Saturday, January 30, 2010

Happy Chocolate Cake Day and the Ultimate Ice Box Cookie

I learned, after the fact, that January 27th was Chocolate Cake Day.  Isn't it great to have a day devoted to just the chocolate cake?  What will they think of next?  Regardless, any day that honors chocolate is a great day. 

I am not a cake baker, but I can make a mean cookie and it just so happens that I made French Sables Korovas on this honorable day.  Personally I think that these are quite possibly the best chocolate cookies known to man. Let me share with you a bit about these fabulous cookies.

Pierre Hermes, who is considered one of the best pastry chefs in the world, created these cookies for Korova, a restaurant off the Champs-Elysees.  Although the restaurant no longer exists, the cookies are still a specialty at Hermes patisserie.  The fleur-de sel in these slice and bake cookies doesn't make them salty; it brings out the chocolate taste and adds a delicious and mysterious flavor.  The end results are magnifique!

Oh and for a bit of trivia, 'sable' is a classical French cookie that is said to hail from Caen, in the province of Normandy.  The French word sable means 'sand' , and the cookies are so named because of their  delicate, crumbly texture.

French Sables Korova
Yields about 2 dozen

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa ( I used Ghiradelli.)
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, brought to room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons fleur de sel
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces (1 cup) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (I used Ghiradelli milk chocolate chips.)

In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the cocoa and baking soda; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter, then add the brown sugar, granulated sugar, fleur de Sela, and vanilla; beat by hand until combined.  Beat in the sifted dry ingredients just until blended; the dough will be crumbly but will hold together.  Knead in the chocolate pieces until evenly distributed.

Form the dough in a log approximately 1 1/2-inches in diameter.  Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.

Using a sharp, thin knife, cut the log into 3/8-inch slices; arrange about 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.  If the slices crumble, re-form the cookies by pressing the dough together.

Bake the cookies on the middle and lower racks of the oven until puffed and cracked on top, about 17 minutes, shifting the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through.  Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes before tansferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Pantry Challenge Week Four

This week's pantry challenge has been, well a  bit of challenge, as we are having renovations done to our bathroom and I was out of commission earlier this week due to a minor "procedure."  Despite these obstacles I was able to pull together two meals. 

Monday I made a version of Black Rice Curried Meatloaf  from one of my personal chef friends, Patti Anastasia. I had only a great wild rice blend in my pantry so I substituted it for black rice.  The rice added such a great texture to the dish and the mango chutney had just the right amount of tangy and sweetness. I gave my dear hubby a slice for his lunch the next day and when he got home he commented that he had some fuzzy stuff on the top of the slice. I reminded him that it did have mango chutney on it and the fuzzy was okay to eat!  Be sure to visit Patti's website, Anastasia's Table.  She has wonderful food related information, as well as great recipes!

On Wednesday I made Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas. I had everything needed except for the flour tortillas which were quickly procured at the grocery store.  I love this recipe!  While we didn't, a side of Spanish rice can be added to round out the meal.


Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas

1 pound chicken breast, boneless, skinless
2 teaspoons taco seasoning ( I make my own.)
3 slices bacon
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 10-ounce cans enchilada sauce (you can choose the heat factor)
1 16-ounce can black beans, drained, but not rinsed
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
12 flour tortillas, 6 inch size
9 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded (can use Monterey Jack cheese too)

1. Cut chicken into short, thin strips.  Toss with taco seasoning. Cook bacon in large skillet until crisp.  Remove and drain on paper towel.  Crumble when cool.

2. Cook chicken and garlic in bacon drippings until chicken is no longer pink.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce, black beans, cumin, and salt.  Simmer until till thickened, stirring occasionally.  Stir in green onion and reserved bacon.

3. Spoon a heaping 1/4-cup bean mixture down center of each tortilla; top with 2 tablespoons cheese.  Roll up; place seam side down in 9" x  13" lightly greased casserole dish.  Spoon remaining enchilada sauce over enchiladas.  Top with remaining cheese and cover with foil.

4. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for approximately 40 to 45 minutes.

Top baked enchiladas with your favorite toppings such as avocado, tomatoes, shredded lettuce or sour cream.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Challenge Continues

My pantry challenge is in it's third week and I am beginning to see some empty spaces in my pantry and freezer.  It has been fun to through caution to the wind (a recipes too) and see what ends up on the plate. 

I am part a group of personal chefs on Facebook and we have been posting pictures of what we have been creating.  It has been such a blast!  I look forward each morning to seeing the latest installments.  I have gotten some great ideas, and isn't that what it's all about anyway? 

Here's what we've had so far this week.

Pantry Polo a la Lana

Fish Tacos

Caramelized sweet onions and Dijon glazed pork loin

Tonight we are having Crockpot Burritos.  This is a dish that a military friend gave me many years ago.  Actually there really isn't a recipe, just a few ingredients.

Put brisket, London broil or lean roast in Crockpot. Place whole green chilies (from a can) on top of roast. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours.  Shred meat and serve in warm flour tortillas. 

That's it!  How much more simpler can it get?

Of course you can add seasonings to the meat while it cooks.  I add a couple of generous tablespoons of homemade taco seasoning.  And certainly it can be dressed up with lettuce, cheese, sour cream, and avocado when it's served. 

Anita Kellaway, thank you! 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Master Chef Reality TV

So this morning I spent 2 hours waiting in line with 300+ friends waiting for my five minute chance for stardom.  Gordon Ramsey and Fox are casting a new reality TV show, Master Chef, a show made up of amateur chefs.  So I thought, "Hey, I can do this!" and I did.  I arrived at the casting site at 7:30 a. m. for a 9:00 a.m. call.  Encouraged to see only about 20 other people in front of me I confidently marched to the back of the line. I knew that more people would show up by the start time, but I wasn't concerned.  By the 9:00 a.m. start time we numbered well over 300...and there hadn't been much advertising either!

We had to present a prepared dish. It had to be something that could be served at room temperature or else you had to find someway to keep the dish hot or opportunity to nuke it once you got in the door.  I prepared Sweet Corn and Bacon Empandas; roasted problano peppers and white cheddar were also in the filling.  I made a wonderful butter rich pastry dough, no store bought stuff for me! I added a small bowl of guacamole to help off set the heat of the peppers.  I knew everything would travel and present well and it did, but when I saw the woman next to me plate up a rack of lamb I knew that I didn't think big enough. While I am happy with the taste and presentation of my dish, I don't think I'll be getting a call back.  That's was a fun experience and I got to share food stories and some good laughs with my fellow line standers...and all before it started to rain!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What's in Your Vegetable Bin?

Update:  The curried lentil soup was delicious!  The colors were not as pretty as they would have been if I had used red and yellow lentils, but the taste was wonderful.  My hubby did break out the bottle of hot sauce to spice his up a bit more, but I liked mine just the way it came out of the pot.  I grilled pita bread that had been brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with coarse black pepper and kosher salt to round out the dish.  Yum!

So yesterday the weather was COLD.  It never got above freezing and for Middle Georgia that is cold.  Our average January high is 52 degrees.  Keeping in the pantry challenge mode, I decided to make potato cheddar soup.  When I grabbed out the potato basket I found one russet, two Yukon gold, four red, and one sweet potato.  Throwing the sweet potato back into the basket, I used the rest of the potatoes (and some were really wrinkled and looked like they were ready for spring planting) and made Three Potato Soup with Cheddar Cheese. 

Here's my recipe:

Three Potato Soup with Cheddar Cheese
Makes about 12 cups

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup white onion, diced
3 tablespoons flour
6 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 1/2 cups milk (I used a combination of 1% and half and half)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated cheddar cheese, plus additional for garnishing
1/4 cup sliced green onion

1. Heat olive oil in heavy pot over a medium high heat.  Add onions and stir for 2-3 minutes, just until starting to brown and get soft.

