Saturday, August 30, 2008

{Cool Tools} Low Tech Nut Grinder

Years ago a dear friend gave me this nifty nut grinder. It's great for small quantities of nuts when cleaning a food processor just isn't very appealing.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Amazing invisible halibut

I picked up some good-looking halibut at Whole Foods today, and rather than making my recent favored recipe, I decided to search for a new recipe. Well I say that the fish looked good, but you'll just have to take my word for it. Things were a little chaotic around our house as I was trying to cook, and I totally FORGOT to photograph our food. We just sat down and ate dinner like normal people who don't delay eating their meals for pictures! We enjoyed this fish so much I decided to post the recipe without visual aids , so you'll have to use your imaginations.

Anyways, a quick search on FoodieView turned up a highly-rated Cooking Light recipe called Cornflake Crusted Halibut with Chile Cilantro Aioli.
The overwhelmingly favorable reviews had some great suggestions, and I had a few of my own ideas. Here's what I did:

- used Panko crumbs rather than cornflakes
- used white whole wheat flour
- added more salt and pepper to the crumbs
- skipped the egg white and just used the milk wash
- made half recipe of the fish but a full recipe of the aioli.
- used 2 T reduced fat Hellman's mayo and 1 T olive oil in the aioli (rather than 3 T nonfat mayo)
- doubled the amount of garlic in the aioli

The Verdict:
This fish was excellent - our new favorite way to eat halibut (but really, is there a bad way to eat halibut?) It's the combination of the breading, the lemon squeeze, AND the fabulous aioli that makes this fish taste so good.

Using olive oil as a substitute for 1/3 of the mayo made for a nice smooth mellow sauce, with the slight kick of serrano pepper (really it wasn't too very spicy for us). It was good to have double the sauce, and I'd do that again.

As a reward for reading this whole post without pictures, here's a little peek at the beginning of the recipe - the chopped serrano pepper:

{Update 9/14/08: the halibut is invisible no longer! I made it again, and this time had the camera handy.}

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Tonight I made spicy wings, adapting this recipe I found on Simply Recipes. I had most of the ingredients on hand, and substituted the rest. The finished product was good enough that I will try it again, with more of the correct ingredients!

Here's how I made the recipe:

- I used 1 1/2 leeks instead of scallions
- I used a fresh jalapeno and some ground cayenne pepper instead of 1/2 habanero or Scotch Bonnet chile (or 3 serrano chilies)
- I used chicken wings instead of chicken dumsticks

The Verdict:
These wings were really really delicious. I love the combination of the allspice, thyme, garlic, and hot chile, with the onion base. I have no idea how anyone could figure out to combine these herbs/spices but they deserve a medal, imo. I always love a recipe that uses herbs from the garden. And I really wish I'd planted hot chiles this year.

The next time I make these, I will use the scallions and a hotter chile pepper, and the flavor will have more freshness and punch. The leeks were a little too subtle for this recipe.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

{TWD} Chocolate-Banded Coffee Toffee Ice Cream Torte

{UPDATE: I packed this with ice packs in a cooler and brought it to an impromptu family gathering this evening. It stayed solidly frozen and sliced beautifully (see picture above, although the Bailey's layer was a bit softer than everything else). The relatives loved the torte - gave it a "10" rating. They patiently waited while I photographed the slices. I felt like such a dork! My brother-in-law told me I needed some mint for garnish and he went into the garden and cut me some! The best part: I got to leave the leftovers in their freezer for them to finish.}

For this week's Tuesdays With Dorie challenge Amy of Food, Family and Fun chose: Chocolate-Banded Ice Cream Torte on pages 288-289 of Dorie Greenspan's book Baking From My Home to Yours. You can also find the recipe in Amy's post of her beautiful version of this torte.

I love the way this torte looks in Dorie's book, and I immediately started to think of wonderful flavor combinations. Coffee ice cream is my favorite, and it would go beautifully with the chocolate ganache. yummmm.

But then I realized that while I was heading into a bunch of entertaining, none of the events lent themselves to this dessert. I gave serious consideration to sitting this one out (after doing the first 5 challenges that have come up since I joined). But the coffee/chocolate combination was calling to me, so I made the torte, and will keep it in the freezer until "needed"!

I really wanted to do two different flavors of ice cream - one for each of the layers, so I picked up a pint of Haagen-Dazs Bailey's and a pint of Haagen-Dazs Coffee. And some Heath Bits 'O Brickle Toffee Bits for the very top.

The ganache wasn't difficult; melt the chocolate and butter, whisk in sugar, then add a bunch of eggs (pasteurized):

It tasted good, but I kept thinking of the 14 T. butter and the eight eggs. Yipes!

