Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Daring Bakers:Haiku for a Fine Filbert Gateau

Yup, it is already that time of the month.

Today you will see hundreds and thousands of these masterpieces all over the web, courtesy of the Daring Bakers. To make Carole Walter's incredible tasting but time consuming Filbert (Hazelnut) Gateau from her excellent book Great Cakes: Over 250 Recipes to Bake, Share, and Enjoy , go visit Chris at Mele Cotte for the recipe and make sure your AC has a setting called morgue! Because you are going to need it (he-he!). Now on to the first Sour Dough poetry slam....

Haiku for a Fine Filbert Gateau

Fussy Buttercream

filbert cake before

Pretty Cake Shared With Neighbors

Filbert Cake Whole

Tastes Divine All Gone

Filbert Cake Sliced

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

And The Food is Wonderful!

I've talked before here how my favourite part of being a sound system designer is the commissioning or tuning of the system. Even when my jobsite looks like war zone meets construction site and my cable management motors are fouled because of circumstances beyond my installer's control, I still got a chill up my spine when I turned this bad boy on last night!

Sun Valley Pavilion Clusters in the Air

I know it looks like hell but by the end of the evening, I had a nice base line to start from today. The trick is going to get more than a two hour at a time stretch where I can get the construction noise to stop so I can finish the tuning before the first scheduled concert is held here on Sunday. Even then, the show is going to be the ultimate "hard hat" concert. Owing to the condition of the project, the name of the game now is to just get them through the shows with a functional system and then come back and button it up when construction is finished.

When I'm on a project like this, I like to stay in extended stay hotels because I have access to a kitchen and more than one room to call home. I'm fortunate that this project is at a very nice resort, Sun Valley. Sun Valley is a top ski destination so summer is considered their "off season", even though there is plenty to do during the summer too.

Because it is off season, I was actually able to get a room here. When I booked my room I was expecting a basic room with a bed, coffee maker, wifi, and a hair dryer. So imagine my surprise and delight when I walked into my room to find this

Fireplace in My Sun Valley Apartment

and, more importantly, this!

Sun Valley Apartment Kitchen

Yup, that would be a completely tricked out kitchen full of top of the line stainless GE Monogram appliances including my dream oven. Talk about feeling like I was walking into my own private Top Chef kitchen. The really sad thing about having a kitchen like this at my fingertips is I can't actually spend any time taking all these lovely appliances out for a spin; especially the convection and proof function on the oven.

Oven Controls from my Sun Valley Apartment

I have been able to test the beverage storage rack and special "wine" setting for the fridge though!

This kitchen is laid out the way when I imagine a new kitchen for myself I would want it, except with a bit more counter space. I'm using these pictures to show the designer exactly what I want when I get to a new permanent home versus the small apartment I am currently renting. I'm also replacing the electric cooktop with this bad boy!

I think I'm going to have to come back to Sun Valley when I'm not working and really take the kitchen for an extended test drive. I mean if you are going to spend thousands of dollars you want longer than twenty minutes with the appliance in the show room right? I'm told that between the spring skiing and the first of the summer here it is pretty dead.

I'm going to book myself back in this room then and come prepared to spend a week cooking and baking. I owe a few people at the resort a return of favour so I won't have to worry about the food going to waste. Besides, considering my job schedule between now and then, I'm going to need a nice long get out of town vaca!

Something that my previous trips to Sun Valley had taught me is the food here is quite good and in some cases down right fantastic. For example, I'm a huge fan of their Baldy Burger from the Inn Lobby Lounge. I already knew that was what I was having for lunch when I arrived at the resort on Sunday and as soon as I was settled into my room, I headed straight there for a medium burger topped with swiss only. The crab cakes at the Inn are very nice as well.

Since the Inn is closer to the music pavilion than the Lodge is, that is where I have almost always had lunch and frankly, with the exception of the chicken sandwich which just wasn't to my taste, I haven't had a bad meal there. Monday however, I found that I wasn't needed on site until early evening, meaning that I had a bit of free time to rest my back, answer some emails, and the go find a bit of lunch. I ended up at Gretchen's in the Lodge.

I sat outside and got a chance to watch the pro figure skaters practice for the ice show (Brian Boitano can still land jumps like nobody else; rock solid and not a miss. I'm pretty sure he could wipe the ice with any of the little snots doing quads these days). Since I knew it was going to be a long evening with takeaway food delivered to the site, I wanted something light and healthy for lunch. I had a fantastic server who suggested that I have the Goat Cheese Salad with Shrimp with a side of fresh fruit. She said it was her favourite thing on the menu. It is mine now too because look at this lovely salad!

Gretchen's Fried Goat Cheese Salad

I'm telling you the shrimp was cooked perfectly and the baked goat cheese was lightly dusted with panko bread crumbs and baked until it was melty inside. There are pears and strawberries mixed into the salad and the salad is drizzled with a balsamic reduction; a favourite pairing of mine with berries.

