Friday, May 29, 2009

Fav Things: Home ground burgers at the cabin

A few of my favorite things:
* Summertime
* Quiet cabins on the lake 
* Dinner with friends
* Meat Grinder for the kitchen aid to make our own ground beef!

This meat grinder was a thank-you gift from some friends. H has been putting it to great use by grinding his own chuck to make hamburgers.
By grinding the meat yourself - the meat doesn't have time to settle and air pockets still remain to hold lots of juice. If you want to kick it up a notch - just add in frozen butter cubes, salt, and pepper. It's really amazing. These are the best hamburgers I have ever had.

Into to the grinder: chuck steak cut into rough cubes and butter cubes that have been frozen
After meat is ground: add 1 egg yolk per pound of meat, salt and pepper. Gently pat into disc shapes with indent in the middle. Grill as normal.

For this dinner, we also grilled up zuchini and corn. Pair that with a potato salad - and you have TOO MUCH to enjoy. Perfect for a weekend at a friend's cabin.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Orange Spice Biscotti: it's Teatime!

This is the BEST BISCOTTI for tea I have ever tasted. There is no butter - so it's a true 'hard' biscotti that needs to be dunked. However - when it hits the tea - it soaks up enough liquid to turn it into a wonderfully soft and now tea-soaked treat.

I followed a recipe and played with all of the additions - my usual when making biscotti. I have some friends coming over on Saturday morning for a knitting session - and these could be baked up a few days early (I love early prep stuff!)

My recipe is based on the Spiced Biscotti found in the New Best Recipe.

Scate's Orange Spiced Biscotti with chocolate
preheat oven to 350
11 1/4 oz (2 1/4 cups)unbleached all purp flour
1 tsp bkg pwd
1/2 tsp bkg soda
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
*** whisk above dry ingredients together in bowl
7 oz (1 cup) sugar
2 large eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
*** whisk sugar and eggs until it lightens in color to pale yellow (2 minutes by hand)
1/2 tsp vanilla to egg mixture
** add vanilla to egg mixture
** gently stir dry into wet mixture
** Add 1 cup of extra bittersweet chocolate pieces

Form into logs (13"x 2") on parchment covered cookie sheet. Bake for 35 minutes until golden brown and just starting to crack. Rotate pan halfway through baking.

Pull from oven and remove logs from baking sheet to cool for 10 minutes. Cool oven to 325. Cut logs into biscotti pieces. Place upright on cookie sheet with some space between each cookie. Return to oven for 15 minutes.

Cool cookies completely. Can store in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hot off the grill: Pizzas!

Living in Minnesota means that between May and September (if we are lucky) - we need to consume as much fresh air as possible. The winters are long - and the grill gets so lonely!

So, H. has become a master on the grill. Along with his good friend S. they have perfected the grilled pizza.

Early in the day, H. makes the dough. He likes the Bread Baker's Apprentice - and in fact, has
kitchen twine marking the spot to both the pizza recipe and brioche at the moment.

Pizza Napoletana (from the Bread Baker's Apprentice)
make six 6-oz pizza crusts
20.25 oz (4.5 cups) unbleached high gluten bread flour, chilled
1.75 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
14 oz (1.75 cups) ice water
Cornmeal or Semolina flour for dusting

Stir together and use a dough hook to stir for 5-7 minutes (until smooth dough). The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky. Registers 50 -55 degrees F.

Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer dough to counter. Line a sheet pan (or cookie sheet) with parchment. Spray parchment with spray oil. Sprinkle dough with flour and cut dough into 6 pieces rolling into rounds. Spray dough balls with spray oil and cover with plastic wrap.

Rest the dough in the fridge 4 hours or overnight (up to 3 days). Remove dough 2 hours before using.

Heat the grill. There should be a "super hot" spot on the grill - and a spot that is "off the heat." This is referred to as the IDEAL temperature on S.'s grill.

Shape the dough and cook on one side. Flip to the other side to cook a bit more. Top with olive oil and your favorite toppings. We love to take the local Neapolitan Pizza joint's (PUNCH) take-out menu for inspiration.

It is necessary to prepare your toppings before your first pie hits the grates.
H and S's Topping Cart:
* Spicy Italian Sausage
* Mozzarella - crumbled
* Canned crushed san marino tomatoes
* Caramelized Onions
* Banana Peppers
* Blue Cheese
* Walnuts
* Raw white onions
* olives
* roasted red peppers
* sliced dry salami
* Pepper flakes
* garlic powder
* fresh basil
Favorite Combinations (from Punch Pizza Menu):
* Toscano: Sausage, roasted red pepper, cracked red pepper, basil
* Vesuvio: Spiced salami, olives, cracked red pepper, pepperoncini (banana peppers), basil
* Milanese: roasted red pepper, ham, gorgonzola, basil
* made-up: carmelized onions, toasted walnuts, goat cheese

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Farmers' Market Find: Bouchon au Chocolat (chocolate corks)

The farmers markets here in Minneapolis are absolutely HOPPING this time of year. It isn't because of the piles of local veggies and fruit (HA!) - because the only thing you find this early are plants for your garden. This is a great time to check out the local merchants to see what kind of crafty or tasty treat they are trying to sell.