I decided to make the torte in a rectangular pan, so I did some volume calculations and decided that my trusty slim loaf pans would hold about as much as an 8" springform (which I don't own). This loaf shape will be easier to store in my freezer, and I thought the slices would look good. I oiled the pan and lined it with parchment paper to help with the eventual un-molding.

I softened the ice cream in their containers in the fridge, and stirred with a wooden spoon until it was spreading consistency. The coffee ice cream:

My ganache measured just over 750ml (3+ cups), so I used 250ml for each of the three chocolate layers. When I added the ganache it seemed to melt the ice cream under it, and the ice cream seeped up around the sides a bit. I tried to get the layers smooth so the slices would show even layers.

There was just enough room in the loaf pan for the final ganache layer!

The Verdict:

I wanted my two different flavors of ice cream to look different in the torte, but unfortunately the coffee ice cream and the Bailey's ice cream were the same color.

I missed the part about freezing the torte for at least 6 hours, so I unmolded it and tried to cut it too soon :( Even with a warm knife, the ice cream squished out the sides under the pressure from the knife. It's back in the freezer now, and I'm going to see if it will harden correctly. However, I can report that the flavor is wonderful: chocolate + coffee + Bailey's + Heath = sophisticated mocha delicousness punctuated with crunchy toffee.


I might be bringing this to a family gathering Tuesday evening (not sure if it can travel the 15 minute drive without melting too much) and will report back on how people liked it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Quintessential Peanut Butter Cookies

We've made these peanut butter cookies several times this summer, and they are the best I've ever eaten! I think the key is the high peanut butter-to-other-ingredients ratio.

Our changes: We omitted the chocolate chips and didn't use sugar to roll the cookies. While we think that chocolate is, as a general proposition, great with peanut butter, these cookies are such peanut-y perfection that they deserve to stand on their own in peanut splendor.

The Verdict:
These are IT for peanut butter cookies.

Gotta love the criss-crosses!

{update} Here's an ice cream sandwich made with honey-vanilla ice cream. Yum!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Summer Dinner Party, part 2: Lime & Peanut Coleslaw

To balance the spiciness of the chicken and the creaminess of the corn, I wanted a fresh and cooling salad to round out the dinner menu. I found a delicious coleslaw recipe on 101 Cookbooks. That food blog makes for great browsing, and this was my first recipe to try.

I used Napa cabbage; I find it lighter and more delicate than plain old green cabbage. I also roasted the peanuts as directed, but I think it would be fine to use pre-roasted in a pinch.

I doubled the recipe which made for some serious chopping (cilantro, tomatoes, cabbage) and juicing (limes), but I did everything in advance and just tossed it together at serving time, adding the peanuts at the end.

The Verdict:
This was quite popular with the dinner guests - everyone asked for the recipe. It was refreshing and a bit tangy. The only thing I'd change: the recipe called for far too many peanuts. I added peanuts until it looked right, and I had tons left over. Additionally, several people picked the peanuts out of their salad, so I might serve them on the side next time.

I'll be excited to try more recipes from 101 Cookbooks!

I would repeat the menu for this dinner party again: spicy (chicken), creamy (corn), and cool (salad) was a great mix. I wish I could post pictures of the spread, but I didn't take any photos before we all dug in!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Summer Dinner Party, part 1: Creamed Corn with Bacon and Leeks

This recipe from Cooking Light called my name from the minute I saw it on my computer screen. I knew it would go well with our favorite chicken (luckily my electric spice mill came in the mail, so making that was easy!)

I doubled the recipe, using the dozen ears of corn from my trip to Central New York.

I wanted the bacon to be really distinctive, so I stopped at Star Provisions specialty market for advice. The fellow behind the meat counter was incredibly helpful, and set me up with Benton bacon cut into lardons. This stuff had the most amazing hickory smell. I fried it slowly and rendered off the fat. It cooked to a beautiful brown color and tasted salty, smoky and chewy - perfect for my recipe!

Making creamed corn produces a total mess - the cutting and the scraping makes corn bits fly all over. Also, I forgot that when making creamed corn, I shouldn't cut all the way to the bottom of the kernels, so I had less "milk" and pulp when I scraped the cobs, and probably too much kernel.

At any rate, something went wrong in the proportions of ingredients, so I ended up with way too much liquid. I poured some liquid off. I added more corn kernels. Then I sifted more cornstarch into the skillet and simmered it for a while until it thickened. Finally it reached an acceptable consistency.