I wasn't going to order dessert but after that wonderful salad and looking at the dessert menu I asked my server for a suggestion. She said the chef had suggested that I might enjoy the Bailey's Mud Pie.

Gretchen's Baileys Mud Pie
And I did, especially the oreo crust. I think I have a new favourite meal here. Sorry Baldy Burger but the Goat Cheese Salad wins hands down.

Wish me luck the next few days on the job, I'm going to need it but don't feel too bad for me. After all, at least the food is wonderful! And, if you ever find yourself out in this neck of Idaho, you owe it to yourself to at least come have lunch here at Sun Valley. Order the salad, have a glass of wine and look at the lovely scenery both on and off the ice.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Say Cheese!

The wonderfully talented photo photographer Haalo, who also writes equally as wonderfully at Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once is celebrating her 700th post by hosting her first ever online event, Say Cheese.

Say Cheese Badge

Haalo is asking food bloggers to pick a cheese they love, take a photo or two and blog about the cheese and send her a link by the end of July.

If you are a long time reader or admirer of Haalo's then you already know that she loves cheese. There are over 50 posts on her blog about cheese and she always writes fantastic reviews of the unique and unusual cheeses she finds in and around her home in Melbourne, Australia. I admit, I regularly comment on her cheese posts about my jealousy of her access to some fantastic sounding washed rind cheeses with particularly pungent smells (the best kind of cheese as far as I'm concerned).

As a cheese fanatic, I had a really hard time picking just one cheese but I had a really good time trying to narrow it down! I visited three fantastic cheesemongers in the greater NYC/Fairfield County area: Artisanal in midtown, Murray's Cheese in Greenwich Village, and Darien Cheese in Darien, CT to sample a bit of cheese and try to narrow down a cheese to blog about.

On my trip to Murray's I came home on the Metro North train with a bag full of cheese that had such a wonderful cheese aroma (read "stinky cheese"), I got a seat on a crowded 4:45 commuter all too myself! The cheeses were the perfect temperature by the time I got to my apartment and I can tell you that I throughly enjoyed myself that evening with two different reds and a platter of cheese and crackers. Dinner doesn't get any better than that.

Over the month of July, I have tried some wonderful cheeses like a Humbolt Fog that makes you want to get your own goats, an upstate NY Toussaint that melted in my mouth, and some incredible Wisconsin and Vermont farmhouse sharp cheddars.

I finally decided to narrow it down by taking the Humbolt Fog, a washed rind raw cow milk from France that has a salty outer rind but a butter and smoky taste that the cheese monger at Darien Cheese suggested that I would like (I did!), an upstate NY extra sharp farmers cheddar that had been aged eighteen months, an apricot and ginger infused White Stilton from England, and the queen of American blues, the Maytag Blue from Iowa and putting a chunk of each of them on a plate, setting the plate on my cake turner and my cheese knife on the counter pointing at the cake turner and playing "spin the cheese". The winner?

I had two because the cake turner stopped between the Maytag Blue

Maytag Blue Cheese

and the Apricot and Ginger infused White Stilton.

Apricot and Ginger Stilton

I love the Maytag Blue because it meets the pungent and crumble test for me. I always have a hunk of this in my fridge to put on a burger or toss on a salad or a new discovery for me, to mix it into my scrambled eggs with a bit of smoked whitefish. Sometimes, I just slice a hune hunk off and eat it all on its own.

There are two types of Stilton, blue and white. I like the blue very well, though not as well as I like my Maytag Blue. White Stilton has a nice texture and matches nicely with a variety of fruits and nuts, which is why it is often found with blueberries, walnuts, figs, etc. inside the cheese. I like the lemon infused white Stilton on salads but for just scooping and plopping on a piece of baguette or mixing with a nice charcuterie, I like the apricot and ginger infused version.

By the way, the lovely cheese implements were part of my fabulous Blogging By Mail package I received last year from a fellow cheese lover, J at Have Fork, Will Travel. My set gets a heavy work out in my house and I can't recommend enough that if you love cheese, get yourself a good cheese knife and a Stilton scoop. They will make your serving of cheese much easier and enjoyable.

If you want to try new cheeses, find yourself a good cheesemonger in your area and go visit during the week when they can take time with you to discuss cheeses and introduce you to some cheeses you may not have ever thought to try. The weekends are often when they are often busiest so they won't be able to take as much time to talk you through a large variety of cheeses. Don't be afraid either of saying you don't like something after you taste it. A good cheesemonger will offer good sized bites of the cheeses and will even offer suggestions of "if you like this, then try this as well" and won't rush you. Don't be afraid either of saying you don't like something. They also won't have the cheese already sliced and packaged.

Once you develop a good relationship with your cheesemonger, don't be surprised if when walk into the store, you get greeted like family and offered the secret stash for the discerning customer.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

For Sher: Memories and Meatballs

Update 7/28: Sher's best friend and fellow Bread Baking Babe Glenna has a lovely post up with links to everyone who posted yesterday. She is updating them between working the overnight shift so be patient with her if you don't see your link that you sent to either Sara, Kayln, Glenn or myself up yet.

