Monday, February 29, 2016

CCC February

The second month of 2016 and I have already failed in my plan.  I was thinking that if I just chose one recipe each month I'd have a better chance of posting on time.  There were just too many tempting recipes this month!  I ended up making 5, but now my post is late.  To start, I had an absolutely enormous blue hubbard squash that I wanted to use.  (That's a 13 by 18 inch half sheet pan, and after I had already used 1/4 of the squash.)  Again, I didn't have the patience for attempting to cut the skin off, so I just baked the whole thing for a couple of hours until it was soft.  I scooped out some of the inside and mixed it with the rest of the ingredients for the squash layer in the Squash and Fennel Lasagna.  (The rest got pureed and frozen in 2 cup bags.)  

The lasagna was a perfect part of our Friday night dinner.  I really enjoyed it, but found the proportions to be a bit off for my taste.  I found myself wishing there were one or two more layers of pasta.

Next, I made the DIY "Pot" Noodles.  This was a fun one to do with Charlotte.  She sat next to me while I prepared the vegetables, and loved putting small handfuls of vegetables into her own little pot.  Much to my surprise, she even ate the noodles and some of the vegetables once these were ready!  We'll definitely be making these again soon.

I've been trying to bake bread once a week.  I'm really in to this book.  I decided that the toastie filling would be perfect on top of some fresh baked bread.  Charlotte wouldn't touch it, preferring the bread plain, but I loved the Apple and Blue Vinny Toastie.  Paul seemed to like it too.  I enjoyed the blue cheese, but will definitely try this with other cheeses as well.  This was a delicious dinner with some simple white bean soup.

I'm home from work on Fridays and so I've been doing more cooking then.  That likely means a lot of Friday night photos to come.  Since Charlotte was born we've been pretty committed to doing a little Shabbat ceremony with candles, grape juice, and challah.  Last Friday I made the Swede Potato Pasties.  Or rather, my mom and I made the pasties.  My mom comes over to help out on Friday afternoons.  I was holding Miriam and so she asked what she could do to help.  I asked her to roast the beets and prep the broccoli for dinner, because I was planning on making the pasties later.  Before I knew it I smelled onion cooking.  I was confused, so I came into the kitchen to investigate.  My mom had read the pastie recipe, was worried that the vegetables wouldn't actually cook in the oven, so had decided to prep them and saute them on the stove to soften first.  I was a little bit annoyed that I wouldn't have a chance to see if the recipe worked as written, but very grateful that my mom had done all of the hard work for me!  I just made the rough puff pastry (LOVE this recipe), stuffed the pasties, and baked them off.  These were delicious.  I'm hoping somebody else tried the recipe as written.  My mom and I are both very curious to see if it worked.

Last, this Friday we had the Sweet Potato and Peanut Gratin for dinner.  I love sweet potatoes and I love cream, so I was expecting to enjoy this one.  I was not disappointed.  Paul ate it without complaining, but I noticed that he pushed most of the peanut butter layer to the side.  I guess he didn't enjoy that addition!

Overall, February is the month where I'm really starting to feel tired of winter vegetables, but it's still too early around here for spring ones.  I'm so glad this book--and this group--gave me so many new, delicious ideas for winter vegetables!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

TWD BCM Panna Cotta and Teacakes

My dad absolutely prefers chocolate desserts to all other desserts.  He doesn't really see the point of "wasting" the calories unless there is chocolate involved.  My mom, on the other hand, isn't really a big fan of chocolate.  She much prefers fruit desserts.  This means that at family gatherings we normally have at least two desserts.  Unfortunately for my waistline, I am in neither camp.  I love chocolate desserts, fruit desserts, nut desserts, vanilla desserts...I could go on.  I'm just a fan of sweets :-)  It being February, though, I was very excited to see two chocolate desserts on the menu.  I made the panna cotta for Valentine's day and the teacakes the following week.  For the panna cotta I substituted four tablespoons agar agar for the gelatin.  Much to my shock it worked perfectly.  It was a little bit too firm, if anything, but I loved the texture.  For the teacakes I followed the recipe exactly, but split it into 6 dishes instead of 4 (my cups were 4 oz instead of 6) and decreased the baking time by a couple of minutes to compensate.  Everything was delicious and relatively quick!  These may become Valentine's day traditions.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

