Friday, December 27, 2013

Daring to do it: Whoopie Pies

This month's challenge was a lot of fun.  While it wasn't necessarily complicated, it was something I never really thought I would make on my own...

  The December Daring Bakers' Challenge had us all cheering - the lovely and talented Bourbonnatrix of Bourbonnatrix Bakes was our hostess and challenged us to make fun, delicious and creative whoopie pies! Delicious little cake-like cookies sandwiching luscious filling in any flavors we chose... What else is there to say but "Whoopie!"

Whoopie pies, I thought, were kind of a Pennsylvania Dutch kind of treat.  To that end, I never thought about getting them, since I thought the chances of there being lard in them was high.  I am so glad the lovely Bourbonatrix hosted this challenge...!  It gave me the chance to play and to experience the joys of saying "whoopee!" with every treat!  (And, yes, the four year old insisted that we all say whoopie as we at!)
I made Snickerdoodle Whoopie Pies.  Vanilla cakes sprinkled with cinnamon sugar filled with brown sugar buttercream.

Scooping out the batter for the cakes:
The baked cakes:
The brown sugar buttercream:
Filled morsel of goodness:
These were SO good.  I was worried they would be too sweet, but they were really rather well balanced.  I filled them one at a time - the buttercream was a little runnier than I had hoped it would be.  But these were a total win.  Hubby's coworkers were very happy to eat the leftovers!!  And I have some more flavor combinations I can't wait to try!

Thank you, Bourbonatrix, for this amazing challenge!!
Take a look here to see what my fellow Daring Bakers created this month!!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Daring to do it: Cabbage Rolls

Sorry for the long silence.  I am finally back to the challenges - making them, not just editing them!!
I am also sorry that I am having a hard time getting the pictures in here.  I used my phone instead of my camera, and I guess I don't really know the right way to transfer the files..!  I will keep trying!

December’s Daring Cooks’ Challenge had us on a roll! Olga from challenged us to make stuffed cabbage rolls using her Ukrainian heritage to inspire us. Filled with meat, fish or vegetables, flexibility and creativity were the name of the game to get us rolling!

Olga's recipes looked amazing.  And the pictures she took were out of this world.  I don't think I have ever had stuffed cabbage before and I was almost drooling wanting to make these!  But with time being what it is, and with now working full time, I wasn't sure when I was going to get this done.  Then came the brain - I have a slow cooker!  I found this recipe for slow cooker stuffed cabbage and knew I had it set.  (Bonus - I also had a snow day on Tuesday, so extra time to work with!  Yay!) I did make a few changes, as usual...  I used beans instead of mushrooms, and I used yellow squash in the filling.  I also omitted the cheese...
I don't have pictures of the process, but while I was separating out the cabbage leaves I had the thought that I must have been a Daring Cook for too long if I think pealing off cabbage leaves is fun...!  It was really neat to see the leaves come apart so smoothly!
Thanks to Olga's great explanation and pictures, rolling the cabbage was not nearly as hard as I feared it might be.  And, by using the slow cooker, I could do all of my prep work the day before, then just set the crock pot in the morning.  It was great!!

Hubby and I really liked the rolls.  Big Girl wasn't a fan, but she has become quite a picky eater these days, so she says she doesn't like dinner about three nights each week.  Little Girl liked it, which was nice.  I brought leftovers into work the next day, and my teaching cohort and I inhaled them.  These are better the next day...!  And the day after, if there is anything left!

Thank you, Olga, for such a wonderful challenge, and for all of your patience and support!!
Take a look here to see what my fellow Cooks created this month!!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Tribute to the Queen of All Daring Bakers, Lis

I am very sorry to be writing this post.  It is going to be kind of rambling, stream of conscience, bumbling along...

