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the urban baker

the urban baker: October 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.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Polenta Chips

I have attempted polenta in the past, however unsuccessfully.  So, when I saw several recipes for Polenta in donna hay magazine, I attempted yet one more time.  Polenta is so, so easy.  I don't know what I was afraid of.  I served these chips with Isaac's favorite chicken dish and some roasted brussel sprouts and everyone in my house was perfectly happy with their meal!  I love when that happens!

These would make a really good nosh before the Halloween mayhem starts on Sunday night. I am loading my kids up on protein and veggies all day.  Boycotting sugar this weekend for fear of what's to come!

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Polenta Chips
adapted from DH issue 51

3 1/2 cups homemade chicken stock
1 cup instant polenta
30g butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
sea salt
fresh herbs

• place the stock in a heavy duty pan. bring to a boil.
• gradually whisk in the polenta.  you want to add slowly, whisking the whole time.  otherwise you will get lumps and you can't get the lumps out.
• cook 2-3 minutes or until thickened.
• remove from heat and add the Parmesan, salt, and a little pepper.
• spread mixture into a lightly greased baking pan (i used a quarter sheet pan).
• refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until set.
• slice into strips.
• preheat oven to 425*. brush strips with a little olive oil.  place on lightly greased tray and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown

these are also really good with a side of homemade marinara!

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mini Pumpkin Cupcakes

I had this recipe filed away and when I was cleaning out my recipe file the other day, it just happened to slip out and fall neatly on the floor.  The universe was on my side because I was in the process of researching what I was going to make for the bake sale at this years Halloween Hoot.

The "Hoot" as we call it in the "hood", is one of our most favorite days and one of our best fundraisers.  The school yard is transformed into a magical Halloween wonderland.  The haunted house is a scary place, however I appreciate all the dad's that spend their Saturday setting it up. The local restaurants set up their food tents, and each and every one of them donate their "fare", the games area is where Levi spends the majority of his day and the rides, especially the grand prix race track, is where I am guaranteed to find Isaac.  The kids art is scattered through out the yard and it is always exciting to see our teachers wondering around, with their own off spring in tow.

The bake sale is a huge draw and I am always up for donating my goodies.  This year was no different.  Along with 7 dozen garbage disposal cookies, I also made 5 dozen of these mini cupcakes.  These are delicious and decorating them with my kids was a fun, creative project!

Mini Halloween Pumpkin Cupcakes
adapted from here
yield: 30

1 cup self rising flour (to make self rising flour, go here)
2/3 cup succanat or brown sugar
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 large egg
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup ( 1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
food coloring, candy, sprinkles, sanding sugar

for the cupcakes:
• preheat oven to 350*.  line mini muffin tins with 30 liners(I doubled my recipe).
• mix flour, brown sugar, and pumpkin spice in a large bowl
• whisk egg, canned pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, sour cream and vanilla in another bowl.
• mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir to combine
• fill liners 2/3 full with batter.
• bake cupcakes about 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean.  remove from the pan and let cool on wire racks.
for the frosting:
• using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and the butter until combined.  add the sugar and a touch of vanilla, mix until all is smooth and combined.
• divide the frosting between 3 bowls.  tint each bowl, separately, with the food coloring (black and orange).
• chill frosting for at least 2 hours before piping or spreading on cupcakes.
• have fun with the decorations!

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Monday, October 25, 2010

October 25th marks my 2 Year Anniversary

Two years ago I started this blog.  Happy Anniversary to the Urban Baker!

I originally started blogging as a way to connect with family and friends who lived all over the country.  I thought it would be a great way to share milestones, the kids growth and our families travels. But then, somehow, it turned into something completely different.

I have always enjoyed being in the kitchen  and through it's evolution, I saw my blog as a vehicle for creating, for lack of a better description, a virtual photo album for my kids of our journey through food.  I have three boys and they don't always join me in the kitchen.  I wanted this to be somewhat of an heirloom piece, to be passed down to them. Lord knows, I am not in any photographs with them (as I am always the one with the camera in my hand), at the very least they will remember me not by what I looked like, but by how I shared my love through the food and celebration.

