Friday, December 18, 2009

Sleigh bells ring, are you listenin'?

A big thank you to Rebecca over at one of my very favorite blogs Chow and Chatter, who so very kindly allowed me to guest-post on her site. I've been a great fan of hers since I started my blog and I hope that everyone takes the time to stop by and check out all her wonderful recipes and advice. One hint: if you're looking for authentic Indian recipes you are in for a real treat.

Today is also a great day because The Kitchen of Queen La La has now officially turned 1. So, happy birthday to my blog and thanks to all the people who read, follow, comment, and generally make this an absolute joy to do.

Today, I have steak marinating in Harp with some parsley and rosemary to be turned into steak pie for lunch. I'll keep you posted.

Again, many thanks to all of you.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

I believe in Father Christmas

I have been making nut brittle during the holidays for several years now and have always relied on Gale Gand's version, which is easy, tasty, and offers something different than the usual cookies. This year I decided to try Nigella's brittle from her Christmas book, recently released in the States, but which I ordered last year from Amazon UK. What I found appealing was the use of golden syrup, an ingredient I became slightly addicted to once I started using Rachel Allen's books. Sweet, sticky, with an almost caramel-vanilla flavor, it is quite different than light corn syrup. I don't know if it is interchangeable with corn syrup; a bit of research I've done online has some people saying go for it with others not having quite as good a result. Please note that the recipe link above for Nigella mentions the American version of the brittle (using corn syrup), which I have not tried.

Anyway, I decided to make two batches; the very shiny top one came out exactly the way I like it: very crunchy with beautiful sharp edges when broken into chunks. I made that one with Brazil nuts and I think they finally may get the respect they so deserve.

The bottom batch I made with walnuts and a pinch of cinnamon; I also mistakenly added two tablespoons of butter to the mix at the end instead of one. This resulted in a very soft, rather toffee-ish texture, chewy, but really tasty. To me, walnuts and cinnamon have a natural affinity for each other and definitely belong in holiday baking.

The only other change I made to the recipe was the omission of vanilla at the end. I have found that adding vanilla to anything using golden syrup often renders the finished product a bit cloying. So I left it out and don't believe the recipe suffered.

I'm taking both batches to a cookie swap today. I'm looking forward to hearing what other people think. We shall see.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Good King Wenceslas

I present to you The Cookies in all their glory. I really do wish you could taste them. Needless to say, I am over the moon with the way they turned out.

I highly recommend the color gel pastes from Williams Sonoma. They come in tiny little bottles but I used a very, very small amount to get the true Xmas-sy red and green you see here. The sugar pearls came from Wilton and, although I'm not the biggest fan of their texture, I love they way they look on baked goods.

And no, I didn't let the chittlins help with this batch. I love them to bits but there are times that I want to play all by myself. :-)

(I realize that today is actually the 13th and my photos say the 10th. I've given up caring what day my HP camera wants it to be. Feh.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Baby, it's cold outside

Did you ever make something that you either made yourself often when you were a kid or someone made it for you? And you ate it, and it was good, but it didn't wing you back to your childhood and you weren't quite sure why? You followed the recipe exactly, maybe even including the little tweaks written in the margin or on a piece of paper tucked between pages. So you just accept that it'll do and that maybe, some day, you'll get that wave of nostalgia and know that this was exactly what you were looking for.

I made a batch of sugar cookie dough today, from The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook, copyright 1963, which my mom received as a wedding shower gift. Just for fun, here's a picture:

Neat, huh?

Anyway, we made the sugar cookies every Xmas, the full batch, rolled them, cut them, and we lived dangerously and sprinkled them with colored sugar and jimmies *before* we put them in the oven so the decorations would be all sticky and melted and look nothing like they should but taste divine.

I've been making these same cookies for many years now; I stopped when I first got married because I was just too lazy but started up again about 10 years ago because they're fun and I like them. But something always was missing and I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I didn't use the sugar or jimmies because I didn't always feel like it but that wasn't it. It was the cookie itself that was mocking me.

