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It Looks Cute... But This Sweet Pea Cake Tried To Give Me Trouble

Babies are so cute. But behind all that cuteness they can be some messy trouble!My good old friend S (who looks like Liza Minnelli in her Halston/Cabaret days) is going to young hot grandma!And she asked me ( OK I suggested and hinted) to make her daughters Baby Shower cake. The child( yes I still think of her as a child) wanted a Sweet Pea themed cake. Gender neutral( I feel its going to be boy as I type this). Damn! I remember giving the girl Spice Girl clippings from my old magazines. I'm old. I'm not up on Mommy culture and all things baby, so I had to sleuth to find Sweet Peas cakes and deigns. Not much out there but yet its a popular theme.

So I went to Cake Walk , my favorite store, and purchased what I needed. I normally use mixes to provide protection against any disasters. But I loved that Perfect Party Cake recipe from Dori Greenspan. I wanted to use the sponge and butter cream.Normally I use Wilton butter cream made with shortening, but my taste buds wanted the real deal. Who know it would get so warm! In the fridge,out the fridge...... The Mama to be wanted a marbled cake( just divided the batter in to two and added cocoa), strawberry filling, and coconut butter cream. OK , she's pregnant! But her wish was my command. . I used Coconut extract for LorAnne Oils and Creme of Coconut as well. I forgot to get a divider as I was making tiers. So I fashioned one from heavy Styrofoam plates and lollipop sticks for support. And you know what it worked!. My issues were my layers crumbled apart as I tried to rectify a mistake. I pieced it together and filled it up with butter cream and filling. Then I I realized my top layer on the bottom tier had filling on top and no cake. I wasn't thinking!Quick something. I had some fondant that I placed over the filling. It worked. Then I added the second tier, careful to have 3 layers of cake this time. Some more crumble, but it took and was sturdy. This cake wasn't going to master me. and I wasn't going to let my friend down. Thank God I started the day before , because it was more time consuming than normal. I crafted the sweet peas from pastillage and gum paste. I wasn't happy with the cracking of the pastillage. But I was experimenting. I found some great new product that provides the airbrush effect in a can. Its a life saver to hide messy mistakes, smudges, etc. I let it rip. I had to clear the fridge to house the cake as this was real butter cream. Doesn't my sweet pea on top look like Chucky. Wasn't intentional. But in the end it cleaned up good and is cute. Whew! Now the hour and half drive!

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Daring Bakers..."A Taste of Light" Version of Opera Torte

Lakme ,an Asian Themed opera by the French composer Léo Delibes was my inspiration.Enjoy the Flower Duet.

I come to look forward to each Daring Baker Challenge. Just when I think I have over come one baking hurdle, another is thrown out there! Ivonne and Lisa co founders of the Daring Bakers, along with Fran and Shea came up with a Lighter version of Opera Torte in honor of Barbara at Winos and Foodies,creator of the Live Strong Food Blog event. To celebrate life and spring we were asked to construct a Torte with lighter flavors and colors. Needless to say the creativity is unleashed.
I have been seeing Pandan spring up over a few a blogs. It's the new Matcha Darlings! I found some essence and a can of actual juice in the store. I decided to use the essence for my Jaconde. It didn't turn the sponge really green like I expected , but emitted a wonderful aroma combined with the almond flour. My syrup was infused with coconut cream to balance the Pandan.The butter cream was flavored with bits of while chocolate and Chambord.As was the glaze and mousse/ganache.

My mistakes were a slightly overcooked layer of Jaconde( not enough batter for the second pan so layer was thin. I trimmed off the burnt parts and used this on the bottom. I loved the butter cream and will be using that again and again! And the glaze. I should have left it white but I colored it green. Well the mousse took a bit to set and I poured the glaze over it popped out in the glaze. A while later I lifted the square ring and more mousse flowed from the sides. I almost chucked it , but put the ring back on and went to dinner.Overnight it set properly and I added the remaining white chocolate over the green glaze. It got better. I then added my decorative touches such as my gum paste Anthurium and lustre and glitter to detract from the jacked up glaze. It was ready in time for a Mothers Day Brunch the next day with aunts and cousins. There were some Ohs and Ahhs, but people kind of looked like I was speaking another language as I explained the cake and what it was about. My Auntie Mame reminded me the family were Pound Cake and cobbler types.A few people claimed it was very rich but good. I guess their taste buds like it simpler. Oh well! I liked it and I'm happy once again I pushed myself.Check out the other DB's and their variations on this classic.
L'Opéra!No, no! You don't have to write an opera, but you do have to bake one ... as in Opéra Cake!!! For those of you that don't know about this cake, it's an extremely elegant and polished French dessert that is believed to have been created around the beginning of the 1900s. Many people credit a gentleman by the name of Louis Clichy with inventing the cake and that's why it's sometimes referred to as Clichy Cake. So what exactly is an Opéra Cake?Well it's a cake that is made up (usually) of five components: a joconde (a cake layer), a syrup (to wet the joconde), a buttercream (to fill some of the layers), a ganache or mousse (to top the final cake layer) and a glaze (to cover the final layer of cake or of ganache/mousse).ARE YOU DIZZY YET????

