Daring Bakers: It's only the pictures that are bad

I regularly drool over some of Meeta's creations. So when she teamed up with Tony to bring us this month's Daring Baker Challenge, I knew it would be drool worthy. Add in the name Pierre Hermé, and you are almost guaranteed the need for extra napkins.

Eclairs, eclairs, oh lovely eclairs!

How come I only made these once this month? Oh yes, too many other things going on. And they were good. Very good. Dangerously, too easy to eat, good.

Meeta and Tony had a few rules: use the choux pastry recipe given (I did). Keep one of the chocolate components chocolate. I went for the chocolate sauce rather than the glaze, and made the pastry cream recipe give, but removed the chocolate and replaced it with vanilla.

Did I mention these were good? I ended up only eating half of one, but I served these to out of town guests and at least one of the friends ate three. He might have eaten more, but I'd run out.

Thanks to advice from Helen, I knew I could make the choux pastry ahead of time, pipe out the eclairs, and freeze them. Good thing too, as I planned to make these for our guests, but was short on time and did not want to spend our entire short visit cooking. Instead I threw together the dough (easy as can be), pipped the eclairs onto parchment and froze them, baking them off shortly before we were going to eat them.

The pastry cream came together without a single issue. It was great as vanilla, so I really have no desire to try it as chocolate. (I know this might shock some people, but I am finding I don't want as much chocolate as I used to - however that bacon sitting on the counter, left over from dinner, is calling me.... Eat me! Eat me! Eat me!)

I had a small issue with the chocolate sauce - the recipe says it will take 10-15 minutes, at a low, gentle boil, stirring constantly, to thicken up. Nope. Try 45 minutes. And only because I turned the heat up. Way up. If I'd have had a bit more patience (and no one around me waiting for dessert), I might have let it thicken a touch more, but I didn't. Hence it isn't as thick as a glaze might be on the eclairs. Which didn't in any way affect the flavor of this dessert.

This months' challenge is making to my list of 'make again' desserts. But only when I have company willing to help eat it, so I don't have to eat too much of it myself.

Thanks Meeta and Tony for a great choice. Now head out into the world to read the 1000+ other posts about eclairs. Just be sure to leave me a note and let me know you've been by first!

Sneaking in some goodness

We go through alot of milk in my household. Between cereal, cooking and drinking, a 4 liter bag can go quickly. (Or it disappears with no explanation.)

I admit, I don't like white milk. I'll put it on my cereal, but drink the stuff? Ugh. I not only don't like the favor, I really, really don't like the texture of it. However, I can't eat only cereal, and milk is a good way to get some calcium into your diet.

So I sneak it in on myself.

In this case, I use it to make oatmeal. Yes, it is still breakfast, but I already said I can't eat just cereal!

I also used this oatmeal as an excuse to add some extra fruit to the kids diet for the day. Mine too.

Creamy Fruity Oatmeal
makes 4 servings

2 cups water
2 cups milk
3 cup oatmeal
pinch of salt
4 tablespoons brown sugar
6-8 tablespoons half and half cream
lots of fruit, such as blueberries, raspberries, peaches

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat the milk and water until almost boiling, over medium high heat. DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM THIS MIXTURE AS IT WILL BOIL OVER VERY EASILY! (Unless you want to clean your stove. Trust me, that's what happens.) When almost boiling, add in the pinch of salt and stir in the oatmeal. Return mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat, and, stirring occasionally, until it is thick and no liquid is remaining.

Spoon into bowls, top with 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of cream and a bunch of fruit - for my bowl, I used 1/2 cup of wild blueberries and half a peach, cut into chunks.

The chocolate says it all

Well, not my cookie.

A plate sized peanut butter, chocolate chunk cookie. Made as a gift.

Four ingredients + 30 seconds of mixing + chocolate writing = one happy birthday girl.

Giant Peanut Butter Cookie
based on the recipe from Kraft Canada

1 cup smooth peanut butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk chocolate chunks (I cut mine up from a big Hershey bar)

Preheat oven to 325F, and line a round pizza pan with parchment paper - you do not need to cut this paper round or to size, and it is actually easier to remove the big cookie if you leave the paper hanging over the edge of the pan.

Mix everything together well in a big bowl.

Spread out the sticky dough on the pan, getting an even layer all the way to the edge.

