Archive for the ‘recipes’ Category

>Pizza Anytime

>When was the last time you had pizza? Did you make it, buy it from a local pizza palace or was it frozen from a box?

I’m picky about pizza, really picky and I’m not picky, usually; unless we’re talking about “science food”; you know, fake food? Seriously, any food product that has more than 30 letters in it’s name is not food; and contrary to popular belief, pancakes do not come in a box or have 27 ingredients and for the record cheese is NOT EVER powdered.

Science food! Geesh!

Ok so maybe I am a little picky but only about the stuff that goes into my food and where is comes from, not so much as what it is as long as it’s all natural, real food. I’ll eat brussel sprouts and seaweed and be happy, Medicine Man….not so much.

Pizza however is one of those foods that just needs to taste good. The sauce need to be tangy, rich with the aroma and flavor of herbs with just a hint of salt. Dough should be light and airy, cooked to a golden sponge. The cheese should be gooey and melted into a pool of creamy heaven. Mmmmmmmm.

Thankfully we have this amazing born and bred family that run a pizza parlor near home and their food is so amazing. The sauce recipe has been handed down from generation to generation and is a closely guarded secret. Everything is cut up fresh each day, dough is made from scratch and perfectly hand tossed, and pies are cooked in fire ovens to perfection.

We’ve eaten there so much over the last four years the whole family knows us and treat us like part of their own. I just love going in and getting an authentic Italian double cheek kiss from Senore Raymondo when I see him.

Alas eating out is expensive and I just don’t have the time to stop down in the middle of the day to get WizKid and Me some lunch. Now that Medicine Man and I are experimenting with the whole “one car thing” I also don’t have the means to get there.

I love making bread so it made sense to just make our own. Why not? Dough is remarkably versatile and can be frozen for whenever you need it.

So that’s exactly what I did last weekend. Along with breakfast muffins, cookies, bread and sweet rolls I whipped up some pizza dough, divided it into six separate little balls, froze them individually and presto, fresh pizza whenever we want. In my house we all like something different so I made them single serving size.

The best part about pizza is it can be completely different each time, even dessert! It just may be a perfect food. I have no doubt when I get my new freezer I am going to have a lot of pizza dough on standby. Along with Swiss Buttercream courtesy of Rosie from “Sweetapolita“.It is the perfect solution for all the left over egg whites I have from making pastry cream, cream puffs etc. If you haven’t stopped over to see Rosie’s amazing creations you seriously need to. She is incredible!

WizKid is a meatsa-pizza kinda kid so I cooked up some bacon, sausage, cut up ham and pepperoni then bagged them all up for quick access whenever he wants. Thank goodness he’s young and has enough energy to power a small city or else he’d have arteries that flowed like sludge. I think that boy could eat a pound of bacon and not think twice about it. Medicine Man and myself on the other hand are more veggie admirers so I did the same for peppers, broccoli etc.

The very best part of making our own is it’s something we can all do together and have fun. Wiz even gets in and helps roll them out. It becomes a family affair and now any time is pizza time.
Come on let’s go put a pie in the oven.

_______________________________________________

PIZZA DOUGH

Ingredients
8 2/3 C. bread flour
3 1/2 C. warm water
1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
4 tsp salt
3 Tbs cornmeal
2 Tbs seasoned oil (see recipe below)
Preparation
1. Mix flour, water, yeast, salt and cornmeal in large mixing bowl and mix on low speed until incorporated.
2. Increase mixing speed to medium and mix an addition 2 or 3 minutes slowly adding the oil in four increments. 
3. Coat a bowl lightly with oil or cooking spray and scrap dough into bowl. Cover bowl and put in warm place for about one hour. 
4. After first hour remove dough and kneed for 30 seconds or stretch and fold.
5. Put dough back into proofing bowl for another 45 minutes. 
6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide evenly. The size will depend on your preference for us. For individual pizzas cut into 9 ounce section. 
7. Roll each section into a ball and set refridgerator for 4-6 hours. Or wrap each in oiled plastic wrap and freeze for future use. To thaw let rest on counter for a couple of hours or in refridgerator over night. 
8. To roll and bake: heat over to 500 degrees – these babies need to cook on some serious high heat. Roll dough flat to about 3/8 inch thick for thin crust. Don’t try to force the dough. Give it a good roll and then let it sit for a few minutes to roll again. Allowing it to rests lets the dough relax and more pliable with each rest.
9. Transfer dough discs to cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or cooking peal dusted with additional cornmeal. 
10. Using left over seasoned oil, lightly brush just the edges of the pizza trying to avoid dripping on pan. 
11. Top with your favorite seasoning and cook for about 12 minutes.