Thank you everyone for your lovely tributes.

Today was suppose to be the Bread Baking Babes post date. We were going to be posting our monthly bread from our July Host Kitchen, Sara of I Like To Cook. Instead, today we are going to take a few minutes and celebrate the life of our dear fellow Babe, Sher of What Did You Eat; who passed away suddenly last Sunday by sharing some memories and cooking a recipe she posted on her blog.

"For Sher" Badge

I first "met" Sher over two years ago. I don't remember exactly which post on which of our blogs inspired our meeting but one day an email showed up in my mailbox from Sher asking me about a cookbook. We exchanged a few emails back and forth about cooking and blogging. We discovered we had both grown up in the midwest, loved bread and cherries, and reading.

I was smitten by her blog and her humor and especially by her joie de vivre, which jumps from the page with every post of hers you read. Before we knew it, we were reading each others blogs when ever the other had a new post. We didn't always comment on each others posts but we sent emails back and forth about the posts. I guess you could say that sometimes we both preferred to give our comments privately versus in the public spotlight. I liked that about Sher a lot because she appreciated the fine art of private conversation.

We first blogged together at Weekend Cat Blogging where we both shared the weekly exploits of our cats. Sher's Upsie stories became some of my favourite reading and I credit Sher and Upsie with helping LB find his voice on this blog. We had even more fun blogging together on Daring Bakers and Presto Pasta Nights, where Sher's pasta dishes have become some of my most often cooked dishes.

In January this year, Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups and Karen of Bake My Day, sent me an email asking me what I thought about being part of a very small group of dedicated bread bakers they were thinking of calling the Bread Baking Babes. The main focus would be bread and learning about bread in all its wonderful shapes, forms, and types but the side focus was making sure we always had fun and laughter. In the email were the other gals they were thinking of asking to join and at the top of the list was Sher, along with Glenna, Ilva, Katie, Monique, Sara, Lien, Lynn, and Pille (who had to drop out because of life commitments and has been replaced by Gorel). I loved how Sher accepted by saying not only would she get to bake bread, one of her most favourite foods but she actually would be a Babe!

In May, Sher was the Host Kitchen. She picked the Poilane Miche from the cover of Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice. To say that we all loved this bread would be an understatement. I still have a bit of the whole wheat starter in my fridge that is only stiff mother I keep. Sher made the most gorgeous of loaf of bread

Sher's poilane miche
and kept us in stitches of laughter on the private Babe blog. The badge at the top of this post is the Bread Baking Buddy badge for Sher's Poilane Miche that Tanna adapted for us Babes to use today.

Which I guess brings me to the other food that Sher and I shared a passion for besides bread, cheese, and cherries. Meatballs. I love, no...LOVE meatballs. I don't blog about them much because the main focus of my blog is bread and baking but I can say there isn't a week that goes by that I don't have meatballs at least once. I don't always have time to make them myself and luckily I live really close to a great little grocer who makes them from scratch every day so I can pick up some on the way home if I have a hankering for them.

But, Sher, now Sher made lots and lots of meatballs. I just looked at my rss reader and three of the thirty-one entries I have marked as "save as new" for Sher are for meatballs: the ginger root and radish greens, the Vietnamese meatballs, and her favourite and my favourite recipe the pork and ricotta with tomato sauce meatballs.

So, that is what I made in honor of Sher, her Pork and Ricotta with Tomato Sauce Meatballs.

Sher's Pork Ricotta Meatballs

Since I left on an extended business trip very early this morning, I used these as an excuse to use all the veggies I had in my fridge and to use up the other ball of pizza dough left over when we Babes did Maggie Glezer's Sullivan Street Potato Pizza to make an open face meatball stromboli with Sher's meatballs.

Open Face Meatball Stromboli

I used my own cherry tomatoes to make Sher's tomato sauce and topped the stromboli with some roasted peppers and fresh basil from my garden.

I washed it all down with a nice red wine and watched re-runs of Project Runway, one of Sher's TV vices, on You Tube. I toasted Sher while Tim Gunn scolded one the contestants for having a "hot mess" of a dress and then told them to "make it work" and thought about the snarky comments I could have emailed Sher.

Sher, thanks for the recipes and the laughs over the past two years but most of all thanks for the friendship you had for us all. You will be missed but never forgotten.

