Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Choco-Cranberry Beer Bread

Things have been a little quiet in the Beetle's kitchen. I've been making peace with my sacrifice of meat for Lent. I'm not a big meat person like my husband, who, by the way, effortlessly gives up meat every Lent. I don't crave meat normally whereas my husband NEEDS meat with every meal. The day I cook a vegetarian meal, the first question he'll ask is, "where the meat at?", regardless of how delicious the dishes may be. For him, a meal is not complete without meat.

Majority of my cooking is based on what my husband would like to eat because left on my own, I'll survive on instant noodles or takeout for every meal. So, I thought giving up meat would be easy, given that (a) I don't crave meat and (b) I wouldn't really feel like cooking meat just for myself. But, ever since Lent began, my eyes have been involuntarily hunting for meat. I have to literally fly past the meat section at the grocery store because I look like a kid standing at the candy store with no money from mom to get candy. It doesn't help when I'm reading my favorite blogs and you have irresistible pictures of chicken, steak, beef or the 5-letter B-word (my favorite). Yeah, even saying it makes me cringe with temptation.

Every day I stand with the fridge door open, hoping the contents in the vegetable drawer will talk to me and tell me what delicious dish I can put them in so I won't miss meat. The ungrateful things aren't really helping, so I grabbed the bottles of beer that had been pushed to the back of the fridge and hunted for a beer bread recipe.

I'm not fond of beer and the husband drinks beer depending on what his mood dictates. So, these bottles had been sitting inside for quite a while. Now, I'm aware of what people say about not cooking with ingredients you don't care about, but, I couldn't care less about that right now. My good friend, Alton Brown, had this lovely video on how to make Beer bread and I got down to business. 

While Alton made a cheese and dill beer bread, I switched up the flavor components and decided to throw in cranberries and chocolate. I needed the chocolate to appease my meat cravings. One thing I would note about Alton's video and recipe are that he uses one whole 12 fl oz bottle of beer, but, to get the texture from his recipe video, I had to leave a few sips behind. Otherwise, it got soggy. So, watch out for that. You want a gooey texture and not a smooth, flowy texture.

I wasn't stopping at the beer bread because I was pulling the big guns out for this one. I remember watching Bobby Flay demonstrate an orange-honey butter on The Worst Cooks in America. I decided to make a cranberry-honey butter to go with my bread. Best. Decision. Ever. I can eat the cranberry-honey butter all by itself, if I wasn't reminded of the fact that it is still butter! Sigh

The combination of the cranberry-honey butter and the bread is amazing, to say the least. You could also overload on chocolate and toast your bread a bit before slathering with some chocolate sauce. *SLURP* Pure yum!

Choco Cranberry Beer Bread (adapted from Alton Brown's Beer Bread recipe)

Ingredients and instructions
  • Nonstick spray
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (do not thaw if frozen)
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 12 ounces cold beer, ale or stout
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, optional

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat the inside of a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with the nonstick spray and set aside.

Whisk together the all-purpose flour, wheat flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and chocolate chips in a large mixing bowl. Add in the cranberries and stir in the beer just to combine. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the sunflower seeds, if using.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven until the bread reaches an internal temperature of 210 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 45 to 55 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Cranberry Honey Butter (adapted from Bobby Flay's version on The Worst Cooks of America)
Ingredients and instructions
  • 1 cup cranberry juice, ready-made or home-made*
  • 3/4 stick butter, slightly softened
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • Pinch salt
Place cranberry juice in a small non-reactive saucepan over high heat and reduce to 1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons. Place butter in a bowl and add the cranberry syrup, honey, and salt; mix until combined. Scoop into a large ramekin, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

*Home-made Cranberry Juice

If you're feeling all adventurous and have your kitchen mojo on, make your own cranberry juice as well. Mind you, I've just learnt that cranberries in their fresh state or on their own are very sour and bitter. So, constitute the right amount of sugar according to your taste. I like mine sweeter than bitter so I added more sugar. Taste as you go.

