Friday, April 20, 2012

Leftover Innovations

I hate wasting food.  It makes me crazy to throw things straight from the fridge into the trash.  Therefore, I have a tendency to become overly satisfied when I can rely on my ingenuity to come up with ways to use leftovers.  That is the story behind this recipe.

Passover was two weeks ago, and Dave and I hosted our first seder.  We made tons of food, planning to just live off leftovers for the week, and the charoset was no exception.  My charoset is my grandmother's recipe, and it's always just eyeballed and tasted until things taste and look right.  I used fuji apples, cinnamon, crushed walnuts, Tokay wine, and a little bit of sugar.  After all was said and done, I had a sandwich bag stuffed to the gills with leftover charoset that would have found a new home in the garbage yesterday had I not been digging around in the freezer, looking for a package of hot dogs to snack on after coming home starving from work (please tell me I'm not the only one to resort to strange food cravings after a long day...)  Anyway, I found a package of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry dough (that had also been in deep freeze for way too long...) and decided that if the experiment was a flop, I wouldn't feel bad about tossing everything because it was all just taking up valuable fridge real estate anyway.  I'm glad I went out on a limb, because the end result was deliciously surprising and very satisfying.

Left Over Charoset Strudel

1 sheet of frozen Pepperidge Farm puff pastry dough, thawed
About 2 cups of charoset
Sugar for sprinkling
Powdered Sugar
Egg wash (I used egg whites, which looking back I think I should have used the yolks too)

1.  Roll out one sheet of thawed puff pastry dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into quarters.

2.  Place four large tablespoons (or however much looks like it will fit) on one side of each of the quarters of dough (you want them to have mounded middles).  Fold dough over and pinch sides.

3.  Brush with egg wash and sprinkle sugar on top.

4.  Back on an oiled cookie sheet for ~13 min at 400 F degrees until golden brown and puffy.

5.  Mix powdered sugar with a teaspoon of water and cinnamon until glaze consistency is reached.  Drizzle glaze over pastry.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Quick Bread with Butter

One of my new years resolutions is to challenge myself to make more from scratch.  The pasta experiment is well underway, and I've been fooling around with different bread recipes.  The truth is, we don't ever buy bread.  I never make sandwiches for lunch, and Dave makes wraps, but sometimes, I just want toast.  I started my experiments with a version of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day's basic no-knead bread.  It worked great with white flour, but when I tried subbing some whole wheat flour in, the results were not as great.  Overall, not the life changing recipe I was looking for.  I then stumbled on 101cookbooks' Easy Little Bread recipe, which conveniently used stuff I had on hand that I was trying to get rid of (rolled outs bought in error at Trader Joes...)  I have made it twice, the first time I halved the recipe because I wanted to test it, the second time I made 1.5 times the original because I had a bigger loaf pan and wanted fairly normal-sized sandwich slices.  The recipe is great, and right out of the oven, the bread is chewy and hearty and everything that you want a fresh loaf of bread to be.  Once the bread cools, it gets SUPER dense, but stays moist and kept for 36 hours cut side down, left out on a cutting board.  It's a great recipe, but I can't help but wonder if there is a way to "lighten" the crumb, make the bread less dense and fluffier...I will have to attempt to troubleshoot to figure out a way to improve.  Stay tuned.

Friday, January 6, 2012

It's What's on the Inside That Counts...

Like I mentioned yesterday, wedding craziness has died down, but I wanted to share some moments and a fabulous cake recipe!

Copyright Inlux Photo
Dave and I got married the day before Halloween, on a sunny, crisp Sunday in Cleveland.  I'm so glad the weather cooperated, although if you look closely in all our pictures you can tell I'm freezing my butt off!  I can't say enough about our photographers, Inlux photo, from Canton, Ohio.  They were phenomenal- Jarred and Heather, we loved having you!   Dave and I are enjoying happily looking at the pictures while snuggling on the couch.

The main point of this post (as much as I love showing off our cuteness), is to tell you the story of our wedding cake.  The recipe originally came from Deb over at Smitten Kitchen.  For those of you who don't know, Dave is a little bit obsessed with beer- Like, beer-bottles-are-taking-over-our-dining-room-table-because-we've-run-out-of-shelf-space obsessed with beer.  And, I'm fine with this.  I even encourage it by searching out beer themed cooking projects, enter Deb's chocolate stout cake.

