Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wine-Soaked Berries with Cream and Hermit Cookies

Do not panic. Yes, I am eating lactose-free this week. No I did not consume this recently.

As for eating lactose-free, it has been going quite well so far. I did choose to try this diet first since I thought it would be the easiest of the four--lactose-free, gluten-free, vegan, and diabetic. The hardest part is eating out or eating with others when they invite you over. You don't want to be a burden, yet you have to eat that way. I've had to ask a restaurant to hold the feta on a Greek salad, denied a slice of Mary Porter pie offered by my family, restrained myself from the goat cheese log that was out yesterday, and was cut off from cereal until I could stop by the grocery store for soymilk and applesauce. But overall, it hasn't been that hard.

Back to this dessert. The recipe came from Cooking Light, but I altered it a tad. Here's my version:

Wine-Soaked Berries with Whipped Cream
1/3 cup white wine
3 tbsp club soda
1 tsp grated orange rind
3 tbsp agave nectar, divided
1 pint blueberries
1 package raspberries
1 package blackberries
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Combine wine, club soda, rind, and 2 tbsp agave nectar in a large bowl. Add berries and toss gently to combine. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Pour cream into a medium bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Beat in remaining tbsp agave.

As for the cookies...I found the recipe in a cookbook called nothing other than The Ultimate Cookie Book (Better Homes and Gardens), given to me by my mother-in-law. And since I had brewed coffee earlier that morning, this recipe caught my eye.

Hermit Cookies
3/4 cup butter (I used 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar (I used 1/2 unpacked)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cloves (I didn't have this)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 egg
1/4 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled
1 1/2 cups AP flour (I did half whole wheat)
2 cups raisins (I substituted 1 cup chocolate chips.)*
1 cup chopped pecans (I omitted this and topped each cookie with one pecan instead.)

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large mixing bowl beat butter on medium high for about 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, spices, and baking soda. Beat until combined, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and coffee until combined. Beat in the flour. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop dough onto cookie sheet. Top each with a pecan. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool (or taste and make sure they're good!).

*Ryan and I hate raisins. This is actually one food we both extremely dislike. Ryan doesn't care for onions, chives, ginger-flavored baked goods, celery, pumpkin...I'm sure there's others but I can't remember. I, on the other hand, can't stand mayonnaise and pretty much avoid fruit juices, hot dogs, sausage, fried food, that sort of thing. But we both love many of the same things! Sweet potatoes, dark chocolate, mushrooms (I influenced him there), sauces of any kind, salmon, and steak...just to name a few.

Part of my CSA share allows me to go to the farm once a week and pick whatever is growing there. Last week they had sweet peas!

It was so relaxing...kneeling in the middle of a big windy field just picking beans. Or, excuse me, peas.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

First Week of CSA

 We are splitting our CSA share with my sister and her husband. I went with my brother-in-law to pick it up and we were so excited! Crates of bright bunches of vegetables just waiting for us to take them home! Here is what we got:

Beautiful radishes

A head of lettuce for each of us


A bunch of braising greens

A bag of spinach

Turnips...which I don't recall having ever tasted!

And the spiciest arugula I have ever tasted

Thursday, May 26, 2011


ALERT: This post does not contain anything healthy and is the opposite of almost everything I have heretofore posted. However, it does taste good!

I made this crazy dessert for my sister's bachelorette party. It consists of choquettes filled with pastry cream (cream puffs) stuck together with caramel.

The process started four days before the event when I made my first attempt at choquettes using a British recipe and converting all of the measurements. I had outfitted myself with some new pastry tips and was eager to try my hand at a new technique.

Butter and cream!

Unfortunately, my first attempt...

...was a failure.

These little flat disks were not about to fit any sort of pastry cream into their not-so-hollow bellies.

So...the next day...I tried again. With a recipe that had recognizable measuring units.

I took it a little easier with the eggs.
After squirting them out like this, I knocked the points down using a pastry brush dipped in an egg wash.

I put them in the oven with a prayer for success...

...and they turned out!

Beautiful little golden puffs!

Into the freezer they went...all 88 of them.

The day before the event, I made the cream. I started with a basic vanilla pastry cream, then added chocolate and instant espresso to half of it to create a mocha.

The day of, I recruited the other girls staying at my parents to help me assemble it, because we were very pressed for time. One of them filled all of the puffs with cream. Another made the cone that would support the puffs. We stuck it on the plate with some extra custard so it wouldn't slide.

We all worked on the tricky caramel. And then we dipped the puffs and stuck them in tiers onto the cone.

Got an arm in there...I didn't have much time to set up a photo.

For the recipe, click here. And google image croquembouche to see some huge ones!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Smoked Asparagus and Gorgonzola Pasta with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Mushrooms

So this lovely dinner was very fun to make. Yes, the asparagus is SMOKED. It made our apartment smell wonderful! You just soak the wood chips for half an hour and then drain them. Wrap them in foil and poke some holes in the package. Set it in a pot you wouldn't mind discoloring a little bit and put the steamer basket full of asparagus over top. Cover and smoke for about 10 minutes or until tender! Be careful when you lift the lid...this does produce a lot of smoke! I bet you could use that technique on other things as well.

