Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A day off - Vegetarian Lasagna - Orange Scented Chocolate Cheesecake

Hey there. Hi there. Ho there. It's me. Thought I would drop in and say hi to any followers who might still be following me. :)

I had a day off today. A day off  from my house cleaning business and a day off from Starbucks. That meant I could sleep in and play in my kitchen. Playing in my kitchen makes me happy. In fact, playing in my kitchen makes me very happy. I knew ahead of time that I would have today off and had chosen a couple of recipes I wanted to try. One was for my Chocolate with Francois group and the other one was a practice run of an all vegetable lasagna. My beautiful daughter-in-law, who is pregnant with my first grand-child, is a Vegetarian. I am getting together next week with her and my son, my daughter and her hubby and we are going to have dinner together and play Quelf, a really fun board game. It will probably be the last time we can all get together before Baby Gulla is born. I plan on baking a pan of the vegetable lasagna and putting it in the freezer so that Sean and Katey have something they can just heat up and eat when they come home from the hospital with the baby. At least one night they won't have to worry about cooking dinner. :)

So, today I decided I would make a vegetable lasagna that I had come across a recipe for. It's from Italian Food Forever and it sounded easy and yummy. I even made the home-made sauce she links to. I used my submersible blender so that there wouldn't be chunks of tomatoes but kept to the basic sauce recipe.

I also bought my lasagna noodles. I do have a pasta roller, but I use it for my cake decorating business. Besides, I was more interested in what was going between the noodles rather than the noodles themselves. The recipe suggests using eggplant, roasted red peppers, fennel, and onions. I could not find fennel anywhere (and should confess here that I wouldn't know fennel if I bumped into it) so I decided to go with zucchini, eggplant, red peppers and onion. Knowing my hubby and his "it has to have meat or it isn't dinner" attitude, I bought some "Gimme Lean" sausage style veggie protein. I know, it isn't meat, but, I wanted to see if he would even notice.

I also cheated by buying roasted red peppers in a jar. I could have roasted some, but, I don't have a gas stove, it's electric. I do have a gas grill, but hated to crank it up to roast three red peppers. Thus, the jar of already roasted peppers.

I made the sauce first. It was super easy. Heat up some oil, drop in some minced garlic, pour in diced Italian style tomatoes, bring to a boil, lower heat, add salt and pepper and fresh chopped basil. And, any other spices or seasoning you would like. Super easy and really good.

I worked on the veggies next. Sliced the eggplant, brushed it with olive oil and grilled it under the broiler. Sauteed the onions till they were soft and light brown. Sliced the zucchini and sauteed that up. Fried the "sausage". Drained the roasted red peppers. Once I had all the ingredients cooked and on separate plates I began to assemble the lasagna.

A little sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. A layer of noodles. A little more sauce. Some "sausage", cheese and eggplant. Cover with noodles. Sauce. "Sausage". Cheese. Roasted red peppers. Noodles. Sauce. "Sausage". Cheese. Onion. Final layer noodles, sauce, "sausage", cheese, zucchini. Last layer of noodles, a little more sauce and a good amount of cheese. Covered the whole thing with foil and put it in a 375 degree oven and baked it for 45 minutes. The recipe on Italian Food Forever doesn't call for covering the dish with foil and it bakes for a shorter time, but I think that's because the noodles are fresh made rather than boxed.

The lasagna smelled fabulous while it was baking and looked wonderful when I took it out of the oven. I let it set for about 20 minutes before cutting and plating it.

I loved it!! So many flavors blending together. It was not greasy or overly heavy like some lasagnas can be. The vegetables were soft but not mushy. There was just enough sauce, not overpowering the dish or drowning the noodles, but just enough to enhance the flavors of the veggies and bind the noodles, cheese and veggies together. What was even better was that the hubby also loved it! At one point he asked about the ingredients, wanted to know if it was all veggies, besides the sausage. It was then that I told him the truth about the "sausage". He shrugged and kept eating. Success!!

