Monday, December 28, 2009
Recently, we had work in Tempe in the morning. After the inspection, we were hungry. It was that time of day when it is not yet lunch time, so we were looking for a place that served breakfast. We drove by P. Croissant and thought, "Perfect! We love croissants!"
Croissants are lovely little creations. Like the bagel, croissants are so versatile. They function well at breakfast or lunch, and for dessert, and I suppose, possibly even dinner. Eaten by themselves, they are mouth watering, light and buttery. Paired with yummy fillings, they can be decadent. (Can you tell I really like croissants?)
P. Croissant was exactly what we were craving. They served filled, flavored croissants (marked with icing patterns to designate the filling - clever!), and croissant sandwiches, in addition to salads and other sandwiches on oat bran or whole wheat breads. They also had coffees and lattes.
Since we were in a breakfast kind of mood, we ordered croissant sandwiches with bacon, egg, vegetables (bell peppers) and cheddar cheese. It was really good! And filling - I recall skipping actual lunch that day. The croissant was buttery and flaky, and delicious. The scrambled egg was very hot, but done well. The bacon was crispy crunch, and the bell peppers were not overdone.
We also had a cup of coffee each, mocha latte for me, and regular latte for the hubby. My mocha latte was tasty, not too much chocolate, not too much coffee.
I will go back to P. Croissant if we are ever in the area again, at any time - breakfast or lunch! It was a charming, cozy restaurant, with tables and chairs inside and out, and French decor. The service was friendly as well. I told the young lady behind the counter that we had never been there before, and she happily went through their options and the menu for me, and gave us time to choose. It was very relaxed. And, most importantly, the food was good.
Good food, good atmosphere and LOCAL! Check out their website for their location, menu, catering options and general info.
:) :) :) :)
(4 smiles out of 5)
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
While it may look pretty, this first attempt at Lemon Meringue Pie (LMP) ended up not really pie. The filling was runny. It wasn't even thick like pudding or eggnog - not even close.
But, we ate it anyway! And, it tasted great!
LMP is not difficult as far as the steps and ingredients go, although I did think it was a great recipe for two people to work together. My mom and I made this while she was here over Thanksgiving and it worked out great as far as timing and helping each other. While my mom was working the filling on the stove, I was working the meringue on the counter. We were ready to come together at the same time, just like the recipe says. I do not know how my grandmother-in-law made these pies all by herself. She must have had secrets! (Love you, Grandma Suzie!)
Our pie was not a success in the traditional sense of pie, in that you cut a piece of pie, put it on a plate, and eat it with a fork. The crust (store-bought) was good and the meringue was light and fluffy and sweet, although it did have the sugar droplets on top after we put it in the fridge overnight. (Why does THAT happen?) The filling was very lemony and tart, but not too tart. The only problem was the filling just never set. But, it was easy to eat with a spoon! And, that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly what we did.
With all my vast experience in baking (tongue is firmly in cheek), I am going to hypothesize that we did not have enough cornstarch to thicken the filling. I looked at a ton of LMP recipes online trying to figure out what went wrong, and most of them called for 1/3 cup or more of cornstarch, and no flour. Our recipe called for 3 tablespoons of cornstarch and flour each. Since we all liked the flavor of the filling, I am going to keep the recipe the same, except for the cornstarch - I'll up that to 1/3 cup, and I will omit the flour. We'll see how it turns out then.
My mom-in-law and I are going to try LMP while she is here for Christmas. We have enough lemons from our lemon tree, we could try it at least a dozen times. Eventually, we'll get it right. And I am sure we will enjoy every single attempt, solid or not!
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings, etc. Enjoy your time with family and friends!
Saturday, December 19, 2009
I opened my jar of sourdough starter to prepare it for baking, and there was mold at the top of the jar! I contacted Linda at SourdoughBreads.com and she is so wonderful, she sent me another packet of starter right away. Thanks, Linda! You are great!
I tried to figure out why it got moldy, and I think it got "infected" by my doggie biscuits for Maggie. (That recipe and story coming soon.) The biscuits were on the counter, in a canister. I had baked them and let them cool overnight before putting them in the canister. I even had the canister left open slightly so if there was any moisture, they could dry out.
