Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Red Eye Gravy and a Tall, Twisted Tail

"His father...was one of the best men that ever breathed.", Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

It has been a long and sad week in our household. MBH's father had a series of strokes over the last six months that left him a shell of the man he was and after a long struggle, he passed away yesterday. While I am so very sad to know I will never hear his voice or laugh at one of his tall tales again, I am grateful that he is finally at peace. He was a vibrant man who could tell slightly off colour jokes that had you laughing and there was no one who could tell a story as well as he, except for his son perhaps. MBH's father was of the last of a certain generation of Southern gentlemen to be sure.

MBH's dad and I never discussed food all that much except for oatmeal cookies. They were his favourite cookie and since MBH's mother doesn't bake or cook all that well, the only time he got really good homemade cookies were when I sent him some. I did however get one recipe from MBH's father for a true Southern delicacy, Red Eye Gravy and Country Ham.

He gave me the recipe by way of a story that goes something like this:

He was driving to the airport to pick up a friend who had flown into town for a weekend of golf. On the way to the airport, he took a short-cut through the country and hit a pig. Well, the pig was killed instantly and by the time he had gotten the pig off the road and tried to find the farmer to tell him he was sorry for killing his pig and that he would come back to make restitution by way of paying to have the pig made into country ham, he was late. So, he left the pig by the side of the road and hurried to the airport to pick up his friend. While he and his friend were waiting for the luggage, two police officers approached him and told him he was under arrest for leaving the scene of an accident and killing a pig. He was astounded since no one had seen him hit the pig and he hadn't told a soul. On his way to the police station, he asked how the police knew it was him who hit the pig.

"Well, you see", said the police officer, "the pig squealed".

Thank you, Sir. I will miss you...

Red Eye Gravy and Country Ham

4 Thick Slices of Country Ham
1 cup strong black coffee
pepper to taste

In a well seasoned cast iron skillet, fry the the ham until crisp. Pour coffee over the pan drippings and over medium heat bring to boil and reduce to 3/4 cup. Add pepper to taste. Pour over ham slices and serve with hot buttermilk biscuits.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Holy Puff Pastry Batman!

DB Logo

Quick!! Cue the spy thriller music! Start the fog and wind machines! Turn on the Klieg lights and scan the sky because the Daring Bakers are back and they are packing puff pastry!

This month our challenge was to make that classic test of all good pastry chefs, the incomparable Gateau St. Honore as suggested by our two daring hostess, Helene and Anita.

Basically, this dessert is an excuse to make puff pastry (pate feuillete), cream puffs (pate a choux) , diplomat cream (Bavarian cream), and stick them together using caramel and whipped cream! Oh darn...whipped and Bavarian cream all on the same dessert...

I was pretty excited about this challenge because I had always wanted to make cream puffs and puff pastry. I was also a bit nervous about this month's challenge as I had always heard how much work making your own puff pastry was and after last month's challenge, I wasn't sure I was up for hard and fussy work.

Boy was I wrong! Making puff pastry is actually pretty easy!! Yes, it takes a bit of time but you don't have to work much during most of that time and best of all, almost every step calls for you to play with your food! Basically all you do is make the dough (get to make mud with flour and water), make a butter brick (get to use butter as a sculpting medium; which I always got yelled at the dinner table for doing when I was kid) and then fold the dough over the butter brick and pound on it for a bit with your rolling pin (fantastic upper arm/tricep workout to minimize "bat wings"), fold it over some more and "turn it" (Does my butter package look fat from this angle?), and then, the best part is you get to poke at it with your fingers ala Moe to Curly's eyes to leave a mark so you don't forget which turn you are on! All this is kind of like finger painting for grown-ups! Great Fun!! After you are done mean making the dough package, you stick it in the fridge for about an hour and repeat! Six or seven hours later you have puff pastry! Which after resting for at least four hours in the fridge, you can use it to make the round bottom of your Gateau St. Honore.

Besides the time it takes to get the puff pastry made, the rest of this incredible dessert goes to together faster than you can slide down your superhero pole and jump into your wiz-bang car to save Metropolis. Like the puff pastry dough, at first I wasn't sure about the cream puff dough(You want me to boil my flour with my liquids? Is this suppose to be glue consistancy? Boy, does this dry hard to a pan. Guess I should have put water in it when I was done making the dough instead of waiting until the next morning but next time I have to hang some wallpaper...) It all turned out OK, and the little cream puffs got well...puffy in the oven; just like Helene and Anita said they would.

