Category Archives: Food

An Overdue Update

Wow I can’t believe how much I have abandoned my blog during this pregnancy.  I haven’t visited or posted on here in the last 2 1/2 months!  I guess we’ll just call it an unannounced maternity leave.  Time has been going by so quickly this summer, and I guess I have somewhat lost interest and had my mind on other things.  And I must say that since the beginning of the pregnancy, I have sort of lost my creative spark in the kitchen.  I know, it is sad.  In the beginning I had a very picky appetite, although no problems with nausea or morning sickness.  Then my appetite and taste for food got more normal but cooking has just seemed like more work than it ever did before.  Other than my creative spunk in the kitchen, or lack of, there has been plenty of other fun things to post on so I think I have some catching up to do.

I know, enough excuses already, but I also must say that I always heard about ‘pregnancy brain’ before and thought it was sort of just a joke.  I’m telling you, it is real.  It is very REAL!  I won’t have my husband get on here to tell stories and examples, but will just say it is real, it’s not really funny, and maybe has something to do with neglecting the blog.  =)

I should start with a little update on this season’s gardening.  Honestly, my energy and effort in the garden has been much the same as in the kitchen.  Again, sad.  This summer we have had 90 degree weather all day every day for a while now so I tend to stay out of the heat and go in the garden right when the mosquitos want to come out and run me out of there.

My sunflowers are probably my favorite thing in the garden this year.  They now stand tall and make me happy.  I’ll definitely have to plant a bunch of them from now on!

And then of course the berries!  Processing of them has so far consisted of eating them fresh and sticking the rest in the freezer. =)

Had plenty of strawberries to enjoy too…

Our tomato bed sort of exploded with all the sunny hot days we’ve had, and is now full of green tomatoes..

And we are still enjoying some Chioggia Beets and some carrots.  I don’t think they did as great as we got them the last couple summers, I’m thinking it’s because every day this spring was rainy and then it seemed to switch overnight to being 90 degrees and hot everyday…

The peas did pretty well too.  Oh and my lavender from last year came back, and blew up…

So the garden has not got all the TLC this year that it has deserved and needed, I suppose I should get out there and pick more raspberries and pull some weeds.

I will be back soon to post updates on the progress in the baby’s room.  It’s a work in progress, and slow going, but I have a lovely vision for it and I’ll soon share pictures of the improvements along the way.  =)

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

It’s spring in Montana, so that means there are some yummy treats being made with our rhubarb.  This is our plant’s third season planted here, and I love seeing it come back bigger and better every year.

The leaves and stalks are huge, they took up half of our dining room table.  I froze a lot of berries last summer from our garden and some produce farms in WA that we visited, so with the strawberries I stored away in the freezer I’ve been making Strawberry-Rhubarb Custard Pie lately.  So good, I love the sweet and tart combination.

Just snapped some quick shots with the ol’ iPhone cameras, and this was the last piece of pie so it was kinda falling apart and I didn’t get to take one of it glistening when it was hot out of the oven.

Pie is not usually the first dessert I make at home for me and my hubby, even though I come from a long line of pie-making and pie-eating dutch women!  There usually has to be a good reason for me to make it, like Thanksgiving, or an abundance of rhubarb.  🙂  The fun thing about pies though, is the more you make them the better you get at it, and it’s good to be familiar with how to make a good dough and master pie crust.

You can find the recipe over at my cousin’s blog, Born in the Wrong Century.  🙂

Broccoli Cheddar Soup and Pretzel Bread

A little while ago I had mentioned that I made some Broccoli Cheddar Soup and some Pretzel Bread, and wanted to share with you since they turned out so yummy.  The Pretzel Bread was found when I was perusing around this cute blog that I recently stumbled upon, The Apron Archives (isn’t that the cutest name?).  I made sure to pin it so I wouldn’t forget about it.  Turns out I couldn’t stop thinking about it and needed to try making some soon.  So I made it to go with a Broccoli Cheddar Soup the other weekend, and the two made for many heart-warming meals.

The bread is a great one for dipping into soups and making sandwiches with.  I think what I like most about it is that it’s a pretty quick and easy homemade bread to make.  Where most homemade breads are nearly an all day process, the process for Pretzel Bread takes only a few hours.  (Your active working time with it is only a fraction of that three hours).  It was fun to make too, as there’s a little excitement when you get to drop your dough into the pot of boiling water.  Now I want to try making pretzels soon. =)

I won’t write out the Pretzel Bread recipe, as you can find it over here and here.  I highly recommend it, especially if you like making bread but don’t like spending a lot of time on it.

