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Saturday, May 31, 2008

 

cookie carnival :: may round-up!

it's round-up time!

i am so excited to say that this is our biggest carnival yet--12 participants came through. which is so great! i'm thrilled to have all these folks focusing our food obsession on cookies once a month with me.

on to this month's cookie! from Emeril (bam!) came our recipe for
BLUEBERRY DROP COOKIES. i have to say, i LOVED these cookies. they were one of the things i baked for the bake sale i told you about recently. yum. they were light and airy while still being moist---tasty! i made a few tweaks to the recipe which i noted below.

this recipe also marked the first time i ever used shortening. i usually balk at it...just the *idea* of it, but this time i thought, "i'll trust good ol' emeril and see what it's like." it certainly made a light cookie--like little blueberry-lemon cloud, they were. so, i can see why peeps use the shortening. so, thanks emeril!


BLUEBERRY DROP COOKIES

ingredients:

* one-half cup shortening
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 egg
* one-fourth cup milk
* one-half teaspoon almond extract i omited this--thought i had some in the cabinet, but didn't, so i used a bit of vanilla and added some fresh lemon juice to kick up the lemon aspect, which was yum.
* one and one-half teaspoons grated lemon zest
* 2 cups all purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* One-half teaspoon salt
* 1 cup blueberries, rinsed and picked over i used frozen.

instructions:
1. in a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening, sugar, egg, milk, almond extract and lemon zest, mixing well after the addition of each ingredient. slowly add the flour, baking powder and

salt. fold in the blueberries and mix until well blended. since i used frozen and feared they would make the dough a soppy mess, i did not add blueberries at this stage, but rather let the dought chill w/o 'em.

2. cover and chill for 4 hours. preheat oven to 375 degrees. drop the dough by teaspoonfuls, (i added the frozen blueberries to each spoonful) one and one-half inches apart onto greased cookie sheets. bake 12 to 15 minutes. remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before removing them with a spatula.

Makes about 4 dozen. mine did not yield nearly this many. mine might have been a *tad* large, but not my too much and i only got 2 dozen out of it.

let's find out how everyone else did! i hope i got all the right pics with the right people and the links to all of your posts in there properly. if anyone finds an error, email me. i'm starting to see double here!

first there's holly over at Phemomenon.

she's funny because she is a self-proclaimed food "fiddler." she loves to tweak the recipes and i love that. here's a bit of her post. "In the beginning I was just going to substitute half the shortening with some butter, just for flavor, just because. Then, I got thinking about how much I love orange with blueberry, so I switched out the lemon." read the rest on her blog.

Jen, the Beantown Baker is next.though she's been on the email list for a while now, this is her first entry in the carnival and we're so happy to have her. read her post (and many others!) here.

on to hygeian at Phamished.

she give some great bits on the health benefits of blueberries. read her post here.

sihan of Fundamentally Flawed is up next.

here's a bit of her blog post. "A simple recipe that calls for minimal ingredients yet yield such a delectable goodie all a very short span of time. We're talking about express cookies on the go over here! *yum*." read the rest here.

next we have april and Abby Sweets.


she also went for the vanilla rather than the almond. it's fun to see how people like to change things up. read her post here.

tiffany of Lattes and Life is next. isn't that a good blog name?

she has a fun little tale to tell about how she got a hold of her blueberries. check out her post here.

robin of Made With Love is up next.

she also found that the recipe didn't yield as much as it said it would. so, thanks robin for helping me feel less crazy! read her post here.

next up is temperance at High on the Hog.


this is her first carnival and her post cracked me up. here's a bit of it. "Thoughts while baking...Pure almond extract may smell good but you really don't want to try it. Also Ammaretto is not an adequate substitute (darn it). I have always wondered when you zest a lemon what are you suppose to do with the rest of it?" read the rest of her post here.

and on to the hilarous kitty over at Boring History Girl. she's had trouble with nearly every cookie recipe, but bless her heart she keeps at it!!! i love getting her emails. check out her post here.

