You Gonna Eat All That?

A fork in one hand, a pen in the other.

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Location: Virginia, United States

(Biscuit Girl)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Beet Salad

One of our favorite appetizers at Corduroy is the Salad of Beets, Baby Carrots and Goat Cheese. If I don't get the Lobster Salad (omg, it's good), this is one that I will usually order.

Today while strolling the aisles of Trader Joe's, I spied a bag of baby beets in the produce case. Already cooked, they are ready to use straight from the bag. I immediately thought of the Corduroy salad. Tossing the beets into the cart, I headed right over to the cheeses and picked up a package of goat cheese.

As a starter to our meal tonight, I present my version of Corduroy's salad of beets, baby carrots and goat cheese.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

English Muffin follow-up

Because curious minds wanted to know, these are English muffin rings. I got mine from The Baker's Catalogue. Here's a direct link to the item.
We have really been enjoying a toasted muffin for breakfast in the morning. Jim says a touch of honey is especially tasty. Me, just some butter (or in my case, Smart Balance). And seeing as we are down to two muffins, I may have to make some more this weekend. I plan to make them a little thinner and handle the dough more gently to see if I can get more of the nooks and crannies that make English muffins are famous for. And I will have a new kitchen toy to make them with. What is it? You'll have to come back this weekend to find out.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers May Challenge - Opera Cake

When I first saw the challenge for this month I thought there's no way I can do this, it's way too complicated. Then I realized that this is what the Daring Bakers is all about, pushing yourself to try something you may not have tried otherwise, to try baking techniques and recipes that you otherwise thought you could not do. So with that in mind I was onboard. The main thing with this cake was that it had to be light in flavor as well as color so using flavors like milk or dark chocolate, coffee, ect were out. The cake itself was almond flavored and we had the option to make the butter cream plain or flavored. I chose to make it orange as it would pair well with the almond in the cake. The mousse topping flavor I chose was almond.

The recipe was quite lengthy but I managed to get it down to 5 pages. I won't post it here due to the length but will be more than happy to e-mail you a copy if you like. You could also check the other Daring Bakers as well to see if anyone posted it. And as a bonus you'll get to see all the other beautiful cakes that were made.

I started the cake the weekend before I intended to serve it. Most of the fillings and glazes could be made ahead and stored in the fridge which was a huge help seeing as this cake was a time consuming project.

Perhaps the part of the recipe that had me the most nervous was making the buttercream. I've heard so many people say they try and try and can never make a buttercream that actually turns out right and tastes good. So I read and re-read this part of the recipe several time to assure I knew what to do. A fellow DB also posted a video on how to make buttercream that was super helpful.

While the water and sugar heated to the proper temperature, I whisked an egg white and a whole egg until it was light and fluffy.
Once the sugar and water reached the proper temperature I slowly added it to the eggs while the mixer was on the slowest speed.
Here is an overhead shot of me adding the sugar mixture. You have to let it run down the sides of the bowl so there is less splattering as it blends into the eggs.Once all the sugar mixture was added I raised the speed on the mixer to medium and beat it for about 5 minutes until the mixture looked satiny and the bowl was cooler to the touch. Then I added chunks of softened butter (1-3/4 cups) a little at a time until it was fully incorporated.Then I turned the mixer on high and beat the butter cream until it was thick and shiny. I also added some orange flavoring at this part of the process. And this is the finished product. At first the butter was the most prominent flavor and I was a little concerned that the orange flavor would be lost but after it mellowed out in the fridge a few days the flavors were much more balanced and the orange was certainly noticed.

I baked the cake itself the night before I planned to serve it. The house smelled so good, toasted almond and butter filled the air. Once the cake was cooled I carefully wrapped it in plastic wrap so it would be ready for assembly the next day.
I had a very full day planned so I got up early and started to get the last part of the cake prepared, the white chocolate mousse topping. One slight mishap with reading the recipe sent Jim to the store at the last minute to buy some more heavy cream but aside from that it all went together very easily. One thing I'd note is that I had almost twice as much buttercream, mousse and glaze than I actually needed. And while most of the other DB's sliced the sides off the cake to reveal the cake and its layers, I left mine as is to help keep in the moisture. I wouldn't be served until late that night and I didn't want it to be dry.

