August 27, 2008

TWD: Chocolate-Banded Ice Cream Torte

This week's TWD was chosen by Amy of Food, Family and Fun. The photo in the cookbook is gorgeous. For some reason, I wasn't all that keen on the ganache layer. I decided to make black bean brownies, split them, and use the brownie layers in place of the ganache. The ice cream layer was easy enough: add pureed blackberries to softened vanilla ice cream and a little cream de cassis.

Keeping with my lower sugar lifestyle, I used sugar-free ice cream and didn't add any additional sugar. We found it plenty sweet. If I were to make this again, I would definitely strain out the seeds from the pureed blackberries. They definitely detracted from the overall experience.

My ice cream layer turned out to be a very deep purple - pretty, but not much contrast with the brownie layers. Check out the other TWDers for some beautiful renditions of this tasty dessert.

There wasn't a West End Farmer's Market today due to the annual Cambodian Festival. Oh well, I'll have to make do!

Another Great Wolftrap Experience

We went to Wolftrap this past Saturday evening and the weather was glorious. The entertainment was The Beatle's Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band performed by various artists along with their own hits. Great time.

As you can see, it's a casual affair. Lawn tickets are a great deal - if the weather is good! We may make one more before the season ends.

Our picnic this time included homemade foccacia using the basic dough from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, cherry tomatoes, mini bell peppers purchased at the farmer's market, thinly sliced onions and fresh mozzarella. FANTASTIC!!!

We couldn't let a weekend go by without our beloved Beet Salad!! I found some beautiful golden beets and paired them with blueberries. Quite good - still prefer the original red beet/peach combo.

For desert I decided to try a homemade parfait. I had one largish peach that was quickly moving past it's prime. I mixed some graham cracker crumbs and melted butter for the base. Macerated some the cubed peach with Grand Marnier. I then made a very rich, homemade pudding with the addition of Grand Marnier. I used half-and-half and it turned out extremely thick. You can see that the pudding layer didn't flow down to fill the bottom half of the mug. It was de-LICH-us (as we say in our family!!)

August 19, 2008

TWD - Granola Grabbers

I really liked the idea of this weeks TWD selection chosen by Michelle of Bad Girl Baking- love oatmeal and raisins. My family does not like oatmeal and raisins, and therein lies the problem. Only me to eat them - and after a weekend of overindulgence my clothes are straining at the seams :). But, what the heck!

Believe it not, I do have to limit my intake of sugar. My first step was to make my own granola without any added refined sugars. I adapted a recipe I found on the web and it turned out really good:

Sugar-free Granola

2 cups whole oats
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
1/4 c. chopped almonds
1/3 c. toasted wheat germ
1/3 c. + 2T unsweetened apple juice concentrate
1 t maple extract
1 t cinnamon
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 275. In a glass measuring cup combine apple juice concentrate, maple extract, cinnamon and salt. Microwave for 1 minute.
In a large bowl combine the oats, nuts and wheat germ. Pour liquid mix over dry ingredients and mix well. Lightly oil a cookie sheet and spread the granola mixture in a single layer. Bake on a lower rack for a total of 45 minutes - stirring every 15 minutes. Let cool.

This made exactly the right amount for the Grabbers recipe. I didn't add additional nuts or wheat germ to the recipe. I also used white whole wheat flour (1/2 c) and whole wheat pastry flour (1/2c) since I was all out of all-purpose flour and substituted 1/3 c Splenda and 1T molasses for the sugars in the recipe. (You can find the original recipe on Michelle's blog.)

I really like these (too much!) They had a short-bread like quality to them due to the fairly large amount of butter used in the recipe. I froze the majority to take as a contribution to a picnic dinner we are going on at Wolftrap this weekend.

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August 12, 2008

Past and Present TWD

Today's TWD was chosen by Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity. Dolores chose Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream - and what an excellent choice it was. This was a big winner in our house for several reasons. 1. It made a small amount (we're trying to fit into our current wardrobe with all this baking.) 2. We love blueberries and the tanginess of sour cream. 3. We like to use our ice cream maker.

I had stashed several leftover Devilish Shortcakes from last weekend in the freezer and served them alongside this yummy frozen treat.

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I didn't make last week's TWD, Black and White Banana Loaf in time for last Tuesday's deadline. Earlier in the week I bought some bananas and they were plenty ripe by Sunday night. My DH needed breakfast for the coming week, so I wanted to make this great selection chosen by Ashlee of A Year in the Kitchen. I'm really glad I did - another winner!

Here it is out of the oven - the marbling looks great from the top.............

But you never truly know until you cut into it.......................................

Not too shabby!

Have a great week!