It did not work. They ended up getting moldy at the bottom. I set the jar of starter on the same counter, unknowingly putting it right next to floating mold spores! I would not be surprised if some mold spores floated right into my jar of starter. And, thus, INFECTION!
But, now I have activated my new sourdough starter. I have also thrown out the bad biscuits and cleaned everything! Hopefully I got it all and won't have another infection.
Have a fabulous shopping weekend - if you are shopping!
Friday, December 18, 2009
The next time I baked sourdough bread was before Thanksgiving. I don't really know why. I think I wanted to have some bread on hand in case anyone wanted some with the meal. We ended up not having any at all with the Thanksgiving dinner!
I did a major no-no by the real sourdough standards and added commercial yeast. (Gasp!) I followed the recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for sourdough bread. (There is also a recipe for creating the sourdough starter, but I just used my purchased starter.) I also was getting a little creative, and wanted to make some pretty rolls with the bread dough.
I would say this method of adding some commercial yeast made my impatient side very happy. The bread was made in one day rather than two, and there were only a few hours between rises, as opposed to 4 or more. But, it wasn't very sour. Perhaps I should have left the starter at room temp to ferment overnight? Or was it adding the commercial yeast? Hmmm. . . I will have to try it again with fermenting overnight to see if it ends up more sour. Another experiment!
Another thing regarding the crust of the sourdough - we like the crust soft. Before the loaf or rolls went into the oven, I coated them with melted margarine. Halfway through the baking time, I took them out and coated them again. I have noticed that the back of my oven cooks hotter than the front of my oven. So, in order to have an even browning, halfway through the baking time, I turn whatever I'm baking 180 degrees. This turns out to be a convenient time to cover the loaf or rolls with the melted margarine. Then, at the end of baking, I coated them a final time with the melted margarine.
I divided the dough in half and made a loaf with one half and Cloverleaf rolls with the other half.
The rolls looked homemade, lopsided and different sized. The sourdough loaf was gorgeous by my previous standards!
And, like I stated before, they were not sour really, but they sure were good! Happily, they were devoured.
My next attempt (Sourdough #3) at baking sourdough bread will be to use the Kneadlessly Simple recipe, which also calls for adding commercial yeast. Check out the author, Nancy Baggett, and her book at her blog site.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
And, it was! I baked the loaves over a weekend, and enjoyed them all week. They were yummy and yeasty, and extremely good toasted with butter and jam, just like English muffins. The interesting thing for me was the texture on the inside of the loaf. It was more dense than English muffins and store-bought bread. But, for my first loaf EVER, I thought they turned out pretty good. (Sorry there are no pictures. This was baked before I began blogging, and I didn't think to take pictures.)
Now, I am more aware of what dough looks like as it is rising, what it feels like, and smells like. All those things I had no experience with before, so I had no idea what to expect, really. If you haven't checked out her book and the Kneadlessly Simple method, I highly recommend it, especially for beginning bakers like me. It is extremely educational, helpful and fun because she makes it so easy.
One thing I made a mistake on was the greasing of the loaf pans. I poured vegetable oil in the pans and tipped them around to try and coat the sides. I ended up with a lot of oil in the bottom of the pan. The oil was definitely too much, and kind of soaked the corners of my loaves. It was okay - the corners just ended up more crunchy. The next time I baked a loaf in the loaf pan (see Easy Oat Loaves), I just poured about a teaspoon of oil into the pan and used a paper towel to spread the oil in the pan and around the sides. That worked much better for me!
This was the result of my first attempt to bake sourdough bread.
The inside was rubbery. It did not rise at all. I could still see the layers from the kneading and the rounding. It was not pretty! And, I would say, not edible! (Sorry the picture is not great, it was taken at around 11pm with the camera on my phone. I was sending it as a picture message to my husband, who wrote back to say, "It looks like the loaf exploded!")
I can understand why baking bread is intimidating or time-consuming. I was just way too impatient. I never thought I would learn patience from baking. But, it is a necessary skill, trait, virtue. . . whatever you want to call it, you need it, especially for baking sourdough.
