Sunday, November 23, 2014

Baked Sunday Mornings: Campfire Cookies


See all the yummy goodness - chocolate chips, marshmallows & crushed graham crackers?

This week's Baked Sunday Mornings challenge is for Campfire Cookies.  This is the second recipe from Matt & Renato's new book, Baked Occasions.  If you're looking for something different & surprising for your Christmas Cookie Exchange, this is it!  These cookies embody everything that is good about chocolate chip cookies, but take them just a little bit further.  To me, the surprise element in these cookies is a teaspoon of cinnamon.  The texture is great and the melted marshmallows turn into chewy caramel.  


The recipe says it makes 36 cookies, but I only got half that many.

I opted not to make homemade marshmallows for this recipe and thought the store-bought ones worked just fine.  Add a little crunch to the smoothness of chocolate & chewiness of melted marshmallows, and you've got the S'mores trifecta going on!  John said they're even better than S'Mores & I agree!

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Sunday Morning Bakers!

Only in Ojai!  What do you want to do?  I'd like to live in Italy again!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Chewy Caramel Oatmeal Cookies

A perfect Autumn snack!

There's a wonderful bakery in Camarillo called "The Bread Basket."  We've been going there for years.  I would stop by almost weekly to pick up dinner on my way to California Lutheran University when I was working on my doctorate because our classes ran from 5 - 10 on Thursday nights with only a half hour break.  Most often, I would get a Nut Crunch Sandwich and two Caramel Oatmeal Cookies.  It's been many years since I've made the drive to CLU, but I still remember how wonderful those cookies were!  This is my best attempt at recreating them.  Although not a perfect match, they are really, really good & chewy!


See the caramel & walnuts peeking through?


Chewy Caramel Oatmeal Cookies

Yield: 2 dozen large cookies
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.


In a stand mixer, blend:
1 Cup Butter, softened
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Brown Sugar


Blend until fluffy, then mix in:
2 eggs

Blend well, then add:
2 Cups Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt


Then add in:
3 Cups Oats


When thoroughly combined, add:
1 Cup Walnuts
1 11-ounce bag Kraft Caramel Bits
Beat until nuts and caramel bits are incorporated, then use a scoop to shape the cookie dough and arrange it on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets.

Bake for 12 minutes (I like my cookies chewy, so if you like them crunchy, bake them a little longer.)



So good that we (almost) cleaned the plate!

Enjoy!

I made this miniature pincushion from an antique Austrian Salt Cellar for my friend Doretta's birthday!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chicken Saltimbocca and Risotto alla Milanese Over Baked Acorn Squash with Coconut Balsamic

Saltimbocca alla Romana is typical Roman fare.  It's as easy to make as it is delicious - as its name implies - "Saltimbocca" literally translates to "jumps in the mouth."  In Rome, it's made with super thin slices of veal topped with sage leaf and seared with Prosciutto.  It can be rolled, or cooked flat.  Here, we've simply translated the recipe and technique to thinly sliced chicken breasts for a quick weeknight meal.  Risotto alla Milanese and baked Acorn Squash provide the perfect balance of texture and flavor.  Our niece, Katie, said this is one of her all-time favorite meals we've made for her - hopefully, it will become a favorite of yours, too!

A Perfect autumn meal!

Chicken Saltimbocca

Lay 3 Thin-sliced Chicken Breasts on a plate.
Place a sage leaf in the center of each one.
Cover them with a thin slice Prosciutto.

In a large skillet, over medium heat, melt 2 Tablespoons Butter
Add 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil.
Fry 3 - 5 sage leaves in butter & oil until crisp, then remove from pan - you can keep these to use for garnish, if you wish.
Gently slide chicken into the heated pan, Prosciutto-side down
Cook for 5 minutes on each side, or until chicken is cooked through.
Place on plate, Prosciutto-side up.
Deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup white wine and drizzle sauce over chicken.

Risotto alla Milanese is an Italian classic rice dish that provides a perfect accompaniment to so many meat and seafood entrees.  It's especially suited to the array of flavors autumn has to offer.


Sweet, salty, creamy, and delicious!

Baked Acorn Squash with Coconut Balsamic
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with foil.
Slice an Acorn Squash into circles about 1/4 - 1/2-inch thick.
Sprinkle both sides with Salt and Pepper.
Drizzle both sides with Coconut Balsamic.
Bake for 40 miutes, flipping over after 20 minutes.

Plate as follows:
1 ring Acorn Squash
Fill with Risotto alla Milanese
Top with Chicken Saltimbocca, Prosciutto-side up
Garnish with fried Sage leaves, if desired.

