Oh my goodness, Christmas is here!

Oh how the month has flown. Christmas is upon us and I finally sat down to chronicle my food adventures.

Cookies for Santa

Do-It-Yourself Vanilla

I saw directions for homemade vanilla extract all over Pintrest.com this season for DIY gifts. But it was the post from, the host of The Splendid Table, that made the most sense to me. In my opinion, Lynne Rossetto Kasper is the voice of reason out there in the blogging and media world of food and cooking. Follow the web connection of The Splendid Table- Vanilla Extract to see the recipe and directions.

Vanilla Beans

vodka and bottles

split the vanilla beans

fermenting vanilla beans

24th Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange

2013 Cookie Exchange group picture

quilted cookie plate

“Quilted” Sugar Cookies (aren’t they darling?)

Chocolate Pistachio Sables'

Chocolate-Pistachio Sablés from Bon Appétit  magazine December 2013

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Chocolate Almond Shortbread

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Sesame Street Cookies

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I don’t know what the name of these cookies but they were really tasty.

Patty’s Points:

1. The homemake vanilla extract takes at least 4 weeks to ferment. I started making mine before Thanksgiving. I have yet to try it out to see how it tastes. I gave it to true bakers who really were excited to receive it as gifts.

2. Vanilla beans and vodka are best to buy in bulk to keep the cost down. Costco was my main stop. I made 10 bottles of extract = 40 beans and 2 large (1500 ml) bottles of American vodka=$15.00 each. Each bean averaged about $1.20 which is a good deal. Think of it like a sourdough bread starter; you can replenish the vodka, add more beans and even use the beans for another recipe.

3. The cookie exchange was fabulous. Many people said the cookies were the best efforts in years. Of course, the talk of the party were Pat’s sugar cookies with the edible quilt square pattern atop. She ordered them online. I’ll have to corner her to find out where she got them.

4. I made Chocolate-Pistachio Sablés- from Bon Appétit  and Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars. I had a theme of cookies with sea salt.

The Chocolate-Pistchio Sablés were great for a working person as myself. I made them a month ago and prepped them for the freezer. I thawed, sliced and baked them a day before the party. The sea salt is placed atop each cookie before baking. Next time I’ll make the rolled dough a little thicker for a bigger diameter cookie.

 I saw several Salted Caramel Bar cookie recipes online and quickly deduced how easy they were. Make your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and place half of the dough in a lightly buttered 8 x 11 baking pan. Melt 6 oz of caramel squares with 1-3 TBSP of milk or cream or purchase a 6 oz jar of caramel sauce. Melt the squares in the microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring until smooth. Place the slightly cooled caramel atop the cookie dough and sprinkle with sea salt. Place the other half of the cookie dough atop the caramel and smooth with an oiled spatula. Sprinkle the top of the dough again with sea salt. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes, turning the pan halfway through for even baking. Let the dough rest because it will be very soft with the dough and caramel. Cut into two inch squares.

Happy Christmas and New Year to all my readers and fellow bloggers. Enjoy your time with family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.

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The never ending search

The planning for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year has been going on for a month and a half now in the food and crafting blogs. This past week I saw posts on planning, cooking, decorating, and recovering from Thanksgiving. Luckily, I only had to make two side dishes to the Thanksgiving dinner I attended.

This great big world of the internet is kind of funny.  I am sure that you, like me, have been searching for new recipes and looking for old standards to make and share with our loved ones. Dinner, cookie swaps, afternoon teas, potlucks, parties, brunches and cocktail hours.

A new favorite website of mine is Pintrest; my daughter got me hooked on it. I’ve discovered that the pictures are sometimes better than the actual recipe. That is the beauty and the downfall of the internet and blogging.

I recently read a blog post on Blogher.com about Martha Stewart’s comment where she was uncomplimentary to amateur internet food bloggers.  I like Martha Stewart, especially when she was new in the business and was more involved her television show and magazine. She’s been to jail, she’s been humbled, she knitted sweaters; she’s been there and did that. Her humble beginnings are now a big conglomerate. Her brand also has a professional blog , Martha Stewart “Up Close and Personal.”

