Monday, April 27, 2009

C'mon in. Sit. Have some coffee...

In an effort to stay in the kitchen, yet back away from the food this week, I borrowed an idea from Stacey over at Stacey Snacks (with her blessing, of course). And if you haven't been over to her place yet- go! You will always learn much, leave inspired, and never be disappointed.

While we bought our home 10 months ago, there are still a few boxes left to unpack, window treatments to make, and decorating to be done. This will be our home till we're old and gray, so I guess I don't have to be in too big a hurry.

With the exception of the range, we did purchase all new LG appliances. We love them, especially our three door LG refrigerator, except for the "silent" series LG dishwasher. It isn't very silent, and it's on it's second sump replacement (thank God for warranties), and it doesn't dry worth a darn. Our next purchase will be a new range, and we are looking at the Maytag Gemini. Without rearranging the kitchen, it's the closest I will get to a double oven for awhile. While our house has gas heat and water, for some reason the gas line was not run to the kitchen, so we are stuck with electric, unless we want to foot the bill to run the gas line to the kitchen. We are seriously considering it, but the tree in the backyard is just running out of bills...

Definitely, one of the reasons we decided to buy our home was the size of the kitchen, and the open feel it had relating to our family room. I love being able to have people over, relaxing in our family room, and still being able to speak to them from the kitchen, or, having them in the kitchen and not feeling like I have to ask anyone to get out of my way.

There was an awful, little gold light fixture above the table, that my hubby replaced with this one instead...

Our home is about 7 years old, and we knew when we bought it, despite it's newness, that some day, cabinets would need to be replaced. I definitely love the amount we have, but I guess the previous owners used this home solely for income property, and the cabinets were not "loved" as ones own. So, someday... maybe some a bit darker, with a bunch of nice, deep drawers and slide out shelving. In the meantime, I am absolutely in love with having a pantry...

An entire room to store a million things I don't need (I swear, I do not eat 90% of the things in there while I've been on this diet).

And all the cookbooks I have to have

With enough dishes and silverware to feed 40, because I hate paper plates for company.

I love having a counter at my every turn.

With even more to set up a buffet now and then.

I finally have a great kitchen "triangle"

And places to decorate with "all that clutter" as my hubby likes to call it.

The only thing I'm probably a bit weird about is how things are put into my kitchen drawers. I hate digging for things. Especially when baking, I want to open a drawer and find what I need right away. So when you open mine, you see this...

But I swear, my bedroom closets are trashed, and the laundry pile huge, I promise. No pics there though. I ain't that crazy to post pics of my dirty laundry. I did seven loads today- and there is still more.

And at the end of the day, when I want to unwind, have a glass of wine, and share my treats with you, this is where I am perched.

It's my formal dining "slash" living room. But having a couch right next to my table looked odd, so I opted for a nice desk instead.

So this is it... my "crib".

I feel very, very, blessed. ..

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pomegranate Sangria

Well I'd like to make a toast- to the ending of a week that belongs in parts waaaaay south of here, and definitely hotter than where I'm at right now. Yup, straight out of the pages of Craptasticville, Mayored, I'm sure, by that Murphy guy, every recipe my hands touched this week took a dive. I decided though, that with the good recipes I share, must come the bad, and I will fess up to my failures. Besides, it was the only lead in I could think of for tonight's post...

A few weeks ago the folks at POM Wonderful sent me a case of pomegranate juice. I was like a kid in a candy store- I LOVE pomegranate juice and POM Wonderful has the best. So I immediately started thinking of all the mouthwatering things I could create. My mind wouldn't stop. Still hasn't.

I love spicy foods, and I especially love the combination of spicy and fruity. So when I saw these gorgeous looking Pasilla Peppers at my local farmer's market, I knew right away they'd be perfect with pomegranate. Thinking I had everything else I needed at home, I hurried back there so I could quickly make the dish I had in mind- Chicken stuffed roasted pasilla peppers, deep fried with seasoned Panko bread crumbs, with a pomegranate Jalapeno sauce. I was so excited! But when I got home, the roasted chicken I already had in the fridge was nothing more than a carcass... I guess someone else had plans for my chicken.