Traditionally, a joconde is flavoured with darker flavours such as chocolate or coffee. But in honour of the season (spring in our neck of the woods) and as part of our decision to tie our posts in with the LiveSTRONG theme, we are making Opéra Cakes that are light in both colour and flavour.This means NO CHOCOLATE, COFFEE OR COCOA. But it does mean vanilla, coconut, lemon, almond or whatever other light flavours you can think of. It means NO DARK COLOURS when decorating your cake. But it does mean lots of white, cream, ivory, yellow, light blue, light pink, light green or whatever other light colours strike your fancy.A Taste of Light: Opéra CakeThis recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.Reveal date is Wednesday May 28.

For the joconde(Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperate)What you’ll need:•2 12½ x 15½-inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans (Note: If you do not have jelly-roll pans this size, do not fear! You can use different-sized jelly-roll pans like 10 x 15-inches.)•a few tablespoons of melted butter (in addition to what’s called for in the ingredients’ list) and a brush (to grease the pans)•parchment paper•a whisk and a paddle attachment for a stand mixer or for a handheld mixer•two mixing bowls (you can make do with one but it’s preferable to have two)Ingredients:6 large egg whites, at room temperature2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds (Note: If you do not want to use almond meal, you can use another nut meal like hazelnut. You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or you can make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or two of the flour that you would use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.)2 cups icing sugar, sifted6 large eggs½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C). 3.Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.4.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.5.If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes. 6.Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!). 7.Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.8.Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.9.Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold. 10.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature. For the syrup(Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)What you’ll need:•a small saucepanIngredients:½ cup (125 grams) water⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.)1.Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.2.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.For the buttercream(Note: The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.)(Update Note: The recipe for the buttercream that is listed below was originally based on the original but we had some typos. It's all very confusing (we're good at confusing ourselves) but here is the short of it: When testing the buttercream, we tested a modified version (we're crazy like that!!!) that had 2 cups sugar, ½ cup water and 1¾ cups butter. Yes. That's right. 1¾ cups of butter. The eggs remained the same. We ended up with a very creamy buttercream. VERY. CREAMY. But we don’t want anyone to be afraid of our modified version so you have the option of using the original version listed below or the quantities we’ve listed here in this note. If you are still confused and want to cry, then please e-mail us and we will comfort you!!! We promise!!!)What you’ll need:•a small saucepan•a candy or instant-read thermometer•a stand mixer or handheld mixer•a bowl and a whisk attachment•rubber spatulaIngredients:1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar ¼ cup (60 grams) water seeds of one vanilla bean (split a vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds) or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (Note: If you are flavouring your buttercream and do not want to use the vanilla, you do not have to. Vanilla will often enhance other flavours but if you want an intense, one-flavoured buttercream, then by all means leave it out!)1 large egg1 large egg yolk1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.)1.Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) [*Note: Original recipe indicates a temperature of 255◦F (124◦C), however, when testing the recipe I found that this was too high so we heated to 225◦F and it worked fine] on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.3.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden! 5.Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).6.While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass. 7.With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny. 8.At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.9.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).For the white chocolate ganache/mousse (this step is optional – please see Elements of an Opéra Cake below) (Note: The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.)What you’ll need:•a small saucepan•a mixer or handheld mixerIngredients:7 ounces white chocolate1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)1 tbsp. liquer of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.)1.Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.2.Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse. 5.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.For the glaze (Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)What you’ll need:•a small saucepan or double boilerIngredients:14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped ½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth. 2.Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer. 3.Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.Assembling the Opéra Cake(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle. Step A (if using buttercream only and not making the ganache/mousse):Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.Spread about one-third of the buttercream over this layer.Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde. Spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.Step B (if making the ganache/mousse):Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.*****************************************************************What is Allowed:•If you are feeling up to the challenge, instead of a square or rectangular Opéra Cake you can make a round Opéra Cake or you can make Opéra cupcakes. You can also use your joconde to make mini Opéra Cakes. Go nuts!•You can use any flavouring you wish in the joconde, syrup, buttercream, ganache/mousse and glaze as long as it is a “light” flavour (vanilla, coconut, honey, banana, almond etc.).•If you are feeling daring, you can use fresh fruit in between your joconde layers.•If you have another version of buttercream that you would like to use, you may do so as long as it remains light in colour and flavour. By light in colour and flavour what we mean is light colours (yellow, white, ivory, cream) or light spring colours (blue, pink, green) but they should be light shades. NO DARK COLOURS (black, brown, gray). •You can use only the buttercream to fill and top your cake (prior to the glaze) and omit the step of making the ganache/mousse.•If you do not like the white chocolate glaze, you are free to either leave the glaze out (although a traditional Opéra Cake has a glaze) or you can use another glaze as long as it remains light in colour or flavour (vanilla glaze, lemon glaze, etc.).•You may decorate the outside of your cake in whatever manner you wish (piping, fresh fruit, icing sugar, flowers, etc.).•Whatever dietary changes are required to meet needs based on allergies, dietary requirements, etc. (But this applies to you only if you have allergies or special dietary needs.)What is Not Allowed:•ABSOLUTELY NO DARK COLOURS OR FLAVOURS: no chocolate, coffee, cocoa, etc.*****************************************************************While we realize the recipe is very long, please understand that we've endeavoured to include as full and complete a recipe as possible to help you with this challenge. And don't be daunted by the length of this recipe, most of us that tested it were able to make it one day. Please remember that if you want a copy of the recipe in Word, just e-mail us!*****************************************************************Here is some additional information that will help you with this challenge:The Elements of an Opéra Cake:Joconde: The base of an Opéra Cake is a thin sponge cake that is made using nut meal, traditionally almond meal (finely ground blanched almonds).Syrup: The joconde is flavoured with a sugar syrup that can be flavoured to suit your tastes.Buttercream: The first two layers of the joconde are covered in a rich buttercream. This particular buttercream is made with a syrup, eggs and butter.Ganache/Mousse (optional): In some recipes, the final layer of the joconde is covered in a ganache or mousse. While not hard to make, this makes the recipe quite involved. We are giving Daring Bakers the option of either using the buttercream to cover the final layer or, if they’re feeling up to it, to go ahead and make the ganache/mousse.Glaze: The final step to an Opéra Cake is the glaze that gives the cake a very finished and elegant appearance.

