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the urban baker

the urban baker: April 2010

the urban baker

The Urban Baker is deliciously photographed blog about nourishing your family's soul through life in the kitchen. The recipes for fabulous savories and sweets are easily replicated and will inspire you.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Eclairs + Pastry Cream + Chocolate = YUM

These are the eclairs we made in our cooking class the other day.  I am sure it is obvious by now that I like to read lots of cookbooks, websites, newspapers, and magazines.  I am constantly on the hunt to introduce a new seasoning, ingredient, texture and taste to my family.  This goes for both sweet and savory dishes.

Sometimes, I have to learn to stick to what works.  Put that recipe in my binder and write a note on it, something to the effect of this is the perfect recipe.  I should have done that with the choux paste I made a while back.

I was a little disappointed in this particular recipe.  I have made choux paste in the past (see this post) and it was perfectly delicious.  The recipe was from Sherry Yard's Desserts by the Yard.  The pastry puffed up perfectly and didn't taste at all egg.  Sometimes, this kind of pastry can taste very eggy.  Hers did not.

This choux paste was from Tartine and although the Tartine cookbook is my go-to, no-fail book, these are not going to be on my list of favorites.  On the other hand, her pastry cream was silky, smooth and creamy and the chocolate glaze did not disappoint either.  Two out of three isn't bad!

The girls seemed perfectly happy with them.  I am a tougher critic.  The fun part of the whole eclair adventure was doing them together.  Get a bunch of people in one room, give them a pastry bag and the energy instantly changes!


choux paste
1/2 cup non fat milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
5 large eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp

pastry cream
2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbls. cornstarch
1/2 cup + 1 Tbls. sugar
2 large eggs
4 Tbls. unsalted butter

Chocolate glaze
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 tsp. light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream


Choux paste

preheat oven to 425*.   Line baking sheets with parchment
• In a heavy saucepan combine the milk, water, salt, sugar, & butter & place over med heat until the butter melts and the mixture comes to a full boil.  Add all the flour, stirring vigorously.  Keep stirring until it forms a smooth mass and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 3 minutes.
• transfer the mixture to a standing mixer w/paddle attachment.  add the eggs, one at  a time and beat on medium high speed.  it should be thick, smooth & shiny.  
• transfer mixture to a pastry bag fitted with #6 or 7 tip.  Pipe out 5” long logs, spacing 2” apart.
• bake until puffed about 10 minutes.  reduce oven temp to 375*, until they feel hollow, about 12 minutes.  they should be nicely browned all over.
•let cool on racks.  they should be used immediately or tightly wrapped and frozen (up to 3 weeks)

pastry cream
have a bowl ready for cooling the pastry cream with a fine-mesh sieve resting on top.
• pour the milk into a heavy saucepan.  split the vanilla bean half length wise and use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape the seeds from the pod halves into the milk.  add the salt, place over medium high heat, and bring to just under  a boil, stirring occasionally.  
•meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk  the cornstarch & sugar.  add the eggs and whisk until smooth
• when the milk is ready, slowly ladle about 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.  pour the egg mixture back into the  hot milk and continue to whisk over medium heat until the custard is thick like whipped cream.  this must come to a boiling point but don’t let it curdle.  
• remove from heat and pour through the sieve into the bowl.  let cool 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
• cut the butter into 1 tablespoon pieces.  when the pastry cream reaches 140*, whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time.
• to cool, cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the cream.  
• pastry cream will keep well covered for 5 days in the fridge

chocolate glaze
combine the chocolate & the corn syrup in a heatproof bowl.  Bring the cream to just under a boil in a small saucepan.  pour the cream over the chocolate, wait about 2 minutes and then stir gently with a rubber spatula, until smooth and shiny
• let cool until just warm

to assemble

stir the pastry cream (must be very cold) and spoon it into a pastry bag.  Punch a hole in each end of the pastry shell and fill 1/2 way on each side.  fill until they feel heavy

dip each filled eclair into the glaze, shaking gently to allow the excess to drip off and then place upright on a wire rack.  allow to set.
can be refrigerated for up to 6 hours.  they should be eaten the same day

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A baking class with 4 fab ladies!

