Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Classroom Treat Logic Games

Though we already did a 9th birthday celebration with a cake (Inky Chocolate Cake), the kid has to bring treats to school on his birthday.

Do you remember my Valentine treat quandry?!? Well, I'm playing the same logic game with Riley's birthday treats for his classmates...

If I make the carrot cakes with chestnut flour, then Sophia can't have one.
If I make the carrot cakes with wheat flour, then Danya can't have one.
If I make top the carrot cakes with cream cheese frosting, then Joshua can't have one.
If I make a flourless chocolate cake - with butter - then Sophia and Danya can both have that, but not Josh.

My solution: carrot cakes without nuts and without butter (substituting oil and applesauce) for everyone except Danya. And then a flourless chocolate cake for our favorite gluten-free girl!

Now I just need to bake them all.

Seafood Chowder

Our "Dinner from the Deep" for Riley's camping trip included this seafood chowder that was a hit! I made it the night before, packed it in ice for our trek down the coast, then reheated it on a camping stove and served it with crackers.

1 C cubed pancetta
1 C diced onions
an assortment of potatoes (purple, Yukon gold, and new red)
carrots
1 lb cleaned squid
1 lb scallops
1 lb cleaned and deveined shrimp
1 lb lump crab
1 C roasted corn cut off the cob
butter
flour
2 C clam juice
milk
fresh oregano
fresh thyme
pink Himalaya salt

In a large soup kettle or stockpot, cook pancetta and onions over medium heat. Add potatoes and carrots and cook till beginning to caramelize. Add the seafood. Cook for 10 minutes or until scallops and squid are opaque and shrimp turn pink. In another pot make a roux with the butter and flour. Add the clam juice to make a thick sauce. Transfer the sauce to the larger pot. Stir in milk and cook till desired thickness. Season with fresh herbs, roasted corn, and salt to taste.

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Tuesday Night Supper Club

Inky Chocolate Cake

Riley's cake request for his Deep Sea birthday party: a dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate frosting topped with a marzipan octopus. Okey dokey.

I started with a recipe from Nick Malgieri's Perfect Cakes which is always my go-to when I need baking inspiration. His is aptly named: Perfect Chocolate Cake. I added chestnut flour and used raw sugar for little bit more depth of flavor.

1 C white whole wheat flour
1/2 C chestnut flour
1/2 C alkalized (Dutch-process) cocoa powder
1 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
2 sticks butter, softened
1 C organic raw sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
One 8-ounce container crème fraîche
1 T organic heavy whipping cream
I doubled this recipe so I ended up with two 8" round cakes.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda. Sift the ingredients onto a piece of parchment or wax paper and set aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in half the dry ingredients. Scrape down the bowl and beater well. Beat in the crème fraîche and whipping cream, scrape again, and then beat in the remainder of the dry ingredients.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes,or until well risen and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake emerges clean.

Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then invert onto a rack and remove the paper. Invert the cake onto a rack again to finish cooling right side up.

Frost with a dark chocolate ganache. And top with a marzipan sea creature of your choosing!

Click here for a homemade marzipan recipe.

Beach Picnic

Over the river and through the woods...

As part of Riley's 9th birthday party, we were stopping at the beach in Andrew Molera State Park in Big Sur on our way down to camp at Limekiln.
What do you serve when you're hiking lunch for fifteen people along a trail and across a river?!?

My solution: fresh fruits and veggies, lots of them; seaweed-kale salad; pasta salad; and Riley's favorite - ham and cheese quiche.

The best part was that everyone ate everything, so the packs were much lighter on the way out.

Crust
2 C white whole wheat flour
3/4 C butter
pinch of pink Himalaya salt
1 T cold water

Preheat oven to 350. Place flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Rub in butter till the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in water until the mixture forms a ball. Press the dough into tart pans and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Place diced ham and cheese into the crust, top with beaten egg, and bake till firm, about 30 minutes. Once cooled, remove from tart pan.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Caprese Pizza with a Chestnut Crust

1 T active dry yeast
1 T organic granulated sugar
1 C warm water
1-1/2 C white whole wheat flour
1 C chestnut flour
2 T olive oil
1 t pink Himalaya salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour, salt and oil. Beat until smooth. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat or roll into a round. Transfer crust to a lightly greased pizza stone dusted with flour. Smear with minced garlic and tomato sauce and bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Let baked pizza cool for 5 minutes before serving. Top with sliced fresh mozzarella, fresh cut tomatoes, and rough chopped fresh basil. Sprinkle with pink Himalaya salt and drizzle with olive oil.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Elderflower Juice for Kids...and Adults

At IKEA, on our culinary adventure with the Novaks, we washed down the Swedish meatballs swimming in brown gravy with elderflower and lingonberry juice boxes.

