Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nutella Orange Zest Macaroons

I used a recipe from Smitten Kitchen with a few substitutions and one addition:
Instead of the 1/3 melted chocolate, I used 1/3 cup Nutella (microwaved for 25 seconds to remove from jar and for easy mixing in)
I added zest of one orange, about a tablespoon
Cut down the 2/3 cup sugar to 1/2 cup because I used Nutella instead of Dark Unsweetened Chocolate

Going into the 325° F oven for 15 minutes (shiny before cooking)

Out of the oven, matte once baked

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Small Craft Supplies Organization - Sequins

Petaloo Dazzlers are adorable and like eye candy but not in exactly user friendly packaging 
These Dollar Tree food grade storage containers that come 10 to a pack in either rectangle or round are the perfect solution 
Each 80 gr bag's content fits into 3 of these little containers 
Pink Poodle Dazzlers 
Citranelle Dazzlers 
Go Green Dazzlers
Tutti Fruitti Dazzlers 
Funky Monkey Dazzlers 
Now stored away in easy to use containers, divided into stacks for me, my friend and a future giveaway

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review - Stamping Techniques for Solid Stamps

I picked up this beautiful stamp set by Chapel Road Artstamps from 
Using a Fiskars Compact Stamp press produces the best results but ink makes a difference too  
VersaFine in Onyx Black varies depending on the pressure applied, left more while the one on the right less pressure 
Using a brayer and the same VeraFine ink gives the best overall result in details and on larger solid surfaces 
Lastly, the Indian Ink in black with the stamp press gave an aged effect

Monday, April 14, 2014

New Chicks!

All of these are Auricanas, 'Easter Egg Layers', but as you can see they vary in plumage from light buff like this one 

To tan and brown  

Brown and buff 

This one totally looks like she's posing 

I'm really hoping that at least some of these new chicks have those cute tufts of feathers on the side of their face 

I will try to post pictures regularly so we can see the progress of their growth, Paulie even suggested a live feed web cam on their cage...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Dinner - Steak Au Poivre with Roasted Potatoes & Beets

I used the recipe from Alton Brown with one substitution - Cognac subbed with Wild Turkey Honey Liqueur
Medium rare = 4 minutes on each side for a 3/4 to 1 inch thick steak
Since I was out running errands after work, I didn't slow roast the potatoes but shortcut it with 8 minutes in the microwave first (whole potatoes) then cut them in the 6 pieces each, added grapeseed oil, salt and black pepper and popped them in the oven at 425° F for 40-45 minutes
A simple can of beets can be turned into a lovely little side, sauted in a pan with salt, black pepper and a pat of butter

Homemade Marinara

I have mentioned before Paulie's strange obsession with GIANT cans of veggies, there was a 6 lb can of San Marzano tomatoes that he probably got for a steal at Restaurant Depot that has been moved from one shelf to another in out pantry, that is until today.  I finally busted into that behemoth and made homemade Marinara sauce.  The following are all the ingredients:
  • 6 lb of San Marzano tomatoes (whole and peeled)
  • 2 - 6 oz cans of tomato paste, try using sugar free to control the sweetness
  • 1-2 large onions, chopped
  • 1-2 heads of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tbsp Oregano
  • 1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or 2 tbsp dry parsley flakes (I used dry parsley from my garden)
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil (I used frozen cubes of basil from our summer garden) 
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • Salt and Black Pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp sugar, to taste (optional, helps to cut down on the acidity of tomatoes)
Stovetop Method:
In a heavy bottom Dutch oven, I used an 8 quart Le Creuset pot, add olive oil, onions and garlic, saute till translucent but not brown.  If you are using whole tomatoes, place them in a bowl and squish them into pieces or if you prefer not to get messy use them whole and pulse them in the pan with an immersion blender as I did. With burner set to low heat (2-3 on US electric stoves) add remaining ingredients.  Mix till the tomato paste is incorporated. Keep checking and mixing periodically, 15-20 minutes, to prevent scorching on the bottom. Simmer on low for 2.5-3 hours or until the desired thickness.  Cool and transfer to glass containers to use in the next 2 weeks if stored in the fridge or can for shelf stable storage.  You can also freeze but in plastic rather than glass to prevent cracking of the container.  Do not overfill if freezing as it will expand.

Oven Method:
Follow all the steps above until the mixture reaches a simmer on the stovetop then place it in a 300° F oven for 1.5-2 hours, checking every 45 minutes or so.  To further cut down on the possibility of scorching, place the dutch oven on a cookie sheet.

Slow Cooker/Crock Pot Method:
Saute onions and garlic, transfer to the crock pot, add remaining ingredients and set to 6-8 hours.
All the ingredients in the pot before being mixed or blended
Cooked for 10 minutes and blended, still remaining rather chinky

3 hours later on low, the sauce has visibly intensified in color, flavor and diminished in volume by about 10%
This, flavorful and best homemade without preservatives and ready to use in our favorite meals (pizza, spaghetti, lasagna... the possibilities are endless).

