I just thought I’d mention a few of my favorite baby food books. The first is Super Baby Food, handed down to me by a friend. This has been my go-to resource since Chloe started eating solids. There is so much good information here, including what foods can be introduced each month, easy make-at-home recipes, food storage, nutrition advice, natural cleaning solutions and more. Two other books I’ve enjoyed for baby food recipes are Easy Gourmet Baby Food: 150 Recipes for Homemade Goodness (written by a chef and includes ideas on how to incorporate purees into delicious adult dishes) and Cooking for Baby: Wholesome, Homemade, Delicious Foods for 6 to 18 Months. I borrowed both of these books from our local library.
A photograph from our 2002 trip to France
I’ve been reading Julia Child’s My Life in France. Its timing was perfect because I’ve really been longing for another trip to Paris. It has been 7 years since we were there last. Way too long.
I can’t say I’ve been a huge fan of Julia Child. She seemed to be on TV a lot when I was a kid, and I didn’t have the appreciation for cooking and food that I do now.Â Plus there was something about her voice and mannerism. My mom, a very good cook and who has worked in restaurants most of her life, would turn on Julia’s cooking shows sometimes and I’d sit and watch with her.
Anyway, I’m enjoying the book. Some of it is rather dry, just day to day events, but there are wonderful descriptions of the people and places she experienced during her time in Paris and then Marseille. And the food! It is so clear how passionate she was about French cooking – the countless hours she would put in to making a recipe perfect, because, in this, she was a true perfectionist. Her enthusiasm is inspiring, and makes me think that a delicious souffle or buerre blanc might be in our future.
Naturally, next on my reading list will be Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously (unless I see the movie first), about how author Julie Powell spent a year cooking each one of the 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking and then blogging about it. I’m also now curious about “Mastering the art…” as is everyone else. Apparently the cookbook will make its debut at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. I find it a shame that Julia Child isn’t alive to see this, but that just seems to be the way of things.
Aren’t these hamburger shaped cupcakes fantastic? And check out those sugar cookie french fries! Bakerella has an awesome tutorial complete with download and print packaging templates. If I thought they’d get eaten around here I would definitely give it a try for Father’s Day. Which makes me wonder… does anyone know of a tutorial for fly fishing themed cupcakes?
Via Twig & Thistle
Green Tomato Soup from epicurious.com and Fried Green Tomatoes from allrecipes.com
We are definitely in the midst of fall. The cloudy, rainy days have come, bringing along the chill wind and damp cold. The grass has greened back up, but many of the other plants and flowers are struggling to take their final breath. Most everything in our vegetable garden is done, except for a few evergreen herbs, some straggler carrots, one last zucchini and our poor tomato plants, heavy with unripened fruit.
In the hopes of using up some of our green tomatoes before the first frost, I’ve been looking for some good recipes. Last night we tried Green Tomato Soup, which was actually delicious despite my initial skepticism. I used bacon instead of ham, and also added a small zucchini. I’ll probably make another batch of it today. (Edit: Actually, instead I made the Green Tomato Spice Cake which turned out also surprisingly good. Moist and tasty. I omitted the raisins, and reduced the sugar by a 1/2 cup because someone in the recipes’ comment section said it was very sweet. For fun, I also made the cream cheese frosting from the other cake recipe. Very good!)
Here are some other green tomato recipes I’ve bookmarked to try:
Fried Green Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil BLTs
Green Tomato Spice Cake
Green Tomato Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Baked Green Tomato Casserole
Broiled Green Tomatoes with Goat Cheese (or Feta)
Best Fried Green Tomatoes
Green Tomato Soup
Does anyone else have any good green tomato recipes to share?
Okay, truly, this week I vow to try and start eating healthier and to stop gaining so much weight. Although I’m not technically “overweight” (yet often feel that way), I have definitely gained on the higher end of the recommended amount. And I certainly do not want to birth a ginormous baby. You know what I’m saying? I just want to plateau on all this weight from here on out. (Special thanks to everyone who left a comment on this post. I’ve heard that breastfeeding helps to melt off those post-partum pounds, but at this point, I’m nervous about relying on something I’ve never done before 🙂 )
That said, I’ve realized a big part of my problem is an abundance of ripe, luscious summer fruit, particularly berries, apples, and peaches. So of course I was making all kinds of delectable goodies. Just for fun, here are three recipes that we’ve really been loving:
Blueberry Lemon Sour Cream Cake. This was by far the best tasting cake I’ve made all year. I used the Sour Cream Lemon Cake recipe, but added slightly less white sugar and a cup of blueberries. Then I followed the directions for the lemon butter glaze. Every bite was divine, and we were seriously sad when it was all gone.