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My First Macarons and a Early Friday Cocktail Hour.

Due to the Holiday and some other goings on week, I will finish this post with Friday Cocktail Hour and I wont post this Friday( stay tuned however because I will be posting mid week!). Certain Someone and I got a lot done this Holiday weekend and are still working on it. Our place is very cluttered and I have an abundance of books. He installed our new Expedit books shelves from Ikea to house my hundreds and books and bring some order and design to our space.I wont show you before because its frighting. And the afters I'll post later. Certain Someone is a repressed interior designer. Anyway we also had some good cocktails, BBQ,and I decided to make Macarons for the first time.
Certain Someone loves Hazelnut and I had some Hazelnut flour from King Arthur's. I followed the recipe and tips from the famous Tartelette. She wrote a informative long awaited article for a online Desserts Magazine. My ganache was bit runny,and some of my macarons cracked. But overall I feel some confidence in hope that they turned out OK for my first try. I hope my future attempts get better. My ganache was just some heavy cream, orange icing gel( a type of paste used for flavoring cakes and icicngs),some more hazelnut flour, white, and Amano Chocolate(from the Blake Makes Give Away). I used the Ocumare. I found a new spray luster from my cake decorating shop and sprayed a soft golden luster on top. I like the gold accents I see on some Pierre Hermes macarons.The taste? Very sweet but nice. I will play around with more variations. But I least I got over the intimidation factor. I'm also entering this in Couture Cupcakes Mad For Macarons In May.

Friday Cocktail Hour Holiday Edition

I love a nice daiquiri. Just plain with some lime juice. simple syrup and rum. I played with this to use up a lot of apricots I have from the vegetable delivery. Its not to sweet and refreshing on a nice day. Oh and Peter if your reading this...this may be to girly for you. I have a nice cognac called Landy XO from France. A bartender once referred to it as 'Happy Dog'. When I asked why he showed me the bottle. The stopper was of a dog with his long tail curved under. It gave the appearance of your nickname, thus the name. He also said it was a 'Mans' drink. So a pour of Landy for you and some daiquiris for my girls! Cheers!

Apricot Daiquiri serves 1

1 part rum
1 juice of a lime
1/2 part apricot brandy( I cheated and used some brandy I made from Prickly Pear)
3 apricots peeled and stoned

Mix all with ice in a blender.Pour into a chilled glass.

