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Saturday, June 2, 2012

I would totally put some Monkey Butter on that!

Well I'm back! Miss me? I got lost for quite awhile... firm within the grasp of higher education, our crazy and adorable two (almost 3) year old, and an attorney husband who stays REALLY busy. Toss in lots of holidays, a relocation, and a terrible case of plantar fasciitis with a heel spur and you have the recipe for a huge fruit salad. That's exactly what I was: a fruit salad. Not only that, but I was not paying attention to my diet, my health, or my mental well-being.

So, for some time now I have been trying to re-center myself and get my diet back on track. It's not easy, let me tell you! I would never consider myself to be a complicated person, but most days I think I'm not smart enough to figure myself out. I think I'm still suffering from serious "baby brain" and I fear I'll never get it back while I gain 5 pounds just by looking at a slice of cake with one eye closed. Needless to say, I've been approaching this re-centering and diet thing with baby steps.

I'm still working on step 1: Diet re-vamp and light to moderate exercise. Let's face it, the light to moderate exercise is a no-brainer. I NEED exercise, but if you've ever had a heel spur you know how incredibly difficult it is to exercise. Most days the pain is so excruciating that I'm sucking back the tears at night so I don't look like a huge friggin wimp. I've tried faking it and "walking" like it doesn't hurt, but my husband is totally onto that scam. Honestly, I don't know what I was thinking. Blonde chubby white girl with a pimp walk is NOT convincing. Sooo,  lot's of trips to the doctors office and we'll get that worked out. Onto the diet...

The best move I have made so far is cutting way back on carbs. I have been doing a lot of diet research and digging deep into the catacombs of my brain back to my culinary school lab days for suitable replacements to all that flour and sugar. I have come across/re-vamped/created some pretty dang terrific recipes that totally dupe my feeble mind into not missing those addicting little refined carbohydrate "drugs" at all. You know, they're the one's that make you look all bloated, big in the stomach and giant in the hips, take your breath away when you climb a flight of stairs, want to take a nap 1/2 an hour after lunch time and then wake up 2 hours later and eat a cupcake. Devilish refined carbs...

So if you're considering slashing those carbs too so you can re-center yourself and get on track, I have including a couple of recipes that are a GREAT place to start. If there is anything I have learned, forgot, then remembered again it's that most foods taste totally great all on there own and really REALLY don't need 1 cup of sugar and 1 stick of butter. "Monkey Butter" is an excellent example of that. I found the initial recipe during one of my Pinterest marathons, but I revamped the recipe to make it more diet appropriate. "Monkey Butter" is a tropical fruit spread that you will easily want to eat straight from the jar, but I would totally add it to a size-right portion of steel-cut oatmeal, pour it over some frozen yogurt or homemade protein packed ice cream (recipe to come), as a dip with low carb tortilla chips, add 1/2 a cup to the blender with a few choice ingredients for a tropical smoothie, or just smear a little on the almond flour biscuits recipe (totally Pinterest) included below. You're gonna love it and your kids will love it too!

"Monkey Butter" (find the original recipe here)
4-5 ripe banana's peeled and sliced
1/2C unsweetened coconut (ground or shredded)
1C mango chunks (fresh or frozen. I buy mine fresh, then peel and cut to store in the freezer for later)
1C sliced peaches (fresh or frozen. Ditto on the mango remark. Just don't use canned peaches)
1C apple cider
1tsp cinnamon
1/2C pure honey

Add all ingredients to large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook for several minutes; stirring often and sort of mashing the bananas while you stir. Cook until desired thickness is achieved. Pour into a blender/food processor to take care of the larger peach and mango chunks. Then pour into sterilized jars and immerse in boiling water for 15 minutes to seal.