The sweetness of the squash plays wonderfully off the saltiness of the Prosciutto.

Buon Appetito!


View of Florentine rooftops from Palazzo Vecchio

Thursday, November 13, 2014

French Fridays with Dorie: Twenty-Minute Honey-Glazed Duck Breasts with Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes

This week's French Fridays with Dorie challenge is for Pan-Seared Duck Breasts with Kumquats.  Well, in SoCal, so many people have Kumquat trees that it's hard to find them in markets because they're just not that profitable as perishable items go.  Needless to say, we're the only people silly enough to grow citrus at the beach, so none of our neighbors have any.  Since I've been inexplicably reluctant to try any of Dorie's Duck recipes, that left me all the others to choose from.  


Seared duck with rich honey, balsamic, and lime glaze

I've been working very hard to dispel my pre-conceived ideas about food and just try things.  This started in Charleston two years ago when I decided to try alligator and actually enjoyed it.  It's been a steady process, but participating in FFWD has opened my mind to so many flavor combinations and cooking techniques, that I decided I needed to act like a grownup and try duck (note the use of the word "act!").  Since we had everything on-hand to make the Twenty-Minute Honey-Glazed Duck Breasts that the rest of the Doristas made three years ago, we opted to try that recipe, instead.  And, we did actually have limes on our trees!  

Twenty-Minute Honey Glazed Duck is a trouble-free entree for a weeknight.  In the States, we're accustomed to think of duck as a special occasion or restaurant meal, but in France, it falls into the regular rotation of meats.  While it wasn't my favorite dish, I did enjoy the caramelized edges.



Jerusalem Artichokes au naturel

I also missed making Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes a few weeks ago.  Thanks to my fellow Dorista, Mardi of eat.live.travel.write, who found this comprehensive explanation of Jerusalem Artichokes/Sunchokes/Topinambour.  In short, they are edible tubers with the subtle flavor of artichokes.  When roasted, they become very tender.  They are incredibly homely in their natural state, but peel and roast them, and they resemble new potatoes.  Dorie's version is enhanced with the flavors of garlic, thyme, rosemary, olive oil, and sea salt.  Slightly sweet, Jerusalem Artichokes caramelize a bit when you roast them.  Although not very easy to find, they make a great switch from potatoes or rice.


Humble tubers loaded with flavor from our garden


Chez Lester - Your table is waiting





We rounded out our meal with Liz's Spinach Souffle and a bottle of Halter Ranch 2013 Côtes de Paso Blanc that we bought when we visited Mary in Cambria earlier this year.



 Bon Appetit!

Halter Ranch during the Paso Robles Zinfandel Festival

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

C.L.U.E. Reveal: Spinach Souffle


See the yummy melted cheese?

Hot & fresh from the oven
When my friend Liz, of That Skinny Chick Can Bake, invited me to join the exclusive Blogger Clue (Cook, Learn, Undertake, Eat) Society, I couldn't refuse.  Besides making wonderful food, food blogging is a great learning experience.  So, what's different about C.L.U.E.?  Each of us is assigned another's blog to choose a recipe from with a certain theme in mind.  We search for a recipe we'd like to try, make it, and post about it once a month.  This month's theme is a dish we'd like to serve for Thanksgiving.  And, as luck would have it, I was assigned Liz's blog!

While searching Liz's blog, I came across a recipe I wanted to try when Liz first posted in four years ago.  John and I love creamed spinach and spinach souffle, but both can be time-consuming to make, so when I saw how easy Liz's version of Spinach Souffle was to make, I wanted to try it.  With only seven ingredients, it's a snap to whip up.  I halved the recipe since it's just the two of us, but definitely recommend making the full recipe if you're making it for a Thanksgiving crowd.  Of course, I "Susanized" it just a bit by adding pepper, just a touch of freshly ground nutmeg, and a handful of bacon bits.  Liz also suggests ham.

This dish is just delicious!  Although you can clearly taste each ingredient, this souffle is more than the sum of it's parts.  It's sure to add pizzazz and flavor to your holiday table.  And, don't worry if you  have any left over, it would make wonderful omelette filling.  This favorite of Liz's family is destined to become a favorite of our family, too!

So delicious with a bit of bacon thrown in!

And here's a recent post on a project Liz and I collaborated on to help our French Fridays with Dorie group celebrate Dorie Greenspan's birthday last month.

I can't wait to find out who had my blog and what they chose to make!  Check out the whole list here.

Check Out All the Other Participating Blogs and Their Recipes:



We saw dolphins in Carpinteria today!

Enjoy!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Baked Sunday Mornings: Election Palmiers

Cinnamon, spice, and everything nice!