Bake for at least 30 minutes, or until cookie is puffed and cooked all through - it will still be very soft in the center. Let cool, still on the pizza pan, for 10 minutes before using the extra parchment to help you pull the cookie off onto a baking rack. Do this slowly, the cookie might still be soft and might want to bend in the middle.

To write on the cookie as I did, melt some extra chocolate on low in the microwave, then transfer it to a small zip top sandwich bag. Snip a corner and write your message. It will look great, even if you do it in a mad dash rush, like I did.

Better in theory than in practice

I can't remember where I got the idea for this, turkey kabobs with a little ball of mozzarella cheese tucked in the center. Such a nice idea, some Italian style seasonings in the meat mixture, the moist creaminess of the cheese inside.

What a bummer that these ended up boring and bland, and that most of the cheese bubbled out of the kabobs.

Since this ended up being a dud for me, I didn't bother keeping my notes on what I put into it. I know there was garlic, salt and pepper, probably an egg and a handful of break crumbs. I think some dried oregano. Whatever it was, it wasn't enough to give the meat any moisture or flavor.

Now the yellow beans, on the other hand, were a nice bright punch of flavor and texture. Good thing I made alot of them, since they ended up being the centerpiece to our dinner.

Punchy Yellow Beans
serves 4 as a side (or 2 as a main when your kabobs don't work)

1 1/2 pounds trimmed yellow beans
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
juice of 1 lemon, divided
salt and pepper to taste

Mix the garlic, oil and the juice of half of the lemon in a large bowl, along with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Set aside.

Place the beans in a sauté pan with 1/2 a cup of water. Cover and bring to a boil, letting the beans steam slightly, for 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid and toss the beans to make sure none of the beans is over cooked. You want a slight bite to the beans, not mush.

When the beans are tender but still firm, drain any remaining water and add the beans to the bowl with the garlic and oil. Toss well to coat, then taste. Need more lemon? Add another squirt. Need more salt? Add a bit more. Enjoy as a side, or a main. Good cold too.

Another farmer's market find

Garlic scapes. Lovely, vibrant green, with a mild garlicky smell.

I kept walking past them, enjoying the sample of the scape pesto, but not buying. What fun is that?

No regrets when I finally brought some home, to make my own pesto, twisted, of course.

I ended up with less than 2 cup of the scapes, so topped it up with 2 small bulbs of mild, young garlic, also bought at the farmer's market. I used whole, toasted almonds, and only enough oil to bind the pesto together.

The aroma of my kitchen... fresh and divine.

A 3 pound roast, seasoned with a mixture made from pulverizing garlic with my mortar and pestle along with salt, pepper and olive oil. Cooked to medium on my bbq.

Sliced thin and served with garlic roasted potatoes and the scape pesto. A bit of pesto with each bite, mingling the garlicky flavors together. Mmmmmm....

I made this for my husband and I for our anniversary, 13 years of marriage. Not normally a romantic meal, but when you both eat garlic, garlic and garlic for dinner, it cancels out.

Downtown treat

Now really, other than saying where to get one of these "healthy" treats, what more needs be said?

And in Ottawa, you can get them here, at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in the Byward Market.

Sometimes a twist makes all the difference

Instead of just mashing the bananas for my standard banana bread recipe, I went a little different.

Sautéed with butter and brown sugar, a splash of rum, then WOOSH! Flame Away!

Makes my every day banana bread go from a good loaf, to an amazingly moist bread with a touch of caramel in it.

Banana Bread
makes 2 loaves or 45 mini muffins

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
4 ripe, mashed, ripe bananas
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp rum

Preheat oven to 350F and grease two 9x5 loaf pans, or 2 trays of mini muffin pans.

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. Add in the eggs, oil and vanilla, mixing lightly to combine.

Heat a non stick skillet over medium high heat. Add the butter and allow to melt slightly before adding the brown sugar. Mix together well before adding in the 4 mashed bananas. Cook together, allowing to bubble and brown and reduce slightly, stirring fairly often. When the bananas have reached a nice, thick, caramel consistency, add the rum, mix quickly, then turn off the heat. Ignite the alcohol, burning it off but being careful not to burn yourself (or the kids who come running into the room to check out what smells so good.)

When all the rum has been flamed off, add the bananas to the bowl and mix in.

Either divide the batter between the two loaf pans, or scoop into the muffin trays.