"Almond Flour Biscuits" (find the original recipe here)
2 ½ cups almond flour (just grind some raw almonds in the food processor until fine)
½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
 ½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup coconut oil
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 tablespoon agave nectar or pure honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt and baking soda and stir together with a fork or whisk. Add coconut oil, beaten eggs, and honey. Stir all until well combined. If mixture is still too dry add a splash of milk until mixture is scoopable, but still somewhat firm. Don't add too much milk or the biscuits will spread and give you almond flour "cookies". Drop biscuits by large spoonfuls or using a scoop (that's what I use) onto parchment paper leaving a little room in between biscuit for spread. Bake for 15 minutes or until biscuits are lightly browned on the bottom edge. You could also spoon mixture into a greased muffin pan, but you may need to add a couple minutes onto the bake time. Allow to cool slightly.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Turkey Day... à la mode

So last night I decided to make a little private Thanksgiving dinner for my husband and son since we will not be hosting this year.  Slow roasted brisket, sweet potato hash, homemade yeast rolls brushed with olive oil and herbs, and pumpkin pie (of course) were on the menu.  It was an exciting little venture for me because, well... I love to cook, but also because I was slightly bummed that we are not hosting the holiday this year. 

At any rate, I was definitely in rhythm yesterday.  Everything was getting banged out right on time, O was staying out of the kitchen which was amazing (read "Who Wants Turkey Jerky?" if you haven't already), and the aromas wafting from the oven were sinful.  Then the Pumpkin "Pie" Tart was ready.  I swear to you, the moment I took it out of the oven it was as if O teleported himself into the kitchen. 
"puntin pie ready mama?" he said to me in his curious little voice.  "Well, it's baked O, but it's not ready to eat" I responded.  "Okay mama.  I come back." 

Next thing I know, he's pushing that little red rocking chair into the kitchen.  "I just gonna look at it mama".  "Okay O, but don't touch it.  It's very hot."  I swear he stared at that pie for a good 20 minutes.  A few times he'd watch for me and get his little finger right up to that pie.  "I can see you and you better keep your fingers out of that pie.  It's not ready" I had to say a few times, knowing that it meant absolutely nothing.  Next thing I know, he has a fork in his hand.  "I not gonna eat it mama.  I not gonna eat it.  I just have this."  YEAH SURE.  "Alright.  That's it.  O, give me that fork, get off that chair, and go color.  I don't trust you."  He cried for a few minutes, but that was his first big lesson on patience.  It was a tough one.  I know, because I was struggling with the same pie restraint all afternoon.

I have included recipes for a couple of my most recent pie creations.  Both recipes use a french tart pastry as the crust from David Lebovitz.  It is by far and away the EASIEST (and no flour mess or rolling pins) and BEST crust recipe I have ever used and I will continue to use it from here on out. Do not be discouraged that it is called a "french tart dough".  Yes... you can use it for pie crust.  Enjoy!

Apple Crumb Pie
1 recipe French Tart Dough (see above)
4-5 Medium Jonamac apples, peeled and wedged into 1/8ths
3/4C Sugar
2T Tapioca Starch (also called tapioca flour)
1/4t Cardamom
1/4t Ground corriander
2t Ground cinnamon
1/8t Ground cloves
1/2C Unsalted butter
1C Sugar
1/4C + 1T All purpose flour
1/4t Salt

Prepare your french tart pastry.  Grease your pie pan, and place pastry in pan, making sure to take it all the way to the outer rim of the pan (to allow for shrinkage).  Poke holes in the bottom with a fork.  Place in freezer.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix together 3/4C sugar, tapioca starch, cardamom, corriander, cinnamon, and cloves in a large bowl.  Add apple wedges and toss until well coated.  Mound apples in the center of your frozen pie pastry.  Mix together butter, remaining sugar, flour, and salt until combined and crumbly.  Cover the entire top of the pie with the butter/sugar mixture.  Bake in oven for 40-45 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Pumpkin "Pie" Tart with Molasses Drizzle
1 recipe French Tart Dough (see above)
1 15oz Can of pumpkin
1 8oz Can of Sweetened condensed milk
1/4C Brown sugar
2 Eggs
1/4t Salt
1t Ground cinnamon
1/2t Ground nutmeg
1/2t Ground ginger
1/4t Ground allspice

Prepare your french tart dough.  Grease a 9" springform pan.  Place your tart dough in an even layer, going at least 1 1/2" up the sides of the pan.  Poke holes all over the dough.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Mix together all remaining ingredients except molasses until well combined.  Pour into unbaked tart dough.  Drizzle molasses with a spoon on top of pumpkin filling. Bake in oven for 15 minutes.  Then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 35 minutes or until pumpkin filling is set.  Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before removing springform.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Who Wants Turkey Jerky??