One of the reasons  I started this blog was so that I could join the Daring Kitchen.  I remember sending in my request to join and waiting for a response.  Would I be accepted into this community of talented cooks, bakers and bloggers?  After what felt like forever I called my sister and asked her how long it should take to get a response.  She told me to e-mail Lis, the co-creator of the forum, to make sure my request went through.  A day or so later I got an e-mail back welcoming me warmly to the Kitchen.  For the past three and a half years I have been cooking and baking with an amazing group of people from around the world.  I am even lucky enough to have become friends with some of these people in the "real" world.
I always looked forward to my dealings with Lis.  Her personality came shining through, and she always made me feel special.  We have teased for the last two years about finally getting together to meet - and eat!!
On Tuesday of this week, Lis died suddenly.  I never got to meet her.  I never knew how much it could hurt to lose someone I didn't even really know.  She and I had just been e-mailing over the weekend.  She was getting ready for back surgery, and was looking forward to the improvement in her quality of life.  She had asked my sister and me to help with some of the Daring Kitchen responsibilities while she recovered.  This was a daunting task, and one I was honored to be asked to help with.  But I knew Lis would be there to guide me, and laugh at and with me...
I keep thinking that I will wake up and this will be some sort of twisted dream.  Lis inspired so many people.  She helped create more than an on-line forum, but a real community.  We have shared joys and sorrows together with other members.  But this one hits in a different way.
I have started and deleted so many sentences while writing this post.  What words are there?  I know, I never met Lis. Heck, I only really learned her last name this week in learning of her passing.  But I still consider her a friend.  A woman full of life, love, energy, creativity and humor.  Any time a person is taken too soon is a tragedy.  But this one feels so wrong. 
To say that Lis will be missed would be like saying that there are a couple of stars in the sky.  Lis's presence was felt every day around the world.   
I wish so much that this post, and the many like it being posted today, were never needed.  I wish Lis's heart had been as strong as it was big and loving.  I wish a lot of things.
I wish love, comfort and peace for Lis's family.
Lis - wherever you are - you are loved.  You truly are the most Daring of us all.

#tributetolis #daringbakers

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Daring to do it: Sopa Castellana

Thank you to Begona for this wonderful challenge.  Sorry for the short post which does not do justice to this host or this dish.

Our November Daring Cooks’ hostess was Begoña, who writes the beautiful blog, Las recetas de Marichu y las mías. Begoña is from Spain and didn’t want to go with the more common challenges of paella or gazpacho, she wanted to share with us another very popular recipe from Spain that we don’t see as often called Sopa Castellana which is a delicious bread soup!

Colder days call for soup.  This one fit the bill amazingly.  I made a vegetarian version based on the recipe I found here.
Home-made veggie stock, home-made sourdough bread, add in an egg or two, and an amazing dinner was had by all!

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Take a look at what my fellow Daring Cooks created this month.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Daring to do it: Savory Pot Pie

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was nothing new to me, but was so super amazing.  It was the return of a favorite dish which I had sadly not thought of in way too long...

Hannah of Rise and Shine was our October 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to bake our own double crusted savory pot pies. Using any from-scratch crust and filling we choose, we were allowed to get completely creative with our recipe, showing off the savory flavors and fillings from our own home or region.

I love pot pie.  I mean, really, I love a flaky pie crust, so how can you go wrong with a dinner stuffing into one, or two, of them?!  I used to make pot pies pretty regularly.  I remember doing it in the apartment where Hubby and I used to live.  I don't remember making one, though, in the last four or so years.  WAY too long! 
I was all set to make my vegetarian for dinner last Friday night.  On Thursday night I set the tofu pressing, I made the triple batch of crust dough, I had it all set up so that when I came home from work I would chop and saute the veggies, make the gravy and bake it all up.  Then life laughed at me.  I had a little knife oops at work (I know, I am in a preschool with one-year olds, how can that be where I oops with a knife?!) and wound up with two stitches in my hand.  And a husband not letting me use a knife for a few days!
But I finally got the pie made, and man was it worth the wait!
Crust bottom, rolled out and ready:
The filling -  onion, carrot, celery, zucchini, broccoli, garlic, tofu and white beans, and the veggie gravy on top:
Into the crust it goes:
(Sorry - I have no idea why these two pictures are oriented strangely!)
Covered and vented:
Baked up golden, crispy and yummy:
Flaky crust, tender filling:
 I loved this challenge.  I am so happy to have pot pies back in my life!  This is definitely going back into the meal plan rotation!
Hannah gave us some amazing recipe options in her challenge.  I am really interesting in the Mediterranean Pizza Pot Pie!!
Thank you, Hannah, for reminding me how amazing pot pies are!  I loved every minute of the challenge.  And, next time, no stitches to hold me back!!
See what my fellow Daring Bakers made this month, and please treat yourself to a pot pie of your own!!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Surprise! Quickbread

