TwD: Baking Vanilla Pound Cake with Julia (A little late…)

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So, I actually made this cake and had it taste-tested by my new co-workers in time for the July 15th posting deadline. However, I got caught up with other matters and totally forgot about posting on the 15th. My bad. Regardless, the reviews are in and my co-workers loved this pound cake! They found it buttery and delicious. One co-worker indicated she needed another slice because she ate the first slice “whole” and didn’t really get to savor the flavors. That’s a pretty strong compliment!

Personally, I liked the pound cake better the next day. The flavors and the texture of the cake seemed to settle more after a day. But, that could just be me. This is definitely a repeater!

If you’d like to try your hand at this vanilla pound cake, pick up a copy of Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America’s Best Bakers and join the bi-monthly baking group, Tuesdays with Dorie, where we choose recipes to collectively bake each month!

ffwD: Tomatoes Provençal

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I’m excited to get back into cooking and baking with French Fridays with Dorie! It’s been too long since I’ve even been in town on a Friday, so it was nice to come back to an easier recipe. However, what I didn’t realize was that I just posted a tomato recipe last week for my first post back after my hiatus. Oh, well. Tomatoes are so good right now, I can’t complain.

This method of roasting tomatoes was easy and open to interpretation. Halving tomatoes and topping them with a mixture of minced garlic and your choice of herbs (in my case, thyme) then drizzling olive oil on top was pretty delicious. Though, I’m not used to eating roasted tomatoes as halves, as they were pretty thick. Then again, I probably didn’t follow Dorie’s suggestion of using 4 oz. tomatoes. I just grabbed ones that looked good. Anyway, this recipe makes for a simple side or even a lighter main dish, if you prefer. I ate my tomatoes with toasted sourdough slices.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

These tomatoes provençal were made for French Fridays with Dorie, a group of bloggers who are cooking their way through Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

I’m back! (For real this time)

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I cannot believe it’s been two months since I last posted! For those who read my blog regularly, you may remember that I got a new job back in April. Well, I thought I was back on track with food blogging after I first started, but the work load was a bit more voluminous than I had expected, so I was staying late just about every night for the first month, meaning way more take out for dinner.

But, what you didn’t know was that my weekends were crazy as well, considering I went to Las Vegas for five days (with all the great restaurants!), watched the Duke men’s lacrosse team win back-to-back national championships over Memorial Day, and did a ton of traveling for the NBA Playoffs. Right around the time I started my new job, I was presented with a pretty amazing opportunity to write for the NBA during the final weeks of the regular season and during the playoffs, which meant I traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina for the first round, covered the Chicago Bulls during the second round, went to Indianapolis for the third round, and was capped off by a stint in San Antonio for Games 1 and 2 of the Finals! So, again, no opportunity to cook but ample means for dining out and take out meals.

Now that basketball season is over, I’m pretty much settled for the rest of the summer in Chicago. However, I needed something to get me excited about cooking at home again. And what better motivator than the produce at farmers markets! Oh, the smell of the strawberries and the tomatoes! I just couldn’t resist. Especially since my Cooking Light magazine introduced a fun way to enjoy the season’s juicy beefsteak tomatoes: by frying the skins! It was a simple little step that made these tomatoes even better. And, it got me excited about cooking again! I’m so glad to be back.

Beefsteak Tomato Salad with Fried Tomato Skins
(from Cooking Light June 2014)

2 1/2 pounds beefsteak tomatoes in assorted colors (about 4)
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 cups baby arugula

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Core tomatoes; discard cores. Place tomatoes in boiling water for 15 seconds. Plunge tomatoes into ice water; drain. Peel; arrange skins flat on a jelly-roll pan. Cut peeled tomatoes into 1/2-inch-thick slices; arrange on a platter.
2. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of skins to oil; cook 2 minutes or until crisp, turning occasionally. Drain on a paper towel; repeat procedure with remaining skins. Discard oil in pan. Sprinkle skins with 1/8 teaspoon salt.
3. Drizzle tomatoes with remaining 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Top with tomato skins and arugula.

ffwD: Baby Bok Choy, Sugar Snaps and Garlic en Papillote

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This week’s assignment, baby bok choy, sugar snaps and garlic en papillote, combined the popular French steaming method with traditional Chinese veggies and Asian flavors. Seeing as I grew up eating bok choy, sugar snaps, and garlic in a myriad of dishes, this side dish was right up my alley.

I didn’t have mint or a lemon on hand, but I did have lime-infused olive oil which worked in a pinch. I also couldn’t find baby white onions so I just tossed in a few frozen pearl onions into each packet. I was working out during the oven-steaming process, so when the timer went off, I just kept the veggies in the oven. Sure, the extra 10 minutes did wilt the veggies a bit more than Dorie would approve of, but I didn’t mind it. Especially since the aroma when opening the foil packets was pretty amazing. This method was a quick and fuss-free way of preparing the delicate baby bok choy while softening the sugar snaps and the sliced garlic!

