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methods & madness…
class 17: quick breads, and a berry silly mistake

Spaghetti with Bolognese Sauce

Recipes & Ramblings from Chef School

After working with yeast last week, we sped up our baking lesson this week with quick breads. I love that you don’t need to be a great baker to achieve success in the kitchen.

finger cotWhat I didn’t anticipate was how dangerous moving too quickly in the kitchen can be (not to mention using a chef’s knife to cut butter – dumb, dumb, dumb!)  And that is how I almost got benched this week, were it not for an unusual product called “finger cots” (which tickles my inner adolescent-boy funny bone). These digit prophylactics are used in professional kitchens to cover boo-boos, and prevent Band-Aids and associated “things” from becoming part of the recipe.

You can buy finger cots at your local drug store or online. Continue Reading →

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grains, greens and grins…

  Yummy Gorgeous Grains

I am 14 weeks into professional French cooking classes. If there is one thing we know about French cuisine, it’s how much the French love butter, meats and sauces. So when my friend Sophia asked me to take a detox cooking class, I purchased it immediately. I need to balance out all those fatty foods with something healthy.

I think we all know how good eating anything green is, and the “Dapper Detox” class from Meal and a Spiel, made the process of eating greens and grains less daunting.

Fun Fact: Did you know the color green occupies more space in the spectrum visible to the human eye? There has to be a reason for that… maybe as a reminder to eat more green!

Dragonfly Green Tea

Our energetic teacher, Elana Horwich began the evening by making her Dragonfly Green Tea. This complex, yet alluring warm brew is a healthy alternative to your morning cup of joe. Matcha Green Tea Powder, one of the key ingredients, is rich in nutrients, antioxidants, fiber and chlorophyll.

Continue Reading →

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White Chocolate & Apricot Scones

white chocolate and apricot scones

I think everyone has their favorite “go-to” recipe. You know the one that won’t let you down when you get in a pinch. This is mine. I can almost make these scones in my sleep… in matter of fact I think I did. Somewhere between spending 6 hours in my car driving all over LA in Friday rush hour traffic, and several hours in ER with a friend, I squeezed baking these treats in.

What was the baking urgency? The LA Food Bloggers Cookie & Cookbook Exchange hosted by In Erika’s Kitchen. It was great to meet other fellow bloggers and chow down on some of the best cookies I have tasted in a long time. Check out Dorothy’s blog Shockingly Delicious to see gorgeous photos of the event.

White Chocolate & Apricot Scones

Adapted from Simply Scones Cookbook
Makes about 2 dozen or so.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped dried apricots
  • nutmeg – optional

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and distribute them over the flour mixture. With a pastry blender or two knives used scissors fashion, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the cream, egg, and vanilla. Add the cream mixture to the flour mixture and knead until combined. Knead in the white chocolate and apricots.
  4. On a lightly floured work surface roll out the dough to a thickness of about 5/8-inch. Using a 3-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut the dough into hearts. Gather the scraps of the dough together and repeat until all the dough has been used to make the hearts. Sprinkle with nutmeg (optional).
  5. Transfer the hearts to an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until top is lightly browned.
  6. Remove from baking sheet to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm, or cool completely and store in an airtight container.

To Freeze:
Wrap the unbaked scones tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and freeze.  Bake the still-frozen scone hearts about 20-25 minutes.


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methods & madness…

class 5: dairy and eggs

This week’s class was jam-packed full of information about dairy and eggs. We learned all about milk, cream, butter, cheese, hollandaise sauce and eggs. We tasted some fabulous cheeses and cooked up some eggs-traordinary dishes.

So not to double up on information please read Rona’s blog for the basics. She covered all that we learned and still managed to make it funny. I will be writing this blog from a historical & fun facts angle.

Holstein CowDistinguished Dairy

We will start with the food that we all began our lives with… milk. It is one of the most versatile foods. Milk is on average 87% water, 5% milk sugar (lactose) and the rest fat, protein and minerals.

 What are the different kinds of milk?  

  • Pasteurized – milk that has been heated to a temperature between 140-160 degrees to kill any potentially dangerous bacteria. Unfortunately it kills the good bacteria as well.
  • Unpasteurized – also known as raw milk. Europeans swear by it. Canadians, Australians, and 28 U.S. States have banned the sale of it. I grew up drinking raw milk and I turned out ok. Wait a minute… this could explain some things!

If you want to know more in detail about other types of milk such as homogenized, UHT, dried milk, evaporated and condensed CLICK HERE to read a great article by MM Del Rosario.

Holy cow… did you know?

  • It used to take a person 1 hour to milk 6 cows by hand. Today, a person can milk 100 cows in an hour with modern machines.
  • Average U.S. cow produces 90 glasses of milk each day.  
  • Milk is the official state beverage of 20 states; here in California it’s wine.