SAUCE

Ingredients

 2 14 oz cans of organic tomato sauce
1 14 oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 small onion minced – really small
2 cloves garlic minced – even smaller
2 Tbs basil and oregano or italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Preparations

Combine all ingredients and let sit in fridge for several hours before use ( you can use it right away but letting it sit gives the ingredients a chance to mix and meld.

Store in air tight container in fridge or freeze.

Some freezing options. Measure out enough for pizza size of choice (or several so you have your choice) and place in ice cube trays or small muffin pans (perfect for personal pizza) and freeze. Once completely set, remove and store in freezer bags until ready to use.

I like to keep a bin in my fridge for my pizza dough and sauces so they are both readily available when the craving starts.

SEASONED OIL

Ingredients

1/2 – 3/4 C. olive oil
1 tsp dried basil or italian seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preparation

Combine all ingredients and store in airtight container or oil dispense. I keep this stuff on hand for pizza, pasta dishes you name it.

Feel free to play with the ingredients. I grow tons of fresh herbs and like to add these as well for a richer flavor.

CLICK TO PRINT RECIPE

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>Around The World Cheese Pasta

>Comfort Food

Quick what just came to mind? Tonight for me it was macaroni and cheese. It’s been FOREVER since I had macaroni and cheese. Warm, melted gooey goodness dripping off a fork.

Oh my!

Today was Monday and ugh what a Monday. Nothing in particular really MADE it an Ugh Monday; it just was. Therefore I wasn’t in the mood to cook. I mean really get down and deep in my kitchen kinda cooking you know what I mean?

I needed something quick and for me that means anything that can be prepped and cooked in an hour or so. When you cook everything from scratch, rarely do I find anything that takes me less than 30 mins. I tried, really I did but well, I haven’t been successful with that yet. I simply can not bring myself to buy pre-prepared food in a bag or a box or a little plastic container that says “Just pour”. I did that and I remember all too well where THAT landed me; Unhappy with food and downright miserable in my kitchen.

And I just don’t have the energy to talk about the ingredients in most of that stuff. Can you say “Mad Science!?” That’s a whole other story and you’re welcome to dive into the whole ugly business in my “Why Butter” page. For tonight I just wanted quick but comforting and sitting at my computer “macaroni and cheese” came to me like a warm blanket wrapping itself around me on a cold night.

Rummaged through the freezer and fridge and there on the shelf were the blocks of cheeses I bought on a whim a few weeks ago. Cheeses from Italy and France, Ireland and Switzerland, Holland and yes even Milwaukee Wisconsin.

I had my muse.

DSC_4871

I’ve always wanted to travel around the world and although I have yet to begin, I think tonight’s dinner comes close…kinda.

Okay, here’s the dealio. If you don’t have a smorgasbord of cheeses on hand or perhaps a little tight in the purse strings, no problem it’s just a very worldly version of your every day Mac & Cheese. Good old Cheddar works just find by itself. You really can’t go wrong (except maybe with some Longaberger, I don’t recommend it).

Mix up any of the cheeses you have and see what you create. Stop by and let me know if you find a perfectly ambrosia combination.

Around The World Cheese Pasta

Ingredients

3 C. Rotini, Penne or other bite size pasta; uncooked
1/2 C. Butter
1/4 C. All-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1/4 tsp Dry mustard
1/4 tsp Paprika
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 C. Milk
1 C. Heavy cream
1 C. Sharp cheddar cheese, grated.
1/2 C. Swiss cheese
1/2 C. Gruyere cheese
1/2 C. Dubliner cheese
1/4 C. Romano cheese
1/2 C. Panko bread crumbs
2 C. Broccoli florets quartered
1 1/2 C Fresh ham diced to about 1/2 inch

Preparations:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Grate all cheeses and set aside.

3. In small bowl, combine Romano and bread crumbs. Set aside.

4. In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

5. Lightly butter a two quart casserole dish and spread the ham in a layer at the bottom of the dish.

6. In a second layer add the broccoli florets adding more if needed or desired.

7. In separate large sauce pan melt butter over low heat.

8. Whisk in flour, salt, pepper, mustard, cayenne and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly; remove from heat.

9. Stir in milk and heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute or until thickened.  remove from heat.

10. Stir in cheese until melted. The milk may be hot enough to melt the cheese on it’s own. If not add pot back to a low heat stove stirring constantly to avoid clumping or over cooking.

