Thursday, September 18, 2014

Illustrated Recipe: M's Pumpkin Spiced Chocolate Chip Cookie

My sister sent me a recipe to try, a fun take on Chocolate Chip cookies for fall.... spiced with pumpkin spice pudding mix that comes out each September. This recipe will be a little softer than your typical chocolate chip batter, but with brown sugar, honey, and pudding mix, it will definitely be sweet!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Focaccia and then Some!

Focaccia is a flat (baked) bread from Italy that is similar to pizza dough and usually prepared with simple toppings such as rosemary and salt, sautéed onions and peppers, or fresh tomatoes and olives. The bread is spongy and chewy and can stand on it's own or feature the toppings.
We grew up on focaccia, that is, my siblings and me. My father would make it in batches of three for the restaurant as a special and while he frequently baked different breads, there was no doubt when he was preparing focaccia. He'd spend hours making the sponge and then the dough, in between his other chores. We knew we were getting close to nearly ready when we'd see the focaccia filled tins draped with rags on their final rise.
The focaccia would bake with a specific aroma... which I learned was the toppings..
Here's my father slicing the focaccia before a family meal.


And one batch of his classic focaccia just moments before being devoured.
Focaccia has a tender crust and chewy bite, but doesn't keep well. And like breads, there are many ways to eat it, although slicing a wedge and snacking is by far my favorite.
But, if you find yourself with leftover focaccia and can't stand another plain bite, try it some other ways:
  • Take a wedge and use it as a sandwich bread, but slicing it in half and filling it with meats, cheeses, and vegetables.
  • Slice a wedge into tiny squares, toast and make croutons to top your salad.
  • Slice a wedge and top with a slice of cheese and broil
  • Smear a slice with Nutella hazelnut spread for a dessert.
  • Cube a slice and add them to a salad bowl with extra vinegar, chopped onions and raw vegetables to make a quick panzanella salad.
  • Slice focaccia into long pieces and toast to make impromptu breadsticks.
  • Freeze leftover focaccia and then use to make stuffing for Thanksgiving or any poultry dish. The toppings from the focaccia will add additional flavors to your stuffing recipe.
Here's a link to Chef Nancy Silverton's basic focaccia recipe. Warning, it's not a quick recipe and it's not without work. You have to make a sponge starter, then the dough, with times to let it rise. It'll take a few days and be extraordinary, but it is work.



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Illustrated Drawing: Blackberry Vinaigrette

Here's a beautifully bright vinaigrette that would be delicious on a salad, but equally good as an accompaniment to pork or chicken. Use frozen berries if you don't have fresh. Raspberries would be equally delicious.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Illustrated Drawing: Cajun Spice

We were introduced to Cajun spice by Allie's Louisiana boyfriend. We love our foods spiced, so it was really fun to try some new flavor combinations. Perhaps you've seen Emeril Lagasse, the New Orleans chef made famous by his BAM! spice blend. He uses it in place of salt and pepper in dishes and coined the phrase, "taking it up a notch".

Cajun food is different than Creole food, but both are from Louisiana. Some people believe Creole to be city food and cajun to be country food....Even though both culinary aspects overlap and seem to get closer everyday, they are different cuisines.

Cajun food uses the "holy trinity" of flavors - celery, carrots and green pepper. They are the base for many recipes.  Of course, other herbs are added (bay leaf, garlic, oregano, dried shrimp, brown sugar, sassafras leaves).

Creole is a blend of many cultures: African, Italian, Spanish, German, Carribean, Native American and Portuguese. It is thought to be more sophisticated than Cajun food, because of all the influences and spices used in Creole cooking.
Creole cooking uses tomatoes in their jambalaya while Cajuns cuisine does not.
Creole cooking makes a roux with butter and flour, whereas Cajuns use oil an flour.

But, back to the Cajun spice blend. How do you use it?

  • to season potatoes before they are roasted
  • as a rub for fish or meat before grilling
  • stir a teaspoon into half a cup of mayonnaise and you will have a cajun mayo recipe
  • Sprinkle Cajun seasoning onto cooked pasta, in place of salt and pepper.
  • Use Cajun Seasonings in a salad.
  • Sprinkle seasoning on french fries for an unexpected spicy flavor.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Blessings

Gratitude is the best attitude - Author Unknown

I truly believe that being grateful makes me a happier and better person. Life is about the moments and being able to be grateful makes those moments rich. It's easy to get caught up the pitfalls and drudgery of everyday life, for we all go through hassles, problems, and issues. Being able to overcome setbacks is a blessing and recognizing that opportunity is a gift.
The girls had a super busy first week at college. I still can't believe they're back in Boston and the fantastic summer is over. They hit the ground running with classes, labs, meetings, and luckily, meet ups with friends.
I've grateful for small talk. Sometimes it's fun to chat with strangers, just pleasantries, as they used to be called.
I took some time and sat by the water and did a sketch. It was a warm up for a more intricate drawing and I was enjoying my time in the sunshine. A bunch of people came up and talked with me. At first, I admit that I was irritated by the interruption, but then I realized that I was being silly. People were being polite and curious. The sheriff cruised his car over to ask if everything was all right and then came back twenty minutes later to check on me. I was fortunate to interact with kind people while doing something I enjoyed.
My sister sent me a birthday card that brought a smile to my face. It's funny how sisters know how to strike a chord. I'm grateful for her in my life.
Last week my friends set up a small dinner party for my birthday. For some reason, they wanted to have another one, with just the four of us! How lucky was I that my friends took so much time out of their busy lives to be so considerate!
I wasn't feeling too great on Monday and Jonathan made me a delicious pot of homemade chicken soup. It was delicious and he was so careful to fill it with things I love, garlic, leek onion, tender chicken and fresh thyme. I'm blessed to have such a loving husband.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Illustrated Drawing: The Allie Cocktail

Here's a cocktail that my oldest likes. I've had a few tastes and it is delicious. She combines her favorite things: coconut rum, lime and ginger ale... Simple and refreshing.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Illustrated Drawing: Winterberry Tea

This tea is perfect for cold mornings or cool afternoons in autumn. Brew tea, but instead of using water, use cranberry juice. Steep with fragrant spices such as orange, cloves, and cinnamon to make it ultra soothing. Add a spoonful of honey or brown sugar if you have a sweet tooth!
This is great made on the stove top or even in a crockpot.