Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Caffe Creme (Coffee and Cream Pudding)

Can you remember what it was like before there was a coffee place on every corner? When I think of meeting friends, I think in terms of nearby coffee houses. Before leaving on a long drive, I always stop for coffee first. Coffee (or Espresso) is included in ice creams & granita, savory Mole sauces, cakes, marinades for meat, and barbecue rubs. We drink it, bake it, whip it, season with it and cover the nibs in chocolate. It was just a matter of time before I tried it as a creme pudding.

Caffe Creme (Coffee & Cream Pudding w/Cinnamon)
This past week, I've been having my kitchen repainted and some drawers and cabinets repaired. I was kitchen-less for almost a week! Maybe that would sound like a vacation for some people, but it was like a detox challenge for me. In fact, I finally set up a little "kitchenette" on a side table with a catering hot-plate, a toaster oven and a...wait for it...COFFEE maker, of course.I experienced a little panic jolt when I suddenly remembered I had a Los Angeles Food Bloggers meet-up on the weekend. It's a once a month get-together with local food bloggers, usually held in someone's home.
It's a great chance to chat and chow with new and known food-loving buddies. (At this meeting the uber talented Andrew from Eating Rules helped demystify Google Analytics for us. He was so generous and patient.)

Every meeting is a potluck and everyone brings a dish. (Great variety at our Pot Luck)

This isn't like one of those school functions where "bring a dish" for some people means "stop by the store and pick something up". These are food bloggers-- people who love to cook and love to have other people eat what they've cooked.
(Always great food at our Food Bloggers of Los Angeles get-togethers)

All this to say; if this recipe for Caffe Creme can be made with just a hot-plate and a pot you know you can make it, too. I poured the Caffe Creme into small shooter glasses for individual servings. You can also make larger servings, or one big bowl and scoop it out later. I received great feed back on these little puddings, and I'll definitely add them to my catering and party choices. It's just enough of a coffee shot to get me to the next coffee time. Maybe I need more than a kitchen detox program, huh?

RECIPE: Caffe Crema

1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream (plus 1/2 cup for whipped cream)
1/2 cup strong coffee or Espresso
1/2 cup sugar (plus 2 Tbls for whipped cream)
4 1/2 Tbls. Corn Starch
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 Tbls. Cinnamon

1) In a saucepan, whisk together the milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup coffee/espresso, 1/2 cup sugar, the corn starch, salt and vanilla extract, until all is blended well.

2) Heat the saucepan of liquid pudding over med/high and bring to a boil, stirring often.

3) Stir and boil until thickened (about 2-3 minutes)

4) Pour the thickened pudding into a large metal bowl or pitcher and place it over ice to gradually bring the pudding to room temperature. Stir often.

5) Pour into chosen containers and place in refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Serve with whipped cream that has been whisked with sugar and cinnamon. Garnish with more cinnamon sugar (if desired).

For tons of yum-i-licious foods and recipes, check out some of our talented Food Bloggers from Los Angeles:

Eating Rules
In Erika's Kitchen
Shockingly Delicious
Sippity Sup
Presley's Pantry (Chipotle Macaroni Salad pictured above)
Kitchen Runway (Zucchini Bread pictured above)
Lentil Breakdown
A Beach HomeCompanion
Cook and be Merry

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Heart Healthy Apple, Jicama & Potato Salad

Don't you just love it when a new report comes out that blames one particular food for making us fat? Potatoes (according to Nutrition Data) are Low in fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. They're a good source of Vitamin C, B6 and Potassium, and high in fiber. Recent media chatter would suggest that the humble potato is a fat producing tuber-tiger. The farm fresh potato is not the villian, but maybe processed badly-fried and double baked oily cheese and bacon covered bowls of them could add a few extra lardons to our waist line. If that's accompanied by pitchers of beer and a lot of sitting on our rumps, we could probably rack up a few sizes, too. I don't think the potatoes need to take the blame on this one, do you?With that in mind, (and also as a late dated posting for this month's Daring Cooks) I bring you this Heart Healthy Heritage Potato Salad from potatoes that slept on a farm last week.Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

