Monday, March 30, 2009

Fooling Around

My friend Carol over at There's Always Time to Cook is hosting a little April Fools Party. She's already got the appetizers out so I think I will show up a little early and give her a hand! I had a lot of fun with my dishes for this party. I guess I'm good at being a fool :-)

I had a hard time making up my mind there were so many cute prankster foods out there to try. I got some great inspiration from The Surreal Gourmet , a Food Network Canada chef. Not all of his recipes are fit for April Fool's Day, but he has some that are incredible. This Cauliflower Soup that looks like a bowl of cheerios had me hooked! Search his recipes for some interesting and unique recipes. I also got inspiration from another *unique* individual, Twinkie Chan. I ADORE her crochet food creations, and she also does some faux food. Check out her Sunday Brunch club here. For those of you who haven't hear of Twinkie, she makes a killing selling crochet items like the ones you see in this Flickr set. Some of her stuff goes for $100-200 like this scarf.

I fell in love with this stuff so much I tried my hand at it a couple of years ago as well. But I still want to make one of those cupcake scarves because I don't have $175 to spend on a Twinkie original.

So even though The Surreal Gourmet and Twinkie gave me good inspiration I found a "recipe" elsewhere that I just kept coming back to. Like Carol's recipe this comes from Family Fun online (what a great place!). I thought it would be a challenge and a little bit out of the ordinary. I have to say..this was a blast to put together!!!!

The "spaghetti sauce" is my homemade Raspberry Green Tomato jam instead of strawberry ice cream topping. So there realllllly are tomatoes in the sauce :-) The spaghetti is buttercream icing twirled over little hunk of angelfood cake.

I made a few substitutions. For the meatballs I used Ferrer Rocher chocolates instead of the malted milk balls called for. I like bigger meatballs!! The "parsley flakes" on the "garlic bread" are large green sugar crystals instead of sprinkles and the bread itself is angel food cake instead of lady fingers.

So I know what you're thinking....did I really eat this??? Yes I actually tasted all of it. It was good!!! Sweet but good :-)

I couldn't resist trying another recipe that I've seen quite a bit here and there online. This was just too much fun!

Mini burgers and a fries anyone?

This would be a great little thing to make with kids.

I used this from Allrecipes as a guide.

I have one more little April Fools to add from my garden. This poor little pink ranunculus had an early April Fools joke played on them this weekend. We got a surprise snowfall and they got new snow hats! The snow melted quickly and they are back to their spring looking selves but the joke was sure on them (and us) for a day or so!

Be sure and visit Carol's blog to see what she and everybody else at the party has going on!

I've entered this post over at Design by Gollum's Foodie Friday Potluck! Go check out all of the other yummy blogs listed on her website.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Inaugural of The Great Cooking Magazine Challenge

I adore cooking magazines. I subscribe to a couple and used to subscribe to a lot more. I love to see a new one in my mailbox..I rip off the plastic and flip through the pages and ooh and ahh. I pick out recipes in my mind that I'd love to try. Sometimes I even foldover the corners or put a little book marker in the pages I want to revisit. Then inevitably within a week or so it gets lost in the stack of all my hundreds of other cooking magazines and I never see it again. I have vowed many times to change myself challenges to make at least one recipe from each of my magazines a week..or maybe 3 a month..ya..maybe that will work... But the stacks still grow!! So I am giving myself a new challenge and maybe if I do it in public here on my blog I will stick to it! From here on out when I get a new cooking magazine I will do a recipe within a week from it and post it here. I've got to give this challenge a name and even a little logo to make it official and more binding lol. How about The Great Cooking Magazine Challenge! Very original huh?

I am cheating a little since I am starting this challenge when I know I will succeed at least the first time. I got a new Taste of Home in the mail this week and there are some great recipes I want to try. They had a brunch contest and there were 12 wonderful recipes that made the cut. I really would love to try each and every one of them, but because I had all of the ingredients for Benedict Eggs in Pastry it made my cut! Here is the photo from the magazine that inspired me...both to cook it and to take this challenge. I have to add that now that I have a blog not only do I want to try new recipes for how I think they will taste also I now try and improve my photography skills by taking cues from their photos. So maybe this challenge will have a dual purpose.

They really do have great photos in their magazine. Mostly served in everyday dishes, but great lighting and with a very real-life presentation.

Here is my interpretation. Not a total copy cat, but I did like the orange juice and strawberries they used.

The recipe itself had a tasty result. I would absolutely skip the hollandaise step next time and use a packet. I failed miserably with the consistency of mine, although the taste was there. That is why mine doesn't have the sauce drizzled on top. It broke apart...drizzling would not have been pretty. Chunky yes..pretty no.

Benedict Eggs in Pastry

2 eggs yolks (reserve egg whites for wash)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 cup melted butter
Dash cayenne pepper
2 cups cubed fully cooked ham
2 green onions, chopped
1 Tbsp butter
6 eggs
2 Tbsp milk
1 pkg frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (Yikes..just realized I forgot the cheese! I never missed it)
1 Tbsp water
Minced tarragon, optional (I used more green onions)


In a double boiler over simmer water or in a small heavy saucepan constantly whisk egg yolks, lemon juice and mustard until mexutre begins to thicken and reaches 160°. Reduce heat to low. Slowly drizzle in warm melted butter, whisking constantly. Whisk in cayenne.