next up is megan over at My Baking Adventures


she also has the food "fiddler" bug. she omitted the BLUEBERRIES. cookie carnival renegade is what she is. here's a bit of her post. "Now, being the person that I am, I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I asked Kate if I could try a different fruit, as blueberries aren’t too popular with certain family members. And I felt really silly asking her that, considering the name of the cookies are BLUEBERRY Drop Cookies." read on HERE.

on to steph over at Steph Chows.


now it's getting just silly. she also tweaked the recipe. the fun thing about hers is that she tricked them out health-food style. check her post here.

finally, we have megan over at Megan's Cookin'.

she noted that the unbaked little cookie dough lumps look sorta like aliens. it's true. check out her post here.

whew! that's all 12 of you! hooray! thanks, everyone for participating. JUNE'S cookie recipe is coming soon.

i stand corrected---THIRTEEN of you. we had a late comer to the round-up. mari of Mevrouw Cupcake!
she paired hers with lemon ice cream and frankly, the thought of this has me just squealing with delight over here. i can't believe that i can't try a bite of it right at this very moment. she's got a great post up telling her tale of baking these little beauties and a great book recommendation, to. i've already got it on hold at the library. thanks, mari! better late than never!



happy summer!

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

 

bake sale goodies :: monkey bars

this past weekend was the bake sale for my son's school. now, this for me is like heaven! an excuse to bake where i don't have to stare at all the goodies in my kitchen and try not to eat them (which of course always fails miserably.)

i made 3 things. the first of which i'll talk about today. MONKEY BARS! this is one of the biggest crowd pleasers around and kids love them (banana chocolate anything goes over big in our house, anyway). the best part is how easy and quick they are to make. i almost always have the ingredients for them around. you probably do, too.

here's the recipe....and we made over $500 at the sale! whoo hoo!

MONKEY BARS

1 1/4 cups all purp flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg or cinnamon

2 medium bananas, rip
2 tbs. unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs
1 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup of chocolate chips

1. preheat oven to 350 degrees. lightly grease a 9" square pan

2. in a medium bowl, wisk flour, baking soda, salt and spice
3. in the bowl of a food processor, blend bananas until smooth. add in melted butter, eggs, sugar and vanilla. blend until smooth and well-combined.
4. pour banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined. fold in the chocolate chips.
5. pour batter into prepared pan (it will be a thin layer).
6. bake for 20-25 minutes until tester comes out dry. cool completely before slicing.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

 

buggin'! (literally) :: how to store flour

it's such a complete and total drag to get all psyched up to bake something yummy and go to the cabinet to find bugs in the flour. so not cool. nothing deflates my balloon more than getting all prepped and excited to bake something and then find that i'm missing and ingredient or an ingredient is unusable. boo!

i realized pretty quickly that i need to find a new way of storing the flour. i have heard different things over the years about how to store it. the controversy seems to lie in the debate over whether or not to refrigerate it.

so, i did what i do whenever i have a kitchen conundrum in the baking category :: i went to my gurus--Rose Levy Beranbaum (her site is also in my side bar) and Regan Daley (if she has a blog or website, i'm not aware of it, so please please let me know if she has an online presence somewhere that you know of--for now, i link to her book). i have used RLB's Cake Bible for years and love it. it's comprehensive and amazing. for my birthday last fall, i received her Bread Bible and i haven't used that as much, admittedly, but the recipes i have tried i have liked. a lot.

what i learned from RLB is that storing in airtight containers is best. she also recommends freezing flour right in the paper sack. just pop it in a freezer zip top plastic bag first. no mention of refrigeration as a way of everyday storage.

RD recommends that you do keep white flours in airtight containers, but for whole grains and whole grain flours it's best to store in the fridge or freezer to prevent rancidity and prolong their life.

so, there you have it. now, i guess i need to get some airtight containers. presently my flour is just sitting in the cupboard with the top of the bag rolled down. yeah. . . no wonder it got buggy!

