Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chocolate Truffle Tartlets

The Second Installment from Tuesdays With Dorie

This week, we made Chocolate Truffle Tartlets from Baking with Julia.

Here is a link to the recipe!

I can only describe it as a lot of work without the reward. There are many reasons why I did not love these tartlets. Here we go:

1) The Chocolate Dough made me feel incompetent (not that I actually have my act together). I made it in my food processor after watching the Baking with Julia episode where David Ogonowski admitted that it might be dry and flaky. I added extra water. I tried not to over work it. I wrapped it in cling wrap and put it in the freezer. Then, in a rookie move, I took it out of the freezer much later and tried to shape it. Yes, it was frozen into a rock. So, I put it in the refrigerator (like I should have to begin with) and tried again hours later. After proper refrigeration, it easily went into my mini-tart pans.

2) I poked the crusts with a fork and baked them. However, I think I made my crusts too thick and they took up too much of the pans so there wasn't enough room for truffle.

3) I am not a bittersweet chocolate fan. That is why I had unsweetened baking chocolate that expired in Feb 2010 in my kitchen. Was it no good anymore or is it that I just don't like the bitter experience? And, when your chocolate is a few years past its prime, it is hard to finely chop it.

4) Speaking of chopping chocolate, I didn't chop the milk and white chocolate small enough so when the tart finished baking, there were large pieces that didn't melt into the truffle.

5) What is with a recipe that makes you bake two other things first? I guess I shouldn't count having to make the Chocolate Dough as another thing, but it was on a separate page in the book and I'm already complaining...But to ask for 4 biscotti, like I have them lying around the house next to old gym shoes and expired unsweetend chocolate? I bought some Trader Joe's Almond Biscotti which I think defeats the purpose of baking from scratch.

In the end...we didn't love this. I thought it was because we rushed to eat it out of the oven. However, even the next day it wasn't great. We tried heating it so it would have a melted center and it was ok. Not worth all the effort.

They can't all be winners.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Vegan Cupcakes

Another reason to love the internet. When your kid has a playdate and you promise them that they can bake. However, the friend coming over is allergic to nuts and dairy and eggs. What is there to bake? How about some vegan cupcakes?

These were very easy to make and very tasty. The vanilla ones were from a recipe by Post Punk Kitchen. I like to use vanilla paste since I don't have any vanilla beans. It still gives flakes of bean in the cupcake without the cost of buying beans. Also, I used Soy milk instead of Almond milk (nut allergy!).

The chocolate cupcake recipe I got from Allrecipes.com. I used apple cider vinegar instead of plain vinegar.

After the playdate friend left, I made two different icings. A chocolate one for the vanilla cupcakes and a vanilla one for the chocolate cupcakes. Needless to say, there were no leftovers.

I adapted the icing recipes from Joy of Cooking:

Similar to their Quick White Icing:

Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a barely simmering double boiler. Remove from heat and stir in 2 cups of powdered sugar (2 1/2 if you are making the chocolate icing), 3 tablespoons milk and a nice dash of salt. Then put back on double boiler and cook 5 minutes. Stir now and then. Remove from heat and add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Beat for a few minutes until cooled and the consistency of icing.

I made mine earlier in the day, let it sit covered on the counter and stirred it together well before icing cooled cupcakes.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Baking with Julia: Part 1 The White Loaves

As I have mentioned in a previous post, my desire to fit in a group will be outweighing my natural urge to be a lazy bum. I need to post twice a month about my baking experience and experiments with Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan so I can hang out on the Internet with other bakers.

I have actually not missed the first deadline yet. Which is pretty impressive since I seem to be late at everything since I had kids.

The first recipe we baked as a group is White Loaves. I know the title and description knocks you off your feet and may actually cause drooling. After all, how often do you get to eat white bread, especially when it isn't a holiday or birthday or a leap year. (Big sarcasm here, plus it is a leap year).

Baking white loaves almost doesn't seem worth the effort. My kids take sandwiches to school multiple times a week and we fly through loaves of bread. Do they even care what bread they are eating? Isn't it just a way to transport peanut butter and jelly to school? However, making a loaf of bread from scratch changes the way any sandwich tastes.

Daughter M said that this was the only time she liked eating the crust on bread. Since the kiddies tend to bring home the crusts from their lunchboxes every day, that is high praise.

