Daring Bakers: Danish Braid (with Lavender Honey and Ricotta Cheese, Oh my!)

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This month’s Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Kelly of Sass and Veracity and Ben from What’s Cooking. This is one of the first challenges where I really know each of these bloggers and so I couldn’t wait to see what they would come up with to challenge us this time. I should have guessed from this pairing that we would end of with a pastry! Ben is a master at making Puff Pastry and Kelly is always coming up with great ideas of how to make the DB challenges reflect her culinary style. Therefore, it just made sense when I saw the challenge would be a Danish. On the outset, I must admit that I wasn’t too excited about the challenge, as I generally don’t like Danish. It is always so sweet and the dough is generally plasticy, wet and gummy from the filling sinking into it. But as I have come to learn with these challenges, the things we sometimes buy, often do not reflect what the original homemade variety would taste like.

Once I saw that cardamom was involved in the dough recipe they had picked out for us, I began to feel slightly more relieved, as I have a huge love for this spice. Then when I read further that we could experiment with the filling I felt even better! I do not like pie filling-like danish or pastries and when I skimmed the recipe and saw apple filling, my heart sank. I really dislike apples, especially apples in baked goods. But as I read more thoroughly, I was thrilled to see I didn’t have to go that route. So I thought about what flavors of Danish I do like, and I came to a conclusion, it had to involve cheese. In the Italian kitchen, ricotta cheese is often used as a filling for sweet confections and is often seen in baking, especially the more South you go. So I decided to go with the ricotta, but I needed some way to sweeten it. I didn’t want to use sugar, I wanted to make this pastry kind of classy and fit in with summer. As I mentioned in the last FFF post, I have always been intrigued with cooking with lavender, and I really wanted to try that out in this pastry. So I settled on honey. Honey is so luxurious and really has a warmth to it. Plus honey and lavender sounded like a match made in heaven. So I placed about 3 TBS of local honey in a bowl and mixed a heaping teaspoon of lavender in with it. The lavender hat we consume is the flower, and I know, from working with saffron (the stamen) that a little goes a long way because it is so perfumy. I then mixed this in with about 5 oz. of ricotta cheese and used this simple filling for this beautiful and delicate danish.

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Then at the end, I drizzled leftover buttercream icing from the Opera Cakes we did last month! It was heaven!

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I am a danish convert now. The dough was so beautiful and I loved all the layers we made within it. It created such a light but crunchy texture after it was baked. Oh and the baking was such a joy, as the smell was absolutely intoxicating! The cardamom in the dough was perfect. In my opinion it really made the whole thing. I didn’t have any oranges, so I left the zest out. But I don’t think it mattered much.

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If you love a good Danish, you must try this recipe. Even if you don’t love it, I suggest trying it out. I made one gigantic braid (didn’t read the directions thoroughly enough to realize the recipe makes TWO braids…, even though it is mentioned several times…), and I put about 2/3 of it in the fridge. We are having guests next weekend to celebrate Independence Day, and I think it will make a wonderful breakfast! Not just that, but we will get to enjoy it again.

Recipe to follow:

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Finest Foodies Friday – June 27, 2008

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Another Friday and another FFF. I am so glad to hear all of your feedback and comments about this little weekly post. It makes me so happy that you all enjoy it as much as I do. I am still amazed at the amount of new members that we get to The Foodie Blogroll daily. We are closing reaching 2000 blogs everyone! People really like food, guys! Isn’t that great?! :)
I am constantly in awe of all the creativity and talent that is out there, and I am always so excited to share my finds with you. But don’t forget that you too can nominate your favorite blogs from The Foodie Blogroll too, but posting them on this thread of the Leftover Queen/ Foodie Blogroll Forum. Also be sure to tell the featured blogs how you found them if it is your first time visiting. People love to know how you heard about them.

The only requirement to be featured here on FFF is to be a member of The Foodie Blogroll and be displaying The Foodie Blogroll code on your blog.
If you are not yet a member, but you have a food blog and would like to join us, please click here.

If you have a favorite foodblog on The Foodie Blogroll, that you would like to be featured here on FFF, please join us over on The Leftover Queen/Foodie Blogroll Forum, and post your favorite Foodie Blogroll foodblogs here.

Here is a Foodie Blogroll update. I know it has been a really long time that we have been working on the new interface for FoodieBlogroll.com but I want everyone to know that we are still working on it. Roberto is really committed to making it perfect. He has been working on the new sign up page this week, which means the next step is making it live so all of our older members (before March 2008) can login to the site and get the latest code and you all will be able to change your information, like blog name and URL. We really do appreciate everyone’s patience and we apologize that it has taken so much longer than we expected. But once we started working on it, we started coming up with more ideas to make it great. I will be posting more updates as things begin to be ready. Until then, we have been updating the FAQ page. So if you have any questions or concerns, please check out the FAQ.