RECIPE: Apple, Jicama, Potato Salad (California Style)

1lb. Farmer's Market Potatoes
1 Apple
1/4 Large Jicama
2 tsps Lemon juice
Fresh Thyme
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbls. Olive Oil
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tbls. (minced) Shallot
3 Tbls Balsamic Vinegar
Fresh Tarragon or more thyme

1) Wash, scrub and cut the potatoes into small chunks. Peel and cube the Apple and the Jicama, sprinkle with lemon juice and hold for later.
2) Place the potatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tbls. olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and scatter fresh thyme over the top.
3) Roast these for about 20 minutes til tender, but not overcooked. You want them to hold up for tossing as a salad later.
4) While the potatoes cool, prepare the Vinaigrette Dressing:
In a small bowl, whisk together the Dijon Mustard, Shallot, Balsamic Vinegar, pinch of salt and pepper, and fresh herbs. Continue to whisk briskly while drizzling in the 1/4 cup Olive oil. Only use as much as you need to create a thick dressing. Adjust seasoning as desired.
5) When the potatoes have cooled, toss them in a bowl with the dressing and the Apple and Jicama cubes.
**The flavors are even more full when allowed to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight to meld.**

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Quick & Easy Goat Cheese Oatmeal Crackers - Simple Saturday

I day dream about flavor combos. I'm a complete food-nerd. Goat Cheese Oatmeal Crackers are an easy (really easy) way to have your cheese and cracker together, plus the toasty crunch of healthy oatmeal. That sounded like a commercial, but I really meant every word. The other day I was developing a recipe for ABC jam (that's what I call the flavor combo of Apricot, Basil and Cherries). When it came time to taste the jam, I realized I didn't have even a crumb of bread or a cracker in the house. I put a teaspoon of the jam on a slice of cheese and it was SO good, the tang of cheese paired so well with the tangy fruit and sweet syrup. The texture I really missed was the crispness of a cracker, a light weight edible platter for my dollop of jam. There was not enough time (in other words I was too impatient) to make bread, but quick crackers are a favorite pastime of mine.

The Goat Cheese in these crackers is just enough to give the flaky wafer a ting on your tongue and like a good cracker; it accents whatever you eat with it.
In only a very few steps, you'll have snack, cocktail or appetizer crackers with a gourmet blend and a touch of oatmeal healthiness. These will keep for days in an airtight container or zip-lock bag.

I hope you'll try these. It would make my day dreams come true. :D
RECIPE: Goat Cheese Oatmeal Crackers

1/2 cup oatmeal
1 1/2 cup flour
Pinch of Salt
4 oz. butter
8 oz. goat cheese
1) In a food processor, pulse the oatmeal til ground into flour.

2) Add salt, flour and cold butter - pulse until all combined.

3) Add goat cheese and pulse until large pieces of dough are holding together. (No water is needed because the goat cheese is so moist.)

4) Pour onto board and squeeze together into a ball. Divide into 2 balls of dough, wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes or overnight.

5) Roll out to 1/4 inch thick and cut into shapes. Sprinkle with Kosher Salt. Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes at 350F.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Fresh Peas and Mint Risotto - inspired by "The Dirty Life"

This is a recipe inspired by a book inspired by a life. The recipe is with Fresh Peas cooked in milk and mint (then turned into Fresh Pea and Mint Risotto.)

The book is "The Dirty Life" by Kristin Kimball. The life is Kristin's experience going from a city girl to falling in love with a man of the land, then falling in love with the land.

I have personal reasons for loving the idea of this book, but the story touched on themes universal and sustaining.

I spent my earliest years living with just a field of corn, vegetables, and berries between my house and my grandparent's survival farm. As a child, I watched the hard work of farming like my own personal theme park. The giant Shire horse that pulled the plow for my grandfather was the same one I shared a salt lick with in the hay barn. It didn't occur to me, that he was also the source of indispensable strength required to work the soil.

