Friday, July 31, 2009

Cupcake Friday! Coconut Cupcakes

I hadn't quite planned on returning to a Martha recipe quite so soon, but this coconut cupcake has been calling me since the first time I cracked the binding on the book. I think I might have mentioned once (or maybe twelve times) that I love coconut! Bob however, is lukewarm about it. So when I was deciding which cupcakes to make during June he encouraged me to try more unique ones.

But he's out of town while I'm making these so I am going for it! Besides, I know my husband. When he gets home and sees these cupcakes sitting on the counter he will not be able to resist! The man is a cookie/cupcake monster!

This is one of Martha's more straightforward recipes. I do have to come clean with you though and admit that I didn't feel like lugging out my big food processor for the coconut, so I just used my little Black & Decker chop chop. The coconut wasn't ground as finely as it would have been if done in the big boy, but it was good enough for me. Other than that I followed the recipe exactly.

The result? Absolutely wonderful!

My experience has been that coconut cakes are generally rather dense cakes. Not the case here at all. The cake in these is light and airy. It baked up perfectly and didn't sink in the middle. They were beautiful.

And may I just say here that there was one cupcake that was just begging to be eaten before it was iced. It was just crying out to me! What could I do? In the interest of full disclosure, and the absence of my primary cupcake tester, I ate it. Oh yeah. This was one good cupcake. Mmmm. And this without any icing! Talk to me, Martha.

One odd thing about this recipe was that it says it makes about 20 cupcakes. I came out with 24 full size cupcakes and 18 mini cupcakes. Go figure.

Coconut Cupcakes
from: Martha Stewart's Cupcakes
Makes about 20

1 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup packed sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 & 1/3 cups sugar
2 large whole eggs plus 2 egg whites, room temperature
1 & 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
Seven-Minute Frosting (coconut variation)
1 & 1/3 cups unsweetened flaked coconut, for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Pulse shredded coconut in a food processor until finely ground, and whisk into flour mixture.

2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in whole eggs, whites, and vanilla, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of coconut milk, and beating until combined after each.

3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; turn out cupcakes onto wire racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

4. To finish, use a small offset spatula to spread a generous dome of frosting onto each cupcake, and, if desired, garnish with flaked coconut (press gently to adhere). Cupcakes are best eaten the day they're frosted; store at room temperature until ready to serve.

Seven Minute Frosting

1 & 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
6 large egg whites, room temperature

1. Combine 1 & 1/2 cups sugar with the water and corn syrup in a small saucepan; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling, without stirring until syrup reaches 230 degrees F.

2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, beating to combine.

3. As soon as sugar syrup reaches 230 degrees F, remove from heat. With mixer on medium-low speed, pour syrup down side of bowl in a slow, steady stream. Raise speed to medium-high; whisk until mixture is completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl) and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 7 minutes. Use immediately.

Coconut Variation: Add 1/2 teaspoon pure coconut extract at the end of step 3, whisking to combine.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rhubarb Custard Pie

Today I am sharing with you the most incredible pie in "pie history". I kid you not! This pie is unequaled! It is so incredibly awesome that just at the mention of the name you will begin to salivate! This pie, simply put, ROCKS!!! It is none other than (drum roll, please)...RHUBARB CUSTARD PIE!!!

Literally, this is an old family recipe. When my dad was alive he had a patch of rhubarb in his back yard. And this was one of his favorite pies. (Of course with my dad, I think every pie was one of his favorites!) I would go into the back yard and pick a bunch of rhubarb and take them home and make two pies. One for dad and one for me. He'd hide his so no one visiting him would get any! God, how I miss him.

Every time I take a bite of this wonderfully delicious pie I smile and close my eyes. In my mind, I'm sitting at dad's table with him and we are both moaning from the sheer bliss of rhubarb goodness hitting our tongues. This pie is my favorite. Hands down.

This one's for you, Daddy!

Rhubarb Custard Pie

3 cups chopped rhubarb
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 tablespoons flour
2 eggs, beaten
pie shell for double crust pie*

Mix sugar and flour. Add in beaten eggs. Toss with rhubarb.
Pour into pie shell. Add top crust and vent well. (I use a pie bird in the middle and cut vents around it.)
Bake 20 minutes at 400 degrees.
Reduce temperature to 300 degrees and continue baking 35-40 minutes.