The other part of my day was taken up by a library program. A close friend and collegue, Ted, writes murder mysteries set in libraries. He's written six so far and they are so much fun! We were premiering his latest that night, Mesa Verde Murder. I played Kat L. Russler, a widowed ranch owner and mother to seven sons. The library hosting this program was less than 5 miles from my house so I decided to invite the cast and crew over afterwards to help unwind, have a bite to eat and have some opera cake.Jim did such a great job helping put this all together. He made couscous paella with chicken and chorizo sausage that was very, very tasty (even as leftovers the next day). He also got everything set up while we were still at the library. We had sliced roast beef and rolls, fresh veggies, grapes, cheese and crackers, nuts, and olives. Plus a cooler full of wine, beer and soft drinks.

Once we all had our fill of the food, I brought out the cake. There were lots of ooh's and ah's especially after I sliced it. More nummy noises were heard while we all tried the cake. It was really, really good. I was so happy that it turned out well and that I rose to the challenge and no longer fear making buttercream.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

English Muffins

For Christmas, my in-laws gave me a cache of bread baking supplies. Among the lot was a set of eight English muffin rings that until today have sadly sat unused. I looked at several recipes before I settled on one I found by another blogger named Barbara at Wine and Foodies.

It was a very easy recipe to put together. Even though it said to let the dough rise overnight, you can actually cut that time down to 2-3 hours. Cooking them took about 30 minutes (15 minutes per side) but that time may vary depending on your stove.

The only change I'd make to the recipe isto divide the dough into 12 pieces instead of 8. The muffins are really tall like ones you can get from Wolferman's. I think a slightly thinner muffin may be more to my liking but that may change after we give these a taste test in the morning.
English Muffins

2 teaspoons yeast
½ teaspoon sugar
8½ ounces warm water
4¼ ounces warm milk
2¼ cups high grade flour
2¼ cups standard flour
1 teaspoon salt
fine cornmeal

Put the yeast and sugar in a small bowl with half the warm water. Stir and set aside for a few minutes, then add the remaining water and the milk.

Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and use your hand to mix in the yeast, water and milk mixture. Knead the mixture which will be sticky, thoroughly in the bowl (or use the dough hook of an electric mixer).

Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise until more than doubled in bulk. Although this may take only a couple of hours, the dough can be allowed to rise overnight. Deflate the dough by pulling it away from the sides of the bowl. Lift it out of the bowl and divide into 8 pieces.

Drop each piece on to a tray liberally dusted with rice flour or fine cornmeal and roll them over until well coated. Form each piece into a thick disc.Place the disks on a baking tray and place another tray on top.Leave to rest and rise 20 minutes, then remove top tray.

Place a cast iron griddle or large frying pan over low heat. When only moderately hot place four of the muffins on it and cook for about ten minutes until light beige on the bottom. Turn the muffins over and cook the second side for a similar length of time.
Wrap the cooked muffins in a dry tea towel while you cook the remaining four. Pull apart and eat while still warm.

For toasting pull the muffins apart and toast on both sides.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Lack of posting

