27 May 2010

Daring Bakers: Piece Montee

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

I was beyond excited for this challenge. I've always wanted to tackle the croquembouche ever since the first time I watched my aunt make profiteroles for my cousin's wedding (that woman is a goddess in the kitchen). I wanted to go bigger though. I was going to make three different fillings for mine that would all be good in their own right but even better when eaten together. Such big plans! I even decided to hold an impromptu tea party so I wouldn't have to eat all of those puffs myself (and you know I would have).

Last Wednesday, I spent an hour locked in the meat department at the gorcery store waiting out the tornados that decided to blast through Tulsa. I baked my first two batches of puffs through tornado warnings and sirens going off. By midnight, I had 24 flat cream puffs with no bottoms (my first mistake was forgetting to purchase more parchment paper while on lockdown at the store). I was miserable, hot, tired, and just ready to go to bed. Of course that meant only one filling got made, but I just didn't care at that point.

I came home during my lunch break the next day (the day of my tea party) to make new puffs, with the parchment paper this time. This time they were light and airy with bottoms. Yay! These ones could actually be filled (and special thanks goes out to hubby for pulling them out of the oven since I had to go back to work). Hubby and his sister filled them with my banoffee pie filling that I made (take all of the ingredients that goes into a banoffee pie, minus the crust, mix it all together, and now you've got your filling).

It didn't come out quite as big as I wanted, nor did it look very pretty, but everyone loved them. My mom even asked me to make a croquembouch for her birthday cake (finally, someone who doesn't want another chocolate cake). I'll use my aunt's recipe for that one and will attempt to make an actual cone shaped masterpiece. For now, here's my oozy, messy piece montee. Bon apetit!

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Preparing batter: Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.
  3. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.
  5. Piping: Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.
  6. Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).
  7. Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool. Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.
  8. Filling:When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

26 May 2010

Food Revolution: Day 38

Can you believe I joined the Food Revolution more than a month ago? The even better part of that is I've lost 5lbs since then (10 total so far though). It really does work, cutting out all of those horrible processed food. Now, I haven't completely weaned myself off of them just yet, but I'm getting better about it every day. Soon, I'll be off the boxed dinners and fast food completely.

But I didn't come here to brag. I came to share another Jamie recipe with you from a completely different place. As you all know, I got an iPhone last summer when my old phone decided it no longer wanted to included spaces between words in my texts (allofthemlookedlikethis). You also know that I fell in love with the All Recipes Dinner Spinner app. One of my new favorite apps comes from the Naked Chef himself. 20 Minute Meals provides a nice assortment of different meals that are all simple to make and require only a handful of ingredients. It also includes several videos that teach you different tecniques for being more productive in the kitchen (how to cut an onion, how to keep your cutting board from sliding around, how to take care of your knives, etc.). There's even a handy screen for a shopping list. Just press the button that adds the ingredients fromy our chosen recipe, and everything you need to pick up at the store is right there. My only complaint is that there aren't enough recipes.

Hubby and I went with the Tomato Pappa, a tomato and bread based soup. I wasn't sure what to expect with this one since I can't stand soggy bread, and after having eaten it, I wish I had asked the hubby to cut the bread into smaller chunks (and we definitely would have used less than the 9oz. Jamie calls for). We had ours over a bed of mostaccioli so that it would go further, giving us leftovers for lunch the next day. It was good, velvety and thick. I would have liked more tomatoes and less bread, but the hubby was in Heaven so who am I to never make this soup for him again. Try it. You'll like it.