I don't know about you, but I don't necessarily put the word "sourdough" and "quick" together.  So when I saw that this month's project for Sourdough Surprises was sourdough quick breads, I giggled at the oxymoron, then drooled over the tasty possibilities. 
And then I waited.  I am not sure what I waited for...  time? inspiration? energy?  Well,  I waited a bit long.  I made my quick bread today.  On posing day.  But it still counts, right?!  I made Cinnamon Sourdough Muffins.  But I made them it as a loaf instead of muffins.  Because I wasn' patient enough to deal with the muffin tins!  (Pretty much the same general reason why I make cookie bars instead of cookies!)
I actually started last night with the starter mixture.  Equal parts starter and flour.  Eve is a pretty wet starter, but even after an overnight, my mixture seemed pretty thick:
Then I added in (most of) the other ingredients - egg, brown sugar (instead of honey), salt, vanilla, oil, cinnamon.  I wasn't so worried about how thick it was anymore!
When these two mixtures were well combined it was time to add the magic - baking soda!  Just look at those bubbles:
Before baking I decided to add a layer of cinnamon sugar to the top of my loaf, because how can more cinnamon hurt a cinnamon bread?
Out of the oven and cooling, this smelled amazing:
Sliced and ready to taste:
Really good.  I kept nibbling at this until I had to leave the house this morning.  Even my four year old, who doesn't love sourdough as much as I do, was asking for seconds.  This was an awesome treat!!
Check out what my fellow sourdough friends made this month, you are sure to find something to tempt your tummy!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Daring to do it: Tres Leches Cake

***Somehow, partway throgh writing this post, I lost the ability to add pictures.  I am going to try to fix this!!***

Is it just me or did this month go by really quickly?  With so much going on I kind of lost track, and didn't realize it was Daring Bakers' reveal day already!  Luckily I remembered with enough time for this month's challenge.

Inma of la Galletika was our Sept. 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and WOW did she bring us something decadent and delicious! Pastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk Cake, creamy yet airy, super moist but not soggy.. just plain delish!

Tres Leches?  Really?  I mean, I have heard of this before, and it always sounded amazing, tempting and decadent, but in my house?  With me being lactose intolerant and Little Girl's milk allergy?  I knew there had to be a way to make this, I just wasn't sure how it would turn out.  Inma was great, and had links to several delicious looking vegan options in her challenge.  I decided to use her recipe for the sponge and play with the milks for the soaking liquid, using a few of the suggested recipes as guides.
In conventional Tres Leches cake, the three milks are sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream.  (I know, this is not a cake for the light, low fat crowd!)  None of those would work for me.  But I still wanted three milks.  So I used home-made sweetened condensed coconut milk, vanilla soy milk and chocolate soy milk.  (Ok, so I am sort of cheating by calling it three milks, as two are soy, but...) 
I could write a separate post about making the condensed coconut milk.  It is not hard, but it takes monitoring.  Which is challenging with active kiddos running around.  And friends arriving for a playdate.  So, of course, a bit of a mess was made.
Oops.  Despite the mess, and the loss of a bunch of the coconut milk, I did end up with about 2/3 cup of thick, sweet, non-dairy goodness to use.

Once the sponge cake was made and cooled, and the three milks were combined together it is time to make tres leches magic.  The drenched in the milks and allowed to soak.  Most recipes indicate that this should be a LONG (read, 24 hour) soak.  I didn't have that kind of time.  So it was a five hour soak.

The assembled cake is supposed to be "frosted" with freshly whipped cream.  I made a common vegan alternative - whipped coconut milk.  Of course, I did add cocoa powder to up the chocolate.  And I added chocolate chips in assembly. Because, hey - chocolate chips!