CCC January 2016

I was hoping to make more of the recipes, but at least I got my Squash and Walnut Toastie made.  Luckily, this recipe was hard to ruin.  I had some sort of squash that's been sitting on my counter since we got it at CSA pick-up in November.  It was a dark orange and about the size of an acorn squash, but not a pumpkin.  The skin seemed hard to cut and I was busy, so I just threw it in the oven and turned the oven to 350.  I meant to just let the squash soften enough so I could cut into it, and then cut it into chunks and take off the skin and roast it.  Except I totally forgot it was in the oven until a couple of hours later when the whole house smelled like squash.  I opened the oven and the squash had totally collapsed.  By then I was busy with something else, so I let the squash cool, wrapped it in aluminum foil, and put it in the fridge where I forgot about it again.  A few days later I found it.  I opened it up, cut it in half, and messily took off the skin and separated the flesh from the seeds and stringy part.  I used a fork to separate the flesh into chunks, and used it in this recipe.  I had just made some (delicious) rosemary olive bread, so instead of making toasts I put this out on the table to spread on the bread.  It was delicious. We also had some marinated white beans and some smoked trout rilettes to go on the bread.  Everything was good but the squash was my favorite.  Even Paul enjoyed it, and he is not a fan of squash.  Only Charlotte wouldn't touch it.  This made an excellent dinner with some kale, zucchini, and cheeses.  I love this cookbook.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

TWD BCM Carrot Cake and Lemon Squares

Apparently in my several months blogging hiatus I forgot how this works.  I totally forgot to take a picture of the carrot cake.  For the lemon squares I remembered just before eating the last available one.  (I kept 8 out and hid the rest in the freezer.)  Oh well!  One thing I didn't forget is how much I love baking.  Something about the sleep-deprivation of having an infant makes me crave sugar even more than usual, so I was eager to get back to this group as quickly as possible.  My goal right now is just to make one recipe a month, but these were both relatively easy so here they are.  On Christmas Day we were served an amazing, American style carrot cake with decadent cream cheese frosting.  The French one was much easier to put together, seemed healthier (at least I'll tell myself that), and was delicious in its own right.  However, in a contest I'd choose the American style one any day!  When I first read that the lemon squares contained 4.5 stick of butter I planned on skipping them.  A couple of weeks later I changed my mind.  They were delicious (what wouldn't be with that much butter?), but I still think I prefer my mom's lemon bars with the confectioners sugar on top.  The crisp topping was nice, but for me it took away from the true lemon flavor.

Monday, December 28, 2015

CCC December

I took a much longer than expected break from blogging, but I missed this cookbook and this group, so here I am.  I'm more behind than I thought I was (I have draft posts from May and June that I never finished!), but I thought I'd just jump in where I am and maybe I'll catch up later.  On a similar note, instead of my ambitious attempts to make all of the recipes every month, my new goal is to make one recipe a month with the group for the rest of the time.

Our second daughter was born on Halloween, and I'm still struggling to figure out how to make dinner with two kids around.  I selected the Blue Cheese and Chive Tart to make this month because it sounded so quick and easy.  It was.  I love this technique.  I defrosted some frozen puff pastry (I actually think I made it myself, embarrassingly I can't remember when) in the afternoon, and in the evening I was able to prep the rest of the recipe in the time it took the oven to heat.  I even had time to steam string beans and feed Miriam while the tart baked.  In the spirit of being seasonal (and maybe inspired by my laziness) I skipped buying tomatoes and replaced them with some roasted red peppers that I made and froze this fall.  The tart was delicious.  Paul and I loved it.

