Sunday, September 30, 2007

Day 2: Joe Froggers

This dough is really sticky! Watch out, you'll need lots of flour- hands, board, and rolling pin- and a gentle hand to work with this dough. I tore it a few times, but it's forgiving so I was able to do some easy patchwork. I used a drinking glass with a 3 1/2 inch rim since I don't have cookie cutters and it worked great (remember to flour that too!). I wanted to make this first batch as the recipe recommends, but they do come out really big. I like smaller cookies, so next time I'll make them smaller and make more. They smell divine while baking and the cookies look like large cracked saucers. The edges of the cookie are crisp while the interior is soft and chewy. I like the salt mingled with the medley of spices in the cookie. I'll definitely be making these again, especially with the chilly months ahead of us.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Messy Delicious: Recipe- Joe Frogger cookies

Oh man! I never said I was a tidy chef.

But hey, that means I'm excellent at cleaning up, right? I decided to make cookies today, a recipe for Joe Froggers that I'd wanted to try for a while. It's from the Feb/March 2007 Cook's Country magazine, a great publication that I've subscribed to for over a year. It's a spice cookie with an interesting history- they were originally developed for sailors on long fishing voyages, who could enjoy the cookies since they had no dairy to spoil. I can't resist a historical link like that, plus the combination of rum, molasses, ginger, and salt intrigued me. It sounds like a kicked-up version of one of my favorite wintertime cookies: ginger. Let's see, this recipe could replace the encumbent one.

This cookie needs a little planning, since the dough needs to be refrigerated for at least 8 hours (read: dough one afternoon, bake the next). The dough is made in three parts: dry ingredients, rum and salt, and molasses with baking soda. And I did try to be as neat as possible, but my electric mixer had a nice mane of brown hair as the dough came together. I spent just as much time mopping up my mess as I did with the dough, but fortunately I have gloves and good sponges.

So the dough is in the fridge. Now I must wait patiently until tomorrow to bake them off. New Husband and I are having a late breakfast at our favorite place, Alana's, tomorrow (someday I'll attempt these swedish oatmeal pancakes myself, they are so GOOD). So I'll be having a Joe Frogger for my lunch. :-) Stay tuned for how they turn out.

Joe Froggers
adapted from Cook's Country Feb/March 2007 issue

1/3 cup Dark Rum
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups all-purpose Flour
3/4 teaspoon ground Ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground Allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground Nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground Cloves
1 cup Molasses
1 teaspoon Baking soda
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted Butter, softened but cool
1 cup Sugar

Whisk rum, water, and salt in a small bowl until the salt dissolves. Whisk flour, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves in medium bowl. Stir molasses and baking soda in a large measuring cup and let sit until doubled in volume, about 25 minutes (the mixture will start to bubble).

With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and gradually beat in rum mixture. Add one-third of flour mixture, beating on medium-low until just incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Follow with half the molasses mixture. Add the next third of the flour mixture, followed by the remaining molasses mixture, and finally the last of the flour. Give the dough a final stir with a rubber spatula, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.

Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Liberally flour your work surface, and bring out half the cookie dough. Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. Using 3 1/2 inch cookie cutter (substitute a drinking glass), cut out 12 cookies. Transfer 6 cookies to each baking sheet (they will spread alot), spacing 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until cookies are set and beginning to crack, about 8 minutes. Rotate rack position and direction of the baking sheets halfway through. Cool cookies on sheets for 10 minutes, than transfer to a cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining dough.

The cookies can be stored for a week in an air-tight container. Makes 24 cookies.

Recipe- Mushroom Pizza

Sometimes at the end of the week the diet goes out the window.

Not that I'm on a diet, but I try to keep my gastronomic adventures on a 'tight leash,' so to speak. My intense love of food is constantly at war with the desire to stay thin and fit. But at the end of a hard week, making something deliciously comforting really hits the spot. Making pizza at home sounds so impressive but the whole experience is satisfying. Making the dough, putting the pizza together....and eating it! Homemade pizza is sooo good.

