Category Archives: cheese

Daring Bakers April 2008– Success!

Those who know me well know that I don’t do well with fiddly details. You see, at work, I’m a perfectionist I work with statistics and economics and data analysis, I have to be precise and perfect all the time, and when I come home, I want to make ginormous sticky measures and play around. Plus, I don’t seem to have the coordination to make pretty little fussy things, though I do hope to improve my cake decorating skills this year. So, when I tell you that making these chocolate-dipped cheesecake pops from the aptly named cookbook Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor was dead simple, and that it is nowhere near as difficult as it looks, please believe me. In fact, not only were they gorgeous and individually portioned– perfect for parties– but they were also easy enough that I’d be willing to do it again, and have been requested to do so for a friend’s wedding! Plus, I got to wander around the Dupont Circle farmer’s market this morning giving them out to my unsuspecting food providers as a thank you for hanging out in the wet to make sure that I eat well this week.

And, really, if even I can make them look so pretty, imagine what you can do. I made half of them plain chocolate-dipped (O Organics chocolate bits), and half covered with toasted hazelnut bits. I also did 2 covered in some leftover sprinkles, but didn’t get to take a picture of them. Next time I think I’ll also try colored sugar, and I’ll probably try it with darker chocolate. I also might use a little more shortening than the recipe called for- the chocolate coating was a little thick, but it was probably my fault as– big surprise– I altered the recipe! Well, really adjusted it by 4/5ths.

You see, I order my dairy (for the most part) from a loverly company called South Mountain Creamery. They deliver it to me at work, and I take it home. The creamery is fabulous, and having access to it, I couldn’t imagine using Philly cream cheese, as dependable and thick as it is, for this cake. South Mountain Creamery, however, only delivers the plain flavor of cream cheese in 1-lb containers. The recipe called for 5! 8-oz packages of cream cheese, and I really did not want to buy 3 of them and have half a pound making its’ way to my hips. I suppose I could’ve halved it and had the same problem, but that isn’t like me. I have to do it the hard way. So, I made 4/5ths, made the main cake in a 9″ cake pan, and filled 24 mini cupcake liners, hoping with a very little bit of excess batter. Unfortunately, I must have overwhipped the batter, because the cupcakes and cake sank a lot after rising, making the mini-cupcakes unusable as pops. Luckily, they were tasty on their own; Had they lasted long enough, I would have piped some chocolate into the sunken center and decorated that. However, I had to bring them into work before I could, to get them out of my greedy little hands.

I can’t recommend this recipe enough. Please make it! It’s creamy, the chocolate crackles under your tongue, and you can personalize it so many ways. Plus, even if you can’t find lollipop sticks, it works fine on straws, and then you get pretty bright colors. A giant hit. Thank you so much to Elle, Deborah, and the rest of the Daring Bakers for this recipe.

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Filed under cake, cheese, chocolate, daring bakers, dessert, Food Blogs, holiday, Uncategorized, vegetarian

Mostly Veg

Fondue, as retro-seventies as it may be, has become a once-a-month staple in our little apartment. Good for guests but also ridiculously easy (and low on dishes), the only downside to this dish is that the kind of cheese you’ll want to use can cost a pretty penny. South Mountain Creamery sent a whole pound of good cheddar– for $5!– last week, though, so we had friends up to share. The fondue was cheddar-beer with a little mustard, but the special part for me is all the fillings…

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Pictured: Apple, pear, broccoli, red onion, potato, and red pepper (capsicum), plus surprise favorite: hot dogs. (Like I said, mostly veg).

Not pictured: toasted french bread, garlic.

Yum!

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Filed under cheese, pear, pepper, Uncategorized, vegetarian, veggies

Healthy Food for Lazy Days

Ugh. I hate winter. I hate winter so very much that I looked at the giant, teacup sized flakes marking DC’s second snowfall with disgust rather than amazement. It’s always been that way– even when I was a little girl, I “hibernated” during the winter, having to be pushed and scolded into leaving the house. I’m self-motivated now, but it’s frequently difficult for me to get out and go shopping for fresh foods and then stand around and chop up all those veggies.

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This (yet to be named) meal is the perfect solution for winter slumps; you can make a million variations of it to fit whatever you have in the house, it’s relatively healthy (the picture shows the boy’s version, which gets double-cheese) , and you can get it on the table in less than half an hour, with barely any chopping. Bonus points, too, for how easy it is to make it in individual serving sizes, which cuts down on dishes and steps and makes it an entertaining-friendly vegetarian meal.

