Monday, April 30, 2012

Strawberry and Coconut Tartlets



Strawberry season has arrived! All of the vendors at the farmers market were in full swing with freshly picked luscious berries front and center at their respective booths. The distinctive aroma permeated as you walked by and just yelled out – “Buy a basket or two”. I believe we buy with our eyes and nose, so of course I had to pick up three baskets of these beauties.



Hubby and I attended a benefit auction for Make a Wish Foundation on Saturday night. A friend at work lost his seven year old daughter Chloe to brain cancer a little over two years ago. My friend and his wife have taken their tragic loss and put their energy into making a difference. They put together “Team Chloe” and this is the second year for the auction to raise money for the Make a Wish Foundation.


It was a complete team effort to put on this event that had 300 attendees and raised enough money to grant four wishes for some wonderful kids. The event was filled with many emotions – happiness, sadness, laughter, goodwill, team work, friendship but most of all a sense that collectively as a group, we can make a difference.


My contribution was making three out of the four cakes that were part of the live auction. I was proud to be part of the difference through raising over a thousand dollars for the cakes which benefits the Make a Wish Foundation. Thought I would share with all of you a photo collage of the cakes. Chloe was a little princess and I made a special princess cake in her honor and will continue to make a new princess cake for each year the auction takes place.


With a fulfilling yet exhausting day on Saturday, I wanted to simply relax and bake on Sunday. With strawberries as my inspiration, I made these Strawberry and Coconut Tartlets. It is a rather loose recipe, so pardon the relaxed recipe. As a sneak peak, I have a wonderful ice cream recipe coming later in the week.


Strawberry and Coconut Tartlets

Makes 12 Tartlets
1 sheet puff pastry
Crème Fraiche
Strawberries cut into small slices
Butter
Turbinado Sugar
Coconut

Take one sheet of puff pastry and thaw. Cut into 12 circles with a 2 inch round cookie cutter. Place onto a non-stick cookie sheet or use parchment paper to prevent sticking. Lightly spread a thin layer of crème Fraiche on each round of puff pastry. Top each one with 2 to 3 slices of strawberries depending on the size. Add a small pinch of butter onto the top of each one and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar and a small bit of coconut. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees or until golden brown. Remove with spatula onto a rack to cool and enjoy!

Tip: To get the center to stay relatively flat but have the edges rise, simply take a size slightly smaller than the cookie cutter you used to press down on the tartlet to lightly score which will help the puff pasty to rise around the edges.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lemon and Coconut Scones



Sunday mornings around our house often are quite relaxing. Breakfast is an important event, especially to my hubby. The idea of a Sunday breakfast ignites excitement in his eyes, whether we are having it at home or at one of our favorite spots.


Last Sunday I was inspired to bake in the morning and my affection with a great scone was tugging at me. Not sure where the idea popped into my head, but the infusion of lemon and coconut were a natural pairing for me. Perhaps I was dreaming about it? I whipped out my go to recipe for scones, which I have had for such a long time, can’t even remember where I got it. In fact it has morphed over the years to be perfected in my mind.


I could choose to make these in my kitchen aide or food processor however; I truly enjoy making them by hand. The result is light, fluffy and ever so tasty. Yes, it is bit messy but it is completely worth it. I found that adding a lot of lemon zest, the flavor just radiated through along with a dollop of great lemon curd. I was in scone heaven. We had some turkey bacon along side these heavenly bites along with fresh brewed coffee. The morning was completed with watching our friends at Good Morning America.


Lemon and Coconut Scones

3 C. Flour
3 T. Sugar
1 ½ T. Baking powder
1 t. Salt
8 T. Butter
2/3 C. Buttermilk
½ C. Milk + 2 tablespoons for brushing the tops
3/4 C. Toasted Coconut (reserve ¼ cup for the top of each scone)
Zest of two lemons

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and salt and mix. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the dry ingredients. With your hands break the butter down to pea size pieces. Add the toasted coconut and mix gently. Add the buttermilk and milk to the mixture and combine with your hands until it forms a ball. Be careful to not over mix.

Form the dough into a square that is approximately 10 inches around and an inch and half thick. Then cut into 12 pieces. Place onto a prepared cookie sheet or non-stick cookie sheet. Separate by each one at least an inch apart to allow for expansion. Brush each one with milk and top with reserved toasted coconut.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until light golden brown and all the way cooked through.

