Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween and A tribute to Julia

Here's to a Happy Halloween at your house this year! Here's our yearly pumpkin, carved by my talented husband Randy. I bought one of the carveable foam pumpkins this year so I don't have to throw away the masterpiece after it's all over.

So, a few of my sweet and savory online buddies have decided to honor Julia Child today by posting a prepared recipe of hers. I chose a simple but tasty soup from her now classic book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It was a matter of ingredients that helped me choose. I had a beautiful head of cabbage that I received in my bi-weekly veggie box and it needed cooking. So I consulted the index and landed upon this recipe. I was intrigued by the name...Garbure. Sounded a little like garbage to me... I don't necessarily think that's where it got its name, but it is, I think, one of those dishes that you just throw in whatever garbage you have available depending on the season and your budget. Initially the soup seems like it will be very thin, but the potatoes and cabbage cook down to the point that they thicken the soup. It's very filling! I think it would make a great meal to have simmering on a Halloween night too.

Soupe Aux Choux - Garbure
described by Julia Child in her Mastering the Art of French Cooking as "a fine and uncomplicated peasant soup....comforting dish for a cold winter day."

3 1/2 quarts water
3-4 cups peeled, quartered boiling potatoes
1 1/2 lb chunk of lean salt pork, lean bacon or smoked ham (I used a hunk of ham and some bacon to add flavor)
2lbs or 3 qts of roughly sliced cabbage
8 crushed peppercorns or a big pinch of ground chili peppers
Salt as necessary, added near the end
6 parsley sprigs tied with a bay leaf (I used dried parsley since I had no fresh on hand)
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp thyme
4 cloves garlic, mashed
2 medium onions studded with 2 cloves
2 peeled, quartered carrots
Optional additions:
2-4 peeled, quartered turnips
2-3 sliced celery stalks1-2 cups fresh white beans or half cooked navy beans, or add canned white or red beans to soup 10-15 minutes before end of simmering
Rounds of hard-toasted french bread

Place the water, potatoes and meat in a (LARGE) kettle and bring it to the boil. Add the cabbage and all the other ingredients. Simmer partially covered for 1 1/2-2 hours or until the meat (and beans) is tender. Discard parsley bundle if you used it. Removed the meat. slice it into serving pieces and return it to the kettle. Correct seasoning. Skim off an accumulated fat. If not to be served immediately, set aside uncovered. Rehat to simmer before serving. Serve in a tureen or soup plates, accompanied by the bread.

Susan's notes: I used dry butterbeans which had be soaked. It took a wee bit longer than 2 hours to get them cooked. I also added a can of red beans at the end to give it a little more color. If I made this over again I'd probably take the completely canned bean route. The recipe serves an army...or at least 8. I was able to freeze quite a bit to be used on chilly winter work nights when I need a quite meal.

Go check out my friends posts and see what they made

Herb Biscuits from Jayne at A Grain of Salt
Supremes de Volaille a Brun from Marsha at Marsha's Kitchen
Profileroles with Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce from Susan at Savoring Time in the Kitchen
Sage Butter Cakes from Debbie at Mountain Breaths
Beef Bourguignon and Cinnamon Toast Flan from Carol at There's Always Thyme to Cook
Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons from Barb at Foley's Follies
Ruffle Cake from Kathleen at Cuisine Kathleen

Friday, October 30, 2009

Flashback and Foodie Friday ~ Vintage Halloween

For this week's Flashback Friday, I am flashing back through vintage Halloweenish graphics. I just love any old timey holiday illustrations and cards. I would love to collect these in real life but they are hard to come by. Many of these I "borrowed" from The Graphics Fairy, an oustanding blog that shares these little treasures on a daily basis. Many are from the blogger's personal collection. Check her out HERE.

I love the funny moon theme you see in many of these old postcards

Is it nice to think of the big moon in the sky laughing with us

Better than this moon...which has me a little scared!

Some of the illustrations are cute

Like this precious guy

But some lean towards a victorian kinda way

Check out these two old bats...

