PROBLEM: No creative title

April 29th, 2008

Sometimes, I wonder where I left my brain…how can I forget all I know about cooking and blogging all in one evening? Come on, Ginny, you are so much better than this…but I am still going to share…

Yesterday was a crazy hectic day at work and during my lunch 15 minutes, I tried to decide what to make for dinner. You know, the normal…devouring my black bean salad while browsing through tastespotting and searching for some inspiration. Given the rainy weather, all I could think of was soup…yummy butternut squash soup! A couple months ago I tried Jen of Use Real Butter‘s Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. It was simple, easy, and delicious. I ate it for days and never got tired of it. So after work, I went to the store to get the ingredients.

PROBLEM #1: Butternut Squash is out of season.

Oh, maybe that is why I cannot find any butternut squash anywhere. Well, my mom always talks about frozen butternut squash and that would work, right?

PROBLEM #2: I forgot the shallots.

No problem, I’ll add more onion.

PROBLEM #3: The soup tasted very bland.

Well, I have a ton of leftover thyme that may make it more interesting.

PROBLEM #4: Butternut squash does not photograph well!

Who cares, I’m hungry!

Verdict: My roommates liked it but, always very critical of my own work, I think I can do better. The good part is it was very fast to make since butternut squash takes so long to roast and this cuts out that step. Jen’s recipe is excellent so please check it out and her wonderful blog!

Thyme Butternut Squash Soup
(adapted from Jen of Use Real Butter)

2 12 oz frozen butternut squash purée
1 green apples, peeled, cored, diced
1 red onion, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 qts chicken broth
salt
pepper
2 oz. butter

1. Defrost butternut squash purée in a saucepan over medium heat for about 20 minutes.
2. Boil onions and apples in broth and simmer for 30 minutes or until soft.
3. Strain the apples and onions from the broth and reserve the liquid.
4. Purée the solids.
5. Add both purées to the broth and mix well.
6. Mix in thyme.
7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
8. Add the butter and heat the soup until it just begins to simmer. Serve hot.

P.S. Other butternut squash soup recipes I want to try:

Butternut Squash with Chestnuts and Chillies from Kevin of Closet Cooking
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger and Spices from Warda of 64th sq ft kitchen
Ginger-Orange Butternut Squash Soup from Karen of Family Style Food
Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk from Myriam of Once Upon a Tart

My First Daring Baker’s Challenge

April 27th, 2008

Have you ever played Candy Land? The wonderful board game where you navigate through the land of candy…running from Lord Licorice, hanging out with Princess Lolly in the Lollipop forest and ultimately saving the King in the castle! As you can imagine, I loved this game as a child. It is a simple straightforward game made so much more interesting by a Candy Cane Forest and Gum Drop Mountain. I could never decide who I wanted to be, eitherPrincess Lolly or Queen Frostine. They were both so beautiful and lived in such delicious places.

Ok, I know that you are wondering why I am reminiscing about some board game I played last night…er…um…15 years ago…Well, my first Daring Bakers challenge, Cheesecake Pops, as chosen by Deborah and Elle, would fit in perfectly in Candy Land. They could live right next to the Lollipop Forest with their bright colorful sprinkles, chocolate coating and yummy cheesecake center.

I am very excited to be joining the Daring Bakers. Every month the members are secretly given a recipe to follow to the letter and then blog about it on the designated day. This was a fun challenge and I brought my pops into work for a baby shower. Everyone loved them! I followed the recipe as it was written and used the microwave method to coat them in chocolate.



Cheesecake Pops
(adapted from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor)

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

5 large eggs

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ cup heavy cream

Boiling water as needed

Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) – Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

P.S. Check out the other Daring Bakers’ Creations…

Dollar Dish Duel Update and some Olive-Thyme Bread!!

April 23rd, 2008

First, an update regarding my Dollar Dish Duel. We have a logo thanks to my boyfriend. I was always joking that I needed to date a man who could help me with my blog. Well, the blogging gods answered my prayers with this one. We spent a very romantic evening designing a little logo for my event. So, if you would like, please put the logo on your entry to help publicize the event. Thank you!

You are entering, right? Why wouldn’t you? You have a chance winning this awesome cookbook…

Ok, enough about the Duel. Let’s talk about this delicious bread that I have already dangled in front of you. Lately, I have been in what I like to call my European mood. I start craving warm fresh breads, rich soft cheeses, large crisp salads and some really good red wine. Maybe it is the beautiful spring weather that puts me into this mood. I just want to sit on my balcony basking in the sunshine with my meal or maybe not…

Monday it rained a lot! As I was trudging home from the metro, the water seeping into my ballerina flats and splashing up my legs, I fixated on the thought of warm fresh bread smothered in brie. In fact, I knew exactly which recipe I wanted to use. Vegeyum from A Life (time) of Cooking recently made a no-knead bread that would be ready in a little over an hour. Walking into my apartment, feeling like a drowned rat, I went quickly to the kitchen and put it all together. I had some olives and thyme left over from the Fig and Walnut Tapanede I made last week so that also went in. While the bread was rising, I ran to the store to grab the brie and salad fixin’s. I forewent the glass of wine this time knowing that I would be driving over to my boyfriend’s later for our Logo Designing Date. When I got back from the store, the bread was all ready to go. I threw it in the oven and fifteen minutes later, I had to use a great deal of self control not to burn my mouth. Thankfully, I have found that by the time you take some photos, your food is normal cool enough to eat. My roommates and I devoured it with the brie. A fabulous dinner! And yes, I even has some salad to feel semi-healthy, I swear!


Olive and Thyme Focaccia
(adapted from vegeyum’s My Deliciously Fast No Knead Focaccia)

3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups approx of tepid water
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoon) rapid rise yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
salt

1. Mix the sugar, 1/2 cup lukewarm water and the yeast with 1 Tablespoon of the flour, making a sponge, and let sit in a warm place for 15 minutes.
2. Mix the flour, yeast sponge, olives, thyme and enough of the remaining water to make a sticky dough.
3. Add additional water if you need it. The dough should be a little wetter than you would normally make dough.
4. Leave the dough to rise for 1 – 1.5 hours.
5. Place the risen dough on a bench and divide into two. Shape each on a tray with well oiled fingertips.
6. Bake in the oven at 500 degrees Fahrenheit around 10 – 15 minutes, or until cooked and lightly browned.
7. Eat while still warm.

P.S. Go to vegeyum’s post for more variations and tips. Her blog combines delicious food, exceptional photographs and cultural insights that I enjoy reading everyday. I would highly recommend checking it out.