Sher's Pork-and-Ricotta Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

(From Food & Wine)



1/2 pound sliced white bread, crusts removed and bread cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 pounds lean ground pork
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup ricotta cheese (5 ounces)
3 ounces pancetta, thinly sliced and minced
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Kosher salt
Two 28-ounce cans peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons shredded basil
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400°. In a food processor, pulse the bread to coarse crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a large bowl and add the pork, pancetta, eggs, ricotta, parsley, oregano, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Mix well. Shape into 24 meatballs, using about 3 rounded tablespoons of the mixture for each. I found that a 1/4 measuring cup gave the right amount of meat for each meatball. Transfer the meatballs to an oiled medium roasting pan. (I used 2 smaller baking pans.)
2. Roast the meatballs in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until firm and just beginning to brown. Using a spatula, loosen the meatballs from the bottom of the pan. Add the crushed tomatoes to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Lower the oven temperature to 325° and cook uncovered for about 2 hours, or until the sauce is very thick and the meatballs are very tender; turn the meatballs once or twice during cooking. (My meatballs were ready in about 75 minutes.)
3. Transfer the meatballs and tomato sauce to a large platter. Garnish with the basil and Pecorino and serve hot.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Weekend Cat Blogging: Playing with String

Mom's back has slowly been getting better this week which is a good thing because she has to leave on a really big business trip on Sunday.

I think the fact that I was by her side the entire week while she stayed home and rested helped. Today, she even felt good enough to go to work for a few hours and then come home and get my new ball out from under the couch.

LB Finally Gets His Ball Out from Under the Bar

She also found my favourite string hiding under a pile of cookbooks she has by her bedside.

LB plays with string

It is the orange one that came on a package from Santa last Christmas.

She let me play with it on my own but then she said I needed to get some exercise because I had been lazy all week and made me roll over trying to grab the string.

More LB and String

I wanted to tell her it wasn't me lying around flat on my back all week!

Even though Mom's back is feeling better, she said she still wasn't up to going to the grocery store to pick up food and cat liter for me. She also was out of milk and needed something for a special recipe she is posting about tomorrow. She said she was going to let Peapod deliver the groceries for her.

I kept thinking a giant from a beanstalk was going to walk through the front door with my cat food but it was a really nice young man who brought my cat food and Mom's stuff through the door.

Peapod Delivers LB's Supplies

He even gave me a pat on the head and said I would be very happy with all the good things he brought me.

I looked in the bag. I didn't see any Kitty Crack

Kitty Crack

or new toys in the bags so I'm not sure what he was smoking...

Anyways, Mom is all set for her trip and now that I have food in the house, so am I. But I'll miss Mom while she is gone, even if I will have my cat sitter come play with me.

The only bad thing that happened was Mom's friend Sher, from What Did You Eat left us on Sunday. Mom was pretty sad all week about it because she said Sher always came and read my posts and then told Mom in email how funny she thought I was. Mom told me that her friend Sher was now in Heaven and was going to be her cats Upsie and Sundance and watch over all of us kitties and furry animals. I remember Upsie because Upsie had learned to type just like me except Upsie had to deal with Vermin. I'm sorry Mom's friend, Sher is gone and I'm sorry for her family.

Weekend Cat Blogging is being hosted this weekend at our friends Kashim and Othello's house in honor of Sher. Their Mom Paulchens is going to do the hosting of WCB on her food site because Sher was a food friend of hers too.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Presto Pasta on the Pantry Plan

A few weeks ago I started The Pantry Plan, where I decided I would not buy groceries, with a few exceptions like cat food and dairy products, until September. Instead, I would be living off the items I already had in my pantry and my fridge/freezer.

Presto Pasta Nights plays very nicely with The Pantry Plan because, like so many people, I always have a good quantity of pasta on hand. Pasta can pair with most anything else I have on hand as well; like these new healthy versions of ramen noodles, called Choice Ramen.

Presto Pasta: Choice Ramen

Unlike the standard version of ramen noodles, these are not fried and the seasoning packet has 25% less sodium than the regular version; nice because most ramen noodle seasoning packets have over 1,000mg of sodium per serving or half the daily recommended amount!

I've been pretty incapacitated these past two weeks with a back injury. So, meals that don't take a lot of time or require me to stand for long periods of time are right up my alley. I'm also a big fan of jazzing up my ramen noodles when I make them.

This time, I used some frozen pre-cooked chicken chunks and a handful of frozen mixed veggies from my freezer and tossed it all together during the last three minutes of the noodles cooking. To top off the dish, I added 1/3 cup of shredded cheese on top.

Presto Pasta: Pantry Plan Ramen

Grand total cooking time was 6 minutes. Total amount spent on meal was approximately $2.32. How did it taste? It was delicious. I didn't miss the extra salt and it was a welcome change from the cold cereal I've been eating for most meals the past two weeks.

Everything about this meal fit the bill of healthy, quick, and filling.

Katie at Thyme for Cooking is hosting Presto Pasta Nights this week. Head on over to her blog to see what the other folks who made pasta this week have cooking!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Blog Party #36: Happy 3rd Birthday with Blogger's Choice

I can't believe that Blog Party is three years old!

This lovely get together is hosted every month by my fellow Daring Baker and Bakeanista partner in crime, Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness.

Every month, Stephanie picks a theme for the party, brings the tunes and party favours and then invites us food bloggers over to share the fun. We have to bring some small finger food and a drink to pass around.