Tomato Pappa
Recie by Jamie Oliver

1 small bunch fresh basil
9oz. ripe cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
9oz. ready to bake ciabatta (I just bought a loaf from the bakery and halved it)
1 14oz. can diced tomatoes
2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
  1. Place a deep pan on a medium heat until warm. Trim the crusts of the bread and tear the rest into bte-sized pieces (hubby ate the crust as he cut the bread for me).
  2. Pick the smaller basil leaves and put to one side. Roughly chop the rest, stalks and all. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Peel and finely slice the garlic cloves.
  3. Add a splash of olive oil to the hot pan. Add the sliced garlic and stir around for a few minutes. As soon as the garlic starts to color, add the chopped cherry tomatoes and basil.
  4. Turn the heat up to high and cook the tomato mixture for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring as you go, until everything is soft and sticky.
  5. Add the canned tomatoes to teh sticky tomato mixture. Give it a really good stir so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan then bring everything to the boil. Fill the empty tomato can with hot water and pour this into the pan. Stir int he chunks of bread and extra virgin olive oil then turn the heat down to a simmer.
  6. Stir the soup occassionally as it blips away. When it's smooth and the bread has completely softened, it's ready (this doesn't take very long at all, at most maybe 10 minutes unless you use really hard bread. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Take it off the heat and cover with a close fitting lid. Allow to sit 5 to 10 minutes. Serve witht he reserved basil leaves as a garnish.

23 May 2010

Happy Blogoversary to Me!

Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of me joining the blogging world. It's been a bit crazy. There was that time I went several months without blogging because my laptop gave up on me. There were a few fails along the way but even more successes. I've made some amazing friends from some really cool places.

My friend M, Chris's sister K, and my cousin S

In honor of this momentous occassion, I hosted an impromptu tea party at my apartment (I had to make a really big dessert for the Daring Bakers that I knew the hubby and I wouldn't be able to eat on our own). I invited some friends over and made some finger foods. I dipped some strawberries in chocolate. I baked until midnight last night even though the tornado sirens were going off (I was trapped at the grocery store for almost an hour in a concrete hallway with about 15 other people just waiting for an all clear so I could race home to bake).
The only one I could get to smile for the camera

Luckily the grocery store went to had the one thing that I went to that specific store for, clotted cream, so it was worth getting locked in (plus I made a new friend who I got to tell all about the joys of Tulsa, really, it was a good conversation). I set out several different flavors of tea with tea pots full of hot water so everyone could choose what they like. All in all, I think everyone had a good time. I think even the Queen of England herself would have been happy with how everything turned out.
Don't let the pouty face fool you, she had fun

There really isn't a recipe for me to share with you today. I made egg salad for the very first time with some instructions from my mom. The biggest recipe can't be shared until next week when it's time to post for the DBs again. Anyway, I really just wanted to thank you all for sticking with me for the past year. Hopefully, you'll still be here with me this time next year. I've got some really fun stuff planned for the next few months so stick around.

18 May 2010

Pesto Party in My Mouth

First off, I'd like to thank everyone for their wonderful comments on the last few posts. It's amazing to get such great feedback. I'd also like to welcome the two new Eaters I've gained over the past couple of days. Bienvenue, wilkommen, and mi casa es su casa! Now on to the fun!

Just this past week, my college roommate, A, was having a pretty rough go at life. She and I have been through a lot together, which tends to happen when you live together for 4 years. We've always been there for each other no matter what (me for her when she had some problems come up during our senior year and her for me when I'd cry myself to sleep waiting for the hubby to come home).

Anyway, I decided as a nice little surprise to have her over for dinner the other night. She had to work so I told her to just swing on by after she got off, and I'd have dinner ready for her. There's this Italian restaurant that we like to go to across the Arkansas River on the Riverwalk called Gina & Guiseppe's that has some amazing food. It never fails, when we get there A always gets the mostaccioli with pesto cream sauce. It's her favorite. I wanted to surprise her by recreating it for her. Since I knew the hubby had to be able to eat it too, I added some grilled chicken into the mix.

I watched as she took her first bite, her eyes closing and a long "MMMMMMM" escaped her mouth. "You know what this could use less of?" she asked me. I gave her a quizzical look and waited for her answer, worrying that I didn't do a very good job. "It could use less AWESOME!" Of course I grinned and had to make sure she wasn't kidding. The hubby agreed with her! Considering he's not a big fan of pesto (weird, right?), that was pretty amazing in itself. What made it even better was this was solely my own recipe! I hope you all enjoy as much as we did.

