Monthly Archives: November 2012

No Need to Be Cheeky

Here’s a thing I will never understand about children. Why is it that having an extra two children in the house to play feels really more like twelve? Yesterday, the boys had two little friends over to play and it sounded more like the whole troop of boys from Peter Pan running around the house than just four boys playing star wars and spies. This, I understand is mostly due to the nature of boys. When we have girls in the house, it is much quieter. This must be why men need us. We are a calming influence.

There is also a kind of weird conservation of energy thing that happens when we have friends over to play. The more energy they seem to expend or have, the less I have. This is why, even though they were very well-behaved and required little supervision (meaning, no blood was shed and nothing was broken), I was a shell of a person when they left. The bread dough I had tried to make while they were here had no salt in it and I had to knead it in by hand in the bowl because the counter was strewn with stuff from our cookie decorating activity (which only my boys wanted to do. Strange. I thought all kids would love to slather icing on cookies or at least each other, but not these boys. Apparently, they have been taught that too much sugar was bad for them. Um, wow. I must have a little chat with my mom friend). Also, I had a migraine and I had to go lie down.

All this is to say that I did not manage to make this week’s FFwD recipe in time for dinner last night as I had planned. Instead, we had ramen. However, later in the evening, after some drugs and rest, I dragged the husband into the kitchen to help me make the Beef Cheek Daube with Carrots and Elbow Macaroni.

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Honestly, the real reason why I get as much stuff done as I do is my wonderful husband. He does most of the meat fabrication here. I prefer to stick with packages of already cut up chicken or precut stew meat. He likes to get whole chickens and big pieces of meat and cut them up to our specs. Mostly, it’s because it is cheaper this way, but also I think he likes to get out the cleaver and cut things.

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Anyway, back to the meat. This recipe is actually one of the first I made after I got the book a couple of years ago. Back then, we had just bought our first half steer from a friend who raises them and when I called the butcher to place our cutting order, I asked for the beef cheeks. Do you know what I was told? The head had already been cut off and disposed of. Humph. So, no beef cheeks for us. Well, thankfully chuck roast is pretty good as well, but I will always wonder what beef cheeks would be like in this recipe. I guess I’ll have to go to France to find out.

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As per usual when I make stewy or soupy things, I doubled the recipe. Also, I had no beef broth, so I used chicken broth, and I added 4 cloves of garlic to the veggies before I added the flour. The wine I used was not a particularly good one (I was not the one who went to the liquor store), but it still turned out ok.

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This is not a particularly attractive dish, so I added some frozen peas at the last minute for some color. Also, I was in a bit of a rush, so instead of chopping up some chocolate, I just spooned in some fancy dark hot chocolate mix that I had on hand. The husband said it was more delicious than the last time I made it. The silky sauce coats the macaroni and just makes you want to keep eating it. The boys both liked it; I think the chocolate certainly helped. This might become my favorite beef stew recipe. It was a perfect meal to have after an afternoon at the Christmas tree farm.

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Challah, Revisited

The last time I talked about challah, I think I pretty much said that the recipe from Baking with Julia is the best one ever. I am not here to contradict myself or state that I have changed my mind, but every once in awhile, I try a new recipe. Just for fun, you know. Or curiosity. I have made other challah recipes and, while they are all good (how bad can a challah really be?), I always go back to my favorite.

This week, though, I made a challah that could possibly share the title of best challah recipe ever. Fig, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt Challah by Smitten Kitchen.

This recipe has a couple of things going for it. Firstly, I was attracted to the new shaping. Doesn’t it look beautiful? It uses a 4 strand braiding technique that I have never seen before. Click on the link to the recipe above to see Deb’s wonderful step-by step photos. Trying this new technique would have been reason enough for me to make this recipe, but there was another equally compelling thing. The recipe instructs you to make a figgy paste to layer into the dough, and my little brain immediately identified this as a chance to use some fig jam that I had put up last year. Any recipe that helps me to get through my jam larder is enough to make me run to the kitchen and start cooking or baking.

I have no pictures of the actual shaping and assembly. Let’s just say it was a bit sticky and my jam burst forth in a few places. The dough felt a bit slack and I worried that it really wouldn’t turn out. In fact, it is absolutely delicious. We had it for dessert the night I baked it, and we have had it for breakfast all week. It is good just warm out of the oven and slightly dry and three days old. Frankly, I am surprised that I like this challah as much as I do. It has the added advantage of being dairy free, for those who have that dietary restriction. The fig jam makes it a kind of a giant, soft, and eggy fig newton, but I think it would be equally good with other jams, which I am most definitely going to try. I am thinking it will be especially good with apple butter or even berry jam.

I don’t think I can really say that this is my new favorite. It is really a very different challah than the other one, having the jam and olive oil and all, but it is definitely going to make its way into my regular baking rotation. Besides, I need some more practice with that new shaping technique, and I still have quite a large jam collection to go through.

One Fell Swoop

Well, in the craziness of the past month or so, with trips, hurricanes, cookies, and holidays, I have had very little time to cook, much less keep up with my French Fridays with Dorie recipes. While I would not have made all of them (uh, olives are not my thing), there were a few I did really want to do, and I did manage to squeeze them in here and there. So, here I am catching you up all in one fell swoop.

Firstly, Chicken Tagine with Sweet Potatoes and Prunes. This was a good one. Everyone loved it, even the boys. Unfortunately, I have no photo. It was so long ago, I barely remember making it. I think we were in the middle of cookies. It will definitely be made again.