So I went to "plan B". I had 3 cans of canned chicken in my pantry, and that was going to keep my meal excitement going... ok, really, I said a few things I shouldn't have said once I saw the roasted chicken gone, and then when I found the canned chicken, my excitement returned.

Meal made... and as always, photo's first. I was trying to hurry so I could dig in, I was so hungry. While the flavors were really good, I really should have waited, or run back up to the store and just bought an already roasted chicken. The texture from the canned chicken was awful. All the preparation, all the excitement, totally down the tubes. So while I was able to get a pic to post, I thought I'd wait until I have all the ingredients I need, and make it again, before I share with everyone.

This past week I had also been thinking quite a bit about my aunt. As a child I remember her making this incredible strawberry cake with the most delicious strawberry icing. She also had the best pound cake recipe ever. The more I thought, the more I craved, and I knew I had to make this cake. I got even more excited when I thought that if I replaced the strawberry juice with pomegranate juice, and maybe combined the two recipes, that I would truly have an amazing cake. But as I went to pull the recipes out of my box, they were no where to be found. Trying to find something similar, I looked in all of my cookbooks, and found two recipes I thought would merge well... but they didn't. I really should have researched a bit, and realized that there is a reason cake is cake, and a reason pound cake is, well, pound cake. The cake, while big on flavor, was like eating a dense pomegranate sponge. So, like my meal experiment above, I think I'll wait till I figure this one out before I post a cake recipe destined for disaster.

I was bent, though, on ending this week with a Pomegranate recipe to share. But I was sick of cooking, and baking, so a drink it is- Pomegranate Sangria for all!

Pomegranate Sangria

1 bottle Chianti
1 bottle semi sparkling wine
1/3 c brandy
1/2 c simple syrup
2 c POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
1 lemon, cut into thin rounds
1 orange, cut into thin rounds
1 pear, cut into thin wedges
ice, if desired

Mix all ingredients and chill. Makes 1 large pitcher.

Serve. Drink. Repeat.

Sangria on Foodista

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Lemon Souffle

I always laugh a bit when I hear the weather men talk about the "Official beginning of summer". Here, in the Phoenix area, our weather knows no stinking dates. It gets hot when it wants to, and hot is what it was today- mid 90's. I caved. My air conditioner is officially on. I, am a wimp. I grew up on Long Island, and while I moved here in high school, I have yet to get used to the heat. Last week I was wearing sweats and a coat, this week, stick a fork in me, I'm done.

While I love a great stack of pancakes now and then, the heat definitely gets me looking for lighter breakfast fare. I was looking through a cookbook I have, From a French Country Kitchen~ The Culinary Tradition of la Madeleine French Bakery & Cafe, by Monique Esquerre and Patrick Esquerre, when I came across this recipe for Lemon Souffle. Surrounded by a neighborhood full of citrus tree's, I thought it an easy and perfect brunch idea. Start to finish was 30 minutes, and that was with a 2 year old "helping".

Lemon Souffle or Souffle au Citron

4 large lemons
4 eggs, separated
4 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs lemon juice
Juice of one orange
1 tsp Grand Marnier (optional- I only had, and used, Caravella Limoncello)
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Slice off the top of each lemon. Also cut a small sliver off the bottom of each so that they will stand easily in baking dish. If desired, cut a small decorative pattern around each top portion. Remove pulp from lemons, reserving 1 Tbs for recipe, and reserve remaining for another use. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place lemons in baking dish. They will serve as souffle molds.

In a medium bowl, mix together the egg yolks and sugar, using a wooden spoon, till creamy. Add lemon juice, orange juice, Grand Marnier, and lemon zest. In another bowl, with a mixer, beat egg whites to stiff peaks, and fold gently into yolk mixture. Fill each lemon with mixture. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and serve immediately.