Ingredients and instructions:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
In a soup kettle, bring water and cranberries to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until berries begin to pop.

Strain through a fine strainer, pressing mixture with a spoon; discard berries. Return cranberry juice to the pan. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice and orange juice. Bring to a boil; cook and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Remove from the heat. Cool. Transfer to a pitcher; cover and refrigerate until chilled. Yield: 1 cup.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Deviled Eggs by Edna Lewis

(Part of a weekly series by a group of bloggers, featuring Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers in Food - see end of post for list of bloggers participating & their blogs)

We have another inspiring story this week as we look back on the life of Edna Lewis, who's at #36 of Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers in Food. Edna is one of the legends of southern cooking. She grew up in Freetown, Virginia, a town founded by freed slaves, one of whom was her grandfather. All the families in Freetown lived on farms and that's where Edna's foundation was established. Every morning, all of them would help harvest crops and vegetables and raise poultry, which was their basic livelihood. At the age of 15, when the great depression struck, Edna left Freetown in search of a better life. She landed in New York and sustained herself through odd jobs. She worked as a seamstress, window dresser and also in the office of the Daily Worker, a communist newspaper. 

Edna loved cooking for her friends and slowly, her cooking started gaining popularity and praise among friends and acquaintances. In 1948, her friend, John Nicholson, an antique dealer, asked her to take on the role of head chef at the restaurant he was opening. The restaurant was a huge success and attracted famous guests like Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner and Truman Capote, who were regulars. She worked at the restaurant, serving up delicious southern food, until 1954.

She went on to travel, teach and write her own cookbooks. Her landmark book, The Taste of Country Cooking, was one of the first cookbooks by an African-American woman to reach a nationwide audience and is credited for starting the interest in genuine Southern cooking. While cooking for one of the festivals in Atlanta, she met Scott Peacock, who was in awe of her and wanted to follow her to learn everything she had to impart. Over the years, they both developed a deep friendship, working on recipes together, and even co-authored the popular cookbook, The Gift of Southern Cooking. Edna passed away in 2006, at the age of 89.

So, to honor her, I picked the recipe of Deviled Eggs, that was a dish Edna and Scott developed. This is a lovely, light appetizer that's both simple and tasty. It's extremely easy to whip up and highly customizable. Once you have the base, you can throw in either cayenne pepper to add a little bit of spice or add a herb to infuse some flavor. This is something ANYONE can make since all it involves is boiling an egg and mixing stuff with it. Unless, of course, the eggs you're working with don't co-operate with you. Like mine did. I use brown eggs that take much longer to cook and I can never figure out the right time to pull them out. So, I may have had to fight with the shell to get it off and it made my job a little harder to hide all the flaws on the outside of the egg white. But, otherwise, it's a fool-proof recipe!

While preparing the eggs, I suddenly thought of mixing things up a bit and utilizing the egg mixture in a couple of different ways. It works beautifully as a cracker topping and I'd nibbled on all of them by the time I cleaned everything up! All you have to do is chop the egg whites into tiny pieces and mix it up along with the yolk mixture (this is perfect especially if you have un-cooperative eggs like mine that come out damaged when you try to take their shells off). Then, spread away on your favorite cracker.

That same egg mixture can be used as a sandwich filling too. This is something familiar to me since my mom makes similar egg sandwiches. So, experiment and have fun with it! The possibilities are endless and limited only by your imagination! 

Deviled Eggs by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock

Ingredients and instructions:
  • 1 dozen large eggs
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons snipped chives and chervil (I couldn't find either so I used scallions and they tasted delicious too)
Put the eggs in a large saucepan with water to cover by 2 inches. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Pour off the hot water and fill the saucepan with cold water. Gently crack the eggs in the water to loosen the shells.