*You can use whatever pie crust you prefer. I am blessed with a husband that makes an incredible pie crust from scratch. Woohoo!!!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bacon Wrapped Hamburgers

I love a good hamburger. Who doesn’t? Okay, vegetarians. But I’m not talking about vegetarians here. I’m asking all you meat loving, hamburger eating carnivores! And it is sooo disappointing when you are craving a really good burger and what you wind up eating is just, well, mediocre.

So I found this recipe for bacon wrapped burgers on, my “go-to” recipe site. You’ve heard me sing their praises before. And they didn’t let me down this time either. This is one good burger!

Just a few days before we made these, Bob and I had stopped at Smith’s Farm Market and picked up some sweet corn, tomatoes and jalapeños. We had a couple of banana peppers in our deck garden that were ripe and needed to be used, so I tossed together some salsa. I had some really good guacamole in the fridge, too.

Bob popped these burgers on the grill and toasted the buns. We piled on the salsa and guacamole and chowed down! With the sweet corn on the side and a few of Bob’s frozen margaritas, well let’s just say that I sure was one happy girl! What a great summer dinner!

The only changes, if you can even call them that, were that I used 3 slices bacon and three buns. I only made three burgers because my man doesn’t like chintzy little burgers. No, my man likes man-sized burgers!

Whatever. I made 3 burgers from the one pound of meat so I only needed the corresponding number of bacon & buns.

Next time you’re making burgers, give these a try. My guess is that you’re going to like them…a lot.

Bacon Wrapped Hamburgers

½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 small onion, chopped
1 egg
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground beef
6 slices bacon
6 hamburger buns split

1.Preheat a grill for high heat.

2.In a large bowl, mix together the Cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, onion, egg, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Crumble in the ground beef, and mix together by hand. Form into 6 patties and wrap a slice of bacon around each one. Secure bacon with toothpicks.

3.Place patties on the grill, and cook for 5 minutes per side, or until well done. Remove toothpicks before serving on hamburger buns.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pineapple Upside-down Cupcakes

Wow! Cupcake Friday came around pretty quick this week…seeing as how I just posted the Buckeye Cupcakes on Tuesday. But Friday it is. And have I got a good one for you this week.

Among our talented members of Dishing-It-Up! is one of the editors of “Family Fun Magazine”, Ellen Harter Wall. Through Ellen’s generosity I get to enjoy this great magazine every month. So when I opened the August issue and saw Pineapple Upside-down Cupcakes I knew exactly what the next Friday’s cupcake was going to be. I love pineapple upside down anything!

Put that in a cupcake and I’m in heaven! I just love the crunchy, crusty, buttery, baked sugary deliciousness of the topping, with pieces of juicy pineapple and a maraschino cherry in the middle! Oh-my-gosh! (Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my keyboard.) Then once your taste buds pass the topping, they hit the moist & bouncy cake that supports the toppings. That is if we’re talking good pineapple upside-down cake.

So I had pretty high expectations when I started to bake these cupcakes. The recipe looked straightforward. And the results? Well…let me tell you these cupcakes are so incredibly delicious that I wanted to eat them in multiples. (And Bob was out of town so I could have done just that with a reasonable chance of getting away with it. However, he reads the recipes and knows how many there should be and he gets just the teensiest bit testy if he doesn’t get his share. I’m just sayin’.)

So I limited myself to one…until morning. And then I had another for breakfast. I knew I’d better start giving them away or I’d eat the entire batch! So saving back Bob’s rations, I “doled” (get it? “doled”) out cupcakes to some willing taste testers; “Hotmom” (aka: Brooke), and Clint & Virna. All three gave them a definite thumbs up!

Pineapple Upside-down CupcakesFrom the August 2009 “Family Fun Magazine”Nancie McDermott, the author of “Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations”

For the batter:
6 tablespoons (¾ stick butter)
½ cup milk
1 cup flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping:
6 tablespoons (¾ stick)
¾ cup light or dark brown sugar, tightly packed
6 maraschino cherries
1 (20-ounce) can pineapple rings

Step 1: Heat the oven to 350˚. Place the butter and milk for the batter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Warm the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts, then transfer the mixture to a small bowl to cool.