Last year, my friend, Jeni and I donated a cooking class, to our school's auction, for 4 woman and it was such a success and so much fun that we wanted to do it again this year.

Last year the agenda included how to plan a weeks worth of meals, using almost all the same ingredients.  We cooked, we laughed, we drank!  Although the cooking class was requested again for this year, we decided to offer a baking class instead.  This years menu consisted of:

     Scones, lemon curd and jam to start
     Mini cheesecakes with burnt salted caramel sauce
     Eclairs w/pastry cream and chocolate glaze
     Granola bars
     Quiche (two kinds) and salad w/iced green tea

The day before the class, we prepped a few items.  We made the pate brise for the quiche, rolled and shaped the scones (in the freezer, waiting to be baked), pastry cream for the eclairs and the crusts for the mini cheesecakes.  We had also measured out all of our dry ingredients for all the other recipes and we put them in baggies, labeled, ready to go.

We started out with scones with a little lemon curd and whipped butter on the side.  Fresh O.J., Prosecco and the coffee jello shots.

Next we moved on to the quiches ( we used this basic custard).  We were planning on serving the quiches for lunch.  As we had limited time, we wanted to get these in the oven so they would be at room temperature when it was time to eat our delicious lunch.  The crusts were cooked, the shallots were sauteed and the asparagus was blanched.  All we had to do was make the custard.  After all it is a cooking class, we were there to teach!  We had leave at least one element to share with our "students".

The key to teaching, cooking, and/or  baking is organization.  The french call it "mise en place" which means "putting in place".  Mise en place makes cooking effortless.  I like to work this way.  Whether it is a weeknight meal, a baking project or a simple salad, I like to have all my ingredients ready and measured out before I start my cooking.  Makes life (especially with 3 kids and an occasional neighbor or friend running around our house) so much easier and less stressful.

The quiche needs to come to room temp, so we  started, here with the hands on instruction.  After we popped the quiches in the oven we moved on to the cheesecakes.  Then on to the eclairs, granola bars and finally, the caramel sauce. 

Two and a half hours was not nearly enough time.  It was such a great group of ladies.  I could have spent the whole day with them.  We are talking about starting our own club, similar to a book club.  Yet, instead, we want to have a cooking and chatting club.  Hmmmm...could be the wave of the future!

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Coffee Jello Shots

There is a dessert at a neighborhood restaurant, Sawtelle Kitchen that is soooo delicious.  It is a Vietnamese coffee jello with cappuccino ice cream and this white, gooey sauce, which is probably evaporated milk, on steroids.  It's scrumptious!

I was reading my friend, Mary the Librarian's blog the other day, and she posted about these little morsels of goodness (see her post, here).  I instantly had a deja vu in my mouth.  I could taste the coffee jello dessert from Sawtelle Kitchen.  I had to make this.  I immediately ran to the corner Starbucks and bought the coffee that she suggests using in this recipe.  I am a tea drinker.  I drink Mighty Tea, green tea, everyday.  I am not much of a coffee drinker.  This jello could convert me.  I am addicted.

Today, my friend, Jeni and I hosted a baking party for 4 lovely ladies.  We donated the class to our school's auction.  Our event sold out within the first three minutes of bidding (yay!).  As the girls walked in the door, we put a class of  Prosecco in one hand and and a cup of the coffee jello in the other.  It was a hit!  The jello is a show stopper.

At first glance the jello gets mixed reactions.  Some are wowed by it and others are quietly squirmish by it.  The ladies all responded well to it.  However, as friends stopped by the house today, I MADE them try it.  When I introduced it to my friend Erika, she looked at me like I was crazy and made a face only a 4 year old is allowed to make.  However, after her first bite, her entire facial expressions changed and she was begging for more!

After the ladies caught a slight buzz, we served them a classic currant scone (see previous blog post for recipe ) with lemon curd, jam & whipped butter.  While they were eating their scones, we started on the quiches that we planning on serving last, for lunch, along with a simple green salad of avocado, kalamata olives & diced pears marinated in a shallot vinaigrette.