Shell the eggs. Cut a very thin slice from the bottom of each egg so the eggs will stand up. Slice off the top third of each egg and scoop the yolks into a coarse strainer; reserve the whites. Press the egg yolks through the strainer into a bowl. If you're too lazy like me to use a strainer, just mash them with a fork.

Blend in the mayonnaise, cream, sugar and vinegar. Season with salt. Using a teaspoon or a pastry bag fitted with a star tip, generously fill the egg whites. Arrange the eggs on a plate, sprinkle with the chives and chervil and serve.


Here's a list of the other bloggers participating in this series. Do go over to their blogs to see what yummy dishes they've whipped up. If you'd like to join the group, please get in touch with Mary of One Perfect Bite.

Val - More Than Burnt Toast [] Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed [] Susan - The Spice Garden [] Heather - girlichef [] Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney [] Jeanette - Healthy Living [] Mary - One Perfect Bite [] Kathleen - Bake Away with Me [] Sue - The View from Great Island [] Barbara - Movable Feasts [] Linda A - There and Back Again [] Nancy - Picadillo [] Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits [] Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen [] Annie - Most Lovely Things [] Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook [] Alyce - More Time at the Table [] Amrita -Beetles Kitchen Escapades

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chocolate Mousse with Brandied Cherries

It's Fat Tuesday! Now, I LOVE southern food but, all I'd had running through my mind the last week or so was - Chocolate. I've never really craved chocolate before but, I get these sudden pangs of desire so strong that I have to do something to satiate them.

Growing up, all I'd ever want were strawberries or something pink. Be it an ice cream sundae, cake, jam, just about anything that could have strawberries in it. And as I got into my 20s, that slowly changed and I found love for anything sweet! I'm still not a very big fan of chocolate ice cream and will most probably pick that last if I had a choice of ice creams. Actually, that holds true for just about any dessert, I'd probably pick the chocolate dessert last, unless I was in one of my current chocolate-lovin' moods. 

I know I probably have made a million people go, 'what is wrong with this person?' but, hey, someone's gotta give a lot of love to the other desserts out there, too, right? Well, I think so :)

Last week, though, I had to hunt my chocolate desserts down since nothing else would satisfy. So, I made chocolate mousse. And I wanted something more with that, so I threw in some brandied cherries and nearly died with how rich and decadent that whole thing was. I couldn't get enough! The mousse tastes terrific with fresh strawberries too, because that's how I ate them after the brandied cherries were happily in my tummy. It tasted just like chocolate-covered strawberries. Oh. so. divine!

Chocolate Mousse with Brandied Cherries (adapted from Alton Brown's recipe on Food Network)
Ingredients and instructions:

For the mousse:
  • 1 3/4 cups whipping cream
  • 6 ounces quality semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks cut up
  • 3 ounces espresso or strong coffee
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon flavorless, granulated gelatin
For the cherries:
  • 1 tin of dark cherries
  • 6 tablespoons of brandy or cognac

Prepare the cherries first. Empty out the cherries alone in a bowl with a couple of teaspoons of the juice as well (you can save the remaining juice for another dish or drink it all up, like I did). 

Add the brandy or cognac and mix well. Make sure all the cherries are immersed in the brandy. Cover and put it away in the fridge to soak while you prepare the mousse.

For the mousse: Chill 1 1/2 cups whipping cream in refrigerator. Chill metal mixing bowl and mixer beaters in freezer.
In top of a double boiler, combine chocolate chips, coffee, rum and butter. Melt over barely simmering water, stirring constantly. Remove from heat while a couple of chunks are still visible. Cool, stirring occasionally to just above body temperature.

Pour remaining 1/4 cup whipping cream into a metal measuring cup and sprinkle in the gelatin. Allow gelatin to "bloom" for 10 minutes. Then carefully heat by swirling the measuring cup over a low gas flame or candle. Do not boil or gelatin will be damaged. Stir mixture into the cooled chocolate and set aside.