 And the gorgonzola was carved from a gorgeous hunk I split with my mom. I didn't really change the recipe, except to use spaghetti instead of bucatini.

The roasted vegetables were very simple and quite tasty. Since they were tossed in a sauce (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chicken broth, thyme), they developed a crispy exterior with a tender interior. 

I am so excited for our CSA to start this coming Thursday! Hopefully I will be all caught up with my posts so I can start blogging about the veggies right away. We're also moving out of our apartment this weekend...so that will keep me busy! We will stay in my parents' guest house for a couple months while we finish our house search. Not to mention, I'm going to start my lactose-free week this coming Sunday for my project. I'm pretty excited, but also a little nervous about what I'll do if I'm over at someone's house or eating out. But that's all part of what I wanted to experience by doing the project!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Gourmet Pizza

No, I have not dropped off the face of the earth. My sister got married last Sunday, and so it has been crazy!

Plus I started an awesome new job yesterday with Darae and Friends Catering and I am loving it! It will take a while for me to get used to making huge amounts of everything. I am learning some great techniques and am chock full of ideas for party food...if only I had the space to host one!!

I figured I would catch you up on what I've been making. A while ago, Ryan and I had this pizza...and I felt like going a little gourmet with the toppings.

I used Weisenberger's Pizza Crust Mix since I didn't have time that morning to make it from scratch.

For the toppings (above and beyond some marinara sauce and a sprinkling of some pizza cheese mix), we used sun-dried tomatoes, a large yellow tomato, goat cheese, and thinly sliced new potatoes and arugula from the farmer's market. I also drizzled it with truffle oil!

Of course, Ryan added sausage to his side.


I also made a salad with the arugula and romaine and topped it with some local cucumbers, then more of the yellow tomato (it was huge!) and goat cheese.

Well, I hope to be back on here very soon writing about a pasta dish I made with smoked (!) asparagus and gorgonzola cheese, as well as the dessert I made for my sister's bachelorette party...a full-fledged croquembouche!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Derby Pie: A lighter version of the old classic

It's hard for me to have favorites in food categories...but Derby Pie comes very, very close to being my top pie. My mom made it pretty regularly for holidays or birthdays while I was growing up and I'm definitely hooked.

So since the Derby was this past weekend, I decided to make Derby Pie for a party. But being me, I just couldn't put whole sticks of butter and cups of sugar in the bowl. So, since I'd made it once before and was pretty comfortable with the recipe, I healthified it! And guess what, no one was any the wiser!

I went with Cooks Illustrated Easy Pat-in-the-Pan Pie Dough...but I attacked this recipe as well.

First let me give you a peek at the nutrition info. I'm basing this off of 1/12 of the pie.


Amount Per Serving
  Calories 495.7
  Total Fat 28.2 g
      Saturated Fat 14.2 g
      Polyunsaturated Fat 2.6 g
      Monounsaturated Fat 9.8 g
  Cholesterol 108.3 mg
  Sodium 122.9 mg
  Potassium 132.8 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 61.1 g
      Dietary Fiber 1.9 g
      Sugars 49.1 g
  Protein 5.2 g


Amount Per Serving
  Calories 393.9
  Total Fat 22.7 g
      Saturated Fat 10.7 g
      Polyunsaturated Fat 2.4 g
      Monounsaturated Fat 8.2 g
  Cholesterol 92.9 mg
  Sodium 114.2 mg
  Potassium 127.7 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 47.3 g
      Dietary Fiber 2.4 g
      Sugars 35.3 g
  Protein 5.4 g

Reduced calories by 100, fat by 6g (saturated by 4g!), and sugar by 15g! Want to see what I did??My changes are in bold.

Pie Dough
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
7 tbsp unsalted butter, softened but still cool
2 ounces light cream cheese, softened but still cool

1. Lightly coat a 9 inch glass pie plate with cooking spray. Whisk the flours, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl.
2. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed in a large bowl until combined, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the dough begins to form large clumps, about 30 seconds. Reserve 3 tbsp of the dough. Turn the remaining dough out onto a light floured counter (or parchment paper!), gather into a ball, and flatten into a 6 inch disk. Transfer the dough to the prepared pie plate.
3. Press the dough evenly over the bottom of the pie plate toward the sides using the heel of your hand. Hold the plate up to the light to ensure that the dough is evenly distributed. With your fingertips, continue to work the dough over the bottom of the plate and up the sides until evenly distributed.
4. Roll the reserved 3 tbsp dough into three 8 inch ropes and form a fluted edge. Wrap the pie shell in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
*If you are making a different pie and want to bake the shell, prick the bottom with a fork and bake at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Derby Pie
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
4 whole eggs
1/2 stick melted unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup whole or half pecans

Beat sugar, corn syrup, and eggs. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Pour into shell and bake for about 45 minutes at 350. YUM!!!

Next time, I might attack it with a little more ferocity, now that I know the recipe can handle some severe changes. But this is good enough for now!