It looks and sounds fancy!

Berry Pavlova!

It looks fancy, because it is!

I finally did it. I screwed up the courage to make a pavlova! A WHAT? you say? Essentially, it’s a giant meringue topped with whipped cream and the fruit of choice. The winter issue of Cook’s Illustrated had a recipe for a cranberry/orange pavlova and it sounded delicious. I’ve had a hankering for the blueberry and strawberry, so I used that instead.

Pavlova’s taste a bit like a marshmallow only the exterior is crunchy. It’s the perfect combination of sweet, crunchy and when you add the whipped cream and fruit the sweetness is balanced by by the acid and tartness. All those textures make for and explosion of flavor and sensation. If you are ever inclined to make one, it’s really not that difficult. The trick is to read the instructions and recipe slowly, carefully and more than once before you begin. If you take your time and do EXACTLY as it instructs then you will have a masterpiece on your hands.

One of the beautiful things about a Pavlova is how it looks. It’s supposed to have cracks. There is no way to bake one without them. This makes it an ideal recipe for the Type B cook. You don’t have a to be a French Master Pastry Chef for it to be beautiful and delicious! I am notorious for skipping steps and ingredients when baking. It’s a flaw, I get that. I am not exactly great at the details. I suppose that’s one reason I love to cook. You don’t always need perfect measurements and food can be forgiving. Baking is less forgiving, granted, but if I slow down, monitor my booze consumption while doing it, I usually end up with tasty goodness. Just ask any number of my friends, they will testify to my skills.

This is what it looks like without the toppings. Honestly, I love meringue so much I could eat it just like this. Perhaps drizzle some chocolate or caramel over it and Ohhhh baby, now we are talking!

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High Protein, Peanut Butter, Banana Pancakes

Maybe it’s the weather … perhaps that is what is compelling me to cook. I know the gloomy and rainy days certainly make me want to hibernate with a book and some soup.

Eating can be complicated when you’re a carb fiend and on WW. There is no strict plan on WW but it’s certainly geared more towards low fat and low carb, even the good carbs. Frankly, there’s only so much chicken and broccoli one can stand. Thankfully, I love veggies so I can live on asparagus, cauliflower, zucchini and green beans too!

I’ve been considering switching to the Keto diet. I’m just not convinced that diet is diverse enough for me. I don’t like all that fatty stuff. Anytime I have had too much fatty food I have a bad stomach reaction. Seems to me that just striving for a clean, diverse and balanced diet is healthier than limiting certain kinds of food. Also, I think I’m healthier than the average person in my demographic.

One of my weaknesses is pancakes and waffles. Honestly, I’d probably eat them once a day if I could get away with it. I like my pancakes dense and cakey. I like them the size of a salad plate and almost an inch tall. I want that pancake to fill me up! I want none of that light and airy fluffy stuff smothered in fake “maple flavored” syrup. Ewwwww!

Since I can’t have a “traditional” pancake I will, from time to time, concoct variations of my own. Some have worked, some taste like cardboard. A couple of weeks ago I took a chance and combined the items pictured here.

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Delicious high protein pancakes!

These were so good syrup wasn’t even necessary! My husband even asked for thirds! Now that is a pancake. Here’s how.

RECIPE: Peanut Butter Banana Pancakes!
Dry Ingredients:  Sift together into a large mixing bowl the following
1 oz Wheat Germ,
2 oz Peanut Powder,
1/4 cup whole wheat flour,
1 oz Flaxseed Meal,
2 oz Protein Powder,
1 tsp baking powder,
1/2 tsp baking soda
5 grates or 1/2 tsp fresh nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon

Wet Ingredients: Whisk together in a separate bowl
1 banana mashed
1 large + 1 small egg
2 cups Ripple Pea Protein Milk (or liquid of choice)

Combine all ingredients and mix until desired consistency is achieved. I like mine a bit thicker than normal. If you want a lighter consistency add more liquid and mix thoroughly until most lumps are gone.

Partially uncover the end of a stick of butter and swirl it around an already heated skillet. Pour pancakes as large or small as you like and cook until browned on both sides. 2-3 minutes per side.

Now, I didn’t want the added carbs and sugar so I ate them as you see them. If your heart is set on syrup, by all means add the syrup of your choice. Just make sure it’s MAPLE syrup not some imitation. Life is too short for imitation. It’s too expensive you say? Poppycock! Go to Big Lots! They have affordable real maple syrup and it’s so much better that you don’t need as much for the same effect!

