Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Busting My Buttons

If I wore chef whites, both rows of buttons would be flying..

I have a wonderful logo and THE coolest website.

Both were designed by the lovely and talented Leslie. (check out her work and contact her here) She didn't laugh when I handed her a ladle I bought at a vintage store. She knew exactly what to do with the stacks of old photos I searched for at many flea markets.

Take a peak and check back to see what's new at nourishcooking.com.

I would be so proud.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I'm a Choosey Mom

Sometimes it seems as though things that happen in my kitchen are kismet. A few months back, Max and I talked about making our own peanut butter. I love peanut butter and can't imagine my life without it. Max feels the same way. He's chunky. I am smooth. Shortly thereafter, I came across a magazine article about it and then a favorite blogger posted her forays in peanut butter, too. The kitchen gods were speaking to us. We had to make peanut butter.

Of the utmost important are fresh peanuts. I am partial to the ones sold at Trader Joe's. Great peanut flavor, super fresh and crunchy.

While this could be done in a blender, I opted to use the food processor since it's more powerful than my blender. Pulse until finely chopped, then slowly begin to add the oil in a slow steady stream, about a tablespoon at a time.

Peanut butter - it's peanut butter. I chose to add a bit of honey to sweeten it up a bit a testament to my well acknowledged sweet tooth. Truly, the best peanut butter I've ever eaten. I know exactly what's in it, less oil than store bought, no added stuff and super simple.

Oh, it makes one helluva peanut butter sandwich, too.

This choosy mom chooses homemade.

Homemade Peanut Butter

2 cups dry roasted peanuts, unsalted
1/4 t. salt, or to taste (I add a touch more)
canola oil
honey, optional

Pour dry roasted peanuts into the bowl of a food processor or blender.

Pulse the peanuts 30 seconds or until the peanuts are nicely chopped.

With the food processor running, add the canola oil, 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture begins to form a ball. Add the salt and the pulse for another 5 seconds.

To make smoother peanut butter, pulse the peanuts a little longer in the food processor. (I chose to add a bit more oil, too so it was a looser consistency.) To make extra crunchy peanut butter, roughly chop a handful of peanuts and stir them into the peanut butter.

Store the peanut butter in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Yield: 1 cup

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Here Comes Santa Claus....

While the stockings are not yet hung, Henry has donned his Santa hat and is hitting the holiday full force. Last year he wore his Santa hat all. the. time.

So much has changed in the last year. He is now a very happy first grader and just turned 7. He is currently not a Mama's boy but instead all about Daddy.

Though I am feeling incredible shunned, it's nice to know he is still a kid, really excited about Christmas.

Now I'll be off to study up on Star Wars trivia.....

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Turkey Trilogy of 2010

Doug loves turkey. To me it's a big, troublesome chicken. This year, before the holiday in various classes I prepared 5 whole turkeys and 4 turkey breasts. This was a light year and nonetheless, the reason for my prejudice. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, a pizza sounds good.

Usually, there are two turkeys to grace our dining table of six. Doug and the kids love turkey and need to be assured of many leftovers. This year Doug, King of Turkey, deigned there would be three. Not all at the table, silly. One was an appetizer.

Many years ago, Doug received a turkey fryer, unfortunately, he's never fried a turkey. It's been used many times to boil lobsters but never once to fry a turkey. The inaugural turkey? Bacon stuffed with a light dusting of Wingman.

Into the oil....

It was a tiny bird. Gone by noon. Clearly we all love deep fried turkey and highly recommend stuffing it with bacon.

Did I mention the side? Stove Top Croquettes? Stuffing Hush Puppies? Call them what you will they were yummy, and a lovely pre-turkey bite to accompany the pre-turkey turkey.

For years, Doug has smoked a turkey for the holiday and no one smokes a better bird. It's perfectly smoky and very juicy. He's a pro.

You don't get color like that from the oven.

Since you can't make really good gravy unless you roast a bird, the third bird was prepared more traditionally - by me. A dry brine (aka-brine for over-done cooks) and compound butter with herbes de Provence under the skin. In the last half hour of roasting I brushed on a glaze of reduced five apple cider concentrate infused with more herbes de Provence. Lovely drippings. Doug's favorite gravy.

It was a delicious day. I wish I had taken a picture of Doug on the sofa after the meal. A video might have been better.

Maybe I should have called it the Tryptophan Trilogy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Mash Up Pie

A mash up. A bunch of songs or fruits put together "for an even richer explosion." Okay, I've been watching way too much, way to much Glee lately, but regardless, the expression works for pies, too. Remember the movie Waitress? Reminds me of that, too, but I digress.