Until today. I decided this morning that I wanted to make cookies and pulled out all my supplies after I came home with the boys from school. The original recipe calls for shortening; however, we never used that, it was always butter. So I pulled that out. The recipe also called for cake flour but I've lost my taste for that over the years. I use unbleached flour exclusively and the cake flour always tastes tinny to me so I don't use it. I refilled my 10lb jar with a fresh batch of King Arthur and started the dough. We never softened the butter so into the mixing bowl went fresh-from-the-fridge chunks. In short, I made two subs to the original recipe: butter for shortening and AP flour for cake. Added the rest of the ingredients, blended, etc., then licked the beater.

Oh my heavenly Nigella. I'm back in the big kitchen on Duncannon Avenue with my mom, my grandmom's rolling pin, and my dad watching football and doing crosswords in the living room. I ate a massive blob and had to stop myself from consuming the rest. Finally, I had the cookies I had been waiting for.

It was all in the subs. And then I remembered. We kept Swan's Down cake flour in the house and my mom used it only for her jelly rolls, never for cookies or anything else. And--the kicker--SALTED butter. Unsalted was not readily available from the grocery store back then; we'd usually buy it by the pound from the Amish farm market on Saturdays but that was for toast and pancakes and eating, not cooking or baking. For other uses, it was always--always--Land o' Lakes salted. And that's what I use today for eating but I've been buying the unsalted for as long as I can remember for my baking because I admit to being slightly brainwashed by the chef types who swear that it's better.

Well, I do believe I've proven them wrong. I've got the dough chilling now and, although I don't have any jimmies in the house, I know for a fact that finally I've got the recipe right. And this pleases me greatly.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Apple pie with cheddar cheese crust in three stages. This made the house smell so good whilst it was baking.

I used 3lbs of Granny Smith apples, juice of one lemon, 1/3 cup white sugar, about a tbsp of cinnamon, and 2 tbsp of corn starch.

Crust was made with 1 1/2 cups flour, 8 tbsp cold butter, cut into tiny cubes, 1/3 cup extra-sharp cheddar, and 4 tbsp ice water. Pulsed first three ingredients in food processor until it looked like chunky cornmeal then added water slowly through the tube with it still running. Pulsed until it came together and I could easily form it into a large disc. Fridged for about an hour before rolling into crust.

Baked at 425 for an hour; it's very brown from the cheese.

I really love pie.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Too Posh for my own good ;-)

After rereading my earlier post I realize that wow, my nose really got stuck up in the air, didn't it? :-)

What I meant earlier was that I grew up eating a lot of box, processed foods, interspersed with many a from-scratch meal and I'm none the worse for wear. But 30 years ago we kinda sorta didn't know better. Hell, I grew up eating 85/15 hamburgers fried in butter for Pete's sake! Topped with cheese! And I ate two at a time!

But I digress. I love, love, love much of the boxy goodness. The Roni, pot noodles, cheapcheapcheap store-brand mac & cheese, chili from a jar, Chef Boyardee ravioli, the list goes on. And I love me some Spam. Yep, Spam. I also keep one of those 72-slice boxes of plastic cheese in my fridge because it's so good on an eggwich and sticky good as grilled cheese. So I don't have airs above myself. I just think it's too easy to rely on boxed everything for meals. The salt and fat content is usually through the roof and many products have not-of-this-world artificial ingredients that are too spooky for my taste. I also think over-relying on these kinds of products kills your taste buds. You get so used to the salty, artificial taste that, when confronted with something fresh and wonderful, your brain goes into fits thinking it's not right.

I think it's extremely important for families to sit down together for at least one meal each and every day. And that meal shouldn't be thrown together. But it should be as easy to prepare as you choose and, if that means throwing on a pot of Roni as I did just to get everyone to the table then it's all good. But there needs to be balance. And that was the whole point of my earlier rambling. Invest in the items you have mad love for and enjoy every mouthful.