Today's 'Farmers' Market Find' is the Bouchon au Chocolat sold by Cocoa & Fig. These chocolate corks are so tasty - and a great size for those who don't want to be bothered with the guilt of eating a large brownie. This is basically a fudgy brownie baked in a shot glass. I pestered the guy into telling me why these were so great - it's blamed on a super-fancy cocoa that they use. I found a great imported cocoa from holland that makes a huge difference - so i believed him.

I'll have to look for some good recipes to try this out for our next patio soiree. What have you found at your market lately?

ck them out:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Obama's Fav Things: Honest Tea

OK - so this had not hit my 'favorite' list yet but I heard on CNBC this morning that this is Obama's favorite tea. Apparently, Black Forest Berry is the flavor of choice. As I listened to the CEO of Honest Tea talk about his rapidly growing business (up 60% in the past year) he downplayed the partnership with Coca Cola and up'd the buzz factor from the Obama household. Interesting... I guess if I were a small business owner, I'd pick Obama over Coke to identify with too!

Cool things about Honest Tea:
* it's organic
* there are Fair Trade certified flavors
* recently changed to lighter plastic bottles and will use 1M lbs less plastic this year!
* Consumer Reports named Lori's Lemon flavor as best bottled tea
* they have a mission statement: Honest Tea creates and promotes delicious, truly healthy, organic beverages. We strive to grow with the same honesty we use to craft our products, with sustainability and great taste for all.
I'd vote for it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Baklava: Capturing the family recipes

Ever try to recreate Grandma's recipe? The one that she just 'makes' - and if she does tell you a recipe, it's most certainly not the same recipe that she actually makes. She'll forget an ingredient, or give the wrong amount for something... It's hard to capture the umpteen years of experience in a working and printed recipe!

I am happy that I am not the only one who has had troubles capturing these family treasures. While at a friend's house for dinner last night - a platter of baklava was placed on the table. Despite having eaten TOO MUCH for dinner - there was no possible way my taste buds would let me say no to this treat. While enjoying the rich, deep flavors - I had to ask about the recipe. So - R. explained the journey of capturing this recipe.

Grandma gave the recipe over the phone. Upon tasting the first batch, Grandma declared that it was not right! It was missing about 1/4 cup of sugar. How she could pinpoint that from a pan of 50 pieces - i'm not sure. But, the recipe was tweaked and so it went. Until the recipe below was settled on.

R's Grandmother's Baklava
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 lemon rind
5 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
* boil for 5 minutes.
1 cup honey
4TBSP lemon juice
2 TBSP Rosewater
** strain and let this syrup sit for a few hours or overnight

2 lbs of ground walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp rosewater
2 TBSP butter
4 tsp cinnamon
1 package of phyllo/Filo dough

layer. bake at 350 degrees F. for 40 minutes or until golden.
1 layer of syrup per pan

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

TV Dinners: Mad Men 3 anyone?

From comes such a great idea - TV dinners to coordinate with your favorite TV shows. I don't care about Lost, CSI, Gossip Girls or the Office (only sometimes) - but Mad Men - it's my FAVORITE!

Season 3 is set to air this summer (although the date is a little hazy at this time) with encore presentations of the smokin' hot end of season 2 throughout the build-up. Not familiar with this must-see show? Check out some trailers on AMC's site for a peak.

For your Mad Men TV Dinner Party

Menu from

Find the perfect 60's Cocktail:
Jackie O
Vodka Martini
Emma Peel

Looking for the perfect table setting? Check your local Target for some killer Orla Kiely retro inspired home goods. check out the original posting on Apartment Therapy for some great photos like this one. I found that my Target had the goods - but moved it to the back storage room because there wasn't enough to fill the endcap. All I had to do was ask a nice red-shirt and I got my table cloth plus some really cool serving dishes.

So - it looks like i'm all set for my Mad Men party. I can't wait!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fav Things: Junior League Cookbooks

I just got home from the year end meeting for the Junior League of Minneapolis. The baton was passed from current President - to next year's president, awards were given, tears were shed. It was really quite nice - and the food was GREAT!

It reminded me of meeting one Junior League sustainer member, Pam, who collects cookbooks by Junior League groups from around the country. She has books from Kansas City, New York, Florida, and of course Minnesota. The Minnesota book is her stated favorite (although i feel like she might be biased...)

