Saturday, January 31, 2009

Emily's Baby Shower

Emily's Baby Shower
Today I had the thrill of hosting my sister's baby shower. This was exactly the kind of party I love hosting - and I've always dreamt of having the chance to throw an over-the-top, girly shower with loads of amazing homemade treats. I went a little nuts with the food, but in the end there were barely a few scraps left, so I'm glad I did!
On the menu today - Savory: Sharp Cheddar with Mango Chutney on Mini Brioche Rolls, Cucumber Tea Sandwiches with Watercress Cream Cheese, Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches, and Tarragon Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches with Pecans and Cranberries. Sweet: Pastry Cream filled Shortbread Mini Tarts with Fresh Raspberries, Chocolate Dipped Dried Apricots and Fresh Strawberries, Date Nut Spice Bread, Bittersweet Chocolate Mini Tarts with Candied Ginger, and my mother-in-law's famous Mini Currant Scones served with Clotted Cream and Raspberry Jam.
Shortbread Tarts with Raspberries
Opening Gifts
The Spread
Grandmother to be
Suzy & Emily
Suzy & I

Friday, January 30, 2009

Date Nut Spice Bread

I am hosting a Baby shower tomorrow for my sister, Emily.
This is one of the things I made for the party. It should have the word orange somewhere in the title, because it is very orange-y.
In a good way.
It's a *BF* recipe. The new term that my sister's have assigned to my favorite cookbook author.

Start by getting a few things ready.
Bring 1/2 stick of unsalted butter to room temperature.
Zest 2 oranges.

Place in a small bowl,

and add one egg,

and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Set aside for now.

Next, juice 3-4 oranges,

or until you have 3/4 cup.

Then you'll need 13-14 ounces of pitted dates,

roughly chopped.

Put the dates in a bowl & add 1/3 cup of Triple Sec.

Mix to combine & set aside to soak for at least 30 minutes.

Next, coarsely chop 3/4 cup of pecans.

Preheat the oven to 350.
Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of a loaf pan.

Butter the bottom of the pan,

& place the parchment paper into the bottom.

Grease on top of the paper & up the sides of the pan.

Then dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

Put 2 cup of flour in a medium mixing bowl.

Add 2 teaspoons baking powder,

1/2 teaspoon baking soda,

1 teaspoon of cinnamon,

1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg,

1 teaspoon of kosher salt,

and a 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves.

Whisk to combine.

Put the butter & 3/4 cup of lightly packed light brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment,

& beat for about 1 minute on medium speed.

Add the egg, vanilla, orange zest mixture & beat to incorporate.

Add the flour mixture in small batches,

alternating with the orange juice.

Scrape down the sides after each addition.

Remove the bowl from the mixer & add the pecans, dates & any liquid & mix by hand,

until combined.

Pour into the loaf pan & smooth out the top.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool for 5 minutes. Remove from the pan & cool completely.

Slice & serve with cream cheese.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mom's Pasta Sauce

I've never been one to like jarred tomato sauce. Even really *gourmet* ones. They always taste too sweet & never, ever taste like the real thing.
This sauce is definitely the exception!! It's not cheap. But, what can you expect for the *real* thing? It is the real thing...even better.


After spending nearly all of my free time over the past 2 weeks reading....
I am back in reality, after completing all 4 books in the Twilight saga.
It did help me fulfill my New Year's resolution to get back to the gym every morning! An hour of peace & these books was just what I needed.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pot Roast II

I love making Pot Roast this time of year. It makes the whole house smell amazing and the Bozos love it. I saw this recipe in my new cookbook by the Barefoot Contessa and I've been dying to try it. This isn't necessarily an easy recipe. Not in the sense that it's difficult technique-wise, but it does include a fairly large ingredient list, and contains many steps. This is the type of meal you start when you have a big block of time to spend in the kitchen. But, I think it's worth it for special meals. In my version I've adapted the original recipe slightly.
For starters, I didn't add the chicken bouillon cube to the sauce. I'm not a fan of bouillon, unless it's the all-natural variety, because really it's just a small brick of MSG and salt. The roast is cooked with many flavorful vegetables for hours. Everything breaks down and gets infused with flavor, so really I didn't find it needed the bouillon. I also adjusted the quantities of salt. As much as I love Ina's recipes, I find they can be a bit heavy handed with the salt. However, everyone has different, just adjust it to suit yours.
Finally, the original recipe suggests making a roux at the end, from flour and butter, and stirring that into the finished sauce to help thicken it. I didn't bother with this step, as I thought it was just the right consistency as is. Totally up to you whether you'd like to add that step in. For your reference, you can find the original recipe here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Spicy Curry Noodle Soup