(Amusing side note:  I didn't think Charlotte would like the red peppers, so I left them off of one corner of the tart and just put blue cheese, which I know Charlotte likes.  She tasted the tart and liked it--she definitely lets us know when she doesn't like something--but for some reason after two bites only wanted to eat green beans for the rest of her dinner.  Paul and I were sitting there begging her to eat some puff pastry as well, and laughing about how most kids would happily eat the puff pastry while their parents begged them to eat green beans.)

UPDATE:  Andrea was nice enough to ask for a photo of Miriam.  (Who doesn't love being asked about their kids?)  Here's one of Miriam and another one of both girls.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

FFWD Wrap-Up Post

First, a thank you to anyone who reads this post.  It's now almost two weeks late but, at least for my own benefit, I wanted to finish out this FFWD journey.  I'll start with the make-up recipes, and then post a few thoughts on some of the celebration week themes that I missed.

I didn't really make the Cabbage and Foie Gras Bundles at all.  I don't do offal, and when the group made these I was in the middle of first-trimester food aversions and wasn't in the mood for doing anything creative.  So I made my favorite cabbage bundles instead.  You cook leeks and cabbage in butter, add some juniper berries and heavy cream for flavor, and then add blue cheese along with some filling to each bundle.  Not what Dorie intended (it's actually an old Deborah Madison recipe), but I'm a fan.

It seemed like most--if not all--of you had no trouble with the Waffles and Cream recipe, so I'm going to go ahead and blame myself for this one, but it was a total failure.  I followed the recipe exactly (or at least I intended to, maybe I mis-measured something?) and used our Belgian waffle iron (the only waffle iron that we own), but these were a mess.  Every time I opened the iron the waffle had split in half, with one half sticking to the top and the other to the bottom.  I could not get them to stay together.  I tried different timing, different iron temperatures, spraying the iron, and nothing seemed to help.  These also seemed way too buttery for me.  I just couldn't bring myself to add any adornments.  We ate these--Paul ate most of them--but they won't be a repeater in our house.

We don't do pork, but I really wanted to try the combination of mango and lychee, so instead of Pork Roast with Mangoes and Lychees I did grilled salmon and asparagus with rice, and combined the mangoes, lychees, and other ingredients into a quick topping for the salmon.  This sauce really was excellent.  I imagine it would go well on all kinds of fish, and maybe even chicken.

I made Shrimp Escabeche instead of the Sardine Escabeche, but can't seem to find a picture.  (Likely because I forgot to take one!)  This was another first-trimester recipe that I just couldn't stomach.  The vinegar was too much for me.  Paul didn't seem to mind this, and Charlotte even ate a couple of shrimp, but neither one of them seemed especially thrilled about it.  I doubt I'll be making it again.

Last, the Cheesecake Tart.  When I was a kid I hated when my mom added raisins to anything cooked.  There was no worse way to ruin a rice pudding or custard!  I'm now generally okay with cooked raisins, but I found myself feeling my old childhood sentiments while eating this tart.  It was good, but would have been so much better without the raisins!  Next time.

I actually started writing a Food Revolution Day post, but sadly never got around to finishing it.  I have learned many important tips and techniques from Dorie, but--for me--I would say that roasting a chicken is one that everybody should know.  I know I keep writing about the Lazy Roast Chicken but really, it's so easy anyone can do it, with potatoes and vegetables in the pot it's a complete meal, and the leftovers are delicious.  You can even make chicken stock from the bones.  I certainly roasted chicken before this group, and I'm sure I will try other recipes from time-to-time, but I think everyone (or at least everyone who likes chicken!) should have a "go to" roast chicken recipe and I'm very glad that I've found mine

I'm not sure that I'd say I will Never-Doubt-Dorie again (I still remember the fish aspic!), but there are definitely recipes that I was very skeptical about and turned out to love.  One that comes to mind is the Vegetable Barley Soup with the Taste of Little India.  Vegetable barley soup sounded totally boring to me, and I just wasn't sure about an "Indian-style" recipe in a French cookbook, but we absolutely loved this one.  I'll definitely be making it again this fall and winter.