Enjoy warm with your favorite lemon curd or jam.

Monday, April 23, 2012

{ Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Cashew Pesto | Secret Recipe Club }



It was one of those weeks that Friday could not have come soon enough. Work was wild this week and all consuming. With 3 out of the 5 days spending until 9pm or 10pm at the office, I was so looking forward to Friday night. Hubby and I typically celebrate with wine and appetizers each Friday night either just the two of us or with friends. With such an exhausting work week, the idea of just relaxing, drinking wine and watching mindless television was simply perfect. I am looking forward to a fresh week ahead.


How time flies! It is time for April’s reveal for The Secret Recipe Club. If you are not familiar with The Secret Recipe Club, it is an online cooking club that matches up other like minded food bloggers to cook a recipe from each others blogs. The catch is that you do not know who you are matched up with or what they will choose to make. That is the fun part. Check out the site to learn more about all of the fun.


For April I was matched with Carrie of Witchy Kitchen. Carrie is an adventurous eater from Charlotte, North Carolina. She enjoys cooking for her hubby Shan and darling daughter Zoeya. Quentin the cat is not far away from all of the action in the kitchen. Carrie learned to cook through exploring, watching food network, friends and always being fearless to try something new.


After browsing through Carrie’s blog, I finally decided on the Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Cashew Pesto. The cashew pesto was the clincher for me, not too mention I adore anything with roasted red peppers. My doggie Max loves raw red peppers, so I gave him a bit or two while making the soup. He was happy. I made a few adjustments to her recipe but essentially kept it in tact. Hubby and I enjoyed it for dinner on Sunday night with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and it was just simply perfect. Thank you for a wonderfully simple delicious recipe.


Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Cashew Pesto

Makes 4 bowls (double if you desire more)

Soup

4 large red peppers
1 large white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt & pepper
2 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
3 ½ C chicken broth

Cut each pepper in half, lengthwise. Lay on skin side directly onto the rack Roast the red peppers at 475 in the oven. Roast until they are charred – about 10 to 15 minutes. Move to a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let them steam and cool for about 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium pot, heat butter and olive oil on medium, and cook the onions and garlic, salt and pepper. When the onions are translucent, add chicken broth and bring to a simmer.

When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel off the charred skin, scrape out the seeds, and slice. Add the peppers to the broth and cook on low for 30 minutes. Use a hand blender to puree the soup. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.

Cashew Pesto

1/2 c cashews
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 C. basil leaves (loosely packed), roughly chopped
1/4 C. olive oil + 1 t.
1 t. lemon juice
salt & pepper

In a food processor, pulse cashews and garlic a few time. Add basil, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pulse a few times to a chunky paste. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Serve soup steaming, spoon a little pesto into the center, and enjoy.










Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive Oil & Red Chili Flakes



Hubby is a traditionalist. He loves pasta with red sauce. If you offer an Alfredo sauce, he will quickly give a polite no. It is red sauce all the way. Me on the other hand, I like red sauce but would much rather enjoy a creamy sauce with nutmeg and parmesan cheese infused within it's delightful creamy texture. Oh and throw in quite a bit of fresh ground pepper, I am in pasta heaven.


A few years ago, I made the traditional Spaghetti Aglio e Olio and it was a complete hit with hubby. So much of a hit that he asks for it often – that is a good thing, since it is one of my absolute favorites. Even more than a good Fettuccini Alfredo; not too mention that it is a bit healthier for you. I often refer to this pasta as the one with garlic, olive oil and red peppers and parmesan cheese.


Although I don’t indulge in pasta as often as I would like, when I do it is the ultimate comfort food. Last weekend it was rather cool and more like winter than a fresh spring day. I had quite a bit I needed to accomplish around the house and decided a bit of comfort food was in store for me. I whipped up a fourth portion of this pasta and caught up on several episodes of Real Housewives of Atlanta. The housewife series are pure mindless television and help to numb the brain from everyday stress. Sometimes you just need to not think about much and relax.


Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive Oil & Red Chili Flakes

1 pound dried spaghetti
½ c. extra virgin olive oil
10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 to 2 t. crushed red chili flakes
1/3 C. Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 C. Parmesan Cheese (add more if you desire)
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a tablespoon of salt then add spaghetti and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain well.

Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat – do not let it get too hot. Add garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic begins to lightly brown, approximately 3 to5 minutes.

Add cooked pasta to the oil along with the reserved 1/4 cup pasta water. Add all but 1 tablespoon of the parsley, half of the cheese, and salt and pepper and toss well. Transfer to a serving plate or bowl or individual bowls, top with remaining parsley and cheese. If you desire more cheese, leave a large bowl out to add more.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Citrus Scented Olive Oil Cake



Thursday night in the Bay Area we were provided with a magnificent light and sound show in the sky. We experienced a rare thunder and lightning storm. Other parts of the country, this is rather common place however we rarely witness such wonderment from nature. According to news reports we had over 700 lighting strikes; even hitting an airplane that departed San Francisco International Airport. Luckily, a quick acting pilot dumped fuel over the ocean and returned safely to SFO. No one was hurt.

Hubby and I were watching TV and would pause the show to listen to the immense thunder and opened the blinds to see the powerful lightning and the brightness in the sky. It was quite an amazing event indeed.


About a month ago, my dear friend Helen and I ventured to San Francisco to Tante Marie’s Cooking School to take a class from our favorite teacher {and friend} Tori Ritchie. Tori does an amazing job with teaching and sharing her favorite recipes from all parts of Italy. This is actually our 3rd class with Tori and each time we walk away with amazing recipes that are repeated over and over again.

The last class was titled – “Italian Soups, Stews and Ragus” and all of the recipes were incredibly easy and full of flavor. Tante Marie's Cooking School is a full fledged cooking school during the week and the weekends are set aside for anyone to take a class. {Quick Tip: Classes fill up quickly, so sign up well in advance.} The entire class is 5 hours and really hands on, which is the fun part. If you have questions, Tori is there to answer or her assistant for the day, who is typically a cooking school student.


With approximately 12 students per class, you are able to see or assist with almost everything being cooked and choose something you want to make from the numerous recipes selected for the day. This time, Helen and I actually did not pair up with each other to cook, but rather were paired up with other folks. It was almost fate that I was paired up with a super nice gal named Lisa and found out she was also a food blogger – what are the odds? After we chatted about food blogging, she got re-energized and decided to resume her blog, Ravishing Hunger again after being on sabbatical.


Lisa and I were on dessert duty and made this wonderful cake called – Citrus Scented Olive Oil Cake. It was ultra easy to make with the flavor and texture an extraordinary delight for the palate. As I mentioned earlier, Tori’s recipes are very repeatable and this cake was no exception. I made it last weekend and almost ate three slices in one day – it was that good. I found that the first day is the best day to enjoy it, since it remains crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. Served it with a dollup of Lemon Curd from The Bay Tree. Enjoy!


Citrus Scented Olive Oil Cake

Recipe from Tori Ritchie via Domenica Cooks

½ C. Mild olive oil (not extra virgin)
1 C. Sugar
2 Eggs
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
½ C. Dry Marsala
1 ¼ C. All purpose flour
½ C. Finely ground cornmeal
2 t. Baking powder
1 t. Salt
2 to 3 grinds of fresh nutmeg
2 C. Shredded carrots (about 3 large)
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat an 8 inch round baking pan with olive oil and a dusting of flour. In a large bowl, whisk together the ½ cup olive oil, sugar, eggs, lemon and orange zest, and Marsala until well blended. (the sugar will not all dissolve)

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sea salt, and nutmeg. Pour the flour mixture into the egg mixture, whisking all the while to avoid lumps. Using a silicon spatula or wooden spoon, mix in the shredded carrots. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until the cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and set it on the rack to cool to room temperature. Dust lightly with confectioner’s sugar right before serving. Makes one cake.



Thursday, April 12, 2012

Leek Confit Crostini



One of my favorite things to make is appetizers. A Crostini seems to be one of my “go to” appetizers. Perhaps because of the infinite possibilities of toppings, easy to eat and simply delicious, these little delights make it on my appetizer menu quite often.

Several weeks we attended a fun wine release party. Our friends have been making wine at Crush Pad for the last several years. Crushpad is a state of the art winery where you are the wine maker. You determine the level of involvement and Crushpad will do the rest. How cool is that? Hubby and I have this on our list to do – just need to find another couple or two that are interested, to have the affordable factor.