In the chilled mixing bowl, beat cream to medium peaks. Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining whipped cream in two doses. There may be streaks of whipped cream in the chocolate and that is fine. Do not over work the mousse.

When you're ready to serve, spoon a few of the brandied cherries and a little liquid in a bowl or martini glass. Spoon some of the luscious mousse on top and chill for at least 1 hour. 

(If mousses are to be refrigerated overnight, chill for one hour and then cover each with plastic wrap)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Farfalle with Wild Mushrooms and Crème Fraîche

(Part of a weekly series by a group of bloggers, featuring Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers in Food - see end of post for list of bloggers participating & their blogs)

This week we're shining the spotlight on Delia Smith at #35 on the list of 50 Women Game Changers in Food. For someone who is Britain's best selling cookbook author and has been teaching the nation to cook since the 1970s, Delia doesn't evoke the kind of recognition or awe one would assume came with those accolades. That could also be because she has humble roots in the world of cooking and appeals to cooks all across the board. She's not one of your exuberant chefs that display complicated or fancy techniques. She's more down-to-earth, working her way through the kitchen in a laid-back manner, teaching you the basics and simple techniques in cooking. That has obviously endeared her to the larger population.

Critics sometimes call her dull, lacking in passion while working with her ingredients but, who are we kidding - she's sold 21 million copies of her cook books. She's had no formal training in culinary school. She started out enthusiastically cooking for her boyfriend when she was a young girl. I guess she truly believed the phrase - the way to a man's heart is through his stomach - even though they eventually didn't stay together. But, that was the beginning of her journey with food. She started working in the kitchen of a restaurant, doing the dishes, slowly working her way up to waitressing and then even cooking. She landed a food writer's role at The Daily Mirror's new magazine in 1969 and was on her own cooking show by the early 70s. Cook books followed and slowly she was educating the whole nation on British cooking. You can read an exhaustive biography of hers in an article by The Independent and also pore through tons of her recipes on her website, Delia Online.
I picked a pasta recipe because it is both simple and unassuming like her but, incredibly delicious in taste. The husband and I ate this along with baked meatballs in a white wine sauce and it was one of the most perfect meals! The crème fraîche really makes the difference here and lends such a delicate, creamy touch to the pasta. I love mushrooms in any shape or form, so having them in the dish was just the perfect combination for me. You should really try this, it's simple and easy to make. Bon Appetit!

Penne with Wild Mushrooms and Crème Fraîche by Delia Smith

Ingredients and instructions:

  • 1 lb 2 oz penne rigate (I used farfalle) 
  • 1 lb mixed fresh mushrooms (flat, chestnut, shiitake or mixed wild mushrooms, for example), finely chopped 
  • ½ oz dried porcini mushrooms 
  • 9 fl oz (250 ml) crème fraîche (If you don't have this, you could substitute with 3/4 measure sour cream and 1/4 measure heavy cream - still tastes divine) 
  • 3 tablespoons milk 
  • 4 tablespoons butter 
  • 4 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
  • ¼ whole nutmeg, grated 
  • lots of freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano), to serve 
  • salt and freshly milled black pepper 

First pop the porcini in a small bowl, then heat the milk, pour it over the mushrooms and leave them to soak for 30 minutes. Then heat the butter in a medium frying pan over a gentle heat, stir in the shallots and let them cook gently for 5 minutes.

Next, strain the porcini into a sieve lined with kitchen paper, reserving the soaking liquid, and squeeze the porcini dry. Then chop them finely and add them to the pan, along with the fresh mushrooms and the balsamic vinegar.

Next, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Give it all a good stir, then cook gently, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, until all the liquid has evaporated.

About 15 minutes before the mushrooms are ready, put the pasta on to cook (see How to Cook Perfect Pasta below). Then, 2 minutes before the pasta is cooked, mix the crème fraîche into the mushrooms with the soaking liquid, and warm through.