Cream of the Crop

Cream is the fat that rises to the top of whole milk. It has to be at least 20% fat to be called cream. We learned about the differences of fat in cream and what each cream’s function is.

I was excited to learn how easy it is to make one of my favorite creams – Creme Fraiche (krem fresh).  It is a thick and smooth heavy cream with a nutty and slightly sour taste. Much better than sour cream in my book. It is so simple to make at home.

Make your own Creme Fraiche 

Simply combine 1 cup heavy cream with 1 tablespoon buttermilk and stir. Allow the mixture to stand in a warm place, loosely covered with a towel, until thickened but still pourable. This can take anywhere from 8 to 36 hours, but taste every 6 hours. It is ready when it is thick.  Refrigerate.  Will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.

For comprehensive overview on cream, check out JoyofBaking.com.

Big cheese

Cheese is one of the oldest of made foods. The earliest records come from cave paintings in the Libyan Sahara dating from 5000 B.C.  Traces of actual cheese have been found in an Egyptian tomb around 3000 B.C. Source: The Oxnard Companion of Food

Cheese is basically curdled milk of sheep, goats, cows, or other mammals. The distinction between true cheese and things like cream cheese, creme fraiche, etc. is the way in which the milk is curdled. Milk can be curdled either by acid and/or by rennet.

My mother believes no meal is complete without cheese. She is not alone. Americans consumed an average of 31 lbs. of cheese per person per year. The largest consumer is Greece with approx. 63 lbs., followed by France with 54 lbs.

Blessed are the cheesemakers…

There are over 2000 varieties for cheese makers to choose from. With so many cheeses, the taste ranges from mild to extremely strong/stinky.

The fat ranges from 1% to 75%.  The lowest being Schabziger – a hard, green cheese with a strong flavor from Switzerland (no, not the moon).  The highest being Brillat-Savarin – a triple cream, cow milk brie with a luscious & faintly sour flavor from France.

Cheese bites

Our selection of cheese in class came from The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills and featured a few classics.

Bucherondin de Chevre Cheese

Bucherondin de Chèvre – is a soft, but semi-firm in texture goat milk cheese that is a native of Loire Valley in France.

Brie_de_Meaux Brie de Meaux – is the first brie ever made. Brie is considered the French cheese’s king of kings.  The flavor is nutty and complex with wild mushroom nuances.

romao cheese from Spain Romao – is a dry, salty and tangy Spanish cheese rubbed in olive oil and rolled in rosemary. This cheese would be an interesting Parmesan substitute.

Abbaye de Belloc – this French unpasteurized hard sheep cheese was first made by the Benedictine monks of the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Belloc. It is firm and dense, yet still creamy and the flavor is rich, buttery, nutty, and fruity with hints of caramel.

Fourme-d'Ambert blue cheeseFourme d’Ambert  – is a soft, mild blue that is slightly creamy and very spreadable. It is one of France’s oldest cheeses, and dates from as far back as Roman times.

If there were only 1 cheese left on the planet, I would want it to be a sweet, fresh cheese called Burrata.

burrata cheese

The outer shell is solid mozzarella while the soft buttery inside contains both mozzarella and cream. Yum! I love it with fresh heirloom tomatoes and prosciutto.

Some day when I am feeling like a culinary rock star I will make my own Burrata with these simple instructions.

Now Rona is a goat cheese girl.  She likes them all.

Humbolt Fog Cheese

My favorite is a creamy and tangy goat milk cheese called Humboldt Fog. This local cheese is made in Arcata, California.

Behold the power of cheese

  • Relieves stress and induces sleep
  • Help prevent tooth decay
  • High concentration of essential nutrients including proteins and calcium
  • Reduce problems associated with PMS.
  • It makes my mother very happy… and that makes me happy. 

Cheesy thoughts to ponder

If cheese is made from animal milk… and we know milk isn’t yellow… but we know how yellow snow is made… should we be concerned?

Originally, cheese could be different shades depending on when it was made and what the cows had eaten. In the spring and summer, cows eat fresh grass and other plants that contained beta-carotene and vitamin D. This results in yellow cheese. In the winter, cows eat hay instead, so the cheese is pale.

Engaging Eggs 

Last but not least, we learned about another kitchen marvel… the egg. They are one of nature’s most perfectly balanced foods, containing all the protein, vitamins (except vitamin C) and minerals essential for good health. All that for only 71 calories! The edible part of a chicken’s egg is approximately 74% water, 12% protein, and 11% fat.

According to chefs and professional cooks, there are over 100 ways to cook eggs. The simplest ways to cook eggs can be divided into four categories: frying, scrambling, boiling, and baking.

