29 February 2008

girls' weekend out and in.

See, I told you in the beginning: I'm lazy. I just haven't gotten around to posting about my fabulous girls' weekend until now. I blame the laziness. It has taken over me... as has the daunting task of fixing up my house to be put on the market. So that is my only (small) excuse for not posting until now.

But, anyways. Let's get onto girls' weekend, because, let me tell you, it was fabulous. It all started with working out, where my good friend Megan and fellow foodie tried her hardest to show me how to lift. Then, after a quick shower, we headed to lunch at the amazing French Meadow Cafe and Bakery. I hadn't been there in a while and I was very excited about the new beet salad that they had added to the menu (it was delicious!) and the chocolate croissant that Meg and I shared for dessert. Perfection. Being fully recharged, we headed out for a day of shopping and manicures.

A quick sidenote: In the midst of shopping at Kitchen Window, I was excited to find that Rogue Chocolatier has come out with three new chocolate bars. I picked up two of them and they are so very good. If you haven't tried Rogue's chocolate, I would head out to buy some right away.

Rogue is a Minneapolis based chocolatier and the chocolate is made from beginning to end by one man. It is a great story and it is worth a click on the link above.

Now, off the topic of other people's food creations and onto mine. This post will detail the most disappointing of the day's edibles and then we'll move on from there in future posts. And when I say disappointing, I am not exaggerating.

So, to say salted caramel is one of my favorite things is an understatement. I love, love, love salted caramel. In everything. For my birthday, Megan made me a fabulous salted caramel and chocolate cake. If that isn't friendship, I don't know what is. So when I read the recipes for salted caramel ice cream by Orangette and David Lebowitz, I knew that it was the perfect thing to make to christen in my ice cream maker. I went all out for this recipe. The best eggs, milk and cream that I could get my hands on went into this recipe... but I, myself, went in unprepared. Lesson: when you have 10 eggs to break and separate, don't do it with caramel on the stove.

You know what is coming. I put the sugar on, thinking it was going to take a lot longer than it did to caramelize, cracked the eggs, messed up the eggs, fixed the eggs and, ultimately, burnt the caramel. The problem was that I didn't really know that I had brunt the caramel. Orangette's recipe said that it should be darker than you think it should... and I, having never made caramel before, didn't really know when to stop it. So I forged on.

Made the custard, spent 30 minutes putting it through the chinois put it in the fridge to cool and waited eagerly for the time to come when I could churn the stuff into glorious-ness.

It was not glorious. It was burnt. Burnt to the point that it tasted like unsweetened chocolate. And so burnt that even my loving husband only took one bite before he made me rush the bowl away.

Megan at least ate a couple bites with the rest of our dessert (the details of which are coming). The texture, at least, was amazing. Super creamy and smooth. I am anxious to try my hand at it again. This time I will know what is coming and there will be no burnt caramel!

If you want to try your hand at some salted caramel ice cream, check out these recipes:


This weekend will bring more posts on girls' weekend dinner. I promise.

22 February 2008

all the goodness in one pot.

As you may have already read, last Sunday was a big day of cooking in my house. It was also a day filled with cleaning and organizing and fixing up things in the house. After all the craziness, I was ready for some cooking. There was the whole banana bread fiasco, but I luckily was able to redeem myself after that with this amazing recipe for Panade adapted from Orangette. Who knew that day old bread could taste so good? Even better than my amazing croutons! (I'll write about those sometime soon, promise.) After a long cold day in Minneapolis, all you really want is something warm to cozy in with. To dip your spoon into something gooey and have cheese string up to you mouth from the bowl. And, I tell you what, this recipe fits the bill. It is almost like French Onion soup, but not. Although the big pan or caramelized onions does seem reminiscent of the soup.

It did seem to take a lot of work to make this seemingly simple pot o' stuff, but, in the end, it was totally worth washing the extra pans. I ended up using kale even though the recipe called for swiss chard. It seemed that the city was fresh out of swiss chard, so i had to substitute. But it worked just fine. I think I might not have used enough, but in the end it was all okay. I am always deceived by how that big chunk of green sautés down to something so small.

