Category Archives: Foodies

The Ultimate Ice Cream Sandwich

In last night’s French Cooking Class, what started and ended the class was the Profiterole.  Once everyone got settled in, we began making the pate choux dough.  I think if I was ambidexterous, and if I chose to make pate choux every day for about 10 years, I might have some really good looking upper arms.  Stir, stir, stir

When my guests left, and my daughter (aka, the dishwasher) made her way home, I was left to indulge in what I decided was the ultimate ice cream sandwich.

Profiteroles

A profiterole is the shell of a cream puff – pate choux dough, filled with ice cream.  From there, use your imagination.  Any ice cream, gelato, etc.  A dusting of powdered sugar, perhaps.  Chocolate Ganache – YES!  The iterations are limitless.  Coffee ice cream and Ganache.  Butter Pecan ice cream and Caramel, oh, yeah.  Add some grilled peaches?  Oh, my!

So easy is the Pate Choux dough that I believe making it should be a lesson right after scratch brownies and before a basic cake in what a home chef passes along to every man, woman and child they come in contact with.  A slightly passionate statement – maybe.

But Pate Choux is not just for desserts.  Skip the sugar and these vessels are perfect little puffs for chicken salad at a party.  Stir in some gruyere cheese and chives and you have Gougeres – airy little appetizers wonderful with bubbly.  Use a larger puff and fill it with chicken pot pie filling or beef stew.

Hello!  Your Tum-Tum is calling!

Another great thing about Pate Choux – make them ahead and freeze.  Last minute appetizer, main dish or dessert when your thinking and working in advance.

Let’s break it down:

Pate Choux Dough

  • 1 cup of unbleached, all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbls sugar (if the product is being used for sweet applications)
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 whole eggs – must be at room temperature

Whisk together the flour, salt and sugar.  Bring the milk and butter to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Once the milk boils, dump the flour mixture, all at once into the milk.  Stir, stir, stir!  Cook for 1 – 2 more minutes, while stirring constantly.  The dough will form and pull away from the sides of the pan and the wooden spoon that you’re using.  Remove from the heat.  you’ll see a film of cooked crust on the bottom of the pan.  Allow the dough to cool slightly while you make yourself busy doing something else – 5 minutes or so.

Best to have a strong partner at this point.  Add an egg to the dough and stir, stir, stir.  You need to be sure that the egg is completely integrated into the dough before you add another egg; stir, stir, stir.  Repeat until the four eggs are incorporated.

Shovel the dough into a large pastry bag with a plain, round tip.  If you don’t have one of these, use a heavy duty ziplock bag with a corner snipped off.  The opening should be about 3/4 of an inch in diameter.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pre-heat your oven to 400.

Pipe the dough into twelve to 15 rounds.  Try to get them as even as possible.  Use a slightly wet finger tip to press down any points on the rounds so they don’t burn while baking.

Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so the puffs bake evenly.  Bake an additonal 15-20 minutes until a medium golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Carefully pull the top back, or slice them open.  Pull out any doughy center and return to the oven to dry the interior out a bit.  Just a few minutes should do it.

This step isn’t completely necessary, but it can eliminate that ‘eggy’ taste, which some people find objectionably.

Once completely cool, fill with ice cream and serve with chocolate ganache or your favorite ice cream sauce.  A dusting of powdered sugar and a sprig of mint completes the plate scape.

Enjoy!

Banana Wraps, Granola and Chocolate Chips

What some people won’t do to get their kids off to a school on time!  Today started with a TV spot on WHAS-11.  A tweet from Rachel Platt ended the segment where you can see some of the breakfast ideas for kids on their first day back to school.

Back to school breakfasts are very much like weekday dinners, in that you surely must have your pantry stocked in order to pull them off with grace and speed.  Take the Banana Wrap.  Not an original idea by any means, but one worth visiting if the concept is new to your family.   A child of primary school age can certainly make their own Banana Wrap along with yogurt and granola.  And, they will love the idea of holding the banana in a wrapper and enjoying it like, well, a monkey. Maybe we should call them Monkey Wraps!

Ideas for your breakfast pantry – they’re not just for kids.

Peanut, almond or sunflower butter

Whole Grain Wraps/Tortillas – great for lunches too.

