Photo Friday!

This Photo Friday! is brought to you by spring-into-summer recipes ratios. I made these food items not from recipes, but from ratios. I will post the directions on how to make these goodies in the recipe section soon, so look for them there.

First up, I made these scones. A very basic ratio, and similar method to biscuits or pie dough.

I had leftover egg whites after making ice cream, so I made an angel food cake. I think of this as a springtime cake because it is light and airy and is usually served with fresh, seasonal fruit such as berries and citrus.

I just love the way the light in this photo makes the cake look really light. It tasted more meringue-like than cake-y, but I was okay with that.

I roasted some corn and red pepper and put it and other veggies and rice together for a spring-to-summer  “succotash”. (According to the dictionary entry I found, real succotash is made with Lima beans.)

The “succotash” I made with roasted corn, red bell pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, and rice. NO recipe here. Just roasted the corn (on the cob) with the red pepper and tomatoes on a baking sheet in a very hot (as high as it goes) oven until…the smoke detector goes off! Just kidding. Sorta. :) Just until the veggies start to blacken. For easy clean-up, I recommend using foil and oil, just enough to prevent sticking.

What are your favorite spring/summer desserts? What foods remind you the most of spring or summer?

What I’m Reading Wednesday

Last week, I started this series about what I am reading. I started things off with the cookbooks I am reading and grabbing inspiration and recipes from. This week, I bring you my most recent novels I’ve read.

How To Eat A Cupcake

(photo credit: Bookin with Bingo blog)

  1. How To Eat A Cupcake; By Meg Donohue. I first heard about this book on a blog I read, Cakespy, when she wrote out this blurb in the book: “I had, I’ll admit, effected a certain style–a method, if you will–of cupcake eating. To begin, you remove the cupcake liner carefully so as to not unnecessarily crumble the cake, and set it aside. You then turn the cupcake slowly in your hand, taking bites along the line where cake meets icing, your mouth filling with the perfect combination of both components. Once you’ve come  full circle, you gently twist off the bottom half inch of cake, a move that takes considerable finesse and leaves a delicate sliver of cake–the ideal size for lying flat on your tongue and allowing it to slowly dissolve, building anticipation for that final bite. To finish, you are left with the center cylinder of cake and icing, the cupcakes very heart, sometimes filled with a surprising burst of custard or jam or mousse, sometimes not, but always, always the most moist, flavorful bite of the entire cupcake. Take a breath before diving into that final, perfect bite; it is to be savored for as long as possible. Finally, of course, you scavenge the crumbs from the cupcake liner you set aside during step one, then ball the liner into your fist and overhand it into the nearest receptacle. Make the shot? You get another cupcake.” I was intrigued, and then I saw that Joy the Baker also read the book, and I knew I had to read it. I am still finishing it up, but it is definitely a good read. I would even say it is a good beach read. You know, of the “not needing to pay much attention to details” books. A quick read.
  2. Eat The Document; by Dana Spiotta. A couple’s story about their radical protests in the 1970s and what the outcomes are in the 1990s. It is a book my sister sent me, and therefore one I might not have picked up on my own, but it was a good book. A little bit of history, love story and mystery rolled into one. My sister also recommends her new book, Stone Arabia.
  3. The Book Of Salt; by Monique Truong. Another book from my sister, and a book I would be more likely to pick up on my own, about the Vietnamese cook who worked for Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in Paris in the 1930s. A great way to learn about these greats and about Paris in this era.

    Cover of "What the Dog Saw: And Other Adv...

