Monday, May 31, 2010

toffee blondies with a twist

Memorial Day weekend is drawing to a close.  It was filled with work, good food and great friends. I didn't have alot of time to bake or make anything, but nothing beats a great big bowl of watermelon at a friends bonfire.  It hits the spot after a long hot day and you have to smile when the watermelon juice rolls down chins and if you are lucky..... your elbows.

I know it is almost bedtime and I can't seem to remember that tomorrow is Tuesday, but I still felt like baking something.  Something oooey and gooey, and rich and warm and something that deserves an ice cold glass of milk next to it.  I know what you are thinking!  "Sara you must be crazy!  It is a billion degrees out there!  How can you be baking!"  Well....when you need chocolate, you need chocolate!  Okay!  Stop yelling!

I found this recipe in "Everyday Food" issue #6 from October, 2003.    I chose this Toffee Blondies recipe because I already had most of the ingredients on hand.  I had to run to the store to get corn on the cob for dinner anyway so I picked up the only ingredient I was missing while I was there.  I was only missing the toffee chips.  Oh, and dinner wasn't anything to blog about.  We had hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and corn on the cob.  A great dinner to kick off summer.

 In the title, I mentioned that the toffee blondies had a twist to then.  I added butterscotch chips and mini chocolate chips to them.  I had partial bags of both and I was tired of eating them by hand so I dumped ( not an exact measurement) the rest of them in.  The blondies turned out warm and delicious and oh so tasty.  My youngest said that he wanted some dessert and I told him to ask his dad because I was busy and he said "But Mom, you are the dessert boss".  I guess I can't argue with that!

Toffee Blondies with a Twist.

1/2 cup (1 stick) of melted butter
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup toffee bits
1/2 cup mini -chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup butterscotch chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil (or parchment paper), with a bit of an overhang on the sides.  Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth.  Beat in eggs, vanilla, and salt.  with mixer on low speed, add flour, and beat until combined.  Stir in toffee bits by hand.  Also, if using the optional ingredients mix in now as well.

Spread batter in prepared pan.  Bake cake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.  Remove from oven; cool completely in pan, if you can stand it.

Grasping foil, lift cake from pan.  Peel off foil.  Using a serrated knife, cut into 16 squares.  Store blondies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days if they last that long.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

dinner with lemon

While the husband is away the rest of us will play......  Husband had a work dinner meeting tonight so the kids and I decided to cook something that we know he wouldn't like.  SALMON!  My oldest loves it and the two little ones will eat it from time to time.

The cook book I decided to use tonight was a magazine devoted to food.  "Everyday Food" from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living, Issue #10, March 2004.  I started buying the magazine a few years ago and now have amassed to more than 50 of them.  They are easy to use, have great ideas and the pictures are great. The showcase for tonights dinner just happened to be lemons.  We brought the cookbook to the store so we wouldn't forget any of the ingredients and found the dessert recipe in the back.   The recipe calls for 1 1/2 lbs of salmon fillets, but I only used a little over a pound because I knew the youngest wouldn't eat that much.  You could probably get away with using much less because you break up the fillets with the pasta.
Everybody seemed to enjoy it.  Including the cat.

Dinner wasn't the only thing grand.  Dessert blew everyone away!  Lemon custard cake was a hit!  I found it in the same cookbook.  It was a new technique for me but I think it turned out really well!  It is more like a souffle than a cake and the bottom of the cake was soft and custardy.  The kids loved it.  We ate the whole pan and they wanted more!  It may have been better with the powdered sugar on top, but they still gobbled it down.

Farfalle with Salmon, Mint, and Peas.

1 1/2 lbs skinless salmon fillet
1/4 cup chopped fesh mint, plus more for serving
1 package (10oz) frozen peas
2 lemons, zested and juiced
2 tbs butter
1 lb box farfalle pasta

Cook one pound box farfalle, reserving 1 cup pasta water; return pasta to pot.  Meanwhile, season salmon with salt and pepper; place in a large skillet.  Add 1/4 cup water and lemon juice and zest.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Cover; steam 10 minutes .  Add frozen peas; steam, covered, until tender and salmon is opaque, 6 to 8 minutes.  Transfer to pot with pasta.  Add butter and mint.  Season with salt and pepper.  Toss gently flaking fish and adding reserved pasta water as desired.  Serve immediately sprinkled with more mint.  Serves 6

Lemon Custard Cakes (or cake)

Butter for greasing the cups or pan

3 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbs all-purpose flour
2 to 3 tsps grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
powder sugar for dusting.

Note:  I used whole milk and I forgot to dust the top.

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degree.  Boil water in a pot.  Butter six 6-ounce custard cups and place them in a roasting pan or baking dish lined with a kitchen towel.
2.  In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and granulated sugar until mixture is light; whisk in flour.  Gradually whisk in lemon zest and juice, then whisk in milk.
3.  With an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form.  Add to lemon mixture; gently fold in with a whisk (batter will be thin)
4.   Divide batter among prepared cups.  Place pan in oven, and fill with boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the cups.  Bake until puddings are puffed and lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar.