Not everything went as smoothly for me as the making of the puff pastry and cream puff doughs. When it came time to make my round bottoms (I made mini cakes) I got, well, got a bit nervous about my puff pastry and worried it wouldn't puff up or be flaky enough. So, yes, the recipe said roll it out to about 1/8" thick, but I was pretty sure mine wouldn't puff up so I folded it over and cut it out. Then, I was worried my cream puff circle on top of the puff pastry circle wouldn't bake right, bake too fast, bake too slow, so I made sure I had a lot of it on top because more is better right?


Um...guess I shouldn't have worried huh?

At this stage of the challenge, my cake began to take on a personality of it's own. While the puff pastry circles and baby cream puffs were baking I made the Diplomat cream. I had never made anything like this before. Ok, I made Bird's Custard before (there really is an entry for everything on Wikipedia) but it comes in a can and you just add milk and stir for a really long time over a slow flame. I got all excited when the cream, egg yolks, unflavoured gelatine, and milk all started to thicken and I think I started jumping up and down a bit too much because the downstairs neighbors pounded on the ceiling. I also got so excited it actually thickened that I pulled it off the heat too fast and was left with Bavarian cream soup (nope, that isn't going into a pastry bag). Second time was a charm though. I cooked it until it was stove-top pudding thick, let it cool a bit before finishing it and let is sit in the fridge for about 4o minutes to finish thickening/cooling. Then I filled the cute little cream puffs...

Honestly, I only tried one or two or maybe three of them! They were just too perfect not to just pop in your mouth (One for the cake, one for me, two for the cake, two for me...) Besides, I had to find out what the Amaretto I used instead of rum in the cream filling tasted like...

To say that hot sugar and I hate each other would be an understatement. So far, two of my three Daring Baker Challenges have now involved caramelizing sugar. I'm not sure what my problem is but I just can't seem to get it right the first time. I think it is a conspiracy between the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Staypuff Marshmallow Man because I've crystalized at least 5lbs of sugar in the last two months. Not to mention, I've burnt my fingers on the @##%! stuff at least once during the past two challenges (Ok, so sticking my finger in it while it was still on the stove to taste the caramel flavour was probably a really dorky thing to do). But, after tries, I finally had caramel, sorta. What I really meant to say is I had something that looked like caramel sugar, burned my finger like caramel sugar, and oh yea, got all spun sugar like but NOT when I wanted it to get all artsy-fartsy looking; just when I was trying to dip the cream puff bottoms in it so I could glue them onto top of Mt. Puff Pastry. So, it must have been caramel.

In the end, I had just enough extra cream puffs to put a ring around the base of my too tall puff pastry bottom.

Yum...extra cream puffs...

To see how all my fellow Daring Bakers fared with this month's challenge visit their links over on my sidebar! Get out a bunch of napkins first because I guarantee you will be drooling and laughing your way through all 40+ posts.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Chocolate Fashion Accessories for Fall

I was in NYC for a meeting and the fall fashions are already starting to appear in store windows!!

Here is a little sneak preview of what every fashionista truffle will be wearing this fall:

Love the clasp!

The perfect size for holding everything a girl needs.

The hidden dark side of lavender.

A spot of Earl Gray and green tea in my truffle.

You can find these fashionable chocolates designed by Knipschildt Chocolatier at the Chocopologie Cafe in Norwalk, CT.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Presto Pasta Night: A Cool Dish for a Warm Night

Wow! I can't belive we are half way through the week already! Good thing too because it is going to be a bake-fest in my kitchen this weekend but that isn't what this post is about because we are ready for another installment of Presto Pasta Night, the weekly event hosted by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast.

The first really warm night of the year was last night. When I got back to Fairfield from work it was 7pm and it was a sticky and humid 82 degrees!! Needless to say, the thought of fixing warm food after a hot commute home was not enticing. Figuring I'd just eat a bowl of cold cereal, take a cool shower and lie on top the sheets with the fan pointed at me while I read, I started to pull out the milk from little fridge when I saw the three cheese tortellini I had picked up this week on a whim. Now that would make a good pasta salad, I had thought to myself when I bought them. So, what is a girl faced with the choice between pasta salad or Special K suppose to do? Well, she makes pasta of course!