So flaky!
Woo Hoo!  This is the first recipe the Baked Sunday Mornings team is baking from the brand new "Baked Occasions" cookbook by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito!  This occasion is especially exciting because several of us tested Matt & Renato's recipes right in our home kitchens.  It was so much fun and the hardest secret to keep!  We couldn't even tell each other what we were baking and our notes and photos were being collected by our sweet leader, Sheri of Pork Cracklins, and being sent directly to the Gentlemen Bakers.  Talk about intimidating!  And, I really drove my poor husband crazy trying to take the perfect photo of each item.


These mini treats are irresistible!

One of the recipes we tested were these beautiful Election Palmiers.  They're light, crisp, flavorful, and delicious.  The sugar on top bakes up cruchy and caramel-ly.  The beauty and elegance of these cookies belies how really easy they are to make.  I remember pastries like this at lots of cafes and bakeries when I was growing up in Italy.  Palmiers are best enjoyed freshly made with a cup of coffee or tea.


Photos courtesy of Dafna of Stellina Sweets

"Baked Occasions" is organized by months, and - you guessed it - occasions!  In true Gentleman Bakers' style, every occasion calls for a baked celebration.  This book is fun and we'd love it if you'd join us in baking our way through it.  Just grab a copy of the book and follow the schedule here!  And, the most exciting thing, is that my photo is on page 266 as one of the "Badass Recipe Testers!"

And, oh by the way, I just put the St. Patrick's Drunk Bundt Cake in the oven!


Enjoy!

Friday, November 7, 2014

French Fridays with Dorie: Baking Chez Moi Book Signing

Dorie & me at the Westlake Culinary Institute

Michael, Dorie, and Michael!

On Wednesday night, I was fortunate enough to see Dorie and Michael Greenspan, again, while they were on tour promoting Dorie's newest cookbook, Baking Chez Moi.  They are the most gracious, humble, and loving couple.  Dorie welcomed me like an old friend and Michael made quick friends with my brother, Michael.  It turns out their names aren't the only thing they have in common - they share a love of sports cars which they talked about enthusiastically.




Dorie & Mary Bergin sharing friendship, laughter, & memories!

I was warmly welcomed by Mary Bergin, the Executive Chef and instructor at the Westlake Culinary Institute in Southern California.  As it turns out, I should have brought my copy of "Baking with Julia" because Mary met Dorie when they were both working with Julia Child and she has several recipes in the book - including the chiffon cake pictured on the spine, as she proudly told me.  Mary and I immediately felt like we knew each other.  She's so warm and funny (she does a great Wolfgang Puck impression!).  You can tell she's in her element and loves what she does.  It was surreal to hear Dorie and Mary bantering about Nancy Silverton, Sarabeth Levine, and many other culinary greats I would be startstruck to meet, as good friends.


Dorie making Canistrelli



Vanilla Bean Sables & Pastis



One of the stories Dorie told, while mixing Canistrelli with her hands, was about a French baker she knew who always held one hand behind his back while kneading dough so he'd have a clean hand in case he needed to reach for something - I found that rather amusing and know I could never manage that.  But, she and Michael went on to tell the tragic story of Lionel Poilane which is recounted here.  


Dorie and Michael often finish each others' sentences and you can tell he's just as excited about Dorie's success as she is.  If you want to learn more about "Baking Chez Moi," there's a great interview with Dorie on the Williams-Sonoma website where she talks about the inspiration behind her new book.












While Dorie prepared Corsican Canistrelli scented with Pastis, Mary and her team prepared Vanilla Bean Sables, Tiger Cakes covered with warm Chocolate Ganache, Pissaladiere, Crunchy Pear Tart, Dessert Roses, and Cold Hot Chocolate.  They also treated us to Valrhona Chocolate, cheese, olives, salami, and red and white wine.  


Crunchy Pear Tart
Canistrelli fresh from the oven


So, I finally have "Baking Chez Moi" in my hot little hands!  With a lovely inscription from Dorie.  I've already made the Palets de Dames, Lille Style, but the next recipe I'm going to try is the Tiger Cakes with Chocolate Ganache - they are just melt-in-your mouth delicious!





I am so looking forward to returning to the Westlake Culinary Institute to take some classes from Mary.  If it weren't for my love of Dorie, I never would have discovered the institute, or Mary.  Not only do they teach classes and host famous chefs and cookbook offers, they have a neat shop where I found Canèlles molds.


Such a lovely evening!

If you're looking for a fun baking group to join and a rewarding experience with a chance to make new friends, why not join Tuesdays with Dorie as we bake our way through Baking Chez Moi, one recipe at a time?


Avec des baises!

Enjoy!
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