Drain the pasta in a colander, return it to the hot pan and quickly mix in the mushroom mixture, then place the pasta back on a gentle heat so it continues to cook for 1 more minute while it absorbs the sauce.

Take it to the table in a hot serving bowl and hand the Parmesan round separately.


Here's a list of the other bloggers participating in this series. Do go over to their blogs to see what yummy dishes they've whipped up. If you'd like to join the group, please get in touch with Mary of One Perfect Bite.

Val - More Than Burnt Toast [] Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed [] Susan - The Spice Garden [] Heather - girlichef [] Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney [] Jeanette - Healthy Living [] Mary - One Perfect Bite [] Kathleen - Bake Away with Me [] Sue - The View from Great Island [] Barbara - Movable Feasts [] Linda A - There and Back Again [] Nancy - Picadillo [] Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits [] Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen [] Annie - Most Lovely Things [] Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook [] Alyce - More Time at the Table [] Amrita -Beetles Kitchen Escapades

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bananas Foster by Ella Brennan

(Part of a weekly series by a group of bloggers, featuring Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers in Food - see end of post for list of bloggers participating & their blogs)

At #34, this week we have Ella Brennan, the queen of New Orleans cuisine. It is so strange that I was in New Orleans last year and never heard of Ella Brennan! Commander's Palace and Brennan's? Yes. Hurricanes from Pat O'Brien's? Oh yes. While reading about Ella, I wish there was more I'd learnt about her while I was in New Orleans because she is quite the restaurateur who's made an impact internationally. Unlike Paula Deen in Savannah, I heard absolutely nothing of Ella in New Orleans. Sad. Or maybe I just wasn't looking in the right direction.

Ella's story begins in High School when her brother, Owen Brennan, acquired a restaurant in New Orleans' French Quarter, which over the years gained its popular name, Brennan's. She criticized everything in the restaurant and didn't fail to tell her brother how she felt about the food either. So, Owen asked her to step in and prove her worth. And prove she did. By 18, she was practically running the restaurant, including operations. She had a voracious appetite for knowledge of the restaurant business and picked up as much as she could from tons of books she read and anyone from the restaurant arena she met. From there, she slowly worked her way up as a restaurant scion. She's had her share of ups and downs in life, battling through family feuds (she gave up working with Brennan's during the rift with Owen's family), growing her restaurant empire through acquisitions, including Commander's Palace, and also braving the shutting down of restaurants that didn't quite make the mark. But, in her entire career that spans over the last 65 years or so, she's forged on in taking Louisiana cooking worldwide and pioneering the notion of nouvelle Creole cuisine. In 1996, Commander's Palace was honored with the Lifetime Outstanding Restaurant Award by the James Beard Foundation and later, also with a Lifetime Service Award.

Now, Ella's not been known to cook though she has inspired and created some of the signature dishes you eat and hear of in New Orleans. One of those being Bananas Foster that she invented with the then chef of Brennan's (it is extremely strange that Martha Stewart features the exact same recipe as hers on her site). And that is what I chose for my weekly series feature. What's even better? I got to eat ALL of this deliciousness because the husband is allergic to bananas! Haha!

This dish absolutely strengthened my thoughts on butter and brown sugar being caramelized BFFs. I had to restrain myself from swiping at the mixture melting together because it is awesome! With the rum kicking in, the bananas that cook in this mixture take on a divine taste that you won't want to see the end of. I hope you enjoy! Bon Appetit!

Bananas Foster by Ella Brennan

Ingredients and instructions:

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup banana liqueur (if you can't find any, you could use 1/2 teaspoon of banana extract mixed with water and a little rum to make 1/4 cup - I did this and it turned out really well)
  • 4 bananas, cut in half lengthwise, then halved
  • ¼ cup dark rum
  • 4 scoops vanilla ice cream
On low heat in a skillet or heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Once the sugar has melted, gently add the banana liqueur or the banana extract with water mixture. Put the bananas in, cut side down. Let it cook till it gets soft and the underneath starts browning.