Step 2: Meanwhile, prepare the pineapple topping. Into each cup of a 12-cup muffin pan, add ½ tablespoon of unmelted butter, then evenly sprinkle 1 tablespoon of brown sugar over the bottom. Place the pan in the oven until the butter melts, about 3 minutes.

Step 3: Halve each maraschino cherry, then cut the pineapple rings into quarters. Place a cherry half, sliced side up, in the center of each cup and lay a pineapple quarter on each side. Press the fruit gently down into the butter-sugar mixture, then set the prepared pan aside.

Step 4: Finish making the batter. In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and stir the ingredients with a fork until they’re evenly blended. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla. Add flour mixture and stir until the flour is fully incorporated. Add the milk-butter mixture and stir well to combine the ingredients into a smooth batter.

Step 5: Pour the batter into the muffin pan, dividing it evenly among all the cups. Bake the cupcakes until they’re lightly browned, dry around the edges and pulling away from the pan a little about 25 minutes.

Step 6: Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 5 minutes. Use a butter knife to carefully loosen each cupcake from the edges and bottom of the pan, then place a cookie sheet over the top. Invert the pan, turning the cupcakes out onto the cookie sheet, then transfer them back to the rack to cool completely. Serve the cupcakes at room temperature.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Thank you Mikaela Hunt!

For any of you that missed the interview on NBC Channel 4 tonight here is a link. I'm not sure how long you can access it, so check it out now!

By the way, "MIKAELA, YOU ROCK"!!!

Tuesday: Special Edition

What’s a buckeye?

According to Wikipedia, "Buckeye" may refer to:
•Several tree species of the genus Aesulus
•Ohio State Buckeyes, the intercollegiate athletic teams of The Ohio State University
•Buckeye (chicken), a breed of chicken originating in Ohio

But in our house they can only mean one of two things…candy or CUPCAKES!!!!

Yes!!! It is another edition of “CUPCAKE FRIDAY”!!!

Okay, I know this is Tuesday. Cut me some slack here! Remember we weren’t going to do “Cupcake Friday” anymore after the end of June? But apparently, some of you actually read this blog! Woohoo!!! And you like “Cupcake Friday”! In fact, word from some of you is that you want “Cupcake Friday” back! And seeing as how I am here to serve your whims and needs, “Cupcake Friday is definitely back. And it all starts with this special edition on Tuesday!

Why “Cupcake Friday” on Tuesday, you ask? Well, as if you didn’t already know (and how could you possibly not since I’ve been talking about it forever) Dishing-It-Up! is going to be on tv! O-M-G!!!

Yep! It’s true! None other than Channel 4’s Mikaela Hunt came out to the house to talk to me about Dishing-It-Up! We talked about how I got started doing the blog and we made cupcakes together. Seems that “Cupcake Friday” has claimed a certain spot in Mikaela’s heart. (Gotta love a girl that is passionate about her cupcakes!) So we did a special segment for you and we prepared Buckeye Cupcakes. I had some of the batter available to pour into pans & pop in the oven. Then we moved on to cupcakes that I had already baked. We filled them with peanut butter filling. This is a very technical process that Mikaela seemed to master immediately. She just stuck that pastry tip into the cupcake and squeezed til she saw the cupcake bulge! She proved to be quite proficient filling those little orbs of chocolate cake. We then frosted the filled cupcakes with a milk chocolate icing. I had so much fun with Mikaela and Steve (the wonderful photographer!) Thank you for coming out to see us!!!

And oh man are these things good! What’s not to like? I ask you Buckeye fans, “What’s not to like?” Chocolate cake, peanut butter filling and milk chocolate frosting? All of it homemade. No mixes. None of that semi-homemade stuff here! No way! (At least not with this recipe.)

Just pure buckeye happiness.

Buckeye Cupcakes
This recipe is from my friend Amy Pressler (aka: Aunt Bea)
Makes 24 cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes:
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup milk

Peanut Butter Filling:
½ cup creamy peanut butter
3 T. butter, softened to room temperature
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
3 to 4 T. milk

Chocolate Frosting:
1 ½ cups milk chocolate chips (9 oz.)
¾ cup sour cream

Heat oven to 375. Line the cups in 2 standard size muffin pans with paper liners.

