Month: September 2011

Remembering Moby and celebrating Daisy

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Yes, my dogs wear sweaters. But it does get cold and snowy here.

This time last year was the start of a very sad period in the household.  After a very quick, very sudden, very severe illness, one of my dogs named Moby had to be put to sleep.  He was 10 years old, but he definitely didn’t act like a senior dog.  He was always active; he’d chase squirrels all day in the backyard if you let him.  Which made it that much more difficult.  One day, he’s running around chasing leaves, two days later he’s gone.

He was rescued from a shelter in Mason, MI where I found him sitting in his own filth.  Sitting at the front of his pen, his face was just pressed against the gate, and he was just looking down at the ground.  All the other dogs in the place were barking and yelping for attention, all except for him.  He clearly was not used to being in a place like that.  So how could I turn away the saddest puppy in the place who was covered in his own crap?  Of course, he would celebrate his new freedom by throwing up into the middle console of my truck on the drive home.

Moby didn't like Daisy at first, but they worked it out eventually.

He was a member of the family for over 10 years and I wasn’t ready for him to go.  I had spent years trying to prepare for when Licorice, who was the elder dog at the time, would pass away (Licorice died later on in the year on December 13 at the age of 16, so my holidays just plain sucked last year).  But this wasn’t supposed to happen to Moby.  That was definitely a horrible day for us.  I was at the vet for hours listening to him howl in pain; even morphine couldn’t ease his suffering.  So on September 27th of last year, we said goodbye to our little buddy.  I was a mess for months; even know I can’t help but get emotional as I’m writing this.  What made things even worse, I ended up forgetting Daisy’s 1st birthday which happened to be two days later on the 29th.

As is a tradition in this house, all the puppies get a special cake or meal on their birthday.  I know that they probably have no clue as to what’s going on, but it’s important to me to celebrate it.  So this year we’re making sure to celebrate Daisy’s 2nd birthday with one of Moby’s favorites.

This recipe for the “Very Berry Drooly Dreams” cupcakes was taken from the Three Dog Bakery cookbook.  This cookbook is actually a very good resource if you do like to bake goodies for your furry friends since it contains a nice list of non-dog-friendly ingredients.  I’m sure everyone knows about chocolate and onions being toxic to dogs, but did you know that macadamia nuts could have adverse effects on the digestive and nervous systems of your pooch?  Grapes / raisins also contain toxins that could damage the kidneys if eaten in sufficient amounts.  Just a couple of facts that might be useful for folks out there.  Anyhoo, here’s what you need:

  • "Very Berry Drooly Dreams" cupcakes

    1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

  • 1 c. quick rolled oats
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1/4 c. canola oil
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 c. low-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 c. skim milk
  • 1 c. berries, fresh or frozen and thawed

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Coat a standard muffin tin with cooking spray.  Set aside.

2.  In a large bowl stir together the flour, oats, and baking powder.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil and honey.  Add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream and milk.  Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined.  Fold in the berries.

3.  Fill the muffin cups about 2/3 full and bake for 30 minutes until a tester comes out clean.

4.  Cool on a rack until room temperature before serving.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.  You can freeze them, where they can keep for a couple of months.  Just thaw before serving.

Peach Drop Cookies

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So just to continue with the peach theme, I found a recipe for some drop cookies on Martha’s website.  I did make some minor changes to it because I ran out of vanilla.  Of course, it’s not an equal substitution since I used 1 T. of rum instead of 1/2 t. of vanilla (I can get a little enthusiastic when it involves rum and bourbon).  Also, I didn’t peel any of the peaches.  I like the contrasting color that the skin provides.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour, plus 2 T.
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 T. rum
  • 2 large ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 3/4 cups)
  • 1/3 c. peach jam or preserves
  • 2 T. fine sanding sugar
  • 1/8 t. ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.  Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda.

2.  Beat butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Reduce speed to low.  Beat in egg and rum.  Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined.  Add peaches and jam, and beat until just combined.