Main Dish (per person)

1/2 c cooked quinoa (could substitute brown rice, bulgar, etc.)
1 c cherry tomatoes, halved (could substitute chunky tomato sauce or tomatoes)
1-2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
3T fresh parsley if available
drizzle of olive oil
1 oz shredded or sliced mozzarella cheese (I’m sure others would be good, too)
salt, pepper to taste

Coat a small saute pan with a drizzle of olive oil. Toss in garlic and saute over medium-low heat until fragrant (2-3 minutes). Add tomatoes and 2T parsley and cook another minute or so, until tomatoes are warm and slightly squishy. Add salt and pepper (plus any other spices you’re in the mood for, it’s very versatile) to taste.

In a mini-loaf pan (or any other small oven-safe container), smooth cooked quinoa to form one even layer. Spread tomato mixture on top, then top with cheese. Sprinkle with remaining parsley for garnish.

Bake “loaf” at 375 for approximately 8 minutes, until cheese is thoroughly melted and preferable starting to brown a bit on the edges.

Serve with whatever veggies are at hand– to my mind, this pairs well with boiled pre-frozen veggies and a dash of butter; the squishier texture of pre-frozen just makes the meal more comforting.

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Filed under beans, cheese, vegetarian, veggies

Daring Bakers December- Chocolate Yule Log (Buche de Noel)

Phew! *Wipes sweat off her brow*. That was tough, and involved quite a few unwarranted jokes at my expense. In fact, a certain someone in my life was known to comment “Wow! That’s going to look the same going in as coming out.” *Pout* Of course, he was also the same person to comment the next day that the mushrooms on it looked “yummy” and to want to eat some early. Ahem. There was no eating, though, as this was made, for Amanda’s birthday. Of course, wanting to take decent pictures, I borrowed her camera, and… well, they haven’t come back from their Christmas vacation in the Berkshires yet, so they’re going to have to come home to their permanent location here post-publishing date; when they do, though, I’ll let you know.

DB Silhouette

Those of you who spend time in this little corner of the blogosphere probably know the story by now: the Daring Bakers are a group dedicated to pushing their baking limits. Each month, a member sets a new challenge. Everyone else has to make that recipe, exactly as stated except when the exceptions are stated in the challenge. Everything is a secret for the rest of the month until the big reveal day- today!

Now, I feel truly lucky to have had this be my first month (thanks, guys!); it looks much easier than the million-layer crepe cake (I can’t imagine flipping so many crepes, I’m a giant klutz), and requires far less perfectionism than the strawberry mirror cake. Plus, you can make lots of adjustments to this challenge. this cake was originally supposed to be vanilla cake with espresso frosting, but me? I made chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream and chocolate-strawberry filling. Anything for the birthday girl, of course ;). I thought the cake was good– the buttercream, in particular, was much easier to work with than my standard recipe, but my genoise tasted too eggy; its one of the recipes that doesnt stand up as well to farm-fresh eggs, in my opinion. I would have had to adjust the recipe to have one less egg and a little more other liquid for it to taste just right. I might also choose to cover the whole thing with chocolate ganache, too, and just use almond paste rather than marzipan– the raw material tastes better to me.

Without further ado, the recipe:

Yule Log

Plain or Chocolate Genoise
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour – spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)– I just substituted cocoa powder to make it chocolate
¼ cup cornstarch

one (1) 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again

1. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.
2. Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.
3. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger – it should be warm to the touch).
4. Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.
5. While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.
6. Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.
7. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
8. Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.
9. While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.
10. Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Coffee or Chocolate Buttercream
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder (I used 3T cocoa powder thinned with vanilla)
2 tablespoons rum or brandy (I used butterscotch schnapps)
Strawberry jam for filling (if desired)

1. Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
2. Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

Marzipan Mushrooms

8 ounces almond paste
2 cups icing sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
Cocoa powder

1.To make the marzipan combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed.
2.Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
3.Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary: the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly.
4.Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.
5.Roll one-third of the marzipan into a 6 inches long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths.
6.Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms.
7.Smudge with cocoa powder.

Assemble the Yule Log:

1. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.
2. Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.
3. Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.
4. Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using)– I used strawberry jam and chocolate buttercream.
5. Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.
6. Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.
7. Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.
8. Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.
9. Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.
10. Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.
11. Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.

Adapted from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert

DB Logo

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Filed under cake, cheese, chocolate, daring bakers, dessert, holiday, vegetarian

Ethical Eating (3)- Organics and Mishigash*

*Randomness. Sometimes Yiddish is fun.

This is part 3 of of a three-part series on my views on eating ethically. The first one focuses on why I try to eat locally (and the resources I use to do so). The second one will focus on why I’m not a vegetarian (even though I love veggies), and this third one will be (yep, modified) organics– plus! a bonus, easily vegan-izable winter meal idea; I would have discussed the comments, especially on the second post, but they really discussed themselves. Go check it out.

