How do you read 500 posts about Lemon Meringue Pie?

No, seriously, how do I do it?!?!

It's been a few days since the Daring Baker's posted en mass about their pies and tarts, and I've been sloooooooooowly working my way through them. I am using the same method I used last month for the yule log, though I didn't manage to get through all of the blogs that way:

  • Start with the blogs I regularly read.
  • Copy over the entire Daring Baker's Blogroll into a word format and keep track of who I read that way!

Last month I was going through the blogroll starting by the A's, leaving a comment for every blog I read. I was no where near done, though well over 1oo comments made, before I went into virtual sugar shock!

So, any recommendations on how I can get through all the DB posts before the next challenge is due out?

Happy New Years Daring Baker's Style - Pucker up!

A new year for the Daring Baker's, with plenty of recipes ahead of us!

For this first recipe of the year, it was up to Jen from The Canadian Baker, to chose our path for us. Poor Jen. How could she have known that such a classic recipe would be controversial on the DB private blog? I mean honestly, it's Lemon Meringue Pie! How could that be controversial!

Well this recipe had its lovers and its haters among the Daring Bakers. It had it successes and its failures as well.

For me personally, I LOVED IT!!!

I loved it enough that I made it 3 times. And even though it is posting day today, I am thinking of making it again today.

Jen gave us the options of size, full pie or tarts, as well as a free form tart. I haven't done the free form yet, which is what I am thinking of making today. And as my family and neighbors enjoyed the pie as much as I did (a few of them more), how bad an idea could it be to make it again?

For my first attempt, I made 6 little, individual pies, using my mini pie pans. I was able to pile high the meringue and enjoy lots of its gooey marshmallowness over the tangy lemon curd and the buttery crust. The crust that has become my go to recipe for pie crust from now on. It came together in a flash, rolled easily and baked up beautifully. I liked it so much I may become a pie maker and make my grandmother (the pie maker in our family) proud!

The next time I made the pie, I swapped out the lemon for limes, and made a curd so flavorful we could have eaten it with a spoon! I mean look at all those flecks of lime zest in the thickened curd, doesn't it look great?

And the pie was amazingly good. The right balance of crust, curd and meringue, the sweet of the meringue against the tartness of the curd.

Sorry, this is the best I could do for a picture of that pie.

For my last attempt at the pie, I again went back to lemon, following the recipe exactly as written, and making one big pie, which I served to family and friends for a birthday dessert. One pie easily served 8 adults, with left overs. And I heard nothing but compliments on it.

I know some of my fellow DB'ers did not have as much fun with this month's challenge as I did. I know some did not have alot of luck getting the crust not to shrink, or the curd to stay thickened and set, or even the meringue to not shrink or weep. I don't know why they had those problems, which I never saw a sign of in any of my three attempts. I will make this pie again (maybe even today, as I said, but if not, in the near future.)

Thanks so much to Jen for such a wonderful recipe this month!

Don't forget to check out the other Daring Baker's, or be afraid to leave a message on a few posts. Head on over to the Blogroll for a full list of who made a pie this month.

Exploring through "Star" chefs

Yes, I do alot of cooking. More and more I am remembering to write down what I've done when I make something from scratch. (And I am branching out more into making things up, rather than making the tried and true recipes I can do in my sleep.)

And more and more I am making sure I actually cook from the pile of cookbooks I own, not just read them for entertainment and ideas. Last year I had the goal to make at least one new recipe per week. This year I want that number to go up. Alot.

Inspired by Ivonne's Magazine Mondays, as well as her Flavor of the Month, I decided this year to pick a cookbook and make it my own book of the month. My twist is that it was going to be a "famous" cookbook. At least to start.

With that in mind, I treated myself at Christmas to a new cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa in Paris, and made it my goal this month to make a bunch of recipes from the book. With January nearly over, I'm a little late in blogging about my chosen book.

So here goes. This is what I've made, so far.