My guilty pleasures: Plastic cheese. Roni. Twelve-packs of ramen noodles. Bottled salad dressing. Pillsbury's pop biscuits. Instant mashed potatoes. God, I love those. Campbell's soups, especially Chunky soup--the one with the little burgers. Eat around the burgers then layer them on a slice of buttered white bread. Disgustingly good.

And much, much more. :-)

Prepping the pantry

Jerry's recuperation lasted almost two months. During that time, he napped a lot and I tried to revolve meals around him, with the largest being mid-day and small plates for dinner and snacks. It was a system that worked for the most part, if you can ignore our giving in to fast food cravings and yen for chips, chips, and more chips.

During this time, I started realizing that, on a very small scale, Sandra Lee has hit the nail on the head. Whilst I do not at all believe her 70% packaged/30% fresh ratio is at all the way to go (switch those numbers and we might talk), I started picking up old favorites to keep in my cupboards because I wanted them, they were quick, and I could round out a meal when I didn't know what else to do. For example, Rice-a-Roni. Man, I am a whore for that stuff. One night I wanted something quick and simple; I knew I had a pack of chicken breasts in the fridge but didn't want potatoes or fries or garlic bread, ergo, Roni for a side dish with some veggies. It was just the push I needed to put together a proper meal. And that night I had seriously considered caving and calling out for Chinese.

Second item of dissention, the once-ubiquitous green can of parmesan cheese. Yikes! I am someone who always--always--has a block of pecorino romano and Grana padano in her fridge, ready to grate at a moment's notice. But one night we were eating pizza and it needed something. I couldn't find the rasp I use for grating so, whilst I enjoyed the pizza, I wanted more. Next time I was at the market the Green Can was on sale so I grabbed it. And now I use it whenever it's too much trouble to grate fresh. I love it on a hot slice of pizza but it's also nice to grab in the morning when I'm putting together a pepper & egg sandwich; it's salty, it's tasty, and it's fast. Do I think it's better than grating fresh off a block? Hell no. But it's not a bad little thing to keep in the fridge for when you need it.

Now, this doesn't mean I'll succumb to the lure of box mac & cheese or Hamburger Helper or--heaven forbid!--jarred pasta sauce (truth be told, I busted out a jar not long ago [found in the back of the cupboard] and even the chittlins got rankled). I love making mac & cheese and pasta sauce as I want it and Hamburger Helper, well, I grew up on that and it's best left as a childhood memory. I guess what I am saying is that I'm still very, very picky about processed food. I try not to keep it in the house but, on occasion, if it makes the difference between getting a proper meal on the table or hitting up the golden arches, well, I'm keeping it on standby. Rice-a-Roni can be served alongside a nice piece of quality protein, a salad or some veg, and you can eat happily, knowing that you made the right decision. Same with jarred curry sauces, instant mashed potatoes, frozen side dishes, all of which can be called into play to round out a meal.

And wouldn't you rather go to bed not feeling like garbage because you took the lazy way out? Plus, it means you can have a wee treat for dessert. :-)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Autumnal splendor

Wow. Time to update. Yes!

Pictures today, as I have been very busy in the kitchen but haven't felt patient enough to suss out the recipes in Word. I am very pleased with most of what I'm sharing. :-)

These are the samosas I made yonks ago, served alongside red lentil dal and mango chutney, both homemade. This meal rocked. The chutney is rather sweet and an excellent condiment for the samosas and the dal turned out rather well. I always love a meal like this and, even though the samosas are a bit tedious to make, the results are worth it.

Jerry's birthday was the 17th so I made a Snickers pie for the hell of it and his requested chocolate layer cake with buttercream icing. The pie looks really good but only the bottom layer was edible (luckily, that was the part with the Snickers!). The whipped cream top layer didn't set as nicely as I had hoped, but it was made partially edible by the syrups on top. I am happy to report, however, that the birthday cake was definitely full of yum and enjoyed by all.