Homemade Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. I’ve tried before to make a creamy egg-based vanilla, but it was time consuming, frustrating and didn’t turn out well. Now I mostly just stick to making simple fruit sorbets. This recipe, however, didn’t call for any eggs or cooking, just creams, peppermint extract, chopped or mini-chocolate chips, and a can of sweetened condensed milk (I LOVE this stuff. I can eat it straight out of the can with a spoon). This recipe made more than my cuisinart ice cream maker could handle, so I’ll be halving it next time. And I’m sure there will be a next time.
Easy Fruit Crisp (see below). This is my tried and true recipe for any fruit we happen to have. It is quick, easy, and uncomplicated (no fancy crust to worry about). I’ve had success using both fresh and frozen mixed berries, fresh apples, blueberries, and peaches. With really juicy/wet fruit like peaches, it is a good idea to stir in 2 to 4 tablespoons of flour, so you don’t end up with soup. It also doesn’t matter how much fruit you use, except that the ratio of topping to filling changes. David and I love extra topping, so I usually double that part of the recipe.
Up to 5 cups of fresh or frozen fruit
2 to 4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup regular rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup softened butter
1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)
3) Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until fruit is tender and
topping is golden. Serve warm with ice cream or light cream. Serves 6.
Okay, I am not kidding here, but I just made the most AMAZING buttermilk chocolate cake EVER! And truly, it was not hard at all. I originally saw the recipe in Marcy’s copy of February’s Portland Monthly magazine, and thought I should write it down, but I forgot. Then, while David was waiting that extra hour for me to finish with my dentist appointment, he came across it again and thoughtfully asked the receptionist to photocopy it for me. (Such a sweetheart!)
Since we were having a friend over for dinner, I thought I’d use that as an excuse to try out this new recipe. And it was… magic! Moist, rich, chocolaty, not too sweet and with just the right amount of depth and complexity. And did I mention beautiful? Gorgeously dark with a semi-matte, creamy ganache frosting. I’m never going to buy chocolate container frosting ever again. Now I know the secret – and so do you!
Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake
Once you pour the hot coffee into the batter, don’t be alarmed by its thinness.
“It’s definitely the thinnest cake batter I’ve ever worked with,” [Portland Baker
Melissa] McKinney says. As for the frosting, there’s no need to use fancy chocolate,
she says. “I just use semi-sweet chocolate chips and it comes out perfect.”
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (sifted)*
1 1/3 cups canola oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups freshly brewed, extra-strong hot coffee*
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
24 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with nonstick spray, and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
2. Place flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, mix on low to combine. Keeping the mixer on low , add oil, buttermilk, then eggs one at a time. Add hot coffee in a thin stream, pouring down the side of the bowl. Add vanilla and mix until batter is smooth. Divide into pans and back until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool in pans for at least 20 minutes.
3. To make the chocolate ganache frosting, create a double boiler by filling a saucepan with 2 inches of water and bringing it to a boil. Place chocolate chips and cream in a stainless steel mixing bowl (I used glass) and set on top of simmering water, Allow mixture to meltâ€“do not stir right away, When chocolate has melted, stir it with a whisk. Allow to cool at room temperature.
4. Remove cakes from pans. Place one layer of cake on a serving plate. Trim the top with a serrated knife to make it even (although I didn’t find this necessary). Place a scoop of ganache in the middle and smooth it out to the edges using a palette knife or spatula. Trim the top off the other layer and place the untrimmed side down on the top of the frosted layer, pressing gently. Spoon more ganache on the top and smooth it around the sides, adding more ganache as needed to cover. If you need to apply a second coat of ganache, put the cake in the refridgerator for no more than 15 minutes to set before adding a second coat (although I found myself with a surplus of frosting). Makes a single 9-inch layer cake.
