Monday, July 16, 2012

Poached Chicken Breasts

I am in a rare mood tonight.  I had a very rough day at work.  A tenant, two floors above our suite, had a leak and it leaked into my office.  By the time I arrived at work, the elves had used a wet vac on my space and another company was drying things out.  This meant I was displaced.  It also meant that the office I have been eyeing for a year could possibly by mine.  I asked for it and I got it.  The majority of the day was spent moving what items I could to this space.  It is an odd feeling being in this office but I am sure I will get accustomed to it.

As I rushed home I also realized that I needed to send a package to my loved one.  I parked in front of my house and saw something sticking out of the mailbox.  I gasped.  I knew what it was but I didn't have time to open it.

Upon my return home, I opened all the other mail - the bills, the junk, the statements...and I opened the large package.  It was a cookbook, sent to me by a dear friend and her husband.  Julia Child's The Way to Cook cookbook.  This book is massive!  I thumbed through the pages and settled on her Chicken Breasts Poached in Butter recipe.  It is amazing...tender, succulent and tasty.

Bon Appetit!!!!

boneless skinless chicken breast halves
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 a large lemon, juiced
1 Tbsp fresh or 1 tsp dried tarragon
4 Tbsp butter
fresh parsley, chopped
1. PREP: preheat the oven to 400. Season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper and tarragon to taste. Place butter in a flame-proof casserole and heat over MEDIUM until butter is melted. Add lemon juice and stir. Roll the breasts in the butter and then lay them flat in one layer in the casserole. Place a piece of wax paper over them. (This will help keep the moisture in and make your chicken breasts plump.) Cover the casserole with the lid.

2. BAKE: Place the casserole into the oven and bake until chicken breasts are fully cooked, about 25-30 minutes. To serve, place a chicken breast over rice or noodles. Spoon the sauce over the top and then sprinkle with parsley.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Queen of Pops

There is a local food truck aptly named King of Pops that makes its stops around Atlanta.  I've never been fortunate enough to try their delights but the reviews are amazing.

Out of the blue, as I was searching for some sweet and cold confection to create, popsicles dawned on me.  Now...what says summer better than popsicles?  Not much.

I fondly recalled running in the house asking for a popsicle from my Mother (or Grandmother or hell...friend's Mother).  I was reward with a cold fruity confection (that at that time was probably filled with tons of sugar).  I couldn't eat this delight fast enough.  All of the kids would wear the stains of the orange, grape, banana (which I hated) or cherry (my absolute favorite popsicle) and we would be sticky and grimy.  But...we were in heaven.

Popsicles have changed quite a bit - they now come with bits of fruit, some are even savory and some are creamy.

For my creation, I opted to go with something easy and semi healthy.  I also decided to use ingredients on hand as well as one of my favorite flavors.  I decided on lemon.  Lemon just screams of summer.

I present to you my lemon yogurt popsicles!  Enjoy them on a hot summer day and remember what it was like to be a child...

Lemon Yogurt Popsicles

2/3 cup sugar
7 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
1 pinch salt
1 2/3 cup Greek yogurt

Whisk sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel, and salt in 4-cup measuring cup until sugar dissolves. Whisk in yogurt.  Divide mixture among ice pop molds. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours and up to 5 days.

 The popsicle molds came from Ikea.  I think they are fun and cut.

Here's the finished product...

Very tasty, very lemony, cold, creamy and there is a slight tanginess from the yogurt.

Happy summer!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Biscuits and butter

I am a girl raised in the South.  My roots run deep and my love for the comforting classic Southern foods runs rampant.  My Mother was never a biscuit maker and I don't remember her Mother, my Grandmother, making any.  Yet I long for the crumbly, soft and light biscuits that can be slathered in gravy, stuffed with delights from pepper crusted bacon to salty country ham.  Nothing delights more than a simple biscuit with butter...

My offering today is a simple, elegant and tasty Southern biscuit.

Baking Powder Biscuits
Source: Julia Child, Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 2/3 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup milk

Whisk together dry ingredients.

Use a pastry knife (or two knives) to cut in vegetable shortening. Blend until the texture is similar to cornmeal.  With a wooden spoon, stir in milk. Dump out onto a floured surface and fold in half 6 times over. Spread with your hands until it is 3/4″ deep.  Use a biscuit cutter to cut 10-12 biscuits. Place on a piece of parchment paper and bake at 425 for 10-12 minutes.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Be still my heart...

This past Christmas I unwrapped, with the utmost care, cookie stamps that sat unused - wrapped in lovely tissue and in a small box.  I looked at them...I stared...I wondered.  The stamps had delicate holiday decorations on them - a snowman, a snowflake, an Evergreen...I tried butter cookie recipe after recipe but nothing worked.  The stamped design never showed up and in frustration - I threw the stamps back in the box and slammed the cupboard door.  NOTE:  there goes that patience thing again.

Fast forward to today.  I am looking at food blogs - for art, for inspirations, for ideas...bottom line for the hell of it.  And this falls in my lap.  My eyes glaze over, visions of these lovely, delicate delights fill my head and I know I must make them for our annual Christmas party.