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Pan Roasted Chicken with Homemade Potato Spinach Gnocchi

Its Memorial Day weekend and how do I want to unwind Friday night? I want to make my first homemade gnocchi!I know Certain Someone and I should be watching it, but its a long weekend. Were sick of limitations.Cant we have a little treat? I figure at least its all homemade and fresh.I used half whole wheat flour in the gnocchi and a bunch of fresh spinach and potatoes from the vegetable box. Certain Someone being German loves potato dumplings and I failed miserably trying to make him some once. These are essentially the same thing and I was very successful. Gnocchi are relatively easy but a little time consuming. With about 45 minutes organized prep while the chicken roasts,and a quick boil, you have your dinner ready in about 1 and 15 minutes max! I had so much left over gnocchi I put them in the freezer for another date. I used the recipe from The Silver Spoon by Phaidon. As the gnocchi boiled, I took my roasted chicken out lightly seasoned with salt and pepper,and deglazed it on the stove top with some sherry. Then I added some pesto and the cooked gnocchi. A careful toss, and you have a great meal. The gnocchi was soft and wonderful. Not chewy and hard as I was fearing. The Certain Someone meter rating was... 2 servings!

Potato and Spinach Gnocchi adapted by Coco Cooks from The Silver Spoon ,Phaidon
Gnocchi di Patate e Spinaci
1 1/2 lbs spinach
1 3/4 lbs flour I used half whole wheat and half all purpose
1 1/2 lbs potatoes
2 egg yolks I used 1 whole egg and 1 yolk
Wash,peel,and boil potatoes for 25 minutes in lightly salted water.Cook washed spinach in just the water that clings to it. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Chop. I used my Kitchen Aid and ran the cooked potatoes and spinach through the food grinder. Combine spinach, potatoes,and flour.Add egg and salt.Knead for a few minutes. Shape the dough in several long rolls about 1/4 inch in diameter.Cut into 3/4 pieces and press against a fork or the underside of a grater. Dust lightly with flour. Add gnocchi a few pieces at a time and boil in lightly salted water. Remove with a slotted spoon as they rise to the waters surface. Drain and toss with the pan roasted chicken , pesto, and its juices.

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New Feature...Friday Cocktail Hour

I try to see the good in everybody. While most sophisticated foodies loathe Sandra Lee (I am in no way whatsoever endorsing Ms. Lee's Semi Homemade!) with a passion, there is one segment of her show that always brings a smile to my face. For better or worse,when she says 'It's Cocktail Time' and shakes her shaker I wake up and show some interest. I " love to hate" .Most times her concoctions make me grimace ( I'm remembering a blue one she made with that awful Hypnotique to go with her blue table scape).But Sandra Lee is my inspiration for this new weekly feature.

I love a good libation and love to play with the findings in our bar. I constantly pester Certain Someone to bring me back some Duty Free booze on his travels. So I have decided to devote my Friday posts to the cocktail. What better way to unwind after a hard week, than with a cocktail?I can see why its Sandra Lee's favorite time of the day and show. Cheers you all!

For this weeks cocktail, I used the last of my homemade Cream Limoncello for this sneaky treat! I was inspired by a dessert I saw using limoncello and raspberries. Think of this a liquid grown up dessert. Its pretty strong and sweet, so one is all you need.

Cream Limoncello and Chamborbtini

1 part Cream Limoncello

1/2 part vodka

1 drizzle of Chambord for the bottom of the glass

Shake ice, vodka, and cream limoncello in a shaker. Add a few drops of Chambord to the bottom of a martini glass. Pour mixture over and into glass.You can garnish with fresh lemon slices or raspberries.

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Inside the Mind of Glamah..Chilled Pear and Watercress Soup

I think I watch to much Top Chef. Seriously I don't know how I come up with concoctions. The vegetable/fruit box arrived and had a bunch of pears and apricots. Mansi at Fun and Food suggested I enter her Monthly Mingle dedicated to Appetizers .The limitations were that it had to be vegetarian. No meat, but dairy was allowed. I got to thinking of the high end la de da Caterers I moonlight for on occasion. Their clientele include some rooster of gazzilionaries, who I have had the opportunity to meet.You name them ,I have served them. Chef always has innovative nibbles for the too thin and rich crowd. He liked to offer up 'Shooters' . These are often a semi sweet concoction non alcoholic concoction served up in shot glasses. The possibilities are endless. He even had raw oysters in some Yuzo suspension once. Then I got thinking of Hungary of all places, and their chilled fruit soups. All of this thinking is done in front of my computer screen at work ,as strange people call and email me from all over the world and I try to speak broken French to them make out their accents. So I brilliantly devised a quick, easy, healthy,refreshing recipe to be served chilled in shot glasses to your guests on your grand estate overlooking the Lake while you discuss polo, St. Barts, the moving of your money to other favorable currencies, etc.I did add a touch of liquor as Hungarian fruit soups often have their sweet wines. I used a liqueur I found in Sweden called XANTE( pear and cognac). But you could use Cointreau. I garnished with little slivers of Danish Rosenberg Blue Cheese.