2. Add flour and stir for 1 minute.

3. Slowly add broth, stirring so as not to get lumps of flour.  Add milk.  Add potatoes, salt and pepper.  bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Cook for approximately 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

4. Mash with potato masher to desired texture. (I like a few lumps!) Add cheese and stir until melted.  Adjust seasonings.

5.  Ladle into deep bowls and top with additional cheese and sliced green onions.

Note: If you like a thinner consistency soup, add more milk once the cheese has melted.  Stir to incorporate.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pantry Challenge

I keep a pretty well stocked pantry.  Lots of canned tomatoes, a wide variety of beans, rices and other grains, and pasta. Add to that cans of green chili peppers, tons of spices, and the ever present jar of Paul Newman's Own pasta sauce.

Needing to rotate stock out, I am going to play "Pantry Challenge."  On the days I cook this month, which will not every day as we always have leftovers to eat, I am going to stand in my pantry and prepare our dinner from what I can pull off the shelves.  I have plenty of chicken, pork, and lean beef in my freezer so I'll use these up too. Of course I'll keep fresh veggies handy to round out the meal if needed.  It ought to be fun!

So here goes...

This morning I looked at all of the shelves and found two pounds of lentils.  I remembered seeing a recipe for curried lentil soup recently so I dug it out and, other than that recipe calling for red and yellow lentils (mine are brown), I have everything I need to prepare the recipe.  So curried lentil soup it is. Add  salad and some warm flat bread and supper is ready.

I'll still have a pound of lentils left but that's okay.

Here's the recipe:

Curried Lentil Soup
Serves 8

3 tablespoons butter
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 red onion, diced
2 bay leaves
1 dried chili pepper
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
5 sun-dried tomatoes (not oil packed)
1 cup red lentils
1 cup yellow lentils
8 cups water or chicken broth

Heat butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add smashed garlic and diced onion; sauté 6 minutes.  Add the turmeric, curry powder, bay leaves and chili pepper and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and lentils and 8 cups water or chicken broth. 

Simmer until the lentils are soft, about 1 hours.  Season with salt.

I'll let you know it turns out!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Another Year Older

As we begin another new year, I am fast approaching another milestone myself...yet another birthday. I don't mind getting older.  In fact I find it hard to believe that I am as old as I am.  Just how did I get here so quickly?  It seems like just a few years ago I married my best friend and our son was born, when it has been almost 31 and 28 years ago respectively.  Where has the time gone?

I have always prided myself on being in good physical shape and health.  After all I did run a marathon in 2009. However my annual physical has revealed that while my mind is still 23 my body is not.  And I just hate that!  Old age is creeping up on me. So for the first time in my life I find that I can no longer do some of the activities that I enjoy such as running.  With osteoarthritis in both hips, my doctor has put the kibosh on running. So power walking and cycling will become my new sports.  That and a daily dose of Celebrex!

This year will find me making some modifications in my diet as well due to genetically high cholesterol.  We have been able to manage it pretty well  without medication up to this point, but a 20 point increase in the LDL count and a 10 point decrease in the HDL count has raised the eyebrows of my doctor.  I have always been pretty conscious of what I am eating, but something has changed this year.  So adding yet another medication to the mix (I just hate taking medicine!) and being even more attune to my diet is the plan for dealing with this latest issue.  We, my dear husband and I, are going to be one week a month vegetarians, eat more fish and chicken, limit the red meat, which we don't eat much of now, ration the ice cream (damn!) and see if we can slow the aging process a bit. I hate this getting old thing!

I am determined not to let these things bring me down or change how I live.  I have too much living to do yet.  As my wonderful husband so often says, having a positive mental attitude makes all the difference in the world and since I am a "glass 3/4 full" kind of girl then I'm off to a great start.

Wishing you a wonderful 2010!