I find it utterly amazing that I can graduate from culinary school with honors, pass every single skills test thrown in front of me, and sear meats perfectly and reach the requested temperatures of rare, medium rare, etc. while at school or on the job but when I cook at home I overcook meat left and right.  It's embarrassing actually.  It makes the people that matter the most look at me with that nicey fake smile and say "no, no... it's fine" as they saw away at their entree.  I know in their head they're thinking "I don't know how she passed, but God help the restaurant that hires her.  Maybe they'll put her on the salad station."

It makes me want to scream in my defense actually.  "Well what the hell did you expect?! I've got a two year old blowing zerberts on the backs of my thighs the whole damn time I'm trying to cook, people are talking so friggin loud out there that I can't even here timers going off, I've got all your friggin appetizer mess in my dang way because people don't know what a trash can is, and I think O just stole my tongs.  WHERE THE HECK ARE MY TONGS?!"  Add the inevitable burn or cut into that mix (because I can't make it through the evening without one), or on your average evening you can add a kitchen full of hot wheels and a little red rocking chair that O pushes around everywhere as his little stool.  Now you understand why I can't cook a proper meal.  Pssshh... Hell's Kitchen??  Gordon please.  Try cooking at my house!

Maybe I can't get the whole family meal out flawlessly yet, but I do have a couple tricks that I would definitely recommend for your Thanksgiving turkey.  Nobody likes a dry turkey, but it seems commonplace on Thanksgiving, doesn't it? Try brining it.  This has been my fail safe solution for the past two years.  Not only does it keep your turkey moist and juicy, but it adds great flavor through and through.  People have a lot of different ideas on how to really incorporate flavor by injecting it and seasoning under the skin, but let me tell you something about injecting meat: you're poking numerous holes in the meat giving the juices many places to run right out through the cooking process.  Not only that, but the fluids and seasonings you are injecting do not seep much further than the point of injection which suggests that if you want all over flavor, you would have to inject it A LOT.  More injections = more holes = less juicy.

Seasoning under the skin is a practice I would encourage, though.  In fact, I brine my turkey for 1 1/2 days (or at least 24 hours) before the big day, rinse it off and pat it dry, and then I make a herb butter mixture that I rub underneath the skin before seasoning the outside of the bird.  I always stuff a few extra herbs, 1/2 an onion, and a couple garlic gloves in the cavity before I tie up the legs, and tuck the wing tips under the body to prevent them from burning.  I always make sure I use a rack in the bottom of my pan to keep the turkey raised up.  This keeps the bottom of the bird from "stewing" in those juices.  Then I cover the pan with foil and cut a slit in the top of the foil for a vent.  In the preheated 350 degree oven it goes.  I usually have to roast a 20-22 pounder to feed my family, but a 16 pound bird should take somewhere around 2 1/2 hours to roast.  When a probe thermometer inserted deep into the breast reads 135 degrees, remove the foil and crank the oven up to 500 degrees.  Now it's time to crisp that top skin.  This will probably take about 30 minutes, but you'll know your turkey is ready when its a nice golden brown, and your probe thermometer reads 160 degrees when inserted deep into the breast.  Take it out of the oven immediately and let it rest.  The turkey continues to cook out of the oven for at least another 5-10 minutes and will reach that 165 degree that some people so desperately seek out of salmonella paranoia.

I have included a brine solution that I have used a couple of times, as well as a top skin seasoning and suggested herbs and spices for the butter that I put under the skin.  I would also recommend that you try to buy a fresh turkey as opposed to a frozen one.  Frozen turkeys are fine, but I often find that the skin is damaged or broken and I attribute this too the fact that those frozen "bowling balls" get tossed around too hard during shipment and as people sift through them in the supermarkets.  Damaged skin doesn't retain the herb butter very well, or protect the breast meat very well.  Just a suggestion. 