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Dinner - Bratz, Red Bliss Potatoes, Faux Kimchi and Cheeecake

A bed of red bliss potatoes, slow cooked in the oven with turkey stock and an entire head of garlic, with perfectly seared bratz and parsley

While Paulie likes to cook his bratz in a beer bath and then fry them. I prefer the water in a frying pan method, on medium heat till the water evaporates.  Then I sear them by constantly moving the pan back and forth then when the pan starts to display color I add a splash of water to create the caramel color that makes them look like they are almost burnt but are not. 

Red bliss potatoes, washed and quartered, placed in a dutch oven (Le Creuset) with the last of my homemade turkey stock, an entire head of garlic (peeled and smashed) then slow cooked in a 350° F oven for 45 minutes covered.  When the potatoes are fork tender, drain any remaining stock and add several tablespoons of butter or your favorite oil, 1/4 cup of chopped parsley, salt and black pepper and return to the oven uncovered for an additional 15-20 minutes.  Any potato that makes contact with the bottom of the pan will start to sear creating a lovely crust. 

Last week I made stuffed cabbage but the center small leaves of the par cooked cabbage were chopped to make a quick curing faux kimchi - cabbage, radishes, scallions, carrots, Ponzu, Fish Sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes.  Mix and pop in the fridge for at least several days.  This was a nice acidic accompaniment to the rich brats and hearty potatoes.

Paulie's not so subtle hint for desert is no-cook individual mini cheesecakes, served with sliced strawberries.  He is a man-child but I have to admit, this was not bad for a no-bake cheeseke.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ponzu 'Cheesy' Kale Chips

Fresh washed Kale ripped into bite size pieces ready for the oven on 1/2 sheet pans 
The bunch make a huge batch 
I used 1/4 cup of Peanut Oil because of it's high burning point, 2 tbsp Nutritional Yeast and 1 tbsp of Ponzu.  The combination of flavors was wonderful, I'll definately use this as a salad dressing on dark greens because I snuck a few raw leaves of kale before popping the sheets in the oven at 275° F for 12-15 minutes, flipping each leaf half way through the cooking.  If I had a dehydrator, that would be the ideal way to get the crispy factor but alas all I have is my stove.
Crispy out of the oven :)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Dinner - All Appetizers

Escargot, simpler to make than you would imagine.  Canned escargot are drained and rinsed thoroughly.  In a saute pan, fine diced garlic is heated through with butter (2-3 tbls).  Once the garlic starts to perfume the butter but before it browns, turn off heat, add 1/4 cup of chopped parsley, salt & black pepper to taste 
I don't have a fancy Escargot pan, also called Aebleskiver, so I use my mini muffin pan instead.  Two snails fit into each well so there is plenty to share with another person.  I place the drained and rinsed snails into individual wells and spoon over the garlic/butter/parsley mixture.  Then on top of each bundle of 'joy' a sprinkling of bread crumbs, panko if you have it.  Then pop into a 350° F preheated oven for 15 minutes, pull out and serve with bread for dipping. 
I was late to grab my camera to shoot this little beauty so it has already lost most of it's outside leaves but you get the idea.  The two large fresh artichokes were cooked the night before in salty acidulated water for about 35 minutes or till a knife goes in with no resistance into the core (I cook mine with the cut side down so the core end is on top).  Another little trick is to weigh down the artichokes with a plate while cooking to prevent the bobbing apple issue.
My favorite, and now Paulie's as well, is Hollandaise sauce to dip the individual leaves into.  Admittedly, the sauce is not from scratch, it's a Knorr mix that I had in the pantry so it came in handy tonight.  I did add more black pepper and finished it with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice which really livened up the flavor.  I made extra in anticipation for poached eggs on Sunday for brunch... hint, hint.
I love the ease of Appetizer dinners, it makes everyone happy and it's so easy to eat on a 'date' in front of the TV on a Friday night.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Stuffed Cabbage

Picture Perfect, the sauce was a bit on the sweet side for me but Paulie loved it so I'll be tweaking it in the future. 

No Stuffed Cabbage is complete, at least to me, without a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of dried parsley from my garden. 

My favorite Le Creuset Dutch Oven is the precise vehicle for the oven braise, covered in the red sauce 

Food Porn... lol

Monday, March 31, 2014

Spectacularly Beautiful Strawberries

This enormous berry fills this salad plate

And is practically the size of my palm

Couldn't help myself, they had to pose for me 

Before I washed 

And sliced them all ready to eat, the monster one is still intact. I just couldn't cut into it, at least not yet.