The cinnamon rolls I made are now my new header and I am very happy with those. I do not like at all the Cinnabons you get at the mall; I find them cloying and overly sweet and they leave a bizarre greasy aftertaste on the roof of your mouth that no amount of coffee can burn off. So I make my own from a recipe I've had for years. They're just sweet enough and the spice kick of the cinnamon really balances them out. Love these.

This is my apple pie. I have mad love for this pie. I made one a week ago when I woke up one morning and, deciding I wanted pie, made one. For years I have failed miserably in this department and I now realize it was simply because I thought too much about it. This time around I just did it. And I've made another one that turned out just as good. I use Granny Smiths with just a little bit of sugar because I like a tart-ish pie and the crust is all-butter. This is a fantastic treat and I have had it for breakfast several time already.

Last, a gorgeous vegetable curry. Nothing complicated here and, let's be real, not too authentic (see Chow & Chatter for amazing authenticity), but this is so damn good and leftovers even better. I did realize, however, that I am not overly fond of sweet potatoes cooked this way. I much prefer them roasted or French fried; this time around they mushed into something that was not altogether pleasant to me. But the coconut curry sauce is to die for and I'm glad I made a huge batch.

Happy food, everyone. :-)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Just good lunch

This is one of my all-time favorite meals. I love making these little sausages from scratch and it is quite difficult to enjoy just two in one sitting. However, I don't use pre-ground pork; rather, I pick up a nice tenderloin or pack of country-style ribs (they're boneless) and I grind them up in my bigass food processor. I find that this makes a nicer texture and it's a good way to distribute the garlic, salt, and pepper throughout. Also, if you are out of breadcrumbs or egg or, like me, you don't always feel like using them, they can be omitted and you will still have a most delicious result. Although green peas are not my vegetable of choice, today I was not up for chopping and frying cabbage and the boys don't like it so, pfft, peas it was. But boiled and buttered potatoes are always welcome on my plate.

A very heartfelt thank you to everyone who emailed and commented best wishes for Jerry's surgery. He goes in tomorrow to have a herniated disk in his neck removed, which will be replaced with some kind of metal plate, maybe adamantine like Wolverine, I don't quite know. He'll be home on Thursday and then we get to torture him mercilessly for at least a month. :-) My general plan is to get through all the Phantasm movies; then Twin Peaks; some X-Files; a little La Femme Nikita; with plenty of time in between for serious gameage with Fallout 3 and Oblivion. It will make him stronger.

I'm also making a batch of oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip cookies; I'll report on those later.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sucess and epic fail

Been very busy in the kitchen recently but, as Jerry has been working from home and the boys have been spending most of their time in the yard, it has made updating a bit more difficult. I do have some pretty pictures to share; however, recipes are not in the cards right now.

This weekend, as you all know, is UFC 101 in Philly. Yes, I'm beside myself. Granted, I will not be there but the fact that it is in my hometown/birthplace whatever you'd like to call it warms the cockles of my heart. It means that next time, when the chittlins are older, we'll definitely be able to go. It easy to fall back on making cheesesteaks because, ner, Philly, cheesesteaks, you get the picture. And I've got gorgeous frozen ribeye slices ready to go. I don't want a full-on meat orgy because that probably will render me absolutely incapable of doing Pilates Sunday morning; however, I want something that's fun, easy, and sporty. My veggie bean chili is really good, and Indian is always something we love (I still have those samosas in the freezer); however, I'm not quite sure. I may end up just having the steaks for dinner with a sensible lunch beforehand so our hearts don't explode.

First up, the successes:

Gorgeous basil and tomatoes from my garden. I'm very pleased with these as I grew them from scratch, not starter plants. They tasted pretty aweseome, too.

Lovely, lovely, lovely and full of yum blackeyed pea curry with spicy goan sauce from Ruta Kahate's book, 5 Ingredients, 50 Dishes. I have talked several people into buying this on the strength of this recipe alone, so good is it. Check it out.

