Thursday, April 28, 2011

Daring Baker's Challenge: Edible Containers for Maple Mousse

A.K.A. In which I made a hollow maple tree and filled it with mousse. Then I laughed at myself and made a moose filled with mousse.

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blogCheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at!

When I saw this month's challenge, I was determined to at least do something different. Very different from the standard cup/bowl traditional containment for food. While thinking about maple mousse, many themes came to mind: maple, maple leaves, maple trees, maple trees being tapped for maple mousse, chocolate buckets to hold maple mousse, waffles cones full of maple mousse, cream puffs  full of maple mousse,and  maple leaf shaped pancakes topped with maple mousse (tasty but not really a container). 

After a list like that I had to think. Then I saw a few people starting to post in the forums. I felt torn, do I rush or wait? I decided I really really wanted to make a hollow tree full of maple mousse and maybe something else different. What to make the tree from? 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Irish Cooking Night: Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Whipped Cream Icing

Can a celebration of Irish food be complete without including something green? I think not.

Solution: Cupcakes! Before you freak, I'm not loading cupcakes up with enough green dye to color a desert. That's gross. There's also no way that is good for your body. A little bit of green goes a long way. I figured a few green sugar crystals on top would do nicely. While I was at it, why not make a four leaf clover out of sugar crystals on top of the cupcake?

Frosting: I've had both chocolate and cream cheese varieties. Both are tasty. Since I wanted the clovers to be apparent, I decided to stick with a cream cheese/whipped cream frosting.

Cake: I've had Mel's chocolate stout cake and Bon Appetit's too. I like them both. For this recipe, I adapted Bon Appetit's cake recipe.

Four-Leaf Clover: I initially thought I'd try to make a design using aluminum foil. In my weekly talk with my mamaw, I shared my plan to put a clover on top of the cupcake. She replied that she used to do designs on cupcakes for us kids using wax paper and asked if I was planning to use wax paper. Cue a head slap moment. Wax paper would be much more flexible and slightly translucent. I thanked her and admitted all I'd thought about was aluminum foil. She was pleased to help and I was pleased to have the benefit of her experience.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Double Take: Hoisin Pork Tenderloin

It seems we're on an Asian kick lately with some of our double take posts. Never fear, the fortune cookie from this meal predicts big changes coming in the future.

For those wondering what Hoisin (hoy-sin) is imagine the sweet sauce you've had in an asian dish. Its commonly used in sweet dipping sauces and has a reddish brown color. The consistency is like thickened ketchup. In general, I really enjoy it but its always possible to have too much of a good thing....well I guess that depends on your persuasion. I know some folks that can't have too much chocolate. However, in general, balance is a good thing.

Mel picked this recipe knowing how much I've enjoyed hoisin sauce in the past. In fact, it was a big deal for me to learn what sauce was being used to create the sweet flavor. Initially, I was so excited about it, we prepared a number of dishes using hoisin sauce. The dipping sauce I used to agedashi tofu last week included a little bit of hoisin in balance with other ingredients. This week's recipe features it as a major flavor. Originally from Cooking Light, the recipe is basically a marinade that is later concentrated into a sauce.

While preparing the marinade, I made sure it taste it. The balance seemed good to me. After cooking though, the sauce was a bit too sweet. I suggest tempering it with soy sauce and/or rice wine vinegar until you hit a flavor that you prefer.

Hoisin Pork Tenderloin with Steamed Broccoli

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Irish Cooking Night: Baby Carrots and Pearl Onions in Cream

Aside from potatoes, the first Irish themed vegetable that comes to mind is cabbage.


No! This post is not about cabbage.


Lots of people really don't enjoy cabbage. I only enjoy it very selectively. I started looking for other vegetables that the Irish enjoy.

     They eat something besides potatoes and cabbage? What? Why have I never heard of this?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Double Take: Garlic Soup (a quick and tasty broth for stews)

All soups are not created equal. Lately I've become more conscious of some of the differences in soups: chunky, veggie heavy, creamy, brothy, herb endowed, etc. From the occasional packed lunch in elementary school, I learned that there were some soup bases I liked and some I couldn't eat. For instance, I liked chicken and stars broth better than plain chicken noodle soup. I still can't tell you the exact difference but chicken and stars tastes different ...its thicker and seriously its not just the stars....its better. I also liked the soups with tomato broth but not tomato stock. I think that tomato stock used tomato paste and who knows what else. All I knew as a kid was that I didn't like it. Mom said you picked it, you eat it. You'll learn the difference and not pick it next time. She was right. I learned to read what was different on the labels and rarely got tricked into the funny dinosaur noodles in tomato stock. They were cute, but not tasty.

Today's soup, is not so much a soup as it is a broth. Its reminiscent of the broth texture you'd find in chicken noodle soup but with an herbed flavor. It honestly doesn't taste like garlic even if you double it (and I did). It does have a lot of herbal flexibility so you can suit your family's taste. It is not photogenic but definitely worth the extra few minutes (10-15) to prepare the broth for your next beef stew. I'd like to give a shout out here to Laura at Hey What's for Dinner Mom for pointing out this recipe. The original is from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Double Take: Deep Fried WHAAAT?

Remember the Life cereal commericals? "Don't worry your kids will eat it.....It taste like the bark of a tree...(horrified kid's face) Don't worry your kids will eat it. ...Actually its more like a stick...(child runs and hides)...Don't worry your kids will eat it....A cinnamon stick!!! NEW Cinnamon Oat Life. Cue happy faced, surprised kid and pleased parent. My family was more of a Fruit Loops clan. We didn't do cinnamon oat life. At the grocery store, my sister and I had to agree on a cereal for the next two weeks. If we didn't eat it, we had to finish it before we could pick something else. We picked a new one the next payday. Also, if we ran out early, our other option was Kellog's Corn Flakes. This set up good lessons in portion control, compromise, and finishing what you started ...and we learned to like corn flakes too.

My point is though that sometimes something you think you won't like, for whatever reason (even if you think corn flakes are plain), if you try it, you might change your mind. This happened to the Cat in the Hat with the green eggs and ham too, as you will recall. Sometimes, grown ups can be more stubborn about trying something they're "certain they don't like" than a kid.

Confession: I don't like tofu. It is typically squooshy and doesn't have much of a taste to it. I've tried it but its generally not my thing. That's what I said when Mel tried to get me to taste a piece of the Agedashi tofu appetizer at Ishi (a local Japanese restaurant). Well, that or way, tofu is disgusting and squooshy, no thanks, I've had it before and I'm not interested. She CLAIMED this was different. She CLAIMED it was crunchy, not squooshy...that it was TASTY, not gross and that the dipping sauce was awesome.

Agedashi Tofu

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Irish Cooking Night: Haggerty

WHHHAAAT? That's right, hag-er-tea. Its an Irish dish made of potatoes, onions, and cheese. Sounding better already, isn't it?

Selection: Irish love potatoes. Potatoes have kept them alive. They also love cabbage. Apparently like they like cabbage in potatoes, cabbage in with their meat and potatoes, or just plain potatoes. There are lots of ways to prep a potato but I was looking for something a little different. This dish is a combo of potatoes, onions, and cheese. One of my favorite parts of this recipe was that it called for bacon grease. That's awesome. I keep my leftover bacon grease in a jar in the fridge. Well actually its more of a cup, but you get the idea. As the adage goes, save all manner of bacon grease. Consequently, you could fry up a piece or two of bacon and toss it in the dish. Alternately, you could use butter but bacon grease will give you the maximum flavor.