Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Daring Bakers Challenge ...and what my BAD dog did!

Dorie's Perfect Party Cake!

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Morven. The recipe she choose was PERFECT PARTY CAKE
Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours (page 250).

I loved this challenge. For me I generally don't need an excuse to bake a cake but I have been a little busy the last couple of months and haven't baked nearly as much as I would like to. This gave me the perfect reason to make the time.

The cake turned out delicious and I was really surprised. It felt heavy when I was working with it but the tast of was so light and airy. T. compared it to a slightly more dense Angel Food Cake!

Freshly cut strawberries ready for layering

I opted to fill my layers with fresh strawberries. We are getting great strawberries right now from our local U-Pick so it was really a no-brainer for me. I didn't use any preserves and just layered the icing with the strawberries. Next time I make this though I think I would add some sugar to the strawberries just to give it a bit more sweet.

First layer done

I stuck with the original Buttercream recipe and am so glad I did! This was delicious. Not nearly as sweet as I had thought it would be just the perfect compliment to the cake!

Now here is where it gets really ugly. My oldest daughter has been home with me for the week and was getting a little antsy towards the end of the week so I had told her that when I was finished with the cake I would take her for a short bike ride around the neighborhood. I finished the cake and boy was I proud of it. It looked really good! So I ran it outside and took a bunch of pictures and off we went for out bike ride. It was a beautiful day and we really enjoyed the time together.

We parked our bikes and got back inside and I was folding some laundry when my oldest daughter discovered this....

My freaking dog had gotten into my cake. Did I cry...No. Did I kill my dog...No. Did I give my dog away...Not yet! Anyone want him?

I actually laughed. It was just so devastating at this point that there was really nothing else else you could do.We were still able to eat a small portion of the back that he couldn't get to and this was the best slice that we could get out of it.

Would I make this again: Oh yes and I can't wait to! The only thing that I would do differentlyis to make the strawberries a bit sweeter. This could so easily be done with any type of fruit and I can't wait to try the different variations. I will also not allow the dog to get anywhere near it next time!

The recipe follows:

For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour (updated 25 March)
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.
The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.
On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.
You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
Spread it with one third of the preserves.
Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.
Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

Playing Around
Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.

Fresh Berry Cake
If you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries. You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Royal Foodie Joust - in just under the wire!!!

Fresh Coconut Fried Shrimp with a Garlic-Citrus Dipping Sauce

I seem to be making a huge habit of this under the wire thing! I guess better luck next month huh? I even got my coconut ages ago (stole it from my neighbors yard!!!) and still there it sat, well, not really. We had to move it all the time. That damn coconut was always in the way. Finally to the satisfaction of my whole family it is gone.

***UPDATE***I was educated on the innards of a coconut today. Officially what my daughter is drinking in the picture below is not coconut milk (who knew?) . It is coconut water. Coconut milk is derived from the meat of the coconut being grated and some hot water added to it and then the "milk" is squeezed from this! Isn't learning wonderful!!!

My youngest daughter drinking the fresh coconut milk um water!

This month's joust is being graciously hosted by Dharm at Dad~Baker & Chef so that Jenn -The Leftover Queen can attend to the last minute details of her wedding! The ingredients that were picked this month by Bellini Valli at More Than Burnt Toast were:

From the Sea (fish, scallops, clams, etc)
Lemon or lime

Seeing as I am in south Florida I have easy access to all of these ingredients. I decided to use shrimp and do a coconut-curry breading on them with a garlic-citrus dipping sauce.

Fresh coconut meat

Ready for breading

Fresh Coconut Fried Shrimp


1-1/2 lb. jumbo shrimp (peeled & deveined)
1 cup flour (use more if you need to)
2 tsp red curry powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 eggs (beaten)
1-1/2 cup finely grated fresh coconut (I used my food processor to grate this)
salt and pepper to taste
1 inch oil (I mixed olive oil and peanut oil)

  • Place the flour in a small bowl and mix in the curry and cayenne powder. Place the beaten eggs in another bowl, and place the coconut in a third bowl.
  • Season the shrimp with the salt and pepper.
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan.
  • Dip each shrimp first in the flour, shaking off the excess flour. Dip in the egg. Repeat to get a nice coating. After the second egg dip place in the coconut and press into the shrimp.
  • Pan fry the shrimp until they are golden brown (about 1 minute each side). Allow to drain on paper towels.