I've been participating on and off in this event since the Black and White Party and even the months I find I just can't put a little something to share and drink together, I always crash the party by reading the round ups. This month to celebrate thirty-six successful parties, Stephanie has let us party goers pick our own theme, with Blogger's Choice.

Badge for Blog Party 36

Now, something you may not know about me is that I am a bit of a retro nut. I have a large collection of old cookbooks ranging from the late 1800s through the swinging 60's and 70's. I collect glassware from the 30's and I've got quite a nice collection of hats from the 40's and 50's. I like old cars with fins and sometimes long for the days when ladies who lunch wore hats and gloves and carried smart purses. I'm not alone in my little inner posse of food bloggers either who share a love for all things retro as our hostess Stephanie and our fellow sister in arms Laura Rebecca, the hostess of the Retro Recipe Challenge (which a little birdie told me will be making a reappearance soon!), both have the same quirky affinity for these retro things.

So, it will come as no surprise to either of them that I am enthralled by the AMC hit series, Mad Men. While I've been recuperating from my back injury, I've been rewatching the entire first season on DVD in preparation for Sunday's debut episode of Season 2. I would like to think I'm a cross of Joan with Don Draper's wife Betty's Kitchen but the truth is I'm Peggy (minus the office affair and the resulting surprise of course!).

Taking my cue from the office open bar of Mad Men, where creme de menthe and bourbon flow free, I'm bringing Mad Men Brownies to Blog Party 36.

Blog Party 36:  Mad Man Brownies

These brownies are a recipe from the 1960's edition of Better Homes and Garden's Homemade Cookies Saucepan Brownies that I adapted several years ago by using a combination of unsweetened chocolate and German's Chocolate. I also add 1/3 cup of dark chocolate chips. For my Man Men version of these brownies, I added 1 jigger of Maker's Mark Bourbon along with the vanilla. I also added 1 Tbsp of bourbon to the chocolate frosting. To add the green of creme de menthe, I sprinkled some toasted pistachios over the frosting before it set. These brownies are the definition of fudge brownie and the addition of the bourbon and pistachios took these from a kid's treat to an adult indulgence.

Now, no Blog Party is complete without bringing a drink. I'm keeping it simple to go with my Mad Men Brownies, I'm bringing the rest of the bottle of bourbon so we can enjoy it neat with a brownie.

Blog Party 36: Mad Man Bourbon

Congratulations Stephanie on Three Years of hosting the hippest and most happening parties on the web!

Mad Men Brownies

For the brownies:

1 stick butter
1 once square unsweetened chocolate
1 once German's chocolate
1 cup minus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/3 cup good chocolate chips (60% cocoa or higher)
2 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1 Tsp vanilla
1 jigger good bourbon

In a large heavy saucepan, melt butter and chocolates over low heat stirring occasionally to prevent chocolate from burning. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and chocolate chips. Let mixture cool for 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until completely combined. Stir in flour, vanilla and bourbon. Spread batter into a prepared 9 x 9 x 2 inch pan and bake for 25 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

For Frosting:

1/2 cup of good chocolate chips (60% cocoa or higher)
2 Tbsp salted butter (if using unsalted butter add pinch of salt)
1 cup 10X confectioners sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp good bourbon
dash of milk or heavy cream if necessary

In heavy sauce pan, melt chocolate chips and butter over low heat, stirring constantly. Add confectioner's sugar, vanilla, and bourbon and combine completely. Add milk or heavy cream if necessary to get to spreading consistency. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and spread onto top of slightly warm brownies.

Top with 1/2 cup of chopped toasted pistachios, pressing pistachios gently into frosting.

Put brownies into fridge for 30 minutes to allow frosting to firm.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

For Sher - A Celebration of Food

On this upcoming Sunday, July 27th, the Bread Baking Babes are holding an online celebration of life for our sister, Sher, who passed away suddenly on July 20th; leaving a huge hole in our hearts and an empty seat in our virtual classroom of bread that will never be filled.

Sher was the hilarious, generous and giving soul behind the food blog "What Did You Eat". Not only was Sher's blog filled with some of the most fantastic looking food and recipes, but Sher shared with us her cats Upsie, Sundance, Pumpkin, and Laura along with a cast of a thousand "vermin" (that's Upsie-speak for squirrels).

Sher's humour was infectious and her laughter and love of life came through loud and clear in every post. I can tell you that on the private BBB blog, we could count on Sher to add levity to any moment, whether the issue be do we or don't we get embroidered panties (Sher voted MOST DEFINITELY) to how do you get your hand out of the wettest dough you've ever felt after it got sucked into the dough mass like stepping into quicksand (You tug really, really hard but put goggles on first and duck because the dough will go flying).

So, in celebration of Sher, we are asking her friends from the various online groups she actively participated in, Daring Bakers, Weekend Herb Blogging, Weekend Cat Blogging, Presto Pasta Nights, and any other of her online friends and family to become honorary Babes for the Day.

