Daring Bakers: Fruits of the Summer Eclairs

(NOW WITH PICTURES!)

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I was so excited to see that this month’s challenge was for Eclairs! We are at my mom’s this weekend, and unfortunately although we brought the camera to take the photos, we did not bring the cable to download them. So I will have to put pictures up on Tuesday when we are back! :)

Anyway, I have always wanted to make them, and although there were things the recipe called for that I had never made in the past – namely choux pastry and pastry cream, the process didn’t look too difficult.

I waited until this weekend to do the challenge, because I have a really small kitchen and not a lot of pastry equipment, like pastry bags and tips and the like. But my mom does, and she has made cream puffs many times before. This was a crazy month for me, and so I felt this challenge had a better chance of getting finished, if I had her help. So I waited until yesterday to do the challenge, so I could do this fun project with her.

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When Roberto and I arrived here yesterday afternoon, I hadn’t even gotten the challenge ingredients yet. But I knew that I wanted to do vanilla pastry cream with some kind of summer fruits and the chocolate glaze on top. The only requirement for this challenge is that we use the recipe for the choux pastry and have one chocolate component – whether it be chocolate pastry cream or chocolate glaze on top. So we went to the store after dinner and there was an abundance of beautiful fruits. We got kadota and black mission figs, fresh blackberries and blueberries, and something I had never had before, fresh currants. They were very reminiscent of the lignonberries I had eaten when I lived in Norway, but again, I had never eaten lingnonberries. Both the currants and blackberries were tart, so I decided to combine them with the sweeter fruits.

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We made 3 different fillings. Regular vanilla pastry cream, pastry cream mixed with currants and blueberries and the other with pastry cream mixed with black figs and blackberries. We also made 2 different shapes – Eclair and puffs. Of course, as per Meeta and Tony’s specifications, we made a chocolate glaze for the tops. Everything turned out beautifully, except that a lot of the Eclairs and puffs fell. My friend Judy, warned me that this might happen in sweltering humid Florida heat, but the cream and fruit perked them right up, and they turned out really wonderful. We finished the project at 11:30 last night, but before retiring, we each tried one of each flavor, and it was really hard to pick a favorite. All I can say is that I am glad there are some left and I don’t think I will turn them into ice cream. Although I am not too sure what I am going to do with the extra pastry cream! :)

If you want to try your hand at Eclairs, please check out the wonderful recipe that follows after the cut by Pierre Herme.

Thanks to Meeta and Tony for this awesome challenge!

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Finest Foodies Friday: August 29, 2008 and some announcements….

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Before we get to FFF, I want to give you all a message about
The New Foodie Blogroll Website!

There has been a lot of buzz going on lately about what is going on with the Foodie Blogroll. Why is there more than one widget out there? Why haven’t the 10 random and 10 newest blogs changed in the past few weeks? etc. Well there is only good news! We have been working like busy little bees this past month getting the new and improved Foodie Blogroll site ready! We have been listening to your suggestions and there are going to be a lot of exciting changes that I know you all will love! :)

We are moving the Foodie Blogroll to a new hosting company and server to better serve the Foodie Blogroll community and because of this, the website and the widgets have been static for the past several weeks, while we get everything moved over and in working order. You should be expecting an email from us in the very near future (within the next week or so) with more information! So keep a lookout for the latest in The Foodie Blogroll network! Now for the FFF.

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As always here is what the FFF is all about. 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 yours! What is the Foodie Blogroll? It is the first and fastest growing free membership blogroll for food bloggers and has become a wonderful community (just under 2000 strong) 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 widget 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.

I love Natalie‘s blog, Hot Off the Garlic Press
Natalie has such a fun and humorous personality that really shows on all her blog posts. Her food philosophy is something else I can really relate to: “gourmet in a flash”. She “love(s) to create home-made chic recipes for my foodie friends to impress their friends and family with. And I think you can make delectable creations that do a body good, and that is my aim”. Great aim, Natalie! If you haven’t been over there yet, please go say hi!

Irena‘s blog is Not Another Food Blog
There may be a lot of great food blogs out there, but Irena’s is not a blog to be missed. She has had a love for food and cooking before she even had teeth and enjoyed sucking on prosciutto as a youngster! Now that is woman who has to have grown to have great taste! She loves entertaining for friends and family and all of her hobbies revolve around food! So don’t forget to stop by her blog for some great eats!

Christy‘s blog, Southern Plate: Recipes from Below the Mason Dixon Line is the real deal. Her family line reaches back to some of the first settler families in the Tennessee valley. She has learned the art of cooking from her mama and grandmother, people who “take ingredients they have on hand and not just “make do” but make magic at the dinner table”. If you want to experience some real Southern cooking and hospitality, please go see her blog!

The Food Monster lives and eats in Los Angeles. As it just so happens I am listening to one of my favorite bands, from LA – The Red Hot Chili Peppers while writing this episode of FFF! Anyway, The Foodie Monster’s blog features recipes of his own creation, as well as adaptations from other recipes and restaurant reviews – so please be sure to check out this terrific and tasty blog!