My notes: For the cocoa powder I used Droste cocoa from Holland, which is like gold around here, but I really wanted to make it extra special. I also didn’t bother to sift it. For the chocolate frosting I used Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. And instead of the extra strong coffee, I pulled four extra long shots of espresso, enough to make the full 1 1/2 cups.
Postscript: In response to a comment below, I thought I’d add this paragraph from the article for those interested:
So what gives this recipe such staying power? It’s the oil, says McKinney. “Oil makes a moister cake, and allows it to last a week, whereas a layer cake made with butter becomes dry the next day.”Â Plus, the hot coffee elevates the cocoa’s depth and complexity. The cake is versatile as well: The batter can be stored in the fridge for several days; stout can be used in place of coffee, it can even be made vegan (McKinney suggests using egg replacement and vanilla soy milk.) And the layers can be filled with whipped cream and fresh berries instead of ganache.
*Update* See this post on halving the recipe, with updated shape and photos!
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My absolute favorite cookie recipe of all time is found beneath the lid on canisters of Quaker Oats, called Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. The only difference is I omit the 1 cup of raisins and instead use two cups of M&Ms. Scrumptious! I remember making these as a teenager with a friend from church. I still make them at least once or twice a year… a perfect comfort food.
1/2 pound (2 sticks) margarine or butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 cups QuakerÂ® Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 cup raisins (or 1-2 cups M&Ms!)
1. Heat oven to 350Â°F. In large bowl, beat margarine and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats and raisins; mix well.
2. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
3. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.
Servings: ABOUT 4 DOZEN
Tonight we made zabaglione, a frothy, creamy, custard-like Italian dessert. I wish I had gotten a better photo, but there was barely a spoonful left by the time I got around to it. All it takes are two, maybe three ingredients, a little preparation and presto! a fast and delicious dessert in no time. Perfect for those last minute emergencies, like surprise company, when you’re low on supplies, or whenever your sweet tooth gets the best of you. This recipe is based on one from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan.
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Whip the yolks and sugar together with a whisk or an electric mixer (my preference) over a double boiler. I just put a smaller pot into a bigger pot filled with gently simmering water. I added maybe a teaspoon or two of Marsala, but the directions from the cookbook said you can add up to 1/2 cup. The Marsala can be omitted when serving to children. Continue to beat the mixture, about 10 minutes, until it swells and forms soft, almost elastic mounds. Pour into dessert cups and serve warm. Makes two servings.
Our Italian friend, Alex, says that he doesn’t cook his version of zabaglione, that he simply beats the yolks and sugar until it becomes soft, foamy and thick. He also doesn’t add Marsala because he doesn’t like the taste. We ate our desserts warm, spooned out of ceramic cups, but it would also be perfect poured over fresh fruit or simple cakes.
I made a super fast and yummy vegetarian lunch today using just two packaged products from the freezer â€“ Trader Joe’s Potato Medley and a sheet of puff pastry. I am a big fan of puff pastry. It simply makes everything seemingly more fancy and “gourmet.”
This is all I used:
Here’s how: First pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and set out a sheet of puff pastry to defrost for 10 minutes (follow the directions for specific brands). Cut the sheet into quarters and then cut another square shape in the center of each quarter, about 1 inch from the edges, which allows the sides to rise up better while baking. Once cut, transfer the pastry to a baking sheet covered with parchment.
Meanwhile, heat the potato medley in a skillet, about 6-8 minutes, and then spoon the “filling” into the center of the pastry squares. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes.
Once the pastry looks golden, remove it from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. This keeps the pastry crispy. As a finishing touch, drizzle a little olive oil, top with feta, and add sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Voila! My husband loved it.
Variations: Basically, anything can be used to top puff pastry. Fruit, mixed vegetables, pizza toppings… anything that tastes good and bakes well. My favorite summer mix is to use fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden, cut in half, combined with sliced black olives and a little dill or italian seasoning. This I drizzle with olive oil before baking and then with feta or crumbled goat cheese and a splash of balsamic vinegar. The reddish orange and black makes a dramatic presentation and the flavors really complement each other.
Another variation I’ve tried is topping the pastry with cut apple slices fried in butter and cinnamon. Normally I would have added brown sugar to the mix, too, but it was a birthday treat for a co-worker who was diabetic. Delicious and sugar-free!