My brother, cousins and I built many elaborately chambered forts of hay bales that had recently been tediously gathered and tied for feed. We threw grains to the chickens and gathered eggs when we felt like joining in, not knowing it was a daily chore the adults were bound to every morning at dawn.
We ran through the yard from escaped pigs, not reading the concerned faces of the tired parents who had already spent this season's budget on fence repairs.

We'd grab the handle for churning butter and claim our success after a few strokes, leaving the rest of the hour to Grandma. We stole strawberries and mulberries from the vines for our own red stained version of paintball wars. We sprinkled salt into one palm of our hands and dipped fresh hot juicy tomatoes into it and ate them like apples. We'd sit in the yard with a lap full of chores and feel besieged with suffering that we couldn't go play until we had snapped our little bowl of green beans, or shucked our share of corn.
Grandma gave us steaming buttermilk biscuits that we poked holes into and filled with molasses to eat while we headed out for the day on what we thought were newly forged faraway pathways through the woods. We returned late in the afternoon, grouchy with exhaustion from our difficult day of work and exploration. Later, as an adult I realized it was only about a city block in distance away from the main house.

For these and other memories of farm living, "The Dirty Life" gave me a new appreciation for how much work had been going on around my little world.
If I had never experienced a farm, Kristin Kimball's book would still be on my bedside table. Her writing tone feels like a letter to a friend, and somewhere in there I start feeling like I am the friend.

Through the journey of her falling in love with her husband, community, animals and nature, I am inspired. In her words, "Why is farming like a relationship? Because you do not reap what you sow. That's a lie. You reap what you sow, hill, cultivate, fertilize, harvest, and store."
Along the way, Kristin casually tosses us a few recipe and cooking ideas. One of my favs is cooking fresh summer peas in a saucepan of milk briefly, then adding a few sprigs of mint.After gathering our first season peas from my tiny little "dog run" size garden, I turned the minted peas into a Risotto for a family dinner.Obviously I really enjoyed this book, so you can imagine how exciting it was to have Kristin Kimball join in during an online virtual book club meeting this past week. She was generous and funny, spoke of her two kids being watched by her farmer husband, Mark, while our book club tweeted comments and questions regarding her writing, her inspirations and her plans.

At one point Mark brought her a plate of fresh and simply prepared asparagus and she mentioned how the right ingredients were so much more important than the recipe to her. It was a joy.

This online book club was hosted by
Allison for Leite's Culinaria (David Leite). You are invited to join us for the next event/book which will be decided soon. It's a great way to challenge and encourage yourself to carve out time for reading and then discussing what we read without even leaving your own home/office. A time is set, you go on twitter and put in the subject #LCBookClub and join in the meeting.(Here's a special treat: there will be another time with Kristin Kimball this coming Tuesday night, June 13th, 2011 at 9PM EST. Even if you haven't read the book (yet), stop by and experience the energy.)

RECIPE: Fresh Peas & Mint Risotto

2 cups fresh peas

2 cups milk

pinch of salt

1 Tbls fresh mint leaves or chopped in pieces

3 Tbls. Butter

3 Tbls. Olive Oil

1 small Shallot (chopped)

1 cup Arborio rice

1/4 cup white wine (or non alcoholic Verjon)

1 qt. stock (vegetable or chicken)

1/2 cup grated cheese (parmigiano or pecorino work well)

1) In a small saucepan, bring the peas and milk to a simmer for about 2-3 minutes, then add the mint and salt. Remove the pan from heat and hold.

2) In a sided skillet over med. heat, cook the shallot in the butter and oil until tender (about 3-5 minutes).

3) Add the rice and stir (season with salt) until the rice turns opaque (about 5-10 minutes).

4) Add the wine and stir to deglaze the skillet until almost all the liquid has been incorporated (au sec.)

5) Add the stock, one cup at a time, for 3 times. Stirring between each addition until the liquid is absorbed and the rice begins to create its own sauce.