Cider Ginger Turkey Brine (Brine your turkey up to 2 days in advance)
1 Gallon apple cider
2 Quarts vegetable stock
1 Gallon water
1C Kosher salt
1/4C Black peppercorns
1T Allspice berries
6-8 Slices of fresh ginger (no need to peel it, just slice it about 1/4" thick)

Use a cooler, very tall stockpot, or a really big bucket with a lid for this process.  Make sure whatever you choose is clean and sanitized.  Combine all ingredients together in your cooler.  Remove giblets, neck, etc. from the cavity of your turkey.  Rinse turkey inside and out and place turkey in the cooler with the brine.  Make sure the turkey is completely submerged in the juices.  If not, add a little more water until it is covered.  Close the lid.  Half way through your brining process, turn the turkey over and add more ice to the mix if necessary.  At the end of the brining process (at least 24 hours), remove turkey from brine, rinse off, and pat dry.  Be sure to discard your brine.  Store in refrigerator until ready to roast.

Herb Butter for Under the Skin 
1 Stick of unsalted butter, softened
1T Fresh chopped sage
1tsp Kosher salt
1tsp black pepper

Mix all together in a small bowl.  Gently lift skin off the breast by inserted your hands in the loose area by the base of the turkey and wiggling your fingers gently to open it up.  Using your hands, smooth 3/4 of the herb butter under the skin and all over the breast.  Rub the remaining 1/4 of the herb butter on top of the skin.

Seasoning Blend for the Top of the Skin
1tsp Kosher salt
1tsp black pepper
1tsp Paprika
1/2tsp Garlic powder
1/4tsp Ground cumin

Mix all seasonings together and sprinkle all over the breast and legs of the bird before roasting.

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's a Delgado Thanksgiving

Almost 7 years ago I married a wonderful man... my other half, my better half.  At this time, "A" was the co-owner of a hotel in my hometown.  It just so happens that he lived in this hotel before we met, and after we married I moved into the hotel as well.  It was as glamorous as it sounds in that we had a very large suite with an oversized jacuzzi tub, small kitchen, and a living area.  We never ran out of toilet paper, we always had fresh and clean towels, and I never had to clean or make the bed if I didn't want to (although I never asked the housekeeping staff to do such things for us). 

The best thing about living in this hotel was the banquet center and the large commercial kitchen that came with it.  I had access to two double convection ovens, a steamer, 2 ranges equaling 8 gas burners, two 6 foot stainless steel prep tables, a walk in cooler, and a walk in freezer all at my convenience.  Let's not forget about tables and chairs, linens, china, glassware, chaffing dishes, etc etc.  The little lightbulb above my head lit up one "brilliant" October afternoon when I thought "I could put on the most awesome Thanksgiving ever!"

I printed a menu for a fairly traditional Thanksgiving feast including appetizers and dessert along with a pretty little invitation.  30 guests later we filled the large meeting room with friends and family from all over the state.  I convinced myself that preparing Thanksgiving dinner for 30 people mostly by myself was no big task since I had all the equipment and oven space I needed to pull it off with flying colors.

Oh my goodness I was a wreck!  I did some prep work the night before, but not near enough.  I remember I was near tears when I heard the first guests had arrived and I forgot to put the appetizers in the oven.  I think "A" was courageous enough to walk in the kitchen once to see how everything was going.  I can't imagine what he saw, but he immediately put his hands up and slowly backed out.  Maybe I looked a little crazy with my hair all a mess, mascara running down my face, food smeared all over my apron (thank God I remembered to put one on), and a carving knife in my hand.  My poor brother in law came in after that to lend a hand and ended up carving the two turkeys for me.  Did I mention he's a vegetarian??