3.  Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment, spacing about 2 inches apart.  (If not baking all of the cookies at once, refrigerate dough between batches; dough can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.)  Combine sanding sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle each cookie with 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon-sugar mixture.

4.  Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown and just set, 13 to 15 minutes.  Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, and then transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Notes — The fresh fruit does add a lot of moisture to the batter and the cookies, so they will get softer after time.  These are best on the day that they are baked.  That way you’ll still get the softness of the cookie with the crunchiness of the crust.  But they will still taste great otherwise. . . Like I said before Martha’s recipe uses vanilla instead of rum, but I was out of vanilla.  And I was surprised about how much I really liked the flavor of the rum in the cookie.  I will have to see what else I can cram some rum into. . . I did forget the cinnamon in the topping, but I was happy with the end product because the rum flavor really stood out 🙂

Peachy Scones

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There’s still some last grasps of summer up here in the midwest.  Today may be the last “warm” day we get for a while — it got all the way up to 76 F today, which is way better than the 105 that we got over the summer.  And although autumn is pretty much here (which is my favorite time of the year), I still want summer to hang around for just a little bit.  So that brings me to some peaches.

Now originally some peaches were picked up at the store cuz they were really on sale (which is grocery-speak for “ready to spoil”) and I got inspired.  Initially one thing popped into my head — Peach Soufflé!  But I wanted a quick easy fix so that recipe will have to wait for another time.  So what’s next? — scones!  But apparently I figured it out too late and those peaches did end up spoiling.  I was still inspired so I went to the store and got some new, not quite so nearly-rotten-but-still-sellable as the old peaches.

This was taken from the King Arthur Flour website.  I made some minor changes, but it still stays true to the original.  I did follow a couple of suggestions:  1) to just drop some of the batter into a greased muffin tin, and 2) cut the amount of nutmeg in half — it originally called for 1 t. of nutmeg.  It doesn’t make for the prettiest scone, but it makes it a little easier to divide the portions out, at least for me.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 t. nutmeg
  • 1/2 t. galangal
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 c. sour cream
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. diced peaches, fresh or canned
  • 2 tablespoons coarse sugar

1.  Preheat your oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a divided scone pan, a 12-cup muffin pan, or a baking sheet.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, nutmeg, and baking powder. Cut in the butter, using your fingertips, a fork or a pastry blender.

3.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, yogurt or sour cream, and the almond extract. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients. Add the peaches and stir just until everything is well-combined. This is a wet, sticky dough, good for drop scones.

4.  Divide the dough among the compartments of the scone pan, or drop by the scant 1/4 cupful into the cups of a muffin pan or onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle the scones with coarse sugar, and bake them until they’re golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes (on a baking sheet), or 18 to 20 minutes (in a pan). Yield: 8 to 12 scones.

Notes — The original calls for 6 T. of butter, but I was using some low-fat sour cream so I added the last two from the stick to call it even.  Not sure if that makes everything square, but it tidies everything up — I didn’t want 2 T. of butter lying around the kitchen just waiting for some toast.

Garlic Confit

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I love garlic.  There, I said it.  What’s not to love?  And what I especially love about this recipe is how simple it is.  Plus it’s so useful since it has so many applications.  You could put it in salads, really into any dish you might need, you could just spread it on some toast, or you could just get a fork and go to town.  And you could use the oil to cook, to flavor dishes, or to make a salad dressing.

The garlic takes on a nice sweetness when cooked, much like when it is roasted.  In this application though, it is much more subtle.

For those who might not know, a confit is a preparation that helps preserve food by covering it in a layer of fat or oil.  An example is duck confit where the duck is cooked in the rendered duck fat, allowed to cool while submerged, and stored in the cooled duck fat.  This preserves the meat without having to refrigerate it.  Probably has its roots back to a time when refrigeration wasn’t as common as it is today, but that’s just a guess.  Making this recipe follows the same principle.