Now for this weeks picks!

Natasha from Chokecherry Pancakes
She says the inspiration for her blog name comes from pancakes that her grandfather made served with his own special homemade chokecherry syrup. Even though the syrup was a deep burgundy, whenever you poured it on pancakes, a reaction happened that turned the pancakes green. This memory has always stayed with her. Natasha grew up in Canada and her family always had a big garden and so she is all about fresh food – it is in her blood and comes naturally. So her dishes tend to be pretty seasonal and boy do they look delicious.

Shaye from Smarter Than Pancakes
has a blog and food philosophy that is close to my heart. But I re-discovered her blog through a nomination. So see how important it is to nominate blogs you enjoy? Anyway. She says that her family’s diet has become more crunchy granola as time has gone on – and she cooks according to a lot of Michael Pollan’s food ideals. She is a girl after my own heart because she doesn’t cook with anything containing corn syrup or words she can’t pronounce. The title of her blog is a running joke about new food gadgets – how to make “the perfect” whatever – in this case pancakes. She says she learned how to make pancakes when she was 8 years old, so no matter what is going on in her life, she knows at least she is “smarter than pancakes”!

Kim from My Plate, My World
has a great trend going on in her blog these days – so many great recipes using lavender. My love and respect for seasonal eating is no secret. I believe that a little goes a long way. Even focusing on one ingredient each season can be a fun way to challenge ourselves and get to know an ingredient. This is not to say that she is only cooking seasonally with lavender, but her recipes including this lovely floral herb, really caught my attention.

Dita‘s blog Yummy! My Culina Sanctuarium
is a really tasty blog. For her, like so many of us, her kitchen is her sanctuary – her place to get away from it all and relax by beating eggs, melting the butter, and sprinkling the spices. Her photos are beautiful and her food always looks delicious. She is a very hands on blogger, telling stories of her mishaps along with her triumphs, teaching you what to do with an overabundance of egg yolks along the way!

Padmaja‘s blog Spicyandhra
is a great blog for all things spicy and delicious. She is a celebrity in our midst as she is going to be on BBC. She is very mum about what this show is going to be about, but I think it is really exciting and I just love how so many of us who have started as humble food bloggers are really making something out of their passions! Best of luck Padmaja!

So please go visit today’s picks! When you do, be sure to leave them a nice comment and if it is your first time there, let them know that you heard about them via The Foodie Blogroll Finest Foodies Friday!

Product Review: Genesis Today Superfruit Boosts, Delicious Superfruit Cocktails and a Triple Dog Dare!

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Here I am with another great product for you. Lately I feel like I have been a party to a really great trend. The trend in healthy food products,  products that are 100 % natural without fillers, corn syrup, propylene glycol, artificial sweeteners and other what I like to refer to as “food crap” that companies like to pass off as actual food ingredients. This is especially hard to achieve when it comes to fruit juices.

Go to any convenience store or supermarket and grab the first juice you see, and likely one of the above ingredients will figure into the equation. Much to my dismay. So when I was contacted to do a product review from Komet Marketing for Genesis Today, a line of superfruit juices, the first question on my mind is what’s in it? Amazingly nothing but juice and some citric acid. So why drink something like a Boost Juice? Well Superfruits are big these days, and it is not because they have exotic names like Açaí and Goji, but because they are powerful antioxidants.

Genesis Today knows this, but also knows that some people are turned off by the sometimes bitter taste of the pure superfruit juice, so they have created these Boost juices in order to address that concern by mixing the highest potency of active superfruit ingredient levels with juices like pear, strawberry, dragonfruit and prickly pear to make it taste better. Not only this, but the superfruits are wild harvested.
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Ice Cream? You Scream, we all scream for Mango-Coconut Yo-Cream?

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Here is the next in the Artisan Ice Cream series. With summer in full swing, I am always more drawn towards lighter tastes and although I am pretty happy with the ice cream base I have been using, I do feel after using it several times, there is room for improvement – mostly in texture.

I love the ultra creamy texture of ice creams using eggs, but there are several reasons I want to stay clear of eggs. For one, the fat and cholesterol – most recipes call for 6 eggs, while others I have seen as many as a dozen! Another is the cost of organic eggs, which are the only eggs I am willing to put in this temple of my body. A third problem with egg based ice cream bases, the time involved in a cooked custard ice cream. Ice cream really is a part of our daily diet – so I can’t think of it as a splurge. I need an ice cream base that is the best of both worlds – creamy texture, light on the clock, waist and the wallet.