While the quiches cooked, we made mini cheesecakes with caramel sauce, mini eclairs, and granola bars.  Everybody went home with a box of goodies, a pastry bag and a pastry tube. It was a great morning, lots of chatting, laughter, sharing and eating!

More photos and blog posts to follow!

Coffee Jello
via The Food Librarian


1/2 c cold water
2 cups 
strong coffee, hot (Starbucks instant packages). 
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk 

3 packages of Knox unflavored gelatin

• Place 1/2 c cold water in a bowl.
• Sprinkle 3 unflavored gelatin packets over the water. Let sit until 
the gelatin blooms, about 10 minutes.
• Stir in the hot coffee and mix until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
•Stir in the can of sweetened condensed milk.
•Pour into 7 x 11 glass pyrex pan

Note: The combo of coffee and sweetened condensed milk is

inspired by Vietnamese coffee.   David Lebovitz's 
"How to Use Gelatin" post gives a good "how to" on 
using gelatin.

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Giveaway Winner Alert!

After receiving 14 comments (4 more than last time - yay!),we have a winner for the my latest giveaway; the silicon mat with measurements around the perimeter.  I made a second batch of brownies and this little system is proving to be a perfect solution.  However, don't cut right on the mat.  I scored the top of the brownies and then removed the mat and cut directly on a cutting board.

Lisa of  edtechie.typead is the lucky, lucky winner.  Lisa has been on a macaroon mission these past few weeks.  Check out her blog to view her macaroon adventures!

Not only is Lisa getting this mat, but Share our Strength is getting $14.00 bucks!  I am sending off the check right after I publish this post!

Be on the look out for my next's a doozy!

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Giveaway for a Good Cause!

Recently, I walked into our neighborhood cake supply store, NY Cake West looking for a specific cookie cutter.  I didn't get the cookie cutter, but I walked out with a bag of goodies; cupcake liners, silicon molds, a few other cookie cutters and this cool silicon mat lined with inch marks around the perimeter of the mat.

I am always struggling, even with a ruler, to cut even, clean squares whenever making bars or brownies.  I am always disappointed with the presentation.

After today, this could be the solution I have been searching for.

I want to share my joy with you!  I am giving away one of these MATS to one lucky winner!

To enter the Mat Giveaway, simply leave a comment below (one entry per person, please) and I'll pick the winner from Random.  Also, for every comment I receive, I will donate $1.00 to Share our Strength, an organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America! Deadline for this giveaway is Sunday, April 25th at 9:00 p.m.

If your comment isn't linked to a blog where I can find you, please leave your email in the comment box.  This giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.

Thanks so much for entering and I look forward to reading all you have to say.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Perfecting Brownies

My new book of choice is David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert.  I have read and read and am loving it.  However, I have only one complaint; not enough photos.  If you are at all familiar with his blog, his photos are the best part.  The lack of eye-candy hasn't stopped me from wanting to make and re-create most everything between all 279 pages of this book.

This is that perfect recipe when you need something last minute.  This whole recipe is made in a heavy duty saucepan.  No fuss, no muss!  Anybody can make these, even my 9 year old, they are that easy!  I just pulled these brownies out of the oven and they smell so good.  If I wasn't watching was I putting in my mouth, I would eat the whole tray.

These are DELICIOUS!  Growing up, my mom made a flourless brownie (one of the 5 recipes in her repertoire) and they had a distinctive taste.  They were very fudgy, and crumbly on the top.  However, they were best if eaten the day they were made. If they made it to day two (which was rare), they just weren't as good. These remind me of my mom's brownies but with a little more depth and texture.  I am going to make these again and again and again!

Robert's Absolute Best Brownies
adapted from David Lebovitz's Ready for Desserts

6 Tbls. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs, room temp
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup nuts of choice, toasted and coarsely chopped

• preheat oven to 350*.  line the inside of a 9" square pan with parchment, allowing the excess to extend beyond the edges of the pan and spray with cooking spray.  
• in a medium saucepan, melt the butter, then add the chocolate and stir over low heat until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in the sugar & vanilla.  Beat the eggs one at a time.  Add the flour and stir energetically for 1 minute, until the batter loses its graininess and becomes smooth & glossy.  Stir in the nuts.  Today, I used toasted, blanched almonds.  I wouldn't do time I am going to do salted almonds!
• scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the center feels almost set, about 30 minutes (I baked for 27 minutes).  
• let cool completely in the pan before lifting out of the parchment.

