30 March 2011

Pommes Dauphinoise

Cantal cheese

I am in the charming French midst of "A Table in the Tarn" written by Orlando Murrin.  The food, the ambiance, the decor, the countryside....it's all here in detail!  It's been my private escape this week!  I may just need to take a jaunt to visit "Le Manoir de Raynaudes" in the future, business research for our Inn On Evans of course!  (As long as my CPA doesn't read this blog!)

Pommes Dauphinoise is a dish that I've had on my to do list for some time and tonight was perfect.  I had all the ingredients and the appetite!  It was totally worth waiting for...rich cheese sauce, potatoes cooked through, but with a firm bite, a tiny bit if garlic goodness and crispy "crust" on top!!  Thank you Orlando Murrin for making my Tuesday night!  I'm topping the evening off with a decaf Cafe au Lait (even though no self respecting European would ever drink one past 10am!) and finishing the rest of the book.

recipe by Orlando Murrin

1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1 teaspoon salt
plenty of freshly ground pepper, grated nutmeg & pinch of cayenne
2 pounds potatoes, sliced super thin
1 cup Cantal cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large saucepan combine garlic, milk, cream, potatoes and seasonings.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, simmer for a minute or 2 until mixture is noticably thicker then remove from heat and add 1/2 of the cheese.  Stir until cheese is melted, pour into a well buttered quiche pan, making sure all potatoes are covered with liquid and sprinkle with remaining cheese.  I baked about 40 minutes but depending on the depth of your dish you may need to add a few more minutes.  The cheese should be a deep golden brown and a bit bubbly.

I served with a lovely green salad lightly dressed with vinaigrette and some baked chicken. 
Bon Appetite!

PS  I googled Le Manoir de Raynaudes and it's FOR SALE!!!   

29 March 2011

The Art of Saying Nothing....

Some of the best advice I've ever received was simple..."you don't need to say anything".  About anyone, for their own good, because they should know how you feel, just to be honest, etc.  It's advice that goes against every psychiatrist, Oprah guest guru and best friends around the globe, but it works for me. 

This is not about repressing my feelings (maybe it is?) it's about not saying anything until I have a chance to calm down.  "CD" as it's known in my house full of; 4 women, 2 cats, a puppy, 1 man, in-laws that live 4 miles away, parents that live 3 miles away and running 4 businesses with your husband.  "CD" is stressed on a daily basis (even if it's NOT said out loud) for us. 

I can guarantee that I drive John crazy.  We are polar opposites on so many things, yet have been married 22 years.  We often practice the art of saying nothing,( usually because we are too dang tired to argue)...but because we respect each other and don't need to bring up negative finger pointing.  Ugh, there is nothing worse than having to admit your own shortcomings, out loud no less.  This makes our marriage happier because it's without all those nasty comments dangling around. 

We are beginning the process of remodeling our Four Corners Creamery kitchen at The Boulevard Market.  We are getting lots of practice in "The Art of Saying Nothing".  I am saying lots of prayers to make it quick!  

28 March 2011

Asian Noodle Soup

The cold winter turned to a cold spring and here we have stayed.  Noodle soup is necessary for me to keep a positive attitude at this point. Add remodeling Four Corners Creamery kitchen to our plates and noodle soup becomes medicinal.  It's hard to be stressed out when you are eating this soup.

One of my very favorite celebrity chef/cookbook author is Nigella Lawson.  I think her sense of adventure and creativity in the kitchen is inspiring and her humor makes reading her recipes great fun! 
I am always looking for ways to up our vegetable intake during the cold months and the bright green of the baby bok choy and sugar snap peas really looks spring like! 

I hope Nigella doesn't mind that I changed her "Noodle Soup for Needy People" recipe to fit my tastes, but if you'd like the original, it can be found in Nigella Express, page 167.  

This recipe goes together QUICK!!!  Really less than 10 minutes to eating.  We always seem to have a loaf of bread and a few bites of cheese (big surprise) along side the soup bowls.

6 ounces Udon Noodles, I've also successfully used Soba, Rice and plain ol' chinese noodles
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 cup sugar snap peas, cut in half
1 cup shitake mushrooms, sliced  I've used button, cremini, shitake even portobella
1 cup baby bok choy, chopped

In a small saucepan, cook noodles according to directions.  Drain and fill bottom of bowls.
In a large sauce pan, bring stock, soy sauce and ginger to a boil then add vegetables.  It shouldn't take more than 2-3 minutes to cook through.  Pour broth and vegetables over noodles and enjoy!
Love that bright green of the peas and bok choy!

