Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lookie Lookie!

Look at my pretty, pretty new blog design!

It's all thanks to Delicious Design Studio.

If you're a feed reader, then do me a favor and come see!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

TWD: Caramel Topped Flan

First Bite

For this week, the Tuesdays with Dorie recipe chosen by Steph of a whisk and a spoon was the Caramel Topped Flan. I've never had flan before this, and I was a little unsure if I wanted to do the challenge this week. As you can see, I went through with it in the end.

The first bite, well... Let's just say that I was not impressed. And then I sat down to write the post, and I had another small bite. Then, as I was loading the pictures, I had another one. Somewhere along the line, I realized that the vanilla creaminess and the smoky caramel was really pretty addictive. I'm not sure this would be my first thought for dessert, but it's definitely worth adding to the recipe box. Oh, and I'd love to try it with the coconut milk too.

As you can tell from the pictures, I used ramekins. Plating them was a bit of a challenge, so I had bits of flan floating in the caramel. It wouldn't be very fancy in presentation, but I'm in the not-perfect makes it taste better camp. (Oh and one of these days, I'll get a camera that can take better close ups.)

For the recipe, click here.

Don't forget to see how the other TWDers fared with their Flan!

Setting Up

Friday, March 21, 2008

Crock Pot Chicken Enchiladas

No picture! Sorry!! (Mostly because I was in full party hostess mode by the time these were done and I was more concerned with getting people drinks and having them enjoy themselves. *sigh* One of these days, I'll get it together enough to do both.)

These things were awesome for the party, and would be great at a potluck or large casual dinner. Fair warning though, they really don't stand up well to reheating. I made a plate of the leftovers the next day, and the awesomeness had just leaked out. That first day though? I had just about everybody asking for the recipe. That's how good they are.

I pulled the recipe off of (here's the link) but I tweaked it, cause that's what I do! :D

Here's the tweaked version:


1 small can red enchilada sauce
1 small can green enchilada sauce
3-4 chicken breasts
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 sm. can sliced black olives
2 dozen corn tortillas
1 chopped onion
1 pkg. sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

Cook chicken and shred. Mix soup, olives and onions. Cut tortillas in wedges. Layer crock pot with sauce, tortillas, soup mix, chicken and cheese all the way to top, ending with cheese on top. Cook on low temperature all day in crock pot.

I alternated the red and green sauces and boiled the chicken the night before with some spices and herbs (whatever struck Bill's fancy because he's the spicer).

When they say to layer it all the way to the top, they're not kidding. I was worried about leaving it all day unattended (working is the pits sometime), so I put it someplace where overflow wouldn't hurt anything and then left an inch or two at the top. When I got home, the house was filled with the smell of bubbling cheesy goodness, and the whole thing had shrunk down to about three quarters of the crock pot. There was plenty there to feed 10 people with a little bit of leftovers, but I used my monster crock pot. Next time, I'll use my smaller crock and layer that puppy until the lid will hardly fit.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Chicken Nachos

Chicken Nachos

I found a recipe for these over at IHeartFood4Thought and they looked awesome.

I used some of Bill's homemade roasted corn salsa, and regular onion instead of green - but everything else was pretty much per recipe.

They were tasty, tasty, tasty. The tip of cooking the chips for 5 minutes before adding the chicken mixture was a winner. My nachos in the past have always been pretty soggy no matter what I did. The combo of heating the chicken stuff and baking the chips kept most of them crisp.

Oh, and I made them a second time only riffing on the chicken mix. Bean salsa and green chilis and corn salsa and green enchilada sauce (all leftover from the Margarita & Munchies party) - I think I liked the second batch even better.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

TWD: Brioche Raisin Snails


It's another Tuesday, and you know what that means! Tuesdays with Dorie. I gotta admit... I almost bailed on this week. I threw a party last weekend, and all my attention went to that. I woke up after the party with a sinking feeling. Peabody picked a daunting recipe for this week in the Brioche Raisin Snails. It's three! Three recipes in one! First you have to make the brioche dough and let it chill overnight. Then there's a pastry cream, and then you flame the raisins/dried fruit and put it all together.