As it turns out, everyone was more than content in the meeting room and I was the only one freaking out... as usual.  "A" helped me wheel all the food in, and everyone was as impressed as I had hoped they would be.  I received endless compliments on the meal and that made the insanity all worth it.  In fact, family and friends still talk about it.  We sold and moved out of the hotel the following year, but I'll always remember that first Thanksgiving for us, and what a great time it ended up to be.

When entertaining guests, never underestimate the importance of appetizers.  They sure can buy you some time if you're running behind in the kitchen.  I have included a couple of my favorite recipes that can be prepared in advance and warmed when needed.  Just don't forget that you have them and try to remember to put them in the oven!

Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Gorgonzola and Hazlenuts
1/2 lb of center cut bacon
1 pint of pitted dates
4 ounces crumbled gorgonzola
1/4 cup finely chopped hazlenuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the gorgonzola and hazlenuts.  Spoon filling into dates.  Wrap dates with bacon and secure with a toothpick.  Place wrapped dates in an oven safe baking dish and bake for 15-20 minutes or until warmed through.

Don't like the dates?  No problem.  Cook your bacon until crisp.  Combine gorgonzola and hazlenuts together.  Crumble bacon into cheese mixture and stir together.  Stuff filling into cleaned and stemmed mushroom caps and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until warmed through.  Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar to finish.

Crab Phyllo Cups
1 cup chopped imitation crab meat
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon horseradish
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped chives
1 package frozen phyllo tart shells
Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Combine crab, cream cheese, horseradish, mayo, and chives together in a bowl until well blended.  Spoon filling into the phyllo tart shells.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes or until warm and bubbly. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thanksgiving "Trimmings" and Various Other Memories...

I LOVE Thanksgiving.  It is by far and away my favorite holiday.  The fireplace is crackling, incredible aromas are wafting from the kitchen all day long, the television is set to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in the morning and then football in the afternoon, cousins are reuniting and teaching each other new things that are really going to tick off their parents later,.. and then there's the meal.  Tons of love and preparation go into that meal from the family members that do it best, only for it to be devoured in a little over an hour. Aaaahh... Thanksgiving.

Even as a kid I think Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday.  We always made the trek from the west side of the state to the east side to visit with family and friends.  In the earlier years we stayed with my grandparents and had dinner at my aunt and uncles house.   It seemed like as soon as we pulled in the driveway you could smell the celery and onions being chopped for the ENORMOUS pan of stuffing my grandma always made, and potatoes bubbling away on the stove.  My sister and I would almost immediately call our cousin to let her know we were here, and then run down the street to see what she was up to.  Almost certainly Krissy was up in her room doing her hair and makeup, listening to some music like Tiffany and Debbie Gibson, or LL Cool J and Salt and Peppa in later years. 

As we'd walk through the door of my aunt and uncle's house we would pass the long dining table set with the neatly pressed table cloth and all the really nice china for the adults.  Relish trays were already out including the yucky little sweet gherkins (never my fave) and the cream cheese and olive stuffed celery. By the time we made it to the top of the stairs we could smell hot curling irons and burnt hairspray in the air.  We would walk through her bedroom door and it's funny, but often times we would see Krissy with a pair of scissors in her hand, getting ready to cut her own hair.  Apparently, if it didn't work with the hairstyle in mind it would get cut off.  Ironically, I took a pair of scissors to the bottom of her wedding dress on her big day too, but that's for another blog.

We would spend the next hour or two talking about music, playing with her make up, and painting our nails until dinner was ready.  By that time, all the old relatives had arrived and it was noisy as heck with all the women judging each other, old men constantly blowing their noses, and the young ones yelling about what they DO NOT want to eat.  Krissy refused to eat anything green, and my baby sister would pretty much eat only the yucky pickles, deviled eggs, and mashed potatoes and gravy.  My brother was the only one who would eat almost anything including the green bean casserole which made the rest of us kids gag.  Basically, the idea for the rest of us was just to get our plates cleaned so we could get to dessert.  Pumpkin pie (including my moms crustless "Impossible Pumpkin Pie"), pecan pie, usually a silly cake my grandma made, and sometimes bread pudding.  Ohhhh yeah.... thinking about it now makes my mouth water.  The evening was filled with lots of old men snorring away in the living room, the women chattering away in the kitchen, and all the kids practicing their next dance routine in the basement.  What great memories.  Honestly, what I look forward to the most this holiday is O creating his own memories with his cousins.