  4. What The Dog Saw and Blink; by Malcom Gladwell. These books I read back-to-back so I get confused about which articles I read in which since they are similar in some ways. I picked up What The Dog Saw and started reading it before realizing it was the same author. Actually, I read this book first and then I read Blink. After seeing everyone reading Blink, as if part of the book itself, I figured I should read it, too. They are both insightful reads, but if you do decide to take on both, I recommend reading them at different times, and not back-to-back; it’s just too intense that way.The Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Foodie Pen Pal

This month I became a part of the foodie pen pals. This is, yes, another food (blogger) community that I became a part of; it was started by Lindsay from The Lean Green Bean. It is a group of bloggers (or non-bloggers) who are paired up to receive and give a foodie package and letter. This month, I was paired up with and sent goodies to Erika from MCM Mama; head on over there to see what I sent her! I got paired up with a non-blogger, Mandy, who sent me goodies from Louisiana.

Mandy sent me a little card with the package describing what was included. She sent two mini pumpkin nutella loaves, coffee from Cafe du Monde with chicory and an alligator shaped cookie cutter. She says, “Since I moved here last fall, I’ve been hoping to happen upon a gator (while in my car of course) but it has yet to happen.”  Thanks again, Mandy!

I’ll have to make some cookies soon because I now have an alligator shaped cookie cutter and a camel shaped cookie cutter. What type of cookies do you think I should bake? Maybe these funfetti cookies?

I also now want to make coffee ice cream and try making coffee bacon. Funny, I sent coffee in my package as well, thinking about all of the things you can bake with coffee. Just in case, like me, they don’t drink coffee. Now to find a way to brew coffee without a coffee maker…anyone know how? Or just find recipes that use the coffee beans/grounds. If you have any recipes you’d like to share, post them (or a link to them) in the comments!

Looking forward to using the goodies from this month and receiving new ones next month! Check back to find out what I get in June!

What I’m Reading Wednesday

I get a lot of inspiration to write this blog and make recipes from the cookbooks I read, the other blogs, and food related articles that I find online. I also want to have a weekly feature on my blog and I think this is the best way to do that. If you know this blog, you know I tried doing it before, with just links to articles, but I am older, more mature, and beyond just writing lists of article links, and onto writing more about what I am reading. (If you do a search on “links” you will find a long archive of posts like the ones I mentioned)

To start things off, I would like to tell you about some of the cookbooks I am reading that have been inspiring me lately.

  1. Baking; by James Peterson. I have mentioned this before and have shared the things I have made with this book. It is a great book full of basics and could even be used as a guide to teach yourself how to bake.
  2. Ratio; by Michael Ruhlman.I believe there is also an app for the iPhone that is related to this book. This book is a great tool to learn the basic ratios of everything including cookie dough, pie/tart dough, stocks, bread, pasta dough, and everything in-between. A great way to learn how to create your own recipes.

    Cover of

    Cover via Amazon

  3. Ruhlman’s Twenty; by Michael Rulhman. Yes, the same chef as Ratio. This is also a great tool to learn the basics of cooking and baking. It goes through twenty techniques/ingredients that are required to make just about anything you want to in the kitchen. It builds upon itself, and yes, “thinking” is chapter one, but you need to think about what you are making before you make it and add ingredients to the mix. Trust me, it makes perfect sense once you get into the rest of the book.
  4. Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts: Quicker Smarter Recipes; by Alice Medrich. A wonderfully smart women and beautiful and sweet. I met her at the book signing (after the bake sale) where I bought her latest book (the one I speak of) and she is simply delightful. This book is about keeping it simple. Whether you are the cook who is scared to bake, or the baker with no time to make a pie for tonight’s party, this book is for you. One bowl is all you need for most of the recipes in this book. Totally approachable from all angles.
  5. The Joy the Baker Cookbook; by Joy Wilson. This is one of my favorites. Both in blog form and in cookbook writing, Joy brings you her witty self and her greatest baked goods. She also hosts this super awesome podcast. Coffee bacon for breakfast. Carrot cake pancakes for lunch. You heard me. What?! There’s carrots in there! It’s healthy!

Those are the (top) five cookbooks I am reading/using recipes from/getting inspired by. For now. What are your favorite cookbooks right now? Let me know what you are reading in the comments!

April Showers Bring May Flowers.

Can you believe that we are only a couple of weeks away from May, already?