::Broccoli Cheddar Soup::

1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2-3 leeks, quarter lengthwise, rinse, then chop
4 garlic cloves, minced
6-ish potatoes, preferably yukon golds, diced
2 large heads broccoli, chopped
1 qt. chicken stock
6-ish c. whole milk
1-2 T fresh parsley and thyme, chopped
grated cheddar cheese

In a hot pot over med-high heat, sauté onions until translucent, about 4-5 min. Add in leeks and garlic and saute another 4-5 min.  Add in the potatoes and broccoli, a pinch of s+p, and let cook and steam until they’re a little tender, about 7 min., stirring frequently.  Sprinkle in the flour, stir and cook for a few minutes to cook out the raw flour flavor.  Pour in chicken stock and let cook until hot, then stir in whole milk.  Let simmer until the potatoes and broccoli are tender enough to eat and the soup has thickened a little.  Ladle about a third of the soup into a blender and puree.  Pour back into pot.  If you prefer a completely creamy and smooth soup, use an immersion blender, take the pot off the heat and puree the soup until smooth.  (For this soup, my hubby and I prefer the chunks of veggies to bite into, so I puree just some of the soup to make it a little more creamy).  Sprinkle in the fresh herbs, season with salt and pepper to taste.  To serve, garnish with a big pinch of cheddar cheese and enjoy.

I love adding the cheese to the soup as it’s dished up and let it melt in the bowl, as I think the cheese flavor just sort of disappears when added into the big hot soup pot.  This is my kind of dinner (and lunch) for all the cold winter days we’re having.  Enjoy!

Photos of the Week {7} : My Valentines Surprise

I have been laying off the internet ‘play time’ this last week, i.e. facebook, pinterest, and blogging, as a little break from it every now and then is nice. The week was taken up with my husband being sick with a cold, and me being busy making desserts at the restaurant for Valentines Day.  After I got all of the desserts done at work I caught his cold, so we both have been laying low.

I did some nice desserts at the restaurant, which I am so wishing I would have brought my camera in to get some pictures of.  I made a lot of the usuals, Tiramisu, Cannoli, and the (almost flourless, gluten-free) Chocolate Hazelnut Torte.  And for all the sweethearts being treated to a special dining experience, I made some Goats Cheese-Buttermilk Panna Cotta (I loved them, they turned out so nice) that went with a Red Wine Apricot – Black Mission Fig Compote and a Citrus Lace Tuille.  The other special was a chocolate lover’s tart: Chocolate Soufflé Tart in a Chocolate Almond Shortbread Crust with a Godiva Sabayon and Raspberries.  They were also garnished with some pretty little edible flowers.

I would love to get some of these desserts on my blog, but I never bring in my camera to work and I just can’t talk about them and post a recipe without some pictures!  =)  I’ll share some of them on here soon.

Anyway, despite my hubby being sick this last week, he still took me out for a lovely dinner, surprised me with a vase of pretty flowers, and… a very nice and unexpected surprise…

First I must tell you that last Fall we did a road trip down to Yellowstone N.P., Grand Teton N.P., and Jackson Hole, WY.  In Jackson I made a point to stop in to a very fine chocolate shop called Coco Love.  (There’s a blog post here on the shop if you’d like to see more pictures).

In this sleek little modern shop are some fine pastries, coffee, gelato, and fine chocolate truffles of world renowned Pastry Chef and Chocolate Master, Oscar Ortega.

I didn’t leave there without indulging in some amazing chocolates, my favorite was the Goats Milk Caramel Truffle- amazing!

Anyway, this last week my husband surprised me with some special Atelier Ortega chocolates for Valentines…

And a surprise it was!  We have been enjoying the divine flavors and amazing velvety textures of these fine chocolates over the week.

They’re so pretty, they make for a great photo subject too.

Well, there’s three left which I must go take care of right now.  =)

Great job to my husband, and many hugs and kisses!