Click here for the recipe.

Brioche Mosaic

I decided to give it a shot, and I'm really glad I did. I checked out the main blog for the scoop and tips from all those baking before me, and found that most folks were worried about the flaming fruit part. That should probably have worried me, but I was more "het" up about the brioche dough. I've done a pastry cream before, and figured good prep and being careful would work with the flaming part. (Or you know, calling in the big guns and letting Bill do the flame thing while I took pictures. Whatever. :D)

I did snitch one idea from the other TWDers. Someone (Steph? Slush?) mentioned using dried cherries instead of raisins and I was hooked. I would probably have loved the raisins, but I thought Bill might like cherries better. (He mostly picked them out, doh!)

Pastry Cream Mosaic

The dough came together mostly painlessly. I wasn't sure what to expect at each step, so I spent some anxious moments wondering if it had come into a ball too quickly. Mine pretty much pulled away from the sides of the bowl before I even started incorporating the butter.

The pastry cream came out tasty and thiiiiick. I thought about messing around with one of the flavor options listed in the book, but opted for the plain jane version for the first shot.

Flaming Cherries

Flaming the cherries went off without a hitch. I tried to get a good photo (the one above was the best of the bunch), but the constant moving and light didn't really help.

The dough rolled out, and everything came together well. The snails rose beautifully, and all was great until the baking. I switched the sheet placement at the 15 minute mark, but the snails on top were already too brown. The other sheet came out nicely browned for the most part.
Brioche Snail Mosaic

Oh, and you may have noticed from the recipe. The snails recipe only calls for half of the brioche dough. I thought about doing another log of snails to freeze, but in the end, decided to make the brioche loaf. Just for kicks. I tried letting the dough proof at room temperature (on the oven because it was still warm from dinner), but there was no rise after an hour. So then, I moved it to the laundry room. (I know, but it seemed like a good idea.) I'd been running the dryer with the door closed, and it was slightly warmer in there. After another hour with little rise, I noticed the oven was still warm. Bingo - an hour in there, and we have rise!

Verdict? Tasty. But just shy of burned even with taking it out 5 minutes before the minimum time listed in the recipe. I gotta check my oven temp or learn to start checking these recipes at the half way time (then every 5 minutes).

Brioche Loaf Mosaic

Lessons Learned: My house is freezing. I'll do the oven trick the next time I need to proof a yeast dough instead of messing around. Also, I need to be a little more vigilant with the baking times and/or check the oven temp. Wandering away and trusting the minimum time is probably not the smartest approach!

Conclusion: Awesome recipe. I'll definitely be making these for overnight guests. I'd probably make a few stripes for guests though: one chocolate chip, one raisins, and one with just cinnamon sugar. Oh, and I'd love to try some of the flavored pastry cream in these as well.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Blake Makes Giveaway: Sucré

Sucré Mosaic

I was one of the lucky lottery winners over on Blake Makes for a sample box of Sucré chocolates.

The box arrived today, and I wasted no time ripping that baby open. Gorgeous packaging, complete with a cold pack to help the chocolate arrive fresh.

As you can see, the chocolates arrived a little banged up from shipping, but who can hold that against them? A thousand mile plus voyage can be rough on even the hardiest of us sweet confections, am I right?

(For a picture with names and descriptions of each of the pieces, click here.)

The first piece I tried was the Lemon Confit - a dark chocolate ganache with candied lemon. The lovely shape and bright yellow stripes called to me, even though candied lemon in chocolate usually isn't one of my favorites. From the first bite, I was in love. The dark chocolate is set off by the bitter and sweet lemon in such a way as to wake up every taste bud you have.

Piece after piece was an adventure. Unlike some other high end chocolates that I've tried, each description represented the actual chocolates received perfectly. Every one was delicious, but as in all things, some knocked my socks off while others just... didn't.