1/4 cup orange marmalade
1 Tbs garlic chili sauce (available at oriental markets)
1/8 tsp white pepper
1 Tbs fresh squeezed lime juice

  • Add the orange marmalade, chili sauce, white pepper, and lime juice.
  • Heat over low heat just until warm.
  • Serve with the coconut shrimp as a dipping sauce.
I loved this recipe. The freshness of ingredients and the ease of the preparations. Believe it or not this only took me about 30 minutes to pull together! Not bad for a great tasting meal!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Just Throw it All Together!

Green Beans, Spinach, Garlic and Shitake Mushrooms

I was in a rush to get dinner out one night last week. I was going to make green beans, spinach and shitake mushrooms. Now not altogether but sauteed nicely but seperately. I realized as I was chopping and cleaning (cleaning takes a while I am finding with organic veggies) that I had no meat to make this a meal???!!! We eat a limited amount of meat anyway but the girls did like a little something on their plates. Well that wasn't going to happen tonight so I rummaged around in my pantry to come up with something. We usually just throw pasta at them but they are starting to get a little burnt out. So while searching the pantry I found a box of wild rice. Score! Now I had dinner. I put the rice on (1 hr cooking time so plan ahead). Finished up the veggies and chopped up some garlic, and started to pull down the pans. No way was I going to dirty that many pans! Into one pot they all went! What a nice easy meal and only 2 pots to clean!!!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Friday, March 28, 2008

Fresh boat shrimp and a fresh salad!

Shrimp grilled on a skewer with a nice fresh salad!

Dinner here is still sort of shaky. My oldest daughter is still home recovering from her hive episode. There are no new ones coming out but the ones that she had that had opened are still opening and I am so afraid of her getting an infection in it that I would rather keep her home with me. Needless to say my days are kind of screwy! T. has also been sick with some crazy virus that we thought was pneumonia! He did go to the Doctor yesterday and he said that he would only feel like crap for another 3 weeks of so???!!! Wooo hooo...boy sometimes life is fun???

Anyway last night I was not letting anyone get in the way of my dinner. I made it all ahead of time and all T. had to do while I was at Karate was to cook the shrimp (fresh shrimp that I have been getting from the farmer's market. The shrimp come directly off of the boat that the guys have been out in all night! It doesn't get much fresher than that!) on the grill. All I did with the cleaned shrimp was to skewer them and add salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and a little coating of oil so they didn't stick to the grill.

For the salad I made a vinaigrette dressing using some of the fresh basil and Greek oregano that we have growing in boxes. I really just went by taste but I used red wine vinegar (start with about 1/3 cup and taste to see if it has enough vinegar for your taste), regular vinegar, oil (use about 1/2 cup), 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp dry mustard and fresh herbs. I let this sit at room temperature until dinner so all the flavors could blend together. I also added a can of garbanzo beans to the salad. They add a little bit more to a nice light meal!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Last Farmer's Market Day!!!!!

Cucumber, zucchini, summer squash, patty pan, lemons, cilantro carrots, lettuce, green bell pepper, grape tomatoes (the explosion of flavor in these is incredible. They pop right in your mouth and explode with the first bite!!!)

Today was the final day of the Worden Farm Farmer's Market in Punta Gorda. They will be gone until next October...I know you are wondering how I am going to survive? Well I am looking into other options. They will probably not be organic but they will at least be local. Geographically they may even be closer so this may be easier on me.

My posting is short right now as my oldest daughter will be home with me for a bit. She had a really bad hive outbreak and until they heal she is not at school. We are working on school work etc. during the day!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How I get my kids to eat what I eat

Last night's dinner was pretty boring. T. had a meeting at 5:00 and my oldest daughter has been suffering really horribly from a very long attack of hives so none of us were really in the mood for a huge meal. I decided that I would boil up some pasta as they could have theirs with some butter and Parmesan and T. and I could dip into the Basil Pesto that I had frozen from a month or so ago. I also made a huge fresh salad. The girls had the pasta and then some salad.

Seeing as it was a slow food night I thought I would let you in on my secret for getting my kids to eat what we eat. Really it is no huge secret. I do not in any way, shape or form believe in this new revolution to "hide" healthy food in my children's meals. I believe that children need to learn how to eat properly and make the right food choices. By hiding the food I think you are doing them a huge disservice as they are not being taught anything about how to make the healthy food choices.