I started The Fearless Cooking Club and this blog out of admiration for Julia Child. Julia had humble beginnings and was a pioneer in cooking and television. She wasn’t afraid to make mistakes. She lives on with her quotes, philosophy and recipes on PBS.com. The blogging world is a combination of Martha and Julia. There are big blogs and small blogs; there are blog businesses and blog amateurs. I am an amateur with a small blog. There are other small bloggers out there like me.

I’m a self-taught cook and blogger, I’ve learned a few things about recipes. So in the spirit of this blog and the holiday season here are my points on the never ending search for the great recipe.

Patty’s Points:

1. When reading a recipe, look at the ingredients first. I blogged about this back in 2011. I was philosophical back then.

Do you like the ingredients? Are they in your pantry? Will it take time out of your day to get them? Is the ingredient necessary to the recipe? or could a substitution be made?

I make substitutions all the time. I regularly substitute chard for kale. I am still harvesting chard from my garden. To buy kale specifically for a recipe would be wasteful. It is an equal substitute.  Sometimes substitutions just don’t work, like putting Stevia or Splenda to replace sugar in a baking recipe. I tried this with a blueberry pie recipe last year. I’m not sure it tasted very good. It definitely would not work with taking candy to a hard crack like this Pumpkin Brittle.

pumpkin brittle

2. Read the directions. Do they make sense? Are they easy to follow? How much time will it take? Will you need to refrigerate the ingredients over night?

smores picture

homemade marshamallows

I have never made homemade marshmallows –  yet.directions

When I first started cooking and baking I threw everything into a bowl or pot and that was it! Very little technique was involved. I read a hand written recipe that had the ingredients on the card and at the bottom the directions were ‘Cook for 1 1/2 hours.’  If you don’t have any cooking knowledge or memory of how it is made it would be difficult to follow. Many loved recipes my mother wrote on stationery from my dad’s business. I’ll never throw them out because they are priceless piece of my family history. But, I’ll have to draw on my cooking knowledge or memory to make it.

Cooking and baking is about technique. The directions help develop technique and skill. I’ve been reading about how to make croissants off and on for several months. There is a lot of technique to making croissants and some day I may tackle it. In the meantime, I am still reading about it, getting up the courage to make a mess in the kitchen. Croissants take at least two days to accomplish. It wouldn’t be a good idea to start making it then go out of town next week.

3. Have you made a recipe similar to this one before? From your past experience, is there an easier way to make the recipe than the directions?

I made a turkey meatball soup today. I had all but one of the ingredients on hand but it was easy for my husband to pick up while doing errands. It took a day of preparation before I made the soup. I had to thaw the ground turkey overnight and there were a lot of ingredients that needed chopping. I chopped all the ingredients and placed them in a container to refrigerate overnight.

The next morning I was putting the recipe parts together. The meatball recipe looked bland; the cooking technique looked like it might be mushy.  So I referred to two of my basic, stand-by cookbooks. One cookbook  mentioned that if making the meatball with poultry you should refrigerate the balls for one hour before cooking or they would fall apart. The other cookbook advised to put the meatballs in mini muffin tins to keep them firm and round.  Also, one of the ingredients was 1/2 cups brown rice. Was is cooked or un-cooked rice? I couldn’t tell, so I relied on my instincts of making a similar meatball recipe. Everyone has their own way of doing things, but it needs to translate to my kitchen.

meatballs

meatball soup

4. My kitchen, maybe like yours, is the dumping ground for purses, grocery bags, kitchen equipment etc. Sometimes I am spinning around my kitchen looking for the olive oil bottle and still can’t find it because of the clutter.

piles in the kitchen

kitchen clutter

dirty dishes

Before making the recipe: a) clean the kitchen, b) do the dishes, and/or c) clear the clutter. I think in the directions it should say have those as the #1 on the list. You run the risk of starting a fire or dumping ingredients all over. I accidentally dumped cake batter onto my Brighton purse once. That was crazy. Everytime I carry that purse I think of that day! Don’t you wish you would see Ree Drummond or Lidia Bastianach show how they clean the kitchen before and after making their signature dishes?