Mostaccioli with Pesto Cream Sauce
Recipe by me

2 cups fresh basil, chopped
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts
2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic, peeled

Cream Sauce
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 Tbl butter
1 chicken bouillion cube
1 cup freshly shredded parmesan
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

16 oz mostaccioli (or desired pasta)
1 lb grilled chicken, cubed (optional)
  1. For the pesto: Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until all the ingredients are incorporated. Set aside.
  2. For the cream sauce:  In a medium-sized pot, heat the cream and butter to a gentle boil. Add the bouillion cube and a bit of the cheese, whisking until completely melted. Add the rest of the cheese a little at a time until all of it has been incorporated. Cook until thickened, remove from heat, and add the pesto sauce.
  3. In a large pot, boil slightly salted water. Add your pasta and cook until just done. Drain and return to pan. Add the pesto cream sauce and toss to coat. Serve with a basil leaf and some freshly shredded parmesan cheese.

15 May 2010

Food Revolution: Day ???

I've been lax on the whole Food Revolution. Blame it on the fact that the show is over for the season or the fact that I've been bored in the kitchen (although the past few nights have been a blast). Part of the problem has been that I've been looking at the Revolution as less of a change and more of another diet. It's not. It has to be a change for the better.

I'm not saying that you have to buy everything organic, or that you have to buy the most expensive item on the shelf. That's not what the Revolution is about. It's about making healthy choices. It's not about cutting out all the yummy stuff. You can still have that stuff, just smaller servings made with better ingredients.

This is a tart I made that uses very few ingredients. Yes, it means I had to spend a little more, but that also means I got to use some very nice quality ingredients to make an excellent dessert. The best thing about it (besides that it's chocolate) is that it's rich so you only want a small piece. I cobbled together two recipes for it. The crust can be found here (my very first post, le sigh). The ganache filling is from another blogger who I've talked about on here, Tartlette. She's amazing and comes up with some really fantastic recipes. Enjoy and Viva la Revolution!!!

Chocolate Ganache Tart
Recipe by Tartlette, adapted by me

Ganache filling:

5 oz dark chocolate
5 oz milk chocolate (this came out to two and a half chocolate bars all together)
1/2 cup + 2 Tb. heavy cream
1 tsp ground cinnamon (next time I'll try steeping the cream with mint leaves for a cooling effect)
1/2 Tbl sea salt
  1. Heat the cream over medium heat with the ground cinnamon. When hot, remove from the stove and throw in the chocolates, let stand for a minute. Gently stir to incorporate all the chocolate. Let stand at room temperature while you prepare the tart crust.
  2. When the crust has cooled, pour the filling in and smooth the top. Sprinkle the sea salt over the top evenly (this brings out the flavor of the chocolate even better).

14 May 2010

Daring Cooks: Stacked Enchiladas

Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on and written by Robb Walsh. Our only rule was that we had to make our own enchilada sauce. Everything else was left up to our imagination.

I decided to be daring and make my own tortillas along with the mandatory sauce. Lucky for me, I was smart and bought a package of corn tortillas just in case mine didn't come out so well. As I flattened out the first ball of dough, I thought that I was doing well. When I pulled the two pieces of cling wrap apart that I had used to roll the dough, I couldn't get the tortilla off. After 10 minutes of picking the tortilla dough off the plastic and trying again, I gave up. I'm not mad though. I'm going to buy a tortilla press and try again.

The sauce on the other hand was totally amazing! It literally took 10 minutes to make and tasted wonderful with the filling (remember the Ropa Vieja from a few weeks ago? It was so good as an enchilada). We had my mom and a couple of her friends over for an impromptu dinner party, and everyone loved it. I didn't get very many pictures because the enchis kind of fell apart when I put them on plates. Enjoy!

Enchilada Sauce
Recipe from All Recipes

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons self-rising flour
1/4 cup New Mexico or California chili powder
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion salt
salt to taste
  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and chili powder, reduce heat to medium, and cook until lightly brown, stirring constantly to prevent burning flour.
  2. Gradually stir in tomato sauce, water, cumin, garlic powder, and onion salt into the flour and chili powder until smooth, and continue cooking over medium heat approximately 10 minutes, or until thickened slightly. Season to taste with salt.

12 May 2010

You Want (Pizza) Pies with That?