Fresh whole fruit

Bananas – when too ripe to eat, slice and freeze for smoothies.  Frozen bananas make the thickest, richest tasting smoothies

Granola – home made is best or visit a Farmers’ Market near you for a great, local selection from Full Heart Farms

Milk, Soy or Almond Milk

Eggs

Dried Fruits, peanuts, sunflower seeds and chocolate chips for trail mix

Whole Grain Breads, Pita – keep in the freezer to prolong life

Salad greens – yep, salad greens – if your kids eat salads, breakfast is a great time to add in more veggies to their diets.  Stuff a salad into a pita and add some fresh minced strawberries or peaches and skip the dressing.

Yogurt, skim milk or almond milk for smoothies

Banana Wraps

For each wrap, you will need:

  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 whole grain tortilla
  • 2 Tbls peanut butter, soy butter or sunflower seed butter
  • 1 Tbls or so chocolate chips, dried fruits, etc.

Place the tortilla on a cutting board and spread with the nut butter.  sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Lay the banana on the tortilla and wrap it up.  Cut in half, if desired.

Enjoy!

Pasta e Fagioli

The other day, I had the chance to sit in one of my favorite lunch places and reminisce  about a bowl of Pasta e Fagioli.  Sipping on a hot, fresh cup of coffee, the question that was pressing for me was; “What’s the soup of the Day?”  When the returned answer was Pasta e Fagioli, my menu choice was made.  I smiled, asked for crusty bread to accompany the soup and settled in to recall my first trip down Zuppa lane.

A few years into my experience of teaching cooking classes, I looked at every opportunity to partner with other small businesses to bring a new concept to our collective publics.  Working at the Farmers’ Market in St. Matthews, my next booth neighbor was Justin Gilbert of the locally famous Gelato Gilberto.  We talked about his experiences in Italy and before you know it, we’d agreed to partner in offering a few Italian Cooking Classes in his home.

Justin’s home just wasn’t any home, but a three story, cozy condo in Norton Commons.  Above his Gelato Gilberto business, his family enjoyed their perch above the little village in Prospect.  We tried a few classes in his shop and a few in his and his family’s cucina at the top of the stairs.

It was up those winding stairs that the magic of food and friendship took place.  We began the evening with some antipasti, the details, I don’t remember.  What sticks in my mind and what I thought quietly about that day last week in Blue Dog Bakery and Cafe was the Panzanella Salad, the Pasta d Fagioli and the Gelato.

Patricia Wells, one of my favorite cookbook authors says: ‘there are about as many versions of pasta and bean soup as there are cooks…varies from a broth-like bean soup to a creamy bean puree…’  The one I had at Blue Dog, and the one that I make (although different) are of the brothy variety.  Tonight, we are sharing my version, along with a homemade loaf of bread and, I am sure a few glasses of vino.

Pasta e Fagioli

  • 2-3 oz. of finely diced Pancetta
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2-3 ribs celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup or more diced carrot
  • 2 Tbls olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 cup, or more diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup uncooked pasta, or two cups cooked pasta
  • 3 cups cannelini beans, undrained – if canned*

Begin by preparing the diced vegetables.  Drizzle the olive oil into a stock pot.  Add the onion and Pancetta and begin to saute.  Once the onion has softened, add the celery and carrot and cook until the onion is translucent and the celery and carrot have begun to soften up a bit.  Season with salt and pepper and add the pinch of crushed red pepper and bay leaf.  Add the stock and tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente.  add the cooked beans.

Heat the soup until completely hot and the pasta the perfect consistency.

For, me, I love a sprinkling of fresh Parmigiano cheese, fresh grated black pepper and some basil chiffonade.

*It’s easy to cook beans from their dried state, but they do take a bit of a watchful eye and time.  See my blog post about cooking beans, January 12, 2009.

Enjoy!

National Cookie Month

I sometimes imagine that I have the power to make big things happen. It routinely gets me into trouble. At home. At work. But in my little corner of the world, and if I had the power, I would make January National Cookie Month. It might seem odd that I would chose January. After all, December is most likely the month that most cookies are baked. Holiday cookies. Take a look around and see all the magazines that are produced for December distribution. Cooking Shows and Cookie Exchanges, all in December.

December is way too busy a month for me to bake all the cookies that I desire. Many times, I do bake dozens! In some memorable years, I’ve been know to bake hundreds of dozens. The problem is, of course, that I don’t have time to eat them. They are usually given away or devoured by others anyway. January is my time to bake and eat cookies.