 

Whiskey Barbecue Sliders

There have been quite a few recipes I’ve seen on some good blogs and websites lately that just got stuck in my head and wouldn’t go away.  So I gave in and cooked them up to enjoy over the weekend and for the Superbowl.  I ended up making a pot of Broccoli Cheddar Soup, Pretzel Bread, some cookies (of course), and these Whiskey BBQ Sliders.  I want to post the soup and Pretzel Bread later but for now, it’s all about the whiskey and the barbecue.

I first came across the Sliders over at Taco Tuesday and they totally caught my eye and made my mouth water, so I checked ’em out over at Pioneer Woman too.  With the jalapeños, whiskey, and a whole lot of barbecue sauce I was sure that my hubby would be excited for this dinner.  Ended up that he was, so much that he got in the kitchen to cook with me. =)

He loved how the entire house smelled while they were cooking too, “The house smells awesome right now, if there was a cologne that smelled just like this, I’d want it… I want to grab all my clothes and hang them up out here so they’ll smell as good as the house does right now.”  So funny, I’m not sure he loves that I blog about his comments, but I get a kick out of them.

We made them more like small-ish burgers, but I like to call ’em sliders anyway, it just sounds more exciting.  I love that they’re so saucy, and the sautéed onions add flavor and more texture in the sauce, the jalepenos and whiskey add a little kick.  Next time though I’ll use the ‘hot’ jalepenos rather than the ‘tame’ ones, maybe just chop them up to add into the sauce.  Sweet potato fries dipped in blue cheese dressing go great with these too.

I think this will be a sort of regular dinner around here.  Its fun to have a new way to cook up some of the beef in the freezer, and one that’s really quick and easy too.  I know you want the recipe now, it’s right here and here.  Oh and don’t forget, you’ll need heaps of napkins for this.  =)

Chocolate {Birthday} Cake with Italian Cocoa-Kahlua Buttercream and Ganache

It is not too often a Chocolate Cake comes around that has me describing it as perfect.  And ever since I started making desserts in some of the local restaurants, Chocolate Cake comes around a lot.  This Chocolate Birthday Cake does have me using the word perfect so many times.  It is made with hot coffee and Kahlua, what girl or chocolate-lover wouldn’t call this perfect?

My husband’s birthday was last weekend, and this was his fifth annual Birthday Cake.  I have made it for him every year since we met, and it’s a tradition that will definitely keep on going.  He loves it and really looks forward to it every year.

Chocolate and coffee are so lovely together.  Coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate, and chocolate compliments coffee perfectly, in my opinion.  That combination makes this cake wonderful.  Not to mention that the recipe and method is so easy and simple.  A mixer is not even needed, as all you really use is two large mixing bowls and a whisk.

This cake has rich chocolate flavor, a lovely velvety texture, and the crumb and consistency is just right, as it’s not too dense and not too light and crumbly.  It is perfect for layering, shaping, sculpting, and slicing, which means it would be perfect for a wedding cake with a lot of layers and tiers.

…Notice how many times I use the word perfect?  I really can’t help it!  You’d think I was trying to sell something here.  Well, although I’m not selling anything and getting any richer with this, I hope you print this recipe and give it a try.  And I know I talked it up a lot, so you’ll have to let me know your review once you enjoy a slice of this chocolate heaven.  =)


::Chocolate (Birthday) Cake::
{from Colette Peters book, Cakes to Dream On, modified slightly}

2 c. AP flour
1 t baking soda
pinch of salt

1 3/4 c. hot coffee
1/4 c. Kahlua
5 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped into small pieces
8 oz unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, then to room temp

1 3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs, at room temp
2 t vanilla

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  Coat two 8″ round cake pans with butter and line the bottoms with parchment paper.  (Cut parchment in a round to fit inside the bottom of the cake pan.)

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add in the chopped chocolate, Kahlua, and softened butter.  Pour in the hot coffee, make sure it’s very hot.  Give it a little stir, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let set for about ten minutes until all the mixture is melted.  Stir around until smooth.  (If you still end up with it not all melted you can set your bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water and stir the chocolate coffee mixture until it’s all smooth.)

Whisk in the sugar, let the mixture cool completely.  Whisk in the dry mix in two batches.  Then whisk in the eggs and vanilla.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a tester comes out of the center clean.  Rotate the cake pans after 30 minutes if necessary.