I'm no fool...I will practice with my cookie stamps from Germany before I rush out and by this gorgeous rolling pin.

I'll keep you updated...

Summer Baking

Yes, I agree!  Summer baking is now a true statement in Georgia or anywhere else where the temperatures have been around 106 degrees.  We experienced some dreadful heat this past weekend and we are now reveling in the powerful, yet beautiful thunderstorms that follow.

In spite of the heat, I have managed to spend a great deal of time in my kitchen.  Cooking has always calmed me but baking has always been stressful for me.  Many people say it is because I lack patience that baking is stressful.  I sat and thought about that comment and I realized that it was true.  I am the first to confess that I am ready for the end result - the luscious, tender cake with the great brown crispy crust, the gooey, chewy warm brownies with the vanilla bean gelato melting into them, the fluffy, butter laden biscuit with homemade jelly...HURRY UP OVEN!!!!

As I planned my July 4th menu, I relaxed as I realized I didn't have a time frame...I had all the time in the world.

So with that thought in mind...the one of I have all the time in the world...shall we muse about what we want to create?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cookie Time - simple and basic

Nothing says comfort to me like a chocolate chip cookie.  I've tried many - soft, chewy, crispy, with nuts, without, with oats, with peanut get it.  Nothing satisfies me like the King Arthur Flour chocolate chip cookie.  It's perfection.  It's chewy but not gooey. It's crispy but not crumbly.  It's simple..batter and chocolate chips.

I am beginning a project and felt the need for comfort and felt the need to pamper myself and what better way to spend a lazy Sunday than baking and eating chocolate chip cookies?

I am reading a great book of daily practices called Simple Abundance and this month's focus is food - more specifically, today's focus is comfort food.  What other food can invoke childhood and adult memories like the chocolate chip cookie?

Here's the recipe and a few pictures of the finished comfort food product.  Enjoy!

  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, right from the fridge, or at room temperature

  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

  • 1 teaspoon vinegar, cider or white

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 large egg

  • 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

1) In a large bowl, combine the sugars, butter, shortening, salt, vanilla and almond extracts, vinegar, and baking soda, beating until smooth and creamy.

2) Beat in the egg, again beating till smooth. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure everything is thoroughly combined.

3) Mix in the flour, then the chips.

4) Use a spoon (or a tablespoon cookie scoop) to scoop 1 1/4" balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving 2" between them on all sides; they'll spread.

5) Bake the cookies for 11 to 12 minutes, till their edges are chestnut brown and their tops are light golden brown, almost blonde. Remove them from the oven, and cool on the pan till they've set enough to move without breaking. Repeat with the remaining dough.

These cookies were a wonderful treat for a tired and weary soul...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Baking as meditation...

Many people have written about baking bread as meditation. Just google it and lots of things will come up - from cookbooks to blogs.

I admit that I am not a baker. I love baked goods but I can't bake. Years ago I realized my baking skills were lacking due to a lack of patience. I am the baker that opens the oven door, that stands there tapping her feet, sneaking small pieces of bread, cake, brownies, cookies, rolls well before they are done. I end up tossing the whole lot because they weren't good enough. Well...that says something about me and my need for perfection.

I recently began honoring and loving myself on a level deeper than surface love (looking good, buying expensive products and items). I have always meditated but now I do it with ease and peace because I love myself and I need to take care of me.

This self love and self care spills over to the meals I create as well as my baking skills. I spent yesterday relaxing and making sticky buns for my beloved. Today I created pumpernickel bread - an homage to the man I love.

I used this recipe and it was a breeze: I used my bread machine and all I had to do was set and forget it.

Look at the finished tastes as good as it looks.

Who says baking can't add a dimension to your meditation?

Happy Meals

Don't let the title of this blog fool you!  Happy Meals - I am sure people know about the infamous McDonald's happy meals.  There were no happy meals when I was a child (I'll be 47 this year) but my daughter (who is 24) loved them.

This is a different kind of happy meal.  This is a meal that makes you happy when you prepare as well as eat it.

I had a *happy* Independence Day!  The day was filled with grilled chicken, homemade barbecue sauce, my grandmother's potato salad, bleu cheese cole slaw, smoked pork loin stuffed with Andouille sausage (thanks to my friend Jerry), smoked chicken and a family recipe pound cake.   My neighbor, the Deej, came over and we ate and drank until we were full.

I can't share my bbq sauce recipe with you (I'm entering it in a contest) but I will share photos of the cake as well as the recipe.

This cake turned out to be amazing and I thought the frosting effects looked like a fireworks blast. Here's the recipe:

1/2 pound butter
1/2 cup crisco
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream butter and shortening together until pale yellow, light and fluffy. Add sugar, a half cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Sift dry ingredients together in a bowl and add to butter, sugar and egg mixture, alternating with milk, starting with the flour and ending with the flour. Add vanilla. Pour into a greased and floured tube pan and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean

Food should be should make you happy.