Saturday, September 29, 2007

Hot Buns on a Sunday Morning ...

When The Daring Bakers were presented with our September challenge by Marce from Pip in the City, I kind of cringed ….. I do not consider myself a baker at all. L. & I were chatting it up early one morning and he asked me why? My response was that the technical parts and the amount of time I have to put into it kind of irks me, I want instant gratification. So, I got myself out of bed, made some espresso and started Cinnamon (mine are Cardamon) & Sticky Buns.

WOW – half way through the challenge I was having a blast. My dough was silky, smooth and rising to the occasion. My cardamom sugar was sweet & spicy and my pecans and dried California (to add some local into this challenge) Apricots were chopped and my caramel/bergamot glaze was so tasty that I was afraid I was going to eat it all before actually glazing. Overall, it was a pretty good time so far and I was feeling damn good! Next came the part of baking I always hate … putting it all together. I usually do it so quickly, because I want to see what it is going to be like, that it does not come out the way the picture shows – I like to call it “natural looking”, to make myself feel better about it. This time around, I took my time, kneading, rolling, measuring, sprinkling, rolling, cutting and putting these sweet little buns into the right spots! I then covered them up and put them into the fridge to spend the night. I thought about them all night! I got up at 4am, put them next to the nice warm stove, covered them with some warm cheesecloth & let them rise until 8am, at which time I put them in the oven and …… They did just what they were supposed to do – I was so excited!

I could not wait for L. to see them! I set the table, and made the espresso. L. woke up to fresh cardamom & bergamot smells mixed with Italian Roast espresso … sleepy eyed he made it into the kitchen and all he could say was “Jesus Christ, this is great!” I gave some to our neighbors as well; E.’s response was that Sticky Buns were “OUTRAGEOUS” with the nut/fruit combo and Bergamot caramel glaze!

I faced my fears & I conquered this challenge and I can honestly say I am pleased, excited and can not wait until the next one …. Bring it on!!!

Didn't We say NO MEAT ..

L. rode 100+ miles today & NEEDED a sausage or two (shouldn't that be my line (wink wink)) with his veggie dinner I had planned. Since we are on the tail end of our Eat Local Challenge, we did a quick run to pick up some wonderful Niman Ranch HOT Italian Sausage (once again, I am a sucker for the packaging). Earlier in the evening I had roasted some zucchini, dry-farmed tomatoes, shallots, garlic and fresh pimento (which was picked up at Farmers Market today). Tossed together some HOT pasta with some fresh and local Ricotta, I found, and spooned the roasted veggies over the top. Nice Italian comfort food.

Friday Night

I am a bit behind on posting.... was beat last night and swamped today! I am all caught up now & we are excited to have you back over to dine with us! As I mentioned previously we are trying to push away from the table - We don't believe in diets or cutting out the things we love so I am doing portion control and upping the old exercise program for us. As well we are trying to eat more veggies and less meat - we'll see how that goes - maybe once a week meat, chicks or fish? WE are in love with these mini eggplants, so I scooped up a few more last week. They are almost too cute to cook but when you do cook them up, they taste great. Tonight I sautéed them with some yellow onion & red peppers I had on hand and then I simmered them in a nice bath of Malaysian Rendang Curry, which I found at Wholefoods. We wanted rice to eat with this dish but did not want ordinary boring rice, so I searched high & low. Thanks to Jaden, over at the Steamy Kitchen , I found this great recipe for Coconut Rice. Let me tell you a little secret - I can cook a 5 course meal but when it comes to rice, I suck! I usually use a rice cooker!! Since her recipe said I would not need one, I gave it a whirl. Guess what?! It was super easy and the rice was perfect! Back to our meal ... it was fantastic, the eggplants were all warm and spicy in the Rendang Curry sauce and the coconut in the rice complimented the curry very nicely! Great way to end a long week.... As well the eggplants, peppers and onions were local but everything else was only organic - we are trying!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Risotto Relay!

Sathya & Liz of The Baker & The Curry Maker are hosting the Risotto Relay this month and since we love Risotto and make it very often we decided we HAD to do it! We made Abalone Mushroom Risotto for dinner last night. Abalone Mushrooms, you ask yourself, what is that? We had no idea until we hit the grocery store last weekend (they sell them at Wholefoods) & we still really did not have an idea even after bringing our prize home. Here is a description that I found online: "Abalone mushroom is a delicate white sphere with soft spines and no stem. It has a mild, sweet taste and pleasant texture that has been compared to lobster or very tender veal. It's appearance has earned it many interesting common names including Monkey's head, Lion's Mane, Bear's Head, Old Man's Beard, and Satyr's Beard. Among its other medicinal benefits pom pom is best known for its traditional use in treating ailments of the stomach and digestive tract, as well as nervous system disorders." I love abalone, L. has never had it and this mushroom was very much like the real thing. Same texture and the same flavor. The risotto was creamy (and I do not use cheese) and bursting full of flavor!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

49 Days! 57 Days!

until we will be doing some serious beach time in Costa Rica. Serious beach time means serious swimsuit time, which in turns means some serious pushing back from the kitchen table! L. will be heading down before me for a big bike race - coast to coast and then I will join him a week later for some much needed R & R. Now a girl and guy can not live on carrots alone, so we are cutting back to smaller portions and many more veggies! I loaded up the old veggie bin with some great local things and will we will be hitting the stove big time! You can expect some new easy veggie recipes to be seen in the next few weeks! We got pretty excited about an Abalone mushroom we found, so we got it. Now, it pretty much smells, looks and even tastes like Abalone - weird! Sauteed it with some shallots, garlic, white wine, Meyer Lemon juice and made Risotto, served roasted asparagus on the side. I am a sucker for food packaged in interesting ways. I found, this Bubalus Bubalis Mozzarella and had to get it for two reasons: 1. I liked how it looked and 2. have heard how great it is! So, to finish off our meal, we had a mozzarella and tomato (these were from our garden - how much more local can you get) salad. Now, this Mozzarella, is outstanding - ultra creamy, smooth taste, mouth-watering goodness - would be fantastic on a grilled pizza as well!

We are crying .....

L. is crying for home-cooked food and I am crying as I want to get my hands dirty in the kitchen again .... this has been a loonnnggg couple of weeks of entertaining. The last of our company left today. We had a great meal planned for tonight but are beat! All we are going to do is pour a couple big glasses of wine, turn on the new James Blunt (super moving), put our feet up & turn off this computer! Come back tomorrow night - we'd love to have you for dinner!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

She put de lime in de coconut ...

I love cupcakes for many reasons: they are super cute, easier on the diet, they seem to always make people smile and maybe, probably a little, because my grandfather use to call me cupcake. Anyhow, it became my thing a few years ago after scoring the recipe from Magnolia Bakery, to make cupcakes for those I love (who do not live near us)on their birthdays and to send off a surprise package! Anyhow, once I saw that Laurie of the Quirky Cupcake was hosting an event I had to participate. I made a Coconut Cupcake which was frosted with a Lime Cream Cheese Frosting. Before frosting them, I did lightly brush the tops with more of the Lime simple syrup. The lime is suspect in these. You only expect coconut and then you bite into it and WOW, you are suddenly on a white sandy beach sipping a tropical drink!