I can't wait to make these with chocolate chunks and dried cherries!

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Chocolate Pot de Creme


Finally, the last of the egg yolks. Ahhh...a big sigh of relief!

Isaac loves these Pot de Cremes more than any another pudding dessert I make.  When he sees those little white vessels sitting on the top shelf of our fridge, he smiles.  He grabs either his favorite spoon, or most recently a little fork, and dives right in.  He finds a quiet place, sits and eats the entire bowl.  This is Isaac's bliss.

Pot de Creme sounds intimidating.  But it isn't.  It is one of the easiest desserts to make and is one of the best ways to use up that pint of almost expired heavy whipping cream.  I had both cream, and whole milk that were ready to expire, coupled with the last of my egg yolks, made the perfect Sunday evening dessert.

This recipe is from Dorie Greenspan's Baking book and it did not disappoint.  I only changed one minor ingredient; I added a little (very little) espresso  powder to the bittersweet chocolate.  Coffee or espresso powder enhances the chocolate flavor just a tad, giving an extra added boost.

These are delicious, easy, and impressive!  Make these for guests, they will think you slaved all day.

Chocolate Pot de Creme
adapted from Dorie Greenspan, Baking from my home to yours

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 large egg
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt

• Preheat oven to 300*.  Line a roasting pan with a double thickness of paper towels, then put eight 4oz custard cups, ramekins, espresso or small cups in the pan (I used both 1/2 cup ramekins and tiny chinese tea cups).  Boil some water in a tea kettle
• Put chopped chocolate in a glass bowl or measuring cup. Bring 1/2 cup of the heavy cream to a boil.  Just before it boils, pour over the chocolate and wait one minute.  Using a rubber spatula, gently stir chocolate and cream until ganache sets.
• Stir the remaining 1 cup of cream and the milk together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
• In another heat proof bowl( I prefer a glass measuring cup), whisk the egg, yolks, sugar & salt together until pale.  Still whisking, drizzle in a little of the hot liquid-this will temper the eggs.  Finally, whisk the egg mixture into the ganache, stirring to incorporate.
• With a spoon, skim the foam off the top of the custard, pour the custard into the cups.  Pour enough hot water from the tea kettle into the roasting pan to the half way point (up the side of the custard cup).  Cover with plastic wrap and poke holes in the top.
• Bake 35-40 minutes, until the tops darken a little, but the custard still jiggles a little.
• Remove roasting pan from the oven and set on a cooling rack.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes, then transfer cups to a cooling rack.  Refrigerate when the pudding comes to room temp.  Cover with plastic wrap and enjoy!


Saturday, April 17, 2010

National Food Bloggers Bake Sale

Today is The National Bloggers Bake Sale.  Gaby from What's Gaby Cooking organized the whole dang thing!  The Los Angeles contingency was at The Grove.  She reminds me of me when I was her age.  Such a go-getter.  Her story is truly inspirational and basically, she organized this fund raiser, from coast to coast, all by herself!  She should be really proud of herself.  She pulled together tons of local bloggers and all were ready and willing to help in anyway possible.

Today was very special.  It was so nice to see a small community of like minded people come together in a common space.  Everyone was there for the same reasons; we all love food, we all enjoy showing our love through food, and we were raising money for a fantastic cause.

I did get there on the later side, however I was still able to pick up some wonderful treats.  I picked up a few of Joseline's macaroons from Daydreamer Desserts which were beautifully displayed.  I also grabbed a Nutella Toaster Tart from Show Food Chef. Initially, I really fell in love with was her packaging ( I wish I photographed it), but when Eli and I tore off the wrapping, and took a bite, a little bite of heaven was inside.  These are like a little mini pop tart, but a healthy version.  I am making these immediately.  There were so many more wonderful treats; mini bundts from The Food Librarian, amazing toffee from Rachel aka La Fuji Mama, and basket of the most wonderful cookies from Sherry Yard, whom hand delivered them herself!