A while back a friend brought me some cranberries straight from the bogs of Wisconsin. What a splendid and thoughtful gift!

I decided to mash up some of those cranberries, with pears, apples, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

I like to make my pie crust by hand. Grating really, really chilled butter into the dry ingredients is the key.

Add a bit of ice water and suddenly you have beautiful pie dough, ready to roll. No refrigeration necessary.

See? Here is the crust just like that of the most gorgeous pie I've ever made.

Below is the filling ready to go into said un-photographed beautiful pie crust in that Emile Henri pie plate.

The filling went into that beautiful crust, baked, cooled and there it sat on my counter all afternoon. I then loaded into my car, hauled it to work and served it to a lovely group of moms.

Perfect. No picture. But trust me it was as beautiful as this perfect pie dough is easy to make.

Basic Pie Dough
A Williams-Sonoma recipe with method modifications

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose four
1 T. sugar
1/4 t. salt
8 T. super cold unsalted butter
3 T. ice water

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Grate really cold butter through the large holes of a box grater. Using your fingers gently rub the butter into the dry mixture until it is sandy. Add the water and mix gently until the dough comes together. The dough may need a bit more water, add it a teaspoon at a time until it's moist enough to stick.

Be sure to not over work the dough. There should be visible bits of butter throughout the dough. When the dough is turned out onto the board before rolling, it should still be very crumbly. A quick turn or two will bring it together.

Transfer the dough to a work surface, pat into a ball and flatten into a disc. Lightly flour the work surface roll outwards from the center. Turn dough over and repeat. Add as little additional flour as possible. Continue rolling dough into a 12" round, 1/8" thick

makes enough for 1) 9" crust or 1) 10" galette

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Chevre Pound Cake?

One of the best parts of what I do is getting to share, with those kind enough to join my classes, ingredients, techniques and tastes that I am passionate about. In my early autumn schedule I included a Wine and Cheese Party and Cheese Making classes. I'll share them soon since they were so much fun. Needless to say, most of October was all about cheese. Excitingly, the cheese making class filled twice so I was able to share with lots of people some of my favorite things.

Another best part of what I do is getting to entertain and feed people. In all of my classes there is tasting and I hope special little touches that make is seem like a party. For the second of the cheese making classes, at the last minute I decided to make a goat cheese coffee cake (clever) for my guests to enjoy.

It requires few ingredients but a lot of them. A cup of chevre, 3/4# of butter and 6 eggs are scented with a bit of lemon zest and vanilla extract. Using fiori di sicillia would be a lovely substitute for the vanilla and lemon.

The perfect way to use the back stock of eggs in the fridge.

Really beating the butter and cheese is important since this is a really dense cake with no added leavening.

Light, fluffy and the prettiest pale yellow color.

I like to use a trigger cookie scoop for transferring and portioning cake batter neatly. The batter is really thick.

It's a pretty cake with a dusting of powdered sugar. Dense as a pound cake should be but with a more complex flavor. While it doesn't taste goat-y, the cheese definitely adds a nice tang. The only thing that would make this cake better is using homemade goat cheese.

However would I do that, you ask?

Stop by the yellow house again soon and I'll show you.

Chevre Pound Cake
from The New England Cheesemaking Supply Company

1 cup soft chevre, at room temperature
3 sticks butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 t. grated lemon zest
2 t. vanilla extract
6 eggs, room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream the chevre and butter in a mixer. Add the sugar, lemon zest and vanilla. Beat until the mixture is very light.

Add the eggs, one at a time and beat until light and fluffy.

Reduce the speed of the mixture to low and add the flour, beating just until the batter is mixed.

Spoon into a tube pan.

Bake for 1 1/4 hours or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a rack and cook completely.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fudgy Chocolate Frosting

Henry's birthday cake request was chocolate with chocolate frosting. Making chocolate cakes is getting a bit old so I decided to find a new frosting recipe. Sometimes I assume they are all delicious but, really most aren't always tasty or even chocolate-y. Then there are the fabulous ones that more often than not take a lot of time and include pounds of costly ingredients. Too much money and labor for a child's birthday cake, can be a bummer, no matter how much you love them. Let's not even mention scraping piles of frosting off plates at the party's end that makes your stomach turn.

Always in search of something delicious, I wanted to find "the" chocolate frosting. I checked out many of my baking books but, Flo Braker came through for me. Her book, Baking For All Occasions, is full of great recipes that are just a bit different.

Here it is, the "go to" perfect party frosting. Ideal for little people, divine for big people, inexpensive and made so quickly that if it's left in a pile on an abandon plate, you don't feel sick.