Sorry for the lack of posting the past two weeks. We've been a little pre-occupied with Sophie. We found out a few weeks ago that what we thought was a fatty cyst on her front leg is in fact cancer. The first veterinarian we saw was a surgeon. Thinking this was just a fatty cyst, our vet referred us to the surgeon to have it removed. Well I wish it had been that simple.
The surgeon was convinced it was a tumor and suggested two ghastly options even before we had the results of a needle biopsy. One was to remove the tumor with most of the skin around that part of her leg then deal with skin grafts. Now I'm no expert but that sounds pretty god awful painful. The other option was to amputate the leg. Uh, no. No way, not until we knew exactly what type and grade of tumor we were dealing with. The vet was not in favor of radiation and gave no reason why.
I was not convinced or comfortable with going any further until we talked to Sophie's regular vet. When we did, she thought these options were a bit aggressive and suggested we go see a veterinary oncologist. We did and we really like her. She laid out all the possibilities, including the ones the surgeon mentioned but said they weren't the first thing we should consider. So after consulting with her, we decided to have a surgical biopsy done to determine the grade of the tumor.
The results came back a few days later and the oncologist said that of the three grades it could have been it was a 2, which is the middle grade and possible the best we could have hoped for in this case. The tumor is too big to just remove with clean margins since that would mean most of the skin around her elbow would need to be removed. A grade 2 tumor is one that will take radiation well enough to shrink it, hopefully enough to make surgical removal possible. A grade 2 is also not the most aggressive and only has a 20% chance of metastasizing.
So we will begin radiation on Sophie's leg this coming Tuesday. 16 sessions every day, Monday through Friday. Dogs do well with radiation thankfully. This isn't to say that she won't be uncomfortable. There will be a lot of tenderness at the site beginning in the 2nd or 3rd week and it will look like a really bad sunburn. That may last a few weeks after radiation ends as things start to heal up. This also means we have to keep her away from licking it. Yes, she will have to wear an Elizabethan collar. She is wearing one now because we don't want her licking the biopsy site as it heals. Poor thing hates it. Although I am trying out the soft collar I wore when I hurt my neck. It fits her and may be wide enough to keep her from reaching her lower leg. We'll see. So far she seems more content with it on vs the other collar.
I've sent several e-mails updating to friends and family of the last few weeks letting them know about Sophie. And if positive thinking has anything to do with healing, then Sophie is in good hands. It almost makes me cry when I think of how much you all have helped with your words of encouragement and advice. Thank you all so very much.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My sister bakes too!

Looks like I wasn't the only one busy in the kitchen this weekend. My sister sent me some pictures to show off her baking skills. This one caught my eye, a pistachio coffee cake. Doesn't it look good?

1 package (2 layer cake size) yellow cake mix
1 package Pistachio Instant Pudding
4 eggs
1 Cup sour cream (the real stuff, not light)
1/2 Cup oil
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 Cup chopped pistachio
1/2 Cup chopped walnuts

Powder sugar (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped pistachio

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine cake mix, pudding, 4 eggs, sour cream, oil and the almond extract in large mixing bowl. Blend just enough with spoon to get it lightly mixed. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer for 2 minutes. Batter will be very thick. Combine sugars, cinnamon, and nuts in a bowl.

Pour 1/3 of batter into a greased and floured 10" bunt pan; sprinkle with of sugar mixture and top with remaining batter.

Bake in 350 oven for 40 minutes or until cake test come out clean. Cool for 15 minutes before removing from pan. When completely cooled dust with powder sugar & finely chopped pistachios.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Schezuan Beef Noodle Soup

Lots of cooking in the kitchen this weekend. As much for the need to eat and prep my Daring Baker's May challenge as it was to relieve stress. While I can't say what I prepped for the Daring Baker's challenge, I can report that we have several containers of strawberry jam that I made yesterday.

Today was the DB prep as well as noodle for some Schezuan Beef Noodle Soup that Jim cooked up. We've only had this dish at restaurants and wanted to make it at home but never found the right recipe. Today while surfing the net, Jim came across a recipe that looked good. Using it and several others he put together a soup that was slap your momma good. I know.....terrible term to use on Mother's Day but it's true, this soup was great! And there is enough leftover for dinner tomorrow night.

To go with it, I also made scallion pancakes, another elusive recipe that I've tried to make several times before with limited success. But after looking at several, I made one that came as close to the real thing as ever.

Scallion Pancakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp salt
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
vegetable oil

Mix the flour, water and salt in a bowl until a ball is formed. Turn out onto a flat surface and knead for about 5 minutes or until smooth. Add flour or water as needed. Cover the dough and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Unwrap the dough and divide into 6 sections and roll into balls. Keep covered until ready to roll out. One piece at a time, roll out the dough into a circle about 1/8" thick and brush with oil.
Scatter about 1-2 tbsp of the scallions on top of the dough.
Roll up the dough like a cigar.
Then coil it up .Cover and repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. When all are done, take out one piece and roll it out to about 1/8" thickness. (don't worry if it squishes out green onions)Heat a skillet over medium heat with 1 tsp oil. When hot add one pancake and cook until the bottom is golden brown, flip over and brown the other side. Repeat with remaining pancakes. Slice into 4-6 pieces and serve.

Egg Free Chinese Noodles
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp coarse salt
2 tsp corn or peanut oil
1 cup water

Mix all the ingredients and knead by hand for about 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.