You may have noticed that this post has taken a little longer to come than the other two. Part of it is that it’s less specific, and thus less inspiring, by nature– but it’s also that my thoughts are more conflicted on organics than on anything else related. You see, at one point I was *very, very* careful about buying everything organic. Then, I met the farmers market… where the milk and dairy products were not organic, for the most part. Hmmmph. I asked the farmers why they weren’t, and, amazingly, they didn’t  beat me up for being so rude! Instead, they patiently explained to me their methods of farming. To be honest, the methods varied.

Some of our local dairy farms were, for all intents and purposes, organic but the certification process was too unwieldy and expensive. Some couldn’t afford to buy supplemental organic feed when their farms didn’t produce enough, and some just felt that non-organic chemicals did the best job and made it possible for them to spray much less, ultimately lowering the toxicity (note: not all organic-approved chemicals are happy and fuzzy.) I thought about that and accepted that they really knew what they were doing, choosing to buy dairy from them rather than organic dairy from the supermarket.

Next came the fruits. When I found the farmers market it was summer. and most of the fruits (though not all) were organic. I was still buying primarily organic fruits and vegetables, but that– that’s easy in summer. When it came to fall, though, I was stumped. Why? Because nobody grows organic tree fruits near DC. They’re nearly, if not totally, impossible to track down from a commercial source (I have to assume that some people have fruit trees in their yards, but that doesn’t help me much, as I don’t know them.) And so, again, a choice– organic tree fruits shipped in from far away, or local in-season fruits from small farms. Again, I asked the farmers. Turns out it’s just not profitable in this region to grow them, and so they can’t afford to– but all of them spray minimally and responsibly, and are happy to discuss their methods. One  farmer even gives paper handouts out so you can go home and learn more about his methods– really cool! Again, thought about it, bought the fruit, haven’t looked back.

There are, however, some things I make a special effort to buy organic, especially when I’m not at the farmer’s market. Corn and wheat products, wherever possible, because I’m concerned about the amount of genetic modification that goes on (besides which I’m willing to bet that topical pesticides are ground into the flour without adequate cleaning at some places) . The standard list of “most risky” foods. Eggs, meats, and dairies when I don’t personally know the producer (if you’ve taken high school biology, you might remember how toxins concentrate as they go up the food chain.)  Berries, tomatoes, and strawberries. Root vegetables that have been marinating in toxins. The list goes on.

Tricksy, huh? So now that you’ve got your stash of organic, locally grown vegetables, what do you do with them in winter? Well, if you’re me, you boil a few potatoes until very soft, then mash them with skim milk, a little butter, a little cream if you’ve got it around, and some sharp or stinky cheese (vegan equivalents are fine, I prefer rice milk, and you can leave out the cheese– it will still taste fabulous so long as you add a little salt).  While the potatoes are boiling, you sautee a lot of garlic and some crushed red pepper in some olive oil, add some greens, and cook until they’re tender, finishing off with some mustard and lemon juice if you’ve got them around. Make a “nest” of the mashed potatoes, and throw the greens in the middle. This is great on its’ own, but if you’ve got some beans lying around, make a bean salad for extra protein.

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Filed under beans, cheese, ethics, greens, Other Interests, vegetarian, veggies

Meal Planning 2– Plus Recipe!

I seem to be already in the habit of posting well into the week, but I’ll try to get something done earlier into the next cycle. Of course, it would help if I’d thought past tomorrow night before now, but… no one’s perfect, right?

A few months ago I won a fondue cookbook from a Washington Post giveaway. Now, having been born after the 70’s fondue craze, I had never actually had fondue and– shock!– had never seen a real, live fondue pot. Not wanting to take a huge financial risk, I was able to get one off of Freecycle… and was amazed at how easy it was to make. For all its’ fussy reputation, it was quick and required little hands-on time (other than eating.) It encouraged me to eat slowly, and was a lot of fun to do with my beau . If you don’t have a fondue pot, don’t be alarmed; you could easily do this without a fondue pot if you were willing to periodically rewarm the cheese.

Cheese Fondue (serves 4 hungry adults)

For Fondue
2 slices bacon (optional)
3/4 c beer
large pinch salt
8 oz cheddar-type cheese, shredded (I use low-fat when I have it))
1 T flour
4 oz cream cheese (optional, I use low-fat when I have it)

For Dipping
(note: This is what I like to make, but feel free to substitute whatever strikes your fancy, so long as it goes with cheese and can be stabbed with a fork. I roast everything at 350 until it’s crunchy/ soft as appropriate, but use your judgment)
Pearl onions
Baby potatoes
Garlic bread
Hot dog chunks
Broccoli
Steak (the boy’s favorite)
Bell Pepper
Cauliflower
Apple slices

Instructions
If using bacon, cut into small pieces and lay them across the bottom of the pot. Put on medium heat until cooked (however you like your bacon cooked, doesn’t need to be any particular texture.) Spill out a good deal of the grease, but leave a little for flavor.

