Saturday, May 30, 2009

TWD - NO Cinnamon Squares

Tracey of Tracey’s Culinary Adventures chose Cinnamon Squares for this week's challenge and I am sorry Tracey but I did not get to bake this weekend. Go to Tuesdays with Dorie to check out what the other bakers did. My son was here from Orlando for a quick visit and I got to spend a little time with him. Plus, I am trying to get ready to go on vacation. My stepdaughter is graduating from high school in Connecticut and I will be traveling there on Thursday. If you are from Connecticut and have any suggestions of something fun to do there, please fill me in!

I have to leave you with a bit of eye candy too. You probably do not recognize this guy.
What can I say? I'm a proud mom!
Check back Thursday when I have White Gazpacho Soup to share with you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

BAREFOOT BLOGGERS and CEiMB - Outrageous Brownies and Crispy Fish Fingers

Due to time restraints, I will have to once again combine Barefoot Bloggers and CEiMB.
Let's start with CEiMB this week. Crispy Fish Fingers was hosted by Anne of Rainforest Recipes. When I read Anne's profile, I was so inspired by her story and her courage. Reading about her life brought back memories of my own, though my brief experience cannot possibly compare to her life. When I was 37 years old, I felt restless and I wanted my life to somehow make a difference. So when my friend Wanda suggested we go to Guyana on a medical mission trip, I immediately said yes. Having led a pretty sheltered life up until that point, it was a huge decision for me to leave my husband and my two teenage boys and just take off with a group of doctors and pharmacists I barely knew to a place I knew nothing about. Of course we all remember the Jim Jones tragedy and because of that incident, the people of Guyana were not very trusting of anyone from the states. It doesn't take more than a day or two in a third world country to realize how blessed we are here in the states. If you gave a piece of gum to a child, you better have ten more pieces handy real quick because you would be surrounded by children in a flash. I treasure my time in Guyana and all the interesting people I met. I returned a different person, a better one I hope. That was a long time ago and I hope living conditions have improved since my time there.

Crispy fish fingers. They were crispy and they looked like fingers, but I have to be honest and say they were bland. I had too much fish to work with so I took the remainder and panfried it with some greek seasoning and blackened it a bit, and it was much tastier than the fish sticks. I will probably not make these fish sticks again. I served them with a green salad and a baked sweet potato loaded with butter and brown sugar. The recipe for the fish fingers can be found here if you want to try them for yourself. I'm interested to see how the other cooks in our group rated these.

Eva of I’m Boring chose Ina Garten's Outrageous Brownies for this week's challenge. Eva there was nothing boring about these brownies. When I checked out the recipe initially, it said the level was "difficult." I have to say the only difficult part of making these brownies to me was hauling the ONE POUND of butter from the refrigerator to the counter! Not to mention the POUND of chocolate in these. They are absolutely fabulous however. One bite and I could almost feel the butter and chocolate running straight to the hips and thighs.
But did that stop me from indulging in these? Heck no! I ate two big slices at the first sitting. Not telling how many more I ate as I passed by them in the kitchen. Ssssssh. You really need to try these. If you are a person that loves chocolate and you are in need of a fix, I can't think of anything better than these to satisfy your cravings. The only substitution I made was that I used pecans instead of walnuts, just because that is what I had on hand.

Outrageous Brownies - Ina Garten

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (1 cup for batter and 1/4 cup in the chips and nuts)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups diced walnut pieces
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
Melt together the butter, 1 pound chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.
Stir together 1 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips with 1/4 cup flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Do not over-bake! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.

The movie I would like to plug for this week is The Reader with Kate Winslett and Ralph Fiennes. Trust me when I say this movie is not for children. The first twenty minutes you see all of Kate. I do mean all. But the story is fascinating, though the subject matter is difficult to watch at times. It is definitely a dramatic piece with dark and sad places. While Ralph is no sex symbol, he is such a fabulous actor. I especially liked him in the Constant Gardner.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

TWD - Fresh Mango Bread

One of my favorite bloggers, Kelly, of Baking with the Boys chose this week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe. You can get the recipe off of Kelly's blog here. I couldn't wait to make this because I love any kind of fruited or nut breads! Thank you so much Kelly for a great pick this week!
It was easy to mix up and easy to bake. However, my loaf was completely baked in one hour instead of the one and a half hours Dorie suggested on the recipe.

It took two mangoes to make the two diced cups.