A simple oven-baked chicken salad. Marinated thin slices of chicken in buttermilk and hot sauce, breaded with Italian-seasoned crumbs, and bunged them in the oven. I had forgotten just how good one of these can taste, especially with a treat of peppercorn creamy Italian dressing.

Soft, cakey chocolate cookies with a sugar glaze (the boys did the glazing). Simple and delicious. This recipe came from the Rosie's Bakery cookbook; I'm afraid it may be out of print now but it really is worth picking up if you come across it. Her recipes are foolproof and delicious.

Last, epic fail. Made pasta carbonara last night. Ugh. It didn't turn into scrambled eggs (what you see is blips of parm) it just was weird. I think I've lost my taste for over-rich dishes and this was too much. Didn't like.

That's it for now. Jerry has his surgery next Wednesday so I am going to stock up on a ton of stuff this weekend so we have plenty of goodness for him to feast on. I'm definitely going to make a nice bangers & mash meal this Sunday but we'll see what he feels like eating once he gets home. I have a feeling I'll be making a lot of eggwiches for my man. :-)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Break out the cheesesteaks, bring on the blood

Yes, you could say I'm mildly excited about this. And it *is* food-related because I will be planning an entire day of food around this event. :-)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Good food from a good place

My god, I haven't been around here for a while. I feel like I should buy everyone a round of drinks and invent some excuses that won't be taken seriously because we'll all be too hammered to be paying any attention.

Things have just gotten behind here and I haven't been able to spend as much time online as I used to. The chittlins have taken to "cooking": Emptying out bottles of oil, vanilla, hot sauce, maple syrup, you name it, into whatever bowl or bowl-shaped item available, stirring, and pronouncing it dinner. Fortunately, they make no demands on me to eat it, with the only exception being the hot sauce/leftover breakfast milk/yogurt/cider vinegar "smooth" they made for Jerry and insisted I save for him to drink when he got home. Let me tell you, had they insisted, he would have choked some of it down for them. :-)

I went through a bit of a kitchen funk recently, even though I did do a complete tear-through, rearranging appliances, baking jars, and cupboards. I weeded and sorted and tossed and I'm actually quite pleased with how much space in which I now have to work. But I haven't felt much like working. Jandar has been home several days a week for a while now and it got to the point where almost every night dinner was a cheese plate and soda. Not very healthy after a while and deadly dull rather quickly, even with the different kinds of cheeses I usually hoarde. The chittlins didn't fare much better as they were existing on Pop Tarts, fruit, and dry cereal, I think instinctively knowing that I was out of sorts but would soon be back to my old self.

And that finally, finally happened this last weekend. I got sick of the sluggish feeling, the bloat that made the jeans I worked so hard to fit in no longer agreeable, and the lack of proper sleep. The exteme guilt that plagued me, feeding the boys utter crap. My poor husband mightily slogging through yet another half-assed, thrown-together plate of food. Not a meal, quite literally, a plate of whatever I could find that was edible, tossed onto a plate, and called dinner. Embarrassing, really.

I pulled my Rachel Allens and Tana Ramsays off the shelf; I read my Padmas and my Barefoot Contessas, and my Nigellas--even Martha--just for fun and just to feel good again. I came up with ideas, recipes, and ingredients that I wanted to try. I didn't go overboard; I went slowly, one or two new recipes, no more takeaway, no more chips. Made amazing Asian-style chicken chunks with sweet chili sauce; homemade bangers from gorgeous pork that I ground myself; mac & cheese for the boys that was out of this world. It felt good to be back. We had lovely Greek salads with enormous chunks of fresh feta; soup, really good soup, that I was reminded of by watching an old episode of an Andrea Immer Robinson cooking show; and this week, blackeyed pea curry, which is absolute favorite for us. We did have easy meals like pancakes and scrambled eggs and bagels with cream cheese but even those became fun again. We haven't had a cheese platter in over a week and we're actually eating more vegetables. In short, I'm not killing my family anymore. :-)

This happens once or twice a year but it's important that I not let it take so long to get back into the game. This is where, I believe, a vast cookbook collection comes in handy. I didn't read them for recipes so much as just to remind myself of how much fun it is to cook. A well-written cookbook has anecdotes and useful tips alongside the ingredients and preparations and can be just enough to get someone out of a rut and back into the kitchen, even if it is only to scramble eggs or make toast. Gorgeous pictures help, too.

