28 August 2009

Heavy Heart and a Promise

I seem to need to make apologies often on here for my lack of posting. Last weekend when I was sick, my laptop decided it was no longer going to do as I wished and decided to take a long holiday. This had made it nigh on impossible to post any photos (I know other people know of sneaky ways to get around this, but sadly I just haven't had the energy).

Add on top of that the phone call I received last night followed by the text message I got this morning. My great-uncle passed away. I can't say that I'm not deeply affected by this, but I also can't lie that it's a big relief. Uncle Bobby has been living with cancer and congestive heart failure for the past few years. Recently, he had been a great amounts of pain that left him with little no energy. A few days ago, he was given a couple of days to a couple of weeks. My grandparents (Nana and Papa) were going to fly from California to New York to be with him until his time was up. All of this was given to me second-hand by my mother so forgive me if the details are a bit off. My mom's cousin told my uncle that he needed to hold on for just a couple more days, that his brother was coming to see him. "Joey's coming?" he asked. When my mom's cousin answered in the affirmative and that he would be there Saturday, he simply responded, "Then I can go home on Sunday."

I think that him knowing that his brother was coming was enough comfort for him that he was able to slip softly away without having to deal with anymore pain. Not only am I grieving for him now that he's gone, but I'm also grieving for Papa who didn't get the chance to say his final farewell. I've kicking myself all day for not getting the chance to know him better like I should have. That's where my promise comes in. I never want to spend another moment regretting something that I could have changed just by being a bit more proactive. I want to be able to look back on my life and say that I lived and loved with as much passion and as little regret as I could. I'll be back with a recipe this weekend even if it means that I have to drag my fanny to the local library with my memory card to get it to you. With that, I leave you with a tribute to Uncle Bobby. Semper fidelis!!!

Amazing Grace

24 August 2009

Jam Exchange: What I Received

About a month ago I told you guys about the jam exchange Stephchows so graciously hosted. I shared what I sent and sat in eager anticipation wanting to know who had gotten my name and needing to know what kind of jam would be gracing my fridge (for however brief a time it would last).

Imagine my delight when I received my package at work a week ago, and tucked inside was two very unique flavors. Courtesy of Beantown Baker, I am now the proud owner of a jar of Vanilla Peach Bourbon jam and a jar of Rhubarb-Raspberry jam. My coworker and I opened them immediately and each had a spoonful of the two. I must say, both are absolutely splendid! When i got home, I pulled out a piece of wheat bread and cut it in half them smeared a good deal of each jam, one on either side. The rhubarb-raspberry tasted like a slice of pink lemonade, if pink lemonade was solid. The vanilla peach was a bit overwhelmed by the whole grains in the bread, but I know exactly which jam I'll be reaching for this weekend when I make scones...

Thanks again, Steph, for hosting, and Beantown Baker for some truly remarkable jam (her recipe for the vanilla peach bourbon can be found here).

18 August 2009

Pineapple Chicken

Apologies are in order. I have been ill again and unable to bring myself to cook dinner in the past week. It has also been so sickeningly hot around here that the thought of turning on the oven (or even the stove) has made me want to jump into winter with reckless abandon.

For my penance, I bring you Pineapple Chicken, another recipe from my trusty fallback: All Recipes. A bit different, I found it to be quite tasty. There was definitely something missing that I couldn't put my finger on, but I plan to make this again and hopefully figure it out along the way.

More good news, I received my jam today. I plan on devoting an entire post to it later this week, but just know that it was super delicious and I can't wait to put it on some scones (I actually have a few ideas in mind for the jam, but right now I just want to eat it off a spoon).

Pineapple Chicken
Recipe from All Recipes

5 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 1/2 (1 ounce) packages dry onion soup mix
2 cups water
1 (15 ounce) can pineapple, drained
1 large orange, sliced in rounds
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  1. Spray large frying pan or electric skillet with vegetable spray. Brown chicken breasts in pan, meat side down.
  2. Turn chicken over; add pineapple chunks, onion soup, and water.
  3. Cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes. Garnish with cooked pineapple chunks and fresh orange slices.

14 August 2009

Macaron FAIL

So here is the FAIL I talked about last time I posted: macarons. Ever since the first time I checked out Tartelette's blog, I have been intrigued with the cookie. Two crispy shelled cookies encasing a creamy sweet center, sounds like a perfect cookie to me (especially if you make a chocolate version).