The final cake was kind of magical:
I was worried, especially with the shortened soak time, that the cake would be soggy.  Instead it was creamy, light and smooth.  I was amazed.
The coconut flavor was a bit strong for my girls, but Hubby and I enjoyed it a lot.  I am already thinking of playing with the recipe and making a coconut free version for next weekend...  I would call that a success!

Thank you, Inma, for a wonderful challenge.  One day maybe I will try the "real" tres leches cake to see how this version stacks up, but for now I will be happy to drool over the amazing work of my fellow Daring Bakers!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Daring to do it: Gnocchi

Just a really quick post for this month's Daring Cook's Challenge.  This reveal day happens to fall on Yom Kippur - a fast day in Jewish culture.  So a long food post is not exactly going to help me!

Todd, who is The Daring Kitchen’s AWESOME webmaster and an amazing cook, is our September Daring Cooks’ host! Todd challenged us to make light and fluffy potato Gnocchi and encouraged us to flavor the lil pillows of goodness and go wild with a sauce to top them with!

I love potatoes, I love gnocchi, I really thought I would do a lot of variations of this challenge.  I made gnocchi once this month.  Oops.  But I really liked it, and I want to make it again...!

"Ricing" the baked potatoes:
Mixing up the dough:
Shaping the gnocchi:
Trying to get the shape and lines on there:
Cooked, served with sauteed spinach and onion and lots of cheese:

Thank you,Todd, for a yummy challenge!
Here's what the other Daring Cooks created!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Daring to do it: Indian desserts

I love that over the last month or so I have gotten to learn so much about Indian food.  First with the biryani, and now with desserts!

Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen was our August 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to make some amazing regional Indian desserts. The Mawa Cake, the Bolinhas de Coco cookies and the Masala cookies – beautifully spiced and delicious! Smile

I truly like and respect Aparna, and I really wanted to participate in her challenge.  But it was kind of hard this month.  The recipes she provided looked amazing, but they all had ingredients which I either don't or can't keep in the house.  The don'ts were spices, which I know I could have found, but I was afraid they would go to waste.  That can't was the main ingredient in the cake - mawa.  Mawa is, simply put, milk cooked down to its solids.  With my lactose intolerance and Little Girl's milk allergy, milk based foods are a no-go.  But I found a recipe for a vegan version of the mawa cake and decided to give it a go.
The vegan alternative for mawa was vegan cream cheese.  Which I happened to have in the house for Little Girl.
The other key ingredient in this cake is cardamom.  I have used this spice once before, but didn't really appreciate it for what it was.
If you have never used cardamom before, please do yourself a favor and get some.  I toasted the pods before opening them, but that really wasn't necessary.  The smell when the pods were opened and crushed was AMAZING.  Like, I was almost mad at myself for not using real cardamom before.
The finished cake looked and smelled lovely.
As you can see from the slice, my cardamom wasn't very finely crushed, and I think I might have needed to cook the cake a bit longer (the tester came out clean...!), but oh, my, this was amazing.
I am so glad I made this cake.  I am so going to make it again!
Now, the challenge, as Aparna gave to us, was to make the mawa cake and also a cookie or biscuit from the listed recipes.  I only made the cake...  Oh well...  Sorry, Aparna!  But the cake is so worthwhile, and I am so glad you introduced it to us!!
Take a look at what my fellow Daring Bakers did with this awesome challenge.  You won't be disappointed!!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Surprise! Crackers

In the past few days I have been awed by my sourdough starter.  Eve is so cool!  It's a science experiment!  It's a baking toy!  It's alive!!
That being said, I totally spaced on the date and thought I had one more day to do the Sourdough Surprises challenge for the month...  Oops!  But there was no way I was sitting this one out.  So I made my crackers today.
Mixing together the dough:
The dough came together beautifully and easily:
Rolled out thin:
Brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with Kosher salt and paprika, and cut to size:
Baked up crisp!  (I love the bubble...)
These are seriously good and seriously easy.  I used the recipe on Auntie Twin's blog, and I think I am going to have to make them again and again...!  Even Big Girl, who doesn't really like strong sourdough flavor, kept sneaking them from the tray.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Daring to do it: Biryani

Grace, one of our talented non-blogging Daring Kitchen members, was our Daring Cooks’ August hostess who shared with us some of her family’s tried and true Bengali Biryani recipes – all of them delicious and all of them prepared fresh from our own kitchens!