We would like you to go to her blog, "What Did You Eat", and select a recipe that meets your fancy, make the dish, take a few pictures and blog about Sher's wonderful food and share your memories of her with us.

Then send an email to me or Sara of I Like To Cook with your name, your blog's name, and a link to your "For Sher" post.

We'll get them to our fellow Babe, Glenna of A Fridge Full of Food, who wrote such a moving post about her best friend, and who will make sure that Sher's family will get a chance to see the feast of Sher's food all over the web.

A fitting tribute to a super lady and friend who loved to cook and bake...

Friday, July 18, 2008

WCB: Someone Needs To Look After Mom

Things sure have been quiet around here this week haven't they?
LB ready for his closeup
There has been a very good reason for that too!

You see on Tuesday, Mom went and did a stupid thing at work and picked up this big box that had a bunch of amplifiers in them and went and threw her back out. Silly Mom. Of course, when Mom did this to her back did she go home and rest?

No, Mom decided to stay at work and finish the day because she has this dumb project she has been working late nights that is about to wrap up. She said she didn't come home because it wasn't hurting that bad but I know she was just trying to be a tough guy.

I also knew she was in big trouble when she hobbled in the front door, tossed her computer bag and purse onto the chest of drawers next to the door and went and got the heating pad out of the closet. Being ever mindful of her health and well being, I even tested it for her after she plugged it in!

LB Stealing My Heating Pad

Since Tuesday, Mom hasn't been out of bed very much. Oh, she has crawled out of bed hunched over like Quasimodo in the morning to make sure I had food in my bowl and stuff like that but she hasn't been in the kitchen to cook except to pour some milk on cereal and go back to bed. I like it when she has cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner because I get to lick some of the milk from bowl when she is done. I've also been staying pretty close to her on the bed
LB on Bed in July 08

just in case she needs a lick or needs to play with me. I feel bad for her and wish I could help her pick things up and do other things around the house.

Luckily, we have this really cool neighbor guy, Chris, who came over and checked on Mom. Chris watered Mom's garden

My Better Boy Tomato Plant
and brought her home dinner one night too. He's super nice.

Today, Chris left on a much deserved vacation to Maine. But, before he left on his vacation, he brought Mom breakfast and it wasn't just any type of breakfast but a good old fashioned New England breakfast of biscuits with maple syrup, bacon, butter and coffee! Mom said this breakfast couldn't get any more traditional.

Good New England Breakfast from My Neighbor Chris

I wouldn't know because Mom wouldn't give me any because she said I don't like bacon. OK, so when she gives me a piece of bacon I normally turn my nose up at it but maybe I would have liked Chris' bacon. Anyways, Mom was really thankful for having Chris around the past few days. He is a very good friend to us. Chris has just started a food blog called "Course Food" that is all about traditional New England fare. Mom said you should check it out sometime because not a lot of people talk about New England fare.

This afternoon Mom got up and looked in the fridge to see how her haul from last weekend's Fairfield and Westport Farmer's Market was doing since she didn't get a chance to cook with any of it.

Bounty of Fairfield and Westport Farmers Markets 07/13/08

She especially was sad because she had planned on baking some wonderful goodies with some of her new flour and these lovely fresh farm eggs.

Fresh Farm Eggs from Westport Farmers Market

She said she would try and do some baking this weekend, depending on how her back felt and that those of you who are waiting to see which recipes she chose would understand.

When Mom crawled back in bed she said only produce that didn't look so good were the bell peppers and greens. So, Mom said she would try and chop the bell peppers up and freeze them later today as she has been getting up for an hour or two here and there. She tossed the greens in a pan of low sodium chicken broth and red onions a bit ago to simmer for an hour or two. She said that would be her dinner over some brown rice.

The only food she bought all week was what she got at the farmer's markets last weekend and that only cost her $16.25. It was a little higher than normal for her at the farmer's market but she bought some ground lamb she was going to make lamb minced curry with this week. Luckily, she threw that in the freezer when she got home!

You know what the best thing she got at the Farmer's Market in Westport was last weekend? It wasn't the lovely eggs or cherries and it wasn't the gorgeous mushrooms or cilantro. Nope, it was a nice new organic wool ball for me!

LB Playing with his new ball

The only bad thing about the new ball is I have batted under the couch and Mom can't get it out for me right now. Sigh, stupid Mom's back.....

The cool kitties over at Catsynth are hosting this weekend. We are early with this post but we aren't sure how Mom's going to feel later. Anyways, tomorrow, you should go over there and see what piece of cool audio gear they are lying on. Mom doesn't let me lie on any of the cool audio gear she brings home. Maybe I should go visit there sometime!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bread Baking Buddies: Round Up at the Dark Onion Rye Corral

I was host kitchen this month for the Bread Baking Babes and I had a few of my fellow babes unintentionally get their monogrammed panties in a bit of a knot over the differences of rye flour here in the States versus in some parts of Europe. What caused this almost international bread incident? Well, we made a recipe of my own creation for Dark Onion Rye using starter created from my starter recipe.