Last night my friend A came over and we made pizza. I got the dough ready ahead of time in the bread machine. I love this recipe for whole wheat pizza dough; it's deeply flavorful, and healthful too. For this batch, I used a rosemary infused olive oil and the crust was deeply flavored with it, but you can use regular extra virgin olive oil.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

(makes 2 12-14 inch crusts)

1 1/3 cups water
1/4 cup rosemary olive oil
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons SAF yeast

Place all ingredients in the bread machine pan, and program for the dough cycle. Press start.

When the machine beeps at the end of the cycle, unplug the machine. Lightly flour your work surface, and your hands- the dough will be sticky when you pull it out. Immediately remove the pan from the machine, and turn the dough out onto the floured work surface. Divide into the desired number of portions. Flatten each portion into a disc by kneading a few times then folding the edges into the center. Cover with a damp paper towel on the work surface to rest for 30 minutes until the dough has increased about 20 percent in size.

Roll out and shape the dough according to your pizza recipe. Or, place dough in a plastic food storage bag and refrigerate for 24 hours, or freeze for up to 3 months.

A is a terrific pizza buddy. We had never cooked together before but we instantly danced in the kitchen- I rolled out the dough while she prepared the mushrooms and cheese. We have similar tastes in toppings, so we decided on a mushroom pizza with a spicy arrabbiata sauce. While preparing and eating, we shared a terrific bottle of Castle Rock Zinfandel.

Mushroom Pizza

1/2 recipe Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
3 large crimini mushrooms, sliced
4 cheeses, amounts to taste- part-skim mozzarella, fontina, parmesan, and asiago
your favorite Arrabbiata (spicy) tomato sauce (we used Scarpetta brand, available at Whole Foods)

Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of your oven, and preheat to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roll out pizza dough on a lightly floured work surface, to desired shape and size. Transfer to a baking sheet that has been lightly sprayed with olive oil and sprinkled with cornmeal. Spread a small amount of tomato sauce over the crust, leaving 1/2 inch around the edge. Sprinkle with cheese, and arrange mushrooms on top. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the crust turns golden brown and the cheese bubbles. Transfer to wooden cutting board and sliced into 8-10 pieces. Store leftover pizza in tightly wrapped foil in the refrigerator.

The mushroom pizza paired with the delicious Zinfandel was delectable comfort food on a rainy chilly Friday. We had considered going out but were so glad we stayed in. Our pizza was deliciously satisfying comfort food without all the grease of delivery pizza. Plus, New Husband gets the leftovers for lunch today!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Recipe- Apricot Almond Rugelach

Rugelach are a traditional German Jewish pastry, but they've long been a traditional Christmas cookie in my family's house. My parents and brothers are bigger on pie and cake throughout the year, but once Thanksgiving is over it's all about the Christmas cookies. Mom makes 6-10 different kinds during the holidays- some new and some old standbys. Some are beautiful works of art, others aren't as pretty but taste just as good.
These apricot rugelach are on the 'Must make' list. In fact, they are often made twice a season, and should they not appear there would be cries of despair from us all.

Our first experience with rugelach occured when I was a little girl living in Atlanta. Beyond the neighborhood Kroger, Mom would visit Harry's a local warehouse grocer (Whole Foods slash Home Depot? best way I can think to describe it). My very first experience with sushi took place here as well, but that's another story. But on special days, Mom would purchase chocolate walnut rugelach, and at least 3 would be consumed on the way home (myself, Brother #1 and Brother #2) and the rest didn't last much longer. We didn't stay in Atlanta long and it was a few years before rugelach entered our lives again in the form of this recipe.

Now I have my own home but we'll still be home for Christmas so we won't miss the cookies. But it's never too early to practice the family favorites, so I made my first batch of apricot rugelach solo this weekend.