Owls are big in spooky cartoons

Here we got the moon and an owl

More cute kids

Even kewpie like little girls

Throw in a couple of sweet

And one pretty creepy

And a black cat for good measure

What about a've never heard of the Halloween Butterfly? What rock have you been hiding under?

Not sure what this advertised, but it wouldn't be Halloween without at least one skull

And the most important part of the holiday....CANDY!!!!!

Hope you have a fun and safe Halloween! I didn't make any Halloween treats but thought I would share the cute and yummy goodies my friend Carolyn brought to work. Her talented sister Toni put them together. You may recall me mentioning their efforts for the local humane society. She requests donations in exchange for goodies. I'm sure she would be pleased as punch if you gave to your local humane society as well!

There was quite an assortment to choose from, including these mini bundt pumpkins

And maple leaf cookies

A big eyed alien creature

Spooky spiders

And these...use your imagination and fill in the blank. I'm not sure?

Plus she gave us the finger!

Then..if that weren't enough, Toni sent Carolyn's co-workers (including me!) the cutest little dirty cupcakes. The base was a little plastic Halloween cup filled about half full of candy, with the cupcake set in cup on top of this candy, then the cookie grave and gummy worm stuck in the cupcake. It was quite the set up...and the cupcake was to die for and had a cute little wrapper. I will have to get the recipe....

If you have a flashback you'd like to share please add your link below.

I'm also joining in on Foodie Friday this week. Check out the other great posts at Designs by Gollum.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Daring Baker's Challenge ~Macarons!

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe. Check out Ami's blog, Baking Without Fear for her take on this recipe.

Now I have to say...this challenge has really been the realization of a long unrequited desire of mine. I first had Macarons when I was in Paris nearly 20 years ago. I was attending a college summer program in Aix-en-Provence and on the long weekends (we only went to class for 3 days a week) we traveled throughout Europe on trains seeing the sights. For most of these trips it required us to take a train to Paris to make a connection to our final destination. Pauvre Moi..suffering all those jaunts through Paris! On our way to Lucerne & Munich, we had one such stop in Paris with enough time for lunch and a patisserie stop. I believe it was Le McDonald's for lunch...mais pour event that would change the course of my culinary life. I cannot be for certain if this is THE place,

but through the magic of Google Earth I transported myself back to the streets near Gare de l'Est and found want I believe may be the place I first tasted the fabulous macaron. I have confirmed that Le Grenier a Pain does indeed sell les I am sticking to this as my story. My friends and I were charmed by the little colored hamburgers in the case and each chose 4 to go, boxed up in the french way. (Like these which ARE NOT mine)

Once on the train bound for Switzerland we opened our treasures and I took a bit of the tender cookie. I am quite certain I ate a pink one first, but I do recall having a yellow and brown one as well. The 4th color escapes me. I was in pure heaven. I didn't know what they were called.....silly me had not paid attention, not knowing I would be so enamored. I spent the next few years just trying to put a name to the face. I finally had success at the library whenI found a book of fancy french pastries. Many more years passed and suddenly MY secret cookie was suddenly the rage of foodie blogland. Here are two classics:
David Lebovitz take on Macarons

Tartlette's Take on Macarons

With so many recipes and so many other people making them, I got brave and tried a recipe a year or two ago. We shall not speak of that experience here since it was an utter failure. I figured it was just not meant to be for me to make such creations in my home kitchen. Enter...this months Daring Bakers Challenge. A nudge to give it another try. While still not an entire success, this try was much closer to that sweet little bit of goodness I had 20 years ago.

I can see from these pictures that my batter was too thick..maybe too much beating of the egg whites? They should be flatter with no peaks. But once baked...woohooo..I did have the required "legs" and the taste....YES...I achieved the taste. Its amazing how long the memory of a taste bud is.

I went with a whole batch of pink...the macaron of my dreams! The filling was harder to decide. I started with something simple..strawberry jam.

I had plenty to play with so figured I would take it a notch up...Strawberry Almond Buttercream

So cute!

And so tasty...I have unfortunately eaten more than a plateful of these little sweeties.