11. Drain macaroni and gently add into cheese sauce. Stir to combine completely.

12. Pour into casserole dish. Bake uncovered until bubbly, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

CLICK TO PRINT RECIPE

>Rainbow Inspired Romano Pork Chops

>I had to go to Bethesda last week to touch base with the Mother Ship, the main office.
I don’t have to go very often, usually only about twice a year for a couple of days.

We have a fantastic crew and it’s always great seeing everyone. Not too mention, Bethesda is just a really cool town. It has this vibe, this energy, that gives the city a pulse. I’ve never been to New York but I imagine it to be like a mini New York; always something new to see; always awake and in motion.
There are incredible places to eat and the tulips are simply beautiful if we’re lucky enough to get there in the Spring when they’re blooming. I’m pretty such the Big Apple doesn’t have tulips.

The flight from Tampa is a straight shot if I fly into Washington Reagan Airport, which I always do. The other plus is the super cool DC METRO picks up at the airport and just happens to drop off in Bethesda right below the parking garage to my office.

Talk about convenient right?

Any-who, I flew up early Tuesday morning and caught the 7:45 flight home on Wednesday. It rained the second day of the trip, oh and just happened to be a whopping 22 degrees COLDER than the day before.

81 on Tuesday
49 on Wednesday

What is UP with THAT?!

The rail trip back to DCA was quiet and just as we approached the airport a massive full rainbow appeared that was brighter than any I had ever seen before. It was like a paintbrush had swiped the sky and left this dazzling ribbon of color to send me off.

I took my Nikon with me and snapped a few photos between trains and below are a couple of the good shots. These have been uploaded directly from my camera with absolutely no post-process altering. What you see is what I saw.

Pretty amazing huh? And did I say it was a complete arc?

But the show wasn’t over yet. As I stood on the platform snapping a few shots I noticed off to the right a second rainbow began to form.

If you look in this next shot off in the right corner you can just see the second one faintly. Like the Little Engine that Could it tried and tried but just as it got a little steam a huge rain cloud blew in and took them both away.

The twin bows were a fantastic send off and they stayed with me the next couple of days as I settled back into the routine of life and catching up on 53,737,219,486 emails and pending tasks. I think I’m making a dent in them though I got about ten done by Friday.

Not bad I think.

The best part of coming home, besides the waiting muscular arms of Medicine Man and kisses from WizKid, was returning to my therapy den; my kitchen, and I thought it would be great to make something colorful, being inspired as I was by the ribbons of colorful light that sent me home in style.

Took a recipe for some pork chops, modified it a bit and threw together some complimentary side dishes and voila, Rainbow Inspired Romano Pork Chops, with ham and garlic sauteed asparagus over a bed of buttered herb rotini.

Romano Crusted Pork Chops

adapted from original recipe by: sgrishka

Ingredients

2 1/2-inch thick Center-cut loin pork chops; (bone-in or boneless)
3/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
1/2 tsp. fresh or dried rubbed sage
1/2 tsp. fresh or dried thyme
1/2 C. Romano cheese; freshly grated
1/4 C. Swiss cheese; freshly grated
1 large Eggs
1 Tbs. Vegetable oil
1 C. Dried Panko bread crumbs
Olive oil; (for shallow frying)
4 cloves Garlic; peeled and chopped

Preparations:

1. Spread cheeses in a shallow dish. Beat eggs with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in another shallow dish. spread bread crumbs in a third shallow dish.

2. Dry pork chops thoroughly. Combine salt, pepper, sage, and thyme, and sprinkle generously over both sides of chops.

3. Dredge seasoned chops in Parmesan cheese, coating both sides completely. Then, dip both sides of chops in egg mixture, letting excess drip back into dish to ensure thin coating. Finally, dip both sides of chops in bread crumbs, pressing crumbs with fingers to form an even, cohesive coating.

4. Place breaded chops aside and let sit for 5 minutes.

5. Heat 1/4 cup of olive or cooking oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat. To flavor oil; stir in garlic, and cook until lightly browned. Remove garlic and Increase heat to medium. When oil shimmers, add chops and fry 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crispy, or to an internal temperature between 150 and 160 degrees F.

6. Drain on rack set over baking sheet, then transfer to a warm serving platter. Serve with lemon wedges and garnish with parsley sprigs.

CLICK TO PRINT RECIPE

>Blueberry Almond Cream Sweet Rolls

>Remember when you were young and your mother would tell you “dessert” is not a breakfast then turn around and feed you sugared speed from a box that would send you into a souped-up hyper state just before sending you off to an educational institution where you were expected to sit still and learn?