Transfer to a small bowl if necessary. Place bowl in a larger bowl of arm water. Keep warm, stirring occasionally, until ready to use.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook and stir ham and onions in butter until onions are tender. In a large bowl, whisk six eggs and milk. Add egg mixture to the pan; cook and stir until set. Remove from heat; stir in 1/3 cup reserved hollandaise sauce. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, unfold puff pastry. Roll each sheet into a 12x9 inch rectangle; cut each in half widthwise. Place approx 1 cup egg mixture on half of each rectangle. Sprinkle with cheese. (I used my rolling lattice cutter on half of the pastry rectangles and folded the latticed part over the eggs.)

Mix water and reserved egg white. Brush over pastry edges. Fold pastry over and pinch seams to seal. Transfer to a greased baking sheet or use your silicone liner (I LOVE mine). Brush pastries with more wash. Bake at 400° for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with remaining hollandaise sauce. Sprinkle with tarragon or chopped green onions if desired.

So is anyone else up for the challenge? No need to commit to anything...just use the the logo and link back to me if you try a new recipe from your stacks of cooking magazines....I KNOW that many of you reading this have them too!!!!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Flashback and Foodie Friday ~ Dreaming of May

March is almost over and I am glad to say buh-bye! It's been rainy and cool. Big surprise in the Pacific Northwest huh? :-) Bad thing is I doubt April will hold much better. So let's just skip over that and head into May!!!

In May there are lots of pretty pink things like this little saxifrage.

And the Daffodils are still looking sunny and cute

The columbines are starting to unfurl

And the Corydalis is so very blue

The lilacs are smelling sweet and flirting with the False Solomon's Seal

The Pacific Coast Iris are in their prime

And the Rhodies remind us what good things can come of all that Pacific Northwest rain!!!!

Last May I was whipping up something yummy in the kitchen too! This was so easy, but would make an excellent dessert for any occasion. It's not the prettiest but something this good doesn't have to be!

Easy Tiramisu

8 oz mascarpone cheese
3 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 Tbls Baileys (called for Kahlua but I didn't have any)
Strong coffee
Angel food cake, prebaked..I used the loaf kind and cut it into 9 thick slices, then each slice into 3 "lady fingers".
Cocoa powder to sprinkle on layers
Grated dark chocolate to sprinkle on layers

Combine mascarpone, cream, sugar, vanilla, liquor and a tablespoon or two of coffee. Whip until stiff. In a loaf pan start layering first the angel food cake, then 1/3 of the mascarpone mixture. Sprinkle mascarpone mixture with cocoa and chocolate shavings. Repeat layers ending with mascarpone sprinkled with cocoa and chocolate. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before eating.

Please take a look at my sidebar for more of my online buddies participating in Flashback Friday! Plus go take a peek at Design by Gollum for lots links to more
Foodie Friday posts.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring Symphony

A pretty Tiarella I bought this week. Spring Symphony is a fitting name don't you think? It sure does brighten up the little spot I found for it.

Dinner was simple, quick but tasty! Spicy pork chops with cilantro cream sauce, baked sweet potato and asparagus. The sauce would make a great chip dip!!

Spicy Pork Chops
inspired by this recipe from Culinary in the Desert one of my favorite food blogs.
2 thin cut pork chops
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
1 tsp Chipotle chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 Tbls olive oil

Dredge/rub spice mixture over both sides of porkchops. Let sit for about 15 minutes. Heat oil in skillet over med high heat. Add pork chops and cook until done (about 10 minutes total). Check doneness by making sure juices no longer flow pink.

Cilantro Cream Sauce
inspired by this recipe
1/2 cup whipped cream cheese (I used light)
1 Tbls light sour cream
1/2 of a 7.5 oz can green salsa
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves
1 Tbls lemon or lime juice

Combine all in blender or food processor.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring Flowers

A friend of mine is a new Pampered Chef Consultant. I wanted to help her out with her business so I decided to have a party. Nevermind that I really ENJOY cooking demonstrations and shopping for new kitchen gadgets :-) The party was yesterday and she made Quiche Lorraine Tartlets which were very tasty and easy.

Since I knew she would only be doing one recipe during the party I wanted to have a little something else on hand for nibbling. So, this was the perfect excuse to use a Pampered Chef knick knack that has been sitting in my cabinet unused for quite awhile (okay..a VERY long while..I think I bought it around 1993 or 94), the Valtrompia flower shaped bread tube. I think I can honestly say I've used it at least once during that time because I have a vague recollection of making an English muffin bread in it. But otherwise I've just tossed it a glance every so often and wondered what else I could make with it.

With all of the bread making I've done lately using the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes cookbook, I have been doing a little with my Shamrocks in my St. Patrick's day post. So I figured I would go even a little farther out of the comfort zone and see if the bread would work in the tube. I was skeptical given the wetness of the dough and the fact that the original recipe is pretty specific on what works. I went with the Deli Rye recipe found here, which I love. While the end result did not have the crunchy exterior it does with the suggested baking method, it made a great bread nonetheless and in a cute shape! I used the parchment paper to ensure no leakage, but I don't think it was much of a problem. I filled the tube half full with dough and let it rise an hour before baking at 400 for an hour. The tube is vertical during baking.