The next one I did was the Goat Cheese Mini Puffs. It’s been a long time since I have made pate a choux. I think I forgot how easy it was, and the freeze ahead trick was brilliant! I made the puffs the night before our Thanksgiving meal and stuck them in the freezer.

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It was a short task the next day to bake them and make the filling. Unfortunately, my puffs did not stay puffed like this.

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It was kinda hard to fill them with the filling, so some of them still look deflated. They sure did taste good, though, if you like goat cheese, which I do. Maybe if I baked them a little longer, they would not have deflated? I’ll have to try them again with some of the dough still in the freezer.

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About two hours before our turkey was to be served, I decided to add Top-Secret Chocolate Mousse to our dessert menu. It really took less than 15 minutes to prepare, though it made more dishes than I would have liked for a last minute thing. (See how lazy I am?)

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Anyway, I got scared because when I added the first egg yolk to the chocolate, it seemed like it was going to seize up, but it was nice and smooth by the third one. Stirring in the first little bit of egg white was the same way–scary. But, by the end of the folding it looked alright.

I stuck it in the fridge and we had it along with out apple dumplings and sea salt caramel coconut ice cream a few hours later. If you’ll remember my post about the Best Ever Brownies, I am not a good judge of chocolate desserts. I liked the mousse just fine, especially since it was dairy free and I could eat it without getting sick. The husband thought that it tasted good, but did not have the same melt-in-your-mouth texture as mousses made with cream. It was kind of spongier than I remember mousses being, but it was also lighter on the palate, which is nice after a big meal, such as Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner. While I am not likely to make it again soon, if I ever do get a hankering for chocolate mousse, this will be the recipe I use, simply because it is dairy free. If the husband wants mousse, I’ll make a different recipe or, possibly better yet, send him to a restaurant.

Phew! That’s me all caught up on FFwD (except for the olives and quiche). That’s a load off my mind! Now, I have to get ready for this week’s recipe. Stay tuned!

That Was Fast

Well, hello there! I hope all of you had a nice weekend and holiday, for those who live in the U.S. We had a great weekend, filled with lots of good food with dear friends, occasional walks, almost daily naps, and a tiny bit of Very Relaxed shopping (we did it on Wednesday and late Friday night). Like all good weekends, it went by really fast, even though it was twice as long as usual. We are slowly easing our way back into the swing of things and I am trying to figure out how much or little we will be doing in the next several weeks leading up to Christmas. But, we’ll talk about that later.

A holiday weekend wouldn’t be complete without any crafting, right? Well, there was a little bit of knitting this weekend, mostly done at night while watching whatever on TV while the husband was scanning the internet for shopping deals. As soon as I saw this new hat pattern by Kate Davies, I knew I just had to make it. Really, the time elapsed between me seeing the pictures on her blog and me starting the hat was less than 30 minutes.

Those who know me, know that I love snow. I love everything about snow; the way it looks when it is falling, the way it makes everything look new and beautiful, but most especially, I love how the whole world is hushed by the snow. I am a sucker for anything with a snowflake on it: decorations, wrapping paper, fabric, and, not lastly or leastly, knitting patterns.

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I have to say, this pattern is a winner. I especially love, love the crown design. It uses just two colors, so it is the easiest fair isle knitting a person could do. The pattern is easily recognizable once you’ve gotten through the first half of the first snowflake, so you are not likely to go very far without catching a mistake. There is one mistake that I didn’t catch until several rows later, but it isn’t likely to be one that anyone else notices, so it will stay. Now that it is done and blocked, I see that the yarn I used may not have been ideal. It’s a two ply Gotland yarn that I got from Blacker Yarns in the UK. A three ply yarn might have made the snowflakes stand out a bit more. Maybe, I’ll just have to make another one.

Initially, the weather gurus were predicting a fairly harsh winter for us with lots of snow, but they have since changed their minds. Well, whether it snows outside or not, there will be snowflakes on my head this winter. Let it snow!

I’d Rather Have a Cookie

Ok. I know this is going to seem strange to many of you, but I have to say this before I say anything about this week’s TwD recipe. I’m not really a chocolate person. I like chocolate sometimes, but it is really rare for me to actually want a piece of chocolate or chocolate flavored thing. Most times, I would rather have a cookie or something fruity.

Still, I don’t mind making chocolatey things. I still like chocolate. I just don’t love it like some people seem to do. The recipe for this week, The Best Ever Brownies, will spark a lot of comments, I am sure, as to whether or not the claim is true. Me, I don’t really have an opinion on it because, as I have said, I am not a chocolate person. Except for the unusual mixing instructions, these brownies didn’t really distinguish themselves in any way to me.

The first thing I have to say about the making of these brownies is that it involves a lot of bowls. Three bowls and a pot, if you follow the directions exactly, which I did not. I used two bowls and a pot.

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Instead of pouring the chocolate mixture into its own bowl and then folding the whipped egg/sugar mixture into the chocolate, I just added all the chocolate stuff in the pot to the eggs and folded away. The chocolate all sank to the bottom anyway, so I am not sure there would be a noticeable difference and it saved me a bowl to wash. I am all about saving on dishes.

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It promises to be a fudgey brownie and it certainly lives up to its claim. Lots of chocolate flavor and soft, fudgey texture. Everyone who tried it liked them, but nobody told me it was the best brownie they had ever eaten. As for me, I had half a piece and I think that was enough for me for the rest of the year. Maybe it’s because I’ve been buried in cookies for three weeks, but they just didn’t seem extraordinary to me. I’m not sure my opinion is to be trusted, though. You can find the recipe here.

Me, I’ll be over here eating more cookies.

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