Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What I have been Reading Wednesday...Food Lover's Companion...

     Happy Halloween!  I can not believe that tomorrow will be November 1st, seriously where did 2012 go?  Well it is Wednesday, so time for another "What I have been reading Wednesday".  As you already know I read lots of cookbooks and lots of food reference books.  The Food Lover's Companion is a book that I actually received as a gift.  A friend gave it to me for a birthday a few years ago.  It is a great book, but not for the faint of heart.  It really is a food encyclopedia, so its not a flowing read like most books, but a very useful book nonetheless.  The entries in this book are on foods, spices, cooking techniques and pretty much any ingredient you can think of.  The authors have obviously done a wealth of research to get all of the information they have into this book.  Want to know the history of Chocolate, there you go, need to know what Louis Sauce is?  It is in the book too.  Not sure what exactly a certain technique means?  It's described in the book.  I actually use this book quite frequently, especially if I find a recipe that has an ingredient that I don't have in my kitchen, I look it up learn more about the ingredient and it always gives me ideas of what I can use as the best possible substitution. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lemon Cream Raspberry Napoleons...

 
 
     Don't these little beauties look delicious?  Last winter Mr. Love From Scratch and I spent a week in Las Vegas, and had all kinds of great food, but the food in The Paris was particularly good, especially in the bakeries and patisseries there.  To be honest I really did want to try a sample of EVERYTHING, but Mr. Love from Scratch wasn't supportive of that idea.  They all looked so good but we finally decided to split a raspberry napoleon.  It was absolutely delicious.  It was creamy yet crunchy at the same time.  It had the juicy raspberries and a hint of lemon cream, honestly I tried to distract Mr. Love From Scratch so I could eat the whole thing all by myself. (That didn't work in case you were wondering.) 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy National Oatmeal Day

     Happy National Oatmeal Day!  I know sometimes I do keep track of the most random of holidays!  However this really is a great holiday, and a healthy one at that, so definitely one to take note of.  We've seen all of the commercials and articles lately saying how wonderful oatmeal is for you, and it is true, oatmeal is good for you.  Lots of people think that oatmeal means bland sludge in a bowl, which is completely wrong.  There are so many different recipes that you can use oatmeal in, but with the cold weather coming a good solid breakfast oatmeal is what I will share with you today.  I particularly like this recipe because there is not any added sugars, and it tastes just like a carrot cake, or spice cake.  It is a great start to a cold morning, and its also a great recipe to get those fussy eaters to get in a bit more veggies in their daily diets.

Meatless Monday...Potsticker Time!



     Another Meatless Monday has arrived, and with that comes a brand new week.  Sometimes coming up with good meatless recipes are harder than others, this week I am pleased that I get to feature one of my favorite meatless recipes, and that is for potstickers.  Potstickers as we know are always great, but they are also a great recipe to have up your sleeve, there are so many different variations that you can make.  Simply put in whatever you have in your fridge to make the fillings.  I love to make potstickers as a way to use up leftovers, its a great way to stretch the food budget as well.  These will always be crowd pleasers as well.  Usually when I make potstickers I make two batches, a vegetarian version, and then a batch using whatever leftover protein (chicken, beef, shrimp etc.) in the fridge.  Pair it with a good dipping sauce and it will always be a hit with the crowds.  I love to make this recipe whenever I throw a party or get together.  You can make these in advance, plus you can make several trays full for a very small budget.  Enjoy these potstickers you will find yourself eating the whole tray!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

National Chocolate Day & Chocolate Souffles

     Happy National Chocolate Day!  It's a great holiday isn't it?  Not that I ever need an excuse to eat chocolate, but sometimes it is nice when it is even easier to rationalize than usual.  There are so many different ways to enjoy chocolate, whether is be the traditional candy bar or hot chocolate, to the fancy ganaches and truffles, or to a more savory application such as mole.  There are different varieties, from the deep dark chocolate, to the creamy smooth milk chocolate, or the mild buttery white chocolate.  While I love all sorts of different types of chocolate, I am a bit more partial to a good dark chocolate.  Especially when I am picking a good chocolate to use in my baking.  I find that the bittersweet or dark chocolate seems to be the best chocolate in my eyes for baking.  I love the aroma of dark chocolate as it bakes in the oven.