This is where it gets interesting. Once the bananas are ready, slowly add the rum. Let the rum get hot and start smoking. Stand as far as you can and gently tip the pan on its side to ignite the rum. Once the flames subside, turn the heat off. 

Serve your bananas with ice cream or Cool Whip, like I did, and drizzle with the warm sauce.


Here's a list of the other bloggers participating in this series. Do go over to their blogs to see what yummy dishes they've whipped up. If you'd like to join the group, please get in touch with Mary of One Perfect Bite

ValMore Than Burnt Toast [] TarynHave Kitchen Will Feed [] Susan - The Spice Garden [] Heather - girlichef [] MirandaMangoes and Chutney [] JeanetteHealthy Living [] MaryOne Perfect Bite [] Kathleen - Bake Away with Me [] SueThe View from Great Island [] Barbara Movable Feasts [] Linda A - There and Back Again [] NancyPicadillo [] MireyaMy Healthy Eating Habits [] VeronicaMy Catholic Kitchen [] AnnieMost Lovely Things [] ClaudiaJourney of an Italian Cook [] AlyceMore Time at the Table [] Amrita -Beetles Kitchen Escapades 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Blueberry Bread Pudding with Baileys Cream Sauce

I'm sure all of us have been to restaurants/cafes or any other eating joint where you've ordered something so heavenly that you want to come home and figure out how to make that dish. It happens to me quite often, though by the time I'm stuffed like a python and get into the car, all thoughts of recreating that meal have been replaced by "I'm going to pass out with the amount of food I've eaten". 

But, a couple of months back, the husband and I ate at this little bar/restaurant that served a dessert that I'd give my heart and soul for. On the menu, it was a simple bread pudding with blueberries and Baileys cream sauce. On the plate, it was one spoon after the other of pure bliss. If I could, I would've literally licked the plate clean (guilty confession: I do this at home with desserts but, I don't care!). I didn't want to ruin my chances of going back there for more bites of this bliss, though, so I ate as ladylike as I could. 

That dessert has not left my mind till this day! I knew I'd never get to make a dish as delicious as that unless I wrestled the secrets out of the chef but, I sure as hell was going to try! So, this is my attempt at recreating the dessert that stole my heart and maybe, just MAYBE, found a bigger place in my heart than my husband. Bon Appetit!

Blueberry Bread Pudding with Baileys Cream Sauce

Ingredients and instructions:

For the bread pudding (adapted from Giada Di Laurentiis' recipe on Food Network)
  • Butter, for greasing
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup, plus extra for serving
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 3 (1-inch thick) slices (8 ounces) day-old challah or sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) fresh or frozen, thawed, and drained blueberries
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Handful of chopped pecans
For the sauce (adapted from Betty Crocker)
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup Baileys Irish Cream

Make the bread pudding: Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Add the milk, maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, and lemon zest. Add the bread cubes and mix until coated. Stir in the blueberries. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

In a small bowl, mix together the remaining cinnamon, sugar and pecans. Sprinkle over the egg mixture in an even layer. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the top is golden and the filling is set.
Make the sauce: In 1-quart saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter over low heat; do not allow to simmer. Remove from heat; cool 10 minutes. Mix water and 1 egg in small bowl; stir into butter until blended. Stir in 1 cup sugar. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved and mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat and stir in Baileys. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Slice your bread pudding onto a plate and top with Baileys cream sauce.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Creamed Spinach by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton

(Part of a series featuring Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers in Food)