Fudgy Chocolate Filling and Frosting
modified just a bit

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 3/4 cups (1#) powdered sugar
1/8 t. salt
4 oz. butter, softened
1/2 cup whole milk
2 t. vanilla extract (I used Mexican)
*a bit of espresso powdered would be a great addition, too.

In the top of a double boiler over low heat place unsweetened chocolate. Let the chocolate melt very slowly until creamy and smooth. Remove from the water bath. Set aside until cool yet still creamy smooth.

In a food processor, combine the sugar, salt, and butter and pulse just until mixed. Pour in the milk (with espresso powdered added and well dissolved, if using) and vanilla then process until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and process again until well blended, smooth, and creamy.


If not assembling a cake right away, pour the frosting into a small, sturdy container and set aside at room temperature for a few hours, it will thicken. May be refrigerated up to 5 days. To use, remover from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until it has a spreading consistency, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

You should have 2 1/2 cups, enough to fill and frost 2) 8" or 9" cakes

Monday, November 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, Henry!

Our baby Henry is 7. Of course, I could say it seems like yesterday....I can't believe....how time flies but that's a given, right?

What I will say is that he is an absolute joy to all of us. He makes us laugh and never ceases to surprise us with his insight and expressions. He loves to work and build with anything - boxes, legos or Lincoln logs. Creativity is a forte as is a stubborn streak the likes of which I've never experienced.

At the end of the day, he still climbs on my lap to be held before bed. And he'll still hold my face and kiss me...when I ask him to.

Happy 7th Henry Downing! We love you as big as the sky.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Halloween 2010

Coerce final costumes decisions from children. Determine how to execute costumes. Trip to Wal-mart in search of white sweatshirt. Buy candy. Find fancy scarf from working days and a classic vest. Surf the web for Young Luke Skywalker desert boot inspiration. Late night trip for borrowed costume gear. Emergency costume related phone call. Attend Grammy's Annual Halloween Party. Buy more candy. Gather costumes for third and final wearing. Hunt for last year's clearance Halloween paper goods. Carve pumpkins. Search frantically for votives to provide pumpkins with a haunting glow. A trip for extra buns and.....more candy. Light various candles of various sizes and fragrances.

And then...they were gone.

Where does the time go? It seems only recently I turned Jake into a pony, Max into a devil (for the 3rd time), Ella into a tiny angel and Hen's costume was a tattoo on my enormous stomach. This year June was the only one left behind and the only one that I snapped a semi-formal picture of in costume. She was a lovely Ballerina Fairy, wasn't she?

You sort of feel sorry for her don't you?

Call me crazy.

I am just not quite ready to let it all go.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Henry Drives a Tractor

Henry and I were in the car one day and passed a field full of corn. In a quiet voice, he said, "That's such a waste of land." He had before then told me he wanted to be a farmer. Needless to say, I was thrilled. Of course, my suggestion was that he raise food, not commodities. His concern was the ability to drive a "combiner". I suggested he take a friend's for a spin and avoid the mortgage.

His tractor gets a lot of use - with both play and work. Recently he rigged the red wagon onto the back of the tractor. Hauling stuff is even more fun now.

Henry, a new generation of farmer.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Autumnal Sangria

We invited a bunch of Doug's family over a few weekends ago for dinner. We've tried to gather on a rotating schedule and October was our turn. As most occasions call for, this one required a festive cocktail. Or perhaps I just wanted to drink something fun.

Apple Sangria. That's fun.

Chopped apples. I used Jonathon's since they are my favorites. Two small are really all you need. The more there is the more they soak up the good stuff and while that's lovely for eating, you may wind up a bit parched.

I pulled out my biggest big bowl and mixed up a wonderful potion. Red wine, oranges, a bit of honey, fresh ginger and apple schnapps. The recipe that inspired me included a whole clove and cinnamon sticks. Since my local liquor store only had apple pie schnapps, I erred on the side of less spice. It seemed just spicy enough but should you use traditional apple schnapps, definitely include it. Autumn should be cozy and spicy.

A delicious treat for a blustery day full of family, barbecued pork and pear cobbler.


Apple Sangria

2 small apples, chopped
1/2 cup apple pie schnapps
1/4 cup honey
2) thin slices peeled fresh ginger
1 large navel orange, quartered
1 bottle fruity red wine (such as Beaujolais)
2) 3" cinnamon sticks (optional)
4) whole cloves (optional)
apple for garnish if desired

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl, stir well. Refrigerate until well chilled

Strain wine mixture through a sieve into a bowl. Reserve some fruit for garnish if desired. Pour sangria over ice and garnish with fruit as desired.