So, I've missed all of you and I have been trying to keep up with your blogs, too. I've just been more of a lurker and I thank you all for still reading me.

Now, what's for dinner tonight?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wine, cheese, bread

Sometimes, all you want is the basics: a little wine, a nice cheddar, some really good bread. Even if you're not eating all three in one sitting, sometimes you just want something simple that tastes good. You don't want the 59-grain crunchy bread or the loaf on the shelf that hurls twigs at you. Sometimes, all you want is this:

Homemade white bread. Freshly made bread from your own kitchen, made with only flour, yeast, water, a little molasses or honey to tease the yeast awake, nothing more, nothing less. Baked just right and toasted, served with luxuriously creamy butter and maybe a bit of jam or marmalade. It's a slow process, one not meant to be rushed, but the results are ever so worth it. Deeply satisfying with a remarkable taste and texture unlike anything you can find shrouded in plastic at the stores it taps something deep within. Maybe I'm waxing a little too, I don't know, weird, but there is something truly incredible about creating something so simple yet utterly amazing. And whilst it may not be brown and spiked with bran and oats and germ, it is good for you. It's homemade, with nothing artificial, and it was made with care and, at least in my kitchen anyway, a large pinch of magic. It truly is something to be eaten and enjoyed and, at the end of the day, you'll feel good for having had it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

How to prevent scurvy in six easy steps

1) Juice enough fresh limes so you get 1 cup of freshly squeezed juice and pulp;

2) Open can of sweetened condensed milk (regular or fat free) and pour into bowl;

3) Refrigerate both items in separate bowls until really cold;

4) Stir juice into sweetened condensed milk until thoroughly blended;

5) Pour mixture into ice cream machine and process according to your machine's directions.

6) Enjoy!

I wanted key lime pie yesterday but, as I am the only one in the house who finds it worth living for, I didn't feel like making a whole one that I knew I would eat in one sitting. Plus, I really didn't have the time to make a proper crust (I make a pie crust as I am not a fan of graham cracker crust). So I dug out the can of s/c milk and got to it. I had only the fat-free but this is one of those pantry items I can't really tell apart from full-fat so I keep it in stock because, even though it's loaded with sugar, at least the fat grams are nil. I chilled the juice and milk overnight and made it this morning and I must say that I damn happy with the results. And yes, I licked the bowl, the beater, and the spoon clean, even before breakfast. :-)

It's a very tart mixture, with only the s/c milk for sweetening; I like it that way so I can't really comment on whether--or even how--to add additional sugar. It came out of the machine at a soft-serve texture and I threw it into a plastic container and will see later how--or if--it firmed up. What I also like is that I won't need a honking big portion of this so the sugar overload will be minimal.

I think I might make some lemon melting moments to go with. It's citrus heaven around here today.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Yankee Doodle Donlans

Growing up, my mom was a huge fan of Memorial Day, July 4th, any holiday that involved bedecking our house in stars & stripes. This picture was taken the year she had a flag for each state on our tiny lawn then added about another dozen on our porch. My dad and I had just come in from a swim in the yard when the photographer asked if he could take our picture. Granted, we didn't make the front page, but this is a most excellent memory for me.

Happy 4th of July!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

All hail cake!