My children are given a plate of food. Not a huge plate but a small amount of everything that we are eating for dinner that night. They can then taste everything and eat what they really like. An example of this is maybe we would be having some grilled chicken thighs. Along with this we would have some green beans sauteed with shitake mushrooms, grilled radicchio and oven roasted beets. They will get some of all of this on their plates. They don't like beets but they know that they have to eat a half of a small quarter. They like the beans but not the mushrooms so they will eat the beans but skip the mushrooms. They will each eat some of the radicchio each with their favorite dips (youngest daughter likes balsamic and blue cheese and oldest daughter will eat just blue cheese). They will need to eat the better part of their chicken. When they sit down for a meal they know that this is what is expected of them. After they have eaten they then get to have a "snack" or dessert. Usually I have something homemade for them like cookies or cake. I figure after the healthy stuff they have chosen to eat they can then choose a dessert!

I do respect their major dislikes. My oldest has never liked tomatoes. Anything with tomatoes she gets a pass on. Generally we can make it relatively easy without and if it is a red sauce or something she just doesn't put it on.

I know this sounds like I am "making" and "forcing" them to eat things they don't like but it has been proven over and over that it generally takes about 10 tastes of something before people can really decide if they like it or not!

I guess what I am saying is that I believe in empowering my children with the ability to make the decision as to what is healthy or not. Yes, I guide them strongly but I also make sure that thy have plenty of sweets (cakes, cookies, muffins, pudding etc.) so they are not deprived anything.

On another note my friend Jenn-The Leftover Queen has just done a really interesting post comparing the cost of Farmer's Market produce and Grocery Store produce. Very cool post. Just as interesting though are the comments that she has gotten! I really believe that feeding my family from the local U-Pick and Farmer's Market saves my family an incredible amount of money each week. I will post more on this later this week.

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Monday, March 24, 2008

What a nice relaxing weekend!

Flowers do make everything prettier!

This weekend was one of my favorites. Nothing stressful or out of the ordinary happened. My oldest daughter had a horrible hive outbreak on Thursday but it was under control come Saturday. So they went skating and then we really just relaxed and enjoyed spending time together. We played a couple of games and watched a bit of TV. And oh yeah - we ate.

Our meals were pretty much a mishmash of things. On Friday night I roasted a chicken and we had this big, beautiful salad along with it.

Basic Vinaigrette Recipe

2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup of vinegar (try different types)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup of Olive Oil
1 tsp mixed chopped fresh herbs (I used fresh Greek oregano and basil)

  • Shake or whisk all ingredients together. Allow to sit for about 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld together!

On Saturday night we were going to go out but the girls decided that wanted pizza and I tried a new whole wheat crust which was incredible and so easy to work with that I think it may be my next go to pizza dough recipe!

We make 2 cookie sheet size pizza's and the girls get to choose their toppings. One won't eat sauce or pepperoni, just plain cheese, and the other one wants it all. This way we all win!

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook)

makes 2 thin 12-14-inch, one 14-inch deep-dish, four 8-inch, 6 individual crusts, or one 17-by-11-inch rectangular crust (we made 2 cookie sheet size pies)
1-1/3 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp SAF yeast or 2-1/2 tsp bread machine yeast
  • Place all the ingredients into the pan according to the manufacturer's instructions. Program for the Dough or Pizza Dough cycle and press Start.
  • When the machine beeps at the end of the cycle press Stop and unplug the machine. Immediately remove the bread pan from the machine and turn onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into the desired number of portions. Flatten each portion into a disc by kneading a few times then folding the edges to the center. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for about 30 minutes or until the dough has increased about 20 percent in size.
  • Roll out and shape the dough as you desire or place the dough in plastic food storage bags and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. To use let rest for 20 minutes at room temperature before rolling out.
  • The dough balls can also be frozen and used within 3 months. To use allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Yesterday we had soup. I had the chicken bones from a couple of nights earlier so I made a nice chicken soup. I know it wasn't very Easter like but it sure hit the spot. We added quinoa to the soup and it made it nice and hearty.

Light, fluffy, buttery biscuits!

I also found a really easy and good biscuit recipe. No hand work and they were ready to go in the oven within minutes!

Buttermilk Biscuits (How to Cook Everything-Mark Bittman)

2 cups all-purpose or cake flour, plus more as needed (I didn't need anymore but to flour the board)
1 scant tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2-5 Tbsp cold butter (more is better - imagine that?)
7/8 cups plain yogurt or buttermilk
  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
  • Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl or a food processor (i used the food processor and would now not use anything else!). Cut the butter into small chunks and cut into the dry ingredients or wizz in the food processor. All the butter must be thoroughly blended before moving on.
  • Use a large spoon to stir in the yogurt or buttermilk, just until the mixture forms a ball. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it 10 times; no more. If it is very sticky, add a little flour, but very little. Don't worry if it sticks a bit to your hands.
  • Press into a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle and cut into 2 inch rounds. Place the rounds on an ungreased baking sheet. Repeat this with the remaining dough. It should make 10-14 biscuits.
  • Bake 7-9 minutes (something must be wrong with my oven-I had to bake them for about 11 minutes.
  • Serve within 15 minutes for them to be their best!
Okay so their you have my food weekend in a nutshell! Hope yours was shared with friends and family!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter to Everyone!