In the past 5 years, Thanksgiving dinner has been my responsibilty and I have gladly accepted it.  I have learned a few tricks on my own that have helped me along the way, but I have to tell you... I really wish my grandma was still here.  I never got the opportunity to pick her brain for those helpful hints and I know she was chockfull of them.  So, I'm here to help you with what I can.  The next few posts will include helpful hints, tips, tricks, and recipes to get you through this Thanksgiving holiday and add to your database of fond memories.

Tip #1:  Prep what you can early so you're not a sweaty mess on T-day

After spending the first Thanksgiving locked away in the kitchen with my hair all a mess, mascara running down my face, and my nice blouse stuck to my back with sweat I learned that I need to spread out my tasks for this endeavor.  Here's a timeline I try to stick to (this is the standard T-day menu. Place your own menu accordingly):

4-5 days in advance
-If you have a frozen turkey you better start defrosting NOW
-If you haven't grocery shopped yet you better do it NOW
2 days in advance
-Relish trays (if you have deviled eggs, you can boil your eggs now, but don't make the filling until 1 day before)
-Cheese trays
-Par-baked loaves of bread (bake them until slightly firm and then finish them off to golden brown on the big day)
-Peel and cut your potatoes and put them in an airtight container with just enough water to cover them, refrigerate.
-Brine your turkey NOW (brining consistently produces the best results for me.  More on that later)
-Dig out all your fancy china and serving dishes, make sure they're clean and dust free.
1 day in advance (this should be your busiest day)
-Cut all your veggies for side dishes, salads, stuffings, etc.
-Bake your pies
-Assemble and refrigerate your stuffing
-Assemble and refrigerate your Green Bean Casserole (minus the crunchy onion top)
-Remove turkey from brine, rinse, pat dry, truss (if you're gonna), refrigerate.
-Set the table(s)
Thanksgiving Day
-Season and roast your turkey
-Boil, mash, and finish your potatoes
-Bake your stuffing
-Top with crunchy onions and bake your Green Bean Casserole
-Finish baking your breads (do this step after you take the turkey out.  Breads should only need approx 10 minutes max in the oven)
-Make your gravy

If you follow this basic guideline, I am certain you will pull off your Thanksgiving meal with a lot less glitches and you will still look marvelous when your guests arrive.  Not to mention you won't be shackled to the kitchen while everyone else gets to visit and mingle.  You might even allow yourself the opportunity to get the camera out and capture those memories on film.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

There's A Zebra In My Coffee

2am, 3:30am, 4:30am, 6:20am... I have a question.  How is it that a 2 year old can get up at all these times throughout the night, drag me out of bed to attend to his needs, and then be wide awake and ready to play at 7am while I feel like I just crawled out of a grave? 

And, by the way, what's with these needs?  "My arm itches!", "my foot came out of the blanky", "my nose!", "blanky's touching my chin", "not this blanky, the train blanky", "music's too loud", "where's Scout (his stuffed puppy)?"...sometimes he calls me in just because he has to fart.  "Listen O, I get enough of that from your father, but thanks for calling me in for that."

Yeah, I'm a little cranky.  I was up all night!  Usually I just need to sit down for a few minutes and enjoy a cup of coffee or two.  

Me: "Why is there a zebra in my coffee?!" 
O: "Zebra swimmin' mama.  Zebra swimmin."
Me: "Whatever" and I take a sip. "Zebra's gonna be mad when I drink up all the pool water.  Then he'll learn not to take a swim in my morning coffee."
O: "Hahaha... yeah.  Silly zebra."

This is no isolated incident.  Tomorrow it will be a fire truck sinking, or a horse drinking.  One morning I got through a whole cup before I realized the contents of an entire package of fruit snacks was in there.  I thought it tasty a little fruity.  You would think I would have learned by now not to leave my cup unattended.