I had planned on posting about this for the Weekend Cookbook Challenge, since this month's theme was about vegetables. I even had it made in time, but did not get the chance to post - heck I didn't even get the pictures uploaded off my card in time!

Roasted beets (page 150). A terrible picture for such a vibrant vegetable. I had roasted some golden beets on the bbq this summer, so had high hopes for this. I was slightly disappointed. Either Ina gets much bigger beats for her 12 required than I could find, or her salt is much less salty than mine. Because there was too much salt! Once you could get past the salt, the beets were lovely. But it was hard to get past the salt.

I made a note in my book - reduce salt by at least half!

And, no, my children did not eat this. They wouldn't even look at it.

Cauliflower gratin (page 156). Looks pretty. Sounds good. Again, a bit disappointed. I think I needed to cook my cauliflower a bit longer, so they would melt together with the cheese sauce. Better reheated the next day.

I might make this again sometime, as it was quick and simple and a nice change. However I would make sure my cauliflower was a bit more tender before I covered it in the sauce.

No, the children didn't eat this either.

I actually forgot to take a picture prior to this, for the brioche loaves (page 92) I made specifically for this recipe. I served this Pain Perdu (page 208) for dinner to my children one night, even with the icing sugar on it (this was actually my oldest son's plate.) Again, disappointed. My children each dove into their plates with alot of enthusiasm. They both were 3/4 of the way through when they decided they weren't sure they liked it. One didn't like the almonds, the other the icing sugar. Odd, since both those ingredients are usually liked by them.

I had a left over piece for breakfast the next morning and didn't like the almonds either.

So I would make it again, maybe with milk instead of half and half cream, and I likely would leave off the almonds. I'd put them on the side though, so they could be sprinkled on. I think it was simply the way they were attached to the bread that bothered one of the boys.

The brioche dough for the Pain Perdu worried me for a bit, being so sticky after it's overnight rest in the fridge, but turned out two lovely, golden loaves. I immediately froze one for later and had plenty for the french toast. A definite make again bread.

Slightly mixed reviews for the Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic (page 119). (Actually 39 for me, as that is what the 3 bulbs of garlic I had ended up with.) I loved this. I loved the flavor of the garlic, I loved the way it melted into the sauce. I loved the tenderness of the chicken (I used legs and thighs instead of a whole chicken.) My husband, however, could not get past the slight alcohol flavor from the Cognac (I used chicken stock instead of the white wine, which is part of the story of this chicken and why he didn't like it the way I did.)

You see, we do not drink much, if any, alcohol, my husband and I. So I swapped out the wine for stock, and borrowed the Cognac from my neighbour. Who gave me Champagne Cognac. Which I used. Which is not Cognac. And left an odd, background flavor that I found was covered by the garlic, but my husband did not.

Btw, it turns out Champagne Cognac is a blend of two wines, from those two regions of France, rather than brandy, which is what Cognac actually is. I learned this when I asked at the liquor store while searching for some proper cognac and a bottle of red wine. (Not the neighbours fault - she didn't know either.) I had at least one more recipe involving the Cognac and this time wanted the proper stuff.

In the meantime, I will make the chicken again, but will leave out all the alcohol this time.

Beef Bourguignon (page 121), a fancy, French beef stew. Very rich, very flavorful. Very being made again. Even with the full bottle of red wine and the half a cup of brandy that was in it.

One thing I am curious about - has anyone in Ottawa ever seen bags of frozen small whole onions? Because I have 6 grocery stores in a 10 minute driving radius of me (during rush hour) and did not see them in any of those stores. Instead I bought a bag of white pearl onions and peeled them myself.

One word of reminder, mostly to myself - this was so much better the next day, so next time, plan ahead by one day and reheat it for dinner.