I learned alot- my first experience with cream cheese dough taught me that Mom was right as usual- it is easy to work with! I was a little concerned in the beginning- the dough didn't come together as fast as I thought it would, and I worried I had done something wrong. But lo and behold, it came together beautifully. You separate the dough into two parts and work with one at a time. Only when working with the second piece of dough did I remember that we received a fluted pastry wheel as a wedding gift- so one batch had lovely scalloped edges and the other was plain. But no problem- they still tasted great! And I can't wait to make another batch- soon, since I have 1/2 a block of cream cheese left and I'm not sure what else to do with it. But next time, I think I'll try a chocolate walnut raspberry filling, reminiscient of the cookies I had at Harry's. I'll let you know how those turn out!

Apricot Almond Rugelach
(adapted from Cookies Unlimited)
makes 24 cookies

cream cheese pastry:
1 cup all-purpose Flour
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 12 pieces

1/4 cup apricot jam
2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) chopped toasted Almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1 Teaspoon finely grated Lemon zest

1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) chopped almonds

2 cookie sheets covered with parchment

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flour, butter, and cream cheese. Pulse until the dough forms a ball. Remove the dough from the work bowl and divide into two pieces. Place each on a piece of plastic wrap and press each out into a 6-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate while preparing the filling.

To make the filling, you'll need 4 bowls: in the first, stir the jam until it is spreadable; in the second, stir together the almonds, sugar, and lemon zest. In the third bowl, beat the egg until well broken. In the fourth bowl, mix the sugar and almonds for the topping.
Remove one of the pieces of dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured surface. Flour the dough and roll it out into a 9- to 10-inch circle. Spread with half the jam and half the almond mixture. Using a pastry wheel, cut the circle into 12 equal wedges. Roll up each triangle into a small crescent from the outside inward. As the rugelach are formed, place them on the prepared pan. Repeat with the second piece of dough and the remaining filling.
Brush the top of each pastry with the beaten egg, then sprinkle with the almond sugar.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden and slightly caramelized. Slide the papers from the pan to a cooling rack.

Rugelach are best the day they are baked, but they will keep between sheets of parchment in a tight-lidded container. But trust me, these won't last longer than a day or two anyway!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Recipe- Lasagna with Pesto and Fresh Tomatoes

I've made many recipes, and I often modify them if they need improvement, or to just make them more my own. This often suits if I simply don't have exact ingredients and work with what I have.

I have officially written my first recipe from my own head, and I'd like to share it with you here. I prepared it last night, and New Husband was quite pleased with the results. I'd like to tinker with it a bit more and will share the evolution with you, but here is version 1.0. I made it for 2, but you can easily double the recipe if you have a larger crowd.

Lasagna with Pesto and Fresh Tomatoes

1/2 bunch fresh basil
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
a handful of fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup part skim ricotta
2 Tablespoons parmesan cheese
3-4 Tablespoons walnut oil
warm water
salt and pepper to taste

2 portobello mushrooms, cut into chunks
1 Tablespoon walnut oil
salt and pepper

4 large tomatoes, cut into chunks, with 4 slices for garnish
about 3/4 cups shredded cheese- I used
a fontina, parmesan, and asiago blend
8 no-boil lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the pesto: place basil, walnuts, spinach, ricotta, and parmesan in a food processor and pulse to combine. With the processor running, add the walnut oil, and then the warm water to create a fairly liquid consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For the mushrooms: Toss with the walnut oil and salt and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes. Remove and drop the oven temperature down to 350 degrees.

To assemble the lasagna: Place the lasagna noodles in a large dish and pour boiling water over them. Soak for 10 minutes, tossing to make sure the noodles don't stick together. Drain the noodles on paper towels, and set aside.
Spread a heaping Tablespoon of pest on the bottom of an 8 x 8 baking dish. Lay 2 pasta noodles down and spoon pesto to coat all over lightly. Layer tomatoes to cover, followed by 1/4 of the mushrooms. Sprinkle some of the cheese on top. Repeat with the noodles, pesto, tomatoes, and mushrooms and cheese 2 more times, using all the mushrooms on the last layer. For the final layer, add the remaining noodles, and the four reserved tomato slices. Top with the remainder of cheese.
Cover with tin foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 20 minutes more. Remove and let sit for 5 minutes before cutting. Serve.

Serves 2.