Chilled Pear and Watercress Soup

3 pears

1 cup of chopped Honeydew Melon

1 teaspoon ground Cardamon

1 cup nonfat Greek Yogurt

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup Raw Agave Nectar( you could use sugar, I'm just keeping it healthy)

1 bunch of watercress

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons of Xante or other fruit flavored liquor.

Blue Cheese for Garnish.

Peel and core the pears.Put in a saucepan with the water, cardamon, Raw Blue Agave Nectar.Bring to a boil. You want the fruit to soften but not get to soft.Place the melon,washed watercress leaves,and pears and their liquid in the Blender of food prcoccesar. In a bowl , add your yogurt. Pour your whipped fruit/watercress mixture in and blend.Add 2 tablespoons of Xante. Mix until all is Incorporated. Chill covered for 1-2 hours.Serve in bowls or shot glasses for entertaining. Garnish with Blue Cheese slivers.

Makes approx 4-5 bowls and estimated 40-50 shot glasses.Can be prepared ahead.

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Ghee...That's Simple

Like my new look?

I'm in a quandary about what to post over the next two weeks. Certain Someone and I are getting serious about our 'nesting weight' . He'll be leaving for Stockholm next week on his birthday, and I will meet him there the following week. We have a wedding to attend and I will assist him as he moves into his new summer home he purchased a few hours away from Stockholm. It will be a whirlwind week. I tried on my dress for the wedding and it "Just" fit. The dress was way roomier when I purchased it a few years back. It cost about 2 weeks salary so I am determined to loose some weight. So the next few weeks will be a lot of vegetables, fish, and chicken with maybe a end of week reward.
Today I want to talk about Ghee. Ghee has been around for forever in Indian cookery. It has many Arurvedic benefits.They say it stimulates the digestive tract, therefore aiding weight loss,enhanced glow, fries foods with less oil use, promotes general well health and being. I first was turned onto it when reading about blood type diets. Rather than buy Ghee, I make mine because its so simple.


1 lb of unsalted butter

Heat the butter very slowly in a heavy bottomed pan. When butter has melted turn up to a medium heat. It will start to boil, bubble and spurt. This is the liquids evaporating and solids separating. Do not cover the pot.Stir occasionally and reduce heat. The ghee will turn to a clear golden color. Skim off any foam . When mixture has cooled down pour into a airtight jar . Some solids may sink to the bottom. Some people discard it and some use it . Ghee has along shelf life and can stores at room temp. However to err on the cautious side store in the refrigerator. Store up to a few months.

So what did I make with Ghee tonight? I mashed a head of boiled cauliflower and garlic ( 3 cloves) with a tablespoon of ghee and 2 teaspoons of green curry paste. It was actually pretty tasty. served up alongside some boring steamed Tilapia and veggies. I drizzled a bit more ghee on top.

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Toasted Pecan Chipolte Pesto....A Taste of the Mediterranean Event

OK, so this is not so Mediterranean. Antonio is hosting a monthly event devoted to all things of a Mediterranean influence. And he has some great prizes. This months theme was to create a Pesto. The only rules were that it have ground nuts,oil, and cheese. Now this is affordable event for me. With the change of seasons a lot of Bloggers are taking breaks or focusing on lighter foods. If you have noticed I have been a canning binge. I can still cook , but don't have to eat it all at once. Along this line,condiments fascinate me. So with my pantry ingredients I created this powerful, fragrant pesto that's burst with flavor!I can also store it the fridge for a few weeks, but by that time it will be gone.I served my pesto up with a simple pan fried chicken breast light;y seasoned, as the pesto would would be the focus. Boy was it good.I'm not a huge nut fan, but I have come to love pecans used in crusts for savory dishes.When you examine the benefits of this nut you can see why Glamah is in love. Vitamin E and anti oxidants! I could double this as facial mask(you can tell I have been in the Cosmetics industry too long).And the big fat cloves of garlic used are known as a antibiotic . So here it is quick and simple.