Sunday Blessings...Enjoying the Journey

     I love this quote, it is one of my favorites, it was given by a leader in my Church, but I think it is applicable to people in all walks of life.  I have thought a lot about life this week, I think more so than usual due to the passing of a dear friend.  That friend was always living and always engaged in life to the very end, and really did live this quote.  This is something that I am going to try to do better at, so many times I think I get so wrapped up in the small things that don't really matter that I forget the big picture and forget to be enjoying every moment of the mortal journey.  I love watching kids and seeing how their eyes light up at the simplest things and their innocence and delight in everything, The eyes of a child truly are magical.
    
     Last night our congregation at Church had a Halloween Dinner and Carnival for the families.  It was so cute the scores of princesses, ninjas, superheroes etc.  (In case you are wondering I dressed up as Julia Child)  These kids were so excited to be there and they were enjoying every minute of the fun.  I watched the sugar cookie station for awhile, it was getting messy very quickly as you can imagine.  The adults were worried about the frosting getting everywhere, and it staining the costumes just days before Halloween, and so many other things, yet the kids they didn't care if frosting spilled on them or got ground into their costumes with no hope of coming out.  All they wanted was to make the cookie and enjoy the experience.  They reminded me how important it is to enjoy the process, not just fuss about the end result.  Kids are amazing, they teach me so much all the time, oh that I had their energy and joy all of the time.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

College Memories & Cookies

     It seems as though lately I have been having an uncontrollable desire to bake cookies.  I love to bake all sweets, but cupcakes and cookies will always be my favorite to make.  I think its because my mom always baked cookies for us.  As I have gotten older I have tried to come up with a few different types of cookies.  I have particular fond memories of this recipe, I developed the original basis of this recipe during college, I have since edited and tweaked the recipe over the years.  This recipe started when I had my first cranberry white chocolate chip cookie during college and I decided to recreate it at home. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Heroes & Pecan Pie

Today was a bittersweet day, there were some beautiful moments and some very sad moments today.  I had the opportunity to go to the funeral of an amazing man today.  A very dear friend of mine passed away, and while it was a freedom from his pain and suffering, it is sad for all of us who love him and will miss him dearly.  This man was like a Grandfather figure to me, he taught me many things and was an example to me of so many wonderful qualities, integrity, compassion, dedication, selflessness and more.  He was one of the dearest friends of my grandfather, and provided countless acts of service to our family.  The service was lovely and was a testament to the goodness of this man.  I had the opportunity also to design the flowers for the casket spray which was a wonderful opportunity, I love to be able to memorialize someone in flowers, especially someone I am so close to.  I have lots of favorite memories of him, some serious, some emotional, but most of them are just funny, because he was truly a very funny man.  The last time I saw him was just a few days before he passed away, I made a chocolate silk pie for him and we sat and talked as he happily ate his pie.  He loved sweets, and towards the end of his life it seemed as though sweets were his last indulgence in life.  Many times he would come with chocolate and visit my grandpa and debate who had the best chocolates here in town, or they would get a frosty and sit and talk about the stock market.  These two men visiting together always made me laugh.   One of this man's favorite desserts was a pecan pie, he loved all sweets but a pecan pie always had a special spot in his heart.  So in honor of him I want to share my  pecan pie recipe with you, and please make it for someone you love and share those precious moments with them.