While the tortellini cooked in the microwave, I rummaged around in my pantry area (3 milk crates stacked in my closet) looking for things to add to the pasta salad and came up with a small can of ham, dried shredded carrots from a veggie salad mix I didn't really like, and some dried thyme. I had a pack of baby peas in the freezer and 1/4 packet of shredded sharp cheddar cheese along with a squeeze bottle of Light Miracle Whip in the fridge door.

The perfect makings for a cool and delicious pasta salad; ready to eat almost faster than I could finish opening the bottle of wine...

Easy Peasy Pasta Salad

Makes one serving

1/2 package of three cheese tortellini (fresh from the deli case)
1 small can of ham or chicken
1/4 cup of frozen peas
1/8 cup of shredded carrots (I used dehydrated but you can use fresh)
1/8 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/8 cup light salad dressing or mayonnaise
1/8 tsp of thyme
fresh ground pepper to taste

Heat 2 cups of water to boiling in the microwave. Put tortellini in a microwave safe dish with a lid and cover with boiling water, put lid on and let sit for 4 minutes. Open can of ham and shred in a bowl, add peas and carrots if using fresh. If using dehydrated carrots, add to tortellini and microwave for 4 minutes. Let tortellini and carrots stand for 2 minutes, drain and cool with cold water. Add to ham and veggie mixture. Combine with salad dressing and thyme. Add cheese and top with fresh ground pepper.

Serve with a nice glass of rose or white wine.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Weekend Cookbook Challenge #16: Something New From the Friendly Skies


This month's Weekend Cookbook Challenge host is Sara of I Like to Cook, who started the event as a weekly feature on her blog as way to cook from her cookbooks she rarely used. Not unlike the way Daring Bakers has grown from two to 30+ members, Weekend Cookbook Challenge has grown into a monthly "must do" event.

The theme this month is "Something New"; where we are instructed to cook from either a new cookbook, try a new technique, or play with a new ingredient. You may also know that along with the monthly official theme, I've been having my own little personal sub-theme of food from modes of transportation. I've featured food from ships with good hearty food from Great Lakes freighters and ocean liner elegant dinning from the Titanic . I've featured food from trains with a retro salad recipe from the Harvey House; the restaurant chain found at train stations and who provided most food service for trains during the golden age of rail. Now we are going to take to the air with, are you ready for this, airplane food. Yes, you read that right, airplane food!!

Because, believe it or not and really not that long ago, airlines served more than a bag of stale pretzels or six honey roasted peanuts to their passengers .


When air travel was in its infancy in the early and middle 1920's, mail planes would sometimes fly a few passengers for extra money. Meals consisted of what you brought with you or if you were lucky, hot coffee poured from a thermos and maybe a sandwich that was handed out by the co-pilot. As passenger travel increased so did the need to provide more than a cup of coffee served by the co-pilot. By the early 30's, companies like Pan Am, TWA, United Airlines, and American Airlines were officially carrying passengers (all these airlines started as mail carriers in the 20's) so they expanded services to include a stewardess who, along with being a registered nurse, also served hot meals, handed out slippers on overnight flights, polished shoes, and even carried a train schedule so passengers could make connections. By the late 30's and through until World War II, air travel grew and became more common place. This was the age of elegant travel when Pan Am flew their luxurious Clipper Ships and passengers were treated to cocktail services in mirrored art deco smoking lounges


seven course meals served on fine china with real silverware


sleeping compartments


and even breakfast in bed.


After jet travel became ordinary in the late 70's with the signing of the Airline Deregulation Act, Amercian based airlines used food service and gimmicky slogans as a way to distinguish themselves from each other and attract passenger loyalty. This was the age of the upstairs swinging bars in 747 jumbo jets complete with disco balls and "luv couches".


However, as the airlines became more like buses with wings and passengers began to demand cheap prices vs service, the quality of food service declined and the only place to get fairly decent food was if you were in first or business class. As recently the late 90's (which I guess really isn't that recent anymore is it?) I would get quite good meals from Northwest Airlines and American Airlines, who I traveled with frequently for business. This was especially true if I ordered a special meal like the vegetarian meal or the fruit plate in coach or if I was upgraded to first class (I was flying an average of 45 weeks a year for business in the middle 90's and I racked up elite frequent flyer status with several airlines during that time).

In 1993 American Airlines even put out a cookbook entitled "A Taste of Something Special".


This was a purchased gift item that would allow the passengers to re-create at home the chef inspired meals created for first class and overseas flights; meals like Chef Paul Prudhomme's Steak Louisana and Alice Water's Chateubriand with Sage. I located a copy about a month ago on Amazon when I began researching this post. I was absolutely amazed that it included dishes I remembered being served like the wonderful Greek salad and the salad that accompanied the very edible mesquite chicken breast, roasted red and green pepper salad.


Last week while I was visiting Haymarket, one of the vendors had this gorgeous array of red, yellow, and green peppers as well as cilantro and basil. I picked up two red, yellow, and green peppers took them home, roasted them and made this wonderfully sweet but tangy salad. I ate it with bread, served alongside a chicken breast, and straight out of the container. Each day, it got better and better as the flavours of the basil and cilantro combined with the sweet peppers (roasting peppers makes them smoky sweet). On Wednesday, I decided to top an omelette of herbs and cheese with the last of the pepper salad.

As I was in Fairfield, it meant I had to make the omelette in the microwave, which worked surprisingly well. I mixed the eggs with a bit of light cream and added basil, chives, cilantro and parsley. I buttered a microwave safe dinner plate and poured the egg mixture into the plate. Cooking the egg mixture on 70% for 3 minutes, I loosened the edges and cooked the eggs for another 2 minutes on high. I shaved some swiss cheese on top and microwaved it for another 30 seconds. Then carefully folded over the omelette and topped it with the roasted pepper salad. I served it with crusty French bread and a glass of wonderful French rose. Even though the omelette didn't have that nice brown crust that you get when you cook them on a stove, it was very good!

A nice reminder of a by-gone time when flying was "Something Special"...


Roasted Pepper Salad
Adapted from "A Taste of Something Special";
a cookbook featuring chef inspired meals served on American Airlines during the middle 90's

2 red peppers
2 yellow peppers
2 green peppers
1 head garlic
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped basil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
dash sugar
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
fresh ground pepper to taste.

Roast garlic and peppers. Remove skin and seeds from peppers and slice into 2" slices. Place in 1 quart plastic container with a lid. Add roasted garlic and chopped basil and cilantro. Combine olive oil, salt, sugar, and add to peppers. Stir until all the peppers are coated with olive oil and add fresh ground pepper. Let marinate overnight before serving.

To Roast Peppers: If you have a gas stove, on medium flame, place the peppers directly on the stove burner. Turn with long tongs as each side, the tops and bottoms get charred. If you don't have a gas burner, brush peppers with light coating of olive oil and place on large baking sheet. Using the broiler in the oven, roast peppers turning as each side becomes charred. After peppers are roasted, place them in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap for about 20 mintues. This loosens the skin to make them easier to remove the skin. Do Not Wash the peppers. This will remove the smoky flavour.

To Roast Garlic: Remove as much of the outer paper from the garlic as possible. Slice the top off exposing the tops of the cloves. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper and wrap in foil. Cook for 35 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Squeeze roasted garlic out of the head and into a bowl. (This is really good just schmeered on a thin slices of crusty Italian bread and drizzled with olive oil!).

Editorial note/comment: This may be completely unnecessary but just so I don't get hate comments. I know flight attendants are some of the hardest working people in the air with a thankless job as over worked, understaffed "babysitters" to the largest fleet of buses in the air. It isn't their fault that the companies that run the airlines have decided to eliminate food service, take away pillows, and cram five seats into the space designed for three. When you fly, please be nice to them. They have long days and believe me, appreciate you thanking them!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Presto Pasta Night: What to do With a Little of This and a Little of That

Time for another installment of Presto Pasta Night that Ruth at Once Upon a Feast hosts every Friday. Thursdays are the big Fairfield fridge clean-out. I leave for the weekend early on Friday morning after a quick visit to the office and the last thing I want to do is leave any leftovers to linger into Monday. Tonight, rummaging around, I found I had about 1/4 cup of bruschetta , almost 2 Tbsp of tomato paste and a handful of fresh pasta still kicking around on the top shelf. Hum... Bruschetta tastes good on top of bread and pasta is bread right?

Well by golly, guess what? If you add another tsp of minced garlic and a dash of chicken stock to the bruschetta and tomato paste and microwave it on high for 3 minutes you get a damn fine chunky pasta sauce!