I really don't care that he dumps stuff in there as long as I actually get a cup of coffee.  I do love my coffee.  Hey!  We all have a vice. If it weren't for coffee I'd probably be eye-balling that jug of cordial a little harder (read Moonshine Morning and you'll know what I mean).  Being a stay at home mom is a tough job!  It's the job that doesn't stop... all. night. long.

I included a recipe for a cake that goes great with a cup of coffee.  The "Chocolate Covered Strawberry Custard Cake" is a dense, moist, and delicious cake that I think you'll really like.  You can switch out the strawberries for something else like raspberries if you want, or completely leave the fruit out all together.  This would be great to serve to your mom friends during a play date or sit down with a slice and cup at the end of the evening when you finally get a moments peace.

The look of this cake is very similar and was borrowed from this site.
 Chocolate Covered Strawberry Custard Cake 
6oz semisweet chocolate chips
1/2C milk
1/2C brown sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2C all purpose flour
1tsp baking soda
1tsp baking powder
1/2tsp coarse sea salt
1/2C butter
1/2C granulated sugar
3/4C milk
1C chopped strawberries
1tsp vanilla
6oz semisweet chocolate chips
1/3C Milk
1T butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9" springform pan.  Whisk together 2 egg yolks, and 1/2 cup milk.  In a medium saucepan over medium to high heat, stir together 6 ounces of chocolate, milk/egg mixture, and brown sugar.  Stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil.  Turn down heat and keep stirring until mixture begins to thicken but is very smooth.  Remove from heat and cool. 

Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder.  Stir sea salt into flour mixture.  Cream together 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup sugar. Alternately add flour mixture, 3/4 cups milk, and vanilla to butter/sugar mixture.  Mix until thoroughly combined.  Stir in melted chocolate mixture until well combined.  Slowly stir in chopped strawberries just until combined.  Beat egg whites until stiff peaks are formed.  Gently fold egg whites into chocolate cake batter.  Pour cake batter into prepared springform pan and gently tap on counter to level.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean.  Cool for at least ten minutes before removing springform.  Cool completely.

For icing, melt together 6 ounces chocolate chips, 1/3 cup milk, and 1 tablespoon butter until smooth.  Cool slightly.  Pour over cooled cake, allowing icing to drip down the sides.  Garnish with sliced strawberries, and refrigerate until chocolate icing is set.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

When I grow up...

...I want to be a doctor, vet, teacher, nurse, police woman, artist, acrobat, race car driver,...etc.  These are all careers that I had mentioned during my elementary years when asked the question "what do you want to be when you grow up?"  Truthfully, at that age I had no idea what I wanted to be and every career seemed so wonderful and fun, or dangerous and exciting.

As my mind and personality developed through the years, I recognized that I had much more of an artistic mind than an intellectual mind.  While in high school I had settled on the idea that I was going to go to college to study photography so that I could become a photojournalist after graduation.  In fact, I even went to a university and took quite a few courses in photography but it still just didn't seem to fit who I was and who I wanted to become.

I didn't actually come clean with what my real careers goals were and what they had always been until I was having the "serious chat" with the man who would ultimately become my husband.  You know the chat I'm talking about... where you start laying out dreams and aspirations for the future.  "How many kids do you want to have?"  "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?"  "How about 20 years?"  "What's your view on politics?"  "Do you really like my mother, or are you just pretending?"  You know what I'm talking about.  "A" asked me what my careers goals were and for whatever reason it just came pouring out of my mouth unlike any other time I was asked that question before.  I said to him "I have 2 goals in life: to be a loving and supportive wife to a loving a supportive husband, and to be the best darn mother I can be.  After that, I could be a garbage man for the rest of my life and I wouldn't care."  WHOA!!  Did that just come out of my mouth?  WOW!!  I really do feel that way.  It's amazing what truths are dragged out of you when you're with the right person.  We were married within 1 month of having that conversation.