Yeah, I never saw the logic in that one either.

I say “Let them eat cake..or at least the closest equivalent.”

Today called for something warm, sweet and high on the “carb-o-scale”.

The idea for this recipe came to me a couple of weeks ago while I was trying to get to sleep – talk about “sweet dreams”.

Initially I wanted to make this with raspberries and several other ingredients all together but when I made the dough yesterday I realized I didn’t have some of the necessary food-stuffs. So perhaps we could say this was a new idea.

I love making bread, even moreso than desserts and although this can be a dessert it’s also a breakfast or a “middle of the day, sweet tooth attack” snack.

The beauty of dishes like this is they give you a perfect excuse to eat sweets first thing in the morning.
It takes some time to prepare but the end result is wonderful. Medicine Man was in heaven and I had a new recipe to add to my repertoire.
The dough and sweet cream are adapted from recipes by Ciril Hitz.

Isn’t it great to be all grown up?

Blueberry Almond Cream Sweet Rolls

Steps In Order Of Preparation:

1. Dough – prepared the day before
2. Sweet Cream
3. Blueberry Sauce
4. Roll Preparation
5. Sweet Glaze

Dough

The day before

Ingredients:

1 1/2 C. whole milk (room temperature)
1 large egg (room temperature)
1/2 Vanilla bean split (or 1/4 tsp vanilla powder) – this is optional if you do not have either
5 1/4 C. bread flour
3 tsp instant yeast
1/3 C. sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbs unsalted butter (refrigerated)

Preparation:

1. Split the vanilla bean in half and add the seeds to the milk.

2. Pour milk and egg into large mixer bowl and add the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Mix on low speed until dough begins to come together – do not over mix.

3. Using a rolling pin hammer the butter on a sold surface between two sheets of parchment paper until butter resembles plastic. Cut butter into 7-9 separate sections.

4. Increase speed of mixer to medium and slowly add the butter pieces in stages. Make sure the butter is completely incorporated in to the dough before adding the next piece.

5. Mix until sold soft dough forms. If dough is ragged or tears easily it is underdeveloped. Continue mixing until stretchy.

6. Wrap dough securely in plastic wrap and put in refrigerator overnight. Dough will expand so be sure it’s wrapped tight and can’t break free of plastic.

COOKING DAY

Sweet Cream

Ingredients:

1 C. whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract or seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean or 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
2 Tbsp sugar
3 egg yolks
2 Tbs cornstarch
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs unsalted butter

Preparation:

1. In saucepan bring milk, 1/2 vanilla and second portion of the sugar to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Once milk boils set aside and cool slightly.

2. Add egg yolk, cornstarch and first portion of the sugar in a bowl and whisk until light yellow and smooth.

3. Here’s the tricky part so be careful – using a whisk temper the egg mixture with the warm milk by SLOWLY add a little milk at a time, constantly stirring until fully mixed in.

4. Add mixture back to pan and reheat on low temperature, mixing with which constantly until cream begins to thicken. Careful not to let the sauce burn or coagulate to the bottom of the pan.

5. Remove from heat once it begins to bubble and stir in butter and other 1/2 vanilla.

6. Transfer to a cool bowl and cover with plastic wrap being sure wrap completely touches the top of the cream. This will prevent a skin from forming. Place in fridge until needed.

Blueberry Sauce:

Ingredients:

 1 C. fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 C. sugar
1/8 tsp. cinnamon, nutmeg or apple pie spice

Preparation:

1. Add all ingredients to small sauce pan and cook until just slightly thickened but blueberries still retaining most of their shape.

2. Set aside to cool until needed.

Rolls

Ingredients:

Dough
Pasty Cream
Blueberries
1/2 almond slivers coursely chopped

Preparation:

1. Roll out dough on a slightly floured surface into a large rectangle approximately 1/4 inch thick or less. Try to roll out as symmetrically as possible to ensure even rolling.

2. Spread pastry cream over the entire surface of the dough from edge to edge. More for thicker dough, less for thinner. Don’t be too sparing with it, you want these good and creamy.

3. Sprinkle almonds over layer of cream.

4. Using a small spoon add blueberries in small dollops over complete surface. Do not spread in order to prevent mixing with the cream.

5. Roll the dough lengthwise into a long roll pulling the ends gently to keep edges even.

6. With a sharp knife cut the dough into 1 1/2 inch sections placing each on a parchment lined cookie sheet about 1 inch apart.

