Tuesday, April 29, 2008

PROBLEM: No creative title

Sometimes, I wonder where I left my brain...how can I forget all I know about cooking and blogging all in one evening? Come on, Ginny, you are so much better than this...but I am still going to share...

Yesterday was a crazy hectic day at work and during my lunch 15 minutes, I tried to decide what to make for dinner. You know, the normal...devouring my black bean salad while browsing through tastespotting and searching for some inspiration. Given the rainy weather, all I could think of was soup...yummy butternut squash soup! A couple months ago I tried Jen of Use Real Butter's Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. It was simple, easy, and delicious. I ate it for days and never got tired of it. So after work, I went to the store to get the ingredients.

PROBLEM #1: Butternut Squash is out of season.

Oh, maybe that is why I cannot find any butternut squash anywhere. Well, my mom always talks about frozen butternut squash and that would work, right?

PROBLEM #2: I forgot the shallots.

No problem, I'll add more onion.

PROBLEM #3: The soup tasted very bland.

Well, I have a ton of leftover thyme that may make it more interesting.

PROBLEM #4: Butternut squash does not photograph well!

Who cares, I'm hungry!

Verdict: My roommates liked it but, always very critical of my own work, I think I can do better. The good part is it was very fast to make since butternut squash takes so long to roast and this cuts out that step. Jen's recipe is excellent so please check it out and her wonderful blog!

Thyme Butternut Squash Soup
(adapted from Jen of Use Real Butter)

2 12 oz frozen butternut squash purée
1 green apples, peeled, cored, diced
1 red onion, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 qts chicken broth
2 oz. butter

1. Defrost butternut squash purée in a saucepan over medium heat for about 20 minutes.
2. Boil onions and apples in broth and simmer for 30 minutes or until soft.
3. Strain the apples and onions from the broth and reserve the liquid.
4. Purée the solids.
5. Add both purées to the broth and mix well.
6. Mix in thyme.
7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
8. Add the butter and heat the soup until it just begins to simmer. Serve hot.

P.S. Other butternut squash soup recipes I want to try:

Butternut Squash with Chestnuts and Chillies from Kevin of Closet Cooking
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger and Spices from Warda of 64th sq ft kitchen
Ginger-Orange Butternut Squash Soup from Karen of Family Style Food
Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk from Myriam of Once Upon a Tart

Click Here for Recipe...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

My First Daring Baker's Challenge

Have you ever played Candy Land? The wonderful board game where you navigate through the land of candy...running from Lord Licorice, hanging out with Princess Lolly in the Lollipop forest and ultimately saving the King in the castle! As you can imagine, I loved this game as a child. It is a simple straightforward game made so much more interesting by a Candy Cane Forest and Gum Drop Mountain. I could never decide who I wanted to be, eitherPrincess Lolly or Queen Frostine. They were both so beautiful and lived in such delicious places.

Ok, I know that you are wondering why I am reminiscing about some board game I played last night...er...um...15 years ago...Well, my first Daring Bakers challenge, Cheesecake Pops, as chosen by Deborah and Elle, would fit in perfectly in Candy Land. They could live right next to the Lollipop Forest with their bright colorful sprinkles, chocolate coating and yummy cheesecake center.

I am very excited to be joining the Daring Bakers. Every month the members are secretly given a recipe to follow to the letter and then blog about it on the designated day. This was a fun challenge and I brought my pops into work for a baby shower. Everyone loved them! I followed the recipe as it was written and used the microwave method to coat them in chocolate.

Cheesecake Pops
(adapted from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor)

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

5 large eggs

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ cup heavy cream

Boiling water as needed

Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

P.S. Check out the other Daring Bakers' Creations...

Click Here for Recipe...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dollar Dish Duel Update and some Olive-Thyme Bread!!

First, an update regarding my Dollar Dish Duel. We have a logo thanks to my boyfriend. I was always joking that I needed to date a man who could help me with my blog. Well, the blogging gods answered my prayers with this one. We spent a very romantic evening designing a little logo for my event. So, if you would like, please put the logo on your entry to help publicize the event. Thank you!

You are entering, right? Why wouldn't you? You have a chance winning this awesome cookbook...

Ok, enough about the Duel. Let's talk about this delicious bread that I have already dangled in front of you. Lately, I have been in what I like to call my European mood. I start craving warm fresh breads, rich soft cheeses, large crisp salads and some really good red wine. Maybe it is the beautiful spring weather that puts me into this mood. I just want to sit on my balcony basking in the sunshine with my meal or maybe not...