So, I learned that real San Francisco sourdough is made from a particular type of wild yeast and lactobacillus that are naturally found in the San Francisco area. If the sourdough is not made with this combination, it is not San Francisco sourdough. I purchased my San Francisco sourdough starter from Linda at SourdoughBreads.com. She has a very reasonable and competitive price, and offers free technical support, which has been awesome for me.
The starter was easy to activate. Feeding it flour and water for 3 days and watching it grow and bubble was cool, like a science experiment! But, I had trouble getting the active sponge right for my first loaf - obviously. I thought it was supposed to ferment overnight and be very active (bubbly) in the morning. It wasn't very bubbly in the morning, but I used it anyway. (Impatience!)
I was bummed with the result, but I felt like I knew what I did wrong - not using an active sponge and being very, very impatient. After watching the starter for 3 days, I had a vague idea of when it was active. So, I thought I would skip the fermenting overnight part and just use the starter when it was very active.
I put my plan into action, and the second loaves were much more successful. (Sorry, no pictures! We ate them too fast!) I still wasn't real happy with them. I thought they were kind of doughy and too dense. But, we gobbled them up so they must not have been that bad.
One thing about baking sourdough with this starter is in order to keep the starter from getting huge and possibly taking over your kitchen, it is recommended to pour all but 1/4 cup down the drain before feeding with the 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water.
It got to me after a while, just throwing this stuff down the drain. So, I poured the excess off into another bowl and thought I would figure out what to do with it later. I continued working with the 1/4 cup in the main bowl. When my husband saw the extra, he decided to make sourdough pancakes with it.
They were really fluffy! I guess the yeast made them rise a little when cooking. They were yummy, too. He made a bunch and we froze what we didn't eat that day. So, I think that's what we'll do when we bake sourdough bread now - make pancakes with the pour-off!
Sourdough #2 coming later . . .
Friday, December 4, 2009
We remembered this place and went there again with some visiting family! They had a Chicken Enchilada special which looked so good that 3 of the 4 of us ordered it! And, we picked a good dish, too. It was sooo yummy! The 2 chicken enchiladas were lightly fried, which I was totally not expecting, so they were crunchy but not hard, and there was also a bit of cream cheese inside. It was served with Spanish rice and refried beans, and was only $5.49 (I think).
This was definitely good - probably because it's kinda bad with the frying and cream cheese! Owell. I'll eat salad another time.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Shopping for these two meal ideas was easy since they have similar ingredients. That was a nice perk!
I will post the recipes after they have been made, so I can include pictures. I WILL remember to stop this time and take a picture before I devour it! I just love to eat!
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Makes one 9-inch pie
Graham Cracker Crust
1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup margarine, melted
(A lot of recipes for the graham cracker crust add sugar, but I find the graham crackers are sweet enough.)
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix the two ingredients in your pie plate. Once the graham cracker crumbs appear to all be coated and begin to stick together, press the mixture firmly into the pie plate, forming the crust, covering the bottom and up the sides. (I find a plastic spatula is best for this shaping. The mixture tends to stick to my fingers much more than it sticks to the spatula.)
Bake it for 6 to 10 minutes, until it is a golden brown. Cool before filling.
1 can (15oz) Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
(The Libby's recipe calls for Evaporated Milk, sugar and salt. The sweetened condensed milk has more than enough sugar to sweeten the filling, and adds a thick creamy texture, too.)
Mix the cinnamon, ginger and cloves together in a really small bowl. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the pumpkin to the eggs, stirring until well blended. Add the spices to the pumpkin egg mixture, stirring until well blended. Slowly pour in the sweetened condensed milk, stirring until well blended again.
Pour it into the cooled pie crust. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for another 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted at the center comes out mostly clean. Cool for 2 hours before serving.
I really like this pumpkin pie fresh, so for Thanksgiving, it is the first thing in the oven that morning. It has plenty of time to cool while the other stuff is prepared.
Hope you enjoy!