Another Busy Sunday

After working out at the gym, we trucked our stinky post-workout selves to the West End Farmer's Market. The weather was glorious: blue skies, scattered fluffy white clouds and low humidity. Here's what we came away with:

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My goal for this week is to use all of our goods before any of it goes bad - I hate wasting money. We had a bountiful dinner. In addition to the wonderful heirloom and regular tomatoes, I had some fresh mozzarella in the fridge and some leftover basil from last week. Add some good extra virgin olive oil, a little salt and pepper and .....

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almost too pretty to eat, but we did anyway! MMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

We are so in love with our beet and peach salad, that we are going to ride this train until it leaves the station. Today I made it with nectarines.

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August 5, 2008

Busy Cooking/Baking Weekend - But No TWD

This past weekend was the best we've had in a long time. Friday night we went to Wolftrap to see the National Symphony Orchestra perform Rogers and Hammerstein music from the movies. They had huge screens set up and played the movie clips that featured the song the orchestra was playing. After the sun set, the weather was perfect. We had lawn seats and brought along a picnic.

I had been wanting to try this recipe. Instead of the puff pastry called for I made my own pie crust. I forgot to take a picture of the full tart - here is one slice:

You've got to try this! It's great at room temperature and uses the fresh ingredients that are at the farmer's markets this time of year.

Another first time recipe was for this wonder Beet-Peach salad

I adapted this recipe from one I had cut out of Prevention Magazine. This was so good, I made it again Sunday night with beets and peaches we bought Sunday morning at the West End Farmer's Market.

Beet-Peach Salad
4 medium beets
2 medium peaches
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 oz feta cheese (I used fat-free)

Clean and peel beets. Cut each beet into 1/2 inch slices, then cut each slice into 6 pieces (like a pie slice.) Cook in microwave with a little water until easily pierced with a fork. Remove pit from peaches and cut fruit into cubes (about the same size as the beet pieces.) Mix beets and peaches. Add the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Once the beets are cooled, add the feta cheese.

Supposedly this would make 4 side dish servings - we polished it off between the two of us with no problem!

For dessert I made chocolate mousse.

Saturday I made crab cakes. These are the ingredients. My wonderful neighbor lent me two lemons, since I was completely out and was too lazy to run to the store.

I think the secret to this incredible recipe is sauteing bay leaves with the onions. Look at my new saute pan! It's my first "'grown up" professional pan! Isn't it beautiful - These are environmentally friendly and don't have the supposedly dangerous chemicals that other non-stick pans have. I got a great deal here. This is the 12 1/2" pan; I also ordered the 8 1/2" pan. They each come with their own handle cover that works like an oven mitt.

Take a gander at this gorgeous crab:

I formed each crabcake in 1/2 cup portions - they were HUGE. They have to sit in the fridge for several hours before cooking. I forgot to get a pic after they were brown and crispy and delicious.

I found this recipe a few years ago on Chowhound. I don't know the creator's real name but he goes by Curmudgeon. Everytime I make these people practically swoon - every person has said these are the BEST crab cakes they've ever had. I have to agree!

Curmudgeon Crab Cakes

Serving Size: 8

-= Ingredients =-
4 tablespoon butter
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 bay leaf
1 pound Crab
1/4 cup Lemon juice ; of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons Grey Poupon or Dijon mustard
1/4 pound Saltines ; crushed into fine crumbs
salt ; and pepper to taste
2 eggs

-= Instructions =-
1. Sauté the onion, celery, bay leaf, salt and pepper in two tablespoons of the butter until soft.
2. In a bowl, combine the onion mixture and the crab. Mix in the lemon juice, mustard, and ½ cup of the cracker crumbs. Taste and add salt and pepper.
3. Add the two eggs and mix until incorporated.
4. Form the crab mixture into 8 patties. Coat with the remaining cracker crumbs. Place on a plate and allow to chill in the refrigerator for a few hours.
5. Heat the remaining butter in a large sauté pan. Fry the cakes in the butter until golden, then turn and fry the other side. Serve immediately.
Note: These are too good to mask with tartar or cock-tail sauce. If you insist, maybe you just don?t like crab.

I wanted to make Strawberry Shortcake for dessert. I pulled out my Dorie Greenspan cookbook and found a recipe for Devilish Shortcakes aka chocolate short cakes!!!

All I can see is OH.....MY.......GOSH!! They were moist, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside and a perfect compliment to the strawberries and freshly whipped cream.

After all this cooking and baking - the most I've done in a long, long time, I'm going to opt out of this week's TWD. This week's recipe was chosen by Ashlee of A Year in the Kitchen. Check out the other TWD members results.

Have a wonderful week!