Love From Scratch Pecan Pie

Ingredients:

1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/4 pecan halves
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pie shell, unbaked, 9-inch (I use a standard pie crust recipe)

Preparation:

In a large bowl, combine corn syrup, brown sugar, salt, butter, and vanilla; mix well. Add beaten eggs and blend well; stir in pecans. Pour into the unbaked pie shell. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 45 minutes until set.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Memory Makers List...The French Laundry



     One of my favorite parts of traveling is the food, (yes, I know I do think with my stomach at times).  I love to try the food of the region, and experience the culture.  Ever since I was a kid I have had an affinity for cookbooks and fine dining.  I have always loved the artistry of fine cooking, and I feel that in some restaurants they almost transport you to a whole other world.  I have mentioned before my Memory Makers List, and there are several restaurants that I want to visit on this list.  The restaurants that has been on my list the longest is the famous French Laundry Restaurant, by Thomas Keller.

     I have always wanted to go to French Laundry, and I hope that someday Mr. Love from Scratch takes me, (hint, hint).  The talent of Thomas Keller is really second to none, and his technique and artistry is flawless.  While I haven't had the opportunity yet to go to one of his restaurants, I have had the opportunity to make several of his recipes, and they have been delicious.  Actually it makes me wonder even more what the food would be like at French Laundry, if I have made some of the recipes with such amazing results at my skill level, then the food must be phenomenal when made by someone of his skill level.  The one dish more than the others I want to try there is his famed "Oysters and Pearls".  Seriously have you ever seen a picture of his oysters and pearls?  It is indulgence and artistry in its purest form.  A couple years ago upon getting Keller's cookbook I decided to make it for myself at home.  I'll have to admit it was an expensive dish for me to make, between the island creek oysters and the sturgeon caviar it could easily blow your food budget for the month, but I can tell you it was completely worth it!  If I do say so myself it was one of the more impressive dishes I have made, however since I have never had his dish I'm not quite sure if I did it right, even if I didn't I loved it and so did my guests and that is what is important.   

     What dishes are on your Memory Maker list?  Any must see restaurants that I need to know about?  I will be sharing more of my Memory Maker list that is for sure.  Who knows maybe someday I will be able to cross everything off of my Memory Maker List, just maybe.
 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Loving the Farmers Markets on Vacation!


The most AMAZING leeks ever!
     I went to the most amazing farmers markets in Canada, it made me feel like a kid in a candy store as I saw all of the goodness that the local farmers were growing.  I took this picture in particular, because I have never seen leeks that looked that amazing.  Usually when I buy leeks in the local grocery store there is a limpness to the leeks and the size is no where near the size of these beauties.  As we walked through the market there were spices, seafood, vegetables, flowers, fruits, bread, oils everything you could possible want food wise.  Actually at one particular farmers markets they had a place where you could have foie gras tasting, where I got to sample their foie gras, the pates, and mouselines, and terrines.  Mr Love From Scratch didn't quite get as excited as I did, but I do take food a lot more seriously than most.  The smells and sights really were something to take in, and the prices were amazing too, it made me wish that there wasn't that pesky rule about taking produce across the border (silly customs), so sadly it was a look don't touch shopping trip for the more part.  I was however to get a couple jars from my new friend at the foie gras booth.  I am going to have to ration out those delicacies for special occasions, or maybe for my self-indulgent me time, who knows? 

     What I did learn from several of these farmers is pride in their goods, and the desire to provide everyone with truly amazing food.   It was great to speak with the purveyors, they were all so eager to share their expertise on the goods, and how to best use them.  They didn't just sell the goods they sold the knowledge of how to prepare it, what to pair it with, how it was grown, and usually also shared a joke or two. I'll admit I never go to my local grocery store and get any advice on how to cook or prepare anything, I'm lucky if I can just get a sales associate to just tell me where I can find the grated Parmesan cheese (don't ask, in my local store for some odd reason its near impossible to find).  Why though don't we have that atmosphere here in the states?  I love to talk about food, I would love it if the butcher ever told me how to prepare something, or if the produce manager ever told me about the newest produce specials.  So next time I go to Canada I'll make sure to spend some more time over there so I can enjoy more of their delicious bounty!