Even if you aren't a Vegetarian, you should try this lasagna. Trust me when I say you won't miss the meat that's not in it. Or the ricotta cheese that's not in it. Or the eggs. Just roast or grill some veggies. Layer them with some shredded Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. A little sauce and you are good to go. :)

In the title of this post I mention an Orange Scented Chocolate Cheesecake. That recipe is from my CWF group and it is my pick for the month of June. According to the rules of our group, I am afraid I can't post my review until the 30th of June. But, trust me (again) when I say you need to come back at the end of June and get the recipe for it. Wonderful! Light yet rich. Orange and chocolate flavors blending together. A tender, sandy, sable' crust. The cheesecake baked up tall and beautiful. I really liked it. The hubby thought it was okay. He said I have made better cheesecakes before. However, he is not a big orange/chocolate combination fan. Guess you will have the try the recipe and decide for yourself.

I will be back on the 30th of this month, if not before, to post the latest CWF review...Chocolate Tiramisu. This was unbelievably delicious! I kid you not when I say that the 11/2 quart bowl I made lasted just over two days. And, there were only two of us here to eat it. :] You can find that recipe at Seattle Pastry Girl's blog. It's worth the effort. Trust me. :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rewind - Tuesdays with Dorie - "Tarte Noire"

I recently posted a picture of this tart on Tumblr and as of now, only 8 hours later, it has been re-blogged over 100 times. So, I thought I would re-post the original post, with the recipe, for anyone who might have missed it the first time. This is a Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, from her book "Baking, from my home to yours". If you could only have one baking cookbook, this is the one to have.
Hello again! I hope that this finds everyone well and rested after a big holiday weekend. Did you have a cookout? Did you watch a fireworks show? Did you spend time with friends and family? I did all of that and also played in the pool, slept late, and, made one of the best desserts I have made in a long time. What dessert would that be you ask? It was this weeks TWD choice, Tarte Noire, that Dharmagirl of bliss: towards a delicious life picked.  If she lived closer I would visit her so I could kiss her for choosing such a fabulous recipe. Well, I probably wouldn't kiss her, but I would definitely hug her or shake her hand or something. This may be my favorite recipe so far. I kid you not. Please drop by Dharmagirl's blog and get the recipe. You won't be sorry.

We had my hubby's best friend come and stay with us for the weekend. He arrived on Saturday and settled in for the festivities. We cooked steaks on the grill...nice juicy rib-eyes. Some corn and some baked fries rounded out the meal. We went out in the field after dinner and had our own little fireworks show. My hubby set off the fireworks while I snapped photos and the hubby's best friend shot video.

The guys hopped in the pool after the fireworks show and floated around for a while. I passed...it was a bit too cool for me to get in the water. Then, before bed, I served the two of them a slice of the Tarte Noire. They loved it! They both scarfed it down in what seemed like seconds, and all but licked the plates clean. I like it when something I make brings such a satisfied expression to my hubby's face, not to mention his friend's face(who, after all these years, is also my friend).

I put this recipe together in no time early Saturday morning. I decided to make the chocolate shortbread crust and it came together quickly and perfectly in my food processor. I baked it after letting it sit in the freezer for 30 minutes. When I pulled it from the oven, to cool before adding the ganache, I got the brilliant idea to cover the bottom of the crust with a thin layer of caramel! I thought about nuts, but decided to just go with the caramel.

The ganache came together as easily as the crust, becoming this dark, shiny, smooth bowl of deliciousness. :) I used a combination of bitter-sweet and semi-sweet chocolate and poured it over the caramel in the crust. Put the tarte in the fridge for 30 minutes to set up and then sliced a piece for myself  a picture. Yeah, that's it. For a picture. :)

I also tasted it, just to see if it was okay before serving it to the guys later that night. Couldn't serve them something I hadn't checked was edible, right? The ganache was silky smooth and  so creamy. Not too sweet. Rich and delicious! The caramel underneath was a perfect touch, adding just a little sweetness and texture to the chocolate. And, the crust? Crunchy, tender, buttery, chocolate-y, and perfect against the creamy chocolate and chewy caramel. With as easy as this was to put together, I can see making it again and again. I wonder if you could do a white chocolate version. Almonds would be wonderful in this too. Maybe in the crust. Of course, it was fabulous just as I did it, and I would certainly make it the same again.

