Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesdays with Dorie - Chocolate Truffle Tartlets

If you love chocolate, and I mean REALLY love chocolate this recipe is for you.  I must confess that there are times when I feel out of place in this world.  I like chocolate. I enjoy chocolate. BUT...[gulp]...my life would go one just fine without it.  I know, I know, it's difficult for some of you, who obsess over chocolate, to believe that someone like me can and does exist.  I promise, I wanted the first bite of my tart to send me into the ecstasy that others describe when indulging in chocolate, but it didn't.  I knew when I read the recipe that I should back off the dark chocolate that was called for.  I have not used bittersweet chocolate one time when I didn't think it made the recipe too chocolatey (yes, I said it!).  I am definitely going to make this again, but with a semi-sweet chocolate instead.

So, what did I like about the recipe.  I LOVED the biscotti and the texture it gave to the filling.  I adored the chocolate crust and will definitely be using it again.  It would be fantastic filled with coffee ice cream and topped with caramel.

I encourage to buy Baking with Julia.  I'm already stretching myself beyond my comfort zone!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - White Bread

I cannot begin to tell you how much I have always wanted to be one of those women who bakes.  I love the idea of preparing homemade breads and pastries, but, alas, I am not; and not for lack of desire, it's just the damn details that get me.  So, it surprises me that I am even attempting Dorie Greenspan's Baking with Julia.  I have been poring over this book for weeks now.  I stumbled across Tuesdays with Dorie a year or so ago and knew that if the opportunity came again to participate, that I would be jumping on that bandwagon in a heartbeat.

I was so happy when the first recipe that was selected was for White Loaves.  The bread was DIVINE!  I wish that my pictures had turned out better, but, unfortunately they didn't.  I'm going to be making some more bread tomorrow for some sweet neighbors, so I'll try pictures again.

Anyway, back to the bread, the only change that I made was using salted butter for the unsalted (mainly because that was all I had).  The aroma in the house was beyond description.  I'm sure I didn't wait long enough to slice the bread, but the little ones and I had reached the limits of our patience after smelling it for so long.  A pat of softened butter and a healthy drizzle of local honey sent us into ecstasy.  My mouth is watering right now just thinking about it again. Sadly, our family of 9 has no problem dispensing of two loaves of bread much too quickly.

I guess I'll just have to make more tomorrow.

Buy Baking with Julia - I promise you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Confessions of a Food Snob

Hello, my name is Stephanie, and I am a Food Snob.

I'll try to be as honest as possible in divulging my secret, but, let's face it, hidden secrets like to stay hidden. In coming to the realization that I am indeed a food snob, I had my very own Damascus Road revelation. My snobbery itself, however, was actually slow in its development.

I remember well my early beginnings...my own foolishness in buying cooking wine to use in a recipe; of not knowing a legume from a leek; and of believing the only lettuce was iceberg lettuce. Only yesterday I would have laughed at my fumbling start into the culinary world. I did not have a "natural" talent, but I had a desire! I wanted to succeed! I studied cookbooks and recipes. I mastered the techniques of the greats: Julia, Emeril, Bobby and Wolfgang. Ah, yes, I can recall the first time I felt disdain for another. The purposeful perusal of a fellow shopper's cart and my haughtily raised brow at her "hamburger helper" boxes and frozen corn dog containers. Did she recognize, as I did, her lowly estate and my obvious superior love of family in serving only fresh fruits and vegetables, organic eggs, and whole grain pasta? Mark well my estate, my friends, notice that slippery spot on which I stood. I would have done well at this point to beat my breast and cry, "God, be merciful to me a food snob!" But, sadly, I did not.

Month after month and year after year, I gloried in my ascension up the hierarchy of home cookery. I reveled in my family's praise - surely, this is what was meant in Proverbs 31: "Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 'Many daughters have cooked well, but you surpass them all.'"

I could continue to tell my story as I digressed in this way, but I must bring my tale to today. The day I saw what I had become.