For cupcakes, in medium size bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
In large bowl, with mixer on medium high, beat butter and sugar until smooth and creamy, 2 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla until fluffy, 1 minute. On low speed, beat in flour mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fill each prepared muffin cup two-thirds full, about 3 T.

Bake in 375 oven 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from pan to wire rack; cool.

Filling: In medium size bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat peanut butter and butter until smooth. On low speed, gradually beat in sugar and 3 T. milk. On high speed, beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute. If too thick, beat in 1 more T. milk.
When cupcakes are cooled, spoon filling into large pastry bag fitted with plain round tip. Insert tip into top of each cupcake; squeeze as much filling into center as possible (top will bulge a little).

Chocolate frosting: In large glass bowl, microwave milk chocolate pieces on High power 1 to 2 minutes, stirring to melt. With mixer on medium speed, beat in sour cream until fluffy and good spreading consistency. Frost cupcakes. Store covered in refrigerator up to 3 days.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"No Mary Ellen, it's not cookies."

I saw the recipe for this soup and thought it was kind of odd. You use a cooked chicken to make the broth? Weird, huh? I thought so. Well then of course I want to make it! I'm all about weird. You all know that!!!

This comes from the latest issue of the Food Network Magazine Aug/Sept 2009. It is really, really good. And it's pretty fun to plop a whole cooked chicken into the pot! That aside, the soup is not to be missed. It's reminiscent of Italian Wedding soup, which is one of my favorite soups. It comes together much quicker than similar chicken soups, and I absolutely love the rich and creamy broth. I just used about a quarter of a box of frozen chopped spinach because that is what I had. It worked wonderfully. Just the right amount. For the pastina I used acini di pepe.

This one's a "keeper".

Chicken and Egg Soup with Pastina
Aug/Sep 2009 Food Network Magazine
Serves 4

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 of a 2-1/2 to 3 pound rotisserie chicken (on the bone)
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 lemons
1/2 cup pastina (small pasta)
2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
2 cups baby spinach or other baby greens
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
Crumbled feta cheese, for garnish (optional)

1. Heat the 1/4 cup olive oil in a large pot over high heat. Add the onion, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste; cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken, the broth, 4 cups water and the juice of 1 lemon; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, add the pastina and simmer until the pasta is cooked and the soup thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken; when cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the bone and shred into bite-size pieces.

2. Remove the soup from the heat. Whisk the juice of the remaining lemon with the whole eggs and yolks in a medium bowl until frothy. Gradually whisk a ladleful of the hot soup into the egg mixture, then stir the warm egg mixture into the soup and return to medium-low heat. Cook until creamy, about 1 minute. Stir in the shredded chicken, spinach and dill, and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls; garnish with feta, if desired.

*When I was uploading my photo, I said to Bob that my broth was much darker than the picture in the magazine. Well, as I am typing the recipe I see that I was only supposed to use 1/2 of the chicken! I floated the whole darn bird in the broth & water!!! LOL! Oh well, no wonder the broth was so "rich and creamy"!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Midnight Travels-Dirty Frank's

So when the trained palate isn't out with the pudgy gal, and it's twelve hours later than a Noontime Travel, just what is it? Well, it's a Midnight Travel, and the trained palate is usually accompanied by the trained artist in their search for food after 10pm.
So, I've been wanting to go to Dirty Franks for, I don't know, before they even opened and everytime I've suggested it (after 10 pm of course) the trained artist goes "Nha, let's go to Press" or "Nha, I don't want a hotdog" So low and behold, the one day that I worked late this week, I check my text messages and find this from the artist:
"I am at dirty franks and they have a kimchee dog. OMG they also have a siracha dog and indian mango chutney dog. we are coming here all the time asap"

(cue the phone call that followed the above text message)

"You went to Dirty Frank's WITHOUT ME? I've been trying to get you to go for like two weeks!!"

"Oh man, that chicago dog was so good! You're gonna love it..."

"You went WITHOUT ME!"

"It's okay, we'll go tomorrow"
For those of you who don't know, Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace is the latest addition to Liz Lessner's family of bar/eateries. Betty's, Surly Girl, and Tip Top are the others, all have food until 1 or 2 am, a great selection of beers and mixed drinks and a healthy dose of humor.

Fast forward to tonight.. FINALLY!