With the bacon on top it was beautiful and I served it right out of the skillet. It looked just as wonderful as the picture on the Cooking Light website. (I didn't photograph the food in front of my dinner guests, however!)

The Verdict:
We loved this corn. It tasted fresh and creamy and the bacon was the perfect complement.

I will make it again, but I have to figure out where I went wrong since it was very stressful to have to "rescue" the dish. That probably serves me right for trying new recipes on dinner guests!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fresh from the field!

Before I left central New York, I made sure to pick up a dozen ears of sweet corn. I'd been driving past the fields for 4 days, just eye-ing that corn!

I'm planning to make creamed corn with leeks and bacon for a dinner party on Saturday. (From Cooking Light, even with bacon I guess it's healthy!)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

TWD: Granola Grabbers

[I baked these cookies very early, because I knew I was headed out of town for posting day. I set this up in advance to post on Tuesday while I'm gone.]

Granola cookies must be part of the zeitgeist. Last week King Arthur Flour's blog featured granola bars, and here we are making Dorie's Granola Grabbers! (Chosen by Michelle of Bad Girl Baking. You can find the recipe on her post or on page 82 of Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours.

I was happy about this choice because it gave me a great excuse to try making homemade granola and to check out a cool-looking cookie recipe. I made several batches of granola, and we've been eating it for breakfast every day for the past week!

First, mix all the dry/chopped ingredients in a bowl.

With the stand mixer (I love my yellow KA!), cream the butter, and slowly add the wet ingredients, beating after each addition. Some of the beating times seemed really long to me, but I guess that's to make the dough fluffy?

Then add the dry ingredients to the wet, carefully stirring. Drop rounded tablespoons onto a cookie sheet, flatten slightly and bake. Pretty easy!

I departed ever so slightly from the recipe. I used:
-half AP flour and half King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour
-chopped sour cherries and some raisins (I'm obsessed with Trader Joe's Tart cherries)
-unsweetened coconut because that’s what I had
-whole almonds, hand chopped (I was out of slivered)
-plain yogurt substituted for about 15% of the butter

The Verdict:

Mine had a lot of wheat germ (it's an ingredient in my granola also, as is oat bran) and white whole wheat flour, so they had a nice earthy and wholesome taste. Even with all that wheat and oats stuff, there were enough wet ingredients to bind them together. Once they cooled, they held together nicely.

The cookies were not overly sweet for two reasons: my granola is not particularly sweet and I used tart cherries and unsweetened coconut. I don't think they would have tasted any better if they were sweeter; the flavor of the ingredients really came through.

My daughter was not a huge fan: "If I'm going to eat a cookie, I want it to taste amazing". Which I think she means rich and sinful. I see her point.

My husband enjoyed them; this is his type of baked good. But he didn't like the peanuts, saying "They remind me of Jimmy Carter." Being a Georgia boy, he's had a lot of exposure to Jimmy. Ha ha. Actually, he didn't care for the peanut flavor in the cookie; to him peanuts are a little bitter. Next time I think I'd use pecans -another Georgia nut with no known associations with ex-Presidents! :)

I told my husband to bring the cookies to work and put them in the break room, but he liked them too much to give them all away. I also see his point; in fact I've managed to polish several off, strictly for research and evaluation purposes of course.

My personal opinion is mixed. I knew these would not be a decadent cookie, and they weren't. I don't require every dessert to be rich and spectacular, and I love whole grain baking, which I do ALL the time. I did really like the grabbers but at the same time I think I enjoy snacking on a handful of my granola just as much. With the cookie there's added butter and sugar, which I'll only justify if I love the flavor. With all the cookie recipes out there (and we've been baking lots of cookies this summer, including some near-perfect oatmeal cherry ones that I didn't post because I forgot to take a picture of them), I 'm not sure I'd make these again.

Monday, August 18, 2008

On the road, Bouckville edition

I hit the road this week, driving to the
Madison-Bouckville Outdoor Antiques Show. Here are some shots of Road Food:

Baked brie with dried fruit (and some added pepper!) at the Hamilton Inn.

Wonderful starter salad with cherries and almonds at the Hamilton Inn.

Fair food! Salt potatoes (my first ones) and watermelon. Yummy!! I loved this regional specialty!!

Wild boar sausage and mashed potatoes at the Colgate Inn.

Famous (and delicious) fontina macaroni and cheese at the Colgate Inn.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A small present...

... for a very special girl in Central New York, where I am headed tomorrow (with a car-full of other goodies)!

The new Braun grinder made this easy today, unlike last time and the time before!

