it is not difficult in any way, shape or form, you just have to wait for them to be done, there is no hurrying 'slow'. Timing really depends on the size of the tomatoes. Mine were 3-4 inches across. I used my very favorite salt...Australian pink flake, but I think I have about 8 or 10 to choose from. And I used marjoram because it is what I had. They are wonderful as a side dish and for BBQ's because the last minute work is so simple, basically a blob of cheese. I started eating them before adding the chevre which was still really good and I almost forgot to take photographs, but do use the chevre, it is even more wonderful together.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Spring Greens and Peach Salad

My grandfather farmed 40 acres and a good 1/2 of that was peaches. There is nothing like going out to the tree and checking peach after peach until you feel the perfect one, soft and sweet and fragrant and warm from the sun. And then you realize you have itchy peach fuzz over 90% of your body and red ants are stinging your feet and legs because you never wear shoes or look down. So you dance around in the dirt while you attempt to rid your self of those ants of Satan. I think when I was little I had stubbed toes, skinned knees, ant bites and mosquito bites all summer long. Those were the days. Not a care in the world. If you got thirsty you just turned on the garden hose and waited for the pincher bugs to vacate it by force of water and then drank to your hearts content. If you were hot the hose was your answer. You didn't dare go inside for fear of Grandma, who was really very sweet but felt children needed to be outside in nice weather and she was right since there was even a bathroom in the wash house. We were so totally excited to hear the sound of a car. That meant people were going to drive by the house. Yes you heard me by the house. Who cared if you knew them. You got to wave at them and that was enough. Children now days have such a complicated life. Everything needs batteries.

I have been doing too much tasting since joining Daring Bakers. Evidently the hosts prefer to pick recipes that taste really good. Can't some one choose brussel sprout and liver cookies?

Which makes me think it is time to consider more and more salads to save my tushy. This is a very simple salad and I do like lots of stuff in mine. Remember when a salad consisted of iceberg lettuce and a very bad slice of almost a tomato? Those people should be shot. Why else did God make so many yummy things if not to be creative? He must have spent years in Heaven thinking..."Will you idiots try something new? Look around, helloooo, Garden of Eden calling your taste buds."


4 c spring lettuce mix
3 ripe peaches
Ground pepper
4 oz gorgonzola
1/2 c walnuts
2 T butter
2 T brown sugar

In a pan melt the butter and brown sugar on med-low.
Toss the walnuts in and coat with the sweetened butter till a little caramelized.

Plate 1 cup of salad per person.
Peel and slice peaches, then grind fresh pepper over and divide on top of lettuce.
Crumble gorgonzola on top of peaches.
Sprinkle candied walnuts on top.
Drizzle dressing (see below)


3/8 c white balsamic vinegar
1/2 c walnut oil
1 T minced fresh rosemary or to your taste
Ground pepper
Good salt

In a blender, combine vinegar and oil.
Add rosemary, pepper and salt.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Hazelnut Praline Gateau...Daring July

Step outside my comfort zone' has been one of my goals. This Daring Bakers challenge cake accomplished that with gusto. 6 steps before even assembling it and then decorating which I never do. Bowls and spatulas and pots and pans up the tushy. Reading and re-reading the recipe and then probably doing it wrong anyways. Comfort zone? At times it became the twilight zone. I had the best time! Give me rich and creamy and chocolate and nuts and you have my heart.

Now let me share with you an afternoon of fun with Dick and Jane in the kitchen (you have to be older to get that)...

July 25
I am a big fan of multi-tasking. I know there is a sort of Zen belief that you should concentrate on one thing at a time and give it your focus. Yeah, whatever. I finished my simple syrup with Frangelico and was filling the dishwasher while putting away groceries when, BAM, a bottle of Gatorade came crashing down from the top shelf and onto my counter knocking the simple syrup on the counter, down the cupboards, the stove and all over the kitchen floor. Yay! So now I am remaking the syrup, while I toast the nuts, and clean the counter etc., and mop the floor twice, which was not enough, and am trying to keep Sophia from becoming an alcoholic as she attempts to lick the floor. Oh, and typing this. Zen shmen.

My feet are now sticking to the floor that a moment ago they were sliding around on because of the mess and I just burned four of my fingers pushing the hot rack back into the oven without a potholder after taking out the hazelnuts. Time to really rethink extreme multi-tasking.

The simple syrup tends to crystalize on my floor in between moppings. Note to self: wet drunken sugar on floor is not a good thing.

I am now busting up laughing because I just reached to scratch my elbow and it is a sticky mess also and so I went to the sink to wash it and yes, the floor is stickier than ever and I had to rip my feet upwards with each step. How did my elbow even get involved.

This cake may not get done today, ya think.

And now the flies are here.

This is a really fun cake to make!

Then I went to take a tray of nuts out of the oven when one, one little nut fell to the floor, and dog hearing must be as good as they say because Sophia came flying from out of nowhere and through my legs to get it. So, trying to protect her from blistering her little esophogus I went for the nut and I beat her to it, but ended up with a hot cookie sheet in my upper arm. I have a four inch 6th degree burn and Sophia is mad at me now.

Was it all worth it? Oh yeah.

And people let us not forget that Amber does not know how to pipe buttercream. Amber does not have piping tips. And there was only one arm involved due to my neck having labor pains, aka muscle spasms. I think it looks like a morrocan hat.

So...Ta Da
Hazelnut gateau
Frangelico simple syrup
Apricot glaze
Hazelnut praline buttercream
Whipped cream
Bittersweet chocolate ganache