I used 2-quart baking dish and up the baking time to 33 minutes.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

mmmmm....Yogurt Cake

Ok, so start the drum rolls.....  Here is the first recipe.  The lucky one out of all of my recipe children.  It is a traditional French cake that is light and simple.  I made it for a church potluck.  It is from the cookbook, "Chocolate and Zucchini" by Clotilde Dusoulier.  She is my inspiration for this whole blog.  I started reading her blog about a year ago and fell in love with the concept and the idea.  Her pictures are elegant. Her style of writing is sophisticated and quite enjoyable to read.  I purchased her cookbook and it is one of my favorites.  She took the pictures of the recipes in it herself.

 This is called Gateau Au Yaourt (yogurt cake), and it is very easy to make.  I had almost all of the ingredients on hand and had to purchase the whole milk yogurt and the very small amount of rum.  Those small bottles are a brilliant idea!   Of course I baked the cake in 90 degree weather and I spilled almost my entire bottle of vanilla extract, but I think the cake came out looking delicious!  I did use all the ingredients that were called for.  I usually forget one of the ingredients at the store and throw the recipe together anyway.  But not this time!  I did it all the right way.


½ cup vegetable oil, plus 1 tsp to grease the pan
1 cup plain unsweetened yogurt, preferably whole milk
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbs light or amber rum (optional)
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 good pinch of fine sea salt

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the sides of a 10-inch round cake pan or spring form pan with oil and line the bottom with parchment paper if the pan is not spring form.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt and sugar.  Add the eggs one by one, beating will after each addition.  Add the vanilla, oil and rum, if using, and whisk again.

3. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Pour the flour mixture into the yogurt mixture, and whisk until just combined.

4.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let stand for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the pan to loosen.  If you’re using a spring form pan, unclasp the sides.  Otherwise, flip the cake onto a plate and flip it back on the rack.  Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The rules of the game.

So ....... How do I go about doing this.  Picking the first recipe to appear here is probably the hardest I have ever had to do.  I have spent the last few nights pouring over the books.  Who will be the lucky one?  How will I narrow it down?  Will it be a dessert?  Will it be a big meal?  Ohhhhhh.... the suspense is killing me!  There are a few recipes that I won't make and there are few self implented rules I will have to follow.

1.  No green peppers.  (Yuck.  They lend their flavors to everything.  It is the one food I can't stomach)

2.  If there are green peppers, I will most likely substitute red, yellow or orange peppers instead.  They are prettier anyway.

3.  I have three children and a picky husband.  I do have to mold the menus and recipes around their likes and dislikes.  They will have to understand they are going to be trying some new flavors.

4.  I will try to make dishes that show cases the flavors of the seasons.  It is summer and I am a farmer's market junkie so that won't be hard to do.

5.  Some of the meals might not be as complicated or as fancy as I want them.  I am a busy person.  Dinner may be thrown together at some points but they will be based on a recipe.

6.  I will be using regular butter.  Not unsalted.  It is more expensive, if you want to adjust the salt content, lower the salt content.

7.  I will try to pick recipes as healthy as I can and keep my family's tastes in mind.  This is will be my hardest challenge!  

8.  I am health conscience but I am not over the top.  I will choose a whole grain when I can afford it.

I think that is all of them.   Desserts are going to be the most fun to make, because everyone loves desserts!  

Thank you for joining me on this fabulous journey!  Let the madness begin!


Friday, May 21, 2010

......and then the obsession started to grow

It was the summer after my senior year in high school. It was a rainy day and I was being a lazy teenager happy that I didn't have to go to work, but bummed that had rained on my day off. I was flipping channels and discovered a little known cooking show on the USA network, or was it Lifetime.... I can't remember. There was this really young, nice looking guy cooking fantastic food and the show was called "The Main Ingredient" with Bobby Flay. I sat fascinated by it. I was like nothing I had ever seen before. I was used to watching "Great Chefs of the World" and "The Graham Kerr show". This was nothing like that. I was hooked. Little did I know Bobby Flay single-handedly started a problem in my life, but it wasn't because of the show.

A few weeks later I was shopping a bookstore (one of my favorite hobbies) and I found his book. I remember myself saying to myself (quietly so no one would think I was crazy) "I know that guy!" I picked up the book and opened it with wonder. The pictures were gorgeous! So different then anything I had ever seen.

My mom only had a collection of old church cookbooks with illustrations. Nothing this beautiful! The dishes were works of art and each recipe was handcrafted with new and bold ingredients that I had only dreamed of tasting! I bought the cookbook and it started an avalanche of possibilities. I became a member of a cookbook club. When my husband (boyfriend at the time) would go into the regular books, I would hide myself in the cookbooks knowing I could find stories in them.

From then on the collection grew..... I don't have a favorite genre, I have some favorite authors, some I have been reading all along and some I have just discovered. I love all the flavors off the world. My collection ranges from country home cooking to easy sushi now. From easy family cooking to the most exotic dinners that take ten hours to make. I loved them all and read them all and then put them on the shelf to sit.
That's right.... I put them on the shelf. I never used them like a real cookbook should be used. Sure they are wonderful books to learn from... Textbooks that have taught me all the cooking lingo I need to know, but I never cooked out of them. I could come up with a billion and one excuses too... No money, no time, family is too picky, no money.... Oh don't get me wrong I always have had the dream.....but the excuses always pushed it away, until now.

I have decided that this would be the perfect forum to unleash my dream and chronicle my families reactions, give my reviews on the cookbooks that I have and try and least 3 new recipes a week out of each of my cookbooks for the next year and maybe longer. I have 287 of them.... I told you it was an obsession.