Good luck out there navigating the internet. Five weeks of the holidays are yet to come. And don’t forget, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner!

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My little dumpling

Image representing AllRecipes as depicted in C...

Image by None via CrunchBase

Today’s post is an accidental adventure.  I was making a clean-out-the-refrigerator quiche and had an extra single pie crust.  I didn’t have enough apples to make a full pie, then remembered I  had an apple dumpling for the first time  about a year ago.  I gave it a try.

dumpling

Dumplings are balls of dough wrapping meat, fruit, vegetables, and cheeses; they are baked, fried, boiled or steamed. I never realized how versatile they are!

I chose my recipe from AllRecipes.

green apples

pastry

sauce

Patty’s Points

1.  AllRecipes.com is a great website. You can develop a profile and have a box of saved recipes to go back and refer to. You can also adjust the number served on the recipe and the website will automatically change the ingredient measurements. Very cool!

2. I never realized how differently apple dumplings are made. I made mine for a couple of people.  The Pioneer Woman Apple Dumplings version is a big casserole dish to serve a big family or a crowd at a potluck.

3. I learned from a Martha’s New Year’s Celebration DVD  how to make the leaves for my dumpling crust. I found a “how-to”  from this Pear Dumpling video from Martha Stewart’s website. That is my tiny bit of creativity 🙂

All I can say is EASY. What a nice way to do something with leftover scrapes of pastry dough, especially with all the upcoming pies that will be made during the holiday season. Enjoy!

 

The Korean Dinner Party

Kimona wine bottle cover

The Korean Dinner Party was a two-part adventure. The first party was held at Seoul Barbeque in April.

The thought of making the food for an actual Korean party was a little overwhelming. We thought we would partake in one of the best Korean restaurants in Denver first.

at the restaurant

Look at all the little side dishes that go with the sliced beef!!!

Seoul Barbeque

While we munched on all the delicious food, I showed this article from Bon Appétit about hosting a Korean dinner party.  After a short discussion we decided that we could put this party together! Barb volunteered to host.

Fast forward five months….

Shopping at M Mart

All adventures must start with shopping. M Mart is a Korean/Japanese Grocery Store.  We let Barb take the lead with shopping she had more experience. She and her husband adopted their son from Korea. Barb has visited Korea twice and raised her son by exposing him to his native land. M Mart has a great choice of meat and authentic Korean ingredients.  The meat for bulgolgi is thinly sliced rib eye steak on the cross grain.

stacks of rice

stacks of rice

IMG_3202Korean radishes

After filling our baskets we ventured over to the H Mart which is a large Asian grocery market. It was huge. The produce and kitchen wares were overwhelming. What fun it was!

long green beans

Really long green beans

tons of wares

Asian housewares

Now, lets get down to cooking.  First with the rice.  This is a Korean rice cooker – the Cuckoo. Three minutes before the rice was cooked, the top shot off steam. Then it spoke in Korean that the rice was done (I’m guessing) and it tweeted “Cuckoo!” So cute!

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This is when it is good to have a lot of people in the kitchen… chopping and shredding and mixing ingredients.

chopped vegetables

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Bibimbap

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Doenjang Jjigae soup

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Bulgolgi

Doenjang Jjigae

Rice starch water:  rinse rice once with water and drain.  Add a 1/2 cup of water again, toss and swirl around the rice for 30 seconds. You will see the water turning milk-like.  Add 2 cups o water and swirl to collect all the starch from the rice. Drain to save the starch water in a bowl (it doesn’t say how much rice to start with – we used a couple of cups of dry).