Traveling Cookies

BIscoff.pngWhen we fly we generally fly Delta. For whatever reason, this is the airline my husband chooses most and he flies a lot. So, when we go somewhere I’m always thrilled that we get to have the “Biscoff” cookies that Delta serves. They’re crisp and full of flavor sort of like a chai cookie or a ginger snap. They are delicious! Trader Joe’s sells something similar called “Speculoos” and they are spectacular! The sad thing is, now you can buy them in the grocery store. I say sad only because now they are losing their “treat” status in my mind and I’m tempted to buy them (of course, I have). What fun is that?

I never really considered trying to bake them myself. Until last weekend, that is. The winter issue of “Cook’s Illustrated” came Saturday. Low and behold a recipe for my favorite travel cookie. Hmmm … Should I? NO! Did I? YES!

Turns out these have an inordinate amount of cinnamon, five teaspoons! Which when you use high quality Vietnamese cinnamon, the flavors JUMP at you. I used my mortar and pestle to grind up the cardamom and clove. I could have used an electric grinder (I have one) but for some reason I felt inspired to do it old school. I also heated the pods up to enhance the flavors. WOW! Fresh ground cardamom is amazing! Needless to say, my house smelled like Christmas yesterday!

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I didn’t grow up making holiday cookies. So this is the first time I’ve made a cookie that had to be rolled out and cut into shapes.  From now on these will be my GO-TO holiday cookie, even if it’s for sheer aroma therapy purposes.

The final result is fabulous. Crisp, aromatic and perfect to dip in a bit of coffee!

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I’m back in the kitchen. AGAIN!

So, I roasted some pig butt this weekend for pulled pork. My own recipe because I know what I’m doing y’all! Make my own rub and everything. One might think this would please my mister. Instead he complained that we had no buns and he would have to eat it the “poor” way with sandwich bread. He is no neglected.

So yesterday I made kaiser rolls from the Cook’s Illustrated cookbook, “Bread Illustrated”. Kaiser rolls traditionally have poppy seeds on them. [Side note: What’s the point of Poppy Seeds? Do they serve a flavor function? I can’t detect much flavor at all. They get stuck in your teeth. They apparently make your blood test positive for opiates. So really, what’s the point? Plus, most of them end up everywhere BUT your mouth.] Needless to say, I did not have any on hand so I used sesame seeds instead.

Flavor-wise, they’re okay. I didn’t have any Instant Yeast. Now I understand why my Active Yeast didn’t substitute measure-for-measure. I should have researched how to substitute but I didn’t and therefore they didn’t have enough flour and rose too quickly and the dough was too sticky. I should have known better but I was trying to stick to the recipe. Oh well, whose bread comes out perfectly the first time? Mine rarely does. They did taste okay and my husband didn’t seem to notice the difference. His palate isn’t quite as refined as Thomas Kellers.

They did look fairly pretty. Proper flour/yeast proportion would have made them tighter and  more soft inside.

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Sesame Kaiser Rolls

On a completely different subject. My friend Linda Fay was gracious enough to take some photographs of my and my cat, Joe. Yes, I am that lady. I love my Joe. He’s 18 and grumpy and was not having it. Lesson? Don’t try to force a cat to be a model. He just won’t cooperate.

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Why are you doing this to me? Notice his ears. 

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Seriously lady, how much longer do I have to do this?

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I hate you!

Oh, but I love you Joe!

Let the food do heavy lifting! In other words …

Keep it simple. Weekend two of cooking from Thomas Keller’s “Bouchon” cookbook. Take a look at this …

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Wow. It was amazing! Here’s the thing, I used just four ingredients. Chicken, Salt, Pepper and Thyme. That’s it. I rinsed the 4.5 pound bird and dried it off really, really good. Salted it and then baked it at 450 degrees for 60 minutes. Once I pulled it from the oven, poured water on the drippings (to deglaze the pan) then basted it with the drippings and fresh thyme. While it was baking and resting I made the cauliflower gratin. Delicious.

I’m not sure what all the cooking inspiration has been about but I can’t seem to stop. Perhaps it’s fall (my least favorite time of year). All I can think about is cooking. I’ve watched The Great British Baking Show and it makes me want to try all the fancy recipes. My sister sells Wildtree product and I had her over to cook with this weekend too. We made Pate a Choux filled with chocolate mousse, Meringue cookies and a variety of savory treats. So much for enforcing my WW plan. Ugh. Tomorrow! Right?

Even today, I had a notion to use all the leeks I purchased last week so I put together a Potato Leek and Bacon soup. I used the chicken stock I made from yesterday and this one is good. Oh so good. Yum.

I have got to stop.

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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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