March 31, 2011

.candygram for mongo.

Well, at 20 weeks now I am a week behind in my bump update. Eek! For week 19, however, the bebe was the size of a mango. Mangos are definitely a most delicious fruit. It's also a fruit that just takes me to a beach, with some Jimmy Buffet playing, and maybe a pina colada in my hand... virgin of course. I've never really been one to eat mangos in any sort of recipe though.

After thinking about what I could make, I decided to just keep it simple. Simple and delicious. So I made an awesome mango, pineapple and blueberry smoothie. Too easy and so delicious. Although, despite being only a small portion of the smoothie the blueberries turned it completely blue. Very pretty, but not super indicative of mango... oh well.

I don't have a specific recipe I use for smoothies. I just put in a good amount of fruit, in this case frozen mango and blueberry with fresh pineapple, and roughly 1/4 cup of plain yogurt with up to a cup of light vanilla silk, depending on how thick I want it. Blend it all up and enjoy a delicious smoothie anytime!


March 27, 2011

.daring bakers challenge: march.

The March 2011 Daring Baker's Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria's Collection and Jamie of Life's a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Baker to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake. The recipe is up on the Daring Kitchen!

Completely oozing chocolate
And more chocolate
I immediately knew this was going to be a rocking awesome challenge. As soon as I saw the write up it reminded me of the pain au chocolate (chocolate filled bread) that I used to get from Kaladi Brothers in Anchorage. I am also still trying to master baking with yeast so I was even more excited for extra practice. It was also really nice to hear where the recipe for the coffee cake came from: An old, yellowed piece of paper in Jamie's father's recipe collection from the 1970s. I love that! I decided I was going to do a milk and dark chocolate and pecan coffee cake as well as a savory version with artichoke hearts, olives and goat cheese (hippy food, as the man says).

"Pizza" roll
Overall the recipe came together quite nicely. I did have one complete blond moment where, upon putting the dough in a greased bowl to rise I realized I had forgotten the eggs! I stuck everything back in the mixer and hoped for the best. As it turns out the dough came out quite nicely. I used half white flour and half wheat flour.

The rolls themselves were both incredible. The "pizza" roll, as we've dubbed it, was delicious. I may only be saying that though because I am obsessed with goat cheese. I think because of the olives and artichoke being packed in water, and how liquid the pizza sauce was, the dough in the very middle of the roll remained slightly doughy. Not too big of an issue, but next time I'll probably try to use ingredients that are dried better and cook the roll a little bit longer than 30 minutes.

Oh goat cheese... you are so good.

The yeasted meringue coffee cake though... WOW. This is one of the best things I've made in awhile. It combines two of my favorite things: bread and chocolate! It was absolutely delicious.  I would quote the man but he said inappropriate things about it. Good inappropriate, but inappropriate none the less.

Meringue and cinnamon.
Pecans jumped in.
Then chocolate joins the party.
He's ready for his close up.
Getting an egg wash.
Snipping the vents.
Great challenge this month. I actually feel like a mastered it, which is always a plus!


March 20, 2011

.thanksgiving in march.

Well, kind of. For this week's bump update blog I am using an awesome (adapted) recipe from The Smart Kitchen. This week the bebe is the size of a sweet potato and a few days ago Ms. Smart posted a delicious looking recipe of stewed beef, sweet potato, cranberry sauce and greens.  Perfect recipe for the week!

I decided this would be a great way to try to break in my crock pot some more- as I am a bit intimidated by it and haven't used it much since the wedding. Yikes. I bought a 2.5 pound roast and went to work. I added a medium onion, chopped, 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped, a can of whole berry cranberry sauce, cinnamon, salt and pepper and a few cups of beef broth. Then I cooked the whole thing on high for 5 hours.

I'm going to come on out and say it.... my roast was a little bit dry. I attribute this to a few things: I didn't sear it before putting it in the crock pot, there was no way I was going to risk the smell, and I also think I added too much broth. Aside from the slight dryness, however, the flavors were incredible! Cranberry sauce cooks really well with beef, giving it a subtle sweetness and the sweet potatoes were a nice, unusual, addition to the roast. Plus, I just love sweet potatoes so, you can't go wrong there. On top of all this awesome, there is enough leftover for 3 lunches for the man. He's happy.