We had breakfast while it was baking. Then, we had a slice of this fabulous bread with some strawberries about thirty minutes after our breakfast. This could be belly fat disaster if I continue eating like this!
You do know mangoes are an aphrodisiac fruit, right? I'm just sayin. . . . be careful how many you eat!
A very long, long time ago, Rosemary Clooney sang a song named, you guessed it - Mangos
Mangos, papaya just nuts from the fire
In my house of straw I have so much more
Pie from the peach and I fix in the kitchen
Each bite is just right for your appetite
Now if you like-a the way I cook
And if you like-a the way I look
Then step inside my shady nook A
nd you'll find mangos and papayas, anything your heart desires.
Mangos, papayas, just nuts from the fire
The food is so good, you will wanna stay
Eat up and drink up and you'll think up
The day when we say preacher man, okay

My movie plug this week is Vicky Christina Barcelona starring Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johanssen, and Penelope Cruz. It is a Woody Allen film so I thought it might be too weird for me, but we ended up enjoying it. I have never thought of Javier in a sexy, attractive way, but in this movie, he certainly has a way with words. And . . it made me want to visit Barcelona really bad. Instead, I decided to work on an itinerary for our already partly planned trip to Italy. Where does all my time go? Are you like me, you just never have enough of it? Anyway, maybe some of you will see Javier as your eye candy this week. He doesn't do it for me, but the movie is good.

Now I"m off for a tour of the air traffic control tower here at the airport. Does that sound exciting? Okay I admit - I'm not excited by it. I am going as a favor to the yankee who does so much for me and he really is excited. Have a great week!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

BAREFOOT BLOGGERS AND CEiMB


First, Barefoot Bloggers.

Kate of Warm Olives and Cool Cocktails chose the Tuna Salad from Ina Garten's huge selection of wonderful recipes. Let me just say that I love Kate's blog name!

Because tuna seemed to be ridiculously expensive for some reason at the market, I decided to substitute with some salmon fillets. And instead of chopping up the salmon into chunks, I just served it over some green beans with the avocado salsa mixture on top. Somehow, in my mixing up of the sauce, I must have added too much salt. To me, it was just too salty so this was not my favorite recipe. The yankee however, loved it so much he was willing to eat all of his and what was left of mine. I might be tempted to make this again, but I will be more careful on the salt part. I liked that it was easy to prepare and quick.

You can find the recipe down below.

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Now for Craving Ellie in My Belly!

In our Craving Ellie group, we were hosted this week by Notes from the Table. Thanks for choosing the Jerk Chicken with Cool Pineapple Salsa. I've been hoping someone would choose this!

Wonder who thought up the term "Jerk" chicken? The dictionary defines jerk as:

1. a dull stupid fatuous person
2. an abrupt spasmodic movement
3. (mechanics) the rate of change of acceleration
4. jerky: meat (especially beef) cut in strips and dried in the sun

So, still confused. None of these definitions match up with jerk chicken???? I swear I googled this and there is actually a song called Jerk Chicken and it is sung by a group called Chicken Lips!

The yankee and I started a new diet this week guaranteed to drop four pounds of belly fat in one week. Luckily for us, this recipe fit right in with our diet. I left off the scallions and added just a dash of cilantro instead. We've now been four days on the diet and I have lost one pound. But it is a healthy diet so we are doing pretty well staying on it.
We really liked this! I loved how the spicey hot chicken in your mouth was instantly cooled by the pineapple salsa. The mixture of pineapple and cucumber was delicious! This will definitely be a recipe I put on our dinner rotation. It also reminds me of our honeymoon in St. Thomas. We had a lot of great island food that week.

Now, I have to get off the computer and park myself on the sofa because tonight is . . . . ..

THE SEASON FINALE OF LOST!!!!!!!!!! I'm so excited.

Jerk Chicken with Pineapple Salsa

For the salsa:
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 cup finely diced pineapple
1/3 cup finely diced, seeded English cucumber
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
For the chicken:
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, about 5 ounces each, pounded to 1/2-inch thick
1 cup chopped scallions (about 6 scallions)
1/2 Scotch bonnet or habanero chile pepper, seeded and finely minced (wear gloves when handling)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger, or 1/4 teaspoon ground
1 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
Directions
For the salsa:
In a small bowl whisk together the honey and the lime juice. Combine the pineapple, cucumber and mint in a medium bowl, pour the dressing over and toss to combine. Set aside.
For the chicken:
Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook for about 4 minutes on each side, or until browned and cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the pan. Stir in the scallions, pepper, garlic, ginger, allspice, and thyme. Cook for 30 seconds over a medium heat. Add the chicken broth and soy sauce and cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lime juice. Put the chicken back in the pan and coat well with the sauce.
Serve with the pineapple salsa.
Yield: 4 servings (1 serving is 1 chicken breast, 2 tablespoons of sauce and 1/3 cup of salsa)
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BAREFOOT BLOGGERS

Tuna Salad
Serves:
4 servings
Ingredients
2 pounds very fresh tuna steak, cut 1-inch thick
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black, plus extra for sprinkling
2 limes, zest grated
1 teaspoon wasabi powder
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (3 limes)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
10 dashes hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
1 to 2 ripe Hass avocados, medium diced
1/4 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (2 scallions)
1/4 cup red onion, small diced
Directions
Brush the tuna steaks with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the tuna steaks in a very hot saute pan and cook for only 1 minute on each side. Set aside on a platter.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the olive oil, salt, pepper, lime zest, wasabi, lime juice, soy sauce and hot sauce. Add the avocados to the vinaigrette.
Cut the tuna in chunks and place it in a large bowl. Add the scallions and red onion and mix well. Pour the vinaigrette mixture over the tuna and carefully mix.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

TWD - Tartest Lemon Tart

Babette of Babette Feasts picked Tartest Lemon Tart for our weekly Tuesdays with Dorie challenge.