This recipe is from Chef Thomas Keller’s book Ad Hoc.  His restaurant that folks think of is of course the world renown French Laundry.  But there is a whole group of restaurants in his portfolio, including Ad Hoc and Bouchon Bistro and Bakery.  The list of ingredients is so simple — garlic and canola oil.  That’s it!  And if you love garlic, you definitely need to add this to your basic repertoire.  I did change the amounts a little bit, just because I wanted to make a little bit more than the recipe calls for.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 cups peeled garlic cloves
  • enough canola oil to cover

1.  Put the garlic cloves in a small saucepan.  Pour enough oil to completely cover immerse them in oil by about an inch.

2.  Place on medium-high heat.  Cook the garlic very gently; only small bubbles should come up through the oil when cooking, but the bubbles should not break the surface.  Adjust the heat as necessary.  Cook for about 40 minutes, stirring about every 5 or so, until tender.

3.  Remove from the heat and allow the garlic to cool in the oil.  Store the garlic in the refrigerator in a covered container, submerged in the oil.  Should last about a week.

Rhubarb Pie

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As y’all may already know, I had some family visiting for several days and I remember my brother saying that he’s never had rhubarb.  So I thought why not let him try it in a pie!  It is the “pie plant” after all.  And I do have all that frozen rhubarb, if you remember from a while back.  Now he’s very concerned with nutrition and fitness so I will use the whole wheat pâte brisée for this one.  Although this doesn’t quite qualify as healthy, but at least it is healthier.  And rhubarb is a vegetable.  Plus I use some coconut flour in the topping which is high in fiber and protein (just eat around the butter and sugar).  As an aside, using flours like this in baking is what you need to do if you need to make something gluten-free.  To top it all off, it smells like coconut!  According to the directions, you can substitute up to half the flour in a recipe with this.  But you could combine it with other flours, like bean, rice, or tapioca.  Bob’s Red Mill is a nice resource for different kinds of flours.

For this recipe you’re supposed to cut the rhubarb into smaller more manageable pieces, but it was already frozen and I didn’t want to have to try to chop all that up.  I can admit I was being lazy, but I was busy trying to get the house ready for my family visit.  Priorities priorities!.  But be aware, if you don’t chop it into smaller pieces, things can get a little fibrous.  Here’s what you need:

For the topping:

  • 1/2 c. coconut flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 c. light brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 stick of butter, cut into pieces

1.  Stir together the dry ingredients in a small bowl with a whisk to combine and break up any lumps.

2.  Add the butter.  Cut into the flour with a pastry knife or your hands until crumbles form.  Set aside.

For the pie:

  • 1/2 whole wheat pâte brisée recipe (or prepared pie crust)
  • 6 c. rhubarb, cut into about 1-in pieces
  • 1/3 c. light brown sugar
  • 2/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 2 T. cornstarch

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Place the oven rack on the lowest wrung in the oven.

2.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pie dough enough to cover a 9-in. pie pan with a 1-in overhang.  Cut to fit and tuck the ends of the crust underneath to from a nice rim.  Refrigerate for about an hour to let the dough rest.

3.  Place rhubarb in a large mixing bowl.  In a small bowl combine the sugars, salt, and cornstarch.  Pour the sugar mixture over the rhubarb and toss.  Pour the entire contents into the rested pie dough.  Top with the prepared crumbles.

4.  Put the pie in the oven and reduce the temperature to 375.  Bake on a lined sheet pan for about 1 1/2 hours, until bubbly.  Cool on a wire rack completely before serving.

Updates, plus a Whole Wheat Pate Brisee

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I know I’ve been a little quiet for the past week or so, but there are lots of reasons for that.  As some of you know, my family made the big drive from down south to visit me up here in Michigan for the Labor Day holiday.  Just keeping them entertained

should have kept me busy enough!  Now, I had planned a big celebration with all the fixin’s, but if you follow college football, you probably know that some bad weather came rolling through this area.  Long story short, I ended up losing power for three days.  So the menu was scrapped (along with a whole refrigerator of food) and some alternative plans had to be made.  At least I did get a chance to try a couple of things before all the chaos happened.  This is one of those things.