Yesterday, I received a perfectly timed package from Amazon.  I knew what it was and I instantly ripped open the  box.  I have been waiting for this book...Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz!  It is hot off the presses and I am ready to dive in.

I kind of had my baking agenda picked out for today's event.  However, my day yesterday turned into an all day work day and when I got home, with the kids, after 3:30 p.m.  I had to re-think.  I opened up David's book, almost right to the page ( pg. 216) with the recipe for Almond + Chocolate Chunk Biscotti.  It didn't require any softening of butter, it was a one bowl process and I had callebaut bittersweet chocolate chips in the pantry.  A big sigh of relief!

In all honesty, I had big plans for my contribution to this terrific event.  However, life got in the way and I had to do something a little bit less stressful. I couldn't have made a better choice.  The kids were eating the crumbs off the cookie sheets!

After the event ended today, I  took a huge bag of goodies with me to the baseball field.  Today was a huge day for our baseball league. Not only did we have games all day (4 different leagues), but we also had our Hit-A-Thon (our leagues fund raiser) and it was picture day.  So, the park was PACKED!

When I told my neighbors 3 girls that I was going to sell the cookies at the park, they volunteered to come and help.  So glad they did.  If it wasn't for them, I would never have sold all my inventory.  Besides they are so cute and who could say "no" to three cute girls?

Almond + Chocolate Chunk Biscotti

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
5 large eggs, room temp
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cups almonds, toasted and chopped (I used toasted slivered almonds)
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped ( I used callebaut chips)

• preheat oven to 350*.  Line baking sheets with parchment.
• Whisk together flour and baking powder
• In a mixer with the whip attachment, whisk eggs, sugar & vanilla on medium speed until thickened.  Add the flour mixture with a rubber spatula, then the nuts and chocolate.
• On a lightly floured work surface, , divide the dough in half.  Shape each half into a log 3" wide.  Set the logs on the prepared baking sheet.  I like to bake one per sheet ( I doubled the recipe so I had 4 logs).  
• Bake, rotating the baking sheet midway through baking, until lightly brown, about 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 300*.  Let cool for 15 minutes
• Transfer logs to a cutting board and with a serrated knife, cut diagonally about 1/2 inch thick.  Place, cut side up, in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Bake until firm, about 20 minutes, flipping them midway through.  Let cool completely on the baking sheet.  
• Will keep in an airtight container for one week.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Our Favorite Scones

My lemon curd needs a friend.  Scones and lemon curd are best friends.  So, it seemed only appropriate to make a big batch of scones.  I have been making scones and freezing them (doing some recipe development) and have been happy with some and not so happy with others.  I have decided to go back to one of our trusty favorites and mix it up a bit.

This particular recipe combines eggs, cream and butter.  The few recipes I have been playing with in the last few weeks omitted eggs and used buttermilk.  They were delicious however a little dense.  These are my kids favorite (especially when I add chocolate to them).  They are light and flakey and the base is just perfect.

Today I used dried pomegranate.  In the past, I have mixed in everything from chocolate and coconut to dried strawberries to walnuts and bittersweet chocolate.  Today was a dried fruit day.  I only baked off three.  When they came out of the oven, I set them on the cooling rack and left the kitchen.  When I came back 20 minutes later, they were gone!  I will assume everyone is happy and content with the return of a classic.

I froze most of the dough, already shaped.  I love having frozen scones in the freezer.  On any given morning I can pop some in the oven and dish them out to the family, to friends or deliver to one of the many "meetings" at the kids schools.  It is so convenient!

This particular recipe is inspired by Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.  She uses dried strawberries in her recipe, but in the past year or so, I have had a hard time finding them.  Her recipe also calls for 2 teaspoons of salt, however I find them to be a little too salty, so I cut that back to a teaspoon, sometimes less.  Lastly, she suggests you brush scones with an egg wash, but I like to brush them with a little heavy cream and then sprinkle  a little turbinado sugar on the top.