This is the last recipe I have managed to make so far, Lemon Chicken with Croutons (page 110). I used 2 smaller chickens instead of the 4-5 pound bird Ina suggests, filling up my roasting pan. For my croutons I took out that extra loaf of brioche and cubed it up. Not a great choice as it was a bit too sweet for the chicken. A good sour dough would be better, but Marvin was not quite ready to be made into a loaf just then.

Nothing amazing about the chicken, though it wasn't bad. I certainly didn't taste any lemon, even with the sauce poured over it. Made lots of chicken though, so I had left overs for another meal, and bones in the freezer for stock. And both my children enjoyed the chicken - my youngest ate 2 wings and asked for more.

Still a few more things I want to make from this book before I am done with it, including Croque Monsieur (page 48) and Creme Brulee (page 222). If nothing else, I have explored a few more recipes.

Now, off to get ready for my Daring Baker's post - hint, hint, this one was actually a bit (GASPS!) controversial!

We have loaves!

Yes, Marvin has finally made it into bread! Woot! Big Happy Dance!

And that's all you get for now because I have been up for way too long and am going to go to bed to the wonderful smell of freshly baked bread, all through my house!

More muffins and the Monthly Mingle

More muffins, more muffins, I say!

Afterall, with Marvin now a teenager, I can!

So these muffins were both an experiment, a clean up and a teaching tool. Apple cinnamon muffins, made by replacing all the oil in the muffins with unsweetened apple sauce, with chopped, unpeeled apple and cinnamon added in, and a sprinkling of sugar on top. That was the experiment and clean up part, replacing the oil, and the apple sauce and apples were available. On the teaching part I learned two things: sour dough muffin batter sticks, so you really do need to spray even the papers the batter will be going into, and putting your batter into the papers 20 minutes before you bake them is a good way to make a batch of muffin tops, as NOTHING is going to come off those papers!

Either way, they were tasty. Apple flavor not as noticable as I thought it would be, but they were moist and made a good addition to the kids lunches.

Now this scrumptious muffin I made last night and enjoyed a few minutes ago for breakfast. (I still need to have my smoothie, which I've had every day since Christmas, but my blender is in the dishwasher!) Banana muffins!

For these I reduced the amount of starter by 1/8 cup, since I was adding two smushed up, very ripe bananas. The batter was not as thick as it has been, but I crossed my fingers and waited to see what would happen. What happed is the best banana muffins I have had in a long, long time! They were wonderful!

I admit, I had considered adding chocolate chips to these muffins, but I'm glad I didn't. They are just perfect all on their own.

Now to the Mingle.

I often try to get to Metta's Mingle, regardless of the theme. Last months' theme of Drop in and Decorate appealed to me, but though I was able to have the cookies, and all the fixings for them, friends and family were swamped and I ended up decorating cookies on my own. Heck, I didn't even end up doing it with my children - they ate them, but didn't help decorate.

So when this month's theme was announced as Comfort Foods, I knew I could do this one, regardless of the schedules of everyone else. And this last few weeks, those schedules have been hectic! We have needed the comfort!

My choice for this was one of my families favorite meals, spaghetti. I'm sure I've posted about spaghetti before, probably with my meat sauce, but this time I made it as a tomato sauce with chicken meatballs. The meatballs simmered in the sauce, so they were tender and had soaked up some of the sauce. The grated parmessan cheese that I used to bind the meatballs together added to the moist flavor.

One little giggle to this meal - I use whole wheat spaghetti with my family. This time I had bought a box of spaghettini, which is slightly smaller than regular spaghetti. When I poured the box of pasta into my well salted, boiling water, out came whole wheat spaghetti, but with it came regular, non-whole wheat spaghetti. From the same box. So if you are looking at the picture above, and notice the different sizes of the pasta below the sauce, thats why.

One thing to note - for me the comfort part of this meal is feeding my family something healthy, that they love, and the bread. I'd have been even more comforted if I'd have paid attention and made it into garlic bread. Now that's what I call comfort food!


I started this post several days ago, and am only now getting back to it. Rather than keep on, I'm just going to publish this as is, and try something new in a day or two. I've got lots of good cooking and photos lined up for then!