Our friends are actually on their third release. Each year, the wine gets better and better. With their last release, “Aged to Perfection”, it was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Verdot and I believe Cabernet Franc. Check out their fan page to learn more about their adventures.

I am always very flattered when we go to their release parties, since Krista will often make some recipes from my blog. This last party was no exception. She made Crostini with Chevre Cheese and Zinfandel Onion Jam along with Brown Butter Nuts with Rosemary and Thyme. While gabbing with several of the girls, we quickly learned that we were all obsessed with Pinterest and could not stop talking about it. I think the boys were feeling overwhelmed by the Pinterest chatter. Fun times!


I first tasted leek confit at our Valentine’s cookie party from Stephanie at The Baking Barrister and fell in love with it. It has been on my list to make and finally made it last weekend and thought it would go great with either a wonderful Sauvignon Blanc or earthy Cabernet Sauvignon. Perhaps this might be on the menu for the next wine release? { Smile. Wink. }

Leek Confit

Recipe from Bon Appetit

Makes 2 Cups

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
4 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 5 cups)
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Melt butter in large pot over medium-low heat. Add leeks; stir to coat. Stir in water and salt. Cover pot; reduce heat to low. Cook until leeks are tender, stirring often, about 25 minutes. Uncover and cook to evaporate excess water, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve warm. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep chilled. Rewarm before using.

Assembly

Preheat 350 oven

Slice thin slices about ¼ or 1/3 inch thick (desired amount)
Brush with Olive oil and sprinkle a bit of salt on each one
Place onto a baking sheet and cook for 5 minutes then flip and cook for 5 more minutes
Let cool
Spread each one with goat cheese and top with a teaspoon of leek confit











Monday, April 9, 2012

Pan Roasted Chicken and Spring Vegetables




Hubby and I are avid TV watchers. Over the years, several of our favorites have come and gone. It is always with mixed emotions, when we sit down to a series finale – curiosity, sadness, happiness, intrigue and wonderment. Last Wednesday was no exception with another series finale.

If any of you were hooked for the last nine years on One Tree Hill, then you can relate. For the last nine years, we sat on the couch watching the characters develop, grow and learn many valueable life lessons. One Tree Hill was more than just a teen sensation; it was an inspirational show that shared many emotions and lessons.

The last scene in the series finale showed the group head to the high school auditorium for a basketball game with Nathan’s son, Jamie. Jamie has now been propelled to high school and followed his father’s love of basketball, while adorning a number 12 jersey – the same number his father wore. If you a follower of the show, this is pivotal.


The camera pans to all of the primary characters as they recite inspirational words that sum up the nine seasons. Thought I would share it with all of you, since most folks can relate to the message.

Nathan: One day you’re 17 and planning for someday. And then quietly and without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And then someday is yesterday. And this is your life.

Haley: We spend so much time wanting, pursuing, wishing but ambition is good. Chasing things with integrity is good. Dreaming.

Brooke: If you had a friend you’d never see again, what would you say? If you could do one last thing for someone you love, what would it be? Say it. Do it. Don’t wait. Nothing lasts forever.

Mouth: Make a wish and place in your heart. Anything you want. Everything you want.

Millie: Do you have it? Good. Now go believe it to come true.

Quinn: You never know where the next miracle is going to come from.

Clay: The next memory. The next smile. The next wish come true.

Chase: But if you believe, it is right around the corner.

Julian: You open your heart and mind to the possibility of it. To the certainty of it.

Skills: You just might get the thing you are wishing for.

Julian: The world is full of magic. You just have to believe in it.

Brooke: So make your wish. Do you have it?

Nathan: Good. Now believe in it.

Haley: With all your heart.

One Tree Hill is now complete. A television chapter closed. Many lessons were taught and many characters we grew to love or despise had some finality attached to them. The good news is that fresh and innovative shows are consistently being created. With the hope of many more characters to fall in love with and new lessons to be learned.


Okay, now that you have endured my One Tree Hill fascination, onto the food portion of the program – I mean blog post. I have been inspired by leeks lately. The idea of creating a leek infused chicken broth to house pan roasted chicken intrigued me. Next I thought how I can highlight spring. With the addition of aromatic shitake mushrooms and English peas, it just rounded out this tasty dish. Just think of the possibilities – Salmon with roasted fennel or grilled prawns with the addition of tomatoes and roasted garlic. Enjoy!