After all the sautéing and caramelizing and cubing of bread, everything really does end up in one bowl. Or, in my case, the small Le Crueset pot that we got for free through our wedding registry (I love free stuff!). I will admit that I was a bit weirded out filling it all up to the top with broth, but the bread soaks all the soupy-ness in and becomes sticky and wonderful with a lovely, browned and crispy top.

After the torturous period of waiting for things to settle in the pot, sticking a huge spoon in to lift out an amazing smelling mass of the oozey bread and onion goodness is an amazing thing. This one pot includes all the things my husband loves: bread, cheese and caramelized onions, plus I got him to eat some greens, which is a huge feat! He did comment that the only thing missing was meat, but that it tasted good enough that it didn't really need it.

We started out with forks and spoons because we thought we'd need both to get all the broth-y goodness, but as time went on the bread just kept soaking and spoons weren't needed at all. It was a glorious dinner filled with slurping of cheese and warm tummies. And a bit of leftover Valentine's Day champagne for me. This is also a meal that really keeps on giving because I ate it for lunch the next day and dinner two days later. The flavor deepens and, although the crusty top is not quite as crusty, the texture is just as wonderful as it is the first time. It is a great lunchtime treat, that all your co-workers will be jealous of.

View the full recipe here:

20 February 2008

the tale of the sad banana bread.

On my last trip to Penzey's Spices, I was very excited to happen upon a bag of candied ginger. I had recently read Orangette's recipe for Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips and Candied Ginger and with the bunch of bananas that i had sitting on my counter at home, decided that this was the perfect thing to make over this past weekend. I bought that lovely bag of ginger and it waited patiently for me in the cupboard until I could finally get to baking. And bake I did. My Sunday night was filled with cooking both the banana bread and a Kale, Onion and Gruyere Panade (also from the lovely Orangette... you'll be seeing a lot of her recipes in the coming days because she is fabulous).

The bread started out all well and good. I love taking my lovely Kitchenaid mixer for a spin and the batter came together great. Thick and shiny and goopey loveliness. I prepped the pan, squished it in and popped it in the oven.

An hour later and peaked and and it was nice and golden brown and delicious looking. I did the toothpick test and thing came out clean, minus the gooey chocolate chip I hit, things seemed all normal. But no. I turned the bread out of the pan to cool and the was a little crackage... then a hole began to form. A gigantic chasm in the center of my lovely bread.

I decided that all would be okay, and after dinner cut into the still slightly warm bread. The first slice was fine and my husband throughly enjoyed it... it was after that first piece where it gets messy. The wonderful goopey dough wanted to hang around and it did, right in the center of my loaf. Raw, it was, and I was not happy. The next evening was filled with emergency procedures to fix the raw-ness. Another hour in the oven at a low temperature helped a little, but also made the outside a bit dry. Nothing a bit of whipped cream can't fit, I suppose. But still, not a happy day in my kitchen.

If you are interested in having a go (and i wish you more luck than i had) at this fabulous recipe... and it is fabulous, the ginger adding a very nice kick to the bread... find it here:

And may your banana bread tale be a happy one.

18 February 2008

a mini honeymoon for valentine's day.

When I mentioned the idea of going to Paris for our honeymoon, my fiancé (now husband) gave a little shrug. He wasn't really interested in the romantic city as a destination until he realized the wealth of edible wonders that awaited us there. As soon as he discovered that we could eat our way through Paris, it was all decided: Paris, here we come! And we went. And we ate. And drank. And were merry (and married).