7. Cover sheets and allow to proof for about an hour or until nearly doubled in size.

8. Heat over to 350 degrees (180 C.) and bake for 15 minutes. Cook in additional 2 minute increments until golden brown.

9. Drizzle with sweet glaze and serve warm. Keep in refrigerator and reheat for 20-25 seconds.

Sweet Glaze

Ingredients:

4 Tbs milk
2 Tbs light corn syrup
1 3/4 C. powdered sugar
4 Tbs butter – softened

Preparation:

1. While dough is rising combine milk and corn syrup in small sauce pan and heat until approximately 140 degrees. Remove from heat.

2. Add powdered sugar to milk mixture and stir until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until rolls go into the oven.

3. While rolls are cooking, with a small mixer whip the butter until fluffy. Add the cooled sugar glaze and whip.

CLICK TO PRINT RECIPE

>Apple and Drunk Shrimp Pasta

>The was a little excitement in the house yesterday. We had a special delivery of our long awaited little one. Just a precious dear thing, wrapped up in a little bundle ready for plenty of attention.

WHAT?? A BABY!!??? Are you crazy? I have three boys and am already 40.

No you silly it’s our iPad 2, white with 64g and Verizon 3G connect.

Do NOT freak me out like that again.

As you know (or at least you do now) I work at home for a medical software company. I’m sure if I look in my contract somewhere in tiny tiny small print it says multi-tasking is a must and all financial compensation relies on said function.

We are growing and growing fast and any given time of day I’m working on several things at once. I can’t complain, I work at home (yes I said that) and have six weeks of paid time off each year since I started. Plus it’s a pretty cool company to work for.

Happy herbs

I needed something to help me keep track of everything for work, the clients, meetings, you name it.

Through trial and error and some major crash and burns I’ve found a few programs and functions that have helped me along the way. One of them is a fantastic program called “NoteBook” by a company called Circus Ponies – you have to love that!

I wont get into how amazing this thing is and how its like having a document folder, paper notebook, voice memo recorder, to do list secretary all in one place. What I can tell you is it has revolutionized the way I work and helped me find more time to take on more tasks. Hmmmm did I just say that was a good thing?

Furthermore CircusPonies should be paying me royalties for as many people Ive turned on to this.

Hello Adam Developer are you listening?

Anyway a few months back I saw the Notebook developers were coming out with a full fledged iPad app of the program that would allow me to synch my notes between my MAC and iPad without losing any of the functions I love about the MAC version. That was stipulated of course on the fact I HAD both.

At that time I did not … Yet.

Did I mention it’s only for Apple products? I don’t think I did. Sorry PC’s.

I knew then and there I was going to get an iPad if only for this program but I wanted too wait until the new iPad was released and of course the Notebook app as well.

So I waited and waited and finally all the planets aligned (which translated means the Notebook app was published, the iPad was released and I had the money to pay for it). Put my order in wait two weeks and viola it arrived on my doorstep yesterday courtesy of the Boys in Blue. (FedEx) Or do they really wear a shade of dark purple? May an indigo or violet.

Not only did Notebook synch like a charm and work amazing but I found some super cool other apps that were not available on my iPhone. (yes I am a total Apple convert. More a MACaholic I think and no I don’t want therapy thank you)

For example the app I’m writing this entire blog post from with drop and drag photo integration – Blogsy. Just fun and easy to use although it’s pretty new and I’m finding has some quirks to work out. 

Then there is a web browser that looks, acts and feels just like Firefox – Terra

The most uber awesomest app so far (next to Notebook of course) – Air Display.

This unassuming little program turns my iPad into a separate monitor for my MAC where I can drop and drag programs running on my laptop back and forth between the two screens. Talk about genius! Sure the whole dual monitor thing has been around forever but to have it avail on the iPad where it’s not taking up so much desk space and has it’s own spectacular use to it – genius! Practical and genius!!

The whole house was giddy (as silly as it seems considering it’s only a piece of technology) with it’s ultimate total coolness in a cute sleek little thing.

So it called for a party. (of sorts – or perhaps just an excuse to eat something super creamy & buttery. But then I never need an excuse to do that).

Something about vodka pasta called to me….but I didn’t have vodka, and I wanted shrimp too. Digging through my pantry I found rum and vermouth and it gave me an idea. Consulted the shrimp – they were all in.

Party time!

Boy were they smashed!

I understand their excitement but I think they took it a little too far.

It was no use trying to sober the little party animals up, they were good and cooked!

