Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge- Caramel Cake

This month Daring Bakers challenge was a fun one. I even actually made the challenge earlier in the month, which seems to be a rarity lately. Our wonderful hosts for this months challenge were Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, Alex of Blondie and Brownie and Jenny of Foray into Food. These wonderful foodies had us make Shuna Fish Lydon's caramel cake with caramelized butter frosting. Yum! My cake came out quite nicely and the cake itself has a real subtle hint of caramel. The frosting was very sweet to me. It almost overpowered the cake. I did not use all the icing on my cake and I still felt it was too sweet. I think the cake would be perfect with just a little powdered sugar over the top or even a dollop of whipped cream. I think the next time I make this cake( and I would definitely make it again), that is what I would do. Part of the recipe is to make a caramel syrup. I have found the syrup to be very useful. I used to on my Gingerbread cake with Sabayon and on a apple pie I made recently. Check out Shuna's blog, Eggbeater. You can find the recipe here from Bay Area Bites.

There was an optional second part to this challenge. It was to make Alice Medrich's recipe for Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels. The recipe is from her book Pure Desserts (Artisan Press, 2007). The recipe is also at Dolores blog. I am usually pretty good at making candy, but I must have turn my head away to just a minute before the caramel got to temperature, because it turned out really hard. Not the soft caramel I was expecting. It tasted good, if you let is completely melt in your mouth and not chew, least a tooth or filling would fall out.

Thanksgiving Recap

Son #1 brushing the filo dough with butter

I love it when my sons want to cook. When I was planning out our Thanksgiving menu, son #1 asked if I would make tiropites. Tiropites are Greek appetizers that are filled with feta cheese and wrapped in filo dough. He was so jazzed about these little delicacies that he wanted to make them himself. So I got out the filo dough and he went to town making them. They turned out fantastic. They are easy to make, but very time consuming.

Tiropites (adapted from the Greek Food Festival Cookbook by the Greek Orthodox Community of Sacramento)

1 pound thawed filo dough
1/2 pound good quality feta cheese
8 ounces ricotta cheese
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 pound butter, melted

Crumble feta cheese into a large mixing bowl and blend in the ricotta and cream cheese; mix well.

Cut filo pastry sheets into 4 to 5 strips- there are approximately 20-25 sheets per pound. Take one set of strips an cover the remaining filo dough with wax paper and a damp towel to prevent drying. Brush one single strip with butter, put a scant teaspoon of filling on one lower corner of strip, fold over one edge to meet the other, (side over side like folding a flag) forming a triangle at the end of the strip. Lightly brush tops with butter and place on lightly butter cookie sheet and bake at 350 degree for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden.

Tiropites can be frozen before baking for up to 6 months. Layer between wax paper and these can be baked right out of the freezer.

We had a really nice Thanksgiving. It was filled with family and good friends. My good friend Peggy was traveling up north to be with her twin daughters, who are first year college students for Thanksgiving. So we had the rest of her family over to join us for the holiday dinner. The picture above is her oldest son, home from UCLA and her youngest daughter. Oh yeah, that's my boy on his back. They have 7 kids in all and the house was wonderfully noisy and joyous.

This beauty is what I look forward to after Thanksgiving. I love this soup! It is turkey noodle soup and I make it only once a year. I used most of my leftovers in this soup. It has turkey, mashed potatoes, some gravy and in years past even some dressing. You can see the bits of prosciutto on top. I stuffed copious amounts of rosemary, garlic and prosciutto under the skin of my turkey. When it is all done, you have these wonderful bits of prosciutto with your turkey.

Turkey Noodle Soup

3 quarts of low sodium chicken broth or turkey stock
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 medium celery stalks, diced
1 bay leaf
3 cups of diced turkey meat
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup of leftover mashed potatoes
1/4 cup gravy
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
1 package of thawed Grandma's egg noodles, (this really makes the dish for me. These noodles are fresh frozen thick egg noodles that add great texture and flavor to the soup. Omit for a GF version soup)

In a large soup pot, heat garlic cloves in the olive oil. Allow to lightly brown and then add carrots, celery and onions to the pot. Sweat until softened, about 7 to 8 minutes.