Pan Roasted Chicken with Spring Vegetables
Serves 4

Chicken

2 Large boneless chicken breast, cut length wise
Salt and pepper
Flour
Olive oil

With each piece of chicken, lightly pound with a meat mallet to increase tenderness. Season with salt and pepper and lightly coat in flour. Repeat for all four pieces of chicken. In a large skillet, add about ¼ cup of olive oil and heat on medium high. Add chicken breasts and sear on each side for about one minute each. Add to an oven that is pre-heated to 350 degrees. Cook for about 10 to 11 minutes or until all the way cooked through.

Leek Broth

4 C. Chicken stock
2 C. Leeks, cleaned and sliced

Add chicken stock and leeks to a medium pot and heat on medium for about 10 minutes. Let sit for 30 minutes to infuse.

Vegetables

20 Shitake mushrooms, remove stem and cut into pieces
2 C. English peas
2 C. Snap peas
2 C. Grape tomatoes

In a sauce pan, add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and cook on medium high heat. Add the shitake mushrooms and cook until soft and fragrant. Remove from pan onto a small bowl.

Add the English peas, snap peas and tomatoes to the leek broth about 5 minutes before chicken is done cooking. Heat for about 4 to 5 minutes on medium.

Assemble

Let chicken rest for about 3 to 4 minutes. You can either serve whole or slice each breast before plating. I cut prior to adding to the plate. Use large bowls for each serving. Lay the chicken breast in the middle of the bowl and then ladle the vegetables evenly among the bowls along with the broth. Sprinkle the cooked shitake mushrooms over each bowl. You can add some parmesan cheese on top or sprinkle with chopped chives. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spicy Poached Pears with Cinnamon Cream



Okay I have a new obsession – well a few obsessions. Let’s just say when I got my iphone in December after using a Blackberry for years - I did not actually know how much I would LOVE it. I love that all of my various email accounts are all in one place. I love that all of my social media obsessions are all in one place. Let’s just say – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest to name a few.

Then there are the games. Oh my. I have never been much of a video game player yet have always enjoyed more of the traditional games like backgammon, cards games, monopoly and pictionary to name a few. Now onto to my other obsession beyond the actual iphone – the games! I am obsessed with Draw Something. Are you?


It is an addictive social drawing game where you connect with friends on Facebook and beyond. You are given three words to choose from to draw for your opponent along with basic colors. They are given 12 letters along with your drawing that happens in real time; it is like they are actually drawing in front of you. You guess the image and add points to your total, based on the difficulty of the word chosen. As you gain points, you can purchase additional colors plus other goodies.

The other addition is Words with Friends. It is essentially scrabble online and you play with other friends through your mobile device. Alec Baldwin brought worldwide attention to this game through his airport adventures.


Technology today is simply amazing and how it has changed our lives. Not sure how we lived years ago with out a smart phone? I made this recipe a couple weeks ago and wanted to share it all with you. I have long wanted to make this and finally got around to making it. Created the recipe from scratch and both hubby and I were in complete heaven while devouring this delight. One last obsession – Cinnamon Cream! Delish!


Spicy Poached Pears with Cinnamon Cream

4 Pears, peeled and stem left on (Anjou or Bartlett)
2 C. Zinfandel
1 C. Sugar
½ C. Orange Juice
1 C. Cranberry Juice
½ C. Water
1 Star Anise
3 Cloves
2 t. Vanilla
1 Vanilla bean, split in half
1 Cinnamon Stick
2 t. Ground Cinnamon

In a medium pot, add all of the above ingredients, except the pears and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and add the pears. Cook for about 10 minutes or until soft but still firm. Test with a knife so that it goes in easy but the pear is not mushy. Remove from liquid and set aside to cool.

Remove star anise and cinnamon stick from liquid. Reduce the liquid to half to three quarters. Let cool.

Cinnamon Cream

1 C. Heavy Cream
2 T. Sugar
1 t. Vanilla
3/4 t. Cinnamon

In a stand mixer, add all of the above ingredients and whip on high for 2 to 4 minutes until firm and at the desired consistency. Keep chilled until ready to use.

To assemble:

Place one to two pears in a small shallow dish, spoon over with the reduced pear liquid and top with a dollop of the cinnamon cream.



 
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