Thursday, June 10, 2010

This ain't no Easy Mac

Childhood classic for the sophisticated palate.

So I just spent a good $30.09 on cheese. My previous belief that there were 2 types of cheeses- Kraft Singles or Cheese Sauce (or as the Mexicanos se llaman- Queso) was abruptly shattered when I approached the Gourmet Cheese section of HEB.

It was an international consortium of the most astounding array of colors, shapes, textures and unpronouncable names I had ever seen. Piora from Switzerland, Ackawi from the Middle East, Cornish Pepper from England- milk of goats, cows, sheep- ay ay ay! As a cheese novice, the possibilities seemed overwhelming.

The four such cheeses I was in search of for my home-made mac and cheese: Italian Fontina, Gruyere, Extra-Sharp White Cheddar, and Parmigiano-Reggiano took me a while to collect (and an arm and leg to buy), but I was determined to make this mac and cheese exactly the way Martha Stewart prescibed. If its good enough for her, than it dang well be good enough for me.

Not knowing much about these cheeses I had just purchased, I decided to look them up on the interwebs.
Yes. It's a real thing. Everything you EVER need to know about cheese- right here.
So here's about what I got from skimming (in case you don't feel like browsing thru cheese cyber-space):

Gruyere- a Swiss village, traditional (aka wears clunky wooden shoes), made from cow milk, creamy, semi-soft, nutty
Italian Fontina- from Italy (dur), dense, smooth, elastic (not sure how I feel about this description being used to describe foodstuffs), flavor- hint of honey (which reminds me- more food distraction)
Parmigiano-Reggiano- Italy again, cows milk, hard, use a saw, grating, chunks, rind.. (appetizing diction no?)
Extra-Sharp White Cheddar- ah good. I recognize cheddar. Now just get the pointy, Caucasian version.

I was going to type out the directions. But why do that when someone already did that for me?

** NOTE- for some reason the cheese that the recipe above calls for is slightly different. For some reason the recipes online are nowhere near as deep in flavor, nor so highly sophisticated as this classy combo- (So do this instead)
2 oz Fontina (grated 1/2 cup)
3 oz Gruyere (grated 1 cup, 1/2 c reserved for topping)
6 oz Extra-Sharp White Cheddar (grated 2 c, 1/2 c reserved)
2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano (grated 1 c, 1/2 c reserved)

Now you're good to go.
Saaayyyy CHEESE!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Pitctures and such

I believe I promised some pictures...
These are the poptarts I made (photo taken right before I added the top layer of dough)

I also forgot to mention I decided to add some variation and made chocolate poptarts by using a Dark Chocolate Almond spread (the more edumacated Nutella) and adding crushed almonds.

This combonation also makes for a suprisingly decadent, totally sophisticated sundae if you heat up the chocolate almond spread and pour over vanilla ice cream.

!Muy Delicioso!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Summer means SMOOTHIES!

What's a better treat than a freshly blended smoothie on a hot summer's day? Anything? Hm, I thought not.
Summer + sunshine + smoothies = SUPER.
Ok greaattt. So since the last two recipes or so that I've posted have come off of various websites not my own- I thought it would be interesting to post one of my own creations. And for me, smoothies are where it's at. They call me the Smoothie
Well mabs not, but they are my favorite concoction. Sweet, refreshing, semi-healthy- and SO EASY. If you keep the ingredients on hand always, a delicious drink is never out of reach.

Most of the time, I blend together frozen vanilla yogurt (ok so maybe not ALL that healthy- but SO good), frozen fruit (strawberries, blueberries, mangoes- whatever you please!) a whole banana, and OJ. No measuring necessary. This is one of the few things I'm a-ok with "feeling" out, and tasting as I go.

And smoothies are so versatile! Another personal favorite of mine is blending together Chocolate Soy Milk and Frozen Bananas. Only 2 ingredients- tastes like a milkshake- minus the 1,000 calories :/

And after hearing about how FANTASTIC the chunky strawberry, peanut butter, and granola smoothie is from Jamba Juice, I decided to attempt a similar version.
Peanut Butter and strawberry? Weird right? and Granola- whhaattt?
I'm actually not even sure I can count this as a smoothie- it's more like a blended parfait- the use of a spoon is highly recommended.

Surgeon General's Warning: Do not attempt to drink this with a straw. The risk of choking or, worse, permanent puckerface runs high with this thick dreamy creamy chunky combination.

To make your own: add generous scoops of vanilla Fro-Yo, frozen strawberries (I added blueberries too), a whole banana, skim milk, a few tablespoons of organic PB. Throw in some granola if you please. Put the lime in the coconut and mix it all up, whip it- whip it good, mix it all together- oh yeah- WHAT EVA until everything's all blended.
Pour into tall clear glasses, top with honey sweetened granola and sliced bananas.
Presentation? Incredible. Texture? Superb. Taste? Un. Be. lievable.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Baking and Buddies

Friends are the best :) I spent all Saturday hanging out with one of my besties- we call her Bean- and inevitably, we ended up looking for something to do. After a long day of swimming and sunning, we made ourselves a lovely salad with strawberries, cashews, chicken and poppyseed dressing (my new obsession), but we were craving a yummy dessert.