Guess what I had with my breakfast smoothie this morning!

Yes, that lovely, warm, blueberry filled muffin was made with my sour dough starter! (My not yet named starter, though I am between honoring Mary by naming it after her, or calling it Marvin, just cause that's what keeps coming up in my head.)

Thanks again to Mary, my good pal, who once again provided me with instructions and recipe on how to use my baby starter. Sure, I had to start them last night before I went to bed, but that took no time at all, just scoop out some starter, give it a little flour and water love, mix it, cover it (I used a dishtowel), and let it get to work!

I admit, my power starter this morning was definitely more like what I expected my entire starter to be like, thick, sticky and full of bubbles. It took a minute or two of elbow grease to mix all the dry ingredients into my muffins, and then again to add in the blueberries, but the muffins baked up big and golden, crunchy on top, though I'm sure the sprinkling of sugar didn't hurt. And as good as it was warm with my morning fruit in a glass, it was even better later in the day as an after work snack!

This weekend will see sour dough pancakes, or maybe even waffles, served to my boys for breakfast!

Now I just need to know - Mary, can I scoop out from my starter at any point during it's day to prep these muffins, now that I am on a 1x a day, morning, feeding for it?

It's (STILL!) Alive!!

Yes, I've made it to the end of my first week and it is still alive!

This is my starter as of about 30 minutes ago, a few hours before it's last twice a day feeding. Tomorrow morning I start the once a day feeding, and put into the oven my first sour dough quick muffins! (And look Mary, lots of hooch but no extra layer!)

So, now that I've made it over that first all important week, Mary tells me I can now name my starter. But I admit, I am having a brain freeze when it comes to a name for this baby. Help please? Suggestions?

Cause if no one comes up with a name for me, I'm going to have to name it Mary, in honor of my friend who has been so patient with me and my daily questions! (What do you think Mary? Do you want to name my starter, or have my starter named after you?)

Come meet my new "little sister"

Say hi to Vida, my new little sister, by adoption, thanks to Kristen over at Dine and Dish and her Adopt a Blogger event.

It turns out I am considered a veteran blogger, having been blogging for over a year and a half (yes, I missed my own blog-aversary.)

So head on over and read about this mother of 3, and don't forget to leave a comment on her blog letting her know you are there. Her post about the Chocolate, Pistachio and Cranberry Slices look yummy, but I got a smile over reading about her daughter Alana making cookies on her own.

Why is water and flour making me so nervous?

Cause it's alive!



Yes indeed, I have gotten brave, and begun my own sour dough starter, thanks to all the help and instructions from my pal Mary! And help she has been, getting emails from me on a regular basis, sometimes several times a day! Mary, aren't you glad I can't call you right now? Though I can if you'd like.

So my kitchen cupboards have sported a second recipe, in addition to my usual Daring Baker challenge. It was a tight squeeze, but the step by step, feeding and caring instructions of my very own sour dough starter got their own space. The picture above is of my baby starter after a full day, though it is now on it's 3rd day of feeding and has just been introduced to a new food - all purpose flour!

Only 5 more days and my new baby can have a name and be used, though only for quick breads and pancakes. Need to give it a bit more time before I can actually make the bread it is intended for.

Thanks again for all the help Mary! Your sense of humor through out this growing period is helping to keep crazy'ol me grounded, and letting me laugh at myself (afterall, who else has ongoing dreams about their starters flopping or running away.)

Oh, and are you coming over for a taste test of my first loaf?

Left overs and melting

Back to school, back to work day today. Technically I don't start work until tomorrow, but that is work with a paycheque, not work from home work. That never stops, just changes slightly. Today marked one of those changes, back up again to make sure breakfast is eaten, make at least one lunch, some days up to four lunches, teeth are brushed and no books are forgotten before sending one child out the door for school. There is alot going on in a short time span.