I was pleased to learn about the two ladies in the spotlight this week at #33- Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, the dynamic duo behind Canal House Cooking, a food magazine that dishes out seasonal delicacies. They're the brains behind Canal House (opened in 2006), a unique little food and design studio that's quite intriguing to read about from other articles. It's apparently laid out like a kitchen, dining room, office, workshop, studio all rolled into one where they cook up delicious food, write, create recipes, shoot and much more. Hirsheimer and Hamilton have known each other for about 15 years and have a bunch of credits they each carry in their bags. Hirsheimer, a writer and photogrpaher, served as the food and design editor for Metropolitan Home magazine, and was a founding editor at Saveur magazine. She shoots food photos for Jacques Pepin, Lidia Bastianich, Mario Batali, and Rick Bayless. At the other end of the table, Hamilton, a chef, food stylist and recipe developer, has worked at Martha Stewart Living, Cooks Illustrated and also served as a food editor and director of the test kitchen at Saveur magazine. Both the ladies come from different cultural backgrounds - Hamilton's french heritage and Hirsheimer's california childhood - and that reflects highly in the food they lavish in their cookbooks.

When it was time to pick a recipe from their treasure trove, I first settled on their stewy roasted root vegetables. It looked so earthy and delicious that I couldn't resist. I'd planned to have the food and pictures all set by midnight Thursday so I could post it early on Friday. 

So, I gathered all the ingredients and started roasting. Every time I peered into the oven to check its done-ness, the aroma from the roasted vegetables was so heavenly. I smiled contently thinking I had a success of a dish. But, then, things slowly didn't turn out as I hoped they would. It could also perhaps be that I just discovered I can't stand the taste of parsnips. In addition, the liquid quickly dried up and my vegetables had still not completely softened, so I had to add a little more here and there. It didn't help. When I tasted the final product, all I could think was 'Blech'! No offense to the lovely ladies, but it is most likely me making a disaster of a good recipe.

There went all my plans of having the recipe and post ready for early Friday! I went back to the drawing board and started hunting for new recipes. I decided to stick with something really simple so I couldn't mess it up again. And my eyes took me straight to their version of creamed spinach, and my heart and hands followed. 

BOY, was I right to pick this one! This creamed spinach is one of the best I've ever eaten and the potatoes really add a new dimension to the dish. Me being thrilled with the results, is an understatement. I was grinning like a buffoon, is more like it! So, I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. Bon Appetit!

Creamed Spinach by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton (recipe found here and in Canal House Cooking Vol. 6)

Ingredients and instructions:

For the ginger-garlic paste

  • 1 5-inch finger fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • Salt
  • Really good extra-virgin olive oil

For the spinach
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1potato, peeled and diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound washed young spinach
For the ginger-garlic paste, pulse the ginger, garlic, and a pinch of salt in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add a little water to thin the paste. Store in a covered container with a little olive oil on the surface. Keeps for about a week.

For the spinach, melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add 1 big tablespoon ginger-garlic paste and cook for a minute, swirling it in the butter. Add the potatoes and stir until well coated. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until tender but not browned, about 10 minutes.

Add the cream and pile the spinach into the pot, pressing it down so that you can fit it all in. Cover and cook until the spinach wilts, about 10 minutes. Fold the spinach into the potatoes and cream, and serve.


Here's a list of the other bloggers participating in this series. Do go over to their blogs to see what yummy dishes they've whipped up. If you'd like to join the group, please get in touch with Mary of One Perfect Bite. 

Val - More Than Burnt Toast [] Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed [] Susan - The Spice Garden [] Heather - girlichef [] Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney [] Jeanette - Healthy Living [] Mary - One Perfect Bite [] Kathleen - Bake Away with Me [] Sue - The View from Great Island [] Barbara - Movable Feasts [] Linda A - There and Back Again [] Nancy - Picadillo [] Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits [] Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen [] Annie - Most Lovely Things [] Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook [] Alyce - More Time at the Table [] Amrita -Beetles Kitchen Escapades

