Friday, December 5, 2008

Soup Hits the Spot Every Time

One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is make soup. I must admit I think soups are one of the things I do best in the kitchen. I find the aroma of a delicious pot of soup simmering on the stove can't be beat on a chilly winter's eve. I had some celery, carrots, onions and mushrooms left from the holiday, so I decided to put them to good use along with some regular barley and some very fine barley. I don't know why, but I find the addition of the fine barley makes the soup creamy, without the addition of milk, cream, sour cream, or yogurt.

All Things Baked

Coconut meringues, they were in the oven just a few minutes when I remembered I hadn't taken any I peeked in! As you can see they are just beginning to transform into sweet yummy little confections!


I like to recycle these plastic boxes, and have found they keep baked goods really fresh.

================================================================================= ALMOND MACARONS
My first attempt at making these...need to practice (but they did taste great!)

Almond macarons going into the oven.

Almond macarons going into the oven.

Cooled and ready to eat.

Lucy is my sweet King Charles Cavalier.

I caught her just in the nick of time...she would have devoured every single one!

She is usually well behaved...except when there is food in the vicinity!

Pecan Pie made for Thanksgiving, and two Challahs made a few days ago.

As you can see, the braiding ended up lopsided. I baked two more today, with much more success, but I will need to post the new pics at a later time. The best thing about baking Challah, next to eating it, is how wonderful the whole house smells!

Monday, November 17, 2008


Well, I didn't complete the chosen item for Tuesdays With Dorie last week. Instead, I wanted to try out a recipe for OLD FASHIONED ALMOND COOKIES that I had copied out of a magazine while waiting in a doctor's office (which magazine and which office I can't remember). Usually I note where the recipe comes from, but in this instance I didn't. I ended up being very disappointed with this recipe. The cookies burned like crazy, and I wasn't too impressed with the taste, either. Using my microplane, I attempted to save some of the cookies, but probably grated away half of the cookies! I baked another batch at a lower oven temp (350), but it didn't stop the burning. The recipe says the cookies should "puff and turn lightly brown around the edges," but since I used cocoa powder, they were too dark to be able to judge whether they were browning around the edges.

Tried to save a few by sandwiching them together with a little lemon curd. Still not worth swallowing!

I've decided to post the recipe here, in the hopes that someone will try it and let me know if they have better results, and what I may have done wrong.


8 1/2 oz. blanched almonds
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 3 tblsp unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1/2 c. finely chopped pecans to flavor (these are all opt'l)
3 large egg whites, lightly beaten with a fork

1. Position oven racks to divide the oven into 1/3's and preheat the oven to 375 degress (F). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Put almonds and sugar in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse, scraping down the sides of the bowl now and then, until almonds are finely ground, about 2 minutes. If using cinnamon or cocoa, put it in now and pulse to blend. If you are using chopped pecans, wait to add them after all the ingredients have been added.

3. With processor running, add egg whites in a steady stream. Mix about 30 seconds, only until egg whites are blended into the almonds and sugar. You don't want to incorporate too much air into the batter. Add the pecans, if using them, and pulse just to mix.

4. Spoon out a level tablespoon of batter for each cookie, spacing the cookies about 1-inch apart on the baking sheets. Slide baking sheets into the oven and bake 18-20 minutes, rotating the sheets from front to back, and top to bottom, at the halfway points. The cookies should puff, firm and turn lightly brown around the edges. With a wide metal spatula, carefully lift the cookies off the baking sheets and onto cooling racks. Cool to room temperature.

NOTE: The cookies can be packed airtight and kept for 4 days at room temperature.
These cookies are prime sandwich material. You can "glue" them together with anything from raspberry jam to lemon curd, or ganache!
Since cookies are usually an easy no-brainer type of baking, I really can't figure out what went wrong here. I probably will be crazy enough to try this recipe one more time...MINUS the cocoa powder, so I can monitor the browning process.

I really am hoping someone else will take on the challenge of this recipe...and if they come out great, please send them my way!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

My Favorite Kitchen Gadgets

From time to time, I'll be making note of certain kitchen gadgets that I just ADORE! I don't know why, but I can spend an embarrassing amount of time in the kitchen gadget section of any store. I'm like a kid let loose in a candy store...I just can't get enough of well-made and useful cooking implements. Here are some of my favorites:

Can you guess what this is?

This little guy can quickly remove all the kernels from an ear of corn in a flash, which makes a boring job really easy!

My ball whisks! The best whisks I've ever owned. I will admit, they do make a lot of noise, but when it comes to hand beating they can't be beat (pardon the pun!).

My did I ever survive without it!

This is my brand new mini meatball scoop.

I'm planning to use it for baking cookies for the holidays. I have larger sizes, but this is the one I've coveted for quite a while!

Last, but not is my absolute favorite new kitchen, I mean seriously useful item! (wink) It's the Bakers Edge Brownie Pan, which adds two chewy edges to each serving. And aren't the chewy edges the best part of a brownie? I brought the pan to my DD's house, she made the first batch and immediately declared them the best brownies she'd ever eaten! Forgive the stock photo, but I didn't have my camera with me that day. Next batch will definitely be photographed and posted! I kept putting off buying this pan because I thought the $34.95 price tag a bit steep, but it really is worth every penny!

Well, that's it for now. I think I hear a rugelach calling my name...