The recipe (on page 81 in the book), makes 2 loaves. Here is a link to it. Unfortunately, I am giving 1 loaf to the family that is entertaining my non-football watching child during the Super Bowl. That leaves 1 loaf for the whole family, which won't make it more that 1-2 days. I guess I could start baking bread every week.

And while telling someone about this group and recipe and blog etc. I realized that instead of adding 1/2 a stick of butter I added the whole stick. Which is probably why this bread is way more wonderful than it should be.

Enjoy the picture. This was very easy to make and might become a weekly occurrence in my house.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

2012 - The year I start baking more?

It is amazing the lengths one will go through to join a group. I'm not talking about Sorority Rush (although I have been through that and it was a positive experience).

I'm talking about me actually posting to this blog more than once every few years just so I can join a group of bakers. I had wanted to join these happy bakers a few years ago. However, I couldn't get my act together to post weekly (let alone yearly) about what recipe they were working on. So, since Baking with Dorie Greenspan has ended, I am going to try to join Baking with Julia. It should take a few years...and should get me to post more often. Hopefully it won't also include me gaining a few pounds. I'm hoping I'm not signing up for that too!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Easy Crock Pot Chicken Noodle Soup with Vegetables

The wintry weather has arrived in Chicago. Our outside thermometer showed 28 degrees at 7:30am. Time to haul out the crock pot and start heating up the kitchen with the sweet smells of dinner.

My first dinner of the cold weather season: Chicken Noodle Soup. This was so easy and so quick to do. I had just about everything in the house. I got the idea from Fix-It & Forget-It Lightly: Healthy Low-Fat Recipes for Your Slow Cooker by Phyllis Pellman Good. This is a good standard cookbook to get if you have a crock pot.

This recipe is pretty low in fat if you use skinless chicken breasts. Adjust the salt to your liking. I used 1 tablespoon and thought it was plenty. My kids don't like black pepper, so I didn't include it. However, you know your family's tastes best. Also, you can either add uncooked noodles 1 hr before you serve the soup or you can cook the noodles separately and add them to the soup just before you serve it. I use whole wheat noodles to make it an even healthier dinner. Everyone thought it was delicious.

Chicken Noodle Soup with Vegetables
Adapted from Fix-It and Forget-It Lightly

2 onions, chopped
2 cups carrots, sliced
2 cups celery, sliced
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
6 cups water
2 lbs bone-in chicken breasts with as much skin removed as possible
cooked noodles of whatever shape you prefer

1. Put everything the crock pot except the noodles.
2. Cover and cook on high 4-6 hours.
3. 30 min before serving, remove chicken. Cut meat from bones then cut the meat into bite size pieces. Toss the bones and add chicken back to soup.
4. Cover and continue cooking until you're ready to eat.
5. Add the cooked noodles to the pot just before serving.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

2 Pounds of Green Beans

A few years ago, the highlight of my family's weekend was shopping at Costco. We would spend way too much time going up and down every aisle amazed at the goods available. We would try every sample numerous times whether we liked them or not. C'mon, it was free food! Afterwards we would sit at the food stand sharing hot dogs and pizza and marvel at all the people, wondering what they had in their carts.

Now, there is a Costco much closer to our home and instead of each shopping trip being an adventure it has become one of many errands I run while the kids are at school. If I don't have any kids with me, I can be in and out of there in less than 15 minutes.

Recently I bought a 2 pound bag of french green beans. At the local grocery store, I would have bought 1/2 a pound of green beans, but this is Costco and they don't sell anything in such small quantities. I originally planned on making the standard green bean casserole.

When I got home, I realized 1) I didn't have any fried onions in the house and 2) I didn't have the 40 minutes to let the thing bake.

Plan B - I found a fast recipe on line that looked yummy. With some tweaks it would be perfect. How convenient that the green beans come in a steam bag. After I microwaved them, I did the math. How was my little family of 5 going to eat 2 lbs of green beans?

Here is the recipe I used:

Orange Marmalade Glazed Green Beans

1 lb fresh green beans, cut into 3 inch pieces
3/4 cup orange marmalade
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Steam the green beans.
2. Either on the stove top or in the microwave, melt the orange marmalade and butter and salt together. Stir until smooth. Transfer green beans into a serving bowl; add orange marmalade mixture and toss to coat.

I thought it was yummy, dh thought it was yummy. The kids thought it was too sweet and chose to eat the leftover plain green beans with a sprinkle of sea salt. Proving once again that I really shouldn't bother looking up recipes and cooking. I should just steam veggies, give them a dash of salt and serve.