2 cups rice starch water (see above)
6-7 dried anchovies (cute little silver fish)
1 piece (3″) dried sea kelp
2 generous TBSP Doenjang (soybean paste)
1/2 package (4 oz) firm tofu, cut into 1″ cubes
1/2 onion diced
1/2 zucchini diced
1 tsp Korean chili flakes
1 garlic clove chopped
1 green or red chili sliced (I didn’t use this)
1/2 package enoki mushrooms or one handful of any mushrooms sliced
1/2 Asian leek or 1 green onion sliced

Directions:

1.  Bring small 1 quart stone or heavy bottom pot over medium high heat.  Toast the anchovies for 1 minute and pour the rice starch water into the pot.  Add the sea kelp and bring to boil; simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove the anchovies and sea kelp and discard them.
2.  Using a course mesh strainer, mash the Doenjang paste into the pot so it incorporates into the stock. Add onion, zucchini, chili flakes and let them boil.  Add tofu, garlic, chili and cook for 2 minutes.
3.  Lastly add enoki mushrooms and green onion.  Remove the pot from heat and serve hot with rice.

Patty’s Points:

1. The key to a good Bulgolgi is how the meat is cut. Barb said that she once purchased a ribeye at a local market and tried to get the butcher to cut it thinly on the cross grain. It didn’t turn out that well.  This is where an authentic Korean market shines.

2. The bibimbap bowl is made of granite. It is heavy-duty so it can be heated on the stove top. It has a specific handle that looks like a clamp, to transfer it to a serving plate. The hot bowl crisps the cooked rice, then each ingredient is added and topped with a fried egg. Prior to eating, all the ingredients are cooked when mixed together.

3. The Doenjang Jjigae reminded me of Miso Soup (which is Japanese). The difference is that all the ingredients are Korean based.  The fish broth was easier than I thought. The dried anchovies were cute.  Anchovies and kelp were added to the rice water but removed/strained before combining the ingredients.

4. Barb said that everywhere they went in Korea, they were served watermelon for dessert. Our dessert was watermelon, Asian pear and a matcha tea roll cake.  They were nice and light sweets after a full meal.

5. The key to our successful party was gathering together to prepare it. We all brought our own knives and cutting boards to keep up with all the chopping. All week I thought about how much fun the party was; it brought a smile to my face 🙂

드세요
deuseyo
“bon appetit”: French » Korean

How do you spell spelt?

Spelt is an ancient grain that is a distant cousin to wheat but existed centuries before. Hmmm…How did I stumble onto spelt?

Well I have experimented with my diet of late. My hairdresser told me about the Fast Metabolism Diet (FMD) and how she, her sister and mother had lost weight. She said it was quite healthy, so I had to check it out.

The FMD rotates in three phases by which to eat certain foods that will speed up your metabolism. My summary is this: you eat every 2-3 hours, no dairy, no flour, no soy, no corn products, no alcohol, and no sugar. You eat a lot of veggies, protein, drink lots of water and eat moderate amounts of fruit, oils, healthy grains like steel-cut oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, or spelt.

spelt flour

I’ve lost 5 lb. I’d like to lose 15 more, but I’m still working at. It is hard to go from semi-healthy eating to completely healthy habits in a month.

Anyhoo… I had to try a spelt recipe since I had never heard of it nor made a recipe out of it as yet. I was looking on Pinterest.com and came across Homemade Spelt Tortillas from fellow WordPress bloggers The Adventures of Z and K.

Spelt Flatbread

2 C spelt flour

3 TBSP olive oil

3/4 tsp salt

2/3 C water

Mix oil,salt and spelt flour together then mix in water a little at a time until incorporated, but not too sticky. Knead for 1-2 minutes, Rest for 20 minutes.

Cut the dough into 8 pieces with a pizza cutter. Roll out, flour the board or pastry cloth if it is sticky.

rolling tortillas

Heat a non-stick pan and brown for 1-2 minutes on each side.

spelt flatbread

Yummy flat bread!

Patty’s Points:

1. Spelt is not gluten-free. It is a cousin of wheat but people with wheat allergies do not have the same problem with spelt.

2. I found it easy to work with just like regular flour.

3. I heated up my pan initially really on high but had to turn it down to med-low, so as not to burn the bread. I found that 1 1/2 minutes on each side was perfect.

4. The hubby and dog loved the flatbread.

waiting for bread

Garden Variety

The produce from our garden has been busting out all over.chard in the basketI love Swiss Chard and it grows so easily in our garden. Within a week after trimming out 1/3 of this bed, it grew right back.

Swiss ChardI had to search for recipes that would be a challenge for me other than sautéing chard in olive oil and shallots.

I furrowed out a Bon Appétit  magazine from May 1999 profiling Provence, France. It was a Special Collector’s Edition. The main article profiled 20 essential ingredients of the region: fresh produce, herbs, dairy, meats, seafood and breads.

Bon Appetite May 1999In France, Swiss Chard is called blette. It has white or red stem varieties. The leaves need to be trimmed away from the stems before using in a recipe.

I have never made gnocchi before so I chose the recipe Swiss Chard Gnocchi (Gnocchi aux blettes) to prepare. On top of this, I have never even eaten gnocchi before!

Swiss Chard Gnocchi (Gnocchi aux blettes)  8 servings

1 pound russet potatoes (about 2 large)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 1/4 pounds Swiss Chard, stems and ribs trimmed

1 large egg

1 TBSP olive oil

1 3/4 C all-purpose flour

1 stick butter (1/2 Cup)

4 C homemade or purchase tomato-herb sauce

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Steam or boil potatoes, about 50 minutes until tender. Cool potatoes, slightly then peel . Mash potatoes in large bowel until smooth, add the salt and pepper.

Steam or boil the Swiss chard until wilted, about 3 minutes. Once it has wilted, drain, until cool and then squeeze out as much water from the chard as you can. Finely, chop the chard by hand or with the food processor.

Mix the chard in the mashed potato mixture add egg and oil. Gradually add the flour until combined, forming a slightly sticky dough.

sticky dough

Dust a board with flour, I used pastry fabric. Working in batches and with floured hands, roll 1/4 cup of dough and form a 12 inch long rope. Cut the rope into one inch pieces.

rolling and cutting the rope

Roll each piece between palms forming a ball. Using a whisk, roll each ball down the length of the wires to make a ribbed impression.

ribbed impressions

Transfer gnocchi to a baking sheet with parchment paper to rest.

gnocchi on baking sheet

Place the gnocchi, in batches of 10-12 in a large pot of boiling salt water cooking for 6 minutes, until the gnocchi rises to the surface of the boiling water and are tender.

boiling gnocchi

Using a slotted spoon transfer the gnocchi to a large bowl.

Gnocchi cooked

Melt butter in large heavy skillet over med-high heat. Add the gnocchi and sauté until coated with butter and cooked through for about 3 minutes.

Serve the gnocchi atop hot marinara red sauce or white sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

red sauce

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1. The gnocchi can be frozen up to 1-2 months in the freezer after boiled. When ready to serve, thaw, then cook with butter in a sauce pan before serving.

2. I used all-purpose vinyl gloves to mix and roll the dough. It was way to sticky not to!

3.  I enjoyed the white sauce better than the red sauce with the gnocchi.  The white sauce gave it a richer taste. If using a red sauce, it would be best to pick a light one, nothing heavy. Of course the shaved parmesan atop made the flavors pop.

4. Okay, I have to say it. The green-ness of the gnocchi was visually off-putting. It reminded me and my daughter of insect larvae.

5. When produce comes out of the garden I have to wash it two to three times. Dirt and bugs hang onto the leaves pretty easily.

Sorry if talking about bugs grossed you out.

Enjoy your meal – Bon appétit!

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