Wishing everyone a Happy Easter...It means so many different things to everyne. One good thing is that it always revolves around food, family and fun!

I will not be blogging today so I can devote my whole attention to my family without the camera in hand, telling them to not eat yet and just enjoying the moment!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Friday, March 21, 2008

Quick dinner on a crazy night...

***(Ignore the funny type and boxes - blogger seems to have a mind of it's own today!!!)

My meals are starting to develop a bit of a pattern I am finding. I can never remember what I had planned to make so I end up winging it at the last minute. Thank goodness. Because some of the things I have been turning out have been pretty good! It guess it doesn't hurt when you have a fridge full of fresh produce that needs to be used up before it goes bad????

Last night was another of those nights. I had bought some poblano peppers so that I could make "Arroz Verde con Poblanos" from Ramblings of a Frantic Cook. I also knew that I wanted to cook up the fresh boat shrimp that I had bought the other day at the market and roast some of the zucchini and summer squash. How could I pull this altogether so I didn't have such a mishmashed meal????

Well, Franice's rice was what I tied it all together. That rice was delicious. There is not much of a recipe to it but what it turns into is light and wonderfully fresh tasting (all about fresh tasting right now!). I sauteed up the shrimp and at the last minute decided to throw in some fresh jalapeños, sliced up real fine and added near the end. In the meantime I sauteed up some zucchini, summer squash, onion, garlic and eggplant in some olive oil.

Arroz Verde con Poblanos

3 Poblano peppers (seeded and membrane removed)
2 cups of warm chicken stock
bunch of cilantro
1 cup rice
1 onion (chopped)
2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper

In a blender mix the peppers, chicken stock and cilantro. In a small pan cook the onion in the olive oil. When the onion is cooked add the chicken stock, pepper and cilantro and heat to a boil. Add the rice. Allow to simmer covered for 20-25 minutes. (Francie has some great pictures on her blog so go check them out!)

This was a great, fresh tasting meal and when I looked at my plate on the table I realized what I had done. Almost every single thing on my plate had been grown locally , but for the rice, and the shrimp is a sustainable resource caught by small time, local fishermen!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Thursday, March 20, 2008

My Favorite Pasta Dish!

Linguine with tomatoes, basil and roasted garlic!

I know, I know...I just posted this last week but for me a recipe is sometimes like getting a simple song stuck in my head. I crave it and the flavors and this is one recipe that I absolutely love the way that that the flavors and the aromas all come together in a perfect summery blast! I know where most of you are summer is still a ways off and please don't try this with crappy tomatoes. It is truly disappointing then...exercise patience. It is so worth it!

Another reason though that I wanted to try this recipe is that I have been getting some great fresh garlic from my local U-Pick. It is not dry and papery on the outside but soft. Almost like an onion. I was very curious to see how it would roast up...Wonderfully I now know!!!

I also got my hands on some beautiful red scallions that I thought would go very nice with this pasta.

Archer Farms ( Target exclusive) has some really great pastas and spices. If you haven't checked out a Super Target give it a try. I don't generally do too much grocery shopping but I was out of oil and had to pick some things up anyway so I wandered over to the grocery part of the store. Man, was I ever blown away by what they had!!! The herbs and spices were incredible they had just about everything that you can imagine. Asian, Indian, Italian and all of the Spanish spices and herbs all together in one place!!! Huge array of organic as well as regular ones and at decent prices to boot! As I wandered deeper in I hit the pasta aisle. Incredible. I bought one bag and will be going back for more. This tastes every bit as good as the Italian pastsa that I get from my local Italian market!!! Next time you need something from Target do yourself a favor and go the estra distance to a Super Target. Well worth the trip!