After a good 30 min of browsing through (obviously) we came across these beauties: Rasberry Cheesecake Bars. They looked superb- and tasted even better! The combination of flavors from the almond crust (delightfully cruchy), the creamy cheescake, the sweet jam (we used strawberry instead of rasberry), and the suprising coconut to top it off was unreal- beyond addicting, approaching euphoric.

We sampled and tasted at all intervals of the process (the recipie is suprisingly effortless)- SO excited for the final result. Shuckydarns. We forgot in all our excitement that cheesecake type items take multiple hours to chill.
But we couldn't wait to get our hands on our concoction- so we ate the warm cheesecake bars with ice cream! Sounds wierd- but it was AMAZING! cheesecake a la mode.

All I have to say is STOP whatever you are doing now and get going. No matter how you decide to eat them, these rasberry (or strawberry) cheesecake bars will rock your world. And then some.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Nothing says good morning like a POP-TART!

I woke up at 7 am this morning. Why do I do this to myself? I’m always bored during the day- I feel the need to be productive when the sun is out. I only feel entitled to veg in front of the boob-tube when the sun dips down outta sight.

So naturally, with nothing better to do- I want to play cooking.

Mostly Baking. (so good for staying in shape)

But due to the incredible early time of day- I feel like I shouldn’t get started on cakes or cookies just yet. At least give it another- ah- half hour. hah.

But I happen to be browsing (I’m addicted) and stumble upon a recipe for Homemade pop-tarts!! I didn’t know that was possible. The combination of words “Pop” and “Tart” immediately evokes images of chemicals and genetically altered “foodstuffs” being mass processed in a factory- completely un-replicatable in a home type setting. But leave it to the creative foodies of the world to come up with a healthier, tastier version of these aluminum wrapped atrocities so reminiscent of my childhood.

Follow the link for directions to make your very own brown sugar cinnamon pop-tarts: complete with step-by step pictures!

I’m still mid- dough stage right now (mildly surprised by how easy this is) but I’ll post a pic when I finish. I have no doubt they’ll be DELICIOUS. Seriously. You can’t go wrong with pie dough and brown sugar.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Put to shame

Why bother having a blog at all- when

is all you really need?
Go there now. You will be drooling before you reach the end of the first page.

In case you are in need of further internet distraction:

Classic. I just can't decide if this food is disgusting or delicious. Red velvet pancakes? Yes please.
But be forewarned- you might feel the need to run to the gym by just looking at some of these concoctions.

Omelets: The true test of culinary dexterity

Lemme just say right off the bat that omelets are hard. Getting the eggs fully cooked, without burning or cracking, and then transferring the delicacy successfully onto a plate in the perfect rolled up shape takes some serious skill. BUT it’s not impossible- and with the help of a few choice hints and tips you too can master the art of the omelet.

This is a timed trial. Once you start cooking – you’re movin’. The whole process is about 2 min. There is no time to re-read the recipe, or measure ingredients. Read EVERYTHING first, know what you’re doing before you start. Have your ingredients ready to go, fillings and all- this is where little glass bowls come in handy.

Butter: double function- prevents sticking, and makes the eggs rich and delicious. But butter burns easily- and cooking with burned butter will make your omelet icky. My girl Martha Stewart recommends using clarified butter. This process removes the milk solids so it won’t burn as quickly or cause stickage. Technically you are supposed to melt 1 cup butter over low heat till foamy (about 15 min) and then pour the melted butter over a cheesecloth and into a bowl or storage cup to get rid of the solid material- but I didn’t have 15 min and just melted it in the microwave before separating with a cheesecloth and that worked just fine.

Whip it good- whisk the eggs together well to incorporate lots of air- makes the omelet nice and fluffy- but don’t let them sit too long before pouring into the pan. They’ll deflate- and no one likes deflated eggs- even sounds sad.

I like to move it move it- Once you pour the eggs into the pan- keep em movin! Jerk the pan, run a spatula across the top, tilt it so the uncooked eggs run under, but be careful not to scramble them!

Quality not quantity: when it comes to ingredients to put in the omelet- you can’t put much in there (stick to about a ¼ cup filling), and the quality makes all the difference in the world. Sautéed onions or mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, gourmet cheeses - are all good choices. Keep it simple- you could even just add some fresh chopped herbs (tarragon, basil, chervil, chives, flat-leaf parsley)

Basic Omelet

3 Eggs

Coarse Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

1 Tablespoon clarified butter

1 Tablespoon of herbs or ¼ cup of filling

1. Heat 8 in skillet over medium-high. After pan warms up add butter.

2. Whisk eggs with salt and pepper

3. When the butter is hot (but not smoking!) add the eggs and reduce heat to medium

4. Here’s where the tips come in- keep it moving as you try to get the eggs cooked evenly- use a spatula to make sure its not sticking and to pull the omelet off the edges of the pan

5. Once eggs are set (about 30 seconds) add filling and loosen the omelet

6. Fold the eggs over about 1/3 of the way- Gently!

7. Holding pan over your plate slide and roll omelet onto the plate so that it folds the rest of the way and lands seam-side down

¡Voila! Perfection