Monday it rained a lot! As I was trudging home from the metro, the water seeping into my ballerina flats and splashing up my legs, I fixated on the thought of warm fresh bread smothered in brie. In fact, I knew exactly which recipe I wanted to use. Vegeyum from A Life (time) of Cooking recently made a no-knead bread that would be ready in a little over an hour. Walking into my apartment, feeling like a drowned rat, I went quickly to the kitchen and put it all together. I had some olives and thyme left over from the Fig and Walnut Tapanede I made last week so that also went in. While the bread was rising, I ran to the store to grab the brie and salad fixin's. I forewent the glass of wine this time knowing that I would be driving over to my boyfriend's later for our Logo Designing Date. When I got back from the store, the bread was all ready to go. I threw it in the oven and fifteen minutes later, I had to use a great deal of self control not to burn my mouth. Thankfully, I have found that by the time you take some photos, your food is normal cool enough to eat. My roommates and I devoured it with the brie. A fabulous dinner! And yes, I even has some salad to feel semi-healthy, I swear!

Olive and Thyme Focaccia
(adapted from vegeyum's My Deliciously Fast No Knead Focaccia)

3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups approx of tepid water
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoon) rapid rise yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup
Kalamata olives, chopped

1. Mix the sugar, 1/2 cup lukewarm water and the yeast with 1 Tablespoon of the flour, making a sponge, and let sit in a warm place for 15 minutes.
2. Mix the flour, yeast sponge, olives, thyme and enough of the remaining water to make a sticky dough.
3. Add additional water if you need it. The dough should be a little wetter than you would normally make dough.
4. Leave the dough to rise for 1 - 1.5 hours.
5. Place the risen dough on a bench and divide into two. Shape each on a tray with well oiled fingertips.
6. Bake in the oven at 500 degrees Fahrenheit around 10 - 15 minutes, or until cooked and lightly browned.
7. Eat while still warm.

P.S. Go to vegeyum's post for more variations and tips. Her blog combines delicious food, exceptional photographs and cultural insights that I enjoy reading everyday. I would highly recommend checking it out.

Click Here for Recipe...

Monday, April 21, 2008

An Ode to Joy! Part II

I have become the unofficial birthday cake baker at work. When everyone started finding out that I was going to law school, I believe they were more concerned about missing my cakes than me. I enjoy baking the cakes. I love being able to try new recipes and coming up with something to wow the birthday recipient.

This past weekend we threw my co-worker a party and I volunteered to bring the cake. He really likes chocolate cake so that was my only guideline. Now, I will admit that when I know there is going to be a keg at the party, I will go buy a cake mix, make some homemade icing, come up with a fun decoration and call it a night. Why should I slave over a cake when everyones' taste buds will be dull from beer? On Saturday, I woke up itching to bake but too lazy to go to the store. So I took inventory of what we had and did some research on chocolate cake recipes. I stumbled across this recipe Nana Edie's Devil's Food Cake that looked amazing. I had everything needed except for the semi-sweet chocolate. I just had unsweetened. Well, I broke out my trusty friend the Joy of Cooking and figured out a conversion. Unsweetened chocolate + sugar = semi-sweet chocolate! It turned out great!!! In talking with a friend, he recommend filling it with strawberries so I filled it with strawberry jam and iced it with my mom's chocolate frosting. It was quite delicious!

Devil's Food Cake with Strawberry Filling
(adapted from Nana Edie's Devil's Food Cake)

1/2 cup milk (not nonfat)
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups + 7 teaspoons sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup strawberry jam

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Butter 2 (8- by 2-inch) round cake pans and dust with flour, knocking out excess.
3. Stir together milk and vinegar and set aside to “sour” (mixture will curdle).
4. Melt chocolate and butter with water in a saucepan over low heat, whisking until smooth. Cool slightly.
5. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.
6. Beat sugar into chocolate mixture with an electric mixer.
7. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla.
8. Add flour mixture and beat on low speed just until combined.
9. Add soured milk and beat on high speed 2 minutes.
10. Divide batter evenly between cake pans.
11. Bake in middle of oven until tops of layers spring back when touched lightly and edges have just started to pull away from sides of pans, about 35 minutes.
12. Cool layers in pans on racks 5 minutes.
13. Run a thin knife around edges of pans, then invert layers onto racks to cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting
6 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
6 tablespoons cocoa
1 box confectioner sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk

1. Cream the butter and cocoa together.
2. Mix in vanilla.
3. Slowly add confectioner sugar and milk until it creates a frosting. Add the milk slowly because sometimes you do not need the whole amount.

Assemble cake:

1. Warm the jam in the microwave for about 30 seconds to make it spreadable.
2. Pour over the first layer and spread.
3. Place second layer on top of the first layer.
4. Spread the chocolate frosting on the top and down the sides.
5. Decorate as you please.

P.S. Do not forget to enter my Dollar Dish Duel!!!! More details here.

Click Here for Recipe...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

An Ode to Joy!

