Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Another year older!

Wow! This kid is now in the double digits. Ten years old today. It is hard to believe. He is the middle child which comes with it's own set of challenges. Sometimes not old enough to hang out with big brother and his friends and sometimes to old to play with his little brothers and his friends. J is the most curious child I have every come across. He wants to know how everything works. Compassionate, curious and smart. Happy 10th birthday my son!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Delicious Tomatoes

This weekend I was able to do something I don't usually get to do; that is catch a bit of television. I was watching the Food Network and tuned in halfway to the Barefoot Contessa. I do love Ina Garten! She was doing a show on oven roasting and I tuned into seeing her making this delicious salad. It is a Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad. YUM! You roast the tomatoes to intensify the flavor and can even use the puny tomatoes you can find in the grocery stores now. I really like to eat seasonally and have been waiting for tomato season to start, but I had to give this recipe a try. It was fantastic! The flavors were pure summer. The creamy mozzarella as a foil to the sweet roasted tomatoes and the sharpness of the basil. Summer love baby, summer love!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge- Cheesecake

I was pleased to see cheesecake as our challenge for this month. I love the versatility of cheesecake. It is like a blank canvas with so many potential combinations. And that is exactly what our challenge was for this month.

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

We were able to make any flavor combination. I chose for my cheesecake Dulce de leche and cinnamon with orange. It was fantastic! It was our Easter dinner dessert and it won rave reviews from everyone.

I used Recipe girl's technique for making the Dulce de leche. It is brilliant! She cooks the sweetened condensed milk in the oven. No worries if the can will explode or constant stirring at the stove. It turned into creamy caramel goodness!

I liked the combination of cinnamon and orange with the dulce de leche, so I spiced the cake with a teaspoon of cinnamon, grated orange peel, 1 tablespoon of fresh orange juice and Cointreau. It was, licking your plate when no one was looking good! I would definitely make this again.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice ( I used orange juice)

grated orange peel from one orange

1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake (I used cointreau)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour the batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.

Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

More Rosaries

There is something very calming for me when I make rosaries. I love the feel of the beads in my hand and the play of colors. This rosary is for a family friend that has had me make all her granddaughters First Communion rosaries. This is her last grandchild to receive First Communion. I used Swarovski aquamarine crystals and sterling silver beads. The rosary is quite heavy, but I love the play on light that it has.

Leek and Goat Cheese Galette

We have been trying to eat less meat lately. Don't get me wrong, we are not going totally vegetarian, just trying to cut back on all the red meat that seems to be in our diet. I am even leaning on reducing the amount of poultry we consume. My oldest son does not like meat at all. What we are trying to do is add a lot more vegetables into our diet and seafood. With that in mind, I checked out at the library Deborah Madison's book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It is a great book! I have written copious notes on what I want to try out of the book. Last night I made the Leek and Goat Cheese Galette. A galette is a free form pie that can have either have a savory or sweet filling. It was delicious! The leeks were creamy and the tang of the goat cheese was the perfect foil. I would definitely make this again. My oldest son, the picky eater, ate four slices last night. This would be great to serve with company. I would add a nice tossed green salad, some fresh fruit and a nice Chardonnay. Yum!

Leek and Goat Cheese Galette (adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)

5 large leeks with green cut off
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup creme fraiche
Salt and Fresh milled pepper
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Galette Dough
1/2 cup to 1 cup soft goat cheese to taste, about 4 ounces

Thinly slice and wash the leeks.

Melt the butter in medium skillet. Add the leeks, thyme, and 1/2 cup water. Stew over medium heat stirring frequently, until the leeks are tender, about 12 minutes. Add the wine and continue cooking until it's reduced, then add the creme fraiche and cook until it just coats the leeks and little liquid remains. Season with salt and plenty of pepper. Let cool 10 minutes, then stir in all but 1 tablespoon of the beaten egg and 2 tablespoons of the parsley.

Preheat the oven to 400 degree F. Roll out the dough for one large or six individual galettes. Spread the leek mixture on the top, leaving a 2 inch border around the edge. Crumble the cheese over the top then fold the dough over the filling. Brush the reserved egg and bake until the crust is browned 25 to 30 minutes. Remove and slice.