Having done a dozen thing before 8am, I don't see any reason why I should fuss or stress over my own lunch several hours later. Not when leftovers are available. And in this house, leftovers are usually available as I deliberately cook extra to ensure there are some, if only for my husbands lunch.

This morning, however, there were plenty of left overs. A late night, adult only dinner yielded enough for generous servings, as well as a full container for lunch, and even more left for the fridge! Enough for me as well!

Which is where this great sandwich comes in: left over beef from a roast I had made the night before, sandwiched between slices of a rustic bun that had been slathered with left over spinach dip from the weekend. Tasty, slightly different than the original, and it took me no longer to make than a minute or two of thinly slicing left over beef. The only thing I would do differently would be to put spinach dip on the top, as well as the bottom of the bread. Yum, yum, yum!

Good thing lunch was so good, though, as the view outside was not.

Actually, the view outside was non-existent, and got worse all day. Unfortunately right now it is raining as well as being super foggy. With more of the same expected tomorrow.

Well, at least we are getting a break from the snow. For now.

Uping my daily fruit

One of the things I received for Christmas was this Cuisinart blender from my children. Not a huge surprise as they had asked me in advance what I wanted and I told them a blender. My husband tells me that my boys spent quite some time in discussion over all the available blenders and chose this one for me. Isn't it nice to get what you wanted?

In a way they got what they wanted as well - since receiving my blender, I have had a fruit smoothie for my breakfast every morning!
Which isn't to say I've run the blender every morning - afterall, no one, and I do mean no one, wants to hear the blender go off at 5 am on a swimming morning. So on those days I've made the blender in advance and stored it in the fridge.

This mornings breakfast is simple, only two ingredients, frozen strawberries and yogurt. Okay 3 ingredients: when I ran out of vanilla yogurt, I added strawberry yogurt instead. And a splash of water to start the mixing.

No recipes have been used for these daily concoctions. One last week involved the canned pears I made this summer and vanilla yogurt, making a sweet, creamy breakfast. My only rule is that there must be a good amount of fruit involved.

So how do you add extra fruit in your day?

Messing around

Just a brief FYI that I am messing around with templates and colors and such today so my blog may undergo a whole bunch of different looks, all in one day. Or two. Okay, maybe more like a week.

Part of what I am trying to do is give myself a nice new title, bigger than what is currently there, but of the same style, visible over top of a picture of mine. I just don't quite know how to do it, so am playing around and hope to figure it out soon.

So don't be alarmed!

95% French Canadian, 5% New Yorker

No, I'm not really a New Yorker. I'm a Canadian, all the way through. Heck, I've never even been to New York!

But when I tasted this ricotta cheesecake that I had made as a birthday request, something was missing. The proper tang that you get in a New York style cheesecake. The tang that isn't in this Italian style cheesecake.

Don't get me wrong - this was very good! It was light and creamy, with a hint of the fresh vanilla bean I had used in place of extract. According to my mouth, however, this was not a cheesecake. It was a light tart that just happened to have some cream cheese and ricotta in it.

(One of my goals for this year is to work on my photography. I think I am getting a bit better at placement, but honestly, I don't think it matters how I place a dish or plate if it is so dark out that you can't see anything anyways! I will be so glad when we begin to sloooooowly start getting more light around here.)

Back to the "cheesecake".....

Standard graham cracker and sugar crumb base. My very favorite way to bottom a cheesecake. Usual mixture of cheese, eggs and sugar. But where it differs is in the cheese. Rather than 3-4 blocks of tangy cream cheese, this one only uses one, with the balance of the cheese replaced with ricotta that has been drained first. Good in theory but, I don't know, maybe I bought the wrong ricotta?

Either way, the thought was appreciated, and the cake enjoyed.

Course now that I'm thinking about it again, it is bugging me - and I am going to have to make a proper cheesecake soon. Maybe tomorrow morning. For breakfast! (Kidding! At least on the breakfast part.)