So, a really big, BIG thanks to Dharmagirl for this weeks pick. Just awesome! And, check out what the others thought of it by clicking here. :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Icing

Oh my! Two posts in less than a month! This could be the start of something beautiful! :D

I had a rare Sunday off today (or I guess yesterday since it is past midnight) and I was looking for things to do that would keep me from cleaning my house. I will probably clean it tomorrow, but just didn't want to deal with it today. I was good and did two loads of laundry and put away and reloaded the dishes in the dishwasher. But, beyond that, I wanted to do something fun. And different. Sooo...

I had never attempted to bake "from scratch" cinnamon rolls. I have always had that little dough boy help me out whenever I felt the urge. I know it's crazy to think I had never made cinnamon rolls from scratch, but it's true. I have always been a bit intimidated by the whole yeast proofing and rolling out the dough and then rolling it up and the other complicated steps that I thought went into making them. Silly me! These couldn't have been easier and they are probably the best cinnamon rolls I have ever eaten, hands down! I wish I could take credit for the recipe, but that goes to Ree aka The Pioneer Woman.

I have Ree's cookbook (see my post about meeting her here) and knew her recipe for these rolls was in it. And, I had all the ingredients on hand, so I got everything together and got started.

These really were easy to put together. I think the hardest, or scariest part for me was scalding the milk. It was not supposed to boil and I stood over it watching like a hawk eyeballing a mouse in the field. Once your milk, oil and sugar cools back down to lukewarm you add your yeast and let it set for 1 minute. Then you stir in almost all of the flour and let it rest, covered with a clean towel, for an hour.

After that, you add the last cup of flour, along with salt, baking powder, and baking soda. It's a bit hard to stir these last things into the dough, but hang in there until you get all those dry ingredients incorporated into the dough.

Then you roll out the dough into a rectangle, cover it with butter, sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over it (I also added chopped pecans) and then roll it towards you in a tight tube. Slice the tube into 1" slices and place them into buttered pans. Cover again with those clean towels and let rise for 20 minutes while your oven preheats.

Ree says to bake these 13 to 17 minutes, but I found I had to bake mine for closer to 20 minutes before they were done. While they were baking I made the Maple icing. Powdered sugar, butter, milk, coffee (yes, coffee) and maple flavoring. Whisk it up and while the rolls are still in the pan, hot and fresh from the oven, pour the icing over them, getting it around the sides. Ree says not to be afraid of really dumping the icing on as the rolls will soak up much of that yummy-ness.

I hardly let the first batch cool before I cut out one roll and cut a piece to try. It was so good it "made me want to slap my granma" as my mother-in-law is fond of saying. Tender, sweet, maple-y, oooy, goooy, deliciousness!! I am ashamed to admit that I have eaten a total of three of them since taking them out of the oven around 5:30 this evening. I will be eating bread and water tomorrow to offset the calories I had today. But, oh, it was so very worth it. You really need to give these a try. Now that I know how easy they are to make, there's no stopping me now! :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Catching up on my Chocolate with Francois group

Wow! Has it really been almost two months since I posted on my blog? I am ashamed to admit that. But, when you work two jobs, bake on the side (though not as much as I wish) and keep up (somewhat) with a household, I guess the time can get away from you. Or me. Which is what happened. That's my story and I am sticking to it! :)

Though you can't tell it because of the lack of posts, I have been baking. I had a bridal shower cake last month. The woman who ordered it gave me a copy of the invitation and there was a tree with many branches on it. She wanted the cake to reflect that. Here's what I came up with.

 I later heard back from the woman who ordered the cake that "the cake was wonderful...everyone was blown away". Pretty high compliments I thought.