An adaption of Ina's scones
(recipe here)

4 cups plus 1 tbls of flour
2 Tbls. sugar, plus more for sprinkling (I used turbinado)
2 Tbls. baking powder
2 tsp. salt (I use less)
3/4 lb cold, unsalted butter, cubed
4 extra large eggs
1 cup cold heavy cream
3/4 cup small diced, dried fruit
1 egg beaten w/2 Tbls. water for egg wash

• Preheat oven to 400*.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
• In food processor, combine 4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder & salt.  Add cold butter and pulse.
• Combine eggs and cream and add, just until blended.  Add in dried fruit or other mix-ins.
• Turn dough out onto a floured board and combine.
• Roll dough to 3/4" thick.  Cut into desired shapes.
• Place on baking sheet.  Brush the tops with egg wash.  Sprinkle with sugar and bake 20-25 minutes.

I delivered a box of these, frozen, to the G's along with some lemon curd.  The G's are benefitting from my baking addiction.  I think I am spoiling them!


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lemon Curd

I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel...I may have 6 egg yolks left!  I am on the verge of chucking the last of them, but I have a hard time letting go of stuff.  Or perhaps, wasting stuff.

I have made lemon curd in the past, some very successful and some not so successful.  I searched the internet and didn't really find a recipe that used 90% yolks.  I found one that called for both lemon and lime juice, but that just meant another trip to the grocery store or the farmers market and I had already completed that task for the week.

I picked up 5 of my favorite books; Tartine, Sherry Yard, Desserts by the Yard, Baking with Julia, The Modern Baker, and Baking, From my home to yours.  I liked the recipe in Baking, From my home to yours because it was the simplest.  I know, that is somewhat of a copout, but it has been a very busy two weeks and all I really wanted to do was use up my egg yolks.  I was on a mission!

1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 stick ( 6 tbls.) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg
6 large egg yolks
freshly squeezed lemon juice from 4 lemons (about 3/4 cup)

Put all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir with a heatproof spatula.  Put the pan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring without stopping until butter melts. Keep stirring until the custard starts to thicken.  Don't walk away as the whole thing could curdle.

When you can run your finger along the spatula and the curd doesn't run into the track you have created, the curd id ready.  It may feel runny, but it will thicken as it cools.

Remove the pan from the heat and pour into a heatproof bowl (I poured it through a strainer).  Press a piece of plastic wrap against the curd to create an airtight seal and cool to room temp before storing in fridge.

Thanks Dorie for a truly wonderful recipe!  
Easy, Easy, Easy!


The Winner of our First Giveaway

This is kind of fun, to announce my first winner.  Thanks to all of you (all 10) who entered.  I loved all of your "green" ideas in anticipation of Earth Day!

I used Random. org to "randomly" pick a winner!

Colleen - you are the lucky winner!  Shoot me an email and I will make arrangements for you to get your peace sign.  I will send it to you immediately. However, I am requesting that you send me a photo of it on your car!



Tuesday, April 13, 2010

GIVEAWAY - An Urban Baker First!

Earth Day is April 22nd this year.  We kind of celebrate Earth Day, everyday in our house.

My kids lunch boxes are filled with reusable containers (no plastic baggies or pre-wrapped foods) and SIGG water bottles.  Levi, mostly takes hot food, in a thermos and when it's not a hot food day, I pack veggies and snacks in cute containers I get at the japanese markets.  I try and use my silpats when ever possible (however, I am addicted to pre-cut parchment sheets) and only use biodegradable cleaning supplies in our house.  I only use cloth napkins and re-usable cloth cleaning rags and rarely use paper towels.  I am trying to do my part.

We are also in the process of redoing our herb and vegetable garden.  I am excited to ultimately eat what we grow.  And I am guilty of dropping the ball on composting.  That's going to change!

Earth day is about embracing our environment, being conscious, and thankful for what we have.

Grateful Grafitti is a very cool company I discovered over a year ago.  Their tag line is: TAG THE TOWN POSITIVE.  Their whole concept is about tagging everything and anything (school lockers, cars, fridges) positive.

I have one on my car and get stopped frequently, asking me where I got my peace sign.  I now keep some in my car at all times.  I love spreading their message.