Add the chopped sage to the soup pot along with the broth and the bay leaf. Bring to a simmer. When simmering, add turkey meat, mashed potatoes, gravy. Bring back to a simmer. Add the thawed egg noodles to the soup and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes or until desired doneness for the noodles. Serve and Enjoy!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Blessings

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Looky, Looky!

I was tickled when my friend came over for an afternoon of crafting, but I was caught totally by surprised when she brought over this adorable gift. The cookbook is too cute and features recipes from each state. It's called The All-American Christmas Cookbook by Georgia Orcutt and John Margolies. Each section features a little history about that state and a recipe that represents it. The California section is about the impact California agricultural has had in America. The recipe that follows is Fuyu Persimmon and Radicchio Salad. Each section also has vintage postcards. The dish towel was wrapped around the book and has a recipe for candy cane cookies. She got both of these cute gifts at a favorite local store called William Glen. It is a cross between William Sonoma and Crate and Barrel.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Craft Day

I had fun today with my dear friend Jamie(pictured). She came over to make Teresa McFayden's Advent Calendar. I made one last year and Jamie has been itching to make one of her own. She gathered up her numbers and cookie sheets and went to town. Her calendar is really cute. I don't have a picture to share yet, because she still has a few numbers to attach, but I promise I will take a picture of hers soon.

Holiday Cleaning

This is my challenge today! Hubby has been after me to clean up my craft areas. They do tend to get messy. I have taken over two closets in our house for my crafts. I would take three, but I thought that might be too greedy! I tend to just cram everything in my closets and then forget about them. I dream of having a craft room one day. I would love to have my work out where I could see it all. I get creative when I see a bead I forgot or some paper that catches my eye. When it is tucked away, I forget what I have. It's good to dream! So, my task today is to clean up before Thanksgiving. It will be interesting because our boys are off of school all this next week. I remember as a kid, we only got that Thursday and Friday off. It seems that school kids today get a lot of time off of school. I need to keep them busy, since hubby works out of the home. It can become very prickly with the kids home and hubby on a conference call. It's just not good for business when the kids are yelling and screaming in the background! I think one place I will take them is to the Crocker Art Museum. It is a really neat old museum in downtown Sacramento. The Crocker is the longest continuously operating museum west of the Rockies. It is housed an old Victorian mansion donated by Margaret Crocker. Right now they are exhibiting the art of Warner Bros. The art of Bugs Bunny should be right up the kids ally. It should be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Getting Into The Season

Oh my, doesn't that look good? Gingerbread with Cider Sabayon, what's not to love. I was looking at several of my cookbooks on my bookshelf and started thumbing though the pages. One of the books I pulled out was Stars Desserts by Emily Luchetti. The binding is broken on the book and there are so many stains on the pages. I was given the book by a dear friend long ago when hubby and I lived in the bay area. It is even autographed by Emily. I have made many recipes from the cookbook and they have all turned out delicious. Her shortbread and Russian wedding cookies are always in my gift baskets at Christmas time. Since I was re-visiting her cookbook, I decided to pull out the whisk and make the gingerbread recipe. It turned out divine. I love the deep, complex flavor of the gingerbread. The sabayon was fantastic, but I thought my arm was going to fall off after all that whisking. Son #2 and I tagged teamed the whisking. Oh, but it was so worth it.

Gingerbread with Cider Sabayon (adapted from Stars Dessert by Emily Luchetti)

1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 ounces (1 stick)
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 recipe cider sabayon
A 9 x 13 inch pan

To make the gingerbread:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of the pan.

Bring the water to a boil in a small pot and remove it from the heat. Stir in the molasses and the baking soda. Set the molasses mixture aside to cool to lukewarm.

Combine the butter and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. With the paddle attachment, cream on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Continuing to mix, add the eggs.

Sift together the salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, flour, and baking powder. Alternately fold the dry ingredients and the cooled molasses mixture into the butter and egg mixture on low speed. Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake the gingerbread for 30 to 35 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool and cut into squares and top with cider sabayon.