It started as any other day with projects to finish and meals to cook. I drove to my favorite local market and began to feel the flush in my cheek and the excitement in my breast as I sauntered through the artfully arranged vegetables and the enticing meats and fishes. "What," I asked myself, "could I prepare today that would bring the adoration I have come to expect from my family? Roasted Shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce? Chicken Piccata with a Lemon Vinaigrette Dressed Salad? Oh, the possibilities! But, wait! Why not call my dearly beloved children and allow them to request a family favorite?" So, I did just that. I wondered what they would choose out of all the many wonderful meals I had made. Ham, Apple, and Gruyerre Paninis? Homemade macaroni and cheese begun with a creamy bechamel sauce and three cheeses? Perhaps a Roasted tomato soup with homemade croutons? I smugly smiled to myself as I waited for them to answer.

My firstborn son picked up the phone and I made my proposal. I could hear the excited, muffled discussion between him and his siblings as they made their decision. (Has any woman had more precious children?) Little did I know that his answer would pierce this mother's heart.

I wonder now if the happy shoppers around me knew what they were witnessing? Did they recognize the destruction that was happening before them? Honestly, I just don't know. I can only tell you of the sorrow that swept through me as I finally recognized what I had become. Have eleven little words ever had such an impact in all the time since creation? -- "Mom, we want the macaroni and cheese in the blue box." At first, I stood with a look of shock on my face. Then I began to slowly wander through the store questioning my own failure in raising these children of my husband's loins. "What more could I have done?!?" I wondered. Well, sure, I loved the stuff as a child, but didn't they understand the sacrifice I was making for them? The grating, the chopping, the julienne-ing, the basting, the braising, the damned sautee-ing?!?

I numbly made my way aisle by aisle searching for the accursed blue box. I mumbled a hasty "no" when the grocer asked if I needed help finding anything. I just wasn't ready to share my shame with the world. Sure, things like that are ok for some people, but not me, no, no, no, not me! I turned the corner and there it was. I hastily grabbed the four boxes that would be necessary to feed the obviously immature palates of my large family and returned to my cart.

Now, what I did next I am not proud of, but I must declare the truth if there is ever to be freedom. I HID those boxes under the green leaf lettuce I had previously placed in my basket. Like an addict I covered my shame from the reproachful eyes of others like me.

I continued to the front of the store as I questioned the sense of my last action. Who was this woman I had become?!? I mechanically went through the steps of checking out as the realization hit me. I had become a food snob! Me, who had loved vienna sausages and saltines as a child! Me, whose former favorite chef was famous for ravioli and spaghettios!

I made it home and proceeded to prepare my children's request. As I poured that little packet of orange powder onto those bleached noodles, I inhaled the fragrance of simpler times and simpler ways. Of childhood and laughter! I smiled to myself as I served those I hold dearest. Then I returned to the kitchen, raised my head high and devoured the rest of the mac and cheese straight from the pot.

My name is Stephanie and I am a recovering food snob.

Be sure to check in next time when Stephanie asks, "Are those fishsticks in your freezer?!?"

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rosemary Cashews

I had been wanting to try Ina Garten's Rosemary Cashews for the last two years.  I even bought all the ingredients last Christmas but didn't get them made before the cashews disappeared. (I can't imagine what happened to them!)

***I just went and got a handful of the Rosemary Cashews out of the cabinet because I couldn't resist the temptation once I started thinking about them.  They're THAT addictive!  I'll continue on but must now type one-handed.***

So, this year I was determined; I decided to give them as gifts for an added incentive to get them done.  "Easy" doesn't begin to describe them.  You pop the nuts into the oven for 10 minutes while combining the few ingredients with melted butter.  A quick toss and they are ready.  As Ina would say, "How easy is that?"

I ended up making 15 pounds of the cashews.  I used Planter's Cashews with Sea Salt, so I eliminated most of the salt.

After the cashews were finished, I realized I had one container of Planter's Deluxe Nuts that went unused for in my Christmas baking and cooking.

You can see where I'm headed, can't you?  I'm not a big fan of peanuts, so these were a perfect alternative to the cashews.  One word - Fabulous!  I omitted most of the salt again and decreased the time by a minute or two in the oven. (Let the pecans be your guide.)

