Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
In the Land of St. Honore', in the town where coffee is king, but chocolate isn't too far behind, the Three Bakers decided to leave the packing to Goldilocks and to check out some food goodies.
First they had some Bread Salad, heavily punctuated by laughter, at Essential Bakery Cafe', but it was tooo bready (even if the bread was good bread).
Then they sampled some freshly handmade truffles at Suess Chocolates which were very, very good, but took a bite out the the wallet. They are still a baby, being three months old, but have already won the Best Truffle award at the recent Chocolate Salon, delightfully reported on by Lynn of Cookie Baker Lynn.
Next they enjoyed the upscale splendor and lively flavor combinations of chocolates at Oh Chocolate marveling at the buttery caramels and rich truffles, but, alas Goldilocks needed help so off they went.
Later one of the Three Bakers took the Daring Bakers Milano recipe and picked up on the coffee and chocolate flavors so recently enjoyed, adding cocoa to the cookie batter and some Kahlua liquor, too, instead of lemon extract.
If you have not already done so, do wend your way around the blogosphere to see all of the wonderful Milano cookies created by the very talented Daring Bakers.
Here is a link to the Blogroll. A big 'thank you' to Nicole of Sweet Tooth, our sweet hostess this month, for giving us a challenge that allowed creativity and produced such a great cookie. The original recipe can be found at her blog. Another 'thank you' to Lis and Ivonne for creating the Daring Bakers and for all the effort that goes in to making it a premier baking group.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Corn and summer go together like sunscreen and the beach or sunny days and baseball. Fresh corn at very reasonable prices can be had easily now at the market. I grew my own years ago when I had a big garden plot, but now it would take up too much room. I like the white kind and check on the freshness by slitting one of the kernels. If the juices spurt out then they haven't turned to starch, so the corn will generally be sweet and juicy to eat.
On rare occassions we buy too much and there is an ear of corn left over. That's happened twice in the last couple of weeks. Each time I used that single ear the next day, first in a salad and night before last in a baked side dish that I dreamed up while driving home from work. Iknew I had all the ingredients in the pantry, fridge and garden. Don't 'ya just love it when that happens?
Usually I use an Italian dressing or Raspberry one on green salads but for this salad I used a nice creamy Ranch dressing. It somehow plays up the farm fresh nature of corn and crispy greens. No recipe...jsut add fresh corn kernels to your favorite green salad.
The second recipe is for a cornbread based side dish. Fresh corn is folded into corn muffin batter and then the batter is partially baked in a wide, shallow baking pan. While it bakes a veggie topping and a cottage cheese based custard topping are made. Both go on top of the cornbread, the top is sprinkled with feta cheese and pine nuts and the dish is baked until golden. The mellowness of the cornbread is enlivened by the fresh corn kernels.
The key to the corn and veggie bread is partially cooking the cornbread before adding the toppings. The bread gets cooked just enough this way, but the toppings also can sink into the batter just a bit and not slide off the top. The measurements are approximate. Next time I'm going to add more greens. BTW, this dish smells wonderful, even when cold. I reheated some for lunch.
Elle's Zesty Veggie Cornbread Bake
½ recipe corn muffin batter (6 muffins worth) – your favorite
kernels cut from 1 ear of corn (about 1 cup)
1/3 – ½ cup chopped red onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 large handfuls baby spinach, chopped, about 4 cups
(you can substitute for all or part of the spinach with Swiss chard,
baby kale, baby collards or similar dark leafy greens)
1 medium zucchini squash, quartered lengthwise, then sliced – about 2 cups
½ cup cottage cheese
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
Salt & pepper to taste
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Stir the corn kernels into the corn muffin batter, then spread batter into prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 6 minutes.
While cornbread is baking, saute’ the red onions in the olive oil over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the leafy greens, stir and cook another minute until wilted. Remove greens from pan, return pan to heat and add the zucchini slices. Stir and cook over high heat another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While zucchini is cooking, use a blender or immersion blender to blend the cottage cheese and milk until smooth. Add the eggs and mix just until blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. (You can also add Tabasco sauce or cayenne to tasteif you like a more spicy flavored bread).
Distribute the cooked zucchini slices evenly over the partially cooked corn bread. Distribute the cooked greens mixture evenly over the zucchini and cornbread. Pour the cottage cheese mixture evenly over the veggies. Sprinkle the feta cheese evenly over the cheese mixture & sprinkle with the pine nuts.