The lasagna came out really well; it was flavorful and delicious. I think my improvements on future try would be to tinker with the amounts of tomatoes and mushrooms. The pesto is a lighter pesto but still rich, so more fresh tomatoes would be welcome. And we love mushrooms, so more is always good! In short, we devoured the majority of it which is saying alot of New Husband who can't eat much of just one thing.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Review: Peninsula Happy Hour

Last night two of my coworkers and I had our first Peninsula Happy Hour, what will hopefully be one of many. Our team lives everywhere from San Francisco down to the South Bay, but only 3 of us live on the Peninsula (Redwood City, San Mateo, Foster City).
We stopped in at B Street and Vine in San Mateo for some wine and dinner. The place is long and narrow with funky jazz artwork on the walls, a long bar on one side, and an open space for the jazz players that start at 7pm nightly. They've only been open for 8 months but they seem to be settling in to the area nicely, right around the corner from Draeger's.

I had a glass of the Monga Zin Zinfandel, which I'd had before and really enjoyed. The "berry jam, milk chocolate finish" drew me to it, and it was warming and delicious. My red wine-loving companion followed my example, and she enjoyed it as well. My other friend ordered a chardonnay which she liked very much. We exclaimed over it's "butterfree" description, but after tasting it we understood a bit more what that meant.

B Street and Vine serves delicious paninis, salads, and bruschetta. The bruschetta is truly the winner, what will bring you back over and over. For $12, you can select 4 different kinds of bruschetta from a sizable list. Each one is hunky and will feed two people.

We selected the tomato and basil, salmon with chives, capers, and mascarpone, tuscan bean and sun dried tomatoes, and apples with brie and spiced pecans. The tomato basil was a delicious blend of sweet tomatoes and fragrant basil, with just the right amount of garlic. The apples were sweet-tart as well, a great combo with the smooth brie and crunchy pecans. The standout for the pair of us (#3 doesn't like seafood) was the salmon- a delicious lox salmon with smooth creamy mascarpone, salty capers and chive. We ordered a second helping of it and finished all but one piece. My least favorite was the tuscan bean and sun dried tomato. The bean was a puree which was delicious, but I would change the chewy sun dried tomato for something else, perhaps fresh tomato or cucumber.

We were excited to discover that we could order 2 more bruschetta to fill the 3 of us up- we ordered a second salmon and we tried ricotta with dates and pistachios. I really enjoyed the creamy ricotta with salty pistachios and chewy-sweet dates, although I think my companions were less than thrilled.

The live jazz performance began while we were there, and while the music was good the high volume made it harder for us to chat. All in all, we enjoyed our evening very much and hope to schedule another Peninsula Happy Hour soon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Olive Oil Muffins

1 cup all purpose Flour
3/4 cup whole wheat Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons Lemon zest
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup lemon olive oil
1/4 cup orange olive oil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup sliced Almonds, toasted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Place paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin, and lightly grease one small ramekin.

Blend the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, eggs, and zests in a large bowl until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Beat in the vinegar and milk. Gradually beat in the oil. Add the flour mixture and stir or beat slowly, until just blended. Crush the almonds with your hands and add them to the batter; stir to combine. Fill the muffin tin almost to the top of each paper liner. Also fill the ramekin- this recipe makes slightly more than 12 muffins! Back until golden on top (about 20-25 minutes). Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Remove the muffins onto a platter and let cool for 5 more minutes. Serve.