My three favorites were the Meuniere (brown butter infused white chocolate ganache - called Saints on the Sucré website), the Lemon Confit, and the Avery (caramel and milk chocolate ganache enhanced with salt).

Bill's favorites were also the Meuniere and Avery as well as the Sucré Dark (just like the name suggests, dark chocolate).

I have to say though, some of the salt from the Avery had migrated onto the Meuniere and it made the piece divine. We both thought it was supposed to be that way. I'll have to check the small remainder piece tomorrow sans salt to see if I like it as well.

All in all, Sucré offers a fantastic array of delicious chocolates, well worth remembering for gifts, special occasions, or even just when you want/need a bit of pampering.

Wooo! A Giveaway!!

Kate over at the clean plate club is hosting a giveaway!

She's giving away a $50 gift certificate to Williams-Sonoma! All you have to do is blog about the giveaway and leave a comment on her post linking back to your post. Simple!

I went browsing through all the great things on the Williams-Sonoma site to see what I could use a gift certificate on and came up with:

Kaiser Mini Springform Pans, Set of 4
Kaiser La Forme Leakproof Springform Pan
Silicone Spatulas, Lemongrass
Cooling Rack
Three-Tiered Oven Rack

I may have to get some or all of those even without a gift card!

Honey Chipotle Pecans

Honey Chipotle Pecans

I was looking for a few more food ideas for a Margaritas and Munchies party and came across a recipe for these pecans. The original recipe is on Recipezaar, but I made a few modifications. I wasn't sure that I could find the dried chipotle pepper at the local grocery store, so I did some preemptive digging and found a recommendation for using smoked paprika in its place. Turns out, the local store had both so I picked them up. When I taste tested the spices though, the chipotle smelled fantastic but had a huge burn.

These things are sooooo good. I wanted to just stuff my face down into the bag once they were done, and Bill had to take them away from me so we had enough for the party. I can't wait to try the recipe with some walnuts or pistachios!

Here's the recipe with my modifications:

Honey Chipotle Pecans

4 Tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chipotle chili pepper
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 and 1/3 cups pecan halves
4 Tablespoons sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a medium saucepan, warm honey with chipotle, paprika, and cinnamon over low heat. Add nuts and stir to coat.

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper and spread nuts in a single layer on the sheet. Bake until the nuts are fragrant (10 - 15 minutes).

Remove and allow to cool for one minute. Combine the sugar and salt in a mixing bowl, add the nuts, and stir to coat.

Spread the nuts out on a clean sheet of waxed paper and let them dry completely. Store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

TWD: Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake

TWD Mosaic

This was my week to choose for Tuesdays with Dorie, and it wasn't easy given all those fantastic recipes. Erin beat me to the cookie section last week, so I moved further back in the book to the pie and tart section. This one stood out for me both for the wonderful story behind the recipe and the recipe itself. The playing around section for this recipe is huge and runs the gamut from turnovers through deep dish pies. For my first run through, I decided to stick to the recipe as written figuring I could play around with it after getting a feel for the base.

The dough was sticky, but oh so tasty. I rolled it out between sheets of waxed paper, and it took some serious coaxing to get it into the 13x9 pan. I used a mix of Gala, Fuji, and Granny Smith apples in the filling, but the apples really didn't pop this time around.  And the edges came out a hairs breadth from burned even though I took it out at the minimum time.  

Lessons Learned: I need more work with rolling out dough in general.  Also for next time, I'll try this as a deep dish pie and try a different mix of apples.

Conclusion: Very tasty (if slightly odd).  The coworkers scarfed it down, and it would probably have been even better with some ice cream or whipped cream.

Don't forget to see how the rest of the TWD group fared with this week's recipe!

Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake

For The Dough
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon
3 1/4 - 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For The Apples
10 medium apples, all one kind or a mix (I like to use Fuji, Golden Delicious and Ida Reds; my grandmother probably used dry baking apples like Cordland and Rome)
Squirt of fresh lemon juice
1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar, for dusting

To Make The Dough: Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes more. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the baking powder and salt and mix just to combine. Add the lemon juice - the dough will probably curdle, but don't worry about it. Still working on low speed, slowly but steadily add 3 1/4 cups of the flour, mixing to incorporate it and scraping down the bowl as needed. The dough is meant to be soft, but if you think it looks more like a batter than a dough at this point, add the extra 1/4 cup flour. (The dough usually needs the extra flour.) When properly combined, the dough should almost clean the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or for up to 3 days. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; defrost overnight in the refrigerator.)

To Make The Apples: Peel and core the apples and cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick; cut the slices in half crosswise if you want. Toss the slices in a bowl with a little lemon juice - even with the juice, the apples may turn brown, but that's fine - and add the raisins. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together, sprinkle over the apples and stir to coat evenly. Taste an apple and add more sugar, cinnamon, and/or lemon juice if you like.

Getting Ready to Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter a 9x12-inch baking pan (Pyrex is good) and place it on a baking shee tlined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Remove the dough from the fridge. If it is too hard to roll and it cracks, either let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin to get it moving. Once it's a little more malleable, you've got a few choices. You can roll it on a well-floured work surface or roll it between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. You can even press or roll out pieces of the dough and patch them together in the pan - because of the baking powder in the dough, it will puff and self-heal under the oven's heat. Roll the dough out until it is just a little larger all around than your pan and about 1/4 inch thick - you don't want the dough to be too thin, because you really want to taste it. Transfer the dough to the pan. If the dough comes up the sides of the pan, that's fine; if it doesn't that's fine too.

Give the apples another toss in the bowl, then turn them into the pan and, using your hands, spread them evenely across the bottom.

Roll out the second piece of dough and position it over the apples. Cut the dough so you've got a 1/4 to 1/2 inch overhang and tuck the excess into the sides of the pan, as though you were making a bed. (If you don't have that much overhang, just press what you've got against the sides of the pan.)

Brush the top of the dough lightly with water and sprinkle sugar over the dough. Using a small sharp knife, cut 6 to 8 evenly spaced slits in the dough.

Bake for 65 to 80 minutes, or until the dough is a nice golden brown and the juices from the apples are bubbling up through the slits. Transfer the baking pan to a cooling rack and cool to just warm or to room temperature. You'll be tempted to taste it sooner, but I think the dough needs a little time to rest.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

TWD: Snickery Squares

First Piece

This weeks TWD recipe (chosen by Erin of Dinner and Dessert) was Snickery Squares. I was really glad that Erin branched out to the cookie section of Dorie's book. I love all of the recipes that we've done for TWD, but these seemed to be a little more my speed, comfort wise.

Even so, Dorie taught me a thing or two and I'm sure I'll pick up a few more tips from the rest of the TWDers when I go post diving through their experiences with the squares! See Erin's post for the full recipe, and don't forget to go check out the other TWDers for more pictures and experiences!

Candied Peanuts

I gotta admit. I was a little nervous about the candied peanuts part of the recipe. I toyed for a few days with the idea of just using plain peanuts (I blame the Cold That Wouldn't Die, CTWD for that). But on Sunday, I woke up with snow on the ground and nothing to do except bake and relax. So I decided to give it a shot. I figured that I had enough peanuts to go the way of the plain ones if the candied version went belly up (always a possibility in my kitchen).

I should have just trusted the Dorie. I gotta say that this is the first cookbook out of my skill comfort zone where I can just trust the recipe to guide me through the process. I've tried other recipes from various sources where I have to do a large chunk of outside research on techniques, etc before making my attempt. The only caveat is that Dorie doesn't include high altitude modifications. Of course, nobody does, so I can't fault her for that! (Well, and it's my own choice to live above sea level in a desert. But, oh those mountains!)

