I believe in sweetness. I believe it can make your day. I believe it because everyone who sees a dessert that they love, a cookie they crave, or a dessert they can't wait to try, is grinning from ear to ear. And, after creating what was really a breakfast dish that turned out to be more like a bread pudding and oh, so sweet, I knew that grinning would continue.
I started out thinking I would simply make some french toast. But that little ugly knob of ginger was right in front of me as I cleared the stove top to set a pan upon it. And I thought how lovely some of it would be grated into a ruby red dallop of strawberry preserves. Then, when I grabbed for the eggs in the fridge, I noticed a half-used tub of mascarpone cheese - unused Italian cheese is against the law in Italy, so don't tell anyone - and vowed to incorporate some of that as well.
Mixing some heavy cream into my egg mixture, along with vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg, I then turned to the last few slices I had of a nice nutty, multi-grain bread. Using a round glass, I cut out discs from the center of each slice, and dropped them into the egg mixture before caramelizing them in a beautiful, hot puddle of melted butter.
To serve, I simply layered each disc with a little mascarpone and a bit of the ginger preserves. Believe me, no need for syrup, or sugar although the powdered version makes it pretty. The texture was soft but not mushy. The nuttiness was a perfect compliment to the tart flavor of the ginger, and because mascarpone cheese is like butter all grown up, that made it all creamy and awesome.
The end result was a decadent breakfast, that could easily be dessert, and will of course make you smile, and smile, and smile.
Delve into these personal-sized cheesy garlic potato gratins that go with almost any meal.
Bella mushrooms and sweet leeks swim happily in this creamy soup. Takes less than an hour and looks so pretty!
It's almost too hard to wait for the pasta to be added before you slurp a taste of this Italian Cheesy Meatballs in Alfredo Casarecce. The tri colored mini peppers make it doubly wow!
There's no question roasting tomatoes before blending them into this creamy soup imparts a complex flavor that is so satisfying on chilly days. My Creamy Roasted Balsamic Tomato Soup has lots of cream and roasted garlic cloves all pureed into the goodness of every bite.
Want to see how each dish came together? Check out this slide show below.
When I was 19, I was the Homecoming Queen at the University I attended. Yes, I know. I did the whole 'world peace,' thing, and got really good at waving in parades. I'm not afraid to say pageants paid for a lot of my schooling even factoring in the cost of having my shoes dyed to match every evening gown, bathing suit and interview ensemble.
But I digress.
During the halftime at the Homecoming football game, I had to walk across the field and wave. Staging myself at the 50 yard line, about 2 minutes prior to the half-time show, I was very close to the action. Unless you have played football, you have no idea what it sounds like when 250 pounds of men, running at top speed and covered in gridiron pads, collide. It literally sounds like a car wreck. Yes, that loud...
Last night watching Super Bowl, I ached for everyone of them thinking about how much each one of them will be keeping a doctor on their payroll for life. Makes me happier than ever to we wearing an apron as opposed to a protective cup.
But I digress!!!
To celebrate the occasion, I created a couple of dishes that were healthy and satisfying, even if football isn't. To honor the apple producing state of Washington Seattle Seahawks, I made mini-apple cinnamon ginger pies. And for the Patriots, I created a stuffed butternut squash with spinach, ham, and some New England cheddar cheese. T'was a stretch I admit, but at least they were Super yummy...and that was the "goal!"
In my design business, there are a lot of rules that must be followed. Especially when preparing a document for print or output. You can't just hope that something turns out right, you have to take steps to insure it will. Measurements, process color percentages, bleeds on documents; and so many more. Violate those rules and, well. No fun.
I think that's why I love cooking so much. Sure you have to measure more adeptly when baking. I mean, without leavening a cake won't rise. Without oil, meat will stick, and so forth. But I love the fact that you can take building blocks and create new combinations almost every time. It makes me feel so free and creative...and rebellious as well.
Take this quick recipe for baked chicken thighs. Colorful, balanced, and composed with just things on hand. The only rule? be nice to the person sitting next to you. The rest! Nosh on!
This is twice now that I have not been betrayed by yeast. The first was the mall pretzels I made last year. Dang if they didn't turn out perfecto! This time, it was rolls. Sweet orange rolls to be exact. A recipe I downloaded from Averie Sunshine that I printed out in the fall, which has been sitting on my kitchen counter for 4 months. They were...well just look! WOWWY.
One cannot imagine how I waited to make these rolls. The recipe just laid there, languishing, ignored, forgotten...