Microwave Chunky Tomato with Fresh Basil and Cilantro Pasta Sauce

Makes enough sauce for 1 serving of pasta

1/4 cup of my bruschetta recipe from here
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp minced garlic
1/8 cup of chicken stock

Mix in microwave safe container and heat on high for 3 minutes. Serve over linguine with fresh grated cheese.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A Taste Of Yellow: Mini Lemon and Chocolate Cheesecakes

Mini Lemon and Chocolate Cheese Cake

When I found out Barbara over at Winoandfoodies was asking for food bloggers around the world to post about a yellow food in an event called "A Taste of Yellow" in support of Lance Armstrong's LIVESTRONG Day, like so many of my fellow food blogging friends, I knew I had to participate.

I had written a longer post about how cancer has affected my life and how a day doesn't go by that I don't think about a few really close people I can't reach out to talk to, be with, or just be comforted by knowing they are there if I need them. Because they aren't. Cancer took them from my life and their families lives. Cancer is an insidious disease. It sucks. Enough said...

So, on May 16th, do something, anything to support a local organization that is fighting to find a cure for cancer. Any cancer. If you need some ideas, the LIVESTRONG website has a listing of local events.

Livestrong Logo

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Springing into May

Spring has definitely sprung in Cambridge! When I left for Fairfield for my work week "down there" two Sunday's ago it was raining and cool; very fall like with that brittle steel smell in the air. When I arrived home this past Friday afternoon the scent of fresh cut grass was in the air, the birds were singing and the daffodils, pansies, and tulips were all at their utmost Spring glory. Even with all the remaining fall leaves they were a pretty picture with their faces turned to the bright afternoon sun. My volunteer pansies are absolutely stunning this spring. Last fall and into the early winter, I noticed the plucked "dead headed" pansies that had gone to seed from the spring had sprang back to life and were growing and blooming. I decided to just leave them and see if they would come back during the spring and boy, oh boy, did they! These purple ones are my favourites in our yard.

I was also anxious to see if after poking their heads up during the freaky winter thaw in late January that lasted almost four weeks my tulips would bloom. While they aren't as prolific as usual, they are still a nice streak of red amongst the yellow and purple of the pansies and daffodils.

I didn't quite get all the things done I wanted to over the weekend, namely raking the rest of the front yard and plucking the sprouting acorns the squirrels planted during the fall. But, I did get to Haymarket and purchased fresh veggies and herbs to make MBH's Dagens Husmans and my entry for this month's installment of Weekend Cookbook Challenge. Yea...I know. I said I wasn't going to cook/bake anything for a blog event but I wanted my dish for a few meals down in Connecticut. There's still time to join in the fun of the Weekend Cookbook Challenge. One of my "bestest" blogging friends, Sara of I Like to Cook is the hostess this month and accepting entries until May 12th. If you haven't joined in the fun of a Weekend Cookbook Challenge, you are missing out on one of the great monthly blogging events; not to mention a chance to cook out of a cookbook you swore you would use when you bought it but still it languishes there by your bedside, on the steps, next to the cat's dish, under the coffee table...oh wait, that is what happens in my house.

Anyways, speaking of blogging events, there is an impromptu event that sprung up at the beginning of the month over at Becks and Posh. Food bloggers are giving their readers a peak into their refrigerators. Now, I have two; one in Cambridge that is a full size unit and one in Fairfield that is a dorm room unit. MBH would absolutely die of embarrassment if I showed you what our Cambridge fridge looks like as he is always after me to clean it out of all the food (poor man doesn't understand why I need 14 different types of dressings, oils, fourteen boxes of butter, three cartons of eggs, not to mention the yeast beasts at the bottom). But, I will be happy to show you what I keep in my fridge in Fairfield.

In the main compartment we find the makings for a good, homemade Italian meal from Everyday Pasta which is quickly becoming one of my favourite cookbooks! I'm adapting the recipes for a single serving and the microwave. So we find fresh pasta from the deli, minced garlic, two types of Italian cheese, 1/2 a can of tomato paste, and the plastic grocery bags contain fresh basil and scallions. I keep a moist paper towel around the stems and then wrap them in the plastic grocery bags to keep them fresh longer and keep their smells from migrating to my strawberries and lettuces. There is also a container of homemade bruschetta topping. Perfect on a slice of home baked bread with my pasta. Hiding somewhere in there is container of Egg Beaters and light cream. I also have two peppermint patties in the freezer compartment along with frozen peas and a frozen Indian meal from Whole Foods. On the left top shelf you will see one of my all time favourite candy bars, the Aero bar; bubble filled milk chocolate that I'm saving for a chocolate emergency...