Unwrap the dough, cut into 4 equal pieces. Cover set aside. Take one piece at a time and flatten with your hands into a disc. Roll out to a 14 inch square (and less than 1/8" thick), dusting with flour as needed. Move the dough to a cloth or paper towel to dry while you work on the other three pieces.

Taking the first piece you rolled out, liberally dust both sides with cornstarch, smoothing it out with your hands. taking opposite edges, fold the dough into thirds. Using a pizza cutter, slice the dough into even strips about 1/8" in width (or slightly wider if you like). Unroll the noodles by tossing them with your fingers. Spread them out on a cookie sheet to dry for 15-20 minutes. You can cook them at this point or put them in a plastic bag and refrigerate or freeze them.

To cook them: Place in boiling soup or water for about 3 - 4 minutes or until desired tenderness.

Schezuan Beef Noodle Soup
3 1/2 lbs beef short ribs bone-in
2 1/2 quarts water
1/2 cup aji-mirin (or shaoxing and additional brown sugar if needed)
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tsp five spice powder (or 5-6 whole star anise pods)
2 tsp whole szechuan peppercorns
1 tsp red pepper flakes
4 inch piece of ginger, cut into several pieces and crushed with the back of a knife
6 green onions, green parts chopped, white parts crushed with the back of a knife
6 cloves garlic, crushed with the back of a knife
10 cilantro stems, leaves separated from stem pieces

Soak beef in cold water for 20 minutes to remove blood, then dispose of water
Bring 2 1/2 quarts of water to boil in stock pot.
Add beef, return to boil, skim foam and impurities from surface.
Reduce to simmer, add aji-mirin, soy sauce, five spice powder, szechuan peppercorns, pepper flakes, ginger, white part of green onions, garlic, and cilantro stems.
Simmer for 2 1/2 hours. Remove beef, then strain solids from soup and add soup back into pot. Debone the beef, then remove fat and cartilage and add back into pot.

Return to boil, use soup to cook chinese wheat noodles (store-bought or use recipe here). Also, if desired add steamed greens or use broth to cook baby bok choy or watercress. Serve in soup bowls with cilantro and green onion tops for garnish.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Chicken Enchiladas

I made these last week and just now got around to posting it. But the timing is great as today is Cinco De Mayo. So pop a few Pacifico's in the fridge and start cooking.

I modified this recipe that I found in the Dec. 07 Cooking Light. If was very easy to make and very, very tasty.

Chile Chicken Enchiladas
3 cups chicken broth
1½ cups finely chopped onion, divided
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
4 (6 oz) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
½ cup sour cream
3 cups Green Chile Sauce (see recipe below)
Cooking spray
16 (6 inch) corn tortillas
¾ cup (3 oz) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
½ cup (2 oz) shredded cheddar cheese

Combine broth, 1 cup onion, and next 5 ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from pan; chill 15 minutes. Shred chicken into bite sized pieces. Combine chicken, remaining ½ cup onion, and sour cream in a bowl, stirring well.

Preheat oven to 350°. Spread ¼ cup of the Green Chile Sauce in the bottom of 2 (11” x 7”) baking dishes coated with cooking spray. If the tortillas are stiff, warm them according to package directions. Spoon about 1/3 cup chicken mixture down center of each tortilla; roll up. Place 8 filled tortillas, seam-side down, in each dish; pour 1¼ cups of remaining Green Chile Sauce over filled tortillas in each dish. Combine cheeses in a bowl. Sprinkle half of cheese mixture evenly over filled tortillas in each dish. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Serves 4

Green Chile Sauce

6 Anaheim chiles*
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

Preheat broiler.** Place chiles on a foil lined baking sheet; broil 14 minutes or until blackened and charred, turning after 7 minutes. Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel and discard skins. Cut a lengthwise slit in each chile. Remove and discard seeds and tops. Chop chilies to measure 3/4 cup.

Heat canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; sauté for 1 minute. Stir in flour; cook 1 minute. Add chiles, coriander, salt, and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Using a stick blender, blend the mixture until smooth; stir well. Cool completely.

* I used poblano chilies.

** I used the gas stove top to char the chilies. I placed each one on a serving fork and held it over the open flame, turning as the skin .

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