We gave bags of the cashews to friends with a pint of yesterday's Spicy Bloody Mary.  The mixed nuts I stingily kept to myself (heeheehee!).

Definitely, give these a try; I promise you won't be disappointed.

Rosemary Cashews by Ina Garten

1 1/4 pounds cashews
2 T. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 t. cayenne
2 t. brown sugar
2 t. kosher salt (remember omit all but 1/2 teaspoon if using salted nuts)
1 T. melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Place the nuts on an un-greased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes until they are warmed through.  While the nuts are heating, combine rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, salt and butter in a small bowl.  Toss the warmed nuts into a large bowl, pour the rosemary mixture over the nuts and toss until the nuts are thoroughly coated.  Serve warm.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Spicy Bloody Mary

During a quick weekend trip that Ray and I took to Dallas in early November, we sampled one of the BEST brunches I have ever had at SMOKE Restaurant.  I'm telling you it was one of those meals that you fantasize over for the rest of your life. I had Hungry Bear Smoked Ham Steak & Farm Egg Fritter with Sweet Corn Griddlecake and Dublin Dr. Pepper Red Eye Gravy.
Oh my! Oh my!  Words cannot express how good this meal was  We shared it with my sister, which just made the experience more sublime.  As the name might imply, the restaurant smokes all of its own meats.  Ray ordered a sampling of all of the breakfast meats, so we were able to pick and choose our favorites among them.

The Bloody Mary (my first ever!) was spicy and even now causes my mouth to water at the mere thought of it.

Now, I haven't even attempted the brunch itself, but the Bloody Mary was something Ray and I were determined to make our own.  This recipe gave us a good start, but we feel our rendition tops it with the addition of chili powder.

Spicy Bloody Mary

2 oz. vodka
6 oz. tomato juice
1 tsp. horseradish
1/2 tsp. fresh lime juice
4 dashes tabasco sauce
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 pinch black pepper
1 pinch celery salt
2 pinches kosher salt
1/2 tsp. chili powder

Fill a wide-mouth mason jar completely with ice.  Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Pour over ice, and garnish with a jalapeno and lime.

Serves 1.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


This recipe comes from my favorite cook right now Ina Garten, and "They are divine!" as dear Ina would say.  I've added a couple of variations that I've done a few times which produced fantastic results and wonderful accolades.


2 c.flour
1 T. baking powder
1 t. kosher salt
1 t. sugar
1 stick cold butter, diced
3/4 c. half-and-half

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas.  Add the half-and-half and combine on low speed. (Add any additions at this time and combine.)  Dump the dough out on a well-floured board and, with a rolling pin, roll out to 3/8-inch thick.  Cut out twelve circles with a 2 1/2-inch round cutter.

For Parsley Biscuits:
Add 1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley.  Make egg wash with 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water.  Brush tops of biscuits before baking.

For Orange Biscuits:
Add 2 T. orange zest.  While baking biscuits, combine 1 c. powdered sugar, 2 T. fresh orange juice and 1 T. orange zest in a ziploc bag.  When biscuits are done, cut one corner off back and drizzle glaze over biscuits.

For Cheddar-Chive Biscuits:
Add 1 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese and 1/4 c. chopped fresh chives.

Chocolate Pound Cake

I can't begin to tell you how many of these cakes that I have made over the years.  Tyler loves this best for his birthday with peppermint ice cream.

Chocolate Pound Cake

1 c. butter
1/2 c. shortening
3 c. sugar
5 eggs
3 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
4 T. cocoa
1 c. milk
1 T. vanilla

Cream together butter, shortening and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each.  Add dry ingredients alternately with milk and vanilla.  Pour into a greased and floured tube or bundt pan.  Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour, 20 minutes or until it tests done with toothpick.

The first time you cook this set your timer for 60 minutes, adding 5 minutes as needed until it tests done.  You can also cook this in two loaf pans, setting your time originally for 40 minutes and again adding 5 minutes as needed until cake tests done.