This is a damn good cake, yummed by all. I riffed on a traditional "wacky cake"--god, I hate foods labelled "wacky"--by using less sugar, vanilla soy, and the chips. I'm really pleased with this. I haven't tried it with regular milk so I can't vouch for what it would taste like otherwise. I just had some soy in the fridge that needed a home so, voila. Cake. In fact, I should just stop buying the soy milk because it never really gets used and I hate to waste. So I won't buy it unless I know I need it. Like for this cake. Because I really like this cake.

Chocolate Chip Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Large handful of chocolate chips

1 cup vanilla soy milk
1/3 cup oil (vegetable, canola, a clear oil, not olive)
1 tbsp white or cider or white wine vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 and grease and flour a 8 or 9 inch cake tin. Whisk the dry ingredients (including the chips) together in a large bowl. In another bowl or measuring glass, whisk the wet ingredients until combined. The milk will look slightly curdly but this will not be a problem. Add the wet into the dry and mix well with a spoon until combined but don't whisk as you can end up with a tough cake. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 mins Let cool and remove from the pan.


Jean gave me two very nice awards. I love cake and shiny things so this is right up my alley. :-)

Thank you, Jean!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I'm your ice cream man

Last week, I finally got around to getting an ice cream maker. I previously had one of those little hand-crank models that I used extensively when I was first married; however, in subsequent moves I lost the ice case and just never upgraded. But now I have a Cuisinart and am most happy. First up, chocolate, using the recipe from the Cuisinart manual with some tweaks.

2 cups milk, separated (I only had 1% so that's what I used; see notes below)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
8 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (I used Merckens bittersweet chips)
1 cup heavy cream, well chilled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Heat 1 cup of the milk until it is just bubbling around the edges. Put the chocolate and sugar into a blender or food processor and process until you have a fine, grainy texture. With the machine running, slowly add the hot milk and process until smooth. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and let cool completely. Stir in the second cup of milk, the heavy cream, and the vanilla; cover tightly and refrigerate until cold, at least 30 minutes. Follow instructions for your particular machine; once it has processed for the noted time, you can eat it immediately or pour into a freezer-safe container for later.

Now the texture was not as a whole-fat ice cream is in that it was not nearly as creamy and there were some rather pleasing teeny chocolate bits throughout. Next time, I would definitely make a full-fat version as I prefer it; taste-wise, however, it is fantastic, especially with real chocolate jimmies on top. One other caveat of the low-fat version is that it's very hard to scoop out of the container once frozen. I'd recommend softening it up a bit before serving; even then, you may not get pretty scoops.

I'm itching to try DebinHawaii's apricot-cardamom creation, which looks almost too pretty to eat. Somehow, though, I think I could manage. :-)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Amber waves of grain

My god did I go through a lot of flour. Especially this weekend.

It all started with the pitas:



Homemade bagels, no problem:

Why stop there? Burger/dog buns, anyone?:

I'm toast.

My camera is acting up so no pics of the completed samosas or buns turned out; I'll post those later.

Blessed be.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Now these were just what I needed today: a little nutmeg, some cinnamon, sugar, all rolled into goodness. I used the recipe from Rachel Allen's Bake and am very, very pleased with the result. The boys wonder contributed their expertise, as well.

I'm thinking homemade play dough is next. I'm really looking forward to that.

More pita goodness

Thanks to everyone for leaving comments! It was a real treat logging on this morning and being greeted by more than Hecklerspray and NapaStyle. :-)

The pita recipe again is adapted from Joy and it's about as simple as you can get. My limited knowledge of copyright law (thanks, Amanda!) means ingredients cannot be copywritten, only procedure and, as I've adapted it slightly, here is how it all went down:

3-3.5 cups bread flour
4.5 tsp active dry (not instant) yeast (2 packets, I believe. I have a one-pound sack of the stuff in my freezer and a yeast spoon [measures 2.25 tsp] but just use 4 tsp and it'll be fine.)
1.25 cups very warm water (body temp)
1 tbsp honey
Pinch salt
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Dissolve the honey in the water, then add the yeast and stir until dissolved. Give it a couple of minutes to proof: You want some nice foamy bubbles on the surface and a good, clean yeasty aroma. (I love doing this. It's magic the way the yeast feeds off the honey and blooms. And the way good yeast smells is heavenly.)