I made this cake first for Dave's 30th birthday, not suspecting the can of worms I was opening.  Deb warns that this cake is amazing, but rest assured this is the best chocolate cake you will EVER make.  The secret, of course, is the chocolate stout, because anything boozy and cakey can't be bad, and there is some magic that happens to the moistness of cake when you bake with alcohol.  Over the last year and a half, I've made the cake six times, mostly as presents because I can't be held responsible if the cake is in my kitchen one day and half of it is in my stomach the next.  I've even premade this cake and frozen it, so that's always a good thing (you just have to wait to drizzle on the ganache until it thaws).

When it came down to choosing our wedding cake, we knew there really was only one option.  For a second I entertained the thought of just making it ourselves, but because our wedding was Kosher, that was a no-go since our rental kitchen is not up to the caterer's Kashrut standards.  In the end, we supplied the caterer with the recipe (with substitutions to make it parave, sans dairy, since we were having a meat wedding), and after much moaning and groaning about not being able to find the ingredients (because that's what Kosher caterers in Cleveland do if you deviate from their menus...), we had success.  My original recipe calls for chocolate stout, which I think gives it a deeper chocolatey flavor than just plain Guinness (our best results have been with Rogue's Chocolate Stout and Southern Tier's Choklat).  Here are some pictures of our cake (and the tie in to the title of this blog post, since it appears that an industrious batch of kindergarteners helped decorate our cake with cookie cutter fall leaves...).  It may not have looked like we imagined, but it sure tasted incredible!

Copyright Inlux Photo
Copyright Inlux photo

Chocolate Stout Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who originally adapted from Barrington Brewery in Great Barrington, MA via Bon Appetit

Deb says that the recipe was originally for a 3 layer 8" round cake, but I took her advice and halved it, and it works beautifully as a bundt drizzled with ganache.  The bottom of the cake before you turn it out of the bundt pan is the best part to pick at as it's cooling.

1 cup chocolate stout like Southern Tier's Choklat or Rogue's Chocolate Stout (to make parave, use Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (for parave, margarine)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Ghirardelli)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream (for parave, I used Tofutti)
6 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons heavy cream (for parave, soy milk)
3/4 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Cake prep:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray a bundt pan well! Bring 1 cup stout and the butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cake to rack; cool completely in the pan, then turn cake out onto rack for drizzling ganache.*

For the ganache, melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over the top of cooled cake.

*A note on the parave version:  It still tastes pretty awesome, but at some point, find an excuse to make the full fat dairy version just for comparison.  It'll blow your mind.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Back from Wedding Land!

It's been a little over two months since the wedding, and things have certainly calmed down.  Married life is great, although at the moment we are both sick with colds.  We have been keeping busy house hunting- Our newest adventure!  In the down time, when we aren't glued to the laptop checking new listings, I've been trying my best to use my Kitchenaid mixer as much as possible.

Over the weekend I made three batches of pasta with my helpful sister Sydney, who is home from college over winter break.  She had never made pasta before, and I had purchased the Kitchenaid pasta attachment for Dave's birthday in November.  I bought it because Dave has been buying fresh Ohio City Pasta from the Farmer's Market every week and I was convinced we could be making this from scratch and saving money.  I've used the pasta maker before, but the first time I didn't really know what I was doing and even though the noodles in their little nests looked impressive (see photo right), when dropped in the pot to cook, they did not separate as expected and I was left with clumpy noodle balls in my tomato sauce, not the most appetizing, and not the best argument to get Dave to stop buying his perfect little bundles at the Farmer's Market for $2 a piece.

Fast forward three weeks, and some close examination of the Ohio City Pasta, we decided a better plan was to flour the noodles before "nesting" them.  This weekend we put our hypothesis to the test with perfect results.  You could actually flour the pasta sheet before it goes through the cutter (which is, I'm guessing, how Ohio City Pasta still gets those cute little bundles), but, our method of choice was placing a tablespoon of flour in the bottom of a tupperware with a lid, sticking the container under the pasta cutting attachment (this also avoids random strings of pasta all over your counter/floor- always a good thing) and then placing on the lid and shaking.  You still can pile your pasta in servings to freeze, but it doesn't look as neatly organized.  It's ok, we'll survive with our messily bunched, perfectly separated, homemade noodles.

Whole Wheat Pasta

Makes eight balls of pasta.