If making bread, bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes, rotating the pans after 25 minutes. Check the bread with a cake tester or toothpick (or a dry piece of spaghetti works well). You may need to bake for longer, if the tester does not come out clean. Baking time may take up to 1 hour and that's okay.

If making mini muffins, bake for approximately 10 minutes, checking at 8 minutes.

When the tester comes out clean, for either the bread or muffins, remove from the oven to a rack to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan.

Good warm or cold, with or without butter.

Dessert for dinner, once a year

Yes, you read that correctly. I made dessert for dinner. On purpose.

Funnel cake, strawberries with syrup, vanilla ice cream.

What a better way to celebrate (or mourn, depending on if you are the child or the parent), the last day of school. (Yes, this is a late, late post of something I made at the end of June. Can you think of a better time, the week before they go back, to remember it?)

The kids each ate two.

The Omnivore's Hundred - It's my turn to play

When this came up on Mary's site, it as about the 5th time I'd seen it in two days. To be fair, I've had company so haven't been reading blogs, which means I probably missed a stack of others.

It is a list from Very Good Taste on the 100 foods any self respecting omnivore should try at least once.

Feel free to play along.

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating. (actually can anyone tell me how you cross out words on blogger, I can't figure it out)
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

Not an amazing result, 54 out of 100, but I do have a few that I am unsure of. Course I don't get out as much as I used to and didn't used to care as much about food when I could get out, so I wasn't paying much attention then. Oh well, excuses to go out and try new things!

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare (iffy, maybe have, maybe haven't)
5. Crocodile (doesn't have much taste, as far as I remember)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht (I seem to remember making some once actually, it wasn't a popular family dish)
10. Baba ghanoush (well, this is a maybe - I don't like eggplant, but I can't remember.)
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich (And I'm sorry to say, I hate it, it makes me want to v****)
14. Aloo gobi (I think so, had Indian buffet once and ate everything they had.)
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses - I don't even know what this is
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (I'm not stupid)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda (huh?)
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi (is this like a mango lassi but with salt?)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (thanks but no thanks, I'm a cheap date)
37. Clotted cream tea (I wish!)
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects - I like what Mary says here: (Does swallowing a bug while on the back of a motorcycle count?)
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more (I don't care how much it cost, I'm not really interested)
46. Fugu - again, what is this?
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer (I understand this tastes like nothing, but has a rubbery texture, so I haven't run out to try it, based on that description)
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips (oh boy was that fun! not!)
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs (and I tell my kids they taste like chicken fingers)
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette (what is this?)
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini (well I've had the caviar but not the blini)
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost ( another huh?)
75. Roadkill (though I should probably say, not to my knowledge)
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum (I think so)
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky (now I should know this one, but I can't recall what it is!)
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. (I've had a tasting menu but am not sure if we do Michelin star ratings here in Canada, so half marks?)
85. Kobe beef - another maybe, possibly at a Japanese restaurant once
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse(not unless I had no other options at all, horse or starve)
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (thanks but no thanks, I don't like coffee. why can't coffee taste like fresh ground beans smell?)
100. Snake

One pot dinner

Lots of pictures for you today, on how to make a pot of this yummy Vegetable Chili. Note I said vegetable, not vegetarian.

First start by chopping up a bunch of veggies. I went with cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, yellow pepper and corn. I didn't use onions, but there is a good reason for that. This is a good recipe for using bits and pieces of veggies from your fridge as you don't want huge amounts of any one veggie. I only had one left over cob of corn, which is why there is less corn than everything else, but whatever you have works. Though I've never tried mushrooms and am not sure it would work well, flavor wise.

Sauté 1 pound of lean ground beef in a big pot. Add in spices of your choice. I went with chili powder and cumin, a generous amount of cumin.

Let the spices bloom in the ground meat, to help bring out the flavors.

Add in your veggies - I stagger them, starting with the carrots and cauliflower, cooking them for a few minutes before adding the next vegetable. You want to give the veggies a chance to soften a bit, but not over cook, which is why I held the corn off until last.

While the veggies are cooking, open up the following things: one can of tomato paste, one small can of chopped tomatoes (I actually found one flavored with chili spices), one small can of beans in tomato paste, and a jar of salsa - this jar was one I had made and canned and had plenty of onions, which is why I didn't put any in the pot.

See? There was logic to my flavor building.

Add all those cans of goodies into the pot, along with the corn, and give it a good stir. It will be very thick, so add a cup or so of water.

