Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fresh Raspberry Vinegar & Salad

I had quite a few fresh raspberries that were going to waste so I found a delicious way to extend their life! A fresh raspberry vinegar. Delicious, easy to make and has so many uses. One of the first things I made was a wonderful chicken salad using the vinegar for the dressing. Perfect for a warm Summer evening. Enjoy!

Simple Raspberry Vinegar
(Recipe from The British Larder--an amazing blog!!)

1/2 cup overripe raspberries**
1 1/2 cups distilled or white wine vinegar

Remove any moldy raspberries and lightly wash under cold water and drain.

Lightly mash the raspberries.

Add the vinegar of your choice and let it mature in a jar/container for 5 days.

Pass the vinegar through a fine sieve into sterilized bottles/jars. Store in the refrigerator.

**You can also use blackberries, strawberries or other seasonal berries.

Grilled Chicken, Goat Cheese Salad with Raspberry and Walnut Dressing
(Adapted from Cooking Outside the Box by Keith Abel)

4 chicken breast, boneless & skinless
Goat cheese
Sliced almonds
Cooked bacon crumbles
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Mixed greens

3 T. olive oil
2 T. walnut oil
2 T. raspberry vinegar
1 T. honey
Salt & pepper

Lightly brush chicken with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Grill until just cooked through and set aside to rest.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients and season. Adjust quantities of oil, vinegar and seasoning to your tastes.

Toss dressing with mixed greens and plate. Top with goat cheese, almonds, crumbled bacon, tomato and sliced chicken.

Serve with a chilled Riesling and fresh, crusty bread.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Chocolate Milan Cookies (Daring Bakers)

If you are a fan of the Pepperidge Farms chocolate milano cookies then you must give these a try. A chocolate ganache filling sandwiched between soft, delicate lemon-vanilla cookies. I enjoyed each of the elements separately and together. The cookie would be great on its own with a cup of tea and the chocolate ganache can just be eaten with a spoon! Or maybe with some vanilla ice cream.

My friend Amy & I made these together and we had so much fun! This recipe was very easy so we were able to take our time baking and spend some quality time talking. I left her with quite a few cookies to share with her daughter and husband then I put together a cute box full of these and brought them for my mom to enjoy at work. A nice Friday afternoon pick me up, right?

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network. I didn't have time to make the marshmallow cookies but I will definitely try those sometime!

Milan Cookies
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website
Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Makes: about 3 dozen cookies

Note: These cookies spread quite a lot so make sure to space them about 2" apart

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Making Pasta with Friends

My parents got me this pasta machine and drying rack as a lovely Christmas gift a few years ago. And for some reason I was intimidated to make fresh pasta! I'm not sure why since I make bread dough all the time and the basic principles are the same. So to motivate me I had a few friends come over and we made fresh pasta together. It was so much fun and I think we all said "that is so cute" quite a few times when the pasta was getting cut into thin noodles--only girls would refer to pasta as cute!

We made an plain, egg-less pasta and an egg pasta with fresh rosemary. We dried each pasta for a bit and then of course had to taste them! Tossed with a bit of butter for the rosemary and olive oil for the plain these were incredible. Such a different flavor & texture than dried pasta in the store. And seriously, so easy to do. I can't wait to try more flavors and shapes. Now to find out how they make the spiral pasta...

Rosemary Pasta
2 cups flour (or semolina)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup hot water
1 teaspoon minced herb (rosemary, thyme) or 1/4 cup minced basil or parsley

Mix flour and salt in bowl. Make a well in the center and add the oil/butter and water. Beat the water with a fork and gradually incorporated the flour. Mix with your hands once its too hard with the fork and add water as needed to incorporate all the flour.
Knead the dough until not sticky and stiff.
Cover with plastic and rest for 30 minutes.
Roll, cut, eat!!

Here are a few dishes I made with the pasta for dinner, had to try a bit of both kinds and I went to my garden and picked some tomatoes, zucchini, basil and rosemary. Each of these dishes took about 5 minutes to cook, including the pasta. Talk about fast food!

Rosemary pasta with sauteed zucchini, garlic and butter. Topped with parmesan cheese.

Plain pasta with slightly cooked fresh yellow pear tomatoes, shallots and basil in olive oil.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

BBA Challenge: Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

I absolutely love cinnamon rolls. A sweet dough filled with cinnamon & sugar topped with a gooey-sugary glaze--delicious! And as with most homemade food these taste so much better than those cinnamon rolls from the can.

I'm not a fan of raisins or nuts in my rolls, I'm a purist and I love just lots and lots of cinnamon and sugar. And I start eating the roll from the outside and eat in a circle ending with the middle. The middle of the roll has the most cinnamon-sugar filling and so this is my favorite part, and I save that for last bite.

How do you eat your cinnamon roll? And do you like a lot of frosting, just a little or none at all?