6) Stir in the milk and the peas (as you did the stock), continuing to incorporate and cook the rice. Use the rest of the stock as needed to stir in and keep the Risotto creamy. Season to taste.

7) Stir in the grated cheese, briefly and serve with more grated cheese as desired.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Nutella Hand Pies - Flaky, Chocolate Mini Pies

I've been holding back on one of my favorite recipes, and it's time to share it with you. Nutella Hand Pies are flaky, chocolate mini turnovers and are my "Go-To" for Bake Sales. There is almost always a zip-lock bag of these ready for baking in my freezer at all times. They are my most requested family treat (except for the Nutella Crack Pie). I've also made these with Apples, Cherries or Blueberries inside and added little fork marks on the outside to remember which is which. Once you get the hang of making these (which is ultra easy), you will be trying all kinds of fillings (savory and sweet.)My Grandmother and my Mom made something like these in the southern tradition of "fried pies". Grandma W used to make them from canned biscuits rolled out and apples marinated in sugar, juice and spices. Those will remain my favorites because I grew up eating them, and my Mom's will always be my favorites because they're, well... Mom's.These Nutella Hand Pies are made with homemade pastry that is extra flaky for a few reasons: 1- The butter is extra cold, even frozen and you grate it into the flour. 2- The wet ingredients are a mixture of sour cream and buttermilk. 3- The dough is chilled, rolled out, then chilled again before being rolled out again - which develops layers (a little like puff pastry has, but thicker.)The result is a pastry that almost melts just about the time the Nutella hits your mouth, too. These are perfect quick grabs for breakfast or brunch, but they make a nice little lunch addition to a picnic, a lunch box or an afternoon tea.Today is one of those fun "Lets Lunch" group postings that I've been doing with some blogging friends across the world. Each month we pick another food or theme, then we all post about it on the same day. It's our way of having lunch together no matter the time, distance or culture. At the bottom of this page, you will find a list of my buddies who are participating in today's lunch which is...PIES.

You will not believe how many different ideas you will see and can click over to from this one place. Be sure to take a look, and if you want to join us next time, just let me know (or look for our info on twitter under #LetsLunch)

RECIPE: Nutella Hand Pies (makes 12 -24 depending on size)

1/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup sugar

2 1/4 cups All Purpose Flour
pinch of salt

6 oz. butter (keep in freezer for minimum 20 minutes)
1 egg (for an egg-wash before baking)
Nutella (1-2 Tbls. per hand pie)

1) In a small bowl, beat buttermilk, sour cream and sugar together.
2) In another bowl, sift in flour and salt, then grate butter into the flour and toss to coat and separate.
3) Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients lightly (using a fork), just until they clump together.
4) Empty onto a lightly floured board and pull ingredients into a ball and mash together once or twice just until it holds. (You should see the streaks of butter in the dough which means it will be nice and flaky.)
5) Make two balls, wrap them in plastic wrap, press them down into a nice square about 4x4 and chill for 20-30 minutes (or overnight).
6) Remove one chilled dough at a time and roll out into a rectangle shape about 8x8. Fold into thirds like a letter, wrap in plastic and return to refrigerator to chill again for 20- 30 minutes.

7) Remove one chilled dough at a time to work with it. Roll it out thin, cut into circles. You can use any scraps left over to re-roll, but try to stack the pieces on top of each other to roll out to protect the buttery layers. Try to not over-work.
8) Brush a little water on the outsides rims of the circles, drop a dollop of Nutella in each one and fold over to seal. Press the edges closed with the tines of a fork.
9) Once sealed, place on a parchment lined baking sheet, prick with the fork and brush with beaten egg. You can freeze them at this point (once they are frozen, bag them and bake later), or bake them in a preheated 350F oven for about 15-20 minutes depending on size. I hope you enjoy these. Everyone in my house loves them.

Don't forget to go over and look at all these great PIE ideas for today's Let's Lunch!