Cider Sabayon

8 large eggs yolks
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons apple cider
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Combine the egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a large stainless steel bowl. Whisk in the cider.

Fill a large bowl one quarter full of ice water and set aside. Place the first bowl over a pot of boiling water and whisk the egg mixture vigorously for about 5 minutes, until it is thick and tripled in volume. The sabayon should mound slightly when dropped from the whisk. Immediately put the bowl over the ice bath and whisk until cold(it is essential the sabayon be whisked over ice until it is completely cold).

Pour the cream into the bowl of an electric mixer. With the whisk attachment, whip on high speed until soft peaks form. Fold the cream into the sabayon. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Happy National Adoption Day

Today is national adoption day. It is a day to bring awareness to all the children that need a home whether in the foster care system or agency adoption. It is near and dear to my heart. We were blessed to adopt our three wonderful boys. We were lucky to connect with their birth moms early on and adopt them as newborns. I was even able to be at two of my boys birth. There are so many children, young and old that need good homes and loving families and there are so many families waiting to adopt. I hope this day will bring more awareness.


Monday, November 10, 2008


I know the pictures are not the best and most appetizing, but I really wanted to share these recipes with you. I have been really enjoying my crock pot for the last couple of days. I mean, what's not to love. You put your food in the pot and forget it until its done. With soccer weekends and all the activities, I think the crock pot is my best friend. Last night I cooked carnitas . I love how simple and versatile this recipe is. It also makes quite a bit, so it's great when feeding a crowd or for stretching your budget dollar. I can get 3 to 4 more meals off of this. I will use the leftovers in enchiladas, nachos, pork hash and sometimes I will add some barbecue sauce and make sandwiches with the leftovers. I also made some Mexican rice to go with the carnitas. Really yum-o.


1 pork butt
1 can reduced sodium beef broth
1 jar of your favorite jarred salsa
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 cup milk

Place pork butt, beef broth, salsa, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin and oregano in crock pot and cook on high until it falls apart and is tender, about 6 -8 hours.

When done, take meat out of crock pot and shred onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Pour 1/2 cup of broth from crock pot over pork and 1/2 cup of milk over pork. Bake in 275 degree oven for 45 minutes to crisp up. (You may omit this last step if time does not permit, they won't get crispy, but still taste great).

Mexican Rice (adapted from Rick Bayless' Authentic Mexican)

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup long or medium grain rice
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, peeled and finely diced
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon chili powder

In a 2 quart sauce pan with fitted lid, measure oil in pan and set over medium heat. Add rice and onion, and cook, stirring regularly, until both are lightly browned, 7 to 10 minutes. Mix in garlic and cook a minute longer.

Add the tomato sauce and chili powder to the rice and cook for one minute, stirring several times. Add the broth and salt to the rice and stir. Cover pot and reduce heat to medium low. Cook 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the rice stand 10 minutes, covered, until the grains are tender.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Remembrance Of My Son

I can't believe it's November. Why does the time seem to go so fast once we hit September. I don't feel that way with the rest of the year, but this time of year really zooms by. Today is All Saint's Day and it is a significant day for me. My oldest son would have turned 12 today! Twelve years ago when I was five months pregnant, we found out that he had a terminal birth defect. He was diagnosed with Schisis-association. A neural tube defect which is almost always fatal. Our son was born with an omphalocele and severe cleft lip and palate. The omphalocele is when the stomach wall doesn't form and the internal organs are encased in a sack outside the body. He was a twin but I had lost the twin early on in my pregnancy and didn't know that until later. I was able to carry him the whole nine months and had scheduled my c-section for November 1st. We had prayed and hoped that he would survive. Pray and our faith is what kept us going, and still does. Unfortunately, that was not in God's plan and our little guy died 4 days later. This is always a melancholy time of year for me. I guess I still need the world to know that our little guy was once on this earth. I know in my heart that he is always with me and watches out for his family. Happy Birthday my son!
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