The next day, Wednesday, we started cooking! We made cornbread for the dressing (I guess it’s not called stuffing, because technically, it did not get stuffed into the bird). Then, my mom made the dressing. We also baked biscotti and lemon bars, and made potato salad. My mom’s potato salad is always best the day after it is made. The flavors really meld together! So, she always makes it the day before.
(Note that the cornbread and lemon bars were made using the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, Tenth Edition, recipes. Aren't those cookbooks all handed down? Mine was! I most certainly wasn't cooking in 1989! I could not find a link to those recipes specifically, but have included links to the Better Homes and Gardens website for the most similar recipes. The New Cookbook is on its Twelfth Edition.)
The day of Thanksgiving, we made the pumpkin pie, green bean casserole, yams, cranberry sauce, and gravy and roasted the turkey. We also had steamed white rice on the side, and of course, finadene! (Finadene is a sauce Chamorros use to spice things up! It is made with soy sauce, vinegar or lemon juice, onions and boonie peppers - hot peppers that grow wild in Guam. The jungle in Guam is referred to as the "boonies".)
We ate early, around 1pm, and everyone enjoyed everything. We had a special guest - our daughter’s friend from college who did not go home to Texas for the holiday. He had seconds, so I know he thought it was yummy. Although any home cooking probably would have been good after months of dorm cafeteria food!
After the dinner was served, everyone had pumpkin pie and vanilla bean ice cream for dessert. Then, the old folks went and laid down for a nap before heading out to see “Ninja Assassins”. (I know - nice movie for the family to see. What can I say? We like action!) I told my husband as we laid down for our nap (because like it or not, we are now the “old folks”), “Cooking takes a lot out of you!” No wonder the older people always slept after eating, and the kids continued to play. The kids didn’t cook for two days! He also reminded me that the kids slept in until noon!
Nana’s new recipes (the sausage cornbread dressing, the biscotti and the orange-cranberry sauce) were all big hits. I don't have her recipes for these. I'll see if she'll let me post them. The old favorites were still delicious, too. Sorry there are no pictures of our feast and new recipes. I have to get used to stopping to take pictures! And, now, my parents are gone, and so are our college student daughter and her hungry friend. It’s back to just the hubby and me, and we have lots of leftovers!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Recipe from Kneadlessly Simple: fabulous, fuss-free, no-knead breads by Nancy Baggett
This recipe was very easy, and I had all the ingredients on hand in the pantry already. No need to buy special stuff! The mixing of the ingredients to make the dough for the first rise was simple. I did it in the early afternoon, and set it in the refrigerator for the 3-10 hours she recommends for the best flavor. Then, before turning in for the night (10pm), I took the bowl out of the fridge and put it in the coldest room in our house, for the 12-18 cool room rise. This room was about 66 degrees when we got up the next morning. The dough did not look as if it had risen very much though. I was beginning to get worried. But, I think the room may have just been too cool. As the day progressed and got warmer, the dough was rising noticeably. I remember thinking at one point, “It has risen more in the last hour than it did all night!”
After about 13 hours (around 11am), I prepared the dough for the second rise, the warm room rise. This was just a convenient time for me to do it. First, I prepared the 2 loaf pans by pouring just a little oil in the bottom and then using a folded paper towel to wipe the oil around the bottom and sides of the loaf pan. This method of coating and oiling the pans worked much better for me than pouring oil in the pan and tipping the pan around to spread the oil. When I did that, I ended up with way too much oil! The recipe calls for about a tablespoon of oats to be put in the pan and then spread around. But, I think a tablespoon was kind of light. And, I didn’t go all the way up the sides of the loaf pan either, but you could!
Then, I stirred the dough with a sturdy wooden spoon, but it didn’t really seem to stir. I think this step is really just to deflate the dough. But, it was a workout! That dough was stiff. Then, I cut the dough in half – or at least, I tried to cut the dough in half! I took a long serrated knife (used usually only for carving turkey in our house!), wiped oil on both sides (using the folded paper towel from oiling the pans), and cut the dough while still in the bowl. (I didn’t want to dirty the cutting board. Lazy or smart? I don’t know! Both perhaps.) Once the dough was cut into mostly equal portions, the portions went into the loaf pans. I prepped the tops of them and covered them with plastic and set them in the warmest spot in the house for the 2-3 hour warm room rise.