Toasted Pecan Chipolte Pesto

3 oz pecans halves( half a 6 oz bag)
3 large cloves of garlic
1 dried chipolte pepper
4 tablespoons Reggiano cheese
Sea Salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil ( about 1/4-1/2 cup depending on texture)

Lightly toast your pecans in a dry saucepan. Because of the high oil content , toss frequently and do not burn.In a spice grinder , grind the chipolte pepper.Add pecans and pulse . Do not turn to a butter. Add Chipoltes and pecan mixture to your blender of food processor. Add cheese and salt to taste. Pour in olive oil gradually and blend, occasionally scrapping down sides, until all is incorporated.Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
A few side notes...

Marie over at Proud Italian Cook asked me for my watermelon martini recipe. I made a lot of these last summer for a family party. Due to large size of guests it was the perfect drink as I could pre make my 'watermelon juice'. The trick is to strain it so your shaker doesn't get all clogged up. I also used frozen bits to keep it cold. As I have a freezer bag of watermelon this week( also makes great smoothies people!) I came up with this for Marie.This is based for 1 drink.
2 parts frozen or non frozen watermelon
1 part citrus flavored vodka
1 part pomegranate juice( optional or lemon juice if you use regular vodka)
1 part triple sec or Cointreau.
Blend all the ingredients in a blender. Pour in Shaker to strain as you pour into chilled martini glasses.
And last but not least...

Swati of Sugar Craft India gave me this award. I admit I'm horrible with the award and meme thing. I know I have let some go unanswered ,but I truly appreciated it. I'm more of a voyeur than doer. If you haven't seen Swati's blog check her out. Shes amazing and I wish Certain Someone would suggest we fly to India to visit this amazing woman so I can take some classes from the Sugar Craft Master!Please honey? Anyway Swati says I make her day and I just want all of you to know you make Mine!So consider this award passed on to all of you fun, bright , creative people.

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I'm Jammin

I'm obsessed with canning. I admit it. For the Putting Up Event I made the most unusual Watermelon Rind Preserves. I was rather surprised that most of my commenter's had not heard of this specialty. But that's whats blogging is for, to learn new things. This time I wanted to do something a little sweeter and more traditional. I was worried that I would need massive quantities to make fruit preserves. Actually you don't need so much and its recommended you make small batches. I purchased about 8 apricots and a pound of cherries. I envisioned these two together in a yummy preserve. As I prepped and stoned the fruit I had the sudden inspiration to add a vanilla bean. A lot of the seeds got caught up in the foam but the vanilla flavor shined through. I added a tad of butter to decrease foaming but I still got some. Foaming , experts believe. adds to spoilage. Another thing you have to worry about is the pectin setting. I need to stock up on pectin! I processed this and found after 24 hours the jam didn't set. The instructions on the pectin box said how you can redo the jam.The only thing wasted is the lids and bands.So I redid the batch to much better results.I'm wondering if I did add enough sugar. I ended up adding a cup more sugar than was previously used.The taste of the unset jam was fantastic!I was almost tempted to use it just as a fruit syrup. I'm just be going to be handing out these as gifts to friends and coworkers while keeping a few for us. I asked Certain Someone to give a jar of Watermelon rinds to his golf buddy and co worker. They had to call me to explain why it wasn't pink and what it actually was.I'm sure these fruity preserves wont be met with confusion.

Apricot Cherry Preserves with Vanilla Bean

1 pond of cherries
1 1/2 pounds of apricots ( about 8 or so)
6 cups natural cane sugar *I ended adding another cut when redoing the batch.
1 vanilla bean
1/4 cup water
1 package of Pectin

Wash and stone fruit. Cut vanilla bean down the middle and scrape seeds. Add fruit and vanilla bean pulp with pod to heavy pan. Add sugar , water , and pectin. Bring to rolling boil as you stir. Scrape off any foam that rises. Take of heat and stir more. Laddle into sterilised jars, place lids, on , and process according to instructions. I used the pressure canner with a weight of 5 lbs and a process time of 10 minutes. Take out canner and let and set 24 hours. I f the jam doesnt set, redo as instructed on the package of pectin. If you choose to use no sugar or sugar substitutes use a pectin brand for less sugar.
Makes 8 half pints

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Certain Someone...Guest Blogger Round Two

Certain Someone's Spicy Noodle( noodles,green pepper,red pepper, jalapeno,leeks,carrots, and chicken with his secret marinade)