In the spirit of Earth Day I am giving away a Grateful Grafitti Peace Sign Magnet.  To enter the giveaway, just leave me a comment telling me what you and your loved ones can do to honor Earth Day!  I will keep the comments open until Thursday, April 15 th, 6 PM PST, and announce the winner (using a random number generator) on Friday, April 16th.  The giveaway is open to US residents only.  One entry per person!

Good Luck!


Quinoa for Breakfast

A few months back I was listening Martha Stewart radio on Sirius (I happen to love to talk radio, and 80% of their content is fun and informative).  Dave Lieberman, was on the program talking about his new book, The 10 Things you Need to Eat.  I was a huge fan of his when he had a show on the food network and although he has been off air for some time, I continue to be inspired by his recipes.

I came into the segment midway through and when I realized it was Dave talking, I called the radio station and asked what the heck they were talking about.  I was presently parking at Sports Chalet to pick up some stuff for the kids, however when I was done there I made a bee line for Borders.  I bought the book on the spot.  No need to thumb through it, I knew what I was getting myself into.

I have always liked quinoa.  I had never made it right.  It always came out too wet.  Dave solved that problem by sharing his discovery. Cook quinoa with 1 part quinoa to 1 1/4 part water.  Rather than 1 to 2 as the package suggests. Works like a charm.

I was instantly drawn to the Creamy Breakfast Oats and Quinoa.  I do love a good bowl of oatmeal, but can't eat it everyday.  I make Dave's quinoa and oats a few times per week and it is the perfect balance of sweet vs. savory with the extra added bonus of it being "hot".  I like a hot breakfast in the morning and this is no exception.

All I thought about, during my early morning yoga practice today, was coming home and making this big bowl of goodness!


1 1/2 cups of milk ( I use soy milk)
1 Tbls. honey
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/2 cup cooked quinoa 
3/4 cup whole oats

In small saucepan, bring the milk, honey, cinnamon, & salt to a simmer over medium heat.  Add the quinoa ( I keep a big batch of it in the fridge and it lasts all week) and the oats, over and cook until mixture is thick and creamy, about 7-10 minutes.

I also add some raisins when cooking. If I have fresh blueberries, I add those once cooked.  This is a breakfast addiction!

p.s. if you get the book, make the Quinoa & Chickpea Falafel balls.  So light and delicious!

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

It's a Rocky Road getting rid of my egg yolks

Milk chocolate ice cream + homemade marshmallows + salted almonds + fudge ripple.  What could be bad?

I happen to love Rocky Road ice cream.  I also happen to love nuts in my sweets.  In making this ice cream, I made sure that I incorporated lots of almonds and lots of homemade marshmallows.  I also threw in a little of the fudge ripple that I had left over from the Tin Roof Ice Cream I made earlier in the week!  Once again, I enlisted The Perfect Scoop to assist me in making this yummy combo.

I used the Milk Chocolate Ice cream recipe from the book and then added my own mix-ins.  The recipe called for a little cognac.  I left it out and added a touch of vanilla instead.  It was delicious!

8 oz. milk chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
big pinch of salt
4 egg yolks
2 tsp. cognac 
3/4 cup if cocoa nibs or bittersweet chips ( I added both 3/4 cups both almonds and marshmallows).

• combine milk chocolate and cream in large heat proof bowl set over simmering water.  Stir until melted then remove bowl from the saucepan.  Set it aside with a mesh strainer over it.
• Warm milk, sugar, & salt in medium saucepan.  In a separate bowl mix egg yolks.  Slowly pour the warm milk (by ladle fulls) into the yolk mixture, to temper the yolks.  Whisk constantly.  The scrape all the liquid back into the pan.
• Over med heat, stir constantly with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom so the yolks don't curdle.  Mix until thickened and coats the back of the spatula.  Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk chocolate mixture.  If using, add the cognac.  Stir until cool.  
• Chill mixture in fridge then freeze in your ice cream maker.  During the last few minutes of churning, add your goodies!
I am done making ice cream for a while.  I have some lemon curd and a chocolate pot de creme on the horizon.  Hopefully, it will be just what I need to be done with my egg yolks!