Never in a million years would I have thought that this blog would have brought me so much happiness and  satisfaction.  I have challenged myself in the kitchen, I have challenged myself with the camera and I have challenged myself with my voice.  I have made friends and created relationships that are deep, true and authentic.  And through these relationships, I have been introduced to a world, a somewhat virtual world, that is supportive, funny, creative, loving, and inspiring. I have a new found love and appreciation for all things culinary and I have changed the way I grocery shop, feed my family and plan my meals.

I am just a home cook, self taught, yet find ways to learn each and every day.  I am not a professional photographer, yet through other blogs and meeting amazing photographers; Penny de los Santos, Diane Cu + Todd Porter, Matt Armendariz, Aran Goyoaga and countless others, I have learned, grown and gone outside my comfort zone.  This blog has taught me that I am an eternal student.  This blog has kept me humble.

So, in my most humble voice, I raise a glass to you (and to me) and on this day, I say happy 2 year anniversary.  May we share many, many more years together!

Bill's Big Carrot Cake
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking, from my home to yours
yield: 10 very big servings

for the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. salt
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup plump golden raisins
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs

for the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 pound powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup shredded coconut

toasted coconut for garnish

• preheat oven to 325*.  butter 3 9" x 2" cake pans and dust with flour.  line the pans with parchment.
for the cake:
• whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  in another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut and raisins.
• working with a kitchen aid mixer, beat the sugar and oil together on medium speed.  add the eggs, one by one, beat until smooth.
• reduce the speed and add the flour and combine. mix in the chunky ingredients.  divide the batter between the three pans.
•bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pan from top to bottom, front to back.
• cool on racks for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. invert them and let them cool completely.
for the frosting:
• working with a kitchen aid mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until creamy.  gradually add the sugar and vanilla.  when combined add the coconut.
to assemble the cake:
• put one of the cakes on a cardboard cake round.  put a third of the frosting on the cake.  top with the second cake and repeat until all three cakes have been frosted.
• toast some additional coconut and then sprinkle the top of the cake with coconut.
• refrigerate the cake before eating.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

French Friday's with Dorie: Hachis Parmentier

I am sure you all know by know that I am a big Dorie Greenspan fan.  So, when I read about French Friday's with Dorie, a virtual cooking class, I immediately signed up.  The idea here is that every member of this "cooking class" creates a dish from Dorie's new book; around my french table.

I am thrilled to be a part of this as I was "shut out" of "Tuesday's with Dorie" Each week I would see submissions on tastespotting and completely felt left out.  Boo Hoo!  I am now a proud memeber of "FFwD". I have yet one more thing to add to my "to do" list, however cooking doesn't feel so much like a chore, I actually enjoy it.  I am excited to step a little bit outside of my comfort zone and try a new way of doing things.

When I saw what was on this weeks, menu, I was ecstatic for two reasons.  One, I had earmarked this page, and two, "shepherd's pie" was on this weeks meal plan.  I was able to check a dinner off my weekly menu and I was able to create dorie's version of this very classic dish!

Hachis Parmentier is simply just a fancy name for shepherd's pie.  I made it according to dorie's recipe, however my original plan, was to make one with ground turkey.  I am happy I made it Dorie's way.

hachis parmentier
page 258-259
yield: 4-6 servings.

This recipe was easy, super economical and DELICIOUS!!!

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Banana Jam

I think we are all a tad guilty of letting our bananas sit on the counter a bit too long causing them to over rippen.  I know, I am.  The natural solution is banana bread, banana muffins, after school smoothies. I wanted to try and mix it up a bit.

So, when I posted on Facebook a plea for your suggestions on what to do with over ripe bananas, I got some pretty good comments,  However, the best comment came from my friend, Lynne, who suggested a banana spread she had found in Cooking Light Magazine.  I went out to buy the magazine but the only thing on the newsstands was the holiday issue.  Lynne was sweet enough to forward me the recipe.

I don't even like bananas, I never eat them, and I NEVER eat my own banana bread.  Yet, this spread, I was eating out of the jar, with a spoon!  How good would this be on the chocolate-cherry bread from La Brea Bakery?  I can't stop thinking about it! I am going to make a ton of this come holiday time and include in my cookie crates!

Banana Spread
adapted from Cooking Light Magazine
yield: 8 oz.

