Monthly Archives: January 2010

cumin-crusted pork soft tacos

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Forget making a run for the border, run on over to FGG and check out these pork soft tacos… they’re amazing AND good for you! YUM!

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The Daring Bakers go Canadian, eh!

Welcome to the first Daring Baker Challenge of 2010! I can’t believe we’re already four weeks into the new year… time is already beginning to fly. And, in typical form, guess who waited until the last minute to do her challenge? That’s right… so much for THAT new year’s resolution!

Anywho…the January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca. Why graham wafers? Because they are a key ingredient in Nanaimo Bars! Why Nanaimo Bars? Because the 2010 Winter Olympics are coming to Vancouver and Lauren is a proud Canadian!

Nanaimo Bars (pronounced Nah-nye-Moh) are a classic Canadian dessert created in Nanaimo, British Colombia. The classic version of the bar has 3 layers: a base containing graham crackers, cocoa, coconut and nuts, a middle custard layer, and a topping of chocolate. However, because we’re not big fans of coconut, I subbed in oats in their place.

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Before making the Nanaimo Bars, we had to make graham wafers. No problem, I thought naively. I’d read over the recipe multiple times… nothing too difficult there — especially since I’d decided to opt out of making them gluten free for budgetary reasons. But, as I was pulsing my dough in the food processor, what was supposed to have been wet and sticky was actually rather dry and crumbly. Undeterred, I pressed on… but as I was patting my dough into a rectangle and picking up all the crumbs that were falling away… I decided perhaps it was time to review the recipe one more time. You know, just in case.

Right, so… in spite of reading over the recipe multiple times, and knowing at least a little bit about the basics of making dough, I still managed to… wait for it… forget the butter. No wonder the dough was dry! The big question, then, was whether I could salvage the dough I’d already made or whether I’d have to start over. Not one to give up easily, I grabbed the butter from the freezer, put half the dough and half the butter back into the food processor, and pulsed until the butter was semi-processed and incorporated. Rinse. Repeat.

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It probably wasn’t ideal, but as you can see… it worked! Clearly my technique needed a bit of work, and the finished wafers weren’t quite as pretty as they could’ve been, but they were wonderfully tasty! I’m not sure I’ll ever be inclined to buy another box of graham crackers (complete with high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oil) again!

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And then came the Nanaimo Bars. It’s probably better that I’ve made it all these years without ever having tried them, because they’re frighteningly addictive. Now I need to figure out a way to purge their rich, sugary goodness from my memory, because these little gems are a temptation I do not need! We immediately went into damage control mode, breaking up the pan into baggies and sending them out into the world… some for sampling, a batch for my parents, a few for work, a batch for girls night, and the rest went straight into the freezer for treats later down the line (these freeze nicely, btw). Sugar coma crisis averted!

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Don’t let the three-step process scare you… these bars come together easily and none of the steps is particularly complicated. You’ve gotta love any recipe that’s easier than it looks, right?

Thanks, Lauren, for a fantastic challenge! Head on over to the blogroll and check out all the other great challenge results!!

Nanaimo Bars
Bottom Layer
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (1.8 ounces) granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups (5.6 ounces) graham wafer crumbs (recipe follows)
1/2 cup (1.9 ounces) almonds (any type, finely chopped)
1 cup (4.5 ounces) rolled oats

Middle Layer
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder (I subbed in cheesecake pudding mix)
2 cups (8.9 ounces) confectioners sugar

Top Layer
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter

For bottom layer:
Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and oats. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.

For middle layer:
Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and confectioners sugar together well. Beat until light in color. Spread over bottom layer.

For top layer:
Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.

Cut into squares.

Graham Wafers
from Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the La Brea Bakery via 101 Cookbooks
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

For the topping:
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

To prepare the topping: In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon, and set aside.

Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.

Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more flour and roll out the dough to get about two or three more crackers.

Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough. Using a toothpick or skewer, prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.

Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the tough, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.

Yield: 10 large crackers

yogurt parfaits

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Breakfast or dessert… sign me up for a yogurt parfait! It’s always an adventure when you can switch out your toppings or your fruit. Join us over at FGG for another round of Foodie Friday fun!

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my favorite carrot cake

This cake, born of years of experimenting and tweaking, is finally to a point that I’m ready to share. I’m not sure I can express how much I love this cake. But, of course, I’m going to try…

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Birthday? Make this cake. Springtime? Make this cake. Feeling a little down? Make this cake. Tuesday? Make this cake. Really… this cake might just be the answer to all of the world’s problems.

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As you can see below, even our pup wanted a piece. (He had to settle for something dog-friendly, but that didn’t stop him from closely supervising my little photo session.)

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Granted, I’ll admit to loving the cheap carrot cake that you can find at your corner, mass-market grocery store bakery (the kind with the uber-sweet cream cheese frosting and the little orange carrot piped on the top) — but there’s just no comparison to this cake.

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By the way… everyone has their own opinion on the coarseness of the shred on the carrot. Some people want it finely shredded; however, I prefer the larger shred (think the side of the box grater that you’d use to shred cheddar cheese) because I find it holds on to its moisture better. But… do what makes you happy.

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Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups grated carrots
1 8oz can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped pecans, plus extra (whole and/or chopped) for garnish
Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 8-9 inch round or one 9×13 inch pan.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, applesauce, sugars and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir in carrots and pineapple. Fold in pecans. Pour into prepared pan(s).

Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 50 minutes (depending on pan size), or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3.5 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Frost the cooled cake and garnish with extra pecans.

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Catching up…

I just spent six days in the beautiful city of San Francisco, CA – part work, part play. Anytime anyone needs me to go back, just say the word and I am THERE.

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One of my favorite parts of the trip? Aside from awesome views… it’s gotta be the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market.

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So many treasures to be found… I really wanted to scoop it all up and bring it home with me.

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Instead, I came home with the plague… complete with a bonus ear infection. As you can imagine, this kind of messed with my blogging mojo upon arriving home. So, while I recover, please hop on over to FGG and check out our two most recent Foodie Friday features as well as all of the other great things going on over there.

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First there was hearty, warm, nutritious Easy Spiced Oatmeal.

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And then, an encore presentation of wonderfully easy and amazingly yummy Roasted Cauliflower.

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Kitchen Resolutions 2010: SCONES!

I mentioned over the weekend that my plan for 2010 includes conquering seven things on my list of ” things to make or master in the kitchen.” Annnnd I’d also mentioned that I’d already started. That’s right – the girl who waits until the last minute to do EVERYTHING has already knocked out one of the items on that list!

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I enjoyed my first scone probably twelve or so years ago and, since then, I’ve purchased them whenever I could. Unfortunately, most of the scones I’ve run across have been slightly-less-than-average at best and some have been downright pathetic (I’m looking at you, Eurest!). With all of those less than great scone experiences, you’d think I’d have given making them a try sooner rather than later.

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Today, I proudly take back control of my scones experience. I stumbled across a recipe over at Michelle’s blog, Brown Eyed Baker, and knew that this would be my first foray into scone making. Only seven ingredients? One bowl? Quick… tender… family favorite?? Say no more. I’m in.

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These scones were everything Michelle promised. Amazing, really (especially warm). We had to put most of them into the freezer just to get them out of the kitchen because the hubby and I found it impossible to stay away from them. If you’re living with mediocre scones in your life… stop the madness. Drop everything and go make these. It’ll be a half an hour well-spent and you’ll never go back. Trust me on this one.

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Dark Chocolate Chip Scones
(recipe courtesy of Michelle over at Brown Eyed Baker)

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar plus additional for sprinkling
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (12-oz) package dark chocolate chips
2 cups chilled heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease two baking sheets.

Stir together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Stir in chocolate chips.

Stir whipping cream into flour mixture, stirring just until ingredients are moistened.

Turn mixture out onto lightly floured surface. Knead gently until soft dough forms (about 2 minutes). Divide dough into three equal balls. One ball at a time, flatten into 7-inch circle; cut into 8 triangles. Transfer triangles to prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with additional sugar.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm.

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my resolutions for 2010

I’m not very good with resolutions. I mean, after all, just how many times can I put “lose 30 pounds by summer” on my resolution list before I realize that just putting it on a list isn’t enough to motivate me for more than about two weeks? Right. Same goes for all the things I always mean to get around to cooking and/or baking… just take a look at the mile-long list of bookmarked recipes just waiting to be tried. Anybody see a pattern here? Yeah… that’s why this year is all about accountability.

So, I’ve picked out seven things that I’ve been meaning to try or meaning to master… but never have. And in 2010, I will. And you, my wonderful readers, will not only hold me accountable (you will, won’t you?) but you’ll also reap the rewards of what I hope will be seven fruitful blogging adventures!

Okay… on to the list… in 2010 I will (in no particular order):

make scones: I’ve had scones — good and bad. The good have been very good and I’ve always wanted to make them… if only to show the bad just how bad they really are.  ||completed, Jan 2010||

make gnocchi: If I love the pre-packaged version, how much better must the homemade version be? I will make and master the little clouds of potato goodness.

work with fondant: Will I make my own? We’ll see. But, at the very minimum, I will work with fondant and successfully apply it to either cupcakes or cake. Heck, maybe I’ll get really wild and do both!

make homemade yogurt: This has been on my list of things to do for easily 18 months now. I think it’s about time to give it a try.

make tiramisu: What self-respecting foodie has never made tiramisu? This one, thankyouverymuch. But that’ll change in 2010 and I will finally learn to make one of my favorite desserts and will no longer have to go out to get my fix.||completed, Feb 2010||

make tamales: Another project that’s been on my list for years. Thanks to a friend back in North Carolina, I dream of tamales every holiday season… so this one’s been on my mind a lot lately.

master the macaron: After giving them a go as part of the October Daring Baker challenge, I’ve been meaning to get back around to these little gems and see if I can master them. With so many flavor and filling possibilities, how could they not be on my list?

There you have it. A hit list of seven to be knocked out over the next twelve months amidst various other projects, Daring Baker challenges, and Foodie Fridays. Totally reasonable. Totally doable. And I’m so motivated, that I’ve already started! Come back on Tuesday and see what I’ve been up to! In the meantime, what do you want to try for the first time or master in the kitchen in 2010?

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Happy New Year from Culinography & FGG!

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Happy 2010, everyone! Looking for a little something to make this weekend that might bring a little luck to the new year? Head over to FGG and consider giving this Sausage & Garlic Lentils a go.

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And if you have a leftover Italian sausage? All the better! Look what you can do when you add a few veggies, a couple of eggs, and some goat cheese!

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