Growing up, our kitchen held two main reference cookbooks: the Betty Crocker Cookbook and the Joy of Cooking. My mother's Betty Crocker is falling apart. The cover is completely ripped off but it still precariously rests on top of the tattered and food stained pages struggling to keep the book together. My mother has inserted many other recipes through the years among the pages. I love this book because it represents the history of my mother's cooking. One year for Christmas, my mother gave me a copy in order to begin my own cookbook collection. It is an excellent cookbook for a budding chef. It has good recipes, great tips and beautiful pictures!!!

On the other hand, I never liked the Joy of Cooking when I was younger. It was long, boring and had no pictures! Often, I would ask my mother a cooking question and she would point me in the direction of the Joy of Cooking. I would scowl looking at the distasteful book. I just never understood the point of having a cookbook without pictures. But the Joy of Cooking almost always had the answer to my cooking questions. Slowly, this book grew on me until it has become my favorite cookbook. If you have never picked it up, I highly recommend it. It is written in a way that really helps you learn how to cook. The recipes show you how the ingredients fit together to create the dish and thus, at least for me, help me go off the recipe fairly easily. My quiches are often like this. I make up a new one every time depending on what we have in the fridge. With the Joy of Cooking by my side, I often pull off a very inventive and delicious dish. Tonight, I created a Goat Cheese-Balsamic Caramelized Onions- Artichoke Hearts Quiche. It turned out really well and both of my roommates gave their stamp of approval.

Goat Cheese-Balsamic Caramelized Onions-Artichoke Hearts Quiche
(adapted from the Joy of Cooking)

1 prepared crust (I often cheat on weekdays and buy a store bought crust...saves me time!)
1 6 oz. log of goat cheese
1 7 oz. (or close to it) marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
Balsamic Caramelized Onions (see my previous post)
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup whipped cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Crumble the goat cheese on the bottom of the crust.
3. Whisk the eggs, milk and whipped cream together until well mixed.
4. Stir in onions and artichoke hearts.
5. Mix in salt and pepper.
6. Pour in prepared crust.
7. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

P.S. Do not forget to enter my Dollar Dish Duel!!!! More details here.

Click Here for Recipe...

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Dollar Dish Duel!!!

In keeping with my motto of this blog, I decided to just go for it and start an event...So, I am announcing my DOLLAR DISH DUEL!!!!

As previously mentioned, inspired by an article in the New York Times entitled "5 Cooks, $40, 5 Dishes, 3 Desserts," I want to challenge everyone to make a dish for $5 that must feed at least 2 people. So hit up a dollar store or be creative with what you can find at your local grocery store. Don't live in the US? Convert to your currency here. In your post, please let us know the prices of your ingredients.

One exception: You may use 3 staples from your pantry (salt/pepper/oil or something like that).

Please email the entry to ginnygetsfloury AT gmail DOT com with "Dollar Dish Duel" in the subject line. Include the following information:

* Your name and location
* The name of your blog
* Your blog URL
* The URL for your post
* If you are not a blogger, please partcipate! Just email me the recipe, a description of how you came up with the dish and a picture if possible. (Mom, I think you should join in the fun!)

Deadline: May 5, 2008 (round-up soon afterwards)

UPDATE: The winner will receive The Improvisational Cook by Sally Schneider after my judges make their decision.

Ok, I refuse to never have a post without some food. I made this Fig and Walnut Tapenade with Goat Cheese last night for a dinner party. It was easy to make and a huge hit with my friends!

Fig and Walnut Tapenade with Goat Cheese
(adapted from epicurious.com)

1 cup chopped stemmed dried Calimyrna figs
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon drained capers
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts

2 5.5-ounce logs soft fresh goat cheese, each cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
Assorted breads and/or crackers

1. Combine chopped figs and 1/3 cup water in heavy medium saucepan.
2. Cook over medium-high heat until liquid evaporates and figs are soft, about 7 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl.
3. In a food processor, chop figs olives, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, capers, walnuts and chopped thyme.
4. Season tapenade to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.)
5. Arrange overlapping cheese rounds in circle in center of medium platter. Serve with breads and/or crackers.

P.S. Please spread the word on my event. A cute logo will hopefully follow soon!

Click Here for Recipe...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

That's a spicy..

No, there are no meatballs in this post just a spicy pasta sauce. I used to hate spicy food...I would avoid it as much as possible. But as I've gotten older, I have begun to let go of my childhood food prejudices...I make lemon cake, eat cheesecake, love peanut butter and explore spicy recipes. One of my favorite new things is to add some crushed red pepper to the olive oil when sautéing pretty much everything (unless I am cooking for my roommates because they are still not into the spicy). It adds such a great kick to a dish.