"Can I throw this away?" My husband gently asks while cleaning the dishes, and trying to clear my clutter week, after week, after week.
"No!!!" I scream just a bit too loudly, leaping across the kitchen to rescue this poor little piece of paper that is crimped and stained and by all rights looks worse than most things I throw away. And he doesn't ask why because he already knows I'm a psycho if anyone touches stuff in my kitchen.
I have been trying to find the time, and the courage, to make her rolls for too long. I must break through my belief that yeast is my enemy, and forge ahead. Luckily, her instructions are always detailed, and spot on. So by following the recipe TO THE TEE, my rolls did indeed rise to the occasion.
I grew up eating those spooky Pillsbury orange rolls. They were good in that, "it's covered in frosting and I don't know any better," kind of way. And if you didn't eat them all within 2 hours, they turned mealy and mushy and firm. Ick.
If I'm going to fall off the wagon and eat sugar, I'm going to go for it. In this way, I rationalize, I am mitigating my treasonous munching, with a triumph over a fear of a little organism.
Really? Well, I don't care if it doesn't make sense to you. I made them anyway.
And oh, what a triumph it was. I gotta say, slathering that square of dough with butter...and then marmalade...and THEN brown sugar, made me feel criminal. I should check tomorrow to make sure my photo isn't hanging in the post office. But perhaps if I took a tray of these little golden goodies with me, they'd lower my status from felon to friend.
Seriously, you can tame anyone and anything with these beauties.
I have included the link to her recipe here and above, but I should let you know some things I did a bit differently. It is a very short list.
First, I found that I cut the rolls too thick. (I made 12 of them. 16+ would have been fine.) For rising and cooking consistency I think a height of not more than about 3/4 inches is best. Mine were a little taller which meant that when I cooked them, the rolls in the middle were not quite done and the edges were ever so slightly brown. NOTHING that made them even remotely inedible, of course, but I couldn't have won any awards for consistency. Next, I found that I needed lots more glaze than the recipe called for. Yeah, more sugar. Just make double. Go for it. Also, I found the foil to be a bother. It stuck even with lots of oil. I'm going to try them directly on the non-stick pan I have and see what happens. And finally, they really did change consistency by being refrigerated over night. I HIGHLY recommend, as Averie does, that you make them and cook them right away. It's just too yummy not to.
Enjoy the photos. I'll be in the back, eating my way through the tray of triumph!
During college, while still in that experimental phase in terms of Majors and Minors, I was dabbling in obtaining a Bachelors in Theater Arts. I loved the idea that the stage could be a portal to any place, era, or idea. Perched atop its blackish patina, and with the help of a bevy of curtain raisers, set movers, and fellow thespians, I looked out into the spotlight and emoted with all my 19 year old heart in dozens of plays, operas and of course the occasional Lerner and Loewe extravaganza.
As I look back, it would have been a suitable degree given my flair for the dramatic. As it is, I find that I still look at life through this lens, knowing that setting a stage is as important as any job when you are trying to communicate an emotion to those around you. And certainly in cooking, there is no better metaphor.
Take the lowly bread slice for instance. Especially a slice of newly baked french bread that has been gently toasted to a friendly golden brown. It just sits there, much like a stage and says, "Tell a story with me." And so by crowding my counter top with the accoutrements of culinary experimentation I began to think about all the players that should crowd my savory podium.
First, a bright red jar of cherry peppers would be the muse. Papadews as they are often called, have a wonderful sweetness that balances their heat and tang. By mixing some fresh thyme leaves in with the Mascarpone cheese, I added some earthiness to the creaminess, and slathered it all on the toasted discs. Next, the layers of sliced peppers -- garnet, shiny, and happy for the white bed of cream -- were elevated and ready for their closeup . Hmmm. How could I create the overture? The music that would turn heads and pull all the flavors together in harmony? Yes. I would add a bit of fine brandy to some honey and drizzle that upon it all. And just for flair, a few tiny flecks of Himilayan sea salt for a topping of crunch and a way to set off the sweetness of the honey.
Sound good to you? I hope so. If you want to read about the actors in this production, click on and download the recipe to my SWEET CHERRY PEPPER BRUSCHETTA WITH THYME INFUSED MASCARPONE AND BRANDIED HONEY and turn your diners into a happy audience.
Yes, applause is always welcome. Although an encore is up to you.