Fruits and Nuts

Back in February I had the treat of tasting my friend Daisy's homemade granola. And I was lucky enough to get her recipe. I've been wanting to make granola ever since (especially after I lugged home a 9-pound box of oats from Costco), but first I had to use up all of the store-bought stuff in my cereal drawer.

My cereal drawer now has room, so Sunday was granola day (helped by the fact that the next Tuesdays With Dorie challenge recipe has granola is the main ingredient). Unfortunately I've managed to misplace Daisy's recipe. So I did a little research and devised a basic "test" recipe:

Beginner Granola


2 ¾ cups regular rolled oats
½ cup wheat germ
½ cup oat bran
1 cup finely chopped nuts (mixture of pecans, walnuts, and almonds)
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup or combined (I used half and half)
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract (I used almond)
2 ½ T warm water
2/3 cup dried fruit (can use dried cherries, cranberries, currants, dark or golden raisins, flaked coconut - I used mostly dried sour cherries with a few dark and golden raisins)


1. Preheat oven to 245 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment, or spray baking sheet with vegetable cooking spray (or use a non-stick cookie sheet)

2. In a medium bowl, mix oats, wheat germ, oat bran, nuts, and salt.

3. In a small saucepan, bring syrup, honey, oil, extract, and water to a simmer over medium heat. Then drizzle liquid over oat mixture and stir to combine.

4. Spread the mixture onto the baking sheet, squeezing lightly to help form clumps.

5. Bake for 30 minutes. Stir in fruit, then bake for 20 minutes more.

6. Store in airtight container for up to 1 month.

The Verdict:
We love this granola! It's not super sweet, nor is it extremely clumpy - I like granola exactly this way. The maple and almond flavors and the cherries are great together.

Add 2-3 T. brown sugar if you prefer a sweeter granola.

If you want clumpier granola, you should probably increase the quantity of the wet ingredients.

I made some of the granola without fruit to use in the next TWD recipe, which is Granola Grabbers. I baked them yesterday because I will be out of town starting on Friday. With any luck I will write the post and have it on delay until posting day, Tuesday, August 19.

Oh, and the honey was from a monastery in Connecticut, motto: "Where the Glory Bees are Sweeter"!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

{TWD} [rewind] Quintuple, no, Sextuple Chocolate Brownies!

This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie challenge, chosen by Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity is Blueberry-Sour Cream Ice Cream, on page 434 of Baking From My Home to Yours. Those without an ice cream maker could choose to make a “rewind” of any of the previous challenges.

I looked around in the house, but the ice cream maker we received as a wedding present 27 years ago appears to be long gone!* If you want to see how the ice cream turned out, check out the blogroll of TWD Bakers.

I had fun choosing which of the completed recipes to bake for my "rewind". Dorie’s Quintuple Chocolate Brownie recipe was the second challenge for TWD, back in January when there were just 3 members! I’ve wanted to make these ever since seeing the picture on page 98. My chocolate-allergic husband was out of town, so I could bake them without guilt. My plan was to bring them, together with the Black and White Banana Loaf, to our book group meeting last Thursday.

The recipe is posted here. The best part: I had all of the ingredients right in the house. All five kinds of chocolate! (cocoa, unsweetened, bitter/semisweet, milk, and white) Well, most of the chocolate I had on hand was pretty pedestrian. The only milk chocolate I had was some Hershey’s Kisses, which I chopped into chunks. But at least I didn't need to go to the store!

The brownies came together really well. Smooth as silk. I love my chocolate DARK, so I opted for bittersweet rather than semisweet chocolate in the batter (along with the cocoa and the unsweetened chocolate).

But five kinds of chocolate isn’t enough for me! So I slightly reduced the amount of the milk chocolate chunks, and added chopped semisweet chunks.

Some of the people in our book group don’t like nuts in baked goods, so I made half of the batter without nuts and tossed in even more semisweet chocolate chunks on that half. For the half with nuts, I used salted cashews per Dorie’s suggestion.

The brownies cooked very fast - in fact I may have over-cooked them by a few minutes - and they looked great coming out of the oven. Just beautiful.

A little voice told me to leave off the white chocolate glaze. Boy, do I wish I’d listened! But I decided to soldier on with the recipe just as Dorie wrote it.

So: I boiled the cream, poured over the chopped white chocolate. Stirred then spread over the brownies. Hmm, mine seemed a bit thin. And not very much of it. Dorie’s picture looked so thick and, well, thick. I stuck it in the fridge for the prescribed 30 minutes. The glaze was still very runny. Then it hit me: The recipe called for 6 ounces of white chocolate but I only used 3. Drat.