This pasta sauce was created tonight by throwing things from the pantry together, as I am trying my best to stay within my food budget. Recently, there was an article in the New York Times entitled "5 Cooks, $40, 5 Dishes, 3 Desserts" in which the famous Chef Eric Ripert and his crew of chefs were asked to make a meal with a limited budget and items from a dollar store. I would be very interested to see what yall think about what they made. I was not blown away with their ideas although the nougat intrigued me. Many of us often find ourselves limited by a budget and I think we could come up with some great ideas to rival Chef Ripet. I have been playing with the idea of turning this into a blogging event, even though I am such an infant blogger, because I think it would be fun to challenge oneself in this way. I have been trying to think of the parameters so any advice would be welcome.

I'm sending this Spicy Quick Pasta Sauce over to Ruth's Presto Pasta Night. Check it out for some great new ideas!.

Ginny's Spicy Quick Pasta Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat in a frying pan.
2. Cooking red pepper until sizzling.
3. Sauté onion and garlic until onions are translucent. If garlic starts to burn, turn down the heat.
4. Add the tomatoes and Italian seasoning.
5. Cook for about 10 minutes until liquid has evaporated.

P.S. Want to jazz up the sauce? You may notice many of my meals have no meat. When you cook for yourself, it is often easier to go the vegetarian route. Some chicken or shrimp would go very well with this recipe so feel free to add to it. Also, add other vegetables if you would like...mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant...just sauté them with the onions. Yummy quick sauce!

Click Here for Recipe...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Mom, what do I need to make...

My mother hears this phrase and other similar ones fairly frequently. Often, I find myself at the grocery store, trying to figure out what to make and unable to remember something essential...so, I call my mom.

My mother taught me to cook. Ever since I was a young girl, I have been at my mother's elbow watching her cook and helping her. As I became more confident in my cooking, I would pore over her cookbooks, give her a grocery list and make dinner for my family with her guidance. I owe the majority of my knowledge and skills to her teaching and example. I find myself still turning to her for advice and help.

The most recent question I had for my mother was regarding our family's hot fudge sauce. I had a huge craving for it but I could not remember for the life of me as to whether it was condensed milk or evaporated milk...so, I called my mom! It is a very simple recipe and delicious over ice cream. We used to make it on Friday nights for a quick chocolate fix! I took the photos a few weeks ago and my mother keeps asking why I have not blogged about it yet, so here it is Mom. Thanks for the advice!

Hot Fudge
(adapted from Marvelous Mocha Pie)

3 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Bring chocolate, sugar and butter to a boil over medium high heat.
2. Gradually add evaporated milk and cook until thickened.
3. Cool and add vanilla.

P.S. Nothing this time. Short post, tired Ginny!

Click Here for Recipe...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

You know you are obsessed with blogging when...

...your roommate's boyfriend brings her flowers and your initial thought is "Yes! Something to take pictures with!"

In my last post, I raved about the Hazelnut Strawberry Cake. Well, you may have not noticed the amount of egg whites...by the time you have that cake and are dying with pleasure, you also have 15 eggs yolks! I hate to waste anything so I've been trying my best to figure out how to make something, anything with the yolks so I:

a. do not feel bad about throwing them out; and
b. do not feel guilty about eating them.

The other night I made a delicious spinach-caramelized onions-goat cheese quiche (sorry, no pictures- long day and too hungry!), which thankfully used a few yolks but I still had a little jar with 12 more...what to do...I also had some sage, ricotta, parmesean...so I decided to make ricotta gnocchi. I love making gnocchi with leftover mashed potatoes, butternut squash, sweet potato or pumpkin. So I gave it a shot with a simple sage brown butter (my simple and delicious go to sauce). They were really light and quite good. I incorporated the lilies with my pictures, as they are very beautiful and beckon in spring.

I am going to enter this into Project Foodie's Leftover Tuesday #13. I know, I am a bit early but I was always one of those kids who liked to turn in her homework early! :)

Ricotta Gnocchi with a Sage Brown Butter Sauce
(adapted from epicurious)

1 cup ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (and some more for sprinkling over the pasta)
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup flour
extra flour for dusting

1. Mix the first six ingredients together.
2. Slowly incorporate the flour
3. Shape dough on a well-floured surface with lightly floured hands into 2 (1-inch-thick) ropes.
4. Cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces with a lightly floured knife.
5. Using a fork, roll the pieces against the fork to create groves. See P.S.

6. Cook gnocchi in 2 batches in a pasta pot of boiling salted water, adding a few at a time to pot and stirring occasionally, until cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per batch. They will begin to float when they are cooked and you can take them out. I will run one under cold water and taste it to make sure it is cooked through.
7. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain in colander.
8. Meanwhile, melt butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat until golden brown, about 5 minutes, and drop in the sage until crispy.
9. Toss gnocchi with brown butter in skillet and sprinkle with cheese.

P.S. How do you properly roll out gnocchi?
Check out this for pictures and more instructions.

Click Here for Recipe...