Because this was a very involved recipe that needed a starter, we gave anyone who wanted to be a Bread Baking Buddy, two weeks to finish the bread, post about it on their blogs and email me a link to the post. Or, if they didn't have a blog, email a picture with a bit of info about themselves.

I'm thrilled that we had nine adventurous and intrepid souls who took us up on the offer to explore the darker side of rye, including a few new comers to the rodeo!

First out of the chute with a nice looking boule of DOR was Ulrike of Kuchenlatein.

She always has the most informative posts about bread and had some really good ideas about why some of the Babes had issues with their rye flour. Thanks Ulrike for a good assist!

Next up, Rita sent me a photo of such wonderful looking slices of a DOR boule

100% Dark Onion Rye

that I just wanted to run right out, purchase an airplane ticket and show up with a hunk of good Vermont Sharp Cheddar to sit down with her and her family to have a slice.

That same day, our lovely bread baking friend, Zorra from Kochtopf sent in another set of fantastic looking slices from her boule made from a really active starter.

It's a good thing I would already be in Europe because after leaving Rita's house I'd need to get some cheese and probably some cured meats and beer and sit down with Zorra to chat about starters and bread!

Fellow Babe Sher's super friend, Paulchen joined us again as a Buddy with this super looking bread.

Doesn't that look like it is ready for its close-up with pastrami and mustard?!

Next up one of my favourite food bloggers, Madam Chow, joined us with another lovely looking boule

This wonderful looking boule even got a mention on Susan of the fabulous Wild Yeast's weekly round of all things bread, "Yeastspotting"!

Next, showing up to the shindig with her guns blazing and ready to show the world up in the wilds of Alaska, where they know a thing or two about sourdough starters, came new comer to the Bread Baking Buddies, Amelia at Diary from the Last Frontier. Now I want you to look at her absolutely perfect boule.

Bet that tasted really good, right?! Well, you and Amelia will have to ask her ninja dog how it tasted because while Amelia was at work, her dog decided he was a big fan of the perfect boule of Dark Onion Rye too!

Another new comer to our Bread Baking Buddies, Jude at Apple Pie, Patis, & Pate took my recipe and not only came out with a fantastic looking boule but also put the recipe in a beautiful and professional looking layout.

When it comes time to write my cookbook on bread baking for the yeastphobe, I'm hiring Jude to be my recipe editor!

Judy over at Judy's Gross Eats came back as a Buddy this month and we are glad to have her back. Earlier in the month, Judy sadly lost her starters to the heat of the summer. Luckily, she was able to get a starter going and with a little coaxing was able to produce this lovely looking loaf!

Her starter was only eight days old when she made this bread showing even the youngest of starters can produce a really nice bread with good rise.

Finally, what would you do if you just got back from the jungles of Peru? Why you would do exactly what our oldest Bread Baking Buddy, Gretchen of Canela and Comino did! You'd hop right into your kitchen and make a hearty and tasty loaf of Dark Onion Rye bread.

Gretchen always does us proud with her bread and amazes every one of us Babes with her BBB breads, especially as she often can't find flours that those of us in the US and Europe can find easily.

Now that is a whole lotta rye bread! Thanks to everyone who joined us this month. We hope you had as much fun playing in the unusual world of Rye as we did.

If I missed you and you made the Dark Onion Rye in the past two weeks, please email with all the details and I'll make sure you get added to the round-up!

My blogging wife, Sara of I Like To Cook is going to be having all us Babes over this month to her lovely kitchen in Kamloops, BC. She has another interesting bread for us and I can tell you it is the type of bread you wouldn't normally think about baking!

So, if you would like to join us as a Bread Baking Buddy, keep an eye out on her blog in the upcoming week or two to find out what we are making and how to be a Buddy.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

So Much Flour, So Little Time - Help Me Decide What to Bake

After organizing my pantry, including taking an inventory of my flours

My Flour Inventory

and then the surprise visit from the Flour Gods, I'm thinking this upcoming weekend is going to be one massive bakefest!

Champagne boy is out of town this weekend so I can get two full days of non stop baking in, with a break for the gym and my Sunday paper. The only problem I'm having is trying to decide exactly what to bake.

I have two things for sure on the docket that I can't talk about but if you are a long time reader, you can probably figure out they are the Daring Baker challenge and the BBB bread of the month. Otherwise, I'm torn...

So, here is the deal. I want you to help me figure out what I'm baking this weekend!

Leave me a comment with your suggestions by tomorrow, Friday, July 11, no later than 2pm US East Coast time. I'll pick a few, contact you by email to get the recipe if I don't already have one for the suggested goodie, and bake your treats.

Then, to thank you for all your help, I'm going to blog about all the treats and next week will be Reader's Choice week! I'm also going to choose one lucky recipient to receive a prize, a cookbook from my collection.