So I got braver..daring shall we say. I wanted to take my pink macarons to their pinnacle of cuteness, so stuffed a few with a Vanilla Peppermint verrry green buttercream. They tasted like wedding mints...which isn't a bad thing at all!

They ARE a little gaudy though :-D

Here's a little wobbly group of pink and green. Next goal is flat tops.

Out of the fillings that I tried, I have to say tastewise I really loved the jam the best. The gooiness of it really melds the two halves together in a very yummy way.

So...any suggestions on what I can do with all this leftover icing?????? I'm seeing some preppy little cupcakes in my future.

Check out the recipe..few ingredients and not really that complicated at all. I think it just takes LOTS and LOTS of practice on getting the eggwhites just right. The finer you can get the almonds the better too.

Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)


1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen. Ami's note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.

For the buttercreams I used this recipe

Buttercream Icing

adapted from "Ateco Simplified Cake Decorating."

1/4 c butter
Speck of salt (if needed)
2 c sifted powdered sugar
3 T milk or light cream
1/4 t vanillaWhip the butter until fluffy.

Gradually add in 1 cup of the powdered sugar and reduce speed to low, add in the liquid, salt and flavoring. Last the rest of the powdered sugar. If firmer icing is needed, add in a bit more powdered sugar, if softer icing is needed, add in a bit more of the milk. Flavor as desired. (For the Vanilla mint I used 1 tsp vanilla & 1/2 tsp peppermint extract. For the Strawberry Almond I used 2 tbls strawberry jam in place of some of the cream and 1/2 tsp almond extract instead of vanilla)

Be daring and join in next month at the Daring Kitchen. Check it out HERE.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Flashback Friday ~Texas Ren Fest

I'm feeling a little bit nostalgic this weekend because much of my family and many of my friends are gathered at my brother's house for a weekend long get together focusing around the Texas Renaissance Festival which is held near Plantersville, Texas. This weekend also happens to be my brother's birthday and my grandniece's 2nd birthday all the more reason for missing them. A couple of years ago we were in town around the same time, so I'm flashing back to part of that visit to show you some of the Ren Fest. The grounds of the Ren Fest are huge and there a lot of permanent buildings and plenty of beautiful plants and flowers, including this open air vine covered chapel where weddings are held year round.

Vines cover many of the structures

And Trees!

This Coral Vine is my favorite

More lush plantings

People watching is my favorite thing about the Ren Fest

And there are plenty of fancy people traipsing about to watch....

Even a few pirates

And even my brother was in costume

The day was gorgeous

Blue blue sky and something a little unexpected

Plenty of fun for everyone

As fun as the festival was, what made the trip special was getting to be there when my brother blew out the candles for his 50th birthday

And being there the day my sweet grandniece was born

2 years later she's not a baby any more....but she's still just as beautiful and special.

I don't have pictures of these yummy treats but they are something I always try to get when I visit the Ren Fest. They are supposed to be the recipe from the lady that actually makes them there, Ligia Giles. I found the recipe on Recipe Link.

Banana Empanadas

Makes 15 large or 30 small empanadas

4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup solid all-vegetable shortening
Lukewarm water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 ripe bananas, sliced
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Peanut or vegetable oil

In medium bowl, lightly stir together flour, baking powder, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and salt. Cut in shortening with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water, a little at a time. Shape dough into a large ball; divide into equal pieces (15 large or 30 small) and carefully shape into balls. Roll each ball into a thin circle.

In a clean medium bowl, mix remaining 3 /4 cup granulated sugar and cinnamon. Add bananas and toss to coat. Place 1 tablespoon filling mixture (for small empanadas) or 2 tablespoons filling (for large) in the center of each circle to within 1/4 inch of the edge. Moisten the edge with water. Fold empanada in half to form a crescent; press edges together with a fork.

Deep-fry in 350-degree oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels, then sift powdered sugar on top. Serve hot.

If you have anything you'd like to flashback too, please join me by putting your link below.

I am also making this my contribution to Foodie Friday at Design's by Gollum.
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