Steamy Soup!!

26 March 2011

Cuban Pork Tacos

A few years ago, there was a ratty little street vendor that made the BEST Cuban pork tacos I've ever had and I have worked hard to make them that great ever since.  I don't know that this recipe is authentic, just that the flavor combination was outstanding and I loved it!

  This week I think I have exceeded any previous attempts!  If you've not had a Cuban pork taco, you're in for a taste sensation like no other!

I usually make these tacos when I have leftover pork, which is a fabulous and easy!  I season up my pork a day in advance, so there is plenty of flavor.  I usually don't use a recipe for the seasonings, but just eyeball according to the amount of pork I'm using, so this is a "recipe" for about 2 cups of shredded or diced meat.

2 Tablespoons Lime juice
1/2  teaspoon cumin   

1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 clove minced garlic
pinch of cayenne
salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons minced cilantro

Mix together and let marry overnight. 

Mango Salsa:
2 mangoes, diced in 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 jalapeno or serrano pepper, diced
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced
1/2 clove garlic
salt & pepper to taste

Chop all and blend about an hour before serving.

I fry my corn tortilla in vegetable oil about 1-2 minutes per side, depending on how soft you like them, fill with warmed pork and top with mango salsa!    Serve in a paper towel or waxed paper!!  Easy and fantastic!

24 March 2011

Sicilian Catering & Cooking

Yesterday was a big day around The Boulevard Market.  I executed a full plated catering at The Market for 10 people and taught a cooking class of the foods they were eating at the same time.  It was tremendous for me.

 A few years ago we visited Sicily on a buyers tour for The Market and I really fell in love with the cuisine of Sicily.  Maybe not this dish:
But I ate it.  After removing the head, spine and tail of course.  I didn't think my guests would be enthusiastic about eating/cooking this.

I will share recipes and menu (if I can figure out THAT process-ugh!) with you in case you get the urge to cook Sicilian anytime soon! You can find the little recipe book on it's own page if you scroll to the top and click on the page titled "Sicilian Recipe Booklet".  Here is the menu:

Rocket Salad
Pasta in Wine Sauce
Beef Tenderloin
Sicilian Potato Salad
Focaccia Bread with Anchovies
Lemon Mascarpone Cheesecake

I also served wines with the courses; Insolia/Greccanico blend for the antipasti & salad courses and Nero d'Avola for the pasta & main course, both indigenous to Sicily.  I chose a lovely little Zibbiano Moscato for the dessert course!  Espresso and a square of Sicilian style chocolate finished off the evening.

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and there was not a bit of food left, except a few bites of focaccia bread with the anchovy/evoo spread, which is adventuresome to many.

I decorated our table in simple cloths, ranunculous in vases and beautiful cheese boards!  Much like I experienced in Italian homes on this trip.  I love the look of antipasti on natural wood and slate. 

I did get a bit involved with the recipe books.  I stopped at a craft store and picked up heavy brown scrapbook paper with a pretty design and patina, cut to fit and wrapped a bit of black paper as a binding, secured with little butterfly clips.  I printed off a title and secured it to the cover with red wax seal...yes, the little sticks do catch fire occasionally, like the warning on the box.

The cooking class was also successful as I did  not spill anything, burn myself or the food and kept on time.  I always appreciate the folks that help me pull off these stunts, in this case Brandie and John!   

23 March 2011

Little Pierre

Last night was Pierre's first sleep over ever.  I can only assume it was not a happy event for him as it was time to be neutered.  This photo explains that necessity perfectly:

Pulling on pant legs is not attractive.  Neither is lifting a leg at The Boulevard Market...I did stop that, just in time! 

We missed our little greeter, it was pretty quiet here last night.  The cats enjoyed eating their treats (and Pierre's treats) in peace and sleeping the day away without interruption.  I missed his squirmy little body and puppy kisses.  I am looking forward to picking him up this morning!
We are anticipating a big change in attitude after this incident!

18 March 2011

Lemon Pound Cake

The only downfall of living in a rural area is the lack of coffee shops that stay open past 7pm.  I usually treat my decaf latte at night as a dessert.  Starbucks lemon pound cake speaks to me too.  Lusty, compelling lemon-y words in a deep sexy tone, cajoling me to take a slice home...just one.

