Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. ~Philippians 4:8~

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Venetian Recipes For My New Pots

I finally cooked something today on my nifty new pots. I made a wonderful meal of braised pork ribs, cut into individual pieces, flavored with fresh rosemary, sage and garlic. A side of creamy risotto with mushrooms and shrimp and a side of simple sauteed spinach with garlic in extra virgin olive oil. I used recipes featured on PBS' "Adventures With Ruth" series from Gourmet magazine fame. Fortunately, the videos are online, and I was able to find them by searching for the Gourmet magazine website. The video includes a couple of additional recipes, even one for duck, but I only used the one for the pork ribs and the risotto. Fast forward on the video to about 11:50 for the section on the pork ribs. The segment on the risotto starts at around 17:37. Right before that is a segment on making a really flavorful shrimp stock which can be used for the risotto, but I just used chicken stock and wine for the liquid, as well as cream at the end, like the video shows. It's very simple, and the risotto turns out very creamy and delicious. The pork ribs were divine! Meat falling off the bone is a good thing!

Turns out my two new pots were just the right size for these dishes. How great is that? I am thrilled with my pots! I just tried unsuccessfully to embed the video but somehow it just wouldn't load. I'm afraid I can only include the link to Enrica Rocca's Venice. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Joy Of Pots

Things which make Grandma absolutely giddy with joy: kitchen pots and gadgets. During a recent trip to the Hill Country, I made a little stop at the San Marcos outlets. I normally just visit the Williams Sonoma store, but I had something else in mind. I watch the Mad Hungry show with Lucinda Scala Quinn and also Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa cooking shows. I am always so inspired by their use of the Le Creuset braising pots. Just the sight of those short clunky pots makes me want to put on an apron and slave over a hot stove. Monkey see, monkey do, I always say. And indeed, I got my little pots in my little kitchen just like I'd been wanting for a while.

Now, one thing you must know about me, I don't like to pay full price. I wait for sales and I do like markdowns. I also don't mind buying what are called 'second runs' in the Le Creuset world. It just means they're not first quality, and may have some slight imperfections, but the lifetime warranty remains in place.


The larger of the two braising pots has some slight discoloration on the lid, and being on the outside, I know it won't affect food or the cooking process.

 

The smaller braiser has a couple of very small, almost imperceptible scratches, and are also on the outer surface. I was also doubly blessed in that those two pots were in EXACTLY the color I had hoped I would find, the off white tone called 'Dune', but which I think of as Linen colored. Those are the colors that Lucinda and Ina often use in the shows, and well, I fell in love with the look. An added bonus was the little red casserole dish, which was added to the purchase as a gift from the store. I happen to already have a similar red pot from the Lodge cast iron collection, which I got at Walmart at a very good price. My other Le Creuset pots are in cobalt blue, but that's fine that they're not all in matching colors. I actually really liked the new "Kiwi" color which is a green apple color. Gorgeous, and would look so cheerful in any kitchen, but none were available in discounted prices.

One other thing which also made me very happy was a popover baking pan, as I had recipes for popovers, but no specialty pan. I do have muffin pans, but since popovers rise high like a souffle, I wanted to be able to have the full effect.


And last but not least, was an ebelskiver pan for making those delectable puffy filled pancakes. I have had my eye on this little gadget on numerous trips to the outlets and the Williams Sonoma store, but always talked myself out of buying it, not quite being able to justify the expense. I kept convincing myself that it would just be another gadget in my inventory of kitchen 'stuff', and that I probably wouldn't really be making a lot of stuffed pancakes, however cute and small they were. But I always thought in the back of my mind, that making them for my Grandsons and making them happy to enjoy something delicious would be enough of a reason to have it in my stash.



And of course the corresponding batter mix for said little apparatus. I know there is a recipe for making them from scratch, but I'd like to first see how they taste so I can compare to made from scratch.


And so these are the things which delight and make me happy. No designer clothing or jewelry for me. Just the little things which help me be a better cook. For me, cooking and baking are just a small way to show my love for my family. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Bit of Paper Crafting

About the only thing that frustrates me is our climate. Months and months of heat is unbearable! It's almost 7pm and it's 104F. I literally become a hermit during the Summer, as staying indoors affords me some respite from the heat.

Other than housework, baking and cooking, the other thing that helps keep me amused and entertained during my self imposed confinement is doing a bit of paper crafting. A few snips here and there, a little glue and glitter, and you end up with some nifty creations.






No need to rush out and buy cards when you need to send a greeting card. I still think handmade is so much better.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mexican Conchas

I've had lots to talk about, lots to share, but I will admit I just did not take the time to sit down long enough to write . In answer to those readers who inquired about my well being, through kind and thoughtful emails and comments here on the blog, I can honestly say I've been fine and in good health. I'm afraid my last post had people thinking I was going through difficult times. Nothing could be further from the truth. My intention in that post was merely to reiterate what I know to be a common human condition- that of just getting from one day to the next in these uncertain times.

In other news, I have been happily baking the days away. Although I am not able to partake of too much in the way of my baked goods, the joy of baking is alive and well in my little heart. In fact, just a couple of hours ago I took two piping hot trays out of the oven loaded with Mexican conchas. I have been wanting to try my hand at making this very popular Mexican pastry for almost two years, but somehow kept getting off track in doing so. Some time back I purchased a lovely baking book "My Sweet Mexico" by Fany Gerson, and I had to try one of the recipes. Shame on me for it having taken so long! Based on the results of my conchas, I am now anxious to tackle more of her recipes. Baking is so pleasurable, it just really stimulates the senses. I love the aromas wafting from the oven and filling the whole house- the most wonderful  aroma of freshly baked yeasty bread. Oh, to be able to bottle that fragrance!

I made all of them with a chocolate topping, although they can also be made with a white, pink, or yellow topping. My family prefers chocolate, so I made them all that way.


 




The dough itself is made very much like a brioche, rich with eggs and butter. The crumb topping recipe calls for butter, confectioners sugar, and flour. Which was somewhat of a relief to me, because most Mexican bakeries use shortening instead of butter. Truth be told, most all bakeries use shortening in their frostings and such. I can see how it is much healthier to make your own pastries because you know exactly what ingredients you used. It goes without saying that because you're baking for your own family, you would use the best ingredients. I was only able to take a couple of bites of one of the conchas, and believe me, they are pretty darn big! They puffed up so nicely, even the topping expanded so prettily.

A couple of weeks ago I made a Rustic Sourdough Bread using a King Arthur Flour recipe, and I really liked the results. I have to add that every recipe I have ever used from the King Arthur Flour website has always yielded spectacular results. It is one of my best go to sites for baking inspiration.






I will try and make a post soon about a wonderful Mexican cooking book I acquired recently. I highly recommend it. So until next time, Have a little faith!

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