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
zest of one lime
3 medium, over ripe bananas
2 Tbls. unsalted butter, room temperature
pinch of salt

• put brown sugar, sugar, lime zest and lime juice in a small sauce pan.  bring to a boil.
• add the smashed bananas and reduce heat to medium low.
• cook, uncovered for 45 minutes, breaking up the bananas from time to time
• remove from heat and add the butter and a pinch of salt.  stir until butter melts.
• the mixture thickens as it cools.
• place in a ball jar and store in the fridge.

How great would this be at your next brunch, served with homemade biscuits or scones?!

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Itsy Bitsy Doughnuts

I purchased these mini muffin tins a few months back.  I have been dying to make some little doughnuts, but for some reason just haven't had the time.  With all my meal planning (cooking most nights), three kids going here there and everywhere and all the back to school stuff, I barely have time to focus on the day to day.

Halloween is always a really fun holiday in our house.  For the past 9-10 years we have had a neighborhood party. The party, for me, is just an excuse to decorate, create fun and creative food, get everyone in one place, and keep  my kids close to home.  This year, each of my kids want to invite just a few kids over for dinner(prior to trick-or-treating) and although they are going to gather tons of "junk" as they venture into the neighborhood, I wanted something sweet and festive on the table.

Isaac and I experimented with a baked doughnut recipe I found on one of my favorite blogs, Sprinkle Bakes. Hers were so cute and the recipe seemed easy enough.  As I was making the dough, it reminded me of a pancake or waffle dough.  There is no yeast involved and all can be done in one mixing bowl.  My kind of Sunday morning activity.

All my kids fell in love with these doughnuts!  Isaac, my savory, loving, chip eating, curly headed monster could not stop eating them.  Generally, when I make something new, he takes one bite and says, "it's just okay".  Hence, these he ate proudly!

Vanilla Bean Baby Doughnuts
adapted from here
yield: 4-5 dozen

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbls. unsalted butter, melted
seeds from half of a vanilla bean

1 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 Tbls. whole organic milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
food coloring of your choice

• preheat oven to 425*.  spray mini doughnut pans with cooking spray.
• in a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
• add the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, vanilla seeds, and melted butter.
• mix just to combine.  don't over mix
• using a piping bag and medium size tip, fill doughnut trays, 1/2 way full.
• bake 5-8 minutes or until top of the doughnuts spring back when touched.
• let cool in pan 4-5 minutes before removing.
• in a small bowl, stir together sugar, milk, and vanilla.  you may need to add more
sugar, depending upon the thickness you desire.  add food coloring and mix until
color is uniform.
• use immediately.  sprinkle with nonpareils, or jimmies.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

National Dessert Day + Florentine Chocolate Bars

Last Thursday, October 14th, was National Dessert Day.  To celebrate the day, I baked several things:

Chocolate Pecan Biscotti • Carole Bloom - intensely chocolate

Florentine Shortbread bars • Fine Cooking Magazine

Lemon Drop Cookies • my recipe

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes • my recipes

The Florentine Shortbread Bar were "sick".  These bars are so good, that I couldn't decide it they were a cookie, a candy or a pastry.  They were  all that, wrapped into one.  I love a good Florentine cookies and have been known to make Rose Levy Beranbaum's from time to time.  I think it is the caramel aspect of it all.  Caramel is my 5th food group.  So, if I see caramel anything on a menu I am sure to order it.  Finding a recipe with a caramel element, is no different.

In honor of National Dessert Day, I salute all of you chefs, bakers, home cooks, cookbook authors, and fellow food bloggers who continue to inspire me and motivate me to get into my kitchen pretty much seven days a week!

Chocolate Drizzled Florentines
adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine
yield: about 60 pieces (depending upon how you cut them)

for the dough
14 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. table salt
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups ( 1lb. 5oz.) all-purpose flour

for the topping
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 Tbls. light corn syrup
7 oz. unsalted butter
3/4 cup honey
1 cup heavy cream
17 oz. sliced blanched almonds, lightly toasted
1/2 cup chopped dried apricot
3 oz. each semisweet chocolate + bittersweet chocolate

make the dough:
• in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, zest, sugar, and salt and beat until light and fluffy.  add the egg, scraping down the side of the bowl after mixing.
• add the flour, in three batches, mix until well blended.
• form the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.  chill for 1 hour.
• preheat oven to 350*.
• line a jelly roll pan with heavy duty foil.  butter the foil and set aside.
• between two pieces of parchment, roll the dough to 1/4" thick.  remove the top layer of the parchment from the dough and flip it into your prepared pan.  once in the pan, remove the second sheet of parchment and with your fingers or with the palm of your hand, spread dough so it evenly rests inside the sheet pan.  make sure to get it into the corners of the pan.
• chill until firm.
• lay a piece of parchment on top of the chilled dough.  set a second jelly roll pan on top of the parchment lined dough (this is a better method than using pie weights) and press gently.  the second sheet pan acts as a weight, creating a very even crust when baked.
• bake for 20 minutes and then remove the foil and the sheet pan and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
• cool completely on a wire rack.