And let me tell you… Sooo delicious 🙂

Drunk Shrimp Pasta



Ingredients:

6 oz linguine or pasta of choice
3/4 lb. peeled and deveined uncooked shrimp
4 medium tomatoes mini diced and juices reserved
OR
1 14oz can petite diced tomatoes (if you do not have the fresh herbs buy a can of Italian seasoned tomatoes)
1/8 cup fresh basil chopped
2 Tbs fresh sage chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
2 Tbs fresh oregano chopped
3-4 large garlic cloves chopped but not minced
4 Tbs real butter
3 Tbs vermouth
3 Tbs rum
3 Tbs heavy cream
1 medium onion coarsely chopped
3 basil leaves coarsely chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preparations:

1. Pour tomato, 1/3 of the garlic, parsley, sage, basil, oregano into a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Let sit for a minimum of 20 minutes to infuse flavors.

2. Cook pasta to package directions. Drain and mix with 1-2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil to prevent sticking.

3. In a large skillet or Dutch oven melt 2 Tbs butter. Add shrimp and saute until just beginning to pink up.
4. Add onion and sauté for two minutes on medium heat or just until soft but not brown. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes.

5. Add tomato mixture and cook 7 minutes until reduced slightly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Pour in rum and vermouth and cook another 5-7 minutes until aroma of alcohol subsides and incorporates into sauce.

7. Add remaining butter and cream. Cook until thickened about 3-5 minutes.

8. Combine sauce and pasta, mix well. Serve.

CLICK TO PRINT RECIPE
 

>Tough Choices

>Some people prefer chocolate.
Some people prefer vanilla.

Me, well most days I’m a chocolate girl.
Rocky road ice cream or pralines and cream? – Rocky road.
Chocolate chip or sugar cookies? Tough call but I’d go for those warm melting dark chocolate bits of heaven any day.
White shoes or brown – brown.

Like I said, I’m a chocolate girl…..most days. But not today. Today I was pure, unadulterated, take me to Tahiti and call it day vanilla girl through and through. Today I made a different choice.

Why? Easy, this is why…..

But more about that later and yes the recipe is at the bottom …. because the reason for THAT is THIS!!

Last week I noticed I had nothing made from vanilla in my pantry but four tiny precious ounces of organic extract. That was it!  It was the saddest thing ever… well next to the death of Elvis (I’ll let it go, you need to give me time..yes I know it’s been over 30 years…I’m just not ready). I should also include the first time I found I didn’t fit into my size 8 jeans anymore and I also had a muffin top over the waist band. That wasn’t really sad..it was tragic.

So being vanilla bare I grabbed my coat, keys and sat down in my office chair and drove my internet over to The Vanilla Company where I ordered up a little (almost) everything.

“Yes I’d like some of the Madagascar Bourbon Extract please. What size? Oh hmm…let’s do a 32 oz….and you know let’s throw in a 32oz Tahitian Extract as well.”

“Perfect!”
“Ok I definitely need some beans. How about 1/2lb of the Bourbon beans. Oh the delights awaiting you my sweet little things.”

“I guess that’ll do…..Oh wait that will be excellent to have around..I’ll take some of the pure ground vanilla…that will be great in frosting, butter, for light dusting garnishes! Excellent.”

“Any I guess while I’m here I might as well pick up some of the whole vanilla bean paste to round it all out.”

“I know I can use the paste and extra interchangeably but I can’t get those pretty little brown speckles from extract and besides my pantry just won’t seem complete without both so let’s throw one in.

“Wonderful, I am so excited, I’ll wait patiently watching for my dear mailman to drop off my box…5-7 days you say…oh I hope I can wait. Yes ma’am thank you Ms. Internet checkout cart.”

Tap…tap…tap…tick.tock…tick tock….

Finally after F.O.R.E.V.E.R (well it sure seemed like it.) my package arrived. Now the conundrum…what to make and which one of my lovelies will get used first?

Oh wicked decisions!!! You are so cruel!!
Wait…who says I have to decide? It’s my kitchen…my vanilla…yes..that’s what I’ll do!!

I”LL USE THEM ALL!! (insert inspirational whoop of joy here)

The first was easy. As you know I have a little (lot) obsession with butter so deciding on a sweet butter was a no brainer.

Honey Sweet Vanilla Butter

1 stick pure butter
1 1/2 Tbs honey
1/4 tsp ground vanilla powder (you can scoop out the inside of a split bean if you don’t have powder)

Blend all ingredients until butter is creamy and whipped. Store in fridge. Indulge!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In addition to the butter I needed dessert. Today is Easter (Happy Easter by the way).. and I made prime rib for dinner. That called for a special yummy dessert and believe it or not I was not in the mood for chocolate. Besides, today I was decidedly a vanilla girl.