I got the Seoul (kimchee) dog and the Chili dog, while the trained artist got the Whoa Nelly (BBQ brisket on a hotdog) and the Hot Bollywood (spicy Indian mango chutney) And of course a couple of beers and tater tots to round everything out. We later got the Ohioana (sweet corn, red pepper, jalapeno, and red onion relish topped with celery salt) to split.

I will say I think certain combinations of topping would be better suited for the polish sausage or the jumbo beef dog. The kimchee isn't bad for not being homemade, but it's almost overpowering with just the standard hot dog. The advertized sharp cheddar is nice and sharp, the Whoa Nelly is SUPER beefy and the Bollywood is hot, but a bit messy.

The drink menu has a great diversity, everything from beer to alcoholic slushies and Frostop Root Beer on draft, but will be even BETTER when the back ordered freezer comes in and you can add Jenni's ice cream to that rootbeer...

Needless to say, the artist wants to work his way through the dog menu and I'm happy to tag along.

Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cool Cucumber Pasta

This is one of the best side dishes ever for any summer meal...Cool Cucumber Pasta. Oh my. Doesn't just the name even make you feel the heat less? I kid you not, this stuff is so incredibly good you will not be able to stop eating it. Bob says it should be a "controlled substance"! And he's right!

The first time I saw this, I thought "What the heck?" Ugh...who would ever put pasta with cucumbers? And onions! That's just gross. Well I am here to tell you this stuff rocks! It's a brilliant combination that just works.

The marinade's got a sweet/sour thing going on. And then you've got your requisite garlic, which we all know is a must in the Collier house. So that's working for it. Then the onions. The key is to use an onion like Vidalia or any of the other sweet varieties. And this is paramount: slice it thin, thin, thin. I mean really thin...paper thin. The cucumbers, too. And make sure you make it at least 24 hours before serving. The flavors really need time to marry. It just gets better and better.

I can barely even write this post without drooling.

Give this a try. I'm promising you that it'll make you

Cool Cucumber Pasta
adapted from: "Taste of Home"

8 oz penne pasta
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium cucumbers, peeled & thinly sliced (or sometimes I use one unpeeled English cucumber)
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
3/4 cup white vinegar
1 Tablespoon prepared mustard
1 Tablespoon dried parsley flakes (I generally use 3 Tablespoons fresh chopped parsley)
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon pepper

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions; drain and rinse in cold water. Place in a large bowl; stir in oil, cucumbers and onion.
2. Combine remaining ingredients. Pour over salad and toss.
3. Cover and chill for minimum of 3-4 hours, overnight is even better. Stir occasionally. Serve with a slotted spoon.
4. Try not to eat the entire dish in one yourself...while you're alone...thinking no one will me on this...

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Salsa Challenge

WARNING- This is a picture heavy post, not for those weak of bandwidth.

Okay, you might remember from a couple of months ago back I mentioned something about my tomatillo salsa being awesome, and I got called on it. Now I have to add a disclaimer to this post before I start to let you know that the only people who got to enjoy my hard work were myself and my mom...What can I say, it was a busy week at work!

Anyhow, since challenged, I decided to make not one, but THREE salsas all in a couple of hours. Madness you say? Salsa too time consuming, it's easier to open a jar? PAH! Nothing beats really great homemade salsa and it's super easy.

First off, tomatillo, cucumber and roasted corn salsa. This is a recipe I learned while working in Phoenix. It's not by any means traditional, but it sure is tasty! You start with tomatillos, husks removed, washed and cut into a small dice. Next, peeled and seeded English cucumber, cut the same way, a 2 to 1 ratio tomatillos to cucumber. Now roast some corn on the grill, or an open flame...

Don't want to fire up the grill just for an ear or two of corn? Don't have a grill because you live in an apartment? NO PROBLEM.....

Yes, I did exactly what you think I did. Creme Brulee torch to the corn. It worked, okay?

Now add finely minced garlic, cilantro and lime juice. Have trouble juicing limes? Forget all those silly tricks with microwaving it, forking, or even rolling it. Just cut it in thirds like so:

I learned that one from the side of a commercial use lime box. Amazing the things you can pick up from packaging.