for the topping:
• in a large heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and 3/4 cup water and bring to a boil.  cook until the mixture becomes amber in color.
• the recipe in the magazine says 350* on your candy thermometer.  yet, I found that cooking it until about 315-320* was perfectly amber in color.  my was starting to smell "burnt" at this point, so I removed it from the heat.
• carefully add the butter and the honey, return to heat and stir until dissolved.
• bring the mixture back to a boil and carefully add the heavy cream ( it will bubble and this is very hot sugar, so be careful not to burn yourself).
• boil the mixture until it reaches 250* on a candy thermometer.
• remove from the heat and stir in the almonds and dried apricots.
• quickly pour the hot caramel over the cooked baked sugar cookie crust.  spread mixture evenly with a greased, off set spatula.
• bake until the top begins to bubble, about 20-25 minutes.
• let cool completely. once cool remove from pan and cut into desired size pieces.
• set cut Florentine bars on 2 parchment lined cookie sheets.
• melt both chocolates on top of a double boiler.  once melted add about a tablespoon of corn syrup.
• fill a pastry bag fitted with a very small tip, with the warm chocolate.  pipe chocolate onto cookies in whatever pattern you desire.
• set on wire racks so chocolate can set ( you may have to stick in the fridge for a bit).

Enjoy these bars!

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New Friends, Good Food + Dorie Greenspan

This past weekend I was up in San Francisco, attending the Blogher Food '10 Conference.  I did not go last year, yet I was told that it was something that could not be missed.  I anticipated this weekend for months.  I booked my flight, I made my hotel reservation and I planned my eating itinerary. I packed thoughtfully (however, next year I need to bring another suit case to cart back all the "swag") and I remembered all my computer cables and charged my camera battery!  I was set to go.

I was looking forward to spending face time with some of my posse (GabyBrookeCarrieJennMarla) and I was really looking forward to meeting new people.  I took my camera with an extra memory card, anticipating taking tons of pictures.  Well, I got caught up in the moment and didn't snap as much as I had hoped.  Maybe I was a little "star struck", or just plain overwhelmed.  I am kind of mad at myself for not being the shutter bug that I can annoyingly be, yet with that said, I LOVED my weekend.  I was inspired, I learned, I ate, I laughed, and I even cried.

The highlight of my weekend was meeting Dorie Greenspan.  For years, I have admired her from a far, have been reading her columns in magazines, studying and cooking from her various books, reading her posts on facebook and of course, following her blog.  Dorie is lovely, approachable, humorous and humble.  I revere Dorie as my mentor  as my inspiration and now, my friend.

In celebration of a fabulous weekend, I have made the savory cheese and chive bread from Dorie's new book; around my french table.  As I eat this bread and share it with my family, I will savor the memories of meeting lots and lots of amazingly wonderful people, becoming closer with those that I already know and love, recount how Penny de los Santos inspired me and brought me to tears, and embrace how this silly little blog has brought me to a place in my life that fulfills me in ways that I never could have imagined!

savory cheese + chive bread
adapted from around my french table
yield: 1 loaf (I doubled it and made 2)

1 3/4 cups all purpose
1 Tbls. baking powder
1/2- 1tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 generous cup grated Gruyere
2 oz. English white cheddar, cut into cubes
1/2 cup minced fresh chives
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

• center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350*
• generously butter an 8" x 4 1/2" loaf pan
• whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and white pepper together in a large bowl
• put the eggs in a large bowl and mix for about a minute, whisk in milk and olive oil.
• pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  using a sturdy spatula, gently mix until the dough comes together.
• stir in the cheeses, herbs, and walnuts.  this is a thick dough
• spread into the prepared pan and even out with a spatula.
• bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the bread is golden and a slender knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
• remove and set on a wire rack to cool for 3 minutes.  then run a knife around the edges and then turn the loaf over onto the rack.  invert and cool, right side up.
Me, Penny (Penny de los Santos) + Gaby