Yesterday my honey decided to cook for his possible future Baby's Mama.No I'm not pregnant but it was Mothers Day! He got up early to start to prep for a feast later. Certain Someone had plotted out a nice spicy marinade for the chicken made with or finds from last week. The day turned out longer than I expected , but I made it home in time for him to get started. Now I get a little anxious when he starts puttering around in my kitchen ,like he gets anxious when I start messing with his complex entertainment/gaming center.Nevertheless I offered to assist by slicing and wasking the leeks. We disagreed on the best methods for this but I differed to him.I was impressed with his use of a paring device for paper thin carrot slices.I didn't teach him that. At times I couldn't help but offer some slight suggestions. This was the first time he used his WOK. I had done all the cooking in it. I cautioned him to heat it right before adding the oil. We knew he run into trouble with the addition of the noodles. They didn't require cooking and were supposed to be tossed into soups or the WOK immediately. He had them soaking in water to loosen. The smells were fantastic but Certain Someone was disappointed that the noodle were sticky and starchy. They didn't brown like he wanted them too. Nevertheless it tasted great and was quite filling. We had plenty of leftovers. I had awoke with a cold and decided to stay home. I took the fry pan out as I was ravenous and heated up his noodles with some oil. Can I just say they were even better the day after.I like it that Certain Someone is taking a slight interest in cooking with his busy schedule and I look forward to the expansion of his repertoire. Thank You honey for feeding your sick girlfriend. Kiss.

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Putting Up Event...Watermelon Rind Preserves

I think in my past life I was a Farmers wife or something. Or maybe my Blackberry loving self deep down inside yearns for simpler non Glamah-rous life. OK, I take that back.I can see myself as a Zsa Zsa Gabor(or was it Eva) type on Green Acres.Anyway the swell duo of Rosie and Pixie have come up with a fantastic event called Putting Up. They are calling on us to use our canning skills.
A long time ago my mother and I purchased a pressure cooker/canner. We had a blast trying to make Chow Chow and pickled okra and peppers.We managed to make tons of food and oddly never went back to it again. Each summer I vowed to do something. Jams were a particular interest.With this event I have seen a lot of excellent jams. So as I always walk to a different drummer, I decided to make another item my Mommy always waxed nostalgic on. Watermelon Rinds Preserves. I used to shudder when I heard of this.I had never tasted it. But economy and time dictated that I use what I have. My Fruit and Vegetable Box yielded 2 small seedless watermelons amongst other things to bountiful to mention here. There was no way Certain Someone and I would finish these organic treats. So I dug out my pressure canner and searched for the instruction book. I then took all the watermelon meat and placed it a Gallon bag to freeze. Now that's the way I prefer to eat it! Plus would be awesome in martinis. Then I got into the long process. Not to long, but a lot of prep.

Why would anyone want to preserve Watermelon Rind? Well my research shows that this is Asian,Southern, and Polish specialty. You associate it with the Deep South. In the Depression , one looked for ways to use every bit of food you could. Rinds are edible and can be a tasty treat cooked down with spices and sugar.Asian cookery makes their own versions as well and just the not pickled rind but used fresh in stir frys , etc.I have also seen recipes from as far away as South Africa and Australia.Seems everyone is on to something.I read they are healthy too. I found the rind, once peeled of the green skin and pink flesh , took on characteristics of cucumber. Most of the recipes in the Internet are similar. I used a combo of recipes as a guide, and added a combo of both brown and white sugar.Next time I want try try more variations. I have seen recipes call for a little spice.I'm glad I forced myself to do this and you all will be seeing more preserves from this summer.If my mother was alive she would get a kick out these if I presented it to her in a gift basket for Mothers Day. Its not only economical but fun and novel. Maybe I need to rent a table at the Farmers Market? "Glamah Rinds Anyone? They're so cheap darlings it's chic! "
Glamah Rinds aka Watermelon Rind Preserves
Ingredients :
1 -2 lbs prepared watermelon rind * if you have more rind adjust to levels of sweetness and spice you prefer
1/2 cup salt
6 cup water
1 1/2 cup sugar (I combined brown and white sugars)
1 1/2 cup white vinegar
1 lemon sliced thin
1/2 tsp whole cloves * was thinking of using star anise next time.
1/2 tsp whole allspice

1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp of minced ginger
Method :
Prepare the watermelon rind, and remove any pink flesh and green skin. Cut the rind into pieces about 1 inch. Mix the salt and water in a large bowl, and add the rind. Let stand overnight. Drain thoroughly and rinse. Drain and rinse again. Place in a non reactive pot or kettle, cover with cold water, and cook, about 30 minutes, until the rind becomes tender and translucent, but still firm. Drain again. Place the sugar, vinegar, and lemon in the pot. Tie the spices in a cheesecloth bag and add to mixture. Bring to a boil, then cook 2 minutes. Add the rind, and cook, uncovered, over medium heat, for 15 minutes after it comes to a boil. Remove the rind with a slotted spoon and place in hot, sterilized jars. Boil the syrup 5 minutes longer, remove the spice bag, and pour the syrup over the rind till filled. Process in your canner according to your instructions. I used a pressure of 5 lbs and cooked for approx 10-15 in the pressure canner.
Seal at once. If a sweeter preserve is preferred, increase sugar to 2 cups. This made 4 half pints.
Serve with breads, ice creams, grilled chicken, etc.
Update! We have a winner of the the Tamale Open. Congratulations Megan . I sent you a email to claim your prize.