Put 3 cups of the flour and the pinch of salt in a large mixing bowl and stir the salt through. Add the yeast mixture and the olive oil and mix together either with the hook attachment (electric mixer) or with a wooden spoon until everything comes together. If you're kneading by hand, once it's all in a big, shaggy ball, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and slightly tacky but not all sticky, usually takes about 10 minutes. Which is why I use my beloved KitchenAid. :-) In a mixer it takes about 5 minutes. Use the last half cup of flour only if necessary to bring the dough together; however, if the dough is too dry, add water, a teaspoon at a time to get the right feel.

Once the dough is ready, oil the mixing bowl (no need to dirty another bowl) using again a really good olive oil, and plop the dough into it. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size and springy, usually 60-90 minutes. Punch it down, break off chunks, and roll into balls. I got 13 from this batch. Put the dough balls onto a plate, cover, and let rise for 20 minutes.

Once the dough is rolled, preheat the oven to 450. If you have a baking stone preheat that in the oven as well. If not, upend a baking sheet so you have a flat surface on which to cook the breads. Use one rack in the center of the oven because these get puffy and need room. Once the balls have risen, roll each one out on a floured surface until about 8-9 inches in diameter and about an eighth of an inch thick. You don't want very thin or they'll get crackery when baked. Remember to keep the rest of the dough covered while you roll so they don't get a skin on the surface. If this happens, don't worry, you can still use the dough, it'll just be a bit dry and harder to roll.

Slap the dough onto the hot stone or baking sheet and close the oven quickly. Set the timer for 3 mins, 30 secs no longer. The dough should puff up during that time but, if you leave it in for longer it will not completely deflate as it cools and it will be rather crackery. This isn't bad as the ones that turned out that way I dipped into some hummus as a snack. :-)

Remove the pita and place it on a wire rack to cool. Continue with the rest of the dough balls. I kept rolling whilst each one baked, and stacked them with a very light dusting of flour in between so they wouldn't stick.

Once they cool completely, store in a plastic zippy bag to keep them soft and fresh.

Now, I'm not going to say that these turned out like those you get at a store. I couldn't quite properly cut them in half and split them so they could be stuffed. They're more like a flatbread, to be folded around falafel or whatever you're in the mood for. Oh, and they'd make for a lovely gyro. (Now I want a gyro. I think I'll grill some lamb this weekend. And eggplant. Oh I'm hungry now. The granola bar is a distant memory.) This is why I think they'd be a nice sub for naan with an Indian meal. But the taste is out of this world, really, and I can't see going back to the packaged unless I'm in a bind. I haven't tried them with whole wheat flour as I like the taste of white bread and prefer to use wheat flour in loaf breads: those I toast and smear with butter and jam. :-) However, from a nutritional standpoint, these are vastly superior to a mushy white bread as there's only a handful of ingredients with no fillers or preservatives or--gasp!--the dreaded high fructose corn syrup. Plus, if you're wrapping them around something as gorgeously healthy as falafel, well, yeah, yum.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pita bread

I made the pita bread. I am most pleased. :-)

I used the recipe from Joy, which is very similar to the foccacia/pizza dough recipe I use weekly, so, since I've already got that one memorized, I'll probably just use that next time I want to make these. Actually, these would go really well as a sub for naan with a nice Indian meal. I made a dozen, the boys and I ate three, so I've got enough to freeze for later.

For tonight, I've got a huge batch of falafel in the freezer but as I cannot keep them together in the hot oil, I'm going to bake them to see if I get a better result. I could defrost them, then do a double-dip with eggs and flour but I'm not in the mood. I'll just spray a baking sheet with some olive oil and throw them in. That'll learn 'em.

Freshly made pita. Yum.