Top: Diane and Todd (White on Rice Couple)
MIddle left: Helene (mytartelette), right: Brooke
Bottom: Marla, Amanda(I am Baker), Carrie, and Natanya(fete + feast)

visiting the ferry building, walking the farmers market, eating lunch at
il cane rosso and eating treats at miette was a fun field trip

partying with my posse
brooke, jaden, carrie, + marla

HP provided this VERY COOL photo booth,
 we went a tad crazy snapping fun-silly photos!

before flying out on Sunday morning, I met my cousin for breakfast
at my FAVORITE place; Tartine!  It was a gab fest and a carb fest.
Ahhh...the perfect ending to a most memorable weekend!

Until next Year!

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Mini Lemon Sponge Tarts

I love this time of year.  I love that the air is changing and there is a crispness about it.  I love pulling out my sweaters and bundling up and feeling cozy, I love watching my son practice with his football team at the park, and I especially love that my Meyer lemon tree is coming back to life after being dormant all summer long.  I love lemons.  Perhaps, lemons could quite possibly be my favorite fruit.  My mother-in-law laughs at me every time I order an iced tea in a restaurant.  I always request a huge bowl of lemons, on the side, and I am very specific on how I like them cut.  In wedges, no dinky slices for me.  I have to be able to squeeze all of the luscious juices out of them, getting every last drop, including the pulp.

It seemed only appropriate that I make a lemon dessert to celebrate the beginning of fall, coupled with a handful of very ripe lemons on my favorite tree.

This recipe comes from a book that I consider "perfectly perfect", rustic fruit desserts.  I bake from it often and, to date, I have had not one catastrophe!  The original recipe was for a 10" tart.  However, I opted to make minis (I adore mini anything) and in doing so, I had to alter the baking time of the crust (I over baked the first batch of crust and I was unconscious and baked the minis for the same time as the 10". ooops!)  These are light, flaky, and utterly delicious!

Lemon Sponge Tart

Short dough
yield: 15 mini tarts or one 10" tart shell

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 Tbls. heavy cream
1 egg yolk

• put the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl of your food processor.
• add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
• lightly beat the cream and egg yolk and add it to the flour mixture, and pulse lightly.  you don't want to over process.  this will result in less firm, less flaky dough.
• wrap in plastic wrap, flatten into a 6"disk and chill for 1 hour.
• preheat oven to 375*
• on a lightly floured surface (the dough is on the sticky side) roll the dough out to 1/8" thickness
• cut enough circles to fit your tart molds.  press dough into tart shells.  prick a few times with a fork.
• put tart shells on a parchment lined baking sheet.
• cover each tartlette with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
• bake for 17 minutes (for the tarteletts, 30 minutes for the large tart)
• the tarts can be pre-baked one day ahead.

Lemon Sponge Filling

2 Tbls. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
zest of 2 lemons
2 eggs separated
juice of 2 lemons
2 1/2 Tbls. all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

• preheat oven to 425*
• in the bowl of your standing mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and the lemon zest at medium speed until well combined.
• add the egg yolks one at a time. mix until the batter is creamy.
• stir in the lemon juice, then the flour.  mix thoroughly.  this is a very thin mixture
• in a clean metal bowl, whisk the egg yolks and salt until soft peaks form. gently fold in the egg whites into the lemon mixture until evenly incorporated.
• pour into pre-baked tart shells.
• bake for 5 minutes.  turn the oven down to 325* and bake for an additional 12-15 minutes, until the filling is golden and firm to the touch.
• cool to room temperature.
• these are best eaten the day they are baked.  can be stored in the fridge, for up to 3 days.

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Roasted Carrot Soup

I am sitting here, in fabulous San Francisco, attending BlogHerFood'10(writing this with total and utter glee) and I couldn't leave my home without cleaning out my vegetable drawer.  My veggies simply needed some love.  And had I not loved my veggies, there would have been lots and lots of waste.  I would not have been able to leave in good consciousness had I wasted all those veggies.  So, I put my carrots, leeks, celery, kale, chard, radishes, fennel and parsnips to good use.  Here is what transpired once I cleaned out the drawer:

Roasted Carrot Soup
Vegetable Stock
Fettuccine with Kale and Sausages
A very, very simple Apple Tart
Israeli salad (cucumbers, Roma tomatoes, red onion, radishes, lemon)

While I roasted my veggies for the soup, I started a big batch of vegetable stock.  The beauty of making your own stocks is that you can use up veggies that are on the verge of being thrown out, plus, stocks freeze really, really well!  I use both vegetable stock and chicken stock in almost all of my savory dishes and there is really nothing better than homemade stocks!