Our temps here have been super nice – right in the mid-70’s. Inside our house, it was slightly cooler, a few degrees or so. So, I went about my business, and checked on the loaves after 3 hours, and it seemed they had hardly risen. They did take a long time to rise. My husband joked they were “late risers”. HA! I set them there around 11:30am, and I think they were finally ready to bake at about 6pm. In the book, there is a troubleshooting section, and I checked it for “extremely slow rising”. The slow rising could be because the room was too cool, or my yeast could have been getting old. She recommended putting the yeast in an airtight container in the fridge after it was opened. I did not do that! (Oops!) But, I’ll do it now!
The loaves turned out beautifully though. Nice and browned on top, with a crunchy crust. The oats on top were pretty, and on the bottom, they were crunchy. The slash cut into the top of the loaf didn’t open up like I thought it would, but it made a nice indent. The inside of the loaf was soft and crumbly, more like a loaf you would get from the store, but still not quite the same. We cut a slice to try once they were out of the loaf pans. We couldn’t wait - they smelled so good – yeasty and fresh. We put some butter on the slice, and took a bite. It was a nice flavor, not as sweet as I had imagined with the honey being in there, but still very tasty. And, interestingly, I did not see any oats actually inside the loaf! I know they were mixed in there, but I didn’t see any.
All in all, definitely bread I will make again. The husband liked it a lot. And it really was super easy. Gonna give the second loaf to a friend as a Thank You for letting me borrow a Halloween costume! I’ll let you know what she thinks of it. She’s quite the baker herself. I could learn a thing or two from her probably!
‘Til the next adventure!
We like Mexican food, and Chuy’s serves a Southern California version of that, I guess. They have tacos and burritos, Spanish rice and pinto beans, but they also have salads, sandwiches and mesquite-grilled chicken and beef. We went there for lunch, and I had the California Taco Platter, and the hubby had the ¼ Killer Chicken Meal, and of course, chips and salsa.
It is a very casual, fun place to hang out. Each location has something different to observe - from the spray-painted wall art to the many fish pictures, there really is something new to discover each time we go. And, the stuffed animal they give you as your table marker is so cute!
The serve-yourself chips and salsa is always good, but we especially enjoyed the orange colored salsa this time. (Sorry, they did not have labels and I did not think to ask. Too busy eating!) Our meals were yummy, too. I loved my simple California Taco, with mesquite-grilled chicken and avocado. The baja sauce tastes like Thousand Island dressing, but better somehow. Their pinto beans taste slow-cooked and probably should be eaten with a spoon to get all the good juices. The Spanish rice was good, too, but nothing special. I know my husband enjoyed his chicken – 2 good-sized pieces, pinto beans and rice, too, with a cabbage salad. The cabbage salad had vinaigrette dressing and tomatoes, and was very flavorful.
We always forget about Chuy’s, but we do like it. We’ll go there again, when we think of it!
:-) :-) :-)
(3 smiles out of 5)
Monday, November 23, 2009
Happy Shopping - and remember, it is THANKSgiving. Be thankful for what you have!
Friday, November 20, 2009
I did not grow up cooking in the kitchen or watching my mom cook. I ate plenty - Mom's cooking is so yummy - and I washed the dishes. I was the clean up crew. I never cooked, even when I lived alone. I lived pretty much on bagels and sandwiches. When I married, I felt a desire to cook for my most awesome husband and my stepdaughter. I started out easy – Hamburger Helper was my Go-To dinner! My husband is a fantastic cook, and I have learned a lot from helping him and watching him cook over the years. During our daughter’s high school years, I began to cook more and found I actually enjoyed it. Rachael Ray was one of my favorite Food Network cooks, and I tried a lot of her recipes - so much so, that my husband and daughter took to jokingly calling me "Missy May". Now that my husband and I are empty nesters, I really have time to play around and try new recipes. I'm enjoying the adventure, and I hope you do, too!