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

 

organics :: when to buy and when not to

i'm a stay-at-home mom of 2. the husband is a teacher/filmmaker. needless to say, we aren't raking it in. the presents and interesting dilemma for me as it pertains to grocery shopping.

when hubby and i were single and living life in Seattle with 2 decent incomes and no little mouths to feed it was fairly simple to afford organic foods. just about everything we ate was organic, from produce, to juice to butter and snack foods. it's just what we did. and i can remember getting a little thrill out of finding a worm in my lettuce. ain't no pesticides there.

of course it would stand to reason that now eating organically is even more important to me. got two little bodies to feed that are growing fast. i want to fill them up with good stuff. the sad part--it's to freaking expensive for us. so, now we don't buy organic butter or organic snacks. no organic peanut butter in the cabinet. we choose our battles. i buy organic or hormone free meats always. and organic fruits and veggies as much as possible. but it got me thinking--which produce items are really benefiting from the organic status they have achieved. for example, if the pesticides are on the outside--sprayed onto the fruit, then wouldn't that mean that anything with a thick, peelable skin be fine to eat conventional? something like grapes or nectarines we'd want to have organic. can't wash those well, either, because they are too delicate.

so, i did some poking around and found this interesting bit of information on pesticides and produce. it's an easy to read chart found on the foodnews.org website. basically it ranks the produce based on testing for pesticides. the study was done between 2000 and 2005. for more info, check the website, but i am including the list of 43 fruits and vegs ranked by the pesticide load used on them. this resource has helped me think about what to spend my organic dollars on and what not to.

The Full List: 43 Fruits & Veggies

RANK

FRUIT OR VEGGIE

SCORE

1 (worst)

Peaches

100 (highest pesticide load)

2

Apples

96

3

Sweet Bell Peppers

86

4

Celery

85

5

Nectarines

84

6

Strawberries

83

7

Cherries

75

8

Lettuce

69

9

Grapes - Imported

68

10

Pears

65

11

Spinach

60

12

Potatoes

58

13

Carrots

57

14

Green Beans

55

15

Hot Peppers

53

16

Cucumbers

52

17

Raspberries

47

18

Plums

46

19

Oranges

46

20

Grapes-Domestic

46

21

Cauliflower

39

22

Tangerine

38

23

Mushrooms

37

24

Cantaloupe

34

25

Lemon

31

26

Honeydew Melon

31

27

Grapefruit

31

28

Winter Squash

31

29

Tomatoes

30

30

Sweet Potatoes

30

31

Watermelon

25

32

Blueberries

24

33

Papaya

21

34

Eggplant

19

35

Broccoli

18

36

Cabbage

17

37

Bananas

16

38

Kiwi

14

39

Asparagus

11

40

Sweet Peas-Frozen

11

41

Mango

9

42

Pineapples

7

43

Sweet Corn-Frozen

2

44

Avocado

1

45 (best)

Onions

1 (lowest pesticide load)

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

 

an award :: excellent!

well, it was some days ago now that the wonderful and sweet Holly over at Phe-MOM-enon bestowed the E for Excellent award on me. i feel like a doof for taking so long to put this post up and say a big, fat, chocolatey THANK YOU to her for that. so, thank you ever-so-much, Holly. you are an inspiration and i'm honored that you think that me and my little blog are in any way excellent! i aspire to make this blog something fun for people to check out. i only wish i had more time to devote to it and the kitchen creations it displays.

anyway, onward for passing on the love. paying it foward, if you will. here are my picks for Excellent:

the first that comes to mind is...... the awesome Jessie at Cakespy.

hers is probably my favorite food blog out there and i'm certain she's already gotten the E award, and if not, then it's about time! she lives in Seattle and writes about local eateries. i used to live there, so i get a kick out of hearing about old haunts and new places that have popped up. she is also an amazing artist. her cuppy cake drawings are the sweetest. her drawing style reminds me of mine, only better, so i bow down to the Cakespy.

next is Beth of Total Mom Haircut. i've been reading her blog for a long time. she has always seem sort of kindred to me. we both have two kids and she used to hang out at my mommy blog and i always appreciated her insights.

and lastly, KN of Kitchen Nut. she's fabulous. got really awesome process photos on her blog and she always asks intriguing questions and has great recipes.

those are my picks. go on and check out their blogs if you haven't. you'll have fun, i promise!

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Monday, May 19, 2008

 

cookie carnival :: reminder

i'm happy to say i have received a bunch of wonderful emails from carnivalers this month! there's been lots of Blueberry Drop Cookies being baked up--and even more fun--lots of recipe tweaking going on. i love it. i love to see what changes people like to make to the recipes.

and you can see, too. the round-up will be posted here on May 31st! please come on back and check it out!