My Rugelach - The Baked Truth

Well, the dough was rolled out, the rugelach were filled and shaped, and the oven was preheated and ready to go. I haven't rolled dough for quite some time, and I seem to be out of practice! In my humble opinion, the finished product made up in taste what it lacked in beauty!!

See the strange looking item peeking out on the right side of the plate? As you can see, that's not a rugelach. I took one of the packets of chilled dough, rolled it out a bit, spread some nutella over the top, and then gently kneaded it into the dough. Then I formed pieces of the dough into crescents and baked on a separate cookie sheet along with the rugelach. I don't have a name for these, but they did taste yummy.

I dug out what I call MY traditional rugelach recipe, only to find the only difference was that my recipe was doubled, and the dough gets some sugar and a splash of vanilla.

Actually, I think the hint of vanilla does add a nice touch to the flavor of the dough. Also, combining the sugar with the dough seems to produce better results than sprinkling it on top just before baking.

I recently purchased the flat cover for my Cuisinart food processor.

I can't begin to tell you what a difference it makes! Before having this it would be such a pain to clean the cover that has the tube feed permanently attached! The flat cover makes clean-up a breeze. Why, oh why, didn't I think of purchasing this a long time ago! This is going to make me look forward to using the food processor instead of dreading it because of the annoying clean-up!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Dough Not Touch My Rugelach Dough!

Okay, the dough has been made and it's chillin' in the fridge. I'll roll the dough, fill, shape and bake the little beauties tomorrow morning! Would have completed this by now, except that my sweet little cat, Bella has been feeling under the weather and needed my attention.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Being an avid fan of Dorie Greenspan's baking books, I decided it would be fun to join the well-known blogspot called "Tuesday's With Dorie." I figure it will push me to try out a number of recipes that I have procrastinated about, and to learn from others baking the same things. Rugelach has been chosen for the first week of November, and it's one of Dorie's standards that I've been wanting to try. Now I'll get to see if my tried and true recipe that I've made for years can stand up next to Dorie's if I have any doubts that hers will probably outshine mine by a mile. Well, we'll just have to wait and see what the results will produce. For added fun, I'm planning to make a batch of Dorie's and a batch of my own, both of which will be tested on unsuspecting family members. Stay tuned for the results along with pics.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sunday Breakfast - What's Your Favorite?

My idea of a lovely Sunday brunch can mean a few different things. I treated myself to a Waring Belgian Waffle Maker a few months ago, and I'm having fun using it every so often (do you know how fattening belgian waffles are?)Here is a pic of the first waffle I made a few months's a really fun toy!

Occasionally, I like pancakes on a Sunday morning. I've been trying to cook a little bit healthier, so I tried making whole wheat pancakes, served with a slice of orange and fresh blueberries, and dusted lightly with powdered sugar.
Next time, I'm going to try making banana pancakes and use only egg whites, no yolks (guess you're starting to realize how attached I am to bananas! lol)

Mustn't forget a steaming hot cup of great Java, no matter what you choose to have! Eggs are high on my list for an enjoyable Sunday brunch, too...along with a delicious sunflower flagel with sweet butter. For those of you who haven't the foggiest notion as to what a flagel is,'s a large bagel that has been flattened (flat + bagel = flagel). If you haven't ever tasted a flagel, you just haven't lived! I could go on and on about brunch, which is my favorite meal of all...cream cheese & smoked salmon on a toasted bagel (with tomato and onion, naturally!), or orange and vanilla infused stuffed French would be a super choice, also. And last, but not least, I absolutely LOVE waffles served with poached eggs on top, along with a splash of real maple syrup. Heavenly! Well, let me know what your favorite brunch would consist of. I'm all ears! :)

You Get No Bread With One Meatball (anyone know this old song?)

Meatballs and spaghetti...YUM! If the sauce is good and the meatballs are tender, what more could one ask for? Well, maybe a hot crusty garlic bread along with a lovely glass of red wine! Well, I made a batch of sweet & sour meatballs, served over tri-color whole wheat pasta. They were delicious,but, now I'm in the mood for a really nice marinara sauce over the meatballs. Not a meat sauce, just a light marinara made with diced fresh tomatoes, olive oil, onions, lots of garlic and oregano...and a generous sprinkling of grated cheese. I can taste it now!

Yes, We Have Some Bananas!

I'm always baking banana bread. Why, you ask? Because I love it! The secret to flavorful banana bread is to use really, really ripe bananas. When the bananas look like they should be thrown away...that's when they will be just perfect for baking! The riper the bananas get, the sweeter they taste. My local grocery store always seems to have marked down bananas. For only $1.49, there are usually about 8 bananas in those packages, which means I can make 4 loaves with those bargain bananas...not bad, huh? So I bring home the bananas and leave them out in a bowl until the outer peels are very, very dark. Once baked, we can devour one and freeze the rest for future enjoyment...they freeze beautifully! I always add a handful of chopped walnuts into the batter, and most times I will place some whole walnuts on the top of the batter just because it looks pretty. Oh, the fragrance of the banana bread while it's baking is divine...equally as good as the smell of apple pie!

Irish Soda Bread...Not just for St. Patrick's Day!

I have always liked Irish Soda Bread. Recently, I decided to put a new twist on it by using a square springform pan. Here are the results...which didn't last long! I find that this shape also provides more slices in total, which is nice. Also, the crumb texture is very delicate and I find that pleasant, too. Irish soda bread is very easy to make, and the needed ingredients are ones that can usually be found in the average kitchen. So the next time you feel like something just a bit sweet, try whipping up some Irish Soda Bread!