Sunday, October 31, 2010

New England Beauty

I waited a bit too long to catch this year's leaf peeping. We went to Borderland State Park near my house recently and caught a last glimpse of full color. It was a very warm day, around 74 degrees, as we walked the Pond Edge Trail.

The path was very quiet and peaceful.
Pebbles took a last dip in the water concerned with the little fish swimming around.
I love the reflection of the trees in the water at the top of the picture.
As I look out of my window today, I see the now brownish leaves dropping fast and flying in swirly circles to the ground where they leave a blanket of muted color. I feel the quietness that starts to envelope New England . The birds and animals are disappearing. The bugs are all but gone. I know they will all be back but I miss them already.
As we look towards colder days rather than cooler days, I will come back to this post for the warmth of that last really warm Fall day when the colors and company was perfect.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Thai Dinner Delight

When a close friend of ours married a Thai girl several years ago, we were delighted to welcome his smart and beautiful wife into our clan. Little did we know that the two would make beautiful food together as well.

We were lucky to be treated to dinner recently at their house and it was a memorable meal.

We had Mieng Kam Gai to start the meal. It was spicy, very moist with plenty of veggies to give it color and taste. We were instructed to spoon a bit onto a lettuce leaf, top with a sprig of cilantro, roll it into a little parcel and munch away. The lettuce made a nifty pouch and I loved crunching into the little wrap. These were addictive and I had to tell myself to stop as I watched our friend add the gorgeous shrimp to our next course.

This next dish, Tam Yum Goong, was what I envision Thai comfort food to be like. The aroma of kaffir leaves and lemon grass was intoxicating. The soup was served with a side dish of rice.
The shrimp and mushrooms in the soup absorbed the heady flavors of the broth. We also spooned a bit of the broth onto the rice and ate it along with the soup.

It was very filling...or maybe the Mieng Kam Gai was catching up to me. I managed to finish the whole bowl but I was too full for the Egg Custard with Shredded Coconut. I had a few bites...I am not sure what happened to my camera so no pictures I am sad to say.

Recipes? Well, I asked but I think they made the dishes without a recipe. If they should write one down, I will edit the post. In the meantime, I did a bit of research. I found a nice recipe for the Tam Yum Goong if you will follow this link:
As to the Mieng Kam Gai, I did not find a specific recipe but several versions of minced chicken wrapped in lettuce. It seems to be a dish open to interpretation so choosing one with favorite ingredients may be the order to follow.

I am looking forward to making both these dishes this winter. I can almost smell the lemon grass now!


My friends shared their recipe. You can find it here Mieng Kam Gai

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fungi Foto

Is anyone else a little frightened by what is proliferating in my yard? I know it has been raining a lot lately but seriously, a family of mushrooms???

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cake Decorating Display

I did a display cake recently for one of the new Michaels Arts and Crafts stores. It represents many of the techniques that are taught in the Wilton cake decorating courses. The cakes are actually Styrofoam but the decorations are made from royal icing, fondant and gumpaste.
I love making the gumpaste roses that are at the bottom tier of the cake. They are elegant and showy.
I usually have one of these display cakes on view at the store where I teach. I am currently working to restore the current one. People are always touching the cake and it takes a bit of abuse. I don't mind as they are fun to do. Perhaps I will do a Fall/Winter theme for the new version.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Grilled Chicken with Soba Noodles and Cucumber Salad

This is a very easy dish. I have also made it with boneless pork ribs and it is just as tasty. I make a double recipe of the green salad because I love the flavor. It goes well the next day tossed with cottage cheese and a little leftover chicken for a light lunch.
The soba noodles can be a challenge to find down here in the suburbs but they are worth the effort. The earthy flavor of the noodles balance the meal. Sometimes I want to extend the dish into a healthier version. I then toss a handful each of raw chopped sugar snap peas and sliced carrots in with the chicken and noodles just before adding the sauce. The color is vibrant and the crunch is delightful.
I found this dish online from Kitchen Daily
Here is the recipe!

Spicy Peanut Sauce
1/2 cup sesame oil, toasted
4 each garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup hot water
Chicken and Noodles
4 Cups chicken breast, grilled and shredded (about 3 single, medium sized chicken breasts)
1/2 Pound soba noodles
Green Salad
1/2 hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced
3 ribs celery, thinly sliced on the bias
1 cup cilantro, chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Spicy Peanut Sauce
In a small saute pan, heat sesame oil over low heat. Add garlic and ginger to gently fry until fragrant- about 1 minute. Pour into a blender and add all remaining sauce ingredients. Blend until smooth adding more hot water if necessary to achieve a rich saucy consistency.
Chicken and Noodles
Cook soba noodles according to package suggestions, drain and pour into a large mixing bowl. Add shredded chicken and dress with spicy chicken sauce. Toss gently to coat thoroughly with sauce.
Green Salad
In a small mixing bowl, combine the cucumber,celery, cilantro, and scallions. Toss gently with the vinegar to combine.