I was reminded of the dried elderflower blossoms I had ordered from Monterey Bay Spice Company. I think that I will infuse some vodka with the dried elderflower blossoms for some unique summer cocktails.

I'm quite taken by the Sage, Elderflower, and Cucumber White Sangria created by Brian McGrory in New York.

Keep your eyes open for my infused vodka over the next couple of weeks.

Post-Maker Faire Eating Adventure at IKEA

While we were waiting in line to get into the Maker Faire - Riley stood huddled over his book, Dylan was pesting anyone and everyone he could reach - Ulla announced that she had a plan for dinner: Swedish meatballs at IKEA.

Bear in mind the one and only time Jake and I have ever set foot into an IKEA we were beset by claustrophobia, annoyed by the cattle-feel of the routing through the store, and swore to never go again. But, as I tell the boys, if you're with friends who want to do something, just do it...and smile while you're doing it.

So, we followed the Novaks into the back entrance of the parking garage, rode the escalator up to the cafeteria, ordered plates of meatballs swimming in brown gravy, loaded up the trays with some sweets and drinks, and sat down at the table. It was only then that I noticed there were trays in front of all of us, but not in front of Ulla. She took me on this culinary adventure and then didn't even eat it herself!

Though I was not impressed with the cuisine, it was an adventure. Plus we always love spending time with the Novaks. Still, I won't be going back there any time soon.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Brown Sugar-Rhubarb Muffins

Because my Mothers' Day adventure required us to leave the house at seven thirty in the morning, I needed a quick and portable breakfast that we could wash down with yogurt smoothies while on the road. This is what I came up with...and it was delicious! Brown sugar. Butter. Rhubarb. Yum!

2 C organic dark brown sugar

1/2 C butter
1 egg
2 C rhubarb stalks, chopped
1 C buttermilk (or 1 C milk + 1 t white vinegar)
1 t baking soda
2 C white whole wheat flour
1 t pure vanilla
1 t pink Himalaya salt
1 t cinnamon

Cream together 1 1/2 C brown sugar and butter. Add remaining ingredients except for the cinnamon and pour into muffin tins. Mix remaining sugar with cinnamon. Sprinkle over batter. Bake in 325°F oven for 40 minutes.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ham-Spinach-Caramelized Onion Tart

While the boys wanted ham and cheese quiche for their Mothers' Day picnic - "with no vegetables, please" - I wanted something with veggies.

Crust
2 C white whole wheat flour
3/4 C butter
pinch of pink Himalaya salt
1 T cold water

Preheat oven to 350. Place flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Rub in butter till the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in water until the mixture forms a ball. Press the dough into a tart pan and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Place diced ham, sauteed spinach and caramelized onions into the crust, top with beaten egg, sprinkle with shaved grana padana and bake till firm, about 30 minutes. Once cooled, remove from tart pan.

Tuesday Night Supper Club

Ham and Gouda Quiche

The boys came up with the menu for Mothers' Day, but I'm cooking. How is that fair? Riley wanted ham and cheese quiche, so I tonight I made this...

Crust
2 C white whole wheat flour
3/4 C butter
pinch of pink Himalaya salt
1 T cold water

Preheat oven to 350. Place flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Rub in butter till the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in water until the mixture forms a ball. Press the dough into individual springform pans and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Place diced ham and gouda into the crust, top with beaten egg, and bake till firm, about 30 minutes. Once cooled, remove from springform pan.

Chocolate Pecan Squares

A nutty, toffee-like mixture over a crisp cookie crust make this a tempting treat. And sliced into small squares, this treat is portable...another perfect addition to my Mothers' Day hike and picnic.


Crust
2 C white whole wheat flour
1/2 C powdered sugar
3/4 C butter
pinch of pink Himalaya salt
1 T cold water

Topping
3/4 butter
1/3 C honey
3/4 C organic dark brown sugar
5 T organic whipping cream
2 C pecan pieces
2 C pecan halves

Preheat oven to 350. Place flour, powdered sugar, and salt into a mixing bowl. Rub in butter till the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in water until the mixture forms a ball.


Press the dough into a 9"x13" baking pan and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. In the meantime, make the topping. Melt the butter, honey, and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and, without stirring, cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the cream and pecans.

Raise oven temperature to 375. Spread melted chocolate over the crust, pour the topping over the chocolate, and bake for another 25 minutes. Let cool completely. Cut into squares with a sharp knife dipped into very hot water.

Lemon Squares

A tangy lemon topping over a crisp cookie crust make this a luscious treat. And sliced into small squares, this treat is portable...a perfect addition to my Mothers' Day hike and picnic.

Crust
2 C white whole wheat flour
1/2 C powdered sugar
3/4 C butter
pinch of pink Himalaya salt
1 T cold water

Topping
4 eggs
2 C organic granulated sugar
1/4 C white whole wheat flour
1/2 t baking powder
1 t lemon zest
1/4 C fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350. Place flour, powdered sugar, and salt into a mixing bowl. Rub in butter till the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in water until the mixture forms a ball.