Makes 13 muffins.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Red Table

Ever had the red table treatment? Last night New Husband and I went to Il Fornaio for our first 'date night' as a married couple, and got quite the surprise. Apparently we made the right impression when making our reservation because we were selected as the Red Table for the evening. They rolled out all the stops for us, and what would have been a nice pleasurable meal was outstanding instead.
Started at this branch of the restaurant, the twosome at the red table receives a little special treatment- complimentary bottled water, samplings of appetizers and desserts along with your regular meal. Attentive service is also given throughout. The assistant manager came over to explain it to us and he made a wonderful impression, asking us if we had any dietary needs. They quickly responded to New Husband's shellfish allergy and modified the first appetizer, which was brought out promptly. Crab cake with mierre poix garnish for me, tomato and buffalo mozzarella for him accompanied by a delicious bruschetta. We ordered and enjoyed a bottle of Cambria Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara which was light and refreshing throughout the meal.
Our next appetizer was a single tortelloni each- a beautiful sun colored pasta filled with butternut squash, walnuts, and ricotta, topped with a fried sage leaf. A deeply satisfying little nibble- I imagine if I ordered the full dish it would be too much, so this little sampling was a wonderful treat.
New Husband ordered the gnocchi with marinara sauce for his entree- the homemade gnocchi were light and airy, just what good gnocchi should be. He generously shared one with me, along with the tomatoes on his plate which he doesn't care for but I love. I had a delicious seafood appetizer as my entree- calimari, squid, scallops and shrimp, grilled with a delicious parsley sauce. The seafood were little gems, grilled to perfection and the leftover parsley sauce was perfect with bread.
Just when we didn't think the meal could get better, it did: Our waiter brought us a sampling plate of desserts....each! Apple crepe, berry and creme anglaise, vanilla gelato, and chocolate mousse cake with a berry liqour in the center. All were delicious, and we cleaned our plates. New Husband enjoyed the apple crepe the most (to my surprise and delight- apple person over here). I would have to agree, apples and crepes being high on my list of loves, but the other desserts held their own. We left the restaurant feeling contented and happy, with a lingering light-headedness from the bottle of wine we had just consumed.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

About the Author

Food has always been a part of my life. From making peanut butter balls with Mom at age 4 to throwing parties as an adult, food takes center stage for me.


My culinary heritage is influenced by my parents' North-Atlantic childhood, my Greek- Hungarian ancestry, and my living in the South and the West. An East Coaster for the first half of life, Northern California is my home now and where I intend to stay.

I am blessed with a family of women who cook well and with joy, but my deep interest in culinary arts began in college. First, I needed to feed myself. With childhood behind me, my body and eating habits changed- I gained an excess of weight. This led me to a deeper understanding of what I like, don't like, and the effect it has on the body. Through experiments, body crisis and everything else in life, my wonderful husband Ray (aka NH) is by my side.

We met in college, got married in July 2007 and have created a wonderful nest in the middle of the Peninsula. We love to share tasting menus together and indulge in the occasional extravagant meal. NH's appreciation for food is increasing; he's always been an "eat to live" guy, but now more "live to eat." We often marvel at what we used to think of as great food.

Then there is Padma, who occasionally makes an appearance on the blog. Our cat doesn't have much to do with our food, but she is such a hoot that I can't resist posting her on occasion.
Her name? It's half & half: Padme Amidala of Star Wars and Padma Lakshmi from Top Chef.

Today I eat meat maybe 2-3 times a year and enjoy fish and shellfish when I can. My virtues are a great love for fruits and vegetables.

My vices? To name a few: Mom's apple pie, a calzone with dough from scratch, succulent sushi rolls, and purchased frozen yogurt from a shop near my house. I'm a great believer in moderation and being smart about what you eat. Treats may get more face time on this blog, but that doesn't mean that life is filled with them. These are special moments.

If I plan to indulge, I will eat with caution in the meals before or after.

Second to my love of food is exercise; I really enjoy working out and spend the first hour of every day doing so. I'm devoted to The Firm and have been doing them in my home for years. I want it all! Muscle, a trim and healthy physique, and to eat what I want! I'm 5'2 1/2" and 105 pounds, and I never feel deprived. I get as much satisfaction from making delicious things for my loved ones as I do eating them myself.

A third love? I've never taken a photography class and now I truly wish I have. Taking pictures for this blog is a joy and I've learned so much already.
Here's the first picture I posted on Suite Apple Pie~

and Today

The first camera used on this blog was a Canon PowerShot SD500 7.1 MP Digital Elph. Since December 2008, I've been the proud owner of a Nikon D60 Digital SLR.

I love writing this blog and connecting to you with your comments, please keep coming back!