Tuesday, April 30, 2013

TWD: Baking with Julia - Chocolate Truffle Tart

Happy Birthday to me, happy birthday to me...  For my birthday, I made the Chocolate Truffle Tart from Baking with Julia.  My Tuesday's with Dorie group schedules recipes for the first and third Tuesday of each month.  If there happens to be a FIFTH Tuesday (like today), we can do a recipe we missed, repeat a recipe, do nothing, whatever we choose.  I only have a couple of recipes left that I missed (baked before I joined the group) so I decided to bake one of those.  And lucky for me, it ended up being Chocolate Truffle Tarts!  Yahoo! 

My birthday was actually in late March, but I planned ahead for this post since I knew I'd have a newborn baby in my home sometime in April and may not be up to baking much.  And really, who can say no to a birthday cake like this?  Not me!

This recipe is delicious!  Yum.  A perfect chocolate-y treat if you love chocolate.  If you don't, you will want to pass this recipe right on by!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Deep Dish Ham Quiche

My family enjoys quiche.  I figure anything made in a pie shell is good, and since the clever girl agrees that makes dinner easier at times!  This is the Deep Dish Ham Quiche by Tyler Florence.  It is different than my normal quiche, in that this one is almost custard-like on the inside, with a smooth velvety texture.  YUM.  Since it is deep dish, you get lots of that yummy velvety stuff.  Plus, unlike most quiches, it does not contain any cheese.  Different, huh?  Oh, and it includes caramelized onions.  Is there anything that isn't made better with caramelized onions?  Well, in the savory food category, anyway?  I do think caramelized onion ice cream would be dreadful, but in savory items, it is ALL GOOD.  I wouldn't say this is a HEALTHY recipe, but every so often you just have to dive in and go all the way with food.   I did try to make it a "little" healthier but it is what it is.

Deep-Dish Ham Quiche
adapted from Tyler Florence, Food Network
1 pastry shell - I use this recipe but you could use a store-bought one as well!
3 tablespoons extra-virgin-olive oil
2 large Vidalia onions, sliced
3/4 pound smoked ham, cubed
8 large eggs
1 quart heavy cream (! used 2 cups 2% milk and 2 cups heavy cream)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roll your pastry/pie crust into a 14-inch circle about 1/4 inch thick.  Carefully place the dough into a 9-inch springform pan and press the dough firmly onto the bottom and the sides so it fits tightly.  Place the springform pan on a cookie sheet so it is easier to move in and out of the oven.  Your oven will thank you if there are any leaks, plus the quiche is pretty heavy so the cookie sheet helps there, too.

To make the filling:
Heat a skillet over medium-low heat.  Coat the pan with oil and add the onions.  Allow to slowly cook, stirring, until they caramelize and release their natural sugars.  Add a few tablespoons of water to help the onions break down if you need to.  This can take 30 minutes to an hour, so you could do this in advance if you prefer.  Once the onions are nice and caramelized, add the ham and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes to get some color in the ham.  Remove from the heat.  

Preheat oven to 375F.  In a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy.  Add the cream/milk, season with salt and pepper.  Arrange the caramelized onions and ham over the bottom of the crust and carefully pour in the cream/egg mixture.  The filling should be about 1 inch from the top of the pan.  Cover loosely with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours.  Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the quiche is set, puffy, and jiggles slightly.  Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool for 30 minutes before serving. 

This recipe takes a bit more time than your average quiche recipe but I encourage you to give it a try.  It makes a nice dinner and could be a special brunch dish as well.  I like that it is different - more custardy, no cheese...  It really is delicious!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

All-in-one-Holiday Bundt Cake

Yes, this recipe does conger up thoughts of Thanksgiving and Christmas, however a good bundt cake can really be served any time.  And this is one great bundt cake.  So I challenge you to think outside the "holiday season" with this recipe and make it anytime.  It is so good, why only have it during one season??

