Sunday, July 31, 2016

Pommes Duchesse

I like potatoes. They tend to be one of those overlooked items that are used all the time and have become a mundane staple. But I still like potatoes and like all the different ways to prepare them. One of my favorite new potato recipes is pommes duchesse or Duchess potatoes. They begin with basic mashed potatoes, but then are enriched with egg yolks and butter, and are piped. Then they are baked until golden on top and firm. There are many different variations on flavors, sizes, and shapes of pommes duchesse; but they all have a crisp exterior and soft, fluffy, rich, exterior. I never really measure amounts, just eyeball based on the consistency I know I need, but here is a guideline recipe.

Basic Pommes Duchesse
1-2 pounds potatoes (I find mealy potatoes such as Russet work best)
1-2 egg yolks, at room temperature
~ 1/2 cup butter (more or less), salted or unsalted just adjust salt content accordingly
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
other dry spices, as desired
chopped fresh or dried herbs, as desired

Peel and wash the potatoes and cut into bite-sized cubes. Boil until very tender, then drain well. Let stand for a few minutes to dry out, then mash. I usually just mash by hand, but if you have a large amount or want them very smooth, use a potato ricer.
Cut the butter into cubes and add along with the egg, and seasonings, and mash them in until completely smooth.
Transfer to a piping bag. I always use one fitted with a star tip - either a small one to make small rosettes or a larger on to make big rosettes.
Pipe potatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. They can be refrigerated at this point of baked right away at 425F until golden on top and firm - larger rosettes will take longer.

A few tips and tricks: Potatoes should be very smooth and herbs should be cut fine so they can be piped. Potatoes need to be piped while they are still hot. Ensure the butter is in cubes and not melted so it incorporated without making the potatoes too liquidy. If tops do not color enough, broil them for a few minutes.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Mom's Tea Biscuits

My grandmother always made these delicious tea biscuits that we loved to eat for breakfast, but hasn't been up to it much latley. So my mother has made tea biscuits a few times, except she looked for a different recipe that was a bit easier and simpler. They taste very similar to my grandmother's, but they do have a slightly different texture. Another interesting thing is that they don't rise and shape completely even. But they are quite good! 
Mom's Tea Biscuits
2 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon granulated (white) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup butter
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425F. Grease or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Stir together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter to coarse crumbs. Stir in milk. Knead gently, then pat out flat. Cut with round cutters. Bake 13-15 minutes.

This is an easy, no-fuss recipe. You can knead the biscuits longer to make them smoother, or shorter to make them very tender. Cut them into any shape and size you desire - for even easier biscuits, just cut out squares.

Friday, July 29, 2016

No One Can Resist These Cinnamon Rolls

I have probably posted about cinnamon rolls quite a few times before, but the thing is, cinnamon rolls are one thing I can make really well. I found a good recipe a while back and now can never make a different version. These are rich, sweet, fluffy, buttery, cinnamony rolls of goodness. No one can resist one hot from the oven, but they are great cold or reheated too. They may even be better after a few days when the cinnamon-sugar-butter mixture has had a chance to soak into the dough. And they are great for breakfast, snack, teatime, dessert, or even lunch!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Apple Almond Dressing

Apple Almond Dressing
apple cider vinegar
low-acid apple juice
almond milk
almond butter
Dijon mustard
balsamic vinegar
garlic powder
Italian seasoning
ground black pepper
Optional: salt and/or sweetener
Simply whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Amounts completely depend on your own individual tastes and how much dressing you need to make. It will keep for at least a week in the fridge. The apple cider vinegar or apple juice make up the majority of the dressing (depending on whether you would like it to be more sweet or more acidic). The seasonings are to taste. The almond milk adds a bit of creaminess and helps to cut some of the acidity. The almond butter adds some texture, flavor, and protein.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Train Cupcakes

I forgot to share this back in June, so here it is now. For Father's Day this year I made chocolate cupcakes, i frosted them with a simple chocolate frosting, and put chocolate covered wafer bars on top to resemble train tracks. I arranged them in a loop and put one of my father's miniature trains on top.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Chocolate Fudge Filling

Chocolate Fudge Filling
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, melted
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
3 cups icing (powdered) sugar
1/3 cup chocolate milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Stir cocoa into butter until smooth. Stir in icing sugar gradually, alternating with milk. Stir in vanilla. Add a little extra milk or icing sugar to achieve desired spreading consistency.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Chocolate Mocha Ganache Glaze