Mrs. Tartelette, being a sweet French lady, has several recipes posted on her blog, each with beautiful pictures of the delectable cookies that I so desperately had my heart set on. The recipe I used is here. I followed all of her directions to a, except one. I did not pass the powdered sugar and pulverized almonds through a sieve (I had been in the kitchen literally all weekend making yummy snacks for the party and making meals for my sister and friend so we wouldn't have to lose precious time by going to get food).

Needless to say, I set the timer for recommended time and let the cookies do their magic. When the timer went off, I went to check. Seemed pretty wet to me still, so I added a couple of minutes and went about cleaning the kitchen. Ding! Checked again, still not done, two more minutes. The first batch cooked for almost 20 minutes before I finally pulled them out of the oven. As they sat cooling on my counter, they began to deflate. By the time the tray was completely cool, I took a spatula to the first cookie only to find that it still wasn't done. Where did I go wrong? Was it the one simple step I didn't follow out of lazi...uh...tiredness? Could it be the excessive humidity messing with the airiness of the egg whites? Was there something else I missed? I'm still intrigued by these yummy cookies, but I'll be waiting until the temperatures cool down again before attempting another go round. Maybe one of you might have a suggestion in the meantime???

11 August 2009

Bridal Shower Snacks

First, I'd like to apologize for not posting in a while. I was super busy over the weekend and then was sick. I'm better now though and a lot less stressed out. The reason I was so busy was because I was a co-hostess for my best friend's bridal shower and had offered to make all of the snacks. Being the genius that I am (did I just hear somebody snort?), I thought it would be cute to have a "candy bar" with some homemade sweets thrown in.

Since the bride's wedding colors are black, white, and red, we decided that we wanted to stick with her color scheme and carry it throughout the whole party. We used red and black streamers, bought candy in all three colors, and even decorated some sugar cookies with red and white. I also had a failure that I'll post about later this week (but that's mostly because I'm not sure where I went wrong and would like some advice).

Today I'm going to share my aunt's recipe for Italian Buttercream. My mom's oldest sister makes the wedding cakes for pretty much everyone in our family, and she always uses this recipe. It's so rich and decadent that you really only need a tiny slice of cake to feel like you've gained 20 pounds. I'm not exactly sure where the recipe came from since I copied it down from an email she sent to my sister when we made our parents' anniversary cake. Enjoy!

Italian Buttercream
Recipe from my aunt

11/4 cups plus 1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
8 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
11/2 pounds ( 6 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp., cut into small pieces
  1. Place the 11/4 cups of sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir to wet all of the sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, swirling the pan occasionally to help dissolve sugar. Dip a pastry brush in cold water and wash down sugar crystals from the sides of the pot once or twice. Turn down the heat so the mixture simmers gently. You want to be able to bring the syrup to a rapid boil when needed.
  2. Meanwhile, place the whites in your clean, grease-free mixing bow land whip until frothy on low speed using the wire whip attachment. Add the cream of tartar and turn the speed up to medium-high. When soft peaks form, add the 1/3 cup sugar gradually. Continue whipping until stiff, glossy peaks form.
  3. Return the sugar/water mixture to a rapid boil and cook until it reaches 248 to 250 degrees (I used my candy thermometer, but I had to cook it to a much higher temp before it was the right stage). The trick is to have the syrup ready at the same time as the meringue. If the meringue is done before the syrup,turn the mixer speed down to the lowest setting so that the whites are continuously moving, but not highly agitated. If the syrup is done first, add a bit of hot water to lower the temperature and continue to cook until the meringue is ready.
  4. While the syrup is cooking at a rapid boil, there are many visual clues to use to see how it is progressing. It starts thin with many small bubbles over the entire surface. As it cooks, the water evaporates and the mixture will become thicker. The bubbles get larger and do not rise to the surface so rapidly. The bubbles will become thick and sticky and pop open more slowly as well. At this point, the syrup definitely looks thickened, but it has not begun to color, which would mean it is about to turn into caramel. The stage you want-called the firm ball stage-is right before the sugar starts to color. If you drop a bit of the syrup into a glass of cold water it will harden into a ball. When you squeeze the ball between your fingertips, it will feel firm.
  5. When the syrup is ready, with the mixer running on medium-high speed, pour the syrup in a steady stream, without getting any on the rotating whip or the sides of the bowl. If it does, the syrup will harden and cling and not make it down into the meringue mixture. Turnoff the machine to add the syrup if you find it easier. You just don't want to let the meringue sit still for longer than a few seconds.
  6. The meringue must be whipped until it cools., which may take as long as 15 minutes (this took much longer for me), depending on the ambient temperature. At this point,beat the meringue on high speed. Occasionally touch the outside bottom of the bowl, you should be able to feel it cooling down. When the bowl is no longer warm, stop the machine and touch the surface of the meringue with your finger to double-check that it is indeed cooled. If you add the butter while the meringue is warm, the butter will melt and ruin the texture of the buttercream by turning it liquidy. It will also decrease the volume of the final product.
  7. When the meringue is cooled, turn the machine down to a medium speed and begin to add the butter, a couple tablespoons at a time. The meringue will change the moment the butter becomes incorporated: the texture becomes thicker, creamy, and smooth as it turns into buttercream. Continue to whip the buttercream, adding the remaining butter. Keep beating until the buttercream is completely smooth. If at any time the mixture looks lumpy or separated, just continue to beat; it will come together.This makes 7 cups and you will need to make it in a 5-quart mixer.