If I counted correctly these cinnamon rolls are the 8th bread we are making for the Bread Bakers Apprentice Challenge. I'm a bit behind all the others for the BBA Challenge but I will slowly make my way through all the breads in the book. Cornbread is up next and I'm trying to think of something to serve it with, other than a chili or soup. Any suggestions?

P.S. The recipe for these cinnamon rolls and all the other breads from the BBA Challenge can be found in this wonderful book.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cooking Fresh from the Garden

Summer in the garden is a wonderful time. Pretty soon most backyard vegetable gardens will be overflowing with delicious tomatoes, herbs and zucchini. This Tomato, Zucchini and Goat Cheese Tart is the perfect way to enjoy the bounty of fresh vegetables! Enjoy this light tart as an appetizer or light lunch with a mixed greens salad.

Tomato-Zucchini Tart with Goat Cheese
Serves 6-8
Adapted from Eat Well

Cornmeal Dough
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fine stone-ground cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg

In a food processor or large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal and salt. Add the butter and pulse or rub in with your fingers or pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the egg and 1/4 cup (or more) cold water and pulse or stir until the dough begins to come together. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in in plastic, chill for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Tomato, Zucchini & Goat Cheese Filling
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb. zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
salt and pepper
5 oz. crumbled goat cheese
3/4 lb. tomatoes, sliced
1 tsp fresh thyme sprigs, coarsely torn

Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Add zucchini and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and cook, stirring frequently, until zucchini is softened but not browned. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate and allow to drain.

Preheat oven to 375. Roll dough out into 12" circle about 1/4" thick. Fit into 9" tart pan with removable sides. Fold edges of dough over and press into sides of pan, forming a double thickness around pan rim.

Arrange half of the goat cheese over the bottom of crust. Arrange tomatoes and zucchini in overlapping rows/circles on top of goat cheese. Sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper and olive oil. Top with remaining goat cheese and thyme.

Bake until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling, 35-40 minutes. Remove pan rim and cool for 10 minutes. Cut into slices and serve warm or room temperature.

This would also look beautiful with yellow squash and different colors of heirloom tomatoes! You can also vary the herbs you use or drizzle with a little basil-lemon-tomato oil instead of regular olive oil. Eggplant would be a great addition as well. The are so many variations and I'm sure they would all be great!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Thoughts on Estate Sales and Some Great Finds

Estate Sales are interesting to me. Most often they take place after someone has died and the family is trying to get rid of everything to either pay bills or get the house ready to sell/rent. You get a glimpse of the persons life by looking at all their possesions. You wonder what kind of life they led. So many thoughts go through your mind. How did they die? How would they feel about so many people going through their things? Did they entertain a lot? Where they the type to stay home more than go out? Did they have family surrounding them or where they alone?

It feels a bit strange walking through a stranger's house, looking through their closets, wandering into their bedrooms, thinking to yourself "how can they have so much junk?", wondering if you will have this many things when you leave this world and hoping to find some great treasures at a wonderful price.

The first sale I went to was the home of a retired Math teacher. She had tons and tons of math textbooks, cookbooks, and random books. You could tell she enjoyed reading. She also had quite a lot of Victorian-style jewlrey, purses, glassware and furniture. She lived alone at the time of her death but she still had men's shoes in her closet--I'm assuming from her husband who probably passed away before her and she just couldn't bring herself to get rid of them. This is where I picked up my French cookbooks.

The second estate sale I went to was very popular. I was there about 10 minutes early and there was a line of people about 30 deep and some of them had been there for 3 hours already! The ad in the PennySaver said they had 1960's Danish furniture so I guess that was a hot ticket. When they started letting people in it was only 10 at a time and it was taking too long so I left and thought if there was something meant for me it will be there when I come back.

I stopped back a few hours lager, no line, no crowd. I got a feeling that these people really liked to entertain. The kitchen was full of bar ware. Wine glasses, port glasses, brandy glasses...And they had numerous dinnerware sets. Lots of tea cups and saucers. I found this adorable tea set waiting for me and for a great price! I couldn't resist and I realized as I was leaving that I picked up yet another vintage kitchen item in green...oh well just add it to my collection.

I got the set for $10 and it includes a tea/coffee pot, sugar bowl, creamer, 5 mugs, 2 pepper shakers, the top of a butter dish. And the orange napkin in the picture above and green/blue napkin below were $.50 each so that was a great deal too!

The last estate sale I found was the home of a man and wife who both enjoyed working with their hands. He could be found tinkering around with electronics and she would embroider or knit. While wandering through the rooms in another house I spotted this hanging lamp and was immediately drawn to it. I love the pattern and style and for only $5 how could I resist?
It needs to be refinished, maybe re-wired but it has great potential and I can't wait to see how it will look after! I have lots of color ideas but may have to wait to see where it will go before I decide what color it will be.

And then the China. They had an entire set of beautiful Noritake China but it was way out of my price range so I picked up a few bowls and serving platters for $25 instead. Great condition, no chips or damage anywhere!

All-in-all it was a pretty good day! Now I need to find room for these new treasures and maybe get rid of some of my own old things that I don't use!


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