Pasta With Fresh Tomato and Basil

1 head of garlic and 2 Tbsp olive oil
3 ripe plum tomatoes (I just use whatever is tasting good right them)
1/3 C fresh basil (chopped)
1 Tbsp capers
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 box of long thin pasta (angel hair, linguine, spaghetti)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Peel of most of the paper from around the garlic head. Slice off the pointy top of the garlic. This should expose all of the cloves a bit. Place in an oven proof pan (I use a pie plate). Top with 2 Tbsp of olive oil and coarse salt. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes. Allow to cool then remove the cloves and mash with a fork.
  • Dice the tomatoes (if the have a ton of seeds squeeze them out).
  • Add the garlic, basil, capers, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Let stand for at least 20 minutes.
  • Cook pasta.
  • Mix sauce with pasta and serve warm or at room temperature. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Update on the lizard - The freaking lizard from yesterday haunted me all yesterday and today. I live in a 2000+ SF home. How can he be everywhere??? Anyway the last time I saw him in the office he was looking a little pale and not moving quite as fast. So I was able to grab him and put him outside. Now we are both sooooo much happier!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Farmer's Market Day and our small little garden!

Malta garlic, basil, tomatoes, green beans, shitake mushrooms, bell peppers, jalapenos, zucchini, summer squash, patty pan squash, long and skinny eggplant, cilantro, spinach, onions, red scallions, lettuce, and finally swiss chard!

Pretty, Pretty, Nasturtiums for our salad!

A couple of weeks ago we decided that we were going to plant a small garden to help me get over the upcoming ending of the Wednesday Worden Farm Farmer's Market at Fisherman's Village. I decided that if I could at least get the herbs to grow through the summer I would be so very happy.

We ended up doing 3 small containers. 2 with herbs and 1 with tomatoes. But while we were getting all of this at Home Depot (they actually had heirloom plants available) I saw something really cool! They had a Praying Mantis eggs casing that they were selling for less than $5!!! Just the cool factor of this was great but to think that they may eat all of our bad vegetable and herb eating critters was even better. We have been waiting and waiting for these to hatch and finally today as I was walking out of the house to go to the farmer's market I saw them!!! I am so sad that the girls didn't get to see them but at least I got pictures and they didn't have to see the lizards that were feasting on them as fast as they got out???!!! (Speaking of lizards-one just scared the SH** out of me by jumping onto my computer tower???!!! I yelled at it to leave so I hope I have another minute or two before he comes back!)

See the size of the pod?

Baby Praying Mantises

Tomatoes, basil, purple basil, Greek oregano and parsley

Everything seems to be growing well and we can move them around as the days get hotter. I have some blooms on the tomato plants so that's a good sign!

****I am cutting this short because that freaking lizard is in here somewhere-not that I don't like them. I like them just fine but OUTSIDE!!!!!!

Well of to decide what to have for it will contain a lot of vegetables!!!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Raspberry Marinade for Lamb Chops

Last night we wanted something different but staying true to my food philosphy if it was to be meat it had to be from a sustainable, all natural, no antibiotic or growth hormone, small farmed meat. We choose lamb chops. Most lamb is farmed in Australia or New Zealand, and while this doesn't fit into the local profile I am still an omnivore and need meat. Lamb is an all natural meat. The New Zealand lamb that we ate last night follows all of the other restrictions that I have. The animals are raised in pasture. Eating only the grass that is grown. They practice sustainable farming and healthy slaughter. To read more check out the New Zealand Lamb website.

Anyway I had developed a recipe last week for a raspberry sauce to go with my Spring Themed Menu that was in my newsletter for this month and still had some left over in the fridge. Tony was making dinner so he decided to make it into a marinade and to use it to marinade the rack of lamb.

Click here for recipe for Lamb Marinade!

Turned out delicious and we served it with a fresh salad using the left over salad ingredients from last Wednesdays trip to Worden Farms Farmer's Market. As usual the ingredients were amazing. Leaf lettuce, white onion, red radishes, and grated Parmesan cheese!
It doesn't get much better!!!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Monday, March 17, 2008

Guess what we had for dinner last night?

Yep, once again it was Sunday, the one day a week that I don't have to come up with something new or amazing just good, hearty fresh tasting soup!

I had some chicken bones from a chicken that I had roasted earlier in the week, some carrots, onions, garlic and celery (remember that really nice looking celery from over a week ago? I froze it to use in soup!). I threw this all into a pot and let it simmer for the day. We strained it and I made some Passatelli, which are really a combination between pasta and dumplings. They are usually served just in a broth but I needed something to help make this soup a meal! We finished the soup with red swiss chard and then added the Passatelli and let this all cook down. This soup was great. I think the Parmesan in the noddles helped make it!

Passatelli (Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)

2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
  • In a bowl whisk the eggs and yolks. Add the Parmesan, bread crumbs, nutmeg, and a bit of salt and pepper to form a very loose dough.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to a day. The dough will firm up.
  • Have your soup boiling
  • Put portions of your dough in a ricer and press the dough through cutting it into sections by running a knife along the bottom. Allow to cook. When the Passatelli is done it will come to the surface.
This soup was another great one. I guess we just really like soup. It really went well with the chocolate pudding served for dessert!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Dinner at La Trattoria Cafe Napoli...