This January, I have a new favorite cookie to share. It’s been on my mind since I found the recipe in a special publication called Food Gifts. Sorry to tell you that you probably won’t be able to find the magazine any longer on the book shelves. It’s display date ended on December 10th. But, I am sharing the delicious recipe (well, my rendition) with you, and will keep you alerted to other inspirations of the print variety.

The name of the recipe ‘Toffee-Pecan Chippers in a Jar’ drew me in right away. The picture of the layered cookie mix was cutely staged. I built the jarred cookie mix in a class in early December, but didn’t actually mix the cookies up until Christmas Eve, when my schedule for dessert baking was evaporating and I was getting desperate. Since Christmas Eve, I’ve baked these cookies three times. They are that good.

You might be able to imagine that I didn’t make the recipe exactly as prescribed. The changes I made relate to my desire to put coconut oil in lots of different baked goods (see my post on My Morning Muffin). Coconut oil gives wonderful texture to muffins, cookies and even cakes. I generally substitue about 1/2 of the butter or oil in a recipe for coconut oil. I no longer use Crisco shortning in pie crusts, substituting half butter and half coconut oil. The results are delectable.

Toffee-Pecan Chippers

2 Tbls butter
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups White Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup Heath Bar crumbles
1/3 cup coconut
1/3 cup chopped nuts or sunflower seeds

Directions:

Cream together the fats and sugars.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix until smooth.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir in with a wooden spoon.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Scoop the cookies into mounds onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Use your fingers to press the mounds into flattened discs. (This helps the cookies bake more uniformly.)

Bake for 5 minutes, then spin the cookie sheets around (left to right).  Bake for another 3-5 minutes.  Baking time relates to the individual oven, so be prepared to watch the cookies closely.  You’ll see the cookies puff and dry slightly on top and become golden brown on the edges next to the pan.

Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool completely on the pan.  This gives the cookie a chance to continue to crisp up on the outside, yet stay chewy on the inside.  That, my friend, is a description of the perfect cookie!

If you’re baking all the cookies at once, you’ll most likely need two baking sheets.  I like to give my cookies aboout 2″ between each one so that they bake evenly and crisp up nicely.

Enjoy!

It’s Hard to Eat 13 Servings of Fruits and Veggies…

… If you don’t start with Breakfast!

Every week since the first of the year, I am finding new inspiration to ‘eat my veggies’.  Most recently, a youtube video by a doctor whose MS was reversed by completely changing her food plan.  The key, Dr. Terry Wahls says is to eat three huge platefuls of leafy greens per day.  Kale is touted as being the most nutritious green helping us to make these cellular changes.  Take a few minutes and watch this video – you won’t regret it.

Back to Breakfast.  My first inkling that eating something green for breakfast was during my days at Breadworks.  We made wonderful salads with a great mix of field greens, brightly colored peppers, onions and seeds.  Topped with a conservative amount of cheddar cheese and drizzled with a bit of balsamic vinaigrette, it was tasty.  Crunchy, sweet, savory, acidic and satisfying.  But, I have to admit that I was pretty surprised that one of my regular customers was eating it for breakfast!  Once she explained, I thought: “why not?”

Years have past, but I still try to take a routine stab at adding veggies to breakfast.  Sure, it’s easy to add left over vegetables to an omelet, but more recently, I’ve gone a different route. With a selection of veggies and greens almost always in the fridge, I’ve decided to broaden the experiment.  I was never one to really ‘love’ breakfast food, unless of course, if I can ‘love’ my chocolate chip cookies with my morning coffee.  So why not cook foods that we think of as lunch and dinner foods for breakfast?

I’ll not give up on the breakfast salad that I introduced at Breadworks, but lots of times, I want a warm, filling plate in the morning.  So, here are a few of my new favorite things:

Steamed Kale with leftover potatoes, sauteed with a bit of olive oil and red onion

Roasted peppers, tomatoes and eggplant over a steaming mound of polenta

Stir fried rice with egg and minced peppers, mushrooms, green onion and jalapeno

Arugula, with a simple dressing made from red wine vinegar and olive oil, with pistachios thrown on for protein.  Adding a piece of whole grain toast with a bit of shaved Parmesan will let you think you might just be in Tuscany for Breakfast.

Visit a previous post of mine: ‘Stir Fried Rice Makes Good Use of Leftovers’ for the details of making the fried rice. For Breakfast, I usually streamline the process by just doing the egg, some veggies and a little sesame oil.

Enjoy!