So with creamy and light at the forefront of my mind, I went out on a limb this time. I knew I had some mango, lime yogurt puree tucked away in the freezer from when we made Elle’s Mango Buffalo Wings and I wanted to incorporate that into this week’s ice cream. Since there was already yogurt in the puree, I thought adding more yogurt would be a great idea – giving the ice cream some extra tang, and a little more fat, when using a whole milk Greek style yogurt. I also wanted to try a different kind of sugar, so instead of adding pure cane sugar like I normally would, I used sweetened condensed milk. I love the flavor of sweetened condensed milk anyway, and I have seen it used as a base in a lot of custard like desserts, so I thought perhaps it would give me a bit of the creaminess I was after. To the mix, I threw in some shredded coconut to add a little texture. Not to mention I absolutely LOVE shreds of coconut in ice cream.

The verdict? It is more of a creamy consistency and much more dense than previous batches. I don’t think I have found the perfect base yet, but I am going to continue experiementing. I think I will keep experiementing with sweetened condensed milk and I know when I want tang to go for using yogurt. I think I would also add more coconut to this ice cream if I were to make it again. This is a tangy and creamy ice cream/ yogurt. If you like a sweeter version, I would add some sugar or agave.

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This is my entry for the Ice Cream, You Scream Blogging Event, hosted by Nikki over at Nik Snacks

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream Dinner

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Saturday was Midsummer, or Summer Solstice, known as the longest day of the year and celebrated all over the world.
However, since that date is always in flux, due to the rotation of the planet and the changing of calendars from the Julian to the Tropical, many people celebrate this holiday between June 21-24, because the actual astronomical solstice usually falls somewhere between these two dates. Midsummer is originally a pagan holiday, called Litha, and has since been Christianized to be the celebration of the nativity feast of Saint John the Baptist. This is a festival of fire and light, and of thanks for the sun and its importance for survival and fertility.

In the North of the Northern hemisphere, like Scandinavia, it means that the sun does not set this day in many places, nor the few weeks before and after this day. When I lived in Norway (Trondheim to be specific, located in the center of the country) at Midsummer, we got two hours of twilight and the rest of the day was as bright and sunny as a summer’s day. It was a remarkable thing to experience, especially when you are not used to it. It usually means staying up late, enjoying time with friends and family and cooking up some good food to celebrate. Scandinavian bashes are usually known for their simple and delicious seafood. This holds especially true at Midsummer, when fresh seafood is at the height of freshness – crab and shrimp figure prominently, as does the ubiquitous salmon.

So I decided to create a Midsummer Feast, by cooking up some crab and corn fritters with garlic aioli, crostini with goat cheese and smoked salmon,

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a nice salad full of goodies, like cucumbers, olives, pickled garlic, and roasted red peppers with a delicious avocado dressing.

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We enjoyed some lovely cocktails, mixed up with an awesome blend of superfruit juices from Genesis Today and spent a lovely evening listening to Caribbean music and enjoying our veranda until the arrival of night.
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Finest Foodies Friday – June 20, 2008

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Another Friday, another Finest Foodies Friday! FFF is a weekly Friday post featuring favorites from The Foodie Blogroll! We do this so we can share in the rich diversity of what The Foodie Blogroll has to offer by featuring some of our favorites and some of yours! What is the Foodie Blogroll? It is the fastest growing blogroll for food bloggers and has become a wonderful community to share ideas about all things food related.

The only requirement to be featured here on FFF is to be a member of The Foodie Blogroll and be displaying The Foodie Blogroll code on your blog.
If you are not yet a member, but you have a food blog and would like to join us, please click here.

If you have a favorite foodblog on The Foodie Blogroll, that you would like to be featured here on FFF, please join us over on The Leftover Queen/Foodie Blogroll Forum, and post your favorite Foodie Blogroll foodblogs here.

Now on to this week’s picks!

First on the list this week is Lori from RecipeGirl - a lot of you already know Lori’s blog intimately, but if you don’t, you should go check it out. I always go away from her blog proverbially licking my lips – she blogs about what I like to refer to as “good eats” – food that is simply delicious. Her tastes range all over the globe and she usually has some kind of baked goodies on there to drool over too. She loves to try all different kinds of recipes from all different sources. She says she rarely makes a recipe twice, so you know her blog is always full of good material!

Next on the list is Renae from Renae du Jour . Her about page just had me cracking up. She has an adorable daughter and a sidekick husband (every girl needs one of those!) who join her on a lot of her foodie adventures. But there is just something about the spirit of her blog, something I can’t quite put my finger on that has me going back for more. Sure the food is great, but I think it is her writing and quick wit that has me going back just the same!

