Archive | March, 2013

My Favorite Cold Weather Soup

10 Mar

  Back in college, I worked at Mimi’s Cafe and became addicted to their corn chowder.  When I lived in Long Beach, I decided that I wanted to make my own and see how it turned out.  I found a recipe on Allrecipes.com for Gramma Brown’s Corn Chowder.  It is a fabulous, rich soup that beats Mimi’s chowder any day.  Since then, I have made this soup several times and tweaked it to include my favorite spices.  I also usually make the soup without bacon, but I decided to add it as a special treat for a few wonderful people this time around!

To start, I cooked the bacon until almost done, and then sautéed it with onions and celery.  I usually add a bit more celery than the recipe recommends.  I also add more carrots.  The result is more of a hearty stew, than a soup.

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This being the first time in well forever I made bacon, I did not have the foresight to first chop it and then cook it.  I ended up cutting it into pieces in the pan while it simmered.  The pan I used is well-loved, so I didn’t worry too much about adding a few more scratches.

I then transferred everything to a big pot with 4 cups of low sodium chicken broth and cooked it with the carrots and potatoes.

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The final step involves adding the milk and a paste of flour and water.  This thickens it up and makes it creamy.  You can add more flour if you like your soup thicker, but I think the flour plus the starch from the potatoes are plenty.

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Once everything is nice and soft and hot, you can top it off with some salt, pepper, and any other spices you’d like.

IMG_0890   I typically add a bit of cayenne, onion powder, and basil.  This gives it just the right amount of kick.  This soup is fairly easy and it always gets rave reviews.  This time around I added a side garnish of chopped tomatoes, avocado, and lime juice.  Some chose to add it to the soup, others just ate the avocado, but all in all I think it went over well.  I also like to buy or make a round loaf of sourdough and serve it warm with the soup.  Let me know if you think of any more exciting spice combos or interesting ways to serve it!

 

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Cranberry Christmas Scones

10 Mar

Chris and I bought our very first home this past August.  It’s just a small condo, but it’s such a perfect fit for us.  We also absolutely love our new neighborhood.  It feels remote and rustic, there’s hiking nearby, and just down the hill there’s just about every shop you could ever need.  Getting everything in order took a while, so we ended up hosting a holiday/housewarming party.  At the party, I made a big pot of wassail and a big pot of vin chaud (I will take pictures and post the next time I make these beverages.  They’re delicious!).  As garnish, I planned to sugar cranberries.  Well in the madness of getting everything ready for the party, I completely forgot the cranberries.  We were driving up to the Guidotti’s for the holidays the next day, and I didn’t want the cranberries to go to waste, so I poked around online and found a cranberry scone recipe on marthastewart.com.

The beginning of the recipe is pretty basic – mix the ingredients, cut in the butter until it resembles crumbs, and then mix with the cream.

You then need to knead the dough on a floured surface, and the cranberries do not make this easy!  The recipe makes this step seem like it’s a breeze, but trust me your arms will get a work out.  I continued to knead the dough until the flour was completely incorporated and I had a nice smooth texture.  I rolled the dough into a roundish square, and then sliced it into 8 equal pieces.

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The next part was also a bit tricky.  I had to separate the pieces gently to maintain their shape.  I decided to bake them on a silpat to prevent them from browning too much on the bottom.

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The recipe then instructs you to “brush” the scones with the remaining half and half.  Well I had lost of half and half left, and brushing them lightly somehow seemed wrong.  I poured the remaining half and half over each unbaked scone, hoping that the extra cream would give them a bit more moisture.

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I then sprinkled each scone with a bit of turbinado sugar, and topped them off with red and green sprinkles.

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They came out of the oven with an all-over light brown color, and they smelled wonderful.

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Chris and I had a scone with coffee the next morning, and absolutely fell in love with this recipe.  The cranberries added a tartness to an otherwise sweet treat, and the texture was moist and light.  Knowing that Chris’ mom would be busy preparing holiday dinner, we packed the remaining scones up and brought them to the Guidotti’s for breakfast.  They were perfect in the morning heated with a bit of butter.  We had a wonderful time visiting, and hope everyone enjoyed the scones!

Madeleines Turned Petit Almond Citrus Gateau

10 Mar

In a stroke of genius the other week, I remembered that I had not yet used my gifted Madeleine pan.  Chris and I were going to the store anyway, so I found this beautiful recipe at food52.com: Citrus Madeleines.  Instead of a grapefruit, I grabbed an orange and paired it with the lemons already in our fridge.  The first step required lots and lots of zesting.  Towards the end my arms grew tired and I zested my finger a bit – Ouch!

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One of my favorite parts came next: mixing the zest with sugar.  The sugar coated the zest perfectly and it just looked beautiful.

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The rest is your basic baked good recipe.  Mix the dry and the wet separately, and then combine them until just barely mixed.  I really attribute this step as a make or break moment in any baking project.  It’s the difference between dry and dense or moist and fluffy.  The latter of course being the preference.

IMG_0856 A little more… IMG_0858

A little more…

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Stop!

Here’s where my Madeleines turned gateau.  While I was mixing the perfect batter, I asked Chris to pull out the Madeleine pan and prep it for baking.  Just as the batter reached the barely mixed goal, Chris exclaimed that he couldn’t find the pan.  I too searched high and low, but came up empty-handed.  Thinking fast on our feet, we looked through the cabinet and chose a mini cake pan as a stand in.  I was slightly disappointed, but still hopeful that they would taste delicious.  Chris buttered the pan (with Smart Balance) and I lightly dusted it with flour.  We then evenly divided the batter into each rectangle.

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I topped them off with a few sliced almonds and popped them into the oven.  They turned out a beautiful golden brown, although slightly sunken in from the weight of the almonds.

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Taking a look at my final product, I dubbed the tiny cakes Petit Almond Citrus Gateau.  I cut one in half and sampled the fruits of my labor.  It was light, fluffy, and balanced.  Chris had 2 cakes exclaiming that they were, “the best things we ever made.”

The next week Chris asked me to make the cakes again for his friends dessert and wine birthday party.  We decided to bake them in a mini cupcake pan this time around.

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These small cupcakes turned out a bit dry.  I think they were just a bit overcooked.  Next time I’ll adjust the baking time a bit more to accommodate for the smaller size – OR I’ll just get a Madeleine pan so I can do the batter justice in that playful shell shape.

 

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