For May's pie challenge, Erin from Milk & Honey, chose for us to makea pizza pie. What an excellent idea! There are so many great pizzas out there to choose from and so many great pizzerias to visit, it's hard to pick a favorite. There also the debate of Chicago vs. New York style. Now, my family is from the great state of New York, and I'd probably be beaten within an inch of my life if I didn't say that NY style is the best, but I also think a nice deep-dish from the windy city is a great thing (one trip to Savastano's here in Tulsa would turn any hardcore NY enthusiast into a Chicago fan).

But my favorite pizza comes from a very famous chain that has no stores in Oklahoma: California Pizza Kitchen. The only way I can even get this pizza is driving all the way to Texas (a 3 hour drive for the closest location) or frozen. As much as I love a good road trip, I cannot justify a drive just for pizza (ice cream maybe). The thing that I find so amazing about CPK is the uniqueness of their pies. Back before it was cool to be a foodie and make familiar things more unique, CPK was doing just that.

It's funny that the first time I ever tried CPK was nowhere near California. In fact, I was on the other coast in New Jersey. If I remember correctly, CPK had a location in one of the many malls located in the garden state. I was a bit apprehensive, being that I was only about 12 or 13 years old. Different food was just weird at that age, but I tried something new and actually liked it (although I didn't like the onions on my pizza back then). I've decided to make CPK's most famous (and the one I tried way back when), the BBQ Chicken Pizza. I was even adventurous and made my own BBQ sauce and pizza crust (yes, I'm a glutton for punishment). My mama came over and had dinner with us, and I think she's a convert from NY to CPK.

CPK's BBQ Chicken Pizza
Sauce recipe from All Recipes, dough recipe from All Recipes, rest by me

BBQ Sauce

2 cups ketchup
1 bulb garlic, peeled and crushed
1 cup water
2 tablespoons hot sauce
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 pinch paprika
1 pinch crushed red pepper
1 pinch ground white pepper
1 pinch ground black pepper

Pizza Dough

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast

1 cup warm water
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ (I couldn't find wheat germ, so I just substituted extra wheat flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey

Pizza Topping

1 lb chicken breast, cut into chunks
1 cup BBQ sauce
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1/4 red onion, sliced and quartered

  1. For the BBQ sauce: In a large saucepan over medium low heat, mix together ketchup, garlic, 1 cup of water, hot sauce, honey, molasses, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, salt, Cajun seasoning, paprika, red pepper, white pepper and black pepper. Allow the mixture to simmer approximately 30 minutes. I ran the sauce through my food processor to break up the garlic better then heated it again until it was bubbly. Remove 1 cup of the sauce and reserve for the pizza.
  2. For the pizza crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl combine flour, wheat germ and salt. Make a well in the middle and add honey and yeast mixture. Stir well to combine. Cover and set in a warm place to rise for a few minutes. Roll dough on a floured pizza pan and poke a few holes in it with a fork. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until desired crispiness is achieved.
  3. For the pizza: Cook the chicken in the BBQ sauce still in the pan until cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. On the prebaked crust, spread out the 1 cup of BBQ sauce within a 1/4-inch of the edge (I had about 1/4 cup left-over that we used to dip the pizza in). Strain the chicken and place on top of the sauce. Sprinkle as much or as little cheese as you like (for us, the more the better). Top with the onions and few leaves of cilantro. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

09 May 2010

Renaissance Faire 2010

I meant to post this sooner, but I have to be honest with you, hubby and I have been sick. His has been brought on by stress, and I'm pretty sure mine has been brought on by being slightly depressed. I'm not suicidal or anything. I've just been feeling blue (we all have those days, mine just seems like it's been a week of them). Anyway, I'm feeling better today and wanted to share my adventures with you from these past two Saturdays.

The Royal Family, Lady Grace with Lady Bailey, and our Hobbits

Every weekend in May, Muskogee, OK is transported back to the 16th century. Nestled off the main highway running through town is a castle that is home to the village of Castleton (I kid you not, that is what they call it). King Henry VIII and his sister, Queen Margaret, descend upon the little village along with their retinue, some pirates, gypsies, and other assorted inhabitants of 1539.