Add 3/4 cup beer and a generous pinch of salt to the fondue pot. Put on medium heat until it begins to boil, then turn the heat down slightly and add the grated cheese and flour gradually, stirring. Add cream cheese if desired. Stir until smooth. Add a little extra beer if needed– you’re looking for a smooth consistency (no lumps and bumps) that is thin enough for easy dipping but not so thin that it doesn’t stick. Think latex paint.

Move pot to fondue stand with lit fire. Serve with assorted dippings. Be worshiped as befits the god(dess) you are. And, if you have leftover fondue, add some cooked pasta to it and you have grown-up mac-n-cheese for the next day.

As for the menu planning:
11/8
Dinner: Leftovers

11/9
Dinner: Matzo Ball Soup

11/10
Brunch: Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
Dinner: Boyfriend’s choice (wound up being Chinese Takeout)

11/11
Brunch: Pierogi with onions and hot dog chunks
Dinner: Cheese Fondue! (i.e. I am the coolest girlfriend EVER!)

11/12
Potato-Leek-Bacon Soup

11/13
Baja Fresh- Mystery Shop

11/14
Papa John’s- Mystery Shop

**by the way, I pretty much always have farmers market fruit, whatever’s in season, for breakfast and leftovers for lunch. You can assume that’s the case unless I mark otherwise.

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Filed under alcohol, cheese, pepper

Health Food

(Or, what I eat when I’m sick.)

Plate

Stuffed butternut squash and garlic kale. Isn’t that what you eat when you’re sick and there’s no soup in the house?

Well, maybe not. But this was fabulous. I’m sick, gross-sick, and I don’t want the roomie to get sick (cause then who’ll take care of me?), so I needed to make something so very healthy that the sick germs would take one look at her and run. As I subscribe to the colorful plate theory of nutrition, I pulled out the brightest things in my cabinets/ pantry, and tried to make them work together. I decided that kale and butternut squash didn’t go together well enough to be cooked together, which left me butternut squash and my newest impulse purchase, black “forbidden” rice.

This rice? It’s fabulous. I’m not entirely sure that it counts as rice, really, in terms of taste– it’s very nutty and firm, more so than brown rice. Of course, this makes it perfect for stuffing something soft and sweet, for more contrast. I was inspired towards the end (interestingly, after the addition of feta), to make this almost Moroccan style, with raisins, cinnamon, and almonds. Of course, then it needed Parmesan before baking, which made this even more of a cultural hodge-podge. Nevertheless, it’s something I could taste even with the gross, and the roomie kept saying “wow, it’s so good” from the other side of the quarantine-box.

Here’s how:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Slice 2 small butternut squash in half. Remove seeds and fiber, then place, cut side up, on a baking sheet and cover it with foil, placing it in your oven. (Total cook time: ~ 1hr)

Meanwhile, sautee 1/2 an onion and 1/4 cup parsley in olive oil for about 5 minutes, until onion is transluscent. Add salt, pepper, 1 cup black “forbidden” rice, and 2 cups vegetable stock (or water.) Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, approximately 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, sautee 1 thinly sliced carrot in olive oil . Add garlic (I like lots, you may not), 1/4 cup of corn (I used frozen) and 10 brussel sprouts (sliced thinly), until brussel sprout “wilts.” Let cool 5 minutes, then add salt and pepper to taste, a healthy squirt of lemon juice, half a pack (40z?) of feta, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 cup of raisins, and 1/4 cup of slivered almonds ( I like mine toasted first). Mix together.

When rice is done, take squash out of oven and spoon out most of the flesh, so that you have a hollow bowl-like shell with about 1/2″ of flesh left in. Put the shells back in the oven, cut the squash pieces up into small chunks, and mix together with the rice. Let sit for 5 minutes, then mix in the vegetable-cheese mixture. Stuff the squash shells with the stuffing (as pictured below), sprinkle the top with parm, and bake another 10 minutes.

Serve hot. Enjoy.

squash

Of course, I couldn’t make something so brightly colored, on a Tuesday no less, and not submit it for Sweetnicks’ ARF-5 A Day blogging event. Thanks Cate! Check out the other healthy entries here.

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Filed under cheese, greens, Uncategorized, veggies