*** You will have more filling than lemons. I took the remaining filling and added to a buttered, sugared, small souffle dish, and baked alongside the lemons. You could also use small ramekins, or additional lemons.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Marian Antoinette DeCicco's cheesecake

Guess what?! I lost 20 lbs!! So let's celebrate, and make a cheesecake, y'all! I know, my last post was my Easter pie, but I had some left over ricotta and Lord knows, you never let good ricotta go to waste. So, I figured I'd get the cheesecake thing out of my system, and then move on to losing my next, and final, 20 lbs before my weight loss challenge ends.

Funny name for a cheesecake, huh? I just couldn't think of any other name for it, so, since the recipe came from mom, moms name (maiden) to it I gave. She's going to kill me. She hates her middle name. I think it was her baptismal name, or something like that... she never uses it. She won't be reading this probably for a few weeks or so, so I'm safe for the time being. I love picking on my mom...

Marian Antoinette DeCicco's cheesecake

Pasta Frolla (Pastry Crust)

2 c flour
1/2 c sugar
pinch salt
1/4 c unsalted butter
3 egg yolks
1 Tbs (or more, if too thick) milk

Sift flour, salt, and sugar into a large bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or fork, until the mixture resembles small peas or crumbs. Stir in the yolks, one at a time, until well blended. Add milk, and mix with spoon (or hands) until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, adding more milk if necessary. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough till smooth. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface, thin and large enough to fit the bottom and sides of a 12" spring form pan.

Cheesecake filling

2 lbs ricotta (I used Polly-O), WELL DRAINED
2 -8 oz pkgs cream cheese
2 c sugar
1/2 c sifted flour
8 egg yolks
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c heavy cream, whipped
8 egg whites

Beat ricotta and cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth. Gradually add 1-1/2 cups of the sugar, and egg yolks, beating after each addition. Beat in the sifted flour, lemon zest, and vanilla.

Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl with the remaining 1/2 c of sugar, until slightly stiff peaks form. Fold the beaten heavy cream into the egg whites, and then fold into the ricotta mixture.

Pour the batter into the pastry crust- lined spring form pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, and then lower oven temperature to 350 degrees, and bake for 1 hour. Turn off heat, and let cheesecake cool, in oven, undisturbed, for at least 2 hours.

Prior to serving, lightly sprinkle with powdered sugar.

***The whole idea of letting it cool in the oven is so that the top of your cheesecake doesn't collapse, like mine did, by cooling down gradually in the oven. I only have one oven, as do most, and needed to bake other things that evening. So I sacrificed a pretty and smooth cheesecake top by letting it cool outside the oven- but it does not affect the taste. I still think it looks kind of pretty, cracks and all...

Oh, and mom, you know I love you, right..?

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Easter Pie, or Pastiera Di Grano

I had thoughts of elegant pictures, and a post rich in history to accompany my recipe today. But as the evening progressed, I find myself giving in to the aches and pains of today's double workout.

Our daily work out is at 9:30 a.m., and then one at 3:00 p.m. for those in our Get Fit Challenge, where we go above and beyond what our morning class does. OMG... I am a hurtin' girl. It hurts to type. It hurts to sit. It hurts to walk. It hurt to stir the batter in my pan today! I seriously think my friend, and instructor, Kelly, giggles like crazy when she plans these routines, because she loves hearing us moan as we do them. And we do. But I really wanted to share this with you before the weekend, so if you'll pardon my lack of holiday history, I think you'll enjoy this recipe none the less. I'd also normally post the prettiest of lattice crusts, but I was seriously, so sore, that I couldn't get the strips to cooperate with me, so that will explain the "slapped together" look.

To have an Easter without and Easter Pie, or Pastiera Di Grano as it is also known, in an Italian family, is a rare one. When I was younger, I had it with rice rather than wheat, as it was much quicker to assemble that way. What I hear from other's is that the wheat grain wasn't available in many areas, necessitating the use of rice or barley. It's delicious though, whichever grain is used. I prefer to buy the hulled grain myself, soak, and cook, a few days before I make the pie. The pie also calls for the use of Orange Blossom Water, which if you can't find, can use Orange Extract, or Orange Oil in a pinch.