You've heard me say that if possible, I would cook all the time. And I think all of us have a dual life that splits our desires. That is how I am with cooking. Every extra moment I am thinking of food. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I also love my daily life as a business owner, writer, and branding therapist. And I guess my clients love me back, because my portfolio of business has grown exponentially in the last year. This is all good, except it is squeezing out my cooking time, and that is sad. I have to make sure it doesn't replace it altogether or I'll go positively bonkers, but for January at least, that will be the case.
In lieu of single posts about one meal, I'm going to share some photos and recipes about the little bit of cooking I did over the holidays. Why wasn't there much time plating, photographic and blogging? Well, we had company here and spent lots of time waiting to hear the hostess say, "party of 12, your table is ready!" So you'll have to be happy with a few stellar dishes.
I promised some good friends, who went on the Kentucky Bourbon Tasting Trail last November, that I would create a menu with lots of Jack in it. This is the meal that I came up with, it was about as yummy as they come. All the flavors were in harmony and because we ate it at home, we didn't have to worry about New Year police checkpoints. Whew! Check out my Bourbon, Soy, Ginger Marinated Grilled Chicken Breasts, served with Bourbon Sweet Potato and Onion Rice Pilaf.
So, Jack was invited for breakfast one day as well. This Maple Bourbon Baked French Toast Casserole with warm Grape Syrup was the bomb. Crunchy yet spongey, sweet and moist, I ATE TOO MUCH! Get yourself into the kitchen and try it now.
I've been looking at them for decades. Those little, green, firm fruits called Tomatillos have been a mystery to me and I don't know why. I figured that had to end. Let me tell you. If you haven't grilled a Tomatillo, you need to. They are amazing and the perfect anchor for a simple Mexican flavored meal. For me it was center stage on Christmas Eve. No stinkin' ham for this crowd, it was Pineapple Salsa Baked Cod with Chili Sauteed Russets and lovely Grilled Tomatillos. TASTY. I just spooned fresh salsa over cod filets, topped with crushed Sea Salt flavored Town House crackers, and a little parmesan cheese to serve.
So there you have it! I guess I wasn't that absent these last two weeks. Hope you enjoy!
I changed my cover photo on my personal FB page to a scene depicting a wintery sidewalk at night, with the word, "BELIEVE" written across it. That one word is 'Christmas' for me. It is a simple command, or request, to just have faith and let the magic of the season wash over you; to know that all is well, and even that dreams really do come true.
But what does it mean to believe? I think it has to do with the present. The more you immerse yourself in it, and try really hard to be a part of it, the more future "nows" have a chance to be just as amazing. If all you're doing is thinking about tomorrow, or 5 years from now, or even just a place moments away, you create a pattern that says you can't be in the now. And if you're not in THIS now, you won't be in THAT now. I don't want to miss a single moment. So I BELIEVE that every moment is special.
Cooking does that for me which is offer me the absolute bliss of the moment. Like how I felt when creating this very warm and tasty DOUBLE CHOCOLATE KAHLUA BREAD PUDDING, pictured here. Quite simply, what feeds me, even though that's a bad pun, is what I do in the kitchen when food is surrounding me, inspiring me, and nourishing me. It would be awesome if I could just stop my 'day' job, and open the oven PERMANENTLY. But of course that is a choice I am not prepared to make yet, and I always have a choice as to what I do. And the day when I can leave my primary business will come, but not today.
Yet, I believe that I can lead the life I have imagined, and I know that success WILL come in common hours, as Thoreau says. Until then, I will choose to find time to be in the kitchen, every moment I can, and try and create something amazing that makes you go, "wow..." and maybe it even inspires you to try something new or create a new dish.
Whatever happens between now and the next present moment, just know, I believe in YOU.
Crana-licious! Thanksgiving just got prettier with this easy and quick cranberry sauce with a twist.
Thanksgiving is easily my favorite holiday. But that hour right before you serve dinner, when you're furiously mashing taters, thickening gravy, and DOING the other 100 things you do RIGHT BEFORE YOU EAT takes a bit of the fun out of it. Especially if you've been on your feet since 5 a.m. -- Can you say crabby???
This year I have planned my menu carefully, and will be cooking much of it in advance. The potatoes will be done the day before, and then reheated with sour cream and milk in the crock pot. The corn casserole and stuffing will be also be pre-made. And of course the cranberry sauce. I made that last night.
Peeps, this stuff is GOOD. It made the whole house smell like Christmas, I'm telling ya! Give it a try. You ONLY NEED 10 MINUTES, AND THEN YOU'RE A HERO. -- FESTIVE GOLDEN RAISIN AND PORT CRANBERRY SAUCE.