: )

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

 

treats! :: cupcakes with buttercream frosting


i love cupcakes. i know, i know, they are all the rage right now. very IN. if a food can be IN, the cupcake is the food of the moment. but really, who's ever not loved the cupcake. it's just that it's finally getting it's due.

i decided to join in the fad. we had some family over for a party last weekend, so went all cupcake crazy. my son and i mixed up Martha's Yellow Cupcake recipe
and topped some of them with chocolate buttercream frosting and some with strawberry buttercream. it was a lot of fun to make them, but when it came down to eating them----what to choose!?

when my sister asked my son which flavor he wanted i was like, "hello? have you met my son? chocolate, of course." we kept sweets out of his life for a long time as i'm a weird combo of crazy health food momma but i also love the treats. . . baking them even more so than eating. so, the boy now being almost 4 has had enough chocolate and ice cream in his time to know what he likes. and that's what he likes. chocolate and ice cream in just about any form or combination.



me, i adore chocolate, but when spring is blooming and fruit is coming back, i have to have strawberry. it's just the right thing to do on a beautiful day in May.

so, whichever kind of cupcake eater you are, here's the buttercream recipes, so you, too, can have both!

BASIC BUTTERCREAM
makes about 8 cups

1/2 cup water
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup egg whites
6 sticks of butter, unsalted at room temp, cut into squares
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. in a saucepan, bring to a boil the sugar and water. once boiling let it boil for 7 minutes.

2. after 5 minutes, in the bowl of an electric mixer, begin to whip the egg whites at high speed and whip until stiff (they should be just about done at the end of the 7 minutes.)

3. slowly add the sugar syrup to the egg mixture. pour to the side to avoid the whip. continue to beat until the bowl is cool--approx. 10 minutes.

4. slowly add butter a little at a time until it's all incorporated.


5. at low speed add the vanilla. beat until light and fluffy. if it starts to look curdled, just keep going, it will come together and get smooth again.

for the CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM:

1. stir in 2-4 ounces of melted, body temperature (100 degrees F) semisweet chocolate per 1 cup of buttercream. make sure you mix it until smooth and completely blended so you don't get flecks of chocolate in there.
2. garnish with chocolate shavings, sprinkles or chocolate chips

for the STRAWBERRY BUTTERCREAM:

1. stir in 1/4 cup (or to taste) of strawberry puree per 2 cups of buttercream. mix until smooth and well blended.

2. garnish with mint leaves or fanned strawberries.....or both!

YUM!

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

 

happy mother's day











to all the moms out there in the trenches everyday--happy mother's day! yes, it might be a Hallmark, manufactured holiday, but so what. . . we moms need a holiday all our own cause dammit we work hard.

i got to sleep in today. PAST 7am. for real. it was AWESOME. when i awoke, hubby and son had cleaned up the entire 1st floor from a family gathering we'd had the day before. they even did all the dishes. again, AWEsome. but it gets better. then they sat me down, brought me coffee and made me breakfast. i'll say it again. they, the 2 boys in the house, one who is not yet 4 and the other who can barely boil water (sorry hubs, but you know it's true) actually cooked me blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs and fruit salad. yes. it was the awesomeEST. they only asked my help with the pancake recipe twice. and they served it outside on my new picnic table. it was lovely. just lovely. i felt like a lucky mom today.

i hope you had an equally lovely day. moms, i salute you.

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

 

dinner with martha :: again!

i admit it. i have a martha addiction. i can't help it. her recipes are so neat and tidy and her website is so colorful. i'm just drawn there. that's the truth.

so, martha has a few Tomato Soup recipes on her website. i chose the following one because, well, i had nearly all the ingredients on hand. less to buy at the market is always appealing to me as i have 2 kids to cart around and all the groceries.

i really liked the soup. i was afraid it'd lack flavor because it is such a simple recipe, but it didn't. it was yummy and didn't taste like pasta sauce, which is always a concern for me with tomato soup. the onions make it really flavorful without being over-the-top oniony.









