Monday, April 28, 2008

You Know You're Into Blogging When...

...your hubby says, "OK, Wed. night we're going to talk about taxes/finances" etc. etc. "and that means no blogging about cheesecake before we do it!"


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daring Bakers - April '08 Challenge!


That's me skidding into this month's Daring Bakers challenge. :D I wanted to have a whole weekend where I wasn't doing anything so I didn't have to rush. Well, that sure wasn't last weekend because I was at Homecoming. And the weekend before that I was in Little Rock all Saturday with a college alumnae meeting that morning, and hanging out with a friend that afternoon and evening. I don't like to do a lot of involved baking (on an unknown recipe) during the week, because who knows what's going to happen after work from one night to the next. So that left me starting this one the day before our posting date. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

The cool psychedelic quality in the picture wasn't intentional, but I love it! Unintentional artsy-ness!

Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms and Deborah of Taste and Tell are the hosts for this month, and their choice for our challenge is Cheesecake Pops from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor. I halved the recipe out of sheer fear (although I did use 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp. vanilla powder) - I just knew if I made the whole thing that *ahem* we would probably devour it in a matter of moments, only to have it show back up on the scales. Erk! Here is a time line of my progress.

Sat. 4/26:
10:30AM - Actively getting mise en place together, and I swear if my child comes over one more time asking to help I'm going to scream. Not that I don't want her to help, but I've already told her three freaking times, "I'll let you know when I start mixing." The last time I had to threaten her with NOT helping me if she asked me about it anymore. How the hell she even knew what I was doing in the kitchen, when she was in the living room, is beyond me.

11:40 AM - Cheesecake in oven. Mixing was easy, and Sweet Pea had fun helping. ('Finally! What does Mom think she's doing, putting me off like that?! It's not like I have a long attention span or a memory that overrides excitement at this point in my life.') Fears came to fruition when a little bit of the boiling water sploshed into the pan with the cheesecake instead of into the roasting pan, but I don't think it did much, if any, damage. I set the timer for 35 minutes to see how it is doing then.

12:15 PM - Timer goes off, signaling the necessity to peek at the cake. Because of other Daring Bakers' posts about having to cook their cheesecakes a long time, I anticipated great soupiness. However, the cheesecake feels pretty firm to the touch. Needs a little more time, though, so I put another 10 minutes on it. Hopefully by then it should be done.

Wow! How'd I get it that perfect?!

12:28 PM - Ohhhhh.... My goodness gracious.... I should not, I repeat, NOT, have taken a tiny bite from the warm-from-the-oven cheesecake. I've made them before but the recipes I have used give a dense cake. This one is soft and creamy....Clawd have mercy!!! Now I'm wishing I'd made the full recipe just to have one extra cheesecake to eat warm, burning the roof of my mouth because I couldn't wait to just make the darned little pops. is all for the best, and truly a wise decision....


1:15 PM, 1:38 PM, 1:55 PM, 2:30 PM, 3:05 PM, 3:34 PM - Peek into fridge and lightly touch top of cheesecake, feeling it gradually getting cooler each time. Once I pinched off a little bite smaller than the size of a pencil eraser. If that's not enough to tick you off....

4:14 PM - FINALLY pull out cheesecake and use a measuring tablespoon to scoop out pops. Sous Chef Sweet Pea helps by putting the sticks in. Fun and messy, and I enjoy licking off my fingers when finished!

Nekkid pops!

4:35 PM - Sous Chef Sweet Pea is witnessed peeking in freezer, "checking" the pops....

5:30 PM - Time for dipping and decorating! I really enjoyed it. I guessed at the amount of chocolate to get, so about 5-6 of the pops go undecorated, but I'm sure they will not be culled. I did three kinds of decorations: little sugar flower decorations, finely chopped candied lime peel** and candied ginger mixture, and finely chopped candied orange peel** with Italian cocoa. Into the fridge while we have supper -- after we tried a couple of the plain, uncoated ones, that is.

**(I made the candied lime and orange peel sometime around Christmas - yum.)

Chillin' with my peeps, I mean pops

6:35 PM - Ohmigosh, these are great! And portion control - yay! I'm not sure which I like the best, but the ones with the candy flowers don't have anything competing with the cheesecake and chocolate.

6:54 PM - Sous Chef is in her room, crying because I told her that she must eat supper before she has any more cheesecake pops. Tried to use cuteness to override my decree but in light of that failure she decides to throw a fit on the living room couch. She has been relegated to continuing the show in the bedroom, as Mom is rarely in the mood to put up with that kind of malarkey.

7:05 PM - Still hearing sniffs and wails from child's bedroom.

But it's confirmed - - these things are too good for acting right!!

See my toes down there? LOL

Thank you, Deborah and Elle, for the great challenge!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Chicken-Barley Salad

I tried out a new recipe the other day that's really easy and yummy. Its original name is "Sesame Brown Rice Salad with Chicken" on Cooking Light, but since Hubby doesn't like brown rice (Gah! Communist!) I made it with barley instead.
Chicken-Barley Salad

1 c. barley
2 c. shredded cooked chicken breast (I used the chicken strips in a bag, already cooked, and diced them)
1/2 c. shredded carrot (I took baby carrots and cut them into little coins)
1/3 c. sliced green onions
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice (I also used the zest)
4 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. dark sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced (or jarred minced)

Cook barley according to package directions. Transfer to a large bowl; fluff with a fork and allow to cool. Add chicken, carrot, onions, cilantro, and salt. Toss to combine.