Let the cakes cool completely in their pans, set on a wire rack.  After cooling completely, and even letting them refrigerate for a while, you can remove the cakes from the pans.  Run a butter knife along the inside edge of the pan, then set a flat plate or small cutting board over the cake pan, invert, and tap gently upside down.  When you feel the cake fall down, lift up the pan.  Chill the cake layers completely before icing and decorating.

::Cocoa-Kahlua Buttercream::

My basic ratio for Simple Buttercream is 1 lb softened butter for every 2 lbs (about 8 cups) powdered sugar and 1 T vanilla.  I use that basic ratio and just go by it’s creamy, fluffy consistency as I make it.  Buttercream is often made with an egg, but I do not use any.

1 lb butter, softened/room temp
1 lb, 12 oz powdered sugar (or 7 c.)
1/2 c. cocoa
1 or 1 1/2 T Kahlua

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the softened butter until it’s light and fluffy.  Gradually add in the sugar and the cocoa, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go.  Add in the Kahlua and continue beating until it is light and smooth.  Do not chill before using.

To ice the cake, it is good to do a crumb coat on the chilled cake first.  Spread icing on the top of one layer, set the other layer on top.  Then simply spread on a thin layer of buttercream on the whole stacked cake, not worrying if the icing picks up some crumbs or not.  Refrigerate that for a bit, then gently spread on your Cocoa Kahlua Buttercream.

For this buttercream, I got to use some Italian Cocoa that my cousin sent me for Christmas.  =)


::Simple Chocolate Ganache::

1 c. chocolate chips (at home I use ghirardelli 60% bittersweet)
1 c. heavy cream

Set the cream in a small saucepan over med-high heat.  Set your chocolate in a medium bowl.  Once the cream reaches a simmer/light boil, pour it over the chocolate and let set a few minutes.  Stir until it’s all melted and smooth.  Use as desired in decorating, or pour in a squeeze bottle to drizzle over the cake as you serve it.

I still want to try making this cake with some Grand Marnier in place of the Kahlua.  Then layer it with Orange Buttercream, using fresh, concentrated orange juice in the place of vanilla, and adding in some orange zest.  I love dark chocolate and orange together.

Cheers and happy baking. =)

Oh Weekend, How I Love Thee

This last weekend I enjoyed a relaxing but semi-productive couple of days full of some baking, cooking, going walking with the dog, a little knitting, and celebrating my husband’s birthday with some friends and family.  (And him too, of course.)

While my man was out snowmobiling for his day I was in my comfy lounge pants making his favorite, fifth annual, Chocolate Birthday Cake.

He loves this cake.  Like REALLY loves it.  So do I of course.  I have made this amazing and oh so perfect Chocolate Cake every year for his birthday since we met, and he always makes sure to hint around the week or two prior to his day to make sure I’ll be making it.  =)  I’m kinda proud that he likes loves it so much and I’ve made it for him every year so far.

I can’t begin to try and tell you how perfect this cake is through my writing, but can just tell you that it is not your ordinary chocolate cake.  It is made with hot coffee and Kahlua, has just the perfect rich chocolate flavor, is perfectly moist, and has just the perfect crumb, structure, and density to hold up to shaping and sculpting (if you want to get that fancy), and velvety texture.  It’s not too heavy or dense, and it is not too light.  This Chocolate Cake is covered in Ganache and Italian Cocoa-Kahlua Buttercream.  The oh-so-wonderful recipe will be up and shared soon.

I also made a pot of my Potato Leek Soup.  This time just simplified it by not roasting the potatoes and leeks.  I really have a thing for soups and stews in the winter.

Also have a thing for knitted hats.  So my brother’s (late) Christmas gift was worked on a little bit…

This is my last of the hats for gifts.  After this is finished, there is a super cute one I’ve found and must make for myself before I’m done with my hat kick.  The Off Piste, pattern and design from the owner of my LYS (local yarn shop), is so cute with the cables and brim.

I thought that for my 2012 knitting goals I would plan and share my next two to three monthly projects ahead of time.  So January’s project is the Off Piste hat for me.

February is going to be the Annie’s Woolens Christmas Stocking.  For the last two years now I have really wanted to make Christmas Stockings for hubby and I, but it keeps getting bumped down the to-do list.  So I’m finally going to make one for myself in February, then make Will’s stocking.  I’m excited about these two projects and about the knitting goal I made for the year.  =)

Also got to enjoy a nice long walk with my two guys over the weekend…

Oh how I love weekends.  =)