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Spiced Apricot Gateau

Baking cakes always brings back fond memories of my childhood. My mom would carefully line the kitchen counter with old newspapers, set up an assembly line of baking bowls and tools, precisely measure her ingredients and start whipping her magic. I'd eagerly prowl around waiting to take a quick swipe of the creamed butter and sugar and then patiently wait till the final cake batter was ready. As soon as she'd poured out the batter into the cake pans, I'd beg for the baking bowl and wooden spoon. That, to me, was the best part of the baking process when I was a kid. I'd happily lick the bowl and spoon clean till my mom didn't know whether they were used or washed. And as the house filled with the heavenly smell of baking, my brother and I would hang around like hyenas waiting to get our paws on the very first piece of warm cake. Bliss! My mom would literally have to chase us away till she could take the cake out of the pan and let it cool.

As I grew older, mom would ask me to help her beat the batter and I would do so ever so meticulously, just as I'd observed her do and learning from her instructions. For me, she is the best baker ever. And it's not just me, even family friends who ate her cakes fawned over them. I always thank my stars that I was born into a family with such baking prowess because I'm sure some of it rubbed off on me. I have a whole bunch of aunts and a grandmom who are such amazing bakers. Each of them has their own individual style and little baking secrets, which they reveal to no one. I had to pinky-promise my mom that I wouldn't share her secrets. Hehehe

Being thousands of miles away from her, I tend to rely more on the internet for recipes of cakes I want to try because sometimes it's just faster than waiting to talk to my mom who's in the opposite side of the world. 

So, when I had a bowl of apricots staring at me angrily for not giving them any love, I knew I wanted to bake a cake with them and chanced upon a recipe by Christy Rost. I made a few changes, dug out my bundt cake pan and got down to business. When the cake was ready to dig into, I squealed with delight when it tasted so much like one of my mom's cakes! Soft, fruity goodness and what about the buttery brown sugar topping, you ask? Pure caramelized heaven! I licked the pan clean of the remnants of the baked brown sugar topping. 

Spiced Apricot Gateau (adapted from Christy Rost)

Ingredients and instructions:
For the cake -

  • 1/3 cup soft unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 spiced apricot halves, chopped into pieces*
For the brown sugar topping (you could double these ingredients if you're baking with a regular cake pan) -
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4-5 spiced apricot halves, thinly sliced*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray your cake pan with non-stick baking spray or you could butter and flour it the traditional way. 

In large bowl of an electric mixer (or you could use a large bowl and a electric hand beater), cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 8 minutes. Add egg, vanilla, and almond extract; beat until smooth.
In a medium bowl, stir together cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with milk, starting and ending with dry ingredients. Slowly fold in the spiced apricot pieces. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter and brown sugar, stirring often. Spoon mixture into bottom of cake pans just to cover. Brown sugar mixture may harden, but will melt during baking.

Arrange sliced apricots over sugar mixture. Spoon cake batter evenly over apricots.

Bake in preheated oven 25 to 30 minutes, until top is golden brown and cake has pulled away from sides of pan. Remove from oven, set aside 2 minutes to cool, and loosen cake from sides of pans with a knife. Invert gateaux on a wire rack to cool. (Gateaux may be may one day ahead, covered with plastic wrap, and chilled in refrigerator.)

Serve with ice cream or sweetened whipped cream topped with nuts.

*Spiced Apricots (adapted from Food & Wine)
Note: For the gateau, you could completely skip this but, I thought it'd lend a nice kick, so I added this one extra step)
  • 6 fresh Apricots, halved and pitted
  • 3 teaspoons honey
  • Cayenne pepper
Preheat the broiler. Arrange apricot halves on a baking sheet. Spinkle the insides of each half with a pinch of Cayenne pepper. Spoon half a teaspoon of honey into each apricot half. 

Broil the apricots 4 inches from the heat for 3-4 minutes, rotating once, until it's bubbling and caramelized. Cool completely.

These actually taste amazing with ice cream! If you're eating it with ice cream, serve them warm with a scoop of your favorite ice cream.

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