Anyway you slice it - these books are great. I've even invested in a few books from out of state. I would love to collect more of these. Do you have any favorites?
In my collection:
Minneapolis/St Paul: Always Superb
Kansas City?: Beyond Parsley and Above and Beyond Parsley
Boca Raton: Savor the Moment

Monday, May 11, 2009

Chicken Stock (aka cleaning out the fridge/freezer)

I love filling a big pot with odds and ends from my freezer and vegetable drawer, adding water, and VOILA - i get homemade stock!

My grandmother, Sye, was famous for her "everything" soup. She didn't make homemade stock - but made this great soup out of things that she had set aside instead of throwing out. The juice from a can of peas, the bones and scraps of meat from dinner - all of it went into a container that went into the freezer. When it was full - it was time to make soup!

So - i took this "pack-rat" lesson and apply it to my stock today. The only part of today's stock that came from a recent grocery trip was the onion and the leek (both due to be used, so not that recent).

The stock recipe today included:
3 chicken carcsses (2 from a rotissery session, one from the smoker)
1 lamb leg bone (brought home from dinner at the grandparents')
2 stalks of celery (frozen - waiting for a home)
1 yellow onion quartered
1 leek sliced - green and white parts
3/4 container button mushrooms
3 garlic cloves
1 anise star
juniper berries
water to fill pot
* any veggies you have on hand - especially root varieties should go in

Simmer on low heat for at least 4 hours. Add more water if you need to - skim fat off of the top as you see fit.

My favorite tricks
Choice pot: I like using my monster pasta pot with the insert. That way - when it is done, i can pull the insert - with all of the cooked and dead bones/veggies and throw right into a bag in the garbage.
Temp: DO NOT LET THIS BOIL. Boiling causes the stock to turn cloudy and gelatenous when cold. It still is OK to use if it does this - just don't let the company see you plop it out of the container and into your risotto.
Storing: I love to fill up snack-sized ziplocks with stock and freezing it. If you want to be anal and measure it before freezing - it will make it more accurate when you want to use it later.
Uses: I like using homemade stock whenever possible. The chickens are always flavored the way we like it - with flavors that we tend to use often, so it blends well with our cooking later. Risotto, soup, sauces, glazes, anything that calls for stock!

** what do you like to put in your stock to make it unique? Any tips you've learned that help make your stock turn out everytime?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Cherry Cream Cheese Weekend Muffins

My step sister was in town from Denver - and wanted to stop by on Saturday morning. She hasn't seen our place yet and it would be great to have coffee and chat. So -what goes well with coffee on a Saturday morning? Muffins of course.

Muffin Batter
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour (oatmeal could be used here too)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup cold butter
1 egg
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 32 oz. jar morello cherries drained

Cream Cheese Filling
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Beat the egg, sour cream buttermilk and extract until smooth; add cherries to wet ingredients, stir into dry ingredients just until moistened (batter will be thick). Combine flour and sugar in a small bowl; cut in butter until crumbly.

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, egg, sugar and vanilla extract until smooth. Fill papered muffin cups half full with batter. Divide cream cheese filling evenly between muffin cups. Cover with remaining batter.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 22 to 25 (30-35 for jumbo) minutes or until muffins test done. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Makes 14 regular sized muffins, or 7 jumbo.
Optional pwd sugar frosting: stir 1/4 cup softened butter, 2 TBSP milk, and 2 cups pwd sugar until smooth. Spread on top of cooled muffins.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Fav Things: New Words

coruscate \KOR-uh-skayt\, verb:
1. To give off or reflect bright beams or flashes of light; to sparkle. 2. To exhibit brilliant, sparkling technique or style.

Word of the Day for Thursday, May 7, 2009

** can you guess why I like this word so much? Now I have to figure out a way to work it into my vocab today...

Coruscate comes from Latin coruscatus, past participle of coruscare, "to move quickly, to tremble, to flutter, to twinkle or flash." The noun form is coruscation. Also from coruscare is the adjective coruscant, "glittering in flashes; flashing."

They pulled up at the farthest end of a loop path that looked out over the great basin of the Rio Grande under brilliant, coruscating stars.-- Bill Roorbach, "Big Bend", The Atlantic, March 2001

Beneath you lie two miles of ocean -- a bottomlessness, for all practical purposes, an infinity of blue. . . . A thousand coruscating shafts of sunlight probe it, illuminating nothing.-- Kenneth Brower, "The Destruction of Dolphins", The Atlantic, July 1989

What coruscating flights of language in his prose, what waterfalls of self-displaying energy!-- Joyce Carol Oates, review of A Theft, by Saul Bellow, New York Times, March 5, 1989

Whether we know or like it or not, those of us who turn our hands to this task are scribbling in a line of succession which, however uncertainly and intermittently, reaches back to the young Macaulay, who first made his public reputation as a coruscating writer in the 1820s.-- David Cannadine, "On Reviewing and Being Reviewed", History Today, March 1, 1999

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Barely Cinco - Mexican Brownies

It's still Cinco de Mayo - barely. There is a 'Seis de Mayo' potluck at work tomorrow - and I have signed up for a dessert. My dessert of choice: Mexican Brownies adapted from the Bon Appetit Cookbook. I doubled the recipe - but am sharing the 'single pan' version.