Galette Dough

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
12 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 to 1/2 cup of ice water as needed

Mix the flour salt, and sugar together in a bowl. Cut in the butter by hand, leaving some pea-sized chunks. Sprinkle the ice water over the top by the tablespoon and toss it with the flour mixture until you can bring the dough together into a ball. Press it into a disk and refrigerate for 15 minutes if the butter feels soft.

To form the galette, roll it out on a lightly floured counter into a 14 inch irregular circle about 1/8 inch thick. Fold it into quarters and transfer it to the back of a sheet pan or a cookie sheet without sides. Unfold it. It will be larger than the pan.

Add the ingredients according to the recipe, leaving a border 2 to 4 inches wide. Fold the edges of the dough over the filling, overlapping them as you go.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

New Treasures

I was out at the local antique shops the other day and came across these beauties. I especially love the pin. It definitely evokes a gentler time.

I love how this rosary came out. I used pinkish/peach pearls for the Hail Mary beads and Czech crystals for the Our Father beads. This rosary goes to a young lady that I have the honor of sponsoring for Confirmation. I am looking forward to giving it to her.

The Swan!

This is a truly feel good video of Susan Boyles, a contestant on Britain's Got Talent. You have to check this out! It brought tears to my eyes and gave me goosebumps all at the same time.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Lemons to Lemonade

My first award! How fun! My dear friend Maria of Living on Adrenaline & Grace, sent me this little award that really cheered me up. After the week we have had, this made my day. Please visit the blogs I have listed below. They always bring a smile to my face when I visit them. Enjoy!

I am supposed to pass this one so here it goes.

Here are the rules:

“These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers.

The rules of the award are as follows:
1) Put the logo on your blog or post.

2) Nominate at least 10 blogs that show great attitude or gratitude.

3) Link to your nominees within your post.

4) Let the nominees know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

5) Share the love and link to the person from who you received your award....

Please check out these blogs.

Teresa at French Poppy

Gail at That Artist Woman

Alice at A number of things

Something creative

It was good to get back and make some jewelry for a change. With my crazy life, it felt very calming to get the tools in hand and create something. I have been fooling with this idea for a while. I wanted the color palate to be very subtle, so I chose to work with black, silver and gray beads to create this look. The center is from an old broken rosary that was my mother in laws. The Sacred Heart pendant is one of my favorites. I first tried using a crucifix, but it seemed to large and bulky. I like the Sacred Heart better.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

One of those weeks!

Have you every had a week where nothing goes right. Of course you have, everyone has! Well, this week was my turn. Let me explain.

On Wednesday my day was quite packed. The plan was to take the kids to see a movie, take mom to her radiation appointment and then make it across town to attend a meeting. Well here is how it played out. I took the boys to see the movie Monsters vs. Aliens with my dear friend Peggy and her 5 kids. We had a nice time and afterword the kids played a little in the arcade at the movie theater. I took the kids home and picked up my mom to take her to her radiation appointment. All was well, we got there on time and I pulled into the unloading zone to drop her off. I turned off my car and got out her walker and helped her out of the car. I then got back into the car to move it and park it in the parking lot. My car would not start. Horrors! Not only would it not start, the way I was parked I was blocking other poor souls from dropping off their cancer patients. I felt terrible and kept trying to get my car to start. Finally I called AAA and their guy came out 20 minutes later and said, "Yep, it won't start Ma'am! You need it towed!" Good golly! In the mean time my mother finished her radiation and came out looking for where I was. I explained that I needed to get the car towed and I would call for a ride home for her. The tow truck finally came and took me to our dealership right at closing time for the repair department. Once Hubs and the boys picked me up, I had 20 minutes to make it across town for a Confirmation meeting for a young lady I am sponsoring. I made it on time, but barely! That evening, my youngest son remembered that he left his wallet at the arcade. All it had in it was 5 dollars, but he was devastated.

The last part of this story is I received a call today, that my dad was in a minor fender bender. No one was hurt thank goodness. Overall, it was not the worst week ever. We have one another, a roof over our heads, food on the table and good health. It was just one of those weeks where it was one thing after another.
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