Chocolate Mocha Ganache Glaze
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup milk
2 Tablespoons hard margarine
2 Tablespoons golden corn syrup
2 cups icing sugar
1 Tablespoon instant coffee
2 Tablespoons hot water
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the first four ingredients together, bringing to a light boil. Strain if necessary if cocoa is lumpy. Gradually stir in the icing sugar until smooth. Mix together the coffee and hot water and stir in. Immediately pour over cake(s). Spread evenly and refrigerate briefly to set. Leftover ganache can be chilled in a shallow layer and rolled into truffles once firm. Makes enough to coat two single layer 8 or 9 inch rounds, or one double layer. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Layered Chocolate Birthday Cake

This is the chocolate birthday cake I made for my brother for his birthday today. He didn't really have any requests, but he loves chocolate, so I stuck with the chocolate theme.
This cake consists of my signature chocolate cake recipe baked in two eight inch round cake pans, each sliced in half horizontally. Each layer is filled with my basic chocolate fudge frosting. The entire cake was frosted with two tones of chocolate fudge frosting - one light and one dark, and then I used a frosting comb to go around the cake to show the two tones of frosting. I then glazed the cake in dark chocolate mocha ganache. I added some caramelized white chocolate crumb around the base of the cake, and made a light cocoa icing to pipe some borders and the message. 

It was extremely hot and humid while making this cake, so the cake was extra moist and dense and I had trouble with the icing sliding, but although it may not look perfect, it was super moist, chocolaty, fudgey, and delicious!!!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

I came up with this sauce when my brother requested a sauce for his pasta, and after giving him way too many options, he settled for roasted red pepper. I made this sauce up as I went along, so amounts may not be precise. Just taste and add what you think it needs! It makes about two cups and is delicious on pasta garnished with fresh parsley or cilantro. 

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
2 large red bell peppers
1/4 large white onion, diced
1 stalk garlic scape, thinly sliced (straight from my garden)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup vodka (or red wine, or whiskey)
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
up to 2 cups water, as needed
1/4 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon pickling liquid (pickle juice)
1 Tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Roast the red peppers. There are several ways to do this. I like to leave them whole, intact, but you can halve them and/or remove seeds and stems first if you like. You can also leave all the seeds in for the sauce for a spicier flavor.
#1 Burner - Roast red peppers over a hot burner until skin is blistered.
#2 Open Flame - Roast red peppers over a gas burner, barbecue, or with a b low torch to blacken the skin quickly.
#3 Oven - Roast peppers at a high temperature in the oven until skin is colored and peppers are very soft.
I prefer the oven method if I have the time, as that allows the roasted flavor to penetrate through the entire pepper and not just on the surface. 

Cool peppers. They can be done the day before and refrigerated overnight. Peel off the skin, and remove stems and seeds if required. Dice. Catch and reserve any juices.

Sweat the onions in the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until softened. Stir in the spices and saute until aromatic. Add in the garlic scapes. When mixture is beginning to look dry, stir in the peppers. Deglaze with the vodka until au sec. Blend with a handheld immersion blender to desired consistency. Stir in remaining ingredients, including as much water as needed to reach desired consistency. Bring to a boil. The longer this sauce simmers, the better, just keep in mind it will reduce more as well.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Garlic Biscuits

Fresh homemade biscuits + fresh homemade garlic butter + toaster oven = delicious homemade garlic biscuits to go with pasta.
To make my own garlic butter, I went with a on-the-fly cheat version. I melted a little salted butter, quickly crushed a garlic clove, added some Italian seasoning, paprika, and black pepper, stirred it all together, and spooned it onto biscuit halves. I let them stand to absorb all that buttery goodness for a few minutes before I toasted them.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip....Crumbles?

The result of being in the mood to eat freshly baked chocolate chip cookies but only in half the mood to make them? The result of not taking the time to find a trusted recipe and read it thoroughly? The result of making a substitution inaccurately? These "cookies". Delicious? Yes. Easy? Yes. All gone? Yes. Hold together well? Absolutely not. Oh well, cookie crumbles are just as good as actual cookies, just not for transporting. Maybe we can blame the oven as these cookies seemed to have baked unevenly as well. Above you see the one cookie that held together the best, along with some crumbles of other cookies. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

No, I Did Not Quit

No I did not quit blogging. I've been very neglecting lately, but I have not quit completely. I have been very busy and tied up in other things. I don't really want to give any excuses as to why I have been so AWOL lately, I can only hope I will do better in the future. Please be patient, and stay tuned. There will be more to come!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