It made a nice sturdy little loaf.

I made these cute little Spring Flower finger sandwiches out of the loaf to bring to the party. The bread is sliced and spread with about a teaspoon of a whipped cream cheese/teriyaki sauce mixture, then layered with swiss cheese and ham I cut in the flower shape using the tube. Finally a little cucumber on top. These could be fancied up however you like.

Are we getting tired of my dragon fly plate yet? I think it's been featured in the last three posts lol. Probably time for some dish shopping!

So....speaking of spring flowers...I have some new ones!!!! My parents and I made a visit to Peninsula Nursery while they were here and I picked up a few annuals to brighten up the front yard. We had enough sunshine yesterday that I was able to put them in the ground. The rain is back today, so they are looking a little beat down but I know they will perk up. Good thing about this time of the year is I don't have to water the plants in myself.

Here are a few shots I snapped quickly since it was drizzling

Some cute little Johnny Jump ups

Jigsy showing off the new spots of color

This is looking rough at the moment due to the rain. I went with a redder primula to bring out the new door.

This hyacinth is on the verge of blooming. The white one is always first.

I can never resist buying a few Ranunculus. The number of petals always blows me away. I'll show them again when they are open.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Flashback and Foodie Friday ~ Happy First Day of Spring~

This Friday we are flashing back to a year ago to celebrate the first day of Spring. I am so ready! Its been a long winter and that is evident when I compare what was blooming in my garden at this time last year. We are a couple of weeks behind at least!

Last year the lilacs were already showing a tiny bit of color

The 'Wanda' Primula was in full bloom

And the daffodils were all showing their sunny faces

Easter came early last year, and I was inspired by some of my online buddies to decorate cookies. This technique was introduced to me by Mary of Once Upon a Plate and she has done some beautiful ones. Here are more of hers. Mine are very very cheap imitations! Since that time I have discovered some other incredible cookies in a Flickr set. The cookie artist, Zoe certainly takes this to an all time high!!! Are these Delft Tile Cookies not gorgeous?

Here are mine..much simplified and proving that I am NOT an artist.

My favorite of this bunch

These were some I did for my co-workers

The technique is really simple..Mary explains it all, but you start with your favorite sugar cookies iced in royal icing. You paint the iced cookie with straight food coloring when the icing is hard and dry. I used new artist brushes. I have since discovered the food coloring markers which I used at Christmas. They are sometimes easier to maneuver, but really still more similar to a paintbrush than a real marker. These are fun to try and kind of addictive!

Friday is also Foodie Friday hosted by Michael Lee at Designs By Gollum. Go check out all of the fabulous posts. It looks like Michael has a Trainwreck theme..given my lack of talent these cookies should qualify!!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

My friend Kathleen at Cuisine Kathleen is hosting a virtual St. Patrick's Day party today and I am late to for sure! I've been trying to get myself together all day but I seem to have a lack of green and St. Patrick's day decorations so I had to throw on my St. Patty's shirt and look in unconventional places :-)

Randy was no help. This was his way of avoiding a pinch today. (I pinched him anyways!)

My calendar offered a little bit of inspiration...but somehow it didn't seem Irish enough.

And it is that time of the year again...minty green! But no this won't do either.

I still needed more inspiration!

I even searched at the nursery my parents and I visited today.

They did have a good suggestion!

These were cute.

If I had a few extra gold coins I would have bought these for the party.

Once home I resumed my search around the house for more green.

How about my little Shrek bride and groom! Are ogres Irish?
Probably not....

A little left over Mardi Gras green...

How about some Southwestern Green?

What about this kind of green?

Or these outside

Maybe some moss? Kinda Irish...

Nahhhh.... Okay how about this. I think we are getting warmer!

Yes I definitely think we are getting somewhere. I even found a "shamrock" hiding in the spider plant.

And look! An actual St. Patty's day decoration! We are really on a roll.

But what to cook? I had one of this while I thought about it....

How about Corned Beef! And Cabbage! and Potatoes! and Carrots! Eureka! So in the crockpot it all went. I "just happened" to have a trio of potatoes for the occasion. The purple ones look kind of scary. :-)

While that's cooking I figured we needed dessert. These Irish Oatmeal Shortbread cookies seemed to fit the bill. They come from a great little website called Diana's Desserts. Click here for the recipe.

And look at this cute guy I came across in my quest.

While the rest of it cooked I decided we needed bread too, so I whipped up some Rye bread using the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes recipe. I thought we could use some more clovers!

And look what I found in the fridge to go with these little cuties......MMMMM. I have more Irish hanging around than I thought :-)

So for better or worse I guess it all fell into place. The veggies were tasty.

And the meat was tender.

Plus we had a couple of extra places set at the table and my parents to share the meal with.

And cookies left for dessert!

Thank you Kathleen for hosting such a fun event. I hope you'll do it again next year!!

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