This is completely unoriginal, but my Play-It-Again-Dorie recipe is definitely the Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux.  It isn't the very-best roast chicken I've ever had, but it's my "go to" and definitely worth the price of the book.

Last, the Grand Finale.  I still remember writing my first post.  In what would become an ongoing theme for me, I joined the group a year late, and even my very first post was a day late.  I posted late on a Saturday evening before heading out to dinner with friends, and left my link.  I was sure that nobody would read my post except for possibly my mother.  I was shocked when I came home from dinner and there were already comments!  I really couldn't believe it.  You all have been such a welcoming group, right from the start, and a joy to cook with.  I've had a very busy few years, and my life has been turned upside down (kids seem to do that!), but I've loved having this group as a touchstone.  Even when I don't get my posts up on time--or ever--I almost always make the recipes, and love reading your posts every week and seeing your comments.  What fun.  I hope to keep up with many of you through TWD and CCC, and look forward to seeing what is in store for FFWD in the fall.

All the best.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

FFWD Celebration Week: The AHA Moment

This post didn't involve any cooking or even photographing, but was still probably the hardest to write.  Choose only 5 favorites?!?  First I went through the book and listed potentials.  My goal was to find recipes that I really thought were special to AMFT.  I absolutely love eclairs, but I've made excellent eclairs from several cookbooks, so those were out.  When I got through the book I had a list of 14 recipes.  Second, I cheated and looked ahead to the next celebratory weeks.  Roast Chicken for Les Parasseux was a definite contender, but I know it'll be my play-it-again recipe, so I decided to save it for later.  Then, I did the best I could to choose 5 from what was left.  Here they are:

#5) I remember when I made the Cheese-Topped Onion Soup that I was hoping not to like the recipe.  It's a lot more work than my usual onion soup recipe, and I was hoping it wouldn't be worth it.  It totally was!  We both absolutely loved it, agreeing that it was much better than my usual onion soup.  It's a little hot for soup in DC right now, but this is definitely a recipe I'll turn to again and again in the fall and winter months.

#4) Anybody who knows me shouldn't be surprised that two out of my five favorites are desserts.  (And it was hard to limit myself to just two!).  I've had a lot of apple cakes, and Marie-Helene's Apple Cake is definitely my favorite so far.  I loved that it really just tasted like apples, with enough butter and rum to hold it all together.  Another recipe that I'm looking forward to making this fall!

#3) The Deconstructed BLT and Eggs will always hold a soft spot in my heart because it's the first recipe I made with the group (and my first-ever blog post).  It's also one that I love.  Especially in the summer, this is my favorite way of eating.  It feels relatively light because it's a salad, but has delicious bacon and eggs on top.  At least in my book, it needs nothing else but bread or crackers to feel like a complete meal.

#2) I never would have predicted this, but I think the most revelatory dessert in the book for me was the Floating Islands.  We aren't big fans of meringue and I didn't expect to really like these, but they were absolutely delicious.  I just couldn't get enough of the contrasting textures.  I served these with poached figs, but I think they'd be good with absolutely anything.

#1)  My favorite recipe from AMFT is also the first one that I made, the Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good.  I found this recipe online before I owned the book, I think it may have been my introduction to Dorie, and absolutely loved it.  It's one of the reasons I knew that buying the book and joining this group was a good idea.  I make it at least once a year, and love it every time.  I know part of it's beauty is that it's completely adaptable, but I usually stick pretty close to the original recipe.  I mean, how could you go wrong with bread, bacon, cheese, and heavy cream?  

This walk down memory lane has certainly made me hungry.  I'm sad that we're almost done cooking together, I do hope we'll stay in touch, but I know the AMFT cookbook will continue to get a lot of use in my kitchen.