Some guidelines to help you decide what I should bake over the weekend:

  • Think travelability of the baked goods. Some of these baked goodies are heading on a little road trip on Monday.

  • I want to bake quite a bit this weekend and both the DB and BBB items are a bit time consuming, so think simple.

  • Easily available ingredients. I want to spend the weekend in my kitchen and not running around the greater NYC area hunting down a hard to find ingredient.

Otherwise, the sky is the limit.

I can't wait to read what I'm baking!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Flour From Heaven: The Unexpected Contribution to The Pantry Plan

One of the best things when I moved to Connecticut last year was finding out that one of my neighbors is a professional bread baker. Needless to say, we instantly bonded over the exchange of various loaves coming out of our respective ovens. Whenever we see each other, even in passing on our ways in and out of the house, we always spend a few minutes chatting and gossiping about the local bread scene.

Recently, he has began a career transition from baking for a small local bakery to opening his own shop. It has been exciting to see what he has been testing and to be on the receiving end of his test recipes. Based upon what I've been tasting the past month or two, I can't wait for his shop to open.

Tonight, when I came home from work, he and I were talking while we were taking down the trashcans to the curb. He was telling me how he was finished testing recipes and was wondering if I wanted the rest of the flour he had purchased. He explained he has some organic whole wheat, some organic artisan flour with a higher ash content, and some all hard red winter wheat. Of course, I said I would be happy to take the flour off his hands but I was headed to the gym. He said no problem, he'd leave it by my back door.

I just got home and look what was sitting by my back door!

Bakery Flour from My Neighbor

Yup, that would be the remainders of four 50lb bags of flours, each containing about 15 - 20lbs of flour!

I received two partial bags of King Arthur Sir Galahad, half a bag of King Arthur Organic Select Artisan, and one half bag of Giusto's organic Hi Protein Whole Wheat. I am absolutely giddy with the excitement of baking with these wonderful flours. I'm also very thankful for my neighbor thinking of me when it came to the flour.

Considering my monthly flour bill and my new food budget, all this flour will come in very handy. I also know who is getting the first loaf of bread...

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Pantry Plan: Week One Shopping at the Farmer's Market

After a holiday weekend where I did little cooking I came home yesterday afternoon with the first batch of allowable groceries under The Pantry Plan.

My first stop was the Farmer's Market, where because my garden isn't quite ready to give up any other vegetables than the last of the lettuce and spinach, I had to purchase a few more fresh vegetables than I hope to in the coming week or two when hopefully my garden will be giving up tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and peppers.

My Haul from the 07/06/08 Farmer's Market

My haul included some lovely Rainbow chard, collard greens, zucchini, summer squash, two heads of garlic, corn on the cob, a nice red onion, two I plums, one Early Girl tomato, and the first blueberries of the season. Grand total for all this was $8.90!

Not only did I get a whole weeks worth of vegetables and fruits to supplement what I have in the freezer but I got a chance to use my awesome new canvas bag that Foodbuzz sent all their Featured Publishers at the market.

Foodbuzz Bag with

It is a great bag with lots of room for all the things big and small you find that catch your fancy as you wander the stalls. The bag even has these nifty buttons with my blog's name on it!

Foodbuzz Bag Buttons

I received lots of compliments on the bag and questions by people about Foodbuzz. I really enjoy being part of the program. If you are interested in Foodbuzz, drop me an email and I'll fill you in or contact the wonderful folks over there and tell them I sent you!

After I brought home and put away my haul from the farmer's market I headed for the Stop and Shop where I picked up a quart of milk, a large container of yogurt, and one dozen eggs for $7.61 and updated my pantry lists I made on Tadalists last week showing my pantry, fridge, and freezer contents to reflect the additions from the farmer's market and store.

Sample Pantry Tada List

Tonight, I came home and picked the last of the lettuce from garden before it gets bitter from the heat we are having this week and made a lovely fresh salad using some shrimp from my freezer, two extra pieces of bacon from the batch I made this morning for a breakfast sandwich of egg, cheese and garlic roll left over from the Bakeanista Garlic Knot bake fest, a few of the grape tomatoes I bought last week before I started the Pantry Plan, and a handful of grated Romano cheese from the fridge. I just sprinkled some fresh ground pepper and a squeeze of lemon on top for dressing.

Pantry Challenge: Shrimp Salad

I enjoyed it with a slice of fresh bread I baked when I got home from work tonight spread with some butter.

Pantry Challenge:  White Sandwich Bread

For dessert, I used the last of the Chinese take-out rice, golden raisins from my pantry and some half and half to make quick and easy microwave rice pudding. There is enough rice pudding left over that I can have it for breakfast tomorrow morning with a bowl of fruit from the farmer's market and glass of grapefruit juice.

It was a fabulous meal and if being on the Pantry Plan means eating like this every night, I'm going to be loving it!

Pantry Plan Week One Grocery Totals:
Farmer's Market $ 8.90
Grocery Store $ 7.61
Weekly Total: $16.51