This baby bok choy, sugar snaps and garlic en papillote was made for French Fridays with Dorie, a group of bloggers who are cooking their way through Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

TwD: Baking Cantuccini with Julia

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Can anything baked be bad when the scent of cinnamon permeates the air while baking? The answer is no. These heavenly smelling cantuccini, or classic Italian biscotti, were this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia assignment, and they were a snap to make. The very dry dough came together quickly with a bit of kneading. However, I encountered a bit of messiness while shaping the dough, as it got extremely sticky. I didn’t want to add more flour, so I wet my hands a little bit, and the dough became much easier to handle.

The cantuccini’s baking method lends itself to an afternoon inside when you want to catch up on bills, reading, or simple chores as the cookies require two trips in the oven with a 30 minute cooling in between. These cantuccini look shorter and “squatier” than their pre-packed coffeehouse counterparts, but their taste is so much better. Not much effort for a ton of little cookies that will keep for up to a month!

If you’d like to try your hand at these cantuccini, pick up a copy of Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America’s Best Bakers and join the bi-monthly baking group, Tuesdays with Dorie, where we choose recipes to collectively bake each month!

ffwD: Quiche Maraîchère

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Earlier this week, I started working at a new law firm. The only downside to this new firm’s location is that it’s extremely far from the grocery store I normally shopped at during my lunchbreaks with my old law firm. This change meant that getting all the veggies for this week’s assignment before Friday was next to impossible and had to be put off until Saturday. Luckily, I found out that the grocery store chain has a location closer to my apartment, so making the trek on Saturday morning for the red bell pepper, leeks, celery, and carrots turned out to be a fairly quick excursion.

Making this quiche was extremely easy because I already had a whole wheat version of Dorie Greenspan’s tart dough in the freezer! This meant the only prep that needed to be done was the chopping of all the veggies. Too bad I hadn’t planned a trip to the grocery store sooner, or I would’ve been able to enjoy this quiche during the week instead of grabbing salads every night! I’ll definitely be making this again.

This quiche maraîchère was made for French Fridays with Dorie, a group of bloggers who are cooking their way through Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

ffwD: Visitandine

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It has been a roller coaster week for me, both professionally and personally, but I’m hoping to find some semblance of normalcy soon. Getting back into the swing of French Fridays with Dorie has helped. However, I was a bit puzzled when I read this week’s assignment, visitandine, because I found two handwritten notes in my cookbook indicating “can be a bit dry” and “worth it despite the folding”. Seeing as I cannot recall ever making this cake before, I can only assume that I meant to write those comments on the quartre-quarts recipe, which happens to be on the page before the visitandine recipe.

Setting aside the comments, this cake was very good. Somewhat chewy, which I like, and not dry. However, that could’ve been helped by the whipped cream and fresh strawberries. Oh, and I really liked the flavor of the browned butter in the cake, so that step is definitely worth doing again. Overall, a great cake!

This visitandine was made for French Fridays with Dorie, a group of bloggers who are cooking their way through Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

(A little late) ffwD: Scallop & Onion Tartes Fines

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Last Friday, I was disappointed when I wasn’t able to make these scallop & onion tartes fines with the Doristas. (I was judging a student trial competition from Thursday through Sunday, rendering anything beyond takeout impossible.) However, I’m glad I finally made them, albeit five days late, because I immensely enjoy scallops in any way, shape, or form. And, oh my, these were delicious. I mean, how can you say no to scallops, caramelized onions, bacon, and puff pastry? Definitely a winnner and worth the wait.

These scallop and onion tartes fines were made for French Fridays with Dorie, a group of bloggers who are cooking their way through Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

TwD: Baking Mocha Brownie Cake with Julia

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I apologize for not commenting on your blogs as much lately. My life is a bit crazed at the moment, and now I’m fighting a cold. However, luckily for me, I was able to make this mocha brownie cake before my symptoms took over. And, I must say, I just love the look of the chocolate ganache, although my photo might not do it justice.

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The cake itself was over-the-top chocolately, obviously, so make sure you have plenty of milk to drink. The baking of the cake and preparing of the ganache were easy enough, but this cake definitely requires a good amount of time, what with the cooling of the cake itself and setting of the ganache icing between layers and on top. Other than that, I can see myself making this again for a special occasion but not regularly as I’m not a huge chocolate fan.

If you’d like to try your hand at this mocha brownie cake, pick up a copy of Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America’s Best Bakers and join the bi-monthly baking group, Tuesdays with Dorie, where we choose recipes to collectively bake each month!

ffwD: Sausage-stuffed Cornish hen

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How delicious was this week’s assignment? I’d never had Cornish hen before; although I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular, I did enjoy how all the flavors went together. The spicyness of the sausage, the slight sweetness from the pan-drippings glaze, and the hint of saltiness from the hen itself. However, this will have to be a “sometimes treat” recipe as one Cornish hen set me back $7.00 a pound, so I only bought one. Maybe I’ll try this same stuffing and cooking method with a garden-variety whole chicken…

This sausage-stuffed Cornish hen was made for French Fridays with Dorie, a group of bloggers who are cooking their way through Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

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