2 cups of whole wheat flour
1 cup of all purpose flour, plus 1/4 cup more for dusting noodles
4 eggs
1 tsp salt
~1/4 cup water, added in drops

Add flour and salt to mixer bowl.  Add eggs to bowl and mix with paddle attachment.
Once dough is sticking together, remove paddle and work with hands (in bowl) until tough and smooth, but before dough gets watery, about five min give or take.  Use dough hook to knead dough for another 3 min give or take (this will separate the dough back into pebble size clumps.  Reknead into ball when done).  Cover with towel and let rest for 20 min.

Cut dough ball into quarters and feed through machine, staring with level 1 through level 4.  Then use other attachments to create whatever noodle shape you want.  Catch pasta in a container with a lid, sprinkle on a spoonful of flour (enough to lightly coat), and shake until noodles are covered.  Place in piles to freeze (in ziploc bags) for use!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Artistic Hiatus

Sorry for it, but I've been busy working on a Ketubah for my cousin's wedding.  They were kind of last minute, and somehow my mom passed my stuff on to my great aunt who passed it on to the happy couple.  Less than a month?  No problem.  Luckily, FH went out of town last weekend so I was able to sit and work for superhuman lengths of time with just myself.  It was kinda nice and very productive. 

They are getting married in Napa Valley, CA and are being married by a good friend.  He is Jewish, she is not, but they wanted a Ketubah with Hebrew, and they wanted something that represented them as a couple, not something that was over-the-top Jewishy with pictures of Jerusalem, etc.  They sent me over a photo of a Ketubah that they liked, but that needed some tweaking.  Below, the process:

 I started with this, the photo that my cousin sent:

And I started sketching:

And then painting (this is my favorite part because every little thing you do changes the piece so much):

I added some stars, the first layer of the border, and began to paint in the grape leaves:

We picked out some text from the wedding blessings that were more universal, and they loved the saying "Ani L'dodi" so we incorporated it on the top in Hebrew (and later, the English was added to the bottom):

In the original, there was a scene of Jerusalem which didn't resonate with the couple, so I painted in a vineyard scene of Napa:

Then I added the dark blue border to hold the Hebrew text in gold, and added in the outside framing which will have climbing vines:

Last night, I finally got an ok on the text, so I wrote that in: 

This weekend I will be finishing up the leaves and grapes in the outside frame and looking for a giant scanner to run this baby through.  Kinkos said they could do it, but the last time I took something there they had no idea what I was talking about and the scanner scrambled all the paint colors on the digitized version.

I will post my final scan once I get it- Fingers crossed.  Happy Memorial Day!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Happy Gardening!

We planted a vegetable garden, complete with deer-proof fencing.  I happen to kill anything I try to grow and have an aversion to getting dirty, so needless to say I was not overly excited about the prospect of taking on a gardening project.  It actually wasn't half as bad as I thought, and I really do enjoy checking the progress.

Look at those brussel sprouts!  Can't wait.  The tomatoes appear to be turning yellow, possibly from the torrential rain that has been forcasted for the last week.  Also, the carrots and beets we planted from seeds have just started poking up.  Maybe the sun will stay out for a couple days to help dry things up!

Friday, May 20, 2011


Healthy, hearty and really good.  I actually was very impressed with this first attempt since I didn't use a recipe and just kinda winged it.  I had short grain brown rice, green lentils and an onion, and needed a side dish.  FH doesn't go near lentils, but loves onions and garlic.  I thought this might be the way to get him over his fear.  He tasted it, but due to it's appearance announced he would not eat a whole bowl of it.  That's ok.  More for me!

1 cup green lentils
1 cup brown rice
1 large yellow onion
Olive Oil
Minced garlic
Kosher salt

In one pot, boil the lentils.  In another pot, start sweating the onion and minced garlic in the olive oil.  When onions get tranluscent, add the brown rice and the water.  I added my spices to the rice/onion mixture when the water was about halfway absorbed.  I added about three decent sized pinches of kosher salt (I tasted in between and added as needed), about 2 tablespoons of cinnamon (I really wanted a hint of the flavor to stand out and it was getting lost), and about 2 tablespoons of cumin.  The onions and the cinnamon gave it a slightly sweet flavor while the garlic and and kosher salt balanced things out.  Then I mixed it all together and served.  It actually was better the next day for lunch after sitting and coming together in the fridge overnight.

Any other spices you use for mujadara?  Any changes you would make?