Anyhow, salt generously, stir and let sit. Personally I like this salsa the next day, or at least a couple of hours later since the lime gets a chance to take away some of the bitter finish of the tomatillos, but with a nice tortilla chip or say, cumin rubbed NY strip steak (heheh) it's light and refreshing.

Next, the classic chip and dip salsa, the stuff you get at every Mexican restaurant, except better. Why? Because we're going to use fresh, local grown tomatoes! This salsa is even easier than the first because you don't have to cut anything the same. All you have to do is core the tomatoes, score the bottoms so you can peel them easier, rough cut a half a yellow onion, peel a couple cloves of garlic, and rough chop a Serrano pepper..

Okay, don't panic now. You don't have to use a Serrano. You can use a more mild jalapeno, or omit it all together. Just make sure you use fresh cause while I like pickled jalapenos on my nachos at the movies, they taste funky in fresh salsa.

Fill a pot with enough water to cover everything and tablespoon of salt, but until it comes to a boil, don't add the tomatoes if they are nice and ripe. Once at a boil, add them, let cook for 3-4 minutes depending on the size then turn it off. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, pull them out of the water and peel the skin off, quarter them, drain the rest of the water and throw everything into the blender.

Puree until smooth and then I let mine cool before I add finely shredded cilantro and check the salt. Once it's cool, it might separate, again, DO NOT PANIC! Just ladle off the thicker stuff at the top, and keep the clear "salsa water" for a great tequila mixer.

Last, but most certainly not least, guacamole. How, you might ask do you make guacamole ahead of time without it turning brown. Simple.. Make it without the avocados and then add those when you are ready! It starts with a simple pico de gallio base and some extra lime juice and salt. Tomatoes, seeded and diced, red onion minced, garlic, minced jalapeno, cilantro, salt and LOTS of lime juice. Now you can let this sit and meld together and then when party time comes, add your avocado by cutting them in half, removing the pit. Using a butter knife, make lots of long, random cuts and then scoop that avocado out with a spoon. Cut the next avocado into larger chunks and mix it all together.

As I write this, I realize that I forgot to take a picture of the finished guacamole! The middle picture at the top of this post is what the "base" should look like when it's done.

Just remember, all that the word "salsa" mean in Spanish is "sauce". It isn't just for chips, it's great on grilled meat, sandwiches, eggs, fish. I used to sneak a mini crossant with a spoonfull of guacamole smeared on it (with some chopped, cooked bacon) as a pre dinner service snack when working in Phoenix so the sky is the limit!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Noon Time Travels: Taste of Belgium

Oh man! When I heard there was a place opening in the North Market that was selling Belgian Waffles I was stoked. But when I heard they were going to have crepes, too…well I was practically apoplectic! I have been on a quest for the perfect crepe since I had one years ago. And I mean years ago.

When I was a student at Ohio Dominican College (which is University now) I was student teaching with some really cool gals. They introduced me to great practical teaching methods, and a whole lot more. They would take me to really cool places I hadn’t been to before. One of these was a French restaurant that was in a big old house. I remember that the rooms were like separate dining rooms with only a few tables in each. Being young and not having much in the way of money, my experience with French restaurants at that point was little, if none. I remember I had the most incredible chicken and mushroom crepes with a white cream sauce. Those crepes made such an impression on me. They were everything that perfection should be. O.M.G.

Ever since then I have been looking for a crepe experience that would transport me back to that French restaurant in 1977. Alas, I have not found it yet. Came close once when a friend of my sister’s made chicken crepes for her. They were quite incredible. But Julie wasn’t willing to share the recipe. Maybe someday she will…I will be a happy girl if that happens!!!

But I digress. Back to Taste of Belgium. I took off for a Noon Time Travel. But when I entered the North Market looking for L3 I saw this very mysterious French woman. Who could this mademoiselle be? I hooked up with her and like two women on a mission we headed directly to the South end of the market. We had heard of a place called “Taste of Belgium”. Could it be true that we could get wonderful waffles and crepes in Columbus, Ohio? Descending on them, we perused the menu. It all looked so good. Oh the decisions we had to make! What to order???