Oh yes, I'd forgotten, I had also sliced and sautéd up some spicy chirizo sausages. Throw them into the pot, stir them in and bring everything up to a gentle boil. Turn down the heat, put on the lid and let things bubble, stirring every once in awhile. You can eat this as early as 20 minutes later, or let it simmer for a few hours.

Serve sprinkled with chopped green onions, sour cream, shredded cheese and a generous side of tortilla chips. Use your spoon to scoop up some of everything in the bowl onto the chips for eating. Yummy!

And like any good chili, it is even better the next day.

Yes, I still love Dorie

As I said earlier, just because I've had to leave TWD officially, doesn't mean I won't still be making Dorie recipes on a regular basis. Like last night. When I made two.

Did you know that caramelizing sugar goes from light amber to burning, boiling black in an instant? And that burnt sugar smells lingers a very, very long time, traveling through the house.

However if you stand there and don't blink, you can catch the sugar just as it turns color, add the cream and make Dorie's Caramel Sauce. Which, when it cools, you can probably eat with a spoon.

I'm not saying this from experience. I just suspect it is true.

Surprisingly, after 4 pieces of Almost Fudge Gateau, with a side of ice cream and a generous dousing of caramel sauce, we still have half a jar of the sauce left.

No worries, I'm sure it won't last long. There is still half a gateau left. And still people around to eat it, other than me.

Farmer's Market Food Porn

Sunday mornings can be so beautiful. Especially if I have time to go to the Farmer's Market.

As tasty as these looked, I left them there.

These make me wish I liked radishes, so beautiful.

Only recently did I try chard, this beautiful rainbow chard, sautéd with garlic and butter. Yummy!

Who needs chips when you can sit and much on freshly shelled peas?

Isn't this bread beautiful? It truly is art.

My haul for that visit.

And my reward, lunch. Potato and rosemary bread, slathered with goat cheese, layered with baby greens, yellow heirloom tomatoes and sprinkled with fleur de sel.

Summer, oh beautiful summer

This is my front walk way, five minutes ago. Hail, bouncing around and flying through the air. The kids and I had just made a mad dash up that walk way to get in the house.

Isn't this what August is supposed to look like?

At least the hail seems to have stopped, but the rain doesn't look like it is going to let up, so I think I will need to replan dinner tonight as I am unwilling to stand at the bbq, while lightening flashes around me.

Sorry, I know I'm a "foodie" and would do alot for good food, but being struck by lightening, or even hailed on, is not something I'm up for today. Maybe tomorrow. Or not.

Some time without rain

If you lay back and relax, sometimes you can see images in the clouds.

Leftover Lunch, just for me

Some of the best meals have no recipes and come from the moment.

Left over grilled veggies: potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, red peppers, red onions, with a splash of olive oil and a bit of butter.

Add eggs, just a few, mixed well with salt and pepper.

Finish under the broiler for a tasty breakfast, lunch or dinner. Good hot or cold.

The time has come to say goodbye

Well, this has been a hard decision to make, but had to be done.

It is with sadness that I will have to remove myself from the list of weekly Doranistas, and no longer be part of Tuesdays with Dorie.

Unfortunately the next few weeks' recipes helped me make the decision: Granola Grabbers from page 82, which I can't make because of the nuts involved in it are too a part of the recipe to remove, and Chocolate Banded Ice Cream Torte, page 288-289, which contains 8 uncooked eggs and I would not feel safe feeding to my family.

I will continue to follow along with many of my favorite bakers each week, and certainly have no plans to stop baking from Dorie. In fact, some weeks I may even take inspiration from TWD and bake up a storm. Who knows?

Thanks for the ride TWD!

Milk Chocolate Mousse, by request

Guess I forgot something earlier today....

How to make the chocolate mousse cups. It isn't much different than making the white chocolate ones, just doubled.

Milk Chocolate Mousse Cups
makes 15-18

2 cups whipping cream
14 oz chopped milk chocolate (Or use mint chocolate. Or dark chocolate.)
extra chocolate for topping

Melt the milk chocolate in a heat proof bowl with a splash of the cream, in the microwave on low, stirring every 20 seconds until almost melted. Stir until all the chocolate is melted and smooth. Allow to cool while the cream is whipped.

Whip the remaining cream to stiff peaks, being careful not to over whip. Fold the slightly cooled chocolate into the cream, trying not to deflate the cream.

Spoon into cups, filling about half way. Chill for at least 4 hours, or over night.

Before serving, shave some extra chocolate on top of each cup. If you do this too early, the shavings will just melt into the mousse and make a mess.

For a more grown up version, skip the plastic picnic cups, and add a splash of liquor to the melted chocolate, your choice, and serve in fancy wine glasses.

PS This post marks my 300th here at All Things Edible! I almost missed it myself!
Wow, 300 is a big number, one I couldn't have imagined getting to when I started this little blog.
Makes getting to 500 posts seem like a good goal for the future.

Strawberries, Cream and More Cream

It's summer, but not a great summer. We've had more rain, rain and rain, than anyone could possibly believe. So much rain that strawberry season this year did not have me out with my children, picking, the way we normally do several times each summer.

No, not us this year, the berries were soft, mushy and moldy, and the fields were muddy. And considering I do 95% of the picking while the children do 99% of the taste testing in the field, I didn't want to sit in mud and I didn't want the boys filling up on mushy berries.

Despite this lovely weather (you did catch the sarcastic tone, right?), I've still managed to find a few good local berries and make a few lovely berry desserts.

Let us start with this lovely one, strawberry and blueberry shortcake. Not any shortcake, but Dorie Greenspan's chocolate shortcake. What a better way to showcase summer fruit and mounds of lovely whipped cream?

I'm not going to put up the recipe for this. You know what book it came from, and if you don't own it by now, with most of the food blogging world posting positive reviews on recipes from it each week, well then maybe this offering will give you the final push you need to go get it.

While you are drooling, or ordering your book, I'll get back to berry desserts.

How about this offering? Strawberry and white chocolate mousse cups, which I made for the annual Trigger's Taekwon-Do Family Picnic. Not your usual picnic fare, but I wanted something different, something light and fruity. Mousse, holds up well, despite the high humidity, and pipped into a plastic cup, is portable.

I set these cups out on the picnic table, along side some milk chocolate mousse cups, and they were snapped right up. People seemed to know if they didn't take one right away, when they came back later for dessert, there wouldn't be any left. And there wasn't, these were a huge hit.

We were fortunate that day, the rain held off until near the end of the picnic, by which time most people were wet anyways from the traditional water fight.

And if the black belts weren't wet from the water fight, the rain was a welcome way to wash off the cream all over their faces from the Cream the Black Belts portion of the picnic. Everyone was a good sport it, and took their "creaming" with a smile. (And I do mean everyone, since this glamorous shot is of our school's owner/trainer.)

**No mousses were harmed in the creaming of this black belt**

These are my submission for The Key Ingredient Cook's Kitchen Recipe Contest (KICK).

Strawberry and White Chocolate Mousse
makes 15-18 cups

2 cups chopped, fresh strawberries
1/4 cup sugar, more if berries are not sweet
squirt of fresh lemon juice
3 cups whipping cream, divided into 1 cup and 2 cups
7 oz white chocolate, chopped
fresh strawberries for garnish

Place chopped berries in a medium sized pan, mixed with the sugar and the lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until the berries have cooked and are soft and mushy. Taste to see if you need more sugar - if you add more, cook for an additional few minutes, to be sure the sugar dissolves in the juices.

Move strawberries to a blender and puree. Strain berries into a bowl and allow to cool. You should get at least 1 cup of puree.

In separate bowl, melt chocolate with a splash of the 1 cup of the cream, in a microwave on low, stirring every 20 seconds until almost melted. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly while you whip the remaining cream. When the cream is whipped to firm peaks, carefully fold in the white chocolate.

Spoon the white chocolate mousse into the bottom of 15 - 18 small cups. You will get about a heaping tablespoon of the mousse into each cup. Don't worry if the mousse doesn't seem thick, it will thicken up while chilling.

Place in the fridge to chill.

Once strawberry mixture is cool, whip the remaining 2 cups of whipping cream, again to firm peaks. Carefully fold in 1 cup of the strawberry puree into the cream, being careful not to deflate the cream. Taste the mousse and decide if you want a stronger berry flavor - if you do, add more of the puree.

Carefully spoon the strawberry mousse on top of the white chocolate mousse in the plastic cups. You should get twice as much strawberry mousse on top of the white chocolate. Allow to chill for at least 4 hours or over night before topping with slices of strawberries.

Best eaten if you get a bit of both mousses in each bite.