The candied peanuts were almost a breeze. I think I cooked mine a little too long or had too high a heat, because there were a few with a burned flavor. Not bad for the first time though! And they were easy to pick out (and pretty tasty if the way Bill kept sneaking in to grab one is any indication).

Middle Layer

I forgot to get a picture of the shortbread crust, but that's the other area where I had to improvise. The crust as written just wouldn't come together. I went ahead and put it in the pan thinking that it might be fine all powdery, but had second thoughts when I attempted to fork the crust before baking. I decided to wing it and put it back in the bowl to add another egg yolk. Total success! It looked more like Dorie's description and patted down into a decent crust. There were a few spots that were too dry for the fork technique to work, but I soldiered on and it came out of the oven looking like a crust.

You'll notice a lighter square in the picture above. That's the PBDDL from Blake Makes. I decided to use that to see if the peanut flavor of his dulce du leche would be a good fit in the recipe. I'll have to get back to you on the results though. When she says to cut these into 16 squares, she means 16 squares. Oooh boy is this stuff rich! I'm usually skeptical when they say to serve a minuscule portion of a dessert, because seriously? Who can only eat that tiny piece? More! But this stuff was perfect in a small square. I didn't pick the corner with the PBDDL to cut the first night, and I haven't had a chance to cut the rest up to bring into work yet.


Lessons Learned: Making candied peanuts isn't really that difficult. And even shortbread crusts need a little TLC at altitude.

Conclusion: Fantastic dessert/cookie to add to your rotation. You could easily spread making the candied peanuts and shortbread crust out over a couple of days, and these seemed easier to cut when they'd been in the fridge for a day.


Blake Makes

Blake Makes

I was one of the lucky few (right around 40, I think) who got these adorable jars in the mail last week. If you're not familiar with Blake Makes, go take a gander at his site. He's putting together a group of food bloggers (code name Soopz) who will receive products in the mail to review. He also is playing around with making fun flavors of dulce de leche, and he's giving away samples to the lucky few who make the cutoff. Last week was the second round of giving away peanut butter dulce du leche (PBDDL).

When I got my package in the mail, I had just enough time to squee at the fantastic packaging before I ripped that baby open. There was one fleeting moment when I thought that I should take pictures of the box, but that pretty much got lost as I danced around the living room with the two wee jars. (Seriously. The Man husband thought I'd lost my everloving mind. He still has next to no idea what the hell I was babbling about or why it was a cause for dancing or giggling.) (In my own defense, whenever I get something tangible from this amorphous electronic waste-of-time, I pretty much have the same reaction. Except the cuteness of the whole package topped with the small jars pushed me into overdrive. Miniature anything just makes me happy. And yep, I fully realize the direction that could go. Heh.)

Middle Layer

ANYWAY. The Cold That Wouldn't Die (henceforth abbreviated as CTWD) has sapped me of all but the basic brain wave patterns, so I was at a loss for ways to use my precious supply. Since this weeks TWD recipe used dulce du leche, it seemed like an excellent fit. I made the executive decision to use the PBDDL in one corner by itself to get a good idea of the taste (you can see the PBDDL in the lower right hand corner). I toyed with putting down a layer of the PBDDL and then covering it with regular DDL, but I was afraid the flavor would get lost.

I'd love to give a review of how this worked in the Snickery Squares, but the CTWD ensured that I forgot to mark which corner of the pan it was in. So when we tried the squares, I cut the opposite corner. Whoops! I'll give an update when I manage to get the rest cut up to bring into work.


I can say that this stuff was good enough that I briefly considered licking the remnants out of the jar. As it was, I spent a good chunk of time swiping it out with my finger. If I'd tried it before making the Snickery Squares, I think I'd have just set those bad boys aside for a two person dipping party. (Heh. That is to say, I'd have put together a tray of various dippers like apples, shortbread cookies, bananas, etc to sample. I think those with apples would make a nice little dessert. You'd probably have to thin the PBDDL a little for optimum dipping.)