I bought this adorable little mini-bunt pan and just had to find something to make in it. Went digging through my cupcake recipes and decided to use a coconut cupcake for my base. The rest was just added as I went. The best part was I was able to use my fresh vanilla beans and my extract and my paste.
If you don’t have all three you can use extra for all recipe wherever vanilla is called for.

I’m not sure what to call this recipe so I’ll leave it to my readers (however few you may be right now). If you have a good suggestion leave a comment. I’ll update the post at a later date.

So here’s that picture again and now the choice is yours….what should we call this?

What is it? Unofficially it’s an orange coconut bunt cake with chilled orange coconut compote and vanilla anglaise sauce. That’s all just too long to put into one title.

I just love it when inspiration strikes and even better when i don’t have to make a choice.

The best thing about choices…you can always make a new one.

What will you choose?

Coco-Norange Cake
As named by Andrea Knott

CAKE:

Ingredients:

1 3/4 C. cake flour ( unbleached all-purpose will work too)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 C. shredded coconut
3/4 C. unsalted real butter (not substitutes), room temperature
4 extra large eggs
1 1/2 tsp orange extra
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 C. heavy cream
zest of one orange peel.

Preparations:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F (177 C). Line cupcake tin w/ liners or butter and lightly flour alternate pans

2. Whisk together flour, salt & baking powder. With sharp knife or food processor chop coconut until finely ground & add to flour mixture with whisk along with orange zest.

3. In large mixer bowl, cream butter & sugar until light & fluffy. Gradually add each egg, both extracts until incorporated. Slowly add flour mixture alternating with cream until combined and light and fluffy.

4. Fill tins or cake pans 3/4 full and bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and cook on wire rack.

COMPOTE SAUCE:

Ingredients:

3 fresh oranges, peeled, seeded, and all membranes removed. Cut slices into 3-4 small pieces (about the size of a cranberry)
1/4 C. shredded coconut
1/2 C. sugar
8 Tbs spiced rum (or grand marinier, regular rum or orange liqueur)
1 vanilla bean split.

Preparations:

1. Add all ingredients to sauce pan and simmer for 10-12 minutes stirring carefully until sugar is dissolved and orange is tender.

2. Leave compote to stand off heat for 10 minutes. Should thicken slightly. Chill in fridge until ready to use.

ANGLAISE SAUCE: (Le Cordon Blue Recipe)
even you can cook like the French.

Ingredients:

1 vanilla bean split
2 1/2 C. whole milk
6 egg yolks
1/4 C. super fine sugar (regular sugar can be run through a food processor if needed or used on it’s own).
6 Tbs. heavy cream

Preparations:

1. Add vanilla bean and milk to saucepan and bring slowly to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

2. In separate bowl beat yolks and sugar until pale yellow and thick.

3. Slowly…yes slowly…a little at a time….pour milk into egg mixture…just a little at first to temper the yolks. Too much too soon and the yolks will scramble and then you’ll have to start all over. So slowly..incorporate milk thoroughly into egg.

4. Return cream back to pan and reheat stirring constantly until the cream coats the back of a spoon. Don NOT boil. Think sweet scrambled eggs. Bad…very bad.

5. Remove from heat and stir in heavy cream.

TO PLATE:

Use your imagination here, there is no wrong way to plate any dessert. Try new things. How to plate it as pictured: Spoon a small amount of Anglaise sauce into the center of a plate and spread into even circle with back of spoon.

Add cake to center of sauce and top just the edge of the top of the cake with another circle of sauce. Just enough to drizzle down the sides.

Top center of cake with dollop of orange compote sauce. Garnish with orange and fresh cut mint.

Enjoy!

CLICK TO PRINT RECIPE

>Be Brave, Make Bread

>You’ll never learn anything new unless you just set your mind to it. The first part of any task is deciding to “get’er done” and not looking back or for excuses.

When I was 19 one of my first “off the diving board” decisions was made completely on a whim…and yes I only considered it because “my girlfriend was doing it.” I can’t say it was peer pressure really, it was more just something I just found myself doing one day wondering how the heck I had gotten there. Katie was having problems at home and her parents had given her an ultimatum, get a job or go back to Texas.

So she did what any young adult would do when faced with limited decisions; she joined the NAVY. Yep the United States Military Naval Services – THAT NAVY.

Hey they didn’t specify what “kind” of job.