I love learning about new cultures, and food is one of the best (and most fun) ways I can think of to learn.  This month's challenge was a great one for helping me learn about a food and culture which I knew little about.  The thing is, I knew almost nothing about the dish, either!!  For some reason I had thought that biryani was some sort of bread-type Indian food.  It isn't.  It is a rice dish.  Which is a good thing, since rice dished are pretty much always enjoyed in my house, and making a vegetarian, dairy free version wouldn't be an issue.  Grace supplied us with five tempting recipes from which to choose.  While only one met with our vegetarian requirement, I was pretty sure I would be able to adapt others if I chose.  Then I found this recipe for tofu biryani and decided that was what I would make.  I did make a few alterations, but not as many as I feared I would, so, score!!
I would like to give a special thank you to my sister over at CMomCook for supplying me with some of the key ingredients so I could pull this together just under the wire...!

The tofu:
While the recipe didn't call for seasoning the tofu, I sprinkled it with a biryani spice mix my sister had given me, just to try to add a bit more flavor.
The veggies sauteing, with the whole spices:
The recipe called for a couple of things I didn't have, so I made substitutions - I didn't have fresh ginger, so I minced and "pasted" my fresh garlic with ginger powder.  Also, I didn't have green chillies, so I added some green bell pepper.
The sauce simmered down with the tofu:
The "gravy" was very thick.  Like, it looked like well sauteed veggies to me.  But since I thought it was supposed to be more sauce like, I added some water to thin it out a bit.
Layered up with some saffron infused water on top:
Ready to eat:
When Hubby walked into the house his first comment was "Wow, it smells good in here!"  It smelled like Indian food!  He and I loved the biryani.  The girls, not so much, but I think that had to do with the heat level rather than the flavor.  I would like to try this again with toned down spices and see what they think.  Either way, it is something I am going to have to make again!
Thank you, Grace, for introducing me to a new food and a new culture!
Check out what my fellow Daring Cooks made this month - it is truly mouthwatering!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Daring to do it: Eenie Meenie Miney Moe

In many ways this was the hardest challenge we have ever had!

In a "celebration" of past Daring Baker and Daring Cook challenges, Lisa challenged all of us to search through the Daring Kitchen archives and pick any one we'd like! The REAL challenge was picking which delicious recipe(s) to try!

Lisa, the creator of the Daring Kitchen (and someone I am really honored to call a friend - who I can't wait to meet one of these days!), pulled this challenge together pretty quickly after the original July host was knocked out my an injury.  (What can I say - this is a really supportive community where we all work together.  I love it.)  You would think this would be easy - choose something that looks good.  Well, ALL of the challenges look god!  How could I choose?
But choose I did...  I went way back to the November 2006 Daring Baker's challenge - Hot Buttered Pretzels.  I love pretzels, but I have a soft spot for the sweet, buttery all pretzels.  My best friends from college and I used to get three pretzels and one large lemonade to share when we went out together, and we still do when we can, which isn't too often with all of us working, having kids and one of us living on the other side of the country!   So I decided that making these would be a nice trip down memory lane, and would help bring my friends closer in a little way.
What was really cool was that my Big Girl really wanted to be hands on through the whole baking process.  She really makes her mommy proud!  She wanted to do it all, so she did:
The dough she made:
Puffed up!
While the recipe indicates making eight pretzels, we decided to make 16...
Back to Big Girl! Rolling:
Shapes and baked:
Brown and yummy!
We made half of the pretzels salty and the other half sweet with cinnamon sugar.  All of them were amazing...  The one alteration I made was to use margarine instead of butter - allergies, lactose intolerance...  You know...  So they were really Hot Margarined Pretzels, but I would make them again any day!!
Now I challenge you - choose just one of these challenges from the past.   You'll understand why this was so hard!
Thank you, Lis, for giving us the chance to go back in time!  You are awesome.

And don't forget to check out what the other Daring Bakers made this month!