Combine lime juice, oils, and garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle oil mixture over barley/chicken mixture; toss to combine.
The only thing I'll do different in the future is make more of the dressing - it was really good, and it definitely wouldn't have hurt it to have had more. The original recipe called for chopped peanuts sprinkled on top, but I didn't do that although it would be good - as would some sort of peppery substance to give it a little heat.
I would also double the recipe and hide some of it for me to take to lunch, as Hubby adored it and kept going back for extra little helpings, and in the morning there was just enough for a little snack -- which he promptly ate for breakfast!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Yuba Gotta Be Kiddin' Me

So I was avoiding work this afternoon, as per usual, and came across an interesting Epicurious article on San Francisco chef Daniel Patterson. Like other high-falooting chefs, he is strictly seasonal and only uses the freshest ingredients from his local farmer's market, which is cool. If we had a decent one where I lived I'd do more of that (of course, Hubby would probably freak out because I'd not only never be home, but we'd be perpetually in the hole, LOL). But anyway.

One part of this article introduces the reader to yuba, or soy skin (now *that's* enticing...), which is a by-product of heated soy milk. It's said to have a nutty taste and, like all soy products, I'm sure is quite the healthy food. It actually sounded pretty interesting, and there was a site listed where one is able to purchase dried yuba.

Now of course Chef Patterson doesn't use dried yuba! Scoff! You know that is too beneath him, you silly thing. He uses the fresh kind, of course. (Weren't you paying attention earlier?) I'm guessing they skim it off the top and throw it right into a pretty little bag for him. You can have Fresh Yuba, too - yes, you can!! Epicurious says, "Visit or e-mail to order. The minimum order is one pound of yuba, which costs approximately $25, plus $15 for handling and $60 for shipping."

Hold on. What the faaaaaaaa??????? The shipping and handling is 3 times the price of the actual yuba? Hmmm.... Now I'm kind of a foodie but there is no way in Hail I'm going to throw down a Franklin on a pound of this stuff. This stuff must be like gold, or a transplant liver from a lifetime teetotaler for Larry Hagman, or the best grade of pot to a pot smoker. I don't smoke it so I couldn't give you the name. Actually...if you smoked pot and then ate some fresh yuba you probably would either eat that only for the rest of your life or just starve to death. Sorry, I've digressed.

So for a measly hundred bucks anyone in the free world can get their hands on *FRESH* soy skin. What a bargain....

I don't think I'll be one of them.

Double DB Challenge - Biscotti!

I have this really cool new friend, Chriesi, whom I met through the Daring Bakers group. We both joined DB this past month and are of the same persuasion that we will not be REAL Daring Bakers until we have done ALL of the challenges that they have ever done! We are unofficially calling it the "Double DB Challenge". We already did their very first challenge, homemade pretzels, and this month is our second DDB, which was originally done in December 2006 - biscotti from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours.

I really enjoyed making this! But I'm not sure if I cooked them long enough the first time - I mean, I followed the recipe times, but since I never made it before I didn't have anything against which to gauge it. I don't *think* I cut them too thick; maybe they should have cooled longer. Mine weren't the typical hard/crunchy that you get in stores but were thick and chewy. Still very substantial and good for dunking, and they seemed to set up a little more over time. I took some to work and my coworkers loved them. One of my friends told me that he would be happy with an entire batch to himself! :) What a compliment, eh?

I didn't get good pictures of the first batch; my camera was really acting up and I took some pics with my phone but can't for the life of me get them to my computer. *sigh* But never fear; I made more!

Cinnamon biscotti dough

The weekend of April 18-20 was Spring Homecoming at the school from which I graduated, Mississippi University for Women, called "The W" by those in the know. Since it's a historically women's university (it is coed now, though) we don't have a football team, so we get together every April in Columbus, MS. It is really a blast!

Going in for the last bake

This year, the school's Alumnae Association had a Champagne & Chocolate party on the Friday of Homecoming weekend. Yummy! I decided to make two different types for the weekend: Chocolate with Almonds, Cherries, and Chocolate Chunks *gah!* and Cinnamon dipped in Semisweet Chocolate. *double gah!* I doubled the recipes so I could ensure that I had enough. (I will say, the doubled chocolate recipe made a real mess when I tried to mix the dry ingredients in, but it still did well.)

Ohhhhhh, I had enough, all right - plenty for people to nibble like crazy on and still not put too much of a dent in! People really loved these, and I ended up taking them to a couple of other parties over the course of the weekend, as well. My best friend, M, got a container full of the chocolate ones when I dropped her off at her house on Sunday - she loved them! I think it was the Italian/Sicilian coming out in her. :D Especially since I used the Pernigotti cocoa powder that I get online - heavenly!

Chocolate logs - resting and cooling - see the yummy melted chocolate pieces?

And from this weekend I have created an opportunity for myself! A group of my friends on a listserve have a "secret pal" thing going on. I'm not participating this time, but on the way home I thought that biscotti would be a fun thing to make and send to people's pals, if they so desired. I made the offer and I have the begninnings of several orders - a couple of people wanted some for themselves, as well! This is really going to be cool....

....however long it lasts! :)