I have been making a lot of soup lately. It happens to be a great thing to blog, because the light in my kitchen cooperates better in the early afternoon.
I love having dinner done by midday...reheating it for dinner...and being done.
All the components of this soup can be done ahead of time...up to a couple of days ahead of time. So, it makes it a perfect thing for the nights when you know you can't cook. Like, the ones when you're at hockey practice until 7pm.
I was inspired to make this because of some fond memories I have of eating "Malaysian Curried Noodle Soup with Chicken" at Kelley & Ping, on Greene St, in NYC.
DH & I had many a bowl of this delicious soup during our years living in Brooklyn. When I saw this recipe & the picture that accompanied it, I immediately thought of that soup & wanted to try it. It is not exactly the same thing, but it does have the essence of what I remembered.
You'll need some exotic ingredients for it. But, other than that, it's super easy.

Begin by chopping a large shallot.
Put it in a bowl,

add 3 cloves of chopped garlic,

& 2 tablespoons of peeled & minced ginger.

Next, you'll need 3 stalks of lemongrass.

Cut the bottom 4" off & peel off the outer leaves.

Chop it finely & add it to the bowl.
This was my first time cooking with lemongrass. After tasting the results, I would recommend processing it into a finer paste before cooking. Either by using a food processor, or a mortar & pestle. It is very tough & fibrous otherwise. Some of the pieces never softened enough. Try this link for more tips on preparing it!

In a separate bowl, add 2 tablespoons of yellow curry. You can find this in an Asian grocery store.

To that, add 2 tablespoons of curry powder. I used sweet curry, because I love it.
Any curry powder will do though.

Now, you have the option to add 2 teaspoons of hot chili paste (or sambal oelek).
Curry paste is spicy on it's own. It all depends on how much spice you can handle. It can easily be omitted.
If you decide to add it, this can be found in an Asian grocery as well.

Open 2 cans of coconut milk. I used *light*...(health kick).

Now, you are ready to start the broth.
Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil, over medium heat, in a large heavy soup pot.

Add the garlic, shallot, ginger & lemongrass. Saute for a few minutes, until they soften & become fragrant.

Add the curry/chili mixture & stir to combine.

Measure out a 1/2 cup of the coconut milk. Scoop the thick stuff off the top & use that, if possible.

Mix it up with the ingredients in the pot & heat for about 2 minutes, or until all the spices appear smooth.

Next add 2 tablespoons of fish sauce,

5 cups of low-sodium chicken broth,

2 teaspoons of sugar & the rest of the coconut milk.
Simmer the ingredients on low, partially covered, while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Bring a large pot of water to boil.
Trim 3 cups of snow peas.

Boil the snow peas for about 20 seconds & strain into a large bowl of ice water, to stop the cooking.

Bring the water back up to a boil. Cut a large sweet potato into 1/2" chunks (about 2 cups) & boil for 7 minutes.

Drain & add to the ice water.
Once cooled, drain the veggies & place in separate bowls.

Bring the water to a boil once again & cook 1 pound of rice vermicelli noodles.
Follow the package instructions for cooking times.


and place in a microwave save bowl.

When ready to serve, bring the broth to a boil.

Add 1 pound of thinly sliced chicken thighs. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Add the sweet potatoes & cook a few more minutes.

Put some noodles & snow peas in a soup bowl. If you cooked the noodles ahead of time, then microwave them before hand to warm.

Ladle some of the soup over them & garnish with thinly sliced red onion, sliced scallion & cilantro. It's worth the extra effort for the garnish. The flavors are amazing!