Easter Pie, or Pastiera Di Grano

Pasta Frolla (crust)

2 c AP flour
1/2 c sugar
zest of 1 lemon
12 Tbs unsalted butter
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 Tbs milk

Ricotta filling

1/2 c hulled wheat (or prepared jarred or canned wheat grain from an Italian specialty store),
with enough water to cover wheat in pan
1 c whole milk
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 c sugar
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
2 c whole milk ricotta cheese
5 egg yolks
1- 1/2 Tbs Orange Blossom Water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 c candied Citron, chopped
4 egg whites
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Sift together the flour and sugar. Add in the lemon zest. With pastry cutter or your fingers, cut in the butter until it is like the size of peas. Make a well in the center and add the egg yolks and milk. Gradually mix the flour into the egg and milk, just until combined. Form dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and put in fridge for at least an hour, or overnight.

In 2 qt saucepan add wheat with enough water to cover top. Bring to a boil, and then simmer, uncovered, until grains are tender, and water is mostly gone. Then add milk, salt, 2 Tbs sugar (of the 2/3 c), and the zest of both the lemon and the orange. Bring to almost a boil, then let simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is almost completely absorbed. Let cool.

Mix the ricotta with the rest of the sugar. Beat in the egg yolks, cooled grain mixture, Orange Blossom Water, and cinnamon. Add in the chopped Citron. In another bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until stiff. Fold into the ricotta mixture.

Butter and flour a 9" springform pan. Take 2/3 of the crust and roll out big enough to cover the bottom and sides of pan. Pour in the filling, and smooth. With the remaining dough, roll out and cut into 3/4" strips, and weave into a lattice top crust. Bake at 350 for about 50- 60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes and then gently run knife around edge of pan. Un-latch springform pan and remove outer pan. Let cool completely on wire rack before serving. Dust with confectioners sugar just prior to serving.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bourdain Declares Three Little Pigs Sandwich ‘Greatest Sandwich in America’

All I can say is, after this Get Fit Challenge is over, I'm on this...

more about "Bourdain Declares Three Little Pigs S...", posted with vodpod

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Strawberry Bread

We love Strawberries in our house. I love them all the more when I can buy 4 lbs for $4.77. My 2 year old eats them like an apple. My hubby loves Strawberry shortcake in his lunch. I put them on my salads. But even after all that we still had a lot to eat. So out of what was left, I flash froze half, and then with the other half decided to make some Strawberry bread. I've had this recipe in my files for awhile... you know, the "someday" file. As I was looking it over though, I knew I had to make some adjustments to cut out some fat and cholesterol, add some fiber, and make up for some missing ingredients.

I wish I had a better camera (or maybe if I'd read the instruction manual once in a while) to take some nicer pics. There is something, well, very internal looking in them there slices... Makes ya really want to make this something bad now, huh?

This bread really did taste pretty good. My hubby said it tasted even better with what looked like a pound of butter on his slice... ok, yes, I admit, I was envious of the butter! When I do make this again, I think that I may change out the cinnamon for cardamom. I'm one of those weird people, that after December 31st passes, just feels a little OD'd on cinnamon. I'm thinking the cardamom may pair well, or better, with the strawberries. If any one of you does this, please, let me know how it tastes. By the time I thought of it though, I had already added the cinnamon. (For those who just want to try the original version, just click on the pic above and it should enlarge enough to see the original recipe)

As I was making this, I thought it funny that creating one loaf of bread took up this much space.

Strawberry Bread

2 c sliced strawberries
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar, packed
3/4 c AP flour
3/4 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 large egg whites
1/4 c melted margarine
1/3 c non-fat plain Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray loaf pan with non-stick spray and flour pan.

Place strawberries in small bowl and mix with brown sugar.

In a large bowl, blend together the remaining sugar, both flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In a medium bowl, with a whisk, beat the egg whites until foamy, then beat in melted margarine, and Greek yogurt. Add to dry ingredients, blending until moist. Stir in the strawberries.

Scrape batter into loaf pan and bake for 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack about 10 minutes before removing from pan. Makes 1 loaf.

Check this out- I've been cooking and baking like crazy, and have still managed (with exercise) to finally wear me a pair of baggy pants- 18 lbs down and only 22 more to go!

I know, I need a manicure, bad...

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