"A" was the one who pointed me toward culinary school, but not because he felt like I needed a new career.  He merely recognized my passion for cooking and hospitality since he was always so well fed and I was always eager to host family holiday gatherings and parties and put on a huge spread.  After the first semester I knew I made the right choice to attend because I truly enjoyed culinary school in every way (well, except for the accounting classes).  Plus, it made me realize that I really do desire a career, and gave me some fresh new ideas for my future as a chef.  More importantly, it helped me become a new and improved wife and mom.  I now feel like I can better provide for my family with: better time management, knowledge of proper nutrition and well balanced meals, better understanding of cost controls and budgeting, plus so much more.

If you hang with me for at least the next couple years you will see some of my future culinary goals come to fruition.  Until then, my excitement comes from recipe research in the kitchen and the smiles that come from O and A when they get to sample the end product.  For instance, just this past Sunday I served my family Beef Wellington for dinner.  For any of you who have attempted Beef Wellington you know very well that it is no small undertaking and it takes a little bit of time and dedication to the meal to put out a great product.  It was a great success, and the time and effort were well worth it for such appreciative patrons at the family dinner table.  In fact, the flavor was so amazing that I am going to share the recipe with you.  I hope you make it for your family and/or friends too.  Smiles, hugs, kisses, and heart-felt thanks from your loved ones truly is the ultimate paycheck.  At least, that's the way I've always seen it. 

This recipe uses a pre packaged puff pastry for those of you who are not ready for the time commitment that is required for the art of making puff pastry. Don't worry though.  If you're interested in puff pastry (or any pastry for that matter) I will guide you through that later.  Also, I do not have a sauce recipe written here.  I used a red wine reduction infused with thyme, but any nice beef sauce will do.  If you would like a sauce recipe suggestion let me know in the comment section below.  I have more than one to suggest ;)

Beef Wellington
2.5 lbs center cut beef tenderloin
1 pint mini bella or crimini mushrooms
1 pint white button mushrooms
2 shallots
3 whole cloves of garlic
3 sprigs fresh marjoram (leaves only)
4 sprigs fresh thyme (leaves only)
Kosher or sea salt
black pepper
1T unsalted butter
1T extra virgin olive oil
1/4C dijon mustard
1 sheet puff pastry
Egg wash (1 egg lightly scrambled with 1T of water)

Season your beef tenderloin all over with salt and pepper.  Sear tenderloin on all sides in a medium to large saute pan with olive oil.  Set aside to rest.  In a food processor, combine all mushrooms, shallots, garlic, marjoram, and thyme.  Pulse ingredients until finally chopped and well combined, add a little salt and pepper to taste.  This mixture is referred to as Duxelle and can be used in a wide variety of dishes.  Heat olive oil and butter in the same saute pan you used to sear the tenderloin.  Saute the Duxelle in the butter and olive oil until most of the moisture has evaporated and it seems sort of dry. 

In the meantime, roll out your puff pastry to approximately 1/4" thick and so that it is wide enough to wrap around your tenderloin.  Using your rubber spatula, evenly smear the Duxelle onto the puff pastry, leaving about 2" around all 4 sides.  Be sure not to use too much Duxelle.  It should be no more than 1/4" thick.  Using your hands, rub the dijon mustard all over the rested tenderloin in a thin layer.  Place the tenderloin in the center of the puff pastry and wrap the pastry around the beef like a package, bringing the short sides up first and then the long sides and sealing the edges together by lightly brushing and sticking with egg wash.  Trim any access puff pastry.  Place your wrapped wellington seam side down on a baking sheet, gently wrap with plastic wrap, and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Brush the entire wellington with egg wash.  Gently cut a few slits in the top of puff pastry to allow the steam to vent while cooking.  When the oven is ready, bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a probe thermometer inserted in the center of the beef reads 125 degrees.  (Insert your thermometer through a slit or on the underside of the wellington through the seam so you do not poke holes through your beautiful puff pastry).  Allow your wellington to rest approximately 10 minutes before service.  This allows the juices to come to rest in the beef.  If you cut into it too early you'll have a really soggy puff pastry.