I want one of EVERYTHING!



Green Gables & Lessons learned from Anne Shirley


 
Anne's Bedroom
 
"Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?"
-Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables
 
     This picture was a dream come true for me, I took it inside of Anne Shirley's room at Green Gables, (yes, I do realize she is a fictional character).  I have read that book more times than I care to admit, but every single time I have absolutely loved it.  I used to sit in my room late at night reading the story and dreaming what it would be like to have lived in Anne's time, and what it would be like see Prince Edward Island.  I had so many daydreams while reading that book, so finally making it to Green Gables was thrill for me.  There are many lessons that I learned from Anne Shirley, and I hope that there is a whole new generation of young girls pouring over the book and learning lessons from Anne Shirley.
 
Lessons learned from Anne Shirley
 
1. It's better to be smart then pretty.
 
2. First impressions aren't everything.
 
3. Each new day is fresh with no mistakes in it.
 
4. Everyone needs a bosom friend.
 
5. Don't be a drama queen.
 
6. Great things can happen when you forgive people.
 
7. Don't hesitate to compete against the boys.
 
8. Sometimes puff sleeves do make the world better!
 
Green Gables

 
 
 
 


What I have been reading Wednesday....Stanley Tucci Edition

Half way through the week, and already it has been quite the week, but it is time for "What I have been reading Wednesday", Stanley Tucci edition.  I have to admit normally I am not a big fan of when actors suddenly jump on the lets make a cookbook bandwagon.  Last time I went to my Barnes and Nobles there were so many cookbooks by entertainers and not as many by actual chefs, but I guess the joke is on me because I sure saw those cookbooks selling even if they were not by chefs. 

When I heard that Stanley Tucci was doing a cookbook I was surprised, but very intrigued.  I have seen so many of his movies, and as we all know he is a very talented actor, and I have always loved his work, so I was hoping this next venture would not disappoint me,  I have to say I am impressed and his cookbook, the basis of the recipes is Italian, focusing on his own heritage and the food of his life.  They are good solid recipes to build into your stockpile with also, variations and ideas for turning the recipes into showstoppers for party and company.  The food photography is clear and crisp and I especially love the step by step picture instructions for techniques.

I had no idea that Mr. Tucci was so skilled in the kitchen and so passionate about home cooking and home entertaining, but I love that he is, and it shows me that some entertainers really do make some worthwhile cookbooks.  I had no idea that Stanley Tucci was so knowledgeable about food, as you will learn in the book the ENTIRE Tucci family know their food, and every aspect of it, down to the paring suggestions and more.  It is also a very personal book to him, including family memories, stories and photos, really sharing his private world with the reader.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised with his cookbook, and I am looking forward to making more of the recipes, first one up is the Plum and Polenta Cake, it looks amazing in the book, and I can't wait to try it.

Plum & Polenta Cake
(from The Stanley Tucci Cookbook)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely ground cornmeal or seminola flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of kosher salt
13 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 plums, cut in half and pitted
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Grease and lightly flour an 8 x 2-inch round cake pan or an 8-inch springform pan, tapping out any excess flour. Set aside.

2. In a small bowl, toss the cornmeal, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar together with an electric mixer, until pale yellow and creamy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the whole eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in the lemon zest and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and blend until just combined.

4. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Place the plum halves, skin side down, at even intervals on top of the batter. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the fruit and batter. Bake until the cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Meatless Monday & National Nut Day.....that means pesto!