In the door of the fridge I keep my skim milk, Catalina dressing (great for veggie dips and salads) and light Miracle Whip. There is also one of my favourite new products, the Entree Salads from Hillshire Farms; all you add is the lettuce! The one I have all the time because it is low fat/low calorie and tasty is the Turkey and Cranberries. The kit comes with a little package of turkey, a little package of ham, a little package of cheese and a pack of light raspberry dressing all in a bowl. I don't use the dressing on my salad, preferring a bit of lemon pepper but it makes a great marinade for chicken. I take this salad to lunch at least two times a week and sometimes have one for dinner too. I've been known to throw a bit of cucumber or any left over veggies in along with what comes in the kit for a perfectly delicious and light dinner. Also in the fridge door is what I consider one of the best chicken stocks you can buy, Emeril's All Natural Chicken Stock. I have tried just about every one of the usual suspects in pre-made, ready to use chicken stock that is readily available and I like this one the best; especially since the first three ingredients are chicken stock, sea salt and chicken fat! Last but not least, there is a bottle of French Chablis. If you've never had a real Chablis (not the stuff in the box for $4.99 or the big gallon jug that is not sold before it's time) then you are missing out on a great, light and refreshing white wine.

Ok, we haven't had a contest here at The Sour Dough for a while. So, in honour of Spring finally having shown her lovely countenance, count the number of instances of spring or a derivative there of and email me (mary AT breadchick dot com) the answer by 11:59pm East Coast Time Monday, May 14. I'll randomly pick the winner on Tuesday, May 15. There is a bit of New England spring for the winner!

p.s. Before the grammar police comments: Yes, I know "bestest" isn't a word.

Quick and Easy Light Bruschetta

Adapted from Richard Simmons Never Say Diet Cookbook (don't laugh..I'm serious! and it is SERIOUSLY good)
To see what the bruscetta looks like you can go to this post.

4 Roma Tomatoes (or what ever is in season), chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped basil
1/8 cup low sodium/low fat chicken stock
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp fresh ground Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
dash salt or salt free seasoning
fresh ground pepper to taste.

Combine all the ingredients in a container with a lid, let the flavours marinate for about 20 minutes or over night (better next day!). Serve on warm toasted French bread or on top a baked potato.

Serves 4
Calories: 65, 2 Grams fat

Friday, May 04, 2007

Taking a Little Blogging Break

I think need a break. Not a long one mind you but a little mini one of a couple days. The weekly commute between Fairfield, CT on Sunday evening and back to Boston on Friday afternoon for my new job has put a bit of stress on my weekends and hasn't left me with much time with MBH; who has been gallantly holding down the fort in Cambridge. I haven't had a weekend to just putter around the yard (spring is going to be gone very soon and my tulips, pansies, and daffodils are blooming!), visit Haymarket, or play in my kitchen to bake non challenge/event related recipes (believe me, chocolate crepes are NOT on my list this weekend but Tanna's buckwheat ones may be).

Never fear, I'll be back in the middle of the week with this month's Weekend Cookbook Challenge (there's still time to get your entry in to the lovely Sara of I Like to Cook, hostess and fellow Daring Baker), some fascinating new microwave recipes (you won't believe what came in the mail today!), some yummy light recipes, and the latest installment of "Ask Breadchick" (I'm still accepting questions).

Until then, I have some required reading for you! Over on the sidebar you will see eighteen new links under the Daring Bakers logo. Yes, EIGHTEEN new Daring Bakers will be joining us this month for our little Baking Bee. There will be a quiz...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Presto Pasta Nights: Microwave Garden Pea, Mushroom and Shrimp Pasta Alfredo

Ruth from Once Upon a Feast hosts a weekly event called Presto Pasta Night where the only requirement is you post a recipe with pasta. It can be hot or cold from Italy or from Indiana; it doesn't matter. It just has to be pasta.

As you know, during the work week I am sans kitchen with only a microwave in my room in Fairfield, CT. I have to admit it has taken me a bit to get used to cooking with a microwave and there have been a few disasters. In our house in Cambridge, it is MBH who is king of the microwave. All the struggling to understand the cooking times and power settings is starting to pay off though. Best of all, I'm having fun coming up with easy recipes that I can cook with minimal prep but that use fresh ingredients vs. frozen dinners and the such.