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It's The Little Things

Life for me is erratic. Sometimes I have a lot on my plate and sometimes things are kind of slow.I constantly push myself.But I go out on a limb because I want to. The key is to find balance. Besides my day job I have some sidelines. I wouldn't call them profitable yet, but I get pleasure and some other things from them. This past weekend to 'support" my sideline product I gave a free demo on my dime and time.I really wanted to stay home with Certain Someone, play in the kitchen, blog, and veg.The day seemed fine enough. I noticed a man arrive besides me who seemed at a loss. Seems he was supposed to demo at this fine wine emporium but didn't speak much English or know what to do. I thought it was odd and tried to help him out. We spoke a little English and French as he knew French. We offered each other samples. About a few hours into our boring Sunday the store manager came by. Seems this kind interesting man was the owner of the vineyard and made these fine wines! From that point on they moved him to his proper place and make a big fuss. Where were they at the beginning I ask? Anyway I went over to say goodbye and took a bottle of his Moscato. He grabbed the bottle and said something in halting English. He returned with the bottle all wrapped up for me . Gratis! A small thank you. Made my day.Check out his vineyards.

The today I had a special package awaiting me. I won some Amano Chocolate from Blake Makes! I don't know how this blogger does it but he always has great giveaways. I'm waiting for Certain Someone to return so we can sample together.

And a final thought from me for the week. I want and love good food. Time is a question most times. While I don't shy away from the complex, sometimes I like it simple. I pulled this one out of my hat the other morning.A slow cooked pork loin in my favorite Asian spices and seasonings. I wanted this slow cooked meal to be similar to my favorite Schezwan green beans. Not quite, but a good meal . I don't have to tell you the Certain Someone had a few servings of the meat!

Slow Cooked Pork Loin

1 pork loin

1/2 cup Soy Sauce

1/2 cup water

4 Star Anise

Dried Chilies to your taste( I used 4)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

I/2 cup of a simple syrup I made infused with rum( leftover from the rum buns). Your could use Golden Syrup

Put all ingredients in a slow cooker. Place on 8 hours. Go about and enjoy your day. Serve with steamed Jasmine Rice and green beans.

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BBQ...With a Asian Twist

This past Sunday was glorious in Chicago. I had a early meeting and Certain Someone played some golf. We knew we wanted to take advantage of the sunshine and BBQ. I have a spacious deck in need of repair. Currently a team is using it to work on the roof. Certain Someone has never really enjoyed my deck. In years past it was teaming with flowers.Me and my condo association are stalled on the maintenance of the deck.A neighbour is holding up the process of repainting and varnishing it. So until its settled I don't feel like enjoying it. But the deck is what motivated me to buy the condo in the first place.So anyway the night before we went with some friends to dine on Argyle Street. Argyle St is up to the north and is teaming with Vietnamese business. On our way to dinner we stopped in a grocery when I loaded up.

Certain Someone got into the act and started adding the condiments and noodles he liked. I searched for more exotic finds like Pandan extracts,

Star Anise( look at this huge bag!), Tamarind Pods,


Lychee's, and this amazing BBQ sauce in can that is a paste of spices and dried fish in a oily base. We sampled this at a friends house and were hooked.At least I was.We both thought of using our loot in the Sunday BBQ.Four bags of groceries for under $30.A BARGAIN!

So I woke up Sunday and marinated 4 chicken breasts in the BBQ sauce I purchased. This sauce comes with a plastic lid and seems to go a long way. It took us a while to light my old rusty charcoal grill. But Certain Someone got up and got it going. I had some Zucchini and green pepper I planned to grill alongside the chicken. Certain Someone was in charge of the noodles. We planned to slice up the grilled veggies and fry them up in the noodles with some garlic. Half my vegetable were lost as my grill basket came loose . But we saved half. He choose the thick white chewy Vietnamese noodles. The chicken had been marinating for hours and I decided in addition to add a final brush of Hoisen Sauce on the final moments of grilling. All in all we created a nice summer late lunch while we discussed buying some nicer deck furniture, Certain Someone enjoyed it outside for a change and suggested we do this more this summer. I'm all for it.Stay tuned for this weekend when Certain Someone flies solo and takes out the WOK for a guest appearance.
I will be closing voting on the Tamale Open Roundup Friday May 10. Please be sure to get your votes in.

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