Mexican Brownies

4 oz unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
* melt chocolate and butter in double boiler until smooth
1 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 TBSP cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
* Whisk in sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, and salt (will be 'grainy')
3 large eggs
* Whisk in eggs 1 at a time (batter should be smooth by the last egg)
1 tsp vanilla
* Whisk in vanilla
3/4 cup AP flour
* Fold in flour
1 cup (6 oz) chopped tasty chocolate (used spiced Choxie)
* Fold in chocolate
Bake at 325 for 35 minutes.

Brown Sugar Topping
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 TBSP unsalted butter
3/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sliced almonds
*Once brownies are done (and while they are cooling a bit)- Cook topping (sugar, cream and butter) over low heat until boiling. Take off heat and stir in vanilla. Let cool for 10 minutes. Pour over cooled brownies and sprinkle with almonds. Allow to set for at least 1 hour. Cut into squares. Store in the fridge up to 1 day.
*note: next time I will look for a caramel topping. When reading through the ingredients - i made some incorrect assumptions. This is really just a 'BROWN SUGAR' topping. Still kind-of grainy. Not bad - but caramel would be so much better!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Red Velvet Cupcakes for the fight

We were invited to watch the big Hatton v. Pacquia fight (that's boxing by the way) at a bachelor's house meant one thing - I have to bring cupcakes! Red Velvet seemed appropriately aggressive yet still very domestic.

I loved the cream cheese frosting - and the recipe made enough for a thick piping on each cupcake! I didn't love the cake - and will be searching for a tastier recipe. This cake was light and airy - but lacked FLAVOR. So - I melted some white chocolate, tinted it red, and piped it into little star shapes. This helped add a little burst of flavor.

If you have a great Red Velvet Cupcake recipe - please share. No matter how dramatic - it needs to taste great!

Cupcake recipe: Paula Deen's from (just telling you so you know to stay away.)

Frosting (for 24 cupcakes)
1 lb cream cheese at room temperature
2 sticks butter at room temp
4 cups pwd sugar (a little more than half of a bag)
1 tsp vanilla
* mix cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Slowly add the powder sugar and mix until smooth.
* Pipe on cupcakes that are completely cool

For chocolate stars:
melt 2 4 oz bars of high quality white chocolate
stir in enough food color to get desired color
let cool slightly - spoon into piping bag with large star tip. Pipe stars on parchment covered sheet and place in the fridge to harden.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


I've won an award! This is so great. I'm just trying to catch up on some reading this fine Saturday morning, hoping to avoid the headache that is payment for too much fun last night, and here I get such a great surprise!
The Premio MEME Blog Award
Thanks to Cathy at Accountants can Cook?

meme (mēm) n. A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.//
[Shortening (modeled on gene) of mimeme, from Greek mimēma, something imitated, from mimeisthai, to imitate; see mimesis.]//
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth EditionCopyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

1. list 7 personality traits
2. tag/award 7 blogs that deserve such fine recognition for the personalities that they share with the blogging world.
1. Adventurous: I like to try new things.
2. Goal-Oriented: I usually create a goal to pursue before I will continue with an activity. An example is running - the goal of finishing a race pushes me to hit the pavement. Or using this blog to help me improve my baking (projects need to be successful and often so I can post something!)
3. Competitive: I look to win when I do something. When I "win" it means that I have improved in some way, I have put in full effort, and I have made progress in my own development.
4. Loyal: eternal love and support of my husband, my family, my city/home, my baseball team (go Twins!) - even when they are wrong or not 'winning'.
5. Happy: I like to see the happy side of life. I don't dwell on things that I can't change and change what I can.
6. Flexible: because I can be happy anywhere - i don't have a problem with changing plans, changing goals, or changing directions. I need to be flexible to be happy - and I need to be happy in order to be flexible.
7. Curious/Learner: I love to read, I love to learn about new things. I love knowing enough about something to be a resource to others.
Now - I would like to meme some fellow bloggers that you should check out:
The Sweet Spot: from one aspiring trophy wife to another!
Healthy Delicious: love the meat-free fridays!
Culinary Wannabe: great mix of classic food with a fresh perspective
From Donuts to Delirium: Heavenly Housewife - so fun to read!
Proceed with Caution: says she's 'learning' but has alot to teach with great recipes.
Tangled Noodle: very smart postings that give such great perspective - and often leaving friendly comments that are much appreciated. Often the recipient of such awards - for good reason!
Lovin' from the Oven: I learn alot from Frieda's posts - they are very smart and fun to read.