Yesterday was quite a busy day and very tightly scheduled! We had skating in the morning which is the norm but then I had a baby shower, St. Patrick's Day Party and dinner out with one of my best girlfriends and her husband! Believe it or not everything went nice and smooth which is usually the case when I leave us plenty of time to get to things!

We got home for the party and the baby sitter arrived on schedule so off we went. Now, my girlfriend and I have been trying for over a year now to set up a date for the 4 of us to go out. This is normal. One or the other of us are usually committed to something else on the weekend. But she had told me about a very small restaurant in Fort Myers that we "just had to try". As many times as she said this we just could not get it to work but the real kicker was that she would never tell me the name of the place and only that it was on US41 in Fort Myers???!!! Not real helpful. After last night though I know why. This was one of the best meals I have had out in soooooo long. Which is really sad. The restaurant situation here just is not good. We are in a major tourist area and I think that sadly may be the problem! I have had so many dinner's out that were at the best mediocre. I am eating better at home but the service and the clean up suck so I still like to go out. That said this meal was incredible.

While not strictly Italian, this restaurant focuses on what is in season and what they have in abundance at a certain time of the year. La Trattoria Cafe Napoli which is on US41 in a very unimpressive side strip mall. Tiny and romantic, it has maybe 7 tables seating maybe 20-24 people. Everything is cooked to order with a very dynamic woman owner. When she came to our table to ask us how our dinner had been I had to ask where she got all of her produce. She gets it from an organic farm over in Homestead (Miami area)! No surprise to me. I had ordered Pesto Gnocchi. I love gnocchi but I love pesto even more so this was a match made in heaven for me! The pesto was a cream sauce and it had small chunks of zucchini as well as the gnocchi, That was how I knew that she was a seasonal cook!

I do not like to do restaurant reviews but if you want to read one click here, but suffice it to say that I can't wait to go back!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Friday, March 14, 2008

Strawberry Walnut Bread

Strawberry Walnut Bread

Alright you guys all know by now that I am on a huge, life altering journey into the world of seasonal, local and freshly grown produce. So it would just be natural for me to compete in a challenge based around using goods that were available on a seasonal basis! Except I have almost run out of time. This is another challenge that I am getting in just under the wire!!!

This event is hosted by Ben from What's Cooking? The requirements are that you have to cook something that is in season in the area of the world that you are from. Well, as luck would have it, on Wednesday I was at our local U-Pick and they happened to be running a special on strawberries. For each quart that I bought I got a pint free! How could I refuse that...but what would I do with the extra strawberries?

When in doubt make bread!!!

I made Strawberry Walnut Bread out of my bounty! Was it ever good. I can't wait until next Wednesday to see if I have extra strawberries again!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


A Meal That Went So Very Wrong!!!

Curried Shrimp, Biryani, and Spinach with Fresh Cheese and Yogurt!

I had a ton of errands to run yesterday so I spent most of the morning doing that. When I got home I started to panic because I couldn't for the life of me remember what I had planned to make for dinner. I am not the most organized person around so I can't do an actual food plan but I usually have a pretty good idea of what I was going to make. Yesterday though I was baffled and it made me so mad because I had already planned it all out. The only thing that I could remember was a dish with spinach and yogurt from Mark Bittman's-How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

Spinach with Fresh Cheese and Yogurt

6 ounces mozzarella (shredded)
1 pound of spinach
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup wheat flour
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp garam masala
2 cups plain yogurt

  • Boil and shock the spinach. Drain well and roughly chop.
  • Put the oil and flour in a heavy bottomed, large pot. SPrinkle with salt and pepper and cook on medium-low heat until the flour darkens a bit and becomes fragrant, about 5 mintues.
  • Stir in the garam masala, whisk in the yogurt and raise the heat a bit. Cook with frequent stirring until the yogurt is hot and has thickened a bit. Fold in the spinach and cheese and stir until hot again. At this point you can serve it or place it in the fridge for use later.
I placed this in a tart pan and dabbed goat cheese on it so that T. could pull it out and heat it up later for dinner.

Then I left to pick up the girls, still thinking about what to make with the spinach, yogurt thing. Got home with the girls and decided to make some Indian rice to go with this dish. Here is where it gets ugly...I don't like Indian food. I have never liked Indian food but everyone around me loves it so I thought that maybe it was just a residual kid thing like "eww it smells I don't want to try it"!!! I grew up in Toronto. We have one of the largest Indian and Pakistani populations outside if India and Pakistan! I am very familiar with the food and the smells. I don;t like it!!!! So I have no idea what would possess me to think that I should make it???????

