Just a few, minor mix-ups and mistakes …

Okay. I screwed up. After working for hours and hours on the quiche I realized after an hour of baking that I had baked the stupid thing 50 degrees too hot. It looked pretty but it didn’t quite set up the way it should have. Regardless, it was delicious. The texture, I’m certain was off, but the flavors were AMAZING!

 

The German Chocolate cake is delicious! Of course, it wasn’t perfect. I neglected to toast and add pecans to the icing. So, I just ringed the cake with pecans. It’s an excellent recipe and I found it (not surprisingly) on America’s Test Kitchen. The texture and crumb on this cake is delicate and moist. It’s not too sweet either. Boy – oh – boy … You should make this one. Message me and I’ll share.

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Hubby was pleased with both items. My non-foodie husband doesn’t gush the way I would prefer but he seemed to really enjoy them. After some discussion however, the evening menu has changed. He wants meatloaf, not steak. I DO make an awesome meatloaf, so I don’t blame him.

Hubby especially loved his actual present … a fishing rod and tackle filled, tackle box. He took a walk down memory lane and I’m certain I’ll get him to a lake or stream before the end of fall. Score two for the wifey!

Now, on a more serious note. Late last night we learned that a colleague of his lost his son in a car accident. In the midst of celebration we are thrown back into reality. Hug your babies today. Tell your important people how much they mean to you. Life is fragile and uncertain. Thank you to those who follow me and my life-food journey. I am blessed beyond compare and am grateful for you love and encouragement.

May God bless and Keep you!

Much Love, Rachel

Birthday Bonanza Update

WOW, I am worn out. One of these days I’m going to have to figure out how to get eight hours of sleep. I woke at 5 o’clock a.m. worrying about bills and money and how to structure my cooking day.

After a run to Target for a springform pan and a workout at the gym. I came home to get started on the quiche. UGH … is the best word for it. Actually, dammit works too because I had to scrap the dough I made yesterday. It was too dry and would NOT roll out. So, I started over. The second one was better but still not perfect. I didn’t have time to do another so I went with it.

Making a second crust meant that I had to run back to Kroger for more flour. Add in a second ARGH for this annoyance.

So, the cake is baked. The frosting is ready to spread. I had to improvise on this too because my coconut wasn’t ‘”sweetened”. I just whirled it through the food processor with coconut sugar and said a prayer. So far, so good. But now I’m wishing I had browned the butter for the frosting. Oh well, it still tasted delicious.

The quiche is in the oven. I have a beer in my hand and I’m headed to the TV. I will follow up with pictures tomorrow.

For now, just enjoy a lovely photo I took of my hummingbirds. This is Sweet Pea. Yes, I named them.

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Bouchon – Lessons in Baking

Well hello there! It’s been a very long time since I have blogged. A lot has happened in the time I’ve been away. Here is an abbreviated rundown of some of those things: I joined Weight Watchers, I’ve lost 55 pounds, I’ve become a yoga instructor and I had surgery on my left shoulder which has left me somewhat incapacitated. My life is not too complicated, what a blessing.

Because of the Weight Watchers, I have had to curtail some of my baking and cooking activities and focus on eating healthier. As you might imagine, this has been a bit of a challenge. I still have an occasional baked good or sweet treat but nothing compared to my former lifestyle. Alas, it’s worth it to feel healthier and to have confidence in my appearance again.

My sweet mother-in-law was gracious enough to send me an early birthday present. For several years now I have had Thomas Keller’s bistro cookbooks on my Wish List. Knowing full well that I did not in actuality “need” them but my 50th birthday is looming and well, I wanted them.

You can purchase these yourself at: Amazon.com or BarnesNoble.com

I like to think I know my way around a kitchen but … these recipes are written for professional chefs. The recipes are complicated with ingredients that are not always readily available at your local Kroger. Mostly, they are time consuming.  So much so that I am taking three days to make a Quiche Lorraine. It’s a true education into how professional chefs prepare food at Michelin starred restaurants; which in today’s fast paced world is nothing like how the average person cooks at home. Nevertheless, I am resolved to conquer them. Well, maybe not all of them but I’m going to give it an honest effort.

All of this to say, this weekend shall be consumed with cooking and baking for my dear, dear husband’s 50th birthday. Since my husband is more of an introvert than extrovert and prefers to hide out in our house for the entire weekend (if you could hear my voice right now you would hear some serious attitude) I shall be cooking and baking to make his day special.

What’s on the menu you ask? Quiche Lorraine, German chocolate cake, New York strip, macaroni and cheese, and beer. I began this endeavor on Friday afternoon by preparing an Onion Confit, a Bouquet Garni, and a basic pie crust. I also made mango/avocado salsa, pork chops and salt roasted fingerling potatoes because we had to eat dinner too. Needless to say, I was in the kitchen all freaking day. It was fun and EXHAUSTING!

Onion Confit? What the heck? It sounds French and fancy. It’s not. Onion confit consists of evenly sliced onions (eight cups), 1/4 cup of water, and four ounces of butter. All of which is cooked at very low temperature for two plus hours and stirred every half hour. Simple enough but a commitment. Also, it’s covered with a parchment lid. Huh? It took three tries to create this. Something I’m certain my craftier friends would have done in one attempt.

Also, Bouquet Garni? It sounds so fancy. It’s fresh herbs wrapped in leeks. Simple enough. I grow the herbs in my garden and I can get leeks. The end result is amazing. The onions are so naturally sweet and the herbs make them even more fragrant. It was so worth the effort.