I cannot resist that voice.  I am not driving 25 miles to get a slice of cake today.

Next best thing?  Cruise the internet for a knockoff recipe!  I found the same recipe all over the place.  I had a few meyer lemons in the fridge, but no lemon extract, so I substituted lemon oil  and got to work.  I found the recipe here: http://www.recipesecrets.net/forums/recipe-exchange/26874-starbucks-lemon-pound-cake.html

Starbucks Lemon Pound Cake

1-1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
3 eggs
1 c granulated sugar
2 T butter, softened
1 t vanilla extract
1 t lemon extract
1/3 c lemon juice
1/2 c vegetable oil
Lemon Icing
1 c plus 1 T powdered sugar
2 T whole milk
1/2 t lemon extract

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt in a large bowl. Use an
electric mixer to blend together eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, lemon extract
& lemon juice in a medium bowl. Pour wet ingredient into dry ingredients &
blend until smooth. Add oil & mix well.

Pour ingredients into a well-greased 9x5-inch loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes
or until a toothpick stuck into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Make the lemon icing by combining ingredients in a small bowl with electric
mixer on low speed. When the lemon loaf is cool, remove it from the pan &
frost the top with the lemon icing. When the icing has set up, slice the
loaf into eight 1-inch-thick slices.

Makes 8 slices. 

There are a couple things I would change if making this recipe again.  In fact I KNEW I should change them the first time and didn't listen to myself!

1) Use a glass loaf pan in the 8X4 size.  My cake got too brown and crusty in a non-stick pan and the 9X5 size made for a flatter loaf.  If you want the delicate crust, go with the glass.
2) Drizzle with a third of lemon the icing immediately so it soaks into the top layer, then cool loaf and drizzle with the remaining icing.
3) I used the lemon oil which was really good, but it still had a bit of that earthy zesty flavor versus the pure lemon flavor of the extract.  Next time I will use the extract.

Don't get me wrong, there were NO complaints on this recipe, if fact it was really great.  I was a bit hesitant about adding the oil, but it made the texture fantastic and delicate, just like Starbucks.  I'm looking forward to making this again with noted changes and maybe I will slice and display on a domed cake plate, coffeehouse style!

17 March 2011

Irish Soda Bread

It was a glorious Spring St Patrick's Day in Michigan!  68 degrees,sun, corned beef and green beer!! 
John is the Irishman in our family and I've had fun over the years making some lovely traditional meals, however, we celebrate St Patrick's Day American style.  Corned Beef in the pressure cooker, cabbage and potatoes fried in butter and Irish Soda Bread. 

I have made many soda bread recipes and the following comes from The KitchenAid Cookbook, which is hands down, our favorite.  Flavorful, moist and crusty bread that tastes great served sweet or savory.  I usually add raisins, but wasn't in a raisin mood today, so went with the plain version.

2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup raisins
1 tablespoon caraway seed
1 tablespoon milk for brushing on top of loaf
1 tablespoon raw sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Place flour, soda, salt and butter in mixing bowl.  Using the flat beater, mix about 2 minutes until mixture resembles crumbs.

Add remaining ingredients and mix about a minute until well blended.
Shape into a round on a greased baking sheet or stone, brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar or herbs. Bake 45-55 minutes until loaf is deep golden brown and crusty.  Let cool and serve with butter or jam.

I like to brush the top with a bit of milk and sprinkle with some raw sugar for a great crust and a bit of sweetness.  You could also sprinkle with fresh or dried herbs.  Dill is especially lovely and goes with the green theme! 
Tulips are sprouting!

14 March 2011

New stuff; the beauty and the beast...

I have reached the age that "new" does not necessarily mean good things!  "New" now comes with strings.  It means I have to re-learn, read labels, become accustomed to different smells, travel un-chartered territory.

In today's case, I am excited to learn new things!  I have been using a (gasp) point and shoot camera.  It shows.  My photographs are not something to be proud of, but they've had to work because I was not ready to learn how to use a new camera...with seven thousands buttons and a big lens.  Today I took the plunge, now don't get your hopes up too soon-one of my biggest secrets is....I don't know how to use the remote control on the TV.  It doesn't bother me that I don't know either. 

It's not all electronics, just the TV.  I also don't know how to make my phone blink different colors or change the fonts on my emails-I have teenagers for that stuff!!!  But the camera is a different thing all together.  I am reading the MANUAL!!!  I am ready to take beautiful photos.  I hope you will bear with me and feel free to send suggestions of your photo learning curves- I would love it!