  I also had a baby shower cake. That cake was for my daughter-in-law, Katey. Yup! I am going to be a Grandma! My first grandbaby! Baby Gulla is due in May, the 20th, and my son and daughter-in-law couldn't be happier. I called her aunt, who was hosting the party and told her I would supply the cake for the party. This is what I made...

 It was such fun!! All of the characters are made of either fondant or chocolate, covered in fondant. Humpty Dumpty, three blind mice, the dish and the spoon, the cow and the moon. Oh, and twinkle stars. :) The "books" are cakes. The cake was a White Almond Sour Cream cake and I filled one layer with caramel icing, one layer with orange buttercream, and the last layer with almond/vanilla buttercream. When I came in with the cake no one could believe it was cake! I think it was one of my best so far. Maybe that's because it was made with so much love. :)

  Back in December I baked a birthday cake for a little girl who was having a pool party and the Mom wanted a "Summer in December" theme. I had fun with this one and thought I would share it with you here...

Fondant characters, blankets, ball, flip flops and life preserver. The "water" was blue icing. This was another fun cake to make.

But, this was supposed to be a catch up post for my CWF group. I have made the last two recipes...Cracaos and Chocolate Pudding Cake. I just hadn't gotten around to posting my reviews and pictures. So, here goes...

First off? The February pick, which was Cracaos. This is a traditional European cookie, with walnuts and pistachio nuts. Chocolate, as are all the recipes in CWF. With a touch of cinnamon.

These were pretty simple to put together. I read over the recipe and seeing that it made 80 cookies decided to cut the recipe down to better suit my family size (the hubby and me). I ended up making 1/4 of the recipe, which took a calculator and a scale that weighed grams to figure out.

I also used almonds instead of pistachios. I looked around and couldn't find pistachios anywhere. I thought about using hazelnuts, but couldn't find them either. (Of course, the other day while shopping, because I didn't need them, I found hazelnuts, lots and lots of hazelnuts). Other than that, I kept to the recipe.

I liked these. Chocolate? Good. Nuts? Good. Cinnamon? Good. All of those together, in one cookie? Good, good, good! Mine baked just a tad too long. I think next time I would check them after 9 minutes. But, all and all, they were great! I believe that Astheroshe-accro picked this recipe and I say she deserves a big "Thank You" for her pick.

March's choice? That would be Charlie's Chocolate Pudding Cake which Pantry Revisited picked. All I can say to Peggy is... "Oh My Goodness!! What an amazing cake!!"

I almost didn't make this one. I have been working hard at watching what I eat and I started  Body By Vi shakes back in January. Since then I have lost 20 pounds. I feel great and have lots more energy than I used to. So, when I read the recipe and saw that there was a total of 15 tablespoons of butter, 19 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, and 2 1/4 cups of heavy whipping cream, well, you can imagine my reaction. But I really like our group and decided to bite the bullet and make the cake. Boy am I glad I did. Well, I will probably hate that I did in the next day or so, because the cake is so good that I probably won't be able to leave it alone and will probably gain 10 pounds eating it, but, hey, for the group? It's the least I can do. :D

I thought this was a fairly easy cake to put together. The cake is just a few simple ingredients...flour, butter, chocolate, sugar, eggs and heavy cream. Mix it all together and bake it. There was a bit of confusion for me and for several other bakers. In the opening paragraph Francois mentions the cake being baked in a water bath. However, in the actual directions? There is no mention of placing the pan in a water bath. I decided to use a water bath, since he mentions it. I baked the cake according to the directions. I think I could have baked it another minute or two during the beginning baking as I thought the center was a bit soft. I know it's called "Pudding Cake", but I still think it was a touch under-baked. I will confess though, it in no way impacted the flavor of this cake.

This cake is so rich, so smooth, so creamy, so chocolate-y. My hubby practically licked his plate clean when he finished his slice. I cut myself a small slice and think I actually moaned out loud when I first tasted it. Incredible! If you want to impress someone, make this cake! You can find the recipe at Pantry Revisited's site.

Now, as Porky Pig used to say... "Th-Th-Th-Th-Th-... That's all, folks."