Press the dough into a 9"x13" baking pan and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. In the meantime, make the topping. To make the lemon layer, beat together the eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, lemon rind, and lemon juice in a bowl till smooth and combined.

Pour lemon mixture over the cooked base. Bake for another 25 minutes. Leave to cool. Before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into squares.

Baci di Ficchi

Baci di Ficchi. Fig kisses. I saw these delicious morsels at the girl + the fig in Sonoma last weekend, but I was stuffed so we didn't order any dessert. I figured: I can do that when we get home. And since they are both somewhat exotic and portable, these baci di ficchi will be a perfect addition to our Mothers' Day hike tomorrow.

So easy it's almost laughable to write down a recipe. Figs + melted dark chocolate. That's it. Enjoy.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Grilled Salmon and Corn Soft Tacos

Cinco de Mayo. On this day, across the country, 185,000 margaritas are consumed each hour. Seriously?!? Fun fact for the day.

As it was a school night and during the middle of an already overbooked week, we skipped the margaritas, touched on the Battle of Puebla history a bit, but did manage an easy somewhat Cinco de Mayo appropriate dinner: grilled salmon and corn soft tacos.

The best part: I didn't have to do much. Jake grilled the salmon filets that I had marinated in lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Jake grilled the corn. I just melted cheese onto organic tortillas, scooped plain yogurt, and topped it all with salsa in a jar that I had gotten as a birthday present. Yes, my friends know what makes me happy.

Olé!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Portuguese Passionfruit Liqueur

During our stop in Half Moon Bay, on our way home from Sonoma this afternoon, I popped in to Cunha's Country Store and found this: a bottle of Portuguese passionfruit liqueur. Sugary, honey-colored, deliciously decadent. Saúde!

Pizza With Chestnut Flour

Inspired by the delicious offerings at Ramekins Culinary Institute last night at Obe and Andi's wedding, I whipped up some pizzas of my own for dinner tonight. My quick and easy crust has white whole wheat flour, chestnut flour, and oat flour, but use whatever flours you have on hand. Similarly, use whatever toppings you have. Tonight I used salami, pepperoni, ham, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese for the boys' pizzas.


  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 T organic granulated sugar
  • 1 C warm water
  • 1 C white whole wheat flour
  • 1 C chestnut flour
  • 1/2 C oat flour
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 t pink Himalaya salt
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour, salt and oil. Beat until smooth. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat or roll into a round. Transfer crust to a lightly greased pizza stone dusted with flour. Spread with desired toppings and bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let baked pizza cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday Night Supper Club

Cloning the Hostess Cupcake



Knowing my aversion to foods wrapped in cellophane, two of my best friends decided that they were going to make Hostess cupcakes for my birthday dinner. Trouble-makers. Yes, I was amused; no, I didn't eat the one in the wrapper. But I did indulge in their homemade version and it was yummy. Jenn's mom found this recipe for her.




Homemade Hostess Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup hot coffee
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, Dutch process cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla and then add into the dry ingredients. Whisk in the hot coffee.

Fill lined muffin cups 2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees F for 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

For the filling:
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup marshmallow creme

In a medium bowl, beat together all filling ingredients. Fill a large piping bag. When cupcakes are cool, press tip into the center and squeeze 1-2 tablespoons of the cream filling into the center. Repeat for all cupcakes.

For the ganache:
3/4 cup cream
7 ounces chocolate
Heat the cream in a saucepan over medium heat stirring frequently until the cream is hot and just starts to boil. Immediately pour the cream over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Spread warm but slightly cooled ganache over the tops of the filled cupcakes.

For the icing:
1/2 stick butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2-1 tablespoon milk

Once the ganache is set, whip together all icing ingredients until smooth, adding more milk if necessary. Fill a piping bag and pipe on the curls or write fun messages on your cupcakes.

Makes 12 homemade Hostess cupcakes.

Fig Fantasies


For years I have dreamt about going to the girl + the fig in Sonoma, California. So, when I found out our friends were getting married in Sonoma, my to-do list went like this...in this order:
  • Make a reservation at the girl + the fig
  • RSVP for the wedding
Usually one dish on the menu jumps out at me when I go to a restaurant. No joke: everything on the menu yesterday looked amazing. I stared, dumbfounded, unable to decide.

Jake and I finally decided to share the fromage tower - 6 kinds of cheese, 2 kinds of prosciutto, fig compote, fig cake, spiced nuts, caperberries, and olives - and the fig and arugula salad with smoked applewood bacon. And I had a fig apertif to wash it all down. After we were completely stuffed we perused the store area and saw, but didn't buy, fig kisses which are black mission figs dipped in dark chocolate.

I think I'll have to plan an all-fig dinner. Soon.

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