It's A Wrap

Pickled seared tofu + bell peppers + lettuce + pita bread wrapped in parchment, paper towel, and plastic wrap for ultimate drip control = one quick, tasty lunch!!!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Fridge Pasta Plate

Whole wheat penne + knock-your-socks-off spicy stock + stir-fried bok choy + spicy cocktail peanuts + salsa + mixed bean salad = lime juice + homemade mustard seeds + capers + hot sauce + pickled peppers = one awesome plate of pasta.
The spicy stock was made in advance and made with a bunch of herbs and spices for tons of flavor. Then I cooked the pasta right in the stock to let it absorb all that delicious flavor. I reserved a little after draining for the sauce, and stirred in the remaining ingredients and garnished! Delicious hot or as cold pasta salad and makes a quick and easy dinner. That's what I like to call fridge diving.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Banana Peanut Jam Muffins

Yummy, moist, healthy, delicious, vegan muffins that are a cinch to make!!
Banana Peanut Jam Muffins
1 1⁄3 cups whole wheat flour 
1⁄2 cup turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3⁄4 cup wheat bran
1 cup salty seasoned cocktail peanuts (whatever your favorite kind are)
2 over-ripe mashed bananas
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup non-dairy milk
6 teaspoons strawberry jam
4 teaspoon turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease or line 12 muffin cups.
In a large bowl, mix together the first nine dry ingredients.
In a separate smaller bowl, mix together the next five wet ingredients.
Blend the wet into the dry.
Spoon half the batter into the muffin cups.
Place 1/2 teaspoon of strawberry jam into the center of each.
Top with remaining batter.
Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
Bake for about 15 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

BYO Ciabattas

Sometimes I really love what I call, "dinner, some assembly required." I am referring to things such as sandwiches, burgers, and other things you get to add your own toppings to. Here we have warm ciabatta buns with tomato, sauteed mushrooms, pickled red onion among other toppings such as lettuce, pickled mustard seeds, pork belly, cheese, and more.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Kinda Strange Pasta Salad

What happens when you take some leftover penne, some random salad vinaigrette, pickled mustard seeds, pickled red onion, pickled cucumber, and pickled peppers? Well you actually get quite a tasty pasta salad, although maybe a wee bit acidic. Packed full of lots of flavor and it gets better with age.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Home Cheese Plate

One evening my roommates and I were using our new barbecue to grill sausages, and while waiting for the barbecue to heat up and for them to cook, we made a pretty awesome cheese plate using what we had on hand.
Here we have...
Cheeses: mustard black pepper gouda, stinging nettle gouda, dragon's breath blue cheese, chili gouda, smoked salmon cream cheese.
Crackers: multigrain wheat and pita crackers.
Fruit: fresh cherries, raspberry jam, strawberry champagne jam.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Vegan Lunch

This is a lunch my coworkers made for me one day. We all take turns making kunch for the day. Usually the main items are not vegan but they are very good at making a tasty alternative for me. Featured here is a delicious warm bean salad, crisp pita bread, and spicy dipping sauce, and salad. The rest of them has pizza today and although vegan pizza would have been an easy possibility, I really appreciated this combination oif foods that went really well together. The 'pita' bread is really the dough from the piza crust brushed with vegan margarine.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Beaver Balls

What in the world are beaver balls? Well, I didn't know either until very recently. Basically they are round, fried doughnuts - cake like and soft on the inside and crisp on the outside. We made homemade versions - both regular and chocolate. Beaver balls are classically then covered with a sweetened condensed milk drizzle, fresh fruit, fruit coulis, and the signature fruit loops cereal. I cannot explain how this originated or why. They are both the most disgusting ans sugary items and the most delicious and indulgent items. I don't know that I would ever make them again but it was interesting to try them. We used blueberries and cut up strawberries and an amazing raspberry coulis.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Carrot Cake With Raspberry Coulis

Carrot Cake + Cream Cheese Frosting + the very best raspberry coulis ever. It may look messy, but it is certainly delicious.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Mini Chocolate Beet Cake

What to do when you have four layers of cake that you levelled off and have some cake scraps and ganache and chocolate shavings and berries and mint left??? Make a miniature cake by cutting out circles from the cake layers and sandwiching them together. Scraps may have been used here, but the miniature cake looks every bit as tasty and elegant as the big one. Don't ever throw away your scraps!!