We also learned how to scramble, fry, poach, and make a French omelet.

eggs

Rona explains the egg-cellent techniques on her blog CLICK HERE to read.

Cracking Up 

  • The older a hen gets, the larger her eggs become. Hmmm… sounds like my thighs.
  • A hen can lay about 250 eggs per year.
  • Hens with white earlobes produce white eggs, and hens with red earlobes produce brown eggs.

Classroom Assignment:

In class we each made a cheese soufflé.  It was surprisingly easy and tasted oh so good.

Cheese Souffle

Egg whites whipped into a stiff peak and gently folding in the egg whites are essential for a good soufflé. CLICK HERE for the recipe.

         

We also poached an egg and made hollandaise sauce.

For my homework I chose to make Eggs Florentine.  It was a lot of work but worth every bit of the effort. I added the Canadian Bacon. I would like to egg you on to try this scrumptious recipe.

Eggs Florentine

From New School of Cooking
Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 English muffins ( I used crumpets)
  • 1 lb. spinach washed & dried
  • Olive oil for sautéing spinach
  • 12 poached eggs
  • 1 recipe for Hollandaise Sauce – see below
  • Canadian Bacon – optional
  • Butter – optional
  • Chives for garnish – optional

Preparation

  • Sauté the spinach in a small amount of olive oil until just limp. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  • Poach the eggs, set aside.
  • Make the Hollandaise sauce.
  • Toast and butter the English muffins.
  • Meanwhile, reheat the eggs if necessary. Distribute the spinach between the English muffin halves. Sauce with the Hollandaise. Garnish with chives.

Hollandaise Sauce

  • 1 cup clarified butter or melted butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 T. water
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • Salt and cayenne pepper

Directions 

  • Whisk egg yolks and water together in a stainless steel bowl.
  • Gently heat over a barely simmering bain marie (water bath), whisking constantly, until eggs are thick. (don’t let the water boil)
  • Beat the sauce briskly with a wire whisk as you slowly pour in the butter.
  • When all the butter has been added, check consistency and season with lemon juice, salt and a small amount of cayenne.

If you are short of time, you can try this quick blender version.

Leftover sauce can also be served on vegetables or fish.

“A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked” – Bernard Meltzer

So here’s to imperfection!
…and then, she paused for thought

Hope you have enjoyed our adventure in the culinary classroom. Join us each week as we continue learning new culinary skills.

You can also read about Rona’s experience on her blog or What’s Cookin online magazine.

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a date with ginger…
guaranteed to please!

Ginger Spiked Dates

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

To date or not to date… that is the question. After trying today’s recipe, you will no longer have to ask. Dates are an intoxicating indulgence of the senses by way of a sugar rush. This is brilliant, considering they’re a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates; AND they’re virtually free of fat, cholesterol and sodium! Warning – after I’ve had my way with them… that all changes.

The Virtuous Date:

Dates come from the date palm. They’ve been instrumental to humans since the beginning of time and believed to have originated near the Persian Gulf.

Primeval Mesopotamians capitalized on the tree’s versatility and value. They felt the palm offered 360 uses including needles, thread, lumber, mattresses, rope, baskets and other household items; as well as food and beverage.

Ancient literature praise the merits of the date’s diverse powers – from an aphrodisiac to a contraceptive. Wow… I don’t even want to know how they figured that one out. Probably while on a date of some kind.

Egypt is currently the top producer of dates followed by Iran.

If you can’t find dates at your local store they are readily available online. Medjool are my favorites as they are plump, deep in color, soft in texture and rich in flavor. Dates can also be kept frozen for up to a year with no loss of taste or quality.

shepaused4thought_line-NEW

Today’s Featured Recipe:

These engorged delights are perfect for picnics,
afternoon tea and The Hollywood Bowl.

Just ask Sophia!

 

Ginger Spiked Stuffed Dates
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup mascarpone cheese*
  • 1 teaspoon crystallized ginger, minced
  • 10 Medjool dates pitted|
  • 10 walnuts or pecans
  • fresh mint sprigs
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl mix the mascarpone cheese and ginger until combined.
  2. Using a small spoon, spoon about ½ tsp of the mixture into the date
  3. Top with walnut and decorate with a mint sprig
Notes
*Substitute goat cheese, blue cheese, neufchatel cheese (cream cheese) or almond butter. Serves: 2-3

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

Date-licious!

Special thanks to Yodi & Rikki for the beautiful Wedgewood tea set!

I have already put it
to good use.

 

Quote of the day:

If the heavens throw you dates, you got to keep your mouth open.
– Navjot Singh Sidhu

….and then, she paused for thought.

 

 

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