Tuesday, May 28, 2013

cookie inspiration: blueberries-n-cream cookies

Weeks ago E and I ventured into Austin to run some fun errands (aka shopping for teacher gifts).  He loves to call our little jaunts "getting weird in Austin," a play on the city's catchy slogan.  After I took him to the mall, we hopped on over to my favorite grocery store (and former employer) Central Market.

We snaked through the store nibbling on fruit and English Cheddar until we settled our sites on the bakery.  One 10-grain bread and two cookies later we were sitting outside enjoying the unseasonably cooler air.

E ate a Chocolate Chunk Cookie and I was tempted by the Blueberry and Cream Cookie.  I knew I had to try making them at home, the flavors are something not seen often in cookies and are perfect for the summer potlucks and picnics that lie ahead.  I must admit I had success the first round of recipe testing.  They were delicious and a big hit with the two crowds I shared them with Memorial Day weekend.  Score!

cookies so good we keep the remnants on our face
Blueberries-N-Cream Cookies
makes 4 dozen

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup dried blueberries
1 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheet with parchment.  In a small bowl, sift the flour, salt, and baking soda; set aside.  In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and add vanilla and eggs.  Beat until well mixed., about 1 minute.  Add flour mixture; mix until just combined.  Stir in the blueberries and white chocolate chips.
  2. Using a cookie scoop, drop scoopfuls onto parchment lined baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart.
  3. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.  Cool on baking pan for 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire cooling rack.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

a man's got to drive slow with lemon tarts in the backseat

Weeks ago someone asked me who I thought was the greatest TV mom that ever existed.  Coming from my generation there is no doubt in my mind that Clare Huxtable is the greatest TV mom ever.  I loved The Cosby Show then and to this day I will catch myself watching the reruns.  Recently my favorite Cosby Show episode, The Last Barbecue, aired and I laughed just as much as I did the first, tenth, fiftieth, and gazillionth time watching it.

Why is it my favorite????  Must you ask...

1.  Who doesn't love a family barbecue?  Dr. Huxtable prepares a delicious family barbecue all the while his older daughters, their spouses and this son, Theo, are in a heated argument over the fact that Theo hired a stripper for his brother-in-law's bachelor party.

2.  Oh, which piece would you like, Elvin?  Is the question the eldest Huxtable daughter asks her husband after she and her sister contend that hiring a stripper is sexist and degrading and are equally upset that their spouses do not openly agree to their views.  Elvin sheepishly decides on a tiny little wing, afraid to admit he'd actually like a different piece of chicken.  As the argument flares up once again, he throws down his tiny nibbled chicken wing and declares, "Give me a breast!  The big one!"

3.  That dag-blamed fan dance story:  Grandma & Grandpa arrive and things temporarily cool off.  Grandpa shares with the family that he indeed had a fan dancer at his bachelor party more than 50 years ago.  Grandma shares some wise advise with her grandchildren, "If you spend all your time over points of contention between men and women, there will be little time for romance."

4.  Lemon Tarts:  Once grandma pulls grandpa into the kitchen to help plate up her lemon tarts (his favorite), she wallops him with a plate and finally admits that his fan dance story sickens her after all these years.

5.  Clare Huxtable to Theo (aka the best mom line ever):  Where, where have you been?  You have been no where and that is where you're going to stay if you don't quit stirring up trouble.

6.  The Secret is in The Sauce:  Dr. Huxtable claims that his barbecue sauce has the magic power of bringing everyone together.  He then shares with his wife that he set a cup on their nightstand for the night and is letting is breath.  That guy sure did get some...alot!  I never noticed until I was older. Oblivious when I was young-so that was a good thing.

I found the episode on Hulu, click here if you want to watch it.

Lemon Tart
serves 8
Vanilla Bean Sugar Dough
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperture
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour, sifted
pinch of salt

For Filling
One recipe of lemon curd-get recipe here
*note:  link is for my lemon-lime curd, which would make a great tart.  If you just want lemon, well, just use all lemons in the provided recipe!
**note:  I added 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch as my curd was finishing.  Strain curd for ultra smooth texture.
  1. Cream butter and sugar in a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until just combined. Add vanilla bean paste and then the flour and salt.
  2. Mix on low speed until the mixture comes together.
  3. Press dough into a 10" tart shell with a removable bottom, making sure it is pressed evenly and the edges are flush.  Place in freezer until dough is firm.
  4. Meanwhile preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Remove firm tart shell and place it on a baking sheet.  Cover with a piece of parchment and fill the parchment with rice or beans for blind baking.  Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the parchment paper from the tart shell carefully.  Prick the tart with a fork and bake for 20-25 minutes more or until golden brown.
  5. Let the tart shell cool completely.  Once cooled carefully remove the shell from the pan and place on serving platter.
  6. Carefully pour your prepare lemon curd into the tart shell and let it cool completely.  Serve at room temperature or cold from the refrigerator.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

the sauce that could knock your socks off (baked manicotti with meat sauce)