Seamus, Angus, and Pandora

From jousters to jesters, peasants to pirates, courtiers to chessplayers, there's something for everyone to enjoy. I'll admit, the food is never that great (at least any of the food I've tried), but you're really not going there for the food anyway so it all works out. For me, the shows are always the highlight of the day. I always end up missing something that I wanted to see when I first got there, but I also always end up seeing a show that I never planned on and ended up loving (dirty pirate shows are hysterical).

A wooing knight, Pirates, and a Dancing Bear

Need to take a break from the heat of the day? Why not try the Queen's Tea? For just a mere $8, you get an array of dainty finger foods along with a show that will make you think you're going to wet your pants from laughing so hard. How about a carriage ride through the village? Or maybe you would like to pet a Highland Cow? Are you under 12 years of age? Why not go ont he queen's quest to retrieve her lost ribbons? At the end of the day, you'll become a knight or lady of the court.

Carriage Ride and a Hairy Coo

We always make new friends when we go to the Faire. This year, my little group of friends got intitated into a group of bandits. Led by the infamous Sancho and his silent brother Pancho, the bandits required an oath and then a promise. With right heand held high, we had to yell out, "Bandits!" anytime we crossed paths with our new friends (of course this was after the two proposed marriage to my hubby's 15 year old sister, declared me their sister, and the hubby as their niece...they don't recognize men, only women).

Sancho y Pancho, the Spanish Bandits

I can't wait to go again. Maybe next year I'll become a volunteer and become a part of the 16th century for real.

Hubby's youngest sister after becoming a Lady

05 May 2010

Definitely Not Healthy

But oh so tasty! My hubby's friend, D, the one who used to come over and hang out with me, is moving to Canada. I didn't find out about this until yesterday afternoon when my hubby called to ask if his friend could coem to dinner (I've never felt more like a mom than right in that moment which is crazy since I'm not a mom at all).

Of course that meant that instead of going to the gym like I was supposed to, I needed to go to the grocery store so I could actually cook something that wasn't Hamburger Helper (yeah, we were going the processed food route last night, but at least I had good intentions of going to the gym). What I ended up making is truly worthy of being in a restaurant. It's the first meal the hubby and I ever made together. In fact, that was before he even was my hubby, and we were housesitting for his dad. That was an adventure.

Asiago Sun-Dried Tomato Alfredo with Bow-tie Pasta is seriously one of my most favorite meals. It's got a rich, creamy alfredo, red onion, chicken, and bacon. I was good and lightened it up a little by doing half cream and half milk for the alfredo. Still, I had a very light dessert that I threw together to try to cut back on the richness that was dinner (and I served it with a salad so it was still have least a fairly balanced meal). This is one of those recipes that has a lot of ingredients and a bit of prep work but comes together super fast. You do have to keep your eye on multiple pots, and I tend to make a huge mess when I make this, but it's always worth it when two grown men groan in contentment and have to undo the buttons on their jeans after eating.

Asiago Sun-Dried Tomato Alfredo with Bow-tie Pasta
Recipe from All Recipes, adapted by me

2 cups heavy cream (I did half cream, half skim milk here)
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 cup Asiago Cheese (I didn't really measure this)
1 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed with equal parts water
1 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 (16 ounce) package bow tie pasta
3/4 cup bacon (go for the whole package, it's worth it)
1 cup diced red onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup chopped chives
1 pound grilled skinless, boneless chicken breast, diced
1 cup heavy cream (again, half cream, half milk)
1/2 tsp each red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, and basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook 2 cups cream until just bubbling. Watch carefully, to ensure that it doesn't boil over. Stir in bouillon and Asiago cheese. Stir with a whisk until dissolved. Add cornstarch mixture, and simmer until sauce is thickened, stirring constantly. Mix in the sun-dried tomatoes. Set aside, or cover and refrigerate for later use.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain. Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside. With some crumpled up paper towels, clean most of the grease from the pan and discard.
  3. In same saucepan, saute red onion until soft and translucent. Stir in garlic and cooked bacon, and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in chives, chicken and 1 cup cream. Cook, stirring, until cream is heated through. Add Asiago cream sauce, and heat through. Toss with cooked pasta until evenly coated, and sprinkle with chopped parsley.