I know that I was definitely busy between, uh, last July and now. :)

But now that I am all caught up on the exciting things I’ve made since then, I will now share what I made in April, since I spent the month posting about the past.

In the beginning of the month, I celebrated Passover. I even hosted a Seder for the first time! I made a (super delicious) pescatarian dinner that included veggies from the farmer’s market and fish from the San Francisco Fish Company and wine from The Wine Merchant. Here is a list of recipes I made/adapted for my Seder:

Baked Stuffed Zucchini (My favorite dish, besides the matzoh ball soup.)

Matzoh Lasagna (I added spinach to mine. Surprisingly good…almost as good as lasagna made with noodles)

Matzoh Brittle (made it twice…once for my Seder, and once for a friend’s Seder. The first time, I followed the recipe and the second time, with the inspiration from a friend that came to my Seder, I added some ginger to some pieces and some cinnamon to others)

The fish part of the meal was just some sauteed cod. I just cut the fish into pieces that fit into the pan, sauteed in olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. No real recipe, just cook until fish flakes apart with a fork. I think it was about 2 or 3 minutes on either side.

Throughout the month, I also made some ice cream. I got the recipe from one of my favorite bloggers, David Lebovitz. I added a chocolate fudge sauce to it while it was in the machine churning, but it turned out I added too much, because it caused the ice cream to soften and it separated. This made it a sort of micro-chocolate chip-caramel ice cream. All in all, it was pretty good. I would like to make more ice cream using his recipes and just stick with the recipe, because I have a feeling they will turn/churn out well. (See what I did there?!)

Some other things I made this month include a simple pasta dish, an orange-lemon pound cake,  and mini tartlets, again. The pasta dish was spaghetti, peas, tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil all tossed and heated/cooked together in a saute pan. First, the olive oil cooks the garlic, then the peas and tomatoes are added, and finally the pasta. Lunch or dinner is ready in minutes!

The orange-lemon pound cake was made with some orange sugar…which is just like vanilla sugar, but with orange zest. All you have to do is zest some orange (or any other citrus, or a combo would be good, too) into sugar and rub them together. It makes the flavor stand out more. The recipe I used was more or less made up. It is a simple 1:1:1 ratio, as you may have guessed. In this case, it was 8 ounces butter, 8 ounces sugar, 8 ounces flour, and an egg, some vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Bake in a buttered loaf pan in a 350-degree oven until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool in pan for about 5 minutes before overturning and cooling completely on a cooling rack.

The tartlets I made were basically the same as before, using orange curd and candied orange peel as garnish. The shells were made with a pie/tart dough recipe that used cream instead of eggs/water/other liquid. But you can go ahead and use sable dough if you’d prefer.

So, that’s what I’ve made in April (so far). I am excited for what the month of May will bring! What are some of the things that made April special for you? What are you looking forward to in May? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

Baking without a recipe

Everyone says baking is an exact science, and it is because of the reactions between the different ingredients. But it is possible to change a recipe because baking is really all about the correct ratios. For example, cookie dough, or, as I posted before, 1-2-3 dough, is a ratio of 1 part butter, 2 parts sugar, and 3 parts flour. With adding some eggs, some baking powder, and some flavor (such as vanilla extract) and you’ve got a cookie dough. I used this recipe to make cookie dough at work without a written recipe. I used 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar (cream together); 2 eggs, added one at a time; a little vanilla extract, a pinch of salt, and 3 cups of flour (mix until all ingredients combine). I was making Snickerdoodle cookies, so I added some cinnamon. I also made peanut butter cookies using 1/3 cup peanut butter and 2/3 cup butter. All of the other ingredients remained the same. This is the first time I made cookie dough without following a recipe. I was quite proud of myself because of this. I will see exactly how well I did once I try baking them off, but I think it will be okay. If it does work out okay, I will definitely be more confident in my baking abilities and about how much going to pastry school has really taught me!