I also served the whole thing with some Sister Schubert's rolls. OMG. If you have not tried these, go do it, right now. They are the lightest, airiest, fluffiest, most delicious rolls. I pretty much ate half of them all by myself. Hello baby weight. 


March 17, 2011

.making progress.

But not just for progress sake, right Hermione?

Big news in the .baking and wine. kitchen tonight folks. I cooked some chicken. Yeah! Back on the meat bandwagon. It was delicious chicken too. Very easy and didn't make me sick at all. I added it to a huge salad the man and I ate for dinner. Also for the salad, I made my first homemade raspberry vinaigrette. Rawr. It was really exciting to make my own dressing. I totally see why people do this, and I will now be one of those people.

No exact recipe for today's meal but I will tell you how I bake my chicken, the basic premise of the vinaigrette, and the other delicious things I added to the salad.

First, chicken. I didn't cook chicken for the longest time because I was so terrified of under-cooking it. Nothing like some salmonella to ruin a dinner, eh? Once I figured out how truly easy it was to bake a perfect chicken breast though I made them all the time. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place your chicken breast in a baking dish, season to your liking (I always put Tony Chachere's on it) then drizzle with olive oil. I also rub the olive oil on both sides. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 40-45 minutes. Perfect chicken breast, not even kidding.

One thing I've been able to eat without fail has been fruit. I've been craving it like a crazy woman. When walking through the produce section earlier this week I saw a package of raspberries, which I never buy, but I thought it would be really nice to do something with them so I grabbed said fruit and a bag of salad. Now, the vinaigrette. Wow. The color alone was stunning! Also, the measurements I used provided more than enough dressing for 4 huge salads, and could easily be for 8 smaller salads as well. I found a recipe for the vinaigrette that consisted of 1/2 cup raspberries, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon honey all blended together. This is what I used but I will be trying something different next time. The dressing was good but there was just a little something missing. Some small component wasn't there. I would love to hear any ideas as to what to change!

I took the chicken, the greens, and the vinaigrette, added slivered almonds, a few whole raspberries, and an avocado and pretty much made like Captain Planet.

With these powers combined I am huge, giant, delicious, dinner salad! I served it with an equally delicious sparkling organic pear juice.

The man said it was one of the best things I've ever made.... not sure how I feel about a salad being one of the best things but I'll take it!


March 15, 2011

.taking a trip to the outback.

I'm over halfway done with week 17 (can I get a big HELL YEAH!) and I was excited to do something for my bump update when I found out the bebe is the size of an onion this week. One of my favorite vegetables. After spending a long weekend with the in-laws I only had 2 more days though, and I told the man I didn't think I was going to cook anything with onion, because I just didn't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking something fancy schmancy. I had been thinking about making a french onion soup, or an onion tart, or something delicious like that.

Well, the man was not having me not doing my update so he suggested I make a blooming onion. Outback is one of his favorite places... mainly because of said onion, so if I could recreate it at home I would pretty much be the best wife ever. You know, more so than I already am.

I scoured the internet (read: Looked up recipes for 2 minutes) and found a few recipes for a baked onion. Sounded interesting and possibly a winner. I didn't have any of the exact ingredients needed so I kind of just made up my own little mix. I used this lovely recipe as my starting point, and took a few tips from the other recipes that I saw as well.

This would make an awesome appetizer for a small get together and, at less than 250 calories for the whole medium sized onion, it's really a guilt free dish! Granted, those calories are not counting the dipping sauce so, be careful there. This doesn't taste exactly the same as the sinful, fried Outback onion (which you probably don't want to look up the calorie count for) but it has a nice amount of crispness on top, and the creole seasoning I use gives the flavor excellent spiciness. It was really tough to get the breading into all the crevices and whatnot though so I am thinking next time I make this I'm going to go ahead and cut the onion completely, separate all the pieces, bread them, then bake them on a sheet pan. Not exactly "blooming" but that's okay.

Blooming Onion serves 2-4
1 medium onion
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
Garlic powder to taste
Chili powder to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients in two separate bowls.

Peel the onion and cut the bottom flat, but try not to cut too much off so the core stays intact. Then cut the onion as many times as desired, but do not cut all the way to the bottom. I made 4 cuts, resulting in 8 sections of onion. Ideally the onion will stay together (cause you didn't cut all the way to the bottom, did you?) but I did have a piece or two pop off, I just threw it in later.