I decided to make Biryani from the same book as above:


3 saffron threads
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water (warmed)
2 Tbsp butter
6 cardamon pods
Pinch of ground cloves
3 inch cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
2 cups onion (chopped)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp ground ginger
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups long grain rice
1 1/2 cups yogurt

  • Place the saffron in the warm water or stock.
  • Put the butter in a large, deep pot with a lid over medium heat. When the butter melts add the cardamon, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves. Cook stirring frequently for about 2 minutes
  • Add the onion, garlic and ginger along with a lorge pinch of salt and some pepper and cook until the onion softens about 5 minutes.
  • Add the rice all at once and stir until it is coated with the butter.
  • Lower the heat and add the yogurt and stock or water. Lower the heat to barely bubbling and cover and cook for about 15 - 20 minutes.
  • When the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed it's done. If not cook it linger.
  • Remove the cinnamon stick and the bay leaves.
I also stuck this in the fridge for T. to heat up later.

This is where it got so bad I wanted to throw it in the trash. My whole house stunk. Now I know to most people this is a nice smell. I don't like it. I tried but the smell was making me not feel well. When T. got home I was almost in tears! I had spent the majority of the afternoon making a meal that I did not want to look at let alone eat. He walked in and immediately loved the smells. I guess we had decided to eat the shrimp from the Farmer's Market the day before. So now he wanted them to be curried.

I left to go to Karate with my oldest daughter and loved the smell of the fresh air, my car, the fresh cut lawn down the street, dog poop right beside my car, anything but my house!!! And now he was making curried shrimp to go with it. I wanted Mexican Food, I wanted a hamburger, I wanted anything but what I had made!!!! How sad is that. So I decided that I would just grin and bear and maybe it didn't taste as bad as it smelt.

We made it through dinner. T. was in heaven he thought it was the best meal I had made in forever???!!! He said it was the best Indian Food he had had???!!! I ate a bit of it but really did not like it. The shrimp was good but the rest of it I never want to see again! I jumped up to clean up but then I realized that I hated the lingering smell even more than the original cooked ones. T. very kindly cleaned up for me and I lit candles, turned on fans, burnt incense, anything to make it go away.

I hope I haven't offended anyone with this but all of our tastes are different. I love bright, fresh tasting things - pesto, cilantro, garlic. Indian food is not about that. It has heavy, warm, deep smells and tastes. I am the same way about Moroccan food so please God, can he never ask me for Moroccan food???!!!

I guess if you like Indian Food it was great!!!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pasta with Fresh Tomato and Basil ...and Squash Blossoms!

Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes, Basil and Roasted Garlic

This is one of my most favorite dishes ever and I have no idea why I haven't posted it before now??? It is fast, fresh tasting and simple!

Garlic ready to be covered for roasting

Pasta With Fresh Tomato and Basil

1 head of garlic and 2 Tbsp olive oil
3 ripe plum tomatoes (I just use whatever is tasting good right them)
1/3 C fresh basil (chopped)
1 Tbsp capers
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 box of long thin pasta (angel hair, linguine, spaghetti)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Peel of most of the paper from around the garlic head. Slice off the pointy top of the garlic. This should expose all of the cloves a bit. Place in an oven proof pan (I use a pie plate). Top with 2 Tbsp of olive oil and coarse salt. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes. Allow to cool then remove the cloves and mash with a fork.
  • Dice the tomatoes (if the have a ton of seeds squeeze them out).
  • Add the garlic, basil, capers, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Let stand for at least 20 minutes.
  • Cook pasta.
  • Mix sauce with pasta and serve warm or at room temperature. Add salt and pepper to taste.
This thing that I love the most about this is that it is incredible served at room temperature so I can concentrate on other things while this is sitting.

I also decided that we were going to have the squash blossoms because I know (I think) they have to be used right away. I found some great recipes for stuffing them but I really wanted to keep this meal simple and fresh tasting so I opted to batter them and fry them. Yeah, I guess that isn't that light is it? Any way they turned out to be incredible tasting. They even still tasted like squash!!! I found the recipe in my absolute favorite cookbook by How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food (How to Cook Everything) by Mark Bittman. This book has proven to be my best resource for all of the fresh produce I am bringing home. If you were to have one cookbook and one cookbook only this is the one I would tell you to buy!