Having not learned my lesson...The next night, I chopped up the remainder of the 2 lb bag of green beans. I added left over steamed broccoli and made that green bean casserole I had originally planned on doing. However, instead of cream of mushroom soup, I used cream of chicken soup.

It didn't matter. My kids said they would rather of had the green beans and broccoli plain without all the other stuff.

The amazing part is that we ate the 2 lb bag of green beans in 3 meals (we had left over casserole for another night).

I don't think I would buy the bag again from Costco. Just too much of a good thing.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fine Dining with Children

It started out as a good idea...Not even my idea.

Cookie Magazine and Gourmet Magazine created Kid's Restaurant Week at a number of Chicago area restaurants. As a self proclaimed foodie who is trying to raise her kids to have discriminating palates (they think Gouda cheese is very good-a and truffle cheese ROCKS) I thought this was an opportunity I couldn't miss.

Plus, they added a great incentive. The kids pay their age for their meal and adults pay $20.08. Before we left, I tried to convince my 5 year old she was 3 (to save $2), but she would have none of it.

After 2 of my kids had long days out in the sun at camp and then 2 of my kids just came back from 2+ hours at the pool (it's a logic problem since I only have 3 kids), I come up with the great idea of us going to a really nice restaurant for dinner.

We chose Prairie Grass Cafe because 1) it's near by and 2) we've eaten there many times before and enjoy the food.

This was my first time seeing PGC's kid's menu. There's great stuff not on your ordinary kid's menu (which is why we went out). However, we told the waiter we wanted the Kid's week special deal. He said it is a three course meal. Starting with a mixed salad then locally raised chicken and potatoes for an entree and strawberries and cream for dessert. The price for the 5 of us would have been: 2+5+7+20.08+20.08 for a total of $54.16 before tax and tip. However, the 3 kids wouldn't have eaten the salad and we really didn't want chicken (I could have made that at home for 5 people). And dh doesn't like strawberries.

Instead, we ordered off the menu. In the end it was $88 before tax and tip. That include a glass of wine for dh. For a Monday night, it's a little steep.

All of our food was delicious. I was very happy with the quality, quantity and service. However, we probably would have saved the $88 dinner for a special occasion or a weekend night. I think being able to choose from a few different items on a "special menu" for kid's week would have been a better experience. Also, in our family, no two people are allowed to order the same thing in a restaurant. We all share.

This is what we had tonight:

2 year old: Combo plate: sliced apples, carrots, bananas, chunks of cheese and cucumbers and celery for $4.00. The best part was the caramelized bananas. Well worth the $4.

5 year old: Breaded chicken cutlet and mashed potatoes and broccoli for $6.00. This was a huge piece of chicken and the mashed potatoes were great. We took half of the chicken home and will probably fight over it tomorrow night at dinner.

7 year old: 4 oz Petite Fillet with half a twice baked potato and broccoli for $14.50. All I can say is I didn't even get to try the fillet because she chowed the whole thing down so fast. It was the best children's menu steak we have seen in a long time.

Mom: Moussaka with Layers of Tender Braised Lamb and Tomato, Potato, Eggplant and Golden Crusted Bechamel for $16.00. Yum, yum, yum. I usually only eat this at Greek restaurants. I forget how delicious this can be when cooked with high quality ingredients.

Dad: Ancho Marinated Skirt Steak over Mushroom Ragout with Caramelized Onions for $20.00. Also very good. And we took half home to fight over at dinner tomorrow night. The only complaint was that it didn't come with a potato or starch (where the kid's meal did).

Oops, forgot to mention...I also had the Caeser's salad to start (with the 2 year old eating all of my shaved Parm cheese and croutons covered in dressing... this kid loves his garlic), dh had the soup of the day, cannoloni bean soup with turkey sausage in a broth. We just had a taste because the 3 kids ate most of it. Dh and I split the vegetable asian spring rolls. There was something spicy in it that made it wonderful for us but a little too flavorful for the kids.

I applaud the idea of having a special week to encourage families to try non-family oriented restaurants. However, I would have liked more variety in the menu for the "special week"

Everynight in my home, I tell my children the same thing at dinnertime, "This is what I am serving for dinner. This is not a restaurant, you can't pick and choose what you want. Eat it or get out." After all, I'm not a short order cook, right. Once you start taking orders in the kitchen...it never ends.