I will refrain from adding a photo today!

11 March 2011

A Dog Birthday Party!

Birthday Boy Marty!!

Yesterday was Marty's 1st birthday.  Marty is my brother Mike's miniature Australia Shepard.  He is a little farm doggie, he helps himself to fresh vegetables from the fields, chases away the rabbits and does a great job herding all other animals and people to their appropriate places!  Marty lives across the road from my parents, so they babysit him quite frequently and he gets along well with their dog, Ajax.

Pierre LOVES his dog family!  So we thought we ought to have a birthday party for Marty with all of the trimmings!
The dog family: Marty, Pierre and Ajax

I found a cake recipe here: http://baking.food.com/recipe/dog-doggie-birthday-cake-193085 . I was out of a couple ingredients, so I adjusted to to this recipe.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup corn oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup chicken, diced small
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/4 cup carob chips
peanut butter and yogurt for frosting

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease a 9X5 loaf pan.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter adding eggs, oil and meat.  Stir in dry ingredients and pour into pan.  Bake for 1 hour until golden brown and crispy on outside.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and turn out, leaving cake on it's top side.
Almost party ready!

I took a sharp bread knife and cut away the sides and notched the ends, so the cake resembled a dog bone.
I then frosted with peanut butter and piped MARTY with greek style yogurt (ziploc bag with end snipped off) and decorated with some carob chips.
Pierre's hat had to be customized!

Mike and Ajax; the uncles

What a hit!!!  The dogs absolutely LOVED the cake!!  They even allowed us to put party hats on them and pose for photos (sort of) for another piece of cake!  A birthday party was complete with some doggie take home treats in bags!  


09 March 2011

Embarrassing Addictions...

I am addicted to notebooks.  It's an addiction I've had for years.  I have tried to stop using them and purchasing more than I need, but it's impossible.

I bought a new one this week (the old ones were filled) and it's a real beauty!!  It has a big thick hard cover in a spring green color.  It has 3 (THREE) divider tabs with lined, graph and plain paper in a lovely ivory color.   The pages are also micro perforated (love that) and have a fun little graphic on them.  On top of all those great qualities it has an elastic band that goes over the front cover and a pocket in back. 

That would be Pierre's nose in action AGAIN!
The brand is "Semikolon" and you can find them here:  http://www.semikolon.com/82.html

I can't wait to fill it up with notes and treasures, lists and orders, recipes and addresses!  I keep all of my notebooks and they are filled with the mundane as well as some of the most momentous occasions/happenings in my life.

It's interesting how I never even realized my (our family) history is being written down daily.  It's bits and pieces, it's what to do, where to go and doodles.  It's names and numbers, what we are eating and where to find it.  It's in writing, it's permanent, it's me.   
Trusty travel journal in Paris...

08 March 2011

"Style & Substance"

I thought it quite interesting when browsing magazines at the local bookseller, the front row is covered in magazines for 20 something women, and yet nearly every woman shopping that evening was definitely in the 30+ range. 

I have been immensely enjoying a magazine named "MORE" with the tagline being ""For Women of Style & Substance" for many months.  It is full of gloriously beautiful women, fashion tips etc. and yet lacks the icky articles of ob/gyn issues (do we need those, isn't that why I have a physician?) ANOTHER 30 minute casserole recipe, and how to get that pesky laundry stain out.  I read magazines to escape of all that stuff!!!  "More" is just that...articles of women that have substance, something to talk about (besides each other), articles that inspire and fashion that flatters WOMEN....not teenagers! It does have food and beauty tips and a bit of Hollywood glamour/gossip.  I love their "Fashion Finds for under $200",easy to let yourself have a bit of fun with the trendiest shoes,colors and skirts!


Occasionally "More" does go a bit above my idea of reasonable.  For example, they once had an article that was written about jewelry and how much women might spend on a piece of jewelry for themselves....$10,000 was the "limit", anything above that was for spouses/significant others to purchase for them.  Hmmmm, that tells me there are a lot of meanings to the word "substance".  But then again, I will spend $40 on a pound of cheese, and I'm sure that would raise some eyebrows!!!

I'm working on my substance every day.  Am I learning and experiencing?  Am I listening?  Am I helping?  Am I grateful and gracious?  Am I enjoying my life to the fullest?  Are you?