After cutting, dip the onion into the wet mixture, try to gently open the "petals" so the mixture gets in all the crevices. Next put the onion in the dry mixture and try to fully coat and much as possible. Like I said, this was hard for me and I think I'll try a different way next time

Lightly grease, with cooking spray, a casserole dish. Place the onion in the dish, spray with a little bit more cooking spray. Bake for 45-55 minutes.

Serve with a dipping sauce like honey dijon dressing, ranch, thousand island or whatever you prefer!


March 10, 2011

.tagalong with me.

I woke up this morning with a hankering to bake. Sometimes it happens. I also bought some girl scout cookies last week. So I thought to myself, "Self, what would go good with girl scout cookies?" To which I replied, "Well, Self, probably a big ol' chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting."

Yeah, I'm pretty much a genius y'all.

I also had some cream cheese and sour cream in the fridge that I wanted to use up, and with that, I bring you Tagalong Cupcakes. I used the Guinness Chocolate Cupcake recipe from my birthday, but instead of Guinness I just used a little bit of extra sour cream and 2 tablespoons of milk. It was fate, these were the most perfect looking cupcakes I've ever baked. The frosting was also to die for.

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting  
frosts 6 cupcakes
2.5 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons milk
3/4- 1 cup powdered sugar

Combine the cream cheese and peanut butter until mixed. Add the milk and vanilla, combine. Add the powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time. I only used 3/4 cup powdered sugar and it was very thick frosting, just the way I like it! I found that this also made the perfect amount of frosting for the 6 cupcakes, finally! But, y'all know I'm not huge on the frosting so if you like copious amounts of the stuff I would double this recipe.

After the cupcakes are completely cooled, frost them to your liking. Then place a Tagalong cookie on top. Easy peasy!

I loved being able to scoop the frosting with the cookie!


March 5, 2011

.week 16.

Whew, I am on top of things this week! I'm actually cooking with my bump update fruit or vegetable at the beginning of the week instead of the end. I feel productive. I also tried out a brand new food! It was an exciting night in the .baking and wine. kitchen.

This week the baby is the size of an avocado. Which happens to be one of my favorite things. I was oh so happy to cook with the delectable little fruit. I also decided to try out a wonderful grain called quinoa. I was pleasantly surprised by this as well. I've been seeing quinoa all over the blogosphere and found a delicious quinoa salad recipe over at Oh She Glows. I really loved this salad. The quinoa doesn't have a whole lot of flavor by itself, but when added with other things and a nice, light dressing it is delicious. Even the man liked it pretty good, although he did say it was "interesting." Which it is, particularly the texture, but it's a good interesting.

Additionally, for you Alaska folks, the man and I thought it reminded us of Bear Tooth burritos! Kind of weird, ha, but it did. I bet this salad would be great in a tasty, wheat tortilla. Next time this will be what we try. I think it would also be great with tomatoes. The man thinks it would be better with some cheese sprinkled in, or some sour cream as well (he has burritos on the brain I think!). In the meantime though I switched up the recipe a little bit. You can find the original recipe at the above link. Here is what I put in it.

Red Quinoa and Black Bean Vegetable Salad serves 4
1 cup uncooked red quinoa
1 (14 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
2 small avocados, chopped

Juice from 2 small limes
Pepper to taste
Garlic powder to taste
1/4 cup olive oil

Start by cooking the quinoa according to the package. Every quinoa recipe I've seen has stated how important it is to rinse it under cold water multiple times, and the packaging does the same. The quinoa only takes 15 minutes to cook, which is nice.

While the grain is cooking, chop up all of the vegetables and add them together in a bowl. Whisk the dressing together in a separate bowl.

When the quinoa is done add the vegetables to it, drizzle the dressing over it, and mix to combine everything. The salad wasn't completely cooled but was almost at room temperature when we ate it, which worked out pretty well. We also used some Trader Joe's Soy and Flax seed Tortilla chips to dip into the last bits of the salad in the bowl. Crazy tasty! So, basically, this dish could be a salad, a burrito filler, a dip for chips.... and probably tons of other things. It's full of healthy fats and tons of protein, which really filled both of us up.

Two thumbs up for quinoa!


March 3, 2011

.panna cotta, take 2.

Update on the "bump": This past week the baby was the size of a navel orange! I thought hard about what to make with orange and came to a conclusion thanks to the man.