TOMATO SOUP

ala martha

Ingredients

Makes 6 cups.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

24 ounces canned whole plum tomatoes

3 cups homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock

2 teaspoons sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring, until onions have softened, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook until tomatoes, onions, and garlic are soft, 10 to 20 minutes.
  3. Working in batches, transfer soup to the jar of a blender and puree until smooth. Return to saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until soup is heated through. If soup seems too thick, stir in some extra stock to thin. Serve immediately.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

 

dinner with martha

last night i decided to do it up martha style. i had just gotten her latest issue of Food and thought on a whim. so, i thought i ought to not just let it sit on the shelf this time. i ought to cook something up. i found a few good options, but then settled on her Sirloin Steak with Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus. not a really exciting recipe, but i happened to have almost all the ingredients, so i went for it. sometimes you want something simple and reliable, you know? and it was good. not great, but a tasty and easy dinner to be sure.

SIRLOIN STEAK WITH ASPARAGUS AND POTATOES

Ingredients

Serves 4.

  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus wedges for serving
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed through a press

  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 large sirloin steak (about 1 1/2 pounds and 1 inch thick), trimmed and cut into 4 equal portions
  • 1 pound red new potatoes, halved (quartered if large)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds asparagus, trimmed

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl, stir together mustard, lemon juice, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Place cup

    mustard mixture in a resealable plastic bag. Add steaks, and rub to coat (reserve remaining mixture for serving). Let steaks marinate at room temperature 10 minutes, or refrigerate up to 1 day.
  2. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil; sea

    son with salt and pepper. Roast 10 minutes, then add asparagus to sheet, and toss with another tablespoon oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until potatoes and asparagus are tender, about 15 minutes more.
  3. While vegetables are roasting, heat remaining tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high. Remove steaks from marinade, allowing excess to drip off; cook 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare (if pan darkens quickly, reduce heat). Let rest 5 minutes. Serve steaks with vegetables and reserved mustard sauce; garnish with lemon wedges.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

 

cookie carnival :: may


it's taken me a couple days to get it decided, but here's the scoop for May's Cookie Carnival. . . we'll be baking up some BLUEBERRY DROP COOKIES. yum!

the round-up for May will be SATURDAY, MAY 31st. if you are interested in joining us cookie freaks, we'd love to have you, of course! send me and email and i'll get you the recipe. kate (AT) thecleanplateclub (DOT) net.

happy baking, everyone!

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Friday, May 2, 2008

 

breakast :: a blueberry muffin recipe


as i mentioned before, we have a serious muffin fascination around here. and given that we have finally begun to see spring and the summer fruit is on the mind, we're thinking about our favorite muffin. the classic. the most well-loved. the blueberry.

here is our favorite blueberry recipe. try it out and let me know what you think! and stay tuned for good muffin making tips!

BLUEBERRY MUFFINS
Best with fresh bloobs, but do what you have to do.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 3/4 cups blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tin cups with paper liners. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.

2. Fit your mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add egg, egg yolks, and vanilla; mix to combine. Reduce speed to low and add some of the flour mixture, then add some of the milk—alternating until done. Make sure to begin and end with flour. Gently fold in berries by hand. Pour batter into muffin tins and bake until light golden, 20-25 minutes. Cool the muffins in the pan, on a cooling rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan; place directly on the rack, and let cool completely.

YUM!

also, for some great information on blueberries, hit wildblueberries.com. they have got recipes, lists of the health benefits of blueberries and more on their site. . . and i think it's funny when a food gets it's own dot com.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

 

williams-sonoma giveaway :: we have a winner!




i'm so excited to announce the winner of the $50 GIFT CARD to Williams-Sonoma. there were lots of entries! rest assured, i DID choose randomly with the help of random.org.

and i'm happy to say that the blogger (i don't know her name!) Smells Like Home has won! it's especially cool that she won (i'm assuming it's a she based on what i have seen of her blog) because she's a serious foodie. the icing on the cake is that she's a fellow New Englander.

i've been perusing her blog and it's chock full of lovely recipes and beautiful photos. i know she's worthy of the WS gift card and she'll use it well! maybe she'll even comment here and let us know what she got!

CONGRATS to SMELLS LIKE HOME!

now, go forth and shop!

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