Anyway I found a beer batter recipe (Batter, European Style) and this worked perfect for the nice delicate flowers!
Squash Blossoms

Deep Fried Squash Blossoms (recipe by Mark Bittman-How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)

Heat 2 inches of oil in a heavy bottomed pot to at least 350 degrees.

1 Cup all-purpose flour, plus 1 Cup for dredging
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 egg
3/4 Cup beer or sparkling water (I stole T.'s beer for this one)
Coarse salt for finishing
  • While the oil is heating mix the batter ingredients until just combined. This batter should be the consistency of pancake batter.
  • Dredge each blossom lightly in the plain flour and then dip into the batter and place gently in the oil. Do not crowd the blossoms in the oil, you may have to cook in batches. Cook turning once until a nice golden brown.
  • Drain on a rack or paper towels and serve immediately
Squash Blossoms fried to a nice golden brown!

You can use this versatile batter for frying other vegetables but the cooking time will vary. I love it because it was a nice light batter that still allowed for the delicate flavor of the squash blossom to come through!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Farmer's Market Day...Yeah!

Strawberries, Asian spinach, tomatoes, radicchio, lettuce, radishes, summer squash, zucchini, patty pan, red chard, onions, green beens, basil, garlic, and zucchini blossoms!

It is Wednesday and true to my routine I went to the Worden Farm Farmer's Market. I look forward to this all week. I am able to go and get a whole pile of vegetables that are organic, in season, and grown locally for a very reasonable price. All of the food that you see about has cost me $39. This is food that will feed my family for a whole week! Yes I supplement it with other things like shrimp and chicken but the majority of our food is bought at the market. Pretty sweet deal huh?

Every week I buy one thing that I have never used before. This week it is the zucchini blossoms. They look so beautiful but I have never tasted them before so this should be fun! Last week it was the fennel which we cooked up last night.
They looks so to figure out what to do with them!

Coconut stolen from my neighbors yard in preparation for this months Royal Foodie Joust!

Off to figure some stuff out for dinner!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Creamed Leeks with smoked Gouda - As promised!

Do you ever get the feeling that your life is just going way too fast? I really need it to slow down so I am going to spend the day searching for the slow down button (yeah in all of my spare time!). I have my oldest daughter home with me today. She seems to be really tired and says she is not feeling well. I really don't want a repeat of the last time she said that and I sent her to school anyway! I'm sure they don't want that either!!! So she is going to have to tag along with me all day!

I have to drop my youngest one off at the new school that she started yesterday (we don't mess around here-things happen fast!), run to the dr's office and pick up the form that I dropped off yesterday to allow her new school to inject her with an Epipen is she starts to swell all up from an ant bite (I guess I should have considered this earlier???), drop that and her Benadryl (for the same thing) off at her school and then I have to go to my girlfriends house and help get her packed up and moved, then come home and make dinner so that when we go ice skating tonight T. can come home and just cook all of the prepped food! God, just typing it all has exhausted me!

Anyway onto the Creamed Leeks with Smoked Gouda!

This is one of T.'s favorite things. It is one of the reasons that he loves Truluck's so much. It is on their regular menu! I had gotten some fresh leeks last week at the Farmer's Market and he had just been dying for me to make this. Click for recipe!
Smoked Gouda, Cheddar, jalapeño, garlic and shallots

Cooking the leeks in butter

Stirring in the cheeses and the cream and milk

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!


Monday, March 10, 2008

It was Sunday Soup Day again!

Nice, fresh, earthy tasting soup using quinoa

So I guess you can tell that we had soup again. Trust me though not 2 pots of soup I ever make turn out the same. I use the soup to help clean out all the produce from last week and make room for the new stuff on Wednesday! This week I had no bones once again so I used some organic, free range chicken stock that I bought at Costco and added to it some onion tops that I had leftover and saved, a turnip, some carrots (yellow and orange), garlic and an inion. I put the soup on about 10 and then we headed out for the day. On our way home I thought we would stop at Ada's (like a Whole Foods) and pick up some chicken for the soup. So we bought some chicken and some other stuff but I was really excited because in the bulk room they had organic quinoa. I bought a couple of cups of it.

When we walked in the soup was smelling good. We decided not to use the chicken but to just add about 3/4 cup of quinoa to the soup. I also had some red chard and romanesco to get rid of so it all went in the pot to cook right down. T. had made some "Creamed Leeks with Smoked Gouda" (I will post this recipe tomorrow) yesterday that he wanted to eat with the soup and some bread we had bought. so we decided that that was enough.

This soup turned out really good. I had never had quinoa before but have heard so many excellent things about and now that I have tasted it I will try and use it more!

As Always...

Happy Entertaining!!!