Another blog I have enjoyed for a long time is I Love Turkish Food!
One of my closest friends in high school was Turkish and so I developed a taste for this cuisine at a young age, although I wish I could have had more of it when she was living so close to me! But now she lives in Istanbul and I am going to have to go much farther to visit her these days. But I Love Turkish Food! is a blog written by a fellow Floridian, Minik Kus, and I have spent many a blog trip drooling over the dishes that participate in the “Turkish Night” event on this blog – which is always a feast for the eyes! Sadly, Turkish Night is coming to an end, but not the blog, so if you want to learn more about Turkish food, get on over there!

Next is Sarah from Fritter another Floridian, or in her case Floribbean! She named her blog fritter because it is a food commonly found in the South of the US as well as in the Caribbean – to use fritter as a verb is, as she says , to spend time on the internet looking at blogs. Both things she loves – the food and the verb, so thus the blog was born. But what really tuned me into a lover of this blog is a piece she wrote about experimenting with different foods, that in other cultures are perfectly normal and how being exposed to different foods, really is a gift. You should read it: Persnickety Twit!

Last but not least is Bren from FLANboyent Eats!
Her blog is Latin fusion with a chick twist! Her blog is a really education on Latin foods, as well as travel. She seems to be going somewhere different every week – places like Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico and California! She is a singer and musician, but loves to cook and teach people all about Latin fusion cuisine. Her blog is a fusion as well, of food, fashion, music and travel. I am sure that everyone will find something interesting about Bren’s blog.

So please go visit today’s picks! When you do, be sure to leave them a nice comment and if it is your first time there, let them know that you heard about them via The Foodie Blogroll Finest Foodies Friday!

Recipe: Chicken and Lemon Peel Olive Tagine and Yellow for Bri – Lemon Peels

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Today, I am dedicating this post and recipe to Bri, a fellow food blogger from Figs with Bri, and a woman fighting the long and difficult battle against breast cancer. This month’s CLICK event , hosted by Jugalbandi has a theme of Yellow, based on the Livestrong model. This month we, who are participating in this event, are dedicating our YELLOW posts to Bri, a strong woman with the heart and spirit of an Amazon! There is also a fundraiser going on for Bri – a way to help her seek the best medical care, in all areas, including holistic and experimental treatments some of which are not covered by her medical insurance. So please go here to check out the information and learn more about Bri’s cause – a little goes a very long way. The Foodblogger Blogosphere is a global village. we may not personally know everyone we interact with on a regular basis, but their stories and lives do touch us. I feel it is so important to support our fellow bloggers in good times and when they need us the most, during their trials.

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(CLICK event photo)

Everyone here knows about my love for Moroccan foods. One of my favorite restaurants when I lived in the DC area was Marrakesh. This is how their website describes an evening there “course after course of Moroccan cuisine featuring succulent meats, vegetables, and salads served against the backdrop of Middle Eastern music and decor will both excite and lull you into one of the most special evenings of your life”. No truer words have ever been spoken.

Then at the other end of the spectrum, there was another great Moroccan restaurant where I used to live in Northampton, MA called Amanouz Cafe an unassuming place, yet serving up fresh and delicious food at very affordable prices. Both of the restaurants rate highly on my list of favorite restaurants of all time because of the education they afforded me for Moroccan food.
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Our Wedding Day Story: Better Late Than Never…

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I am talking about this post of course. It could be taken the other way too. We are not “old” but we are not kids anymore either, so I guess you can take it however you like it! ;)

However, the point is that we are in our second month of marriage (celebrating 2 months on Thursday) and I am just now getting around to posting about the wedding. It took us a while to get our photos, due to technical difficulties and then there was so much catching up to do when we returned. So sorry it’s late, but here it is! I already gave you a look at the honeymoon, but now it is time to write the story of our wedding day and all the wonderful vendors that helped us to make the day even more special. Plus, I know you are all dying to hear about the food and the cake.

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I know everyone says this, but we had the best wedding ever. It was small and nearly everyone that we are close to was there to spend the weekend with us – Roberto’s mom, all of my parents, Roberto’s daughters, Gwen and Rachel, my best friend Jen and her family, and several other relatives and close friends. Just having all the people we love surrounding us, made it an amazing day.

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We were married early in the day, so we opted to have a Brunch for our reception. I have always loved brunch – there is something just so classic about it, not to mention very budget friendly.

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Since we had a small guest list, we were able to procure a beautiful Spanish style restaurant to host it. Saint Augustine, FL is well known for its Spanish history. Although it was held by the British as well, before the Americans, it is the Spanish who will forever be associated with the place. You can see this influence reflected in the architecture all over town, as well as the street names. It is such a beautiful place. When you are coming over the bridge from the beach into downtown, if it weren’t for the American flag, you would think you were in Spain.
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