I was craving fish last night but the fish at the store didn't look very fresh. I wandered around trying to decide what to fix for my dinner that would be healthy, home made and fresh. Walking over to the produce section, I spied garden peas and mushrooms. All the sudden fresh pasta with peas and mushrooms in a light cream sauce started to sound pretty good! I had some fresh pasta in my fridge and some low sodium, low fat chicken stock as well as fat free half and half. The only thing I needed was some protein and something to thicken my sauce with since I have no flour. Wandering back to the fish and seafood section, I picked up 8 large pre-cooked cocktail shrimp and noticed the packets of Knorr sauces and seasonings on the end of pasta aisle. Ah ha! I can use a very small amount of the Knorr Alfredo pasta sauce to season and thicken my sauce. Heading home, I gathered my ingredients and created a delicious and healthy pasta dish for my dinner that was ready to eat in less than 15 minutes.

Filling, light, and perfect for a gorgeous spring night...

Microwave Garden Pea, Mushroom, Shrimp Pasta in a Light Alfredo Sauce
Serving size 1 1/2 Cup; serves 1

1 cup fresh linguine or angel hair pasta
8 large cooked cocktail shrimp with shells removed
1/4 cup fresh or frozen sweet peas (no sauce)
4 Crimini or small button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup low sodium, low fat chicken stock
2 Tbsp fat free half and half
2 tsp Knorr Alfredo Sauce mix
2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
fresh ground pepper

In 1 cup liquid measuring cup or small microwave dish, combine chicken stock, half and half, and sauce mix with a whisk. Cover with plastic wrap and heat for 1 1/2 minutes on high. Stir, re-cover and microwave for an additional 1 1/2 minutes on high; watching carefully to prevent from boiling over. Stir, add peas and mushrooms, cover and set aside.

In 2 cup liquid measuring cup or large microwave dish, add 1 cup water and pasta. Cover, and cook on high for 4 minutes; watching for boil over. Let sit for 2 minutes and cook for additional 3-4 minutes on high, until pasta is almost al dente. Add shrimp, cover and let sit for 2 - 3 minutes until pasta is finished cooking and shrimp are heated through.

Drain shirmp and pasta and toss with sauce. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper and Parmesan cheese.

Serve with green salad or one piece crusty bread.

370 Calories, 6 Grams of Fat per serving

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Stopping to Think

MBH's dad has a great saying, "You need to use your head for something besides a hat rack".

He would tell this to MBH and his younger brother to remind them to slow down and think about what they were doing or saying. Consequently, the saying has become something of a mantra for MBH. He isn't above using it, daily sometimes, to remind me to do the same thing; slow down and think about what I'm doing, particularly when I'm doing something computer related or have a kitchen disaster.

I like to believe that even though The Sour Dough is just about cooking; every once in a while I make my readers stop using their heads for hat racks and make them think. To think about what they are cooking, how they are cooking it and even about how what they cook affects/effects the people around them. So, it was with great honour and some humility that I accepted Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups nomination as a Thinking Blogger.

The Thinking Blogger Award was started by Ilker Yoldas over at The Thinking Blog as a protest against the inane "memes" that have proliferated the blog world and deciding to never do another meme, fired a shot across the bow of so much non-thinking going on in the blogosphere (ugh..just used a buzzword in a post).

So, here are the five bloggers who I read almost daily who always make me think and why they make me think:

Laurie of Slowly She Turned because I admire her approach to a nice slow and sustainable life.

Andrea of A Small Group of Thoughtful, Committed Citizens who tirelessly posts about what is right about protecting those of us who can't protect themselves.

Ham of London Daily Photo who always has a picture of one of the great cities of the world (London) and helps make this world a bit smaller, thus each of us a bit closer.

Dr. A from Doctor Anonymous who is just trying to be a good doctor in the big and sometimes screwed up world of modern medicine, government interference and HMOs.

Siel at Green LA Girl who is not just blogging about making the world greener and leaner, but out there doing something about it.

So there you have it. My Thinking Blogger Awards.

Winners, now you get nominate 5 Blogs that make you think. Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging.

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

For the rest of you...go out there and find a blog or two to read every day that makes you think; I mean really think and then act.