Return the baking pan to the oven and bake another 15 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes, then serve in large squares.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Tanita left a comment with a link to a yummy chocolate zucchini bread. The link was to a blog, Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup (where you should check out her enormous zucchinis), and Jama linked to another blog where the recipe was posted by a friend, Robin, of the blog Robin Brande. She told of the woman, Elizabeth, who made some of the bread and gave it to Robin. Got that? I think Elizabeth has a blog, too, but I couldn't find the link to it.
So now, due to the generosity of each of these women, I have a recipe for Elizabeth's Phenomenal Chocolate Zucchini bread, which does indeed use up another two cups of shredded zucchini. Woot!
Looking the recipe over I see that it, too, contains a whole cup of oil. It also has a lot of sugar, and cinnamon. I like sweet, but the chocolate has some in it, so I'm losing 1/2 cup of the sugar. I like cinnamon, but not with chocolate, so I'm losing the cinnamon. A half cup of yogurt will replace 1/2 cup of the oil. Best of all, I'm adding 1/2 cup of chopped dark, sweet cherries because chocolate and cherries is a flavor combo that makes me happy.
I also reduced the nuts to 1/2 cup.
This is a great bread to give as a gift, especially if you make smaller loaves (just bake them a shorter time), or you can freeze some for that far off time when garden fresh zucchini and sweet, dark cherries are just fond memories.
Bread Baking Day is an ongoing event and this month, for BBD #22, Stefanie of Hefe und mehr asked us to make sweet breads. It doesn't get much sweeter than chocolate and cherries, so I'm sending this over to her. With all the changes it probably should be called Elle's Phenomenal Chocolate Zucchini Bread, but I'm calling it Chocolate Zucchini Bread with Cherries...simple and true. It is probably a lighter textured bread than the original recipe, but still has a nice chocolate kick, especially when eaten warm.
Speaking of generosity, next time a neighbor wants to gift you with some zucchini (unless you have your own plants overtaking your garden), say 'thank you!' and make this bread. You'll be glad that Tanita, Jama, Robin and Elizabeth were all so generous, too.
Chocolate Zucchini Bread with Cherries
ELIZABETH'S PHENOMENAL CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BREAD
brought to you via Robin Brande & Jama Rattigan & Tanita Davis
3 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 ½ cups sugar
3 eggs or equivalent egg substitute
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups shredded zucchini (about 2-3 medium zucchini)(measured after being squeezed dry)
½ cup chopped nuts ( I used walnuts)
1 pkg (12-oz) chocolate chips
½ cup sweet dark fresh cherries, pitted and chopped into about ¼ inch dice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 9x5" loaf pans with canola spray.
In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. In a separate bowl, beat eggs (or egg substitute and water) with the sugar until well combined. Add oil, yogurt and vanilla. Beat to combine, then stir in zucchini. Add wet bowl to dry bowl and stir until just moistened. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips and cherries.
Spoon evenly into pans. Bake 55-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans, then turn onto racks. This bread is yummy when eaten still warm...the chips are melty and the fragrance is full chocolate!
This bread got Sweeties's seal of approval...he had some more for breakfast, and is asking for another piece tonight for dessert.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Recently at the Bread Baker's Dog, I posted a yeasted zucchini bread that was savory instead of sweet, rich with the Mediterranean flavors of Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and basil.
The zucchini keeps on coming, even from the lazy woman's planting that I made in desperation the day before my vacation.
I still had zucchini and cucumber seedlings and not enough time to plant them 'properly', so I took a 2 cubic foot bag of potting soil, laid it flat...well it sloped downhill a bit, but that is OK for drainage...and cut holes in the plastic bag. Into each hole I put a seedling. Since there was some fertilizer in the potting soil mix, I figured that with regular watering the plants would make it for three weeks and then I could transplant them to pots. Imagine my delight to find that they were quite happy in their bag.
The zucchini I used today for this bread was from that group of plants and it was fully a foot long and shredded into more than the required two cups! I've also started harvesting lemon cucumbers from the bag plantings. It is something that you might want to try, especially if you don't have a place to garden, but have a sunny spot to place a bag of soil. The important thing is to make sure to water it regularly and not let the soil dry out.
Today I wanted to make the quick bread version, so I started looking through my cookbooks. I found that more recently published books didn't have a sweet quick bread version. When I looked in older cookbooks I found out why. The traditional recipe apparently used a full cup of oil for each two cups of zucchini...that's a lot of oil.
Lately I've been thinking about making a muesli bread, too. Muesli is a combination of whole grain flakes, nuts and dried fruits. We ate a lot of it while in Ireland. It was available each morning as part of the full Irish breakfast. We haven't found a ready made variety here that is as good as what we had in Ireland, but I'm thinking of making my own. My favorite store-bought, the kind from Bob's Red Mill, has red wheat, rye, barley and oat flakes and some almonds and date clusters.