04 August 2009

Welcome to India!

I recently replaced my cell phone with the iPhone (my spacebar quit working when I was texting, and it just got to be too big of a hassle). I immediately started adding aps so that it wouldn't be a waste of money to own. Most of the ones I loaded were free and are well worth the cost of my new phone. One of these aps is the All Recipes Recipe Spinner (it's actually one of the first ones I added to my phone). This thing is amazing! There are three "wheels": meal type, ingredient, amount of time it takes to cook. Just shake the phone, and the spinners do their magic and randomly select one from each wheel.

One of the times I used the spinner, I got the main dish option with grains as my main ingredient and less than a 40 minute cook time. Several recipes came up with those specifications, and I thought I might have made a bad decision by loading this onto my phone. Two recipes in and up came what I knew I had to make for dinner: Chicken Curry! Thank you All Recipes!

Lucky for you, this recipe can be found on the original website too. I have to admit, I've never had curry before this meal, and I was very happy with the outcome (my sister, who has had curry, liked it too so I have to assume that I came out well). For my tastes, it was the right amount of heat. For the sis, I'm sure she would have liked more. Others might want less. Served over a bed of steamed rice, this really was a great meal. Enjoy!

Chicken Curry
Recipe from All Recipes

1 (3 pound) whole chicken, skin removed and cut into pieces (I used a package of chicken tenders and cut them into bite-sized pieces before cooking them)
3 onions, chopped (I only used 1 since my sister doesn't like them; oh, and it was yellow)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 bay leaf
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup olive oil
water to cover
  1. Fry the onions in olive oil until browned. Add the cinnamon and the bay leaf. Continue stirring and add the ginger, paprika, curry powder, sugar, salt, and garlic. Continue stirring for 2 minutes. Mixture will become much like a paste.
  2. Add chicken pieces and tomato. Add enough water to just cover the chicken. Simmer until chicken is done, about 20 minutes.
  3. Just before serving, add the lemon juice and the cayenne pepper. Simmer for 5 more minutes.

02 August 2009

Happy Birthday, Tammy!

In honor of one of my co-worker's "29th" birthday, I made a peach cobbler. This was the first time I've ever attempted this kind of dessert and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. I used peaches from Porter, OK.

Every summer, around mid-July, Porter hosts the Porter Peach Festival. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get over there, but I was lucky enough to come across some of the peaches at the Wal Mart around the corner from me. These truly are some of the best peaches I've ever had. We ate ours with some slow-churned, low fat vanilla ice cream (best low fat ice cream I've ever had too).

Peach Cobbler
Recipe from All Recipes

9 fresh peaches
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup butter, chilled
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons white sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F ( 205 degrees C).
  2. Submerge peaches in boiling later for about 1 minute. The amount of time required to make the skin easy to peel varies with the degree of ripeness: if really ripe, it may take less time. Remove peaches with a slotted spoon, and run cold water on them. Slip off the skin (I'll be honest, I cheated and just peeled them with a potato peeler). Cut peaches into wedges, and place in either a deep 10 inch pie plate or a 2 inch deep 2 quart baking dish. Toss peaches with lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar. Cover with foil.
  3. Bake 15 minutes, or until the peaches are hot and bubbly.
  4. Whisk together flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles small peas. Pour buttermilk over top, and toss with a fork until the mixture clumps together. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough over the peaches. In a small cup, mix 2 teaspoons sugar and nutmeg. Sprinkle over biscuits.
  5. Bake until biscuits are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Set dish on wire rack to cool 10 to 15 minutes before serving.