A Tiger In The Kitchen Japanese Curry Pot Pie

Zest Bakery - Lime-Custard & Curd Pie

Free Range Cookies - Dirt Pie with Compost Cookie Crust

Monday Morning Cooking Club - Pilaf Pie with Chicken, Sultanas & Sweet Spices

Chez Us -Summer Chicken Pot Pie

GrongarBlog - Spanakopita and Rhubarb Crisp

Hot Curries & Cold Beer - Pecan Pie with a twist

Beyond The Plate - Flaky Homemade Puff Pastry covered Chicken Pot Pie

Kitchen Dreamer - Chinese Sausage and Roasted Sweet Potato Hand Pies

Monday, June 6, 2011

Salmon, Tomato and Feta Pie with Potato Crust

I love fixing brunch. Maybe it's because if we're having brunch I probably had the chance to sleep in (and it was too embarrassing to call it breakfast.) This "Salmon, Tomato and Feta Pie with Potato Crust" makes it easy to whip up brunch, because you can do most of the work ahead of time, even the night before.
Salmon, Tomato and Feta Pie with Potato Crust

I'm thinking this is a great idea for Father's Day this weekend. I can make everything on Saturday. Then while my deserving husband lounges in his pajamas and sets up the television, radio and computer for his full media coverage of a White Sox game (it's a sight you'd have to see to believe), I can casually throw together this full flavored dish in a few minutes. I'll employ the kids to set the table and toast some bread, throw together a salad and I'll be out of the kitchen so fast my coffee will still be hot.

I've served this before at a Luncheon and my favorite thing is how I can serve an elegant looking and tasting dish without missing out on the fun at the table. It's also an easy crowd pleaser or can be served in small sizes as a starter. Oh, I could go on and on, but you can probably think of some good ideas for this too, right?
RECIPE: Salmon, Tomato & Feta Pie with Potato Crust

4 eggs
1/2 cup Milk
1 tsp Dill Weed
1/2 tsp Celery Salt
pinch Red Pepper Flakes
1 Tomato (chopped)
2 cups Caramelized Potatoes and Onions (recipe below)
1 Seared Salmon Fillet (recipe below)
6-8 oz. Crumbled Feta Cheese

1) In a bowl, whisk the egg, milk, dill weed, celery salt & red pepper flakes together. Then add the chopped tomato.
2) Butter or oil the bottom of a Medium (about 6x9") baking dish, then fill the bottom with cooked potatoes & onions. Press slightly to seal the bottom.3) Flake the seared salmon fillet and sprinkle it evenly over the potatoes. Then pour in the egg mixture. Lastly, sprinkle over the Feta Cheese and salt/pepper to taste.4) Place in a preheated 375F oven for about 25 minutes, or until set as you like it. This can be served warm or chilled.

RECIPE: Caramelized Potatoes and Onions

2 Potatoes (peeled and sliced thin)
1/2 Onion (sliced thin)
2 Tbls. butter (plus more as needed)
2 Tbls. Olive Oil (plus more as needed)

1) In a skillet on low/med heat, cook the onions (seasoned with salt & pepper) in the butter and oil until they are slightly caramel colored (about 10-15 minutes).

2) Add the potatoes and increase the heat to Med/High. Cook, flipping the potatoes over, until they are tender (about 15 minutes.) Cool and hold til needed or eat and enjoy.

RECIPE: Skillet Seared Salmon Fillet

1 Fresh Boneless Salmon Fillet
1 Tbls. Butter
2 Tbls. Olive Oil

1) Season the fillet on both sides.
2) Heat a skillet with the butter and olive oil over Med/High heat until the fats are hot.
3) Place the salmon, skin side down, into the hot skillet and let sear on one side for about 3-5 minutes. Turn over and sear the other side for about 2-3 minutes.
4) Reduce the heat to Low/Med and continue to cook the Salmon til done (about 2-3 more minutes.) Cool and hold in Refrigerator for a few hours or overnight to use in another dish, or eat and enjoy.