I recently made this cake for a friend's retirement party.  I didn't actually intend for it to be a cake for the party, though it did turn out that way.  I just wanted to bake my friend and her husband a cake to celebrate her retirement!  This is a friend that I used to work with, back in the day when I was a federal law enforcement officer.  I know, it is hard to believe!  I am so proud of my friend, as there are not many female agents in general, and VERY FEW that I admire as much as this friend.  She was a true mentor and role model for me.  She helped me to be a great agent and I taught her to knit!  Ha!  That was a scream.  Anyway, I was thrilled to attend her retirement party and I am so happy for her to be starting this whole new chapter in her life.

Her husband liked this cake so much he evidently would get this glazed look in his eye and would not stop talking about it!  So I gave my friend the recipe and she made it for him again!  

I honestly decided to make this cake for my friend the morning of her retirement lunch.  It was a spur of the moment decision.  That is how easy this cake is.  Just throw it together and jump into the shower.  It will be ready around the same time you are all dressed and ready to go. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Balsamic Roast Beef

Interested in a really great slow cooker recipe?  Look no further.  This Balsamic Roast Beef is flat-out delicious!  And it is super easy.  Throw the ingredients into your crock pot, let that crock pot do it's job, and in 6-8 hours (if you cook it on low) dinner is ready!  It is that simple and is REALLY good. 

Balsamic Roast Beef
adapted from Add A Pinch
Serves 6-8
1 3-4 pound boneless roast beef (chuck or round roast)
1 cup beef broth
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, chopped

Place the beef in your slow cooker insert.  Mix together the remaining ingredients in a 2-cup measuring cup or a small bowl.  Pour over the beef and set the cooker for 4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.

With tongs, remove the cooked beef from the cooker and place in a serving bowl.  Break it apart a bit with 2 forks and then ladle 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of the remaining sauce over the beef.  Or, for more pronounced flavor, skim the sauce and put it into a small saucepan on the stove.  Heat over medium-high heat until the sauce is reduced by half.  Pour this over the beef. 

Dinner?  DONE!  Throw together some side dish and you have an amazing meal! 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

TWD: Baking with Julia - Madeleines

This week's recipe for Tuesday's with Dorie was Madeleines.  I am happy to say that my sister recently found some Williams Sonoma Madeleine pans for me at a garage sale for like $1 each, so I already had the proper equipment!  However as you may know, I have been expecting a baby so I knew making this recipe would be tricky.  As it turns out, the clever baby was born on April 9 via an emergency c-section (no worries, we are both fine), so I was unable to actually bake the cookies myself.  I am obeying my doctor's orders and he specifically said that I was not to cook, bake, do any housework, etc while I am healing.  I had a guest baker assist with this recipe.  My sister!  I am so lucky that my family was able to come in town to help me with the baby and recovery - little did they know they would be helping me with my blog as well!

A madeleine is a small sponge cake that has a shell shape made by being baked in special pans with a shell-shaped depression.  The treat was named for a Madeleine Paulmier, a French pastry cook in either the 18th or 19th century (there is some debate as to the historical time-frame).   That is your history lesson for the day!

Most importantly, let me introduce you to the clever baby.  Isn't he a cutie-pie?  Besides being adorable (mother's bias), he is a very good-natured baby.  I am so lucky!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage

There is a restaurant in town that makes this amazing orecchiette pasta that Mr. Clever Mom and I order every time we visit.  I finally decided that I needed to try to re-create the dish in my own kitchen.  I found a similar dish and added some things and I think we came up with something good!

Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage
adapted from Food Network Magazine

Kosher salt
12 ounces orecchiette pasta or pasta shape of your choice
2 TB extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
8 ounces spicy Italian sausage (or sweet or mild, whatever you prefer)
2 green onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
8 ounces sliced cremini onions
2-3 cups fresh spinach
freshly ground pepper
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup chicken broth/stock
1/2 cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook as the label directs.  Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the sausage and break it up with a wooden spoon.  Cook until it begins to brown, about 3 minutes.  Add the green onions and cook until softened, about 3 more minutes.  Add the garlic, mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, and pepper to taste.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms begin to brown, about 3 more minutes.  Add the tomatoes and spinach and cook until the tomatoes soften and the spinach begins to wilt, about 3 more minutes.

Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta.  Add the broth to the skillet and cook, stirring, for 1 minutes.  Stir in the pasta and cheese, adding some of the reserved pasta water to loosen pasta if needed.  Season with salt and pepper.  Divide into bowls, drizzle with olive oil, and top with more cheese and toasted pine nuts.
Printable Recipe

We all loved it!

You can adapt this recipe however you like.  Add some red pepper, use a different type of sausage, use a different green than spinach like kale or something, do whatever you want!

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Twirly Easter Dress

The clever girl LOVES twirly dresses.  I suppose there may be girls her age that aren't as in to twirly dresses, but this girl loves them.  So when I fell across a tutorial for a halter dress with a full circle skirt, I knew I had found the clever girl's Easter dress.  I basically followed the tutorial, with some minor changes. 

For one, the tutorial suggested basing the top of the dress from an existing halter or tank top.  Instead, I measured the clever girl in the following places:
  • chest circumference
  • approx. distance from shoulder to top of bodice
  • approx. distance from shoulder to underarm
  • distance from top of bodice to waist
  • distance between straps/top of bodice length
I added in a bit of give so the bodice would not be skin tight, and drew out the pattern for the front.  The back of the dress is pretty much a rectangle that is gathered with elastic thread, and I based my pattern on  the tutorial for this one.  The other thing I changed about the top is that I added a lining.  I like a lined bodice.  I used french seams throughout the dress. 

the back

The skirt of the dress is actually based on a circle skirt pattern created by Dana of Made.  She tells you exactly how to measure and cut the skirt and it worked out perfectly! 

The dress is really quite simple.  You create the top front and edge the top of the bodice with bias tape.  Then add bias tape to go from the underarm up the bodice, which turn into straps to tie behind the neck.  The back of the bodice is gathered with many rows of elastic thread, which is actually pretty fun to use.  I love that you sew with it, and it kind of starts to gather...  Then if you spray it with water and hold a hot iron over the thread without actually touching it, you can see the material gather even more!  Fun!   Then the skirt is one gigantic circle, which you sew to the bodice.  Edge the entire bottom of the skirt with bias tape (probably the easiest way ever to finish the edge of a circle skirt) and it is done!

The best part is the twirli-ness of the dress.  It just makes you want to dance!  The clever girl loves this dress so much she wanted to sleep in it and wear it every day!  I will probably make some variations of this dress so we have more for the summer.  It is a hit!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Stamped Gauze/Muslin Snuggle Blankets

When the clever girl was born, I received a couple sets of "muslin baby blankets" that have since become treasured objects in our home.  We call them "snuggle blankets" and we always have at least 2 in her bed, one at school for naps, and one in the car.  Thus, there was no question that "Button" would need his own set of snuggle blankets.  No baby can be without!

Instead of purchasing them (they can be fairly expensive) I decided to make my own.  That's just how I roll, as you have probably figured out by now!  I read a tutorial that Dana of Made created, and got inspired.  I knew I wanted to make 8 blankets (that is the number the clever girl has), and I wanted to dye half of them.  The next consideration was decorating them.  Should I applique something onto them?  Hmmm...  Then I thought of using stamps and fabric paint.  Decision made.  That is what I would do.  I wouldn't say that stamping them is faster than applique - they both take some steps to complete, but I like how my stamped blankets turned out!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

TWD: Baking with Julia - Rustic Potato Loaves

This week's recipe for Tuesday's with Dorie is Rustic Potato Loaves, on pages 138-139 of Baking with Julia.  I have to say, if you have any interest in baking bread, this is one to try!  It is fairly quick to make (just two rises of 20 minutes each) and the end result is simply delicious!