Now, I'm not going to lie, we ate some amazing food. But, to be honest, some of my favorites were the snacks that we ate while walking or sitting on a park bench. There is nothing like a crispy baguette with ham and cheese eaten on a bench while people watching. Or a pain au chocolate to munch on as you saunter down the cobblestone streets toward the louvre. And of course, one of my favorites, the crepe. We had many a crepe on our trip. We ate them as snacks, we ran through the rain to get them and it was the only thing that I could stomach on our second to last day in the city when I came down with a mysterious stomach illness (which turned out to be a bacterial infection from the lovely chicken sandwich that I had eaten the day before), so I had one for breakfast.

So now that we are back in the states, our chance of finding a crepe vendor on the corner is pretty slim. And the stand at the Mall of America just seems too anti-culture for my taste. So when I received a crepe pan from my mom as a valentine's day gift (okay, begged for one as a valentine's day gift) I made immediate plans for our first valentine's day dinner as a married couple.

Crepes it was. Nothing fancy, just the french classics: ham and comte cheese, nutella and banana and a single citron et sucre to satisfy my need of a little freshness at the end of the meal. Being my first time making crepes, I was a little nervous at how they would come out... and they did end up a bit too thick for my taste. But the flavor was nice and, with a crisp glass of champagne and a bit of dark chocolate to finish off, it was the perfect valentine's day meal. Savory and sweet and romantic.

Adapted from Alton Brown

2 Large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons melted butter
Butter for coating pan

Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse for ten seconds. Refrigerate for at least one hour and up to 48 hours. Heat a non-stick pan and add butter to coat the bottom. Pour enough batter into the pan to make a thin layer on the bottom after swirling the pan. Cook about 30 seconds our until the first side is lightly browned. Flip and cook the other side until it is also browned to your liking. Lay the crepes flat to cool or place in a warm oven to keep warm.

Now fill your crepes. You can be as creative or as simple as you wish. My fillings for the evening were:

-cubed, thick country ham with shredded comte cheese
-nutella chocolate hazelnut spread with sliced bananas
-a squirt of fresh lemon juice sprinkled with sugar

I hope that you enjoy your mini trip to Paris.

13 February 2008

the simple life.

I am sorry to all those who may be disappointed in this, my very first food post. It isn't really a recipe. It is more of an homage to brown butter. I, myself, have never know the joys that brown butter can bring. Sure, I had heard the words "brown butter sauce," but, until making it myself, I never appreciated how fabulous it really is. Flavorful, nutty and so very easy to create! I am amazed.

Dinner tonight was pumpkin tortellini in brown butter sage sauce. It was frozen tortellini, but it still tasted fabulous. Someday I'll try my hand at making it myself, and I'm sure you'll join me in that adventure, but tonight was not the night. Tonight was a night for quick and simple, yet tasty. On to the brown butter... two tablespoons of unsalted butter gave me the perfect amount for my single helping of tortellini. Place in a fry pan over medium high heat and allow to melt. Continue cooking the butter, swirling the pan to prevent burning, until the butter becomes a golden color and begins to smell nutty. At this point you can toss in any of your desired fresh herbs or other flavoring. I used sage and let it crisp just a touch before I added my cooked pasta and tossed it about.

I promise to include a real-live recipe next time. There are a lot of cooking plans for the near future... and some from days past that i wil also share soon. Until then, enjoy your butter. It's yummy.

in the beginning.

It has taken me much to long to do this. I am a person who, when I turn on the television, i immediately tune to the food network. A person who, when entering a bookstore, heads straight for the cookbook section. A person who, when recieveing wedding gifts, is most excited about the pots and pans. And finally, a person who spends as much of the day as she can reading food blogs online.

So, why, you may ask, has it taken you so long to write a create a food blog of your own? To document all your lovely kitchen creations and share them with the world? And I will answer truthfully: laziness. I have been stuck to the couch watching the food network. But I am now up and ready to work hard in the kitchen. To break out my trusty camera and learn how to be a food photographer (my two loves come together! food and photography! how can i go wrong?).

I hope that those of you who join me on this journey will enjoy yourselves and that you too will give up the laziness and make a little love in the kitchen.