Divide the chicken and noodles among the bowls. Top with a handful of the salad.
Serve extra sauce on the side.
Serves 4-6 depending on the extras you may add!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet cake is one of those cakes that elicits a lot of emotion. Some people, including me, do not like the food color in the batter. Some people do not seem to care about the color issue at all.

I have been tweaking a red velvet cake recipe that I got from a Fannie Flagg cookbook(not a Fannie Farmer cookbook) with good success. It does not have any food color so I call it a Velvet Cake.

I saw a recipe in the September issue of Cake Central magazine for red velvet cupcakes that was interesting. The color came from cooked beets! I just happened to have some beets in the fridge that I got at the farmers market. My husband loves beets so I tend to make them frequently.

I made the recipe into 12 standard sized cupcakes and 6 jumbo cupcakes and had a little bit of batter to spare. I told a couple of testers about the beet addition and the response was not good. But I got a handful that made a point of telling me how good they were. They were amazed to learn that there were beets in the batter.
The cupcakes were very dense and moist but not oily. The batter was thick and very red.
After they cooked, they had a fudge-like ... almost brownie look to them.

Here is the recipe from the Cake Central /September magazine issue.I think my preference is just how the magazine article recommends it to be served...with a little confectioner sugar dusted on top.
Red Velvet Cupcakes

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups beets
confectioner's sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Boil beets until soft. Allow the beets to cool a bit, then peel off the skins and puree the beets in the blender or food processor.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa together, mixing well.
4. Add sugar and stir. Slowly add the buttermilk, stirring constantly.
5. Beat in the butter, vanilla eggs, and beet puree with a mixer on medium speed.
6. Fill muffin pan lined with cupcake liners to about 2/3's capacity for each cavity.
7. Bake for 17 minutes or until cupcakes test done. My test is when a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.
8. Remove cupcakes from oven when done and cool on a rack for five minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and cool to room temperature before decoration.
Recommended decoration: Sift a thin layer of confectioner sugar on top of each cupcake.
Yield: About 18 standard size cupcakes.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sweet Potato Bundt Cake

I am already thinking about Thanksgiving. I met my husband on Thanksgiving so I have a lot to celebrate! Our guest list has been growing the paste few years and I love introducing new dishes to keep the it interesting. I am excited about this year's addition of Sweet Potato Bundt Cake with a Rum Glaze. This is a recipe from a book called in the Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley.The recipe calls for golden raisins but I love dates so I used half chopped dates and half golden raisins. Otherwise I left the recipe alone as it is moist and light and turns out perfect every time.
I will most likely go with all raisins on Thanksgiving as I like the look of the cake with all raisins.

I was thinking...
this cake
with a scoop of
Sweet Scoops Ginger Frozen Yogurt
and a strong black cup of coffee!

Here is the recipe!

Cake Batter
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dark rum
2 large sweet potato
4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil, mild flavored
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra for salting the water
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, tightly packed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons whipping cream
remaining rum macerating from raisins
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan. In a small nonreactive bowl, soak the raisins in the rum for at least 30 minutes or several hours. meanwhile peel the sweet potatoes, cut them in half and then into 4-inch slices. Place the slices in cool water, bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender. drain off the water and allow the potatoes to air dry for a few minutes, then use a masher or large fork to roughly mash them. Measure out 2 cups of the mash and set aside to cool.
2. In a large bowl with a whisk or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs just a little bit just to break them up. add the sugar and beat until the mixture is thick and pale, about 2 minutes with a mixer, 3 if whisking by hand. Add the vegetable oil and vanilla, then beat to blend. Drain the raisins and set aside , but add 1/4 cup of the rum macerating liquid to the batter. Add the mashed sweet potatoes and mix thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides and the bottom of the bowl.
3. Into a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the flour mixture to the batter in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk in two additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. fold in the raisins.
4. Pour the entire batter into the Bundt pan. bake in the center of the oven for one hour to one hour and 20 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted comes out clean and the cake is just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool the cake in the pan set on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert onto the rack. Set the rack over a baking sheet or large plate to catch the excess glaze. This cake must be glazed while still warm so it absorbs the maximum syrup.
5. For the glaze, combine the brown sugar, butter and cream in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Continue to boil until the mixture thickens somewhat, about three minutes, stirring often. remove from heat and stir in the rum. With a long skewer poke holes all over the cake, concentrating on the top. Spoon about half the warm glaze over the cake and let the cake and remaining glaze cool for 10 to 15 minutes, until it has thickened slightly.
6. Pour the rest of the glaze over the cake, letting it dribble down the sides, then allow the cake to cool completely before cutting and serving or wrapping and storing.