Very Instagrammy of me-Stuffed Manicotti & Garlic Bread
I never shared my favorite meal from....last year.  I don't know why I never posted it because my friends, it very well deserves to be shared.  Stuffed Manicotti.  A labor of love, a small shortcut, that rich wonderful filling and the sauce.  Oh. My.  The sauce in itself is phenomenal.  Flavored with pepperoni it sure would make my Papa very proud-and that folks is saying something.  If you get anything out of this post-I hope it is the sauce.  Trust me on this one.  Oh the garlic bread was great too!  I'll post that later.
Getting my manicotties in a row
Baked Manicotti with Meat Sauce
serves 6-8

Meat Sauce
1 onion, chopped
6 ounces sliced deli pepperoni
1 pound 85% lean ground beef
1 tablespoon tomato paste
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
salt & pepper

3 cups ricotta cheese (store-bought or homemade)
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded provolone cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
16 no-boil lasagna noodles
  1. Grind Meat:  Adjust oven rack to upper middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Pulse onion and pepperoni in a food processor until coarsely ground.  Add beef and pulse until thoroughly combined.
  2. Make Sauce:  Transfer beef mixture to large saucepan and cook over medium heat, breaking up mixture with wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.  Using slotted spoon, transfer 1 cup beef mixture to paper towel-lined plate and reserve.  Add tomato paste, garlic, and pepper flakes to pot with remaining meat mixture and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in tomatoes and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sauce can be refrigerated in an air tight container up to 3 days.
  3. Prepare Filling:  Combine ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella, 1 cup provolone, egg, salt, pepper, basil, and reserved meat mixture in a large bowl.  Pour 2 quarts boiling water into 13-9 inch baking dish.  Soak noodles until pliable, about 5 minutes.  Drain noodles on kitchen towel.  Pour off water and dry baking dish.
  4. Assemble Dish: Spread half of the sauce over the bottom of the baking dish.  Top each soaked noodle with 1/4 cup cheese mixture, roll, arrange seam side down, over sauce in baking dish.  Spread remaining sauce over the manicotti.  Cover with foil and bake until bubbling around edges, about 40 minutes.  Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and provolone.  Bake until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.  Let cool 15 minutes.  Serve.
source:  Cook's Country:  issue unknown

Sunday, May 12, 2013

mother's day

Indian Blankets cover most of the roadways in the hill country this Spring
First off I'd like to wish all the mothers out there a Happy Mother's Day.  Secondly, I think I celebrated the best Mother's Day yet.  I can remember that last year tears were involved...and maybe the year before that too.  Yikes.  Anywho...here is a glimpse of what my Mother's Day looked like.
I was greeted by this little guy on a one lane bridge on River Road.  His wing appears injured.
It started off early Thursday with a luncheon at the church where E attends preschool.  I must say I had the most handsome little date.  With 2 1/2 hours to kill between the time I dropped him off in the morning and lunchtime, I decided to drive down River Road, climb a mountain (not really-just a big hill) and refuel at a little cafe on the square.  Lunch was great, my little buddy was so well behaved.  He is such a sweet boy.

Pardon my cankles-climbing 215 steps up Mt. Baldy in Toms was not the brightest idea I've ever had.
Incoming storms made the view across the hill country hazy.  But it beholds mystery, don't ya think?
And because I climbed up and down 215 rocky steps in Toms, and because I forgot to eat breakfast, and because I wasn't prepared with any type of beverage and because I thought I was going to heave-I stopped off at a little cafe on the square
Handsome Boy
Today I slept in (ummm, 8:15a) and was served pink frosted doughnuts (my fave since childhood) in bed and was given a frame with Eli's hand print, a purse and a card.  Eli was so proud of his gifts.  We headed out to the kid-friendly Mueller's Farmers Market which featured live music, a balloon artist clown and cool playscape.  Afterwards we stopped off for a bite to eat and then visited Jeff's parents.  We had a great visit, steak & potato dinner with bananas foster for dessert.  Ummm, Yum!  As the sun went down we packed up and our little guy fell asleep in the car.
He loves "getting weird" in Austin
Take note:  NOT scared of clowns...he may come from an Aggie-rich family but he accepts balloon swords from clowns dressed in burnt orange

A farmers market Mother's Day bouquet
See my scarface?  He fell down a few steps on our stairs...SECONDS after his daddy told him to pay attention and watch where he was going...learning moments.
yea, yea, my burgers is upside down...but it tastes all the same.  Mother's Day Burgers are the best.
I wish I had taken this picture 10-15 minutes later.  The sky was beautiful.  But the view isn't bad either.  Great ending to a good day.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

through the lens (click to open)

Eli found a very old toy in our guest room dresser.  After researching it is a Carlson Native American doll circa 1960.  I think is must have been my moms but I remember playing with it when I was a child.  Anyway, saw good light and snapped the shot.
Breakfast of Champions.  Sipping tea, eating avocado on 10-grain artisan bread (my fave), and ruby red grapefruit while taking my Food Handlers Certification.  You can trust me in the kitchen now...I've got the license to prove it. :)