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Divine Layered Chocolate Beet Cake

Sometimes we make real food.
Here are the stages of an incredible and divine chocolate layered cake being made.
 Chocolate beet cake with dark chocolate ganache between each layer, frosted with chocolate buttercream, combed, piped, and topped with chocolate shavings.
 A chocolate cookie crumb crust is added around the bottom edge.
 Garden fresh strawberries.
 Chantilly cream bottom border, rosettes, fresh raspberries, and mint leaves.
A finished slice.

Friday, July 08, 2016

How Many Different Ways Can You Pickle A Watermelon?

Some of my experiments lately have involved pickling watermelon. I have probably tried every method in the book.

  1. Regular pickling liquor
  2. Pickling liquor with added herbs and spices
  3. 3:2:1 pickling liquor: acid, sugar, water
  4. Regular pickling under compression
  5.  Pickling with herbs under compression
  6. 3:2:1  pickling under compression
  7. Compression then pickling
  8. Quick compression
Every method makes the watermelon a different color or texture; ranging from pastel pink to tuna pink and firm to mushy. The truth is, it is incredibly difficult to pickle something that is 99% water!

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Energy All Night Long

What do you use for energy to get you through a busy day? Do you rely on lots of rest, mini breaks, taking a short walk, or a certain snack or drink? In preparation for an all-nighter, here is a stock of energy drinks and pop in the cooler. At the end you will see a itcher of iced lemon water. That's what I like to drink. I don't like energy drinks or coffee for their high sugar and caffeine contents. Besides, these can make you shaky if you are trying to do very precise, steady work. I rely on ice water, and healthy snacks with carbohydrates and protein. Apples are really god for alert-fullness too. Fruit is great to keep you going. However, when I go feel I really need a boost, I do reach for a small handful of extreme dark chocolate (90%) or chocolate covered coffee beans.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Delicious Jelly Roll

One of my good friends, she can make a darn good jelly roll. And reasonable so, she has been practicing and perfecting the technique for weeks now. She must have made over fifty jelly rolls by now. I don't get to taste them all, but the ones I do are scrumptious. She uses a white sponge cake, raspberry jelly, raspberry buttercream, cinnamon sugar. It is moist, sweet, full of filling, and delicious, even straight from the freezer!!

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Summer Iced Tea

How to make the best summer iced tea: get a big pot of water, chop up a bunch or oranges and some lemons and limes and apples and through them in. Put in a little fresh mint, a squeeze of honey and a pile of sugar. Tie some tea bags to a wooden spoon handle and dangle them into a pot. Bring just to a boil, turn off and steep. Remove tea bags and chill mixture on ice. Enjoy!!!!!!!!!

Monday, July 04, 2016

Breakfast Amuse

The past weekend my roommates and I made breakfast together. We had a nice big plate of spicy crisp homefries and they had pork chops and I had oatmeal. The fries were slow-baked in oil for the perfect texture, so while we were waiting for them to cook. we made breakfast "amuse-bouches" or appetizers. On the top is a tofu sausage with brown sugar barbecue sauce and green onions and cilantro from our deck garden. On the bottom is spring rolls with the same greens.
It was really nothing fancy, just something to tie us over until the brunch plate.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Vegan Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies will surprise you considering they contain no butter or eggs. They are soft and cake-like warm from the oven, and crisper once cool. But they are chock-full of chocolaty goodness and a sinch to make!
Vegan Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated (white) sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup nondairy milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup canola oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups mint chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
Mix together milk and baking powder and allow it to get frothy. Then add to the bowl with the remaining ingredients. 
Drop dough by tablespoons onto baking sheets and bake about 10 minutes for soft cookies, or up to 15 for crisp cookies (will depend on size). Allow cookies to rest on the sheet for a minute or two before removing to cool.

Saturday, July 02, 2016


Focaccia is a bread we always make in the restaurant to serve at the beginning of the meal with a flavored butter. Sometimes we will serve biscuits, baguette, or another type of bread, but sometimes just focaccia. 
The recipe is nearly no-fail. The dough always turns out light, fluffy, and airy with a crisp crust. It can be left to rise for hours, then is spread into a pan and baked.
Toppings vary by day, but always include sea salt and usually some herbs. Shallots, leek, onion, and cheese are other common toppings. Here is a focaccia I made recently - it has rosemary, cheddar, my secret spice mix, and coarse salt.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Summer Salads

Summertime and the living is easy. Here is beautiful plate of fresh, garden salad - perfect for a light supper at the end of a hot summer's day. It is still a bit early in the season, but by now gardens should be sporting tomatoes, green beans, peas, microgreens, fruits, lettuce, green onion, and a variety of edible flowers.