I carefully spooned off the runny glaze, then sopped it up with paper towels. Called to change the time of my dinner reservations. Sopped some more.

Luckily, Whole Foods was two doors down from the restaurant, so after dinner I stopped in and picked up some Callebaut white chocolate. If I was going to re-do the glaze, it would be with good ingredients!

After chopping the chocolate (6 ounces this time), boiling more cream, and melting, I spread the glaze and somehow managed to get the brownies back into the pan in one big piece, to be cut the next day for my meeting.

The Verdict:
These brownies were simply the BEST! Out-of-this-world delicious. The flavor of all the chocolates really was amazing – very deep and dark (I'm glad I used the bittersweet chocolate. Also, I used quite a bit of coffee). I liked the nuts, and the glaze smoothed and melded the various chocolate and coffee tastes. Everyone at the meeting loved the brownies; they were happy to divide up the leftovers of brownies and marble loaf.

I think the next time I make these - and there WILL be a next time - here's what I'll do:
  • Use an 8x8in pan to get thicker brownies.
  • Check for done-ness sooner.
  • Skip the glaze and see how they taste.
  • Keep the semisweet chips.
  • Use high quality for all of the various chocolates.
I can’t imagine how fabulous the brownies would be then!

[*I was cleaning the garage yesterday, and found my ice cream maker! So now I will look forward to making the blueberry ice cream as a future rewind...]

Monday, August 11, 2008

Good Guac

This is my recipe for the best guacamole ever. Today I made a small batch.


2 ripe avocados
1 large tomato, chopped
½ tsp. minced garlic
1 T. olive oil
½ tsp hot pepper flakes
½ lime, squeezed by hand
½ onion, chopped
1 T chopped fresh cilantro, or ½ tsp dried cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

1. Mash avocados with fork or potato masher.

2. Stir in other ingredients.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

{Great Finds} Applesauce Plus

This pomegranate-fortified applesauce from Mott's is a new find for me. I was enjoying it tremendously - with blueberries and granola - until I spilled it all over the floor. As a result, I can report that the dogs also like it.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


The dogs and I are the only ones in town this week, so my dinners haven't been more ambitious than a salad + grilled cheese. Nothing interesting there! So I will post something from earlier in the summer - a family favorite that's a bit more elaborate. The effort is totally worth it!

Whenever my daughter A.L.E. (she's the one in the blog banner, above) is in town, we make a point to cook tamales. Last time we had daughter J.D.E. and her friend G. cooking along with us!

Most of the ingredients are available at nearby supermarkets, but the good folk at will set you up with everything you need - including the steamer - and deliver it all right to your door. (You can even order a tamale kit.) They also have a great recipe for Chicken Tamales (basic dough and a delicious salsa verde chicken filling) that uses oil rather than the traditional lard.

This chicken filling is the one we make most often, but the basic tamale dough can be combined with lots of other fillings. We've even used our Thanksgiving turkey leftovers to make fabulous turkey tamales (recipe at the end of this post).

It takes a little while to get the hang of wrapping the tamales, but a quick internet search (thanks, Google!) will lead you to detailed instructions, like these, or these (with step by step pictures). We've tied our tamales with kitchen twine, but I prefer to make little ties out of strips of the corn husks.

You don't need a special tamale steamer (although I love mine) - any steamer/rack will work. If you end up with extra husks, you can spread them on a tray to dry out, then store them, and re-soften them the next time. The tamales freeze beautifully and can be re-steamed to heat (or you can pop them in the microwave).

Beef or Turkey Filling for Tamales
(recipe from a email - can't find a link online)

1 large package corn husks - about 24
4 lb Chuck Roast (or substitute with cooked turkey leftovers)
4 cups water (if cooking the beef, if using turkey leftovers, have some stock or broth available)
10 dried red Poblano chile peppers
1/4 cup ground cumin
1/4 cup pepper
4 cloves garlic, peeled
¼ cup salt (this was way too much salt for the turkey)

1. Early in the morning, place the roast and water into a large pot or crockpot and slow cook four to six hours, or until it shreds easily with a fork. Remove the meat from pot. Place in large bowl, add salt and shred, reserving broth for the masa and the filling.

2. Remove the seeds (using gloves so you don't burn your eyes!) and stems from chiles. Boil in a pan with one cup water for about five minutes. Transfer chiles to food processor and add cumin, pepper, garlic and enough of the chile broth to make a paste when all spices are blended together.

3. Add spice paste to shredded beef or turkey and mix thoroughly. Add as much of the remaining broth as necessary to make a delicately moist, but not watery filling.