After making the honey panna cotta with strawberry gelee, or as he called it "strawberry custard," he was quite smitten with it. He requested I make it again, and soon. It's rare that he actually requests things, he usually just dutifully eats what I put in front of him. He's a good husband like that. So, I wanted to reward him by making panna cotta with orange gelee. I wanted to try something a little bit different for this attempt, and boy did I pay for it.

I found a dairy-free coconut panna cotta recipe that I thought sounded easy, delicious, and wouldn't require me to buy anymore heavy whipping cream. Well..... I'm not really sure what I did wrong but as it was chilling the coconut separated, as you can see in the pictures, and it just did not turn out well. At all.

It also had a slightly weird smell so, I honestly didn't really even eat any of it. Ha. According to the man it had the consistency of yogurt. He said the coconut panna cotta was 1 star out of 5 (ouch!) but the orange gelee was 3.2 stars out of 5. Whereas the original honey panna cotta was 4 out of 5 stars. It's good to have an honest critic! I could tell by looking at it the coconut was not going to be up to par.

At least it looks pretty! Ha!
So, folks, what did I do wrong? Anybody have any ideas? Not enough heat? Too much heat? Bad coconut milk? From now on I'll just stick to the full dairy version, when the man requests it. I'll post the recipe for the orange gelee as I perfect it and get the entire dish to taste good!


March 1, 2011

.happy march.

Does anybody else love new months? I know I do.

And I've decided to take this month to really focus on what I eat. I'm a week away from being 4 months pregnant and, well, I'm starting to get concerned about what goes into my body. Don't get me wrong, I've been eating okay for the last 4 months, avoiding caffeine, raw sushi, and lunch meat and getting lots of fruits and veggies, etc. At the same time though.... well..... you saw that lemon pound cake, right? Yeah. If it's true, you are what you eat, my ass is a lemon pound cake.

Sexy, eh?

Really though, a healthier me will equal a healthier pregnancy, which will equal a healthier wee lil' bebe, which will equal a healthier and happier non-pregnant me, bebe and the man. All very positive things.

It probably helps that a lot of the food blogs I frequent are very health focused, Ms. Smart, Angela, Emily and many others! I'm also pretty lucky in the sense that I enjoy healthy food. I mean, sure, I also like pound cake and pizza but I can get down on vegetables, lean protein, and fruit.

Now, I'm not saying I'll be perfect but I definitely will be making more of an effort to eat things with more nutritional value for me and the baby, and by default, the man. For right now a good bit of this will also be on the vegetarian side. I love meat, and will still eat meat when we eat out, but the thought of raw meat in my kitchen still gets me on the queasy side. Blech.
The fake mirepoix

Tonight (surprise to the man!) I actually got back in the kitchen to make something more than baked goods. Yay! It's a bit of a transition meal though. How is that you ask? Well, it does have a quarter cup of heavy cream in it. Yeah, yeah. I know. But a quarter cup for 6 servings isn't the worst thing in the world. And I had the cream left over from the panna cotta. Eating more nutritiously doesn't mean wasting what's already in the fridge!

Tomato Bisque serves 6
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, diced
1/2 onion, diced
Garlic powder for taste
Salt for taste
3 Tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
2 (14.5 ounce) cans of tomato (fire roasted, diced, doesn't matter)
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 green onion for garnish*

Ready to blend!
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the carrot and onion. The original recipe I found called for celery as well but I didn't have any, if you want to make a true mirepoix add celery. Cook the vegetables until they are soft. Add the garlic powder, salt and sprinkle the flour over the vegetables. Combine until the flour is dissolved. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and chicken stock. I used one can of plain diced tomatoes and one can of diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Almost done. Just added the cream.
Transfer most of the solids and some of the broth to a blender. Let cool for a few minutes then blend until smooth (be careful blending hot liquids!). Place back in the saucepan and add the cream. Cook until the soup is heated back through.

Place in bowls and garnish with the green onion.

*The green onion is optional but I highly recommend it. I tasted the bisque before serving it and then tasted it with the green onions while we were eating it. They give the flavor a lot of extra zing! Way delicious. I also served it with some ghetto garlic bread which I badly burned under the broiler.... I should apparently not be allowed to broil thing. Oi.

**The man went for thirds (thirds! He likes it, he really likes it!) and just threw two pieces of bread in there with the bisque. It was quite good this way as well. He's creative like that.