It occurred to me that I could combine zucchini and home made muesli in a quick bread, use less oil, and see what happened. As it turned out, trying to figure out the proportions from scratch takes a lot of time.
I kept the two cups of shredded zucchini and used a clean flour sack towel to squeeze out the excess liquid.
Then I took some of a combination of whole grain flakes that I found at a local store and added some buttermilk and regular milk (because I ran out of buttermilk) and let that combination sit for half an hour while I figured out the rest. That allowed the grains to soften a bit as they absorbed some of the liquids.
The most difficult part was to figure out how much flour would be needed. I started with 1 1/2 cups which was mixed with the leaveners and salt and cinnamon, but added another 1/2 cup before adding the almond-date-oats-raisin-cranberry mixture. Still, it was a successful experiment...the bread is delicious, moist, with lots of flavor and texture from the zucchini and muesli additions, plus a hint of cinnamon.
Now that I have the recipe figured out, I suspect I'll be making a lot of this bread over the summer.
Zucchini Muesli Bread
½ cup mixed-grain flakes (mine has red wheat, barley, rye and oat flakes)
1/3 cup buttermilk
½ cup milk
2 large egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used safflower)
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cup shredded zucchini, extra moisture squeezed out
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup natural almonds, chopped
½ cup pitted dates, chopped
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup golden raisins
In a small bowl, combine the multi-grain flakes (rolled whole grains) and the buttermilk and milk. Let sit for at least ½ hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 inch bread pan.
In a large mixing bowl combine the eggs, vegetable oil, brown sugar and vanilla. Let sit 10 minutes.
Add the zucchini and the mixed-grain and milk mixture and mix to combine.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a bowl or onto a sheet of waxed paper. Set aside.
On a sheet of waxed paper, combine the rolled oats, chopped almonds, chopped dates, dried cranberries and golden raisins. Set aside.
On low speed, or with just enough strokes to mix, combine the flour mixture with the zucchini mixture. Once just combined, add the almond-raisin-cranberry-date-oat mixture and stir just until blended.
Pour batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and place in the preheat oven. Bake approximately an hour, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, and then run a knife around the edges to loosen the loaf and turn out of the pan to cool completely.
Monday, July 06, 2009
We have been enjoying chard and grilled summer squash (with extra going to friends...they claim they are thrilled...we'll see if that continues as the plants keep producing more and more and more) and now the beans are blooming so soon there will be lovely haricot verts. Just saw today that the eggplant have set fruit. It will take a while for them to grow big enough to harvest, but probably sometime in August I'll be looking for eggplant recipes.
The fun part is the tomatoes. I grew three different types of heirloom tomatoes from seed, but then got the seedlings mixed up, so it will be a surprise to see what kinds I actually planted. Weeks went by with the plants getting bigger each day. Little yellow flowers were blooming like mad, but no tomatoes were setting up. A little over a week ago I had enough. I went out at mid-morning, pulled off a likely flower, used my thumbnail to open the pollen holding area, then smooshed that flower up into the pollen holding area of some flowers that were still on the plant.
Each plant was treated to pollen from a flower from its own plant, so the varieties should stay true. It worked! Withing 4-5 days, you could see tiny tomatoes, about the size of a raisin. The next day there were far more baby tomatoes than those I had messed with. Looks like the plants got the word that they better set fruit, or else. LOL! Anyway there are now dozens of the little tomatoes, growing larger by the day. It may be September before I harvest any of them, but at least there will BE some to harvest! BTW, I've done this before when Mother Nature seemed to be asleep at the switch, so I knew it was likely to be successful. You can try it yourself if the bees are not doing the job.
Along with the veggie plants, I planted basil this year. Since rosemary grows in a big shrub down the driveway and my newest rose plant seems to be bonded with some oregano, herbs were easily available for a nice marinated chicken dish for dinner yesterday.
Some rice or good bread will sop up the juices and a green salad is perfect to pick up the herbal flavors, but with crunch and coolness instead.
Wine and Herb Baked Chicken
1 cut-up chicken or about 8 pieces - I used boneless, skinless thighs and breasts
1 cup finely chopped fresh herbs, mixed - I used Italian parsley, rosemary, oregano and basil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
about 1 cup red wine
Rinse the chicken pieces and set aside.