That’s as far as I got. The pie dough is in the fridge and next I’ll put together the custard and cake. First, I need a springform pan. I could have sworn I had one. I guess I’ll be making a trip to the local bakery supply store aka: Bed Bath Beyond. Ugh.

 

I’m Baking This … Want Some?

I love to bake. This presents a problem when one is changing one’s lifestyle and living a nearly carb free life. The challenge is to find healthy and tasty low cal/carb foods that I can enjoy without the guilt.

Before I started this journey I started making sourdough breads. Which means I have a BUNCH of dried starter just waiting to be reactivated and used. Since the holidays are coming I thought I’d bake some treats for friends and family. Also, there is no way I can use all the starter I have so if you know me and you want some call me. I will hook you up!

The first loaf I baked was amazing. So. Very. Good. I have a good friend who is diabetic and can eat limited carbs too. She eats a rye bread so my first new attempt will be a sourdough rye. We’ll see how that turns out.

If you want some starter here is the recipe for reactivating it. https://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2015/05/01/putting-sourdough-starter-hold/

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Angels and Meyer Lemons

Is there anything better than Meyer lemons and angel food cake? I think not. That is how I spent this day: baking and cooking gelato.

If you’re not familiar: WikiPedia say: “Citrus × meyeri, the Meyer lemon, is a citrus fruit native to China thought to be a cross between a true lemon and either a mandarin or common orange.

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It was introduced to the United States in 1908 as S.P.I. #23028[1] by the agricultural explorer Frank Nicholas Meyer, an employee of the United States Department of Agriculture who collected a sample of the plant on a trip to China.[2]

The Meyer lemon is commonly grown in China in garden pots as an ornamental tree. It became popular as a food item in the United States after being rediscovered by chefs such as Alice Waters at Chez Panisse during the California Cuisine revolution at the end of the 1990s.[3][4]

They are delicious. The perfect combination of sweet and tart. Sweeter than a regular lemon with just a hint of orange. They are only in season once a year and I never remember when that is until I see them in the grocery store. I found this years bunch at Trader Joe’s (of course).

Since I’m technically trying to lose weight I was wondering how I could use them and not make anything too fattening. Angel food cake is the result. It’s about 150 cal per slice and it has no fat. It’s light and delicious. I adore it. I use America’s Test Kitchen recipe. It’s perfect!

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The Best Angel Food Cake

And then this …

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Meyer Lemon Gelato

I dream of Africa …

I long to go on safari anywhere in Africa. In 1986, I was a very impressionable seventeen year old. The movie “Out of Africa” – by Sydney Pollack with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford made an indelible mark on my life. It is my ‘Go To’ movie when I’m sick, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, or if I’m suffering the painful pangs of wanderlust. I put it on and recite the lines before they are spoken. I have the soundtrack and each time the waltz plays my heart aches just a little. It’s like a cozy sweater and reminder to keep dreaming of Africa. If you click on this image you can listen for yourself.

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Over the years I have had limited exposure to the foods of Africa. Growing up in southern Missouri did not afford many opportunities to experience real food and cultures of the continent. So, when we stayed at the Animal Kingdom resort I was thrilled to get some actual foods from Africa. I’ve even attempted to make a salsa they served for breakfast. It had dates, tomatoes, and onions. It was delicious.

Last week I was at Trader Joe’s and discovered a jar of Harissa Salsa. Ever the adventurer, I bought one. Tonight I am making a lentil and chicken dish with it. Chickpeas are a more commonly used bean for this I believe but I didn’t have any (plus they are not my favorite bean anyway). The salsa is tomato and cumin and a smoked chili flavor like chipotle but slightly different. It’s a bit spicy and a little bit will go a long way. TJ’s had organic multi-colored carrots and I used a purple carrot in it as well. Yummy! Try them!

The end result was delicious!

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Here is the recipe I followed: Spicy Harissa Chicken with Lentiles 

I suppose the moral of this story is … even if you can’t GO on safari literally, you can go there gastronomically. One of the many wonderful things the internet has afforded us is exposure to the rest of the world. You can order almost anything from Amazon and recipes are there to be had if only you look. Eat the foods from around the world. There are SO many amazing spices, herbs and foods to be had. Experience as many of them as you can. Life is short, grab as much of it as you possibly can!

 

Disney – Kate Hepburn – Comfort Foods – Politics

The last year has been devoid of much that was personally interesting. Except this …

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I finally went to Disney World. D took me for my 48th birthday. Better late than never I suppose. It truly was magical. I felt like a kid.

I became too involved with politics and it’s consumed my enthusiasm. I’m so discouraged about the state of affairs that cooking and home has held little interest for me.

I really need to change that. I need to find the balance between caring about the world around me and not neglecting my hubby and home. It’s a challenge.

To that end. Yesterday I spent the day in the kitchen. I made my favorite chili which I’ve talked about already. To accompany the chili I made my own corn tortillas. They turned out okay. I suppose if I make them again I’ll add a bit of lime zest and cayenne to perk them up. They were fun and easy to make but just a bit bland.

Also, I baked brownies I in NO way needed. I derive such comfort from cooking a recipe that I know Kate Hepburn used herself. Every time I make that recipe I imagine her in a kitchen talking and baking. It’s comforting, very comforting.

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If you have never made brownies from scratch before then you should. No boxed brownie ever tasted this good. Oh and do yourself a favor, go to Aldi’s and get some 70% Cocoa bars to use. It’s good quality chocolate and it’s affordable. It makes great brownies and especially ice cream. Oh the ice cream. Make the damn ice cream.

So, there you go. A blog post after more than a year. I am nothing if not inconsistent. It’s a trait I can’t seem to shake. Those who know me … well, they know.