First some important details. The batter used for the crepes is a buckwheat batter with beer. Yeah! What’s not to like about that? The crepe batter is poured onto one of two crepe irons. This is beauty in motion. Once the batter is poured, the crepe maker (is there an official name for this person?) begins pushing the batter with a wooden tool. It is pushed around and out in a circular motion until the batter is evenly spread in a circle. Then the crepe maker cooks it to perfection; flips the crepe to cook the other side; pours on beaten egg and adds the rest of the ingredients. He/she then folds it over and there you have a perfectly made crepe.

Then there are the waffles! Oh my, the waffles! It is so cool to watch these being made. The batter is nothing like we would think of waffle batter. It really is more of a dough with a wonderful vanilla flavor. The dough is made in Cincinnati and the owner brings it to the North Market. The waffle irons are really something to see. Each weighs 120 pounds! The ball of dough is dropped onto the iron and the iron is closed. It slowly presses the waffle down and cooks it. The result is an amazingly wonderful crisp crust that is sweet and oh so good!

We knew it was our civic duty to try some of both the sweet and savory items. There was no way we could not! Why, we’d be letting all of you down. We resigned ourselves to the fact that this was our destiny. We soldiered on!

Ze mysterious French woman ordered a Traditional crepe. This crepe begins with the buckwheat batter and adds egg, ham and Gruyere cheese. She also requested a waffle. I stepped up and selected the Italian crepe and the caramel au beurre salé. The Italian crepe is the buckwheat batter with egg, mozzarella cheese, provolone cheese and cappicola ham. The caramel au beurre salé crepe is a sweet crepe with a slightly salty caramel. The coffee machine was out for repairs so we were unable to taste any of the java offerings.

We took our treasures up to the top level of the market and situated ourselves with our feast. And a feast it was! The traditional crepe was delicious! Of the crepes, this was my favorite. (But keep in mind there are so many others we have yet to try!) The Gruyere cheese absolutely made this crepe! It literally made the egg and ham sing! It was wonderful!

The Italian crepe was also good. In my humble opinion, the cappicola overpowered the mild mozzarella and provolone cheeses a bit. Nevertheless, I would have had to slap someone’s hand if they had tried to take it away from me!

The caramel au beurre salé was also very good. I prefer this style of crepe because, well, we all know that I have 32 “sweet tooths”!

However, the pièce de résistance was the waffle. Wow! Wow! Wow! It was amazing! I don’t even know how to begin to describe this to you! I think I had “a moment” when I bit into this. It was nirvana. It was utopia. It was sheer heaven! Yeah, I liked it okay. And wait! What was that I saw?

Through the haze I believe I saw a hint of a smile on Ze mysterious French woman’s face. It was that good.

If you’d like to get the whole story of how the Taste of Belgium came to the North Market, check out this link:

As for my quest for those chicken and mushroom crepes? I'm still looking. But I simply cannot stop thinking about getting back to the North Market for another waffle…or maybe waffles!

Taste of Belgium on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Coconut Macaroons

I really love coconut. No, I mean I really love coconut! And the older I get the more I love it. I know so many people that just don't like it. They can't even really say why. And so many more say they'll eat it in such-n-such but don't know if they truly like it or not. Even my husband (who I think has impeccably good taste) says he's not really crazy about coconut. I just don't get it. I love coconut.

So when I saw this recipe for coconut macaroons on I knew I had to have them. And I'm talking now! I was like a woman possessed. I had all the ingredients...except the coconut! Oh how could that be? When Bob came into the kitchen to find out why I was wailing (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit), he said he'd go get me coconut 'cause he likes a good coconut macaroon. Uh, wasn't this the same guy that wasn't crazy about coconut? Aha! Yes, but he is the original Cookie Monster. So if it's in a cookie, it's okay by him!

When I had the coconut in hand, it was so simple from there. This recipe is so elementary and so so good. It takes almost nothing to make it and produces these gorgeous little gems. Bob took most of them to work and I gave some away. Otherwise I would eat the entire batch myself.

Really I would! 'Cause I love coconut!!

Coconut Macaroons

1 large egg white
pinch of salt
1/2 can (7 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 bag shredded sweetened coconut (14 oz)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk egg white and salt until frothy, about 2 minutes. Stir in condensed milk and vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, fold in coconut until well combined.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick baking mat. Using a teaspoon and your fingers, form macaroons into 1 1/4 inch mounds about 1 inch apart.
3. Bake until macaroons are golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer the macaroons to a cooling rack. Let cool completely.