Mark’s Favorite Onion Rings

Yep, they tell me they are still talking about the onion rings.  Introduced to Mark and ‘the redhead’ about 5 years ago, these onion rings are a staple in our celebratory repertoire.  If there is a special event where Mark is the focus, you can be sure that I’ll be in charge of the onion rings.  And rightly so.

I saw a simple batter recipe about a million years ago in a magazine or newspaper, had the urge to try it, and the rest is history.  Imagine the light and crispy canned French’s onion rings you put on top of a green bean casserole.  Now, imagine them hot, fresh and just sprinkled with salt.  Imagine piles of them.  Put them on your burger, dip them in ketchup, just eat them!  Fast, before everyone else catches on.

Mark's Favorite Onion Rings

There is no doubt that the batch made for Mark’s party the other night turned out really well because of my portable deep fryer.  Turning these rings in a saute pan takes a bit too much attention.  If you don’t have a little fryer, just use a fairly deep, but narrow sauce pan and place about 3″ of canola or vegetable oil in the pan.  The optimal temperature for deep frying is between 350 and 360 degrees.  Less than 350 and the food will absorb too much fat and taste greasy.  Hotter than 360, the exterior will cook too quickly, leaving the interior undercooked.  This may sound too precise for some, but using a candy/deep fry thermometer makes the process simple.  A sample onion ring tossed into the hot oil should also give you the clue as to whether the oil is hot enough to begin.  The food should start bubbling the second it’s dropped into the oil.

Add enough of the food (other vegetables coated in this batter fry up nicely too), to make your batches efficient, but keep in mind the temperature of the oil will drop with each addition, causing the cooking process to slow down.  Give the rings room to swim.

Another tip is to salt them as soon as they come out of the oil, but not before.  Salt is one of a few things that will cause the oil to break down.  You might want to experiment with some salt and pepper combinations to jazz your rings up even more.  Maybe a bit of cayenne or chipotle, smoked paprika, or even a bit of cinnamon and sugar.  Ooh, deep fried sweet potato fries with chipotle, cinnamon and sugar… a story for another day.

One last thing before we start; plan ahead.  The batter is easy, but it takes a while to rest before it’s ready.

Mark’s Favorite Onion Rings

  • 1 cup beer
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 sweet onions, such as vidalia or mayan sweets
  • canola or vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper

Pour the beer over the flour in a small bowl; stir with a whisk until smooth.  Allow the batter to rest for 4 hours.  This gives the gluten in the flour time to develop.  Slice the onion into rings about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick  and place in large, open bowl.  Pour the rested batter over the onion rings, gently mixing to coat.  The rings can stay in the batter for a while before you cook them.

Heat the oil to 350-360 degrees.  Drop a sample ring in the oil and cook until golden brown.  Remove to a platter that is lined with paper towels or brown grocery bags.  Salt and/or season as soon as the rings are removed from the oil so that the salt will adhere.  Cool slightly before eating.

If you are working in small batches, line a baking sheet with additional paper towels and keep in a 200 degree oven while the remaining rings are frying.

Caution: if you and your guests beginning nibbling before the bulk of the rings are fried, you won’t have enough rings to add to the dinner table.

Enjoy!

Jackie’s Bacon Squares

My mom always steals the show when she brings these little noshes to an event.  During our pre-travel Italy events last year, the crowd gobbled them up, so it was only natural that our newly forming 2011 Travel Group should get the benefit of these tasty morsels.

Word travels fast when a basket of Bacon Squares hits the door.  Selfish people might think to keep the news to themselves, but everyone starts raving… and eating these snacks.  Before you know it, they’re gone.  It’s best, I guess that I didn’t even get ONE last time, because one is really never enough.  Sort of like the reason I don’t keep potato chips in the house, once you get started, it’s too hard to stop.

Try these with some bubbly at an appetizer party.  The salty, crunchy combo is perfect with cava, prosecco or champagne.  You will too form a love-hate relationship with this recipe.  A guilty pleasure for sure.

Jackie’s Bacon Squares

  • Keebler Club Crackers
  • 1 pound sliced bacon (not thick sliced)
  • parmesan cheese

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Cut the sliced bacon into quarters (each slice will now be 4 small slices).  Line the baking sheet with crackers and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Place one of the 1/4 slices of bacon on each cracker and again sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  One pound of bacon will make 60-68 crackers.

Bake for approximately 2 hours.  The bacon and the crackers will be crispy.  Mom says “enjoy the compliments”.

Happy New Year!