Mallow‘s blog, Pietown is a blog worth mentioning. She has an awesome blog filled with lost of goodies, from the sweet to the savory. She has been on hiatus for a few months, but she is now back in action, armed with a new camera! So be sure to stop over and welcome her back to the blogosphere!

Remember, if you would like to see a blog featured here, who is part of the FBR please visit the forum and nominate them.

I NEED NOMINATIONS!!!!!!

Also we all love to know how people came to find our blogs, so please visit all of our featured bloggers today and don’t forget to tell them that you found them via Finest Foodies Friday!

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ROYAL FOODIE JOUST

Don’t forget to enter your creation in this month’s Royal Foodie Joust! This month’s ingredients are whole grains, citrus and ginger. Entries due Monday, September 1, 2008! Enter today for a chance to win some great prizes!
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I also want to take this oppurtunity to thank Amanda from My Finds Online for choosing The Leftover Queen as one of the
Top 50 Recipe Blogs 2008, click here to see her other picks or check out her blog for more of her finds – unique products, crafts and recipes online!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Ice Cream From Leftovers: Very Pistachio Cherry Ice Cream and Baileys Hazelnut-Gateau Ice Cream

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I have really so enjoyed my ice cream maker since we got it back in March as an early wedding present from my mom. Ice cream is a big passion of mine, it is something we eat almost everyday, in small amounts (sometimes!) and I find that it has been a really fun and creative outlet for me! But…we have been making so much ice cream since we got the maker, that I literally have a backlog of recipes to share with you all. So consider the next few days, the ice cream chronicles, as I share with your our creations!

I am always looking out for new and great recipes for ice cream, gelato (although you can’t really make true gelato without the proper equipment), sorbetto and slushies. I hoard little bits of this and that away in the freezer for future ice cream endeavors, especially from Daring Bakers Challenges.

This is the inspiration for today’s two recipes!

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For the Pistachio-Cherry, I broke down and went with an egg base, something I have been avoiding. However, I had 6 leftover egg yolks in the freezer from a Daring Bakers challenge that needed using. So I decided to finally do an egg based ice cream to remember what the difference in texture is. Texture has been the most difficult thing for me to perfect in past attempts. I was really frustrated to see that there really is a difference. This ice cream was so creamy, its nuts! And this ice cream TRULY was nuts because we went a little nuts with the pistachios! But I was really struggling with the consistency issue and not using eggs. I was determined to find something that will work besides eggs, and I believe I found my answer …in BOOZE (see more on this farther down)…

Roberto loves Pistachio gelato, or ice cream. It is his absolute favorite. Second runner up, Amarena, otherwise known as black cherry. So we decided that this ice cream should incorporate these two flavors making the Ultimate Roberto Ice Cream. Unfortunately, we did overdo it with the pistachios, which means that flavor really overwhelmed the sweet cherry flavor. But it was still good, just not very cherry.

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I had a lot of fun getting the cherries ready for this endeavor. I really enjoy cutting into rich red fruits, like pomegranates and cherries and watching their juices stain everything from the cutting board to my fingers. I can’t explain it, but it makes it fun. I guess it is the kid in me.

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The second “leftover ice cream” was made from the cake remnants from the last DB challenge – the Hazelnut Gateau which was kind of a disaster for me. So I had a LOT of remnants. I had it stuffed in the freezer and had pretty much forgotten about it until I asked Roberto what kind of ice cream he wanted next. We had recently gotten a bottle of Bailey’s to experiment with making cocktails and so we decided to make a Bailey’s ice cream. That night, I DREAMT about adding the gateau pieces to it (this is how obsessed I am about ice cream!) and I am telling you guys, it is worth making the gateau, to put in this ice cream! I feel so validated now! Ben and Jerry’s really needs to buy this recipe from me to mass produce! LOL! The Bailey’s, since it is alcohol, doesn’t freeze so it made this ice cream so soft and scoopable and creamy!

Click through to see how we made them.
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Recipe: “Happy” South of the Border Steak with Fresh Salsa and Black Beans

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Well, now that the storm has passed and things have returned to normal once again (meaning it is sunny and hot and humid), we will return to our regularly scheduled programming of all things food related. Today I am going to talk about meat – specifically Happy Meat.

So what makes a steak “happy” (as my friend Judy calls it)? Well for those of you who haven’t read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, it has to do with the way the cow that becomes your steak lives its life. A cow that spends its post-weaning life on a feedlot eating grains and “additives” (read: cow parts) that it is not equipped to digest (and thereby given antibiotics in its feed to essentially keep it alive) is going to have a very different taste to it than a cow that lives in a pasture eating fresh grass and hay and living its life, well, like a cow is supposed to. Taste is one thing – but what does all those hormones/ antibiotics and cheap food it is fed do to you when you eat it? I won’t even go into the ethical debate(…watch me just fly right past that one…)

I don’t talk a lot about food ideologies on this blog, because I am a strong believer and affirmer of “to each their own”, especially when it comes to food. I learn so much from people by what they eat and so never in a million years would I try to convince someone to eat differently. The only reason I bring this up now is because until I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma I didn’t realize how bad things really are. So maybe you don’t realize it either. I mean, I knew about corn syrup, and additives and processed foods, been off those for years, but I didn’t have the foggiest idea how BIG and overarching this issue with corn is. I am horrified by the fact that Americans are like walking tortilla chips, made from CHEAP INDUSTRALIZED corn.
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Finest Foodies Friday on Hold Until Next Week! :)

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Thanks Guys for all your comments and support! I am sorry, but our power is so sporadic right now, that I am not going to be posting Finest Foodies Friday this week.