Some people find lemons to be bitter and yucky. I find them to be tart and tasty. Even as a child I loved to eat lemons with salt. My mom always said I was going to ruin the enamel on my teeth if I kept eating them, but so far I still have enamel!

I found this tart to be easy to prepare, but I had a little bit of trouble with my crust. I think my tart pan was too big. As you can see from the picture I could not make the crust go up to the top of the pan. Also, I had a bit of trouble with the crust breaking when I cut the pieces. But the crust was tender and delicious nonetheless.

The filling was very lemony and tart, as it should be. We loved it. Of course, as luck would have it, the yankee and I started a new diet this morning. The Mediterranean diet. You are supposed to lose four pounds of belly fat in one week!! We are just going to try it for the one week to see if it really works. But we are having to slip in our pie at night because we can't let this great tart go to waste!

As I was baking this, I began to think of certain people as tarts. Do you know what type of tart you would be if you could be a tart? Answer the questions below honestly and then scroll down to see my opinion.

1. Do you like to pucker up and kiss several times a day?
2. Is RED your favorite color?
3. Are you plagued by unwanted facial hair (aka fuzz)?

If you answered yes to number one, you are a LEMON tart.
If you answered yes to number two, you are a STRAWBERRY tart.
If you answered yes to number three, you are a PEACH tart.
If you answered yes to all three questions, I guess you are just a multi-faceted tramp of a tart!!

Before I depart this post, I would like to endorse a movie we saw last Saturday. Fireproof. If your marriage needs a boost (and I mean whose doesn't), do watch this movie. It is a Kirk Cameron movie so it is very clean. We really liked it. And who doesn't remember cute little Kirk in Growing Pains years ago. He is all grown up now!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

CEiMB - Garden Risotto


Our CEiMB was hosted this week by Hosted by Jessica at A Singleton in the Kitchen. Jessica is one of my favorite bloggers! This week we made Ellie Krieger’s Garden Risotto together.
I love to eat risotto. I always hesitate to make it though. It is just the “time” thing. You cook, you stir, you cook, you stir, you cook some more. For some reason, it never cooks in the time the recipes say it will cook. If it says 18 minutes, you can bet your bootie it will take me 30 minutes. But if you are thinking you could substitute plain rice for risotto, think again. Risotto has a creamy, smooth taste that rice could never match. Having said that, with a glass of wine in hand, there is something incredibly relaxing about making risotto. Add a little broth, drink a little wine, stir. Add a little more broth, drink more wine, stir. Add wine, drink broth, stir. Taste risotto, slide down on floor where wine spilled, stir. Sir, drnik wine, broth add. Yeah, you can tell I had fun with this one!
A lot of home cooks are afraid of risotto which is a shame because it is easy to make and the best risotto is almost always made in the home. I think restaurants sometimes reheat theirs and it just doesn’t have that love cuddled around it that a good home-cooked dish possesses. I would love to try some risotto in Northern Italy, because I am sure it would be the best of all.

I made the recipe by the book, except I substituted canned asparagus for the fresh and left off the parmesan. I halved the recipe because there are just two of us and it was still quite a bit of risotto. I served it up with some pan fried pork chops and we enjoyed every bite of it and went back for seconds! Thank you so much Jessica for choosing this recipe this week!!

Quick question for all you wonderful cooks. . . what's the best kind of coffee to use for after dinner coffee and what ratio do you use for it? All my coffee always tastes bitter or too strong. I've tried starbucks (bitter), folgers, seattle's best, etc. What is the secret???

Garden Risotto

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 lightly packed cups baby spinach leaves
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 pound asparagus, steamed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Directions
Bring the broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over moderately low heat and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 3/4 cup of the hot broth, the salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper and simmer, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding hot broth, about 3/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing the broth to be absorbed before adding more, until rice is almost tender and creamy-looking, about 18 minutes.
Add the spinach and peas and cook until the spinach is wilted. Add the asparagus and cook just until the vegetables are hot. Stir in the Parmesan and more broth if the risotto seems too thick. Serve in soup plates.

Monday, May 4, 2009

NO TWD this week! Short break needed.

I'm sorry, but I did not get around to making the fabulous Tiramisu cake this week. Please forgive me. I'll be back next week for Lemon Tart.

I can't wait to see what all you other bakers did with this week's cake challenge!