When I found out, the first thing out of my mouth was “Are you crazy!?”
The second thing out of my mouth was “Well good luck, you better write to me. I sure hope you know what you’re doing girl ’cause there’s no way I would go and do something as insane as that.”

Eleven days later I was at the MEPS station in Denver swearing on my honor to protect and defend the constitution of the United States of America. I had just signed over the next four years of my life and went from being a daycare aide to a sailor.

Just like that….and I hadn’t even told my folks until the ink was dry on the paper.

Interesting conversation that was. I think it went something like this.

Mom: “Hi there how was your day?”
Me: “Good, busy. We having dinner?”
Mom: “Yeah soon. What did you do today that kept you so busy?”
Me: “Not much really. Got gas in the car, did a little running around…joined the NAVY.”

Needless-to-say dinner was eventful.

I can’t say I’ve done anything as major or as crazy as that since then but I’ll never regret that. It was a great experience and I accumulated vast amounts of knowledge that serve me no use in my quiet little suburban life; except I can still tie a mean boatswains knot when I need to.

To be honest I think some of the best learning experiences happen when we just dive in, feet first and hope for the best.

My first car for example. I had no idea how to drive a stick shift (back in the early 90’s you could still buy one as the standard for cars – automatic was something “special”).

I figured “well if I buy one then I’ll have to learn right?” So that’s what I did. I didn’t even test drive that cute little Plymouth Sundance. I took my friend along with me and HE test drove it because I couldn’t. I didn’t know how. That was WHY I was buying the car in the first place.

I’ll spare you the gory details of how I was completely screwed over by the car salesman; let’s just say big, hulking, scary, musclebound Medicine Man buys all the cars now, because as intimidating as he is….I am just NOT a nice person to car sales people.
The point is I learned and fast.

Going to school when I was 29 again was another dive into the pool. I was pregnant with Wiz Kid and working as a cashier at Home Depot. I knew I did not want to get stuck working crazy, unpredictable shifts with a new baby but other than my retained NAVAL skills, which at this point were of no use (except for that occassional knot) I had no options.

So I went to technical college to become a medical transcriptionist right after Wizzy was born. Somehow I ended up a medical coder and now 11 years later I’m working from home, pulling in a very respectable income as a medical coding analyst for one of the fastest growing medical technology companies in America.

In the more recent past, and along the lines of that first car experience (minus the evil car salesman) I wanted to learn how to shoot with a DSLR camera. My moto “Buy first…learn as you go.”

I have a pretty new Nikon D7000 and am completely and totally clueless how to use it. I realize now I probably did NOT get the best lenses for close up photography. Being they are a 55-200mm and an 85mm I have to stand across my kitchen and zoom in to shoot anything I’m cooking, or I have to stand on a chair.

It’s not a pretty sight in a restaurant trust me. “Excuse me, pardon me. Would you mind if I sat here on your dinner so I could get a picture of mine?”

Not pretty. Things like aperature, shutter speed, ISO, White balance, metering and the most terrifying of them all.. “Manual”… are slowly starting to make sense to me. Right now my photos fall somewhere between mediocre to completely stink like pig gas (was that too much) with an occasional “just got lucky” shot. The multicolored autumn hued walls in this house don’t help. They absorb nearly all natural light.

By nature of necessity I’m learning how to fix them via Gimp, a free photography software. I don’t have Lightroom or Photoshop yet because I’m still trying to pay off the camera.

Then there are the smaller things; things that don’t require an extra $1000 down, hundreds of dollars in users guides and accessories or find you hanging over the side of a ship with a 40 foot drop between you and the steel bottom of the boat.

Sometimes those “be brave” decisions find us in the kitchen staring down an empty mixer and a new recipe; that sort of dish that you always wanted to make but didn’t have the courage to try.

My obstacle: focaccia bread.

I’ve never made it but it’s been on my wish list. See most people I know love to make sweets treats but I love to make bread. Don’t get me wrong I love dessert and love making dessert but if given the choice I would make bread; yeast breads to be exact. Its the measuring and mixing; the kneading and stretching; it’s therapeutic.

So today, well yesterday really since the yeast poole has to sit overnight, I pulled out Cyril H’s recipe, made my normal modifications and voila my first ever focaccia is a wonderfully light and airy success.

Maybe I got lucky but it is so gratifying to set my mind to something and reap the rewards.

If there is something you have been wanting to do, learn, experience or undertake but have always had something hold you back then I challenge you to do it. You might just surprise yourself.

All you have to do is jump.

Recipe to follow.