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I think Fay has really arrived now! Today there is much more rain and wind. The streets are flooded again, and it is likely to be more so when the tides come in a little after 1 PM. The flooding yesterday was from the tides, not really rain. Our power is also sporadic at times. We lost it for most of the night last night.

We are trying to get as much done now, so that in case we lose the power again this afternoon, we will at least have gotten something finished. Hopefull things will be back to normal tomorrow! Fay is expected to be out of our area by this evening!

Fay is here to Stay…

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(this is our parking lot)

I must admit that I am kind of enjoying the storm watching. Mother Nature is such an incredible force to be reckoned with. I mean we think our lives are ruled by technology, but once in a while, when you get to see the strength of nature first hand, you know who really rules the world. She brings life, bears fruit and her harvest keeps us alive, but she is also capable of enormous destruction. Not to say that we are really experiencing anything too too terrible. We still have power and we have lots of food – mac n’ cheese, ice cream, chips, wine, etc. But our streets are flooded, so we aren’t going anywhere. The wind is still whipping and it is still raining. But we are content and probably by tomorrow in a severe bout of cabin fever! :)

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Stormy Weather and Comfort Food: Keeping away Fay with “Italian Style Mac n’ Cheese”

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Nothing says comfort food like a Tropical Storm!

We are still waiting for the storm to hit. Latest news reports say that it will not have enough time out in open water to turn into a hurricane once it hits land again, which is good, but it will hit land again as a tropical storm, right here in our lovely town of Saint Augustine. We are right on the coast here in Northern FL. Less than a five minute walk from the water. We have already seen rising waters and some low lying areas (well everything is low lying around here) have flooded and the storm isn’t even here YET. We should be expecting it tonight or more likely tomorrow. Everything is closing up and our county has declared a state of emergency. The National Guard is already here, thankfully, and we live on the second floor, so we are staying put. We are ready with supplies and we have just moved everything off the porch. The wind is starting to pick up, but nothing severe yet.

The summer has been pretty rainy here especially since the end of July, which is like monsoon season in Florida – it rains everyday, and even if it doesn’t rain, a large part of the day is gray and the sky rumbles.

So much for The Sunshine State.

My appetite begins to get confused – from inside, looking out it seems like a fall day, but as soon as you step outside it is sweltering hot and sticky humid. Even so, during the first week or so of this, my brain temporarily goes from cooling summer foods, right back to the land of comfort food. Which in this case, was Pasta al Forno – or oven backed pasta, much like a Mac n’ cheese of sorts. This dish was creamy and satisfying – chock full of flavors and textures. Roberto took one bite and he was transported back to childhood memories of tortellini with peas in bechamel. This may be a new family favorite. It certainly does hearken to rainy days under a blanket with a good book and glass of rich red wine under a Tuscan sky… Or perhaps just a storm safe closet! ;)

But maybe this will even stave off Fay! :)
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The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred!

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~picture from the North River Winery in Bennington, VT~

I saw this on Elly’s blog today – and thought what a cool idea! I think that trying new things – especially FOOD is a great way to expand your horizons and I wanted to see how I was doing…so here goes….if you you too want to play along …

Here’s what to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (does alligator count?)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses (would love to try!)
17. Black truffle (just infused oil)
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (ICK!) —-
See this post
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn or Head Cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda (would love to try!)
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam Chowder in Soudough Bowl
33. Salted Lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a Fat Cigar
37. Clotted Cream Tea (just clotted cream)
38. Vodka Jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat

42. Whole insects – Here is my cousin Patrick who is in Beijing right now eating a grasshopper (I literally JUST found this video, right after I commented to Valli below! How weird is that????)

See more about Patrick and the “Forbidden Bloggers” at the end of this post!

43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $120 or more
46. Fugu (why risk it?)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV (not sure)
59. Poutine (I SO WANT TO HAVE SOME!)
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. kaolin
64. Currywurst (sounds good!)
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (all of them, thankfully! :)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings (I have had the sheep version) or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost or brunost (I LIVED on this this when I lived in Norway! There is nothing on earth like it!)
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu (I have had Korean Soju, which is the same)
77. Hostess Fruit Pie (ewwww)
78. Snail
79. Lapsang Souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom Yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. 3 Michelin Star Tasting Menu (I am so planning to do this!)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose Harissa (I have only had regular Harissa – pity me!)
94. Catfish
95. Mole Poblano
96. Bagel and Lox
97. Lobster Thermidor (this sounds like heaven on a plate)
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake (sounds icky, but I’d try it)

I just need to boast a bit, my super awesome cousin Patrick had the oppurtunity to go to Beijing with some a group of students from GW grad school. You can check out their video podcasts here:They call themselves the Forbidden Bloggers.

I leave you with a tea tasting video: