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Friday, February 29, 2008

 

daring bakers february challenge :: french bread

i'm so lame. i didn't do this month's challenge. here's the deal, the recipe was LONG. like, pages and pages long. and while normally i would totally appreciate this, it just overwhelmed me.

i've got to munchkins at home (one who doesn't sleep thru the night yet) and i get overwhelmed easily on lack of sleep.

but, i assure you, i really AM a daring baker and plan to be back in action for the march challenge!

congrats to everyone who completed it. i am enjoying surfing around and seeing how y'all did!

cheers!

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

 

pie :: an obsession begins

okay, maybe obsession is a strong word, but i'm definitely taken with the idea of becoming a good pie maker. it seems like there is a clear division: those good at pie crusts and those not. i'm in the not camp. but, i desperately want to be in the good camp. there's been a weird series of events in my life surrounding the pie. nothing too freaky friday, but i'm someone who "listens" to the prompts that life is bringing to me. here is how it all started. . .

it was a couple of months ago that i saw a movie called Waitress and a friend recommended a new TV show called Pushing Daisies. it was in the same 2 days that i watched the movie and 2 episodes of the show. the coincidence? the main character in both of these is a pie maker.

in Waitress the main character, jenna is, (you guessed it) a waitress. she has a good-for-nothing husband and works in a dive. the only thing she has in her life that is truly good and is really hers is that she makes amazing pies.

in Pushing Daisies the main character, ned can bring the dead back to life. this counts for fruit, too, so he can turn moldy strawberries into perfectly red and ripe ones. he's a great pie maker.

after seeing both these i was all, "is the Universe trying to say i should make pies!?" of course i said this lightly. . . but i do love to bake. and being a stay-at-home mom i wonder sometimes what i'll do when i go "back to work" (HA! as if this isn't the hardest job by FAR i've ever had) given that i've never really been a career gal. maybe i'd try to work on the food industry. maybe in a bakery. maybe i should start my own pie hole!

then, i got my first daring bakers challenge. lemon meringue pie. and if any of you saw my post, you remember how that turned out. it wasn't all bad, but the crust was lousy. really lousy. i mused in that post that maybe i just needed to learn from someone who really knows what they are doing in the pastry-making realms. so. . . i've decied to take a cooking class!

it's called Pastries Galore and i couldn't be more excited about it. it's going to be three wednesday nights in March. here's the write-up:

Learn how to make three essential kinds of pastry dough:
classic pie crust, puff pastry and pate a choux. From these
three simple preparations, you will be able to turn out doz-
ens of desserts, hors d'oeuvres and more.

not only is this awesome because of what i'll be doing, but this full-time momma needs her some adult interaction, you know what i mean? so, if can stay awake for it, it should be great! i've actually had 2 dreams about the class.

yeah, i don't get out much.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

 

february cookie carnival :: peanut butter & chocolate sandwich cookies!

the carnival has come to town for it's first ever visit! i'm feeling so lame for not having put this post up first thing this morning, but you know how it is. things happen. for me, a 5 month old baby with a nasty cold happened. crank-key.

onto the cookies!
i decided to start with this recipe because my husband loves the peanut butter chocolate combo and i wanted to do something fun for him. also, it was easy and the cookies looked so amazing. . . in my head. the actual cookies didn't turn out as picture perfect as i'd hoped. i think this is because i chose to use natural peanut butter rather than the regular old hydrogenated kind. there is so much sugar in the cookies that i couldn't bare to use sugary pb as well. the result was tasty, but i bit. . . bulky. and i made them a little bigger than they should have been. but like i said, they tasted WONDERFUL, and that's really more important. as ever, i had my son involved. he loved scooping the dough. turns out this is much more fun, even, if you have dump truck spoon! well, of course!

i'm thrilled that KitchenNut participated in the carnival. she's got a post up on her blog today with the results of her cookie carnivaling. and you should visit her blog anyway, cause it's great.

also joining me this month was tiffany from Lattes and Life. check out her entry here. and here is a photo of her efforts. she took some great pictures and i have to say her cookies look damm near perfect. go tiffany!

and finally sari over at The Geek Inside joined up. . . .at least i think she did. she hasn't posted yet, so we'll see! thanks, ladies, for joining me in this new blog event!

peanut butter and chocolate sandwich cookies
from fine cooking magazine makes about 30 sandwich cookies or 60 single cookies

for the cookies: 2 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter, at room temperature 1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar 1 tsp. baking soda 2 large eggs 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

for the chocolate filling: 10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups) 4 oz. (8 tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

make the cookies: 1. position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. line cookie sheets with parchment paper. 2. in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with hand mixer) beat the peanut butter, brown sugar and baking soda on medium speed until well blended, about a minute. add the eggs and vanilla and mix on low speed until just blended, about 30 seconds. 3. shape level tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls about 1" in diameter. arrange the balls 1 1/2" apart on the prepared baking sheets. do not press down. bake one sheet at a time until the cookies are puffed and crackled, but still moist-looking, about 11 minutes. cool cookies for about 10 minutes, then move to a cooling rack to cool completely.

make the filling: 1. melt the chocolate and the butter in the microwave or in a medium heat-proof bowl set in a skillet with 1" of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. remove from heat, set aside until cool and slightly thickened, 20-30 minutes.



assemble the sandwiches:
1. turn half of the cooled cookies over so they are flat side up. spoon 2 tsp. of the chocolate filling onto the center of each cookie. top with remaining cookies, flat side down. press gently on each cookie to spread the filling almost to the edge. set on the rack until filling is firm, 20-30 minutes.

if you are interested in joining up for March--email me! kate(at)thecleanplateclub(dot)(net).

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

 

a perfect weekend treat :: coffee cake

last weekend we went a'visiting. we have these 2 good friends who we spend weekends with every now and again when we can figure out a time that works for all of us. the best part of these visits is that we all love to eat. and we eat well. i love the way good conversation (which somehow we manage to sneak in even with 2 kids around) can center around meal preparation. sharing a meal or grazing all day which we often do is such a simple and wonderful way to spend time with friends. when thinking of what to bring to as a contribution to a weekend of good eating i decided quiche. who doesn't love a good eggy, cheesy pie? i made a nice one with cheddar and canadian bacon. yum! but, i wasn't satisfied with just that. i needed to bake. i still craved something breakfasty, but sort of sweet. so, i decided it had to be coffee cake. and of course, whenever any kind of cake is called for, i reached for Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible. i love this book. i love rose. she's a my baking hero/guru. i received her book The Bread Bible for my birthday last year. after having borrowed it from the library 3 times last year, i was so excited to finally own it! so far, i've made the bagels the pizza dough both several times and love both the recipes. home made bagels are just. . . divine. maybe next year i will score her Pie and Pasty Bible! o, yes, it will be mine. i've emailed rose to find out if i can reprint her recipe her. since her work is copywritten and she hasn't posted many recipes on her website, i feel i should not post it here without her permission. if she grants it, i'll add the recipe here. if you like coffee cake at all, her recipe is WONDERFUL. i think i over cooked mine a tad, it came out a little dark and a little dry, but the flavor was YUM. so good. for any of you who enjoy baking as much as i do. get yourself a copy of The Cake Bible. it's more than a cook book, it's an amazing resource. my only complaint is that i wish it had more photographs!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

 

buttermilk biscuit recipes :: part 3


so, this installment completes my foray into biscuit-making. sure, there are more kinds out there, but i have satisfied my need to get to know the biscuit. the final recipe is for Martha's basic buttermilk biscuit. the kind you see sidled up to a fried chicken dinner. potatoes, cole slaw, corn on the cob and these. soft, buttery, flaky pillows of yum is what they are. and they are great for little hands to help you with. they can press the dough together and cut out the biscuits, too!


i found them to be a tad bit salty for my taste. i recommend cutting the salt down a bit, but that's just me.

if you tr
y them, let me know how you like them!

buttermilk biscuits
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces 2 cups buttermilk




  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat (French nonstick baking mat) or parchment paper; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.
  2. Transfer about 2 1/2 cups flour mixture to a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add butter, and pulse until the largest pieces are the size of peas. Return butter mixture to the bowl with the flour mixture. Use your fingers to combine.
  3. Add buttermilk, and stir just until mixture comes together; the batter will be sticky. Transfer to lightly floured work surface; use floured fingers to pat dough to 1-inch thickness. Use a 2 1/2-inch round biscuit cutter or cookie cutter to cut biscuits as close together as possible to minimize scraps. Gather scraps together once, pat together and flatten, and cut out.
  4. Transfer biscuits to prepared baking sheet; bake until lightly browned, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven; cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.
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there's still time to join the february fun!

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

 

buttermilk biscuit recipes :: part 2, cornmeal


probably the most popular biscuit in this 3 part biscuit series is the cornmeal biscuit. the reasons are these: they are easy to make (my 3 yr. old loves to make these with me), i nearly always have the ingredients on hand, they're super tasty as they are or with any number of toppings--butter, jam, honey, peanut butter--whatever you like! as i mentioned last time i've had a bee in my bonnet about biscuit-making lately. see, i'm a collector. i have stacks of pages ripped out of magazines--pages of recipes. one month, years ago in Living, martha stewart did a spread on biscuits. since then, i have held on to the pages vowing to someday make all the biscuits in the spread. and so now, i'm trying to make good! and i've made these 3 times now. and yeah, they're GOOD.

Cornmeal Drop Biscuits
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Whisk to combine. Add the butter, and, using a pastry blender or two knives, cut it in until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  2. Add milk, and stir until just combined
  3. Spoon 10 mounds, about 1/2 cup each, onto baking sheet 1 inch apart; bake until biscuits start to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.
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there's still time to join this month's cookie carnival!

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

 

join the carnival!

it's time to celebrate the cookie. dontcha think?

read below to find out all you need to know to become a carnivaler!

Cookie Carnival FAQs

HOW do i join up?

send an email to kate{AT}thecleanplateclub{DOT}net, please put "cookie carnival" in the subject line. and i'll email you the recipe of the month.

When do you post the round-up?

Good question. Whenever i can get to it! i ask for the links and photos to be sent to me by a certain date (usually the last or second to last day of the month) my intention is to get the post up in the following day or 2.

How will i know the round-up is up?

I will send you an email with the link.

What do i have to do to be included in the round-up?

Easy. Just send me an email by the appointed date including a link to your post (not to your blog, but a direct link to your post). that's all!

Will you post a photo of my cookies?

YES! in order to have a photo up as part of the round-up, all you have to do is attach one to your email that includes the link to your post. your photo MUST meet the following criteria in order to be posted:

A. it must be titled with your blog name. example: cleanplateclub.jpg
B. it must be no larger than a width of 205.

If your photo meets these criteria, i'll post it. please understand i get a lot of emails (which i love) and it's very time consuming to put the round-up together. this will ensure that i can do the work more quickly!

When/how will i find out the new recipe for the month?

I will email it to you sometime in the first week of the month.

Do i have to participate every month?

NO! this blog event is open in that way. you can participate or not. it's up to you! just make sure you get me a link to your post when you DO participate, so we can all see how you did! i love to have people participate as much as possible, but we're all busy, so we do what we can!

How do i opt out?

Just send me an email telling me to remove you from the list.

Can i submit a recipe for consideration?

Heck yeah! just email me the recipe and i'll toss it in the pot. sometimes i'll decide a recipe by a vote as well.

sound like fun? i hope so! let the cookie baking and mouth watering begin!

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Monday, February 11, 2008

 

buttermilk biscuits recipes :: a series in 3 parts


so, lately i'm obsessed with the biscuit. i'm not sure why. yes, it could be because they are so dang yummy. but it's not just that. they are easy to make. they go with everything! they are great alongside a hearty soup. you can serve them up with a roast chicken dinner. for breakfast, slather on some butter and jam or slice it in half and put some cheese and a fried egg in there. mmmmm! so good.

my curiosity about biscuits goes way back. back to a time when my friends and i had a regular tv night, which we dubbed "biscuit night." we were living in seattle and eating organically. we were making movies and being artists, so, of course tv-watching didn't go along with that life. it rots your brain after all. as does generic supermaket fare. but on this night, we'd watch Ally McBeal and Boston Public and eat Pilsbury, out-of-the-can, long-ass-shelf-life, chemo-biscuits! why? because we loved The Biscuit also known as John Cage, a character on Ally McBeal. he is one of those classic characters that must be celebrated. why the out-of-the-can biscuits and TV? i'm not sure. i guess because it was easy and it was fun to rebel against our no-TV, organic-eating nature. it was fun to have some junk food (for the brain and the tummy)!

back to present day--i have decided to learn good biscuit-making and in attempt to make a homemade version of the pop-n-fresh variety, i started with Martha's Layere
d Buttermilk Biscuits.

in a word--YUM. i love this recipe. i love the flaky, layered biscuit that results from
it. try them. they won't disappoint.

i may have to go Netflix myself some old Ally eppy's to go with these bad boys. . .


LAYERED BISCUITS
adapted from marthastewart.com
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting 1 teaspoon coarse salt 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Add butter, and use a pastry blender or two knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it is the size of peas. Add buttermilk, and mix with a spoon just until it forms a sticky dough.

2. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface, and bring dough together. Roll dough into an 8-by-11-by-3/4-inch rectangle, and sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon sugar in the center section of the rectangle. Use a bench scraper or a spatula to lift the ends, folding the rectangle like a letter into thirds
toward the center. Fold the second flap over. Give the dough a quarter turn, and repeat the rolling and folding. Transfer dough to a parchment lined baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

3. Remove from refrigerator, and return to work surface. Roll to a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle and folding method as in step 2 (when rolling out the second time, do not fold). Cut out with a 2 1/4-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter, and transfer to a baking sheet.

4. Place in 500 degree oven for 4 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees. Continue baking until biscuits begin to brown
all over, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven; cool on a wire rack.

Serve warm, of course!

stay tuned this week for more biscuit recipes.

Friday, February 8, 2008

 

addendum :: tips for making the best granola

as a follow-up to a recent post on granola, i give you some good tips on making GREAT granola. it took me a while to get it "down" and i think i've these tips will help you if you are experimenting in the kitchen.

* spread the granola as evenly as possible on your baking sheet
* always add vanilla--it's just the right thing to do for maximum tastiness
* always add dried fruit AFTER baking (seems obvious, but just in case)
* take it out of the oven before it's too brown and crispy--take it out when it is still soft and it will crisp up as it cools
* store it in air-tight container and you're granola will last about a month

if you come up with any great combinations, do let me know.

happy baking!

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

 

cookies are coming.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

 

breakfast of champions :: granola!

around here, we love our granola. especially the boy. he can't get enough of it. the sadness that comes over his face when he asks for "granolaandyogurtpleasemommy" for breakfast and i have to say "sorry, kid, we're all out!" it's pitiful.

the result is that we make lots of granola. by the boatload. we've tried many combos, but this kid's got simple tastes, so we have a simple (but yummy!) recipe. the nice thing about granola is that you can add whatever you like to it--walnuts, cranberries, sunflower seeds, coconut--whatever! it's your world. customize it like crazy.

here is our basic recipe which is super yummy as is:

(Freakin') Sweet Pecan Granola

3 cups rolled oats (not the quick cook stuff)
1 cup pecans, chopped or bashed up with the mortar and pestle

2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup light-brown sugar (not packed down)

2 tbs. veggie oil
1 tbs. pure vanilla extract (the higher quality the better)

1. position your oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. preheat to 350 degrees. line to baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. in a large bowl mix the oats, pecans, cinnamon and salt.

3. In a small pan, combine the brown sugar with 1/4 cup of water. bring to a simmer over medium heat. stir until sugar is dissolved. stir in the oil and vanilla. remove from the heat and pour over the oat mixture. stir until well combined.

4. divide the mixture between the 2 baking sheets and spread as evenly as possible. bake for 15 minutes, stir and switch pans to the opposite oven racks. bake until lightly golden brown, about another 10-15 minutes. the oats will feel slightly soft, but will crisp up as they cool.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

 

valentines day :: gimme your best chocolate recipe!

so, v-day is coming. i know this day feels people with strong feelings.

seems to me people either love it or hate it. maybe you like the idea, but have no one to spend it with or maybe you think it's a Hallmark created, commercial waste of time. we should love our spouses and significant others everyday. some feel it gives people permission to be jerks and then on february 14th they can atone. not cool!

some years back, hubby and i decided to make our own tradition and to make the day fun. no hallmark cards are exchanged. he does not buy me jewelry or roses.

we make lists and over a chocolate dessert of some kind, we share our lists. some lists of years past have been, "remember the time we..." and "you are an amazing dad/mom because..."

we have a wonderful time. we eat chocolate and we laugh and celebrate each other and our life together.

so, what i need is a great chocolate recipe! i need something new! anyone got any ideas for me?
bring 'em on. the more chocolatey, the better. the husband will thank you.

: )

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Sunday, February 3, 2008

 

contest closed :: we have a winner!

thanks to everyone for participating in the giveaway! it was great fun hosting and having so many people come visit my blog and leave nice words----even if y'all were just trying to get something out of it! : )

the winner (brought to you by random.org) is #10 :: KITCHEN NUT!

CONGRATULATIONS to the nut! i hope she hits the kitchen and whips up something yummy from the martha book she won.

nut, if you are reading this, contact me so i can get your address and ship off your prize!

WOOT for blog giveaways!!

: )
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