Now I had no idea if this would work.  I’m guessing that it wouldn’t because there’s a whole lot more gluten in whole wheat flour.  But I’m out of regular flour so why not try it!  In theory it should be fine since you cut the fat right into the flour and that limits the amount of gluten that’s formed (long strands of gluten are formed once you combine the flour with water)

Let’s begin!  I just followed my old pâte brisée recipe but just substituted in whole wheat flour.  Again, this is enough for a double 9-in crust.  Here’s what you need:

  • oops! some of the maple syrup leaked out.

    2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour

  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 T. granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks cold butter, cubed
  • 4 T. shortening
  • 1/3 c. ice water, give or take a couple of tablespoons

1.  Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse for a couple of seconds to combine the dry ingredients.  Add the butter and shortening and pulse until mixture forms a course meal.

2.  While pulsing, drizzle water over the dough until it just comes together.  The dough must not be wet or sticky.

3.  Turn out the dough onto a floured surface.  Kneed until the dough just comes together.  Press the dough out into a disk and wrap it in some plastic wrap or wax paper.  Let rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour so the dough can relax.  It’s then ready to use or it can be put in the freezer.  It can last for a couple of months or so.

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So to test things out, I pinched off a small amount to make a small galette.  The filling was very simple — after rolling it out, I just spread on some chocolate-hazelnut spread, then some blueberry jam, topped it with shredded coconut, and drizzled it with a little bit of maple syrup (wow, that sounds sweet now that I wrote everything down).  But the filling wasn’t important; I was testing the crust.

The crust was somewhat difficult to form.  Maybe I was overly concerned with making too much gluten that I didn’t make enough.  But it was still workable.  There were some breaks but it was easy enough to glue back together.  After baking, the crust was very tender, and it held together nicely.  What I loved was the flavor; you get the nuttiness and texture that the whole wheat imparts.  It does make a nice alternative, but the flavor can get a little distracting, overpowering even.  I’d prefer to have the filling be the star, not the crust.  Maybe making a blend (half whole wheat, half AP flour) would be better — easier to work, but you still get the greater depth of flavor.  Just my thoughts.

Labor Day with the family

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Batten down the hatches!!!  My parents and my brother are driving up from Florida to visit me for Labor Day.  Plus I got some other cousins and aunts and uncles coming in from about an hour away.  Lord help!  It’s not that I don’t want them to visit — it’s the planning that can be tricky.  And figuring out a menu isn’t going to be easy.  Maybe I can talk my cousin into bringing something to help with the menu.  What would be nice is having a whole roast pig, but since that ain’t gonna happen I’m going to have to improvise.  And too bad my grill just busted.  Good thing there’s still the trusty Smokey Joe. . . and as a side note, here’s what the Department of Labor says about Labor Day.

Luckily, another aunt and uncle (also from Florida) came in for a visit a few weeks ago so the meal they had here was essentially a trial run.  But since there’s gonna be more people, I’m going to need to expand a bit.  I do want to make some stuff focused on local goods and made in Michigan things, but I also want to make some things that I know they’ll like.  I did find some Labor Day ideas at Grilling.com, Martha, and Yum Sugar.  So here’s what I might end up doing (which I hope to post on these new ones soon):

Roast pork shoulder

Sautéed green beans with mushrooms

Ratatouille

Grilled corn

Fresh Lumpia

Bibingka

Zucchini Ribbons with Garlic Confit

Empanadas

Steamed Mussels with Glass noodle

Koegel’s viennas

Something with Rhubarb (probably a Raspberry and Rhubarb tart)

San Miguel

Oberon

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Of course all this planning might just go out the window, so I’m going to wait until the last minute to do any shopping.  There’ll probably be a trip to Windsor in the making.  Or maybe a quick jaunt to Toronto (if I’m lucky)!