It seems like forever since I did a "Meatless Monday", and this one is a particular favorite one of mine.  I have always loved pesto and pasta, and today is actually "National Nut Day" so I figure lets make a marriage of the two and feature pesto as our "Meatless Monday" recipe.   Pesto is actually amazingly easy to make and completely delicious, especially during the harvest season.  If you have some fresh basil, some pine nuts, and good olive oil you are set for a feast.  Sometimes I substitute spinach for the basil or pistachios for the pine nuts, really do whatever your taste buds crave.  Its a great dish that is simple to make, yet everyone loves and impressive enough for surprise company.  You can also add chicken for a non-vegetarian option that then becomes a main entree.  Or do it as a vegetarian entree and add additional veggies as desired.  I personally make the base recipe below, but then usually add some sliced roasted red peppers and sliced black olives and a few zucchini slices to the hot pasta, and that is absolutely delicious and filling.  I know its a simple recipe, but there is so much that you can do with it and so many different variations to find whatever really makes your taste buds go wild.

Meatless Monday Pesto

4 cups washed, torn basil leaves (try to omit stems)
3 garlic cloves, halved
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
hot, cooked spaghetti
 
Combine all ingredients BUT the pasta together in the blender or food processor, and blend till it has a smooth consistency, it should coat the back of a spoon.  Serve immediately over hot pasta, garnish with additional cheese and basil leaves if desired.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Blessings





I have always loved lighthouses, and was lucky on my vacation to see lots of lighthouses, I have always found them to be inspirational for some reason to me, but as I walked past the lighthouses I was reminded of a quote from one of my Church leaders about the importance about guidance and direction in our lives.  I am very grateful for the guidance and direction that I do have in my own life, and Sundays always seem to be a spiritual recharge for me if you will, it is always my favorite time of the week, it helps to put everything in focus.

“Like the vital rudder of a ship, we have been provided a way to determine the direction we travel. The lighthouse of the Lord beckons to all as we sail the seas of life. Our home port is the celestial kingdom of God. Our purpose is to steer an undeviating course in that direction. A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder—never likely to reach home port. To us comes the signal: Chart your course, set your sail, position your rudder, and proceed.”
―    President Thomas S. Monson

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I'm Back! Vacation is over and real life hits again!

Green Gables
     I know it is completely cliche, but sometimes you really do need a vacation to recover from a vacation.  I am finally back from vacation and back into the blogging world.  First off our vacation was amazing!  I was very lucky to go and to be able to see so many amazing things!  On our cruise we went to Boston, then Bar Harbor, Maine, and then onto Canada, where we saw some amazing things, one being Green Gables on Prince Edward Island!  Yes my inner nine year old girl shrieked and gasped and squealed upon going through Green Gables and seeing (gasp!) Anne Shirley's bedroom.  Mr. Love from Scratch didn't quite seem to share the same enthusiasm for a fictional character, but he was a good sport.

There were so many things that I loved about Canada and so many amazing things that I saw, but one of the things I loved the most was the architecture.  In most of the places we visited there were distinct British areas, and then distinct French areas, it was interesting to  see the influences of both counties and how both countries influence the culture.  I took so many photos of the sights we saw, but I was always drawn to the small residential streets, you know away from the tourists, where actual people live.  This photo was from a residential street that we walked down in Quebec City and I loved the decidedly French feel of that particular street.  Each little building was maintained, with flower boxes still blooming.  It really was completely charming. 

Quebec City was completely enchanting, it was a beautiful city and so many historical things to see, but one of the favorite things I saw was the farmers markets in the various ports.  As all of you know I love farmers markets, and Canada had some of the best I had ever seen.  I will have a whole post coming up soon with pictures and the details of that amazingness.

Mr. Love from Scratch is quite the walker when we travel, by this I mean we walk EVERYWHERE!  While my feet did ache and legs throbbed at times from all of the wear and tear they were subjected to, we did get to see some amazing hidden gems while walking.  Also I do have to say there are some very stylish ladies in Canada, it sure seems like people dressed up more to go about their daily business.  It has given me a new motivation to up my style quotient.  It seems that certain things strike me on vacations, each one inspires with me with new things I want to try in my day to day living at home.  This trip I was struck by of course the stylish people, but also their desires to make even the most simple things special, and to enjoy and savor life.