In a non-reactive bowl, combine the herbs, garlic, mustard, olive oil and wine. Pour into a non-reactive baking dish which is just large enough to hold the chicken pieces. Place the first piece in the baking dish. If the liquid doesn't come halfway up the piece of chicken, add more wine until it does. Then place each piece of chicken in the marinade and then turn it over, thus coating it with the herbs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover dish with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for an hour.
After an hour remove the dish from the refrigerator and unwrap. Turn each piece over, cover and return to the fridge. Repeat an hour later and let chill one more hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the plastic wrap. Replace it with foil to cover the dish, then bake for 35 minutes, removing the foil cover for the last 5 minutes.
Serves 6 - 8
Sunday, July 05, 2009
Our time in Ireland is coming to a close. As you can tell from the journal, we have enjoyed the land, the people, the ruins, and the culture and food…not so much the roads, but that part was an adventure! Today we leave the lovely lakes of Killarney and head toward Limerick, and then turn north to Ennis for one more pleasant night with Mrs. Keane at Grey Gables.
As we drive toward Limerick, we are again in the Palatine area with lush green fields full of sheep and cattle. At some point we reach the equivalent of a freeway…a two year old modern road with limited access. Once we get used to the fact that it is only a lane and a half in either direction, we enjoy the ride. Slower traffic moves to the half lane on the left, which allows for reasonably easy passing on the right. The day is bright after morning overcast so we enjoy the ride. As we near Limerick I look at one of my guidebooks to see what we can visit in the hour we have. King John’s Castle, which we passed as we left town, seemed too much like the other castles we had already visited.
The Hunt Museum, with “a hoard of archaeological finds” sounded promising, as did the National Self-Portrait Collection at the University of Limerick. We decided to take the first exit we came to and see what the signs said. On exiting we saw signs directing us to the University of Limerick, so that’s where we went.
The campus is very beautiful with abundant plantings and modern buildings. We managed to find a parking place and the parking attendant asked if he could help us. I said that we were here to see the National Self-Portrait Gallery. He thought for a moment and said that he didn’t think there was such a thing. Once we explained that our guide book said the gallery was there, he directed us to the Information desk. There the young woman on duty asked us if she could help us…and we gave her the same answer. She looked puzzled and said she would make a few calls. The first person she called said we would need to have a guide go with us, but that none were available. The second said it was fine to just go over and see the self-portraits. She directed us to the White House (plus a few minutes of chat about our White House and President Obama, etc.)
It was unfortunate that they were hung in an area where glare obscured the true beauty of the paintings.
The following morning we were off to Shannon Airport and the long flight across the Atlantic. Glad that we didn’t have to take a flying boat and spend over twenty four hours on the flight!
It’s been a month since we returned to California. Today I was remembering the lovely scones we ate in Ireland and decided to make a California version. Part of the usual white flour was replaced with my King Arthur 12 grain flour. Some almond meal left over from making the Bakewell Tarts was added, too. I added a little almond extract to the milk mixture to pick up on the almond meal flavor and to go with the truly California part…fresh, diced strawberries, grown just a few miles from here…full of the sweetness of summer. Good thing I baked them on a silicon mat because the juices from some of the strawberries caramelized around the edges of the scones. This afternoon we sat outside, remembering the fun we had in Ireland, enjoying the view of the garden that grew so large while we were gone, and sipping Irish Breakfast tea as we ate our fruit and nut California scones.
Thus ends the tales of my trip to a small portion of the beautiful island of Ireland. Maybe one day we’ll go back and see some other parts. Still hoping that our cousins from Glin will come visit us!
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup almond meal
½ cup 12 grain flour (or substitute whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
4 oz (1/2 stick) very cold butter, grated on the large holes of a box grater
½ cup light cream
¼ cup buttermilk
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup fresh strawberries, diced finely
With a fork stir together the flour, almond meal, 12 grain flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the grated butter, then, using clean fingers, rub the butter and flour together until the texture of bread crumbs. Work quickly to keep the butter cold.
In a large measuring cup, use the fork to stir the eggs to beat them lightly, then add the light cream, buttermilk, and almond extract and stir to mix well.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and gradually add the liquid ingredient mixture, mixing lightly with the fork, just until ingredients are barely combined. Do not overmix. If mixture seems to dry, add a few drops of milk; if too wet, add a tablespoon of flour. Finished mixture should be the consistency of moist biscuit dough.
Again using the fork, gently stir the strawberries into the dough, just enough to disperse them.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Pat dough out to about a 1 inch thickness. Cut with floured scone or biscuit cutter, or with the rim of a drinking glass. Gather scrapes and pat them down, then cut some more scones until dough is used up.