Roasted Carrot Soup
yield: 2 quarts

2 lbs. carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2" chunks
2 Spanish onions, rough chopped
3 leeks, white part only, cleaned and chopped (reserve green parts for stock)
3 garlic cloves, rough chopped
2 Tbls. olive oil
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
7 cups vegetable stock (preferably homemade)
fresh chives

• preheat oven to 375*.  lightly spray a large jelly roll pan with cooking spray.
• combine the carrots, leeks*, onions, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and cumin on the tray.  toss lightly with your hands.  spread evenly, try not to overlap veggies.
• roast in preheated oven for 40-55 minutes or until veggies are tender, but not burnt.
•in the meantime, warm your vegetable stock and chop your chives.
• in a blender, blend equal amount veggies and stock until completely pureed.  you will have to do this in several batches.
• warm pureed soup over a low flame.  you may need to add more stock or water to get the consistency you prefer.  check seasonings.
• if you so desire, add some heavy cream (I didn't and it was still delicious)
• serve in individual bowls and sprinkle with chives and a drizzle of good olive oil.

* to clean leeks, cut the white parts in half and soak in warm water for 10 minutes.  you will see sand grains at the bottom of your water.  rinse and repeat.  while you are doing the whites, do the green parts as well as you will be using them in your vegetable stock.

The Best Vegetable Stock

1 lb leeks, white and green parts
1 lb. carrots, cleaned and chopped
1 1/2 yellow onion chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
3 parsnips, chopped
the leaves and ends of a bunch of celery
handful of parsley
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
10 black peppercorns
8 quarts of water

• heat a little sunflower oil in a large stock pot ( I use a huge le creuset).  saute leeks (white part only), carrots, fennel, parsnip, onion, and celery leaves/ends.  saute for 10 minutes until just starting to soften.  add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil.
• once boiled, turn fire down to simmer and slightly cover.  simmer for 1 1/2 hours.  turn off fire, remove lid and let cool for 30 minutes.
• remove veggies, discard.  strain stock into another stock pot.  let cool completely.
• once cooled, store in quart sized, freezer friendly containers(I get mine at surfas.  will post photos later).
• label the containers with date and description.  can be frozen for up to 2 months.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Not your typical "bakery" cookie

I had a little bit of both chocolate butter cream (from here) and the dulce de leche butter cream (from here) left over, from last weeks creations.  If you know me, I don't throw much away.  My tomatoes almost gone bad turns into tortilla soup, at the end of the week, my veggie drawer turns into either a stir fry or a big hearty vegetable soup and if I have either (or both) zucchinis and leeks, I make an orzo, a farro salad or some some sort of fritter.

I am a planner.  I make lists, I plan a weeks worth of meals and shop accordingly (actually, Miguel shops accordingly- with a typed up list, broken down by market) and I always cook with the mind set that there needs to be something left over for lunch the next day.  Yeah, Miguel brown bags it!  However, I am guilty of not always following through with my "weekly meal plan" and there are those rare occasions where we call up Mulberry Pizza and order a huge pie.

So, when I had this left over butter cream sitting in the fridge, I couldn't toss it.  I found the perfect cookie to  embrace two very different butter creams.  We brought these to dinner at friends and all enjoyed them as we ate in their Sukkah, under a sky filled with lots and lots of stars.

Orange Rosettes
adapted from here
yield: 2 dozen sandwich cookies

12 Tbls. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
zest from 2 oranges
1 Tbls. orange juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch

• preheat oven to 325*.  line 2 baking sheets with parchment
• in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, confectioner's sugar and the orange zest until smooth.
• add the orange juice and the vanilla.
• in a small bowl, combine the salt, flour, and cornstarch.  whisk to combine.  slowly add it to the mixer and combine thoroughly.
• place dough in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.  pipe small, one inch rosettes onto the parchment lined cookie sheets.
• bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges start to brown.
• allow to cool completely.
• pipe a small amount of butter cream on a rosette and make small rosette cookie sandwiches!

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Salmon Cakes

Every Friday night, my kids trade off choosing the dinner menu.  This past Friday, Eli choose roasted salmon, roasted carrot soup, stuffed baked potatoes, and artichokes.  I was really happy with this choice. I always buy a little too much.  And as I have said before, I hate throwing food away.  

The next day I took the salmon, flaked it with a fork and whipped up some salmon cakes for lunch.  These are good hot, cold, room temperature.  They are just plain good.  Squeezed some lemon over them, served over field greens.  This is a great way to get a little extra protein into the kids. Plus, if I put it on a mini slider bun, and call it a salmon "burger", slather it with some homemade cocktail sauce, no one complains! It was a simple lunch on a perfect Saturday, shared with my delicious little family!

1/2 lb. cooked salmon
2 Tbls. unsalted butter
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 shallot diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 Tbls. italian parsley, chopped
1 Tbls. capers
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1-2 dashes Sriacha chili sauce
1-2 tsp. old bay seasoning
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
3 Tbls. dijon mustard
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
kosher salt
fresh gound pepper

• in a large non-stick sauce pan, melt butter.  add onion, shallot, celery, pepper, capers, and parsley and saute for 10 minutes or until the veggies are soft.  Add the capers, worcestershire sauce, Sriacha, old bay,  1 teaspoon salt, and 10 grinds of fresh ground pepper.  saute for 1 more minute.  let cool
• with a fork, break apart the salmon.  put in a bowl.
• in a separate bowl, whisk the dijon, eggs, and egg yolks, until combined.  add this to the salmon.
• add the bread crumbs.  lastly, add the cooked veggies.
• cover and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.  once chilled, make into patties ( I use an ice cream scooper for size, then flatten and shape into patties).  Put on a small cookie tray and freeze for 10 minutes.  freezing them helps them to not fall apart.
• heat 2 Tbls. coconut oil in a large saute pan.  Saute the salmon cakes and fry until brown on one side.  flip and do the other side.  set on paper towels to drain while you make the remaining salmon cakes.
• I serve with fresh lemon wedges.

Homemade Bread Crumbs
• cut left over bread into cubes.  put in the bowl of a food process fitted with a metal blade. pulse.
• place crumbs on a large sheet pan and toast crumbs in a pre-heated 350* oven for about 5 minutes or until lightly golden brown.  these keep well in the freezer for up to 2 months.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Strawberry Crumb Bars

Last month I made the chocolate caramel slice bars from  donna hay magazine.  What a disaster.  I did everything that was asked of me, hence it wasn't enough.  The caramel filling didn't set and the parchment paper that lined the baking dish was one big sloppy mess ( didn't stop my friend Kate from eating around the edges, licking her fingers - oohing and awwing the whole time ).

I have decided to give her bars another go around.  I opted to go with something somewhat safe.  She has a recipe for rhubarb crumble slice.  I didn't have any rhubarb on hand, but I did have strawberries.  So instead, I made strawberry crumble bars.

They were well received.  Thank goodness! I do not do well with kitchen disasters.  I take it all very, very personal.  I needed these to be a winner!  And they were.

Strawberry Crumble Bars
adapted from donna hay magazine, issue #51
yield: 24 servings

shortbread crust
1/3 (75g) caster sugar
1 1/2 (225g) cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 tsp. baking powder, sifted
1 egg, lightly beaten
100g unsalted butter, melted

strawberry filling
450g strawberries, hulled + chopped
3/4 cup (165g) caster sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

crumble topping
1 1/2 cups (225g) all-purpose flour, sifted
1/3 cup (75g) caster sugar
150g cold butter, chopped

• preheat oven to 350*.  lightly grease an 9 x 12" baking dish.  line with parchment paper and butter the paper.
for the shortbread crust:
• place the sugar, flour, baking powder, egg and butter in a bowl and mix to combine.
• press into your prepared pan.  bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and firm.
strawberry filling:
• toss the strawberries, sugar, and vanilla.  set aside
for the topping:
• place the flour, sugar and butter in a large bowl and mix to combine.  the mixture should resemble coarse bread crumbs.
• spoon the strawberries over the cooked base and top with the crumble topping.
• bake 35-40 minutes or until golden.  cut into 2" squares!  dust with a little confectioner's sugar!

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